Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Treats

Nothing beats Halloween candy. That's the one thing I loved about the holiday, I didn't enjoy dressing up or going to strangers' houses (too scary) . I wasn't too fond of the costume parties or planning what to be. However the treats were a different matter. These were the best part of my Halloween. They still are.

For Americans Halloween candy are what madeleines are to Proust. Everyone has their childhood favorites. Mine were and still are those ridiculously small boxes of Milk Duds (only two per container). it was creamy(and often stale) caramel enrobed in a thin layer of chocolate. of course it also meant going to the dentist because of the pulled out fillings a day later. Another favorite were candy cigarettes.These were a kind of chalky candy not unlike what Sweet Tart is made of, wrapped like a cigarette.

Of course my all time favourite is candy and caramel apples. These were a special treat in the fall. There's something so satisfying as biting through that crisp red patina into a tart apple underneath. The caramel are good too, epically if they come from good candy companies like Rocky Mountain Chocolate. They use the slightly sour Granny Smith apples and ten dunk them into a buttery version of caramel. Yummmmm.

So, readers, what;s your favorite Halloween treat of all time? Let Foodie Pantry and me know. I'll be busy scaring off trick or treaters. I want that candy all to myself!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Party Fun

This is the weekend of ghouls and ghosties. It's also the weekend to have some fun scaring guests at your party. How so? Serve up some pretty frightening stuff (no, not broccoli and Brussels sprouts) but dishes that could make you go jump in the night.

If you really want to ratchet up the fear factor, then serve animal innards to your;s known as offal (from the German abfel meaning innards) and it could be anything from hearts, brain, livers and kidneys. The most common i of course liverwurst and pate which you can serve to your less fearless guests. You could also make calves brains. there is a lovely Tuscan recipe that covers them up with a sauce so they don't look too squeamish. Another are trotters or pigs feet. These are actually beloved on the German dinner table and usually come pickled.You can cook them in a Dutch oven with some water white vinegar along with spices and barbecue sauce.

If the whole idea of eating animal tummies grosses you out then stick with frightening desserts. You can have some wicked fun decorating home baked goodies. Mallomar spiders are always cool to put on cakes and cupcakes. For the legs dip the curved part of pretzels into melted dark chocolate. Let set and then put them at the Mallomar's sides. Dot on icing eyes. if you don't; have the time, just add a few little cluster s of candy corn or creme pumpkins . Make sure your frosting orange e or black or you can do a swirl of both.

have some fun with your Halloween party this year. Make the food exciting along with equals parts creepy and scary. Your guests will get a shriek out of it and so will you!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Presidential Seal of Approval

Could a former US president help make a restuarnat popular?


Yesterday;s New York Times Dining section had an interesting article about former president Bill Clinton and his effect on eateries. After he;s spotted at a certain place, the joint becomes the hottest spot. His meal become the most asked for dish. Call it the Bubba effect.

The piece written by David Segal tells of the former president becoming the arbiter of international fine dining. Newspapers and magazines around the world report on his visits. specifically noting where he; goes for his lunches and dinners.What's even better for restaurant owners is that the effect lasts for years. Even if the former leader of the free world ate there five years ago the restaurant and whatever the dish was are still wanted by customers.

Why Clinton? Why not the Bushes or President Carter? It's because President Clinton knows and loves food. before he became a vegan (at his daughter and health's behest) he loved food - good , well made food. If he eats a certain meal , then it must be good. if he likes even a small place then despite what others say about it it must be fantastic.

Again call it the Bubba effect. Bill Clinton has left a lasting legacy. Who knew it would include food too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Candy is Dandy But

Most parents are cringing already in anticipation of Sunday . No , not for spending an afternoon f taking their kids on endless rounds of trick or treating. It's more because of what those little Spidermen and princesses will bring home with them. Candy. Most moms and dads associate the stuff with giving Precious rat poison.

Yet is it?

According to regular Julia Moskin's article in today 's New York Time;'s Dining section, it isn't as lethal as parents think it is. In fact some of the more "healthier' claiming foods are packed with more sugar than a candy factory. She has a one on one interview with the Candy professor ,Samira Kawash who write a blog of the same name. She traces where the craving for candy came from and when it entered the public eye (this is a fascinating must read blog by the way) Thanks to late 19th century production of corn syrup, candy has been made available to the masses. before that most Americans made their own and this included , homemade fudge , nut brittle and molasses corn.

At one time candy was advertised as good for your health. Tootsie Rolls were once touted as being a fatigue beater. Well it is true, A sugar rush will give anyone a boost. Unfortunately as with anything we tend to overindulge. Candy companies sell their wares in big pillowy bags that can last half a year. Kids as well as adults eat whatever they want. Besides sugar lurks everywhere , from our cereals to even our French fries. There's no escaping it.

Is candy evil? Only if you overdo eating it as with any food or drink Moderation is the key. even with something bad.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kale King Of The Fall Harvest

To any onlooker kale is just another decorative plant. It 's an attractive border plant however it's so much more that. It;s a nutritious fall veggie,loaded in vitamins and minerals. Kale is wonderful served a variety of ways.

Kale is one of the oldest known vegetables, The Greeks and Romans use dit on a regular basis i t wa s probably brought to the United Kingdom during the Roman invasion wher e it was given it;s name derived from the Celtic word cole or caelus meaning cabbage. it made its' way to America as early as 1629.Kale and it's cousin collards (where we get collard greens from) are cabbages coming from the Brassica olercea branch They are non flowering or "headless" (acephala) versions. The leaves are rich in calcium, lutein and iron and are chock full of vitamins A, C and K. It also has cancer fighting phytochemicals.

What to do with kale? i;ts good as a side dish especially for pork and ham dishes. it just needs to be braised for about half an hour. Another way is with eggs in a very healthy frittata. Another recipe calls for it to mixed in with another fall favorite apples.Kale chips are also easy and becoming th e most popular snack food these days. They're easy Io make. Bake washed leaves on a well oiled cookie sheet and sprinkled with sea salt for a yummy and addictive snack.

Kale is the king of the fall harvest. it's a tasty green that is good for your health. It; s also delicious and should be a part of every autumn menu.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Copy Cakes

I recently walked into my town's bakery just to get a loaf of Italian bread. However what greeted me was something worthy of the Cake Boss or Duff,. There were a variety of cakes, done, ,like hats, flower gardens and sandcastles.They looked beautiful and gorgeous . However they were hiding a secret.

They were probably mediocre cakes.

My town bakery is not one known for great pastry. It doesn't have the reputation of other bakeries in the area. In fact I have to drive ten minutes down the highway to go to a really good Italian bakery. So I wonder what was this bakery doing creating amazing looking cakes?Shouldn't they be more concerned with taste than appearance? Or has our society of celebrity baker influenced them so much? Instead of focusing on making marzipan shells and flowers they should be worrying if their vanilla is up to snuff or their cream fillings are so gummy(which they have been in the past)

I realize that the Food channel , along,with so many other ones that feature the food industry is influencing the way restaurants and bakery do their job. They give what people seen on TV. The problem is that this may jeopardize their own style and experience. It's wonderful to create the dish of the moment, however be knowledgeable in doing so.Don't create gorgeous decorations and icings when th actual cake is not up to snuff. Stick to what you know best. This is the secret to so many smaller bakeries here in Jersey, They adhere to time honored recipes that have been used for decades and in some cases an entire century.

I hope my local bakery doesn't fully follow Duff. After all, he's the eon who puts rockets and bombs in his cakes and then explodes them. Hold on to your cannoli if that happens.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cold Comfort Baked Mac

Nothing beats out baked macaroni and cheese as the perfect cold weather comfort food. Who diesn;t love teder macaroni with gooey American ro cheddar cheese on it. It;s just a simple classic , oen anyone can create.

baked mac is as Amwerican as Apple pie , perhaps even ore so. It was Tom Jefferson who created it. Te Rnaissance man went over to france and borught bakc a pasta machine. there he made macaroni and then had his staff cook it with butter and cheddar alogn with slat and pepper. Pretty innovative. for the time. it was so tasty that it became a classic. it has been eaten on and off in American history an d probabyl was a great comfort to s omany cooks who were short on meat. Instant baked mac was invented in 1937 an d was an instant hit during the World War II> Today its' the most popular especially among kids and college kids.

Baked mac has a variety of different recipes.Some call for eggs and flour to be added to the cheese mix. Some called for a dash of cayenne pepper or bacon bits to be added. The best is just adding a really good sharp cheddar the way Jefferson did . I think this makes the dish memorable and also adds zing. Some foodies like adding goat's cheese for the creaminess it gives. However I think that regular cheddar also gives it that as well.

There's nothing like baked mac and cheese on a cold October evening. It;s one of the best comfort foods out there. it;s tasty and filling , best of all it warms you up likea hug.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Fuss About Eataly

Wednesday's New York Times Dining section had another article about Eataly. It's was alittle more in depth than previous ones about this new phenomenon. Yet it was till about it. Don'tget me wrong I like the Bbastianiches especially Lydia. However there are other markets out there tha t also deserve publicity.

The article , written by Sam Sifton, tells of what draws int eh crowds. it;s an appraisal of the different restaurants and stands that make up Eataly. The plac e is known for its' array of dazzling pastries as well as for it;s breads and cold cuts. However it;s becoming more like a club with a velvet rope. I had wanted to go ther e on a recent trip to the city yet the lines were too long. They was literally a wait to get in.

There's not this much fuss in Torino where Eataly originated in 2003. it was the brainchild of Oscar Farinetti who has been in the food business since the late 1970's . There's not this celebrity like superstar cachet about the Piedmontese one. People come in They sample , they shop they buy. That's it. Here , it;s the rush to try a certain pasta or the must have cut of meat.

There are other markets in New York worth mentioning and going to. Thy have just as much dazzle and array as Eataly. The only thing is there is no celebrity chef's name attached to hem. That' s the difference.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Dinner With Coleridge

As we all know today is both Trafalgar Day and Samuel Taylor Coleridge;s birthday (and mine as well.) Both Trafalgar and the poet lived during England;s Regency period The era was lavishly described in all of Jane Austen;s novels. What did Lord Nelson who commandeered the famous naval battle and Coleridge feast on ? Surprisingly many things. Their meals were just as varied as any modern day menu,.

Probably both Horatio Nelson and STC drank fortified wines with dinner These were sweet wines such as port or Madeira, fortified with brandy. They probably also had punches, real punches with a lot of different liquor mixed with whole cream and eggs.(sort of like our modern day egg nogs). Kitchen s were just being modernized so stoves and ovens were being improved. This meant more baking and roasting at unified temperatures. English muffins were a big drawn and were often served at high tea. They have;t changed much in their 200 year history Roast beef and vegetables were a big draw and I'm sure both men ate a lot of that fare.

It was also the introduction of French and Italian cooking to England. This was due to the French Revolution and t o immigrants setting up shop in early 19th Century London. The English enjoyed Italian ice for the first time during this era along with fine French cuisine. Didi Coleridge and Nelson? Probably, especially if they were invited in to wealthy households.

As I celebrate my day I think of what has happened and who was born on this October 21st. I think of Coleridge , writing his epic works and wondering what he dined on? I think of Nelson in his last battle on this day , off the coast of Spain and hope he enjoyed a fortifying drink with his men. I know they ate well, I know they drank well too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

California Grllz

Today's Times Dining section had an interesting article about California cuisine. or rather its' original cuisine. This is not the Hollywood influenced fancy party stuff or the Napa Valley haute cooking but real California cuisine using the state's harvest. Thisiswhat "native" (and I use that term loosely. Most Californians come from somewhere else) Californians have been making for over a century. It combs both the sea and the land for fish and meat along with fruits and vegetables.

The article written by Dining regular Kim Severson describes a regional cuisine as strong in its' tastes as Southern or New England. For generations Californians have been grilling tri tip beef. This is a special cut only found within the Golden State.It's a triangular cut from the bottom of the sirloin section on a cow. It's grilled outside always over red oak chips. The seasonings are simple:garlic powder, slat and pepper. Another classic is the avocado. They can be tossed liberally in salads or fried . Californians also love sticky date milkshakes , the classic treat enhanced with native grown dates.

You can find the recipes for these in a great Western based magazine Sunset. The magazine started in 1898 for the Southern Pacific Railroad. line. it was designed to lure easterners to the sun drenched harvest rich pacific Coast. With it came articles and recipes that featured mussels and abalone from local waters, along with nods to the original ranchers dishes, that first came to California in the 1600s/ it;s; issuing a cookbook of these called aptly enough Sunset Cookbook (which you can buy at for $14.990

California cuisine isn't about fancy Oscar party grub or whole grain pasta from Napa valley. it;s about taking what the land and sea gives you and turning it into cherished dishes. it;s delicious food that generations have loved under a sunny landscape. It's a proud heritage like any other US regional cuisine.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pudding That Pops

Fall is here and it's time to bring out the comfort foods. The bes t is pudding. It;s sweet and creamy without the chill of ice cream. It's comforting after a hard day. Best of all it brings back childhood memories of a simpler time. Whether it;s instant or made from scratch, pudding is the best. It rules.

The sweet as we know it only came into existence around 1840 thanks to English chemist, Alfred Byrd. He developed a way to add processed cornstarch to milk and sugar . Earlier puddings were first invented by the Romans buy they were more custard like in taste and appearance, than to the Roman;s love of eggs. The English were the first to make the savory puddings, mostly with meat and cheese. They do make sweet ones, usually In flour and then boiled in a kind of bain marie. Christmas plum pudding is a good example of this.

Pudding is good a variety of ways. You can use instant like Jello to My-T-Fine or by scratch. Scratch puddings also call for egg, milk and butter. They have a richer taste than the store bought mixes, (of course) and are more or less relatively easy to make, Also pudding is versatile. Add Cool Whip and you have an elegant mousse. Pout it into a prebaked pie crust and it;s a quick and tasty dessert. You can even freeze it to make rich pops.

Pudding is great, especially in these cool days. It's the perfect comfort food no matter how you have it. It's a great sweet whether for a snack or after dinner.

Monday, October 18, 2010

So Many Pears So Many Recipes

The apple is usually the star fruit of the fall season. However its' costar, the pear can also shine in a variety of recipes. It can be made into a variety of things, from butter to pies sliced in salads or used in sweet relishes. better yet there are so many different kinds of pear the possibilities are endless.

Surprisingly enough pears are wonderful in any kind of salad. They lend flavor and texture as well as color. Plus there's a dose of unexpected sweetness. The fruit goes well with any kind of lettuce is doe swell with ones featuring chicken. A great lunch or brunch salad is pear with chicken and almonds. this is a light. yet tasty concoction made with a yogurt mayo dressing and also has crunchy celery and green peppers. You can also make pear bread which is similar in texture to banana and zucchini breads. Again slices of pear bread with butter make great holiday gifts and nice hostess gifts for thanksgiving. You can use any kind of pear as long as they're peeled and shredded.

Pears also make wonderful desserts. I'm partial to poached pears myself. You can poach them in red wine for a full flavor. use th e mircrowave for this. It's the easiest and also the less messiest too. Pear tarts are wonderful and easy to make. Most recipes call for a simple pie crust and sliced pears. You can glaze the fruit with apricot jam before baking and later serve with an almond cream. An even delicate pear based dessert is pear sorbet usually made with a touch of white wine. This the perfect end to a chicken or duck dinner.

This is the season for pears and there are so many to be harvested right now. Use this versatile fruit in any dish from brunch to dessert. Their flavor is wonderful, crisp and light like a sunny fall day. They really are the stars that shine during this season.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Goodness

This is the high season for pumpkins. People are gleefully picking them in pumpkin patches around the US, gathering up big ones and little ones, perfectly round one and lumpy bumpy ones. Yet the pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins and beta carotene as well. It;s also a versatile gourd that can be use din everything from savory to sweet.

For savory dishes the gourd is versatile . One of my favorite recipes (as fans already know) is pumpkin soup. The recipe is my great grandmother's and is a staple of the Val Susa in western Piedmonte (on the French border)It is a rich creamy bisque like soup; redolent with pumpkin

onion and chicken broth. Another pumpkin savory dish is curry fritters. these are a fiery spicy dish , perfect fo r your Halloween party or even as a Thanksgiving appetizer.You can also use pumpkin as a filling for ravioli and lasagna. However if you do this go easy on the tomato sauce. I prefer pumpkin filled ravioli with a light sage and butter sauce.

Of course pumpkin is phenomenal in sweet dishes. Nothing beats a fresh made pumpkin bread, or muffins. These are staples of fall brunches and go well when topped with cream cheese. Pumpkin mousse is another yummy treat and it's a spin on the famous pie It;s made like pie filling yet without a heavy crust.It's usually served with whip cream and maybe a splash of brandy on top. Are there pumpkin cookies? Yes!!!! I found two recipes, one like gingerbread and th e other with an oatmeal base.

Go wild in the pumpkin patch. Don't just buy the gourds for decoration. Buy a few extra for some savory and sweet dishes. They are the perfect source of vitamins as well as being one of the most versatile fall vegetables!

Friday, October 15, 2010

What's For Dinner Seriously???

Planning meals are always a pain. I usually enjoy doing such, buying the vegetables, selecting the pasta, looking at recipes, the whole nine yards. However,lately I'm finding it a real chore. It's getting troublesome about what to make and what to buy.

With my busy schedule I'm partial to anything in a can.I recently rediscovered Swanson;s Chicken A la King. This is a yummy throwback to Fifties cooking . It hot comfort food, perfect for a chill autumn evening,. It;s also easy to prepare and make. Heat up serve on toast or crusty rolls and voila - a hot dinner. I just bought Marie Callender's Home Style Creations and Healthy Choices Fresh Mixers These are quick dinners that just have to be steamed in the microwave.Then pour the accompanying sauce and instant meal.

I wish I had the time to actually cook. There are some great stove top dishes that are easy to make. Chicken breasts over buttered spaghetti is a great dinner choice . You can make the chicken in a skillet while the pasta is cooking. Make a garlic butter sauce in the microwave for more facility. Another ideal meal is grilled steaks with baked potatoes. Again grill over the stove,heat the spuds in the microwave. Easy as nuking a pot pie - another good and hearty quick dinner choice.

Trying to find a good and easy to make dinner is hard these days. There are way s to make the
choices better. It just takes some creativity and a lot of help from canned goods

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Healthier Pasta

Can pasta get any better for you?

Yes! If it;s made with whole grains. It;s been upgraded from that horrible tasting cardboard to something more artisanal and delicious. Yesterday's Dining section in The Times had a very interesting article written by Dining regular Melissa Clark. She takes what used to be a health food into one of the fall;s hottest trends.

Whole grain pasta is made with ancient grains such as farro and spelt. Farro is grains of a certain wheat. It has to be soaked overnight to be palatable.It's usually put into salads and soups however can be made into pasta and bread. Spelt is hexaploid variety of wheat and has been used in great regularity from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. The flavor is different from regular spaghetti.It's a nuttier and more robust. That means the sauces have to be toned down. Forget tomato . Think butter.

I may try this natural pasta .it;s sold in Eataly, the Bastianich;s Italian food emporium New York City. What will I do with it. There's a good recipe for the pasta made with a carmelized onion Swiss chard and garlicky bread crumbs. I also like a simple pesto made with walnuts and spinach . This is the perfect winter dish. There's also one with tomato but there's also rosemary and olives to counter balance the tomatoes.

Pasta is good for you. A whole grain pasta even better.It's the perfect and tasty addition to any healthy diet!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Acorns The Surprise Fall Fruit

Normally you wouldn't put acorns in the same categories as other fall fruits. One they're typically squirrel food , and two, they are highly poisonous if not properly prepared. Yet acorns can be a vital part of an autumn diet. The nuts are another alternative to another fall favorite, chestnut.

There is a big article about them in today's Dining Section of the New York Times. Margaret Lee wrote the article and used her own background for it. Koreans are big fans of acorns and make a dish called dotorimuk or acorn jelly. It seems like it;s served as a side and has a fiery red pepper dressing, similar to the cabbage dish kimchi. it has a silky custardy consistency , probably like that of chestnut pudding.Other acorn lovers are the Germans who turn the nut into coffee (news to me) and the Native Americans who used the flour in baking.

You have to know what you;re doing when cooking acorns. The tannins have to be completely leached or they could be completely toxic. The acorns should be completely and repeatedly rinsed. The water will turn brown with t he tannins after three hours and then a fresh rinse is required Also the type of oak is important,A white oak acorn is less astringent than a red oak and probably has less poisons.

Acorns are an unusual alternative to chestnuts and a unique fall dish. It's something for the brave to try as well as for a foodie with a lot of free time. If you want try them for a different fall treat

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chicken Wars

There seems to be trouble brewing in the fast food industry. It has to do with chicken and what's being made and sold out there. Now everything is healthy as opposed to over fried and over flavored. However these last two are also popular. What a junk food affectionado to do? Good question.

It seems the Big Three, Wendy's McDonalds' and KFC are all heading towards the no transfat, eat uber healthy chicken. Wendy's has reintroduced its' salad menu with some new combos and all include fresh hot roasted chicken breast. This is a good move, especially for salad lovers. Not to be outdone Mickey D's is also serving both crispy chicken ad grilled chicken in its' wraps and sandwiches. These have much more choices than Wendy's however the best bet is sticking with Wnedy's. KFC has jumped on their bandwagon since last Spring when it introduced grilled, skinless chicken. It's a better alternative to the fried coated variety.

However there are always places like the Wing Zone and Pollo Tropicale to give you deep fried, or heavily spiced fowl.. I love the Wing Zone because it' so defiant. Nothing is just grilled . Its' fried wings are dripping in pure grease. Theirs is one of the most flavorful and tender chicken I've tasted . I also like the much healthier for you Pollo Tropicale. Unlike the other fast foods ' grilled chicken it comes highly spiced and just yummy. It's good for you but doesn't taste like it.

Who will win in the chicken wars? It depends on what the nation wants. We;re on the road to good health so I'm going to say Wendy's Mc Donald';s and KFC will win this one. That is until other fast food chains come up with an even healthier way to prepare chicken.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day 2010- Good Italian Eating

It's Columbus Day here in the States. it;s the day we celebrate the founding of America by Christopher Columbus. it;s also a day when Italian Americans can feel a surge of pride over Italian accomplishments for the past 4000 years.

To me it's a day to also celebrate being NorthernItalian and the contributions we've made, especially in food (not to mention in design , fashion, and Carla Bruni all from mygreat grandparents' native Piedmonte). The North has given the world French cuisine(it came when Caterina de Medici married) Henri II of France. We also gave the world that great dish bagna calda, polenta and risotto. This is refined, elegant cooking, different from the heartier dishes of Southern Italy. the sauces are similar to beurre blanc and the main ingredient is butter and not olive oil. The food is artisanal coming from the best farms throughout Piedmonte and Lombardy along with Trente Aldige, Friuli Emilia Romana, and of course Veneto.

The south has some good dishes as well. Naples is known for it;s seafood and pastas as is the rest of Southern Italy. Pizza was born in the South and spread slowly up north in the 1960's. The Southerners are also known for their lush pastries, filled with ricotta. and citrus flavorings. Of course gelati is the dessert of the day no matter where you go in Italy.

This is a day to celebrate Italy but celebrate its' rich cuisine too. It has been the most influential in all the world, simply because it is good. it ranks right up there with Italian design and fashion, movie making and car manufacturing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Spoiler Alert: The Times Food Section Is Out

Spoiler alert for all you foodies who haven't received tomorrow;s Sunday Times. Their annual food section is out int eh Sunday magazine. It's a doozy with some interesting articles , recipes and interviews.

I'm not going to go into details but it's not to be missed. There are some good pieces written by some of the Wednesdays Dining regulars like Frank Bruni. As usual it also has some eye opening pieces that make you scratch your head and go "Hmmm" (also the Sunday Times puzzle is pretty decent this week It's not food related though which would have been a bigger kick)

Another FYI yesterday was our eight hundredth article at Foodie Pantry. Pretty soon I'll be reaching the 1,000 th article.

Have fun reading The Times tomorrow and if you want all eight hundred of my entries.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Crunchy Versus Chewy

If you want to start a war, ask people what they ;re favorite type of cookie is, then refute. it. The crunchy lovers will get up into arms , The chewy affectionados will huff. Everyone has their opinion on what makes a good cookie?A crackly texture and intense flavor. Or a soft gummy like consistency with a just baked taste.

I'm a snap person myself. I love crunchy cookies that break into a thousands crumbs upon being bitten. I love the fact that they're well baked and there's a sound when they;'re broken. I thinks that's why they;re my all time favorite treat. What does make a cookie crisp? White sugar will give dough that much needed texture. brown sugar works the opposite. It leaves the texture a very malleable like a royal icing feel. If you want the dough even softer add eggs. The eggs make for a sponginess which I guess is OK for dunking. The type of flour is important too. Rice flour makes the best crunchy cookies . it even adds a grittiness to the dough.

From what I can see from the web, people are all about the crunch. Also crunchy cookies are just fun., They're noisemakers. My favorites are gingersnaps, chocolate snaps, any bakery cookie dipped in chocolate. The oven fresh and have a very buttery taste if I'm going to eat them.

So what's your poison? Crunchy ? Or chewy? Let Foodie Pantry know your cookie passion.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Michelin Takes Manhattan

The Michelin and Zagat restaurant guides are the tow most read books in the world. People use them on their travels and in their home towns to see where to go and what to order. It's a big deal to not only get into them but to get a good rating as well.

Yesterday;s new York Times Dining section had an interesting article about the Michelin Guide. The piece written by the famed Florence Fabricant a long time Dining regular relates of how chefs and owners feel when their place is not mentioned. According to one interviewee, Joe Bastanich on e of the owners of Da Post and Lydia Bastianich's son it's a big deal to get a rating in the Michelin Guide. It boosts business to no end and also perks up curiosity about an eatery. The executive chef of the renown Boulud feels that the rating is wonderful.

The Michelin Guide critics are Americans and are all anonymous. They seem not to be as severe in their criticism as their European counterparts. restaurants have closed after achieving a three star status because it;s hard to keep up the good food. Chefs have killed themselves. in all honesty Zagat has a much more tougher rating system than Michelin.

Personally I would just ditch the guides and go to what looks or smells the best. it;s more fun that way, especially in New York. Yes it's good to use a guide but even better to use your instincts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Crazy Foods

Spaghetti in a taco? Yes, it's flinch inducing to adults but it's the hottest dish out there amongst tweens. Thanks to the show "iCarly" twelve year olds are putting pasta and sauce between a Mexican classic. It;s a popular dish on the show and kids are literally gobbling it up.

The dish made the front page of today's Dining Section of the New York Times. it was written by Helene Stapinski who may or may not have a tween herself. It's a simple enough dish. Warm up hard taco shells, boil spaghetti and the put the tow together. Top with tomato sauce , spices and the typical taco toppings such as sour cream, shredded lettuce chopped tomatoes and cheese. Kids even love making it which is a good step towards cooking.

Spaghetti and tacos is not a new combination. There is a generation out there that adores refried spaghetti on Wonder bread. A friend of mine still loves this even though he's in his sixties. I guess it was the number one food of his childhood (and like cats we have a lifelong love of certain tastes call it the foods of our kitten hood.) There's also spaghetti soup which is like a runnier version of pasta and sauce. Spaghetti goes well with everything, even Mexican.

Will I ever try this? No I love Mexican food.I love Italian food. I do not , however,like the two combined.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Get Squashed

This is the season for squash. The markets and farms are rife with all sorts of them. What I love about it is that they're versatile. There are so many recipes that you can cook squash everyday and not be bored with it. Not only that squash can be made by the novice as well as the more experienced cook.

The two squashes that are popular right now are the butternut and the acorn squash. The butternut is an elongated bell shaped veggie. The flesh is a creamy orange color and it has a mild taste. It's the better of the two for making soups because it will produce a rich creamy puree. You can also make kabobs from it as well as a squash gratin. You could also use butternut squash to make a type of squash sweet pie similar to pumpkin.

Acorn squash is smaller,resembling what else - an acorn. It has a deep green color with an smooth orange flesh. Because it has a thick rind, butternut squash can't be peeled it has to be baked. You can bake it in an over for forty minutes or even a microwave for eight minutes. I like it with butter in it with brings out the taste in my opinion.

It's the squash season.Bring home a couple of butternuts and acorn. Prepare them anyway you can.They're delicious additions to the autumn diet!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Farm Fresh Gpoodness

I live in New jersey th e Garden State. It's the most evident in the fall when our farms (yes we have farms and large ones too) yield amazing bushels of fresh fruit and vegetables. I went on a mini tour of Monmouth County. It's Jersey's most productive county with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and farms along its' interior. The farms are a plenty and it was hard to choose which one to visit.

I stopped at Monmouth;'s most famous farm, Delicious Orchards. This is one of the oldest and has everything, They're known for their variety of fruits and veggies. You can also go raspberry and apple picking here in the fall and strawberry gathering in June. I bought some fresh Brussels sprouts (so good with butter and Parmesan cheese) and a nice acorn squash. This is the perfect time for any kind of squash and it's a versatile veggie. It's great roasted with olive oil or good pureed into a soup. I also splurged on Delicious' baked goods buying their famed cider doughnuts, pan brownies and English muffin bread.

I also stopped at an apple and pumpkin picking farm. There are several of these in Monmouth county . There are also pear orchards where you can go too. These are perfect if you're making butters or desserts. The place also sold squashes and tubers. I picked up an interesting white sweet potato. Imagine a yam with the color leached out of it and you have an albino sweet potato. It can be cooked the same ways as a regular sweet potato and has the same taste.

Go to the farms where ever you are. There's so many good choices for farm fresh ingredients. You;ll get the benefit of picking your own as well as all those important vitamins.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Good Hot Cup

Now that October and cooler weather are here , it;s time to finally enjoy a nice hot cup of something.A warm brew is now more appreciated than anything loaded with ice. Also a hot beverage is much more richer than an iced anything. The drinks flavor intensifies and the various notes come out.

My favorite cold weather drink is Lady Grey tea. This is a more delicate blend than its' cousin, Earl Grey . It has a strong orange notes but doesn't have the astringency of the others. I have it sans milk and sugar. I think adding anything to it would compromise the taste. It's the perfect breakfast tea for a chilly morning. For a walk on a windswept beach I'd bring a more robust tea. Something with dark notes that could stand up to an accompanying sandwich. Any of the Lipton blends is good and with these you can add sweeteners.

Of course nothing beats hot coffee or hot cocoa on a chilly night. Chock Full of Nuts is a tasty brew, perfect with a good book and one of those blanket robe thingies. I also like the way it complements the hearty cakes and pies of the season.,Cocoa is a different matter. Some people do like a delicate blend which is what I prefer,namely Droste with sugar added. This reminds me of true Parisian hot chocolate and it's just lovely with fresh buttery croissants. What a perfect fall breakfast before you head out hiking or leaf gazing.

Now that October is here wean yourself off the iced drinks. Appreciate the full, rich taste of a hot drink, A good hot cup of whatever is soothing for both body and soul.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn In New York

The New York Tines Dining section had reviewed Da Posto, the city's premier restaurant and that got me thinking. October in Manhattan is a magical time. The weather becomes cooler and crisper (usually). The opera and theater seasons are blooming with openings and first nights. The party season is just beginning. This all means that there are restaurants involved. The city has some good ones to celebrate this elegant, fun season.

One of my favorites will always be Marinella's.It's a Genovese type restaurant featuring seafood . It;'s a wonderful quiet and elegant place without all the star hoopla. The food is just as good as Da Posto but it doesn't have that dreadful celebrity cache now associated with city eateries. Marinella's also offers risotto and polenta and has almost carbon copy recipes of my family ones. To me it's just like eating at home. If you do want grand then head over a few blocks to Vanity Fair editor's Graydon Carter's Ye Waverly Inn. This has been around for a few years. The food is pricey but good. It is a great place to look for celebrities and any Euro millionaires if there are any left.

New York also has some small stops where you can go for some sandwiches. The best are usually away from the tourist spots where the food can be lousy and the cost extravagant. The newest hot spot for Italian sandwiches is Eataly brought to you by the famed chef Lidia Bastianich and her son Joe. Together with Mario Batale they created a haven in which to get fresh made true Italian pizzas and freshly sliced prosciutto and mortadella. Take these with you when you go sit in nearby Union Square Park.

Manhattan is full of fall delights from the theater to cool crisp breezes. Add a special meal to the mix to celebrate the fall season. There are enough restaurants around that great island to do so.