How do you feel about the wide world of food blogs?
I am fascinated by this subculture of the blogosphere and the online do-it-yourself culinary world. As someone relatively new to this milieu (blogging and blogging about food, to be precise), I enjoy the variety of food sites from around the world, having read a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of blogs (probably in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions, by now).
As a contemporary literary form, the food-as-secondary-to-a-story genre intrigues me most. There are many fine writers – not necessarily trained culinary professionals – blogging today. Likewise, one also can find many fine chefs/bakers, who are not necessarily the best or most compelling writers. Occasionally, professionals do tell a good story with clear instructions and captivating pictures (e.g., David Lebovitz – justifiably popular for his adventures and clever accounts of the pastries, food, and life in Paris).
Most engaging are the amateurs, who convey the context of their recipes in conjunction with clear directions and captivating photography. Of course, there is the whole visual element of food styling and web design, too, which can make or break a site. Top-notch food styling is a draw for some of my favourite sites, Memories in the Baking, pierre.cuisine, Mowielicious, MattBites, and island-neighbour, Island Vittles. None of the above, I believe, work full-time as professionals in the food industry (though Matt is a professional in the design world).
What I seek in the best food blogs
For me, it is the writing, which is most important. I seek the personal tales, context, and memories associated with a particular spice, food, or meal. The best examples of this blog type compel me to visit regularly. Good photography and tempting recipes certainly are added bonuses but not necessarily the highlights.
Smitten Kitchen is definitely one of the best – and best known – of the untrained-food-lover- home-chef sites. Deb Perelman combines her personal well-written anecdotes with fine – and informative – photography as well as many appealing and manageable recipes. Last week, I came across her carrot-ginger dressing recipe and had to make it a couple of days later. Usually I do not rush to create online recipes, filing them electronically for future reference.
The reason for my haste is that I have encountered various incarnations of carrot-based salad dressing in many Japanese restaurants, but I had never had much luck in finding a recipe that looked so good, not to mention so simple to prepare (full disclosure: I never really searched hard for such a recipe). I have adapted Deb’s slightly, and this recipe makes an impressive dressing in only a few minutes. In fact, it is so complex and flavourful that I decided to serve it as a main course salad, just to feature the dressing. It was a big hit.
Carrot-Ginger Dressing with Composed Avocado Tomato Salad
From Smitten Kitchen
Serves two, as a main course, with plenty of dressing for future salads
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
1/4 cup grapeseed or some other neutral oil (I used Canola)
2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small/medium head of lettuce (I used butter lettuce and curly green) or mixed greens of your choice
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, cubed
1 tomato, cubed
Yellow and/or orange bell peppers, in a large dice, with a few julienne strips for garnish
1. Whiz the carrots, shallot and ginger in a blender or food processor until finely chopped (a mini-food processor is perfect for this).
2. Scrape down the sides, then add the miso, vinegar and sesame oil.
3. While the machine running, slowly drizzle in the canola (or other) oil and the water; taste and add pepper and salt (the latter, only if necessary)
4. Divide the lettuce among four bowls, add some of the onion and a quarter of the avocado. Arrange the tomato and pepper dice on the plate. Garnish with julienned peppers.
5. Drizzle with plenty of dressing and serve.