Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apple Picking Time

Now that it's officially fall, it's time to pick apples. This is the season when some of the best varieties are ripe and ready for desserts or just a healthy snack..What are the  kinds to look for right now? There are several that ripen in early to mid October. It's just a matter of knowing what to  pick.

Right now several types are ripening. These are perfect for almost everything from pie filling to crisps. They;re also good just sliced and dipped in caramel. Braeburn apples are probably the most abundant right now. These have red and orange vertical stripes and have a combination sweet and tart flavor.Because of their completely rounded or spherical shape they are the best for baked apples. The Rome variety which is the most widely known is the perfect apple we see depicted in still lifes as well as being the symbol for all apples. The flesh is very firm and meaty.They're also good for baked apples although they re better sliced  and dotting an apple crumb cake.

If you want something just a tad different then try the Winesaps or Granny Smiths. Winesaps are mainly used in cider production although  they're  better in baking. They impart a sweet ,almost mild taste to breads, cakes and muffins.They have a firm texture which is good for any cooking or baking application, You can even slice and cook them with a roast loin of pork. Granny Smiths are fine for the taking as well. These are bright green and have a lovely tart taste that make them perfect for candy or caramel apples However they;re excellent in salads too.You can even slice them into a slaw with raisins carrots and walnuts. This would be perfect for those tailgating barbecues  and would offset  the smokiness of bratswursts hot dogs and hamburgers.

This is  the time to head to an orchard and start picking.There are so many different varieties , to make into a slew of dishes. You can have your pickings baked or dipped in caramel, turned into a salad or a side dish. Use them anyway you can to enjoy fall's bounteous harvest!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Frico Fried Cheese Treats

Want a different kind of snack this weekend? Then try making frico or fried cheese. It's an unusual departure from the typical weekend snacks like mini pizzas and shrooms. It's also easy to make  - which is good. People can't stop eating them once they've been made.

Frico was the subject of this week's A Good Appetite, Melissa Clark's weekly column in the Wednesday's New York Times Dining section. The recipe is easy . All you need is grated or shredded Parmesan, Pecorino or Romano cheese. Just fry them up in olive oil in a large frying pan. I guess you can mix the cheeses for a varied taste or even toss in some dried rosemary or oregano for added zest. Ms. Clark recommends making the frico into one large crisp to be broken apart later.The cheese can be served hot or cold. If you're making it for a crowd then fry it into neat little rounds about the size of potato chips or Ritz crackers.

Ms. Clark pairs it with zucchini which adds a certain sweetness and offsets the supreme saltiness and bite of the cheeses,It's  made the  same way as plain frico but then the zucchini slices are added on top along with shredded basil. Sliced squash is good but I would add sausage rounds for an entirely different adventure in taste.Another idea is teaming the frico chips with thin slices of prosciutto or even regular ham. Ms. Clark also recommends rose or white wine to go with the chips. Since this is cider season as well I would go with a strong heady alcoholic one to complement the cheese's saltiness.

Frico is a great weekend dish. Make it for yourself and enjoy the crunch and flavor of fried cheese. They also make a great appetizer for when friends drop by for a movie or a game. Either way , they are tasty and a great way to use any Parmesan, Pecorino or Romano cheese.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blue Crab Season

This is the season not for apples but for the Atlantic  blue crab. Right now the tasty shellfish is running.It's a fall tradition in some areas to have crab fests and either eat them with drawn butter or in delicious and varied dishes.Either way, eating them is a great way to welcome in a new season.

The species was mention in a cowritten column in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Regular contributor John Willoughby along with Chris Schelesinger wrote about the crabs, and gave ideas for how to make them. Late September is the time when the shellfish are at their most bountiful.They're found along Massachusetts' southeastern coast in the briny tidal rivers. Dozens of crabbers come out to catch them. This requires some skill along with chicken necks. The meat is dangled on lengths of twines in the rivers and the crabs come to get them. It is then, that crabbers slip a net under the shellfish and scoop them up into buckets.

All this is worth it. Blue crab meat is one of the most delectable, even beating out the famed Dungeness and stone varieties along with the Jonah for flavor and texture. After steaming they can served with drawn butter or made into a variety of different dishes.The recipes given are varied. There is the spicy Malaysian ginger chili which is a mix if the meat, fiery spices and scallions. For those who like a calmer and tamer crab and corn relish served on sliced beefsteak tomatoes.You can even just have the corn relish on its' own. A more down home recipe is a hush puppy made with the crab along with bacon and corn meal. Remember though to use lump or flaked crab meat. These are taken from the body and are more tender. Meat from the claws tends to be fibrous and a little chewy.

Now is the time for Atlantic blue crabs. Have them to celebrate the new season ahead. Try them the traditional style with butter or more adventurous ways with Malaysian spices or seasonings. They'll taste good no matter how you have them.!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vegan Is Hip

What are your favorite Hollywood celebrities eating these days. Odds are it isn't meat. It seems that both  SoCal or Southern Californian people and restaurants are not that into any food that had a heart beat.It's all about healthy and compassionate eating which is better.

Veganism in La La Land is the subject of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. The piece written by Dining regular , Jeff Gordinier, tells about how many of Los Angeles' trendy restaurants are simply eschewing meats. It makes sense for the area, considering it is chock full of diet conscious movie and TV stars.An all veggie based diet with no dairy is a slimming one - perfect for those Hollywood types who have to watch their weight. It is a healthy one too, as many celebs are finding out. Eat vegan and lower the risk of heart disease and cancer along with just generally feeling better.

LA Chefs are getting just as   creative as their New York counterparts. One , whipped up a vegan chicken parm for talk show host , Ellen DeGeneres. Chef Craig Susser of the famed Dan Tana's  complied with a Gardein patty, a soy based sub. Another chef , Quinn Hatfield of the restaurants that bears his names has come up with a parsnip bacon.which is just thinly sliced baked parsnip strips coated in olive oil and sea salt. These chefs are challenged because a strictly vegan menu has absolutely no meat or dairy. It can be hard to create creamy sauces and rich flavors without the usual butter, cream and cheese. Yet they manage and have gotten quite a following.

LA may be the hub of the entertainment world however it;s also becoming the hub of the celebrity vegan world as well. Go to any restaurant and discover good for you meals with plant based ingredients. You may also see a few of your favorite celebs chowing down as well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bring Your Restaurant Home

Who doesn't love to eat out? Our favorite eateries, whether they be privately owned or chain, provide us with some of our favorite dishes and desserts. The problem is that eating out regularly can be costly. You can cut back and still enjoy the great food. Just make it at home.

One of the best part of being a regular customer at a family owned restaurant is that the family comes to know you. They basically have your order already in the oven when you and yours walk through their doors. If you love the recipe, don't be afraid to ask for it. Some will be happy to give it to you, enthusiastically writing it down. They'll even give you advice on how to cook or bake it. Common dishes like fried rice or spaghetti are easy to copy as are pizzas and certain grilled meats.The same can apply to desserts as well . Ask for the recipe. If your restaurant refuses to give their recipes away, there is the Internet where the dish or dessert  and a million variations can be found.

Chain restaurants are another matter. Most of their dishes can be found in your supermarket., usually in the frozen food aisle. Chains realize they have a loyal following and branched out to their fans who also like to eat in once in a while. If you crave sliders then you can buy White Castle's famed mini burgers along with their fries at your local super market.If your family loves TGIF's, there 's all sorts of their famed dishes in your grocer's freezers, from the spinach dip to the quesadillas and honey barbecue wings.The same applies to PF Changs. They sell everything from spring rolls and dumplings  to main meals to noodle dishes. Throw in a fancy drink and it's just like eating at the restaurant without all the noise and sometimes hour long wait.

There's nothing like your favorite restaurant food. However sometimes the budget doesn;t always allow it. Have it at home. Save pennies and also save a trip by just eating it at your dining room table.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cooking It Old School

Nothing beats hand mashed potatoes or a scratch cake. These are relics of the recent past where women (and some men ) actually cooked and baked. Cooking old school may take time and much more effort than the modern microwaved stuff but it's worth it. Let's face it when homemade food is loved and devoured but the whole family then it's time to rethink one's cooking techniques.

In this day and age , we all tend to reach for anything that's can be cooked and eaten in minutes. While this is convenient, it's not necessarily good for you .Most food, are chock full of preservatives from simple safe chemicals to  to some that are questionable. If you feel your life is too busy and hectic , then start simply. One if you have the time cook and freeze on the weekend. Eat later in the week when time is too squeezed to whip up an entire home cooked meal..As far as baked goods bake and then store., or have the cake or pie that night as a special dessert. This last can be created once or twice a month.

What foods can be made the way our moms and grandmothers made them? An easy no brainer one is mashed potatoes. Now you can cheat and get microwaveable potato chunks. These can then be poured into a bowl and masked with milk or cream along with butter. You an serve this with sliced roast beef and jarred gravy. Meat loaf is another simple dish that even a child could make. All it takes is ground beef, an egg along with breadcrumbs.. This can also be turned into leftovers as sandwiches. Soups are another old school dish that can be made by hand. Stock is easy to make and freeze too. You can create a myriad of soups with any broth  , whether, it's chicken beef, vegetable or fish.

Cooking it old school doesn't only give you good food but healthier food. It's made with elbow grease and love as opposed to  chemicals. Try it today and see the results.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ease Into Fall Cooking

After a lazy hazy summer of easy cooking it's time to get serious,With cooler temps means more cooking.The transition , though doesn't have to be cataclysmic. You can ease into fall cooking and baking with some easy dishes every one will like.

Even if you've been creating nothing but salads and barbecues for the past three months you can still bounce back with a delicious home cooked meal. One of the easiest is meat loaf. This is simple enough to make.All it requires is ground beef, minced onion , eggs milk and bread crumbs. If you want some variation spice it up with some chili or curry powder. A simple roasted chicken or turkey breast is another easy dinner choice. Serve with Stove Top stuffing and mixed veggies. Make enough so that you have leftovers for sandwiches or a hot lunch the next day.

Pasta is another easy dish to cook up. There's nothing like coming home to a hot plate of spaghetti or penne with a homemade sauce. If you're a tad more adventurous make meatballs which again are pretty easy to whip up. (think meat loaf in ball form). With the sauce , use the tomatoes from your garden harvest for a fresher , more healthier sauce.  Want something  different? Then try tacos. They  are not only fun but super simple to make. Use any of the kits that come with the taco shells and spices. Then cook up either pork, beef or  chicken for filling along with chopped tomatoes and lettuce for decoaration..

Easing into fall cooking is a snap. You can create delicious and simple meals with only a few recipes. It's a great way of getting prepared for the season of heavy cooking ahead.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Easy Fridge Jams

This is the season for jams and jam making. However making them requires a lot of work- as well as luck. However there is a way tohave fresh made  preserves and butters without all the fuss and threat of botulism. It's just boiling and putting away in the fridge.

Melissa Clark explored the idea of fridge jams in her Wednesday's A Good Appetite column in  The New York Times Dining section. The recipe requires just putting freshly made mixes in the fridge than in the pantry(or other cool, dry places). It doesn't require boiling the canning jars and then sealing them with pectin. The method takes practice and if done wrong can have very deadly and hazardous results.Witrh refrigerator jams , it's just a simple boiling and if you want, macerating the fruit the night before in sugar.  Then pop into the fridge and eat.That's it. There is a mold issue however it can be scraped away or just throw the jam out when green blooms appear.

This variation on preserving allows not only enjoying the fruits of the season but also trying new flavor combos. Ms. Clark gives some good recipes such as a nectarine and peach with a dash of lemon verbena thrown in.This also has lemon and its' zest  as a preservative  too. However it's the mix of peaches and nectarine that is seductive. Imagine it spread over French toast or topping buttery croissants. She also has an unusual mix of tomatoes, honey and vanilla.The combination may sound strange but, remember that  the tomato is a fruit so it does work well in jams. She suggests putting is as a filling with linzer torts or paired with ricotta and toast. However I would make a sweet crust pizza and then add this later on for an unusual dessert.

Making a summer or fall jam doesn't have to be a headache. Try making the fridge style kind to enjoy freshly made jams and different flavors. It's like getting the best tasting preserves without all the fuss and muss.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fermenting Frenzy

Mention fermented food and most people ususally grimace. Yet fermentation is one of the more common ways to prepare food and drinks. It's an easy step too that even home chefs can follow. The results are often pretty tasty and a great way to preserve all sorts ot foods.

The process was the subject of the main article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The huge piece was written by Dining regular , Jeff Gordinier,Fermentation , he found, is a process using bacteria to basically"cook" food. There is also a cookbook written by Sandor Ellix Katz, The Art of Fermentation by publisher Chelsea Green gives recipes on how to use this prep method to your advantage.There are recipes for the famed Korean kimchi or pickled cabbage along with ones for eggs pickled in soy sauce. Fermentation is making a comeback with some Manhattan chefs, especially the ones at the famed Momufuko.

Fermentation is nothing new, It has been around for centuries,Germans have used it for centuries in the making of sauerkraut. Other, more ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians and the Egyptians used fermented grains to concoct beers. Our earliest ancestors fermented berries to preserve them and to create a heady brew. It makes sense to ferment  because it's a method  of handling a harvest and making it last during the colder months This way his  people can enjoy summer's bounty during a harsh winter. . Fermented foods are also being rediscovered for their health benefits  as well. They  help to stave off everything from breast cancer to heart disease and osteoporosis.

Fermentation is a food process that is beneficial on many levels. It can help preserve foods and make them tasty.It helps in creating .better health but most  of all it's a great way of holding onto summer's bounty.Enjoy favorite veggies in a tasty brine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Your Food Your Heritage

There's a sure way of connecting anyone to his or her heritage and culture: food. The dishes our grandparents , great grandparents and ancestors brought with them from other countries are visual reminders that our past is always with us. They are not only our comfort foods but part of us.

This was a subject of an article in today's new York Times Dining section, The piece written by newcomer,Rachel L. Swarns tells about how certain families, including hers , preserve their heritage with handed down recipes. She is from the Bahamas, a  country rich in natural food resources.. Like Marcel Proust and his Madeleine's , its' the taste that reminds her of that balmy paradise . It's the tang of limes or the sweetness's of coconuts candy , homemade  and fresh. To be honest we all have good memories of family recipes. There's also a certain thrill in making them, knowing this is a direct link and even some insight into our family's world.

Ms. Swarns reached out to several children and grandchildren of immigrants. There were a variety of nationalities and sometimes she was lucky to speak with three generations. Some people made their family recipes with an American twist, updating it for their children. This was the case of Nena Vukanic, the daughter of Serbian immigrants. Her children like some of the family recipes like the bean soup. They nixed the stuffed cabbage. Others families interviewed were three generations of Korean family. The six year old daughter , Minah, who is half American too, loved all the dishes her mom Jo Hee Sisco and her grandmother Sook Lee made.Sometimes the family dishes often wound up along side of American classics on the dinner plate.

Who we are means everything to us. That includes our culinary heritage. Our ancestors not only gave us interesting sets of DNA and RNA but also interesting recipes too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Making Food Cool

There's a reason why ten to twelve years olds are called tweens. It doesn't so much have to do with age but the fact they're between listening to their moms and dads and heeding the dietary advice of their friends. What may be healthy and good to the folks may be icky and disgusting to them. What to do to insure good nutrition and keep their eating habits healthy? Make food cool.

As kids grow and enter middle school, they tend to assert their independence in a variety of ways. Most times it's how they eat. There's nothing better than hanging out at the mall and grabbing a burger there. Hopefully they've learned from all those nutrition classes and nix the accompanying fries and cola, but they don't. If you want , make your dinner or even Saturday lunch as tasty as mall meal. Think about serving sliders those fun mini hamburgers. Instead of beef, sub in turkey or spicy bean veggie burgers. Another fun idea is pulled chicken tacos. Shred cooked chicken with a healthy tomato salsa. Have the kids pile on beans , onions and guacamole or avocado slices for a more nutritional variation.

Kids love pizza.It's just that simple. However they're probably munching on the greasy oily stuff at the local pizzeria.Surprise them and yourself with a home baked  whole wheat one. You can add cheese  to it but you can also have an old fashioned kind with fresh chopped tomatoes along with some other veggies rich in antioxidants. Think about making individual ones that your tweenies can enjoy.Grilled chicken , usually considered an "adult dish" can be made kid friendly as well. You can cut it into bite sized pieces and serve over's also good over a flavored rice which is a kid favorite. To broaden their palates , add saffron to it along with almonds for a more exotic spin. You can also have the chicken with sweet potato plank fries  and a garlicky mayo dip.

Tweens are probably the most discriminate of all eaters. Get them fired up over eating by making food cool again.They'll have not only tasty food but healthier meals.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Honey Versus Sugar

Everyone needs some kind of sweetener, whether in their  coffee or tea along in their baked goods. We all know white sugar is bad for you. There is honey and raw sugar.The question is which is better? Which works well with drinks along with cooking needs.

Honey is nature's sweetener.It's been used since ancient times, starting with the Greeks and Romans.Depending on the flowers involved in making it, the stuff contains niacin, riboflavin and calcium,It also has iron in it along with zinc and potassium.,Honey also contains Vitamin C and is useful in tissue and cell repair. Raw sugar is actually white or refined sugar but with out the processing. It really is devoid of everything from calories to vitamins.It's slightly better for you than white sugar..If you want a more substantial sweeteener than go for molasses or even the cactus based agave.Honey also  adds more depth along with antioxidants to breads, cakes and cookies. Because of its' slight acidity, it reacts with the baking soda creating a moister, denser cake or loaf.

As far as portability raw sugar does win. There are packets that you can easily stash in a lunch bag or at your desk without any fuss . It also is easier to bake with as well  however honey is still the healthier ingredient.  Then there's the sticky  residue. Honey can be messy when it's spilled and a pain to clean up. Raw sugar can just be swept away.It's also better to take on vacations too because it is easier to pack. Then there' the coffee conundrum.Coffee almost cries out for sugar packets, Putting  an aromatic honey in a good cup of joe may clash with the drink's rich flavor. It's better with any kind of tea. Leave the raw sugar for your cappuccinos or lattes.

Honey or sugar - which is the better choice. For home stick with honey. It is used more and can be used in baking  and just to sweeten teas. For the office and vacations use the packets, but use them sparingly, You can have both , and both work well in those different and diverse situations.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Foods For The New Year

Tomorrow night is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish  New Year.Its a time of celebrating and welcoming in new harvests.It;s also a time to ensure luck by serving special dishes with meaning. . These have been handed down for centuries, and eaten with the same relish and hope that their ancestors had. Each is special.

The Jews like to start with something sweet to ensure a sweet year. This is often honey dipped in their delicious egg bread challah.This last is baked either in a braided shape or in spirals or rounds to symbolize the continuity of Creation. Sometimes raisins or honey is added to the dough for extra sweetness. Children , whether at home or at school,get treated to apple slices dipped in honey. Another specialty is honey cake itself, more of a spice cake thanks to addition of cloves, cinnamon and allspice,.New fruit is also on the Rosh Hashanah  table as well and it has to be the first fruit , untasted of the season. This is usually the desert pomegranate because its' many seeds are an allegory to good deeds that will be done in the upcoming year. Fish too is eaten for fertility.

The holiday is also full of special recipes as well. Many households prefer to have brisket served with carrots,Carrots are another holiday food with special meaning as well. Some create tzimmes, baked and sweetened carrots. Like brisket recipes these vary from family to family. Some add honey as a sweetener while others use chopped prunes or even a sprinkle of cinnamon. A roasted chicken is another holiday favorite. Again making it involves an element of sweetness This time again with cinnamon and apples.Since fish symbolizes fertility , many young couples opt for it.  Try a fish stew with cod and haddock or stick with the traditional gefilte or stuffed fish.

A new year will be coming it and with it foods to both celebrate and symbolize it's arrival and meaning. What is eaten  is a connection to a past rich with culture and history. The foods also symbolize a bright , sweet and prosperous year ahead. too.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Very Versatile Shortbread

Shortbread is the LBD or Little Black Dress of cookies. You can have it plain or make the batch  with a variety of different ingredients. They can even be made savory too as a go with for chili or soups. The extra  plus is that shortbread is easy to make. Even kids can bake them without too much fuss and trouble.

The cookie was the subject of an article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. It's an easy and simple recipe as it has been for centuries. It was first made during medieval times in Scotland using the same ingredients as today. Mark Bittman who wrote the article uses the  basics.It's unsalted butter (although you can use salted) sugar yolk flour cornstarch and salt. For healthier cookies  you can sub in whole wheat flour as opposed to white and sub in two tablespoons of honey instead of refined sugar. Baking is only for ten minutes and the recipe is just a simple mix.

Here comes the fun Shortbread can be jazzed up in a variety of ways. Mr. Bittman suggests dipping the cookies (which can be made in rounds or bars known as fingers)I like it that way too, especially with a rich dark chocolate.My mother and I made them this way for several Christmases. The taste is amazing, a perfect melding of butter and rich cocoa.You can also add chocolate chips as well. You can also make them citrus-y .Add lemon or orange zest to the dough. Other twists include cinnamon (nice) or vanilla. For savory shortb read reduce the butter and add olive oil and rosemary. You can also make Parmesan ones and ones laced with black peppers.

Shortbread  is the  most versatile cookie to bake., You can either go savory or sweet or try your own combo. The result will always be interesting  and tasty with a melt in your mouth feel.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

True Spanish Cooking

Spanish cuisine, like any other has been so generalized  as well as misunderstood. There is a whole range to it beyond tapas and paella. Luckily there are chefs who are succeeding in letting foodies know the true side of Iberian cooking. It's not the food of Latin America or Mexico but true and pure Spanish food.

It was the subject of an article written by Glenn Collins in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.The famed Spanish American chef Jose Andres is offering cooking courses on it to show students real Iberian cooking. Thanks to Italian and French cuisines overpowering the American palate for decades, true Spanish food is often overlooked and under rated. That is all going to change. Chef Andres will be teaching students traditional dishes as well as acclimating them to the cuisine's ingredients. Hopefully there will some good restaurants opening in the relatively near future with the chef's influence on them/

True Spanish cooking involves a number of different ingredients and cooking techniques. Chef Andres will be showing students that old chestnut, gazpacho but he will be making it the right way. It should be a liquid salad not just a bowl of icky cold soup. He also wants them to know jamon the air cured salty ham that accompanies many dishes as well as allioli, a version of the Provencale garlic sauce aioli. He will also introduce them to mojama, tuna packed in sea salt and hung out to dry. Chef Andre includes his fried egg or eggs a al Velasquez recipe in the interview. This is just a plain egg cooked in hot olive oil and garlic bath.. It is then served with jamon , and together it makes a heavenly dish , perfect for lunch .It wa snamed after the famed Velasquez painting  fo an old woman cooking an egg.

Spanish food is not just tapas and paella. It is not from the New World. It is an Old World cuisine with varied tastes and flavors , native to the Iberian peninsula. Thanks to Chef Andres, it will be well known and as much beloved as Italian or French cooking.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Return Of Buttermilk

Buttermilk was one of the staples of American cooking and life.It represented a homespun era in our history.It was also a rich drink , full of a tart , buttery flavor that people craved. Luckily it's coming back and retaining that farm fresh goodness.

It was the feature of this week's New York Times Dining section. The piece written by Dining regular , Julia Moskin, tells about how buttermilk is made and who is selling it. There are also some great recipes too. Buttermilk is just the milk leftover when butter is churned. There are tiny blobs of butter floating in it giving it its' tangy taste and buttery aftertaste.This is due to the chemical reaction or diacetyl which gives melted butter that distinctive, seductive aroma. Buttermilk was commonplace in both 19th and 20th century America. The South practically lived on it and used it frequently in baking, For those who have never had it ,  it kind of is a liquidy creme fraiche . Buttermilk is also an excellent baking ingredient because it bonds so well with flour and glutens.

Buttermilk , straight off the farm should be bought at farmer's markets or Whole Foods Groceries. Anything else is really not a good representative of it.Some independent dairies such as Cruze's Dairy Farm out of Knoxville TN have taken it to new levels. They sell flavored varieties such as fig and strawberry along with buttermilk ice cream in hipster flavors such as lime cardamon and salty caramel. Buttermilk also keeps well too. It can be unrefrigerated and won't turn sour. There are natural cultures in it, picked up from the usually nonsterile wooden churn.These would start a fermentation process, thickening and preserving the milk, along with souring without spoiling it.This is accomplished by lacto bacilli, the same microbes found i yogurt, sour cream and creme fraiche.

Buttermilk is making a comeback and in a big way. If you haven't tried it before ,do so now.It's a pleasant reminder of our past and a powerful  player in tomorrow's food trends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Day of Helping

Every year we remember this day with good deeds and acts.If you haven't already then think about donating food or helping out at food pantries. If you're a foodie then consider something creative to help either our needy or our soldiers . It could be anything , from a stand to a bake sale.

Remember if you do want to help those around you then always consider your town or church's food pantry. Canned foods are always the best, especially vegetables. Also canned beans work well because they're so versatile. If you've been growing veggies and have a bumper crop, don't hesitate in bringing extra squash or tomatoes.The same thing is true with fruit, if you have a few fruit trees on your property. Another good deed is helping out at the soup kitchens in your area. There's always a need for people to either serve, prepare or just cleanup. You may even make a few friends in the process too.

Another way to help is to have some kind of stand. Think about a cider stand(it's kind of late in the season for lemonade one) where you and the kids can sells cups of cider along with homemade caramel or jelly apples. The proceeds can go to a charity of your choice or possibly to buy some essentials for a homeless shelter. Baking for the veterans too is always a nice idea. They would appreciate a cake or plate of cookies  - a very small gift for all the work they've done for our country .

Today will always be a day marked with profound sadness.It will never go away - not in our lifetimes. yet we can alleviate it somehow -someway in a charitable way,

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wacky Wedding Venues

Yesterday I witnessed a whole wedding ceremony while having a dog at one of my favorite hot dog stands at the Jersey Shore. Steps away there was a beautiful, warm and windswept beach, perfect for tying the knot. Yet happy couple wanted their nuptials at The Windmill, better known for their truly delicious burgers and hot dogs than wedding cake and rice. The happy couple wasn't alone in wanting a different kind of reception. What's trending now are truly unique weddings.

It first started with the wedding cake. Gone were the traditional tiers of white frosting and the couple on top. In their place were now cakes made in the shape of sandcastles and hot rods. Then menus changed to involve sliders and cotton candy instead of the usually sit down dinner with cocktail hour . Then the entire venue changed from sedate but overly elaborate wedding palace to  a couple's favorite beach or the pizzeria of their first date.Nowthe prospective bride and groom can have their weddings anywhere, from a Stewarts drive thru to their local doughnut shop. Strange , yes but also romantic and kind of cool.

If you are thinking about having your wedding in an unusual place , start planning. Most restaurants, even pizzerias and Chinese ones do have enough space for both the ceremony and reception. The problem is you may not be able to invite all that you wanted to ask. At most  many eateries can seat sixty. The wedding I witnessed had probably twenty people. If that's'' the case, then look for a larger place or have an open housefor the ones left out later on.Also remember guests won't be getting traditional food.Let them know that they'll be feasting on fun foods like hot dogs or pizza .It'll be a mix of formal ceremony with informal eating. Another issue will be drinking. Most smaller restaurants don't have liquor licenses. You'll have to bring  your own  and preferably just one kind like champagne for toasting.

There's nothing wrong with having a wedding at a hot dog joint or pizzeria. It's wacky , true,but it celebrates two hearts coming together. In the end,that's all that matters

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Simple Weekend Meals

With start of the school year weekend time becomes precious -too precious to waste in a hot kitchen cooking. You can still create healthy meals but in less time.That way you can spend more time cheering on the soccer field, enjoying an empty beach or visiting your college kid.

Instead of reaching for cold cuts which are overly processed,. try roasting a chicken or turkey during the week and using the left overs for sandwiches , salads or simply  with gravy. Freshly made soups are easy to whip up and all it takes is a good base. Use bouillon cubes or stock and have fun., Minestrone is not only a quick one two three soup but you can load it with good for the family and you veggies. Use tomatoes from the garden along with sliced zucchini , peppers and onions. Toss in some cannellini and red kidney beans for more flavor too.Another easy fave is stratichella or "rags soup". You can take either, beef  chicken or vegetable broth, and then add spinach and beaten egg. Serve with hot crusty Italian bread and a green salad.

Dinners can be simple too. For those too tired , after a day of apple picking or just cleaning house or the summer place, you want something,quick warm and delicious. Pasta fills the bill because it's easy to boil up and then throw on a homemade sauce. For sheer simplicity go with con burro  or just simply butter melted into any kind of pasta. Finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. You can also try aglia e olio, again , it's just olive oil cooked with garlic cloves or slices. You can also make a pasta fresco with tomatoes, and garlic sauteed in olive oil. If you want add pepperoni or sausage. chicken or steak grilled indoors is another easy supper suggestion. Serve with sauteed sliced squash and green beans for a well balanced but quick meal.

Late summer weekends are busy ones. Don't spend all day cooking up meals when you could be doing a million other things. Make something nutritious but make it simple and quick

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Late Summer Picnic

It's still summer and there are still weekends that call for a picnic,Luckily the temps have cooled down so you can  bring mayo infused salads and dishes. A late season picnic is also a great way of incorporating some late summer and early (very early!) fall harvests too. Best of all it's a nice way to enjoy the warm days still left.

A picnic now can call for sandwiches or whole roasts. It's easy to make and pack some faves like baloney or roast beef along with sliced chicken and turkey. However make them special than those everyday school sandwiches by using Italian bread or French baguette along with a tarragon mayo. You could add tomato slices too and a nice vinaigrette .Of course this is family time and you could also get a roasted chicken or a sliced London broil as well. These can be  sliced for sandwiches or served plain with a salad or even a sides.

Slightly cooler weather means you can make all sorts of  salads that could not be made in July and August.Try a Waldorf salad using mayo and the first apples of the season. It just takes greens, raisins , walnuts  and any kind of apple. Wald0orf salad goes well with sliced roast chicken or turkey. Another idea is making a simple salad with a raspberry vinaigrette. Raspberries are in season right now and adding some freshly picked crushed ones to oil and vinegar will amp up field greens or arugula. Throw in some almonds for crunch too,.You can also use it as a dip with cut up veggies  too.

There are still weekends that cry out for a picnic. Enjoy the late summer weather and have one.It's a great way of enjoying still sunny days and tasty food.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Restaurants Catering To You

Restaurants know their regulars.Its a fact whether it's a high end joint or your local diner. Waitstaff know when diners  like their  rolls hot or if they prefer mashed potatoes or fries. In a way it's a good thing. Eating out is a pampering experience. It's extra nice when a favorite eatery pampers a custom even more either by remembering his or her preferences or even just a name.

This was the subject of an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Suzanne Craig interviewed various restaurant staff throughout Manhattan on the subject. She found that some restauranteurs classify their diners by various categories. Most diners are regulars and staff know whether these regulars live within a few blocks or travel there to eat a favorite dish. Staff cater to their quirks whether  it eating only the ends or bread or requiring only Coke to drink. Frequent visitors can also have their spending habits tracked as well, from their drinks selections to their choice of meats.In a way this is helpful in helping the owner know what to buy and what dishes are popular and on what days,.

Familiarity can breed contempt however. Owners know what visitors like to camp out or linger for hours over dessert and coffee. These table hoggers usually wind up being placed in an uncomfortable table during their next visit.WW stands for wine whales, those who drink more than one bottle. Those who scarf down the free appetizers and leave are usually categorized as SFN something for nothing.There are also other derogatory abbreviations however they newspaper couldn't print them. I'm sure there's one for those stingy tippers  also.

Restaurants have always had a reputation of treating their regulars like royalty. It does pay off. Treat them right, give in to their whims and get a loyal customer.There's nothing better than that,.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wine Salts Something New For Your Meals

Salt is always a nice addition to food if it;s used moderately and carefully. Seasoned salts are even better and wine salts add an entirely new dimension to dishes. Combining wine and sea salt creates a totally different flavor yet one that can enhance meats and vegetables.

The creation was the subject of today's Good Appetite Column in the New York Times Dining section. Melissa Clark decided to try this interesting combination of salt and a good vintage. She got the recipe from the man who basically created it, Chef John Eisenhart of Pazzo, in Portland Oregon. Chef Eisenhart has come up with an interesting rub or sprinkle for almost any meat , from fish to poultry to beef and lamb. He even has used it on squash. His earliest creations involved a darker wine mixed with sugar (along with spices and sugar)> Unfortunately making it with a dark red results in purple salt. It works better with a good fruity white such as gewurtztraminer.

Is it easy to create this tasty blend? It is. All you need is two cups of a fruity white wine along with the dry ingredients of thyme and lemon zest. A cup of sugar is also added to balance out the saltiness and probably to bring out the wine's fruitiness.The wine has to be reduced to a syrup  , cooked over a low flame for twenty to thirty minutes.This reduction is  then added with the dry ingredients to a food processor where it's pulsed two or three times. When it becomes the consistency of wet sand then take the wine salts and place them on a baking sheet. Leave out to dry overnight. Ms. Clark slathers the salt over pork loins before grilling but you can try the salt on a roast chicken as well. She also plans on sprinkling some on veggies such as tomatoes along with grilled swordfish

Wine and salt together may sound strange together. Yet combined to create a new seasoning they mesh perfectly.Make a batch today to add zest and flavor to your late summer barbecues.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Festival Time

September is the time for all sorts of festivals.There are church feasts and street fairs , along with those celebrating the end of summer or the beginning of fall.These are filled with all sorts of tasty dishes and treats. Some are handmade , some are typical festival fare but all are delicious.

The biggest feast this month happens in Lower Manhattan. San Gennaro is one of the largest and oldest street festivals in the country.It started in 1926 and has long been known for its' tasty dishes it's The feast, celebrating Neapolitan Saint Gennaro , has spawned other festivals from the Hamptons to Los Angeles with Las Vegas in between.It's a chance to sample the fried doughy treats known as zeppoli, which are pizza dough puffs deep fried in oil and then coated in confectioner's sugar. Any feast will have some yummy sandwiches such as sausage and peppers or a meatball sub. Antipasto is also sold if you're lookinjg for lighter fare.

Street fairs in any of the major cities and smaller towns also come up in September. Again there are some delicious foods to be found. Smaller town or church fairs have the various women's groups and  congregations cook and bake for them. Food choices vary from a zucchini bake and chicken stew to Streusel cakes and snickerdoodles for dessert. Street fairs also offer a wide variety of dishes from French crepes to Indonesian satays. Fairs are also a time to try those fun treats such as fried Oreos, potato chips on a stick along with the classics of Sno Cones, candy apples and cotton candy.

Beach weather may be over but  it's time to enjoy the many festivals and fairs. These get togethers are great places to savor traditional foods like zeppoli and sausage and peppers. They;re also great  to indulge in international fare such as a fruit crepe or enjoy a fun classic like a grape Sno Cone. festivals are just a neat way to have fun during the still warm days of late summer.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day

Today is Labor Day and it's a time to thank and even provide an extra  dollar in your tip or support for all those who take care of your food.

Enjoy this last special day of"summer(actually we have three more weekss of it) with freinds and family. Grill, party , clambake  do what you have to to prolong those lazy , tasty days of the season.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Laboring For Food

With this being the Labor Day weekend , it's time to thanks all those who cook our food, tend our food and clean up after we've eaten our food. Not enough gratitude is given for anyone in the industry. Sadly enough we do take them for granted  - which should not be the case.

It all starts with our grocery stores, whether they be a small family owned one or a large chain. It's no joke to stock shelves or stay on your feet for eight hours a day. Those are the easiest tasks. There's also the ones who run the meat and deli department along with baking those yummy breads and cakes . The meat, fish and deli sections sometimes can be dangerous thanks to those wickedly sharp knives and slicers that are used almost every minute. Then there's those clean ups on Aisles five.(or whatever aisle).>It's an entire procedure to clean up everything from spilled milk to an exploded soda bottle.There's the threat of broken glass and a slippery as ice floor that has to be dealt with  when these accident happen.

Also give gratitude to all those restaurants and diner workers. They make sure that whatever meal you eat is not only tasty but cooked in clean conditions. Many privately owned eateries start way before dawn to peel potatoes and slice veggies and fruit. They have to haggle with all sorts of salesmen as well as come up with tasty recipes for their customers.The wait staff has it no better along with the busboys. The first has to deal with every kind from surly and grumpy eaters to whiny kids. Busboys have to clean up the messes we leave and some aren't pretty. Imagine handling chewed bones and lobster shells day after day for very little.

This Labor Day while you're enjoying your meals or shopping for food,l stop and actually thank those involved with your eating. They'd appreciate the thanks . Even more they'd appreciate the feeling that goes with it.