Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grill Season

This is the season - and weekend - for grilling. All over the US Webers and other brands will be cleaned, primed and prepped for endless dogs, burgers and ribs. The 4th of July seems like the easiest holiday meal to cook, yet it's not. There's a lot to cooking meat on a simple grill.

The New York Times Dining section handled this yesterday in a good should be cut out article by Dining regular, Steven Raichlen. He interviewed several chefs, gleaning their secrets on how to create the most flavorful and the most tender meats. After all grilling is the most primitive and basic of any cooking technique. It's wild and unpredictable, appealing to our savage side which is why we go mad for a spot at the barbecue. However it is cooking and should have a certain level of sophistication. Grilling sadly enough, cooks almost every meat and veg the same way, sometimes giving everything the same smoky flavor .Of course that changes with both the grill prep and food prep.

Sometimes all it takes is a minor change to make a barbecue memorable. This means switching from simple charcoal to wood chips. Most regular barbecuers use hickory however for real taste try cherry or apple wood chips. This imparts a sweetness to the meat without adding anything else. others such as Belgian chef , Peter DeClercq ofMaldegem's Elckerlicj adds broken staves of beer kegs along with a whole range of herbs and spices to his grilled meat. Others such as Spanish chef, Victor Arguinzoniz of Axpe Spain's Extebarri prefers to use calibrated heat and just simple olive oil for his simple grills. Home cooks can try these methods themselves to create a tasty meal for themselves and guests .

Before grilling look at what you have. Ask yourself how you can make it the best and most flavorful. Add a few wood chips or different spices to create a really unique and different grill everyone will love ..

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Campfire Chic

This is the season for dining out. Literally. Now is the time when hundreds the world over discover the joys of not only eating al fresco but also cooking too. Best of all this excludes the usual dogs stuck on the end of a stick or spuds tossed into open flames only to be gingerly dug out of the ashes. This is gourmet cooking at its' rugged best.

This was the subject of an interesting and creative article by Alice Hart in today's Times Dining section. Ms. Hart, a British writer offered her spin on classic campfire cooking. Cooks can make simple yet sophisticated meals. Even the English classic beans on toast can also be made, providing that you use Boston baked beans over a nice hearty slice. A spin on this would be carrying along a round French or Italian loaf from a farmer'smarket and then toasting it for a crunchy base . There is even a dessert recipe that involves caramelizing figs with creme fraiche in a skillet.

Ms. hart also offers practical advice too. She suggests bringing a microplane grater that is perfect for grating Parmesan, garlic ,ginger and citrus zests. Campfire cooks should also have bottled water, not just for drinking but for boiling too. Wooden chopping boards are essential as is one good all purpose knife. other must have totables are a spatula, a wooden spoon and a pair of long tongs for taking anything out of the fire. Aluminum foil is also a must because it can be foiled into food packets holding meats fish and vegetables. Degradable plastic bags should also be included . They're perfect for carrying chopped herbs along with onion and celery.

Campfire cooking isn't just a stick and a fire.It's much more than that. It's bringing sophistication to a rustic setting and working within it to create gourmet meals. Campfire cooking is al fresco at its' best.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weird Flavors

You have to give food manufacturers credit. They have the nerve to give the public any flavor possible. Some of the work like Dunkin Donuts adding caramel to their mocha lattes. Some don't, yet they're still around. Sometimes it just takes an acquired taste to get these down.

One of th e ones that took me by surprise was Target's Market Pantry Banana Split Instant oatmeal. It sounded good and I thought "Give it a try. It'll be fun." It would have made a nice dessert but breakfast was another story. The banana smell was off putting at first as was eating the melted chocolate chips in it for the first meal of my day. After four or five days I finally became used to it. I 'd recommend it as a low calorie snack but will stick to my maple or fruit flavored oatmeal for breakfast. Another is salt and pepper popcorn. Buttered popcorn and even the cheese flavored ones are perfect. They have the right amount of salt and tastiness. However add pepper to the mix and this favorite snack takes on an ominous spin.The kernels becomes too hot and it makes then almost impossible to eat.

Potato chips are the perfect example of odd flavors. There's nothing wrong with the barbecue and sour cream flavors. Those have been around for decades. However some of the newer flavors coming out take a while to get used to. We have the Brits to thank for the ketchup and salt and vinegar flavors. These have been much loved by the English for years however to the American palate they're strange and almost foreign. There are also ones that taste like feta cheese and hamburger. Whatever happened to just the plain ones where all they tasted like was good , earthy spuds?

Weird flavors abound these days thanks to manufacturers trying to be creative and competitive. Some succeed, some don't. It all depends on taste or the need to explore news flavor combos.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lobster On A Summer's Night

There are so many wonderful foods that symbolize summer.Ices. Hot dogs, Burgers and ribs off the grill. Fresh picked tomatoes. Blueberries and cream. Then there's lobster. Nothing is better than to enjoy a fresh boiled lobster on a pier. However the meat is versatile so it can be made into a number of different and tasty dishes. This is the best the season can give.

Lobster is one of those must have indulgences. This crustacean has brought in around one billion dollars worldwide to the fishing industry because foodies and gourmand must have it;s deliciously sweet meat. It is part of the Nephropidae and sometimes the Homaridae hence the French name homard. What we eat is the clawed lobster which has the best flavor and texture. Lobster are surprisingly carnivorous and live on mollusk, oysters and other shellfish. They live in all seven oceans however the sweetest tasting lobsters come from the coldest waters. What we eat are mostly the meat from the tail and two claws. You can eat what's known as the roe which is the creamy green inside the body.

During this time of year there is nothing more sublime than a fresh boiled two pounder with a cup of drawn butter.This is the best way to eat lobster. Once you get over the entire lobster body on your plate then it;s time to dig in. However you can also have it on top of spaghetti or fra diavolo which is a spicy take on the meat. Lobster Newburg ,a classic since Diamond Jim Brady's time, is a decadent way to enjoy this rich meat. It combines the lobster with sherry butter , egg yolks and cream. It is usually served in a fancy puff pastry shell but it can also be poured on toast points. Another rich lobster dish is bisque ,a creamy soup that features large chunks of the meat.

Summer is the season for a good lobster. If you just want a simple meal go for a boiled one with a side of melted butter.If not try it many different ways to enjoy its' sweet decadent flavor. Lobster is a treat no matter how it's served!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Squash Versatility

There's nothing like squash during these warm weather days. Best of all it can be grown right in your garden and picked fresh. Another plus is that every part of it is versatile. The sections can be made into different dishes One simple squash can provide any chef with a number of possibilities.

This is the season for squash flowers. The Piedmontese of northwestern Italy use them in abundance. These tiger lily lookalikes are great batter fried or stuffed.Remember to take the stamens out and cut the flowers so that they are flat to fry. You could go two ways with the batter. For a delicate crunch and taste that will bring out the flowers' earthiness, go with a crepe batter. If you want a more robust then go with a bread crumb one. Fry in a mix of margarine and light olive oil until crispy and light brown Serve both styles with lemon juice.You can also stuff the flowers too with salami and cheese for appetizers.

The mature squash is tasty too. A quick and easy side dish is sauteing it. Cut the squash into thin slices and cook in a mix of olive oil, butter and chopped garlic. This is a great accompaniment to hamburgers and steaks. Grilled squash is another good barbecue side. Instead of cutting it in slices cut it horizontally in long strips This is perfect for grilling and the pieces won't slip onto the coals. Brush each slide with olive oil and then add crushed garlic, sea salt and fresh crushed pepper. Again this type of squash is good alongside grilled steak and chicken along with fish.

Squash is a great veggie to use and to eat this summer. Every part of it can create a unique and different dish. Not only that, it is tasty with an earthy sweetness that can't be beat!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shoal Harbor Lobster House

It's on a deserted not far from a romantic stormy bay . History and hauntings abound. It features fresh made chowder and newly caught lobster. No, it's not some Cape Cod eatery. It's the Shoal Harbor Lobster House along the Raritan Bay in Port Monmouth , New Jersey. This restaurant is a cousin to what you'ld see in Cape Cod , the Hamptons and even Cape May. However unlike those restaurants this is not far from New York City. In fact you can take a nearby ferry from Manhattan's southern tip to indulge in their great seafood.

I arrived there today , well afer the lunchtime crowd had disappeared. I was dying for lobster but unfortunately Shoal Harbor was out of it. Despite it's isolated address, it is popular with locals and visitors alike. I settled for a veggie and clam rich Manhattan style chowder. It didn't have the over spiciness of other chowders that are usually redolent with bay leaf and thyme. This was delicately flavored with large chunks of clam.A cup of hot chowder was perfect on a chilly day like like today which was rainy and misty . I am planning on trying some of the flounder and crab cakes on a later visit along with Shoal House's famed fish stew.

Shoal Harbor also sells seafood such as tilapia, flounder and other fish cuts. There are also oysters and clams to bring home and steam as well. The lobsters come directly from the nearby Atlantic .I heard some fishermen unloading them as I sat outside and ate. There are also lobster traps galore piled four to five high all around. The pricing is good and probably on a par or even less with local supermarkets. There were a few people coming in to buy seafood for their weekend meals.

If you want New England or even Cape May style seafood go the Shoal Harbor Lobster House. This is a great place for seafood lovers from North Jersey or even Manhattan. You can get
fresh caught lobster or fresh made clam chowder all within driving and even sailing distance of this charming and affordable lobster house.

Shoal Harbor Lobster House - 909 Port Monmouth Road, Port Monmouth NJ.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rum The Perfect Summer Drink

Summer is here and with it comes the need for making and sipping cocktails. One of the most versatile and tastiest ingredients is rum. This staple is perfect for any mixed drink containing the fruits of the season. Not to mention it just has the best kick for dealing with those steamy nights.

Rum was the subject of the Times Dining article yesterday. Its' weekly column Spirits of the Times by Eric Asimov explored the different kinds of this warm weather staple. Rum is either made with sugar cane or molasses. Is there a difference? Yes. A cane based rum are more earthier and vegetal in flavor while the molasses variety is more fruitier. This is probably due to the distilling process. The molasses based goes through an extra step of processing,hence the name industrial rum and the disparity of tastes. Both rums goes well with summery fruits such as melons and pineapples.

The article also mentions the off shoots such as the sugar cane based cachacas which is rum made from boiled cane juice and rhum agricole which is fresh squeezed sugar cane. Only rum from the French West Indies, mostly Martinique, can be called this. Both are dryer and blended tasting more like Armagnac brandy. This is a much more mature view of rum which is usually considered to be like a happy "playful" drink. Rhum agricole is best drunk with just a twist of lime and ice.

Summer is here and it's time to kick back with a cool drink. Make it a rum based one to combat the heat and humidity. There's nothing like it with ice or fruity punch mixed with melons and pineapple chunks.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Coolers With Punch

Cocktails are a great way to end a summer's night. They're a fun kick with some grilled nibbles and a great way to unwind after a beach day. However nowadays fancy drinks are just that. fancy. Infused with a are herb.Blended with a multitude of liquors. The problem is , it;s summer. Lighten up with a heavy stuff. Give us a lighter fare to sip and enjoy.

That was the subject and challenge of Robert Willey's article in today's New York Times Dining section. It turns out that bartenders across the country rose to the challenge.What evolved was some interesting spins on classic cocktails. Take the Tom Collins for example. This is a summer staple however it's given a spin by adding cucumber to it along with simple syrup instead of super fine sugar.This new hybrid called the Sumo Collins would be good with crisp chicken satays or any kind of kabob. There's also a Campari Collins that subs in that warm weather must have Campari instead of gin.
All the drinks were not at all boring. There were some interesting variations, again using just simple ingredients. There was an Italian Libera, a playful twist on the Cuba Libre. Coke is taken out of the ingredient list and in its' place is a heady overproofed (150 proof) rum and amaro. A common milk punch is literally punched up with the addition of buttermilk along with Chartreuse and maple syrup. This last along with honey is a great alternative to simple syrup. Both add a richness to cocktails and makes for a more interesting flavor, especially when there is fruit thrown into the mix. A nature made syrup enriches any peach,, berry or cherry added in.

Summer cocktails shouldn't be complicated. They shouldn't be boring either. You can still have interesting drinks just by using simple and easy ingredients. That's what the season is all about!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Russian Cuisine Practical And Exotic

Russian food isn't everyone's go to cuisine. In fact if you re not of that ancestry you probabyl knwo very litle about it, except maybe for blinis and borscht soup. However it's much more than that. This ancient and varied land has a table that is both unique and earthy ,practical yet amazingly exotic. Try Russian food and you're hooked.

The food evolved through the land but also through foreign influences. Like the French court, the Russian court was swayedby the ruling families likes . Austrian and French cooking first made their way to the royal tables and then filtered down to the masses. The most famous hybrids of the Franco Russian regimes are Beef Stroganoff, beef chunks in a creamy gravy and Chicken Kiev which is herb butter stuffed chicken breasts that are breaded and fried. Most dishes rely on harvests, Sturdy plants such as rye and barley provided flours for pancakes and bread. Cabbages and rutebegas were the vegetables for meals. Various fish and meats , such as jellied veal figure prominently in the cuisine as well.

Russian desserts ar e not as varied as other countries' sweets. Peter the Great, the 18th century czar, was fascinated by all things ,Dutch . German, French and Swedish. However there are a few dishes that are strictly true to the area. Tthere are blini, barley pancakes, filled with caviar and mushrooms/ However they can also be filled with cream and dried fruit. Baked desserts are also very popular and are stuffed with a sweet cheese and raisin filling. These are called vareniki and can also be eaten for a light supper.

Russian cuisine is an exotic blend of the foreign and the domestic. It combines native ingredients with foreign spins. All in all it is a different but interesting variety of dishes , both sweet and savory.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Indulgences

Even though the warm weather is here you can still indulge (although it is bikini season). Just like in the cooler months you can treat yourself to something wonderful and rich. Let's face it although it's just bordering on the first day of summer you're probably tired of all that grilled chicken with everything and meager watermelon slices.

Every roadside stand and beach hut has some great sandwiches right now. Don't think twice about a chili dog with extra onions and cheese. Have it with a big cup of beer. whether it be the alcoholic, birch or root kind.(and whatever kind you have make sure it has a big, foamy head).Another summertime treat is a fresh off the grill burger smothered in a good sharp cheddar with a few strips of bacon or even Canadian bacon. Lobster roll is another foodie gift to oneself. It's just a meal of pure indulgence with a wicked blend of lobster and mayo on a buttered hot dog bun. If you want a food that's somewhere in between then go for barbecued wings. Yes, the chicken is good for you however that calorie rich barbecue isn't.

If you're dying for something sweet, then get one of those coffees that's more of a dessert than a drink.Anyplace from Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts is serving them with a vengeance this summer .Opt for a chocolate one with a huge puff of whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Dunkin Donuts has its version of the famed frozen hot cocoa which tastes like a chocolate shake on steroids. Of course there's the old fashioned banana split that's easily made at home.Use flavor intense ice creams like vanilla, butter pecan, chocolate or strawberry and add two very ripe bananas. Finish up with your favorite topping and ,of course whipped cream. You can also make a luscious ice cream sundae too.

Even though this is the season for skinniness, treat yourself to some lush, calorie rich foods every now and then, It's fun and , yes, satisfying to sink your teeth into a juicy bacon cheese burger or an iced cream sundae. Forget that it's the start of bikini season. Treat yourself to something yummy!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

That Special Barbecue For Dad

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and that means creating the perfect meal for him. It’s usually a barbecue with him doing the grilling. Even this simple meal can be made special with just a few tweaks and twists. Just juice up the old dogs and slaw for a memorable lunch or dinner.

Hamburgers and hot dogs are the usual Father’s Day fare. Instead of the premade patties try making them yourself with fresh chuck. Even the kids can get involved, rolling them into balls and then flattening them with their palms. To make the hamburgers even tastier, add a few drops of Worcester or even Tabasco sauce. Another trick is adding a knob of butter to the patty’s center to create a juicy flavorful, interior . For hotdogs, try splitting the centers and adding Monterey Jack or a sharp cheddar cheese. The result is an oozy gooey cheesy treat that Dad will love. If you really want to treat him then think a grilled steak. Add fresh sea salt and ground pepper along with a brushing of butter to make the cut extra tasty and served with a baked potato fresh from the grill..

Of course a perfect Father’s Day meal would also include beer. However you can incorporate its into everything from cake to icing to ice cream floats. You can add some dark ale or stout to either chocolate or brown sugar cake batter for mancakes ( the male version of the girly cupcake). Finish off with an icing that incorporates a tablespoon or two of the same suds. You can also make an ice cream float using vanilla ice cream (a really rich flavorful kind like Edy’s or Turkey Hill) floating in a stein of stout. You could also try making a beer ice cream . Use a regular vanilla ice cream recipe. Cut back on the vanilla and add a cup of Dad‘s favorite brew to make an unusual yet memorable dessert.

Father‘s Day should be a feast any father would love. Use his two favorite : meat and beer to create a memorable lunch or dinner for him. It’ll be better than those grilling tongs and car kit you bought him.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Good Iced Coffee

This is the time of year when an iced coffee is necessary to one 's existence. It keeps us cool and refreshed when the temps soar.It is the perfect stand in for a calorie rich sundae. The problem is. Iced coffee is addictive - and expensive. Even the cheapest one can send a coffee drinker back three or four bucks. What to do?Make it yourself!

Iced coffee is really one of those no-brainer drinks. It isn't like lemonade which requires a certain amount of precision .It 's not like iced tea which can accidentally be made too strong or too weak . Iced coffee is well just basically cold coffee and ice. Brew your regular joe as you normally would do and wait until it grows cold . Use a tall glass (like what you would use for iced tea or ice cream sodas) and fill with about five to six ice cubes . You can drop in less if you want a stronger taste.Remember that the ice will melt and dilute the coffee. Being an old school purist I like using just a teaspoon of sugar however you can also add some milk and even a dash of cinnamon to flavor it.You can also leave it black if you want to enjoy the robust flavor or if you're having something sweet with it.

if you 're dying for what everyone from Mickey D's to Dunkin Donuts puts out, then your iced coffee is going to require some extra ingredients. For that rich chocolate taste , add a good dose of chocolate syrup. I usually go the way of the baristas and pour in enough os that there's about a quarter inch of it on the bottom .Don 't worry if it just sits there. You can stir it up later with a straw or just drink from the bottom. Every fancy. Iced coffee should have a good head of whipped cream on it. Use Reddi Whip to achieve this look. If you want , drizzle some more syrup on top of the whipped cream for absolute decadence. ( the cream may take on a clotted appearance when it comes into contact with this ice. Don't worry- this is normal). Sit back and enjoy.

Make your perfect iced coffee at home this summer.It's easy to create what coffee shops serve. It's also much cheaper too. Now fill that glass , get creative and enjoy a yummy iced treat that's perfect for these sweltering days!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Knives Are Out

A good knife is integral to any kitchen, whether it be residential or commercial. It has to be multipurpose . It has to chop dice, slice, mince, debone, fillet and cleave. It should be the one go to device that cooks cannot live without. It should also be sturdy and long lasting That's what makes a good knife.

This was the subject of the great Florence Fabricant's article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. She explores the new breed of knives coming out in an extensive piece that will definitely persuade home cooks on their buying decisions.Right now Japan leads the country and world in good knife manufacturing. The Japanese create a cutter that is more durable than what other countries including the US and France, are creating. Their blades are carbon steel and have an edge better than the stainless steel variety. There is one drawback is that the blades do turn grey with time. However this patina doesn't seem to bother both home and professional chefs.

Japanese blades are also better in construction too. Nothing really changes in the translation. The blades are still thick, sharpened on both sides and have a visible tang. A tang is the part of the blade where it connects to the handles with rivets. Traditional Japanese knives have rounded or octagonal handles with no visible tangs. They only have one side sharpened (which results in a thinner cut) and are only for right handed people. This caters to a limited audience considering home chefs want a more versatile blade that can do anything. Some cooks want a Damascus steel blade which is made by folding the steel into itself as it's forged . This was how centuries of swords were made and reached it's height during the Crusades.

Knives are an important part of any kitchen arsenal. It seems that the versatile Japanese blades are the ones that people want and why not? Busy cooks want a knife that can handle anything, from dicing to chopping, from slicing to chopping.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spain's Newest Wave of Chefs

The Spanish have been the Alexander McQueen or Vivienne Westwood of cooking for the last ten years. They literally reinvented cooking and time honored dishes with new techniques outre spins. This was due to the vision of one man- Ferran Adria and his restaurant El Bulli. Sadly enough El Bulli is closing however Spain will still remain on the cutting edge of cooking innovation.

This was the subject of the great Julia Moskin's article in today's New York Times Wednesday Dining section. El Bulli has been a culinary mecca for foodies around the world. Their tongues were seduced by his new and inventive techniques that involved emulsions and foams. Euros were poured into the Spanish economy and tourism increased in Adria's town of Barcelona thanks to him. There was the worry that Spain would lose that. Not true however. Adria may be stepping down but there are a number of talented and avant garde chefs willing to carry on Spain's new tradition.

The latest crop, much like Adria , are just as genius. There are young chefs ,like Paco Morales of Bilbao who creates a shimmering jellied tomato water with herbs and fresh shaved vegetables. Another chef Valencia's Quique Dacosta of Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum's restaurant created a dish of just a single oyster draped in a film of edible titanium alloy to reflect the museum's silvery window. There are other chefs such as Carme Ruscalleda and her son, Raul Balam,that create food that's more whimsical edible art than actual food. Better yet they are using Spain's vast bounty of seafood, vegetables and fruits as opposed to using ingredients from out of the country.

Even though one chapter of Spain's new culinary history is closing another will be opening. There is a whole new generation of chefs that will keep this avant garde art form of cooking alive. They have the creativity and talent to keep the Iberian peninsula in forefront of global cooking.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marshmallows Summer's Fun Treat!

The warm weather is here and with it come marshmallows. They are a fun and great treat, along with being low calorie! Best of all they bring back childhood memories of toasted ones over the campfire or grill! There's nothing like starting an outdoor sleep over or ending an outdoor barbecue with them.

Marshmallows have been around since ancient Egypt. originally used for medicinal purposes The swamp plant, the mallow (hence its' name) was sweetened and added to a honey and nut mix. French confectioners took marshmallow making to a high art during the 19th Century. Individual candy makers took the mallow sap and whipped it with egg whites and rose water for taste. Nowadays the mallow plant is never used in the candy's manufacturing. Instead it's a mix of corn syrup dextrose, gelatin and hot water. Sometimes egg whites are used in artisanal marshmallows. Marshmallow manufacturers like Jet Puffed and Campfire are producing two sizes of the puffs. The average marshmallow is only twenty-five calories

Groceries are selling the candy in full force right now, thanks to the season. There's nothing like two or three charred or toasted puffs to end a barbecue. You can even make them indoors by just toasting them over a burner put on low heat. How you make them is up to you. Most people love a browned, almost crunchy exterior with a hot and gooey middle. This kind is perfect for that summer time treat s'mores. The mallow's heat melts the chocolate to almost a liquid consistency and it almost rebakes the graham cracker. If you want you can buy the super large ones for a really decadent dessert

This is the season for toasted marshmallows and s'mores. Treat yourself and your kids to these time honored treats with a big bag of marshmallows. Then get out those sticks and start toasting!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Twist On Fruit

June is the time for fruit. Stores and stands are bursting with berries and melons. Everyone loves them until they eat way to much - and then they become sick of them. The dilemma is these gems of nature are good for you. Stop eating them and you lose out on important and vital nutrients and antioxidants. What to do ? Give them a twist.

Watermelon is one of the most versatile fruits this season.Pureed it can create a wealth of dishes and even drinks. You can use it for a sweet granita just by pouring a mix of it and simple syrup into trays and then freezing for about half an hour. When it's semi frozen, grate a fork over it until it becomes like a slushie . Serve in cups with a sprig of fresh mint. You can also use it as an ice if you again puree it and put through a crushed ice machine. When it's liquefied , watermelon is a great ingredient for drinks.

Berries are equally as versatile. You can make a wonderful blueberry or strawberry vinaigrette by adding the pureed berries to a regular oil and vinegar dressing,It lends a sweetness perfect for a grilled chicken or salmon salad. They're also good sliced along with apples and cranberries in an arugula salad. You can also try them in a marinade.Peaches, big this time of year as well, can also be added to any sauce to lend an unusual spin on barbecue marinades or chutney.

Yes, we are surrounded by fruit right now. However don't get turned off by eating it the plain old way.Melons and berries are wonderful in other dishes. Explore the variations right now.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Target's New Gourmet Side

Target has always been known for its' delicious snacks and holiday treats. Who could resist the fun Italian sodas at Halloween or the yummy holiday cookies at Christmas time? The chain is amping up its' food department by installing mini groceries within every store. Not only can you buy nachos and creme cookies, you can also stock up on essentials too.

My local Target has scooped out enough space to include fruit and veggies. I've seen this in larger Super Targets and was amazed by the amount of fresh products the store had. Now smaller ones have expanded too(I think every Target now has a fully stocked grocery to rival nearby supermarkets). Not only can I get their yummy potato chips and mocha chip cookies I can also buy the ingredients for a fresh salad and pick up some fruit too. Target also has a line of their own baked goods under the Market Pantry label along with other brands. I bought two pack of mini angel bundt cakes for strawberry shortcake. They wer e light and heavenly, probably the best I've bought for this kind of dessert.

With this expansion comes bigger aisles and definitely more national and in house brands to try. I picked up two boxes of Target's gourmet brand Archer Farms gnocchi with mushroom sauce. These have been imported from Italy and are even better than what I've picked up in local groceries such as the A&P and even Stop and Shop . The gnocchi were tender and the sauce , downright flavorful. They have more of these , mostly pasta,s that I will definitely test out. I also love their oatmeal and had to try their new banana split flavor.

Target isn't just all about the trendy designer clothes and furnishings (well it is, really). Since the chain has expanded their grocery sections, they've become a gourmet heaven. Try some of their amazing gourmet foods. You'll be turning to Target for all your food shopping.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Family Recipes For Success

Kids whose parents own restaurants are very lucky. Not only do you grow up with great food you inherit the business. What's even better is that the second generation is tech and media savvy,tapping into the foodie cult with a vengeance. What the parents started as a small eatery is transformed into a superstar.

This was the subject of an article by Steven Stern in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Several children of restaurateurs and food business people were interviewed. Interestingly enough they were the children of immigrants who had gone to college and then went off into the corporate world. They realized that returning to the family business was more profitable.Of course, once they returned, the kids then amp almost everything from the decor to the recipes. New dishes are added as in one case of a butcher shop where truffle hot dogs are sold along classic Romanian sausages and dishes thanks to the son combining the traditional with the trendy.

Having a tech savvy kid also helps a family business. He or she can easily put the family business on Twitter and Facebook to bring in more customers. They can also create an app for IPhones and websites too. This is all well and good however a family restaurant is nothing without good food and dedication. Also creating dishes that satisfy both the old guard and new customers also helps.Luckily these second generation restaurateurs know that and continue on with their family recipes.

There's nothing like growing up in a restaurant, butcher shop or bakery. Even better is coming back years later and turning the business into your own. Now there's a new generation taking a spin on their family's recipes and eateries.Success is in the genes - so is good food.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Science Of Hamburger

Usually Wednesday is reserved for the NY Times Dining section however it was an article in yesterday's Science Times that caught my attention.It was regarding liquid nitrogen and cooking hamburgers. Funny how something really not associated with food prep can create the perfect burger.

This was the topic of the Findings Column by John Tierney. The past week was devoted to the World Science Festival in New York along with a symposium by the great chef, Daniel Boiulud who helped to create the burger renaissance a decade ago. Combine the two and you get interesting musings on how to make the best hamburger ever.The first step is cooking it sous vide,Put the burger in a plastic bag and immerse it into hot water for half an hour. Then dip the patty into liquid nitrogen for thirty seconds to freeze it. It is then deep fried in 450 degree hot oil for one minute.

The result is a well browned patty ,crispy outside and a , tender pink inside.In other words, the perfect burger. This exploits what is known as the Maillard reaction named after Louis-Camille Maillard an early 20ieth scientist.It's basically carmelization where the existing water boils away producing a nice crisped crust. It appeals to our basest instincts -cooked meat with a mouth watering aroma and a bite of crunchiness and tenderness.

It;s amazing how something as a burger can have such a complicated cooking method in order to be good. However you don' t need liquid nitrogen to create the perfect patty. Just use good ground chuck and a fired up grill . Add spices if you want flavor and butter if you want a soft, tender middle.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Frozen Dinner

This is time of year for ice cream - for dessert or for a snack. Not for dinner. However recently it was incorporated in a full six course meal. It was not six variations on sundaes and splits. Meats and veggies were actually served with it. To top it off dessert was ice cream as well.

This was the subject of an interesting article in the New York Daily News (which has some really good foodie articles from time to time) news reporter Irving DeJohn.The dinner was served at the Roger Smith Hotel as part of its ' Edible Conversations and was inspired by NYU adjunct. Prof.Laura Weiss; book Ice Cream :A Global History. The meals started off with Guinness Float shot which features vanilla iced cream and Stout. This is nothing new. Stout ice cream is popular right now in Manhattan ice cream bars.

It does get odder with the main meals. However the combinations do work. There was salmon crostini with horseradish ice cream that rendered the fish to almost like sushi.It was followed by beet carpaccio with a goat cheese flavored one. Pea soup was also served,topped with yogurt iced cream. The biggest surprise was the tastiness of a seafood ceviche paired with a lime sorbet. It worked well together and according to deJohn tasted like a fishy margarita. There was also a loin of venison with lingonberry iced cream which was no surprise. Oftentimes deer meat is served with sweet lingonberry jelly to balance out the gaminess. The meal ended with a bitter chocolate gelato, sprinkled with sea salt, caramel and pretzels.

Is ice cream for dinner the next big thing?It would be perfect during these hot days however
it;s better relegated to dessert. There's nothing like finishing up a meal with a frozen ball of chocolate, vanilla or fruity goodness.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Sides

By now everyone has probably had about a good twenty or thirty cookouts depending upon where they live. As always , it's the ribs, burgers, and dogs that are the stars. What about the sides? The salads and other dishes are the ones that hold up a barbecue or picnic. it's not all about the meat. People would get bored wit h that. remember it's always the sides that hold up a summer party.

What should summer sides be? Anything from corn on the cob to salads. If you want to stick with something plain and simple then think solo acts. There's nothing like serving just simple corn ears or baked potatoes. If you want to jazz them up a bit then drizzle herbed olive oil on the corn or serve it with ramekins of simple lightly salted butter. Baked potatoes should go simple too. (after all they're the perfect accompaniment to grilled steak). Think an herbed or plain butter and maybe a small dollop of chilled sour cream. Asparagus is also another good "lone" side. You can have it in a salad with vinaigrette dressing or grilled with some olive oil and lemon.

If you insist on something a bit more substantial then think salads. You can have a festive macaroni salad next to a regular one. Or serve both a zippy cole slaw and a tomato salad. Of course the best is a potato salad which can go with everything from steaks to burgers. Potato salads can vary . Make the traditional German kind with mayo and celery or try the Sicilian version that involves small red potatoes and olive oil. What is great about any salad is that you can make it well before the dinner or party which leaves you plenty of prep time for the main course.

Remember a summer barbecue or party isn't the same without the sides. There are so many of them to choose from. Each can compliment the mains . After all burgers and dogs can't stand on their own. They need a good side alongside them!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Doughnut Day

Yesterday was National Doughnut Day. If you didn't celebrate, then celebrate now. There's nothing like treating yourself to one after a hard day or yard work or housecleaning. Sink your teeth into the jammy goodness of a jelly doughnut or the sweet cushiony glazed kind. They're the perfect end to a Saturday at home day.

Doughnuts aren't a new creation and they're not entirely American. However there name was coined by the great American writer, Washington Irving, when he wrote about "fried dough nuts" as early as 1808. It is an international treat both being made in sweet and savory forms. Most counties prefer some variety of sweet, In the Philippines along with India, doughnuts are made with untraditional flours. Filipinos prefer a starchy potato based dough while Indians make their rings with lentil or bean flour. Jelly doughnuts are big, not just in Israel but also in Germany and Austria where they originated. The Germans like them during Fastnacht or Lent and they're a staple of Carinvale parties.

It is in America however that the doughnut is revered. Thanks to the popular chain, Dunkin Donuts (notice the easier spelling )that these treats are as classic as burgers and fries in the American diet. The company, started as just a small doughnut shop in Quincy, MA by Bill Rosenburg. It brought tasty and affordable doughnuts of every kind to all parts of America and later the world. Dunkin offers everything from seasonal ones such as the heart shaped Valentine's Day donuts to pumpkin ones for Halloween. They also offer glazed and the traditional. However bakeries and supermarkets have their own spin on this classic and you can buy a fresh made dozen any time. There are also doughnut molds that allow you to bake these treats at home.

Treat yourself to a doughnut today if you didn't yesterday. There's nothing quite like a glazed or chocolate one with a nice iced coffee! Celebrate this world and American classic!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Carp Revisited

Carp is one of those fish that you either love or hate. Most home chefs usually acquire through fishing. It is a difficult fish , being both bony and oily. Yet , like any other , it is versatile and can be made into everything from filets to cakes. Try it once and you could be addicted.

Carp has been around for centuries , being one of the earliest fishes to become domesticated and cooked. It is a member of the Ciprinidae family, an oily, fresh and sometimes salt water fish.It has more bones than the average fish .possessing Weberian ossicles.(an anatomical structure originally made up of small pieces of bone formed from four or five of the first vertebrae).This aids the fish in sensing sound vibrations making the carp the most developed in hearing. Carp can also be an ornamental fish, both the hugely popular koi and goldfish are both in this group. Carp is high in calcium and phosphorous and low in calories.

What can do you with carp?There are many recipes from filets to cakes to even pickled.If they're just fresh caught then try them fried in cornmeal to be served fresh with hush puppies. You could also make carp Mandarin style which is with oranges, dry sherry and scallions. You can also roast carp on a grill. Just prep it with a little lemon along with fresh ground salt and pepper. You can also bake it , again with lemon but add some garlic with it this time and serve with veggies.

Carp is a versatile fish that can be made a number of ways. If you're lucky to catch it fresh, take advantage of turning it into a variety of tasty dinners. Add it to your barbecue and summer cooking this season!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Government Issued Foodie

Like it or not, the US government has always played an important role in our lives since the very beginning. Whether to lure us into the army by offering a meal or to start a victory garden for health benefits, Uncle Sam has been omnipresent. Now there is a big exhibit regarding the United States and its' relationship with food at the National Archives down in Washington DC. Going to it would be a neat diversion for any foodie visiting the nation's capital.

The exhibit , entitled What's Cooking, Uncle Sam ? The Government's Effect On The American Diet"" was the subject of an interesting article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Written by Jennifer Steinhauer, it tell about how the US government has always been a big part of its' citizens' lives. In Colonial times it lured young men to join the Continental Army by promising three meals a day .(a big deal in those days) . Later on it acted as a consumer watch dog, warning housewives of mom and pop ketchup businesses (these produced exploding bottles).The US government also created the FDA after children were sold toxic candies from street vendors in the early 1900's.

The exhibit has amazing artifacts, especially posters from the early 1900's 'There are also documents, collected food labels, film footage and various other artifacts on display. Visitors can see a photo of the famed Frank Nicholas Meyer, a government appointed food explorer who was sent on foreign mission to Asia from the government to bring back new plants and grains. That foodie, must have, the Meyer lemon is named for him . A nearby restaurant, Cafe Atlantico has been renamed America Eats Tavern in companionship with the exhibit. It will serve American classics such as burgoo, clam chowder and oysters Rockefeller. The first floor will serve classic American cocktails such as Ben Franklin's milk punch and Champagne cocktail, first served at new York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

If you're in Washington this summer (along with the fall and winter. the show ends January 3rd, 2012) then stop by the National Archives. You'll receive an enjoyable look into the government's role in how and what we eat. it's informative and fun , a look back into our government influenced culinary past.

What's Cooking Uncle Sam? The Government's Effect on the American Diet" will be at the National Archives from June 10th to January 3, America Eats tavern is located at 405 Eighth Street NW Washington DC.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gluten Free Goodness

Once upon a time there were gluten free baked goods. To be honest they were horrible tasting not to mention thick and lumpy. . Not so any more.Gluten free baked goods can be just as yummy as their their regular counterparts. In fact they can be addictive - so much so that cake and bread lovers can easily switch over to this healthier alternative.

Gluten free flours were the subject of today's New York Times Dining regular Melissa Clark's article. She covered both professional and home baking regarding this revolution. Wheat free baking is more than just a trend. Thanks to a rise in celiac allergies, more and more moms are seeking out gluten free products to buy and make for their children. Famed bakeries like Babycakes in Manhattan and Los Angeles has always produced gluten free goodies and their cupcakes rival those of the famed Magnolia Bakery in taste and lightness. They are almost ethereal in their taste and texture and have gotten a following.

A better idea, as expressed in Ms Clark's article is that the flours are available to home bakers. Supermarkets carry a wide range of flours such as sweet potato (!), sorghum, teff ( a species of lovegrass that can be ground into a flour)and oat. Also gums such as xanthum and guar, used commercially to bind cakes and cookies can now be bought at your local health store Home bakers will be happy to know that baking with these flours produce a better and actually lighter product. There is even a pizza recipes thrown in so wheat allergy sufferers can enjoy a fresh baked pie with the works.

Gluten free used to be impossible to find and even more impossible to digest. However all that is changing. Thanks to improved flours and regularity in stores and bakery gluten free is definitely becoming part of the American diet.

I forgot to thank the New York Times Dining Section and their great staff of writers who provide me topics for my Wednesday and Thursday entries. My toque is off to you in gratitude!