Saturday, June 29, 2019

Natural Vs Chemical Kitchen Cleaners

Maybe more so than the bathroom, the kitchen is the dirtiest and messiest room in the house. This is the place where oil gets splattered and  mud gets scattered. It's a smelly fridge competing with a smelly sink. Kitchens need constant cleaning - and here is the dilemma - do you go for the safe all natural cleansers, versus the heavy duty super efficient industrial ones.

Everyone wants a clean and sparkling kitchen. Yet who has the time to whip up a natural cleanser when it's easier to go out and buy a bottle? The problem is that many cleaners have a whole host of bad for you chemicals.Any product that boast's it's antibacterial should be given a second glance. It's probably chock full of quarternary ammonium compounds or QUATS. Firstly they help in creating antibiotic resisting bacteria which can be lethal to the very young, very old and the immune challenged .On top of that , they are responsible  for creating asthma. What do you sub in then? Tea tree oil mixed with a tablespoon of vinegar and water can do the trick. Bleach can work too, as with hydrogen peroxide. Just wear old, ratty clothes when you're working with the last two. Bleach can get all over and there is a tendency to wipe our hands on our jeans after we clean (I know do). Even a tiny drop can ruin denim.

Bleach is my go to for cleaning the kitchen sink however I found another natural cleanser that also does the trick.Apple cider vinegar and baking soda  together has been my preference for cleaning stubbornly greasy pans . I thought , well if it works for metal, it could work for porcelain. It did. Use about a quarter of a cup of baking soda over the surface. Add about half a cup of vinegar over the baking soda. Stand back and enjoy the foamy reaction (really the best part of it) and then wipe down with a sponge.The result is the same as the bleach cleaning - a sparkling white and clean surface. Remember that baking soda is also very good at removing tea and coffee stains from cups and mugs.
As far as removing mold from underneath drying racks, I'd go with the bleach. Black mold can be very difficult  and bleach has the power to get rid of it.  You could use vinegar - white works well with an old toothbrush  to scrub it away. That is if you have the time.It can be labor intensive, however.

What's the best cleanser for your kitchen? Natural or chemical? Natural if you have the time to clean. However some of the chemical ones do come in handy when you;re pressed for time. Use whatever works for a clean , sparkling kitchen.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Perfect Ice Cream Cake

It's summer and that means cool ways to end a meal. One of the best and most fun is ice cream cake. you can buy it at the store or your favorite ice cream parlor. A better idea is making it yourself. It's not only cheaper but can be made with a variety of flavors and fillings.

Before you even buy or  ice cream for it you should have some kind of mold. I have two. Below is a smaller mold perfect for two servings.
 This is a loaf mold used for baking breads but it's the perfect mold for ice cream loafs. Both were bought on Amazon.
As for the ice cream, you can use store bought or if you;re ambitious make it. Since it's summer , make it easy on yourself and just buy it. I usually go for the vegan and use either Soy Delicious coconut based ones or Stop & Shops. Last time I made a kind of Neopolitan loaf with a layer of strawberry  and vanilla coconut ice cream.  Crumbled chocolate wafers mixed with melted I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. served as the base and then middle. If you're using two flavors make sure they complement each other. Don't go for a strawberry / mint chocolate chip pairing. The strawberry will be good with another fruit filled ice cream or just chocolate and vanilla. The mint chocolate chip really only goes with chocolate.

 My  next cake will be chocolate with a caramel and wafer middle.As for the crunchy middle and base, you can also use  vanilla snaps for vanilla and fruit ice cream cakes, Do not use sandwich cookies. The fillings will make the middles and bases lumpy Go for  snaps , wafers or shortbread. For more of a crunch try the brand Jules Destrooper. It offers buttery crisps along with crunch almond crisps and ginger tiles. As for the "frosting", think chocolate sauce or a hard shell topping.  I usually finish mine with coconut milk whipped topping.Since I'm creating a chocolate and caramel cake, it will have the extra topping of grated dark chocolate.

Ice cream cakes are a fun summer dessert. They're easy to make and fun to decorate. Create one for that special warm weather barbecue.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Spiked Seltzers For Summer

Seltzer was always seen as the supporting player in cocktails and spritzers.It gave a fizzy kick to mix drinks and wine. Now there's a new kind of seltzer that's a star. It's the hard kind , guaranteed less calories but more of a buzz.

Joshua M. Bernstein  who has written several books about beer and plans tasting tours for  beer connoisseurs wrote about this relatively new offshoot. Hard seltzer is seltzer  with fermented sugar and barley malt to give it the shot of alcohol. It can be tough for manufacturers looking to retain the water's blank canvas. During the fermentation process yeast create aroma and character - perfect for beer  - not so great for fizzy water. One brewery, Platform Beer Company spent six month refining recipes and techniques before settling on the barley malt and  cane sugar that is run through a special filtration process. The company also uses a brewing enzyme to reduce gluten content.It worked. The founder,Paul Benner was surprised at the clarity and how much the final product looks like water. By December , the company debuted its'  sparkling Black Cherry that contained only one hundred calories and  four grams of carbohydrates. Unfortunately the FDA forbids alcohol companies to make health claims about their products. However breweries prominently display the calories and amount of carbs on the cans,

The big question is will hard seltzer make a splash in the drinks world? Most people do like it. It's a polarizing guilty pleasure and some find it more refreshing than craft beers and hard ciders. Still, there will always be skeptics. The creator of HRD WTR, Eddie Leon, has said it's a fun ride like a moped, but you don't want to be caught riding one. Yet hard seltzer could catch on with more people. There's the diet factor although most drinks, including some cocktails like mimosas and gin and tonics are very low in calories. . Another reason is that seltzer can blend with any fruit juice or even macerated fruit such as strawberries. Add a few blueberries or a lime slice to a hard seltzer and it's a fun buzzy sip ,Hard seltzers come in many flavors. One company , White Claw,  has mango, black cherry and natural  lime.Another brand,Truly Spiked and Sparkling has even more flavors , including grapefruit and pomelo pomegranate, and lemon and yuzo. Smirnoff, the vodka people,have dipped their toes in the sparkling waters and offer such diverse flavors as watermelon and raspberry rose.

Hard seltzer is an intriguing idea. Will it be as popular as hard ciders and lemonades? Probably.  People will want a light and fizzy change of pace and hard seltzer will fill that bill.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The May Facets Of Nigerian Cooking

Nigerian cuisine is as multifaceted and diverse as the nation itself. There is street food, and celebration dinners.All reflect the country's different groups and history. It is  history full of flavor and taste.

Recipe writer and Nigerian born Yewande Komolafe wrote an interesting and extensive article - really a guide - in today's New York Times Food section. It has every aspect of Nigerian cooking and it's exciting to read it. Chef Komolafe has been here since she arrived at the age of sixteen, bewildered by such American staples as fried chicken sandwiches and the classic Slushie. She has created and cooked in such prestigious restaurants as Momofuko Milk Bar as well as testing recipes for The James Beard Foundation and Bon Appetit magazine. She had been questioning whose culture was being reflected in her cooking. She realized she hadn't included her heritage. That's changed. She shows us how truly dimensional Nigerian cooking is. The country is three times the size of Italy  and has just as many different cuisines. The dishes in the north is influenced by the availability of cattle and other livestock. Coastal regions are more into seafood than their inland counterparts who prefer smoked or dried fish. Red palm oil is a staple in the south. The dishes featured are from the country's southwest  where she's from. Some of the ingredients  such as selim pepper, calabash nutmeg and uziza seeds may be hard to find but you can find  most of them on Amazon.Make it now to combat the heat.

The recipes are just plain exciting. There are so many I'd like to try. What is surprising is that she doesn't include fufu, a staple like rice in many central African cuisines.It may be because she included the recipe for jollof rice which could be made as a side or as a main. The recipe includes a Nigerian basic obe ata which is a kind of spicy tomato  - pepper sauce spiked with ginger and a
habanero pepper. Keep in mind that this sauce can also be used in the braised goat leg recipe. Braising is quite common in the cuisine. The meat usually comes bone in and skin on. Goat is the most used in stews however Nigerian home chefs also use beef pork chicken or fish when available.If you can't find goat then use lamb,beef or pork cubes. As a side you could use Chef Komolafe's Umani Rich greens recipe. This is sort of like the Caribbean and Southern callaloo recipe. Again obe ata is the base while amaranth greens or mature spinach is cooked with dried crayfish and green peppers. She also includes street food - beef suya - which is generously seasoned thin strips of meat. What gives them their kick is yaji a dry rub mix of ground ginger , cayenne and roasted peanut powder. Tomato slices and raw onion is added to it in its' newspaper wrap. Another recipe is the pepper soup, rich with fish such as mackerel , red snapper and black bass. Exotic and familiar spices are added to it for kick and heat.

Nigerian cooking is as diverse as the country itself.Try any of Chef Komolafe's recipes and experience the rich variety of flavors and textures. It is a trip into a diversity of different veggies and meats blended with an array of exciting spices.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Ant Proofing Your Kitchen

As any home owner and chef knows summer brings on pests - namely ants. These ancient creatures come a crawling when the temperatures rise. They are everywhere where there is something sweet. What can a home chef do? Ant proof the kitchen.

First - a word about them. Ants are like cockroaches. They have been with us and probably before us for millions of years. They're surprisingly related to bees and wasps and live in colonies. Like bees, they have a queen who lays all the eggs. There are other female ones called workers or soldiers. Fertile males are called drones.The grouping is called superorganisms because the ants at as a uniform entity.Unfortunately ants are on almost every continent save Antarctica and some remote islands that have harsh living conditions. Right about now home chefs, especially in the Northern Hemisphere would love to move to these areas just so they can have an ant free kitchen.It also doesn't help that ants can live thirty years if not taken care of by various means and methods. The big question that home chefs may have about these tiny but annoying critters is why are they after my cookies and fruits. Like us they go for anything that is energy dense - namely sugar. The more sugar laying around  - the more ants you'll have. However like us they also want variety so they will even go after meats and vegetable if there are no sweets around.

What can you do? You could put every foodstuff  you have into your fridge. There's are a couple of problems with this. The fridge will get over packed and there's literally no room.It becomes a juggling problem, where bowls and packs are stacked atop each other. Then there's cold food like cold cereal. A chilled  yogurt or  tomato is fine. A bowl of chilled oat bran? No thanks.One way of combating the ant problem is putting  sweet cereal , cookies and candies in  sealed containers. Just make sure that these are completely tight. The ants are clever - and determined - and nothing   - not even plastic or glass - will deter them. Should you use poisons to get rid of them? You could if there are no children and pets around. Many use a mix of Borax and sugar soaked cotton balls. An all natural one might be better. Mist a mix of lemon juice and water on doorways and windowsills. This screws up their tracking systems and confuses them. You can also use ground cinnamon too. Just keep in mind that the ground spice does stain and your kitchen floor could have stubborn rust colored spots.Anything with peppermint also works. Put peppermint soap or essence in the doorways and window sills.

Like beach days and lemonade, ants are a fact of summer. Try to keep them at bay with natural deterrents. It may be a battle but definitely worth it.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Your Summer Bar

Summer is the time for entertaining. There are barbecues and pool parties, Sunday morning brunches and Saturday night gatherings. A backyard bar is necessary. Guests want a cooling drink and it's up to you to provide some fun and fruity libations.

What should a summer or backyard bar have? A good mix of alcohol and non alcoholic beverages. Champagne should be on hand.It's an exciting twist to a Saturday night get together and is needed for Sunday brunch mimosas and Bellinis,If it's too expensive , then try sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Asti Spumanti. Lighter wines are also a must.Pinot noir is a good choice on a hot night.It's a red that will go with bold steaks and juicy hamburgers.A German Reisling white can be good with grilled chicken along with any kind of fish or seafood. Try it when you serve grilled lobster tails or scallops. If you want to vary it, then choose a Chardonnay to go with barbecued meats and seafood.It's also good with any kind of ham or toasted food such as almonds or baked goods - think mini quiches.Of course there should be beer. Everyone's favorite is Corona - with a slice of lime . What does it go with besides Mexican dishes? Gazpacho shooters which are easy to make along with grilled chicken wraps. As for the usual fare try pale ales with the burgers and dogs.Other kinds  of alcohol to have are vodka and rum, along with bourbon and tequilas for cocktails and shots.

A summer bar should have extras for mixers and non-drinkers. Plain and flavored seltzers are a must.One of the best and most flavorful is Bubly. The brand has a myriad of flavors from an intense cherry to a zingy grapefruit. Buy a number of flavors for your guests' many tastes. Of course there should be soda. Stick with the classics Coke and Pepsi which you can add rum to for a fun rum and Coke.What about fruit juices?Lemon and lime juice should always be on hand. You can buy bottled juices or have the fruit  ready to be cut and squeezed. Include oranges too. A bottle of the pulp free is needed for tequila sunrises, screwdrivers and mimosas. Pineapple juice ,reminiscent of luaus and exotic climes , can add spark to any summer cocktail. Imagine grilled ham steaks served with pina coladas or mojitos. Sub in grapefruit juice for a real change. Just remember these two won't get used as much as other juices. Buy small bottles if you're planning on using them.You can't go wrong with a bottle of cranberry juice.It's good on it's own or mixed with vodka.If you're planning on a brunch , then buy a bottle of tomato juice for Bloody Mary's.

A well stocked summer bar is the key to a good warm weather get together. Have the appropriate wines and hard liquor on hand as well as the extras. Your  thirsty guests will appreciate the variety.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Pereg's New Spices For Summer

One of the best aspects about summer cooking is incorporating herbs to brig out the flavor of any dish. The Pereg Company  has two  new ones - the tangy lemon verbena and the classic dill.
The dill can be used for flavoring fish, namely salmon but also salads. The lemon verbena or luisa can be used alone for tea or for flavoring everything from grilled chicken to cocktails.Personally I like the lemon verbena as a refreshing tea, whether iced or hot.
The dill I had other ideas for - namely a cucumber salad.
The recipe was from a dear family friend, Eunice, who always  made cucumber salad in the summer. She had an affinity to dill, always ordering salmon and dill on our dinners out or sprinkling it into a sour cream dressing.
First the cucumbers. I plan on giving some of the salad to friends so I cut up three large ones.
Then it was mixing sour cream with olive oil, a small capful of apple cider vinegar and about three tablespoons of the dried Pereg dill.

Mix thoroughly  along with adding sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.
This is the salad all done. It really is a lovely accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish. All the ingredients work perfectly together and there's a certain coolness to the cucumbers , sour cream and dill. It's also a great light lunch or even snack  on its' own.

Pereg's dried dill and lemon verbena are what home chefs need this summer season. Use the dill in a tasty salad or sprinkled over grilled fish or scallops. Have the lemon verbena as tea , in a cocktail,or use to flavor a marinade. They will definitely give  coolness to summer eating and drinking.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Bake Or Buy? A Guest's Dilemma

It's a general rule that dinner guests should bring some kind of thank you for inviting me gift. The easiest  ideas are either wine or flowers. Yet what happens when the host requests a dessert. Do you go all out and create a confection or do you make a quick trip to the local bakery?

There are a lot of reasons not to bake. One is that it saves a lot of time. Baking and icing any cake or cupcake takes a lot of time. Using  cake mix and canned frosting saves some time but not really all that much. Plus canned icing is not as good as homemade buttercream. Then there's rearranging the fridge to accommodate  the treat. Nothing sweet can be left out - not when there are ants scurrying about.Another possible dilemma is taste. What you may think of as delicious may not be what other guests think delicious.You go through all the work of mixing, pouring, and baking then spend another hour or two creating elaborate swirls or flowers   all to have it ignored.Weather also plays a part in it. Who wants to bake in a hot kitchen on a hot summer's day? The room still will be a bit too warm despite air conditioning. Also rain could ruin a dessert. Forget making meringues. They don't become those crunchy light confections on a steamy, humid day. Think more a giant pool of very chewy salt water taffy. That's not something you want to bring to a dinner party.

Yet, you may feel guilty buying that tray of store brownies or cheesecake bites.You could bake something light and dependable such as an angel food cake. Use aquafaba or chickpea water for a delicate , vegan treat. You can bring macerated strawberries or even blackberries to top it. They're easy to make  - just let the fruit  sit in the sugar for about twenty minutes and then serve. Add a splash of Grand Marnier or brandy for an extra kick.Another easy bring over is the famed chocolate wafer cake. This American classic consists of just taking chocolate wafers and forming them into a log using either Cool Whip or homemade whipped cream. If you decide on the last you could sub in a drop or two of peppermint extract for a refreshing chocolate mint log. It can also be served with sliced strawberries or raspberries too. One good aspect is that you can make it early in the morning , and pop it into the fridge until it's time to leave. Another ice box cake to bring is one that involves layering graham crackers and pudding, then topping it off with frosting.

Should you bake or buy? It's up to you. If you have the time, then try your hand at an easy recipe. If not - head to your local bakery. There's no guilt or shame in treating your host to a perfectly baked and decorated dessert.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Those Gender Reveal Cakes

Baby showers were never that political. Controversy was relegated to what the little ones name was going to be or who will be the godparents. Now there's another dispute  the reveal cake, that important piece of dessert that will tell the future parents what they will have.

Kim Severson , a regular contributor  wrote about these sweet oracles in yesterday's New York Times Food section. The fad was born in 2009 when reality show couples cut into their baby shower cake to either show pink or blue cake.It caught on with  everyday couples and a new ritual was born - the gender reveal party. Rebecca Gruber who was vice president for branded content for Popsugar saw a bee themed baby party on Youtube. It was a homemade cake , with  a blue inside. She wrote up a post and the trend took off like a rocket. Soon it wasn't just cake that was proclaiming the upcoming baby's sex. There were tinted lasagnas, with  the ricotta being dyed blue or pink. There was nail art and even pet alligators (trust me, it was a real thing). An explosion last year at a gender reveal did not end well. The couple did find out they were having a boy, along with finding out that they were responsible for a massive forest fire.

The fad is waning as our definitions of gender are changing. There are nonbinary and transgender people who prefer using "they" and "theirs" as opposed to he she, his and her. Molly Woodstock, creator of the podcast Gender Reveal and a transgender believes those cakes are losing in popularity. They also correct those who accidentally put their gender reveal videos on the site. Woodstock then gently reminds them that the genitals of their baby don't determine the baby's gender. Another group hating the reveal cakes are the bakers themselves. It was thrilling in the beginning but it's become a chore. Ellen Gray of the Able Baker in Maplewood ,NJ who is both a writer and baker says that it starts taking on a life of its' own. The worst part comes with the lab results which almost requires a medical degree to read them.Then there's the question of using artificial dyes to announce the sex. Many bakers  such as Julia Richardson who runs  Portland oregon's Baker and Spice refuse to work with them, preferring  raspberry buttercream for a girl and chocolate ganache for a boy. Still some moms and dads to be like the idea of a gender reveal cake. One couple ordered one just for themselves. David Feder a Chicago dietitian and his wife, comedian Herskovic did just that , going to Whole Food with their lab result. They enjoyed the cake and the fact they were having a son.

Will gender reveal cakes be a thing of the past in this fad today passe tomorrow society. Hopefully. Maybe instead of a gender reveal , parents will have a college  fund bowl. A kid's future is more important than his or her sex.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Winner Winner IN Chicken Dinner

Sunday church dinners are the highlight of many communities , especially in farms areas of this country. In southeastern Indiana it becomes even more special because fried chicken is served. This isn't any fried chicken. It is the best fried chicken ever tasted.

Michael Ruhlman, an amateur chef and professional food writer wrote about the amazing fried chicken in today's New York Times Food section. This strongly hit a note with me. My Dad was from southwestern Indiana, Evansville, and he grew up eating his Granny Roberts' well known and highly praised fried chicken. My Mom once said that no other fried chicken compared to its' crisp exterior and juicy tender meat. Granny had undoubtedly learned it from her mother, my Great Grandmother Bruce  and unfortunately never wrote down the recipe for future generations (drat!!!!)  According to my Mom it was a simple recipe of just flour and seasoning. This is the basis of the eastern Indiana , namely the town of West Harrison's recipe. Just simplicity. There's none of this fancy chicken brining and buttermilk. You don't soak the legs and wings in beer  or use a special flour. This is the way earnest home chefs cook. No  nonsense with down to earth ingredients and straight forward cooking methods. The chicken is fried in lard or canola oil. Just that easy. No bells and whistles.

There is one difference in the chickens, however, According to Mr. Ruhlman , both home chefs and restaurants there use a smaller bird than what groceries offer. It also has to do with the age of the birds too. They're much younger than what you find in a supermarket, That translates into tender meat and the proportion of crust to meat higher. The chicken  would be sweeter, in taste too offering an excellent foil to the peppery crust. Their flesh is firm  with clean white skin. All the parts are used according to Blake O'Mara, whose family owns O'Mara Food in nearby Greensburg. Moms with eight or ten children to feed knew not to throw away any of the less desirable parts such as the entire back and ribs. There are other factors to the delicious flavor, as Mr, Ruhlman found out from the chef at the local restaurant Wagner's Lee Harvey. Salt and a very heavy dose of black pepper is massaged into the chicken until evenly distributed. The pieces are then coated in plain flour and fried in lard. Some of his competitors fry in soy or vegetable oil. The chicken is always served with gravy , made from  a  roue mixed with lard and chicken bits, leftover from frying.Mashed potatoes and sometimes buttered noodles are served with the chicken. The restaurants also serve other favorites  -breaded pork tenderloin, and Hoosier pie, a cream and sugar custard baked in a lard baked crust.

Southern Indiana chicken is the best fried chicken.It is a simple recipe with complex flavors. That's is why it's so beloved - easy to make, with layers of taste.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Summer Parties Redone

June is the kickoff month of the summer party scene. Sadly a summer gathering hasn't much changed since our parents' days here in suburbia. It's time to liven things up, with drinks and with foods.

As anyone with a backyard will tell you, a backyard barbecue starts off with beer and soda in big iced filled buckets.This is OK, but change it up a bit with IPA beers. The IPA stands for India pale ale - it was a light,hoppy ale that was first exported to India in the mid 1800's. Today it's a perfect accompaniment to any grilled food, be it beef, chicken or fish. Another good beer is a dark porter. Although this may seem like a drink perfect with a London Broil on a winter's day, this is surprisingly great with hamburgers and T-bones. You could easily serve beer, but make it a true  German one such as Paulaner Oktoberfest marzan. A different spin is a shandy -a mix of lemonade and beer. It's  combining lemon juice, a pinch of sugar and one bottle of beer. Some recipes add seltzer for kick.  You could also go with the Italian  sparkling lemonade such as  San Pellegrino's and serve it virgin for the kids, a naughty shot of vodka for the adults. Also try this with San Pellegrino's other flavors such as blood orange, lime and grapefruit. Sangria is fun accompaniment for any party. Like the lemonade, it can be made either alcoholic for the grown ups and non alcoholic for the little ones.

Every great barbecue starts off with hamburgers. What else would go with those pale ales and shandys?  Go  super lux with filet mignon burgers ! These can be made two ways. First you can grind the meat if you have a meat grinder attachment for your mixer or even easier, cut into small pieces and grind in your food chopper. Do this in small batches for a nicely even texture. The second way is just cutting the meat the size of the hamburger buns. You can add a fancy mushroom sauce or pop them on toasted brioche buns for more glamor. If you want simple then stick with hot dogs but make them fun.Have a fixings bar where guests can add sauteed onions ,sauerkraut, chili and guacamole. Have veggie dogs too for vegan guests.The sides need to be taken up a notch too. Try a Sicilian potato salad that's made light by subbing in mayo with olive oil. If you still prefer the traditional, add crumbled bacon on top then. Cole slaw can go exotic with nixing the mayonnaise , subbing in olive  oil and soy sauce. A teaspoon of freshly grated ginger gives it zing. End the evening with  a lusher kind of s'mores. Sub in chocolate graham crackers for the plain kind, and use Valrhona chocolate instead of Hershey's .

Throw a summer party that' s going to be talked about up until the fall and winter. Update classic recipes. Make plain dishes rich and lux. It's easy to redo a summer party menu.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Summer Carry Alongs

One of the worst aspects of summer driving is the driving itself. There can be endless traffic jams, even on a weekend. It's sitting in a hot car, sometimes hungry, almost always thirsty. If that's the case then have some healthy snacks and drink on hand.

It's horrible when hunger pangs kick in on a drive to the shore or mountains. It's tempting to pull over into a Parkway or Turnpike rest stop as  we have here in New Jersey. There's a wide variety of fast foods - from Popeye's to Cinnabon to Starbuck's to choose from. Yet most of these quick bites are loaded with salt, fat and sugar. They're also not that filling. If you're still on the road in an hour's time, those hunger pangs will return and it's back to looking for a place to eat. Some of the Turnpike rest stops do offer a somewhat healthy choice in salads and wraps. Yet, there could be the risk of salmonella or just old ingredients that have seen better days. Depending on the length of' your trip, buy sandwiches from your local grocery or make your own. You know what's in them as well as customizing them to satisfy your family's tastes. Fill sandwich bags with salted grape tomatoes, cheese cubes and crackers,Pretzels never go amiss.You can buy a small box of  pretzel stick snack packs . These are light and low calorie and will hold you until your destination.

One of the absolute must haves during a summer ride is water.A  cold bottle of either spring or carbonated is necessary. It not only keeps you hydrated but alleviates any hunger. It also will not leave you with a dry throat like some colas will. It's easy to buy a twelve or twenty pack and cool three or four bottles at a time in the fridge.If just pure water won't do it, then consider buying flavored ones. Stop & Shop has an excellent array, ranging from lemon to watermelon. Perrier has something similar with peach and grapefruit flavors. These are a refreshing change. Another good bubbly water is Poland Spring that offer all sorts of fun fruit combos like blood orange hibiscus and pomegranate lemonade. To keep the water from heating up in a hot car., invest in an insulated travel cup. These can be bought anywhere, from your local grocery to Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. If you still want a sweet cool drink, then think San Pellegrino. These are tart tasting but revitalizing sodas that go very well with sandwiches and even picnic foods like cold chicken and salad.

A summer ride should not be a torture trip. Stock up with healthy foods and drinks to make the drive more pleasant. There's no need for a rest stop then. Just keep driving on that open road.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

For The King

Father's Day is tomorrow and with it comes the usual barbecue and bottle of whiskey to say thanks. Yet, it's also a day to pamper the sire with tasty  and luxurious dishes , from morning to night . Indulge your father with some delicious fresh from the kitchen and grill dishes. It's a better way of showing your gratitude.

A good day starts with a good breakfast. One good choice -  omelets filled with dad's favorite ingredients.If he wants a bacon one then  honor his wishes. Add a dash of healthiness and color with diced tomatoes and green peppers. Make a large three egg one or fry up mini ones that can fit perfectly between a sliced English muffin. Another  spin would be a cheese one  but instead of the usual cheddar try one filled with Gouda or Edam. Mix it with baby spinach leaves for a richer, more flavorful egg dish. A different yet lush spin is a breakfast souffle. This is a surprisingly easy bake. All you need is a can of the Pillsbury crescent rolls and turning them into cups. Eggs, and whipping cream are whisked together to form a sort of savory custard. Cut up a green pepper and saute in butter . Add the egg mixture to this and cook til half way done. Working quickly add the eggs to the cups , then top with bacon and cheese. Bake about fifteen to seventeen minutes. You can serve with a fresh fruit cup and a Bloody Mary or blood orange screwdriver.

Carrying this luxury vibe into lunch and dinner.If the man of the house is a steak eater, then grill a few T-bones or even more deluxe, a filet mignon. Amp it up by serving it with a rich and flavorful bagna calda sauce.This Piedmontese favorite is usually a dip for various vegetables yet it is the perfect sauce for steaks, It starts with anchovies, oil and garlic being cooked in a small saucepan. Mash the fillets down with the back of a metal spoon. This ensures that they will melt into a smooth, satiny sauce. Add four tablespoons of unsalted butter and cook for about five minutes. Pour over the steak. A variation is placing the steaks on toasted and buttered white bread. Lobster is another plush idea. Try barbecued lobster tails,These only take twenty minutes on the grill and can be served with just a slice of lemon or with a sprinkling of pepper flakes for a spicy turn. Bring in scallops and crab for a total seafood feast. What to end it with? Try a dessert of chocolate stout ice cream which is an easy cook and freeze. It's heating whole cream and adding dark chocolate chips and sugar . When the chocolate and sugar are all melted , then add a pint of Guinness,. Put through an ice cream maker and freeze until ready to serve. Add hot fudge sauce and whipped cream along with crumbled bacon for a read "dad" dessert.

Fathers treat their families all the time. Treat them with a day full of delicious foods and drinks. They 're worth it.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Beyond Burgers Beyond Good

Recently there is a lot of buzz around Beyond Burgers. This next level of the classic veggie burger takes the food one step further - with real beef texture and taste. Is it true? Yes! It does taste, look and feel like the real thing.

I didn't set out to buy this latest craze in vegan eating.I had gone into my local Acme - which is rare -to pick up much needed Liquid Plumr (thanks to a dodgy bathroom sink).I did need something for dinner that night. The easiest choice was Gardein if Acme had it. However the Beyond Burger  pack caught my eye. I had to try  them.The patties are packaged the same as regular beef and turkey burgers in a yellow plastic tray with a clear wrap covering them. A quick glance and you wouldn't know the difference between them and the regular sort. The price is a bit steep - six dollars for a pack of two. Gardein's - my usual go to ,is only $4.99 for a pack of four. Morningstar Farms is $5.49 for a four pack.  I don't think Beyond Burger will be featured at any of my barbecues this summer. Even for a small party of five that's a pack per person which translates into $30 for the main course! Beyond Burgers will be only for very small get togethers  I'm thinking of turning the patties into Salisbury steaks with homemade mushroom gravy for Christmas. (a long way off, I know). They will be gracing a birthday party of three soon too.

Are they worth the price? Absolutely yes. You do get more meat, Each patty has the thickness of a quarter pounder.  I wish I had taken pictures of this  to show their meatiness. They fry up easily on an stove top grill- only taking about six minutes on both sides. The outside was a deep beefy brown  with the typical crispy exterior.The inside was tender and pink - the perfect burger. The taste was exactly the same as a regular beef patty  with a rich unami, mineral flavor. There's even a juiciness to it. What is this wonder burger made from? There's no soy or gluten in it. Surprisingly it's pea protein isolate that is it's base along with canola and coconut oils. Pea protein may sound new but it's been used for years in protein shakes and can add in muscle gain and weight loss.It also gives a feeling of fullness. To be honest eating just one was quite filling. Adding a bun, along with onions, lettuce and tomato would be too much. I'm looking forward to trying  their Beyond Sausage brats along with incorporating their crumbles into my homemade tomato sauce and chili.

Don't be on the fence about trying Beyond Burger. You'll be missing out on one of the greatest meatless products. Try it, You'll forget about beef with one bite.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Taiwanese Cooking- Coming Into Its' Own

Taiwan has been in both China's and Japan's culinary shadows. Yet this vibrant country has its' own original fusion cuisine, full of colorful and flavorful dishes. It will definitely be the next big cuisine , thanks to Taiwanese  chefs on both coasts, dedicated to bringing it into the American mainstream.

Julia Moskin interviewed several Taiwanese chefs in yesterday's New York Times Food section, visiting  several restaurants on both the East and West coasts. The cuisine starts with this island's history. It will always have ties to China, having been settled by Chinese fishermen 6,000 years ago. The 1600's saw the Dutch , Portuguese, Scottish and English settle and lived among the indigenous peoples. The last 130 years saw rule by the Japanese until 1945 and then the Chinese. The cuisine reflects those different eras. There are the foods of the native Taiwanese - roots like taro and sweet potatoes, wild herbs and greens , along with seafood. Regional areas contribute dishes.In central Chiayi City, locals grow up with rice bowl topped with locally raised chicken. The meat is shredded and dressed with its' own juices and fat.Coastal Tainan cooks improvised slack season noodle bowls when the weather was too rough for fishing. These contained pork stock, garlic and noodles to stretch whatever fish they had.The Hakka, Chinese who arrived from the mainland in the 1600's brought rice dumplings and pickled vegetables. The Japanese gave them sashime, bento boxes and udon or stew. There are even dishes like pulled bread from the Muslim Hua people of Western China and Fujan province settlers gave the cuisine braising liquids and three cup chicken.

Now these dishes are being served in Taiwanese restaurants in the US. Years ago, Taiwanese cooking was lumped in with Chinese. Now it's emerging as one unto itself. We've been drinking and eating it for years. Bubble tea, mango shave ice,popcorn chicken with five spices and steamed buns with pork belly - gua bao. There is more to the cuisine though as Baohaus , the famed restaurant by the Renaissance person, Eddie Huang (who created the ABC series, "Fresh Off The Boat"). Some of the menu has a decidedly New York vibe, but there are traditional baos or rolls filled with pork, chicken and tofu, all spiced up with the Taiwanese holy trinity of cilantro, peanuts and pickled greens. An East Village  Taiwanese restaurant, Ho Foods, offers the popular and much beloved beef noodle soup which draws not only "Chinese aunties" but advice on what to add to Taiwan's national dish. On the West Coast there is Vivian Ku's Los Angeles based Pine and Crane in the city's Silver Lake district and Joy in Highland Park. Hers centered on the vegetable tradition of Taiwan. Her menu has smaller plates of marinated eggplant, fresh mushroom salad and edamame with black pepper. Even a non Taiwanese chef such as Trigg Brown has created such dishes for Win Son in Brooklyn. He has even used the holy trinity in a dessert.

Taiwanese food is on the rise here in the States.It is delicious , full of flavor and history. A new generation of chefs is making sure those recipes are getting out to a public hungry for different yet traditional cuisines.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Salute To Maida Heatter

We recently lost one of the country's greatest bakers, Maida Heatter. An older generations of home bakers will be more than familiar with her work. She created the most heavenly desserts in an era where calories never counted. Now modern home bakers can enjoy recreating one of her most popular recipes.

Margaux Laskey a regular contributor and food blogger tackled Ms. Heatter's most famous recipe in today's New York Times Food section. It is chocolate mousse torte  that was one of the New York Times most requested and most famous recipes back in 1972. Ms. Heatter never started out to be a baker  yet she did start out in a creative industry - fashion design. This graduate of Pratt Institute could have easily gone into the family business of radio journalism. Her father was the famed journalist Gabriel Heatter. Ms. Heatter discovered baking when her third husband, Ralph Daniels opened up a Miami Beach restaurant in 1966. she volunteered her services which turned out to be a wild success. It was not her baking but her cooking that  caught the eye of Craig Claiborne, the  famed food critic and food journalist at the Times. She offered  an elephant omelet (!) made with real elephant meat (!)  as a promotional stunt for the '72 Republican convention. His article started out with that, but ended up promoting her bittersweet chocolate mousse and Queen Mother cake. From there it was onto cookbook writing where she finally was inducted into the James Beard foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame.

This recipe in today's Food section can be made by anyone. It is a classic chocolate mousse torte with the bottom being fine dry bread crumbs or cocoa powder. It requires eight large eggs, with the yolks and white separated (unfortunately you can't use aqua faba for this). A chopped up semisweet chocolate bar - and not chips make up the backbone of the recipe. There's also a tablespoon of instant espresso or coffee powder is also added for a mocha vibe. The chocolate is first melted in a bain-marie or double boiler. An easier way would be melting the chocolate in the microwave (watch out that it doesn't burn which can easily happen when nuking it). Dissolve the coffee into hot water and then pour it over the's then left to stand for five minutes, covered with a towel.If there are still bits of unmelted chocolate, return to the microwave for fifteen second blasts until everything is melted.  The yolk are then whipped in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. The chocolate is added along with the vanilla Then the egg whites are whisked with the chocolate mixture being added in small batches.It's then poured into the pie plate and baked for twenty-five minutes.Pop into the fridge to chill  The mousse is topped with a lush homemade whipped cream and dusted with shaved dark chocolate.

Maida Heatter was a national treasure. The same can be said of this decadent dessert. Make it. Enjoy it. It is a rich classic.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Glamping Cooking Experience

Glamping has been a vacation choice for quite some time now. It's a glamorous take on camping - think a Downton Abbey picnic stretched out for a few days. What do you bring to eat? Glamorous food - what else.

Usually camping cooking  and cuisine consists of wienies on a stick If you're lucky,it's a fish caught in a nearby lake or stream , steamed in a foil packet.Cooking gear can be any of the  twigs you can find along with tin cups and plates bought at the local sporting goods store..  Put all those away. Glamping demands fine food eaten on non paper plates .Most glamping sites have some kind of canteen however there are some with  outdoor kitchens for campers. There is usually a small two burner stove and a microwave.Some sites have a communal fridge with only enough space for one group of campers. Other glamping sites offer refrigerators with freezers for two glamping groups. You will have to bring your own plates and utensils as well as some cooking gear. Glam plates and glasses can be found at Amazon . They have a Picnic At Ascot-Surrey willow picnic basket,  complete with a coffee service for two. It comes with sturdy melamine plates and glass wineglasses. There are also metal knives and forks along with salt and pepper shakers. What else to take? Camping cookware. There are sets that contain kettles, pans for frying along with spatulas for flipping filet mignon burgers.

What foods to take on a glamping trip?Treat yourself to the good stuff. Start the day with eggs Benedict on slices of brioche bread. The bread can later be used for sandwiches., whether for lunch or  dinner. You can also treat yourself and crew to French toast with fresh fruit from the nearby farmer's market and maple syrup if you're near any maple farms. Lunch can be an easy mushroom pate, served on crackers or the brioche bread. A salad is also a good choice , along with it being an easy make. Again, take advantage of any of the farmer's markets and farms you passed on the way to the campsite.A  bowl of mixed , organic greens dressed with a homemade blueberry vinaigrette is always a good choice.  You can buy already roasted chicken  to cut up and put into it. Another idea is the Provencale sandwich, pain bagnat . This a a demi loaf of French bread stuffed with sliced hard boiled eggs, Genoa tuna (tuna in olive oil), tomato and red onions. A simple red wine vinaigrette give its its' flavor. As for dinner. if you're glamping by the coast, then take advantage of the seafood. Boiling lobsters can be messy - and traumatic. Buy the meat already cooked. Serve on toasted , buttered rolls or as a cold meal mixed with crab and shrimp. Dessert can be s'mores but use Valrhona dark chocolate and gourmet marshmallows in coffee or strawberry flavors instead of the usual fare.

Glamping is a fun spin trip out of the ordinary. It requires sophisticated cooking and foods. This is what makes the experience even more unique.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Listening Kind Of Party

Last week the New York Times Food section ran an article by Ben Ratliff, about Japanese listening bars.This is where patrons go to hear jazz ,carefully curated by the bartender as they sip drinks or in some cases coffees and lattes. An idea came to me. What about a listening party? What would you serve for food and drink? It 's an open book.

I like this idea for both classical and jazz music. Listening bars are not meant for conversation. They're meant for savoring the notes and tunes. Add a layer of food and it can be a pleasurable experience. Parties , especially now, can be fraught with too many polarizing politics. These do nothing for the gathering, except cause all sorts of fighting and sniping. Forget eating.Guests are either too riled or too dyspeptic to enjoy any kind of hors d'ouevres. Yet a group solely listening to various jazz artists or Beethoven could turn a social occasion into a Zen happening. You do need a good audio system and vinyl albums or CDs. Which is better?Some prefer vinyl records because they have a warmer,fuller sound. You get to hear the music as the band intended it to be. Of course CDS also work as does a tablet playlist. The best bet for a listening party is pick one artist.Have his or her work on rotation for the duration of the gathering. Seating arrangements can be one table with the food and drink,. Scatter  chairs and small tables for setting down the refreshments and food.

As for the food, keep it to savory hors d'ouevres and dessert bites.For jazz listening, think a New Orleans themed listening party with spicy miniature po' boys. Add oysters for a more decadent bite. Create baked rice cups in a muffin or mini muffin pan and fill with gumbo and/or jambalaya. A variety of pastes and pates  served on slices of cocktail bread (which can be found at any major supermarket's deli counter).The pastes and pates can easily be made from deviled ham, chicken and beef, Add anything from a drop of champagne to scallions to make the pastes truly unique. This can also work for a classical music listening party. Have people take plates of raw veggies and dips to their seats. You can set up a dip bar with such varying dips as a simple vinaigrette to homemade French and ranch dressings.Cheese and crackers will never go amiss.Think a cheese board with Brie Edam, and Gouda for a start .Aldi has an excellent cracker box , with an array of crackers, ranging from butter to sesame and poppyseed. Dessert can be cookie cups filled with fruit and cream.If you're listening to classical, then think both classy and classical. Go with homemade petit fours and macarons (the last can be bought) Start the evening off with wine or champagne. End with demitasse and different teas.

A listening party is a great summer party. Guests can enjoy good food and good music. That's it. No debates. No opinions save for liking or not liking the music choice.In short, the perfect get together.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Gustavo's Gazpacho My New Favorite

Yesterday I reviewed Susan Lewis Solomont's  memoir Lost And Found In Spain . It is a great book both for Iberophiles and foodies. She also kindly sent a recipe from her time there -  gazpacho - from the embassy chef  Gustavo. I had to try it and I have to say   this is my new summer favorite. I love the fresh taste and the seamless blend of veggies. The coolness of it is a welcome change , especially during these hot June days.
These are the veggies I used, four tomatoes, one green pepper, one cucumber and a garlic clove. Gustavo's recipe called for double the veggies and less garlic but I geared it towards servings for two to three people. I cut back on the cucumbers and the pepper. I added a small minced clove of garlic because I like a more robust garlic flavor.
It was a matter of cutting into small manageable pieces.
                                    First the cucumber is thinly sliced.

Then quartered.  
The same goes for the tomatoes.

                       Gustavo's recipe called for a quarter of a fresh onion however my family is not big on that, probably because of its' intensity. I used about a tablespoon of onion powder instead.
                                                       This is the green pepper I used .
                                         Use a large knife for cutting the peppers in half
Then a smaller one for coring, deseeding and dicing.
                                        Use a cup of olive oil for body. Spanish olive oil is recommended but I   
                               used my beloved Fillippo Berio. The recipe also calls for three spoonfuls of
                               vinegar. Three tablespoons of red wine vinegar did the trick.

Then it was using my immersion blender to create a cool creamy miracle.I added just a couple more tablespoons of olive oil  along with a good pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Using an immersion blender can be daunting, yet I find it works better than a conventional one. It did take a while and veggie bits and juice got spritzed around  a lot.
The end result was worth it. I love this soup.

It was both incredibly smooth and airy. The fresh vegetable taste was amazing. I could taste the individual veggies yet at the same time , taste the harmonious blend. The only side was a slice of artisanal whole grain ciabatta bread with a drizzle of olive oil.I would say serve this with a chilled red Spanish wine of your choosing.

Ambassador Solomont and his wife, Susan Lewis Solomont were lucky to have such a great chef as Gustavo at the embassy. His gazpacho recipe is a classic. It is also my new favorite summer recipe.


Friday, June 7, 2019

A Delicious Life In Spain Susan Lewis Solomont's Story

Imagine being an ambassador's spouse in a foreign country. There's the shock of the new, culture, language and mores. For Susan Lewis Solomont, wife of the Spanish ambassador under President Obama, this was the case. Yet her love for Spain and its' food conquered those qualms. Her book ,  Lost And  Found In Spain written about her  and her husband's three and a half years there is an interesting read.There's adventure, beauty , history and , of course, food.

Her book, published by Disruption Books. is a valentine to her family''s time in Spain. It truly is a riveting read, taking this Brooklyn born girl from her and her spouse, Alan's home in Boston to the embassy in Madrid. One of the aspects that I loved is her discovery of the diverse dishes from the country's many provinces. A few times I found myself  craving jamon , the dry cured ham from hazelnut fed pigs. There is an interesting chapter about she and Ambassador Solomont dining with the great and innovative chef , Ferran Adria, the genius behind the world famous restaurant El Bulli. Ms. Lewis-Solomont  was treated to a unique feast for all the senses. Also she and her husband, along with her sister and her husband were able to get a table at a restaurant  only open for six months a year and offers one seating a night.Getting there is a whole book unto itself, because it's located in a sandy cove, dangerous to get to by any vehicle. Yet the meal was well worth it. Chef Adria is a culinary scientist , bending all the rules of physics to create amazingly singular dishes. His sloe gin fizzes came with a head of  warm foam, mimetic peanuts, a peanut shaped pastry was filled with a seductive warm peanut and chocolate filling. Another adventure included a fabulous meal in a cave(!) restaurant where Ms. Lewis-Solomont enjoy grilled lamb chops and crawfish, washed down with homemade wine.

Another famed chef, Jose Andres, the great humanitarian who brought hot food and hope to the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, is also  mentioned in this memoir. He takes Ms. Lewis- Solomont on a trip to the gastronomy fair , Madrid Fusion, very early on in her tenure. For her, a foodie through and through, this was sheer heaven. She was able to taste all sorts of foods from all over the world. Best of all the outing ended with an invitation to Chef Andres favorite restaurant, Gerardo's in Oviedos, the capital of Asturias, in northern Spain.  The eatery, first established in 1882, featured several fresh  fish courses with the fish being caught that day in the nearby Bay of Biscay.  Of course ambassadors also have promote the country 's businesses and encourage trade with the US. The Solomonts promoted Spanish olives - used for Italian and Greek olive oils. This was a surprise for me, considering I'm the first one to advise people to always use Italian olive oil. Spanish olive oil is even more flavorful, and it's something that I'll try, thanks to the book.The Solomonts also had their own phenomenal cooks on the embassy grounds, Gustavo and Rosita, Below is Gustavo's gazpacho recipe (which will be featured in tomorrow's post) As much as I love cooking and baking, I also love history. The accounts of the Solomonts' trips across Spain were  fascinating . I adored reading about Sevilla where Jews, Arabs and Christians worked and lived together to create a modern , cosmopolitan center of learning and tolerance during the Middle Ages.

Lost And Found In Spain is a definite must read for anyone who loves, Spain, traveling and food.It is beautifully and lovingly written, a true valentine to the country so full of flavor. Read it and experience the wonder and joy Susan Lewis Solomont had for this amazing nation

Gustavo's Gazpacho

For about six people
8-9 medium-large tomatoes (red, ripe)
Two cucumbers (peeled)
1 Big red pepper
½ Big green pepper
¼ Onion 
¼  garlic clove 
1 cup of virgin olive oil  (preferably Spanish)
3 spoons of vinegar  If you use balsamic just one spoon, it' strong)
½ tsp spoon salt

Cut everything into pieces and put it together in a blender, use high speed--it really makes a smooth mix. 
Serve cold


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Posset An Easy Summer Dessert

Summer is a time of easy cooking  - whether it's for the main course or dessert. No one wants to be by a hot oven when the temps hit the nineties. That's why there is posset - a lovely Shakespearean sounding custard that is easy to make. Best of all it compliments the fruit of the season.

Melissa Clark wrote about it in her  A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Food section.Posset is a simple custard, first made in the 1500's with spiced, sweetened milk. Wine or ale was added to curdle it was used to cure colds. Posset then evolved from a beverage to custard with the ingredients altered.This is a simple dessert for novice home chefs. As Ms. Clark points out it's a custard  but without the eggs, or other binders such as gelatin or cornstarch. There are not even any messy water baths as they are with creme brules. Even the oven doesn't have to be used - perfect for a hot day.It's all made on the stove top, then strained and poured into ramekins. The recipe comes from Diana Henry's Simple, a cookbook full of unfussy ,uncomplicated recipes.Ms. Henry adds a sprig of  rosemary and orange juice. Possets are topped with fruit, namely macerated strawberries but any fruit can do.

Possets start out with just two cups of heavy cream. Don't skimp or substitute. The cream gives it its' weight and is the posset's backbone. The next is 2/3 cup of granulated sugar. What gives the dessert zing is the grated lemon zest and lemon juice. Ms. Clark feels that adding the zest heightens the lemon flavor. Before adding a 1/3 cup of lemon juice she cooks the  zest,cream and sugar for a few minutes. Doing this ensures a plush pudding instead of curdling when the acid hits it. Also add a pinch of sea salt for balance. The mixture should be constantly stirred and then simmered until it thickens. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. It's then letting the posset sit  for twenty minutes to let it slightly cool.. A skin should form. Stir mixture and then strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the zest (I would leave it in for color) as it's strained into a measuring cup with a spout. Evenly pour into six ramekins or small bowls and put into fridge to set for three hours. At this point toss the strawberries and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Let it macerate at room temp for 30 minutes to one hour. Arrange them on top of the possets. Dust with ground pepper and serve.

Posset is a simple easy dessert.It's the perfect end to a summer meal. Try with fresh fruits and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Culinary Meteor of Mexico

There is a new star of North American cuisine - Gabriela Camara.She is not only known for her amazing restaurants but also her amazing treatment of her staff. People will be knowing more of her story thanks to a new documentary about her along with a new cookbook.

Julia Moskin wrote about Chef Camara in today's New York Times Food section. The chef is becoming something of a luminary , thanks to an extensive article in this month's Vogue by Bob Haskell.   Her twenty year old eatery, Contramar,  became the Union  Square Cafe of Mexico City.It was the place to be both seen and enjoy delicious dishes. Her restaurant in San Francisco has garnered long lines and filled dining rooms. Now she is moving back to her native Mexico City where she will also be a member to a new Council of Cultural Diplomacy, composed of people who bring global prestige to Mexican culture. The groups includes artists and academics of all sorts, such as the architect Enrique Norten along with other luminaries such as the renown ballerina Elsa Carillo Cabrera and the first female president of the Colegio de Mexico. She also will advise Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a lifelong family friend, on food policy. He has also appointed her to oversee the country's tourism board which she has whittled down tremendously.

That aside, Chef Camara is an excellent chef , with absolutely no cooking school background . For her restaurants she has recreated her favorite dishes from the Mexican west coast. She spent her childhood at beach side restaurants , enjoying the combination of seafood and local spices and produce.There will be tostadas - a kind of crispy pancake topped with raw fish and avocado slivers and hints of chipotle. Her restaurant features butterflied grilled fish painted with red and green salsas and aguachiles - bright citrus-y ceviches. All the elements shine. There is a taco recipe with the article - but not the typical one served in Taco Bell or Chipotle. It is tacos al pastor , the filling is pork tenderloin thinly sliced into slices and shreds. it's marinated in a mix of tangy juices such as orange and lime, zinged up with slew of chiles, from  cascabel to anchos. For the traditional Mexican heat one or two chiles de arbol which offer a bright clean heat. Tomatoes and white onions are added to this as are two staples of the cuisine - oregano and cumin. The peppers are simmered in water and then allowed to soak. Later they're pureed with the other ingredients and then poured over the tenderloin . Marinate overnight and then cook  pineapple with sugar.This will go over the tostada for a sweet and savory festival of taste.

The world is about to experience the best Mexican dishes, thanks to Gabriela Camara. She brings a new spin on old traditions, using ancient ingredients on a new generations of  North Americans. She is more than a representative of her country. She is the bright star of Mexican cuisine.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Cheating On The Side

Do you give as much time and energy to your sides as you do your main course? Or do you just whip up an easy salad? or even simpler - buy a container from your local grocery's deli counter? what 's the best solution?

I sometimes wonder this as I put in everything into the main course. Take the vegan turkey dinner. Granted these are Gardein's slices of faux turkey and they're just cooked in a pan. Yet there is a lot to do with them, namely in thawing  them out along with the  gravy with hot water.It's  then banging out the ice chunks to make for a skillet ready gravy. As much as I would love to make the family recipe for homemade stuffing, rife with sage and onion, I have to stick to the easy  yet still tasty Stovetop Stuffing. I know it's loaded with preservatives along with salt and fats yet it's saves me time for other dishes . Luckily family and friends like it and it does go with Gardein's turkey gravy. I would love to make an elaborate side, something complicated, served in a ramekin however that takes time. An elaborate side cannot fit into a busy day or a meal where the main course needs a lot of prep time.Stouffer's has sides that can fit into any dinner.Their cheddar potato bake could work with steak or pork chops while their famed spinach souffle - good on its' own - is a nice side for Cornish game hens or roast chicken.

Luckily there are vegetable steamers that can easily be cooked  and cooked quickly in the microwave. I don't feel so guilty serving these. There's a wide variety to choose from, from Brussels sprouts to green beans.They have a nice fresh flavor and can be jazzed up any way. The Brussels sprouts usually get a coating of melted butter and Parmesan cheese while the green beans are turned into a summery salad with a dash of onion powder and an apple cider vinegar based dressing. One of my favorite sides  - especially in the winter - is that or a broccoli salad. It's like a taste of a July picnic in the middle of a snowstorm.Canned veggies are also  kitchen time saver and ones that I embrace. Canned corn is one of the most versatile. It can be put into a cold salad with minced red and green peppers or it can be cooked in a buttery cream sauce.Toss a can into cornmeal batter for a more flavorful and texture corn bread.The golden niblets work well supporting roast pork or roast turkey.Of course in hot weather a simple yet nutritious side is any salad. No time? Then go to your local deli for a few different ones or make a super simple cole slaw.

Is it cheating to buy sides or pick up a couple of packages of frozen ones? No. There should be no guilt.They've done their job if they complement the main course and everyone enjoys them. Don't feel guilt, just glad that they're such a convenience.

Monday, June 3, 2019

A Briny Barbecue

Summer barbecues are always tasty. Yet they can get boring , thanks to the same old menu.Change it up some with an all seafood barbecue. It's a different take on classic grilled with a splash of the ocean or lake added.

If you're new at barbecuing seafood, then go for the easiest  - shrimp. It's a quick cook on the grill and can be marinated with a wide variety of marinades.Do they have to be boiled or parboiled before being placed on a hot grill? No. They can go from the fridge or the freezer and onto the hot coals. Just remember that they cook up fairly quick - two minutes on each side.What's a good marinade? Go for something citrus-y with zing. Start with one third of a cup of olive or vegetable oil. Add to it a quarter of a cup fresh lemon juice and grated zest (use a microhasp for a finer zest). Dried basil and thyme leaves give it color and a small dose of dried hot pepper shakes. Another easy grill are scallops.They're first washed and then patted dry with a paper towel. Scallops can be put on skewers and can be barbecued with cherry tomatoes and pepper chunks. They too can bathe in a variety of different marinades. Most home chefs prefer a citrus one but a Asian influenced one is also delicious. Try soy blended with freshly grated ginger and minced scallions. Again a micro hasp works well with grating the ginger .

Larger pieces of fish can also be part of a barbecue. any catch can work. Just remember to buy a special kind of spatula that has a very wide end with narrow slots . Try fillets, particularly salmon. It's very flavorful and a crowd favorite. Remember to buy it with the skin still on and to get it in steak form.This keeps the meat together and doesn't stick to the grill. Place the steaks on an oiled grill. Cook the skin side first for a nice, crispy crust and then the skinless side. Keep the pieces evenly spaced so they all cook evenly.The salmon should be cooked for about ten minutes  before it's plated. Fresh water fish also work. Trout makes a lovely change of pace from the typical fare. If you're adventurous you can stuff it with a tart but fiery lemon filling. This is simply lemon slices mixed with a va riety of herbs such as thyme and rosemary  gives it more flavor while chili pepper flakes give it a hearty bite.Plain barbecue trout is also very good. Use a basket to roast it about five to seven minutes.

A fishy barbecue? Why not. There's nothing as delicious as grilled seafood or fish. It's the perfect change for the hot days ahead.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Two Simple Summer Salads

Now that's it's June, it's time to start think simple but delicious. That comes in the form of salads. I created two spins on the classic cole slaw while the other is a take on three bean salad. They're easy and a delicious addition to any picnic or even indoor lunch or dinner.

Oriental Cole Slaw

One pound red cabbage slaw (you can use regular slaw but it won't have the zingy color )
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic minced
2 heaping tablespoons freshly grated ginger
Scallions - optional.

Wash the cabbage and put into a big bowl -preferably metal( this keeps the salad chilled longer when brought it outside).Finely mince garlic . Grate about two heaping tablespoons of fresh ginger with a microhasp  (most grocery and gourmet stores sell them). Add the garlic and ginger  to the olive oil and soy sauce.. Stir until well blended and pour over the cabbage. Toss until the slaw is well coated. You can toss in fresh chopped scallions for bite and color.
This is a great salad with burgers or ribs.

Three Bean Salad Revised

1 15.5. can kidney beans
1 15.5 oz. can chickpeas
1 15.5 oz. cannallini beans
1 1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons onion powder.

Place beans in a chilled metal bowl.

Remember to reserve the chickpea and cannallini aquafaba or bean water for meringues.
Add the olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle onion powder over the beans and mix. You can season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper if you want. Chill until serving.
Again this is great with burgers or even better with barbecued chicken.

These are two of my favorite salads, both to make and to eat. Enjoy them. They're a great addition to any barbecue or picnic.