Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Good Browned Meat

There are so many ways ot cook meat, Searing, grilling, baking roasting, the list goes on and on. However most home chefs forget about a relatively easy method called browning. This is a great way of cooking meat while retaining its' true taste.It's not overpowered by the process. browning actually works with whatever you're cooking. Browning meat was the subject of a great article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The article, written by John Willoughby, tells how to perfectly brown meats such as pork or lamb. Browning or braising is big in Moroccan cuisine where it's used in many a tagine or fragrant stew. Browned meat can also be used in Vietnamese or Indian cooking as demonstated in the article's recipes for clay pot pork and braised chicken thighs with Indian flavors. (there is also a great recipe for tagine lamb stew too). Most browning takes place with a Dutch oven . The meat needs to be covered so there is a nice slow and even browning process. Browning or braising is also a great way of maintianing the true flavor of the piece.It's also a good way of ridding any meat of fat, resulting in a tender and juicy bite. Another thing is that even simple spices can take on layers and subtleties. Stud braised beef with peppercorns while cooking and it becoming something exotic .It aloso lets the meat's juice flavor infuse any accompanying veggies and even fruits . In turn the meat could also be infused with their juices too. Braising or browning is about the best way to cook meat. It can create a tender, flavorful dish . It can turn a simple cut ino something exotic and different. Browning slowly , yet magically, turns ordinary cuts into special creations.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Once Almost Great Chef

This country has a plethora of well known celebrity chefs. there;s Bobby flay, Emeril lLgasse, and Sandra Lee , just to name a few. mention Charlie Trotter and most people will scratch their heads and respond with a "Who?" He almost sounds like he could come from a J.K. Rowling novel however Trotter was on his way to becoming one of America's most famed chefs. What happened? That is answered in a interesting piece in today's Wednesday's New York Times' Dining section. The article written by David Kamp, tells about Trotter's great Chicago restaurant named, appropriately after himself. His food is top quality, he is as creative as any of the great European masters, yet he has failed to become a celebrity. His food gets tops marks both in national magazines and Chicago papers. Regulars swoon over his varied and creative approaches to vegetables (he's one of the few chefs who does cater to a vegan palate). Yet he just doesn't have the star appeal of a Flay or a Batali , the last, his best friend. He would rather sit back and let his dishes be the stars instead of himself. It's not that Trotter hasn't tried. It seems, in some ways, that luck is against him. In 2009 Trotter was going to open up a much anticipated restaurant in the town's Elysian Hotel. That plan was was cancelled. Another ,set to start in New York's One Madison Park Tower, is still waiting. His Vegas restaurants closed.Trotter is not known for an endearing personality either. He is is reputed to have Gordon Ramsay's sharp tongue and tyrannical work ethic.However Ramsay is considered sexy and cute even when he's lambasting some poor sous-chef. Trotter is not. Maybe that makes a difference. However artists, including chefs, are supposed to be difficult. Will Charlie Trotter survive in these tough economic times? Yes, because he creates and serves superb food. He may not have the personality and flair of his fellow chefs but he does have talent. That means a great deal in the restaurant world.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Do I Eat Today?

It hits everybody, foodie and food hater alike. What do I eat today? Sometimes we just hit that culinary wall. We've tried almost every cuisine. Our favorite foods and eateries have all been done to death . Our taste buds have gone on holiday. What to do? One, it's time to think outside the box. Try cuisines you normally wouldn't. If you've gone through every Italian and Chinese dish in your favorite restaurants, then head over to your nearest Mexican or Indian. After all it's the same ingredients but they're done differently. If you go mad for diners then drive a little out of your way and try a new one. Go on line and look up restaurant reviews within a reasonable driving distance. You may just find a new favorite Another doldrums zapping thought is trying new brands when you grocery shop. Don't go whole hog right away but get a new brand every trip or every other trip. I did this with yogurts and found that I liked the Greek style ones with ewe's milk better than the American cow milk kind. I also discovered some good vegetarian brands and different meat alternatives. I went from soy to quorn , just by being daring. Do the same. Vary your diet for a more interesting and more delicious experience. Everyone gets the blahs and that includes our taste buds. Excite them by going 180 with your eating . Try that new restaurant or pick up abrand that's always intrigued you. Be daring with you food choices!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Edy's All American Ice Cream

Now that the warm weather has arrived in some areas of the US it's time to start thinking of ice cream. A favorite is Edy's Everyone loves this brand. It's creamy and smooth. Even its' light calorie treats are just as rich tasting as the regular brands. Edy's is the ice cream to have during for hot days ahead. It's perfect as a snack and even better for dessert. Edy;s started with William Dreyer, a German immigrant and ice cream maker teaming up with Joseph Edy, an American candy maker. The result was a delicious ice cream. The two were also responsible for introducing a beloved flavor to the American public. It was Rocky Road after Dreyer decided to add walnuts (and later almonds) and cut marshmallows to chocolate ice cream. The company later expanded nationwide and also created the first slow churned low calorie ice cream in 2006. Edy's has a great array of fun flavors. It's one of the few that has added Girl Scout Cookie flavors such as Samoas, Tagalongs and Thin Mints. It also has a wide variety of flavors in slow churned. This allows calorie counters to enjoy such sinful treats such as Chocolate Chip Mint, Neapolitan and Cookies and Cream. There are also sherberts and fruit bars too, if you want something more refreshing. With warm weather around the corner, it's time to start thinking about cooling treats. Edy's definitely fits that bill. Think of it when you want a refreshing snack or dessert.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pie Charts

Just when I thought macaroons were the new thing, pie comes along and tops it. Yes, pie, that lovely homespun treat that our moms and grannies perfected.Nowadays people can't get enough of this traditional dessert. Pie shops are popping up everywhere. Let's face who can't resist this down to earth simple and simply delicious sweet.

Pie was one of the first foods mankind ate. Ancient Egyptians invented them then the Romans adored them and spread the recipe throughout the Empire. The English and French perfected the dish , first calling it boxes or tartes. Early Americans celebrated both sweet and savory kinds, varying the dish from the traditional British shepherd's pie thus creating delicious meat pies. Americans were also fond of fruit pies thanks to the abundance of wild fruit trees. Soon apple pie became a Colonial favorite and standard, served at almost every holiday and family event.

Today the dish comes so many variations . You can make a really nice custard filled one using any instant pudding and a ready made shell. There are also the traditional fruit ones such as strawberry rhubarb, and blueberry along with peach. Make these with the traditional flaky homemade crust. for a real treat. Sometimes the two fillings are combined as in a banana cream pie . Another favorite is pecan pie that combines chewy pecans in a gooey caramel like pudding. This has a variation in the walnut pies where one kind of nut is substituted for another.

Pie is suddenly making a comeback. it's a reminder of all foods homey and earthy. It's not pretentious or trendy. It's just down to earth.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ice Cream Wars

Ice cream is always a big part of everyone life. the problem is what to choose? The US has so many different brands that it's hard to find a favorite. Do we go with a childhood classic? Or try the newest thing on the market?

Edy's is starting to become one of my favorites again. I've recently discovered their slow churned variety which has less fat and less calories. What I like is their individual cups filled with all sorts of yummy flavors. There's the chocolate chip and mint chocolate chip loaded with tons of chocolate bits. Their coffee is pretty good too. I'm also a big fan of their slow churned milkshakes. Therese are regular cups filled ice cream with a hole in the middle. Just add milk, stir and you have a pretty good treat. For regular ice cream I have to say though that Stop & Shop's house brand is good - creamy with flavors that are intense and pure.

What other frozen treats are catching my taste buds these days? There;s the the classic Klondike bar amped up by adding different coatings and fillings.Their Rocky Road is a yummy blend of a creamy marshmallow center with a crispy, chocolate coating. I look forward to trying their Chocolate Mint and going back to their Heath bars. Of course there are the old time chocolate coated ice cream bars by Good Humor. I look forward to having their Eclair and Almond bars again.

It's always hard to pick your favorite ice cream treat. There are so many brands that have a dozen different types. It's hard to choose favorite, no matter how tasty each treat is.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Colorful And Tasty Holiday

Spring is the time of year when there are many colorful holidays . There is Purim and Easter along with the Indian Holi. This is when people are gleefully hit with colorful powders. Clouds of yellow, green and pink are seen floating through the air as people celebrate the escape of Prahlad a devotee of the god Vishnu. Like any joyous holy day, it is also celebrated with tasty dishes and treats.

Yesterday's New York Times Dining section had an interesting article about the Guyanese version of it called Phagwah. Times regular , Julia Moskin wrote about it and the tasty dishes that the city's Guyanese population create for this time. The Guyanese were originally shipped, more or less, in indentured servitude to British Guiana (there were also Europeans and Asians involved in this as well) to work on the many sugar cane plantations. They retained their customs and foods, also incorporating South American spices and ingredients into their cuisine. What resulted was a hybrid cuisine combing the best of an ancient culture with the flavors of the New World.

The Guyanese in New York have a very tasty array of treats. There are chickpeas with curry sauce along with the English black pudding flavored with red peppers called wiri-wiri. The stars, though, are banana beignets made with ripe banana . This is a mix of mashed bananas flavored with almonds and vanilla and a fragrant dough ,laced with cinnamon and nutmeg. These are fried as with any fritter and then served with powdered sugar. This last is probably based on the Indian shakapara which are fried bread balls covered with powdered sugar. The Indian Holi sounds a bit wilder with drinks laced with a form of cannabis called bhang.

Whether it's Holi or Phagwah, it's a time of celebration and feasting. Young and old make and eat time honored dishes and just have fun. It's a time to enjoy Spring.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Actually Yummy Veggie Burgers

Mention veggie burger to anyone ordering food in a restaurant and they'll blanch. Unfortunately this healthy food has a bad reputation, especially when ordered out. It's usually a vile greenish color with mushy peas and heaven only knows what else squishing out of it. However there are a few restaurants bent on changing the much maligned burger

Today's Dining section in the New York Times had an excellent article about this revolution. Dining regular Jeff Gordinier interviewed various American chefs who redefined the plain veggie burger. Some added beet juice to give the interior that look of rare meat while others added prunes(!) for chewiness. Most cooks stuck with using the typical veggies, of peas, cauliflower, squash and chickpeas to get a nice, healthy but delicious burger.A big help was how the burgers were cooked, mostly over hickory to give them a smoky flavor.

How did these rate? The priciest ones that Manhattan has to offer got the best rating. This comes out of Hillstone down in the Village is is a whopping $16.00 However it is also the best tasting and has the most meat like texture. The burger is made out of a composite of brown rice, black beans and red beets. Other sort of come close such as the croquette at Westville and the chickpea laden one from Burger and Barrel, both also in the Village. Some do fail sadly enough .It's probably because there's been little effort put into them. As with any dish a veggie burger has to be thought out and planned carefully, then expertly executed to make it work.

Veggie burgers can be just as tasty as other burgers. They don't have to have that "ugh" factor that puts diners off them. Thanks to a chef's creativity, they can be just as delicious and satisfying as the real thing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quorn Star

If you're tired of eating soy then there's another vegan alternative quorn. It actually tastes better and is just a slow calorie and animal friendly as any of the other meat substitutes. Best of all it comes in a variety of cuts . Quorn enables you to have everything from a fancy dinner party to a backyard barbecue.

This meat alternative is nothing new. it was created early in the 1900's as a meat sub for both humans and animals.Its' real name is the scientific sounding microbial biomass and its' primary ingredient is yeast. It's a fungus, in some ways similar to mushroom, and has high amount of proteins. Scientists predicted it would be the food of the future in the 1960s, with them envisioning this in every household by the 1 980s. Today it;s sold under the name Quorn and it's actually not bad. There have been some reports and even tests that the stuff can bring on nausea and stomach problems however there have been very few reports of this. I've eaten it and it's been fine for me.

Eating Quorn is kind of like eating regular meat. It shares a similar chewiness and the chicken patties along with turkey, tasting like the real deal. You could easily fool people with it. Quorn also comes in meatballs (perfect with pasta and one of the few non meat products to come in this form) and ribs. The cutlets come either flavored or plain. I've had the plain, spiced up with Sylvia's lemon pepper spice and they turned out to be crispy and tasty.

If you're tired of soy or just tired of meat in general, then try Quorn. It's a tasty alternative that can be made a variety of ways. Try it with pasta or simply on a bun. You'll be amazed at it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Macaroons The New "It" Dessert

Just like with fashion and Hollywood, foods, especially sweets go through trends. The new "it girl" this year is the macaroon. Like any celebutante, it's petite and sweet , along with being sophisticated and French. It's being served at runway and birthday parties alike. Everyone from the super models to your neighborhoods five hear old is happily munching on this sweet these days.

Macaroons have a long history. They were first made in Italy as early as the 1400s. Their name comes from the Italian ammaccare which mean to beat. Almonds and eggs whites were first beaten together and then baked. They became a Parisian favorite (and nowadays French staple) when Catherine de'Medici married Henri II in 1533. The very first ones were more like amaretti cookies with a crispy shell and a softy chewy interior.Coconut was later added to the recipe by the Italian Jews which are still popular today for Passover.

Macaroons. are now replacing the cupcake as the sweet of choice.More and more bakeries are featuring the French style ones. These are light airy crisps, either as large as your palm or as small as a silver dollar. There's usually a jam, cream or chocolate ganache filling.The treats are being bake d in such yummy flavors as chocolate, raspberry , lemon, lime and strawberry. There is also the traditional vanilla almond one too for purists.

Macaroons are the new celeb of the dessert table. Who can resist them though? They're in fun colors with a tasty filling. They're also light and airy so you do n;t feel guilty gobbling up a few.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

St Joseph's Day Treats

Today is Saint Joseph's Day a day when sweets abound. Most countries celebrate the day with meals alongwith lush pastries. In Italy ,March 19th is considered Father's Day as well. For the Southern Italians it's a time to enjoy zeppoli and sfingi, cream filled pastries that are just sinfully delicious.

The zeppolis made for this holy day are different than th e ones you get at street fairs. They may have th e same dough however the St Joseph's Day ones are filled with ricotta filling. This is usally reserved for the crunchy tubes of fried dough called cannoli. It's a mix of ricotta cheese, powdered sugar ,a dash of orange and chocolate chips. It makes for a very smooth, almost icing like pudding that can be scooped or piped into the zeppoli shells. These resemble cream puffs as opposed to the usall pillow puffs. Sfinge is the same except that the filling has vanilla as opposed to citrus in the recipe

If you're thinking of making these you can vary the cream. Instead of using ricotta you can try a homemade pudding recipe that is a bit thicker and creamier than th e ricotta one. It works well with almost a yolk based custard. Also you can vary the shell. by using a lighter , crispier cream puff recipe. These won't get as soggy as the regular pastry ones that tend to absorb the filling's moisture. Most of the St Joseph's Day pastries have cherries on top. You can customize your own with a lemon or orange zest or just powdered sugar.

St. Joseph's Day is a time for celebration and honor. Celebrate the day with family and these great pastries. They are lush and delicious, perfect for his holiday

Friday, March 18, 2011

Food Trends

Ever notice how some foods are just fads while others stay around forever? It's because your favorite eats are sort of like fashion. some things are literally flavor of the month while others remain staples. (think of them like the LBDs or the blue jeans of food) What's makes a food popular?On the other hand what makes it go out of style ?

What 's an example of the food trend? The cupcake. this lowly little sweet, rose to great heights during the "Sex and The City" years. It's still popular. After all who can resist a sweet morsel of cake topped off with fluffy butter cream icing. However the French macaroon is becoming the trendy treat of choice. They're everywhere. from Parisian runways to SoHo birthday parties. In fact Sunday is macaroon day in New York City. However this craze will last for a few years and die out. Theres'talk of the ever so common jelly doughnut becoming the next rising star.

Certain cuisines are that way too. Remember when there was a creperie in every mall? Then people became tired of the is french street food. Try to find a decent crepe in the suburbs? Forget it. Now the big trend is still Mexican and it's veered off into a mini trend (yes there are those and they're called trendlets) is Baja Mexican , celebrating the foods of the Baja Peninsula. However some cuisines, like Italian, German and Chinese transcend trends. They're always well loved and will never go out of style.

Just like hemlines and heels, food has trends. Some are interesting,. Some are just plain fun. Some stay Some don't. It's what rends are all about including culinary ones.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alchemy With Alcohol

Most bartenders are rarely known as mad scientists or magicians. Alex Ott is though. He is one of those rare mixologists that combines science with cocktails,. However he just doesn't whip up an apple-tini or a rum punch. He creates something much more - magical.

Mr. Ott was featured in an interesting write up in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The article, written by Dining regular, Jeff Gordinier tells of the bartenders foray s into -well alcoholic alchemy. He is combing all sorts of ingredients from the usual to the unusual to create interesting - and powerful drinks. According to him. he mixes drinks that will make the imbiber feel everything from nervous to happy to even lusty. (thanks to research in the field of Druid aphrodisiacs). He has even created an anti hangover drink called Mercy that prevents hangovers. It combines thistle milk with chamomile - a known soother for stomach aches (a residual of a night of nasty drinking).

Mr. Ott is getting a following for sure with his magical potions. He was a "brand ambassador" for Svedka vodka and New Amsterdam gin, creating cocktails for these liquors. He also had his "nose" used while taking a sniff tour of the scent and flavor manufacturer Givaudon. The cast of Gossip Gil drink his cocktails and he was also featured in "Sex And The City" Beyond all this Hollywood stuff. Mr Ott is indeed a magician or something akin to a white witch. He uses barks and resins to infuse it no his drinks creating a variety of different moods. If people are hooked on him and his creations, it might be from what he has given them.

Bartenders do create magic. However none are as talented as Mr. Ott.This young man may just well be the face of modern bartending and mixology.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DIY Foods Make Them Yourself!

DIY is very popular right now. However this is not the sort where windows or drywall is involved. It's a culinary DIY - making foods that you normally would buy already made Not only are they fresh and tasty, they surprisingly easy to make too. Another plus is there are no nasty preservative sin them -a big benefit for any foodie.

This was the subject of today's New York Times Dining section. The article, written by the great Julia Moskin , shows how any home chef can make neat stuff like butter or even Nutella. There are eleven recipes in all. She has picked the easiest to make with simple enough directions along with recipe suggestions. I like the butter, corn muffin mix and Nutella recipes. the butter is intriguing to me because it would be fantastic to have freshly made butter - not only on bread but as an ingredient also.

DIY cooking is nothing new. After all our mothers, grandmothers and great grans all created everyday foods like bread and creamed vegetables from scratch. This is a fresher, much more healthier way to eat. Take the recipes I've mentioned. Both the Nutella and corn muffin mix would come with a variety of flavor enhancers and preservatives. Make them fresh and they're good for you. It's also cheaper to make your own too because you can get the store brand of your ingredient.

DIY cooking is a pretty good way of making foods that you normally would buy. They;re fresh amid wholesome along with being fun to make. Try a few over the weekend for just made goodness

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sno Balls That Fun Treat

If you grew up in the States then you've had Hostess Snow Balls. They are a childhood classic ,like Popsicles and Twinkies, root beer and Rice Krispie treats. They're still just as good many years later. Anyone of any age adore them.

Sno Balls were invented in 1947 by the Hostess Company for a post war America longing for some sugary treats. Th original ones were just a rounded chocolate cupcake with a marshmallow fluff and coconut topping. A few years later the coconut was tinted pink. The creme filling was added a few years later. For Halloween they're called Glo Balls and are covered with orange tinted coconut. The his dusting is also tinted green for St paddy's Day and lavender for Easter. This last is renamed Hoppers for the season. For the baseball season there is is baseball stitching across the wrapper so the cakes look like baseballs.

There are even recipes for Sno Balls. One cute one involves cutting th ecake in half and them surrounding it with malted milk ball penguins. This would be perfect for the holidays or a winter birthday party. You could also turn them into bases for cookie pop place card holders. Another idea is frosting two together and then decorating with gum drops and , licorice and sprinkles for Sno ball ornaments Put a sugar cone on top and you can have a clown or a wizard cake. Sno Balls can bring out the creativity in anyone. You could even put them together to form a Sno Ball cake.

Sno Ball s have been a fun part of the American snack landscape for a long time. They're still enjoyed by young and old. Let's face it - who can resist that moist chocolate cake , gooey filling and yummy coconut marshmallow covering?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sweet Testing

Picking a sweetener is always a hard choice. Do you go with the all natural or do you try the new and improved stuff. Do you count calories or tally up the health risks associated with some artificial sweeteners? That was my dilemma when I received my agave sample the other day.

I was curious about this all natural sweetener since I wrote about agave a week ago , I sent away for my free samples and was super excited when they arrived in the mail . I tried it in a cup of hot tea .It wasn't bad, being almost the same color and consistency as honey (which I'm not a big fan of).It wasn't bad. It did sweeten without honey's cloying muskiness. I don't think I would use it in baking as other foodies would do. For me it's just one of those sweeteners and flavor enhancers that I would put in hot or iced tea.

There are some health risks associated with this natural sugar however they're minor. I still prefer regular or raw sugar despite their calories. I just feel they add the right amount of sweetness. Besides it's also easier to bake with regular sugar and it doesn't throw off the texture or taste of whatever you're baking. Once in a while I will use Splenda which is OK and again is also naturally sweetneed.

Finding a sweetener you like can be a tough choice. It's best to sample what's out there and then make your decision based on what you need, and of course what you like. No matter what you choose, it's usually the right option.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Grateful Nod To Japan

As our hearts and prayers turn towards Japan we have to thank this ancient and interesting nation for their culinary gifts. They have contributed so much to the international table. They've brought to us favorites that are a big part of our lives . After all there's nothing like a Japanese dinner.

One of the biggest and most popular dishes from the Japanese islands is sushi. Everyone around the world has take the savory rolls to their hearts. Ironically enough the dish first came from China and made its' way over to Japan. Sushi became big int he last two centuries and it was first eaten as fish wrapped in rice. there was no artful presentation to it. That changed when the inventor of modern sushi, Hanaya Yohei, decided to put the fish on a little bed of rice. Now it;s fused with the west to create California rolls and variations using avocado and scallions. Sushi is a staple in every mall nowadays and its' garnered a worldwide cadre of fans.

The Japanese also give us the fragrant and delicious miso soup. This is simply a broth made with tofu and miso or dasho. it can be flavored with shiitake mushrooms kelp, sardines , bonito or seaweed. It's usually starts off a meal in a Japanese restaurant. Of course there are the two classics. tempura and teriyaki. tempura which comes from the Portuguese missionaries and from the Latin meaning times was eaten during the Lenten period. it is simply vegetables (and sometimes fish and meat such as chicken ) dipped in a fine coating and then fried. Teriyaki is grilled chicken or fish after its'; been soaked in a soy sauce marinade. It's usually served with rice.

Japan has given us a multitude of culinary gifts. Their food has given the world table some much beloved dishes over the years. Our thoughts are with them now.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tijuana Revisited

Tijuana , Mexico is not exactly associated with gourmet food or even good food. Yet one of the world's most famous dishes, the Caesar salad was invented here. At one time this Mexican border town was the fun place to go to for Hollywoood royalty of the Forties and Fifties. Sadly it took a down hill turn later on . Luckly though it's trying to recapture a of its' past culinary glimmer.

The man behind that is Javier Plascencia, the chef at Mission 19, Tijuana's most famous go to restuarant. He was featured in Josh Kun's article in Wednesday's New York Times Dining section. Even though he attended San Diego schools, finishing up at that town's culinary college, Mr. Plascencia went back to his family's native city to start something of a revolution. He reintroduced the Baja region cuisine as Baja Mediterranean which combines Mexican cooking with the Mediterraean ingredients found in So .Cal such as olives, arugula and abalone. The result is stunning. He combines mole sauce with figs over short ribs to create a sweet and smoky dish.

His is a different type of Mexican than what Americans are used to and a much better one at that. Yes, Tijuana does have its' share of taco stands for tourists. However there's a new wave coming to this city. Octopus, also a Mexican favorite, is combined with prickly pear cactus over risotto. This is almost like a Sardinian version of the dish, also redolent with fresh octopus. There's also a duck skewered with licorice and dusted with guava dust. To be honest it's this type of cooking that will attract foodies ot Tijuana.

This Mexican border town has undergone a lot , especially with the rise in crime. However for chefs like Mr.Plascencia it's also a city on the edge of a culinary rebirth. He and others can take Tijuana and bring it around to the glory it once had.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Modernist Cuisine Defined

A new set of cookbooks has come out and they ar e not your mother's Fannie Farmer or Betty Crocker ones. It doesn't even come into the same catagory as Chef Escoffier's.It's Modernist Cooking, which breaks cooking down to exact science . The methods used are for science but not for cooking.It's wild .wacky and informative.

It was the main subject of yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The piece , written by Michael Ruhlman, is about a huge compendium of recipes (1,500 in all) and has the mark of modernist cuisine chefs, the American Grant Achatz, Britain's Heston Blumenthal and Spain's famed Ferran Adria who created foamed food. This is not for the average foodie who occassionally likes to experiment in his or her kitchen. This is for the serious restaurant chef and food geek who is interested in the scientific side of cooking. It's also for those who like to experiment with new cooking techniques.

I don't know if I would recommend these volumes . It does sound like a great however it's geared for the professional. The appliances needed range from a simple pressue cooker for cooking chicken to a rotary evaporator which costs a grand. The books themselves go for $625 .There are five books in all , with them dealing with an overview of food history the chemical processes of cooking, along with the science of cooking meats and vegetables and , adding thickeners and foams. The fifth voulme has all the recipes and again they are elaborate and require not so ordinary appliances.

Is this series worth it? Yes, if you are a very serious foodie, wanting to reconstruct Mr. Ferran's foams. I would rather see professional chefs buy this and experiment in their kitchens. It would add to their restaurants. Just remember , however, some of the world's best dishes are cooked simply in a plain oven or over a burner.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday Time For Changes

Today is Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar. it;s a time when most give up their favorite foods or even necessities like butter and milk. It;s a season of fasting however it's may also be a time to look change dietary ways.

Most people usually give up some food that they love for Lent. Some even go vegan which is a good idea. This is the time to explore other options, such as soy and quorn. Once you've given up faves like bacon or burgers you can look into the soy alternatives which taste the same and are good for you. (let's face it we all will crave the foods we give up.)These are great subs if you;re completely dying for bacon and eggs or just a nice grilled cheese burger. If you're giving up dairy and butter, then then are also soy made alternatives. Not only is there soy milk , but also almond and rice. As for butter there is pure coconut oil to cook with and the old standard margarine.

For those of you who have given up sweets, think about the alternative - fresh fruit. This is the time to become reacquainted with bananas , apples and oranges. Instead of craving a Hershey's kiss , think about a nice , juicy, iron rich grape. If you feel like ice cream,. then then eat a fruit yogurt which has plenty of calcium but little calories. You'll also feel better too because you're eating fiber and protein as opposed to allergy inducing glutens. Forbidding yourself that piece of cake never felt so good - or so right. too

Lent should be the time of fasting and repentance but it can also be a time of rediscovery. Giving up the bad means eating healthy. You may just change over to this lifestyle year round.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's Mardi Gras Time!

Today is Shrove Tuesday or as it's known in New Orleans Mardi Gras. It's also Carnevale in the rest of the world. It's also the last "fun" day before Lent. You can go as wild as you want with yummy foods or stay traditional with the Shrove Tuesday pancakes.

Mardi Gras cooks have elevated this day to a high art. The most famous is the Kign cake a brioche like bread cake that is decorated with the official Mardi Gras colors of purple green and yellow. A plastic or china baby representing the Christ Child is added to the cake after it's been cooled and decorated. Bakers have also added a dried bean orgold coin.Finding any of these means good luck, but the luck is really in the butter sweet taste of the cake itself. Other favorites include a shrimp gumbo. the f med red beans ad rice(what New Orleans dish wouldn't be complete without it) and anything with made with crawfish.

Carnevale food is also just as good and as tempting . There are the Fasnacht doughnuts , yummy home made jelly doughnuts from Germany. The fillings can be raspberry red current or apricot. Italy has it's own variety of fritters , from the saffron laced Sardenian ones to cenci , powder sugar strips of fried pastry. there are also meaty pizzas made with sausage and pancetta. of course the English have Shrove Tuesday pancakes. These are made more like the French crepes, light and crispy with just lemon and sugar as opposed to th e thick doughy American pancakes

Whatever you call it, be it Shrive Tuesday , Mardi Gras, Fasnacht or Carnevale, it's a time for good eating before the fasting. Enjoy all the treats and sweets while you can. Then you can repent !

Monday, March 7, 2011

America - The World's Food Capitol

i was surprised to hear about direct from China kids who know about Oreos. that quitessential American cookie. They even dip them in milk - again surprising yet stores all over Asia sell these chocolate treats. American food is everywhere and has been for a long time . It seems not only do other countries want our stars and our fashions, they also want our food.

Britain has long been an outpost for American foods. Look at any Brit TV show and there's always some American stuff on the table. I know they;re big on Kellogg's and Mars bars (in fact they even fry them over there). south America is also big on some Yankee foods. Our sodas like Coke and Pepsi have taken over the globe, much like the British Empire did two centuries ago. Go anywhere in the world, from Rome to Munich, from Qatar to Chile and there' our brand of American colas. In fact, sometimes. it's the safest thing to drink.

American fast food is just as popular. there's Pizza Hut and of course Mc Donalds,. in every big city on the planet. What kid hasn't demanded a sandwich and fries from Mickey D's .They love this American classic. the same goes for KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King. There;'s even a Chili;s in Paris - Paris - gourmet heaven . can you imagine? I've even seen that famed New York bakery The Magnolia has a branch in Dubai. it's that popular thanks to reruns of "Sex And The City" being shown there.

America has long ago taken over the world. That's obvious in the international love of our movie stars, our films, our cars and our lifestyle. It should be no wonder that our food is also loved too.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Agave-Trend Or More?

Everyone's raving about the benefits of agave. Celebrities can't live without it. It's creeping into regular folks diet s, too. This low calorie sweetener could be a trend ,.it could also become mainstream and here to stay thanks to all its' positive claims.

What is agave exactly?It's part of the succulent family, sort of similar to aloe vera. It;s gown mostly in Mexico and in the American Southwest. The sugar comes from a rush of sap at the base and this is called agave nectar or agave syrup. The section is called pina and resembles a pineapples. Pinas can grow between 50 and150 pounds.The agave plant has long been used to make tequila however it;s only in recent years that the nectar is now prized.Agave nectar tastes like a milder form of honey.

Agave is the new love of dieters. It's low in calories and makes the perfect sugar substitute However research has found that it doe shave it;s detractors. According to some research it can cause everything from diabetes to liver problems to even heart attacks. It's not the guaranteed health food some may think it is. The plus is that you may not gain weight if you add it to your cooking or baking. if you are curious there are sites that offer free samples(however you do have to pay for shipping and handling)

Is agave here to stay? Probably - however it will lose its' popularity when the next greatest thing comes along.Use it now see what you think. As with all foods, it works best in moderation

Friday, March 4, 2011

Gadget Crazy(And A Contest Too)

Are you addicted to anything that's going to make your cooking process simpler? Do you get more excited than a foodie in a gourmet shop at those infomercials? Do you have your credit card out , waiting to buy? Then you may be addicted to gadgets.Yes, those interesting items that supposedly whip, blend chop, fry, dice, whatever - that makes our prep time easier and much more fun,

Don't be ashamed. I'm the biggest gadget buyer out there. I recently had to buy a rotostirrer (actually I bought two for the price of one) I couldn't resist the commercial or the price ($19.99 without shipping.This little gadget which looks like a cross between an alien space craft and a whisk promised me a hands free stirring . That sounded intriguing and I knew I had to get it. After all it would be perfect for when I make gravy. it would stir for me while I did other things in the kitchen. I have to admit it works I've tried it for stirring thick soups and it did okay. I do have to watch that it doesn't scrape the enamel and that i always have fresh batteries in it)

The roto stirrer is the latest line for my gadgets. One of my favorites though is the Vidalia Chop Wizard which is used for chopping what else Vidalia onions. I've used it for the onion when I've made guacamole however fresh onion can be too strong for me. I've used the chopper more for hard boiled eggs for making egg salad. I have to admit it's the perfect machine for that. I get evenly cut hard boiled eggs all the time. It doesn't mash them which produces a chewier, more textured egg salad.

Gadgets are one of my favorite addictions. There are so many out there that I'd love to buy and probably will. I have to admit they do make kitchen work fun.

Here's a question for all you foodies: what's your favorite gadget. Write in to Foodie Pantry and you may win a prize!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coconut Oil Redeemed

Once upon a time coconut nut oil was rendered bad for you. It was high int transfat and caused clotted arteries and heart attacks. it was considered a monster . Now it's been redeemed Pure coconut oil is making a comeback amongst chefs and bakers, Suddenly it's the number one oil, even outdoing olive and canola oils in sales.

it was investigated in yesterday;s new York Times Dining section by regular writer , Melissa Clark. She even baked and cooked with it,being impressed by the way it works with other ingredients and the coconut flavor it lends to anything. Best of all it is good for you, being chock full of lauric acid. This compound increases HDL levels or high density lipoproteins. It has anti viral and anti bacterial properties as well as anti microbial properties. Translated it means it could help in alleviating everything from the HIV virus to simple acne.

How does it taste? Well like coconut but with nutty vanilla taste added as well. The oil now being used as a butter substitute for icing on cupcakes as well as in baking pie crusts. It's also good for sauteing vegetables giving them a slightly sweet, aftertaste. Cook it with bittersweet chocolate to form one of those hard Magic Shells that you can pour over ice cream. Coconut oil is sold in health food stores but also at any Fresh Fields store too.

Coconut oil is not a villain anymore. Buy the pure variety and experiment with it. The oil can go into any dish from dinner to dessert . Another good thing - it tastes like a yummy blend of coconut and vanilla.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Live Longer, Eat Junk

Forget the healthy diets.if you want to live longer eat what's bad for you. That's the big article in this week's New York Times Dining section. Several octogenarians and nonagenarians have been interviewed and their dietary tips may be startling. It's not all healthy veggies and fruits that's keeping them going.

The article, written by Henry Alford, tells about three or four of these golden agers who have a passion for the golden fried. They have nixed the sugar and salt free diets and heartily dive into dishes that are laden with all the wrong things. Too many calories. too much salt, too much sugar. They even have copious quantities of alcohol , lovely mixed cocktails that would put twenty year olds under the table. Yet they survive. Lets face it, if these foodies lived this long without any problems then they can eat and drink whatever they want.

The secret though is what the French believe in - moderation. Have the occasional salty fried chicken and fries but don't make it a habit. Indulge in steak every so often, however temper it with sides of healthy good for you vegetables like spinach or carrots . Both veggies are chock full of needed antioxidants and vitamins. Desserts are fine but also have some healthy fruits too. As for drinking a mixed cocktail every now and then it's OK, Just watch yourselves. Too much of a good drink can impair balance which is extremely important in the elderly . It's basically a question of treating yourself and knowing when to pull back - which is good advice for any age.

Getting to three digits these days isn't as rare as it used to be.Most attribute this to a healthy diet, however that's not necessarily the case. Some live to a ripe old age thanks to the fatty foods, sweets and snacks!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen

It's almost time for Spring cleaning and that means getting the kitchen in good shape. Yup throw out that black gunky stuff that was party food at Christmas, get rid of the appliances that don't work and defrost the freezer. A cleaner kitchen makes for a better one and now is the time to do it.

The most important thing is getting rid of food. Cold cuts can last only up to three days unless they;re the vacuumed packed ones. Then you can keep them two to three weeks tops. veggies will get wilty and brown - not to mention nasty smelling. Check expiration dates. Those salsas you bought for the Superbowl are more or less OK, depending on how much air has been let into the jar (Oxidation is food's worst enemy. it;s causes a lot of bacterias to grow over night). Also check pantries too. Flours only last so long otherwise they get wormy (little weevils tend to appear). Sugar is more or less OK as is coffee.

Another idea for Spring kitchen cleaning is to check your appliances Make sure they work properly. If their cords are starting to look frayed then toss them. You can easily get replacements (and on sale too at this time of year!) . Another idea is sharpening your knives .It's always good to have them rehoned once o twice a year.Of course the big thing is defrosting the fridge. This is an excellent time to also make sure that it's working properly. Check wires and underneath.Spring is also a good time to reassess the stove to see if it too is working properly.

Spring cleaning extends to every corner of the house, especially the kitchen. Start fresh by reassessing and throwing out. You'll be able to enter the season with a healthier, updated cooking and eating area.