Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Breakfasts

Today is the day after the Royal Wedding and there was a big breakfast, a Survivor's Breakfast that the Palace (more like Prince Harry) threw.It was mostly sandwiches and anything breakfast-y that can be fried. On the part of the best man it was a nice gesture. However fried food after a night of drinking and partying could be rough.

The English love a good fry up.This is with eggs and bacon, good on its' own but there are additions. Fried beans, mushrooms tomatoes and even bread are crisped in the bacon drippings and eaten deep fried This whole meal is usually washed down with endless cups of milky sweet tea. An English fried breakfast takes some getting used to and even Brits these day prefer healthier fare.

Sandwiches or sarnies were also served. The most famed is the bacon butty, a big buttered hamburger roll full of streaky bacon (it's just known as plain bacon here in the States). It's usually drowned in ketchup or brown sauce . There may have been other sandwiches too (although details on these were kept mum). Hopefully these fit in well with a night of knee's up as the Brits would say.

After a big event it's always nice to have a cooling down decompressing period.After the Royal Wedding , it's good to know that Harry threw a breakfast worthy of this. One can only wonder if the newlyweds joined their guests for some fried eggs and bacon butties.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding Day!!!!

Today is Prince William's and Princess Catherine's wedding today and with it came a sumptuous wedding breakfast. (it's a good thing when your Granny runs the country). The newlyweds enjoyed not only family and friends but also good food compliments of Buckingham Palace chefs.

The Windsors will probably have what we would call a cocktail hour of canapes and hors d'ouevres for the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge .It was accompanied by British (yes British) cultured champagne with the grapes possible coming from the groom's father vinyards. There was talk of shepherd's pie being served as well. There will be two cakes: the Royal Wedding cake and the groom's cake)is this where the Southerners got their tradition from the early English settlers?") The first is a fruit cake , a favorite of the couple and the second is a combo of McViteys' biscuits and chocolate (read refrigerator cake) that was William's childhood favorite.

There is a second bash thrown tonight thanks to Prince Charles. With the groom's brother Prince Harry planning it, it's bound to be a boozy, rocking affair in Buckingham Palace.I don't think it will be a traditional sitdown dinner. There's rumors of ice cream trucks being parked outside the palace to offer sweet respite after all that dancing . There may be champagne fountains and who knows that American wedding reception classic the chocolate fountain.

Today is a day for history. I'm sure WIlliam and his Catherine will remember everything about it rom the pageantry to the excitement. Hopefully they will remember the great food and magnificent cakes too

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Salty Language

Sea salt is a daily par t of our lives nowadays. Once, thought to be gourmet, It's now on every table an din every's even considered a health food. What most people don't know is that several different countries, including the US produce different kinds. These also come with different flavors and colors as well as aromas. Salt now is just as varied and nuanced as pepper.

This was the topic of a great article by Harold McGee in yesterday's New York Times The Curious Cook section of Wednesday Dining section. Mr McGee delves in to what makes even ordinary table salt what it is. Standard table salt is produced simply by injecting water into salt mines to dissolve the minerals. It then has the sodium chloride leached out of it which would leave it with a bitter taste. Culinary or gourmet salts come fresh direct from the ocean themselves or from areas that once held ancient seas. They're produced by evaporating salt water or boiling it at high temps.

Sea salts also come in different flavors and colors too. Kilauea Onyx comes from Hawaii and is black sparkly salt. Andes Mountain Rose comes form Bolivian salt mine s an dis colored a light pink thanks to the iron found in them. Maldon sea salt which are lovely melt in your mouth flakes is made by heating sea water over a gas fire to form those hollow flakes along with pyramids. Then there is the ultra rich sel gris de L'Ile de Re . This is salt harvested from France's famed Bay of Biscay (where most gourmet shop sea salts comes form ). It is a coarse salt grey from minerals and clay.

Sea salt isn' t your ordinary table salt.It comes form all over the world and has different colors and flavors. Some go well with some foods, while other highlight simple dishes like fries or tomatoes. Get acquainted with all of them for a variety of different tastes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tampa Delight Devilled Crabs

Florida has always been known for its' vast array of seafood and seafood dishes. The hot spots for these were always Key West and , of course, Miami. However Tampa is known for it as well. The city's specialty is devilled crabs, the perfect dish for watching the sun go down over the Gulf of Mexico. It's a local favorite and one that has a few variations.

New York Times regular contributor, John T Edge, wrote about the dish in today's Dining section.. The dish is sort of similar to Maryland's famed crab cakes except that devilled crabs are more flattened patties than cakes. They are rolled crab meat and breadcrumbs that are then deep fried. The breadcrumbs come from Cuban bread which is sort of a variation of Italian or French baguettes.. The bread goes stale almost overnight and makes for crispy crunchy crumbs kin dof similar to the Japanese pangko ones.. The fritters are also made with paprika and a little salt for flavor and color. They were first made during a violent strike in the 1920s to sustain striking tabaqueros or cigar rollers and factory owners.

There's also the debate of who has the best devilled crab.It used to be Tampa's favorite Sea Breeze restaurant that closed almost a decade ago . Others swear by the still operating Bracato's Sandwich Shop. There is also the West Tampa Sandwich Shop that sells the sandwiches that are as big as a boxer's fist. Actually it doesn't matter where you go in the town . Sandwich shops all over the area sell devilled crab sandwiches right next to the Tampa's other favorite: Cuban pork sandwiches.

Tampa is known for beautiful sunsets and azure Gulf waters. It's also famous for these killer sandwiches that locals and visitors clamor for : devilled crabs. This is Tampa's best and tastiest attraction!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spotted Dick Really???

The British do dessert or pudding well. They have cozy custards, lovely tea cakes and spotted dick.Yes, spotted dick( stop the sniggering now).It's a tasty dessert that can be made at home or store bought It has been much beloved by Britons for centuries and part of the cuisine like fish and chips and Yorkshire pudding.

Spotted dick came about in the late 1840's and its' origin is surprisingly not English but Irish. It may have been a variation of a sweet called sweet cake or curnie cake. There is another legend regarding it . Actors or gypsies first brought the raisin studded pudding over.It was named after their dogs that traveled with them, the Dalmatians. Dalmatians then became such a fad in the UK and with that the pudding named after them (dick is dog in 18th and 19th Century British vernacular).Since then spotted dick has been popular at every holiday and birthday table.

What is spotted dick?. It started out as a sweet suet pudding studded with dried raisins. However it has evolved into a vanilla steamed pudding . Using raisins to flavor it hasn't been changed. There are no variations with other fruits and nuts.It's just been what it is with a side of custard for almost two centuries.It can be made at home however a tinned version is also tasty.

Spotted dick is one of Britain's much loved dishes. It holds a special place in the nation's cuisine,and is one of England's most adored comfort foods. It is truly a treat.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Proper British Tea

Now with the Royal Wedding at the end of the week people are actually going to be craving British foods. What better than a British tea? In all honesty a high tea is the way to go for any Spring event. I;ts classic,and elegant yet, surprisingly filling. it;s also th eless headache way to go for anyone planning a party.

Any one can plan a British tea party. It 's much easier to navigate around than say an outdoor barbecue or typical celebration party. For one thing you don't have to make sure the food is hot because it's all finger sandwiches and cakes . Another plus is that it's not messy so you can nix the bibs and wet wipes. A tea is even better than a Sunday brunch, You don't have to scoot from kitchen to table , worrying about the frittatas or stratas. The bonus in planning a tea party with the girls? Only tea is served , not boozy fruity drinks that could lead to heavens knows what.

A tea is easy to assemble. There's are usually watercress and cucumber filled sandwiches. If these; aren't to your liking you can make a very easy egg salad along with chicken and ham salads. These are a snap to whip up because you can use devilled chicken and ham with some mayonnaise . Sprinkle in tarragon for the chicken and celery seeds for the ham and voila, an instant sandwich filler. As for the sweets, you can easily order petit fours and macaroons from your local bakery as well as scones . Some specialty stores do sell those tea must haves clotted cream and cream. However you can also sub in the sweet Irish butter most supermarkets do sell. Have a variety of teas on hand to vary it, although both Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas fit high tea - to well - a tee.

You don't have to be British to throw a delicious tea party. It's easy to create for any gathering and just as fun as a barbecue or a picnic. Best of all it's s less stress than these others to plan just as fun and just as tasty.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lamb For Holy Week

This is the time when lamb reigns supreme.It's the most desired meat of the season, especially for both Easter, . Italians and Greeks along with the French make the most lamb dishes now, with either a roast leg of it or the entire animal. This tradition is taking on a new twist - the meat is organic and usually bred in the American Southwest - not New Zealand.

Most lamb now is organic. which is what most restaurant and home chefs both demand. Like any free range meat, the lambs are bred without any chemicals or hormone injections. The lambs are now raised (as basically they have been for centuries) in New Mexico.Most of the sheep are descended from the original ones the Spaniards brought to the area in the 1500s and the bloodlines are pure. The diets seem basically the same as they have for five hundred years too. These sheep eat wheat grass along with native snowberry and yarrow as opposed to the usual farm feed.

How does organic lamb taste? The meat is usually flavored with the greens that the animal has lived on. it gives it an herbal yet earthy taste, usually not associated with lamb. The meat itself is tender, perfect for grilling and braising. There's no need for marinading and there's always a guaranteed melt in your mouth quality about it.

The is the season for lamb. The organic kind is probably the best to serve . It is a new spin on a traditional Holy Week standard and a much improved version too.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Today is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar -Good Friday. It's considered a meatless day and a time for reflection and prayer.It is also Earth Day so remember to recycle and reuse your containers and empty jars. They are great for homemade sauces and leftovers.

Be reflective on today's double meaning.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ramps The New Truffle

What exist sin the forest and goes for twelve dollars a pound? What plant is so over harvested that it's considered illegal to pick them in Canada? The humble ramp. This leek cousin is getting a whole lot of fuss because it;s used in locovore dining and it represents a push into foraging. This was the subject of a very interesting article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The author,Indrani Sen, even sat down with botanists ad discussed the shortage problem.

Yet why is the ramp considered the new truffle? Probably because it can be used in place of leeks or even onions. Ramps have a sharp, almost garlicky taste. They go well with any pasta dishes because they don't overpower the sauce, just adding just a slight hint of garlic and onion. Ramps can also be sauteed in butter and served with new potatoes alongside a Spring lamb or even roasted chicken. There's even a ramp soup, similar to onion and they can even be added to biscuit recipes to liven them up.

There is one problem however. The ramp is now being over harvested and with that comes the usual shortage. Since they grow in the wild, they're up for grabs so anyone can just walk by and pull them out of the ground. The problem is that everyone had the same idea and there are now shortages in the area . Botanists strongly recommend that harvesters replenish the picked over sections with seeds or avoid taking younger ramps. Ramps can take six to eighteen months to germinate and five to seven years to produce seeds.Over picking them could mean possible extinction in some areas, especially outside of New York City. Manhattan chefs go mad for them, including them in a number of recipes.

Ramps are becoming the new truffle. They're much loved and much wanted by American chefs especially New York ones. However use them sparingly if you like them. There's a shortage going on and one that would mean leading to their extinction.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Peeps

This is the time of year when the stores are all crammed with Peeps and their bunny counterparts. They're a nostalgic Easter candy, bringing us back to our childhood and Easter mornings of them with jelly beans. Unfortunately there's one problem - they're too dang sweet. There is a solution however - hatching your own.

In The Wednesday Dining section of the New York Times, regular columnist of Good Appetite, Melissa Clark tackles this too sweet peep problems. The manufactured kind are made with corn syrup which just lends a bland sweetness. and nothing more. Ms. Clark amps this up a bit by subbing in flavored honey. This results in a much more complex taste. Of course there is sugar as well as gelatin to bind it and the requisite egg whites to create the meringue. As with any candy making it is labor intensive and probably does require a few practice tries before getting it right.

There is also the problem of coloring those chicks and bunnies. peep are covered with colored sugar. . Top keep it more with the more natural recipe Ms. Clark adds saffron which also gives it a more exotic spin taste wise. it does create the desired bright daffodil color that are associated with the chickies. Her rabbits are dyed pink with pomegranate juice which again lends its' flavor to them and amps them up a notch.Ms. Clark also tries grape juice for delicately tinted lavender colored mallow eggs. She takes it a step further by adding matcha (powdered green tea) powder to the marshmallow recipe and then spoons them on a shortbread cookie rounds for This creates a kind of sophisticated s'mores , perfect for ending an Easter brunch.

This is the season for peeps and bunnies. However if these treats are too sweet for you then try making the homemade kind. You can create a more sophisticated and more textured Easter sweet. Not only will kids like them but adults will too!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

California Pizza Kitchen Revisited

Mall restaurants are just that - mall restaurants They usually cater to kids who are more interesting in fast food than good food. However California Pizza Kitchen goes against this norm. You won't find anything fried or overly salted. It's not quick but it is filling. Not to mention delicious.

I revisited the one in my local mall yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. CPK as it's known made its' menu more healthier. The soups were always good but they're made even better by being totally vegetarian. Unlike other restaurant soups they're not heavily salted. Also their lunch menu offers regular portions - not these big platters that it takes two to eat. i tried their spaghettini pomodoro and was instantly won over. This was a regular portion of very thin , almost angel hair like pasta with ripe plum tomatoes and a good amount of basil. This was part of their latest menu ideas called Small Cravings where you can get a smaller version of one of their dishes.

Of course CPK will always be known for their pizza. The creators, surprisingly two lawyers from , where else - Southern California, ,Rick Rosenfeld and Larry Flax believed in giving diners healthy meals long before it was trendy. Their pizzas were the first in the country to be made with whole wheat dough. They have something new that has roasted artichoke and spinach along with four cheeses and the famed spinach artichoke sauce. They also have a Greek style pizza complete with tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, peppers and olives and there is a very innovative pear and Gorgonzola pie. The restaurant still has their amazing desserts too with some new addition such as red velvet cake and butter cake served with whipped cream or ice cream.

California Pizza Kitchen is not your typical mall restaurant.It's so much more with its' delicious menu and heanthy ingredients. It serves classic food but with a fun So Cal twist!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Sushi Sampler

Sushi is one of those foods that's always on everyone's to try list. However so many are denying themselves this treat because they don't know what to order. Do they try a California roll? Should beginners start with sashimi? Is it OK to eat the seaweed?Sushi is pretty easy to navigate through, Once it's all mapped out. from then on , itwill definitely become a favorite. Sushi is more than just raw fish. It's sometimes a delicate combination of that, rice and seaweed along with other ingredients. There are several different types, ranging from rolled to stuffed to fish topped. Most Americans usually eat the rolls which are different fillings under a layer of fermented rice and nori seaweed. This is even divided up into two categories futomaki or thick rolled and hosu maki, thin rolled sushi. Fillings for both include mostly eel and tuna along with cucumber and scallion. There are also stylized American types such as the mayo (and sometimes cream cheese)and avocado stuffed California rolls and the Hawaiian rolls that features pineapple Other types are Kansai style sushi and Kanto style. The first can just be eaten raw or cooked and usually in a bowl. Sashimi is usually served over it This is just very thin strips or slivers of raw fish such as mackerel. halibut or salmon (other kinds such as eel are used too). This kind also has vegetarian maki for those who are still put off by eating uncooked seafood. Kansai style also offered the rice rolled in egg crepes it could also be put in fried tofu sacks. Kanto style is more seaweed oriented. This is where you can get it wrapped around a bar of rice Sea urchin roe is then ladled on top of this for color and taste . Kanto also offers nare zushi combination of rice , fish and seaweed fermented for several months before serving. Sushi shouldn't just be for the strong hearted foodie. It;s a delicious blend of different flavors and tastes that are addictive. Don't be afraid to try this exciting and tasty food. It's not scary ! It's just delicious!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gourmet For All

Years ago certain foods were not available to the masses.It was hard to get French cheeses unless you went to France. Certain pastas were only made at homes. Exotic veggies and fruits were only found in travel Baedekers , not in your local market. Times have changed. It's amazing what's in the local supermarket these days. Sea salt, once considered a luxury item is now all over supermarkets. Just a few scant years ago only elite cookware stores like Williams and Sonoma sold it . Go to your local grocery and it's right there next to Morton's and the generic stuff. Looking for exotic quinoa and plantains? They're right next to the plum tomatoes and broccoli . Ugli fruit , a rarity a few years ago , sits next to oranges and apples in the fruit section. Will all this gourmet stuff make us jaded? No. It does mean a more sophisticated palate for us and for our children. Everyone from oldster to toddler has opinions about what peppercorns to put into one's soup or topping goes well with dulce de leche ice cream. It means that no one is afraid of foreign foods anymore and they can break away from the ordinary. The meat and potato days are well over with. Gourmet food is a big part of our everyday lives. It exists right next to our boxes of instant mashed potatoes and ketchup. Soon it won't be considered sophisticated or exotic. It'll just be considered food.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Healthy Fast Foods

There's been a trend in the last year or so in fast foods. They've gotten healthier. Gone are the bad for you specials or the dripping with grease burgers. It seems chains such as McDonald's and Wendy's are taking their customers' health seriously as well as their own menus. That weekly treat of fries may no longer be a bad thing. In fact. they may even be a good for you. Some fast food places such as Blimpie and especially Subway have been on the health kick for years. After all .it was Subway who introduced healthier heroes for the diet conscious. They were the first to have whole wheat bread along with the lesser calorie flat and pita breads. Both they and Blimpie can create a low fat, low sodium and low calorie lunch that is still delicious and filling. Of course they have the bonus that none of their products are deep fried . All sandwiches are made with fresh, ingredients and it's very easy to control what goes
into an order. McDonald's is making great strides as well. Diners can have a fruit and yogurt parfait as opposed to an Egg McMuffin. There's salads to choose from as well as wraps . Another big proponent of healthy eating is Wendy's. The chain has introduced fries with sea salt Fries are not the best choice however , with this new change they're just a bit healthier. The chain has even gone so far as replacing its' regular salt packets with ones containing sea salt.Wendy's also offers healthy salads as well as more chicken and fish than other fast food places. Burger King still has to jump on this trend. Hopefully it'll catch on to its' competition's healthy choices and start coming out with their own versions. Are fast foods bad for you? Yes and no. Nowadays the big chains are doing their best to create low fat , heart smart choices that will draw in customers. it may mean a few changes to the menu and the way something is cooked. Yet,there are benefits for everyone from the companies themselves right down to their fans

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Restaurant Seders: Are They Kosher?

Passover will be here within a week's time.Many households,whether they be Orthodox, Conservative or just holiday observant only will be getting ready for these week of special eating and prayers. However there is growing minority that are nixing the holiday at home and eating out. Instead of celebrating at home, they will be turning to their favorite restaurants to provide them with tradition and good food. Restaurant seders was the big topic in Joan's Nathan;article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. She wrote about different Manhattan restaurants that will provide everything a traditional first night of passover at home has. The entry way is open for the coming of Elijah, and the prayers books are on the tables. Food is a spin on the traditional. Charoset, which represents the slavery the Jews had known under the pharaohs, is taken to gourmet heights by replacing the traditional almonds with hazelnuts.. Also Manischewitz wine, another tradition in recipes has been replaced with Italian Moscato wine. A Passover favorite such as braised short ribs has a gourmet flair with the addition of of shiitaki and crimini mushrooms along with port wine and ginger. However not all the practices are strictly Kosher. Matzoh is fried instead of baked to give it a crispier , more palatable taste. It is also made with non Kosher or tref flours - a huge Passover taboo. However the chef who created it could not find any Kosher flour hence the discretion. While some very religious Jews may find this sacrilegious there are some who embrace the new spins. This updates the holiday and makes it fresh and exciting for younger generations. Eating out on Passover makes perfect sense. It allows for families to be together without the hassle of endless shopping, prepping and cooking. Dining out also provides delicious variations on holiday classics from forward thinking chefs who still respect the meaning of Passover. There is still tradition but with a new feel to it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Discounted Dining

We all want to eat out at our favorite restaurants and bistros. The problem is we can;t due to rising food prices and a shrinking paycheck a good night out seems like a luxury . However there is a way out of it. Restaurant coupons.. They let us have one night of delicious food in a great atmosphere at lower prices. They may be a salvation to us ordinary diners . They're a pain and a drain to restaurant owners. This debate was the main article in today's New York Times Dining section. The article written by Dining regular Glenn Collins told of the restaurateurs' side. Most owners do not like the idea of discount dining. They don;t bring in the large amount of customers and some just feel the concept compromises their business' integrity.Some feel that regulars will come because they love the food and the atmosphere , no matter what the cost. They also feel that the ones who are paying full price for their meals are subsidising the ones with the coupons. This is the philosophy of famed Manhattan restaurateur Marc Murphy who owns the Landmarc. Are coupons that bad? No, Some owners feel they bring in more business. New customers come in after printing out coupons from sties like Groupon or VIllageVines. The owner of Manhattan's Piccolo Cafes, Michele Casadei Massari feel that they bring in customers who then come back a second times - sans any discounts. The practice doubles business and brings an otherwise unheard of eatery into the public eye. Also diners bring come with friends and family , thus enlarging the clientele and creating a new wave of loyal eaters. It really is a win situation. Are coupons really that bad? If they bring in business during these hard times, then restaurant owners should go for them. Coupons and discounted dining help fill up any restaurant and create more jobs for the community. Coupons also let those who are longing for a break take one at a great restaurant with top notch food. There's nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Bass Are Running

It's April and the striped bass are running. That means dozens of fishermen all braving the April weather and cold water to catch the fish . However you can also get hybrid striped bass at your local grocery or fish store. It can make for some interesting dishes, from the delicate to the hearty. Striped bass or striper as it;s known by fishermen, is part of the Morondirae family and is usually found in bordering fresh water/salt water areas such as th e Raritan bay in New Jersey the Carolinas, New England and Maryland. Domesticated bass is an offshoot being a hybrid fo both the wild and white bass. The two varieties were first combined in the 1960s in South Carolina for a better meat. Hybrid bass has a delicate somewhat sweet flavor, ,and firm flaky flesh . Sometimes there is a "muddy"taste however the best way to avoid this is by cutting the fish into filets(or having your fish store do it for you) Bass is good a variety of ways. You can char it or blacken it for a Cajun dish , which would go well with dirty rice.You can also grill it and served it on a bed of also grilled veggies. Another recipe is Greek style with a honey and saffron glaze. Bass cheeks , those round fleshy discs on a fish's head are also a treat. Broiled and served with butter, they resemble sea scallops in texture. Most people would prefer just to have their bass in a delicate white wine sauce with green beans and new potatoes. This is a lovely, elegant way to serve it , especially at a dinner party. April is here and the bass are running. Run down to your local fish market or grocery store and pick up this versatile fish . Take advantage of the season with some interesting dishes ranging from hearty to elegant!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Go Green With Salad

The warm weather brings about salad days - those times when we crave a cool,refreshing bowl of greens. Surprisingly enough not many people know how to construct a good,well rounded one Most just think it's chucking a variety of veggies in a bowl and dumping store bought dressing on it.Not so! Anyone can create a healthy and delicious salad using the right lettuce and appropriate extras. First realize that there are three different types to work with: Romaine, Crisphead and Butterhead.Romaine is about the most popular right now being the base for Caesar salad. it is one of the healthiest types,beige rich in Vitamin. C.It is also one of the most flavorful with a sweet taste.The reason being is that only the tender inner leaves are picked for salad. Another flavorful leave is the Butterhead .called, this be use of the smooth, buttery texture off the is rich in Vitamin K which are softer and sweeter in texture and taste.The famed Bibb lettuce is from this family.One of the least popular right now is the Crisphead. The variety that produces Iceburg Lettuce.The leaves are densely crowded together to form a cabbage like head.This kind doesn't have much flavor or nutrients as the other.however it can be salvaged to make decent bowlful. What goes well in a salad?Tomatoes are the obvious choice. vary them however to prevent banality. Grape tomatoes are a good addition. They're sweeter tasting than beefsteaks and the plum variety. Another option are artichoke hearts.These add real bite , flavor and color. Onions are also good, Agin they provide texture and flavor however use them sparingly. Too many could lead to heart burn. If you want to vary it added chopped shallots. For something different add snap beans for crunch or even toss a handful of edamame into your salad bowl. With the temps getting warmer and wamrer, more foodies will turn to eating cool bowls of salad. A dish of fresh greens is the perfect foil to hot, steamy days. Mx in homemade dressing and you have a great lunch or dinner.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Holiday Food Shopping

With passover starting next week and both the Orthodox and Christian Easters occurring on the same Sunday , it's now time to start holiday food shopping. The weeks before are perfect for stocking up on both large and small items. Most supermarkets and box stores are are offering some good deals on everything from cuts of meat to candy as well as on tableware and decorations. Before you start , decide on what you want to have. In some parts of the world Easter is going to be a warm weather holy day. You may want to fire up the grill and have outdoor cooked lamb similar to how the Greek Orthodox celebrate. At this time spend the remaining days cleaning out the grill and prepping it. You could even host an outdoor sit down dinner as well. here again you can go for the traditional ham and asparagus or try different quiches and salads. As with any major holiday, decide on how many people you want to invite and work around the guest list. This always determines the amount of food you'll buy. After that start shopping. Take advantage of all the sale prices going on right now. Many stores have good two for one deals on everything from matzoh bread to Easter candy. Of course buy the veggies, fruits and veggies a day or two before your dinner but stock upon other products such as mayo for salads, raisins and almonds for charoset and any canned goods.This is also a good time stockpile soda and seltzers too as well as wines . You may also want to buy some new table linens and napkins for your holiday table too. Stores such as Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond are offering some amazing deals on fancy tablecloths, matching napkins, and napkins rings right now. The Spring holidays are quickly upon us. To have a memorable seder or Easter dinner start shopping now ! Cash in on deals at your local supermarket and box store. these deals will help you in having a sumptuous holiday feast.!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rice A Roni That Everyday Treat

There's nothing like the classic American side dish Rice A Roni. It goes well with any kind of meat : it is perfect at lunch or better yet at dinner. Everyone, from young an d old, love a big heaping portion the noodle and rice mix on their plates. In fact that's all some will eat 'forgoing the main meal in favor of this San Francisco specialty. Rice A Roni began with the DeDomenci family and their pasta factory in San Francisco. It was originally called Golden Grain after a local tobacco company. The actual dish was started in th e 1950's when an Armenian neighbor;s rice pilaf gave them part of the inspiration for the creation. One of the founder's sons, Tom and his wife Lois decided to add vermicelli to the rice , which became an instant DeDomenici hit. His other brother Vince (there were four brothers including Paskey and Anthony.) mixed dry soup mix with uncooked rice and past a and - voila - Rice A Roni was born. It became an instant hit , due in part, thanks to a great advertising campaign. Commercials for the easy to make side hit the airwaves. it also helped that Rice A Roni was easy to make. "Just saute and simmer" the ads proclaimed and housewives loved the this simple idea. Another type Noodle Roni was brought into the lien in 1964. Vincent DeDominico was inspired to create i thanks to a trip to Rome and falling for fettuccine Alfredo. Today Rice A Ron is is indeed an American classic. It's still easy as pie to make which is great. for busy home cooks. Another plus is the brand's many flavors. It sells everything from rice pilaf (perhaps a nod to the original dish that inspired it), to herb and butter to ones designed specially for different meats. Rice A Roni has even kept up with the country's food trends adding a chicken fajita style along with a four cheese one. There are also low sodium variations and long grain and brown rice. Rice A Roni, that San Francisco treat, is also American classic. It is great alongside chicken cutlets or pork chops. It's good with veggie burgers or just on its own for true fans. There's nothing more comforting than this special creation of rice and pasta

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What Is Classy Eating?

Over a century ago, a class meal meant endless platters of Oysters Rockefeller, partridge and wine sorbet. In th e Fifties it was deigned as lobster and any cocktail. The Eighties brought about a new standard classy eats. How is it defined today.? Therein lies the a good foodie question. The concept was the subject of an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The piece , written by Dining regular Jeff Gordinier, writes about the evolution of sophisticated foods. At one time Famous Amos' cookies were considered good eats along with pasta salad and sun dried tomatoes.(Mind you this was back in the Cheap But Glamorous 1980''s era) Nowadays it's anything artisanal attached to its name. As with hand embroidered or hand knitted goods, homemade stuff that is considered classy - even valuable. Certain companies such as that ever luxurious Godiva have jumped on this creating a line of hand made chocolates with unusual flavors. This is an on going completion with all the new boutique chocolatiers who make their candies by hand with unusual flavors and fillings. Some foods will always remain class acts as Mr. Gordinier;s article states. Take pears for instance. They are still considered a luxury item A lot of consumers got them from fruit companies such as Harry and David's out in the Pacific Northwest. Now , however, you can go to any artesanal farm and pick them yourself. (they may even have a history.) Lobster will remain a luxury food because of all the hype attached to it. After all it was nothing more than a poor man's seafood and was served regularly to Ellis Island detainees almost on daily basis. Somehow the tables turned in the late Forties and lobster was the chic food to have , especially in restaurants. other foods such as asparagus and steak will always remain on ultra rich list too. What makes a food luxurious? The era. Like clothing, and music, food is also influenced by the times around it. What make be considered poorman's food today be be the the next luxury. What may be considered posh now will be considered passe later on.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rib Tickling Goodness.

I recently wrote about braising meat a nd how good t h e process is. After all it tenderizes it, turning even the toughest cuts into buttery soft morsels. Well, add ribs to that list. Slow cooking them is the best thing to do, especially if you want a tender, falling off the bone treat. This method turns ordinary ribs into something special. Braising was again the subject of an article in today's New York Times Wednesday Dining section. The extensive article, written by Steven Raichlen explains why a sow cooked rib is better than one that has been on the grill. As anyone can attest, this method can turn even the best ones into stringy, dried out jerky. Slow cooking ribs tenderizes them and create a chemical effect. heat breaks down the tough connective tissue known as collagen into a softer gelatin. This works itself into the meat, creating a tender, chewy bite. Another plus of slow cooking ribs is that you get away from all those gloppy sugary sweet sauces. You can turn them into something adult and decadent by adding bourbon and peppercorns while braising. Brine's can be interesting with a variety of flavors A popular one is a mix of cider vinegar and carrot juice. Another recipe that was included is one from y family's native Piedmont where pork ribs are braised in , all things, milk and honey (there are onions, and garlic along with rosemary and sage too, to create a savory sweet blend. Again, you can create your own brines and washes, using out of the ordinary ingredients. Braising isn't just for stew meats. You can create delectable ribs too using this time honored method. Best of all , it leaves the meat juicy and falling off the bone - what ribs should be.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bay Leaf The Forgotten Spice

Bay leaf should b e known as the forgotten spice. It's not as glamorous as turmeric or cumin or as popular as oregano or rosemary. Yet it is just as flavorful as these and can enhance any dish. However most home cooks don't know what it it is or how to use it. This is a shame. They're missing out on one of the more flavorful spices. The bay leaf comes from the bay laurel an ancient plant that was first ascribed to the legendary Oracle of Delphi. It was said that the Oracle chewed the leaves bay leaves are what the first Olympic winners wore as did the Roman emperors. it was also used in medieval Valentine's Day festivities. Pin a bay leaf to your pillow on Valentine's Day Eve and you will see your future beloved in your dreams. It was first cultivated in Asia Minor and then brought to Europe and North America. Surprisingly enough it is one of the most widely used herbs in these two areas. bay leaves should be used when they are a deep olive green in color. Brown ones have lost their flavor and should be discarded. What can you do with bay leaves? They add depth and a certain aroma to both beef and chicken stocks. Just one crumbled leaf will do it otherwise both the scent and flavor will overpower the broth (leaving for a medicinal tasting soup later on). You can also add one bay leaf to stew meat when you're braising it. The meat will absorb the bay leaf's aroma and have a subtle herbal taste. Remember to remove the laf after cooking because it doesn' t soften even after an hour of cooking. You can also add the leaf crumbled to homemade pates. Be sparing with it though becuase it can have an overpowering flavor if two or three leaves are used. Bay leaf is agreat addition to homemade soups and stews. It works its' subtle magic on braised meats and pates.Try some today to give your dishes an aromatic air of sophistication.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Awakening

With Spring comes a new array of all sorts of things. Weather changes. Fashion trends emerge. Attitudes change . Gone is the gloominess and heaviness associated with winter. Everything now turns to a freshness that is welcoming With that is Spring cuisine. More fruits and veggies are being showcased. Different kinds of meats arre once again in the spotlight. It;s a refreshing spin and also a welcoming one . One of the biggest changes is the reemergence of asparagus. An old saying goes when you see i in the market, then it must be Spring. There's nothing like these deliciously tangy stalks bursitng with flavor and vitamins. Asparagus are good grilled, and along side any Easter ham or lamb. They are also phenomenal boiled and then topped with melted butter, Parmesan cheese and sliced hard boiled eggs. Another trend I'm excited about is the return of nectarines and peaches. We've been surviving on bananas and apples for so long. It's just wonderful seeing other fruits making an appearance. Of course Spring brings lamb. It's a staple for both the Orthodox,and Catholic Easter along with for Passover. Many cooks prefer just getting a aside of it for their holiday dinners. You can go a different route and serve lamb chops. This is great because it cuts down on leftovers. Another meat making a reemergence since Christmas is ham. Ham is almost always served in most German homes for Easter. however it usually is now accompanied by seasonal greens as opposed to the usual baked beans and potato salad. A favorite dinner is a fresh roasted ham with asparagus on the side. Spring is here and with it an emergence of fresh and tasty fruits and vegetables. There's also a different way of cooking too, with emphasis on lighter fare. Welcome the new season with the foods that are best associated with it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Guilty Foodie Pleasure Cupcake Wars

There;s something primal and infinitely satisfying about people battling each other.It has hit the arts, hence the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys. It' s entered the fashion world thus creating drama in "Project Runway" Competition has been in the culinary arts ever since the first bake off our country fair pie baking contest. One of the best food fights is "Cupcake Wars." The Food network classic combines reality TV with some serious baking and snarling. Cupcake Wars is a guilty pleasure usually enjoyed in its' second or third showing on Saturdays and Sundays. It's kind of like Project Runway (and no wonder - Heidi Klum's company Magical Elves produces the show) with frosting and aprons. Four cupcake specialists who have their own commercial or home businesses compete in two rounds. the firs t is the elimination round where it narrows it down to three. the second is the them round where the remaining baker shave to create cupcakes for the remaining event. The last and winning round deals with the final two bakers creating themed displays for their cakes that will tie in with whatever benefit or event that the cupcakes will be showcased at. There are two regular judges and renowned pastry chefs, the French Florian Bellanger and American Candace Nelson along with a weekly rotating guest judge. The host. Just Willman. provides the suspense as he gleefully tells contestants the minutes they have left. It is fun (and possibly a little mean ) watching seasoned bakers as well as some teen whizzes creating interesting creations and toppings. The most interesting is when they start catting about each other. There are some designer worthy gripes and snipes flying about. Everything form frostings to final displays are ripped apart. Snark and spark get whipped into a gladiator type battle that has usually sedate bakers turning into kitchen warriors. What is truly amazing is the the last battle where the two final contestants have to bake one thousand cupcakes. these will be served at the chosen event . A more interesting question is where does the losers brigade of sweets wind up? Hopefully at some soup kitchen as a lovely treat. If you want to sink your teeth in a thoroughly guilty pleasure then try "Cupcake Wars" on the Food Channel .it's has competition, tears and fangs. Oh yeah, it also has yummy cupcakes too.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Radiation Fears

There has been a lot of talk regarding Japan and the radiation coming out of the nuclear plant in Fukushima . People fear it will hit everything from the milk to the seafood to the vegetables. After all it will hit California first the nation;s salad bowl along with the fishing industries of the e Pacific Northwest. Yet will our food be affected? Will we? According to all news reports the radiation coming over to the States via the wind currents are very small amounts. of course the most common fear is that it will affect the California dairy products. radiation particles will settle in the grass , the cows eat the grass and then have their milk contaminated. It has shown up in Washington State milk. Experts say not to worry . The amounts are so incredibly low. You get more dosage from your dental X-rays. As for our lettuce, tomatoes and other harvests coming form the Pacific. Again the radiation amounts are so small that they're not worth obsessing over. Avoid them if you like. That's your call. What about the Pacific itself? Japanese officials have repeatedly reassured the world that the contaminated water has been contained. That means that the North Pacific wildlife such as the cod used in Wendy's fish sandwiches is OK. That means that it doesn't pose a health risk. This must also go for the tuna caught in Japanese waters too. Again , to a certain extent water is like air. The further it moves away from the site , the less radiation will be in it. The marine life like their land cousins won't be too affected by low levels of contaminaton. Should we worry about our food? That's up to the individual.Just remember that there is always some low level of radiation in whatever we eat, from veggies to milk to meat. We haven't fretted about in the past. Soudl we do so now?