Friday, November 17, 2017

Praying For A Good Diet???

Diet, as we all know, takes will power.You need a resolve of steel to stick to it and forgo favorite fattening foods. A new book suggests Divine Intervention can help. Is that true? Can we pray away the pounds?

According to author and creator of  the site Dashing Dish , Katie Ferrell, you can.Her new book, Nourish (Faith Words Publishers, 2017) explains that by eating clean and being spiritual, you can shed pounds and sin, becoming a stronger person in the process. Like many "cookbooks" today this one is all about the personal experience , peppered with recipes. She goes through many transformations from a horrible teen age experience with anorexia and bulimia to a young student nurse to a wife and expecting mother.Her writing is likable and some will identify with her.Ms. Farrell is a Bible reader and applies certain passages to her life so that it all makes sense.It's really the first food related book that offers prayer as a solution. She also broaches on the subjects of perseverance and purpose along with partnering with God. The faithful will see this as great plan. Others many eschew it and concentrate on her sections on portion control and getting rid of the junk. She does make an important point about emotions and how they can guide us down right and wrong paths.

What of the recipes themselves? I find it odd that she tells readers to try to restrain themselves against such treats as cookies and cakes yet has recipes for them. Granted, they  are what she calls clean - meaning there's no butter or refined sugar or flour, yet they 're still temptations. Other recipes are Make Ahead Freezer Smoothie Packs, made with frozen strawberries and bananas mixed with Greek yogurt and almond milk. These are perfect for the dieter on the go, because they whip up into a quick nutritional breakfast. Ms. Farrell also has a sweet potato-turkey burger mash up that's also chock full of spinach . Some will like the cheesy chicken and green chile lasagna, spiced up with chili powder and cumin. Chicken also rules in the taco chicken quinoa bowls along with the ancient grain of quinoa and in chicken Ceasar wraps. Another plus recipe is the Homemade Oat Flour Pizza Crust. This can be turned into the base for many healthy, fresh veggie pizzas and even flatbread. It's too bad she doesn't have any fish recipes since it was clearly mentioned in the New Testament.

Will prayer help with dieting? It can if you believe. Katie Farrell certainly believes in it and uses it to lead a balanced , nourishing life.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Outside The Thanksgiving Box

Everyone expects the ususal Thanksgiving main meal and sides. Yet sometimes, it pays to cook outside the proverbial holiday box of recipes. It could mean experimentation. It could be a meatless day. It could be falling back on family recipes and the exotic ingredients that come with them. It could be a welcomed break from the usual , too.

Everybody has turkey on Thanksgiving.Or do they? What do vegans and vegetarians eat? Or those averse to the taste of gamy bird? Many vegans turn to Tofurkey , a soy substitute that sort of tastes like the real thing.A better idea is making the loaf yourself. Try a stuffed seitan loaf which is basically wheat glutens mixed with nutritional yeast to create a kind of meat loaf . Soy sauce is added to give it a nice brown color, similar to turkey.It can be stuffed, usually with a mix of firm tofu blended with cut carrots, onions and celery, Another idea is wild rice and mushroom casserole that was the topic of Melissa Clark's  A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Food section.It is also chock full of white beans and spinach too.Fennel and leeks are added to give it a sweet ,flavor and it's topped with  a mix of Panko bread crumbs, rosemary, lemon zest and garlic. Parmesan cheese can also be sprinkled on top if wanted. Ms. Clark also suggests variations to suit the crowd. Brown rice can be subbed in for the wild, Cilantro is used for color and taste but home chefs can also use basil. The bread crumbs can be nixed if guests have celiac disease.

What about those sides? Most will insist on having the usual bread stuffing , along with yams turned into candy  and some kind of green veggie. Yet if that's not part of the anyone's  culinary heritage, don't make them. They'd probably just sit there on the table and then just sit there in the fridge.Ask any Southern Italian or  Greek family who has served manicotti or dolmades with the bird.If your family has kim chi at every holiday , then serve it .If your family likes river weed, a popular green used in Vietnamese cuisine, then put that on the table instead of Brussels sprouts.The same goes for spicing. If you're hosting a multicultural dinner, then think outside the usual salt and pepper. Zing up greens and salads with various ones such as garam masala or paprika.  The last adds color to every dish and can make the ordinary extraordinary. As for bread, the usual is a prim, little roll on a plate Serve warm , crusty baguettes instead. French and Italian bread is excellent for soaking up thick turkey gravy and wonderful for creating sandwiches afterwards. If the family is used to naan or pita, then serve that. The same goes for dessert. Not everyone likes pumpkin pie. Serve fresh fruit or puddings if you want.

Think outside the Thanksgiving box. It's not writtten in stone what you have to cook and bake. Be true to your heritage.Or be different. The end result is a different holiday meal everyone will enjoy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Proustian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, like any holiday , is not just a time for eating but a time of reflection about why and what we eat. Like Proust's madeleines, turkey and its' merry band of sides makes us think about days past and days that are. Are we thankful for that?

That's what the New York Times Food section posed in today's issue. It was none of the usual holiday  recipes and tips (that was last week) and none of the advice from the usual culprits like David  Tanis or Melissa Clark.Only one Food regular A.O. Scott contributed and his is a bittersweet, funny take on being the designated cook. He even has a Thanksgiving Chef's cocktail  which is humorous and reflects the hell most home chefs go through on the day. Most of the pieces  are reflective essays from Pulitzer prize winning writers that show a multifaced and shimmering mosaic on this great American meal. There is one  real, you can make this at home.recipe, and that comes from Jessica B. Harris, who is the pre eminent scholar on the foods of the African Disaspora. She is also responsible for helping the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture create its' cafeteria. Hers is a more loving memory , as she reminisces about setting the table and the Thanksgiving day highlight - rutabega-potato mash with bacon. It's a great recipe to sub in for the usual mashed potatoes and easy to make. The bacon in it adds a smoky tang , a perfect foil for the holiday greens and cranberry sauce.

However, many essays aren't as thoughtful and as cheery as hers. Take for example 2016 Pulitzer prize winner and English professor Viet Thanh Nguyen who teaches his child about the indigenous genocide. He does soften his essay somewhat about how his hardworking parents got a tricked out Vietnamese styled birds, complete with noodles and native spices. Now his is a blend of store cooked turkey and Vietnam delicacies.  On a somewhat lighter side there is Sarah Lyall, a New York Times field reporter who worked for the paper's London branch, writes about how to explain the holiday to stumped Brits. "Just supper?" they'd ask. for a holiday with no presents and no religious overtures. She made it up, creating cookie logs for dessert and mashed squash with olive oil for a side.Emma Cline ,a very young Pulitzer recipient writes about returning to Northern California where the ride home with her dad has more weight than the family dinner. National Book Award winner, Elliot Ackerman writes about the  country being torn apart, back during the Kennedy Era and now and him being a part of many holiday dinners around the world. Other essayists are Parul Sehgal and Wesley Morris who write about cooking and its's weight.  There is an interesting one from New Yorker contributor. Masha Gassen, who gets together with her neighbor to create a welcoming and memorable one for their gay and transgender friends.

Holidays are just that holidays. With them come a wealth of recipes and reflections. They feed off each other as they feed off us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Roland G. Henin Honoring A Mentor

It is hard to get a good mentor  - no matter what profession you're in. Yet some chefs have had the honor - and fun to work under the great master chef Roland G.Henin. One, Susan Crowther, has honored him in a new tribute book.

Roland G. Henin : 50 Years Of Mentoring Great American Chefs (Skyhorse Publishing 2017) was written by Chef Henin''s former CIA student , Susan, Crowther. It is not just a biography/autobiography, it's a variety of different interviews with such famed and former students as PBS's Mike Colamico and French Laundry's Thomas Keller. Interspersed amongst such are Chef Henin's own recollections on everything from his early years in Tartare, France, a small village not far from the culinary world heritage site of Lyon to his early years in Montreal and Grand Bahama Island. There are some amusing anecdotes  , about the cooking competitions and the hijinks that accompany them.Then there is his teaching at the great CIA - Culinary Institute of America in New Hyde Park, New York, and how he treated (and mistreated) students including the author.Most have very good memories of him, even becoming his friend.

The book is rather dry and long.I found it hard to get really enthused about. It should have been a straight biography, with more details about Chef Henin's  life in France. Instead, it was interview after interview with  fellow chefs working with him on various national and international cooking competitions.Either that or ones with former students that had suffered his wrath. I would have loved to have seen recipes from the competitions as well as ones from the CIA along with some of his family recipes.This would have made the book much more palatable and appealing. Instead, Ms. Crowther has endless conversations with all sorts of chefs and , frankly, one just blended into the next. This is meant to be a valentine,from a former student to her mentor, and it does achieve that. Yet Ms. Crowther should have allowed the chefs to write their own chapters along with providing some kind of recipe associated with this great cook. There aren't even any pictures of the dishes he created , instead there are those of him with fellow chefs and fishing stuck in the book's middle

If you're familiar with Chef Henin, then this is the book for you. It is an ode to a mentor from a devoted student. That's all it is.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Reopened With A Salute To A Master Chef

The pantry is opened - and I'll add reluctantly. We've lost one of the best master chefs  to ever live - my mother - Elizabeth Helble Roberts and it's tough to write this  - and continue on with the blog. Yet this is what she would have wanted for me.I can hear her now. "Why are you stopping for me? Don't be silly. Continue on with it.Don't disappoint your readers."

So, I will ,Ma,

My mother's background was fashion design yet she came from a family of phenomenal home chefs who in their own right, should have been teaching at culinary schools. She had an excellent background , thanks to a Piedmontese Italian mother and Swabian German father. They taught her the subtleties of good Northern Italian and Southern German cuisine. Her beloved paternal grandmother taught her the intricacies of baking which she excelled at.She aced Home Ec , loving the cooking section as much as she loved the sewing one. When she married my Dad, she got a crash course in Midwestern American cuisine from my great-granny Roberts. She could now expand her repertoire with Southern fried chicken, biscuits and crisps. Ma explored her French heritage too, and her love of Paris. We had restaurant style crepes and Bouef Bourgignon when the neighbors ate baloney sandwiches . She plunged into the Chinese cooking craze and was the only one on the block to cook with a wok. Nothing was too difficult or too exotic for her, She even could cook with whatever was in the fridge. Ma  left behind a true library of cookbooks, from La Gastronome La Rousse to Julia Childs.

Cooking and baking with her was like being with Jacques Pepin or Julia Child. It was a master class , in family recipes and international cuisine. To be honest, I was always nervous to  be in the kitchen with her. What if I failed? What would she say? I stayed out of the kitchen for a long time, letting her take the helm. I love to cook and bake but imagine doing both under the watchful eye of an Escoffier. This blog definitely benefitted from her advice. I was always asking her questions. - "How much egg should I put into a recipe?" "Can we vary the stock - switch chicken for veggie?" "How much garlic should go into the sauce?" She was incredibly inspiring and active  - even up to three weeks ago, before she fell victim to the insidious kidney cancer that destroyed her.

I will miss my Mom, Ma- as a mother and as a best friend, but I will always mourn the loss of a great master chef.

Elizabeth Helble Roberts July 18th 1922 - November 12, 2017 . 95 years of amazing good food , advice and cooking.

I know  you and your Grandma Helble are making the best Springele in Heaven right now!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Foodie Pantry Vacation

The pantry will be closed for an indefinite number of time. Hopefully it will be reopened soon.


Friday, November 3, 2017

A Melange Of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are one of those fall foods that can be good on their own or with other ingredients They're easy to work with , a plus for novice home well as being a great sub for meats.

Many home chefs grew up with the the white button kind. These are the most versatile, showing up in everything from salads to sides. They can easily be stuffed with a mix of their stems and bread crumbs.For those who aren't fond of the button's flavor , try the oyster. It's flavor is very mild , almost flavoring the abalone fish. Shiitake caps are popular right now, Their flavor is woodsy  and they're a good source of copper.Many home chefs have embraced portobellos and have used them as sub in for steaks and burgers. They are one of the most popular  and probably the most versatile. They can be turned into everything from kabobs to meatloaf. For plate appeal try enoki mushrooms These are graceful white stems with tiny pearl button like heads. Like the oyster kind, they have a very mild flavor. They're crunchy to eat and commonly found in such Japanese dishes as sukiyaki and nabemono,or Japanese hot pot.The gem of all is the control. They are sometimes called egg  mushrooms because of their deep golden color.

All these mushrooms can actually work together. Melissa Clark has come up with a tasty recipe as seen in her A Good Appetite column in the New York Times Food section. She combines winter squash with a variety of  different ones. This create not only a blend of flavors but a blend of textures too. She uses the common button with the posh and plush chanterelle, oysters with shiitakes. This creates an interesting mix  made more interesting with curry leaves and mustard seeds, Winter squash , namely the butternut balances it out, creating a nice mild foil for all the heat that comes from the addition of  four chilies and cayenne pepper. According to Ms. Clark home chefs can adjust the heat, making it as spicy or mild as they want it. Serve it with fragrant basmati rice or oven warmed naan bread.

Mushrooms are a wonderful addition to any fall menu. Serve just one kind or blend in stew or curry.  They are versatile and easy to work with in any recipe.