Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Guide For The Gluten Free Life

Like any other disease, celiac disease is no laughing matter.It can cripple a person's life along with restricting diet and eating choices. Happily there is a new cookbook that can ease it as well as making life tasty again.

Healthier Gluten Free  (Fair Winds Press) by Lisa Howard is  the must have  cookbook for those with gluten allergies. Ms Howard is a cooking instructor who firmly advises in using fresh ingredients in recipes. The book is an extension of her philosophy with her suggestions in the first few chapters. What is unusual about the book is that it also has the history of celiac disease  and a clear definition of what it is.Many cookbooks devoted to gluten free tend to omit the facts about celiac and even wheat allergies . Ms. Howard explains what it is and how it can be avoided. Another plus is the list of alternative flours  home chefs can use in both savory and sweet baking and cooking. She also recommends home grinding flours too.Gluten free baking comes with many advantages, namely there's no need to roll out dough or kneading . The dough can simply be spoon dropped onto baking sheets or patted into baking tins, There is a page devoted to ingredients, about what to buy and what to avoid, especially canned foods that could carry the risk of BPA or bisphenol A . There are also pages devoted to the different types of dairy products from milk to buttermilk,

Even those without celiac disease will love the recipes and the variety.The second half of the book is chock full of them and they're divided into breakfasts,sandwiches, salads and pilafs, meals, appetizers and desserts. Sophisticated noshers will love savory herbed  buttermilk potato waffles amped up with Italian herbs along with Brie and pear quesadillas. Pizza lovers will go mad for the lamb pizza with a crust made from ancient grains such as teff and amaranth  and a topping of ground lamb, tomato sauce and spices,There is a Parmesan fish and chips, with the classic dish being coated in cheese and almond flour instead of the traditional batter.Almond flour also figures in the breaded chicken finger recipe along with crnmeal. They're served with a honey mustard dip with a Greek yogurt base.There's a tasty brown rice pasta Baked Mac and cheese ,made more flavorful with the addition of green onions. Usually gluten free desserts can be poor substitutes for the real thing. Not here. There is peach swirled cheesecake along with chocolate angel food cake with smashed raspberry glaze.Holiday favorites such as  a crustless pecan pie and pumpkin pie with a teff and pecan crust are also included as are biscottis and gingersnaps. Ms Howard also includes ice cream too, with recipes including buttermilk and coconut milk.

Healthier Gluten Free is the cookbook for home chefs and families suffering from celiac disease.It is chock full of great advice and great recipes.With ot home chefs can create a diet of delicious foods, free from headaches of allergies and restrictions.,

Friday, April 29, 2016

Eat And Lose Weight

Imagine if you could eat anything, from waffles to pizza  and lose tons of weight . You would think  it's not possible but it is.A new cookbook :shows how you can. have your cake and eat it too, alongside of yummy cupcakes, tacos and other fun foods. Best of all this diet is guaranteed to shed pounds.

Popular blogger Audrey John gives foodies and home chefs the cookbook Lose Weight By Eating (Harper Collins Publishers) a phenomenal and fun cookbook about  making and baking without preservatives , using only fresh and nutritious ingredients. A  few years ago Ms. John was 275 pounds , thanks to a diet of frozen, prepackaged and fast foods. She changed her lifestyle by cooking and baking favorites from scratch. The result was a new chef, 150 lighter and a few dollars richer. She was even able to save money by recreating homemade versions of hamburgers, tacos and cupcakes.It resulted in an instantly popular blog which led to this book. The recipes are easy enough for the most novice of home chefs. and the recipes are divided into really fun chapters like Comfort Foods and Pizza Pizza. What I like about the book is the write in food log that readers can use to write down. what they've eaten as well as calorie count followed by the amount of fat, fiber and carbohydrates.Ms. Johns also includes a guide to the perfect salad as well as sections on exercise along with drinking more water. The book also contains a menu guide to help with planning a week's meals.

The recipes will satisfy anyone, There are giant  breakfast cookies made with applesauce, which Ms.Johns uses as a butter substitute, These are  chock full of oatmeal and brown sugar along with cranberries and almonds. These would be perfect for any pajama party or family brunch. Egg lovers will relish the stuffed breakfast burritos and scrambles.Pizza, usually a dieter's no-no is made healthier thanks to using low calorie turkey sausage and all kinds of fresh veggies. Holiday cooking is included here for  healthier and cheaper dinners.Maple syrup is used instead of sugar and almond milk is preferred to regular milk for lower calorie feasts.It starts with recipes for a perfectly brined and roasted turkey with creamy mashed potatoes. This last is rich in flavor but low in calories thanks to the addition of almond milk and Greek yogurt. There is also a holiday ham glazed with cherry jam and ginger beer..For  weeknight dinners there's the healthy vegetable lasagna and cheddar stuffed turkey burgers.  The chapter on comfort foods has such great dishes as skinny chicken pot pie,manly beer chili and crispy fried pork chops desserts include strawberry shortcake cupcakes, orange creamsicles and chocolate bananas on a stick. Wash these down with Ms. John's  take on homemade blueberry orange sodas, and low calorie lattes.

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too. You can also have pizza and creamsicles, soda and cookies, thanks to this great new cookbook. Treat yourself to Lose Weight by Eating and enjoy favorite foods and drinks without any guilt

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Livening Up Everyday Meats

Chicken and port have become everyday occurrences in our daily diets. The problem is that everyday can become boring very quickly. The solution? Pair them with interesting vegetables or make them in interesting ways to liven up dinner. They'll go from boring to exciting in no time.

Melissa Clark and David Tanis know this and wrote about chicken and pork respectively in their Wednesday columns in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Ms. Clark paired chicken with artichokes for her A Good Appetite.This is the season for chokes  and they're wonderful made any way thanks to their inherent sweetness. Unfortunately they are a bit thorny to deal with , due to theie sharp tipped leathery tips. Ms. Clark removes all of  these to reveal the tender heart and the surrounding core of baby leaves which are good braised in a mix of olive oil, chile, white wine and herbs. The chicken is cut up, bones and all and seared first for about six minutes .It's taken out and  then the artichokes and garlic are then put in to cook.Tomatoes and red pepper flakes are added along with wine , olives and rosemary branches. Butter is then added after everything has been oven simmered for half an hour. Ms Clark warns that the chicken skin will lose its' crispness. To remedy this she recommends adding a dusting of Parmesan cheese and quick cook under the broiler. It is a saucy dish so make sure there's a crusty baguette served with it.

Chicken can also be used in David Tanis' satay recipe  from his A City Kitchen column. He uses pork  though in this Thai inspired dish. Satay is an Asian version of shish kebob but instead of using thick chunks of meat, the pieces are thinner and flatter.They should be cut as rectangles in order to lie flat on the skewers. Doing such will allow the satays to cook quickly, just a few minutes per each side. Mr Tanis recommends using the pork shoulder because of the marbling in it with the fat giving the pieces more flavor . Satays are meant to be grilled and , even a small hibachi one can do the job nicely. Even an indoor grill or broiler can do if the weather doesn't cooperate.What makes satays so appealing is the marinade. Mr. Tanis uses one that is highly spiced with cumin, and coriander along with ginger and cayenne for heat. Lemongrass and coconut milk, the mainstays of Thai cuisine , is also added as are fish and soy sauce. The meat pieces are marinated for at least thirty minutes and at the most overnight, the last a must for a more flavorful taste.There is also a fiery cucumber relish made from Japanese or Persian cukes to complement then.Of course there is peanut dipping sauce. - a have to have with the dish. Again , most of the ingredients from the marinade is mixed with pulsed dry roasted peanuts.

Chicken and pork are versatile meats that can be made a variety of ways. Try chicken with artichoke hearts for a  sweet and mellow dinner. Pork can be made into a fun  Thai inspired dish.Try both for a departure from the ordinary.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Hometown Dream

Most chefs, especially when they attain celebrity status , leave their hometowns and roots for good. Not so for Art Smth, a chef and baker from northern Florida.He moved back to his home town , after a glittering career. Why? His heart is there and so are his plans for the next step in his career.

Kim Severson profiled and interviewed this amazing chef/baker in today's New York Times Food section. Chef Smith came from Jasper,a small, sleepy southern town  located not far from the Georgia border. He has cooked for the Obamas as well as for Oprah Winfrey, two Florida governors and even the British royal family.His children have received formal baptismal blessings from the Pope . His friends include Lady Gaga and Jeb Bush. One would think he'd want to open up restaurants and bakeries in the glittery celebrity chef worlds of New York,LA or even Miami however that's not Chef Smith's dream. It is one where his hometown of Jasper is revived . There was only a phosphate factory and a nursery home along with being the birthplace of the writer Lillian Smith, known for writing the controversial book, Strange Fruit. Jasper is located in Hamilton county, one of  Florida's poorest counties.It' s a forgotten or ignored town  - as tourists drive by it to see Disney World three hours south of it.That's all about to change. The sleepy southern town is about to get enthusiastically shaken awake.

Chef Smith has big plans for Jasper which will certainly put it on any foodie's map.It involves Disney , an enterprise that has boosted the state's tourists revenues for decades.The resort is letting him open his two hundred seat restaurant Homecoming : Florida Kitchen And Southern Shine where it specializes in farm to fork cuisine.It's design  was inspired by turn of the century Floridian architecture. The menu is pure Southern too as well as trendy , deviled eggs,  chicken and dumplings and kale salad with walnuts and Georgia cheese.Of course there will be Southern cakes such as the classic hummingbird cake, twelve layer ones, Key lime pound cakes and moonshine cakes. The last is a tribute to his grandfather ,a moonshiner, however the cake is a sweet moist one made with fruit, The cakes will be baked in what is now a closed complex that once housed jai alai and poker room. Once was a mecca for local gamblers will now become the future of a commercial  bakery that will be selling a taste of the South to all of America.Not only will it sell cakes at an on site bakery but also a country store that sells organic produce.Lucikly he has Florida heiress Margie Geddes along with Jasper native Susan Levin Turner to help.

Some celebrity chefs conveniently forget where they came from, Not Chef Smith . He is going back to Jasper to put it on the culinary map.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Six Minute Meals

Can a hot delicious meal be made in six minutes? Yes! Thanks to a brand new cookbook that shows how to make any kind a meal in six minutes . The recipes are not only fast but fun. What's best of all it that anything can be made in no time from veggies to desserts, from breakfasts to dinners.

The author of this amazing book is Irish chef, Stuart O'Keefe,from Nenagh in central Ireland who is  now living in California. His book, The Quick Six Fix (William Morrow Imprint) is not only a blend of interesting So Cal and Irish influenced food but also a great tip book about pantry organization. I love his advice in the first chapters, especially the must have and nice to have lists.There is also a recipe key with symbols. My favorite is the stop sign that indicates stop and clean whatever pan , pot or utensil was used. Doing such also makes for a much quicker clean up afterwards although it will take more than six minutes to clean up everything. Chef O'Keefe also  has a 3X symbol on the recipes too. He gently but firmly urges home chefs to read the recipe three times before executing it as well as the included tips. Doing such will make the recipe more understood and will not result in any bad surprises like overcooking or under cooking later on.This is perfect for novices  who are just  getting the hang of cooking.The man ingredients in every recipe, from breakfast to dessert are emphasized in blue caps. This helps in writing out the grocery list for the recipe.Also recipes that can be whole meals are indicated by a fork, knife and spoon sign.

The recipes are fun and easy , along with being an homage to Chef O'Keefe's Irish roots and family. There are spins on his mother's chicken soup and bangers and leek mash . His Aunt Derry's recipe for raspberry custard is on there too. Chef O'Keefe's new life in Southern California is seen in the recipes of Speedy Gonzales eggs and a variety of breakfast smoothies. The recipes are divided into categories from breakfast to meats , chicken, pork and fish to salads and breakfasts. Wing lovers will enjoy Chef O'Keefe's Buffalo chicken wings with Maytag blue cheese dipping sauce.It's roasted wings with name brand Frank's hot cayenne sauce and a homemade blue cheese dip.There is the easy and elegant Thirteen Spice chicken with creme fraiche. The thirteen spices come from Old Bay Seasoning. Home chefs wanting something exotic will love Pork Curry In A Hurry while beef fans will love Port Marinated skirt steak with roasted grape tomatoes. The sides are amazing too and would be good on their own. Brussels sprouts get special treatment with the addition of chorizo  sausages while oven roasted fingerling potatoes get amped up with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and thyme.Desserts are wonderful, from a chocolate- y spin on the classic Eton Mess to a decadent updating of the classic s'more with giant chocolate chip cookies subbing in for the graham crackers.

Thanks to The Quick Six Fix is a great cookbook for busy home chefs who want to cook a satisfying meal in no time. There's a variety of delicious dishes that get them out of the kitchen and at the table. in no time. It's a quick cook with interesting recipes.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Orthodox Easter Fasts And Feasts

This is Holy Week in both Greek and Russian Orthodoxy, It is a time of strict fasting followed by glorious feasting celebrating the Lord's resurrection. Ancient traditions are honored and acted upon with recipes passed down for generations. They reflect the people and the lands that created them.

The Orthodox  Easter has to follow Passover , since it takes the New Testament literally and is
based on the Julian calendar (while Catholics and Protestants celebrate the Gregorian calendar one). Both religions have heavy fasting periods, especially around Lent (there is also a Christmas fast too). Even the weeks before Lent have purifying fasts where meat and other animal products are not allowed but dairy and eggs are permissible . The Lenten period kicked off with a Clean Monday fast where no food is eaten the first Monday until Wednesday evening. This is the longest fast in the church calendar. The second through the sixth  weeks sees them nix almost everything except fruits vegetables, wheat products and water. This makes for sparse  but healthy eating. Luckily they can eat nuts so peanut butter and bread provide some sustenance Wine and oil are only allowed on the weekends. There is a meal eaten on Holy Thursday then strict fasting (absolutely no food) on Good Friday. It is broken on Holy Saturday after the liturgy of Saint Basil. Fruit and some wine are allowed for sustenance.

Both Greek and Russian Easters are glorious affairs . The Greeks have a light meal after midnight mass to ease into eating. Some roast a whole lamb on a spit while others also roast goaton Easter Sunday. Both are usually stuffed with rice, pine nuts, cinnamon and raisins. The Russians  celebrate with   the tasty stroganoff, beef strips in smetana or sour cream or chicken kiev, a rolled and breaded chicken breast filled with garlic butter and herbs. Bread is important with both. The Greek Orthodox bake a fluffy challah like loaf studded with bright red eggs. The braids  called tsoureki symbolizes the Holy Trinity while the eggs are symbolic of Christ's blood. The Russians go wild with their Easter breads too and create the large airy kulich. This is a bread that bakes in coffee or juice cans and resembles the Italian panettone or pan d'oro in shape and height but is spiced with saffron and cardamon. A thick confectioner's glaze is poured on top and then topped with a heavy dose of colorful sprinkles. Cheese is also a big Easter treat There is pashka a kind of cheesecake mold that has Pascals symbols on it.It's  a rich mix of farmer's cheese , heavy cream , egg yolk and sugar. The Greeks have a savory  and sweet cheese dishes ,depending on the location.

The Oerhodox Holy week is an interesting time, beginning with fasts and ending with feasts. The foods to end celebrate are amazing, rich in tradition and in flavor. They are true gems passed dow from generation to generation.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Challenges Of Passover Cooking

Passover is one of the most ancient and traditional of meals. However with any  holiday meal, it can pose challenges ,leaving home  chefs to scratch their heads. One problem is vegetarianism - the other how to make something new with a limited allowance of ingredients. Not to worry - there are solutions.

Many families have to embrace their kids or relatives new vegetarian lifestyle. What happens then to the lamb or brisket?It can still be made but new dishes have to be added.One idea is vegetarian potato and mushroom croquettes, more or less based on latkes. These are really patties that also has onion added for flavor . The binder is ground maztoh meal. The potatoes are first boiled and mashed and then the sauteed onions and mushrooms are the added as are the crumbs. The croquettes are then mounded and fried in extra virgin olive oil (it is considered suitable for Passover cooking) for eight minutes until crisp.A more colorful dish is roasted beet casserole. This recipe works for both vegans and vegetarians.It's simply layering sliced beets in a lightly oiled baking dish and then sprinkling salt, sugar and paprika on top of them. It's then dotted with margarine and baked for half a hour. Spinach and leek can come together with potato to create a kind of strata.It is labor intensive with  cooking the potatoes first however they can be microwaved to save time. There is also making the cashew "cheese" which also requires avocado and layering of the different ingredients from soaked matzoh to leeks and baby spinach.

Another challenge for Passover home chefs is the dessert.Leavening is not allowed so that rules out many cakes.However that also forces a lot of creative thinking.  A mock chestnut torte is  an elegant way to solve this problem. Since chestnut puree is not acceptable for the holiday, mashed sweet potato can be used as the base. The dessert has an almost souffle like quality because the six eggs required are separated and the whites are made into a meringue first before being added to the mix of sweet potatoes, yolks and dark chocolate.Melted chocolate is drizzled over the cake as a glaze and then it's decorated with raspberries.Macaroons are a traditional must and these, too, can be made at home.It's an easy recipe that just needs egg yolks , granulated sugar and  two cups ground almonds. Home chefs can also make the coconut ones too, subbing in the ground almond with shredded coconuts and using the egg whites instead of the yolks, Chocolate chips can be added  or cocoa powder added to the recipe for richer treats. Kids will love matzoh brittle, matzoh topped with homemade caramel and dark chocolate and then broken into bite sized pieces.

Passover cooking should not come with problems. There are solutions for dealing with vegetarianism as well as what to make for dessert. These provide for a tasty meal that suits everyone;s beliefs and taste with ending on a high sweet note.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Diversity of Ecuadorian Cuisine

Ecuador is primarily known for the Galapagos Islands where Charles Darwin developed his evolution theories. However it should also be known for its' varied cuisine that reflects its history and topography.It's an interesting blend of sea and land along with some ancient recipes..

Like most South American countries Ecuador has a mountainous area leading into coastal lowlands. Pork chicken and beef are popular in the mountains along with cuy or guinea pig. The last,  a shocker to any North American who had one as a companion, is made with garlic and native chilis along with pisco, an Ecuadorian brandy.It's one of the country's most ancient dishes, first being cooked by the Incas. Cuy was a sign of wealth too, being enjoyed by the local Incan royalty and used also to portend omens.However the country is also known for its' other dishes such as their version of arroz con pollo that is highly spiced with cumin and achiote, a plant derivative that adds a red color to the dish. There's also fritada de gallina, chicken made with fermented corn drink or chicha along with garlic and onion.There's also a kind of chicken fried rice ,chaulafan de pollo that's spiked with bacon, scrambled eggs and even raisins along with veggies and spices. Students make arroz con huevos, rice and eggs tweaked with plantains and avocados,Plantains or plantanos are also big in Ecuadorian cuisine. They are usually stuffed with cheese or topped with it.

The country has a lush coastline and its' reflected in its seafood dishes. They're mostly shrimp but cooked in  variety of different ways There is arroz con camarones , a kind of paella spiked with native spices along with onions , peppers and tomatoes. Chorizos, those highly spiced pork sausages can also be added.Another paella influenced dish is arroz marinero which is chock full of not only shrimp but also clams, squid and bay scallops.The Ecuadorians also appreciate beef and pork dishes as well as lamb. Many home kitchens produce carne colorada, a braised beef dish that's been marinaded in a mix of beer, garlic and oregano. Pork is also a staple and it's the base of pernil, a holiday  pork dish popular throughout South and Central America.It's a pork loin marinated in bitter orange juice along with clove and cinnamon for a few hours. Lamb is also marinaded , especially in the dish seco de borrego, A combo of beer and wine is poured over it as well as the usual Ecuadorian combo of achiote and cumin.The Ecuadorians love goat too and make a stew out of it with the native fruit naranjillo, a type of kiwi that has a tart  and acidic flavor. Chicha is also added for some kick.

Ecuador is an interesting country , full of wild and wonderful dishes. They reflect a country that has both Incan and European influences in its' cuisine. The food is tasty, flavorful and good.

Remember those affected by the Ecuadorian earthquake. Donate to the Red Cross now.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Another Take On Asparagus

Asparagus is the star  of the Spring season as it was mentioned last week here, It's is popular in a variety of dishes. The stalks really are versatile, being perfect in crepes or as a stir fry.

David Tanis knows this and wrote about them in his column A City Kitchen in yesterday's New York Times Food section . This is the height of the asparagus season on the East Coast. This is when the stalks taste the best and have the best texture. Should foodies eat  the Peruvian ones  or the west Coast ones from Southern California and Mexico available all year round?.Yes, if the craving is that strong but Mr. Tanis advises waiting.The stalks will taste better and be that much more satisfying as the season rolls in.There is also the problem of jet lag, meaning the veggies may be picked fresh , but as we all know that freshness only lasts for a short period.What do raw talks look like? The spears should be smooth and glossy with  tightly closed tips. The bottom ends should look just cut too. This means the asparagus is fresh.As with any cut green, that freshness needs to be maintained until cooking. Advocates recommend standing the spears upright in the fridge in an inch of cold water, similar to what you'd do with cut flowers. The best bet is cooking the asparagus the day you buy it. The fresh  taste won't be diminished then.

Asparagus  spears come in three widths: pencil thin, medium and jumbo.If you go for the ultra skinny remember to cut it into two inch lengths and either saute or stir fry. The thicker ones are better steamed or grilled, roasted or simmered. These are the most versatile to work with .If you do opt for the fatter ones, remember that they need to be peeled.It's beneficial for cooking and for a more silkier texture. Medium or thin ones don;t need this extra process. White asparagus, also popular right now always needs peeling.Cut off or snap off  tough bottoms. If home chefs choose the latter then they should hold their hands towards the bottom end of the stalks or too much will be discarded. Be warned. Stalks can snap in the middle if the technique is carelessly done.The main thing , no matter the size or cooking method, is to make sure the spears are properly cooked. Keep them bright green and firm.As Mr. Tanis advises it's better to keep them underdone, residual heat will cause them to continue cooking as they get lifted out. The recipes are stuffing them into buckwheat crepes, stir frying them with walnuts and butter braising them. The last recipe is probably the best way to enjoy them, There's also lemon juice and fresh herbs such as  dill, parsley, tarragon and chervil to bring out the sweet earthiness.

Take advantage of asparagus season while it's here. Now is the time to enjoy those tender , fresh Springy stalks. Make them any way , just to relish that greenness.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Celebrating The Persian New Year

Before there was Passover and Easter there was the Persian New Year or Nowruz. This holiday brought in the new Spring season along with a variety of different dishes.It shows Iranian cooking at it's best,, full of colors and flavors.

Melissa Clark wrote about this precursor of Spring holidays in her A Good Appetite in today's New York Times Food section.Nowruz is one of those non-religious holidays, similar to our Thanksgiving in the sense that all religions, Muslim, Jewish and Christian celebrate this ancient Zoroastrian holiday that has been celebrated continually for 3,000 years, millenniums before Islamic conquest .Preparations for it include many rites that are familiar to us. There are dyed eggs, complete housecleaning and copious amounts of herbs. Nowruz occurred on March 13th of this year however the holiday dishes can be enjoyed all season long. the holiday lasts for thirteen days with feasting and visiting.Los Angeles has the most Iranians however it surprisingly lacks Persian restaurant. Most holiday dinners occur at home with home cooking and ancient recipes. The dishes are fragrant , diverse and highly refined, based on complex culinary techniques.The cooking influenced Middle Eastern ,Moroccan, Northern Indian and Turkish cuisines with its' highly sensuous recipes. Persian cooking is known for its' fragrant and flavorful tastes.

A Persian kitchen is full of aromas. It is perfumed with flowers and herbs such as roses fenugreek and mint along with spices such as saffron, sumac and cardamon .The Iranians were using pomegranates long before they became trendy and barberry a type of cranberry like berry.  Nowruz dishes contain these and are chock full of symbolism. There is sabzi polo mahi  an herbed rice with fish that represents life and rebirth , fresh green herbs that means renewal and rebirth while the rice symbolizes prosperity.Kuku sabzi a, type of frittata stuffed with herbs to represent fertility. Herbs are in abundance in Persian cooking which represent the earth Ms. Clark gives the recipe for Persian rice which is basmati rice redolent with such herbs as parsley, cilantro mint along with basil, fenugreek chives and tarragon.Saffron is also added along with ghee for flavor and color. Sweets are also a big part of Nowruz. Toot, a rose water flavored almond paste represents a life full of love and sweetness is also made.It's a homemade version of marzipan made with ground almonds, confectioners sugar and rose water that's molded into hearts or cute figures like bunnies.

Nowrus is the well that all spring holidays come from. It also is a showcase of Persian cooking at its best, full of flavor and fragrance. The dishes can be made even now as the season continues on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It's A Wrap

Lunch can be a boring affair sometimes. It's either sandwiches or burgers with the occasional salad in the summer and soup in the winter. However there is something else to liven up the midday meal: the wrap. This is  versatile kind of sandwich that is easy to make and definitely more interesting to eat.

A wrap is nothing more than a burrito however Greeks, Mid Easterners,Armenians, Turks and Kurds have all variations of it. The bread is usually a tortilla, pita or lavash a kind of naan found around the Caspian area. They're usually made from wheat but can also be made from corn and flour.The wrap as we know it today was created in the early Nineties with three places claiming to have invented it. They were the southern California chain "I Love Juicy,New York's OVO Bistro and Stamford Connecicut's Bobby Valentine's sport's Gallery Cafe. The last clains that it ran out of bread and had t used the first thing handy -a tortilla. The US isn' the only country that's wrap happy. Australia has two chains Oportos and Burger Fuel that feed the wrap fire while Britain has happily embraced the sandwich as well. There is a caveat though. Plain wraps are usually fifty calories higher  than a slice of bread. Be careful with what you stuff them with  or they could have the same caloric weight as a burger.Companies like Toufayan do offer low calorie ones that start at one  hundred calories. Try these if you're watching your weight or are on a restricted diet.

Filling the wraps is the best part.You can add anything from leftovers to fresh  veggies to create an unique and tasty lunch . The first part is selecting  a wrap. Now they come in different flavors like pesto, garden vegetable and tomato along with plain and whole wheat. (again Toufayan, the leader in wraps produces all  of these). For a healthy one think chopped turkey or chicken with chopped tomatoes and shredded lettuce. This is an incredibly light lunch and you can even have  side of vinaigrette as a dipping sauce.Another good one that chock full of vitamins is an avocado wrap. Since  avocado is filling, meat is optional. Add layers of spinach and watercress for a truly green and tasty bite.Any sandwich can be turned into a wrap. Try a BLT or a club sandwich loaded with bacon and mayo.For a quick wrap on the go try ham and American cheese. Salads too can be stuffed into a wrap. Caesar salad is a popular wrap  filling in diners and it can be made with or without grilled chicken or shrimp. You can also try a chef salad stuffing  with its' variety of different meats  cheeses and veggies. Serve with your favorite dressing as a dipping sauce.

Wraps are a nice and different alternative to humdrums sandwiches and burgers. Stick to the classic fillings or create one that unique. Either way it's a great way to liven up a lunch!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Store Cooked - The Easy Way Out

Sometimes it's hard just to cook. It's either the weather  being too hot or being  too leave bed. How to feed a family with nutritious  and tasty food? Rely on your local grocery.

For the past thirty years grocery stores have been providing whole hot meals for their customers. as more and more women went to work, less and less kitchens were being used. Yet these trailblazers still wanted to give their clan an old fashioned meal with a main dish and sides. This is when supermarkets saw the need and amped up their deli sections. Now there's everything under the sun.One of the most versatile is the roasted chicken. This is the perfect hot meal and can provide for all sorts of leftovers the day after.For me it's a chance to enjoy a roast without turning on the oven and turning my kitchen into   an  - oven.Also stores such as Acme and Stop & Shop have the lemon and bourbon glazed ones which give an ordinary bird some oomph Deli counters also offer fried chicken which are much better than what Popeye's and KFC has . Stop & Shop's version has a crispy and savory crust without that greasy after taste along with plumper pieces.Rib lovers can choose a tangy sauced rack without the dread of  messing up their oven.Some supermarkets are even including hamburgers in their hot lunch line up.

One of the best aspects of  supermarket cooking is the wide array of sides. .To be honest their potato
salads are better than mine.I am  a huge fan of anything Stop & shop makes , especially their version of this German classic. It is made with the right amount of mayo and celery. Their kale salad is not only a good side but a good snack too. It is a super salad with  kale being the base and antioxidant rich blueberries , onions  and walnuts added. The store puts a  sweet and tangy dressing on it  which works wells with its' ingredients. Another plus is that it's great with roast beef sandwiches or with roasted turkey breast.Many cake and bread snobs refuse to buy baked goods from supermarkets. They're missing out on some tasty treats. I've always loved birthday cakes from any grocery store , especially the baby cakes, the smaller version of the regular sized ones.Many like the Acme's cupcakes that have the same fine crumb and creamy frosting as cupcake mavens Crumbs and Sprinkles.Acme also has amazing white and whole wheat baguettes that are on a par with the fancy chain eatery Le Pain Quotidian. Not to be outdone Stop & Shop produces the best croissants, plain, almond and chocolate.

Supermarkets can provide a hot nutritious meal and dessert that tastes as good as homemade. It's delicious eating without all the work and bother. Shop now for stress free dinner  later.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Springy Sauces From San-J

The warm weather is here and that means barbecues and sauces. San-J, creators of gluten free soy sauce has come out with two zingy sauces perfect for the grilling season. They will liven up any cook out and give that special oomph to any meat or fish.

San Jirushi or San-J is one of Japan's oldest soy sauce manufacturers. The company was started in 1802 by the Sato family. Their sauces derive from ancient recipes for miso and tamari or soy sauce. Unlike American brands that dilute theirs with wheat which means there's also gluten in it as well. San J has always made the purest sauces using only one hundred per cent soy. This creates a richer sauce with a smoother flavor and texture. Now they're expanding into sauces - perfect for the upcoming barbecue season. Like the other sauces they are gluten free, perfect for those who suffer from celiac disease.The flavors are varied, from Thai Peanut to Mongolian to Szechuan. I like their sauces tremendously, especially for turning boring chicken and soy nuggets into exciting eats.The Sweet and Tangy has a tropical fruit taste , ripe with pineapple and the tang of garlic. The Orange sauce starts out with a burst of sweet orange followed by a nutty aftertaste. This is due to the addition of the fermented tamari sauce . Another reason to like both sauces is that they're made with organic ingredients like apple and pineapple juices for the Sweet and Tangy and orange juice and organic honey for the Orange Sauce.

Home chefs are going to go crazy over the many different dishes they can create with these two sauces.The Sweet and Tangy is perfect for any chicken recipe.Think kebobs marinaded in it
along  with extra pineapple juice for a sweet South Pacific treat.Marinate diced chicken, green pepper strips and pineapple chunks in the sauce foe two hours. Layer on six inch skewers and grill. Have a bowl of the Sweet and Tangy on the table too for dipping. You can also make Polynesian shrimp this way too.Another fun idea is having the sauce as a dip for  barbecued  jerk veggies, chicken and shrimp . can get a sweet spike from the sauce too. Pork is a great medium for  this sauce and the Orange Sauce. The pineapple juice or orange juice enzymes will be perfect in tenderizing the meat. Marinate a one pound  roast with half a cup of the Sweet and Tangy  before roasting. Orange sauce and duck go together and home chefs can make an exotic outdoor cooked  version of duck l'orange.Instead of making an involved  sauce use San-J's Orange. It can also be used on Cornish hens along with chicken breasts to create tasty, crisp and sweet barbecue.The sauce would also be good slathered on chicken wings and also as a dipping sauce for them.

The barbecue season is fast upon us . Try San-J's Sweet and Tangy and Orange sauce to liven up those kebobs and wings along with outdoor roasts.It's a tasty and exotic spin on American cook outs.

Friday, April 15, 2016

That Spring Favorite Asparagus

There are a lot of harbingers of Spring. The first robin, lighter clothing, picnics and asparagus. The last is everywhere now, indicating a time for lighter cooking and lighter eating. It's a wonderful side for any Spring holiday dinner as well as a nice accompaniment to any salad. Best of all it's versatile, going from a supporting player to star with ease.

Asparagus is an ancient plant with the Egyptians first planting it 3,000 (!) years ago.It was also big with the ancient Syrians and Spanish.The Greeks and Romans ate it fresh while in season and then dried it for fall and winter cooking.In fact the last could be credited it for turning it into the first frozen food. Legions of Romans soldiers, under Emperor Augustus, hauled it to the Italian Alps to be frozen. They were dubbed "The Asparagus Fleet". The emperor even coined the phrase "faster than cooking asparagus" for quick action and it was one of the earliest recipes from Apicus.It fell out of favor during the Medieval Period but was a favorite again  of the French court. Louis XIV's mistress Madame du Pompadour to nickname them "love tips" and to make them trendy again in french dining rooms. Asparagus is high in the B vitamins, namely folate which makes it a great dish for expectant women who need the vitamin on a daily basis.The stalks are extremely high in Vitamins A and K along with being an excellent source of calcium.Unfortunately there is a side effect, namely
 strong smelling urine. How ever this is a small price to pay , considering all the benefits asparagus has to offer

It is in season now and ready to be turned into a variety of dishes. There is a caveat for home chefs. Try to get tender baby stalks. They become very woody and hard to chew as they get older.White asparagus, vastly popular in Germany and the rest of Northern a little more tender but has the sale delicate, fresh taste as its' green cousin. One of my favorite recipes is simply boiling the stalks in salt water until tender for about five to ten minutes and  then drizzling them with melted butter or margarine followed by a heavy dusting of Parmesan cheese. Both are perfect in complimenting the stalk's fresh green sweetness. Asparagus can also be grilled.Marinade them first, usually in a lemon-olive oil marinade before putting over a low fire.It goes great with any grilled meat  from beef to chicken to even fish . The grilled stalks can also be cut into one inch pieces and added to a salad. Quiches get an extra  boost of sweetness and  freshness by adding a cup or two to the recipe. The veggie pairs surprisingly well with bacon, with each bringing out the other's flavor. Parmesan cheese can also be added for even more flavor.

Make asparagus a part of Spring cooking and eating. The stalks will go well with any roast or as the main player in a quiche or salad. Try them to experiences their fresh, green goodness!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Passover Classics

Passover will be here within the next two weeks and home chefs are wondering to go with classic recipes or new spins. There are recipes that straddle both. They have the traditional holiday dishes ingredients but are mixed and cooked in new ways. This creates tasty holiday dishes that adhere to Kosher dietary laws.

Melissa Clark and Joan Nathan wrote about these in yesterday's New York Time's Food Clark decided to give the traditional Passover brisket a rest in her A Good Appetite column. She opts for another cut from the cow's rear - a more tender and lighter beef tenderloin. A  London Broil cut can also be used too.It only takes thirty minutes to cook up instead of the usual two hours.The sauce with it is a homemade garlic aioli but you can also used bought mayo too.The first is a fresher version made with one whole egg along with a yolk of a second one along with lemon juice for emulsion. . Horseradish is a must on the Passover table and once again Ms Clark changes it up.She replaces the traditional with beet horseradish, a vibrantly magenta topping for the beef. The root has a barely standable flavor as is so the beets add a much needed shot of sweetness.They are grated together and then chopped, pickled with white wine vinegar sugar and kosher salt.It can not only be served with the beef but also with Hillel sandwiches and gefilte fish, along with even tuna, turkey and roast beef sandwiches.

Gefilte fish is another Passover standard however it 's not always the top of the list. Contributor Joan Nathan knows this and offers a spin  on it. She created a very flavorful patty, a complete turnaround from how it 's usually made. The dish came from Eastern European Jews  and is usually made with lake carp., whitefish or pike. Traditional recipes call for the fish carcass to be stuffed with its' meat mixed with matzoh meal and onions. Eggs are used to bind everything together and then it's stuffed back into the fish. Ms. Nathan takes a modern approach to this. The usual white fish is mixed with other scaled and finned fish in accordance to Kosher law.Fatty fish such as salmon, striped bass even trout can be thrown into the stuffing, She eliminates the fish stock that they simmer in and replaced it with a vegetable court bouillon infused with colorful and fresh herbs such as tarragon, dill , parsley and chives. The court bouillon is made with the highly flavorful fennel, celery another onion and carrot. This will infuse the patties with a fresh garden flavor. Another plus of this recipe is that the patties only take twenty minutes to simmer up as opposed to the two long hours for traditional gefilte fish. The result is a firm yet tender patty that won;t fall apart while cooking.

Passover demands traditional dishes. However the tradition can be changed up to create tasty dishes that will highlight the holiday. Try these to create new traditions and new favorites.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Open To Sesame

\Mention sesame to most  Americans and they'll automatically think of a decorative topping for a hamburger bun. Mention the same seed to people from the Middle East, Turkey or Greece and they'll think tahini or halvah. Now it's becoming big stateside

Julia Moskin wrote about this extremely versatile seed in today's New York Times Food section.Sesame seeds can be turned into tahini if crushed or into the classic sweet halvah if mixed with sugar.It was long looked down upon as poor people's food, a treat for those who could not afford expensive pastries made with butter white flour and sugar. However Isreali, Turkish, and Greek chefs, long familiar with both are using both to create interesting main dishes and desserts. It is grown around the world and was one of the first plants cultivated for is' oil.It grows primarily in hot weather climates such as China, India, Myanmar and sub saharan Africa.Black sesame paste is used in East Asia, mostly for creates a sugary inky black soup and is being used by trendy Japanese bakers to create elegant dove grey cheesecakes and chiffon cakes.Sesame is a part of the Chinese New Year treat jian due, fluffy rice balls coated in golden sesame seeds.Indians turn the seeds into brittle and candy balls for winter snacking. They're considered warming in the ayurvedic tradition Africans brought them to the american South where they're still known by the Bantu name benne, where they're made into melting savory crackers.

Home chefs too are fully embracing both  as they now crave Mediterannean and Middle Eastern foods.Hummus lovers already have been introduced to tahini. It's one of the ingredients in the chickpea dip.It gives foods a salty nutty under taste that actually works just as well with dessert recipes. In a way tahini is similar to peanut butter with grinding an oily seed or nut until the solids are minuscule enough to form a smooth, silky emulsion with the oil.Halvah also has the sesame seed paste  but it's blended with boiled and whipped sugar foam  to create a fluffy , feather light melt in your mouth treat/. Ms Moskin gives interesting recipes with the article. Home chefs can try it in salted chocolate chip cookies. It creates a different kind of cookie , one with savory notes that work well with the dark chocolate/ There is also a halvah semifreddo, a delicious mix of halvah, pistachios and whole cream frozen in a loaf pan.Another recipe is a fun candy like mix of Rice Chex or cornflakes, tahini and milk chocolate melted and mixed together to form crunchy  sweet rounds. These can be crumbled and sprinkled over ice cream too. For those who cannot get enough of halvah try the Greek pasteli, soft wedges of  sesame seeds, thyme honey and orange made for thousands of years on the island of Kea. Halvah can be bought on line and in different flavors such as chocolate and pistachio.

Sesame seeds are not just for decorating hamburger buns. They can be turned into a creamy sauce used for both savory and sweet dishes  as well as a feather light candy. Try tahini and halvah to experience a different side of the seed,

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Cooking Channel A New Passion

The Cooking Channel should be every foodie and home chef's obsession. It has neat shows that are both informative and fun along with entertaining hosts. The channel is everything food and snack lovers enjoy. It truly is a tasty treat.

I happened upon it one night when there was nothing on. Now it's  a Monday night must. One of my favorites is the back to back episodes of Unique Sweets.This is a neat show , with a variety of different hosts tasting and sampling their way through every bakery , candy and ice cream shop in America. Along with highlighting cruffins (a croissant and muffin hybrid) to cake pops.They cover every sweet corner of this country from pie shops in California to creameries in Maine and the best part is that the shops don't offer the usual fare. There are the turquoise-y Blue Velvet cupcakes found in Bay Ridge Brooklyn to that Californian pie shop that features beet (!) pie and a pie layer cake.  Foodies and home chefs will love that the sweets featured have their recipes on the site Another plus is that the hosts are quirky and as fun as the treats themselves.What follows is another fun and informative show is Unwrapped 2.0 with the former child star. Alfonso Ribiero. I always liked the first Unwrapped but unfortunately the Food Channel dropped it. This new version is livelier with the same neat facts as the original.

The Cooking Channel has other shows and celebrities that The Food Channel doesn't feature all that much.. Alton Brown is here as is Roger Mooking who so graciously granted an interview to this blog a couple of years ago. Tiffani  Thiessen has a cooking show too with her Dinner At Tiffani's, a celebrity packed show with good old fashioned recipes. This is a great show for novice home chefs who are planning their first big dinner party. It really is a watch and learn half hour.The channel also features a series of minute or two minute shorts called 'You're Eating It Wrong" which has certainly opened my eyes to some veggies and meat dishes.Host Dan Pashman  shows viewers how to eat almost everything , even chips and burgers to get the maximum flavor and texture from them.Chefs who have since left us for that great kitchen in the sky  such as Julia Child, Graham Kerr and The Two Fat Ladies, Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Patterson are also shown .It's a nice homage to them and allows younger home chefs to see the during their glory days..These were the ones who blew fresh air into dusty and dull kitchens around the globe.The channel also has a daily blog on their website that's crammed full of ideas and recipes.It's worth taking a look at for dinner and baking ideas.

The Cook Channel is a must see for any home chef or foodie. It's fun and lively , a truly delicious treat. Watch it for a taste of  something different and exciting.

Monday, April 11, 2016

News From London

The British have given the world good chefs . There were the Two Fat Ladies, Nigella Lawson, Tamasin Day-Lewis and Jamie Oliver. Now a new and fresher generation of  chefs and food bloggers are making their mark -and a healthy one at that too.

Surprisingly it was the Sunday New York Style section that featured them (as opposed to the Wednesday Food section) with a write up by Marisa Meltzer. Unlike the British chefs that ushered in a new century of British cooking, these offer a fresher, more organic spin on cooking and baking. It's reflected in some London foodie hot spots such as  26 Grains, an artisanal porridge shop and the cold pressed juice bars that are popping up all over the capitol  city. These young women, sometimes nicknamed "queens of green" and dubbed "Superfoodies" by the Telegraph promote a dairy free , plant based diet, chock full of of fresh picked produce. This is a far cry from Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Patterson, The Two Fat Ladies who cooked with copious amounts of red meat, sugar and fresh whole cream. They don't rely on processed or frozen foods as Jamie Oliver did when he was their ages. It's healthier,  and maybe to a few critics  - not as flavorful. Yet Britain is embracing them, and this new crop hope the US will too.

Who are these dietary Emiline Prankhursts? There is Ella Woodward, daughter of Sainsbury  food store scion, Camilla Sainsbury and British politician Shaun Woodward. She and her fianceegolfer  opened up Mae's deli where she can sell her sweet potato (!) brownies . They also have ground almonds, buckwheat and raw cacao in them, Getting on the healthy bandwagon are the sisters Helmsley, Jasmine and Melissa whose signature dish is a cauliflower crust pizza with Parma ham, arugula and Parmesan shavings. They're also big on the spare but nourishing Paleo bone broths too.Jamie Oliver's former stylist is getting her due too. Anna Jones is the opposite of her former boss and believes in no meat ever. A strict vegetarian, she wrote "A Modern Way To Eat 200+ Satisfying Vegetarian Recipes That Will Make You Feel Amazing" which has twists on the veggie burger. Her signature dish is kale and coconut salad with miso and roasted tomatoes. Prince Charles' former assistant Amelia Freer is also getting England to eat is restaurant heir Natasha Corrett. The first promotes forgoing processed and packaged foods while the second advises to  strive for alkaline eating to balance the body. That means cutting out corn, dairy , meat and wheat for  a more balanced diet.

England will always be known for lavish beef dinners and over the top sugary sweet desserts. However there's a new generation of cooks, entrepreneurs and food writers that are trying to change all that. Instead of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding followed by sticky toffee, there'll be Paleo bone broth and kale followed by sweet potato brownies.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Celebrating Outlander

As any Outlander fan can tell you the Scots know how to throw a party. The internationally loved series starts its' second season on Starz Chanell tonight at nine EST. .It's a wild ride through the French court and Scottish countryside.  What better way to celebrate than with a viewing party!

To be honest Scottish food doesn't really lend itself to parties.Luckily the two main characters, the ruggedly handsome and sharply witty Jamie and the smart, time travelling Claire start Season Two in  mid 18th Century Paris. This is where canapes come in . There can be a nod to Jamie's homeland by topping cocktail rye bread slices (these are the smaller loaves sometimes sold at deli counters) with smoked salmon and a sprig of dill.This can also take a French turn by switching the salmon for ham or French sausage . Another idea is making mini Croque Monsiuers for fellow fans . This is just making  sandwiches with ham and Gruyere cheese, quartering them and  then a quick fry in melted butter. If this is too rich , then think veggies and a simple vinaigrette dip. Jamie and Claire never traveled to the South of France  but they missed out on that Provencale treat pissaladiere, a kind of miniature  pizza topped with anchovies,pitted  olives  and onions.The onion puree takes about half an hour to forty minutes to cook up but the pies only take twenty minutes to bake. Wash it down with Jamie's beloved whiskey or better yet whiskey cocktails. End the evening with an Irish coffee, loaded with whipped cream (and make sure your fellow Outlanders don;t reach for a second).

If you still want to celebrate the Highlander way, you can with modified versions. Not many groceries in the States sell haggis,It has to be either homemade or mail ordered.It's made with sheeps offal or internal organs. A better take on it  is lamb burgers with neep chips. Neeps is the Scott vernacular for turnips which are the perfect root veggie for chips. These can be sliced wafer thin , drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and  then baked for twenty minutes. The same can be done with another Highland staple parsnips however the baking time is forty five minutes.Now for the bold culinary  move that even the Jacobites would have cheered on - add a few drops of whiskey to ketchup to create a  Highlander inspired condiment. Of course there can be sweets. You can  go with the light and airy macaroons , similar to the ones that the French royals munched on .These can be bought or made. The basic  recipe requires egg whites and almonds along with powdered and granulated sugar. These can be accompanied by that Scottish must have  - shortbread. Buy the buttery rich Walker's brand or make your own. You can even make the shortbread rounds , fork pricked with J's C's and F's - for the couple's last name Frasier, This last is from the French fraise, or strawberry. You can serve chocolate covered ones as  the episode ends.

If you;re a diehard Outlander fan, then celebrate the beginning of Season Two with a theme party. Knock back the whiskey, eat a few lamb burgers and cheer the Jacobites Go Team Frasier with good food and loyal fans.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Eight Years in The Pantry

Eight years ago I started this blog  as   favor to  friend who needed publicity for his bottled water company. What started out as a day's publicity stunt became a full blown passion and blog. writing Foodie Pantry has made me hyper aware of the changes in the food industry for the past eight years

One aspect that is blatantly obvious is the price of food. Grapes alone are sometimes six to seven dollars a pound. Buy a three pound bag of seedless black ones and it's the price of a lunch at Wendy's. Sugar has gone up and in return any baked product. It is shocking that bakeries can sell cakes for as high as fifty dollars and no one complains. To that I say go to your local grocery store for  pastries and birthday treats. They're much cheaper and actually better tasting from stores such as Acme and Stop and Shop.Another interesting fact is that the average grocery bill has gone up in these eight years and will continue to do so.It's nothing to spend over one hundred dollars on just a few groceries and to spend close to five and six hundred on a week's worth. Thanks heavens for coupons and two for one sales. These are true blessings to those who are on fixed budgets. Luckily, one of the most expensive supermarkets, Whole Foods has just launched a cheaper version of itself called 365, It will tested in Los Angeles next year and then branch out across the country . The grocery will be a boon to those who want to eat healthy and enjoy cheaper versions of  free range meats and organic produce.

The last is also part of the change .  Over processed foods are now almost history. Thanks, partially to the hipster movements that are taking over this country, more and more people are demanding fresh made artisenal foods.The movement ,more or less started in Portland, Washington and Brooklyn, New York. The last city has given birth to all sorts of fresh made products, from bacon to pickles along with,  cured cheeses and fresh baked breads and pastas.It has paid off. Every bite has the same taste that our grandparents and great-grandparents relished.This has also given birth to the food swap movement where foodies swap home made and home processed goods. There are trades on everything from freshly laid eggs to homemade jams and cookies. Another trend that's developed in the last eight years, and one I'm proud of   is the urban farm. Old factories are being repurposed  to being places where veggies, fruits and herbs are grown for the community. This is happening in nearby Newark, a city that has known its' share of poverty and deprivation. People of all ages, especially the kids and elderly can now benefit from just picked tomatoes , lettuce and strawberries.

You wouldn't think that there could be changes in eight years but there are. Hopefully there will be  more organic and artesenal food for more and more people who need it. It's a wish that needs to become a reality.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Perfect Chocolate Babka

Babka has always been the domain  of bubbies and Jewish bakeries. That's all changing  thanks to a new generation of hip home bakers discovering it. The recipe has been somewhat tweaked but the end result is the same. Chewy buttery sweet slices that always satisfy,

Melissa  Clark wrote about it in yesterday's New York Times  A Good Appetite column along with a scrumptious recipe. Babkas are experiencing a kind of renaissance right now. The trendy Sadelle's Bakery in Manhattan's Soho offers one studded with homemade chocolate cookies while competitor Breads Bakery stuffs theirs with Nutella. Other bakeries such as Bklyn Larder fills theirs with a rich ganache and Baz Bagel turns theirs into the ultimate comfort food - babka bread pudding. The cake becomes even more decadent in the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolonghi and Sami Tamimi.It's renamed the chocolate krantz cake and is loaded with pecans. This has spawned a variety of variations. such as one filled with chocolate and raspberry jam and another soaked in honey syrup. New York's Lower East Side Russ & Daughters, originally a fish and savory shop, uses and bakes the original recipe . Theirs, according to fourth generation owner Joshua Ross Tupper advises babka is a nice balance of not too sweet cake and rich chocolate filling,It's also one the of the few traditional babkas sold and it's shipped all over the country. Ms. Clark is the rebel baker, using a rich chocolate butter cream filling in hers.

Home bakers be warned. Babka requires time and some expertise.It is working with yeast which can be tricky and time consuming. One can take all day or even longer (!) to make due to refrigerating the dough between steps. Doing this  does make it easier to manipulate  and a longer proofing period does give it a richer, more complex taste.It is easier to freeze than other breads so home chefs can make two loaves, one for now, the other for later. It is a rich buttery dough with a recipe requiring ten tablespoons of butter. and four large eggs.. The dough is transferred to buttered bowls which add to the flavor  as it bounces in and out of the fridge/Ms Clark's frosting filling also has a stick of unsalted butter along with 3/4 of a cup of heavy cream.If this isn't enough , there is over the top cocoa streusel topping. This is more butter (but only four and a half tablespoons this time) blended with cocoa , sugar and flour, It creates giant , luscious crumbs mixed in with dark chocolate chips. Home bakers can top their babkas with brown sugar streusel on top. The same goes for the filling.any sweet goo,according to Ms. Clark is acceptable. Try, jam, dulce de leche, Nutella or hot fudge sauce.

Chocolate babka is making a big comeback. Make it to enjoy its' lush buttery chocolate flavor.It may be intense to make but a dream to eat.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Boxed Meals - Cooking Outside The Box

Can a simple box of food change the way a family eats? Absolutely! It's a new trend where ingredients plus recipe are left on the front doorstep for the night;s meal. It's a new trend that's nourishing  the country as well as creating more legions of home chefs.

Kim Severson wrote about this new food phenomenon in today's New York Times' Food section.  She explored companies such as Blue Apron and the vegan Purple Carrot. For some it's a good idea. The companies send the exact amount of ingredients plus a fully illustrated recipe on how to make the dish. This is a great idea for busy parents who don't have time to shop or sit down and plan the week's dinner plan. It's also a good one  for those who live in rural areas where it's hard to get to supermarket especially in the winter .Blue Apron is also  a boon for  those who can't get the fancier ingredients sometimes needed to create a unique supper.Companies such as Blue Apron have a wide variety of choices that are ever changing. This week features spiced pork chops and mashed potatoes. The pork chops are coated in spices such as fennel and coriander , two spices home chefs may not think of using.Meal boxes are a learning experience for novice or not so great home chefs. They boost up confidences as home chefs learn all sorts of techniques with this at home culinary school. There are some  extended families who all order from Blue Apron and get together to cook what they've received.

The meal boxes are gaining in popularity. According to Technomic Inc., a food industry analyst predicts that the meal box industry can bring in revenues as high as five billion over the next decade. Some analysts though see signs of the trend waning. They do have some drawbacks namely in the packaging. Many of the companies do provide labels for customers to ship back the waste, including the gel packs and cardboard. These can be recycled for future packing. Also the companies are also working with packing material companies and shippers to reduce costs and garbage while keeping food cold and safe. The ultimate dream is packing the meals in containers that can be composted or turned into something else..Another aspect is Blue Apron and Purple Carrot don;t encourage creativity.Many home chefs like to puck out their ingredients and tinker with recipes. The meal boxes , though they may expand a home chef's knowledge,  canlimit what they can cook with in a meal. It also takes away from going family shopping and teaching kids about family recipes and their culinary heritage.

Boxed meals are a trend right now and they may be here to stay. They open a home chef's world to different spices and ingredients.They're worth a try for the busy or learning cook.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cooking With Fire And Ice

Many home chefs are afraid of of those five letter words - spice and herbs.They're afraid that it may ruin a dish or that their families may not like the fiery , cooling or even strange taste.Those are silly fears. a dash of cumin or dried ancho peppers - or even a few mint leaves can transform a simple dinner into a special one.

Spices are both a professional chef's and home chef's best friend. For those still leery about adding zing to their  recipes, start with the most basic - black pepper. Add freshly ground peppercorns to simple dishes like pan fried steak or even scrambled eggs can lift them out of the ordinary.From there they can graduate from the black kind to the other varieties such as the green, white, and pink,The next step is trying the fiery but delicious Szechuan recipes that prominently feature the spice. Chili lovers can appreciate the value of a hearty and hot three alarm chili.Some cooks balk at making it at home, however their families will love a blood warming bowl if the heat is gradually turned up.It just a simple recipe readjustment of going from one teaspoon to two.Also other spices such as paprika and cumin can also be added to give layers and subtlety to the dish too. These fire bombs can be used in other recipes as well. Think about fried chicken with the added kick of cayenne. If home chefs are leery about putting the usual three teaspoons in the batter, cut it back to only one or one and a half teaspoons..Sub in curry  for a slightly less hotter chicken.

Home chefs can also cool down a recipe by using mint - peppermint and spearmint leaves. They have been used for centuries ,in  Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines to offset spicy flavors. Greeks have added the leaves to yogurt  as a cooling side to heavily spiced lamb and vegetable dishes. It's a simple mix of adding two teaspoons of dried leaves to  Greek yogurt. Tabbouleh gets a refreshing lift from it as well. This blend  of bulgar or cracked wheat ,cucumbers, tomatoes and onions are mixed with freshly minced  parsley and mint leaves for a nice cooling side with grilled kabobs and veggies.The herb can also be ground into pesto.The leaves have the same consistency as basil so it's very easy to grind into a paste.As with the original , Parmesan cheese and pine nuts are added along with lemon  to give it some tartness. It can be served with any kind of pasta but would be best with penne or rotelli. Try it drizzled over a cold pasta salad when barbecue season rolls around.Another warm weather dish  that's cooling is sliced cucumbers in a mint sour cream sauce. Spearmint , usually reserved for tea, can sub in if you don;t have peppermint leaves. Try it with lamb or poultry.

There's nothing wrong with adding a little fire - or a little ice to liven up a dish. Experiment with different spices and herbs.They'll add zing to a once boring dinner.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Refrigerator Roulette

There are days when a home chef doesn't feel like going out and food shopping. Then there are days when the fridge is full of leftovers. If that's the case, then  get creative with what' in the fridge and freezer. It's surprising what fun dishes can be created by what's in them..

The freezer can always yield up something for lunch or dinner. . There may be frozen veggies or some burgers that wound up there and then forgotten. Home chefs can cook the veggies with melted butter and then toss some Parmesan cheese on them for a different spin.They can also be used in making pot pies with meat left over from any Sunday roast. Use beef stock or even cream of chicken soup for the pies' gravy. That extra can of biscuit dough you thought you'd use for Easter but didn't can be used to make the crust. If you have Pillsbury  Grands Biscuits you can make individual pot pies using a muffin tin, Leftover ham can be sliced thin and used to make filling for a Croque Monsieur. Frozen burgers can be turned into patty melts , thanks to cheese slices and toast. They can also be used for pizza topping and  for adding some oomph to pasta.What about hot dogs? Think cheddar dogs if you have any cheese or better yet open a can of chili for chili dogs. Even restaurant leftovers can be combined with almost anything in the fridge. The white rice you took home Saturday night  from the Chinese restaurant can be added to the soup leftover from last night  to stretch it.

Salads are one of the best ways to use up what's in the fridge. Slice up that leftover roast beef and turkey and add it to those Spring greens and grape tomatoes for a flavorful salad. Sliced chicken can be added to a bowl of Romaine lettuce along with dried cranberries and walnuts  to create a filling but low calorie dinner. Add cut apples and even grapes to  turn it into a take on a Waldorf salad.Turn bacon, hard boiled  eggs and spinach into a tasty salad,Throw in thinly sliced white cap mushrooms for extra protein, The fridge can provide home chefs with the ingredients for homemade dressings too. One of the easiest to make is French dressing, The simplest recipe is just mayo and ketchup mixed with oil and red wine vinegar. Some recipes call for Worcester sauce  along with a sprinkle of paprika for color and sugar for added sweetness. Sub in dark honey for the sugar for a mellower, richer flavor. Add relish and you have Thousand Island dressing. Homemade Russian dressing is another product of fridge roulette It's the same mix of  ingredients as the other two dressings but has the double jolt of horseradish and hot sauce. it can also be used in the traditional Reuben sandwich too.

If your fridge is full or you're too tired to food shop then play refrigerator roulette. The results can be fun and a testament to creativity.Try it not just to use the food but to surprise yourself  ad familywith the results

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sides Taking Over

It's usually the side dishes that get all the applause. Guests may like stuffed mushrooms or the kids may like the the squash  instead of the roast. Is it possible to just make a meal of them then and forgo the main dish? Yes, if it's done right. A home chef can make a fun and nutritious meal by just using the second string.

Everyone loves stuffed mushrooms, They usually accompany a beef roast but can be made on their own. Use the portabella ones for a truly hearty meal. They can be stuffed with a variety of different ingredients. Try Italian sausage and mozzarella or crab meat and parsley, Vegetarians will love a spinach and eggplant one. You can also throw in some  white or brown rice too to round it out. The smaller white cap ones can be used  to make bite size versions. Another idea that involves mushrooms is mixing them with rice. Use the arborio  kind and you wind up with mushroom risotto. Rice itself is always the perfect side because it complements any meat poultry and fish.yet on its' own it can be a tasty and filling. Think about combining it with leftover chicken or ham along with some carrots broccoli and onions for a variation of fried rice.Rice patties are another idea. They're bound together with Parmesan  cheese and broccoli, then baked for fifteen minutes. The rounds can be made with brown rice too.Couscous is usually a side dish too but it can be stepped up to be a major player. Add some currents and chopped shallots and it turns into an exotic Moroccan dish.

Veggies have always been relegated to second string however they can shine on their own Squash can be stuffed with everything from beef to rice. It can also be filled with ground chestnuts or couscous too. Spaghetti squash is a great dinner .It's baked for forty-five minutes , scraped out and then served like any pasts. Try it with a rich marinara or a delicate burro or butter sauce. For true vegans  serve with a tomato sauce and chickpea meatballs.Zucchini is another side that can be stuffed and made into the star of the dinner table. Kids will love having zucchini boats for their meal instead of the usual garlic sauteed coins.They're an easy recipe starting with boiling or steaming the gourds and then slicing them in half. The pulp is scooped out then mixed with cheese, egg, beef, chicken or spinach  along with seasonings .It's then put into the squash shells and baked for twenty minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit. String beans, long the second banana to almost every dinner Yet serve it with pasta in an aglia e olio,, garlic and oil sauce and it's a fantastic dinner.Stir fry green beans with tofu and ginger for a yummy Asian influenced supper.

Sides can go from being a supporting player to the star of the dinner table. Any vegetable or grain can be revamped into a tasty and satisfying main dish.Don;t let them linger in the shadows any more.

Friday, April 1, 2016

No Joke The Best Kid's Cookbooks Ever!!

The best gift prents ca give their children is a knowledge and love of cooking. Once learned it can not be forgotten. ANother gift is the sense of adventure and trying new cuisines. Luckily there are some great new children's cookbooks that can aid home chefs in training their little sous chefs.

Quarry Publishing has put out three great cookbooks for the family. each one features a different cuisine, French, Italian and Spanish. They are written by experts in the field. The French was by Claudine Pepin, Jacques' daughter (Papa Pepin and her daughter , Shorey did the amazing illustrations for it), the Italian was written by  Anna Prandoni and the Spanish was penned by Gabriela Llamas .The last two authors are a cookbook writer and catering/culinary teacher respectively. All three cookbooks are bilingual so kids and parents can learn a new language or brush up on the ones they know. Every recipe comes with an explanation and they best represent the countries featured. All three books sing to the adventurous home chef in me but it's the Italian one that really impresses.It features some of the Piedmontese recipes that I ate growing up.Not too many cookbooks feature vitello e tonno, veal in tuna sauce , gnocchi and rice in parsley along with apple fritters, Ms. Pranodi comes from Piedmonte's neighbor, Lombardy , and both provinces have heavily influenced each other on a culinary level.

I love these books and wish they had been around when I was a kid.I love Ms. Pepin's recipes (and her dad and daughter's sweet illustrations) for the cherry rich dessert clafoutis and spinach with bechamel, a great dish to get the kids hooked on the green stuff. There is the super easy and super tasty croque Monsieur along with herb roasted potatoes and sauteed Swiss chard. Again the Italian cookbook has both Northern and Southern Italian cuisine. There is also homemade pizza, sure to be a family classic. Families will love making mozzarella in carrozza, breaded and fried mozzarella and for afterwards the all time favorite tiramisu. The Spanish family cookbook has such treats as the classic hot cocoa with churros , cinnamon fritters,a perfect marriage of Old and New World flavors. Both parents and kids will love the simple but flavorful bread with olive oil ,tomato and Iberian ham. Another fun recipe  - for the adults is the Amontillado sherry laced meatballs made of a mix of veal, breadcrumbs and carrots.There is also torrijas, Spanish French toast served with a honey sauce and apples in custard.  Bakers will enjoy making the Santiago Almond cake ,made in honor of the country's patron saint, James.

Parents should buy all three "Let's Cook" cookbooks, for both themselves and their children. It's never too early - or late to teach a little one about cooking and foreign cuisines. These books are a must in any home library!