dinnerbell's Profile

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Zoe's (Chinese): what happened?

Yeah, Zoe's was our go to place for delivery a couple years ago. We ordered for the first time since moving back to Boston last night and I've got to say that it was pretty bad. Really bland noodles, mediocre dumplings, hard, stringy sesame beef. I don't know what happened but this is definitely not the Zoe's we remember. Any other suggestions for good/authenti chinese takeout in somerville?

Does Sushi rice make good risotto?

I think risotto turns out much better with short-grain rice, medium and long grain rices don't get as creamy.

I've not tried risotto with sushi rice, but I would imagine that it will work just fine. The 'arborio' rice grown in Italy and elsewhere is actually a cultivar (cultivated variety) of the 'japonica' variety of rice that is grown in Japan and used in sushi. If anyone knows more, learning about this made me curious about the history of aroborio cultivation in Italy and how it was taken from East Asia to Southern Europe.

Aug 01, 2009
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

Have you ever lived overseas?

On my way . . . It's great to hear about other researchers with an appreciation of agriculture and food. I'm finishing up 2 1/2 years of fieldwork in Paraguay on sugarcane and agroecology. Lots of great food here, a lot of beef, corn, and yuca. Hoping I can find sometime to learn traditional cooking techniques before I leave. Sounds like you've made a great career in international agricultural development work.

Apr 04, 2009
dinnerbell in General Topics

Chickpea Cutlets

If you are not vegan you could just use a couple eggs. It will somewhat more like a batter than the doughy consistency described here, and might be less 'meaty' or 'toothsome' but probably still good.

Nov 26, 2008
dinnerbell in Recipes

Brazilian Food?

This is patently false. My family is from Paraguay, where I am currently living and doing research related to food and agriculture. Besides mandioca (casava/yuca), corn is the main staple of the Paraguayan diet. There are varieties of corn that are grown only for animal feed (like a lot of field corn in the U.S.), but there are other varieties that are ground into corn meal for an assortment of traditional dishes, dried and eaten whole as locro (pozole/hominy), or popped into pop corn. When certain varieties are harvested in the 'sweet corn' phase, they are called 'choclo' and boiled whole as corn on the cob, or degrained and used in a corn-bread-soufle dish called chipa guazú, in salads, or other ways. We eat corn nearly every day. Perhaps the confusion was that sweetcorn is called 'choclo' not 'maiz'?

Oct 09, 2008
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

Best Taqueria in Chicago

I spent a little while searching and didn't in find a post that really answered my question so here it goes:

I'm looking for authoritative suggestions from people who really know their mexican food about the best/most authentic taquerias and/or mexican restuarants in the city of Chicago. I'll be in chicago for a few days after spending a a year in South America without real mexican food and want to make sure I choose well.

Aug 26, 2008
dinnerbell in Chicago Area

Pho 101

I am a pho addict, and will affirm that it is probably one of the hardest dishes to prepare well at home.

Beef and Chicken (or seafood) pho all taste really different, and are flavored differently, each having a different kind of stock as its base. So yeah, what broth you choose depends on what kind of soup you want. If you like chicken flavor better than beef, then you should make chicken pho, and maybe flavor the broth with lemon grass and cilantro, and add pieces of shredded chicken. But if you want the more common (and in my opinion more delicious) beef pho then you should start with beef broth, and serve it with pieces of thinly sliced rare beef, and if you also like different beef cuts--e.g. tendon, brisket, flank-steak, vietnamese beef balls, tripe. My favorite is beef balls, brisket and rare eye-round. But I wouldn't use chicken broth in a recipe for Beef pho. Either way, very thinly sliced onion, green onion and and cilantro go into the bowl with the soup and noodles, and lime, chile, raw bean sprouts, and thai basil are served on the side for diners to add according to their taste. A few other tips:

After many, many attempts at beef pho (which are documented with photos on my blog) I have decided that making your own broth is really the only way to go. At least for beef pho, the flavor of the store-bought broth is all wrong, even after simmering with the pho-spices and adding fish sauce and other Vietnamese condiments. The only time I was entirely satisfied with my home-made pho was when I went to the trouble of making my own stock from ox tail. I did make really good seafood pho with purchased chicken broth, red curry paste, ground peanuts, and frozen seafood mix though.

Even then, the fact that I don't have bowls that are large enough to hold a lot of broth and keep the noodles warm make the end result slightly less than perfect. So big, preheated bowls are really important.

A trick that most recipes don't mention is to blanch the thinly sliced beef for just a second before adding it to the (warmed) soup bowls. If you add it directly to the hot broth it clouds the broth as it cooks, forming an unappetizing scum. I blanch it just long enough to avoid this but also leave the center of the slices rare.

Feb 19, 2008
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

To rinse or not rinse inside of turkey before placing in oven

Seriously, that was my reaction to this article. Is there a yearly rash of food poisoning incidents on thanksgiving that I am missing that has made this a significant enough public health issue to provoke an official announcement?

Nov 20, 2007
dinnerbell in General Topics

Brazilian Ingredients

Tapioca/Yuca flour and starch are pretty widely available. I found it easily in Appleton, WI, when I lived there and all the other larger cities I've lived in too--but much more often in southeast asian groceries than in Latin stores. Yuca starch (called almidón in Paraguay and readily available at thai and vietnamese groceries) works just fine for making chipa or paõ de queijo, though it is too fine for making farofa. There is a recipe for chipa on my blog if anyone is interested: http://dinner-bell.blogspot.com

Nov 20, 2007
dinnerbell in General Topics

New Years In Buenos Aires Agentina

I will also potentially be in Buenos Aires on New Years, and am thinking about making plans. Any suggestions for restaurants that offer new years eave prix fixe?

Help with Tea (please!)

Incidentally, stevia, is an herb that is also native to Paraguay (not the amazon) and supposedly has many health benefits. It was classified by a swiss botanist that immigrated to Paraguay, but has been used for millennia by native paraguayans. It's called Ka'a Hee in Guaraní, and I guess that might make it the most traditional sweetener for yerba mate, though they would add the whole leaf rather than an extract to the tea.

There are still regulatory barriers in the U.S. for wide use of stevia though, which is why you have to look for it in the health food section as a 'dietary supplement' rather than as a sweetener. Japan has used it as a food additive for decades, which is why China produces the majority of the world's stevia, despite the fact that it is native to Paraguay. While I'm on my paraguay promotional kick, a good part of the organic sugar and organic fair trade sugar on the market is produced in Paraguay as well. Sugar is sugar, and still not great for you, but at least this is chemical free and contains some trace nutrients and elements that are taken out of refined white sugar. It has a better flavor too, white sugar just tastes sweet, evaporated cane juice has more vanillay and molassesy notes.

Nov 02, 2007
dinnerbell in General Topics

Why do sushi places never have mackerel (lately)?

I know that mackerel is especially perishable because it has such an oily flesh and the omega 3 fats are volatile. When I was in Japan a month ago my friends were saying that Saba is not so common even there, because it has to be very fresh to be eaten as sushi. I've seen lots of salted mackerel at the Japanese stores in Boston, though, but I'm not sure if this is what they would typically serve at a Sushi restaurant in Japan or the U.S.

Oct 31, 2007
dinnerbell in General Topics

Help with Tea (please!)

You should definitely try yerba mate. My family is from Paraguay, where yerba mate is native, and I have drunk it for much of my life. It can get you up in the morning and make you alert/energetic, but a lot of people, including me, don't get jittery from it the way that coffee sometimes makes me feel not so good. Supposedly it is a lot healthier for you, containing lots of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants (here's a website: http://www.yerba-mate.com/health.htm ), though i drink it because I like it and because of all the traditions associated with it in Paraguay. It's flavor certainly stands up to coffee's. Traditionally we drink it in a group out of a single gourd that one person refills with hot water for each person. But we also make a plain tea from the leaves that can be drunk black but is really good brewed strong with milk and sugar. You should be able to find mate in any teashop but also in a lot of supermarkets.

Oct 31, 2007
dinnerbell in General Topics

What are good "detox" foods?

I always enjoy aloe juice as a detox drink. Especially after a night of too much to drink. It may be in my head but if feels especially hydrating, and I love the little chunks of aloe flesh.

Oct 14, 2007
dinnerbell in General Topics

Just moved to Green Bay. What's good?

your kidding? That's too bad. i really liked peggy's.

DIY butter?

I've seen cultured butter only at gourmet shops, where, you can imagine, it is quite a bit pricier than the butter you find in the super market. And, in my opinion, it is better. It has a much more buttery flavor than sweat cream. That's why the article confused me. I don't know why making your own better would all that different than the kind you buy.

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

need help with aioli

That is nearly identical to the recipe I've grown up using! That's funny. Though we use corn oil. Believe it or not, dried basil also works very well. PS- I love Deborah Madison

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

DIY butter?

This article confused me. I thought the difference between commercial butter and 'fancier' butter was that commercial butter is just made from cream as described in the article (but in larger volume), while gourmet butters were 'cultured,' or the cream was allowed to ferment first which gave more flavor to the end product, but implied more time and cost. Can anybody clear this up?

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

When The Only Place Open Is Waffle House

I love waffle house! It reminds me of roadtrips to florida and south carolina.

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Chains

What is with the smell at Subway??

Yeah, I've always wondered about that smell . . .

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Chains

Portland ME-this weekend

One of the best restaurants I have ever been to anywhere is 98 provence in Ogonquet ME, which I suppose would be on your way to or back from Portland. The chef has a seasonal menu, though I wouldn't say it is overwhelmingly local in ingredients. But everything is exquisitely thought out and expertly executed. I drove my parents 80 minutes just to go to this restaurant when they came to visit in Boston. I would say its a can't miss if you are in the area. Here's the website. http://www.98provence.com/menu.htm (looks like they just switched to a summer menu).

Just moved to Green Bay. What's good?

I went to school in Appleton, and loved the area. Titletown has really great bloody marys, which you might not try at a brewery otherwise. The brewery in the fox river mall is decent as well. In appleton, my favorite restaurant for a nice dinner was Peggy's on college avenue, though it's been a couple years since I've been there. Some people thought it was overpriced, but I never thought so, especially compared to other more upscale places that charged way more than they were worth.
Old Bavaria has really great german food (schnitzle, spaetzle (sp?), bratwurst, litre steins of german beer ), and was another favorite. The locale looks kind of like your midwestern grandmother's basment, and I usually avoided the salad bar. But we loved this place. It made for a great date night that was romantic in a slightly kitchy way.

If you like pubfood, I'd say the wooden nickel has the best burgers in town and the best fried potato variation I've ever had anywhere (I day dream about them still). They are called 'chippers,' and are fresh-cut to a thickness between a potato chip and french fry.

Koreana, on northland, has pretty decent sushi and korean/japanese, and Sai Ram right next door has decent Indian food. The best breakfast in town by far is at Galvin's on northland as well. I'm not usually one to praise quantity, but I like generous breakfast portions and they give quantity with out sacrificing quality great egg dishes and pancakes.

In Appleton avoid the Appollon (mediocre and overpriced greek), mangoes mongolian grill (just terrible), and I'm not a fan at all of victoria's (despite its popularity).

The Debate Over Subsidizing Snacks

Yeah I just read this a little bit ago. The farm bill is such a clear case of public good sacrificed for the benefit of a corporate interest with very far reaching consequences and a colossal waste of resources. It's the foundation of our agro-food system, and there are very few opportunities in government to change something so fundamental to our society with a single legislative initiative. It's exciting that people are finally paying attention and demanding legislation that better serves public health, culinary interests, and family farmers. It's exciting to imagine the possibilities for greater diversity and freshness in the food supply, and new possibilities for farmers and small food business entrepreneurs, but (as the article suggests) its unlikely that proponents can overcome opposition to such broad change from agribusiness groups.

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Food Media & News

Fresh fennel

I love using fennel as celery substitute, especially because I harbor a kind of secret animosity for celery for some reason, despite how ubiquitous it is in my cooking (maybe I resent always needing to having it around). I also love to make roasted fennel salad and citrus salad, (mix of blood and regular oranges are great) with a salty fresh cheese like feta or queso añejo.

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

need help with aioli

You could go either way and it would be fine I'm sure, but if you are going to use just the yolks I might go with three to be sure. The egg yolk just works to bind the oil into an emulsion, though I imagine using just yolks gives it a richer flavor. If there is not enough egg, it might not come together. My family has always made homemade mayonaise (don't ask me why), and its delicious, and we usually use one whole egg per cup of oil, so instead you could use one whole egg and one yolk. Another trick which makes the whole thing foolproof, is to use an immersion or stick blender rather than dribbling the oil into the blender or food processor. just put the egg and oil into the immersion jar or even a bowl all together, and turn on the blender on low. Once you've got what looks like mayonnaise, add the other ingredients. You can mess it up and curdle the aioli if you pour in the oil to fast or too slow, or if the blender speed is wrong, but with an immersion blender it's impossible to mess up.

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

Cutco knives ??

I like my cutco knives, and for what it's worth, certainly don't feel ripped off paying what I paid. For what they are--a perfectly useful and durable knife for daily home cooking--I think the price is right. Of course you can find better knives by paying more, that's true for virtually any product you can imagine, so I don't know if that is particularly useful advice. Unless you've got the resources to afford (and skill to appreciate) the very top of the line, I'd say they are definitely worth considering. And I agree, tI'd be surprised if their is a better deal than the steak knives. We've been using them every day for dinner for years and haven't had to sharpen them and dinner guests still comment on how well they cut.

Jul 04, 2007
dinnerbell in Cookware

Best Haitian food near Cambridge?

Highland cafe is on Highland avenue, near union square, where highland and medford street meet mcgrath highway ( not by the circuit city which is think is in assembly square about 5-7 minutes away). I worked in Haiti for a summer teaching music and have always wanted to try Highland cafe, especially since I live only a few blocks away. Maybe I'll go now.

Best dough for empanadas

Personally I prefer fried empanadas to baked ones. The baked ones are often too doughy and dry or, if made with pastry crust, too greasy and flaky. I only really like the baked empanadas I've had in argentina which have a thin and kind of chewy crust.

Jun 29, 2007
dinnerbell in Home Cooking

Guests who tell you what/how to cook?

I disagree. To begin with, if someone is a really good friend, I can't imagine I wouldn't already know what's up. Food is a relatively important part of my friendships to begin with, so if someone was on a special diet for health reasons or anything else, it certainly would have come up before, and it wouldn't have come up as "could you make something like plain chicken"( which would taste awful, by the way). If someone was a 'sort of' friend, then it might make it awkward to ask, but on the flip side, I would never respond to a dinner invitation from a 'sort of' friend with such a request. I think part of what makes this so irritating is how unapologetic the request was, and, as far as I understand it, the fact that it didn't come with an explanation of why such an onerous request was necessary. Probably, the most polite thing for the guests to do would be to explain that they were going through some dietary issues, and offer an invitation for dinner at their house, which they could cook according to their own needs and preferences. I would suggest going out to dinner and talk about what kind of place you would both like. Maybe in the course of the conversation some kind of explanation will come out.

Jun 28, 2007
dinnerbell in Not About Food

When you open your fantasy restaurant...

My restaurant would have a very seasonal menu, and an emphasis on local produce and sustainable and humanely raised seafood and meat. I don't know how commercially viable it could be, but I imagine having to improvise constantly to take advantage of what is available, in season, good quality, and low in price. I also think about giving it a very personal theme: our favorite wines on the list, dishes that I grew up eating or that I ate on my travels. Kind of like going out to a restaurant and having an experience that is more like a dinner party. I don't know what i'd call it.

Jun 28, 2007
dinnerbell in Not About Food