Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Candyland

Yup, this is the day when kids and even sweet fanged foodies indulge themselves. It's Halloween here in the States and although it's celebrated in other parts of the world, it's a big draw here. Halloween is a time to indulge in mini Snickers or candy corn, popcorn balls or caramel apples. It's a fun day with treats and surprises at every door.

Halloween started out as a Celtic celebration known as the Feast of Samhain .It was the day when the Celts celebrated the dead when the otherworld became thin enough for spirits to pass through. Basically Samhain means summer's end in Gaelic and that's when they celebrated the harvest with bonfires and feasts. The name Halloween itself came from old English :Eallra Hālgena ǣfen or All Hallows Eve. Today we know it as the day for costumes and candy.

We all have our Halloween foodie favorites and memories. Some might remember chocolate or vanilla cupcakes topped with orange icing and black sprinkles. other might remember stuffing handfuls of candy corn into their mouths. I used to like the candy cigarettes and bubble gum myself, A s I got older I used to buy my favorite candy , namely Milk Duds, to hand out , hoping for a few leftovers at the end of October 31st.

I'd like to hear about your favorite Halloween foodie memories. Which one of you out there went mad for popcorn balls? Or Reese's peanut butter cups? Did you like the ghost lollipops or the solid chocolate pumpkins? Let's hear from you sugar crazed ghoulies .

Friday, October 30, 2009

Izakaya Bars - Japan's Version Of Tapas

Yesterday I wrote about izakaya bars . This idea of Japanese tapas intrigued me. Japanese food t me involves a soup and a light but filling dinner. The idea of having quick but well cooked or fried cuisine sounds like a delicious alternative . This is not typical bar food but more along the line of the Spanish tapas which features bites from all different food groups.

Izakaya bars have been in my area, the New York metr,o for the past forty years. I'm sure I've passed them on my trips to Manhattan and thought they were just small Japaneses restaurants. there are a few throughout the US. These bars offer not only sake, the Japanese rice wine and chuhai , a carbonated cocktail but also American whiskies and wines. The foods range from simple edamame , salted soybeans and karaage , a kind of deep fried chicken nugget. There are also soy dishes such as hiyayakko, cold tofu with different savory toppings. This is a popular summer dish perfect with cold beer on a warm humid night . Izakayas also serve yakitori, grilled chicken kabobs that have been marinated in some kind of ginger sauce and then charcoal roasted.

New York has some good izakaya bars. There is Sakagura , in midtown which offered sake lovers some two hundred varieties of sake. Another well loved place is Soba Totta where you can watch yakitori being grilled . Other big US cities like Boston, LA and Chicago have them as well. You can do a search of your area for them .

Izakaya bars are neat way to enjoy good Japanese food and drink if you're pressed for time. They also make great date spots and fun pre and after theater or movie hangouts. You get to experience the best of Japanese food if you're on the run.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Romantic Dinners

Yesterday's New York Times Dining section had an interesting article about romantic dinners. It mentioned all the places couples ate at during the various stage s of their courtship. After all what works for a first date may not for one several months later. Then again it depends upon the people eating.

The article, cleverly written by Melena Ryzik is also most like an anthropologist's guide of modern dating and eating habits. Usually Internet dates as well as first dates meet over drinks and tapas or any bar that serves fresh from the oven nibble.s As a couple progresses with their relationship both the attitude and the restaurant get more intimate and cozy. They may head over to a pizzeria or just go restaurant hopping or as it's known eat along date. A couple may wind up in one place for ramen noodles and then for some edame and sake at an izakaya , This last is now springing up allover Manhattan andy it's which is kind of like a Japanese tapas bar. Of course, there are the burgers and fries joint as well where you can be relaxed and yourself.

Unfortunately the article doesn't mention what to do about more expensive dates. New York is full of intimate cozy restaurants that cater to couple.s. The West Village has plenty of them . however these come with a celebrity cachet that can disturb a candlelit evening alone. Although for a really romantic meal nothing beats a bateau dinner ride around the island. here you can enjoy not only good food but a lovely view of New York City.

Romantic meals for two can be anything and anywhere. You don't have to live in New York to experience one. You could use a beach for a fall picnic or a country inn. Even a meal cooked at home with candlelight and just each other is fine too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Know Your Chinese Noodles

Chinese food has wonderful variety and texture. It has crunch and bite , sweet and sour. One of the staples of the cuisine is noodles. Most Americans only know spaghetti’s Eastern cousin lo mein. Yet there are so many more . They can be mixed with a variety of meats and vegetables to form creative and tasty dishes.

Noodles are one of the earliest creations of Chinese cooking. They date from the East Han dynasty about around 30 and 220 AD. There were noodle sellers as early as the Song Dynasty which was between 920 ans1292 D> Even though a popular theory is that Marco Polo brought these noodles back to Italy it’s not true. He probably did eat them on his travels and was reminded of the pasta back home. Noodles can be made from a variety of ingredients. They are either made from wheat or rice starch or mung bean paste. Lo mein are th e most commonly eaten, especially here in the States. There are others that are just as good. There is the cat’s ear that shaped like a triangle and eaten with vegetables. Cellophane noodles, made from mung bean are another popular one and are used most commonly for those learning how to cook Chinese.

Like pasta you have to boil the noodles first. However ,unlike pasta, you can then fry them up in a work , skillet or deep fryer, depending upon what you want to do with them.. Usually most noodles only take four to five minutes to boil while the thinner rice ones take only two to three minutes they should be drained in a colander with cold water running on them to stop any further cooking. Cellophane noodles should be soaked in hot water before any cooking to soften them.

Chinese food is made extra wonderful thanks to the variety of noodles. These are the backbone of the cuisine. They add flavor and texture to the different meats vegetables and spices. They also help to vary the menu as well making the cuisine diverse and fun.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Comfort Food For Chilly Days

As we glide from October to November it;s time to think about what warms us up and keeps us happy. What makes a good comfort food on a brisk , day or during a cold, rainy evening? All of us have our favorites. It could be a bowl of hot soup or a nice grilled cheese. Comfort food could star the day off or end it.

Soup is always a good warmer upper for these late October days. It's light yet filling and acts almost as antifreeze against the damp and nip. I always like pumpkin soup on those days. it;s filling and hearty while connecting me to my family and their past. There's also something soothing about the mix of the pumpkin blend with milk and butter as well. Another fall favourite is beef or mushroom barley soup. One of my favorite Jersey diners The Coach House in North Bergen has an excellent version of it, with the soup being more of a potage , rich with large beef and tomato chunks. Another comfort food that I like is a good bacon and eggs meal. Mind you, I eat soy bacon these days but the taste is the same as the real stuff. It makes for a great Sunday night dinner with toast and tea.

Other people have their own cold weather comfort foods. meat loaf is big this time of year. Some friends of mine find it their security blanket during rough times. Their version of it is a couple of slabs of it smothered in gravy with a side of mashed potatoes. others like the foods of their heritage such as my Greek friends with their passion for dolmades or Chinese students loving hot noodle dishes , reminiscent of ones that neighborhood street vendors back home sell

Everyone has their favorite cold weather comfort foods. What's yours? Is it a warm breakfast that prepares you for the day?A hot soup after a stressful business meeting? Or a childhood favorite to be savored over a Saturday of raking leaves? Every one has a go to comfort food. Let's hear from you foodies out there about makes you happy during these chill, brisk autumn days.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Prosecco - The Other Italian Champagne

There’s nothing like a good glass of champagne with a meal. It celebrates not only the event but the taste and flavors of the food before it. Usually most people reach for a good French variety. However the Italians produce an excellent one called Prosecco. This is a dry champagne with not as many bubbles but a lot of flavor.

Prosecco is Italy‘s answer to Dom Perignon. It’s not as sweet tasting as Asti Spumante and is not as overly fizzy as it is either. It has a light lemony taste that is perfect with everything from pasta to risotto , from meat s to fish. It is fermented from Prosecco grapes that have been around since Roman times . In fact Pliny the Elder praise din as the vinum procinum. The name Prosecco came from the town of prosecco, located near Trieste in Italy‘s Northeast corner. However it’s now made in Piedmonte , rivaling Asti Spumanti in production It is cheaper to make thanks to the Chermat method of fermentation. This method allows the wine to go through the second fermentation in pressurized tanks rather than in individual bottles. No turning the bottles every day as in Champagne. The shorter, tank fermentation is preferable for Prosecco because it preserves the freshness and the flavor of the grapes.

Prosecco is more of a summer wine and served with light summer dishes as opposed to heavy pastas. However I had mine the other night with a wonderful dish of artichoke ravioli. It really complimented it and brought out the taste of the sage butter sauce and the artichoke filling itself. However Prosecco is recommended with vegetables so maybe that’s why everything worked. It’s also the main ingredient in a Bellini that wonderful peach cocktail known in Venice. I plan on buying and serving Prosecco this way for holiday brunches,

If you’re looking for a better alternative to Champagne then try Prosecco. Its’ light dry taste will make you an instant fan . It’s the perfect holiday drink this season.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Party In Or Party Out - That is The Question

We all love throwing parties. Who doesn't. It's a fun time t meet friends, break diets and catch up on everything. The problem is what's a better venue? At home? In a restaurant? Or a hall? Which can give you the better time? Is it worth spending days creating party food along with cleaning up the house? Would a dinner in a fancy restaurant be better?Or how a bout a hall that can offer plenty of room plus space for dancing? What makes for the perfect party ?

My own preferences lean towards dinner at a restaurant I'm familiar with and I know the food will be good. it's easier this way. Guest can order what they like along with the drink of their choice. I usually throw in a few appetizers and end with a variety of desserts. I don't have to worry about dishes, clean up or leftovers. Everything is taken care of. I'm not fond of parties in halls. The whole idea of eating while someone blares The Village People's"YMCA " or the Black Eyed Peas"Boom Boom Pow" while I'm eating is irritating. Besides my family and friends are not known for mingling and I'd be a go between for the two separate camps. A n affiar at the local ELKS hall may work for some people but not for me.

As far as having parties at home, again this is a lot of work. Some people love them. It;s a chance to show off their culinary and hostessing skills. Don;'t get me wrong . This is great but planning and executing any party is labor intensive. You have to make dishes that you know will be guaranteed crowd pleasers along with catering to tastes, beliefs and diets. Then there's the headache of how much alcohol to serve. One drunk guest can get you in trouble. Another problem is the clean up. Do you want to stay up til two AM washing dishes and vacuuming? This used to happen to us when my folks would have get togethers. The guests would conveniently leave around midnight and we'd be stuck with their mess. Not good. Think twice before you want to host a big get together at your house. However home parties you can relax more in your living or dining rooms.

What is the best venue for a party ? That's your choice. If you feel you can handle a home one, then go for it. by If not then book your favorite restaurant and let others do the work. After all it's your big do. party the way you want.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Doughnuts And Cider A Fall Tradition

Autumn is full of good treats and good eats. There's pumpkin soup, caramel apples and apple pie along with roasted squashes and braised cabbages. Another fall standard are doughnuts and cider. You can't have one without the other. They are a sweet reminder of why we love fall.

Doughnuts are actually an international cake with variations throughout the world. They are big in Israel where' they're served for Hanukkah and China where there a several variations. The French make their own called beignets while the German and the Austrians fry up ones for Lent called fastnachts. (or fasting nights). The American doughnut was thought to have been brought over by the Dutch to Manhattan in the mid 1600's and were called olykoeks. These were rings that were fried and then sprinkled with sugar. They were known as dough nuts later on in the 1700's when the were formed into little nut like balls and fried. Doughnuts as we know them started in 1803 invented by a sixteen year old boy. He then taught his mother how to make them. By the mid 1800's doughnuts were an established food in American cuisine,

Nothing says fall like doughnuts. The best kind are the cinnamon and plain cake ones that go well with a chilled glass of non alcoholic cider. The doughnuts; flavor compliments the tartness of the cider's taste. The drink also helps to cool down the cinnamon's heat and cleanse the palate. Don't try to combine any other types of doughnuts. jelly or chocolate ones or the iced one don't work. Stick with the basics. I like Entemanns' plain cinnamon and powdered sugar types. If you're lucky go to your local farms and pick up a bag of fresh made plain ones.

Nothing goes with this bright fall weather than doughnuts and cider. This is the best treat of the the season. Have some today as part of an October picnic.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Match Points

The big article in yesterday's Times had to do with restaurant giveways, primarily matches. They seem a strange anachronism given today's no smoking bans in eateries. Yet match books giveaways survive, much to the deleight of collectors and the occasional smoker.

The article , written by Katrina Heron, tell about some famous restuarants and their giveaways. New York 's famed Russian tea Room is known for their match book giveraways. Why? Because the covers are considered artwork and for that, valued, highly. The restaurant also hands out special Christmas themed matchboxes during th e holidays. These are bigger and have a picture of a fancy wreath on the cover. Some other known NY restaurants ' giveaways are also pictured. I love La Grenouille which features a reclining crowned frog on a lily pad.The Almond bar has a neat looking one that has it;s lettering against a picture of a neon circle.

Even if you don;t smoke, take th e matches your restaurant offers to you. The covers are great keepsakes (there are even clubs devoted to this ) and the matches do come in handy. I use them to light the burners when the stove is being troublesome or to light candles. They're useful in a black out as well. I do prefer the chocolate mints that most places give with your check however. yet the matches are practical along with the covers being pretty and collectible.

Matches are still a big giveaway even in this smoke free age. Take any that your restaurants give you. They do serve a purpose and they're a nice memento to keep.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Devonshire Specialties

Today is Samuel Taylor Coleridge's birthday (and mine as well. ) To honor one of my favorite poets and shared birthday mates I'd like to explore Devonshire cooking. Devon was the shire where Coleridge was born on this date in 1772. Devon is a wonderful place with the English Channel to the south and the Irish Sea to the North.One of its other towns is Torquay , the town wheret he TV show "Fawlty Towers" was set. However it's also known for its' good food and organic farms.Its' menu takes from its' beautiful farmland.

One of the county's most famous foods is clotted cream.This is actually a variation of yogurt first brought to the UK by Phoenician traders around the time of Christ. Another explanation is that it was used as a way of preserving milk in the 1500's. Now it is made of standing unpasteurized milk that is left to set in a shallow pan. The cream that rises to the top thickens or becomes clotted.It's spread over scones and is one of the prime foods in an English "cream tea". Devon is also known for its' cheese and wonderful cider called scrumpy. The area has lush farms and a temperate climate so it's perfect for growing all sort s of fruits such as apples and vegetables like carrot s and turnips.

Devon is also hosting a food festival this month as well. There are several activities going on as well as restuarants that offering a tast e of Devon' abundant homegrown produce. Visitors can try some organic beef burgers as well as sides of beef , and lamb. Some events will feature the area's special cider sand apple wines.

Devon is just as beautiful as it was in Coleridge's time. There are still farms and dairies that offer the best of British cooking. STC would feel right at home today with a glass of scrumpy and a plate of fresh baked scones topped with clotted cream!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Culinary Sparks From The Firehouse

We rely on our firemen so much . They are there from the serious to the mundane (getting kitty out of the tree) They risk our lives for us and always think of their fellow 'brothers' in times of need. They are also great cooks with some kicking recipes. There are even cooking competitions that are exclusively for firefighters.

Firehouse cooking started out of necessity. There had to be firemen on the ready at the firehouse. Unfortunately some were there during the meal time hours. if a man could could then he was the one elected. Simple meals such as chili , and meatloaf were made. These were easy to whip up and agreeable with everyone. Soon competitions were breaking out about who could make the best chili. In the past few decades other recipes, some downright cordon bleu , were added to both the firefighter's diets and contests. There are chicken fajitas and spaghetti bolognese. Some even make their own sauces along with baked goods.

Some firehouses also have compiled cookbooks featuring their best recipes. There is also a website entitled This is neat site and even has a section where you can type in your leftovers and then a recipe will appear using what you have. I browsed through it and found a really interesting oatmeal cake that sounds perfect for the holidays. I also like the simple recipe for chicken cutlets as well as the ones for the Italian dishes. The directions are easy to follow so even beginners could make the meals without a problem.

Firefighter are not just the heroes we look up to.They're the chefs that constantly awe us. Their recipes and contributions have added greatly to American cuisine. They know how to fight fire and cook with it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Inn Food

This is the season to visit inns. There‘s nothing like a relaxing fall weekend at a bed and breakfast. You can enjoy the foliage, a walk on a crisp beach or invigorating mountain hike. You can go antiquing or pick up some fun knickknacks for your home. Bes tof all you can experience some good home made food thanks to the inn’s owners.

Most inns serve very homey breakfasts , brunches and sometimes lunches. You can wind up a huge helping of bacons and eggs plus fresh made waffles and pancakes. Some get a little fancier with their own muffins and scones. A few more ambitious B&B owners will create breakfast strata or French toast made with croissants. Some will also provide the eggs from on site chicken coops and fruits from their own trees. All are accompanied with endless cups of steaming coffee and hot tea. The breakfasts are also communal to you can chat and even help the owners or get to know other guests. This way you can also find like minded people to accompany you to the often quaint nearby towns or scenic vistas.

Some B & B’s do serve lunch and dinner but these are the ones that have onsite restaurants. Both meals will probably be served family style and will have many local recipes and specialties. There are some in the Chesapeake area that make wonderful crab cake sand crab fritters. Some Pennsylvania ones draw from their local product and some good solid Amish dishes.

This is not only the time to relax at a cozy B&B but to enjoy the good, homemade food to has to offer. After a relaxing night’s sleep you can fill up on a goody hearty and tasty breakfast. It’s the perfect start for a fall weekend away!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Today Is Sweetest Day!!!

October 17th is a national holiday! It's Sweetest Day a day devoted to all things sweet, especially candy and more specifically chocolate. Actually I had forgotten about this.Let's face any October holiday is overshadowed by Halloween. However this one is a fun one too and celebrates candy.Unlike the other this has a deeper meaning and remind sus to be selfless.

Sweetest Day isn't one of these new-fangled holidays to brew up trade for candy companies. it was actually started in 1922 by Herbert Birch Kingston in Cleveland. it was designated to be the third Saturday in October and was created for the benefit of Cleveland orphans and shut ins..The holiday still a big one there as it is in Detroit and Buffalo. People give and receive small boxes of chocolate along with sweet notes. It's to remind people that others in their lives have meaning and worth.

This Sweetest Day I'll be buying little ballotins from Butlers for family . The candy shop has the best candy and I want my relatives to appreciate the good taste of fine chocolates. I also want them to know that they mean the world to me and this a very small way of thanking them for doing too much. It's also a nice way of reminding them that they do mean so much to me.

This Sweetest Day treat your friends and loved ones to a small gift of chocolate or even a random act of kindness. Remind them of how much they mean to you and how they sweeten up your life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cannolis - That Sicilian Treat

Sicily is known for a lot of things: its ancient culture, its; beautiful beaches and of course its variety of foods, including pastries. The last has a srtandout universally loved by everyone. This is the cannoli, a crisp fried tube filled with a creamy ricotta mix. There have been variations on the recipe but the original one is the best.

Cannoli which is the plural started in Palermo during the Carnevale season leading up to lent. The tubes were representative of fertility and possibly first served a the harem of Caltisenetta indicating an Arab influence, The shells themselves are made from butter flour, vegetable oil and sometimes a dash of cinnamon for added flavor and color. These are then fried in hot oil and left to drain on paper towels. The filling traditionally is a blend of ricotta or marscapone cheese, and confectioner‘s sugar blended to a creamy consistency. Chocolate chip are added as are citron and candied cherries to give it color and taste. Once the cannoli are filled the ends can be dusted with chopped green pistachios. The cannoli should be eaten when the shell is crispy and fresh otherwise the filling will sog up the pastry.

There are some variations to it. Fro one you can buy premade cannoli shells which does save a lot of time and trouble. I’ve bought these and found they were OK. I also vary mine with filling them with pudding and ice cream for a different spin. Some New York bakers do their own thing, such as dipping the shells in dark chocolate or adding unusual flavors such as root beer and peanut butter and jelly to the fillings. The best cannolis , though are the traditional ones with little or no change to the original recipe.

Cannolis are a wonderful treat, They offer both a crispy crunch and a soft sweet filling. They’re a wonderful dessert with a cup of hot steamy espresso, especially now during the fall.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pasta And Cake Make For Good Reading

Yesterday's Times Dining section had two fun articles. One was an article with an Italian pasta historian and writer while the other had to deal with the blog Cake Wrecks which features badly decorated bakery cakes. Being a big fan of both pasta and cake I enjoyed them both, learning and laughing along the way. The Times certainly had a good buffet of articles featured yesterday.

The first article, written by Rachel Donadio is an interview with Bolognese writer Oretta Zanini de Vita. Signora' de Vita's latest book The Encyclopedia of Pasta has just been translated into English and is out in the bookstores now (this is a perfect Christmas gift. ) She also has debunked the e myth about Marco Polo bringing pasta to Italy from China. He didn't it has been around since the 800 AD. Some like ravioli came with Muslim invasions of Sicily. Another fascinating fact I didn't know is that my family's province of Piedmonte makes pasta that resembles newly minted coins. This was really interesting and interesting to see the models for them.

The other article is just s light hearted look at cakes done wrong. Written by David Hochman it tells of Jen Yates, the creator of the blog Cake wrecks and show some of the worst decorated bakery cakes on earth. This is a blog I have to visit just to see what other goofs and gaffes bakers have done to birthday and other sorts of celebratory cakes. The book is a great gift for any cake baker or lover.

Think of the Encyclopedia of Pasta and Cake Wrecks when you go Christmas shopping this year They are the perfect additions to any true blue foodie's library.One is an intelligent and fun look at pasta through the ages while one is just a fun look ats cake decorating gone amok.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Fall Favorite Pumpkin Soup

This is the time for anything pumpkin. It’s everywhere from doughnuts and muffins to lattes. However my favorite pumpkin recipe is a savory one. It’s a family recipe from Piedmont and it’s several generations old. I imagine the original was made with squash but was changed to pumpkin as the gourd became more available in Northern Italy.

There are several different recipes out there for pumpkin soup. Some have a variety if ingredients such as curry , cumin and coriander. Some call for a dash of hot pepper or smoked bacon. I prefer our recipe that has one can of pumpkin pie mix, or fresh pumpkin, sauteed onions, chicken broth and whole milk. These are cooked and simmered together to form a thick but creamy bisque like soup. We add long grained white rice to it to for more texture and flavor (I don’t recommend alborio ), I gild the lily and add a huge dollop of butter to my bowl . It just gives it more richness and somehow heightens the pumpkin taste.

My family’s recipe is so rich and flavorful that we don’t serve it with anything else. We nix the usual go withs like salads or sandwiches. There’s no way we’re going to sully this soup’s flavor with other tastes. We also forgo crackers and bread. It’s just best on its’ own like risotto Milanese or polenta with hunter gravy.

There’s nothing like a good pumpkin soup. I‘m lucky to have an excellent generations old recipe in my family. I plan on making it this season, it’ll be wonderful to enjoy the savory pumpkin mixed with buttery onions and creamy milk.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Italian Harvest Season

yesterday was Columbus Day and I had forgotten to mention it in this blog. It's nice to have one day dedicated to Italian cooking however the entire month of October should be devoted to it. This is the season for truffles in the north and various grape harvests throughout The Republic. It's the season for hearty pasta dishes and delicious vegetable rich soups.

Italy offers a wide range of flavors during the autumn. Truffles are prime for the picking right now in my family's Piedmont, especially around Torino and the smaller wine towns of Asti and Alba. This are delicious shaved over risotto or polenta. They're also pressed into oil which is a great addition to any pasta or meat dish. The autumn is also a time for rich brodos , meat broths filled with pastas and late season tomatoes. This is also the time for pumpkin soup popular around western Piedmonte. it's so deliciously thick and flavorful, redolent with the gourd along with onions chicken broth and milk. It's perfect for those cool evenings when you want something satisfying and warming.

Italian harvest include fruits as well. There are the light delicate apple fritters that go well after a brunch to the raspberry and plum laden crostatas. these are buttery crusted tarts that have been filled usually with fruits and an almond paste. It's also the season to put away the gelati and make zablalione, that frothy concoction of egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine.

The entire month of October should belong to Italy, and not just one day. This is the month where kitchens abound with the all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Its the season to appreciate nature's bounties and good recipes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cider Time

Fall is here and that means cider. There;s nothing as refreshing as apple cider on a crisp October day. Its' taste is sharp and it's has an invigorating tang. If you want more of a kick, then have a glass of the lard kind. This is the season for for any kind of cider, hard or soft.

Cider is one of our oldest beverages.The name comes from a variation of the Hebrew shekar and the Greek sikara . Saint Jerome called it sicera and from that came the old French word cidre. The Romans found the Kentish villagers drinking it as early as 55 BCE. It was one of the most popular drinks during the Middle Ages and apple orchards, grown exclusively for cider flourished under England's Norman period. It came to North America with the colonists and it was easier to brew than beer or wine. It was the colonies' most consumed beverage. Now it is divided in to the alcoholic hard and the non - soft. Hard cider today is a wonderful accompaniment to cheese and crackers or to a hearty cassoulet. Soft cider is good with that fall favorite, fresh made cinnamon doughnuts.

Cider itself is a mash of cider apples that goes through a large hydraulic press. It's mashed to the consistency of apple sauce and then placed between layers of cloth. The soft variety should be pasteurized because it is a petri dish for botulism and has caused deaths in recent years. Unpasteurised cider is made and sold at some family owned farms and has a purer taste than the mass produced kind. However it is risky to drink so be careful when buying it.

The is the season for a large glass of cider. Its' sweet tart taste is perfect for those hearty fall dishes and flavors. Enjoy a glass now with a good dinner or for dessert with some fresh baked doughnuts or crullers..

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Another Greek Treat Dolmades!

I must be on a Hellenic kick because today I'm writing about another Greek food -dolmades - stuffed grape leaves. This ancient recipe is perfect for these modern times. It can be made as an appetizer or as a light dinner accompanying kabobs. They're easy to make as well and don't require a knack or even a family recipe.

Ironically enough dolmades comes from the Turkish word for stuffed, dolmek and means stuffed thing. Dolmeks could apply to any filled vegetable such as a hollowed out squash. In the Greek cuisine it means that the leaves are stuffed with a mix of lentils, long grained rice and currents. Spices such as cinnamon, dill and parsley are also added as are ground pine nuts. Dolma in the Arabic world can be varied from this. Most countries such as Turkey and Armenia add ground lamb along with onion, The spices differ as well. Allspice and black pepper are used to create a different flavor. Sometimes dried fruits such as dried figs and cherries are added to the meatless ones.

Making dolmades is relatively simple. You just have to parboil the packaged leaves to soften them and rid them of any brine left from packaging. This only takes two to three minutes. Don't throw away any torn or damaged leaves because they can be used to patch holes in torn dolmades. let them drain on paper towels . You then spread out the leaves with the shiny side down and put one to two tablespoons of stuffing in them . Roll and then tuck the ends inside so that the dolmades resemble small cigars. layer them two to three rolls high in a baking dish. Pour in a mix of lemon juice olive oil and water and cook over a medium heat for about forty five minutes to an hour. You can serve with a creamy yogurt cucumber dip or them plain.

Dolmades are an easy Greek treat that's fun to make and to eat. They serve as the perfect appetizers for parties or for a simple dinner with a salad. They are versatile as they are a cinch to create!

Friday, October 9, 2009

My New Love Greek Yogurt

I just happened upon Greek yogurt yesterday . I was looking for soy which my local A&P did not have and came across the Chobani brand. I had always heard a lot about the Greek style and how it was far more superior to the American. It was and after one cup I was instantly hooked.

Greek yogurt is far more creamier and thicker than regular yogurt. The reason being is that it's made with ewe's milk as opposed to cow's milk. The texture is ultra creamy like creme fraiche blended with sour cream. The taste is slightly a bit tarter than what I'm used too but still good. I like the fact that Chobodos does not put a lot of fruit in their yogurt. the peach only had a modicum of chopped peaches and the taste was not overwhelmingly fruity (as it is with most American style yogurts) I also bought the blueberry and pomegranate and can't wait to try them.

I also plan on getting the plain variety too. Greek yogurt makes an excellent base for dips and is not as heavy as regular sour cream. It's also good,for baking and probably produces a richer cake. I'm looking forward t using it and other Greek varieties in my future cooking. It'll make a world of difference without a world of calories too. Plus it's a good source of calcium and an easy way to get it.

If you haven't already tried Greek yogurt do so. You'll be hooked by its' creaminess and creme fraiche flavor. It's a great addition to any diet and any kitchen!!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Diffrent Breed Of Fried Chicken

It's Thursday, fellow foodies and you know what that means. It's time to dissect another article from yesterday's New York Times Dining Section. This time it's about the different cultural spins on the American classic, fried chicken. It has a new spin, thanks to the Asian and Latin American influence throughout New York City. It's not the fried chicken we grew up on but a tastier, more flavorful version,

The article, written by Julia Moskin tells of the ways ethnic groups, particularly the Chinese and Koreans put their mark on this typically Southern fare. Chinese chef such as Yong Quan Yang at Manhattan's Congee Village and the restaurant's owner , Eddie Yee, like to rub a whole chicken with a mix of white vinegar and malt syrup. The inside of the bird is then rubbed down with a five spice mixture that includes garlic and ginger. It hangs in front of a fan to dry for five hours, much like that of a Peking duck and then fried in a glaze of sugar, Thai sauce along with sesame oil , white pepper and soy sauce. They throw in deep fried crispy garlic and - voila- the perfect fried chicken. This is something that sounds so good, just reading about it makes your mouth water reading about it. I hope that Ms. Moskin got to sample and enjoy this different kind of chicken.

The article also mentions the Korean and Latin Caribbean fried chicken variations. The Korean sounds hotter with its' huge dollop of chili peppers (about three tablespoons). However it also has ketchup and sugar to mellow out the taste. the Latin Carib version sounds yummy. I've had variations of this where the chicken is marinated in lime and garlic along with a seasoned mix of cumin coriander seed and annatto.

Fried chicken doesn't have to be just about the crust. A flavorful meat can also star as well. By adding different spices and techniques fried chicken can be tasty inside and out!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Harvest Time, Fun Time

This is the time of year to take the little foodies apple and pumpkin picking. It’s time to teach them that some foods doesn’t originally come from grocery stores but from plants. It’s also time to show them the goodness of a handpicked harvest and how delicious fresh picked fruit can be.

Most states along the East Coast right now are ripe with all sorts of bounties. New Jersey ,New York and Pennsylvania all have their trees heavy with Macs and Golden Delicious. New England is also ready for apple season as well with dozens of farms now opening their orchards to locals and visitors. Also California and Michigan farms are now open to apple picking too. Most advertise with coupons in local papers so keep your eyes peeled for some great offers. Some farms also have rip grape vines right now so you could do some late season picking for them as well. Of course all farms have pumpkins. Remember to save the seeds for some serious healthy snacking later on.

Farms also have other fresh made products as well. Stock up on some apple butter as well as cider. This is also the time to treat the little ones to homemade cookies and hand dipped caramel and candied apples too. Farms also have great vegetables from leftover harvests so take advantage of any late blooming tomatoes or corn as well. This last two depend on where you live.

Now is the time to get out there and enjoy every aspect of fall. This is the season to relish all the facets of Mother Nature from the fresh , chill air, to the tangy taste of just picked apples . Enjoy this harvest time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oh Fishsticks!!!

Fish fingers or sticks are one of every foodie;s childhood favorites; Who can forget those crunchy long wands filled with flaky cod , dipped in catsup . They were usually served on Friday and usually had a good helping of crunchy fries with them.. Luckily they haven;t gone out of production so another generation of kids can enjoy them. Besides they're a brain food, full of omega 3 which enhances brain development.

There are two brands that stand out to me. Mrs Pauls' , first developed in 1947 and Gorton's which is oneof the US's oldest food companies, , started in 1847. I love them both , but have a weakness for the first. Mr's. Paul's fish sticks were always so crispy it was like eating a snack food as opposed to something good for me. Now the company has fish shaped nuggets along with healthy fish sticks. Their crab cakes look delicious and I think I will be trying those out soon with some homemade cole slaw.

Gorton's was also a childhood favorite and remained so until my adulthood. This is one of the countries oldest starting in 1847 with the sons of French and Indian war veteran,. John Pew starting a dried cod fishery. Gortons has expanded too over the years and now includes shrimp and tilapia along with a low calorie, healthier brand of frozen fish. The company also produces some nice looking flavored filets that are on my must try list as well. They're kind of the grown up version of fish sticks.

Fish sticks are a wonderful; childhood memory. Luckily my favorite brands are still on the market to be tried whenever I like. There's nothing like a fish stick and chips dinner to make me feel warm and fuzzy. It's like being a kid all over again.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stop In At Stop & Shop

My idea of a fun Saturday night is heading over to my local Stop & Shop. It shows just how much of a true foodie I really am. I love this grocery store. It has all sorts of neat products that I can’t get at grocery chains. Going in there is like visiting a fairyland. it’s just wonderful, full of fresh baked goodies and aisle upon aisle of tempting foods.

What do I like most about the store? There is the bakery that has tons of cookies, muffins, breads and pies to choose from. Bad enough they have their own yummy brand of organic chocolate chips, there are homemade black and white cookies, fruit pie wedges and small cakes to make me go off my diet. I also love their vast array of cold cuts and cheeses. it’s like walking into a full blown deli with the amazing selection of salamis, portabellas along with Parmesans and Bries.

Another aspect that I love is the fact the store has stocks up on every variety of food stuff as well. If you' re looking oatmeal, there are dozens of kinds to sort through, if you’re looking for a frozen pizza, Stop and Shop has every brand and flavor out there. This is the best place to load up on food before an upcoming winter storm. They also have a good array of household cleaners, light bulbs, pet and baby items.

As a foodie I love going to Stop & Shop. There’s so much to choose from. I can treat myself to some gourmet goodies while planning out my week’s menu. It’s just a neat place if you re into food.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Home Baked Goodness - Biscuits

October is definitely baking weather. It's the season to get out the measuring cups, flour and pans. What better way to welcome in the cooler temps than with a plate of nice, hot biscuits? They're relatively easy to make and good with a fall morning breakfast of bacon and eggs.

Biscuits come from the British hardtack and mean twice cooked. usually the word means cookie in Brit English but someone the meaning kind of veered off (Our word cookie is from the Dutch koekje or little cake). it's derives from the Latin meaning twice baked and is similar to the Italian biscotti. The closest European equivalent is the English or Scottish scone or bannock from the Shetland islands. This is a small bread made with baking soda or baking powder rather than yeast. This ingredient acts as a leavener. Most biscuits are for breakfast but you could make yours for a strawberry or peach shortcake.

What makes a good biscuit? The exact amount of ingredients is crucial to producing a tender , fluffy biscuit that almost melts in your mouth. Another important factor is that it's kneaded by hand to get the right texture. The third comes from baking the batter in a very hot oven. The top should be a golden brown and the inside should be moist and somewhat chewy(you can tell when they're done by inserting a toothpick. if it comes out clean m they're finished). Some bakers add honey or cheddar (as Red Lobster does) to make them more flavorful. That depends on you and what you have planned. There's nothing like a cheese biscuit stuffed with bacon and scrambled egg for a brunch. Of course a honey biscuit is nice ,served with butter or clotted cream for a tea.

Whip up a batch of biscuits. for your fall brunch or breakfast. there's nothing like the melt in your mouth texture or the sweet flavor of a good old , down home biscuit. It's perfect with a good cup of hot coffee or tea when the leaves start falling.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Foodie Differences

I teach college freshmen who have only been in this country a few weeks. They are straight form China and still are feeling their way around American ways . This also applies to their eating habits as well. I found out today via a discussion that they are not used to American cooking. We may have some yummy dishes but they're still hard to swallow.

The one thing that impressed them was that our food is too soft. I heard this also from an Italian cousin who visited me int he early 1980's. The food , especially the bread was too gooey and gummy, not like the crusty loves she was used to . My students have a similar complaint about chicken. It's too mushy for them although this could be that they're eating cafeteria food. That can skew your idea of it (again this was the same cafeteria that made me gain the "Freshman Fifteen" back in the late Seventies obviously my alma mater went downhill food wise). Other foods are too bland or too salty. Again I'm sensing a matter of mass produced service style food. They didn't have too many growls when we ate at New York's hard Rock Cafe a few weeks back.

Chinese food here is not going to be the same as it is back home for them either. I know from a Chinese colleague , that about a cup of sugar is dumped into some Chinese American dishes to make it more appealing to our palates. (this doesn't say much about us). The kids want food that doesn't have the weird colored sauces or overly flavored recipes. They want fresh as I can see when I teach their morning class. They are always noshing on fresh cut pineapple or apples ,. I don't see any American students with that.

There is a world of differences right now between us. One of them is food. In a few years, I know, that gap will be somewhat closed. They'll experience pizza and cupcakes, sloppy joes and chocolate shakes. For now though they may be here but their palates are back in their homeland.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Late Summer Harvests

Yesterday's; Food Section of the Times was all about using up the last of the garden harvest.This is a good idea but what exactly do you do ? After all by this time you're probably sick of eating all those tomatoes squash an cucumbers. Not to worry. The article has some interesting ideas.

Melissa Clark's piece was full of good suggestionss. I liked her idea for a fig (although I'm not a big fan of the fruit) tart. Here she take s leftover figs and makes a savory tart with them. In it go in onions rosemary and Stilton cheese. It's then poured on a pre made phyllo dough crust an d baked for 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven. This is a nice way of getting rid of any left over fig. I imagine you could sub in any veggie like peppers and squash ans surprisingly even apples to create this dish.

Another good idea is ratatouille This time cook it with sausage and bake it in a pot pie with a corn meal crust. this is a more interesting take on the recipe and something a family might appreciate. Another intriguing recipe is an eclair not filled with cream, but with tomatoes and ricotta cheese. It;s the same principle as a sweet one but with a savory filling. it;s a great wayto rind your fridge of the bumper crop of both the vine ripened fruit and basil.

Don't worry if your freezer or fridge is bursting with the last of the summer harvest. There are many ways in which you can use up those leftover tomatoes figs and peppers along with squash. Just be creative!