Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Veggie Burger Rethought

Faux burgers have always had a bad rap.Even restaurants can't quite capture the juiciness and color of the real thing. That's all changing.The veggie burger is having a renaissance right now and home chefs should take notice.It's not that blah blob anymore but an actual burger, juicy and delicious

Erik Piepenburg who usually writes about the arts for the New York Times,penned this article for the newspaper's Food section. As we all know restaurant veggie burgers are usually a God awful mush , tasting mainly of peas.Some do have good ones, such as Jake's  Wayback where the burger has a nice crisp outside and a chewy inside. However these are mass produced like the Morningstar Farms ones  in the supermarket. They're a cut above the old kind as as well as over some homemade creations. Fake burgers were always a challenge for even the most experienced of chefs and were thus relegated to the fringes of a restaurant's menu. That's all changing thanks to a new generation of chefs. There's also a plant based "meat" being made by Impossible Foods and it consists of  wheat, coconut oil,potato protein and heme, the last an iron molecule that's not only abundant in meat but also in such plants as Swiss chard and collard greens.It's also found in vegan staples , soy and tofu along with black beans and chickpeas. Impossible Food's burger looks exactly like a true blue beef burger and is now being served at Momufuku Nishi in Chelsea.It is just as good as the real thing, albeit a bit pricey at $12.

Other chefs are taking the more creative route. Brooks Headley, formerly a pastry chef at the famed Del Posto in lower Manhattan has created his own version of the veggie burger at his new restaurant,
Superiority Burger.It is one of the most acclaimed ones in the city.(It was awarded two stars by Pete Wells). How did it get to be so good? Chef Headley approaches the recipe the way the way Italian restaurants approach their meatball recipes - with different meats and seasonings.He tries to use everything in his culinary arsenal.There's fresh veggies,grains and beans,along with a potato starch slurry. This last acts as a binder when it's heated to 180 degrees Farenheit. It gelatinizes the mixture which results in a nice, firm burger that doesn't fall apart on the grill or plate.Some chefs go the mushroom route. Jillian CameraCo-chef at Toad Style, a vegan comfort food eatery in Bedford-Stuyvesant, makes her vegan cheeseburger with cremini mushrooms,red onions and green lentils. She also puts in steel cut oats chia seeds and garlic too for texture and flavor.Spices are also added before the burger is formed and then topped off with almond cheese.Any home chef can recreate these along with the dozens of veggie burgers recipes on line.It's just trial and error until home chefs get the right taste and texture.

Veggie burgers are going through a renaissance right now.They're not those mushy patties with a bad rep and even worst taste. They are juicy, mouth watering burgers that are right up with the real thing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Overtime Cooking

The worst part about working over time isn't the brain drain or a long , stressful day. It's trying to get something decent to eat despite the fatigue and crankiness.It's a choice between fridge foraging or fast food, pan frying or microwaving. What's the right solution?

Coming home late can come with challenges, especially if you're hungry. Many just have a bowl of cereal and milk and call it a night. This works but  it still may not be satisfying enough. Another is turning whatever snack you have into a full blown meal. Again it's a quick fix that does have its consequences (namely weight gain and possible indigestion). A tad better is that classic standby - the drive thru window.It's easy to order that cheeseburger, fries and a soda, even easier to eat however a meal like that can be heavier at night. The caffeine in the Coke or Pepsi may keep you up half the night (not great if the next day  is another ten hour slog) along with the fries laying heavy on your stomach. If you do opt for the fast food route, then head to Wendy's or Subway. Their offerings are not as greasy as the other major chains. Wendy's has the added plus of a baked potato, a filling yet relatively light meal for a late supper.Their salads are also perfect for late night noshes, thanks to the variety of healthy ingredients like almonds and dried fruit. Subway is another great choice. You can have them make up a sandwich with healthy components such as whole wheat bread along with fresh veggies such as tomatoes, peppers and onions. The chain also has a good selection of natural juices as well.

What about going the home cooked route? This is where having leftovers comes in handy. That roast chicken or turkey can be turned into a sandwich .Leftover steak can be turned into a salad with mixed greens and grape tomatoes. It can also be ground into a kind of paste , mixed with mayo or olive oil to create a kind of deviled ham. The same can be done  with any leftover roasted ham , chicken or turkey. Those leftover  grilled veggies can be converted into a primavera sauce thanks to the addition of some olive oil and garlic. You can even add in tomato paste for a richer flavor. Crockpot cuisine is always a life saver for a home chef with a busy work schedule. Make a  dump meal, an easy melange of meat and veggies.Try a chicken casserole or an easy bean chili. Slow cookers can be used for making homemade soups, always perfect after a long , stressful day. Try a split pea that's accented with such veggies as carrots, onions and celery along with garlic and parsley for more flavor. Add ham or a ham hock to give it that rich pea soup flavor. Minestrone is another great soup that can be mixed together in the morning and eaten at night.This can be tailored to suit your tastes. Add elbow macaroni or orzo, go heavy on the onions or tomatoes, use chicken or beef broth. Bring home some rolls and a ready made salad and you've got a nice meal that nourishing and delicious.

Working overtime doesn't mean coming home to no food on the table. There are several ways to go for  eat properly after a rough work day. Don;t let your tomach get as frazzled as your mind. Treat it to warm, nutritious meal and a calm evening of relaxation.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The ABC's Of Snacking

Schools of all sorts start this week and kids from kindergartners to college seniors will indulge in that after school past time snacking. Make sure they eat sensibly. It's the key to healthy living and a healthy  student.

Those much hated veggies can be turned into a fun snack thanks to  some Greek yogurt and spices. Slice up bell peppers along with broccoli and cauliflower. Mix the lower in calorie plain Greek yogurt with different herbs and spices such as cumin for a tasty dip. Do a taste test with the kids regarding the spices.It's one way to expand their palate along with finding out what flavors appeal to them. The same can be done with cut fruits too. Have a wide variety of bite sized pieces such as grapes and strawberries along with sliced kiwis, apples , peaches and nectarines. Use vanilla flavored yogurt, again, preferably Greek as the dip. You could also start off with the plain Greek and then stir in such add ins as dark honey, cinnamon or dark chocolate chips.Another tasty dip idea is salsa with tortilla chips.Salsa is one of the easiest to make. Start with chopped tomatoes and onions along with cilantro. Have a mildly spiced one for the little guys while older kids may enjoy the heat of chopped jalapeno. Salsa can be made and packed into your dorm student's boxes for a nice reminder of home.It can also be used for topping hamburgers or accompanying grilled chicken or steak. It can also be made with such diverse fruits as watermelon and pineapple too along with mangoes, plums and kiwis.

What about that after school classic  - cookies and milk? Many parents do give in and let the kids eat the most caloric. It's' fine every once in a while but not every day.Surprisingly the national brands such as Chips Ahoy actually have less calories than the  so called healthier cookies.Homemade cookies, although labor intensive, are a better choice. Even classics like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin can be made healthier. Sub in white flour and refined sugar with oat flour and brown sugar. Instead of butter use the lower calorie but just as silky coconut oil.Make your cookie monsters a really healthy bite like, the detox cookie. This recipe taken from A Clean Bake blog, has only three ingredients. There's creamy peanut butter (use the all natural kind for this)or for even more healthier cookies , almond butter along with cocoa powder and mashed , ripe's only ten minutes in the oven and that's it. There's no flour or sugar to  bring on the allergies.It's also an easy enough recipe that your college kid or high schooler can bake. You can even bake healthy (!) Oreos. Use spelt flour instead of the usual white and sweeten with maple syrup instead of cane sugar. The filling is made with ground brown sugar that takes on the consistency of powdered sugar and coconut butter. Serve any of these cookies with low fat milk.

School starts with it after school snacking. Give your big and little scholars healthy but fun snacks. They'll enjoy a flavorful veggie dip or a good for you chocolate treat. They're good for everyone.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Spicing Up Your Barbecue

It's almost the end of August and barbecues by now are becoming old hat. Let's face it,  do we really want to stuff down another charred burger or dog,?Or another mayo soaked salad, followed by either lukewarm beer or soda? Let's liven up the outdoor cooking by tossing in some variety and spice. Let's make our outdoor cooking  fun again.

Hamburgers are always part of the barbecue lineup.By now, even the most ardent burger lover is probably sick of them. It's time then, to give the recipe some zing and zest. First get chopped beef, and add a good teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the mix. You could also add some  finely chopped onion and bell peppers to create a colorful chili burger.Serve with a dash of hot sauce for even more fire. Another way to go is adding beer to the chopped meat to create a unique and juicy spin. It's just adding a quarter of a cup of any brew along with garlic, Worcester sauce along with ground onion. Even better add a couple of tablespoons of bourbon (yes bourbon!) along with cumin and dried oregano to ground chuck meat. Hot dogs are another grill staple that needs some remodeling. Try spiralizing them.It's actually an easy method. First skewer hot dogs lengthwise. then slice  into the dog as you roll it away from you,Continue doing this until you reach the end of the hot dog. Now carefully (otherwise the dog will break) slide the skewer out and place the stretched out hot dog over the grill. The end result is a crispy fun treat that will go good with mustard or barbecue sauce.

Those traditional salads can also be spruced up too. Instead of the usual coleslaw, try one made from shredded cabbage mixed with salad dressing.I've had it with French dressing and it's delicious, light years away from the traditional  mayo soaked kind. You can also use buttermilk ranch or blue cheese too or just a plain vinaigrette. Macaroni salad can also be made the same way with subbing in favorite dressings for mayonnaise. You could also make a Mediterranean style, adding in grape tomatoes, kalamata olives and oregano. Toss in feta chunks to make it more substantial.Think outside the traditional garden too. Make an easy artichoke salad by using jarred artichoke hearts and sliced plum tomatoes. Try a homemade fresh version of giardeneria using diced carrots and onions, both serrano and bell peppers along with cauliflower florets and chopped celery. Toss with a rosemary and oregano infused vinaigrette. What to wash all this down with? Spiked lemonade. Make or buy it and add a good, boozy shot of vodka. Kids can have their own version by adding seltzer or mineral water. You can also do this with orangeade and limeade too.

Barbecues don;t have to be a blah end of season affair. Liven up and spike up traditional recipes for a fun spin on a summer tradition.It's adding more fuel to the barbecue fire!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Nilla Wafers That Great American Classic

What makes the perfect cookie? Crunch , snap and flavor. Nilla  Wafers, everyone's favorite cookie fits this bill. They are not only fun to eat with a big glass of milk but also neat to turn into a variety of yummy desserts.These vanilla snaps are not only a kitchen classic but a kitchen staple as well.

Nilla Wafers have been made by Nabisco for only fifty years but their story goes back to over a century to Staten Island, New York. German inventor Gustave A. Mayer, a 19th Century inventor moved his family and confectionery business to Stapleton in the northeastern corner of the island , This German neighborhood appreciated baked cakes and cookies and it was here that Mayer created molds for the sugar wafers that would eventually be known as Nillas. He was also an inventor , designing one of the world's first humidifiers along with preformed sigh letters and sparkling reflectors used as Christmas tree  ornaments. Yet it was the biscuit molds that made him famous. and even was awarded a medal from the American Institute of New York for his many contributions and inventions to the industry.  How Nabisco acquired the recipe is a mystery.Had they been sitting on it for half a century or did Mayer,s daughters finally relent and gave the recipe away in the mid Sixties? Strangely enough the cookies have always been made with synthetic vanilla or vanillin and not the real deal.  Nabisco also makes a low calorie version that taste the same as the original recipe.  One is only twenty calories . A small bag of them make a nice snack whether for work or for school.

The cookies are great on their own however they 're also a wonderful ingredient in many desserts. Banana pudding is a popular one , especially in the South. The recipe is an easy one.It's basically a trifle with layers of Nillas vanilla pudding or custard and sliced bananas. It's then topped off with whipped cream and crushed cookies.What I  love about Nilla Wafers is that they make great crusts. They're easily crushed in a food processor and can be blended with nuts and melted butter for a shortbread inspired kind of crust for cheesecakes.The cookies also make great mini desserts along the lines of hors d'ouervres . Put puffs of coffee laced marscapone cheese on them or sweetened cream cheese and berries for a fun after dinner bite. Nillas make excellent cookie balls. Again these riffs on cake pops are a snap to whip up. It's just mixing the crumbs with cream cheese and then rolling the mixture into balls. Afterwards they're dipped in chocolate and then chilled for an hour. You can add in some fun morsels such as ripe mashed bananas, nuts,or chocolate chips. Try a tiramisu one with some coffee mixed into the recipe. These are great for a kid's party,Turn them into cookie pops, with dyed white chocolate.and a coating of gold and silver sanded sugar.

Nilla Wafers are not only a nice side to a cup of tea or a glass of milk , but they're a great ingredient to fun desserts. Enjoy their sweet crispness any way whether as a cookie or part of a sweet treat.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Great Desserts, So So Peaches

This has not been a great year for peaches. The perfect one is rare thanks to a February blast that killed off burgeoning buds. Luckily the fruit can be turned into wonderful creations that focus on their sweet, mellow flavor.They are even better than just the peach itself.

Samantha Seneviratne,creator of the interesting dessert blog, Cake Love, wrote about this amazing fruit in yesterday's New York Times Food section,Even though 2016 hasn't been their year, peaches can still be turned into tasty desserts.One that Ms. Seneviratne created is an ice cream cake. This is not one of the slap dash ones that is a slab of vanilla topped by crumbs and then another slab of chocolate. This actually has cake, a real butter on,e with five tablespoons of butter in the recipe. The ice cream is a no churn one which also includes peach preserves along with fresh raspberries - which are coming into their second season right now. The fresh peach is there in macerated form as it and the preserves are folded into the whipped cream. The cake assemblage is easy. First line a 9 by 5 loaf pan with Saran wrap leaving a six inch overhang all the way around. The cake is cut into thirds, making three rectangles.There is a layer of cake, then a layer of cream followed by the drained raspberries. This is repeated again for two more times and then freeze until firm for at least eight hours. It's topped with  a fruity mix of peach slices and fresh raspberries that have been sitting in sugar for ten minutes.

Another yummy dessert is Ms. Seneviratne's take on cobbler.This summer classic has been updated with a hazelnut infused crust.. She adds tiny wild blueberries which are a nice foil to the peaches' honey flavor. These can be picked if you have access to wild blueberry bushes however they can also be bought at farmer's markets and even found in the frozen food section. These frozen ones are actually beneficial because it helps the fruit mixture from overcooking and becoming mushy as the biscuits bake all the way through. You can use the big berries found in your supermarket, but Ms. Seneviratne warns that they are watery and have a weaker flavor.The topping requires hazelnut meal which can be bought in grocery stores and even on Amazon. It gives it a nice crunchy exterior  while still having a soft, pillowy middle.The crust also has a  half a cup of butter and a third of a cup of heavy cream.. it works well with the fruit mixture, also enhanced with vanilla bean seeds and sugar.The entire cobbler is baked for forty to forty-five minutes when the fruit comes bubbling from below and a toothpick inserted in the crust comes out with moist crumbs. Most cobblers are usually served with a pour of cream on them but I can see the first recipe's peach ice cream as a nice accompaniment here.

Don't despair if the year yielded up a lousy peach harvest. These recipes can show off their mellow sweetness and lush flesh. They are even more delicious in an ice cream cake or hazelnut infused cobbler.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tuscon The Next Food Heritage Site

Tuscon Arizona may be known for lavish spas or beautiful sunsets but food? Surprisingly this desert town is now part of the Unesco World Heritage sites joining the more culinary sophisticated cities  like Lyons, France and Chengdu, China. Tuscon has deep roots to food, along with a varied indigenous and European diet, started centuries ago.

Kim Severson, a regular contributor, wrote about this interesting food-centric city and its' recent honor in today's New York Times Food section.Eight months ago it was the only city in the United States to be designated a City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known by the acronym Unesco. About six years ago the international agency began including food as a part of a cultural heritage worth protecting as it recognizes and protects such diverse dishes as Armenian lavash,the recipes from the Mediterranean diet and the lush gastronomic meals of the French, Tuscon joins not only Chengdu and Lyons but also Parma, Italy,Bergen, Norway and Ensenada, Mexico, The reason why this southern Arizona was selected was explained by its'officer for historic presentation, and the author of the application, Dr. Jonathan Mabry. Towns were chosen because the designation will make a difference. Still, it's a puzzler. After all there is New York City, although the city doesn't celebrate it's indigenous culinary
 heritage  (which is obvious in the oyster beds in surrounding waters and acres of wild grapes grown just outside the city).

Tuscon has a history that stretches back 4,000 years when it was a farming community to local tribes such as the HoHokan and Tohono O'odham.Dr. Mabry was one of the archaeologists, hired by the city in 2000 for a dig  not far from the downtown section. What he found was amazing, There were layers of layers of irrigation trenches and then charred corn.It was proof that this modern day city was built on top of a four millennia old farming village. The surrounding desert can still yield up interesting crops that have created unique dishes with a definite Southwestern taste. There has always been agave,cactus pads and amaranth along with tiny wild peppers called chiltepin. Mesquite is not only used for barbecuing  but also used for baking cookies thanks to its' pods being pounded into a sweet flour.. Descendants of the fruits trees, first planted by Italian born ,Reverend Eusebio Francisco Kino in the 1600's yield up quince, figs and white pomegranates, the last with a taste that combines apples and grapefruits. Tuscon chefs also use cholla buds that bloom into cactus flowers in salsas and salads. They have a vague asparagus flavor  which makes them also good for certain  soups. The one tribe, Tohono O'odham, dry them and sell the buds in jars at the local San Xavier Co-op Farm. This devotion to creating livelihoods from heritage food is what got it noticed from Unesco.

Tuscon is a fascinating city full of food history and unique flavors. Unesco was right in choosing it as a World Heritage Site. It is fascinating from so many angles, both in its' story and in its' foods.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Basil Season

Late August brings about many harvests, tomatoes, eggplants  and of course basil,It's one of the most prolific plants with each plant sprouting hundreds of leaves. What's great about it, is that basil is so easy and addictive to use.It can add punch and flavor to everything from pizzas to pastas.

Basil is one of the most ancient herbs, originating in India over 5,000 years ago.It was the Greeks, however to name it,,from basilius, the king and has been associated with the Feast of The Cross,in the Greek Orthodox religion.It refers to St Helena's Emperor Constantine's mother's pilgrimage to Jerusalem,According to some, it could have been used to perfume ancient royal oils and baths. Many chefs  consider the king of herbs.The plant is a staple in Italian cooking but also is popular in Southeastern Asian cuisine too,Italians use the sweet or Genovese kind while Thais, Laotians and Vietnamese cook with Thai basil.The last has a spicier taste, perfect for rounding out  red and green curries along with drunken noodles.The herb's benefits are bountiful.It's high in Vitamin K, essential for blood clotting, along with Vitamin A and beta carotene. The leaves are also loaded in such minerals as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese Vitamin C and potassium,It's volatile oils such as estagole and myrcene give it antibacterial qualities too, which are important in restricting the growth of harmful bacteria.It's best to use freshly picked leaves to take advantage of all it has to give.

Basil gives so much flavor to various dishes . One of the most famous is pesto sauce, originating in the Northern Italian seaport of Genoa. The basic recipe is two cups of fresh leaves pureed with Parmigiano or Romano cheese ,extra virgin olive oil, and pine nuts. Garlic cloves and fresh ground pepper are also added to round out the sauce. It works well with any kind of pasta, but it great served with ravioli or tortellini, It can also be used on toasted Italian bread as alternative to garlic bread or even as a green pizza. Basil does have a strong, herbal taste that may be too overwhelming at first.You may just want to use it sparingly at first. Try chiffonading the leaves. You can do it with one individual leaf  or a pile of stacked (I prefer individual). Tightly roll the leaves - think little cigars., and then using a sharp kitchen knife.slice the roll into four pieces . The result is pretty bright green ribbons that go well in a tomato salad or addg oomph to a Margherita style pizza. Basil gives a fresh "green" flavor to tomato sauces, whether salsa crudo or a mellowed one that's been on the stove for an hour.  Basil can be easily frozen too.It's just snipping off the stems , then washing and drying them before putting them in freezer bags.They can last up to a year, hile stile maintaining their distinctive flavor.

Take advantage of the basil harvest right now. The leaves are great to use in fresh or cooked dishes, adding color and flavor. Celebrate this royal plant in a number of ways.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Majoring in Food

It's that time of the year when kids are gearing up to go back to school, talking about hopes and dreams, and possibly careers and futures. Maybe some of those projections may revolve around food. Anything to do with it can be not only interesting , but fun  A career in it could lead to bigger and better things, wh.ether in cooking or management

Mention a career in food and most people automatically think restaurants.It is a good career but remember it's not just cooking,It's also having a sharp business acumen. Even small family owned pizzerias are more business oriented than food centered. It can be rewarding and fun. Many chefs, such as the famed Brit , Jamie Oliver, was born into it as was famed French chef, Jacques Pepin. Some, such as Gordon Ramsay, chose it, rising to phenomenal heights of celebrity. It does pay to go to a culinary school where you can also have other courses such as business and advertising, along with getting a bachelor's degree. One of the most famous is the CIA  - Culinary Institute of America.It's main base is New Hyde Park, the Hudson River town of FDR fame, about  a ninety minute drive north of New York City. The school has branched out to Napa Valley, California and San Antonio, Texas. There is also the New England Culinary School located in Montpelier , Vermont. If you want something a tad less intense then look into pastry schools. Some may also have a cooking curriculum as well. They aren't as expensive along with being quicker to finish. These are great for those in their thirties and even forties and looking to start a second or new career.

Universities such as Johnson and Wales, along with my alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson University offered courses in restaurant management and hospitality. The first even offers a Bachelor's in Culinary Arts, with classes in world cuisine with an emphasis on Szechuan, French , Northern Italian and Thai cuisines, along with pastry courses. There are even wine and spirit courses too. They also have hospitality courses too at their campuses located throughout the country. Johnson and Wales has campuses in Providence, Rhode Island,North Miami, Denver and Charlotte , North Carolina. FDU,offers one of the oldest hospitality studies in the country. The very beautiful Madison campus (and, yes,I am prejudiced here - although I went to and teach at the Teaneck campus) houses the Chaine des Rotisseurs the oldest and largest food and wine society.dedicated to and promoting the culinary and hospitality arts.The school also has a 2000 foot demonstration lab as well, The famed Cornell University , alma mater of Bill Maher, is also known for its' extensive hospitality program also .On the West Coast there is Washington State University in Spokane and Everett , Washington and the  University of Nevada at Las Vegas the William H. Harrah School of Hospitlaity,, another four year school that has a very  good hospitality school. They also have student run restaurants on campus as well.

Majoring in food , namely the culinary arts and hospitality can be fun and rewarding. It's something to think about whether you're a high school senior or looking for a second career. The end result is a career that you'll love.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Campus Cooks

Thousands of college students will be leaving for college for the first time or returning to their apartments in the next couple of weeks. The scary part? They'll be cooking on their own. They'll be cutting, chopping, broiling and boiling - and possibly making some mistakes. Make sure that they have the right gear - not just tablets and an open Amazon account - but everything from cookbooks to cutting boards. Get them ready now for a semester of their version of fine dining.

One of the best things to get any college kid is a cookbook filled with simple and basic recipes. There are actually ones that are geared towards your collegiate. Rhonda Lauret Parkinson has written one of the most comprehensive ones, The Everything College Cookbook, 300 Hassle Free Recipes For Students On The Go. (F&W Publications) This decade old book has everything to get the student from breakfast to snack time to cramming for exams. Another good cookbook is The Healthy College Cookbook, written by Alexandra Nimitz and Jason Stanley along with The Starving Student by Dede Hall that features vegan and vegetarian dishes (all can be bought or downloaded on Amazon). The next items of importance are pots and pans. Unless your kid is going to the CIA , Culinary Institute of America, you can buy two or three vital ones instead of a whole sets. Buy cookware that can have multiple uses. A stockpot can make chili, but also can boil pasta or a lobster. A fry pan is excellent at making burgers but also grilled cheese too. A microwave is handy, and great for cooking leftovers but a better investment is a toaster oven.It's  healthier and can be used for everything from reheating to baking.

Tools are also important too in a student's kitchen.A good all purpose knife ,which can be bought at any supermarket, is one of the most important items for any home chef. I have a Farberware one that I've used for slicing bread, chopping veggies and even carving roast chicken. The second most important item is a good wooden spoon. These are great for stirring everything from sauces to soups. They can be bought in different sizes and will last until the next generation is ready for college. A cutting board is next on the list.It's a must for mess less chopping whether meat, veggies or fruit.Freezer bags are another must. They will come in handy for  leftovers or making dinners for busy exam weeks, As far as gadgets, a mini food processor will always come in handy. It's great for making everything from banana "ice cream" to hummus. An emulsion blender is another must. It's takes up less space than a regular blender but works perfectly in creating sauces, smoothies and even condiments like homemade mayo.As for foods, make sure your campus chef has boullon cubes, perfect on their own or used as the base for soups. Peanut butter is another must.It can be made into a quick sandwich or in baking. Pasta and pasta sauce should also be on the list. These create a hot homey meal in no time. Make sure that there's also bread, cereal and canned tuna.

College is a time of new experiences. Cooking for oneself is one of those. Make sure your collegiate is ready  for it with a well stocked kitchen.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Time For Those Bumper Crops

It's getting close to late August and we all know what that means - bumper crop! We'll be inundated with extra tomatoes, zucchinis  and peppers thanks s to our gardens or ones that belong to neighbors friends and family.  What to do with them? There are dozens of recipes that can be used.

New York Times Food writer Julia Moskin had an excellent idea for vegetables gratins in her column in Wednesday's New York Times Food section. Fresh grown veggies are their tastiest  in this layered dish. It's similar to the winter dish potatoes au gratin in the sense it's layers cooked in a skillet. The summer one has a base layer of onions and peppers.A second layer has zucchini and squash along with Parmesan cheese and pieces of fresh  French or Italian bread.(stale just won't  do). Also cook the veggies either by grilling or broiling before hand  otherwise you'll ind up with a watery half cooked pan of veggies. Another great idea is getting a spiralizer if you don't have one already . You can turn all those zucchini into healthy "green" pasta, whether making it with a pomodoro sauce or a healthier version of pad Thai. The zucchini noodles are just good sauteed with only garlic, olive oil and some butter or margarine. Stuffed zucchini is another great meal and treat. These can be filled with chopped meat, a mix of bread crumbs and tomatoes or a spiced rice mixture. Another idea that's sure to be a classic is zucchini crust pizza. This is when shredded zucchini is mixed with egg or egg whites to create a kind of crispy omelet and a base for tomato sauce and cheese.

Tomatoes are also abounding right now. What to do when the farmer in your life drops off  more than a few? Think sauces for the fall and winter. You can make it for anything , from pizza to pasta. Cooking the sauce is probably the most labor intensive which usually takes anywhere from half an hour to ninety minutes.Keep in mind that the shorter the cooking time the thinner the sauce but with a fresher tomato flavor.The longer the cooking time, the thicker the sauce and the flavor is more of a cooked taste. Tomatoes can be served in an easy crudo sauce for now. It just cutting up tomatoes, letting them marinate in olive oil and garlic as the pasta is being cooked. Orange zest, capers and hot pepper flakes can be added too for extra flavor. Extra tomatoes and peppers can also be turned in a fresh salsa, perfect for pool parties and barbecues. Toss in some chopped jalapenos for fire  or if you want a milder one, add some pineapple chunks or a dollop of honey. Those extra peppers can also be stuffed too with beef, chicken or even turkey.Mix the meat with wild rice  and herbs for extra flavor. Peppers can be charred and served with an anchovy or bagna calda sauce for a Piedmontese summer favorite.

Don't freak out at getting a bumper crop of fresh veggies. There's a million good recipes out there that can be made with them. Enjoy the bounty and the good food that comes from them.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Depression Cooking What The Greatest Generation Ate

The greatest generation had to live very frugally during the Depression .It shaped the way they ate and how they cooked. There's a new book out showing  the recipes of the day, what was served and why. It is an eye opener but a also a window into a fascinating era.

Steven Kurutz rote about the book and interviewed the authors in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Andrew Coe and Jane Ziegelman .wrote A Square Meal (Harper Publishers) chronicles what was promoted, cooked and eaten between 1930 and 1940.Not surprisingly they met Mr. Kurutz at  Eisenburg's Sandwich Shop, a Flatiron District staple since the year of the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. Ms. Ziegelman ordered a sandwich, right from the era, cream cheese and chopped olives while Mr. Coe had a classic that's still loved today: turkey with mashed potatoes and veggies. Even the interviewer ordered a depression worthy meal - meat loaf. The book is an interesting window into what everyone ate, from presidents to the average American. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an aristocrat who grew up with chefs and gourmet foods , ate what his constituents ate. His wife, Eleanor, had something to do with it as well, being more down to earth than him.. As much as he would have loved foie gras and terrapin soup, ate humbler foods. such as deviled eggs in tomato sauce, mashed potatoes and prune whip, a popular dessert of the time.His predecessor, Herbert Hoover was entirely different. Even though he grew up on an Iowa farm, he had gold plated tastes, dining on fish with cucumber sauce as he wore a dinner jacket.

The books also showcases how America went from the being the land of plenty to penny pinching.The country fed  a starving Europe during World War I while having an open all you can eat buffet at home. Teams  of women cooked for male farm workers while fresh baked pies were served after every meal, including breakfast. The Depression changed all that.Ingenuity and frugality were now the main ingredients of every American kitchen. According to Ms/ Ziegelman, loaves were very popular. Of course there were ones made from meat, but also ones made of peanut, liver and bean too.They had to be concocted from a variety of ingredients and a cheap filler that allowed for stretching out. Casseroles also became staples too, because they could be made from leftovers. Cream sauces were popular because they could hide the look and taste of unappetizing ingredients. Diets were compromised because fresh fruit was too expensive so it was replaced by the cheaper dried fruit,Strange mash ups also arose like onions stuffed with peanut butter as a caloric and nutritional substitute to meat.The government also had a hand in helping women to be budgeteers, and rise to the challenge of creating spaghetti with creamed carrots.

A Square Meal shows us how America survived a nutritional depression as well as the actual one. It's a fascinating look at how the Greatest Generation ate during the worst of  times. It's not only a history book but a testament to ingenuity and frugality.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Native Foods Native Recipes

America is known for having a varied cuisine , taken from four hundred years of immigration. Yet one cuisine was suffocated, almost forgotten under all this foreign recipes - indigenous American cooking. Fortunately it's coming back, thanks to Native American chefs who want to reconect ith their pasts.

Tejal Rao, a regular contributor and food blogger wrote about this in today's New York Times Food section. Chef Sean Sherman of the Oglala Dakota tribe is bringing ancient ingredients and ancient recipes to modern Americans. Many original dishes have been lost because they were orally handed down as opposed to writing then down. Chef Sherman's quest has been mostly trial and error. He does draw from the knowledge of the Lakota and Ojibwe tribes who farmed and foraged the Midwestern plains long before any Europeans did, He was lucky in his upbringing. His grandfather had a cattle ranch  that provided fresh beef along with wild antelope , rabbit and game birds. He also collected chokeberries,a kind of wild blueberries that goes into an indigenous sauce called wojapi..It beat the horrible government issued food of cereal, shortening and a vile canned hash that had the consistency of dog food. At thirteen he had his first restaurant job washing dishes where hr learned to skim French sauces and roll out Italian pastas . Chef Sherman was 32 when he turned his attention to indigenous foods and stared Sioux Chef that he runs with his life partner, Dana Thompson.

Indigenous cuisine doesn";t rely on any of the European standard ingredients that are a big part of the modern American diet. There is no  refined sugar. Chef Sherman only uses maple syrup, namely locally sourced syrup, following in the steps of native cooks who tapped maple trees and then boiled the sap. It can be used as a sweetener in savory foods as well as in teas and desserts. Wild rice is another staple  and it grows wild around the lakes of Northern Minnesota.This can be foraged but also can be bought in grocery stores across the country, Walleye perch is a staple and Chef Sherman makes it a couple of ways. One is crusted with spices while the other is flaking the meat to create tender croquettes. They can be also pan fried with herbs and butter or simply roasted in the oven.Pair it with the wild rice along with corn or wild greens. Chokeberries are a big staple in some indigenous diets.Red Lake Nation Foods, owned by the tribe of the same name, makes a syrup from them that can be used in flavoring sparkling water or drizzled over vanilla ice cream. Wild plums were another staple of native cooking and they make a delicious jelly that accents everything from soft cheese to buttered toast. Then there is buffalo jerky made by Lakota entrepreneurs, but it's perfect for those who can't have access to the meat.

American food is not only dishes from other countries but also flavorful recipes , rich in ingredients and tradition. It's take harvest from the land and water, turning it into bountiful dishes. It is truly the food of America, of its' indigenous peoples.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ribs, Ribs And More

This is the height of the barbecue season. One of the staples of outdoor cooking is ribs, whether beef or pork. They are one of the tastiest cuts to grill outdoors and enjoyed a number of ways. There are so many of them to ,from good old fashioned  Southern style to spicy  Szechuan.

Is there a difference between beef and pork ribs?There are some. Beef ribs come in only two cuts, back and short. The back version is what is left over from where the boneless ribeye loins and boneless ribeye steaks are cut. They don't have as much meat as the short ribs. These are from what's known as the "plate" or lower side of the cow.Cooked right they can be very juicy and flavorful which translate into higher pricing at the butcher's or grocery store.Beef ribs are more for steak lovers because that's what they taste like. Pork ribs taste like pork chops. Pork ribs come in three types, back, spare, and St. Louis.The back ribs come from the pig's loin section. They're what's left when the loin meat is cut away to create the loin roast, tenderloin or pork chops. The spare ribs come from the belly section which are the longer ones from the bottom part of the rib rack. St. Louis is when the spare ribs are trimmed to be a rectangle instead of a triangle. Either way, both beef and pork ribs are delicious, especially if they've been marinated or rubbed with a variety of different sauces and spices. Remember to trim the fat away before prepping so that each bite is meatier instead of greasier.

Beef ribs can stand up to acidic marinades. These can have a base of lemon,orange and even Coca Cola along with strong flavors such soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Try a Chinese influenced one with soy, garlic and scallions. Add a good sprinkle of Szechuan peppers for some eye opening bite.The balsamic vinegar can be used in a Mediterranean style marinade, along with rosemary and oregano.Pork ribs demand a sweeter marinade. Try a molasses based one that's also redolent with  chili powder or fresh ground pepper for fire and spice. Cherries can also be used in a sauce along with cloves,and Worcester sauce. A butter sauted onion is added for more richness and flavor.A homemade dry rib rub can elevate this simple dish into something special. A rub is usually a mix of herbs such as oregano and rosemary along with other dry ingredients such as salt and spices. Cayenne or fresh ground pepper usually brings the heat while cumin and paprika  give the meat that nice rosy color. Beef ribs need a more savory kind of rub while pork can stand up to a  brown sugar one.Onion and garlic powder can be added to cut a rub's sweetness. Make sure there's sauce though for dipping at the picnic table. Wet naps are optional but always welcomed.

Ribs always make a barbecue much more special. They add fun and flavor whether they are beef or rib. Make them for a memorable grill outside.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Viki's Granola A Treat Throughout The Day

What can start off your day, be a great snack in the afternoon and top off your dessert? Viki's Granola. This tasty and good for you treat can be used so many different ways. Not only that -it's a spoonful of nutrition, thanks to it being packed with simple ingredients like oats, nuts and honey.

Viki's Granola was started by Viki Sater in 2011, mainly by popular demand. Ms. Sater often made her homemade granola for her kids' school's bake sales. It was the first item sold out with locals who wanted more.Even the principal called in requests.  The mix became the star of every bake sale, thanks to a growing fan base.What was a passion now had the potential to become a thriving business. It's now sold in Wegman's Whole Foods, Stop & Shop and Jewel Osco. Her success was meteoric and this year she was named one of New York Business Journal's Women of Influence. Her product is one of the few out there that uses all natural ingredients.Gluten free oats are blended with honey, and canola oil for flavor and binding.Coconut flakes are a main ingredient too in all the flavors. The blueberry and almond has the nut slivers and dried blueberries, Her maple cranberry not only has pure maple syrup and dried cranberries for color and flavor but also chopped walnuts. The banana walnut has healthy sized dried banana chips and large pieces of walnuts while the apple cinnamon has a good dollop of the dried fruit and spice but also raisins and pecans too. Even the original recipe has the perk of sunflower seeds, sliced almonds and pecans.

I love this granola, especially the banana walnut!It makes for not only a good snack but a nice way to start a day.It's sweet without being cloyingly so.The granola is also a nice nibble on its' own,With every pinch being loaded with nuts and fruit.I'm also going to be topping my banana "ice cream" with it for a healthier spin.I can also make pops and roll them in the granola for a tasty and crunchy coating. Home bakers can use the granola to top off banana bread or muffins.Jazz up pancakes and waffles with them or make a sweet breakfast pizza , sprinkling the granola over a sweet bread crust loaded with sliced bananas , strawberries and vanilla flavored Greek yogurt.Any of Viki's granola flavors can be used in making cookies too as seen on the recipe section of Viki's website. There are some yummy ones especially the granola truffles made with chocolate, heavy cream and butter, then rolled in the original recipe granola.. There are also fun granola bites which would add to a holiday cookie platter. It's just chocolate chips mixed with peanut butter and coated with granola. Kids will love the banana pops, frozen bananas dipped in chocolate  and then dipped again in the banana walnut mix. The granola can be used in salads, surprisingly and as a coating for chicken - and also for pork too..

Viki's Granola is a versatile blend of flavors and textures in a healthy mix that features oats ,honey and nuts. Try any of the flavors for breakfast or as a snack, Better yet add it to any dessert or baked treat for added goodness.It's not only healthy but versatile too.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Your Ice Cream Guide

Ask anyone what's the difference between a sorbet and a sherbet and you'll be met with a shrug. Query about semifreddo and you may get a blank stare. Know the difference between French or Philly style ice cream? If you don't you may need the ice cream guide.

We're in the middle of an epic heat wave here in the New York metro area. Any icy treat  is appreciated. As long as it reduces body heat , it's perfect. Yet many don't know about the different types and if one is better than the other. Take hard and soft serve ice cream. Most affectionados  just think it's a question of texture but it's much more. Soft serve is lower in milk fat by almost ten per cent .It has  only 2 to 3 per cent while hard ice cream has 10 to 18 %.. Also it's stored at a higher temp of -4 C  while the other is -18 C. Soft serve  has air whipped into it at the time of freezing. Some ice creams have French or Philadelphia style written on their cartons. French ice cream is essentially frozen custard thanks to the inclusion of two or three eggs. Philly or American style just has milk cream and sugar in the recipe. The first is a bit more labor intensive to make at home. It involves cooking a custard, making sure that the mixture is cooked properly or the home chef will ind up with a pot of sweet scrambled eggs. Philly style is easier  and it highlights the taste of the cream and milk. Both can have add ins such as fresh fruit or cocoa powder along with fresh mint to liven it up.

What is semi freddo? It's kind of like a French ice cream loaf but not quite.Think more frozen mousse made from zabaglione, Swiss meringue and cream, The three components are swirled together and then poured into a loaf pan.It's frozen for at least six hours before serving.It can be made with fruits, espresso and chocolate. along with hazelnuts and almonds. It's a nice alternative to an ice cream cake for any summer birthday celebration. Another head scratcher is sorbet and sherbet. Sorbet is purely sweetened or flavored water and is easy to make. Sherbet has milk as a basic ingredient along with a creamier texture. Both can be made at home. thanks to any good ice cream maker., Sherbet is made mostly with fruit however it can be made with cocoa powder for a refreshing change from ice cream.What is Italian ice and how is it different from gelato? Italian ice, sometimes known as water ice in the Philadelphia and Delaware regions,is basically water blended with concentrate, puree or just plan juice. Some Italian ices may have egg whites which act as a binder. Gelato is more of an ice cream, except that it has less air and is denser in texture and flavor.Traditionally it contains more milk and less cream along with being a bit more experimental with flavors and flavor pairings.

This is the time for any frozen treat for relief from the heat. Whether you have a scoop of French vanilla or a cup of strawberry ice, it's time to cool down. Keep the hot weather at bay with any of these chilled treats.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Eat Right Eat Light

Every summer we go  through intolerable heat waves where even just chewing seems to be too much exertion. It throws off our stomachs, creating all sorts of problems from digestive imbalances to just a simple upset. What to do ? Eat right - eat light,

Save those  pancakes and French toasts for chillier fall mornings. The best way to start a sweltering day is with a filling and light breakfast. Try a bowl of strawberries and blueberries with vanilla flavored Greek yogurt.You could also have them in a bowl of rice puffs or cornflakes. Another lighter option is cantaloupe slices or a melon salad. If you feel up to something hot then think two scrambled eggs with toast. It's filling enough without feeling heavy. You could also go with a couple of slices of whole wheat  or rye toast with a skin of margarine or even butter followed by a thin layer of jam, Take advantage of the season's harvests for your morning snacks too. A zip lock bag of any kind of berry or peaches can stop those eleven o' clock hunger pains,It's tempting to get one of those big frosty, whipped cream, chocolate syrup infused coffees that's more cake than drink, but put the brakes on that desire. Stick with iced black coffee or tea, especially for breakfast and mid morning. Another drink idea is having sparkling water with fruit filled ice cubes. These could even be put into iced teas too to add more flavor.

Salads will always be the best choice for lunch and dinner when it feels like a red hot dryer out there. Again , nix the heavy.foods. As much as you'd like a steak sandwich with onion rings, get rid of the bread, cube the steak and have it in a bowl of greens.Add fresh sliced red onions along with grape tomatoes and a light dressing. Craving pizza which can sometimes be too much on a broiling day? Then think a bread salad. This Southern Italian favorite  combines tomatoes garlic and basil in an just an olive oil dressing Slice the Italian bread wafer thin or even cube it if you want. Grilled meals can also be light, from red meat to fish. Keep away from the heavy marinades , loaded with molasses , ketchup or sugar. Go for a squeeze of lemon or lime for the fish and chicken,Steaks and even lamb cutlets can be brushed with basil infused olive oil and then grilled. Another idea is going meatless. Have soy burgers and dogs instead of the beef and pork kind. Instead of buns , think toasted pita bread. Mayonnaise based salads may be too much right now. You can create a lighter cole slaw by subbing in olive oil for the mayo, and adding fresh ground peppercorns for bite. Change that heavy macaroni  salad for a lighter orzo one, full of pea pods, tomatoes and parsley.

The temps right now are not conducive for heavy meals and heavy eating. Go lighter and feel better. It's the only way to eat during an August heat wave.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tomato Time

This is the time for tomatoes. They're everywhere, from big bushel baskets at the farmer's market to hanging in clusters off backyard plants. What is great about the tomato is that it's so versatile. It's amazing what home chefs can do with them, especially with anchovies. Surprisingly it's a great marriage of opposites..

David Tanis knows this and featured the fruit in his A City Kitchen column in yesterday's New York Times Food section.He gives us three tasty recipes home chefs can play with during the height of the tomato season.What is unusual about them is that they all contain anchovies. The fish's saltiness and meatiness   gives the dishes a unami flavor that pairs well with the tomatoes' sweetness.  He recommends going for the best. They'll obviously cost more but so worth it. Look for the oil packed kind from Spain, southern France or Italy.Most Italian delis sell salt packed versions that still have all their bones These require extra work that will require rinsing and deboning. Don't worry about this last. Filleting them is easy. Using them pays off. Theye have a greater texture and tend to be milder than the ones packed in oil. Mr. Tanis does offer a tip about the packed ones - briefly rinse them in lukewarm water, followed by blotting them on paper towels.Don't go for the paste. Save that for brushing on grilled steaks.To add to the flavor , quickly the tomatoes them to give them a smokiness

The three recipes offered are easy along with being flavorful.The first is charred tomatoes with eggs, anchovies and bread crumbs. Alternate charred tomato slices and hard boiled eggs on platter Drape the anchovy fillets over the eggs and then add a Dijon mustard infused vinaigrette. Freshly ground bread crumbs are them sprinkled over the entire dish, sort of like a cold version of tomatoes Provencale. The next dish is kind of a cross between pizza and pissaladiere. It is an olive oil based pastry crust dotted with tomatoes and mozzarella. Top with the fillets along with capers and olives if you want. Mr. Tanis also recommends adding  rosemary and hot pepper too.One of the easiest and best to make during these sweltering days is pasta fredda. The sauce is a cold one, prepared hours in advance.It's a blend of chopped red onion and cherry tomatoes, anchovies, garlic and pepper with olive oil and vinegar as the base. Keep in the fridge for three hours. Use spaghetti or linguine for the pasta and cook according to directions. Add the cherry tomato sauce along with extra olive oil and basil.

This is the height of the tomato season right now. Pair them with anchovies for a flavorful marriage that works well. It's a great union of salty and sweet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Carrying On A Chef's Legacy

Many widows have to deal with the grief of losing a husband early  but one, Mary Celeste Buell also had to deal with her late husband's legacy - a famous lodge and farm. Sam Buell left the magnificent Blackberry Farm to her and with it comes a plethora of fine foods and dishes. Can Ms. Buell handle it? Yes and perfectly.

Their story was the main feature of today's New York Times Food section. Regular contributor Kim
Severson  wrote about this scion of  Samuel Buell III  the creative genius behind the famed Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain, The son and his wife, Mary Celeste and their five children lived on the grounds. The lodge played a major part in elevating hyper-local Southern cooking and the idea of a luxury vacation built around the idea of agriculture. It has both cottages and farmhouses on 4,200 hilly acres. The farm also has a shop (along with an online one) where foodies can buy everything from guanciale to strawberry ramp jam to tomato brined okra. There are also cute tee shirts as well as china ware sold too.It's am impressive idea that would well here on the East Coast . Everything is made on the premises from the shampoo blended with local Appalachian hyssop and bourbon to the various pestos made with everything from  kale to arugula and black walnuts

It is Mr. Buell's food legacy that his widow and children will carry on. .Mr. Beall studied at the California Culinary Academy and worked at such famed eateries like the Cowgirl Creamery and French Laundry. It influenced what he fed his children who are following in their father's footsteps in both large and small ways.One daughter at age seven can make soft scrambled eggs the way he taught her while his heir, Sam V can carve thin slices of ham from the family's smokehouse like his father did, The recipe Ms. Severin gives us the Buell family's carrot souffle.It is two pounds of pureed carrots mixed with milk, cracker crumbs, cheese onion and butter. Three eggs are whipped until foaminess and added to this. The result is puffy , lightly golden brown side that could easily be made into a main dish, There are more of his recipes in two cookbooks, The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farms; Recipes and Wisdom From Our  Artisans, Chefs and Smoky Mountain Ancestors and The Blackberry Farm Cookbook: Four Seasons Of Great Food and The Good Life that can be bought on Amazon and the Blackberry Farms site.

Sam Buell's legacy will live on . not only in his widow, Mary Celeste, but in his children and in his recipes. His mark on the world is Blackberry Farms. It's a place of great food and great comfort.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Pantry Is Now Open And It Went To Visentini's

Yes, I have reopened the pantry after a false health scare (blame the doctor , not me). The first trip back was to Visentini's Brothers in Lodi, New Jersey. This gem is an Italian food lover's paradise, filled with traditional and even unusual Italian treats from both the north and south of the country.

A friend told me about Visentini's Brothers, located on one of the town's main roads, Union Ave in Lodi. There have been Italians living in this area since the late 1800's so food shopping really is like shopping in Naples or Rome. At one time home chefs had a handful of salumerias to shop from,to buy home made pasta and cold cuts. Those stores have since closed , leaving only Visentini Brothers which is a combination liquor store, salumeria, caterer and grocery .What is unique about it is the variety of unusual products. The store  sells candele pasta, literally two foot long (!) pasta tubes that are a specialty of Neopolitan kitchens.There are also other tubular pastas of different sizes and shapes home chefs can try out too., Yes they offer traditional pastas such as fusilli lunghi, foot long strings of wavy pasta along with spaghetti , angel hair and penne. What is great about the store is that they feature staples of Northern Italy too. There is the finely ground Piedmontese polenta, along  with dried mushrooms,There are shelves full of Italian breakfast biscuits as well as San Pelligrino Mineral water along with the always tart and refreshing orange and lemon sodas.

Visentini Brothers is also a deli, and again they don't disappoint with their wide array. They have breaded eggplant, chicken and even cauliflower. This last is a must have .The florets are evenly and perfectly coated with something akin to bread "dust" than crumbs. It's not overpowered with spices so that the sweet earthy flavor of the cauliflower comes through.The artichoke hearts are another standout. They are the size of small roses almost with an earthy candy flavor. Visentini's marinates in a vinaigrette sauce that only adds to the flavor.The deli counter also offers other delicious dishes such as shrimp salad, meatballs and broccoli rabe. Those who are familiar with Southern Italian specialties will love their arancini, , the little oranges made from rice , chopped meat  and breading. Usually these are the size of small softballs but Visentinis makes theirs the size of small bowling balls. One can easily feed two or even three people. Their heroes are legendary around the area, with the store customizing them to individual tastes. The store also has an extensive catering menu which features filet mignon,, deviled eggs with caviar, and melon with prosciutto, They also a wide range of pastas to choose from, unusual for a caterer.

Visentini Brothers is the perfect stop for those who adore the Italian food. It is a great trip , full of tasty foods. and plates. Welcome back to the pantry, thanks , in part to this amazing store.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Cautiously Optimistic

For all my fans out there. Foodie Pantry may not close after all. It all depends on fate and luck.
All I can promise is stay tuned - this is a wild ride for me. Stay with me.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Closing The Pantry

Foodie Pantry is going to be closed for now I don't know when it will reopen. That's up to fate. It was a good run, with interesting interviews and fun reviews.I enjoyed revewing the cookbooks and showing the world some of my more creative recipes.

I'll see what the future brings.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Rio Carnival Of Food

Rio is awash in Olympic fever right now, with athletes and locals getting wild in the city of samba and sunshine. The city is know for it's festive atmosphere and party foods.It's a tasty mix of four Continents melded together to create a unique and delicious cuisine.

What is Brazilian food?It'a a truly fine mix of European, African Asian and indigenous recipes and ingredients.The country doesn't have regionalized cuisine, per se .It's divided into four sections, There is southeast Brazil's fejoada, one of the country's most famous dishes.This is a kind of stew, made from black beans mixed with pork and beef. Tomatoes, carrots and cabbage round it out and it's usually served with rice. It's all prepared in a big  clay pot over a low heat.Sometimes blood sausage is served with it as well.The Japanese also went to Brazil and with them brought spring rolls that transformed into pastel, a kind of  thin pastry envelope filled with meat and/or cheese. These became a popular street food.In the ocean side state of Espirito Santo German and Italian immigrants influenced  the cuisine. especially the Northern Italian dish of polenta.Olive oil is mandatory  in cooking too, another Italian influence. In the nearby state of Minas Gerais,frango con quiabo, chicken with okra along with tutu de feijo. a mix of cassava paste and beans is a favorite.

Northern Brazil, especially around the Amazon Forest the food is the purest of indigenous recipes and cuisines.One of the most famous dishes is palo no tucapi  a duck soup that is literally cooked in front of the eater. It is first spicing  and then roasting a duck with bacon in a clay pot, then covering it with tomatoes, watercress and garlic. it's then served with manioc flour and white rice. The northeastern part of the country from Ba'hia to Perambuco has a cuisine that is a marriage of African and indigenous ingredients.They make vatapa a dish of shrimp, bread and coconut mixed with a paste of peanuts and cassava.The dish can also be made with chicken or tuna. Another shrimp dish is Bobo de Camaro made with the seafood and manioc cream.A popular street food is acaraje a fried ball made from black eyed peas cooked in dende or palm oil. Tapioca is also big here and it's made into a flat bread and eaten for breakfast,usually with a filling of cooked cheese and flan.Popular throughout Brazil is the many different kinds of pastas the immigrants brought with them.From spaghetti to ramen, these make up a good portion of the diet.

Rio is a city awash in Olmypic spirit right now. It is also awash in a myriad of different foods influenced from the indigenous and immigrants that give it its colors.The food is amazing.The country is amazing. Rio is an amazing food town.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Peach Perfection

This is the season for peaches. They're more or less out there, from farmer's markets to the back yard harvests. Who doesn't love their juicy sweetness or tender flesh? Pair them with a puff pastry and it's sheer heaven. The fruits shine their best when put into a simple dessert.

Melissa Clark wrote about them in yesterday's New York Times Food section, along with an article about the fruit's shortage by Patrick Farrell.According to the last there was a "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre where a blast of sub zero air hit the tender buds on the trees.The flash freeze hit New Jersey, southern New York, some of New England along with parts of the Hudson Valley. There is hope ,though, The trees' empty spots practically guarantee bumper crops next Spring and summer for 2017.(although you can sub in nectarines, basically fuzz free peaches for any recipe that calls for them)Ms. Clark teams them up with a quick or rough puff pastry for a caramel peach skillet pie..It's not as time consuming as a regular pastry.It billows and browns in tender flakes.She also recommends using frozen butter which will create those flaky layers and make for an easy roll out. Any extra dough can be frozen in the freezer and then taken out later on for another fruity favorite - the galette.

The pie consists of about nine cups of peaches or nectarine. They need to be sliced and pitted, then tossed with granulated sugar. Let them sit while you make the caramel.This is a basic caramel, made with just sugar and water.It should be cooked over a medium heat until it's a dark amber color.Ms Clark recommends testing the color by dribbling some on a white plate.The peaches (or nectarines) and their juices are put into this and cooked until they soften for about five minutes.The tapioca along with vanilla bean paste and the exotic cardamon is added into the skillet.Only half the puff pastry is used and its' rolled out for the pie's top.It should be quarter of an inch thick.Tuck the edges into the skillet to seal in the juices and then sprinkle on cinnamon sugar for some glistening and sparkle..It's baked in a 350 degree Farenheit oven until the layers become fluffy and golden.Leave it to cool for twenty minutes before serving with ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Peaches are a wonderful treat. Bake them in this tasty skillet pie for a tasty summer treat. Enjoy their goodness and sweetness,

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Your Five New Mother Sauces

Sauce - any sauce is an important component in any chef's arsenal. They can liven up a dull  slice of meat or add zing to drab veggies. They can be creamy or chunky, spicy or herbal. Best of all, they're pretty easy to whip up.Even the most novice of cooks can make a decent, flavorful sauce.

Samin Nosrat, a writer and top chef, wrote about the five new "mother" sauces in today's New York Times Food section.The idea is taken from the French with their five main  or "mother" sauces. The famed  19th Century chef Auguste Escoffier  laid out the blueprints for  them in his encyclopedic textbook Le Guide Culinaire published in 1903. (The book is still in publication and can be bought at He borrowed the sauce recipes from another great French chef of the early 1800's, Antoine Careme,one of the first truly great chefs, from Paris established the basic sauces: bechamel,espagnole,veloute, hollandaise and tomat. Gently tinker with them and voila - an entirely new creation. Add shallots, chervil  peppercorn and tarragon to hollandaise and you have bearnaise. Grated Gruyere stirred into bechamel will create Mornay, the classic cheese sauce that livens up chicken and  savory crepes. Chefs adhered to these sauces and combinations for decades. The only problem with these centuries old gems is that their base is a heavy roux - a mix of butter and flour. The new group of sauces get away from that heaviness with lighter ingredients. They 'll make any meat or veggie a bit livelier , instead of weighing them down.

What are the new sauces? They're not French, instead taking their heritage from the Eastern Mediterranean   Northern Italy and Mexico. Chef Nosrat starts off with a basic herb salsa. This is the most versatile of the sauces because it goes well with the main course and sides. It's  really nothing more than a parsley vinaigrette, sort of like a salsa verde or chimichurra sauce.You  can sub in basil, cilantro,marjoram or even mint for a different spin, The next sauce is a creamy  tahini sauce. This Greek and Arab  classic is made with tahini paste, ground sesame seeds along with one garlic clove.The last is finely grated into the other ingredients.It goes well over fresh tomatoes or sliced cukes but also dresses up chicken and lamb. Yogurt sauce is the third sauce Use the lighter Greek yogurt , blending it with fresh mint, olive oil lime juice and garlic. Drizzle  it on chicken kabobs or roasted eggplant. . There is also the basic pesto sauce. It is the Genovese classic, made with fresh basil, olive oil and pine nuts along with garlic and Parmesan.  Serve on any kind of pasta or added to a pizza. The last is a black pepper salsa. This involves guajillo and arbol chiles mixed with tomatoes and garlic. This sauce can be poured over meats or a spicy addition to any taco or tortilla recipe.

Each of the new "mother" sauces can make any dish better. They''re easy to make, only using a few ingredients to create a delicious addition to any meal. Try them all , Put them in your arsenal They're what you need to create memorable and flavorful recipes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Know Your Probiotics

Probiotics are important to a healthy body  and keeping well. Yet many have no clue as to hat they are or hat they can do for us. Most think that yogurt is the only food that has these "little bugs". They're sort of right but not quite.There are other foods too, tasty ones that can be easily incorporated in any diet.

What are probiotics exactly? They can b e defined as microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed. The term itself came into existence around 1980 however  the study of it reaches back to the early 1900's thanks to Nobel Prize recipient,Elie Metchnikoff. Dr. Metchnikoff was a Russian zoologist who suggested that the dependence of intestinal microbes on food makes it possible to adopt measures to modify the flora in our bodies  and to replace the harmful microbes with useful ones. The idea has been around since Roman and ancient Greek times when early healers noticed the benefits of such fermented foods as cheese and pickled vegetables. Centuries later
scientists analyzed the eating habits of  the  long living Bulgarians and inhabitants of the Russian steppes . They ate  yogurt daily, filling their guts with fermented lactose. Modern day eaters can benefit from probiotics as well.It's instrumental in calming down IBS  - irritable bowel disease along with treating diarrhea in adults and children.They can also stave off the flu and cold as well as being beneficial to oral health. Do these clusters of microorganisms have any risks? They will cause bloating and gas in some people along with causing some discomfort  for those with bowel problems.

Probiotics are an easy add in to any diet. You may want to start with Activia Yogurt, long known for their probiotics.The company offers regular and Greek along with fiber filled yogurts and yogurt drinks in fruit flavors like strawberry , cherry and blueberry. There are other like Fage that also help. Yogurt can be subbed in for sour cream as well so even dips and tacos can be made a tad more healthier. It's not just yogurt that's beneficial. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi are loaded with it. Both can easily be made at home too.You can not only eat healthier but also more vegan thanks to another probiotic  food, tempeh, This meat substitute was originally from southeast Asia has a nutty  taste when cooked.It can be made as a burger or diced and mixed with brown rice.Of of the most famous probiotic foods is the Japanese miso.It's basically fermented soy along with barley and brown rice. Other grains can be used too.It's fermented down into  a red,  dark brown  or white  paste with a buttery texture Like other probiotic foods miso should be added to the broth right before taking it off the range otherwise the microbes get cooked and killed.You could wash all this down with kefir,a microbe rich drink made from milk and kefir grains.It's just mixing the two which leaves you with a rich creamy drink with a slightly alcoholic taste. A water kefir can also be made using sugar, water, coconut milk and grains.

Probiotics are important to good gut and body health. You can go the yogurt route and get these important microbes that way.You can also discover the rich world of other probiotic foods by cooking miso soup or by making a nice glass of milk kefir.It'll expand your palate as well as helping your body.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Prunes and Raisins Granny Food Made Hip

Mention raisins to anyone and they may tell you that they're good in oatmeal cookies and end the conversation there. Mention another dried fruit - prunes - and be prepared for grimaces. Yet these two kitchen classics can be made into  variety of different and tasty dishes. They're not just for the over eighty set.

Prunes are nothing more than dried plums. In fact in 2001, the government authorized plum growers to call them that as a way to get the public to eat more of them. This was to change the way we look at them, as being the only way to stop constipation,Yes they do have mild laxative properties but that's only one aspect. Prunes also contain much needed dietary fiber. They also have high antioxidant content. They do have a down side namely in the phytohemical acrylamide, a known neurotoxin however the amount is just a trace. What can be done with prunes?Older chefs, both home and professional will say turn them into whips.Prune whip is one of the easiest desserts to make. It can be made with a meringue or whipped cream. Basically it cooking the prunes, reserving the juice and then mixing the two with the cream or egg whites. Prunes can also be steeped with Armagnac brandy Surprisingly enough black tea is used in the steeping process.Orange zest  and cinnamon sticks. Diced prunes can also be a main ingredient in spice cookies as well as in cakes. A fun dessert is diced or whole prunes dipped in dark chocolate.The last actually makes for a fun gift or nice holiday candy.

Another dried fruit that brings about funny faces are raisins. Many people only like them on their own instead of in breads and cookies. Yet these dried grapes are chock full of antioxidants and make a good snack (Pet parents beware, they can cause renal failure in dogs) Currents are a form of raisin , usually a smaller variety such as the Black Zante. This kind have been around since ancient times, even written about by Pliny the Elder. Raisins are classified  by  grades in four categories in the US. Grade A is the best. The color is good , with it coming from well matured grapes that contain less than eighty per cent water. Grade B  still has good color and flavor but has at least seventy percent water while grade C raisins are fairly good with only fifty-five percent water. Those that fail C grade are then classified as substandard. Raisins have been used mostly for desserts, notably in bread puddings and oatmeal cookies however they're excellent in savory dishes too. They add color and sweetness to rice pilafs and tangines. Some home chefs put them in carrot salads for dash and flavor while others make them an important ingredient in both chicken and turkey salads.They go well with pork, bringing out the meat's flavor.

Raisins and prunes are not just for grannies. They fun ingredients to be made into a variety of different savory and sweet dishes. Get over the prejudice and tried them. You'll be how fresh these wrinkled fruits can be.