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Joni Sweet: The Woman Behind Insatiable

So, you want to learn a little bit more about the writer behind this blog? Read on!

What’s your philosophy on food?

I fundamentally believe that the best food on earth treats your body and palate as well as it treats the land and the people who produce it. This means choosing the freshest ingredients available, utilizing local, sustainable ingredients whenever possible, and paying attention to respectful production practices. For me, food is the best way to relax after a day at the office, a key to uniting individuals and cultures, one of the most genuine ways to express love, and the very thing I feel confident building my life upon.

What’s the best meal you’ve had recently and what made it great?

My partner Jeremy treated me to a special night out at Mandalay, one of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco. It was a “last meal” of sorts because I was scheduled for oral surgery the next day (meaning my average diet of spicy flavors and assorted textures would smooth out to mild, brothy soups and soft potatoes for my recovery week). I made sure to savor every last crunchy peanut and spicy pepper of the tea leaf salad (one of my favorite Burmese dishes) and flaky bit of samusa (a spicy potato pocket appetizer) before the server removed our plates. The entire meal tasted incredible, and it’s amazing how much more you notice about each bite when you know your diet will soon be extremely limited in the upcoming days. Food is about so much more than what’s on your plate—the real experience comes from a deep appreciation within as each bite goes down.

Which food blogs and publications do you read regularly?

I have constantly returned to Smitten Kitchen for years to see the gorgeous photography, personal stories, and creative recipe revamps.

Honest Cooking also does a fantastic job incorporating multi-cultural and international angles to traditional food-related content.

Gourmet.com continually makes me nostalgic for the extinct print issue, but still maintains some presence (thankfully!).

NPR really does an outstanding job at covering both food news and features using pure audio. I love listening to the shows that teach listeners how to make a recipe—the sounds are so interesting and totally draw me in!

I love My Little Expat Kitchen’s exploration of international food and detailed step-by-step guides.

Vegansaurus is also great when I’m looking for vegan news—sharp, witty, and funny!

Food52 produces amazing recipes and has built a really dedicated community of food-lovers. I head back to this site almost daily!

Other sites I return to regularly are Grub Street, Food Republic, Epicurious, Tasting Table, Eater, Food Best, Eatocracy, Chow, VegNews, The Kitchn, Bon Appetit, and Edible.

What’s your most prized cooking tool?

I am absolutely in love with my KitchenAid food processor. I love velvety soup and smooth bean dips, so I’m constantly using the whirring machine. It’s also great for chopping veggies in a flash. I was so happy to see one arrive for me over the holidays, and have been using it ever since!

What cocktail best represents your personality?

I would have to say that I’m a basil gimlet. Like the basil, I bring energy and vibrancy to every aspect of life. Like the gin, my personality is refined, classy, and dynamic. A basil gimlet also features a light splash of simple syrup, as does my demeanor—honest and slightly sweet, without overpowering those around me. Basil gimlet: smooth and earthy, with an emphasis on quality.

What is one thing you absolutely will not eat?

I’m normally the first to sample a new trend, but recently I’ve been hearing more and more about meals made with insects. Nothing could possibly be less appetizing to me, and I have no intent on taking a bite out of a bee, a taste of termite, or a crunch of caterpillar.

 

Posted by sweetjoni on April 13, 2012 at 12:31PM | Permalink | 0 Comments

Recipe: Redskin Potato Poppers

Ditch ho-hum chips and dip and kick your next weeknight gathering up a notch with this recipe for roasted redskin potato poppers! Creamy mashed avocado and zesty tomato salsa atop crunchy, bite-sized spuds make for a festive party appetizer, ready in under an hour. For some extra heat, be sure to incorporate the jalapeño seeds into the tangy salsa. Whip up a batch of salt-rimmed margaritas and let the party start!

Red Potatoes With Tomato-Avocado Salsa
Adapted from Entertaining Simple by Matthew Mead (and posted on YumSugar.com)

Ingredients

12 small to medium red potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
Tomato-Avocado Salsa
8 to 10 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped, about 3 cups
1 cup scallions, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded if desired and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 medium avocados, pitted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon pad. Place the potatoes, oil, salt, rosemary in a large bowl. Toss until well coated. Arrange the potatoes cut side down on the cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the potatoes are crisp and browned, stir occasionally to ensure the potatoes don't stick.
  4. Prepare the salsa, in a large bowl combine the tomatoes, scallions, garlic, jalapeño, olive oil, and lime juice. In a separate bowl, smash the avocado and mix in salt and pepper.
  5. Top each potato with avocado, salsa, and a small dollop of sour cream. Arrange the finished potatoes on a large platter. Can be served at warm or room temperature.

Makes about 24 potatoes bites.

 

 

First, start prepping the potatoes by chopping them in half and placing in a large bowl. Once you drizzle oil on top and evenly add salt, pepper, and rosemary, place them face-down on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven.

While the potatoes are roasting to golden perfection, finely chop the tomatoes, jalapeño, scallion, and garlic.

Add the remaining salsa ingredients and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, then gently mix the salsa. For the guacamole, scoop the avocado and combine with salt and pepper, then mash until slightly chunky (I like to use a fork for this step, but a potato masher also works well!).

Once the potatoes are roasted and slightly cool, smear the avocado on top of each using a spoon, then gently add chunks of salsa on top. Or, you could combine the avocado and salsa in one bowl for a no-fuss topping!

Finally, top each potato with a dollop of sour cream. For an even fancier presentation, place the sour cream in a zip lock bag, cut a tiny hole in the corner, then drizzle on top. I also added a tiny sprig of rosemary for an aromatic touch. Voilà!

 

 

 

Posted by sweetjoni on April 13, 2012 at 11:22AM | Permalink | 0 Comments

Tapping in to Maple Cocktails

As a native of the Northeast, I'm used to seeing pure maple syrup drizzled on just about any menu item come brunch time. But this spring, pancake syrup has grown up and become a premiere ingredient in luscious libations across the US, and rightfully so—the amber sweetness pairs well with vodka and rum, while enhancing the subtleties of bourbon and whiskey. My favorite bar in San Francisco, Rickhouse, recently starting whipping up a zippy Rye Maple Fizz, complete with lemon, egg white, soda, and Angostura bitters. The bartenders at Kansas City's Manifesto, an exclusive speakeasy-style bar, have remixed the classic Old Fashioned by adding a drizzle of maple syrup and applewood-smoked bourbon to create a Smokin' Choke. Heading to the Big Apple? Be sure to indulge in the Maple Walnut, a new vodka martini with black walnut bitters and maple syrup, at the 21 Club. Even Food52 has caught on and recently published a recipe Maple-Jalapeno Bourbon Cocktail, adding a welcome kick to the sweet and smoky cocktail. And for the DIYers, Imbibe magazine's March/April issue features a recipe for homemade maple bitters—perfect for your next dinner party or a classy night in.

As more people become reconnected with the source of their food, the more they seem to value artisan ingredients, such as maple syrup. Unfortunately, climate change and unseasonably warm weather has put the fate of maple syrup at stake, according to recent reports in The Atlantic, NPR, and other media. Some even predict we may no longer be able to harvest maple syrup by the year 2100. With more maple in the news (and in our booze!) than ever before, perhaps we can work together to improve the situation for the sugar maples. Bottoms up!

 

Posted by sweetjoni on April 13, 2012 at 9:28AM | Permalink | 0 Comments

Idea Generation


Recurring Features

 


You Eat What?

This recurring feature would showcase weird diets we’ve recently heard about. As I scour food publications, websites, and blogs, I’m constantly coming across descriptions of the next strange health craze or weight-loss tactic that YumSugar readers would love to read about. We could also offer a place for readers to submit things they come across, thus building interaction with the site. After finding a topic, we could speak with a participant or creator of the diet for a brief description, develop a 1-day menu with details on what each meal includes, and talk about where we’ve seen it. Possible topics include the Paleo diet, raw food, candy-only meals, juice diets, the five-bite diet, etc.

 

 


Places We Love

This recurring feature would be an opportunity to tell readers about places we love. As a foodie, I’m constantly heading to food bookstores, artisan cheese shops, unique ethnic markets, farmers markets, and other hotspots. I would profile places that really catch my eye with large, engaging photos, engaging descriptions, and interviews with the owners/vendors when appropriate. Possible places to profile include Omnivore Books, Spice Station, Tartine, exclusive pop-up restaurants, food museums, and more. We could also plot these places on an interactive map so readers can check out our favorite places as they travel.

 

Food Personalities

An interview with Chloe Coscarelli would make a great feature for YumSugar. The rising vegan chef has just released her first cookbook, Chloe’s Kitchen, which includes recipes for Artichoke-Walnut Pesto Crostini, Marsala Mushroom Ragout, Mangeo Masala Panini, and award-winning Ginger Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes. She’s also appeared on The Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” The New York Times Wellness blog, The Today Show, and VH1. In interviews, she’s personable, informative, and passionate, and YumSugar readers would definitely be interested in hearing more about how she’s achieved so much by her early 20s. The adorable young chef is also the daughter of famous horror film director Don Coscarelli.

 

 

 


Ruth Reichl
would also make an amazing interview subject. A personal hero of mine, the food writer seems to have been everywhere and tasted everything. She’s been involved as a writer, editor, or contributor on nearly two dozen books, served as the food critic at both The LA Times and The New York Times, and helped open a collectively owned restaurant in the 1970s, among other lofty achievements in the food world. An interview with this established woman would enlighten readers on the top food issues of the day, inspire them with her witty and passionate personality, and entice them with her latest recipes.

 



Posted by sweetjoni on April 12, 2012 at 4:57PM | Permalink | 0 Comments

Eating India: A Handy Guide to Indian Cuisine

As one of the world’s most ancient, vibrant, and diverse cultures, Indians know a thing or two about combining authenticity with innovation in the kitchen. I spent nearly half a year exploring the cuisines of the Asian subcontinent, learning “cookery” from an established culinary teacher in New Delhi, and filling my belly with every sumptuous home-cooked meal from my warm home-stay mother, Minakshi-ji, in 2010. While every meal varied in taste and texture from the one before it, the chefs wove a few common threads through each dish: carefully layered spices to highlight subtle flavors and aromas; eye-popping, mouth-watering hues of burgundy, tawny, jade, and orange to create a beautiful presentation; ultra-fresh produce and meat from the local markets; and passion to honor tradition, religious and dietary concerns, and regional tastes. Fortunately, you don’t have to endure the 18+ hour flight to have a taste of true Indian flavor—just head to your local Indian restaurant and use this handy guide to decipher the abundance of options on the menu. Each region of India has developed its own unique cuisine, but I’ve divided the continent in half for ease of use. If you really want to embrace the culture, ditch the silverware and eat with your hands, using small pieces of bread to pinch the food. Finally, an excuse to play with your food!

Rice

Plain Basmati: long-grain rice grown throughout the Punjab region in northwest India, a staple with almost every meal

Pulao: herbed basmati rice, with confetti of peas, carrots, potatoes, and sometimes meat

Biryani: similar to pulao, but this fragrant rice-based dish features a savory sauce of yogurt or gravy and even more fillings like lamb, chicken, cashews, and tomatoes

Breads

Roti (also called chapati): soft flatbread made from stone-ground whole wheat flour and cooked on a tava (cast iron skillet), a basic staple with every home-cooked Indian meal

Paratha: pan-fried, flaky flatbread, often stuffed with spiced potatoes, Indian cheese, or cauliflower, and smeared with ghee (clarified butter)

Nan: gourmet, leavened flatbread baked in a tandoor (high-heat clay oven) and exhibits smoky flavors, often topped with ghee and roasted garlic

North Indian Specialties

Dal: boiled and spiced pulses (usually black or yellow lentils, or red kidney beans), a must-have at any Indian meal and an important source of protein for the largely vegetarian society

Raita: savory yogurt side dish, flavored with mint, cilantro, cumin, and spicy pepper, providing a cooling refreshment to an otherwise hot and spicy meal

Paneer: fresh Indian cheese with a light, creamy flavor, often cooked in a hearty tomato sauce with peas (Mattar Paneer) or creamed with spinach (Saag Paneer)

Kofta: marinated and baked meatballs (made from ground lamb or goat, vegetarian version made with mashed veggies and rice) glazed with a rich saffron-scented sauce

Tandoori Kebabs: often called an Indian version of barbecue, many restaurants serve Tandoori Kebabs of lamb, goat, chicken drumstick, or paneer, flavored with ginger, garlic, and onion, roasted over mesquite charcoals and served on a stick

Other favorites include Aloo Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower in a thick tomatoe-and-turmeric sauce), Tikka Masala (meat or cheese with a bright orange, spicy tomato gravy), and Rogan Josh (Kashmiri lamb dish in a burgundy-hued, red pepper sauce), among others.

South Indian Specialties

Thali: truly the best way to experience a vast variety of foods, this platter of rice, yogurt, curries, vegetables, meats, breads, and desserts is traditionally served on a bright green banana leaf and varies widely at each restaurant

Masala Dosa: crispy lentil crepe stuffed to the brim with mustard seed-speckled potatoes and caramelized onions, served with sambar (fragrant onion-lentil soup), and chutneys (usually coconut, tomato, and/or ginger)

Idly: savory, pure white sponge cake made from fermented black lentils and rice and steamed, often served with sambar and chutney for breakfast

Utthapam: often described as an Indian omelette, but made from a base of a soft, salty pancake rather than eggs, utthapams come with nearly any topping imaginable, commonly tomatoes, cabbage, onion, and chilies

Goan Fish Curry: hailing from the beaches of South India, this Portuguese-inspired dish combines firm-fleshed fish with high-heat spices like chilies, cayenne pepper, and garlic into a rich coconut sauce

Other favorites include Paper Masala Dosa (similar to Masala Dosa, but enlarged to about 3 feet!) and Vada (savory lentil doughnut), among others.

Posted by sweetjoni on April 12, 2012 at 3:42PM | Permalink | 0 Comments

Artichoke: The Heart of Spring

As the earth explodes with lofty tulips and trumpeting lilies, I know that spring is finally here, which can only mean one thing: sleeping artichokes have awoken, and it’s time to feature the hearty blossoms in every meal. Don’t be intimidated by their tough guy exterior—these delectable bulbs have tender hearts of gold, ready to serenade your taste buds with their delicate earthy flavor. Check out these 5 incredible recipes that will surely make you fall in love with this known aphrodisiac. 

 

Posted by sweetjoni on April 12, 2012 at 3:24PM | Permalink | 0 Comments

Burning Questions

 

The more I discover about food, the more I realize there is to learn about it. Here are a few of my burning questions:

What's the fastest way to ripen a banana?

Oil Primer: Which cooking oil is the best?

What's the secret to perfect scrambled eggs?

What's the difference between conventional and heirloom variety veggies?

Light Roast or Dark Roast: Which coffee packs the most caffeine?

 

Posted by sweetjoni on April 11, 2012 at 11:57PM | Permalink | 0 Comments