Tuesday, October 20, 2009


On the off chance anyone is still subscribed to this blog, just an FYI that I've started writing occasionally on a new personal/professional web site. The selection of content is still under consideration by a crack team of consultants, but will probably be somewhat similar to what I wrote about here.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

hiatus (and how smelling food makes flies die earlier)

After some thought, I've decided to put this blog on a hiatus of indefinite extent. It has been an enjoyable project, and I've learned a lot in the last year and a half, and accomplished many of the goals I set out for myself. Much of the reason I've decided not to continue this blog, at least in its current format, is that many of my goals are now being done much better by other people! Here are some blogs that I read and enjoy...

Some favorite food blogs:
Accidental Hedonist
Cooking for Engineers

Some favorite science blogs:
Cognitive Daily
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Language Log

Some favorite New York City blogs:

(and, as always, my blogroll is publically available here.)

I'll still be cooking and taking photos (of food and other things). My photos are hosted at Zooomr, and feel free subscribe to my photo feed with the usual RSS tools. I'll try to link those photos to recipes, or otherwise to note the origin of the dishes in a comment.

I may restart this blog at some point in the future, perhaps with a different focus. But for now, thanks for reading!

And as a final science-of-food note, National Geographic has a story today about an article to be published tomorrow in Science.

Many animals—from monkeys to mice to microscopic worms—live longer when they eat less than their fill. ... The effect may occur because animals are genetically programmed with strategies for dealing with food shortages. During famines, for instance, they could put more their energy into repairing their bodies and living longer. But when a cornucopia of food abounds, the animals put their energy into making babies. At normal food levels, for example, flies live about 45 days. When they can eat as much as they want, the flies only last about 35 days. But when they're on the optimal diet, they live about 55 days—about 60 percent longer. The smell of food erased about a quarter of the gain they got from dieting, though.

(Emphasis mine...) So those harsh caloric-restriction diets are less effective if you're surrounded by the tasty smells of bacon, and baking bread, and sauteeing onions... How about that.

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Monday, January 15, 2007


There have been a couple of cool photos of sooty buildings recently bouncing around the blogosphere. Here in New York, was this photo, originally posted at trevorlittle.com (click to see it full size):

That photo shows the dramatic effect of power washing a building on the Lower East Side, a building that apparently hasn't been cleaned since coal use started to decline many decades ago...

And today I ran across this photo on inhabitat (via Streetsblog), showing a "reverse graffiti" artist. Instead of putting paint on walls, these street artists "seek out soot covered surfaces and inscribe them with images, tags, and even advertising slogans using scrub brushes, scrapers and pressure hoses." Click to see more reverse graffiti images:

Even though the air here in NYC is vastly cleaner than it used to be, I still get black soot building up on the sills of open windows. Perhaps I should make an art project out of it rather than just spraying it into submission with 409...


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

chocolate truffles

As promised recently, I made truffles. (The suffering I go through when having to use up a pound of Callebaut baking chocolate!) They're not technically difficult, but there do seem to be some tricks, not all of which I've figured out yet. Despite that, they were delicious, even when making them vegan, with coconut cream instead of dairy cream.

The main recipe I used was the techniques from Cooking from Engineers. They talk about making the ganache, which is just a mixture of chocolate and cream that has enough chocolate to be soft, but not liquid, at room temperature. They then suggest putting the liquid ganache in the fridge to cool it, then making balls of ganache, then cooling again, then coating with cocoa powder (easy) or tempered chocolate (tricky). But when reading in McGee, I noticed that he said that professionals often let the ganache sit at room temperature overnight to harden naturally, instead of chilling it. Apparently, as with tempered chocolate, the cocoa butter in ganache needs to crystallize slowly to have the best texture at room temperature. Unlike with tempered chocolate, that texture is not dry and hard, but smooth and silky. So that's what I did; the only refrigeration was after forming the ganache balls, to harden them enough to coat.

As I noted, however, I wanted to avoid the dairy that traditional truffles are made of, so with the help of Google, I found that you can make truffles with coconut cream! (A number of other web sites advocate tofu or soy milk enhanced with margarine, but that sounds like a bad idea...) So I got a can of good-quality coconut milk (no water or flavorings in the ingredients!), and put it in the fridge so the fat solidified. I then scooped up the semi-solid cream off the top, leaving the transparent coconut milk on the bottom. I used the same proportions as with dairy truffles, 1 part coconut cream to 1 1/2 parts chocolate, scalding the cream and stirring in the chopped chocolate until smooth.

I decided to make half of the truffles with hazelnuts, so I stirred in a tablespoon of Frangelico to half of the ganache before it cooled. I then finely chopped a small handful of hazelnuts, and roasted them in a frying pan on low until starting to color and smell good. After the ganache solidified (a little softer than I would have liked; I might use 1.75 parts chocolate next time), I rolled little balls, chilled them, and used spoons to coat the plain ganache in cocoa powder and the hazelnut ganache in chopped hazelnuts. I found that squeezing the nuts into the ganache helped them stick. The results were very good...