Friday, September 30, 2016

One Dough Many Recipes

Name one dough that can have as many recipes as pizza has toppings. The answer - pizza dough. It's so versatile that it can be used for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's great too in creating snacks and fun desserts too. Make a batch of pizza dough and you'll have a wide swath of delicious dishes.

Pizza dough is one of the easiest to make.It's a bread dough recipe without butter and eggs. You can use white or whole wheat flour or a mix of the two. Olive oil, along with salt and surprisingly sugar,  is also needed for body and flavor. Yeast is to give it a defined crust.Some home chefs add Italian seasonings such as oregano and rosemary to give it more flavor. There is even the option of subbing in brown sugar for white for a healthier dough.Of course the dough can be used for pizza and if more flour is added - it creates a great, chewy crust for Sicilian or Nonna style pies..The dough can also be divided to create individual pizzas, perfect for fun dinner with the kids where they make their own. A byproduct of pizza dough is calzone - or big sock in Italian.Calzones are fun to whip up because the variety of stuffings rivals that of pizza toppings. The original recipe calls for ricotta and mozzarella along with smoked ham. It has a nice creamy texture and taste, heightened by the meat's saltiness. Italian salame or even paper thin sliced prosciutto can be subbed in for the ham. Fresh goat cheese can also be used instead of the traditional ones which gives a lighter in calorie calzone. Veggies and calzones go hand in hand. Add chopped red peppers, broccoli, onions and spinach  for a colorful,t asty one..

Pizza dough can be made into other Italian treats. It can easily be cut and hand rolled into grissini, those Torinese .extra thin, extra crispy breadsticks. They're then rubbed with olive oil and baked for only fifteen to twenty minutes until they're golden brown. These would be perfect with minestrone soup on a crisp fall day. Another crunchy idea are crackers!The dough can easily be rolled to a wafer thinness and then cut into squares. They're then docked or poked with a fork before being given a wash of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.Again these would be great with soup but also with soft cheeses like Brie.Pizza dough also makes for nice dinner rolls and Italian bread, perfect for a Sunday dinner. What many don't know is that the dough can take on a Middle Eastern cast. It's perfect for making pita bread.The only difference is that's it's made on an ultra hot cast iron skillet instead of in the oven.Pizza dough can also be turned into yummy cinnamon rolls and donuts.It's rolling out the dough , brushing it with melted butter and then adding a mix of cinnamon and sugar.Raisins, nuts and even chocolate chips can be added to the filling.The dough. can also be cut into doughnuts and fried in vegetable oil. These can be dipped in cinnamon or powdered sugar for an extra boost of sweetness.

Pizza dough can be used to create a luscious pie but it can be used for so many other recipes as well. Try it as pita bread or doughnuts. Bake yummy grissin or cinnamon rolls for a weekend dinner. It's versatile and fun, perfect for so many recipes.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Chlie Pepper Bible - The Perfect Pepper Book

Peppers, both hot and sweet, are wonderful to put into any dish. They liven up everything , from simple salads to tame drinks. Now there's a new cookbook celebrating them and their long history.It's a great addition to any home chef's library.

Judith Finlayson wrote The Chile Pepper Bible (Robert Rose Press) that' has both savory and sweet (!) recipes featuring all sorts of peppers. She is the author of many cookbooks that center around slow cooking, dips and salsa along with vegetarian cooking and appetizers.This latest is a dazzling amount of recipes that range from salsas to ice cream. Many home chefs refuse to cook with any kind of peppers, fearing the heat may be too much. This book alleviates all fears. Ms. Finlayson opens up the book with a detailed picture guide on every pepper grown on earth. She also gives us the Scoville scale which measures the levels of heat or fieriness..It was created in 1912 by William Scoville , a chemist who determined how much sugar water it takes to neutralize the heat. It takes 5,000 drops to neutralize a jalapeno pepper  so it would be classified as 5,000 SHU or Scoville Heat Unit. This is what I love about the book,It has so many nuggets of information and history. She writes of how peppers became a staple of various regions, from India to England, and from America to China. There is an interesting history of Tabasco Sauce along with the chemical breakdown of capiscums.  The last surprisingly links them to the vanilla plant.

 There are many international recipes since peppers are universally used in all aspects of cooking, The recipes are divided into sections , from appetizers all the way to dessert. Each has a good amount of recipes to try The appetizer section has such diversity as the Southern classic deviled eggs with cayenne and pickled bird type peppers to  the Korean kimchi patties with a chili paste dip.Soups are also represented in the book and there is a variety to choose from. Home chefs will love making Bermudan Fish Chowder along with the famed Chinese Hot and Sour Soup, redolent with red finger chiles and sliced onions and scallions.Meat lovers will enjoy the recipes for Brazilian feijoada, Turkish style stuffed peppers and Catalan meatballs.There is also Ms. Finlayson's version of Kung Pao Chicken given a kick with the addition of cayenne peppers.If a whole meal made with heat is too daunting, there are plenty of side recipes.Try her recipe for the Indian based Spinach and Tomato Dal, a flavorful chickpea paste livened up with Kashmiri ground chile pepper.Her paprika laced Home Style Hash  Browns will liven up any weekend brunch, The most surprising are the dessert and drink recipes.Pecan pie along with spicy orange coconut ice cream gets a jolt of fire along with tomato drinks.

The Chile Pepper Bible is a great cookbook for those who to add heat and spice to their cooking and baking. Home chefs can experiment with recipes from all over the world and create spicy and interesting dishes and even desserts. It's an exciting and interesting must have for any kitchen,

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The First Cookbook Issue Ever

Cookbooks play an important part in any home or even professional chef's arsenal.They not only provide inspiration for meals, they also broaden horizons.They teach home chefs new techniques and introduce them to ingredients they've never tried before.Now the New York Times has created the first cookbook issue. They review and recommend cookbooks  that would be perfect in any kitchen.

Fall 2016 has some culinary celebrities coming out with some interesting compilations. Alton Brown, the Food Network's genius has Everyday Cook . Fans may be disappointed  that it's not full of puns that he's famed for. It's a more introspective book, as Food regular contributor Kim Severson reflects his midlife crisis of going through a divorce, drinking and eating too much peanut M&Ms. His recipes are cozy, the kind you'd make for family and friends. There are warm Saltines brushed with dried mustard,hot sauce and butter along with a unique but delicious breakfast carbonara that marries spaghetti with breakfast sausage and eggs.Mr. Brown not only has a cookbook out but also a one man show called "Eat Your Science." Another celebrity with a new cookbook is British chef and radio personality, Diana Henry/ Ms Henry has written "Simple Effortless Food, Big Flavors, Tejan Rao, another regular contributor describes her recipes as having very little instruction because they're so precisely worded. A yogurt marinaded chicken has only three neatly worded paragraphs on how to prepare and cook it.It also includes how to dress a salad too. A recipe for Greek style beans is terse for a recipe that takes exactly one hour to make.

Yet another contributor, Margeaux Laskey reviewed Poole's by Ashley Christensen, a cookbook featuring the best recipes of here famed diner in Raleigh, North Carolina.This is not your ordinary diner food. This is home recipes with an artesinal twist. She calls for roasting and pickling peppers and making cider vinegar mayonnaise .The book has some homey recipes like macaroni au gratin and a warm broccoli salad with a bacon vinaigrette. The piece de resistance is the famed sweet potato hummingbird cake.It's a  fruity, spicy confection topped with a light cream cheese buttercream icing. Chopped peanuts top it.Newcomer Oliver Strand writes about Jessica Koslow's new book, Everything I  Want To Eat: Squirl and The New California Cooking which has the best recipes from her whimsically named restaurant, Squrl.It's a mash up of diner and health food combined with Michelin starred eateries.The style is raw and direct, not much on words as usual cookbooks are.The exotic is also featured. David Tanis reviews Naomi Duguid's book Taste of Persia that features herbed yogurt soup along with fish kabobs made with Alaskan baked cod and tomatoes.

Cookbooks are the best tools in any chef's arsenal. This fall there are more to add. Go for the exotic , or try the homey. They are all informative and fun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mini Pasta Maximum Fun!

Mention pasta and everyone's minds turns to spaghetti, maybe linguine or angel hair if they're
 a bit more sophisticated. Yet there's a whole selection of mini pastas that pack great flavor. Use these with traditional sauce for a tasty hot dish or in salads for a cool side at a barbecue or tailgate party.

Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes. The smaller sized varieties can be turned into any dish. A favorite is acine de pepe, translated  grains of pepper in Italian. .These are basically spaghetti minced into small pieces. It's a wonderful alternative to the star shaped pastina and cooks up into fat little kernels.It's great in any broth such as vegetable, beef or chicken, Put more than a cup in and it makes a filling dinner. To turn it into it more substantial serve it with any sauce that would go with spaghetti or ravioli. It makes a nice meal for one, especially served in a butter sauce with a sprinkle of Parmesan. Serve it with marinara and meatballs for a fun kid's meal.Acine de pepe can also be used in soups and is a staple in the classic Italian wedding soup. It can also grace  minestrone too and be a nice  change of pace in a chicken noodle soup. The little pasta  bits can be used in a salad for a spin. Try it with sliced grape tomatoes and parsley for a nice side with burgers or grilled steak. Mix it with tuna, chopped celery and onions for a twist on the classic tuna salad.Acine de pepe can also be used in fruit salads with pineapple chunks and orange wedges.

Orzo is another mini pasta that can be served hot or cold.It comes from the Latin hordeum or barley and can be the base of many dishes.It can be a main dish or a side.Many home chefs use it instead of rice as the Greeks do, and it's usually the base of many pilafs. Try it with Parmesan and basil for a quick and tasty dinner.It's made similar to the way risotto is cooked. Saute the raw pasta in butter until lightly browned  and then add the chicken broth.It can also be turned into a variation of risotto Milanese with the addition of saffron.Orzo is perfect paired with chicken and blends well with any green veggie such as spinach and broccoli. The orzo grains are also a fun change in any soup that calls for noodles. Even add it to tomato soup for a nice surprise.Like acine de pepe, it can also make for a great cold salad. Try it Greek style with sliced cucumbers,kalamata olives and crumbled feta cheese.Artichoke hearts, parsley, and lemon juice are also added  to make for a lively flavor.For a colorful side make a checkerboard orzo salad with goat cheese and cubed tomatoes.A truly filling orzo salad is one made Nicoise style with tuna in oil, artichoke hearts and arugula. Red onions and bell peppers are also tossed into the mix for color and bite.

Mini pastas such as acine de pepe and orzo are little pastas that guarantee big flavors. They are fun and versatile,perfect for any main meal or side. Try them and see what a big impact they'll make.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Your Own Boulangerie

One of the best aspects of living in France is the fresh bread.It's in all shapes and sizes, tastes and flavors. Imagine having a fresh loaf in your kitchen, whether slathered with jam for breakfast or accompanying a lunchtime soup. Imagine having a sandwich made with brioche or a chocolate  or almond roll for dessert. You can. Baking French bread is not impossible.It's doable, even for novice home bakers.

What is a baguette anyway?It's a long narrow loaf of just bread flour , sugar and water along with salt and yeast. There is no egg or butter which would weigh it down.The yeast and sugar are whisked into a cup and a half of warm water.Add two cups flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. Two and a half teaspoons of salt is stirred in as well as to to two in a half more cups of flour. The salt can be omitted for those on a low sodium diet or halve the amount. It shouldn't alter the taste that much. The dough should be kneaded for about eight minutes on a lightly floured board or table until smooth and elastic.It's left to proof for an hour and half before being shaped into loaves.Put them on a lightly greased sheet pan for another half hour of proofing. They can be given a shiny glaze with a wash of beaten egg yolk. Bake for thirty minutes or until golden , then let cook on a baking rack.The recipe can be varied for sourdough and whole wheat .Boulangerie's also sell boules, those round breads that are perfect sliced for a sandwich or gracing French onion soup. The recipe is relatively the same as the baguettes, the only difference is that the top is brushed with melted butter to give it a burnished brown crust after baking.

Croissants and brioches are also sold in boulangeries. Croissants can be a bit intimidating to any home baker. at first. Remember it does take time to perfect this buttery roll so don't be discouraged if the first batch comes out a bit wonky.The recipe calls for a lush one and a half cups of butter along with three tablespoons of sugar. It's also made richer by the addition of both milk and cream that has to be warmed.It's a lot of rolling and folding along with keeping the butter and dough cool. If the butter starts oozing out of the dough , then everything has to be placed in the fridge. After the croissants are formed have to be popped into the fridge for another fifteen minutes and then given an egg wash before baking.The dough can also be used for pain au chocolat, that heavenly marriage of crisp buttery layers and dark chocolate.Almond croissants are also big  and again this is an easy recipe, using already made croissants and filling them with a homemade almond "jam". Boulangeries also sell brioches, those eggy, buttery rolls .Again these are yeast driven and have a spongy texture,The recipe can be labor intensive because the butter used has to be room temperature, not too cool and not too warm. The recipe can be turned into a loaf bread, now popular here in the US.

Any home baker can turn their kitchen into a boulangerie.Try baguettes one week and croissants or brioche the next. There's nothing like fresh delicious French breads right from the oven!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Rosh Hashanah Feast

The fall holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are arriving in the upcoming week. It's a  time of celebrating the new year as well as atoning and fasting.. The first holy day is a day of feasting , and wishing prosperity to others.Families and friends get together to enjoy a meal as they welcome in another year

A must for the holiday is having something sweet at the table. One of the most traditional dishes is apples dipped in honey. This was taken from 12th Century Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe and is widely accepted worldwide.Pears could be used too, as they're in harvest right now. Many first courses combine the savory and sweet. Melissa Clark marries chicken with figs for her holiday main course as seen in her A Good Appetite column in Wednesday's New York Times Food section.She also gives it bite thanks to Serrano chiles added for color and heat. Many home chefs pair chicken with pomegranates. The last represents fertility and prosperity as well.Fish heads are also served. This symbolizes the prayer "Let us be the head and not the tail." Gefilte or stuffed fish can be served however the tradition can be bent. Try pesce al Ebraica, fish cooked in the Jewish tradition.It''s taking any white fleshed fish such as cod and haddock, Sole could be used too.It's making a marinade out of olive oil, honey and vinegar along with salt.Raisins and pine nuts are then scattered over the fish and its' baked for only twenty minutes. Parsley is then sprinkled on it.

The holiday meal is also about sides as well. Honey glazed carrots are always a Rosh Hashanah staple. They're  the easiest to make,it's first simmering the roots in water and then cooking them in a glaze of honey , butter and brown sugar. Cinnamon is added for spice as are raisins.Carrots can also be turned into tzimmes,This stew also highlights yams and sweet potatoes along with  dried apples and cranberries Chopped pitted prunes are another ingredient that gives the dish color., Black eyed peas are also traditional and add a nice nuttiness to the holiday feast. Serve these just with melted butter or margarine. Spinach is another new year's food. Served just boiled with salt and margarine.A more refreshing way is having it fresh in  a salad, along with eggs, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts. Dessert plays an important part too. Regular contributor to the New York Times Food section, Joan Nathan lent an  apple cider honey cake recipe, coming from Chef Alex Levin of Washington's Osteria Morini. It's his grandmother's who was Craig Claiborne's expert on Jewish cuisine,It's made with apple cider butter, a homemade mix of butter, Granny Smith apples, apple cider, butter and brown sugar. The cake recipe has the extra filip of whiskey. The finished product is simply dusted with confectioner's sugar and served.

Rosh Hashanah is the new year coming in. Celebrate it with traditional and symbolic foods. Enjoy with family and friends.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Voici Des Francais

The French have the best of everything, food , wine and fashion. We see their lives as the greatest, filled with croissants and champagne, Jean-Paul Gautier and the House of Chanel. Yet there's another side of France that also exists - and a new book chronicles this.It's an eye opener for those who love Gallic ideas and l'alimentaire.

 Olivier Magny , a wine expert, entrepreneur and author has just written a  sharply witty guide to understanding all things Gallic, WTF - What The French (New American Library Publishers 2016) opens up a world of life in the City of Light and the Country of Fine Dining Monsiuer Magny has written about every aspect of life, from phrases such as ca va (used a lot) to the French's blase attitude to nudity and cigarettes.Of course some of the most insightful observations come from the chapters highlighting food and wine.The chapter on supermarkets was both eye opening and interesting.I didn't know that the French frequented supermarkets as often as us Yanks do. Most travel articles show endless miles of open air markets called les marches, however it's the big box supermarkets that garner much of a French home chef's business. They do have a wine aisle which is unheard of here in the States  (American grocery stores that do sell wines  usually locate them in a small corner that has its' own entry and exit) along with a generous cheese aisle.Unlike the States where grocery shopping is usually fun, the French see it through a dark lens, There's some guilt in going to a store that exploits farmers along with eating up the smaller, more charming food shops. The last still exists, thankfully and there are still butchers, along with patisseries  and bread bakers.

M. Magny also delves into the french passion for yogurt (!) and Nutella.It comes as another surprise that the country who  gave the world creme fraiche is so hung up on yogurt. It usually us Americans who have cups and popsicles of the stuff in our fridges and freezers.It's caught on there, probably  thanks to Danone, the parent  company of Dannon Yogurt. All fridges have a cup or two. The French have high standards for it, and French yogurt can be seen as healthy or as a dessert - that's how good it is.They even add powdered sugar to the plain one or yaourt nature , mostly to end a meal. The second obsession is Nutella. Anyone born in the mid Seventies and up grew up on the chocolate hazelnut blend.It's put on everything, from croissants to crepes to bread. The passion does ebb as they get older and then it's something to try on holiday. .The French still have their passion for bread, especially the baguette. There's also chapters on fast and slow foods McDonald's is big  but so are kabob shops and boulangeries have expanded their menus to include sandwiches and lunch menus. The country still has a big restaurant culture but there's also a need to eat at home too. Home chefs do;t make fancy meals,preferring salad, pasta or even yogurt. The more elaborate meals are saved for Sundays and family gatherings.

WTF What The French is a fun romp through French life and culture.Olivier Magny has captured his people's quirks and love of food and wine. It's the perfect gift for the Francophile foodie! Vraiment!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Where Julia Lived And Cooked

Imagine living where Julia Child lived,That is any chef's and foodie's dream come true and it did for New York Times Food contributor, Julia Moskin. She spent time at La Pitchoune, Child's home in the south of France. What a great holiday, first with fabulous inspiration and second with a breathtaking countryside.,bursting with some of the best foods in the world.

How did Ms. Moskin score such a fantastic vacation? It happened through airbnb. The current owners put the Provencale farmhouse on the popular site.It was well worth it, especially to those who love and worship the famed chef. Many original artifacts are still there. There is still the plastic bin labelled "ail echlotes"for garlic and shallots.There are her cooking knives, sharp carbon steeled ones still in the wooden block that her husband Paul carved.Outside the house , though, very few traces of her remain. For all her celebrity , Chef Child was not a big thing in France,  Her great nephew Alex Prud'homme  confirmed this, with saying that southern France is notoriously laid back, not caring who she was. .Some locals do remember her, such as one of the elder butchers in a local butchery, even doing an imitation of her along with the chef , Mimi Brothier at Les Arcades in  Biot, France. Les Arcades was her favorite eatery, starting out as a canteen for local artists.Ms. Moskin ate here too, in following the chef's trail, enjoying pan crisped sardines,roasted peppers and a bowl of soupe au pistou,Provencale vegetable soup.

Of course, being in Julia Child's kitchen means cooking in it too. Ms. Moskind did just that , along with picking basil and thyme from the garden and buying from hat's left of small family owned shops (the area has been inundated with the big box national markets) The dishes she made were a Provencale white wine beef daube and Provencale potato gratin.The first will make a wonderful fall dinner. It's boneless  stewing beef marinated in olive oil and Cognac. A melange of vegetables are cooked separately. The veggies used are onions carrots and mushrooms, Later , they and the meat are combined along with tomatoes, white wine, bouquet garni and whole peppercorns. The entire dish is cooked for three to four hours  until the meat is ultra tender. Orange zest is added at the end and then the daube can be poured over pasta or rice. The other is a gratin but made with a true Provencale ingredient, anchovies. Tomatoes and onions, again the pillars of southern French cooking, are also used, being cooked together in a kind of marmalade to spread on one layer of tomatoes. The next layer is spread with the fish, pounded with olive oil to form a loose paste. Grated Gruyere or Parmesan - Reggiano is sprinkled on the last layer to give it a nice, crispy finish.

Living in Julia Child's Provence house is a  chef's and foodie's dream come true. It was an inspiration to Ms. Moskin as she created the chef's famed dishes. It was the ideal vacation, definitely full of flavor  and memories.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Restaurants That Change The World

Restaurants are an important part of our culture.They are responsible for foods trends and introducing international  cuisines to communities . There's a new book celebrating them and their impact on the American diet, featuring some of the US's most famous eateries.

Food critic and regular contributor, Tejal Rao wrote about this great new book featuring  the most influential restaurants in today's New York Times Food section. "Ten Restaurants That Changed America" (W.W. Norton and Company Publishers) was written by Paul Friedman who is surprisingly a medieval history professor at Yale University. He took on the massive task of researching two hundred years of restaurants , culling through hundreds of thousands of restaurants to culminate in the top ten. The list spans the 19th and 20th Centuries and the American continent. One of the first and most famous is New York's Delmonico, the city's most famous eatery. It started in 1827 as a French pastry shop by the Swiss born Delmonico brothers. They were the first and the most instrumental in bringing a sit down restaurant to a city full of oyster stands and rowdy , boisterous taverns that served just basic dishes., It was the first restaurant to import foods, namely truffles from the Dordogne region of France. Delmonico's also was one of the first to use local fish and turtles caught from the Eastern seaboard. Their menu was the gold standard for all French restaurants for one hundred years.

Chain restaurants such as Howard Johnson''s and Schraft's also changed American eating and paved the way for fast food giants such as McDonald's and Wendy's. Howard Johnson's , still going and famed for their fried clams, pioneered the idea of franchise restaurants, They were also the first for strategic planning, situating restaurants along highways.The idea appealed to traveling families who didn't want to eat at the truck stops ,mostly populated by truckers and sales reps. Schraft's , also was an innovator, It started earlier , in the 1910's and was a Northeastern chain of candy stores. It added a lunch counter and seats, offering a new concept- dining options for unescorted women. Restaurants would not sit women without a male companion. Schraft's didn't believe in that. They also were the first business to hire women as waitresses along with giving maternity leave to pregnant workers.Other restaurants that made a difference were Mama Leone's, Alice Water's Chez Panisse , the famed Sylvia's in Harlem , the equally famed Antoine''s in New Orleans and The Mandarin. In one way or another they  have influenced generations of restaurant owners and chefs.

Restaurants have always been important in American history and culture. "Ten Restaurants  ThatChanged America" shows just that, how they influenced our eating and cooking habits.It is a fascinating read into how vital these eateries are to our psyche and image.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dinner At Midnight

We all lead busy lives which means  strange eating habits and hours.That could mean roast chicken at midnight or breakfast at noon. It's hard to maintain healthy eating when your internal clock is screwed up.This usually means pounds gained and bad nutrition.

One of the worst work hours is the overnight shift. This is usually reserved for  hospital workers but it can also include delivery people, truckers and even bartenders who work into the wee hours.It's tempting to grab a full meal at midnight.when it feels like lunchtime. The best bet is to eat lean proteins such as chicken and turkey.Hard boiled eggs and cheese are also good choices. Crudites and dip are also acceptable "nighttime" shift plates. Have a variety such as pea pods carrots , peppers and broccoli for color and crunch. Eat fruit for dessert.Stay away from caffeine loaded coffee and chocolates which will keep you awake. Have a calming tea such as Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea instead of soda. This is loaded with  chamomile and spearmint which helps in relaxing.Low protein foods such as toast and jam or even orange juice can also make up a meal. It is tempting to run to an all night fast food joint or even a diner, but don't. The fat alone , not to mention the excess salt and sugar is unhealthy and will just lay in your stomach.Another must is making other meals just as light and low in calories.Think soup and salads, along with grilled chicken and grilled veggies.

What about those nine to when the day is done work days?Quitting time is anywhere from eight PM to midnight.Do you succumb to hunger and fatigue and go to a restaurant? Do you hit a fast food joint for a bag of burger, fries and a malt? No! Eating a heavy meal after seven PM can bring only not only high blood pressure but an increased risk for a heart attack. Stick with something light but filling. Sandwiches work. Try a peanut butter one. Peanut butter is full of tryptophan and protein , perfect for making you drowsy after a long, grueling day. One filled with turkey and avocado is another good choice.You could also try a kale and walnut salad. Add some strips of turkey or chicken to give it more oomph. Eggs too are another choice. One, they easy to whip up, especially scrambled or soft boiled with some whole wheat toast and two, they're light but satisfying. , Keep away from any fried foods. As tasty as that fried steak sounds, hold it off  for lunch.Wine is off the table too.You may think a glass of red or white is the perfect way to end a hectic day. It's not, creating sleep disturbances that can screw up your next work day.Stick with iced tea or flavored seltzer to go with your meal.

Strange dinner hours can wreak havoc on a life and a diet.Stick with light meals, full of foods that will relax you after a long stressful day.Work hard, eat easy. It'll keep you going during any grueling work day and night.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Are You A Kitchen Hoarder?

We're all guilty of it,some of us more than others.We mean to quit , yet can't thanks to enablers like stores, TV  and,even family. What is this crime? Kitchen hoarding and be honest - we've  all done it at one time or another in our lives.

Kitchen hoarding just doesn't apply to food. It also applies to gadgets, dishes, and even pot holders(well, these are so darn cute, that they're impossible to pass up ) The collecting gets to be too much and the room starts looking like a hoarder's paradise. The problem is that's it's hard to throw out stuff.My fridge looks like a hungry hoarder's, thanks to holding on to all sorts of food and over buying.I have about six jars of jelly, all with varying amounts of the stuff.Some even have developed a top layer of mold on them which I always skim off. I always mean to use ll of them up but wind up buying a new jar of a different flavor. The same holds true for all those mayo jars and catsup bottles taking up space. I somehow develop memory loss when I go food shopping. This is also why I have four kinds of cookies and crackers in the misnamed bread drawer.Luckily the baked goods can be given to the critters outside, from the birds to the raccoons. Cookies can also be put into the food processor to make crumbs for topping sundaes and cupcakes as wells layers in trifle.

. The leftovers sides and main meals are another story. It seems wasteful to throw away even a forkful of salad yet if it's left too long it's forgotten, mold appears. It's not that black spot kind of rot, but that big fuzzy white kind that could grow into an animal companion if left  alone Home chefs have to make a rule. If not eaten in  fours days to a week toss. The same applies to cookies and snacks but with a slightly longer time frame. Also make a point of not buying anything until you're out of it. Doing this also cuts down on kitchen clutter.Let's face it. This is hard to do especially when
stores have such a tempting array of goodies.As for gadgets, don't be seduced by those cooking articles and blogs. This is how I wound up with an emulsion blender, bought in the beginning of the summer. Two months later it's still in its box, waiting to be used.Ditto for the ice cream maker that  was only used twice and is still sitting in the fridge containing month old home made lemon ice.I have to contain myself when I see a cotton candy machine, which I know would be perfect in creating wild and exciting desserts. .Unfortunately it would sit in the box it came in for a year before I would actually use it. Even a large array of cute potholders will take up room. Cut it don to a managable four.

Kitchen hoarding is not good.. Stop yourself if you start buying too many twofer ones or a neat new gaget that will make cooking and baking fun. You'll have a room full of junk and excess.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bake Sale Gems

Right about now schools and clubs are  planning their first bake sales of the season.These are crucial in bringing in funds for books, equipment and uniforms. To do that , fundraisers need popular along with unique recipes to bring in buyers.The products need to be tasty and tempting to make a bake sale profitable..

Cupcakes are always a big bake sale draw. Who doesn't love a tender little cake with a mound of buttercream icing? Yet they can be boring if done in vanilla with vanilla icing. A fun cupcake means a bought cupcake.  You can still have vanilla cake as the base but have a ball with the icing.If you're good at making buttercream flowers, then add them on top. Kids, especially love roses and they'd appreciate one topping a cake If you're not that artistic, then ice  cake tops like soccer balls and basketballs. This is perfect for any team involved in a bake sale. For cheer leading squads , why not carry the theme over to the treats? Pompoms can be made using paper, toothpicks and a glue gun.Dye the icing in the squad's colors and then match the pompoms to them . Another attention grabber? A riff on the classic Hostess squiggle cupcake. These can be a bit labor intensive to make so enlist another mom or one of the kids to help. The result will be worth it because you can charge a bit more for them.Clever taste combinations will also draw in customers. Think a stout-chocolate cupcake paired with an Irish Cream icing. For real zing try chili pepper cupcakes, an interesting marriage of heat and chocolate, guaranteed to peak interests and bring in cash.

Cookies are another pillar of a bake sale. The chocolate chip kind are always best sellers. Do they need to be tweaked? Just a little. They could be made with whole wheat instead of refined white flour, or instead of walnuts add chopped macadamia nuts for a different spin. Homemade Oreo cookies can be another crowd pleaser. The recipe is an easy one, especially if two people do the assembly. You can also make the filling mint and tint the icing green or pink. Sell them two or three to a bag with a mix of the two flavors. Unusual cookies such as cinnamon swirls and rocky roads will  pique a potential buyer's interest. Cinnamon swirls  again are an easy bake,It's just rolling out the dough, sprinkling a mix of sugar and the spice on it and then rolling the dough into a log. Chill and then cut into slices. You can even vary the spice by using nutmeg.Rocky road cookies are a guaranteed seller. Who wouldn't want a mix of chocolate , marshmallows, walnuts and more chocolate? The recipe is a basic chocolate snap that's topped with mini marshmallows and then popped back into the oven for two to three minutes. This toasts the marshmallows to a golden brown Chopped walnuts are then added and melted dark chocolate is drizzled over the entire cookie. You can even vary the chocolates by also using milk and white chocolate.

Make your bake sale a lucrative one with fun and interesting cupcakes and cookies. The result will be much needed funds for buying the class essentials or the team fundamentals. It starts with not just team spirit but with team creativity.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Homemade Healthy Snacks

September marks the beginning of a season of busy days, especially for kids.It's running from school to dance class or soccer practice. It' also means snacking on the run. That means unhealthy nibbles here and there. Stop this with healthy snacks that are both flavorful and good for them.

All kids, from kindergarten to college love Pop Tarts. Yet those treats are full of sugar  and artificial flavors. They also have gotten away from their original fruit filling by offering wacky flavors like root beer and s'mores. This can been amended by making home made fruit tarts. First start with using whole wheat flour  and coconut oil along with flax egg (instead of using the real thing mix a tablespoon of ground flax with three teaspoons of water) along almond milk. Apple sauce and cinnamon  are also added.The trick is to cutting the dough into perfect squares to emulate the real thing. Use all natural preserves such as Bonne Maman jams for the filling. They have excellent flavors such as wild blueberry, peach  and strawberry. You could even put two flavors in the tarts for a fun surprise.. Hostess Fruit Pies, long a favorite with kids also has a healthy homemade version. Again use whole wheat flour  along with a melange of spices such as cinnamon , nutmeg, clove and ginger. Since it hast to be a flaky crust, use Earth Balance all natural margarine instead of butter. Fresh apples or pears can be used for the filling, Cook them with brown sugar and almond extract for that gooey pie filling texture.

Granola and power bars are part of any kid's diet. They 're great alleviating those hunger pangs along giving tots, tw'ens and teens a boost of energy.Yet most are filled with sugar  and even transfat. Don;t feed the these fat bombs masquerading as healthy snacks Make your own. It's an easy mix of oatmeal,almonds, vegan butter and dried fruit such as apricots or for more zing cranberries. Should chocolate be added, like the store bought ones? If the kids request it , then yes but add the dark chocolate morsels. The granola bars can also be coated in the melted seventy to eighty per cent dark chocolate. These bars have very little sugar but are packed with antioxidants. Vary the  granola bar flavors, Make a peanut butter or a crunchy peanut butter every so often,.Take  the granola one step further and make  cookies ith the healthy mix. Carry on the healthy vibe by using gluten free oat flour along with evaporated cane or coconut sugar to make it a bit more nutritious than the average snap. Cookies taste better with chocolate chips so add the dark chocolate ones to the dough.These can be fancied up for birthday parties by dipping them in melted seventy per cent chocolate and then dusted with coconut.The granola and chocolate can also be blended together to form a bark, a nice once a week treat .

Don't feed the kids bad snacks. Make these healthy treats to continue with nutritious and wholesome eating during the day. It'll not only satisfy hunger but fill them up with the good stuff.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Popular Plum Torte

The New York Times have been giving us all sorts of excellent recipes for the past forty years. Many have made them, bringing gourmet and colorful cooking to home audiences. One of their most famous is plum torte. This mouth watering dessert is back again, delighting a whole new generation of home bakers and gourmands.

Margaux Laskey, author of Motherlode Blog,  wrote about this classic fall dessert in yesterday's New York Times Food section. The recipe originally was published by the famed food writer Marian Burros in 1983. It wasn't her own , though, belonging to her childhood friend Lois Levine. It first appeared in a self published cookbook , "Elegant but Easy" in 1960.The name was first Fruit Torte and it had a fortuitous note "This deserves a ten star rating on our list." As with most tortes, it was easily adaptable. There was a "New Age" version published eight years later, in 1991. The lush ingredients of butter and eggs were replaced by the healthier bananas and egg substitutes. There was also an apple cranberry version in 1994. Food contributor Melissa Clark had her own take on it for Rosh Hashana , subbing in whole wheat flour for white. Ms. Burros, now retired from The Times, still makes the torte, In the summer she uses blueberries and peaches. She doesn't use the summer plums, instead waiting for the smaller , more intensely flavored Italian plums that come in early autumn. Home chefs can use their own spin, and even tweak the recipe to put their thumbprint on it.

The plum torte is a an easy recipe. It's no wonder that a recent Google search yielded nearly 80,000 search results with links to popular food bloggers who laud its' easiness and versatility. It's basically taking 3/4 to a cup of sugar, then adding flour, baking powder salt and eggs. The batter is then spooned into a spring form pan of either eight, nine or ten inches. Then it's splitting and pitting  a dozen Italian plums to place them  skin side up on top of the batter. sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice.Home bakers can add more sugar if they feel the plums aren't sweet enough (it pays to have a taster plum for this). Another dusting , this time ,of cinnamon, is sprinkled on the top. It's usually about a teaspoon but a pinch more is always welcomed. Baking time is one full hour. Let cool before serving with whipped cream.The Times Food site suggests variations  such as subbing in late season peaches and nectarines or apples and pears as the weather gets cooler. Try spicing it with any kind of spice from tame nutmeg to exotic cardamom  or  zingy rosemary. For a healthier spin  try spelt or whole wheat. flour instead of  white.The torte  can also be served with creme fraiche instead of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.. You can also bake it in a regular pan along with doubling the recipe for holiday gifts..

Nothing beats a classic. This include Marian Burros famed plum torte recipe. It' still delicious and the recipe still holds up for a new generation of home bakers ready to make it

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Umbria Unstoppable

Italians have a graceful grittiness to them that makes them strong in the face of adversity. They bounced back almost immediately after last month's earth quake violently shook the ancient towns of Amatrice and Accumoli.Despite all this the inhabitants of one Umbrian town, Norcia, kept going,still creating amazing dishes and producing salumeria meats.

Julia Moskin visited and wrote about one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe in today's New York Times Food section. Umbria was shaken by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake last month but there was thankfully only structural damage.There is still the problem of closed roads that make it difficult to transport goods to other parts of the republic. Couple with  the region's fears of the newly born gastro-tourism industry suffering due to tourists' concerns about another earthquake happening. The area , also known as Italy's cuore verde or green heart is the place to go for the best olive oil, richest red wines and flavorful cold cuts or salumi. It's a mystery why Umbria hasn't been made a culinary UNESCO World Heritage site like Lyons, France and Chengdu China.Some recipes have remained unchanged since Etruscan and Roman  times.It could be that its' cuisine  has always been overshadowed  by neighboring Tuscany's more famed and favored dishes and recipes.Still, the region has many famous recipes, as Ms Moskin points out.One of the most known is porchetta,a juicy roast of pork tightly rolled around garlic and herbs.

Umbria is not just known for its' porchetta .It's also known for its' ancient and native strains of beans and pulses that are being unearthed and cultivated for a new generation of Italian chefs.There is even Roveja, a kind of pea, once thought to be extinct that is now being cultivated and sold at premium prices, much like Piedmontese truffles.Since Umbria is one of Italy's few landlocked provinces, the area relies on its' native fruits and vegetables, instead of seafood for main ingredients.Nettles, asparagus and fennel along with some flowers make up their most dishes culinary backbone.Of course Italy is about pasta too, and Umbria has many different kinds. Home chefs there pride themselves on making tender , springy pasta without the usual eggs, using a full body kneading motion called "culo mossa" that bears a resemblance to samba dancing.No meal would be complete without salumi, salt cured pork products. Their prosciutto is aged for two years before eating , unlike other prosciuttos from across the region. The result is a more flavorful and concentrated taste. It is so prized in Italy that it never makes it outside the borders. Luckily tourists can eat it and other charcuterie hen they stay in the alberghi and guest houses.

Umbria will always be known for its' vibrant cuisine taken from ancient recipes. No earthquake is going to change that.The food is as immovable as the land that has produced it for millennia

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sauces And Salsas And Ketchup , Oh My!!

It's late summer and that means bumper crops, namely tomatoes.Luckily these ruby red gems can be turnd into a a variety of dishes that can be eaten later on. Tomatoes are one  the most versatile garden fruits, Transform them into anything and the result is a tasty dish.

Of course all home chefs will tell you a tomato garden's overage can be made into a sauce, perfect for pasta.There are so many to make that you can have an entire month of them. If you're looking into a right now sauce think then salsa crudo, This is one of the easiest pasta sauces to make.It's taking ripe tomatoes and mixing them with olive oil and seasoning  along with minced garlic  Set the sauce aside for half an hour or more (a day would be ideal to let all the flavors meld together) and then pour over any kind of pasta. Capers,or  black pitted olives can be added to zing it up.The extra tomatoes can also be cooked into a regular sauce.It is labor intensive but worth it,Most recipes call for four tomatoes but  you could even double or triple the recipe..Making home made tomato sauce is also a great way of using those extra basil leaves.You can also add a good pinch of hot pepper flakes to make an arrabiata sauce. Another spin is roasting the tomatoes first for a deep smoky flavor., perfect for any meat sauce. You can also  make a pizza sauce using fresh tomatoes too.It's basically the same as pasta sauce save for the inclusion of thyme, onions and two tablespoons of sugar.

Those tomatoes can be used for everyone's favorite dip - salsa. It's a great snack that's also super healthy and packed with nutrition.It's an easy mix of fresh tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. For heat throw in minced jalapenos .Lime juice is also added along with that Mexican staple cilantro. You could even  add a dash of cumin if you wanted. The tomatoes can be roasted for a smokier, deeper taste This would be great topping beef tacos or fajitas. If you want a  sweeter sauce do the unexpected - throw in some unsweetened raspberries - they're also going through a second season right now . Blueberry tomato salsa is another great marriage of flavors and it's not only good with corn chips but also with beef or chicken.Many tomato growers and home chefs have experimented with ketchup recipes.It's not as difficult as you might think.It does require a slow cooker and an immersion blender.The tomatoes do need to be cooked down and occasionally blended with the blender.The spicing is important too because this is what gives the condiment its' kick.It needs sugar, honey or molasses along with apple cider vinegar to give it that sweet tang.Cinnamon and clover are also added along with Dijon mustard and Worcester sauce. Once you get the hang of making ketchup, it's pretty easy and can be made in batches for holiday and birthday gifts.

The last of the tomatoes means sauce, salsa and ketchup  long after summer ends. You'll have that  fresh taste all year round. It's a perfect end to a bountiful season.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fall Food Trends

As with fashion food also goes through trends. Fall brings a variety of new flavors or spins on classics It's an exciting time  for foodies and gourmands alike.Apples are hot right now and oatmeal gets a new twist.

One of the best new trends is the brioche loaf. This is a take on the classic French  roll or bread, enriched with egg and a ton of butter.I first found this at the Super Foodtown in the Atlantic Highlands on a quick stop from the beach. I had never seen this before and had to buy it. The loaf was one of the best loaves I've ever eaten.It was phenomenal with Bonne Maman jam. Even though it has a sweet taste, it was still good supporting sliced London Broil in a sandwich the next day. Luckily my local Stop & Shop also carries a version of brioche bread, so I don't have to make the trek down the shore to get it.(although there are plenty of beach days left,so I probably will be visiting that particular Super Foodtown).Another trend is a returning one - pumpkin spiced lattes,both hot and cold.The hot is comforting , but I have qualms about a cold one. Coffee giant Dunkin Donuts is jumping on the apple bandwagon with a caramel apple cronut. This confection is stuffed with apples and then drizzled with caramel.There's also salted caramel coffee that combine's salty and sweet. This works for caramels and in ice cream but coffee is another matter (who wants  salty joe anyway?)

Another coffee giant,Starbucks isn't rolling out a new coffee flavor this fall, but a new oatmeal (!). It's a dark chocolate and caramelized banana flavor. You'd think it would be a kind of tart but no, It's not even made with fresh bananas but it's kind of like a gooey baby food. Chunks of dark chocolate and roasted almond are also added Unfortunately it has to be assembled by the diner too. It would just be better if it had been a tart layered with the other ingredients. Tamer offerings are their pumpkin cheesecake bar and a caramel apple pound cake. Apple seems to be everywhere, although it is the beginning of autumn. Stop & Shop also has jumped on the bandwagon. They're featuring their own brand of apple cinnamon waffles, that would be good with a drizzle of caramel and a puff of whipped cream or a pat of butter and a puddle of maple syrup.Apple cider vinegar will also be a big thing, not so much for the apple but it's a probiotic. It contains micro organisms that help in digestion along with stabilizing gut flora. Use it when making another fall culinary must have : Korean kim chee. This classic cabbage dish is making waves on all the autumn menus, with traditional galbo or American steaks.

Fall 2016 is coming soon. The trends, some delicious,some eye opening, are here already. Taste and embrace for an interesting .

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tasty Meals and Thank Yous

Our service people do a lot for us. They always have since our earliest days as a country. How to repay them? We can only do so in small gestures. Taking them to dinners or throwing them a party. It's a small way , but our way of saying thanks.

One way of honoring our servicemen is spending time with our veterans. It's always a treat when doughnuts and coffee come their way, especially for the  World War II and Korean War vets. Their stories are priceless and amazing.It's a history lesson from the men and women who caused history to happen. If it,s one of their birthdays, ask if you can bring in a cake or possibly even arrange a barbecue if the weather is still good. Nothing beats a few dogs, some homemade potato salad and beers.(or soda and iced tea if alcohol isn't allowed).Another idea is bringing the retired service people to dinner or, if you've become friendly home for a home cooked meal. Make them their favorite foods along with a favorite dessert.You could even organize dances that features music of the Big Band Era and the Fifties, There are websites that feature the foods of that era such as the Victory Cake, that's full of spices and raisins or a Soldier's Cake a kind of vanilla scratch cake. Serve it with a fruity punch. (and if they want to spike it so be it,Have a little fun).

As for our younger service people, a homecoming for a neighborhood hero is always a way of saying thank you. Get the entire neighborhood involved with everyone making the service person's favorite foods. The weather is still arm so it's still possible to cook out. Celebrate with steaks and ribs,kebobs and hamburgers. The hero's family will also appreciate it and the work that went into it. Another way is inviting them over for a dinner of favorite foods. A meal out is always a good choice too. Have a quiet dinner for four at a fancy restaurant . Pull out all the stops, Have champagne chilled and ready to be poured.If you can, get a quiet nook, so they're not on display. If it's possible or you know the chef, have a special dish created with beloved ingredients if that's possible. If they want a quiet supper alone with their spouse,  then treat them to  gift certificate to their favorite place and offer to babysit the kids.It'll give them a chance to rediscover themselves in a quiet ,romantic setting without any distractions. Bring homemade muffins or biscuits for breakfast the next morning.

Our service people deserve our utmost respect and thanks. We can repay them in small gestures such as a coffee or a night out. It's just a way of expressing our gratitude.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Spice Of Your Life

Spices are what make a kitchen interesting and meals delicious. They can be as simple as just dried oregano or as complex as za'atar. Whatever they are, they are fun to use and can jazz up any recipe. They can  add zest and excitement, making meal time unique and different from the everyday..

Surprisingly enough spices can also cause fear in many home chefs.They feel that using just a pinch of any one can be too much. The result is a bland dish that usually makes family and guests reach for the salt and pepper shakers. If any home chefs have qualms don't. Start off with the less "scary" ones. such as garlic or onion powder. The first is great for subbing in chopped or minced garlic. A small pinch can do a lot for home made tomato sauces and to liven up cream cheese. Onion powder can be used for the real thing. It gives some sweetness to guacamole along with some chilis and sauces. Oregano and rosemary are the backbones of Italian cooking. They give sauces, from pizza to pasta ones body and complex layers. They also work well as dry rubs for chicken, steaks and fish.Cinnamon, so often used for desserts and cappuccinos, can also be used for savory dishes too. Try it in a lamb tagine or sprinkled on roasted butternut squash.It can also be used in a classic Bolognese sauce for depth.Nutmeg and mace, closely related spices, are great in fall dishes such as squash soups and Indian inspired shrimp kabobs.

Once home chefs have mastered cooking with simple spices they can move onto more complex blends. One blend was highlighted in Wednesday's New York Times' A City Kitchen column, David Tanis used Lebanese spices, a mix called baharat, the Arab word for spice. This is a seven spice blend consisting of one tablespoon each of black pepper,allspice, coriander,cumin, cloves,  cinnamon and grated nutmeg.Mr. Tanis rubs it on both sides of a butterflied leg of lamb.They are massaged along with olive oil into the meat. The spice offers a warm sweetness that also works in tabbouleh and grilled kofta,lamb meatballs.Zing up chicken kebobs with it too. Once baharat is mastered it's time to move on to za'atar. The Israeli spice combo is a hot trend right now and pretty easy to make. It is fresh oregano mixed with cumin and sesame seeds. Fresh ground pepper and Kosher salt is used along with sumac. Some may freak out at the last. but this is the non poisonous kind found primarily in the Middle East.It can be bought at some grocery stores , online at spice sellers or on Amazon.One of the best ways to enjoy it is with bagels.,the true Israeli kind that are more ropy than plump.It's also good rubbed on chicken before roasting or even chicken and lamb kabobs.

Spices are not only the variety of life but also the extra oomph dishes need. They can be as simple as just a pinch of oregano or as complex as a teaspoon of baharat or za'atar. Add them to any recipe for some zest and zing!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Summer Veggies With an Italian Twist

It's still summer .You can have still enjoy the harvests of the garden.There are still eggplants and tomatoes to cook into tasty sauces. Take advantage of the last blush of the season with tasty dishes.

Melissa Clark did so, writing about it in yesterday's New York Times Food section(despite the fact that it was the restaurant issue, there were some recipes). Her A Good Appetite column features a sauce rich in ripe eggplant and heirlooms tomatoes. Even a sauce made of just the last is a treat.
What is interesting is how she prepares them. Instead of dicing or cubing she grates the tomatoes on a standard box grate. This is an excellent way of getting the pulp and not the skin. The grater holes puree the flesh but stop at the skins, creating a nice pure mash.Ms. Clark then simmers it down with a a bit of olive oil, garlic  and chile.If it's cooked down a bit it becomes sofrito. It can be the base of any soup,stews and rice dishes. I can see it raw as a brushcetta - and the best part is that the tomatoes won't have to be blanched to remove the skins.The tomatoes used are the large heirloom ones but if need be , beefsteak, or better yet Roma tomatoes can stand in.

The second veggie, eggplant can be cooked while the tomatoes are being pureed. The kind used is the giant globe kind, those deep purple beauties that are gracing late summer gardens and farmer's markets right now.It was cubed , oiled and roasted in a 450 degrees Farenheit oven for 30 to 40 minute. Roasted with it are one or two frying or Italian banana peppers. The pasta she uses is campanelle or farfalle., the butterfly shaped ones. You could also use rigatoni or even bucatini if you'd like. Another fun spin is that Ms. Clark grates the garlic with a microplane to mince them (although you could you could just mince the cloves the old fashioned way- with a sharp knife).Capers are added for saltiness while  herbs are mixed in for brightness. Butter, not usually used in any tomato based sauce ,is  added - although it is optional.It does lend a nice richness to the sauce. The sauce  and eggplant are then mixed together with the pasta. Parmesan cheese is then sprinkled over it along with extra herbs and a drizzle of more olive oil.

It still is summer. Take advantage of its' harvests with a delicious sauce of  eggplants married to tomatoes.The flavor is ripe with garden flavors, a perfect taste of late summer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The NY Times Restaurant Issue

Fall in New York means a lot of things. It's the start of the new theater, ballet and opera season. Fashion Week reigns supreme in Bryant Park. Best of all restaurants, new and old roll out their menus with a variety of tasty main dishes and desserts. Luckily there is the New York Times restaurant issue to guide us.

Today's Times Food section is a cornucopia of reviews, stretching from Manhattan to even California. This is a great guide for those looking for a new favorite or for those spending a romantic fall weekend in the city. The Food section's most revered writers, Julia Moskin, jeff Gordonier, Eric Asimov Pete Wells, Florence Fabricant and Eric Asimov all offered reviews on some Manhattan's trendiest and most beloved eateries. The big news is about the Union Square Cafe moving to its' new location at 19th street and Park Avenue South.David Rockwell, known as the "restaurant whisperer" who also won a Tony for the musical "She Loves Me" has to extract the DNA from the original eatery and transfuse it into the new one.The move had to take place. The original building was deteriorating. Faucets leaked, The wiring was first installed during the Truman administration, over sixty years ago.It wasn't cost efficient to invest in repairs. A new location had to be found. It turned out to be a light, airy space with a mezzanine along with two (!) bars. The menu will remain the same with delicious appetizers and different pastas. The fans will follow along with the curious who will want to eat at this famed eatery.

Other famed Manhattan restaurants received their due as well. Chumley's that Village staple, once a Prohibition speakeasy is also reviewed.It's known for their cocktails but also  for their hamburgers. Chef Victoria Blamey, once the chef at such restaurants as Atera, Corton and Upland is now creating such flavorful dishes as a burger topped with bone marrow,a retuned version of her fried chicken along with a vanilla ice cream with parsnip puree. Florence Fabricant who reviewed it also reported that there will also be sixteen taps for beer, along with creative cocktails.She also reported on a slew of restaurants opening up around the Flatiron District and the Nomad neighborhood, One is Nur, run by Israeli celebrity chef, Meir Adoni and it will offer modern Middle Eastern food in a brasserie setting. Famed super chef, Wolfgang Puck is also opening a brand new restaurant, Cut,  which offers ten different kinds of steak, The issue stretches to the West Coast with Pete Wells review of famed Santa Monica eatery Cassia,It features Vietnamese thanks to Bryant Ng.His lamb breast is legendary, thanks to his spicing it with cumin seeds and Szechuan peppercorns.There's also a salute to the country's colonial French era with the iles flottante and a dark chocolate tart with bananas.

Fall is coming and with it new restaurants and revamped menus. It's a time of good eating - on both coasts. Go try them, and their amazing dishes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hurricane Readiness

Like it or not  September heralds in the hurricane season.It means power outages , frenzied trips to the grocery store and evacuating hearth and home.It also means feeding yourself and your family under the most dire of circumstances. Don't panic. Just be ready foodwise.

Blackouts are almost common as flooding and heavy winds during  a storm outage.  A closed fridge will stay cold for four hours while a freezer lasts up to two full days.Cook the perishables first. If you don't have the use of your oven or microwave, use the grill Surprisingly enough you can even grill meat loaf. Water can also be heated over coals but just be careful with this. Coffee can also be heated up on the grill along with milk (don't try this with baby formula. Try to find a microwave for this last). The hot water can also be used for washing too It does pay to have any kind of portable freezer just in case the electricity is knocked out. Put the meats , eggs ,egg  based foods like mayo and dairy in it first. Fruit and vegetables are fine without the cold Even juice and sold can be drunk warm - as vile as that sounds. Cook the meats first.Make it fun. Spiralize hot dogs which is easy to do, thanks to a skewer and a knife, and wrap in bacon. Hamburgers can get spiced up with any dry spice. You can even use pizza sauce to create a pizza burger. The sauce can be cooked separately on another part of the grill .Use a small pan to do so. Get rid of any chicken. Again use spices to create a tasty dry rub.

What happens in case of an evacuation? Take your food along with your animal companion's foods. The ideal situation is staying with family or friends. There , you'll know you receive hot meals in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Sometimes that's not always the case. If you have to stay at a motel or hotel, get one where the room has a mini fridge and see if you can bring in  a hot plate . The alternative is eating out . Bring cereal, and rolls along with butter and margarine to store in your temporary digs.   and the kids can have a cold breakfast and you can  save money by eating in. Bring in cold cuts cheese. and fruit too, if the mini fridge can hold them. You can have lunch or dinner in too, Some motels have  microwaves in their vending machine nook, You'll have to share but it's a small price to pay for a hot meal.It'll be great for heating up soups and sandwiches too . Don't be averse to taking care packages from relatives.It's comforting for the family to share a lasagna or casserole from grandma or a favorite aunt. Also have a cache of microwave plates and utensils from home. Bring a small bottle of dish soap too,because you can wash everything in the bathroom sink. Have water and food bowls too for your animal companions as well as their favorite snacks and treats.

Hurricane season doesn't have to be fear inducing to home chefs. Be practical and'll make dealing with nature  that much more easier.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day All Year Round

Happy labor Day to all my American readers home and abroad. It is a day of relaxation from work and in some areas the first week of school. Just remember that the people who grow and pick your food labor hard all year long. Many don't have the benefits or perks you have. Some are living below the poverty line.

Remember too that your servers and restaurant chefs and cooks work doubly as hard , almost never taking breaks or vacations. They work ten  - eleven  hour days creating all sorts of dishes, serving all sorts of dishes . Give them generous tips and reviews.. They rely on them for a living.

It may be your Labor Day just for the day but it's food worker's every day  of the year

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Feast Season

One of the best things about September is the many festivals and feasts that occur. These are a foodie's dream with local and ethnic specialties on sale.They're a fun way to celebrate and to experience local specialties.

The month is harvest time in Italy and many southern Italian immigrants brought harvest fests with them. This is apparent in North Jersey where I am. For the last one hundred years St. Joseph's Church in  nearby Lodi designates the Labor Day weekend to celebrate both the church and the St. Joseph Society,it is a multi block celebration. Parishioners donate time and food to create the same memorable dishes that their parents, grandparents and great grandparents made. There is homemade pizza  and sausage and peppers. In past years there was zucchini au gratin, a tasty squash casserole ith a thick layer of Parmesan cheese. The festival also features zeppoli , the fried dough balls that are dredged in a thick coating of confectioner's sugar. This Neopolitan treat is a staple there as is both regular and iced cappuccino. There are also stands that sell fresh torrone, the almond studded nougat popular through out the Italian Republic along with dried and salted chickpeas call ceces (pronounced cheechees). The same stand has my favorite - fresh biscotti. There's nothing like them, double in size than the regular ones, perfect with a swipe of butter on it.

One of the biggest Italian feasts San Gennaro is also this month.It has been held annually since 1926  and is going into its' ninetieth year. It was started by immigrant families living on Mulberry Street. along with shop owners. Funds raised were given to needy families. The festival grew from a few days to eleven days.There's also one in the Italian section in the Bronx with much of the same food.It also spread to Las Vegas while Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Corolla brought it to Los Angeles in 2003 where it's been a staple since.Not only is there pizzas and sausage and peppers , There are also calzones, those ricotta cheese and filled little sacks of pizza dough that are dipped in pizza sauce. The San Gennaro festival was usually the first place that many tourists first tasted gelati and Italian ice. The festival is still known for its' flavorful lemon and orange ices as well as ice cream that has strong echoes of gelaterie in Rome. Not to be outdone, there are also German festivals too, mainly to celebrate Steuben Day, named after one of the architects of the American Revolution General Von Steuben. There are also celebrations that have hock and bratwurst as well as weissebier and jaegermeister.

September is the time for festivals and food. Celebrate with fun festival foods and traditions. It's a great way  to honor saints and harvest times.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sharing The Harvest

September is the time of harvests.It should also be a time of sharing those harvests with soup kitchens and food pantries. It's time to open the gardens for those who need the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Many home gardeners wind up with a bumper crop of various veggies this time of year. Tomatoes of all sorts and sizes abound .Instead of giving them to friends and relatives , try the pantries instead.There are many families who would appreciate them in salads, sauces or even as a snack. The same is true is true with any zucchini or squash. Again these can be turned into tasty nutritious savory dishes or baked into sweet breads.Some home gardeners get a bit too enthusiastic about various forms of lettuce.  What to do with the extra?Of course, donate. Once in a while a home gardeners decides to  grow corn. As we all know you can't just plant one stalk. A small plot of land may be used but the result is dozens of ears of corn that look like they came from an acre. These will be truly appreciated because not only are they good eaten  roasted or boiled, served with butter, they can also be used in making rich chowders or healthy succotash. Herbs too can be donated. As anyone who grows basil will tell you, the plants have hundreds of leaves that will wither if not picked. Fresh basil is a luxury to many and can be a life saver in creating home made tomato sauces or revitalizing blah leftovers. You could also type up and copy a pesto recipe to be given out.

Other veggies are also coming into maturity right now. Home gardeners probably have an abundance of eggplants right now. These are so versatile,from being breaded to being an important ingredient in ratatouille. If you're growing wild garlic now, give the mature bulbs to your local pantry. Again garlic is so versatile.It can be used as a natural alternative to salt in flavoring meats and vegetables, a fact that should be stressed  somehow at the pantries. Onions are always a fun veggie to grow but you can only eat so much bowls of  onion soup and rings. Donate the extras. Onions can be saved to be used as flavorings in stocks and sauces.Many home gardens have a cucumber patch that is bursting with overage. These can be donated and made into bread and butter pickles for late season barbecues. Fruits are also coming into their on right now. Don't hesitate to bring apples and pears as well, along with recipes for tarts, baked apples and poached pears.Gardeners may also have extra melons at this time. Don't relegate them to the compost heap. They will be greatly appreciated as well, making a nice breakfast or dessert.Plums too, are in their last bloom and as everyone knows are in abundance. These, too, can be given to food pantries, making great after school snacks or desserts

Don't toss out any of your overage. There are food pantries that need your extra fruit and veggies. Share your harvest..It's the best part of being a gardener.

Go to to check where the food pantries are in your town and neighborhood.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Bounties of Summer

It's still summer despite the fact that many are falling forward in time. We can still grill outdoors. We still can enjoy fresh veggies. This is the time to take advantage of both in flavorful exotic dishes..

Both Melissa Clark and David Tanis did just so in their individual columns in yesterday's New York Times Wednesday Food section. Ms. Clark wrote about Mexican street corn in her A Good Appetite column. This is a great recipe for those ho love corn but are tired of the traditional boiled then slathered with butter or margarine. The corn is first grilled for only seven to ten minutes, giving it a subtle smoky flavor.The ears can be grilled longer for a deeper, almost charred flavor.It also increases the crunch. They're then slathered with a mixture of mayonnaise blended with lime zest, ancho chili powder salt and pepper. You could sub in butter for the mayo if you want or to appease those purists. The Mexican cotija cheese is then crumbled over it .Feta or ricotta salata cheese can be subbed in if the first can't be found .(although Amazon and Walmart do carry it. also look in any nearby Latin American grocery).Chopped cilantro is also sprinkled on. Ms. Clark suggests that guests slather on their own mayo and toppings, adjusting the recipe to individual tastesThe kernels can also be sliced off and served in a bowl with the spiced mayo and toppings.

It's not just corn that's in abundance right now.There are still tomatoes and peppers along with squash and okra. David Tanis turns to North Africa in his A City Kitchen column, He actually adds corn to couscous along with butter and saffron,cinnamon and turmeric. The stew is a tasty melange of the traditional such as chickpeas,along with two kinds of onions, the red and the small yellow kind. Zucchini,  okra, tomatoes and a variety of different peppers round it out.Home chefs can use any kind , from the colorful bells, cubanelle, gypsy or corno del toro. Cumin and coriander are added as well as paprika and pepper flakes to give it a Moroccan flair,There is also a non traditional  pesto to be drizzled on later. It's not basil but chopped cilantro mixed with serrano chiles also spiced with more cumin and garlic cloves. Lime juice is added for some more zing,The trick to a tasty couscous is cooking it slowly, until they're soft to eat with a spoon, It's cooked in a Dutch oven for fifteen minutes which give home chefs time to create the pesto. Mr. Tanis recommends serving in large wide bowls or deep plates. Have a rose alongside this exotic dish or for more authenticity iced mint tea.

It may be September but it's still summer, ripe with harvests. Take advantage of what the garden and farmer's markets have to offer.They can be turned into exotic and delicious dishes.