Friday, December 21, 2007

Are you fat yet?

I've put on three pounds this week. The holidays, have yet again smacked me upside the thigh and I find myself piling in little bits of chocolate, nuts, strudel, ham, beer, spreadable cheese, and lots of maple syrup. Hmmm... In responce to this, I went to the farmer's market and bought veggies, thinking this might help my puggy dilema. Instead, I used them for a carbo-enduced dilerium on Monday night. And it was worth every calorie. Try this one out for size:

Aloo Gobi
(Cauliflower and Potatoes)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 bunch fresh cilantro, separated into stalks and leaves and roughly chopped
2 small green chilies, chopped into small pieces
1 large cauliflower, leaves removed and cut evenly into eighths
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into even pieces
2 cans diced tomatoes
fresh ginger, peeled and grated
fresh garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garam masala

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion and one teaspoon of cumin seeds to the oil. Stir together and cook until onions become creamy, golden, and translucent. Add chopped coriander stalks, two teaspoons of turmeric, and one teaspoon of salt. Add chopped chiles (according to taste) Stir tomatoes into onion mixture. Add ginger and garlic; mix thoroughly. Add potatoes and cauliflower to the sauce plus a few tablespoons of water (ensuring that the mixture doesn't stick to the saucepan). Ensure that the potatoes and cauliflower are coated with the curry sauce. Cover and allow to simmer for twenty minutes (or until potatoes are cooked). Add two teaspoons of garam masala and stir. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top of the curry.

Holiday Vices

The day before Halloween something happened to me that will seriously impact my life over the next two months. It will bring me both joy and sorrow and rush back all the bittersweet memories of the years past… I did not see it coming while milling around the back of a Rite Aid, but there it was, perched upon the refrigerated shelf: a bottle of eggnog. Ahhh eggnog (or as they call it south of the border, rompope) my personal madeline for holiday cheer. I am happy to admit, (though I may be the only one born after 1940 who does so) that I love the stuff and drink it down all season long.

I have learned over the years the skills to purchase eggnog. First off, don’t be fooled by fancy brands. My personal favorite is Berkeley Farms, followed in a close second with the regular old Save Mart brand. Makers like Bud’s of San Francisco or Straus Creamery usually lack depth or are too sweet. Torn between two options? Compare the amount sugar listed on the nutrition facts and go with the lesser of two evils… it’s more eggnogier.

By mid December, you may be struck by the downside of eggnog. Peering at your back in the mirror you may notice little lumps of fat sitting perched atop your rump. My white gold packs a serious punch: a single cup (and it’s impossible to drink that measly amount) has 350 calories and 20 grams of fat. Yipes! Having said that, never be fooled into buying the low fat version! That brackish water they call eggnog bears no resemblance to the real McCoy. You are wasting calories on slimy spiced, grayish water… Don’t go there. Instead, try drinking eggnog as a meal replacement. Like a freaky Christmas Slim-Fast.

By now you must be on the edge of your seat to bring out the big guns: booze. My personal favorite addition is Crown Royal. The white and gold seem to marry in the cup to form a fusion of beauty and grace. Don’t be afraid to mix it with the expensive stuff… It’s worth it. I also enjoy plain old E&J Brandy (produced locally at Ernest and Julio!) and spiced or Meyers rum. Don’t let your lazy ass buy the pre-mixed with So Co. That’s just nasty. Finally, don’t be afraid to stand up for what you love! I have unabashedly muled in my own carton of eggnog and demanded that a bartender (at Fibber McGee’s mind you) mix me drinks all night with the stuff.

It’s a sad time for me when January rolls around and I start to see my friend being pulled off the shelf. But I know it is time and absence will only make my heart grow fonder.

Bao for Now

“I don’t do Chinese.”  This is my standard response when the suggestion for Chinese food is made.  In reality, I do Chinese, but I would much rather spend my calories on something wickedly good, rather than artificially flavored orange chicken or a bland, greasy chow mein (which I have come to realize is what most people want when they suggest a Chinese joint). 
Good Chinese on the other hand, is rich, fresh, and wonderfully traditional. So, I was skeptical when someone suggested “Bakery Delight” for a quick Chinese snack. But set one foot inside of this place and you’ll know they mean business.  No sweet and sour sauce or celery in sight… just a simple glass case full of egg-washed pastry, scissor-snipped dumplings, and sesame-topped dough balls.  A whirr of activity comes from behind the counter-- women rapidly rolling, chopping, and pinching together perfect little pies. 
I ordered lunch from a curt woman and paid $1.50 for bao and a pastry. I would have been satisfied with almost anything that filled me up for this price, but I got so much more.  The pork inside the bao was rich and satisfying, leaving a little pink bleed of sauce into the white pillow of dough.  Next the pastry, a petite golden oval formed of the flakiest of shells. It crumbled instantly into my mouth, leaving me to chew on the little layers until they magically dissolved.  I sat trying to figure how this trick was performed. Then it came to me: lard!  Ah, natures answer to the world’s best pastry.  Does it really matter at this point that this was stuffed with a sweet red bean paste and dusted in sesame seeds?  Delicious.

I have since come to discover the sesame balls, a dessert like no other-- gummy and chewy like a Chinese doughnut hole. Look for savory brioche, rolled in scallions with fried meat the texture of ratted angel hair. The shrimp dumplings are earthy with chunks of bamboo shoots, wrapped in a gossamer rice noodle package. But what will keep me coming back are the mini egg tarts… the most subtly sweetened golden custard, shrouded in the perfect pie crust. The contrast between the flaky and the smooth, the creamy egg and rich tooth of the flour crust (and don’t forget the lard!) makes me tip my head back with each bite, carefully ensuring no morsel will fall onto the table.

I have not yet dabbled into the roasted duck, fried pork ribs, or other meaty delights. (The word on the street is you can order a whole roasted pig for special occasions).

Get over bad Chinese and go have a little dim sum (and then some!). Each bite is indeed a delight.

Bakery Delight
6749 N Cedar Ave, Fresno