Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All-time favorite lists: favorite foods

It's the third and final installment of my all-time favorite lists posts. I started last week to help Epicurious celebrate it's 15th Anniversary. They have a whole section of "Best of Epicurious" with lists of best tv food personalities, most influential chefs, and I read a new one yesterday that was very intriguing... Top Cookbooks. All those lists got me thinking about my all-time favorites, so I thought I would round up a few on the ol' blog.

So. Okay. Let's play deserted island. You know, the game where you go around the group and pick one thing you'd take with you if you were stranded on a deserted island? How about this one. You're stranded on a deserted island... What four foods would you take with you? Never thought about it? Well, I have. I think about food like 75% of my waking time. And, sometimes I even dream about it. Now's your chance to think about it. If you could only have 4 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

In no particular order.

1. Raw Oysters on the Half Shell
Love them. I mean LOVE them. I think it's because I rarely eat them. It's like a forbidden fruit or something. I only get them like twice a year. If I had it my way, I'd eat them every day. Like Jimmy Buffett said, "Gimme oysters and beer for dinner every day of the year, and I'll feel fine..." When I travel to places where they are local, I ALWAYS make a point to try them. Last summer, I was in Boston for a week, and I think I really did eat them every day I was there. Earlier this spring, when I was in California wine country, I had some west coast oysters. (Sadly, it wasn't at the Hog Island Oyster Company. I can't believe I was right there and didn't go to it.) They really do taste different. If you like seafood, and haven't tried oysters on the shell, you must try them. You can take baby steps and try them steamed first, but I think the raw ones are far superior. I know a lot of people are grossed out by them, but seriously, get over it, and try some. I don't eat mine with mignonette. Just squeeze a little lemon juice over them and slurp them up. Salty, briney, lemony, seafoody, yumminess.

Hello, sexy... Hog Island Oysters

2. Smoked Salmon
Do you remember the Tanqueray commerical with the shrimp cocktail? No?

One of my faves. Well, that logic probably goes for smoked salmon, too. Trust me, I know. You'll feel ill for a couple hours. But, the fact that I did get two plates of nova lox at the breakfast buffet at the Flamingo should say that I like me some smoked salmon. I really like salmon in any form, but when you smoke it, it just takes it to another whole level. Plus, I am fascinated with smoking and curing meat. If you leave meat out, it goes bad a a few hours, right? Well, not if it's either smoked or cured. Amazing. That's how it stays good in your fridge for like 3 weeks, too.

Feeding my fishy habit is tricky, I've learned. There are a couple of issues with salmon. Like, have you heard of the recent "frankenfish" debate? It seems farmed salmon are pretty hard to breed. Captivity makes the pesky little boogers not want to get it on--or whatever fish do. So, some scientists came up with a female breed that will reproduce without any males. Yep, they figured out how to get two female genes to make a new baby salmon. I'm serious. I'll not go into the details, but it sounds like something right out of science fiction. Now, they want to get it approved so they can start breeding these all-female lines of salmon for food. I don't know about you, but I'm not eatin' no stinking frankenfish. Also, for years, we've been debating whether wild-caught or farmed salmon is better. On one hand, because the supply of wild fish is declining globally, farming started out as a means to give them a break and still give consumers a source for lean heart-healthy protien. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week, afterall. So farmed fish are good because they help maintain wild fish species, right? Well... Not exactly. Fish farming, like other forms of industrial agriculture, employs the use of antibiotics and other chemicals to keep the fish in close capitivity healthy. Because salmon are a high-fat fish, meaning high in good omega 3 fats, many of the toxins build up in their fat, and are passed on to the unknowing eater of the fish. So, what do you do if you have a smoked salmon monkey on your back? Well, I try to not eat a plate as big as my head full of salmon anymore. And, I've mentioned here before that I try to live and die at the grocery store seafood counter by the the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. According to the site, Oregon and north wild-caught and U.S. farmed in tank systems are best choices. Avoid imported farmed and south of Oregon wild-caught salmon. And, like vegetables at the farmers market, different species of salmon are "in season" at different times of year.

3. Blue cheese
Y'all knew cheese would be on my list, didn't ya? I've loved blue cheese since I was a kid. And the addiction started out the natural way for a kid with some thick, creamy, tangy blue cheese dressing. It wasn't long before I discovered that it was even better plain, i.e. not in dressing. This is something else that I find a lot of people are grossed out by. "You mean you eat molded cheese?!?" Well, it's not molded per se, and all cheese is a little funky, because that's how cheese is made, by letting milk sit out a while, essentially. As a matter of fact, when the hubs and I first started dating, I might as well have been an alien with little green antennae the first time I put a glob of blue cheese dressing on my salad in front of him. I tease him that without me, he would be missing out on a whole lot. Blue cheese. Red wine. Oysters. Corona. At any rate, now he's a convert. I mostly get balsalmic vinegar on my salad these days for calories sake, but I still love to buy a big 'ol honkin' wedge of blue cheese from the wine and cheese shop at the Capitol Market and get out some crackers and a nice big red like a spicy syrah, or blue cheese is even surprising good with the right kind of beer. My favorites I've tried as of recent? Stilton, of course. And one variety from Rogue Creamery called Crater Lake Blue. I found it at the Capitol Market, so it must be distributed nationally. Find it. BTW, I'll spare you a pic of blue cheese. I couldn't find any that really looked appetizing.

4. Guacamole
I cook first and foremost because I love to eat. I'm not one to sit back either and wait for something, I'm gonna go out and get it. And, I'm talking about guacamole, people. So, I love guacamole, right? Well, not all guac is created equal. What is at the grocery store in the cheese case is hit or miss. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's pretty bland. And either way, it goes for about $4.99 for about 8 oz. So, I figured out how to make it myself for a fraction of the cost, and it's always really good. I use a Tyler Florence recipe from his cookbook, Eat This Book. It's especially good with homemade tortilla chips hot and salted right out of the oil. I've written about it before here and how I got my three-year old niece on the guacamole bandwagon. I don't know if she's had it since, but that kid did a number of guacamole that day. While grocery store guac is so-so, I always eat it at Mexican restaurants. They know what's up when it comes to making guacamole. It's worth the extra charge for a side of it, trust me. I once ran across a recipe for low-fat guacamole made by substituting some plain yogart in place of some of the avocado, but I quickly dismissed the proposition. Avocados are full of good fat, the same kind in nuts and fish. And, while I wouldn't want to eat it three meals a day every day, (okay, maybe I could) a little good guacamole is okay ... like Tony St. Clair says, "in moderation."

So there you have it. My four favorite foods. Strange? Maybe. But I'd die happy with a plate of each in front of me.

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