This week, there's a whole lot of stock-taking in the food blog community, all symbolized by cheese sandwiches. (Note the word 'community'. More on that in a minute.)
You see, a long-time, respectable (and indeed, respected) food writer jabbed at food blogs in the March issue of Food & Wine. (My issue hasn't yet arrived. What's with that, F&W?) Along the way, he gave much wise counsel. In the end, he compared most food blogs to lowly cheese sandwiches.
It was the jabs that riled, the jabs that seemed unnecessary, the jabs that seemed mean-spirited, the jabs that seemed, well ... uninformed, like a writer on deadline with little time for research and little inclination for perspective beyond a familiar mirror.
I'm giving the writer the benefit of the doubt. We all have bad days. We all write on deadline. We all get it wrong sometimes.
And because its outcome, the taking stock, is good. Food bloggers are asking themselves (and each other), Why DO I do this? Why is it important to me? And what if it's not important to anyone else? or mocked by professionals?
There are good thoughts at Something in Season (thanks, Brendon, a sandwich dedication is a first!) and Food Musings and Belly-Timber (these last two have sparked lively discussion) and One Hot Stove and I'm Mad and I Eat and Stephencooks and Nika's Culinaria and Breakfast with Pandora and a belly-buster at Kalyn's Kitchen (make that two that made me laugh out loud!) and even a couple of cheese sandwich-loving t-shirts at Kitchen Mage! [Kalyn's keeping the most inclusive list, it's here.]
These are mine.
- Our moms and grandmoms shared favorite recipes with their friends across kitchen tables. Food bloggers do too, it's just that the table is the Internet and the chairs sit in homes all over North America and Europe and Asia and Australia and New Zealand and even some sprouting out from South America. And lo - there are men at the table!
- Food bloggers are family, of sorts. Several times a week, we 'break bread' together with our posts and comments. We celebrate our successes and comfort our hurts. We learn from and challenge each other. We even have a school where everyone's both student and teacher. Is it friendship? Yes, I think so. Is it community without geography? Absolutely.
- The world becomes a smaller, more peaceful and neighborly place, when we unite with simple appreciation for the food and, lest we forget, its cooks. Just in the past two weeks, thanks to food blogging, I learned that the Chinese New Year is celebrated by people outside of China and what a Muslim family might serve for sweet at the start of its new year.
SUN-DRIED TOMATO & DILL BISCUITS
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Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 7 biscuits
The biscuits were decent but didn't have the sharp tomato flavor I'd hoped for. The cheese was excellent, if salty, a Middle Eastern cheese called nabulsi which reminded me of the 'squeaky cheese' I loved when living in Finland.8 sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
As cheese sandwiches go, this one was certainly dull. I had it for lunch. Whew, two cliches at once: what kind of moron does that?
For more promising -- magnificent-looking, in fact -- cheese sandwiches ideas, there's two from Lucullian Delights and others from Tummy Treasure and Anne's Food (more as they come online).
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt (whose small grains will distribute better than sea or kosher salt)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, in tiny cubes
3 tablespoons herb such as dill, sage, tarragon or basil
Chop the tomatoes and buttermilk in a small food processor (I love the attachment that came with the immersion blender, it's perfect for small jobs) and let rest for 20 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With your fingers (or two knives), work in the butter and herbs. (Work quickly, you want the butter to stay cold. This is the reason why knives are better than warm fingers but I can't seem to get the knack.) Gently but barely work in the tomato mixture. Transfer to a floured surface and gently knead for two or three minutes til the dough takes hold. Create a flat piece of dough (I wish I'd made it thicker , yielding only 3 or 4 biscuits) and cut with a biscuit cutter. (I'll keep my grandmother's tin-can biscuit cutter forever but have learned that its relatively dull edges don't cut through the dough and will discourage tall, fluffy biscuits.) Transfer to a greased baking sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes.
For 4 biscuits - Per Biscuit: 235 Cal (47% from Fat, 8% from Protein, 45% from Carb); 5 g Protein; 12 g Tot Fat; 7 g Sat Fat; 27 g Carb; 5 g Fiber; NetCarb22; 146 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 753 mg Sodium; 32 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 5 points
For 8 biscuits - Per Biscuit: 118 Cal (47% from Fat, 8% from Protein, 45% from Carb); 2 g Protein; 6 g Tot Fat; 4 g Sat Fat; 14 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; NetCarbs 12; 73 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 376 mg Sodium; 16 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 2.5 points
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT'S DUE
Adapted from a lovely little illustrated cookbook called Sun-Dried Tomatoes by Ethel and Georgeanne Brennan, a gift from my friend Christa