Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Come Food Or High Water

A hurricane is a devastating event for anyone A super hurricane like Harvey or Irma that left five to six feet of water is catastrophic - especially to a home chef passionate about cooking. Yet many Houston residents made do and persevered. They were inventive and resilient,  still creating tasty dishes despite hardship.

 Kim Severson, a Southerner herself visited several Houston homes and interviewed residents, including the mayor's wife who had suffered the wrath of Hurricane Harvey. Kitchens were completely torn apart, soaked to ruin by flood waters. Some were even visited by alligators! One famed local cook, Al Marcus, managed to wipe down surfaces with a bleached rag and cook up a brisket for the All Hands Volunteers who ripped out the sheetrock from his home and countless others.He is known for his big Thanksgiving meals and will not disappoint. He plans on hosting this year, even if it means eating in a hollowed shell of a dining room. Francine Spiering, a food writer and recipe developer lost everything. Her favorite knives are gone along with forty cookbooks, plates and platters. Her home office was also  located in the kitchen.She is salvaging as best she could - but restoring the kitchen could take up to six months.There is hope , though. A Dallas woman has raised enough money to send dozens of Instant Pots, slow cookers, that will be used as ovens.Others who understand what it's like to go through disaster have donated, food, cutlery, and coolers.

Some home chefs are ingenious. Dana Karni, a lawyer, who loves to cook transformed her kids' playroom into a makeshift kitchen. She and her sixteen year old son carried a small chest freezer up to the  second floor. The contents were precious - the salmon she had caught with her dad on a trip to Alaska.Also upstairs her set of good Japanese knives which would have had another use had the waters risen more. She had planned on using them to cut a hole in the roof so she and her children could escape. Their linen closet is now the pantry and there is an espresso maker on master bath vanity.A few Houstonites like Aimee Ally Taylor and her family bounced around to four different homes before finding a nearby house with a working kitchen. Many have lost a lot, from beef that was eaten by gators to casks of homemade vinegar and vanilla.  All of them have dreams of what their new kitchens will look like.The mayor's wife , Andrea White,wants a cookstove against the wall, and not on a kitchen island as it previously was.Perla Moncivais, thinks about an open concept with a table , big and roomy enough for her four children .It will take a while as witnessed with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Houston will survive, So will the home chefs who cook phenomenal meals. A hurricane won't stop these dynamos - not when it comes to cooking.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Marriage Of Old And New Rosh Hashanah Dishes

 The Jewish New Year is upon us and it's a time to celebrate with the traditional. It's also a time to embrace the new as well. Both ideas can also mean the Rosh Hashanah table, with a marriage of family recipes along with introducing different dishes. This will make for a more interesting meal.

Brisket has always been the centerpiece of the holiday table. It's been enjoyed  for generations, usually braised. Many will cook ones with onions added, to give it a sweet and earthy flavor. A sweet and sour sauce , with crushed tomatoes, brown sugar and garlic, can also be used. More adventurous cooks can try rubs such as a garlic and onion rub or ones spiked  with chile powder. Chicken is another choice to try for the holiday. Think of making it with cinnamon and apples for that touch of sweetness that represents a sweet new year. Another recipe that's a blend of sweet and savory is  one made with pomegranate or cranberry juice along with Granny Smith apples and the traditional ingredient of honey. Cayenne pepper is added for bite and kick.This calls for the chicken to be cut into pieces and cooked in a Dutch oven.Every family has vegans and they should be considered into the equation as well.Think tofu, zested up with cumin and ginger Moroccan  style. This is an easy dish, with first cooking the tofu, then setting it aside to create a sauce redolent with onions , garlic and scallions. Almonds and apricots are added for crunch and sweetness.

Side dishes are just as important as the main ones. If the family insists on traditional then think tzimmes, but maybe with a slight twist. Try a trio of yams, sweet potatoes, and carrots, cooked in orange juice, honey and chicken broth.If it's too sweet add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt to cut the sugar. Salads can also be incorporated into the dinner. Use the super green of the moment - kale mixed with pomegranate seeds covered with an almond halvah (!) dressing. For crunch and zing try the Sephardic Jewish  inspired lemon fried cauliflower .This is breading the boiled florets in a breadcrumb batter and then frying them in oil. They are then drenched with lemon juice to cut the oiliness.Carrots are a big part of any Rosh Hashanah meal. Roast baby ones with olive oil, honey,  and orange zest. They can be also served with basmati rice , spiked with raisins and almonds. This is also a good main dish for vegans too.  How to end the meal? With the traditional honey cake. The timeless recipe is spiced with cloves and allspice but it can be modernized with coffee and even whiskey (!) It can even be baked into cupcakes Decorate with dried apple slices and drizzles of honey.

Rosh Hashanah is a time of celebrating the new while holding on to tradition. Create a holiday meal that reflects this. Use old and new recipes to create a unique New Year's dinner.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The End Of The Harvest

Summer is coming to a rapid close and with it the harvests of the seasons. Many plants are still producing fruit and vegetables well into apple and pear time. Don't worry if you still have some. There's so many recipes that call for them.

Tomatoes are the most versatile of any garden fruit.If you still have an abundance of them, then consider the red gems for salsa cruda. This is a simple sauce to  make because the only cooking involves the pasta.It's taking tomatoes of any kind, chopping them and letting them marinate in garlic and olive oil.Feta or mozzarella can be added as well. Of course salsa is the easiest way of dealing with a bumper crop. Roast the tomatoes along with chili peppers for a smoky rich flavor. Like any other fruit, tomatoes can be turned into a preserve.The best part, it doesn't require any elaborate canning equipment or skills. It's just cooking it on a low heat for two to three hours and then letting it set in the fridge in any kind of jar.Tomato jam is versatile and can top anything and everything from crab cakes to fried eggs. It can also be whisked into a vinaigrette for some punch or served on toasted and oiled Italian bread. If you have green tomatoes and want to clean out the garden, pick and put in a paper bag to ripen. You can also fry them too. The coating is a double one, with the first just being flour and the second being a mix of breadcrumbs and cornmeal for some crunch and bite.

Tomatoes also go well with another end of harvest veggie - pepper. Combine the two with eggplant and onion for a tasty ratatouille, perfect for an early fall al fresco lunch. Peppers, alone , can be tasty. Use any bumper crop to make a pepper salad. Julienne into strips and toss with a simple vinaigrette. Crumble in some feta cheese for variation and bite. Of course, there's nothing like that great comfort dish  - stuffed peppers. Make them the traditional way with ground beef and rice or mix it up with ground turkey and chili powder. Yes, they can also be pickled too. The process is an elaborate canning one, that does require skill and equipment. Zucchini is another part of a late summer harvest. Try spiralizing them to create a healthier kind of pasta. Saute the strands in an olive oil and crushed garlic. It can be stuffed too or split in half to create boats. This last is a fun way to serve the squash. You can stuff them with meat and cover with sauce and mozzarella or skip the meat for a pizzaiola .  A sweeter idea is using it in a spice laden bread, redolent with cinnamon and cloves or a cake, 
rich with dates, topped with an orange cream cheese frosting.

An end of season bumper crop is a true gift. Use this harvest in a variety of ways to create tasty dishes and desserts. It's a nice way to clean out the garden and fill up the fridge.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Discovering Aldi's Supermarket

One of the hottest trends in American food shopping today is Aldi's This German import is offering European brands at cost , as it helps to expand the Yankee palate.It's a great place to shop and sometimes has items that you wouldn't see in a traditional grocery store.

Aldis' was started by brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht in Germany  in was a continuation of their mother's store which started in Essen, an industrial city in northwest Germany.Theo worked with their mother  while Karl apprenticed at a deli. It was Karl who took over another food store, known for it cheap prices and this was the basis for the future Aldi. The Second World War disrupted their business, but the brothers were back with a vengeance afterwards. They took over the family store and soon after, opened a second one. By 1950 they had opened thirteen stores in their native Ruhr Valley. Their philosophy was simple - remove merchandise that did not sell, along with cutting costs by not advertising or selling fresh produce. The brothers split in 1960 over a dispute of cigarettes and whether to sell them in the stores. By that point the Albrechts were the richest men in Germany, owning three hundred stores.It was at this time that the name Aldi - short for Albrecht Diskont came about. Karl  was the owner of Aldi-Sud while Theo and other investors were the owners of Aldi-Nord. By the 1970's they had expanded to Austria and the US with the first store opening up in Iowa. In 1979 they acquired Trader Joe's Now there are 8,000 stores worldwide.

Aldi's was a treat from its opening day. Yes, sometimes it has kind of out of the ordinary non food items (toilet seats?dumbbells?screwdrivers?ottomans?) but most of the products are perfect for those on a budget. There is also fresh produce as well as fresh meats and fish. too,  It's really no different from any other grocery except that most Aldi's are smaller in size. What I like is their in house brand's such as Clancy's which encompasses all the snack foods. Their microwave popcorn is the best I've ever tasted and now it's the only one I'll eat. Their Priano risottos and pastas are excellent too. The risotto comes in a variety of flavors, such as mushroom and asparagus and they take half the time to cook as traditional arborio rice. I am looking forward to trying  their cold cuts as well as their breads. They have European style cookies that you can't get in American grocery stores. A new
  favorite is. their Specially Selected brand's Lacey's Dark Chocolate Almond cookies, those mouthfuls of delicate goodness.Their Choceur chocolate covered almonds are also amazing - perfect to end an elegant meal or just as a sweet nosh.

Aldi's is becoming a strong presence on the American shopping scene. It's no wonder, with their interesting varieties of products and cheaper prices. Visit one today and fall in love.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Brisket For The Holiday

With the holidays coming up within the week, it's a good time to look at what to serve. One of the staples of any Rosh Hashanah  table is brisket. This classic cut is versatile and can also be made for any fall dinner. Make it in a variety of ways.

What is brisket exactly? It's breast meat from the cow and it can be tough. The reason why is that the meat  serves as the cow's collarbone - mostly comprised of muscles and connective tissue. This does make it ideal for barbecuing and many home chefs only cook it this way. However, it is also ideal for a slow cooker and of course, braising. Before doing all this the perfect cut needs to be bought. What should a home chef look for? A really white layer of fat. The whiter the better because it indicates that the cow has been grain  fed.Stay away from any that have yellowing fat. A dark butter hue  means that the meat is older along with indicating  that there is more gristle to deal with when cooking and eating. The meat should be a dark red color. Another must is good marbling . Look for a cut that has an equal amount of fat and flesh  veining it. The last thing to do is picking up the meat  and its' package and bending them. The cut  should be flexible and the plastic wrap should not have any tears, rips, or holes. The ideal place to buy a brisket is the local butcher's however if there's none within your area, then go for the supermarket. Most groceries usually have pretty good cuts and a variety of sizes to choose from too.

Now what to do with it. David Tanis gave an excellent recipe for it in Wednesday's New York Times Food section. He first rubs it with a fiery mix of cayenne and paprika blended with salt and  pepper. After doing this, wrap it in Saran wrap and then refrigerate preferably overnight but it can also sit for a few hours too.It is then cooked in a 300 degree F oven . Pour a cup of either red or white wine over it  then add cloves, garlic bayleaf  and  allspice berries. Mr. Tanis scatters sliced onions over it and bakes it forth ree hours until tender. He also caramelizes more  onions  and ladles them over the brisket once its' sliced.. If this is too "onion.y" for you, then omit them.Scallions can be sprinkled on top for more flavor.  For a different taste try a sweet and sour version in which ketchup and brown sugar is used.Cook the brisket in a Dutch oven or skillet and then adding the two along with water, cider vinegar, and two sliced onions. This last  creates a sauce that's then ladled over the brisket slices.It can be refrigerated and reheated  too., although eating it freshly cooked is preferred. Serve any brisket with carrots, celery and potatoes.

Brisket is a nice way of welcoming in Rosh Hashanah. It is the centerpiece of the holiday table and works well with any cooking method. Celebrate with a good  cut ,delicious on its' own or with onions ad other vegetables./

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Last Great Restauranteur Drew Nieporent.

Drew Nieporent is one of the one of the last great restauranteurs. His kind is not seen that often anymore , sort of being a culinary dinosaur of sorts. Yet he was and still is a strong presence on the Manhattan restaurant scene for four decades. As long as there's a trendy eatery to oversee, he's there.

He was the subject of a fascinating interview and article in yesterday's New York Times Food section written by Alan Richman .Drew Nieporent is an interesting throwback to the Sixties when larger than life hosts/owners greeted and seated customers. Mind you, this is the era before celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay and Mario Batale ruled the roost.  The era brought such stars as Sirio Maccioni  of Le Cirque, Joe Baum,of both the Twelve Caesars and The Four Seasons and Georges Lang of the famed Cafe Des Artistes. They shone more than than their cooks did , as . Nieporent does now with his own. His father is to thank for this love. The elder Neiporent worked for the New York State Liquor Authority where there were endless invitations to eat free from restaurant  owners looking for easy ways to maneuver through bureaucratic channels. As a child, Nieporent dined at the fancy San Marino where his mother properly taught to twirl spaghetti on a spoon and ate egg  rolls and sweet and sour pork at China Song., right next to the Ed Sullivan Theater. He ate there the night the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan's show.

It was inevitable that . Nieporent went into the hospitality industry, graduating from Cornell School of Hotel Administration and worked on the cruise ships, Vistafjord and Sagafjord during his summer vacations.His first jobs were at the prestigious Le Perigord, Le Regence, La Grenouille and La Reserve. He also worked as assistant restaurant director at  the famed Maxwell's Plum, owned by one of the greatest restauranteurs, Warner Leroy.   Later he would hire the now famous David Bouley, who was then a little known chef from San Francisco. He was also responsible for bringing eateries to the then industrial wasteland, Tribeca. This was back in 1983 when no one really ventured south of Broadway. He'd have to  find customers who called saying they were lost on their way to the restaurant, scared to even venture into the dark deserted streets. .He Is credited with inventing the 
inexpensive prix fixe dinner for $16.00 at Montrachet. He is also partners with Robert Di Niro and is currently a partner in five (! ) restaurants right now (he's owned over forty for forty years)that include the trendy Nobu and Tribeca Grill.

Drew Nieporent is ne of the last of his  breed, yet he is as influential now as he was back forty years ago. He is responsible for what Manhattan eats and the food trends that touch our lives. He is the heartbeat behind the city's dining scene

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Trump Effect On Our Eating

It is true that our current president can leave a bitter taste in one's mouth. Now his ideas and decrees are affecting our restaurants. From waitstaff to chefs, they're being hurt by President Trump's reneging of DACA Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Dreamers that have big dreams are being threatened with their worst nightmares.They'll be forced to go back to the bleakness of their  homelands and the problems that they left there.

The issue - not surprisingly - hit the New York Times Food section today. Fernanada Santos interviewed an up and coming chef, Suny Santana and what he could face. His story is not unusual. He and his family came to Arizona from northern Mexico when he was eleven. His father , although he had a degree in mechanical engineering, along with his mother ,felt that the future would be bleak for their three children, Using tourist visas, they stayed in Phoenix where there would be new world of opportunity for Suny. He was enterprising,  As a teen  he collected plastic bottles and aluminum cans  to resell  to recycling centers. At the age of eighteen he graduated from high school and enrolled in a community college where he studied in a culinary program. That was the first problem. Chef Santana couldn't pay the grossly unfair out of state tuition fee that Arizona required from dreamers at the time ad had to leave.

Luckily there was Aaron Chamberlin, his boss, at the trendy St. Francis Restaurant where he worked.  There was also President Obama's DACA created in 2012, which allowed dreamers such as Chef Santana permission to live and work in the US. He thrived. His skills, along with his hunger to learn and determination impressed Mr. Chamberlin greatly,The restauranteur offered to put him in charge of the restaurant. He did so well that Mr. Chamberlin asked him what he'd want to do next. The answer was opening up a taqueria, He'd either do it with his father or raise the money on his own . Not wanting him as competition Mr. Chamberlain  offered to create a taqueria with him.It will be named Chelo , in honor of  Chef Santana's mother.It is her nickname and she will be the inspiration behind many of the dishes.Her method for tortillas will be used in his kitchen. It involves soaking and cooking wheat in lime water, then draining, rinsing, and hulling it. It is then ground in a hand cranked stone mill to make masa, the dough used to make the tacos.

Hopefully Taco Chelo will be allowed to be a successful restaurant and Chef Santana allowed to be a famous chef. It would be an abomination for him to be deported. It should not happen. We can't let it happen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Perfectly Iced Cake

Fall means baking and with that decorated cakes. Cooler temps make it ideal to frost and decorate cakes and cupcakes. Every home baker should possess a variety of tools to create a creation worthy of any baking show competition.

One of the most important items to have is a turntable.Mine is an Ohuhu brand that is perfect for getting a smooth , even surface. Buy an icing spatula if you don't have one. It can even be bought at your local dollar store. Again this guarantees an even surface. You can also use a regular butter knife for this too if you want.

Another must have is an icing comb, This is a set from Cake Boss that I got from Target. It creates those elegant lines that bakery cakes have . These two create two entirely different designs with wavy squiggles or elegant lines. .

Every home bakers also needs this
This is one of my favorites. The Wilton Icer which is a dream to use. It can be used to create lush roses or delicate lines of leaves. It also makes lovely puffs of frosting on cupcakes, as well as filling them with cream. There are many attachments to create all sorts of  buds and blossoms. Unfortunately  it doesn't come with an icing nail. I had to buy those separately through Amazon.
As for the icing. I prefer a cream cheese frosting This one is from Allrecipes and it is a classic. I have used it not only on carrot cupcakes but also on chocolate ones as well.

1/2 cup softened butter (I prefer I Can't Believe It's Not Butter)
8 oz, cream cheese (Philadelphia Cream Cheese is the best)
3 1/2  to 4 cups confectioners sugar
2 tblespns good vanilla extract.

Beat butter and cream cheese until well blended. Slowly add confectioners sugar and vanilla. It will yield two cups. Double it if you;re planning on making a sheet cake. Add two or three tablespoons of extra confectioners sugar to a cup of reserved icing to make roses.

This is the season to start baking. Try your hand at creating a fancy cake for a fall soiree or party.It's easy to do if you have these tools. They'll aid you in making the picture perfect cake.

Monday, September 11, 2017

One Day Can Last A Year

Patriot's Day is a time not only of remembrance but of  coming together. In these divided times we need to be closer now more than ever. It's time to open our hearts ad our kitchens.

One of the best ways to keep up  communal unity and harmony  is to open our doors and let our neighbors come for a meal.It's the best way of getting to know people, their backgrounds, and  customs.,It's also a good time to expand palates and cookbooks. Many have experienced ethnic and even American foods second hand usually in restaurants and fast food joints. This is a chance to enjoy homemade kim chi, or samosas, apple pie and hamburgers made by home chefs.It's a chance for kids to also taste different food from different countries for the first time. It teaches them about their friends's ancestries along with bonding them even closer. An even better idea is holding a block party any time of the year (even winter when there is always a combination of different holidays from different beliefs). Everyone can contribute and make the best of their repertoire. Celebrate the event with a cookbook featuring everyone's  recipes and their pictures. A short description of each recipe , why it's made and what it means to the families can also be included.

Another way to unite a neighborhood is taking care of each other. Don't think twice about inviting elderly neighbors over for a Saturday night supper or a Sunday roast. They'd appreciate an old fashioned home cooked meal.Include their favorite dishes too and make sure that they have a plate of leftovers to take home. It's also a good time for the kids to learn history by asking a generation who may have lived through the Second World War and the Korean War. Elderly neighbors can also be invited over for a weekday lunch and possibly a card game if everyone has the time.Also don';t hesitate to bake a cake for their birthday as well as sharing your garden's late summer harvest with them.Remember also , those who may be in need too. Donate your bumper produce to the local food pantry along with helping out at soup kitchens. Do this throughout the year not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Bring the kids too because they need to acquire a sense of empathy towards those less fortunate.

This is only one day but it can be extended to last throughout the year. Be inclusive when you cook. Open your heart and garden and hearth to everyone . It's a great way of uniting people.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Creating A Charity Dinner

Fund raising dinners can be not only beneficial but fun too. They can be small, for a certain group or large elegant affairs helping an international relief fund. However you plan it, a charity dinner is great way to give back while enjoying delicious food.

Charity begins at home and that is true. Many dinners help  out schools and places of worship. These are usually pot luck dinners where everyone contributes. Usually a committee of four or five people plan and decide who brings what. The first thing to do is create lists, deciding on what volunteer brings what dish. You don't want five bowls of mashed potatoes and no meat.As far as dishes , have a variety but keep in mind ,allergies along with likes and dislikes. Vegans and vegetarians won't cotton to the idea of chicken and beef plates. Of  course there is going to be casseroles. Think crowd favorites such as  backed mac and cheese and lasagna. Manicotti is another great dish for a group, especially if there are kids. Tuna casserole is another tasty classic that is sure to please. Of course there should be salads too. Someone can make a simple lettuce and tomato one and have a choice of dressings. The last can be homemade for a real down home flavor.There should be some kind of bread or biscuit.Your parish bakers can contribute  cheddar or herbed biscuits to accompany the meal. Desserts can be bars or cookies along with sheet cakes and pies.Make sure there is also soda, water nand juice to drink along with coffee and tea for dessert.

For more elegant affairs, a hotel ballroom is usually preferred however other venues can be used as well I 've been to several casual charity balls, that take place at a posh beach club(mind you this was Clean Ocean Action or COA - a group here in New Jersey that's responsible for beach cleanups and lobbying for cleaner waters here).COA has also used the graceful Berkeley Hotel in Asbury Park,New Jersey for other affairs. The food is simple: hors d' ouevres ranging from sushi to phyllo dough puffs with goat cheese. There were also mini sliders and bruschetta to satisfy appetites. The beach club do  offered The Flaky Tart's delicious chocolate chip cookies as dessert and also as favors. The Berkeley Hotel ended with cut fruit and cake pops.These are perfect for people to nibble on as they discuss important topics. If a hotel ballroom is just a tad too expensive for your cause then consider a local restaurant. Many, such as Que Pasta, in Saddle Brook, NJ, can host a charity night for forty dollars a person. Theirs is a combination buffet and auction to benefit local animal will not only be a great night out but also a chance for them to try Que Pasta's excellent pastas and antepasti

A charity dinner is a great way to give back. It can be a just a gathering of home cooked dishes and desserts or an elegant affair with fancy hor douevre's and amuse bouches..The end result is a good deed and that's the most important thing.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Will Our School Lunches Be Swapped?

One of the highlights of the Obama administration was getting our school kids to eat healthier. Thanks to the President and the First lady , kids were subbing in fresh veggies for chips and spring water for soda.Will it change under the new Trump administration? That's what's worrying parents,

 Regular contributor Kim Severson, wrote about it in Wednesday's New York Times Food section. Many with schoolchildren are worried that their kids will be served unhealthy foods again and face the challenges of hypertension, obesity and diabetes at a young age. That may not be the case. The changes are supposed to be subtle. There are three areas of concern. The first is how much whole grain can be used in school lunches.Under Obama era rules, buns,pastas and other foods must be made from whole grain. This proves to be troublesome in the biscuit loving South and bagel loving New York metro area. Also truly whole wheat products can pose a problems. Whole wheat tortillas are impossible to fold and whole wheat pasta can get mushy and bland.Milk is another bone of contention. The Obama Administration allowed 1 percent fat milk but 0 per cent when it came to flavored. Under the new Secretary of the Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, 1% fat chocolate milk can now be served.The most important debate is the use of salt. Overuse of it is the cause of hypertension in kids as young as five.School districts will still have to watch the amount of sodium but not as aggressively as before.

Luckily kids are now savvy about what to choose thanks to regularly eating out with their parents.Gone are the slabs of mystery meat with roach studded mashed potatoes. A school cafeteria resembles a trendy Chipotle with  a build your own  meal approach.More progressive schools are experimenting with ordering food through apps while other serve customized subs, noodle bowls, and tacos. The days when prefab food being shipped in to cafeterias are waning. Many make their own pizza dough, salad dressings, and sauces.  When ingredients are shipped in , they are more natural, Beef and chicken are grass fed and antibiotic free. There are few to no artificial colors. Baked goods, long a staple in cafeterias, are being made with whole grains instead of the more traditional white flour.Sadly, though schools still can't rely on the federal government to improve food. Sure, there are more choices, thanks to kids being more multicultural and to their parents, yet the food is still bland. This may be due to to all the restrictions. School districts will have to take it upon themselves to come up with more flavorful breakfasts and lunches. However this is not the most important issue. Come next month there will be cuts to the Department of Agriculture's budget which means less funding for school meals.

School lunches have come a long way. Yet the Trump administration may bring them back to the days when they were unhealthy and bad for kids. Hopefully parents and kids will rebel against this.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Your Hurricane Help Kit

We are in the most horrific hurricane season in recent history. First Harvey, now Irma and on her heels, Jose. Preparations have to be made and that includes a hurricane help kit stocked with the essentials to survive. These will help if you're staying in a shelter or even in your car.

One of the most important ingredients in any hurricane help kit is water.Get it before it becomes scarce, There are price gougers throughout Florida that are charging seventy dollars a bottle (and there is a special hell for these monsters). Get both large size and the nip size . The first can be also be used for mixing powdered ingredients like formula and soups. The nips can be used for the kids and animal companions. Remember to save some for brushing teeth and washing if you have to.Luckily milk can also be brought along in the form of boxes and drink boxes. Take along some chocolate flavored ones for the little ones as a treat.Most shelters do have coffee and tea however if you can't make it to one, then pack a jar or two of instant  coffee as well as your favorite teabags. Keep plastic bowls for the animals as well as for soup along with paper cups for hot beverages only. Soda and juice can be drunk out of bottles and cans.

Pack  up food essential too. Make sure that your cats and dogs also have their foods as well as medications packed. Dry food would be the easiest to stow. The bags are usually waterproof and it's easier to dispense than wet.Bring either a big sack or two smaller sacks. If you can fit it into your trunk , add a few cans of wet food. Some shelters will have both , however they may not have the ones your animal companion likes. As for the humans, protein bars are a good choice.They're easy to pack and easy to eat. They can be used as breakfast in a pinch or as a snack. Canned fruit is another must. It too can be used either for a quick nosh, dessert or even breakfast.Pack a small hibachi or camping grill if you can. Use twigs or broken branches if you can't bring along charcoal, and make sure you have plenty of matches.Another must have are metal plates to heat up food and with this it means canned chili or chicken a la king. Meat might be iffy to cook along with being scarce. Think grilled tomatoes with olive oil or even peppers and zucchini, If you do crave meat , think tuna in a can or preserved meat such as ham.

Be safe but also be hydrated and fed during this crazy season of monster hurricanes. Have enough water and packable food to survive for days and weeks to come. Be a force of nature to deal with these vile and destructable forces of nature.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Designer Harvests

This is the time when home chefs gather the last of their summer efforts. Gardens are picked through. Zucchini and squash are turned into healthy sides while tomatoes are cooked into sauces. Imagine, not having to do all the picking and clearing out. It's a reality in the every trendy Hamptons.

Hiring a gardening landscaper was all the rage in the eastern part of Long Island this summer. Stacey Stowe wrote about it in today's New York Times Food section.It used to be that farmers used the fertile sandy fields here to just pant potatoes. Now the trendsetters not only hire a landscaper to design the beds and designate what veggies go where, there are also a crew to plant the beds as well as a chef (seriously??!!.) to figure out how to cook the harvest as well as what recipes pare nicely with the fruits of their labors.It's an expensive hobby, with fees reaching as high as $100,000. It is bespoke  with "gardeners" telling their crews what they want growing along with it being always organic. The idea is not a new one. Long Island estates have always had a kitchen garden since the 1800's when cooks used estate grown produce and herbs to cook elaborate meals. Today's personal chefs , do much the same as their 19th Century counterparts, pick the freshest and ripest and turn them into tasty dishes.Unlike the estates, there are elaborate sheds that have fancy soapstone sinks, complete with Moroccan tiles. Some gardens even have raw concrete dining tables to eat at and to put the produce after picking.

This is a boon for personnel chefs who basically have their own farmer's markets to play with , thanks to generous bosses. One,Kevin Penner, who was a professional chef at East Hampton's 1770  House and Cittanuova, has the run of thirty-six (!) bed raised gardens on a three house compound at Meadowlark Lane in Bridgehampton. He can experiment, using exotic herbs  and heirloom La Ratte potatoes in creating lush but healthy dishes.Many residents, such as newswomen ,Katie Couric, keep it simple. Yes, she does have help however she only grows tomatoes, eggplants,zucchini, lettuces and herbs. She either uses these to cook for her daughters or gives them away to friends. Her garden is only ten by twenty feet and unlike her neighbors, she handles most of the garden work herself. Many rely on Paul Hamilton who is a gardening guru for these wealthy green thumbs. He plants and maintains them along with asking clients if he can donate the overage to East Hampton Senior Center. Donating veggies to City Harvest is common.Some  gardeners do feel they're blessed and send parcels of fresh veggies  via the Hampton Jitney to feed New York's homeless.

Even if they're designer and lush, gardens are still gardens. They provide fresh veggies and herbs, creating tasty dishes that are rich in nutrition. In the end, it's not the cost but the effect that matters.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Modern Jewish Table - Comfort Cooking With Glam

Jewish cuisine has always been considered more comforting and homey than glam or lux. However that's changing thanks to a new cookbook. It shows the cuisine in a new light as well as giving timeless recipes sparkle and color. This is not your bubby or granny's cookbook, that's for sure.

The Modern Jewish Table (Skyhorse Publishing Inc 2017) was written by self  proclaimed  Jewish princesses, Tracy Fine and Georgie Tarn. They're also British which gives lends itself to some cheeky descriptions and a more open cookbook that features a variety of world recipes. There are nods to Vietnam and Italy as well as to the American South. Of course Jewish dishes also are mentioned. There's borscht and latkes along with matzoh ball soup. These have been updated or given a Sephardic spin (the Sephardic Jews or Ladinos are from the Iberian Peninsula).The book isn't just cooking , it's also about table decorating too. Chefs Fine and Tarn , who are also celebrities with having appeared in the English press and television offer ideas on creating glam "princess perfect" tables.This has to be the British influence, since the Brits are obsessed with the overall picture and not just the food alone. There's advice on how to create a rustic bagel brunch to elegant dining complete with velvet tablecloths. There's even a small chapter dedicated to what gadgets should be in the kitchen , from the Nutribullet (!!!) to kitchen mixers and which ones are the best.Since this is a Jewish cookbook, Yiddish phrases and their definitions ate sprinkled all over the book.

What I like about The Modern Jewish Table is that anybody can use the recipes. I'm fascinated by the Yemeni Meat soup, along with Cannellini Bean Tomato Soup. The two cooks have divided the book into sections, from small plates or appetizers to even a chapter just devoted to all recipes chocolate.Fish gets its' own chapter and there is even a recipe for fish blintzes which are like haddock stuffed crepes with a cheese sauce. Yes, there is gefilte or stuffed fish but Chefs Fine and Tarn turn it into a kind of homage to their beloved battered fish from the local chippy.Matzo meal is the main ingredient in the batter. Another British classic, Toad in the Hole is also included  , in their Meat The Main Event chapter.Instead of pork sausage however, the chicken kind is used instead. There are some Italian recipes such as the yummy homemade pizza that uses a polenta crust, along with Middle Eastern and Indian recipes. Dessert lovers will go mad for the eggy zabaglione with ladyfingers  and the apple pear and honey pudding , perfect for the upcoming holidays along with the delicately scented lavander shortbreads. These princesses love all things chocolate so there are the richly decadent  pots du chocolat to the naughty peanut chocolate fudge brownies .

The Modern Jewish Table  is not your typical Jewish cookbook. It's a fun romp through a variety of different cuisines and traditional recipes. Get it for the upcoming holidays and for everyday dinners and desserts.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Fruits Of Their Labors

Today is Labor Day , a day where we honor all workers. Keep in mind this also includes the farmers that spend long days picking produce and tending orchards.It also includes the clerks at your local supermarket  as well as the cooks and servers at your favorite restaurants.

Treat these people with kindness and  respect   not on this day but every day.They have the difficult jobs, full of endless hours of hard labor and abuse. Most are under the threat of deportation, forced to give up everything they've ever worked for to go back to the poverty and crime of their birth countries. Fight for them and their children, if you can.

This is a day when all workers are honored .Yet have special honors for the people who work to feed your family and yourself.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Healing Meals

One of the most saddest and maddening events of the summer was the Charlottesville march .It was a ridiculous and grossly archaic show of prejudice. We need to come together and the best way is by food. It unites us more than anything. A meal that heals is the best kind possible bandaid. We overlook our differences as we come together to  sample our society's different foods and flavors.

If a mayor, principal, or college president is looking for a way to unite , then look no further than a community table. Hosting dinners, lunches and/or end of season barbecues is a great way of getting people of all backgrounds together. It starts with research and organization. Create a multicultural committee where all voices are heard and dietary issues are discussed. Another good idea is getting religious leaders involved. They may want to host it at their church, synagogue, or mosque to reinforce community.If not, then think about campus halls, cafeterias or even gyms. There can even be entertainment by different ethnic groups so that others can be exposed to customs and languages. If it's outdoors (and towns should consider their local parks for a community gathering) then have games and competitions for the kids to come together and enjoy.The community get together can also be done on a smaller basis. Try block parties , using the same principles  of a varied committee to oversee food and entertainment.

What is great about a community gathering is the introduction to all sorts of foods, especially if its'a pot luck. People get to try such diverse dishes as kim chi and satays, while enjoying such classics as hot dogs and cole slaw. Those who usually stick to all American fare will enjoy a change of pace with curries and paellas. It's a wonderful introduction for the more adventurous home chefs to experiment with different flavors such as za'atar , sriracha, or garam  masala.Keep in mind that there will be restrictions. Mormons are not allowed to imbibe in any spirits and this also  includes coffee and caffeinated tea. Jews and Muslims may  also have restrictions depending on how religious they are. Be aware of these and do not offend.Also some may be vegan so have veggie dishes on the ready too. Alcohol may seem a good idea however too such may create the opposite of the dinner's intention. Someone may get drunk and mouth off about one group - something no one wants to see happen. End with favors to take home - (Oriental Trading Company has some neat ones that would go at any multicultural gathering).Another idea is to create a cookbook with a variety of dishes to take home.

We are a country sadly coming apart. We need to be united again and that can come with a good meal and good conversation. Let food heal us.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Pantry Is Open Again And It's Time To Eat Out!!!!

Welcome, welcome welcome as John Oliver opens his show. Foodie Pantry is back in business and it has been an interesting two months off. We  open up with the New York Times Fall Restaurant guide along with some odds and ends that happened over the summer.

First of all I had to recover from a hysterectomy which was really no big deal .I am cured (only a very early form of endometrial cancer was found and expertly cut out) I missed the Great British Baking Show controversy where Mary , Mel and Sue were replaced by Sandi, and Noel as the new hosts and South African chef/baker Prue Leith as Paul Hollywood's critic in crime. It turns out that the Brits actually like this new trio  however they're don't like the move to the commercial driven BBC1. Now the question is whether PBS will buy this new format and continue to delight Americans. The past one was a fun ride although I was rooting for the other two finalists, Jane and Andrew as opposed to the creative cutie  Candice. She did some amazing bakes like the marzipan peacock show stopped for the Tudor episode,along with the Episode 2 biscuit bake where she created a family pub - complete with a gummy green rug - for the showstopper and the Finals show stopper.  which won her the title - the Queen's picnic. I loved her little piggy sausage rolls., which had porcine puff pastry gobbling herb sausage.

On a more local level, the New York Times Wednesday Food section released their restaurant edition. There are some interesting eateries opening up for the fall, including ones that haven closed and now are being reopened. Trendy staples such as La Goulue and L'Atelier are reopening their doors  - although not at their original locations. Famed chef, Jean Georges Vongerichten's JoJo which was an upper East side staple for quarter of a century closed and now is back, with a lighter, airier look. Some ,like Eleven Madison Ave temporarily moved to the Hamptons for the summer while their Manhattan location was being fixed up.  LA chef Alvin Calain, will open up Paper Plane,a kind of  noveau deli and restaurant while chef Sunny Lee will bring Korean  home cooking to her restaurant Banchan. Diners can also go across the George Washington Bridge to try the Closter , NJ The Hill, run by former Oceana chef Ben Pollinger. Trend setting Jersey City will welcome the Piggyback Bar that features such quick noshes as yellow curry crab cakes and mapo chili dogs.  Staten Island has three new restaurants, Surf , Seppe, and  Vinum while Long Island has 2 Spring in the posh village of Oyster Bay.Other new restaurants from Italian to Eastern Mediterranean are opening up in Park Slope and Dumb.Another trend?More steakhouses are popping up throughout Manhattan and its' boroughs.

It feels soooo good to be back! I;m looking forward to reviews , and recipes .The Pantry is open and it's a welcoming feeling.