Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Faves

Halloween brings back all sorts of ghosts- good and bad. The best is candy. We all have memories of our faves - whether they're the classic or commercial type.Even as adults we manage to sneak in a few treats today, just to satisfy our inner child. Besides there's nothing as fun as having a few candy corns or a peanut butter cup as dessert.

The idea of giving out candy for Halloween is relatively recent starting in the late 1930's. Previously homemade treats, such as popcorn balls and candy apples, were given out to trick or treats to prevent them from doing damage to homes and properties. The candy companies jumped on this idea and soon people were giving out Mars Bars and candy kisses. World War II interrupted the holiday however it became popular again in the late Forties. Not only candy was given out back then but also small toys, nickels and cookies. Halloween was also now a national holiday with every home in the US giving out treats. It was a boon to the candy industry who previously had a lull in sales right before Christmas.

The baby boomers took the holiday to a high art. This is when all sorts of faves were introduced, from candy cigarettes to Raisinettes. Some homes even gave out the rare treat of wax lips or wax whistles along with pixie sticks. Now trick or treaters get an entire cornucopia of goodies thanks to many companies producing bags with three different types of candy bars.My favorites were always the candy cigarettes along with Smarties. Peanut butter cups were also good as were - and still are mini Hershey bars. Of course candy corn is a fun nibble too, whether it's the original or the chocolate flavored Indian corn.

Everyone has a favorite Halloween candy. They're like what madeleines were to Proust. One bite brings back a flood of good trick or treating memories.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Plan B

If you're along the Eastern Coast of the US right now, you're probably having worrying doubts about Halloween. Weekend costume parties right now are being cancelled thanks to this freak ealry season blizzard we're having. Moms are nervously looking towards Monday and wondering what to do with all those cupcakes and treats they've just baked for their little one's school parties.What to do? Have Plan B firmly in place.

Every holiday should have a backup plan just in case the first one gets screwed up. After all anything could happen on any holiday whether it be a bad thunderstorm on July 4th or a monster blizzard on Christmas Day. When the weather is frightful - such as today's rare Nor'Easter , it pays not to panic. After all food can still be eaten. Drinks can still be drunk. As far as those hors d' oeuvres you planned on serving rethink them as a fun dinner for the kids Little ones love the idea of stuffing themselves with pigs in blankets or veggies and dip. If you bought heroes, then cut them up and use them the next day for lunch or dinner. You can also use them on Monday for the lunch box or brown bag.

Another alternative for any postponed party is freezing your feasts. Roasts can be cut up and put into trays. Add some gravy and sides too and voila and instant dinner party. Lasagna along with other casserole dishes are also pretty easy to freeze. Just remember to add extra salt because it weakens in flavored upon being frozen. Also keep toppings separate too. If you had make a baked mac, then hold off on sprinkling the breadcrumbs on top. Reserve those for when you reheat the dish .Cakes and cupcakes can also be frozen and then thawed out.Wrap them in several layers of plastic wrap before placing them in your freezer. Don't freeze pies of any kind! Freezing will create too much moisture that will ruin both the taste and texture when thawing. Leave pies and even tarts to be eaten right away and just get new ones for your rescheduled gathering.

Yes it's scary to have to cancel a party whethe r it be a big Halloween one or just a small birthday get together. The key is don't panic. Fall back on a plan B that will ensure you still have great food and a good time even without guests.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Time For Fennel

Even though it's autumn you can still make a nice salad. Instead of the usual summery greens, though try fennel. It's big this time of year and makes a wonderful side whether if it's on its' own or with other veggies. Another plus is that it has a distinctive refreshing taste -a perfect foil against heavy main dishes.

Fennel is a bulb like plant usually grown in the early spring , namely June and July. However it's also big around the fall and many Italian homes have a fennel dish at Thanksgiving. It's name is derived from the Latin foeniculum. It's a hardy perennial being an actual herb as opposed to a green .It's been used from India to England where it was included in the pagan Anglo Saxon Tenth Century Nine Herbs Charm, an early medical manuscript. The Greeks called it marathon and it figured prominently in the famed Batttle of Marathon in 490 BC.Fennel has been used to treat everything from modern day hypertension to past century cures for digestive disorders and blood problems.

Fennel itself has a distinctive taste- not unlike anise (which it is often mistaken for). The Times had some lovely salad recipes th e other days for it.These included one with radishes and mushrooms. However a more popular one is a plain fennel salad (which was popularized by the late 60 Minutes journalist Ed Bradley). His recipe includes just cutting up an entire bulb and them dousing it a simple red wine vinegar vinaigrette. This is delicious even when it's a few days old. The fennel is great at absorbing the dressing which leave a tart, fruity aftertaste. Another way of serving it is just cutting up the bulb and stalks and dipping them into a simple oil and vinegar mix. Italians have been doing this for years and fresh fennel is always a big part of Sunday and holiday dinners.

Surprisingly this Spring specialty is a big part of fall dining. make a fennel salad for a refreshing alternative to regular salads. It's like a breath of crisp autumn air!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mozzarella Time

Mozzarella is one of those cheese you either love or hate. Unfortunately it's always had a bad rap thanks to it being a vital, if greasy part of pizza. Yet the true Italian style version of this cheese can be heavenly . Its' taste and texture is what creates new mozzarella lovers every day. One bite of the real thing and you're hooked.

True mozzarella is the subject of a brand new book called The Mozza Cookbook, written by a true California girl, chef, Nancy Silverton. She is also the owner along with another great chef, Mario Batali of Los Angeles' most popular restaurants, Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza. Yesterday's New York Times Dining section had an article featuring her in its' Feed Me column, written by Alex Wichtel. Ms, Silverman is something of a pioneer out west. She championed artisanal breads in a town not known for embracing anything yeasty or high in calories. She now is behind promoting mozzarella in its' truest form. Some of the book does feature pizza recipes but there are other ones, equally mouth watering highlighting the cheese.

Ms. Silverton is not only big on mozzarella but also burrata a type of mozzarella. Burrata basically translates into buttered an dis called such because it is a mix of hard cheese and soft cream. The exterior has a hard shell while the inside is soft and runny. The chef puts it as a topping to amazing sandwiches that also have caramelized shallots and sauteed escarole. In these she also adds hunks of smoked bacon , and then tops it with creamy blobs of mozzarella. It's a different and more true to form spin on this cheese,it is used as a topping but in a different way.

True mozzarella is heavenly. Buy Ms. Silverton's book, The Mozza Cookbook to discover it and what you can do with it. It'll be a far cry from just your typical pizza topping.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mini - Yums

Good things come in small packages. That age old adage is true, especially with the latest food trend: mini sweets. Cupcakes are shrinking. Ice pops are melting while muffins are minimizing. Even more interesting - this trend is here to stay.

This was the topic of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. , The piece, written by Dining regular, the great Julia Moskin, tells of everyone's favorite treats getting smaller and smaller. It's like the famed scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice eats the bite size cake that has "Eat Me" written on it. The same is becoming true for cupcakes that are perfect for baby dolls and macaroons that are dime sized. Even the famed Sicilian pastry cannoli, is being made smaller. Usually two or three inches in length , it's' now being shrunk to only an inch. Creating such treats proves to be a challenge for bakers. Minis tend to easily break apart easier . Finding molds for them is also somewhat difficult as well.

Why the trend to bite size goodies? It's because we're drawn to smaller, more fun sized snacks. It also means that we can still have our guilty pleasures but with much less sugar and fat. No one is going to chow down on three cupcakes. That's too many calories to be consumed. However it's perfectly OK to gobble down three mini cupcakes. It's still the taste without all the sugar and fat. The same holds true for any other mini treat. A muffin may be too much for one person however shrink it to a fingernail sized bite and its perfect. manufacturers already know this and such companies as Hostess are jumping on the baby muffin and treat trend.

One thing is that we'll never get tired of these bite sized sweets. They're fun and colorful. They also have the allure of less calories too.They really live up to the phrase - good things really do come in small packages!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Soupcon of Soups

Cooler weather demands soups. Whether they be bisque or chowder, they are wonderful chill chasers, perfect for lunch or dinner. The question is what soup is what. Is a bisque easier to make than a chowder? Is a cream based one a bit more complicated than a regular one? What are the differences?

One of the easiest soups to make is broth. You can start off with either the easy or the hard method. The easy one just involves bouillon cubes and water. The hard way is boiling an entire chicken with onions and celery and then skimming off the fat. Making beef both is a little easier.It just involves soup bones and water, along with the required onions and celery. You can also add ground peppercorns, marjoram thyme and oregano along with garlic for flavor. This last is up to you .Fish stock is again like these other two except you add heads, fins and spines for a more fishier soup base. For a true soup you can then add other ingredients like the appropriate meats, more veggiessuch as tomatoes and peppers along with pasta. For cream soups add a cup or more of milk or cream . You can also add butter too for extra richness.

What's the difference between chowder and bisque? Chowder is chunkier, usually with chunks of any kind of vegetables and seafood, hence Manhattan , New England and Rhode Island clam chowders. However you can make a potato or corn chowder too , just by using these veggies alone. Bisque is more refined, being smoother in texture and creamier. Bisque is also made more with seafood and has the extra oomph of cognac or wine added. Both soups are French in origin. Chowder comes from chaudiere , the large pot French fisherman used to boil their catches along with foraged vegetables. They came to the New England coast in the 1750's bringing this recipe with them. Bisque is from the Bay of Biscay in southern France on the Atlantic and the word is a derivation of Biscay. There is also another similar soup called biscay where heavily spiced game birds are subbed in instead of the fish.

Nothing beats any kind of soup in this chilly weather. it's easy to make and is always a treat , whether for lunch or dinner. You can try your hand at any one, a chunky chowder or a refined bisque. You can even just make a simple chicken soup to warm up empty tummies.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spaetzle German Comfort Food

Spaetzles are every German or German American's go to comfort food. These versatile noodles can accompany everything from string beans to sauerkraut, from goulash to hoxen . They're even good on their own with melted butter. Anyway you have them is wunderbar- the perfect comfort food for a chilly fall day.

Spaetzle comes from the Southern German or Swabian word spatz for sparrow. The Swabians add "le" to indicated the diminutive and so the name translates into "little sparrow".Spaetzles been around since medieval times and the first recipe was written down during the 1725. It's also big in the Tyrol, along with, Alsace Lorraine, in France, Austria and Switzerland. The dough is easy to make. It consists of simply eggs flour ,water and a sprinkle for salt. The dough is then pushed through a colander and cut into two inch pieces.They are boiled like pasta is however use just plain water instead of salted.You can also buy spaetzles premade as well.

The noodles are good with almost anything. They compliment and take the bite out of sauerkraut, while being perfect for goulash , They absorb the gravy and mellow the dish's spicy taste. They are also good next to hoxen, roasted pork shoulder. Every Swabian family has their own spin on them. Mine likes them with green beans in a butter sauce. I also like them just plain with melted butter as a main meal. I have cousins who prefer them with grated cheese on top, similar to pasta. Some other Germans have them covered with just fried onions,or with only lentils or in a stew.

Spaetzles are the perfect cool weather dish. They are a great comfort food with other specialties or on their own. Their hearty homemade flavor , keeps the chill at bay.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jams and Jellies

This is the time of year that calls for jam or jelly on a hot buttered English muffin or toast. It's the perfect weekend afternoon snack.However these versatile preserves can also be used for a number of other dishes as well. Whether for glazes or fillings, jams and jellies can be put to good use in any kitchen.They're not just for afternoon tea.

Jelly is actually one of the oldest recipes in the world. The ancient Romans had recipes for preserving fruits.Jelly and Jam making reached high art status during the Renaissance and it's during this time that marmalade was created, invented especially for Mary Queen of Scots. Her physician made a special mix of oranges and sugar to prevent the young queen's sea sickness when she moved from the French court to the Scottish. one. There is even the lore that the word comes from "Marie est malade" or Marie is sick (however it could come from marmelo , the Spanish word for quince).The American colonists too jam making to heart and several varieties were invented, using indigenous berries and fruits.Commercial jam making came in the 1800s and in 1897 even a jam council was created. The biggest jam maker of the time was Jerome Smucker, whose jellies are still big sellers today. The Twentieth Century brought about the invention of everyone's favorite grape jelly by Paul Welch in 1917.

Jam and jellies are versatile. You can easily spread them on French toast for a different spin on a breakfast classic . Marmalade as well as apricot jam along with apple butter (a type of jam) are excellent fillings for dessert crepes. Tired of maple syrup on your pancakes? Then try a strawberry or blackberry jam for bite and texture. These two also make wonderful cake fillings for jelly rolls and devil's food cakes.Jams can also be used as glazes for meat. Apricot jam is wonderful as a glaze for pork loin as is marmalade and plum jam.Peach jam can be used on chicken to give the skin a crunchy, savory- sweet taste. You could also use it on chicken kabobs too.

jams and jellies can be used for a variety of dishes from savory to sweet. However they're also good topping a hot buttered English muffin or slice of toast. Have them as you please, either in a cozy tea or as a different ingredient in any meal

Friday, October 21, 2011

Coleridge's Devon

Devonshire cooking hasn't changed much since its' literary son, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born there on this date (as am I however not in beautiful Devon however) in 1772. The food reflects both the land and the sea, the farms and the arbors that make up one of England's most loveliest and varied counties. It is full of fresh seafood as well as beef and lamb. Greenery also plays an important part of the cuisine , with berries and dandelions being part of the diet and landscape.

One dish that the young poet would have feasted on is blackbird pie. Yes, that blackbird pie from the famed children's rhyme. This involves plucking and boning the little birds and then placing them neatly in a pie shell along with bacon , liver, onions and mushrooms. The dish is no longer made (unless by those wishing to recreate 18th Century cookery.). Devon was also known for its' classic skylark recipe, which basically is plucking and then roasting the buttered birds over a spit and then serving them on buttered toast. For the more faint hearted there is also a rabbit stew that is more to contemporary tastes along with a mutton pie that could easily work as a dinner or even a Sunday lunch. Devon cuisine featured the sea as well. , considering it is sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. Coleridge probably enjoyed a few eel pies as well as homemade fishcakes too during his childhood there.

Devonshire is also known for its' greenery and fruits. Dandelion wine is one of the favorite homemade drinks. It involved fermenting the greens with raisins, brown sugar and yeast along with lemons. Another is apple cider as well as a gooseberry wine both being very easy to make, These were probably served as were traditional punches during the holidays and the young poet probably imbibed , relishing the headiness of these home made brews. Devon is also the birthplace of clotted cream, that English classic that goes well with everything from fruit to fresh baked scones. Devon is also know fo r its' walnut cake and Somerset pound, a lemon cake made with sultana raisins. There is also a local sponge cake recipe consisting of just eggs, flour and sugartoo

Samuel Taylor Coleridge probably was inspired by the land and seascapes about him. Hopefully he enjoyed them as he enjoyed roasted skylark or mutton pie, washed down with good Devonshire cider, homemade dandeline or green gooseberry wine. He not only fed his soul but also himself with classic and traditionals western English food.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Learning From The Masters

Yesterday's New York Times Dining section featured some of the greats. There was an article about the truly legendary French chef, Jacques Pepin along with a De Gustibus article by the equally legendary food critic Mimi Sheraton. Reading the two pieces was like taking a master class in cooking. There was so much knolwedge given out, definitely to be stored away for later use.

The first article was about Pepin and his new cookbook coming out this month. The interview, conducted by Dining regular, Jeff, Gordenier, tells of what's going to be in it as well as learning from the master.The articles even comes with how to pictures dealing with sharpening knives along with the proper way of separating a garlic clove . There is also a pictorial how to for making the perfect French omelet.. It is all about technique, how to crack the eggs, how to hold the pan. It's really turning the body into a machine to create the perfect dish. Pepin executes this as wonderfully as a ballet dancer. Even the way he sliced a simple baguette was insightful (slice on an angle facing outward. It keeps the air in the bread's middle fluffy. )

Mimi Sheraton, another master, is featured too. Her De Gustibus article is all about that little known cuisine Danish cooking. Ms. Sheraton has been a food critic for over fifty years and has eaten at some of the world's best restaurants.She explores the current trend of Nordic cooking; one that has actually been around for a long time. There is nothing new, she explains. The Scandinavians basically invented these now followed trends of foraging and locavore dining. It is big again though thanks to chef Rene Redzepi who will be demonstrating how to create the fare this Saturday in lower Manhattan.

Yesterday's Times dining section was a true salute to classic chefs and critics along with simple but elegant dining. In these celebrity chef laden tomes it's refreshing to return to the pros of the industry.Seek their advice.It's always the best.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What The Fork? Salty Recipes!

There's a million food and recipe sites out there on the web. Some you can just pass over, some catch your attention. There there's one who are making foodies and home chefs blink twice at theri screens. It's called What The F**K Do I majke For Dinner. and it's creating a storm. The recipes are good while, the language is salty to say the least.

It was the subject of an article in today's Daily News,(I know, Wednesdays'are usually reserved for the New York TImes Dining section but I wanted to mix it up some). The piece, written by Gina Salomone features chef Zach Golden and his profanity sprinkled dishes. What is neat about the site is that , if you don't like the proffered recipe then you can click on tabs that actually say "I don't f**king like that" "I don't f**king eat meat" or the even more snarkier "I'm not a f**king vegetarian." Mr. Golden also has a book with the same dirty words and no nonsense advice.

The recipes are very good. Golden was a chef and has cooked from a very early age so he does know what he's talking about.(albeit with a spicy spin). There is a Brussels sprouts with bacon recipe that sounds tasty , involving making a vinaigrette with reserved bacon fat and Dijon mustard. He also has his mom's braised lamb shank recipe along with a delicious sounding Swiss chard and scallops one. This last is a novel way of pairing these two ingredients.I'd love to see the book and see what other recipes he has to offer. I'm sure he has takes on everything from breakfast to dessert.

There's nothing like a little dash of salt and spice in any recipe. Mr. Golden offers this in not only his recipes but also his instructions. It makes for forking good reading and some yummy meals.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dinner Sandwiches

Sandwiches for dinner are usually met with scorn. They're just meat and bread thrown together. Not much going on there. Not much love put into them either. However a hot sandwich is an entirely different matter. It can be just as filling and nutritious as any regular hot meal - and made with the same amount of thought and consideration.

Hot roast beef and turkey sandwiches are even better than just roasts. They can be tailored to everyone's tastes. Meat can be amply piled on or just have a few slices. Gravy can be thick or the thin au jus kind. Even the bread can vary from hearty kaiser rolls to thin slices of toasted wheat bread. With these you can still make sides. There's even nothing wrong with serving the sandwiches diner style with some stuffing on the side. You can also also have healthier pickings of green beans or succotash to round out the plate.

Another way is going French bistro. Here you can have fun creating that classic Gallic - fave the croque monsieur. This is a grilled cheese fried in butter but it's oh so good, especially after a hard day. It's usually made with Swiss cheese and thinly sliced ham. You can add Dijon mustard to it for added bite. Finish with a simple green salad tossed in a vinaigrette dressing. Another fun and quick hit sandwich is the American grilled cheese. Again you can have fun varying the types of cheeses and breads you want to use. You can also make that other diner classic The Happy Waitress which is a stuffed grilled cheese sandwich , filled with bacon and sliced tomatoes. Serve with fries for a truly fun dinner.

A sandwich for dinner can be hot and delicious. It can even come with sides to make it more rounded. Best of all it's an easy way to cook, yet still provide a warm meal for the family!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Great Food Court Controversy

Did you know that where you shop affects where you eat? Its true . Shop at a fancy mall and pay higher prices for even the most mundane meal or snack. Shop at a mall that features mid range anchor stores and boutiques and you'll actually be saving money on your next taco or pizza slice. It's not strange , it just depends on the quality of the mall.

This practice is blatantly evident in New Jersey where there seems to be a mall in almost every town. Eat lunch or even dinner at one that has ritzy anchor stores like Neiman's and Nordstrom's and you'll pay more for your Wendy's or Taco Bell meal. Prices usually go up by anywhere from a dime to fifty cents. Order a Wendy's baked potato at a mall in tony Bergen County, pay almost two dollars for it . Order the same item in the less prosperous Hudson County malls and save a few cents. The same is true for other chain fast food restaurants.

I don't know if this is true for the more pricier chain eateries such as Legal Seafood or Ruby Tuesdays. I think their prices are standard no matter where they're located whether at a covered mall , strip mall or as a free standing building. There is probably more control over them than at the privately owned franchises. Should you eat at these higher end restaurants then? If you want to, go ahead, but only for a fun splurge . The food court is still a great place fora budget meal or a quick snack. Although shop around for whoever can get you the best deal for your dollar.

If you're on a budget then watch where you eat. Usually malls in more expensive areas will not have any bargains whether at the racks or at the food court.Save by heading to the lower end ones. You'll squeeze out a few more pennies both on clothing and also on on your lunch or dinner.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Joy of Salt Water Taffy

Salt water taffy is the kind of treat you can enjoy year round and not just during a summer at the New Jersey Shore.It's the perfect candy to munch on any time all year long . Anyone can enjoy the variety of flavors and smooth, satiny texture whenever you want. better yet, it can be shipped to your door , even if you're miles away from Snookie's paradise.

Saltwater taffy is one of those treats that's synonymous with the Garden State. it all started in 1883 won the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk. David Bradley had set up a shop[ selling his home made, hand pulled candies . A hurricane swept the coast creating high tides , thus flooding the store. The next day a little girl came in asking if he had any taffy left? "He sarcastically replied "You mean salt water taffy?" The child loved the name and so it stuck. later Joseph Fralinger, an Atlantic City confectioner, was the first to box it and turn it into a souvenir. His competitor , Enoch James, was the first to cut the sweet into bite size pieces and individually wrap them.

Today the two companies coexist and James Saltwater Taffy is sold throughout the Jersey Shore area.Each piece is smooth and satiny with just the right amount of chew. Sea salt is added to bring out the flavors (although this is a recent addition. James confectioners are just following what the trendier candy makers are doing). Taffy flavors are everything from coconut to licorice along with chocolate and vanilla. There are even chocolate dipped taffies and ones that have double flavors. The original is the best, with it's straight from the kitchen homemade taste.

Salt water taffy is a New Jersey original . No candy can compare to its' satiny texture and bright burst of flavor.Experience this shore treat not just in the summer at our beautiful shore but all year round too!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Versatility of Polenta

This is the season for polenta. The Northern Italian stapleis a cool weather basic must have thanks to its' versatility.It can be made a number of ways, from starters to sides. The big surprise?This hot corn mash can even be used for south of the border dishes as well.

Polenta is usually reserved for such traditional dishes as chicken cacciatore. This is an easy dish to make, using only the chicken's thighs and breasts along with canned tomatoes (or fresh, if you still have them around.).It's then sauteed with olive oil and garlic along with oregano and rosemary. The polenta acts as the perfect foil for the thin gravy, sopping up the almost watery sauce.Of course, polenta can be used with much heartier dishes too. Venison, one of the North's prime meats is excellent with a side of it. The mash's mildness again compliments the rich heartiness of the ragout. Now here's a kicker - polenta is also a wonderful side for Mexican chili. It serves a s creamy base for this dish and it's neutral flavor absorbs the chili's fieriness.

Grilled polenta is also good. You can use it as a side or a starter. To make it pour polenta into a loaf pan, let it cool and then cut the slices. You can brush on melted butter or olive oil before it hits the grill.Some cooks add spices as a dash of oregano or rosemary along with sea salt and pepper to make it more flavorful.. It can be sliced and even be used as a bread for a version of Eggs Benedict. A slab of grilled polenta makes a wonderful base for any braised vegetable such as cabbage,broccoli rabe or tomatoes. It can also be used as an appetizer with caramelized onions and Gruyere or Fontina cheese melted on top.

Polenta has so much versatility .It goes with anything from veggies to meats with such facility. You can make a variety of dishes with it, and each will be unique and different.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Per Se Five Star Goodness

It's rare that any restaurant these days achieves five stars these days. As a parting gift to his final column at the New York Times Dining section Sam Sifton does just this. He was lucky to have his "last meal" at this exquisite New York eatery. What a way to say adieu. Good food. Good wine. Excellent service

Per Se is one of Manhattan's best gems. It's a satellite of the famed Napa Valley French Laundry , that bespoke restaurant of wine country fame. The owner, Thomas Keller, opened the New York branch in 2004 and introduced the East Coast to the some of the restaurant's best loved dishes. One is called Oysters and Pearls a unique blend of sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters. Better yet they arrived with sturgeon in a Limoges dish. What more can you ask for. (although all of Per Se's dishes come elegantly plated and served)

It seems that Per Se seafood dishes shine the brightest. There is their version of clam chowder which has apple wood smoked Massachusetts cod in it along with little neck clams . Swimming with them are pickled garlic celery and parsley shoots. A lobster dish was butter poached and served with a melted leeks and a horseradish infused creme fraiche. Of course other meats were well represented there too. Per Se does an amazing pressed duck and Mr. Sifton raved about the charred eggplant plate as well.

If you;re in Manhattan for any of the upcoming holidays, treat yourself to a heavenly meal at this five star wonder.It's a gourmand's dream come true. Elegant service, elegant surroundings and best of all - elegant food!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spotlight On The New

Usually the Wednesday and Thursday entries are reserved for the New York Times Dining articles. However there were two new products in the section entitled Food Stuff that caught my eye. They're new spins on old classics and something foodies will definitely go for.

The first is sea salt. This once rare ingredient is as common as well salt these days however this kind is locally produced. It doesn't come from England or France or even the South Seas. It comes straight from the surf of New York's own Amagansett, hence the name Amagansett Sea Salt.Steven and Natalie Judelson have create a locavore version of the trendy condiment . These two lawyers have developed a way to eliminate sand and silt from the water and then have it dry slowly in the sun. This leaves for a non bitter tasting salt. There are several varieties but the one with lemon zest is the most popular. There will be a smoked one coming out next.

The next new foodie item is microwave popcorn. Like salt, you would think that there's not much to be improved on however that's where you're wrong.Another clever couple,. Kristy and Coulter Lewis have developed a chemical free corn named Quinn Popcorn after they baby son. The kernels come in a simple food grade parchment paper bag instead of the usual ones treated with perfleuro-octanoic and metals. Oils and seasoning are added later . Quinn Popcorn comes in several flavors such as the lemon zest and sea salt and Vermont maple along with Parmesan and rosemary.

These are two ordinary products with great invitations. if you have the chance try them. They are new spins on classic foods.!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Foodie Sick Day Kit

Yes it's that time of the year when flues and viruses make their debuts. It's also the time of year to stock up on the essentials, mandatory for any sick day. You'll feel better knowing that these are just at your fingertips. After all who wants to go grocery shopping with a high fever or a bad cold?

The most important item to have is bouillon cubes. These are priceless because they can just be boiled into broth or as the base for any soup. You can buy them in chicken, beef and even vegetable. The broth can also be used as the boiling water for rice when you're sick. Everyone recommends this grain however it's a bit blah when boiled in just plain water. The broth flavors it and it does become a tasty dinner.Stock up on rice as well. You can use it in soups or plain as well as your family having something easy to cook when you're down. Another grain is oatmeal. Again, it's a good and bland start to the day and also it's another easy thing your family can cook.

Another idea is stocking up on everything instant. If you're not big on making your own soups then buy a few cans of chicken soup with anything. These are so easy to heat up.Even your littlest cooks can make a nice bowl of satisfying soup.. Also buy a few extra canned veggies that are quick and easy to make. As you're coming out of your sickness, you want to cook foods that are easy to prepare. They're also easy for the family's non chefs to prepare as well. After all you can't screw up opening a tin and then nuking the contents.. Another ideal stock up are pasta and noodles. They can be easily boiled and served wit just a simple sauce of melted butter.

This is the time of year when all those nasty little flu bugs want you. Have your kitchen prepared with easy go to foods that are a cinch to cook. That way you can just concentrate on getting better instead of worrying about your meals.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hypes For The Best

Like the latest celebrity or fashion trend, food, and especially restaurants get hyped. This is true in any big city , mostly in Manhattan. There's always a buzz around a certain product or eatery. Even foodies get all hot and bothered for certain sections. The question is are these worth it?Are they worth the hype? Or is it just hype?

I asked myself this the other day on a trip to New York's famed West Village area. This section was made popular during the TV program "Sex and The City"'s long run. There are even tours based on it, where Carrie Bradshaw affectionados get to dine the way she did.All very well but in reality the restaurants are usually very over priced , extremely noisy and worst of all - just over promoted. I found one restaurant, formerly the beloved Hudson Corner very much like this. My dish of gnocchi were one of the best dishes on the menu, tasting wonderfully home cooked. My friends didn't fare as well. One had to send back her pork chop twice before switching to a linguine. My other friend had only four ravioli for eighteen bucks ( that comes to $4.50 a ravioli seriously?????).

After dinner both had wanted to go to that famed West Village bakery, The Magnolia, This was another place that was immortalized in the series. People are allowed in , club style with only one or two at a time. I guess this adds to the mystique. Jersey bakeries have never done that even at the busiest time- Christmas. The cupcakes were three dollars a piece. I had hoped that they would have improved from the last timeI bought them, about seven or eight years ago. They did not. The icing was too overly sweet and the cake was none too special. It tasted like a mix.I hate to poison pen any establishment, however it was just not good. Yet , thanks to endless hype, The Magnolia is one of the world's most famous bakeries and has branches worldwide.

All I can say is don't believe what you hear. For anyone, whether foodie or just curious, rely on your own tastes. Don't go by if it was mentioned in any magazine or is a fave amongst celebrites.T ry it for yourself. If it's good, then make it one of your favorites. if not - move on.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Rethink Turnips

Mention the word turnip and most people will wrinkle their noses in disgust. Yet this root veggie is actually tasty as well as being versatile. It can be made into a number of dishes , from roasted to mashed. It can be used in stews or accompanying roasts. Turnips can be a great addition to any fall feast.

This common root veggie is mostly harvested right now in the autumn. It’s been around for centuries although the name and origin are unknown. There is actually wild version known as a “hot turnip“ and it‘s also a cousin of mustard and radish. The Scandinavians cross bred it with a cabbage in the 19th Century to create the plant rutabaga. It was also the most popular vegetable there until the potato was introduced sometime in the 1700. The turnip was also the precursor of the pumpkin in Halloween celebrations in Ireland and Scotland where it was carved out jack o’lantern style and then had a lit candle placed inside it. Turnips and their greens are one of the healthiest veggies to eat. The root is high in Vitamin C while the tops or greens are high in both Vitamins A and K.

Turnips can be made a variety of ways. Most people simply like them mashed like potatoes and served with butter. You can also make then in a gratin with cream, butter and parmesan Romano cheese. For a tasty side try them Paula Deen’s waywith brown sugar and butter and then mashed. This would be a great accompaniment tot any pork roast or even ham. You can also try a Finnish casserole, or even a turnip salad to go with holiday turkeys or goose.. Many soups call for chopped or diced turnips , especially vegetable and beef based ones.

The turnip isn’t as bad as some make it out to be. It is a tasty root vegetable, good for you and good tasting too. Have some in a tasty side . You’ll be surprised a t just how wonderful they really are!

Friday, October 7, 2011

That Extra Dash? Cider

This is definitely the month for cider. Usually most people have it just a chilled drink during this time of year. However it can be a vital ingredient to any fall cooking or baking. Its' taste livens up any dish , giving it a pop of unexpected flavor. A dash of cider is just a great idea for whatever you have in mind.

Surprisingly any meat goes well with cider. It can be used with turkey. duck and chicken, as a sauce or a marinade to flavor the meat. Mostly it's used in pork and ham dishes. which makes sense. For centuries Germans have been serving apple dishes as sides with these meats. To add cider to them is a no brainer. There is a great crock pot recipe that calls for slow cooking ham with cider for four hours and then roasting it in a cider bath. You can also braise pork loin in it for a both delightfully sweet and savory main meal. Wild meats such as venison can also be cooked with apple cider. too, mostly in pot roasts. If you're adventurous you can try cider as a marinade for this as well.

Apple cider is widely used in baking. Many farms across the country feature apple cider doughnuts amongst their baked products. These add a sweet fruity note and are almost impossible to resist. For a different spin make cider doughnut holes too for fun party snacking. The drink is also used in muffin recipes along with cake ones. Apple cider pound cake is a New England favorite , perfect for a Sunday afternoon tea. There is also the decadent caramel apple cake made not only with cider but also with a good helping of apples and caramel. You can also use apple cider in making spicy sorbets, a good dessert for warm Indian summer evenings.

Apple cider is perfect on its' own as a refreshing, chilled drink. However it's even better used as an ingredient in any kind of dish from dinner to dessert. Try it for it's versatility and to liven up your fall menu!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Moroccan Cuisine Updated

Morocco was always the mainstay of traditional and expected North African cuisine. There were always the traditional tagines and kabobs. In short typical tourist fare. However two new cookbooks ares rediscovering some old recipes and doing justice to new. Consider it an update on a centuries old table.

The New York Times Dining regular, Julia Moskin wrote about this in her column yesterday. The first cookbook is by Alice Wolfert who had spent sometime in the exotic country back in the seventies. Her book, The Food of Morocco by Ecco Publishers is a reworking of the original that put her on the map. The second is by Mourad Lahlou, born in the famed Casablanca. His book is Mourad: New Moroccan by Artisan . Both explore the region's dishes however each has their own spin on them. Mr. Lahlou is the more modern of the two, taking the cuisine to new heights with different spins.

He believes that variety can spice up this traditional cuisine. Moroccan dishes were first influenced by the Berber tribe and later by the Spanish and the French, Persian and Turkish. Lahlou wants to shake up the traditional tagines , get rid of the couscous recipes and introduce more family based ones. Ms. Wolfert goes more for the traditional route, taught to her by Morocco cooks back in the Seventies. She feels that the dishes have to be elaborately made, using no modern shortcuts. After all she ground spices and learned how to preserve lemons in salt along with even grinding wheat. She feels that losing these labor intensive but valuable techniques will take away from true Moroccan cuisine.

The two chefs are right in their own way. Ms . Wolfert believes in preserving the country's culinary past while Mr. Lahlou wants to modernize the ancient dishes. No matter what book is bought there will be a wealth of delicious and exotic dishes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Age Of Cheese

Age is everything when it comes to cheese. Time is what gives cheese its' flavor. It can also make or break a good wheel, turning into a dream or a nightmare.The ripening process is just as important to cheese as any other. However it is this process that's causing a price war among cheese makers.

This was the topic of Jeff Gordinier's article in today's New York Times Dining section. The process , also called affinage is the art of maturing or ripening cheese. This is done in a variety of ways, from being brushed to help the rind breathe properly to being flipped to evenly distribute the minerals. Sometimes affinage calls for the process of bathing in wine or brandy.Without it comes trouble. Cheddar can produce a sulphuric rotten egg smell if it's not aged accordingly. If there's too much humidity, then the rind can be overly thick.

There is another problem with affinage. Over pricing. It seems the longer a cheese ages the more expensive it will be on the market. some feel that a fancier approach to affinage is nothing more than a gimmick. Cheese can be ripened in a simple walk in freezer as opposed to the on site 'caves' that some cheesemakers have built. This last could just be simple cave like caverns in the basement of a fromagerie. Some such as Wisconsin cheese makers Mary and David Falk, have created their own warren in the Dairy State's hills. According to them this vastly improves the flavor. Water from artesian wells has trickled over it alogn with fresh country air wafting in. Others such as brothers Mateo and Andy Kehler have created "rent a cave" areas in Vermont, for local dairies to process homemade cheeses. Of course this means higher pricing for these cheeses. The question is are we paying for the taste or th e money that went into creating the perfect affinage environment.

All in all, a good cheese is one that has been fully ripened and without any blemish. How it's matured really doesn't matter. What matters is that cheese makers don't drive up the price with any unnecessary over the top aging techniques. Thats what will drive cheese lovers away and to the cheaper , less polished brands.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Teen Rebellion Healthy Food

There's always for something for teenagers to rebel against. It's in their nature. The latest battle is over the healthy food that's now being offered high school cafeterias across America. Kids refuse to eat the good for them stuff and instead go for the bad. For now Doritos and Coke are winning out.

Is it wise to ditch the healthy stuff? After all teens can basically eat anything and get away with it, right?. Yes and no. Some teens suffer from obesity and also the complications that go with it. Little ones as young as ten are now being diagnosed with high blood pressure and weight problems.It does start with eating habits. Luckily the younger they are the more acceptable to better choices. Teens not so much so. After all they still smoke and drink, despite those warnings. Eating healthy is just another concept to be laughed at.

Cafeterias are making great commitments to creating healthier menus. Most are losing all those red meat faves and in their stead serving more turkey and soy products,. Also gone are the fries and baked mac. School administrators are advocating steamed veggies and smoothies in place of these. Yet kids refuse to bite. They head straight to vending machines where all sorts of dietary horrors await them. Some reason why pay money for fruit when they can get it at home for free. The same goes for veggie snacks and dips. Teens would rather have an unhealthy lunch of Cheese Doodles and sodas followed by Twix bars and ice cream cones. They can get these at home for free as well. Why they don't give these up is a mystery.

High schoolers will always find something to rebel against. It's in their natures. Let's hope they buck this bad food trend and start eating healthy during their college years.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Fall Fave Pot Roast

Cold weather calls for hot and hearty meals. Pot roast fills that bill nicely, giving the cook an easy meal to make with the end result a rib sticking dish. Served with filling sides it can be the perfect meal on a chilly fall night.There's nothing like a tender slice of pot roast with braised veggies and dumplings to keep anyone warm and happy.

Pot roast is basically just braised beef.The meat is taken from the chuck or shoulder section of the cow and slow cooked. You can also buy the section with a bone in it. This is called seven bone pot roast or roast. Since both are very chewy and sinewy, they can't be oven roasted. This would render them hard to cut and chew. Braising breaks down the fibers using the Maillard reaction or caramelizing. First brown the meat using margarine on all four sides and then braise in water for two hours. Use bay leaf and marjoram as flavoring.

Pot roast goes well with its' own gravy. After the meat has cooked , reserve the juices and add a homemade roux to it for a lovely thick one. Dumplings are a must and these you can make light fluffy ones using Bisquick. A variation is having a side of buttered egg noodles.Many home cooks also simmer veggies in with the meat. Traditionally they are carrots and potatoes but you can also add tomatoes and button mushrooms as well as turnips or parsnips. The leftover meat and veggies can easily be can frozen and then microwaved later for another hearty meal. You can even throw in the dumplings and noodles too.

These chilly nights call for a nice, warm pot roast. Make one for an enjoyable family dinner. It's the perfect autumn dish, full of flavor and goodness.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Healthier Party Time

The school year has been in full swing for a month now and that means one thing: parties. Every little kids wants a party to outdo their class mates. The question is can you give your little darling something that' s not only tasty and fun but also healthy too? The answer is yes!

Kids can be fussy eaters, especially when you try to push something nutritious on them. If it's green its obscene is usually their rule.. However you can actually make your birthday honoree and guests like veggies. Cut up broccoli and cauliflowers into dippable pieces and also have pitted black olives along with grape tomatoes and carrot sticks. You can serve them with a fun ranch dressing or even an onion dip made from onion soup and plain Greek yogurt. Another idea is whipping up healthy sliders. Try quartering veggie or turkey burgers and serving them on whole wheat slider rolls. Slice up sweet potatoes julienne style and bake in your oven with some olive oil and sea salt for a great and crunchy side.

All birthday parties call for cake or cupcakes of some sort. What you can do to make the treats healthier is bake your own cakes using unbleached flour . Use the King Arthur brand which also has gluten free flour as well. You can create a variety of healthier sweets with them, including cookies, brownies and even candies.. As for icing, you'll still have to make one using confectioner's sugar . However the frosting becomes healthier with subbing in Greek yogurt for cream or butter.You can decorate not with sprinkles and chocolate chips but with raisins along with dried cranberries and blue berries.Another fun idea for the tween set are fruit kabobs, where you can alternate pineapple chunks with strawberries and bananas slices.

Your little one's birthday party can be both fun and nutritious. Ditch the salty, greasy stuff and bring in fresh veggies. End with a healthy cake with even healthier icing.It's a great way of celebrating not just another year but a year of eating right!