Friday, December 28, 2007

Sage

From the overwhelming response I have received on the quiz, I know you want to hear more about sage. :-)

I believe sage is an herb that is under utilized in the kitchen. Often we see if once a year, in the Thanksgiving stuffing or perhaps we see it again during a holiday feast in December but many do not regularly use this herb in our kitchens. Sage has a strong, spicy flavor which can be bitter that some people do not enjoy. The flavor varies depending on the variety so experimentation might help you find a variety of sage you truly enjoy. Fresh sage has a wonder lemon zest flavor that you lose in the dried version. With your taste buds changing about every 7 years, it might be time to give sage another try.

Sage is an ancient herb that originated in the Mediterranean region. It has long been grown for its medicinal purposes before it was used as a culinary herb. In ancient Rome, it was especially used to aid in digestion of the fatty meat diet that was mainstay. The French grew sage for teas and the Chinese, so enamored with the French sage teas, traded four pounds of Chinese tea to one pound of the French tea.

Because sage is used to aid digestion of fatty meats, you often see it paired with sausage and goose. Infusions can be used to treat depression and nervous anxiety. They can also be used to help aid circulation and with menopausal problems. Since it is antiseptic, it can be used to gargle to help aid laryngitis and tonsillitis.

Dried sage comes in whole leaf, rubbed or ground. If you have dried sage in your cabinet that is 6 months old, you should throw it out. Sage, as will all dried herbs, lose their flavor as they age so you are doing little more than adding color to your dish when you use dated dried herbs. Fresh sage can be kept in the refrigerator for several days to a week. Once brown spots or dry edges appear on the leaves, you need to discard it.

Washed and dried fresh sage can be frozen and will keep for one year in the freezer. Add, loosely packed to resealable freezer bags or you can add to olive oil and keep refrigerated for up to 2 month.

Sage is a hardy herb and should be used in the beginning of cooking to develop its full flavor. Besides fatty meats, it also compliments cheese, chicken, eggplant, gnocchi, potatoes and tomatoes. Other herbs that compliment sage are garlic, onions, oregano, thyme and rosemary.

Try adding sage to your next grilled cheese or a vegetable dish. You can add sage leaves and stems to the grill to infuse your grilled meat dishes. But remember sage can easily overpower a dish, so use sparingly.

Sage Recipes
http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blsage.htm

http://allrecipes.com/Recipes/Herbs-and-Spices/Herbs/Sage/Main.aspx

http://search.foodnetwork.com/food/recipe/sage/search.do?searchString=sage&site=food&gosearch=&searchType=Recipe

Monday, December 17, 2007

What Am I?

I found this interesting and I did not get it right on my first guess. Can you do better?

This herb is a perennial shrub about 2 feet high, it is a member of the mint family and has over 500 varieties. Its flowers are fragrant, usually purple or blue, sometimes white, red or pink. They are rich in nectar, and it's honey is in great demand in Europe because of its spicy flavor. Some varieties, have broad leaves; others have foliage variegated with red, yellow, or white.
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For most of its long history it has been a healing herb (supposedly curing everything from snake bites, eye problems, infection, epilepsy, intoxication, memory loss, worms and intestinal problems) or prescribed as an aphrodisiac.The dried leaves are employed by food manufacturers in seasoning meats, baked goods, and beverages. They are also used to flavor vermouth and various bitters. For years it has been used in the preserving of foods. Now it is known that it contains powerful anti-oxidants which slow spoilage. It is also antibacterial in nature, it is effective in treating sore throats and is even effective as an antiperspirant.
What am I? Click on the comments to see the answer.
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Taken from http://foodreference.com/ weekly culinary quiz

Monday, December 10, 2007

Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with a Wasabi-Ginger Sauce


Let me start this post by saying when I posted Post-Holiday Quick Meals several weeks ago, it never occurred to me to remind readers of the link I have on the right side for The Pantry Chef. This is a great resource where you can find recipes by checking off what type of pantry items you have on hand.

The reason I mention this link is that last night, when I was trying to decide what to do with the pork chops I had on hand, I used this site to find an idea for dinner. Unfortunately when you have a well stocked pantry, it provided me recipes for bean soup and fettuccini alfredo, but nothing exciting for pork chops. However from this site, I found a recipe for Wasabi and Panko-Crusted Pork Chops (followed several links on the top right corner) that sounded very interesting and ended up tasting even better!

These chops are light and flaky with a panko crust. Panko [pronounced PAHN-koh] or Japanese for “bread crumbs” translates as pan the Japanese word for “bread” and ko meaning “child of”. They are coarser, more flake-like than traditional bread crumbs giving them more surface area thus making for a lighter, crispier coating. Usually white in color because the bread crusts have been removed, they can be occasionally found in a darker, tanner color if the crusts were left on. I now use panko for my crab and salmon cakes. About 5 years ago, it was only available in Asian markets, but now I find it in the international aisle of all the larger markets. It usually comes in bags. If you do not have any available, you may substitute cracker crumbs or crushed melba toast.

Wasabi [pronounced WAH-sah-bee] is often called Japanese horseradish. Wasabi is a paste made from grating the root of an Asian plant. It is most often seen served with sushi. It has a sharp, pungent flavor much like horseradish. It is available in both a paste form and a powder form, again in the international aisle of most markets. If you do not have wasabi on hand, which I did not last night, you can combine horseradish and dry mustard to make a paste. It is great addition to mashed potatoes or added to sauces for a great, unexpected bite.



In about 35 minutes, dinner was ready. The menu consisted of Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with a Wasabi-Ginger Sauce, Sesame Orzo and Buttered Carrots. I started by gathering all of the spices and condiments I would need for this recipe: panko, sake, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, cooking oil, sugar, dry mustard and orzo. From the refrigerator, I pulled out an egg, the pork chops, carrots, ginger, horseradish, green onions and chicken broth. When cooking, I like to make sure I have all the ingredients close at hand to speed up the process and I am not wasting time looking for ingredients later on. It does not help that I store many of my ingredients in the basement since my kitchen does not have adequate space.

I began by turning my oven to 200°F so it would be warm when the pork was finished. I then started a pot of water boiling for the orzo (rice-shaped pasta) and began peeling and chopping my carrots. I placed the carrots on the stove in a steamer basket so that I could turn on the heat when I was almost finished cooking so they were not overcooked. I added oil to a skillet set over medium heat and while the oil was heating I added an egg and panko to 2 separate, shallow dishes. I quickly whisked the egg and dipped each pork chop into first the egg, then the panko and added to the hot oil.

While the chops were browning, I added all of my liquid ingredients and horseradish and mustard to a small bowl setting it next to my skillet. I then peeled and grated the ginger and quickly sliced a few green onions. About the time I turned the pork chops, my water was boiling so I added a large pinch of salt and orzo to the water, then turned the heat on high for my steamed carrots. When the pork chops were nicely browned on each side and had reached an internal temperature of 155°F, I removed them from the pan and kept them warm in the oven. I added the ginger to the pan, stirring continuously and before it started to brown, I added my liquid mixture to the pan, stirring vigorously scraping the pieces that had stuck to the bottom. I drained the orzo and added a splash of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds; drained the carrots and added a slab of butter; and removed the pork from the oven, spooned the sauce on top and sprinkled with green onions. Presto! dinner was ready.

I modified the original recipe slightly and this is my creation:

PANKO-CRUSTED PORK CHOPS WITH A WASABI-GINGER SAUCE
Serves 4
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 cup panko
1 large egg white
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup sake or dry sherry
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add egg white to a shallow dish and beat until frothy. Add panko to another dish. Dip pork in egg white; dredge in panko. Place chops in skillet in a single layer, making sure to not over crowd. Make in two batches if need be.

While the pork is cooking, add the broth, sake, soy sauce, sugar and wasabi to a small bowl, keeping near the stovetop.

Cook pork chops for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until golden brown, adding more oil to pan if it becomes dry and chops begin to stick. Once they reach an internal temperature of 155°F, remove the pork to a oven-safe dish, sprinkle with salt and keep warm in the oven.

Add ginger to pan, stirring constantly. Before the ginger begins to brown, add the broth-wasabi mixture to the pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Continue stirring and cooking until the sauce has slightly thickened and all the bits are free from the bottom of the pan.

Serve each pork chop with several generous spoonfuls of sauce and a sprinkling of green onions.
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Adapted from Melanie Barnard, Cooking Light, MARCH 2006

Friday, December 07, 2007

Gift Ideas - Books

I thought I would pass along a list of book idea from Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR's Splendid Table (www.splendidtable.org). I have not read or flipped through any of these books.

THOUGHTS FROM LYNNE

With gift buying season upon us, I thought I'd share a few of my picks from this year's crop of new cookbooks. Any of these would please the cook and food lover on your list.

For the Beginning Cook:

Cooking: 600 Recipes, 1500 Photographs, One Kitchen Education by James Peterson (Ten Speed Press, 2007).

For the Baker:

Lost Desserts: Delicious Indulgences of the Past: Recipes from Legendary Restaurants and Famous Chefs by Gail Monaghan (Rizzoli, 2007).

Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma (W. W. Norton, 2007).

Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More: 200 Anytime Treats and Special Sweets for Morning to Midnight by Carole Walter (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2007).

For the Vegetarian:

Vegetable Harvest: Vegetables at the Center of the Plate by Patricia Wells (William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2007).

Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes from the World's Healthiest Cuisine by Martha Rose Shulman (Rodale, 2007).

For the Vegan:

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero (Marlowe & Company, 2007).

For the Francophile:

Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook by Jacques Pepin (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2007).

For the Italophile:

Cucina Del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking by Nancy Harmon Jenkins (William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2007).

Books by Restaurant Chefs:

The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food by Jasper White (W. W. Norton, 2007).

Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking by Laurent Tourondel and Michele Scicolone (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Holiday Gift Ideas

Whether you love to cook or you know someone who does gifts from the kitchen are always great ideas. I am often asked what some of my favorite tools are or what items I would recommend. Here is a list of some of my favorite tools and items I find useful:

Silicone Spatula
I love my Chef'n Switchit. I was first introduced to these 100% silicone, heat resistant to 650°F, angled end that really work, spatulas at a personal chefs convention. Now I am hooked. I have used other heat-resistant spatulas, but find the handles are constantly breaking or warping. These ingenious items have a steel core so they do not bend, warp or break. I can safely leave these in a pot of soup or while simmering a sauce and do not have to worry about what will happen to the spatula. They come in several sizes and colors. I prefer the Dual Ended Long Spatula. They are available at many online stores and have seen them in Bed, Bath and Beyond stores and Linen n’ Things stores. ($8.95 - $9.95)



Microplane
A microplane grater is a fabulous tool and I use mine almost every time I am in the kitchen. I use it to grate ginger, nutmeg, hard cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano, or to zest lemons, limes and oranges. These tools were originally designed for woodworkers, but have found their way into the kitchen as a very useful tool. (approximately $15.00)




Garlic Press
All garlic presses do the job, yes that is true. I am a fan of the Ikea Konics press. This device seems to cleanly press the garlic with minimal waste and cleans up very easily. I am very sure they are other presses that work equally well, but a good garlic press is a cook's best friend. ($4.99)



Vegetable Peeler
The Mega Ceramic Peeler from Williams-Sonoma is great work horse. This baby works really well on peeling stubborn squashes and is a whiz at peeling carrots, potatoes and fruit. (available internet only for $19.95)
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Reamer
Although you can easily get by without one, once you start using one you will wish you had one sooner. This is an easy and efficient way to get all the juice from your citrus fruit. ($4.99)

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Digital Thermometer or Oven and Roasting Thermometer
A digital read instant thermometer is essential when cooking meats. You can prick open your meat, but for safety purposes you should really check the internal temperature. A digital read gives you immediate and accurate temperatures.
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Or for an even easier read, an oven friendly model allows you to insert the probe into the meat in the oven or stovetop, set an alarm and you are notified when your meat hits the desired temperature. It takes the guess work out of cooking and most have multiple settings for different meats (chicken vs beef) and desired doneness (rare vs well done). (ranges $10 - $20 for instant read and $30 - $40 for oven probe)
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Vacuum Wine Saver / Preserver
This gadget removes the air from an opened bottle of wine to preserve the contents for up to 2 weeks. Vacu Vin is a popular brand. A few pumps and you have saved the bottle when you have a few glasses left. Depending on how much wine your wine lover consumes, you may want to invest in some extra stoppers. The pump usually comes with one or two stoppers. However, I often have 2 to 3 open bottles (for cooking purposes of course) so I have invested in extra stoppers. Available at Linens n' Things and Bed, Bath and Beyond or local wine shops or markets with descent wine selections should carry. I know both Dusty's Cellar in Okemos and Goodrich's on Trowbridge in East Lansing carry them. (Pump around $15, with extra stoppers between $5 - $10 depending on how many stoppers in the pack)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post-Holiday Quick Meals

Sorry I just realized I have been absent and have not posted since Halloween. Where did the time go?!

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend, enjoyed themselves and ate a lot of good food. As the weekend closes, the holiday season officially begins. I know it is a busy time of the year and thought I would post some ideas on how to make it through, eating healthy and avoiding take-out as much as possible.

Making an extra large pot of soup is an excellent idea for getting through these cold winter nights. On the weekend, make a large pot, doubling or tripling the servings to either give you a few meals into the week or freeze one-serving portions to eat in the upcoming weeks. You could grab these single serving portions to take for lunches or a couple for a quick dinner. Keep in mind that potatoes do not freeze well, so if you are going to freeze soups omit the potatoes.

This concept of freezing entrées works well with other things besides soups. You could make extra servings of a casserole or your Sunday dinner and freeze portions for later. If you were going to roast a chicken, why not roast two instead. It is minimal extra work and then you could either freeze the roasted chicken or shred the meat for meals later in the week. With the meat, you could make chicken salad sandwiches for lunches; a chicken soup with some vegetables, stock and pasta added; add enchilada sauce and wrap in flour or corn tortillas, cover with cheese for wet burritos; the possibilities are endless. Instead of chicken, prepare an extra pork or beef roast.

Weight watchers has several ideas for cooking ahead:
http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=14381


Using 5 ingredients or less has become a popular item on several cooking websites, surf these sites for some quick ideas:
http://www.bhg.com/bhg/story.jsp?storyid=/templatedata/bhg/story/data/5IngredientMeals_03252002.xml

http://busycooks.about.com/library/recipes/blfiveingredentree.htm

http://food.ivillage.com/bestrecipes/0,,_9v38sk44,00.html


The slow cooker is also a way to make dinner easy. I suggest prepping all the ingredients the night before, then in the morning the slow cooker can be loaded and dinner will be waiting at the end of the day. Most manufacturers do not recommend taking the crock straight from the refrigerator to the heating element. If you would like to reduce the number of dishes, you could let the crock sit at room temperature for an hour or so before turning it on. Or simply transfer the contents from another dish.

Oh the possibilities are endless. I hope I have sparked some ideas.
Bon appétit!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fear of Halloween

I just learned this and thought I would share it. Did you know there is a diagnosed fear of Halloween?
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Main Entry: samhainophobia (pronounced sow-in-o-phobia)
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: a fear of Halloween
Etymology: Irish Samhain 'All Saints' Day'
from dictionary.com
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The name stems from the Celtic New Year, Samhain, which falls on October 31, the last day of summer.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN


With Halloween fast approaching, it is time to feed your favorite ghost or goblin. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I love the gruesome dishes that you can make to accompany it.

The witches’ fingers are by far one of my favorite treats and they are usually one of the first to go. I use a standard pretzel dough recipe, rolling each finger out slimly and adding the marks for knuckles with a paring knife. I then add a sliced almond that has been painted with red food coloring for the finger nail and bake.

To make eyeballs, I core cherry tomatoes and take a small slice off the bottom to allow the tomatoes to sit upright. I pipe them with herbed cream cheese or Boursin cheese mixed with a dash of milk or cream to thin. Finally they are topped with a slice of black olive for the iris and a caper for the pupil.

I have yet to make the kitty litter cake. Living with cats and having to scoop out the litter box, I have not been able to bring myself to make this cake. The smell of the real box always comes to my mind and I am unable to get past reading the recipe.
http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/375/Kitty_Litter_Cake36245.shtml

I have in the past used Martha’s idea to add a face to your punch bowl. Use powder-free rubber gloves and a face mask (any holes taped) as ice molds. Fill with water and freeze. Remember that ice expands, so do not fill all the way. When added to punch, it looks like a face is looking up at you out of the punch bowl. I have learned to make sure your punch is thoroughly chilled or else your scary face will melt too quickly. Make a couple sets so you can enjoy throughout the evening. Dry ice too is a great addition to any witch's brew. I noticed they are now selling dry ice at Meijer.

If all else fails, you can wrap white tissue paper around lollipops, tie with a white string, draw on a spooky face and have ghost-pops.

Links to Halloween recipes:
http://www.britta.com/HW/HWr.html
http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blhalloween.htm
http://www.kraftfoods.com/kf/ff/Halloween04/HalloweenFavoriteRecipes.htm


Do you have any Halloween recipes that you love?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Apple Butter Festival


Yesterday a group of friends and I went to the Apple Butter Festival at Fenner Nature Center (Lansing, MI). It was an interesting experience. I had no idea apple butter was made by essentially reducing down apples. I thought there was butter somehow incorporated into the recipe. Instead the butter refers to its thick, buttery consistency, its spreadable nature.



To make apple butter you simply cook down apples, which have been peeled, cored and sliced, along with some apple cider past the point of apple sauce. It can be sweetened or not. The gentleman who was manning the pot indicated you reduce it down 5:1. He said that their pot takes about 5 hours to cook down. The process of slow cooking allows the sugar in the apples to caramelize giving apple butter its distinctive deep brown color. When it is finished it is seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and allspice.



I found an easy recipe at AllRecipes.com. It lists some great tips in the review section and there are several variations on this site as well.





ENJOY!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Piquillo Peppers


Last night I completed my third cooking class this fall. I introduced my Soups & Stews class to piquillo peppers. I thought since they are a bit of an unusual ingredient, I would post a bit of information on the piquillo (pronounced pee-KEE-oh).

Piquillo translates as little beak and as you can see by the photo, these small, triangle shaped peppers are aptly named. They are sweet and flavorful, not spicy hot. These delicate, Spanish peppers are grown in the mountainous region of Northern Spain. They are hand picked and roasted over an open wood fire. Then they are hand peeled, without being washed or treated with any chemical additives and packed in their own juices in jars or cans. They are truly a delightful addition to any dish.

I think you will start to see these peppers more frequently. On a recent episode of Iron Chef America, Chef Mario Batali opened a can of piquillo peppers. In the February 2007 issue of Bon Appétit Magazine, they printed a recipe for Chicken Salad with Piquillo Peppers, Almonds, and Spicy Greens. In my class last night, we made a Spanish Flavored Fish Stew.

You can find the peppers whole or sliced. Because of their small size, stuffing the whole peppers make a great first course or tapas. You may substitute roasted red peppers for the piquillo peppers if you do not have any. And conversely you could add piquillo peppers to just about any recipe that calls for roasted reds.

As you can see by these recipes, piquillo peppers marries very nicely with fish and seafood:

Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Spicy Salmon Tartar with Lemon Oil
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_6702,00.html

Warm Piquillo and Crab Dip
http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/warm-piquillo-and-crab-dip

Vegetable Paella with Artichokes and Piquillo Peppers
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/vegetablepaellawitha_82928.shtml


I was only able to find the piquillo peppers locally at Williams-Sonoma (Eastwoode Towne Center, ph #517/316-9314). They only offered sliced peppers. There are numerous online stores to purchase them from. Let me know if you need help finding a store.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Halibut with Capers, Olives and Tomatoes


Halibut [HAL-uh-buht] is a great firm white fish which is only available fresh from late April to September. I highly recommend purchasing some if you see it in your local market during these times. It has a great mild taste without being oily. This fish is native to northern Pacific and Atlantic waters, being most abundant from Oregon to Alaska. They are largest fish from the flat fish family and can grow to be over 8 feet long and weigh over 600 pounds.

Since it is a mild, firm fish it really lends itself to many cooking methods. It can be sautéed, braised, poached, steamed, broiled, baked or grilled. And because of its mild flavor, it really marries well to an abundance of other foods. Culinary Artistry (A.Dorenburg and K.Page) lists these complimentary flavors, bolded items being the best: Artichokes; bacon; basil; butter; cabbage; chives; cucumbers; fennel; garlic; horseradish; leeks; lemon; lime; mangos; mushrooms; mustard seeds; onions; parsley; potatoes; rosemary; saffron; scallions; shallots; shrimp; tarragon; thyme; tomatoes; vinegar; white wine; zucchini.


So you can appreciate how thrilled I was recently when walking through the market spotting fresh halibut at the fish counter. At $14.99/pound, it was an indulgence but worth every penny. Scanning epicurious.com I found this recipe and luckily I had all the ingredients at home. I went into the backyard and picked some fresh tomatoes, plucked a handful of fresh basil leaves then set off making a quick, easy and very tasty dinner. I would recommend trying this recipe, it is delish!

Frozen halibut is available year round. If you wanted to substitute a fresh fish, I would recommend either cod or tilapia. Although neither is as firm as halibut, I believe their mild flavor would be nice with the sauce.

Bon Appétit!

HALIBUT WITH CAPERS, OLIVES AND TOMATOES
Makes 4 servings.
Bon Appétit April 2004

4 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets
All purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
1 tablespoon drained capers
1/3 cup bottled clam juice
1/4 cup dry white wine

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and sauté until lightly browned and just opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer fish to platter.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet. Add shallots and crushed red pepper; sauté 1 minute. Mix in tomatoes, olives, 1/4 cup basil, and capers. Add clam juice and wine. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 4 minutes. Mix in 1/4 cup basil. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over fish.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

September is National Organics Month


You hear a lot about organic food these days - buy organic produce, organic is better, we should eat organic. I think by now most people realize that organic foods are grown without pesticides, fertilizers or antibiotics. But I do not think most people realize that organic goes past this to include earth-friendly agricultural practices like crop rotation. By continually growing the same crop in the same field, you deplete the land of valuable nutrients. Rotating crops means literally doing just that. A specific crop is only grown on a plot of land and then not grown again for usually three years. In the alternate years, dissimilar crops are grown. This maintains nutrients in the soil and keeps pests and diseases to a minimum. Growing organic produce also is friendly to our water supply. Everything we put on the ground eventually ends up in our water supply. Yes, the earth acts as a natural filter but it can not filter out all the chemicals we add.

For products to carry the organic label, the farm just meet stringent standards. You can recognize organic produce by looking at the produce code. A 9 is placed in front of the conventionally grown code. So for example, the produce code for bananas is 4011 and organic bananas are coded 94011.

Besides reducing your exposure to toxins and heavy metals from the pesticides and fertilizers, organic produce is proven to contain more nutrients than conventionally grown produce. Studies have found that organic produce contains on average more than 50% more vitamins, minerals and flavonoids (antioxidant and cancer preventing properties) than conventionally grown produce. 50% - wow!!

Finally, I believe you can truly taste the difference between organic products and non-organic products. Some of the easiest to taste the difference with, and ones I would recommend, are eggs, chicken and fruit. Start small if you are not already buying organic products. Start by switching to organic eggs or organic carrots. By taking small steps and making slow changes over time, I think it is the easiest way to make lifestyle changes. I like the old Swahili saying: Kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba (bit by bit we feel the pot).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

La Tomatina Festival (The Battle of Tomatoes)






Tomorrow, August 29 is the annual tomato festival in Buñol, Spain. This small town (population 9,000) sits about 25 miles west of Valencia, on the eastern side of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Every year about 30,000 people attend the festival for the world’s largest food fight.

The festival started in 1944 and the origin of the tomato fight is uncertain. There is debate as to whether is started between friends or unpleasant crowds, but whatever the reason it has grown to 11-day festival with music, dancing, paella cooking contest and fireworks.

There are a few rules to the mayhem. You may not obstruct the tomato trucks that pull in to replenish the ammunition and you may only throw tomatoes which have been crushed. Preciously at 11am a canon sounds and the fighting begins. It continues for 2 hours, when at 1pm a second canon indicates the end of the fun.

Anyone interested in a transcontinental flight tonight?!?!

For your viewing pleasure, a video of the festival:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOHr9aBWi9g






Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fall Class Schedule

A preview of the Fall classes I will be teaching:
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Exploring Caribbean Cuisine



Tuesday, September 25 - 1 session

Looking for a way to spice up your life? How about trying the exotic tastes of the Caribbean and Jamaica? Join Chef Jen as she prepares easy Caribbean recipes with ingredients purchased locally. In this demonstration style course, you will receive an introduction to Caribbean cooking, taste creations made right before your eyes, while learning tips and tricks in the kitchen.



Through Delta Township
to register call (517) 323-8555 or visit http://www.deltami.gov/parks/classes/


Soups and Stews



Tuesdays, October 9 and October 16 - 2 Sessions

On those chilly fall days, nothing hits the spot and warms the soul like a hot cup of soup or a hearty bowl of stew. Soups and stews are easy to make, can be very healthy, and can make good use of ingredients you have on hand. In this demonstration-style course, Chef Jen Riebow will teach you the basics of soups and stews. One session will be devoted to soups, one to stews. You will have an opportunity to sample Chef Riebow’s recipes.

Through MSU's Evening College
to register call (517) 355-4562 or visit http://www.msualum.com/evecoll/


Cooking with Beer: Ales, Lagers and Stouts

Wednesday, November 15 - 1 session
Beer comes in many styles and flavors, from dark stouts to light pilsners. Differing varieties can be used to enhance foods in diverse ways – from tenderizing meat in a beer marinade to serving as the main ingredient in beer cheese soup to just giving a dish, such as a hearty stew, that extra punch. In this hands-on course, we will make several items all showcasing beer. You will be invited to sample all the recipes made in class and will take home many recipes, tips, ideas and resources for incorporating beer into your culinary repertoire.



Through Delta Township
to register call (517) 323-8555 or visit http://www.deltami.gov/parks/classes/

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sweet Corn


This past weekend I went to visit my Grandmother and had some of the most incredible sweet corn I have ever tasted. It was grown by a local farmer and called Triple Sweet, was it ever! It was so fresh tasting, the kernels popped as you bit into the cob. I have been working with a local doctor who specializes in holistic medicine, concentrating on eating foods that our bodies were meant to digest. So I know corn is a food we eat but our bodies were not made to handle. I could give up corn the rest of the year, but in the summer, when sweet corn is ripe and you can stop and pick it up at a local farmer's stand, now that is something I do not think I could give up. For those of you who only buy corn on the cob at the market, I urge you to find a local farmer selling it (you can drive out of town a bit and find a road side stand on just about any country road) or stop by one of the local farmer's markets and pick some up there.

I do not mean to say that corn has no nutritional value. As with all vegetables, it is low in calories, sodium and fat (1 ear = 75 calories + 13 milligrams sodium + 1 gram fat) and does contain important vitamins and minerals – beta-carotene, vitamin B, vitamin C. It is a good source of fiber (2 grams per ear).

To cook sweet corn, you can boil it or grill it.

To boil it: Bring to boil a large pot of salted water. Place the cobs in the water, with the husks and silks already removed. A tip my mother taught me, when the pot begins to smell like sweet corn, you know they are ready. This usually takes about 10 minutes. Try it out and you can easily see what I mean. When you first put the corn in, there really is no smell to the pot. But after 10 minutes or so, the pot smells just like the corn is going to taste and you know that it is ready.

To grill it: Peel back the husks, leaving them attached to the cob and remove the silks from the ears. Reposition the husks back over the cobs. If there are a lot of layers of husks, you can remove the top few, but you want to make sure the corn is completely covered by the husks. Soak the ears in water for at least 15 minutes. Make sure they are completely submerged. I find it best if the ears soak for about 1 hour. While the ears are soaking, light the grill. You will want a medium heat for the corn. Shake the excess water off the corn and grill for about 30 minutes. I like to char them first over medium heat on each side, then remove the heat from half the grill and place them on the cool side – you are essentially steaming the cobs.

Of course I love it with butter. I know that I am negating any nutritional value with fat, but mmm it is so good! For a fun alternative, you can make a compote butter to add to the corn. Let a stick of butter come to room temperature, then add fresh herbs and spices, blend them together, then shape it back into a log with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to harden back up. Then you can slice it into delicious, mouthwatering pats.

For corn, try adding 2 – 3 cloves minced garlic, 2 – 3 tablespoons minced fresh basil and a pinch of salt if you are using unsalted butter. Or mince 1 fresh jalepano, seeds and membranes removed (or use 1 – 2 teaspoons chili powder), 2 minced green onions and 1 teaspoon ground cumin. Or finally, try adding 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 2 tablespoons curry powder and 1 clove minced garlic. You can really use any combination, so use your imagination.
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Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Summer Tomatoes

I subscribe to NPR's The Splendid Table Newsletter. Lynne Rossetto Kasper offers a delicious sounding fresh tomato pasta sauce in the August 1 edition. Since it is that time of year, I thought I would pass it along for those who do not subscribe. Bon Appetit!



August 1, 2007

Dear Friends,

With this recipe, the only thing you have to cook is the pasta. Obviously the tomatoes and olive oil have to be prime, but that shouldn't be a problem right now. The trick here is letting the tomatoes mellow with the olive oil, salt and the two peppers.

If you can, try Barilla pasta made with dried beans and whole wheat. It's called "Barilla Plus." As much as this sounds like an abomination to you Italophiles, trust me, this is a good tasting pasta, and it doesn't suffer from easy breaking and the danger of tasting like cardboard that plagues most whole wheat noodles. Do stay with the spaghetti shape; the stubby version doesn't hold up.

Mellowed Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta
Copyright 2007 Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Serves 6 to 8 as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main dish

  • 1 clove garlic, split
  • 3 pounds richly flavored tomatoes (if possible, one-third cherry type, one-third mellow-tasting, and one-third low-acid), unpeeled, unseeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 generous pinches hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti, or linguine
  • 6 quarts boiling salted water
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 3 tight-packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn

  • 1 cup fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

1. Vigorously rub a pasta serving bowl with the garlic and discard the clove. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, oil, and the salt. Gently combine. Let stand at room temperature from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

2. When ready to eat, cook the pasta in fiercely boiling salted water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. Drain in a colander and turn it into the pasta bowl. Quickly add the black pepper and basil, and toss everything together. Taste the pasta for seasoning and serve. If you like, pass cheese at the table

LYNNE'S TIPS

  • I discovered a trick for making pasta with raw tomato sauces taste lustier. Slightly undercook the pasta. Drain it. Spoon the juices that raw sauces always throw off into the empty pasta pot. Set it over medium-low heat, add the pasta and toss until the juices are absorbed, then add the pasta to the sauce. Pasta and raw tomato sauce are served at room temperature, never chilled.

  • Exceptionally good tomatoes and olive oil you want to eat with a spoon are the only requirements for this recipe. Try a variety of tomatoes if possible—the punchy little Sweet 100's or Sun Golds, mellow beefsteaks and maybe one or two sweet yellow or orange ones. Tear the basil with your hands, rather than chopping with a knife. You enjoy more of its fragrance this way.

  • For fresh, kicky olive oil, keep a lookout for fresh-pressed oils from the Southern hemisphere. You'll find the 2007 harvest coming from Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

  • Field-ripened tomatoes are in abundance at farmers' markets and roadside stands now until the end of September. Heirloom and older varieties are worth looking for, especially the "black" tomatoes from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union—like Black Krims, Chris's Ukraine, Gypsy Blacks and Black Russians. Of course, don't ignore better-known fruit like the Brandywine, Rutgers, German Striped, Oxheart and Zebra. Sweet, low-acid tomatoes such as White Wonder and Taxi Cab are a good foil for higher contrast varieties like Sun Gold, Sweet 100s, Red Currant, Early Cascade and White Beauty.

  • Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes. Farm stand tomatoes will likely be ripe when you purchase them, but if another day or two is needed, place them stem end down in a basket or on the kitchen counter to finish ripening.

THOUGHTS FROM LYNNE

When farm stands are overflowing with delicious ripe heirloom tomatoes we love to make a meal of them. Pick up as many varieties as you can find. Cut them into thick slices and arrange them on a big platter. Drizzle on some good olive oil, a shower of sea salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Scatter torn basil leaves over all. For a heartier dish, tuck slices of fresh mozzarella (the one that's packed in liquid) among the tomatoes. Add a loaf of chewy whole-grain country bread, a glass of chilled white Arneis wine from Italy's Piedmont region, and life will be very, very good.

Have a great week,

Lynne

http://www.elabs7.com/functions/message_view.html?mid=227283&mlid=499&siteid=20130&uid=3d7453a767

Monday, August 06, 2007

National Root Beer Float Day

Ah! A nice cold root beer float. Velvety, chocolaty, a perfect refreshment on a hot summer day. Nothing more than a few scoops of vanilla ice cream in a frosty mug and topped off with your favorite root beer, this treat has been popular for over a hundred years.

It is thought that the root beer float was invented by Frank J. Wisner in the late 1800’s. While relaxing one evening, looking out at the full moon rising over the darkened Cow Mountains, he was inspired to float a scoop of ice cream on top of his root beer. His concoction was called a Black Cow. Today a black cow refers to a float made with cola instead of root beer. A Boston cooler is made with ginger ale (Vernors in Michigan of course) over vanilla ice cream.

We could not have a root beer float with the root beer. There are over two thousand root beer brands today. According to
www.root-beer.org, “Root Beer is a sweetened, carbonated beverage originally made using the root of a sassafras plant (or the bark of a sassafras tree), with sassafras as the primary flavor. In addition to sassafras flavor, root beer often has other flavorings, including anise, burdock, cinnamon, dandelion, ginger, juniper, spikenard / sarsaparilla, vanilla, wintergreen, and / or yellow dock and sweetened with aspartame, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, and, most commonly sugar.”

Sassafras plant and bark are natural foaming agents, so they give root beer its characteristic foamy head. It is the original ingredient Charles Hires used when he first publicly introduced Hires Root Beer back in the 1876. It is said that Charles, a pharmacist in Philadelphia, had sampled some teas made with barks while vacationing in New Jersey. He enjoyed the teas so much, he begin experimenting with barks and roots upon his return. Sassafras was the key ingredient of his root beer.

Try placing a plate under your mug to help catch any spill over. You can add whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top to add a touch of decadence. Or for an adult version, add a shot of root beer schnapps to your float. Some people add chocolate syrup to their float. And for those of you who think this is just too much work, you can now buy root beer float ice cream (vanilla ice cream with ripples of root beer sherbet).

Enjoy a frosty, frothy, foamy mug today!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dog Days of Summer


With a forecasted temperature of 95° today, we are experiencing our hottest day this summer. When the temperature gets this hot, the last thing I want to do is turn on the stove, let alone the oven. I thought I would throw out some suggestions for some easy meals that don't require cooking.

Besides the obvious – going out to eat in a nice, cool restaurant – you could pick up some deli items and have a picnic in your dining room. The market’s deli section carries great easy items, from fried or rotisserie chicken to salads of all kinds. You could pick up cold cuts and cheeses and have a build-your-own-sandwich night.

You could make chicken salad and have it on a bed of greens, sub buns or even just with fruit and crackers. I would use either rotisserie chicken that has been shredded or canned chicken that has been drained. Chop a bit of celery, onion, bell pepper and toss with a scoop of mayonnaise, a dollop of Dijon mustard with salt and pepper to taste.

Buy some pre-cooked shrimp, crab legs or lobster. I found 3 easy, no-cook recipes that any of these seafood options would be tasty with.
Quick and Easy Coconut Shrimp Salad
No Cook Sweet Beet Lime Shrimp Salad
Easy No Cook Calypso Coconut Shrimp Salad
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/66544/three_no_cook_shrimp_salad_recipes.html

Or go nuts and have a build-your-own-ice-cream-sundae dinner. Buy several types of ice cream, chopped nuts, fudge sauce, fresh fruit like bananas and strawberries, and don’t forget the whipped cream and cherries and stay cool by eating a banana split or not-so-hot-fudge sundae. I don’t advocate eating like this all the time, but on days like today I think it is okay.

Whatever you do, stay cool and enjoy your day!

PS Can you fry an egg on the side walk? According to the Library of Congress, it is theoretically possible, but it does not actually work. “An egg needs a temperature of 158°F to become firm. In order to cook, proteins in the egg must denature (modify), then coagulate, and that won’t happen until the temperature rises enough to start and maintain the process.” Even on the hottest of days, the pavement temperature only reaches 145°F.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Let’s Dress Those Salads

I am following up my previous post on salads with one on salad dressings. Salad dressings usually contain oil along with either vinegar or a dairy product like buttermilk or mayonnaise. Most times an emulsifier is used. An emulsifier is a binding agent that works to keep the dressing uniformly mixed. We have all seen how an oil and vinegar separates as it sits for a while. If you use an emulsifier, like lemon juice or Dijon mustard it will help keep the dressing to stay blended.

People have been using dressings for thousands of years. The Chinese have been using soy sauce as a dressing for as far back as 5,000 years ago. Oil and vinegar dressings date back to the Babylonians 2,000 years ago. Commercial dressings were introduced to the market in the early 1920’s (Hellman’s Mayonnaise in 1912; Marzetti dressing in 1919; and Kraft brands in 1925).

Basic Vinaigrette
The two main components of the basic vinaigrette are oil and vinegar. You can use any type of oil or vinegar. Since the standard ratio for vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar, use the best quality oil that you have on hand. Whether it is vegetable oil, olive oil, canola oil or a nut oil like walnut or hazelnut it does not matter, but it is the main ingredient so quality does matter. I usually use balsamic, wine, fruited or herbed vinegar with the oil. If you are looking to make a delicate vinaigrette, rice wine vinegar is a great option. You can dress it up with fresh herbs, minced shallots or garlic and a bit of mustard.

BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
Makes 1 cup

1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 Tablespoons of minced fresh herbs, try parsley, basil and thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

In a mixing bowl, add the garlic, herbs, salt and a few turns of the peppermill to the vinegar. Whisk in the mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, allowing oil to blend with the vinegar mixture before adding more. This can also be done in a food processor or blender. Allow the vinaigrette to rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature to let the flavors blend. Mix again before serving.


Ranch Dressing
One of America’s favorites, this dressing is commonly used as a dip as frequently as it is a dressing. The Hidden Valley Dude Ranch in California created ranch dressing and sold its Hidden Valley Ranch dressing to the Clorox company in the 1970’s for $8 million. Ranch dressing consists of buttermilk, mayonnaise, green onions, fresh parsley and spices. A recipe for a copy of Hidden Valley’s hit, although I would leave the MSG out.
http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,1715,148171-235206,00.html

Bleu Cheese
Similar to ranch dressing, this creamy dressing is often associated with buffalo wings. My favorite recipe is from Joy of Cooking and is best I believe if it sits for a couple of hours:

CREAMY BLEU CHEESE DRESSING
Makes 2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise 1/2 cup sour cream1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar1 teaspoon minced garlic6 dashes Worcestershire sauceSalt and ground black pepper to tastePinch of ground red pepper, or to taste
4 ounces bleu cheese, Roquefort or other good quality cheese

Puree everything but the cheese in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add and process to the desired consistency, taste and adjust the seasonings. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate.


Thousand Island
Another creamy creation, this dressing has a mayonnaise base and usually includes chili sauce with chopped pickles, green olives, green peppers, onions and occasionally hard boiled eggs. It was created by a fisherman and his wife in upstate New York, an area with a thousand islands who offered guided fishing day tours. They gave the recipe to a local hotel owner, who in turn gave the recipe to the owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC. From there its popular has grown world wide.
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There are so many varieties and variations of dressings. The concept is really easy and I would love to hear about your favorites and any recipes that you just love.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Happy Moon Day


Today is Moon Day - 38 years ago today Neil Armstrong walked on the moon (July 20, 1969).

Six hours after landing at 4:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (with less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining), Neil A. Armstrong took the “Small Step” into our greater future when he stepped off the Lunar Module, named “Eagle,” onto the surface of the Moon, from which he could look up and see Earth in the heavens as no one had done before him.

So for this post, I thought I would celebrate the Moon.

For those into astrology:

"The Moon's natural House in the Zodiac is the Fourth -- the House of Family and Home, ruled by the domestic sign of Cancer -- the Martha Stewart of the signs, if you will. The Moon influences entertaining and caretaking, and food is often the central theme in both cases." http://goddess.astrology.com/moon/recipes.html

The Chinese Moon Festival always on the 15th day of the eighth month by the Chinese lunar calendar. This year it is being held September 25.

The Moon Festival is an important festival where families get together and watch the full moon rise, eat moon cakes and read moon poems.

A cocktail? Blue Moon http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink1402.html

And those tasty and delicious Moon Pies! http://moonpie.com/ This cookie sandwich filled with marshmallow and coated in chocolate was created by a Chattanooga, TN bakery as a way to use up flour in the early 1900’s.

Celebrate the moon today - invite your friends over and wash down a few moon pies with a blue moon cocktail.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Let Us Examine Lettuce


Salad is usually the first thing that comes to our mind when we think about lettuce. Salads have come a long way from the old iceberg lettuce salad – from sweet to savory and everything in between, on a bed of greens or topped with a mesclun mix. And the varieties of lettuce keep growing.

The name lettuce is derived from the Latin word for milk, lactis, referring to the milky juice of the plant. Lettuce at one time was considered a weed in the Mediterranean basin (countries surrounding the Mediterranean see like Spain, Italy, Turkey and Libya).

Lettuce is a cool season plant and does not like high temperatures so springtime and early summer are the perfect time to enjoy fresh, locally grown lettuces. Some lettuces, like iceberg, have been bred to remove their bitterness. The milky white liquid that gives lettuce its name is the source of its bitterness.

There many varieties of lettuce that fit into five main types:
Butterhead Lettuce generally small, heads with loose leaves folding on top of one another and have tender, soft leaves with a delicate sweet flavor. The bib lettuce and Boston lettuce are varieties of butterhead.
Cos or Romaine Lettuce forms an upright, elongated head with a sweeter flavor than the other types of lettuce, making it a salad favorite. In addition to romaine, popular cos varieties include chicory and endive.
Crisphead Lettuce forms a tight firm head of crisp leaves. Iceberg is the most common variety of this type.
Leaf or Loose-Leaf Lettuce produces crisp leaves loosely arranged on the stalk and available in colors from dark green to red. Green leaf and red leaf are common market varieties of leaf lettuce.
Stem Lettuce forms an enlarged seed stalk used in Chinese, Japanese and Malaysian cuisines. This is not usually found in typical American markets. Examples include asparagus lettuce, celery lettuce, Chinese lettuce.

Pronunciation and taste for some common types:

arugula [uh-REW-guh-la] or rocket: peppery and bitter flavored
endive [EN-dyv, AHN-deev, ahn-DEEV]: bitter flavor that becomes more bitter when exposed to light so should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to consume
escarole [EHS-kuh-rohl]: a type of endive

mesclun [MEHS-kluhn]: also called salad mix, it is a blend of young, small salad greens

mizuna [mih-ZOO-nuh]: a Japenese green, with a mild peppery flavor
radicchio [rah-DEEK-ee-oh]: has a slightly bitter flavor available with green or red leaves


Some of my favorite salads include:

Pear, walnut and goat cheese – try on bitter greens like arugula

Dried cherries, tomatoes, red onion and almonds – try on baby spinach

You can be inventive with any vegetable that you like eaten raw (or blanch quickly); fresh fruits like apples, pears, berries, or kiwi; dried fruits like blueberries, currants, raisins or figs; nuts like almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts or pine nuts; or fresh herbs like parsley, basil or tarragon.

I haven’t tried this salad, but sounds delicious Sweet and Sour Arugola, or Radicchio in Agrodolce
(http://italianfood.about.com/od/vegetablessalads/r/blr0813.htm)

Next time you are at the market and reach for the same type of lettuce you always get, try grabbing a new type and experimenting. I will blog some about dressings because that takes your salad to a whole other level!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Today is NATIONAL CHOCOLATE PUDDING DAY


Happy National Chocolate Pudding Day! YUM – Could there be a better holiday?!?! Chocolate pudding is such an American classic. You can make it in less than two minutes thanks to the instant pudding people, you can rip off a lid and enjoy it immediately now thanks to the pudding cup manufacturers (I always worry about shelf stable dairy products, but that is another topic). Or you can really treat yourself, take about a half-hour and make it from scratch.

So rich and creamy! Chocolate pudding is essentially the same as custard, the difference being the added cornstarch to make it thicker. Pudding, or a version of we call pudding today, dates back to the Middle Ages where they would make sweet pudding-like custards flavored with honey and nuts. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, pudding was fed to children and invalids not as a dessert but as high-caloire, wholesome food to those with little appetite.

In 1918 the first packaged pudding was introduced to the marketed by My*T*Fine. Jell-O did not introduce its chocolate pudding mix until 1934 as Walter Baker’s Dessert, changing it to Jell-O in 1936.

The key to making chocolate pudding is to use a heavy bottomed pot over medium-low heat to prevent the milk from scorching and to stir it constantly to prevent it from sticking. Some people push their pudding through a fine-mesh sieve after it has cooked to remove any lumps that formed while cooking. Pudding can be eaten warm, striaght from the stove top or cooled in the refrigerator. If you do not like a thin film or skin on the top of your pudding, then press a sheet of plastic wrap over the top while it cools.

Milk Chocolate Pudding
Gourmet, February 2007 from
epicurious.com
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2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz fine-quality milk chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gradually whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking, 2 minutes. (Mixture will be thick.) Remove from heat.

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Whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth.Transfer to a bowl and chill pudding, its surface covered with wax paper (to prevent a skin from forming), until cold, at least 2 hours.

Cooks' note: Pudding can be chilled, covered with plastic wrap after 2 hours, up to 3 days.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shrimp in Spicy Tomato Sauce



Tonight for dinner I threw together a tasty dish and thought I would share it with you. It was very easy and while I know my on-hand stock is not like most, I made it from ingredients I had available to me. It can easily be modified with items you have on-hand.

It started with shrimp that I had picked up on sale. I think the hardest part of cooking with shrimp is peeling and deveining them. If you can find already peeled and deveined shrimp, it is worth the investment. They cost a bit more, but save you so much time. Also, I like to purchase the biggest shrimp I can find. It is less work if you are peeling and deveining and large shrimp feel so much more indulgent!

When buying shrimp, the size of the shrimp is indicated by the number on the bag. The number refers to the amount of shrimp in a pound. For instance 16/20 means that 16 to 20 of that size shrimp will make up a pound (large shrimp). The largest shrimp are U/10 or U/12 meaning under 10 or 12 in a pound. The smallest shrimp are 51/60 and 61/70.

Keys to buying shrimp:

  • Always purchase raw shrimp. Pre-cooked shrimp are already overcooked so if you will be heating them they are going to taste like rubber.
  • Unless you live where you can buy truly fresh shrimp, buy your shrimp frozen. Keep them frozen until you are ready to use them. Either defrost them in the refrigerator or I like to defrost them in a colander under cool running water. It takes about 1/2 hour or so.

To clean the shrimp, remove the shell. Then run a sharp paring knife down the back of the shrimp and remove the brown/black line (this is deveining). I like to do this under running water, it allows the vein to rinse away easily.


Shrimp in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

1 tablespoon oil (canola or olive)
1 small onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
14 ounce diced tomatoes (I love Muir Glen’s Fire Roasted Tomatoes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chili sauce (I used Sriracha), or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (16/20 sized)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Serve over orzo (rice shaped pasta) or other pasta, white or brown rice, barley or steamed vegetables

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the celery and cook them both until the onions are almost translucent. I like to slowly cook my onions to allow the taste to mellow. Many recipes say to cook over medium or high heat and that is acceptable but not how I prefer to cook. And by adding the celery second, it will give the final dish a bit of crunch. The celery can be added at the same time as the onion if you prefer no crunch.

Meanwhile, start preparing the pasta, rice or whatever you will be serving the shrimp over. I used orzo, a rice-shaped pasta. It is sold in the pasta aisle in the market and is great because it cooks in only 5 minutes.

Once the onions and celery have cooked, add the garlic and cook stirring constantly for about 30 seconds. This allows the garlic to cook without burning. Then add the wine and increase heat to high. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes until it has reduced by half.

Add the tomatoes, juice and all, chili sauce, tomato paste and salt. Cook and continue to boil until most of the juice has evaporated, about 3 or 4 more minutes. Once it has reduced to the consistency you like, add the shrimp and cook them for about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir constantly and as soon as they have lost their opaque color and turned pink they have finished cooking.

Stir in heavy cream, sour cream, black pepper and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Stir until warm only about 1 minute more.

Serve over pasta or rice with some roasted asparagus, a nice mixed green salad or steamed green beans.

Modifications: You do not have to add both the celery and onions, you could leave out one or both or substitute shallots if you have that instead. Instead of using white wine, you could omit or substitute chicken or vegetable stock. Adding regular diced tomatoes will do if you do not have fire roasted. Stewed or crushed tomatoes would work well also. The tomato paste just thickens the sauce quickly. You could omit and cook a bit longer. You could use regular milk instead of cream, sour cream only or leave them out for a tomato sauce that isn't creamy. Other herbs to use instead of basil and chives - thyme, parsley, oregano.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Moment of Silence


What do Cheez Whiz and McDonald's French Fries have in common?

Edwin Traisman. The food scientist who helped invent Cheez Whiz in the 1950’s when he worked for Kraft foods and later as a franchaise owner invented a process for McDonald's to help keep their french fries consistent passed away last week at 91.

Mr. Traisman was highly regarded in the food industry. He was a pioneer and will be missed. Read more about Mr. Traisman