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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Interesting and Interestinger Martini Garnishes

Olives and lemon twists are old hat, compared to some of these suggestions for dirtying up your martini.

A big garlic stuffed olive, or a sun-dried tomato makes a great garnish. A pepperoncini is good in cheap gin, suggests atheorist.

A large sweet English pickled onion will make a special Gibson.

Chowgal goes the pickled vegetable route, with dilly green beans, or pickled okra. Ginger is good too.

For twist of citrus, try orange or grapefruit.

Springs of rosemary or thyme, work well, as do caper berries.

Peeled cucumber, candied orange peel, or watermelon make great garnishes, says talkoftomatoes.

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what besides olive do you put in a martini?

I Can’t Swallow That

Slashfood ran an intriguing post yesterday about the newish eating-disorder designation “orthorexia,” defined as a fixation on healthy eating that takes over one’s life. Linking to an article in UK newspaper The Guardian, blogger Nicole Weston explains that many orthorexics “are raw foodists, vegans, fruitarians or have habits so unusual, there is not yet an official name” (she cites the case of a person who will eat only yellow foods). Weston also mentions a 2004 University of Rome study that estimates up to 6 percent of people have the condition in some form.

My one problem with longish, well-written summaries like Weston’s is that they make it less likely that people will actually click through to the referenced article, since great blog summaries give readers the sense that they have a handle on the issue. That’s fine for the average wire story or straight-news article, but I feel like it’s a shame when it causes people not to read a truly fascinating piece like The Guardian’s, which is full of great details. For example, as reporter Kira Cochrane writes, “We are living in a uniquely orthorexic moment” where food-safety scares, conflicting health advice, and the prevalence of organic food trigger mass anxiety about food choices:

And, in this atmosphere, too, a marked quirkiness around food has become a source of fascination, even admiration. Where ‘that quirkiness used to reduce your status,’ says Deanne Jade, a psychologist and founder of the National Centre for Eating Disorders, ‘the attachment to strange eating systems and theories is now supported by a thriving industry and actually gives people a sense of status. So, for instance, when you go to a dinner party now, it’s quite usual for people to say, “Oh, I don’t eat protein and carbs together, or I don’t eat anything with the letter R in it, or on Tuesdays I can only eat red things.” And people are tolerant of that. The quirkiness has got a seal of approval.’

The article explains that orthorexics often wear their food choices as a badge of honor, flaunting them in dining situations and online. Here Cochrane gets a quote from psychotherapist Mary Wood that’s one of the best I’ve read in food media recently:

‘If you just eat watermelon and bananas,’ sighs Wood, ‘everyone will find you fascinating.’

Of course, a recent story about grown men and women with childlike food phobias would seem to contradict Wood’s point: These chronically finicky folks often feel so embarrassed admitting their pickiness to others that they’ll eat only in secret or with a spouse. And if you think that kind of behavior is kooky and sad, wait’ll you get a load of pica and geophagia.

The Plight of the Picky Eater

No vegetables, nothing with seeds—and don’t let my carrots and peas touch each other! These requests may be tolerated from a child, yet what of the adults who never grow out of the dreaded food pickiness? For them, dinner out is a minefield, dining at a friend’s house an ordeal, and cocktail parties—filled with pastry-wrapped packages of who knows what—a foodish hell.

An interesting article in The Arizona Republic explores the plight of the food phobic, from simple avoidance of fish (smelly) or vegetables (taste and texture) to the “don’t let my foods touch each other” issue. One picky eater says, “I’ll build a little wall with mashed potatoes and not eat the portions that touched.” Mind you, this man is 58, not 5.

No one knows how many adults are afflicted with severe picky eating problems (forget being PC—in my book, not being able to enjoy your food is a problem), but the numbers of those seeking help is rising. Increasing awareness of obsessive-compulsive disorders may be contributing to this. “The line between food preferences and disordered eating is whether it hurts their quality of life,” says a doctor who treats such patients.

Some picky eaters are turning to the Internet for support, at sites such as Picky Eating Adults. With extreme picky eaters restricted to 20–30 food items they find palatable, and running in fear of business lunches or national holidays (the website founder describes Thanksgiving as “Black Thursday”), it’s clear that this is a cross to bear and understanding is called for.

Just don’t hold your breath for any picky-eating support-group potlucks—they would be strictly bring-your-own-lunch affairs.

Hands Off My Chemistry Set

Can a chef’s creations be copyrighted? Picking up on a debate that started on eGullet in March, Food & Wine writer Pete Wells skims through the controversy in the November issue.

Bemused by the copyright mark and “patent pending” declaration on a sheet of edible cotton-candy-flavored paper served at Moto in Chicago, Wells contacts Homaro Cantu, Moto’s resident mad genius, to discover the story behind the fine print. But what starts as a meander through the ins and outs of intellectual-property law (and the possible uses of edible paper by emergency-relief organizations like the Red Cross) heats up halfway through with the arrival of the smoking gun—or rather, the smoking cinnamon sticks that turned up, to great acclaim, as part of a poached-squab dish on the menu at Australian restaurant Interlude. Only problem was, the dish was an almost perfect copy of the same item from Alinea in Chicago, where Interlude’s chef Robin Wickins had done a weeklong stage (unpaid apprenticeship), before the squab showed up on his menu in Sydney.

If the yes-it-can/no-it-can’t debate on Chowhound is to be believed, no one knows exactly what can and can’t be copyrighted when it comes to recipes. According to a quote cited from the U.S. Copyright Office, recipe formulas and ingredients lists are not subject to copyright protection, but the literary expression—that is, the exact wording of the method used to put a dish together, or a written description of it—of such a recipe can be. Hence the “paraphrase” rule on both Chowhound and eGullet, where readers are allowed to post recipes culled from cookbooks, as long as they transcribe them in their own words.

But what about the dishes themselves? No chef who puts a trendy pizza on her menu is going to be busted for aping Wolfgang Puck, who got the whole duck-breast-pizza thing going back at Spago in the ‘80s. But as the cooking in a certain sphere of high-end avant-garde restaurants becomes less like everyday food prep and more like chemistry, can a jealous guarding of these top-secret formulas be far behind?

Under the Gumdrop Roof, a Heart of Darkness

An exposé in this month’s National Culinary Review offers a horrifying peek behind the curtain of the international gingerbread house industry.

Humidity plays a big role with gingerbread stability, and in the sub-tropical Florida climate, [chef Steven] Rujak also has to deal with roaches and moths infesting his showpieces. The only successful solution is to spray the entire work with hairspray.

You’ll never again view these precious holiday masterpieces with the same sense of awe and nostalgia after you imagine biting through a glistening layer of Alberto VO5 only to have your teeth sink into the thorax of a very alarmed two-inch-long flying cockroach.

The article also features a very neat photo of a Frank Lloyd Wright–style gingerbread house and the usual stuff about the various kinds of baking tricks and edible binding that are needed in order to keep these ridiculous edifices from collapsing.

But honestly. Hairspray and roaches, folks. That’s the seedy underbelly that we all kinda knew was lurking behind the whimsical facade.

A Glutton for Mutton

I’m tired of wimpy food writing that places more emphasis on manners than good old-fashioned feasting. So while my usual fare is effete food writers and chefs with tame recipes for goat cheese ravioli or, heaven forfend, vegetarian dishes, I’ve left my heart in Billings, Montana, where food writer Chef Boy Ari visits a sheep farm that used to grow sprouts.

“We didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables,” the sheep farmer explains. Don’t call him anti-environmentalist, though. Farmer Dan sells his lamb at the Clark Fork River Farmer’s Market. ““It’s not just about cutting out the middleman,” Dan says. “It’s about making people aware of the agriculture going on in their neighborhoods, and keeping the dollars local.”

He gifts Chef Boy Ari with a pack of lamb ribs, inspiring the writer to go to town:

When I put the ribs on the grill, I saw no shortage of fat on them. I let them sizzle and sputter until the outside was a crisp brown, seasoned them with salt and pepper and dove in. If the expression “chewing the fat” has any grounding in a literal act, this could be it. My teeth made little headway. My face got covered in grease. But my mouth couldn’t stop eating. The ribs tasted too damn good.

Ice Cream of the Godsl

Ice Cream of the Godsl

Must-have appliance of experimental pro chefs, the Pacojet is expensive but makes heavenly ice cream. READ MORE

Fake Accent

Fake Accent

Some foods you think are "ethnic" actually aren't. READ MORE

Flor de Loroco Pupusas…and Organic, Ranch-Raised Salvadoran Lizard

A pupusa is a Salvadoran dish, somewhere between a pancake and a dumpling, which consists of a rice or corn flour shell filled generously with things like cheese, beans, chicharrones, vegetables, or some combination of these. When prepared well, it is one of the chief gifts of God to man not mediated by a hierarchical priesthood. One of the best fillings for pupusas is the slightly exotic but traditional flor de loroco, the flower bud of a South American plant.

Some of the best loroco pupusas are to be had at La Santaneca, says Mari. Robert Lauriston likes this place especially for the curtido, the spicy cabbage condiment that goes on top of pupusas. Another place to try is Balompie Caf

Awesome Falafel at Sabra Grill

Sabra Grill makes delicious falafel–they even measure and fry the falafel balls to order, at least when it’s not too busy. The falafel balls are warm, crisp, and flavorful, served on beautiful, pillowy pita bread, with ripe tomatoes and crisp iceberg lettuce. The whole thing is sauced with excellent tahini and a bit of garlic, chive, lemon, and pickle. At $5.50 it’s a great lunch option, so appealing that fine wino would rather walk five blocks to get Sabra Grill falafel than walk across the street to Oasis.

Sabra Grill [Chinatown]
419 Grant Avenue, second floor, San Francisco

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Tasty Falafel sandwich at Sabra Grill