Saturday, June 29, 2013

Seltzer A Sparkling Summer Classic

Want a drink that refreshing and can go with everything from wine to chocolate syrup? Then think seltzer.It's a summer must have because of its' versatility. It can go from fizzing up a punch to adding zip to lemonade.You can even drink it plain, nicely chilled, with ice and a lemon wedge.

Seltzer water is over two hundred years old, first made by Joseph Priestly in 1767 by accident when he infused water with carbon dioxide  . This was done by placing a bowl of water over a beer vat and letting the fumes permeate the liquid. The actual name, seltzer comes from the German town of Selter.which has been bottling spring water since the 18th Century. It's  is different than club soda because it has no salt in it, therefore a slightly different , almost acidy type of taste. You can make seltzer at home using just plain tap water  and a charger (and now there's the new soda streams that make a fair equivalent to it).

Seltzer is the perfect summer time refresher. Add ice and a lemon or even lime wedge and it makes the great non alcoholic drink at any summertime soiree. It's also perfect for backyard relaxing along with a good book. However seltzer shines when it's mixed. Try  it with Campari for the classic holiday in Capri drink or with a flavored vodka for an adult version of soda pop, For something not quite as heady, whip up a few sparklers seltzer mixed with either fruit juices or lemonade. The classic treat is the egg cream. This is chocolate syrup mixed in with a little milk and then Seltzer is added to give it a foamy head. Stir gently and knock back one of the best drinks ever!

Seltzer is a true summertime classic. Have it on while sitting under y our favorite tree reading a book or blend in any of your favorite fruit juices. Better yet, try that classic the egg cream  and enjoy it under a starry sky.                                                                                                                

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cool Summer Meal Lettuce Wraps

Cooking a summer dinner can be tricky . You want it to be tasty and filling yet you don't want it to be too labor intensive.You want something refreshing but not the typical salad. The simplest is lettuce wraps.These are easy to eat and even easier to make. They're the perfect blend of lightness and flavor with exotic thrown in.

Everyone thinks these easy wraps are modern. They've been around for almost 120 years being served in the UK at teas and in the United States in schools.It's simply taking two leaves and rolling it around any kind of filling. Mostly today they have an Asian influence however lettuce wraps can be filled with almost anything. They also make nice appetizers at pool parties and barbecues. You could even whip up a few the night before going to the beach. The best way though is serving them for a warm weather  supper that's both filling and light.

The best leaves to work with are iceberg,romaine, arugula and even cabbage.Filling them is up to you.If you want to have a hot filling them think of a quick  sauteed ground beef or grilled chicken . Add tomatoes,cilantro and sliced raw onions along with a vinaigrette or even ranch dressing. Put a Mexican spin o it with fresh made guacamole, shredded cheese and sour cream. For a really cool summer supper, then stuff with either chicken, tuna or crab salad.Another easy filling is taken cold cuts and shredding them with celery and broccoli. Add any dressing to make it more flavorful or even just add olive oil and lemon/.

Lettuce wraps are an easy supper. The best part is you can create a filling summer meal without the fuss . It's a nice way to end a day - with a tasty meal that doesn;t require a whole lot of work.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Beer And Ice Cream - Yummmmmm

Imagine having your beer and ice cream together. What a flavor that would be.. Now it's a reality. The age old brew and every one's favorite summer treat are now being combined to create a sophisticated dessert. Surprisingly the mix of hops and cream work well together.

Beer flavored or infused ice cream was the subject of an article in yesterday's New YorkTimes Wednesday Dining section. The piece  written by newcomer, Lucy Burningham, tell about the latest  new flavors and ingredients being used.This is not new. After all we've had rum raisin ice cream for years. There has been the trend of bourbon milkshakes in recent summers past. Now artesanal ice cream makers are trying new combos. However creating this frosty brew does take some experimentation. After all, the water in beer does tend to create ice, which makes a crunchier texture instead of a creamier one.This means the  beer has to be deconstructed then, and raw hops, malts , yeasts and partially fermented brews are mixed with sweet cream to create a smoother product.

It is worth it. The flavors that re coming out are a blend of the beverage along with fruits and cakes. There is Belgian  style Tripal ale mixed with apricot ice cream along with a  three hops kind with chunks of a pineapple upside down cake. Thrown into this are pineapple bits, candied orange zest and hop leaves.For those who want to try it in baby steps , just add  vanilla ice cream to milk stout for an adult version of a root beer float. Beer and ice cream affectionados can try also try making their own pints at home There are recipes on the Internet that involve the average bottled kind along with rich stouts.It's usually making a custard like base  first and then slowing adding in flat beer.

The union of beer and ice cream makes for a surprisingly wonderful treat. If you want a spin on a frosty brew then try it. This is a refreshing alternative to the usual chocolate,  strawberry and vanilla flavors out there..

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The ALl ENcompassing Eggplant

Nothing beats the versatile eggplant,Other than the tomato, it's one of the few veggies that can be roasted, baked and sauteed, along with a variety of other methods.One can be cut up for a variety of dishes from baba ganoush to ratatouille..Sliced and breaded versions were even called "poor man's oysters." If anything , they should be called the flexible veggie because of the many ways of cooking them.

It was the subject of Mark Bittman's The Flexitarian column in today's New York Times Dining section. Mr. Bittman gives us a cornucopia of different recipes, along with ways to cook them. It should never be peeled unless roasted and charred . Since its' flesh is highly absorbent, , Mr, Bittman recommends using a fragrant oil for frying or sauteing. Eggplants also come in different varieties as well, from the traditional deep purple bulb to the long thin lavender and green Chinese ones.

Mr Bittman also provides us with a good scope of recipes. The easiest , as well as being, the tastiest, is a charred one that leaves the meat , soft and custardy. This is mashed with garlic and you could serve It on rounds of warmed Italian bread. The Sicilians are big on eggplant., since it grows in copious amounts on their island. Try it as pasta alla Norma, eggplant in tomato sauce and finished with insalata ricotta. You can also use the long, narrow and sweeter tasting Chinese eggplant for caponata.Since it is also a Middle Eastern veggie, Mr Bittmans includes the Turkish Baingan Bharta where turmeric and cilantro is used for flavoring.

Eggplant is a veggie that can be made a variety of different way and styles.Try it as a creamy dip one night or as a hearty ingredient in a pasta. It will never bore.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Paula Dean Controversy

Normally this blog remains neutral when it comes to celebrities and their problems. Yet the whole flap with Paula Dean does affect it and also my readers, especially in the US .is she to blame, despite her upbringing? Should she be punished and why? There are so many questions and everyone has their own answers-.

Paula Dean is a Southerner. Her background is from Georgia and she spent the first twenty  years of her life in the  pre Civil Rights South. She does maintain some hard to break habits from that era.Is she a bad person? No. Granted , her food can be bad for you with it's butter and sugar rich recipes but she's not evil- just a product of her environment. Should someone like her be more enlightened in this PC day and age? Absolutely.She wasn't though.She slipped. It happened.I'm sure there have been other chefs who have had transgressions. They haven't been caught - yet. Ms. Dean was. Now sadly she is going to be severely punished and ostracized.

Luckily the Food Network will stand behind her. The question is for how long.It will be a joke if they drop her.The network has very few black chefs. This is a subtle yet truly appararent  form of racism. this brings up another interesting point. Before people question Ms Dean's thinking, they should also question her employer. Before they pass judgement on her, they should also look at this channel and wonder why it's so "white". That includes stores  and companies such as Target, K-Mart and Smithfield Farms that all carried her products . They quickly dropped her at the first whiff of problems. Would they be willing not to have their ads run on this racially biased channel. If they were true to their beliefs, yes, they would.

What Ms. Dean said was undeniably wrong. It doesn't make her a bad person however. We all slip. We all say things that we later regret as she has done. Should she be punished? No. As we all know to err is human to forgive divine.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Healthy Hot Weather Snacks

It's summer and that means days packed with fun and activity.It also means hungry kids.After all that swimming ,and paying ball ,they're going to be hungry.It's easy to just open up bag of chips and cookies.Yet you can go another easy route.Give them healthy veggie and fruit snacks.Th ey 're just as easy to serve during these sweltering days. Nothing beats a platter of crudités for any pool party or even summer back yard camp out.make a fun and colorful platter of grape and cherry tomatoes ,sliced bell peppers and broccoli florets.Add rinsed and scrubbed mushrooms and snap pea pods too for some variety.Instead of sour cream ,try plain Greek yogurt with some olive oil and lemon as a healthier dip.You can also turn these into fun kabobs to eat too ,whether they be cold or grilled.Hommade hummus is another easy snack to make, especially if you mix up the recipe with cannelloni or pinto beans.You can also bake the garbanzo beans with olive oil and Rosemary for crunchy snacks. Fruit is another tasty natural snack.Instead of popsicles ,try freezing bananas and grapes.Kids will love these ,especially after a hot day at camp or sultry evening playing ball.For a fun ,and posh treat try a healthier version of Eton Mess.This traditional English dessert has a bed of merengue with fruits and whipped cream piled up,Refashion it with a bed of plain Greek yogurt and a lighter non dairy topping such as Cool Whip.Grilled pineapple kabobs are another fun treat instead of s'mores . Alternative with mangoes for color and more flavor. The summer is here and with it increased appetites.Satisfy them with healthy snacks fresh from the garden.The kids will benefit from taste and nutrition.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Coronation Tea At The Goring Hotel

London is the place to be this summer thanks to Queen Elizabeth's 60th  Jubilee and the birth of her great grandchild.  Everyone from around the world is flocking to this city rich with history and food , What better place to celebrate  than with high tea, more specifically a tea honoring Her Majesty at the famed Goring Hotel in London.Visitors not  only celebrate the Royals but dine like them too.

The Goring Hotel is one of London's premier hotels , started a century ago by Otto Richard Goring in 1910. It is the only hotel in England to hold a Royal Warrant and was a favorite of the Queen Mum's. Kate Middleton and her family stayed there the night before her wedding to Prince William. It is a lush , but elegant place, known for high quality service and four star meals. The tea itself is nothing short of breath taking, simple yet classy with a dash of whimsy thrown in. Chef Ian Winton is the person responsible for this English tradition and he has created some interesting sweets.

The Coronation Tea is $65 American dollars and that includes Bollinger Champagne along with  the  a variety of teas. However it's the confect5ons that make it stand out as well as they  honor the monarch. There are the  Earl Grey macaroons,each topped off with a chocolate crown , made to resemble the State Crown. There's a strawberry tart, a nod to the garden parties held at Buckingham Palace and of course the Coronation Chicken salad,a blend of cold chicken, raisins, spices, and mayo. Even the queen's hats are celebrated in a the form of cassis chocolate  mousse hats. Traditional tea fare is here as well such as the airy jumble of cream , meringue and fruit, Eton Mess and cucumber sandwiches.

London is the place to be this summer thanks to the Jubilee and the birth of the next heir. Celebrate both with a rich  tea at this world renown hotel. Toast both Elizabeth and her great grandchild with a flute of Bollinger's and an array of delicious treats!

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Leafy Green Cookbook

Eating greens isn't always an easy proposition. Most times they're prepared in dishes that can be quite bland or boring. Not anymore. There's a great new cookbook out there that turns greens into gold thanks to some tasty recipes. Kathryn Anible The Leafy Greens Cookbook shows us how with a variety of recipes, from pizza to smoothies.

The Leafy Greens Cookbook (Ulysses Press) is the perfect cookbook for those who want to incorporate more of them into their diet. Ms. Anible varies the recipes from creamy smoothies to crunchy wontons and cabbage rolls. Yes, there are salads  but they're mixed with  such ingredients as peanuts and eggs to give a multi layered dish. There as also the usual vegetarian fare however it has a kick to it.There's a frittata of baby greens that blends baby kale and spinach with eggs, chive and onion. Arugula pizza makes an appearance, too , the perfect dish for any vegetarian get together.

Another plus is that Ms.Anible uses lesser known greens like Swiss chard and broccoli raab. Many  cookbooks rarely mention these but she has plenty of good dishes with them. She also uses fennel and watercress too, again these are almost never given a thought. For those who are not well versed in the types of greens out there. there is a very handy and extensive guide on them in the beginning of the cookbook. She describes both in taste and texture and offers recommendations with how to cook each one.

Yes, it is hard to eat greens. However with a cookbook of easy recipes focusing on them, kale, bok choy and dandelions greens, to name a few never looked so good. The Leafy Greens Cookbook will not only having you waiting healthy but eating good and delicious too.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Influence Of A Portuguese Heritage

All chefs draw from their backgrounds. Their heritage and what their families cook influence the way they  do and what goes on their menus.George Mendes, of the famed New York City restaurant Aldea restaurant, is no different.His childhood favorites are now the favorites of his customers. They reflect the intense flavor of his Portuguese American childhood.

Chef Mendes is the first subject in a New York Times Dining series called Tastes Like Home, It is a summer exclusive about New York chefs who seek out and use the foods they grew up on. Dining regular  Jeff Gordonier interviewed this chef and went along with him in his native Newark, New Jersey , sampling the ingredients of Portuguese cooking. This section of the Essex county city is called The Ironbound and is home to both Portuguese and Brazilian immigrants. Mendes is the child of the first and grew up  enjoying the heavily seafood influenced cuisine. He brings this to Aldea which is drenched in traditional dishes of anchovies plates and  cured ham .

During their trip to the Ironbound both Chef Mendes looked for ingredients for future recipes. He plans on expanding his menu, incorporating foods' from Portugal's colonies onto his menu. There is Brazil, the Indian colony of Goa along with Angola and even Japan. (Portuguese sailors often stopped there and gave the Japanese their beloved tempura dish)He sampled fresh sardines (never canned) with  the traditional dressing of lemon olive oil and sea salt along with the Portuguese mountain cheese , queijo da serra.There was also the dip into cilantro flecked clams and their fragrant broth, sopped up with the fluffy centered bread the Portuguese are so fond of.

Chef Mende knows what his customers at Aldea like. He also knows what he likes too- the traditional Portuguese foods that he grew up on.This influence is strong.It is him, and in his cooking.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A New Tasty Treat Hannahmax Cookies

For those who love those real crispy homemade style cookies , there's a newer  more compact model out there. Usually these are the size of small hubcaps but Hannahmax Bakeries have baked their cookies  palm sized . These are fun little bites that have all natural goodness.

The company is based in Cortera California and was created by Joanne Adirim, a baker since the age of twelve. I like her philosophy which is all natural with milled cane sugar and fresh butter and eggs.She uses an all natural approach to create cookies that not only taste natural but have a natural look and feel.The flavors are original brown sugar, chocolate chip, cinnamon, and peanut butter sea salt.

I've tried the chocolate  chip and it's like they came fresh out of the oven,It's a very buttery   cookie with a lovely chocolate under taste.This would make an excellent base for a homemade ice cream sandwich or even as a cookie topping. I'm eager to try the other flavors, especially the brown sugar along with the cinnamon.Unfortunately most East Coast stores don't carry all the flavors. Hopefully this will change in the future.

If you're craving home baked goodness then try Hannahmax Cookies. These are wonderful gems that are made with goodness and taste good too. Havne them plain or with  ocecream

A Sweet Secret

All writers have secrets. Martha Rose Shulman is no different. She creates healthy and original recipes for the New York Times Food and Nutrition  column in the Tuesday Science  Times.However she also writes and whips up  some of the most decadent desserts and treats. Yes, she wants us to eat nutritious but she also teases us with eating naughty as well.

This foodie dichotomy was the subject of a self written piece in today's New York Times Wednesday Dining section. Ms. Shulman , not only contributes to the newspaper, she also has written several cookbooks on healthy eating and cooking. While she pushes quinoa and veggies  one minute in the next she and her son are whipping up incredibly decadent fancies such as ganache covered cupcakes and butter rich cookies.Forget the granola bars and brown sugar. Say hello to the lush Gateau St Honore and uber rich Alsatian German Christmas cookies.

Ms. Shulman also shucks the healthy ingredients. (although readers should stick to cooking and serving her recipes. She also has some really tasty looking fruit recipes that you can make for a good for you dessert). Her pastries and cookies usually have Plugra butter in them. This is one of the richest butters  with a fat content of 82 per cent..Also on her list is the best chocolate, the dark, seductive Valhrona along with heavy cream Instead of brown  and unbleached flours she uses the bad  for you white and cake varieties.Luckily she has also written pastry cookbooks so we can enjoy these treats too.

Every writer has a secret side. Ms. Shulman is no different. She may want us to eat healthy with whole grains and fresh produce. However she also tempts and teases us with tasty treats that can be sinfully good.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Light Summer Mousses

Recently I wrote about that most wonderful of meals and desserts, the mousse. Now with the hot weather here, it's time to revisit it and check out the lighter stuff.It's an easy to make summer dish and it's perfect for ending a barbecue or even a picnic. Try the traditional flavors or even make with the fruits of the season.

One of the easiest mousse recipes is made with just simply Cool Whip and any kind of pudding. Just mix equal parts pudding and the topping. Finish with fruit slices or berries placed on top. There's also one where it just requires egg yolks, melted  butter  and bitter chocolate Add Tia Maria  and  the beaten egg whites and then blend. If you want sub in coffee for the liqueur for a mocha latte flavor.. Vanilla mousse is another great classic. Make it with  a marshmallow fluff, whipped cream and a dash of vanilla for something truly tasty and really quick.

Fruit mousses are the perfect dessert right now. This is the season for peaches, and all the berries.. Try a puree of any fruit and mix with Cool Whip or fresh cream for a type of English fool. You can also use macerated fruit along with any comparable in taste liqueur for added kick.. Another idea is using  fruit flavored gelatin and whisking  when it's in the liquid state with Cool Whip or heavy cream.This creates something that's not only feather light but meltingly delicious. Add some fresh fruits on the side and a blob of Cool Whip for an elegant but easy dinner party end.

A light summer mousse is what a barbecue or outdoor dinner party needs. It is easy to make  whether you use the traditional flavors or it with the fruits of the season.It's a few seconds of creating some so complex yet surprisingly easy.

For my friend BMoose who's having a dinner in the stars right now.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Hearty And Healthy Meal For Dad

It's Father's Day tomorrow and that means hearty meal for Dad. Whether it's breakfast lunch or dinner you and the kids can fix him a hearty yet healthy meal.Make him his favorites but make sure there's at least something nutritious in what you serve as well. Yes, it can be good for him but good tasting as well.

Most men love  to wake up to a hearty breakfast.They want  eggs, waffles and bacon before going to church or starting the day's activities. Instead of  the usual scrambled or omelets , try making him just the egg whites for a lighter fare. Add some tomatoes  and spinach for some veggie power. Also he'll probably want to scoop it up with some toast or English muffins. Try whole wheat for both for a healthier alternative. Also cut down on t he butter with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter along with a tiny dollop of jelly or jam. Luckily there are whole wheat waffles and these can be served with fresh made fruit compote instead of maple syrup. (although if he wants that , let him, it is Father's Day after all). Finish with the healthier turkey or even vegan bacon.These two have no fat or cholesterol so they're perfect to make for any bacon lover.

Of course grilling is an important part of the day as well. Dad can still have hi burger but again he can make it a veggie or a turkey one. Serve it with a spicy homemade barbecue or a ketchup made with sun dried tomatoes. (Traina's California Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup is the best)Another variation is portabello mushroom caps. These have a wonderful steak like taste and can be easily turned into a burger. Add some pickles, and sliced avocados for more oomph. If he wants to grill himself, consider salmon or tuna which is wonderful on the grill. finish with a cole slaw made with vinaigrette instead of mayo.Dessert whether for lunch or dinner, should also be special too. Think about frozen Greek yogurt with some honey and fresh cut strawberries. Better yet treat him to a big slice of ice cold watermelon and then a nap on his favorite lounger or hammock.

Treat Dad to some good and healthy food on his special day. He can still enjoy his favorites but in a more nutritious manner. He'll appreciate not only the taste but the e consideration that went into making his Father's Day meals

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup

Ketchup is a summer staple. We douse our burgers liberally with it, we use it as a base for some salad  dressings.The problem with is that this condiment can be mundane and bring down dishes instead of enhancing them. Not so anymore. There's a new ketchup out there and it is truly a blessing.

Traina Foods of California, long know for its's dried fruits and sun dried tomatoes has taken it a step further with a new ketchup. It is made from sun dried Roma tomatoes from the San Joaquin Valley.It truly is a step up from the regular everyday ones. This is a robust condiment that has a very distinct taste, rich with the after tang of sun ripened tomatoes. It also has a texture with bits of  tomatoes . The ketchup is wonderfully chunky and flavorful. Once you haveCalifornia Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup, you;ll be hard pressed to go back to regular ketchup with it's runniness and almost comparatively bland taste.

The sun dried ketchup is good on burgers,  as well as the perfect dip for barbecued steaks and chops. The condiment's sweetness is the right foil for the meat. You could also easily use it as a marinade for any beef cut or even chicken. It 's sheer heaven when paired with ham in a sandwich.(yes, ham and ketchup go so well together, really)You can even try combining it with a gourmet mayo to create an ethereal French dressing. Imagine how it would taste , dressing a salad Nicoise or just a plain Spring green one.The sun dried tomato ketchup also adds zing to devilled eggs, giving the filling a truly rich flavor. and feel.

This summer try California Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup to enhance  your barbecues, salads and burgers.It is a delicious plus, bringing  a rich flavor to classic warm weather fare.Forget the regular stuff .Use this for a truly gourmet and uterrly tasty flavor addition..

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Delicacy Of Frog's Legs

Frog's legs and France were so entwined at one time it was hard not to think of one without thinking of the other.Then les jambe des grenouilles fell out of favor.Now they're back. ,not just in the traditional style but also served in a variety of new ways.(warning ,for Kermit lovers ,this could be graphic seriously) Elaine Sciolino rediscovered them and wrote about them in her Letter From Paris column in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.She visited a fourth generation chef ,Christophe Marguin. His great grandfather first made the national dish in 1906 when the frogs were caught out of a family pond. monsieur Marguin followed his heritage and opened up a restaurant ,not only serving the amphibian but also decorated with them as well.There are even hand painted frogs on the plates as well as frog statues and statuettes.Frogs are now imported to France ,usually from Poland, Albania and the Far East.The French government had put a ban on frog hunting since the 1980's however there are some relaxation to the law.Marguin and his wife actually raise them which is legal.There is barn full of them which his wife tends. As for the meat itself, Mssr. Marguin serves them in the traditional style ,sautéed with butter.The legs are first broiled and then drenched with a frothy butter sauce cooked over a low flame.There is also a galette,made with potatoes almond powder and white wine.There is the overly decadent caviar and scrambled eggs decorated with frog legs slivers and chives along with a crusty tart redolent with mushrooms and nuggets of frog meat(author's note although I'm writing about this,I really don't like the idea of eating frog.They're just too cute and really don't encourage my readers to do so).Surprisingly frogs are eaten in the American South,.Men catch then from ponds and creeks, cut off the legs and make them like chicken legs,coated in batter and deep fried.Where as the French serve the legs with champagne, good old boys like their froggies with a cold beer. France and frog legs are so enmeshed in each other.One can't think of French cuisine without them.For some foodies they are the ultimate delicacy.They represent true Gallic gourmet food.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Variations On A Picnic

This is the season for outdoor dining. Nothing beats a picnic on a warm breezy June day. for foodies it;'s a way of expressing themselves through a simple sandwich , drink and snack along with a quick dessert. The best part of eating outdoors is elevating to a truly gourmet level. You can still have the basics but amp them up to something supreme.

Varying this simple meal was the subject of  A Good Appetite in today's New York Times Dining section.Its' author, Melissa Clark suggests giving  the picnic its; due. Make it fancy, she orders, but not as fancy as say a Jane Austen outing with fine china, cold pigeon pie and gooseberry jams. Have thick picnic blankets with real flatware and some electric votive candles to set the mood ,especially for dusk dining. Keep the paper plates though (no one wants to comeback from a picnic with a hamper full of dirty china and glasses)/You can make one yourself or even have as restaurant provide you with your picnic fare (as Ms Clark also suggests.)

Ms. Clark recommends  the [pan bagnet for the perfect picnic sandwich. This is an upscale version of the classic tuna fish sandwich. It;s Provencale and redolent with not just tuna but also anchovy , along with olives tomatoes and basil, Olive oil and vinegar rare liberally sprinkled over a ciambatta (or more preferably Italian or French bread) and then pressed. Ms. Clark usually employs her young daughter for this ,allowing the girl to sit on it. You can just put the hamper or some heavy tiles on it. The next picnic recipe is a tasty haricot verte, green beans mixed with corns kernels and carrots , and dressed in a vinaigrette. The meal is finished off with a lemon poppy seed cake.

This is the time for  a good picnic. Elevate to a something special with good food and an elegant atmosphere. Enjoy a  gourmet sandwich along with an unusual salad .Finish it off with fresh air and the joy of a late spring day or evening

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Don't Cook This Summer!

Every one hates cooking and baking when the temps soar. It makes you hot, crabby and uncomfortable, Yet to have delicious meals and desserts, you do have to use a hot oven, right? Wrong! There's a new cookbook out there that begs to differ.

Matt Kady has written  the perfect summer cookbook - one with stove free recipes.Yup, The No Cook, No Bake Cookbook has dozens of these that feature every meal made without the use of a burner or oven. It's a Ulysses Press book and it's a great one to have, especially if you hate any kind of cooking during the summer months or if you're staying in a summer house. Most of the recipes require all natural ingredients like rolled oats and fresh fruits and veggies (easy to get now with all the farmers markets and farms selling produce). They are easy to whip up and require really no effort.

The recipes are tasty and flavorful. You can start the morning with easy fruit wraps which is kind of like a cold blintz with a fruit coulis.There are also smoothies and even a variation of V-8 juice.Mr. Kady's lunch sandwiches would be  perfect for a beach party or park picnic., There are the colorful sardine sandwiches, chopped sardines with red onions, bell peppers and celery and  pizza stacks , cold made mini pies.You can definitely use some of the recipes such as the tomato cherry bruschetta and chickpea pitas. End with the no bake  almond thumbprint cookies or mango fool.

You don't have to  be tied to your stove to create tasty dishes and treats. Follow Matt Kady's The No Cook No Bake Cookbook and you'll have an entire cornucopia of easy to make foods. They're the perfect dishes to make during these hot, steamy days,

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Versatile Tuna

Tuna is one of the better and tastier foods of summer dining. There's a lot to be done with it . Different types can be grilled or thrown into a salad for easy cooking.Its one of those diverse types like poultry that can be prepared in so many ways.

Tuna can be great grilled on planks in the backyard. Any supermarket or fish market will have yellowfin or ahi tunas They're heartier than the albacore tuna that's sold in cans. These have a pinker meat and a heartier flavor. Ahi tuna can be used in sushi or better yet grilled.Most home chefs usually grill it.It can be marinated in soy or ginger sauceor left plain. Tuna steaks can also just be seasoned with salt and pepper along with  a squirt of lime or lemon juice.You can also bake them as well usually for only ten to fifteen minutes in a 400 degree oven.Some even prefer the easiest method of pan frying or broiling for a few minutes.

Canned tuna or albacore has always been a summer staple. Everyone loves a good tuna salad sandwich loaded with mayo along with chopped celery and onions. It's even good mixed in with plain macaroni ans a quick but filling salad. However albacore is good in any Provencale recipe. Try making a salad Nicoise with  a can of tuna in oil, hard boiled eggs and black olives along with regular salad bowl ingredients.Another Southern French specialty is spreading tuna on split open baguettes. Rub the bread with garlic cloves before adding the fish and sliced beefsteak tomatoes. You can also stuff peppers and tomatoes with tuna too for a fun and different lunch.

Make tuna a summer staple.It's a tasty and versatile fish. Tr y yellowfin or ahi on the grill at a barbecue or have a Provencale inspired sandwich or salad. Either way it's just a nice way of keeping it simple yet delicious during these summery days.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Too Many Cooks

It seems anyone can be cook nowadays.I recently caught both Trisha Yearwood an The Pioneer Woman on their own shows.Maybe we haveThe FoodNetwork to thank for this new wave of anyone can be a chef.The problem is that sometimes the wrong people are showing how to cook. Trisha Yearwood is probably a great singer.She has fans and she tops the country charts.I'm sure like all country gals she loves to cook but to have her own show.That's something beyond belief. even Paula Deene is another matter.She had her own recipe and is well versed in all aspects of the culinary world .She knows food. even Giada DeLaurentus with her Hollywood and Cine Citta connections (her grandfather is the great director Dino DeLaurentus) knows food and how to create it.HeWatching her and reading her books are true learning experiences.Ms.Yearwood,I don't know.I've seen one show and as both a foodie and a home cook was not impressed. Then there's the bloggers gone famous. I also saw an episode of Pioneer Woman cooking.I knew she was famous for her blog and I've even used it for reference for this one.Yet to give her her own show maybe it's pushing it a bit much.Although that said, there are plenty of bloggers out there who also use YouTube to not only show how to cook but also promote themselves themselves.I often wonder. What's happened to just plain writing about food similar to what every newspaper food writer does.Julia Moskin or Jeff Gordonier of the Times probably will never ha e their own show or following on YouTube.There's much to be said about good writing. Are we creating too many celebrity chefs these days? Yes.Maybe it's time to go back to the real chefs and our family recipes instead of all these star ones.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Must See Bake TV

There's yet another reality  competition  show out there and it's actually pretty sweet. It's called The American Baking Competition and it' a great summer diversion. CBS, did well with putting this on the air.All the contestants need to be is savvy  and creative in the kitchen. Best of all, they're not pros, just folks like you and me who just love to create sweet treats in their kitchen.

The show is a take off on a British reality show aptly named The Great British Bake Off which has spawned Comic Relief and wedding cake bake offs in England. One of the judges, Paul Hollywood becomes a judge here on the Yank version as well.He is a top professional baker in the UK and here  on the CBS show alternates between gruff and sweet. The other judge is Marcela  Valladolid who is famous for her show Mexican Made Easy on The Food Network. Not only is she a chef but she trained as a pastry chef at Paris' famed Escoffier School. Rounding this out is the host, surprisingly enough Jeff Foxworthy. He checks in with the contestants,  encouraging them like a folksy Tim Gunn.

I like this show. The contestants are real and don't come with the usual drama and tears that other realty show contestants have. They';re also not as backstabbing too. Another fun thing are the competitions. There are three within each show , focusing on on theme (the first was pies, this last week was cookies). Whoever gets the highest marks in all three is the winner, the one who gets the lowest sadly does have to go home.It should be interesting as the weeks go by to see who will survive or not. Hopefully there will also be recipe book too with this and a long life like Project Runway.

The summer TV season is usually lackluster with very few hits. CBS , however has definitely a full baked idea with The American Bake Off. This is must see TV at its' best.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Hot Summer Soup

Even though we're gliding towards summer, we can still enjoy some cold weather dishes. That includes a minestrone.This is not one , made for snowy days  but one that's a nice repast after a hot day , whether at work or at the beach. Like Tuesday's column all it takes is updating it to make a dish perfect for now.

This was the premise of David Tanis column A City Kitchen in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. He takes one of the heaviest soups , minestrone and lightens up for hearty summer dining. How does he do so? By subbing in fish broth for beef or chicken stock. Making fish stock is easy Take the bones from any meaty white fish  and rinse them well. You should have two pounds of bones by now and then cook them for half an hour with eight cups of water. Mr. Tanis recommend add ing an onion for more flavor. After cooking then just strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer.

As with minestrone, you can use more onions , celery and carrots. Mr. Tanis also  has saffron and garlic cloves for  flavor  and spice. The meat are littleneck clams and squid to re emphasize the brininess,Beans are a must here too and Mr. Tanis uses cannellini and fava beans. Instead of topping the finished bowls with cheese , he returns to the garden , employing a dollop of fresh pesto.He keeps this simple too , using only parsley , basil and garlic and avoiding the heavily invasive cheese and pine nuts. The end result is a hot satisfying soup, but one that is incredibly light.

There's nothing better than a hot soup for lunch or dinner. Even though it's summer , you can still make a delicious, smelling and tasting minestrone,Sub in lighter ingredients and you have this the perfect summer soup.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Frying On The Grill

Everyone us enamored with their grills. After all this method of cooking has always been the most satisfying. Yet any barbecue chef can explore a new way - frying of creating delicious dishes on an outdoor stove. Not only that , frying is also healthier too in this case. There's a wide range of foods that can be easily pan fried too, increasing a grill's versatility.

This was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Wednesday Dining section. The piece, cowritten by  regular contributors, John Willoughby and  Chris Schlesinger explore frying as an alternative to  grilling, especially on the larger grills.The technique works the best of you have a propane fueled stove . It should have in or about 30,000 BTUs enough to heat up a frying pan full of oil. As far as frying pans, don't use your regular kitchen one. Try an outdoor one from such brands as Sportmans Outdoor Skillet and or Camp Chef LumberJack Skillet.These are heavier and can stand up to the intense heat.

What fries well outside? Both writers Willoughby and Schlesinger recommend fish thanks to an eccentric named Captain Ned. This barbecue guest brought fish along with  his skillet as well as the ingredients for a fish fry. It turned out to be one of the best fried fishes that the authors had.. Frying  in th e great outdoors proved a crispy exterior and and  melt in your mouth tender inside. They also recommend scallops which prove to be perfectly tender. However don;t limit outdoor frying to just fish. You can make paella as well as schnitzel and of course chicken. The last will be better than indoor and you won't have the messy kitchen to deal with afterwards

Think about frying this grilling season. Doing so will add variety to your barbecue.  You can have a tasty fish fry or enjoy a seafood or chicken paella. This is a lot better than the average grill fare.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cooking Through Summer

Summer comes and our favorite winter meals and recipes disappear. It is hard , however, with sweltering temps and the lethargy that comes with muggy days to create elaborate dishes and sides. Plus it's just hard to commit to an hour or two of prep time when you and the family would rather be at the beach.Luckily there are short cuts to take to create those tasty cold weather dishes we  all love so well..

One of the most favorites that we all miss is the holiday dinner. Who doesn't enjoy a roast complete with homemade gravy and a savory stuffing? You can more or less have the same thing now. Instead of a roast, buy freshly sliced London Broil,  or turkey  at your supermarket's deli counter. Have ready  made gravy and Stove Top Stuffing. These last two only take five minutes each to create and heat up. Serve the already sliced meat with these , toss in a nice salad and voila, a summery version of a holiday meal. For veggies, get the steamed in the microwave kind. You can drizzle melted butter or heated cheddar cheese on them for that tasty holiday meal flavor.

Spaghetti is another cold weather dish that everyone misses now. Luckily pasta is easy to heat up, Just toss it  in a pot of boiling water, sprinkle in some sea salt and boil. However it's the sauce that's always considered labor intensive. You can add jarred sauces. Many do have that homemade flavor however they do have  a lot of preservatives in them. Another is putting an al fresco spin on your sauce..Ccreate a quick one by sauteing fresh plum tomatoes (these are the best and are used in longer cooking sauces) and  olive oil. Add garlic and oregano for flavor.  If you want to add meatballs buy them pre made , so it's less work for you.

Even though the temps are high, you can still have a tasty winter dish.  All you have to do is take short cuts to get that special taste you crave. It's easy, when you can use either your deli, or quick to make  dishes. and sides.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Healthy Mall Eating

Is there such a thing as healthy mall eating? Surprisingly yes.It;s not just sugary cinnamon buns and oil soaked fries. There are some good choices out there  that are both healthful and tasty.It's just a matter of finding what works for you. Anyone can have a fun treat after a hard day of shopping.

Salads are always the best bet for healthy mall eating. Every stand has at least one salad dish on their menu.There are even stands, such as Green Leaf that specialize in customized salads.The trick is to make it healthy. be wary of all those creamy dressings like French and Russian.Stick to a lemon and oil  one instead.Also avoid croutons and cheese too. Think veggies .Think variety. Try to have your salad bowl filled with peppers, broccoli florets and grape tomatoes. Beans are always a good add on. If you want to continue in the vegetarian vein then consider  Burger King. It's one of the rare fast food joints that's offering veggie and turkey burgers. Have them with just tomatoes , onions and lettuce, Nix the special sauces and use mustard and a small spattering of ketchup.

Italian and Chinese restaurants abound in malls. The food is fun and easy to eat. However some choices may not be good for you. if you're craving Italian, then stick with smaller dishes of spaghetti. Stay away from the cheesier pizza and calzones.Chinese is also good however be careful with what to order. Egg rolls are usually fried. Some like General Tso's chicken is loaded with sugary sauces and fried meat.Try to aim for noodle soups or Buddha delight which is all veggies, from broccoli to snow peas. Aim for dishes that have very little sauce . Mexican is actually the healthiest and you can always find something that is not only low calorie but delicious. Think plain tacos or burritos with just tomato, lettuce  and guacamole. Don't ask for cheese and sour cream/.

Mall eating can be just as healthy as eating at home. Choose wisely after your shopping spree.  Eat the right foods. Not only will you feel better but you'll be able to fit into all those new duds.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tis The Season For Picking

June is here and with it a plethora of fruit to pick. This is the times when farms all over the United States open their grounds to fruit lovers and foodies . Pick it yourself offers a wide range of having the best fruit and either eating it fresh or creating tasty and also healthy dishes.It's also a fun way of spending time and making memories with family and friends.

The first step is scouring the Web to see what farms allow picking.  Check to see if there are age restrictions (some places will not allow children under ten or twelve)  along with any fees. Some farms will charge you for gloves or baskets. Others will just hand you a basket and you pay per pound at the end. Another aspect is dressing for it. wear sneakers and socks, You don;t want to step on something or get bit (snakes do occasionally slither in and out of rows and orchards - especially in my state New Jersey).Also take plenty of water and sunblock. Picking on a hot sunny day is no different than time spent at the beach. If you feel light headed  or faint, stop , pay for whatever you picked and head for the car.

Pickings right now are good . This is the start of the strawberry season and some states such as Texas are in full bloom. Blueberries  and blackberries will be ripening towards the middle and end of the month . Peaches are also currently good for the picking too.One important thing to remember is don;t get too carried away. Fruit spoils quickly and if you and your group picked too much,  then you could wind up with throwing  away half of your bounty. Luckily you can freeze fruit, along with making it into a yummy compote..You can also turn it into relish or chutney for your barbecues too.

Make a date at your local farm to go fruit picking. It;s a fun way of bringing together family and friends.It's a great way of enjoying the healthy bounty of the season too.