Friday, December 31, 2010

Eating Lucky In The New Year

It's New Year's Eve and it;s time for celebrating .Its' the time for eating foods that will bring us luck in the new year. Many of us have cultural as well as personal superstitions or beliefs.They can range from sugary to savory.

The Germans have thier own fish influenced way of bringing in a brand new year. It's customary to eat herring for good luck and prosperity. There's nothing like a bite of the fish to ring in good times and hopefulness. Hopping John or black eyes peas are what they eat in the South, their origin coming from Africa. The Scots have the ever yummy haggis which is oatmeal and offal inside a sheep's gut. (seriously) It;'s usually not just eaten tonight but uring th e entire month though.

New year;s food traditions also have a sweet side. The Jews start Rosh Shannah off by eating something sweet to ensure a sweet year and some carry it into the Christian year as well. The Spanish start off the New Year's countdown with twelve grapes each representing a sweet new year and for the twelve stroke son the clock. Greek people bake a cake in which a ring is hidden. If it's found then that person receives good luck for the next year.

Food and tradition will always go together. It's no more evident tonight on New Year's Eve. Ring it in with a your favorite or cultural dishes. They may just bring you luck.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Quiche

Yesterday's Wednesday;'s Dining section in the Times had a recipe for quiche. This is a great dish to serve in the upcoming days. it;s not only a party dish but a super easy one to make. Plus you can vary it to suit guests tastes.

The recipe is from Melissa Clark who contributes a recipe almost every week to the Dining section. This weeks she tries Julia Child;s famed quiche Lorraine with quiche au fromage. This is a silky custard-y blend of egg, heavy cream and shredded sharp cheddar. The crust is a simple yet lard rich crust, perfect for holding the heavy contents. I have to recommend making your own crust for quiches. i think it's always better than the store bought ones and also less watery.

Although Ms. Clark sticks to the traditional quiche flavors. You can vary it by subbing in ham bit for the bacon. There is even a recipe calling for devilled ham.A seafood quiche is not unheard of. Most call for a cup of crab meat but you can also thrown in lobster bits and shrimp. Vegetable based quiches are also good. there;s nothing like a spinach or a broccoli one.For these you can use fresh or frozen, just make sure that the spinach is dried before adding to the quiche.

There;s nothing like ringing in the New Year with a good , warm quiche. It is a filling and festive party dish that everyone likes. Make the traditional or the variations for some great holiday eating!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Best Of 2010 NY Restaurants

What were the best foods of 2010? The best restaurants? The best dishes? The New York Times regular Sam Sifton tackles these question in today's New York Times Dining section. he lists the best and the tastiest. There are also a fewI'd like to add in too.

Of course Da Posto, New York;s finest restaurant is listed. Everyone loves Lidia Bastianich's great gourmet restaurant. the recipe from there is a whole wheat spaghetti graced with bonito flakes and spicy chickpeas. There is a recipe for this in the paper and I guess if you can't find the bonito flakes then sparingly use flaked tuna in oil as a sub in. Sifton also mentions burgundy snails from the Mark restaurant. This is an homage to when new York had some of the finest French eateries outside of Paris. He also lists a great guacamole des frutas at the Mexican restaurant Toloache. It is a guacamole dip that has cranberries pears and apples added to it for a sweet twist.

New York has held a lot of good places for me too - not as pricey as Mr. Sifton's list but still good. Nothing beats every dish at Marinella;s on Carmine Street int he West Village (on the same block as Our Lady of Pompeii). This restaurant has homemade polenta and cold cuts similar to what my Piedmontese relatives and ancestors made. it also has excellent and elegant desserts. Another fave is Le Grainne at 21st and 9th. This is the poor man s French restaurant. For a reasonable price you can get melt in your mouth crepes. This to me is the best food ever and I plan to go back for the new Year. For unbeatable German food there is Rolf''s on Third Ave near Gramercy Park . I love this place because its like my grandfather;s family recipes are made here. There are hearty potato pancakes and thick wursts to chow down on.This is hearty food and it's perfect if you're visiting the city this winter.

These are some of the Times; favorites and mine. New York has amazing places that have to be discovered. Come to the city and pick your favorites of the upcoming year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Curry That Chill Chaser

There;s nothing like a fiery curry to keep you warm after a cold winter';s day. It;'s spice brings heat to even the most bone chilled part of the body. It evokes sunny India with its' heat and passion, bright colors and sensual sights and sounds. Curry is the perfect pick me up during these frosty winter days.

The dish goes back to 1700 BCE to Mesopotamia it 's mname comes from esthe tamil work kari which was Anglicized into curry. The English have been using curry recipes since RichardII's day during the 1300's. It is a mixuture fioseveral differene spices and not just one,In Indioa it is usually associated with gravies and stews. It's made of turmeric, cumin , coriander seeds, cinnamon, black pepper and mustard to name a few. One of the easiest to make is a simple curry sauce with chicken . Mix two tablespoons curry powder with a cup and a half of milk and four tablespoons flour. You can add a dash of onion salt if you want too. Pour over sauteed chicken and vegetables ( which are being sauteed in in oil ) . This is a simple and easy curry dish,

You can also use dried curry as a rub. There;s nothing like curry lamb or goat which are popular in Jamaica.This type of rub is no different than any other. Just simply cover the meat, let stand for about fifteen minutes before grilling on an indoor grill. You can also try this with pork , especially with chops or ribs. Curry rub can be made as fiery as you can stand it for extra zing

Curry is a great way of combating the winter chill. it;s brings a warm bloom to the body, melting away any iciness from outside. it;s the perfect chill chaser on these frosty frigid nights!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Foodie In A BLizzard

This is the time for blizzards which we've seen recently today in the New York Metro area. .This is the time to have a well stocked pantry full of the basics. After all you're not only going to be stuck inside but you're also not going to reach your local stores for a day or two. Keep favorite foods at hand during these times.

Always have the basics on hand, these are eggs, milk bread and you can make an amazing amount of dishes with them. You can combine all three to make french toast or scramble the eggs with milk or toast for a hearty breakfast or lunch,. I also find that having anything canned, whether Spaghetti-o's or corn are also good. Another good thing to have is peanut butter. Eat some before you do a few rounds of snow shoveling for a burst of quick energy.

Of course a blizzard is the perfect time to snack as well. Have plenty of popcorn, chips and pretzels along with dips and soda for the long evening ahead. It's the perfect time to play board games and nosh. Cakes and cookies are also fun and surprisingly enough ice cream. For some reason during the snowiest weather there are some of us who crave a hot fudge or hot caramel sundae. Go figure. For others settle in with a sweet steamy cup of hot cocoa and enjoy a favorite show or book.

don;t let a blizzard throw you . have a well stocked pantry for when the weather turns arctic and a foot of snow is predicted. You'll be warm and safe - and most of all well fed during harsh weather.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers. Enjoy this day with family and friends. I hope you received many food related gifts!!!


Friday, December 24, 2010

The Luxury of Good Eating

I end this series of luxury eating with the best luxury of all food on the table. It's Christmas Eve around the world right now still and many will sit down to sumptuous meals. Many will not.

Enjoy what you with good friends and family. Treasure every bite and think about others who can't or who are separated from loved ones. Truly sharing a turkey or Christmas cake is a luxury no matter how small you may think it is.

A good holiday to my readers around the world. Thanks for the year long support you 've given me and Foodie Pantry. Having devoted fans like you is truly a luxury for me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Time For Champagne

The holidays are officially here and that means toasting them with a good bottle of champagne. The problem is which one? What sparkling wine best signifies the holidays? let;'s face ti there are so many choices that it;s hard to decide.

Luckily there is Eric Asimov' Wines Of The Times column in yesterday;s Wednesday's Dining section. There he described the different sparkling wines He mentions the unique Puet Petillant which is not fermented int eh usual way. Champagnes are made from a second fermentation in which carbon dioxide is trapped inside the vat , carbonating the wine.With this particular brand it's done during the first fermenting in which the grapes ferment into wine. A smaller amount of CO2 is released, creating a less fizzier sparkling wine. It's a smoother , more subtler taste.

Mr. Asimov also mentions a Langlois Chateau Cremant de Loire from France. This is a type of champagne with less carbon dioxide than a regular champagne. This was from Burgundy and had a fresh taste. He also tried Domaine Agape which was a bubbly Chardonnay . This had a spicy taste different from the usual sec or brut flavors the drink is known for. Of course there are also the Italian champagnes from the light crisp Prosecco to the very sweet and frothy Asti Spumante. For luxury of course, there is Angel Champagne, one of the world's most expensive.

Any champagne will do for the holidays. Use this as a guide or simply follow your own tastes. Whatever you choose it'll be the best glass of bubbly to celebrate this festive season!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Still Working

There's an interesting article in today's NY Times Dining section about stills.Yes, stills, those symbols of illicit Prohibition fun. These are different though than those , however. They represent a kind of new wave of micro distillery,.

The article written by Toby Cecchini tells about a variety of distillers who use organic products. Distilling is nothing new to these parts. New Jersey first had applejack while Massachusetts surprisingly manufactured rum. Pennsylvania and Delaware made ryes long before bourbon came into being. it was a large part of the colonial trade. Nowadays it has a slightly different twist. Distillers are offering more wholesomely grown products appealing to the push for all things natural including spirits.

One good thing is that smaller distillers can put a twist on regular flavors. For example molasses can be added to rm for a sweeter, huskier flavor. Fruits can be added to brandies much as they did two or three centuries ago. Botanical can be added to gins to produce something purer in form to the Dutch genever. Another plus is that the alcohol is distilled in aged wooden casks too, similar to European wines.

Smaller distilleries , it seems are making a comeback, It should be interesting to watch what the public thins of them and how they'll grow. They may be the next trend in organic spirits.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Keep A Well Stocked Holiday Pantry

This last few days before Christmas are hectic. there;s still last minute shopping to do. pageants to attend. Guest lists to write out. We may pride ourselves on at least keeping our pantries well stocked for the big day however they do get empty. Also we may also forget to pick up even the e most basic essentials. Before you do anything make sure your holiday pantry is well stocked.

Ask yourself what you'll be needing? if you have more guests inviting themselves then have a few extra cans of veggies. There;s nothing like stocking up on string beans or creamed corn. Ditto for the mashed potatoes. A few boxes of plain or flavored can go a long way in extending a meal.Another is instant or jarred gravy During any big family get together gravy is usually the first thing gobbled up, so make sure you even have instant packets for extra. For guests staying over make sure you have breakfast ingredients like eggs, bacon and pancake mix at hand for those mornings when the kitchen looks more like a restaurant.

Another idea is to keep your dessert pantry filled too. have extra cookies and candies around for nibbling. Kids gobble these up pretty fast and you don;t want to be without. Other foodstuffs that go are soda and juice. Take advantage of the sales right now and buy five to ten bottles during one trip. You may also want to get extra bottles of wine and champagne for the more grown up celebrating. They're probably also going to be heavily used when you make your famous punch.

This holiday don't find yourself low on any food or drink . Keeping a well stocked pantry makes your holiday better. It also is one less headache to worry about during these busy last few days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Minute Foodie Gifts

Christmas is literally right around the corner if you haven;t picked up anything for your favorite foodie, now is the time. The problem is what to get. Do you panic like crazy and pick up the first thing you see? Or debate and deliberate until someone takes it off the shelf before you? The best bet is to calm down. Foodies like everything about food. There's a wide array of stuff you can give.

The first thing you need to do is write a list. Write down if she or he is into creating dishes or more into eating. if it;s creating you can even visit your local supermarket for last minute gift ideas Think about a bask filled with sea salt, peppercorns and favorite spices. Those are always fun. Another idea is cookie cutters, and decorations along with an icer. for the bakers in your life. Gadgets are always of great use. Any Target or K-Mart has a big selection. Every cook needs new whisk and spatulas along with fun things likes decorative timers and cheese graters. Another lovely gift are place mats, napkins and napkin rings. These are perfect for the foodie couple in their first place. Fancy tablecloths also are appreciated too.

For the foodie who likes to eat. you can either create a memorable food basket or give a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant. baskets are fun to make up. You can have a theme, like international teas or coffees or their favorite flavors, like chocolate or caramel. You can even have a soup basket full of dried soup mixes or a pizza lover's basket full of the ingredients to make a pie. Luckily there are also restaurant gift certificates that cater to every taste. Even the smaller , family owned ones offer ones so you can buy from both chain and privately owned for a fun dining experience.

Don't fret if you haven;t bought your favorite foodie her or his gift yet. You still have plenty of choices yet. There are still so many gift ideas to choose from. Have fun !

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Roasts

With Christmas a week away and New Year's a mere two weeks its time to start thinking of what you;re going to be cooking. Moat of you have visited your butchers or your grocery;'s meat counter. Some of you are still in a quandary over what to serve. The best bet is the traditional roast. Here's the question. Roasted what?

Most people usually go for ham or turkey. If you're of German descent the first is always the preferred choice. Ham is relatively easy to bake or roast.It usually just takes an hour and can be glazed with a number of coverings. Pineapple juice and ginger ale are the most popular simply because they break down the pork enzymes, rendering the meat almost butter soft. Turkey again is a great choice because you can feed a large number of people with it it;s also more kid friendly too. Besides there's nothing like leftover turkey too the next day,.

For other ideas think about a whole roast pork or even London broil. Loin of pork can be intimidating to cook at first because of the size. However it;s really no different than any other roast. it takes about two hours to cook. and it's a dry roast. Unlike other roasts you can have fun flavoring it. Try a marinade in either lemon juice or vinegar to break down the enzyme s to make it tender. You can also use a flavorful rub for added taste. London broil is another good holiday choice. It does have to be marinaded for about four hours. You can use garlic, soy or even balsamic vinegar for flavor and then cook for half an hour. London broil is great for smaller dinner parties and just family gatherings.

A holiday roast is always special .You can have tradition with ham or turkey or something new with pork roast or London broil Whatever you choose will be perfect for your Christmas or New Year's table.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eat Your Carats!

Today is the third installment of our holiday luxuries.. Ever want to eat pure gold? Or even silver ? You can . Ask any baker or candy maker about gold or silver leaf or dust and they'll nod knowingly. Nibbling on 24 carat anything is as decadent as you can get.

Gold leaf and dust have been around since the Italian and French Renaissance. Whole dishes were enveloped in them, much to the delight and probable surprise of the court. Risotto was encased in gold as were fruits of Elizabethan England. Unlike other metals, gold is relatively safe to eat and there are no side effects. Nowadays any form of the metal is used primarily in baking,. You can buy gold leaf which are sheets that can be applied to gold dust which looks like metallic salt. There are even shakers for easier sprinkling. Most prices range between $27 to a whopping 95 dollars depending on the weight and quantity. There are some great websites out there that offera variety of different gold.

To a lesser extent silver leaf is also popular.r As with gold you can create fancy desserts and cakes with it. Silver dragee balls have been popular with home and commercial bakers for decades. Many Italian pastry shops will make special occasion cookies using silver dragees . They're also used to top wedding cakes as well. Unfortunately not every US state allows them. California has banned the glittery decorations since 2006.

There;s nothing as decadent as eating a pastry laced with gold or silver. It's the ultimate holiday experience. Try eating these precious metals just for the sheer luxury of it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Branding Brooklyn

Brooklyn is more than just a borough of Manhattan these days. It;s a brand that is practically slapped on anything that comes out of New York's most famous borough. There are pickles. There are chocolates. There are all sorts of good stuff being made from local artisans and being sold in the local shops there and across the East River in fancy Manhattan.

This was explored in yesterday's New York Times Dining section with an article by Steven Stern. It seems food companies large and small want items with any kind of connection to the latest, coolest inspot.There are many artisanal industries starting there and smaller , privately owned brands always generate a buzz. It's no wonder that these companies would be scooped up by giants like Williams and Sonoma and a few others. Brooklyn has a few good home grown products.There are artisanal pickles and beer coming from there. There are even jelly and jam companies too creating spreads from family recipes.

Luckily there are some Brooklyn manufacturers that have their pride and aren't selling to the big chains. These are the true artists who take pride in their work. They may not be nationally famous or bringing in the big bucks but they have integrity. Not to mention a local fan base that spreads the word about them. Maybe that's what this Brooklyn essence is all about. No fancy campaigns to buy this or that. Just word of mouth advertising that gets customers wanting to try the foodstuffs.

Brooklyn is not just a borough. It's a brand of home made products that reflect the tough grittiness the area emanates. The food may be gourmet, but the feeling behind it is down to earth.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Estonian Christmas

Eastern Europe is full of wonderful traditions. Their foods are rich both ion flavor and religious meaning. Most of all they are home cooked which means a lot in this crazy but it already prepared world.

The holiday cuisine is explored in n to days Dining section of the New York Times.It was written by Julia Moskin who covers all sort so different countries in her writing. She writes in lavish detail of the delicious foods from savory to sweet. Estonian cooking can best be described as a hybrid of Polish and Finnish cooking. it sits directly below Finland on the Baltic Sea. it also is next to Poland and so that influence is strong there. The Estonians make home made blood sausage which is a lengthy and time consuming project. They serve it with roast pork , sauerkraut along with lingenberries (the Scandinavian influence) and cranberries

Estonian desserts are somewhat limited. I came across kissel which is a fruit soup. Ms Moskin also mentions roosemanna,a frothy pick concoction of cranberry and semolina's . It's kind of like an alcohol free zabaglione. Surprisingly enough rhubarb pies are favored too. The area isn't too bug on elaborate desserts , just earthy ones.

Estonia has a long and rich history.It;s food reflects that, especially at Christmas time. Recipes are carried through the ages so that generation after generation can enjoy them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Hors D'Oeuvres

No matter how you cut it it;s the holiday party season. That means feeding the crowds with tasty appetizers not to mention appealing to all tastes and preferences. What makes a good hors d' oeuvre platter? Is just a plate of one thing? Or a platter of all varied savory treats? That depends on what you want to make.

Even a novice host or hostess can throw together a good appetizer table. Unlike the main meal or desserts, quick munchies are easy to create. Sometimes they just require some Ritz crackers and pate with a sprig of parsley on the top. Intersperse these withe some cheese cubes and you're good to go. You can elaborate on this theme by subbing in water or even rice crackers and putting various pastes such as ham or salmon on them. Another fun thing is offering a multi cheese board where guests can take what they like. Have a few loaves crunchy Italian or French bread nearby.

For hot appetizers ,try a warmed bruschetta. You can take the fresh sliced tomatoes and cheese on bread rounds and then pop into your broiler. It will get the cheese all bubbly creating a margherita pizza effect. Hot from the oven puffs are always a crowd pleaser. Luckily your grocery has all sorts of flavor in stock. Vary it with a few mushroom, crab and spinach. Serve dips or fiery mustard too with them.

This is the season for fun and tasty horsd' oeuvres.You can go as simple or elaborate as you like .It;s your choice . Either way your guests will love them.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Homemade Holiday Candies

This is the time of year when do it yourself candy makers shine. there;s nothing as fun as putting together Santa pops or making exquisite truffles. Best of all, unlike baking you have unlimited ingredients. You Can have fun turning some of the most mundane stuff into yummy drops or balls. Even add exotic fillings too for some fun. Best of this candy is yours. not some fancy designer label stuff.or ones from an expensive boutique.

The easiest candy to make are chocolate lollipops. I would suggest taking four or five bars of any chocolate whethe r it be Hershey's or Godiva . Put thes e in a plastic bag and them microwave on high for about one minute. Cut corner of the bag with a scissor. Squeeze into molds that already have sticks in them. Dust on sprinkles or nonpareils. . You can also ice them too if you want. Another fun holiday (Or anytime candy ) is haystacks. These are so simple to make. melt one bag of whether milk or dark chocolate chips, Mix in coconut, then place heaping teaspoons of the mixture on greased cookie sheets. let set in a cool dry space. You'll get about one to two dozen depending on the size . peanut or any nut brittle is easy to create too. It's fun as a dessert and even better as a gift it also doesn't take that long to make.

Truffles are a yummy treat and gift. The secret is the creamy filling . For a rich interior use one part cream to two parts unsweetened cocoa. As for extra flavoring you can try Gran Marnier for a rich citrus-y taste or Irish cream. Truffles can also have sea salt and chili (not together though) as ingredients for a different experience. You can then enrobe them in just melted chocolate or dip them in powdered cocoa and/or coconut.

This holiday season, go wild with your candy making . Make fun treats and gifts using just simple chocolate , cream and sugar. You can create wonderful chocolates and brittles that family and friends - and you will thoroughly enjoy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Fun Of Fondues

Nothing says party like fondues. You can have it sweet with rich chocolate or savory with a yummy cheese blend. Even more fun is how the dish brings people together. There's something communal about sharing from one pot. You can talk and gossip while enjoying you favorite flavors.

Fondue may be Swiss in origin but the name comes from the French fondre to melt . it started back in the 18th Century when stale cheese and wine were melted together to extend more dinners. Fondue originally meant any sauce that can be dipped into. Traditional fondues use either Emmenthaler, or Gruyere cheese combined along with whit wine, garlic and dry mustard.Cornstarch is also used to thicken it. and nut meg can be added for extra spice. You should have torn up french bread for dipping however you can add leftover ham chunks too.

A dessert favorite is chocolate fondue.It was started at New York;s famed Chalet Suisse in 1966 by Swiss born Konrad Egli. it took Manhattan food critics by storm and quickly became the party dessert of choice. A true chocolate fondue should have heavy cream , and bittersweet chocolate melted together in the fondue pot. Vanilla can be added but something truly decadent, try adding a dash of liqueur. What to dip into it is easy. Strawberries, pineapples, blueberries, along with marshmallows and pound cake.

Fondue of any kind are just fun party foods. Make a cheese or chocolate one during this festive season. They ll surely please your guests.!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Yummy Luxury Omaha Steaks

This is the second installment of luxury foodie gifts. While we drooled over champagne and chocolate last week today we can smack our lips over steak. Omaha Steaks in particular. This company gives the world a variety of different cuts at over the top prices.

Omaha Steaks is one of the oldest food mail order companies in the United States. It started in 1917 by the Simons , a Latvian family who settled in Omaha. They came up with the idea of shipping steaks throughout the country after a son in law convinced Union Pacific to showcase their cuts in their dining cars. By the late 1940's the company had gone national By the mid 1970's stores were added. Omaha Steaks does sell some bargain packages starting at $39 but most are over the $80 range.

What can you buy at Omaha Steak? A lot of great cuts of beef. you can buy the combo which is filet mignon and Porterhouse steaks. You can also try filet mignons and T bone steaks shipped together. Omaha Steaks has some good sirloin cuts as well . There are also a variety of flavors such the whiskey ribbed and the Caesar one. Omaha Steaks also has poultry and seafood along with desserts.

There's nothing as delicious and intoxicating as an aged, juicy steak. Omaha Steaks fulfills that fantasy with their delicious cuts of beef. Order some for yourself for a yummy holiday treat.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New York's Great Restaurateurs.

Elaine Kaufman, like other great restaurateurs , had one of the best places int he city. Her namesake eatery drew all sorts of luminaries form writers to actresses to even Martha Stewart. Yesterdays New York Times celebrated her life in their Critic's Notebook, written by regular Sam Sifton. Not surprisingly he wasn't the only one, Elaine had several fans, among them Woody Allen and Liza Minnelli.

New York City an d its' environs are a great place to be a foodie and a celebrity. Restaurants throughout the ages have catered to both. There was Demonico's during the city's Gilded Age which hosted the enormous appetite of Diamond Jim Brady, there was and still is Sardi's which fed great Italian specialties to both the pasta lover and stage lover alike . There was the famed Joe Allen's which served steaks to real life Don Drapers the early Sixties.These colorful hangouts provided good cheer along with good wine and gourmet food to New York's masses.

Mr. Sifton goes on about today's restaurant owners/ There is , of course, the famed Bobby Flay and Mario Battali. They are chefs and the best , yet unlike Ms. Kaufman their fame comes form the Food Channel. People the world over know them and want to try their dishes. However they concerned with food , not with greeting th e customer, -nor with knowing the regulars by name. great restaurateurs were different. They cared about who ate there. They made sure guests have a good time. Today's are more like going to see a rock star in concert. Let them do their thing.Admire them but , don't get too close.

There will always be great place to eat in Manhattan , There's no shortage of excellent chefs. yet there is a shortage of restaurant owners who truly care about their customers Hopefully the trend will reverse itself.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cookbooks The Ultimate Foodie Gift

Everyone , especially foodies, love receiving cookbooks as a holiday gifts. There's something exciting about opening up a book on our favorite things or on exotic cuisines. We long to make them and now have the recipes to do so. Not only that but cookbooks always have the best glossy photos in them. Coffee table books are fine but its; recipes books that steal the show.

Today's New York Times had an interesting buyer's guide put together by Times regular Julia Moskin. Ms. Moskin also included some recipes such as sauteed chicken with roasted grapes form the cookbook, Radically Simple (Rodale Press) by Rozanne Gold and mustard batons, savory mushrooms sticks from Dorie Greenspan's My French Table (Houghton Mifflin , publisher)Including these int eh article should give potential cook buyers a leg up on what to get their favorite cooks. There are other one s as well, featuring tapas, The Book of Tapas by Simone and Ines Ortega as well as a whole range of Indian themed ones,. The famed Indian chef, Madhur Jaffrey (Knopf) also has one out simply titled At Home With Mahur Jaffrey. there is also one on Indian street cooking as well, Street Food of India by I.B. Taurus.

Cake , bread and cookie bakers should also rejoice at the new books out now. There are some that I would live to get under my tree. The Gourmet Cookie Book put out by Houghton Mifflin is right up my alley. it includes recipes form 1941 to 2009. Another is Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson, featuring the recipes of that famed San Fran bakery Tartine . Boston;s famous bapastry chef, Joanne Chan g , the owner of Flour Bakery has put out a cookbook of her best cake recipes entitled Flour. (Chronicle) Again this looks like a great gift too.

There;s nothing like giving a foodie a cookbook for Christmas or any holiday. it's a fun way to spend hours reading the recipes and then the thrill of executing them. The best part is trying and tasting all those delicious dinners and desserts brought to life.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crostoli - A Fried Holiday Sweet

Around this time of year we get in undated with sweets.there are endless cookies and scores of cakes. In th e midst of all this home baked goodness there's the crostoli , a fried sweet treat. it's a light an dairy alternative to all those snaps and tortes. One bite is crunchy, sweet and downright heavenly.

Crostoli is an Italian treat however the Poles make their own version called krusciki. The Piedmontese Italians also have a thinner version called bugie . It's basically a simple egg rich dough that's then fried. In Ital crostoli are a big carnival food.They can be made and then cooked on the spot being served piping hot. The Tuscan version requires Marsala wine for a sweet kick. while the Polish version is whiskey and sour cream laced. Some recipes just call for an egg, sugar and flour mix without any alcohol. However recipes vary from family to family. the one universal is that they all have powdered sugar dusted on them. (which creates a heavenly sweet cloud when you bite into one)

Crostoli can also be made plan and served with various sauces for dipping (hits was popular at the famous crepe chain The Magic Pan decades ago). You can make bougie or crostoli, ,nix the sugar at the end and serve with sweet dips. Most popular are chocolate along with apricot and raspberry dips. You can also sprinkle them with just cinnamon for Mexican vibe.

Instead of baking sweet treats this holiday season, think about frying them. crostoli are a different holiday sweet that everyone will enjoy. Not only that they are just heavenly to eat, light an airy as spun sugar.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saint Nicholas Day Treats

Today is Saint Nicholas Day or Little Christmas. it;s was the original Christmas before martin Luther declared that December 25th should be the day commemorating the Christ Child's birth. However it is still a time of treats from savory to sweet. Children all over the world are given food gifts, in anticipation for the big day late on this month.

St Nicholas Day traditionally has candies and cakes however there are some savory treats associated with this day The Bulgarian make a carp dish called ribnik, and it's the fish baked en croute in a type of pastry dough. Why? The kindly saint is thought to be the protector of sailors and fishermen. Ribnik is usually eaten with cabbage and grape leaves or peppers,beans and more bread.. The Dutch also hugely celebrate this day and serve boiled chestnuts with butter and salt.

The day is really reserved for treats . Again the Dutch who are big on this holy day serve their kids spice cookies as well as a giant milk chocolate letter of their first initial. The Germans bake giant gingerbread cookies in the shape of the saint. they're later frosted with colored icing and given out. Since St Nicholas was known for his generosity, gold coins are given out. These are the foil wrapped milk chocolate discs all kids love and get during the holiday period.

Celebrate today with loved ones and the little ones in your life. Give them cookies or chocolates for this feast day of the man who would later be Santa Claus. Emulate his generosity too by giving extra treats for children in need.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cold Weather Comfort Foods

This is th e time of year when a good dish of comfort food comes in handy. There's; nothing as soothing as a warm plate of pasta or casserole. Even better is when it;s followed by a treat that we loved growing up. What better than to end days full of hectic shopping along with work and family demands
To me the best comfort food is still spaghetti. There;s nothing as delicious or as comforting as a big bowl of spaghettini or even angel hair, covered with home made sauce. Of course there has to be a loaf of fresh Italian bread that can be dipped into any extra left on the plate. Nothing beats homemade sauce redolent with fresh (or frozen ) basil form the garden, along with fresh garlic. Another favorite of mine is pasta con burro, spaghetti with just butter melted on it. It's plain and simple but oh so good. I know a variety of FP's readers love a good baked mac and cheese and it;s perfect during these chilly days and nights. The best ones ar e made with sharp cheddar and have a layer of crumbled bacon throughout .Even casseroles if done right are yummy. There's nothing like a recipe that started with your gran or great gran.

Of course dessert is synonymous with the phrase. Most people usually associate a bowl of chocolate pudding with Reddi Whip (here the States) as the ultimate comfort. food. Then there are the stovetop or microwave s'mores that can be made in a snap (and eaten even quicker). if you want a more decadent version sub in Vahlrona chocolate for the Hershey's; although the last is good too. Another fave is the Pillsbury slice and bake chocolate chip cookis. make a batch for yourself before any holiday baking. They're th e ultimate treat, espeically with a tall glass of milk. .

There's nothing like our favorite foods during these cold days and nights.Like a warm, fuzzy blanket they embrace us and bring us back to our childhoods. Happiness is more than a warm puppy , it a warm dish of home cooked love.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lush Foodie Gifts Part One

For the next three Fridays up until Christmas Eve I'll be writing about what luxury foods gifts you can get for yourself or for others.. Let's face facts - everyone love a rich bottle of something or a deluxe box of goodies. Today I'm gong to kick off the series with two of the most decadent items a foodie can dream of - champagne and chocolate. The most expensive and delicious champagne out there is the brand new Angel Champagne. The chocolate is of course Vosges - one of the world's most expensive. These are definitely splurge items but - oh are they good - Even together.

Angel Champagne is not only the lushest bubbly out there it,'s probably the most expensive.The cheapest bottle is a whopping $950 for a 750 ml. Most of their bottles range the in over a grand category. It's not just the over the top taste (this is the Jaguars of champagnes after all) but how the stuff is presented. Each bottle is coated with four layers of a platinum finished and then decorated with sterling silver labels and Swavroski crystals . What about the taste?is better than even Cristal? Yes! The drink's creators, the hot Mariah Carey and the even hotter Britalian (British and Italian) entrepreneur Stefano Zagni, tailored the drink to their palates. It's Angel's fruitier, more voluptuous taste that makes any connoisseur wanting more . This is the best an d most luxurious Christmas present to buy this year.

What would go with Angel? . Decadent Vosges chocolate!!!. This is not the stuff you pick up at your local CVS or Walgreen's. Vosges chocolate averages anywhere from $80 to &100 dollars for a box. The flavors are intriguing. They have a eggnog truffle made with Jamaican rum along with the mega expensive Grenadian nutmeg. Plum pudding truffles contains Armagnac in them What I like about Vosges is that they're not afraid of the trendy. They have a whole collection of chocolate covered bacon(Now that's decadent!!!!) This company also has a vegan and gluten free line too where chilis and even rare reishi mushrooms are mixed with this top premium chocolate.

The holidays are a time of special treats. if you have the money splurge on a small bottle of Angel Champagne and a box of Vosges truffles. better yet make these your own special gifts. Don't share them with anyone!

Angel champagne can be found at
Vosges chocolate can be bought at

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Warmth Of Port

Port is a great drink for this time of year. Its' warm, rich color is alluring and inviting.It has a sweet cinnamon taste with a dash of spiciness to it like a rich holiday cookie Port is also an excellent holiday drink as well, being the perfect dessert wine. You can serve it with dinner or afterward s with cheese or better yet homemade shortbreads.

It was the topic of the great Eric Asimov ( I really like his column) Pour, the Dining section's spirits column. He mentions vintage port which is big amongst affectionados.These are called tawnies because of their reddish brown color and have to be aged in wooden casks for at least ten years. This mellows them and softens their fieriness.A good tawny is about twenty years old.

Mr Asimov also throws in some interesting port recipes. They are Hot Port Sangaree and along with St Charles Punch and a cocktail simply called St.Valentine. The first is more of a hot mead like drink that combines the wine ,pomegranate ,molasses and Angostura bitters. The second is a punch famous at the St Charles Hotel of New Orleans.It sounds tasty with its' mix pf port, Cognac and lemon juice.. St Valentine is just port rum and Grand Marnier with a splash of lime. This last would be a good foil with extra salty appetizers.

Buy a lush bottle of port this holiday season.It is good on its as a dessert wine. It 's also good mixed with other liqueurs for a delicious and heady cocktail

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Drinks Of The Season

Now that the holiday season is officially here it's also the time for fancy and fun drinks. Various punches and cocktails abound. Today;s New York Times Dining section celebrates this with a plethora of different libations for all the occasions this season.This is a fun keep and save guide because it can be helpful in the weeks ahead.

The article, written by Steven Stern , is really informative. I like the fact that he even had cocktails for Hanukkah. That blend is a melange of the powerful aquavit along with e artichoke flavored Italian liqueur Cynar along with apricot preserves and lemon juice. The base is dry sparkling wine . This is perfect foil for any latkes and beats a side of just plain applesauce. I also like the inclusion of a spiked hot chocolate for pre caroling. This involves adding equal tables spoons (three each ) of Chartreuse and Cointreau to just plain hot cocoa. Another favorite added in is the luscious Black velvet (popular with England's Queen Victoria and named for her mourning weeds). This is a blend of champagne and chilled Guinness stout . It sounds rich and dreamy , the perfect holiday drink that;'s simple to make

Holiday require punches and Mr. Stern provides a good dearth of recipes. There is the famed milk punch which is a mix of milk, bourbon and brandy with maple syrup. Milk punch has been around forever and was and still is a popular party punch. There is also the equally Victorian (but much more lethal Original Chatham Artillery Punch which has three bottle s of champagne along with whole bottle s of Cognac and rum. This is definitely the party punch to serve to guests if you want sparks. There is also mandarin Punch, a non alcoholic drink for all ages. its; redolent of citrus and mint , having lemon line and orange added along with mint an and spearmint leaves. This would be a nice brunch punch, perfect after savory omelets and muffins.

The holiday season is upon us and it's the time to celebrate it. What better way than with fancy drinks and punches. Raise a glass of something good - and specially made by you .

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Latke Fun

Tomorrow is the start of Hanukkah ( and an early one at that too). It's time to fry up some latkes to celebrate the oil lasting in the temple for eight days. This was during the famed ancient battle with the Maccabees. What's great about this ageless treat is that you can have variations.

A typical latke recipe is straightforward and simple. it's simple grated potatoes and onions bound together with milk, egg and flour. It's then deep fried in oil until crisp and crunchy. The most recommended potato is the russet because of its' starchiness and it doesn't fall apart upon frying. You can also add shredded turnips and parsnips to add a variation on flavor. Another new twist is subbing in sweet potatoes for a sweeter , earthier taste.

Latkes are usually served with sour cream and applesauce. Again this can be varied. For a healthier version , try Greek yogurt. This is thick and creamy but without the calories It's due to being made with ewe's milk. You can also have a low fat sour cream as well. Applesauce is already low in calories so you don't have to worry about it. It can be bland and watery though. Spice it up with some cinnamon and even a pinch of nutmeg.

Hanukkah is here and it's time to celebrate. Treat family and friends to fresh made latkes. Enjoy the traditional or the different varieties out there. Make any kind- they're all delicious!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Foods Make Now For Later

The holidays are busy times. It's just that simple. We all have way too much to do ,between our regular lives and holiday prepping. As much as we value any free time , it's good to use it prepping for the holidays ahead. Start making some things now , and then have an hour or two just for yourself later on.

The easiest thing to make and freeze is cookie dough. The dough can last between three and four weeks in a working freezer (I guess you can even put it outside on the front porch if the weather r is freezing by you). This is a great time saver if you're making a lot for school, an office or home party. Create up several rolls , roll them in green and red sugar and then freeze. You can cut and bake later on and have an quick platter of festive cookies all set to go. The best doughs to freeze are chocolate, chip , shortbread, peanut butter, refrigerator , sugar and brownies. These have the e thickest textured doughs. Avoid any cakelike doughs such as madeleines and black and whites.

Surprisingly enough you can also freeze a number of other dishes as well . Chili is one where you can make it now and freeze some for a tree trimming party in mid December.You can also make enough to last you through a few holiday parties if you have the space. Casseroles are also great dishes to make when you have the free time. Whip up a few even for those nights when you'll be out shopping sans family. All they have to do is throw it in the microwave and voila - instant dinner. Jambalaya - that ultimate fun get together dish is another make now freeze, serve later foods. You can make it without meat and serve a vegetarian version.along with cornbread and easy to make po boy sandwiches.

Start on your holiday treats early this year. Stock your freezer with premade goodies that will be a snap to bake or reheat.Doing this will allow you some free time later on where you can shop or just indulge yourself. That;s what any overworked chef or baker needs during this frenzied season.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Good TIme To Clean

Now is that down time between the holidays. We've gone through one big kitchen oriented one Another is just less than a month away. it;s a good time to defrost the fridge and clean the oven. It's also a good time to take stock of what worked during Thanksgiving and what didn't.

The most important item to clean right now is the oven. It's gotten a lot of use in the past few days. The inside is probably spattered with grease while the burners have all sorts of charred leftovers stuck to them. What's the best oven cleaner? Some swear by simple baking soda, What you can do is sprinkle the stuff over the oven racks and oven floor Then spritz with water and let stand overnight. Come morning all you have to do is wipe everything clean with a damp cloth. If you prefer to use the commercial stuff then try Easy Off. The spray is now safe and relatively non toxic plus it has an industrial strength one for wiping off several layers of grease. For the fridge it's time to think defrosting. It's also time to get rid of all those bottles with barely there stuff in them. You can also defrost the freezer too at this time. Get rid of the summer Popsicles along with any snow the kids saved from last year.

There are also the gadgets to think about too. Some choppers just require new batteries while others may need new parts. However if you do have to replace now is the time to do it. Sales for any cooking and baking items are great, especially at places like Target, Wal-mart and K-Mart. You can buy new cookie sheets and whisks right before the big season starts. This is also a good time to have your knives sharpened too for the big holidays feasts in the weeks to come.

Use this down time to clean and refurbish your kitchen. Take stock of what needs to be scrubbed, or replaced. It'll make the next round of holiday cooking and baking much easier for you.'

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mm Mmm Good Weeds

Now that all the meat eating is over with, It's time to go green. The best place for that is surprisingly still in your back yard or even woods by your home. I'm talking heavy duty foraging It;'s a new again trend that Wednesday's Times Dining section picked up on. The problem is knowing what to pick.

The article, written by Oliver Strand and Joe DiStefano tells of New York's chefs taking a walk back into nature. Instead of choosing regular greens they try sea rocket or sea buckthorn, wild asparagus or morels. Some chefs even use Douglas fir needles. Foraging is not a new trend . Scandinavian cooks have been doing it for centuries, thanks to a lack of greens and an abundance of hearty weeds.

There is a caveat with foraging. Beware of what you pick. there are some goods books on the market as well as Internet sites that can help you. One is Ecosalon which has a good listing , the other is Wild Food School which allows you to download their in color guide and take it with you when you go foraging. There are also classes that you can take as well.

It's good to get back to nature, especially after a decadent holiday meal. Even better is when you can use nature to create healthy and tasty dishes. Forget the canned string beans. head for the woods.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Happy And Tasty Thanksgiving

To all my American readers

I hope you are still having a good Thanksgiving full of good food, good family and good friends. Remember and pray for all our troops overseas and that they too had a good holiday.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Early Thanksgiving Greeting

For all my readers wherever you are,

This is an early Thanksgiving greeting. I'm not botheringtowrite a column today. I know for the most part Amertica will be elbow deep in pie making and brining today. There will be no time to read this (and if you are - stop , there's gotta be some potatoes that need peeling r dinnerware that needs polishing)

Remember not just to enjoy your feast wherever you are - be it under the tree lined streets of the American Midwest or the dry deserts of Afghan and Iraq. Be thankful for what you have. hard won freedom as an American, the right to vote whomever you please into office, and the choice to enjoy wither dark or white meat, scalloped or mashed potatoes. be thankful for family , that drives you crazy and friends who need you for the rough times. be thankful for the things that make you happy,

Above all be thankful for a good holiday meal. There are so many people worldwide that don't have food. Think of them this day and remember them in your holiday donations.

It's a day for food and fort the celebration of it. Just remind yourselves to give thanks that you're lucky enough to have it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

As American As Squash????

This time of year gets me thinking back to the indigenous peoples and what they ate at the time of the first Thanksgiving. The phrase American as apple pie is kind of inaccurate because the early English settlers brought that over.. What really is true American food? All good for you natural stuff like unprocessed fruits and veggies - not the burgers (from Germany) or the fries (from Belgium and France) like we all think.

Squash corn or maize make up the heart of the indigenous diets.This was supplemented by any meat or fish that original peoples hunted. The American staple , succotash is really native in its 'origins. What is great about the staple is that they can be made a variety of ways, even to this day. Squash can be baked and then mashed. Corn can be ground for fritters or for pone or cornbread. Beans can be mashed or boiled and then flavored. Pumpkin , part of the squash family was also cooked and probably mashed. All these are loaded in antioxidants and vitamins giving the natives a better diet than the European settlers.

The tribes that the Pilgrims ate with gave them maple syrup , cranberries, apples and pears to add Io their vitamin starved diets. Also oysters and fish were in abundance, both loaded with nutrients. Most of the early settlers from the Virginia colonies up to the Massachusetts , relied on the Indian for food. Here in New Jersey the Lenni Lenape , showed the settlers how to gather shellfish from the great Raritan Bay along with hunting wild turkey and geese. There was also wild asparagus and onions too.

As American as apple pie??? Not quite. Try as American as popcorn and squash. The native American knew how to eat and how to respect the earth. They passed that down to us - and we should be grateful for those beliefs.

Monday, November 22, 2010

PBS The Original Food Channel

Long before there was the Food Channel, long before there was the cult f the celebrity chef, there was PBS. Fro decades the Public Broadcasting brought about good shows about cooking. Like today's super glitzy knock offs they were full of good ideas.Unlike said knock offs they brought real gourmet cooking to homes from Boston Mass to Anchorage. Alaska. There are still some good ones on the amazing channel.

PBS started with the famous Julia Child back in the Sixties. Consider hers th e prototype that all cooking shows sprang from. She wasn't afraid to introduce Cordon Bleu to the masses and from her we learned how to debone and glaze properly. There was also graham Kerr, the Gallopign Gourmet who had his own way of cooking. This Aussie is still popular today and has an extensive website any food should visit. One of my favourites was Jacques Pepin , a quiet , almost scholarly chef . He did not have the out there personality of a Paula Deene or a Guy Fieri, His was more commanding, - imagine a college prof instead of a loud mouth show off.

PBS also launched the career of the soft spoken Lidia Bastianich . it was PBS who turned her into a celebrity and they did so quietly.Again watching her half hour program was like watching a favorite relative show you how to cook.and appreciate good Italian food. Another low key but impacting show is America's Test Kitchen with the bow tied also scholarly Christopher Kimball. he did a very fascinating show last year on recreating a late 19th Century feast with Fannie Farmer's recipes. Again it was a very academic approach as is the usual shows. This is a great learning program for beginner chefs and home cooks. Everythng from syrups to utensils are tested and there are some interesting recipe sin this packed full half hour.

PBS has long had a sort of snob appeal. Yes it is loved by intellectuals. but it should be love d by foodies as well. it has produced some of the greatest cooking shows in television history. That;s something the Food Channel should take into consideration.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

To Bake Or To Buy That is The Question

For most Americans, this is going to be the craziest cooking week of the year. Thanksgiving usually demands home cooked and home baked everything. The cooking part isn't so bad . The baking part sometimes is. which brings about the old question is it easier to bake or to buy? there's nothing like a fresh from the oven pie or cake however there;s also the stress and time making it. Store bought is easier but what about the taste: is it as good as yours?

I have to agree with all those purists out there. Anything from your oven is going to taste a million times better - that is if you're a good baker. Home bakers tend to add a dollop more butter in the frosting to make it creamier or one more eggs to make for a richer batter. There's always the satisfaction too of seeing your creation appreciated and drooled over.With home baking you can also add variety. A store won't add a dash of bourbon to their pecan pies or blend in cheese to dough to make cheddar biscuits. Bakers can also modify recipes to suit those with special health issues too.

However some store and bakery bought items are to die for as well. There's nothing like fresh from the bakery oven bread to compliment a roast turkey and gravy sandwich. Ditto for the rolls. If you're a lousy baker, then store bought is the way to go. There are no burned crusts or strange aftertastes . You can also concentrate on the mechanics of the main meal as well without having to worry about the extra work, time and ingredients.Plus the ingredients are measured out just right so you don't have a cake or pie that's too lumpy, bland or just dried out from over baking.

What to do for Thanksgiving and the holidays to follow. That' s up to you. If you are a good baker then whip out the sugar and flour. If you're not , there's no shame in getting your holiday desserts via your local supermarket or store. Everyone has done it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Overwhelmed And Undercooked

This is the time of year that even gets the most seasoned of cooks. A lot of cooking - not enough help. It can be daunting to cook one feast after another.In times like these delegate, delegate and then delegate some more. Even the most experienced chefs like Gordon Ramsay have help. You will too.

The first thing is ask yourself can I do it alone. No matter how great a cook you are the answer is always a no. You can;'t do everything by yourself unless you're willing to spend a day or two before preparing everything. Ask yourself what you want to do alone. Then think of others , such as family and friends to help. What are their strengths. You may not want your six year old to carve the turkey but he or she can help in setting the table. You can get older kids to help with the peeling, slicing and dicing. Also they can help in preparing certain dishes while you concentrate on the main one. Employ visiting relatives to help put too. Another thing '- make after meal clean up a family affair. That way you won't be up til three AM washing and drying dishes and glasses.

Another idea and one I've already stressed in this blog is getting friends and family to bring their own. If your cousin is known for his cranberry sauce then let him make and bring it. If your friends and coworkers want to bring dessert, let them. This alleviates the onus of the whole meal from appetizer to dessert on you. Also this also means freeing up your fridge . Sides and extras will be in family and friends' ovens and fridges - not yours.

Don't be so overwhelmed that you wind up having undercooked meat and raw sides. Have help. All the great chefs do and you're no different! It's all the difference between a disaster and a dream holiday meal!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Raise A Glass of Cider

This is the season for a chilled, heady glass of hard cider. it reflects the labors of the season as well as the abundance of a good harvest. The Times Dining section celebrated it in yesterdays' weekly column The Pour with Eric Asimov. Luckily Mr Asimov got to sample a few interesting ones at the Manhattan bar Dovetail. This make me envious of his job. Cider, refreshingly bracing and fruity crisp is probably the best drink out there.

I have always labored under the thought that most ciders were either English, American or French . Reading the article I found that there are refreshing Spanish one. One from the Basque hills was tried and found fresh and complex. It is not a sparkling clear brew but ratter a cloudy one. Mr. Asimov also tried ice cider. This is where cider is frozen and then the water is removed to create more of an apple wine. American ciders are also good if they're done right. Most of the ciders originate in New England in Either Vermont or new Hampshire, The bright red Redfield apple is primarily used . it gives cider it;s rich red wine like look and intricate flavor.

What was an even bigger surprise to me is that there is a pear cider. This makes sense because pears and apples are basically from the same family. There are also pear and apple ciders which sound heavenly . I can just imagine the taste of both fruits along with the kick of a good hard cider.

This is definitely the time for cider. the season calls for a heady cup of it . Not only that it;s a celebration of the harvest. It is the perfect drink for any fall feast !

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pie Time

Today's New York Times Dining section had an interesting article about that Thanksgiving staple - pie. It seems that it's now becoming the dessert of choice -outranking the current cutie - the cupcake. Young bakers are getting more into making innovative crusts and fillings. There are even bakeries that center around this time honored sweet. Why not? It's time for the pie to come into its' own again.

The article, written by Times, regular Julia Moskin , describes the new generation of pie bakers. These are the ones who get away from traditional pie fillings and add twists to them. Now crusts burst with flavors such as cranberry , or grapefruit and Campari along with strawberry and balsamic vinegar. One pie maker, San Francisco's Esa Yonn-Brown of the Butter Love Bakery, makes a butter pie. This is a variation, it seems, on a shoo fly or chess pie. it has a buttery crust with a filling of butter and caramelized sugar- the perfect pie to have after a hearty feast.

The article also has a sidebar about where to get pies in Manhattan and Brooklyn. This is a perfect guide for those us who don't have time time or the space to bake a proper pie. Some are really innovative with their fillings like Brooklyn's Four and Twenty Blackbirds which features a salted caramel apple and chocolate pecan pies. There is also the French patisserie, Trois Pommes which features a pear cranberry one. Manhattan has the down home Hill Country Chicken which has Southern specialties including something called Texas millionaire pie. (this last has an almost tropical filling of coconut and pineapple mixed with pecans and cream cheese).

Pies are going to rule this holiday season. They're a time honored dessert that's easy to make with recipes passed down through the centuries. They're also the perfect ending to a hearty holiday dinner.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BrInging In The New

A lot of us have inherited kitchen heirlooms. We may have our great grannie's jam jar or ice cream maker, our grandmother's bakeware set or our moms old Farberware . As much as we treasure these items it is time to move on. After all glassware cracks, pots and pans rust. That's just a fact. The problem is how do you get rid of something that your fmaily has been using for generations?

To be honest I still use pans and gadgets from my great grandmothers and grandmother. The pots and pans are still serviceable although I tend to use them maybe once or twice a month. I want to preserve them. I still have my Bavarian German great grandmother's rolling pin (although this has been recently updated with a brand new OXO one) I still have my Piedmontese great grandmother's ravioli cutter (which amazes me because we're Northern Italian and not really ravioli eaters). This last is rarely used. It's over one hundred years old.

The best bet for antique kitchen and plateware (anything over fifty years old) is to either display it behind glass or carefully wrap it and store away. Some gadgets such as hand held can openers still work but can rust easily. For them and other gadgets like peelers and corers it pays to get the newer models. These are more ergonomically suited to hands and won't cause any aches. They;re also easy to wash and dry too.

What to do with kitchen heirlooms are always a quandary. My advice is just treat them as you would your regular antiques. Bring them out to show and be proud of - they are your family's after all. As far as using them, no . Stick with the newer models.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Coupon Clipping A Holiday Must

Food is still expensive these days even though most supermarkets are offering discounts and twofers. Planning a holiday meal can be an expensive proposition. What do you do? Cut corners? have smaller gathering?s. No, stick to that other time honored tradition coupon clipping.

This is the time of year to take advantage of all those thick booklets of coupons stuck in your Sunday papers. There are always great deals on everything from basic ingredients like sugar and flour to extras such as gravy or ice cream. I found that Pillsbury has all sorts of coupons for their items. This is perfect for holiday baking especially if you plan to bake a lot or give treats away as gifts. Canned goods are also featured big in the Sunday circulars. You'll always need the canned veggies as sides so stock up on them. Also some stores have two for one pricing along with coupons for added discounts. Essentials like green beans , corn, and tomatoes will be costing next to nothing.

I've found that the Sundays papers aren't the only place to scour for deals. Online coupons saver sites offer you printable coupons that are good anywhere you shop. One site that has almost everything is Mommysavesbig. This is more of a blog but you can click on anything grocery item and a coupon will pop up. There's also the famed Couponmom which will even get you discounts off laundry soap and paper goods. I like this site most of all because it offers you a variety of deals on a variety of items.. Smartsource is another place where you can save on all sorts of ingredients for your Thanksgiving and holiday parties.

Be a smart shopper this holiday season. Coupon clip to save on your holiday meals and treats. Don't scrimp when you can save big time!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Breadcrumbs - A Kitchen Staple

Breadcrumbs are an important staple in any kitchen . The best part is that you have a choice. They can be store bought or homemade, plain or flavored. You even have the choice of American, Italian or Japanese style. They are good for coating veggies or even for thickening soups. Use them regularly for tastier and more textured foods.

American breadcrumbs can easily be bought. I prefer Stop and Shops or the A&P's generic brands. They are great in one of my family's classic recipes aptly titled panne pesto or breadcrumb soup in Piedmontese. In this they act as a thickener, binding with beaten eggs to create a thick, tasty potage. I also like these plain breadcrumbs for fried cauliflower. They add a golden look and stay on much better in the hot frying oil. They also give the veggie some crunch and don;t interfere with its; nutty taste. For scallopini thought I do prefer Progresso flavored which has seasoning and garlic added. For tempura it's best to use the finer ground and much dryer panko breadcrumbs.These add a delicate crunch ad taste to any vegetable or meat.

Breadcrumbs are easily made. You can take a loaf of bread and cube it and spread it out on a cookie sheet. then dry out on a low oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Then put in a food processor or blender and grind accordingly. I like using stale French or Italian bread for breadcrumbs. The results are much better. For panko, use Saltines along with thyme, basil and chili powder for the original flavor.

Breadcrumbs are a kitchen staple that are easily made or bought. They are versatile to use in any dish from soup to sides to the main course. Always have some on the ready for your cooking needs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Good Gravy

The holidays will soon be here and that means sumptuous meals , primarily roasts. What goes with a good roast turkey or roast beef? gravy. it literally can make or break a dinner. A badly made gravy will be remembered for decades. So will a good one. the trick is knowing how to make the last.

Most gravies are nothing more than a well made mix of roux, pan dripping and turkey or chicken stock. The problem is how much to put in . A good gravy requires at least four cups of hot (not boiling) stock . The next part is going to be the deal breaker. This is the roux made with half a cup of flour and the turkey or beef drippings. Don't go crazy with the flour or you'll have lumps.
Whisk this together until smooth and then add the stock.Continue stirring until you have a smooth, satiny looking sauce. Add a dashes of fresh ground sea salt and peppercorn to enhance its; flavor.

Can there be gravy mishaps. Of course. The mos t important part is and should be well cooked. This is what gives the gravy its' color and slightly nutty flavor. Another is constantly waching it. it should be made right before the roast is served the table or it could get burned.

A good gravy will be remembered for decades. So will a bad one. Use care and concern to create one that is the jewel of your holiday table, one that will complement the roast.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A New Southern Tradition Smoked Turkey

The usual Thanksgiving turkey is either roasted or fried. However in the South most of the birds are smoked. This is an unusual way to approach the bird but it produces tender, flavorful meat. People can't smoke their own, hence Greenburg Turkeys. This is a third generation family business that take supermarket birds and create tender and delicious slices of juicy meat.

The piece, written by new Dining regular, John T.Edge tells about the Samuel I. Greenburg family and how for three generations they've supplied smoked turkeys. Their target was initially Texas Jews but quickly expanded into the Christian community.Its' founder was originally a shochet or a kind oi butcher that slaughtered geese and turkey according to Jewish rituals. The company is now run by the grandson, also named Sam and has a healthy business around the holidays.

Just how are turkey's smoked? Basically the same as hams. They were first smoked and still are smoked over hickory logs in a pit There are twenty pit houses to cater to the large volume.The birds come out not with a golden brown caramel color but more like a burnt umber with a black licorice wash. The birds have a special spicing on them (from the founder's mother's, Jennie, recipe). The result is a unique taste that have brought the Greenburgs fans for several generations. Some customers even serve the bird cut up and mashed as appetizers instead of with the meal.

There's nothing like starting the holidays off with a good , flavorful turkey. Instead of roasting or frying it try a smoked one. It'll be an unusual twist on a Thanksgiving staple.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Comes Early At The NY Times

Today's New York Times Dining section is entirely devoted to Thanksgiving. Even though the holiday is two weeks away there are endless articles about turkey , stuffing and where to eat. This section really does requires two days of writing about . Some of the articles are down right intriguing while others are merely helpful. I'll go with the best first.

One of the most fascinating is an article pertaining to a lost stuffing recipe of Marilyn Monroe's. It's hard to imagine the screen goddess brandishing a whisk or furiously mixing something yet a recipe has turned up. It has no eggs and definitely no garlic (it's firmly stated at the beginning of the ingredient list) but doe shave pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Food historian,Anne Mendelson figures that maybe it came when la Monroe was married to Joe DiMaggio. He came from an immigrant Sicilian family hence the ingredients and probably didn't want to be considered too ethnic hence the garlic ban. Matt and Ted Lee wrote the article which is a must read and a must save for recipe files.

Another article that caught my eye is by Dining regular Sam Sifton.It's about where to have a family Thanksgiving in New York. Let's face New York is more of a town of eaters than chefs so it makes sense that most eateries are open on this usually stay at home holiday. After all city homes are small enough. They can't accommodate thirty people and one large twenty pound bird. Some restaurants have given their recipes so you can give your feast a gourmet twist this Thanksgiving.

The holiday will be here in two weeks. Luckily the Dining section editors have realized this and given us a sort of guide for the big day. Use it well and see what happens.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Getting Gizmoed Up

With Thanksgiving a scant two weeks away and Christmas and Hanukkah close on its' heels it's time to get your kitchen ready for the feasts and frenzies ahead.What helps are the little things. those kitchen gadgets and gizmos that every cook needs for creating the perfect meal. Now is the time to try out the old and get new if you have to.

Thanksgiving calls for all sorts of tricked put equipment. One necessary is a meat thermometer. This will be your best friend on Thanksgiving Day because it will tell you exactly how hot your bird is and when you should take it out of the oven. Also save it for Christmas hams and New Year's carving boards. Another necessary must have are turkey lifters. These are fork like tongs that make hauling the bird from the pan to the platter easier. If you haven't already buy yourself a good kitchen timer. You can get these at everyplace from Target and K-Mart to Williams and Sonoma to Bed Bath and Beyond. They are important in no just timing baked goods but also vegetables and sauces.

Remember that baking also requires a fair amount of helpful gizmos. Thanks to silicon, there are also sorts of cool baking bans that give evenly baked cakes in fun holiday shapes. Also have silicon spatulas too because these are easy to work with and also to clean.I also find that the small thing s like those stones used for pie baking come in handing in creating the perfect pumpkin or pecan pie. One big gadget muss is a combo cookie press and decorator. This helps in creating beautiful spritzes , wreathes and trees along with giving cakes and cookies a professionally done frosting.

With the holidays around the corner it's time to bring out the gizmos. These are handy and important despite their small size . They make the holiday kitchen a much easier and much more fun place to be.