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?
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
The name stems from the Celtic New Year, Samhain, which falls on October 31, the last day of summer.


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.

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:

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.


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 App├ętit 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

Warm Piquillo and Crab Dip

Vegetable Paella with Artichokes and Piquillo Peppers

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.