Saturday, June 30, 2012

Don't Cook That - Eat it Raw

Why cook when you can eat your food raw? That's the philosophy of some chefs especially those who don't want to heat up a kitchen duyring these sweltering days. Surprsingly enough you can  eat  just about anything without it having been near a stove. There are all sorts of dishes that benefit with just being eaten fresh - in fact there's more flavor to them

Sushi is one of the most famous raw dishes in the world. Eating this Japanese staple is now a worldwide occurrence with more people putting aside their fears of downing uncooked seafood.They love the taste and the slippery cold feeling of raw, just sliced  tuna and eel.along with the brininess of  fresh seaweed wrappers. People go mad for almost every kind and practically gobble it down without much thought of any side effects. Long before sushi made it;s debut here Americans were slurping down raw oysters and clams. These have been relatively safe to eat , especially with local waters being cleaned up.. Nothing beats a bucket of clams and a few beers at any beachside bar.

What about eating other "raw foods"? Steak tartare which does elicit a certain amount of squeamishness from some although it  is perfectly all right to eat.As long as the meat is from a clean and sanitized butcher as well as being pre ordered it's fine.It has to to come from the cow's sirloin, tenderloin and T-bone areas. It's them mixed with a raw egg- again perfectly OK and seasoned with fresh chopped onion and spices. Carpaccio, is  a cousin to steak tartare and is now popular in many Italian restuarants across the world. It is sliced raw beef dressed with a creamy olive oil viniagrette and made at Venice's famed Harry's Bar by none other than its equally famed owner Giuseppe Cipriani.

This summer ditch the stove and have any of these raw dishes. They're  fine  and maybe even a little bit rebellious to eat a dish without being cooked. Just think of it as a new,cooler  way to eat during a heat wave

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Sweet Summer Sherry

Summer is the time for seafood followed by an amazing white wine.Yet why not add a different twist and go with sherry. It's the perfect compliment to shellfish and fish and the way to do it is with a rich , sweet sherry . Seafood calls for a sweet, earthy accompanyment and that  fits the bill.

Eric Asimov explored Spanish sherries during a trip to Iberia  in his Pour column in New York Times Dining the other day. Sherry was created here  in the town of Jerez(hence the name). Although it does have old fashioned connotations the drink is a wine,being the ideal mate to any grilled meat.Most people usually have a  small glass of either fino or manzanilla in a cocktail as a before dinner aperitif. Sherry manufacturers such as Eduardo Ojeda of the Grupo Estevez wants a new generation to appreciate sherry and see it as the wine it is.

That said, beginners should look for sherries that have a rich amber color , almost a smoky caramel hue,It should be bone dry  and have a nutty taste like almonds. A good sherry should be smooth going down and should highlight the taste of  any meal from roast boar (a popular go with in  Iberia) or risotto.The best usually cost between $35 and $150  and of the more famous brands is Barbadillo.Affectionados also like El Maestro Sierra , Emilio Hidalgo and Valdespino. For your seafood dinner try something that is sec and will compliment anything from lobster to grilled shrimp.

Summer seafood is delicious. Bring out its' briny taste with a good sherry There are many to choose from  and any will be good as a compliment to the season's catch of the day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Surprise Ingredient Roses!

Summer is the time for roses. They grace our gardens with their delicate blooms and  sweet perfumes,However those beautiful buds can also be used in dessert as well and not just decorating cakes and cupcakes. Their essence can add a certain gourmet quality to an ordinary summer tart..

t was the highlight of Melissa Clark's A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. .Adding roses or any flower to food is nothing new.It was first done and was a huge success in medieval times and really became a chef's must during both the Renaissance and the 18th Century. Some Middle Eastern dessert recipes, especially Syrian and Armenian ones feature rose water in their puddings and baklavas. Nowadays flowers are used to spruce up salads and they're mostly begonias and sparklers(which look like snapdragons).

Ms. Clark uses the petals in a strawberry topped tart's cream filling. She simmers them with milk to extract their essence and then lets them stand for an hour. The best roses to use are th e most fragrant such as cabbage roses or American Beauties. A tea rose would be too delicate to try in this. The petals are then discarded and the liquid is added to a rich custardy mix of five egg yolks and whole milk along with flour. It's a surprise she doesn't use whole cream to make it really rich but the milk does work. She places the mixture in a almond cookie crust and tops with fresh strawberries. The flavors form the rose to the almonds to the berries work perfectly together.

Roses are not just for gracing a summer garden. They can grace the flavor of a delicate and delicious summer tart with their sweet , rich essence. The blooms are a perfect addition to any light summer dessert, giving it a rich and unusual flavor.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vegas Dining

Most people will visit Las Vegas this summer - not for the gambling but for the .dining. It seems Sin |City is not known just for The Strip but for its' strips of fine beef along with top quality restaurants and chefs. The question is is Las Vegas dining as good as eating in LA, Chicago or even New York?

This was the question in two articles in todays New York Times Dining section. The respective pieces were written by the great Julian Moskin and newcomer Adam Nagourney. Ms. Moskin covers the new food book that features Vegas restaurants. The eateries form casino hot spots to trendy food trucks are rated by the unholy yet trendy trio of Al Mancini, John Curtis and Max Jacobson, They , especially Mancini have tasted and tried most of the hottest and newest foods trending in Sin City these days. The book is entitled "Eating Las Vegas:The 50 Essential restaurant" It's a must have for anyone who will be visiting the city  this summer.

Mr . Nagourney's article concerns itself with one particular neighborhood restaurant,Blue Ribbon Sushi, that branched itself out to the Strip, He laments that it went a little too Vegas. What used to be a great sushi place wirh reasonable prices went monster once it hit Casino Row, He finds that restauranteurs change their menus as soon as  they go Vegas to attract the high rollers. The food has to be cooked flamboyantly and offer a lot . This is done in order to grab in people who would rather spend their money on roulette wheels or cheesy entertainment venues,A restaurant has to outdo itself in order to survive. However , like anything else that hits Sin City it loses its' soul and integrity.

Las Vegas Dining is a big deal. People visiting there this summer should have at least one great restaurant experience. Howe4ver be warned for those vising branches of their favorite eateries , there's going to be a change  .They'll be big and showy  - much like the city itself.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sticking To A Summer Diet

It's hard to stick to a diet and surprisingly it's worse in the summer. Why? We usually surrounded by fresh fruit and veggies. Yet our favorite places from beach to carnival are full of sweet or fatty treats. They're sometimes worse than all those wintry holiday foods. Luckily we do have all that fresh warm weather produce to counter balance those "bad" but  fun summer foods.

If you do have a bad week of splurging, then go straight back to healthy eating . All that summer food is fun and meant to be . Carry that idea to your diet to make all those good foods more attractive. Kabobs are always fun and you can have them fresh or grilled. A popular mix would be a low cal mozzarella, tomatoes, onions and peppers chunks interlaced on a skewer r . You can also add celery and carrot slices for color and crunch. A grilled skewer is also fun and tasty. Here you can add low cal meats such as shrimp or chicken chunks along with the veggies for a yummy dinner. Want fun sliders like what you'd get at out door movies? Try turkey burgers with turkey bacon for a healthier spin on the classic drive in  nibble. Serve with baked french fries or sweet potato fries.

The summer is full of sweet treats like boardwalk fudge and candy apples. These can add inches to any bikini waistline . If you really crave a boardwalk sweet then go for chocolate covered strawberries. You can buy these or make them at home. Use farm fresh strawberries and dark chocolate. The combo is chock full of Vitamin C and and antioxidants .They're sinful while being good Another treat is farm fresh peaches -not with fattening cream but with creamy good for you Greek yogurt.Slice up one or two peaches and mix with the  yogurt for a delicious dessert. Sprinkle on ginger for some bite  if you want.Another treat is fresh fruit juice over shaved ice.This is better than any Sno Cone or Italian ice.

Summer foods can be fun however make sure they're also healthy. Take advantage of the season and incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into your diet. You'll not only stick to it, you 'll look forward to eating these good for you treats instead of the carnival and boardwalk ones!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Taste It's A Cultural Thing

Ever wonder why certain foods stay within certain cultures and why some are internationally loved It's all a matter of taste. Particular flavors can be like a second skin to a certain ethnicity while it can be repulsive to others. It's what you're used to - what a part of you like your culinary DNA.

This phenomena happened recently when I dined at the home of Greek friends. Greek soups always have a huge dose of lemon juice in them. If you're not used to this , it can make the soup taste - well off. It was hard for me to enjoy what normally is a universal standard, chicken broth with beaten egg and some veggies thrown in. Lemon to me works with any seafood or even chicken. Soup, especially chicken doesn;t need that extra punch, It took a while for me to really enjoy my bowl. I could not refuse it . That would have been a slap in the face to my host who is a good cook,In situations such as that one the best bet is to eat some and try to enjoy it.

Cultural food faux pas take place anywhere and everywhere, especially if you have a cadre of foreign born friends or colleagues.I found in talking to my Chinese students their hatred of Mexican food ("too smelly and too spicy") according to one girl) to American candies which they have always declared as too sugary. The Chinese are not into sweets as much as the Americans. They , like some Europeans, prefer ending a meal with fruit on snacking on fresh berries or cut melon chunks.However once they're here for a few years then they start getting a taste for everything Yankee, especially fast food and gooey ice cream treats.

Taste really is a cultural phenomena. Your food likes and dislikes comes down to where you were raised and the foods you were given as a child.What one group may adore another may detest.It;s just a part of the many ethnicity's that not only make up our world but our gastronomy as well.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

New Slaw Laws

Summer is the time for all sorts of salads. The best and probably most beloved is cole slaw,  shredded green cabbage heaped with mayo and various herbs and spices. Yet there is a change in the air. Cole slaw is not that boring relic from mid century American picnics,. In fact's its' being shaken up and tossed in the forefront of American barbecue fare.

Traditional cole slaw is made with shredded cabbage, mayo, vinegar along with sugar to bring out the cabbage's sweetness, This is fine if you want to have a classic picnic or outdoor grill dinner. After all it does make a wonderful side to any burger or ribs. Some people add shredded carrot to give a boost of color, Amp up the flavor with adding chopped cilantro or even freshly picked shredded mint leaves.Another idea is tossing in a tablespoon of celery seeds or dried tarragon. This imparts a mellow flavor and compliments the cabbage quite well.

Of course there's mixing up the recipe completely. Instead of using green cabbage try red. You can then make a tangy vinaigrette dressing instead of going the traditional mayo route. Again toss in cilantro for bite but sweeten it with honey or maple syrup in the oil and vinegar mix. Try a  sliced or chopped red onion to give the slaw more depth,Many use red cabbage in an Asian style slaw that includes ginger and scallions along with sesame oil and fresh hot ginger. Brown sugar is also thrown in to soothe down the fieriness. This is the perfect side to ribs or even a juicy fire grilled steak.

Cole slaw is the classic American barbecue or picnic side. Amp it up a bit by going wild with the ingredients. A new version of slaw will add zing to your outdoor eating!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pouch Generation

There may be a whole generation of up and coming foodies that have been weaned on a pouch, Yes a pouch instead of a bottle. Little ones today are now clamoring for them thanks to parents who don't want to be bothered with jars or cooking toddler food themselves.

This was the topic of an article in yesterday's New York Times Home section which is usually reserved for decorating gardening and remodeling. (why it was in there and not Wednesday's Dining section is a mystery to me). The piece written by by father and user of the pouch "diet" is Matt Richter tells of baby food classics are being squeezed  into pouches. These are good for  both tots and parents. The containers can easily fit into a little one's tiny hands and can be sucked on like a sippy cup. Parents love them because they're easy to tote and they don't create as much mess an an opened jar of baby food.

How is the food though?? There are so many different varieties and they;re all chock full of nutrition. Standard brands like Gerber and privately owned artisanal Plum Organics. The flavors are toddler friendly with such blends as  banana blueberry and peach mango.. Some have the extra boost of veggies such as spinach and carrots added in.As for the mushiness - kids love the squishiness better than sometimes hard to manage veggie and fruit bits. That's how Plum Organics started when co founders Neil Grimmer and his wife Tana Johnson  noticed their daughters not eating their fruit pieces. The girls liked the food better when the food was pureed and easily slurped down.

As for Mr Richter? it seems his daughter , Mirabel is going to be part of this new pouch generation, She already likes her food squishy and easily gulpable. Does it say  alot  for this upcoming generation of foodies. It sure does. There may be a time when dim sum and chateau Briand may be pulverized and served in a pouch!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Elegant Nashville Eating

Southern eating is usually reserved to fried chicken and grits, especially in the quintessential town of Nashville.. However that city is changing its' culinary habits. Thanks to local chefs, the city is becoming a gourmet mecca, Food is changing however it still maintains its' Southern flair.

This was the topic of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. It was written by regular Kin Severson. She sampled the various dishes and went to some of the hipster restaurants too. After all Nashville is also a music city , attracting celebs like native Sheryl Crow and newcomer Nicole Kidman and her husband , country singer Keith Urban,, Some of the food is artisanal, being reminiscent of what's happening in Brooklyn's foodie scene,Chefs are making their own chocolate and curing their own meats, This gives dishes a homemade yet gourmet flavor.

Some of the stars on the Nashville scene are Mas Taco Por favor. This Mexican favorite started in 2008 out of a Winnebago - no less. Its' soup is famed around town  It''s a smooth blend  of chicken and lime and has attracted a cult following in Music City. The restaurant's carnitas are also very good , being a blend of fresh beef and spices. Nashville's gem, The Catbird Seat has a national following and has been featured in many food magazines.It is known for its' unusual concept of having a large table where chefs come out and serve dish after dish. There is a beef tartare that is made with burnt bread crumbs and juniper. The eggs come sous-vide and yogurt dishes are infused with sweet hay.

Nashville has long been known as the country's music capitol. Now it's being known for its' food as well. It's fine country dining with a sophisticated twist.

Taco Bell's Meets Doritos

Everyone loves Taco Bell and Doritos. Imagine combining the two for a tastier meal or snack. Well, that's exactly what Taco Bell has done. The result is an interesting blend of fresh veggies mixed with that spicy flavor we all know so well.

This was the subject of an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section by William Grimes. He decided to try the newest concoction by one of America's leading fast food chains. His findings? So so. The shell may be very good but the fillings are just basic fast food stuffings. The tomatoes are not good while the sour cream was dismal.At least the beef was flavorful as it often is with any Taco Bell product along with the shredded cheddar which was pronounced sharp. Maybe if would be better with a chicken version.A cool ranch version is in the works

As with any Taco Bell product, the Doritos flavored taco is low in calorie (as well a sin price .it;s a cheap $1.49 .Despite all the different ingredients in it it still only 170 calories. This is much less than its' in house competitor, the Doritos Loco supreme, a weighteir version of it. It has 200 calories. Still compared to what other fast food chains are giving out, Taco Bell is still the healthiest. There's not that much grease, fat or carbs to deal with. Also the flavor is a lot betterand dosn''t have an aftertaste.The doritis spicigns will amp up the food a bit and probably garner more fans

There's nothing like the spice of a Doritos and the tastiness of a taco. Taco Bell has managed to combine the two into a tasty treat for the'sa  fine blend of a popular snack food and a well loved fast food.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Foods For A Summer Cold And Virus

Colds and viruses really don;t have a seasonal agenda. They come whether it''s ten degrees and snowy or ninety degrees and balmy. However the comfort foods that work in winter can be a pain to make in the summer. What to do? Reformulate the recipe so that it 's easy to make during sweltering days.

Soup is a must when you don;t feel well. Of course, you can open a can and heat it up which is the easy way to make this sick day classic. You can also just make an easy broth  with just a bouillon cube with water. Add egg for some protein or mild veggies such as carrots and celery for more flavor. Throw in some bread crumbs to make the Piemontese specialty pompeist . Another add in is orzo or tubetini, the tiny beadlike pasta.

Summer sickness means avoiding all those barbecue sauce laden meats and mayo drenched sides. If you;re up to it, think about a grilled chicken on just plain, buttered toast. Even a plain hamburger can be good for its; protein.Just don;t load it up with special sauce or pickles along with onions that might be too strong.Kabobs are a fun way to tempt a flagging appetite. These are perfect nibbles when all you feel like is just small bites. As for salads stick to just a regular garden one that has tomatoes and olives in it, Too much of raw veggies such as broccoli or cauliflower may upset an already roiled stomach.Keep the dressings light. Try a vinaigrette instead of a creamy and dense Russian, French or Thousand Island kind.

Colds and viruses come no matter what the season. They're worse in summer when the eating is fun and there are plenty of good food. Keep it simple to get through this rough period.Light meals are the way to go during a summer cold or virus.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cooking With Herbs

This is the season for herbs. They're everywhere and one of the best things about summer cooking. They amp up the flavor from salads to even desserts. Many home chefs are somewhat afraid of using them . There are some tips to handling herbs and in creating successful dishes.

One of the first steps in cooking herbs is preparing them. Cut what you need to from your garden and wash thoroughly. There may be some dirt or bugs still on them. If you're picking them early in the day, place the newly washed ones on a damp paper towel and store in your fridge until you're ready to cook with them.Herbs can also be frozen for future use too,This required a brief bath in boiling hot water  until the leaves turn a bright green,.Cool by holding them under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Freeze either in freezer bags or in empty ice cube trays.

There's a certain order to cooking with herbs as well.Some stronger herbs such as basil and sage should be added in the beginning of the cooking process so that their flavors will mellow with cooking. Milder tasting ones such as dill should be added in the last minutes of cooking because their flavor will fade during the entire heating process. Different herbs will give different spins to dishes. If you want a flavorful tomato sauce for example use rosemary and oregano. If you want it to zing, then think about bay leaves. A light sauce will be delicate with dill and powerful with sage. Experiment , if you're new to the herb scene. Find out what you and your family like.

Cooking with herbs is a great way to amp up any dish. Know what you're cooking with to get great flavor and new tastes. It's easy and fun.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dad Food

With Father’s Day tomorrow Dad deserves that special cuisine know as guy food. This ain’t your mom’s frilly watercress sandwich. This is hearty , meaty and artery clogging grub. Yet it’s the perfect fare for celebrating any dad - especially one who loves to eat - and all the wrong things too.

A good guy grub dinner is usually anything flame broiled (read charred and sometimes burned). There’s nothing like a juicy steak or ribs. Most men either like their grilled grub plain with just a sprinkling of salt and pepper or with a fiery hot sauce.. The same applies to ribs although there’s nothing like them with a tangy sauce . You can make one using bourbon whiskey (what else?) This involves tomato paste, ketchup and molasses along with liquid smoke for heat. It also has the bourbon along with apple cider vinegar for bite.Burgers are also a must but make them man sized using a quarter pound of beef. Make it juicier by putting a ball of garlic or onion butter in the center of each patty.

Men will not eat salads . That;s just a fact. The best side is a baked potato. These can be decadent with a ton of butter and sour cream heaped on them or diet with just a sprinkling of dried herbs. For hungrier dads, melted cheddar plain or mixed with chili is another potato topping that’s both hearty and tasty. As for dessert think cupcakes made with stout or beer.(There are several recipes you can download on the web) along with a liquor loaded icing. For more taste sprinkle bacon bits on top. This should satisfy any sweet tooth.

Let dad eat what he wants for his special day. There’s nothing like a big juicy steak or bacon burnger washed down with beer. Followed by more beer battered cup0 cakes.Give him a decadent meal of man food . He’ll think it’s the best gift ever!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Know Your Herbs

Summer gardens and markets are full of herbs right now.There are all sorts, each with a unique and distinctive flavor. Each can be used in summer cooking and barbecuing , give meats and vegetable the extra oomph. Because there are so many novice cooks can become confused. Know what you;re cooking and grilling with to avoid a disaster.

Right now gardens are full of basil and dill along with rosemary and thyme. Basil is one of the most important summer time herbs.It's a very strong, almost medicinal taste. It's good ground into a pesto or scattered on a Margherita pizza. Basil leaves are one of the top components in a tomato salad, bringing out the tomatoes' sweetness. However it can be too strong for chicken or fish. For those you want to add fresh or freshly dried oregano.It's also a basic component for Italian style dressing as is its' companion rosemary. Rosemary is excellent on any and every meat and it brings out the smoky flavor of any barbecued chop.Thyme can be used in everything from meat dishes such as  T bone steak or Cornish hen or gracing an outdoor baked focaccio or even biscuits.

The sweeter flavored herbs such as fennel, anise, and dill are also great in summer cooking. Fennel alone is  wonderful chopped and served in a vinaigrette.You can try it this way as a refreshing side to grilled lamb or spicy beef or chicken kabobs however it great French style gracing any fish dish,There is even a fish and fennel stew. Anise is another herb that can be widely used in summer cooking. Try it with a grilled pork roast  to bring out the meat's honeyed can also be used to give simple salads a lift up. If you want a more subtle flavor then sprinkle dill. It is  phenomenal mixed with sour cream and then poured over cold, sliced cucumbers.Dill can also be added to beet salad as well.

Summer herbs can amp up the taste of any barbecue and salad.Use them correctly though for great tasting and memorable outdoor dishes. They 'll become part of your warm weather cooking tradition.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hip Gin

Can gin ever be hip?Or trendy? New York Times Dining writer Eric Asimov does. He expands his weekly Pour column to defend one of the most traditional liquors. Along with fellow Times writer Julia Moskin, he defends this sometimes maligned drink. In his revelations he finds that it is now trendy and on the verge of being rediscovered by young hipsters.

Gin itself has had somewhat of a bad reputation for the last two centuries. Originally created by a 17th Century Dutch doctor to cure stomach problems it fell into abuse a century later. Gin became the drink of choice amongst England's poor working class.It was finally accepted by the upper class after genteel companies like Beefeater and Boodles started to manufacture it. However there were bad connotations like gin soaked and bathtub gin to also deal with in the 20th Century. Nowadays most people prefer their drinks, especially summer ones mixed with the drink's rival vodka.

This is all changing. Gin is starting to be made by smaller distilleries, thus the drink is getting a taste makeover. Juniper is the main ingredient in it and different blends of botanicals and fruits are being added to give each distillery's type unique flavors, different from each other.Mr. Asimov predicts that some distilleries may take a crack at the Dutch classic genever, a form of gin , which has a malty edge to it.The best gins according to him and Ms. Moskin are still the standards:Beefeater,Tanqueray and Plymouth. These are better straight or mixed with juices, other liquors and seltzers. Smaller distilleries seem to produce gins that are not quite up to par or try too hard to make something amazing. Yet these do sell.

Looking for a hip drink? Try a punch or a gin fix  made with that classic gin. It's a refreshing departure  ye tit also harks back to another time when gin and tonics or a gin fizz ruled the summer cocktail party.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pimms A Summer English Classic

The English know how to celebrate summer. There are breezy afternoon teas, along with outdoor cocktail parties.Their food and , especially their drinks are classic with a twist of elegance. This applies to that British standard Pimms. Surprisingly enough a new generation of Americans are discovering this warm weather must and they're enjoying it as much as they're enjoying anything British from ColdPlay to Kate Middleton.

The tasty libation was the subject of an article in today's New york Times Dining section. Usually devoted to food, this week's section was almost completely devoted to summer drinking. Pimms is one of those warm weather classic drinks , held beloved on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The piece's writer , Robert Simonson, explores the drinks history and different recipes. Pimms was started in  1823 by Englishman James Pimm, a Kentish farmer who opened an oyster bar in London. It was originally made for aiding in digestion. The recipe included quinine and a variety of different bitter herbs.The Number one is based on gin and has a mild spicy and citrus-y flavor that appeals to everyone.

Pimms usually is usually mixed with lemonade for the summer months. It can also be mixed with ginger ale or Champagne for a lighter but more powerful cocktail. Vegetables such as cucumbers and borage and fruit such as apples, strawberries and orange and lemons are also put into a Pimms cup.A new recipe, introduced by Manhattan bartender,Maks Pazuniak adds pineapple juice to it for a more tropical flavor while the bar The Napoleon House  mixes the drink with lemonade and 7 UP.Pimms can also be blended with watermelon or even cantaloupe juice for a refreshing cocktail, perfect on a warm summer's night.,

The British know how to celebrate summer right with a Pimm's cocktail. Open a bottle, add what you want and celebrate with the same English flair and style. It's a cool and sophisticated way to enjoy the warm weather.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Natural Ices

This is the time of year for sweet cool, treats. Ice cream and Popsicles are great yet they can be too sweet, Not only that their ingredients may not be  healthy. A better alternative is homemade Italian ice. You know that's it's fresh and full of good stuff because you made it. Not only that you can have fun creating your own flavors too.

Ices can be like the smooth creamy Italian style or crunchy and textured like the Hawaiian kind. Either is a cool relief on a hot day. Italian ice is made using fresh fruit that has been pureed with unsweetened apple and lemon juice .It is then pored into trays or pans and allowed to set for one and a half to two hours.It is then whisked with an electric beater until creamy. For all natural ice, used fresh picked fruits of the season. Try strawberry or blueberry for ices with dense rich flavors. Try fresh, pureed peaches for a lighter fare. For more exotic flavors add some fresh picked mint or basil for a different spin. For zing, add some ginger bits.

Italian shaved ice is another type of ice that is genuinely refreshing on a hot June day. Shaved ice or Sno cone ice just requires ice cubes . Here you can go the extra mile and freeze spring water for a really healthy treat. (you can also buy or freeze a block of ice but this will require an ice shaver). Put small batches of the cubes into the blender and ground. The pieces should be no bigger than bread crumbs ideally. Flavor with juices from your juicer. A good one is a berry mix using fresh strawberries and blue berries. You can also make a tasty dark blackberry one. Again peaches and nectarine juice, right from your juice are also flavorful. Even toss in the left over mashed pulp if you want to, too.

There's nothing like a cool ice on a hot  late spring or early summer's day .Make one that is not only soothing but also super healthy. It's  great way of beating the heating and adding more vitamins and minerals to your warm weather diet.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Father's Day Gifts

Father's Day shopping is easy if dad is a foodie. There's everything from cookbooks to grilling tools to gadgets. If he's into any kind of cooking then gift giving is a  breeze.Plus there's the hope that he'll use his present to create a tasty dinner or dessert for the family.

Some men swear by cookbooks and there's always a new one coming out. A fun idea is presenting dad with one that features a cuisine he likes but has yet to cook. If he loves Japanese, then get him a book on it .If he loves a good take out pizza then consider getting him a book that concentrates solely on pies. Add some extras such as utensils that help in making the dish or ingredients such as seaweed for sushi or truffle oil for making pizza or pasta sauces. A basket of gourmet ingredients is also an exciting gift. These can be bought as separate items to be put into a basket or as a basket at some gourmet stores or sites.

Grilling is always a big activity for fathers. A new grill is a great way of  expressing love and gratitude. The best ones have such extras as burners and even infrared rotisseries for chickens and Cornihs hensThis is perfect for the meat eater who loves outdoor cooking and the taste of anything smoky and grilled. There are smaller grills too that are great to tote on camping or beach trips or even out to the park. Barbecues demand rubs and marinades . Many stores from Williams and Sonoma to your local grocery sell these and again these would be an ideal gift for the grilling dad. A set of brushes or various sized tongs are also neat Father's Day gifts that would go well with abrand new grill.

A foodie dad is one of the easiest people to shop for.  Let them enjoy their day with a  fun cookbook or even an expensive barbecue grill. There are so many ideas out there. Any one is always the correct one for a father who loves food and preparing it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

An Old Fashioned Cocktail Party

Summer is the time for parties, usually barbecues. Yet if you want to have a bit of Mad Men fun why not throw a warm weather cocktail party. These were big back in the day when it was exciting to have mixed drinks and nibble with a bit if gossip or flirtation thrown in. They can still be entertaining with the right drinks and hors oeuvres.

A cocktail party should have a wide variety of liquor along with different kinds of juices, sodas and seltzers. If you want something a bit more elegant then add champagne. You can make fruity mimosas (orange juice and champagne) or just have plain , chilled bubbly. For a more tropical treat add some pineapple and apricot juice. Mid Century cocktails such as the daiquiri - a fave of Ernie  Hemingway is made with lime juice, sugar and rum. Rum can be used in another 1950's classic rum and Coke. For true traditionalists whip up  the Old Fashioned which is whiskey, simple syrup and bitters. Of course the Cosmopolitan is hot thanks to Sex and The City fans. This are always a big crowd pleaser as are Margaritas and Bloody Mary's too.

Finger food is the perfect fare for a party of this type. Think little bites such as mini quiches or tiny crab cakes with different dipping sauces. Another easy but elegant hor d' oeuvre is crostini served with either tomatoes or roasted peppers. This is so easy to make. Take a loaf of either crusty French or Italian bread , slice wafer thin and top with the veggies. You can also layer carpaccio on them as well. Also have a variety of  olives, black , green and the tart Greek kalamata ones. Cups full of sea salted  almonds, peanuts and cashews along with walnuts are also fun nibbles that go well with a wide variety of drinks. Mini quiches and even mini baked macs with bacon are other cocktail party treats.Finish  off with a dessert of meringues, petit fours  or small fruit or nut tarts and a strong coffee for the ride home.

Summer means parties. Why not have a return to elegance with a cocktail party? It's a step up from the usual barbecue and a bit more fun for all.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Healthy Pets Healthy Diets

For Panther who's enjoying his tuna and milk now in Heaven

We worry about our family's diets and what they eat. However we should also be concerned about what our cats and dogs are eating too. Just like so much of our food animal companion foods are also processed. This can cause a lot of problems, from simple obesity to various forms of cancer. It pays to give them a good healthy diet from early on. They'll live longer and be healthier.

Pet food is mostly processed and not always made from the best ingredients. There are petrochemicals added for color so that the food will be appealing to us. We buy cat and dog food according to the commercials or ads we've seen. We like the fact that our companions food are feline and canine versions of ours. However the big pet food companies (you can guess who they are) put everything from egg noodles to cheese flavoring as fillers and flavorings. Also some brands do have eggs which are good for glossy coats, however they also have egg shells in them which can get stuck in an animal's delicate intestinal tracts. There's also corn oil added as well along with offal (those gross innards we usually don't eat),

You can either go natural or add supplements to your cat's and dogs diets. Natural eating means shopping at smaller, privately owned pet shops. These offer boutique brands that are made almost by hand. They have the same flavors that regular pet foods have such as salmon , turkey and tuna for cats and chicken and lamb for dogs. However these also have the addition of wholesome grains such as brown rice and fruits  and vegetables such as antioxidant rich blueberries and beta carotene rich carrots. You can also give dogs and cats the same supplements we take. Mix a few drops of flaxseed and/or Omega 3 fish oil in their foods. This prevents or stops any cancer along with giving them healthier skins and glossier coats

Our animal companions are a vital part of our family dynamic. Give them the same good food and supplements you would give yourself. A healthy diet means a long healthy life for you all

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Green Season

Now that summer is more or less officially here, it's time to take advantage of the produce of the season. Both Dave Tanis and Melissa Clark have done just this. Their respective columns City Kitchen and A Good Appetite in yesterday's New York Times Dining section reflect the produce now being sold at farm stands and farmer's markets throughout the country.

Dave Tanis celebrates the season with green gnocchi. The famed Northern Italian dumplings are usually a winter dish served with tomato sauce . However he mixes them up with a green pea sauce. Made with fresh spring peas sage, leeks along with garlic and Pecorino cheese,It's basically a sage butter sauce, with the sweetness of the peas and sharpness of the leeks. He also includes the recipe for homemade gnocchi which are easily made with Yukon Gold potatoes. These have some oomph to them thanks to Mr , Tanis adding nutmeg and garlic to them.

Of course he can also try the gnocchi with a garlicky salsa verde (which probably is often served in Northern Italy) that Melissa Clark made for her A Good Appetite column, Right now is green garlic season and she writes about it.Unlike regular garlic, they look more like leeks and sold in bunches. It can be used at any stage. The  stalks can be made like scallions and are good in soups dips and dressings The more mature cloves are great in anything from sauces to studding roasts. It works well in the fresh and verdant tasting salsa verde which Ms Clark uses as a sauce for seared pork chops. This can also be used for chicken, beef, fish or even a crusty toasted Italian or French bread.

This is the season for fresh green produce. These recipes prove it with fresh green peas and green garlic. Try these recipes or make up your own with these good greens of the season

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Forbidden Foie Gras

Can a state ban certain foods? Surprisingly yes ,as in the case of California versus pate lovers. The Golden State is getting more animal friendly by banning the delicacy, elating animal and geese lovers and enraging foie gras enthusiasts. It makes for a not so pretty stand off.

This was the topic of an article and debate in today's New York Times Dining section. The piece, written by newcomer Jesse McKinley, tells of the battle that is waging.As of July 1st of this year the delicacy will be banned . The bill, drafted by former California legislator, John Burton  likens the  centuries old practice to water boarding and female genital mutilation along with medieval torture. Animal rights activists are ecstatic over this. Chefs and gourmets are fighting it despite the fact they have less than three weeks to push for an overturn.It will not be easy. The Humane Society of the United States is also pulling for more protection of other animals such as calves, chickens, hens and cattle. Our dietary habits may change for the better because of this. Already New York and Hawaii are thinking of similar foie gras bans too.

In the meantime chefs are making lush "last meals" using the liver.There will be sumptuous dishes served at various restaurants throughout the state. A restaurant in the famed posh town of Pebble Beach offers a seven course meal  with all the courses revolving around foie gras. It costs $200 and does have a lot of pate enthusiasts lining up for it, Goose liver is a very versatile medium to work with. Chefs like the fact that they can saute it, along with serving hot or cold.It' has a butter soft texture and can be easily molded into different shapes. Most cooks use it in sauces. Of course duck liver can be used in its' place as many chefs are already doing such. However duck liver doesn't have the smooth taste or silky creaminess that the other has.

Will other states forbid this delicacy. Much to the chagrin of gourmets and gourmands, it is leaning that way. Yet it saves the geese - which is a big plus. Besides the liver is too rich anyway,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Proper Jubilee Tea

 England and its' commonwealths are having a massive tea party thanks to Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her Diamond Jubilee.Anglophiles here can also celebrate with their own afternoon socials. Teas can have both savory and sweet dishes , all washed down with a variety of teas from around the world.

The most important part of any tea party is the tea. Any strong flavorful one is good. Earl Gray is a nice one.It's strong yet it doesn't have an aftertaste and won't cancel out the flavor of the food. Lady Gray is also a wonderful has an mild orange taste that goes well with both sandwiches and tea cakes. Since England had her Empire all over the world you can also add Chinese tea or the spicy Indian chai.Chai is basically just black tea steeped with cinnamon cardamon clove and ginger. Tea can also be iced if it's ah hot day  or made into a punch by adding seltzer and fruit. Toss in some sliced oranges, lemons or strawberries for a nice flavor. For a different punch add sliced limes or any other berry such as black or blue.

Teas usually have sandwiches and small cakes. The Windsors have a tendency to like chicken and their teas probably feature poultry. A light yet yummy sandwich is either whole wheat or white toast spread  with a chicken salad.It can be made with either deviled or freshly grilled sliced into pieces.A sprinkle of tarragon gives it a delicate herbal taste A variation can be made with deviled ham with celery seeds. Of course the most loved tea sandwich is watercress. Lightly butter small slices of bread and put three or four watercress leaves on them. Sweets are a nice ending to a tea. Try petit fours or the ever popular macaron. Nix the cupcakes because they're too American. Try smaller cakes that can be cut into wafer thin slices.

England is celebrating sixty years of a remarkable reign by a remarkable woman. Celebrate with them with a proper tea. Bring forth the tea pot along with cakes and sandwiches and cheer Elizabeth!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Viva Le Food Cart

If any of you New York or LA foodies are heading to Paris this summer you may be in for a surprise. American style food carts are now being seen along the rues and outside des parcs. This can be a good thing for a homesick Yank dying for comfort food. It will also be a break from all that fancy French fare.

Julia Moskin, usually a Wednesday Dining section contributor , wrote this for the main section of today's New  York Times. She interviews two American cart owners who are bringing both east and West Coast foods to the city where gourmet dining was born. Young Parisians , like their New York  counterparts, are swooning over a cuisine named "tres Brooklyn} (or very Brooklyn). However the burger is anything but that. The bun is actually a Tunesian Ramadan bread complete with sesame seeds on top. Croissants and even brioches are just not right for a patty. The beef has additional fat mixed in because French ground meat is devoid of it. Even chic Parisians are downing the treats, eating with their hands - something they rarely do.

California is also represented. Taco trucks are being seen and the Mexican fast food is being taken to heart by the curious French, They're even embracing the food's spiciness. Heat is rare in any Gallic dish . Chipotles along with habneras  are being eaten with the same gusto as pomme frites and croque Monsieurs.Street fare , however is nothing new in Paris, There have been pizza and crepe trucks around the city along with Moroccan merguez sausages, spicy treats that are cooked on griddles and stuffed into baguettes (think exotic hot dogs). However the American chefs use artisanal foods, and buy meats direct from the Poitou =Charentes region.

If any foodie is visiting the City of Lights this summer, stop at these trucks. Grated these burger bites or taco tgreats are sophisticated French fare. but they are a taste of home. If you're homesick and in Paris stop and try them

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Treat Grilled VEggies

This is the time when grills are either bought or washed off. It's also time for thinking about yummy barbecued meats . Yet grilled vegetables deliver the same amount of kick that any chop or burger can. They're also healthier for you and leave you feeling not so stuffed afterwards.

Any vegetable can be grilled. Mostly everyone usually makes corn on the cob which is the standard outdoor fare. You can vary it by grilling it with a little olive oil and sea salt sprinkled on top to bring out its' sweetness. Peppers are also tasty when they're roasted over an open fire. Use a heavy olive oil as opposed to a lighter one. This will cut down on the peppers' skins getting too charred or burned. You can split them and core them before or leave them whole. These taste good with grilled tomatoes on Italian or French bread and drizzled with a garlic infused olive oil. You can also mix them with grilled onions. This last can be put on the barbecue whole or sliced in halves.They're also tasty on hamburgers too.

For a more sophisticated fare, trying grilling asparagus and eggplant. Grilled asparagus is good as part of a hot or cold party antipasto. You can place the spears in either a grill basket or directly on the grill itself. Add garlic, garlic salt or a spritz of lemon juice for more flavor. Eggplant also tastes amazing when it's cooked outdoors.Slice lengthwise, As usual use olive oil along with balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of rosemary.thyme, basil and dill. This can be your main dish or a side.You can also cut it smaller and try it with a goat cheese too or feta smeared on top the way chef Gaida De Laurentis makes it.

Summer is here and it's time for grilling. Instead of the usual chops or burgers try veggies, There's more variety and more flavor than the usual meats. Take advantage of the season's bounty and put some produce on your grill.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Food Police Alert!

Do we need our elected officials telling us what to drink and eat along with how much? It seems that way with New Yorkers and their mayor. Mike Bloomberg wants to ban supersize drinks. That's right the sixteen ounce biggie cups and Slurpees may be a thing of the past in the city and its' boroughs if the Manhattan politico gas his way.

Is this right? Do we need officials banning and controlling what we have to eat and drink? The answer is no. As much as I don't approve of  anyone guzzling down huge amounts of any sweet , high fructose drink I still believe they have the freedom to drink them. After all its' their stomach and other organs that will be compromised not the mayor's. It's not like smoking where there is second hand smoke that could harm others.Drinking a fructose based drink is not like consuming large amounts of alcohol which potentially could be a threat to bothothers and the drinker.The problem is that we did have one prohibition and we all know how that worked out. Not well. Another Volstead Act cannot be enforced. It will only lead to trouble.

The Mayor also wants to ban doughnuts as well. This again will cause another hue and cry amongst New Yorkers and tourists visiting the city. The next step will be closing down the famed Magnolia Bakery in Soho because it sells sugary (and actually not that delicious or well baked) cupcakes and cookies. Will there be a ban on Pinkberry's? Or what about Rocco's on South Bleeker? Will cannolis be  as illegal as crystal meth in the city? What the mayor should go after are those hot dog and shish kabob trucks that have questionable cooking equipment. He would save a lot of people the agony of food poisoning if he did that.

Banning  big sugary drinks will not decrease New York's obesity problem. It really is up to the individual  not the mayor . What people eat is their business  - not their elected officials.