Saturday, July 30, 2011

Localvore Eating (And Yes, I Did Spell It Right)

August is the time for vacations,of going away and trying all sorts of new foods at exotic and fun locations. Yet what happens when a foodie is strapped for cash? Going away even for a weekend seems like a major expense. The answers lies literally around the corner. Eat locally. discover your neighborhood. You'd be surprised at what's there,waiting for you.

Luckily we live in the age of apps. There are all sorts of free restaurant apps that can be downloaded onto your phone. Many of these not only have ratings and pricings but thorough descriptions of their best dishes and desserts. You can type in or even ask about what's the best Chinese restaurant withing a five mile radius and the odds are good that four or five really good ones will be listed. Another way is to just ask. Old fashioned but it works. I recently went to a pizzeria that was always recommended to me by various locals. Turns out that what was said about the place was true. It really does make the best pizza in the area.

Another method is just hit or miss. I've been doing this recently on day trips, just stopping into eateries that intrigued me. I've found my new favorite, The Shoal Harbor Lobster House in Port Monmouth this way(although I did some follow up research on the web before a second visit just to see their full menu.) It's just fun being on the open road and picking a quaint little cafe to stop at. These are usually big on yummy homemade foods from biscuits to meat loaf. Almost every town has one and they're worth at least one visit. Stay away from major highways that are chock full of chain restaurants. Go to the town's heart where there are more privately owned eateries.

If you can't afford to go away this August, don't despair. There are plenty of local places, probably a block away, that can satisfy your foodie's culinary wanderlust. You'd be surprised at what's around the corner.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Happier Meals

Parents around the world can breath a sigh of relief. it seems that McDonald's is making its' happy meals finally healthy. This longtime childhood favorite is finally bowing to pressure . After all while the meals may have promoted smiles they did nothing to promote a child;'s well being.

The Happy Meal has always undergone some form of criticism and with good reason. It created a lifelong addiction to unhealthy fast food and jump started childhood obesity. Kids grew up craving Coke and fries instead of juice and veggies. To add to the deal McDonald's always threw in a toy, usually a tie in with whatever kiddie movie was current. This became baby crack. Little ones had to have the toy, In order to get the toy, nuggets or burgers had to be consumed. Of course any fast food is tasty and to a young palate it's like gourmet. Unfortunately it has created all sort s of problems since it was introduced in 1979.

Thankfully all tha t is about to change. Low fat chocolate milk will replace calorie and sugar rich soda. Apple slices will sub in for salt and oil soaked fries. There will still be the mainstays: junior burgers and chicken nuggets. However the meal has gone from 520 calories and 26 grams of fat to 410 calories and 19 grams of fat. Parents are happy about this although they have been long offered the choice of fruit or fries. According to Mc Donald's , though only eleven per cent did take the healthier choice in the past Hopefully the company will offer kid sized version of their salads too which would be the best choice of all .

The Happy Meal, like any fast food is getting healthier. It's s joining the ranks of everyone from White Castle to Burger King to IHOP topromote healthy diets for kids. Will it succeed. As long as there's a a smile on both the kid's and parents, faces , yes!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Catering To Appalachia

Appalachia and gourmet food usually aren't usually found in the same sentence however that's may be about to change. The region is known more for homesstyle grits and biscuits as opposed to gourmet meals. All that is changing thanks to a high end eateryand the introduction of locavore dining. Will it change the area? That's what some local chefs are hoping.

This was the subject of an interesting article written by Jane Black in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. She had interviewed Steven Hopp, who along with his wife , the author, Barbara Kingsolver wrote th e 2006 bestseller "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:A Year Of Food Life" about their move and exploration of southwest Virginia and locavore dining. It was an eye opener. This type of dining has been going on in the area however the dishes are simple ,passed down from generation to generation. The area farmwers were wary of these outsiders and their different way of cooking and eating.

Mr. Hopp wants to change all this. His restaurant, The Harvest Table is meeting with some resitance, however. Locals think that the food is too fancy and too expensive. Even though the food is freshly grown and carefully prepared, townspeople prefer going to chain restaurants like Pizza Hut and Applebee's. Mr.Hopp keeps his pricing low and keeps the dishes' names simple to draw in customers.. A pasta that would be called one with fennel and pecans is renamed pasta primavera to draw customers. A fancy dish of peppers are called pepper roulette. It's this type of thinking that brings good quality food with homegrown ingredients to the area people.

Will Appalachia ever be a foodie destination stop? That may take a few years. However with men like Mr. Hopp, leading the way, it may be a reality soon enough.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Every Part Of The Plant

Is it proper to eat trash? Yes if it it's the refuse that came off common fruits and vegetables. Surprisingly enough what most of us toss from our produce can be used in a variety of recipes.Much can be made from roots and leaves along with pits and peelings.Don't throw anything out. Not after reading this.

Utilizing entire stalks and roots was the main article in today's New York Times Dining section regular, Julia Moskin.In it she explores the idea of "nose to tail"vegetable cooking. This process has long been used with meats ;cooking every part of an animal's body. Now chefs are looking at the discarded parts of corn, broccoli and some fruits to make delicious dishes. It just comes with one caveat. Sometimes the pieces such as the kernel inside certain pits contain what's is known as cyanogens, compounds that are part of the highly lethal cyanide. Before cooking ,it's wise to read up on what's OK to eat and not eat.

The yield is remarkable. Broccoli stalks can be made into a delicious salad once cooked. Cauliflower leaves can be cooked into a tender cabbage like dish and it has almost the same taste except with the cauliflower undertones. Fruit pits are crushed and used as flavorings in puddings and ice creams. Discarded celery stalks are used to make a pungent celery salt while other roots and leaves can create entirely new dishes. Using entire veggies and fruits are nothing new. There are century old recipes for pickled green tomatoes and watermelon rinds. After all early American cooks used everything thanks to bumper crops and a need to satisfy hungry families.

Don' tthrow away anything from your produce. Those stalks and leaves can create some tasty and new dishes. Save anything and everything before you throw them out.If not you may be missing out on a valuable ingredient,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

From Hot To Cold

A favorite dish is a favorite dish no matter what the season. Yet what happens when those tummy warming meals are to be craved during these hot days? Adapt them to summer cooking. You can still have your delicious favorites yet prepare them in easy hot weather friendly ways. You not only enjoy them but also cook them in a way that’s comfortable during these sweltering times.

The microwave is the best way to make any quick version of a meal. You can still have a warm dinner but in half the time. A fun dish that can be adapted to the summer is baked mac and cheese. You can mix Velveeta along with already boiled macaroni and some milk. Add a quarter cup of flour for shortening and it’s an easy to do fave. If you want crunch, add some bacon croutons or a layer of bread crumbs on top for layering. Spaghetti is easy to. You can easily boil up some and for a fresh sauce just saute some basil garlic and sliced fresh tomatoes. It’s a different spin on a sauce, yet it still tastes the same but with a garden fresh tang.

You can even make a hot lunch during these sweltering days. A hot sandwich is a nice break from cold ones and wraps. You can buy already sliced cold cuts form your local deli or supermarket Put on sliced bread or roll and add some already made hot gravy. It’s not cooking but with a lot of flavor. Homemade soup is another noon favorite . You can make any stock on a stovetop. Then add whatever you want . if not just buy the already made ones. Then add fresh veggies for a nice garden vegetable or try making bisques using fresh seafood and meats.

Just because it’s summer it doesn’t mean you have to give up your winter favorites. Adopt recipes to fit these hot steamy days. It's surprisingly simple.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Versatile Chickpea

Chickpeas are one of the most versatile beans a cook can use. They can be dried, mashed or fried. They can be used in dips or soups. They are the perfect ingredient for any dish , in any season.

Chickpeas have been around since our Neanderthal days. There is evidence of the dried beans in caves found in Southern France. It was first cultivated in Asia and the Middle East in larger quantities. The name comes from the Latin cicer and pease or pea. It was then called chichepea in Medieval France and then shortened to chick pea or by the English who called it the cavalance too.It is also called garbanzo by the Italians which comes from the old Spanish garroba or algarroba although another theory is that it's from the Basque garbantzu.

Chickpeas are a wonderful addition to any dish. They add a rich meatiness and texture to salads along with color .Mashed them and add olive oil and spices to make a creamy, smooth and nutty hummus for dips. Chickpeas are also a wonderful addition to minestrone and pasta e fagiole. They do not become soggy, or mushy. Another way of having them is dried and salted. This is a popular and addictive snack at Italian street fairs. The Greeks love them cooked with spinach and feta cheese ans a tasty side dish.

Chick peas are a wonderful addition to any meal. They add a nuttiness and a meatiness to any salad, soup ro dip. Try them for a delightful variation.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gathering Up Family Recipes

Summer is the time of family reunions. It's also the time to swap and collect decades old family recipes. After all food and most importantly a shared meal is what keeps families connected through the decades and even the centuries. That's why it's important to hold fast to these gems that link us to our families and to our heritage.

A good idea is to have everyone bring a favorite family recipe to the next gathering. Some older relatives like moms and aunts may be the bearers of the family culinary archives. Have them write the casserole and cookie recipes. Keep in mind to use exact measurements however. Someone else's dash may be another's dollop. Don't skimp by using short cuts. If Oma's potato pancake call for shredded potatoes don't sub in frozen hash browns.The same goes for Nonna 's sauce recipe. You don't want the family manicotti recipe ruined by the store bought stuff.

How to store these recipes? Have a few cousins volunteer to help compile them in books. You can scan in the hand written recipes and then print them out . Remember to put who contributed what and where it came from geographically. Also separate them into courses so there's no confusion when searching for a dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas (such as don't put the fruitcake recipe next to the baked ham one) If the dish has a story behind it include it in along with pictures of the finished product. A family crest is always a nice touch on the cookbook's cover.

Family recipes are just that - recipes that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Treasure and cherish yours. They link you to your ancestors and to you heritage.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Good Roast Beef Sandwich

There's nothing like a plain roast beef sandwich for a summer lunch or dinner. It's the easiest to make .It's also the easiest to serve. Best of all it's easy to tote to the beach or the office. A roast beef sandwich is a no brainer idea for what to eat during these hot days.

As far as the filling you can easily make a roast in this weather. A better method is cooking it with just a brush of olive oil on the e grill. Cooking roast beef leaves it tender and that makes for a melt in your mouth slice. It also has an added smokiness that's brought out by just a simple sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.If it's too hot to cook, then go to your local deli or deli counter at your grocery store.I've found that the butchers there always give you the pinkest, tenderest slices, perfect for the best sandwich. Stay away from the prepackaged stuff. It tends to be overly salty and sometimes slimy.

A good sandwich demands a good bread. Italian or French bread is the perfect foil. They're both crunchy and chewy, absorbing any leftover juice. Another good choice is a simple hearty white like Pepperidge Farm 's sandiwch bread. This has a soft yet textured crumb to it and its mild,yeasty taste goes well with the meat's robust flavor. Avoid kaiser or any other kind of rol.s There's almost too much bread which overcomes the roast beef's flavor. Hamburger buns are too squishy . Avoid them too.

Nothing beats a simple roast beef sandwich on a summer's day. It's just two ingredients simple enough but layered with richness. It's easy perfection with the best flavors!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dippin Dots Grow Up!

Everybody loves Dippin Dots. This frozen treat has a stand in almost every mall in America.At first it just offered just the basics, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate.Like every other product, it's growing up. It's so popular that the New York Times Dining section covered it yesterday in an interesting article by Jennifer A. Kingston.

Dippin Dots is not your typical ice cream. These are individual balls of ice cream base that have been flash frozen in liquid nitrogen to form "pearls". Even though this is a popular way to serve any food these days, Dippin Dots was the first, starting twenty-three years ago, There are also Mini Melts another brand that is very similar, both in taste and shape. Dippin Dots, though is all over, mostly at malls where there are several flavors to choose from. The original three flavors are now competing wtith cookies and cream, cotton candy and bubble gum to name a few.

The company is also appealing to a more sophisticated, adult crowd with its' new division, forty Below Joe. This is coffee dipped in liquid nitrogen to form pellets that can be eaten from a cup. This is probably a more refreshing way to have the drink than just a glass of iced coffee. Flavors are going to be the unsweetened espresso, along with vanilla, caramel and mocha. What is neat is that the dots can be mixed to create a frozen latte or frappeccino taste. There is also going ot be a sorbet line that will have strawberry, citrus and pina colada dots that can be added to alcohol for a fun grown up treat or the more innocent soda for kids.

Dippin Dots may be a kid classic and fave but it;s growing up. This popular treat is attracting more sophisticated palates with its' new lines. It is still an unusual approach to ice cream. Now it'; going to be unique.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Cold Perfect Cup Of Joe Or Tea

July calls for a tall glass of iced coffee or tea. There's nothing like a glass of either one when the temps hit the nineties or triple digits. The thing is if they're made wrong, both can taste like dishwater. Luckily there are a few solutions to make each glass of joe or Pekoe the perfect thirst quencher for these hot days.

Todays' Curious Cook column in the New York Times Dining section gave readers pointers making the most flavorful glass of any iced brew. Writer Harold McGee demystifies the process. It's not just pouring freshly brewed coffee or tea over ice (although you can do this). It's actually less work than what 's expected. Take cold water as opposed to hot. The usual boiling water cooks the leaves or grounds and also extracts. This forces chemical reactions and drives the aroma reactions out.Cold water immersion is a slower process and creates a more simpler extract.

Cold brewing produces a less acidic drink that also doesn;t have as much caffeine. The color is also clearer than coffees and teas first boiled and then chilled. The taste is also purer and more robust.If you want to make a lot of iced coffee , remember it's five cups to every half pound of coffee. There can be some variations with iced tea and the amounts used. The tea leaves also plays an important part in creating the perfect taste. The more fragile the leaves or smaller the particles the less tea and time needed for brewing. If a cold brew is taking its' time to steep just add more tea.

Summer demands a cooling glass of iced coffee or tea. Cold brew either for the perfect taste to enjoy during these sweltering days! It'll be the next best thing to air conditioning!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Granita An Easy Summer Treat

What to serve after an elegant dinner or a rowdy barbecue? Granita - that cool Italian iced treat that's easy to make and fun to eat. The best part about it is it's a snap to make. You don't need an ice cream or slushie maker. All it takes is an ice cube tray and some creativity. That's it for a great after dinner or any time treat.

Basically granita is nothing more than ice that's been "shredded" with a fork. It takes it name from grainy because of its' coarse texture. A smoother ice would be called sorbet but this variation of Italian ice should have some kind of crunch thank to the frozen shreds or granules in it. Another plus is that it doesn't require any fancy equipment. You can use an old ice cube tray or pie pan to freeze the mixture. Then use a fork preferably to scrape the ice off the sides and bottom every half hour until serving.

Like ice cream or sorbet granita can be made with any flavor. The most popular is espresso however you can also use regular coffee or a mix of coffee and chocolate syrup. You can also use the fruit of the season too. Fresh picked strawberries are delicious as are blueberries and blackberries. You just have to cook a simple syrup with just water and granulated sugar.Puree the fruit and add to mix as it's cooking. If you want you can leave a few coarsely chopped fruit pieces too for added texture.Lemon or lime granita is a tangy twist on the treat. You can just freeze already made lemonade or limeade or add the unsweetened juices to a simple syrup.

Granita is the easiest summer treat to make. Take a simple mix of whatever you want and just throw it in to an ice cube tray or pie pan. Shred it occasionally and come out with an easy fun dessert , perfect for these hot days!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Birthdays

Summer is a great time for all sorts of celebrations, especially birthday parties. However a warm weather celebration does have its' limitations. Yes, you can feast but just watch what you serve. What may work for winter parties may not cut it for hot weather festivities. Yet you can have some great stuff , only made during these steamy times.

Salads are big during any party. Who doesn't love the mix of pastas , dressings and veggies?However be careful of what is in them. Mayo is always suspect because it turns very quickly Instead sub in olive oil for a healthier spin.Using olive oil also lets the other flavors shine through because of its' light taste.It also keeps better and longer in leftovers.Also be careful with what veggies you serve. Again tomatoes can turn very quickly , especially if they're cut as with cauliflower and sometimes broccoli. Don't over buy these veggies for crudites. Buy enough for whatever the amount of people coming. If you run out then you can always run to the store to quickly pick up replacements.

Cake is one of the mainstays for any birthday party no matter what the season. Yet you have to be careful with what you either bake or buy. Avoid any whipped cream topping. Dairy turns fast as well. If you're making the cake then use Cook Whip which is just as tasty and even lower in calories than whipped cream. There is the easy to make good old fashioned butter cream which tends to last longer . Another idea is serving a plain pound cake with a side of Cool Whip and fresh berries.Ice cream cake is another choice (albeit an expensive one). It does go fast and is easy to store the leftovers because it is frozen.

Summer is a great time for birthday parties, despite the hot weather. Choose your foods and desserts wisely to ensure a trouble free celebration. Then enjoy!It's the perfect time for cake and candles.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Stock

How can you enjoy this summer's vegetables all year long? By turning them into delicious soups you can enjoy all year round. This is the time to turn that bumper crop into yummy chowders and bisques . Then you can freez e them for those blisteringly cold winter days when a steaming bowl is called for.

The best kind of soup to make is a vegetable. This is a great way of getting rid of extra tomatoes, celery and onions. You can make it vegetarian by creating your own or adding a store bought vegetarian bouillion. Finely chop the veggies and saute in olive oil until translucent. Add to stock. You can also throw in garlic and chopped leeks for flavor. If you want to make an Italian minestrone add some elbow macaroni along with red wine and kidney beans, Some minestrones call for spinach and cabbage. You can certainly add those for a heartier, thicker soup.

Your garden veggies also go well in bisques and chowders. Tomato bisque is a delicious turn on classic tomato soup. Bisques are more of a potage, usually made with milk and flour,although you can add cream. Tomatoes are then added , These are usually stewed thus giving the soups chunky texture. Veggie chowders are another wonderful dish to whip up. Chowders are, by definition a thick soup, usually made with seafood such as clam chowders and thickened with a potato or tomato base. However ex out the clams or any other fish and sub in corn. fresh from the ear niblets are the best for these because they give it a delicate sweetness. Also add garden fresh onions or scallions for some bite.

You can taste summer all year long in a homemade soup. Use the veggies you're growing now for a tasty winter dish that 'll warm you up like the summer sun. They are the perfect souvenir of a bountiful July or August.!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fritters - QUick And Easy Treats

It's summer and th elast thing anyone wants is a complicated dish. It's too hot to create complicated dishes and then cook them. That's why fritters come in so handy. These quick fry treats can be made sweet or savory. They can make the perfect appetizer, main dish or dessert. They're easy and tasty - perfect for any summer gathering.

Fritters have been around since Roman times. Dough, made of flour and egg whites was tossed into hot fat and fried until crisp. The great Roman writer,Cato, had written about these treats then called scribilita. Medieval Europeans enjoyed a similar treat aptly called a "Cryspy". They were filled with wine(how?) along with eggs and cream. Towards the 18 th Century the French started to put the dough now named choux into pastry bags to form tubes called bugie .The Americans loved this and recreated this tasty sweet fritter renaming it the cruller".

Fritters are a great and fun way of using summer's bounty. Kids may not want to eat veggies yet they'll go mad for zucchini or corn fritters with a dipping sauce. Zucchini or any squash can be cut up in a food processor them mixed in a simple batter of egg and flour with a splash of milk. Corn fritters are a little more complicated with shortening and baking powder added. You can also add Bisquick since it has baking powder in it already. You can use the same kind of batter to make apple and banana fritters.As for the actual frying, vegetable oil is the best.It has the lightest taste and makes for a nice crispy, crunchy texture.

Fritters are a great dish that can easily be made during these sweltering days. Try make savor y ones for dinner or sweet ones to accompany ice cream. Either way they're a fast and troublefree- perfect for summer time!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kamado Grills

Japan is known for giving us unique grills. There was the hibachi which now is a picnic staple.Then there's the Kamado grill, a unique creation that can not only barbecue meat but also bake desserts . Thanks to this versatility this strange looking cooker is fast becoming an foodie trend.

New York Times Dining regular contributor, John T. Edge wrote about the Kamado in yesterday's Dining section. It seems more and more outdoor cooks are discovering the grill's charms and many assets. The eggs , as they're fondly called, are more compact than emammoth grills such as Weber. they are small egg shaped (hence the nickname) , green and dimpled, looking sort of like a giant avocado.They require less heat and therefore less coals to function. They also light faster and leave meats moist and succulent - in other words the perfect barbecue. Kamodos have only been in this country for about thirty years., due in part toEd fisher who first exported pachinko games to the United States.

Kamado grills are getting a big following thanks to their versatility. Not only can you grill typical barbecue meats on them, but you can also bake. Some serious egg lovers have baked Bundt cakes and cobblers on theirs. It's also good for baking pizza dough ,giving the crust a crispy firecrackled look. Kamado grills can also cold smoke fish such as salmon thanks to the wide disparity of temperatures.It can reach up to 1200 degrees Farenheit and goes down as low as 100 degrees.

Kamado grills are fast becoming an outdoor favorite. They are more versatile than the regular grill that just barbecue. More and more backyards will sport this odd shaped egg than traditional grills in future summers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Champagne The Peasant Variety

Champagne is usually reserved for special occasions along with being the drink of the elite classes. However there is a slight but subtle change happening in this often times narrowed field. .More emphasis is placed on where the grapes are grown now as opposed to luxury vintner methods. The result is a more varied drink coming from small artisan wineries.

This is the subject of today's New York Times Pour column in their Wednesday Dining section. The article, written by Pour columnist , Eric Asimov, tells of a new trend hitting French vintners.It seems that where the grapes originate are much more important than who turns them into a vintage. This means the Aube section, long a supplier, is now in the spotlight.This area is directly south of Reims, the champagne capital of France where there was always a snobbery for this section, even granting it only second class status.

The champagnes from Aube are earthy and multilayered both in taste and body. Since the grapes are excellent in making pinot noirs, the champagnes have the same smoky taste as the wines. Some such as a Recolte Blanc has both floral and mineral notes, giving the drink a lighter than light flavor. Why do so many Aube based champagnes have many layers? Probably the soil has something to do with it. There have been tiny fossilized shells which result in chalky deposits. Chablis has the same sort of earth and has always given the world the best wines full bodied with many notes.

A new breed of champagne is bubbling up.It doesn't rely on the house that creates it. It's the earth - the terroir that now is taking credit and it is producing some amazing bottles of bubbly

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mediterranean Dining

Summer is here and it's hot - too hot for cooking. What to do? Look to the Mediterranean for inspiration. Despite the soaring temps , cooks from this region create some of the world's best dishes. You can too without all the fuss and bother of a hot stove.

Salads are big in the Mediterranean diets Italians, Spaniards, French and Greeks are known for their delicious mix of greens and dressing. Think about adding provolone along with salami and capacola to mixed field greens. For a Gallic twist replace the cheese and meats with black and green olives and tuna . Both types can be served with crunchy sliced baguettes. A good Greek salad is also a hearty way to have supper. Add already made stuffed grape leaves, along with creamy chunks of feta and salty anchovies to arugula and bitter greens. Spain is a big seafood country and its' salads reflect that. Add some salted cod or shrimp along with avocado and herbs to create a tasty, good for you one. Morocco has an easy carrot salad that just has carrots along with lemon juice, spicy paprika and garlic.

Grilled meats are also popular thanks to the North African influence on Mediterranean cuisine. You could easily grill beef, and lamb kabobs along with cut peppers and onions. Serve with minty yogurt sauce for a true Moroccan treat. Couscous is a great side to this and it's ridiculously easy to make. You can add some chopped parsley, olive oil or even lemon juice for some variety. Orzo , another staple, can be made hot or cold as a salad with artichoke hearts and cucumbers.

Don't fret if the weather interferes with your cooking. Look to the Mediterranean region for delicious easy dishes to for your summer time dining. They're simple to create and can be made no matter how hot it gets.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Boardwalk Treats

Any New Jersey kid will tell you boardwalk food rules. Not matter where you go on the Garden State Coast Thea's some kind of seaside amusement area that has a large variety of fun foods ,. You can get sausage an dpeppers, fried Oreos and boardwalk staples cotton candy and candy apples. It a fun way to end a day at the beach.

I recently reconnected with boardwalk food at Keansburg Amusement Park. Technically the place isn't really a boardwalk and it's not on our state's oceanside.It's on the Raritan Bay with amazing views of Manhattan Brooklyn and Staten Island. However the park has the some kind of fun, (and somewhat seedy) allure of any of our other boardwalk like Seaside Heights or Wildwood. The food is relatively the same. A lot of Italians have had business since the boardwalk's early days in Altantic City so there's always pizza and calzones. Seafood also always predominates and almost every Jersey boardwalk has a raw bar where diners can also chow down on fresh fried fish and chips as well as crab legs, and raw oysters. These and other fast food places sell beer too, a boardwalk staple.

Sweets play an important part in boardwalk cuisine, Zeppoli, those yummy fried Sicilian dough balls, had their own stand at Keansburg. I was tempted to buy a bag of the fresh made, freshly sugared treats however got waylaid by those classics: candy apples and cotton candy. No trip to any boardwalk would be complete without them. I had a Granny Smith that was perfectly enrobed in a crunchy candy coating and topped with fresh coconut. The cotton candy was typical sweet and sticky,but fun to inhale. Other treats were ice cream along with waffles Italian ices (both are staples) and fried anything. Most boardwalks also have a homemade candy booth where there's everything from homemade fudge to saltwater taffy,along with molasses pops and haystacks .

Boardwalk food is a summer treat that has to be experienced. Anything from pizza to fries , to ice cream or fudge is spend to a fun day at the beach. If you're in Jersey visit our boardwalks for some culinary treats.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hello Ruby Tuesday

If you think all chain restaurants are built alike, think again. Ruby Tuesdays has reinvented itself into a classy eatery, with a new upscale look and interesting haute Americain dishes. Best of all it's still maintained its' warmth and top notch cooking making it a must go to restuarant for a summer gathering or just a night out.

Ruby Tuesdays came about in 1972 when five University of Tennessee students wanted to create a business after graduation in Knoxville TN. It wa s named after the popular Rolling Stones song and quickly became a hit with students.It has since changed owners twice . It made my local mall twenty years ago and instantly became a local go to place. It had the best chicken Caesar salad along with excellent steaks. Rubys' salad bar was and still is chocked with unusual foods that wouldn't be found in a normal run of the mill one. Soy beans and pumpernickel croutons are side by side with the regular spinach leaves, broccoli and ham cubes.

Their new menu is reflective of haute American cuisine of today. I ordered the zucchini cake sliders which are deep friend zucchini fritters stuffed with goat cheese, There was also spaghetti squash, served both as a pasta and as a buttery side. This type of squash is rarely served in American box restaurants, Usually the more creative ones in our big cities such as New York, Chicago or even Washington have spaghetti squash on their menus. You can also get it when ordering th e all veggie platter .Ruby's also has gone Mexican by adding chicken quesadillas too. These are made more like paninis and have a wonderful crunch to them. A new dessert are red velvet and carrot cupcakes along with their classic after dinner treats and sweets.\

If you haven't been to Ruby Tuesdays in a while, drop by for lunch dinner or even a Sunday brunch. The changes are amazing both to the decor and the menu. It may be a stop in your local mall, but it the restaurant feels like classy metro hangout.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Revolutionary Garden

This is the season for fresh veggies and herbs from the garden .It's time to harvest the small age and burnet. These may. Sound strange -even foreign to you however they were a big part of the Colonial diet.Before there were modern greens there were their wild cousins. Even though they were staples back in the 1600s and 1700s, they still can be used in today 's recipes.

This was the subject of a very interesting article in the Thursday Home section of the NewYork Times. Michael Totorello wrote this thought provoking article that deals with plants from the past four centuries. A lot was written about small age ,a precursor of celery.This was used as aside to meats.It still can be used today in salads and even soups. Burnet , a popular and well used herb ofPuritans was used for doctoring wine. it's light cucumber like taste could easily be added to any 21st Century summer dish. There is also skirret which instantly takeover the garden,Unfortunately it takes a lot plants to get enough pulp for dish.

Cooking these greens does take some patience.Purslane, another 18th Century "sallet green, has to be blanched first before cooking.Scozonera, another celery like plant has to be over baked to soften its woody core which can be super tough to eat. the tastes may be a little intense for modern palates however they can be softened with sautes in olive oil or butter. Scallions and garlic can also be added too or even spinach which was a very popular dish in the 1700's.

Travel to the culinary past this summer. Add colonial favorites like small age, purslane and burnet to your cooking.It's a neat way of connecting with our culinary past.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Flash Feasting Paris' Annual Dinner In White

Imagine a warm, summer's night. Thousands dress up in white to convene at a place for bacchanalian dining and drinking. There is music and dancing afterwards. Is it a new cult? A coven meeting to celebrate midsummer, No, it's thousands of elegant Parisians to have a flash feast in front of the Louvre Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral.

This version of a flash mob was written about in yesterday's New York Times Dining section by newcomer Liesl Schillinger. She tells of how a group of very well behaved city people came together at exactly eight o clock last year and had the grandest picnic of them all. It's an annual event, since 1988, called "Diner en Blanche" or "Dinner In White". Men wear pristine white suits while women float in dresses of the same snowy color.. They carried picnic baskets filled with foie gras, poached salmon and different cheeses.Champagne along with wine and water were drunk. Each table provides its' own meal along with linens and silverware. There was also dessert and hors d'ouevres too. Just as soon as the meal is finished, everything is cleared away and cleaned up. so that there;s dancing in t he squares.

Not everyone can just join in. There are private invitations. otherwise it would be the largest food fest ever (and quite messy in the end) . The actual venue is kept a secret until a few days before to avoid gatecrashers. However both New York and Montreal and planning on these flash feasts and of course - the invites are going out via Facebook and Twitter. Don't think that these dinners will have a few hundred gate crashers. There is also a penalty for those who behave raucously or don't clean up. They get barred from next year's Diner en Blanche.

it should be interesting to see how New York and Montreal's flash feasts do. Will both be as casually elegant as their French counterpart? Even more interesting how will the food be?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Real Old Fashioned Sodas

Our great grandparents enjoyed a treat that's a rarity today - an old fashioned fountain soda.These were amazing concoctions all made before the birth of Coca Cola and Pepsi. Everything but the kitchen sink went into these lavish hot weather treats. Ingredients were fresh made and full of foamy goodness. Will those days ever come back? Yes thanks to a few dedicated purists..

This was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. The great Julia Moskin wrote the well researched piece that took her to old fashioned soda fountains. Before the birth of Coke in the 1890s soda, including colas were mixed in pharmacies across the country. After the drink's invention sodas weren't that special anymore and a once a week treat like ice cream sodas could be made at home. Thanks to a few dedicated soda jerks that world is coming back. The name jerk come from the jerking motion of pulling the soda taps and the modern ones are just as proud of the title as their 1890s counterparts were.

During the golden era of home made soda, the egg cream reigned king. This was and still is an amazing concoction that involves cream, chocolate and seltzer. The original recipe is making a comeback as is a strawberry egg cream made with fresh Long Island strawberries. Other creations are calling for fresh huckleberries and locally grown hazelnuts. Fresh milk from Hudson Valley dairies is also used giving the drinks a purer flavor. Artesanal seltzers are also being used. Before carbonation, pharmacists used water mixed with potassium, calcium and magnesium to give it fizz (this water was also made for medicinal purposes as well). Homemade sodas are also made, using the same ingredients as 19th century jerks used.

Nothing beats an ice cream soda on a hot summer's day. Even better is when it's made the old fashioned way with homemade seltzer and fresh ingredients. If there is a true soda fountain in your neighborhood visit it. Enjoy the purity of a real 19th century treat!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Name Day Treats

If you're traveling to Italy or Greece this summer you may hear something about onomasticas or saints days.This when people celebrate the saint they've been named for. Celebrations could include small gifts or better yet some special meal or treat. Onomastica day usually means a favorite food of to be made, whether it's an elaborate dish like risotto or something as simple as an ice.

The name onomastica derives from the Greek and was a way of code way of distinguishing Christians from pagans in the Church's early days. If someone had a saints name like Mary or John a fellow Christian would know their religion and act accordingly with them. (Most Christians were either jailed or killed for openly practicing this "new religion."). As the centuries passed and Christianity became the leading religion, saints days became a second birthday. Children were given small gifts and even cakes. In some Italian provinces a saint' s day dictates that a favorite meal is to be made. A saint's day is also called a feast day and a namesake church may have a three day to week long celebration of all sorts of fun foods from sausages to zeppoli.

Some saints' have their own built in treats .St Joseph's Day, which is March 19th, has its' cream puffs . These are lush concoctions that are filled with cannoli filling and topped with a cherry.Of course there are the more famous St. Valentine's Day and St Patrick's Day. These are universally celebrated with more than enough hoopla. Both have all sorts of tie in foods and drinks. However as with any onomastica it boils down to what the namesake wishes to eat.

Celebrating your saint's day is a good way to tap into tradition and understanding the early church.It's also a good day to have others treat you with a favorite meal or sweet. If you're named Elizabeth ,then enjoy today, St . Elizabeth's Day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Happy Fourth

Have a good Fourth of July to all my American foodies here and abroad. Enjoy this day full of fun food and fireworks! Go for that corndog or hamburger. Enjoy a pie eating contest or just margaritas around the pool!

Keep those in the Armed Force s in your thoughts and pray they come home for the next year's Fourth of July. Remember they're keeping the dream of Washington and Jeffereson, Adams and Franklin alive fighting for us to continue our freedoms.

Toast them tonight and our country!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Colonial Dining

Fourth of July brings about thoughts of barbecues and picnics. There's nothing like roasted meat followed by a cold draft of beer. Surprisingly what we're eating in the 21st Century wasn't that much different than what our country's founders dined on in the 18th Century. There was still meat cooked outside on a fire followed by home made brews - the first artisanal beers.

The average Colonist had the same amount of meals we have today. However lunch was a more 19th Century invention . Instead a bigger dinner was served at noon while a smaller repast was cooked for the evening hours. Breakfast came early for the working classes while the rich had what would be called brunch today. There were very few innovations so foods were either roasted, baked or boiled. Some caught their own meat such as wild turkey or deer along with terrapins, rabbits and the occasional possum. Many who were lucky to live along bays and the Atlantic had diets rich in seafood. Most foods were roasted over outdoor spits and eaten with wild onions ,leeks or even apples picked from local trees.

Our founding fathers would have been amazed at our addiction to water. Since there was no purification or desalination plants the water was often contaminated. Some colonists were smart enough to collect rain water or dig wells for fresh sweet water. Most though preferred their local taverns for ale or hard cider. There were coffee houses back then, sort of similar to our modern day Starbucks where men (not women) sat and sipped , discussing ideas and news of the day. Boston had the first established in 1678. Hot chocolate was also popular mostly amongst the upper classes. The lower classes though did have fresh milk provided by their cows.

When you think about it , there's not much difference food or drink wise between our colonial ancestors and us. They enjoyed a good roasted meat with ale. As with us they hung out in coffee house , drinking the best brews and discussing the events of the day. Our Founding Fathers would have loved this era- it's not that far removed food and drinkwise from theirs.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Best Summer Treats Ever!

With July 1st comes the official start of the summer season (even thought it really started last week).This is one of the best times of year. Fresh fruit and veggies abound.Every weekend holds th e prospect of a yummy picnic or barbecue. There's delicious boardwalk and carnival treats not to mention contests at local fairs. It's one fun foodie week after another.

One of the best treats of the season is a good old fashioned tomato sandwich. All you need is just fresh, sliced tomatoes mayo and white bread. The best bread is a good sandwich white like Pepperidge farms or Arnold's and then liberally slather on mayo. Add thick slices of beefsteak, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and you have sheer heaven. It's a lovely combo of juices mixing with creaminess. Another sandwich treat is a good old fashioned off the grill hamburger , complete with fresh sliced onions, ketchup and lettuce. Of course ribs rank right up there as well. There's nothing like them barbecued, shining with a thick patina of homemade sauce.

Summer has a lot of sweet goodies too. This i s the time of year to take advantage of what's left of the strawberry and blueberry seasons as well as cherries. Of course summer is all about that perfect watermelon wedge, drippy,cool and perfectly sweet.It'sa refreshing respite when temps hit the nineties. Vacation time isn't vacation time without boardwalk or fair goodies. There's the sheer fun eating cotton candy and candy apples along with frozen custard in a cake cone. Another treat (especially here in New Jersey) are boardwalk candies, fresh made in candy shops thatare a mainstay of the Jersey shore . Happiness is a molasses pop or a haystack or a whole box of saltwater taffy made from recipes that have lasted over one hundred years.

This is the season for fun times and fun food. It's just great to kick back with a perfect burger to a fresh made cone of cotton candy. Enjoy the warm weather and starry nights along with some of summer's fun treats!