Not Just Anybody’s Foul

“Everyone has their own way of making it,” says Dina. I have yet again barged my way into another friend’s kitchen intent on discovering new cooking techniques . Today we are making foul, a middle eastern dish pronounced like fool made with fava beans. This is not my first experience with foul and I’m starting to get the impression that it’s one of those recipe names with an identity crisis. At my friend Sabrina’s, whose family is from Palestine, it was more like a bean salad with tomatoes and onions. We ate it for breakfast at her house; I love breakfast at Sabrina’s. A few months ago, considering myself very worldly, I ordered foul with my hummus at a restaurant in the Arabic section of Jerusalem. Instead of a bean salad, I got a dark bean paste swirled into my hummus and there was no sign of tomatoes. Now here I am with Dina and a foul that looks like Sabrina’s salad, but is cooked like the one in Jerusalem. And did I forget to mention that Dina’s has hard boiled eggs? So like she said, everyone has their own way of making it, but there must be something in the name because I’ve enjoyed it every time.

Ah, foul means fava bean in Arabic; makes sense.

Dina’s Family Recipe
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion (diced)
3 plum tomatoes (diced)
2 cans fava beans
1 teaspoon Berbere (optional)
2 teaspoons cumin
3 hard boiled eggs (diced)

In a medium frying pan sauté onions in olive oil until wilted. Add tomatoes, reserving about 1/3 for garnish, and cook down until tomatoes begin to disintegrate, about 8 minutes. Add entire can of beans, including juice. Add spices, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer about 10 minutes or until beans are soft. Once beans are soft use the back of a spoon to smash them a bit but not completely. The result should be a smooth base with lot of chunks for texture. Add hardboiled eggs, reserving some for garnish. Pour finished product into a bowl and garnish with tomatoes, eggs and olive oil. Serve with warm pita bread.

Dinner with the Girls: Joe’s Shanghai

I’m sensing the beginning of a tradition or a routine or something. For the second month in a row, I’ve gone out to dinner with the girls and by girls I mean EJ, Catherine and Hwanhee. We are all interconnected by the two degrees of separation that is the New York fashion industry and our love for dining out. Last week Hwanhee, the most entertaining of the group, described me as being in an Asian sandwich and it’s true I guess. But Catherine, the understanding mother, pointed out that I didn’t mind and she was right. But I gotta say we do have an interesting assembly of characters.
Known for they're soup dumplings, Joe's was completely packed for a Monday night. The place is full of large communal tables with a lazy Susan spinners in the middle so you have no idea who you might sit next to.

While quiet yet opinionated EJ, didn't like the dumplings filled with pork and oozing with juice. Hwanhee, Catherine and I couldn't get enough.

On this night I actually ate a dish that required me to pry clams soaked in a black bean sauce from their shells and I liked it. I was so caught up in this seafood miracle that I forgot to take a photo. All the food at Joe's was really fresh and well made, which is a great compliment from me considering I have nearly sworn off all New York Chinese food. I guess you gotta know where to go. That's one of the reasons I like going out with these girls, they sort of pry me out of my little culinary shell. EJ practically forced those clams down my throat, but I should thank her for it.

Some of you may notice that I haven't exactly pointed out who everyone is, but I'm sure you'll figure it as read of our monthly dining extravaganzas if you haven't already.

Superfluous Tools

If you’re a cook you’ve got one. Maybe it takes up too much room in your cabinet or dominates a large corner of your kitchen counter, that one piece of equipment that makes your heart go a flutter, but you never really use. For some it’s one of those bread makers that were so popular in the 90’s or maybe it’s an asparagus steamer. Mine is a hand cranked vegetable food mill. I break it out every couple of months when I want to make the real Italian style pasta sauce I learned in Rome. The most difficult part of the recipe is scraping the remains of a masticated can of San Marzano plum tomatoes from the crevices of the mill. I really had no other use that thing until last week when I tried my first potato leek soup. With one more recipe under its belt, my mill has earned it’s tenure. I think we keep these pieces because they hold potential for greatness. In them we see fresh baked bread on a Sunday morning or bunches of veggies to be steamed before a summer dinner party.

Bringing Kitchen Bravado Back

Recently I have been feeling a little skittish in the kitchen. After a few not-so-hot-so creations, I really began to question my cook’s instinct and was using recipes for anything beyond the complexity of grilled cheese, but then came chili.

I like mine tomatoey with garlic, Italian peppers and corn. And as I chopped onions, and rinsed cans of beans, I realized that no one could get the ratios and layers of flavors I wanted but me. I eyeballed measurements, made up cooking times and even added a few splashes of canned corn juice to taste. There’s a reason chili is a frat boy special; anybody can make.

So in conclusion, if you need to add some pump to your cooking ego, go out and buy a couple of cans of beans and whip up a batch of chili. You can tell everyone you made it from scratch and it’ll be the truth.

Sourdough French Toast

We should all learn from each other’s mistakes. Here’s something I figured out this Sunday, sourdough bread is great and French toast is fabulous, but sourdough French toast…yuck. Maybe a savory French toast with rosemary infused butter could change all that. I’ll keep you posted.

They Say It's A Miracle

Whether it be a result of my innate optimism or the product of a blessed and hopeful upbringing, I must confess that the election of Barack Obama, the first president of color, was no miracle to me. Unlike so many generations that came before me, I believed this would happen in my lifetime.

As a child when I was told I could be anything, I knew it to be true. I shut my ears to those who said the American dream was a lie and now we all have our proof. Proof that difficult does not mean impossible.

The election of our 44th president means so many different things to so many people, but my hope is that it inspires us all to be more and expect more from each other. With so many victories to be claimed, we need to seize the opportunity to be better people and better Americans.

The artwork above was created by my friend and artist Phil Fung. It was shown at this year’s Democratic National Convention and was later sold. More of Phil’s work can been seen at

The Vacation Dead Zone and Raw Food

Vacation kills blog posts. I’ve seen it on other people's sites, but I never thought I would sit down and write one of those I’m so sorry I have written in X amount of time posts, but I have to say my friends it is all too easy to get caught up in the blog abandonment vortex. One minute it’s, wow that Peruvian internet cafĂ© looks shady and the next minute it’s, geez all that catch up work at the office has totally muted my creativity. But I have broken free, there’s just too much to talk about like, like like raw food for example.

Here’s what I ate last week at Pure Food and Wine, a 100% raw food restaurant. All of these photos are alla camera phone because I had to be stealth, too bad the high beam like flash lit the whole place up like a Christmas tree on fire. Stealth and I just don’t get along.

Plate of Assorted Dr. Cow Nut Cheeses with Pistachio Crisps.

A key raw food principal is no dairy, but it wasn't missed here. Our "blue cheese" was made with a blue green algae, which is purported to cure everything from fatigue to digestive issues. True or not, I really did forget that I wasn't eating dairy made cheese. The texture was a little like melting play dough on the tongue, but in a good way.

Salad of Compressed Heirloom Tomatoes and Hass Avocado
Nothing too out of the box here, but the presentation was fancy.

White Corn Tamales with Raw Cacao Mole To be considered raw, food cannot be heated over 116 degrees F because higher temps kill the natural enzymes. These corn tamales with cashew nut sour cream were creamy, room temperature, enzyme packed little envelopes of goodness.

Open Spanikopita Tart with Marjoram Marinated Spring Vegetables

The key to this plate is way back in the corner of the photo. Though I could find very few similarities with spanikopita, this little quiche like tart warranted a much bigger part in this production. Those upstaging veggies were nothing to write home about, but the dill cucumber yogurt played a great supporting role.


By the time we got to this one, I stopped caring what I was eating and just enjoyed. This was like a parfait of avocado, pineapple and tomatoes. Doesn't sound like it goes, does it? Well it totally goes and it looks like high beaming the place and asking way more questions than most people has it's rewards because this little number was on the house.

Someone please tell me how a non-dairy raw foodist makes an ice cream sundae that tastes this good. I tried to watch the stuff to see if it would melt, but the whole eating thing distracted me. The carrot cake was like any other carrot cake, but the flavours were explosive like ginger POW, maple BANG...that kinda thing

A multi course raw food meal feels like eating a salad, but tastes like...well you just have to try it for yourself because it is an entire experience.