Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ratio Thinking

In yesterday's New York Times' Wednesday Food section there was a big article about using ratios as opposed to cooking. is this the wave of the future for us cooks and foodies? Or is it just a fad? To be honest I;m hoping for the second. I'm not good with ratios.

The man behind all this,Michael Ruhlman, believes that employing rations to one's daily cooking makes for better dishes. No, it doesn't . Any cook, whether novice or experienced needs the exact recipes to make a recipe work. How can you tell how much to use. For example use the ratio way of cooking or baking for a cake and you can have a very dense, dry one. use it on a stew and you can wind up with a watery mess. Mr. Ruhlman does have a ratio chart, similar to a cookbook's measurements chart in the front of his book. Whether this helps or not, I don't know.

has anyone out there used or prefer ratios to just plain old fashioned recipes. Let us know here at Foodie Pantry. I'm curious as to how your cooking tums out and tastes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Easy Goodness of Soup

With the coming of summer there 's going to be a bounty of fresh veggies . What to do with so many of these?

Make soup. There's nothing as satisfying as a bowl of fresh soup, full of organic vegetables. Thhis summer's harvest will provide us with corn for chowder and tomatoes, onions and peppers for regular soups. You can add meat or seafood as well along with cream and different stocks. Fresh picked herb such as thyme, sage, chives and mint can also be added for flavor and color. The best part of making homemade soup is that you can make enough for two or three meals and then freeze it. Also leftover soup is good to heat up on those hot summer days when you don;t feel like cooking.Another plus is that it doesn't have all the sodium that store bought soups have.

Homemade soup is easy to whip up. Start off with a good stock (either homemade or a low sodium one) and vegetables. You can puree them first such as with tomatoes or broccoli or leave them chunky , such as with corn or pepper. Depending on whether you want to make a cream soup or not you can add milk or whole cream (this is usually good in making some chowders) and a sprinkling of dried or fresh herbs. The best day to make soups is usually on a Saturday or Sunday . This way you can have it not just for the weekend but for t he week ahead. Soup is easy o thaw out and heat up in a microwave. To make it a more substantial meal, add some fresh crusty rolls and a garden salad.

There's nothing like a fresh made soup filled with the bounty of summer. It's also a nice addition to any table. Freshly made vegetable soup or chowder is an easy way to have a hot, filling meal without any fuss.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Manhattan Foodie Tradiiton Is Gone-Balducci's Closes

Manhattan foodies will no doubt be sad these days. A great tradition, Balducci's is closing it's one Chelsea's store (however the suburbans ones will remain open). This means the end of an era for generations of New York gourmets. True, there are smaller stores but none can rival the great Balducci's

The store started in 1916 in Brooklyn but it was in 1947 that Louis Balducci introduced gourmet food to post war Manhattanites. It had several locations and the Greenwich Village location (closed in 2003) was frequently mentioned on the TV show Will & Grace. Balducci's introduced new Yorkers of all nationalities to good international ingredients such as goat cheese and fresh made pastas. I visited the Chelsea one a few years ago and marveled at their selection of cheeses and breads.It was a bit daunting, kind of like being in the Bloomingdales or Saks Fifth Avenue of food stores but interesting nonetheless. Luckily for suburbanites there will be Balducci's in the suburbs.

For people living in Chelsea , there's still D'Agastino's and Greenwich Village does offer Gourmet Garage (who has the best Parker House rolls in the area) and Jefferson Market. Both are on 6th Ave and offer a wide array of different cheese, meats and hot foods. They also have splendid cakes, rolls and fresh made bread and bagels (for visitors to New York this summer, stop at these two place for a lunch and a soda. They may not fill in what Balducci's left but they're still well stocked groceries.

It's the end of an era for new York foodies however there are many other shops and stores that can sort of replace Balducci's. It not there's the suburbs and the train trip out. It may be worth a ride to get your favorite gourmet goodies and treats.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Heat Is On!!

You're probably roasting right now if you live in the New York metro area. We're undergoing a rare late April heat wave that's making everyone lethargic and full of beach fever. It's nice to have the hot weather after a rainy cold, spring however with it comes problems. The main one is wanting to cook when you're as hot as an oven

What to do?

Chill out. Literally. Start putting yourself in a summer cooking mode. This means use the microwave more than the oven and create easy simple meals that are both fresh and tasty.

Salads are a good hot weather meal. You can create a true Nicoise with tuna, olives, fresh sliced peppers and tomatoes. Mix all of this with a head of Romaine, olive oil and red wine vinegar. For more added protein and body toss in a few sliced hard boiled eggs. Serve this up with sliced French or Italian baguettes . Another easy meal is a microwaved version of a stir fry. Cook up fresh (preferably) or frozen vegetables, with some sliced garlic, sesame (or olive oil) and some freshly cut ginger.Cook for all of two minutes and serve with microwaved brown rice. You can add almonds for nutrition and crunch too. You can also throw in any leftover grilled chicken or steak from last night barbecue.

Sandwiches are a foodie's best Friend d in the summer. Use whole wheat bread (or baguettes) and fresh veggies for a tasty quick lunch that can be brought to the office or on a picnic. You can do a quick roast of peppers and toss these on along with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Another quick , summer sandwich is chicken or ham salad on a roll. You can chop up any leftover chicken or ham as well as using the deviled kind and then mix with mayo and herbs .You can also put this blend into hollowed out peppers and tomatoes and serve with a small tossed salads. As sides you can have anything from fresh salad (such as onion and three bean) to raw veggies and dip. These are a snap to make and give some zip and zest to lunch and dinner.

Don;t panic if the heat is on. A Spring heat wave is a time to get ready for summer- and that includes cooking. Just chill out with easy to make dishes.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mayonnaise A Sandwich’s Best Friend

Now that it’s picnic season , it ‘s time to look at that hot weather staple -mayonnaise. It’s been used to liven up sandwiches and add creaminess to all sorts of salads for a long time now. Surprisingly enough it’s easy to make and one of our oldest condiments. Mayo has been around for over 250 years and let’s face, it’s here to stay.

It was the Duc of Richelieu ‘s chef who created mayonnaise in 1756 to celebrate the victory of the French in Minorca. It could also come from moyounaise form the old French word moyeu which means egg yolk. The creamy sauce, a mix of mustard , egg yolks and olive oil, was served with cold meat such as chicken. In 1912it was mass produced from Richard Hellman’s New York deli and a variation Miracle Whip was introduced in 1932. Mayo can be easily made at home. It requires yolks some mustard and oil to be whisked to a creaminess in a bowl.

Store bought mayo is good too and you can add to it. After all French , Thousand Island, Ranch and Russian dressing all have mayo as a base. If you’re craving a thick dressing, then add two tablespoons of ketchup to mayo and voila you have French dressing. Throw in some minced pickles, relish, some herbs and a dash of mustard and you have Russian. Looking for something for your sandwiches? Add some garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil and you have aioli sauce, perfect for a tomato and cheese on a baguette. My favorite is mayo mixed with dried tarragon and then added to chicken chunks or deviled chicken.
It‘s soon to be the season for Mayonnaise. You can make your own or buy it for some added dash to your outdoor feasts this summer of 2009. It gives an added smoothness and moistness to any food, from salads to sandwiches.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Good Morning Breakfast

What's the first thing we're told from almost our birth?

Eat a good breakfast. yet what constitutes a good breakfast? For the first almost eighteen years of our lives we wind up eating these sugary plastic morsels as opposed to as decent breakfast full of taste and nutrition. Then as we either head off to higher education , it's usually last night's dinner for that first feast of the day. Later we just grab and nibble. All of these do not a good breakfast make.

For me breakfast has always been on a back burner I'm not much of a morning person so bacon and eggs or even something as simple as a bowl of Cheerios is just not doable. It's only been in recent months that I can swallow something down before 9 AM (OK , let's really make that 10). It's usually a bowl of instant flavored oatmeal with a cup of Lady Grey tea. If I'm going out on weekends I tend to have my breakfast - now brunch- at noon. there I can enjoy a farmer's omelet washed down with a mimosa or an iced tea. I should have a larger breakfast to carry me through the day. I know . I've heard that all my life.

Maybe other foodies out there share my dilemma (is it really?) What do you eat in the morning?Waffles, eggs and bacon? Or just a roll and coffee from your local Dunkin Donuts. Let us know here

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Twitter Fdie Pnty

I just saw a new phenomenon in yesterdays' NY Times food section. it was about twittering recipes , just fragments of words to get it out to the masses. In other words you can have recipes for Irish stew or ice cream sent directly to your phone. This is fine of you want some recipe for your best friend's cousin's mother in law's pasta or you want to decipher what grenbns are (green beans by the way).

Don;t get me wrong. I love this new modern age with its' downloads and texting. I love the fact I can cyber order any ingredient from any part of the globe and have it on my doorstep within two weeks. However recipes are sacred . They should be written out in full so you can grasp what the ingredients are and fully understand the direction. They should be passed down from generation to generation (not sent out en masse) or expertly written in a book with a full illustration. They should not be twittered to tweeted. (unless you're a blue jay with a good worm recipe)

To be honest if people want recipes there are so many places to get them these days. The web is a veritable encyclopedia of recipes both by manufacturers and the everyday kitchen cook. Libraries and bookstores abound with cookbooks ranging from old fashioned barbecue to gluten free vegan cupcakes. All the recipes are written out , some even with suggestions. These are the e ones you can bring to your table and use as you're preparing . You can curl up with late at night as you prepare your next big dinner party or barbecue.

Should you use Twitter?Yes, for letting people know you just brushed your teeth or shopped at Target. It's great for letting people know about your accomplishments big and small . However should you use it as a means to acquire recipes. No. Stick to the old fashioned methods for that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Celebrate Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and it's a time to not only recognize our planet but remember her gifts to us. It's also a time to treat her right. After all she gives us harvests and we should repay her with kindness.

Earth Day is a good day to think about all those fruits and vegetables we've eaten over the years. So many farms nowadays are being sold and housing developments are springing up (at least here in Jersey. If there's one in your area support it. Buy your produce and garden supplies from it. There's nothing like the taste of fresh corn or apples or enjoying the treats that the farm's bakery and kitchen offers. Another idea is to write to your town council and push for a communal vegetable garden where everyone can pitch in and grow their own veggies and herbs. It's a great way to turn barren areas into green spots. It also keeps another ugly strip mall out of your neighborhood.

Another act of kindness is tidying up after yourself. Of course you can use old veggies and egg shells as compost. that's a given however remember to put all those plastic containers in your recycling bins. Remember to flatten your cereal and snack boxes too and put them out with your papers (throw the interior safety sealed bags in with the regular garbage). Don;t litter if you're on a picnic. it's tempting to just leave empty soda cans and sandwich wrappings in a pile some where but restrain yourself from doing this. Most parks and beaches now have recycling cans so use them. Don't dirty up whatever park and beachfront we have left.

This Earth Day treat Mother Earth as you would yourself - with care and concern. Don;t mess her . Above all thank her for all those years of good harvests that have made their way to your table.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Time Means Diet Time

Now that the warmer weather is here it's time to shed the heavy clothing and with that those heavy pounds.The problem is changing over a calorie rich diet for lighter fare. Can it be done? Especially in time for bikini and shorts season? Yes, but it has to be done wisely.

The first items to be dropped are sodas. Nix Coke and Pepsi from your lunches and dinners and lose pounds fast. These are the worst culprits and they're more calorie rich than even a malted . Let's face it, how many times have we slogged through a hot, sticky day and sought solace with a supersized icy carbonated drink? As hard as it is, substitute with water or even iced tea. If you're looking for a caffeine buzz then try Fyxx Water. This is spring water with a jolt of the stuff added. This is good at lunchtime when you need something to keep you awake on a hot , sleepy afternoon. As healthy as they sound, some fruit juices are nothing but pure sugar.If you want to drink them, then cut them with water. My German cousins do this with apple juice and it's a really refreshing beverage, especially during the warmer months.

Snacking was always a must during the winter months. The problem is all those bowls of popcorn and Skittles added pounds. It's time to munch on fresh fruit such as strawberries or melon. If you want something salty and crunchy, then pick up a bag of Pirate's Booty or any veggie and soy based snacks. You can even make your own by drying peas or pepper slices in your oven. Add natural spices as opposed to salt for flavor. If you are craving regular snack foods like chips and pretzels, buy the baked and low sodium kind (although pretzels are low in calories to begin with)

If you want to look good for summer, it's time to get in shape now. Even if you make little changes to your daily diet you can still lose weight. Just watch what you eat and cut down on the tasty stuff. You'll see the pounds coming off.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dandelions For Dinner

Everyone loves dandelions. Let's face it, they are hard to resist. Their bright, sunny yellow blooms are sweet and look cute as a bouquet or a crown. They're our first bouquet to our moms. Yet Mom could have used them in cooking too. Dandelion may be a weed in the garden but it's a rose in the kitchen. You can make anything with it, from salad to wine to jelly.

The name dandelion comes from the leaves, so deeply toothed it resembled le dent de lion or lion's teeth in Old French. It''s a cousin of chicory, the plant used in making herbal coffee. It's a member of the family Taraxacum and has a long hollow stem and a basal rosette (the yellow bloom part). Harvest the leaves in early Spring or in late Fail before the flowers appear. They will have a bitter taste not unlike chicory and endive. However add them to a salad and they give it a new zing. Add it to miso soup for heartiness and some much needed vitamins. Its' intense flavor will meld with the the soup's milder tasting ingredients.

Unbeknownst to me you can also use the heads or flowers. Dandelion wine is made from them however you can also fry them. Using a simple batter and just hot olive oil you can fry the heads into crunchy little rounds for a summer cocktail party. The flower has an altogether different taste than the leaves and stem. It's sweeter without any aftertaste.

Remember your yard full of dandelions isn't just a future bouquet. They can be made into a variety of different dishes that are not only fum to eat but good for you. Start picking those little bursts of sunshine today!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

New Jersey A Culinary Capital????

Mention to people you live in Jersey and they tend to regard you with a smirk. (we have HBO’s The Sopranos to thank for this) Mention the fact that Jersey (as we’re known ) has the best restaurants and the freshest ingredients like the Isle of Jersey in the Channel Islands and you’re met with a guffaw. Surprisingly enough the Garden State actually has good eateries. In fact we even have four star ones.

Take today for example. I went to one of the area’s most famous parks, The Cherry Blossom park in Newark . (yes that Newark where it’s not so bad) The area is famous for its’ scores of cherry blossoms that rival those down in Washington. Across the way from the park is a bi-level strip mall and in it a nondescript Italian restaurant, City Park. Thinking it was just another pizzeria, I walked in . Imagine my surprise when the menu was similar to the more famous New York restaurants. City park on the Bellville -Newark border not only serves up brick oven homemade pizza worthy of John’s in New York but also mushroom risotto, worthy of any celebrity chef eatery. This was an amazing meld of porcini mushrooms, garlic and arborio rice. City Park also has a seafood risotto as well as porcini ravioli. It was a brilliant find.
Not to be outdone but a few miles away Newark has the Maize restaurant in the Robert Treat Hotel in the city‘s financial section. This is one of Jersey’s four stars restaurants (albeit the Maize is part of a chain). It has a phenomenal array of all sorts of dishes from fusion to vegetarian. Union NJ .a few miles south of there , has one of the few three star restaurants in the state as does its’ neighbor Maplewood. Good food in quality restaurants abound here throughout the state, whether it‘s in a grand casino in Atlantic City or a small family restaurant in any of our historic counties.

The next time anyone visits Jersey, stop by our restaurants. We’re not all fast food and clich├ęs. We actually have a bumper crop of excellent restaurants here in the Garden State.

Friday, April 17, 2009

More On Herbs

Yesterday I wrote about some of the herbs that can be grown in the garden. I covered the basics, oregano, basil and thyme to name a few. There are a few lesser known that can also add to any dish and turn a blah dish into something special. These are easy to grow and to work with in cooking.

Mint is a great addition to any garden. It's bright green leaves are not only a perfect decoration for a rich chocolate dessert but also taste wonderful in Middle Eastern cooking , especially lamb. It brings out flavors and complements the taste of meat, vegetables couscous and fruit. Mint is also good to add to any fresh brewed iced tea. Luckily the plant grows in abundance and you 'll always have enough of it. Another herb that can grow like a weed is dill. You can devote a small patch of yard to it and once grown always have a large harvest. Dill is wonderful with seafood, especially grilled salmon. You can also mix it with sour cream as a wonderful dressing for cucumber salad.

Coriander is another versatile plant to add to your herb garden. Young coriander is cilantro that staple in Mexican and Middle Eastern cooking. it has a sweet taste and can be used in homemade salsa or chilis. The older plant can be used in making sausage as well as in soups and stews to give them more zing. It has a sweet taste bordering between minty and citrus-y. Use it and cilantro in moderation .

These are just some of the options you have with herbs for your garden. Remember that they can add zest to any dish and are great for this summer's barbecues. Plant some of these today to be ready for the warmer weather and harvest time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What To Do With Those Herbs?

A lot of people plant an herb garden yet have no idea what to do with the harvest. What herb goes with tomato or what would work in a curry?Is marjoram good on grilled meat? Or is that rosemary? What about dill seeds or mint?The solution here is to know your herbs and what their specific uses are. You'll have more flavorful meals when you know what to add to your marinades or mix into your batters.

Basil is the most popular and is grown in any Italian garden. it's the primary ingredient of pesto, that tangy green sauce usually reserved for gnocchi, However you can also use it in red sauce and of curse on pizza Margherita. Basil can also be shredded and used as extra flavor in panini or to add zing to summer salads. The best thing about it is that it can be frozen and used in the winter for holiday meals. If you're going to grow basil , then you might as well grow rosemary and oregano. All three found widely in Italian and Greek cooking but also can be used in grilling and creating tasty marinades. Together they can turn a bland barbecue into something special or add zest to any sauce. They are also easy to grow and usually yield an abundant crop.

Tarragon and chives are probably the next popular herbs. Tarragon is wonderful in flavoring chicken but it can also be used to liven up mayonnaise. Chive can be used for much the same thing. A relative of the onion, chive is always thought to top baked potatoes. However you can use it in sauces and to flavor soups and stews. Thyme is another herb that 's versatile It's great adding zest and color to homemade seafood chowders. You can also use it if you're grilling shrimp kabobs or having a hearty salmon steak. Sage is another herb, that's found in most garden. It's usually considered a "winter herb" because it' s used in stuffings and to flavor heavy pork dishes. If you're growing it, you may want to dry it and save it for the cooler months.

Herbs are a great addition to any meal. You can use them in a variety of ways to liven up a plain shish kabob or put zest into a sauce. Just remember that specific ones work best with certain foods.

Tomorrow - more on herbs!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Field of Dreams Planning The Perfect Veggie Garden

Thanks to the economy and the push for fresh foods, gardening is going to be big this year. For some of us, it's old hat. We plant the veggies every year and tend the fruit trees hoping to get some kind of produce for the summer and fall. For the newbies it's a different story. New to the field gardeners will be at sea in an ocean of green. However planting and harvesting a garden is for everyone and there's a feeling of satisfaction when they pluck that first tomato or pepper .

The first step in creating a good garden is research. Find out what your dirt is(loamy, sandy, etc) and its' acidity. Secondly research about the veggies and herbs you want to plant in it. For example highly acidic soil can wind up producing bitter tasting tomatoes.Also see what grows in your region and when is the best time of the Spring to plant it (th e US is divided into seven planting zones which you can easily find on Google). Also another factor to consider is your family's taste. If the kids hate onions, it's kind of moot to plant them, expecting everyone to wax enthusiastic about the first bulb. Ask the little ones what they want and then get them involved. Kids who grow their own produce will be proud to eat their first veggies.

Once the yard has been evaluated and the choices made, then head down to your local nursery or order from a catalog or online for plants and seeds. You may also want to get some equipment, mulch and fertilizer as well. Planting usually starts at the end of this month or the beginning of next for early summer harvesting. You may want to turn over the dirt now to get it ready for the first batch of tomatoes or lettuce.

It may seem too early or cold to think about that first summer harvest. Yet it's not, Remember that we're halfway through April and may is only a few short weeks away. It's time to get ready!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Lure of the Middle East

There' s something exotic about Middle Eastern cooking. It could be the spices or the uniqueness of the dishes.Maybe it's the way the food is cooked or presented that makes us curious about this centuries old cuisine. It's different yet made with the same ingredients that most of us use in our everyday meals. Luckily enough it can be easily replicated.

Middle Eastern cuisine covers the area from Turkey to Iraq and Iran and down the south which includes Saudi Arabia ad North Africa. One of the most popular dishes is hummus. This is a delicious spread that made with mashed chick peas, garlic, lemon and olive oil. It's a cinch to make at home and serve with toasted pita triangles. Another easy to make Middle Eastern favorite is baba ghanoush. This is popular throughout the region especially in Syria and is made from eggplant, lemon juice and various spices such as cumin. Again this can be eaten it toasted pita. Falafel is big here in the New York metro area. Again this is made from chick peas but molded into a ball and fried.

Middle Eastern cooks are also known for creating sumptuous feasts. there is always lamb on the table , usually roasted. Chicken is also served an if it's an Egyptian meal, then sometimes rabbits. Since eggplants are big in the region , there is usually a plate of tomato stuffed ones accompanying the meat. Almost every Middle Eastern dinner has dolma, stuffed graped leaves. These can be filled with rice or rice and lamb and served as an appetizer or a side dish Sometimes a soft cheese served as well. Dessert usually is baklava, a pastry made from phyllo dough, ground pistachios and honey ad dates. Dates are plentiful and a staple of any Middle Eastern diet.

The Middle East lures us with its' exotic bazaars and ancients ways. it also lures us with its' cuisine, old as time yet still tasty in this modern era.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What To Do About Easter Leftovers

Now that the eggs have been hunted and the chocolate bunnies are sans ears, it's time to think about what to do with the leftovers from yesterday's holiday meal. Your fridge's shelves are probably groaning with the leftover ham , lamb and asparagus. The thing is these are great foods that can be transformed into some tasty dishes.

Ham leftovers are the easiest to deal with after a big feast. You can grind it up with a little oil and create fresh deviled ham. This is perfect on sandwiches or even on crackers for a evening snack. You can also chop it up , mix in some celery , onion and mayo and have a nice chunky salad to go with rye bread. Ham is also good with eggs. Fry some up with eggs for a hearty breakfast or lunch. Mince it for Western omelets.Lamb is a bit trickier. Most people just reheat it and eat it the way they did on Easter. However you cam cube it and then add curry along with veggies for a tasty twist on an Indian classic. You can also make it into a casserole using lamb gravy along with white or wild rice. You can also cut it into cubes and microwave it as kabobs.

Like, ham asparagus can have a few reincarnations. If you had served it just boiled, then you can have it cold the second time around with a vinaigrette sauce as a salad. Add some chopped red peppers or grape tomatoes for color. Also you can reheat a second time and freshen it up with some just made Hollandaise sauce. if that's not your thing then just rebroil with some butter and sliced up Easter egg on top Add a sprinkling of newly grated Parmesan cheese.

Don't consider all those leftover Peeps and chocolate your meal for the next few days. If you have leftovers use them. There's plenty to do with all that spare ham , lamb and asparagus to create a second feast.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Preparing For Easter

Easter Saturday is a special time for prepping food and getting ready for tomorrow. I'll let you fellow foodies have your food blessed as well as prepping that ham or buying that asparagus for tomorrow's' feat

Enjoy the day, enjoy your food and most of all enjoy your chocolate. Celebrate the Resurrection and the rebirth of your spring garden.

Happy, Happy Easter to all my readers and their families!!!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Observances

Just a short entry today since it is Good Friday.

We're having the traditional Piedmontese tomatoes and eggs (the Sicilians make something similar with green peppers) tonight since we can not have any meat.

Observe the day.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

The International Easter Bunny

There's nothing like Easter candy, especially when it;s from other countries. Don;t get me wrong. I love our own brands, the Russell Stover and Palmer bunnies, the Reese's peanut butter eggs, The Hershey's kisses ,the Almond Joy coconut eggs and so on . However it's the Euro chocolate that makes me swoon. Some how the dark chocolate is more intensive while the milk has a creamy texture and feel, as if it was made yesterday.

Since the Germans more or less invented th e modern Easter tradition, it's no wonder that their chocolates are the best. I remember when my Swabian cousins brought someover one Easter. talk about goo d chocolate. It was ethereal, with a lighttexture and amazing cream (not milky ) taste. This is the stuff of Easter legend. Not to be outdone there is Perugina a staple at my houseand my other cousins in Northern Italy. Their eggs, these large ostrich size confections are hollow and filled with treats . Their bittersweet is almost like a cacao liqueur, deep, almost coffee like in flavor and smoothness . Te milk is creamy, light in flavor without that cloying aftertaste that some milk chocolates possess. Perugina is the master chocolatier throughout Europe and their holiday candies reflect this the best. This is where you can taste their fine candymaking with pieces of unadulterated chocolate.

The English know how to do candy right as well (well they should. They're the number one candy consumers in Europe).Their filled Cadbury eggs are a fun reminder of what Easter candy should be. Break open an etched milk chocolate one and out pours this gooey mix of fondant white and yolk. Their filling is similar to the one you find in Cella cherries , a rich gooey creme that has to be slurped up quickly. It';s a nice offset to the chocolate and adds to the shell's flavor.

it;s nice to know that the Easter bunny is a global creature. He picks up candy from all over the world to give to us. Now if only the little cotton tail could stop the global recession.

Note: Remember to help the victims of L'Aquilia earthquake. You can go to and then click on where it has info about L'Aquila. 1,500 are homeless and they need more shelter and food to survive.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passover Cuisine

Tonight and for the next eight days is the religious observance of Passover. The holy days have their own foods ; each with a special significance . Each dish has been handled down for centuries, some with modifications , others with the same ingredients from ancient times.

There are the traditional foods that symbolize various meanings. There is matzoh, the unleavened bread, that symbolized the Israelites quick flee into Egypt. Th Passover table also has horseradish and bitter herbs to stand for slavery's bitterness. Charoset, a, mix of chopped apples. nuts wine and cinnamon represents life's sweetness while a roasted egg symbolizes life. There are also vegetables and lamb which symbolizes hope and sacrifice. A bowl of salt water symbolizes tears shed while there are four glasses of wine on t he table one for Elijah.

Of course over the centuries additions have been made to the table. various countries such as Italy and Spain have added some of their influence especially with the Roman and Sephardic Jews. Flourless cakes and pastries are also included to give some kick to the meal.

A Passover table is one of the most symbolic tables . Each dish has a meaning that goes back eons . Yet every year it still remains relevant.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meet My Peeps

Nothing says Easter like bright sunshine yellow Peeps. Thes emarshmallow shaped chicks have been a staple in many an Easter basket for a long, long time. They represent a fun time, full of innoncnce and freshness. Even if you've outgrown the Easter basket and Sunday best , you're never too old for Peeps.

How were the ppeps hatched. Thank candy maker Sam Born who introduced the sugary chicks as "Just Born" in the early 1910's. They started out as a bright yellow color, gracing Easter baskets and cake tops (you can also put them on a skewer to roast , looks like a mini rotisserie). Now Peeps come in white, pink , green, purple and blue for a more Easter-y festive look. The company expanded to bunny shapes as well and itroudced a chocolate mousse flavor Peep just this Spring

Nowadays you can buy other Peep forms for other major holidays. Halloween has white peep ghosts , orange pumpkins and black cats. Christmas has green marshmallow trees, gingerbread men and peppermint stars and Valentine's Day has pink and white hearts. Still nothing captures our heart s like those blobby big bottomed chicks with their pointy beaks and tiny bead like eyes. You almost want to cuddle one if you didn't feel like eating it!

For all you foodies out there, write in and share your Peeps memories with us. Even if you have ideas for turning them intoa fancy dessert, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Coconut Egg That Perennial Easter treat

Nothing says Easter like a coconut egg. Loved by millions over the years, this candy was and still is the highlight of any Easter basket.Nothing compares with the mix of chewy, creamy coconut bathed in milk or dark chocolate (I think the darker the better) and then topped with a sugar candy lily. It also blends well with other traditional favorites like white chocolate and jelly beans.

Coconut eggs have been around for a long time. Candy stores originally made these from scratch , creating a kind of paste using cream of tartar , sugar and shredded coconut and then molding it into an egg shape. Milk or dark chocolate was then poured over it and decorations were later added.If you lived in northern New Jersey, two to one your coconut egg came from Hannah Krause chocolates and was freshly made.

You can still find homemade coconut eggs. Even Almond Joy has a neat coconut egg sixpack that has the traditional bar shaped as an ergg 9with the ubiquitous almond on top). Most candy stores such as Rocky Mountain have a gamut of them running from small to megalarge. There are even recipes on the web where you can make them yourself. If you're ambitious you can also make a coconut egg cake. Bake an egg shaped cake (preferably chocolate) split and fill with a butter cream coconut filling.Drizzle with a chocolate glaze or frost with fudge icing and then decorate with butter cream roses and stems.

Coconut eggs are very much a part of Easter and the joy of Easter candy. They're a sweet special treat that should be savored. Remember to go out and buy yours today!!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Easter and Passover Treat Week

This is the week for candies and treats. Although Passover is also this Wednesday and like Easter, is serious, it does have its’ sweets. This is also the week to dig in early for all those Easter treats too. I’ll be writing about these luscious goodies from creamy Perugina eggs to melt in your mouth Manishevitz macaroons.

What to start off with ? Chocolate eggs. These are made by everyone from Dove to Hershey’s and have a fun pop in your mouth feeling. They’re based on Easter’s ancient symbol, the egg, symbol of fertility. Dove’s are smooth and creamy and come in both ,milk and dark chocolate. Hershey’s just comes in the milk but still just as smooth on the tongue as the other. (to be fair though Hershey’s has an Easter Kiss which is filled with coconut - a nod to the coconut Easter egg) These are wonderful filling up a basket or looking cute in an Easter themed candy dish.

The chocolate egg is one of the fun Easter treats everyone looks forward to this time of year. They’re the perfect little snack after an Easter dinner or just fun to munch on during an Easter egg hunt!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Foraging Season

This is the time of year when people go for those Spring nature hikes. Yes, it can be invigorating for your mind and body. It could also be beneficial for your stomach as well. There are many different types of edible plants and fungi waiting for you in the woods or even that unused plot of land next to your house. The problem is what's good and what's poisonous? Pick the wrong weed and it could be deadly. Or vice versa. Ignore a funky looking sprout and miss out on the best taste ever.

What do you look for when foraging? Don't fall for scent. Plants that smell like almonds are poisonous and deadly if ingested. Also don't be fooled by lookalikes. There are some poisonous mushrooms out there that look like their edible cousins. Most nettles are perfectly fine to eat. Dandelions, that scourge of so many lawns, are great in salads or fermented as a wine. Japanese knotweed is another tasty weed that you can cook like asparagus. Clover which also grows in abundance both in the wild and in yards is a different addition to salads.It has a sharp crisp taste that would go well with a raspberry or ginger orange vinaigrette.

Mushrooms are another story unto themselves. Pick the wrong kind and you could be the highlight of your 6 PM news program. The mushroom of foraging choice is the morel/he caps have a honey comb type of look and resemble an asparagus tip. They're light grey to yellow in color.Look for these near dying elm,cottonwood or apple trees in the wild. Another "pickable" kind is the black trumpet which looks exactly like one. There is also the hen of the woods which looks like a giant hen and composed of many feather like caps. Its' colors are usually grey or yellow.

This Spring take advantage of the free food of the forest. Start foraging your local wilderness (or back yard) for interesting plants and fungi. You can create some gourmet dishes thanks to Mother's Nature 's bounty.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Petit Fours The Perfect Dessert

Spring is the time for outdoor teas and afternoon lunches. The tiny sweet, the petit four fits this bill completely. They make the perfect dessert after sandwiches and soups. Although they are bite sized , they are rich with flavor. They are the perfect accompaniment to any tea or coffee.

Petit fours had their start in 18th Century France the words mean little oven. They were baked at the end of the day when the ovens were cooling down and there was some light baking still to be done. Petit four is an actually misconception of the term in American eyes. They actually include meringues, macaroons and tartlets along with cigarettes (those long, rolled up wafers). There are also savory petit fours. , little amuse bouches that are served as appetizers.

Anyone can make petit fours using a sponge or pound cake as the base. As the filling any raspberry or strawberry jam will do nicely or a think layer of butter cream. For the coating you can also do butter cream or the heavier fondant. You can also enrobe them in white chocolate as well. Decorating can be fun because you can create everything from flowers and buds for the Spring and even candles and wreaths for Christmas time.

Petit fours are a nice ending to any spring time tea or social. Buy them or make them yourself. Enjoy these flavorful little treats.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Foodie Tricks

Yup, today is April Fool's Day , that day reserved for all you merry prankster's out there. There have been plenty of jokes involving food over the ages. All of us have either been at one end or the other of a joke involving food. There's so many good ones out there.

Who hasn't subbed in shaving cream for whipped cream? Then chortled with laughter as the eater realized what the cream really was? threw a pinch of salt in the sugar bowl or sugar in the salt shaker? At least one time in our lives this has been done. There's also the Tabasco sauce in the ketchup trick as well.

Remember the back page of comic books where send away magic tricks were advertised? Anyone remember buying the black or garlic gum? The first caused the chewer's tongue to turn pitch black. The second caused a horrific garlic odor seconds after being bitten. Talk about a good prank. Then there were the fake Fizzies .These were modeled on the real Fizzies, those big early 60 fruit tablets (similar to Alka Seltzer) that were put into to water to create a carbonated drink? Some wag invented the fake kind to produce nothing but black water that look liked watered down ink. Wonder if those are still being made today.

Anyway, be careful what you eat today. You never know who's been fooling around with your food. Happy April Fool's everyone!