Monday, November 30, 2015

Bread Puddings Savory And Sweet

Bread pudding is one of the most versatile and easiest dishes to make. It can be a savory casserole like strata or a gooey dessert like a brioche pudding;Best of it, its' hearty and satisfying ,the ultimate comfort food for combatting the crazy days ahead of us.

Savory bread puddings are the perfect weekend meal. All you need is stale bread for starters and the  rest is up to you. One of the best recipes is the zuppa montagne , a Piedmontese winter dish made with stale Italian bread, chicken or vegetable broth and Swiss or Fontina cheese. A more textured version is subbing in breadsticks (the Stella D'oro kind works best here) and layering on the bottom of a casserole dish. If you want crunch and texture added shredded cabbage , preferably the Savoy kind , cooked in butter , as a second layer. The cheese is then layered on followed by the broth. Use three to four ladlefuls of this , reserving some of the broth to pour over later. Cook at 325 degrees Farenheit for forty minutes. You can also microwave this too for a quick five to six minutes.There is a popular rosemary and bacon bread pudding circulating on the web right now.This is a custardy version , involving eggs. along with sharp cheddar and of course, bacon. Sauteed onions are also thrown in for sweetness.After baking in a 375 degree oven for forty minutes, it's all set to come out, golden and puffy like a cheese soufflé. For those who love something more exotic , try strata which means layers. Stratas can be made for any meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner. It's layers of bread,peppers. bacon and onions with milk and cream added for pure custardiness.

Sweet bread pudding is a nice change of pace from the usual cakes and pies.It's also a homey treat at a tree trimming or holiday party. One recommendation is using stale baguettes or Italian bread instead of regular white bread.It gives the pudding chewiness and texture along with a mellow yeasty flavor. Still use three or four eggs but cut back on the sugar. Many recipes call  for a cup of white sugar. I'd halve that or use a more earthier tasting brown sugar. Milk or cream can be used . These can be mixed., because using just cream can make the dish heavy and dense. Purists will want raisins for more sweetness. Many (including myself) are not fans of this. If you want extra sweetness, try a  dollop of salted caramel drizzled on it.A truly decadent variation is New Orleans style which uses a buttery whiskey sauce as an accompaniment. If you want something decadently Gallic , try a brioche bread pudding. Brioche is a yummy French roll, egg and butter rich.It is the perfect ingredient in a decadent dessert. Add cream, and butter along with eggs, sugar and brandy to bake with it into a lush pudding.Lemon or orange zest can be added for more color and flavor. Serve this with whipped cream or crème Anglaise, a sauce that combines cream, sugar eggs and Armagnac brandy.

A savory or sweet bread pudding is a great slice of comfort during this hectic holiday times ahead A slice of strata is a great weekend meal while a brioche bake is the perfect dessert for a holiday party.Make the traditional or create your own for some yummy fun.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cold Days, Sunny Meals

The temps are dipping. There's more night than light and the pressure of the holidays are coming  at full speed. It would be nice to escape this, take a trip to a warm happy go lucky island or exciting , exotic country. However that ' s impossible - or is it? Cooking sunny bright meals, from sunny bright places is a mini escape from  dull, chilly days.It's an exciting way to enjoy winter cooking.

One sunny bright place that has so many tasty recipes is Morocco. This corner of northwestern Africa has some yummy dishes that are easy to make. Cooking Moroccan may also be the perfect time to add a tajine pot to your kitchen arsenal. Everyone from Williams-Sonoma to J.C. Penney's now sell  them.  If you don't have one, no worry. A pressure cooker can sub for it. Slow cook a chicken with an array  of such spices as cumin and ginger.Saffron colors it to a blazing sun yellow  while raisins temper the spices kick. A plus is that it takes an hour which allows you to work around cooking it. A second  plus is that the recipe is bendable.You can use lamb or veggies instead of fowl.. Couscous is another dish that will bring to mind colorful bazaars and rainbow sunsets. Squash and chickpeas are added to this wheat semolina along with dried fruit and spices such as turmeric and cinnamon. For a light weekend supper try bagels with za'atar, an easy to make dip. This is a mix of sumac,thyme and roasted sesame seeds along with marjoram, oregano and coarse salt. Dip the bagel(it should be hand rolled , not those big puffy kinds) first in  a small bowl of olive oil and then the spice mix. Za'atar can also be sprinkled on eggs,, salads and veggies to zing them up.

Everyone love the Caribbean , with it's warm seas and balmy nights. To capture some of that heat , try making a few of the dishes of the area. Jamaica gives us the fiery jerk - which can be translated into a pork , chicken or chicken wing dish. You can buy jerk seasoning or better yet make it yourself. It's a blend of onion powder, chives, allspice and cinnamon. Cayenne gives it its' color and fire while nutmeg and cinnamon gives it a tinge of sweetness. It can be rubbed on the wings a few hours before.  Serve it with a tangy pineapple infused sauce. Jerk pork is another fiery dish, guaranteed to satisfy that longing for Kingston. It's taking pork loin, marinating it with a heady mix of Scotch Bonnet peppers, a mix of orange and lime juices along with  a blend of soy sauce and olive oil and then grilling it over an open flame (hopefully the grill hasn't been put away yet) Serve with a plate of hot festivals, a fried zeppoli like fritter that tempers the jerk's spiciness. Plaintains can also be served. These are a type of banana that are excellent prepared the sweet way with brown sugar and butter. Vanilla and cinnamon are also added to accentuate the taste.Plaintains can also be fried into a fun crispy chip too.

Let your kitchen take you to those exotic, sunny places. It's easy to make a tangine or jerk chicken and pretend you're in Morocco or Jamaica. Consider these exotic dishes a vacation for your palate.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Kitchen Deals

Even though Black Friday is almost done with , home chefs can still cash in on the day's deals. This is the time to replace those iffy smaller appliances along with buying new pans and tins.The deals are amazing  right now. so take advantage of them. This is the time to invest in good quality kitchen ware at bargain basement prices.

One of the best places to get good bargains is Sur La Table both on line and at their many stores. They offer free shipping for $59.00 and over orders.They have a Sansaire Sous Vide Immersion Circulator for $149.00 , fifty dollars less than the usual price.Sur La Table has a great bargain on the Staub Cocotte cookware, $99.00 for a set of four cast iron Dutch ovens. Pick these up if you're planning to make a lot of chili or stewed chicken for the holidays. The store also has good bargains on carving knives sets, .along with special offers on chef's knives.  Williams-Sonoma isn't normally known for lowering their prices but they now are offering some good sales items. They're offering their name brand Thermo clad stainless steel fry pan set for half price at $150.Their Calaphon eleven piece elite non stick cookware set usually goes for a whopping $1,000 and it's on sale for $599.00 This will last a long time and the suggestion is buy it.Another boon is that all of their copper cookware is being sold for 20  percent off. Again this is a good buy because of the quality  and workmanship put in them. Williams -Sonoma also have good deals on all sorts of knives as well as cutting boards and wood containers.

The big box stores such as Target and K-Mart can offer even better bargains.If you need fancy dinnerware then head over to the bull's eye store. Target has excellent prices on Corelleware Strawberry Street, Gorham Willow Creek and Threshold. The best part is that there is a huge variety of colors and patterns so you're not limited. They're also having a sale on toaster ovens as well along with Calaphon  cookware starting at $99.00. Even if there's no sale , Target Red card holders (the store credit card) always receives 5% off all purchases. For even lesser prices try K-Mart. They are offering a BOGO - buy one get one free on all their kitchen utensils and gadgets. Scarf up their balloon whisks and choppers for yourself and your favorite home chef.K-Mart has the amazingly low price of $15 for mandolins.These are usually quadruple or quintuple the price so get them while they're hot.It's great for slicing potatoes for scalloped potatoes and home made potato chips.It can also be used for shredding and grating other veggies like cabbage and carrots. Eighteen dollars will get homes chefs an entirely new twelve piece utensil set with a decorative tub. to store them. This has everything from  a pasta fork to tongs to various blending paddles to a spatula. They will get anyone through the busiest baking and cooking season of the year with ease.

Black Friday is a home chef's dream. It's time to stock up on what you and what you want to create the perfect holiday kitchen. Get out the credit card and shop, shop, shop!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers here and abroad. Be thankful for all your freedoms and liberties , including choosing anything you want to eat.Remember those less fortunate and even put a few leftovers out for the wildlife in your neighborhood.

Most of all, enjoy all the tastes and flavors of the day. Nothing beats turkey and gravy  followed by a slice of homemade pie. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Times Thankgiving Issue Part Three

Once again Thanksgiving is the focal point of the New York Times Food section. This week though, focuses on table manners. Both, surprisingly are vital to the season. Good manners will take you anywhere while leftovers will take you through the weekend and into the work week.

Times regular contributor Kim Severson got to sit through a formal dinner in Hartsville South Carolina's high school, in particular in teacher's Wardie Sanders' history class. Here they're properly instructed in the fine art of what knives to use and how to use a napkin. It's throwback to Emily Post's days of fine etiquette and proper behavior when eating at a formal or holiday table. While teens and adults may balk at these little quirks, there a reasons behind them, dating s far back as the Middle Ages. We chew with our mouths closed because we don't want to gross out those around us. Napkins are placed on the lap to protect clothing and the chair.Placing a knife to the right with the blade facing the plate is a throwback to when people brought their own knives to a table.If a fight broke out it was then easy to grab your weapon and fight.Of course the biggest etiquette bugaboo is the ever present cell phone. No,it   shouldn't take top priority while eating but are allowed when backing up a fact or question. They can also be used for Face Time for a relative or friend who couldn't make it.However good manners also extends to making eye contact with those around you and engaging them in conversation.In other words, nix the technology just until dessert is over.

Of course, it's a free for all the next day. Formality is shed as leftovers come out. David Tanis gives many different recipes for what to do with the bird and sides.He plays with a classic chicken ala king subbing in turkey in a creamy gravy  on top of sweet potato biscuits. Another idea is a meat pie. He chooses the more flavorful dark meat, mashed potatoes along with roasted squash and chard for a yummy spin on shepherd's pie. American cheddar is added for some zing . He suggests     these but you may want to try other variations, like white meat and leftover peas and corn.Use store bought puff pastry if you're too tired to make a scratch dough. You can serve the finished pie or torta Americana with leftover gravy or a side of cranberry jelly. It could also just be served with a simple salad if you want lighter fare. Turkey can also be pulled and this can be stuffed into a pita along with cabbage, cucumbers and tahini dressing for a more refreshing rehash of leftovers.Of course home chefs could fall back on the traditional  second day dishes such as turkey tetrazzini and turkey fried rice.

Save this issue  as you;ve saved the other two special Thanksgiving issues. Table manners are always good to have in this holiday season. They ill elevate and civilize you. Leftovers are also good to have, simply     because they can let you go wild making all sorts of dishes - and eating them without a care for manners and civility.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crazy For Cranberries

Cranberries may not be the star of the Thanksgiving meal but they certainly steal the show. Their brilliant ruby color commands attention and their tart taste is a palate cleanser. They're  good for not just holiday meals but for healthier eating and drinking. Another aspect is that they're extremely versatile. They can jazz up chutneys or be turned into fun mocktails.

Cranberries have a lot in common with Christmas trees and blueberries. Both  cranberries and firs are evergreens,.It shares a woody stem and bell shaped flower with the blueberry along with similar berries, the huckleberry and the bilberry. Cranberries are classified into two categories, the North American and Northern European. They were originally called craneberries by early English settlers to America,  due to their flowers resembling cranes and their long necks..They grow in sandy wet soil,namely Massachusetts and south western New Jersey where Ocean Spray cranberry juice is manufactured. Anything with cranberries is a good thing. They're high in manganese, an essential mineral used in metabolism, growth and cancer fighting. They also have moderate amounts of vitamin C and fiber. .Cranberry juice  can also aid in healing urinary tract infections. Since they have a bitter taste , they do have to be processed with a lot of sugar. The berries have been made into juice since the late 1680's and were even served at a Harvard commencement dinner as early as 1803.Cranberries were bought and fresh until the 1930's.Ocean Spray and Cranberries Cooperatives came together to form the main distributor of cranberry products in the United  States.

Cranberries are not just relegated to Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can have them all year long. Fresh ones can be made into cranberry jelly. This is just a simple mix of them, sugar and water. The skins and pulp are then strained and the juice is reboiled with sugar . Its' then poured into sterilized jelly jars and sealed airtight with paraffin wax. For something a little less labor intensive try cranberry relish. This is a mix of fresh cranberries, tart green apples and orange slicesThese are ground with two cups of white, refined sugar. The relish  could be a great condiment after Thanksgiving, adding some zest to not only turkey but also chicken sandwiches too. Use the berries in an exotic chutney. This is like the relish but has allspice  cinnamon, clove and ginger added for zing. Brown sugar is used instead of regular for an earthier flavor.  Dried cranberries such Craisins are used in desserts too. They liven up regular oatmeal cookies and bring color to chocolate chip ones.Cranberry juice is the main ingredient in the tasty classic The Cape Codder, where it's mixed with vodka. Yet there are some yummy mocktails out there that work at any party. Blend it with sparkling grape juice and a few drops of maple syrup for a cranberry fizz. Start off your holiday parties with a cranberry lemonade punch . This is mixing the juice with freshly made lemonade and then adding seltzer for froth and bubble.

As traditional as they are cranberries can also be a fin addition to any meal or party. They're zingy and zesty, perfect for drinks and sides. Try them in relishes and chutnies , or use them in a fun toast to the holidays.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Amy's Fast Food- The Healthy Mickey D's

Many people, especially parents , have been protesting about the ill effects of fast foods. Let's face it a greasy burger plus fires is not exactly a good lunch or even dinner. Yet  we all crave it from time to  time. Luckily health food giant Amy's has begun it's first relatively healthy fast food stand. Now foodies can have their burger and fries - without any guilt.

Vegans and vegetarians , along with conscientious eaters, already know Amy's ,a brand started in 1987 by Rachel and Andy Berliner with the birth of their daughter , Amy. Rachel Berliner came from a family that was growing their own food and eating organic as early as the 1950's. She wanted to give other mothers the chance to feed healthy food to their families hence the company. Their first frozen dinner was a broccoli pot pie in 1987. It was also the first of many all natural frozen dinners made without any genetically modified foods.There are no meats, poultry, eggs or dairy. Most are made with tofu  along with veggies and spices. The company literally has every meal covered , from breakfast with tofu scrambles and toaster tarts to dessert with coconut milk ice cream. They have a variety of veggie burgers from bistro to quarter pounders so it's an easy leap to fast food.Amy's also sells other fun foods such as pizza and burritos.

These fun foods translate well in their new fast food menu. Amy's Drive Thru is also going to have fries made from locally grown potatoes along with both non dairy and dairy shakes. Baked mac and broccoli are also on the menu. There's going to be salad and chili too. What probably won't be on their menu - those huge soda's and sweet teas. Amy's Drive Thru is not all that clean, as both Berliners will attest, there will be salt and fried food. However there will be no added sugars or preservatives. The food will be fresh. The potatoes are coming from a farm near the first location in Rohnert Park California, a farming community fifty miles north of San Francisco. The concept is nothing new there. Loco'l, a kind of all natural Shake Shack has been serving fresh organic no hormones added burgers and chicken nuggets. Hopefully Amy's will go nationwide, but this may be hard for those cities located a ways from farmland growing the necessary ingredients. It may be a wise move to set up their own farms. as they did with their frozen and microwave products.

Amy's Drive Thru is a breakthrough in many ways. Hopefully it will be seen in all fifty states , dispensing good food and fun food to people craving healthy meals and snacks. They're creating a movement that cannot be stopped.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bulletproofing Your Diet

Everyone thinks that the start of the holiday season means extra pounds and tight clothes. Not necessarily.You can actually eat tons of butter and red meat between now and the New Year's and actually lose weight. There's a new cookbook showing how with  the bulletproof way of eating. It's a great way of keeping healthy and satisfied during the weeks ahead.

Bulletproof, The Cookbook (Rodale Press) was written by David Asprey who also wrote The Bulletproof Diet, and developed the discipline of the same name. Mr.Asprey was a Silicon Valley tech magnate when he discovered a way to improve his life and shed pounds His famed  bulletproof coffee, a mix of high energy coffee beans, oil and grassfed butter, has a following that includes Jimmy Fallon.Mr. Asprey  recommends using grassfed butter in almost all of his recipes (more on that later). The book is an instrumental guide in how to cook as well as how to live .He recommends very rarely using microwaves because of the radiation leakage as well as not cooking food in metal pots and pans. Dieters following his advice should be buying a sous vide- and also gentle baking or baking at the moderate temperature of 325 degrees Farenheit.  In a way the bulletproof diet is one of extremes Mr Asprey recommends eating grass fed beef but looks down on eating certain fruits like cantaloupes and plums He is big on avocados along with Brussels sprouts and olives. One of the best aspects of the book is that he values spices, and their benefits. The diet is rich in cancer fighting turmeric and cinnamon, along with cloves , the last not normally used a lot in every day cooking.

The recipes are tantalizing, despite the many restrictions. Mr/ Asprey used grassfed butter along with the Indian clarified butter or ghee  in many main and side dishes. He also uses a lot of coconut oil and a concoction you can buy on his website called Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil. Unlike some diet recipe books, there is a wide variety of recipes that will appeal to all ages.He has an interesting spin on Salad Nicoise, which uses trout and sweet potatoes as opposed to the usual tuna and yellow potatoes.He gives a nod to the Paleo diet with  recipes for bone broth and an Asian version of it. The sides are pretty tasty too,His buttered kale and buttered Brussels sprouts would be good gracing a Thanksgiving turkey as would his spice roasted fennel. There are recipes for smoothies and lattes with one for the famed Bulletproof coffee. Surprisingly there are also dessert recipes in here as well such as bulletproof cupcakes made with the chocolate and vanilla bulletproof powders (that can be bought on the website) along with recipes for pineapple granita and blueberry gelato.The back of the book is devoted to home made condiments like mayo and herbed butters. Newbies may want to try these out before embarking on the whole lifestyle

Bulletproof The Cookbook, along with the actual diet is a great way of losing weight and gaining energy for the busy holiday season ahead. It's full of yummy dishes that cater to everyone. It's flavor plus goodness .

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Drunk Turkey And Other Ideas

What goes well with a holiday meal? A holiday drink. Any wine, cocktail or punch can highlight all types of food, from a roast to a cookie. It's just knowing what to serve and what pairs well with it. This creates a nice harmony  where one accents the other.

Many will wonder what will go with next week's holiday meal. After all, a true Thanksgiving dinner has a mélange of flavors , from the unami of the gravy, the saltiness of the meat and stuffing to the sweetness of the yams and cranberries. Since turkey is fowl , it's best to stick with a white wine, preferably sparkling. The German Reisling is about your best goes well with any flavor, sweet salty and even spicy.It is a very fruity wine with notes of apple and apricot which makes it the perfect companion for a sweet potato casserole along with a crisp turkey leg.Another  German white is Gerwurtztraminer, a lively white that has a slight spiciness to it.  Sauvignon Blanc,a crisp citrusy wine, that has strong herbaceous and cut grass a good one to pair with  any spicy dish, especially a strong herb based dressing.It is also a great wine for party food too.Serve it with artichokes dip or even bruschetta at a Christmas or New Year's get together.Red wines can also be served at the Thanksgiving table.Pinot Noir is about the best one because its' fruitiness and earthy, fungi tones shows off the bird and the different sides..

Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season. It's when mixed drinks and boozy punches reign supreme. You can liven up the holiday dinners and get togethers afterwards with an apple cider cocktail. This is a mix of  rum, apple cider and cinnamon schnapps  with a apple kabob garnish., apple cubes skewered on a  swizzle stick.It would also be a fun sip at any tree decorating party too. A mulled cider is a nice way to finish any holiday meal.A warm cup of it is a dessert , after a heavy feast and best of all it's non-alcoholic. It's just simmering the liquid with allspice, cloves and cinnamon. A thinly sliced orange is also added to cut the spiciness and cut through the heaviness.For pure elegance serve a cranberry Kir Royale. This is a bit labor intensive but worth it for the sleek flavor. It's first cooking down frozen cranberries along with orange juice and zest with is then strained and cooled. The thick syrup is then spooned into the bottom of champagne flutes and any kind of champagne is poured over this for a layered effect.Cranberries can be added for decoration. For real fun , think about an apple pie sangria , a kind of punch made with Pearl Apple Pie vodka, cider and pear nectar. Ginger ale is added for bubble and fizz.It's a great party drink too, perfect with roast pork or a nice roasted ham.

Yes, this is the season for food and wine. It's part of the holiday feasting to pair holiday dishes with holiday drinks. The two set each other off perfectly.enhancing its' other flavors and notes.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gravy Training

One of the most important parts of any holiday dinner is the gravy. It can be the thin au jus which lets thee meat shine or a thick, rich sauce that's perfect on slices of turkey and bread. The secret to any gravy is a good recipe and how you make it. It' not just luck. Technique and know how play important roles too.

What exactly is au jus?It's from the French and means with it's own juice.It's used primarily with beef dishes like prime rib or London Broil but it can be used with turkey too. To prepare  all home chefs have to do simply skim the fat off the meat after cooking and mixed with water .It is then heated  until bubbling an d then poured over the meat. A sandwich can be made,using the roast and typically French bread,  and it can be dunked in the gravy. This is called a French dip and is very popular in diners and some restaurant chains like Denny's and Friendly's. Soy sauce and Worcester sauce can be added to enhance the brown color along with brown sugar, garlic and onion , these last added to enhance the flavor. Turkey au jus is easy to make.It's just skimming the juices from the bottom of the pan. You can add dry white wine or butter to stretch it.You can also add a cup of chicken broth to stretch it out if you want. Au jus can be frozen for three month however be warned. Freezing and then reheating makes it lose its' flavor. It's better off eaten fresh with the meat.

Many people prefer the thicker kind of gravy. After all, it goes well with everything from slices of whte meat to mashed potatoes to stuffing.It's also good reheated, ,moistening a sandwich made with leftovers. This gravy is easy  to make. It starts with a roux, a mix of butter or fat with flour and water. Home chefs can omit the butter, because the drippings already have fat.Drain the drippings off the bird along with skimming off the fat. This last will be mixed with a 1/4 cup of flour and will be whisked into a smooth almost paste like gravy. Pour the dripping into this until thick and creamy. Constant stirring and whisking  is key here..Gravy can lump up which can ruin it. If there are any flour lumps, then break them up with a fork and then forcefully stir into the liquid.If you want a meatier version then add the giblets. These are the gizzards, neck, liver and heart of the bird and should be cooked for at least an hour or until they're tender before adding.They're then minced and added to the gravy.It's recommended to cook these before you start on the main part. Leftover gravy should be refrigerated right after using due to the fact that it's a bacteria magnet. It can be frozen for up to four months in an airtight container.

Gravy, whether it's the delicate au jus,or the hearty thick kind adds so much to  the Thanksgiving dinner. Make either one for a tasty plus that goes with both bird and stuffing . They'll not only enhance dinner but also make the leftovers special too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Thanksgiving From The Times

For those of you who missed out on last week's New York Times Food section, there is another one, filled with more advice and different, exciting recipes. Best of all this issue features' not only an homage to Julia Child but also her best Thanksgiving recipes..These last alone are keepers and perfect for establishing new traditions at the holiday table.

Times Food expert Julia Moskin wrote about the another food expert Julia along with the recipes Ms. Child gave us.She interviewed Sheryl Julian , the current food editor at the Boston Globe., about her two Thanksgivings at the Child home. Surprisingly the meal was devoid of all Gallic influence. In fact it was a very simple meal, inspired by Ms. Child''s New England heritage (her mother's line could be traced back to the first Thanksgiving celebrants.) One recipe is genius . It is a kind of "sandwich" involving shaping two boneless turkey breasts around stuffing.It's then wrapped in turkey skin and cheesecloth  and basted with butter. The result is a golden roast that's done in two hours and slices like a dream. She also served early American staples like oysters and pumpkins. Ms. Moskin also includes Ms. Child's recipe, her Aunt Helen's fluffy pumpkin pie. It's a decadent old fashioned kind with heavy cream and bourbon or rum added.There is also a spicy dried fruit sauce that could go with the pie or better yet, topping French style vanilla ice cream.

Another good article from the issue is from Melissa Clark and it involves the second stars of the Thanksgiving feast: the sides. These are not your typical ones. They're bright and zesty, a refreshing breeze after the heaviness of gravy and turkey. She suggests leaving those alone along with the mashed potatoes. There could be a revolt if you change them comes a caveat.One is roasted radishes with anchovies, a kind of bagna calda that would definitely compliment the turkey's sweetness. This could even be a hot appetizer before dinner too. Another is shaved butternut squash with dates,a take on salad with a buttermilk dressing. If guests are still craving green sides then think of  Ms Clark's other recipe, sautéed Brussels sprouts with apple and prosciutto. This last is sautéing sliced apples, preferably Golden Delicious,  with the sprouts. They're then covered with shaved prosciutto and for vegetarians and vegans, shaved Pecorino cheese. Desserts have also been changed up to, thanks to David Tanis.He combines another flavor of the season, chestnut with chocolate in a light , flourless cake..It is made with chestnut flour and chestnuts for an airy flavor,.He took the recipe from cookbook author, Alice Medrich and her chocolate soufflé cake  For those who still want cranberry  Mr. Tanis offers a cranberry curd tart a variation of the French lemon curd one. It still has the same tartness , thanks to the cranberries and a hazelnut crust as opposed to the usual sable or shortbread one.

It's always fun to change up tradition now and then. Home chefs can change their Thanksgiving with the addition of any of these recipes. They're a fun departure from the usual, thanks to the Times.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Different Spin On Holiday Dishes

In another week we'll all be sitting down to the usual turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. Yet its' not written in stone that we should have this for Thanksgiving or even Christmas. If the menu is boring, or too predictable, then it's time to mix it up. Nothing livens up a meal than a surprise dish.

Turkey is always a mainstay in any Thanksgiving, holiday or family dinner. It's usually basted in just butter and then seasoned simply with salt and pepper. For a little zing try brining the bird in citrus.It's a mix of lemon and orange wedges with more traditional ingredients such as thyme and onion. A sweeter brine can be made with  apple cider or apple juice. The cider is the hard alcoholic  kind and brown sugar is also added too, along with a variety of spices like cinnamon, allspice and whole peppercorns.If you really want to change it up serve capon which is a castrated rooster..It has a higher fat content , thus having a richer taste and moister texture.It can be brined, just as a turkey, try a lemon sherry one .Many just like it basted  with butter. It's an easier roast than turkey and novice home chefs should try it before graduating to the bigger bird. Some may worry that capons won't feed large crowds. Most are between eight and ten pounds so it can feed a small crowd.Of course there is tofurkey, the tofu loaf that's a standard with vegans and vegetarians. It's certainly different but also healthy.There are zero carbs and it's slightly lower in calories. Be warned however, tofurkey is made with wheat which has gluten.If you want  a different main dish, then go with the capon.

If you still want the traditional turkey , then switch sides - literally. Cranberry sauce usually evinces winces and groans. Liven it up with some spicing.Add some cloves   and cayenne(!) for true zip and zing. There will be no leftovers, guaranteed. Another recipe  is cranberry chutney, a nice alternative to that glop that slides out of the can.The cranberries are mixed with cut apples and diced celery along with different sweet spices such as cinnamon, ground clove and nutmeg .Mashed potatoes are always thought of as bland sometimes. Try buttermilk instead of regular milk for something different. Garlic mashed potatoes are  a restaurant top favorite. They're easily replicated at home, simply by adding six to seven crushed garlic cloves. Throw in some parmesan cheese for more flavor. A totally different interpretation is making the mashed potatoes the day before and then turn them into puffs. It's an easy transformation of rolling the cold mash into balls then first dipping into beaten eggs and then bread crumbs. Fry in oil or butter. It's a fun crisp twist on the classic goes well with gravy or as a base for a hot turkey sandwich.

Thanksgiving or any holiday dinner is meant to be fun eating. Liven it up with some twists and spin on the original. It wll be a memorable meal with truly memorable dishes that everyone will love.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Stuffed With Stuffing

Stuffing always takes a supporting role in any holiday dining. Yet, it complements any fowl through, while maintaining  its' own savory flavor. One of the best things about stuffing or filling is that it's easy to create. Novice home chefs can make one as good as experienced home chefs can,

Stuffing is one of the oldest dishes, being invented by the Romans. Look in one of the earliest cookbooks , De re Coquineria and find dressing recipes for chicken,rabbit, pork and even dormouse !(luckily for us stuffed rodents went out of culinary fashion) The French were and still are the biggest makers of stuffing,It was also big in Renaissance England where it was known as farci.The dish got a name change in Victorian England when it was renamed dressing.Jump 100 years to 1972 when  Stovetop Stuffing was invented and changed the way America ate the dish. It was primarily eaten just for Thanksgiving with some families also eating it  for Christmas. Stovetop Stuffing changed all that.It was an easy mix and stuffing could made during any season. Most home chefs usually go for a strictly bread ,however there is also chestnut,rice and sausage based ones too. Stuffing depends mainly on taste. The recipe is flexible, with different kinds of breads and even pretzels being used for texture and a variety of herbs and spices used to vary the flavor.

What is the best dressing? Most people love a bread only stuffing. Many stores just sells loaves that are primarily for the dish. These will have stuffing written on the label and the loaves will be unsliced.This makes it easier for it to tear into workable pieces..  You can also use any other kind of bread. Whole grain is good and imparts a sweet ,  nutty taste that works well with a wild bird like turkey. Stale rolls of any kind work as do braided breads. As for spicing, sage is the number one herb used. Usually a teaspoon or two of dried sage will flavor one recipe. You can also use poultry seasoning too and this can be made at home. It's just a mix of rosemary,thyme, more sage and nutmeg. Before mixing anything soak the bread in chicken broth so  its' "squishy" to manipulate . Eggs are also added as binders to hold everything together..Sauteed chopped celery and onions are also added to give the stuffing a flavor boost too. The mixture should be baked in a butter  greased casserole dish and baked for only forty five minutes.You can stuff the turkey with it but be warned, Many have wound up with salmonella this way, thanks to the bird may have salmonella laden juices that soak into the bread.Wait until both are cooked before you put it in the bird's can be easily microwaved  the day later.

Stuffing is a tasty side that usuallysteals the show. It's an easy dish to make this Thanksgiving. Novice home chefs  give it a try. It's a treat that's worth making!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Viva La France Toujours

Our hearts go out to the Parisians and the French who  experienced those atrocious attacks of vile barbarism. It is a shame that the city and country of good food, where haute cuisine originated will have this scar for a long long time. Let's celebrate the dishes and treats of the City of Light. They are magnifique and what the city should be known for.

One favorite is the croque monsieur , that heavenly cheese sandwich.This is one if my all time favorite dishes to make..It's taking ham and Gruyere and drying it in butter. There should be a dash of mustard added for color and bite and it can be served with a béchamel sauce. A croque madam is one served with an egg on top and tomato can also be added for a croque provencale. Another Parisian favorite is steak Diane with pomme frites..These are a snap to make, with pan cooked steak with a cognac,tomato and shallot sauce.The sauce was originally meant for venison and wild game and named after the goddess of hunting , Diana.Pomme frites are French fries which can easily be made with Idaho potatoes. Cut  the potatoes into two to three inch sticks with a 1/2 inch width. Be warned, once you start frying these , you'll be snitching them  as they drain on a paper towel.The omelet is quintessentially French, having being created in the capital city in the 1600s. Originally called an aumelette, it has been a staple of French cookbooks for four centuries.The perfect one is made with three eggs and lots of butter (NO margarine, please). The eggs should be whisked into a smooth glossy liquid and then slowly poured into a hot buttered pan. As soon as the egg mix starts solidifying,, tilt the pan and coax it into a roll. Brush with melted butter for a nice glossy finish and decorate with fleur de sel and chives.

French pastries are another great gift to the culinary world. Croissants are true Parisian specialty, originally coming from Vienna with baker August Zang in 1839 . They were first called kipferl and later croissant by the  city that embraced them. In twenty years times, they were a breakfast staple. Even the famed English writer, Charles Dickens,  wrote about it in his periodical, All The Year Round. A variation of the croissant is pain au chocolat, a yummy, layered squared filled with bitter chocolate.There is also the almond croissant , stuffed with a buttery, crunchy almond paste, and again the taste is sheer heaven. Cream puffs, or profiteroles are another lovely treat,made with the slightly complicated choux pastry and filled with cream. These are topped off with melted dark chocolate and made into a tower called croquenbuche, translated as crunch in mouth. Eclairs are another must when in Paris. These are not those soggy ones American bakeries sell, but light , crisp choux pastry fingers filled with whipped cream or vanilla pastry crème and topped with a generous coating of melted semisweet chocolate. Patisseries also sell mille feulle,a thousand leaves, a crunchy  creamy layered pastry , perfect with the French coffee, café au lait

Vive le France! Vive Paris! Its ' people and food will shine through these dark days ! They have in the past, they will again! Salut!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Plot , Plan, Practice

It's time to plot and plan now that Thanksgiving is a little over a week away. It's also time to test out and practice dishes, tweaking them for ultimate flavor. Doing this will ensure a tasty, and troublefree dinner with very few glitches. There's nothing like a trial run. It does pay off with compliments and smiles in the end.

One of the first things to do is survey what you have and what you need to get. If you 're planning on baking , stock up on sugar and flour. Check your canned goods too. You may not need to go out and get a slew because you have already have extra. Also test out appliances. Mixers may be a bit rusty after a few months of non use. Toaster ovens may need a cleaning to get rid of a crumb build up. The next item of prepping is making lists. The first should be focused on what you need. It's not just the bird, but extra gravy(incase yours doesn't work out) seasonings, and canned goods. You can get the veggies and fruits two days or the day before. Thanksgiving cooking has many paths. Do you go the way of homemade stuffing or do you buy a couple of loaves and let them go stale. Is the family craving creamed onions or do they want to try a squash soufflé? Get everyone's opinions along with their likes and dislikes . Have the kids go with you to the supermarket and let them pick out what they want, providing its' pertaining to the holiday.The second list should be about who's bringing what. You don't want three servings of baked beans and no apple pie. Assign dishes that suit your guests levels of expertise.Don;t give the cakes or tarts to the novice bakers when they can only handle salads or Brussels sprouts.

Another must do is practice. If you want have a trial run dinner with a smaller turkey. If you want to make a citrus glazed bird do so during the rehearsal. It may not come out as you wanted - and at least you 've got it out  of your system. It was made, it bombed, move on to the traditional roast turkey. If you'v never made a pecan pie before, now is the time to make it . If there's a new dish you want to try , then make it for dinner one night this week. Ask the family what they think of it.Is it too salty? Too spicy? Does it need to be tweaked = or worse axed from the line up. Bone up on using gadgets too, especially those serious ones like the mandolin or hasp. Handling them the wrong way can result in injuries from scraped knuckles to a seriously cut finger.Learn how to do things properly so there's no accidents or trips to the ER on the big day.

Plot, plan practice. These three words will ensure a better and easier Thanksgiving.It'll be a memorable and perfect one.

For everyone in Paris - and in France. stay strong-liberte, egalitie et fraternitie.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Diwali Treats And Sweets

Right now is the joyous and mystical Indian holiday of Diwalli.It's a time of lights and fireworks , gifts and decorations. It's a time of celebrating light over darkness. It's also a time of feasting on traditional foods and treats. There are many to make over the holiday's five day period.

Diwali is an ancient holiday dating back to the first millennium where the goddess Lakshmi is celebrated along with the bierthday of Dhanvantari, god of health and healing. The festival goes for five days with relationships of all sorts being celebrated. There are lights and fireworks, along with rangoli, colorful patterns made on the ground using, colored rice, wheat or flower petals. as with any holiday there is a variety of different dishes and sweets to celebrate.There is the spicy and saucy butter chicken which involves cooking chicken in a highly spiced tomato almond sauce.Samosas are also popular, especially with holiday guests These are similar to dim sum dumplings and filled with moong dal, a kind of green pea. Since most Indian s are vegan due to their religion such as the Jains and Hindus, many Diwali dishes are meatless. Families and friends can enjoy palak saag paneer, tofus in a rich spinach and curry has the traditional spices such as garam masala but also maple syrup for a hint of sweetness and coconut milk. It does have chili powder for heat, perfect for warding off the Northern Hemisphere's autumnal chill. Wives may make a roasted cauliflower with  a mahkala sauce, a rich mélange of onions ,tomatoes and coconut milk. It is served with warmed naan bread,

Sweets are one of the most important traditions of the five day celebration. Special ones are made for husbands and wives along with brothers and sisters. Visitors are always treated to trays of homemade goodiestoo along with special presents..One of the most popular is rasgulla, cheese curd or paneer balls cooked in a sugar syrup. It is also the most traditional and is usually served for the length of the festival.There is also the fried paal vadai, a fried sweetened dal or bean paste.It is then soaked in a jiggery sugar and cardamom syrup. Families may enjoy a fried  naan bread pudding dish called ka meeta that's studded with raisins and almonds or cashews.A delicious dish is papaya burfi, a kind of papaya meets applesauce, which is a perfect sweet after the main dishes' spiciness.. Kids probably munch on sugayan, a kind of fried stuffed dough nut filled with green moong dal and jiggery sugar. Trays of  kaju katli, a buttery cashew paste that's a kind of halvah and cut into decorative diamond shapes (these could actually be made for Christmas too, ) are put out for all to enjoy. Coffee and tea are also put out to sip while enjoying a visit or meal.

Diwali is a true festival of food and fun. The flavors run from fiery to sweet., but all are enjoyable. They are as fun as sparkling as the celebrations themselves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Times Thanksgiving Issue

One of the best gifts a cook can receive right now is the New York Times Food section Thanksgiving issue.It has hints, suggestions and recipes for how to have any kind of holiday from turkey centric to total full on vegan. This is a keeper issue, because it has everything to create a good dinner that can be carried from Thanksgiving to the winter holidays.

Everyone has weighed on these pages, from Sam Sifton to Julia Moskin to Melissa Clark with an input about what to drink from the Times wine expert , Eric Asimov.One of the most important articles is the shopping list.Of course home chefs will buy the obvious, the turkey and sweet potatoes, but also butter for pie crusts and rolls along with stock and fresh herbs. There should be also sweets like maple syrup and brown sugar along with  - surprisingly-  sorbet for vegans and as a palate cleanser on the turkey day shopping list .There are also suggestions such as making the stock because t's vital not just in making gravy but also in deglazing pans.Another strong recommendation is cooking ahead of time so there is not a lot of prep time the day of. Of course the last recommendation is dessert. Try baking a few days before, and branch out to include cakes , ice cream mousses and flans to name a few. However if you get a late start , no big deal. They suggest cut up or spatchcock the turkey  so you can have room to roast veggies too. Make the gravy from pan dripping and outsource the pie to the guests.

Vegans are also addressed in this issue. after all they can be the roadblock to having a good Thanksgiving.If you're not serving a turkey , you should be serving something big and attention getting. The issue recommends two large beets or better yet a roasted cauliflower or a platter of stuffed squash.There is a recipe for the last and it combines traditional  Thanksgiving flavors such as cranberries and the sharp surprise of blue cheese. Kale and whole grain bread croutons round out the stuffing . Pecans are added for protein and maple syrup for flavor. A perfect side with this is the wild mushrooms and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts in a kind of hot salad.There's also a mushroom make ahead gravy for those who want to dip their rolls into something.It is seasoned with soy sauce and the faux meaty flavor comes from Portobello mushrooms. Home chefs could also make the rosemary roasted winter squash casserole/It's even an easy bake for inexperienced chefs or novices too.The issue also  recommends stick with your level of expertise. Don't try anything too complicated or over reaching. stick to your comfort zone and run with it.

Please keep or print out the Times Food Thanksgiving issue, This is a great read that can help in creating a memorable Thanksgiving. It is a keeper issue that home chefs can use through out the holiday season.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Know Your Roots

This is the season that root vegies  reign. They are a big part of the holiday menu, especially at Thanksgiving. However many home chefs don't know what to do with them, whether to roast or cream them or try them au gratin. Luckily, root vegetables are versatile for a wide variety of dishes.

What are root vegetables? It's pretty self explanatory, they're the edible roots, usually grown completely below ground. Some like radishes  and turnips have both edible bottoms and tops. The ones that we eat  the most during the colder weather are turnips, parsnips and carrots along with sweet potatoes and yams. A lot of people turn their noses up at the first two. Turnips have always received a bad rap probably because of their bitter flavor. The greens also have the same acrid taste however they're usually cooked with bacon fat to temper the taste. Turnips shouldn't be ignored though, because they're high in Vitamin C - important during the cold and flu season.Try the Scottish dish clapshot, a mix of mashed turnips and potatoes. Carrots are also added  for color.It's a  rich , creamy side thanks to the addition of whole cream and butter.For a less caloric dish  try them roasted. Parsnips are a milder version of turnips. Fry them in butter for a quick side or as a mash with carrots for a colorful spin on mashed veggies. The leftovers can be turned into parsnip puffs, by molding them into balls, then dipping them  in beaten egg first then in crumbs. Fry in olive oil for a crispy fun side or snack.

Sweet potatoes and yams are the stars of the holiday table. Many think they're one in the same however that's far from the truth. Yams are monocot, having one embryonic seed leaf while yams have two.The first is closely related to lilies and grasses while the other is a member of  the morning glory family.The confusion came about when soft sweet potatoes had to be distinguished from the hard ones and were renamed yams. One of the best ways to serve sweet potatoes is roasting them. This methods allows their earthy sweet taste to shine through. Add a sprinkling of sea salt and a pat of butter to them and that's it. You're done. If you want to jazz it up a bit serve it with maple butter, a blend of the syrup with softened butter or even margarine.Yams can be both a side and a dessert. A lot of traditionalists will probably make that uber sugary dish candied yams - which is fine if you want to smother their taste.A better idea is baked yams drizzled with melted butter and dusted with cinnamon or nutmeg.They can also be made into an African style stew as a side or even as a main dish for a tree trimming or Kwanza party. You can also use them in pies and even cupcakes for fun holiday treat.

Root vegetables are important part of holiday cooking. They add color and flavor to a harvest and holiday table. Get acquainted with them and enjoy their earthy flavors and versatility.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Your Pie Your Way

Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away followed by one of the busiest baking seasons of the year. One standard , pie is expected at Thanksgiving with maybe one or two gracing a holiday party buffet..Most home bakers panic at baking one. It's sometimes isn't an easy sweet to make.Not to worry.Pick a pie that suits your expertise and run with it.

Beginner bakers - or those who don't have the time  to go through the whole ordeal of making and rolling out dough can use a pre made pie shell. Keebler and Nabisco both have their own, Keebler has a graham cracker crust one while Nabisco offers an Oreo crumb crust. Both can be used in making simple as  - well - pie  cream pies, using instant pudding as  filling. A vanilla pudding pie , topped with a simple whipped cream is a nice refreshing dessert.Another idea is a butterscotch pie , made with instant pudding is simple  enough for even a tween to make. Jello now has a pumpkin spice pudding that can easily be made into a pie..The Oreo crust almost begs for a wild filling. Try it filled with Hershey's brand dark chocolate or milk chocolate pudding. You can add a few drops of mint flavoring to the dark chocolate for a take on grasshopper pie.A more elegant dessert is a white chocolate pie, topped with either raspberries or cherries. These pudding pies are a snap to make.It's just preparing the pudding with less milk than needed and then poured into the shell. Setting time is only two or three hours . You could even whip up a few for a big holiday get together  or Sunday football party.

Crust pies are a little more labor intensive. If you're still unsure about your baking skills then buy ready  made pie dough. More or less it tastes like the homemade kind.If you do decide to make your own keep a few things in mind. Lard makes for the best rust, giving it a light and flaky texture.This is the crust you use for fruit pies,because the layers absorb the fruits' liquids without becoming soggy.. Cream or custard pies need a crust that has a mealy or granulated  texture.Use butter for this.,Remember that whatever fats used, they have to be  to be super cold for it to blend well with the flour. Most home bakers want to make apple or pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Both have relatively complicated fillings. With the first it's all about what type of apples makes the best filling.Look for the Northern spy, the Esopus Spitzenberg or the Pink Lady. Don't go apple hunting  in your local grocery These apples can be found on farms or farmer's markets.  As for pumpkin pie. if you're truly adventurous , you can make it from your Halloween pumpkin . Intermediate bakers should stick with the canned. It makes for a creamier filling with a  firmer texture. You can also moderate the spices put in, adding more nutmeg or cinnamon as you see fit.

It's pie season.Luckily you don't have to stress about it. Make a pie that suits your'll result in an excellently made dessert that everyone will rave over.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Puffed With Yummy Goodness

If you want fun eating then make any kind of popover. These are a quick bake and taste delicious with anything sweet or savory. Best of all even the most novice of home chefs can whip them up without any trouble. Making a batch is as easy as gobbling them down.

Popovers are the American cousins to Yorkshire pudding. it was settlers from Maine who brought it over and changed the recipe somewhat.A bit of garlic was added to the batter  along with herbs and, of course the drippings from the roast beef. These were also made with pork drippings, a slight variation from the Yorkshire recipe. The modern popover has a buttery taste thanks to just the basic's just eggs , flour milk and salt. If you are making a roast beef, then by all means use the dripping to flavor the puffs - although to be honest the first thing everyone will do is ladle copious amounts of gravy over them. Their parent , Yorkshire pudding is another easy bake and so delicious with a good roast.The recipe began in the 1730's when wheat flour became more widely available . Cooks began to use drippings from beef and mutton for extra taste and moisture. These were called dripping puddings and were in English cuisine for centuries before. This variation was taken from a recipe originating in Burgundy France. Yorkshire pudding has more eggs than popovers along with a tablespoon or two of meat drippings for ruchness

Popovers came come in bigger ,single servings. Melissa Clark wrote about one, a Dutch baby or Dutch  puff in her A Good Appetite column in last Wednesday's New York Times Food section. The dish is usually meant to be a sweet one, served with lemon and powdered sugar as a breakfast dish. She takes it to another level by creating a savory one thanks to the addition of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (you could use Gruyere) along with fresh thyme.. Twisting the recipe this way makes it somewhat similar to the French gougere, the savory cheese puff made with cheese. These are a little more complicated to whip up , thanks to the complexities of the batter. If you're a novice home chef then the Dutch baby is for you.The simple puff pancake was  derived from the German pfannkuchen, and were renamed by one of the owners at Manca's Café in Portland Oregon in 1942. Another name is David Eyre pancake named after the famed New York Times food writer. It' a baked pancake that  included for color and better texture too.You can also make a plain one, simply laced with nutmeg or cinnamon. it has to be eaten straight from the oven , usually with maple syrup or powdered sugar and lemon.

If you want fun make popovers for a nice treat at breakfast, dinner or dessert. If you're selfish, then make a puffy , airy Dutch baby. Any kind is  just a golden cloud of deliciousness.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Big Acme Takeover

If you're living in the New York City metro area you may have noticed two things.One there are no more A&Ps and two, they've been replaced by Acmes. For those who loved the Great Atlantic and Pacific tea Company, this is devastating . Generations of New Yorkers and New Jerseyians, especially have shopped at the A&P. Now what? Will those loyal shoppers be disappointed with the change? Can the A& P come back?
The answer to the last question is no. The company went bankrupt and 100 stores up and down the Atlantic Seaboard closed overnight. Maryland workers were especially hard hit with 1,500 workers axed.There were problems with unions and wage freezes. In the end no one won. Most of the Northern and Central New Jersey ones shut down, without any notice . Fans will miss the high quality meats along with the variety of national and local products. The store was famous for their delicious roasters  with sides  along with their barbecue basted be ef ribs and fried chicken. Sadly though , my local one was not good at hiring, and they often employed the dregs of society.Shoppers were met with laziness and sarcasm which was a turn off. I headed over to Stop & Shop for not only a wide variety of foods and freshly cooked meals but for the warm, caring attitudes of their workers.I avoided the A&P at all costs, driving the extra mile to get better customer care.

Luckily Acme came in and with better pricing and better customer care. The store itself goes back to 1891 to two good friends, Samuel Robinson and Robert Crawford  deciding to start a local grocery in south Philadelphia.It's now owned by AB Acquisitions LLC however it has kept that homey neighborhood feel. I like my town's Acme. There prices are so good, shoppers' don't need  to whip out those annoying club cards  to get  discounts. The store has plenty of buy one, get one free specials and they have all the national brands.Unfortunately, they have few generic products. These are mostly household and baby goods such as dryer sheets and shampoo. Their baked goods are better than any bakery's, especially their baguettes and cookies..Acme's roast chicken was excellent, moist meat under a flavorful skin. I also liked their steakhouse potato salad, with its 'shreds of cheddar and steak bits.Best of all I like their workers' attitudes. No snottiness. No sarcasm. Just patient cashiers who are willing to go the extra mile , especially for one shopper who left her wallet at home (my bad).

There is always some sadness when a beloved store closes. There are memories of getting ready for big birthday and holiday feasts, of planning barbecues and tail gate parties. Yet  a new store comes with the gift  of making new memories and trying delicious foods. Long live Acme!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Religious Whey

Truly good goat cheese is usually a European product. Mostly the French have mastered it, creating a silken textured fromage that just melts on the tongue. However there is competition coming from America's heartland, A  simply made cheese is winning prizes and palates.It comes from a devout Mennonite couple who may live sparsely but produce luxurious wedges.

Regular contributor, Kim Severson wrote about Veronica and Steve Baetje in yesterday's New York Times Food section yesterday. Mrs Baetje is a bit unusual in these cynical and questioning times, she had made a pact with God.If He could make her business successful, she would talk about Him as much as she could, even putting Bible quotes on their labels..It paid off. Their chevre or goat cheese has beat out 2,600 competitors to earn a top ranking at the World Cheese Awards. However it could also be a gentle and strident way of handling the curds and whey too,.Goat's milk  is more delicate than cow's milk, and it's' filled with tiny fragile fat globules. slosh it around for too long and the protein breaks down, Get rough with it and the curds are ruined and won't hold the cheese's most crucial ingredient moisture..Mrs. Baetje knows this and handles it with the utmost care.Yes there is Divine Intervention, but there's also inborn talent  at work  here too.

The extra care has paid off.Their cheese is becoming more and more popular. Much of it gets sold at farmers markets and by chef's around the Saint Louis vicinity.It can also be had at local whole Foods along with some Manhattan cheese shops.If you aren't near any of those, the Baetjes do have a website that sells their many flavors. Mrs. Baetje sells about 750 (!) pounds a week. The cheeses does have appeal. She lovingly hand shapes them into hearts and flavored with herbs along with the surprise  one of pumpkin. There are also other variations such as Amoureux, a nutty aged cheese with a vein of ash. She tinkers constantly with the cheeses. There is also a Couer de la crème with cranberry and orange, perfect for a holiday brunch. Get their three pepper one for a party cheese board for something different. A great gift to any foodie is their marinated feta which is soaked with good Greek olive oil , herbs and decorated with a sun dried tomato.Cheese affectionados   would love receiving their Miette, a sweet creamy cheese perfect for those holiday loaves.

Veronica and Steve Baetje believe that God has given success in their cheese business. Yet, their talent is also responsible for making excellent fromage de chevres. They are heavenly cheeses made with an earth bound love and determination.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The New And Improved Apple

Can the most basic of all fruits - the apple - be improved upon? Is it possible to have an even crisper , crunchier bite and more juice. The answer is yes, Like the Apple computer products , there is going to be a new and better generation of America's favorite snack. The fruit world is about to be rocked by apple 3.0.

New apple breeds were the main article in today's New York Times Food section. David Kapp wrote about the new breeds that are going to shake up the American palate Scientists in Washington State, are doing wonders with hybridization (and take note, not genetically modified). The newest is the Honeycrisp, created at the University of Minnesota in 1991 and is the gold standard for three of the most important traits:crispness, juiciness and upscale pricing. Ironically it all short with the first characteristic, being very soft and dissolving quickly in the mouth .It also has an inconsistent flavor and fades during a long storage>It is also very difficult to grow, making it a hindrance to apple growers.Its scion , the Cosmic Crisp, which is also bred with the enterprise breed of apple is firmer but not impossible to bite into. It's also much easier to manage and pack up for transportation.Its' firmness os a selling point because it helps it  keep longer . This makes it perfect for selling during any time of year from fall to the spring.Acidity is another vital quality.Kinds such as Red Delicious, Gala and Fuji have low acidity  and drops when stored. This leaves for a flat taste, not a good selling point A highly acidic apple  tastes as good three months after it's been picked from the tree.

How are these super apples made? Analysis of what works and then the painstaking process of traditional pollination between different sorts of apple trees. There is then a five year wait before the hybrid bears fruit. Unlike other produce that have been genetically modified , old breeds are analyzed  through recently developed DNA tests to select genes connected to  crisp texture, acidity and fructose. This helps weed out unpromising seedlings as well as choosing parents with the best traits. Many breeders around the world ( surprisingly Switzerland ,Belgium and the Czech Republic are also big apple producers) have been trying to develop the perfect apple, one with sweet red flesh, pigmented like the skin outside and rich with antioxidants.An apple with a ruby flesh would be different and appeal to foodies dying for the next big trend.Red fleshed apples are not new, They've been growing in Asia for millennia  however these are the super tart, being more genetically connected to a crabapple.  The next few years should prove to be interesting , with new breeds like the Sweetango and the Juici. coming to grocery stores in 2017.

There will always be clamor when a new apple drops. With new breeds of the original one, there's going to be more excitement.Nothing beats one with a crunch and super rich flavor.,

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Perfect Sushi Cookbook

Ask people if they want to go out for sushi, the response is an enthusiastic "Yes!". Ask them if they want to come over for homemade and they'll look at you like = well-you;ve grown fins. Yet making your favorite California roll or sashimi is easy to do. There's a new cookbook out there to help you navigate through the various types and techniques.

Sushi chef and Rising Star chef of 2013 Robby Cook and Jeffrey Elliot , author of the book Zwilling Ja Henckels Complete Book of Knife Skills have collaborated to create The Complete Guide To Sushi andSashimi(Robert Rose Publishers 2015). This is the perfect book for sushi lovers who want to make this Japanese standard at home. The book is an extensive guide , giving readers the history of the dish (from the Third Century BCE) to how to sharpen knives.The cookbook has  a picture by picture how to of every assembly and decorating technique needed to create the perfect platter.There are detailed guides to ingredients too. Both Chef Cook and Chef Elliot also include pages on the equipment from the rolling mats to the rice cooker. They also include pictures of the necessary tamago pan which is used to making those large  square omelets used in sushi and the pressed sushi boxes or Oshizushihako. Another plus is the chapter on how to create a photogenic sushi plate for guests.

I like this book because it shows home chefs exactly what fish to use and how to filet them. Many of the pieces are very elaborate with some having as many as nineteen steps.There is a very detailed section on deboning with removing the fish' pin bones or vertebrae. Home chefs will appreciate  the elaborate guide on removing a fillet's skin while. tempura lovers will appreciate the how to prepare shrimp for this tasty dish.Both chefs also include how tos on shucking crabs and oysters. Sushi 't just eel and  tuna wrapped in rice and nori- dried seaweed. There are hand shaped sushi or nigiri, which are small bite sized balls along with scattered style sushi, the perfect dish for neophytes.It's just cubed raw fish scattered over a bowl of sushi (or white rice)There is a vegan version that features shredded omelets along with shiitake  mushroom caps and tofu. for the more advanced  there's the rococo like decorative square roll or shikaimaki. For a fun spin try the shiso ginger stuffed sushi which can be taken on picnics. It's stuffed with ginger and green onion pieces.

Sushi lovers should definitely buy  The Complete Guide To Sushi and's the perfect guide for recreating those yummy sushi bar morsels. They'll be able to make beloved rolls at home for themselves and for friends.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Season Favorite Chestnuts

Today is All Soul's Day a time to remember the saints and souls we have lost. It's celebrated in the simple  celebration of eating chestnuts. he holy day also opens up to chestnut season. What is great about chestnuts is their nutritional value and versatility.

Chestnuts have been around for millennia, having come from the East and into Europe.  Alexander The Great and the Roman emperors  ordered them to be planted. They were easy trees to grow along the rocky mountainous areas bordering the Mediterranean, and were ground into cereals and flours, often substituting grain. Early Christians used them as the symbol for was considered food for the poor for many centuries , however roasted chestnuts were eaten for All Soul's day as well as Saint Martin's  day in Portugal and Saint Stephen's Day in Italy. The nuts are widely popular in Asia . They are a big part of Japan's New Year's Day dinner, because they symbolize mastery and strength..The  British brought them over to India where they reign supreme in the Himalayas. The indigenous American tribes were eating chestnuts for decades, long before the Europeans came over. We almost lost all chestnut tress in 1904 thanks to   chestnut blight, a fungal disease that came from Asian chestnuts. Sicily is the largest importer of them,having exported them to the States for the last sixty years.Sicilian chestnuts are one of the best species. Chestnuts are primarily carbohydrates with some sucroses or sugars. In some areas of Europe, they're call bread fruit because they can be ground into flour for loaves.

What can be done with chestnuts? A lot. One of my favorites is just roasting them over the stove and eating them straight from the shell. This is the best way to enjoy their sweet, almost milky lingering taste.Many Americans make chestnut stuffing to go with their holiday turkeys.It does work in it, giving a usually mushy texture some meaty crunch.      Chestnuts can often open a meal in either soup or salad.A cream of chestnut soup is  the perfect foil for a chill Saturday night.A chestnut madeira soup would be a great way to open a Thanksgiving dinner.Add some quartered roasted ones to any salad to give it some oomph. For a different spin on a Northern Italian classic, try making chestnut gnocchi.  It       does have the dish's traditional potato in it for body along with bread is served with a burnt butter sauce, rich with garlic and parsley.The nuts can also go into a risotto,too.The   French and the Italians candy them into marron glace which would be perfect over vanilla ice cream, creating a sophisticated take on a sundae.. They can be turned into a chestnut mousse along with being a main ingredient in brownies.

All Soul's Day heralds in the start of the chestnut season. These are versatile nuts that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Try them to experience their meaty texture and sweet nutty taste.