Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Corned Ham For Easter

One of the constants right now is the holiday dinner. For many Christians it's ham on Easter, a comforting reminder of happier years and hope for a better holiday next year. Southerners can appreciate the rare corned ham, a specialty of Maryland and South Carolina

Brett Anderson, a restaurant critic and regular contributor to the New York Times wrote about this  rare Southern classic in today's New York Times Food issue. Traditional corned ham is nothing more than  fresh ham that's been cured in salt. It's found in St. Mary's County in Maryland, a peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River where it's used for stuffed hams. It's also found in eastern North Carolina where hog farming has been the backbone  of the economy for generations. It's one region where it's still common for people to serve unembellished ham for the holidays. Some Carolinians boil their hams and them use the  rich broth, also called pot likker to cook sides like collard greens. Many slow roast the hams too. They get them at local Piggly Wigglys but many of an older generation corned the hams themselves.

You can make corned ham at home.  Just remember it's going to take up a lot of fridge space which is precious nowadays. (you can buy one on line from It will take ten days so  maybe it can work as an after Easter dinner. You will need to put a ten to fifteen pound ham in a roasting pan and cutting incisions in it, namely around the shank and hip bones.  Stuff  as much as  kosher salt as you can in them. Its' then soaking the ham over night in  half of inch of water. Afterwards press parchment paper into the meat and seal the whole thing with aluminum foil.Cook it in a 325 F degree oven for twenty-three to twenty-five minutes per pound . A fifteen pound ham would be roasted for six and a quarter hours.Ninety minutes before the final cooking remove the foil and parchment. Turn up the oven's heat to 375 degrees F and return the ham to it.The intense heat will turn the top layer of fat into the added treat of a covering  like crackling.The best part is the leftovers. You can use the meat and bones in everything from pea soup to ham salad. You can even make a corned ham Reuben toofor a fun lunch or dinner.

Corned ham is a treat anyone can make at home. Celebrate Spring or time with your family with a home corned one.It's a great addition to your cooking repertoire.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

World Health Day A Day To Eat Healthy

Today is World Health day where we celebrate nurses and midwives around the world. We could also take the day to consider our own health and eating right. We have been indulging in too many snacks and too many pre Easter goodies It's time for a healthy infusion of vitamins and minerals.

A lot of us have been living off of canned food.Let's face it. It's easy to store and easy to heat up. It's not time consuming to make, especially in these days of endless Zoom meetings and home schooling.Many soups are high in sodium ,plus preservatives. Most  soups are high in salt. A better bet is homemade soup. If you have chicken or turkey bones boil them into a stock. You can also use leftover meat and the  skin for a richer flavor. There should also be celery, onions and carrots for more taste. Use all of the celery, including the leaves and the tops. You should also have parsley too along with salt and pepper. Simmer for about four hours. Chicken stock can also be cooked in an Instapot and crock pot too. You can put whatever you want in it, from  ditalini to orzo along with sliced tomatoes, more onions and celery.  Shredded chicken or turkey is always good too.  As for chicken itself, it's tempting to buy up the frozen fried chicken, but a better choice would be chicken cutlets if you can find them (you can always get frozen) and bread them yourself using a light egg wash and a dredging of spiced flour. Fry in the air fryer for a lighter but still crispy crunch.

Snacks are also a big concern right now. How many of us have ripped into endless bags of chips right now. They are tasty, especially if they're served with a rich sour cream dip. Yet you can make them healthier by buying bags of the baked chips along with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. You can flavor the dip with onion or garlic powder or even chopped scallions for a different kind of flavor. Another healthier indulgence is pretzels. They're salty and crunchy but without all the calories. Plus pretzels can be put into all sorts of fun treats too, from sundaes to topping cupcakes. Tortilla chips and salsa are another good for you bite. Salsa can also be home made with sliced tomatoes, onions and jalapenos. Add fresh pineapple for a tasty different spin.A second healthy dip is guacamole, and again to give it an entirely different flavor, try cherry tomatoes instead of plum tomatoes to blend with the avocados. Sweet snacks are everybody's downfall right now. Yes, we all love those sandwich cookies, but try fruit  - even if' it's just an apple a day  with some cookies. Have fun fruits like grapes for the kids. These are fun nibbles , especially after a hard day of home schooling. Strawberries and pineapple chunks are also good and fun - especially if you have a vanilla Greek yogurt dip.

It is World Health Day, and we should honor all those brave nurses and midwives especially right now. Yet we should use the day to remind ourselves to eat healthier during this time inside. We'll feel better with better food in us.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Make And Freeze

if there's ever a time to make and freeze it is now. It pays to create a few dishes ahead of time or ones that will generate a lot of leftovers. All you have to do is just pop these  into the microwave or toaster oven. Doing this will save up time for meetings and schooling.

One of the easiest make and freeze is lasagna. It can be made even easier with no boil lasagna noodles and canned sauce. You can create an easy tomato sauce using your crockpot or Instapot and adjust the seasonings to your family's tastes. As for the meats try sliced sausages or ground beef. Once the ingredients are layered and baked , then it's time for freezing. Wrap it tightly in Saran Wrap first then aluminum foil .It can be refrigerated for a day and frozen for up to a month. Remember to thaw out the lasagna in the fridge before reheating it.It tastes better reheated in the oven so bake it in a  400 degree F oven for an hour. Another easy make and freeze is spaghetti and meatballs. Since this is a popular  dish make double for dinner. Let the kids enjoy it now and have it as another dinner or even lunch a few days later. Again you can have homemade or store bought sauce. Meatballs freeze very well, which is a plus. Freeze in Ziploc bags or freezer friendly containers. Keep in mind to wait for the pasta to cool. Freezing hot or even still warm foods can cause other freezer foods to melt or thaw. Remember to put the date you froze them on the begs.

Another food to think of freezing is turkey. You may want to have it as your Easter dinner for a fancier dinner. It's great for leftovers because there's so much you can do with it. Just remember to make sure the turkey and sides are completely cooled before you put the leftovers in the freezer. The meat should first be wrapped in freezer paper or foil and then sealed in air tight plastic freezer bags. Be quick about this - all packages should be placed in the freezer right away. As for the sides like mashed potatoes and green beans put into airtight freezer containers or plastic freezer bags. One of the most versatile meals that can be frozen before and after cooking is meat loaf.In fact some home chefs believe that freezing a meat loaf before cooking increases its' flavor. For first freezing, form the loaf and then wrap it very well in Saran wrap, then place in an air tight freezer bag. It can keep up to six months in there so you may want to make a few for the weeks ahead. The loaf should be thawed out in the fridge the night before cooking. As for freezing the left over slices, put in freezer containers and store for later use.

 Making and freezing  is your best bet if you're busy with Zoom meetings and home schooling. It frees you up for the more important sides of home life these days. Create now, cook later for easier living.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Flavor Of Naples

One of the best comfort foods to have is any dish from Naples. The recipes are redolent with rich spices and freshly picked and made ingredients. It is worth revisiting the cuisine and the solace it brings.

Every Neopolitan family has a recipe for tomato sauce. They may all seem the same yet each family recipes varies sometimes slightly - sometimes a lot.One favorite recipe involves the inclusion of pork in the "meat" sauce.Usually called Bolognese by fancier restaurants many Southerners  just call their meat and it can have anything from sausage to ground chuck. Some add pork, usually lean ground into it too for more flavor. It give the flavor a sweeter, richer taste. You can also add pancetta or as it's occasionally  called Italian bacon. It's actually pork belly that's been cured  like bacon then cold smoked, or partially cooked. It melts into the sauce and gives it a richer flavor. Of course, the most important part are the tomatoes themselves. Many use fresh when they're in season, but most home chefs usually go for San Marzano ones. What is the best one here in the States? Surprisingly a panel of New York Times Food and the online zine Wire Cutter picked Target's Market Pantry sauce as the best. You can also try Muir Glen along with Stop & Shop Nature's Promise Organic Sauce and tomato paste.

Neopolitan kids go wild for mozzarella in carrozza. These are a kind of grilled cheese- croque Monsieur sandwich that's filled with gooey, melted cheese. It starts with white bread and mozzarella.  You can cut off the crusts if you like. The sandwich is then cut in half and dipped into a bath of beaten egg and a sliced garlic clove. The next step is dredging the triangles into breadcrumbs and frying in a quarter of an inch olive oil. Fry until the crusts or ends are brown and the cheese is oozing out. You can use the homemade sauce for dipping for a kind of pizza taste. To vary it , slather a layer of pesto on the mozzarella or add a slice of prosciutto or a couple of anchovies. Anchovies also figure in a savory zeppoli. (Some Neopolitan home chefs also put a bit of prune with this for a sweet -savory flavor). Zeppoli are usually a sweet treat , dusted with powdered sugar after being deep fried. However they can also be savory , with a simple dough of flour, water and yeast. The dough is proofed for two hours then rolled into balls. An anchovy filet is placed in the center and then the balls are fried in six cups of oil. Serve the golden puffs with hot homemade sauce.

There is nothing like Neopolitan comfort food. It is soothing and savory, perfect for these times. Create their best recipes for a delicious lunch,dinner or even snack.

Per Rose Russo Garguilo. Mille grazie per avermi insegnato alcune delle migliori ricette.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Shopping Days These Days

These days are unprecedented and it's scary to even think about going out food shopping. This one pleasant task has become a frightening trip into the unknown. Luckily there are tips to stay sane .

Even in better days, a shopping list is handy . Many phones have a Note app that lets you create lists. There's no need for the old school paper ones. These can be easily added to and can be deleted after shopping (Or kept). Remember to sanitize your phone when you come home if you do take it out after coming home. Always ask yourself what are the basics that you need. Are you low on rice? Or pasta? These go fast and it pays to buy a few sacks of rice to keep you going. These will last for a month and rice is a versatile base. Try to buy a variety of pasta - think rotelli and spaghetti along with smaller pieces like ditalini which are perfect for soups. How many boxes should you get? As many as you need. Families with kids should buy more. Kids love a good soothing spaghetti dinner and it is a comfort during these crazy times. Cereal is also a must, especially if you have little ones. Three or four boxes should be enough for a week or two, especially if you ration them. The same goes for the hot cereals such as oatmeal and farina. With this comes milk, so buy three or four containers of it.

Other basics are beef and poultry but these can be hard to find. Some grocery stores like Acme and Wal-mart have roast chicken that you can pick up when you want a treat. There may some shortages on fresh cuts and cutlets. Think about packaged and frozen meals. Also consider frozen fish as well . The kids will like fish sticks every now and then. This is also the time to go vegan because vegan products seem to be plentiful. Gardein is always in stock and they have an excellent choice of faux meats. Their hamburgers taste like the real thing and they're great as patty melts or plain. Everyone will like their chicken tenders which have the same crunch and taste as the real thing. Beyond Burgers and Impossible Meat are also great and taste very much like beef. As for veggies and fruit should you get fresh? If you can yes. Everyone appreciates a fresh apple or a bowl of cherry tomatoes. . Just remember to wash all fruits and veggies for twenty seconds with cold water before storing.  Also when you get the food home remember to decontaminate it. Wipe all plastic containers and cardboard boxes with disinfectant. Do it outside and transfer the cleaned products to uncontaminated or untouched bags.

A grocery store visit isn't what it used to be.It's essential but risky. Take all the precautions you can , and shop wisely. Get what you truly need and get it in multiples. Make your shopping list last a week or two during these unprecedented times.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Easy Bread For The Holidays

There's nothing as comforting or as steady as tradition. That includes matzoh for Passover and breads for Easter. We need them to complete seders and dinners. what better way to carry on tradition than to bake them ourselves. It'sa way to calm ourselves and connect with our pasts.

Melissa Clark knows this and offered a matzoh recipe in her A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times. You can still buy matzoh in the stores, There are boxes of it but you can also make it at home if you don't want to go out or there are shortages in your area. Matzoh is an easy bake because it's just water and flour. Ms. Clark suggests also adding whole wheat flour for an earthier taste along with sprinkling the tops with flaky sea salt. You can also add cracked pepper or other spices.One important ingredient is olive oil  which give a richness in both flavor and body. You'll need about two cup of flour, kosher salt and only a quarter cup of whole wheat flour. A scant quarter cup of olive oil is also blended in along with a half of cup of water. The dough is rolled out to the thinnest possible thickness. You can aim for rounds but if they're too hard, then settle for oblongs. Transfer each to a cookie sheet and prick with a fork.  Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt.The matzohs only take seven to twelve minutes to bake, until they're golden and lightly browned in spots. Roll out  following batches as the first are baking.

An Easter dinner, no matter, how small , can also have a loaf of bread. Krysten Chambrot, a senior staff editor at the Food section wrote about these also in yesterday's issue. There are different recipes beginning with one for novices, and working all the way up to seasoned bread bakers. Beginners can try their hand at Mark Bittman's no knead bread. It's a simple recipe of bread flour and instant yeast . It's just takes a long while to proof  - about twelve hours or more. If you have trouble with yeast, then try the non yeast type. Food section regular  contributor, Florence Fabricant gives a beer bread one, that's sweet, thanks to the addition of sugar and beer. Make a loaf or two for the holiday and serve with sliced Easter ham. From there go for the enriched breads. These are the loaves that have egg and honey in them, which are the basis of many traditional Easter breads. A good holiday bread is an enriched savory focaccia recipe taken from the famed Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Olive oil and minced rosemary flavor it.  It's cut into squares - perfect for a family Easter brunch and for the leftovers the next day. You will need a stand mixer and a dough hook to knead the dough.

Baking matzoh and bread is a soothing holiday tradition. Bake some in these stressful times for comfort and to relieve the uneasiness of these uncertain times.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Holidays In The Time Of Hardship

With April comes holidays along with the foods and traditions that shape them. Yet how can we celebrate together when we're so far apart? That's a good question with several answers.

Priya Krishna wrote extensively about this in today's New York Times Food section, Luckily we have Zoom and Skype so there can be virtual Seders, and Easter dinners along with Persian New Year and Ramadam. Rabbi Doug Kahn,a Reform rabbi in San Francisco is doing a virtual Seder this Passover with his wife Ellen. The group has been asked to email each other their favorite holiday recipes so they're all on the same page . The hardest part, however, is the afikoman , the piece of matzo that's usually hidden in the house for children to find.Rabbi Kahn will carry his computer through his house, going through each room. People have to guess where the piece is hidden. The same can be done for Easter, Families can have virtual brunches or dinners together. They can even make candy together as Marley Griggey of Cincinnati , Ohio is doing with her family members. This is a family tradition this graduate student will pass down to her own young children. Her husband, Phill, who works overnight at Target, also helps in getting the traditional ham and eggs both hard to get right now both for cooking and dying.

The Persian New Year  or Nowruz is also very big. It is a time when there ceremonial dishes to be cooked and shared. It's in full swing right now , starting on March 19th. It's a thirteen day celebration where people throw parties and set up haft-sins. This is a collection of seven items like garlic and vinegar that symbolize hope for the new year along with dishes such as sabzi polo ba mahi, fish with herbed rice. Katayoun Kishi, an Iranian living in Atlanta had to pare down her festivities. Her haft sin had to be cut down because of shortages and there were no sweets because the bakeries were shut down. As for Ramadam, many of the dinners have been cancelled. Hassan Chami, a Detroit pharmacist  and owner of the restaurant Terry Melt,usually runs the Ramadam Food Festival, an event where there are forty vendors including himself. It's where the city's sizable Muslim population communally breaks their fast. The vent has to be cancelled but the money he donated is going to local hospitals to buy much needed supplies. along with giving free food away to hospital workers.

This year follow these examples to make the best of your holidays and holy days. It will be different but still celebratory. Make it a tasty one , still full of good memories.