Monday, March 31, 2014

The NY Times Food And Drink Issue

Yesterday's New York Times magazine was chockablock with articles about food.There were a few recipes included but mostly about what's happening on the food and drink scene,Nothing is boring ,that ,s for sure.It's an interesting issue that still can decreed on theTimes site. One of the most impressive was an interview with young culinary star,Flynn McGarry.At the age of fifteen this super nova has created some of the country's most talked about meals . He has created a beet Wellington for one of his in house tasting tables.He is a genius with food and preparing it, taking ordinary ingredients to new heights.He even invites chefs over, such as the Food Channel's Tyler Florence.Even when he was three,McGarry was dressing up as Emeril Lagasse.He started seriously cooking at ten when he grew tired of his mother constantly bringing home take out.It was an interesting insight into the mind of a young cook and also an interesting peek int o his life.There was also another interview with the Danish beer makers who are each other"competition along with a piece on the scrappy chef,Barbara Lynch. The other articles were about the French New Wave of cooking.This is ironic be use the chefs are not French but are transplants from Japan,Australia , America and Britain.These chefs are infusing flavor and spice in a bored Parisian market.British born Matt Ong and his Aussie partner, Hayden Clout have created both a go to eatery as well as a must see wine shop.Japanese born Dai Shinozuka whips up hearty Gallic fare such as baba au rhum with whipped cream and a lobster with a celery remoulade.One of the best articles was a pictorial about what chefs keep in their fridges and crispers.Theirs are not so different from us home chefs with our hoards and troves of special sauces and our half eaten apples or carrots. There are some recipes but surprisingly for cocktails from some of the country,s trendiest bars.They're worth making for a Spring get together with friends.There's a true rum daiquiri a Along with an adult chocolate milk. The New York Times has always been cutting edge when it comes to food and drink.Go online and see what the food issuecis all about.It's eye opening and interesting, as it anticipates upcoming trends.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Light Sauces For Spring

Our cooking definitely change when Spring arrives. There's a decidedly lighter hand when it comes to preparing meals. Gone are the heavy sauces  and in their place, something lighter and airier. The new sauces work well with the onslaught of greens coming out as well as for holiday meals.

One of the best sauces  for Spring is hollandaise. When done right it's light , airy and frothy. Skip those gunky mixes and make your own. It's a simple mix of butter, egg yolks and lemon. It can work well over asparagus which are now in season or over Eggs Benedict in an Easter brunch. You can also create a low calorie version subbing in light mayo for the eggs. Another idea is just melted butter or margarine mixed with Parmesan cheese. This is the perfect topper for asparagus or even spinach.

One of the best meals for warmer weather is chicken with a white wine sauce. This can be served over rice or Bulgar. It's a simple mix of chicken stock and white wine with the addition of shallots.Try a white wine one with quartered vine ripe tomatoes for a lighter sauce over angel hair or spaghettini. Fish  will be served soon, thanks to Holy Week and Passover . Since the flavor is strong, it too needs a delicate sauce for balance,Try a lemony one , made with fresh squeezed Meyer lemons and dill. The base is butter and chicken broth (surprisingly). Use this sauce for pastas too, especially if you add scallops or shrimp to the dish.

This is the start of cooking light. Try these airy sauces to give your meals a fresh, Spring feel. It's a nice welcome to the season.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Return Of The Chesapeake Oyster

The Chesapeake oyster is making a comeback and in a big way.This gem of the famed bay is now wanted by some of New York's top restaurants.Thanks to a dedicated family the bivalves are now being enjoyed by a new generation of oyster lovers. Julia Moskin had the opportunity to interview the family, namely the two cousins who revived their family's century old oystering business.The Croxton family was one of the main stories in Wednesday's New York Times Dining section.The youngest generation, Travis and Ryan, inherited the Rappahannock Oyster Company and the leases on the Rappahannock River.If they didn't continue in the trade ,the government would take up the leases, and their great grandfather's legacy.Since they do have masters degrees in marketing ,the brothers went to New York's famed Le Berardin restaurant to sell their seafood and were an instant hit.The oysters, also known as the virginica were so rare that the chefs wanted them right then and there.They became can instant hit, Now they also have the Grand Central Oyster Bar as another client.The oysters themselves are perfect, plump and fleshy ,what they were back during the oyster's hey day in the 1870's. Why was there such aversion to the virginica oyster? It thanks to the horrific pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.When the Croxton family first bought the leases, the bay was rich with plankton and phyto nutrients that are the food that oysters need to survive.The waters were clean ,full of lush thriving marsh grass .Unfortunately as the Twentieth Century progressed, fertilizers and insecticides were dumped into it and contaminated the oyster meat. It created a problem with most marine life dying out.This meant no more oysters at any of the top East Coast restaurants.Luckily the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was started in 1967 to protect and restore the bay. There was even talk of introducing a Chinese breed, a disease resistant kind that grows to maturity in just a year.However that was vetoed, because a foreign variety could also bring a host of problems too as it happemded in the South, there with kudzu and the walking catfish. Oyster affectionados have the Croxton cousins to thank for bringing back the industry.Oysters are coming back with their ripe, briny flavor and texture.They are no longer a rarity but a treat.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bakery Mashups

There's a new phenomenon amongst New York City bakers there days.It's basically a mashbup of two kinds of baked goods.Since Dominique Ansel created the cronut last year. Bakers are vying to create the next biggest sensation.It's like coming out with the newest version of the IPhone.Create some new treat that will put the baker on the culinary map New York Times Dining regular, Julia Moskin ,went on a trek to find all these new hybrids throughout the US,Bakers are getting really creative.The hottest new mix is the cragel, a combo of a bagel wind a croissant.This is coming from San Francisco, from the House of Bagels.Co owner Jenny Puentes is using the flaky buttery dough and first boiling and them baking it.This may be a big seller, especially when paired with different fillings.However some such as the scronut(which actually sounds like a part of the body)is a scone and a donut,topped with a big dollop of icing. The frosting alone may be a turn off.Some pairings work ,some don't .Some bakers do it, not because they truly want to introduce a new treat to the world but because they want to make a ton of money. Luckily most of the new hybrids Ms. Moskin wrote about , and hopefully sampled sound like they have legs.Frog Hollow Farm out of Northern California has given us the scuffin.This is a logical blend of scones and muffins with a dollop of fruit in the middle.This could easily work and it could be a brunch must have in the upcoming years.Macarons, that on point treat right now, is also getting hitched with marshmallows to create a Mallomac, ,a Mallomar with a Gallic twist.Imagine the cookie's bottom ,as a macaron and then topped with homemade fluff .It is then dipped in chocolate..One of the most decadent is just blending two types of the same product.This time, chocolate and almond croissants.The famed chef and baker,Jacques Torres combines rich dark chocolate with almond paste to create what sounds like sheer heaven.For a more down home blend pie and milk are blended together to create a pie shake.More mixes are out there, some involving birthday cakes along with eclairs and ice cream bars. More and more hybrids will probably be born,with their creators trying to earn a fast buck .Some will work and go onto be successful.Some blends may have to go back to the drawing board.It takes time and creativity to give the world a new treat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Re working Casseroles

One of the most simplest, and sadly, the most boring, is the casserole.Maybe because it has been denigrated to be nothing more than a mix of canned soup and awful ingredients or whether ,we've just made too many of them in the last century, this easy and versatile baked dish has become a culinary joke.All that is changing.The casserole is moving beyond it's soggy, overworked past and re emerging as something exciting and new. Melissa Clark examines this revamped version in today's Wednesday"s Dining section of the New YorkTimes. It now has taken on a sophisticated turn while maintaining it's down home coziness. Gone are layers of mushy noodles and canned tuna.In their place, new ingredients bloom, turning the whole thing around.The dish is becoming as urbane as it's, French cousin, the cassoulet, that Gallic version of duck confit ,spicy sausages, and beans, topped with crunchy,garlicky breadcrumbs.You can create a lasagna or moussaka, both ,technically casseroles, for a family dinner or a welcome party.These dishes don't even have a soup can between them.Most mid century wives were told to make the perfect casserole Using Campbells soup, simply because it was quicker and even healthier.It just created a generation of bad casseroles. Now you can experiment.Take Chef Floyd Cardoz's recipe from his Battery Park City goes back to his childhood in India to create a casserole.He starts out with the typical birwani a baked dish of brown meat, fried onion and a mélange of spices ranging from cardamon to cinnamon, The famed Lower East Side's Fat Radish has a unique turn as well.Chef Nicholas Wilber makes his like a beet crumble.Beets, an unusual vegetable to put in the dish is layered with cheddar and a mix of beet greens and Swiss chard.The crunchy layer is a mix of oatmeal along with hazelnuts and Pecorino cheese and nutmeg.Chef Wilbur also amps up the dish's appeal by making it in copper and stone gratins.Leave the boring brownie pans or glass bakeware in the cabinets.The appeal of the new casserole's all over style serving it in a copper pan or gratin . This also explains the appeal of a Mexican style casserole where style and flavor trumps all.It's a bake of chorizo ,beans and a variety of chiles for a stylish take on the classic tortilla bake. There's a new generation of casseroles ,just waiting to be tried.They're chock full of new ingredients and new flavors. Try them now for a new twist on an old classic.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Cupcake ATM

There's a new trend that New Yorkers are just gobbling up- the ATM that spits out cupcakes.It's a new twist on a kind of old concept, the vending machine.The difference is that the goods are freshly baked and have a constant demand. The store selling them is Sprinkles.It's mostly a California based coany with branches in LA and La Jolla.It expanded to sweets loving Manhattan where it's now a staple.It sells all sorts of flavors,and even has flavors of the month.Sprinkles also serves cookies and ice-cream although there's no talk of having an ice cream dispenser alongside the cupcake one.Cupcake lovers pay a whopping $4.25 for each cake(to be honest, there are over sized so you do get your money's worth)as they select their favorite Sprinkles offers such diverse types as banana and cinnamon sugar along with the usual, chocolate, vanilla and red velvet.There are even unsweetened ones for dogs, costing the same amount as the human treats. If this catches on, then there maybe more " food" ATMs.Imagine a pizza one that can give us piping hot slices along with whole pies to go.This could work for city branches of any fast food joint.Instead of waiting on line, you just press buttons on a menu,drop in your money or slide your credit card and voilà a burger, soda and fries.It could also work for delis too, alleviating those long lunch lines.The ATM concept would be great for ice cream parlors, especially for those wanting pre made sundaes and dishes.People could just go up and get a homemade bar or Eskimo sandwich.It's surprising that Starbucks hasn't run with this idea.It would make ordering a latte or chai tea much easier in big cities and malls. Despite the idea's cuteness,Sprinkles does have a good idea. Having food ATms outside the stores reduce long lines and increases profits.It also boosts a product's popularity and gives it new fans.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Your Spring Herb Garden

Thoughts turn to all things green when Spring arrives.This is a great time to think about planting herbs.They"'re less fuss than fruits and vegetables and yield actually more.Also it's a great way to introduce yourself to herb cooking and a chance to zip up bland dishes. One of the best aspects about growing herbs is that you can grown them on any sunny window.There's no need to grow a whole lOt to get a yield for a dinner.A a handful of any herb is more than enough.You can plant according to your tastes or how easy it is to grown them.Most herb growers usually cultivate the plants they're familiar with in their garden.Many choose basil ,planted later in the Spring because of it's versatility.It can be shredded on pizzas or pulverized into pesto.Another popular one is oregano.This is used in a variety of dishes from braises to sauces.Grow it with Rosemary if you like to cook Italian cuisine.Both are part of the backbone that give us. All sorts of dishes from foccacio to Bolognese sauce. If you like to cook Mexican or Caribbean, then definitely plant cilantro.It's what gives the two cuisines, especially Mexican their bright sunny flavor.Chives are a snap to grown and they are extremely versatile.Use chopped chives to liven up a brunch omelet or cream cheese spread.Scatter dried sliced chives on loaded baked potatoes.Dill, another easy herb ,nthat thrives in both Spring and summer suns.This herb is used in pickling but can also add zip and zing to a cucumber salad Mix a cut up sprig in half a cup of sour cream, them pour over chilled cukes. it also give grilled salmon a wonder flavor as well.Chervil, a fancy French herb, is a cinch to grow.It's delicate flavor is perfect for vinaigrettes but it also is wonderful on chicken. Rub it over the skin with salt and pepper before you put the bird in the oven. Herbsz are a great way to introduce yourself to gardening.They're easy to raise and to maintain.Having them will definitely liven up any Spring meal.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Healthy Spring Garden

Now that Spring is here, it's time for serious health foodie's to start planning a garden.It could be full of fruit and veggies.Planting depends on your tastes and how you cook. However a diet full of home grown organic stuff can only be good.It's a great way of eating better as well as creating your owm locavore diet. For beginner farmers think about growing strawberries.These are an easy cropbwith tremendous results.Try to plant on virgin ground, don"t plant the seeds or seedlings where tomatoes,potatoes or even eggplant have been previously planted..They should be planted in the spring as soon as the earth is dry.Plant in full sun.A strawberry crop is invaluable.They can go into everything, from pies to dressings. also the berries are a great snack or dessert just plain or with honey.If you have a lot of land then think about melons.Both watermelon and cantaloupe are delicious and perfect late summer eating.They do require warm sunny days and a lot of care.They have to planted well after the last frost of the season when the ground is warm to the touch.Then they do require fertilizer treatments every three to four weeks.It is hard work but the results are well worth it.If you're a gardening pro,then think about having a few plots dedicated to blueberries and raspberries.Both require much work along with constant trimming and pruning.Treat them right and you will get a phenomenal yield.Blue berries mad raspberries are high in antioxidants as well as flavor.You can create everything from homey cobblers to hand dipped chocolate bonbons. Most people usually start off with vegetables, with tomatoes being their first choice.There are so many varieties to choose from,from beefsteak to plum.The plants require some work(especially if you wind up with an aphid infestation) but the results are so worth it.Nothing beats a fresh picked tomato with just a sprinkling of sea salt.Also bumper crops are perfect for making home made tomato sauce.Their health benefits are tenfold and the more you harvest ,the better your diet.Gardeners are also big fans of carrots and radishes.They are easy togrow and perfect in a summer salad.They also require the least amount of sweat and worry..If you're more adventurous then move on to zucchini.Again this is for more experienced and patient green thumbs.They require constantly misted soil and have to be checked for viruses and blights.Yet ,this squash can be used in all sorts of dishes from ratatouille to being stuffed with chopped meat and breadcrumbs. Now that the season has turned ,it 's time to start planning your garden.Plant what you'll eat the most along with ones that suit your gardening experience.You'll have a cornucopia of just good for you foods to look forward to and enjoy.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Incredible Shrinking Treats

It looks like our favorite foods are shrinking.More and more snacks and treats are becoming bite sized, and easy to bring with us everywhere.Is this a good thing or a bad?It depends on the product. Miniatures are nothing New.There were Chiklets, those dust mote sized pieces of fruit flavored gum along with the tiny snaps from Pepperidge Farms.Smaller versions are back now with a vengeance and it includes foods you normally wouldn't think of as miniature.Pop Tarts have come out with a tiny version.These come ten to a bag and are stamp sized.They're too teeny to be toasted so you can eat them cold(not always a good choice when it comes to Pop Tarts). Entemann's has come out with a smaller version of their classic fudge doughnuts which sadly can make it a cinch to finish the whole box.Even ice cream brands like Blue Bunny are also selling nibble size treats.There are also smaller versions of some of the Nabisco crackers such as Wheat Thins too. It is fun to have this bite sized yummies every now and then however think about munching some of nature's own mini' to enjoy.For a great snack ,think grape tomatoes. Add a sprinkle of sea salt and they makes a nice treat for anywhere, from the office to the beach.Another mini are the cuties.These are tasty Clementine oranges that are packed with nutrients .Freeze these for a respite from ice ream and ices when the hot weather comes.Another healthy minis the classic Saltine(although not naturally made, made with healthy ingredients )many have shrunken in size but they are big on the healthy ways to be served.You can add peanut butter to them for a nice school snack or even add grape halves or peach slices for fun bites while you watch TV. Miniature anything are fun to eat.However don't go too wild with the smaller versions of junk foodEat the more healthier mini fruits and veggies .Vary the two types for quick bites and fun snack times.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Better Brunch

Brunches are supposed to be sophisticated affairs yet it seems both home chefs and restaurants still are stuck in the 1950s or 1960s.There are the same old dishes, namely gooey Eggs Benedict and omelets stuffed with soggy veggies and gummy cheeses.It's time to actually serve sophisticated foods made with ingredients suited more for lunch and dinner. David Tanis tackled this problem in his column in yesterday's A City Kitchen column in The Wednesday New York Times Dining section. Brunches both in and out have become pallid affairs.There's no imagination anymore.People ,brunch lovers and even foodie's aren't craving change or any new ideas.This is sad..Mr.Tanis tries to remedy this with spins on classic dishes, even throwing in a variation of a classic Italian dessert.The meal should also be pushed up half an hour to better be classified as more of a weekend lunch.It should also reflect the season.Summer lunches may mean grilled fish with a side of fresh herbs gracing a freshly picked salad . Fall and winter lunches should have a long simmered braised along with featuring the produce of the season. Mr Tanis gives us a truly Spring like lunch.It's great for now or for later on in the season ,perfect for an outdoor gathering.He starts off with a bright and sunny citrus salad , spiked with bubbly Prosecco.(think of this as an homage to that classic brunch libation the mimosa)It is graced with grapefruit ,and Meyer lemon sang with three kinds of oranges, blood, navel and the new Cara Cara.Sugar and almonds are added for sweetness and crunch with a dressing of Prosecco.The main dish is egg free, with it being a crab linguine with creme fraiche.It has mustard and green chile to shake things up.For dessert, it,s a play on the frothy zabaglione.This time it's frozen and espresso flavored. It also has a dash of Cognac along with cocoa powder.It's a great and surprisingly light end for a light meal.Prosecco should be served from beginning to end of the meal instead of mixed drinks. A weekend brunch or lunch should not be weighed down with heaviness.Indulge in good but different than the norm ingredients for something special as well as unique.It will make for a memorable weekend lunch for family or friends.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Lesser Type Of Truffle

Truffle lovers should rejoice.There is a lesser form of the fungi,called the Burgundy Is it as good as the ones found inPiedmontese"s foothills? that depends on how they're made and who you talk to. New York Times Dining contributor,Elaine Sciolino explored them in today"s Letter From Paris.She interviewed Didier Chabert ,the man behind this fungi.According to him the Burgundy truffle is just as flavorful and rich as what you"d find in Northern Italy. in looks there is resemblance.Both have the same pebbly black color along with the same range of sizes from golfball to baseball.As it matures, however the Burgundy's flesh turns black just like that of the black truffle. It is also one fourth the cost? The low price makes it affordable,good for truffle lovers and especially restaurants.Even French home chefs can take advantage of this cheaper version, yet many do not. Why won't the French take to this Economy model? Two reasons, the aroma and the taste.Truffles have a mix of different scents, from soil ,garlic and sweat.They can also smell like onions , hazelnuts and even pheromones.The Burgundy has a sweeter aroma, and less pungent.It also loses it's" taste in cooking.The best way to eat them is freshly harvested and raw, according to Monsieur Chabert.It may just need a little fleur du sel to bring out the flavor.Yet they are better than what the Chinese are importing to France.The newly imported to France Asian variety have been chemically treated and leave a burning sensation in the stomach for two days afterwards. What is the best truffle.The original from Piedmomte! Yet if you can't afford it then go for the Burgundy version.Is a lesser form of luxury.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Return Of The Sandwich

It seems a classic is returning to lunch boxes and menus across the land.What is it? The basic sandwich.It could be that people are tired of all those salads or are just sick of wraps.The stuff of a good midday meal has returned and with a tasty vengeance. The marriage of filling and bread ,originated with the Earl o Sandwich who asked for two roast beef slices between bread slices during a gambling spree.From then on it's graced tables, making a quick and easy lunch.Unfortunately i has been vilified in previous years because. It was deemed not nutritious because of the cold cuts used along with the condiments.?However.Nothing beats a well made sandwich whether hot or cold.Thanks to chains like Jake's WayBack and Red Robin, hot sandwiches are coming back.These are not just burger joints.They do have fun burgers that have slices of , rich cheddar,avocado and tomato on them, along with flavored mayo and apple wood smoked bacon.If you do want a fat free sandwich ,then nix the bacon and cheese.A grilled chicken sandwich is another good choice and again both places can customize it to suit your needs. Even homemade sandwiches are becoming on trend again.Thanks to Boar's Head, sandwich lovers and foodie's can create a really good sandwich.The company has low sodium versions of some of their most popular meats.This is perfect for ham lovers who just won't give up a good old fashioned ham on rye.Italian cold cuts are the best for heroes.If you're worried about the nitrates, then just treat yourself to a homemade everything hero once or twice amont.Another idea is sticking with one kind of meat like mortadella or sopressata and layering sliced tomatoes and arugula on it.Add low sodium cheeses too if you want.If you still want a hearty sandwich but love the sandwich ,then think about soy meat.Granted, they're not as flavorful as the real thing but they can sub in nicely,for ham, turkey and roast beef.You can also just have a.simple tomato sandwich.Toast the bread ,slather on the mayo and add thickly sliced vine ripe tomatoes. The sandwich is back.Celebrate with a burger from a chain or one you made yourself.Savor it, enjoy the meshing of a good filling with a tasty bread , bun or roll.Welcome this old friend back into your life.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Cuisine Strength And Sustainability

By now everyone is probably sick of all that corned beef and cabbage as well as anything dyed green.True Irish cuisine is one born from sustainability and hardship.Despite it all the food is flavorful and rich with local meats and produce. Saint Patrick would be proud as well as familiar with today's Irish cuisine.It basically is simple cooking made with very basic ingredients.Gaelic chefs ,such as Kevin Dundon is bringing this kind of sustainable cooking to the rest of the world.For two or three millennia the Irish have been living off the land and sea.Since the Bronze Age, the indigenous have been eating a version of smoked ham as well as roasted pig.By the eighth century,geese, hens and ducks were added to their diet .The Celts landed in Ireland around this time and with them brought baking skills.They were able to grow rye,wheat and barley ,and then used the chaff, grinding it into flour.This was made into a type of griddle cake. .Around this time they also created a mead from fermented honey and water as well as a basic beer made without hops.Cheese was an important part of their diet as was butter and cream.Streams provided them with fish for a bit of variety They foraged for fruits and wild herbs to flavor both main dishes and desserts. Once the potato was introduced in the 1600's,Irish cuisine was forever changed.The spuds were a great source of nutrition and could blend with any ingredient.Both rich and poor used them.Upper class nobles enjoyed potatoes as well as carrots with mutton in Irish stew.Their tenants ate them with milk and cabbage.Surprisingly this diet is rich in proteins and vitamins.Unfortunately the famine came in the 1840's. Locals wound up eating even grass to survive .Luckily the island is ringed with Seaweed and they lived on what's know as carrageen moss.Ireland saw better times in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.A good meal now can include fresh caught salmon or fresh from the farm along with variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Irish cheese has come into its'own in the last few years ,rivaling its'Continental counterparts. This St .Patrick's Day see Irish cuisine for what it is: a salute to sustain ability .It is a rich and varied one,full of fresh ingredients.It's not anything dyed green .It is a cuisine from a rugged land.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Absolute Best Flan Ever!

A well made flan is like tasting heaven.Unfortunately most store bought ones have a pallid flavor.They're basically just vanilla pudding marinating in some over gooey caramel sauce.Take heart.There's a brand new flan on the mArket, an artesanal one that will make the dessert as trendy as bespoke macarons or the much wanted cronut. the creator of this is Claudia Berroa who has launched Claudy's Gourmet in the Bronx.(and let's hear it for this borough who stands in the shadow of trendy food places like Chelsea and Brooklyn)She has taken her Peruvian grandmother's time honored recipe and turned it into something for both hip foodies and traditional flan lovers alike.Each flan is handcrafted, not poured into molds and laced with preservatives and artificial flavorings.The chocolate is made from dark Belgian chocolate while the vanilla has Madagascar vanilla bean extract,made by her and her husband!Rich.The flan comes in five flavors, the traditional such as vanilla but also coffee and lychee.The idea to create artesanal flan came from her love of cooking,along with being inspired by The Food Channel's The Iron Chef.She studied business administration but her heart , it seems, belongs to creating wonderful Peruvian dishes and desserts. Ms. Berroa is a true genius when it comes to creating flans.Hers is the most perfect ,with the right combinations of egg, milk and sugar.Their lightness is reminiscent of Italian zabaglione,ethereal and airy.I sampled the coffee, passionfruit and vanilla.I love the coffee,it's flavor wasn't overpowering and the light caramel sauce worked well with it.The passionfruit was also amazing with real bits of fruit and just a slight,barely perceivable tartness.For flan purists,I'd recommend the vanilla.Unlike the store-bought and homemade kinds, this is not cloying with no eggy aftertaste.It was like a creamy puff of tradition and exoticism blended together.I will probably be heading to Gourmet Garage in NYC(it's also sold in the Union Market in Brooklyn) for more and to try the chocolate.She has definitely made me a flan fan for life. Claudia Berroa has redefined flan and has raised this simple dessert to gourmet status.It is one of the best out there and one that has to be tasted.To be honest it will be Manhattan's and then the world's go to sweet.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Little Bit Of Lenten Cheating

Lent means certain sacrifices.Most people give up a favorite snack or dessert.Some give up meat on Wednesdays and Frodays.This is probably the hardest.While it's easier to sub in rice crackers for chips and frozen yogurt for ice cream, there's really no subbing in for steak or even hamburger.Luckily we can turn to vegans for solutions. Thanks to a strong worldwide vegetarian movement, it's now easy to still have much loved burgers and steaks.There are so many different kinds of veggie burgers out there.from Italian style to grillers that no one will actually miss the real things.There are also soy versions of Salisbury steak packaged with a rich mushroom gravy.You can also buy meatballs that are made in two with soy and the other with ground mushrooms.Both are great ,gracing a bowl of Friday night spaghetti.If you're longing for a vegan pizza,look no further than the Tofutti brand.The cheese is soy,and you can also scatter soy pepperoni. To be honest , this is also a heart healthy meal free from nitrates and processed pork.Speaking of which there is also tofu based ham and hot dogs.You can make some nice sandwiches as well as enjoying a grilled dog to finish out the week. Nowadays almost any meat, even fish can be duplicated thanks to tremendous inroads made in the soy industry.There are thick cut grilled soy steaks .These can easily be put out on the grill or pan fried.Have then with a baked potato and salad for satisfying dinner. Most supermarket and animal friendly sites will sell beef alternatives.Many serve beef tips which can be turned into a tasty crockpot stew or goulash. Soy beef crumbles are easy to get and they can be turned into a meatless chili or Bologneses sause.For poultry lovers there is both tofu chicken and turkey .You can get the chicken in nugget form but also in cutlets.Both are great for kids who are also observing Lent.The nuggets can be served with the same sauces as the real thing.For a big family meal, especially on Wednesdays .Serve with stuffing and cranberry sauce for the real thing. You could also make a soy turkey chili as well to vary the dish.Soy turkey and chicken cold cuts make excellent sandwiches and they easily be the main ingredient for Dagwoods or heroes for either lunch or dinner. If you find yourself craving meat on Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays, don't give in.There are soy substitutes that can satisfy .Try the many different kinds ,from beef to pork to chicken and turkey for either a filling lunch or dinner.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

In The Agrihood

Everyone has his or her idea of the perfect neighborhood.Most prefer a quiet block while other ps want easy access to stores.Many people are getting a kind of combination of that in the agrihood.This is a new concept based on an old idea with families in one area relying on a farm for food.It's a great idea and the ideal location for families. this new food and housing trend was covered in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.Kate Murphy wrote the piece after visiting one such community in Gilbert Arizona.The neighborhood is called Agritopia.Thanks to the real estate bust of 2008 halted construction however developers turned in another and very new direction: developing farm focused tracts.There was a need for them.After all people were discovering eating farm to table was healthier and what better way than having a sustainable farm within walking distance.The neighborhood boasts not only fresh produce ,meats ,eggs and even honey but also a restaurant that uses the raw ingredients.Residents pay $100 a month for their supplies of just harvested eggs, honey and produce.Other agrihoods are now in such diverse locations as Idaho to Vermont.There are only five in existence in the US now but six more are being built. Life in Agritopia is blissful.The homes are one story with big front porches and close proximity to the sidewalk.This encourages neighbors to chat and enables a sense of community.As for diets, families have come to appreciate fresh ingredients .Kids growing up here will more or less be imbued with a taste for the natural instead of fast or microwaved foods.The Phoenix agrihood has 160 acres with veggies from artichokes to zucchini along with fruit trees such as nectarines Apples, peaches and dates, that even include olive trees?There is livestock ,with chickens and sheep for fresh egg and meat.The farm is separated from the community by grapevines and blackberry brambles.Everything is sold from a centrally located farm stand where the restaurant also is located.It runs on the honor although there is that fee. Everyone craves the perfect life.An agrihood can give that,along with good food and healthy ingredients.It's a step towards living in a true utopia.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A True Taste Of Ireland

With St Patrick's day arriving on Monday ,everyone starts thinking about Irish cuisine.Unfortunately there are still some Yanks who think that it must consists of boiled cabbage, boiled corned beef and beer.It's much more complex than that,being richly layered with flavors and textures.It reflects the island's harsh history and determination to live better. Both David Tanis and Melissa Clark wrote about Gaelic foods in both their respective columns in today's New York Times Dining section.Mr Tanis created and wrote about a type of fish and chips in his A City Kitchen.He combined Arctic char with a spinach butter. influenced by the Ballymaloe House cooking school.Their belief reflected Irish sensibility to cook with "fresh , local and seasonal" ingredients.That means freshly churned butter and freshly caught fish.It also is using seasonal veggies from the garden as opposed to imported,frozen or canned.Mr Tanis sticks to this philosophy when he sautes an Arctic char in creme fraiche and serves it with a spinach butter.New potAtoes act as an elegant side.If the local fish market doesn't sell char then substitute it with local pink trout Melissa Clark takes that other traditional St Paddy's Day dish, cabbage and trAnsforms it into something completely amazing and down right addictive.Instead of either putting it as a side or in a salad, she turns it into a main dish in the form of an empananda or tort a.She uses the sweeter Savoy cabbage ,a staple in Piedmontese cooking and first sautes it to make it tender.Fontina cheese is also added along with ham and onions for flavor.A dash of cider vinegar is thrown in for bite(although this is reminiscent of the Piedmontese stuffed cabbage and polenta dish pescoi.The result is pasty, with a crunchy butter crust with a mélange of flavors inside.Since Savoy or any cabbage has a tendency to retain water, bread crumbs are added.These can be plain however Ms. Clark adduced the flavor kind for extra oomph.Other fillings can be used such as stewed tomatoes, browned mushrooms, and olives and potatoes. Irish cooking is not what people think.It 's a rich array of simple ingredients made into complex and flavorful dishes.Try these foods for St. Patrick's Day for a more sophisticated turn.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Fruits Of Late Winter

By now everyone is probably craving fresh fruits.It's been a long cold winter and for most of us , the only sweet treat has been and covered in icing.Luckily, you can buy a variety of fruits right now. Thanks to it being late Summer in the Southern Hemisphere, supermarkets can sell a variety of fruits.Of course we have oranges and grapefruits coming in from California and Florida.These have been great in not only providing us with Vitamin C but also fiber.Yet by now we craving the earthy sweetness of blue berries and strawberries and thanks to South American farms, we can have them.Many food writers urge people to eschew these, because they feel that these imports are somewhat inferior.Not true.The strawberries are just as juicy and tasty as their Jersey counterparts during the height of the season here..You can easily add them to cereal or enjoy them with unsweetened yogurt as a super heAlthy dessert.The same with the blueberries.Use them in salads or light desserts or just eat them plain.They're fine, they 're not harboring any life threatening bugs either. Apples and pears are also out there right now.Try to buy organic ,however even just the regular kind is fine.With the apples you can get several different types from Braeburns to Fujis.Apples are a great snack whether for the office or school.They're also perfect for when you're really craving sweet and reach forvthese instead of for a cookie or doughnut.Pears are another refreshing good for you nibble.They are also great as an unexpected ingredient in any salad as weldor gracing a chicken and mayo sandwich.Some markets are offering plums.Again these probably are being imported from South America.They are just as juicy and as candy sweet as their American cousins so buy them as a nutritious snack.Plums also make a nice change of pace from the other fruit. Break free from all those winter desserts of cakes, cookiesand pies.Get back into the habit of eating fruit again.They're a healthy and refreshing change of pace in a late winter diet.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Where The Wild Things Are Eaten

There's A club in New York that has attracted adventurers and adventurous eaters for decades.The meats aren't your usual roast beef and chicken.They"re a bit more gamier, in fact they're downright wild.It's the famed Explorer's Club and it' been serving up some strange beasts for interesting feasts. Stephen Rex Brown wrote about it in today's New York Daily News(again the Daily News has some really good food articles).It an annual dinner that has attracted some of the last century's more famous explorer's.Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Sir Edmund Hillary This year Amazon founder ,Jeff Bezos and the edge of space skydiver, Felix Baumgartner will be honored. However it's the food that will shine.In past years it was a maple glazed hog mask or the face of the pig,along with python patties with bacon on top.For seafood adventurists the club served up jellyfish slivers in a white soy sauce.Turtle cakes with capers remoulade has also been given out.Desserts usually have the added decoration of mealworms and crickets. The club started in 1903 when navigating through most sit down dinners was an adventure.The club was founded by professionals dedicated To the exp,oration of Earth, the oceans and outer space.The first group included early Arctic explorer's,Adolphus Greeley and David Brainard.Teddy Roosevelt and Prince Albert I of Monaco were honorary members..The club has always been known for it's strange dinners.This year a few dozen pounds of alligators will be used as well as some exotic fungi.The dinner became a yearly fixture in the 1930s when explorer's brought back well preserved mammoth meat from Siberia.Since then every kind of meat, from ostrich to tarantula has been served.It's been made into such mundane recipes like bakes and sliders,the easier to eat them. Insects become kabobs while eyeballs are like appetizers. The Explorers were never faint hearted men and women.Eating the wild things on the planet means having a steely constitution.It's a club for the adventurous palate.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Taste Of Ziti

Almost every American kid with even a drop of Southern Italian blood will say baked ziti is their favorite dish.As they grow older this dish ,becomes their favorite comfort food and no wonder.It is a tasty Mix of pasta ,sauce and cheese,baked to crunchy goodness.It's a great dish to make anytime. Ziti is a penne type of pasta originating in Calabria in the far south of the Italian boot.It is one of the traditional pasta al forgo or baked pasta.Oven baked pasta dates back to both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance where it was served at noblemen's banquets.The idea caught on throughout the South.Ziti and its'cousins, lasagna, cannelloni and manicotti are still popular in Sicily along with the areas around Naples, Amalfi and Salerno.Ziti recipes vary from family to family and there really isn't a definitive recipe.Most baked pasta dishes actually start with leftovers so one recipe may call for chopped meat while another has two or three cheeses layered in.In a way it's like the American baked Mac and cheese.Everyone has their own spin on it and every variation is always the right one. Making baked ziti is easy .The standard recipe calls for ziti, tomato sauce along with ground beef and a mix of different cheeses from Provolone to mozzarella and Parmesan.It's a bit labor intensive but the steps are easy.Boil the ziti first and while doing this, brown the beef along with an onion .Add the sauce.Then it's just a matter of layering the pasta ,cheeses and meats and baking for a half hour.The good thing about this dish is that it can be varied.Many use just ricotta as the cheesevalone to give the dish a creamy ,richer texture along with adding a top layer of mozzarella for more gooiness.Spicy Italian sausage can replace the ground chuck too for heat and bite.For a lighter fare try adding chicken.It will give the ziti a less heavier taste.Any dish can also be made more healthier with omitting the meat ,and subbing in veggies such as button mushrooms, zucchini and onion.You can add a lighter ricotta too and use whole-wheat penne instead. Nothing beats baked ziti for dinner.It's Southern Italian comfort food at it's best.This baked dish is classic that will satisfy any kid ,big or small.

Friday, March 7, 2014

New York 's Ramen Revolution

Ramen soup is undergoing a seismic shift.Once relegated to college dorms and small,dingy restaurants, this Japanese classic is now becoming the hottest bowl for Manhattan foodies and soup hipsters.A good bowl od ramen is definitely worth heading into the city. Renowned New York Times food writer ,Pete Wells, gave his top choices in Wednesday's Times Dining section.As late as ten years ago if anyone in the NY metro area wanted an authentic bowl of ramen soup, he or she would have to follow what's known as the "ramen belt".This swung as far west as Fort Lee and as far east as Queens and Brooklyn.All that is changing thanks in the shift from soba to this.Soba noodles are prized for their delicacy in shape and flavor.It's minimalist, flavored only with scallions and togarashi,a spicy mix of dried chili pepper, sesame seeds and orange peels along with dried Ginger and seaweed.The broth is made from seaweed and dried fish.Ramen is a much more heartier affair.Pork pieces swim amongst the thicker noodles, and can be made cheaply from boiling meat and bones.That's not to say it's not as good as soba,in fact it's sheer heaven,with it's mélange of strong flavors. The top ramen shop on Mr. Wells list is Ivan Ramen's Slurp Shop in The Gotham West Market.The best is shoo, a chicken ramen that has both depth and clarity.The stand also has a vegetable shoyu, which tastes of roasted mushrooms blended with soy sauce.This is a hearty broth ,perfect for thkese blustery cold March nights.Another highly rated stop is Takashi, in the West Village.This is a Japanese Korean barbecue with a menu of all beef.That means the ramen is completely red meat.It's dotted with Cheerio sized rings of fried beef intestine.It's also gets added flavor from the beef belly also used.The city's ramen restaurants are also hybrids.There is the Korean Hanjan which features it's noodles in a bone broth ,spiked with a fiery hot chili pastor.Thailand also gives the ramen industry a boost too with it's restaurant Hide-Chan in Midtown.Black oil, made from roasted garlic, colors the broth while a dash of chilies gives it an unusual heat. Manhattan can be a chilly and dark place in late winter.Warm up with a bowl of hearty and exotic ramen soup.It's definitely worth a trip to the city for it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

All Dalled Up

One of the most tastiest and nutritious dishes is the Indian dal.It's a healthy dose of beans ,flavored with even better for you spices.It makes a great meal on it's own with naan or as a player in a a complex Indian dinner.Best of all any bean can be used and the recipe can always be varied. David Tanis wrote about dal's benefits in his A City Kitchen column in yesterday's New York Times Wednesday Dining section.Dal,which translated means dried legume is an everyday dish in Indian cuisine, sort of like what green beans or mashed potatoes are in American cooking.To first make the dish choose the beans.Lentils and split peas are the most common choice,according to Mr. Tanis however chickpeas or fava beans can also do the trick nicely.Simmer any one of these in water and add turmeric for a bit of time is only twenty minutes and you can leave it to pursue other kitchen prep chores.Another suggestion from Mr. Tanis is buying a pressure cooker if you fall in love with the dish and plan to make it often. Dal is basically a blank canvas, waiting top be livened up.Most cooks add a cornucopia of spices sizzled in ghee ,the clarified Indian butter?Mustard and fennel seeds can be added for zing but also coriander can be sprinkled in.Chop in garlic and onions in the hot butter until they are lightly browned.Add chiles to this for the characteristic bite of Indian food. Also texture is key in making this dish as well.It. The perfect dal should be soft and thick, collapsing in a rough purée.If you want a more velvety, creamier texture, put it through the blender .Some prefer the mixture a bit more chunkier, if that's the case then just use a whisk.Dal can accompany braised lamb or roasted chicken or just served with basmati rice and plain yogurt. Dal is a tasty ,quick and nutritious dish that can be the star or the side.It's an easy dish ,using only a few ingredients .Enjoy it for a change from the ordinary, if you're craving something different.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lenten Foods

Today is AhWednesday ,a day when Christians ,and this year the Greek Orthodox begin Lent.It is forty day period of giving up and fasting leading to Lent.There are certain foods that are eaten today as well as during these forty days leading up to Easter.IThey not only full of religious significance, but are also a nice way of eating light. Ash Wednesday and the following LentenFridays for Catholics and Episcopalians means meatless meals.The restrictions are not as strict as the Orthodox so a meatless meal could be an omelet or anything kind of fish.Most Friday night dinners have always been pizza or spaghetti for dinner, with a lunch consisting of either a fish sandwich or fish sticks.Clam chowder is popular during this time as are any fish stew.It's a great time to try bouillabaisse out thanks to it being rich in an assortment of fish ,from lobster to angler fish to crabs.Soy meats are also allowed ,so technically you could create a meat loaf ,providing it has a soy base or have veggies pups and burgers. The Greek Orthodox are much more stricter and more traditionally rooted.Their first day of lEnt was Monday also known as Clean Monday and must fast until sundown.They are only allowed bread ,salt and water for the day.It is also called the Great Lent and other meat related products such as dairy and eggs are forbidden.Even their dietary staple olive oil is not allowed so foods have to be cooked in vegetable oil.Depending on how religious the Greek Orthodox are along with where they come from in Greece,their pre Easter period can be forgoing meat on Wednesdays and Fridays,Fish is also taboo as is dairy products.The diet during this time is rich in vegetables and beans.They make a white bean soup,along with boiled leafy greens as well as the classic stuffed grape leaves.This last is filled with rice and lemon in place of lamb. The time of Lent is a period of reflection and fasting.It means giving up certain foods as Christians follow ancient rules and customs.It is a time honored period of cleansing the body and soul.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mardi Gras Fun

Today is Mardi Gras, the last day of celebration beforeLent.Throughout the world there are amazing celebrations with tons of party food.One of the best places to celebrate is here in the States down in New Orleans.The Cajuns and Creoles, locals down there have givenus delicious recipes that actually can be eaten any time of year. One of the most famous dishes is gumbo.It's a well known dish with roots in West Africa. This stew whose name come from the African word for okra can be made tailored to your tastes.You can add okra, however this veggies is an acquired taste, thanks to it's sliminess.It should have the famed and ultra spicy Andouille sausage for kick,along with red hot pepper flakes and Creole seasoning .This last you can make at home by mixing a variety of dried peppers with paprika ,onion and garlic powders.Dried basil and thyme are also added as well.If you want a seafood gumbo, perfect not only for Mardi Gras but for Lenten Fridays,add shrimp and craw daddies (sub in lobster if you can't find the car daddies or bayou lobsters). Jambalaya is another tasty treat from the Big Easy.It's a traditional rice dish with chicken,sausage,shrimp and pepper.It is seasoned heavily with Cajun spices and slow cooked for seven hours before serving.It's a great crock pot recipe to try as well. Mardi Gras celebrations wouldn't be the same without the famed King Cake.This is one of the city's oldest traditions,first being baked in France for Epiphany.It's decorated in gold ,purple and green, symbolizing power, justice and faith.A trinket, namely a ring is baked inside .The person who finds this prize has to buy next year's cake.It's a flaky,buttery composition filled with either a cream cheese ,apple or strawberry filling.Of course there are the famed beignets.These are fried puffs of dough,which are then dredged in powdered sugar.You can also dip these in melted chocolate ,caramel or even an orange brandy sauce.Bananas also figure in Crescent City desserts.Banana pudding is an easy mix of Nilla wafers, bananas and vanilla pudding.Bananas Foster is a yummy hot mix of bananas,brown sugar,rum and butter .It can be served over ice cream or eaten just as is. Mardi Gras is a time for revelry bordering on debauched.Satisfy your gluttonous side with these richly flavored savories and sweet.They make a perfect farewell dinner before the strict dieting of Lent.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lenten Diets All Year Round

Lent will be starting with this Wednesday.It 's a time when Christians give up certain foods, especially meat and dairy.It's an idea that's worth looking into as a year round diet.It means more fruit and veggies along with a step towards healthier living. Most Catholics and some Protestants give up meat on Wednesdays and Fridays.Starting with a day or two without meat is a good and easy way towards veganism.After a few months you can increase meatless days to four or five and then eventually have meat days one or twice a month.Since some religions allow fish this is a good time to explore the different types put there.Try a steamed salmon(easy to do in the microwave) or tuna which can be served hot or cold.This is also a convenient time to check into the many types of soy "meats"out there.You can easily make spaghetti and meatballs using mushroom based already prepared meatballs.There's also veggie burgers and veggie dogs to try on a Friday night.The Greek Orthodox also give up dairy during the forty days leading up to Easter.This paves the way to try both soy and rice milk,along with the soy and coconut based ice creams. Many people give up a favorite food for this time of fasting.It's usually cake, ice cream and cookies.If these can be given up for just a little over a month, then they can also be given up for good.Again,Lent is an excellent time to explore healthier desserts such as fruits.These are extremely versatile too.You can end a meal with apple sauce, sprinkled with cinnamon.Another treat is grilled pineapple kabobs.Make fruit salads using all sorts of fruits in your market,along with trying new ones such as kiwis and mangoes.Snacks too are usually given up.This is good way of switching over to simple snacks like crackers and rice cakes..Also think a bout having raw veggies with a lemon or lime vinaigrette as a daytime nibble.It's filling but also light. Lent is a time of giving up favorite and lush foods.It's also a chance for a healthier diet and to change unhealthy eating habits.Following one's beliefs is not only good for the soul but for the body as well.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Oscar Party Time

There's nothing more fun than Oscar night.Yes, it's pure excitement for the winners,There's glitz and glamour and the chance to win that little golden guy.Yet the most fun will be watching it from home .Create your own party with friends or just with family.Sit back ,with some Oscar worthy snacks. if you're planning a party, then go the Wolfgang Puck way.This Hollywood chef is known for his elaborate appetizers and hors d'ouvres.Try his baked Mac and truffles,but use porcini mushrooms (or anyones you like)If that's too much then try his bruschetta.This is the classic Italian appetizer but amped up with white anchovies, tapanade and goat cheese.He also has a California guacamole that laced with roasted garlic that gives the dip a smoky flavor.Use as a filling for tacos or as dip.Chef Puck is famous for his pizzas too and you can easily recreate his any of his. For a luxe Hollywood one, add caviar on top of a rich tomato one(skip the cheese, it may be too much) Another way is creating movie snacks.Of course there's popcorn which is good just buttered, but can be amped up with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, chili powder or mixed herbs.Another fun snack are nachos and cheese. this is easy to make with just cheddar slices, milk butter and a pinch of flour for body.You can make this a true party plate by pouring the cheese over shredded chicken or chopped beef along with adding olives and sliced jalapenos. Another fun idea is dim sum.Dumplings are easy to make and there are so many different fillings from true vegan to a pork and shrimp combo. Serve with a Ginger soy sauce or a sweet plum one. You can also honor traditional drive in fare with sliders, home made fries and malteds too,and the last can be spiked with liquor for an added kick. Oscar night is a night of parties.Have your own with fun and tasty food.Celebrate Hollywood with style and flavor!