Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Leftovers Reinvented

Everyone cringes when you mention leftovers for dinner. That doesn't have to be. In fact last night's meal can be transformed into something special. All you need is some creativity to reinvent that pot roast or roast turkey.

Sometimes it just takes a sprinkle of something to give a tired dish oomph. Try sprinkling toasted bread crumbs on last night pasta for a different spin. This also works on leftover baked mac(although with this you can also try crumbled bacon)Pot pies are a wonderful way to get rid of both leftover roasts and veggies. You can take those extra peas and carrots and add them with cubed roast beef , turkey or chicken to a homemade pot pie. Finish with an phyllo dough crust.

Sandwiches are an easy no brainer way to use up leftovers. There's nothing like a thickly piled turkey or roast beef sandwich covered in gravy and perched atop a slice of bread. You can also make tasty sandwiches out of pot roast and meat loaf too. Some people are into spaghetti sandwiches where they take heated up pasta and layer it on plain white bread. Strange but true.

Leftovers needn't be bland. You can reinvent them into tasty dishes for your family.It just takes a bit of reheating and a bit of creativity.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Flan is one of the best desserts ever created. it;s smooth and creamy, loaded with a variety of good ingredients. It's a cool, sophisticated way to end a meal. Another plus is that it's easy to make.

Flan has been around since Roman times when the ancients had an over abundance of eggs. The recipe is a variation of a Greek pudding recipe.Early flans could be sweet and savory. There were recipes for an eel (Ick) flan as well for a honey one.The name comes from flaon meaning flat cake in Old french and Latin. The dessert took off on the Iberian peninsula where the Arab influence brought in the flavors of almond and citrus. With the Spanish taking over the New World , Spanish colonies embraced the dish. The English also loved the dessert enrobing it in a flaky pastry (Hence the custard tart).

Flan is an easy dessert to make. It involves four whole egg,s plus whole and condensed milk. it is also sweet , using usually 3/4 cups of sugar and a dash of sugar. You can also ground almonds and orange juice (cut back on the sugar if you're doing this).A variation is adding coffee for a flan con cafe. Flan does require molds and a hot bath to bake. This just needs your roasting pan half filled with water. You can add a caramelized sugar sauce to finish it off.

Flan is an easy and elegant dessert to make. It's a great way to end any meal and add a final flair of sophistication. It's cool and classic, perfect with just coffee or tea.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Everyone loves hamburger and hot dog buns. They;re softer chewier and somewhat sweeter than regular bread plus they're the perfect foil for grilled meat. However they;re also good for a variety of other sandwiches as well. To borrow a well known and well worn phrase - you have to think outside the bun.

Everyone loves a breakfast sandwich. You can use the hamburger ones to create your own Egg McMuffin, Its even better toasted. Another idea is using the hot dog ones and stuffing them with breakfast sausage links or bacon strips, scrambled eggs and cheese. It's' a fun way to start off the morning, Of course the buns are also good for that classic lobster roll. This is where a creamy lobster salad is made and then slathered all over a buttered and toasted bun. Another idea st taking Italian sausage or Philly cheese steaks as well. My favorite is pulled pork in a hamburger roll. This is known as a soak where my Dad was from and it's one of the best hot sandwiches around.

Since both hamburger and hot dog buns have a certain sweetness you can use them in bread pudding. They're also soft enough so you don't have any hard edges. Another idea is using them in English summer pudding. This recipe originally calls for brioche but you can use these in a pinch. Also both types of buns make excellent stuffing for turkey or even roast chicken.

Think outside the bun when it comes to hamburger and hot dog rolls. You can use them for any kind of sandwich. You can even have them in a dessert. They're not just for your average burgers and dogs.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sandwich Time

Pretty soon the kids will be off to school and with them will go that time honored lunch - the sandwich. They are easy to make and easier to pack. Yet a lot of kids will probably swap theirs or worse trash them. Why?Probably because they're boring. They're not that easy. Sandwich making requires some skill ands creativity.

The base of any sandwich is bread and it should be a good one. I recommend wheat. Its tastier and more wholesome. If your little foodie hates hole wheat then go back to white but try Pepperidge Farms sandwich. The bread is heartier than average whites and holds up well. If you want you can also use pita for lower calories. This also comes in wheat too. As for fillings, there's the low sodium deli meat or you can used any left overs from the previous night's roasts.Veggies are also a good stuffing, especially if they're grilled. You can create a nice colorful sandwich by using grilled tomatoes and peppers.

The extras are what make a sandwich pop. Sprinkle in some tarragon to the mayo or maybe a handful of celery seeds. Another fun idea is to add slices of spiced tomatoes or onions. You can also try something different like chopped artichokes or asparagus.Better yet you can create your own special sauce that the kids will like.

Remember a good sandwich will be eaten .A bad one will be tossed or swapped. Be creative and you'll have ones that willbe gobbled.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Lusher Kiddie Meal

It's good to take the kids out to eat. They learn manners, discover new cuisines and cultures. However nowadays parents just don't trust them and relegate them to fast food joints and Happy meals. Not so anymore. there are some fancy restaurants that do encourage the littlest diners to come and enjoy their food.

In yesterday'sTimes' Dining section this idea was explored. The article, written by Glenn Collins tells about the famed Four Seasons opening its' doors to all ages. There are no kids menus, Kids can eat the same entrees as their elders. They can chow down on chicken croquettes or sirloin burgers. Best of all there's no phony niceness by servers. The waitstaff is genuinely kind to the kids which is a big plus in my book.

I am a big advocate of doing this because I was taken to three star restaurants as a child. I remember eating at some of New York's finest Northern Italian and French bistros. My folks believed that children should have great culinary experiences. My mother is still for this, advising anyone with kids to do such. Eating at good restaurants broadens young minds and young palates.

Take your kids out today. Just avoid the places with drive throughs and golden arches. Years later they'll thank you for that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Revisiting Old Favorites

Recently I wetn back to two diners that I haven't gone to in a number of years. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the decor was updated and the food has improved. It was a real treat to visit one since I had been going there since my childhood. The food was still good and actually a lot cheaper than other diners in the area. I now will add these two to my repetoire of eateries.

That's the thing about restaurants. I 've noticed that if you go to them on a steady basis for a number of years they hit highs and lows. Right now three regular hangouts of mine are in a rut. I visited one yesterday and got violently ill from the soup(all right it was a chili - Sloppy Joe kind of soup)I was surprised that their quality of food had slipped that badly. However the owner had opened up another location and spent more of his time at that one. His sous chef is now my hang out's main cook and his work although, passable is not great. I think I will hold going there for a while. How long I don't know.

The problem with any restaurant is that if the food quality lowers then the place loses customers. That means an old favorite can close. What do you do? Continue going giving them your custom and getting stuck with a bad meal?Or trying another place and allowing them some business. I think the best way is to just rotate where you eat or just visit every few months. I've done this with one of my favorites, a hot dog place,the Galloping Hill Grill, where I used to work in Union NJ. It's only when I crave their dogs and birch beer that I visit . I feel that way they never disappont. (Of course they are one of the best in the state).

What do you do when your favorite eatery goes bad?Stop going there for a while. Give it a few months, maybe even a few years. Then go back. You may just be pleasantly surprised at what you;ll get to eat.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Old College Fry

Now that dorms are opening up again across the US it's time to look at what your college foodie is eating. It's going to be three months of snacks, fried food and Red Bull. This is the perfect time to instill good eating habits. All those veggies, fruits and good carbs will help them get through the crush of October mid terms and all nighters along with endless mixers and parties.

As any college kid, whether dorm student or commuter, will tell you college cafeteria food is pretty good (well at mine it was). My friends and I got into the habit of having daily burgers and fries for lunch or snacking on pizza and chips. We gained weight pretty fast thanks to those over fried, dripping with grease foods. Unlike today's kids we had no healthy alternatives. Now I see my students eat fresh fruit like pineapple and strawberries and wash that down with spring water.Also there are healthier entrees too like grilled chicken breasts and salads.

College campuses do still have the faves my generation loved. It's very easy to grab a Coke and a bag of Doritos as a snack. There are also hot dogs and hamburgers too. Impress that these are fine once n a while but just like kegger parties they can be damaging if done in excess.Create care packages filled with good for them favorites or leave fruit roll ups or granola bars , in your kids' cars.They'll get the message quick enough.

The college years are fast paced and fun. With that comes an appetite. Make sure your college kids eat well and eat healthy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fair Days

This is the time of year when almost every state has its' fair.There are also little ones, usually that towns or local churches hold. All have one thing in common. Carnival food. I have fond memories of going for my church's special clam chowder along with crispy fries. There's also the typical fair food as well along with food contests.

A lot of new food trends are actually born at fairs. there was the infamous fried butter (yes fried butter, frozen butter cubes wrapped up in phyllo dough, then deep fried, served with jam and confectioners sugar) fried Oreos and of course fried bacon. Fairs are also the birthplace of new variations of chili and barbecue. Some new ideas are worth trying. Some fairs ,such as my parish's St.Leo's are known for special dishes. Mine had this wonderful, richly spiced clam chowder that's redolent with time and heavy on the clams. It brings to mind the famed Portuguese cioppino soup. Some fairs have contests. Enjoy slices of blue ribbon pies, cakes, and muffins

Of course there is the traditional fair food. There's nothing like freshly spun cotton candy slightly warm and smelling like hot sugar. My all time fave is the candy apple. There' something fun about crunching into that rich red patina and finding a tart apple underneath. Then there are the ethnic fairs. I love these as well , especially the Southern Italian ones. This where I get the slabs of torrone and dried salted chickpeas along with Italian ice and whatever pastries(such as zeppoli) are offered.

This is the season for fairs. Take advantage of the ones in your area and enjoy the food and the atmosphere.They're a great weekend treat!!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rhubarb A Garden Fresh Treat

This is time when many gardens yield rhubarb. A lot of foodies don't know what to to with it or are even afraid to try the stalks. However once you cook and sweeten the fruit, it'll fast become a family favorite. It'll be wonderful in all sorts of dessert from pies to ice cream.

The plant does have a bad rap because its' leaves are highly poisonous. However the stalks are fine to eat however they must be boiled. Take the stalks and simmer in a shallow pot of water. Why shallow? because the stalks contain a lot of water themselves and if you add more liquid you'll have an overflow. Add a dash or lemon or lime juice and then cinnamon or nutmeg, Since the stalks are some what bitter, add 1/2 to 2/3 cups of sugar. Be warned. Rhubarb stalks can get very mushy when cooked.

What can you do with this mash? Most people add strawberries or apples for more sweetness. You can also add pectin to this or the cooked rhubarb to make a nice jam. Plain cooked rhubarb and strawberry make an excellent filling for a simple pie. You can also take this mix and add it to pudding or ice cream for an unusual treat or even to plain yogurt. Some people make a rhubarb chutney which accompanies chicken but mostly pork recipes.

Rhubarb is a wonderful garden treat. Don't be afraid to cook with it and use it n a variety of desserts.You'll enjoy its; earthy sweet flavor - a true taste of a summer harvest

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Watermelon Summer's Fruit

Yesterday's Times Dining section had another interesting article about watermelon. It;s the perfect fruit for right now. It's cool, crisp and sweet, perfect for these hot days.The piece had a variety of helpful hints too that are useful in picking out melon. Let's face it , there's nothing like the perfect wedge of watermelon.

The article written by Dining regular, Kim Severson, is really a homage to the fruit. She writes about growers trying to create the perfect hybrid. Growers are looking for seedless ones, with crisp flesh that has a vegetal but sweet flavor, more organic than candyish. There's also the quest for a thicker rind, which would make future melons better for shipping. The color ios also being improved with a greener rind and much more vibrant,pinker flesh.

Severson's article also has some interesting recipes, There's a watermelon surf and turf that includes halibut. That wouldn't be my cup of tea. I would prefer a fiery watermelon salsa. There's also a cucumber watermelon salad with pistachios that I could see accompanying grilled chicken. There are also tips about how to thump melon and how to distinguish a ripe melon;s sound (more tenor than bass according to Ms. Severson).

Watermelon is the best treat in this weather.It's not only cooling but it satisfies your sweet tooth.It's also healthy and low cal. You can eat as much as you want and not feel guilty!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Traveling Foodie Show

Today's Wednesday's New York Times Dining section is chock full of good articles. There's a few that caught my eye ,especially one that deals with traveling foods Yup, these are foodie faves that have to be sent in via relative or close friend. It's an interesting piece that deals with the lengths that foodies will go to to get their faves.

This hits home for me. I can remember asking my Gran for homemade barbecue from where she was in Indiana. Of course you don't get it here in Jersey (not the authentic , smoky kind anyway) and always begged her to bring several jars on her visits East.It was a thrill to open up the box that the large jars came in and start planning the next day's lunch. I also felt the same with my other side when my grandparents extended families came from Italy and Germany bringing good chocolate and cookies that you couldn't get over here.MinItalicd you there are some things that are only found in South Jersey that we can't get here up in the Northern section. Every time I head down to Atlantic City I make sure I stop on the ride north to pick up authentic sticky buns .We also can't get scrapple here the way we can in Atlantic and Cape May Counties too.

The article written by Sarah Maslin Nir tells of the length people will go to to get their favorite out of reach foods. Fans of the famed Southern soda, Cheerwine, will drive for hours at a time to get this cherry drink. Other will enlist mothers to smuggle in foods over state lines, such is the case of one New Mexican who longed for the state's roasted chilis. Others will have the stuff shipped to them in special care packages like the one young woman who had a special lime juice sent from her gran in Florida.

Foodies will do whatever it takes to get their faves sent to them. I'm no different. Besides there;s some that 's so special about getting a package of hard to get treats from relatives or friends who care.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Day In

These past few days I'll be staying in, thanks to visits from vets and phone installers. What's a foodie to do when they have to stay in. Plenty. There's a list of things any foodie can do when you're stuck in a house.

There's defrosting the freezer. This is perfect because you can actually figure out what those mystery packs are. They could be last year's burgers to snowballs the kids froze as a souvenir of Winter 2010. You can also make those frozen pizzas you had wanted to bake back in March. You can also eat those the icky flavor Popsicles the kids hate. After that you also clean out the fridge. There's probably jars of half eaten jam and salsa that should have been tossed ages ago. Also it's a good time to check out expiration dates too.

Another thing to do is try out some involved recipes you've always wanted to try. You can experiment with your crockpot ,creating everything from Swedish meatballs to stews. It's also a good time to makes sauces as well. Just don't try anything too complicated. You may be need to help out or need to guide the repairmen to where they have to go.

Don't worry if you're stuck in the house waiting for repairmen or doctors. Hang out in your kitchen, There's probably a million things that have to be done and now is a good time to do them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Put Your Garden Into Breakfast

Recently I wrote about having an overabundance of fruits and veggies With it came a variety of ideas about what to do with your surplus yields. I forgot to mention that you can channel all these homegrown extras into tasty breakfasts that are full of freshness and vitamins. Best of all they;re a great way of starting off a day .

Veggies and eggs go hand in hand. You can whip up a nice crisp tomato basil frittata for a Sunday brunch or a spinach and onion omelet.Another fun thing is adding some herbs such as dill and tarragon to your scrambled eggs or even a sunny side up one. If you're growing mushrooms, then think about a breakfast mushroom cap filled with scrambled eggs , cheddar and bacon for something different.Remember you can also juice veggies too. Consider a glass of fresh made tomato juice or even one made from spinach and carrots to jump start your day.

Fruit is always a good breakfast treat. You're in luck if you're growing melon. Nothing beats a slice of melon and coffee or tea for a good slim down breakfast. Strawberries and blueberries are also good whether in a salad made in to preserve s or baked into muffins and scones. even just a side of fresh berries and cinnamon are a nice end to a savory breakfast.

Make sure breakfasts also benefit form your harvests. It's a nice way of adding not just variety but taste flavor and most importantly vitamins. You'll start the day feeling healthy thanks to to all those bumper crops!!!

NOTE: Foodie Pantry will probably be off for a few days due to technical difficulties. (thanks to me getting a DSL line installed.I may be back online Wednesday or Thursday!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pepper Time

This is the season when garden are starting to yield large harvest of peppers. They;re fun to grown and relatively easy to . The conundrum is what do you do with them? Luckily this garden veggie is as versatile as the tomato. it can be eaten raw or cooked. sauteed or grilled.

Most poepl,e incudlign myself, love them raw. They're a great crudite , served with other raw veggies like tomatoes cauliflowers and green beans dipped into a ranch or buttermilk dressing. To me they're refresing this way. i also love them in a salald. I think both the red and green give a certain flavor along with texture that you can't get from other vegetables. Of course even a grilled pepper sala d is good too. If you re going to grill, slice them open an drizzle with olive oil and then butterfly them. ThePiedmontese usuallyhave their roasted ones with an nachivy sauce _ which is heaven. However you can just add salt and pepper to yours along with red wine vinegar. Serve this salad as a side for steaks and ribs.

Stuffed peppers are classic however they are a bit labor intensive during the dog days of August. Go the microwave route then. Instead of the usual parboiling and oven baking for forty five minutes, it just takes fifteen in total . Stuffed peppers are a great meal on weekdays when you want to give your family a tasty and satsifyingn meal in no time. Stuffed pepper s lend themselve s to all kinds of variations. You can sub in the grorund beef with lamb or pork. Add salsa instead of tomato sauce along with subbing in brown rice for white.

If you have an over abundance of peppers this harvest season, don't worry. They can be made into a variety of tasty dishes everyone will love. Best of all they're no fuss ones- perfect for these hot , steamy , August days.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jersey Shore Food Fest

New Jersey has always been primarily known for it's fruits and veggies. This is the Garden State, after all. However the eastern part, th e part that embraces the Atlantic also is knownn for its; foods. No matter where you go from Sandy Hook to Cape May you're bound to find fun and yummy food.

The one thing that amazes me about the Jersey Shore is the number of hot dog and hamburger stands. Ona recent trip through Monmouth Beach and neighboring Long Branch; I was astonished by the fact that every corner stand offered fast food. Of course in that area The Windmill. a family owned chain reigns supreme. They offer a whole cornucopia of ribe eye steaks, chicken,burgersand dogs. They sell the last two in vast quantities with people ordering two and three at a time. They evn have special rolls made for their super long hot logs. I love these however just fell in love with The Windmill's bacon burger.Even the bacon is grilled!

The Jersey shore has long attracted Italians (an d not the kind you see on the crass MTV show) and Italian restuarants abound. It's somehwat of a traditiion for th e North Jerseyians or bennies to always order a spaghetti and garlic bread dinner.Italian cuisine lends itself to seafood too and its' here in Monmouth. Atlantic Ocean and Cape May Counties where you'll get the best lobster fra diavolo and spaghetti with clam sauce.

Lately the Jersey Shore is making the news - unfortunately not for its' fun foods.When you visit , discover the vast wealth of stands and restaurant down there. It's the best vacation any foodie could ask for.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Baskin Robbins True Comfort Food

I've only just rediscovered Baskin Robbins ice cream. It was a big part of my college years and hanging out of the local malls. I used to love getting th e bubble gum flavor which is August's flavor of the month. What I also love about the company is that nothing has changed. They've stayed true to themselves and their recipes since the mid 1940s.

The orginal concept was thought of by two Southern California brothers in law, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins. Both had their own separate ice cream parlors that produced a multitude of different flavors. Upon the merger they had thirty one flavors, an anomaly for that time. The brothers in law were also shrewd enough to bring in the crack Carson Roberts (no relation to me) advertising comapny. They gave the newly formed company their cheery packaging and 31 flavors slogan. The company was bought out by the Dunkin Donuts group in the mid Nineties. That's why so many Dunkins have a Baskin Robbins attached to them.

I love Baskin Robbins because it' true ice cream It's thick and creamy . It's also innovative in it's flavoring with new spins such as Cotton Candy and Oreo Mint . I also like that they can still make old fashioned sundaes and malts for relatively low pricing,. Baskin Robbins also has cakes and quarts . The first is good when you have to get a really pretty birthday cake and the second is perfect for when you want a hit if ice cream late ight or during your favorite TV show.

There' nothing like scoop of Basin Robbins ice cream. It' really is comfort food . Baskin obbins ice cream out there that still has old fashioned goodness.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Cult Of Guy Fieri

Today's Wednesday's Dining section of the New York Times had a huge article devoted to Guy Fieri. He is one of the newest celeb chefs with his entertaining personality and his love of all things food. Unlike other chefs however he has following and fans who would go to the ends of the earth to see him in person.

The article , written by Dining regular Julia Moskin, charts Fieri's rise to fame and how he got there. he started by cookign his own dinners thanks to having parents who were big on macrobiotic foods. Not a good life for a future foodie who loved cheese. meat and sweets. He majored in hospitality at the University of Nevada and went to work for the Stouffer;s corportation back in 1987. Now he had several cooking shows including my favor Diners, Drive Ins and Dives " on the Food Channel as well as several different restuarants ranging from Italian, Johnny Garlic, to a strange Texas Japanese fusion called Tex Wasabi. .

The celb chef phenomena isn't new. Th ere was Gustave Escoffier during the 19th century and dhis cult of foodies who follwed him. Of course there were Julia Child and Graham Kerr along with Jacques Pepin. There were and some still are quietly elegant cooks. Fieri comes on as the dude from the dorm room next door. He makes his recipes and his restuanrtats fun. It's not a chemistry .It s just a mishmosh of ingredients to produce the best dishes and flavors ever.

Guy Fieri probably won't be th e last Food Channel chef with a big following but he is the most personable. He reaches out to his audience in a friendly "Com e here dude and try this" way. That's what his fans like. That's what fellow foodies like as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Make Your Own Marinades

This is the high season for grilling. It's also the time when good steaks, chickens and even fish can get dried out from too much grilling. What to do ? Marinate them. The best ones are the ones you make yourself. You can add favorite ingredients and create unique flavors . Best of all you won't have dried out meat.

A basic marinade consists f four parts. Vinegar or citrus for tendering the meat, flavorings of any kind, oil to give the meat some moisture and to hold everything together and a little salt. This las t is to make the meat more flavorful and juicy. Vinegars can anything from the basic red wine vinegar to s sweeter fruit infused one. I would suggest using an apple cider vinegar. i think this has a lovely taste and would add a little bit of sweet and sour tot he marinade.As for oil, simple light olive oil is the best and of course use freshly ground sea salt. Seasonings can range from anything like the fiery hot ginger to the mellow rosemary. I would think of adding garlic for some steak and pork marinades to give the meat more flavor and zest.Some grillers add their spins . Some put beer and bourbon in their sauces for a wilder flavor. Some add macerated fruit like peaches or oranges The flavor is up to you.

One of the most important parts in creating the perfect marinade are the rations. Always remember to add. Add one cup of vinegar or citrus to one cup oil plus a tablespoon of fresh ground sea salt. (you may vary the salt amount according to your tastes). then with the spices, i;d say go by the pinch and dash method. Whatever makes the most flavorful ten stick with it. .

A home made marinade is the great for this season's different cuts. make your ribs and filets unique by creating g a one of a kind marinade. It'll be the hit of the grilling season!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fun Summer beers

Nothing beats root or birch beer during a hot summer's days they are the best thirst quenchers, mellow and robust with a strong taste that goes with almost any food. They;re good with burgers , dogs or even with a scoop of vanilla ice cream .

Root beer came about during the Victorian Era. One American pharmacist , Charles Hire fell in love with a tea made form roots , barks and fruits. he later patented it and it became a hot at the American Centennial Fair in Chicago. This was the precursor of root beer. it was later carbonated. Root beer , then and now, has sarsaparilla bark as well as cherry wood, wintergreen juniper and birch bark. Sarsaparilla oil was banned in it's making in the 1960's and other roots took its; place.

Another summer favorite is birch beer. This had a different, earthier flavor than root beer but it;s just as tasty. Birch beer was started in Pennsylvania probably in t he late 1700's or early 1800's. It's made primarily with the bark of the black birch tree, hence, its' smoky deep flavor. Unlike root beer, though it comes in a variety of different colors, from a deep ruby to a brown to a purple. it also comes in a clear and this type is known as a white birch beer. Add vanilla ice cream and you have the original red bull, . Add chocolate and you have a Black Cow.

Nothing beats either beer on a hot August day. Enjoy a tall glass with a good foamy head under a shade tree. it;s the perfect way to beat the summer time heat!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fun Foodie Fests

Summer , especially th emonth of August is a time of ethnic festivals throughout the country. There;'s always one group who celebrates their heritage with a lot of eating singing and dancing. These are fun escapes , made more enthralling by the fact that they serve good food. Nothing beats an evening of homecooked favorites followed by mouth watering desserts.

Foodfests are a great way of connecting with your heritage or discovering a new culture. I love going to the German fest s in my area, one in particular in Clark, NJ The Dame Verein there is full of Swabians and Bavarians, the first is what I partially am. I love heading to the festival for fresh made bowls of spaetzles loaded with goulash gravy along with hocks, which are pork shoulders. Afterwards I sample the delicious cakes, such as the traditional Black Forest, plum and bee sting (a cream and almond slivers topped butter cake) ones, This isfollowed by just out of the oven buttery pretzels and of course apple schnappes. I love the food, the people and the music. It's a great way for me to connect with my own and have a foodie fest too.

It;'s also fun to see other cultures. Most big cities such as New York, Boston and Chicago have different fairs that specialize solely in certain groups. You can not only eat delicacies such as wontons or fresh made hummus but also buy some of the ingredients to make your own version. There's usually just a small entrance and parking fee but that's it. They're open to the public so anyone can join in and enjoy.

There are food and ethnic fests throughout the country right now. Check your local newspapers for them and then go. You'll have the best time a foodie can at a festival.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mushroom Caps A Summer Treat.

What can be the perfect main meal and the perfect side? Mushroom caps. These easy to make treats can served as both as the star or co star of any meal. They're easy to make and can be varied in a number of ways. Best of all they're a perfect summer dish as well as being a winter one too.

Mushroom caps or stuffed mushrooms can be made a number of different ways. You can use large portabellos or the regular white button kind depending on what you want. With all mushrooms make sure that you wash them thoroughly and even use a vegetable scrubber (a small bristly type of brush or a nail brush) to remove dirt and sand. Cut out the stems. and reserve them for later. these can be added to the stuffing to emphasize the mushroom flavor. Use a buttered baking dish to cook them, preferably a Pyrex or glass one. Stuffed mushrooms only take about twenty minutes to bake.

The fun part is choosing what to put in them. Crab meat is the most preferred but you can also use chopped ham and/or bacon. Southern Italians use a mix of breadcrumbs, chopped sausage and parsley. I've always made mine without the sausage , preferring the Piedmontese version of it with butter ,bread crumbs and garlic. For a vegetarian spin you try stuffing the caps with spinach and tomato as well.

Nothing beats stuffed mushrooms, where for the main part or as a side. You can vary the mushrooms, using either portobellos or button caps as well as the fillings. All in all it's just a wonderful mix of wholesome mushrooms with yummy stuffing

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cool Ice Cream Recipes

Yesterday's New York Times Dining section was completely devoted to ice cream. Yesterday I wrote about Julia Moskin's article on the city's most expensive ice creams. Today it's about Melissa Clark's forays into making egg free or Philadelphia style ice cream. She offers good advice and tips on churning out a better than the store kind.

When I was making ice cream I always made the eggless kind. To me this was the purer , better tasting. After all what could beat rich cream .A custardy ice cream is great however it requires a lot of work and patience along with some luck. If you're a novice stick with the Philly or American version as it's sometime called. The trick is using good cream, natural ingredients and just regular sugar. Another trick is combing heavy cream and milk with a ratio of 65 to 35 percent .This is from pastry chef and owner of the ice cream company The General Greene, Nick Morgenstern. he also recommends adding a dash of salt to bring out the flavors as well.

I like the recipes that come with the article. They were a summer berry, made with a combination of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries)maple spice , roasted hazelnut vanilla and bittersweet chocolate. The maple spice sounds intriguing because it combines maple and cinnamon flavors . I can see this over a piping hot waffle. The dark chocolate recipe calls for rum and that's an interesting twist. This I can see on it's own in a little shot glass served after a steak dinner.

Ice cream is a great treat. An even greater treat is having homemade. Think about making a simple Philadelphia style kind during these hot days.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New York's Priciest Ice Cream

Ice cream is a city staple especially during these hot August days. Today's New York Times Dining section has more or less devoted most of its' space to ice cream.There's an interesting and eye opening article on Manhattan's most expensive gelaterias. This is one of my favorites, the Torinese based Grom down on Bleeker Street.

The first piece is from Dining regular, Julia Moskin. It's all about the four dollar small cup of ice cream.New York City isn't the only place that serves dollar rich gelati. Los Angeles, Boston and Beverly Hills top the list. What's surprising is that even Columbus Ohio is dishing out expensive ice cream . Foodies and gourmands are everywhere nowadays and will pay whatever the price for organic whipped cream and expensive French chocolate bits. Dairy Queen and Carvel just don't cut it anymore. There are also expensive packaged ice creams like MilkMade which goes for fifty bucks a pint. These are hand made and are only sold in Manhattan

I know Grom is part of the Slow Foods movement, also born in Torino.That means only the best ingredients are used, from Syrian pistachios and chocolate from Columbia. it also means importing the milk from the plains of Asti too(which I read in Grom's brochure on my last visit there). Of course the gelati and granita are the best . The Piedmontese cook with care and precision,Their ice cream is going to be outstanding. is five dollars a cup worth it though? Not everyday but maybe once or twice a season.

Like any other treat these days ice cream is becoming artisanal. It does mean paying more however the result is worth it. You get quality ice cream made with the best ingredients.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pack This Not That

This is the month when everyone will be on the road. That means more people will be eating on the road whether in a fast food places or from a cooler. Travelers will be wolfing down everything from chips, soda candy bars along with burgers fries and sodas. This isn't the best way to start a vacation. Eat healthy whether you're in transit or enjoying a day at the beach.

Fruit and veggies are perfect for snacking. They give you energy along with proper nutrition and vitamins. Think about packing grapes and plums for a fun sweet break on the road. Graham crackers and Saltines are also good for crunchy snacking. For savory think of chilled grape tomatoes along with broccoli and cauliflower florets.There are mini dips, small cups of dip that you can have with these last.You can also pack filled pita pockets . Try apple and peanut butter, or tomatoes and cheese. These also make great lunches .There's no grease or salt to weigh you down and make you feel bloated.

If you're thirsty nix the sodas and some juice.Try water and zero calorie energy drinks such as Fyxx Hybrid to keep you going on those long hauls. You;'ll feel energized and won't have the need to pull over to nap. Chilled milk is also good for you and the kids . Keep bottles in a cooler for a snack with fruit or even graham crackers.

This is the season for traveling. With that comes the need to snack during the long drive. Eat as carefully as you drive. You'll start your vacation healthier and happier.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Too Much Harvest

August is the time for reaping all those veggies and fruits that you planted in the Spring. It's also the season for a lot of farms to offer good bargains their produce and offer baskets at low prices. Of course none of us can resist the lure of anything fresh picked . The problem is what happens when you have too much of a good harvest.

Right now gardens are yielding all sorts of vegetables esepcially the tomato. A few tomatoes are good. However what happens when you're glutted with them? The easiest answer is sauce. There's nothing wrong with making huge quantities of homemade pasta sauce to be frozen now and used during the fall and winter. You can also make homemade salsa and catsup if you're ambitious. Corn is another veggie that's in abundance right now. You can freeze it buty blanch (boil for five nmiutes first) The same method applies to broccoli, peas ans carrots. Save these for stews and sides at a later date.

If you have too much fruit then there are a number of alternatives. You can freeze straswberries. Just slice and add sugar and place in freezer bags. Peaches are a little difficult but still doable. Wash in very cold water pat dry with paper towels , cut in half and discard the stone. Then just drop into freezer bags and freeze. Of course with extra fruit you can make preserves out of them or usr as a topping for cakes and ice cream. You can also make sweet salsa to accompany roast meats, especially chicken and pork.

Don't worry if you have an overly boutniful harvest. There's plenty ot do with all those extra fruits and veggies. You'll be glad that Mother Nature blessed you with so much good homegrown goodness.