Thursday, January 07, 2010

Blondes are more fun, but . . .

Walnut, lemon and cardamom cake is the first recipe I've made from Moro that was truly unpopular. Not bad, exactly, just not popular. I don't know why I have to lead with the negative, since I've been loving this book so ardently over the last few weeks, but I'll get to the good news soon.

The cake was flourless and gained substance from chopped walnuts, almonds, and polenta. My father and I decided that if this were served in a thin slice at a restaurant with a scoop of fancy ice cream, everyone would find it delicious and elegant, its extreme graininess exotic. But at home, with no ice cream, it was severe to the point of punishing. The recipe calls for 3 to 4 tablespoons of freshly ground cardamom and much though I love cardamom, even I was put off. It was like eating cardamom-scented grit. Just a spoonful of whipped cream would have worked miracles.
Buen provecho, chickens.

 I've fallen so behind in my food reporting that this will be a long, listy Moro roundup. 

Some highlights:

-A mushroom and almond soup was designed for people who love the flavors of sherry and dried porcini mushroom, which I don't, but I still enjoyed the soup. The pounded almonds went in at the end and while I'm not sure what they contributed, they certainly did not detract.

-A chicken stuffed with garlic and coriander made us all happy. 
There was a lot of salt and pepper on the skin, which explains the dark blisters. Looks obscene, like all roasted chickens.

-Hummus with lamb was substantial and tasty. The meat turned one of my favorite snacks into a meal.
It floors me that anyone can object to hummus, but neither of my children will touch it and ate only the Moro flatbread I'd made to go alongside. The breads of Moro are so spectacular they get their own post.

-A saffron pilaf called for almost a stick of butter, which pretty much guaranteed triumph. The recipe suggests the optional addition of "barberries" which I had never seen until a few days ago, when I was in my favorite imported foods store and happened to come across a little baggie of them. So exciting. They are very tiny and taste like sharp, exceedingly sour raisins. Unfortunately, eating them wasn't as much fun as finding them.

-Finally, back in December I mail-ordered mojama, a "wind-dried" tuna from Spain, the recipe for which dates to the Phoenicians. Or so says Moro. Do you think they really dry it in the wind? 
The mojama arrived in the form of a rock-hard, burgundy-colored brick
which you are supposed to shave it into the thinnest of slivers and use as an accent in salads and starters.  
It is chewy, super-salty, fishy and very delicious. Rich. A little goes a long way. If you can imagine tuna prosciutto, you can imagine mojama.  
On Christmas Day, I served mojama with spinach oregano and lemon
which was a hit, though I did not slice the mojama thinly enough, as you can see.

Last night I made mojama with piquillo peppers and caperberries which was basically just a clumsy salad.
I am not fond of capberberries unless they are chopped up, and didn't like the salad. (This is by far the best recipe I've ever made with caperberries. If you like delicious food, you should try it.) 

We have a large slab of mojama left and you can eat it like you would beef jerky, though that seems like a waste of a delicacy. I keep thinking it would be excellent on a pizza with manchego cheese and pumpkin seeds. Many months ago, I saw a picture on Facebook of such a pizza (minus mojama) and can't get the image out of my head. It's on the 2010 to-cook list. 

Speaking of 2010 goals, my only New Year's resolution is to drink less. Back when I merrily started and named this blog, I was a much heavier drinker than I am now. Last year I cut back drastically, and this year I'm cutting back even further. I have a deep terror of a certain disease, not unreasonable given my family history, and alcohol consumption is one of the few controllable risk factors. So I'm trying to control. The goal is no more than 100 drinks in 2010, which sounds like a lot until you do the math. 


  1. I have just found your blog (I did a search for Giulia Melucci's Salmon with lemon-tarragon butter and found you!
    Great blog, cant wait to see future foodie stories.


  2. lot of yummy pictures. i especially want some of that tuna carpaccio.
    but i gotta say, that cake looks as bad as you made it sound.
    100 drinks a year, huh? i have done my personal math and decided that isn't really possiblefor me. i hope you will keep us posted on the progress of that resolution/plan/program.

  3. Tipsy, how did you arrive at the 100 number?
    Also, two a week, e.g., one Friday and one Saturday, will land you at just over 100 for the year. Do you have a plan for portioning it out?

  4. Elizabeth -- 100 was a round number and I was aiming for roughly 2 a week, which seemed like the threshold for risk reduction. By stretching it over a year I thought I'd have more leeway to save up for social events, vacations, holidays, and account for weeks when nothing was going on.
    It's just a way of keeping better track. Who knows if it'll work. So far so good -- as of January 8.

  5. By "drinks" I assume you're referring solely to hard liquor and leaving wine (in moderation) out of the equation?

  6. Funny what children will and won't eat. I tend to see your offspring as adventurous eaters compared to my 10-year-old, but then comes hummus: They won't go near the stuff, but he eats it like it's going out of style. It's just about the only legume he'll consume (unless you count peanuts/peanut butter), and he'll eat it with sliced raw bell pepper and cucumber. With that opportunity to get nutrition in him, I serve it a lot. I'm sure he'll hate it when he's an adult and explain to friends that his weird Dad used to make him eat it for breakfast.

    Meanwhile, wow, first Jordan Mackay in the Bay Area edition of the Times is vowing to drink less (, now you. I'm feeling pressured, in a good way. And I like the yearly-number tactic for the reasons you explain. OK, it's decided: I'm aiming for 500 or fewer glasses of wine (that's all I drink) in 2010. Hey, that's a 50 percent cut.

  7. Honest Cook -- Unfortunately, wine is included. So is beer. I could easily make peace with 0 hard alcohol drinks in 2010.

    Pete -- 500 sounds perfect! Or maybe a little scant. Hey, I'm not advocating all this for anyone but me. Hummus is so good. Maybe I just didn't introduce it young enough?

  8. I was borderline diabetic with high triglycerides and carrying about 20 extra pounds, so I cut out alcohol a couple of years ago(along with other diet changes), and it was honestly not so bad. I will still have a glass of wine or a cocktail once in a while, maybe twice a month tops. I was wasting alot of calories and carbs on alcohol that I can now incorporate into a healthy diet. I've found that an extra serving of really good cheese, or getting the steak instead of the chicken or fish now and then is, for me anyway, well worth not having a glass of wine with dinner.

    And it took me a moment to realize that the shape of the tuna filet was the reason for the shape of your slices; I was wondering at first why on earth you were cutting them into dog biscuit-shaped pieces. But I'm sure it tasted lovely, no matter the shape.

  9. Alcohol is so interesting... my brother cut out alcohol (he had been drinking every night)and in 2 months lost 40 pounds and "never felt better in his life" BUT he is not sure he won't go back to drinking......
    how does this make sense?

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  11. A recent Kaiser study said women who drink a glass or two of anything with ethyl alcohol (wine or Everclear, doesn't matter) have a 10% greater risk of breast cancer (more than two drinks, the odds go up to 30%). But make that ethyl alcohol red wine and it lowers your risk of heart attack rather significantly. Cancer or coronary? Take your pick.

    Another recent study, of men, found that moderate to heavy drinking increases the incidence of certain kinds of cancers. And yet the study's authors said these results did not pertain to wine. Um, OK.

    In November 2009, a team from the National Cancer Institute announced the results of a study concluding that a moderate amount of wine, beer, or spirits (doesn't matter) reduces the risk of thyroid cancer. But what if there was a history of both breast and thyroid cancer in your family? Then what?

    Each of us has to weigh the risk/reward for drinking and a myriad other habits. Since the data concerning alcohol is endlessly self-contradicting, I'm going with the pleasure principle here, which means I'll never give up my glass of wine every day, regardless of what the next study claims. For me, life's too short not to drink wine.

  12. Where did you order the Mojama?