Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Halloween Treat - Mayo

Is there a place for mayo in a sophisticated kitchen?  Surprisingly yes. At times, it's even better than some of the best butter. It's now being thought of as the go to ingredient from simple grilled cheeses to sous vide meats.

Melissa Clark wrote about one of the world's most versatile condiment in  yesterday's New York Times Food section. Her A Good Appetite was devoted to this French dressing originally used only for chicken. Now it's being used again , but smeared or slathered on raw chicken before cooking. The white cream is a hard sell. It has been maligned by decades of food snobs who associate it with folksy salads served at picnics. Then there's its' appearance. It's jiggly and white , bloppy when it get's smeared on tomatoes or sandwich meats. It's also completely fat, yet it's that fat that creates the Maillard effect on meats. It's a seasoned oil suspended in water emulsion. An emulsion is a homogeneous mixture of two or more liquids that typically don't mix together. Fat droplets have a tendency to coalesce or come together when suspended in that. To make mayonnaise the fat has to be broken up into droplets that are so fine , they will have trouble reuniting in that emulsion. This gives mayo its' classic viscous texture - perfect for brushing onto a meat's surface. Eggs are also part of this emulsion and that gives mayo its' creaminess.

A thin layer of mayo can give any meat a good browning. This helps in minimizing the amount of time any cut spends in a pan or on the grill. Meats such as skirt and flank steak as well as thinner cut pork chops typically have problems browning, before they wind up with overcooked centers.Mayo helps fast cooking meats such as chicken cutlets brown all over. A plus about having a mayo marinade is that it blends easily with a wide range of sauces and condiments. Pesto and chimichurri work well with it along with Thai red curry paste. Barbecue and  teriyaki sauce benefit from it. These sauces have a tendency to burn, thanks to the sugars in them. Mayo solves this by diluting and coating the sugars with an egg protein. The end result is meat that doesn't wind up charred and a sauce flavor that really sticks to the meat.Mayo coated meats can just be cooked as is in a non-stick pan. The mayo has enough fat for cooking. Ms. Clark has tried the recipe out with both store bought and homemade mayo. The last has plenty of recipes on the web to try. It would be interesting to see if this works with vegan mayonnaise.

Don't be a snob about mayo. Try it as a marinade on any kind of meat. You'll be surprised by how sppoky good it is.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Kitchen Empty

It is sheer agony to lose anyone, even worse when the person was the love of your life. The grief affects everything, including cooking and eating, How does one survive? Can he or she get through and go back to creating and eating favorite recipes?

That was the question raised today in Amelia Nierenberg's article in today's New York Times Food section.Ms. Nierenberg often writes about the intersections about food and culture. How does eating and mourning pair up? she has found answers from grief counselors and groups who help widows and widowers cope with the loss of not just a spouse but a cooking and restaurant partner. New York grief counselor, Jill Cohen says that  cooking alone could be considered the sixth stage of grief, a take on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross disputed theory The Five Stages of Grief. Bereavement counselors said that it's only been in the last decade that academics and professionals have been directly addressing the relationship between grieving and food. Many widows (which now is a gender neutral term) found not only eating a chore but also cooking. It is the men who have to learn or relearn how to boil  and roast along with shopping properly for themselves. They went  directly from their mothers' kitchens to their wives.

Yet it is the loneliness that can be devastating. Gone are the conversations, and the companionship that every meal once had. Some just don't eat, their sorrow is that overpowering. Some had trouble swallowing, their throats constricting forcing them to eat almost nothing. Weight losses of up to seventy-one pounds have been reported. Deborah Stephens of Irmo, South Carolina lived on just a cup of coffee in the morning and a cheese stick in the afternoon. Another could only stand the tastes of popcorn and chocolate. Thankfully there are cooking groups that help alleviate the loneliness.  The Chicago suburbs has Culinary Grief Therapy which grew out of a study following a widow's difficulties eating, shopping and cooking. From there, the lead author of the study, Heather Nickrand created a spin off entitled Culinary Grief Therapy which uses demonstrations and group discussions over meals on how to shop, cook and eat for one. The recipes are simple with roasted veggies in olive oil and a simple roast chicken. It's a good way to connect with others and develop new friendships.

It is tough to lose someone. It is even tougher to continue, yet there are ways to cope. They involve grief  therapy where  new ways and even better new friendships are cultivated.

If someone close to you is grieving, please check in on them. Go food shopping with them, take them out to dinner every now and then, but most of all make sure they're eating - and eating properly.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Gourmet's Halloween Party

The usual Halloween party consists consists of cocktail wienies with dough wrapped around them and some drink died vampire blood red. Yet you can still have a themed party with good and fun to eat food. It's just getting creative with top notch ingredients.

Popcorn is a party must and it can be upgraded to scary good. First pop it in olive oil. This is easy to do if you have a Colonel Popper type of microwave popper. The olive oil gives the corn a rich flavor. After popping add sea salt and rosemary for more flavor. Cheese is another must serve and you can cut out the words BOO or create little ghosts from the delightfully smoky Gouda cheese. You can also cut them in jagged tooth shapes and rename them "vampire fangs" or "monster molars". Bruschetta get'a a cool but frightening renaming, Make the tasty tomato mix as more of a dip and rename it Deadly Nightshade Dip. The plant along with its' cousin , eggplant are from the deadly nightshade family. You can also combine the two along with onions into a "Risky Ratatouille". Serve with slices of crispy, warm baguettes , with the ends cut to resemble the ends of bones. Keep in mind that both the bruschetta and ratatouille can also top both pizzas and flat breads.

If you want to go ultra gourmet think lobster or even shrimp fra diavolo , done in the style of the devil monk (now that's a hair raising thought). The sauce is crushed red pepper cooked in a classic tomato sauce. Add some cayenne for eye watering heat. Another main dish idea is vampire fighting chicken cooked with forty (!) cloves of garlic. This classic French dish combines chicken with butter, chicken broth and white wine with those forty (!) cloves into a tasty main meal, perfect with sliced baguettes. Serve with graveyard moss - spinach with mushrooms. A sinfully sweet dessert is the perfect end to any of these dishes. Candy apples are always a Halloween must but grow it up a bit with a candy coating of brandy, apple cider and red hot cinnamon drops  cooked with the usual sugar. Put the apples on sturdy rwigs instead of tongue depressors. Cookies and cupcakes are nice endings too. Think dark chocolate skeleton cookies made with 90 per cent dark chocolate bars and cupcakes done in the Mexican hot cocoa style  baked with fiery spices.

Halloween can be a time for gourmet fun. Bring out the lobster and rich chocolate. This a tasty trick or treat for the sophisticated palate.

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Taste Of Old Bay

Every kitchen should have Old Bay Seasoning in its' spice rack. This is a truly versatile blend of peppers and salts and it can go on anything. It's not just for crab legs and shrimp but for meats , poultry and even veggies.

I recently used this the other week on Gardein's fish fillets. The flavor enhanced the seafood and left a light delicate flavor. Being impressed I looked into the blend's history as well as recipe and discovered its' interesting history as well as some equally interesting recipes.Most associate Old Bay with Maryland and the crab industry and they would be right. Yet it was created only as recently as 1939 , thanks to a German immigrant, Gustav Brunn, fleeing the Nazis in late 1930's . He ironically came from the landlocked city of Bastheim, near Frankfurt. with only a spice grinder. Herr Brunn settled in Baltimore and started the Baltimore Spice Company and soon after the most famous offering was created. It was and still is just a simple blend of celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and paprika, The name came from The Old Bay Line,  a passenger ship line that sailed on the Chesapeake Bay, from Baltimore to Norfolk , Virginia in the early 1900's. Primarily it was used just on crab legs, mainly to season the water in which the crabs were boiled.

Now Old Bay can be used on anything and everything. You can still use it on seafood and may home chefs use it in both crab salad and crab cakes. Two teaspoons can thoroughly season a pound of lump crab meat. Additional Old Bay can be sprinkled on for a dash of more flavor and color. Bake the crab legs brushed with melted butter and a generous sprinkle of the seasoning. Lobster can also be spiked with it for taste and color. giving the meat a lovely coral color. If you're not into seafood then try Old Bay with eggs. Sprinkle over eggs sunnyside up or on top of  Eggs Benedict. Remember to add it to the accompanying Bloody Mary on the last. Old Bay can also be part of a tangy barbecue sauce for chicken. Mix it into ketchup, cider vinegar, dark honey or brown sugar. Before grilling oil the chicken and brush on a layer of the spices then, add the barbecue sauce. reserve some for dipping. This would also make a great sauce for chicken nuggets and tenders too. Grilled veggies can also benefit from a dusting of Old Bay. Mix a tablespoon of it  with either olive or vegetable oil in a bowl, add cut up eggplant, squash and bell peppers to it, Grill in a basket or thread on skewers and grill.

Old Bay Seasoning is the must have in every kitchen. Have a container of it for not just seafood but for other meats and veggies. It's not just for crab , shrimp and lobster.It's for everything!!!!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

A Divine Dish For Diwali

  Since it's Diwali, the Indian festival of light, I decided to celebrate with a tasty cholay I first made for the blog on August 4, 2018, (check it out for the full recipe.) It's a mix of cooked potatoes, chickpeas and diced tomatoes sauteed in a mix of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and veggie oil.
 I made double the amount and shortened some steps, like subbing in onion powder for chopped onions. The recipe was doubled and since I didn't have curry , I used turmeric and curry powder instead along with a good dose of garlic salt.
This is the end result - a tasty tribute to the holiday of lights.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Dash Of Old Bay Seasoning

There's something about Old Bay Seasoning that gives seafood - real and fake some zing.  I decided to use this mix of celery salt,red and black pepper and paprika on my Gardein fish fillets. Gardein does make really good faux fish fillets however I wanted to change it up a bit.Old Bay was the answer.
Before I used the seasoning , I spritzed both sides of the fillets with Stop & Shop's vegetable oil spray. This helps the powdered mix to adhere better to the crust.

It was then dusting the pieces on both sides with Old Bay Seasoning. Don't go crazy with it. You want the fish flavor to come through.
The pieces were cooked in the air fryer (what else??) on one side for 400  degrees F for the first  five minutes , then flipped and cooked at 370 degrees F  for three minutes.
 The result?
A delicately spiced fish fillet that had a nice, seafood house vibe. I served it with homemade celery salad for a summery feel.

Will I use Old Bay Seasoning again? Yes. In tomorrow's scrambled egg lunch. It's supposed to be good on everything , from chicken wings to real seafood to even egg dishes. I definitely will be zinging up Gardein's battered fish fillets with it from now on. It elevates and enhances the flavor , making them even more delectable.,

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Perfect Meatball

Everyone loves a good meatball. It is the yin to spaghettii's yang,It is the back bone of a good hot sub. Yet there's one problem. It get s soggy and fall apart - usually in the middle of eating. Nothing is worse than mushy meat. However there is help - and the promise of a crispy orb of meaty goodness.

Alison Roman rethought this classic recipe in yesterday's New York Times Food section. She is not a fan of mushy meatballs nor is she an admirer of tomato sauce or the one that graces the Swedish kind. She gives us lightly spiced and pan fried - the last all the better for a nice , crispy exterior. There is also the absence of binders - such as the usual bread crumbs,egg or dairy. She classifies them as round sausages made with not beef or pork but with lamb. It's more of a Lebanese vibe, kind of like kibbe.What does she serve with it with? Eggplant and chickpeas. There is a yogurt sauce with it , again there's that feel of a Middle Eastern vibe.The meat balls are cooked first and then the eggplant. Since the last is more or less like a sponge, fry the eggplant slices in the leftover oil which will now be mixed with the lamb fat. This will definitely give them more flavor. The chickpeas are cooked last. It may seem labor intensive , taking forty-five minutes from start to finish -but definitely worth it.

Ms. Roman says lamb is the best for this but you can also use pork or beef. You could do a mix of all three for a more flavorful meatball. Fennel seeds are also added. This would give it a sausage flavor however there is a zing of red pepper flakes added.The meat is rolled into one to one and a half inch balls.They're sauteed in olive oil  and rolled around the skillet to completely brown them.After this transfer them to a plate, leaving the fat and any browned bits behind. This will flavor the eggplant. The recipe calls for one medium eggplant sliced into 1/4 inch slices. More olive oil, about four tablespoons are added and the slices are browned on both sides. Each side will take six to eight minutes for that perfect , crisp crust. These are then transferred to the plate holding the meatballs. The chickpeas are cooked separately. They won't crisp up as the others but Ms. Roman assures that they will have a nice edge to them. This only takes three to five minutes. Before plating , smear seasoned yogurt on the bottom of a large serving plate or platter. Put the meatballs, eggplant and chickpeas on top. You could add a sprig of mint or parsley if you want.

This is the meatball recipe you want if you like to have crisp. It's an easy cook, and made even better with crisp eggplant and chickpeas. Try it and get away from those soft mush ones.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Truth About Fake Meat

Fake meat is now a big part of our lives. We're gobbling up the faux stuff more than the real. Yet there's so many out there. Which one is the best? Which one tastes like the real thing? It's time for a taste test.

Julia Moskin posed these questions and had a tasting table with fellow Food  section writers, Pete Wells and Melissa Clark, Also she employed her twelve year old vegetarian daughter and Ms Clark's burger loving one. Each burger was  seared with a teaspoon of canola oil and served on a potato bun. These  were eaten plain and then a second one with all the trimmings , from condiments to pickles and cheese. How did they rate? Impossible Burgers ranked number one with four and a half stars. Ms. Moskin's daughter thought it was real beef, slipped in to confuse the tasters.Ms. Clark though, thought the meat too dried out .It does contain a compound  - soy legheroglobin - created from plant hemoglobins - to create a bloody look. The second best Beyond Burger - which I've eaten and liked. This received four stars . It was deemed juicy with convincing texture with a lot of unami. This was from Melissa Clark. Her daughter however deemed them to have a smoky barbecue flavor , like those of barbecue potato chips. Even Pete Wells said it was a beefy experience.

What other faux burgers were good?Lightlife Burgers, out of Toronto , got four stars as well. It was considered firm and chewy thanks to it being made from a sturdy soy product called tempeh. The Uncut Burger was rated the meatiest of the whole bunch. It had a slightly chunky texture like good coarse= ground beef according to Ms. Moskin. Ms. Clark , on the other hand, felt the texture made the patty fall apart and similar to wet cardboard!. Mr. Wells deemed it bacony and smoke flavored. Then their is the artisanal Field Burger that claims "plant based artisanal meats". It has vegetal notes of onions, celery and three kinds of mushrooms, fresh , dried, and powdered. The crust had a likable crispness for Mr. Wells, but it does have a bready exterior thanks to the addition of gluten. The least favorite is Sweet Earth Veggie Burger with only two stars. It comes only in flavors so Ms. Moskin chose the Mediterranean style as the most neutral. Ms. Clark claimed it had a falafel flavor thanks to the abundance of chickpeas. It wasn't meaty tasting but nutty and grainy. It also has whiffs of cumin and ginger.

Which burger is the best? The one you like. Go with the faux burger that satisfies you with flavor and texture. That's what matters. Your tastes and preferences.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

BJ's Brewhouse Fun And Food

BJ's Brewhouse is one of those places where you have to take friends. It offers a wide variety of different dishes and best of all - ales. The chain lives up to its' name , for sure , although it has many other offerings too.

I finally got to visit the one in my area yesterday and was not disappointed. I was always near it in the Teterboro's restaurant row even parked in BJ's parking lot when the other chains had no parking. The eatery had been on my radar for almost two years and I was excited to go. Yes, it is a chain, started in 1978 but unlike other chain restaurants it offers a wide variety of different house made beers.  The most intriguing right now is their pumpkin ale (does it have the same spices as the lattes?) and Piranha ale. I'm not a beer drinker by any means , but my next visit will probably include a mug of the last, - a citrussy tasting brew. They even have hard cider - wild berry, made with raspberries and blackberries instead of apples. That's another quaff on my radar.The chain has won several awards for its' brews , including the North American Beer Awards. Another plus is their home made sodas  that include root beer and black cherry. There is wine too and even champagne for those who want to celebrate a special occasion. I like their iced teas and the fact diners receive free refills even when the first large glass is only half drunk.

The menu itself is mind blowing, being more of a thick book with so many different choices. There is everything from handcrafted burgers to  lighter fare called Enlightened Favorites. BJ's Brewhouse is also famed for their pizzas which come in four(!) different sizes from a mini six inch to the largest fourteen inch. There's even a lower calorie  flatbread version with the same sort of topping choices. I went for the lighter fare . First it was the avocado egg rolls with huge chunks of avocados. This is a meal in itself and should be shared. I loved the tangy dipping sauce which went well with the avocado , along with the shredded carrots and cream cheese with it. Then it was the Englightened Favorites, Enlightened Lemon Thyme Chicken. I loved this dish !!!! It is two herb roasted chicken breasts rubbed with Big Poppa's Desert Gold Rub  - a mix of lemon, honey and a host of spices such as garlic and paprika. What made it for me are the roasted Brussels sprouts which were many. They made the dish. There were also red peppers, onions and tomatoes over arborio rice. It was so huge that I had to take it home for a second meal. I would have liked to have had BJ's signature dessert the pizzookie, a giant cookie,brownie or monkey bread  topped with ice cream, syrup and whipped cream.

Try BJ's Brewhouse not just for the house brewed ales but for the delicious dishes.There are so many to choose from. You won't have just one favorite - you'll have several as you become addicted to this fun restaurant.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Celebrating Coleridge

Today is Samuel Taylor Coleridge's birthday and mine, I've always felt that the first, one of the greatest poets in the English language should be celebrated . This writer - not too much.

Birthdays now are hollow to me. No matter how much I celebrate, with all the dinners out and cake in , it's not the same without my Mom. I miss those days when she would make my favorite  - risotto Milanese , the creamy Milanese dish of arborio rice, mushrooms and, of course, saffron. Nothing will ever come as close as her delicious pot of sunny yellow rice. Imagine molten sunshine and that's what the dish looked like. One day I will make it. My cooking and baking is getting to be as good as hers - I am trying - not to brag. It's a tough legacy to handle and surpass.Yet  I am trying, Some of it is coming out good and I can imagine her saying "What a good cooker" a phrase  she took her her aunt, my great aunt who knew a  thing or two about Piedmontese cooking and was an excellent cook herself.  However back to Coleridge who , unlike his latter Romantic counterparts, Byron, Shelley, and Keats never went to Italy. They probably dined on risotto, Mr Coleridge may have had only a rice pudding. the closest he'd ever get to anything with rice.

 He did come from Devon which had excellent dairy and beef along with lamb and mutton.Maybe soon I'll celebrate STC with a proper cream tea. There's clotted cream to be had, this I can easily get from either Amazon or Myers of Keswick in New York's West Village. It's a thick cream created by heating full cream cow's milk over a hot water and steam bath. The result is a lovely, thick, yogurt , (its' origins may have come from yogurt, the Phoenicians ate during their trips to ancient Britain. They traded goods for tin mined from Cornish mines).It's mild tasting and delicious on hot English muffins and then topped with any jam or jelly. A variation of it is "Thunder and Lightening" , bread topped with it and a layer of honey. I'd go with the jam, preferably blackberry or the cherry one I bought from Cherry Republic, in Traverse City Michigan. That to me is the perfect way to celebrate this famed Devon author.

Another birthday for Coleridge and myself. I've celebrated him for years, with cream teas and clotted cream. It's time to bring out the last again and slather it on a hot , toasty English muffin.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Deep Flavors - A Deep Love of Food

When a food lover writes about  cookbook, you know it's going to be full of goof advice and good recipes. That's the case with of Deep Flavors: A Celebration of Recipes For Foodies In A Kosher Style (Inspire On Purpose Publishing 2019). it was written not by a chef, or a restaurant owner but by a lawyer! His passion for good food and cooking were the impetus for this  must have collection.

Kenneth M. Horwitz is a lawyer in Dallas, Texas. He has no formal culinary background however he did win the Texas State Fair Blue Ribbon for his spinach-mushroom lasagna.  Yet his love of fresh and natural ingredients plus learning how to cook from his mother and grandmother was all he needed to get into the kitchen with his wife, Bobbie. Her influence is strongly felt in the book too. I love this cookbook. It's not written in a lofty style.It's like your best friend, the foodie everyone goes to for help, is doling out all sorts of good advice. Every novice home chef should buy this book and read the first chapter entitled My Philosophy. It's how his ideas were formed about grocery shopping and cooking.Another aspect that I like is that there are some unusual chapters  such as Breads and Pickles. along with Dressings and Grains. Mr. Horwitz grew up in a kosher kitchen and keeps it on holidays so there is a chapter on traditional Jewish food from both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic branches . There is also a chapter on vegetarian non Jewish which features the award winning spinach-mushroom lasagna. Of course Mr. Horwitz includes chapters on the different meats and fish along with sides. Desserts are divided into sections on cakes, cookies and fruits/custards.

The recipes are amazing and I want to try every one of them. The one that stood out is the Savory French Toast, enhanced with dill. I can see making this and serving it with grilled tomatoes. Another stand out recipe is the matzo brie or fried matzo. Imagine making this and serving  with different veggies as a side. The aforementioned Ken's Blue Ribbon Mushroom -Spinach Lasagna is a tasty marriage of different mushrooms with fresh spinach , Marsala and ricotta. My vegetarian household would love this for a Thanksgiving meal . The mushroom mixture also figures in a pie with a homemade crust - his wife's Bobbie's creation. Even the sides could be vegan or vegetarian main dishes. The roasted cauliflower or cabbage  would be great solo or as a supporting dish for roast chicken. The same goes for the grilled veggies. The Indian style lentils is on my must cook short list. It's a spicy blend of the beans with the addition of Garam Masala and tikka masala. It would go well with warmed naan as a dinner on a cold night. There are meat dishes too, such as smoked brisket and a deconstructed turkey, the perfect Thanksgiving recipe for any holiday home chef. The desserts are all must makes. Pecan pie is one of my favorites and I am definitely baking Mr. Horwitz's for the upcoming holidays.Another one, perfect for holiday entertaining is the chocolate pinwheel cake, - a giant Swiss roll filled with creamy buttercream.Bobbie's Cold Chocolate Souffle is another dish  that can end a delicious meal with guests. The cookie recipes are drool worthy, especially the gingerbread one.

Deep Flavors : A Celebration For Foodies In A Kosher Style  is a must have for any kitchen library. It is full of good advice and good recipes. It will be your best  friend for cooking and baking help.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Into The Mix

Cake and cookie mixes can be time saving yet they really don't let home bakers get all too creative. However there's nothing wrong with adding to the mixes, spiking them up with flavor or color. It makes for fun baking and eating.

One of the easiest mixes to doctor are brownie ones.Yes, they're good on their own but they can be amped up. I recently did this with Duncan Hines Milk Chocolate Brownie mix. The mix does produce a delicious treat but I wanted something extra. Walnuts are the perfect nut for brownies, they go hand in hand.I added a small package of broken pieces or chips and they gave so much to the recipe.  You could add pecans or peanuts too if you wanted to. The Duncan Hines site has recipes for amaretto brownies along with ones spiked with ground red pepper. If you're adding this, experiment with various pinches of pepper. What you may think is not hot may be a four alarm fire for someone else. Cake mixes can also have an add in or two. Coffee granules can elevate any dark chocolate cake. A small dash of liquor  or even soaking a cake mix cake in rum. The last is the ultimate holiday cake, especially with a homemade hard sauce. Sprinkle cakes are still the cake of the moment. Just remember to add ONLY  quarter of a cup.  I used a full cup once and ended up with  two layers of unbaked disaster. Keep in mind that the sprinkles don't always have to be multicolored. Have all pink or all blue for reveal cakes. Use red and green for Christmas and orange ones in a chocolate cake for Halloween.

Cookie mixes can also be zinged up with all sorts of add ins. Over the years I've added mini chocolate chips to the Betty Crocker oatmeal cookie mix and red and green sprinkles to their sugar cookie mix. Any of these are fun add ins  - especially for a holiday tray or bake sale. M &M's are another great add in, whether they're the regular size or  the mini ones.One of the best additions is Hershey's Kisses to make Blossom cookies. They can be the traditional peanut butter ones or use a sugar cookie mix. Dust with cocoa powder after they're baked for an extra layer of flavor.If you're craving something healthier then think about tossing in some Raisins or Craisins - dried cranberries. They both add an old fashioned sweetness and color to any cookie, especially the spice and oatmeal ones. Nuts can also be a nice add in.  Put the nuts in a chopper first for a finer texture.Think pecans or walnuts to add more of a buttery flavor. Another fun idea is turning the cookies into sandwich ones.The filling is an easy mix of confectioner's sugar, vegetable shortening, butter and a few drops of vanilla extract. You could sub in cocoa powder for vanilla for a fudge-y kind of frosting.

Don't be afraid to add to any cake or cookie mix. Put your own spin on these. A half cup of sprinkles or raisins, a shot of brandy or red pepper will make these average ingredients your signature mark

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Nonna Vision

Imagine having a nonna  -grandmother who can teach you everything about pasta making and then some. You can thanks to the You Tube Channel, Pasta Grannies. It's everything home chefs need to recreate good Italian home cooking.

Kim Severson wrote about this amazing channel and the person behind it in yesterday's New York Times Food section.Pasta Grannies is the brainchild of Vicky Bennison, a former British business person. She had always been interested in food , seeking out local specialties when she traveled to such places as Turkistan , Siberia and Kenya. Ms. Bennison soon was writing a series of food based travel guides and then a cookbook. The Pasta Grannies came about when she and her husband, Billy Macqueen, the children's TV producer behind Teletubbies, bought a house in The Marche region of Italy fifteen years ago.  Some local cherry wine makers invited her over to dinner of rabbit ravioli. The grandmother who made it had to be cajoled to come out the the kitchen. Then there was the pasta making lesson from another local nonna.Ms Bennison became obsessed with the importance of homemade pasta in an Italian household and the women who created it. Initially she had thought to write a cookbook about these home chefs and their recipes. However pasta making is very physical. Pictures were not going to cut it. Video was needed.

She first made one video a month, posting them on YouTube as a way to organize the work and to show publishers  that it was a worthy idea.It start as a hobby but then viewership expanded to 5,000 subscribers. Then the videos started to appear on Facebook and food sites. The catalyst was an article in a 2018 Business Insider which featured an article highlighting some of the rarer pastas. A video by Cesaria, a Sardinian nonna who made filindeu, a kind of woven pasta and lorighittas, braided pasta rings , garnered millions of page views. (Cesaria was nonplussed by this and laughed her head off at her newly found fame). The videos  caught the eye of YouTube executives and even green lit a documentary on the women for their Spotlight channel. The videos are informative and show pastas , from all over the Italian Republic, from Puglia in the south to Lombardy in the north.. It's not just pasta  being made from scratch but mouth watering sauces and fillings as well. Most anyone can make the recipes at home and they're varied thanks to the regions. The women are inspiring , with age - one has reached the century mark - not stopping them. They roll out sheets with ease, cut into neat little squares or strings with a flick of the wrist. Now there is a cookbook , Pasta Grannies  (Hardie Grant Publishers 2019).

Pasta Grannies or Nonnas are a must see. Vicky Bennison has created the perfect channel for pasta lovers and home chefs. It is full of good recipes and advice from talented nonnas  from all over Italy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Environmentally Correct Shrimp

There's more scrutiny over a simple plate of shrimp than ever.There are questions about its' origins , and its' impact on the environment. what about overfarming and its' impact on other species? Most importantly what the right kind to eat and will it increase or decrease our carbon footprint on the planet.

Melissa Clark discussed these points in her article along with recipes in today's New York Times Food section.The author of the issues weekly A Good Appetite has unearthed some eye opening facts on American's favorite seafood. we eat more of it now than ever, with forty-nine per cent of families eating it in 2018. It used to be a luxury food, only being seen at weddings, usually next to caviar. Now it's affordable with some shrimp going for $5.97 a pound.The problem is that the popularity comes with a cost.Farmed shrimp, what most of us eat , originates from mostly from Southeast Asia, namely Vietnam. Workers are basically slave laborers harvesting disease ridden crustaceans from antibiotic swamps (!) amongst dead mangroves in some cases. Some of the shrimp also come from India and South America. There are facilities that do have transparency , don't misuse antibiotics and overcrowd their ponds. American shrimp farms are rare , with only one percent of all shrimp coming from the US. A new company Tru shrimp, out of Balaton Minnesota is working to improve water recirculating systems. That means no antibiotics in the water and more shrimp being raised here, not abroad. This will lessen our carbon footprint.

Then there is wild shrimp. It is fresh caught , a delicacy only available to those living along the coast. Ms. Clark went to Galveston, Texas , home to many shrimpers. She met with fisherman, Buddy Guidan, who has been shrimping for forty years. He is successful, with a fleet of forty boats, a retail store, Katie's seafood Market and a restaurant, Katie's seafood House. They shared boiled shrimp   - an entirely different eating experience. The meat has a firm, plump texture with a saline taste similar to lobster.It was like heaven to her,especially with the shrimp being dipped in melted butter. Unfortunately this may be a thing of the past. The number of wild shrimp is finite and fragile. Our appetite for it will not stop , meaning it could be on the endangered species list. We've over fished areas where they were rampant, off the coasts of  California, Maine, Washington and Oregon. There are few exceptions such as wild Alaskan spot prawns which are popular right now with West Coast chefs. Right now all the wild caught ones are from the Gulf of Mexico, and off the coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia. Another problem is outfitting the shrimp nets to not include turtles. Keep in mind that wild shrimp can also be chemically treated too to preserve them. some boats have plate freezers which freeze the shrimp without any interference, yielding a much more delicious crustacean.

Knowing all this should we eat more shrimp? My advice is to cut down on it if you care about the environment and the species' future. Make it for a special meal with family and / or friends. Treat it as something rare.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Quick Fall Remodel

Autumn is the time for any  kind of remodeling. Lord knows my kitchen needed it, with a thirty plus year old microwave table and an old broken dishwasher used as a pantry. It was definitely time for a quick upgrade.

 Thank heavens for Lowe's I was able to buy two cabinets that could be used for either a kitchen or laundry room. Each cost $160 each - not bad.
They were more or  less easy to assemble, with the biggest head ache being the handles.They fit perfectly in my postage stamp sized kitchen and hold most of my junk.
You can see it's roomy and one can hold a lot.
The other side is sheer mess but that will be straightened up. Honest.

What I love is that it can be customized. Right away I had to add matching hooks (that I bought at Target) for my many pot holders.
They are kind of like twins to the door and drawer handles.
Then there is the hook is on the side., again bought at Target.
My extension cord is multipurpose, being used for the microwave and toaster oven.

Sometimes all it takes is just a small addition to make a kitchen bright again. My new cabinets did just that. It's an easy fix - and one that will last a long time.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Native Influences

Ask anyone what is American food and they'll say hot dogs, hamburgers and, of course  French fries. Except they're not. The first two are as German as schnitzel, the last as Belgian as mussels and a frosty mug of Stella Artois. What is American food? Squash and popcorn. They are as American as the First Peoples.

The indigenous tribes have contributed much to the American diet - namely healthy good for you food . We also have them to thank for helping  our struggling colonists at the Plymouth Plantation. The Wampanoag Tribe taught them how to plant The Three Sisters  - corn - squash - and beans which sustained the English during the harsh Massachusetts winters. They also taught the colonists how to work and till the area's rocky soil. Another food that came into the diet is maple syrup. The indigenous showed how to tap the trees and collects the sap used for everything from syrup to candy.Its' sugar was crucial in sweetening  cakes along with tea and coffee. The Lenni Lennape, a division of the Delaware Indians, showed colonists the local clam,oyster and eel beds in the Raritan Bay area , just outside of New York City. They also harvested the wild strawberries, blueberries and blackberries that grow throughout the state. These were in heavy rotation in many an early New York or New Jersey's housewife's pantry, being used for jams and pie fillings.

The indigenous are also responsible for introducing corn pone and hominy grits to the American diet. The Roanoke and Neusick tribes, along with many from Southeastern Native American ones developed the process of nixtamalization - in which corn is soaked and cooked in lime water or some other alkaline solution to remove the hulls.. This helped in creating the Southern staples hominy and cornbread. The mash was also important in creating whiskey too. The West Coast tribes brought salmon to settlers' diets along with native deer, duck and rabbit. The Caribbean indigenous tribes also contributed a lot to the way we modern nativists eat. Thanks to them we have barbecue , first known as barbacoa. The Taino tribe of the various islands that include Cuba and Puerto Rico gave us the method of roasting various meats such as goat and sheep over open air fires. The fiery and delicious pepperpot stew is also one of their contributions to our cuisine as is the ever popular jerk. Another gift is Mama Juana , from the Dominican Republic branch of the Tainos.It's a wild  punch with the kick of rum and red wine mixed with different tree barks and herbs.

Today we should celebrate all the contributions of the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere. They have been vital in creating new countries and new cultures. They have been responsible for our dietary success for five centuries now. It's time we honor them properly.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Straw Controversy

Hard to be believe a simple plastic tube like this is at the heart of so much controversy.
Yet it is. Plastic straws are being vilified and with good reason. They are seriously harming marine life across the globe and damaging underwater ecosystems. As an environmentalist and veteran of many a beach sweep, I have picked up dozens of these. They range from the regular sized ones people use in their sodas to the tiny juice box ones.Americans throw away a whopping 500 million a day while an ecology conscious Europe tosses out about 25.3 billion ones a year. They, along with other non biodegradable plastics are contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located halfway between California and Hawaii. The worst problem with straws contributing to this is that a straw is made from polypropylene which is derived from polypropylene gas. The real damage comes from when the plastic degrades into microscopic bits. Fish eat it. We eat the fish. It's not good.

There are alternatives and many restaurants are embracing them. Atlantic Highland's  Bahr's and its' sister eatery, Moby's has long embraced biodegradable paper straws. The family who owns these ocean front restaurants know first hand the damage these tubes can do. However paper straws do have their downside as well. They can be ingested by marine life which can ruin the animals' digestive systems. Paper straws do decompose more efficiently and quicker, by almost two hundred years. Other restaurants such as Feroce's in Manhattan use bucatini, those wide, sturdy long pasta tubes. These can be great  except for two problems. They can't be used by those with gluten allergies and they dissolve during use. Another idea is bringing your own  glass or metal straws. Amazon sells a pack of borosilicate ones in pretty colors. These are highly heat and cold resistant and also come with their own cleaning brush. A set can cost about ten dollars. They also sell metal ones with silicon mouth tips, also in pretty colors. A pack of ten goes for $9.99.

What should you do about the straw dilemma? Protect the planet by just going strawless. If you have to use them, then settle for paper, metal or glass. It's a small way to help lessen a big problem.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Taco Bell Bean Burrito Challenge

I've been fascinated with Taco Bell's bean burrito lately. It's a tasty marriage of kidney beans, onions and cheese stuffed into a hot chewy tortilla. Tasting it , I realized this is pretty easy to replicate. After all the homemade version is sometimes better than the original.

It was.

It's an easy recipes with these ingredients for the filling, Two cans of red kidney beans, one  small , yellow onion and one small can of tomato sauce.
The onion was quartered and put into my chopper ,
Then sauteed in olive oil for a few seconds.
The beans and tomato sauce were then added. Most recipes for the Taco Bell bean burrito call for refried beans but I wanted texture.
Two teaspoons of red wine vinegar are added for tang as well.
The spices were garlic salt and a must have in Mexican cooking -cumin.
Add a good dash of both along with a healthy dash of chili powder too.
Then it comes time to mash
Use an old fashioned potato masher for this and someone with a strong hand (Like a brother) This give the filling a new textured mouth feel. Cheese is also a big flavor booster in this, 

I used Lite Life vegan cheddar and just shredded in the pieces.
It's mashed more to get the cheese integrated and gooey.
It's also the time to get the tortillas ready. I used Old El Paso.
Each side was painted with water. They'll steam better in the microwave if you do this. Cook for 15 seconds.
This is unrolled.
This is rolled.
How was the taste? Exactly like Taco Bell's but better. This is definitely going to be one of my new go to recipes. It's easy to do and very flavorful. I like how all the spices came together and added so many dimensions to just a simple beans, onions ,and tomato sauce dish.

Try the Taco Bell Bean Burrito challenge. It's just a fun way to reinvent a classic and enjoy a tasty dish. It's sure to be a family favorite.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A Whole Meal Of Recipes

One of the hardest things for a home chef to do is come up with a three or four course meal for company. What do you start with? What do you end with? Should you have one side? Two? or three? And what about the main course - what works well for everyone? Don't despair. There's are recipes that can help you from start to finish.

Alison Roman, a regular contributor to the New York Times Food section and famed food blogger gave an appetizer to dessert menu in yesterday's issue. This is great for the home chef who loves to have friends and family over for good food.It's excerpted from her new book, Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food For Having People Over  ( Clarkson Potter 2019). where she gives low stress but high impact recipes for all sorts of dishes.It  starts out with a simple framework snacks, salads  sides, mains and sweet things. She starts off with labneh dip with sizzled scallions and chile. This is a kind of Middle Eastern yogurt dish made with Greek yogurt however you can also use sour cream too. It's swirled with lemon juice for tang. Scallions and hot pepper flakes along with cilantro are cooked in olive oil . The pepper turns a fiery shade of orange as it's drizzled into the labneh. I'd serve it with homemade pita chips  and maybe a bowl of homemade hummus too.

The main course is a roast chicken - always a crowd pleaser.Ms. Roman firsts drizzles it with olive oil and then sprinkling it with fennel seeds. The cavity is filled with  half a bunch of oregano. It gets better. Vine ripened tomatoes are put around the chicken along with the rest of the fresh herb.There's also garlic and butter, cut up and scattered around the bird as well. At the end red wine vinegar is spooned over the tomatoes and cooked from the veggies' heat. The tomatoes and carved chicken are placed over slices of  country loaf or sourdough. You would think this is enough but Ms. Roman offers the side of lemony white beans with anchovies and Parmesan.It's basically a bagna calda sauce, fired up with a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.Escarole and parsley are added.I would nix those and serve the beans and sauce on bread as a main meal. To end the meal are Tiny Salty Chocolatey Cookies, a sort of chocolate snap with a dusting of flaky seas salt like Maldon or Jacobsen. These are double chocolate thanks to the wedding of cocoa powder and 67 per cent bittersweet chocolate. You can add any nuts too, to these meringue like cookies. They do require two egg whites plus one egg . The cookies are just a nice end with coffee and tea.

Cooking an entire meal shouldn't be a head ache. It should be a fun doing , as you cook and bake for those you love. It should be unfussy , without any fanciness  - just good taste and good food.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Vibrancy of Filipino Food

The Philippines are a combination of many  influences , from cultural to terrain. The end result is a bright, tasty cuisine that's now  a strong force here in the States. It's easy to replicate and fun for home chefs to try.

It was the subject of an article written by Angela Dimayuga with the help of New York Times Food contributor , Ligaya Mishan. Chef Dimayuga, who is not only was the chef at the famed Mission Chinese Food in New York City. and also a contributor to Bon Appetite Magazine. She returns to the food of her childhood, food that her mom made , food that the first Filipino migrant workers brought to Northern California , in the 1920's. Filipino food is just as complex and layered as the Italian and French cuisines she learned how to cook. It is also a very meticulous cuisine requiring just as much work and technique of any of those cuisines. Chef Dimayuga has the very good fortune of receiving the secrets behind family recipes from her lola,  before the elder passed at the age of 100. The family knows good food coming form the Lyon of the Philippines Papampanga. There were lessons on  bistek , steak with soy sauce and calamansi, a type of

lime. Her grandmother, who was former pharmacist also showed the chef  how to create her chicken releno, stuffed chicken with pork and sausage, similar to a farci, the French meat stuffing.  She realized her grandmother's recipe was exactly like Chef Jacques Pepin's galentine, after watching his video on it.

There are many recipes here. However Chef Dimayuga regrets that some of her favorites are not listed. The Philippines are an archipelago of 7,000 (!) islands, each with a strong culinary background. You'd need a cookbook just to list all the best. The article tries to do just that in a few essential dishes. There is the bistek recipe that has chunky rib eyes drenched in a sauce of garlic, lemon and orange juices., blended with olive oil, soy sauce and garlic. Of course there are rice dishes. There is an arroz caldo - hot rice - with chicken,collard greens and soy cured egg yolks. A fun appetizer or even a weekend meal is the lumpia  Shanghai cousins to spring rolls that Chinese traders first brought to the islands in the Ninth Century. The filling is a mix of beef and pork, with the usual spring roll  ingredients of water chestnuts,,onions carrots, and celery stalks. What's intriguing is that Chef Dimayuga and her five siblings dipped them in banana ketchup - which can be made at home. It's cooking over ripe bananas with tomato paste to create a kind of sweet and sour jam. There is also the famed adobo, brought by Spanish colonizers, however the vinegar laced chicken stew was always a staple in the cuisine long before European settlement. Hers is a coconut milk and coconut vinegar mix with chicken. To end the meal is bibingka, coconut rice cakes , with the surprising addition of salted duck eggs

Filipino food is delicious and complex. It is a treat to make and to try the many flavors and textures that represent the archipelago. The many dishes are perfect to recreate for their brightness of color and tang.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Restaurant Diet Eating Out Eating Easy

Every dieter dreads the suggestion "Let's eat out tonight." That means days , even weeks of sacrifice blown on one meal. Yet it doesn't have to be that way. You can eat out on a diet  and have both a low calorie and delicious meal. The Restaurant Diet: How To Eat Out Every Night and Still Lose Weight (Mango Publishing Group 2019) will shows you how.

This groundbreaking new book was written by Fred Bollaci, a weight loss coach and diet strategist, who struggled with his own weight issues. Like anyone else, Mr. Bollaci loved eating out and cooking, but didn't like the side effects - weight gain. He was morbidly obese and had to lose weight. He worked with his nutritionist along with his cardiologist and therapist to create a book that can help others with weight loss and diet maintenance. There is advice on how to eat out at such various ethnic restaurants , from Italian to Chinese  and from Indian to Mexican, along with dealing with those sabotaging factors that can ruin a diet. He compartmentalizes the diet into four sections, Phase One is the beginning,  where calories will be decreased and a weekly cleanse is strongly recommended. It also has dieters purge dairy, fried foods and sweets Phase Two is the Opportunity one where some of these foods are reintroduced back  but in limited qualities. Phase Three is the Challenge where foods with a higher calorie count are added while Phase Four is the Achievement Phase where all foods that are not on the Avoid list are allowed.

What is surprising is that this is also a recipe book. Mr. Bollaci includes recipes from restaurants in  most of the fifty states plus Italy. I was pleasantly surprised at this and am looking forward to creating some. He mostly has recipes from Floridian recipes; there are pages upon pages of recipes from some of the Sunshine State. He has some from New York eateries, namely a pepper and bagna caulda recipe from Barbetta's. This last is a restaurant that my family loved with a recipe that we made often. There are also places off the beaten path like Chantal's of Traverse City, Michigan, Their recipe,baby portabella mushroom caps with caramelized shallot and Fontina cheese, make for nice hors d'ouevres or a side. Atlanta has the Buckhead Diner and the eatery's recipe for butternut squash soup. It's a low calorie, yet savory melange of butternut squash, carrots , onions and a red Fresno pepper for heat.Famous restaurants such as Manhattan's Le Grenouille  and Sag Harbor's The American Hotel. There are also the recipes from famed Italian restaurants and even a cooking school. Try the Toscana Saporita Cooking school's recipe for Insalata di Farro, farro salad, packed with the ancient grain and graced with tomatoes and basil.

The Restaurant Diet: How To Eat Out Every Night and Still Lose Weight  is a restaurant lover's perfect companion.It offers advice and recipes. It definitely deserves a four star rating!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sharing The Pantry

Americans, like myself, have the tendency to overbuy. That's especially true with food. We wind up with too many boxes or packets,bags and containers. Will we eat all of it? No? Should we share it? Yes.

If you have overage in your pantry , then consider donating it to food drives. Of course cans are preferable. One they're easy to store and two, they do last a usual four or five years. There's also a lot that can be done with canned veggies and fruit. The first can be used as a side or mixed with rice or pasta for a more filling main course. Canned fruit is just good on its' own and the perfect snack instead of cookies and cakes, However there are other foodstuffs you can donate as well. Flour can be donated, even if you opened it back in June or July. Opened flour has a shelf life of eight months so even half a bag is good to give away. Just give it a sniff before donating. Toss if you smell any mustiness. One of the most sturdiest foods to donate is rice. It has an indefinite shelf life, meaning you can still use it two or three years from purchasing. One sign that is is bad is the appearance of the rice weevil. It's a tiny reddish-brown bug that can show up in the box or canister. Chuck the rice if those start showing up.

Many of us have those Keurig machines that use pods. That's great but there's also a dearth of leftover teabags and hot chocolate packets. Any tea bag will last between a year to two years. If you have a variety left over then put them in Mason jars, decorated with  pretty homespun bows and ribbons. Food pantries and senior centers would love to have these.Hot chocolate lasts for only six months but if you have extra that's under that time period , donate. Regular cocoa powder can last up to two years and can still be used for cooking and baking. Instant coffee has a shelf life of a whopping twenty years!!! This depends on the packaging  yet you can still donate it. Even longer lived than instant coffee is sugar. Both granulated and confectioner's can last forever as can brown sugar. White and brown sugar can turn hard and crunchy To restore them  put the crystals in a baggie and smash with a rolling pin to get rid of the hardness. Any of these will be much appreciated by bakers who want to create treats for their kids.Another baking necessity you may have over stocked is a bag of chocolate chips. Again, real chocolate is considered dry, meaning it 's not encumbered by any bacteria so it can last as long as the sugars. If your chips are hanging around donate them with your other foods.

A pantry cleaning is always necessary. Yet instead of throwing out your overage , just donate. it'll help not only declutter your kitchen but add to someone else's.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Sunday Vegetarian Roast

One of the highlights of fall is a sit down Sunday roast dinner.It's a chance for the family to gather and even dress up. The only problem is that some of the family nowadays eschews meat. What to do ? Have a Sunday vegan dinner. Everyone can then come together and still have delicious foods.

Of course the crowning glory of any big meal is the main course. Home chefs relied on ham,  London Broil and chicken to take over however now it has to be a plant based main course. Luckily there is Beyond Meat. This can easily be molded and then roasted into a loaf. The plant based "red meat" can also be molded into skewered pieces , sort of like beef and lamb kabobs. This can be served over a vegetable rice pilaf  for a more Mediterranean spin on Sunday dinner. Mold the crumbles into meat balls for a nice addition to a Sunday pot of pasta. The brand also produces sausages which can  also be used instead of the meatballs or with them. These can also be used in a family sized paella , chock full of different veggies like tomatoes  and peppers.Keep in mind that stuffed acorn squash can be just as filling as any protein dish. Fill with tofu crumbles along with chickpeas and rice. Gardein also has some good vegetarian meat options. Their turkey cutlets come with their own gravy  - which tastes like the real thing. Serve stuffing with it and it's like having the real thing.

As for sides . some may feel cheated that they can't serve mashed potatoes to sop up the gravy. Yet you can serve them and you can have a side of gravy. There are a few gravies out there, such as vegan mushroom that can top a side of mash. You can also make one using vegetable broth and nutritional yeast. Flour and soy sauce give it color and thickness. Onion powder and Dijon mustard are also added in. To make the meal more filling serve noodles or rice. Serve with a sauce of butter and sage to give it more flavor. The Northern Italian dish of risi bisi, rice and green peas is the perfect side with a vegan meat loaf. The two ingredients are cooked in veggie broth for added taste and topped with soy Parmesan cheese. The original recipe calls for the Italian bacon pancetta however you can make an easy vegan coconut one. This is the season for Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. The first is good in a simple butter sauce while the second can be served mashed or fried.Another idea is tomatoes Provencale. It's a tasty dish, perfect for any loaf or with vegan chicken strips. It's tomato slices topped with breadcrumbs, garlic and oregano steamed in an olive oil and butter bath.

Yes, vegetarians and vegans can have a traditional Sunday roast with all the trimmings. Just sub in the main with plant based "meats". It's still the same kind of dinner with family, but with a modern , updated spin.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Your Fall Baking Must Haves

It's now perfect weather for baking. The're no  more summer humidity and scorching days to put you off baking. It's time to bake luscious pies and fun Halloween treats. It's also time to gather up your fall baking must haves.

October is pie month. It's time to reevaluate your metal and glass pie tins.Aluminum pie tins last forever however if there are dings or discoloration, then buy new ones. (the old ones can make excellent trays for outdoor flower pots). Glass pie pans should be crack free. If you see one , then replace. Buy new Pyrex ones from Target or Walmart. For a fun addition buy pie birds if you don't already have them. These are blackbird (for four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie) shaped funnels that let the steam out of the baking pie. Using these aid in venting steam from double crust pies and prevents the filling from bubbling over. If you're more into baking tarts, check your tart pans. Some can get rusty. This requires cleaning with just baking soda and water along with a thorough drying before using. If not, then just replace them with newer, cast iron ones.  As for ingredients , make sure you have plenty of Crisco for the pie crusts and butter for the tart crust. Always have a bag of flour on hand along with the fruit for filling. Make sure your corers and parers are up to par too. You'll be needing them to create the filling.Another must have?Cinnamon and sugar. Don't run out of these when your making apple pie. Also make sure you have pumpkin pie filling and the necessary spices for it too.

October not only has Halloween parties but school bakes sales as well. It's a big time for cupcakes , cookies and sweet treats. You can stock up on cake, brownie and cookie mixes if you don't have to the time to make the scratch versions.Many stores like Stop & Shop are offering a  dollar a box on certain brands like Duncan Hines right now. Take advantage of this , especially if you have a big bake sale ahead. If you're planning on baking from scratch make sure you have the appropriate flours, including gluten free ones for kids who have allergies. Also make sure you have plenty of confectioners sugar for icing. Since it's Halloween it goes without saying to have a good amount of orange , black and purple food coloring. Get the thicker textured gels if you want more intense hues. Before baking, check your cake and brownie pans. Are they up to snuff or do you have to replace them? The same is true for cupcake pans and cookie sheets. If they are too dark or rusted , get new ones. It's best to stock up now than before the Christmas baking season begins. Another must  is parchment paper, especially if you're bent on making meringues. It also comes in handy for cake baking too. As for icing, check your icing bag quantities. You made need to buy another box, especially if you had a lot of Spring and summer decorating to do. Also you may want to add an icing knife or spatula. This makes frosting all that more easier.

Fall is here. That means a return to baking. Make sure your kitchen is ready to handle it. Have all your tools and ingredients ready for a fun, sweet season.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Perfect Sourdough

One of the most tastiest and most photographed  breads out there is the sourdough. What's not to love about this tangy loaf that's perfect just with butter or as the base of a sandwich? Now home bakers are taking it on, trying to create the perfect bread. All you need is a  good starter and a lot of time.

Claire Saffritz, a contributing editor to Bon Appetit Magazine, wrote this interesting article, and how to for yesterday's New York Times Food section. Sourdough is one of the hardest and possible the most difficult of breads. As she states "It's not just flour, water and yeast but time and temperature too." Regular bread making, using an oven, is time consuming, but making sourdough is days consuming. Carve out three days for the whole process. She recommends starting on Friday for fresh from the oven loaves on Sunday. You're also going to need a lot of equipment, from a glass mixing bowl to an Instant read thermometer.Then there's the fancier stuff such as bannetons, bread proofing baskets. a serrated knife and a large Dutch oven. Unlike other breads , sourdough requires parchment paper too. Then there are the ingredients - a mature starter (get it online or from friends and family), white bread flour along with whole grain rye or spelt flour.Then there's rice flour for dusting. Luckily, Stop & Shop and WHole Foods carry the flours  - although you can buy all of them on line.

After all this , then there is the process. It's feeding or refreshing your starter on Day One, then letting it sit out at room temperature. A second feeding is needed once the starter doubles in size. Day Two requires mixing the dough and letting it rest, otherwise known as the autolyse process.  This will take anywhere from thirty minutes to a couple of hours. The next step is the floater test. Drop a small spoonful into a bowl of room temperature water.It's ready when it floats (along with a dome of sudsy bubbles appearing on the starter's surface. If it sinks, let it sit for another thirty minutes. If it's ready then combine the dough and starter. Use your one hand to mix the dough while the other rotates the bowl. assess the dough and then add salt. It's then mixing and performing what's known as the windowpane test in which some of the dough is stretched and rolled out. It should be membrane thin with light shining through it. Then there's  more prep, folding and pre-shaping the dough.  The shaping baskets are then prepared with a dusting of white and rice flours combined. The sourdough is then proofed, first outside the fridge and then inside it overnight. Day Three is the actual baking day It's baking it in a Dutch oven at a fiery 500 degrees F. Prepping the dough requires dusting it with flour and gashing it with a knife or razor blade. Halfway through the temp is dropped to 450 F. The result is a crusty, tasty loaf with a tender crumb.

Perfection takes a lot of work. Creating a flawless work is not just a lot of work but time. If you have it, do it. Make  that Instagrammable loaf of bread.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Getting Burned By Cookbooks

Every cook and baker dreams of having their own cookbook.It's a dream come true to not only share your recipes but also make potloads of money. Yet there is a dark side to this  - one that gets many an experienced chef burned  - and burned good.

Cookbook author of Indianish, Priya Krishna wrote about this little known problem in today's New York Times Food section. It sounds like a good idea and with any publishing offer - is beyond exciting. Having a published book , especially a cookbook, is the gateway to everything from  spots on local morning news shows to YouTube channels. It often means getting picked up from a larger publishing house and huge royalties. However that can be far from the truth. One example is Dallas food blogger, Urvashi Pitri, wrote the popular Indian Instant Pot Cookbook which sold a whopping 100,000 copies.Yet she received no advance for it and was asked to  develop fifty recipes in a three month period. To add insult to injury - she had to pay for all  the ingredients - some pricey - out her own pocket. Her payment for all of this? Only $15,000 in the two years of its' publication. Bonuses were only given out if book sales reached a certain number. There was one huge plus, however, The book's popularity enabled her to sign a two book, six figure deal with publishing giant Houghton-Mifflin. Some , like Lauren McDuffle, author of the blog Harvest & Honey was approached by London based quantum publishing to write a spice cookbook. Sounds prestigious enough - save for one catch - no royalties. There was only a modest fee.

It seems that these publishing houses prey on, lesser known chefs, food bloggers and reviewers. The Philadelphia chef, Kiki Aranita had Page Street Publishing offer her a meager $8,000 to write a cookbook on Hawaiian food with royalties of ten percent on the first 25,000 copies. People of color may be more vulnerable, she states,because some ethnic cuisines may be too out of the mainstream. However something similar happened to Baltimore  cookbook author, Alison Robicelli when Reedy Press asked her to write a book about standout restaurants from Washington DC to Baltimore. There was no pay up front or budget for traveling and dining. All that would come out of her pocket. There was also no payment - only royalties. Some chefs are turning to self publishing which is easy to do. Nick Kokonis ,  an owner of the Alinea Group in Chicago  wrote The Aviary Cocktail Book about his one restaurant's drinks. It was a lavish publishing cost of  $630,000 but the return was 3.2 million. A much cheaper alternative is Amazon Self Publishing and Nook. As for formatting you can go to Google Docs and use their recipe template, which also includes for photos. Another alternative is to self publish shorter cookbooks with fewer recipes under a collaborative started by editor in chief , Kevin Pang, of online food publication The Takeout. writers will earn seven to five dollars a book.

These cookbook publishing tales are true horror stories. The best and easiest route is self publishing. It means total control and the chance to have a successful food writing career.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Other Fall Bounties

Yes, it's the fall and with it comes the two most well known harvests - pumpkins and apples. Yet the season also comes with other bounties. Farms and even home gardens are now graced with squash,Brussels sprouts and a host of others. They're not only full of goodness but can be made into a variety of different recipes.

Pumpkins may be the stars of this month yet there are other squashes  who are not only pretty  to look at but delicious to eat. Butternut and acorn squashes  should also be the stars of the dinner table. Butternut squash is great blended into tasty vegan soups. One of its' finer aspects is that its' flavor marries well with others. Pair it with onion and the two play off each other , giving dishes a sweet, unami vibe. Try them as part of a pan dinner with chicken or as a vegan pan roast . Acorn squash is another supporting player that should have top billing. It can  be stuffed in a variety of different way for satisfying vegan main meals.Add grains such a quinoa and rice along with any kind of bean protein such as chickpea or kidney beans. Acorn squash can  also be good just on its' own with melted butter filling the center.  It's also the perfect side for any kind of poultry and can be a welcome change at the holiday table.

Greens also are big this season. Brussels sprouts are just coming into harvest. These can be a little labor intensive to prepare if you've bought the stalks. They do require a lot of rinsing and soaking to get rid of the sandy soil they're grown in. However the end result is a tasty one. You can boil or steam them for five to ten minutes and then drench them with a sauce of melted butter and Parmesan cheese, Piedmontese style. For a fun family treat, turn them into chips. This requires peeling them like mini cabbages, dousing them with olive oil , sea salt and pepper , and then a quick roast in the oven. An easier version is crisping them up in your air fryer for quicker results. Another versatile veggie is the cauliflower. This alabaster beauty is excellent as the basis of a creamy soup, which, again, can be made vegan by blending it with vegetable stock and almond milk.  Round out the flavor with butter and garlic. Of course , nothing beats batter dipped fried cauliflower , which can be easy cooked in an air fryer. It's good as an appetizer at tail gate parties or as a fun side. Cauliflower also makes an excellent crust for pizza too!

There are other October bounties besides pumpkins and apples. Take advantage of them and create delicious harvest recipes. You'll have a bounty of good recipes and food.