|Simon & Schuster|
Everyone who missed Foie Gras Week's $5 plates will get a second shot at liver love this Sunday, April 5, when The Foie Gras Wars (Simon & Schuster) author Mark Caro visits London Grill for an evening meet-and-greet, complete with foie, beer and sauternes specials and representatives from controversial producers and sellers Hudson Valley Foie Gras and D'Artagnan.
London Grill owner Terry Berch McNally and chef-owner Michael McNally led the charge against Philadelphia animal-rights protesters, who began picketing restaurants that serve foie gras in mid-2007. Hugs for Puppies and Nick Cooney, who originally took credit for forcing restaurant owners to remove fattened duck liver from their menus, have renamed themselves Humane League of Philadelphia and no longer use public protest as their main tool. This year's Foie Gras Week, compared to the first iteration in 2008, was quite peaceful.
The hotly contested issue has since cooled in Philadelphia, and Caro's book devotes two full chapters to the charged debate of 2007-08. Simon & Schuster's Web site describes Caro's book and how he was thrown into the maelstrom:
In announcing that he had stopped serving the fattened livers of force-fed ducks and geese at his world-renowned restaurant, influential chef Charlie Trotter heaved a grenade into a simmering food fight, and the Foie Gras Wars erupted. He said his morally minded menu revision was meant merely to raise consciousness, but what was he thinking when he also suggested -- to Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Caro -- that a rival four-star chef 's liver be eaten as "a little treat"? The reaction to Caro's subsequent front-page story was explosive, as Trotter's sizable hometown moved to ban the ancient delicacy known as foie gras while an international array of activists, farmers, chefs and politicians clashed forcefully and sometimes violently over whether fattening birds for the sake of scrumptious livers amounts to ethical agriculture or torture.
Chicago has since reversed the ban. Whether you're for, against or simply curious, meeting the author of The Foie Gras Wars should add a little spice to an already hot pot.
Sun., April 5, 6-8 p.m, London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Ave., 215-978-4545, londongrill.com
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
One night, when Israeli wunderkind Michael Solomonov ran the show at Marigold Kitchen, he turned his kitchen and staff over to fellow chef Ana Sortun for a dinner celebrating her new cookbook, Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean. The meal started with a variety of mezze (small bites) that Sortun serves at her Boston restaurant, Oleana. Crisply layered spinach falafel with pickled ramps brought more yummy noises than was appropriate out of an adult dining table, and Turkish-style steak tartare lured with aromatic teases of spice. The most-coveted mezze, however, was a warm ball of butter-stuffed hummus wrapped in basturma, a dry-cured, thin-sliced beef.
Nearly two years later, Solomonov is chef and owner of one of 2008's most-lauded restaurants, Zahav. A variety of hummus is served with laffa, a unparelled bread fired to order in the brick taboon oven, as a palate-warming first course. Like the country cousin of Sortun's cosmopolitan basturma-wrapped balls, Turkish buttered hummus makes an appearance as a hot dip, glistening with pale yellow pools of everyone's favorite fat. Though I wouldn't even attempt laffa — without a 750-degree brick oven and a training course in Israel, why even bother? — the Turkish hummus is just too good not to try at home.
This recipe was inspired by my trip to Cappadocia, in the center of Turkey... In Cappadocia, they make hummus without tahini, and they use butter instead of olive oil because of its quality and availability.
Ana's recipe uses dried and soaked chickpeas, which you cook and then pulse in the food processor while still hot. Since I am fundamentally lazy and wanted to get to the "hot buttered" part as quickly as possible, I used canned chickpeas (which were one dollar a can at the Acme, natch).
After the jump, check out my interpretation of Zahav's, and Ana Sortun's, Turkish Buttered Hummus. You're on your own for laffa-imitation.
Turkish Buttered Hummus
(adapted from Ana Sortun, p. 200 in SPICE, and Mike Solo's version at Zahav)
Go Get This:
Two 16-ounce cans chickpeas (also called garbanzos), drained and liquid reserved
Two cloves garlic, diced small or mushed through a garlic press
7 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
Several glugs extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Two teaspoons cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Now Do This:
In a very small sauté pan, melt a tablespoon of the butter. When it foams, add the diced garlic and gently cook until soft. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, six tablespoons of the cut butter, the juice of one lemon and cumin. Add the olive oil a glug at a time as you begin to process the mixture. If more liquid is needed for through blending, use some of the water the chickpeas were packed in. Blend some more. Blend the hell out of it until smooth and creamy. You could leave the food processor on max and go take a shower and the hummus would be better for it.
Turn the machine off and taste the hummus. Add salt and pepper to taste, or more olive oil if it needs it. Blend!
Use a rubber spatula to pour the hummus into a small ovenproof casserole dish. Smooth into an even layer. Dot the top of the hummus with the reserved pieces of butter. Sprinkle with a bit more cumin.
Bake in the 350 degree oven until butter is melted and hummus is hot all the way through.
Serve hot with pita, raw vegetables, laffa and olives. Pretend you're at Zahav, or on a pastoral dairy farm in Cappadocia.
Get your favorite foodie (that's not you) a chance to hear one of the grand masters of edibles speak at the Philadelphia Free Library this winter. You can conveniently neglect to mention that the tickets were $14 or free.
My giant crush Mark Bittman (The Minimalist for The New York Times) and author of the new book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, will be visiting our fair city on February 4. His new tome "examines the role that meat consumption plays in global warming and discusses how government policy, big marketing, and global economics influence what we eat." Not so-fun-fact: According to Bittman, serving your family of four a steak dinner consumes the same amount of energy as driving around in an SUV for three hours, leaving all the lights on at home. Gulp. Um, anyone for risotto con asparagi?
One for risotto is almost-legendary local chef Marc Vetri, who will be at the Library on January 20 in support of his new memoir-cookbook, Il Viaggio di Vetri. Ashley Primis, Food and Lifestyle Editor of Philadelphia Magazine, will be the one to who gets to rake chef Vetri over his own natural hardwood coals.
Tickets for the Bittman talk are not on sale yet; call 215-686-5322 for information. The Vetri event is free; call 215-567-4341 for more info. Both events will be held at the Central Library at 1901 Vine Street.
Whether it's an allergy to chlorophyll, a fear of bread crusts, or antipathy to trying even just one bite of something new, children can be frustrating, picky little bastards at the dinner table.
In her series of toddler's board books, World Snacks (Tricycle), Amy Wilson Sanger introduces the wee ones to festively rendered edibles from around the globe. Simple pronunciation guides and glossaries accompany the bright little books, encouraging small children to become familiar with more exotic foods than chicken fingers and buttered pasta. Sanger's cut-paper and mixed media collages and rhyming text provide a jumping-off point for parents to introduce new foods to wary children.
Serving the young ones a diverse diet is a wise investment in our foodie future: someday our elderly selves will no longer be able to pestle our own pesto or scour the greenmarket for the best beets. Though someday we will be at the mercy of the more nimble generation, I have no desire to spend my twilight years eating fish sticks.
Bee Wilson, award-winning food columnist for London's Sunday Telegraph, will appear at the Rittenhouse Barnes and Noble (1805 Walnut St., 215-665-0716) at 7 p.m. this evening to sign copies of her new book Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee (Princeton University Press). Official release date is tomorrow, Oct. 15.
We here at Meal Ticket were lucky enough to snag an advance of the book, which is full up with dense, amazingly researched chapters on things like the widespread adulteration of English tea, the insanely detailed practice of bottling counterfeit French wine, bastardized condiments and putrid Christmas geese pawned off as fresh fowl.
The book is quite relevant, too, considering all the consumer food scares of the past year. See Wilson's recent NYT op-ed on tainted baby formula in China. The same exact thing happened in New York more than a century ago.
It's a shocking and engrossing read. Definitely check it out.
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