Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Best Of Summer Flavors

Summer is a multitude of flavors and textures. Even though the season is winding down you can still have a juicy barbecue or delicious veggie or fruit based dish.This was the subject of today's New York Times Dining section. Instead of one big article there are several small ones written by regulars,Julia Moskin, Jeff Gordinier, Sam Sifton and Kim Severson. A new writer,Ligaya Mishan also has a great mini article on the subject.

Luckily the farms and even home gardens have some bounties left. Julia Moskin writes about that tasty treat, conr fritters made with niblets fresh from the cob.Hers is one that is more pancake than fritter but still has crunch and texture. She serves them with maple syrup but I think a freshly made salsa would be better. Kim Severson contributes as Southern field pea salad.It combines blackeyed peas alone with fresh Vidalia onions, sweet corn and tomatoes. She adds a dressing made with Dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar. Sam Sifton offers a grilled flank steak, perfect with these two dishes It is a teriyaki style, one that can be barbecued well past Labor Day and into the fall.

Of course summer also includes fruits and there are some great recipes concerning them. Sam Sifton brings his mom's blackberry cobbler to this table. This is the perfect dessert for any meal, with tart berries and lumps of sugary dough pressed over them. The dough recipe is a scratch one ,made from flour and sugar . The entire dish is easily made first in a skillet then baked in an oven. for a more exotic treat try Ligaya Mishan's grilled peach recipe. This takes an exotic turn by sprinkling the Egyptian spice mix called dukkah. This is an easily made blend of spices, seeds and herbs and gives backyard peaches a rare , mysterious flavor, redolent of faraway spice markets. For a twist add yogurt as a side.

The summer is winding down however there's still time to take advantage of it' bounty and flavors. Try what these food writers offer or do your own spins. There is enough out yet to create delicious warm weather meals and desserts .

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Not Just Your Average Vanilla

Vanilla has always gotten a bad wrap. It's considered too bland and too boring. All things vanilla flavored have to have a second flavor added. Think again. Pure vanilla flavor is anything but yawn inducing. It has a slightly spicy , sweet taste that is perfect for anything , including - surprise !- lunches and dinners. The bean is surprisingly versatile and can be used in different dishes.

Vanilla, like its' cousin, chocolate was born in Mexico where the plant flourished. Conquistadors called it vainilla or little pod in Spanish and brought it back to Spain with them.By the 1750's, the plant, now renamed vanilla was widely used in both American and European baking. In 1812 a young enslaved boy from East Indian ocean island of Reunion named Edmund Albius discovered that the plant could be hand pollinated and thus began the birth of modern vanilla manufacturing. Madagascar vanilla became and still is the most prized vanilla in the world. It is also called Bourbon vanilla and is also manufactured in the West Indies and Indonesia. The vanilla plant also produces a fragrant orchid known as Tahitian vanilla . This is primarily used in perfumes. The Mexican genus still exists but is not as widely used as these.

Vanilla is not just restricted to baking and desserts. You can use it in in rubs and glazes to create a sweet, slightly spicy sauce and flavor. In fact it will enhance any meat and it's mostly used with pork , chicken and even seafood. Add a few drops of extract to any brine to give pork exotic Asian flair . Even vanilla glaze or sauce will liven up a plain chicken. You can also use the bean for seafood whether to infuse a stew, lobster sauce or make the famed vanilla shrimp. Of course, don't forget it in baking. There's nothing like a plain vanilla cake or cupcake with a simple dusting of confectioner's sugar. Another must is homemade ice cream made with freshly crushed vanilla beans to create a pure , old fashioned flavor.

Vanilla is anything but bland. If you want to wow your taste buds then add a dash of vanilla to your cooking.It's far from boring! It's downright exciting and then some!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Raw Milk Controversy

New Jersey has these kind of addicts all over the state. They love and crave this substance so much they'll go to great lengths to get it. Luckily there are suppliers who can cater to these needs and wants. What is this that has ordinary , law abiding citizens go rogue just for a drop?

Raw milk, a substance that is completely illegal in my state. Neighboring states, New York and Pennsylvania have laxer laws than ours regarding milk and this is where a lot of addicts get theirs. Raw milk is considered dangerous by some health professionals because it's not pasteurized and homogenized. The first gets rid of the bacteria that is in all milk and the second basically breaks down the fat globules that result in cream. It may produce in a better milk however it lacks taste and texture. This is what raw milk addicts hate.

The stuff is supposedly heaven with a rich creamy flavor. First timers who drink it are usually hooked by the initial sip. Raw milk can be made into fresh butter (yum!!) along with cheese, sour cream and buttermilk. There are many recipes from puddings to pancakes that involve these by products. Don't be afraid to buy it if your state allows it. Raw milk does have a lot of benefits, despite what has been said. it has all twenty amino acids and full doses of vitamins and minerals. It's chock full of calcium which is good for everything for fighting cancer to building stronger bones and teeth.Raw milk also has beneficial bacteria and this is great for making your own "Activia" style yogurt.

Consider yourself blessed if you live in a dairy state that allows for the sale of raw milk. This is a delicious and beneficial drink that is perfect plain but also in recipes. Try to get a few bottles today and taste what raw milk addicts are raving about.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Cuisine Part Two

Yesterday I wrote about hurricane cuisine - what do do during a hurricane and shortly after. That was for people who are going to ride out this catastrophe and its' aftermath at home . However there are those who are also in shelters and may be not be allowed home for a few days. What to do then? Again , just improvise but use your brains. be smart about your choices and what to do when you return home.

The first thing if you can read this or yesterday's column good. You have some power and access to the Internet. You may be reading this off your phone or IPad.Hopefully it's not in a shelter however if it is , just stay calm. Your backpack should have your favorite crackers and cookies along with bottled water and energy drinks. These are the best to take with you - after all they're portable comfort foods and feel like home. If you haven't and you still have time to shop,get some juice boxes and Gatorade for the kids.Bananas and apples are the fruits to take with you. They're not going to spoil as fast as other fruits and they're less messy too. Jello and pudding cups are another good choice. They're full of vitamins plus they're easy and fun to eat, especially for the kids.

When you get home be prepared to scour your fridge. Hopefully it was emptied before you left however if not , then clean out. Food can last up to two or three days in a closed fridge or freezer. Throw out any fresh cuts of meats and milk that smell bad. Mayo will keep twenty four hours as do some creamy salad dressings Toss those if there's an unusual or sour odor.Most cheeses will keep as some veggies. This also applies to some frozen foods and dinners. If your fridge has completely gone without power for more than tow or three days and you're not there to cook the food, then toss it. Start fresh with whatever your stores will have.

In a few days things will more or less get back to normal. In the meantime, make the best of this foodwise. Be creative but above all be smart. Make the right choices when you're in the shelter and when you return home.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Cuisine Part One

As everyone is well aware of, Hurricane Irene is about to visit the East Coast this weekend. This is a monumental one - almost on a par with the lethal Hurricane Katrina.Power will definitely be out and that means no refrigeration and possibly no stoves or microwaves. This is going to be a tricky time for those who are staying home and cooking. What to do?Improvise.

Everyone should have stocked up on the basics by now. peanut butter is an excellent source of protein and can making tasty and filling sandwiches for those of any age. Other good sources are deviled ham and chicken . Again these can work as tasty and filling sandwich spreads and add herbs such as tarragon and celery seed to liven up their flavors. Think Italian cold cuts too to get you and your family through these upcoming days. Salami is a good choice. It can last up to a week along with some others such as capacolla and soppressata. You can make sandwiches and even add them to omelets (more on those later).

If you're lucky enough to have gas then use it. You'll have to especially if you have perishables such as eggs or even raw meat in your fridge. Be creative. With the eggs you can make omelets along with the English breakfast style fried bread for breakfast or even lunch. Another good idea is pasta. Just boil water to cook it and use canned sauce. Another spin is utilizing milk for cream sauces . Remember use the perishables first so they don't become rotten or spoiled. This is also a good time , believe it or not to , clean out the freezer. Most people probably have enough in theirs to last them through to Tuesday or Wednesday. There's no need to go out and get more food. Most supermarkets will be closed or worse - damaged by the storm.

Hurricanes play havoc with everything - including people's meals. However you can restore order to your eating routine with everything from canned goods to some creative cooking. Don't let Irene spoil your meal plans. Fight back with some good food.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Roadie Cooking

Bands and musicians usually have a bad time of it foodwise. There's all those greasy spoons and fast food joints that they have to eat at due to their hectic schedules.If they're lucky they'll be staying at a chain hotel where there's a somewhat decent restaurant. However some bands have it easy. They bring a chef with them and enjoy home cooked, good quality dishes. At times even the fans benefit.

This was chronicled in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The article, written by Times Dining regular, Jeff Gordinier, dealt with the musical group, the Zac Brown Band, This is a rootsy Georgia based band and their "chef" Rusty Hamlin's cooking reflects it. Mr. Hamlin does all their cooking in a 54 foot 26 wheel silver and blue trailer appropriately named Cookie. He is lucky enough to experience the bounties of the areas where they drive through. It's the best of locavore dining with a twist. he scours local farmer's markets for different area vegetables and fruits to incorporate in his recipes.

What does Mr. Hamlin make? Good Southern cooking that involves fresh instead of deep fried. There is a recipe for a pocketknife cole slaw which is a twist on the traditional. There is cabbage but also bell peppers and tomatoes along with the kick of cayenne and the heat of mustard. There is the traditional Southern ham but with it comes with braised Brussels sprouts and red eye gravy. There is als a meet and greet so fans can not only get to meet the band but also enjoy the Southern hospitality and Mr. Hamlin's all natural creations. Fans were treated to a yummy moonshine vinaigrette and a creamy polenta made with gouda, wild mushrooms and snap beans.
Lucky is the band that has its' own chef. This is true of the Zac Brown Band who has Mr. Hamlin to create amazing food using local produce. Now that rocks!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Norwegian Good

Norwegian - and actually any Scandanavian cooking has always been maligned. People make fun of the supposed overuse of herring or lutefisk. There are always jokes about reindeer meat and lingonberries. However the Scandinavian peninsula is suddenly a culinary hot spot. It's featuring fresh dishes cooking the way the Vikings cooked and foodies are loving this modern Viking invasion.

This was the subject of Julia Moskin''s article in today's New York Times Dining section. In it, she explores the old techniques of drying, smoking along with pickling and curing. Even modern utensils are nixed for the more classic shells, juniper, hay and twigs as kitchen tools. Garden scraps are also used as decorations as opposed to fancy sauces swirled into patterns, The food itself wouldn't be out of place at a Viking feast. Yes there was reindeer but also moose and bear cooked with vegetables. This last is a true Lapp dish that 's now turning culinary heads.

Modern classics are also made however they have a distinct Northern European twist, Creme brulee is baked but it's with Danish cream. There is also a sourdough battered haddock served on juniper branches. Root vegetables , another Nordic staple, are plated with a sauce of cream whisked with vinegar, fermented beer and garnished with salted cod roe. Sweet dishes such as lemon shortbread is placed on a cloud like bed of perfumed lavender cream. Apples and oatmeal are scented with earthy hay and pine aromas. These were seen in the Manhattan restaurant Compose and created by Nordic chef Marcus Phillips.There seems to not be a dearth of salmon and creamed herring. The new batch of cooks want to stick with the idea of purity, freshness along with simplicity and ethics in cooking. Simple but effective.

Scandinavian cooking is now the hottest cuisine on the planet. Chefs and foodies are appreciating the rustic yet sophisticated way of using natural ingredients and equipment to create unique dishes. It's a take on the modern with roots going back one thousand years.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Disaster Strikes Beware!

Today we had a really unusual event today - an earthquake here in New Jersey.It started in Mineral, Virginia and radiated out up here to the Manhattan area. It seems that we're not immune to any natural disasters whether the rare earthquake or more common hurricane. This means one thing - be prepared. Always.

The one thing everyone should always stock up on is water. Remember that water and gas lines are the first hit and usually rupture.This means a lack of drinking water. If you have do have water, be careful about drinking it. Boil it first if you do if there is a warning (usually the TV news warn about it as do social media such as Facebook and Twitter).Also pack Gatorade or any energy drink that's chock full of electrolytes in case the weather is hot and humid. This is helps in staunching any dehydration that may occur.

What about food? Thnk camping when you prepare for a diaster. Energy bars should be the number one food item. They last the longest and give you the protein and energy you need. Beef jekry or any dried food is good to pack up too. It lasts a few days and can provide with some nutrition. You can also buy ready to pack meals. These are small cups of nutrition packed meals , mostly pasta based with different meats. These are so vacuum packed that they can last up to five years. These are usually bought on line and a case is just seventy dollars.

Distaster strikes - anywhere. Never take your situation for granted. Be prepared always!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ahh Tea!!!!

With fall's busy schedule just around the corner, it's nice to just kick back with a good cup of tea. There's nothing as soothing as a hot mug after a wild and stressful day. The best part is that there are regular and herbal ones that are perfect for unwinding .Just soak a bag , wait for it to brew and enjoy a mini vacation from life's daily problems.

Herbal teas are great for those days when you just feel like running away. You can easily buy loose leaves at tea stores like Teavana or just pick up a box of Celestial Seasonings at your local grocery store. Mint tea is not only yummy but also relaxing.Peppermint tea is a great way to end a day. It's also soothing also on a stressed out stomach. A hot mug helps to relieve any heaviness after a big meal. The same goes for spearmint. Chamomile is another tea that helps to "de-stress" and cure digestive problems..Its' lovely flowery flavor reminds one of sun kissed gardens and sunny days too.

Exotic teas are also fine way to end a work day. A ginger or cardamon infused brew can revive you for an evening out or give you a second wind to deal with family. Red tea or rooibos, from South Africa is a sweet almost root beer tasting one that goes well on its' own or with natural sugar. Fruit teas or tisanes made with peaches, apples and lemons along with dried oranges and limes are also good. Again a cup of one of these is perfect before bedtime or with a good book. They're also tasty with a plate of simple shortbread cookies on the side.

Teas are the perfect escape after a hard day at work or at school. Stock up on a few flavors for the busy crazy days ahead.They're the perfect antidote for stress.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bouillabaisse A Different Kind of Seafood Dish

August has two great harvests right now - seafood and vegetables. Combine them together to create a Southern French classic bouillabaisse. This rich , briny soup is a perfect dish to make for a late August supper or party. It has the appeal of both freshly caught fish and crustaceans along with just picked produce.Not only that , bouillabaisse can be tailored to everyone's tastes.

This classic dish originated in Provence and is comprised of actually two dishes. The first is the actual seafood itself and true Marseillaise one will have conger eel, sea robin, John Dory, bream along with monkfish and sea urchins. The fish would be washed in seawater and then added to a mix of vegetables and spices. The second part is the rouille which is an egg yolk beaten with olive oil,garlic and saffron and served with the fish and broth.It's smeared on waiting crusty hunk of French bread and then the bouillabaisse is poured over it.

For an American style bouillabaisse, use mussels, sea bass and shrimp. You can also throw in lobster if you wan t or oysters for some variation. Use your garden harvest of tomatoes and leeks along with potatoes for the vegetable part. Garlic and saffron are the biggest must haves for this because they represent the flavors of Southern France. You can also use bouquet garni for taste as well. Most recipes from Julia Child to the Food Channel all include the rouille which is again just a simple mix of egg yolk, olive oil and lemon juice. Some recipes call for chili peppers or parsley to give it more flavor. What you want to do with it is up to your tastes. Once made smear on slices of crusty French baguettes, then place the bread in the bowls. Pour the soup over it to cook the rouille and to have it mix with the seafood.

This is the time to enjoy August's twin harvests of seafood and veggies. Their flavors alone are amazing, together they're perfect together, complementing each other perfectly.Why not combine them in this French classic sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Friday, August 19, 2011

College Days

Here in the US the third week of August usually means back to college. Some parents sigh with relief, Some get frantic with worry because of what their kids are going to or not going to eat. Don't fret. The best bet is get them started with healthy habits regarding meals and snacking. They'll be able to maintain a good diet plus nutrition along with avoiding the freshmen fifteen - those extra pounds gained during the first year.

Most freshman live In dorms where there is zero kitchen space. However some allow students to have a small microwave and mini fridge. If this is the case take advantage of the laxity. Invest in a good appliances that will take your student from the first year to the first apartment. Some universities do allow for cup warmers and hot plates. These are even good for heating up soups and baked mac cups. if your kid's school doesn't allow for these appliances have them at least keep fresh fruit and veggies around. Pick the kinds that doesn't have to be refrigerated. Also healthy snacks such as popcorn and even goldfish can be stored in the room. Most kids move to apartments their sophomore year and this means a whole working kitchen complete with full fridge and a stove.

You may also want to check out the town as well. College towns always have at least one supermarket for the "townies" or local townspeople. Also check out the privately owned groceries along with some smaller stores such as bakeries and produce sellers. Also get store discount cards the first week too. Another must is see what kind of restaurants are there in the immediate area. If there are a few good ones that feature healthy and organic food, then try them out almost immediately. These will be your student's go to places if he or she want a nice meal out. Try to avoid the fast food ones if you can.

The college years don't have to be filled with endless keggers and junk food binges. Students can have four years of good eating by choosing and cooking the right foods. it just takes a little know how and the old college try!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Change Of Menu

Change is good , especially when it comes to menus. After all diners get bored with ordering the same old food when they visit a restaurant. Chefs probably tire of making the same dishes day after day, and night after night. That;s why Dave Beran's Chicago based restaurant , appropriately named Next is popular. A dish doesn't stay on the menu for long . In fact the eatery changes all its' dishes to give Next a new feel and does so every four months.

This was the topic of regular contributor Sam Sifton's article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Eating at Next is more of a theatrical experience than a culinary one. The place never takes reservations. It has no phone anyway.It's by ticket only. The menu is far from being a traditional one. it focuses on certain themes. One recent one was la Belle Epoque celebrating the foods of a turn of the 19th Century Paris where the work of Auguste Escoffier was explored. This was a nine course extravaganza that featured the lush and decadent dishes of the era. There was turtle soup and truffled egg custard. there was also lamb and chicken along with duck finished with a chocolate bombe filled with a coffee semifreddo and mignardiese which were the petit fours of the time. Drinks of the era,port and claret were served too.

The current theme is Thai and with it all the bright colors and flavors that make up that cuisine. However it's not an homage to authentic Thai food but to the restaurants that everyone orders from. There was the famed pad thai, ubiquitous on any menu, with its'silken noodles and crunchy peanuts. Papaya salad was also made as was a delicious beef cheek curry. There was also a Penang take out curry too. Desserts were innovative with a watermelon and lemon grass consomme along with coconuts filled with corn pudding. This menu will only be in place for a few months. The next theme may include a World War II menu or something lifted form a children's book (maybe Alice In Wonderland or Green Eggs and Ham?)

Next is what other restaurants should strive for.It's innovative in its' theme menus and changes. Entertaining as well in the way it can pull it all off and leave guests hungering for more.Let's hope it influences other restaurants from New York to Los Angeles with its' constant changes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ice Cream Treats

This is the season for all sorts of frozen goodies. The best part is you can take an ordinary car ton of ice cream add some extra ingredients and have an elegant dessert along with a fun treat.It doesn't take a lot of work either. Just a few scoops and some creativity is all you really need.

This was the subject of NY Times regular Melissa Clark's column A Good Appetite. She explores different variations of ice cream and extras to create interesting desserts. She created and has recipes for the elaborate and the simple.Among the more complicated ones is the bomb. This was a popular mid Century dessert that's relatively easy to make. made out of one or tow flavors, it;s two flavors that have been layered over each other in a dome shape The ice cream is first warmed and softened and then layered in a metal bowl.It;s then refrozen and decorated. ms. Clark made hers with with coconut macaroons and mango ice cream for a tropical, summery taste
A sundae is also mentioned however it's not just chocolate syrup and Reddi Whip over plain ice cream. It's a specially made maple flavored sauce along with creme fraiche.Ms. Clark adds rum for butter and heavy cream for richness and bitter sweet chocolate shavings for bite along with dollops of creme fraiche, the last usually not associated with ice cream dishes. There is also an easy malted milk bonbon that just takes simple ice cream , whether it be chocolate or coffee and then mixed with malted milk powder.. The balls are then rolled in crushed malt ball pieces and frozen.

Ice cream mixed with anything is a good treat. However be creative and innovative and come up with a n unusual dessert. All it takes is a scoop and some interesting ingredients!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fresh Summer Sauces

Now is the season to take advantages of all those fresh veggies and herbs.They're perfect for all sorts fo sauces whether for pasta or pizza. Another good part is that they can come fresh and organic from your garden!They definitely beats all those canned ones.

August is definitely the time for tomatoes.Both yards and markets have them in abundance. A simple sauce recipe is just cutting up a few tomatoes and crushed garlic and then sauteing them in a pan .Toss in some fresh picked basil leaves along with some freshly ground sea salt and ground pepper and voila a perfect and quick sauce. You can also add onions for more flavor as well. Sauces aren't just limited to tomatoes either. You can make a delicious one using broccoli rape.Again cook it for about twenty minutes in olive oil until it becomes soft .Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat and serve.This is usually served with cavatelli but you can also serve it with liguini or angel hair too. Another spin is using both the tomato and this for fresh pizza toppings too.

Home grown spices and herbs make wonderful sauces . Basil, which is in full bloom right now, is the base for the time honored pesto sauce, Pesto is just as easy to make as regular tomato.It just requires only a blender these days. Puree it with olive oil and garlic and then add pignoli nuts and Parmesan cheese. Herbs such as rosemary and sage make great sauces as well. You can add rosemary to butter sauce for pasta or to cream for beef medallions. Sage also makes a great ingredient for pasta sauces too, giving them an earthy taste. One only requires lemon butter and fresh picked sage leaves.

This is the season for fresh veggies and herbs. They are the perfect ingredients for all kinds of sauces for pasta and pizza. Use them to create healthy and delicious dinners!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Festival Circuit

August and September are the months for all sorts of food festivals and street fairs. This is the season to either take advantage of your culinary heritage or someone else's. Street fairs also proliferate during this time too. City streets will be awash with interesting stands that feature everything from crepes to satays.

Ethnic festivals are being held all over the country right now. German clubs are offering early Octoberfests or "Summerfests " where all sorts of great dishes are being served. Southern German groups are offering tasty dishes such as bratwurst and spaetzle while Northern based clubs feature smoked eel and potato pancakes.Italians have many saints festivals right now and this is a good time to visit them. Fresh made zeppolis and savory sausage sandwiches are the best that the stands can make along with old fashioned , thick pizza and fresh mussels and clams..Check local Greek churches too for their saint's days celebrations. Orthodox parishes put out great spreads that feature everything from lamb on a spit to souvlaki.

This is also the time of year for street festivals.Most major cities like New York, Boston and Chicago have them however smaller towns hold them swell.These also offer a wide range of ethnic treats from satays to crepes to dim sum.A caveat though .Most stands use the same oil or grease for frying all day long.The best bet is to eat anything fried in the early afternoon when the stands are first set up. Street fairs also offer the best of carnival foods like candy apples and cotton candy. Take advantage of these great treats while you can.

This is the season for festivals and street fairs. Foodies should indulge in what they have to offer. It's a fun way to connect with other cultures and discover cities.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Sangrias

There's nothing like a sweet , fruity sangria to brighten up a summer party. It's a wonderful accompaniment to any seafood paella or even chorizos on the grill. However the punch is just as good with grilled chicken or kabobs.Another plus is you can customize it to your tastes or to what your guests like.Each time you make it , it will always turn out slightly different and unique.

Sangria recipes can be divided into two categories depending on the wine you use If you're opting for red, start off with a Rioja, Merlot or Shiraz. These will have a full body and have a rich flavor. Their taste won't be diminished by the fruit used.If you want to go the traditional route then use the Rioja, A true Spanish sangria will have cut up lemon, orange and apple slices in it however you can also toss in strawberries and raspberries for a different taste. Some recipes even call for a shot of Triple Sec or gin for added oomph.

A white wine Sangria is more for lighter fare.It should be just as fruity but with a delicacy the other doesn't possess. You'll need a dry Spanish white wine however you can also use a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc too along with a Chardonnay or a Gewurstraminer. Fruit should be lighter too. Use fresh chopped peaches along with nectarines along with lemons and oranges. You can also add a dash of peach schnappes, or any orange or lemon liqueur. Some enthusiasts add club soda or ginger ale to give it a sparkly fizz.

Sangria, whether it be red or white, is the perfect summertime drink. Either one goes well with a party time paella or a small barbecue. Sangria adds flavor and festiveness to any gathering and any dish.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hot Browns Easy And Classic

A hot and tasty sandwich is good even during these hot days. Even better is when it's easy to prepare such as the Hot Brown. This American , Midwestern classic is more or less simple to whip up and even better to eat. A take on the British Welsh rarebit, it's perfect for that Saturday night dinner when everyone is at home or Sunday brunch with friends.

Hot Browns orginated in Louisville, Kentucky .back in the 1920's at the Brown Hotel where it was served as an early morning breakfast to all night party goers. Chef Fred Schmidt, its' inventor had to come up with something that would appeal to the jaded hotel guests who were quickly tiring of th eusual bacon and eggs. He put sliced turkey , tomato and bacon on toast , covered it with a rich Mornay sauce and baked in in the oven. it soon became an instant hit. Now, not only does Brown's still creates it but other fine Louisville institutions do as well.

A Hot Brown is easy to make. You can use leftover turkey or slices from your local deli along with bacon on toast.(I'd recommend a good challah for this to absorb the sauce). Add thickly sliced beefsteak tomatoes and top with the Mornay., The Hot Brown gravy is a basic butter and flour roux along with heavy cream added for body. Some recipes call for a beaten egg to be added, but this is up to you. A sharp cheese is then mixed in . The original recipe called for a Pecorino Romano but you can also sub in Parmesan(this is from Food Channel's Alton Brown's recipe). Ladle on to the sandwich and then sprinkle with extra cheese. Place under a broiler until cheese starts to bubble.

The Hot Brown is a perfect lunch or dinner sandwich. Delicious filling ,yet easy to make, especially on these hot days. Best of all it serves as a meal without all the fuss.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Healthier Dogs

New York street dogs were always risky.It's not about a stray mutt found wandering the Hudson river docks but those hot dogs sold by street vendors.Either the meat or cooking methods were questionable. Now that's changing.Eating a street dog can be considered a healthy experience thanks to the quality of meat and how it's prepared.

This was the topic of an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The piece , written by Dining regular, Jeff Gordinier, tells about the transformation of these New York classics. Now the meat isn't questionable. Some vendors, like Andrew Mcdonald,, buy totally organic meat. His company Good To Go Organics, specializes in healthy food on the go. Even chili dogs, doubly dubious because of the beef used, is changing.Mr. McDonals uses organic beef bought from farms in upstate Columbia County New York for his chili dogs.

Another change is the way the dogs are being made. Some still are being boiled however a lot of vendors are returning to the outdoor grill method. This was used a century ago but was disbanded because of of the carts going up in flames. Fast forward to a century later when all the carts are made of stainless steel. It's easy now to grill hot dogs and they 're actually tastier, Although many New Yorkers love the water boiled ones and there's now a hot debate regarding which one is better.

New York dogs are vastly improving. They're not only safer to eat but tastier too.They still the perfect city food on the go but now they're even better.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Elegant Ketchup??!!

Mention ketchup or catsup and you'll either get a big smile or a big wince depending on the person's age. This sweet tomato sauce is either considered a blessing or a bane. Usually most sophisticated foodies shun ketchup because it lacks sophistication. However that's all changing thanks to chef Jose Andre at Washington D.C.'s America Eats Cafe. It's not just tomato sauce on fries anymore

This was the subject of an article written by Julia Moskin in today's New York Times Dining section. It turns out that there's more to ketchup than just tomatoes and corn syrup. Actually the stuff has been around since the 1690's when it was frist mentioned in English recipe books as early as the 1690's.English sailors probably brought it over from either China where a similar sauce from eggplant juice called ke-tsiap was made or Malaysia where they had a fish sauce called macap.It became the tomato variety when Heinz made in in 1876. It was a way of utilizing tomato scraps leftover from canning. Mixed with corn syrup it became an instant American classic. There were earlier forms of it made from nutmeg and peppercorns

Now ketchup is taking a different turn. Thanks to Jose Andres, the chef at the new American Eats Cafe in Washington D.C. (it's part of the famed American food exhibit"What's Cooking Uncle Sam?") the condiment is taking a new spin. There is a cherry one that had dark cherries along with mustard and spices mixed together to form a sweet sauce. This is perfect for any red meat.Another one is made from oysters which is minced oysters blended with white wine and oysters. Anchovies also make an appearance however it's a take on Worcester sauce which is a variation of it. Then there's the actual tomato version made with fresh tomatoes and a minimum of corn syrup. This is a different kind than what we're used to.It focuses more on the tomatoes than anything else . The result? An earthy flavor that's robust and perfect for hamburgers and grilled steaks

Ketchup is not just mix of tomatoes and corn syrup.It's a complex blend of ingredients to create a complement to meats and side dishes. It can be made of anything from walnuts to anchovies or even tomatoes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Yummy Ice Cream Sandwiches

Summer rainy days and kids do not go together. They'll stay inside and becomes weapons of living room destruction., Either that or they'll become glued to whatever electronic device they can get their hands on .For a fun alternative have them make the summer classic - the ice cream sandwiches,They can explore their creative side plus make a tasty treat . (hopefully after lunch and before a good, nutritious dinner).

Every ice cream sandwich starts off with a good base. Most store bought ones usually have a crisp cookie however you can sub in store bought chocolate chips or even snickerdoodles. Most supermarkets sell large cookies in their bakery department and these are perfect for your sandwiches. You can also try sliced Rice Krispie treats too . Take the bars and slice them horizontally.Another spin is taking uniced cupcakes or sweet muffins, such as chocolate or chocolate chip and using them as bases.

What kind of ice cream works?Any kind! Buy two or three different flavors so the kids can mix and vary. Some suggestions are a rich butter pecan sandwiched between snickerdoodles are good as is just plain vanilla. Chocolate chip mint is a great filler between two plain chocolate crisps. Regular chocolate chips go well with - what else - chocolate chip cookies. Be creative and fun. You can then have the kids roll their creations in chocolate or colored sprinkles as finishing touches.They can also roll then in mini chips or chopped nuts too.

An ice cream sandwich can save a summer rainy day, Have some cartons and cookies ready to make this fun treat. Both you and the kids will love them!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pizza On The Grill

The grill is good for almost everything. You can cook the old standards such as dogs and burgers on them, get experimental with any kind if fish or kabobs, and even cook fruit. However you can use your grill as an outdoor pizzeria. You can create delicious pies right out in the open air.

How do you bake pizza on a grill? There are two ways.One is to mix the dough and roll it out on a cookie sheet.Then slide it onto the grill for two minutes and then flip so that the other bakes. The other way is placing the dough on a pizza stone. This is a round, thick plate that's usually made from ceramic or earthenware. After the dough starts to rise,brush with olive oil and then tomato sauce. Add cheese and toppings and then cover for two to three minutes more. If your grill doesn't have a cover you can tent aluminum foil over the pie as a kind of out door oven.

Toppings for outdoor pizza can be as varied as an inside one. For a garden fresh one, sub in fresh picked beefsteak tomatoes and freshly picked basil instead of sauce and the dried herb. Barbecued steak or chicken also make great additions,especially the steak, Cook the meat rare and let the juices mix in with the sauce. You can also try a seafood one by adding some chopped clams mussels and oysters along with shrimp. Another fun outdoor pizza topping is crumbled hamburger on top.

There's nothing like pizza on the grill. You can make a fantastic tasting outdoors one in just seconds.It's a perfect alternative to traditional dogs and burgers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Good Old Fashioned Clambake

Summer and seafood go together. There's nothing like gathering friends on a beach with a campfire and freshly caught clams and lobsters. It's a fun way of celebrating a good day of swimming and sunning. The best part is that it's fun. Everybody chips in and helps in making a tasty dinner.

A clambake should take place on the beach however if your local one has restrictions you can easily have It in your backyard. As with a fire pit,dig a large hole in the sand or dirt. Cover the whole bottom with large stones or rocks. These can be found in the woods near the beach.(pick up anything that has some heft)Add branches, brushand then charcoal to build a large fire along with seaweed (although no sweat if you don't; have it on hand). If you're cooking lobsters, have a pot ready to boil them and with these you can use sea water hauled in from the beach.

Of course any clambake should have clams, but you can also have lobsters, mussels and potatoes. A good recipe is a kind of stew that involves clams, (any kind),mussels onions, celery,potatoes and corn.Cook these together in a pot along with melted butter and some fresh water. Of course you can just cook clams and have a baked potato with melted butter on it along with simply roasted ear of corn. This also goes for lobster too. because th emeat is so flavorful, just add butter that was melted in an old can over the flames.

A clambake is the best summer memory ever. There's nothing like enjoying freshly cooked clams and lobsters under a warm starry night . It's just good and simple eating

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cook It Right

Summer is a time for good food and good eating. Sometimes though certain factors can creep in and spoil a wonderful dish. namely salmonella and food poisoning. What may look delicious may be hiding something dangerous- and deadly. What to do? Be aware and prepared.

Salmonella is a chef's biggest nightmare during these warm weather days. How can you get and where? It usually is found in everything from fresh meats to processed fruits and veggies. Mostly it comes from underpar sanitary conditions in larger farms and meat processing plants. Usually lettuce and spinach are the worst hit thanks to these places having not enough bathrooms or clean facilities for the workers. Always make sure your salads are washed thoroughly. There are even washes you can use if you want to be super safe. As for meats it's a gamble . The best bet is to cook everything well but still that's no guarantee.Luckily local news stations always have the first bit of news about damaged meats .

Cream products and mayonnaise also suffer during these times. Try to keep cream products in the fridge . The heat is a breeding ground for the bacteria spores and they thrive in high temps . If you want a creamy birthday cake, think more about ice cream cake or decorating plain cake with just powdered sugar. Mayonnaise long blamed, for scores of people getting sick over the years, is actually not the culprit. The stuff is fine on its' own however becomes a germ bomb when mixed with pasta and potatoes. Try to use olive oil for mayo in summer salads.

This is the season to go out and enjoy summer's bounty. However it's also the time to be wary about what you're eating. Be careful, be choosy and you can navigate through to still have a fun warm weather feast.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Healing And Hydroponic

The New York Times Dining section had two very interesting and diverse articles yesterday. One was on the healing powers of certain foods while the other was on hydroponic farming. Actually the first is sort of dependent on the second one, because it's all the leafy green stuff that can help a body. Any green, whether it be spinach or even lettuce, if grown hydroponically , can have a few more benefits than ones coming from the land.

The first article written by Jeff Gordinier tells the story of chef Seamus Mullen who was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis in his late thirties. The disease literally crippled him, leaving him in agony most of the time. For anybody this is bad news but for a chef even worse. Luckily he improved his diet which led to his new cookbook. Entitled "Seamus Mullen's Hero Food : How Cooking Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better ", it shows how certain foods can help with inflammatory disease s and boost the body's immune system. Some of the best foods for a person are olive oil, almonds and leafy green vegetables. Mr. Mullen uses these already in his Spanish tapas restaurant Boqueria.

No doubt hydroponically grown greens are also good for you. That was the other article, written by Glenn Collins, another long time Dining contributor. Hydroponic lettuce has received a bad rap over the last few years. Not so anymore. It's actually become more flavorful. This is due to new techniques in this dirt free farming. There's more technological sophistication where there are even weather stations installed to help with the sun and temperature conditions . This helps crops thrive without the usual worries about drought or too much rain. The ambiance is perfect in creating flavorful and tender leaves.

Leafy greens can help us. Just ask Seamus Mullen who greatly benefited from them. Even better are the hydroponically grown ones. They're not only good for us but good tasting thanks to modern, soil free farming methods.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Playing With Fire Pits

There's no doubt about it. This is the season for cooking outdoors. Everyone turns to their Weber grills, creating the perfectly blackened dog or burger. However for those with a wilder side, there the fire pit. This is more primal , being in the vein of what our ancestors used. Yet, despite the primitivism of it, it produces wonderfully roasted meat.

Fire pits were the subject of today's Al Fresco column in the New York Times Dining section. the article, written by regular Alice Hart, explains how to dig and use one. It's a great deal more exciting than a regular grill and the result is closer in a way to the original barbecoas that pirates and early settlers used to grill and roast meat. The hardest part is the actual digging. If you're set on it, have help, namely two other people to help dig . Cut the ground into strips so it's easier to replace later on. From then it's like setting up a small oven, with the addition of bricks and a metal sheet or grate. Logs and coals are added afterwards to build and maintain a fire.

The result will not be a quick cooking dinner. Fire pit cooking does take a while namely eight to ten hours to result in a finished product. The meat should be double wrapped , first in aluminum foil and then in two layers of wet newspaper. This protects the meat and keeps it from the charring. The end result is well worth it though .Fire pits can produce cuts where the pork or beef just falls off the bone with a buttery tenderness. What meats to use? A good pork butt or beef brisket is the best and most flavorful.

If you;re tired of grilling , then try the fire pit method.Yes, it's more involved with a snail's pace cooking time, but you'll be pleased with the result. You'll have the most mouth watering, juiciest cuts of beef and pork this August. What a perfect summer party treat!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Safe Summer Seafood

There's nothing like raw oysters and cold beer to finish off a summer's night. Or a clambake right on the beach.Or freshly caught lobster, perfectly boiled and served with melted butter. All of these are great, especially now but are they safe?Are our waters OK for these catches to exist in? Are they safe for us to eat?

So far so good. Here in the New York area we've had problems with a sewerage treatment plant leakingstraight into the Hudson. Luckily it had been contained and didn't hit the waters off of New Jersey's north shore. This would affect the striper fishing in Raritan Bay as well as the Atlantic's lobster and shellfish industries. I've spent July eating locally caught lobster almost on a weekly basis. It's all been OK and safe with out any side effects (except for the fact of me getting fat from all that melted butter). There is always some concern when it comes to oysters which are nature's natural filters. They process algae and silt rich water and basically spew out purified H2O. Unfortunately pollutants get inside too and can contaminate the oyster flesh. Usually when this happens there are news reports and warnings .

What about the radiation that leaked out of Japan this past spring? Due to the double whammy of a devastating earthquake and destructive tidal wave, the Fukushima nuclear plant wound up leaking into the Pacific Ocean. There were worries that Pacific breeds such as tuna and salmon were contaminated. There were even concerns about fish and crustaceans from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska being radiated. Again, everything is OK and seafood from California to the Aleutian Islands is safe to eat.

If you're dying for a cold plate of raw oysters then go for it. They and every other seafood is safe to eat this August. Enjoy the ripe fruits of the sea while you can.It's the season for them!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Uncle Louie Gee's Ices

August is the time to keep cool. This is the time for a nighttime treat of going for a cup of ice or ice cream. Luckily there's a new chain out there, ready to freeze out the competition.It's called Uncle Louie Gee's and it melds traditional Italian ices with funky new flavors. The result is downright delicious with a variety of flavors and textures.

This newest chain of cooling treats comes out of Staten Island , New York.It was actually based on a Brooklyn Italian ice recipe from the Thirties. It results in a creamier, denser ice that's rich in both texture and flavor. The brightly colored parlor offers the traditional fruit ices such as lemon,cherry , orange and watermelon . Then there are the Italian influenced such as cannoli(!) cappucino and spumoni along with some of the funkier flavors such as chocolate mousse and peanut butter chocolate cup.Some ices even have giant chocolate bits along with pretzels mixed in. This is definitely a new spin on the traditional water based ice.

Uncle Louie Gee's also has ice cream and ice cream cakes too. Each chain has the usual, chocolate and vanilla along with a butter pecan and rocky road. However there are some more unusual flavors too. Try a yummy Brooklyn Cheesecake or Apple Pie a la Mode along with Birthday Cake Surprise and Harvest Pumpkin Pie. Uncle Louie Gee's also has cakes too and they can be customized. The fillings are equally as tasty with the addition of crushed Oreos and pound cake to the traditional chocolate crunch. Another plus is that you can get traditional cones and sundaes here too.

This is August - the month for cool, icy treats. Uncle Louie Gee's has all this and much more. If there's one in your neighborhood stop in. You won't be disappointed by the rich quality of their ices and ice creams!