Monday, June 30, 2008

Watermelon -Summer's Fun Fruit

What's an all natural cooler that's low calorie and fun?


Nothing screams hot weather and fun eating that this bright pink fruit that's always cut into a big smile.It's cool and refreshing and just the perfect dessert for hot sticky days.

Watermelons started out in African Kalahari desert and were eaten as early as 5,000 years ago by the ancient Egyptians. There are even hieroglyphs depicting it as being part of daily life.The seeds were spread to China (possibly via the Silk Route) and it's still enjoyed there today. Thirteenth century Moors brought the fruit to Europe during their raids. Slaves brought it over to America where it was grown primarily in the South. The watermelon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family which means it tho fruit grows on both vines and trailers. One watermelon vine can produce as many as one hundred melons. It was also bred to be seedless which most grocery stores sell alongside seeded ones.Watermelon is a great source of Vitamins A, C and BC as well as potassium. A cup of cubed watermelon is only forty-six calories so it's the perfect snack or dessert for dieters.

How to serve watermelon?. Chilled and sliced. You can get out the trusty melon baller and make balls for a melon parfait using it, cantaloupe and green melon. Many people turn a larger watermelon into a decorative basket. This old idea has been around for decades but it is a nice finish to any meal. They scoop out the middle, reserve that, and then fill with various fruits such as the melon pieces , strawberries, sliced bananas and pineapple chunks. This makes a festive end to any summer barbecue or out door party.You can also puree your watermelon to make ice or granita. Add other fruits such as pineapple or berries for a more interesting zing.

Watermelon is the perfect hot weather treat. It's not only sweet but refreshing and light. It's like a cool rain for your palate.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Good Catch

July and August are the perfect months for fishing. There's nothing like the fresh catch of the day , steamed or grilled on your barbecue. Fresh seafood is fine however how safe is it? There are still areas in our oceans that can be deemed hazardous thanks to all sorts of nasty stuff. Where can you go for not only the freshest catch of the day but also the most healthiest?

In recent years humanity has been aware of the high levels of toxicity in our waters. There has been a lot of clean up, especially in the Atlantic, still is it enough? Most shore areas experience some kind of run off from the land. This includes chemicals found in commercial fertilizers and various cosmetics and bath products (most notably the parabens which will be banned in the US as of December 2008). This happens mostly when sewerage is channeled in local waters. Always be on the lookout where you fish. Stop fishing if you're off shore and you notice that there are red flags on the nearest beach. This indicates that raw sewerage is in the water and bathing along with fishing is unsafe. Radioactive waste is also dumped into oceans. The waste is transferred to cooling ponds and allowed to sit for a certain length of times , It is then dumped into the nearest sea.

What fish absorb the most pollutants?Let's face facts.Any fish does. It's not a matter of choosing one over the other. Crabs could contain just as many chemicals as sea bass. If you're concerned then cut out fishing all together. Supermarkets will provide you with fish and shellfish that have been raised in all natural or "free range" hatcheries.The quandary is if you like to fish what do you do? Catch and release? My advice is fish in waters you know are "environmentally safe" and try to limit fishing to maybe three times a month during the warmer weather.

Fresh fish is always a good catch. The problem lies not with them but with our waters.Remember to try to find a good catch in relatively clean waters.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cool Cucumbers

During these hot and sticky days it's nice to have some refreshing dish. Cucumbers fit that bill. They are the perfect ingredient for a summer salad. Their lightness and fresh taste are like a cool breeze on a hot day. Not only that but they're easy to prepare - a plus when you don't feel like creating an elaborate dish.

Cucumbers actually started out in the Himalayas and northwestern India.The plant is mentioned in the great epic Gilgamesh and was a staple food of the ancient Urs. It was then brought to ancient Egypt and later to Rome and Greece where it became beloved . Cucumbers were also big with the French and the emperor Charlemagne had them grown in his gardens. Centuries later another French ruler, Louis XIV, also had cucumbers planted in the gardens at Versailles. Of course what would England be without them? The Brits still love them and feature cucumbers in their tea time sandwiches. It was the English poet and playwright Thomas Gay who first coined the phrase "cool as a cucumber" in 1732. The plant was brought over to the Boston area in the mid 1600's where it was a staple in kitchen gardens.

Cucumbers are basically a fruit and belong to the same family as the squash and the muskmelon. It is also a diuretic and presently used by weight watchers and body builders . the dwarf variety used in pickles to the Burpee Hybrid and the Master Slice Hybrid. If you have the time you can make a batch of pickles however I feel that cucumbers goes best in a salad. There's nothing like a sliced one with a dill and sour cream dressing. If you want a lighter salad, then substitute a vinaigrette for the sour cream. Also don't be afraid to put them in your regular salads. Cukes add crunch and balance out the stronger flavors of broccoli cauliflower, and tomatoes. You can also add them to a spinach salad for a different spin or for a lighter tasting beet or string bean salad.

This summer look to the cucumber for a light and refreshing taste. It's the perfect foil to spicy barbecues and heavily spiced grilled meats. It stands out as a cool breeze does on a hot summer's day.

Cucumber Salad With Sour Cream

1 medium to large sized cumber.

1 cup sour cream

2 sprigs chopped fresh dill.

Salt and pepper to taste

Score cucumber with a fork for a decorative lacy edging. Then thinly slice and mix with sour cream and dill. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Foodie's Nightmare - Food Poisoning!!!!

What does every foodie fear?


Unfortunately sometime in our lives we're going to run against some form of food poisoning. It could innocently happen if we buy spoiled food or wind up going to a questionable restaurant. The problem is that it's something that won't go away despite all this modern processing and washing technology. Yet we can be prepared for it and know what to do when we've been stricken.

Food poisoning essentially is a bacterial infection. It begins with the food being contaminated by anything from bacteria and viruses to surprisingly enough environmental toxins or toxins occurring within the food itself, (such as mushrooms, seafood, plants and even shrubs) There are six variations of food poisoning with salmonella being the most common. The deadliest is E coli which can lead to the most severe symptoms and death. During these hot days be especially careful and wary of what you eat and where you eat it. You can get a mild form known as traveler's diarrhea through food that has been handled by unclean hands or food that's been stored in old or broken down refrigeration.This usually happens when you go away , especially to countries that don't enforce sanitary conditions in their restaurants. The disease can also occur in your own kitchen. You can acquire botulism through improperly canned food where too much air is allowed in during the canning process. This infects the product, allowing it to be a breeding ground for bacterial strains. Even every day foods such as egg yolks, chicken beef, pork and fish can be potential ticking time bombs. Also be wary of leaving out dairy products and salad dressing. A milder variety known as Staphylococcus aureus bacteria which is common in dust and air can contaminate and cause stomach discomfort.

Believe me you'll know when you get the symptoms between the vomiting and stomach discomfort (due to the intestines becoming inflamed).The best bet is to just ride it out. If it's severe call your doctor or head straight to your nearest ER. The very old and the very young may have ot be hospitalized because food poisoning affects them the worst. You'll either have to give a stool sample, along with a blood one. The food will also be tested to see what kind of food poisoning you have. Once you get home you'll be on a bland diet of broth and toast.Stock up on drinks such as Gator Ade that will help get your electrolyte levels up to par. Avoid any drink made with milk. Most doctors recommend the BRAT diet for about a week This consists of Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. Sometimes a little sip of brandy a few days later helps but that's only if you're up to it. You probably won't feel like eating or drinking anyway. Just rest and take a little holiday.

To keep your kitchen a safe haven, wash down cutting boards, plates and utensils that have come in contact with any raw meats. Keep reminding the spouse and the kids to constantly wash their hands after using the bathroom. As for the food , throw any rotting or bad smelling food straight into the garbage. Don't buy any dented canned food. Throw any any damaged cans that you have in your house. (this even includes pet food. Your cat or dog can also suffer from some kind of food poisoning as well).

This summer be safe and sound when it comes to eating. Pay attention to where and what you're ingesting. Nothing dampens summer fun than a nasty bout of food poisoning. Trust me on this, I know.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Plum Delicious

This is the time of year fro plums, that voluptuous fruit that is more than a treat , it's a sensual delight. There's nothing like having one as a cool, refreshing as a dessert or even as a snack.

Plums go back as early as 497 BC and were even mentioned in Confucius' writings. They arrived in Europe under the rule of Pompeny the Great and also Alexander the Great brought the fruits back with him fron his Persian exploits. They grew throughout Europe during the Medieval Period. The American colonist discovered the native American kind and over the years Americans have cross bred them with the European genus.

Most US grocery stores sell the red and yellow Japanese kind . There are about eight different varieties from the Casselman to the Santa Rosa .Most back yard plums are the deep purple or blue European kind. The fruit is also being cross bred with apricots to produce the pluot a slightly bigger and juicier plum-apricot hybrid.The fruit is high in vitamins and fiber and makes a good snack for those on diet.

This season try plums. Their sensuous sweet taste is just right for these sultry days.

Summer Weddings

There's nothing like summer weddings. They can be as informal as you like, not only celebrating love but the season in a cozy setting Unlike a Spring , Fall and Winter wedding anything is possible. As with love just follow your heart as to what you want to do.

For some this may be their second or even third (or possibly even fourth) big day. Instead of going all out for a formal affair in an overdone wedding palace, think about a cozy gathering with your favorite foods and people.There's nothing like a down home barbecue, full of ribs and steaks. Kids could have their share of hot dogs and burgers. If you're having a backyard reception, then have family members whip up cherished recipes like a grandmother's cobbler or uncle's potato salad. Preparing your own food also cuts down on expenses. Money that would have gone to a caterer can now go to a more luxurious honeymoon or mortgage payment. Also the meal is made more special and endearing knowing that beloved friends and family contributed to your wedding feast.

If you go with a caterer, stick with someone you know. A lot of small restaurants do catering on the side. They can easily set up a menu with your favorite dishes for a negotiated price. Trays and steam tables will be set up in your back yard or hall for a lot less. Since it is summer the fare will be lighter. Think about seafood such as shrimp and lobster or even grilled or roasted chicken. Make sure that your caterer has plenty of vegetable dishes which digest easier during the hot weather. Avoid pastas and any dish prepared with heavy sauces or gravies.No one wants to get overloaded on a hot ninety degree day.

As far as dessert, of course your cake will be the center of attention. A simple tiered cake with a cascade of real flowers is always a good idea. You can have them match the bridal bouquet. Since a lot of warm weather weddings are beach affairs many couples go for ocean themed cakes. I've recently seen one that was designed like a sandcastle with a starfish bride and groom. The couples names were written in tho sand like icing. If that doesn't float your boat then think about - a boat! A lot of bakeries can do clever motor boats or sloop designs for your cake. Another neat idea is have candy coral and shells instead of flowers decorating the tiers. As far as cake flavors stick with something plain such as vanilla or chocolate. (or embrace the Southern tradition of having a vanilla or lemon bride's cake along with a spice or chocolate groom's cake). For extras think about ice as opposed to ice cream. This is lighter and will also cleanse the palate. Rita's Ice, that great American ice chain has party buckets that you can fill with a variety of flavors. If it's a backyard affair then serve Popsicles to the kids. They'll like them better than the cake anyway. Small dishes filled with cookies on each table is a lovely idea. You can have a tray of cookies next to bowls of fresh fruit. Remember to serve strawberries, and melon for guests who don't want something too sweet or too heavy on a summer's night.

A summer wedding should be light and fun. night. Have your wedding feast reflect this whether you have a good old fashioned down home barbecue or a small catered do in your local hall.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Healthy Substitutes

Not too long ago I wrote about being a low fat foodie. Now once more I'll write about it again because instead of losing weight I've ballooned upwards. It is not easy loving tho e wrong food. Like loving the wrong person, it slowly can kill you.

What to do?

Try to eat healthy. Easier said than done,especially when summer is also the season of snacking. It's so easy to go to the boardwalk or state fair and let loose on a lot of fun treats. Keep the junk food frenzy down to a minimum. Share a corn dog or a frozen custard with someone. Split that cotton candy or double loaded chili dog.At these places it's hard to find relatively healthy food. Opt for the candy or caramel apple (well the apple and the nuts and/or coconut covering it aren't bad) or go for ice or lemonade.Avoid anything deep fried like Oreos, Mars bars, and even ice cream. A problem with heading to the Jersey shore is that there are all these great home made candy stores offering hand made treats. Instead of a pound of fudge , go for the quarter pound. At least you'll get the rich chocolate-y taste without one - the large amount of calories , and two - expense. Salt water taffy is only 30 calories a piece so two pieces as a treat won't hurt. There is also the sugar free kind. A lot of candy stores sell lollipops which are another fat free sweet. Go for these as opposed to those rich molasses paddles dipped in milk chocolate.

Sometimes being at home is worse than being out. There's nothing like relaxing under a favorite tree or by the pool with a snack tray at hand. The problem is you've have to say no to the chips, dips and mojitos. Besides anything too salty will make you retain water. Stick with unsalted pretzels, baked potato chips and salsa. As far as a cooling drink, think freshly brewed iced tea or lemonade. Any soda(except diet) will add calories and make you feel bloated. Also stay away from any presweetened teas. These rich drinks surely put on those summertime pounds. Candy is another no no as we all know. It may be an energy booster during these hot days when you feel lethargic. Still there are calories there.Craving sugar? Go for any kind of berry whether straw blue or black. Eat a fresh sliced peach or watermelon to give yourself a lift.

Another summertime treat to avoid are those iced coffees. Yes they're addictive but loaded with fat. If you want an iced one, forgo the mound of whip cream and syrup barristas decorate the drink with. Opt for black (which is delicious)with a lot of ice. If you need one to spike up your energy levels get the carbonated kind.

It's tough being a foodie on a diet but you can do it. I'm struggling as I write this. Luckily I've nixed the Hershey's nuggets for strawberries and a tall ice filled glass of freshly brewed ice tea. If I can do it, then you other foodies out there can do it too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Forest Treat Blackberries

One of my favorite childhood memories is picking blackberries in the woods behind my house. The area was called the Gully(I guess because there had been a scooped out area made by bulldozers back in the early Fifties. You know I've lived here in the same house all my life and I honestly don’t know why it’s called that). I remember my Mom taking a huge bowl as she , myself,,and handful of neighborhood kids went amongst the little hills and valleys picking this sweet treat(my dad went too , mainly to "chaperone") The brambles don’t exist anymore but I can still get my favorite summer time berry. You can too, at any local store.

The blackberry has been around since ancient times. Blackberry plants or bramble bushes were mentioned in the Bible. The Greeks used it to cure gout while the Romans used it in tea to treat various illnesses. They were popular in Colonial America , being mostly grown in Georgia and what is now present day Alabama. Back then the plants grew up to six feet high and wild. We have the botanist, the great Luther Burbank along with fellow Southern Californian Judge Logan, to thank for our modern day breed. They had bred the berries so they were plump and succulent. They also bred a thornless blackberry bush and also cross bred different blackberries to produce sweeter fruit along with minimal thorns.

Start berry picking if you have the brambles on your property or in nearby woods. Just be careful of the long , almost hypodermic like thorns. These are very sharp and can cause more than just little jabs. You can wind up with some severe tearing and bleeding if you’re not careful. Wear jeans and a long sleeved tee or shirt. Bring along protective gardening gloves if you want to. Don’t wear sandals or flip flops because your feet can also get cut up, Sneakers with white gym socks are your best bet in protecting your feet, no matter how hot it is outside. Also have a large basket or bowl to drop your berries into. Don’t want to go through all that fuss and bother? Your local supermarket also carries them. Look for shiny plump black ones that don’t have a white coating of mold. If they’re bitter tasting just add sugar to balance out the tartness.

You can serve your blackberries with fresh cream, milk or vanilla ice cream. I used to like mine with sugar and milk. You can make blackberry pancakes or muffins with them but they will be a little seedy like strawberries. Crush them with some red or white vinegar to make a blackberry vinaigrette for your summer salads. They can also be added to champagne for an extra kick.

Blackberries are a sweet sign summer is here, To me they represent a part of my childhood full of good taste and sweet flavor . Enjoy them fresh picked from your yard or supermarket.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Coffee Break

There's nothing like a good cup of joe. No matter how you have it - as a fancy latte or just a cup of straight black java, it's our security blanket. We can relax with it, take it to the beach or enjoy it with jazz. It's the perfect drink - year round.

I bet a lot of coffee fanatics out there don't their drink's history. Legend has it that around the year 850 AD,an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi noticed his flock becoming friskier after they ate red berries. He too tried them and basically discovered the first caffeine high. Later around the 1100's a the plants spread to the Arabian peninsula where it was refined into a brewed drink. It was called "quahwa" (possibly a variation of the name coffee) By 1475 Turks were enjoying it from coffee houses throughout Constantinople and then in 1600, it reached Venice. This is the start of a still present love affair all Italians have with coffee. Early Americans were drinking, it thanks to Captain John Smith bringing it over. (you've got to wonder if the early colonists had to have their first coffee and tobacco break )Coffee also made it's way to Vienna thanks to the Turks invading it in 1675. The invasion failed but they left behind sacks of java beans. The French were not to be left out. In 1672 the first coffee house opened up in Paris and was regularly served at the French court. Like the Italians, the French still have a passionate love for the stuff.

It is the English however that made coffee a national drink. The first coffee house opened up in 1652 in London. It was there that the word tips were coined, it standing for "to insure proper service". If you wanted a good seat and hot joe, then you had to immediately put coins into a cup to insure service. The great writers of English literature hung out in these hubs of intellectual and philosophical debating. Every great writer from Pepys to Johnson enjoyed sharing their ideas over a good cup of coffee. They bounced everything from barbs to bon mots at each other while downing endless but soothing cups. Thanks to Washington State's contribution to the coffee world , Starbucks, we can relive those coffee house days with our own updated version.

Nowadays there are so many different kinds. What to choose? You can go for the everyday like Chock Full of Nuts which is superb and my favorite to the ultra fancy high end Jamaican and Sumatra blends. To be honest coffee is a matter of taste. What's one man's ambrosia is another man's dish water. Myself I'm pretty much brand loyal, sticking to the pedestrian Chock Full or Dunkin Donuts. They're just as flavorful and rich as any of the fancier kinds such as the Kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain. What makes a good cup of coffee? A rich red hot brew, a little milk and a pinch of sugar. That's all this blog writer needs.(although I do like it iced , like the way my grandparents used to drink it. They were notorious for putting ice cubes in their cups).

Coffee is just a wonderful drink. I'm glad Kaldi noticed those hyperactive goats of his centuries ago. I can't imagine life without java, can you?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nature's Cure All - The Blueberry

Ever notice that all the good tasting stuff is usally bad for you?

Surprisingly there is one treat that's not only low in calorie but chock full of antioxidants and vitamins. Yup it's the simple blueberry. This staple of summer is the perfect snack for anyone watching their weight plus it full of the necessary nutrients we all need.

Blueberries are native only to North America but have been grown for commerical use in Australia, New Zealand and South America. The best time for them is between May and September.The Latin name is vaccinium because English settlers, in particular the explorer James Cook ,first saw cows (Latin vacca) eat them. Blueberries also go by the names bilberries, whortleberries and hertleberries. They were used by the indigenous peoples for medicinal as well as for dying cloth. The berries were also combined with meat to provide a jerky.American have been loving them for centuries and it's the official state berry of Maine It was there in 1822 a blueberry rake was invented by Abijah Tabbutt.

Health wise blueberries are the greatest snack ever. They're low in calories ( only 81 a cupful) and are perfect for when you're craving some kind of sweet treat. Always have a little cup of them on your desk when you're working or even have a small bowl of them on the TV table. Not only that but they're super packed with antioxidant phytonutrients. These help protect against cancer and heart disease. Blueberries also lower the risk of glaucoma, peptic ulcers and, yes, even hemorrhoids. They're are good for your vision ,deterring macular degeneration because the fruits' bioflavenoids strengthen the rods in the eyes along with helping the eyes adjust to darkness and glare. During World War II British RAF night flyers always consumed bilberries before their missions . This gave them more acuity during their raids.

It shouldn't be to hard to get your family to eat blueberries on a daily basis. They have a lingering, pleasant aftertaste and they are just fun to pop into your mouth. However you can vary with how you eat them. Add them to salads for something different. There's nothing like blueberry pancakes or muffins to start off a Sunday brunch.They're also good served with sliced strawberries and bananas on top of French toast. Serve piled on top of vanilla ice cream or just plain Cool Whip for a low cal but yummy dessert.

Now is the season to head to your local farm for a quart of these amazing berries. Not only are they delicious snack but a great way to improve your health Start popping them now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Adding Flowers To Your Plate

Everyone appreciates flowers on the table. Let's go it a step and take those blooms out of the centerpiece and onto your plate. Not only do they add elegance but they're also good to eat. Surprisingly a number of flowers are now being seen gracing dinners and desserts.

First of all know what you're picking. The Internet has guides as to which flowers are edible and which are not. For example a good accompaniment to any plate are marigolds, pansies day lilies, sunflowers , clover and lilac. Just because a flower is pretty like the highly poisonous bella donna doesn't mean it's a great addition (although a great way to get rid of that nasty boss or irritating in law). If you're unsure about what you picked - then toss it. Also if anyone has pollen allergies do not serve flowers because there will be some kind of allergic reaction. As with fruits and vegetables don't serve them just picked form the garden . Wash them to get rid of insecticides unless you're just using them as a non-edible decoration,.

When preparing flowers make sure that all dirt and insects are rinsed off. If there are too many bugs it may mean that the blooms are not edible and may be too old to consume. Remember to wash gently with cool water (not lukewarm or warm because it will affect the look) and delicately dry on paper towels.Keep in mind to remove the flowers' reproductive organs because that's where the pollen is. If you're using flowers on cakes or cupcakes, then you can also crystallize them with an egg white and sugar wash( one white and about a tablespoon of sugar well blended or mixed together). Dip or brush the mixture into the wash and let dry.The flowers can be eaten as part of the cake or just separately.

Flowers add a certain grace to the table. Why not add them to your dinner plates and dessert dishes,to complement your cooking or baking masterpiece.It will give your salad or cake an extra dash of elegance.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Onions - From Soups To Snacks

Almost every day we have the onion in our life (and no, I don't mean that wickedly satiric downtown New York newspaper). We use it in salads , chopped in marinades for meat and batter fried as a tasty but highly caloric treat. It's one of the oldest plants used in cooking , yet it's a must have staple for 21st Century kitchens.

The onion is one of our oldest foods and one of the first eaten. Its' origins go back 5000 years, when hunter gatherers brought it to campfires. How they ate it , whether raw or roasted, will always remain a mystery. It was first cultivated in Central Asia and then in Western Pakistan and Iran. it was one of the first cultivated crops because it didn't perish as fast as other vegetables. It could also be dried for later use whether in primitive stews or accompanying lamb or goat. The ancients also used the vegetable for sustaining life. Onions can prevent thirst which helped during droughts.

The Egyptians worshipped them , while the first cook book writer, Apicus included onion recipes in his cookbook. Onions were in every European country during the Middle Ages, and were one of the three major foods, along with beans and cabbage, to be eaten during this time. Much later, English settlers brought it to the Massachusetts Colony where it was first planted in 1648. North America, did however have it's own share of native wild onions as well.

From primitive to modern times the onion is a flavorful staple in any diet. It's full of querticin which is a flavanoid that is one component of an antioxidant or free radical. Onions are also known to have disulfides and trisulfides which have anti cancer and anti bacterial properties.Boost up your onion intake and you'll find your potassium , Vitamin C, dietary fiber and folic acid. It's part of the allium family which also includes garlic and leeks. What we eat is the allium cepa or bulb onion. There are several different varieties from the Vidalia (the most popular) to the Walla Walla now grown in Washington State but originally from Corsica.

Don't deprive yourself of the onion's goodness and good taste just because it can sometimes cause heartburn or mouth burn. Just use it in smaller quantities. You can dice it up in in a beet salad to give the beets more zing or you can finely mince it and add to a marinade.Another way to temper a raw onion is to mix it with sliced tomatoes along with oil and vinegar.It won't be so overpowering thanks to the other's strong taste. You can also roast onions over your grill and serve over a bed of flavored rice. Quartered onions make an excellent part of a kabob.Add them to your stir fry. After all what would Oriental cuisines be like without onions? Another yummy dish are batter fried rings. Yes, they're bad for you but nothing beats a crusty, salty, tempura dipped ring fried to golden perfection and then lightly salted. My Piedmontese great grandmother used to stuff sweet onions with left over chopped meat along with raisins. They were then baked to a glistening golden hue in an oven for twenty minutes. This is a favorite in both Northern Italy and France's Provence region and a great way to use leftovers.

No onion article (or blog for that matter) can go without mentioning that French classic - onion soup. This is easy to make and a great dish no matter what the season.You can make this on a Saturday afternoon for a special weekend dinner with friends or even for a Sunday brunch with a nice salad.

Never be afraid to use the onion. The perfect food not only tastes good but it's good for you. Use it in soups , salads or at your barbecue.

Classic French Onion Soup

2 large Vidalia onions

2 quarts beef or vegetable stock

Dice onions and saute in butter until wilted . Add this to simmering stock and cook for about half an hour.Pur into French onion soup bowls. Float one slice of French bread in each bowl. Cover with Gruyere cheese and place under broiler until cheese is melted. Serves four.

Leftover soup can be refrigerated and microwaved for a later meal .

Monday, June 16, 2008

Packing For Vacation

Now that vacation time is here it's time to start packing. What goes on a foodie vacation? Well besides the usual clothing ( always bring along the stretchy kind because we eat more when we're away ) and sunscreen, everything from sporks to spaghetti. It's always handy to bring some basics no matter where you're staying.

If you're driving to your vacation always make sure you have a cooler in the back seat. This is great for storing bottled water, soda and juice. Also think about stowing away sandwiches if you're on a budget. A cooler is also great for fruits and veggies. You can buy precut carrots,peppers and broccoli along with grape tomatoes for a travel snack. Fresh fruit such as plums, peaches and strawberries are other good on the road bites.

Every foodie should book a room with a mini fridge as opposed to a view (although that's nice too). Even when I make my pilgrimages down to Harrah's in Atlantic City, I always make sure there's a fridge in my room. Why? Just in case I want to store the salad I couldn't finish for lunch or have bottled water on hand. A mini fridge is also good for storing candy you may have bought as well (and in Atlantic City one always has to buy home made fudge). I also like it for those butter pats that come with my morning breakfast. Harrah's is always generous with theirs and I find I have too many. A room fridge is also good for keeping baby food as well as milk and juice for children cold. Yes, you can get boxed milk but somehow it just tastes better chilled. Again a room fridge is perfect for storing sandwiches or any leftovers you may want to snack on later.

Many foodies rent bungalows or motel condos for the summer. Usually these are an updated version of the old efficiency units from the Fifties and Sixties. They have coffee makers and maybe a few utensils. Bring along some plastic plates(Target always has these) along with plastic tumblers for beverages. Carry along a pot for boiling (hey, you may buy some fresh lobster where you are) and a small fry pan.You can bring along spatulas, scoopers, ladles and knives. These you can get at your local dollar store the day before you go. Remember to also pack family favorites such as crackers and cookies for the kids. Every resort town is an all year round one and they usually have a large supermarkets. Here you can buy the fresh stuff, like meat, locally grown fruits and vegetables along with daily baked breads and desserts.

It's important to pack the right stuff for your foodie holiday. Remember to also pack food and drink for your trip both coming and going. Throw in some cooking utensils and you're all set.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes

This is the season to enjoy fresh produce. Unfortunately it's all the season for said produce to spoil quickly and cause all sorts of trouble. How do you know when your tomatoes are safe? Or if your peaches won't send you to the hospital ER? Here are some tips for having safe vegetables and fruits.

First of all always keep your eyes and ears open. Your night time news and local papers will always have alerts when fruit or vegetable crops go bad. I learned about last year's spinach scare from a nightly news report. Also both forms of media will give you advice on how to buy and keep produce as well as what to do in case you do become sick. Secondly, always look over any fruit and vegetables you're intending to purchase. Bacteria grows rampantly and it could cause a entire box or bag to go rotten. Sometimes this can come from the produce itself not being up to par but most often it comes from where everything was first picked. A lot of commercial farms have less than ideal working conditions. There are no adequate washroom facilities for workers and sometimes fields are utilized instead. When you bring home any produce wash it well. A good thorough rinse under your kitchen tap will do the trick. Dry immediately with a paper towel.

Remember that some fruits are responsible in creating spoilage. Certain ones produce ethylene which is an odorless, colourless gas. It speeds ripening and can lead to early decay/ Some fruits, like bananas, should be kept away from any produce because they emit a good amount of ethylene. If you're still in doubt then check out this site for help: It's one of the most thorough guides you can use for determining spoilage rates for fruits and veggies.

Don't turn this season's bounty into a scary meal. First of all be alert and wise as to what fruits and vegetables you buy and how to keep them. You 'll have a safe summer, eating good healthy produce

Friday, June 13, 2008

Garlic - A Kitchen Must Have

I can't imagine a kitchen without garlic. It enhances any sauce, making it more robust. It gives punch to stir fried dishes. It livens up any salad dressing. Yet what do we really know about this amazing plant?

Garlic is a member of the onion family and is closely related to leeks and shallots. We use the cloves or seeds for planting or cooking. A variation of its' Latin name, allium salivum is still used by the Italians, aglia and the French ail

The Egyptians first grew garlic as far back as 3200 BC. Like today, it was used for medicinal purposes.It was even given to the slaves building the pyramids to improve their strength and was the cure all of its' day. The ancient Greeks picked up on this and used to cure everything from dog bites to leprosy. Ironically enough the inhabitants of what is now modern day Transylvania used it as a repellent - not against vampires but against pesky mosquitoes. Unfortunately not everyone was enamored of it. English and American colonists hated garlic because of the stench it left. it started to become more acceptable in American cuisines thanks to the Italians bringing over their good food to these shores. US home cooks and restaurant chefs then began to use it to liven up bland and boring sauces and salads.

Garlic has a lot of health benefits. It can kill bacteria more effectively than penicillin (the ancient Greeks were on to something then). Garlic is rich in vitamins A , B, and C and it's sulfuric properties help detoxify the liver and regulate sugar. It's actually considered the all natural alternative to Viagra In fact there's a Palestinian custom about the bridegroom wearing a garlic bulb in his lapel to ensure for a happy start to married life.

Every kitchen should have a garlic bulb. It's not only a great way to season dishes but also one that will add years to our lives.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hot Weather Ades

Nothing tops off a lazy summer afternoon like a cooling drink. It's just relaxing to sit with a tall glass of iced tea or some kind if fruit ade and watch the world lazily spin by. Creating a cooler is easy. All it takes is a big glass,a lot of ice and some imagination in your kitchen.

Iced tea is the perennial summer cooler. The best kind is your own home brewed. It has a richer. fresher taste than the store bought kinds. Also you can regulate the amount of sugar that you want in it. If you still like flavored tea you can try mixing in some limeade or lemonade or even crushed berries. Peach nectar is a wonderful addition and because the flavor is so intense, you can only put in a teaspoon. Pineapple iced tea is a different spin and all it takes it make one or two teaspoons of the fruit's juice to transform it into a tropical drink.Also try other teas like Orange Pekoe or the more exotic Indian teas for a really unique taste. Remember to make a strong brew of tea for iced because your ice cubes will dilute the taste. You can add sugar if you want however it does take a lot of the granulated kind to really sweeten it.

Ades are perfect during any hot steamy weather. There's nothing like a refreshing lemon or lime ade. If you can't get them in your supermarket, use the concentrates.The best bet is to sweeten both lemon or lime ade with a simple sugar syrup . This involves boiling one cup sugar and one cup water together and , bringing the mixture to a boil. Simmer gently, for about five minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add as much needed for your ade. Another variation is just take any spring water and add pureed strawberries , blueberries or even blackberries. For bounce used the brand new Fyxx Hybrid Energy Water which is spring water infused with caffeine. Mix with the pureed berries for a good energy drink for when you're on the beach or even just doing yard work.

This summer cool down with a refreshing drink. Have a tall glass of your own home made tea, ade or cooler to combat the heat and humidity. It's the perfect complement for a lazy, hot day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cool Down With Ice Cream

Even though it's June, there are parts of the world where the temps are reaching 100 degrees Farenheit. The only good suggestion is to cool down with some ice cream. It's the perfect summery comfort food. It brings back memories of eating cones on the beach or sharing a gooey sundae under warm, starry skies. Ice cream always is a special treat for foodies - no matter how it's served.

Ice cream is one of the oldest foods in the world. Chinese emperors enjoyed a treat made of fruit and wine mixed with mountain ice as early as 3,000 BC. The ancient Romans also loved flavored ice and Nero always sent his slaves to the nearby mountains for snow and ice. He then had his cooks flavor it with fruits and nectar. During the 1300s the Chinese developed a way to add yak's milk to the ice for a creamier consistency. This new take on frozen dessert caught the eye of Marco Polo who brought it back to Italy. Italian chefs used cow's milk and - presto - modern ice cream was born. Catherine Medici brought the recipe with her from Northern Italy to France when she married into the French royal family. The French instantly took to it and served it at most court dinners. A century or more later Charles I had it at a French royal banquet and was so taken with it that he brought the recipe back to England.

America got its' first taste in 1700 at the dinner of Governor Bladen of Maryland. As early as 1777 New York City had its' first ice cream parlor. (you've got to wonder if General Washington stopped in to have a bowl).Ice cream parlors spread through the new nation and by the mid 1800s the first ice cream factory was born in Baltimore, Maryland (how appropriate because it was first made there). This was the era of the new improved ice cream. Machines were being built to make richer creamier ice cream at a faster rate. The French scientist, August Gaulin, invented the homogenization process which resulted in a creamier, smoother texture. Soon cones, invested by Italo Martchioni were being sold on the streets of New York.The 20th Century saw the birth of ice cream novelties such as the waffle cone, first introduced at the St Louis World's Fair, Eskimo pie and ice cream on a stick. The 1990s saw freeze dried ice cream called Dipping Dots sold at malls across the US.

The best way to have ice cream? Anyway you want. Add caramel or chocolate sauce but remember to take advantage of summer's fruit. Pair vanilla ice cream with blackberries for an extra special treat.Add strawberry slices to chocolate ice cream or better yet fresh picked raspberries. Consider putting your ice cream in a hollowed out melon or with pineapple, for a real old fashioned ice cream parlor taste. My Mom and her one cousin lived for these durng their girlhood and teen-age years.If you're lucky to own an ice cream maker now is the time to make fresh batches using all sorts of bounties, from blueberries to even lemon basil.

Ice cream is a wonderful cool summer treat It brings us sweet relief and happy memories from summers past.Have a bowl ,or cone of it when the high temps have got you down.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sweet Basil The Perfect Summer Herb

As any Italian whether they come from the mountainous north or the sunny south , will tell you basil is the sparkling gem of an Italian garden. Its’ emerald green leaves grace a number of dishes , from pesto to pizza. It is a wonderful herb to grow in your garden and it’s even better to use in cooking.

Surprisingly basil is not native to Italy but to India where it originated millenniums ago It was later brought to the Holy Land where according to legend it grew around Christ’s tomb. This is why the Greeks use it in all their religious rites and its’ name is taken from the Greek basilikohn , meaning royal herb. In French it’s called l’herbe royale. Italians used it in courting rituals, wearing it as a hair ornament, as well as in their cooking The plant is rich in beta carotene which is loaded with antioxidants. It also contains the powerful eugenol that is used in combating inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Basil is an easy plant to grow both indoors and out. Every herb garden should have it because it is a vital flavor in summer cooking. Fresh basil adds a wonderful earthy, green taste to tomato and mozzarella salad. Use it when making homemade tomato sauces or making the original pizza, Pizza Margherita. The most well known basil recipe is pesto. This easy to make Genoa favorite can be used over anything from clams to gnocchi. It's a snap to whip up and freeze. Pesto can also be combined with any tomato sauce to soften the strong basil taste.

Basil is a definite addition to any summer dish. This is the plant whose taste defines what the season is, fresh and summery.

Easy Pesto Sauce

2 cups fresh basil leaves.
1/3 cup olive oil (it has to be olive oil any other oil will not do)
handful ground pignole nuts or walnuts to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste.

Combine first two ingredients in a blender. Blend for two minutes. Add ground nuts and cheese to taste You can use it immediately o r freeze it for later use.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Low Fat Foodie

It's tough being a foodie in the hot weather. All that fat some of us have accumulated over a winter of good eating shows. The shorts are tighter (ouch!!!), Ripples of cellulite emerge from our Bermudas and sundresses. Then there's the fight with last year's bathing suit. It takes an hour to put on and when we're done we look like exploded sausages.

What to do? Obviously go on a diet. Luckily this is the season that always has a healthy harvest. We can forgo cakes and breads along with full hardy over sauced meals. It's time to hit the stands and the farms in search of low fat foodie grub.

The fun thing about any fruit or vegetable is that it's a finger food. If you feel like snacking go for broccoli, pepper strips, carrots and grape tomatoes. Forgo the creamy dressings like Russian or French. Stick with a light olive oil and red wine vinegar.For an added kick add herbs or finely minced garlic. Sund dried tomatoes are another good snack. I love mine plain with just a tiny amount of olive oil to moisten them (they can be dry at times). For a sweet snack, avoid ice cream although the US brand Skinny Cow is wonderful. One cone has only 150 calories. A much better choice is an ice pop. Edy's all natural fruit bar is only 60 calories and comes in yummy flavors like grape , lime and cherry. Ive just tried Breyer's today and like them. Their fruit pops are only 40 calories and taste like ice you would get off a stand. For a real treat avoid any place that sells gooey sundaes and fattening shakes. Head to the US chain Rita's Ice where you can get refreshing ice in all sorts of flavors (and they even have sugar free). A bonus from Rita's for every ten ices you buy you get the eleventh free.

Take advantage of the fruit of the season for all three meals. Nothing starts the day off like melon and cottage cheese. For weekend brunches think about a heart healthy frittata with maybe some spinach, onions, and mushrooms thrown in. This is also a great dish for a quick Saturday or Sunday brunch. Chef's salad is another cool and easy low cal dinner. Put sliced turkey and chicken in along with fresh cut veggies and field greens . Serve with a light dressing. Grilled chicken or fish , plain with flavored rice or just topping a salad is a good dinner suggestion. Also remember to keep yourself hydrated with fresh iced tea or fresh lemonade. I can't stop raving about this new energy drink, Fyxx Hybrid Energy Drink, which is spring water with a kick of caffeine. It's refreshing, chilled with just ice and keeps me going during these hot sticky days.

This summer it's possible to still enjoy good foods and tasty meals without gaining weight. Use the bounty of the summer season when you want something good to eat.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Peaches Are Keen

There's nothing like a fresh peach on a hot June day.Whether it's the warm fuzziness of its' skin or the sweet juice dripping down your chin, this fruit is the best of the summer harvest. Not only that but its on e of the most versatile fruits. After all you can't just throw strawberries on a grill or make a cobbler out of watermelon. The peach is amazing and can be turned into a variety of dishes or just eaten cold from the fridge.

Even though the Latin name for the peach is prunus persica. which means Persian plum (roughly) the peach was first cultivated in ancient China at least 3,000 years ago. Wild peaches called "Maotao and "Yieto , descendants of these first fruits. Peaches were then grown in Russia and Persia thanks to Chinese traders dropping the pits along their trade routes. Alexander The Great loved peaches so much he brought them back to his native Greece. From Greece they spread throughout Europe and the Spanish then brought them to America during the Age of Exploration. Native American tribes also fell in love with the peach and are credited with cultivating it throughout the US. Thomas Jefferson also grew them at his Monticello plantation and commercial peach farms sprung up along the East Coast in the late 19th Century. Its' name is derived from persicum which the English of the Middle Ages shortened to peche and then peach.

As with any fruit, peaches are just downright good for you. They are an excellent source of potassium and Vitamins A and C. However peach pits, if eaten in large quantities ,can be toxic . They contain hydrocyanic acid or cyanide. There are a hundred varieties if the fruit however they 're usually classified by how stubbornly their flesh clings to the pit or stone. The categories are clingstone, freestone or semi-freestone. Clingstones have more color and are generally the sweetest type. Freestones have paler in flesh but they're bigger and firmer. The semi freestone is a new hybrid variety and falls somewhere between the two.

Use your peaches in a variety of ways.My Midwestern great granny Roberts used to make peach cobbler for my Dad and my aunt, This is a great marriage of buttery biscuit dough with the flavorful flesh.Another neat dish is halving fresh peaches, brushing them with olive oil and then grilling outdoors. You can immediately serve them with vanilla ice cream for a really sweet treat. My favorite peach recipe is from Piedmont my beloved great aunt Manya Albertina (manya is Piedmontese word for aunt) . She would crush the peach pits (not really deadly if eaten in small amounts)along with crushed up amaretto cookies and almonds and mix with Marsala wine . This mixture was then put into a pitted peach half and baked for 20 minutes until the flesh was tender. It was served plain but sometimes we added Cool whip to really gild the lily.

Peaches are a wonderful summertime fruit that can be eaten fresh or prepared in a delicious dessert. Take advantage of this sweet classic that both the ancients adored ad we love today.

Albertina Ghio-Canova's Stuffed Peaches.

4 Freestone peaches (big peaches are preferred for this dish although you can use clingstones)

Peach pits crushed,
10 amaretto cookies finely crushed.
1/3rd of a cup of crushed almonds.
4 teaspoons more or less of Marsala wine or peach schnappes.

Halve and pit four peaches.
Crack open peach pit and remove meat. Crush or finely mince (if you're still leery about this then use only one peach meat) Add the amaretto cookie crumbs and almonds. Mix in the sweet wine or schanppes to moisten the mixture. Using a teaspoon put the mixture into the peaches' hollows and then bake for twenty minutes. You can tell when the dessert is done when a toothpick is inserted into the flesh and stands up. If it falls over take the peaches out right away because they've been over baked.The peach flesh should be tender but firm.

Serve warm or chilled plain or with Cool Whip.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Quick and Easy Weekend Meals

Summer weekends are always chock full of something. There's always a barbecue or some function to attend. The beach beckons. There's a ton of demanding household and garden chores that need to be done. Somewhere in this you 've have to create meals that are tasty and satisfying for your family. Yes , it 's easier to head to your local fast food joint however that can be costly both in money and calories. The best path to take is creating simple, creative dishes that the whole family will enjoy.

Sandwiches are always a good solution to a Saturday lunch or a Sunday supper. For added zing use good crusty Italian or French bread. There's nothing like prosciutto or morta della on a thick slice of one of these. For added fun have any of the Italian olives such as the Gaeta or the Cerignola varieties and with fresh or sun dried tomatoes. Now that this is the season for tomatoes a good old fashioned tomato sandwich on thinly sliced sandwich bread (such as Pepperidge Farm's kind) is a yummy lunch. Just slice tomatoes, slather generous amounts of mayonnaise on both slices and place the tomatoes on one slice. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and voila - a tasty quick lunch that's a summer favorite. If you want you can turn it into a BLT with some bacon and freshly picked lettuce. Another good tomato sandwich is one with sliced tomatoes , mozzarella cheese and fresh picked basil. Make this open faced on Italian or French bread.

If you're looking for something a bit more exciting , consider filling a sandwich with any kind of spread. My Mom and I love making this wonderful chicken tarragon spread. I had been inspired years ago by that great chain restaurant, Au Bon Pain. The chain still makes this great spread that we adapted. It just requires Underwood Chicken Spread , some tarragon and mayo. Mix it together and it creates this wonderful paste that can be spread on bread or even crackers. Another variation is deviled ham , mayo and celery bits or celery seeds. The flavor is amazing and it's just great on anything. Remember that simple cream cheese makes a fantastic sandwich filler. Have it plain or add garlic or olives (two of my family recipes) Serve on an opened faced baguette slice.

Don't discount soup during this hot weather. A hot lunch is always appreciated and it 's filling if served with a salad. However cut down on cooking time in a hot kitchen by using bouillon cubes or soup packages such as Knorrs and Bear Creek. The last sells a wonderful potato soup in which extras such as corn or ham bits can be added for extra kick. You can make a fresh vegetable soup just by using your garden's bounty and a simple beef, chicken or vegetable bouillon based stock. Canned soups are good as well if you're time restricted.

Don't be tied down in the kitchen if you have a busy weekend schedule. Create quick and easy meals that are light but filling this summer.

Easy Chicken Tarragon Salad ( my thanks to Au Bon Pain for the inspiration for this recipe.

1 can of Underwood Chicken Spread
2-3 heaping tablespoons mayo
2 or 3 tablespoons of tarragon. (dried or fresh)

Mix chicken and may until thoroughly blended. Fold in tarragon. You can vary this by adding less or more mayonnaise and tarragon.
Serve on crackers or bread. Refrigerate any leftovers in a covered container.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Zucchini - The Perfect Summer Vegetable

Every garden, at onetime or another has sprouted zucchini, This easy to grow and delicious to eat summer vegetable is a staple at tables. It’s versatile enough to be made into a main dish and even a dessert. If you or your family have second doubts about it, now is the time to try it.

Zucchini or Cucurbita pepo is really part of the cucumber and melon family. Native Central and South Americans have been eating it for thousands of years. Italy also produces a similar one, a summer squash that we Americans eat. It was called zucchino or small squash , The indigenous peoples named it skutasquash meaning “green thing eaten green. We have Christopher Columbus to thank for bringing the seeds back to the Mediterranean region and Africa. Zucchini has a soft pliable skin and a very pulpy inside. It has a very fresh “green taste” that reminds you of the outdoors and gardens. It’s long and cylindrical which makes it ideal for slicing or stuffing. A good healthy one is always dark green in color.

My favorite recipe is a simple one. My Mom and I always make this in the summer. It’s just zucchini slices sautéed in garlic and oil , seasoned with sea salt and pepper. This is a great accompaniment to any meat dish or even veggie burgers. You can also add it to vegetable soups and , of course that all time summer favorite, ratatouille. Zucchini is also good in loaf breads, adding a unique taste and texture. If you have a bumper crop of them, consider freezing them for future use.

Zucchini is a wonderful taste of summer It is also versatile to go from a dinner plate to a dessert dish with the many recipes that honor it. Enjoy it any way you can during its’ harvest season.

Zucchini Saute

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped up

5-6 small zucchinis.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Wash and slice zucchini into medium sized slices. Heat oil in a medium sized skillet and a sit bubbles , add roughly chopped up garlic. Add zucchini . Saute for about 20 minutes with a cover over the skillet. Remember that zucchinis are very “watery” plants so your dish will have a lot of liquid. You can drain this however it adds to the dish. Store leftovers , if there are any, in the fridge. You can microwave them for two minutes to heat up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Full of Corn!

Nothing complements a summer meal like fresh corn. Everything about it, from buying it fresh to grilling to eating symbolizes the goodness of the summer season. Not only that it's just fun to eat and enjoy.

Everyone thinks that corn is as American as apple pie and the Fourth of July. Well, that's only partially true. Corn is American but comes from Mexico where it is a cousin of a wild grass known as teosinte. It was originally grown in isolated patches around the Sierra Madres mountain chain and was put into use between 4,000 to 3,000 years ago BCE. Over a period of years the Mesoamericans bred the corn from a little plant with just small flowers to our modern ears. They created their own brand of hybridization , perfecting the plant's appearance. By 1000 AD corn had reached what is now Southern New England. Its' name comes from Indoeuropean then the German korn. It was also called mahis which means life by the Caribbean tribe , the Tainos. It was then pronounced "maize" by Christopher Columbus when the Tainos first gave him the grain. Corn grows in different varieties from the Indian corn you hang on your door during autumn to the sweet corn that you're probably buying now.

What makes a good ear of yellow sweet corn? Look for dark green moist husks and stiff dark silk protruding from the opening.It's best to cook it the same day you buy it otherwise the ears will lose their sweetness. The sugar will convert to starch. If you've let it go for a few days just add one teaspoon of sugar for every quart of water used in boiling it. To be honest cook the corn the day you buy them. Fresh corn, boiled, baked or grilled tastes wonderful.

How you prepare it is up to you. Boiling is the easiest and takes only three to five minutes. Remember to move the entire husk and silk when doing this.Cover the pot and then wait. If you're the only one eating it, then microwave. (this is done for only one ear and one ear alone). Husk the corn and remove the silk. Rinse the spike and then wrap it loosely in a paper towel. Microwave on high for one to two minutes. The ear should be nice and hot when touched. Grilled corn is also yummy because you have the added smokiness and flavor of scented wood chips. For both grilling and baking soak your ears for one to three hours to keep them from drying out. Remove the silk but leave the husk because it will protect the kernels. Grill for about ten to fifteen minutes, turning often to prevent burning. Another method is baking. Soak the corn , remove only the silk and bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes. However you make it, serve your corn with lots of salted butter. You can also drizzle on olive oil and oregano. I received this recipe from our dear and much loved late family doctor . (who even delivered me back in the day) and his daughter. Being Italian and gourmands they loved new takes on old classics. Both would often serve corn this way at their family barbecues.

Corn is a great addition to any summer meal. It's just full of sweet goodness and bursting with flavor. Boil it. Bake it. Grill it. Or even just microwave it for yourself. Indulge in this native American treat!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Goodness of Rice

Every foodie should have some kind of rice in his or her cupboard. Not only is it a good side but also makes a good main dish. Rice is also versatile because it can be made into not only first courses but can be cooked into that comfort food of all comfort foods - rice pudding. There are so many different kinds of rice to choose from that it's helpful to know what's what.

There are many different types of rice. For basic cooking stock up on the instant short grained. This is the most versatile and you can use it in a variety of ways.Add some sauteed chopped onions and tomatoes to it as a nice bed for your grilled shish kabobs.This summer think about a rice salad based on the Italian hot dish risi bisi which translates into rice and peas. Make this but add carrots, broccoli, grape tomatoes or tomato slices and finish with a simple oil and red wine vinegar dressing. Louisiana Wild rice made into dirty rice with spices and andouille sausages is good with any Cajun or barbecue style chicken. The type is good with turkey as well as with game fowl such as pheasant or quail. It adds a chewy nutty quality and even gives rice stuffing a tastier spin.

If you're a big risotto fan always ,always, always have arborio on hand. This produces a certain creaminess when cook and its' kernels are polished with a white dot on each one. Arborio rice adds texture and taste to such dishes as the heavenly saffron laced Risotto Milanese and my family's Piedmontese risotto recipe , complete with chicken livers and tomatoes. I've heard of recipes that you can make a rice pudding out of it but have yet to taste this legendary creation.

Basmatis rice should be stocked if you're big on Indian cooking. You can also substitute Jasmine rice in its' wake. (although Jasmine s not good for just plain side dishes) Use both of these for biryani or spicy Moroccan pilafs.

When you're eating your risi bisi, basmati or risotto consider this. Rice is one of the oldest foods on the planet. It was first cooked some 2500 years ago. It began in China and then spread to India and Sri Lanka. The Greeks picked it up,spreading it through the Mediterranean and North Africa. It was later bought to the New World by Portuguese settlers to Brazil. It was also transported to Central and South America. Rice is a member of the family Poacea.

Rice is the perfect side dish but also the perfect meal. You can incorporate it into almost everything from exotic dishes to just simple puddings. Always have it on hand.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Diner Food - Cooking From The Heart

As much as I complain about living in New Jersey (the lack of space, the disrespect for wildlife and country, the overabundance of cars) I do love it. The best part of living in the Garden State is its' diners. We have the most out of any state in the union - about 600 alone. Every town has at least one. Some have as many as four or even five. They're more than just a place to eat - they're a place to call your second home.

Diners did not originate here. For that Rhode Island and its' capital city , Providence can take the credit. The first was born there in 1872 when a horse drawn lunch wagon offered just sandwiches and hot coffee long after the local restaurants had closed. Years later during the Golden Age of Diners the 1930's through the 1940s these eateries crystallized into the modern diner with 24 hour cooking and dining. The 1950's saw diners move westward and spread out into the states and US territories.

Somehow these gems managed to mass multiply in Jersey. Everyone has a favorite one. Mine is just down the road from my house and it's appropriately named The Parkway Diner because it's off Exit 159 on The Garden State Parkway's one of the state's main arteries. It's a wonderful place helpfully run by Suzie, the waitress/ manager. Yet' she's more than that. She is also responsible for some of the diner's top requested dishes. Her potato salad, a creamy hearty blend of Idahos mayyo and plenty of love is sheer heaven. She also makes some wicked soups as well. Much ,more than that she's is family to regulars like myself, being everything from sounding board to nurturer. With The Parkway you not only enjoy the many different foods , you enjoy its' caring and attentive staff.

If you're in the Saddle Brook or Elm wood Park area head to this oasis of great food. It's located on the corner of Rte 46 East and the Boulevard (it stands out so it's not hard to miss) Try Suzie's soup of the day which changes daily, along with their various chickens - rice, noodle and matzoh ball.. She';ll bring you hot rolls and butter too along with a generous bowl. The Parkway has humongous salads and the best is their grilled vegetable one, bursting with grilled eggplant, peppers and feta cheese. The diner also serves killer hero sandwiches like Vinnie's Italian one, filled with yummy Italian cold cuts along with sliced red onions.The Parkway is also big on egg dishes serving just simple scrambled ones to elaborate omelets.

Diner cuisine is wonderful .It's homesyle cooking at any hour of the day. Not only that it comes with love from its' cooks and waitstaff. You can't get that in any fancy four star restaurant.

The Parkway 's Suzie and Vinnie have graciously allowed me to published her potato salad and his Italian hero recipes. Enjoy these folks, I do!!!

Suzie's Potato Salad Recipe

Cooked Idaho potatoes
cut up celery, carrots and red onions
Hellman's mayo
salt and pepper to taste.

Boil potatoes until they're done and peel. Add chopped celery , carrots and red onion along with a generous amount of Hellman's mayo. Mix. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to be served.

Vinnie's Super Hero.

Toast hero bread. Sprinkle oil and vinegar on the halves.Layer on ham,provolone and prosciutto. Finish with lettuce , sliced tomatoes and red onions. Serve.