Thursday, February 28, 2019

British Classics For The Weekend

British food can be a wonderful mix of hearty and whimsical. It's a hearty fair of meat and mash - potatoes or sausages and savory pudding. It is a sturdy meal, easily made.

The New York Times Food section yesterday had a kind of mini salute to the United Kingdom Melissa Clark,  gave us a recipe for a sheet pan supper of sausages with potatoes,  red cabbage and onions.It's an easy  go to  meal for the English, making it as much as we cook roast chicken.It's also easier and less time consuming too.It starts with wedges of red cabbage and halved potatoes.Ms Clark seasoned the cabbage with sprigs of rosemary and thyme.along with lightly crushed caraway and coriander seeds.Next is a layer of thinly sliced onions which will soften and brown, melt into the veggies beneath them. The sausages used are usually pork, chicken or turkey but bratwurst and spicy chorizo can also be used as well. She brushes them with mustard, a practice not widely done in Britain but doing this creates a kind of gravy with the meat's juices. This is great in flavoring the veggies, Use a nine by thirteen  rimmed sheet pan.It should have some depth because the heat will steam the sturdier cabbage and potatoes.It's an easy dish but it does take about an hour to cook with a break in between to flip over the cabbage and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve a good ale with it for a true pub feel.

Famed London based chef and baker Yottem Ottolenghi loves the whimsical sounding Toad In The Hole. Like Ms. Clark, he makes this British classic his own by changing up the recipe.It's a two hundred year old recipe with meat bits being dropped in a Yorkshire pudding batter. Chef Ottolenghi combines what he loves in British cooking well cooked meat - crisp pancake and a velvety gravy.However he deviates with subbing in homemade meatballs in for the sausage. These have an Italian vibe to them thanks to the addition of pancetta., Italian bacon. There's also rosemary sprigs and garlic added along with the surprising lemon zest.Pork, onions and sourdough  are the main ingredients with milk added for moisture. The batter itself is a Yorkshire pudding zinged up Indian pale ale and Dijon mustard. The gravy itself get a boost from the pale ale but it 's mostly a chicken stock also flavored with two small onions, rosemary sprigs and  balsamic vinegar. Flour thickens it to the velvety texture Chef Ottolenghi loves.The batter is prepared first followed by the gravy and the meatballs. After the meatballs have been made, it's then roasting them before encasing them in the batter. It's then baking them in a 400 degree oven for half an hour more.

Nothing beats a hearty British meal , whether it's a sausage sheet pan one or toad in the hole. Have it with a mug of ale and enjoy. It's the best of England at home.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Best Yogurt Homemade

The perfect yogurt should be thick and creamy. There should be a definite tang that works well in both savory and sweet dishes.Where to get this kind?At home. The best kind is the artesenal, straight from your kitchen sort. All it takes is a starter and your favorite brand of milk.

Priya Krishna, grew up with  perfectly made and cultured yogurt and made it the subject of an article for today's New York Times Food section. Yogurt is a big part of the Indian cooking tradition and most immigrants bring over a starter culture when they move to the States.It's used in a variety of different dishes,mostly savory.It is a staple of South Asia because it holds up so well.It's in the cooking of every section of the area, from the vegetable heavy foods of Gujarat to the light gravies and biryanis of Sindhi food in Pakistan. Yogurts are never store bought. They're made at home without all the fancy yogurt makers. The most important part is the culture.It's two bacterias, lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.Their function is to ferment the lactose or milk sugar to produce lactic acid.The increase in this reduce the milk's pH and causes the milk to clot or form a soft gel. It can be bought at Amazon and Wal-Mart however these won't make for a good tasting yogurt. The starters have to be taken off other starters, whether from family or friends in the community. It does cement bonds in the Indian community.

Is the milk just as important. That can vary. Some swear by certain brands, some don't care, as they just place special emphasis on the culture.Ms Krishna supplies a recipe from her cookbook,Indian-ish (Howard Mifflin Publishers 2019)that she wrote with Ritu Krishna All it takes is four cups of organic whole milk and 1/4 cup of full fat yogurt with live active cultures. She recommends checking the ingredient list  however if you know someone with an active culture then definitely ask them for  some.First add 1/4 inch of water at the bottom of a Dutch oven. This will prevent the milk from sticking when cooked. The milk is almost boiled and then cooled until it goes down to 135 degrees F. As the milk cools, smear the bottom of a one quart lidded glass container with the starter yogurt.Ms.Krishna suggests a dab , not smearing the whole bottom. When the milk has cooled to the proper temperature  whisk in the remaining yogurt. Stir until completely mixed and then pour into the container. Leave the lid on loosely to allow the air to escape.. Place the jar in an unheated oven with the oven light on for one hour. You can tell when it's done when it jiggles like Jello.Some batches can take up to five hours to set. It  will last for four to six weeks.

The best yogurt is the one straight from the kitchen. Make it to day and then experience its' tart , creamy lushness. It's an easy cook

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Delicious Dump Dinners

A dump dinner may not sound too tasty but it's actually a flavorful melange of meats, veggies and spices. It's an easy way to create lunch or dinner without so much fuss. Best of all, it requires very little prep time.

What is a dump dinner exactly? It's basically where you dump everything in a crockpot or Insta Pot and cook for a few hours. There's no elaborate cooking where you have to use everything from a bain Marie to a skillet. Prep time is a snap too,.It just cutting the ingredients into chunks, sometimes adding liquids and always adding spices. Another plus is that even tweens and teens can make dinner , freeing up their parents to do other household chores or errands.Another plus is that dump dinner ingredients can be bought in bulk, saving money along with being perfect for freezing. Many dump dinner affectionados make soup.It's an easy cook and an easy freeze. Try chicken soup, filled with the old fashioned goodness of  chicken, broth and carrots.You can turn it into a minestrone by adding tomatoes and chickpeas , along with some kind of small pasta and spinach. A comforting potage, especially during these blustery days is a dump potato's taking Yukon Gold potatoes and cooking them with chicken broth, onions and garlic.  After cooking it can be topped with crumbled bacon and sour cream. Best of it it can be frozen to be eaten on those days when cooking is impossible.

There are also dump dinners (which can be turned into dump lunches too.). Stews are the easiest to make because it's just chopping and tossing. A beef stew is always a good choice. Give it an Italian spin by adding diced tomatoes and a variety of other veggies such as zucchini bell peppers , celery and potatoes. Tomato paste and  red wine vinegar are also added. Make it even more heartier by adding some pasta such as gemelli or rotelli to the mix. The beef and beef broth can be cooked and vegetable broth subbed in to create a hearty vegan soup. Use chickpeas for protein.A sure fire pleaser is turkey breast. It can be flavored with lemon garlic or a  turned into a spicy one with dried mince garlic and paprika. Italian seasoning also spikes it up some. Serve with rice instead of stuffing for a different kind of turkey dinner. Another idea is pulled pork.It's just pork roast, apple cider vinegar and barbecue sauce slow cooked for six to eight hours. Then shred and serve on hamburger buns. You could also do the same with other meats too for variation.

Dump dinners are an easy and tasty meals  It's just dump everything in your crock pot or Instapot and leave. The result is a delicious and flavorful slow cooked dish.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Kitchen Cleanssers Go Natural Or Not

The kitchen is the one room in the house that always needs to be clean.The fridge has to sparkle, the microwave had to gleam and the floor has to shine. The question is do we achieve through the natural cleansers our grandmothers used or use powerful but sometimes damaging soaps and rinses.

Many home chefs swear by does wonders in the bathroom, leaving surfaces sparkling and super clean. Yet is it safe to use in the kitchen, especially around food?. You can but use it sparingly .If it's used to clean out a messy refrigerator use only a tablespoon to a gallon of cold water. parts of the fridge should have already been washed in warm soapy water, namely a mild dish detergent like Dawn or Palmolive. Bleach has been used as cleanser for porcelain sinks.It gets rid of any of the yellowing hard water stains. It's usually poured into the sink, straight, not cut by water. Using a sponge, scrub the bottom and the sides then rinse.It should stay clean for a few days.  Another cleaning agent is hydrogen peroxide. This also works just as well however there is a caveat with working with it. It is strong. Inhaling it or accidentally getting it on the skin can be dangerous, causing burns.Use it blended with water .It can also be used also to clean cutting boards too, just use it sparingly.

Two of my favor cleansers are apple cider vinegar and baking soda. They're harmless if they get on the skin or in the eyes and yet clean just as well as bleach and hydrogen peroxide. Apple cider vinegar is great for cleaning the microwave. You can soak three or four paper towels with it and then place on the microwave's's then cooking it for five to six minutes and letting the vinegar steam the interior clean. Another must have is Angry Mama, a plastic container that does the same work as the soaked paper towels. This is a container that has parts water and vinegar mixed. in it.It's then placed in a microwave for seven  minutes and steams come out of the Angry Mama's head. The  left over vinegar water mix can be used to clean the stove too..The vinegar does an excellent job of getting rid of tough stains such as tomato soup and curry. The plate does have to be washed and that's usually done with Dawn. I also like using the vinegar to clean the fridge shelves and crisper. Baking soda is a good cleanser in a pinch too but it does take some elbow grease to clean a sink with it. It's also good for scrubbing away stubborn tea and coffee stains in mugs too.

A clean kitchen is a home chef's pride. It's up to you how you want to clean it. With chemicals or natural,it's your choice. Whatever works to get it sparkling, go with it.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Good Basic Pasta Sauce

One recipe every home chef should have in their arsenal of recipes is a good  homemade tomato sauce. It should be robust  enough to support any pasta and delicate enough to let the various
ingredients shine through. It should be one that also can be altered to fit the home chef's whims. In other words - the perfect sauce.

The basic sauce recipe is usually made in a large sauce pan. This creates a quick cook which can be frenetic especially when you're cooking pasta at the same time. This is why I prefer my crock pot sauce  - my version of my Mom's. A sauce should start with a good glug of olive oil such as Bertoli's extra virgin. It gives the sauce body and silkiness.  You can start off with sauteing diced onions for it. This is one of the flavor support that give the pasta sauce sweetness. If the onions are too strong sub in a teaspoon of onion powder.Garlic is the second support thrown in. Usually two minced or crush cloves will do it. Again, if you're not big on it, add one minced small clove or sprinkle in garlic powder or garlic salt.Now it's time for the tomatoes. Many feel that crushed  tomatoes add more flavor and texture. I prefer a plain, organic base  such as Tuttorosso plain sauce and tomato paste.It creates a smooth, satiny textured sauce that works with every kind of pasta from spaghetti and angel hair to gemelli and penne.Salt and pepper are necessities for a good sauce. The controversy comes in the sweeteners. Many put in sugar or carrots. These can give the sauce a candlylike taste. Use a dark honey. I prefer Carmel Honey Company's California Wildflower. Just a dollop or two give balances out that tomato -y tang.You can add basil  - dried or fresh if you want.

The basic sauce can be varied. Melissa Clark had an interesting spin on it in last Wedneday's New York Times Food section. Her A Good Appetite column features a kind of lamb ragu. Her sauce has the usual ingredients : crushed tomatoes and paste, onions and olive oil. Then it veers off. She adds not only lamb but also anchovies.Both bring a sweetness to the sauce and balances out the sometimes metallic taste of the tomatoes. She suggests omitting the fish if you 're not a big anchovy fan but they do add to it. She also recommends varying the recipe with pork. This definitely will add flavor. Many Napolitano home chefs add a good amount of pork to their sauces. Another variation to Ms Clark's recipe is marjoram - which is stronger tasting herb than oregano. It's up to you if you want to add that..Beef or even beef strips are a great addition if you're going for a stick to your ribs sauce. Chicken can also be added. Many love a sauce rife with seafood. Use this basic one and then add whatever strikes your fancy - shrimp, clams , tuna.

Every home chef should have a good tomato sauce in their repertoire. It a kitchen basic that highlights any pasta. Best  of all it can be varied at the cook's whim.

Friday, February 22, 2019

A Family Classic Updated

One of my favorite dishes growing up was zuppa di montagna. It's a simple layered bread and cheese casserole,made moist with the addition of vegetable broth. I've been making it in the microwve for the last few years I decided to make it in the oven this time.
There was one problem though, no one has ever written down the recipe which was my Piedmontese great grandmother's and probably made for centuries before her. I scoured the internet until I found a comparable recipe on Our Italian Table. It was a take on the Sardinian version zuppa Gallurese.
It starts with cubing French or Italian bread. Mine was so stale, it was an easy snap.
It's then making the broth. I made two cups using Herb-Ox vegetable bouillon
The next step is super easy -layering.It's bread  Swiss cheese , a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and,broth .Repeat  the four ingredients  in an olive oil greased  glass dish.I used Sargento Baby Swiss slices which is the best. You can add a layer of Savoy cabbage too for more authenticity. Kale and Swiss chard would work.
It's then popping in the oven for forty-five minutes at 325 degrees Farenheit. I had to lower the temperature because I used s glass dish. Always lower the temp by 25 degrees when using glass.
It bubbled up into brown crusty goodness.
The flavor was amazing. I loved the texture too.
It was chewy , gooey and even crunchy. This is the recipe I'd recommend to every home chef.

If you're looking for a comforting winter dish on a cold night - this is it. It's easy and delicious .. Best of  all it has two kinds of cheese and Italian bread.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Candela Mamajuana The Perfect Sip

Mamajuana has always been an interesting concoction and a staple of  Dominican life. Candela has created their version of this potent and delicious drink.
Mamajuan is a brew of rum, organic honey  and a mix of tree bark and herbs. It kind of has an earthy green tea aroma. No wonder - That part is taken from a tea that the Taino indigenous tribes made and gave to Christopher Columbus.He combined it with wine for the first Mama Juama Clove is one of the herbs used and star anise which give the liqueur that licorice taste.
I wanted to try the Candela brand  because they have the real deal.Theirs is 60 proof which is a bit potent. 

On it's own, it's a bit strong.I cut mine with Pepsi to give it a more rum and Coke  vibe.
It  definitely had a kick to it and I can see sipping this on Oscar night (along with on summer evenings too). You could also add flavored seltzer like Bubly.I mixed their grapefruit flavor with it .It makes for a nice tropical marriage . Next time I'll add grapefruit and pineapple c hunks for a truly tropical treat.

If you want a change of pace try Candela Mamajuana. This is an interesting spin on rum and Dominican tradition. Best of all it is a great mixer. There's a dozen or more new drinks that can be made with it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Nigella Returns

Two decades ago Nigella Lawson was the "it" girl of cooking. She was the aristocrat who brought home style cooking to both British and American kitchens. Then she disappeared off the culinary horizon, due to personal problems. Thankfully she is back with the same homeyness as before.

Ms Lawson was the subject of the main article in today's New York Times Food section. Besha Rodell, a James Beard Award winning writer  conducted an interview with the woman who coined the phrase "Domestic Goddess". The reissue comes during the twentieth anniversary of her globally successful cookbook "How To Eat." The book is out again in a special anniversary edition along with an audio book, narrated by Ms. Lawson. She is revered like royalty by some in Britain and Australia where she's attending a food festival in the western part of the country.The detractors think she nothing more than a spoiled aristocrat, the daughter of Chancellor of the Exchequer , Nigel Lawson. She came from money, her mother is descended from the family who created J Lyons And Company, the first food conglomerate in the world. She worked at Britain's The Spectator and The Sunday Times before she became a food writer.It's seen in "How To Eat". written in mostly narrative form, in the tone of a newspaper columnist. her voice is intimate  warm and chatty .her musings, were unusual at the time as she mentions memories of cooking with other people, including her sister , Thomasina.

 Like many food personalities and chefs, she was a revolutionary bringing new products and tastes to ordinary kitchens, Thanks to her,quinoa ,avocados and pomegranates are now kitchen staples. her ideas of cooking and writing about what she was cooking was also ground breaking. It was cooking to please yourself instead of flexing culinary muscles to impress others.(the article comes with a palate pleasing easy to make beef tenderloin with red wine, garlic and anchovy recipe.) She urged home chefs to think how the food tastes to them, and not to the guests. As Bee Wilson, another British food writer, and her friend, Ms Lawson felt that a comforting bowl of stew could be much be better than an elaborate  chef creation.It is a constant idea with her. Food should be as much a joy for the cook as it is for the eater. Recipes are malleable and there should be no stress and anxiety when cooking them for it ruins he appetite. Never think you're going to produce the definitive meal like a Sunday lunch..Make a lunch you want to make, she writes in the chapter on weekend lunches. Strange though that she doesn't have a definitive plan for her future. She doesn't know how she comes up with recipe books. There are no plots or plans. It's just anxiety that drives her.

Does it matter what drives Nigella Lawson? No. If anything she can rest on her laurels thanks to her evergreen of a cookbook, How To Eat.It is a brilliant classic that will inspire new generations of home chefs

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

One Can Of Tuna Can

What can one can of tuna make? A variety of different dishes , from lunch to dinner. All it takes is imagination to create a tasty dish that's satisfying and nourishing.

Everyone has at least one can of tuna in their pantry. I usually have two or three cans of Genova tuna which is packaged in olive oil. I prefer the fish this way because it's has more flavor. You can use tuna packed in water.It is lower in calories. What can do you with a can of tuna/One thing - and it's pretty obvious tuna salad. You can go with the classic recipe which also includes chopped celery and chopped onions or shallots.You can make it a bit fancier by adding some chopped bell peppers or carrots.if you're not into mayo then sub in avocado.It gives the salad a creamy chunkiness and a buttery flavor. My favorite salad with tuna is Salad Nicoise. It has a summery , sea breeze vibe about it as it celebrates Provence. An authentic Nicoise has not only tuna but also beans and hard boiled eggs for more protein along with Roma tomatoes and green beans for color and crunch. You can also throw in anchovies too if you want more of a briny taste. As for the greens, try a bag of mixed ones for a rounded out and varied flavor.  I usually use a simple vinaigrette as a dressing but you can try one with a small pinch of  Dijon mustard added. Serve with French bread to mop up the dressing.

Tuna can also be used in hot dishes. How many of us have had the gooey, hot fishy treat the tuna melt. It's a staple of diners and lunch counters but can easily be made at home. The classic one calls for white bread cheddar. but there are variations that have mozzarella and tuna on Italian bread. The sandwich starts out with tun a salad spread on a slice of white or whole wheat. A slice of mild cheddar or American cheese  is then added .it's finished with another slice of bread and fried. A less greasier version is a baked version. Make it the same way as the original, just skip the second slice. Bake at 350 degrees F for twenty to thirty minutes. A can of tuna can also make a great sauce.Use the basic tomato sauce recipe and add drained , flaked tuna. Capers can also be added for a bit more saltiness.  What kind of tuna should you use?I would go with the one in olive oil and cut back on the olive oil used in the recipe (usually three tablespoons. Cut it back to a tablespoon). The sauce is great with penne or rotelli along with the longer pastas such as spaghetti and angel hair.Not surprising a can of tuna can also top a pizza too for a different take on a seafood pie.

Get creative with a can of tuna. There's so much you can do with it. You can even come up with brand new recipes and if you do - share it here.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Best Non Recipe Keeper

The New York Sunday Times had one of the best keeper pullouts yesterday. Sam Sifton compiled a wide range of different ideas  in this mini sort of cookbook.It has some great ideas for quick weekday dinners and weekend lunches.

I like this pullout. Some of my best creations have come from what's leftover in the fridge or from the night before. One  of the most intriguing is the savory French toast. I've been dying t o try this but never had a base to jump from. His is just making the same egg custard but without the cinnamon and sugar. Add black pepper and chopped basil along with a dash of hot sauce instead. The slices are topped with a few handfuls of halved cherry tomatoes that have been cooked in the same pan. I'm thinking add anchovies for a really delicious lunch or Saturday night supper.Another idea I want to try is the Weeknight Fried Rice. This is a fun, grab anything and cook kind of idea It's taking a few cupfuls of white or brown rice, Mix the grains with your choice of meats and veggies and then just stir fry.Clear a space in the middle and add the eggs. It's then just a sprinkle with soy sauce.I also love the rotisserie chicken salad.There's nothing like a store's version of this . Shred it with your hands , add some cilantro and sliced scallions. Then just make a simple lime dressing made with lime juice,garlic clove and olive oil.

These are just suggestions from Mr. Sifton so even beginners can follow his nudges and come up with a tasty dish.Any beginner can make the Hasselback kielbasa which is just an easy sheet pan dinner. Take a kielbasa cut thin slices through 7/8ths of the width. Before you do that , roast any color of pepper and onion in a 475 degree F oven. Then put the kielbasa on top and baste with either a mix of apricot and mustard or just barbecue sauce. Then put back into the oven until the kielbasa edges are crisp. There's even a suggestion about jazzing up a peanut butter sandwich , Drop a few sliced pickles on an open faced one . Spike it up with a spritz of sriracha or sambal oelek -Indonesian chili paste. He also recommends pairing it with everything from bacon to marmalade  to sliced hard boiled eggs. Smashed potatoes is another no brainer. These can be served as the main dish or a side.Making them is simple. It just cooking them in  a very hot oven and then smashing the cooked potatoes with the bottom of a tumbler.It's then layering them with cheese ,spinach or kale and bacon - of course. There are pasta recipes that any novice can make with confidence and produce a delicious and professional looking dish.

You Don't Need A Recipe is a must have for any home chef.It encourages you to be creative and think of cooking as easy and fun. Have it on hand and go wild.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Simple Saturday Suppers

Saturday is usually the busiest day of the week. There's chores to do, food shopping and anything school related Who isn't tired after all that?Thne add in cooking a dinner? That just adds to the exhaustion. Don't despair. Just think simple.

It's tempting to get fast food or take out delivery when you're too tired to cook.Yet you'll wind up with a meal that's too greasy, salty and fatty. Order their version of healthy and it 'll be soggy lettuce with drippy sweet dressing and loaded with everything from bacon to cheese. Your best bet is buying easy to cook foods  and just making everything fresh. Anything egg based is a good choice. Eggs are simple, especially when creating an omelet. Add fresh spinach or sliced grape tomatoes along with bell pepper slices for a tasty and colorful dinner.Turn it into a sandwich by putting wedges on toasted whole wheat or \seven grain breads.Another idea is whipping up a hearty scramble. This is where you can really  get creative. Toss in some kale and Swiss chard along with the usual veggies. Spice it up with garlic , onion powder or even a few drops of hot sauce. Serve with toasted pita . Scoop up the scramble with wedges.If you love breakfast sandwiches, make those. There's no written rule that they're just for breakfast. Layer the egg with low calorie cheese , turkey bacon, and avocado slices.

Pizza is always an easy supper to make.All you need is all purpose flour  ( you can also use whole wheat or gluten free to customize it to your family's need). yeast, warm water and olive oil. For more flavor throw in a pinch of garlic powder and oregano. Sub in freshly sliced vine ripened  or Roma tomatoes for the usual jarred pizza sauce. As for toppings, go with the usual like pepperoni and mushrooms or something different like shredded chicken or juliennned ham slices. A novel idea is a white pizza. Top it with ricotta and mozzarella . A bechamel sauce can also be added. This is a mix of butter , flour and heavy cream, flavored with crushed garlic cloves. Prosciutto and arugula top it. Of course the simplest and most delicious dinner is a grilled piece of steak with a string bean or broccoli salad. Brush the steak with olive oil infused with rosemary and garlic. The salad can be made earlier and chilled in the fridge.If you're not into steak then try chicken.Add in a baked potato to make it more filling.

A Saturday supper doesn't have to be fast food. You can create an easy and simple meal . It's a nice way to end a busy day.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Empire Of Christina Tosi

Christina Tosi is one of the driving forces in the restaurant industry today. Now there are plans to take her signature dessert chain Milk Bar to the next level. Can it be done. Can Milk Bar be this century's Dairy Queen or Dunkin Donuts? Very likely.

Kim Severson posed similar questions in her interview with Chef Tosi in Wednesday's New York Times. It was at the time that yet another Milk Bar was opening in Cambridge Massachusetts. It was much anticipated and there will be Milk Bars opening up in Miami, Chicago, and everywhere else there's a fan base. The store came about from her working as a pastry chef for David Chang and his famed Momufuku restaurant. She cleverly made ice cream from the milk at the bottom of a cereal bowl. It hit a major nerve with comfort food fans who  loved that she went one step further with a childhood favorite.The bakery/dessert bar took off. She was the one who brought about the naked cake craze where only the top is iced. Chrissy  Tiegen make the cake a superstar when she famously tried to recreate it on her Instagram account in 2006.Then there was Anderson Cooper swooning over her crow favorite crack pie, a buttery tart with a toasted oat crust. She spearheaded the sprinkle cake trend, bringing home bakers adding measured cups of jimmies to  batters and icings. More than Mrs. Fields, Chef Tosi's name is synonymous with desserts (albeit pricey ones).

She doesn;t want her empire to stop there. Milk Bar already has  robust sales from their site, thanks to shipping everything from her cookbooks to cookie mixes across the country.She would love to go into grocery stores.Her Chef Tosi's roots are in central Ohio and she grew up loving packaged foods like hot dogs , Doritos and ranch dressing.She wants the same popularity  for her treats.Curiously though she doesn;t want Milk Bars on every street corner like Starbucks. She could go into malls and universities though , like McDonald's and Burger King., building up an even bi gger fan base. One of her most ambitious projects will be in Manhattan's Ace Hotel. Her New York flagship store will  not only have a build your own dessert bar but also a bodega. The seed money is coming from RSE Ventures  founded in part by vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins, who also stars on Shark Tank. This is a far cry from Milk Bar's humble beginnings in the East Village. She herself is down to earth, carrying embroidery  floss with her to make spur of the moment friendship bracelets. Her main staff is mostly women who have helped other big companies succeed. Altogether they have made Milk Bar what it is today. She is like her husband, Will Guidara who is the force behind such famous restaurants as Eleven Park Avenue.

Milk Bar will be to the bakery and ice cream industry what Dairy Queen and Dunkin Donuts once were. The name will always be associated with sweet treats.  It's on its' way to becoming an American classic.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Pig Snout Day

I thought I would have a tray of delicate pink heart cookies for this Valentine's Day. They would be pretty little gems , perfect with a cup of tea.Was I wrong.What I wound up with was seventy -something pig snouts. (cute in their own way).Blame it on my Wilton Cookie Press.

 It all started with looking at my Wilton Cookie press and realizing I've never used it in the whole year I have it.
It looked like it could be fun. This is what it is, a plastic barrel that is filled with a very gummy kind of dough. You put those little circular discs in the ring and attach everything. Simple right? Yeah.
I made the dough first, using the Wilton spritz cookie recipe. For an easy dough , it was hard to make.
It starts out with 
four cups of flour sifted with 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
Then it's mixing butter  and you have to use butter NOT margarine.
It's then mixing it with one egg,  one cup of sugar and two tablespoons of of milk.
It calls for both vanilla and almond extract. I didn't have the second so I subbed in more vanilla for the almond. The butter is cut in pieces and then basically riced with an electric mixer.

The flour and baking powder blend is added to this. Since it was for Valentine's Day I add two scant drops of red food coloring.
This was a gooey pasty dough. It was impossible to load into the cookie press.(which by the way doesn''t come with instructions)I had to watch videos on how to do it.
This was the first try.
It looks like wads of chewed bubble gum.
then the second try
These actually came out OK and the first taken when done. Mostly they looked like this. Each tray was baked for ten minutes at 350 degrees F.
Pig snouts, pile upon pile of pig snouts.
If you want a true Valentine's Day cookie go to Melissa Clark's A Good Appetite in yesterday's New York Times Food section. She has actual heart shaped chocolate shortbread dipped in more chocolate and dusted with raspberry powder. I don't recommend this recipe or the cookie press. Sorry, Wilton. (It was also a pain to clean too)

Anyway, Happy Pig Snout Day , everyone. Kiss the snout of your heart.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Classic So Cal Dining

People think California cuisine and its' restaurant culture is relatively new. Many think it started in the late Nineties or even in this century. It hasn't The area has had classic dishes and classic eateries for almost one hundred years. These have added to the landscape and history of the LA area.

Tejal Rao, the new Los Angeles restaurant critic for The New York Times wrote about this scene for the paper's Wednesday Food section. As a critic she felt she had to pay homage to the eateries that have endured for decades while trendier places have come and gone.Some attracted stars and still do.One of the oldest is Philippes; started in 1908. It's known for creating the iconic French dip sandwiches. It stats off with   thinly sliced lamb and roast beef on freshly made soft roll drenched with pan seared juices.Another LA classic is Cielito Lindo, a small stand that started when Hollywood was in its' heyday - 1934.They're responsible for the city's love of taquitos, tiny rolls of fried, shredded beef soaked in a thin avocado sauce.Another classic is Dan Tana's where you can eat old fashioned hearty Italian dishes with hearty prices.Ms. Rao had their hefty veal Parmesan with layers of molten cheese. She saw stars such as Alfred Molina and Eric McCormack along with the restaurant's classic Caesar salad that's made tableside.Another timeless eatery is Musso & Frank's, a popular hangout of Sinatra and Bacall.This place has everything from omelets to steaks along with soups and old fashioned salads like a wedge of iceberg lettuce with smoked bacon ,chives and tomatoes.

Another true LA classic is the Tamo' Shanter, a Scottish themed pub in Atwater Village. It has been open since 1922 and was a hangout of Walt Disney's. They offer six ounces of prime rib with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach - a typical old fashioned dinner that is still popular today. There is also a archaic kitsch that works with its' servers sporting tartan skirts and wool skirts. The restaurant also has a banquet room that shows off authentic artifacts of Scotland's Royal Guards. In addition there are  traditional UK favorites as Yorkshire pudding and cold smoked Scottish salmon.A relatively newer place is Langer's which opened in 1953 and is known for their hot pastrami sandwiches and deli sandwiches reminiscent of New York deli ones.There are some new classic eateries too , that Ms. Rao visited one that reflect's the city's new immigration.One such place is Beverly Soon Tofu, which has been in the same strip mall since the late 1980's It's Korean comfort food where diners can have bowls of soup, filled with tofu and any choice of ingredients. It's laced with a special hot sauce that the founder, Monica Lee makes herself.

Los Angeles has always  been known as the city of the new.Yet it has some of the oldest eateries in the US, What is great is that they are still thriving and popular as they were when they first opened.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Heart healthy Love

Give your heart some  love this Valentine's Day by treating it to heart healthy foods.We tend to overindulge in the bad stuff when we 're shut in. All that fat and sugar will not only cause heart burn but heart ache - literally.  It's time to rethink mid winter eating.

A hot breakfast is a great way to start a bone chilling February day. Most would appreciate a first meal of French toast or pancakes, two or three eggs, and of, course , bacon. Calorie wise it's about six to seven hundred calories. That isn't so bad but there is sugar , nitrates salt and fat  to deal with - and that's not good for the arteries. You can  edit this and wind up with a first meal that's not only low in calories but rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber.Try buttermilk buckwheat pancakes. Two plain pancakes are 195 calories together  Add a scant tablespoon of maple syrup and small pat of butter. Can't start the morning without eggs? Then try them fiesta or calico style.It's a scramble zinged up with tomatoes, onions and pepper. You can add spicy soy chorizo for heat.For a really fun breakfast think mini quiches. These are loaded  made with sausages and cheese which can be made even healthier by subbing in soy.One of the healthiest is fruit with warmed Greek yogurt.This also makes a good snack too.
Lunch is another important meal.It should not only good for your heart but the fuel to propel you through a chilly afternoon. If you have to take the meal to the office then, think outside the salad box. A vegan hot cheese sandwich is always welcome. Start with already toasted whole wheat which has double the fiber of white bread. Then the cheese . Cabot 's 50 percent reduced fat cheddar cheese brick is about the best. You can also go for soy cheese which only has forty calories. Add some sliced tomatoes or turkey bacon to liven it up.Nothing says summery and exotic like Salad Nicoise. Fill it with hard boiled eggs, florets of broccoli and cauliflower along with olives and carrots. A simple vinaigrette is all it needs. What about a dinner sure to please your heart? Grilled or seared salmon is only 157 calories. Pair it with a lemony brown rice and grilled mixed carrots and squash. Turkey breast is another lean main course, made even more delicious with roasted Brussels sprouts and asparagus. As for dessert,  think all sorts of  fruits dipped in melted dark chocolate. Keep away from the original recipe which contains heavy cream. Just stick with the chocolate.

Treat your heart with love this Valentine's Day. Eat healthier and it will love you back. That's the perfect romance.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Snow Day Kitchen Projects

Most of the country is undergoing big snows right now. That means staying in for a day. It also means boredom setting in after the the third TV binge or game marathon.It's a good time to have a one day kitchen project. Whatever you choose will be productive and more satisfying than fighting over the remote.

A snow day is a good time to take stock of what's in your  pantry or fridge. You probably have stocked up on the basics - milk eggs, and bread. Yet what about the other stuff you bought and forgot about? Is there really a call for all those sardines? Or pickled onions. If they're way past their expiration date, then toss. If not  start looking for recipes featuring them. What about all that flour and sugar left over from  Christmas baking? They're still good with flour lasting ten months to a year and sugar lasting a year or more.  Consider it a sign to use both up for Valentine's Day cookies, cakes or cupcakes. Those cans of beans and veggies?If you have to make room then create a soup with them.They can also make good sides for the dinner in. Once the pantry is done it's time to root around the fridge and freezer.Get rid of the ice cream and popsicles from last summer. They should have been tossed  back in September anyway. As for the fridge. clean out those plastic canisters holding a mouthful of last week's mashed potatoes or spaghetti. Wash shelves too, They can get sticky or cruddy from food being spilled  and splattered from drippy  containers .

Another kitchen project is sorting through drawers and shelves, taking inventory of plates, cups and utensils. Plates and bowls do wear out. If you feel that your set has served its' purpose then, toss. You can even go the Marie Kondo route and thank them for their service. It'll be fun shopping for a new set whether in the store or online. The same idea goes for cups and glasses along with mugs. If there are chips or cracks then get rid of them. An uneven rim could lead to a cut lip Cracked glasses can be repurposed as containers for make up brushes and pencils. Tumblers can be relocated to the bathroom where they can serve as containers for smaller dental floss boxes and Q-Tips. A snowy day in also means time to sort through the cutlery. Check the handles of any and all silverware. If they're loose then consider a new set. Again Kohl's and Target are having great sales and sets have been greatly reduced in price.As for all those plastic knives and forks from takeout. You can reuse them for school and office lunches. Just remember that plastic can weaken over time and can break. Throw away any crack or broken ones.

A snowy day means a day in. Reorganize your kitchen , pantry and fridge.It's a nice way to pass time and in the end have the joy of a clean room.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Perfect Panko Crumb

Pereg has always been known for their variety of spices. Now they've expanded into bread crumbs.As with their other products, the panko crumbs are perfect for breading.

I decided to tr it on what else? Cauliflower. It was first parboiled,
It was then shocked in an ice water bath. while it was chilling - literally - I made the batter.It was the usual half cup water, half cup almond milk and three quarters of a cup of  flour. I also added a good dash of both onion and garlic powders.
These are onion and garlic powder.Then it was on the a dredge in the panko crumbs.
I decided to try the whole wheat. 

This is precooked. 
And afterwards. The crumbs stuck on  rather nicely.

The florets were crunchy and browned. I think in the future I'll try an egg wash before dredging. I also tried the sweet chili flavor too which added zing to the florets.
If you want a good crust on anything, then try Pereg's Panko breadcrumbs. They're the perfect coating to veggies, fish or meats. Try them and taste their crunchy goodness.

Friday, February 8, 2019

B Smith A Culinary Legend And Hero

Chef and hero usually are not used in the same sentence but that is how Barbara B Smith can be described as. This ground breaking and legendary chef  has been dealing with Alzheimer's disease for the past few years. Her recipe books from twenty years ago are still as relevant and fresh as they were then.

I became aware of the story from this week's People Magazine. They ran the story of her and her husband's controversial relationship with another chef. See beyond that and what B.Smith contributions to to the cooking world. Barbara Smith was a top model in the Seventies, gracing Mademoiselle , Ebony and Essence Magazines. Later she was the face of Oil Of Olay, and at the same time creating amazing dishes and running much loved restaurants. She learned from her mother and  grandmother in the kitchen of their Everson, PA home . As for running a restaurant, it was gut instinct  - not a business degree that propelled her.She was the first black woman to sit on the board of  The Culinary Institute of America or the CIA. There was even going to be a TV show much in the style of Martha Stewart Living. Ms. Smith was really a prototype for today's super models who go off into various businesses after they tire of the catwalk.

Chef Smith's cookbooks can be found on Amazon. There is B. Smith's Entertaining and Cooking for Friends (Artisan Publishers 1995) which has party plans for all sorts of gathering from picnics on the beach to Kwanzaa/ holiday dinners. It can definitely be used today as a template for all sorts of dinners and dos. Four years later she wrote Rituals And Celebrations which incorporates African-American celebrations such as a Juneteenth celebration and a bid whist card party. There are recipes for a Thanksgiving  jerked roast turkey and a Christmas fondue party. There is also B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style  (Scribner Publishing 2009) has a plethora of good Southern recipes that can be recreated in any kitchen. There is the spicy Kentucky Burgoo, Frogmore Stew, a kind of South Carolingian jambalaya and Bananas Foster, a New Orleans dessert staple. Any of her books should be in a home chef's cookbook library.

Illness may have clouded B Smith's life, but it didn't diminish her legacy. Her recipes shine bright and will shine bright for decades to come. She will always be a trailblazer in American cooking.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Treats From Traverse City

One of my wish vacation destinations is Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The northern part of the mitten is full of pristine beaches and charming towns. it also has the soil and climate for growing amazing and abundant cherry trees. One town, the picturesque Glen Arbor, is home to Cherry Republic - a store that sells everything cherry. I had to try it. I' love the fruit and its' addictive tart taste.

Cherry Republic was started in 1989 and has an entire range of cherry-centric foods . There's salsa and chocolates, jams jellies and cookies that have the yummy mix of chocolate and cherry. I had to buy their juice.

This is tart and fruity, with a cinnamon-y aftertaste.I mixed it with Bubly's cranberry seltzer for a refreshing and not too sweet drink. It was delicious - a nice change from the usual too sweet juices I usually drink. I can see this being mixed with Prosecco or vodka for a cool spin on classic cocktails. I also love the dispenser where you press down on the little orange paddles and the juice runs out. 
There is also their cherry jelly and dark chocolate cherries and nuts mix.
The jelly was delicious - not too sweet and perfect on the croissant. I plan on using it as crepe filling as well on brioche bread. The mix ii absolutely tasty Almonds, cashews and dried cherries
 are coated in a dense dark chocolate robe. These are the perfect sweet snack or even a dessert. I plan on buying their milk chocolate version along with their Boomchunka oatmeal-cherry cookies.

One day I will visit  Michigan's Upper Peninsula and my first stop with be Cherry Republic. I will have to try everything they have from salsa to jam.Between the beaches and it , will be the best vacation ever.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Foods Of Peace And Palestine

Palestine is  and always has been an area fraught with tension and hate. The one thing that relieves the  constant fighting and afterwards fragile truces. is the food. It is a cuisine full of fire and sweetness, full of ancient recipes and flavors. Now there's a new cookbook celebrating it.

Regular contributor , Mayukh Sen, wrote about Yasmin Khan' latest book,Zaitoun :Recipes From The Palestinian Kitchen (W.W. Norton and Company Publishers 2019) in today's New York Times  Food section. The book almost never happened. Ms. Khan developed a block. Images of the Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza kept haunting her. Thankfully Anthony Bourdain's daring attitude towards food inspired and impelled her to soldier through. She gave herself pep talks too, self advising to not make it pretty or sanitize. See the area for what it is. It helped her and reinforced her love for this strife riddled land. Ms. Khan fell in love with the food when she found herself there a decade ago, working on human rights with the group, War On Wants, a British charity focused on an anti poverty initiative. The days there were distressing, due to the constant presence of armed military . Food soothed the anxiety. Fresh made hummus and baklava   eaten in little cafes at sunset helped to alleviate those frenzied feelings. The work burned her out and three years ago turned to food . Her first cookbook, The Saffron Tales, featuring recipes from her mother's Iranian background was published.

The new book reflects all the different aspects of Palestinian cooking. It's divided into three different categories.There is the bread and meat based cooking of the West Bank which includes East Jerusalem and extends to the River Jordan. There is also the food of Galilee and Nazareth that resembles Levantine cuisine with its' tabbouleh salad and  spiced ground kibbeh. Then there is the cooking of the Gaza Strip, a dense patch bordering Egypt.It is largely fish based and fiery. One of that area's most treasured dishes is zibdiyit gambari , a tomato stew rife with jalapenos and shrimp , cooked in a clay pot. That recipe and others are included in  the article. Cauliflower is popular  there, so there is a roasted cauliflower soup, spiked with cumin and cauliflower along with turmeric.Chicken is also big in Palestinian cooking and there is a recipe for it ,mussakhan, cooked with sumac and onions, Again, spices figure prominently in it as well,namely cumin caraway and the surprising allspice.

Palestinian food is comfort food to many. It was to Yasmin Khan  who created a cookbook to celebrate her love for it. It is a lovely tribute to a land where food means everything amidst the strife.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Pet Parent Diet Challenge

Today's New York Times Science Times had an eye opening article. Regular contributor Jane Brody  wrote about the dark side of pet  treats. Like us ,with our cookies and chips , our fur babies crave them. Like our cookies and chips, they create a wide range of health problems if eaten too much.

What can we do? Join our furry babies on  diets towards better health. As Ms. Brody points out , our cats and dogs don't open the treat jar or bag themselves. We do it.We see it as an act of love and affection. Pet parents - including myself - don't think about the calories involved in giving a handful of snacks. We just want to make them happy. Dr. Deborah Linder, who head the Tufts Obesity clinic for Animals Nutrition Service suggests other ways of showing them how much they mean to us. (and this idea can also apply to friends and family too). Getting them to move and lavishing them with attention instead of with goodies is the best way to a weight healthy cat or dog. Cats love to play - so have plenty of toys  for them. Those lattice rolly balls -  keep them engaged for hours . I always have a lot for my lot since they wind up underfoot  - not unlike Legos - and get crushed. Straws are fun toys as are aluminum foil balls. Dogs also love play .Go outside , Both of you can get some fresh air as you play fetch or tug of war. Both pet parent and fur baby can lose the fat running around. Belly rubs and snuggles also are great sub ins for treats.

It's usually the overweight pet parents that have the overweight cats and dogs. Here's a challenge. Can both lose weight  by eating healthy and being active?We too need to get rid of those fat rich foods and pare down what we ingest. The unusually cold weather has made most of us cook calorie rich meals, roasts surrounded by gravy and potatoes along with icing rich cakes . We stay in , we have our hot chocolate with a shot of whipped cream as we read or play with our tablets. It's too frigid to go out - wait til the warmer weather. Yet that also means less activity  - less chance of burning off all those calories we've consumed.It can be hard. Sometimes humans, dogs and cats have the same eating habits. Dogs over eat.So do we. Cats graze all day. So do we. With dogs it's better to practice portion control. Feed at the lower end of feeding recommendations that are printed on every can and bag of dog food. It also helps to limit table scraps too. As for cats, they are grazers which means they eat whenever they feel like it. That means three or four bowls are left out for them to taste and eat.They can be fed with a timed feeder although most cat parents will tell you when a cat wants something, they will go to great lengths to get it. The best bet is ask your vet for a prescription for a low calorie food and limit the treats to once in a very great while. Divert them with snuggles and playtime also helps too.
Can you and your fur baby lose the weight? Let's see if you can. Write or better yet send pictures of you and yours before the weight loss and after.

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Crunchy Healthy Cauliflower

One of my favorite recipes is my Mom's fried cauliflower. This was always a treat because of the earthy sweet taste of the florets and that delectable fried crunch, thanks to the breadcrumbs. Unfortunately all that frying and the veggie's gas inducing qualities usually made for a pretty wild ride afterwards. I decided to try the air fry method  with my new favorite appliance - my Power Air Fryer.
I found a recipe on line that I adapted to what I had in the kitchen, I used a medium sized cauliflower from Stop & Shop's organic Nature's Way. You don;t have to parboil it but it does help in creating a tender middle in the florets. It also makes it easier to pull apart.
Parboiling just takes five minutes .Boil water and put stripped cauliflower in the water.
After, to stop it from overcooking, plunge into an ice bath.
I added  two ice trays worth of ice cubes to "shock" the cauliflower. This stops it from cooking more from the residual heat.
Now it's onto breading. I used a recipe from The Foodie Eats site./It's half a cup of water,1/2 cup of almond milk and 1/3 cup flour. I added two and a half teaspoons of Pereg's savory halwaij spice mix. 
This is a traditional Yemeni spice that will be competing with the already trendy za'atar spice mix.
The floret looked a bit anemic so I decided to do a double dip. First a dip in the wet batter then dredging in a mix of halaij, flour , salt and pepper.
As you can see, it's a messy,messy job. Be prepared to get your fingers batter dipped too.
Now for air frying.
Set it at 350 F
For fifteen minutes.

This is the finished product. It's not as good with as my Mom's breaded and fried version. Thanks to the halaij it had an Indian curry vibe . The spice contains turmeric which gave the florets that nice golden glow. It had the sufficient crunch. I would make it a bit differently - possibly with onion powder and definitely more salt and pepper. The next time will be with panko crumbs.The most noticeable change is that I didn't have any stomach problems afterwards. 

If you want a healthier fried cauliflower, this is the  recipe for you. You can add a dipping sauce or just eat the florets plain.It's a different spin on my family's classic.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A Trio Of New Spices

Trying new spices are always fun. One of my favorite spice companies Pereg has come out with a trio of new ones. They're interesting and can be used in a variety of ways.

One of my favorites is their Everything But The  Bagel mix of sesame and poppy seeds, onions garlic , salt and pepper.Imagine if you can just eat the top of the everything bagel. I actually put a few sprinkles on a pretzel bagel .
It was like eating an everything bagel. I plan on making rolls with the tops dipped in it sometime mid week. (which will be posted with step by step instructions).
The next two spices are variations of hawaij ,a Yemeni  spice that has two variations.One is savory and made with cumin, tumeric,coriander, black pepper, cardamon and cloves. it can be used in soups and  rubs. I decided to go a different route - I used it to spice up my batter for cauliflower.
It is a regular vegan batter-made with just almond milk, water and flour. I add two and a half teaspoons full of the savory hawaij. 

This is the finished product. They were double dipped between dredgings to produce and cooked in my air fryer (there will be a whole how to on Monday) at 350 F for fifteen minutes. The taste had an Indian vibe thanks to the turmeric . They were tasty and I plan on using the savory hawaij in minestrones and maybe on potatoes and onion too.
Then there is the sweet hawaij.

This is a blend of ginger,cinnamon, cloves and cardamon. I mixed it with Kava coffee , sugar (a lot) and milk. 
I also sprinkled it on the top of the whipped cream for a coffee bar touch. It was interesting and reminded me of the pastries I've had at a Palestinian bakery in Paterson NJ
. It's supposed to be used for pancakes and meatballs but I may try it in meringue  batter  to spike it or again with coffee.

Pereg has outdone themselves again with three new spice blends. They're great for revving up something as simple as bagels and cauliflower or as complex as a coffee blend. Try them for a unique flavor experience.

Friday, February 1, 2019

FoodCubby A Fun Way To Eat Neat

There are many kids - and adults who hate when their food touches each other. It can be a pain scraping a side off to the side of the dish, making sure there's no sauce or gravy on it. Forget spreading foods like creamed spinach or beans. Not to dispair. Food cubbies are here.

These smile shaped separators are made of BPA Free food grade silicone. That means they're safe for your picky little and probably pickier big eaters. They also have a second function - .they help in pushing food onto utensils. The separators act as walls that make it easier for those with arthritis or hand injuries to get the food onto a fork or spoon. They're only $14.99 for the two - and they will last for years.

I liked using them. I'm not overly fond of my veggies touching the main course, so I decided to give it a try.
The creamed, buttered spinach stayed in place and it didn't spread over to the ranch sauce. (Ick if it had).What was another plus was that the Gardein chicken tenders didn't have any spinach on them . Trust me, the flavors change - and not for the better  - when they're mixed. The chicken and the sauce went untouched as did the spinach. Both kept their distinctive flavors . Another plus is that it's easy to affix the separator on the plate. Wash  and stick - that's it. They also clean up well too. Just wash with regular dish soap like Dawn and let dry.

If you want to keep your main and sides dishes pure in flavor then get a FoodCubby package. These are great in separating different foods on one plate. They also help in pushing food on a fork or spoon. Buy them for the picky eaters or your picky self.