"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pita Toasts, Cheese Straws and Thanksgiving!

Reader, in a perfect world there would be a little kitchen elf who would magically make hors d'oeurves appear while I'm putting the finishing touches on dinner. My mind just doesn't naturally wander in that direction when I'm thinking about food--you're much more likely to find me musing about the perfect dessert, or about the balance of flavors, textures and colors on the dinner plate.

And appetizers can, if done with too much flourish, actually dull the appetites of diners, and nothing makes a chef crankier than someone who picks at their dinner because they've eaten too much clam dip. I am guilty of this--a) I love clam dip and b) when I'm starving I eat what's in front of me until I'm full, regardless of course. I guess what I'm saying is that if I were my own guest, I would find myself very irritating! Good thing quantum physics doesn't allow that yet.

Anyway, all this is to explain why I haven't delved into the "Hors D'Oeurves and First Courses" chapter of this book too much, although at work it's de rigueur, especially when family comes. Usually it's a nice cheese with some crackers and grapes, but eventually I'll work my way through this chapter and somebody, somewhere, will get to try things like Fresh Corn Madeleines with Sour Cream and Caviar.

But not today.

Today I'm going to tell you about Pita Toasts and Cheese Straws.

Actually, I served the Pita Toasts as an accompaniment to lentil soup for my writing group, and I would make these again, any day. Here's why: easy, fast, and adjustable. (Oh, and delicious.)

To make the process more efficient, do this--instead of cutting the pitas in half, then into wedges, then brushing with oil--cut them in half, brush the rounds with oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, stack the rounds, and cut the stack into wedges.

My only mistake with this recipe was mixing white pitas with thinner, whole wheat ones--the thinner ones browned much more quickly and were on the edge of too done.

Dieters--you can make this a friendly snack by using those great high fiber pitas and spraying them lightly with cooking spray (preferably something without silicone).

You can also jazz these up by mixing a spice like cumin or chili powder into your oil.


I wasn't as happy with the Cheese Straws, and part of this was my literal brain. Don't you think something called a "straw" should be long and thin? And that's what the headnotes say too--thin and elegant, and that's how you feel when you're nibbling them. I followed the directions precisely (except what kind of cheese I used--I subbed dill havarti for cheddar) and my straws were kind of stumpy. They were more like sticks. But I guess Cheese Sticks doesn't sound quite as appealing, does it?

These aren't mine, but this is what they looked like. And I wasn't crazy about them, truthfully. Maybe it's because they're made with puff pastry, and I find puff pastry to be kind of bland and greasy. But my folks liked them, so maybe I'm just being cranky and persnickety.


Hey readers! What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Talk about a holiday where the focus is on the food! So tell me, where are you going, who's doing the cooking, and are you bringing anything? An old family recipe, or are you experimenting on your unsuspecting co-diners? (I am.) This is a fun time of year, so share the foodie bliss with us!

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