Saturday, July 31, 2010

Light Wines For Summer

Everyone thinks wine is a winter drink to be served with heavy meals. Not true. There are plenty of light, fruity wines out there that would go well with salads and barbecues. They are delicate and crisp the perfect foils for grilled meats and vegetables. Some can even be used for accompanying desserts- unlike the more robust winter geared wines.

Summer wines are usually white although there are some refreshing reds and roses. Mostly everyone prefers the first however because it does go well with chicken and fish. Portugal gives us the perfect one in Vinho Verde a white with notes of grapefruit ans citrus. This can even be made into a white wine spritzer , perfect for back yard appetizers and finger sandwiches. Another summer stunner is the German Reisling wine. It too has citrusy notes as well as pear and apple. It can be accompany everything from the first course to dessert. It's the perfect drink on a warm August night.

Reds and roses get their due during these steamy days. Reds are always good next to a juicy home made burgers . The Spanish Riojas and French Beaujolais , with their mellow fruitiness and peppery notes are excellent with any barbecued ribs or grilled steaks. Roses are also good with these meats too. Roses are perfect with grilled salmon too. Try to buy ones that are low on tannins which give the wine depth and full bodiedness.

Don;t think that wine is only for the colder months. It's not. A good summer meals deserves a good summer wine. It'll bring out the sharp and delicious flavors of a barbecue or outdoor party.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Vegan Barbecues

Vegan and barbecue somehow don't go together in the same sentence yet that's not true. Even meat free eaters can enjoy every summer treat a meat lover can. It's easy. To sum it up in one word tofu. There are so many tofu products right now that any vegetarian could have a better barbecue than any carnivore right now.

Luckily the variety of veggie burgers has increased over the last decade. Years ago they only came in one tasteless flavor. Now the patties taste like actual patties and have extras such as salsa , basil, black bean, tomato and even soy cheddar cheese thrown in.Some even have an already grilled taste. Add some ketchup, onions and tomato and you have a regular burger. Even better is that you can fools guests into thinking they're eating Angus beef when in fact they're gobbling down the very healthy good for them soy.

Not to be out done but some companies like the truly vegan Morning Star Farms have hot dogs too. Put these on the grill and they taste like Nathan's real beef kind. Granted they're not as juicy but the texture isn't bad and the ends do get nice and crispy if you split them. There are also ribs and chicken patties for variation along with Morning Star's newest creation the turkey burger. All of these are great for the barbecue and would make for tasty filling meals.

Yes , vegans can have a great time barbecuing. It's easy thanks to the wide array of soy products out there. In fact they might even convert a few carnivores during a grilling spree.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fit For A Pasha

Yesterday's New York Times Dining section had a few interesting articles.Another one about the Bulgarian-British chef, Silvena Rowe caught my eye. She has just come out with a new cookbook entitled "Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume." It is also unusual because it deals with the cuisine of the Ottoman Empire. This is a delectable feast of different Mediterranean influenced dishes suitable for any pasha.

The foods are sumptuous, with rich ingredients that make the mouth water. The article, written by Olivia Snaije tells of Chef Rowe's travels and fond memories. her father, a Turk was also somewhat of cook and instilled in her a love of Eastern cooking. She talks lovingly of his eggplant borek, that is stuffed with feta and coated in melted butter. She has also traveled throughout the Middle East gathering up recipes as she goes.

Chef Rowe also is the top chef at London's famed Mayfair Hotel. There she incorporates these Middle Eastern treats into her menus. She is a big fan of pomegranate molasses which is a long time staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. Chickpeas are well used in her kitchen in almost everything. She is also big on using nuts which are another staple in that cuisine.

If you want to eat like a pasha then buy Chef Silvena Rowe's latest cookbook. You'll dine on fine Middle eastern cooking with relatively easy to navigate recipes. It's a good way to eat on these sultry summer days

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tacos With An Asian Twist

Today's Dining section of the New York Times had an excellent article on fusion may not be what everyone expects but it's gaining in popularity.It's Korean tacos, a blend of spicy Pacific Rim flair with traditional Mexican. Another surprise is that people all over the US are craving them.

Korean tacos were more or less born when the two ethnic groups worked together. Korean store owners would hire Mexican workers and the two ate lunch at the same time. When the rice ran out then Korean bosses grabbed tacos as away to hold the meal together. Also Roy choi a founder of the Kogi trucks that brings the Kor=Mex fare is also responsible. He was able to enable the food to hit all kinds of neighborhoods. It's not just in California but Midwestern cities like Indianapolis where Mid America is embracing it heartily.

The article, written by John T. Edge describes what's in the taco. The flavor may be a bit intense for some foodies.It's the spicy but tasty barbecued beef bolgoki with the fiery hot cabbage slaw kimchee. Unlike the regular fixings which have soothing guacamole and cooling sour cream, there are bean sprouts, onions and scallions and salsa - a nod to the original taco. I like tacos and love the mild and peppery blend of flavors. I don't know about the Korean one though. A milder version may be good. The article even says there's to be Korean pizza waiting in the wings.Now that I'd like to try.

The taco may be as Mexican as the Mayans and serapes yet now there is a new twist. Korean tacos are the ultimate fusion food. It's a nod to Asia while still maintaining its' Meso American roots.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Tea Garden

Surprisingly your garden isn't just for growing fruits and vegetables. You can also find teas there as well. Various herbs can be boiled and made into lovely brews that are just as fragrant and flavorful as the store bought ones. Another plus is that you can create variations that tea companies can't make. You can come up with new flavors to enjoy any time of day.

What herbs make a good tea?Start with mint, chamomile and lavender.these have as bases for a few centuries. You can add rose hips for a touch of sweetness or hibiscus if you have that growing in your back yard. Herbs such as rosemary thyme and dill can be made into strong brews even though they;re primarily used for cooking. You can also use flowers such as a dried violets lavender and nasturtiums. Be careful with what you pick and please do research on your intended leaves.Some plant leaves such as the tomato and potato are very poisonous and don't lend themselves to brewing.

Once you gather up your herbs it's time to dry them. Hang them outside or anywhere cool and moisture free. You want them to be bone dry when you have to store them. Tie the herbs in little bundles and hang in an airy place like a back porch or breezeway.(you can also try your house too during these warm days). Once dried, then crumble the different combos into small plastic storage containers and with regular tea, store in a cool dry place.

There's nothing like creating your own custom blends of teas. You can come up with a variety or stick with a flavor that you really enjoy. Nothing beats a cup of garden picked fresh brewed tea .it's special because you had a hand in making it .

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tasty Summer Slaws

This is the season for no fuss cooking and easy eating. What better than to celebrate with a good old fashioned cole slaw. except these days, the hallowed shredded cabbage is anything but traditional and old fashioned. There are so many new takes s on it that it'll make that head of Savoy spin. You can have a good US flavor or try something international.

Basic cole slaw is easy to make. All you need is four to five cups of shredded cabbage and about three cups of shredded carrots. Mix in two table spoons of olive oil and mayo and a tablespoon of vinegar. However with any salad recipe you can vary it to give it zip and taste. I usually like mine with a good dollop of horseradish and lemon. These last add bite and lift just plain ordinary slaw into a phenomenal side. Other zesty add ins are sliced peppers, red pepper flakes and buttermilk.

Another spin on cole slaw is the actual cabbage itself. You can make it with the usual green and cut into thicker than usual for a chunky, crunchy salad. Cut into one in wide strips instead of shredding it. You can also substitute red cabbage for a different look and flavor. Red tends to be more intense and this works well with stronger vinaigrette's' including those made with balsamic vinegar. You can also mix the two colors together for a more colorful mix too,.

Summer is all about tasty salads and that includes cole slaw No summer meal would be complete without it. It'sfun and different, yet still good for you.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hawaii At The Jersey Shore

Recently I discovered some cool surfer things at a recent trip to the Jersey Shore. No, not a new kind of boar d or wet suit but real surfer dude food. There's this great little restaurant in Long Branch that serves nothing but tacos , burritos and Hawaiian shaved ice. It's called Shaka's Shaved Ice. Shaka is a hand gesture where the thumb and pinky fingers are extended out and shaken as a greeting (you may remember it from President Obama's inauguration parade where the University of Hawaii's marching exchanged the gesture with the newly minted president and First Daughters, Malia and Sasha).

Since I already had dinner, I went for the shaved ice. Once you have the Hawaiian kind you'll be hard put to go back to the Italian kind. It's refreshing , made with fresh crushed ice cubes and served in a big mound (all for three dollars) in a mini tub. There's a variety of flavors to choose from to pour over it such as Kona Coffee and Surfer Wax - bubble gum. I chose the safe combo of lemon, line and pina colada. I may try just the Kona coffee or root beer flavors the next time I go. You can also have the shaved ice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream too.

Shaka;s also has rice bowls along with tacos and burritos. These are on my definite must try list.There are also fajitas and fresh guacamole and chips too. Shaka's also serves fish (along with chicken and beef) tacos which is a large part of the Baja peninsula surfing culture. Again these are another must try. The restaurant also serves salads too and all sorts of burritos too.

If you're in Long Branch this summer, stop at Shaka's at the very happening Pier Village. Indulge in some tacos before you hit the beach. Then finish up with a refreshing Hawaiian shaved ice. You may be at the Jersey shore but you'll feel like you're on the Big Island.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cherished Recipes

Summer is the time of families getting together for barbecues or reunions. Funny how it all revolves around food, especially family recipes. These are the occasions to write down the ingredients for time honored dishes such as Grannie's tomato sauce or Auntie's pot roast. Favorite and cultural dishes are what link us to our past and are our gift to future generations.

The best way to garner and keep recipe s are in a scrapbook or recipe folder. try to get as many as you can and also have the copies put onto a CD ROM. This way they can be copied for other relatives and also can be placed into an envelope for long distance relatives. Another thing to keep in mind is that all recipes should be updated. Pinches, dashes and smidges should be converted to teaspoons and tablespoons for a more accurate reading. After all some one's pinch may be another relative's dash. If you can also take pictures of the dish for the recipe album. This shows others what the finished.

After you've accumulated all the recipes think about holding another family dinner. This is a great way to reconnect and get to know those you've fallen away from . It's also fun cooking together and reminiscing too. You can also food shop or hit the garden together as well.

Food brings clans closer. Family recipes do this as well. There's something comforting in making decades and even centuries old recipes and sharing them with the next generation. These are the strongest ties.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Soaks and Cokes

There’s a wonderful tradition in the both the American Midwest and the South , where pulled pork sandwiches and Coca Cola are paired up.It’s called soaks and Cokes. You can have these two by themselves or with chips or cole slaw on the side. All in all they make for a great lunch, dinner or even snack.

Pulled pork is pretty easy to make. It’s just basically slow cooked pork shoulder or roast , well marinated and heated for sixteen hours . The fat is then drained off for a less greasier meat. A bottle of store bought barbecue sauce is added and usually an onion for more flavor. You can do the same with chicken in about twenty to thirty minutes. The barbecue sauce is then added and the whole thing is cooked up. Yet a true soak is made with pork for a more distinctive flavor and texture.

What kind of bread should you use? A true soak should have a soft hamburger bun so it can soak up the sauce hence the name. You can also use white bread however this can get too soggy and maybe too messy. Don’t use crusty rolls like the Kaiser roll or French bread. The bread shouldn’t be too chewy. Another no no is no toasting or buttering the roll. This interferes with the taste and the texture. Add a nice cold icy Coke and you’re done.

There’s nothing like a Coke and a soak for a good meal. Enjoy the two together and how they complement each other. There’s nothing like them for flavor and fun!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Tradition Pig Roasts

Today's New York Times Dining section had an interesting and detailed article on pig roasts. They're a big tradition in almost every part of the US., topping church picnics and barbecues. They're rare in the Big Apple and with good reason.It takes a lot of heat and space to create one.

Steve Rinella who wrote the article had a hankering to recreate a pig roast from his Midwestern youth. He tried, with the help of his best friend, Matt Weingarten who oversees the restaurant at the famous St Bart's Church on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Unfortunately they tried in Mr. Rinella's small Brooklyn backyard only to have the local fire department douse the fire pit for cooking. Weeks later a second attempt was made , this time on a friend's family farm in the very rural Middleburgh,New York., It was huge success here and with good reason. There was enough land to build a substantial fire pit to cook a 240 pound pig.

Pig roasts can be fun but remember that you need a lot of land to do so.It also helps to have a big back yard and only a few neighbors. A pit is the size of a large bathtub and requires several hours of digging and lining large stones. Cooking is an involved affair to, from prepping (pictures accompanying the piece show four men carrying the carcass to the pit) to actual roasting time which can take a full day. The result is incredible however, with tender succulent meat and joints. The pig was stuffed with pineapple and butternut squash to name a few and was covered with a sweet-peppery dry rub that included spices, brown sugar and juniper. Again this is labor intensive and requires a lot of help.

Pig roasts are a fun part of summer eating and celebrating, However they are also complicated to execute. If you have the space and the time, they're well worth it. After all there's nothing like the taste of fresh barbecued pork for a warm weather feast.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Popsicles That Pop

This is definitely the season for a nice icy treat and what better than a homemade Popsicle. This is one of summer's best foods. It's even better when you make your won. Like homemade ice cream you can vary the flavors and have fun with them.

What's a good Popsicle flavor. You can start with just everyday juices like grape and cranberry. These are always the best tastes and kids love them. For a more refreshing and tart flavor try Newman's Own lemonade or limeade for more of a tropical treat. You can also make your own if you want and regulate the sweetness or tartness to your liking. One of the more popular flavors now is watermelon. You just have to puree watermelon chunks and blend with a simple sugar syrup (basically white sugar boiled with water) and then pour into molds. You can also do the same with fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. The flavor will be more intense though and with the strawberries and raspberries, you will have seeds.

There's a trend for more unusual Popsicles. You can try guava and papaya but remember to mix these with water or coconut milk. They may be too thick and will create a "sludgy" ice pop and that calls for experiments with thicknesses. Some foodies are adding fresh ginger and basil to their pops for a different , more intense spin. This again requires some experimenting and regulating. You don't want to have frozen pesto on a stick, after all.

Popsicles are a wonderful and fun treat to make. Experiment with different tastes and ingredients to create one to your liking. Then sit under the shadiest tree and enjoy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Dieting

Summer is the perfect time for dieting. There's all that fresh fruit and veggies around not to mention lighter fare when it comes to meals. Losing weight during the warm weather is a snap. It''s easy to follow a regiment when you have fresh ingredients around - not to mention a decreased appetite thanks to the high temps.

Salads are in abundance during this time. Take advantage of all those fresh tomatoes and greens when you;re losing weight right now. it;s also a good time for peppers and carrots . these last can even be cut up for snacks too . Dip them in a fiery vinaigrette, basically oil and vinegar with a good dose of hot pepper flakes for a fun afternoon snack. Also grilled vegetables that have been marinaded in oil and lemon juice are the perfect alternative to mayo rich potato and macaroni salads. Serve as sides with grilled fresh caught fish or steak and you have a great low calorie meal.

Summer also means lighter desserts. Steer yourself towards chilled fresh fruit as opposed to ice cream. If you have to have chocolate dip strawberries and raspberries in chocolate sauce. You can also puree watermelon or cantaloupe and then pour into Popsicle molds for a refreshing low calorie treat Fruit can be grilled too but remember to brush them with oil before putting them on an open flame. Serve with a basil honey sauce if you want some sweetness and zing.

The summer is a perfect time if you're dieting. You're surrounded by healthy low cal harvests of fresh picked fruits and veggies. Take advantage of these to slim down. You'll feel better thanks to this healthy lighter fare.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer Birthday Parties

There's nothing like a festive birthday meal or party. The problem is having the celebration in the summer can be too much. After all, there's the main mel and nibblings to whip up, Then there;s the cake. Yet no one feels like doing any cooking and baking when it's sweltering outside. What to do ? Keep it light. Go easy on the prepping and the foods for a still memorable party.

You may want to start off with no fuss appetizers. I like bruschetta. It's easy to make and the only hard labor is toasting the bread. From there you can add either just tomatoes or a veggie mix. You can also grill up some kabobs for fun appetizers too. Actually put the meat and veggies on longer skewers n you can serve them as the whole meal Another fun idea are make your own tacos. Just grill some chicken and or steak strips and let guests add their own stuffings.

The birthday cake is the main reason to celebrate.Yet it's just too darned hot to bake. Go for the classic ice cream cake. Baskin Robbins and Friendly's have fully decorated ones that are just as pretty as what a bakery creates. For another spin buy a pound cake , cut into slices and grill the slices until toasted. Serve with vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit for an alternative to the traditional cake.

Summer birthday parties can be full of good food and treats just as birthdays in other seasons can. The trick is to keep the fare light and fun. Sort of like a summer celebration itself!!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

When Wine Goes Bad

Ever open that luscious bottle of wine you've been saving only to have vinegar waiting for you?It's a pain because it's expensive and also a waste of money. I've had that happen to me lately and it was not a fun experience.Not to mention it was a blueberry wine form one of my favorite wineries that I had been saving.

Wine can go off for a number of reasons. As with mine, it was exposed to high levels of heat during the winter. Instead of placing it automatically in my basement I had let it sit out. Unfortunately it was in direct line with my heating vent. My Mom suspects that the wine was "cooked" and thus transformed into a blueberry vinegar (which was so sour that I couldn't even use it for vinegar). I've learned from this and also discovered why wine cellars are in the coolest region of any house. Most vintages usually get oxidized meaning there's a certain amount of oxygen that got in , usually after the bottle has been opened or uncorked. Also mold plays an important part in ruining a wine.If the grapes were moldy to begin with , then the wine will be too.

How do you know your wine is bad? The bouquet if there is one (I couldn't tell by smell with mine because there was no aroma wafting from the bottle) Sometimes there will be a strong vinegar smell. Sometimes there will be a strong caramel smell especially if the wine bottle has been put on a hot stove. There's also a musty odor thanks to improper bottling .

Wine gone bad? yes that do happen. However it can be avoided whit proper storage and handling. As with any foodstuff it should be respected and handled with care.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Summer Treat Lobster Roll

There's nothing like a lobster roll for a fun summer lunch or snack. Who can resist sweet lobster on a toasted hot dog roll? Best of all it's easy to recreate and enjoy whether you're on a pier overlooking the ocean of in your back yard.

What makes a good lobster roll? Start with the lobster meat itself. You can steam them yourself or buy one or two pound s of already cooked, and cut up meat from your local seafood shop. Use the meatiest parts such as the claws and body. Discard the roe or eggs (this is the green stuff that you'll find in female lobsters). Save it for later. mayo is a must and I'd recommend using a regular one instead of the light. Diced celery is a must and you can add diced onions or scallions for bite.Some recipes call for Dijon mustard and or basil but these can be skipped. you don;twant their flavors to overpower the lobster's delicate taste.

Tradition calls for lobster salad to be served on a hot dog bun. This is true and most prefer their on a toasted one. You can lightly butter the roll too if you'd like. Another variation is serving it on a baguette for extra chewiness and flavor. If this is the case then add some sliced tomatoes too for a Mediterranean spin on this classic American sandwich. You can also stuff lobster salad into a pita pocket you are on a diet too.

Lobster rolls are one of summers best traditions. It's a recipe that easy to make and a good way to enjoy the summer's bounty of seafood. Enjoy one today whether you're at the beach or the back yard!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Clam Time

The best part about summer is heading to the shore. The second best is heading to the shore and eatng the best of its' waters. Today's New York Times Dining section tapped into that with their informative article on clams. It shows you what to eat and where to eat them all within driving distance of Manhattan.

The article written by Sam Sifton and part of the section Critic's Notebook tells about the different kids of clams that are harvested off Long Island Coast and Raritan Bay Clams have been fished here from the earliest days and were common food among early European settlers. Atlantic clams have four catagories soft shell, surf, razor hard shell also known as the northen quahog.What most clam shacks sell are littlenecks and cherry stones, The surf clam is a tougher meat and used mostly in clam chowders.

The article also mentions some great places to go. There is one on the Raritan Bay in Port Monmouth that sells cold clams along with fried fish, salad, and sandwiches. Mr. Sifton also mentions Moby's which is connected to Bahr's one of the Jersey shore's best seafood restaurants. These are two places that I am going to check out,just to taste the clams. There are also other places. One is the famous Ruby's of Coney Isand and Sheepshead Bay's renown Ranndazzo's. This last is the big place among local politicians and foodies looking for fresh fished seafood.

There 'nothing like a platter of cold clams with a spritz of lemon. They're what's great about a summer meal. They're also the perfect way to end a day at the shore.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Humidity And Baking Don't Mix

Humidity isn't exclusively your hair's worst enemy.It's also bad for baking, hence one of the reasons why there aren't too many home made cakes and cookies during the summer months. It can play havoc with everything from ingredients to finishing looks. Unfortunately , unlike with hair there's not much you can do about it. There are no special serums to lotions to help you. You have to rely on nature and cleverness to produce a fine looking cake or cookie.

Humidity is nothing more than water vapor in the atmosphere. It usually is an indication of fog rain or even snow and can occur during any season and any month. However it's more prevalent in the summer however and can turn a lovely July day into a sauna. This can ruin such ingredients as flour an d baking powder, giving them more moisture. It also results in cakes and cupcakes that won;t rise or even less of a designated number of cookies. Humidity also ruins breads and biscuits. Humidity can rob them of a nice brown finish and crustiness. They'll be damp and soggy and a little too moist.

If you must bake during these hot humid days,. then consider some baker's tips. I've found a few on the Internet that will be helpful to you. Many people swear by refrigerating their dry ingredients. store flour in a cool dry place like the fridge or the pantry. Another tip is to reduce liquids by bit. Use maybe three quarter s of a cup instead of a cup or one tablespoon instead of two. Others swear by glass baking dishes and double insulated cookie sheets. Some also recommend using food thermometers to gauge the oven's temp.

Humidity is not a baker's best friend. If you must make cakes and cookies or breads and biscuits now, proceed with caution . Keep in mind you won't be producing the best right now. You may have to put extra effort and work a little harder to create the perfect treat.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Old Time Diner Food

One of my favorite places here in New Jersey, the Coach House Diner in North Bergen just had its menus printed up from its first year back in 1939. It was a time when life and food were a lot simple- not to mention cheaper and better for you. Seeing the menu back a lot of memories for my Mom who reminisced about the types of food back then. Some things have changed, some haven't.

Diners at the end of the Depression didn't have the wide variety their descendents have today. it was plain and simple chopped steak , pork chops and hamburgers. You could get a hot chicken dish or an open faced turkey sandwich . That's as exotic as it got. Yet this lack of choice is better. You just ordered something simple and ate it. Omelets haven't changed. They were probably only one egg back then and the eggs were farm fresh and organic. Surprisingly enough they were served with fries , just as they are today. The Western style was a big seller it seemed.

I noticed some foods fell out of fashion. There was the icky offering of stewed prunes. (I'm sorry that's just yucky to the nth degree) along with oysters, both stewed and fried. The first was a big deal back in the day. My Dad loved it especially when his grandmother , my Great Granny Roberts always made it on Christmas Eve. Nowadays it's rarely ever cooked in this country. Ditto with fried oysters, especially in the New York area. Liver and onions were a special lunchtime offering and I know only of a few diners that offer it today.

Some things come and go but diners, like the Coach House remain the same. There will always be a menu full of good things a welcoming plate of home cooked food waiting for you. That's what's so comforting. about them

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Easy Summer Stir Fries

There's nothing like an easy meal to prepare during these hot days. The dilemma is what hot meal is easy to prepare when it;s 90 degrees outside? Simple Stir fry.It's an easy and fun way to incorporate your favorite ingredients with simple stove top cooking. Another fun aspect is that a stir fry let's you be as creative as possible.

Every simple stir fry starts out with vegetables. Most include the traditional water chestnuts, onions and peppers. these are easy to prep and cook up in minutes. Although they're not used in traditional fries tomatoes can be used. for texture and color along with taste. I've recently discovered that grape tomatoes when cooked have the strongest flavor of all tomatoes and they are wonderful in any kind of stir fry. As for meats, they;re you;re decision,. Most people like chicken but you can add beef or pork strips or even shrimp. Another choice is spicing I like adding onion salt and a lot of fresh ground pepper to mine. You can again stick to tradition and add fresh sliced ginger along with garlic cloves.

The stir fry's base is also important You can add any kind or rice or thin pasta . I usually like just plain white rice. This absorbs all flavors and sops of the gravy. Brown rice is good too but be warned. it does posses a nutty flavor that will compete with the other ones. Plain spaghetti or vermicelli is good. This is closest to the Chinese noodle variation and is like what you would get in parts of China.

Stir fry is the best bet for a hot dish during these hot days. You get a full meal in one dish . better still it;s fun to make and delicious to eat.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Different Slice Of Fruit

You may have an over abundance of fruit right now.It may be getting to you too. After all how many strawberries can you eat without getting rashes? Or blueberries without staining your teeth purple. This s the season for all sorts of harvests. yet that over abundance might get too cloying after awhile its time to give your fruit a new slice in life.

One of the best ideas is to infuse fruit into vinegars These make for lovely and sweet vinaigrette's . Crush strawberries, blueberries or even peaches and mix them with red wine vinegar (you may try an apple cider based one for the peaches.Leave in overnight and then mix with oil the next day. The flavor will even make ordinary Bibb lettuce and tomatoes taste extra special. Add some toasted almonds and broccoli florets for added crunch and flavor.

Another idea for extra fruit is mixing it into either whipped cream or sour for nice topping for pound and angel food cakes. You can also blend fresh fruit into plain yogurt and then serve as a topping. Slicing up fruit and grilling it for sides to chicken an d beef are another novel idea for dealing with over enthusiastic buying.

Don't be tired of the plain fruit you have around the kitchen. Use the extra to create memorable dressings or toppings.It's not only economical but fun.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scandanavian Wood

Yesterday's New York Times' Dining section had an interesting article and interview with a Danish chef. Why would this be so interesting?It's because he only cooks with indigenous Scandinavian plants. he also forages them himself too , being a purist. This creates some dishes that would resemble Viking cuisine yet they all have modern twists.

The interview was conducted by Times regular Frank Bruni and the chef is Rene Redzepi, a Dane who is also half Macedonian Redzepi has had good training coming from famed Daliesque Spans restaurant El. Bulli. His background also includes a stint at the famed French Laundry in California. Yet he strikes out on his own at Noma,his restaurant in Copenhagen with using natural botanicals on since ignored or even forgotten. There he incorporates not often used sea buckthorn berries along with ramps to make flavorful dishes.

Redzepi also plates meats as if putting them back in their natural surroundings. Shrimp is put with beach stones and herbs, looking like they're back in their natural environment. He plans on putting deer meat with escargot because that what their hooves would trample on out in the wild. it makes me wonder if any American chefs may follow his lead. This could prove for some wacky twists in New York restaurants.

I'm a big fan of foraging and I encourage all foodies to do it. I think Chef Redzepi makes an interesting case for it with his purist recipes and tasty twists. It's sure to catch on as the next big foodie trend

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's Too Hot To Eat!!!!

What do you do when it's too hot to eat?I'm not referring to food straight off the stove or oven but when the temps reach the triple digits. Even the simplest things seem like chores and that includes eating. The appetite goes down and you're lucky to crave a mouthful of salad. The problem is you do need sustenance to keep going. The big question is how? What's tempting enough to get hunger going when you feel like a just baked cake?

Look to lighter foods. Salads really are the perfect hot weather meal. There's nothing like a grilled chicken or shrimp Caesar or vinaigrette based for a lunch. If you feel too wrung out to make your own , enjoy it in a cool air conditioned diner or chain restaurant. Chef's salad is another good choice. Thanks to the variety of meats and cheeses used you get a full meal in a salad bowl.

As much as you'd like to live on ice cream during these hot times, think about eating more fruit. Anything from watermelon to strawberries are healthier. There's less sugar and less fat. You can nibble or munch as much as you like,Also you can freeze fruit if you re craving something super icy.

Don't let the hot weather ruin your appetite. There are plenty of light and healthful choices to get you through this heat wave. You can't survive on just ice and water

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Odd Ice Creams

In Sunday's New York Times magazine section there was an interesting article about Humphrey Slocombe, a way out ice cream parlor that creates unusual flavors like Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper and Blue Bottle Vietnamese - a reference to that country's coffee. It seems to be going like gangbusters ,despite the bizarre flavors. If Humphreys Slocombe becomes more popular it may be influential here in the New York area or even become a chain .

The place was the brainchild of Jake Godby, former pastry chef at San Fran''s Coi restaurant. The creamery's name come from the two characters Mr. Humprheys and Mrs Slocumbe from the British classic and cult farce Are You Being Served? (Godby is kind of mocking chef Alice Waters for naming her restaurant after the french film Chez Panisse) The best way to describe Godby's work is comparing him to Tim Burton. Just as Burton's wacky and weird eye make for interesting movies Godby's odd tastes make for unusual and memorable ice creams. He's not afraid of putting anything in his flavors. , salty or sweet, lard or caramel. It's all there.

Some of the local reviews are interesting. the most favorite and popular is the Blue Bottle Vietnamese. There is also Jesus juice which is red wine and Coke mixed. (this may make for an interesting Slushie) along with peanut butter bacon. There is also a brown butter that has real bits of butter in it. I don't know how I'd deal with some of the flavors. I'm, strictly old school when It comes to ice cream (when I do eat it) although a beet based ice cream sounds intriguing. There's also Secret Breakfast which is bourbon and cornflake mix that I wouldn't mind sampling. (although it sound s like a meal at the Sheen household)

If you want some bizarre coolness this summer, and you're in San Francisco . head over to Humphrey Slocumbe. here you can experience a traditional summer treat with some new twists.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Saint's Day Specialities

Today is mine and my mother's onomastica or saint's day. It's not a big thing here in the States.People observe it more in Italy,Spain and certain parts of Greece. It's a day when you receive treats for you saint along with gifts. I've always liked it and the custom of having relatives make dinners for you.

Saint's Days involve a meal as was the case when I visited my family in the Piedmontese Alps. My cousin Anna had a barbecue and special cake for me. Usually it's the winter's saints days that get special treatment such as Saint Stephen's,the day after Christmas.Every Stefano throughout Italy gets a pork dinner in addition to the lush holiday dinner the day before. I felt lucky to get a lovely summer feast. Here in the States it's just a dinner or lunch out with candy from Butlers.

Saints Days are a wonderful tradition. You get to know some of your religious heritage while celebrating it on a day just for your name.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy July 4th weekend everyone! Where ever you are , enjoy a weekend full of barbecue. ice cream and just good summer eating and fun!

Remember those in the Armed Forces who are stationed away from their families and friends. They are keeping our forefathers dream of freedom and liberty alive across the globe.Raise a glass to them too!!


Friday, July 2, 2010

Your Holiday Weekend Check List

This is the start of the July 4th holiday weekend. This is also the time you should be checking your grill, fridge and pantry to make sure things are up to snuff. After all you don't want to be running to the store last minute or worst heading out to get take out food. Follow this list and you'll be OK. In fact print it out and cross off as you read it

A working grill. new grills should be primed, old grilled should be cleaned and checked
All grilling utensils cleaned and ready for use
A good supply of outdoor coolers and plenty of ice for drinks
Variety of meats for different tastes
Ingredients for sides such as cole slaw , macaroni, carrots lettuce tomatoes.
Large jar of mayonnaise for sandwiches and salads
Catsup and mustard
Relish for hot dogs
Rolls for burgers and dogs, Italian bread for antipasto
Wine , beer and seltzer for adults, lemonade and soda for kids
Cheeses and crackers or starters
Fresh cut fruit
Popsicles for kids, graham crackers and marshmallows for s'mores
July 4th themed cake or cupcakes

Wet naps for cleaning afterwards
Bug spray
Plastic containers for leftovers and take homes

Use this guide for a well stocked and well prepared July 4th weekend. Then enjoy!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Means Grilling Time!!!

Now that it's July , it's time to get the grill all ready and fired up for some delicious meals ahead. Again yesterday's New York Times Dining section had an excellent article written by of course, Mark Bittman, about grilling and recipes ideas. Remember grilling is not just burgers and dogs . It's everything from peppers to pork, from cheese to caramel. You can literally cook almost every meal out on the grill.

Most people usually just choose meats for their grilling experience. This is the safest route but there can be some variety. You can think about broadening your horizon by including pork cuts and even lamb to shrimp and scrod. Nothing beats lamb chops from an open flame. Or try shrimp kabobs at this year's Fourth of July barbecue. Even grilled cheese can be grilled outdoors. Us e think slices of white bread any cheese and add in tomatoes and even bacon. For another twist , grill bread cubes cherry tomatoes and olives on a stick for some fun as well. Grilled veggies go good in any salad especially peppers, tomatoes, corn kernels and eggplant. These add not only color but a deep smoky richness to just mixed greens and a simple vinaigrette.

Remember that fruits can be grilled as well. Peaches are the all time preferred because they re easy to fix and cook up nicely. You may wan to serve them afterwards with ice cream or on pound cake with a drizzle of peach schnappes. Grilled watermelon is new but it;s tasty as is grilled grapefruit with brown sugar. Another fun one is grilled bananas served with caramel sauce.

Nothing beats a summer around the grill. get creative this season with different meat sand harvests for a spin on this classic technique. see how many things you can put over the open coals for new tastes and textures.