Friday, February 28, 2014

Good Home Cooked Italian Food

These chilly days mean staying at home and cooking a good meal.Nothing beats these more than homemade Italian food.For those home chefs looking fpr recipes, look no further than a brand new cookbook from Good Housekeeping.It's a great collection of some really good Italian dishes. This cookbook was, compiled by the food editors of the magazine(published by Hearst).This is even a great gift for beginner chefs, because of the simplicity of some of the dishes.That's not to say they're unsophisticated.There is a wonderfully complex risotto Milanese along with a ricotta gnocchi with fresh herbs and butter.Since it's also Good Hpusekeeping, there are many family friendly recipes too, including pecorino chicken fingers along with a crispy spaghetti casserole .One of the sections that I like the most, is the introduction to ingredients.There are explanations and definitions about everything from what olives oils to use as well as a comprehensive guide to Italian cheeses, spices and pastas.This is invaluable to any home chef and handy when stocking both your kitchen and spice rack. The cookbook is divided into different sections from pastas and pizzas to the various kind of meat and fish dishes.There's a great section on desserts too.Some are traditional such as home made pizza dough along with linguine with red clam sauce.There are twists everyone will love such as the unusual pizza toppings like cheese and salad or asparagus bacon pizzettes( mini pizzas) along with zucchini and ham ribbons and balsamic roasted pork with a berry salad ,redolent with strawberries and blackberries.For those lovers who adore hard core trattoria fare there are recipes for Bolognese sauce along with a Northern style lasagna that relies heavy on béchamel sauce.Polenta also figures heavily and it's paired with everything from eggs to sausage to even Brussels sprouts.Desserts could come straight out of a trattoria too,with the crowd favorite tiramisu along with the cool sophisticated granitas. This is the season for hearty homemade meals.Whip up a sausage rich pasta or healthy veggie and meat dish ,followed by a traditional dessert.Good Housekeeping's Family Italian Cookbook can help with creating that perfect meal.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tastes Change

Everyone's tastes changes.What we adored when we were four, we hated at eighteen. What we craved at twenty ,we now despise.Even what we cringed at last year, we now can't get enough of to eat. Frank Bruni explored this in his De Gustibus column in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Like us, he had food faces that used to be on his do not eat list.His was beets.At first he saw them and thought they were slimy in texture and lurid in color.Luckily for him ,he changed his minds.Now they are silky and gem like.It could have been the way They were first served to him .Many kids hates veggies because they're overcooked and mushy.As he states some veggies just haven't met the right chef and this is true.Any detested food made the right way, with a lot of spice and pizzazz will undoubtedly be loved. Hopefully Mr. Bruni experienced beet salad which led to his conversion. Made way with a light vinaigrette and onions the whole root veggie deal can be absolutely heavenly.. Emotional and psychological factors also play important parts in what we like to eat.Sometimes it's the way people are introduced to them.Family and friends push us into trying dishes that we are reluctant to try it and being forced is not a great way. the best bet is to discover it on your own on your own. Go to restaurants by yourself, experiment in your kitchen sans anyone.Find out what other foodie's are talking about.Appetite is another factor, as is the need for nourishment.Sometimes you just want something filling no matter what the taste. sometimes it's just a matter of outgrowing a certain flavor.You may love milk chocolate for thirty years., then completely switch off it because of the taste.You start craving less sweet such as dark or even one with a pinch of chili pepper added. Tastes change.Our food ones change as much as we do.They morph into new ones, giving us a whole new area of exploration.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Better Biscuit

Biscuits have been much misaligned in recent years.They're returning to their glory where they're golden gems, flaky and light.Not only that they're also easy to make and even the most novice of bakers can create the perfect round. Julia Moskin explored them in her column in todays's New York Tomes Dining section.As she has found out biscuits have been an American standard since our early days.They're the child of scones and the only difference in the two recipes is just a bit of sugar and an egg.(actually two eggs).Scones are Scottish in origin ,first being made from barley or oat flour with fat and some kind of liquid.Triangular pieces were baked on a griddle .As the ingredients improved and became lighter .so did the scones.Biscuits veered off in another direction.Southern cooks added buttermilk, lard and a low protein wheat.This last was only available in the South and gave the rounds their tenderness.Biscuits can be used as a base for jam and butter as well as for small sandwiches, preferably ham in the true Southern style. Baking both are easy .Ms .Moskin includes one recipe with slight variations for making both scones and biscuits.Scones require eggs and water while biscuits require more butter. both need heavy cream for texture and richness.What both kinds need is basically a hands off way of making them.The dough should not be over kneaded .Just gently knead until all ingredients are mixed.They also need butter,which gives them the needed flakiness.Both recipes are versatile.Cheddar bits can be added to the biscuit to create a Cocktail nibble.Scones can benefit from dried blueberries or cinnamon, or herbs if you'd like a brunch one.Ms .Moskin also includes a recipe for a honey butter liberally laced with sea salt as a sweet savory spread to vary the flavor. Homemade biscuits are always a treat.They're easy to make and a true treat to eat.Make a batch of them or Scones to enjoy their goodness.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sick Day Cuisine

This is the time of year when we're laid low by some cruddy little bug.It not only means feeling lousy but also not feeling hungry.Worst yet, everyone tells us we should be filling up on just soup and crackers.While this is indeed, good advice ,it's also means a boring cuisine.Luckily there are other alternatives that are just as light, yet filling. One of the best staples to have, not only when you're sick ,but year round is plain white or brown rice.It's easy to fix and substantial to eat.To give it more flavor,toss in a cube of any kind of bouillon.It sort of makes it like an instant risotto.For more taste melt a tablespoon or two of butter over it and vigorously blend in.Mashed potatoes can also be used as a transition food as you're feeling better.Again have bowl of it with butter blended in or, if you're feeling more peckish, added warmed roast beef or turkey gravy over it.Dry sandwiches are a great way of getting your stomach back into it's normal routine.Think turkey or chicken breast on dry toast.If you do want something to moisten it , stick with butter spread on the bread.Mayo and other condiments may be too harsh yet. Wanting snacks is a sure sign you're feeling better.Again ,as with meals go slow.Don't jump into anything too wild.Popcorn may look bland however it could irritate your stomach.Stick with crackers such as Saltines and have them with either butter or jelly for a sweeter snack.Pretzels are also good.They're not fried and there's nothing greasy or intense about their flavor. If you want sweet and natural, try sliced bananas ,although if you have a cold then think citrus.Nothing soothes a sore throat better than chilled orange slices. Plain cookies like shortbreads or plain wafers are another good treat.If you really crave cake, stick with a plain slice of poundcake, as opposed to one laden with overly rich frosting The same goes for cupcakes and icing heavy cookies.Stay away from frothy lattes too.Stick with a simple hot cocoa or herbal tea with honey if you want a hot drink. Feeling sick is nasty.Feeling sick and hungry even worse.Yet it's a good sign you're feeling better.Eat foods that won't bother your stomach and give it some variety.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Quick Hearty Meals

After a hard ,busy day it's difficult to come up with a satisfying and nutritious meal.Sometimes you just have to cheat.What can be done is a mix of convenience and quick thinking along with quick cooking.A hearty dinner can be made and in just minutes. One of the best food stuffs to have in your kitchen is a chunky kind of soup.Both Campbell's and Progresso have these in a variety of different flavors.There's everything from Manhattan clam to pot roast to pasta e fragile and chicken dumplings.What you can do to add to these is put a cup of cooked rice or even orzo at the bottom of the soup bowl.Another idea is to serve a veggie rich salad with the soup .Add broccoli, peppers along with sliced onions and grape tomatoes .Finish with hot crusty rolls or a toasted baguette and it's a hot meal.Another idea is a quick chili using only chop meat , onion, tomato sauce and a dash of chili powder. cook and serve over polenta.Speaking of polenta, you can easily cook that up and mix in both Fontina cheese and butter.If you can't find Fontina then think about using Parmesan instead. A hot sandwich is both filling and easy to make.One of the simplest and the best is grilled cheese.You can use thick slabs of challah with a sharp cheddar.This can be turned into that diner classic,the happy waitress.Add thick,chunky slices of tomatoes along with bacon before you add the cheese.A croque monsieur , the French bistro variation, is another quick dinner that's both tasty and satisfying. Usually made with one slice of ham , you can layer it on thick for a heartier version. Those standards, hot roast beef and hot turkey are easy to make up, especially when you get the meat sliced at your grocery's deli counter.Use jarred gravy and put it all on Kaiser rolls.Serve with a side of canned veggies ,like green beans or succotash. It is hard to come with both a quick and nutritious meal.Cheat a little.Use ingredients that are already prepared and mix them with easy to make sides or bases.It's give you a dinner that's both healthy and hearty.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Wacky Foods Wanna BIte?

If you think your love of ketchup and peanut butter sandwiches is a bit off , think again. There are some pretty wild and bizarre foods out there that could make you either cringe or be curious .It's amazing what some people around the world eat. Then again our Twinkies and Cheetohs may seem strange to some too.

One of the oddest I've seen is the loofahs on display at Stop & Shop. Westerners use it for a skin slougher ,while some Chinese use it as a vital ingredient in meals. It essentially is a kind of zucchini when it's green (it becomes an exfoliant when it's dried out) and made into a garlicky stir fry.Another Asian plant ,the durian is eaten despite its' disgusting smell.It can either be compared to rotting flesh or dirty socks. Most hotels have banned it from its' kitchens because of the horrendous odor, yet it's popular in home cooking. Even worse is casu marzu from southern Italy. Translated it;'s means rotting cheese  and it;s crawling with live fly larvae.These little suckers give the cheese its' unique taste and it is an acquired one.

Many think rattle snake meat is right up there with wacky foods. Yet it could possibly be the tamest compared to what's on plates around the world. Norwegians love their lutefisk, a strange concoction of lye(!!!) and cod. We have the Vikings to thank for the  fish soaked in a combination of rainwater and birch ash.It's then reconstituted with a week of several soakings until it's safe to eat again. Lutefisk is usually a Christmas treat but there are lutefisk festivals here in the US as well. Hopefully there are no escamoles festivals in Mexico , celebrating - what else- ant caviar. Yup, they look like cannelini beans but are in fact giant black ant eggs.They have consistency of cottage cheese and supposedly have a nice buttery flavor.

No matter where you go in the world, there's bound to be some wacky food. One foodie's lutefisk is another 's casu marzu. Some are cringe worthy to us. Some have that special yum factor no matter how gross they are to other people around the world..

Friday, February 21, 2014

Add A Class Of Spice

Everyone suffers from some type of mid winter blahs.Even our cooking suffers.Maybe it's time to liven things up with cooking classes.It's a great way of improving or learning a new technique along with meeting new people.Best of all most classes welcome groups of families and friends. As with anything nowadays the best way of finding a class or school is to search the Internet.Surprisingly you don't have to live in a big city like New York or Chicago or LA, to take interesting classes and work with master chefs.Many small towns actually have some very good schools.Also local colleges sometimes have a culinary division too.If you feel a four or six week course may be too intense or time consuming then sign up for a one night, two hour course.Part of the curriculum may have a friend's night where you go with your friends and learn how to make fun dishes like chili or spaghetti.After wine or Corona is brought out and everyone shares their creations with old friends and new cooking chums.Also some classes are kid friendly and it's a great way to let your Tweens try great recipes or just have fun. Once you've picked out the school, look through the classes offered.If you've always want to make meringues and vole vents, then definitely sign up for the pastry courses.Not only will you learn how to create the perfect Chou dough but you'll be shown the various creams and ganaches for fillings along with learning how to glaze and blow torch.Many schools offer classes in tools too.One such school has special courses in just knives and how to usevthem.This is a valuable course and can not only improve your prep skills but also ensures an accident free kitchen in the future.Of course many home chefs just takes courses to get a chance to learn new cuisines as well.This is here you can learn the art of French cooking or the intricate cooking styles of Asian cuisine.The best part of taking a foreign cuisine class?The food.You can end the hour with steak au poivre or wontons.Depending on different class requirements, you may have to supply your own apron ,oven mitts, whisks and/or rolling pins. S Sometimes the best way to beat the winter doldrums is taking a fun and exciting cooking class.It's not only a great way to shake off the blues but to improve your culinary skills.Not only that, you'll learn valuable lessons.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Stews With Veggie Boost

Chilly days call for stews. Yet many would forgo this perfect dish despite the fact that it is both warming and nutritious.Why? Because it's usually weighed down by over cooked ,well stewed meat .There is a solution.Let the veggies used shine.It creates a better and healthier version. Mark Bittman of The New York Times Dining section wrote about this in his Flexitarian column yesterday. Although not quite a vegetarian dish , the amount of meat used is greatly reduced. It makes for a better dinner with a fresher , less fattier flavor.Another plus is that semi meatless stews are also less expensive to make.You can also match the amount of meat with beans which are another good source of protein.Also to make up for the flavor think about adding more herbs and spices too.They'll add zing to another usually bland or sometimes tasteless stew.If you still want either a chicken or beefy flavor, then create the base with bouillon cubes and water. Mr. Bittman offers up three good and completely different recipes. There's a gingery chicken stew where the star is - is, what else, Ginger.He uses one chicken thigh per person, really enough for a dinner along with radishes, and golden winter squash for color.There is also lime and soy added,creating enough of a flavor burst that eclipses the lack of any more chicken.Ribollita is another vegetable heavy melange.Traditional ones require prosciutto and you can add it if you want, however try it with cannelloni beans along with kale for both vitamins and proteins.Mr.Bittman throws in a fish stew , but it's not a seafood heavy bouillabaisse.His requires only equal amounts of squid and shrimp with a few anchovy filets thrown in for brine.Yet these aren't the stars though.It's the chickpeas ,spinach and tomato that are the heavy hitters.Olives are also added for more body and flavor. Make a meat light stew for a new take on an old classic.It's a great way of livening up a usually blaNd dish.Let the veggies shine here , and so will the meal.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Norwegian Wood

Scandanavian cuisine has always taken some getting used to as well as some ribbing over the years.Yet this ancient way of cooking and spicing is taken on a new form.Call it Nouveau Nordic .It's creating a stir in New York and getting palates excited again for this northernmost of European foods. Jeff Gordonier explored this as well as experimented with it in his column in today's New York Times Dining section.New Nordic, as it's known, has been around since the early part of this century.It sparked with the famed Marcus Samuelsson bringing a fusion of Ethiopean and Swedish cuisine to Harlem. Rene Redzepi came out of Denmark, bursting with new spins and old ideas such as curing ,foraging pickling and plating. Now, more than a handful of chefs from all over the Scandanavian arc are opening up restaurants throughout the city and its' boroughs.Most eateries are relying on the strong flavors of sea and land.As with Viking cuisine of a millennia ago, the flavors center around twigs, berries,roots, weeds, bark ,hay, grass along with kelp, fish soil and a kind of barrel fermented funk. That said , these add to the dishes ,making them customer favorites. What are these imported chefs creating? At Brooklyn based Luksus,Daniel Burns (who is really not Scandanavian,and has also cut his culinary teeth at The Fat Pig in London,England) gives us aebleskiver, a fritter made with duck confit and mushroom.Another chef, Swedish born Fredrik Berselius relied on his upbringing of foraging to influence his style.His most famous dish is a milk sorbet ,with a forest medley of spruce, yarrow and wild berries. another popular dish, known and loved by all Scandanavians is blood pudding.This is a sausage made with dried blood and filler, such rye and oats and then flavored with onions and molasses.It's a hard sell be cause it's not as popular here as it is in most of Europe.Skal offers a more friendlier charred broccoli, easily made at home too.This is breaded florets ,charred and then brushed with aoili sauce. NouvelleNordic is gaining its fair share of foodie fans.It is reflects the old with new ideas.Together it brings a new form of Scandanavian cuisine to New York Palates.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dr. Bialik's Vegan Diet

Turning vegan is not always easy.For one thing some of our favorite foods are made with meat, dairy and eggs.Another headache is that sometimes it just isn't flavorful or appealing.Luckily Dr. Mayim Bialik has come out with a new cookbook with a huge variety of all sorts of vegan dishes and advice. This is a great book( and I'm not writing this because I'm a huge Big Bang Theory fan and love her character Amy Farrah Fowler). .What really stands out is the advice given by Dr.Bialik and her coauthor ,Dr.Jay Gordon. I like what Dr. Gordon has to say about going from cow's to soy ,almond or rice milk. add it to regular milk until you develop a taste for it.Other good points are breakdowns of dairy and eggs and why we should never eat them.Luckily the recipes have good sub INS . The cookbook also has an excellent list of what ingredients , and tools to have. having these makes for an easier transition into vegan cooking. It is published by Da Capo Press and can be bought on Amazon. Dr Bialik breaks the recipes down into different sections,from breakfast to sides to main meals.She also has a section on breads ,unusual for a vegan cookbook.She also has classic dishes like a true dairy less baked Mac and cheese made with Daiya cheese and even pasta salads.I am definitely trying her Thai pasta which reminds me of a lo mien along with dilled chick pea burger.The book also has my favorite snacks ,kale and Brussels sprout chips .These are super easy to make and are perfect for novices .Dr Bialik includes desserts too and these are great.There are cookies from oatmeal to a dense chocolate kind along with a have to make chocolate peanut butter pie.Dr. Bialik also includes recipes reflecting her Eastern European Jewish background with latkes and tzimmes. Veganism is not an easy lifestyle , especially after a lifetime of eating bad.The first step towards it is buying Dr ?Bialik's book.It's a step in the right direction.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Presidential Tastes

Our presidents are no different than us when it comes to food. After all they're just ordinary men who enjoy a good snack.From Washington to Obama or chiefs of staff have their raves and sometimes food quirks. Most presidents have been big beef eaters. mostly our guys like Ron Reagan love anything with red meat including hamburger soup, red flannel hash and a well grilled steak. Eisenhower was the same , enjoying pretty much the same along with foods that reflected his German heritage.Some First Eaters were products of their environment. Richard Nixon likes foods indicative of his California ubringing such as fresh fruit . John F. Kennedy preferred his New England favorites such as fish and New England baked beans. our current guy President Obama love chili, protein bars and chili. He has a sweet tooth for salted caramels dipped in milk chocolate ( although Im sure First Lady Michelle makes sure he has plenty of fresh fruit and veg) . Our earlier presidents had tastes that reflected their times. George Washington loves the simple gingerbreads and cakes Martha made. he was also big on game and home made beer. sophisticated Thomas Jefferson brought his foreign tastes with him. he had a fondness for baked Mac and waffles. his was a more sophisticated palate than most. Prsidential diets reflected the man's upbringing. Abe Lincoln preferred just coffee, bacon and Johnny cakes, probably because his early diet was sparse. Our presidents create the moods for what we do. they also create the food moods too.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Take Two Gingers And Call Me In The Morning

It happens to even the best of foodies - overindulgence. We spend one night gorging on favorite foods and snacks, the next morning we're doubled over with a stomach ache - or much much worse. The best bet is to actually use the hair of the dog to settle that over used tummy. Surprisingly the right foods can help and even cure us. One of the best cure alls for any upset stomach, whether it be from a virus or just an overdose of chicken wings is ginger. You can take ginger ale to help however the strongest and most effective is the actual ginger root. You can buy whole ones in your grocery's vegetable section. Try to find a root with a lot of spindly extensions. This makes cutting it up easier. Slice or chunk up enough of it to fill half a cup or mug.Boil water, as you would for tea and then when boiled pour over the ginger pieces. Steep the root chunks or slices for a good fifteen minutes and add honey if you want. Leave the pieces in as you drink it to absorb the full potency . You can use the pieces again for a a second immediate cup (which I recommend). The phytochemicals in the ginger will alliviate the nausea and get rid of any gas.By the second cup you'll be feeling better. You can also use COke or Pepsi over crushed ice. Both calm a roiling stomach along with just making you feel refreshed. ONce you feel up to even a litle morsel of food think soup. There's nothing like a clear broth, so always have either beef, chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes in your pantry. Have a cup of it with just a couple of simple Saltines.These also squelch nausea and and the most friendliest to eat. They're dry and bland. A simple soup, like chicken helps. Generations of my family have relied on that Piedmontese classic pan piest or breadcrumb soup to get them through everything from stomach flus to bad colds. Make the broth first, usually four cups water to four bouillon cubes. Add two well beaten eggs when the broth starts to boil. As the soups starts to look like Chinese egg drop soup, slowly pour and whisk in one to two cups of plain breadcrumbs. Stir with a wooden spoon until is everything is well blended.The consistency should be like a thick porridge. You can also make yourself rice cooked in broth and when you're feeling a bit more hungrier. have plain spaghetti or egg noodles with butter. If you crave sweet, limit yourself to half a banana or shortbread cookies. Bland is better in this scenario. Upset stomachs are part of a foodie's life. Combat them with healing foods. They 're calming and nutritous and with being on the path to feeling better again.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Food Of Love

If music is the food of love then what is food itself? Is it just sustenance or the surest way to a man's heart? and what about chocolate?Is a good box of it better than any diamond? Actually all those answers are a resounding YES! Food ,its flavors, textures and even our memories of it play an important part of romance. Certain foods have been considered aphrodisiacs for millennia.Oysters have always been considered the food of love. Casanova, that great Italian lover of the 1700's started his day with fifty of them ( surprisingly he never got hives or seafood poisoning from them)It turns out those little bivalves contain rare amino acids that trigger sex hormones.You could eat them raw however a better choice is oysters Rockafellar ,a steamed and baked dish that combines oysters,spinach and bacon.If that doesn't get you charged up, then try other foods such as bananas and asparagus, both deemed the food of love.The phyto chemicals in them help churn out the hormones,needed for romance Then there's chocolate.It's crammed full of phenyletthylamine ,another natural chemical which brings about a feeling of well being and happiness.Nothing beats a box of luscious cremes or caramels. However the way to anyone's heart is through his or her stomach.Happiness is when the one you love cooks your favorite meal.Sometimes a big pot of spaghetti with home made sauce is more of a turn on than lobster tails and steak.Even hamburgers ,homemade with fresh ground meat , is the perfect Valentine's Day meal.Better yet, a meal of comfort food could reel in that special someone. It may sound trite and vastly old fashioned , but if a girl can cook like her beloved's mother ,then she has him ,hook,line and sinker.Nothing says love like a home made meat loaf ,complete with homemade mashed potatoes and brown gravy.Another dish ,sure to win him or her over is baked Mac and cheese.Nothing beats a hoe made one covered with crispy breadcrumbs and layered with bacon.Also learning to cook the dishes of your beloved's ancestry is a big plus.If you can,try to get family recipes from moms, grannies and siblings. There is such a thing as the food of love.It could be something that has "aphrodisiac " properties or a beloved dish from childhood. Whatever it is,if it brings on feelings of romance, then eat it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Flan A Golden Treat

Flan is one of those desserts that when it turns out well, it is truly a masterpiece.It all depends how it comes out of it's mold.Like any upside down dessert , the best part is when you flip it and see a bronzy cap of caramel.It's what makes this traditional custard so special , the deliciously browned top . David Tanis wrote of his experiences making it in his City Kitchen column. In yesterday's New York Times Dining section.Flan is a traditionally Spanish dessert although the French have more or less the same dessert called creme caramel or creme renversee.On it's own, flan is an easily made custard, perfect for neophytes new to custard making.It is cooked blend of just milk sugar and eggs, left to set.Creating the caramel top is a little bit trickier.It has to be made before the custard and then first spooned into the mold.It should be a deep rich brown color and will continue cooking even after leaving the burner.Just remember,Mr.Tanis warns,that caramel can be very hot and can cause burns if it.s spilled.Be careful when spooning it into the individual molds.Make the flan hours later and then leave it in the fridge for two to three hours to firm up. Most flans have an eggy taste which is pleasant enough.Mr.Tanis amps it up by adding blood orange juice and zest.The fruit imparts a delicate ,exotic flavor ,reminiscent of Iberian orange groves.He also adds non traditional spices such as coriander, cardamon and fennel seeds.These aromatic herbs perfume it, perhaps a nod to the spice markets across the Straits of Gibralter in Morocco.You can do your own variations with either a drop of vanilla, or better yet,coffee or chocolate.Flan can also benefit from rosemary or even bay leaf. The Internet has some interesting flan recipes and ideas too.There are pumpkin,buterscotch and coconut laced flans. Just don't pick an ingredient that will overpower the caramel.It really is the star of the shoe. Flan is a delicious finish to a meal.There's something wonderful about the marriage of custard and topping.This blend is what makes this light egg custard deep and complex.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chili Your Way

Nothing beats a big bowl of chili on a cold winter"s day.What's perfect is that you can tailor it to everyone's tastes as long as it has that touch of heat.It's an easy as well as fun dish to whip up.Everyone loves chili in any form. Jennifer Steinhauser explored both the dish and it's history in today'New York Times Dining issue.Chili really has an interesting past.It is sort of a combination of both the Old World and the New.Part of it stems from the balmy Canary Islands, off the coast of Spain.Islanders went from there to Spanish Colonial Texas of the 1700s.They made a cooked stew of beef seasoned with cumin and garlic.The indigenous tribes of the area also had a chili precursor in the form of bison meat stewed with wild onions.Add to that the Mexican chilis, a huge part of the Aztec diet for millennia before the European settlements came.Chili powder was used in the mix , subbing in at time for the cumin the Canary Islanders used liberally, a Berber influence from Arabic Spain. Americans got their first taste of it,in San Antonio where chili queens sold bowls in the town's plazas and then later at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.Chili powder then became mass produced around 1900' enabling home chefs of any nationality a chance to make this easy stew. Now chili has many variations and recipes.There are vegan ones,along with turkey and chicken ones.Ms Steinhauser uses dark turkey meat in hers ,giving it a gamier ,richer flavor.Most award winning chili recipes have beef in them ,staying true to the original chili con carne recipe.This is a mix of bacon and chuck although you can use bison or venison too.Ancho chilis are added for the perfect fire along with cumin.There are chili recipes that include beans such as red kidney beans and pinto beans.This gives any chili a creamier texture.Ms Steinhauser also includes The recipe for what's called "A Big Bowl of Red" , a Tigua Indian recipe.This has round steak cut into cubes mixed with masa harina, a Mexican version of polenta added to the chili while cooking.Also certain ethnic groups Like the Greeks add their spin with adding a dash of cinnamon and cloves creating Cincinnati style chili.Ms Steinhuaser adds both dark chocolate and coffee, creating an almost mole style of sauce. consistency depends on it's cook and the amount of liquid added.Some chili masters do fast boils too ,cooking it quickly to steam off the liquid while others prefer a slow cooked pot with less liquids. this last can take up to three hours.The best chili is a thick meaty kind that you can almost eat with a fork.What to serve with it.Some swear by Saltines and Oysterettes ,others love chili over a bed of corn chips,creating a Frito pie. To be honest the best bet is polenta ,followed by rice.Both allow the chili to shine while adding their own subtle flavors. Chili is the perfect antedote to a blast of winter. It is hearty and hot, no matter how it's made. it's a comforting bowl of spices ,and beans, meat and tomatoes, the right combo for a satisfying meal.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Easy As Pie Baking

Nothing is as fun as baking.It's satisfying to whip, mix and pour having the end result as a lush dessert or tasty snack.Yet some people are put off by it ,thinking it cam be complicated or that any methods requires years of experience.Not true.There are some really yummy treats that are simple as pie itself to make. Pies can be daunting.There's always the worry that the crusts won't brown or that they will be too tough.There's fretting that the merengue might fall or that the filling might still be raw.There is a solution.Cream pies.These are a snap to make and a delight to eat.Buy a pre made crust and fill it with pudding.Now both Nabisco and Keebler have excellent pie crusts to use as bases.There are some really good puddings out there to use as the filling.If you want something both elegant and tasty, try making one with Hershey's chocolate pudding poured into an Oreo crumb crust.Serve it with a side of Reddi Whip and either bananas,strawberries or cherries.Jello has come out with an instant cheesecake.It's super easy and oven free where you have everything ,crust filling and topping in labeled pouches.It takes all of ten minutes to create a tasty and pretty enough for company dessert, A plate of fresh baked cookies is another sweet treat.Most people are usually put off by baking them,either because they're too complicated to make or too labor intensive.Luckily there are that fast baking stand by,slice and bakes.These logs are wonderful, especially if you have to entertain bored kids.Pillsbury has a few varieties.Of course,nothing beats their chocolate chip, especially when they comes hot from the oven.The sugar cookies are just plain fun because kids can channel their inner artist by decorating with everything from icing to raisins to chocolate chips.You can also use the cookies to make homemade sandwich treats or as the base for ice cream sandwiches.Another fun idea is sticking lollipop sticks in them and turn them into cookie pops.There are also cookie rolls with designs already stamped on them.Make a platter of heart ones for Valentine's Day as a gift for family and friends. You can make luscious desserts and fun snacks with these easy as pie solutions.They are just great for ending a meal, impressing company or making kids happy. Nothing beats a home baked treat, even if it's no bake or has very little baking.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Steak Out Know Your Cuts

Nothing beats a good , juicy steak.It's always a special treat to come home and enjoy a good cut with a glass of wine .Yet what is the best steak to buy?Is a skirt style one better than a Tbone? What makes a good sandwich kind?There are different cuts,each unique ,suited to certain dishes . There are a few varieties out there.Some cuts are cooked one way while other methods leave them either too tough or under cooked.One popular cut is chuck.This is a popular sort during the winter season because it contains a larger amount of collagen than other kinds.This means ,a chewier ,almost more gristlier texture.The best cooking method for this is slow cooking like braising, a covered fry pan way . You can also stew or roast it.Chuck can be used for hamburger too if you want a better burger.Another tougher texture is flanksteak or the original London Broil.Again this has a more thicker feel that is best suited for a broiler.It is very flavorful so a simple salt and pepper rub will do just nicely.Sirloin too, has a very elastic texture and would be good on a grill(although this cut makes for a fantastic Steak Piedmontese, cooked in a hot anchovy bath until tender). Many steak lovers will tell neophyte cooks to try the New York Strip steak.This is similar to a porter house or T bone steak but without the filet or tenderloin attached.It is best off grilled but you can also pan fry it in a mix of olive oil and butter.Many steak houses feature porterhouse chops which are always a crowd pleaser.It's also worth the sometimes high price thanks to it being two steaks.It's a combination of strip steak and tenderloin filet.It is a large steak , perfect for two or just as a single meal for the quintessential Meat lover.Another favorite is the rib eye. This is from the cow's rib section and generously marbled with fat, making it juicy ,tender and flavorful ,a perfect trifecta.These steaks are generally roasted in the oven to soften the fat.Another member of the red meat elite is the T-bone.Like the porterhouse cut, it is a mix of two different cuts,namely the tenderloin and a smaller filet than the porterhouse. There's nothing like coming home to a good steak dinner, especially one that's been expertly prepared.Shop for the cut that suits your recipe and tastes.It will make for a delicious dish, perfect for any steak lover.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Know Your Seasonings

We use them everyday .They add to our every meal and even snacks.Yet do we really know that much about our most common seasonings and their proper uses? The answer might be surprising . What we shake and sprinkle on our foods are more versatile than we think. Salt is one of our most ancient seasonings.The Roman armies were paid in it, hence the reason why our pay is call salary(derived from the Latin word for salt).For years it was used for curing , brining and preserving.It was a staple both in cooking and seasoning afterwards for a few centuries.Thanks to a renewed interest in sea salt ,it's becoming an everyday must have.Unlike regular iodized table salt sea salt comes from all over the world.One of the Best comes from northern France and is called fleur de sel.It is a delicately flavored kind that can sell for almost forty five dollars a pound .It melts delicately on the tongue.There is also sel Gris or grey salt.It is made the same as flier de sel but the drying process is a tad different.The salt is allowed to touch the drying pan hence the silvery grey color.The Himalayas also offers salt as well.It's a healthier sort that helps regulate blood pressure and the heart.Start using these different salts to improve your food's flavors They, more than the regular table kind will definitely bring out subtleties. Salt's partner pepper is also a seasoning with a long history.Like it, peppercorns have been used for two millennia They helped to not only preserve meats but to cover up rotting food.The spice was first harvested from Indonesia ,mostly from Sumatra and Java during the early days of its'use.Now pepper can come from as far away as China and as close as the Caribbean island of Reunion.It is the fruit from the plant of the same name, a woody vine that can grow in almost any landscape.You can get red, white, pink pr green.The black is one of the spiciest ,thanks to the piperine ,a phyto chemical that also gives pepper it's fiery taste.Your best bet is buying a grinder full of whole seeds.FreshyY ground pepper flakes give zing to such bland dishes as scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes.You could also use white peppercorns in making Asian dishes.It's a mild flavor used commonly in all sorts of Chinese dishes.Pepper can also be added to homemade ice cream ,gloving the vanilla flavor a b Surprisingly good boost of flavor. Salt and pepper have been table staples for millennia.Use them to spice up your dishes.They bring out the flavors of everything from tomatoes to potatoes and from breakfasts to snacks.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Mugful Of Meals

A hot mugful is always a winter favorite.Imagine it filled with a tasty omelet or sugar cookie, yup, that's right,Thanks to a new cookbook, you can male everything ,from chicken pot pie to tacos to oatmeal cookies in your trusty old coffee mug. Camilla V. Saulsbury has written an interesting and intriguing cookbook entitled 250 Best Meals In A Mug (Robert Rose Press). This is a great cookbook for cooking for someone living alone.There are minimeals in essence,all made and cooked in a microwave.This is also helpful gift to first time dorm students or those just starting out.All the dishes can be made for only a few pennies and Ms.Saulbery has included a guide on everything from knowing your microwave to valuable info about ingredients.She explains everything from spices to fats used in cooking and baking.She also recommends what types of mugs to use,(never use ones that are embossed with metal.These can explode in the microwave and damage it) The book's recipes are truly varied.There are the breakfast ones from sausage and grits to pancakes .You can even your mug to make your favorite muffins, breads and cookies.The meal choices are astounding and perfectly suited for a dinner for one.One night your mug could hold creamy pumpkin gnocchi,the next ,baked max and cheese or tuna casserole.Almost every country is also represented from Korea to Egypt. There are such classic dessert dishes such as Ginger bread and sugar cookies.You could even turn your mug into the center of a small party, thanks to the many hot dip recipes such as artichoke and spinach.What really stands out are the soup recipes from classic French onion to Manhattan clam chowder.The soups are easy to make while turning into a hot satisfying meal. This cookbook will forever change the way you use your coffee mig.It won't hold a steaming cup of decaf.Instead it will give you yummy breakfasts and hearty meals.It 'll be used for a celebration of one ,with either a fun dip or special cake!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Feast Of Sweets

What could be better than having dessert for dinner? There's something decadent about cutting out the nutritious middle and heading right for the sweets.That's just what some of the more trendier Manhattan restaurants are doing.They're letting patrons order fun and exciting desserts in stead of the usual mains and sides. Ligaya Mishan got this fun assignment for her Hungry City column in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. She visited some hot eateries as Per Se, Chikalicious and Picholine to name a few.Many restaurants serve what is known as tasting tables where dishes of unusually made desserts and sugary novelties are served.Doing this serves two purposes,one it highlights the pastry chef, often overshadowed by the restaurant's chef and two ,gives diners a chance at trying a less expensive tasting table.Most tasting menus can go as high as three hundred dollars while a dessert one is only eighty dollars or much less.It also is a great way to draw in foodie's who normally wouldn't visit a restaurant due to it's pricing. What did Ms Mishan get to sample? A lot on interesting creations,basically dessert with a Joan Miro twist.ChikaLicious pastry chef and owner Cjika Tillman,a native of Japan makes sweet little amuse bouches worthy of a Bento box.There was a duo of an Earl Grey infused cotta sitting next to a sorbet made from tart Meyer lemons.She also offers a Japanese style cheesecake resting on a bed of ice.Per Se offers a little scoop of pear sorbet along with a mound of vanilla custard.The plate is decorated with oat streusel crumbs.There's also a cappuccino semifreddo served in a coffee cup.It was paired with airy doughnuts that were more like sugary wisp.Chocolate pudding came with a whiff of apple wood smoke and a halo of olive oil.Unusual desserts were also tried. Such as a lemon thyme gelatin cubes set against chocolate and butternut squash purée tucked under a cranberry sorbet.Picholine offered sweets with twists such as apple crescents poached in caramel dabbed with cider purée along with a Gorgonzola(!) semifreddo. Desserts are what diners remember most about their restaurant experiences.What better way to really impress them than with a tasting table of sweets.It's a great introduction to the place along with satisfying a sweet tooth?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sheets of Armor

The most important tools a home kitchen should have are baking sheets.These can handle everything from roasting vegetables to handling a deboned chicken. They are necessary in creating a one pan meal.They can help in creating easy baked meals from breakfast to dinner. Melissa Clark wrote about their importance in today's New York Times Dining section.She dedicated her entire column,A Good Appetite to them.Sheet pans are vital in creating a variety of different pan roasted dishes.thanks to their generous dimensions.A home cook and even a restaurant chef can cook an entire meal on one.Don't confuse these with cookie sheets which don't have rims , made to allow for quick baking. Also don't use a jelly roll pan either.It would be tempting but this is quite flimsy and should only be used for making sponge cakes.Buy one or two good ones, if you don't have one already.Prices range from around $20 and they will last a good ten to fifteen years, even with a lot of use. Once you have your sheet pans, then start thinking about making a pan meal with it.Ms.Clark has excellent ideas,regarding this.She first uses the pan for cooking winter roots veggies with olive oil.She starts with potatoes, celeriac,rutabagas ,turnips and parsnips along with broccoli rabe.As this is cooking you can prepare the meat.Ms. Clark uses chicken drumsticks coated with mustard butter but you can also try pork or lamb chops or even a small rack of ribs.As one dish starts to cook, the others can be removed from the pan. You can also employ this for breakfast using the roasting pan for bacon or sausage(surprisingly yes) while the other part of the pan can hold ramekins full of baked or shirred eggs. The most important tool in any kitchen should be the sheet pans.These are versatile and can create a tasty meal without all the fuss.They make an oven roasted meal a snap to create without all the fuss and bother!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Happy Birthday Mallomars!

Not many cookies have the staying power of Mallowmars.Some come and go but these American classics are celebrating over one hundred years of goodness.They are still as they were ,full of marshmallow and chocolate flavor. they makeca tasty snack or tasty dessert. Marshmallow cookies are nothing new.The Danish created the first two hundred years ago.The English made a variation called a teacake.These were a round of shortbread topped with what is known as an Italian meringue,a whipped egg white concoction similar to a marshmallow.The entire sweet was then coated withva thin layer of milk chocolate.In Germany they are made with sweetened egg white foam and enrobed in dark chocolate.German kids love them squished between a bun.Some around the world have the addition of a thin layer of raspberry jam or more sugar added like the Canadian version,Whippets. In the US they've been made as Mallowmars ,and were first baked in Union City, New Jersey.They are a puff of marshmallow stuck on a Graham cracker round.They're coated with rich dark chocolate and sold only from September to March and with good reason.They would melt and make a gooey mess otherwise ,thanks to the hot weather.Not to worry.You can make them at home although the process is labor intensive and does require a lot of equipment.Maybe the best replica is the s,more itself, especially if it's made with dark chocolate squares. Mallowmars have been a special treat for the last 101 years.Enjoy them now with a good hot cup of tea or coffee.They're a great cold weather treat, perfect for a snowy afternoon indoors.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Summer Fare InWinter

Winter foods can be heavy along with being not fun.There are weighty stews and goulashes along with roasts to deal with all in the name of getting warm.Yet you can have a fun summery fare even when there's two feet of snow outside.Your tummy will be warm thanks to these hot weather favorites. What says July an August more than a barbecue? If you're lucky to have an indoor grill use it.You cam make not only hot dogs and hamburgers but also ribs too.No grill? Use a frying pan for the dogs and burgers while you can oven roast the ribs.Sea food, always a summer treat, can still be had.You can get already made crab cakes to fry up along with tilapia for grilled fish.Little neck clams are in season right now and you can try whipping up a home made Manhattan clam chowder.These dishes deserve a great salad. Here you can rely on canned veggies to get that summery produce.Try beets or spring beans with freshly chopped onions for a nice taste of the garden.Another fun side is three bean salad,perfect with burgers or dogs. Of course you're not going to go for an icy treat when the temps feel like 30 below.You can make a summery cobbler using canned peaches or berries from South America(you can also use frozen strawberries and blueberries for this too)'Tarts can also be made with them and served with whipped cream.Cream pies, usually reserved for picnics and barbecues are a nice dessert in the winter.Buy already made Graham cracker and chocolate cookie crust and fill it with puddings such as coffee or banana.Decorate with Reddi Whip and fruit slices or shaved chocolate. Summer fare is easy to make when we're in the depths of winter.You have your favorite barbecue dishes even if there's two feet of snow outside.It's. It's A welcomed break from all that heavy winter food!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tailgating Downton Style

The Super Bowl has a formidable rival: Downton Abbey.Yet we can look to this new English classic for inspiration for a better sort of tailgating nibble. Instead of the usual messy, sauce laden grub we can dine finely. The foods aren't that complicated.They're actually just perfect for the big game. For true Downton Abbey style you may want to serve with actual silverware,plates and linens.Paper plates and plastic sporks can be seen as déclassé and not worthy of the upper crust(although if you have a sizeable crowd ,forget all the conventions and go with the easiest - the disposables). English picnics start with a cold roast chicken, ham and roast beef.You can easily get a whole roasted bird at your grocery and leave it in the fridge until serving time.Get fresh sliced London Broil and ham at the same store deli counter and serve on the smaller slices of what's known as party bread.If you want to add a touch of tea party, then add egg salad and watercress.A nice side is sliced cucumbers dressed with a dill infused sour cream. For appetizers ,think prawn cocktails with a spicy horseradish based sauce.This is just simple chilled glass rimmed with shrimp with the sauce in the middle. For sheer whimsy you can serve both angels on horseback or devils on horseback.These are strangely British and may take some getting used to.Angels on horseback are bacon wrapped around oysters while devils are bacon slices wrapped around figs or dates.Make it more palatable by subbing in hot dogs for the oysters and figs.You can also have a tray of good cheeses such as Stilton and cheddar with crackers and port. to finish up think about an easy to make trifle using any kind of cake and pudding or better yet, Eton mess.This is a fun jumble of fruit, pudding and cake or cookies mashed together with a topping of whipped cream. Try a civilized tailgate party tomorrow by drawing from Downton Abbey.This Super Bowl rival can give you some great nibbles.What a perfect way to celebrate with class!