Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Super Bowl Prep Week

Just like the Giants and the Patriots , this is the week to prep for Sunday's big game. It's a time when loyal fans and foodies alike should be getting ready for their parties.Some items can be bought the day before, or day of. However it's best to get most of the ingredients on the days leading up to the Super Bowl.

If the party is themed then stock up on tablecloths and napkins in your team colors.In my area, which is Giants country, anything and everything blue from balloons to tablecloths is being gobbled up, .If you're getting paper tablecloths and napkins get two or three packs of them. Guests get messy, They spill and slop all over.It pays to have back up (along with extra sponges to wipe up any spills). Soda is another item to stock up on. There are some good sales this week and also if you are well stocked you don't have to go out mid game to buy more. Frozen foods can also be bought in the days ahead. If you have a freezer then use it. Buy your hors d' oeuvres and appetizers now . There will be more to choose from now on Sunday morning. Also stock up on desert and marinade  ingredients. You won't have time to on Saturday, if you plan on making the bulk of your party food then.

Of course if you're serving chicken wings or a London broil you can buy these closer to Sunday.Friday is a good day because it gives you time to  prepare the meats with marinades and spices . Any seafood should be bought  fresh on Sunday however because shrimp and crab are popular game dishes. Order it now to ensure you get them. Ditto for the veggie and fruit plates. However if you're making your own fruit plates , you can get the  produce fresh on early. Saturday or Sunday.

Even fans have to prep for the Super Bowl, just like their favorite teams. Start buying what you need for Sunday. Don't fumble and wait til the last minute. That results in hungry guests and shortages. Create a winning party by being prepared.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fridge Basics

No matter who you are you probably have some kind of food in your fridge. We all do .However do you have the right foods ?Some people just have the detritus of left over take out or cold cuts and store bought salads. In order to have a healthy lifestyle there are some basics you should have stock up on .

Every refrigerator should have basic  foodstuffs. This includes milk and eggs. These are the bases for many dishes plus you need them if you have kids.Another must have is either butter and/or margarine. These are used for every thing from cooking to spreads. Fresh produce is another fridge have to have. No matter what the season , always have some kind of tomatoes on hand. These  are great as a side with sandwiches for lunch or in a  side salad at dinner.You can include lettuce along with fresh crudites. This last can be used in everything , from stir fries or as a snack with a low cal dip.

What's next is up to the individual. Keep a small variety of cold cuts in the fridge for hot or cold  sandwiches if you want .Other extras include your choice of condiments  such as ketchup, mayo and mustard. Jams and jellies can also be stored  however don't cram up your shelves with a wide variety of these. Stick to just one or two flavors. If you want you can also store cheeses too . Sliced cheese is always good to keep around on hand. Pair it with bread to make quick grilled cheese sandwiches if you're pressed for time for a hot meal.

A well stocked fridge is one that has the basics. These everyday and simple food stuffs can be used in a variety of ways to make all sorts of dishes ,Make sure you have them handy. Your diet will benefit with having them at the ready.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cookie Party Interactive Baking

Cupcakes at the mall? Yes, these fun treats are even showing up next to department stores thanks to the latest pop up stand Cookie Party. Despite the name, the micro bakery serves some cool cakes along with other treats. Best of all they can even plan a party for your kids. Not many regular bakeries can do that but Cookie Party can.

Cookie Party is , like other bakeries, a family owned business, started in 2007 by Judy Pennetti and her two children , Dana and Anthony, who also help in the baking and managing. She cashed in on the concept of "mother's little helper" to create an interactive bakery at their East Hanover location . Here kids  bake and decorate their own creations along with having cake and pizza . Parents are not that far away,  relaxing in a separate room, enjoying  a big screen TV and Cookie Party treats.There's also a micro bakery in the Garden State Plaza as well as one at the ultimate kid's paradise, Times Square's Toys R Us.

The cupcakes I had were good - and kid perfect. The brownie nut  was just that but in cupcake form with a creamy, fudgy frosting.The sprinkle kind  was not only cute but also tasty. It was a simple vanilla with a fluffy butter cream topping. On my next trip I am definitely going to try their red velvet along with the tiramisu. There's cookies,of course, including the butter S spritzes which is the bakery' signature treat. Brightly colored butter cookies  and pecan cups are also featured as well as the Cookie Party's version of a Reese's peanut butter cup. This last is more like a ping pong ball sized  truffle . Cookie Party also makes regular cakes and cheese cakes too.

Cookie Party represents a new kind of interactive bakery. However it still makes thesame treats we've loved as kids as well as some spins on classics. It's not only fun but also unique.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Winter Party Food

Winter parties can be just as fun as summer ones. In fact they're even better thanks to hearty and rib sticking dishes. You can make a variety of them that brings your guests closer over the table. Even better, there's really little prep time,unlike summer barbecues.It's just throw everything into a pot, cook up and serve.

Chili is one of the best dishes to make for a crowd.It's a simple mix of tomato sauce , onions, beans and ground beef , chicken or turkey if you want to add meat.You can make it as hot or as mild as your guests want.The dish only takes an hour to make and again there's really very little prep time.You can also make polenta  the creamy Northern Italian cornmeal dish as a base or have broken cornbread squares instead. To make y our chili a little more fancier put out bowls of sour cream and shredded cheese  alogn with corn chips for for customizing.

Fondue is another fun winter party dish. Again it is a cinch to make and you can tailor it to fit your guests' tastes.A basic fondue involves Emmenthaler or Gruyere  cheese along with white wine , flour , garlic and lemon. What's extra fun  is that you make it right in front of your guests. There should be plenty of cut up chunks of baguettes or French  bread for guests to dip. A variation is the English Welsh rarebit which subs in strong English cheddar and Guinness stout for the Emmenthal and white wine. It's usually served with toast but you can try a loaf of whole grain or pumpernickel instread. Cut it into chunks and let your guests go wild with dipping.

Winter parties  are full of good communal food and friendly conversations. To chase the mid winter blues away throw one with a pot of something yummy as the centerpiece. Your guests will appreciate a warm bowl amongst friends

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Catches Of The Day

Homemade seafood dishes are always tricky to make. They can come out too oily or too dry. The meat is sometimes too tender and can turn to mush thanks to the wrong recipe. Luckily yesterday's New York Times Dining section helps with this situation. The two sections, City Kitchen and A Good Appetite tackle a crab salad and roasted fish. Thanks to these two gems, seafood novices can create perfect and delicious dishes.

Dave Tanis conquers crab salad in his City Kitchen column. Crab salad, is one of those throwbacks to Mid Century American cooking where it was made with huge dollops of mayo and lemon.It was then served on a bland leaf of iceberg lettuce with either a tomato or lemon wedge as decoration. Mr. Tanis updates it for the 21st Century. He first starts with Dungeness crab, perfect because it is the season for them on their native California coast. Instead of the traditional mayonnaise he starts with a double boiled dressing ,made with cream , egg yolks and lemon juice. He then adds olive oil and Dijon mustard for more flavor. This goes over a  salad of fresh lump crab along with the nontraditional Belgian endive, chicory , radicchio and arugula. The salad  is a perfect Sunday brunch dish or a Saturday luncheon with the girls one.

The next is from Melissa Clark, In her  A Good Appetite  column, she tackles roasted sea bass. She adds a spicy and fiery twist with lime salsa verde. Ms. Clark does offer very good advice on picking a good fish.Look it in the eye .If the eyes are cloudy and sunken, don't buy it .If they're clear and bright, it means the fish is a fresh catch and perfect for cooking. Also, although this sounds clicheish, the smell, is another important  factor  in purchasing it. Newly caught does not have an odor.There should be some kind of one however it should  be clean and saline smelling  and not fishy. Another good tip she offers is having the fishmonger lop off  the head if you or your guests are squeamish about dinner staring up at you. Each fish should weigh up to one and a half pounds as well. A  fish such as a sea bass should be roasted at 450 degrees for fifteen minutes tops.don;t over cook, because it'll result in a platter of dried. splintered meat.

Fish dishes are not difficult. In fact , they are easy to prepare and cook. Don't be afraid to try them and miss out on some truly delicious dining.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mormon Cooking

Thanks to Mitt Romney, the HBO show "Big Love" and the Broadway smash "The Book of Mormon" everyone kind of knows what Mormonism is about. Despite the fact that it was started only 170 years ago, it has a long and rich tradition of food. Church dinners go hand in hand with religious gatherings and practices.In fact Mormons may be lost without their Sunday suppers.

This was a fascinating article in today's New York Times Dining section. The piece, written, by regular Julia Moskin, explores a different side of the usual church supper casserole. Cooking is an integral part of the Mormon religion. In fact, its' founder , Joseph Smith, strongly encouraged healthy living (hence no caffeine or alcohol) and wanted church women to serve nutritious meals to their large families. It was little meat and much grain,Of course this reflected the area where they settled, Utah, which gave them plenty of wheat but few heads of cattle. This leads to both good cooking and comfort food. Mormon women are whizzes are creating hearty and tasty favorites, beloved by all.

One is sad sounding Funeral Potatoes, made for funeral repasts along with Christmas dinners.It's kind of a take on scalloped potatoes and is laden with baking  potatoes and sour cream.Modern Mormon cooks also add fancier ingredients  like cheddar and Gruyere cheese. The result tastes like one of those twice baked potatoes, creamy and cheesy, perfect for a winter day. Another LDS special is Green Jello which is lime Jello cubed and mixed with whipped cream and pineapple. It's another Sunday night staple. Mormons , young and old love this treat.

 We'll be hearing a lot about Mormonism if the GOP picks Mitt Romney and he does get into the White House. We'll probably be curious about all aspects of the religion. Their Sunday suppers are a big part of it and a possible trend of Mormon cooking.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nanoosh Exotic Healthiness

Mention Mediterranean cuisines  and people think of spaghetti or moussaka or even tapas. However the Eastern Mediterranean has produced healthy foods for two thousand or more years.- One of the stars is  hummus. Now this delicious and ancient dish is being the prominent player in Nanoosh restaurant  - a mini chain that's sweeping the New York City area.

I 'm lucky that the restaurant has a branch in my local mall. I had wanted to try it and today I had the rare chance to do such. To be honest I'm not a big hummus fan however this changed my view of it. I ordered the unusual chicken hummus which is a deep bowl filled with grilled chicken chunks over creamy fresh made chickpea mash. The hummus is made Israeli style without the usual garlic. It was still delicious and wonderful with the whole wheat pita bread served with it. There is olive oil along with other additions that can be added.I am planning on going back this weekend and would like to try the other variations. There is a mushroom and onions as well as sun dried tomatoes and a  red and green pepper mix. Another sort is made, again with meat, this time ground beef with onions, tahini and onions.

 Since the emphasis  is on healthy eating, Nanoosh also  has fresh made organic  salads and wraps, The soups are tomato, lentil and butternut squash.These are all natural without any preservatives - rare for restaurants that usually have to rely on prepackaged , overly salted mixes. Salads  are varied as well , using  everything from  the South American quinoa to the Mediterranean tuna and Greek salads. There are also wraps and these feature hummus along with extras, such as beef , chicken and eggs (!). Nanooshserves desserts too  These are  a yummy sounding organic yogurt loaf chocolate cake and rice pudding made with arborio rice.

Whether you're in Northern New Jersey or Manhattan  try Nanoosh for lunch for dinner. There are fresh made dishes made with good for you ingredients. It's a healthy spin on exotic Eastern
Mediterranean fare.

Nanoosh's locations are The Garden State Plaza Mall , Paranus New Jersey, and in New York City, 2012 Broadway at 68th and 69th Sts, Union Square, 111 University Place , between 12th and 13th Sts and Murray Hill, 173 Madison Ave, between 33rd and 34th Sts.

Go to Nanoosh.com for more info and to order online.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Impulse Shopping

Impulse shopping can be dangerous. That's how some wind up with luxury cars in their driveway or a luxe tennis bracelet in the jewelry box. Impulse shopping also applies to going to your local store. All those varieties and aromas get to us and we're hooked.We wind up buying food that will end in the garbage. The best bet is not to cave.Stay true to your shopping list.

To be honest it's hard not impulse buy when  you go to the grocery. I recentlydiscovered this while cleaning out my old fridge. It looked like a salute to pudding cups , some forgotten since the summer and long past their expiration date. I also realized I have a thing for jams too. Almost every flavor from raspberry to grape was there, Most of the jars only has a few scoops taken out of them. Cookies are another impulse buy that I have to curb. My baked goods drawer has three variations of Mallowmars.  What can I say?. I was lured in by the packaging and the fact that a couple of these are tasty. I then moved on to other treats, abandoning them .

How to curb impulse shopping? One, don't shop when 're hungry. You'll wind up buying everything that smells or looks good - which usually involves fattening foods. Two, don't cave to samples. Those free eats manufacturers set up are fun however don't feel obligated to buy the bags or packets. Thirdly, stick to your grocery list. Try not to veer off it, not matter how tempting those chips or ice cream sandwiches look; You may just eat one or two and then forget them within the week. If you do want to spring for a treat, think about getting a singular product like the Hostess or Entemann's treats. Also some groceries will elt you buy one donut or croissant from their bakery department.

Impulse shopping is bad. It's worse when it happens in your local grocery store. Try not to bend with it. Your stomach, health and wallet will be better off for it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow Food

This is the season for snow. The white stuff means days of staying in along with time outside, shoveling and playing. This is not the time for light fare.Snowy days and chilly temps mean hearty meals that will warm you down  to your toes. For those on a diet, not to worry .There are plenty of healthy , rib sticking dishes too.

Breakfast is one of the most important meals during a snowy day. Everyone functions better with a heartier  start. You can create taste scrambled eggs(or egg whites) along with omelets. Add some spinach and mushrooms or just cheese  for more flavor. Two nice sides are sausage patties and bacon.If you want healthier fare sub in soy or turkey versions of these. You can even create a satisfying breakfast sandwich .French toast is another good and hearty choice. It's easy to make and kids would love an extra treat on their day off. You can also have oatmeal or farina too. Serve your choices with endless cups of hot coffee or tea or better yet, homemade hot cocoa,. Lunch can be comfort food - and you'll need it to thaw out. healthy fare could include a vegetable or minestrone soup with a toasted sandwich. Better yet a happy waitress  - a more sumptuous version of a grilled cheese with the addition of tomatoes and bacon.

Dinner is going to be a family affair with everyone being home. Think about a communal dish such as spaghetti or stew with dumplings.. If you have corn meal , then use it for polenta. This Northern Italain fave is a great cold weather dinner choice , wonderful with steak or chicken strips. Serve it with either a tomato sauce or brown gravy for the beef. You can also make homemade pizza which again is a treat for the kids. for dessert try homemade brownies or cookies. A snow day is perfect for baking and it keeps the kids occupied. Have them make the night's dessert which can be perfect snacks later on.

A snow day is a good food day. Make healthy rib sticking meals that will keep everyone well fueled  for shoveling or playing in the snow. They'll both appreicate and enjoy it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Downton Dining

The PBS smash "Downton Abbey " has fans and foodies desiring true English fare. Anglophiles and those who just love a good soap opera are even creating Sunday night parties revolving around British country fare and high teas. Fine china along with toad in the hole, clotted cream and scones are being nibbled as the second season of this fascinating drama unfolds.

The manor is divided into two sections ,upstairs and down. If you identitfy with Lord and Lady Grantham, the manor's owners then you may want to think about a lovely tea . Even though the show is sown at 9 PM in most areas you can still serve an elegant tea (which is usually served at 4 PM). Small finger sandiwches are a must. These can have a variety of fillings such as the traditional cucumber and watercress to chicken salad. You can also make pastes using devilled chicken or ham mixed with mayonnaise . Scones are another tea favorite. If you can't buy them, then make your own. They are easy to whip up and bake and you can make different flavors to suit your guests' tastes. Remember that since this is an English tea have good strong British kinds. Early Grey and Lady Grey are strong and flavorful.Typhoo tea is another favorite. This is a British import and can be hard to come by.

The downstairs group ate pretty well too. The story takes place in Yorkshire where there is plenty of beef and cheese. Yorkshire pudding is the county's most famous dish and it's easy to make.It is basically a buttery popover that is eaten with roast beef and gravy.The batter is a mix of milk, eggs and flour along with the addition of the roast's drippings to give it flavor.Rhubarb is also popular  there and is found in several desserts. Since it's really not the season you can serve thich oat bread toast or Parkin laden with butter and rhubarb strawberry preserves. There are also pikelets, a flat crumpets that are split open and then toasted. They  can be served with another Yorkshire specialty, Wensleydale cheese. This last is a variation of blue cheese .If you have neither, then think English muffins seved warm with crunbled blue cheese on top.

Downton Abbey has captured America's hearts and palates. Whoever you like best, the complicated aristocracy  or the loveswept staff, enjoy their foods. Have tea or somehting heartier for more of a taste of England!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paula Deen And Her Controversy

Paula Deen is considered many things.To some she represents true American cooking . To others she vilifies the art. One thing she is  is honest. Recently this celebrity chef came out with her biggest secret .It will definitely affect her and her fans.

Ms.Deen's problem illness was the subject of an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Dining regular Julia Moskin explores the controversy regarding Ms. Deene's revelation of her having Type 2 diabetes.This affects the way the chef  cooks which has always been too sugary and buttery. Her meals are rich , concentrating more on taste than nutrition.Even rival chef , Anthony Bourdain has called her "the worst, most dangerous person on the Food Network." However having this condition may surprisingly be a blessing.

The great chef will have to change her way of cooking and her food choices. Southern cooking , by definition , is always deep fried and dangerous. Vegetables are rarely used and if they are , they''ve been drowned in rich sauces or batter fired. meats are no different . Desserts tend to be overly sweet and just plain lush. Ms. Deen will have to incorporate more steaming in her cooking as well as incorporating less sugar and salt and more herbs and spices.She may have to recommend ending meals with fresh fruits  as opposed to pies and layer cakes. it may be a restricted way of eating but one that is certainly beneficial.

Will her fans buy the new Paula Deen? Yes, if they're loyal followers. They may see her as an example of turning an unhealthy lifestyle around to a healthier, better one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Knives and Forks Optional

There's nothing quite so much fun as eating with your hands. In this country, it's usually frowned upon. However in other nations, it's actually encouraged.  It's a way of primally connecting with our food as well as connecting with others. There is more sharing, and  more social interaction once the knives - and forks are dropped.

This was the main idea behind Sarah Di Gregorio's article in today's New York Times' Dining section. She explores different cuisines and restaurants where knives and forks are taboo. Is it messy eating? Surprisingly no. People are more conscious when they eat with their hands.In fact,they're more civil. Some restaurants such as Culver City's A-Frame serves all their food, which is Hawaiian with a basket of utensils on the table. The chef , Roy Chou also thought of having finger bowls but decided against it. Diners were too neat.

Dining with one's hand sis nothing new.  East Indians have been doing it for centuries.However they do have different breads to use as scoops.There are the light and airy poppadums as well as the handy naan. The Middle Eastern pita bread is also based on this idea as well.It is used as a scoop as well as a base for meats and salads- sort of like a dish.Ethiopians also for go utensils. Instead they use  balls of dough called injera to pick up stews and sauces. Root veggies are pounded into a paste and used in Central American and East African cuisines where it is called fufu..

There is a kind of freedom in not using forks and knives. Diners become connected to their food  and companions in a primal way .It makes dinner different and even better.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Good Homemade Soup

With the temps being icy, it;s nice to come home to a bowl of homemade soup.There's nothing like a fresh made minestrone or tomato to ward off the chill. Another plus is that homemade soup is free of any chemicals and  high amounts of sodium, making it much more healthier fare. It's not only good for your spirit but also your body.

What do you need for homemade soup. Start off with a good stockpot. If you don't have one get a cast aluminum one, preferably a two quart pot. This allows you to make enough soup to have and then freeze for a few meals. Cheesecloth is another must. This allows you to strain out any seeds or pulp. Food processors  are another have to have for soup makers. You can also go old school with a blender as well.Use both of these  for pureeing veggies or beans .Doing such makes for a smoother creamier texture for your soup. You may want to buy a small strainer too if you're thinking of making your own soup.it gets rid of  any scum that may appear when you're creating the stock.

As for basic ingredients, it pays to have various homemade stocks.It's is labor intensive to make any stock however most can be made and frozen for up to three months.Beef stock does require roasting beef bones along with onions and carrots fir half an hour. Simmering it needs usually five hours. Chicken is also labor intensive as it requires two to three carcasses chopped up. Even something as easy as vegetable requires a lot of slicing and dicing however any work is worth it. The simplest is fish stock which takes about fifteen minutes to prep and 45 minutes to boil. As for adding other ingredients, ask yourself if you want to add whole cream or skinned milk, sea salt or regular salt. How healthy you make it is up to you .

A good homemade soup is  the best bet on a cold winter's day.It's soothing and tasty. Even better it was made with love and concern - something you can't get out of a can.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Summertime in The Snow

As much as winter dishes are hearty and satisfying, there's something about summertime cooking. It's lighter but also |more fun. In  some ways it's  also healthier too, with a plethora of veggies and fruits. What  to do if you're craving your warm weather faves?Make them.It's as easy to barbecue and make salads in January as it is in July.

Barbecued meat tastes great no matter what month you grill. Some supermarkets still sell briquettes however don't despair if you can;t find any. You or someone probably have some left over, if the kids haven't used them for a snowman. If there is absolutely none, use twigs and cut branches from your backyard. Fruit wood often imparts a sweet smoky taste that will enhance the meat. Also , if you haven't been regularly grilling, then thoroughly clean the grill and utensils you're going to use. You can still get the same cuts of meat you did in the summer. In fact grilled will be a nice change from roasted or baked.

What about those salads that everyone loves.Luckily grocers all over are always fully stocked. Granted, the tomatoes and corn aren't as nice as what we'd get during the summer but they'll suffice.You can also buy canned veggies and even fruit for different dishes. Summer faves such as potato and macaroni salads are easy to make because the ingredients  are always at hand. If you can't get fresh onions for the potato salad, use onion powder . For the macaroni that sometimes called for diced green and red peppers, then do a different spin by adding red pepper flakes. This give it a fiery twist that works well with barbecued ribs and  steaks.

If you;re craving your warm weather faves, then make then. Unless there's a blizzard outside you can still grill and barbecue. You can whip up your favorite salads too. It's easy having summertime in winter.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Luxury A Good Pork Roast

Every winter home chefs want to cook a meal that 's not only rib sticking but also tasty. One of the best bets for this is pork roast. It is a perfect for not only a Sunday dinner but also for the rest of the week as well. It is delicious and satisfying, a great chill chaser for these frigid days.

A pork roast could cone from a a variety of cuts. There are four options :,the shoulder ,the loin, the side and the leg.It's  up to you and your needs ot determine what's right. If you're a novice you may want to start with just a pork loin, Always make sure that the meat is a nice , healthy pink shade.If it's white or grey then the  meat may be a bit old. Stay  clear of this. Most home chefs prefer to buy from butchers however these days those are few and far between. Any local grocery store has some good cuts and also there is a wide variety to choose from. 

There is also a wide variety of pork roast recipes to choose from as well  Most cooks and even chefs prefer to season it for a highly savory taste. Spices to use are rosemary and garlic along with thyme and black pepper.Another way to go is a simple glaze over it try one that's a combo of Dijon mustard with brown sugar. Maple syrup or honey can also be used in a glaze.To cut the sweetness always throw in some mustard or garlic to cut it. You can also stuff your pork roast. A simple bread stuffing will suffice although many chefs prefer an apple based stuffing. This again gives the roast a nice sweet and spicy taste.

A pork roast is a perfect winter dish . Have it  any way for a great meal. The meat is always tender and succulent - a true treat on a chilly day

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tortellini:A Good Winter DIsh

Winter calls for comfort food and there's nothing more comforting than a good bowl of tortellini. These delicious stuffed pasta bites are good anyway you have them. Like other pastas they're easy to make whether for a family or a crowd. Also like pasta there are a variety of ways to serve them.

Tortellini's  origins have some variations. One involves an innkeeper who wanted to sneak a peek at one famous guest, Lucrezia Borgia. Since the room was only candlelit, he just saw her navel. Entranced, the innkeeper went back into his kitchen  to create a pasta celebrating it. Another, more fantastic story, is that  the innkeeper visited by the goddesses Venus and Jupiter. Again he went into raptures after spying on the goddess and seeing only Venus' belly button. A more plausible origin is that the pasta is modeled after the turtles that decorate Modena, the town that created it. There is also a larger variation called tortelloni.They are stuffed with veal, beef, cheese and sometimes spinach.

Whatever version you have, tortellini or tortelloni is best served in a plain chicken or beef broth. This is the perfect meal for a cold winter's night.You can vary the broth by adding Italian sausage if you have beef stock.The plain broth is the original way of eating it and what you will be served if you do go to Modena. However some Americans also serve the pasta with tomato sauce for a heartier fare. You can also serve them with a vodka sauce for variety or even just a simple butter one.. Some home chefs have even baked torteelini or tortelloni  casserole style.

Tortellini are the perfect dish for these chill winter days and nights. They enrich any stock , making it tastier and heartier. Try them with sauce and cheese for a more sturdier meal. Either way tortellini are a  delicious treat

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vegan In The USA

The USA is a diverse place where toleranace is strongly encouraged. However , that doesn;t apply to vegetarians. Go away from the trendy, coasts and you wond up in th e heart of meat country. America's interior is a place where ribs and burgers are taken just as seriously as football and hunting. This is great if you love juicy beef and pork, however it's a nightmare if you prefer your meat alive and cuddly.

This dilemma was the subject of an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.The piece, written , by A.G. Sulzberger, tells if her dilemma of being vegan in Kansas City , Missouri. As we all know she is in the heart of meat county where beef reigns supreme. She is  also in the Midwest where most meals, whether they be breakfast, lunch and  dinner begin and eat with some kind of animal protein. Some places  do pose a problem.After all a rib joint is not going to offer any soy products (although I'm sure vegans stay far away from these type of places)

Ms. Sulzberger gets creative about where to eat.She is lucky to have two good vegetarian restaurants in her home town, again rare but progressive for Kansas City.Most eateries, including the chain ones, offer tow ro three meatless choices as well. She has even encountered some stalemates here in the New York area. For good ,truly vegetable based fare.Ms.Sultzberger recommends Indian, Thai, Lebanese,Ethopian and even Venezeluan places She also gives advice . Bring  a jar of peanut butter with you if there'  is nothing on the menu to eat. Also consider just having any kind of potato which can sub in for meat.

,It is tough to be a vegan in this country. Yet there are options for those who shun meat.  It;s just a matter of researching and choosing the right restaurant that caters to vegetarian dining.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Preserving Prosecco's Elegance

Prosecco is one of those elegant Northern Italian wines. It is perfect at any soiree or wedding. It also holds its' own at a quiet Sunday brunch. Either way  it leaves a fruity , earthy taste that is not only delicious but also unique.It is also becoming an artesanal sparkling wine that has exclusive beginnings.

Prosecco was the subject of new writer Alan Tardi's article in today's New York Times Dining section.I had always thought the wine was from Piedmonte however most Prosecco vintages come from the lush Veneto region on the Adriatic.Here there are artesanal vineyards that produce the glera grape. This particular cultivar is known exclusively for producing both the  sparkling and nonsparkling types.There are also minor vineyards, smaller grape producing farms that provide ever so slight variations of this grape. Doing this give the wine the same kind of pedigree exclusive champagnes have.

Another factor in making Prosecco is the actual method of making it, Winemakers are trying the time honored refermentation  which is inducing the second fermentation with out any added sugar. This results in a dryer and yeastier version along with being more complexin flavor and texture.Also Prosecco is acquiring vintages too - usually unheard  of in the industry.  The winemakers are creating millesimato wines  which means they all come from the same year. In the past Proseccos have been a blend of two or three vintages

Prosecco has always been an elegant drink. However thanks to new ideas and time honored techniques it is becoming more exclusive and artesanal. Thanks to these it will be the wine of choice and much desired by connoisseurs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Spin On Sauce

There's nothing like a good sauce over any kind of pasta. However some home chefs get into the same rut and pour the usual over their spaghetti and ravioli. Tomato sauce is fine but variety adds more spice to the same old dishes. Tomatoes can  be used along with other veggies and ingredients. Sometimes all it takes it a new sauce to liven up a boring dish.

Tomatoes are fine for any pasta, whether it's for a baked dish like lasagna or freshly boiled like spaghetti or linguine. However think about adding other veggies such as porcini mushrooms , broccoli  and cauliflower, Instead of a thick sauce just have the olive oil and garlic that the veggies  were sauteed in. Another variation is having just one veggie. There's the famed cavatelli and broccoli . Both flavors play well off each other, with the broccoli's strong taste working  with the pasta's blandness. Another alternative is pesto. This Genoa based basil sauce can accentuate any pasta from meat ravioli to simple fettuccine or tagliatelle.It's a strong , acquired taste, however and usually made with fresh basil leaves.

Cream sauces are also good. The two most famous are carbonara and Alfredo, Both require cream or milk. The first was made by Italian charcoal workers hence the name, is a rich , hearty, almost decadent blend of peas ,bacon and eggs. It is an excellent sauce for winter dishes, Alfredo is somewhat similar however it has more cream and instead of eggs and meat, more Parmesan cheese in i,t Vodka, another lush sauce,  is a combo of cream and tomato with a cup of vodka and chopped prosciutto thrown in for flavor . Most cooks serve it over penne, however it's good over any meat ravioli or even tortellini.

Just as there are many types of pasta , there are just as many different sauces .Some require the traditional tomatoes. Some do not Make your pastas exciting by trying them instead of the tried and true. They'll put a different spin on favored dishes.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Puddings That Pop

With the new year comes new trends. The sweet that's literally flavor of the month is pudding. This old fashioned comfort food is making a comeback as people clamor for its' classic creaminess. There are even pudding restaurants that are popping up, featuring different pudding based dishes along with new and old flavors.

Go to Manhattan and you can find trendsetters slurping up a well homemade pudding alongside cupcakes and macarons. The East Village has just welcomed Puddin by Clio,a small dessert bar that features what else -  customized homemade puddings. According to the creator, Clio, Puddin whips up high quality puddings with top notch ingredients. There is dark chocolate with the chocolate coming from Iceland and butterscotch with real scotch thrown in. There is the rare coffee along with lemon too. The puddings are layered with whipped cream and fresh baked cakes and cookies.This create a homestyle parfait that keeps bringing in and satisfying customers.

Anyone , though, can create an exquisite pudding dish. There are some good recipes on the web. I found one site that offers the classics such as chocolate and vanilla as well as as the eggier custards. However it also offers a blackberry - perfect for the summer and a peanut butter one - great poured into a chocolate crumb pie crust. This last is made with only three ingredients - peanut butter ,bananas and yogurt.There is also a burnt sugar one that sounds  like flan. Of course there is the famed banana pudding which really isn't a pudding  - more of a refrigerator cake.

Puddings are going to be hot this year and maybe it's no surprise. As we become more techno, we crave the simplicity of the past. An easily made dessert is what we need. It's unfussy and comforting.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Wedding Of Fruit And Meat

Fruit and meat are usually served separately. After all a combo of fruit can go before or after as a salad or dessert.Meat is usually served separately. However you can combine the two to create tasty dishes. After all sweet always enhances savory and vice versa. Best of all there are so many combinations that can be created.

Appetizers comprised of fruit and meats have been around forever. After all there is the famed prosciutto and melon.  This is a wonderful play of the earthy , sweet melon against the saltiness of cured pork. There is also that Fifties styled hors d'ouevre, bacon wrapped pineapple. This is the ultimate combo of fruit complementing meat. The ultra sweet pineapple brings out the smokiness  of  the bacon and it results in a tasty bite. Figs can also be paired with bacon as well. For a different twist you can make kabobs alternating ham and pineapple cubes.

Of course salads and main courses can combine the two . There's nothing quite so tasty as an Oriental chicken salad brimming with grilled chicken breasts and tangerine wedges. Hard to believe it's low calorie because it tastes so sinful. Meat can be added to the fruit filled Waldorf salad too. For this add in some cubed ham which will work perfectly with the other ingredients of apples and walnuts. Fruit can also accompany the main dish as well. For centuries the Germans have been pairing apples and pork, Both flavors play off each other and meld together to form one truly delicious taste. It also helps that the fruit juices help tenderize the meat and break down the enzymes for easy digestion. Poultry can also be paired or even glazed with fruit hence duck l'orange and lemon chicken.

Combining meat and fruit creates the perfect taste whether for an appetizer or main meal. Both serve as a foil to the other  They each bring out the other's true flavors ,creating s savory sweet treat.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Olallieberries New Fruit To Try

Just when you think there's nothing new to try, something unusual pops up. That for me is the olallieberry. It's a fruit that's been around since the Thirties yet I've just discovered it. This cross between a loganberry and a blackberry can be used in various dessert dishes or just as a snack.

Olallieberries are a hybrid between a logan and a blackberry. First crossbred in 1935 by botanist,S.J. Harvey and the US Department of Agriculture the fruit was named after the Chinook word for berry. They were first tested in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California and grew like crazy in Oregon.It is sometimes called the marionberry or just marion. The nutritional value is the same as the blackberry which means they are high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. Like the other they are harvested in early  June to mid July. The plant is a bramble plant , meaning it has spiny thorns protecting the fruit.The taste is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry.

Oregonians have a field day  with the fruits during harvest time. There are olallieberry jams and preserves as well as baked goods.Since they're almost like blackberries they can be made into crisps,crumbles and pies. Some chefs and home cooks use them for a sauce. They're also good just plain with ice cream or whipped cream. Right now though you can only  buy the olallieberry in jam or syrup form on line. It would be good topping fresh baked biscuits or scones or on top of an English muffin.The syrup would be a welcome change from maple , topping everything from pancakes to French toast.

Make this the year to experiment with new foods. The olallieberry is one that you have to try. Get in preserve form now or wait til the harvest season to experience this truly interesting fruit.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scones:Savory And Sweet

Even though the holidays are over you can still bake. However turn away from all the cookies and think outside the cookie ja. Think scones. These English tea staples are not just for afternoon get togethers,washed down with a variety of teas. They can be made with a variety of different ingredients to accompany different dishes.

Melissa Clark explored the world of sweet and savory scones in yesterday's A Good Appetite column in The New York Times Dining section. She has experimented with both sweet and savory. Scones are not that tricky to make. The basic recipe is not unlike that of a biscuit.Instead of rounds however the dough is shaped into a pizza like round and then baked.It's then cut into wedges and served with butte, jam and/or clotted cream. Ms. Clark though has other ideas. She puts caramelized onions and caramel in hers. Such savory scones would go well sopping up a tasty beef stew or hearty vegetable soup, She also recommends another twist, with cheddar and jalapeno which would go well at the bottom of a chili bowl.

For those who like sweet scones, there are scores of recipes you can get from the Internet. Even the basic recipe can be tweaked with different additions.Most English recipes for them call for a handful of raisins or dried currants. You can also add dried cranberries for a different tang. Other toss in candied ginger for both spice and sugar. There are also pumpkin and blueberry scones as well. Lemon scones with a simple glaze icing are also popular and easy to bake.  For decadence stir in a few dark chocolate chips.

Scones are a wonderful addition to any winter meal. Have them warm with butter at a Sunday brunch or accompanying a thick, hearty stew. They're easy to make and bake. Bes tof all you can create different varieties , both savory and sweet.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A New Spin On Holiday Leftovers

Even though the holidays are history, there are still remnants of them around.. some people still have their lights and tree still up. some haven;t cashed in on their gift cards.Then there are the leftovers.There are Christmas turkeys and New Year's roasts still in the fridge. Luckily leftovers can be recycled into yummy dishes for the week.

This was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. The piece, written by Dining regular, Julia Moskin, gives advice as to what to do with what's left of your main course. Keep in mind that this is not just advice for holiday roasts. This can be applied to leftovers from a big Sunday dinner as well. The chefs she had interviewed say that any leftover meat, can be used over again in any dish. How to make it tasty combine it with raw meat to give it more flavor and juice. this can also help stretch dishes like meatloaf or even stews.

One dish mentioned is the particularly lush dish of veal Pojarski, this favorite of  Czar Nicholas I is chopped vela , mushrooms and butter and revamped into a kind of meatball.It is then stuck with a roasted bone so that it looks like a chop. Chefs add bacon , ham and duck livers, all leftovers. all three  created a tasty blend of cured cooked and raw meat. The classic leftover dish is meatballs and there are different varieties listed. Both chefs and home cooks feel these are the best way to use what's left.Ideas include  ham balls from the Midwest to the decadent steak , bacon and cheddar meatballs from Manhattan's famed The Meatball Shop.

If you have any holiday leftovers, don't despair. You can use them in a variety of ways, from decadent dishes to down home meals. you ben be creative and make your own recipe or stick with the tried and true.Anyway  you make your leftovers, they're sure to be as tasty as when they were first cooked.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fresh Starts

Now that the holidays are overi t;s time to start eating right.You don't have indulge in all those luscious baked goods and rich appetizers anymore. It's time to start thinking fresh - as in fresh produce. Even though it's winter you can still buy fresh fruit and veggies in your local supermarkets.There's a lot you can do with them too - .it;s not just boring salads but exciting meals followed by a variety of yummy desserts too.

Luckily thanks to importing you can still buy tomatoes which are great for a healthier pasta pomodoro sauce. Chop up a few of the plum types and then add to olive oil and garlic. Saute until the tomatoes are wilted and then pour over any whole wheat pasta. Ratatouille is another cold weather fave. This involves , again tomatoes but also eggplant and onions, The dish  can be served with the traditional French bread or for lighter fare , pita bread.Any Mexican meal can also be made with fresh veggies as well. Just nix the sour cream and use half the avocado for a lower calorie treat.

Of course everyone wants to add fruit for their New Year's diets. The problem is that eat it  plain every day and it becomes boring. Any kind of fruit can be jazzed up.If you really want to indulge yourself go for that banana split sans the ice cream. Just mix sliced strawberries and bananas together and add chocolate syrup along with zero calorie Cool Whip.Luckily Mexico has been sending us blueberries and blackberries. These are good again with Cool Whip, or layered in a parfait. If you're craving  a warm dish then heat any of the fruits in your microwave. Finish with a layer of Greek yogurt and granola to create a kind of good for you crumble

Eat fresh produce in the New Year's.Doing this will help you lose weight as well as getting doses of vitamins and antioxidants. Best of all you can use those fruits and veggies in delicious dishes that are rich in flavor - not in calories.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Food Trend 2012

Now that the New Year is here , it;s time to see what will be the top food trends in 2012.there will be a lot of them from  what yesterday's Daily News Eats section predicts.Some are actually very predictable, some are sort of a surprise. However for now there is no new breed of animal we'll be eating or new strain of fruit or veggie to go wild over.It seems the New Year looks to the past as to what we'll be chowing down on.

The Eats section  interviewed several New York City chefs and they more or less answered the same way/. Local foods will be the biggest trend, carrying over from 2011.Both Robert Newton of  Brooklyn';s Seersucker Street Canteen and Jason Hilbert of Gwynnett Street, also of Brooklyn both feel that local produce will figure heavily in both restaurant and home cooking. This makes sense given that almost every town, and section of  New York now has a farmer's market. This also means that there's a good return to preservative free cooking too. People can pick up fresh spinach and tomatoes  along with herbs and spices. Locavore cooking may also figure heavily in the return to home gardening. There may be more tomato and pepper plants sold as there will be fruit tree saplings.

Another trend is once again taken from 2011 and that is comfort food.,In fact the  number one comfort food that may be the must have is the simple grill cheese sandwich. Daniel Holzman of  .Meatball Shop predicts that this gooey treat will be making the rounds of some of the best restaurants. Another trend is more sustainable seafood and a huge interest in seafood dishes. This last makes sense because , unlike beef and poultry, fish have  the necessary Omega threes along.It's also lower in fat and cholesterol. Another chef,Dan Silverman of Manhattan's The Standard Grill predicts North African and Moroccan cuisine will be hot. Thanks to the international coverage of the events of Arab Africa, more people are curious about the Arab lifestyles and what foods they make and eat.

The year has just begun however the trends are starting up. There will probably be a few new ones with each season. Like any other trend , food trends come and go. The ones mentioned may be hot, They may simply be predictions. It's hard to say.The year is brand new yet.