Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shad roe, the harbinger of spring

In Charlottesville, Whole Foods does a nice job with its fish counter, and there's always at least two varieties of fish that meet my criteria: beautifully fresh and good value. (The only reason I don't shop there regularly is that I believe in supporting local businesses, and Charlottesville has an excellent fishmonger on West Main.) 

Yesterday was no exception. The little trouts had bright, shiny eyes, the Scottish salmon was rich and firm, but what were those strange things that looked like elongated, rosy sweetbreads doing there? 

Why, that was the legendary shad roe, which is only available fresh in the spring as the fish migrate up river from the Chesapeake Bay to spawn. It comes in two lobes, which is just enough for a meal for two.

Watching your cholesterol? Skip this dish and go back to the fish counter for a more healthful option.

Lori K's Shad Roe Brunch

1 twin-lobe shad roe
6 ounces butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon capers
Cooked rice or grits
2 tablespoons bacon crumbles
Fresh crusty bread

Poach the roe in gently simmering water for 5 minutes. Be sure the liquid does not boil; the membrane around the roe is sensitive to high heat. Drain and snip between the two lobes to separate. Melt butter in a small skillet and season with salt (if using unsalted butter) and pepper. Add the two pieces of roe. Saute for 3 minutes on each side, or until firm. Remove roe and keep warm. Add the lime juice and capers to the butter in the skillet and cook until well blended. 
To serve, make a bed of arugula around each small plate. Spoon rice or grits into the middle and top with the shad roe. Drizzle the lime-butter-caper sauce over the top and sprinkle the bacon over. Add a couple of slices of bread to the side; they will be useful to sop up the remaining sauce.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Does loving vegetables lead to "Veggie Love"?

You'd think an ad that features women in lingerie caressing nutritious vegetables might appeal to the same demographic that watches football, right? But that wasn't the thinking of the suits at NBC, who PETA says rejected the pro-vegetarian ad - along with the $3 million payment that would have come with it - for airing during the Super Bowl XLIII broadcast, claiming that the ad "depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards."

But thanks to Fox affiliate KCBA-TV, which serves the Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz market, viewers in the salad bowl of the nation are seeing what the rest of the nation missed. The 30-second spot has been on KCBA-TV each night this week during TMZ.

According to PETA, the ad features models fondling vegetables to a pounding beat and concludes with the message "Studies Show: Vegetarians Have Better Sex." The scenes are amusing and sensual: A blindfolded woman erupts with delight after spending a little quality time with asparagus; a woman performs a seductive dance with a gourd; and another woman is so smitten that she joins a steaming "orgy" of mixed vegetable soup.

Why would vegetarians make better lovers? For one thing, many vegetarians are slimmer than meat-eaters. Also, heart disease and obesity can make their victims sluggish and fearful that sex can cause a coronary. Cholesterol and saturated fat restrict the flow of blood to all the body's vital organs - not just to the heart.

"Our 'Veggie Love' ad is the perfect way to counter the onslaught of commercials for artery-clogging fried chicken and bacon-laden double cheeseburgers," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "After all, the best thing that you can do for your health, animals, and the planet - not to mention your love life - is to go vegetarian."

And obviously, not think too mightily about objectifying women to suit your message.

For more information, visit To see the ad, click here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Look for the store's label

Interesting item from the PR Newswire: The introduction of high quality, store-brand organic products has changed consumer perceptions of private label grocery brands, according to results of the forthcoming J.D. Power and Associates Private Label Industry Report announced at the IRI CPG Summit in Las Vegas. In particular, consumer attitudes about many store brands have shifted - rather than being considered low-quality with bland packaging, private label brands are being thought of as unique and with having quality commensurate with that of traditional brands.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kill da wabbit

Blame Bugs Bunny for rabbit not being more available in grocery stores and on restaurant menus. Can anyone order it without a vision of gray and white fur chomping on a carrot appearing before their eyes? Or that little cottontail bounding away?

Nonetheless, rabbit is a healthful protein, lean and with a taste similar to chicken. The bones are somewhat of a problem, but many dishes suggest an initial cooking of the meat, cooling and removing the bones before adding the meat to a sauce.

My first experience with rabbit was while I was a child in the Azores, on a vacation in a fancy hotel that featured five-course meals every night (soup, fish, meat, cheese and dessert). It was barbecued and delicious. 

Barbecued Rabbit with Tarragon-Dijon Marinade

3 to 3 ½ pound young dressed rabbit, cut up
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup each Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh minced tarragon
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Rinse rabbit and pat dry. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow dish. If it has not been brined, salt lightly (but if you are on a salt-free diet, the other ingredients should be enough seasoning).
Whisk together the rest of the ingredients for marinade; pour over rabbit. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until next day, turning occasionally.
Lift rabbit from marinade and drain briefly. Barbecue rabbit by indirect heat, placing rabbit on grill directly above drip pan. Cover barbecue and adjust dampers as necessary to maintain an even heat. Cook, basting often with marinade, until meat is white at bone, at least 160 degrees internal temperature (about 35 minutes).
Serves 4 to 5

Recipe adapted from

For the non-squeamish among you, there's an excellent video on preparing a freshly killed rabbit for cooking on YouTube:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

DC eats

Well, we ended up a little pressed for time, so we ate at the new Capitol visitors center. For a cafeteria, the food wasn't bad, just a little pricey (almost $20 for two salads and two cups of coffee. Which, considering that two Pellegrinos at the Willard came to $15, isn't THAT bad). One of the salad choices looked pretty good: golden potatoes and red onions on a bed of arugula. It would have tasted better had it been made with Yukon Golds or yellow Finnish potatoes instead of Russets. The romaine was very bright and crisp. And the bacon bits were real and meaty. They had a balsamic vinegar dressing. 

Walking along Pennsylvania Avenue, I noticed a lot less beef on the posted menus than there used to be, and short ribs seemed to be the preferred cut. And almost every restaurant had at least one fish offering. Maybe eating healthier is getting to be the norm ... or is everyone just saving room for dessert?

Photograph: The Willard Intercontnental, Washington, DC

Monday, March 23, 2009

DC -- to dine for

Today we head off to DC for a little pleasure (Capitol visitors center), a little business (Hetch Hetchy) and a little remembering (Jim's dad and other Alzheimer's victims at a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial). And a little eating, of course.

I have no idea what the day holds; the best food we've had in DC has been around DuPont Circle, but I don't think we'll be heading that way today. So will it be a hot dog stand or chili today, or something more nutritious? Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The food revolution is now in season

For those of you who don't read the New York Times business section, here's a link to their story on the food revolution. And when it makes it to the business page, you know it's made it to movement status.

Photograph of Alice Waters at the farmers market: Suzan Walsh/Associated Press

Bananas and toffee and cream, oh my!

Banana cream pie was one of my favorite childhood desserts, and in Sacramento, my favorite was the one my friend Elaine did for the restaurant she and her husband David owned, Bamboo.

But the Brits one-upped us in the 1970s when the owners of The Hungry Monk, a restaurant in East Sussex, invented Banoffi Pie, which combines the flavors of banana and toffee. It's really easy, too.

Banoffi Pie

3 cans sweetened condensed milk
Pinch of salt
1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
3 large bananas
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Pour condensed milk into pie plate, sprinkle with salt and cover tightly with foil. Put in a roasting pan, then add about a half inch of boiling water. Bake, refilling pan to halfway with water about every 40 minutes, until milk is thick and a deep golden caramel color, about 2 hours. Remove pie plate from water bath and transfer toffee to a bowl, then chill toffee, uncovered, until it is cold, about 1 hour.
While toffee is chilling, clean pie plate and bake empty pie crust in it (pie weights will keep it from puffing up too much). Cool crust completely in pan on a rack, about 20 minutes.
Spread toffee evenly in crust, and chill, uncovered, 15 minutes.
Cut bananas into 1/4-inch-thick slices and pile over toffee.
Beat cream with brown sugar in a clean bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks, then mound over top of pie.
The toffee can be made up to two days before.

If you want to make your own pie crust, here's the original recipe from The Hungry Monk:
For the pastry:
1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg and 1 egg yolk

Place the flour and sugar in a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and then rub it in to the flour / sugar until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Work in the egg to form a paste.
Chill for half an hour then roll out to 1/8-inch thick and line the deep pie tin.
Prick the base, line with parchment paper and weigh down with dry beans.
Cook for 15 minutes then remove the beans and paper.
Put the crust back into the oven and cook until it is evenly golden.
Remove from the oven and cool.