Thursday, March 31, 2016

Masala Explained

Masala is a staple in Indian cooking.It is a blend of various spices that vary from region to region and family to family. Getting the right flavor can be tricky.However , with practice even American home chefs can create the perfect masala. Once made it can be added to anything from barbecue  to even mashed potatoes.

Kim Severson wrote about the classic flavoring in yesterday's New York Times Food section. She had help thanks to Raghavan Iyer who has written books and conducted demonstrations on how to cook food of the Subcontinent. She caught him as he was giving advice and lessons to the cafeteria cooks at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.Mr Iyer goes to various campuses , both academic and corporate to teach cooks and workers how to cook Indian food. it is popular now thanks to a large influx of Indian workers and students.It also makes a nice change from the usual cafeteria food does have to be made according to the original recipe due to cultural awareness. Teaching how to make any ethnic meal properly is valuable and important in respecting the various cultures that make up the country.Many cafeteria workers, like home chefs, have no idea what to do with the wide array of spices that are vital in Indian cuisine. Mr. Iyers demystifies that , explaining how one kind of spice can be prepared three different ways.

Masala is an easy prep, once home chefs get the hang of making it.The trickiest part, according to Mr. Iyer is getting the yellow split peas and spices called for the recipe.It requires fresh curry leaves which can easily be bought at Indian and international markets. They are not required but do add an anise like flavor to the mix.  Home chefs can customize the recipe to their tastes. The recipe given is sambhar masala from Southern India  and is Mr Iyer's mother-in-law's recipe. It is a melange of different seeds, from the common such as cumin, poppy, coriander and mustard to the exotic fenugreek. Curry leaves are added, and again, no sweat if they can;t be found.There are also Thai or cayenne chilis added for heat and cinnamon for sweetness. They have to be cooked with sesame oil until the split peas turn brown and the mustard seeds pop. Half the mixture is then put into a spice or coffee grinder.Grind until the texture is like that of finely ground pepper. It can be stored for up to two months,It is versatile. It can be made into a quick curry if it's added to shrimp and coconut milk or make grilled veggies more exotic. Mr. Iyers likes to add it and clarified butter or ghee to mashed potatoes.Home chefs can try it with anythig , from kebobs, to roasts for a true Indian flavor.

Home chefs will love cooking with masala once they deconstruct it. It's a spice mix that's rapidly gaining fans and favor  thanks to its' versatility.Make it and liven up any dish with its' smokey, sweet fieriness.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Caesar Revamped

Caesar salad is everyone's go to, whether at home or in a restaurant. It's more livelier than the usual iceberg one and can be turned into a dinner with just the addition of any protein. Is there room for change? Surprisingly yes.As with any dish, there's room for improvement .

Julia Moskin experimented and wrote about it in today's New York Times Food section, Her Food Lab column\gives not only new spins, namely the addition of the ever popular kale,  on this American classic but its' origins as well.It did have Romaine leaves but that was not the only recommended green thanks to its' creator, Italian American restaurateur, Caesar Cardini. She cites a 1947  report from the Times Los Angeles desk about the dish' growing popularity in southern California. The bureau chief of the Times then, Gladwin Hill wrote to the New York's branch's food editor Jane Nickerson about the basic ingredients. yes, there should be romaine but also endive and escarole. The salad needs hardy greens that can stand up to the rich, dense dressing. Don't sub in any of the more tender leafed ones such as Bibb or mesclun. They will absorb too much ad become soggy at best.Kale is your best bet but it should be mixed with other greens. Some leaves have a very bitter taste so it's best t mix them with romaine or the aforementioned escarole. Ms. Moskin also recommends using other types of kale such as dinosaur  or Tuscan kale along with the curly variety.

Preparing the salad may be a more labor intensive than the usual  every day salads.Chef Brian Loicano ,of Manhattan's  Noho's Acme Restaurant suggests washing them the night before using a ice water bath . He then lays each leaf on a towel line tray the night before. However this is easy if you have a restaurant's mammoth size fridges so Ms. Moskin tells readers to dry the leaves on tea towels, sandwiching them between two bags of ice. As  for the dressing The dressing  recipe is more or less the same as the original - garlic, Parmesan, lemon and Worcester sauce. Ms Moskin throws in black pepper and mustard for more flavor and emulsification. The proportions can be adjusted to suit the home chef's tastes.keep in mind how it should taste. There should be layers of heat, starting with the Dijon mustard , then the raw  garlic and finally with the freshly ground pepper.It should meld well with the creamier ingredients  Everything together gives the finished dish that unami, the fifth flavor thanks to the Parmesan and Worcester. As with guacamole and steak tartare, it should be made fresh table side for more of an impact, although it can be made before hand and served up two hours after making. It's up to the home chef to go modern and add any kind of meat poultry or seafood.

Caesar salad is a classic  but it can be modernized. Try it with kale for a different taste and texture. It'll liven up lunch or dinner with a new unique taste.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A New Yummy Treat From Setton Farms

A perfect treat for Spring picnics and outings is the new Pistachio Berry Blend from Setton Farms,It's a nice blend of nuts , cranberries, cherries and white  chocolate. Best of all it's comes in a pouch that can be dropped in any picnic basket or tote bag. Bring it anywhere for a yummy quick bite.

Setton Farms is really the king of all things pistachio. It's the largest pistachio producer in the US, located in Terra Bella in south central California. The company is known for growing the nuts on ten thousand acres as well as processing them too. They offer plain as well as flavored ones in such flavors  as garlic onion,jalapeno chili and salt and pepper.They also have dark chocolate covered ones and one of my favorite snacks: pistachio bites. The last are tasty little bites made of the nuts and dried cranberries held together with agave. They're a favorite nibble, all natural and tasty, a rare blend to be sure,.Setton Farms is also known for producing dried fruit such as  pears and pineapples as well You can also buy almonds and walnuts too from them. The company is combining the almonds with the pistachios in a new gorp like mix  that also features cashews,dried cranberries,dried cherries and white chocolate chips. This is a first for them because they haven't used the last ingredients yet in any products.

The mix is a fun one , salty and sweet , depending upon how it is eaten.Each pouch is about five servings so they're a fun snack to share at  soccer games or beach parties.What is great  is that Setton Farms is thinking outside the box with the use of the cherries and white chocolate. Many other companies wouldn't put in those bold flavors. They're a nice foil to the mildness of the other ingredients. The mix is great on its' own but it can be added to oatmeal for a kicky breakfast. It can also be a great boost added to muffin or even oatmeal cookie batter. Toss it into freshly popped popcorn for a new snack treat. Home chefs could even make their own chews by combining the trail mix with melted dark or white chocolate. Each serving is only twenty-eight calories with only fourteen fat calories, There''s hardly any cholesterol or carbohydrates in it so it is an ideal snack as well as ingredient to any dish. Another plus is that it comes in a resealable pouch so the snack always remains fresh,

Setton Farms new pistachio berry blend is a great snack , full of flavor and low on calories. Pick up a pouch and savor the sweet salty taste of nuts, fruits and white chocolate.It's a fun nibble that'
s actually good for you.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Meals To Go - In A Jar?

A hearty and healthy meal on the go is a a rarity, However it doesn't have to be - thanks to Mason Jars. Mason Jars??? Yes, there is an interesting new cookbook that has all sorts of recipes that involves using these classic containers to make meals. They're great for office and school lunches as well as for picnics.

Tanya Linton, a lifestyle writer and television wrote  150 Best Meals In A Jar.(Robert Rose Press) thanks to her passion for making them. It's an innovative idea because  Mason jars make great containers. Mostly crafty gift givers use them at Christmas to fill with ingredients for soup, cookies and/or hot cocoa. Yet they can be used for so much more and  don't come with any of the health concerns of plastic containers. She includes a thorough explanation of how to scrupulously cook foods and prep produce  because even the slightest  mistake can cause food poisoning, There is even a guide for layering ingredients for both Mason jar salads and Mason jar meals. She also recommends subbing in one ingredient if you don't have the one needed. The book is divided into different sections. There is the breakfast one, a huge one devoted to all sorts of salads from veggie to surf and turf., along with one for dressings .Ms. Linton also includes the trendy rice bowls along with hearty meals and finishes up with desserts.It's a nice variety for those wanting to go from simple salads to more complicated dishes.

Home chefs will love the variety of different recipes. There are the breakfast ones that include an overnight oatmeal one that  will "cook" the grain along with a trail mix and a chocolate ricotta spread. There are some great soup recipes such as the fun pizza soup which has all the pie ingredients plus chicken broth.. There's also chicken soup n the jar, the perfect gift for a sick friend.Ms. Linton's specialty is salads and she shines in all the recipes she gives for them. There are ones that features just veggies such as kale and quinoa salad with a citrus dressing  and the triple berry spinach salad with lemon poppy seed dressing.  The meat ones feature the famed Cobb  salad with  homemade ranch dressing and the classic salad Nicoise, complete with tuna, olives and hard boiled eggs. The salads and dressings are separate so home chefs can mix and match them.I love the rice bowl and layered meal Mason jar recipes. These are full dinners in a jar.Home chefs can make a layered turkey dinner or lasagna, There is the polenta Bolognese and a shepherd's pie with lamb. The rice bowls feature a tasty Santa Fe style complete with avocado , black beans and hot sauce and fried egg rice bowl , a tribute to the Korean dish bibimbap. Finish with a jarred dessert of banana s'mores or brownies smothered in chocolates and the raspberry soaked pretty macaroon pavlova.

150 Best Meals In A Jar is a great cookbook for home chefs who want to make hearty and tasty meals on the go. It shows how to take the humble Mason Jar and turn it into a container for a salad, lasagna or even a sweet treat. It's fun and innovative way to cook.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Monday Picnics

The Easter weekend is a great time to get together with family and friends.There's church  services, egg hunts, fun dinners and wonderful desserts. Europeans extend the holiday to Monday where it'sa time to enjoy family and friends on the first outing of the season.

If you and your family or friends are lucky to have Monday off, then take advantage of the weather. Even if it's a rainy or snowy day, have a lunch together with the leftovers from Easter Sunday. Nothing beats ham sandwiches and they can either be thick slices of it , carved from the holiday roast or made into deviled ham. This last is easy . Take about two cups of coarsely chopped ham, along with  about three tablespoons of mayo and put into a food processor. Pulse until smooth You can add Dijon  mustard or celery seeds for some kick. Some add a drop of maple syrup for sweetness but it's really not necessary . Homemade deviled ham tastes best on a crunchy baguette. but can also be good on whole wheat bread too. Use up any potato salad leftover that went with the ham and throw in some pickles or gherkins,If you've had a snowy or rainy holiday, then use the holiday ham to make a hot and satisfying hot pea soup. The ham bone will definitely add to the flavor

Any extra hard boiled eggs can be made into a tasty egg salad. Add some tarragon for more flavor and color.. You could also just bring the eggs and then peel and salt them when you're hungry. If you didn't cook for Easter , then think about buying an already roasted chicken . It can be sliced and eaten as or made into sandwiches. Buy some potato or macaroni salad too for a more substantial lunch. An Easter Monday picnic is also a good time to sneak some fruit into the diet after a weekend of candy and cake. A nice apple or pear  along with grapes is a refreshing change from all those jelly beans and Peeps. You can also bring granola or Kind bars if you're planning on hiking or playing ball.

Extend the holiday weekend if you can. Turn Easter Monday into a picnic day, full of fun and food. Spend it with friends and family

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Good Deeds

It is Good Friday,one of the most solemn and reflective days of the Christian calendar. It is the ay when most, especially the Catholics give up meat. It should also be the day we give up some of our other foods, donating them to the poor and needy.

If you have any cans or even just want to buy some for your local soup kitchen please do so. charity doesn't just apply to the other holidays . It also applies to this weekend as well. Share cupcakes or cake if you're baking or even an Easter bread. Spend the day with the homeless.It's a great lesson for the kids. If they received a ton of candy from relatives as well as the Easter Bunny , himself, then have them share the overage with kids form the shelter.Learning to share is a great gift and they may even make new friends along the way.

This is a day for reflection and prayer. Reflect on how good and abundant your life is. Pray for those who are not so fortunate  and then share your Easter bounty with them.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Good Dish For Good Friday

Tomorrow is Good Friday,a day when most Christians, especially Catholics, forego meat.It's a day usually spent visiting churches and then settling down to pasta or fish for lunch and dinner. Most settle for fish and chips.It's usually a greasy messy affair  however there is a way to get around it..Baking .

Melissa Clark wrote about this as well as experimented with it in her A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. This British classic is tasty yet loaded with grease. Traditionally both the fish and the potatoes are fried in deep fat . This does lead to a crunchy batter for the fish and a golden fry, however every bite is loaded with grease. It's not only bad for digestion ,it' can be to much. Home chefs want a balance of crunchy and flavorful. Ms. Clark has found that this comes in baking. It eliminates the need for a sometimes dangerous deep fryer along with making the dish relatively healthy.The end result is more or less the same, but without that greasy coating on the tongue and an equally greasy aftertaste. Another plus is that its not a heavy batter but a coating of light, panko breadcrumbs. As for the fish cod is the most traditional, Ms Clark also recommends hake too or any white fish. As for the potatoes russets work well here. These are the brown Idaho  potatoes also used for baking and will give a mealy, substantial chip.The dish can be served with malt vinegar or a homemade tartar sauce.

The first step in making fish and chips is prepping the fish. The oven should be first preheated to 500 degrees Farenheit  and two pans, one for the hake or cod and a second for the potatoes should be placed inside. Then it's browning the breadcrumbs  in olive oil, thyme and garlic first because the crumbs don't brown in the oven. Afterwards dredge the fish fillets  in plain flour , then a mix of eggs and Dijon mustard before getting a final coating of breadcrumbs.Make sure each piece is well coated before baking.This process can be done up to four hours before cooking if you want to do it earlier in the day.Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch sticks to ensure that they'll be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They should be tossed in oil along with salt and pepper.Olive oil is the preferred oil to use here.Spread both the fish and chips on the two preheated baking pans and reduce the temperature to 425 degrees Farenheit The fish should be flaky and tender when done while the chips should be  a golden brown. Serve with a homemade tartar sauce as Ms. Clark recommends but you can also go traditional and serve with a malt vinegar or just ketchup.

Fish and chips are an appropriate Good Friday meal. It's a healthier spin on the traditional recipe while sticking to religious traditions. People can enjoy a tasty good for you lunch or dinner while observing the holy day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It Starts With Starter

The best tasting bread starts with a bubbly piece of bacteria. Sourdough is nothing without starter yet it's hard to come by. Home bakers  have to inherited it from a family or friend - or so it was thought. The truth is anyone can make their own sourdough starter. The surprise  - is isn't just for the bread either.Almost any baked good can have it as a vital ingredient.

Sam Sifton explored and experimented with this wonderful  bunch of fermentation in today's New York Times Food section. The idea of using a starter is not new. It's how all home bakers baked bread even as late as a century ago . Many think it's the bread itself, but sourdough actually refers to the process.Most people usually "inherit"it , either from a friend or relative who inherited it from one of their friends or relatives.Some starters go back to the late Forties. However now it can be bought , from farmer's markets to etsy.,the online flea market where people can buy anything homemade. What home bakers do need to know is that a starter is a living being and it should be treated as such As Mr. Sifton suggests think of it as a pet turtle, It needs to be tended to regularly .It needs to be fed , sometimes every  two to three hours,if it;s to be used frequently. If it's in the fridge and not being used. then it needs to be tended to every week. Starter also has to be taken out too when fed, usually for one to two hours .An equal mix of water and flour is what keeps the starter alive.

For those home bakers who want to get started with starter, the best bet is acquiring it from someone..  Besides etsy and farmer's markets , it can be bought from Cultures For Health and King Arthur's Flour websites. However starter can be made at home too.It can be as simple as flour and water mixed together , then  letting it sit in a covered bowl at room temperature until it bubbles and blooms. The process can be sped up with the addition of grapes as baker Nancy Silverson advised years ago on Julia  Child show or with a few ounces of unsweetened  pineapple juice according to Peter Reinhart, author of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." It then has to be fed.. Many obsessive bakers feed theirs daily and even use them daily (along with naming them, William Butler Yeast, Roxanne, and Sky pilot to name a few. Mr. Sifton doesn't believe in naming his livestock as he puts it).The good part about starter is that it can be used for other baked goods. Use it before feeding to make an overnight sponge to be used for pancakes nd waffles.It's also good for pizza crust, giving it depth as pizzeria owner , Anthony Falco's of Roberta's in Brooklyn can attest.It can also be used for rye bread too.

If home baker's are up to the challenge of "owning " starter then they should. It does need tender loving care but it does pay off.There's not only crusty, tasty bread but waffles , pancakes and even sourdough pizza!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Vive Le Cuisine Belgique!!

Belgian cuisine is as diverse as the country itself, influencing the world with their  chocolates,frites and waffles. There are also influences from neighboring countries of France, Holland and Germany, but reworked to a distinctly Belgian taste. It is a cuisine of the sea and the land, perfectly married together.

Belgium was one of the first ":manufactured" countries, having been established in 1830. The original people, the Belgae were a Celtic-Germanic mix of people.Through centuries and the French Revolution the country either belonged to France or The Netherlands.It  finally came into its own during the Belgian Revolution of 1830 when the  French  nationals of the country's southern region overthrew the despotic rule of the Dutch king William I. The Dutch influence is still felt in some of the cuisine, especially the seafood.Mussels or moules are huge  throughout the country and feature largely in stateside Belgian restaurants , especially in the Manhattan ones. A pot of steamed mussels in white wine,or moules Marniere  is a treat.It is a savory and briny blend of plump mussels steamed in white wine, garlic, tarragon and parsley. Some chefs add cream to it for more lushness. Eels are also popular  as they are served in an herbal green sauce, rich with spinach and parsley, tarragon and dill . Mint and sage are also added for more flavor along with an onion. A truly hearty dish is carbonade flamande,a take on the famed French dish, boeuf Bourguignon. It  loaded with beef and onions along with beer and mustard.Thyme and bay leaves are also added to it, and it's served with a crusty baguette.

Of course most of these dishes are served with the famed frites or fries, first made as early as 1760. This is where America gets its' fries from however there is a slight twist. Pomme frites are served with mayo along with other sauces that features tomatoes, garlic , peppers and pickles.. They are usually bought from friteries , stands or restaurants that feature them along with kebobs,carbonade flamade as well as meatballs , hamburgers and sausage.Many Belgian home chefs have fryers at home and make them fresh on a regular basis, using beef fat for the frying oil. This gives them a more meatier flavor. Waffles are another Belgian import, beloved around the world. The original recipe produces a lighter crisper version usually served with fresh whipped cream, strawberries and occasionally a dark chocolate sauce, Chocolate, too , has put the country squarely on the map of culinary contributors.It's been associated with the country since the 1630s when the country was under Spanish rule and raw cacao was being brought in from Mesoamerica. It was Belgian chocolatiers who gave us the praline, a chocolate dipped nougat and the fancy ballotin box.

Belgium cuisine has influenced the world. It's is an amazing blend of cuisines , and influences  melded together to  create a mouth watering array of savory and sweet . We have them to thank for our favorites, from our waffles to our fries to our chocolates.!

Stay strong Belgium, our hearts and thoughts are with you, toujours!


Monday, March 21, 2016

Your Easter Checklist

This is the week to go shopping for your  big holiday meal. It's a chance to decide what you'll have on Easter and what will work for your Easter Sunday brunch , lunch or dinner. Shop early  - you 'll appreciate it later on in a busy week.

As every home chef knows list making is crucial when planning any get together. Write down who's invited with a star or two next to people who have allergies or dietary restrictions. It'll make shopping easier. The second part is planning. Do you want a buffet brunch or a sit down dinner? If you're thinking about brunch, or you want to make a variety of  omelets or create a breakfast strata or casserole. Do you want to go  full out and include French toast or bunny pancakes for the kids?If that's the case  then you can start buying the  eggs  now. The bread can be bought the day before.If you're thinking about a sit down dinner then you can shop for  the ham or lamb now and freeze it. if Baked beans usually go with ham. This is the time to buy them  along with frozen dinner rolls and any canned veggies.It's also good to buy those aluminum roasting and baking pans too. It saves on washing after as well as expanding your arsenal of pans.. Grocery stores are also having pre Easter sales on Easter themed paper tablecloths and napkins.Snap these up too before they 're gone.

 Since Easter is a big baking holiday map out what you want to bake.If you're planning on making the classic Southern Italian wheat pie, then you're going to need wheat berries along with ricotta. The first is kind of hard to come by, You may have to go to a specialty grocery like whole Foods to buy them. If you're thinking about making a specialty cake, a rabbit , carrot or egg shaped one, then you will have to go to a store like Target or K-Mart for molds.Cakes for this holiday are usually plain chocolate or vanilla ones, with the occasional lemon or vanilla. What makes them special is the elaborate decoration. There's the question of homemade or canned icing. If you;re planning on homemade buttercream, then make sure you have enough butter sticks on hand. The same goes for cream cheese icing too Buy the sticks now and st\ash in the fridge. Home bakers can also do just as well with canned icing, Just make sure you have enough if you're making a large cake. Lamb and bunny cakes are the most popular ones at this time and they require a lot of flaked coconut to get that "fuzzy" look.Also make sure you have decorations like jelly beans, Peeps and chocolate eggs for cupcakes - and for after dinner nibbling too.

Now is the time to make the shopping lists and head to the store. Be prepared for all that cooking and baking. It'll make your Easter meal, whether , brunch ,lunch or dinner that much more easier.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Simply Ramen, Simply Good

Ramen soup sometimes get a bad rap. After all most people associate it with those brittle bricks of noodles with the flavor packet nestled inside.Yet it's so much more than that. Imagine fresh noodles in homemade broth along with the addition of meats and vegetables. Home chefs can, thanks to a new cookbook.

Simply Ramen (Race Point Publishers ) was written by Amy Kimoto-Kahn , a Yonsei or fourth generation of Japanese American (her great grandparents emigrated from Japan to the US). She gives us an entire cookbook dedicated to the soup which can be made not just for lunch and dinner but for breakfast too.Another plus comes at the end when she lists the best ramen houses in Tokyo too. Yet it's the recipes that bring good Japanese cooking into the home. There are other recipes too such as tamogoyaki, Japanese omelets,basic rice and a tasty cucumber salad with a seafood topping.. There's the surprise of a Korean potato salad  recipe along with pickled vegetables and beef and chicken croquettes topped with a funky ketchup- soy sauce mash up. What I like about the cookbook is the way that Ms. Kimoto-Kahn breaks the recipes down into sections, They're devoted to chicken, beef, pork and seafood as well as to veggies and spicy versions. there is also a section dedicated to the broths that make up the soup .It's shared with toppings (yes, ramen soup can have toppings) such as braised  pork, and marinated half cooked egg.

The book is a great how to for all those novice ramen makers.It is a labor intensive project that does require a pasta maker. however it's no difficult than making homemade spaghetti or linguine.The plus is that the noodles can be made in large batches and stored for future use. The dough is a mix of cake , bread and wheat flour along with a baked baking powder that can be easily made.Then there are the bases, Home chefs can choose from miso,  tonkotsu base,a blend of two soups, the soy rich shoyu base and the shio base. Chicken lovers can try the chicken meatball ramen made with nod to Ms. Kimoto- Kahn's husband's Jewish heritage of matzoh balls.There are lush recipes that involve Kobe beef and lobster along with new creations that feature crawfish and cheese. Vegetarians will love the all vegetables ones,from the nasubi  or simmered Japanese eggplant to the kabocha, Japanese winter squash served with tempura battered arugula.Pork and fish are also represented in such dishes as spicy pork tantanmen and furikake salmon. Home chefs can try the chilled ramen and cold broth for those hot summer days.

 Simply Ramen shows that ramen soup is not those bricks of tasteless noodles jazzed up with flavor packets. It's homemade noodles simmered in a homemade broth with toppings. Buy the book and start making your own tasty and fresh creations!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Clean Your Cooking

With Spring coming, its' time to start cleaning up our cooking routines. Warmer days mean lighter meals that feature more green than protein. Gone are the days of heavy sauces and stews,of crockpot dinners followed by heavy pies and cakes. Think airy , think Spring.

One of the reasons lamb is so popular for Easter and Passover is that it's a lighter meat. Of course, Spring is a the time of lambing when the young sheep are born. Yet the sweet tender flavor is a far cry from. the heavy beef and pork roasts that we've been eating all fall and winter. Consider serving leg of lamb for Easter. Make it Mediterranean style, studding it with garlic cloves or creating a garlic  lemon marinade ,using an entire head of garlic, along with  lemons , rosemary and parsley. You could also create a parsley pesto, made the same way as basil pesto to serve with it or with lamb chops. Capon is another great idea for a Spring get together. Sizewise  it's between a chicken and turkey and chicken and is primarily sold by butchers and not your local grocery. The flavor is less gamier than regular chicken which makes it a lighter tasting meat.Chicken, itself, is a great Spring dish, It's easier to prepare and cook , along with working well with seasonal veggies such as asparagus. This last will be seen all over supermarkets in the upcoming weeks. A favorite dish is  steamed asparagus , topped with melted  butter, or margarine and sliced hard boiled eggs. The stalks can be grilled too, with just a coating of olive oil and lemon.

Baking takes a lighter turn too. Gone are the heavy  buttercream rich cakes and fruit laden pies of colder days. Many home bakers turn to the airy and light angel food cake for a dessert treat.It's made primarily of egg whites along with almond and vanilla flavorings. Its' light airy texture is a perfect foil for the first berries of the season. Serve slices of the cake with strawberries and homemade whipped cream. As for the yolks, think zabaglione, the ethereal custard, made with them along with sugar and Marsala. You could also serve it with the cake.Another use for egg whites are meringues, the quintessential Passover dessert. They're a great treat for any holiday or Spring gathering. Many novice home bakers do have qualms about making them. Meringues can be temperamental depending upon the level of humidity.(try baking them on dry, sunny Spring days) They usually turn out OK if baked and cooled properly. The trick is leaving them in a cooling oven for entire hour  after baking. This will ensure they won't crack. 'A fun Easter dessert is lemon bars. This classic recipe is another easy bake.with a buttery crust and tart topping with a dusting of confectioner's sugar. It'sa fave with both kids and adults looking for a refreshing change from all that chocolate.

It's time to Spring clean your dishes. Think light and airy tastes and textures for the season again.Cook and bake dishes that reflect  sunny balmy days ahead.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Egg-Centric Spring Desserts

One of the allures of Spring baking is that it uses basic  ingredients to create ethereal desserts.Gone are the heavy caramel, chocolate or nut laden sweets of winter,Summer is yet to come with it;s' variety of fruits Home bakers must use what's in the cupboard and that means the basic like the egg. It's versatile . and can be used in a variety of different sweets.

Melissa Clark wrote about this kitchen must have in yesterday's New York Times Food section. as she puts it eggs can be whipped into a froth from a liquid.They can be soft and trembly or solidly set.They can also leaven a cake or lighten it up, enrich it or thicken custards. Pastry chef, Thomas Raquel of the famed Manhattan restaurant, Le Bernardin agrees.He uses them , all year round, after all they're crucial in mousses,ice creams and pastries, however it's Springtime that he lets them shine. as the main ingredient.His Spring dessert menu includes an elderflower mousse,a tres leches cake and  appropriately an egg shaped dome filled with goat's milk mousse.The season brings about a longing for lighter desserts that are more fragrant and cleaner on the palate.Adding eggs are also more beneficial to textures too. Beaten ones can add an airy feeling when eating mousses and custards. They also can sharpen other flavors by lessening the need for butter and cream. They don't coat the tongue with a layer of butterfat which can dull flavors.

The recipes given are perfect for any Easter or Spring meal as well as being appropriate .Eggs were a seasonal food  with hens slowing down  or stopping all together to lay eggs when winter came. spring came with lengthened days, signalling to the birds to start laying again. Nowadays hens can lay eggs all year round thanks to the ever glowing electric bulbs in their coops.  Yet Spring and eggs are now forever linked with Easter, Passover and the vernal equinox. They represent the rebirth of the earth and all things green.It's seen in Easter cakes and breads along with Passover 's egg leavened nut tortes. The recipes offered are eggy  and light, great for ending any holiday meal. There is chocolate pavlova with chocolate mousse. If you think this a a bit heavy, don't .The mousse is light  and airy, the cocoa just gives it somewhat of a punch, For a more custardy fare home bakers should try the Portuguese egg custard tarts, a lovely mix of a yolk rich cinnamon laced custard and buttery puff pastry (which can be bought). A great Easter dessert is the lemon angel food cake with the zing of preserved lemon curd. The sweetness is cut by the saltiness of the preserved lemon curd. This last was contributed by Samantha Kinkaid, of High On Hudson, a pastry chef known for infusing her meringues with dried carrots and beets.

Let the eggs star in this holiday season's baking line up. They will add a lightness and richness to any sweet ending, from mousse to custard tarts. It's a perfect way of welcoming Spring, with light , airy desserts

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Savory Allure of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is known for many things, Steel, bridges, Universities. Food isn't one of them. Yet in the few years this famed city may well become the Lyons of America. It is the hottest and most popular destination for foodies right now,surpassing even Manhattan for good restaurants.

Jeff Gordonier wrote about it in today's New York Times Food section. He visited the city known for Carnegie Steel and Carnegie Mellon University.The vibe of the city is changing. There are still marginalized areas however the town on the whole is on the upswing. Companies like Google, Uber and Facebook have relocated there, trying to scoop up  the latest tech grads from the city's major universities such as Carnegie Mellon Duquesne and a slew of several others. Another reason is that
 real estate is very cheap.Old storefronts  are now being turned into trendy eateries thanks to  chefs who can afford to  buy the property.It also helps to have good press. Zagat named Pittsburgh the number one food city in the country while Vogue proclaimed it a happening place to visit, even stating that New Yorkers are toying with the idea of moving there.. For chefs, though, there was
still  the problem of crime. Justin Severino who started Cure in the Lawrenceville section had to deal with prostitutes drug dealers and thieves. He stuck in there, though now  offering a trendy menu that has a tasting menu and salumi dishes.

Other chefs are following his lead, despite the fact that some  fo the older townspeople find the new dishes not to their liking or too foreign. Still ,many are adaptable enjoying  dishes  as wild boar and rabbit at eateries such as  Piccolo Forno, thanks to the culinary deftness of chef Dominic Branduzzi.Then there is a new concept, created by two young entrepreneurs, Ben Marica and Tyler Benson. These former Navy men have brought a kind of tech incubator to Pittsburgh's food scene. Their Smallman Galley consists of four kiosks in which different chefs showcase their their cooking for eighteen months. The neat part is the chefs pay absolutely no rent, The goal is to acquire a following and then go from there with it .. The creators see this as a way of catering to the young techies from Google and Uber who are also living in the area.It is a great symbiotic relationship guaranteed to boost Pittsburgh's standing and economy. However there are some chefs who have seen this happen before, namely in Brooklyn and San Francisco. The more popular a neighborhood gets, the more expensive it will be Rents rise , people move out , businesses either struggle or close.Others say give it five years and then see if Puttsburgh is still thriving according to Chef Severino of Cure.

Right now Pittsburgh is experiencing an explosion of good chefs and good restaurants, It's shedding its' old grey steel town image for a newer, more vibrant one,Will it be the Lyons of the New World? Quite possibly yes!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Good Homemade Sauce

What makes a dish of spaghetti memorable? Or ravioli mouth watering.It's all in the sauce. A simple tomato based one can do the trick, except it's not so simple. Home cooks always say they have a knack for making sauce. It's not a knack, but what goes into it that makes good marinara or pomodoro stand out.

All sauces start out with a base.What is the best one? Fresh tomatoes or those canned ones? That actually depends on the time of year. The best season to use fresh vine ripened ones is the summer naturally. Some of the vine ripes now can be used. after all it's a fresher taste, perfect for a pasta primavera. Tomato paste still has to be used as a binder because the end result will be too watery. You can make it without it though but it won't be a thick sauce that will stick to the vermicelli or linguine. It is a great base for red clam sauce because you want something light that will complement the seafood.Many  home chefs rely on canned. It can be combined with  tomato paste to create a thicker texture. What are the best? Stop & Shop has an organic one  from their all natural Nature's Promise. he flavor is an even one, not too bland  not too intense.The one that home chefs recommend and rave about is Muir Glen Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes. One of the reasons why it's so popular is the can. It's made without BPA  in the can's lining. Others swear by Hunt, while purists demand San Marzano. This is my second choice for a sauce. Some say its' too acidic but I've never found them to be this.

The next step is what you put in it.Olive oil is a must and again it should be a good one. Always go with the extra virgin . There are other types such as light but this kind is tasteless. Garlic is another must. Go with about three cloves. They can be chopped or minced, depending on one's tastes. (however if you don't want guests or family complaining about  large , hunky pieces then mince).Use an onion too for flavor. Now the controversy  - sweetness or no sweetness. Many home chefs add just a teaspoon of sugar to temper the sauce. A few don't do this however it gives the tomatoes mellowness. A tablespoon of dark honey is the best sweetener.It adds a richness and another layer to it along with it being a all natural additive.Some home chefs use grated carrots too for this.That's up to you.  Every pomodoro or marinara has a dose of oregano in it. Use fresh in the summer and dried in the colder months. I usually use a generous amount, namely two to three tablespoons. Always add salt and pepper. I found that  even though I made the most perfect sauce (in my opinion) there will always be complaints if those seasonings aren't added.

There is no knack in creating the best sauce.It's what you put into it that counts. It's not alchemy, It's chemistry  using the right ingredients to create a memorable pasta dish.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Segovia Steakhouse:The Best Of Iberia

New Jerseyians know that if you want  good good Spanish or Portuguese influnced food you have to trek down to Newark's Ironbound area. However there are good Iberian centric restaurants studded throughout the Garden State. Segovia Steakhouse is one of those ,located in LittFerry in southern Bergen County. It's a true taste of the Ironbound, from the menu to the energy.

The restaurant  spun off  Segovia Restaurant in the next town of Moonachie. Both are owned by Manny Martinez and Tony Treus. The original eatery has been in existence for the last thirty years and is a staple in the area.It's an elegant place in the middle of a Manhattan bedroom town. (New York City is only a scant nine miles away). It's a nice place  featuring paellas and seafood however its' the steakhouse that 's now the star. It's a busy, buzzy wild place on a Saturday night. Situated in an elegant looking Mediterranean building that's painted a terra cotta orange, the restaurant is located in Little Ferry, only a block in from Route 46 , one of the county's main arteries. Unfortunately Segovia doesn't take reservations, the only drawback because the place is packed to the gills on a Saturday night. Waiting can be anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour depending on your arrival time.Another drawback is the small parking lot but luckily the TD Bank next door is generous with theirs.

The wait and the crowds are worth it. The dishes are phenomenal, fragrant with saffron and garlic. Segovia offers tapas  (s does the Moonachie one) that features grilled chorizo,pinchos, marinated pork cubes and pulpo feria, paprika laced octopus.  Segovia  is a steakhouse first and foremost and it doesn't disappoint . A friend had their Porterhouse which could have fed three people. It was accompanied by a scant portion of veggies. There is also a skirt steak with the famed green sauce churrasco..All dishes come with a side of saffron rice and crispy homemade potato chips so good dipped in the sauces that come with the meals. My favorite is the pollo ajillo. This is a heavenly blend of chicken tenders with sauce of garlic and peppers in a buttery sauce.It was heavily spiced but delicious dish, especially the sauce which was also good sopped up with hot crusty rolls. I will definitely go back for this along with the arroz con pollo. Other tasty dishes are the arroz con camarones, a shrimp studded rice dish and pollo castellones, chicken with artichoke.The shrimp and rice was also amazing, fragrant with saffron and loaded with plump shrimp. Even though the dishes were more than filling ( diners can definitely leave with doggie bags) there us room for dessert. Yes Segovia features traditional flans but it's the chocolate cannoli with dark cheery sauce that steal the show (this could be a nod to the town's mostly Italian population. The tres leches cake was a nice mild ending to a highly spiced dinner.

If  you're craving good Spanish and Portuguese food then head to Segovia Steakhouse in Little Ferry ,New Jersey, The dishes are traditional , celebrating Spain and Portugal along with large platters of steak, Head over there for a phenomenal dinner.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sleepy Time Foods

Springing forward time wise means a lot of good things. Spring is here. The days are longer with sunsets beginning at seven PM. Summer is just around the corner. However it also means being wide awake at eleven PM or midnight This screws up our Circadian rhythms and makes for a bad wake up call the next morning. What to do? Eat foods that will make you sleepy.A few bites and you’ll be craving your pillow and forty winks.

Just what foods will do the trick? One of the best is celestial Seasonings Sleepy Time Extra herbal tea.It has soothing chamomile along with spearmint  lemongrass and hawthorn. Valerian, a long used sedative for millenia is also thrown in for guaranteed drowsiness.There are the other Sleepy Time blends such as the original recipe along with ones that have echinacea  and ginger. Another snooze inducer is that classic warm milk. It has tryptophan in it, the same chemical that’s in turkey. You can add a tiny pinch of nutmeg along with the smallest drop of vanilla extract for more flavor. Milk can be heated in the microwave so you can make it there without the threat of it being scalded. Surprsingly tart cherry juice can also bring on sleepiness , thanks to the release of melantonin. The juice can be bought at GNC or online rather than at your local grocery store. Everyone thinks that a cup of hot cocoa will do the trick but that’s a wrong assumption. Chocolate has caffeine which will keep you up all night along with sugar which again can keep a person from getting a good night’s rest.

As for foods, yes you could have a nighttime snack of that leftover turkey. It may be a bit too heavy though so consider lighter options. Pretzels can do the same job. They’re full of carbs which can make you feel sleepy. Another snack option are bananas.They’re chock full of Vitamin B 6 which is essential in the melantonin synthesis .They’re also loaded with potassium which causes muscles to relax. Have one two to three hours before going to bed.Peanut butter is another snack guaranteed to cause zzzs thanks to the nuts being high in niacin, an essential key in creating serotonin.. What you eat at dinner can also affect the way you sleep. This is when the turkey can come in handy, especially paired with a salad. Lettuce , along with kale and spinach are loaded with calcium which aids the brain in using tryptophan. Even hummus can help you fall asleep. It starts off as L-tryptophan once it’s been processed by the body but then turns to 5HTP which releases relaxing serotonin. Serve it with mixed veggies or toasted pita wedges.Fish such as tuna, salmon and halibut share the same Vitamin B6 as bananas along with being very high in tryptophan too. Eat any of the three to ensure a sound night’s sleep.

Don’t let this new time ruin your sleep habits. Eat the right foods before going to bed to feel drowsy .Doing such will guarantee a good night’s rest and an easier wake up in the morning.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Stir: An Inspirational Foodie's Journey

Food and cooking are the best remedies for getting us through hard times. Grad student and foodie , Jessica Fechtor, relied on them for getting through the horrendous hell of suffering an aneurysm, the surgery to correct it and the scary recovery period afterwards. It was not modern medicines that healed her  but the primal need to cook and bake.

Her book Stir:My Broken Brain And The Meals That Brought Me Home (Plume Publishers) is a truly inspirational book. Ms. Fechtor is a writer , first and foremost and she neatly explains what had happened to her as succinctly as she would a recipe. This was a girl who had it all, including a love of all things relating to the kitchen.Then it hit, blood pooling in one area of her brain. It gets graphic, yes, but this is about hospital and operations as much as it is about batters and ovens. All in all she passes through this ordeal with humor and courage..It doesn't end though with her collapse and procedure to"fix" what had happened. More problems ensue when she returns to Cambridge. A residual infection,pseudomonas, crops up, despite the wild stew of antibiotics she's been on. More surgery, followed by a slow rebuilding of her former life. She loses her sense of smell, sheer horror for any home chef or baker.After all how can anyone cook without the nose to signal  that the sauce is done or the roast is burning?It does come back - not with the smell of food but with fresh paint in her apartment building's lobby.

This book is also about food. There are all sorts of recipes from all sorts of sources. There are homey family ones such as her grandmother, Louise's apple pie and her stepmother's Amy's potato salad.There are oatmeal cookies dedicated to her beloved Eli who never left her side along with a ziti recipe that his family made. Ms. Fechtor is also the creator of the famed and popular food blog Sweet Amandine, named after her favorite cake. There are several recipes of her own creation Crispy Rice and Eggs and a Lemony Pasta With Morel Mushrooms and pasts (this last a nod to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse). Cooking is also comforting and comfort food. It's seen in Ms. Fechtor's recipe for Cherry Clafoutis, made when she, her now husband Eli, and their friend spent a respite in Washington State, known for its' juicy red cherries where they bought a sack of them.It's also evident in her recipe for a non traditional latke recipe that is zinged up with sweet potatoes and curry. Readers will enjoy and definitely make her homemade tomato soup accompanied with a homemade brown soda bread, the perfect comfort food cure for any dilemma,

Stir:My Broken Brain And The Meals That Brought Me Home is about the healing power of cooking and baking. It is the medicine Jessica Fechtor needed to survive a nightmare aneurysm and the hell that followed. Buy this book , read it  for not just her story but for the food that fed her, both literally and figuratively

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Exotic Fare To Liven The Everyday

There's a condition known as the late winter doldrums. It usually  comes about after months of blah weather  and the cure is a trip to an exotic locale.(maybe not so much so if you live in the currently tropical NYC area) This can be expensive but there is a more inexpensive way of dong this. Cooking meals from faraway places. It's easy and fun, a great way of livening up everyday cooking.

This was evident in both Melissa Clark and Martha Rose Shulman's columns in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Ms. Clark's A Good Appetite takes home chefs to  Dakar, Senegal. She offers up black eyed pea fritters and Vietnamese inspired pickled carrots. The recipes come from the great Senegalese chef.Pierre Thiam, author of "Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes From the source To The Bowl." One of his signature dishes is accara, black eyed pea fritters. that are a popular street snack back home.It's similar to falafal in taste and flavor , usually served in a baguette. It's spiced up with a fiery sauce containing the six alarm Scotch Bonnet pepper.After rubbing off the skins, its a quick pulse in the food processor.Baking soda along with onions and a pinch of red pepper is added before it's rolled into balls and fried. He serves it with Vietnamese pickled carrots,a nod to his Vietnamese godfather,This again requires Scotch Bonnet peppers along with onion , serrano peppers and Vietnamese fish sauce. It's a spicy accompaniment that would be good for barbecues as well.

Martha Rose Shulman gives us a taste of the healthy exotic in her Recipes For Health column. Her trademark is delicious and good for you. Her recipe this week was taken from Lukas Volger , a well known vegetarian chef.His latest book "Bowl: Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen Pho, Bibambap, Dumpling and Other One Dish Meals"gives us recipes for veggie filled dumplings and ramen soups. The recipe Ms. Shulman gives readers is for bibambap a  Korean mixed rice,Iis a layered meal that usually with beef however Chef Volger adds roasted vegetables to his. A good dose of butternut squash along with broccoli rabe and shiitake mushrooms are added as one of the layers. It is spiced up with gochuchang, the Korean fermented chile paste along or sambel oelek,a ground chili and seafood paste, depending upon your taste. Molasses and soy sauce are also mixed in to temper either sauces' fieriness.  The garnish provides the protein as well as more tradition. Usually a raw or sunnyside up egg  is added for the topping along with pickles. These can be home made as well using Kirby cucumber,in a rice wine brine.

Liven up those late winter culinary blahs witch exotic meals from faraway places. Try a Senegal accara or a healthy bimbambap .It's a fun trip for the palate.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The King Of Pot Roast

Everyone American has their favorite pot roast memories. Whether it's brisket on the East Coast or daube down in New Orleans, it's been a kitchen staple for generations.Now there's a king, yes king of pot roast, Gavin Kaysen and he's making the dish haute.

Brett Anderson wrote about this nostalgic dish in today's New York Times Food section.He grew up in Minneapolis/St. Paul where pot roast reigns supreme.It's also the home of Spoon And Stable,Chef Kaysen's signature restaurant.The dish wasn't on the menu at first because Chef Kaysen felt it may offend diners. He thought that he was pandering to their down to earth tastes. because he was a young cook  with an impressive resume. Chef Kaysen  first worked at impressive restaurants in Switzerland,London and California, He, himself, also  impressed the famed French  chef  , Daniel Boulud which lead to a seven year stretch as executive chef at Cafe Boulud  This alone  could be off putting to many  Midwestern customers who may be insulted by his rendering of  their family  dishes. Instead he first  offered dishes with a nod towards the Minnesota regional along with a nod to nearby Canada instead  The initial Spoon and Stable menu offered:. Canadian bison, cheese curds in the creamed spinach  and dill cured salmon. It was a whim that made him sneak in his grandmother, Dorothy's pot roast onto it . It was a good call. Diners loved it.

Mr. Anderson does too. It is not mom's pot roast, instead a more upscale version. The sides are lacy chanterelle mushrooms along with a pomme puree,  a silkier version of mashed potatoes and a milk soaked and sauteed parsley root. Mr Anderson missed the traditionally made veggies which are usually soft enough to mash. - although Chef Kaysen feeds those to his staff. The gravy was spot on, redolent with rosemary and silken. This is the way it should be .Pot roast gravy is a restorative Paleo broth , appealing to our most primal tastes. The meat used is a richer flavored  shoulder cut the French called paleron and Minnesota butchers call flat iron roast. Why this, instead of the usual chuck that everyone including Kaysen's grandmother's Dorothy used? According to the chef, it has a "really fantastic tendon that runs right in the middle of it" .If it's cooked down enough , it turns into a marrow like consistency.He first used it during his time at Boulous for the pot au feu. However home chefs following the recipe need not worry, Chuck roast is the meat called for. It also has carrots and parsnips for pot roast purists too. Tomato paste is also added for color and flavor as well along with enhancing the meat's flavor.

Gavin Kaysen is the king of pot roast. His recipe ofor pot roast will change the way America thinks about it. It 's still comfort food but elevated to another level.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Food As Art

Does our food define us ? Do we define food as art?Or art as food? These are the questions raised in a fascinating new book by Dwight Furrow. Read  this interesting to find out;

The book , Food As Art In America - How Americans Have Changed The Way We Eat (Rowan & Littlefield Publishers ) is a meaty chew of a read that questions almost everything.It's a book for serious foodies and even professional chefs that delves all sorts of aspects of culinary ideas and movements.He goes into great detail about the Slow Food Movement, started by Carlo Petrini who was aghast by American fast food taking over elegant Italian dining.Mr. Furrow also gives us interesting ruminations about food as art and the trends that take over. He devotes  entire pages to the 18th Century philosopher Emmanuel Kant along with passages devoted to Mick Jagger and Italian grandmothers. Foodies may cringe or may not like when he describes eating is violent - and when you think about it - it really is.It is  slaughtering meat and plucking fruit and veggies from their habitats. It's then cooking on top of a high flame and then being devoured later. That pasta or lobster may look pretty on the plate but they're going to get savaged and ravished in a few minutes.

Foodies may enjoy the chapter on reading into a meal. He writes intensively about what homeyness means  and brings up Thanksgiving and apples. Without the holiday the turkey is just a bird, without the story of Eve and the snake, the apple is just another piece of fruit. Mr. Furrow also delves into the food of love and aphrodisiacs through the centuries. That's followed by an interesting interpretation of we are what we eat. Of course there is a section on vegans along with the different kind of vegetarianism and what it all means. He also dissects haute cuisine and home cooking in a wittily titled chapter called "Can Tuna Casserole Be A Work Of Art?" There is also a chapter dedicated to keeping food traditions in an ever changing world and what is authenticity. In this he mentions Mexican border food, the cuisine that gave us the beloved tortilla. Mexican food purists scoff at it saying it's not true to the country, yet it has been around for generations.Mr. Furrow ends the book with more ruminations on the future of taste along with his worries of food mediocrity and mass globalization of tastes.

Food As Art in America How Americans Have Changed The Way We Eat is a fascinating insight into our modern foods tastes and loves. Read it to understand why we need to preserve food as art. It's full of insights to chew on.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Spring Cleaning Cuisine

March begins the start of the Spring cleaning season. It's a time to sift through the fridge freezer and pantry and toss out whatever you can to make room. However don't' be so trash happy Sometimes those foods can be used instead of being thrown out. Think of it as Spring cleaning cuisine.

Of course home chefs should check the dates of their canned foods. However most expiration dates usually have a three year window. You can easily use any canned food or  soup in  tonight's meal. If you overbought soups at your grocery's ten for one price sale, then repurpose them as sauces. Any cream based one, such as celery or mushroom can be a great sauce for a noodle casserole.Cans of tomato sauce will go into sauce but zing it up by adding a pinch of pepper  for arrabiata or better yet, make steak pizziola or chicken parm with it.Mix it with rice to create a form of spicy Mexican arroz.  with chicken or  shrimp.Canned veggies  can also have their turn. Canned corn, one of the most versatile can be turned into tasty salads with black beans and chopped fresh peppers or as a filling for tacos. One great idea is adding it to various soups such as potato to give it color and sweetness. Canned string beans are not only good hot but also cold in a summery  salad. Add chopped onions  along with just oil and vinegar for a vinaigrette dressing. The same for beets. Make a salad from those canned ones for a nice side with grilled steak or chicken.

Cleaning out the fridge and freezer is a whole other experience.  Soured milk is considered vile and instantly tossed into the garbage but hold on. It is useful.It can be used in making cheese as well as polishing silver.Glam girls can use it as part of a  homemade face mask.Smear it on ,let it dry then rinse it off. If you have any sour cream and it's still good, then use it in a variety of dishes. Try it to enrich casseroles as well as a sub in for ricotta in pastas.Sour cream also gives homemade coffee cakes an unbelievably rich crumb and density. It's also a good toppings for desserts too. Those mini dishes of leftovers , like leftover peas, carrots or broccoli can add some color to omelets. Toss in a cup of that still viable pepperoni and ham for a fun frittata.Any extra eggs can be hard boiled for egg salad. Give it a light   pinch of  tarragon to enhance the flavor. What about all those mysterious  foil wrapped packages? Probably left overs from the holidays.The meat is fine, whether it's turkey , chicken or ham. You can easily defrost it in the microwave and have it with gravy  or as part of a sandwich.

This is the time for Spring cleaning. However look at the food you;'re tossing out/If it's before the expiration date or still relatively good use it. Consider it a bonus of Spring cleaning your kitchen.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday Night Specials

Saturday is usually the one night of the week when the family can sit down and have dinner together. The problem is that it's the same foods week after week,  The solution is adding some zing to make these family meals  special. Don't worry  They're nothing elaborate. It's just tweaking  recipes up a notch or two for  tasty and memorable meals.

One of the easiest meals to assemble is the BLT. It's a quick throw together of bacon, lettuce and tomato, on toast.Tweak it by changing the bread. King's Hawaiian Rolls are perfect for creating mini sandwiches or you can try the new Sandwich Thins by Pepperidge Farm.One roll  may be only  one hundred calories but it's also great for creating the perfect sandwich .The filling will stand out  because the slices are almost wafer thin yet sturdy I like these for my BLTs. As for the tomatoes, get the vine ripes. These are a deeper red and richer in flavor. Ditch the iceberg lettuce and switch to Romaine. Again this type of lettuce amps up the sandwich and melds well with the tomato and bacon. Also a dab of ranch dressing zings up the whole combo, rather than just plain mayo , Heroes are another much eaten Saturday night meal. Give them  a Gallic twist by using a baguette  and slathering on a homemade garlicky aioli,  This is a simple blend of garlic and mayo. Add some sliced hard boiled eggs and tuna for a Provencale vibe, along with capers  and a variety of veggies. You could also just have a typical Italian hero, but add pancetta, and mortadella with a balsamic vinegar based dressing.

Dinner means a hot meal too. A family favorite is baked mac and cheese. Liven it up with adding different cheeses as opposed to using just cheddar.Use fontina and Gruyere along with fontina for bite. Bacon or ham are another great way to give the classic casserole some zing. Add layers of  either  along using them as a crunchy topping. Bacon and ham can also make a homemade pizza more interesting too. Since Saturdays are usually pizza night, Try your hand at a homemade one.Please everyone by using their favorites as toppings, from steak slices to even crab meat. This is great if there's adults but you'll need to create a special kind of pie  to grab the kids' attentions. Try mini deep dish ones baked in a muffin tin. The dough can be a homemade one or one made with Biscuit. You can also use Pilsbury  crescent rolls. too. The filling is pizza sauce, of course, but you can also throw in pepperoni or olives for a nice surprise. Baked fried chicken that's been spiced up with cayenne is another fun meal. Serve with homemade cheddar biscuits and ranch slaw.This last is just simply mixing shredded cabbage with ranch dressing. (you can use any salad  dressing here).

Amp up that Saturday night meal. Give those much used recipes a well needed twist with new ingredients or products/ The result is a memorable dinner that the whole family will enjoy,

Friday, March 4, 2016

Coconut For Coconuts

There is a craze right now that's permeating our cooking and even our beauty habits.It seems we cuckoo for coconuts - in every form.  It's all over these days from flakes to oils, in our best dishes and on our cuticles. Is it too much or does this tropical stunner actually have benefits.

First of all the coconut is not a nut but a drupe, or an offspring with a fleshy outer part covering a seed or pit (think more peaches and plums). The name coco derives from the Portuguese word for skull, thanks to the face like indentations in it sailors who first saw it on their travels were amused by this , hence the name. The meat or the interior white flesh is called copra when dried and used in baking and cooking. The oil and milk from it is used both in food and beauty products. Then there is the coconut water which is everywhere these days.It grows primarily in tropical climates and is not what would be considered domesticated. The meat itself is high in carbs and fat.A one hundred gram serving can yield a whopping 354 calories. with 89% of it being saturated fat. This also applies to coconut oil too which is high in  saturated fat and lauric acid, the last being responsible for raising cholesterol to sky high levels.Ditto for the coconut milk  which is derived from the oil.It is  better to stick with the low calorie , low carb,   coconut water .It also  has a significant amount of  electrolytes  - good for those playing sports.

So is being coconuts for coconuts worth it? The fruit is , for baking and candy making. The copra does have the perfect taste that meshes well with chocolate, vanilla and even lemon cake. As we all know it's a great decoration for Easter cupcakes and holiday meringues.The flakes are also  excellent gracing curries  and other Asian dishes. Again, it's good if you want a splurge  but not  good if you  have it a few times a week.? It also doesn't apply to an Almond Joy or Mounds splurge.then If you do want; a healthy fix of coconut   then try Zola's dark chocolate coconut nuggets instead. What about coconut oil? Health conscious  home chefs could try the one Lou Ana puts out ,The Southern California company makes theirs non -hydrogenated and zero calories which is perfect for any kind of cooking and baking. It also aids in losing weight, speeding up metabolism as well as helping to fend off staph bacteria along with several different kinds of cancer. Coconut oil is  also good for softening cracked heels, cuticles and sun fried hair, Coconut water is another must have.Again Zola, a brand new, sustainable company has different waters that are perfect with a meal or just as a refresher. Also Vita Coca is another good choice with even a newly added cafe latte to drink..

The coconut craze will be wth us for a while. Take what you will from it and use it to benefit your diet and lifestyle. You can go mad for the health aspects of them.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Perfect Wine Shop

We all  know what makes a good food store. We know it;s a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, good customer service and a welcoming atmosphere. Now what makes a good wine shop? Ask anyone and they'll draw a blank. What does make a liquor store stand out?

The answer was a very good article in yesterday's New York Times Food section.Eric Asimov wrote about it in  his Pour Column and it's worth saving. Many people just walk into their local liquor store and overlook the obvious signs . One , the ambient temperature should be fifty four degrees - the temperature of a wine cellar. If your local wine shop feels a bit too warm , then walk out  and find a moderately cooler one.Also, another bad sign is if the place is flooded with sunlight.  A liquor store should be dark, otherwise  the light can damage the wine,especially if it's in clear or light blue bottles.
Dusty merchandise is also a telling sign, The staff has been lax in upkeep and possible negligent with inventory. Another sign of an attentive sales force. Look at the description listed under the bottles.Staff written ones means they're personally involved and a distinct point of view. They'll also offer you advice on what to  buy  and even offer samples.Buyers should also note if the bottles are laying down or standing up. It's a good sign if they're placed on their side, this way the cork won't dry out  and let in oxygen.This can oxidize the wine.

Mr. Asimov also visits some of the better wines shops across the country. He visits Bay Grape in San Francisco which even has wifi and tables  There are also discussion groups with sales people leading them and teaching shoppers about different types. All of this has made Bay Grape a popular wine shop with a loyal clientele. New York City also has wine shops that are much more. Take Black Label Wine Merchants..Sales clerks will either  engage shoppers in conversations to determine their likes and dislikes or back away from the more distant ones. Some stores even track their shoppers purchases, to better anticipate their next trips to the store as well as help them in the future. Wine shop owner.Vanessa Moore, of Unwined In Alexandria Virginia,trains her staff to recognize customers by name and get to know their tastes. There's also another family aspect  in the sense that she only buys from family wineries. She does change brands frequently  which can turn off devotees of certain wineries. Greenwich Village's Some Good Wine offers wines from places that normally aren't associated with wine making, from the Canary Islands, Corsica and the Czech Republic, thanks to owner Jeremy' Blocks passion for exotic wines.This means his customers can also expand their repertoire too.

A good wine shop has to have several different components to be successful. The bottom line is both the merchandise and the customers  have to be treated special. This translates into a liquor stoe with a long life and a loyal follwing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Making Your Pasta Blush

Homemade pasta is exciting on its own. It's fun to make and a treat to taste. Now imagine adding color and more depth to it and you have a truly interesting dish.It's easy to do  - and brings lunch or dinner up another notch.

David Tanis experimented this and wrote about it in his  A City Kitchen column in today's New York Times Food section.Handmade or home made pasta is one of the simplest preps ever.It's just a mix of eggs and flour, mixed together and then kneaded to form a thick dough. It's usually then rolled out and cut or put through a pasta machine to be cut into ribbons or sheets.The result is a yellowy spaghetti or fettucini ,a perfect base for a homemade marinara or creamy Alfredo sauce. Yet is it enough? Does it need more?Mr.Tanis believes so and has a number of suggestions. A colored pasta not only zings up the dish but adds another layer of flavor. Green pasta can be made with pureeing fresh spinach or chard to the recipe. It gives the usually eggy tasting dough a garden fresh taste. Herbs, always included in any Italian dish, can be respun into a batch of angel hair .Add parsley , rosemary and sage to any dough for a speckled , light green result  that's perfect for any Spring dinner.Saffron not only gives a rich , golden hue but also a distinct flavor that 's great with any seafood sauce.

The recipe that Mr/ Tanis gives is for a peppery, red pasta, redolent with Hungarian paprika.cayenne and pimenten.It's a rusty looking pasta that he teams up with sweet vegetables. The reason behind this combo is that the two opposite flavors compliment each other,All together there is a heady dose of hot spices in the dough.It's zingy enough  so it needs a mellowness to tame it down a bit. Mr. Tanis pairs it with butternut squash along with pancetta for some meat and saltiness. Ricotta gives the sauce  a creaminess. This could also be reversed and made into a ravioli with the squash mixture inside a hot pepper dough.Another idea is serving it with an arrabiata sauce for sheer heat or with lobster for a spin on seafood version. Today's masterful recipe could also be reversed with a butternut squash pasta and a spicy sauce.It's just as easy to make as the hot pasta, and the result is a lovely orange fettucini or bucatini,if you like red colored pasta without the heat , then try a tomato based  or red pepper based one. The first requires two tablespoons of tomato sauce added while the second just needs a small unseeded pepper. For a scarlet pasta, try adding half a cup of cooked beets.

Pasta doesn't doesn't have to be bland both in taste and in flavor. Whip up a batch of spicy red or Springy green for a different spin on a classic dish.It's fun and colorful.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Churrasco Lovers Rejoice!

For those who love churrasco, that tasty Brazilian barbecue or just meat  lovers in general, there's a great new cookbook  for you to try and enjoy. Churrasco: Grilling The Brazilian Way is chock full of traditional recipes that highlight barbecued beef,lamb and even chicken along with sides. More ambitious home chefs will even love the idea of building their own grill too.

The highly illustrated book (Gibbs Smith Publishers 2016) was written by Evandro Caregnato, creative director for the restaurant chain Texas de Brazil, which has broadened American palates to the delights of hearty gaucho food. Mr. Caregnato was born in  southern Brazil where kids learn how to barbecue early. Many people associate this amazing country with the sexy beaches of Rio or the primitive beauty of the Amazon , but it also has a strong gaucho culture in the country's southernmost province. The churrasco grill was one of the first fast foods , with grills being set up alongside gas stations. Soon sides were being served with the beef and lamb , then other foods such as soups and rolls. The grilled meats comes in many different cuts and they're beautifully portrayed here for novice grillers to note. He explains each one in detail,and how to use them.What is really fun are the how tos for the various grills.They would make an interesting back yard project for any serious home chef.There is the complicated one made with a fifty five gallon steel drum and the much simpler four armed cross spit. These are followed by an entire page of grilling tips that would even be beneficial for an American style barbecue.

The recipes , along with the accompanying photos are downright mouth watering. There is a braised rolled beef, a kind of Brazilian braciole that's actually made in a dutch oven as opposed to on a grill.It's stuffed with bacon, sausage and hard boiled eggs. There are veggies in the form of carrots and scallions and its' marinated in a tomato sauce.Carnivores will love the fire roasted picanha or sirloin cap and beef on a Plow Blade. Grill kings will love the gaucho kebabs which is a mix of chicken, beef sirloin or tenderloin bacon and pork loin fire cooked with squash, keilbasa and peppers.along with the grilled lamb recipe. The cookbook also features a large amount of Northern Italian recipes, not surprising because many Piedmontese and Lombards immigrated there in the late 1800's. There is the chewy thick bucatini with quail sauce , a kind of gamy version of chicken cacciatore.Canneloni lovers will enjoy making spinach ones, this recipe rich with whole cream and Parmesan. Seafood, especially salted cod or bacalhau is almost a national dish in Brazil and there a few recipes featuring it. There's also some yummy dessert ones too, including dulce de leche and chocolate truffles. Mr. Caregnato also throws in the country's national drink the caipiriniha, made with cachaca. the sugar cane derive liqueur.

Churrasco:Grilling The Brazilian Way is an great cookbook for those who love churrasco or want to expand their grilling expertise. Get it to experience a delicious way to cook outdoors.It'll make for an interesting season of splendid open air dining.