Thursday, April 30, 2020

Invite To A Big Lasagna Party

We all need a big get together and party right now.Luckily there is just that thanks, to regular New York Times Food contributor, Samin Nosrat, She is hosting a gathering this Sunday 7 PM Eastern standard TIme. on Instagram. Come one, come all.

Chef Nosrat is not new to dinner parties and gatherings. Since her college days she has thrown together meals that ranged from paellas cooked on a rusted fire pit in a yard to churning out gallons of ice cream in her apartment. She has thrown parties in abandoned airplane hangars and deserted beaches and sprawling farms. Then there were the  get togethers at Tartine, the famed San Francisco eatery, where their corner bakery was set up to feed the restaurant's bakers. The group enjoyed Chef Nosrat's shrimp boils, brisket and latkes. She baked twelve layer lasagnas and billowy  souffles they all enjoyed. Now
 Chef Nosrat is coming into our homes as we go into her Southern Californian one.Her dish of choosing? An old fashioned lasagna, perfect with a bottle of red wine. For some of you novice chefs out there freaking out right now, don't worry. You can make your own creation, whether it's spaghetti and meatballs or just a sandwich. Just so long as you're there. That's what matters.

Is Chef Nosrat's recipe an easy one? It's a classic one, familiar to those who have grown up with Southern Italian recipes and big Sunday pasta dinners. The filling is ricotta along with fresh or even frozen spinach. She suggests using string cheese - fun - if you don't have Provolone or mozzarella handy. There's also grated Parmesan Asiago or Grano Padano. You can use dried Italian seasoning or fresh basil along with fresh Italian parsley and chives. There is the Bechamel sauce, an easy mix that can also go over chicken or fish. Again it's just flour, butter, milk and nutmeg mixed together. The tomato sauce can be your favorite jarred one or the one from the NY Times Simple Tomato sauce located in NYT Cooking. If you're really ambitious make the sheets of lasagna noodles yourself (again the recipe is on the NYT Cooking site). There's more cheese added. from Grano Padano to string. Assembling it may be labor intensive however if your family is joining you, then employ them to help. As for the wine, Chef Nosrat suggests Chianti or a barbera from Piemonte. The kids can have a celebratory soda or chocolate milk.

Mark  this Sunday at seven as a dinner date. Make Chef Nosrat's lush and classic homemade lasagna or not. Just be there to enjoy good food and good talk.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

My Ethiopian Stew Adventure

Ethiopian food has been on my radar for a long time. I was all set to try it at an Ethiopian restaurant  in Montclair North Jersey. Unfortunately quarantine happened and that idea was shut down. I recently found a lentil rich Ethiopian stew on this website Immaculate Bites. I decided to give it a shot.

Unfortunately, since this is quarantine, I had to make do with what was out there. I could not find ANY lentils at my local Stop & Shop. I decided to use kidney beans and pinto beans. They won't have the silky taste of lentils but they will add a robustness to it.
I also used a yellow onion and fresh vine ripe tomatoes. The last isn't included but I felt they would add more flavor.
It also requires oil and spiced butter. I used olive oil, richer in taste and Country Crock. Spiced butter is butter mixed with Berbere spices which I will have the second time I make it.
The onions and tomatoes were roughly diced and added as were the beans. The recipe also calls for two teaspoons of minced garlic. I used two cloves, sliced.
I feel it adds more flavor than the minced.
There are also the spices. I didn't have the Berbere spice mix so I created my own, more or less according to the recipe.
As you can see , there's crushed red pepper for bite along with cumin,turmeric and curry powder. The recipe called for smoked paprika, I didn't have that or ginger for that matter. I used a heaping tablespoon or two of Pereg's Spanish paprika.
Also added to the mix were three cups of vegetable broth (I used Knorr's) cooked quickly in the microwave.
This is the beans added.
I realized it needed the tomato paste required.It was too soupy  without it.

I cooked it for half an hour and it came out perfectly. The texture was satiny and the taste was a well blended mix of tomatoes , onions and spices .I liked it a lot and served with with brown rice. I would have liked to have served it with the Ethiopian bread, injera. Another recipe I have to try.

Will I make this again? Most definitely and with lentils and ginger for a more authentic taste. I like this and will serve it again.It's a great week night dish that easily translates into leftovers. I can't wait to try more Ethiopian dishes!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Art Of The New

This is the time to learn a new dish or cuisine. It gives us a chance to expand our talents and expertise. Not only that it helps us to change up the usual staying in menu.

There is a whole world out there of good recipes and interesting dishes. Many home chefs always have qualms about cooking a different cuisine. If that's the case then begin with the simplest recipes like stews and skillet dinners. Every country has easy dinners that are a snap to replicate. Another turn off is the array of strange spices, yet if you study the recipes you see that there are substitutions. A berbere spice can be replaced by that paprika you used last week or soy sauce can fill in for tamari sauce. Then there's the problem that you may not have the right pots and pans. You do. Again any pot or pan can sub in for a fancier or more specific one like a tangine or rice pot. Where can you find interesting and exotic recipes? Your library of cookbooks, of course. There is also the internet where there are literally thousands upon thousands of recipes. Just ask yourself - "what should I try?" Japanese teriyaki? Ethiopian doro wat?Svenska kottbullar or real Swedish meatballs?

Ethiopian food has fascinated me lately.It's an interesting country to begin with and the food also has a particular allure. I am going to be making the country's lentil stew. Am I worried that my Stop &Shop didn't have any lentils (and believe me I looked). Now I plan on using kidney beans. Of course there will be a slightly different taste but then I don't have some of the spices. I will improvise. I will also sub in. it calls for tomato paste but I feel that using vine ripe tomatoes may give it a fresher flavor. My Berbere spice blend will be slightly different than the one I found at Immaculate Eats where i discovered the stew recipe. Yet it's still exciting. When life and food shopping returns to normal , then I will get the appropriate ingredients. For now it's just the excitement of trying something different and not the usual tomato sauces or chilis.What will I try next? Maybe  chicken barbecue sandwiches with Morningstar Farms chicken strips and Acme's barbecue sauce, served on soft rolls.Or something French from Brittany or Normandy?

This is the time to try new recipes and taste new dishes. Be creative. Be curious. it will lead you on a culinary adventure to a new country with exotic flavors and delicious tastes.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Treats From Your Kitchen

Now, more than ever, our kitchens are the most important rooms in our house. We can create good meals and fun snacks for ourselves. We can also brighten up others' lives with our creations. It's time to uses those ovens and stove tops for culinary gifts.

A hot meal is always appreciated. If you know someone , whether family or friend, who is struggling to put food on the table, then treat them to a full meal. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Think crockpot or Instapot sauce with pasta. Include a loaf of crusty Italian bread and a container of a lovely mixed salad, chock full of such veggies as broccoli and cauliflower. If you're a whiz at dough making, then make dough for pizza and calzones. Include sauce and cheese along with ricotta and ham for the calzones. Chili is also an easy make that can be doubled and even tripled. This is a great gift because the dish can be stretched with more meat or beans, allowing it to last and be repurposed for several meals. Any pasty or empanadas would be a nice change up. Cornish pasties can be filled with meat, veggies and cheese. A fun combo anyone would like is a filling made up of cheddar and onion. You could also create feta and spinach puffs using phyllo dough.

A fruit plate is a tasty and healthy choice. You can create your own Edible Arrangement. You just need cookie cutters , wooden skewers and chocolate chips. To get the chocolate as glossy and smooth as what Edible Arrangements uses, add coconut oil  to the chocolate for a shiny finish. If you're not that creative , then think about a homemade fudge. Fudge recipes can be as simple or elaborate as you want. You can whip up one that only requires chocolate chips, butter and condensed milk. Make it yummier with walnuts or chopped almonds added. For a sophisticated cook a white chocolate caramel fudge laced with pecans. Haystacks are another fun treat and it's an easy microwave make of melted chocolate chips mixed with toasted coconut. Then they're just dropped by the spoonful onto waxed paper or a greased cookie sheet. A tin of homemade cookies is always appreciated. Of course chocolate chips are the preferred favorite but if you can, vary them with some peanut butter and sugar cookies too. A box or container of cupcakes is always welcomed. Have the kids decorate them with cheery notes and decorations. These are the perfect leave on the step surprise for any first responders in your neighborhood.

A creative gift from your kitchen is much appreciated these days, it could be a got meal or a sweet treat. Any food is wanted and given from the heart.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A Good Old Fashioned Sunday Meal

Is it still possible to carry on with traditional cooking during these times. Yes. You can put a relatively traditional Sunday dinner on the table. It does take planning and smart shopping yet worth it. Nothing is as calming as a proper meal together.

It may be hard to get some main course meats, thanks to meat  processing plants being rife with Coronavirus breakouts .Many poultry plants have closed throughout the US and production is down twenty-five percent throughout all plants that even process beef and pork. Now the best bet is to do what our grandparents and great-grandparents did  - buy locally sourced meat at local farms. If you're wondering where to go , visit the website and click on your state. The site will give you the names and directions of farms near you where you can get the main course for your Sunday meal. If the farms are too far away, there is always the vegan alternative. Gardein has excellent turkey cutlets that taste like the real thing. The plus comes with a sage infused gravy that's heated and poured over the cutlets later.Beyond Meat has a kind of chopped meat called Beyond Beef that could be fashioned into a Beef Wellington. Add a mushroom gravy to it for extra flavor. Another vegan idea is a plain risotto that can be flavored with anything from chopped veggies, saffron or just butter and Parmesan.

As for sides, these are a little easier to find and cook. Asparagus is a Spring staple right now and it is the perfect accompaniment. You can grill it for a smoky, sweet flavor or just boil it for a few minutes for a fresh green taste. Then there's the sauce . You could do just a simple melted butter with sliced hard boiled eggs and Parmesan cheese on top of the stalks.  A lusher sauce is Hollandaise. This easy to make one is simply a combination of egg yolks or yolk substitute. melted butter, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. It elevates the asparagus to a sophisticated level. If you're into foraging then think about a dish of wild ramps. This is an onion , grown in the wild and has the tangy taste of shallots and garlic combined. They are best grilled with only olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Ramps can be added to risotto for a different kind of side dish.A light dish is a salad made of grilled peppers. Different colored bell peppers can be grilled and dressed with a garlicky balsamic dressing. Another lovely Sunday side dish is tomatoes Provencale, sliced tomatoes topped with breadcrumbs and sauteed in a garlic infused butter and oil sauce.

These times call for tradition and comfort. A Sunday dinner is just that. Create a sit down meal that's a bit more elevated than the average one.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Scavenger Hunting For Food

Does it feel like going to the grocery store these days like a never ending scavenger hunt. It's hard to maneuver through all the protocol only to find what you want gone. What's to do? Order on line or head to another store. Better yet  - make it yourself.

That's the dilemma shoppers the world over are facing right now. Home chefs around the globe are snapping up the basics at alarming rates. Our truckers and shelf stockers can't work fast enough here in the States. What should we do when something we need like milk or eggs are not there? Forget ordering from companies like Peapod. They're booked for the next month it seems. You could go through Amazon if you really need eggs for cooking. It may take a week or two. Another idea is spending one day visiting different stores in your area. One may have what the others don't have. Doing such would also mean stocking up on a variety of different foodstuffs and essentials that can last you weeks. The only problem is overexposure to three groceries full of people. There's also the problem of stores having limited access. A trip to three stores that would usually take two hours may last up to four or five. If you leave the house at seven AM you may be home by lunchtime, tired , hungry and on your last nerve.

Another idea , sadly, is hoarding. If you have a big fridge along with a freezer, you may have to double buy. It looks selfish. After all we glare at those toilet papers hoarders with utter contempt. Yet, we may have to do that with basics such as bread and meat, frozen veggies and beverages. What could lessen it is that two people from the same household go to two different stores and update each other about what the other store has and doesn't have. One, that means your grocery list can be fulfilled and two , you can stock up on the basics without looking too greedy. We could also follow our grandparents and great grandparents leads and make it ourselves. Breads can be made. Even if you're not much of a baker, there are plenty of yeast free recipes anyone can make. Make rolls too , which again are easy. One you've mastered dough you can make pizza and pot pies  as well. Apple sauce is easy to make , especially if you have a crockpot or Instapot.  Another idea is cooking fresh vegetables first with your favorite sauces and spices and then freezing them. This way you have your own frozen food - and ones you know your family will actually like.

Food shopping is a scavenger hunt these day. There are ways to lessen the headache of it, making the experience less unnerving. Do what you have to do, over stocking, shopping at different stores or just make the food yourself .

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Polish Comfort Food

All across the world people are craving comfort food. They're also missing take out and restaurant food as well. In Poland there are eateries that check off those boxes. People are loving it  as familiar dishes and tastes are easing anxiety and tears.

Regular contributor Amelia Neirenburg wrote about this leftover of Poland's Communist regime.They're called milk bars - so called because they were historically vegetarian, and are a strange hybrid of diner and soup kitchen. Despite offering Communist nostalgia and Communist pricing, they are surprisingly hip and now vital. Their prices are low. Five dollars is the most anyone can spend in them and they'd be walking off with a feast. Before the shutdown, diners would order their meals at a window and then carry a tray with their food to the milk bar's  many tables, sort of like a high school cafeteria.Milk bars actually long predate the Communist Era , surprisingly being started by a member of Poland's landed gentry Stanislaw Dluzewski in 1896. They were popular , especially during the Depression when they offered quality, inexpensive meals for the workers and poor. The Communist Era kind of put a damper on them and Poles lost interest as international foods such as McDonald's , Vietnamese dishes and kebabs flooded the cities.

Yet milk bars connected the country with its' troubled past. Food is apolitical and there are almost always good memories associated with it. Recipes are as traditional as they come. Customers can buy zurek, a soup made from fermented rye and bacon and another soup, barszcz, a beet soup served with sour cream or dumplings. There are scores of differently stuffed pierogi like spinach and mushroom along with potato and cheese. Kompot, a warmed fruit drink,  popular with older people is also served. Ms. Neirenberg includes two recipes, one for pierogi Ruskie, a potato and cheese dumpling and barszcz, classic Polish borscht, Both require a lot of ingredients. and are labor intensive but they're worth it. They're also something different that will get the family out of the usual culinary rut. The pierogi dough is a simple one , similar to pasta dough. The filling is a tasty mix of waxy potatoes, onions and quark cheese.If you can't find the last cottage cheese or sour cream can be nicely subbed in. These can be made and frozen along with being boiled or pan fried in butter. The borscht not only has beets but carrots, parsnips and onions too.Garlic and herbs such as marjoram also add flavor. It does need to be strained and then recooked. You could serve it in very large teacups and drink it Polish style. Add a big dollop of sour cream for more flavor.

Milk bars are offering comfort food in a time when it's desperately needed. Poles need pierogies and beet soup to get them through these strange , trying times. Familiar flavors and taste help.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Cookbooks To Carry You Through

One of the most trying things about this confinement is coming up with meal ideas and plans.what do you make? Is your family getting tired of all the bean dishes they've been eating? Are you tired of making the same three or four recipes every week? Not to fear. There are some good cookbooks to get you through these tough times.

The New York Times Food section devoted most of today's issue to some of the best cookbooks and included recipes too. The staff made the selections , keeping the quarantine in mind along with the reason why some people read other literature. Even cookbooks offer learning, exploration and escape.Everybody weighed in  from Julia Moskin to Melissa Clark and Tejal Rao. The books can take you to Russia, the South and Korea. One of the most interesting is Beyond The North Wind: Russia In Recipes And Lore  (Ten Speed Press) by Darra Goldstein. Hers isn't the usual borscht pickled herring dishes. Vodka is spiked with birch buds and crisp mushroom hand pies spiced with caraway. There are also stories and traditions explained.  New contributor Vaughn Vreeland reviewed Bitter Honey Recipes and Stories from the Isle of Sardinia (Hardie Grant) written by London chef Letitia Clark. The recipes rely on high quality ingredients and the leisurely lifestyle Sardinia is known for. Another travel destination cookbook is My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes (W.W. Norton & Company) written by chef Hooni KIm. Chef Kims gives us everyday noodles in meaty black bean sauce along with  homemade (!) tofu with perilla leaf soy sauce.

Then there are the comfort food books. Check out Procrastibaking :100 Recipes For Getting Nothing Done In The Most Delicious Way Possible (Atria Books) written by Erin Gardner. Kids and adults will get a kick out of the recipes ranging from baked Alaska ice cream cones to mall pretzels along with chocolate pudding pie. Opera singer and chef Alexander Smalls gives us Meals, Music and Meals:Recipes From My African American Kitchen (Flatiron Books) are grouped by not surprisingly musical genre.Yet's it's also comfort food, from devilled eggs to Gullah dirty rice to chess pie. His potato salad made with pickled sweet relish made a fan out of reviewer Krysten Chambrot. Vegans also get their due with the cookbook Vegan JapanEasy : Classic and Modern Vegan Japanese Recipes to Cook At Home (Hardie Grant) by Tim Anderson.It's an easy read with the writing being conversational. Chef Anderson urges readers to cook holistically  with rehydrating shiitake mushrooms and curing them in soy sauce. There's also a simple vegan stock recipe that probably can be repurposed into a dozen dishes.Other cookbooks are Chicano Eats:Recipes From My Mexican-American Kitchen (Harper Design) by food writer Esteban Castillo that features a mac and cheese fundido with mushrooms along with Dime Times ( Karma Press) written by the famed cafe's owners Alissa Wagner and  Sabrina De Sousa and Yasmin's Fahr's Keeping It Simple : Easy Weeknight One Pot Recipes ( Hardie Grant), These last two are both comfort food recipes along with being easy ones.

It's a time of both reading and cooking. Why not order one or a few of these cookbooks to get you through this quarantine. You'll enjoy learning and cooking new dishes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Thanks to shortages and limited trips to the grocery store, home chefs may come into some problems. The big one is what happens when you run out or don't have a specific ingredient? One word: improvise. Get creative and smart with recipes and you may come up with a tasty new version.

Two dishes that can be creatively altered are chili and tomato sauce. The basic ingredients never vary , tomato sauce and tomato paste. After that you can be innovative. If you don't have enough chili powder then give it a mole vibe by grating 85 to 95 extra dark chocolate into it early on. You could also add a tiny pinch of cocoa powder too for more or less the same flavor. As for beans you don't have to stick with kidney or pinto ones.Try any white bean like a white pinto or pigeon peas for a milder, sweeter flavor. Also if you don't have any chili or red pepper, a double grind of black pepper will give it the bite needed. As for tomato sauce, again you can get innovative as you want. If there's no beef or chicken, then think fish. Tuna can easily be subbed in. You can use the water based or ones in oil. The last may be better because the oil adds a smoothness to the sauce's texture. Just cut back on adding olive oil to it. As for spices , thyme can replace oregano , while minced scallions can fill in for chopped onions.

Cow's milk is flying off the shelves right now. However you can easily switch to any of the plant based ones, from soy to oat, and cashew to almond.If you're using the milks for baking use the same amount you would for regular milk. For ice cream lovers with a milk and/or cream shortage - not to worry. Again almond milk comes to the rescue. You can even make ice cream with it and create a variety from chocolate mint to peanut butter to pure vanilla. Make this and have the kids toss in some of their favorite salty and sweet snacks from pretzels to chopped Easter candy. As for the chocolate sauce for those scoops or any scoops, melt chocolate in the microwave. You can even melt candy bars down for an addictive sauce that has bits of caramel and nougat. Melt down Nestle Crunch bars for a tasty topping for ice cream and fruit. Out of chocolate sprinkles? Use your grater on chocolate  bars to create fancy patterns on sundaes, cupcakes and cakes. You can do the same with crushed nuts too and cookies crumbs.

Improvise. That's what will keep you going during this difficult time. Use your mind , use your creativity to keep cooking tasty dishes.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Vegetarian In A Time Of Shortages

Getting food nowadays is akin to our ancestors foraging and hunting for food. The store shelves are scant with good food and nutritious choices. Is it worse for vegetarians? Maybe not.

If there is ever a time to go meatless now is the time. The meat section may be bereft of chicken cutlets and ground beef but there is still Beyond Meat burgers and their version of chopped meat.These taste like the real thing and are just as versatile as their meaty counterparts. You can make anything from your own version of Beef-A-Roni or patty melts, both would be hits with the kids. The company also has sausage patties and sausage links. The first  can be used to make a breakfast sandwich with vegan eggs and vegan cheese. Another faux meat brand is Gardein. The company has a wide array of different types. For a nice family meal try their turkey cutlets with gravy. These kind of are like a  turkey schnitzel  that tastes like the bird itself along with the gravy which has a homemade taste. Pair it with Stovetop  Stuffing or the homemade kind along with yams and green beans. They have excellent chicken strips , perfect with barbecue sauce and a side of fries. The family will love their Friday night fish fry with Gardein's crunchy filets which taste like Gorton's and Mrs. Paul's. Add fries for a real fish and chips experience. The company also produces  faux crab cakes which would be perfect for at home  mocktail parties with the kids.

Butter and eggs are also in short supply right now. Not to worry. You can easily find substitutes on line and in the stores. I've recently discovered Vegg egg substitute and was quite pleased with it. I  bought their egg yolk mix.It's just adding water and microwaving it for a couple of seconds. It produces a yolk-y sauce that you can dip toast into, but I found it makes a wonderful base for Hollandaise sauce. One of their other products is power scramble which creates a curd like scrambled sub in when water is added. It's cooked for a few minutes in the microwave. It's perfect with  Morningstar's Farms soy bacon strips.  Throw in some chopped bell peppers, onions and tomatoes for a Spanish style vegan omelet. The company also sells a French toast mix and cake mixes with the egg substitute already added in. Try the Vegg eggs with some melted faux butter  on toast. Real butter seems to be flying off the shelves too right now. The plant base butters , however, are still there and they're great for cooking and baking. Country Crock has them made out of olive oil. For a real buttery taste go for Miyoko's European Style Cultured Vegan Butter made out of cashews! This is perfect for cooking and just for slathering on  any homemade bread.

Yes, there are shortages right now. Yet if you go vegetarian or vegan, you'll be OK. There are many meatless and plant derived foods right now that can see you through these tough times.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Dad Cooking

Thanks to this pandemic, dads all over the world are participating in the daily cooking chores. Usually relegated to the kitchen , fathers are now coming into their own as home chefs. They're cooking and peeling and even baking!! Are they even better than the mom cooks?? Maybe!!!

One of the most loved and often made dad recipes is the one for pancakes.It's the easiest recipe and the one that probably impressed mom when they were dating. It's a mix of just all purpose flour, baking powder and sugar mixed with two eggs a tablespoon of oil along with two cups of milk. Of course dads like to add extras like chocolate chips or bacon. Sometimes it's a mix of both, much to the delight of the little ones. The recipe can be ramped up a bit by turning the pancakes into cups. The ingredients are the same, with the addition of vanilla, It's then dividing the batter equally into the muffin cups about one third filled, and baking them in a 400 degree F oven thirteen to fifteen minutes. The kids can fill them with whatever they want - eggs, bacon, ham, or go sweet with a puddle of butter infused maple syrup or healthy bits of berries and melons. Waffles are another Dad specialty. They're a great way to greet the morning or a fun lunch when paired with fried chicken. Again, it's sort of the same recipe for pancakes, but dry yeast is added for rise. For a different spin add such fruit as strawberries or blueberries. These would make a great dessert with ice cream too.

Lunch and dinner can now be dad domains too. Where is any man the most comfortable? Behind the grill. This is the time to get out the barbecue, clean it off and fire it up. Let the man of the house have free reign with what's going to be placed over the coals. Odds are he'll come up with some tasty recipes and renditions of backyard classics. Think bacon cheeseburgers, with thick hand made burgers and topped with pepperjack cheese. Dads usually layer on extras so expect burgers to have extra slices of tomatoes, pickles and even special sauce.Of course there has to be hot dogs, A dad recipe would be splitting them open on the grill for crisp edges and then filling them with melted cheddar or chili or both.Vegan and vegetarian dads can also do their meatless versions by using Beyond Meat burgers and Morningstar Farms Veggie dogs. You can even do bacon burgers by adding Morningstar Farms, soy bacon strips and cheese dogs filled with Chao's vegan cheese slices. End the meal with the ultimate cookout dessert - s'mores. Change it up a bit by adding bacon or by using chocolate graham crackers.

Let dad cook for this time together. It'll be a fun meal, loaded with everyone's favorite ingredients. Father knows best when it is time to make breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Per Michele Garguilo. Hai dato a tuoi figlie le migliore colazione di sempre.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Can Do Can Don't

Our diets now consist mostly of canned food. It's convenient during these times and for the most part tasty. Can we live on canned food? Will it be just as good as fresh? Can it last us through this self containment period or will it go bad after a few weeks?

This is a big question many of us are going through. Let's face it food shopping today is not the leisurely trip it once was.It's a quick grab for whatever's left on the shelf and then a quick scoot out. Some of what we'll buy now can last us well after this pandemic is over. This was the subject of an article in Wednesday's New York Times. It was written by famed chef and food writer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. He explored a variety of shelf lives for different foods, from spices (which can literally last forever) to flour ( which lasts long too) and foods that never have an expiration date. These are vinegar, honey vanilla, molasses and corn syrup. Salt and pepper never expire either. What about those cans? As a rule metal lasts longer than glass which lasts longer than plastic. There are some tinned foods left from century old Antarctic expeditions that are still edible. The only food that has to be opened by the expiration date is baby food. Canned food can last for years so what you buy now will still be good two to three years for now. The same is true for canned soda which will still keep its' fizz for twelve months or more.

 Do check, however on the can's appearance when you go food shopping. Don't buy if the can is bulging or rusting. Those are two very sure signs of spoilage. Even canned meats like deviled ham and chicken will last for years along with canned tuna , salmon and crab. Tuna in oil will also last long too so you can stock up now and use it for salad Nicoise over the summer. As for jarred foods,you can see if the product is spoiled if the lid's  center pops up in the middle. This definitely means spoilage.Canned foods are also as versatile as their fresh counterparts. Canned corn can be tasty side dish served hot with a butter sauce but it can also work well in a salad too. Use fresh chopped peppers to turn it into fiesta corn. Green beans can be graced with an almondine sauce or flavoring minestrone soup. Keep in mind that canned meats can be made into a variety of different dishes. It may garner smirks and giggles but Spam is transformable into anything.Turn it into a breakfast omelet with some eggs and cheese. Spam burgers can be fun and you can even create Spam fingers in your air fryer. Serve with a barbecue sauce for a different kind of dinner. As for canned fruit, buy the healthier choice  which is fruit packed in water instead of syrup. Mostly this is peaches -versatile for desserts and snacking and fruit salad. Think canned peaches and vanilla ice cream on waffles for dessert.

Canned food is a staple in our lives these days. We need it and will need it for months to come. Choose cans wisely and turn them into delicious meals.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Community Gardens A Must Have

if anything this dark period in world history has taught us that we are , indeed a village, We reach out to others as they have reached out to help us. People are taking it further by creating communal gardens - with social distancing. It means produce for all in the community - a blessing in these times. It is definitely an inspiration .

C,J, Chivers, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and staff writer for The New York Times Magazine wrote this interesting and inspiring article in yesterday's New York Times Food section,. The subject is dear to Mr. Chivers heart because he and his family are practicing this with their neighbors in their Rhode Island neighborhood. Their Wakefield neighborhood, a mill town, located on the state's southern coast. now has vegetable gardens, not unlike the many Victory Gardens that were planted during World War II.Mr. Chivers and his neighbors discussed planting plans at a safe distance of three to six feet apart. His neighbors' kids , the Ackroyd family,turned over the soil while he and his sons seeded potatoes in their yard. All this comes naturally to him. His father was an expert garden and fruit tree tender in upstate New York. The Chivers had abundant bounties of tomatoes and beans along with thick bouquets of dill and basil. He raised seedlings in  their kitchen then transferred them to cold frames, bottomless boxes that are set over plants to protect them from adverse weather.His plants were fertilized with still warm horse manure , brought in garbage cans in the family's Volkwagon squareback.  He even grew lush cantaloupes which  attracted a local melon thief.

This  gardening is not new to Mr. Chivers and his family. Since they 've returned from Moscow and settled in the US, they too have followed the elder Chivers' example. They have not only coaxed food from the ground but also raised and hunted turkeys sea bass,porgies and even ducks and goats. They even butchered them on butcher's table set up in their basement. They now can also harvest clams on their riverside home (they're not far from the Atlantic) along with eggs from the hens they have.Anyone can be like the Chivers family. They started with ordering seeds from catalogs, beginning with arugula and spinach, hardy greens that can withstand cool New England Springs.They also bought cilantro,parsley , turnips , radishes and peas. Neighbors bought  seed potatoes, peas and greens, Yards were sectioned off and dirt turned over.The topsoil and compost was added. Their neighborhood even had their own nurse, Dena Ackroyd, a physician's assistant who tended to kids cuts and scrapes along with worrying about her father who had the Covid 19 virus. Any neighborhood can have community gardens. Just do it with distanced coordination and Zoom meetings between the neighbors. Don't plant double crops. Have variety so there can be a healthy cornucopia of  veggies and fruits.Remember to share with your food pantry if there's overage.

This is the time for sharing. What better way than to start a garden with their neighbors. It's a sense of giving and growing, much needed in these times.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Indigenous Food Supply

Long before the Europeans cam, the indigenous tribes of the Americas survived and even thrived. They relied on local flora and fauna for centuries. Now thanks, to the pandemic, they are relying on ancient farming and hunting techniques to survive.  These methods will hopefully sustain into better times.

 Regular contributor Priya Krishna wrote this interesting article for today's New York Times Food section.  She interviewed several members from different tribes and how they're coping through this challenge. The Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe , a vast two million acre area in South Dakota have to rely on food stamps or the Food Distribution Program On Indian Reservations.. This provides boxes of food, usually unhealthy to the native Americans. However, their web site states that they can deliver such healthy and native foods as bison, cornmeal, wild rice, wild salmon and catfish. Hopefully this is true because diabetes rates are high on reservations thanks to most meals containing too much sugar and processed foods . Unfortunately, acquiring nutritious foodstuffs is a hard task due to the spread of the virus and shelves are quickly emptying out. It also doesn't help that the nearest grocery is a two hour drive. Then there are government regulations and environmental conditions that prohibit hunting and fishing in the Continental United States.

What is saving the Oglala Sioux and other tribes across the nation are the time honored practices of seed saving, canning and dehydrating. Their forebears developed these to survive harsh conditions with limited supplies. Milo Yellow Hair of the Pine Ridge Reservation is busy preparing 8,000 seedlings of local varieties of squash and corn - hearty crops with a short growing time to plant in people's yards. Since many have no electricity for refrigerators and freezers, he encourages them to dry the produce. Corn, for example, can be cooked and dried to be used as a base for soups and stews. it can also be dried to make wagmiza wasna, a traditional snack in which the corn is pounded with berries and tallow.There is also a great sense of community especially in the Navajo community. as others make their gardens available to others. They're also assembling care packages for their elders  which include ingredients for fry bread, a Navajo tradition that has a complicated history as it was made from rations from the federal government. The Chippewa tribe has a long history of canning and they're canning beets cucumbers and carrots, with many donating to other tribe members.In Alaska, the Athbaskan tribe can hunt and fish. One, local grocery store owner Cynthia Erikson has a freezer full of caribou, moose and whitefish. This will definitely come in handy in the months to come.

We can learn from the indigenous Americans during these hard times. They rely on ancient practices for sustaining their food stores and supplies. They are getting good nutrition and copious bounties thanks to their traditional farming practices.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Donate Your Talents

The front line needs us. The ones unemployed and food needy need us. What can you do? Donate food. Donate your cooking and baking.

If you have a restaurant and extra food, see if you can donate to emergency and front line workers . People still need to eat and a hot meal, whether pasta, pizza or even a burger or BLT is much welcomed. There are non profit organizations out there that are paying for essential workers to eat. Contact your local ones to see if they want to partner with your eatery for this. You can also contribute to feeding those in need of meals' the homeless and the recently unemployed. Again there are non profit organizations that can pay for this and set up a tab. You could also deliver to the elderly's homes too. Donate any fresh food you haven't used to food banks or leave it out in bags for those to take. Any extra, bread, lettuce  and tomatoes can feed a family for a few days. If there's extra cake or desserts throw them in too. It'll be a treat to the kids. Also throw in those fun kids place mats and crayons. These would be appreciated by fraught parents looking for something extra for their kids to do.

If you're a good cook and baker  then think about donating your talent to helping too. You can create large family dinners for essential workers' families whose parents are on the front lines. Create easy to make care packages like lasagnas and casseroles. Rice and pasta dishes are also simple to whip up and pack. Create a few for neighbors who are on the front lines. There is nothing liked fresh baked goods. These offer not just good cheer but a heart felt thank you. Bake a few loaves of bread. It's not only soul soothing but versatile. It can be used for sandwiches, stuffing and even turned into bread crumbs when stale. Experienced bread makers can try different kinds like honey and sourdough. You can even try rolls which always go over big. Another comfort treat is a plate of cookies. There's nothing like chocolate chips , fresh from the oven, with gooey chips and crunchy walnuts. Vary the plate with homemade oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies or blossoms.

This is the time for all of us to step up. Donate anyway you can. Use your restaurant's kitchen. Use your own kitchen to help our during this time.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Little Luxuries

These days deserve treats. We all need to reward ourselves with something delicious and even lush. It could be a cupcake, it could be a flavorful meal. Just have something that's lifts you and brightens your day.

One of the best ways of jazzing up any dish is a sauce. One of the most luxurious is Hollandaise sauce. It is a fancy sauce used to grace asparagus spears and Eggs Benedict. This silken concoction is a combination of egg yolks , melted butter, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. I made a vegan version for my Easter dinner asparagus. Instead of yolks, I used The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk, a mix of fortified yeast , black salt and beta carotene. It was then mixing in a tablespoon of lemon juice, a small dollop of Dijon mustard and half a cup of melted I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.It was just as rich as the ones I've had at restaurants in the city. It was the perfect lift for the holiday and I plan on making a vegan version of Eggs Benedict - another luxury bite. Another little luxury is homemade Mornay sauce. This is a simple Bechamel sauce enhanced with Gruyere and sometimes Parmesan. Fancy eateries usually serve it over chicken breasts and sole and you can do the same. If you can't find sole , then use tilapia. The base is easy , Just use milk and flour along with an onion, cloves and bay leaf to flavor it. A pinch of nutmeg is added at the end.

Another luxury  that might perk you up is a shrimp cocktail. You can buy what's known as a shrimp ring at the seafood section of your grocery store. Sometimes there's a cup of cocktail sauce in the middle although you can make it at home. It's a simple mix of ketchup , horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of lemon juice. You can add a dash of hot sauce for bite. Lobster and crab are other luxuries that can be a real boost. Buy them frozen or at Omaha Steak Company. Another idea is supporting your local seafood restaurant and ordering a complete dinner. This will also include a side like cole slaw and fries along with melted butter. It's just a fun way of celebrating getting through this  and a take out dinner nowadays is a big deal.Sweets can be a luxury too. There is time now to bake fancy tortes such as Black Forest cake. This decadent bite is homemade chocolate scratch cake  soaked with cherry liqueur and frosted with whipped cream. Fresh cherries and chocolate bark decorate it, upping the flavor a notch. Want something equally rich? Try baba rhums. These are small homemade cakes that's sopped up rum. They  can be garnished with whipped cream and raspberry too.

Treat yourself to little luxuries during these hard times. It could be as something like a sauce or a slice of decadent cake. Enjoy them making them and eating them.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Different Kind Of Easter

This Easter will be different. Yet maybe a cozy holiday in is what we need. It's not quite the same with the restaurant brunches or big family gatherings. It will do.

We can still have Easter ham with plenty left over. Hopefully everyone has their roasts and sides picked out. Baked beans are one great one. If you haven't bought a can you can still create you own. Just use onion powder, tomato sauce and three sweeteners, brown sugar, maple syrup and molasses, Apple cider vinegar and dried mustard are added for tang along with a splash of apple juice. It's then soaking and boiling the beans. Meanwhile, you can fry up the bacon and then add all the other ingredients. Many have potato salad with their Easter hams. A quick recipe involves boiled ones cooled and sliced. Add a good dollop of mayo and chopped celery (if you don't have it, then use celery salt) along with hard boiled eggs- which you should have.

Easter is a time of sweets, For a fun indoor/outdoor Easter egg hunt put chocolate eggs in the plastic ones. Another idea is creating cupcakes with clues in the frosting. Draw arrows or little pictograms in the icing. Since the kids are in a nd looking for activities , think about a frosting bar. Bake the cupcakes tonight and make a buttercream or chocolate butter cream as the first layer. Have jellybeans or  smaller bowls of colored frostings to create dots and stripes. It's a nice way to pass an afternoon. You could even have a contest for creating the most decorative or the one that looks the most like an Easter egg. Another fun Easter night treat is an Easter candy sundae. Layer whatever ice cream you have with jellybeans or any chocolate eggs. The last can be split in half for easier eating. Easter cookies can be turned into ice cream's just putting a small scoop on one cookie, then topping it with another.

Easter will be different this year. Celebrate with traditional dishes and fun treats. Make the day memorable with favorite flavors and foods.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Thoughtful Good Friday

This Good Friday is one where we are all thoughtful and prayerful. Our minds and hearts along with our souls  are with those who are sick with the Covid-19 virus along with those with other illnesses. Our thoughts and prayers are also those on the front lines too. If you want to do a good deed this Easter season along then donate food, whether pizzas, doughnuts or sandwiches to our brave doctors and nurses.  Do the same too  for Passover and Ramadam too. Be grateful for these healthcare professionals  who are giving up their holidays for us.  Thank those cashiers and food stockers at your grocery stores. They too are on the front lines as our the truckers, farmers, produce pickers and food plant workers.

This is the day to be thoughtful. Think of what you can do for your community. Sew masks, Donate food. Treat workers to a much needed slice of pizza or cup of coffee. Pray for an end to this, where everyone emerges happy and healthy.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Passover During A Pandemic

The holidays are entirely different this year, especially Passover. There are on line and streaming seders. Families are apart. It's certainly a strange time.

Amelia Nierenberg and Emma Goldberg both regular contributors  wrote this informative and interesting piece in yesterday's New York Food section. Passover means a time of ridding the house of unleavened bread along with other items. Vital pantry staples such as beans, bread and pasta fall into this category. Breads, cakes and cookies that are leavened with yeast are called chametz and are forbidden during this period. Usually a household's bread is either donated, eaten burned or sold to a non-Jewish person for a small fee and then bought back at the end of Passover. However bread is an important ingredient in today's kitchen and in high demand world wide. In Zichron Yaakov, a town north of Tel Aviv a Christian buyer told Rabbi Yair Silverman that he would actually keep the breads. The rabbi considered it a true sale then. Other items include foods like oatmeal and breads made with barley or kityinot. This also includes legumes and even corn and rice.

Many are adapting to this new holiday normal. One, Rachel Ringler,a food blogger, and challah baking instructor, had a Zoom seder in her Bridgehampton second home instead of her Manhattan apartment. She is serving rice and lentils a, custom of her half -Syrian son-in-law, who being a Sephardic Jew, can have corn, rice, and millet. This has been sanctioned by the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative Rabbis. They have also offered suggestion for the Passover plate too. Try a roasted beet and rice instead of a shank bone and egg along with any fruit or vegetable that can bring a tear to the eye instead of horseradish. Use ginger which is just as sharp or hot peppers. Most home chefs have usually cooked brisket in the past to accommodate huge numbers of guests. Now families have roasted chicken. There are Seder to go boxes , supplied by a worldwide Jewish organization. These have matzah, wine, grape juice, and even a plastic frog to symbolize the ten plagues along with a Haggadah, the telling of the Exodus from Egypt. One thing that is forbidden in some areas is the burning of the chametz. Some fires have gone out of control in the past and fire departments have been called in. Since they're needed  now , fires are banned.

Passover will certainly be different .  this year as Jews recite "next year in Jerusalem" there is also that hope that they will be there or at a seder with all their loved ones in the next  year. That's the best hope for this holiday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Corned Ham For Easter

One of the constants right now is the holiday dinner. For many Christians it's ham on Easter, a comforting reminder of happier years and hope for a better holiday next year. Southerners can appreciate the rare corned ham, a specialty of Maryland and South Carolina

Brett Anderson, a restaurant critic and regular contributor to the New York Times wrote about this  rare Southern classic in today's New York Times Food issue. Traditional corned ham is nothing more than  fresh ham that's been cured in salt. It's found in St. Mary's County in Maryland, a peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River where it's used for stuffed hams. It's also found in eastern North Carolina where hog farming has been the backbone  of the economy for generations. It's one region where it's still common for people to serve unembellished ham for the holidays. Some Carolinians boil their hams and them use the  rich broth, also called pot likker to cook sides like collard greens. Many slow roast the hams too. They get them at local Piggly Wigglys but many of an older generation corned the hams themselves.

You can make corned ham at home.  Just remember it's going to take up a lot of fridge space which is precious nowadays. (you can buy one on line from It will take ten days so  maybe it can work as an after Easter dinner. You will need to put a ten to fifteen pound ham in a roasting pan and cutting incisions in it, namely around the shank and hip bones.  Stuff  as much as  kosher salt as you can in them. Its' then soaking the ham over night in  half of inch of water. Afterwards press parchment paper into the meat and seal the whole thing with aluminum foil.Cook it in a 325 F degree oven for twenty-three to twenty-five minutes per pound . A fifteen pound ham would be roasted for six and a quarter hours.Ninety minutes before the final cooking remove the foil and parchment. Turn up the oven's heat to 375 degrees F and return the ham to it.The intense heat will turn the top layer of fat into the added treat of a covering  like crackling.The best part is the leftovers. You can use the meat and bones in everything from pea soup to ham salad. You can even make a corned ham Reuben toofor a fun lunch or dinner.

Corned ham is a treat anyone can make at home. Celebrate Spring or time with your family with a home corned one.It's a great addition to your cooking repertoire.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

World Health Day A Day To Eat Healthy

Today is World Health day where we celebrate nurses and midwives around the world. We could also take the day to consider our own health and eating right. We have been indulging in too many snacks and too many pre Easter goodies It's time for a healthy infusion of vitamins and minerals.

A lot of us have been living off of canned food.Let's face it. It's easy to store and easy to heat up. It's not time consuming to make, especially in these days of endless Zoom meetings and home schooling.Many soups are high in sodium ,plus preservatives. Most  soups are high in salt. A better bet is homemade soup. If you have chicken or turkey bones boil them into a stock. You can also use leftover meat and the  skin for a richer flavor. There should also be celery, onions and carrots for more taste. Use all of the celery, including the leaves and the tops. You should also have parsley too along with salt and pepper. Simmer for about four hours. Chicken stock can also be cooked in an Instapot and crock pot too. You can put whatever you want in it, from  ditalini to orzo along with sliced tomatoes, more onions and celery.  Shredded chicken or turkey is always good too.  As for chicken itself, it's tempting to buy up the frozen fried chicken, but a better choice would be chicken cutlets if you can find them (you can always get frozen) and bread them yourself using a light egg wash and a dredging of spiced flour. Fry in the air fryer for a lighter but still crispy crunch.

Snacks are also a big concern right now. How many of us have ripped into endless bags of chips right now. They are tasty, especially if they're served with a rich sour cream dip. Yet you can make them healthier by buying bags of the baked chips along with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. You can flavor the dip with onion or garlic powder or even chopped scallions for a different kind of flavor. Another healthier indulgence is pretzels. They're salty and crunchy but without all the calories. Plus pretzels can be put into all sorts of fun treats too, from sundaes to topping cupcakes. Tortilla chips and salsa are another good for you bite. Salsa can also be home made with sliced tomatoes, onions and jalapenos. Add fresh pineapple for a tasty different spin.A second healthy dip is guacamole, and again to give it an entirely different flavor, try cherry tomatoes instead of plum tomatoes to blend with the avocados. Sweet snacks are everybody's downfall right now. Yes, we all love those sandwich cookies, but try fruit  - even if' it's just an apple a day  with some cookies. Have fun fruits like grapes for the kids. These are fun nibbles , especially after a hard day of home schooling. Strawberries and pineapple chunks are also good and fun - especially if you have a vanilla Greek yogurt dip.

It is World Health Day, and we should honor all those brave nurses and midwives especially right now. Yet we should use the day to remind ourselves to eat healthier during this time inside. We'll feel better with better food in us.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Make And Freeze

if there's ever a time to make and freeze it is now. It pays to create a few dishes ahead of time or ones that will generate a lot of leftovers. All you have to do is just pop these  into the microwave or toaster oven. Doing this will save up time for meetings and schooling.

One of the easiest make and freeze is lasagna. It can be made even easier with no boil lasagna noodles and canned sauce. You can create an easy tomato sauce using your crockpot or Instapot and adjust the seasonings to your family's tastes. As for the meats try sliced sausages or ground beef. Once the ingredients are layered and baked , then it's time for freezing. Wrap it tightly in Saran Wrap first then aluminum foil .It can be refrigerated for a day and frozen for up to a month. Remember to thaw out the lasagna in the fridge before reheating it.It tastes better reheated in the oven so bake it in a  400 degree F oven for an hour. Another easy make and freeze is spaghetti and meatballs. Since this is a popular  dish make double for dinner. Let the kids enjoy it now and have it as another dinner or even lunch a few days later. Again you can have homemade or store bought sauce. Meatballs freeze very well, which is a plus. Freeze in Ziploc bags or freezer friendly containers. Keep in mind to wait for the pasta to cool. Freezing hot or even still warm foods can cause other freezer foods to melt or thaw. Remember to put the date you froze them on the begs.

Another food to think of freezing is turkey. You may want to have it as your Easter dinner for a fancier dinner. It's great for leftovers because there's so much you can do with it. Just remember to make sure the turkey and sides are completely cooled before you put the leftovers in the freezer. The meat should first be wrapped in freezer paper or foil and then sealed in air tight plastic freezer bags. Be quick about this - all packages should be placed in the freezer right away. As for the sides like mashed potatoes and green beans put into airtight freezer containers or plastic freezer bags. One of the most versatile meals that can be frozen before and after cooking is meat loaf.In fact some home chefs believe that freezing a meat loaf before cooking increases its' flavor. For first freezing, form the loaf and then wrap it very well in Saran wrap, then place in an air tight freezer bag. It can keep up to six months in there so you may want to make a few for the weeks ahead. The loaf should be thawed out in the fridge the night before cooking. As for freezing the left over slices, put in freezer containers and store for later use.

 Making and freezing  is your best bet if you're busy with Zoom meetings and home schooling. It frees you up for the more important sides of home life these days. Create now, cook later for easier living.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Flavor Of Naples

One of the best comfort foods to have is any dish from Naples. The recipes are redolent with rich spices and freshly picked and made ingredients. It is worth revisiting the cuisine and the solace it brings.

Every Neopolitan family has a recipe for tomato sauce. They may all seem the same yet each family recipes varies sometimes slightly - sometimes a lot.One favorite recipe involves the inclusion of pork in the "meat" sauce.Usually called Bolognese by fancier restaurants many Southerners  just call their meat and it can have anything from sausage to ground chuck. Some add pork, usually lean ground into it too for more flavor. It give the flavor a sweeter, richer taste. You can also add pancetta or as it's occasionally  called Italian bacon. It's actually pork belly that's been cured  like bacon then cold smoked, or partially cooked. It melts into the sauce and gives it a richer flavor. Of course, the most important part are the tomatoes themselves. Many use fresh when they're in season, but most home chefs usually go for San Marzano ones. What is the best one here in the States? Surprisingly a panel of New York Times Food and the online zine Wire Cutter picked Target's Market Pantry sauce as the best. You can also try Muir Glen along with Stop & Shop Nature's Promise Organic Sauce and tomato paste.

Neopolitan kids go wild for mozzarella in carrozza. These are a kind of grilled cheese- croque Monsieur sandwich that's filled with gooey, melted cheese. It starts with white bread and mozzarella.  You can cut off the crusts if you like. The sandwich is then cut in half and dipped into a bath of beaten egg and a sliced garlic clove. The next step is dredging the triangles into breadcrumbs and frying in a quarter of an inch olive oil. Fry until the crusts or ends are brown and the cheese is oozing out. You can use the homemade sauce for dipping for a kind of pizza taste. To vary it , slather a layer of pesto on the mozzarella or add a slice of prosciutto or a couple of anchovies. Anchovies also figure in a savory zeppoli. (Some Neopolitan home chefs also put a bit of prune with this for a sweet -savory flavor). Zeppoli are usually a sweet treat , dusted with powdered sugar after being deep fried. However they can also be savory , with a simple dough of flour, water and yeast. The dough is proofed for two hours then rolled into balls. An anchovy filet is placed in the center and then the balls are fried in six cups of oil. Serve the golden puffs with hot homemade sauce.

There is nothing like Neopolitan comfort food. It is soothing and savory, perfect for these times. Create their best recipes for a delicious lunch,dinner or even snack.

Per Rose Russo Garguilo. Mille grazie per avermi insegnato alcune delle migliori ricette.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Shopping Days These Days

These days are unprecedented and it's scary to even think about going out food shopping. This one pleasant task has become a frightening trip into the unknown. Luckily there are tips to stay sane .

Even in better days, a shopping list is handy . Many phones have a Note app that lets you create lists. There's no need for the old school paper ones. These can be easily added to and can be deleted after shopping (Or kept). Remember to sanitize your phone when you come home if you do take it out after coming home. Always ask yourself what are the basics that you need. Are you low on rice? Or pasta? These go fast and it pays to buy a few sacks of rice to keep you going. These will last for a month and rice is a versatile base. Try to buy a variety of pasta - think rotelli and spaghetti along with smaller pieces like ditalini which are perfect for soups. How many boxes should you get? As many as you need. Families with kids should buy more. Kids love a good soothing spaghetti dinner and it is a comfort during these crazy times. Cereal is also a must, especially if you have little ones. Three or four boxes should be enough for a week or two, especially if you ration them. The same goes for the hot cereals such as oatmeal and farina. With this comes milk, so buy three or four containers of it.

Other basics are beef and poultry but these can be hard to find. Some grocery stores like Acme and Wal-mart have roast chicken that you can pick up when you want a treat. There may some shortages on fresh cuts and cutlets. Think about packaged and frozen meals. Also consider frozen fish as well . The kids will like fish sticks every now and then. This is also the time to go vegan because vegan products seem to be plentiful. Gardein is always in stock and they have an excellent choice of faux meats. Their hamburgers taste like the real thing and they're great as patty melts or plain. Everyone will like their chicken tenders which have the same crunch and taste as the real thing. Beyond Burgers and Impossible Meat are also great and taste very much like beef. As for veggies and fruit should you get fresh? If you can yes. Everyone appreciates a fresh apple or a bowl of cherry tomatoes. . Just remember to wash all fruits and veggies for twenty seconds with cold water before storing.  Also when you get the food home remember to decontaminate it. Wipe all plastic containers and cardboard boxes with disinfectant. Do it outside and transfer the cleaned products to uncontaminated or untouched bags.

A grocery store visit isn't what it used to be.It's essential but risky. Take all the precautions you can , and shop wisely. Get what you truly need and get it in multiples. Make your shopping list last a week or two during these unprecedented times.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Easy Bread For The Holidays

There's nothing as comforting or as steady as tradition. That includes matzoh for Passover and breads for Easter. We need them to complete seders and dinners. what better way to carry on tradition than to bake them ourselves. It'sa way to calm ourselves and connect with our pasts.

Melissa Clark knows this and offered a matzoh recipe in her A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times. You can still buy matzoh in the stores, There are boxes of it but you can also make it at home if you don't want to go out or there are shortages in your area. Matzoh is an easy bake because it's just water and flour. Ms. Clark suggests also adding whole wheat flour for an earthier taste along with sprinkling the tops with flaky sea salt. You can also add cracked pepper or other spices.One important ingredient is olive oil  which give a richness in both flavor and body. You'll need about two cup of flour, kosher salt and only a quarter cup of whole wheat flour. A scant quarter cup of olive oil is also blended in along with a half of cup of water. The dough is rolled out to the thinnest possible thickness. You can aim for rounds but if they're too hard, then settle for oblongs. Transfer each to a cookie sheet and prick with a fork.  Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt.The matzohs only take seven to twelve minutes to bake, until they're golden and lightly browned in spots. Roll out  following batches as the first are baking.

An Easter dinner, no matter, how small , can also have a loaf of bread. Krysten Chambrot, a senior staff editor at the Food section wrote about these also in yesterday's issue. There are different recipes beginning with one for novices, and working all the way up to seasoned bread bakers. Beginners can try their hand at Mark Bittman's no knead bread. It's a simple recipe of bread flour and instant yeast . It's just takes a long while to proof  - about twelve hours or more. If you have trouble with yeast, then try the non yeast type. Food section regular  contributor, Florence Fabricant gives a beer bread one, that's sweet, thanks to the addition of sugar and beer. Make a loaf or two for the holiday and serve with sliced Easter ham. From there go for the enriched breads. These are the loaves that have egg and honey in them, which are the basis of many traditional Easter breads. A good holiday bread is an enriched savory focaccia recipe taken from the famed Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Olive oil and minced rosemary flavor it.  It's cut into squares - perfect for a family Easter brunch and for the leftovers the next day. You will need a stand mixer and a dough hook to knead the dough.

Baking matzoh and bread is a soothing holiday tradition. Bake some in these stressful times for comfort and to relieve the uneasiness of these uncertain times.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Holidays In The Time Of Hardship

With April comes holidays along with the foods and traditions that shape them. Yet how can we celebrate together when we're so far apart? That's a good question with several answers.

Priya Krishna wrote extensively about this in today's New York Times Food section, Luckily we have Zoom and Skype so there can be virtual Seders, and Easter dinners along with Persian New Year and Ramadam. Rabbi Doug Kahn,a Reform rabbi in San Francisco is doing a virtual Seder this Passover with his wife Ellen. The group has been asked to email each other their favorite holiday recipes so they're all on the same page . The hardest part, however, is the afikoman , the piece of matzo that's usually hidden in the house for children to find.Rabbi Kahn will carry his computer through his house, going through each room. People have to guess where the piece is hidden. The same can be done for Easter, Families can have virtual brunches or dinners together. They can even make candy together as Marley Griggey of Cincinnati , Ohio is doing with her family members. This is a family tradition this graduate student will pass down to her own young children. Her husband, Phill, who works overnight at Target, also helps in getting the traditional ham and eggs both hard to get right now both for cooking and dying.

The Persian New Year  or Nowruz is also very big. It is a time when there ceremonial dishes to be cooked and shared. It's in full swing right now , starting on March 19th. It's a thirteen day celebration where people throw parties and set up haft-sins. This is a collection of seven items like garlic and vinegar that symbolize hope for the new year along with dishes such as sabzi polo ba mahi, fish with herbed rice. Katayoun Kishi, an Iranian living in Atlanta had to pare down her festivities. Her haft sin had to be cut down because of shortages and there were no sweets because the bakeries were shut down. As for Ramadam, many of the dinners have been cancelled. Hassan Chami, a Detroit pharmacist  and owner of the restaurant Terry Melt,usually runs the Ramadam Food Festival, an event where there are forty vendors including himself. It's where the city's sizable Muslim population communally breaks their fast. The vent has to be cancelled but the money he donated is going to local hospitals to buy much needed supplies. along with giving free food away to hospital workers.

This year follow these examples to make the best of your holidays and holy days. It will be different but still celebratory. Make it a tasty one , still full of good memories.