Friday, May 31, 2013

Cool Ades

Now with the hot weather and here with a vengeance , it's time to cool off.Nothing fits the bill better than a large icy glass of either an ade  fruit infused ice tea.A drink made with fresh fruit juice is a wonderful thirst quencher , especially during a hot , sweltering day. They're also easy to make

Lemonade is the classic summertime drink. Surprisingly it has been around since 700 AD and was first imbibed by the Chinese and Northern Indians. This is pure simplicity to make.Just take five lemons (any will do) extract the juice and heat with sugar.The sugar should be completely dissolved ,b basically making a variation of a simple sugar.  Wait until this cools  and then add it and four cups of ice water to a jug Add ice and lemon slices. Another satisfying ade is lime. Again this is an easy recipe. As with lemon, take four to five limes and zest. Add this,along with granulated sugar to a saucepan of water. When this is boiled  then pour into a pitcher already filled with the lime juice and iced water.

Fruit infused ice teas are also good during these hot as Hades days.,There are even pitchers you can buy that have special chambers to put fruit. You can also finely mince fruit too (and there's the added treat of eating it after you've finished the tea).The best tea to  use is Earl Grey. This has the basic tea flavor without any added ones. Use  whatever fruit you have which, right now is plenty, Try fresh cut strawberries or blueberries.  Before you add the fruit, sample it , to make sure that it;s not tart.if that's the case , you can first cook it in a simple sugar and water bath. Use this syrup as a flavoring them to your tea..

This is definitely the time for a cooling ade to get you through these hellish days.Whip up an ade or a fruity tea. You';ll feel made in the shade with a big ice glass of refreshment at your side.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Your Meat Primer

This is the season for cooking and serving all kinds of meats.It pays to know what's out there and how to buy it. Most home cooks and barbecue chefs usually wind up with the wrong cut for what they want and that can lead to disaster. Be meat savvy before you shop. It'll make for a better meal or a better barbecue.

Finding the right meat was the subject of Mark Bittman's Flexitarian Column in yesterdays New York Times Dining section. This is a  small comprehensive guide to buying everything from chops to burgers. It's good to bookmark online for future reference.Mr. Bittman also explains the various grades as well as where meat comes from. According to him ,it pays to go  for meat that's the product of sustainable farms.The animals are treated and fed better and that means a more tastier, more organic meat. This also means more expensive cuts, a true deterrent in eating more red meat.

There's also explanations about how to cook everything from chops to  burgers. Mr. Bittman is a big advocate of less is more so the amount of veal and beef is decreased. Vegetables an d spices make up for it ,He has created a semi veggie burger that has ground pork mixed with portabello mushroom pieces. He also has a Chinese vegetable and veal stew.This has a wide melange of different Asian veggies that you don;t mind it not bursting with veal. The last is a grilled quesadilla that is not only has the added goodness of steaks but also avocados, peppers. radishes and scallion to name a few.

It is meat season.Be armed and ready with tasty artesan meats balanced with an equal amount of veggies and spices. You'll not only have tasty barbecues and dinners but also healthy ones too

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hudson County Jersey's Foodie Paradise

Everyone  thinks of Manhattan as the culinary capital of the world. That may be so in some eyes however there's another foodie paradise just across the Hudson - appropriately in Hudson County. This Garden State county is chock full of interesting and well known eateries. It's a gamut of different tastes and flavors for any one.

New Jersey's most metropolitan area was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Dining section. The  piece, written by former Hudson County resident, Helene Stapinski, explores  the various cities like Jersey City, Hoboken and Union City and the culinary gifts they have to offer. Of course, Hoboken is the best with over three hundred restaurants , thanks to the town being a yuppie paradise.  However the most famous is the Biggie's Clam Bar that feature's the earthy  littleneck clams.It started as a simple pushcart in the 1940s and grew into a restaurant famous for it's clam cakes and those littenecks.There is also the Italian influence there too (after all Hoboken is the birthplace of Frank Sinatra) which is shown in Fiore's Deli, home of the creamiest mozzarella and Piccolo's ,a classic .

Jersey City and Union City also have excellent restaurant and both cities cater to the groups who live there. There are the standard Southern Italian restaurants Puccini's and Laico's. Both have dishes that outshine any  of their counterparts across the river. There is also a big Filipino population and there are some good Filipino restaurants such as the Fiesta Grill. It  features such traditional dishes as chopped milk fish with red onions and chilies. Union City also has very good eateries. One is Mi Banderas, reflecting the town's majority of Central and South Americans,. Here you can get heavenly chicarones, nuggets of fried pork skin and tostones, plantains stuffed with tiny shrimp.It's also known for its churrasco steak which comes with heaping sides of yuca along with rice and beans. Dessert is lush tres leches cake.

Forget Manhattan. Try the culinary treasures right across the river in Hudson County. There's the new and traditional but all four star worthy.Every restaurant is a true treat.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Compotes A Perfect Summery Treat

June brings an abundance of fruits in harvest.There are blueberries and strawberries, cherries and peaches.These are some of the season's best ,all ripe and waiting to be picked.One of the best dishes to make with all this extra fruit is compotes.This is an easy recipe and oh so versatile. Compotes has been around since the MiddleAges.It's basically stewed fruit that originally came from a Byzantine recipe.It reached it's heyday during the reigns of Louis XIII?In fact the name comes from the French word for mixture. A simple compotes takes only ten minutes or less to cook up.Fruit is cut and pitted and placed in a medium saucepan with a quarter of a cup of both sugar and water( you can use less water if you want a thicker compotes)'Any fruit can be used.You can even try combos such as blueberry and peaches or a straw berry rhubarb mix.The finished product can be stored in the fridge.It's a great way of using all that extra fruit after a day of serious picking. Some gourmets disdain compotes, claiming they're too old fashioned for modern tastes.They are far from being right.Compotes are excellent in crepes or perfect topping ice cream.Whip up a cherry compote with brandy to create a fantastic cherries jubilee. Try. A strawberry one with vanilla ice cream for especial parfait.Compotes is also good topping plain pound cakes and cheesecakes. Compotes can also be served with puddings or topping an ice cream pie. Surprisingly compotes are a great side with any beef or pork dish. try a cherry or blackberry one with beef ribs or roast pork topped with a peach compotes.Their sweetness brings out the savory , earthy side of the cuts. If you have fresh picked fruit , then make a simple but elegant compotes. they are delicious to have whether on ice cream or pound cake.You can even have it with barbecue fare.Either way, it's a great way of having the fruit of the season in a new way.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Thanks

Today is a day of remembrance. Before or after your barbecue ,remember any fallen veteran with a bouquet of flowers or a flag. For the  ones just returned, think about a foodie thank you. Get together with your school or church to organize a thank you dinner or barbecue for the returning soldiers and their families. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture . Just the usual barbecue fare along with some salads, plus a whole helping of gratitude will do the trick. Also organizing bake sales for returning vets and their families to have a vacation together would be a nice idea too. Another is just giving out gift certificates to restaurants is another gesture that says "thank you"/.

Sadly there will always be some  kind of conflict. Bravely , there will be those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for us. Treat them with the utmost respect, If they are still in your life and your town, then treat them to something special. It's just a small token for a large contribution.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Elegant Barbecues

This is the start of the summer weekend and the beginning of many barbecues. This tradition is usally a low brow feast  however it can be amped up a notch . Instead of the usual burgers and dogs followed by slaws , think upgrade  .Try fun but elegant food for a different spin. It'll be a different spin on the average get together.

Burgers are a standard at any cookout  Take them up a notch with Kobe beef. You can get them online  and serve  them on a brioche bun. You can buy brioche at any French bakery or make them yourself. The meat also comes in hot dogs too so you and your guests can enjoy a more upscale version of the American classic. Another elegant choice  is  grilled salmon. SInce the fish has a powerful flavor , just serve it with lemon. You can also try lobster on the barbeue too.It's easy to prepare - just split in half and cook over an open flame for six to eight minutes. Serve with melted butter to keep the meat from drying out.

WHat would go with any of these main dishes? Salads  however not just your usual kind , sopped with mayo. Stay away from these gloppy kind and think again elegant. A simple asparagus salad works. Try one with roasted stalks and then a simple lemon and olive oil dressing You can sprinkle on shards of percorino cheese or add diced red and green peppers for more flavor. You can also make a modified Waldorf salad. The original recipes calls for a variety of fruit such as grapes and apples. and lettuce with a mayo dressing. Nix the mayo and serve with a simple light olive oil and lemon dressing.Another idea is filling lettuce cups with caviar and then adding a small dollop of sour cream or crenels fraiche. Give your barbecue an elegant twist with lux ingredients. try grilled lobster or Kobe burgers with a delicate salad. Yo'll feel like a millionaire ,with this upgrade on classic out door fare.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cake Pops Savory Style

Cake pop makers can be fun yet they can be limited in use. After all how may occasion call for these mini treats. Yet you can turn your gadget into an appetizer and hors oeuvre maker. It can even be used for fun poolside snacks or a different spin on dinner. How? Go savory instead of sweet.

It's the entire premise of a new cookbook entitled Savory Bites From Your Cake Pop Maker (Ulysses Press) written by author Heather Torrone. Ms. Torrone,a New Jerseyian is a graduate of the new York Institute For Culinary Institute. She has come up with dozens of fun and tasty easy recipes that turns your average cake pop maker into something special. Thanks to her creativity, even a novice can whip up tasty bites that range from gourmet to fun. She covers all the bases from breakfast to lunch and dinner. There are also savory vegetarian bites as well as burger and crab cake bites.There's also a section on desserts but more like fried iced cream and pop version of apple and sweet potato pie Any one of these would be perfect for a poolside party or summer night gathering. A variety of different ones would be great at any shower or grad party.

The recipes are pretty easy to make, thanks to the cake pop maker doing most of the work. The assemblage is simple with most of the balls just being rolled like mini meat balls. The dough for the cake pops is a simple water and flour recipe. Some also call for ready made crescent rolls. There are some great recipes for both young and old. Kids will love the pizza pops , mozzarella popped into pizza dough squares. These are served with a marinara dipping sauce. Grown ups will appreciate the cool retro sophistication of spinach and salmon bites as well as the beef tenderloin with the cream brandy sauce. All will gobble down the cheeseburger and chicken burrito pops.

If you're bored with your cake pop maker then buy Savory Bites For Your Cake Pop Maker. You can make everything from fun to super sophisticated. It;s a great way of not just getting your money;s worth but making tasty and unusual appetizers and hors oeuvres

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A True Summery Sangria

The summer calls for sangria to accompany rich seafood paellas and grilled spicy  chops. It is the perfect drink also for cooling down on hot nights. Yet it doesn'thave to be cliched as it has been for decades.It can be as light and refreshing, great for the steamy season ahead.

Most people know sangrias as an almost Hawaiian Punch creation loaded with fruit. Eric Asimov  goes well past this in yesterday's The Our Column in the Wednesday Food and Dining section of The New York Times. Sangria, he discovered was usually served in a sprinkling of Spanish restaurants that opened up in New York after the 1939 Spanish Civil War. It was reintroduced after the 1964 World's Fair.What was introduced then is what Americans have been drinking ever since. Unfortunately it's more of an Americanized soda pop version of the drink, made with Rioja and a ton of fruit chunks. It's a lot different in its' native region, After all sangria (translates from blood in Spanish) has been around for 2,000 when the Romans cultivated vineyards in Spain.

Mr. Asimov has discovered a sangria that is perfect in true flavor. Thanks to bartender,Rafael Mateo, at the Spanish  Pata Negra in Manhattan's East Village. Mr. Mateo uses a base of garnacha instead of Riojo because it's not tannic, Layered onto that is rose and orange liqueur along with the surprising addition of orange soda for bubble and fruit flavor. Cut fruit is added only at the very end instead of being put in in the beginning and left to soak. There is another recipe, Sangria Penedes that would be perfect after a grill of lamb and beef chops. This has grapefruit  juice tossed in along with Mathilde or any other peach liqueur Cava and one peach , diced and added later for flavor and decoration.

Sangria is a great summer drink. If you're going to have it with a barbecue or paella , make up a pitcher of the real stuff. It's the perfect way to kick back and enjoy a warm summer evening.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Gin And Tonic Game

It could be that summer is here. It could be a renewed fascination with all things Fitzgerald and Gatsby. Whatever the reason gin is king again and that means a return to classic drinks. One is the summery G and T or gin and tonic. This cocktail is suddenly hot again and is the thirst quencher of the Summer of 2013.

Gin was the highlighted subject of an article in today's New York Times Wednesday Dining section The entire section is dedicated to summer cocktails(more in days to come) and Dining regular Jeff Gordonier wrote about this classic. Gin is making a comeback, possibly more because of Baz Luhrman;s The Great Gatsby and people wanting to relive the  carefree,crazy times of the Twenties. The big drink of the era was the gin and tonic,an insanely simple mix of just two ingredients. Gin however   is not just gin these days. There's one named after the famed writer of the day Dorothy Parker.  This is a  pure gin but there are some that are anise flavored as well as some with a lavender taste.

Gin and tonics should be just that. However Mr. Gordonier has tried the drink with a muddled kumquat  found at his glass' bottom. There are recipes that call for a grapefruit slices and basil. There's also one with lemon and lime twists  from Manhattan's Spanish restaurant Cata. This eatery has dozens of varieties on the classic G and T. The drink is the perfect foil for tapas, going well with the salty and oily nibbles. Another kind is gin and tonic made with fresh made tonic ,The last comes from cinchona or quinine and it gives the drink an iced tea hue. It's one of the best versions out there, with artesanal tonic complimenting well made gins.

Gin and tonic is the perfect summer drink .It will brink you back to the Twenties when gin was king. Create the perfect one with good quality ingredients. Then sit back and feel like a Fitzgerald character at a glam warm weather soiree.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Marshmallow Heaven Plush Puffs

The is the season for toasted marshmallows out by the barbecue. This treat can be tasty yet there are ways of elevating it to a truly gourmet level.  That comes in the form of Plush Puffs , flavored artesanal marshmallows. They can make any backyard or even  campfire dessert special and flavorful.

Plush Puffs is a Burbank California based company started by Ann Hickey-Williams and Justin Leavens  who acted as the company's guinea pig tasting all the different flavors. Ms. Hickey -Williams actually started in the health field and switched to candy making. She has filled an artesanal niche , creating all sorts of interesting flavors. This is not your folks Jet Puffs. These are small fluffy squares, similar to what you;d see in Europe. There are all sorts of diverse flavors , from mint to coconut to vanilla. Unusual flavors like maple bacon and pumpkin pie. There is even the ironic s'mores flavor, Plush Puffs also offers two pound marshmallows in flaovrs such as CHocolate Chippetta, Peppi Mint and S'Mores/ Imagine these toasted or better yet , split apart for guest and toasted.

The flavors are sublime and different. Some taste better toasted  while others are just good as they are.The maple bacon is better toasted and is a great end to any meat lover's barbecue. It also holds up well to serious burning. I like the lemon which has a flavor reminiscent of lemon meringue pie. The coconut is good  too as is. It's a bit intense when it's toasted and melts right off the stick. It would be good melting in a cup of hot Dutch cocoa as well. I  would love to try the mint and the cinnamon, the last  perfect in a cup of hot late or cappuccino.

Plush Puffs are a great end to any summer barbecue or just as a snack. Order these artesanal gem. These are  the marshmallow that summer memories are made from.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The New Hors D' Oeuvre

Not that long ago hors d'ouevres and appetizers used to be bland nibbles. It was either bacon wrapped around pineapple or something smeared on Melba toast. Nowadays there seems to be a revolution in cocktail party foods. They can reflect certain ethnic influences or new trends in foods.

One of the biggest movements in appetizers is foods that reflect a particular group. Empanadas are big right now and they're served in various flavors and  sizes. They can have  spicy black bean or creamy spinach fillings while also being stuffed with various meats. Some are regular size (thin tow or three bites) or tiny (think one bite).Other hors d'oeuvres include spring rolls and gourmet egg rolls.These can be vegan, filled with minced bits of bok choy, cabbage and carrots or meat and seafood stuffed ones. Both are about the size of a thumb . Mini bruschettas are also being passed around these days. These can be the traditional with chopped tomatoes on finely cut prosciutto and cheese topping almost wafer thin rounds of Italian breads.

Some hors d'oeuvres are stylized versions of traditional recipes. Shrimp, that party favorite , has been transformed into a shot, Small plastic shot glasses are filled with individual pieces of the crustacean. dipped in a swirl of shrimp sauce and sour cream.Another updated classic are pigs in blankets.Usually just mini franks in a soggy crescent roll, they've been revised to  being blanketed in  actual mini croissants or vol au vents. Plain mustard was usually served with them however now they can be dipped in honey mustard or a spicy barbecue sauce. Pate was a cocktail party or pre dinner  staple, usually quickly and sloppily on a stale piece of Melba toast. Now the paste has been updated to heart healthy hummus and the Melba toast has been replaced with a elegant flaky cup.

Hors d'oeuvres have undergone a stunning transformation in the last few years. They are more global and  more fun. Even the classics have evolved into true gourmet treats.These little bites are still party classics but they've become the life of the party as well.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Veggies On Rye

There's nothing like a sandwich bursting with flavor and ingredients. Yet what we put into our Dagwoods, BLTs and toasted anything can be unhealthy . What to do? Sub in some good for your veggies. These not only make your sandwich tasty but also chock it   full of vitamins and minerals.

One sandwich everyone loves is a good BLT. It's always considered a great flavor combo however even those little snips of bacon can render it kind of dangerous. Sub in some roasted red pepper strips for color as well as for antioxidants instead of the bacon. After roasting give the strips a quick soak in garlic flavored oil and then layer on toasted whole wheat with tomato slices and organic lettuce. Add a bit of garlic mayonnaise for fun and you have a great deal. Another idea is doing a slice of Bermuda onion with some gherkins as a healthier version of an English plowman's lunch . Throw in some sharp mustard for bite.

Portabello mushrooms are one of the best meat subs around They are high in both vitamins and minerals while being low in fat and calories. They make an excellent stand ins for burgers at barbecues. Since their flavor is comparable to red meat, you can easily treat them as the real thing. Put on organic ketchup or barbecue sauces. You can also layer them with spinach and onions as well for a green version of a Dagwood sandwich. Tomatoes are another good filler.. Who doesn't like a tomato sandwich or white bread? It's a summer classic. Make it even better by layering pieces on an organic wheat baguette drizzled with olive oil. Sprinkle on some rosemary for extra flavor.

Warm weather is sandwich weather. Make yours a healthy one with veggies instead of the usual cold cuts and sliced meats. They'r e not only taste good good but are good too.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Think Thin Think Yummy

If you want something tasty , it's always bad for you. The problem is if it's good for you , then it tastes like cardboard.Not so in the case of Think Thin products.These are the perfect snacks to to munch on when you need a sweet treat. They're just as tasty as candy but without all the calories and fat.

Think Products is the company behind these tasty bars.They also have  other products that promote wellness and healthy eating. Its' founder, Lizanne Falsetto, was an international business person who first chose fashion. Luckily for us she chose nutrition too  and created an entire line  of wellness snacks.Her philosophy is simple: make sure they had a good source of protein along with no sugar and gluten.Ms. Falsetto also is a big believer in portion control and some of the bars reflect that. She wants her customers to enjoy a satisfying snack with out over indulging.

The Think products come in three different varieties. I got to try the Crunch bars and these are a great snack. The coconut is like a candy bar, full of chocolate and coconut shreds. These are a perfect afternoon pick me up with an iced black coffee.If you want one that's pure crunchy granola try the blueberry crunch. This is a yummy mix of nuts , chocolate and blueberries, Want a Reese's fix? Then try the  high protein peanut butter, a fluffy bar coated in dark chocolate . These protein bars come in other sinful flavors like caramel fudge and chocolate covered strawberry.The bites come in equally tantalizing flavors such as cookies and cream and chocolate toffee nut.

If you want a tasty and sweet snack then Think Thin. These are the perfect snack for the sweet tooth who wants a healthier alternative to the usual afternoon pastry or candy bar. They're not only good tasting but good for you.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Springy Green Pie Torta Pasqualina

There's nothing like a filling yet light meal for the Spring season. Torta pasqualina is just that. It is a variety of all that the season brings,  wrapped in  a tasty crust.It;s perfect for a Sunday brunch or a Saturday night out on the patio.

It was the subject of Dave Tanis column in A City Kitchen in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. The pie is loosely like  the Greek version, spanokopita and it's made in Italy and Southern France.. While the Greeks stick strictly to spinach this one has Swiss chard and any other green ,like dandelions to add. I suppose if you want a bit more flavor you can add chopped ham or even prosciutto to the filling\ The crust is a simple one.It's just oil , flour and water with a pinch  of salt added.

Making the torta pasqualina can be a bit tricky hence it's really only made during holidays (such as Easter, hence the name), The pie dough  should be made similar to a strudel's with flaky layers brushed with oil. You can easily place in a regular pie plate with a fluted crust on top.The greens are mix with ricotta, nutmeg and Parmesan cheese. This mix is then  spread on the bottom of the pie and then the eggs are dropped whole on top of indentations made with a soup spoon. When it's baked , slices yield hard  boiled eggs. It's only a forty five minute bake so both prep and cooking time are about an hour.

A springy green pie is the perfect dish for this time of year.If you want to make something tasty and impressive then try torta pasqualina.It's a great way of welcoming the season ans a tasty Spring meal.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fear of Frying Chicken

Fried chicken is one of those Spring traditions that everyone loves but is afraid to make. Heavens only knows why.It;s just coated chicken pieces fried in oil. However most would rather tackle more complicated dishes like Beef Wellington or Lobster Thermidor than this simple American classic. It's actually perfect for the picnic and barbecue days ahead.

Julia Moskin delved into this in today's New York Times Dining section. Many people are afraid of fried chicken because they feel it won't live up to their eaters' expectations,Home cooks feel that there should be a perfect ratio of tender meat to crispy coating.Frying chicken is no rocket science. All you need are chicken parts a simple coating (no cereal, no potato chips and definitely no bread crumbs)Just add paprika and black pepper for flavor.She does add a broth to precook the chicken pieces. This is flavored with peppercorns and garlic along with bay leaves. This gives the meat an extra juiciness.

As for the oil, any will do. Peanut oil is the most traditional and Southern cooks use it liberally. However grape see oil is also recommended because it can get very hot without burning. Some use Crisco while other suse bacon oil for a lovely smoked flavor..Corn oil can give the chicken a buttered popcorn flavor.It's up to the chef what oil works best but it's best to experiment.,Ms. Moskin also recommened waiting til the chicken is cooled. Never eat it piping hot , otherwise you won;t get the full cooked taste.The coating seals in the heat and continues to heat and tenderize it even after it's left the frying pan. Surprisingly enough Ms. Moskin recommends champagne as a good drink to have with it.The beverages' dryness is the perfect foil for the crispy wings and legs.

This is the weather for a platter of homemade fried chicken. Don;t be afraid to make it. It';s actually easy to whip up - and even better to eat. Try it with a glass of your favorite bubbly  for a fun picnic. dish.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Healthy Picnics

Warm weather is here and with it the urge to pack a picnic basket. The problem is some  picnic foods can be bad for you ,laden with fat, sugar and salt. The best idea is create a healthy outdoor meal that's good for you as well as being tasty .It;s pretty simple with good results.

Sandwiches have always been a picnic staple. They re easy to make and easy to pack. However most people load them up with all sorts of bad ingredients, from the bread to the condiments. Start with whole wheat or any of the grained breads. They're just as tasty as the white and better for you. Most people usually like ham or bologna as a filling. Rethink your sandwich with leftover chicken or turkey. Even left over roast beef can be a tad healthier than any processed cold cuts. Mustard is one of the best and healthiest spreads. If it;s a bit too strong then think a lower calorie mayonnaise, perhaps mixed with cumin or rosemary. Another idea is try  drizzling olive oil on your sandwiches especially if you're using a whole wheat baguette as a base.

What makes good picnic? Sides. As fun as they are on any picnic , ditch the chips. Sub in homemade kale chips or try baked potato chips like Pringles.Another fun crunchy to bring along is sliced pickles or even gherkins. Fresh veggies such as grape tomatoes, slicked cukes and carrots are another good nibble or side . Dip them in a mix of plain Greek yogurt and your choice of spices.If you still want to bring salads, then make them healthier. Use whole wheat macaroni for your pasta salads and sub in olive oil and lemon for mayo. Add herbs and scallions to give it some zing and zest. Carrot salad, that picnic staple, can be made healthy too, with adding a simple vinaigrette and sliced onions and peppers.

A healthy picnic is easy to create.Try making one the next time the outdoor calls to you. It's a great way of having good for you food while having fun.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cake Pops 101

Cake pops are one of the hottest party desserts right now. They are everywhere , from fancy soirees to kid's birthday parties. The only problem is that they can be daunting to create, especially the more elaborate ones. Luckily there is a new book out that can help you create bakery quality pops that will make your guests swoon. How sweet is that?

Noel Muniz has created the ultimate cake pop book, The Art of Cake Pops, 75 Dangerously Delicious Designs (Skyhorse Publishing, New York) for cake pop lovers and home bakers.Mr. Muniz, owner of the Cake Poppery Bakery in Chicago is a well known baker who studied the culinary arts at Kendall College.This is a gorgeous , lush book filled with fun pictures of cake pops along with valuable advice about creating them. He has divided the books into such sections for showers , fairies, pets and nature. These are easy to make, thanks to Mr. Muniz, with detailed recipes and steps to create mini works of art.This is a great guide for beginners to the art, showing them exactly how to create a specific decoration for a particular event or party.

What I like about the book is that the author makes no bones about how hard it can be in creating these gems. He spells it out about why using scratch mix is a better base for the cake pops then a mix. He also includes six yummy recipes for scratch cakes  from flavors like banana to vanilla. Mr, Muniz also gives a detailed chapter on what kind of chocolates to use as well as how to prep the pops before dipping.(use frosting).  This also includes hints and tips about melting , prepping and using hard candy to aid in finishing the  design.He has all sorts of designs that are relatively simple and endless fun to make. They include the easy jawbreakers and bowling bowl kinds to the more elaborate nail polish bottles and garden snake ones. To be honest they're too beautiful to eat, especially after knowing the huge amount of labor it takes to create each one.

Cake pops are the dessert of choice these days. Read Mr. Muniz ''s book to create bakery worthy ones. from bridal to showers to kids parties. They are not only delicious but mini gems of art.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Luxe Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and it's time to try your mom or your kids' mom to a lush day , full of good food. Creating luxurious dishes for her is easy./ All you need are rich ingredients and simple recipes that will make you favorite mom's day and palate. You can start with breakfast, work your way to lunch and dinner or just pick a meal and highlight it.

Of course the traditional Mother's Day meal always  starts with breakfast.There's nothing like Eggs Benedict along with a mimosa. The first is just a basic sandwich, starting with a toasted English muffin and a poached egg. You can layer either Canadian bacon or lightly parboiled spinach for Eggs Florentine ;If the last is   too hard to  make them try the easier ,  canned salmon or crab meat.JUst open and spread on the toasted muffin. Top with a packaged  Hollandaise sauce. You can also make the easy French toast, Try Italian or Ffrench bread for a chewier denser version. Have a small ramekin of real maple syrup warmed up so that the flavor comes out. You can serve everything with a mimosa,a mix of champagne and orange juice. Try Asti Spumante and any of your lady's favorite OJ brands. Garnish with a twist of an orange slice.

Lunch and dinner can be equally delicious. If you're planning on a barbecue , then think chicken kabobs. Bathe the meat in a simple lemon and oil marinade before grilling and follow with alternating them and them, pepper chunks, onion wedges and cherry  tomatoes on skewers. Another idea is grilled salmon which is a nice change form the usual red meat (although if she wants steak and potatoes then make them). Serve with a teriyaki sauce and veggies that have been steamed in a foil pouch.for lunch or dinner also think about a fire grilled pizza made with an easy dough,ready made sauce and shredded cheese. Add her favorite toppings and serve with her favorite red wine./

Mother's Day should be about serving Mom lux foods. You can do this by creating lush but tasty dishes. They're a snap to make yet complex in taste and flavors.

Friday, May 10, 2013

True Caribbean Barbacue

The Caribbean gave us so much food wise including barbecue. Barbacoa is one of the most traditional and earliest forms of West Indian cooking , evolving into our national summer culinary pastime.Celebrate the season then, with a traditional Caribbean barbecue, complete with the same flavors and meats that have been used for decades.

Originally barbacoa was a fire pit with large fig leaves over it. Meat was cooked in this. You can still do this or just opt for the grill with hot coals. The meat you choose can have a definitive Caribbean flavor thanks to jerk Cooking jerk style means having a spicy rub or marinade over the meat. A tasty one is chicken This is super popular in Jamaica  and is served both in restaurants and at backyard barbecues/ You do need the fiery Scotch bonnet peppers  along with the sweeter spices of cumin and ginger . along with cinnamon and nutmeg.. You can have this as a marinade or a dry rub.(although be warned Scotch Bonnet peppers are extremely dangerous when they come into contact with your eyes. Wear rubber gloves when preparing the jerk).

Jerk can also be made for ribs as well as steaks too.  If you want to go truly traditional you can also buy an entire goat (available at most hallal butchers although lamb will work just as well too
) or a suckling pig. Jerk goat has the extra kick of curry  to flavor the meat along with other spices and ketchup.Caribbean barbecues also serve grilled fish and shrimp. These are usually heavily spiced , although not as much as the land meats and poultry Most dishes are usually served with a cooling mango salsa or a coconut rice. Both are easy to make and a perfect foil for those fiery meats/

Try a true Caribbean barbacoa for a tasty barbecue. It is spicy yet delicious, harking back to  original outings of the region.It is a nice change from the average fair, exotic and fun..

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Shakshuka, Simple Yet Exotic

Northern Italians have a wonderful dish called tomatoes and eggs. It's just a simple mix of the two ingredients with a hint of garlic usually eaten with a crusty loaf of Italian bread. Surprisingly enough it has a Middle Eastern cousin called shakshuka. It's a spicier version and just as tasty.

The dish was the subject of Melissa Clark 's A Good Appetite in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Ms. Clark first ate this wondrous dish in Israel during Passover. It fit in with the dietary rules of the holiday .however it would make a nice brunch or lunch  dish for any Spring  weekend. Unlike the Italian version it has many different spices such as cumin and paprikaalong with cilantro. It also has rich chunks of feta cheese added to it (although I suspect you can forgo the cheese so you can enjoy the taste of tomatoes and eggs)

Cooking it is also similar to pomodori e uovi.Both require skillets and olive oil.Unlike pomodori e uovi though, the tomatoes are cooked first until they thicken WIth the Italian version the eggs are  mixed in,and cooked til they're scrambled Shakshuka has the eggs dropped in with the yolks intact , and cooked similar to sunny side up ones.The feta is then added o n top. Since it's not  a cheese that melts,it adds some texture to the dish. You can serve shakshuka with any kind of crusty bread or pita as well as with hummus, the way Ms Clark ate it in Israel.

Tomatoes  and eggs are always a good combination. Try them with an exotic twist with added spices and feta in this traditional dish.It makes for a tasty brunch or lunch treat.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

From Rust Belt To Gourmet Heaven

Normally towns like Cleveland or Pittsburgh or even Buffalo don't get a second glance from foodies however all is changing in this region known as the Rust Belt. This swath of American towns from Michigan and  Ohio to upstate New York was once known for producing  of the country's steel and ship, Hard times made the areas poor both in economics and good food.Luckily the last is changing and bringing some much needed business to the Belt region.

Julia Moskin explored this new foodie must try in an article in today's New York Times Dining section. She traveled to different cities to interview the forward thinking chefs that are making the Rust Belt a gourmet travel destination and giving it  a new name Rust Belt Revival. These cities have always been connected by a series of now defunct canals and railways, Now they are linked by thousands of acres of still usable farm land.. This means sustainability while promoting locovore dining. Also there are plenty of Amish here who still farm the old fashioned way .planting and harvesting artesanal and organic produce as well as meats They work with the "English" or local farmers to teach them better agricultural methods.

Everything has paid off.  Once Pittsburgh eateries served salads topped with friesor all sorts of steak cuts. Now their restaurants have gotten better fare, such as stinging nettle pesto. Traditional ethnic food like pierogies have been put on this axis with a topping of Korean kim chee. New Rust Belt chefs like Justin Severino, along with Jonathan Sawyer are reinventing classic dishes and introducing new ones. They are big on seasonal ingredients  much the same way cooks of the area or the Amish have been for centuries. Some such as corn can be first served as steamed cobs, for leftover ones the kernels are then ground into polenta..From there it's treated with slaked lime so it can be reconstituted into hominy ;They also believe in using every part fo the animal, the nose t tail technique also favored by  their Amish neighbors.

The Rust Belt Revival  means good food and prosperity to an area hungry for business. Thanks  to forward thinking local chefs,it will definitely be the destination spot for both foodies and gourmands. They can savor the flavor and success of the area and the amazing prooduce and meat dishes.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mousses Light And Springy Dishes

The temps are rising . The breezes are balmy. It's time to put away all those heavy winter roasts and gravies and think fluffy and light. Mousses whether it';s made with sweets or meats or eve veggies are perfect to serve right now. They're airy , perfect for a warm Spring day or night.

Mousses can be both savory and sweet,. although most people only associate them with just chocolate. For a lovely sophisticated dinner with friends think about making a caviar or crab meat mousse. Both are relatively easy to make, Remember however that the savory ones require gelatin to hold them together. because they are intense,the seafood kind can be served spread on Melba toast or rye squares. You can also make a pork mousse along with  beef ones. The last is served cold and is a great way to use up left over roast beef . Cut up left over chicken for a different kind of mousse,,perfect for a dinner with just a salad.Veggie mousses are also tasty, especially alongside  cold sliced meat or leftover roasted chicken or turkey. Try one with carrots and spinach  or tomato one with basil,Tomatoes have their own gelling properties so you can make an easy one without gelatin.

Sweet mousses are another Spring treat. They can be made light and airy, different than a heavy cake or ice cream. The most famous and popular is chocolate.You can add mint or espresso to vary the flavor.. Another treat is the lesser known vanilla mousse.It's made with the beans scraped straight from the pod and is easier to make than the other. This lighter than air dish would work well with a raspberry or blueberry coulis. A strawberry flavored one is a refreshing change , especially if you have fresh berries to work with. You can also make a raspberry one too or for something more sinful a blackberry one. Add some freshly whipped cream for some more fluffy decadence or a side of fresh fruit.

Mousses are an airy alternative to heavier dishes. Celebrate Spring with this bits of tasty poufs of flavor. They're light on your tongue but heavy on flavor.,

Monday, May 6, 2013

Layers of Flavor

Puff paastry is a versatile base for both sweet and savory treats. It;s perfect for making Spring party foods that go well in for any venue , from showers to graduation parties.It can be th e base of fun appetizer pockets to the more elegant vol au vents and  mini. beef Wellingtons Puff pastry is also a for creating a variety of delicious and unique desserts

Puff pastry can be made at home or bought. If you're making it at home it is time consuming and labor intensive. However the end result is rewarding with a buttery , light pastry perfect foe any savory or sweet filling.It requires  sixteen tablespoons of unsalted butter along with ice water or seltzer and ice cubes. The dough must be chilled and never room temperature for best results.It is then folded and rolled into an oblong, being constantly folded over to create layers.The oven temp is quite high, between 4oo and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course you could buy the dough already made. Pepperidge Farm is known for theirs and it does cut down on prep time if you have an elaborate filling.

Vol au vents are one of the most popular puff pastry recipes.A good savory one is chicken with a creamy gravy. This is like an elegant pot pie, with the same ingredients, such as the meat along with carrots and peas. Another idea for puff pastry is sausage, onions and spinach or one that's like an inside out pizza. This last is  made with goat cheese, tomatoes and basil.Of course puff pastry is excellent for desserts. Make sweet vol au vents by using puddings or even creamed and topped with a hot fudge or caramel sauce.You can try a cobbler style one with layers of peaches , strawberries and rhubarb and a creme caramel base.

Puff pastry is one of the most versatile staples for any kitchen. Make it from scratch or buy it, fill it with savory or sweet. It's can be turned into anything from an elegant vol au vent to a homey turnover or puff . It;s your choice and a fun one too.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sweet Spring Desserts

The Kentucky Derby signifies  that Spring is here. However the season is also signified by light and airy desserts, perfect for picnics and gatherings. There are some lovely  desserts that fit right in with the balmy breezes and warm, sunny days.

Of course most people celebrating the Derby will be having the traditional chocolate chip pecan pie. This is a heady mix of nuts and chocolate chips, with the added luxury of a cup of melted butter. It is rich but perfect not just to celebrate The Run For The Roses, but also at graduation parties and bridal showers.(especially if you;re throwing a Southern themed one).Another rich Southern dessert that's perfect for now is strawberry shortcake. In some areas the strawberries are getting their first blush of color so they're literally ripe for the picking and a flavorful filling. They are perfect stuffing homemade  biscuits topped with a hand whipped cream. You can also sub in fresh made vanilla ice cream instead of the cream.

Spring also means cakes that use the first of the garden's ingredients. This may be a light lemon or orange cake with just a dusting of powdered sugar. Another feather weight  dessert is angel food cake.  This airy bit of fluff is made with just egg whites. This can also be used to create a strawberry shortcake but also is good with sliced peaches when they arrive later in the season along with blueberries.Macarons are another apt dessert for the season. Granted they are trendy right now but still perfect as the perfect end to a Spring meal. Like the angel food cake, it's made solely with sugar and whipped egg whites with almonds to give it flavor and crunch.

The Kentucky Derby means Spring is officially here. Celebrate it with the desserts of the season as well, whether they be the richly decadent chocolate chip pecan pie or the light as a cloud angel food cake. Either one would be a lovely dessert on a warm May evening.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Perfect Derby Party

Tomorrow is Kentucky Derby Day and that means parties.Even though it's only twenty four hours away you can still throw a fun and tasty day to celebrate the first leg of the Triple Crown.It's also great way of tasting some traditional Kentucky foods too. They range the gamut from  rustic  to elegant,reflecting the dichotomy of the state.

Burgoo is the state dish  and this tasty stew is a variation of the traditional Brunswick stew (although it could also be a cousin of bouef bourguinon hence the name). It is a mix of different meats,with beef,chuck, pork and lamb and chickenbeing the preferred ingredients. It is an easy dish, not unlike chili to make and perfect for a crowd. Serve it with homemade biscuits to sop up the gravy.Another party food is the Hot Brown sandwich named for Louisville's famed Brown Hotel. This consists of turkey, tomato and bacon with a cheesy kind of bechamel sauce poured over it . There is also the benedictine , a delicate green tinted cucumber and onion tea sandwich.It's mixing cream cheese with the cukes and onions to create an  interesting nibble while watching the race.

Of course no Derby party would be complete without mint juleps. These libations are fun to drink and easy to create.. All you need is good Kentucky bourbon, a simple syrup and fresh picked (or bought ) spearmint leaves. Heat up granulated sugar and water in a sauce pan. While you're doing this bathe the leaves in the bourbon and then mix.Mint juleps should be served in a specially designed silver julep  cups but you can also serve in glass tumblers too. For a more festive and also larger crowd think about serving a bourbon punch.This is a heady mix of the state's liquor , brandy and benedictine, tempered by orange and lemon juices and seltzer.

Tomorrow is Derby Day.Celebrate it  with traditional Bluegrass State foods and drinks. You'll feel like you're there, if not physically then certainly in flavor!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shopping WIth The Experts

Does anyone really know how to food shop?. Most people will say yes, however they may need some refresher  points. There are a lot of facets and information that many everyday shoppers and even foodies don't know. That's when it's time to call in the experts.

That's what New York Times Dining section, writer Emily Weinstein didin yesterday's New York Times Dining section. She  went on a shopping trip with famed food journalists Michael Pollan and Michael Moss. Pollan wrote the foodie must have Food Rules while Moss is regular contributor to the newspaper along with being a foreign and war correspondent (!) He is also responsible for the phrase pink slime referring to the bright fuchsia interior of hamburgers along winning a Pulitzer for his investigative reporting of the meat industry (which has't been blasted or truly looked into since Upton Sinclair's The Jungle  over  a century ago)>Mr. Moss has also exposed the darker side of American eating habits . He has written extensively about  our truly damaging   addiction to sugar and salt as well as exposing the bad side of pita chips and granola bars.

Shopping with them is eye opening.  , They read labels, weighing the benefits of artesanal mozzarella over the bagged and shredded kind.Even though they do buy canned ingredients, they believe that creating homemade dinners is the better way to go. Mr.Pollan opted for a homemade garbanzo bean soup using  canned chickpeas but fresh onions for a dinner witht eh writer and Mr Moss..Mr Moss home made pizza as well,using tinned tomatoes but fresh made dough.Both feel that it;s Ok to use to mix both prepackaged and fresh ingredients. The rule is  try to buy  prepackaged ones with as little preservatives and additives possible.

Both Mr, Moss and Mr. Pollan offer us good ideas for food shopping. Shop both fresh and packaged.Use both in cooking meals that are not already premade and chock full of chemicals not nutrients.It makes for better shopping, a better diet and a better life.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

White Asparagus A Different Spring Treat

Spring comes and with it asparagus season. Most Americans usually get excited over the green variety however there is also  white kind. White asparagus, overlooked here in the States, is what sets Europe on its ear. Germans and especially, the French swoon over the creamy white stalks. Like their verdant cousins, they are versatile, unlike them the blanche kind, have a more delicate flavor. It is a rare one,sweet and almost corn like in taste.

White asparagus was the subject of an article by Elaine Sciolino in today's New York Times Dining section. Ms Sciolino handles the Letters from Paris where from there she got the lucky chance of visiting an asparagus farm outside of Paris. She also had the good fortune of going with the famed French chef, Yannick Alleno. Ms.Sciolino even harvested the stalks with a special device , similar to a two prong screwdriver. White asparagus is prized by the French (they claim to have found them as early as the Renaissance) and can be cooked in the same way as green asparagus. The reason they're white is that the stalks are buried in sandy soil, thus stalling the production of chlorophyll which turns exposed stalks to that verdant emerald hue.

White asparagus has a delicate flavor , sweeter than what we're used to eating. Some French chefs servethe stalks with poached eggs which is a great pairing (it's always recommended with green asparagus too). Since the flavor has a fragility ,they can easily be served with stronger ones such as crab.Raw asparagus can be made into a salad as Ms. Sciolino witnessed when she returned to the City of Light. Her chef shredded them table side until the stalks were as thin as angel hair pasta and then dressed then with a peppery Ligurian olive oil. This can be tried here, thanks to markets such as Fairway selling the ivory stalks.Ms. Sciolino also has a cashew cream recipe for them, which she also tried at the very same restaurant..This is made with the nuts butter, olive  oil and milk and then poured on the boiled stalks.

White asparagus is a real and different Spring treat. It's more delicate yet just as versatile as its' green cousins. Try it either stuffed or with sauces for a something that 's both gourmet and every day.