Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spicing Up New York"s Palate

Middle Eastern cooking has the tantalizing blend of exotic and glam.The aromas and flavors are unique, giving ordinary ingredients such as lamb and eggplant zing and zest.The influence is now livening up dishes across Manhattan and can easily copied into a home chef's menu. New York Times Dining great, Julia Moskin wrote about this in today's food and wine issue.Many Manhattan chefs are adding exotic spices to both main meals and desserts.It's now not in usual to find coriander, pomengranate and saffron at hand in many kitchens.Chefs both with Arab and nonArab are using these to create new dishes as well as put a sophisticated spin on common Arab street foods.There's no room for the tried and true such as falafel and plain hummus.Fattoush ,a traditional salad of the region gets a new twist with avocado ,mint and lemon, thanks to Chef Einat Admony of the Manhattan restaurant Bar Bolonat.Usually made with tomatoes ,greens and shards of bread,it takes a more sensuous turn with the silkiness of the avocado and the sharp bite of lemon mixed with mustard.Manousheh, a domed Lebanese bread is creating fans throughout the city thanks to baker Ziad Hernez.This is a pita painted with zaatar and topped with tomatoes, cucumbers and jibneh, a crumbly feta like cheese with the mildness of mozzarella.Harissa, a popular North African sauce is also being used in more meat dishes.It's a simple easy to copy sauce made from hot peppers and paprika mixed with olive oil. Middle Eastern street fare is getting revamped as well.Kebabs are being made with tuna and halibut and wrapped around a cinnamon skewer.Stuffed vegetables are surrounded by fresh herbs,yogurt along with green and red chiles.Zaatar which is a home mix of the plant zaatar(a distant cousin of oregano) is mixed with ground sumac along with salt then doused with whole sesame seeds.It's also made into a wet form,using olive oil and is added to yogurt for flavor or spread over a pita bread. You could use it to spice up lamb chops or chicken too. Another spice is dukkah from Egypt .This is a fine mix of various spices and nuts now being used to zest up both meat and veggies.Pomengranate, a well used fruit of the area ,is being employed in all sorts of dishes, mostly in syrup form .It's mixed with tahini, a sesame sauce and poured over Brussels sprouts , a food not really used in Arab or Israeli cooking. Middle Eastern food is a delicious mix of the exotic and flavorful.Just making your own version of zaatar and adding to a meat dish is a step away from the ordinary.Add some of this flavor to your cooking for twist on Arabic cooking.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fun Stuff For Little Chefs

If your little one likes to cook, encourage him or her.It's a well known fact that kids who help out at mealtime have healthier diets and know the difference between good and bad foods.It's easy to entice them ,thanks to some neat kitchen oriented stuff out there. Kids love coloring books and simple word games.They also like to nosh too. A new coloring book combines the two in a fun and informative way.The New York Daily News featured the coloring/ activity book ,developed by Andre Huesten Mack, owner and founder of Mouton Noir Wines.His mentor was none other than them famed Chicago chef, Charlie Trotter.Chef Trotter frequently invited school children into his kitchen for educational three course meals.Mack also believes this, hence the book.It featues coloring book images of some of the current greats like Anthony Bourdain.Tom Coliccjio and the lesser known Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin and April Bloomfield of the famed The Spotted Pig.The games are fun.There is a word search featuring nothing but mushroom types and a scramble word with only fish. Once you've got your future foodie's hooked, it's time to give them the tolls to start.There is a great company named Curious Chef that has kid versions of kitchen gear.This is one neat site.The sets are pricey however butvthey're worth it. Check out the six piece fruit and vegetable prep set for $24.99. It has everything from a melon baller to a cute pepper shaped corer.The pizza kit,,also $24.99, has a neat looking tomato shaped cutting board along with a slice server and a pizza cutter. For parents worried about stains there are aprons to protect clothing as well as oven mitts to prevent burns and even toques to cover little heads.One of the best aspects of the company is the way it divides up the level of experience from apprentice chef for beginners to sous and expert chef.The company also believes in healthy eating so they have nuritious and even sophisticated recipes.Their hip pity hop pear bunny is adorable and it actually would make a neat dessert any time of the year.There is also a recipe for an asparagus and shrimp potato croquet, more suitable with a glass of champagne than with apple juice. Encourage your budding foodie's to explore the fun world of cooking. It's a great way of showing them how to not only eat healthy but create their own dishes and desserts. Start them off with Small Thyme Cooks and some cooking gear from Curious Chef to get them on the right culinary path.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Grill Of Your Dreams

We"re on the verge of barbecue season.This is the time of year when stores sell a variety of grills.Don't be overwhelmed by the variety of different types.Choose one that fits your grilling needs and warnsBuying the right one is the key to a successful grilling season. Grills are like any other appliance.The fancier they are, the more stuff comes with them.There's also the question of what kind of fuel you want to use.if you want a no problem , easy grill then think electric.The problem is that you won't get smoky flavor when you cook on it.Sadly there's not a big variety to choose from.This may not be the one for you if you're an avid barbecuer.Many electric grills also don't have a lot of voltage so they're only good for grilling burgers and dogs .Most people love gas grills.These come in a gamut of types with a wide range of pricing too.A simple gas grill will cost only $200. These are good for cooking the simple stuff like steaks and kabobs, but nothing more elaborate.Also they will not last as long as their more expensive counterparts.The luxury models even have rotisseries and side burners.These are perfect for more advanced cooks or ones that like to do most of their summer cooking out of doors.The top of the line grills will be made from stainless steel and can cost upwards from a grand and beyond. If you are a traditionalist, then consider a new charcoal grill. These , too, range in pricing from what's known as a simple kettle to smokers.Everyone swears by the Weber model.It has multiple air vents along with room for indirect and direct smoking.A better one is the Kamado cooker which is excellent for smoking meats.It also will last a long time?There's also the Hasty Bake which can bake meats such as chicken and Cornish hens.People concerned about their health and the environment will probably choose the wood pellet kind(cooking over charcoal can cause the meat to become carcinogenic).A better choice is the wood pellet grill.These are grills that are fueled by a hardwood pill like piece of wood.They burn quickly and cleanly into a fine ash.These come in different "flavors" such as hickory,oak,cherry, apple or mesquite.They're fed from a storage hopper into a burning box at a controlled rate.Heating time is literally within minutes.The pricing is high ,even for the least expensive,$400 to 2 grand for the best one.Also the pellets can be pricey as well however pellet grill owners usually buy their fuel in bulk. As with any appliance, determine what is the best grill for you by your cooking needs and tastes.It should be a perfect match, resulting in your best barbecue season. Pick the right one, the one that suits your outdoor cooking needs.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Gearing Up For Picnic Season

The warm weather brings the urge to eat outside.There's nothing like a relaxing picnic on the beach or in the park .Yet a meal al fresco isn't just a sandwich on a bench .It's much more and if you want an enjoyable, trouble free one,you're going to have to have some gear.It's up to you to make it as simple or involved. The first step is having some kind of container for your grub.It can be as basic as a Styrofoam cooler you can buy at your local supermarket or as fancy as a British hamper from Williams Somona.The last will come with actual china plates, cloth napkins and cutlery.It's perfect for impressing a date or doing a picnic Downton Abbey style.However if it's not you, don't buy it.A better option is a cooler on wheels which can be bought at any Target or K-Mart.It will have room for ice which means you can easily store bottled drinks along with salads and sandwiches.It's good for the more involved meals that include meats for grilling and any mayo based dish.Another idea is a portable grill.Most picnic spots do have them, however many picnickers want their own to cook on.Get a decent easy to handle portastove that will last for several years.It can be used again in the fall for tailgating season.Also buy one that has two grills for cooking both burgers and dogs. There seems to be some division on utensils.Some people like the idea of plastic while others tend to use their house sets for dining outside.Plastic breaks ,especially the knives,rendering themselves useless when cutting steaks or even chicken breasts.Ditto for forks .The tines have a tendency to break off too if you're stabbing something tough.Bringing the utensils from home is not a good idea either.They could get lost.The best bet is heading down to your dollar store and purchasing cutlery from there.Knives and forks won't be as flimsy as the plastic ones yet not as precious as say the family silverware.The dollar store can also provide you with spatulas, larger knives and ladles..These also come in handy when you need extras for big holiday dinners.As for containers, invest in cheaper plastic containers with snap on lids for salads and even meats. You don't have to use the good Pyrex or even Tupperware. Nothing beats a relaxing meal al fresco.However for it to be enjoyable you do need some basics.A few simple containers, easy to handle cutlery and and ice filled cooler makes it easier to dine in the great outdoors.It'll make for a more enjoyable meal.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Milk Punch Hip Again?

This is the season for celebrations.Between weddings, graduations and engagements, people will. E looking for something to toast the celebrated.Surprisingly a centuries old recipe might do the trick.Milk punch is hot again and in a whole new way.It's also an elegant touch to any shower or party. It was the lone non bread article in The New York Times Dining section that was yeast centric on Wednesday.Robert Simonson wrote about it and how it's sweeping the nation ,from New York to San Francisco.The drink is nothing new,being first made during the Renaissance.A century later, the famed first female playwright Aphra Behn reinvented the quaff during England "s Restoration period.She made it as an individual drink ,similar to what is now being served.One of the more popular is the California style made with rum, spices and Batavia arrack, a fermented sweet rice wine..It's served at San Francisco's Coachman Bar where it's known for the 19th Century drinks.It's also a favorite choice at Manhattan's Underground too.Chicago's Punch House, famed for it's punches has an ancient recipe revamped and changed every week. Most of these punches are not creamy or milky,like what is served in New Orleans bars .The ingredients are mixed with hot milk so that the milk curdles.The blend is sieved repeatedly until the liquid becomes clear.This is a time intensive project, taking hours to make.It then rests a day before being served.However there is a cult following for this and bartenders let milk punch lovers know hone they"re making it.This kind of milk punch does take some getting used to.Not many people enjoy a mix of spirits and dairy.,Once acquired ,it's addictive.Some bars such as Bar Pleides make a milk punch base and patrons canchoose their spirit of choice to add. Don't try this at home.Stick with the old fashioned milk punch recipe where bourbon or rum is added.For added richness use half milk and half whole cream .You could also add some chocolate syrup for a twist on the kid classic. Milk punch is an elegant drink, perfect for an elegant party or just a night out.You can try it both ways ,either clear or creamy .Either way it's a rich drink ,perfect forth times ahead.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Good Old Fashioned Bagel

Real bagels in New York are about bas easy to find as one of those mythical sewer alligators.They're usua Ly puffy and pale with hardly any taste.Like the artesenal breads that are repopulating the city ,home style bagels are making a return and in a big way. The New York Post (yes, that rag owned by the Murdoch family) covered them in their Wednesday food section.Old fashioned and Isreali bagels are Back in style. The old fashioned style is more circular, looking like a ring and having a dark mahogany color.The texture is springier and chewier, reminiscent of the days when bagels were actually hand rolled. New York bakers Bari Musacchio and David Heffernam , who came from the city's best restaurants decided that a better bagel was needed.Ms.Musacchio felt like it was a desert ,not being Abe to find even an adequate one.Their are hand rolled creating an almost pretzel like bread.A Montreal version is also coming to the Big Apple.These have no egg but instead malt and honey and are first boiled in honey water. Bagel lovers can also rejoice at the Jerusalem style bagel coming to the city.This is a longer, thinner version, usually covered in sesame seeds or salt.They're then dipped in olive oil and the traditional zatar, a mix of sea salt and various herbs. This is an excellent snack and I can see it becoming the next big thing.The bagel itself without the dipping sauce may also become popular.It 's got the appeal of a pretzel along withe chewy inside and crusty outside. The era of the puffy, pale bagel may well be on it's way out.The thinner, crustier one is coming back.It's a whole new era of holes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bread Spread

Bread lovers should be in heaven today.The New York Times Dining section is entirely devoted to the staff of life.This is a great edition with drool worthy pictures and interesting stories about bread makers.All the greats from Pete Wells to David Tanis weigh in .There's even a tasty recipe for a sweet and savory butter to slather on the slice of your choice. One of the best articles of the issue is the one written by Dining regular Jeff Gordonier.He wrote about the return of true artesanal bread with bakers harking back to ancient methods of fermenting the dough first.There a big push also to return to grains that have almost been forgotten.Bakers such as Peter Endriss of Brooklyn"s Runner And Stone is influenced by his German roots where bread has a deep brownish black hue and rye flour is liberally used.His almond croissant is not a golden sticky bar but a crescent that is gnarled and mahogany in color.Another bread maker,the Finnish Simo Kuusisto of nearby Nordic Bakery creates a dark chewy rye, the kind of loaf he grew up on.There is definitely a movement that these men are a part of ,that is to go back to an era when bread wasn't a cookie cutter loaf with a spongey middle and an embarrassing, mushy crust.Spelt and kamut along with stone ground whole-wheat .The one country not into this are the Japanese who make a delicious sounding milk bread that begins with a flour and whole milk starter.The results are perfectly square loaves with buttery golden crusts.There is even a pictorial featuring the best breads of New York City. The bread issue also includes recipes(including the Japanese milk bread one above)There is a recipe from San Francisco's famed Tartine Bakery.Baker Chad Robertson creates a chewy, crusty loaf .The key is how its kneaded with the dough being folded into a kind of envelope .Of course there is the untraditional addition of rice flour to the recipe mostly as the layer that will be for the crust. Florence Fabricant also contributes her recipe ,an earthy walnut and whole wheat one, sweetened with maple syrup.Any of these would work well with the aforementioned savory butter.This is from Melissa Clark in the Restaurant Takeaway column, It involves adding chicken fat to butter along with a tablespoon of maple syrup.Bay leaf is also added for zing .Ms. Clark also contributes a spaghetti recipe made with bread crumbs, egg yolks and anchovies.She heartily recommends making your own crumbs, using the heels of stale Italian and French loaves.The bread crumbs are good for other recipes too, from stuffed mushrooms to coating veggies for frying.She also has another article about homemade English muffins.This is a must save although the recipe is labor intensive.David Tanis of A City Kitchen gives us his recipe for the perfect slice of toasted bread.The best one is one made from a baguette. he takes a slice and rubs olive oil and garlic,Spanish style on both sides.He also recommends rubbing a fresh sliced tomato too for a tangier taste.Imagine this with a salad Nicoise or a fragrant bouillabaisse. The brewed issue is definitely a must save.It has some of the best recipes from actual loaves to bread centric ones.Try them for a change from the ordinary store bought ones.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day Eating

Today is Earth Day ,a day dedicated to saving the planet.Foodies can get involved too simply by changing their diets.Anyone can cut down on his or her carbon footprint.It's a version of guilt free eating but it not only helps you but all living things on the planet. One of the biggest and most considerate ways is going vegan or semi vegan.It takes a lot of energy to raise animals for slaughter and eating.The farms take up electrical and water power to raise poultry, fish and cattle.Plants do not,only relying on compost, air and water. Also try to buy products made and grown in your area instead of selecting foodstuffs from other countries or distant parts of the US,Canada or Mexico.Many fruits and veggies are either from South America or even Hawaii or Mexico.A good way of reducing your carbon footprint is buying from local farms or farmer's markets(these are just starting their season).The products are varied ,from honey to cakes and cheeses to produce.This last is also organic and you don't have to worry about them being sprayed with pesticides.Learn to eat seasonally as well.Instead of snacking on strawberries in the fall or winter, try local fruits such as apples or pears. Foodie's can also emulate their favorite celebs by going to restaurants and even bakeries that feature locally grown and produced ingredients.This is also called the fork to table or farm to table movement and it's firmly entrenched in trendy food forward New York City.This is where chefs get their produce and meats from local farms and butchers.Some restaurants such as Natirar in Bedminster, New Jersey has a farm where its chefs can pick out the best fruits and vegetables for their nightly menus.They even have livestock too so diners can enjoy free range chicken and veal.This is perfect in the late spring ,summer and fall however it can pose some problems come winter.Chefs then rely on pickled or canned goods to create sides and desserts.Anyone can create their own locavore table at home simply by planting a comprehensive garden.It not only helps the environment but gets families to eat healthier. Versatile veggies such as tomatoes and peppers can be planted and used in variety of ways.Strawberries and melons can also be planted and enjoyed for two months.Fruit trees take some time to bear fruit however once they mature ,there will be bountiful harvests.To keep the fresh taste, can or jar your produce.You'll be able to enjoy string beans or peaches well into November and December. Change tour diet and change the world. Be mindful of your carbon footprint.Buy locally,eat at restaurants that feature locavore dining.These small gestures add up to the big one of saving Mother Earth.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Candy Store's Worth Of Recipes

Everyone loves candy as we've just witnessed yesterday with Easter.Store bought bonbons can be good but what's even better is the homemade kind.Nothing beats fresh buttery fudge or creamy homemade caramels straight from the stove.Even better is that once one batch is gone ,another batch can be made. There's no need for a special trip to the local confectionary store for some more almond bark or lollipops. Author and candy maker Jane Sharrock knows this and gives us a plethora of yummy recipes in her latest book, 300 Best Homemade Candy Recipes (Robert Rose Publishers).There is almost every kind of sweet here, from nutty pralines to actual sugarplums made with apricots.What is the best part is that Ms. Sharrock separates the recipes into four categories, from novice and super easy to experienced.Once the home candy maker has tried a few recipes he or she can graduate to the next level.Another plus is the explanation of the different stages from soft ball to brittle.These help in more complicated candies such as lollipops and ganache.Ms. Sharrock also updates old recipes descriptions such as butter the size f a walnut or egg and clabber milk(essentially soured milk)'She had written an entire chapter on chocolate dipping along with hints for achieving the perfect coating.Another sweet touch are the anecdotes added to almost every candy.Many recipes are from family and neighbors and they are acknowledged in little stories under the recipes. The book is great and has some good how to photographs as well. I love the lollipop how too as well as the fudge one.Candy making seems so scary due to the intense high temps as well as getting it right, however the pictures seems to take a lot of the fear out of it. Ms Shartock has candy recipes for almost every taste.Some of the ones I'd love to try-are the pastel butter mints along with the old fashioned candy apples as well as the many fudge ones.Having grown up on homemade Jersey shore candy ,anything fresh from the kitchen is appealing.There is also a section on "healthy " candy,ones that re made with sunflower seeds and dried fruit..These recipes are great for moms who don't want to make something ultra decadent,There are also recipes that could work for birthday and theme parties such as popcorn balls and a neat sounding popcorn cake . What better favors than with glass candy and homemade toffee.All of the recipes would make lovely birthday or Christmas presents too. Candy really is dandy and the homemade kind even more so.Jane Sharrock proves that in her cookbook.It's not only a great book for candy lovers but also for home chefs who want to expand their repertoire.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Your Easter Meal Checklist

By now you should be ready for cooking your Easter meal.However with all the to do leading up to the holiday, it's hard to keep track of everything,and that includes ingredients.Remember that you can always run out or sub in something last minute.No recipe is set in stone The most important item is the main course.The ham is probably taking up a good portion of the fridge right now.Check your spice rack however.The most important part of the roast is actually there.Make sure you have enough cloves or cinnamon for the ham's rind. If you want a more savory one use mustard but make sure you have enough for an all over rub.It pays to have a back up jar, not only for the ham but if people want a dab or mustard at dinner.It also will come in handy if people stay for supper and want ham sandwiches.If you're serving asparagus to a large crowd a lasagna tin will work better than a Corningware one for cooking. You'll be able to spread them out and they'll evenly steam during a hot oven bath.Your baked beans should be soaking now too.Make sure they're soaking in just plain water and not salted.Also make sure you have extra brown sugar and spices too(although you can improvise here.Try a dash of cumin or nut Meg of there' little of the other spice) If you"re using tonight to make Easter treats,again, make sure that you have all your ingredients and supplies at hand.There should be enough confectioner's sugar for frosting and icing.Food coloring is in high demand in most households right now thanks to dying eggs.Keep an eye on these little vials, just in case your egg Picassos go crazy with them. .If you are missing certain colors,you can use beet juice for creating pinks and blueberries for blue and violet dyes. If you are out of colored sugar ,you can make your own using regular granulated sugar and food coloring.You can dry it in a low temperature toaster oven for a few minutes.If you're low on butter or margarine to grease cookie sheets, then just use vegetable oil.If you're making Rice Krispy eggs to decorate tomorrow, make sure you have enough cereal and marshmallow.Also keep track of the amount of icing and candies for decorating..If there are kids attending your Easter meal, have all the treat bags filled with favorites such as Peeps, chocolate eggs and jelly beans. The most important idea is to enjoy the holiday and your guests.If your checklist has worked out then you've prepared the dinner just fine.You've planned it perfectly and it will show through in your main meal and desserts.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Lessons

today is Good Friday, one of the most solemn days of the Christian calendar.While it is a day of observance, it's also a day of reflection.Those who will have a happy food and treat filled Easter should think of others less fortunate.We may be heading into warmer weather but there are still families who need to use food banks and soup kitchens.Volunteer instead of a day at the park or beach.Donate what you can from your garden.Fresh fruit and vegetables are always needed and appreciated. This weekend, remember those who still don"t have.Keep them in your thoughts and prayers but also in your plans to help others.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Healing Recipes

Can a cookbook cure a person?Surprisingly yes.In the case of one centenarian New Yorker classic and beloved French recipes did the trick in healing her.The cure starts with devotion and ends with a potluck feast. The New Yorker is Ruth Levy ,a tough Bronx native who once decoded Nazi intercepts during the Second World War.Her story was the subject of an article written by John Willoughby in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.Ms Levy wound up with an almost lethal case of pneumonia and as she healed, had all sorts of books read to her by a distant cousin, David Vos.All sorts of books were read to her as she made it from the hospital to rehab to finally back home.One book was the classic cookbook,Clementine In The Kitchen.It's about an American family living in France and blissfully enjoying French cuisine prepared by their cook Clementine.When the rumblings of a War are heard the family including Clementine head back to Massachusetts where she introduces the locals to the joys of French cooking.The book was written by Samuel Chamberlain. As a carrot for Ms . Levy to get completely better Mr. Vos promised a feast from the cookbook.It was a potluck salute to the book and it certainly did the trick making Ms.Levy feel better. The recipes were tweaked to her liking.Red wine, was used in coq au vin as opposed to white, no capers in the deviled eggs and heavy cream instead of egg whites in a sinful chocolate mousse. One recipe that wasn't in there yet celebrated the book was a flour less cake made with Clementine orange made by pastry chef and family friend Dawn Datso.Ms. Datso made this Passover appropriate cake is kind of reminiscent of the top half of a Boston creme pie.It is redolent of the clementines with it and almond flour are the two main ingredients of the cake.A decadent chocolate glaze is then poured over it and allowed to set before putting candied slices of the fruit on top as decoration. Food is one of the best medicines out there.Ms. Levy was lucky to have good French food waiting for her so to speak at the beginning of her recovery. What a great way of celebrating with good food and good friends.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fresh Spring Sides

Everything green comes up in the Spring and that includes delicious and nutritious sides.Some have been classics for generations, some are new thanks to the foraging movement.They can be made in a variety of ways,from salads to appetizers, from soups to sides.They bring the brightness of the season to the table. One of the most common and absolutely most delicious is asparagus.They are low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals.Look for stalks that are bright green,un blemished and stiff.One of the best ways to make them is Piedmontese style.Boil until soft,drain and place on a serving dish.Pour on about quarter of a cup of melted butter or margarine ,then cover with sliced ard boiled eggs and Parmesan cheese.You can also grill them hoverer seems to change their delicate flavor.Artichokes are also big on the Spring side scene.Theses can be served with individual ramekins filled with dressing.Dip the leaves in these.Stuffed artichokes are another nice side.Stuff with breadcrumbs mixed with olive oil and Parmesan cheese.Fried artichokes are a Passover treat inRome.These are easy to make and delicious with any meal.They are cut to the heart and double fried for ultimate crispness. Spring means foraging and the forests are full of edible goodies .However if you're feeling a bit wary about picking your own , then try to find them at your local market.Nettles are in season and can be used in a number of dishes.Be warned though about them though.They have sharp thorny stickers that can do damage to fingers and palms.Wear gloves when picking and handling.Once cooked then can be made into soup or even a pesto.Most Y used by Italians and Greeks they find their way into ravioli, sauces and spanokopita.You can male a lively nettlecsalad with the steamed greens and walnuts. Morels are another woodland treat that's a Spring favorite.This is a spongy looking mushroom with an earthier taste than regular mushroos.Morels can be breaded and then fired or cut up in a pasta sauce.As with their button cousins, they're also an excellent ingredient in a mushroom salad with red and green peppers, or just cooked with butter.Another idea is to create a wine sauce and overcchicken and rice. Spring is here and with come a variety of fresh vegetables.You can try the usual or the unusual.Both kinds add freshness and flavor toany warm weather meal!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Your Spring Holiday Meats

With the start of Passover and Easter just a few days away, now is the time to decide what to serve.For an Easter dinner it's ham or lamb while Passover choices are brisket, turkey or chicken.If you pick a top quality main dish ,it will be a memorable holiday for sure.Choose the best for the meal's centerpiece . Many people have a hard time picking a Passover meat.Brisket is traditional however many are opting for chicken or turkey.Brisket is from the chest of the cow and is usually the toughest piece of beef.However it is one of the most flavorful too.You should always buy the best grade .Go for the packer cut kinds because they have the points missing .You can buy the other kind and perhaps the best place to get it is an old fashioned butcher,He can cut off the fatty parts and offer advice too.Turkey isn't as in demand right now as it is during the fall and winter.You can still buy it and it will probably be cheaper. It is labor intensive however. An easier version is just getting the breast.If you want another kind of poultry ,then think baked Cornish hens. This kind is also acceptable .Cook as you would the chicken.You can pay more at a butcher or market but you can also get them at any kosher supermarket. Easter brings about a choice, ham or lamb.Ham can be either city or countryMost Easter ones are city hams, that are one brine cured ,smoked and fully cooked.Country hams are fresh,and cured directly by being rubbed with salt or sugar.Your best bet is getting a cut with the highest grade.It has a delicate pork flavor and has a lean texture resembling a chop.It should also have a small amount of water too.Lamb is also another traditional meat served for both Easter and Passover.You can try the New Zealand/Australian breed or the American.There is a marked texture and taste difference.The New Zealand, or Aussie kinds are low in fat making them slightly more difficult to cook.The are a bit tougher and gamy.American raised lambs are much more tender and tend to have a sweeter flavor.They are more expensive however .The next choice is boned or boneless.A boned leg of lamb is heavier to lift out of the oven.A lack of it though means that it's harder to cook and it's harder to cook to the right temperature. Spring holiday meats should be the highlight of the celebration.Choose what is right for you ,your traditions and your level of skill.The result will be a tasty and memorable main meal cooked well and deliciously.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Ever Versatile Bulgar

Bulgar may sound exotic but it's more homey than foreign.You can do anything with it,from creating a nutritious breakfast to an exciting side.It's also a great way to expand your dish repertoire with all the different recipes. Bulgar has been around for millennia It was a staple of the Great Ottoman Empire and still used in MIddle Eastern as well as in Lebanese and Syrian cuisine.It's basically the groats primarily from Durham wheat .The supermarket sells it already parboiled and dried.The U.S.D.A. Recognizes it as a whole grain and it can be labeled as is rich in potassium and high in protein, making it a more nutritious side than rice.The best and easiest way to cook it is to steam it in a covered pot for twenty minutes and then fluff with a fork.You can microwave bulgar.Just use three tablespoons of water to three quarters of a cup of bulgar.This makes fro a quick breakfast if you add maple syrup and butter afterwards.Sub in herbs, minced garlic and Parmesan for the syrup if you want a quick meal. The grain can be made a variety of ways.The most traditional is tabbouleh, which is a salad of it mixed with cucumbers and tomatoes.Onions,parsley and mint are also thrown in for bounce as is lemon juice for more flavor.This is a perfect barbecue side, more refreshing than mayo laden macaroni and potato salads.Another idea is making it into a kind of dal, cooked with lentils .Carmelized onions along with such spices such as coriander and cumin along with cinnamon are added.Serve hot with toasted pita bread.It can also serve as a bed for chicken ,beef or lamb kabobs.Mix it with some olive oil and a variety of Middle Eastern spices to compliment the meat.Bulgar can also be used like barley to thicken soups and stews, along with stretching them too to last a few days.O Bulgar may be from the Middle East and have an exotic. Cachet, yet it is a homey grain, full of goodness.Start the day with it or have it liven up your evening meal.Any way you serve it is good.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Grain Range

One of the best ways to cook healthy is to cook with grains.There are a wealth to choose from and each can be made in a variety of ways.Grains aren't just used in baking.They can make excellent sides and even be the base of some Salads.Once you know what they are and can offer , you can create good for you and good tasting meals. One of the most widely used and ever popular grains is barley.Most know it from soups,It' can not only add flavor but also thicken them so they can resemble pot ages. Barley is good on it's own and can be used instead of arborio rice for making risotto.Remember to buy the pearl kind.It takes less time and water to cook. You can use hulled barley but it will take about an hour to cook and will require more water.Another much eaten grain is buckwheat.It's technically not a grain but a gluten free fruit seed related to the rhubarb.It has a deep nutty flavor and goes well with mushrooms or caramelized carrots and onions.Of course everyone knows it as a chief ingredient in pancakes but you could also use it in a bacon and egg scramble.For a more interesting spin use it as a filler for stuffed cabbage instead of rice. Some grains are only being introduced to the American palate.There is freekah, a Middle Eastern grain popular in Egyptian cuisine.It's cousin to wheat and is best toasted.The reason being is that a crop burned thousands of years ago after a village was attacked and what was left was roasted chaff.The villagers loved the smokey roasted flavor.It can be served as a side with butter amid herbs or as a salad ,namely with fruit such as apples and pears.Teff is another ancient grain from Africa.The grains are very tiny, sort of like poppy seeds, and have both a bitter and sweet taste.It is gluten free and very high in Vitamin C and calcium.The flavor is both bitter and sweet like chocolate.It is versatile,being an excellent breakfast with maple syrup or for lunch and dinner ,stirred into stew. Amaranth is another grain with an exotic, yet pretty name.It is high in protein and lysine.Use it in pancake batter or as a salad.It can even sub in for farina during chilly mornings. Grains are a wonderful to expand your menu as well as bringing more nutrients int the family diet.Try any one to start the day or end a busy day. Any one is a great addition to meal time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Passover Treats

Passover means cooking dishes that have been handed down for generations.As good as these are, it's always nice to add some new ideas.It keeps the meal from becoming boring and predictable.It also lets home chefs experiment with new ingredients and techniques.All in all in makes for an exciting and memorable holiday Seder. Both Melissa Clark and Joan Nathan experimented with new ideas and time honored ingredients in The New York Times Dining section.Ms.Clark tries the dessert aspect of Passover in her A Good Appetite column.She makes macaroons, long a holy day staple ,but she bakes them a la francaise so they resemble the kind Laduree makes. she stuffs them with a simple caramel of just sugar and water.Dark chocolate is then drizzled over them to cut the overly sweet taste.Another classic ,a flour less cake becomes a hazelnut citrus torte.The hazelnuts are finely ground and mixed with quinoa, the South American grain for a batter.Both lemon and orange juice are added for flavor then it is baked in a spring form pan for half an hour or so.To finish off the meal.Ms Clark makes the classic matzoh candy.It's really a toffee that was originally made with chametz, or leavened crackers such as Saltines for the rest of the year.Butter and Ginger is poured over the matzoh, then baked.Chocolate is then added to the baked sheets as is candied Ginger. Joan Nathan also contributes a Passover recipe, fried artichokes. This is a traditional dish of the Roman Jews and popular because April is artichoke season throughout Italy.Ms.Nathan makes the trip to Rome to visit with home cook, Paola Modigliani Fano for the recipe and to enjoy these heavenly treats.Use American globe artichokes and cut the leaves off.What will be left will be the hearts along with the tenderest parts of the choke.They are fried until crisp for fifteen minutes.The rounds should be bronze in color.Leave them be, after spreading out the leaves leaves with a grapefruit spoon or melon baller.A second frying occurs a few hours later and this is what gets them potato chip crisp.They could also be frozen for another time, although they're so delicious people would want them right away. Serve with a sprinkle of lemon juice.These would even be a good hors d"oeuvre for any Spring gathering. Passover is a time for tradition and good food.Yet it's nice to introduce new culinary traditions to the holiday table.Whether ,sweet or savory these dishes are sure to become instant family favorites and classics.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Best Homemade Pizza

Nothing beats a homemade pizza.You can decide what's going into both the crust and the topping.Best of all you can make it as healthy or as decadent as you want.All you need is a simple crust recipe and you're good to go. Sam Sifton, former editor of the New York Times Dining section goes back to his old section( he now handles the national news section of the newspaper)and finds the best homemade pizza recipe.Not surprisingly it's one of the easiest dishes to make yet no one troubles to make it.People tend to order out or buy the frozen kind,Yet why would you with a snap to make recipe.Before you even start,Mr Sifton recommends, is buy a pizza stone.This is a sheet on which the pie is cooked.It costs at most forty dollars for a stainless steel one. You can also get a cheaper one simply by getting 6 inch by 6 inch unglazed quarry tiles at your local building supply store.Just buy six which will work perfectly for a large sized pizza.Another handy device is a pizza peel .This helps in transferring the pie to the oven however you can use your everyday cutting board or baking sheet. Once you have these then it's time to make the dough .It should be pliant and chewy.The flour should be the Italian made graded 00. You should also add water and olive oil, the last for body.It should be lightly kneaded and gently stretched.Don't manhandle it.The sauce should also be made the same way.The best recipe for it is from the famed Brooklyn pizzeria , Roberta's. Drain cannned tomatoes and blend with olive oil and a dash of salt.Finish with basil and big chunks of mozzarella for a Margherita style.There is also a recipe for the Green and White, a cheese pizza with just arugula on top.Also try experimenting ,with such interesting and unusual toppings suc. As tuna, caviar, if you wantvto impress guests, shredded pork, and a variety of differentvtomatoes, from grapecto plum to beefsteak.Baking time for all is just 6 minutes. APizza for lunch or dinner is a treat.Homemade with a tasty crust, even more so.Try this one with whatever topping you want and enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Icing On Your Cake

Thanks to Easter,home bakers the world over will be decorating cakes and cookies with Easter egg colors,.The question is do most know the difference between the two? What about glaze?How does that figure into holiday cake and cookie decorating.Another question is there a healthy frosting to counter balance all those Peeps and chocolate eggs. Surprisingly there is a difference between frosting and icing ,although we tend to use the two words interchangeably.Frosting is made with butter, lard or margarine along with confectioners's sugar and milk.It's beaten until fluffy with either a spoon or beater.It can work as filling too,depending upon the cake flavor( simple chocolate or vanilla cakes can stand up to a frosting filling)?It can be piped or spread on the cake's surface with a knife or spatula.Fondant icing which is popular in the UK is more like a shiny covering ( think the icing on Hostess cupcakes).Corn syrup is the reason for that shininess and usually a quarter of a cup is added.)If you're making an egg shaped caked then ice with the fondant .It"ll take the shape better and give the appearance of an egg shell.You can decoratevwith buttercream frosting afterwards.If you're baking a lamb or chick cake ,then use the buttercream frosting piped on in small florets.This gives both a soft'fuzzy"look. For those worried about too much sugar, you can make a sugar free icing using liquid stevia ,cream cheese and heavy whipping cream mixed together.It's a bit runnier than the regular kind but still delicious and decorative. Icing is frosting but without the buttercream.It works best on cookies.Icing is nothing more than confectioner's sugar mixed with light corn syrup and milk.You can add flavoring such as lemon or almond extract to give it flavor.You can also use this on cupcakes if you're not into big fluffy puffs.If you're planning on making Easter egg and daisy cookies ,then split the icing into individual bowls and tint with food coloring or natural dyes.Glaze is a type of simple icing. It taste best on sweet breads and sweet rolls.It is usually made with a cup and a half of sugar with only two to three tablespoons of milk added. You can trade one of those teaspoons for lemon juice to cut the sweet.Glaze can not only be drizzled over rolls but also over coffee cakes ,crullers and doughnuts.An orange or lemon glaze would amp up the holiday fanciness on a simple yeast based butter cake. Easter baking time is here and with it a host of baked goods to decorate.Decide what you're going to make and pick the best topping for it.It'll guarantee prettily decorated and delicious cakes, cookies and breads with just the right amount of sweetness to top it off.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Not Your Average Vending Machine

Everyone either loves or hates those candy and snack machines.They're a kid's fantasy stocked up with all sorts of bad for you treats .Dieters hate them because they're full of greasy chips and sugary treats.Luckily there is achange coming and hopefully to a vending machine near you. Instead of cookies and chips ,pizza is now being served hot and fresh ,straight from the Lets Pizza vending machines in the UNited Kongdom.They're in malls and airports offering people a hot meal. ,The machine actually makes the dough ,kneads it, put the desired toppings on and then bakes it all in three minutes.It's an amazing concept soon to be here in the US? Not to be outdone Moet and Chandon has also created a vending machine for mini or pony bottles of it's signature champagne.This is a great concept and beats a can of soda any day.Right now the vending machine has been in the famed British department store,Selfridge's but it may be hitting clubs on both sides of the Atlantic. On this side of the the Atlantic vending machine companies are getting on the health craze. Instead of candy bars, apples, oranges and pears are being rolled out.It's 's definitely a nice way to incorporate fruit into any diet.Chicago is bringing us the Veggie Vending machine, where fresh salads can be bought.There are all sorts from the antioxidant which is chock full of flax seeds, blackberries along with almonds and sprouts to the Mediterranean salad, loaded with Parmesan and Kalamata olives?Not to be outdone LA has come out with a burrito machine.Hopefully it's just as tasty and as relatively healthy as TacoBell's.Australia has also come put with a french fry vending machine, a neat snack but far from being as healthy as salad or apple.All of these hark back to the Automat, a restaurant that vended all sorts of dishes, from ham and cheese sandwiches to baked Mac and cheese.This is a concept that should come back. Vending machines have grown up some.You can now get champagne and fries or a salad instead of a candy bar and a cola. It's a way towards quicker eating and a chance to get a decent meal.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Springtime Diet Time

The calendar says April and that means only one thing bikini season is just a month away.It's time to give up those heavy yet comforting winter meals ,desserts and snacks.However this isn't necessarily a bad hinge.Going on a diet means eating healthy along with other benefits.Trading lush dishes for lighter ones means more nutrients and less carbs and fats. One of the biggest changes is going to be breakfast.How many of us have started off a snowy day with pancakes,French toast ,eggs and bacon.These were great when we had to grapple with shoveling snow or sledding with the kids.The weather is warmer now and that means egg white omelets ,chock full of veggies or just plain.Use the lighter in calories turkey bacon as opposed to the pork one.Berry season will be here before you know it and you can start the day off with puffed wheat or Special K cereal topped with blueberries or sliced strawberries.Another good for you start is mixing these fruits along with peaches (which will be in abundance in another month or so) with plain Greek yogurt.You can also lighten up on your snacks too.Nix all those cookies and cupcakes that kept you going when the temps dropped .Replace them with fresh fruit which is a great mid morning or mid afternoon boost.Fruit itself is also a better pick me up than that sugary donut with a mocha latte.You can also switch beverages too.Those cappuccinos and hot cocoas were great chill chasers, but now think about light passionfruit or mint teas.These have zero calories yet provide the same boost as any syrup laced java.Also add ice to them as the temps warm up for a refreshing break. Some of the biggest dietary changes are going to be with lunch and dinner.One of the best parts of Spring cooking is that it doesn't require labor intensive recipes.Instead of spending hours making a weekend roast,you can do a light sauté with steamed veggies.Not only is this healthier for you it's also a change of pace as well.Three or four months of meat drowned in gravy can be a bit wearing on the old taste buds.This is the season for asparagus with its fresh earthy flAvor.Make it as a side,drizzled lightly with butter or Parmesan or have it as part of a main dish inside a crepe or grill it with other vegetables.Lunch is also lighter.Instead of those big hearty sandwiches or even the occasional burger, you can go light with easy to make salads and wraps.Try different variations to mix it up.Think beet salad topped with goat cheese crumbles and dried onions .Tomatoes on their own make a good salad,especially if you add rosemary and a fresh sliced onion.Another light treat is a mini salad Nicoise, made with tuna, olives and artichoke hearts.Enjoy it outside on a warm Spring day and you'll feel like you're in Provence. Spring is here and with it comes lighter ,healthier eating. Leave the heavy food behind until nextbwinter.You'll feel and look better when you're ready to try on that bathing suit,

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Good Saute

Sauteing is one of the easiest and quickest ways to prepare dinner.It's a versatile way of cooking both meats and veggies for an afterwork dinner or even a Saturday or Sunday supper.All you need is a skillet along with oil or butter to create a tasty dish done in minutes. sauté come from the French word meaning to leap.This has to do with the way the food is cooked, being tossed in a pan.You can use your every day skillet or buy a saute pan. The only difference is that a skillet has sloped sides while the sauté pan has straighter one will work.Use butter or olive oil in small amounts.Another option is Land o'Lakes Saute Express butter squares.The are little butter bricks,marbled with spices, lemon and herbs. It saves you the time of adding flavorings.Cooking time should be about until the meat or veggies are done. There really is no set time frame.Some take longer than others,For example mushrooms take a minute to cook up while something denser ,such as Savoy cabbage takes up to five minutes or more.Reduce the flame until everything cooks up and then serve.You can deglaze what left over as a sauce. What makes for the best sauté?Chicken, beef or any kind kind of fish.You can lightly dredge the chicken and fish. doing this make for a more tender texture. Afterwards add lemon and a tiny splash of white wine for a variation of Meuniere sauce?Sauteed beef is another option.The best bet here cut wise is tenderloin pieces.They're all the same size and cook up quickly.It can also be sautéed.The best ones are Savoy cabbage, mushrooms and green beans.Frozen vegetables can also be sauteed.Microwave or steam them first so they're not so icy when you put teem in the skillet.Garlic can also be sautéed and you can use it as a pizza topping or to liven up a tomato sauceSauteed veggies are wonderful on rice or any type of pasta. Sautes are great time savers along with sealing in the flavor. They make for an excellent meal without any fuss or muss.They let a home chef create a fancy meal in just minutes.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Waffles For All Day

Homemade waffles are always a treat.Nothing beats s fresh from the iron .Yet you can also have them for lunch or dinner with a more savory feel.After all, waffles are a type of bread ,so why not treat it as such.It makes for a fun and interesting main meal or change from the ordinary. New York Times Dining contributor, Melissa Clark explored all variations of this classic dish derived from the French gauffre in her A Good Appetite column yesterday. She has created an excellent recipes all from the acquisition of a brand new waffle iron,She replaced her old one, a cast iron and chrome one from her parents(and one of their wedding presents no less) for a bright stainless steel one.These are the best to have.They're easy to use and also to clean.It makes for having more homemade waffles. A regular treat ,not one that's made a few time a year.Thanks to her new waffle iron,Ms Clark has come up with some interesting spins. To be honest waffles are one of the most versatile recipes.Anyone can experiment with different flours and with adding herbs and spices along with toppings for some unique eating. Ms. Clark starts off with an easy to replicate recipe.It does does have yeast added which results in a lighter, fluffier waffle.It has dry yeast and baking soda for lift along with whole wheat flour.This give the finished product a tang that goes well with any topping .Make the batter the night before or very early in the morning and then bake.There is also a recipe for cornmeal waffles.This too also has Greek yogurt to it for a bite to offset her suggested topping bananas with a bourbon syrup.For a savory waffle she adds Yukon Gold potatoes.It is topped with creme fraiche and smoked trout, a sort of play of caviar and sour cream on buttered toast points.This last was inspired by a savory waffle she had eaten at M.Wells steakhouse in Long Island City.The waffle was topped with smelt , creme fraiche and trout roe. If you don't like fish, then try a savory waffle with ham hash and scrambled eggs, or serve it like chicken a la king with chicken bits in a rich sauce purée over one or two waffles. A well made waffle is a culinary dream come true.It can be made sweet or savory ,for breakfast ,a main meal or even dessert.Try any recipe or create your own and enjoy the crisp golden treat with syrup or with meat and a sauce.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Keeping Italian Traditions

Even traditional Italian food is under the threat of extinction.Younger generations are following trendy food shows and neglecting their family and regional dishes,However thanks to an unlikely savior piatti classic won"t disappear all that soon. Rachel Donadio interviewed this angel of sorts in today's Dining section in today's Wednesday's New York Times.The angel is Daniele DiMichaele who's more in his element deejaying.However he is one of Italy's most fervent food activists.He's concerned that Italy is losing its'culinary heritage thanks to a multitude of factor such as EU or European Union has certain regulations along with the proliferation of processed foods.Also there is the Influence of flashy American influenced cooking shows. he is doing his best to make sure Italians don't forget centuries old dishes. Signore DiMIchaele is encouraging people to send in their recipes to his blog.It's being sponsored by the Bologna Food Association,Artusi, named after Pellegrino Artusi ,the author of Italy's first cookbook. Ms. Donadio went with this DJ who has provided music for some of Europe's and New York City's Ballroom , to the beautiful Amalfi Coast.There they sat down with sausage makers about making traditional hot pepper encrusted sausages.The DJ is from Otranto himself, an area rich in seafood and good recipes .It's also a region that prides itself on handing down dishes through the centuries.The sausage recipe is an artesenal one, not mass produced in a factory but hung to dry, placed outside the kitchen where it was mixed.This is what Italian cooking is about.He is interested in food"s history ,where did it come from ,how was it invented, why did the original cooks choose the ingredients at they did.This curiosity sort of stemmed from his interest in Carlo Petroni's Slow Food Movement of the1980.s Where as Mr Pertroni was interested in excellence, he was more concerned with a dish"s story. Italian cooking has been around since ancient times.Thanks to Daniele DiMichaele, those same dishes will be around and made for years to come.These are the recipes that made Italian food great and he will see that they will continue to do so.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Fool For April's Fool

What better dessert for today and for the rest of Spring than a fool.This traditionally English dessert is easy to make and a great way for both kids and adults to eat fruit.As the season progresses you can have fresh strawberry, peach or blueberry fool.This is a treat that can also be varied and amped up. Fools have been around since the time of the Plantagenets and got into full gear during Elizabeth I's reign.It's an easy dessert (and I'm surprised it's not common here in the States, given its' easiness). The name possibly could come from the Old French word fouler to crush ,but it's not certain.It's is the perfect dessert for a neophyte cook who is trying to impress. Slice any kind of fruit into small pieces and cook with sugar until semi soft.Fold into already whipped cream ,swirling the fruit mixture into pretty whorls.The English still use currants and gooseberries which tints the cream a lovely deep purple with strands of lavender.The original recipe also says you can use apples but berries work the best.Strawberries are good as are blueberries however you can also try blackberries for more bite or raspberries for a more mellow flavor.Peaches are also good too. You may want to spike them with some sweet white wine when cooking them.Rhubarb is also puller although it does require a lot of cooking and sugar Fools can also be varied in ingredients. a traditional fool may have just custard or a blend of custard and cream well mixed so it's light and airy.What I would do is make zabaglione and stir in fresh cut strawberries or blackberries ,letting these cook as the custard cooks.Don't add overly sweet fruit to this Italian classic.It's already sweet from the sugar and Marsala already added.One of the best British dessert is Eton mess.It originally served at Eton during the summer cricket games, this is mix of meringues,broken into a strawberry fool.You can try this too with chocolate snaps( those one you use for that easy refrigerator log) .For the cream.whip in shaved dark chocolate to the cream.You can also add a surprise layer of homemade fudge sauce too.Again,if you're making this ,stick with cherries,strawberries or raspberries. Make a yummy fool. Not just for today but for the days ahead.Spring will give us some of the best fruit.Use it in a light and airy dessert , perfect for the warm days ahead.