Monday, September 25, 2017

Scallions Decorative And Tasty

Want to add color and zest to any savory meal? Then think scallions. These emerald green stalks are wildly popular in Chinese cuisine but  they can also be added to any other recipe. Try them  - for some zing and oomph!

Scallions are part of the allium family, and are first cousins with bulb onions and second cousins to garlic,leeks and chives. They're sometimes called green onion, spring onion and salad onion. Due to their age, they not to have a  fully developed bulb at the end of their stalks. The stalks themselves are round, hollow and tubular, growing from a small knob. They originated in far eastern Europe and the name for it came from the Greek word ashkelon which is also where the word shallot derived from. There are about seven different types. The ones we see in supermarket is the Welsh variety and it is also used quite often in Asia. The other type, A cepa is also sold here. The onion is divided into two parts, the white which has  a sweeter, more flavorful taste than the green section. Most professional and home chefs use the green part a lot , simply for color. You can use these instead of chives ,especially on baked potatoes. They will definitely give them more flavor. Peak season is usually Spring and summer but they can be bought all year long. Scallions are always sold in bunches . Do not buy if the white part is yellowed or if they look wilted.

One of the most famous and most delicious recipes is scallion pancake from China. This is an easy cook at home.It's a simple flour pancake with an entire bunch of chopped green scallions added. They then fried in peanut or vegetable oil until crispy and brown . Each pancake receives about a tablespoon of the greens. They're usually served with soy sauce or a sweet sauce, made from soy sauce, ginger root and brown sugar.Scallions add zing too,  to hot and sour soup, giving it a nice fresh flavor after all the heat and tang. Slice them very thin and toss  them into a fennel salad . They give the usually mild salad green some zing and zest. They do this for other recipes such as cauliflower fritters and seared salmon.They can be added to bland mashed potatoes for color and dash along with being deep fried in corn flour and bread crumbs.  The Chinese are not the only ones who love scallions. The Mexicans often incorporate them in tortillas and even guacamole.

Scallions are a great way to enhance any savory dish. Try them n classic Chinese pancakes, salads, or guacamole. They are sharp and tasty, a perfect way to add  excitement to lunch or dinner.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Seafood And "R" Months

There's been a long standing rule that you should only  eat seafood with months that have an "r" in them. That means lobster or shrimp  until May? Is that true? Or can we eat it all year round.

Long ago the "r" rule only applied to oysters which made sense,It then became more inclusive and also meant shrimp, lobsters and clams, Refrigeration a century ago was spotty at best. There was no way shellfish could be kept cool during the sweltering summer months. That only happened in cooler ones  when ice was readily available.Another reason was that the bivalves spawn in the summer so there are only young ones to catch and that there needs to be a rest for the fish to repopulate . The flavor is also different too, which can ruin an elaborate dish such as Oysters Rockefeller.One of the most compelling arguments for only eating shelled seafood in the fall and winter is the red tide. Luckily the levels on this algal bloom are now  closely monitored. It affects not only the nervous systems of marine life but also mammal  - humans included. Monitored harvesting and regular toxin testing have all but eliminated this deadly threat.

This means if you've been off seafood during the Spring and summer months, then embrace it now. It's time to try Oysters Rockefeller  - an easy two part  cook. First boil the shell fish, and let cool. Then it's just simply a mix of breadcrumbs, spinach and bacon. Tabasco sauce and Pernod, absinthe, give it flavor and a certain decadence. If you don't have absinthe, use Anisette. It's then spooning the mixture into the oysters and broiling for ten minutes in the oven. Of course, if you want something delicious and simple, try steamed mussels. What they're steamed in is up to you. Some people add beer , some add white wine and butter. They should be de-bearded  which is getting rid of the thin, sticky membranes that adhere them onto surfaces.Just grasp these strings with your thumb and forefinger , pulling firmly until it comes loose. Just discard afterwards. A little less labor intensive are clams. Fall is the perfect time for a meaty New England or Manhattan clam chowder.They're also delicious in red or white clam sauce over linguine.If you want their full, briny flavor, try them raw with either a squeeze of lemon or hot sauce. Clams can be had crudo style , cut up and marinated with citrus juices  such as lemon and lime as a kind of civic.

Start the fall with tasty shellfish and warming chowders. Enjoy clams and oysters, along with mussels in a variety of dishes. It's the season for them.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Savory Side Of Apples

There will be apple recipes galore now that it's autumn. This luscious fruit can be used in sweet dishes  and desserts, but try something different. Apples can be a great savory dish as well.

The Germans have long used apples in savory dishes, mostly pork ones. One of the most flavorful and favorites is pork with apple laced sauerkraut. The shredded cabbage is mixed and cooked with  sliced apple, brown sugar and caraway seeds. The best kind for this is Braeburn or Red Delicious but you could use a Granny Smith for some zing. Ladle this over the chops and bake for about forty-five minutes until the meat is no longer pink inside. You can also stuff pork chops with the fruit as well.Mix the Granny Smith slices with pecans and mustard along with coarsely crushed Ritz crackers. You can add raisins too, if you' like. The chops should be split open and then stuffed. It only takes thirty minutes to cook at 145 degrees F.Surprisingly chicken and duck can also be stuffed with apples.Use the small Cortland apples shredded and blended with breadcrumbs, butter and corn flour. You can also try the apples with celery and raisins. It doesn't matter if you keep the peel on or not. Apple stuffed duck is another treat. Combine Macintosh apples with ginger along with maple syrup and onions for a zingy stuffing that goes well with the mellow meat.

Apples can also star in sides too. Golden Delicious ones can be used in a tasty slaw along with red cabbage Dijon mustard and caraway seeds, Apple cider vinegar and olive oil are the base for the dressing. Combine two different kinds of apple such as the sweet Red Delicious and the tart Granny Smith for a tangy side salad. Another idea is relish, a perfect side for roasted ham. It's combining four tart apples with apricots with sugar and vinegar,Orange peel and almonds are also thrown in for color and crunch.Even mashed potatoes can be zinged up with a sliced  Macintosh Empire or, Spartan  Shallots and butter are added so that the dish doesn't turn too dessert-ish. This would be a great side with any pork loin or roast ham. Apples can also be combined with mashed turnips too. For a fun holiday side tries mashed sweet potatoes with  apples. Cinnamon and nutmeg give it a warm, spicy flavor. This is the perfect accompaniment for any Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey instead of the usual marshmallow laden yam dish.For a smoother texture try applesauce instead.Applesauce can also be made savory by the addition of thyme garlic and cider.

Apples are just as good in savory dishes as they are in sweet. Use them as stuffing or in a slaw. Combine them with cabbage or apples. They make for a delicious ingredient in any main meal.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A "Sweet" Taste of Cake

If you want a perfectly made cake look no further than Yotam  Ottolenghi. This famed British chef and baker can create the ideal one, rich with flavor and moist with texture. Now fans and home bakers can whip up exact copies, thanks to his and Helen Goh's new recipe book, Sweet  based solely on treats from the oven.

Chef Ottolenghi and fellow baker, Australian , Helen Goh, give the world their best recipes. Chef Ottolenghi wrote about  two of them in yesterday's New York Times Food section. He and Ms. Goh have been together as fellow bakers and partners since 2006. She started in the savory side of Ottolenghi's vast food empire and later graduated to the sweet side.It was at this point that he recognized that saw his own restlessness and insatiable drive for perfection. They made the perfect team.  They share a passion for precise measuring and timing along with weighing the right amounts to create the perfect sweet. She also brings her Australian and Malaysian heritage to the table as well. The site sells the famed Aussie cookie yo-yos, a crunchy sandwich cookie filled with  passion fruit buttercream while the pastry shop offers  billowy powder puff cakes and her famed chocolate one that an Australian newspaper once called the "world' best" Her Malaysian influence is seen in Chef Ottolenghi's bakery , especially in her chiffon cakes and pandain infused pineapple tarts. She has also brought her cupcakes, scones madeleines and cheesecakes too, that also features cakes from his childhood..

Chef Ottolenghi and Ms. Goh gave two of their recipes from the new book. One is that famous chocolate cake, the other is a pistachio and rose water semolina one.The chocolate one is deep in flavor and rich,It is also a buttery one, using a cup plus one and a half tablespoons of the unsalted kind.To offset the cocoa's intensity,  a teaspoon and a half of instant coffee granules.As for the chocolate itself, both dark chocolate pieces and a half cup of Dutch processed cocoa. The flavor is magnified by the addition of a choice of icings. -a rich  chocolate ganache or an espresso cinnamon marscapone topping. If this is too intense there is pistachio and rose water semolina cake, This relies on pistachio and cardamon for a mellow blend of taste along with almond meal. There is a lot of butter needed too, namely a cup of it plus one tablespoon. That and four large eggs create the golden crumb.It can be served plain with just rose water syrup drizzled on top but it can be made lusher with a rose cream made with both creme fraiche and Greek yogurt. More rose water and confectioners sugar sweeten it. The cake is decorated with candied rose petals,easy to make just pesticide free rose petals, egg whites and granulated sugar.

Chef Ottolenghi and Ms Goh have created the ultimate baking  cookbook. The recipes are richly satisfying. Get it and bake!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Come Food Or High Water

A hurricane is a devastating event for anyone A super hurricane like Harvey or Irma that left five to six feet of water is catastrophic - especially to a home chef passionate about cooking. Yet many Houston residents made do and persevered. They were inventive and resilient,  still creating tasty dishes despite hardship.

 Kim Severson, a Southerner herself visited several Houston homes and interviewed residents, including the mayor's wife who had suffered the wrath of Hurricane Harvey. Kitchens were completely torn apart, soaked to ruin by flood waters. Some were even visited by alligators! One famed local cook, Al Marcus, managed to wipe down surfaces with a bleached rag and cook up a brisket for the All Hands Volunteers who ripped out the sheetrock from his home and countless others.He is known for his big Thanksgiving meals and will not disappoint. He plans on hosting this year, even if it means eating in a hollowed shell of a dining room. Francine Spiering, a food writer and recipe developer lost everything. Her favorite knives are gone along with forty cookbooks, plates and platters. Her home office was also  located in the kitchen.She is salvaging as best she could - but restoring the kitchen could take up to six months.There is hope , though. A Dallas woman has raised enough money to send dozens of Instant Pots, slow cookers, that will be used as ovens.Others who understand what it's like to go through disaster have donated, food, cutlery, and coolers.

Some home chefs are ingenious. Dana Karni, a lawyer, who loves to cook transformed her kids' playroom into a makeshift kitchen. She and her sixteen year old son carried a small chest freezer up to the  second floor. The contents were precious - the salmon she had caught with her dad on a trip to Alaska.Also upstairs her set of good Japanese knives which would have had another use had the waters risen more. She had planned on using them to cut a hole in the roof so she and her children could escape. Their linen closet is now the pantry and there is an espresso maker on master bath vanity.A few Houstonites like Aimee Ally Taylor and her family bounced around to four different homes before finding a nearby house with a working kitchen. Many have lost a lot, from beef that was eaten by gators to casks of homemade vinegar and vanilla.  All of them have dreams of what their new kitchens will look like.The mayor's wife , Andrea White,wants a cookstove against the wall, and not on a kitchen island as it previously was.Perla Moncivais, thinks about an open concept with a table , big and roomy enough for her four children .It will take a while as witnessed with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Houston will survive, So will the home chefs who cook phenomenal meals. A hurricane won't stop these dynamos - not when it comes to cooking.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Marriage Of Old And New Rosh Hashanah Dishes

 The Jewish New Year is upon us and it's a time to celebrate with the traditional. It's also a time to embrace the new as well. Both ideas can also mean the Rosh Hashanah table, with a marriage of family recipes along with introducing different dishes. This will make for a more interesting meal.

Brisket has always been the centerpiece of the holiday table. It's been enjoyed  for generations, usually braised. Many will cook ones with onions added, to give it a sweet and earthy flavor. A sweet and sour sauce , with crushed tomatoes, brown sugar and garlic, can also be used. More adventurous cooks can try rubs such as a garlic and onion rub or ones spiked  with chile powder. Chicken is another choice to try for the holiday. Think of making it with cinnamon and apples for that touch of sweetness that represents a sweet new year. Another recipe that's a blend of sweet and savory is  one made with pomegranate or cranberry juice along with Granny Smith apples and the traditional ingredient of honey. Cayenne pepper is added for bite and kick.This calls for the chicken to be cut into pieces and cooked in a Dutch oven.Every family has vegans and they should be considered into the equation as well.Think tofu, zested up with cumin and ginger Moroccan  style. This is an easy dish, with first cooking the tofu, then setting it aside to create a sauce redolent with onions , garlic and scallions. Almonds and apricots are added for crunch and sweetness.

Side dishes are just as important as the main ones. If the family insists on traditional then think tzimmes, but maybe with a slight twist. Try a trio of yams, sweet potatoes, and carrots, cooked in orange juice, honey and chicken broth.If it's too sweet add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt to cut the sugar. Salads can also be incorporated into the dinner. Use the super green of the moment - kale mixed with pomegranate seeds covered with an almond halvah (!) dressing. For crunch and zing try the Sephardic Jewish  inspired lemon fried cauliflower .This is breading the boiled florets in a breadcrumb batter and then frying them in oil. They are then drenched with lemon juice to cut the oiliness.Carrots are a big part of any Rosh Hashanah meal. Roast baby ones with olive oil, honey,  and orange zest. They can be also served with basmati rice , spiked with raisins and almonds. This is also a good main dish for vegans too.  How to end the meal? With the traditional honey cake. The timeless recipe is spiced with cloves and allspice but it can be modernized with coffee and even whiskey (!) It can even be baked into cupcakes Decorate with dried apple slices and drizzles of honey.

Rosh Hashanah is a time of celebrating the new while holding on to tradition. Create a holiday meal that reflects this. Use old and new recipes to create a unique New Year's dinner.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The End Of The Harvest

Summer is coming to a rapid close and with it the harvests of the seasons. Many plants are still producing fruit and vegetables well into apple and pear time. Don't worry if you still have some. There's so many recipes that call for them.

Tomatoes are the most versatile of any garden fruit.If you still have an abundance of them, then consider the red gems for salsa cruda. This is a simple sauce to  make because the only cooking involves the pasta.It's taking tomatoes of any kind, chopping them and letting them marinate in garlic and olive oil.Feta or mozzarella can be added as well. Of course salsa is the easiest way of dealing with a bumper crop. Roast the tomatoes along with chili peppers for a smoky rich flavor. Like any other fruit, tomatoes can be turned into a preserve.The best part, it doesn't require any elaborate canning equipment or skills. It's just cooking it on a low heat for two to three hours and then letting it set in the fridge in any kind of jar.Tomato jam is versatile and can top anything and everything from crab cakes to fried eggs. It can also be whisked into a vinaigrette for some punch or served on toasted and oiled Italian bread. If you have green tomatoes and want to clean out the garden, pick and put in a paper bag to ripen. You can also fry them too. The coating is a double one, with the first just being flour and the second being a mix of breadcrumbs and cornmeal for some crunch and bite.

Tomatoes also go well with another end of harvest veggie - pepper. Combine the two with eggplant and onion for a tasty ratatouille, perfect for an early fall al fresco lunch. Peppers, alone , can be tasty. Use any bumper crop to make a pepper salad. Julienne into strips and toss with a simple vinaigrette. Crumble in some feta cheese for variation and bite. Of course, there's nothing like that great comfort dish  - stuffed peppers. Make them the traditional way with ground beef and rice or mix it up with ground turkey and chili powder. Yes, they can also be pickled too. The process is an elaborate canning one, that does require skill and equipment. Zucchini is another part of a late summer harvest. Try spiralizing them to create a healthier kind of pasta. Saute the strands in an olive oil and crushed garlic. It can be stuffed too or split in half to create boats. This last is a fun way to serve the squash. You can stuff them with meat and cover with sauce and mozzarella or skip the meat for a pizzaiola .  A sweeter idea is using it in a spice laden bread, redolent with cinnamon and cloves or a cake, 
rich with dates, topped with an orange cream cheese frosting.

An end of season bumper crop is a true gift. Use this harvest in a variety of ways to create tasty dishes and desserts. It's a nice way to clean out the garden and fill up the fridge.