Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Cooking Checklist

It is summer  and surprisingly we should be stocking up on certain staples for the season ahead Usually this is done for fall and winter but there are also certain foods and ingredients that are vital for warm weather cooking. It makes for easy,breezy summer cooking.

One of the musts of any summer kitchen is olive oil. This can be used for salads , marinades and fries.it's perfect for making that French summer classic -bagnat-an olive oil drenched veggie and tuna sandwich. Mix it wit some hot pepper flakes , rosemary or even dried lavender for a dip  for French or Italian bread. Lemon is another summer must have. Again it is great as a vinegar alternative or in a marinade. Also have plenty of it around for home made lemonade and iced tea.(it can also be used for beauty too, in lightening hair for natural highlights and as a facial astringent). Tomatoes are another summer kitchen must. Luckily some of the first harvests are coming in. It can be chopped up for bruschetta or salsa or coarsely chopped for a fresh tomato sauce. Tomatoes Provencale are an excellent side , perfect with grilled steak. The grape and cherry ones make healthy and tasty snacks for the kids too. Strawberries and bananas should also be on hand. These are great in salads, smoothies and parfaits.

Always have rice on hand.It's an easy cook up in hot weather and it's versatile with almost everything. It can be added to bolster up soup or made into an interesting salad with peas and parsley. Rice can be used to make an easy pudding too.Any macaroni is another summer basic.  It can be the base  of so  many different salads as well as being turned into a hot ,tasty meal in one pot pasta. Combine it and broth for a quick soup on a rare chilly day. Bouillon cubes are another must They are great in making quick broths or instant homemade soups like minestrone. Every home chef should also have a box of crackers handy. These can be just plain Saltines or the more buttery Ritz. Apart from being a good snack for the beach or picnic, they can be ground into crumbs for coating  veggies and fried chicken. Cracker crumbs are also good for  breading shrimp and fresh caught crabs. I like to have flour too, It's great for making batters for squash flowers and crepes. Also have seltzer on hand too. Yes it's refreshing as a drink but it's superb to add to batters and dough for lightness and fluffiness.

It may be summer but you still need to stock up. Keep these basics on hand  to create tasty dishes and desserts. It'll make for easy cooking, grilling and baking

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer's One Pot Meals

Summer is a time for easy cooking and easy eating. However grilling and microwave gets old fast. What to do ? Try a one pot meal. They're still have that homemade goodness yet are a snap to put together. Best of all - there's only one pot to wash.

One of my faovirtes it pne pot pasta. My family hs made thos for decades, namle with farfalle or bowtie pasta but any other kinds like wagon wheel pasta or those cute shaped ones like paws and cat faces ( you can go to www.pastashoppe.com to pick up these adorable shaped pasta like bunnies and palm trees).There;s no need to cook  the pasta and sauce separately  The pasta cooks in the sauce and the last is a simple mix of just water garlic , oil and tomato sauce .I used a dash of leftover pizza sauce and it gave it a nice bite. The dish  takes only 20 to 30 minutes tops to create. Even better is when it's reheated with  butter or margarine the next day. Chili, usually, considered a winter dish, can be a hot weather fave too. You can even make it in a slow cooker in the morning and have a nice warm meal to enjoy outside. Another plus is as the season progresses you can use fresh picked tomatoes and peppers, especially if you're growing jalapenos. Chili is also perfect for topping those just from the grill dogs too.

Stews, another cold weather staple can be made in the middle of summer.It , too. Again it's just a one pot meal. It's actually great during this time because you can use fresh picked veggies and herbs like carrots and sage. Another plus is that there's always a lot left over so you can freeze some and save it for another warm day. If you're craving biscuits to go with your stew, then head over to your local Dunkin Donuts or grocery store where they're already made, thus saving you heating up the oven.Goulash, a  variation of stew, can be made too during these steamy days . It needs  ground beef along  with paprika for zing  Add some elbow macaroni but that's up to you Turkey can also be subbed in for the beef as well. A French country pot, similar to the country's famed dish, cassoulet, It is rich with kidney and garbanzo beans, along with Italian sausage  and various herbs. It's the perfect Saturday  night dish, served outside with  good Merlot and a loaf of crusty French bread.

Summer is here but that doesn't mean sandwiches an barbecue for dinner.  Cook up one pot meal for a hearty warm weather dish that's easy to make and easy to eat. It's a snap.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

This Book Cooks This Book Rocks

Old fashioned cookbooks are hard to find. Nowadays, they're embracing the latest trend or cuisine instead of focusing on the basics.A new cookbook, however, is  shining through all that. It promotes using farm fresh ingredients  with old fashioned cooking methods. This makes for some delicious dishes for both humans and even their canine companions!

This unusual cookbook is This Book Cooks (Artichoke Publishers, ) by Kerry Dunnings,who is also a food columnist, culinary consultant as well as a food judge and recipe developer. She is a Ben Franklin award winner for a previous cookbook, Tasting The Seasons. Chef Dunnings is refreshingly  different in that she uses old fashioned cooking methods to create yummy dishes, There is no mention of microwaves anywhere, nor plastic containers.either. She also has a 365 day ecological challenge.It involves growing your own fruits and veggies along with making the daily diet more colorful. This last is done by incorporating  a larger variety of fruits and veggies into meals.  There's also a section on repurposing  - a good idea to pass onto the younger home chefs in the household. This saves on waste and promotes household sustainability There is also the old fashioned challenge  that involve making foods such as cakes and cookies form scratch and of course getting rid of that microwave . This last can be considered a danger be cause of electromagnetic radiation leakage.

Since this is really an old fashioned kind of cookbook, the recipes are blissful   throwbacks to early 20th Century cooking Yet they also are  pretty trendy too. There is a spicy spinach and polenta lasagna that could be seen in any hip Manhattan eatery while her Oriental Flank steak is reminiscent of a cozy Saturday night dinner at home. I love her marinated beef tenderloin  recipe. This is a labor intensive one that requires  marinating, rubbing and saucing. It is a flavorful one  also, with a pineapple marinade, followed by a savory dry rub and sweet and peppery barbecue sauce. Of course she had delicious veggie recipes too, such as baked spinach and cheese and her spin on ratatouille featuring potatoes. There Is a great section on not only homemade human treats but canine ones too..Chef Dunnings gives us healthy whole wheat treats made with all natural wheat germ, wheat flour and molasses along with every pup's dream peanut butter treats. For us people there  is her mother's Old Fashioned  sugar cookies and pear cake, made with the ripe fruit , apple cider and cloves for an aromatic dessert. Chef Dunnings has a tasty ginger stuffed date recipe that would be perfect at any Christmas dessert table.

This Book Cooks is the perfect book for the home chef wanting a more old fashioned style of cooking and baking.The recipes are honest and pure as well as being delicious for both human and dog. Buy it today and create tasty meals and treats for you and your canine child.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Battered Up

This is definitely the harvest season where all sorts of fruits and veggies abound..Every home chef gets excited with what to do with them. A novel idea is batter dipping them and frying them .They make a fun appetizer or interesting dessert.

Anything fried may disgust or revolt those who are big into eating healthy. You can try baking too, as there are plenty of recipes regarding baking batter dipped foods.They are tastier as seen in the Piedmontese summer classic fried squash blossoms. My family has probably been making them for centuries If you're growing squash , this is a great way  to use the blooms and they do make interesting and delicious appetizers. I used a traditional recipe, one cup of water mixed with one cup of flour. One egg and a tablespoon of olive oil is added and the batter is chilled. For the perfect batter make it about an hour to an hour and a half before frying so the batter is completely cold. The resulting batter is very dense however . You can sub in 1/2 cup of sparkling water. This will create a lighter and fluffier consistency and also makes for a crisper flower.The squash flowers can be baked however they are usually stuffed either with ricotta or meat. Ripened squash itself is yummy sliced, battered and fried. Add beer for more flavor Zucchini can also be made this way as well. A batter made with cornstarch is your best bet with these and it will create a nice crisp coating when cooked.up

Tomatoes can be battered too but be warmed - only certain batters work. I tried the squash flower batter on them, having made too  much of it.It didn't stick, sliding off in little piles onto   the frying pan. This is probably due to the tomatoes being too watery ,Most  home chefs usually use green tomatoes (maybe that was my first mistake using too ripe ones). Beer batter works the best for them also you can also panko too.string beans can be batter dipped. These are usually first dipped in buttermilk or beaten egg first and then dredged in cornmeal or panko breadcrumbs. Surprisingly fruits can be batter dipped as well. They actually become juicer when they're coated and cooked this way. The coating is more of a yeast based one Club soda is used for a frothy consistency and then the berries are fried in canola oil. They can be dusted with confectioners sugar or dipped in chocolate after frying. Peaches and nectarines, also in harvest right now, can also be battered and fried.The batter offered with them is a simple one, without yeast.It does need baking powder to create a lighter , airier coating. The fruit is peeled and cut into quarters and then dusted with a mix of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg before dipping.

Batter up the fruits and veggies of the season for some flavorful eating. It's an easy technique that just  requires a  skillet and some oil. Try it with some squash flowers or strawberries.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Best Of Summer Wines

What to bring to someone's house for a barbecue or dinner by the firepit? A summery, light wine that everyone will enjoy.It could be red or white, domestic or foreign as long as the wine is refreshing as a warm weather breeze or afternoon sun shower.

Eric Asimov  has given a list of the twenty best summer wines that was published in yesterday's New York Times Food section A summer  wine, he asserts should be less than fourteen per cent in alcohol. This makes for a lighter , more brut tasting drink along with out  any consequences . (think inebriation followed by a possible hangover or at least  a morning headache). Mr. Asimov  also recommends going for wines that are between $15 and $25 in price. It's not as cheap  and you get better quality along with being not so extravagantly priced.One of the more elegant is the Chateau Tour Grise Saumaur Brut Non dose 2004 12. percent 2004. This is a sparkling white wine made from the chenin blanc grape.It's pure and refreshing , perfect for any chicken or fish dinner, The wine has the perfect summery notes of honeysuckle, lemon and chamomile. Another French import is La Ferme Du Vert Gaillac L'Ange Lou Mousseux Brut,2013, 11 percent. This relatively new wine derives from Mauzac grapes, a little known variety grown in the French Southwest. It is light and sparkling too, with notes with apple , straw and herbal flavors. Serve it iced on a hot evening for complete refreshment.

A surprise wine is a merlot from Argentina, a country that usually gives us malbec.It is Bodega Chacra Amor Seco Pantagonia Merlot,2012, 14 percent and is a bit high on the alcohol side. Mr. Asimov likes its' deep and fruity flavor, redolent of red fruits..It has a bitterness that keeps it refreshing The company is also known for their pinot noirs too. Bring it to a party where there are steaks on the grill, waiting to be paired with it.Another dark wine comes from Piedmonte, De Forville Dolcetto D'Alba 2013 13.5 percent. It is another refreshing bitter wine with an undertone of dark chocolate. I would suggest having it  with an outdoor bagna calda., the anchovy and garlic dip  that the region is famed for. Both are perfect for a cooler summer night gathering. Celebrate July Fourth with an American wine made in the Finger Lakes region.This is Eminence Road Farm winery Ganay Noir  Cayuga Lake 2013, 11.3 percent.It is made from the area's grapes. It is light bodied , earthy and fruity along with being seriously delicious. Drink lightly chilled  when watching the fireworks.If you want another white wine, then try Julian Haart Mosel Riesling 1,000l, 2014 10.5 percent. It's a very light wine but has a mix of minerality and creaminess to it. Open it up to share with friends during a picnic.

The summer is here. Crack open a bottle of chilled wine on a warm evening or to round out a barbecue. There are many to choose from , and many to try.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lower Manhattan The New Food Hub

Manhattan is going to be THE destination for many local and foreign visitors.A lot go for the sites , most come for the city's wide variety of eateries and various cuisines. There's a new stop, lower Manhattan. The Wall Street and Tribeca areas are abuzz with all sorts of new restaurants and innovative chefs. Plan to spend a few meals down in this new culinary hub.

Jeff Gordonier not only was able to write about it but also visit some of the up and coming places and sample their best dishes. His article in today's New York Times Food section is a complete guide for navigating the various eateries and watering holes of the lowermost tip of Manhattan Island. For meat and French cuisine lovers there is Le District , the French themed market that offers up rotisserie and charcuterie meats. For those love who love the famed Spotted Pig, its' owners, April Bloomfield and Krn Friedman are planning a mega restaurant that will take up four (!) stories of an apartment complex on Pine Street, around the corner from famed Trinity Church.Odeon ,a staple of lower Manhattan has added breakfast to its' menu , making it vastly popular with the Conde Nast gang who have recently moved into the new World Trade building.The prices are still the same, high but worth it, especially their Croque Monsieur and all natural strip steak.Plus the Odeon has a history , going back four decades to Manhattan's Disco and Eighties Wall Street eras.

The area , once reserved to just handling the world's business and trading, now is a thriving community. Office workers in the area are hanging around instead of heading home. This means a growing need for both bars and eateries. Some eateries get as many as 200 people for lunch alone according to Kevin Richter, general manager at the North End Grill. Weekends can see  as high as 1,300 customers.It does help though to have customers such as the famed Graydon Carter, and a few of Bon Appetit's major editors like Andrew Knowlton (This last helps tremendously since sooner or later the eateries will be featured in the magazine).Hopefully the area doesn't pick up the glitzy and superficial aura of nearby Soho which now feels like Rodeo Drive East. One restaurant , Little Park seems to be picking this up, being a morning roost for local editors as one , Tatiana Boncompagni of Self has noticed. The real test will be when Bobby Flay or Lidia Bastianich discover Wall Street and decided to insinuate their restaurants around Trinity Church and the American Indian Museum. will they survive amongst the trendy crowd or be snubbed in favor of New York's latest restaurant.

If you're visiting Manhattan this summer, stop for a bite at its' lower most tip. Try the French faves at Odeon or head over to Little Park  for breakfast. Enjoy this latest food hub.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Humidity Diet

The humidity this time of year can be debilitating.It can leave you weak and loggy, ready to take a day long  nap instead of enjoying a summery day. Changing your diet can help tremendously .Doing such can help get you through these tropical times.

Ice cream would naturally be considered a treat when the temps reach the nineties.Yet it's one of the worst foods to have. Any sugar or cow's milk should be avoided.If you want something cold and refreshing think Italian ice,preferably the sugar free ones. If not , then just ice  cold bottled water with a squeeze of lemon or lime can do the trick to refresh. Oily and fried foods are another taboo. It may be easy to just order out burgers and fries along with a Coke but there's a price to pay afterwards.Also you may be tempted just to grill a steak or lamb chop too. Don't. Rich meats also affect your body. Try poached fish or steamed tofu in place or ribs or chicken wings. Any wheat product is also bad too so lay off those cookies and doughnuts.. One of the worst offenders is salt. As we all know it makes us retain water and bloating is the last thing anyone needs. Sea salt isn't as bad a culprit as regular table salt, but it is still salt. Go very easy with it. A tiny tiny pinch is all you need to flavor a dish.

What should you eat?Foods that keep the  moisture out of your body.Summer vegetables are here for a reason. Some of the best to eat are asparagus and cucumber along with summer squash and zucchini. Asparagus is great steamed  and cut into pieces  for a salad. Zucchini can be used in a ratatouille with tomatoes  for a tasty dinner. Cruciferous veggies such as arugula bok choy, cauliflower are also good to eat as are mustard greens, napa cabbage , radish and watercress. Think about a arugula salad graced with watercress and raw cauliflower. Napa cabbage can be made into a tangy Asian slaw with a light dressing of olive oil and ginger. Watercress salad is a nice alternative to regular Cobb lettuce.Try it with feta (a recommended dairy product OK to eat during these hot muggy days) and beets.If you're craving some kind of snack then think goat cheese on rice crackers or a fruity yogurt parfait layered with almonds . Berries also make a good treat because like other suggested fruits such as lemons and grapefruit.If the grapefruit is too tart then sprinkle stevia or the lesser sweet brown sugar on top.

Fight humidity with eating the right foods. You'll feel fresher and definitely more alive. Enjoy every summer day  without feeling draggy and tired.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Theme Parties

It is summer and the time for all sorts of parties.To make them more memorable think theme . Nothing is more entertaining and fun than a party with a set theme You don't have to go all out as with Sean Combs and his all white Hamptons party but you can have something similar on a smaller scale.

Ever since the arrival of Downton Abbey, teas have become almost de rigueur  for theme parties. These are still fun and the food can be a nice change from sloppy barbecues. Think watercress and chicken salad  sandwiches along with jam and butter ones too.Scones dripping with clotted cream are a must.as well A variety of teas can be served from  the fruity Lady Grey to soothing chamomile or mint, Wimbledon will be starting soon and you can serve their signature dishes, strawberries and cream washed down with champagne. Another Masterpiece classic Poldark has been retooled and revamped for a new generation. Winston Graham's classic romance adventure takes place in Cornwall, where rum was smuggled  freely and drunk freely. Have a Sunday night watching party (it's on PBS  stations at nine on that day) with what else rum and  Cornish pasties. If you're in the New York City area you can buy this last  from the famed Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street. If not it's a simple recipe  of  pastry filled with any kind of chopped meat, usually beef mixed with  potatoes. . You can also make a stargazey pie, a seafood variation of shepherd's pie, toppedwith pilchards staring up at the sky, hence the name,. Have a dessert of blackberries and clotted cream. Both are as Cornish as the  region's broad accent and tin mines.

Of course you can look to America for  theme ideas. Have a Saturday night hoedown, complete with  barbecue, Coca Cola cake and a variety of mayo based salads. Guests can also bring their own favorite picnic dishes  for a down home pot luck get together. New England clambakes are another great way of celebrating.It's  not only clams but also lobster and clams along with mussels steamed on rockweed or seaweed.  True clambakes also have sausages and corn on the cob. Other sides are potatoes, carrots and onions. Remember to include a coffee pot full of melted butter for the seafood  and veggies. A similar shindig is the Wisconsin fish boil. This is a tad more laborious than a clambake but it's essentially any white fish cooked with onions and  potatoes in  heavily salted water. The fish oil floats to the top where it's set aflame similar to crepes Suzette. Melted butter is dribbled on the fish and veggies afterward. It is usually served with cole slaw followed by cherry or blueberry pie.If this is too much then think  drive in  movie. Invite friends over to see a classic or celebrate a birthday with a favorite flick.  Have dogs and burgers along with butter drenched popcorn and malteds (you can make this last a bit naughty by adding a shot of vodka, or bourbon). Have boxes of Juniors Mints Red Vines and Good N Plenty for dessert.

It's summer! Celebrate with parties, full of good fun and good food! Try an English tea or a New England clambake  - whatever you want  for a warm weather get together!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dad's Day Homemade Treats

It's usuall mom who gets the home cooked and baked meals and treats for Mother's Day . Dad usually gets the burger or the dog from off the grill.However he probably  yearns for a something fresh from the oven or something more substantial  than just a barbecue quick cook. Give him something fun and different - gifts that are both thoughtful and tasty.

Father's Day is all about the barbecue. Surprise Dad with fun kabobs such as spiced lamb ,interspersed with cherry  tomatoes and onions or a shrimp combined with red and green peppers.Instead of chopped meat , splurge and get him filet mignon .It is amazing on the grill just lightly seasoned. and served with a simple salad. If the sire still wants dogs then think the tastier bratwurst .It's flavor is perfection when  it's grilled  and it can be served plain or with cheese. Another great homemade gift is chili. This can be made either very mild or very hot , with beef for the real deal or turkey for a healthier , lower calorie treat. Soy crumbles can be subbed in for an even more healthier spin along with more beans and tomatoes. A real Father's Day treat is lobster and nothing beats a steamed one complete with butter and lemon.A fun idea is getting fresh lobster and steaming it , whether on the stove or on the grill . Make sure that there is plenty of butter and Wet Wipes for dad too. He may also want comfort food too. Think about an old fashioned Sunday dinner complete with meat loaf, gravy and mashed potatoes or spaghetti and garlic bread.

These meals have to have a sweet ending. Nothing beats a  homemade chocolate cake. Make it more interesting by adding stout which pairs well with the flavor. Guinness works the best for this because of its' richness and complexity. Frost with a buttery rich homemade chocolate fudge for added decadence. This recipe can be made for cupcakes too.Another dessert sure to win over his sweet tooth is bourbon  pecan pie. This is the classic Southern recipe with the  addition of bourbon. Only a splash of it is used to cut the pies' uber sweet taste. Another boozy baking idea are beer cookies.Use a wiessbeer or light colored one to make a variation on English shortbread.The best gift is chocolate or maple dipped bacon.It's a fun combination of super salty married with super sweet along with the flavor of pork. It's easy to do, especially when you use the microwave for both the meat and dip. For the maple bacon, liberally brush maple syrup on both sides of the individual slices  and then cook up. If the day is nothing but outdoor eating then finish it with s'mores or better yet bacon s'mores.Add a small square of it on top of the toasted marshmallow for a salty, squishy fun time.

Treat the dad in your life to something homemade and tasty. He'll appreciate the work and the effort along with the love that goes into it. It'll be a memorable Father's Day, for both him and his appetite.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Last Minute Foodie Dad Gifts

Father's Day is a time to celebrate dad and thank him for the traits and good genetics he's passed down . If he's a foodie father, then he gifted you again with a love for the exotic as well as a taste of fine wine and food. Celebrate that gift with some interesting treats and gadgets' he's sure to love. Best of all because its' late in the game, they can be picked up anywhere.

It goes without saying that all men love their grilling and barbecues. get him some interesting rubs and marinades.Many gourmet food stores offer some tasty dry rubs.. They can also be found in the spice  and seasoning section of your local supermarket. If you're creative you can make your own.Just remember to use a higher ratio of salt to sugar. Then add fresh ground pepper, white or black .If  dad likes heat then add a pinch of cayenne or chile for fire. From there , add any herbs he's partial to and mix well. Pour into a fancy jar or bottle. Barbecue sauce is a must for the Papa Bear who loves his ribs and steaks. Williams and Sonoma carries a variety ranging from a bourbon laced one to  one with a good dollop of maple syrup to it.This can also be a great gift for vegan fathers too. After all there are soy burgers and dogs as well as steaks.If Dad is a candy fiend, then think about a gift from Rocky Mountain Chocolates or Getrude Hawk. The last has a bucket full of dad -centric treats from cookies to nuts to their famed mini Smidgens. Of course if you're the New York  area, buy dad the classic Fudgie The Whale from Carvel Ice Cream..This is a  vanilla ice cream cake with a crunchy cookie filling  and a lush cream icing that's been a Father's Day gift for the last fifty years..

Foodie dads also love gadgets. One of the best is the sous vide oven, It;s a fancier version of the pressure cooker and perfect for those gourmet fathers who want to try their hand at something different. Jerky lovers would love to wake up to a meat dehydrator on their day. The price ranges goes from an affordable sixty dollars to the deluxe five hundred dollar Excalibur. If dad loves his ball park foods there is the hot dog and bun steamer and warmer. What would go with it ? A beer brewing kit. For the more sophisticated pop think about a wine making kit along with wine glasses and glass tags. If you want dad to have a healthier diet , surprise him with  a juicer. Juicers can be found everywhere, from Sur La Table to Target and are great in making everything from fruit and veggie combos to orange juice. Another healthy gift is a vegetable steamer. It's perfect for steaming the upcoming harvests of tomatoes and zucchini. Throw in a rice cooker for cooking up  nutritious sides of brown and wild rice. If your father is heavily into dessert  then think of getting him a chocolate fountain . Its a fun surprise that can be used for all sorts of parties and holidays. Of course a cookbook goes a long way, There is Eat Like A Thug by Thug Kitchen and Man Kitchen by Joe Madden.

Be creative and fun this Father's Day, Treat your foodie dad to something yummy or innovative. Give him a gift that will surely be memorable.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ricotta in The Summer

Ricotta is always associated with the winter dishes from dense lasagnas and manicotti to heavy cheesecakes. However ,it can also be used in very light and airy summer dishes too from simple pasta dishes to desserts. It's a great addition to a warm weather diet.

David Tanis knows this and wrote about it in his A City Kitchen Column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. He was also lucky to visit a sheep dairy on a recent trip to Sicily. Twice daily about five hundred sheep are milked which produces a normal one hundred gallons of milk into a large vat. After the cheese curds are ready and scooped into molds, the remaining whey , a thin watery looking liquid - is then poured into a huge kettle. It then takes an old school method, namely a wood fire to cook it. When the whey reaches the right temperature ricotta is formed , floating to the surface. This earns its' name ricotta or twice cooked This is not the usual stuff that supermarkets sell,this is the gourmet version. According to Mr. Tanis, sheep ricotta, like Greek yogurt is much lighter and also less in calories. Cheese shops and Italian import stores sell it. it has to be bought when fresh and only has a two day shelf life. You can use cow's milk ricotta but again, get  the artisanal kind, not the mass produced version.

Ricotta can be turned into both savory and sweet dishes. Mr. Tanis suggests using it for the traditional lasagna and ravioli but also as an ingredient for gnocchi.It is best in a light pasta dish. This is his recipe : Use any pasta  and while it is boiling,  soften a diced onion in olive oil.  Add chopped zucchini (or peas, or split cherry tomatoes) and let it soften as well. When the pasta is al dente, it joins the zucchini in the pan, followed by a good dollop of ricotta and a splash of the pasta’s cooking water. The ricotta melts to a creamy blanket  and a handful of grated pecorino or Parmesan brings it all together. A touch of lemon zest and a spoonful of basil pesto can also be tossed in for zing and color but that's up to you. A summery dessert is taking the same ricotta and mixing it with the berries of the season, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, along with three to four tablespoons of honey. Add a small splash of vanilla and lemon for more flavor. It can also be made into a creamy gelato as well and a different variation on ice pops.

Ricotta is not that heavy winter ingredient. It can be light and fresh and used in a variety of warm weather dishes. Try it in a summery pasta or dessert and taste its' delicate flavor.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Dates Of Ramadan

Ramadan starts tonight and with it  both fasting and feasting. The feasting comes early in the morning and late at night. Dates play an important part in both meals. They not only serve as nutrition but also are part of a tradition that goes back centuries. They can be made into both sweet and savory dishes, beloved by all.

Julia Moskin explored this in her article in today's New York Times Food section. Muslims do not eat during the day when they observe Ramadan. Eating occurs either during the predawn suhoor and the sundown meal, iftar. Dates figure prominently in the meals, since the Prophet Mohammed himself broke the fast with dates and water. The fruit proves a quick pop of energy after fasting. They have been grown in the Middle East for millennia. They are mentioned often in the Quran and the Bible along with ancient Assyrian and Sumerian texts. Surprisingly, they belong to the same botanical family as grasses and not fruits. This explains why they have more in commons with grains than with bananas, apples, or grapes. They contain potassium, iron, zinc and other minerals. Dates are a dietary staple. They've been grown here in the States for the last century.The Agricultural Department wanted to transform the southwest's arid fields into lush gardens and the date palm perfectly fit that description. They thrive in California's Coachella Valley  (yes, that Coachella, where the music fest takes pace) and Yuma , Arizona. sales are good, thanks to a growing Arab population in Southern California and people discovering the fruit's health benefits.

Ms. Moskin has discovered that a date is not just a date. There are several different types. One of the most popular is the barhi date, liked because it can also be eaten in its' yellow, unripe stage. Unlike its' riper , sweeter self, or called tamar, this young fruit has a touch of astringency like a tart grape or crisp apple, making it perfect for balancing rich and savory dishes. There are actually three different types of dates: soft which covers the types. the barhi,halawi,khadrawi and medjool, semi hard which has the deglet noor,dayri, amaray and zahidi and dry like the thoori.. Flavors also vary as well. Some could taste like rich molasses  while others have a light butterscotch flavor. There are dates that even are reminiscent of cognac and burnt caramel. Dishes vary as well. There is savory chicken roast chicken ,redolent of the fruit along with couscous and buttered almonds. Medjool dates are added to a freekah or wheat berry side dish that also has carrots. The same dates can also be whipped up into a tasty side or dessert with crème fraiche,almonds, walnuts or pecans and pistachios. Many Iranians transform the dates into an elaborate dessert for Eid ad-Fitr, a great feast on the first night of the month that follows Ramadan.It is a traditional date cake, cooked with cinnamon and cardamom and then layered with  walnuts.

Dates are an important part of Ramadan and Eid-ad_Fitr. They connect generations and dishes, from savory to sweet. Try them as part of the ritual or t enjoy their many health benefits.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thanks Heavens For Trans Fat Bans

America's diet is about to get so much better - and healthier. Trans fats are going to be banned from processed food and that means much healthier eating - and snacking, It also means no more worries about what we eat either. There will be no more qualms or guilt about trying a slice of pizza or cupcake.

Trans fat is nothing new. we've been ingesting it for millennia , namely in beef, lamb and butterfat. However with the mass production of food in the 20th Century the substance was used fried and baked foods.Stick margarine and other spreads also have it  as well. Trans fat gives flavor and extended shelf life along with creating havoc with our cholesterol.It raises the bad cholesterol LDL and lowers the good HDL type. Having a steady diet of this fiend  increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.Before this ban , the responsibility fell upon us to monitor how much we took in.Now tht's all changing. It's not go wild with Twinkies and fries,It;s now you can eat them without too much worry.it also means don't abandon your diet of healthy grains, fruits and vegetables. As we all know , the less junk you eat the better.

The ban will take three years to phase out all trans fats.There will be some protests. Many food companies rely on the goo for their products however some companies have already taken it out of their foods.Dunkin Donuts has removed it completely as has Long John Silver's and Mc Donald's. Starbucks ' cakes cookies and doughnuts don't have any either. Without trans fats food will get Staler quicker as well as lose some of their deliciousness.

Going trans fat free is going to change lives and diets. We'll be eating much healthier and feeling much better. The best part we won't have to give up our beloved sweets and snacks

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cooking In Humid Weather

Cooking and baking in hot weather is never great. Add humidity and it gets even worse. Yet, we all want a hot meal or make a cake or cookies for a graduation or shower. There are ways to work with the weather. The end result will be dishes and treats not affected by a steamy, tropical day.

What is humidity? It's the amount of moisture in the air. Warm air, like what we're experiencing now, is capable of holding more moisture than cool air.There's a certain amount of it when we cook meats like chicken and it's important in cooking any kind of meat.It insures a moist , juicy middle and a dry crispy exterior. This principle doesn't; work for a barbecue. First of all , never leave meats out for a long period of time . Humidity is a great breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria. Keep any meat, whether hot dogs or ribs in the fridge until they're ready to be cooked. The dampness may also make it hard for coal or wood chips to ignite as well. Any home griller should stick with charcoal lumps, eggs or briquettes. These don't soak up as much water as wood chips which absorb a lot of humidity. Store charcoal in air tight plastic containers so they're not affected by the atmosphere. Sides, especially those having a lot of mayo in them, can also be affected by humidity. Keep salads and slaw in the fridge until they're ready to be served. As soon as the meal is over , put the leftovers back in the fridge. Thoroughly wash everything, from plates to pans in warm soapy water to eliminate any chance of leftover bacteria.

Humidity is the enemy of both baking and candy making. It is important in bread making,The dampness softens the dough an makes it expand more . Humidity gives loaves a lighter , airier texture than cool dry air. If there's too much humidity, the bread may take longer to rise and bake. if that's the case, add an egg. Home bakers living in hot  , humid climates swear by it . Another help is switching to finely ground wheat bran instead of wheat flour.Cakes are another matter. For a better crumb, reduce liquids by 1/4 . If the batter does look too dry then add a small amount of whatever is called for, whether milk or water. This will ensure a perfect cake. Candy is super tricky to make during a tropical heat wave.The finished product is usually too soft thanks to it reabsorbing moisture from the atmosphere.It also will not set properly and be more like sauce.. Also just regular sugar will absorb the humidity , resulting in damp sticky clumps. Keep the air conditioner on high in the kitchen and also store the sugar in plastic air tight containers with a desiccant such as sodium chloride.. This will maintain the consistency and keep the granules from adhering to each other. This should ensure for a thicker consistency and less gumminess.

Don't let this tropical heat wave deter you from cooking and baking. You still grill cook and bake your faves when the weather gets hot and sticky. It's just a matter of readjusting recipes and keeping ingredients dry.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Gluten Free Cheat Sheet- A Guide To Good Eating

Many think that having celiac disease means a very limited diet. No pizza, no cookies no, bread. This is not true. A new cook and guide book can help those who suffer into not only a better diet but a fun and varied one too. The gluten challenged can have their cake - scones, muffins and toast  - and eat them too.

April Peveteaux is he author of this great new book.The Gluten Free Cheat Sheet.(Perigee Pubishers 2015). Ms. Peveteaux is a celiac sufferer herself and the author of the widely read blog and book of the same name, Gluten Is My Bitch .With this latest she gives very good advice as well as busting some celiac myths.Many non sufferers think that celiac disease is the trend of the moment, after all it wasn't around even fifty years ago. She explains that there was always  celiac disease and it can be passed down,It is not some trivial passing fad allergy. It can be life threatening with immune systems being attacked as well as causing depression  She also explains what gluten is and in what foods are riddled with it. She offers advice on what to
put in cupboard as well as subs for favorite foods like doughnuts and Twix.. There is also support for those celiacs who love to have their snacks they can't give up along with building a GFF - gluten free friend community for added support. She is a cheerleader  as well, Don't give up the fight, just switch to better, gluten free recipes.

The recipes are amazing. Early in the book, Ms. Peveteaux provides an entire list of alternative flours to use.There is everything from the usual rice, soy and various nut flours to the unusual - green banana, mesquite and  amaranth.There is also a thirty day  meal plan with recommended dishes. The recipes are so tasty that gluten will not be missed.Tortillas are made with coconut flour A savory bread pudding is made with gluten free brioche.That Southern favorite, hush puppies are made with gluten free cornmeal.Crab cakes, a summer must have, are made with gluten free panko crumbs. There is even a pizza with a base of cauliflower and cheese (!) and topped with the usual tomato sauce,cheese and pepperoni.Other yummy recipes abound here.Ms. Peveteaux also includes soups, snacks , sides and ices as well as main dishes like pulled pork and sesame crusted tuna steak. An added treat - and unusual for any cookbook is a section dedicated to mixed drinks. These would be fun to make and serve alongside the appetizers featured .Imagine a jalapeno margarita and spiced almonds or a raspberry vodka refresher washing down cheese and chive crackers.

The Gluten Free Cheat Sheet is the perfect guide and recipe book for celiac sufferers. It has advice help and ideas for eating right. Get it today and start on a gluten free road to better health.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Nocciolata Nonna Made

A nonna's recipes are always treasured - and tasty. This is true with Rigoni di Asiago's Nocciolata, a creamy , delicious spread, redolent of chocolate and hazelnuts.It is the perfect spread for anything from strawberries to croissants.A small scoop adds a big impact of flavor.

The company that makes it . Rigoni di Asiago is known for its' variety of different homemade spreads, from its'  organic honey to various organic jams to the delicious chocolate spread.The nocciolata is one hundred percent organic, artesanally made and GMO free. The hazelnuts have been selected by the Rigoni family and they use top quality cocoa and cocoa butter. The other ingredients are low fat powdered milk, cold pressed sunflower oil and natural vanilla extract.Organic cane sugar is blended in to give it the right amount of sweetness  That  other hazelnut spread isn't even this pure , thanks to added artificial flavoring. Moms can feel safe and secure when they serve Nocciolata There are no extra preservatives or chemicals. It does have 190 calories and 100 fat calories a serving so  serve it  as a special dessert  or breakfast if you are worried about the sugar intake.However   is a better alternative to any candy bar or even chocolate syrup if you or the kids are craving a chocolate-y snack..

I should love the other spread. After all it was created in the same province, Piedmonte where my great grandparents came from however Nocciolata has captured my heart. It is a smooth, creamy blend of  cocoa and hazelnut.each flavor perfectly married to the other. It is yummy on sliced strawberries, tasty on sliced bananas. Since I'm on a microwave bread pudding kick right now I a going to  add a couple of dollops to the recipe or drizzle it over the finished dish. Nocciolata is also good on pancakes  and waffles and makes a great addition to any brunch. A perfect breakfast , though is a well made croissant split and thickly  slathered with it.Rigoni Asiago recommends making a cake roll with it or a mug cake (another recipe on my must bake list)it would also make a  yummy filling for homemade shortbread or orange shortbread sandwich cookies too.

Rigoni di Asiago Nocciolata is the perfect spread.It  adds to anything, from fruits to croissants. Try it and taste the perfect blend of hazelnuts married to chocolate. It truly is a harmonious blend of flavors.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

QVC's Kitchen King - David Venable

If you haven't heard of  David Venable, then you're not a foodie or a QVC fan. This dynamo is responsible for selling tons of anything kitchen , from cookbooks to pots and pans to even foods. He's become something of a cult hero, bringing the fun and exciting cooking world to the home shopping hungry masses.

Mr. Venable was interviewed by regular contributor , Kim Severson in yesterday's New York Times Food section.He is one of the powerhouse hosts that makes QVC one of the biggest businesses in America. He cheerleads and dances , hawking some of the most popular cookware , such as La Creuset and Rachel Ray Kitchenware.His segments also features famous chefs too, callers can chat with Gordon Ramsey or Ina Garten  as they place their orders. doing this helps to increase sales. Rachel Ray moved four million in cookware overnight. Any chef hawking his or her cookbook can  expect to have a quick sell out in minutes. Molly Gilbert, a low key cook who wrote "Sheet Pan Suppers" was dazzled by just how quick her book sold. To be honest QVC is a foodie paradise.It  sells almost anything , from juicers to mixers to zesters and knives. There is also  all sorts of foods such as lobster and steak and flavorings you can buy any time as well..

However the company would be nothing with out Mr. Venable. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina and helped his single mother with cooking.His stage presence came from his college years singing in an a cappella group. Clef Hangers. These two factors have created a presence that hooks people.He dances , with his zany sidekick, Mary DeAngelis, He listens to the lonely foodie He sells home chefs and home bakers dream cook and bakeware..The most important facet is that he connects with people. Sometimes he's all they have..The popularity has paid off . He has written a cookbook himself, entitled In The Kitchen with David:QVC's Resident Foodie Presents Comfort Foods That Take You Home (Random House) three years go and hosts a dinner "In The Kitchen with David' at QVC's campus near Philadelphia. Mr. Venable has a huge number of fans who also just watch to hear his favorite catchphrases like "Swine is divine" or "I do not want to live in a world without potatoes." For a a guest to do a happy dance,  his signature jig after tasting something yummy is the height of Venable fandom.He gives the wares and cookbook recipes resonance, making them important to have .Foodies think nothing of spending $339 dollars for a La Creuset pot  after he gives a passionate spiel about it.

David Venable may not be the next Epicurus or Escoffier. He is a man who know what foodies want , because he is one himself. Thanks to this he has made QVC not only rich but also the leader in cookbook, food and kitchen gear/

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Sweetness of Cherry Season

One of the first fruit harvests of late Spring and early summer are cherries. They are  abundant right now, in  all their ruby red glory. What is so great about them is that they can be made into a variety of  different desserts. The first stone fruits of the season are perfect for everything and  anything , from ice cream to tarts.

David Tanis thought so and featured them in his column , A City Kitchen , in today's New York Times Food section.On their own, the first  harvests are a proper dessert in themselves. They're both deliciously tart and sweet, without any embellishments.. However he provides three cherry-centric desserts that highlight their flavor  and brightness.Best of all they're easy  to make- a boon in this hot weather. Some of the recipes can be split into two days so prep time is leisurely and relaxed. One of the easiest looks hard to execute but if made  in two days , an easy dessert. It is cherry ice cream sandwiches  rolled in coconut flakes. Make the ice cream the first day, it's simple custard recipe with stewed and pureed cherries added later. The cookies can be made a day later ,leaving the filling to firm up overnight. These are a simple shortbread although if you don't feel like heating up your oven, buy a good shortbread like Walker's  and use those instead.

The other desserts are both elegant ad easy as well.One is a cherry frangipane tart that can be stretched into two days of making too. Start with the tart shell, again relatively easy to whip up.There are only five ingredients with butter being the main one. The filling is classic frangipane,  using cream and almond flavoring. Cherries and slivered almonds are then pressed into the batter .They not only provide decoaration but an extra burst of sweet tartness to cut the pastry's sweetness. Mr. Tanis also puts the fruits of the seaon in one of the most elegant desserts ever - iles flottante. This sophisticated French sweet is basically fluffy meringue clouds  over a crème anglaise base. The traditional recipe calls for a drizzle of caramel but Mr. Tanis adds a sweet-sour cherry compote to give it a spike of color and a punch of flavor.A pound of pitted cherries is cooked  with a cup of sugar. Rose water is added for delicacy and for  scent as well. Pistachios are also sprinkled on top for added color and texture.

Take advantage of the first cherry harvests of June. Yes, they're good, just freshly washed and on their own but they're pure heaven in any dessert. Try them in a fun ice cream sandwich, or an elegant tart or iles flottante.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Neilsen Massey Vanilla Pure Flavor

Vanilla extract is a wonderful addition to any kitchen,It's what gives vanilla cakes and puddings their lovely homey flavor, reminiscent of Granny's baking and cooking.Neilsen & Massey knows this ad has created the perfect extract. This is a vanilla that is redolent of the orchid (yes an orchid ) that produces it.

Nielsen -Massey has been creating extracts since 1902 and is now  run  by the third generation of the  family,Craig Matt and Beth in first Sterling Illinois and now , Waukegan. They not only sell vanilla to various chefs and restaurants but also almond, chocolate and the more exotic flavors of rose water and neroli oil.Their vanilla is from all over the world, starting with  Madagascar  being bought from fair trade merchants. This includes  certification and verification organization and, responsibility for certifying their beans. Fairtrade certified vanilla ensures that small-scale farmers in developing countries receive a fair price and use sustainable farming practices along , stabilizing vanilla-producing communities and protecting the environment. It also ensures a consistent supply of ingredients to customers.  The Fairtrade certified vanilla is grown in the shade, integrated with other crops, which in turn helps protect against erosion and deforestation. Neilsen Massey  is nt only providing flavor to the world but helping it to become a better place.

What I love about Neilsen-Massey is that their extract  is pure , without any alcohol added .It doesn't have that aftertaste either. I used it in a microwave version of bread pudding (see recipe and pic below) and it was perfect for it. Again there was no usual aftertaste or overpowering  vanilla alcohol flavor overpowering the other ingredients.www.cooks.com and tweaked it a bit. It serves 8=10.
. It was excellent. It can be used in some savory dishes  It is actually best paired with pork or duck because it works well with their  intense flavors. However I am a purist. Vanilla should go into yummy sweet desserts hence my bread pudding. I got the recipe from

Half a loaf of stale French or Italian bread
2 cups milk.
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 eggs beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon
 1- 2 teaspoons vanilla

Slice the bread and cut into one inch cubes. Put to the side.Heat milk and butter on high in a 4 cup measuring cup. Stir a small amount of hot milk into the beaten eggs to temper the eggs. Return eggs to milk. Add sugar, salt cinnamon and vanilla. Pour mixture over bread and cook for 7-10 minutes , or longer if the center is not firm.
Serve hot or cold with caramel, sauce, cream or whipped cream.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Fresh , Clean Summer Kitchen

The summer sometimes is the hardest season on kitchens. The fridge is stuffed with all sorts of produce. The freezer is packed with every ice and ice cream treat. Ants are crawling all over as is the occasional cockroach  Treat it right with proper disposal and cleaning. It'll make for easy cooking and easy living.

We all know the importance of baking soda Most of us have it year round however it pays to double and even triple (depending on your kitchen's size) the amount. Remember to replace it every three months If you're worried about the powder spilling then go to The Container Store and get their Baking Soda Stay Fresh Container at only $4.99. It can also work in the freezer too. The fridge  should also be cleaned after every spatter and splatter., especially if it involves those raw meat juices.After all it will be barbecue season for the next three to four months, so this will be quite common. Wash the interior of your fridge with a clean sponge and warm soapy water (I like using Dawn dish cleanser for this). Have a clean dry towel to also dry everything off.. Remember to clean the racks and handles. Keep the freezer relatively empty too. Get rid of last year's dried herbs ad ice cream or last season' s leftovers.Also  clean counter tops and cutting boards too. Salmonella thrives in hot weather  and this comes from the usual suspects : eggs  barbecue meats and fish but also all that fresh fruit and veggies you 're getting from the farm and garden..

For the rest of the kitchen , clean up after you spill anything sticky and sweet. Any syrupy drip is an ant magnet. They go after proteins too, so any meat that's left out is a target too.Deter them by using all natural remedies such as lemon juice, vinegar and even powdered chalk. Peppermint leaves or oil of peppermint works too.  As for those other kitchen pests, roaches, the best way is by keeping a very clean kitchen. However this can be impossible if you live in an apartment or condo complex. One of the best deterrents is surprisingly Listerine or any mouth wash;Mix equal parts it with water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid and spray in corners and where floors and walls meet. Of course take advantage of the hot weather to clean your oven. This is the time when it's used the least. You can use those chemical laden cleaners or an all natural cleanser made from baking soda, water and salt. Do it on a rainy day instead of sacrificing a beach day.. Remember to also clean burners to get rid of that burnt coffee or soup smell. Ants will even go for the burnt sweet stuff so keep the oven top scrupulously clean too.

A summer kitchen should be a clean kitchen. It should be free of smells , pests and any other warm weather problems. Keep it fresh during the hot sticky months ahead.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Surprise of Surprise Cakes

Cake is a treat in itself, however when it's a surprise cake, it turns into a celebration. There's nothing more exciting than slicing into a layered beauty and discovering a picture . They are a sweet, yummy way of celebrating everything, from the impending birth of a child to a birthday to a special event. Surprisingly even home bakers can create this  fun dessert.

One of the first surprise cakes  was the king cake form New Orleans where a porcelain baby or ring was hidden inside. It originally  came from France  but is also still made in other Catholic countries like Spain and Belgium and is served during Epiphany. Our modern day surprise cakes are made a little differently  with  a picture being baked into the dough instead of a trinket. The outside is very sparsely decorated as to not take away from the cake itself .Surprise cakes are big at baby showers with the moms to be finding out about their babies upon slicing into their shower cakes. However the cakes  can also be made for fun holiday parties like Easter, Halloween , Christmas and even the Fourth of July. Easter surprise cakes open up to reveal brightly colored eggs, chicks or bunnies. Halloween has everything from spiders to ghosts to pumpkins while Christmas has snowmen and Christmas trees bursting fourth from loaves.and traditional layers. Now is the time to think of a flag Day or Fourth of July surprise cake with a flag or red white and blue cake under demure white icing. Birthday cakes also can have surprises , such as having the birthday boy or girl's age baked into the cake Pinterest has some interesting ideas as well as recipes you can follow.

Of course bakeries, especially the boutique ones, can create amazing variations of this. Home bakers can also try as well. Keep in mind that there are several different ways  to make surprise cakes. There is the deconstruction method  - that is taking the cake apart and putting it back together either with cake mixture, filling or icing. Another way is baked cake in batter. This is simply taking a cake that is already baked and  then baking again. Often the cake you're baking a second time is usually in designs and shapes. Batter manipulation is the third method. This is taking batter and creating a design in the baking pan.There is also  deconstruction where the inside is taken out and candy and treats are inserted.If you're a neophyte home baker you may want to start with something simple such as a cake with ombre layers. This can be fun, especially done in shades of pink or blue for a little girl  or boy's birthday party. Many recipes require baking two cakes and then double baking. I'd recommend having help for this , however it can be done alone. Many surprise cake bakers swear by  Betty Crocker brand cake mix because the batter produces the least amount of bubbles. You want an all over even crumb. Icing can be homemade buttercream or store bought. and keep the outer decorations to a minimum as to not detract from the cake's interior.

Surprise cakes are a great way of celebrating any event or holiday. Try your hand at them to create a sweet and exciting treat for family and friends.They'll be enjoyed on so many levels from visual to taste.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Night Mash Ups

Friday means the end of the busy work week. Some celebrate by going out with friends and co workers, others order in pizza or Chinese. However there are the stalwart home chefs who still want to cook. Yet what's there to make? A week of leftovers can provide chefs with some interesting new creations.The best part is that they're easy to make , even better it's a home cooked meal, enjoyed with family.

If you have left over meat, whether chicken or steak, cut it up into bite sized pieces and make it the protein in chopped salad. This is an easy mix of leftovers and canned veggies Add already chopped fresh salad along with some sesame seeds and croutons for crunch and texture. It's also a great way of getting rid of eggs. Hard boil them and then slice them. Eggs can also be made into egg salad for sandwiches. Amp them up by serving them on croissants bought from the local Dunkin Donuts.Ham  and chicken salad are also easy to make , especially if you use devilled ham or chicken and mayo.You could also make this with any leftover roasts too. What about those cold cuts used for brown bag lunches? Heroes! Create a truly great one with all those salami, cappicola and prosciutto slices. Add tomatoes , along with different cheeses for a simple yet fun dinner.A chef 's salad is another way of getting rid of those uneaten slices.

A lot of sides can also be repurposed into main meals .Mashed potatoes can be turned into mouth watering croquettes Take spoonfuls of mashed potatoes and mix with beaten eggs (use one egg for every cup of mash) , and parsley. Roll into balls and them roll into breadcrumbs. Using your palm, smash them lightly and fry in oil or margarine. Serve with dipping sauces. Leftover rice can be repurposed this way too, in the form of arancini or little oranges in Italian. As with the potatoes, mix in egg and bread crumbs and fry until crisp. You can put ham or mozzarella in he center for more flavor. This is a great recipe for getting rid of leftover risotto. Leftover corn can be made into a yummy chowder along with being turned into a cold salad. All those veggie sides can be cooked together to create a vegan stew. Just add tomato paste to stretch it and give it more flavor.  serve it with crusty French or Italian bread for dipping.

It's Friday! Time to get creative with all those leftovers from the week past. Make a fun salad or spread or a tasty stew everyone will love!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Soft Shell Crab With Savory Butter

Late spring and summer bring about several treats that only happen once a year. This is the case with the soft shelled crab. Right now it's the perfect time to eat them in a variety of ways.The best part is the entire creature is edible, There's no fiddling with shell parts or crackers.Just cook and eat.Try them any way  but the most delicious is with garlic butter.

David Tanis wrote about them as well as giving recipes in his A City Kitchen column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Eastern blue crabs shed their shells during the warmer months , which makes them perfect for cooking and eating. Early fishermen must have discovered this and since then they have been fished. Thanks to this , the crabs can be prepared a variety of ways. They can be battered and deep fried.Crabs, like any seafood. can be just fried as is and served with a wedge of lemon. Some affectionados like them served on a bun. Mr Tanis recommends his favorite method, grilled over hot coals for a smoky aroma and no spattering. His other preferred method is panfrying in olive oil and crushed chili peppers too. and then  topping a plate of spaghetti as well,For those buying them for the first time, remember that the crabs should have no discernable odor whatsoever. You should buy them live , like lobsters and also they should be thoroughly examined. Don't worry about being pinched/ At this stage,the molting stage, their pincers are not dangerous or harmful.

Soft shell crabs are sometimes good just steamed , served with a flavored or savory butter.This is where Melissa Clark's A Good Appetite column , also from yesterday's Food section, comes in handy. She whips up a green garlic butter, also using a Spring harvest of slender white tipped stalks of new garlic.It is not as strong as the older garlic cloves.It also has a fresh herbal whiff too.Ms. Clark adds a pinch  of salt along with some Parmesan cheese along with the added zing of red chili pepper flakes and fresh ground black pepper. Mix these and roll into a log. It can be added to grilled meat or fish to saute them, or added to veggies. I would definitely use it  as a dip for the crabs or a variation of both Mr Tanis and Ms Clark's recipes.The last is for green garlic butter on sliced baguette toast. I would slather the butter on the bread and then add the steamed seafood.This could also be a good recipe for lobster meat too.

This is soft shell crab season. Pan fry them or bread them, grill or just steam for a savory treat. Enjoy them with a squeeze of lemon or a savory butter for a yummy meal.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Maangchi - You Tube's Top Chef

You Tube has given the world some amazing phenomenon since its' inception. There was Justin Beiber and those make up and hair whizzes  . Cooking, though has a few, but none as famous as Maangchi  aka Emily Kim. This Korean born home chef has turned her love of cooking into interesting tutorials for Korean cuisine lovers and other home chefs  Best of all, she's written a cookbook with her recipes that fans can copy and enjoy.

Chef Kim was interviewed in today's New York Times Food section by weekly contributor , Julia Moskin. Surprisingly she  didn't start off with cooking but rather gaming. Maangchi was actually the name of her avatar when she played City of Heroes. Her children urged her to another Internet activity, cooking videos. It was needed. According to Ms Kim, most Korean food videos were riddled with mistakes. someone had to amend that and she did, She has 619,000 YouTube followers , more than master chefs Ina Garten, Alton Brown and Martha Stewart.It lead to her newest cookbook "Maangchi' s Real Korean Cooking" (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Publishng). fans not only tune into to watch her prepare classics such as the tasty beef bolgoki  and Korean fried chicken but to check out her lavish make up, tiaras, and leatherette shorts, Sometimes she'll sport fascinators , those funny hats worn at William and Kate's wedding but also rubber gloves tricked out with bling.. All her videos show her dashing around in four inch platforms. a  feat for anyone, let alone a busy cook,

Ms/ Kim was raised in Yeosu, a port city on the southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula. She came to the States in 1992 when her husband took a teaching job in Columbia Missouri This put her smack in the middle of the American Midwest where Asian food was mostly Chinese and catered to mid American tastes. She cooked for the Korean families that she counselled, giving them a much mossed taste of home.. Fast forward to her life now in Manhattan  to anew husband and a new career. Her videos and I have watched a few) are interesting and come with cute  and informative graphics. Anyone can follow them , even the most novice of home chefs. There are videos on the ancient art of fermenting used in making kim chee along with making gochujang or chile paste and doenjang  soybean paste.. This last requires salt and hay along with an electric blanket and a year to ferment. Easier recipes include the flavorful beef dish, the afore mentioned bolgoki, a chopped beef dish that features pears, sesame seeds and garlic cloves. There is also ssamjang the spicy Korean barbecue sauce, a marriage of the fiery , savory and sweet. This is perfect for any American  dish from ribs to wings.

There are a million You Tube stars but none shine as brightly as Maangcha or Emily Kim. Her easy to follow cooking demos are fun and informative. Her cookbook is going to shine just as brightly too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

King of Pop Popcorn The Perfect Dad/Grad Gift

June is the month for celebrating. Dad has his day , so do grammar school and high school graduates A fun gift alng with party snack is popcorn. King of Pop knows this and has come out with some yummy flavors and fantastic gifts  sure to  please both . It also is a great snack for those outdoor movie nights by the fire pit..

King of Pop Popcorn is a three year old family run business coming out  of New Hampshire. The company has every flavor under the sun and then some. Of course they have the traditional butter,caramel and kettle but they verr off in both savory and sweet paths. One of my favorites is the dill pickle. ,Yes it sounds strange - pickles and popcorn  but the dill with a hint of vinegar is actually pretty flavorful.It's herby and tart,perfect with a summery drink like gin and tonic or mojitos. Their cheddars are yummy. The cheesy cheddar is like eating chunks od the cheese while the bacon cheddar is a tasty blend of everyone's two favorite flavors. For spice try the Cajun and the BBQ ones. There is also the honey mustard, perfect to serve with pretzels. King of Pop also has a range of sweet, from the traditional caramel to the sinful chocolate chip mint and the ever festive birthday cake. This last is dotted with fun sprinkles and tastes like a bite size cake.For a fun movie night order the confetti. This is a fruity mix of cherry, grape and raspberry and come in cute colors. Wanting a snickerdoodle but hate tobake then try their cinnamon and brown sugar popcorn.

What is great about King of Pop is their variety of gift options. They have a lot of dad-centric gifts that are perfect for snacking in the man cave. Any father would love the Father's Day Gift Tower that not only has the tangy buffalo along with the salt and vinegar corn but also hard candy , chocolate wafers and gummy citrus slices but also pretzels and snack mix. This makes for some fine snacking when watching all those sporting events.The tower is sweetly wrapped in paper that looks like a tie too. Another must get for dad is the Father's Day Junk Food, literally buckets of sea salt and cracked pepper corn , tempered by the sweetness of the cinnamon corn. Chips Ahoy and Mike and Ike are added in along with salted peanuts and strawberry Twizzlers. You could also just buy your pops a big bucket of Pub Picks,bacon cheddar, honey mustard and buffalo. Chi town dads would  appreciate
  the  Chicago classic mix of cheese and caramel corn, meant to be eaten together.Grads would love the signature samplers that feature a picnic themed (think watermelon,  buttered and sundried tomato) and the chocolate lovers.A tin is always fun too, especially for those grammar school grads planning parties and sleepovers.

The gift giving dilemma is solved. Get dad or the grad in your life a tower or bucket of King of Pop Popcorn. It's an unusual and tasty gift, perfect for celebrating

Monday, June 1, 2015

Welcome The June Harvests

June is here and with it comes the first of the summer harvests.  t's an exciting time for foodies and home chefs.. New and healthy dishes can be made. Main meals and desserts can have a nice fresh from the garden taste to them.

If you're in the Garden State, New Jersey, like I am , then then you should be on tenterhooks.This is the month  when first harvests of blueberries and cherries will be ripening. They'll be perfect for pies, crisps and parfait as well as just eaten fresh for a healthy dessert or snack.Cucumbers  come later in the month, think of all those refreshing salad made with them, mixed with sour cream and fresh picked dill. Jersey farms also yield up beets broccoli and cabbage too. Nothing beats a yummy beet salad with just the boiled ones dressed in a simple vinaigrette. With the cabbage, think slaws that will go perfectly with all   that barbecue fare. Broccoli means salads and sides  - and the added benefit of an extra green in the diet. Our  neighbors New York and Pennsylvania have similar harvests with Pennsylvania has the extra bonus of early onion, squash and snap bean harvests. Take a trip out to Pennsylvania farm country for a weekend and come back with a car or van loaded with good stuff. Head to Varick New York annual cherry festival in the Cayuga Lake- Finger Lakes district.

For those Marylanders,crabs aren't   the only good food on their June menu. The state is bursting with all sorts of produce thanks to them ripening right now.They already have Spring's best with their asparagus, spinach and strawberries.There are also green peas,snap beans and that perfect dessert ingredient, red and black raspberries.Lettuce and  summer squash are also blooming righ now.Nearby Delaware has all these harvests too plus tomatoes and potatoes . Whether you're there for a weekend  or for a week,take advantage of the farmer's markets there.Midwesterners  will enjoy similar harvests,If you;'re in Illinois get the pie crusts and Ice    cream ready because it's rhubarb season there now. neighboring states, Indiana and Wisconsin  also have similar harvests with  Wisconsin   bursting with peaches. Imagine them with the fresh cream from America's Dairy State.Washington State gives us luscious cherries and currents along with the unusual hybrid tayberry. This is a cross between a  blackberry  and a raspberry  and can be used in sorts of dishes form salads to pies.It's also zucchini season there as well so think about zucchini Parmesan or sautéed with garlic.

June is the start of the summer harvest season. Jump right in and take advantage of the amazing bounty nationwide. Add fresh veggies and fruits to meals and desserts for a refreshing, just picked flavor.