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My Week Without Corn

I'm already on board with the no-corn diet most of the time without even thinking about it. Corn syrup is something I've generally avoided for years. As for you confectioners out there, honey works just as well and adds an additional flavor to the mix if you're trying to keep refined sugar from crystalizing.

Seriously Italian: Eggplant 'A Fungetielli'

Ok, here's a question I need answered once and for all: Which eggplants should I prefer in the store -- the smaller ones or the bigger ones? I am surrounded by people who claim not to like eggplant, but I've heard that the smaller ones (I think) are younger and less bitter. What's the real story?

How Do You Define a Grilled Cheese Sandwich?

I have to admit that I don't understand the ire of most of the people posting about the purity of their grilled cheese sandwiches. I would certainly agree that melted cheese between two pieces of toast (pressed, griddled, or whatever) counts as a grilled cheese sandwich. But I don't see how adding butter (uncontroversial) or mustard (more controversial, apparently) to the bread changes the essential character of the sandwich.

I feel the same way about tomato or pickles or onion or garlic. On a restaurant menu, I'd want those ingredients disclosed, just like I'd want the type of cheese disclosed, but I wouldn't be angry if they called the sandwich a grilled cheese sandwich in the first place.

Meat might change the character of the sandwich a bit too much for the grilled cheese description to be fair, in my opinion. But what really bugs me isn't using vegetables or a bit of meat -- it's using American "cheese." Many of the people here seem to think that it's a necessary ingredient in a grilled cheese sandwich. That is the only thing indisputably wrong on this board.

"American cheese" has a legal definition, and the definition is not cheese. It is a kind of "pasteurized process cheese" product that usually happens to include cheddar or colby in a mix of ingredients heated and emulsified "into a homogenous plastic mass." 21 C.F.R. § 133.169 (available at Maybe you all have a more expansive definition of cheese than I do, but a sandwich made with American cheese isn't a grilled cheese sandwich at all in my book. Remember all those Kraft commercials bragging about how their Singles contained no oil? I don't want to eat "cheese" that has to tell me they didn't make it with vegetable oil.

I know that people ate the stuff growing up (I did too), but it's not cheese, and self-proclaimed purists insisting on American cheese aren't doing the grilled cheese sandwich any favors.

Cook the Book: 'Canal House Cooking, Vol. 1'

Basil cocktails -- think Corpse Reviver #2 (roughly equal parts gin, Lillet, Cointreau, and lemon juice with a drop of absinthe) shaken with a couple of fresh basil leaves and a small dose of real (i.e., pomegranate) grenadine. It's really smooth and refreshing, especially for such an alcoholic drink.

In Season: Basil

How do you all keep your basil fresh? I can't grow my own basil in my current apartment, so I buy it in bunches from the grocery store (often Whole Foods). The basil is beautiful and fragrant at the store, but they often wilt (or at least begin to) within a couple days once I take them home. I've tried everything: refrigeration, room temperature storage, and both of the previous options in a small glass of water (with freshly trimmed stems, no less). I can't imagine WF is able to sell all that basil every day, but I would be surprised to learn that they just trashed it every night and started over. Does anyone know their secret?

Cook the Book: Mississippi Watermelon-Basil Martini

I'm curious about the watermelon too. Does it get pureed by the ice during the shaking? Even if that works, I'm not sure that shaking would juice the lime wedges very well.

Sunday Brunch: Balthazar's Frisee aux Lardons

It looks like the eggs got left out of the ingredients! I'm guessing 6: one per person.

Crème Fraîche "Sorbet" Help

Everything turned out well. The texture was light and smooth without any graininess or ice crystals. The pomegranate syrup—as a topping—was a really nice touch, and we threw on some fresh blueberries for good measure too.

Final verdict: It was great to make a frozen dessert without an ice cream maker, but I still missed the egg yolks that a frozen custard ice cream would have had. Here's hoping for a machine soon so I can finally make the kiwi sorbet I've been craving for weeks.

Crème Fraîche "Sorbet" Help

Pooch is right. According to Wikipedia (if it's on the Internet it must be true), honey is similar to inverted sugar syrup, which means that the fructose and glucose sugars are separated in the solution, which in turn makes it less likely to crystalize than dissolved sucrose (granulated sugar) alone. Agave nectar apparently has an even higher proportion of fructose than high-fructose corn syrup (but you know what they say about HFCS:, so it should work even better than corn syrup.

I think I may give the recipe another shot tonight using a combination of dissolved granulated sugar and honey (real monofloral lavender honey is awesome) and a light topping of pomegranate syrup when served. Wish me luck!

Crème Fraîche "Sorbet" Help

I understand that corn syrup helps with the texture, but I thought that by dissolving granulated sugar into a reduced simple syrup I could achieve most (if not all) of the same effect. Does the fructose really make that much of a difference?

Crème Fraîche "Sorbet" Help

Hi, Kerry - thanks for commenting, and thanks for such a great post on crème fraîche! I never would have thought to make it myself, but it was easy (easier than the already easy "ricotta" from the nytimes recipe: and absolutely worth it.

I think the reason I'm so stuck on the pomegranate idea is because right after reading your recipe I saw a recipe for zabaglione with a berry swirl ( I love pomegranate, and I wanted to try to combine both ideas. The idea of using the arils as a topping is great, but I sometimes find it difficult to enjoy the "jewels" without getting distracted by the bitterness of the actual seed if I bite into it by accident.

Crème Fraîche "Sorbet" Help

Simon - thanks for your response. The pomegranate isn't essential, but I thought it would make for a nice flavor combination with the crème fraîche. I'd rather not use Rose's for a couple of reasons: (1) I don't have any; and (2) it's not real pomegranate. The baking soda idea is interesting and something I hadn't thought of, but it's hard to imagine that not affecting the flavor. Aren't egg whites slightly basic? Would they work?

I don't have an ice cream maker (the Kitchen-Aid mixer attachment is next on my appliance wish list), so the primary appeal of the recipe is the ability to whip it up and freeze it. A similar dessert I made recently was a chocolate mousse based on homemade ricotta (easy and worth it), and I was hoping for something similar and frozen but doable without an ice cream maker. Using the syrup as a garnish may be the best solution after all.


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