Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweet Holiday Treats

Even though both Passover and Easter have their serious side, they’re also about sweets as well. Each holiday has their own way of ending a meal. With one, it’s all sorts of flourless confections and cakes. With Easter it’s about sumptuous cakes and pastries. Both share the love of good ingredients and delicious treats to end a holiday Seder or dinner.

Passover brings that all time favorite macaroons. These are delightful little coconut and egg white confections. In the past they were just almond flavor however today you can find them in everything from chocolate to cappuccino to rocky road . Another Passover favorite is the flourless cake. Ground nut meal such as almond and walnut stand in for regular white or cake flour. The result is a dense chewy torte that‘s usually flavored with cinnamon, more nuts or chocolate. There is also the traditional sponge cake that is made with potato starch and cake meal. Lemon juice is added for flavor but other ingredients can be added to vary the taste.

Easter too has its’ share of delicious sweets. Mostly the desserts are either in the shape of bunnies , lambs or eggs. Carrot cake in the shape of anything related to the Easter bunny is always made. Yet it’s how the cakes are iced with that makes them stand out. This is where amateur icers and pros alike can go crazy. The hardest of all to decorate is the Easter lamb cake. This is where tiny rosettes are dabbed on a plain yellow or chocolate lamb shaped loaf. Jelly beans are used for the eyes, and nose while pink icing is used for the ears and mouth. A ribbon is then tied around the neck and the cake is put onto a bed of dyed green coconut. This is an all time favorite in many households and a specialty in many bakeries.

Passover and Easter are serious holy days with significant religious meanings. However both are also a time for celebrating freedom and resurrection. What better than to do so with festive and delicious desserts. They’re a great way to end any holiday meal

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Healthy Versus A Happy Easter

This week people will be scrambling to get kids of all ages the traditional Easter baskets. the problem is that we (especially myself) tend to go overboard with buying chocolates and other sweets. The problem is is how w much is too much? Do you just stop at one big chocolate egg? Pare down on the jelly beans? Ice the Peeps?

For parents who are worried about their kids overdosing on too much sugar, there's always the do it yourself baskets. Take a basket and fill it with healthy fruit and nuts.To stop said child from throwing this at you, add some toys to it. Another, maybe softer approach, is to combine the basket half with fun things and one or two candies like marshmallow or coconut eggs. and a small sprinkling of jelly beans. An Easter egg hunt is also good. You can fill some eggs with money while others get a small smattering of jelly beans or Easter themed M&Ms. The kids can still have fun but there's less sugar and more exercise involved.

Another idea is simply paring down. This is what I've done this year. Instead of three large chocolate eggs. I've only bought one along with two candy bars. Of course the chocolate is one of the best, Butler's. After all if I'm going to skimp on quantity I want to make up for it in quality. You can do this too with any of the larger Perugina eggs that are filled with toys and games. These are hollowed out eggs that can be broken and nibbled on. One can last up to two weeks.You can also try the Godiva's Spring collection where there are four truffles in a billotin. Splurge for a better candy but scrimp on the amount. Besides all that chocolate is not going to taste so good or so fresh weeks from now.

Easter always brings about the dilemma of too much candy. This year think about what to buy. Maybe you just want to pare down with one item of a good brand . Maybe you want to try a few traditional candies in your Easter basket. The best bet is don't go overboard. Just hop down the simplest and the wisest bunny trail or route.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Matzoh - The Backbone Of Passover Dining

Like any religious holiday one aspect of Passover centers around food. Each dish is symbolic of the exodus from Egypt. There are the bitter herbs and chariest alon g with the most well known symbol. Matzo or matza. It is not just the bread of the holiday but can be used for so many things. It truly is the backbone the holiday table.
Matzo came about when the Jews had to flee Egypt and hastily brought unleavened bread with them. To this day any yeast derived pastry or breadstuff is denied until Passover is over. It is made primarily from wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt and is quickly mixed and rolled out. it’s quickly docked with a fork to prevent any puffiness or rising(other wise it would look like a tortilla or pita bread. It is cooked at high heats to encourage brown spots and quickly taken out of the oven to cool. This last ensures that the bread will have a cracker like crispness and crunch. Some cooks make their own and it has a different texture than store bought commercially made ones. Homemade is denser and chewier while the other is light and crumbly.
Matzo can also be ground up and used in Passover recipes. it’s primarily used to make matzoh balls, These are huge dumplings that range from golf ball to softball size and can be eaten in soup or on their own. Cooks usually add chicken meat fat and th e crackling call grebenes to the meal along with eggs to give them texture. They are boiled in soup, water, or a vegetable broth. Ground matzo is also used instead of cake flour during this time. There are many different recipes that have it as the base. It results in a denser , chewier and richer taste and texture than cakes made with regular flour.

Matzoh is truly the backbone of the Seder. It is considered both the bread and an ingredient.. This simple bread links all the foods and traditions together during this holy time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Ham Versus Lamb Controversy

Every Easter cooks are faced with the same dilemma. What to serve - ham or lamb? Both are traditional and appropriate for the Easter holiday. Both are well loved and non chef can go wrong with them. yet who is th e winner. What will guests like more?What will make the best leftovers and most of all what has the best best.

Ham is always a good main Easter dish. The Germans have been been making it for a few centuries now. It's good accompanied by fresh made potato sala d and baked beans. What's even better is that it can make good sandwiches later on and can be stretched out into the week. leftover ham can be deviled, sliced or chunked and put into salads ,omelets, you name it. Ham is also lower in calories It's only 220 a serving. Another good thing about it is that some supermarkets are offering it either at half price or free for return shoppers as an Easter gift.Ham is also easy to prepare. Depending upon the cut ham can take anywhere for an hour to two hours to roast. it requires little or no prep and usualyl you just need to glaze it with pineapple juice or ginger ale. Some cooks go to the trouble of studding it with clove and you can do that if you want. it;s not necessary however.

The other traditional Easter meat is lamb. It;s mostly a Mediterranean dish , typically served by the Greeks and the Italians. during this time, Lamb is the better choice if you're having a large dinner party because , depending o the size , it can serve more. However because of this it does have to roasted outdoors on a spit over an open flame. Conventional ovens are too small for it. Some diners can roast whole lambs for a price. You can also buy leg of lamb for a smaller crowd. Lamb is more flexible than ham in the sense it can be prepared a number of different ways.. it can be herbed with rosemary an d parsley, studded with garlic or covered with a sweet peach glaze. Unfortunately it's double the calories of lamb and also what can be served with it is pretty limited. It's usually more expensive than ham too however some butchers and supermarkets do offer great discounts during this time of year. Lamb can be reheated for th e next day and is delicious with pilaf or any kind of rice dish.

Ham versus lamb. Itss a tough call. What goes best on your holiday table? That;s your choice. Both are tasty. Ham is easier to cook while lamb offers a variety of preparations. Sometimes it's just easier to splurge and make both . Any way you , your family and Easter guests will enjoy a delicious and traditional meal

Friday, March 26, 2010

Holiday Planning

With Passover and Easter coming fast , it's time to sit down and start planning. Both holidays center around big dinners which means a lot of planning an d prepping. These are the days for everything from shopping to baking . These are also the days to start giving serious thought as to what you want to serve.

Even though Passover beings Monday and Easter next Sunday, you should be at your grocery , stocking up. There are so many things to buy, from simple paper napkins to elaborate cuts to cans and basic needs. Nw is a good time to decide what meats you'll be serving along with what sides. Catholics usually have their Easter foods blessed on Holy Saturday so be sure tot have your foods ready for that as well. If you have a giant freezer, buy the main course now and add to it all during the week.Of course with Passover all leavened breads have to be thrown out (or just given to your local ducks or birds) Remember matzhoh can b e used for a variety of things , even flour so have enough of it in the house. As for Easter , remember this is Holy Week as well and most people prefer to forgo meats, especially on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Sub in fish and eggs for quick dinners or lunches.

Easter also brings in tables laden with sweets. This is the time to buy mixes or cake flour along with confectioner's sugar. decide whether you'll be making the fun egg or bunny cakes or cookies to serve to guests. Easter brunches call for lovely fruit salads so be sure to get your fruits at the end of the week.if you;re making your own Easter candy., now is the time to stock up on dark , white and milk chocolate morsels. Check your molds tot make sure they're OK to use. If not then get new ones. Also make sure you have plenty of colorful saran wrap and ribbons for wrapping them.

This is the start of the holiday season. Now is the time to sit down and decide what you're serving and for how large a crowd. It's the perfect time to get everything you want. That way you'll have a stress free Easter or Passover, without the burden of running out last minute.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Middle Eastern Seder

Yesterdays Dining section in The New York Times had an interesting article about Iranian seders. it's not so much about the religion, but about the country. Persians . Iranians make their holiday meals according to the custom. They tend to follow their former country's culinary traditions as opposed to strictly adhering to their Jewish ones.

The article, expertly, written by Joan Nathan,. tells of the Iranian Jews in Southern California. Many left during the Sixties during the reign of the last shah. They incorporated So Cal staples such as fresh dates into heir Passover dishes. These were mixed with the traditional and ancient spices of turmeric and cardamon. Some dishes such as charoset have bananas added along with pears and pomegranate juice. This is also heavily laced with dried fruits and spices such as cardamon and cinnamon reflecting more the country's tastes than the religious. Also the Iranians add basmati rice, something that American Jews forbid during Passover.

Many dishes have a distinctly Middle Eastern feel to them. There are grape leaves stuffed with dried fruit such as plums, dates and raisins. This is normally not seen in any of the Ashkenazi or even Sephardic dinners. Another variant is the dessert cake. It's a take on the flourless ones using ground almonds with but this time with a variety of spices as a base. Pistachios, a nod towards ancient Persian taste, are added on top. There are also dairy products involved in Passover especially for soon to be married couples. An engaged daughter and her family will have what's called a hametzy that features yogurt and an Iranian version of creme fraiche. The groom's family is supposed to supply the dairy products.

Middle Eastern Jews have the best of both worlds when it comes time for Passover. The combine ancient traditions with their native dishes. This creates a unique blend of the secular and religious world. which is usually separated during this holy time. This provides a strong hold of both cultural and Jewish pride.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mussels - Gems Of The Sea

Mussels are a different and unique alternative to other seafood. They are also more versatile, being able to go with a variety of sauces. They’re also one of the most fun foods to eat as well. The are perfect for just two or at a party . Best of all they are easy to cook and even a novice chef can enjoy them.
People have been eating mussels since the beginning of time. There have been shells found in ancient settlement sites . Today they’re still loved in a variety of countries and a variety of ways. The most famous is the Belgian style where they are steamed with white wine and served with fries. The Italians prefer theirs with pasta while Indians like the plump meat in a spicy sauce. In Turkey they are covered in flour and fried and usually accompany cold icy, Turkish beer.. The French love to have fresh mussels in a seaside bake similar to our clam bakes. Mussels are also extremely popular in the East too. The Chinese cook them with garlic and fermented black bean for a fiery main dish.
You can make mussels any of these ways although the bes t is usually steamed and then serve d with a white wine and butter sauce. You do have to make sure that you are cooking live mussels because dead ones will turn highly toxic. Throw away any dead ones. You can check this by seeing what shells are closed tight. These are the living ones. If they’re open then toss them immediately. After that they do require some cleaning, namely removing their fibers or beards. This can be done with either cutting htem or a quick strong tug. Also remember that mussels are salt or fresh water. It’s up to you which you want.
Mussels are a different alternative to the usual clams and shrimp. They can be served a variety of ways, whether in a spicy sauce or just with wine an d butter. They are satisfying and briny, a true taste of the water. Have them for your next dinner or at your next party.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Getting Your Goat

Now that spring is here a lot of cultures are turning to goat to grace their holiday tables. Goat meat is nothing new. it;s been a Caribbean staple for centuries as well as a Middle Eastern one. However some people are squeamish about eating it. It may take a while to get used to but it is known to be delicious , especially if served right.

For millenniums now goat meat has graced Indian, Pakistani and Arabic cooking. The meat is still grilled today and is also subbed in for lamb. Both meats are similar in taste and often the Indians refer t o it as"mutton" Caribbean cuisine has several goat meat recipes, particularly Jamaican. There it's turned into a spicy curry or jerk to be eaten with rice. Kid meat or young goat is big in Mexico where the recipe starts with milk fed young goats and then spiced. with chilis They are they put on a spit to roast also known as asado. The Mexicans also prefer a kid stew called guisado which is made with smaller bits of the meat soaked in various spices.

Any big city butcher will sell goat meat. You can buy mature goat known as chevron or kid as a whole carcass(not recommended for the squeamish,) quarters or cuts. Fresh meat should be removed from the wrapping paper that It comes in and rewrapped. You can leave it without wrapping if you're planning on cooking it that day. The cuts can be frozen up to three days. Cooked goat meat also has to be stored right away and in the coldest part of the fridge. Since it doesn't last as long as other meats such as beef or chicken, it has to be eaten within days of cooking.

Goat meat is an acquired taste. However if you're looking for a different alternative to lamb this holiday season, then try it. It is versatile and can be served anyway from barbecue to cutlets to stews. Enjoy it as an alternative to lamb or chicken for your Spring holiday meals..

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Awakening

Now that spring has finally sprung - it’s time to start looking into the season‘s offering. Fresh veggies are going to start coming to supermarkets. There is also going to be a run on just picked fruits as well. We can say goodbye to everything canned and frozen. Ripe from the garden or farm is coming back and with a vengeance.
Even though it’s only march I‘ve noticed an abundance of asparagus both in the markets and at local restaurants. This quintessential Spring vegetable will be seen more next month, gracing Easter dinners and Passover Seders. It’s a wonderful and versatile green. You can grill them , parboil and then add in salad or serve as a lovely side dish,. My favorite recipe is a family one, IN Northern Italy especially in the Piedmonte they are par boiled , then topped with melted butter , Parmesan cheese and sliced hard boiled eggs. Other popular veggies to eat right now are onions, peas and fiddleheads. These are great accompanying any Spring roast such a s lamb or chicken.

Strawberries also make their debut during the spring as well. This is the time to indulge any favorite dishes with them. There’s nothing like a quick made shortcake or just the decadent strawberries and chocolate. Apricots are also ripe and delicious just picked right now too. Another warm weather favorite. The beloved watermelon returns to shelves during this time as well. There’s nothing like eating a slice of watermelon on a balmy spring night after a satisfying dinner.

Now that Spring is here put your cans and frozen foods away for the fall. Enjoy what the new harvests are offering. Treat your winter weary palate to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Angel Champagne - A Heavenly Drink

It’s hard to imagine Mariah Carey as a serious actress- yet she proved that with the movie Precious. Now she’s ready to prove she‘s a serious entrepreneur with her latest venture champagne. Yup, champagne. She’s following Francis Ford Coppola‘s path in branching out with the brand new Angel Champagne.

The bubbly is to be introduced here in the States sometime this Spring. Surprisingly, it’s not made on her native Long Island but in France’s first capital, Reims. Right now it’s only sold in Europe coming in the larger sized liters and jeroboam bottles. I’m hoping that they’ll come out with the smaller sized ponies or splits (think small soda bottle size) because even a 750 ml bottle is 840 British pounds which translates into the pricey $1,290 .

Is a champagne worth all this money? The answer is yes. There are three vintages, either brut or blush(rose), each with a distinctive taste, Angel is not your typical champagne ,opened for birthdays and anniversaries. It is a true artisan blend of grown Chardonnay grapes specially fermented to give Angel its’ unique layered taste. The notes are pear and green apple while the brut rose is reminiscent of strawberries and flowers.

Give Mariah Carey credit. Not only does she do a powerful turn in Precious but she also has created a powerful champagne. I think she’ll be winning awards for this last. Angel really is sent from heaven. How appropriate considering it’s like nectar from the gods.

Go to to order and find out more.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Celebrating Saint Joseph’s Day

Two days ago the Irish celebrated the feast of Saint Patrick , today other nationalities such as the Italian and the Polish celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day. it’s mostly a big feast on the Italian islands of Malta and Sicily where special dinners and pastries are served. Lots also Italy’s Father’s Day where dad and grandfathers are honored from Trieste to Torino, from the Alps to the Adriatic.

Last year I wrote about this days pastries which are incredible. Many love the zeppolis , the ricotta filled fried puffs along with cream puffs also stuffed with a cannoli filling. However in some Sicilian and Maltese households. However there are also other dishes served before that. Spaghetti is big but it has to be serve d with a meatless sauce or topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. Broccoli rabe can also be served , probably with the salmons balls or fried codfish, baccala that the Sicilians are so fond of eating. Other dishes include stuffed (meatless) peppers and orange salad, all indicative of the two islands’ bounty of fish an harvests
Sweets are also a big part is the festa or holy day. Not only are zeppolis served but also rum cakes and various cookies. Zeppolis are usually made at home and recipes vary from family to family. Most make them with a choux paste, the same dough used in making cream puffs. Some bakers make add orange or lemon zest for more flavor. The filling is always a ricotta cheese one, either redolent with chocolate chips or lemon zest. Some put bitter cherries on top to decorate the zeppolis. This adds a nice dose of tartness to the taste. All are then lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar .
Saint Joseph’s Day is just as important as St Patricks Day. It celebrates the saint along with fathers throughout Italy. it’s also celebrate s th e foods of Sicily and Malta as well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Truth About Salsa

The Times Dining Section yesterday had an interesting article about real Mexican salsas. We usually think of salsas as those bottled up condiments, similar to ketchup.Either those or the mash up of tomatoes and peppers we usually make for our chips. However real Mexican salsas are not that simple .They're complex and layered with different ingredients and different textures. They're what makes the real deal pop.

The article, written by Dining regular Julia Moskin explores the varieties of salsa and the ingredients in it. The original ones have a mix of tart, sweet salty and different degrees of "heat". This last depend s on th e chilis that are put into it. Salsa shouldn't be too hot unless it's salsa picante . Salsas can be fresh or cooked depending on what they're used for. Fresh chilis are such as the serrano, jalpeno poblano and habenero can be used in making a quick orro the ever popular chipotle. You can buy the peppers in Mexican or Latin American based grocery stores or even in the bigger supermarket chains. Salsa can also have pumpkin seeds and peanuts and the indigenous canela, the native Mexican bark that tastes like cinnamon.

The article also recommends the best tools for making at home salsa. You can buy a molcajete , and a tejolete or roughly translated mortar and pestle. Most kitchen stores such as Williams & Sonoma and even Amazon sell them. Even newbies can make a simple pico di gallo or salsa Mexicana., It's finely cut tomatoes green chilis and onions blended together into a smooth sauce. You can also spike it with tequila to make what's known as a drunken salsa or add cooked onions as opposed to raw. This last imparts sweet taste that would go good with grilled meats. Also salsa depends on how the ingredients were prepared The veggies can be charred for a smokiness, or pan fried in oil for a creaminess. You can also parboil them as well . to maintain their color but to give them some flexibility when they're being crushed.

There;'s nothing like a good salsa m,there it;s on chips or gracing a taco. If you want authentic, make your own, using the different chilis and cooking techniques. You can also serve it not only with chips. but gracing a taco or even on fajitas to give them bite. Get away from the every day salsas and try the traditional , true Mexican one.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food Of The Auld Sod

Irish food is usually put into the same category as British food - ugh. Yet this island is rich both in beef and seafood, lamb and dairy. Irish food is taken from ancient recipe sand local farms. The combination is a rich melding of tastes and flavors, traditions with a modern twist. This is what makes modern Irish foods tasty and rich.

Modern Irish cooking or Nouvelle Irish cuisine consists of a lot of the island‘s salmon and trout along with mussels and oysters. These are served with the traditional greens of cabbage and kale. The early Irish had a more land based diet of cattle, sheep and fowl. This is true today in some regions where rich stews and roasts still rule. Pork plays an important part in the cooking , especially in the breakfasts. Pork sausage figures in th traditional one as does white and black sausages, eggs and tomatoes. The Irish also like their sausages cooked with fatty or streaky bacon along with potatoes and onions. Bacon figures heavily in some dinner dishes as well.

The Irish love sweets too. In fact they are the purveyors of the world’s best chocolate , Butler’s, founded and still based out of Dublin. The Irish are excellent bread bakers and sometimes make sweet ones for dessert. Honey, one of the oldest ingredients in Irish cuisine, is used frequently (it was first used to flavor mead for the tribesmen) as well as oats and apple. Tarts are popular as after dinner treats. One, the sinfully rich Connemara tart is made with cream eggs and apples and then dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg. Guinness makes an appearance in Guinness Cake, a kind of fruitcake that is redolent with raisins. Apple duff, mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses is a rich variation of a baked apple but it's encased in puff pastry and served with cream..

Irish cuisine is as ancient and rich as the Gaelic heritage itself. Traditional ingredients are blended together to form cooking that is both traditional yet modern . It' s not just simply corned beef and cabbage but much much more. It’s as varied and a textured as the country’s history and literature.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Can Yummy Be Good For You?

There’s a big controversy over if it tastes good can it be good for you? The answer is yes. Some of our favorite things like wine and chocolate, are even a better and easier pill to swallow than broccoli or tomatoes. You’d be surprised over what fun things you can eat . It just takes some know how and of course moderation. If it’s yummy eat it. You ‘d be surprised at the consequences.
For years doctors and dentists have been telling us that chocolate is bad. Not so anymore. Dark chocolate, the lovely, rich bittersweet kind is good for your heart. It’s chock full of flavonoids that help in protecting our arteries against hardening and antioxidants that damage our cells. It’s even better for you than black or green tea. The thing is to eat it in moderation. A healthy dessert would be dark chocolate melted over strawberries and blueberries. You’re eating a treat and not feeling too guilty about it
Even snack foods , usually a taboo, can be healthful too. Think about that handful of nuts you’re eating Almonds were once considered too fatty and crossed off dieters' lists. Not anymore. They can lower cholesterol, and assist in weight loss if, again, eaten in moderation. Salsa , that fun dip is also heart healthy, It’s made out of entirely fresh good for you veggies like tomatoes and peppers and spiced with flavanoid rich onions. Serve with simple unsalted corn chips and you have a delicious low calorie, non fattening snack.
Yummy can be good for you. You just have to know what foods have healthy benefits and eat them in moderation. Forget the bland diet stuff. You can still have tasty fun and help your body in the meantime.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Add Some Spice

Every dish can be perked up with something. That‘s why we have spices and sauces to help us along the way. A bland meat loaf can be given zing with just a dash of soy sauce. Chicken salad can soar with a pinch of dried tarragon. Even a simple fruit salad can be called sophisticated with just a sprinkle of candied ginger. Spice is not only the variety of life it’s the savior of dull cooking.
Everyone should have some kind of semblance of a spice rack in the kitchen. It could be in those cutely organized tubers and holders or you could just have bottles in a lined up in a cabinet. Just make sure there’s something there, Some herbs can be used fresh such as chives. Some are usable both fresh from the garden or commercially processed like tarragon parsley oregano or rosemary. If you can try to grow these in a regular or window box garden. These add to sauces as well as to roast chicken and roast beef. .Fresh rosemary and oregano are wonderful sprinkled on just made focaccio Another good herb is thyme. Sprinkle it in soups for a lovely , peppery taste. Thyme is what gives Manhattan clam chowder its; unique flavor but it’s also good in minestrone and vegetable soup as well.
Spices are also very good. These are dried from plants such as bark (cinnamon and nutmeg) buds (cloves ) fruits (paprika) and roots such as ginger. These you can add to even cakes to sweets as well to make distinctive breads and cakes along with cookies. Spices usually associated with baking such as nutmeg can also be used in sauces to give a different spin on regular brown sauces or gravies. Ground vanilla seed can be added to squash to bring out its’ earthy flavor better than salt could. The best bet is to experiment and see which works for you and your tastes.
Don’t; let blandness force you to be a dull cook. Liven up your dishes with herbs and spices. These will not only make simple roasts and sauces better it will also excite your palate. There’s nothing better than adding a little real spice to your life!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Omelets Versus Frittatas

What makes the better brunch and breakfast staple? Omelet or frittatta? There has been a battle about this for decades. some purist foodies prefer a runny omelet, gooey with cheese and redolent with tomatoes, ham and even chicken . Others prefer a flat but textured fritatta, redolent with herbs and Parmesan. There are two schools of thought on this and which makes for a better morning staple.

Both egg dishes are pretty decadent however they could also be healthy. Omelets are traditionally two to three eggs and have rich cheese thrown into them, such as Gruyere or cheddar. You can also toss in a huge handful of leftover or from the packet ham . Some foodies can also add a n American spin on this French classic with some healthy pepper bits thus creating the classic Western omlet.. Another plus in making the omelet is cooking in it pure butter ala francaiseThis gives it a rich taste but also packs on th e calories not to mention the cholesterol. A healthier version is spraying your omelet pan with Pam, and just tossing in healthy veggies like broccoli and onions.

Frittatta, the Italian version of the omelet is made a little differently and , in my opinion can be better for you. You can cook the eggs in butter however heart healthy olive oil is recommended. Mostly frittatas have veggies such as onion and spinach added to them. Omele s have this too but then there's usually the addition of bacon and cheese. Once in a while sausage is crumbled in them or some grated Parmesan but it's never in excess as with an omelet. The taste of the egg comes though. Luckily both dishes can be made with egg whites as well.

What's on your brunch plate? The omelet or the frittatta? it;s a hard choiceto make and usually one made by taste. The first is pure decadence with its' butter and lush ingredients, the second is is more flavorful with a huge dose of fresh produce and olive oil. It's your decision though. Both are the best part of breakfast or brunch,

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Sugar Tax Controversy

As you've probably heard right now New York City i s instituting a sugar or soft drink tax. This is a few cents added onto sodas.It's supposed to get kids and even adults to kick their sugar addiction. According to Mayor Michael Bloomburg this will lead to less obesity and a city full of healthy kids.

To be honest it's not going to work. Kids will drink the sodas anyway. Once you're addicted to Coke and Mountain Dew, that's it. You'll be drinking these for the rest of your life. We can however teach children that water is the best alternative when they;re thirsty. Nothing beats a bottle of chilled them as opposed to any kind of soda , iced tea or even juice for these. Also teaching them about an all around healthy diet early on is also a deterrent in going for sugary drink as and snacks.

Another problem here is other foods can cause problems. Do we put a ban on hamburgers and fries? Forbid them to eat chili dogs? Restrict potato chips until they 're eighteen like we do with cigarettes? Do we make certain foods illegal ?What about diner food with its' unhealthy portions?. Even the kid's plate of something chicken nuggets or spaghetti can feed tow adults. This should be looked into as well and regulated/

Putting a tax on Coke and Pepsi is not going to change a kid's habits.Introducing him or her to healthy home cooked foods and locally grown fruits and vegetables will . Instead of tacking on a few cents onto a soda. , Mayor Bloomburg should think about having more farmer"s markets in his Manhattan. He'll get his dream of healthier thinner kids thanks to eating all the right foods found at their fingertips.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coffee Times

Yesterday'. New York Times Dining section was devoted to coffee. there were tow good articles written by Oliver Strand and regular , Kim Severson. the first lists almost all of Manhattans; coffee house. while the second about the quest for a good decaf. They're both fascinating articles especially to the coffee holics out there and those tea drinkers, like myself who like a walk on the bean side.

Oliver Strand's article is a guide to some of the city's best places. It;s not just Manhattan but also Brooklyn and Queens. he also rates them and mentions other pluses. such as good pastries or a relaxing atmosphere. Some are well known like the Gimme Coffee chain or the Stumphouse Coffee Roasters. Some are tiny little cafes that barely sits a party of five. It is also a good guide for those looking for homemad e muffins ro sticky buns . Each coffee house not only has it's liquid specialties but also their baked ones as well.

Kim Severson article is a bit more involved. She describes the quest for the perfect decaf. This is usually hard because the stuff sometimes has a chemical taste and it's like drinking dishwater mixed with cleaning fluid. The reason for this is that the caffeine is washed out with a rinse of methylene chloride I t does leave other compounds intact that contribute to the flavor. Luckily this method is becoming more and more sophisticated . Decaf coffee is becoming just as rich tasting and full bodied as its caffeinated cousin. There is also a new method called mountain water process, where green coffee beans are soaked in hot wate r and discarded. The remaining brew is sent through a carbon filter to remove the caffeine. The oils and flavors ar e left intact

There' nothing like a good cup of coffee whether decaf or caf, especially in a bustling city like New York. This is the place where you can see a million things happening as you slowly sip and enjoy a rich cup of the brew. It's may be a busy city but there's always time for a latte.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Oscar Worthy Topic

The other night the short film,The Cove won an Oscar. The film makers showed the world the graphic killing of dolphins every year. Now they have another equally important campaign. - to stop the world from eating whale meat. Sadly enough the brave, gentle creatures are winding up on sushi plates in the US, specifically in California. Luckily the film maker was in on a recent sting to stop this.
Eating whale meat is nothing new. It’s big in Japan where seafood is accorded the same kind of respect we have for chicken and beef. The Cove showed how the dolphins are slaughtered and their meat resold. Even though the meat is high in mercury it; still being sold and sometimes as “clean whale meat”. Whale meat is hitting the sushi bars here, mostly in California. It’s a high ticket item , usually going for $60 bucks a plate. Despite the glam aura attached to it, it’s still wrong.
Despite all the laws that protect sea mammals, there are still countries who go after them , such as Norway and Iceland. Whale blubber is still eaten by the indigenous Canadian and Alaskan tribes. It’s hard to break culinary traditions however: it would be like telling the Germans that they can’t eat pork or the English not to eat their beloved beef. Yet unlike pigs and cattle, whales are not bred for food. Killing and eating them ranks up there with the Chinese killing tigers and turning the big cats into yummy meals.
I don’t; know what to advocate here. I’m a meat eater but also an animal rights activist. One part of me says that this is wrong. Yet I think nothing of eating anything with everyday meats. However, maybe if we can stop the slaughter of dolphins and whales we can turn to saving other animals as well. Maybe it’s time to rethink what we all eat.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chowder Time

There's nothing like a rich chowder for lunch or dinner. It's a heartier version of soup and loaded with all sorts of flavorful and good for you ingredients. It's also easy to make and easy to store, perfect for those nights when you are working late or for busy weekends. Just make a batch ahead of time and then thaw it out when you need a quick dinner.

Chowder has been aroudn for a long time. it os thought to either have come from the Latin caldiera, cauldron whcih translated into French chaudiere or from the old English jowter which means fish peddlar. Chowder was first seen along the Normandy and Breton coasts and across the Channel in Cornwall. Here the catch of the day along with vegetables were simmered and cooked together. Chowder crossed the Atlantic withsettlers to the New England region. There they also made a variation of an Indian fish stew (and probably the precurser of New England clam chowder). Manhattan style clam chowder came about from Delmonico's where it was first created in the late 1880's. Customers went wild for this new dish with its' hearty combo of clams, broth and vegetables.. Rhode Island style soon followed. This was a mix of the New England milk based with the Manhattan.

Chowder today doesn't have to be relegated to fish. Any chowder does require a base of bacon to give it flavor but you can even forgo this. It does need cream and some kind of stock to make it thick and flavorful,. There are sausage and beans chowders corn chowders and even beef chowder. Another must are herbs these add to any chowder. Thyme is a big one,.This is the herb that gives Manhattan clam chowder its' zing . You can use it and marjoram in any chowder as well. Another must is fresh ground pepper and a good grind of sea salt. Let these simmer in with the ingredients to produce a tasty thick soup.

There's nothing like heralding in Spring with a good chowder. You can make it with seafood,beef, chicken or a medley of vegetables. What;'s best is that it's whole meal in one bowl . All it needs is a few crackers and it's ready. Chowder is also perfect for today's busy cooks. Make it up in advance , freeze it and serve it when you're ready. That's all you need for a simple dish that big on flavor.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Good Hot Meal Chili

Nothing beats a good pot of homemade chili. It’s spicy, laden with different beans and beef and is good over everything from cornbread to polenta, from crackers to rice. It’s also pretty easy to make which make s it a good meal for busy weeknights. Even better it tastes good reheated as well. A pot of the stuff can last it through three or four dinner times.

Chili is one of the oldest European influenced dishes in North America. Legend has it that a Spanish nun, Sister Maria de Agreda taught locals around what; s now Texas Arizona and New Mexico how to make a dish that contained venison, spices and peppers or chilis. It was the first dish to be premade and then cooked. Early explorers often had chili bricks with them on expeditions to be cooked in pits. Chili queens first appeared as in the 1880s in San Antonio , selling chili on the streets to locals and visitors. The dish was even brought to the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893 so that the masses could taste this great regional, dish. After this family owned chili parlors or small cafes that feature d it opened up around Texas and other states. It was first canned by Willie Gehardt, a butcher in Corsicana, Texas in 1904.

Today you can have chili freshly made or canned. The best kind, a s with any food is the homemade, straight from the stove. Most people do prefer it with chopped meat. However you can also have vegan style with extra beans or soy chopped meat. You can also sub in turkey and chicken for a leaner chili. Chili, like sauce is up to the individual. Some people may want to add more beans or tomato sauce. Chili is perfect for spice lovers because they can ratchet up the alarm system by adding as much cayenne as you like. Also the amount can be adjusted for a family of four to a party of thirty too.

Chili is a great meal, especially if it’s homemade. There’s nothing more fun than having a mix of meat and beans thrown in and simmered with tomatoes and spices. It’s a great way to revive your palate with all its’ amazing tastes and flavors.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tapioca That Dessert Standard Updated

Too bad tapioca isn't a dessert favorite anymore because it is good. It's an old fashioned dessert, better served after a homemade meat loaf or roast chicken with potatoes. Yet it can fit right at home in the 21st Century. It's still a treat , even as a snack.

Tapioca gets its' start from the cassava root. this is a yam like tuber that can be made into a variety of products form bread to pudding to even biodegradable bags(strange but true) Tapioca used as a food goes back hundred of years to when the indigenous Brazilians used to grow and then eat the root in a variety of ways. It is also popular in Southeast Asia where it;s put in bubble teas. It's also popular in Southern India where the people of Kerala eat it boiled with spices or the root is cut into thin slices. Tapioca first hit the American dessert table in 1894 thanks t o a Boston housewife, Susan Stavers. One of her roomers was an ailing sailor who brought back the cassava root. he advised her to grind it in her coffee grinder where it was turned into fakes. She made it into a sweet treat with cream for him. The news of it spread throughout her neighborhood and she had a business on her hands. She was bought out by John Whitman ,a newspaper publisher and renamed the fledgling industry The Minute Tapioca Company. General Foods bought him out in 1928 where it was then produced for all of America.

The pudding is still good today as it was then, You can update it a bit with adding fruit and flavorings. there are recipes that call for apples and peaches to give it color and texture. Lemon juice can also be added for a lighter more refreshing taste. if you want a more tropical taste think about a dash of lime juice or coconut milk. Tapioca can also be made with rice added so it';s a hybrid of itself and rice pudding.

Tapioca may be an old fashioned dessert but it can certainly fit in with today's dinner. It's a different kind of pudding , with hints of exotic places. Introduce it on your dessert table. This sweet treat will have a whole new generation of fans.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Condensed Milk. The New Cream of The Crop

Condensed milk has always received a bad rap. Foodies with attitude have shunned it for a long time yet condensed milk and its' cousin , evaporated. have been much beloved ingredients in South American and Southeastern Asian cooking. It was recently glorified in one of the better articles in Wednesday's' New York Times Dining section .

The piece written by regular writer, Julia Moskin, gives a pretty good explanation of condensed milk's history and uses. It was on e of the world's early processed foods having been invented by Gail Borden in 1856. Condensed milk was also one of the first processed foods sent to war with Borden supplying the Union Army. Since then it has been embraced by other continents, being made into a coconut fudge in Brazil and a main ingredient in Vietnamese tea. The Taiwanese love to cook with it as well,, using it as a vital part of many dishes.

Americans have a snobby altitude when to comes to condensed milk yet with it, home candy makers can make the best fudge ever. Cook fudge with regular milk and you'll wind up with sugar crystals. Condensed milk doesn't allow for this. Instead you'll get a rich creamy texture similar what's\; found in fudge stores. Also condensed milk one of the main ingredients in Key Lime Pie that keeps the texture silky and smooth.

Don't discount condensed milk. This is a wonderful ingredient , especially for bakers and candy makers It gives a richness and creaminess to dishes and treats. Consider it in a new light. treat as you would any gourmet ingredient - with respect and fascination.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bad Times Yesterday;s Dinign Section

I don't usually criticize the Times Dining section however yesterday's was offensive .It was a big (3/4 of the page) picture of a fuzzy white bunny The cute little bugger was raised on a farm meant to be slaughtered.I don t have a problem with meat. I have a problem with the way it's presented pre-slaughtered. I just found the entire article not in good taste along with the accompanying pictures.

Again don't get me wrong Even though I a animal rights I do occasionally sneak some seafood beef chicken or turkey into my diet, i understand that animal protein is essential to any diet.However I feel that the Dining section and the writer, regular Kim Severson, could have edited the article in such a way that it wasn't disturbing to animal lovers and any kids who might happen up this section. Turn to the continuation and there are more pictures of a skinned rabbit with still furry legs. Any cat owner looking at this will feel a shiver because the body looks awfully like a skinned cat. These pictures and the many descriptions on how to kill the animals were , let's face it, haunting.

The editors should have stuck with with photos of the prepared dishes or the meat already cut up into sections. Perhaps a better shot would have been one of the interviewed chefs cooking up the meat or serving it to guests. There were one or two of these pictures which were thankfully not alarming. To be honest both writer and editors should have had more sensitivity. Hopefully this is a lesson for future articles dealing with animals that can be either considered pets or sadly enough dinner.

Bad Times. All I can say is if you feel the way I did upon seeing this article then write the Dining Section. It may sway the sections editors to think twice about another article of this kind. I know I would if I received scores of angry missives about this subject

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Shower Time

March usually means showers. No, not the kind that you need an umbrella and boots for (although this is the month for sleet and snow yet)it time for all those future May and June brides to have their traditional gift giving bonanza. Most are easy to shop for. There’s’ a list and registration. However there are still some difficulties when picking out what’s right.

A shower gift could mean anything from cooking lessons to a spice rack. The thing is what to give. Do you follow what’s’ on the couple’s list or do you veer off and get what you line - not what they want? If you r a close friend or relative, then stick to the registry. However if it’s an office mate or a boyfriend’s cousin then get something cheaper. Also your budget has to come into play. Don’t buy a Le Creuset set of pans for six hundred bucks when you need that money for yourself. Settle for something much less expensive. Even visit your local dollar store if you have to. This last has some really nice towels , dishes, cutlery and plates. You can create a really nice and extensive gift for only fifty dollars.
Gift cards are also making a big splash at showers too. Since many couples are set up in their own households already, they may just be happy with a few fifty or one hundred dollar cards. Buy them at these at bride’s or groom’s favorite stores like Target, Wal-Mart or even their local supermarket. They can spend the cards on everything from practical items such as cleaning products or food basics. They may need decide to hold off and even put the cards towards a more extravagant purchase such as a new stove or more expensive cuts of meat for their first housewarming party.
Yes, March is the start of the bridal shower season. it’s time to look over registries and see what may catch your ey asa good gift. it’s also the time to stock up on gift cards too because they are desirable as well.Just be prepared for all the showers you’ll be splashing through.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bun Times Ahead

Buns are fun. They're always a treat whether they're plain , infused with cinnamon and raisins or spiced. They're a great mid morning snack or even a quick way to start the morning. They have more oomph than plain rolls and go better with coffee or tea. Buns are the perfect sweet when you;re craving some kind of pastry.

Buns have been around since medieval times in the form of hot crossed ones. These were spiced and fille d with raisins, However the Anglo Saxons ate them as a sacrifice to the moon goddess Eostre, where our Easter comes from. The cross symbolizes the four quarters of the moon. Later the newly minted English Protestants declared them too Papist tried to ban them. That didn't work and England's wise Elizabeth I relegated bun making to only Christmas and Easter. The 18th Century brought two new forms of bun,. the Sally Lund and the Bath. the first was created by French Huguenot. Solange or Sollie Lyuon.These were a spin of the mancette a type of dinner roll eaten only by the rich. Sally Lunn had nutmeg, rosewater and cinnamon in them. The bath bun created by Dr. William Oliver in the spa town of Bath, England These were a rich yeast dough wrapped around a lump of sugar. it had more crushed sugar on the top and was chock full of raisin sultanas and citron peel.

Nowadays buns are even richer. The chain Cinnabon offers them liberally laced with Madagascar cinnamon and topped with a mega rich cream cheese icing. Local bakeries around the Philly and South Jersey area offer sticky buns. This is again another rich treat more like a gooey cake than a bun. It's made in the same roll around way as the Cinnabon but his also laced and sprinkled with chopped pecans. Again all of these are to be eaten with a knife and fork and usually constitute a dinner as opposed to a snack. However grocery stores in the New York metro area and some bakeries sell traditional buns and these are good split open and slathered with butter.

Buns are a fun treat no matter what time of day. They are great for mid morning and mid afternoon breaks. They're good at breakfast when you're reading the paper or at the mall when you're tired of shopping. Treat yourself to one today.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Winds Bring Hearty Meals

Just because Spring is right around the corner doesn’t’ mean that it’s time to go over to lighter fare. The month can still get blustery and cold. There will still be a blizzard or two up Old Man Winter‘s sleeve. This means that it’s OK to serve a hot and hearty meal for dinner or even for lunch.

This is the month for St Paddy’s Day and that usually means a rich and satisfying lamb stew. There are plenty of different recipes out there to try. Some require the traditional mutton and vegetables however you can add parsley dumplings or serve over polenta for a twist. Cassoulet, a cold weather favorite in France, is also a good March meal. This is a savory blend of sausage, duck and beans mixed in with spices and cooked sort of like a stew. It’s salvation after a day of chilling temps and sleet.
If course nothing beat s that ultimate comfort food -casserole. You can add a variety of ingredients from the staple s of beef. chicken and potatoes to beer and tuna. There’s nothing like a simple yet creamy slice of one, accompanied by a bright salad and some warmed dinner rolls. Unlike cassoulet, casseroles are pretty easy to whip up and enjoyed by almost everyone. You can vary the ingredients by making the meat ones for week days and if you ’re observing Lent vegetarian and tuna casseroles. Try a breakfast one for a weekend brunch with friends and family.
March has definitely comes in like a lion. To bear its‘ roars and snarls treat yourself to warm , hearty dinners. They’ll get you through the rough first days You’ll feel as content as a cat by the fire.