gastronomy

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April 5, 2014

Preserving Chilies with Thomasina Miers

The Wahaca Restaurateur Pickles Peppers and Reminisces to Tarajia Morrell

Thomasina Miers has championed Mexican cuisine in Britain since she fell in love with the sights and smells of the country at age 18. In the last of our Preserving miniseries, the chef leads us through her early enchantment with Mexico’s flavors and the vigor that those peppers impart. Co-founder of Wahaca restaurants, author of Mexican Food Made Simple and the imminent Chilli Notes: Recipes to Warm the Heart (Not Burn the Tongue), Miers lovingly riffs on the range of possibilities of the ‘chili effect’ and how her zeal for spice and zeal for life are one in the same.
 
What is it about preserving that appeals to you?
Thomasina Miers:
Often the process improves the flavor of the food we are preserving. So cured ham, particularly when acorn fed, is an astonishingly delicious food; a marmalade or jam sometimes better than the original product—helped along by a little sugar. A pickle heightens the flavor of the vegetable with its acidity and also can lend other flavors through the spicing you use.
 
What is it you find so inspiring about Mexican food?
TM:
It is a cuisine of contrasting textures and temperatures, of the diversity of different food from different regions. Most of all it is fresh with bright, vivid tastes.
 
What's the most important lesson from your time in Mexico?
TM:
Never underestimate the power of terroir, or how food tastes in its own setting.
 
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
TM:
I would have loved to have danced. Or written more, if I had the patience. I’d have loved to have painted if I’d had the talent, or sung if I’d had the voice….
 
When you’re feeling lazy, what’s the simple, comforting but delicious meal you might make yourself to enjoy alone?
TM:
Welsh rarebit, or cheese on toast or sautéed greens on toast with chilli and garlic and a fried egg on top.
 
Guilty pleasure after a long shift?
TM:
Whiskey!
 
Aphrodisiac (edible or not)?
TM:
Good music, a keen understanding, a meeting of minds, a spark of recognition.  A cocktail.
 
Last meal?
TM:
The best steak, the best chips, the best mayo, a delicious salad. Some very good wine. Great company.

Preserving part one: Squash with Skye Gyngell; Preserving part two: Lemons with Angela Hartnett.

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Mario's Meats

Chef Batali Gets Serious About Butchery For His Latest Venture Chi Spacca

Celebrity gourmand Mario Batali explores the sensory frontiers of the nose-to-tail cooking he popularized in the States in today’s film by Alison Chernick, shot on site at Chi Spacca (“cleaver” in Italian) in Los Angeles. The intimate meat emporium is the latest addition to an epicurean empire that includes Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse in Las Vegas. Having just opened its doors this February—helmed by the indefatigable Mozza restaurant trio made up of Nancy Silverton, Joseph Bastianich and Batali himself—Chi Spacca showcases the charcuterie talents of Head Chef and Batali disciple Chad Colby, whose philosophy concerning the preparation of meat chimes with his mentor’s own. Colby became so entranced by Italian salami culture that he developed the first authorized “dry cure” program in LA, a lengthy process involving the addition of salts and other ingredients that can take months or even years, but which results in an array of pungent meats made in house. “What isn’t captured in the video is the wild smells,” recalls Chernick of her experience filming. “I have been enlightened by the science of a good salami, and we can thank Mario for capturing Italian culture and bringing it to us on a platter.”

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Spotlight

Vitamin See

A Celebration of the Citrus Fruit, the Winter Season's Energizing Unsung Hero

Waxy skin and vibrant colors provide inspiration in this new set of images from Christian Werner. To mark the United States’ National Grapefruit Month and the annual Lemon Festival in the French Riviera town of Menton, NOWNESS commissioned the German photographer to put his own spin on the oranges, lemons and abundant limes shot earlier this month at Fruit Logistica, the Berlin trade fair that was also the focus of a 2012 book by the renowned photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. “I’m familiar with that work and of course it would have been absurd to attend the fair and photograph the machines and surfaces in the same way as he did—the smooth, coldly digital, globalized world of commodities—so I looked for a different approach: appealing, interesting and humorous details which would form unexpected, witty still lifes,” explains Werner, who studied graphic design and has shown his work throughout Germany. Werner’s introduction to the world of produce fairs provided an opportunity for an unexpected get-together. “The funniest thing for me was the fact that my uncle Christoph attended the fair as an exhibitor—he invented the automatic peeling machine for asparagus, which is sold worldwide today. So we had this little family reunion.”

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