Friday, May 31, 2019

The Perfect Chai Wissotzki Tea

The temperatures may be in the eighties but it's still good weather for a hot cup if tea. One of the most flavorful is chai and Wissotzki Tea has a wide variety to try. The variety of flavors are the perfect sip on a summer's night,

Wissotzki Tea is one of the oldest tea companies in the world starting in 1849 by Russian Jew, Zeev Kalonymus Wissotzki and was one of the first international companies , having branches in Germany, France, New York and Canada. The founder was also responsible for the Hovevei Zion , a response to the dreadful pogroms happening in Russia at the time. The company is still family owned and has a wide variety of delicious teas.They sell everything from black tea to chais and infusions. Their chais are the best, although they're usually served with a milk of some sort, mine are not. I don't like milk in any tea and would prefer it without.

                                   There are four flavors, Spiced Nana Mint Chai,Pumpkin Spiced Chai, Salted
                          Caramel Chai and Ginger and Turmeric .
I am a big fan of anything mint and love their Nana mint that's also loaded with cinnamon bark, ginger leaf and clove. Cardamon and black pepper mellow out the spearmint .

The Salted Caramel is a lovely treat, with the added kick of sea salt. It's a nice tea for the evening, especially when sitting outside on a cool night. The ginger and turmeric blend is not only healthy but a great way to start the morning. I love the strong taste of the turmeric, as it blends with the other spices. A nice after dinner chai is the pumpkin pie spice made with  - what else - actual pumpkin pieces. It sounds like the perfect beverage on a chilly fall night but it also works on a humid summer one, especially with a simple dessert.

Wissotzki Teas may be one of the oldest tea companies in the world but their chai line is one of the hippest and most modern. It combines ancient spices with flavor trends to produce a cup of flavor. They're the perfect teas for a warm summer's evening.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sweet Swamp Honey

Say "swamp" and either alligators or bogs come to mind. Yet honey is also a "swamp thing" and bee keepers are wading through not only marshy land but bad weather conditions to harvest it. Why do they do it?It's a lucrative market for it and aficionados crave it.

Kim Severson,a regular contributor to the New York Times Food section, traveled down to the Georgia and Florida Panhandle swamps for this fascinating article. These dark and murky places yield up a sunny golden honey that is growing in popularity. it comes from bees harvesting the tupelo gum tree that usually grows profusely along the Chipola and Apalachicola Rivers. The tree's blooms are these little  pom-poms of frail, fragile flowers. because of this, Tupelo honey is one of the most expensive honeys out there. The cheapest is eleven dollars a bottle while the most is an eye opening twenty-six. Connoisseurs compare the flavor to first cinnamon and anise with finishing notes of jasmine and something citrusy such as tangerine rind. Eating one spoonful is impossible. Tupelo lovers usually have two or three of the light buttery gold syrup. What can be made with it? Namely biscuits (and it would be interesting to mix it into butter.) You can try it as a glaze for salmon or as an ingredient for dip for shrimp.It could work as part of a salad dressing , thanks to the sweet and tangerine taste.

Tupelo honey has always been considered the champagne of the honey. There are several reasons for this. One  is there's  only a small window of harvesting, namely three weeks. It just ended. It had been a bad one thanks to the trees being damaged back in October by Hurricane Michael, the first hurricane five to hit the US. wooden bee boxes were smashed to smithereens or blown away. Trees were bent , leaves were blown away. Blooms started five months early if they started at all. The land
where they grow is going to get scarce thanks to developers looking into housing. Then there is the battle between Florida and Georgia over water use. When all these factors kick in, the champagne of honeys will likely be the price of Dom Perignon. The Savannah Bee Company sells the stuff for 100 dollars a bottle, namely at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.Some of the companies, like Lanier run by the third generation cultivate the honey and sell it direct. Others sell it to Brandon Tai who pitches in to help make it. He also produces sourwood honey which has a flavor that hints of gingerbread and caramel. Some of the bees move around, thanks to beekeeper, Frederick Merriam Jr, move them to Maine to pollinate his blueberry crop after the Tupelo harvest season.Still, it will never be as reasonably priced as California based honeys.

Tupelo honey is a gourmet's treat. The harvest has been through a lot but if there are tupelo trees there will always be the treat.The expensive price tag is worth it,

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Perfect Barbecued Brisket

Brisket can be  delicious yet daunting. Many home chefs skip over it , preferring easier cuts to roast. Yet brisket is wonderful barbecued. It's an easy and flavorful cook.

Steven Raichlen, the king of smoking and barbecue wrote an informative article in this week's New York Times Food section. Chef Raichlen, star of the popular PBS show, Project Fire, knows a thing or two about grilling and barbecue. He offers excellent advice along with getting advice from barbecue chefs, well known for their dishes and recipes. A good barbecued brisket starts with a good brisket.  Don't be intimidated by its' size. The cut weighs anywhere from twelve to eighteen pounds and is known as a packer - so called because it's shipped from the packing house. It is probably the biggest cut of meat a home chef can cook.Its' anatomy can be pretty challenging as well.It's two slightly askew muscles connected with by a seam of fat. One muscle is fatty: the other lean. Both are loaded with collagen rich connective tissue that gives the meat its' structure.It requires  low temperature cooking for most of the day for the proper tenderness. Barbecuing it is just the same, but less intimidating.

When you're cooking brisket, Chef Raichlen suggests keeping in mind, not only the meat, but other components as's more of a smoking than actual cooking over the grill. The meat should be prepped with just salt and pepper. This will form the crust or bark and it should be an equal peppery heat and brininess. Some professional chefs use such strange combinations of dill pickle juice and mustard. The next factor is the smoker. Many swear by an electric one but a charcoal one can do the same job for a lot less money. As for the smoke, a fruitwood like cherry will impart a sweet, smoky flavor. There should be lump charcoal mixed in for more heat. Temperature should be 125 F to start with and the cook should end with 325 F. The meat goes through a kind of doldrums cooking period where the internal temperature stalls at 150 F. This is just the liquid evaporating from the brisket. The meat's inside temp will rise to 325 F . There is the wrap phase when the meat hits 125 F where it is either wrapped in butcher paper or aluminum foil. This seals in the brisket's juices while allowing the excess steam to escape. How can you tell when it's done?  Some jiggle it .Some just poke a finger in it. If it sinks into the fat, it's good. Yet don't eat it right away. Wrap it in more butcher paper and stick in a cooler for two hours. Cut it into slices after you trim away the fat.

It's barbecue season. It's a good time to barbecue a brisket and enjoy it.  This robust cut is well worth the elaborate cooking method.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Barbecue Leftovers Now What

All those Memorial Day barbecues  lead to one thing - leftovers. if you're lucky the guests ate everything or brought home containers of salads and sides. They even may have taken home dessert for a late night snack. Yet what happens when none of that happens? What do you do with the barbecue leftovers?

Luckily extra burgers and dogs can be stored in the freezer or fridge and turned into a quick lunch or dinner. To jazz them up a bit, add bacon and cheddar to the hamburgers for a flavorful meal. As for the hot dogs.think chili or even salsa. Cheese dogs are a nice change up from plain ones and the kids won't complain about another hot dog meal.Split the dogs, add shredded cheddar and wrap with bacon for a totally decadent meal. You could also slice them and add them into a veggie or potato soup. Leftover steak? If it's cooked then slice and cut into bite size bits for salad. Add in ripe red Roma tomatoes and onions  dressed in a simple red wine vinaigrette. Barbecued chicken is good cold and can be repurposed as a no cook dinner with any left over salads and sides. The next question is what to do with the sides? Surprisingly potato salad can be roasted to produce crispy already seasoned chunks, Just rinse off any extra mayo - they'll need some for roasting and then pop them into a cast iron pan and roast at 425 degrees Farenheit. If you have any leftover veggies then , think tempura. Green beans and tomatoes dipped in batter and air fried  is a nice snack for movie night.

Sometimes there's extra dessert. Hard to believe but true.Barbecues always have fruit as the last course. Sometimes you overbuy , or guests bring fruit platters. If you have a lot of watermelon in the fridge , then think healthy slushie. It's a simple mix of crushing ice cubes in a blender, then adding watermelon cubes and just a drop of honey. It's a refreshing repurposing  and perfect on a hot day. You can do the same with any leftover cantaloupe too. Add a tablespoon or two of almond milk to make it creamy. Add a shot of vodka or gin for some zing.If there are any grapes left over, freeze them. They're great  as frozen bonbons and a nice icy hit when the temps rise. Sometimes you buy a lot as I did with the coconut milk based ice creams.I went out and bought waffle bowls along with Smucker's hot fudge sauce for sundaes. Add the coconut milk Reddi-Whip and all those scoops make for a fun treat.As for those famed chocolate wafers , they're just good on their own as a nice lunchtime dessert or afternoon snack. Of course they can be crushed and used as a sundae or cone topping.

Don't freak out at those Memorial Day leftovers. They can be recooked and repurposed into tasty new dishes and treats. They'll even be better a second time around.

Monday, May 27, 2019

A Memorial Day Treat

It's Memorial Day and there were tons of barbecues throughout the US today.Hopefully they all ended with a homemade ice cream cake.

                              This was mine strawberry and vanilla coconut milk ice cream with
                               chocolate wafer layers.
                                          This was before. As usual I accidentally refrigerated the hard shell  .
Despite the no hard shell it was a big hit with very little left over.
It's a nice treat.
Good food and goodies aside, think about inviting veterans , old and young to your next cookout. We always should remember our slain warriors but it's also the living we need to exalt as well. Invite them to your next cookout. Make them their favorite foods and celebrate their bravery and courage.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

My Ice Cream Loaf Cake

My first barbecue in a long time is tomorrow and I want to make everything special. I would like to have the Gardein burgers cooked over cherry wood chips, I am making an Asian vibe coleslaw with soy sauce and fresh ginger. Then there's dessert. A homemade ice cream loaf seems like an easy
thing. I bought the silicone loaf plan and the soy ice cream below
As you can see I overdid it. Again.I bought two containers each of strawberry , chocolate and vanilla. In my mind I thought the loaf pan was big.

                      It's not. It was ten inches long and five inches wide (with a three inch  height). This is Elbee's bread loaf pan that I bought  on Amazon . I could use it for bread in the future but for the summer, I will definitely be using it for ice cream loafs.

These are those famed dark chocolate wafers that are crumbled for the cake layers. I only really needed just one box (but the other is good for snacking)

                                  They were crumbled into coarse crumbs, using my ever faithful food processor.
                                         Then to create a kind of batter, I used two tablespoons of melted (in the                                        microwave) I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.Mix well with a spoon.
Then start layering.

I used the Soy Delicious strawberry and vanilla to create a Neopolitan vibe.

This is now ready for the freezer where it will spend the night. It will be unmolded and covered with Hershey's Hard shell and Reddi-Whip 's Coconut whipped cream.

 In the meantime I have chocolate wafers to munch and a menu to contemplate. Now let's hope the cake turns out well. I may have another Easter lamb success on my hands.😄

Friday, May 24, 2019

Chinese Street Food A Pictorial Delight

China is known for its'  interesting cuisine and centuries old recipes. However it's the street food that is the highlight of any trip. Every city and town has its' specialty , perfect treats for tourists. Yet there are dozens of both savory and sweet treats. What's good and from where? There's a new carry along guide book that can help sort out the different dishes.

Frank Kasall has written an illustrated guidebook Chinese Street Food :A Field Guide For The Adventurous Diner (Blacksmith Books 2019). It is a travelogue through one of the biggest's country's many metropolitan areas. It's fair to say that each town has a street food it's known for, whether it be salty or sweet. The book is divided into cities and their specialties so it's easy to find such famed towns as Beijing and Shanghai. A map of China and a marker on the highlighted city opens each and every chapter. There are some treats that are sold throughout the country such as the New Year's jellied sweets that have all sorts of decorations on them. Yet every province is different, sometimes influenced by neighboring countries such as India  and Nepal who have given the bordering area naan and outside sources such as Russian Jews who introduced vanilla ice cream to the northern , snow region  early in the last century.

The pictures and accompanying descriptions are mouth watering. Unlike most countries, Chinese street food is served all day long from early morning to late at night. Travelers can enjoy a  porridge of veggies and meat to start the day and end it with a  chicken stew or rich soup, swimming with wheat noodles.Some can be eye openers as with Kao Can Yong or silkworm pupae, Yes, it's silkworm on a stick,  popular in town of Changchun where skewered food rules supreme. They look like rolls of bacon but creamy inside like pate. They don't taste like chicken. Mr. Kasalls assures that they have a buttery, nutty taste. Too wild? Try the city's Wu Hua Rou Juan Jin Zhen Gu or skewered mushrooms and pork belly  fried to a golden crisp. For those wanting a more European spin, then head to Macao, once a Portuguese outpost for  daan taat a sweet egg custard tart in a crunchy shell. The dumplings we Americans crave are also listed throughout the book, There are some variations such as the ones made with soup and mutton in the Muslim areas of the country.

Chinese Street Food :A Field Guide For The Adventurous Diner is the must have book on a summer trip to China. It is the best guide for navigating through the street vendors. Anyone will feel like an export upon reading it.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Spring Entertaining

Right now everyone is stocking up on dogs,burgers and buns. Home chefs are planning their sides - usually something with macaroni and mayo. Dessert will probably be watermelon slices, maybe Popsicles for the kids. Yet suppose- you could amp it up - turn the Memorial Day dinner into something a bit more sophisticated  - a bit more fun -and a bit unconventional. You can - and it's pretty easy to do.

Thessaly La Force, the editor for the Sunday Times T Magazine got to experience a Spring get together with Egyptian artist and chef, Laila Gohar. Chef Gohar is known for her outrageous art creations such as a thirteen foot long piece  mortadella hanging in Galleries Lafayette in Paris and a piece involving hanging large clusters of cherry tomatoes. Her entertaining style is a bit more laid back as she and her Spanish born husband celebrate the Egyptian holiday Sham el-Nassim which translates into "smelling the breeze' in Arabic. It goes back to the pharaohs when they welcomed in the Spring. Egyptians gather in outside places where they eat fermented fish, lettuce , beans and hard boiled eggs.This is usually celebrated the day after Coptic Easter (the same day as Greek and Russian orthodox Easter) however a Spring celebration can be held now. What I like about her entertaining style is that she juxtaposes a crusty boule next to almonds and olives. I would also have bowls of peppercino spiked olive oil too. There's nothing like a crusty slice dipped in a flavorful oil.

She serves braised rabbit and beans - the last is a new obsession of hers. The first may be too much for some - then rethink Cornish hens grilled crispy.  Chef Gohar is into beans right now  , using Rancho Gordo marcella bean which is similar to the creamy textured cannellini bean especially when it's soaked and then slowly cooked..You can go off menu by using chickpeas, which means there will be aquafaba for meringues - a dessert she loves. These don't have to be cooked. Add some chopped  parsley and sliced grape tomatoes or just serve the chickpeas in a flavored oil, maybe olive oil spiked with lemon juice. She recommends salad and seafood too. You can combine the two and have a chilled and grilled shrimp on a bed of Romaine lettuce. Put all food out as guests arrive. They can be served at room temperature. Doing this will free you up to greet guests and chat with them. As for dessert Chef Gohar likes "old lady" flavors like  meringue and marzipan. This is where the aquafaba comes in. Make meringues with it, whether vanilla, chocolate or coffee. I would serve them with cut , fresh fruit. It's a nice light end. What to drink the entire night long/ Champagne. It's a celebration so celebrate.

Go celebrate this Memorial Day weekend. Change up the barbecue menu with a more festive and fun menu. The guests will love it and you will too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Trailblazer's Cookbooks

One of the greatest chefs is archiving decade after decade of her works. Diana Kennedy, a contemporary of Julia Child and the chef who introduced Americans to true Mexican food is packing up her endless array of recipes and cookbooks. The University Of Texas at San Antonio will be the lucky recipient of not only her dishes but of her collection of 19th Century Mexican cookbooks. It will be a bonus to any culinary major studying at the school.

Tejal Rao, an impressive chef in her own right, conducted the interview with the English born Ms. Kennedy for today's New York Times Food section.It wasn't that long ago when Ms. Kennedy
 was out on the road in her pick up truck to research recipes. Mind you she is ninety-six and she has two artificial hips.Her attitude is no nonsense British, having been born in Loughton Essex, and even chastised Ms. Rao for wanting snacks on the trip.She is ferocious, brilliant and uncompromising and
 has been described as prickly (another Brit chef and cookbook writer, , Gordon Ramsey comes to mind with those descriptions)). Living in Mexico has her keeping   a 25 caliber pistol under her pillow. She didn't start out here. After the Second World War, she emigrated to Canada in
1953, then to Mexico in 1957. She met her husband, Paul Kennedy ,a foreign correspondent for The New York Times during a trip to Haiti. Theirs was a powerful relationship , only to be cut short a decade later when he died of cancer. They moved to Manhattan so he could receive better medical treatment.

After her husband's death, Ms. Kennedy taught Mexican cooking classes out of her New York apartment. The famed New York Times restaurant critic, Craig Claiborne attended one of those classes. It was centered around a Yucatecan dish of papadzules. He wrote about it in The Times, listing several Manhattan shops where readers could find sour oranges and fresh cilantro, along with pepitas so home chefs could make their own pumpkin seed oil. Editors in New York, encouraged her to write a Mexican cookbook - a rarity in those days, Yet how could she do that without reporting it properly without contextualizing the recipes. To her they weren't just lists of ingredients and steps but much, much more. They were crucial , regional histories and socio-economic  documents, records of ecological diversity. She sat with families and recorded their recipes with a dogged , journalistic approach. This is what makes her collection so valuable. There are not just dishes written down but notes, carefully organized by Mexican state and year. Rightly she feels that cookbook writing is undervalued , considering the amount of work that goes into it.

Diana Kennedy is leaving a valuable gift and lessons to future culinary students at the University of Texas. Her collection is a rare gift inside regional Mexican cooking. May it be followed and enjoyed , along with being parsed and studied for decades to come.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The First Barbecue of The Season

With Memorial Day comes barbecues and guests. The barbecue is usually the first of the season. For some it's their first planned barbecue. What will be on the menu? New dishes or traditional? Recipes that are more nutritional or fun?

This is what I will be dealing with since this is my first planned barbecue in a long time. I still have to get a grill. It'll probably come from Wal-Mart and be something simple.This has to be easy to store too (unless we have a warm winter ahead of us and then there's some extra barbecue days). Another point to ponder - do I go with easy to use but carcinogenic charcoal or fragrant but hard to light at times wood chips.I would like to go with the wood chips , because they are safer along with giving the meat a lovely flavor. Then there is that question. Vegan or meat. I will probably go with the first.Target has Beyond Beef which will probably be the patty of choice. This looks and tastes like the real thing and it's the one food I want to try. Now comes the bun question. Do I go with the sweet Hawaiian ones or the doughy , crusty sesame seed kind. Luckily the condiment is straight forward. Ketchup - mustard, maybe tomato slices and possibly grilled romaine leaves.I'll also have some slices of soy cheddar for cheeseburgers.

One of the biggest headaches to tackle is what to serve as sides.Three bean salad? Not a good choice for guests with stomach problems. Tomato salad is always a good choice but so is string bean salad, especially if fresh ones are used.Potato salad  is a barbecue must, yet it comes with a few question marks.Do I get it from the store where it is good or do I make the family one that is a bit elaborate to create.The last comes with chopped celery and sliced hard boiled eggs. There is a Sicilian style that I'd like to try - it has cherry tomatoes and sliced red onions. A vinaigrette is subbed in for the mayo.There is still a lot of work  to it, not as much as the traditional recipe however. The only cooking comes with boiling russet potatoes. The dessert has been decided. I will be making an ice cream loaf cake.It'll be layering soy ice cream with crushed chocolate wafers.Hard shell topping and vegan whipped cream will decorate it.Should there be s'mores? Maybe next time.

Barbecue season is here.Let's hope it literally doesn't go up in smoke.Let"s hope it's a season of good food and good fun.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Moby's Is Open

One of the best aspects of the season is when Moby's Lobster Deck opens. This is a division of one of my all time favorite restaurants, Bahr's. This century year old famed eatery is a great place for seafood for the fall and winter.
Every meal comes with a small plate of their warm homemade Bisquick biscuits, loaded with butter. My favorite is their shrimp cocktail and Manhattan clam chowder.
Now Moby's is open with the same delicious dishes that Bahr's has.
Moby's was started by the great-grandson' of the owners. It has everything from burgers and dogs to cod sandwiches and again, my favorite Manhattan clam chowder and chilled shrimp. The last has a herb coating that just accentuates the briny flavor.
Moby's also has a wide selection of ices and ice cream. You can easily get a cone with sprinkles after polishing off a lobster or fish and chips. One of my favorites is their chocolate covered frozen banana. This is cold heaven on a stick, which you can buy plain or with sprinkles, nuts or coconut flakes. It really is the perfect  quick bite dessert.

Moby's is open. Head down to the Atlantic Highlands, Enjoy the beaches, sand and surf. Most of all though, enjoy this summer staple.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Beyond Meat The Start Of Something

The talk all this past week revolved around a simple patty. Why was is so special? Because It's Beyond Meat and not only tastes like beef but has the same texture too. Will it spark a vegan revolution? Possibly.

Beyond Meat is a far far cry from when vegan meat  products first came on the market. Thirty years ago you had to visit a health food store to get so so tasting hotdogs and burgers. Some stores , such as The Happy Carrot in River Edge, NJ made a vegan tuna salad using soy, celery and some kind of vegan mayo that was eggless. The tuna salad was passable in taste and texture but you wouldn't want to eat it every day. Vegan restaurants were scarce. Forget the fast food chains. You could order a hamburger, hold the meat at McDonald's. That was it. Slowly but surely vegan foods started to appear in supermarkets. With each decade there was improvement. Companies such as Morningstar Farms and Gardein started to pop up with a cornucopia of soy based "meats'. There was bacon that sort of tasted like the real thing, better than bacon because there was no grease to deal with. The chicken nuggets tasted like the real thing. Gardein nailed it with their hamburgers and fish fillets which taste like the real deal.

Now there is Beyond Meat. The company is not new. It has been around since 2009, started by Ethan Brown in Los Angeles, CA.It's making the news now because Mr. Brown has come up with a plant based "meat" that can easily be subbed in for actual beef. His creation, will no doubt, have Morningstar  Farms and Gardein worried, especially if more and more supermarkets and big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target carry it. Mr Brown's mission is simple . He wants people to forgo any  kind of meat to save animals , save the planet and save his fellow human beings from cancer and heart disease. A plant based diet will cut down on slaughter along with positively influencing climate change and garnering more green land. People who eat less animal protein will have lower cholesterol and less of a chance of getting certain types of cancer. The burgers are already served at Harvard and Carl's Junior. TGIFriday's  also has the Beyond Meat faux beef along with Del Taco.
What is the meat made from? There is no soy, but cellulose from bamboo along with pea protein and refined coconut oil. The red beefy color comes from beet extract along with annatto, natural food coloring that originates from the tropical plant achiote.

Ethan Brown may be the force behind the new wave of veganism. He may make us forget the real beef deal to go for his Beyond Meat. What that means is only good - a planet that is less climate challenged along with less slaughter and less disease.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Huel As Fuel

Eating right is hard. It's trying to get the least amount of calories and the most amount of nutrients plus a good dollop of flavor. What food has this? Huel protein shake. This is for the person on the go  who wants to have the proper amount of vitamin and minerals.

I had heard so much about it , I decided to give it a try. I ordered the vanilla and chocolate along with the flavor pack and shaker,
I bought the premixed vanilla and paired it with the cinnamon apple. It wasn't bad flavor-wise. Huel's drinks also come in chocolate and berry. Surprisingly it's made with pea protein along with tapioca. There's also flax seed and oat powder too along with a host of vitamins and minerals. Another plus is it's full of fiber too.
This is the chocolate that I zinged up with chocolate mint.

Huel has some neat flavor packs, from mocha to chai, and from strawberry to caramel and even chocolate.
This is the Huel shaker. It just takes two cups of the powder, some ice cubes and a cup of water. It makes for a well rounded meal with only four hundred calories. I plan on drinking it to lose some weight for shorts and bathing suit weather.
Huel right now is being sold only on line where twenty-four bottles are $89.00 but will last a month if you're careful. The bags are almost four pounds in weight and give seventeen servings per bag. It's $56.00 for it but it's the same as for a day's worth of groceries.

Huel is definitely the way to go if you want a full meal loaded with vitamins and minerals. It's an easy eat and perfect for the active days ahead. Try this delicious mix of flavor and nutrients for a boost .

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Chef In The Cafeteria

School cafeteria food has always had a bad rap. The food was always borderline nutritional along with being questionable - mystery meat anyone? However one chef is changing that. Will there be healthy A worthy meals? Yes!

Amy Thomas, a well known food writer and author of Brooklyn In Love : A Delicious Memoir of Food Family, and Finding Yourself and Paris, My Sweet: A Year In The City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) interviewed Dan Giusti, the head chef of the internationally known and acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant Noma. Now his audience isn't the international glam crowd, but high school students in the Bronx. He felt a growing need to make an impact on people's lives rather than their palates. He started a company Brigaid which aims to overhaul school meals by putting professional chefs in cafeterias and replacing processed foods with wholesome cooking. Before landing in one of the city's busiest boroughs, Chef Giusti changed the way New London Connecticut students ate. He introduced them to kale Caesar salad and homemade hummus. Even though it was popular ,peanut butter and jelly was taken off the menu.This was done in order for the kids to try different dishes.It was added back on with sunflower seed butter instead.

Now he's cooking and expanding the palate of Bronx students. There have been small victories, namely in getting the kids to eat fresh fruit.The apples that were given out to meet the US Department of Agriculture were routinely tossed. Now the cafeteria staff dices up strawberries, watermelon and pineapples along with other fruits every morning. It may cost a little more to serve these but they're  worth it . Chef Giusto had to beg the federal government for the extra. Each lunch costs $3.44 where the fruit is an added cost. With the addition of staff and food, the prices is a little more than a dollar. There are streamlined models in which cafeteria staff can have a fifty-five day training program where schools are taught how to set up their own kitchens and handle food safely. They also are taught a repertoire of scratch recipes that have to pass muster with The National School Lunch Program. Chef Giusti hopes that the next generation of school chefs come from culinary schools and not just from the restaurant and food service industries.

Will this new wave in cafeteria food catch on? Hopefully it will. There 's a generation of kids who do want to try something new and something healthy. A school cafeteria might just provide them with those.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Persian Best

Persian cooking is one of the oldest in the world, yet the flavors are vibrant and fresh.It's a cuisine of color and brightness, texture and flavor. It incorporates a multitude of herbs and even flowers to create different and unique tastes.

The ultimate Persian-American chef, Samin Nosrat gave the New York Times Food section a wide array of the different dishes she grew up on.Ms Nosrat who writes regularly for The Times and Sunday magazine also has a Netflix show "Salt Fat Acid Heat" where she deconstructs cooking. She and her brothers embraced all things American yet they came home to a strictly Persian home. There were Saturday lessons in Farsi,setar music and celebrating the Persian New Year Nowruz. The biggest influence were the recipes her mother brought with them. For the article which contains a cross section of the best of their recipes Ms. Nosrat relied on family recipes along consulting with Iranian cooks .(Iranian and Persian can be interchangeable although there are differences). Ms. Nosrat's family comes from the northern part where herbs are a mainstay. They're treated like a vegetable which explains the huge amounts in the recipes. One kuku sabzi -  a Persian herb frittata - has a pound of cilantro and Italian parsley . A yogurt dish has a wide variety of parsley , dill, tarragon and basil.

This is my favorite issue . I was excited to see the recipes and plan on making a few.The first on my list is the kuku sabzi.It's an interesting mix of herbs with eggs, butter and even baking soda.Some ingredients such as barberries ,I'll have to get through Amazon. There are also leeks and fenugreek added. The greens are cooked first , cooled and then added to egg mix. Another must cook is the polo ba tahdig ,a giant rice cake - which comes with some fun instructions. Ms. Nosrat writes on flipping it by first gathering up your courage and praising your ancestors.A dish for a cool Spring night is the khoresh-e ghormeh which is a Persian herb bean and lamb stew.Of course it has a pound of cilantro and Italian parsley but also has a pound and a half of lamb shoulder along with turmeric and kidney beans. It is a lengthy cook, taking three hours . Ms. Nosrat also gives us a chicken stew that's sweetened with both pomegranate juice and molasses.Ground walnuts are also added. As a side there is mast-o khiar a Persian cucumber and herb yogurt that  is a mix of herbs,raisins, and dried rose petals.

Persian cooking is must have experience for any home or professional chef. It is a whirl of colors and flavors, textures and tastes. Make some of these amazing recipes now.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Essential Oil Diet

Can the addition of essential oils help in losing weight? According to one couple they can.Infusions of peppermint and grapefruit along with a balanced diet, clean lifestyle and prayer can aid in not only shedding pounds but in creating a better life? Is it true ? Or just hokum?

Chiropractor and aromatherapist Dr. Eric Zielinski  and his wife Sabrina Ann Zielinski , who's a health coach and group fitness instructor have written The Essential Oils Diet (Harmony Books 2019) , a follow up to their The Healing Power Of Essential Oils. What are essential oils? The best definition is a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and have the characteristic fragrance of the plant or source of the extraction. They're easy to make. Simply use olive oil or avocado oil and spiking it peppermint or grapefruit extract. The book is more than just making essential oils and creating diet dishes. The Zielinskis feel that everyone should follow their lifestyle - which to be  honest - can be obnoxious at times.I like their advice on the eight essential healthy habits and how they delve into the use of everyday pesticides and chemicals. However I do have an issue with some of their suggestions.They suggest bringing your own food to a restaurant and having the chef cook it for you. I'm sorry but I can't see the chain restaurants doing that. It may work with smaller family owned eateries. Another bone of contention is their advice on staying humble while Mrs. Zielinski writes about prepping for the Mrs Georgia pageant. There's also a part about dropping friends who don't follow a healthy lifestyle. That was also grating.

First and foremost this is a cookbook.That part has some excellent advice and ideas.Mrs. Zielinski or Mama Z as she wants to be called has an extensive list of healthy family must haves. There is everything from gluten free flour to green tea powder.Another plus is the fridge and freezer makeover with helpful suggestions.Butter can be replaced by coconut oil while nitrate free turkey bacon can replace the regular kind.The recipes are not really grouped. Instead there are headings with the appropriate recipes underneath. There are not only lunch and dinner recipes such as avocado (!) egg salad and Mama 's spaghetti with meat sauce. The book doesn't really feature long lists of recipes which would be a tad more beneficial. The lunches are either salads or soup with a pasta or falafel thrown in while dinners are lasagna or spaghetti. Kale salad is there too, for a summertime dinner along with a bok choy super stir fry. I would have liked to have seen more roasts or some kind of ancient grain mail course. The breakfasts are mostly shakes and smoothies with a waffle recipe thrown in. There are a surprisingly large number of dessert recipes from homemade ice creams and brownies to whipped cream and even confectioner's sugar.

Should you buy The Essential Oils Diet? I would say yes for some of the advice. Take from it what you find necessary to your lifestyle. It can help in creating a better diet  - which is what we all need.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Spins On Salads

It's time to rethink salads and sides now that it's barbecue and picnic season. Liven them up with different spins that complement not only the ingredients but the main course. Get bold and daring with non -traditional flavors that will add zing to an outdoor meal.

One of the most classic barbecue salads is cole slaw. This centuries old dish is usually shredded cabbage with a good dollop of mayo mixed with oil and vinegar. More adventurous home chefs toss in a handful of raisins or carrot slivers for color and sweetness.Forget those. A better - and less cloying recipe is subbing in the mayo with a tangy French or apple cider vinegar based vinaigrette. Either one brings out the cabbage's musky green flavor and keeps the crunch. Another idea is giving it an Asian flavor with the addition of super crunchy water chestnuts  and a dressing that features soy sauce, chopped scallions and ginger.Macaroni salad always makes an appearance even though it's not that popular. It's an easy make, Just boil elbow macaroni  cool and add   what else - mayo. A more preferred recipe is tricolore rotelli with wheat, tomato and spinach pasta is cooked and then cooled. I would ditch the mayo and use a dressing of olive oil, dried oregano and rosemary. Spike it up with cut up bits of salami , cut up black olives and grape or cherry tomatoes.It's a great side for steaks and hamburgers and you could add leftover cubed fillets to it for a next day  lunch or supper.

Potato salad is another gloppy salad that sometimes gets drowned in mayo. The best bet is add other ingredients to give it more complexity. Add some sliced hard boiled eggs and celery for color and flavor. Another idea to zing it up by mixing the mayo with sour cream and adding chives and crumbled bacon. Think a variation of a baked potato for a hot summer's night. Use about three fourths cup of sour cream or even Greek yogurt to half a cup of mayo.Olive oil , too, works for a potato salad. It gives the salad more body and allows you to add such herbs as rosemary and oregano for a Sicilian style one. How to really change up potato salad? Roast the potatoes instead of boiling them. Preheat the oven at 375 degrees Farenheit and roast for about forty-five minutes until the potatoes are tender. Let cool for fifteen minutes before cutting and adding to the salad bowl. They work well with either mayo or olive oil. Add some scallions for color and bacon for crunch. Really change up the recipe with sweet potatoes. Their sweetness is offset by adding such savory ingredients as garlic and hot salt. Mayo may be too much so sub in Greek yogurt or sour cream mixed with a simple vinaigrette.
Salads are a mainstay for any summer barbecue or picnic. Liven them up with some changes. It'll make for an exciting meal and a turn from the usual boring side dishes of cole slaws and salads.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Russian Tips What's The Big Deal

Mention Russian tips and any home baker will gush over them. These giant thimble like tips supposedly pump out amazing roses and tulips. I thought I'd give it a try with some leftover icing from the lamb experiment.
As you can see I did use the tips for the flowers on the Bertos' family's lamb's neck.
I had icing left over in the freezer.
I had researched and found out that adding cornstarch makes for a stiffer,  more malleable icing.
I added half a teaspoon of the cornstarch and a scant teaspoon of almond milk.
Then it was filling the Wilton icing bags with the tips and icing.

You can see how big they are, being doubled in size of the average nozzle.
I tried different nozzles with the icing. Some worked , some didn't.i
That means adding more cornstarch which I don't recommend. Cornstarch gives the icing a pasty feel on the tongue. (Keep in mind confectioner's sugar already has cornstarch in it to prevent lumping and clumping)
These petals were formed after more cornstarch was added to the icing.

One here came out perfect, then the icing got too soft as you can see.It became squooshy

Here again, you can see what works and what doesn't. The more solid ones have more definition. This is odd because it's all the same icing.
I don't know how other icers get the perfect garden of buttercream flowers. To be honest those flowers look like they're made from marzipan and not icing - which is what I've suspected they are.
How else would they one -have vibrant color and two - clean , defined lines. Buttercream does not produce  those results A thicker paste  made of ground almonds -would.

I'm not going to give on Russian tips. I may do an experiment with marizpan just to prove my point. I may try the buttercream icing again, with a different recipe that will give me perfect bouquets.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Your PIcnic Hamper Guide

Mother's Day issues in the Spring picnic season.There's nothing like a day out whether at your favorite beach or park. It means fresh air and a change from eating inside. Just make sure you have some of the basics  namely a good hamper.before you hit the great outdoors

One of the most important items to have is some kind of container to haul the food and drinks.Size matters if you like to have a big, meal with sides.then splurge for an English style hamper. These come complete with metal cutlery, wine glasses (!) and pretty cloth  napkins. Salt and pepper shakers and even a bottle opener are included. The price is a good one - forty three dollars on Amazon. The hamper is made from sturdy wicker which will last for years. It's deep enough for a bottle  - or can. of wine along with a whole roast chicken and sides. Family and friends can definitely dine in style with it. A more practical one is from Scuddles which comes in a form of a large backpack. This is weather resistant and can take a few drops and dings.Like other hampers it comes complete with all the accoutrements you need for a successful picnic. It is insulated so you can bring both hot and cold foods and drinks with you. The price is reasonable -only forty-seven dollars on Amazon.One of my favorites is Igloo's Soft Cooler which is no bigger than a lunch box. It is deep and it can hold two sandwiches , two  sandwich full sandwich bags of either fruit or veggies and a sixteen ounce  can of soda. It's perfect for a small picnic and it's easy to tote around.It was around nine dollars from Stop & Shop.

If you're planning on a big picnic that requires a barbecue, then think about what's known as a hard cooler. This is a container made from a sturdy kind of plastic and come in a variety of different sizes. It's perfect for bringing marinated chicken and steaks along with hamburgers and hot dogs.These also keep bowls of refrigerated sides nice and cool too.Keep in mind that the bigger the container the higher the price. Coolers will last  for a long time if you take good care of them.Igloo also makes stainless steel ones that not only guarantee a long life but a completely chill meal. These are used for hauling drinks around and they're usually seen at tailgate parties. You can bring them to the park if you have meats to grill or to the beach , filled with water and seltzer.Another aspect to consider if you want one on wheels or a convenient carry around.If you plan big dos outdoors , then get the one on wheels. If it's  just a few sandwiches and small containers  then think about a carrier  that is half the size and weight.

A picnic doesn't start with food. It starts with the containers that bring the food. There is a wide variety to choose from. Pick one that suits your needs and will last a long time.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The End of Southern Charm

Charleston, South Carolina is known for many things, but its' restaurants and dining out culture is the most famous. However something is happening to the culinary scene. Gone are the homey little eateries that celebrate Gullah and Low Country cooking. In their stead, it's more commercial and , homogenized . What happened to the charm of Southern cooking?

That's the question that Southerner herself, Kim  Severson posed in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Charleston has been a place to dine since George Washington's times, a city that is defined by such dishes as she-crab soup and shrimp and grits. It could all stem from the tourist trade that the city and state furiously courted after Charleston's naval base closed in 1996. The city now had to  focus on tourism to keep itself going. It worked. More than seven million (!) tourists a year crowd the charming streets, marveling over homes built in the early 1700's. Charleston becomes Manhattan on weekday nights with bacherlorettes coming out of Uber taxis, foodie tourists angling for the best tables and wide eyed cruise ship passengers dying to try the delicious food the city is known for. The crowds swell during The Charleston Food and Wine Festival which famed chef and restauranteur Nathalie Dupree helped start in 2006. Conde Nast Traveler Magazine added more fuel to the fire  by listing it as one of America's best small cities. other magazines such as Southern Living and Travel & Leisure has ranked it number one  place to be and to visit for several years in a row.

This has not helped local chefs  who want to preserve the down home feeling of  their smaller restaurants. Real estate prices go up. Small , privately owned eateries suffer because of this. Kenyatta McNeil, chef at Nana's has watched this change happen in his neighborhood. It has gone from mostly black to white along with seventy-five per cent of his business being the tourist trade. To bolster his business and other soul food institutions in downtown Charleston he started a tour called Geechee Eats Food Shuttle.It hasn't done well because  black owned restaurants aren't into the commercial branding that white owned eateries are known for. Tourism has changed life in central Charleston so much that people that Chef McNeil knows have moved to the northern part of the city near Charleston International Airport.Real estate prices and crowds have also driven growth in the downtown district. Unfortunately this  also means that waitstaff can't afford living there. They had to move to the cheaper suburbs and drive a distance to work. There is hope that tourism will change. The African American Museum will open in 2021 and will bring people who can trace their ancestry to the enslaved brought here. It will be a perfect canvas for restaurants that explore black food and bring back the original focus of Low Country food to the city.

Charleston is a foodie paradise, mainly thanks to its'' culinary heritage. It connects the city to its' roots and serves as a bridge to its' future. Hopefully bigger restauranteurs will realize this and try not to make its' cuisine so trendy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

A Can Of Wine And Thou

A loaf of b read, a can of wine and thou - wait - whaattt??? A can of wine? Yes, there's a trend now that has this fermented grape juice being popped into pop top cans. Before oenophiles turn their noses in the air, there is a lot of benefits to canned wine.

Eric Asimov pondered this in his weekly column, The Pour in today's New York Times Food section. It started with couple Gina Schober and Jake Stover talking about their wine loving friends who enjoyed an active life. Their fondness went hand in hand with hiking , biking and boating, activities that get laden down with heavy bottles.There had to be a lighter way to transport the drink - why not in cans. Husband and wife then started Sans Wine Company in 2016, dedicated to making good California wine and putting it into convenient lightweight cans. The couple does have experience. Mr. Stover was a vineyard manager who had made wine and had the necessary connections to find desirable vineyards with available grapes. His wife worked with a wine brokerage and knew how to market and sell wine. They used grapes from a single vineyard that had organically grown varietal breeds. These cans are not meant  to join wine cellar collections. They're meant to be imbibed the day they're bought so oenophiles can take advantage of their freshness  and deliciousness along with being thirst quenching. The next step is bringing back wine coolers with organic wine mixed with organic grape juice.

One of the things that's most appealing (at least to this environmentalist) is that it leave almost zero waste.They are kinder to the environment than glass and easier to recycle. As for shipping, they are lighter and require fewer packing materials. There are other benefits to them as well.  Cans are lightweight and easily portable. They can be used where glass is not appropriate such as pools, beaches, rock concerts and sporting venues. They're perfect for backpacking trips  Restauranteurs like them because there is zero waste of the alcohol. Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder Colorado serve single serve sparkling wine and a prosecco like sparkling wine without having to dump out leftover wine. The prices aren't so bad. Cans of reisling and carignan are both fifteen dollars while a 2017 can of  2017 Napa Cabernet goes for twenty-five dollars. Union Wine Company in Oregon sells 375 milliliter cans in a four pack for twenty-eight dollars. Not bad for a picnic at a concert or enjoying a sunset dinner on the dock. The only problem would come with underage drinking with teens and tweens guzzling the stuff like it's soda.

Wine in cans? It will be popular once it's out there. People will like the portability and ease of wine in lightweight cans. It's a sip in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Good Nutrition Start Early

Baby Boy Sussex will be a child of two cultures - or more accurately culinary cultures.Yes, he'll be spoiled by a grandfather who has a fondness for sweets and will no doubt sneak him a toffee or two when he's older. He'll also grow up with a mother and grandmother guided by SoCal love of fruits and vegetables.That's the regimen that he and other kids should have for healthy lifestyle and a long life. It can work, if you start early enough.

When can babies eat solid foods? As any parent will tell you anywhere from four to seven months.This is when puree is introduced into the little one's diet. You can always buy jars of puree such as Stage One Beechnut's Naturals or you can make it yourself. The first is convenient if you don't have the time however homemade allows you control over what you feed your baby.There's also another reason - even though the jars may say natural or organic, they're not. The company  may load up the stuff with additives and preservatives - the last things any parent wants in his or her kid.Unhealthy fats may be added as fillers too along with thickening agents and starches. This means refined corn, wheat or rice is also part of the recipe.It's not only more less nutritious but also more expensive too. It's more cost efficient too. As they get older you can introduce them to different meals that can be not only packed full of nutrients but packed full of fun. Think broccoli tots or easy baked zucchini fritters. Homemade hummus with pita chips or crackers are also a good lunch  and let's the kids feed themselves.

Unfortunately there will be outside influences once the kids get into the play date and pre-K age. Meghan and Harry will discover that their little one may not want those bean sprout sandwiches and turn his nose up at avocado toast. School friends and even his cousins may influence him to gobble up Cadbury's treats and go wild with fairy cakes - cupcakes - at birthdays and holiday parties.Again it's time to make eating fun whether for a young royal or your prince or princess. A fun playdate and even birthday party treat is banana stacks. It's layering banana slices and low fat cream cheese on mini rice cakes. Dark chocolate or carob chips can be sprinkled on. Veggies such as squash are so vital to anyone's diet. However it can  be boring - and green to kids. Liven it up by turning  squash into pizza boats, chock full of homemade tomato sauce and vegan mozzarella cheese. Instead of cake  pops try corn  flowers. It's cutting cooked corn cobs into one inch thick slices and inserting sticks into them. As for birthday parties and holidays, homemade vegan cupcakes and cookies can do the trick instead of ice cream and candy.

As the Duke and Duchess will eventually find out raising a kid to eat healthy will be a daunting task. Yet they can rely on fun ways to serve fruits and veggies to appease a royal appetite. He'll have the  best of good foods .

Monday, May 6, 2019

Mix Versus Scratch

There is a huge controversy going on right now -and it's not what baby box Sussex will be named. It involves cakes mixes versus the all natural scratch cakes. Both have merits.Both have their detractions. What's a home baker to do?

Scratch cakes have been around since Roman times when special breads were baked with honey, butter and eggs. The18th, 19th and the first thirty years of the 20th Century saw housewives mixing ingredients such as eggs, flour, sugar  and butter into crude pans and baking them. They were eaten no matter how they turned out. The 1930's saw the birth of cake mix and it took twenty years for it to be a household staple.Now there's an internet controversy about which is better. Many home bakers- especially moms of young children - prefer using scratch recipes. The ingredients are natural plus they can change the recipe to suit gluten and allergy problems.One of the pluses of the internet age is that there are tons of scratch cake recipes from basic chocolate and vanilla to rum and strawberry flavors.Thanks to grocery stores , Amazon and King George's Flour ,all ingredients such as corn starch and vanilla pods can be found. Yet , despite  all this are scratch cakes better? Is the taste better? What about the crumb?

I baked both scratch and mix cakes during my lamb experiment.What produced a better bite? The box mixes, of course. As with scratch ones I could alter the recipe, getting rid of the vegetable oil, adding double the amount of eggs along with including a cup of cold water. The crumb was dense and moist, perfect for the lamb cake and a good foil for the super sweet icing that would frost the lamb.The baked vegan lamb was not that great tastewise. The recipe was from Vegan Cooking In Colorado which was taken from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and modified. (I bought the cupcake book and will be experimenting with its recipes soon). To me there was too much almond extract - four teaspoons - that gave the cake a sickly sweet taste. The crumb was so delicate that the lamb's head fell off. Maybe the recipe would have worked  for cupcakes or layer cakes. The color was very pale too. There was no richness there. The mix cakes - all Duncan Hines blended with Dream Whip had this , possibly because of the addition of Dream Whip. I won't rule out homemade cakes yet when I want to impress  - then it's a Duncan Hines cake mix all the way.

What's the best recipe to use when making a cake? That's really up to the home baker. What works for one baker may not work for the other.As with cooking the answers lies with experimenting.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Cooking With Alliums

Want to zing up your Saturday suppers? Or turn your blah weekday meal into something sophisticated and elevated? Then try the allium family. What or who are they? The best friends a home chef could have.

The allium family have long been beloved to chefs and cooks all over the world.The family consists of garlic, onions, scallions and leeks along with shallots and chives. People have been cooking with them since ancient times. The early Egyptians even worshipped one - garlic -place whole bulbs of them in front of King Tutankhamun, the Boy King. Onions too, have been in the kitchen for five thousand years, mainly being used in China and India. The family is a must have for eating healthy.
They can detox the body thanks to being mostly organosulfur compounds - namely sulfur which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. This lowers the risk of cancer and protects normal cells from becoming mutant ones.Alliums are also high in glutathiones, an important nutrient that protects the body from cellular also boosts immunity and lowers the risk of heart attack. Again this also detoxifies the body, helping to lower diabetes and cancer. A weekly dose of scallions or shallots also helps in protecting the heart as well.Green onions alone can regulate blood sugar and protect from peptic ulcers thanks to inhibiting bacterial growth in the stomach's lining.

One thing about any of the alliums. They are extremely versatile in the kitchen. Onions can go into everything from tarts to salads. A fun Sunday brunch recipe is zweibelkuchen or onion pie. This Swabian recipe, usually made in the autumn but can be baked year round consists of a yeast dough topped with buttery, caramelized onions, Black Forest bacon and an eggy quiche like filling.It's usually served with grape must. For a lighter dish try a tomato , cucumber and onion salad. It's not only has flavor but also bright colors , perfect for a barbecue side dish. The flavoring is unusual, a mix of salt and sugar blended with tarragon. Another tasty side is Neopolitan bread salad, that has sliced onions sharing a bowl with tomatoes and cubes of stale Italian bread.Scallions are a healthy and refreshing way to liven up any dish. An easy one with a definite Chinese flavor is chopped scallions fried with ground beef and garlic served over a bed of rice or cellophane noodles. You can sub in soy beef crumbles for the meat for healthier fare. Add a good two cups of chopped scallions to a  pound of meat. Shallots, similar to scallions, are perfect in chicken dishes.Its' delicate flavor is perfect for poultry and even good in chicken soup.As for chives, they are any potato's mate. Try Hassleback potatoes or a liberal sprinkling on a bowl of mashed potatoes.

Alliums are a kitchen must have. They are not only good for you but good for any savory recipe. Try them in a variety of different ones this Spring season.

Friday, May 3, 2019

A Fancy Barbecue

Could a barbecue be  elegant? Can  lobster and London broil replace dogs and burgers?The answer is yes. It's just a matter of elevating the menu and adding a fancy spin on backyard dining.

First of all establish some sort of dress code for the guests. The best bet is looking to beach weddings for inspiration. A semi formal look would be fine. It's not overly formal, and comfortable enough to relax in. Think slacks and a button down shirts for men while any summer dress and sandals will do for women. As for the host's end, if you're doing the grilling , grill in old clothes, then change.If it's too much serve food that can be made in advance.What do you serve at this sort of gathering?Good food , but not the usual messy fare. The best way to decide on a menu is think of what you would have at an indoor party. One of the easiest paths to take is having a buffet.It's a no brainer to set up tables at your yard's parameters , leaving the space in between for tables and chairs. Have chilled bruschetta topping just warmed Italian and French bread slices.You can do a different spin on it , by putting swirls of basil or kale pesto on the slices.Polenta rounds  topped with sauteed cremini and shiitake mushrooms are another lovely opener.  Try cherry tomatoes stuffed with minced mozzarella - a perfect warm weather treat, especially when paired with champagne.

What about the main fare? Serve spiral ham and London broil along with roast turkey.  All can be grilled, the turkey  does need to be tented with aluminum foil when cooking outside. Another idea is barbecued shrimp which can be put on mini skewers for easy  no mess handling . Want to add another level of elegance? Then think of serving barbecued lobster tails. Surprisingly , they're easy to cook on the grill. Start with a lemony marinade of lemon juice, zest and olive oil - or canola oil for a lighter touch. Best of all the tails are a fast cook - only taking ten to twelve minutes . They can be cut into nuggets for easier, no fuss eating. Scallops are another elegant choice. Soak them in a lime marinade for something different. As far as sides, think classic yet simple.An avocado mousse, made with cream and spiked with chili peppers is a good choice,perfect with chicken or seafood. A Spring greens salad is also an ideal foil for any red meat main dish. As for ending the meal, place plates of petit fours and fancy homemade shortbreads on the table.Confectioner's sugar dusted cupcakes are another lovely way to end. Serve coffee and tea in fancy plastic cups that you can buy from Amazon. These come in silver or gold and provide a classy touch.

Yes, a barbecue can be classy and elegant. It starts with smartly dressed guests dining on fancy food on fancy plates. What a great way to start the summer grilling season.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Is Kelp The New Kale

There's a new green in town that may dethrone kale as the top veggie. It's seaweed and it's not only versatile and nutrient dense but also good for the planet. Eating it is good for us and good for Earth.

Melissa Clark explored this in yesterday's New York Times Food section. As seen here , the entire section was dedicated to sustainability and eating to help the planet. Kelp is one of those plants that is low impact on the climate but high impact on diets. Ms. Clark traveled to Portland, Maine where the plant is surrounded by clean seawater. (Don't try this at home, especially if your shoreline is near a big city) Eating seaweed is nothing new.Different kinds such as sweet red dulse,inky alaria and ruffled sea lettuce have fed coastal communities for thousands of years. Traditional Welsh recipes calls for frying fresh seaweed in bacon fat while the Irish cook it with potatoes The Scots even bake it into breads and biscuits. Indigenous Americans were not immune to its'' possibilities and cooked all manners of seaweed, from brown to green to red. Of course most Americans have had their first taste with Japanese sushi, yet it's not the same as fresh. It hasn't caught on, probably because of  seaweed salad most sushi restaurants serve. It's cloying and damp, a far cry from what is originally cooked in Japanese households and restaurants.

Will kelp fly in American home kitchens?One of its' big pluses is that the cell structure won't break done during freezing , thawing and then refreezing. This is due to it developing in constantly changing tides and temperatures. Keep in mind that its' different from nori, kombu and  dulse. These have to be prepared differently. Ms. Clark puts it smoothies, soups and saute pans with a hit of chile and garlic.  She gives three different recipes. One is roast chicken with crunchy seaweed and potatoes. This is a sheet pan meal so the seaweed is baked til it's crisp and crunchy  not unlike kale - which you can sub in for it. Then there is creamy white bean and seaweed stew with Parmesan. It's a typical Italian bean soup spiked with dried kombu which is often used in Japanese soups. If you want something a bit more briny the last recipe is a lemony pasta with anchovies and kelp. Chiles give it bite. In this, kelp is pureed but you can also use kelp smoothie cubes. Think of it as a pesto thickened with an anchovy paste flavored with lemon zest,  garlic and chile peppers.It's an interesting concept that can work with any kind of pasta, preferably a chunky kind like rigatoni.

Will it help the planet to eat kelp and its cousins? Yes. Will it help your diet? Yes. Cooking and eating seaweed is a win-win situation. Try it not just for your sake but also for the planet's.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Eat Green Eat Clean

Can changing our eating habits lessen climate change? Can our food choices deter global warming? That's what the New York Times Food Section posed today in an unusual but thoughtful section. It's a keeper section full of ideas and suggestions.

The writers at the food section teamed up with the environmental writers from the newspapers to create an interesting guide for cleaner and greener eating. Julia Moskin along with Brad Plumer wrote most of the articles. Usual contributors such as Melissa Clark and Tejal Rao delved into kelp and tomatoes. Answers to such common questions  as do what I eat have an effect on climate change and should humans stop eating meat all together. There are also answers to such questions as which foods have the largest impact and what kind of seafood should I eat. It is a good guide to bring along for green food shopping. There are also assurances to vegetarian worries and concerns, especially about switching over to a meat free diet.The section includes different charts such as the environmental impact of cow's milk as opposed to other milks such as soy,rice , oat and almond.Another chart on the percentage of various food waste is an eye opener.It will definitely change some habits. There is also a quiz on the back page that everyone should take. Home chefs may change their shopping and cooking habits after answering a few questions.

Of course there are recipes along with articles on food but with a sustainable twist.Two must reads are Kim Severson's piece on how climate change is affecting regional crops and Somini Sengupta's one on how different countries - including the US - and their eating habits affect global warming.Ms. Severson takes us around the US , from Maine where an erratic frost season is damaging the blue gems to California's year round artichoke season where warmer weather is encouraging the choke's enemy the artichoke plume moth.Ms. Sengupta's article is inspirational. She has been to different countries such as Venezuela and Viet Nam but it is Kansas that provides us with some green culinary advice. Professor Devon Mihesuah , a professor of indigenous history  and culture at the University of Kansas has a garden and diet of the original indigenous Kansans, the Choctaws. This is dandelion salad from her garden and wild onions from neighboring fields. She doesn't spray weeds, because bees need them to  pollinate.Melissa Clark gives us kelp recipes while Tejal Rao explores climate change's effects on tomatoes and how farmers are creating hardier breeds. Even Eric Asimov of  the weekly The Pour column weighs in.Wine drinkers should ask about all aspects of wine making ,from the bottle itself to mowing the cover crop and the amount of electricity used.

How we eat and drink affects the planet. Use the Times guide to help you make crucial decisions. Even a small culinary change is a change in the right direction.,