Thursday, October 31, 2013

Amother Spooky Celebration

Halloween isn;t the only holiday that celebrates the spirits. Mexicans and Mexican -Americans are gearing up to honor their lost loved ones for Day of The Dead, Dias  des los Muertos which is November 2nd. Like this day, it centers around food, but instead of candy, more of the breads and favorites  of those gone.

Rachel Wharton wrote about it along with visiting a Mexican bakery for yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Guadalupana Bakery  in the Bed Stuy section of Brooklyn specializes in baking the skull shaped loaves as well as the daily pan dulce or sweet breads. The owners Maria and Amador Rojas learned how to bake th e classics in their native Piaxtla Mexico.Mrs. Rojas shapes the breads, dusting them with pink sugar, filling them with raisins and cinnamon along with orange blossom water or almond extract.The pan de muerto as it's called is shaped like a smiling skull. Bunny shaped cake are made for little ones lost as well.

The holy day which falls on the Catholic calendar, All Saint's Day  celebrates the lost loved ones favorite foods. Along with the breads families also make tamales and moles along with tequila and even coffee brewed the way they liked it.Mexican bakeries also make the brightly colored sugar skulls too. Most  families bring the victuals to the cemetery to eat there although some urban ones set up an altar, an ofrenda, in their homes.The families then eat the treats on that day as a kind of communion with their ancestors.

Halloween is the time to celebrate the spookiness and the spirits along with the fun of the day. Day of the dead celebrates those lost but always remembered. It's done with  special  breads and candies , a sweet way to keep memories alives

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Easiness of Mussels

For many cooks, a mussel dinner can be daunting.Bivalves are usually tricky to cook however that's quite the opposite with this traditional seafood. In fact anyone can make them and have an easy  but hearty meal.

Melissa Clark wrote about them and experimented with them in her A Good Appetite column in today's New York Times Dining section. She demystified the myth that mussels are not the easiest  to cook. They  are very simple. Most home chefs have always hated cleaning them because mussels are gritty with sand. All it takes is just a quick rinse under the e tap and make sure they're still living when you put them in the pot. A dead mussel will have an opened shell. Discard these .If you have bought wild mussels the cleaning is a bit more labor intensive. You have to pull out their beards and then soak them in cold water for about twenty minutes. This allows them to expel any residual sand . Afterwards scrub clean again.

Ms. Clark steams them with cauliflower basil and lime. She suggests using a water heavy vegetable like cauliflower works as do  cabbages and mushrooms. For summer you can steam them with corn or tomatoes, both have a high water content,All of these impart a nice flavor on the bivalve's  flesh Mussels can also be steamed with white wine and aromatics for a more sophisticated meal. You can also try  lemon water  and garlic as well or again white wine and oregano. Another way is just  water steamed with a side of butter or tomato sauce for a heartier spin.

Mussels are not as complicated to make as people make them out to be. They are relatively easy to clean and to cook. They make a hearty, briny good  meal with or without vegetables.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Apple Up

This is the time of year when candy is king. Halloween brings with it  tons of sweet treats and all sort of nutritional headaches. What to do? Have a healthy amount of apples and pears around along with other fruits and healthy snacks. It'll balance out that sugar infused diet coming in the next few days,

Homes around the country are going to be coated in all sorts of gooey , sweet treats. You can temper that by  introducing good for you goodies to your Halloween party. Instead of caramel apples, try the old fashioned bobbing for apples.It;s another kind of messy fun that kids will love. Also instead of having a caramel or chocolate dip for apple slices, try Greek yogurt mixed with honey. It's a creamy and  better alternative. Another idea is having black or deep purple grapes or monster eye s out for dipping too. The kids will get a kick out of them  as well as receiving a healthy infusion of Vitamin C. You can also make banana ghosts using raisins for eyes and orange pumpkins using peeled oranges with  celery stalks in the middle as the stems.

Of course the kids , big or small will want to gobble up their loot and any other Halloween candy left. Temper the urge with some better swaps. Your trick or treaters can still have chocolate  and lollipops but first let them have a piece of fruit first. They'll feel fuller and won't have the need to eat more junk. Also sub in some sunflower seeds or almonds when the kids  are feeling hungry.They'll get a shot of protein and vitamins instead of just empty calories. Hiding the Halloween loot is another idea, saving it for when chores are done or if they're especially good.

Halloween is the starts of the sweets and treats season. Balance it with some good sub ins like fresh fruits, seeds and nuts. Not only will the little goblins feel better, they won;t be hyped up on all that sugar.

For all those who suffered through Sandy - everything heals with time and love

Monday, October 28, 2013

The New Southwest A Taste of Fire And Fun

Anything from the American Southwest always has a cool vibe.The architecture has a rustic yet funky look. The furniture and jewelry also reflect that as well as saluting a blend of different indigenous influences. The same could be said of the cuisine.It s a blend of Native  American and Mexican, resulting in a fusion of different, tastes, colors and textures.

It is the theme of a brand new cookbook, The New Southwest by Meagan Micozzi (Hippocrene Books Publishers, New York).This is a fantastic book, chock full of all sorts of different recipes. What I love about it is that it has a dictionary of all the ingredients used in the cuisine as well as their usage. Ms. Micozzi, a  food blogger who lives in Arizona , embraced the cuisine, and is an expert on it. She gives good tips about roasting chiles just right as well as making Southwest basics such as tortilla, and chorizo . She also categorizes the recipes which is perfect if you're planning a Southwestern ,Mexican influenced brunch or dinner party.

The dishes are not all spicy chiles and tortillas. The variety is staggering. There are some good breakfast ones such as pinto  bean breakfast patty melts as well as sweet glazed avocado(!) doughnuts.The side dishes are yummy and would give zing to any holiday meal.Instead of plain sweet potatoes, try the chipotle twice baked sweet potatoes or the drunken black beans spiked with tequila.Chipotle figures big in this cuisine and  chipotle mustard livens up a grilled cheese sandwich.It also breathes life into Ms. Micozzi's adobo chicken wings. Make these along with the many cocktails included for a fun weekend dinner. Finish with some of the dessert recipes like the chia (yes that chia that covers those cheesy clay figures) cupcakes or buttery feast day cookies.

Southwestern cuisine is one of the tastiest but also one of the most exciting. Get The New Southwest Cookbook  and experience the fieriness and sweetness of it. Enjoy the zesty, zingy recipes and the many flavors that go with it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Creamery Goodness

Nothing beats a very good dairy product. I recently got to experience two of them,Devonshire clotted cream and farm fresh churned butter. Both are amazing and truly the definition of sinfully delicious. They can be hard to come by here in the States but they are oh so good and worth the hunt.

I wrote about clotted cream and how to make it last week. Luckily I was able to find Devonshire clotted cream on the web and ordered it. To me this is the best, especially with the jam (surprisingly the French Bon Maman) that came with it. The Devonshire type is a thicker , more buttery spread perfect for any type of bread , but ideal  on scones. It's the best ingredient for having a traditional cream tea . You could also serve it alongside holiday pies and pudding,s although the best way is still with jam and  fresh baked scones (or English muffins).I  would recommend making it at home butclotted cream  can be a bit labor intensive. You can order it from The English Tea Store, Jolly Grub, or British Food Depot.

Another treat I  got to savor was farm fresh churned sweet butter. I was lucky to score it at a local farmer's market, rare now, especially since many outdoor markets are closing for the season.Again, there is nothing like this.Of course it's great for a a vegetable saute or melted and oozy in a baked potato, however it's best again on toast  or any slice of bread.It's more cream than butter and doesn't  have that waxy aftertaste that some commercially made butters possess . Some grocery stores do sell it , such as Stop & Shop and A&P in the States. However if you live near any dairy farm or creamery, then you  have the chance to buy it.

Dairy products, especially rich ones are considered taboo  yet that ban can be waived when it comes to Devonshire clotted cream and fresh churned butter. Both are just amazing, with silky tastes and textures. If you;re going to indulge, these are the treats for you. They are just truly  perfect , especially with jam and bread.

Friday, October 25, 2013

SoCal'sBest Eating The Lemonade Cookbook

Los Angeleno's have it pretty good.There's that sunny weather , the nearby beaches and those movie and TV star sightings.There's also Lemonade, a mini chain offering delicious food and sweets for everyone to enjoy. Now chef Alan Jackson along with Joanne Cianciulli have written a cookbook featuring the restaurant's tasty and refreshing dishes.

The Lemonade Cookbook , published by St. Marten's Press, has the mini chain's recipes. There are all sorts , from salads to sweets. Some have a SoCal twist, featuring a plethora of veggies in hot and cold dishes. I love their salad section. There are a few interesting combinations.such as a  hot salad consisting of olive oil braised lima beans with garlic chips and lemon that would be the perfect holiday meal side/ Other veggies are also mixed into a variety of different blends. Chef Jackson also brings us homey recipes such as buttermilk baked  chicken and pulled pork with barbecue sauce. Exotic dishes like harissa and tangine are also included as are Lemonade's famed pot roast sandwiches.

Lemonade is known for its' sweet endings as well. The dessert section is great, with all sorts of tasty sweets, again perfect for holiday baking. Bakers will love the on trend pistachio macaron recipe as well the chocolate cake. Fancier ones such as chocolate pot de creme  and raspberry Linzer tortes  are also in the book. Of course the restaurant's signature drink, lemonade has several interesting and refreshing recipes.Mr Jackson bases them on agua  frescas, the stimulating fruit  ades that Mexican street vendors sell on Los Angeles streets. Lemonade itself, represents the sunny easiness of Southern California life  and it is a big part of a lunch or dinner at Lemonade.

If you want  So Cal recipes  or  are a big Lemonade fan then The Lemonade Cookbook is for you.It's a great blend of refreshing drinks and salads along with homey dishes. It's the perfect go to book for both everyday and holiday meals.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The New Side Of Germany

For centuries German food consisted of heavy dishes laden with good but dense ingredients. That's all changing thanks to a new breed of Deutchland chefs. There's a  new generation that trying fusion as well as updating old and sometimes forbidden classics.

Pete Wells got the lucky chance to visit Munich  Frankfurt,and Berlin, also getting the chance to try some of these brave new dishes that symbolize another German Federation. He wrote about his trip in an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. During the visits to the three cities he sampled some different, dishes such as schmaltz or chicken fat, sweetened with pumpkin puree and made crispy and crunchy with flecks of chicken skin made by  chef Mario Lohninger. He also has dreamed up a creamy ravioli and true to tradition beef goulash.German born Tobru Namamura used his Japanese heritage to create squid with potatoes boiled with onions and bacon, the last  perhaps an homage to the German love of the vegetables.

Berlin is the place that is known for experimental cuisine. This turned setting city has always been on the cutting edge  and cuisine is no exception. Tim Raue, a former gang leader  has introduced a melange of Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese to the German diet. He has combined a classic , pork with .salt and Szechuan peppercorns.It is a fold of pork belly red cooked and deep fried .It then could be dredged in a reduction made from pig's feet and dried tangerine peel.His jellied veal terrine has a shower of Vietnamese inflected salad of ,lettuce mint green apples and pickled shallots. A New York style deli has also opened , bringing with it home cured pastrami and fresh made bagels and cheese cake.Nyack born Joey Passarella is the creator of these and the  owner of Mogg and Melzer's deli.

German food is one of the best cuisines in the world. However every now and then it's nice to mix it up , using traditional ingredients like pork and apples in different ways. It makes it fresh, and still tasty.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Healthy Frying

Everyone, including your doctor, will tell you fried food is bad . Yet it can be made healthier which is great for those who love batter dipped morsels. sizzled to a golden brown.The trick is choosing the right ingredients  as well as the right oil.This does make a difference and will produce something that gets a doctor's or nutritionist's seal of approval -more or less.

Mark Bittman explored and experimented with this in his Flexitarian column in today's New York Times Dining section. He chose healthier ingredients, chickpeas for falafel as well as veggies for tempura and zucchini .He also selected  healthier oils such as peanut or olive oil as well as grape seed. You can use the usual ones for frying  such as corn or Wesson along with soy or vegetable. Diners and restaurants use these because of their low prices. I would go with the olive simply because it's the most healthiest and to be honest it's better for frying. It imparts a nicer flavor and is also more affordable than the fancier oils.

Mr. Bittman gives  good recommendations to creating the perfect fry. One is to allow the food's exterior to be the crisp part. Do not over fry otherwise it will be too hard and not appetizing. Another is picking a light dusting that suits the ingredients.Pick a light coating and use it sparingly. He suggests. corn meal,or flour  along with  the classic eggs,milk and then a dredging of breadcrumbs.The next step to the perfect batch is not overcrowding the pan. fry in batches if you have too many. Also serve hot  in order to get the best flavor. If not then keep warm in an oven or a toaster oven.
Fried food is on almost everyone's no eat list. However if 's done  right it can be healthy and even tasty. Try a batch to enjoy that crunch and tasty deep fried flavor.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Joy Of Clotted Cream

Yesterday I wrote about clotted cream. This is a British delicacy, originating in Dorset, a sunny southern shire located on the English Channel. Thanks to research, I found out that Yanks can make this at home. It's a pretty easy recipe with several variations. Which ever one you try , it's bound to be good.

Clotted cream has a very old history in the United Kingdom. The Phoenicians first brought it to Dorset, probably in what is now modern day Torquay .They were trading tin with the ancient Britons  when they left the idea. Creating clotted cream was an easy way of storing milk without it  becoming spoiled.  Clotted or clouted cream is when clots or curds are form after a steaming process.The original recipe calls for scalding  the milk, then simmering it. The cream  was then set out overnight to gel . The curds  or clots were then scooped out and served with scones  along with a variety of  jams.

Making clotted cream in an American kitchen is relatively easy. The main ingredient is heavy cream. You use a double boiler to heat it for forty five minutes to the hour. The temperature should be  between 175 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.It;s cooled then the clots are skimmed and put into the fridge right away. There are easier  recipes that involve mixing sour cream or marscapone cheese with heavy cream.A teaspoon of powdered sugar is added to tempered the tang. You can try these  albeit it won't be as good as the original. If you're having an English tea at home with a dozen or more friends, then whip up these recipes. These are quick to make  and you can make them in large batches,

You don't have to send off to a British food website for clotted cream . You can make this treat yourself, using either traditional or non traditional recipes. The result will be wonderful , especially on fresh , hot scones and different jams.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Perfect Coleridge Tea

Today is Samuel Taylor Coleridge's birthday and just like any Englishman of his time (and of today) he appreciated a good tea.He was born and raised in Devon , England ,a shire known for its' dairy and jams.    It was good then and now is amazing, true British locavore treats and dishes that can sustain anyone, be it poet or just foodie.

Devonshire is known for one of England's greatest contributions to high tea, clotted cream. Originally , introduced to ancient Britannia by the Phoenicians trading with the locals around what's now present day Torquay this variation of yogurt is essentially a thick cream steamed and then left in pans toook separates during this and the top is full of clouts or clots. Devon locals have it smeared on scones , with a dollop of jam to add to the decadence.Of course teas also have fairy cakes or cupcakes as well as shortbread cookies and miniature tarts.

Coleridge probably would have preferred his county's scrumpy, the tangy   apple cider and a pasty, however  he also would have appreciated  savory.sandwiches too.These usually involve some form of seafood, usually a shrimp paste or baby prawns with mayonaisse on thin slices of white bread.A curry chicken salad is also served,  on raisin bread but it could also be spread on plain scones,As far as teas, most serve the mild but flavorful Earl Grey as well as the exotic Darjeeling and Assam teas -a nod to Britain's colonial past;

Samuel Taylor Coleridge probably had enjoyed many a traditional Devon cream tea.He would feel right at home, today on his birthday, savoring a modern one. The recipes haven;t changed in two hundred years. They are still delicious now as they were then

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Good Sunday Read

Heads up New York Times Sunday Magazine readers, most of issue is all about wining and dining.It's both a gourmand's and a foodie's dream issue, with all sorts of good articles about food and drink. Some will shock , some will rivet you. There's also a bonus of some pretty delicious recipes thrown in as well.

This is an issue that comes out twice a year , like their fashion and travel really is chock full of some interesting info solely about restaurants but also about what goes into them , like good dishes and good wines.. Famous chef Mario Batali contributes with  a penne arriabiata as well as shrimp scampi and calamari recipes.This is for his workers, usually for  a late night after work gathering, although these recipes would go well on a Saturday night with friends,,There's also a piece by Times Dining great Sam Sifton about older restaurants hitting their forty year anniversaries. Aloso look at a neat write up about Los Angeles being the goat stew(!) capital of the US.

What I found interesting is an article by Marnie Hanel about a nineteen year old octopus hunter Dylan Mayer. This plucky teen goes diving for that culinary hit, the octopus. Catching it is a bit of a struggle as the sea creature is ready to do battle with anything and anyone. It can cause  quite a lot of damage to any foe as Mayer found out but the result is worth it. He is, after all a chef too, and has created some interesting dishes with it .Instead of the usual salad (popular with the Greeks) Mr. Mayer   put braised  chunks on yogurt dollops spiced with herbs. If this is a turn off stick with the  inspiring kale article or the many on cocktails (with recipes) and wines

Tomorrow, grab the Sunday Times Magazine. Before you do the puzzle , enjoy the articles. They' re fun , informative and amazing - a sure winner with both gourmands and foodies alike.,

Friday, October 18, 2013

Giving Dinner Some Zing

Meat is a given at any meal.It's the basis of a week day meal .It's the star of a Sunday dinner. Yet ,a plain roast chicken or London Broil can be blamed and almost tasteless .The lifesaver to this is a good marinade.Add zippy or tangy bath and then you have a flavorful treat. Marinade for chicken can come in a variety of styles.The New York Times Dining section writer, Melissa Clark used Green Goddess salad dressing to her roast chicken recipe in her column has also used yogurt too.These can give tangy flavor ,especially when adding garlic and different types of spices.Personally Id prefer a lemon or lime juice mixed with olive oil for a fresher and more subtle flavor.You can also try a Caribbean jerk inspired one too using fiery chiles along with paprika for color. A beef or pork roast can also be spiced up with a well seasoned marinade.Most home chefs try teriyaki one,which is tasty.You can spice this up with a tablespoon of fresh chopped or shaved Ginger.Worcester sauce is another good ingredient, brining out the beef.s tender sweet and savory flavor.If you want to add some zing think about a spicy Korean or Szechuan inspired marinade.This can have just crushed peppercorns along with a mélange of different chiles for an exciting bite. your everyday roast doesn't have to be everyday.Liven up. Chocekn,or London broil along with any other meat with zippy zesty marinade.It's a great way making anordinary dinnernigthextra ordinary.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Newest Must Have Old Mixers

Old mixers are new again.These gems of the past seventy and eighty years are being revered, not just for  their hardiness but also for their beauty.These are beyond being kitchen utile. They are works of  art, worthy of their own shelves. Let's face it, companies don't make them like they used to in decades and days past.

Writer Kate Murphy, explored this addictive new trend in her New York Times Dining section article. yesterday. She talked to several collectors as well as taking pictures of the machines. Electric mixers first came into use in the 1930s. The two giants Hamilton Beach and Sunbeam manufactured and are still making these.They were known for their interesting shapes that included fins along with having attachments such as pea shellers. Most collectors agree that mixers made after 1967 are too modern and not worth collecting.

The collectors are fanatical. Many will pay over one hundred dollars for a mixer that originally went for forty dollars (which was a lot of money for that time.)Norman Platnick and his late wife, Nancy, started this movement with the collection of over 200 different types of mixers.Another collector, Steve Lynch, interviewed as well by Ms. Murphy also has a huge amount  however his is only eighty five. He has fixed them, giving them new  cords and parts. Once they're fixed , the mixer can still work , usually foranother decade or two. Many aren;t used , but sit proudly on shelves like rare works of art (which they are)

Mixers were such a kitchen standard before the age of food processors. They were elegant and interesting with their different shapes and colors. No wonder they're a hot collector's item right now. You cant beat the past.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fresh Apples FreshTaste

we are in the middle of apple season.Our stores have them piled hog.These are good but what's eve better are the fresh from the tree ones.They have a certain , maybe even better flavor that adds to everything from apple sauce to salads. David Tanis wrote about them in his A City Kitchen column in today's New York Times Dining section.He has found out that most apples we buy now come from eastern Washington State and as far away as Peru and New Zealand.There are some stores such as Stop And Shop and Shop Rite here in the city area that sell locAlly grown apples but these are few and far between.Farms around the NY metro are no longer ,with valuable land being used for malls and McMansions.Luckily there is still. Warwick New York and Monmouth County NJ that have orchards that are just bursting with apples.Go there or to farmers markets for the just picked flavor. Mr.Tanis has given us one traditional and one exotic recipe for the fresh picked gems.One is apple sauce.This can be made with Cortland or Macoun apples and cooked over a stove as opposed to a pressure cooker.This creates a creamy mash perfect as a side for any German pork roast or pork chop. He also makes an Indian pickle using the apples along with cayenne , turmeric and the traditional Indian hinge.It is then sprinkled with toasted mustard seeds with more bite.Have this with a barbecued leg of lamb or even tandoori chickenThe apples used were the crunchy Braeburn and Mutsu ,although you could use Granny Smith. This is the season for pples.Avoid the stores, and head to the orchards.You'll have apples with better flavor.Not only that you'll have better apple sauce, pies and even candy apples.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rustic Fall Pizzas

One of the best seasons in Italy is the fall. This is the harvest times in both the north and south and with it, the last of the tomato crops. Home cooks decide to use these into hearty , rustic pizzas that are not only a treat but a satisfying , healthy meal. Home made style pizza is the best .It's so flavorful and truly nutritious.

Making a pie at home is a relatively easy dish to create. Nothing beats a homemade crust. You can make it with regular flour or for a healthier bite, brown or unbleached flour. If you use the last just remember that it the crust may not be as crisp as one made with white flour. All  doughs require yeast olive oil, water and a bit of sugar. You can use a bread paddle or your hands to knead the dough . If there are little ones and they want to help, let them knead as well.This is a great learning moment for them and they can also put their two cents  in how they want their favorite dish made. You can also make  square pizzas with thick crusts or the more fun  almost cuplike individual ones.

Rustic pizzas are not fancy ones with exotic toppings. One of the best is the old fashioned type with just a topping of cooked plum tomatoes. These are usually crushed  with basil for more flavor. The sauce can be either  canned or fresh  and layered thickly on top. If you want to add cheese add circles of  mozzarella slices scattered on top as opposed to mozzarella shreds being strewn all over. If you want any toppings, again think simple.Roasted garlic  onions or olives are all good and are chock full of phytochemicals and antioxidants.You can also create a covered pizza by sealing in the topping with a top layer.It's the truest form to a pizza rustica.

This is the time of year when a rustic pizza suits the bills.It's hearty lunch or dinner, perfect after a day of football or apple picking.  It's a great way of enjoying the last of the tomato harvest while getting a healthy dose of  nutrients Make one for your family to enjoy during these brisk days.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Aunt Nellie's Beets The Best Beets

Even though it's fall there's still nothing like a beet salad, It;s the perfect accompaniment for tail gate ribs or burgers still cooked out on the grill.It's also a good side to Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams. Luckily there is a company like Aunt Nellie's that fits the bill.

Aunt Nellies,a division of Seneca Foodsof California and New York State and a cousin of Libby's canned fruit and vegetables has excellent jar or what's known as glass beets. These are perfect for beet fans who love the root veggie but hate to go through the canning and preserving process. They are not your typical canned beets, mushy and pudding soft. These have the firm, plump texture and shape of just picked ones. The flavor is phenomenal, sweet with an earthy ripe flavor.I made a tasty salad with them , with the addition of onions and olive oil.Aunt Nellie's adds the right amount of pickling so vinegar or lemon isn't needed.

Aunt Nellie's also makes some other great pickled veggies too. I would love to try my fave - three bean salad, which again is a wonderful holiday meal side, especially with ham. They also have Harvard beets, beets with a creamy sauce. another great addition to any lunch or dinner. Aunt Nellie's' also has red cabbage a must for October fest meals,What is great about the company and their philosophy is that it's harvest to table,All theveggies and beans picked at the peak of freshness and pickled almost immediately to give us that straight from the garden taste.That's what I also love about them too. My salad brought back flavors that normally would be tasted in July or August instead of now in mid October.They can be bought direct from their website as well as on

If you want the just picked taste of fresh beets, then buy Aunt Nellie's; brand.There's nothing like a fresh, summery tasting salad in fall. Buy a few jars today for your tailgating parties or fall dinners.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Best Chocolate Cookbook Ever!

Chocolate lovers rejoice ! There is an excellent cookbook, Crazy About Chocolate that has every kind of chocolate recipe in it!What's even more interesting is that several are savory ones, using cacao in a different and unique way. A chocoholic could make an entire dinner using their favorite food thanks to this unusual cookbook.

Krystina Castella wrote this truly original book published by Sterling Publishers. She includes many interesting facts,, from why she loves the brown stuff to cooking with it. I like how she explains the different equipment used  in her recipes. This is handy because one item, such as a cookie sheet, sauce, could have several different uses. What I love about this book is it's versatility and flexibility with chocolate. She uses it in its' original form , mole to create an unusual turkey mole chile as well as chocolate bun sliders with a cocoa sauce. What is truly unique is her chocolate butter with grilled corn as well as her smoked ribs with her cocoa barbecue sauce. These would be hits at any tailgate party. There's also a cool chocolate pasta one that I would  use as a surprise jaw dropper of a dessert.

Of course, since it is a chocolate cookbook, sweet recipes abound. There is a yummy sounding German chocolate French toast as well as chocolate bagels. Her take on cakes are just drool worthy. There is one for a simple orange marble pound cake as well as one for devil's food and Bundt cake. She also categorizes the recipes into holidays, from  steamed Japanese rice cakes with chocolate filling for New Years to chocolate gingerbread men and squares for Christmas. She even has cocoa waffles for  the Fourth of July. There are also recipes to suit r all sorts of gatherings from fancy birthday parties to baby showers. Ms. Castella also has every day ones like the scrumptuous chocolate  and fruit ices , and fun chocolate cookies for after school snacking.

Please get this cookbook if you're a chocolate lover or just want to create tasty and unusual dishes. You can make all sorts of truly delicious sweets and savories using one of the world's most ancient and most popular ingredients. It's a trip into the sweet world of cacao.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sweet Blasts Fron The Past

New York is full of fancy confectioners shops with imported French and Italian sweets. However the city and its' boroughs also have a few old fashioned candy stores (and one with a British twist) that cater to nostalgia. Whether you're visiting  or living in area go see  these neat throwbacks to a more innocent and sweeter time.

Sheila McClear covered this in Wednesday's The New York  Daily News Food section (and again The NY Daily News has some excellent articles on cooking and restaurants). All the boroughs have one gem that sells childhood classics, however it's Brooklyn that has the most. This borough may appeal to hipsters but it also appeals to the old guard. There is the Williams Candy Shop on Surf Street that has marshmallow kabobs, three huge mallows on a stick covered in caramel and coated in coconut.Staten Island, for all its' Jersey like suburbia has Philip's Candy .There's homemade peanut brittle and homemade fudge along with marzipan.

Manhattan has some of the best, both British and American. Trendy Bleeker Street gives us The London Candy Company  which features English faves such as the heady but addictive Wine Gums, along with anything and everything Cadbury. There's also midtown's Myzel's, where Polish immigrant Paulina Myzel sells all different kinds of licorice (which turns out to be a great balm for sore throats) and homemade cookies she bakes herself. Along with these there are the fun Halloween candies such as gummy brains and gummy teeth. Economy Candy has some cool retro treats such as Bonamo Turkish Taffy , AstroBars and the ever popular Pez dispensers.

If you're in the city or its' boroughs this Halloween season, treat yourself to some neat sweets. These are a fun  and not so fancy throwback to our childhoods. Buy a few bags of your faves and get the best sugar high ever!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Weeding Out Your Food

The next time you spruce up your lawn pay close attention to your weeds. Yes, they can be pesky little suckers, ruining a fall landscape, yet they can add to any salad or even cooked dish.It's a delicious walk on the wild side.

It was further explored in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.newcomer Ben Paynter described what wild plants can be used and how restaurants are employing them in different dishes, Foraging is nothing new. Humanity has been doing it since our earliest days, Mostly then it was a tremendous hit or miss deal. Pick a weed  then and hopefully it was not only tasty but non toxic.;Nowwe and farmers are better read and equipped to pick out weeds that will go well in various dishes. Many farms now are just growing weeds  to supply the wave of wild plant chefs.

Many chefs are embracing this natural plant cuisine. Mr.Paynter focused on the ones in Kansas City however trendy New York restaurants  such as Daniel, Gramercy Tavern and Acme are also embracing the foraging craze.Weeds can provide an entirely new facet to cooking and cooks can create some new spins on old classics. Chicory is one of the most popular,It can be used in salads to give them a kind of  earthy coffee flavor. The ever common dandelion is turned into an amuse bouche in Kansas City. Sous chef, Josh Eans turns the petals into a tasty morsel while the stems and the rest of the flowers were battered dipped and fried into a tasty tempura.

Foraging is not only a great way of getting rid of those pesky weeds. It;s also an interesting way to change up your menu. Hit the garden and woods this weekend and start looking for your next culinary creation.

NOTE: If you are thinking about foraging , read up on it first whether on the Internet or on a books solely on the subject. ,Be aware of which  plants are poisonous  and which ones are safe.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Better Butter

Can butter be made any better? The answer is yes, especially if you make it yourself. That may sound crazy and definitely labor intensive  but it is worth it.Homemade and fermented butter can create better dishes and baked goods. It also enhances ordinary breads and rolls with its' creamy , tangy flavor.

Melissa Clark experimented with it and write about it extensively in her A Good Appetite column  in today's New York Times Dining section. There is a whole movement out there who is using fermented butter, butter that has a  higher fat content , 86 to 84 content to the standard 80 per cent. It is different that our regular sticks, pats ad tubs.It's denser in texture and a deeper shade of yellow. Many have taken making this rare treat in their kitchen, as Ms, Clark has done. It is labor intensive yet only requires three simple ingredients: yogurt, high quality cream and sea salt.It requires kneading  along with intense three day fermenting. It is then washed and ready to serve.

The results are amazing. Not only do you get fresh , old fashioned butter but rich buttermilk to boot as Ms. Clark found out. Both enhance any dish (as well as a having a fresh cold glass of  buttermilk.) The acid in the butter makes it perfect for baking as she discovered  in creating simple butter cookies.These were crumblier , crisper and more buttery. The biscuits she baked  turned out to be softer and more tender due to the butter's acidity to tenderize the ingredients. Hopefully Ms. Clark used the  butter also on sautes and in making mashed potatoes and creamed veggies. These would taste phenomenal with the hommade stuff.

If you have the time and crave a better butter then think about making your own. It will not only enhance your baked dishes but also redefine the way you use it on bread and rolls. Homemade butter is nothing but a plus to your kitchen. It is hard work but definitely worth it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It's Octoberfest Time!

Every fall Germany and Germans around the world go crazy. Why?It's Oktoberfest! It's a time to enjoy the best Deutchland has to offer and it offers a whole cornucopia of yummy foods and drinks. It'sa perfect time to celebrate , with clear autumn skies and endless steins of beer!

Oktoberfest has its' origins in a wedding celebration that took place 200 years ago.Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.It actually started as horse race and then  eventually evolved into an actual festival. Small beer stands were set up to quench  thirsts back then, because it was more of a fair.  Now Germans around the celebrate it  , from parades and in German clubs to restaurants and even casinos. The foods are always delicious . Every kind of wurst is sold, from frankfurters to bratwurst and with it every and any kind of beer from weisse bier to  the darker, earthier brews.There are also spaetzle, the little flour dumpling that are excellent with a rich brown gravy.

The Germans are crack experts at baking and that reflects heavily at any Oktoberfest. Nothing beats a freshly made pretzel(or two or three) along with the many fantastic cakes.There is the heavenly Black Forest cake, a mix if dark chocolate cake, cherries and whipped cream. Sometimes shaved dark chocolate is sprinkled on it for added decadence.There's also the fruit cakes, such as plum and apple.These are more like tarts with a pie crust bottoms ,laden with fruit slices. Another treat is beesting cake or beinenstich, tasty mix of a honey butter cream, crunchy glazed almond topping and a fluffy spring cake.

If you haven't been to one yet, go to an Octoberfest.It's a great way to experience all that wonderful German food. Enjoy a wurst and beef followed by pretzels and cake.It's the best eating experience in the world!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Piedmonte''s Fall Feast

One of the best places to be in autumn is Piedmonte in the northwestern corner of Italy. This is where fall comes to life, with bright colors and bountiful harvests.It''s also a time for the dishes of the season , both hearty and delicate.

Truffles usher in the change of season and they are abundant in the specifically designated forest lands.These fungi , the diamonds of the food world, are used in pasta dishes as well as in flavoring oil and make a fine meal on a crisp October Sunday. Another cool weather favorite is bagna calda,literally hot bathin both the French influnced dialect and Italian.This is a savory and addictive blend of anchovies , butter and olive oil. cooked with garlic to create a bubbling sauce. Various veggies form mushrooms to Savoy cabbage are dipped into it and cooked. London Broil or any steak can also be cut up and the pieces cooked in it. The highlight however is soaking chunks of Italian bread in the sauce and then devouring them.

Fall desserts in the Turino and surrounding countryside are also wonderful. The Piedmontese are fond of fritters an make them using apples or even chestnut flour.Zabaglione or sabayon, a rich egg yolk custard made with Marsala wine often finishes a meal. The best dessert, though, is bonet, literally bonnet, a tasty treat harking back to the Renaissance,This is a slow baked creme caramel, made with crushed amaretto cookies , along with rum and cocoa powder.It can be made without the chocolate powder to emulate the original 15th Century recipe. The name means "hat' and could refer to the dessert's shape or that fact that like a hat it's the last thing considered. Either way it's a lovely dessert , served with espresso.

Piedmonte is beautiful in the fall. It is full of colors, flavors and aromas of good food. This is the season to enjoy it and its rich, culinary history.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Oodles Of Orzo

Orzo is one of of the most versatile and probably the most fun pastas out there. You can do so much with it from creating a tangy salad to a traditional pasta dish.It's also a perfect side subbing in for rice too.There are a dozens of good hot and cold recipes for this centuries old treat.

Orzo's name comes from the Latin word for barley, hordeum, , named such for its' small grain like shape. Primarliy used in Italy , it is also seen in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines.It is cooked more or less for nine or ten minutes in boiling salted water, cooked similar to any pasta. Orzo is most versatile in soup and you can easily sub it in for any shells used in minestrone or pasta e fagiole. A different spin on it is Greek chicken soup made with a squirt of lemon. Also a good sick day soup is any broth, whether beef,chicken or even vegetable  with orzo and butter thrown in. As a pasta dish serve with any sauce  although rich pomodoro or tomato tastes the best with it.

Orzo is a great salad base and can go with any mix of vegetables and spices.An easy one is combining orzo with grape tomatoes and feta cheese crumbles. Season with oregano for added zing. Another saladis combing cucumbers,, vine ripe tomatoes  along with garbanzo beans and shredded basil. For a fun tailgate party treat make an orzo salad with crab meat along with Roma tomatoes,  two kind s of bell peppers and the zing of hot pepper. You can also  just make a simple chicken and orzo salad with just an easy red wine vinaigrette mixed in. This would be a  perfect Sunday brunch dish, served with pita bread.

Orzo is one of the most versatile pastas out there. You can have it in soul satisfying soup or pasta after a hard day at work.It can be a fun side at any fall party. It's easy to use and fun for creating different and tasty dishes.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Too Much Pumpkin?

Every October we tend to see a plethora of pumpkin inspired foods. The problem is by Halloween we're pretty much gourded out, literally, by eating and drinking everything spicy and orange-y. The problem is real pumpkin is actually quite delicious and very very healthy for us.

Pumpkin on it's own is one of the most nutrient dense foods in the world.It is extremely high in fiber and low in calories.It is one of the biggest  and best sources of betacarotene . A side of pureed pumpkin can reduce not only a variety of cancers such as breast ,colon and lung, it can also aid in creating lower heart disease.It can also decrease the risk of the eye disease macular degeneration and cataracts. Pumpkin soup Piedmontese style is pure heaven. It's a great way of not only getting a super dose of vitamins but getting a burst of pure pumpkin flavor. You could even have mashed pumpkin, drizzled with some butter on top.It's a great side for any roast chicken or turkey.

The problem is tha,t  like with gingerbread at Christmastime, pumpkin becomes , well flavor of the month.. To be honest it;s not the actual pumpkin, it;s the spices, Everyone loves the taste of pumpkin pie. Why? It's a heady mix of allspice,clove cinnamon and nutmeg. These are what are in your coffees, muffins and cookies, not pumpkin itself. Of course on their own these spices go well with coffee and even a creamy chai tea. They add bounce to any spice cake or cookie. Marketed this way they still would be best sellers. Chains from Starbucks to Mc Donald's should consider this , calling the blend Fall Medley or Autumn Mix. We shouldn't spend a whole month eating foodstuffs with fake orange coloring ,laden with too much spice.

This is the month for pumpkins. Yet try the real thing for a nutrient dense treat. Don't fall for those other muffins lattes, cupcakes cookies, smoothies or whatever that claim to be pumpkin. They're just spiced treats with fake orange coloring. Nothing natural there.Really.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Twist On Dulce De Leche

Dulce de leche is one of those desserts that can be a bit sweet. It is a decadent dessert  however it can be a bit too intense. Luckily anything that super sweet can be tempered with a bit of sea  salt.It gives any sugary treat a  much needed blast of savory.

Melissa Clark explorted this in her column, AGood Appetite in yesterday's taco issue of the New York Times Dining section.. Since the entire section was dedicated to tacos and other Mexican dishes, it stands to reason that Ms. Clark would add an appropriate dessert that would offset and cool the palate after a fiery meal. Dulce de leche is a usually sweet caramel pudding usually made with condensed milk. She varies this by subbing in the less intense condensed milk with a blend of coconut milk and brown sugar (the last is added to give the pudding its' traditional golden glow).it';s pretty easy to make , usually simmer in a saucepan for hours until cooked. The original method calls for boiling a can of evaporated milk until it almost explodes, however as Ms. Clark dryly notes, this should be avoided at all costs.

The pudding can be super sweet. Even the non dairy version can be a bit cloying.It does need to be offset by something salty. Ms,. Clark  adds a topping of flaky sea salt which will accentuate the flavor while provide some respite . She also tops it with broiled and caramelized pineapple and coconut shavings. These are a perfect foil but you could also use grapes or even citrus such as caramelized oranges , lemons or limes.I would prefer the last because the flavors would also add to the pudding's flavor You could also do a swirl of bitter chocolate on top too to decrease the dulce de leche's sugariness.Another idea is adding a dusting of ground nuts as well on top along with the sea salt flakes.

Dulce de leche, no matter how it's made is a tasty end to any meal./ However it can be intense and needs a jolt of something to overcome that. Try it with sea salt caramel, or even bitter chocolate to give it a bit more bounce.It goes from wonderful to sublime, thanks to this.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Times Taco Issue

Once the staple of migrant workers  tacos and other Mexican  foods are now part of the American diet. Every section of the country along with ethnic groups has put their spin on this simple dish. It is best served the way it was when it was made in smaller and family kitchens, a simple wrap with a variety of ingredients.

The New York Times Dining section celebrated it with almost every article (save for Melissa Clark's dulce de leche article - more on that tomorrow): Everyone from regulars Pete Wells,Julia Moskin and David Tanis to new contributors such as Manny Hernandez and Ligaya Mishan. Even The Pour section has dedicated this week's column to drinks that would go well with the dish. What is interesting is the dish's history.Manny Hernandez while  exploring his grandparents' connection to tacos and tortilla also gives us the tortilla's history . Its' name comes from them resembling the dynamite sticks that the Mexican silver miners used. These too are a great dish to try and easy to make.

Another bonus of this issue is that there are several different recipes for tacos. David Tanis offers one with poblanos and black beans in his A City Kitchen column. These are enhanced with true Mexican ingredients such as crema Mexicana, a south of the border creme fraiche and Oaxacan string cheese,a form of the Italian mozzarella. The poblano chiles are roasted , giving the tacos a nice smokey flavor and there is also a healthy tomato and onion salsa to go with it.Julia Moskin offers a variation, more from Columbia than Mexico and it is Colombian corn and cheese arepas.These can be served sstuffed with different fillings if you want or just eaten like a cheesy corn muffin.

Mexican food is one of the healthiest cuisines out there. It also gives us the tastiest dishes like tacos and tortilla, These may be easy to make but oh so complex in flavor and texture.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Simple Sandwich Suppers

Sometimes you don't feel like making a hot dinner. Let's face it, many of us have busy lives and demanding jobs. Sometimes the family eats at different times from each other, thanks to sports or school activities or a late class.Then it's time to make sandwiches.

A sandwich can be just as nutritious as a regular full meal. There's nothing wrong with either getting or making heroes. for your family. These are not only loaded with tasty meats and cheeses, there are also the benefit of lettuce , tomatoes and other veggies such as peppers and onions. These last is chocked full of vitamins and nutrients.Add heart healthy olive oil along with healthy herbs such as rosemary and oregano for more boost.Even using a whole wheat bread or roll can be beneficial too.Stick to  low sodium cold cuts or better yet, leftovers such as chicken, turkey or roast beef. You can also create the French Provencale pan bagne, which is a yummy mix of tuna and tomatoes or just plain tomatoes sandwiches on baguettes.

If you or your family do want a hot meal but need something quick, then think about a hot open faced sandwich. There's nothing like slices of roast beef or London Broil on toasted wheat bread, smothered in gravy. The same can be said of a hot turkey sandwich which is a whole meal within itself.Many people (and kids) love a good grilled cheese.These are the simplest hot sandwich to make.Just take any cheese, preferably cheddar , and grill on any slice of bread.You can add bacon or tomato to it for more flavor and to create that diner fave The Happy Waitress.Of course if you want fancier then try the French croque monsieur. This is quick fried in butter grilled cheese, usually made with Swiss or Gruyere cheese with a slice of ham added.

Having just a sandwich for breakfast is not a sin. You can create or even take out a healthy hero or make a hot open one.It's just an easy way of having dinner after a hard day or during a busy schedule.