Tuesday, January 03, 2006

ED&BM's New Years Fullfillable and/or Unfulfillable Wishes

The new year has arrived and so has everyone’s long lists of resolutions that might prove to be fulfillable – yet mostly unfulfillable. Of all the bad habits I have -- gluttonizing, drinking and smoking won’t even make it past the first week of my ‘temporary resolution period’. So might as well try to stick with something I can improve: anything related to food. Here are my resolutions for 2006. And I don’t think it’ll be too hard to follow through with them since they orbit the our food universe. God, I’m such a food perv.

Explore and cook more ethnic cuisines.
Almost every day of the week, you can find me sitting on my dining table with the Food Network on, eating some kind of stir-fry, rice and soup noodle dish within the Asian culinary realm. Tofu, papaya salad, fried rice, pad kee mow, Chinese beef noodle soup, etc. Frankly, I’m tired of it because it’s just too easy and fast to cook. And I think my roommate would appreciate a day or two each week of fresh air devoid of fish sauce, kimchee and shrimp paste. I’ve become really interested in Middle Eastern food (Persian, Armenian), Indian and of course, South American (Brazilian, Peruvian). Initially, I had been hesitant about eating Indian food because of lamb/mutton but love it now. Reading all the wonderful reviews about places like Mario’s Peruvian and Café Brazil has really whet my appetite for South American food as well. Time to save up some cash for all the new spices and spice rack. Personally, I don’t think I have the room to fit it in my kitchen.

Buy more cookbooks for research and motivation.
Some people deem cookbooks merely as instructional guides. Not for me. These precious gems should inspire and stimulate you. A lot of work has been put into perfecting a dish that may require no more than five ingredients. Why not four ingredients? Why not six? Because food is good in its simplest form. Mealcentric has written a great posting on how food has been bastardized by ‘trendy’ ingredients just to cause a commotion. Sure Vietnamese spring rolls are good, but do you really need to add Alaskan lobster into the filling and shave truffles on top of it? As good as it may sound, we’re dismissing the foundation of the dish: spring rolls. What I love about cookbooks is that you can try making a dish and adding your own twist to it to call it your own. Currently, there are a good 20 cookbooks on my Amazon wish list and I’m hoping to get as many of them as possible this year. Look at how many books J of Kuiadore has. They’ve played a huge role in her passionate pursuit for perfection and immaculate presentation of her dishes. J definitely inspires me. Looks like I’ll be going to Ikea very soon for a bookshelf and spice rack. Spiceflügenak rack: $79. Presentation is crucial and you can learn an awful lot from your culinary textbook. It's amazing how you can make a dish of macaroni and cheese look great with the addition of a parsley sprig and tiny, Canadian bacon cubes (brunoised). When your eyes become stimulated, so does your stomach. Ever heard the saying ‘Your eyes can be bigger than your stomach’?

Improve presentation and photography of my food.
God I cannot stand my photos. I shoot my photos on a reddish/brown dining table I got off Craig’s List with a standard, GE light bulb that emits vanilla/cream colored light, causing all my photos to look extremely red. I have to use Photoshop to adjust the color curves all the time. So annoying. I noticed a lot of people are fortunate enough to have abundant light coming into their houses. This may be the reason why my rent is so damn low in West LA -- because I have ZERO light coming into my batcave! Nor can I shoot my food on a weekend afternoon because, as most of you know, I’m busy on the weekends working. I’d love to have more fancy silverware to shoot on but I actually like my white dishes. It’s a canvas… all it needs is some paint on it. I’ll probably start out resolution #3 by buying a white light bulb and checking out more photos from Kuiadore, Delicious Days and Nordlijus.

Cook for as many friends as possible.
In addition to cooking, I like cooking for people during the week. For Christmas, I cooked a few dinners for friends as a present – which they really enjoyed. One of my biggest fears is cooking for more than four people because of my limited kitchen space but I think I can overcome it if I just sit down and plan things out better. A good cook can toss spices here and there, but he must know the cooking times of every ingredient so that they can all be plated at one time. Ok, it takes about 8-10 minutes to grill asparagus in the oven so I should start with the chicken because it takes 15-18 minutes in the oven to make it perfectly juicy. I prefer cooking at home versus a restaurant because first and foremost, it is MUCH healthier. Secondly, home cooked food means more to people. Thirdly, I can play anything I want from my iPod and avoid the Muzak you probably here at restaurants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the same restaurant, only to hear the SAME, EXACT music playing. The employees must go nuts. And finally, I can get completely wasted during dinner and just pass the fuck out. No chance of DUI there haha.

Meet the food bloggers.
The past six months have been really great. I’ve learned a lot about food outside of my own culture, and kitchen for that matter. Made it a point to try something different every time I go to a restaurant, instead of sticking with something safe. Since I started writing, Chicken Gizzard yakitori sounds way more comforting to me than say, a steak. You have all made me exhume my writing hand after reading all of your blogs. You guys can truly write and I admire that. I still cannot stand reading the food reviews in LA Times and LA Weekly. It seemed like it was a medium for self-absorbed writers to show off how many SAT words they’ve learned since going to Princeton Review classes. I appreciate eloquent writing, but only if there’s a reason for its usage. Most people do not speak like that – its not English. Shit like "Per our conversation..." Food is sustenance for life and I love reading about its connection to things that matter to you. Why is it that a simple bowl of Chinese porridge can make me happy and make me wanna call my mom? What I’m saying is that it’d be nice to meet everyone over a nice dinner someday.

Happy New Year to everyone. Thanks for reading.


Kirk said...

Happy New Year Dylan - hope your able to keep all of your resolutions!

Daily Gluttony said...

Those are some great resolutions Dylan...Happy New Year!!! Hopefully we can all keep the last one if all of us SoCal food bloggers manage to get together this time!

BoLA said...

Yes...I agree with Pam! Great New Year's post! Will have to do mine too. ;)

Passionate Eater said...

GREAT POST Dylan! I agree with each and every one of your New Year's Resolutions! I genuinely hope that you are able to "explore and cook more ethnic cuisines" and
"cook for as many friends as possible"--I think that if you fulfill those two resolutions, you not only will become a better cook, but a better person. Learning about different cuisines is a powerful way to learn about the people of the world. Seriously. Plus, cooking for someone else is such an intimate process--it necessarily strengthens relationships.

Finally, I know what you mean about blog photos. I've been getting really depressed over the quality of my "dog ugly" images. However, I take solace in knowing that if we lived in expensive apartments like those "other" food bloggers, our pictures would be 100X better! (Or I'd like to hope.) I also live in a dark underground hole, but at the price of rent in the Bay Area, I feel like I am paying enough to rent a Bel Air mansion.

Thank you for such an inspirational post Dylan!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Kirk/Pam/Kristy: HNY. Prof Salt had tried to coordinate a meetup but apparently it didn't happen b/c of prior commitments. I'd be down for a meetup, but it can only be on a weekday. And Kirk is all the way down in SD. It'd be really interesting to see what we decide on since we're all food snobs haha.

Hi PE, well said about experimenting with different cuisines. I belive a good cook should have common lore of other ethnic cuisines. An even better cook can marry two types of cuisines together for 'fusion cooking'. Regarding photos, I think we just have to work harder haha. Then we'll be able to afford a better camera, better lighting fixtures (not Ikea's crap), better plates and better ingredients. For the time being, I'll just get a white light and shoot extra close hehe.

elmomonster said...

I happen to think your photos are quite good! Mine, on the other hand, always have to be color corrected in Photoshop...I guess I go to too many dark restaurants!

MEalCentric said...

Great post Dylan. Check out "Food of Life". Its an Iranian cookbook, filled with great recipes. Bascially hits all your goals except the food presenation goal, sorry, Persian food isnt very photgenic. Buy the book, learn more about Persian cuisine, and cook for your food blogger friends (hey, I'm free). Here's a link


eatdrinknbmerry said...

Meal, i'm gonna add it to my wishlist. I think i'll try this out. Where would i get the ingredients??? Thanks again.

Jhaw said...

Hi eatdrinknbmerry!
I've been visiting your blog since I got to know of passionate eater's food blog. Nice new year's resolution you have here.
About ethnic dishes...have you tried some ethnic Filipino dishes lately? I can recommend some.
Happy new year and hope to see more of your thoughts about food ad life.

J said...

hi dylan, great resolutions! i too have a cadzillion books on my amazon wish-list awaiting my purchase upon striking the lottery...sigh...

MEalCentric said...

Dylan, there are plenty of Iranian grocery stores on the westwide that would have the ingredients. Elat Market, on Pico just east of Doheny is one that comes to mind. You'd be surprised how common most the things really are and whole foods would probably satisfy most your needs. If you have trouble locating anything, drop me a line and I'll hunt it down for you.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Meal, are there any closer to West LA? I should probably be eat some Persian food to see what i'd like to make. I've eaten Persian food in NYC and loved it -- so good. I remembered having lamb/beef kababs and saffron flavored rice I think. What do you recommend in the Westside? Thanks Meal.

MEalCentric said...

Many of my friends like Javan restaurant on the westside. Its on Santa Monica just west of the 405. Here is a run down of dishes that I like and have found my non-Iranian friends to like.

1. Dont fill up on the free bread.
2. Maust eh Khiar- Yogurt with cucumbers and mint. Light, refreshing, classic.
3. Tadeek. Basically the burnt rice on the bottom of the pot (like Bibimbap). Ask for tadeek make with BREAD. Its a whole different game.

You can be conservative and get kababs which are served with plain rice. If you go this route, make sure to use the red seasoning ("Sumac") on the meat and plain rice (never on seasoned rice!)
1. Soltani- One skewer of filet mignon and one of ground beef (good way to go)
2. Boneless chicken kabab (hum drum)

Rice Dishes
1. Adas Polo- Lentils and white rice. Very plain but good
2. Lubia Polo- Green beans, ground chicken or beef mixed in with rice and tomato paste. I love this dish and find that all my American and Asian friends cannot get enough of it.
3. Zeresk Polo - Tart/sour berries with rice. If you like slightly tart, slightly sweet things, this is the best.
4. All-ba-loo polo- sour cherries and rice, sometimes with sliced almonds. I prefer # 3 above
5.Bagahlee Polo- Fava beans and rice. Good but you gotta like fava beans and many dont.

Stews (all served over rice)
1. Ghormeh Sabzee- various herbs and greens sauteed and made into a stew with a few kidney beans and meat. Slightly tart since they put dried lemons in the stew while it boils. I love it but dont care for the stewed meat.
2. Bademjoon- Eggplant stew with thick slices of soft eggplant. Again slightly (just a hint) tart from the use of underripe grapes to season the broth. Usually has chicken in the stew.
3. Feesinjoon- Walnut and pomegranite paste stew. Very rich and filling. I dont love it since its a little too oily for me but can still appreciate it.
4. Gheemeh- stew made from split yellow lentils. Heavy use of tomato paste. Love it.

1. Ash eh reste - thick soup with abundent use of greens, beans and pasta. Super comforting.
2. Ash eh joe- same as above but barley rather than pasta.
Make sure you use the "cashkt" which is a thick yogurt looking thing to flavor the soup with.

Dont be brave. Iranian drinks are made for an iranian palate. Dont believe me? Try "Douug". Its a yogurt based drink with mint. You'll think it tastes like fermented milk but its like the coca cola of Iran.

Let me know if you get to try these.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

hey man, thanks for the "Persian Food For Dummies" restaurant menu . I'm printing this out and flashing it in front of the server. Much appreciated MEal.

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