Archive for December, 2011

December 23rd, 2011

Edible ivory

Another shout-out to Costco: white asparagus, aka “edible ivory”, actually affordable! Apparently white asparagus is more widely available in Europe; Jens works with someone who was weirded out by the green asparagus stateside.

This is a very simple recipe, other than the elbow grease that goes into hand-whisking the homemade mayonnaise. It comes together in about 30 minutes, and is very fresh-tasting while also being totally rich and delicious. It’s so simple, in fact, that you don’t even need to go beyond a jump to get to the recipe.


  1. Get a pot of water boiling for the pasta (remember the tip from French Cooking in 10 Minutes?)
  2. Make the homemade mayonnaise: good extra virgin olive oil from farmer’s market stand (greek olive oil used here, EVOO is the reason the mayo is green-ish), eggs, dijon or whole grain mustard, vinegar. Whisk vigorously while adding EVOO bit by bit until it reaches the right consistency. Where are the amounts, you ask? Good question (I say as I look pointedly at the chef.) He did this all to taste and forgets the exact amounts, but you can use this recipe from Bon Apetit as a guideline. You can also make this in a tall, narrow container using an immersion blender.
  3. Boil the asparagus until tender – the time will vary depending on the thickness of the stems.
  4. At the same time, cook the pasta (Barilla spaghetti in this case, I like the slightly ridged texture as it gives it a good toothsome bite.) Reserve a few tablespoons of the pasta water.
  5. Once the pasta is almost done, fry up some eggs, sunny-side up.
  6. Slice up lemon wedges. Plate everything, dollop some mayo on the pasta, thin it out with some pasta water if it’s too thick and serve some extra table-side in case people want to make it even richer. Your call whether you want to dribble the yolk on your pasta or the asparagus. Eat asparagus with fingers. Yum.
December 18th, 2011

I love the smell of cold brew in the morning

The apparatus

Toddy Cold Brew SystemWhat $20 worth of coffee grounds looks like*if you click on the photos, it will do an in-line lightbox slideshow of all three photos

Here at FFTF, cold brew doesn’t refer to alcohol, but rather a coffee brewing method. I have two mutually exclusive long-standing problems:

1) chronic gastroesophageal acid reflux disease (GERD, or “ARGH” as I fondly refer to it); and

2) an on-again, off-again, love-you, hate-you relationship with coffee.

You may already know this, but coffee (and chocolate, alcohol, fatty/fried foods, garlic, onions, spicy foods, tomato-based foods – basically anything delicious) can worsen reflux symptoms. And indeed, whenever my reflux symptoms worsen, usually due to stress, if I cut out coffee and alcohol things improve.

Not drinking alcohol is easy. Not drinking coffee? When, for the past several years, I’ve had high-stress jobs with long, unpredictable hours (a line from the job description)? Or, for the past six months when I’ve been a grad student taking the max class load? Nigh unto impossible.

This is where cold brew coffee comes in. Because cold brew uses lower temperatures to extract the flavor from the beans, the resulting drink can be up to 2/3 less acidic. Since I’m not a huge coffee nut (I can’t perceive “notes of blueberry and bark” if my life depended on it) this is the primary draw. Other coffee enthusiasts (“snobs” depending on your POV) also claim that this method produces a smoother, less bitter, more nuanced beverage. Others say that “it lacks the body and complexity of flavor” that hot brew methods produce. I’m willing to compromise a bit on complexity if it means that acid stays in my stomach where it belongs, and not in my throat.

A few places near me produce excellent cold brew, like Cafecito Organico and La Mill. However, at almost $5 a pop, this is an expensive habit, and most places only do cold brew for iced drinks, so if it’s cold and I want a hot drink I’m throwing the dice with my reflux. So I recently bought a cold brew system, the Toddy T2N, bought some Bliss Espresso beans from La Mill on the barista’s recommendation (supposedly they use the espresso roast to make their cold brew), found an excellent pictorial walk-through since the manual instructions were rather minimalist, and gave it a go.

For details about the results, read more »