Breathtaking botanical illustrations and photographs in a guide to the world of spices

I pretty much sprinkle the same thing on every meal. I am admittedly heavy-handed with the cayenne on my own plate and rarely stray from the variety of basils I grow in the summer or bundles of dried rosemary in winter when cooking for my family. I am much more apt to get creative with spices while baking, to savory up my sweets. Lior Lev Sercarz’s The Spice Companion has got me pretty excited to change things up.

This book is an absolute must read for anyone who likes to cook. In it, Lev Sercarz, celebrated culinary expert and master of spices, walks readers through a collection of spices chosen based on the criteria of: 1) can be found anywhere and 2) are essential in certain parts of the world. He opens with a few short essay-like chapters on his own culinary journey, the history of spices, and overviews on procuring, blending, and storing spices, all written in an inviting tone that makes the reader, no matter how novice in the kitchen or rote in their culinary routine, feel excited and encouraged to experiment with spices. They serve as thoroughly informative, enjoyable appetizers to the main course of the collection: the spices.

“Any dried ingredient that elevates food or drink is a spice,” Lev Sercarz writes. His alphabetically organized curation of spices is gorgeously photographed by Thomas Schauer, who also gives us plenty of food-porn shots spanning the lifecycle of spices (from herbs still growing to well-seasoned meals) throughout the text. Read the rest

Artificial sweeteners be damned; these naturally occurring, safe proteins are thousands of times sweeter than sugar

KSU plant biochemical geneticist Raj Nagarajan describes the properties of Thaumatin, Monellin and Brazzein, all found in west African plants that are generally considered safe for consumption; each is a protein, and they are, respectively, 1,000x, 2000x, and 3000x sweeter than sugar. Read the rest

Cat attempts to steal a treat tossed to dog, regrets decision quickly

Miscalculation.

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Diner "overwhelmed with customers" after Michelin star awarded by mistake

Le Bouche à Oreille is a perfectly decent working class diner in Bourges that'll feed you a slap-up meal for €10. La Bouche à Oreille, though, is a brilliant €48-course restaurant in Paris. Only one of them should have been awarded a Michelin star, but don't tell that to the posh sorts descending en masse upon an overwhelmed greasy spoon.

The Michelin Guide apologised, saying it had confused the café with a more refined establishment of the same name near Paris. The listing was changed on its website, but not until two days later.

Véronique Jacquet, who runs the café, said it had a regular clientèle of local tradesmen. “Suddenly, we were rushed off our feet. Reporters were coming in and then my son phoned me from Paris, where he lives. He almost died laughing.”

Three cheers for the diner's chef, Penelope Salmon: “I put my heart into my cooking.” Read the rest

How Sweetheart candy hearts are made

For more than 100 years, NECCO has cranked out its iconic Sweetheart candies. Some of them are still emblazoned the original statements of "Be Mine," Be Good," and "Kiss Me." The company says that "to meet the high demand for Sweethearts, NECCO continuously produces them from late February through mid-January of the following year."

I prefer learning how they are made to actually eating them.

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Bake: a Queen of Hearts cherry pie for V-day

Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin (aka @ThePieous) (previously) writes, "Happy Valentines Day! If your readers are looking for a last-minute gift idea for their significant others, they may want to check out my new pie tutorial. It's a Queen of Hearts cherry pie baked in a heart shaped cake pan." Read the rest

"Cruelty free" Italian snail-farming booms thanks to caviar and slime-cosmetics

The Italian snail-farming industry has grown by more than 325% over 20 years, driven by a boom in eating snail-egg "caviar" and snail-slime-based cosmetics (which have little-to-no scientific basis) -- slime sales are up 46% over the past ten months. Read the rest

Yum and Double Yum, They Need to Sell These In the USA

Who doesn’t like a Chinese steamed bun? I love it. It’s also called a “bao” and its soft doughy exterior often contains roast pork. All you want to know here.

Who doesn’t like Flan? I love it. You know the stuff—an eggy, silky smooth type of custard with a drizzling layer of caramel on top. Learn to make it.

Smash them together and what do you get? Only in Japan will you get a steamed bun with flan inside for a buck.

I say double yum.

Via Rocket News. Read the rest

Philippines burger joint "Brick Burgers" uses Lego-shaped buns

Brick Burger in Pasig, Philippines sells hamburgers on buns molded to look like giant (non-interlocking) (alas) 2X2 Lego bricks, in multiple colors. Read the rest

Dangerous farm equipment used to make corn meal

My favorite part of this video is the hand-cranked machine that strips dried kernels of corn from the cob, then grabs the denuded cob and deposits it out of the hopper (hopefully later to be turned into corncob pipes [I had a friend in college who smoked pot in a corncob pipe.]). After that the kernels are ground into meal with a gas=powered mill that has pulleys and a belt that are just begging for a person to get their finger close enough to bite off. Read the rest

Charming short film on creating the perfect bowl of ramen

Many Westerners equate ramen noodles with the cheap dried stuff that poor students and young adults eat, but Criterion Collection is doing their part to change that. They put together this wonderful documentary to support the 4K restoration of "ramen Western" Tampopo, one of the greatest food films ever made. Read the rest

The history of eating bugs in Japan (with recipes)

Over at the Japanese culture website Tofugu (where my wife Carla is on staff), there's a great article by Kanae Nakamine on Japanese bug eating traditions, complete with tasty recipes like bee larva omelets, baby ant minestrone, and rice grasshopper granola bars. There are also vending machines in Japan that sell edible bugs.

If you’re too lazy to hunt for bugs and cook them, don’t worry! There are other options. Japan is a land of convenience, and this extends to their tasty, tasty insects.

You can buy edible bugs anytime 24/7. In Tokyo’s Inokashira park, there’s a vending machine with two kinds of bugs that come in cans: Rice Grasshopper Kanroni and Hanakuyouniis Brand Bee Larvae. Both of these products are kinds of tsukudani, which is the traditional way of cooking with soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Kanroni is similar to tsukudani, but has more sugar and tastes sweeter. Hanakuyouni is a certain brand of tsukudani food in Japan. It uses its original recipe to stew the bee larvae for this product. So next time you’re going for a jog in this Tokyo park, swing your sweaty self over to this vending machine and start guzzling bee larvae. Nothing prepares you for long distance running better than a belly full of insect babies!

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Bake: a pixel-art Mario pie for National Pie Day

Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin (aka @ThePieous) writes, "It is National Pie Day in America tomorrow (not to be confused with "International Pi Day" - the cooler big cousin of pie holidays on March 14th...) In honour of this occasion I've posted a new tutorial video that is very attainable for any novice pie-geeks out there thinking about whipping something up nifty. It features our favourite 8 bit plumber hero, with a special guest appearance at the end." Read the rest

Good deal on the FryDaddy electric deep fryer

I paid $22 for my FryDaddy electric deep fryer, but it's on sale on Amazon for $17 (free Prime shipping) right now. This thing is awesome -- I use it a couple of times a week to fry sweet potato, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts chips. (Here's the coconut oil I use with it.)

Lately I've been frying very thinly cut slices of butternut squash. It's a bit tricky, because for five minutes it doesn't look like anything is happening, then suddenly the slices begin to brown, and about a minute later, they start to burn. There's a 30-second window where they are perfectly browned and on the edge of being crispy and chewy. With a little salt, they are one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten. I'll shoot a video soon.

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Glowing, UV-reactive Tron pie

Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin, storied nerd piemaker, created this fluorescing Tron pie, doped with tonic water for extra UV-reacting goodness. Read the rest

A sushi comic from the sick, twisted, and food-obsessed mind of Anthony Bourdain

Like Sushi? Like hyper violent yakuza movies? Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi is a comic that could only have come from the sick, twisted, and food-obsessed mind of Anthony Bourdain. And I’m pretty sure he’d take the whole sick and twisted mind thing as the compliment it was intended to be. The latest book, Blood and Sushi is a prequel to 2013’s Get Jiro!, this time we learn the backstory of how Jiro went from Yakuza enforcer to renowned LA sushi chef.

By day, Jiro helps run his father’s crime empire along with his maniacal half-brother, but by night Jiro trains to become a master sushi chef. His two sides are on a collision course that plays out across Japan and leaves a bloody wake. The artwork is incredible. Each frame balances the futuristic Japan, the beauty of the cuisine, and the grizzly katana-induced carnage.

This comic is full bore, unhinged, Bourdain madness. If you’re familiar with his travel shows, then you’ve probably gotten a taste of his dark humor, disdain for vegetarians, and obscure cinematic references — but the Jiro series takes it to a new level. It’s violent. It’s weird. I can’t get enough.

Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose Vertigo 2015, 160 pages, 7 x 0.5 x 10.5 inches, Hardcover $15 Buy one on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

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Sea eel population dropped 90% in 30 years

In Japan, people eat more than one hundred thousand tons of eel per year. In the last 30 years, overfishing has caused the wild eel population to decline by 90 percent.

From The New Yorker:

At Tsukiji, wholesale prices for farm-raised unagi imported from China immediately surged to a record high of around forty U.S. dollars per kilogram, and remained there for much of 2013. Prices for the wild-caught, “natural Japanese” eels served at upscale restaurants like Nodaiwa climbed even higher, by as much as fifty or sixty per cent.

But the government had been late to recognize the extent of the problem, which had already taken a toll on many famous restaurants specializing in kabayaki, a signature unagi preparation. In March, 2012, a year before the species was declared endangered, the beloved unagi restaurant Suekawa closed its doors, after sixty-five years of business, and it was followed a month later by the popular restaurant Yoshikawa.

Image by Kossy@FINEDAYS from Akabane, Tokyo - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link Read the rest

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