Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pig Wings The Newest Treat

The expression"When pigs fly" actually may have some truth to it. The latest craze now is pig wings. This tasty cut of meat is hitting restaurants and home kitchens right in time for the holidays. It's kind of like the pork version of chicken wings and just as addictive. People across the US are clamoring for this latest craze and with good reason. Pig wings are tasty.

This new treat was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. The piece, written by Dining section regular, John T. Edge, explains that that pig wings are nothing new. They're just a reinvented shank which is the fibula of the pig's back legs. These pieces have a part of chewy meat on them and they're small enough for fun eating. Traditionally they've been used to flavor soups and stews. Shanks have been cut from the ham before selling and were reprocessed into cold cuts and other products like hot dogs and sausages. Now that's all changing , thanks to a renaming. At first they were called slammers and then the cuter name pig wing was then settled on.

Pig wings are served like traditional chicken wings. They're usually battered and and then deep fried, served with a variety of dipping sauces, Like chicken wings , they can be hot and fiery or mild and crunchy, always having a side of cool ranch dressing and celery sticks. Celebrity chefs are jumping on this new phenomenon. Paula Deen has her own brand of pig shanks and she's selling them on QVC., the home shopping channel. Farmland Foods,a division of Smithfield which produces hams , is selling them as KC Pig Wings to chain restaurants. Some eateries are even putting them on sticks and serving them as Carnitas Lollipops. French restaurants are also picking up pig wings and giving them the fancier name of French pork confit.

Pig wings are becoming the latest craze to hit the American palate. They are exactly what people want, crunchy and flavorful along with just being fun. We'll definitely be seeing more of them in the months to come.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cake Pops Pop

There's a new treat phenomenon hitting restaurants and parties - cake pops. These fun yummy takes on classic lollipops are now easy to make. Once a domain for only gourmet bakers . they're now being created for something as simple as a family dessert or holiday party.

The treat is only a few years old and it's the first sweet that received its' buzz through social media. People gobbled up this idea of a fun cake that's not messy to eat and easy enough for little hands to hold and bite. Restaurants started making their version , first using cheese cake which can be scooped into small orbs using melon ballers. It was then used on regular cake and the next step was a cake ball maker. This last looks like a waffle iron except that it has a mold pocked like a golf ball's surface. Another lookalike section is put over that and then pops baked.

Like cupcakes, cake pops can be made in a variety of flavors using any cake mix. . Bakers can vary using marble and carrot mixes and even add a squirt of jam inside for a surprise. The cakes are them dipped in melted chocolate or frosted with a regular bought or homemade frosting. Luckily there are You Tube videos that help neophytes with icing their first batch. If you're making cake pops for the holidays think about attaching two balls together to form snowmen or even penguins. There are so many ways in which to present them for any holiday. They can be dipped in pastel white chocolate for Easter or frosted in orange to make cute pumpkin pops for Halloween.Cake pops also make great favors at showers and weddings too.

Cake pops are the latest craze that foodies are going wild over. Now they can be made as easily as cookies, thanks to pop makers. They're a fun spin on traditional cake and a perfect sweet for the upcoming holidays.

Monday, November 28, 2011

PBS Vs The Food Channel

PBS was the original food channel and its' shows opened the eyes of the American public . Fast forward to the Nineties where a fledgling food channel started to air its'own food based programming. Now both are neck in neck as to giving the public viewing audience cooking lessons and tips to create the perfect meal. Who is better though? That's the question.

PBS was and still is the classier station for cooking shows. After all it was the one who gave us the great Julia Child and Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet. It showed America that French cuisine is as easy to cook ans American and debunked a lot of myths. It continues to this day with the fabulous Jacques Pepin who still create amazing meals. America's Test Kitchen is another informative no nonsense program. Chris Kimball gives a dry and wry view as he tests out recipes and products. it is an excellent way of learning about the nuances of cooking. For a more low key and maternal cooking style there is Lidia Bastianich who also runs the famed Da Posto restaurant in New York.PBS also offers a kid's cooking show,Fizzy's Lunch Lab, where the little ones can create surprisingly sophisticated meals.

Thre Food Channel does offer chefs who give good advice. While the PBS ones are more reserved these are loud and in your face. (think of Charlie Rose vs Jay Leno or David Letterman).Ann Burell is interesting chef, and her advice cam be helpful. However she can be loud at times as some of th e other Food Channel faves such as Guy Fieri. He not only has his cooking half hour but also is the force behind Diners Drive Ins and Dives" a fun and informative half hour that shows off the best of America;' eateries. The channel also feature competitions which does appeal to certain crowds. Yes, they entertaining but do home chefs really learn from them?

What to watch? That;s a hard call. For information and education.I'd go to PBS. For just plain fun, then watch The Food Channel. In the end you will know a little bit more about how to cook and what to cook.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pecans Nuts For The Holidays

Pecans are the perfect nut for the holiday season. They're great in salads, main dishes and most appropriately in pie. These crunchy gems are easy to incorporate into any festive feast or just on their own as a snack.They have a rich earthy taste that works well with sweet or savory.

Pecans are a truly all American food, having been eaten by the Indians for centuries.It comes from the hickory tree (and that itself is named after the Indian word for pecan based alcohol powcohicora) and was found along waterways. It is indigenous to North America and it's the only tree that the Native Americans cultivated.The name derives from pacane, meaning a nut that be hit with a rock. Colonists fell in love with the easily shelled nut and it was a great favorite of both Washington and Jefferson. Pecans were one of the first cash crops coming out of New Orleans and it was a Southerner, Abner Landrum of South Carolina who grafted wild buds onto domesticated branches, producing one of the first commerical hybrids as early as 1822.

Pecans have been loved ever since. The most famous dish is , of course, the downright, sinful pecan pie. This is a recent creation brought to life by Karo Syrup in 1940 although it supposedly goes back to the 1600''s in Louisiana. However pecans make a neat addition to salads, bringing crunch and a butteriness to any creation from Caesar to Waldorf. You can also grind them up and use them as a coating for chicken or fish dishes. Pecan also work with vegetables. Try them with string beans instead of almonds or in a broccoli gratin for some crunch. They can also be added to pasta or risotto for texture and added flavor.

Pecans are a wonderful nut to have during the holiday season. Have them in the traditional pie or as part of dinner. They're just a delightful flavor and a great addition to any dish.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A New Spin On Leftovers

Most Americans have about half an eaten turkey along with a ton of sides and gravy left in their fridges. Leftovers are tasty. After all it's the reheating that gives most foods that extra oomph. However for people who find those extra morsels boring there is a solution.They can be creative with them.

There are million recipes for leftover turkey. A turkey tetrazzini is classic as is just a turkey sandwich. These are yummy but predictable. A newer spin would be creating a turkey salad incorporating yesterday's leftover salad (or new greens for a fresher bite). You can turn your rolls into croutons and add them for crunch. Also melt down the cranberry sauce and create a vinaigrette with it. Another turn on the classic is creating a sandwich with turkey sandwiched in between two stuffing squares and doused with leftover gravy.

What about those sides? Mashed potatoes are the easiest because you can do a lot with them. One of the tastiest is potato croquettes. Mix the leftover mash with breadcrumbs, eggs and parsley, roll into balls and fry. For added crunch coat them in breadcrumbs before frying. If you cooked just plain green beans and caulilfower then combine what's left into a salad. You canalso use the stuffing to create mini pot pies. Put turkey, gravy and veggies in little ramekins or crocks. Cover with the leftover stuffing and bake for a few minutes in a toaster oven. It's a great meal after a day of touch football or early X-Mas shopping.

Leftovers don't have to boring. Turn yesterday's dinner into interesting gourmet treats that are flavorful and unique. You won't have anything left by Sunday!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Wishes

To all my American readers at home or abroad, have a good an peaceful Thanksgiving. Eat as much as you can of your favorite foods. Count your blessings for having that food and a job to buy it. Also be thankful for those who made it or helped you make it. Be thankful for their time and consideration. Be thankful for having a varied diet that has important vitamins and minerals as well as being thankful for having three square meals a day.

Consider those who do not have what we have , whether on a local or global basis. Include them in your payers and pray that the upcoming season and year will be a good one for them.

Enjoy the day but also enjoy all the blessings and luck that have come your way. Say thanks for them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Feasting Well

Tomorrow is one of the biggest eating days of the year.It's a time to indulge in every favorite holiday food for almost an entire day. The question is can our stomach manage it?Is it right to eat three helpings of stuffing or four of turkey and green bean casserole? The answer is surprising.

This quandary was the entire topic of Jesse McKinley's article in today's New York Times Dining section. The writer even interviewed such food contest champs as Crazy Legs Conti. Mr. Conti has had his share of gluttony in the past. After all he is the country's reigning sweet corn eating champion. He wants "civilians" to go easy tomorrow and actually today as well. Don't spend today fasting. It'll only result in overeating tomorrow. Try little meals and a sensible breakfast instead. You'll eat the turkey dinner as if you were eating a regular meal then, with some moderation because you've already filled up earlier.

What about those calorie counters?Another group that has headaches with tomorrow's feast. Again Mr. Conti offers this suggestion : don't beat yourself up too much. People have a tendency to chastise themselves for overeating. The best bet is to let those feelings go and enjoy the meal. Another guilt free method is sticking to the lower calorie foods. Opt for celery sticks and crudites along with slices of plain turkey breast. Skip the usual gravy stuffing and anything with sweet potatoes and marshmallows.Also just drink seltzer which has zero calories or water.

In the end though you can indulge in as much as you want. The body does adjust according to doctors who were also interviewed. Gobble away on that pecan pie or turkey leg. You can walk away the calories the next day anyway during your Black Friday trip to the mall.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Juicy Bit Of Bird

What makes a turkey dinner memorable?. Not the gravy or the crispy skin(although that does help). It's not the bird's weight or how many it could feed. It's the meat. A good juicy slice of turkey is crucial to a perfect Thanksgiving dinner.The whole meal will be ruined if the meat has the texture of parchment. There are ways to combat this and have the best bird ever.

Turkey dries out because of overcooking. Mostly it's the white meat that loses moisture, namely the breasts.This part cooks almost too quickly while it takes the darker meat much longer. According to some cynics , this always happens and there's no way to have a perfectly cooked, juicy turkey. That's where they 're wrong. One of the best hints is to smear butter under the breast skin before cooking. It'll not only impart a yummy, buttery flavor but keep the meat moist for hours. Another way is brining it , or soaking it into a salt water bath overnight.A third method is tenting with aluminum foil for most of the roasting process. Take the foil off about three quarters of an hour before serving.

Suppose the worst happens? You can salvage the dried out meat. First slice it off the bones and then place the slices in a casserole dish. Add the drippings along with a can of chicken broth. Now cover the dish with tin foil and cook for five minutes at the same temp you used for cooking the entire bird. You'll have moist , juicy slices ready for your company.Another quick fix is a good dousing of gravy to combat the chewiness and toughness.

You can serve a juicy bird that's tasty and moist. It's in the manner of prepping that ensures a delicious turkey with tender meat. Choose what works for you and then go with it. You're bound to have a turkey that's juicy through and through.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crust Time

Baking a good pie crust is crucial to a successful holiday pie. The problem is that sometimes it doesn't work out and you wind up with a bad pie. How to avert this dilemma? Follow the recipe to the letter and you'll have a crust to be proud of.

The basic pie crust consists of flour, butter, a pinch of sugar, salt and cold water. You can sub in Crisco or a half and half for butter . The result is actually a more flakier and tender crust. What kind of flour to use? An all purpose kind is your best bet. Don't try Bisquick (unless it's one of their recipes taken from the Bisquick box or website). You can mix everything up in your food processor with the setting on pulse or do it old school. This requires using two knives and crisscrossing the flour and butter until it resembles peas. Gradually add ice water and then make a ball. Chill in the fridge for up til one hour. Raw pie dough can be left in the fridge for up to two days only.

The second most favorite crust is graham cracker. This is the best for a cold pie filling, such as pudding or ice cream . It just requires finely ground graham cracker crumbs mixed with sugar and melted margarine or butter. You can add cinnamon for added flavor. You can also sub in cinnamon graham crackers instead. For chocolate pudding or ice cream pies, use the chocolate flavored ones or better yet thin chocolate snaps. Reserve the crumbs for dusting on top of the pie too.

A perfect pie crust means a perfect pie. Even though it's simple to make, there still can be a few mistakes.Just be diligent and careful and you'll have a successful and great dessert!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turkey Day Check List

These next few days are going to be crucial shopping days for any home chef. You have to be prepared for not only Thursday's Thanksgiving feast but also for whatever disaster (and there will be some) that coes your way. How to handle all of this? Organize! It helps to have plans along with fall back solutions that will see you through the day.

The first step is to write an extensive list of what you'll need. Always include the basics such as turkey , potatoes, both Idaho and sweet, , bread for stuffing, vegetables and the makings of dessert. From there add the secondary foodstuffs, such as frozen rolls, seasonings , non alcoholic drinks and after dinner mints or nuts. Make sure your list also has foil roasting pans and disposable containers for leftovers and extras on it . Keep in mind your guests 'dietary restrictions and also what kids may like as well (such as chicken nuggets for fussy eaters and chocolate turkeys and cookies for dessert).

Once you have everything home, it's time to get out the recipes. Hopefully you've tried out the new ones at least once. If you haven't you have three days to do so. Also make sure you have all the necessary spices and other ingredients like flour and nuts for baking. Doing a trial run on your electric carving knife and meat slicer won't go amiss either. Check coffee urns too,not that they go on the fritz in the middle of dessert . Now is also a good time to air table linens or buy new ones if the old ones are ratty or torn.

Make sure your Thanksgiving runs smoothly without any glitches or mistakes. Be prepared when you shop and when you cook. It makes for a calm, stress free and enjoyable holiday cooking and dining experience.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Joy Of Japanese

There's nothing quite like Japanese food. It's a fun treat of textures melding with flavors and colors to create a different meal. The Japanese know how to blend simple ingredients to create just heavenly dishes. It's amazing how a few fried veggies can be turned into perfection.

After a long , dry spell I finally had the cuisine today! For me it's a welcome change from the usual Chinese and Italian lunches that I'm used to . What was even more fun is that it arrived in a bento box. The new local restaurant, Yama has brought authentic Japanese dishes and even dessert to my area. They have everything from the light but satisfying miso soup to teriyaki and tempura . What is even neat is that there is sushi included too. Their sushi bar has as much variety as larger Japanese restaurants, and their sushi chef can create both new and traditional rolls.

It was an absolute thrill to enjoy a crunchy tempura in a warmed soy teriyaki sauce . The light coating of panko breadcrumbs added instead of detracted as fried coatings often do. Another neat addition is adding broccoli to the mix which is delicious in tempura form.I also loved the fact that Yama gave veggie sushi rolls with the lunch. Again this was an added treat. It was chock full of carrots, avocado and cucumber. There was also a small salad with a special tomato dressing too.

Japanese food is always a fun treat. This local restaurant is a new favorite and I'm sure to be back soon. I'm looking forward to having their teriyaki and hibachi grilled dinners.

Yama is located on Main Street , Lodi New Jersey , 12 miles west of midtown Manhattan. Google or Bing for directions

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arizona's Food Controversy

Most states have some kind of state food. Ohio has barbecued pork. Massachusetts has - what else - Boston cream pie. Maine has blue crabs while Indiana has Indiana sweet cream pie. Now Arizona is getting into the mix by electing a food dear to its' natives hearts. The chimichanga. With it ,though, comes a controversy.

This was the subject of an article by Marc Lacey in yesterday's main section of the New York Times (not the Dining as you would suspect or think). It seems the tasty dish is the center of a huge fight over who created it. Carlotta Flores is claiming her great aunt Monica Flin first made it when the woman accidentally nudged a burrito into hot oil and let it fry. Others such as Sharon Johnson claims her dad, Woody, created the tasty dish back in 1946 . There there is the theory that the dish was originally another spin on a North Mexican dish chivechangas. The dish isn't found on authentic Mexican restaurants. It's sort of a hybrid food, kind of like th e Chinese American General Tso's chicken and Italian American garlic knots.

Chimichangas a re a part of Arizona culture however, like its' state tie , the bolo or its' state flower, the saguaro lily, along with its' official firearm, the Colt Revolver. Chimichangas are big in Mexican restaurants here in he States. It's a staple at Taco Bell However recently the dish, more or less a big fried burrito, has gone upscale. One restaurant El Charro in Phoenix is using lobster as a filling and it also offers fruit ones for dessert. Most just feature either beef , pork or chicken and few places do have a seafood one as well.

The controversy should be settled soon. Arizonans are eager to make this delicious dish their state one. It reflects their inventiveness along with its' rich Mexican culture as well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Turkey Day SOS

Next week is Thanksgiving and with it comes all sorts of problems. The bird got over roasted. The relatives got over toasted. The sides are boring. Or worse - under cooked. Not to worry .There solutions to all of these, thanks to today's New York Times Dining section.

This section has thankfully turned into any home chef's guide for the perfect Thanksgiving. Its' writers not only offer advice but also recipes . There is everything from ideas on making interesting sides to dealing with alcoholic family members. There are even some unusual questions such as can an entire Thanksgiving dinner be cooked on a stove top. (Yes, it can). Another one is how can chocolate be incorporated into the scene? (By painting a pecan pie crust with melted chocolate or whipping up a batch of homemade brownies instead of fruit pies.)

What I like about this issue is that it imagines every situation possible. After all Thanksgiving is the time when all things that go wrong do. This is te perfect answer to any T-Day SOS. Another plus is that Dining's section team of seasoned writers supply the answers. Everyone from Florence Fabricant to Eric Asimov to Jlia Moskin to Jeff Gordonier. I also like the fact it has alternative recipes too that can be made all year round. The recipes for the Thanksgiving sides can be used even on Christmas and Easter or just for a regular Sunday dinner.

Save today's Dining section for next week's serious round of cooking. It should be right at any chef' fingertips. It's the lifesaver to have to insure a perfect feast!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bath Time :Washing Veggies and Fruits

We've all been told early on to wash our produce as soon as we get it home. We're also told that keeping it damp and dewy is the best way to preserve it. There seems to be a debate about that.Is it OK to mist greens ?Or is it potentially dangerous? And what about the practice of constantly washing fruits and veggies? Don't the stores do that for us?

I ran across this reader question in today's Science section of The New York Times. The person writing in wondered if greengrocers were doing more harm than good in misting their produce. The answer was no. Misting is the best thing for any cut plant. Their roots usually carry water to them, bringing hydration to leaves and stems. Picked green s no longer have this vital system, so no, it is a good otherwise they will wilt and die. Contamination can occur rapidly too and that means bringing home spoiled greens.Once home ,greens should also be submerged in cold tap water for five to fifteen minutes. Afterwards they should be blotted dry with a paper towel,and then placed into plastic bags.

This also brought me to another thought. Are we just being overprotective when we wash fruits and veggies before eating?Or are we just being too over cautious? The answer is a resounding no! Bacteria can lurk anywhere on a plants mostly in leaves but sometimes can linger on the skins. Any one of these diseases. E coli,listeria( the beginnings of meningitis) and salmonella can be found. Remember when the salmonella outbreak in spinach occurred a few years ago? Then there was something similar that happened in a Wendy's in central New Jersey. Both were the result of inadequate washing. So wash. You can use just regular tap water although there are vinegar based sprays you can also use for more cleanliness.

Misting and washing are good for your produce. They not only keep them fresh but help protect you from some nasty bugs. Don't be afraid to give your fruits and veggies a bath. There's nothing wrong with a good dousing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Almighty Meatball

meatballs are just a fun food. They add zip and flavor to just plain spaghetti and sauce. They're great on sandwiches and even better at parties. Another plus is that you can create you own. They're open to interpretation and can be made with any kind of meat.

The dish has been around for centuries, starting with peacock meat being ground and then molded int fried balls in ancient Rome. Go forward a few centuries and meatballs as we know them start making their debut. For centuries , Southern Italians have made them marble size however that all changed when the recipe came to the States. They grew and some home cooks as well as restaurants offer grapefruit sized ones with their pastas.Traditional recipes call for a combo of veal pork and beef combined with breadcrumbs Parmesan cheese and garlic. You can vary it though and have to with more of the meat of your liking. Another idea is to sub in chicken or turkey meat for healthier low fat ones. Use the leftover meatballs and sauce for a nice hot sub sandwich the next day.

A fun party dish is Swedish meatballs. This has been around since the 1750s when Swedes first made them. Again they can be made with beef or pork . As a party dish they can be made handball sized and served on their own. As a hearty family dish they can be made with brown gravy and served with a side of mashed potatoes and lingenberries. You can also try making the Greek version, keftedes for your next holiday gathering. These are sort of similar to Swedish however they have mint added. For an entirely different spin go Chinese. Shanghai style pork balls are great steamed or fried and can be served with a scallion soy sauce.

Meatballs mean fun eating. You can have them the traditional way with spaghetti in a tasty marinara sauce or as party food whether it's , Swedish , Greek or Shanghai style. Either way you'll enjoy a tasty combo of meats and spices in bite sized perfection.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ancestral Foodies

Ever wonder what some of your ancestors ate? Did some dishes make it through the millenniums or fall by the culinary wayside? Did the Age of Exploration or a great migration factor into diets? You many be surprised at how some dishes changed and some stayed the same.

The Romans tended to be the most formal of the ancients . They had a set breakfast, lunch and dinner that most follow today. Breakfast was bread in watered down wine while lunch was something we could easily recognize and eat today - leftovers along with bread fruit and cheese. Supper varied with the classes. The poor would just have fresh vegetables with olive oil. The rich could indulge in all sorts of treats. Up north the Vikings had their own hearty menu. It consisted of whale and horseflesh but also preserved veggies and fruits. The last is an important part of the modern diet, whether it's from Norway Sweden,. Finland, Iceland or Denmark. They evne had a variation of lutefisk, but it invloved the basking or Greenland shark.

Further East the Chinese had the same rice and meat diet that's popular today, They were the first to really cultivate and some of their foods go back to 5500 BCE. The Northern tribes used sorghum and millet as well in their cooking. Meat was added for special occasions. The Chinese have always been associated with tea and no wonder. They were drinking it as early as 3330 BCE. Since meat was a rarity, ancient Chinese cooked with tofu or bean curd - and their dishes were similar to what is served today. There also were fortunate to have a variety of fruits and veggies such as lemons, apricots and cucumbers in their diets.

Our ancestors were foodies in their own right. They passed down some dishes and foods that we still use today. We may live in the modern age but our culinary traditions are rooted firmly in the past.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hearty Bowlfuls

Now that the weather is once again becoming crisper and nippier, it's time for a good bowl. Not that kind that involves nine pins but bowls of thick, nutritious goodness. Any dish that you can scoop into a big one is perfect, be it chowder, gumbo or stew. They make you feel warm and cozy, the perfect comfort foods on frosty nights.

Chowders are wonderful for any November lunch or dinner. Although it really isn't the season for seafood you can still make a hearty clam or shrimp one using frozen seafood.(although there are some fish stores that do sell freshly caught clams during this time). Corn chowder is another great chill chaser.It is easy to make along with being hearty and filling. You can add some thickly diced potato chunks along with bacon to make it rib sticking and more flavorful. Gumbos are another bowlful of substance and taste. Although they're a little more involved than chowders you can still create an easy one . Again seafood is the traditional way to go however there are also chicken varieties too that have just as much fire and punch.

The most traditional bowl dish is stew.Thanks to the crock pot, stews can be made early in the day and served piping hot at dinner time. The most traditional is lamb stew which can be slow cooked with a hint of sweetness for a North African vibe or with potato chunks and parsley for a more traditional Irish meal. Of course there is also beef stew along with chicken stew. Both call for creativity. For the beef you can add anything from ordinary ketchup to red wine to amp up the taste. For the chicken, think about a splash or white wine to eggplant to a dash of oregano. Serve both with regular or Midwestern dumplings instead of bread or rolls..

This is the season for warm hearty bowlfuls. They can come in the form of chowders, gumbos or stews . All are different yet all have the same goal, to drive away that November chill.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nut Time

This is the season for nuts.What's great about any one of them is that they're so versatile. You can have them in salads, sides or desserts. They're also good on their own, freshly cracked and right from the shell. No matter how you have them , nuts offer an earthiness, perfect for the fall and especially the Thanksgiving table.

This was the subject of Melissa Clark's article in yesterday's A Good Appetite column in The New York Times Dining section. In it, she explores one of the autumn's table's most loved and wanted food. Right now is th e time for three favored nuts, the walnut, the pecan and the chestnut. Walnuts are usually eaten alone (although they give salads a ice crunch) . You can buy them shelled or unshelled , although only four percent of th e nuts are actually sold in their shells. They can be kept up to a year. Ms. Clark gives a great relish recipe that has walnuts mixing with the tangy sweet tastes of pomegranate and orange.

The other nut featured is that Southern classic the pecan. These are plentiful this time of year thanks to that Thanksgiving Day standard pecan pie. Pecans on their own are fantastic, buttery and chewy. In the pie, they 're just heavenly, complimenting the praline type filling .The recipe featured is not pie but couscous, a different spin for sure. Chestnuts have always been a popular treat in November. They're usually eaten for All Soul's Day through out Catholic Europe. They should be scored with an X on top to let them steam out and roasted or toasted over an open fire. Ms Clark offers her dad's way which is slitting them around their circumference and then microwaving for forty seconds. I would prefer mine plain however she makes them as a filling for a tart or in stuffing.

Nuts are always vital to a fall table. No matter what type they are, they add flavor and crunch to both dimmer and dessert. They're also good on their own a s a toasty. tasty snack in front of a roaring fire.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

There's An App For That

Cooking especially holiday cooking can be stressful. First timers and seasoned cooks alike, can run into all types of disasters, especially when trying out a new recipe or cooking method. Not to worry, though. There's an app for whatever culinary problem you may have.

This was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. The piece, written by regular, Julia Moskin, tells of this modern day convenience. Having several cooking apps on your tablet is necessary these days and especially now with Thanksgiving Hanukkah and Christmas just around the corner. After all IPads and their ilk can go with you everywhere , in particular, to the grocery store. The recipe of choice is at your anything down. However for cooks who like tweaking recipes, there's also an app for that too , allowing for amounts to be changed or for ingredients to be added or deleted.

As with any app, cooking ones are plentiful. You could download Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals or Baking With Dorie. The apps are cheaper than a cookbook, with prices starting from free to $7.99/ Some, such as the Geometry of Pasta even have animation while the Cooking With Dorie has videos so bakers can learn the basic techniques.. However be warned with Cooking apps with video how tos can eat up a lot of memory so be careful with what you're downloading. Browse through them to decide what best suits your need. There is a free Thanksgiving dinner app that can easily work for Christmas and even Easter. If you're re into baking then just download one or two of those themed apps.

This is the season for any type of cooking disaster or problem. Invest in a few informative cooking apps to help you avert any snag. It'll make for smoother time in the kitchen along with tasty holiday dishes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Good Rub

A good rub is essential to any pork or beef rib. I brings out the flavor of th e meat along with imparting a crunchy , crisp coating. A rub also holds in the juices, making the meat moist and melt in your mouth yummy.You can buy rubs or better yet make your own. They're easy to create and store.

One of the best recipes is the Kansas City rub. This town knows ribs ; it lives by them so what the local chefs put on them has to be special . Their rub recipe is a blend of spicy and sweet.It's a mix of paprika , and brown sugar with chili and cayenne thown in for added heat. Onion powder along with garlic is also mixed in for extra flavor. Memphis, another town , known for its' excellent ribs has its' own variety of rub . It employs dried mustard and basil along with the requisite garlic and onion powders for zest and zing. Chicago,a city known both for its' amazing food and meats also has a rub recipe. Theirs is simliar to the other two but also has parsley added for a different, earthier flavor.

The Caribbean islands are known for their rubs too. These can be put on everything from chicken wings to even turkey, from steaks to ribs. A popular one is made with granulated garlic along with brown sugar and a different herb this time - thyme. It also has chili powder and sea salt for added crunch and extra taste.One island, Jamaica, is really the king of rubs. The island produces so many recipes, it's hard to choose which one is the best. Jerk a spicy dish and one of the most popular starts off with a rub that includes white sugar, and native spices such as cinnamon,. cloves and allspice. Of course there is chili powder and garlic to give it heat. Remember that most rubs last up to four to six months in storage. You can make them now and use them even in the Spring. They'll still be good.

Add a good homemade rub to your next batch of ribs for some fire and crunch. It'll turn ordinary ones into a special meal. Make any recipe or create your own for a unique flavor!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Much Ado About Food Trends

Trends rule our lives. Women gear their calendars by what's hot in the spring and fall. Techies of both sexes get excited over the latest I -something. Even foodies go completely gaga over what the experts and trendistas tell us to put into our mouths.The question is: is a food trend all the fuss?

I recently found this out when I tried macarons for the first time. Recently writing about them made me curious. When I spied them in one of my favorite New Jersey bakeries I had to get them. I wanted something sweet for a dessert later that evening. It was either them or home style oatmeal cookies. Of course the macarons won out. Let me preface by saying that this particular bakery is one of my favorites. I love their cupcakes . They're even better than the ones that are found in Magnolia Bakery . Their cookies are wonderful. I had anticipated that their stab into the newest sweet trend would be too. They were not what I thought they were going to be.. The chocolate ones were a bit gooey and reminded me of a brownie. The vanilla was better, redolent of almonds with a non traditional butter cream filling. So this is what all the fuss was about.

Maybe I 'm not used to them . I thought my first macarons were going to be heavenly. They were more leaden than what I imagined. Maybe another bakery would do them differently., create a lighter, crisper shell with a sinful filling.However that's the problem with food trends. There's so much hype about them . What's good? What isn't? It's kind of like the fuss about fashion.Platform shoes may look wonderful but in reality they hurt the calves and make walking cumbersome. The hype overwhelms and sugar coats the actual product sometimes.

What to do about foodie trends that make you scratch your head? Like any other trend, ride it out. In the end it's all about what makes you happy - not others.Listen to your taste buds - not the style makers.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Marriage of Good Tastes

When foods taste good they really taste good. Combine them with another delicious dish and - BOOM! - it's tremendous ! Both sides meld together to create something tasty. This is a perfect marriage - unlike some recent celebrity ones that didn't last.

Burgers on their own are great. However pair that delicious beefy taste with pizza toppings and you have something special. It's the combination of tangy, herb rich tomato sauce, soft, gooey cheese and a good quarter pounder all sandwiched between a bun. With it , there's no need for sides. A pizza burger is just flavorful on its' own. The same can be said of chili fries and chili dogs. Chili is tasty just as a main dish however over crispy fries or dogs, sheer bliss. It's a perfect melding of tastes and textures.Another good combo is chicken and pasta. Any chicken , whether breaded or grilled, is a great solo act however paired with spaghetti or linguine makes a filling and delicious dinner.

Desserts have always been the result of pairings. Look at chocolate fondue.It's the perfect blend of molten chocolate, with cake, marshmallows and fruits. Chocolate is also a brilliant foil for everything from pound cake to bacon nowadays.A chocolate ganache can go well with crispy tuile cookies or as a topping to a rich buttery pound cake. Caramel is another excellent go with. Apples and caramel are great together but the sweet can be used as a topping for ice cream , plain cakes and even puddings. Even caramel and chocolate together make a neat and fun couple.

Some marriages work, some go the wayside. When two stand out dishes are united, they create a new one that's even more tastier. It's a union that will stand the test of time and last forever.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Salisbury Steak - Simple But Hearty

Fall and especially November demand hearty dinners that stick to our ribs. What better than a Salisbury steak along with gravy and mashed potatoes. It's a meal that's easy to make plus the whole family will enjoy it. Salisbury steak is what every November dinner should be - satisfying and filling.

The dish was actually the creation of a Nineteenth Century doctor, James H. Salisbury who preached regularly about the benefits of chopped lean beef. He advocated eating a ground patty three types of day to prevent certain illnesses. In 1897 he came up with his "cure all' , ground meat suffused with eggs, breadcrumbs, onions and spices, pounded into patties and then fried. This could be served with other foods or strictly on it's own . In a way the Salisbury steak was a precursor of the hamburger although the Germans already had something along those lines.

Salisbury steak is one of the easiest meals to make. The original recipe hasn't changed since Dr. Salisbury invented it. It takes one to one and a half pounds of ground beef along with breadcrumbs,egg and onion soup. Mix these together and fry in a skillet. The sauce is easy. You can have just brown gravy premade or make up the one that usually goes with the dish. This consists of ketchup, water Worcester sauce and mustard along with flour and the onion soup. You can also spice up the recipe with chopped mushrooms and then serve with a mushroom gravy. A perfect side is homemade mashed potatoes but Salisbury steak also goes well with buttered egg noodles too.

Treat your family to Salibury steak for a good hearty meal. It's perfect during these chilly nights. It's simple , and fast to make , yet oh so good.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Macarons Dans Manhattan

New York City has always embraced the latest trends. From fashion to cars to food, the Big Apple takes a bite out of anything cutting edge. The same is true for sweets. Macarons, the latest import from France, is becoming the darling of society. They are now found everywhere, from the heart of the city to the boroughs.

The sweet Gallic treat was the subject of an article written in yesterday's New York Times Dining section,. in the $25 And Under column by Ligaya Mishan. A few words of clarification first. Macarons are not macaroons ,those drops of coconut that can be cookie or softball sized depending on the baker. Macarons are more delicate, being almond flavor in taste . They are usually filled with some sort of ganache or creme.also come in a variety of colors from Easter egg pastels to psychedelic brights. Ms. Mishan was able to test the best and the worst and came up with eight good macaron bakers in the New York City area. Here are some of them.

The most famous is Laduree on the Upper East Side. Theirs is obviously the best because this is a French patisserie with roots in France. The bakery was founded in 1862 in Paris and is also known for its' cakes and homemade chocolates. It is also credited with creating the macaron sandwich in the early 1900's. Now it creates sighs of pleasure from any enthusiast who bites into the eggshell like crust and chewy center. Another one to visit La Maison du Chocolat, again located on the Upper East Side. This is the perfect one for chocolate lovers.All their macarons are filled with chocolate ganache infused with pistachio, coffee and salted caramel. Other patisseries mentioned are Almondine in the trendy Park Slope section of Brooklyn and Little Oven at Long Island City, right across the East River. I am going to try La Maison du Macaron in Chelsea, a favorite neighborhood of mine. Theirs are supposedly sweeter than the average treat however they offer a variety of flavors including , fig, vanilla, Calvados and champagne.

If you're in Manhattan this holiday season, stop for that latest loved treat, the macaron. Experience a plate of them with strong coffee after a day of holiday shopping or just sight seeing. They are parfait -vraiment - during a crisp fall day in new York City.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Butcher Cometh

Years ago cooks went to specialty stores such as the green grocers, the butchers and even the ice man's to get their food stuffs . The advent of the supermarket changed all that. Butchers along with the rest of the individual food sellers disappeared, The days of not only getting a good chop of meat but friendly advice were gone. Until recently. Like anything retro, butchers are back in in a big way - with plenty of good meats and good suggestions.

This was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. The piece, written by Dining veteran, Florence Fabricant, tells of the return of the classic butcher shop.This new bunch of meat cutters offer what a supermarket can not - variety and help. An old fashioned shop can sell such rare finds as trotters , lambs neck and kidneys along with fresh oxtails. Some butchers even offer the more exotic rabbit and goat meats for the more adventurous cook and diner. Even better than the variety is the advice a seasoned butcher can give. He (or she) can tell a customer what to do with the cuts, along with what are the cheaper pieces of meat for those on a budget. Another plus is more free range meat. Veal is not white like the supermarket kind, , but pink thanks to the calves being raised on a more organic diet.

Restaurants are also jumping on this trend. A famed Manhattan eatery, Resto has a butcher shop attached to it , appropriately named Cannibal. After all if ,you like what you had, then you can go next door to get the same cut of meat to make at home. This ideait does make sense and saves cooks time . After all you dont' have to go looking all over your grocery's meat department. Just return to the restaurant and ask for what you had on your last visit. The meat also will be fresher along with being better in taste , texture and quality.

Butchers are making a comeback and no wonder. They hark back to an era when a cut of meat was an individual as a person. It was what good cooking and dining was all about. Luckily for both meat lovers and cooks, it's returning

NOTE: I made a mistake in yesterday's entry. November 1st is All Saint's Day - not All Soul's which is today. My apologies.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Soul Cakes

Today is All Soul's Day , a day reserved for remembering loved ones who have passed. Even though it is a solemn holy day it is celebrated. In Northern England and Scotland it is a day to go souling, or begging for something for those lost loved ones to eat.What is given out on this day? Everything from dried fruit to little cakes or soul cakes.

Begging for soul cakes goes back centuries. It's actually a precursor of Halloween when the poor or especially children would go knocking door to door, looking for something to eat. They were given these cakes and upon eating them say prayers for the giver's departed family. According to belief the souls would then be instantly released from Purgatory. They were also called harcakes in Lancashire and some other sections of Darbyshire . The Mexicans have something similar called Ppan de Muerto or bread of the dead. These are sweet buns that have bone decorations on them,. Usually a tear shaped piece such as an almond is also added to represent sadness. Soul cakes were also popularized in the song by the same name , first by Peter, Paul and Mary and most recently by Sting on his 2009 CD If On A Winter's Night .

There are recipes for these solemn treats. They're in the same family as a scone and have added dried fruits to them, along with allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Usually there are currants which are also put in the shape of across on top. There is also another recipe , redolent with saffron and egg yolk to give a yellowish cast. This could represent the dying autumn sun or the bonfires of the ancient Samhain or All Hallow's Eve when they were first made before Christianity hit Britain's shores. Soul cakes are made basically the same way as biscuits,kneaded lightly , cut out with a cookie cutter and then baked for only fifteen minutes until golden. Freshly baked soul cakes are served with wine as well according to tradition.

Soul cakes are an ancient and interesting way of celebrating loved ones who have passed. They represent Celtic ways and customs but also the solemnity of the passing of life and the seasons.
Bake them during these next few days as a sign of remembrance.