Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sun Cooked Foods This Summer

You can use the sun for more than just tanning. You can cook with it too. Solar cooking is an eco friendly way to prepare and even bake your favorite foods. This ancient method locks in vital nutrients while providing the same use as your indoor stove. Strange but true. You can make those UV rays a part of your culinary life

Solar cooking isn't new.The ancient Romans used the sun in their various cooking methods. Skip a few centuries to the 18th when a Swiss naturalist develops the first eco friendly outdoor oven that relies entirely on solar power. Nowadays sun fueled stoves and ovens are usually seen in Third World Countries where there is no electricity and no water. They are easy to set up and easy to cook and bake with. They leave basically no carbon footprint because they utilize no water or fuel. They don't emit smoke into the air either. There are two kinds of solar ovens for today, the parabolic and hot boxes or ovens. The first requires the sun's rays to directly hit the cooking vessel and heat it. The second is a mini greenhouse where it "bakes" the food from inside. Solar ovens are not expensive . You can buy them for as low as $135 dollars. Most come with their own baking sheets and pots and pans. They're pretty easy to set up, Construct one in the morning for cooking in the afternoon.Food solar cooked has a more natural, stronger taste and this is perfect for homegrown vegetables along with cooking with fresh picked herbs from the garden.

Unfortunately solar cooking does have a downside. You can only use the oven between the sun's peak hours which are between 10 AM and 2 PM. Forget cooking on rainy or overcast days.Also be wary when cooking any meat , especially beef, chicken and fish because the bacteria may not be cooked all the way out of them. it takes some adjusting and guesswork to get a meal right. Experiment with little things like cookies or vegetable side dishes first to get the hang of it. See what works the best for you and at what time. Soon you'll be handling solar cooking like a pro.

Use the sun this summer not just for tanning but for cooking. You'll be hooked on this novel yet old idea. Not only that you can get yourself a nice color while you're baking cookies or cooking ratatouille.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oregano The Versatile Herb

Oregano is one of the most versatile herbs you can grow. It adds spark to salads and livens up any meat. It also is a must have in Italian, Spanish and Greek dishes. if you're leery about using it don't be. It's a great improvement to any dish.

Oregano first was cultivated in the Mediterranean region where it it still used today. It's one of the hardier herbs to grow and many people have included it in their home gardens. The great thing about having an oregano plant is that you can snip the leaves off at any time and add them to your sauces or salads. Dried oregano is also good to have around . Use this in a garlic and oil rub for steaks and lamb. It imparts a smoky taste to kabobs as well.

Oregano is mainly used in tomato sauces. It brings out the tomato's sweetness and can be used in place of salt. Add a few pinches of it to your pasta or pizza sauce to rev up the flavor. It's also good in Italian dressing where this time it gives zips to the oil and vinegar.

This summer use fresh or dried oregano in your cooking and barbecuing. It may look innocent but this herb packs a wallop .It gives zing to indoor and outdoor cooking.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Welcome Back Taco Bell

In the last few years Taco bell has received a bad wrap. There was news of first rats wrecking havoc in its' Greenwich Village locale . A few weeks later it made the news again when just a few miles westward, its' Plainfield, NJ location was mixing contaminated scallions into the burritos and tacos.Every foodie, including myself,was afraid to step into their local Bell. It was eat at your own risk.

That's all changed. I recently rediscovered my local one and found it just as good as when I left it. To be honest I really did miss the chicken and steak burritos. The nachos and cheese are the same (much to my delight and my cat'S who's a big cheese lover too. She likes the leftover cheese from the small cup that goes with the chips). Taco Bell has added a fresca or fresh menu where everything is lower in calories. The food is healthy and also cheap. A full lunch for three people yesterday only cost me seven bucks. Not bad when you consider Green Leaf's or even Wendy's would cost double that.

I also like the way Taco Bell branches out. They add an icy treat called Fruitista in pina colada and strawberry mango flavors. I've tried both and love them more than Rita's ices (sorry Rita's). They're like frozen Slushies with a fresh fruit taste and just refreshing after a hot day. They're also good with a meal. Another good idea is that the Bell is relying more on grilling which imparts a better taste to the chicken and steak.

Drop your fears about Taco Bell. Go back to this worthy fast food giant and rediscover their great food. You'll be happy to chow down on old favorites. You'll also be happy to try their new foods and drinks. Most of all you'll just be happy to be back.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Food Icons

Food icons never really go away. Unlike celebrities, they are eternal, lasting from year to year and from decade to decade. We have them in our daily lives. We make them an important part of our holiday and daily traditions.

My food icons are of course what I grew up on. I was lucky to to have Piedmontese and Swabian food all the time as well as American classics.There is and will be nothing like polenta , especially when it's fried and topped with two sunnyside up eggs. There there is spaetzle with string beans. For any kid here in the States spaghetti is always the dish of choice. This icon follows us through adulthood, winding up one of our valued and cherished food icons, Another is Coke. It's not just an icon for us Yankees but also for anyone in the workd. Who hasn't popped open a can after a game or hard work? We even put another food icon in it, vanilla ice cream to make it more of a treat.

Of course fast food restuarants. are the epitome of any kind of icon. Take McDonald's with its' classic hamburgers shakes and fries. It symbolizes American eating at it's best(or worst depneding on how you look at it. Another is Taco Bell with it's south of the border menu, symbolizing Mexican food.Diners, especially here in the Garden State, are iconic of New Jersey. Who hasn't driven through this area without stopping for a three egg omlet or a stack of pancakes, complete with a host of sides at any time of the day?.

Food icons are eternal. They never really die. They're there for us when we need them to get through tough times and to celebrate the good ones.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The ABC Guide To Cocktails

Yesterday’s Times Food section devoted itself almost entirely to drinks. This should be a saver section if you don’t have an anthology on cocktails or spirits. It’s a short but useful dictionary that also includes suggestions and recipes. It’s also a good guide to follow if you’re also planning on throwing a lot of parties this summer.

What I liked about the article written by Pete Wells, is that there are different spins on the ordinary. He suggests basil can be used in place of mint which makes sense. It has just a strong green taste like pepper or spearmint . It also is a great foil for fruit drinks too and works well with melon and even pineapple flavors. Another part I liked is the idea of using ginger beer or strong ginger in drinks. Sometimes regular ginger ale just doesn't cut it flavorwise and detracts from the other flavors. Adding a sharper variety give the drink an edge plus can pack a well needed wallop to any anemic cocktail.

The guide also explains drinks and what their ingredients are. I liked the lime rickey recipe and explanation. That's one drink I did always wonder about. I also finally found out what a daiquiri is . Another good recipe was the one for simple syrup. There are variations on this involving the amount of sugar as well as what to do with it. Wells not only gives perfect measurements but also great storage tips. He also adds the idea of spicing up the syrup for more interesting cocktails.

Keep yesterday's Times Food section for your summer drink guide. This is a well written mini dictionary about drinks. It'll help you be the best bartender at your summer parties.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Teavana - Tea Heaven

There is a great store at my local mall called Teavana. They sell every kind of tea imaginable along with some very beautiful tea sets. This is also a great place to buy unusual teas and even sample them. Teavana also sells cups of cold and hot tea for those who like to have some while they window shop. (or good for breakfast which is whatI have it for when i have an early morning appointment at the mall's hair salon).

Teavana has an entire cornucopia of white, green, black and red tea. If you want to channel your inner Precious Ramotswe, the lead character from The First Ladies Detective Agency, then order some of the African bush or red tea. This is a strong , tasty brew that goes well hot or cold. There are plenty of green black and white teas too. This is also the perfect store for chai lovers. You can find so many different blends here. Prices aren't that bad and two ounce s of any tea will yield about forty cups.

The store also has beautiful tea cups and tea sets along with sweeteners, books and tapes. If you're looking for the perfect housewarming or even shower gift stop here. There is also a good array of expensive tea makers along with regular tea makers just under twenty dollars. Another plus is that the staff is helpful and can answer all your questions whether about the teas or the items.

Teavana is a great place to discover teas. You can stick with Earl Gray or go with a new flavor. This is a store every foodie should go and visit.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spice Up Your Summer

If you want to turn your summer into a spicy one then think about adding peppers and other hot flavors to your cooking. This season is the perfect time to experiment with fiery marinades and atomic rubs. Heating up your cooking is also a great way to keep grilling fresh too. That extra jolt add livelines to tired old wing and rib recipes.

What adds zing to summer cooking? Try any kind of red or chili pepper. These are great both as a dry and wet ingredient. You can mix dried chili with cracked black pepper and a little salt for some spice. Also a pepper marinade would be good on any kid of red meat such as steak or beef ribs.You can mix sweet and fiery as well Add some ground ginger or even cinnamon to the mix. Toss in a little brown sugar to a cayenne pepper rub for an interesting burst of sweet and hot. If you prefer hot with zest then add some garlic or oregano to t he rub.

Another way of spicing up your meals is by marinading them in a fiery sauce. You can make your own or add to a mix. A dash of red pepper flakes take the sugary edge off any bottled barbecue sauce. Some cilantro mixed into a garlic and lemon marinade will give chicken and fish some bite. You can also try a dash of tequila for extra oomph or some a tablespoon of bourbon (this is more for barbecue sauce).Experiment with tastes and ingredients until you achieve the flavor you want.

Add some wallop to your dull barbecue this year by adding some heat and zest. It will make for not only memorable meals but for some new favorites.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hamburger Heaven

Hamburgers are the meal of choice during these summer days. They're easy to cook up and also fun to stop for on a balmy night. The best thing is you can have them your way, as a famous burger chain has always offered. You can have them as plain or as fancy as you want.

We have to thank Louis Lassen for creating the first burger in 1900 in Connecticut. Yet it was the Menches family of Hamburg New York who gave this concoction of ground beef and bread its' name .A few years after that the cheeseburger was born in Pasadena California where a young Lionel Steinberger (what else???) accidentally added a slab of cheddar to his sandwich. The very first hamburger chain was White Castle, created in the late Teens and early Twenties. Of course we all know about Ray Kroc who franchised the McDonald brothers' hamburger stand. The burger is a huge part of our modern lives. We can get them anywhere from diners to fancy restaurants. Hamburgers now come in everything kind of meat from bison and ostrich to the vegetarian quorn and tofu.

Cooking hamburgers can let you be creative. Add pizza sauce for a pizza burger or some onion soup to make it very tasty. You don't have to stick American or cheddar on the top ; instead go with Swiss or pepper jack slices for more of a kick. Ketchup is always a good moistener but barbecue sauce on any burger gives it zing and renders it much more flavorful . As for the bun nothing beat a regular sesame seed one that's been lightly toasted. Another good base are onion rolls that have bits of sauteed onion baked in the bread

Have your hamburgers your way. This is a food that's not only fun to eat but also fun to whip up . Add the usual or come up with something entirely new. That's what's so great about them. Make your hamburger your heaven!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hot Dog!!!!

Nothing says summer like a good old fashioned hot dog. it's the type of food that can be dressed up or down. You can serve it as an hors d' oeuvre or eat it as a snack. You can make it sinful or as healthy as you like. Best of all you can make it your way.

Hot dogs came came from the German town of Frankfurt (hence its' other name frankfurter) and have been around since 1480. They were made out of pork slurry but other flavors such as beef. chicken and turkey have been added. They came to the States in 1870 when a German immigrant Charles Feltman began to sell them. They were also sold in St Louis and made their debut at the St Louis Fair. Back at Coney island one of Feltman's workers, a Nathan Handwerker went into his own wiener dog business and that's how the famous Nathan's was born. Today only a few places such as Nathan's , Sonic and Johnny Rockets sell hot dogs. Most stands are independently owned.

Hot dogs at home are the best. You can pick out what works for you (ours are usually soy)You can cook them they way you want and top them however you want. I usually like mine with with the Ginger People's ginger barbecue sauce on a fried bun. Another great way is having a foot long one fried til almost crackly crisp and serve on a thick roll. This style is popular at a Jersey shore landmark, The Windmill in Long Branch. Their dogs are the best, flavorful, tasty and very very filling.

Hot dogs are the perfect summer nosh. They can be cooked and served a variety of ways. What';s your favorite? Foodie Pantry wants to know.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rooftop Gardens

In Wednesday's' New York Times food section there was a great article about city gardening. This is a good way of introducing family and yourself to fresh picked fruits veggies and herbs. Like the rooftop gardens of ancient Babylon you can have lush produce , perfect for your summer menu.

The article, written by the great foodie, Marion Burros is a helpful tip sheet about how you and your neighbors (if you live in a condo or co-op) can start a roof top garden.Cities like Chicago and New York offer tax abatements and subsidies for roofs that go green. This is also a good incentive to eat healthier with fresh picked fruits and vegetables. Even people with townhouses and large terraces such as the ones in New York's Greenwich Village ) can start this. it does take a lot of work. You have to haul up dirt and fertilizer along with seeds and have a good assortment of tools to work with. In the end , it's worth it. You and friends will enjoy fresh made tomato sauces , broccoli soups and just picked baby carrots.

The down side to any city garden are the pigeons and pollutions. Pigeons may like fruit as much as any other bird and rooftop trees harvests may suffer. Also tomatoes may be the target of a few raids. There may even be the threat of mice and rats. You could get a cat to watch this or scatter traps around (which are dangerous to small children) Another problem is the pollution from the vehicles below. Worse than pesticides these can settle onto skins and leaves. You could try covering up plants with burlap but this may hinder growth and harvest. The best bet is to leave the plants as they ares and just wash thoroughly before cooking or eating.

A rooftop garden is a nice addition to any building. growing your own produce gives you a wonderful sense of accomplishment. It also gets you to eat healthy and fresh.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Down Home Weddings

It's Thursday and that means an article discussion of what was written in yesterday's New York Times Food Section. There's a lot to pick through.I'll take these two days to write about them. the first that caught my eye was about weddings and serving down home food. this is a big trend right now because of the recession.

What is a down home wedding? It's one with good simple food instead of lavish presentations of sushi stations and chocolate fountains. Instead of filet mignon and lobster, it's fish tacos and roasted chicken. It's a cupcake tree instead of a towering wedding cake. Guests are recommended to eat with their fingers and flit from table to table. Anything else would be considered too ostentatious. Surprisingly enough it costs the same as a regular sit down dinner, according to wedding planners. Yet this is what American wants right now. The era of ostentatious is well over with thanks to the recession and hard times.

Anyone can have this type of wedding and for a lot less. Rent a hall or use a backyard. Elk's halls were always the best places to turn to for inexpensive weddings. The next step is having family and friends cook for you. Here you can decide on what you like and don't like. Also let the cooks and bakers know that their contributions are their wedding gift to you. Shop in bulk at your local BJ's or Costco's. Even neater have some home grown veggies and fruits thrown in. if you feel it's too much then have your supermarket step in with sandwiches, fruit and veggie platters as well as the cakes. it will cost but not as much as if you went to a catering hall.

This is the time to scale down thing;s in one's life. This includes weddings. Having a down home style wedding with favorite foods cooked by loved ones is a lot more memorable and fun than one held in a lavish hall with ostentatious foods. There's nothing like an old fashioned reception for some celebrating.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Good Humor Good Summer Memories

There’s nothing like the sound of a Good Humor truck to bring back summertime memories. Who doesn’t have fond remembrances of the Almond Bar or the Éclair?. These were the best and always a special treat after dinner. The flavor was always amazing a combination of almonds or chocolate mixed with creamy vanilla. This was perfection on a stick,

The bars have been around since the 1920s when candy maker Harry Burt first came up with a smooth coating to go over ice cream. The concoction was too messy to eat so his son, Harry Jr. suggested they use the sticks from their Jolly Boy lollipops to hold the bars. Voila! The first Good Humor bar was born. It was soon patented and then Harry promoted his products in ice cream trucks. They made they way around the Burt’s home town of Youngstown, Ohio, heralding their arrival with bells. The chauffeurs or drivers had to wear clean white suits. This promoted a look of purity and wholesomeness. After Harry Senior’s death in 1926, his widow ,Cora, had the company go public and sold franchises for as low as $100. Soon kids (and adults too) discovered the exquisite taste of the Good Humor bar (so named because the popular thought was that a good taste would create a good humor - which it successfully did). Flavors such as toasted coconut were added soon after the chocolate

Nowadays you can find Good Humor bars from Krauzer’s to your local supermarkets. The flavors are still the same. There‘s still the yummy éclair, hopefully with the chocolate candy in the middle. Toasted almond crunch has never gone out of production. Good Humor still produces those cute ice cream cups that you eat with a small flat spoon or scoop.

It’s nice to know that Good Humor is still giving kids good summer time memories. There’s nothing like the tasty of their creamy bar mixed with almond, chocolate or coconut They’re the best part of a lazy hot day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

True Cajun , True Cooking

Thanks to HBO's hit, that Southern vampire Gothic True Blood , Cajun cooking is sparking interest again. It's well worth it (and tastes better than the vamp's drink, also called True Blood). It's a melange of different spices and meats; cooking techniques and spices that make this cuisine delicious and unique. It borrows from the French , the Choctaws and has some African influence thrown in. It's one of the best style this country has to offer.

The Cajuns were exiled French Arcadian that moved down from Nova Scotia in 1755. The British expelled them because the Arcadians refused to pledge loyalty to the British crown. They settled in Louisiana which was now in Spain''s hands. From there they learned to live off the land and incorporate the ingredients into their recipes. They still make roux, a recipe passed down through the centuries. Theirs is a dark deep colored one made with bacon fat or olive oil,(there is an Italian influence in Louisiana to). Like their ancestors the Cajuns love a good sausage. The most famous is the andouille which has a spicy taste and course texture. It's not uncommon to find it mixed in with rice, another Cajun staple. Boudoin, or blood sausage is also in many dishes. It has savory ingredient like pork and onions along with garlic and cayenne.

Vegetables play an important part in this cuisine. Most dishes have what's known as the "holy trinity of Cajun cooking: celery , onions and bell peppers. These add to everything from jambalaya to gumbo. Okra is another popular vegetable , brought from Africa with the slave trade. Garlic is used heavily, a remnant of their French heritage. It's used in everything from stews to meat dishes to sides.

Yes, thanks to a hit series about bloodsuckers, Cajun food is hot again. However it's a spectacular cuisine that doesn't need any promoting. It's one of America's best home grown cooking style.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Down Home Cooking Sylvia's and South Carolina Cooking

if you want down home Southern comfort food then head to Manhattan. Yup, you've read right. new York City houses one of the most famous country cooking restaurants. the famed Sylvia's This Harlem and city landmark produces some of the best food that's reminiscent of Low Country cuisine. It's here where diners can become nostalgic for the tastes of their childhood.

it was started by Sylvia Woods who was originally from the South Carolina. The restaurant opened in the mid Sixties and has expanded to over the years. Celebrities from Bill Clinton to Nelson Mandela have enjoyed meals here and what meals!!!!I was lucky enough to have her chicken and ribs along with some collard greens and potato salad , These were cooked in traditional Southern style . The sassy rice a mix of rice and black beans was my favorite. I also love corn bread and there was plenty of fresh made slices . There was also platters of fried fish to. The meal was finished off with a scoop of banana pudding

Sylvia's has its' roots in South Carolina cooking. Outside of Louisiana, the Low Country was probably the most cuisine rich areas of the South. There are all sort s of recipes of different kinds of fish and seafood. Oysters abound here along with shrimp. Ham and ribs are also popular as is chicken. Sylvia's honors some of the recipes and creates down home goodness with them.

It's possible to eat in New York City and get a taste of Low Country cooking . Just head to Sylvia's in Harlem. You'll feel right at home and welcomed.

Sylvia's is at 328 Lenox Ave ,New York City.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sharing The Wealth

Bartering is nothing new. It’s been around for centuries until currency replaced it. However there’s a new movement during these recession times that lets you barter your veggies and fruits for different produce. This is a great way of making ends meet plus also meeting home farmers in your area too.

There are a number of sites where you can look for reciprocal families in your neighborhood. Type in food bartering into any search engine and all sorts of sites will pop up. Go through them to find a bartering program in your area. If you’re in the Richmond Virginia area you may want to check out Richmond Homegrown,. This is a site dedicated to swapping homegrown harvests in that area. These sites are also a great ways of meeting fellow gardeners and potential foodies . Not only can you swap fruit and vegetables but you can also exchange gardening tips and recipes. When you do set up an exchange program , arrange times and dates for picking(not that you see strange people in your garden at 7 or 8 AM).

If there are no bartering gardens in your neighborhood then be the first to start your own. You could also go in with neighbors if they or yourself is willing to sacrifice an entire yard to various patches of fruits and vegetables.. If you’re at a loss for how to start up then check the boards. Also advertise on blogs or start your own swap blog. don’t limit yourself to one town either . Swap with people from neighboring towns as well.

Bartering during the recession is a a step in the right direction. You’ll not only get rid of
Any extra harvest , you’ll be receiving some good quality home grown produce. It’s a wonderful way of eating healthier and meeting new people all at once,.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Time For Homemade Ice Cream

Summer is almost here and with it comes hot sweltering days. It's the perfect time to make some old fashioned home made ice cream. Nowadays it's a lot simpler than in our great grandparents day when you had to crank it yourself. You can create the perfect bowl of goodness with some high tech machines and primo ingredients.

The first item you'll need is a good ice cream maker. Several companies have some long lasting easy to use models that will last for years. What's the best one to buy? You can spend almost a grand on the Musso Lussino, an Italian import. it is ultra heavy weighing in at forty pounds but it makes dense creamy ice cream. For those of you on a budget there's Rival White Mountain six quart ice cream maker.It's two hundred bucks and looks like an old fashioned ice cream maker. it is noisy however and does need a lot of ice. There are also much cheaper ones but Salton and Donlier that you can pick up at your local Target or K-Mart.

Once you have your ice cream maker, you can begin the fun process. Beginners should stick with the basic vanilla recipe. The best one is made custard style where you cook the egg yolks and cream in a sauce pan. You use real vanilla bean, (not the flavoring) along with caster sugar. if you want you can add fresh sliced strawberries or grated dark chocolate ( I would use broken pieces here for a nice chunky, crunchy effect). If you want homemade chocolate then use squares of milk chocolate and drop into the custard mixture while it's cooking. There are several on line sites that offer excellent ice cream recipes. You can also be creative and invent your own.

Treat yourself and your family to old fashioned home made ice cream. It;s 's worth all the work. The taste is amazing !You'll never want the store bought kind again.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fishy Business

Yesterday's New York Times Food section had an interesting article about fish. The renowned chef and foodie, Mark Bitman wrote about the different kinds out there. Thanks to more international fishing we have exotic breeds such as tilapia and orange roughy along with our regular cods and scrod. these have helped us expand our knowledge and and our palates.

Bitman also believes in kinder fishing methods (a plus in my book) where "fish friendly" implements are used. If you're on this bandwagon too, then the next time you buy fish ask about the capture methods. Inquire whether it was caught by a set gill net, a type of seine specifically used to capture that particular fish while others are let free. If you're still feeling guilty about eating ocean caught fish you can buy the ones from fish farms although they're not up to the quality of "wild" ones.

Bitman also write about shying away from the farmed mussels and other bivalves. Their taste is not as deep or as rich as the ones mined directly from the sea he writes. This is true.Anything from lobster to cod is better if it was caught in the wild. Somehow it's brinier but also sweeter at the same time.

Fish is a wonderful dish for any dinner. However there are choices out there that fish lovers have to consider. First involves the catching, the second regards whether to choose farmed or fresh. You have to weight out all these decisions when you make your catch of the day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Scallops- Elegant Seafood For Discriminating Foodies

A warm weather treat whether at a restaurant or barbecue are scallops. These tasty morsels add a touch of elegance to any meal. Lighter than crab ,more substantial than lobsters these fish are perfect for grilling or baking,. They’re also versatile with different preparations too.

Scallops are found throughout the world, and have been around for centuries, Scallop shells are often the most prettiest, in fact Botticelli’s famous Venus painting has the goddess rising out of a scallop shell. I t is also used to symbolize St. James and pilgrimages to San Diego de Campostello The shell is also the symbol of fertility as well. Scallops are composed of two parts. There is the adductor muscle which is white and meaty and the roe or the eggs which are coral colored. Most of the time the first is eaten. It is a favorite the world over, being mostly fried or cooked in a dry white wine. The French also bake it into custards or quiches while the Japanese use it as part of their sushi.

Scallops were originally served in a hot creamy sauce and even lend their name to it (hence scalloped potatoes). Most people like then pan seared, as our current President does, or grilled. Grilled scallops are easy to make requiring nothing more than a grill basket or skewers. You can marinate scallops in melted butter and parsley or with lemon juice. Grilling only takes four minutes. Another way is sautéing them with white wine or again with butter and garlic. Serve with an easy to make pilaf for a quick , elegant meal.

Scallops are a wonderful addition to any summer diet. They’re delicious served a variety of ways and quick to make. These morsels from the sea are perfect for the hot lazy days ahead.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rainy Day Foodie Fun

It's summer (well, late spring, really) and now the weather can be unpredictable. What happens when a planned beach or park day winds up being rained out? Head to the kitchen. There are some projects and some fun ideas that will keep any foodie occupied.

Fridge cleaning is not really up there with being entertaining but it is something to do. It's time to get those questionable leftovers out and either thawed or tossed. It's also time to get rid of last year's ice cream (come on, how many of you have some ice pops left from the summer of 2008 or for that matter 2007 or 200????6). You can also spend the time cleaning ice trays and defrosting the fridge too. Get rid of those funky gunky bottles you've had lying around since the winter holidays. It's a good, productive way to spend an afternoon.

A better way is baking. There's nothing like making cookies on a rainy summer's day. If you're too lazy to whip up the dough from scratch, then just get the slice and bake kind. You could also spend the day baking pies or cakes (just don't try lemon meringue because damp weather affects the meringue).Don't attempt candy making because humid temps do a number on all sorts of candy except fudge. This last again is a rainy day activity that can be done within a half hour. Have some when you're watching that favorite DVD later on

If you're really bored then get involved in labor intensive pasta or ice cream making. With the first you can create a variety of different shapes and widths. Double the amount of dough and you can make both fettuccine and lasagna noodles. If you want something different make the filled ravioli or lumarche, using ricotta and /or meat. Ice cream making is another good way to use up a wasted day. You can make a French style one , that involves cooking the eggs and cream or a quick one that uses whole cream thrown into the ice cream maker. Add some fresh ingredients that are out right now like blueberries, strawberries or peaches for a farm fresh taste . Add some chocolate and fresh mint for a more gourmet one. If you have room in your recently cleaned out freezer then make several batches of different flavors.

When beach weather turns sour, head to your kitchen for a sweet time.There are a dozen ways to keep you and your family busy. You just may enjoy it more than a romp in the ocean.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Odd Food Marriages

There are some pretty strange food marriages out there. Look at the pizza burger or batter friend iced cream. Or even a chili dog which is a scoop of chili over a hot dog. We make up some weird combinations and then eat them.

As I‘ve written the pizza burger is a pretty strange duck. I couldn’t find the origins of this. Maybe some just figured that a burger mixed with pizza sauce and topped with mozzarella tasted good. There are a lot of recipe out there for it , the best being canned sauce (yes, surprisingly!!) mixed with ground beef and a little oregano. Another strange idea are those fried sandwiches like the Monte Cristo. This started in 1910 and was an offshoot of that famous Parisian bistro sandwich ,the croque monsieur, it was first served in this country in the 1960’s in California. Something got lost in the translation however. The finished sandwich was dusted with confectioners sugar and served with a side of grape jelly???!!! Talk about bizarre!!!!

Fried ice cream is another oddity, melding freezer cold with hot oil. It’s a staple in Mexican restaurants and despite the oxymoronic name is really pretty tasty. It’s just taking a scoop of hard ice cream , dipping it into raw egg and then frying it in either batter, crushed corn flakes or bread crumbs. Mexican restaurants then serve this with a dusting of cinnamon. Another odd sweet treat is the national craze for chocolate dipped wasabi or chili peppers. There’s this wacko relationship of sweet dark chocolate offset by a fireball exploding in the mouth. Years ago we had this craze for dipping insects in chocolate. To be honest, thank heaven’s that ‘s over

The wildest I’ll ever go is maybe the fried iced cream or caramels infused with French sea salt. That’s about it. Anything other than that, nah, I like my food plain and simple. Life is too bizarre as it is without strange food pairings.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cool Treat Cool Whip

It's occurred to me that I've never written entirely about that American dessert staple Cool Whip. This is a must for almost any treat or dessert.At my house its; used constantly , especially with pies and fruit. It's a great way of adding that something extra to sweet endings without any sweet calories.

Cool Whip was invented in 1966 0r 67 by William A Mitchell a chemist for General Foods. It is a more or less non dairy products made from is made of water, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup with hydrogenated coconut and palm kernel oils and vanilla extract Even though it is non dairy it does have a milk derivative in it known as sodium caseinate. Seasonal Cool Whips are strawberry (being sold right now in the warmer weather) and chocolate. The aerosol was introduced last year in 2008 to compete with Reddi Whip. I like my Cool Whip from the aerosol can, It's fun to spritz in different fruits or to add flourish to pies and cakes.

Cool Whip is great because you can use it as an icing or as whipped cream sub. It's a phenomenal topping for any cream or overly sweet pie such as pecan (the topping balances the fillings gooey sugariness). A fun dessert is an instant chocolate mousse made with just an equal mix of chocolate pudding and Cool Whip. This is a great quick ender that will impress guests. My favorite way to have Cool Whip? Over sliced bananas and chocolate syrup. This is my go to at home dessert and snack. It's kind of like a banana split but without the ice cream.The aerosol version is also good on strawberries. Don't worry. Cool Whip is zero calories so you can eat as much as you like.

Cool Whip is a fun addition to any dessert or sweet snack. It makes just sliced bananas or strawberries extra special. It adds to any plain slice of cake. It's just a cool treat.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Eating Gator And Snake Where The Wild Things Are-

This will be a first for Foodie Pantry in the sense that I'll be writing about the other white meats - the exotics. A few foodies out there have tasted everything from gator to rattle snake to all sorts of wild game. It's an outre cuisine that may require an acquired taste. Everything supposedly tastes like chicken (or so I've been told). Big game is also a foodie fantasy (providing it's not endangered) where the food is beyond exotic.

Gator meat is probably more widely eaten in the South , especially in Louisiana more than anywhere else. I checked a web site entitled http://www.1800exoticmeats.com/ where the critters are also sold for all sorts of dishes. Alligator can be dipped in batter and fried or stir fried.It can also be blackend and served with a kind of sassy rice as well. It actually tastes "just like chicken". Personally I 'd rather see these guys in a nature show than on my plate. There is also a cadre out there who love rattlesnake meat. This foodie here will never try it. I hate snakes. Period. They''re part of that creepy ewww factor yet some other foodies enjoy the taste which is again like chicken and slightly chewy. The Southwest is full of rattlesnake chili recipes.

If you're squeamish like me, you may want to stick to trying bison and elk. Buffalo burgers are a staple of many restaurants and they're better for you than beef. Elk is like venison and surprisingly low in fat and cholesterol It has a mellow sweet taste that would go well with delicate sauces and gravies. Ostrich meat is big and so popular that even diners offer it in burgers. It's actually better for you than turkey or chicken.

If you can stomach (pun intended here) eating critters, then gobbling gator and snake is for you. If you're not ready to walk entirely on the wild side then head over to some of the tamer versions of big game. You might like them and ditch the conventional foods or you may be running back to chicken ,turkey and beef - you know the tamer foods.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mussels - That Perfect Summer Dish

Yesterday's New York Time's food section had an article devoted to mussels. There's nothing quite like this shellfish. They can be cooked and served with butter or marinara sauce, dressed in white and oil or jut served with a squeeze of lemon. Not only that but they're easy cooking for a fine summer night.

Mussels can be found in both fresh and salt waters. They are a bivlave , in the same family as clams and oysters. Unlike their cousins however mussels can range from sweet to briny in taste. The shellfish been a popular dish for thousands of years . Mussel shells ahve been found in some archealogical digs (with the shells also being used for utensils for other foods as well). Nowadays they are most popular in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France where they're served with fries. The Belgians make them with a white wine and butter stock. The Irish also eat them , usually seasoned with just vinegar.

Mussels are easy to cook. You do have to clean them first to get rid of any sand or grit that have accumulated.Do this by soaking them in water for twenty minutes. This will let them breathe and expel any salt and sand. Also yank the fibers or beards off. This won't kill them. Then have another soak in clean cold water to get rid of any more residue. Simply steam afterwards in white wine for a more flavorful taste.Split the shells in half, discarding the unopened ones, Served with melted butter mixed with chopped herbs such as oregano rosemary (you could also add thyme and bay leaf if you want, depending upon your tastes).A fun summer dish is mussels served over pasta with a rich herb infused tomato sauce or even white wine. Mussels can also accompany pizza and can be dipped in the sauce as well.

Mussels are a part of summer eating. They're easy to prepare and to eat ad can be served a variety of ways. Try them for one of your summer dinners.

Below is a recipe from www.allrecipes.com and created by Corinne Hobbs.

1 (12 ounce) package fettuccini pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon tomato paste
5 fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
36 raw green-lipped mussels
1/2 cup olives (optional)
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and mushrooms, and add the mussels. Season with basil, oregano, and tarragon. Cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in olives and fresh tomatoes. Cover, and simmer 5 minutes.
Serve mussels and sauce over pasta.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Clean That Grill Get Ready For This year's barbecues!

June is the time to reopen the pool, dust off the lounge chairs and of course clean and prep the grill. It's a nasty chore but someone has to do it. You should also be looking at your cooking instruments and deciding if they're worth cleaning or tossing. After all a successful barbecue begins with a well functioning grill and good utensils.

Consider cleaning your grill like cleaning your oven. The main idea is here is to get rid of that yucky left over fat and food bits that have been stuck there all year. You can use a special grill cleaner (found in your grocery's cleanser's aisle) or just use regular oven cleaner. The oven cleaner works just as well and probably doesn't cost as much. There is also a method involving tin foil too but I think the soap and water method is the best. The other is putting the foil over a hot grill and letting the food remnants turn to ash. To be honest I don't know if this really cleans it or not. Otherwise use a wire brush and some Comet or Bon Ami to get it clean and then rinse. Don't be too hard on the scrubbing otherwise you can ruin the metal. Also rinse out the pit used to hold the charcoal. This probably has a buildup of dust and debris from your garage (you should have all grills covered in the winter).

For a gas grill, you 'll have to take it apart. Lift everything out layer by layer until you get to the burners . Make sure you inspect these carefully. Check to see if they're not clogged otherwise you'll have uneven heat coming through and half cooked foods. While the grill is empty clean it with soapy water . Put all the cleaned layers back in and then do a priming to burn off any soapy residue (otherwise your first barbecue will taste like cleanser. )Your grill should now be ready for use and a whole season of good cooking.

Get everything ready for the summer ahead. That means clean the grill and prime it for some ribs, burgers , chicken and kabobs. It'll make for tastier eating and better cooking.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crepes Light Summer Cooking

Crepes are one of the most wonderful foods tha t the French have given us. They are versatile and can be made for lunch , dinner and dessert. You can make them as decadent or as healthy as you want. Best if all they are easy enough ad quick enough to whip up - a plus for these warm early summer days.

Surprisingly crepes are not just solely French. The Italians have a version of it called crespella,. Tortillas are a variatoin of it and the Asians introduced Europe to their buckwheat ones. These are still a favorite in Brittany where they're washed down with dry cider. White flour was introduced to the recipe at the turn of the 19th Century. They're divided into two type, crepes sucree or sweet crepes or savory gallettes, crepes salee. The batter is an easy one. It's simply milk, eggs ,water and flour beaten together and then cooked for two minutes on a well oiled crepe or frying pan. You can also cook them on a griddle too.

What you stuff into a crepe is your business. I love the versatility of them. Add sugar to the batter and you have the perfect base for any dessert. I usually like mine the street vendor way as they sell them in paris. This is just a slightly sweetened crepe spritzed with a little lemon juice and dusted with confectioners sugar. You can also fill them with jam, fresh fruit or ice cream for a really special dessert and let's not forget crepes Suzettes. For savory crepes now is the time to fill them with fresh veggies , especially ratatouille. This is is one of the best savory stuffings, although spinach and mushroom is a close second. Crepes filled with seafood and then covered in a sherry bechamel sauce is a lovely and elegant summer dinner. You can so have fill them with chicken in a light tarragon sauce too or for heartier fare ham with a cheddar sauce.

Crepes are a wonderful meal to make during the hot weather. The prep and cooking time are next to nothing. The added bonus is you can have them anyway you like. Try them for a light lunch elegant dinner or unique dessert. They are toujours magnifique!!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Means Fruit Time!!!!

Spring harvesting has arrived. With the arrival of June come bounties of all sorts of good fruits. There are strawberries and gooseberries to peaches and rhubarb. This is the time to enjoy the fresh picked sweets whether from your garden or from the store.

Strawberries will be in abundance this month. Enjoy them. You can soak them in Asti or make preserves with them. They are also good sliced over pancakes and waffles and of course this is the season for strawberry shortcake . Many farms throughout the area will be offering strawberry picking. Take advantage of these. if you're in the UK it''s also gooseberry season. These are used in jams and in pies. The most famous dish is gooseberry fool . This is when the fruits are pureed with whipped cream and then served with more cream. It's popular in the English countryside.

Rhubarb is another big June harvest. This is where you pick the stalks (not the leaves that are highly poisonous) and then cook them into pie filling or jam. Sometime strawberries are combined with the rhubarb to give it a sweeter taste. Rhubarb pie is wonderful especially when it's home made and covered in real whipped cream. You can also make a compote with the rhubarb as well. Just make sure that the freshly picked stalks are thoroughly rinsed free of all dirt and bugs.

Now that June is here, it's time to enjoy the fruits of a late spring - early summer harvest. Relish these sweet and natural treats any way you like. Like a perfect June day , they're wonderful and memorable.