Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Alkaline Diet

Could a diet not only change your life but revitalize it? According to some homeopaths and nutritionists  it could. Ridding your diet of acids is supposedly beneficial . It's an interesting mix of veggies and fruits, that anyone can follow.

What is alkalinity? It's  defined as less acidity in the body, relating to pH levels.The higher the pH the lower the acidity. According to some doctors, this works in favor It supposedly can reduce the threat of cancer along with helping with arthritis and losing weight. The body should always maintain a  level of 7.4 Testing for acidity  is easy thanks to saliva strips from Hydrion (these can be bought from Micro Essential Labs).There are physical signs, too, such as shortness of breath, frequent sighing, muscle pain or cramping, especially after walking and feeling like you're not getting enough air.many people are more acidic thanks to their diets yet there are some that are purely alkaline. Like any diet, there are restrictions. The drinks everybody loves , soda and coffee are off limits dues to their high acidity along with artificial sweeteners. Surprisingly black tea is also on the list however all herbal teas are alkaline so they're a nice fall back. Tap water is neutral along with some spring waters such as Fiji and Evian.Milk also falls in this category however adding chocolate syrup or mix will amp up the acidity. Buttermilk, though, is very alkalizing so think about adding it to your drinking, baking and cooking.

The best bet for a more alkaline diet is to go completely vegan. Many meats are pure acid along with seafood. Beef, lobster and shrimp are restricted as are crab, lamb, pork and veal. Poultry, from chicken to turkey are in this category too, but not as bad as red meats. . For those who dread the idea of going cold turkey vegetarian there are slightly acidifying meats such as some breeds of  fish and liver, for those who can stand it. Salmon, sole, trout and flounder are the least and can be made into a variety of tasty dishes. The best bets for a truly alkalized diet are anything soy, namely beans , nuts and sprouts along with both navy and white beans, Red beans and chickpeas or garbanzos are slightly acidifying but allowed. Luckily there is a whole gamut of veggies to choose from, with avocados being the most alkaline.Tomatoes and sour pickles are in the strange category of being acidic but alkalizing.. Veggies that have some acidity are artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and lettuce along with cauliflower onions and peas. Most fruits are slightly acidic thanks to their fructose levels however there's no reason to give them up..The truly non acidic ones are watermelons, bananas, sour cherries and fresh coconut. Try to mix up this last to get all the health benefits they offer.

Alkaline diets are restrictive but the benefits are worth all the restrictions. It 's just eating more fish and veggies and cutting  out all the bad stuff. Doing this will drop acid levels, making for a better life.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Quick Ice Cream Fix

Home made ice cream is always a treat but a chore to make.It's getting the salt, making a large batch and then waiting for hours for the finished product. However there's  a gadget that will remedy it.  The Zoku  Ice Cream Maker is a neat - yes, neat and fun addition to any ice cream lover's kitchen.

Zoku not only makes this ice cream makers, it manufactures other fun household items from their Hoboken,, New Jersey offices and factory. The company basically started with a simple idea - how to make popsicles freeze faster. The answer was the Quick Pop Maker which gives a perfectly formed, perfectly frozen pop.(they've since expanded it to make stenciled pops and a pop kit where you can make multi flavored popsicles).The company has won several design awards and have even been included in the Henry Ford Museum as well as in  the Chicago Athenaeum Museum For Architecture and Design. Their dino-Pop Molds are cute enough with Lucy the Cavegirl along with a mini T  Rex
an other dinosaurs. Zoku also makes deep sea ,polar and outer space themed molds,perfect for parents who want their little ones to have healthy treats. They have truly cool slushie makers that can even give you a great iced coffee. I bought the ice cream maker that can also makes Italian ice as well.I  bought it off Amazon  but they can also be found at Sur La Table, Williams & Sonoma along with the Zoku website itself.

Is the Zoku easy to make? Yes, if you;re making ice cream. The actual bowl, (there's two, an exterior  sleeve that's plastic and you could put the ice cream in it after it's been made) and an interior bowl. This is where it happens.It's composed of a plastic exterior and a metallic inner one. filled with a refrigerant liquid.

Place the inner bowl in the fridge overnight  for twelve or more hours. I made a non dairy sherbet  with almond milk, pureed strawberries and agave syrup. I had started out with the idea of ice cream but the almond milk was too thin. It did make for a nice fruity dessert that fluffed up nicely when shaved. I then tried that summer classic.Italian lemon ice. This was a bit more involved to make.  The recipe had to be amended to  suit the bowl's size. Three lemons were peeled (yes, peeled, which resulted in bloody fingers surprisingly ) cut up and then pulverized in my mini processor. A simple syrup had to be made with white sugar and water. Then the lemon mash has to be strained to get rid of the pits and pulp .It's added, cooked for a few minutes in a soupy kind of mix and then poured into the bowl. It has to be cooled in the fridge for two hours before it's poured in the inner bowl. I didn't stir it with he accompanying paddle spoon. I let it freeze overnight  to look like

It wasn't white. It wasn't fluffy. It was too tart. In other words  better luck next time.

The Zoku Ice Cream Bowl screams to be tried out again. Next time.I am going to try the traditional vanilla ice cream one. Should be easy. and a true treat to make.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Small Bites For A Summer's Night

Big meals seem superfluous in summer. No one wants to really eat when the temps hit the nineties which is why bite sized foods seems perfect. It's time to try the Eastern Mediterranean tradition of mezze. It's a light, tasty way to eat and enjoy the flavors of the season.

David Tanis covered this in his column A City Kitchen in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Mezze is basically a  selection of small plates, similar to tapas.It's a standard in Greece, Turkey and Lebanon where its' big in restaurants but even bigger at homes around the regions. Families gather around their Sunday tables that are laden with small but filled plates along with glasses of  Greek ouzo, Turkish  raki or Lebanese arak. The ingredients represent the regions. Grape leaves and cucumbers are used often. Eggplant is a big staple , especially in the Middle East mezze or mezedhess. Mostly it's served as a Turkish style dip with pita. Zucchini figures large too and it's prepared a variety of different ways.Most of the ingredients can be bought at any farmer's market or even the family garden. Mr. Tanis also recommends going to your local Middle Eastern grocery , not only to pick up the veggies but also buy pita and olives as well as dates and phyllo based desserts. More unusual ingredients such as sumac, pomegranate molasses and Marras pepper flakes, vital to the recipes, can be bought on line.

These recipes are purely vegetarian. There are meat based meze such as lamb, chicken and pork kababs and kefta ,balls of ground beef. You could make the kebabs on a grill and they would make a nice accompaniment to these recipes, however an all veggie meze is lighter fare, perfect for a hot midsummer night,The recipes are relatively easy and drenched in spices. Try the cucumber with feta , mint and sumac.It's taking two pounds of Persian cucumbers cutting them and dressing them in a savory  mix of garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Feta and sumac are added for creaminess and tang. There is also mashed eggplant with capers, scallions and parsley. It's cubing the eggplant, roasting it and then briefly pulsing it in a food processor. Pomegranate molasses is added along with yogurt for smoothness and cayenne pepper for heat. It can be used as a dip for warm pita bread or spread on rounds of French or Italian bread. There's also zucchini and cherry tomatoes with blanched zucchini strips in a tasty dressing composed of pureed red peppers.They're blended with olive oil, mustard, vinegar, Maras pepper and cayenne.The strips and sliced cherry tomatoes are arranged on a platter and then drizzled with the dressing.It's garnished with oregano, parsley and olives.

It's definitely the time of year for an all veggie mezze. Make the tasty dishes with the harvests of the season, drenched in exotic spices and flavors. Enjoy them on a warm, night , as they would do on a warm, starry night in the Middle East.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fried Chicken Done Right

One of the summer standards is fried chicken. There's nothing more mouth watering than crunchy,  and juicy pieces served on their own or with dipping sauces. How to make it? There in lies the big question There are many different ways,all good,all bringing out the best of the bird's flavor.

Sam Sifton wrote about this classic American recipe in his The Guide column in today's New York Times  Food section. It's one of the most debated recipes in our  history. There have been battles about what kind of coating to use and what's the best medium to fry it in. As he points out it starts with the bird itself.Usually a three or four pound chicken is the best for frying. It will yield up  to ten parts, two drumsticks, two wings two thighs and two breasts. This will satisfy four people. Chicken parts such as all wings or drumsticks can also be bought if there's a crowd to be fed. Breasts can also be bought on their on too. The next step is brining and there are many different types, all good. Novice home chefs can try a  basic brine, made up of only kosher salt and water.Chopped garlic, a few herbs and even sugar can be added to it. Many fried chicken aficionados swear by the buttermilk brine.It's a mix of four cups of fresh buttermilk, kosher salt and a good dose of freshly ground pepper. For a more unusual spin there is the pickle brine, a blend of just pickle juice, This is not crazy.It makes the bird super flavorful and juicy, Other brines include that Southern classic cola brine  which gives it a nice caramel color and sweetness along with cider that also produces a sweet, fallish flavor that would be great at any tailgating party.

What makes a great piece of fried chicken? The crust, of course! It  should be a starch or a batter. Some home and professional chefs first dip the pieces in buttermilk, eggs or milk before coating. The easiest breading method is placing the chicken in a large paper bag filled with flour seasoned with salt , pepper, and possibly paprika and /or hot pepper. This can be varied with gluten free flour, cracker crumbs and even potato starch. For a more tempura flavor use the Japanese breadcrumbs called panko.  The more wild and adventurous  will use crumbled Doritos, Cheetos or even potato chips. Close the bag . shake and then shake off the excess flour. A big bowl can also be used for dredging the pieces, Stick with tradition for the frying pan.It has to be a heavy wide skillet with a lid.It should be eleven to twelve inches in diameter and deep to prevent spattering.The second most important ingredient is what the chicken is fried in. Some use lard while others prefer oil. What is needed is an oil with a high smoke point which means it can be heated to a high temp without smoking. The best for this is peanut , canola and vegetable oil. Do not use butter or olive oil. It can be served with dipping sources such as a Korean chili sauce or  a Filipino one made with maple syrup , lemon juice , fish sauce and chilis.

Fried chicken is an American classic recipe that everyone loves. There are so many ways to make it. Any way is good, full of golden , delicious crisp goodness.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vegan For The Summer

One of the best aspects of summer is that you can nix the meats and live off the land - literally. This is a great time to take that long promised stab at vegetarianism, thanks to all the harvests right now. It's time to discover all these hot weather veggies and the dishes that go with them.

Squash is always popular and is in full harvest right now. Many home farmers have an abundance of them, thanks to their hardiness and ability to thrive. They are versatile from their delicate flowers to the mature vegetable. Squash flowers, those fragile yet delicious blooms, are best made into a kind of fritter. This Provencale and Piedmontese recipe is easy,The flowers do have to be picked early morning before they close for the day. They're then washed and patted dry , ready for battering. The batter is a simple mix of  one cup each of flour and water. One egg and one tablespoon oil are also added for body. The flowers can be fried in margarine,oil, or the preferred French way, butter until crisp. Mature squash is another great versatile veggie.It can be turned into a green version of spaghetti, thanks to a neat little gadget called Veggetti. This hourglass shaped spiralizer turns any squash into a tasty pile of noodles. They can be made with sauce but a better and healthier way is sauteing them in olive oil, tempered with margarine and minced garlic. The spiralizer can also be used to make a tasty cucumber slaw too. Serve with an apple cider based vinaigrette for a nice cool salad.

Of course it's the season of the tomatoes. These bright red gems are the stars of any summer harvest and rightly so. They can be made into any type of dish., from starters to even dessert (technically they classified as fruit). Try them as bruschetta, piled on top of toasted crunchy rounds of Italian bread or as a flavorful salsa. The last can also highlight other summer stars green peppers and onions. This is the time to make homemade sauces for those fall and winter pasta dinners. Fresh ones are great in a pasta crudo where  they 're mixed raw with just cooked spaghetti or angel hair pasta. One of the best way to have them is in a sandwich.Toast your favorite bread, slather on mayo and them layer on the tomato slices Tomaotes can even be turned into a sorbet for an unusual but flavor packed dessert..Another use for them along with eggplants and onions are the French classic ratatouille.Novice home chefs may be put off by the name's fanciness but it's really easy to make.It's basically sauteing sliced the veggies in a garlic and oregano spiced olive oil.They're then cooked down until tender. It's usually served with crusty baguette slices to sop up the juices however it can also be served with rice too. Green and red peppers can be added along with zucchini to mix it up a bit.

Anyone can go vegan on a summer diet thanks to all these abundant harvests. Take advantage of them of them and cook healthy. It's a great boost to your health and to your taste buds!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Going Back To The Outback

Outback Steakhouse is one of those chain restaurants that guarantees good fun and good food. it does live up to its' promise and proved to be entertaining. What was the big surprise is that it also promises healthy food. Who knew that the place that offers the Blooming Onion could offer blooming nutritious. ? It was  time to go back to the restaurant from Down Under.

There was a twenty year gap between this visit and my last to Outback Steakhouse. It still had the long wait (nearly half an hour) even at nine PM  - although it was a Saturday night, the most popular time to go. A new generations of servers were on hand to sing Happy Birthday to other diners as well as to eagerly wait. The decor is still the same, with those many nooks and booths that give semi privacy. The menu is as big as ever. Yes, there still is the Blooming Onion which has always been there and not going anywhere,despite protests from nutritionists and health nuts. There are still steaks and the only thing that sort of rings Aussie is the New Zealand lamb. Surprisingly the restaurant is all American , originating out of Tampa, Florida in 1988. It was created by Bob Basham, Chris T.Sullivan,, Trudy Cooper and Tim Gannon. Chris T. Smith went on to create other  popular chain restaurants, Carrabba's Grill,Fleming's Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Bonefish Grill and Cheeseburger In Paradise. Outback is a fun place, whether for a date or a family night out. Happily they've changed their menu to reflect the push for healthier foods.There a smaller version of the Blooming Onion along with meals that are under six hundred calories. There are also more nutritious sides to choose from.

How is the food? Still good. I did have qualms going there however after seeing the 600 calorie meals, felt better. They start you off with a warm loaf of sweet brown bread and butter which is a nice opener. My group and I ordered the Bloomin Petals a smaller version of the onion.It was still a
 copious pile of deep fried batter dipped "petals" served with a spicy chipotle sauce, a bit oily to eat so late but crunchy and delicious. I liked the fact that there as a choice of soup and salad with the  meal and opted for the bowl of French onion soup (to be honest I would have just preferred this, given the late hour).It was rich with a good beef stock and perfect amount of cheese. Outback is first and foremost a steak house and there was a multitude of cuts to choose from. I went with the most healthiest the smallest cut of sirloin with a side of mixed veggies.. The meat was just the right size and cooked to a tender and juicy medium. The mix of broccoli and carrots was a bit plain but that was remedied with a ramekin of butter. Their burger was equally good, dense  and juicy. Dessert was a huge wedge of their six layer chocolate cake served with ramekins of whipped cream and raspberry coulis. The crumb was suitably moist and the icing fudgy, made a bit more palatable with the tangy fruit sauce.

Will there be another gap between this visit and my next visit to the Outback Steakhouse. No, I was impressed with the quality and flavor as well as many healthy and nutritious choices.It's definitely on my must visit again list.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Feeding The Animals

Even animals, both domestic and feral need a break during these hot days. They , too, suffer from the heat and its' consequences. Make it a bit easier on them so they can enjoy and survive this humid weather. They'll feel better and so will you.

One of the musts for any indoor or out door creature is a cool bowl of water. One of the best ideas is to put an ice cube or two so that the water maintains that refreshing coldness. Chilled milk is fine for both your domestic kitty and feral visitor. Just keep it out of the direct sunlight along with diluting it with water (pure milk can cause stomach problems and diarrhea). As for food, you can let the ferals gnaw on any ribs or bits and pieces of dogs and burgers leftover from your barbecue. It's better, though  just to open up a can of food because the scraps may be too much for certain cats and dogs. If you've just started to feel ferals or are starting a feral cat colony, remember that other animals, primarily raccoons, will also eat whatever you',ve left out. What you can do is provide them with extra grub in the form of leftover bread and cookies.(for some reason they're partial towards sweets however don't give them anything with chocolate in it. chocolate is lethal for raccoons too).If you're lucky enough to have deer, then feed them accordingly. They eat plant,s fruit and nuts. You could buy extra melon or drupe fruit such as nectarines, plums and peaches and then pit them. Just remember that deer cannot eat corn. It's highly lethal and can cause extreme sickness.

Just like many of us, the homeless also have companion animals. Like ours they need to have proper food and water to survive.If you do have a homeless person on your block with a cat or dog, treat the companion to a meal. Set out some bowls with ice water and either dry or wet food. Also check to see if the animal is showing signs of dehydration. They will usually have sunken eyes, the skin can be tented (to see this pick up the folds of skin along the spine and see if it snaps back into place. If not the animal may need subcutaneous fluids which a vet or vet tech can give you or can administer) and pale , shrunken gums. Some homeless shelters like the ones in Los Angeles and New York City will also take in companion pets however if not offer to foster the animal in your back yard or garage.Another idea is supplying food pantries with dog and cat food. Many people do have companion animals but don't have the extra money for food. Donate what you can to your nearest shelter, whether it's dry or wet, aimed at kittens and puppy or senior cats and dogs. Also donate to your nearest no kill shelter as well. To show your appreciation , consider giving the staff there a tray of cupcakes or donating to their barbecues. Many work tirelessly to help these abandoned and unwanted creatures.Show them your gratitude  for what  they are doing.

Animals too need a break in this hot weather. Make sure they're well hydrated and well fed. They'll appreciate it with a purr or a wagging tail.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mussels A Summer Treat

One of the best summer pairings is a plate of steamed mussels, usually served dockside with an icy cold beer. The seafood itself is good a variety of ways and its' an easy cook for home chefs. The best part of them is that they're fun to eat on a hot summer's night.

Mussels are both a fresh and salt water fish and a member of the clam or bivalve family. They're usually found clumped together on the exposed shores of an intertidal  or seashore area. They attach themselves to each other by their "beards" or byssal threads. Mussels have been eaten by humans for millennia and there are seventeen varieties of them. Most fish stores and restaurants usually have the black or navy blue shelled ones. The Belgians are the ones to go mad for them , usually serving them with fries or frites along with a good Belgian beer, The Italians and Spanish usually serve them steamed with white wine and lemon while the Spanish also turn them into croquettes with other seafood. Mussels are steamed in garlic and black bean broth while the Turkish fry them and then put them back into their shells The Indians serve them as a plate with chicken drumsticks, breadfruit and other vegetables. They're also made with coconut paste and rice and then, like the Turks, stuffed back into their shells. Many Americans usually first encounter them at their local pizzeria where they're served with marinara sauce.

There is just one thing to remember when buying them. Living ones will shut tightly when they're taken out of the water and exposed to air. If they remain open, they should be tossed because they're not living.Cleaning them is easy, Put them in a large bowl of water as soon as you get them home. They should remain there for twenty minutes, expelling water (they are filters,after all) and sand. The next step is de-bearding. This requires holding a mussel  in one hand and cover the grasping hand with a towel, Now give it a sharp yank, pulling in the direction of the hinge. The mussels have to be rinsed a second time and then scrubbed of any exterior sand or barnacles.Use a firm brush for this. There are a variety of ways to cook them.Most recipes call for steaming them in white wine but you can use water as well, usually one cup. You can serve them topped with a homemade or even store bought marinara sauce along with a large loaf of crusty Italian bread. You can also go the Belgian route by steaming them in a savory broth of  beer and a variety of herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano. They are served with piping hot julienne fries and mayo but you can just have a loaf of crusty, French bread and Stella Artois on hand.

A fun summer meal is a plate of fresh steamed mussels. Make them just for yourself or for a party. They are an easy and delicious, a no fuss meal for these sweltering days.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Rare Grape A New Wine

Is it possible for a wine to be new and salty? Surprisingly yes.There's a different kind of wine hitting oenophile's palates this summer and it's far from the other traditional whites.

Eric Asimov wrote about this refreshing change of pace in his Pour column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. He interviewed wine maker Salvo Foti at his vineyard located in the shadow of the famed Mt. Etna. He grows the rare carricante grapes that have been part of the Sicilian landscape  for millennia. They grow well  in the spongy volcanic soil. that's constantly soaked by endless rainstorms. In fact the Italian bureaucrats have recognized the area's affinity for the variety. In fact the brand Etna Bianco Superiore with 80 percent carricante can only come from the town,The flavor is unique because it has a certain salinity or saltiness Yet they can also be herbal and citrus tasting with a great minerality.. The wines are high in acidity and low in alcohol. They're different from the usual Sicilian whites, such as catarrato which can be bland tasting and low in acidity. Grillo and inzolia grapes can also be used for white wine however winemakers prefer using them for making the vastly popular  sweet, red Marsalas.American winemakers are taking notice of the grape. Californian winemaker, Kevin Harvey of Rhys Vineyards of the Santa Cruz Mountains is interested in growing the  variety.

Mr. Asimov suggests trying other carricante whites. They're not as rich , deep or complex as the Etna Bianco Superiore however they are cheaper ($20 to the other's $50) There is Tenuta delle Terre Nere which is only sixty-five percent carricante blended with four other grapes for a nice alternative.Like the better one, it does taste of herbs and citrus, and is both fresh and refreshing. There is the Outis  made by wine maker, Ciro Biondi whose vineyards are on the island's warmer southeast section,It is fresh and energetic with a fresh, lemony taste. There is also the 2014 vintage single vineyard Chianta Bianco that has a scent like a big basket of flowers. Another carricante based wine is Vigna de Milo which comes from outside the Etna region (and is also made by Signore Foti. Mr. Asimov declared it almost oceanic with great salinity and minerality. There is also Alberto Aiello  Graci's carricante, coming from north Etna which is seventy per cent and has a flavor that's herbal, mineral and sublime.  Carricante wines will probably be more and more popular here in the States as Californian wineries  start growing them,  I can see their novelty appealing to many American oenophiles , thanks to the novel salty taste.

Carricante wine is a different and refreshing alternative to the usual white wine. Try it chilled, this summer. Sip and pretend you're on a Sicilian beach , enjoying the breezes off the Mediterrenean

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In Situ - A Restaurant Celebrating The Art Of Cooking

Many restaurants take pride  in signature dishes. After all , they're what give any eatery, bistro or cafe their reputation and following. Yet a new restaurant in San Francisco is doing the opposite. The chef is taking world famous  recipes from restaurants around the world and putting a new spin on them.

Pete Wells interviewed In Situ's creator and chef, Corey Lee in his A Recipe Lab column in today's New York Times Food section. The concept is unique in an industry where individuality is key to success,The restaurant with the closest ideology is Chicago''s Next, founded by Grant Achaz , which  completely changes menus every four months. Of course Chef Lee also owns a traditional restaurant, Benu where there is only seven main dishes to choose from.In Situ is sort of like a culinary art museum. Even the name, comes from the Latin phrase meaning a piece of art is embedded in its' original location. Its' menus  are folded and fastened with  metal museum admission tags and look like  guides to a gallery exhibition of works that are on temporary loan. One side of the menu depicts  a map of the world tilted on its' axis. The reason for this is showing a dislocation of sorts that hints' that there is a shift from the recipe's original location to In Situ's. Circles on the map show the many dishes many birthplaces.There is a key in the menu's right margin that gives each's ingredients ,it's originator;s name and the city where it was created.

  Chef Lee is so good that he  even earned praise from the famed WD-50 chef  Wylie Dufresne. What he had done with Chef Dufresne's signature dish shrimp and grits is nothing short of amazing.The grits in Chef Lee's interpretation are actually the shrimp repeatedly ground and fried married to pickled jalapeno slices.Another masterpiece is The Forest ,taken from Mirazur in Menton, France,The original dish created by Chef Mauro Colagreco fashioned this vegan dish to look like the woods outside his restaurant on the French Riviera,It involves recreating moss from a parsley soaked sponge cake while the bark is created from fried sunchoke peels. Chef Colagreco gave Chef Lee permission to use mushrooms from Northern California for true authenticity as opposed to ones used from Provence, A dish from the great eatery, Momufuku Ssam Bar is also on In Situ's menu. It is spicy pork sausage and rice cakes. Chef Lee amped up this ragout with sliced rice sticks,  turning it into a mapo-tofu.For dessert Chef Lee honors Chez Panisse,It is a salute to Alice Waters lemon ice cream  dish in a hollowed out lemon shell placed next to lemon sherbert. A lemon flavored cat's tongue or langue du chat shares the spotlight.

Chefs are usually encouraged to create signature dishes, reflecting their tastes and backgrounds Chef Corey Lee breaks away from that by putting his own spin on already famous dishes. The result is stunning and delicious, the perfect homage from a culinary master.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Vegan's Dream Come True

Does being a vegan come with perks? Yes! The obvious answer is the health benefits but there's also another plus - a new cookbook that features vegan cheese and ice cream recipes. These are fun to make and tasty to eat. Even non vegans will turn vegan just for these recipes.

 The Best Homemade Vegan Cheese and Ice Cream Recipes (Robert Rose Publishers) was written by Marie Laforet, a well known vegan blogger who lives in Paris.. Her blog site is lush salute to all dishes meatless , from savory to sweet.. The cookbook is no different,It is an amazing array of our most popular cheeses, from mozzarella to feta, from  cheddar to ricotta and transformed into healthier dishes by omitting dairy. The second half of the book is dedicated to homemade vegan ice cream and pops.Any home chef can make any of these recipes. They are labor intensive  but with relatively easy steps. The beginning of the book shows the ingredients and fermenting agents that are used along with explanations. It starts with the basic ingredients like soy along with legumes and nuts (cashews figure prominently in most of the recipes).Since cheese is also known for its various textures there are also a page on texturizers such as agar agar , odorless coconut oil and starches,There is also a section on fermentation agents too along with explanations on what tools to use, Cheese makers will recognize the need for cheesecloth for straining along with drying in a hydrator or just in a low heated oven.

The recipes will make any cheese and ice cream lover drool. Ms. Lafloret has recipes for the classics that are made with just raw cashew nuts, soy, almond and rice milk Home chefs can delight in serving guests homemade vegan  Gouda or Parmesan.There is also the plus of unusual cheeses such as kimcheese - a cheese made with Korean kimchi ! or tofu cheese with two peppers that resembles a Boursin. With the cheeses come recipes such as Nacho cheese sauce, perfect for outdoor parties or even topping a vegan chili.Vegans who gave up fondue will rejoice in a recipe for one made with white wine and cashew butter. As for the ice cream, Ms. Lafloret gives us mouth watering recipes that include home made cones. There are ice cream and sorbet recipes perfect for these sultry summer days.  Try the tomato, strawberry and basil sorbet or pineapple lime sorbet to cool down on a sweltering night. There is the classic vanilla ice cream made with just soy and rice creams along with light cane sugar and vanilla pods.Pistachio lovers ill love the non dairy version. Ice cream lovers will go mad for  the chocolate mint straticella packed with flavor, .There are also ice pops and palletas in mouth watering flavor combos such as orange mango, fruity rocket pops and peach pie. Other desserts include home made and healthy ice cream sandwiches and a Neopolitan log made with coffee, chocolate and vanilla

 The Best Homemade Vegan Cheese and Ice Cream Recipes is a great book for vegans and non vegans alike. They can have their cheese and ice cream too, in yummy flavors and recipes. It's a great book full of healthy and fun treats.

Monday, July 18, 2016

An Easy Summer Birthday

Everyone loves a home cooked meal for their birthdays.Even summer babies are excited over a favorite dish that's been lovingly made. Unfortunately the season brings about hot days when no one wants to be in the kitchen. The solution? Keep it cool!

If the honoree wants a home cooked meal, then think  barbecue.Grilled chicken or salmon with grilled vegetables is a nice treat. If you have a Weber egg  grill, you can roast an entire chicken. A birthday party needs a festive dish so why not grill beer can chicken? This is easy to make.It's taking the chicken , rinsing it and then patting dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and any kind of rub.It's then plunking the bird down on an open beer can . The can and the legs will act as a tripod as the bird is being cooked.It usually takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. Serve with a fiesta salad that has cooked corn niblets mixed with diced red and green peppers along with halved grape tomatoes. Sirloin burgers are another celebratory  meal. To grind the meat, first cube the steak and grind in batches in your food processor or meat grinder. You can add egg for richness or butter. The burgers can be served Piedmontese style with bagna calda  sauce on them. Use flattened toasted Italian bread instead of the usual buns for this. Grilled salmon Oriental style with soy and ginger or Mediterranean style is also a lovely birthday lunch or dimmer.. The last can be served with a fancy couscous studded with almonds and raisins.

Nachos are always a fun party food no matter what time of year. The dish outside is extra fun, especially at a pool or even beach side party.Make it really luxurious  with  layers of steak and chicken or fresh roasted pork. For color have both black and green olives along with extra helpings of  guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo. If  you're hosting a large crowd you may want to try a taco or quesadilla bar where guests can pile on a variety of toppings. A cool idea is a salad loaded with tasty bits and pieces. A taco salad can be fun, It's just a quick cook of and then the meat or soy fake meat can be added to iceberg lettuce along with crumbled tortilla chips and shredded Monterey jack cheese. Buffalo chicken salad is a nice birthday lunch or dinner meal. Making the chicken is the most labor intensive. It's just creating a spicy , chili infused marinade and letting it marinate for a few hours  before cooking and adding it to  a salad , full of  diced celery and Romaine lettuce. Serve with a cool blue cheese dressing.One of the most luxurious and perfect for a birthday lunch or dinner is a seafood salad, chock full of lobster crab and shrimp.Use butter lettuce as a base and also toss in cherry or grape tomatoes. Dress with a simple vinaigrette which will accentuate the sweet flavors of the shell fish. Serve with crusty rolls and  chilled champagne.

Cooking for a summer birthday honoree is actually a cool and easy idea. Try a lush salad or a rich sirloin  burger for a sumptuous meal. It's a great way to celebrate a summer baby's special day.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Perfect Ice Cream Cake

A summer birthday or a summer party deserves a good ending namely an ice cream cake. Most people usually head to their local ice cream shop to get this treat. However an ice cream cake is easy to make and assemble. What  is great about a home made one is that it can be customized with favorite fillings.

The first step is deciding is how elaborate you want to make it. There is one recipe that just calls for layering ice cream sandwiches in a nine by thirteen baking pan. Hot fudge and Cool Whip is slathered on between layers. The icing is another layer of Cool Whip with a heavy dusting of shaved chocolate.It is then covered and frozen for an hour before serving.Caramel sauce can be subbed in for the fudge for a different spin. Another idea that takes a little more work but has a lot of flavor is one that takes inspiration from those Dairy Queen and Carvel cakes. It's easy but has a lot of steps. The recipe involves first placing a springform pan in the freezer for fifteen minutes.  Vanilla and chocolate ice cream is used, however you can vary the flavors. Try chocolate and mint chip for mint lovers. Coffee lovers should have layers of coffee ice cream. The filling is crushed Nabisco chocolate wafers mixed with that hard shell topping (although you could use a fudge sauce as a binder too.)  The three layers are frozen for two hours and then iced with whipped cream. Multicolored sprinkles are then scattered on it.You can also pipe whipped cream rosettes  around the bottom and top or even make buttercream roses if you're feeling ambitious.

Another idea is baking a cake and filling it with ice cream. If you don't have time buy the mixes. There are some good ones such as Red Velvet  and German Chocolate. You can also make scratch cakes too, and make them a bit healthier by using whole wheat flour. These can be made in layers or as a sheet cake, depending on the size of your party. The ice cream can also be homemade if you have an ice cream maker. You can try different fruit varieties here too. Think a vanilla sheet cake with a peach, blueberry or strawberry ice cream along with a topping of fresh fruit too. A fun idea is a "naked" ice cream cake , one without icing. Bake three scratch cakes, try a marble or chocolate chip one  and then  as you would with filling, cover the layers with about an inch of softened ice cream. You can even blend in candy, fruit or cereal for some texture and more flavor.Just "ice" the top most layer with a thin layer of ice cream and decorate with sugar gel or with sprinkles. Some home bakers recommend using a "dense" cake like pound cake because it holds better than the lighter , more crumbly cakes. It's up to you with what kind of cake to use..Any ice cream cake can be served with chocolate or salted caramel sauce.

An ice cream cake adds so much to a summer party. Making one and customizing it is a real treat  because it's full of favorite flavors.It's a nice way to welcome a warm summer night.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Best Of Nice

One of the best cuisines is from Nice, that sun drenched city perched on the southeastern corner of Southern France. It has the best seasonings and spices along with a variety of seafood and vegetables. Blend all these together for an amazing array of main dishes and desserts. This is French cooking with panache.

One of the most satisfying dishes is the salad named after the city, salad Nicoise. This is an easy  yet fancy dish any home chef can whip up.The key ingredient is tuna, and not the typical one in canned in water. It has to be in olive oil or tonno en olio. It makes for a richer flavor with the salad. Fresh tuna is also preferred as well. Hard boiled eggs are another ingredient that add not just flavor but protein.The salad also needs boiled new potatoes along with capers. Adding a burst of freshness is Roma tomatoes along green beans and onions. The dressing is a pert lemon vinaigrette.Some add anchovies for more authenticity but if they're too salty , they can be omitted. Petit farci or stuffed vegetables are another Provencale or Nice dish that's perfect for the summer. This is a combination of different veggies , green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and eggplants that are stuff with a blend of chopped veal,onion, garlic, bouquet garni and herbes de Provence This last is a blend of different herbs and even lavender, a staple in soaps and sachets from the region. The stuffing is partially cooked first  and then put through a mincer before being stuffed inside the veggies. They're browned in a 400 degree oven before being served with tomato puree.

Garlic is a standard in this sunny section of France and the locals make a delicious creamy mayo with it called rouille. It's simply taking three cloves and combing them with two egg yolks and olive oil. The mixture is spiced up by adding two teaspoons of cayenne pepper and a quarter teaspoon of saffron. It's usually served with fish or seafood such as lobster or shrimp but it can also be used for tomatoes or even chicken.Squash is a big part of the Nicoise garden and cooks there use the veggie  at every stage of its' development.They take the delicate squash flowers , dip them in batter and then fry them in butter or olive oil. The batter is a combination of flour, yolks and water along with a tablespoon of olive oil. The whites are beaten to a froth and then added later to it. The flowers are cut along a vein to open them and the pistils are removed. It's a quick but mouth watering fry up. Nicoise home chefs , never ones for waste , add diced zucchini to it to make zucchini fritters. dessert is usually fresh fruit , either, figs , apricots or pears. Adults enjoy an after dinner glass of pastis while les enfants get an ice cream from the local shop.

Nicoise cuisine is the perfect summer cuisine, It bursts with garden fresh veggies and fresh caught seafood.followed by fresh fruit. It is tres belle et tres delicieux.

For all the people of Nice, stay strong stay brave. You are an inspiration to the world right now.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Hawaiian Treat ShaveH Ice

Hawaii knows how to do summer right. They're kings at creating the perfect outdoor luau, or outdoor party. They have excellent konkatsu along with other street foods. They've taken shaved ice or as they put it shave ice to a whole other level. Hawaiian ice is what other ices should aspire to be.

Kim Severson got the lucky chance of reporting about these treat  for yesterday's New York Times Food section. It is also the subject of a doctoral thesis written by  Hi'ilei Julia Hobart who was born and raised on the eastern shore of Oahu. Ms. Hobart left paradise for N.Y.U. where she is one of the nine doctoral students earning a doctorate in food studies. The program there is a lot more interesting than other doctoral programs with past thesis exploring the cultural and historical importance of bourbon, bottled water and even the masculinity of cooking. What is interesting about shave ice's history is that it was always mentioned in numerous trade agreements.It  seemed odd that the US would protect it but ice signified status along with providing comfort to settlers who preferred chilled drinks and ice cream.over the sour tepid foods that native Hawaiians were used to eating.. Yet it wasn't the Americans that brought shaved ice to the islands.We have the Japanese to thank for the treat that's now being sold across the mainland United States.They  brought it over when they were hired as sugar plantation workers.

The Japanese shave ice is called kakigori and dates back from the Heian period , from around 794 to 1185 AD. Japanese immigrants opened up small stores in the early 1900's to serve the plantation workers, some of which sold shaved ice. By the 1950's it was sold at many Japanese mom and pop stores like the M. Matsumoto Grocery store on Oahu's north side.Now it's just Matsumoto's Shaved Ice where there's a half hour wait at times. How is shave ice different from those Sno-Cones or Italian ice that we're so used to here in the summertime? It starts with shaving ice from a huge block of ice, usually a machine does it  (although it can be done by hand as well). The ice itself should be slightly melting with a sheen. The goal is to create soft , fluffy flakes that can accept generous pours of syrup. Sno cones , on the other hand are nothing more than ice pebbles that are so hard the syrup runs off them and into the bottom of the cone. Italian ice is ice that has the syrup already  mixed in and then frozen, There is also an art to shave ice, with the shaver catching the ice as it falls from the blade and then mounding it into a  firm dome. The dome must be sturdy enough to hold the syrup yet soft enough to yield to a spoon. There can be one flavor or several together as President Obama likes his.
sometimes there's a scoop of ice cream underneath or sweet condensed milk drizzled on top.

Shave ice is a Hawaiian treat with an interesting history. It is also a  light and fluffy cooler on a hot summer's night. If you can get it. It truly is a treat.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Chicken Salad : A Classic Revisited

One of the most classic summer dishes is chicken salad. It has graced luncheon and brunch tables for decades.It is a tasty favorite  both as a sandwich and on its' own. It's also an easy enough recipe that novice home chefs can make as good as any experienced one.

It was the subject of Julia Moskin's Recipe Lab article in today's New York Times Food section. It's a classic in the South where it has been served at luncheons for decades.Unfortunately it's been relegated to a tired deli standby by us Northerners. We usually serve it between two slices of  blah looking white or rye bread,It should be either served in a iced, crisp lettuce  cup or in another kind of cup, one made out of crisper , thin toast. The last is from the Swan Coach House in Atlanta where it's been served since 1965.Sadly the salad came about from the over abundance hens that stopped laying eggs and had to be killed in the summer. The salad has been elevated to a high art with two versions, one being served on weekdays while a chunkier, nuttier version was made solely for luncheons.  The everyday version featured finely chopped meat along pickle relish.This is usually served on crackers or in a sandwich. The more formal version has slivered almonds and even pineapple for some sweetness.A combined version of both is called the Bridesmaid's Chicken Salad and is a staple of Junior League cookbooks.This can be tried at home but Ms. Moskin's recipe is the more desirable one, adding some French flair with tarragon.

Before any chicken gets diced up, it first best to consider what kind to put into the salad. Home chefs looking for a shortcut may want to get an already roasted one from their supermarket. Ms. Moskin advises against this. Freshly roasted rotisserie birds will have dry and stringy meat, along with dark meat. which has no place in a true chicken salad.Instead use leftover breast meat from a poached chicken. She employs the Chinese method of using a heavy pot , then slipping the chicken into boiling water, then turning the heat off and leaving it to cook for two hours. Do this in the morning when the kitchen is at its' coolest. The meat should be then  hand shredded instead of being cut up by knife.They could be cut into chunks and then hand massaged so they absorb more mayonnaise. The mayo itself should be homemade. The store bought variety is laced with acidic components such as vinegar and citric acid, added to deter the growth of bacteria.A dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche can also be thrown in to fluff up the salad's texture. Along with tarragon there is minced scallion for bite  along with broken walnuts and pecan halves for crunch, Celery and onions are also added for texture and color. Serve it in a lettuce cup with a pretty side array of radishes and grape tomatoes.

The South's version of chicken salad is what a summer lunch should be. It's a nice refreshing change to the usual summer fare and has a certain elegance to it. Enjoy this summer classic either as a sandwich or on its' own.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Food's Greatest Hits A New Summer Hit?

Right now there's a dearth of reruns on TV, even with the channels dedicated to cooking. Yet the Cooking Channel has given us a fun filled,, fact Food's Greatest Hits is a mash up of history, dares and recipes on some of our most beloved dishes.It's a frothy meringue of a show, worth watching.

The show had its' debut on the Cooking Channel last night at 10 'o clock and another at 10:30. (it's also shown on Tuesday afternoons between 2 and 3). The first episode was dedicated to cheese. They featured a salute to baked mac along with cheesecake. It's always interesting to know a recipe's origin and history. It's neat the way they do it with graphics and a time line. I didn't know that the two dishes started in ancient Rome and ancient Greece respectively. Another aspect of the show is how the show brings on chefs and food hosts from their various shows to try different variations of the dishes. My favorite was when they presented the participants with a Maine version of baked macaroni. It was mixed with lobster meat and served in a whole lobster shell. (and of course, the chefs and hosts who the show groups in pairs - wore lobster claw mitts). The cheesecake segment was also outrageous, with an Elvis style one loaded with peanut butter, bacon and bananas! There was also a bit on grilled cheese that went over the top too, especially the breakfast one..

The second show was devoted to carnival foods, especially funnel cakes.I had no idea that they came from Germany and that the Pennsylvania Dutch brought them over. What the show did with them was another matter. Funnel cakes are just good with a dusting of powdered sugar, but the show's chefs' took this simple treat to a whole other level. There was a funnel cake ice cream sandwich topped with a multicolored puff of cotton candy. Then there was the one topped with multicolored candy corn that would make even the fiercest sugar addict say "No!"Another interesting segment revolved around the corn dog and a segment on loaded fries . Many Cooking Channel fans will recognize some of the hosts, from Reverend Run to Haylie Duff, Alie Ward to Georgia Hardstock along with Justine Simmons.Future episodes include breakfast foods, sugar rush that features cookies, cupcakes and ice cream sundaes.Another upcoming episode that should be riveting is one dedicated to Mexican food. Hopefully they'll do episodes on healthier dishes along with fruits and veggies for those of us who are into more natural noshes

If you're looking for fresh , entertaining fare this summer tune in to Food's Greatest Hits. It's a fun romp into our favorite foods and their histories. It's a sweet treat for a summer's night.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Nectarines A Nice Summer Treat

Ask people what are the fruis of summer and they'll probably mention strawberries, and blueberries, definitely peaches. Yet another summer harvest is coming in right now Nectarines are also ripening. These wonderful fruits are a nice change from the usual fare and work well in many recipes.

What is a nectarine? A peach without the fuzz.The Chinese first planted them over 2,000 years ago and then the seeds were cultivated in ancient Persia, Greece and Rome, They were popular during the medieval era , growing in England and Spain. The Spanish brought them over to the Americas in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Nowadays California is their chief grower, with 95 percent of all nectarine harvests coming from there. Some peach seeds may turn out to be nectarine trees and vice versa.Many growers graft nectarine branches onto peach trees to guarantee a crop of then. The fruit's name means full of nectar.It's the perfect dessert or snack for dieters. Each piece of fruit only has sixty two calories. Surprisingly it's one of the few fruits that has protein in it as well.. Nectarines are also high in Vitamin A and beta carotene (hence the bright yellow flesh).It also has Vitamin,C, potassium and most importantly fiber.The fruit can be kept out for two to three days before they develop brown spots. As with other fruits, nectarines are better stored in the fridge Besides nothing beats the taste of a chilled one on a sweltering day.

Since they're basically peaches, nectarines can be made into the same dishes as peaches. Try them in a cobbler laced with brown sugar.They'd also be tasty in a crisp, either made with oatmeal or Bisquick. A more elegant dessert is a nectarine tart with a hazelnut crust.The fruit works well in cakes too. Try a buttery scratch one laden with slices and a hint of nutmeg.Fruit can be roasted over the grill so why not roasted some nectarines along with plums and peaches. Top the hot fruit with vanilla ice cream for a truly decadent summertime dessert.Another fun dessert idea is trifle with the fruit layered with store bought yellow cake or pound cake and whipped cream. You could even douse it with peach schnapps for a boozy, fun way to end an evening. You could also turn the fruit into a homemade nectarine liqueur. This last is just taking a pound of the nectarines and letting that ferment with three cups of vodka and a cup of sugar. The process takes about three months then before the drink is ready so it will make a nice addition to fall drinking and dining.Nectarines can also be cubed and used in salads for color and sweetness. Add them to a grilled chicken salad along with almonds.  It can also be pulverized and added to apple cider vinegar for a sweet dressing or even marinade.

Make nectarines part of your summer diet. They are a sweet, healthy treat on their own along with being wonderful in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Get a basket of them at your local market or farm stand.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Summer Party Ideas

Summer is the time for entertainment .It's getting friends together and just celebrating the balmy nights or days by the pool.There's even room  to throw in an old fashioned clambake or fish boil. Whichever you choose will always be fun.

Of course there's the barbecue. That American classic will be the backbone of many warm weather gatherings. Give it a more sophisticated turn by serving grilled filet mignon on brioches.For a true lux  idea make a bagna cauda sauce  from anchovies cooked with olive oil, butter and garlic. If you want an even more decadent barbecue, then think burgers made from this expensive cut. Serve with sliced , grilled portobello mushrooms. Another party dish is champagne marinaded chicken. This is mixing the champagne with olive oil, garlic and seasonings and letting it marinate for anywhere from eight hours to overnight, It's grilled for fifty minutes to an hour over hot coals. Lobster can also be grilled too and it's a nice change of pace for a summer get together. Served with asparagus salad and a tomato basil mousse for a truly elegant warm weather party.Don't feel like cooking? Then have it catered. Many restaurants can roast up chickens and even turkeys along with a variety of sides if you;'e throwing a large (anywhere from fifteen to thirty people)They will also set up and supply you with servers too. As for dessert, try an ice cream Charlotte. It's a striking end to any dinner  and all it needs is lady fingers, fresh fruit and vanilla ice cream.The lady fingers are pressed against a spring form pan creating a shell, then  filled with the ice cream and fruit.

If you want something a bit more down to earth then think luau, clambake or fish boil. A luau is a great idea for a pool party. Start with the basics of this South Pacific feast, chicken, fish and pork.If you can try to get luau leaves however surprisingly collard greens can  be a substitute for them. Most luaus use the Hawaiian butterfish againrif you can;t find it in your fish store, then use pompano.A fun crowd pleaser is huli huli chicken, a marinated dish that artfully combines pineapple juice , white wine and soy sauce.Poi is a staple too but it is hard to come by , especially in the continental US , Sub in a mix of mashed banana, lemon juice and coconut cream. Make sure guests have fruity cocktails to sip as well.Clambakes can be fun too, even if you're miles away from any ocean. It's primarily a variety of seafood boiled together. Add what you want .Mussels, clams and lobsters are the most popular. Sometimes whole potatoes are added as is corn. Butter is melted, preferably in an old coffee can  and the seafood and the veggies can be dipped into it. Beer or cider is usually the beverage of choice. A fish boil is the Midwes';s version of a clambake.It's usually whitefish steaks boiled with potatoes and onions.served with a side of melted sweet butter. The meal ends with a cherry or blueberry pie a la mode ad strong, hot coffee.

It is the height of the summer party season. Throw one that suits your tastes. Go elegant or go down home. No matter what you choose, it will be a memorable one with good food and good drink.

Friday, July 8, 2016

An Indonesian Feast

Ramadan is a time of fasting yet after sundown it's a time of feasting. Muslims throughout Indonesia celebrate it with a variety of traditional foods. The holiday nights end with a mix of spicy and sweet, all filling after a day of prayers and austerity.

Tejal Rao wrote about this in Wednesday's New York Times Food section, traveling to Boston to interview chef Retno Pratiwi owner of the pop up restaurant Kaki Lima. She recreated the holiday fare her mother used to make for Eid al-Fitr , also known as Idul Fitri in Indonesia. She and her husband, Peter Geller who used to write for the Times, are passionate about the food of her native Jakarta. They obsess over the authenticity and minute details of their food at the restaurant , named for the food stalls. They traveled back to archipelago of islands located between southeastern Asia and Australia, visiting home chefs, and garnering more recipes from them. They went to the various islands to gather up a variety of different dishes. Recreating them here was difficult, namely in trying to get the exact ingredients. Fresh lemongrass and galangal,a type of ginger are hard to come by as are salam leaves,a variation of bay leaves.Sometimes the couple has to travel down to New York City to get another vital ingredient candle nut , a macadamia type nut. Sometimes they just order from Amazon.

Home chefs can create Chef's Pratiwi's dishes. The article includes opor ayam or Indonesian chicken curry. Some of the ingredients like the galanga root and kafir lime leaves can be hard to find.Again go to Amazon or your local Asian market and see if they have the ingredients there.The rest is attainable such as the chicken and coconut milk along with the coriander and ginger.  The chicken is cooked in the sauce for forty minutes before serving.It' is a labor intensive dish but worth it. The other recipe offered is shrimp and potatoes in sambal. This is a spicy sweet dish that gets its' heat from chile peppers along with Thai bird's eye chilis.. The recipe is a mix of different flavors and textures from the brininess of the seafood to the mildness of the tomatoes and lemon grass. The potatoes are roasted before hand for a nice crunchy texture,. The sambal or sauce is pureed and then sweetened with coconut sugar.The shrimp and potatoes are added to the sauce and cooked for ten minutes.It's served with rice.Again it's worth a trip to the local Asian grocery to stock up on the rarer ingredients such as lemongrass and galangal.

Ramadan is a holiday of fasting and prayer. Yet it is also is nights full of feasting. The Indonesians know how to celebrate with delicious foods, full of flavor and spice.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Food For All Urban Farms

There are too many people starving in cities. Either that or they're not eating right, going for cheap junk or fast foods. There is a solution  - farming. It's something that many cites need to do. The end result is a healthy population that can give back to the city.

Urban farms are a new phenomenon but the idea of feeding ones' own has been around for centuries. Many castles had garden in their keep or right outside the castles walls. .The fruits and vegetables grown supplied nourishment for everyone within it. Urban farming is somewhat similar, The produce grown goes to the community whether for schools, food pantries or soup kitchens. It's a great way of getting healthy foods out to a population that may not always eat right due to financial problems.Newark, New Jersey was one of the first cities to have this Theirs is actually in two forms. The first is plot of land measuring two and a half acres. It is not just a farm but a learning center for local schoolchildren. Here they can see how tomatoes and lettuce are grown  as well as harvesting them.Another plus is that for ten dollars a month any Newark resident can have a plot to grow whatever they want.For parents this is a boon. It gives them and their children a relief from gritty city life and into fresh air .It also shows them to have responsibility with tending plants and making sure they thrive.Urban farming may also guide them into fields of biology and other sciences as well.

The other type of urban farm is repurposing an old factory and turning it into a multi story farm. This also has been stated in Newark and  happening in some of the larger cities like Chicago. One of the more famous one's there is Sweetwater .Thanks to Emmanuel Pratt, founder of the Sweetwater Project, Chicagoans not only get fresh veggies and herbs, their children also receive lessons in how to fertilize and plant. Kindergarteners up to grad students learn about the plants along with the fish that provide the fertilizers. There are tanks of tilipia which provide nitrogen waste for the crops.Professor Pratt has created more of these urban farms in Milwaukee and Detroit too.The Japanese have also jumped on this concept, creating the world's largest interior farm in eastern Japan in an area badly hit by the tsunami. It has created no only a huge bounty of crops but very little waste, thanks to installing LED lights. The lettuce will keep under them and not wilt. Another plus of urban farming is that the crops are not subjected to drought or heavy rainfalls.More and more cities need to think about this sustainable method of feeding their citizens. Instead of caving into Big Business, they need to reclaim the land .

Big cities need to rethink selling out old factories and green lands to businesses. Urban farming is a cheaper  way of getting fresh fruit and veggies out to a population who need it. It's benefits everyone, especially the next generation.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Welcoming With Food

Many people, including a vast majority in this country tend to view  refugees with a jaundiced eye.Yet, they can contribute so much to a country, including an ancient cuisine that's full of flavor and variety. French chefs know this and they are letting these new arrivals their day - in the kitchen.

Alissa J. Rubin wrote about this phenomena exchange in today's New York Times Food section. The movement is called Les Cuistots Migrateurs or the Migratory Cooks and was created by two innovative and intrepid French entrepreneurs Louis Jacquot and Sebastian Prunier..They tracked down trained chefs who were among the millions seeking asylum in France and employed them , hopefully changing the way the French look at them.Refugees are usually seen as a drain on society pulling it down. By allowing them to be chefs again they contribute not just to society but add some spice literally to the usually staid Gallic cuisine. Les Cuistots Migrateurs  cook at the restaurant, Le Petit Bain,  owned by Monsieurs Jacquot and Prunier. Diners are greeted by the  sounds of world music.It seemed appropriate to hire the Syrians chefs to add their dishes and flavors to the menu.The co-owners were well traveled business men who had a shared interest in bringing the food they had tasted on their travels.Mr. Jacquot lived on the street foods of Southern Asia , Brazil and Latin America. while Mr. Prunier lived abroad in Hong Kong , Singapore and Shanghai, eating in private homes, experiencing family dishes.

This culinary wanderlust paid off. It brought about a restaurant that was accepting of this latest addition to French dining. Another catalyst was an event that the  two men attended a party at a non profit organization last fall.Migrants also attended and brought foods from their counties. This sparked an idea. They could sift through the refugees for those who were trained chefs. Mssrs Jacquot and Prunier had three goals. One of the most important was exposing native French people to the cuisines and cultures of these immigrants.They wanted to create jobs for them and the last, they wanted to change the way these newcomers were being seen. The chefs would be on hand to explain the dishes to diners.The chefs are from all over. There are three from Syria, one from Chechnya along with chefs from India, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka, Two chefs from Afghanistan and Tibet are scheduled to join as well. Classics such as kebbe, a kind of meatball made from ground beef or lamb with bulger or cracked wheat.Samosas are also on the menu as is quail with freekah or green Durham wheat along with mackerel cooked with peppers and tahini.

Any immigrant groups adds to a  country, especially to its' cuisine. It is a stroke of genius to let them cook and integrate their flavors into an established cuisine. We need to do the same here in the States

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Feasting On Your Feast Day

Onamasticas or name days are kind of like having a second birthday. There are favorite foods and gifts to be had , along with praying or acknowledging the saint you were named after.It's a reflective day but also one filled with treats.

One of the most famous name days is St Patrick's on March 17th, Of course , everyone celebrates that day with beer and corned beef. Yet it should be a special day as well for those named Patrick or Patricia.The second most famous name day is St. Valentine's, February 14th. It's a day for romance and sweethearts but should also be observed for the Valentines and Valentinas out there too.Name days are big throughout  Europe  along with being observed in Latin American countries and Hispanic households here in the States.The Germans equate a name day  with a birthday so there's cake and gifts. Bulgarian children bring chocolates and other treats to school to share their day with classmates. Hungary has similar traditions except men receive wine on their saints days while kids get special treats to dole out to  friends.If you;re in Italy expect a cake to honor your day while in Slovakia enjoy a  big do that can rival a birthday.Spain and Hispanic America used go all out too for onamasticas however now they're more quieter. Not so for the Russians/ They are another nationality that go crazy on name days. There are big parties with lots of food and drink, rivaling birthday parties.

 Name days are not really celebrated here in the States , save for some families who carry on their ancestors' traditions. Today is St. Elizabeth's Day so both my Mom and I celebrate .We just had a nice lunch at The Olive Garden and enjoyed their latest dessert - chocolate lasagna cake. (you read right,It's a chocolate sponge cake layered with cheesecake and a rich fudge layer) Saint's days don't have to be elaborate affairs. The summer onimastica parties can be a small barbecue featuring the honoree's favorite foods. Try filet mignon or a T-bone for a lux treat. For a little more fun cook up some kabobs with chicken  and a variety of veggies. End with a small cake. Again, this doesn't have to be an elaborate iced creation, Think strawberry short cake or a peach or berry cobbler with fresh whipped cream or creme fraiche. The meal could  also end with a chocolate fondue too,dipping the fruits of the season along with marshmallows in melted chocolate. For fall and winter onamasticas. try a chili pie or maybe individual Cornish hens with stuffing.End the meal with a home made apple or pear galette topped with vanilla ice cream. Give the honoree a small ballotin of fine chocolates for a nice gift or a gift certificate at the local coffee shop.

Name days are meant to honor not just the saint but the person named after him or her. Celebrate with a favorite food or dinner out .It's a day of  honoring but also of feasting as well.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Very Foodie Fourth

Happy Fourth of July to all my American readers both here and abroad. We're in interesting times right now with a heightened xenophobia that harks back to a more close minded era. We cannot be that way. We have to be more like our diets and be more welcoming to new ideas and flavors.

Remember that it was a wide variety of immigrants that gave us the foods we're munching on those special day that celebrates not only only our freedom but our grit as a people.After all those okras and yams, so long ingrained in the American diet. were brought here by  the enslaved from Africa , along with  several of our most treasured cooking techniques. Germans gave us hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salads. The French and Belgians provided us with the recipe for French fries. Ice cream? Thank first the urbane Thomas Jefferson who brought it from the French who probably got it from an ancient Roman recipe. That ice and pizza? Definitely from the Italians who came here a century ago. The fish tacos and burritos at the pool snack bar? Mexicans immigrants carried those recipes with them. What about those wontons or egg rolls? Variations of them came over thanks to  two centuries of Chinese newcomers . Our diets as well as our lives would be as bland  as ever without the contributions of foreigners.

We have always been a country of immigrants, ever since that first step upon Plymouth Rock. Foreigners have given us our language, our government  and most importantly an ever changing diet. We should thank each new wave as they come in for their culinary contributions instead of vilifying and isolating them.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Great British Bake Off Returns

The scheduling people at PBS may or may not have a wicked or warped sense of humor.It seems almost too coincidental that another season of "The Great British Bake Off  - Season Six" is airing July 4th weekend along with the chaotic stew of Brexit. Either way, it shows the UK at its' idyllic and coziest best.It's all sweetness and Victoria sponge.

This latest season which aired last August 15  is now going to be shown here in the US. Episode One already has been shown, as other PBS stations around the country have given it the Friday 9 PM
slot. Here in the New York metro area, we have  to watch it on Sunday afternoons at four (that is if any of us are around, There are die hard fans who will,but luckily we can catch up on the PBS website later on). The hosts and judges are back, There are the spicy and sweet Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins who offer saucy asides  and comfort to nervous contestants. Check out what they say during the Madeira cake challenge because the cake is known for its' defining crack. (see where this is going). Of course there are the judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Hollywood is a burly , yet more suave version of Alec Baldwin who lends some asperity and much needed stringency to a contest that can sometimes get a bit too sugary with emotions.Ms. Berry,  a kind of British Betty Crocker, is the sweet yet demanding grandmother who does think your tea scones are scrummy even though they're lacking in appearance. Both are excellent in giving hints and tips.

The one thing about the show is that the contestants represent a wide swath of British society. Some have Southeastern Asian backgrounds, one is Bangladeshi. Most are true blue Britons, coming from
such diverse areas of the island such as Yorkshire, London and Manchester. There is one from Swansea, Wales and another from Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross in Scotland. . The xenophobes who more or less caused the Brexit with the EU could learn valuable lessons from this show and it's not the ones regarding the best icing or the tenderest crumb. Foodies and sweet tooths will love the different contests .As always all sorts of baked goods will be executed and the episodes are divided into three sections : the signature, the technical and the showstopper. The technical is always a recipe from Mr. Hollywood's or Ms Berry's recipe books and a step or two is always omitted to flummox the bakers.I love the showstoppers, This is where contestants get creative and whip up creations that are just breath taking. Everything will be covered this season, from vol au vents to breads to biscuits.

Brexit showed the UK at its' worst. The Great British Bake Off remedies that poisonous hatred and presents us with a contest where people of all colors and religions come together. Yes, it's a contest but its' a fun friendly one.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Red , White And Berry

Berries are everywhere right now, from straw to blue. Most foodies eat them plain or with a good dollop of whipped cream yet they're versatile in everything, from salads to all sorts of desserts.Try them in barbecue sauce or in a fresh summer salad.

Of course berries are used in baking. Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are popular this weekend  because of their patriotic colors. Melissa Clark wrote about them in her A Good Appetite column in Wednesday's New York Times Food section, She arranged them in festive red and blue stripes in a buckwheat (!) cake made with buttermilk  The fruit adds a nice tartness because it's been baked and absorbed by the crumb. Another fun Fourth idea is making either a chocolate or vanilla sheet cake , icing it with whipped cream and decorate with berries to create the Stars And Stripes.It's a fun end to a barbecue. The idea can be carried over to cupcakes. Cupcakes can also be filled with a mix of chopped fruit and cream or pudding for a neat surprise.One of the easiest desserts to make with any berry is the crisp.It's cooking the fruit with a crunchy topping of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon.Usually made with apples the recipe can be expanded to include blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. Cobblers are another great summer dessert that highlight any berry's juiciness. They're a bit more involved than a crisp , resembling a cake but they are still easy enough to bake on a hot summer's day. For a cooler treat think berry infused sorbets or old fashioned ice cream with whole cream and fresh produce.

Not surprisingly berries can be used in savory dishes as well.Salads always benefit from them, whether as a tangy dressing or a zesty addition, One tasty mix is taking half a pound of strawberries and mixing them with honey, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Use it for dressing a grilled chicken and spring green salad. Blackberries and even blueberries would not only add some sweetness but also color to a steak salad. Toss a few in with some chopped  bell peppers and grape tomatoes for a spin on a classic salad. Any berry can be used in barbecue sauce.Imagine a raspberry barbecue sauce slathered on ribs. The sauce is easy to make. Take a cup of raspberries and blend with a variety of sweeteners such as brown sugar, molasses and light corn syrup. Garlic , red pepper and onion flakes zing it up.The base is balsamic vinegar and olive oil.It's pureed and strained through a sieve to get rid of the seeds. Ever think of blueberry ketchup? Yes, it can be made, In fact one of the original recipes was made solely from them.It's a mix of the fruit along with shallots, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic and ginger. The flavor is bright and fruity, sort of jammy  yet perfect for those grilled burgers or for giving those cookout some zing.

Get red white and berry this July Fourth and for the rest of the summer. Use blueberries in a ketchup. Strawberries in a crisp. Blackberries in a salad. It's the season for them so enjoy them.