Cominggoing_mattbites

Oh gosh darn it!

I had all these blog entries ready to go,
98% complete, and then work and real life interrupted and took over! I
just finished art directing and co-photographing a cookbook in Montecito
for a truly wonderful client and will give all the details when I can and then I head to New
York City next week for some Apple stuff and a few meetings for a
future project that I’m super stoked about! There’s also a new website in the works for my "professional" side of life that I hope to complete soon if I don’t throw this computer off the desk and stomp on it while crying. I’d ask you to keep your
fingers crossed for me but I don’t want anyone to get any hand cramps
or anything.

I really wish my trip would have coincided with
Lara and Bea’s weekend, I can’t wait to hear all about their workshop
and to see the pictures of my gals in action. And yes, they are "my
gals" because I love them so much and they make me all happy and warm
and fuzzy inside. But I don’t need to tell you how talented they are,
really. You know this.

See everyone when I get back!

http://mattbites.com/2007/05/31/296/

Cominggoing_mattbites

Oh gosh darn it!

I had all these blog entries ready to go,
98% complete, and then work and real life interrupted and took over! I
just finished art directing and co-photographing a cookbook in Montecito
for a truly wonderful client and will give all the details when I can and then I head to New
York City next week for some Apple stuff and a few meetings for a
future project that I’m super stoked about! There’s also a new website in the works for my "professional" side of life that I hope to complete soon if I don’t throw this computer off the desk and stomp on it while crying. I’d ask you to keep your
fingers crossed for me but I don’t want anyone to get any hand cramps
or anything.

I really wish my trip would have coincided with
Lara and Bea’s weekend, I can’t wait to hear all about their workshop
and to see the pictures of my gals in action. And yes, they are "my
gals" because I love them so much and they make me all happy and warm
and fuzzy inside. But I don’t need to tell you how talented they are,
really. You know this.

See everyone when I get back!

http://mattbites.com/2007/05/31/162/

National Donut Day

Donut_portrait_mattbites

Depending on who you ask, Friday, June 1st is National Donut Day. Marketing ploy or genuine unrecognized American holiday? Who the hell cares! All I know is that you should enjoy your favorite donut with friends and family and celebrate this ever-so-important date.

Jelly Filled, anyone?

Matt on Grilling

Mattbites_on_grilling
This weekend kicks off the grilling season. All over the country barbecue grills, Webers, hibachis and iron smokers will emerge from a long rusty winter slumber and come alive with heat, delivering offerings of grilled fare that satisfy our most primal urges.

Ok, who am I kidding? I started grilling weeks ago! And while I’m no expert I do know my way around a grill. The good old Texas boy in me always surfaces the minute spring and summer roll around and before you know it I’m ignoring the oven and spending every night cooking al fresco. Over the years I’ve learned some good lessons (blanching ahead saves time) and some bad lessons (keep an extinguisher handy or else) but there’s always room for improvement. Below are a few things I’ve learned over the years:

Armhair_is_overrated

1. Arm hair, while serving a protective biological purpose 10,000 years ago, isn’t entirely necessary. One can live a relatively healthy life without it. Eyebrows are an entirely different matter.

Vegetarian_irony

2. While one might believe that outdoor grilling is best suited for meat, I’ve got some news for you: this meat eater finds veggies and meat alternatives absolutely brilliant choices for outdoor grilling. Then again, anything with a smokey char is a-ok in my book. It’s not unusual for me to skip meat entirely when cooking on the grill.

Bbq_vs_grilling

3. There is a difference between barbecue and grilling. Grilling is directly over high heat and done quickly. Barbecuing is slow and over indirect heat. I’ll repeat: Grilling is directly over high heat and done quickly. Barbecuing is slow and over indirect heat. There is a difference. Learn it live it love it.

And while I prefer a charcoal grill, a gas grill works in a pinch.

Rub_me

4. Rubs, sauces, marinades and finishes are all matters of personal preference. I bow to the Argentines when it comes to my personal favorite: nothing but salt and pepper. But you should start off with a high quality meat if you plan on minimal seasoning. But I don’t have to tell you that.

Father_knows_best

5. I completely respect the master grill authorities–I own most of their books! However, my true grill education comes from my father who can advise on heat levels, times, and the exact number of briquets and wood chips needed for a particular method. Thank you, Dad!

Put_the_needle

6. I find barbeque tastes better when enjoyed with the following musical selections: Los Super Seven, Lucinda Williams, Laurindo Almeida, Willie Nelson, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone or Freddy Fender. Feel free to add your own.

The_right_tool

7. You’ve heard this said a bazillion times before, but there’s a reason for that. Having the proper grilling utensils will really help you in the long run. And  yes, outdoor tools are different than your indoor toys. Longer handles, thermometers, basting brushes and tongs built for grilling are worth the investment. Especially cute fancy color-coordinated aprons.

Blanch

8. A quick blanching in the kitchen ahead of time is key when grilling vegetables. Squash, green beans, and onions will cook faster without burning.

Wine_and_bbq

9. I wouldn’t dream of eating grilled food without wine. My friend Paul of the blog Champion Wines says "Grilled food supports big flavors in wine – a hearty red like a Côtes du Rhone (Eric Texier 2004 Côtes du Rhone) or a not over-the-top Zinfandel (Dashe Cellars 2004 Dry Creek Zinfandel) would work great. For whites, something fruity with nice acidity (Leitz 2005 Riesling Dragonstone) is a good balance to sweet and spicy flavors."

Sharing_is_caring

10. No matter your method or what you’re cooking, cooking outdoors is an experience best enjoyed with friends.

Now hand me another rib and let me grab another glass of wine. Cheers everyone!

Very_cherry_header_mattbites

Full confession:  I didn’t grow up eating cherries. Not a one. In fact, I can’t remember ever having a fresh cherry when I was a kid. The only thing I can remember was the woefully unoriginal idea of cherry: cherry soda, canned cherry filling, maraschino cherries, cherry cough drops, cherry candy, cherry air freshener (ick!), etc. That bizarre red unidentifiable flavor that tries to be a cherry but can’t quite reach its goal. I have no doubt you know what I’m talking about.

Fake cherry.

I fault no one, and we all know necessity is the mother of invention. How else were the masses supposed to enjoy the bright happy zing of a cherry throughout the year? There’s only one problem though–cherry flavor is nothing like a real cherry.

There. I said it. I got it off my chest.

Unlike citrus and tropical fruits,  cherries are modest with their flavor. They don’t fill up a room with perfume and they don’t knock you over and give you a puckerface. And therein lies their beauty. Those little crimson globes are delightful as is, sweet and juicy with a fleeting flavor that can truly be appreciated when fresh.

And not in a cough syrup.

Because that artificial cherry thing is imprinted on my brain I am a little gun shy when it comes to cherries. It’s only been the past few years that I have learned to love them and only in their fresh state. I’ll pass on the Cherry Garcia and smile politely if you offer me a chocolate covered cherry (it’s that goo, no thanks!). But I’ll never turn down a fresh cherry.

In my convoluted and twisted ‘lil opinion I believe that cherries lose their magic when cooked (but I will make an exception with a properly prepared clafouti, thankyouverymuch). You get this nice yet not so fantastic flavor when their flesh has been cooked down to mush and that’s why I like cooking them as little as possible. I realize I may be going against popular opinion here, and hey,  I’m cool with that.

My wonderful partner knows I’ll never earn the title "World’s Greatest Cherry-Lovin’ Mexican" and was quite excited to stumble upon a recipe in this month’s Everyday Food. They call it a tart, but it’s not really a tart as much as a semi-trashy dessert with raw cherries on top. Hurray! Raw! And please, it’s not my intention to offend, but you must admit this recipe is very 1970’s Melba-Toast-Eatin’-Mom. Perhaps you’ll want to sit in a bean bag and play some Linda Ronstadt while you enjoy it.

Cherry_tart_mattbites

Fresh Cherry Tart from Everyday Food, June 2007

9 graham crackers, each 2 1/2 by 5 inches
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound fresh sweet cherries, such as Bing, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350˚. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers and 2 tablespoons sugar until finely ground. Add butter, and process until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using the base of a dry measuring cup, firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides of pan. Baked until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add cream, and beat until soft peaks form; spread mixture in cooled crust. Scatter cherries on top.

3. In a small saucepan, combine jam and 1 teaspoon water; heat over low until liquefied, about 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, dab cherries with glaze. Refrigerate tart at least 30 minutes or, covered, up to 1 day.

http://mattbites.com/2007/05/20/297/

Very_cherry_header_mattbites

Full confession:  I didn’t grow up eating cherries. Not a one. In fact, I can’t remember ever having a fresh cherry when I was a kid. The only thing I can remember was the woefully unoriginal idea of cherry: cherry soda, canned cherry filling, maraschino cherries, cherry cough drops, cherry candy, cherry air freshener (ick!), etc. That bizarre red unidentifiable flavor that tries to be a cherry but can’t quite reach its goal. I have no doubt you know what I’m talking about.

Fake cherry.

I fault no one, and we all know necessity is the mother of invention. How else were the masses supposed to enjoy the bright happy zing of a cherry throughout the year? There’s only one problem though–cherry flavor is nothing like a real cherry.

There. I said it. I got it off my chest.

Unlike citrus and tropical fruits,  cherries are modest with their flavor. They don’t fill up a room with perfume and they don’t knock you over and give you a puckerface. And therein lies their beauty. Those little crimson globes are delightful as is, sweet and juicy with a fleeting flavor that can truly be appreciated when fresh.

And not in a cough syrup.

Because that artificial cherry thing is imprinted on my brain I am a little gun shy when it comes to cherries. It’s only been the past few years that I have learned to love them and only in their fresh state. I’ll pass on the Cherry Garcia and smile politely if you offer me a chocolate covered cherry (it’s that goo, no thanks!). But I’ll never turn down a fresh cherry.

In my convoluted and twisted ‘lil opinion I believe that cherries lose their magic when cooked (but I will make an exception with a properly prepared clafouti, thankyouverymuch). You get this nice yet not so fantastic flavor when their flesh has been cooked down to mush and that’s why I like cooking them as little as possible. I realize I may be going against popular opinion here, and hey,  I’m cool with that.

My wonderful partner knows I’ll never earn the title "World’s Greatest Cherry-Lovin’ Mexican" and was quite excited to stumble upon a recipe in this month’s Everyday Food. They call it a tart, but it’s not really a tart as much as a semi-trashy dessert with raw cherries on top. Hurray! Raw! And please, it’s not my intention to offend, but you must admit this recipe is very 1970’s Melba-Toast-Eatin’-Mom. Perhaps you’ll want to sit in a bean bag and play some Linda Ronstadt while you enjoy it.

Cherry_tart_mattbites

Fresh Cherry Tart from Everyday Food, June 2007

9 graham crackers, each 2 1/2 by 5 inches
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound fresh sweet cherries, such as Bing, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350˚. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers and 2 tablespoons sugar until finely ground. Add butter, and process until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using the base of a dry measuring cup, firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides of pan. Baked until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add cream, and beat until soft peaks form; spread mixture in cooled crust. Scatter cherries on top.

3. In a small saucepan, combine jam and 1 teaspoon water; heat over low until liquefied, about 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, dab cherries with glaze. Refrigerate tart at least 30 minutes or, covered, up to 1 day.

http://mattbites.com/2007/05/20/165/

Baby_baby_mattbites

From Wise Bread via Megnut (thanks, Meg!) Here’s something I never bothered giving any thought to: baby carrots ain’t so. A very interesting read worth checking out.

And yet it still doesn’t affect me as I rarely buy carrots. I know I know, tsk tsk. I’m not the world’s biggest carrot lover anyway, and it takes those gnarly, multiple colored versions at the farmers’ market to seduce and excite me.

Damn, there goes my eyesight…

http://mattbites.com/2007/05/17/298/

Baby_baby_mattbites

From Wise Bread via Megnut (thanks, Meg!) Here’s something I never bothered giving any thought to: baby carrots ain’t so. A very interesting read worth checking out.

And yet it still doesn’t affect me as I rarely buy carrots. I know I know, tsk tsk. I’m not the world’s biggest carrot lover anyway, and it takes those gnarly, multiple colored versions at the farmers’ market to seduce and excite me.

Damn, there goes my eyesight…

http://mattbites.com/2007/05/17/166/

Thoughts On Rosé

Ros_mattbites_2

Sometimes I wonder which I enjoy more: rosé wine itself or the situation that accompanies it. Heck, it must be both. Rosé puts a smile on my face and it’s best shared with good friends under plenty of warm yellow sunlight.

Paul and I were talking last week about rosés and how soon I will enter my pink phase (even though we had a dress rehearsal in Argentina’s summer month during February, drinking our share of a very happy Ciclos rosé with our friends at the pool). I told Paul he should post an entry on Rose´and he was a bit hesitant. But why? He knows so much, can recommend some good ones, and he’s a fan, too. I was happy to see he wrote about them, and it’s the best, most succinct thing I’ve ever read about one of my favorite wines.

Paul_quote_mattbites

He even gives his readers a little assignment, and I’m definitely up for the challenge. Are you?

Sopaipillas

Sopaipillas_mattbites_2

There are just some things that instantly take me back to my childhood.
Sopaipillas do that to me every time. Made by my grandmother, the
tender warm pillows of fried dough were sprinkled with cinnamon sugar
and drizzled with honey and always disappeared within minutes. She
would encourage us to eat them immediately while they were still warm,
but it was always said with a wink in her eye – she knew we couldn’t
keep our hands off them until there was an empty plate of grease-laden
cinnamon-scented crumbs.

My grandmother was the best cook I have ever known (next to my mom, of course!). She was in the
kitchen every day and her way with food was astonishing, no matter what
she prepared.  But unlike her rice and beans, sopaipillas were for
special events (as were her bunuelos, too). It was usually Christmas or
New Year’s Eve when she would make dough and fry it in her cast iron
skillet, and I always wondered why we had to wait so long. To a child
eleven months might as well be an eternity.

Traveling the world you’re bound to find various versions of
hot-oil-meets-dough desserts, whether it be beignets, youtiao,
malasadas, loukoumades or gulab jamun.  Unfortunately I adore every
single one of them. But sopaipillas top my list, and not just because
of their familial significance but also because they are among the most
basic of all fried dough desserts. A very simple dough puffs up in the
hot oil in a matter of minutes, and when drizzled with honey it’s pure
nirvana.

My grandmother passed away over 20 years ago, but the love she shared
and the meals she prepared for us will always be in our hearts. And
while I will never claim to be even remotely as talented as she was,  I
find comfort in having a part of her with me whenever I cook.



Sopaipillas


adapted from Taste Of Home

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2/3 cup water
oil for frying
cinnamon & sugar
honey

Combine the dry ingredients and then cut in shortening until crumbly.
Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until mixture holds together. On
a lightly floured surface, knead dough for 1-2 minutes or until smooth.
Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Roll out to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut
with a 2-1/2-in. star cookie cutter or into 2-1/2-in. triangles. In an
electric skillet or deep fat fryer, heat oil to 375°. Fry sopaipillas
for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and puffed. Drain on
paper towels. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and serve immediately
with honey. Yields 1 dozen.

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