Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Latke Fun

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Foods Make Now For Later

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Good TIme To Clean

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mm Mmm Good Weeds

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Happy And Tasty Thanksgiving

To all my American readers

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


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Early Thanksgiving Greeting

For all my readers wherever you are,

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

As American As Squash????

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

PBS The Original Food Channel

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

To Bake Or To Buy That is The Question

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Overwhelmed And Undercooked

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Raise A Glass of Cider

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pie Time

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BrInging In The New

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Coupon Clipping A Holiday Must

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Breadcrumbs - A Kitchen Staple

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Good Gravy

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A New Southern Tradition Smoked Turkey

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Comes Early At The NY Times

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Getting Gizmoed Up

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 8, 2010

Broiler Alert

Your stove will be getting a work out soon enough with the holidays right aroundth e corner. Every part from the ovens to the burners will be on overtime. However there is one section that won't be used. That's the broiler.Many home cooks forget about this in preparing even everyday meals. Broilers are really a blessing They can give you succulent meats and finish off the toppings on any meal.

A broiler is really nothing more than a pan or small box like space located under your stove;s oven. It cooks by direct radiant heat. Your outdoor grill by definition could be called a broiler however it does have air circulating around .A broiler is more contained hence the great heat. Most are used for heating chops and even steaks. However you can also melt the cheese on French onion soup this way or even give a nice crisp top to creme brulee.

What to cook in your broiler? The obvious answer are pork or lamb chops. Yet you can also make everything from tuna melts to s'mores in it. It's great for making English muffin pizzas as well and probably great for heating up those frozen canapes for parties. Another recipe is grilled vegetables which are always a good addition to any holiday turkey or ham.

This season when you're using your oven , remember to use your broiler too. It's a good way of expanding your choice of foods plus creating tasty dishes for yourself, family and guests. Not only that but you'll be saving your oven and burners from too much use.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Good Taste Of France

Yesterday I wrote about the goodness of French food and with good reason. I had just come off a haute cuisine high after eating at Le Grainne in Manhattan's Chelsea. This was followed up with a quick trip to one of New York's best patisseries, La Bergamote a block away. I was in French food heaven.A bistro lunch ending with buttery pastries.

Le Grainne's is probably one of Manhattan's best kept secrets however its a huge local hangout. There is a line at its' door on Sunday morning which makes it impossible to get a table at the small bistro. baby carriages are literally lined up outside its; one wall and the there is no end of customers. I had to wait until a Friday to get in there. I can see why. There are buckwheat crepes stuffed with everything from ratatouille to champignons to ham and cheese. there are melt in your mouth quiches along with the traditional croque monsieur's.Even the accompanying salad that came with my crepe was perfection. The dressing was an almond infused oil and vinegar that mad eme want more. Even the bread and butter was divine. with fresh unsalted butter that tasted more like cream.One day I will go there and try dessert or better yet one of those huge Gallic cups of fresh hot cocoa.

Down th e block from Le Grainne is the La Bergamote. This is a must see (as is Le Grainne) for anyone vi sting Manhattan during the holidays. Try the unusual tangerine Danish which is a buttery sweet tart combination that melts in your mouth. I also love their chocolate croissants which are flaky and full of chocolate and almonds.La Bergamote sells all sorts of coffees, teas and iced drinks too which I didn't get along with candies (which I did buy/ they r;e so cute and decadently delicious . They'll make nice X-mas gifts)

If you' r; in Manhattan for the holidays stop in Chelsea and visit Ninth Ave. it;s full of Gallic flair and food thanks to Le Grainne and La Bergamote. This is where you can get a slice of French foodie heaven .

Friday, November 5, 2010

French Food Heaven On Earth

November always gets me to think about Paris. I guess it;s the damp, chill or the rainy Manhattan streetsthat reminds me of autumn in the City of Lights. It also spurs me to crave French food, There is nothing like it. Its' complexity and simplicity combined, lush tastes with simple ingredients. It is perfection.

French cooking is an off shoot the Northern Italian (hence the reason why it;s so good) Catherine De Medici brought her recipes with her when she married Henri II) I imagine regular court cuisine got a good infusion of butter delicate spices and new cooking methods. These are even followed to this day. The provences also contributed with crepes from Normandy and bouillabaisse from Provence along with good ragouts from almost every Provence.

French pastry in itself is sheer heaven. even though croissants are well overdone here now in the States there's nothing like a true French one. Bite into those flaky buttery layers and experience pure joy. A well done chocolate croissant is even better. The mille feus which are layers of flaky pastry held together by a creme bavarois are also a culinary feat. Macaroons now are becoming the next big dessert trend and the french are making them in flavors such as tangerine and strawberry.

Nothing beats French cuisine as the ultimate foodie fantasy. This is the cuisine gastronomique, perfection on a plate.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bon Appetit's' New Editor

Bo Appetite magazinehas been around for a long time>It has always been a staple of many kitchens during the decades (including mine) Now the publication welcomes a new editor.. Adam Rapoport to take over the reins of this prestigious magazine.

Julia Moskin had an in depth interview with Mr. Rapoport in yesterday's Times. He discussed what would happen to the magazine and the direction he wants to take it.He clearly is a foodie, suited to the position.During their talk Mr. Rapoport was grilling lamb and making home cooked fries. He clearly loves food and it's preparation and is suited to the role. He was also the style and food editor over at GQ magazine.

Bon Appetit takes over the hole Gourmet magazine left when it closed. The first was around since 1941 and ironically both are owned by Conde Nast. There are going to be changes in the production of it. Bon Appetit moves form LA to New York and its' style is going to be less starker, and less cosmopolitan. It's known for stark pictures with starker recipes as opposed to the more varied and complex articles that Gourmet had. Mind you this is a magazine still in flux. Who knows in what direction Mr. Rapoport will take it.

I would still recommend buying Bon Appetit. It's a great magazine and foodies can learn a lot from it. Plus it's an arsenal of good recipes that should be in every home chef's library

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chocolate Wars

Today's New York Times Dining section had an interesting article about Tcho, a new chocolate company. It doesn't sell to th e general public but rather to the city's pastry chefs. It's riveting because this upstart causing a bit of a war from standard chocolate suppliers like the esteemed Vahlrona. As with any battle in the food world, it's getting nasty.

Glen Collins wrote about the feud that is brewing. Tcho (its' name comes from the first syllable of chocolate) creators ., Louis Rosetto and Jane Mecalfe wre the founders of the first computer magazine Wired which was sold to Conde Nast back in 1998. Now they're competing int he highly competitive e world of chocolate distribution.Samples are given out the top pastry chefs , hoping to win their loyalty.A lot of Italian restaurants are using Tcho in their desserts because it;s not French manufactured which appeals to them(obviously ther is still rivalry between the French and Italians in cooking). Tcho also offers pastry classes for chefs to try.

How is the taste. Some say it;s better than Valrhona and th e other giant , Ghradelli. A lot of pastry chef;'s are swearing loyalty already. Tcho also has a website where you can buy their chocolates along with hot cocoa. The pricing isn't that bad, probably on a par with Godiva or Butlers. They even have chocolate covered dried mangoes, somewhat of an oddity among chocolate manufacturers.

Will Tcho survive in the murky chocolate wars? From what it sounds like Yes. it already is building up a following among the best of Manhattan's pastry chefs. It 's sure to be a hit elsewhere as well.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

AN Italian Treat Cooked Salami

Many people don't know that salami can be cooked. Most think it;s just sliced cold cuts you buy in the shrink rapped container and then slapped onto hero bread. yet it;s much more than than .it;s northern Italian specialty that is delicious and tender, served with sauteed greens or collards. it;s the perfect fall dish with a side of polenta

Salami cuit (the Piedmontese pronunciation)or cotto is a delicacy and not made much these days. The salami was usually bought in a salumeria or Italian deli. it was cooked for two hours before it was served. The tasty was mildly spicy, sort of similar to the hard salami used in heroes and antipasto. I haven;t been able to locate any where near me these days. I have found several recipes on the web that you can make the dish at home. it calls for pork butt , salt for curing (usually Morton's )and peppercorns.. You do have to cook it in some kind of casing Some recipes call for sugar and dried milk as well. my advice is to try a couple of recipes out and stick to the one you like best.

What goes with salami? My family has always cooked it with greens sauteed with garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes. You could also serve it with a small side of yellow polenta. I don't think anyone has every put it into a sandwich.Cooked salami can be reheated again,. either fried or in the microwave.

If you get the chance, try this rare Italian treat. if you can't find it , then look on the web for the recipes. I guarantee you'll be hooked on this kind of Italian sausage.It's a treat!

Monday, November 1, 2010

November The Start Of Chestnut Season

Today is All Soul's Day , a big holiday throughout Catholic Europe. it;s when people eat chestnuts as a way for remembering loved ones past. the steam rising out of th e hot shells represents the souls who still linger over over. Another reason why the nut is so popular right now is that it is the season for them. Chestnuts ar e now popping up all over the US as well.

Chestnuts have long been a part of our diets. Early Europeans ate them and they're mentioned d in even Greek and Latin texts. Native Americans ate them as well, although not the same kind. There are three different kinds of chestnuts the Asian, European and the North American and each have several different subcatagories. Each nut is about t he same calorie wise as a handful of almonds or walnuts. They are th e only nuts to contain Vitamin C. Chestnuts have a high sucrose and starch content somethings earning them the the whole plant the nickname of the bread tree.

You can roast chestnuts on a perforated pan on a l ow flame. This is the best way to enjoy the meaty texture and slightly milky sweet taste .You can also put chestnuts in stuffing as well. A better idea is a chestnut souffle with a brandy sauce for a really elegant fall dessert. The most famous recipe is the Mont Blanc, sweet chestnut puree over a meringue base. it is then covered with freshly whipped cream. This is the perfect holiday party dessert, . Mont Blanc is the most beautiful and camera ready dessert to serve to impress guests.

This is the day and month for chestnuts. Eat them freshly roasted or in an elegant dessert Either way they are a true autumn treat!