29 May 2006

Sunday Suppers at Lucques

Featuring another 2006 James Beard Award Winner in the Cooking from a Professional Point of View Category is Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table, by Suzanne Goin, with Teri Gelber. This synopsis is from Jessica's Biscuit:

When Suzanne Goin opened her restaurant, Lucques, in 1998, she became an overnight star on the California culinary scene. Seven years later the restaurant is universally recognized as of the best in America, and Sunday Suppers at Lucques have become a beloved Los Angeles tradition.

Now Goin gives us a wonderful book that brings her delectable Sunday Suppers into our own kitchens. Here are 132 recipes, organized by season, that reflect her commitment to the freshest ingredients available andher trademark knack for the most unexpected, delicious combinations. Appetizers such as Warm Kaboch Salad with Dandelion, Bacon, Roncal, and Pecans prepare the palate for the vast range of flavors and creativity that Goin brings to her cooking. The main courses include Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potato Puree and Horseradish Cream,; Saffron Marinated Chicken with Parmesan Pudding and Sugar Snap Peas; and Hawaiian Supper with Green Rice, Creme Fraiche, and Persian Cucumbers. Then there is Caramelized Chocolate Bread Pudding, Cranberry Walnut Clafoutis, or Warm Crepes with Lemon Zest and Hazelnut Brown Butter, to name just a few of the irresistible desserts.

Goin's infectious enthusiasm for food, for cooking, and for the pleasures of the table life fills these pages. Every one of these recipes--wonderfully easy to follow--is guaranteed to surprise and delight the palate.

Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
by Goin, Suzanne with Gelber, Teri
Hardcover, 416 pages, Color Photographs
November 2005
ISBN: 1400042151
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Available online from Barnes and Noble and Jessica's Biscuit.

Gazpacho and Gazpacho recipe

Now that warmer (hot) weather is here (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), it's time for lighter, cooler dishes. One of our favorites is gazpacho. Liquid salad, with unlmited variations, and fairly easy to prepare. From Wikipedia:

Gazpacho soup, also known as gazpacho, is a cold, Spanish liquid salad that is popular in warmer areas and during the summer. Gazpacho descends from an ancient Andalusian concoction based on a combination of stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt, and vinegar - a cold breadsoup. With the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the tomato and the bell pepper were brought to Europe. In the United States and other countries, there exists the common misconception that the fundamental ingredient of Gazpacho is Tomato. While tomato is an important ingredient of the most commonly-known form of Gazpacho, it is still the original ingredients mentioned above, which define this recipe. In Andalusia, there are many types of Gazpacho, many of them not including tomato at all. One, very popular type of Gazpacho is White Gazpacho or Ajoblanco Malagueño made principally with Almonds, bread, garlic, vinegar and oil.

Gazpacho recipe

Ingredients

* 1 lb /450 g tomatoes
* 1/2 lb / 225 g green peppers
* 1/2 cucumber
* clove of garlic
* a few coriander leaves (cilantro)
* 2 oz / 50 g white bread, 2-3 days old
* 1/2 mild Spanish onion
* 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1/3 pt iced water
* Sea salt and black pepper
* Ice cubes

To Garnish:

* 2 tomatoes, skinned
* 1/2 green pepper
* 1/4 peeled cucumber
* 2 slices stale white bread, crusts removed

Method:

Skin the tomatoes and cut into quarters. Remove seeds and stalks from peppers. Peel the cucumber and cut into chunks. Tear up the bread and soak it in water for 30 minutes and then squeeze it dry. Cut up the onion.

Blend all the ingredients until roughly chopped, not too fine, because the soup should have texture and discernible vegetable bits. Pour into large bowl with some ice, add salt and pepper. Then prepare the garnishes. Dice the bread and fry it in a little olive oil until brown. Chop the other vegetables finely. Serve in separate little bowls on the table, so that guests can sprinkle on their own toppings.

Serve chilled.

28 May 2006

Insatiable: Tales From a Life of Delicious Excess

We have recommended various food-related books (The Art of Eating, by M.F.K. Fisher, for one -- see our blog). This one by Gael Greene, who it seems has been on the New York food scene forever, is the latest: Insatiable: Tales From a Life of Delicious Excess, goes beyond the kitchen, as you can see from these excerpts from a review in The New York Times:

"Her life was given its direction by two improbable big breaks. The first occurred in 1956 when she was a 21-year-old reporter for U.P.I. in Detroit: she slept with Elvis. She was wearing a "body-skimming black shantung dress," patent-leather pumps and "little white kid gloves." At their interview, Elvis led her, "still gloved," to his bed. "I think it was good," she writes. "I don't remember the essential details. It was certainly good enough." What she remembered most strongly was that afterward he asked her to call room service and order him a fried-egg sandwich. "At that moment, it might have been clear I was born to be a restaurant critic. I just didn't know it yet."

That had to wait for her second big break, in 1968, when Greene was married and a freelance writer in New York. Clay Felker, editor of the fledgling New York magazine, tapped her to be his restaurant reviewer. At first, she thought she was unworthy. "What would you tell people my credentials are?" she asked. (Presumably, he didn't know about Elvis.) "Aren't you a food person?" he asked. "Blinding lightbulbs exploded," Greene remembers. "Suddenly, it was all so clear. I could order from the right side of the menu instead of from the left. . . . So I said 'Yes' quickly." Early on, a supercilious critic from Esquire twitted her as "the little housewife who is writing about restaurants now." Nonetheless, that first "Yes" and all her later yeses stacked up to create Greene's vertiginous romance of self-invention and outsized appetites...

...'Gastronomic cravings,' Greene once wrote, 'are as varied as the libido's yearnings.' And she proceeded to imagine some of them: 'To be immersed in pasta. To be assaulted by chocolate. To dive into a tin of caviar. To be attacked by a running Brie.' When journalists questioned the florid tone of her reviews, Greene had a ready response: 'The same sense that registers pleasure at the table measures the delights in bed: the eye, the nose, the mouth, the skin, the ear that records a whimper of joy or a crunch of a superior pomme frite.'"

From Jessica's Biscuit:

"Throughout it all, Gael is convinced that food and sex are inextricably linked, and in this exuberant account of her adventures in sensuous excess, she takes readers on a joyride from the world's best tables, to al fresco lunch with Julia Child and naughty dinners with Craig Claiborne and then to bed with the men she couldn't resist--including a porn star and two Hollywood titans.

The recipes she includes reflect the decades, from childhood macaroni-and-cheese to Chocolate Wickedness. Greene's tale of pleasure and heartbreak will make you laugh. It may make you cry. It will certainly make you hungry."

Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess
by Greene, Gael
Hardcover, 352 pages
March 2006
Black and White Photographs
ISBN: 0446576999
Warner Books, Inc.

It is avialable online from Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

26 May 2006

Best 50 Teas and Chais

Following our blog on chai, do you want to know more about chai and its different preparations?

Teas and chais (Indian spice teas) are becoming increasingly popular and are available in tea and coffee shops as well as on supermarket shelves. The best way, however, to sample the delicate variety and gorgeous fragrance of these teas is by preparing them yourself, and this book shows you how to do just that. With serving suggestions and side dish recipes, this book will provide you with more than just a 'cuppa.'

Best 50 Teas and Chais
by Murray, Dorothy
Paperback - 80 pages
September 2003
ISBN: 1558672869
Bristol Publ. Ent., Inc.

Available from Jessica's Biscuit.

Chai

Chai has gained quite a bit of popularity as a beverage over the last couple of years. It is not a recent "concoction" by Starbucks or Snapple. It's been around for quite a while. Here is more from Wikipedia":

"Chai is the Hindi word (Hindi: चाय) for tea. In English, the term is used to refer to what is more properly known as masala chai (Hindi (मसाला चाय [masālā chaiy], "spiced tea").

Various forms of tea are available in India, the most famous being masala chai, masala being the Hindi word for spice, and the spice mixture is sold as chai masala.

In India, masala chai is more popular than coffee. It is also a relatively popular beverage in coffeehouses in other countries, and has become something of a speciality of European Music festivals and underground music events. Masala chai has strong cultural associations with Psytrance and Goa in particular.

The origins of the chai masala recipe are obscure, but it is believed to have been created after the British began cultivating tea within colonial India during the 19th century to compensate for their inability to meet demand from Chinese exports.

Preparation

There is no fixed recipe or preparation method for masala chai and many families in India have their own special versions of the tea. Due to the huge range of possible variations, chai can be considered a class of tea rather than a specific kind. But all chai has four basic components:

* Tea: The base tea is usually a strong black tea, such as assam, so that the various spices and sweeteners do not overpower it. However, a wide variety of teas can be and are used to make chai. Sometimes the drink can be prepared with tisanes such as rooibos.
* Sweetener: Plain white sugar is sufficient, though unprocessed sugar, molasses, honey, and other sweeteners can be used for various flavors.
* Milk or other such creamers.
* Spices: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, peppercorn, and cloves are some of the most common elements, though masala chai can be made with such varied ingredients as nutmeg, chocolate, cocoa, vanilla or licorice.

Chai can be prepared in many ways. The most common way is to boil water with the sugar and spices, add tea and milk/creamer and then proceed to simmer it for a few minutes. It is then strained and served."

Chais is many forms are available online from IndianBlend, SpottedLeopardTeas, ShopNatural and CoffeeAM.

24 May 2006

Birch Syrup

You've heard of maple syrup. What about other kinds of syrups from other trees? Here is one from way up North. Has anyone tried Birch Syrup? From ArcticWildHarvestCo.:

Birch syrup is a delicious product that can be used on pan cakes, ice cream or cereal or as a sweetner in breads, cookies, coffee and desserts! It is made by boiling down the sap of the Birch Tree - it takes an amazing 100 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup! Birch syrup has only been produced commercially in North America within the last few years and there are only a handful of producers worldwide!



Alaskan Birch Syrup is available online from ArcticWildHarvestCo. in the Northwest Territories.

Bialy

I suspect very few people outside of the New York City area have ever heard of a bialy. It was originally brought into the United States by Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants during the late 19th century and early 20th century. They are a nice bread/bagel/scone alternative and have a lighter texture, and a somewhat drier bread/bagel/onion taste. Here is a brief descrition from NewYorkFirstCo.:

Mimi Sheraton describes the bialy as "a tenderly crusty roll, characterized by an indented center well that is ringed by a softer, higher rim, all generously flecked with toasted onions and, at its most authentic, with a showering of poppy seeds." It has, she adds with a certain reverence, "an affinity for sweet butter and fluffy cream cheese."

Originally baked in Bialystok, Poland, the bialy was carried to New York City by Jewish immigrants. The oldest bialy factory in the United States is Kossar's Bialystoker Kuchen Bakery on Grand Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

The Correct Way To Eat a Bialy

1 bialy
Butter or cream cheese

Baking the bialy a little bit extra at home just before serving, to get them to the desired degree of brown. Do not slice bialy, bagel-style. Spread a fresh, hot bialy with either butter or cream cheese, either on the bottom or over the top of the roll. If underneath, take care not to shake loose the onions and, if there are some, poppy seeds. If spreading butter or cheese over the top, stuff a little extra spread into the well to form an especially luscious mouthful. (Serves 1)

Bialys are available online at NewYorkFirstCo.

22 May 2006

Grilling: The Culinary Institute of America


At this time of year (May), backyard grillmasters are assaulted with a plethora of titles on grilling. Among the standouts is Grilling: The Culinary Institute of America, by The Culinary Institute of America. Here is more info from Jessica's Biscuit:

" The world’s premier culinary college brings to you more than 175 kitchen-tested recipes to help you make your grill sing.

The pages of Grilling are packed with tantalizing recipes highlighting exotic flavors from many different regions of the world, along with nearly 100 full-color photographs, and helpful step-by-step instructions and preparation tips from the classrooms of the CIA.

Get the most from your grill. Let it transport you to Mexico with Baja-style Fish Tacos, then to Jamaica for Jerked Pork Chops. Cross the Atlantic and enjoy the flavors of Greece with Spicy Lamb Kebabs. On to Morocco for Grilled Honey-spiced Chicken Roast and then to Pakistan for Pakistani-style Lamb Patties. Continue to the Far East with Tandoori-style Chicken with Yogurt Masala, Grilled Shrimp Paste on Sugar Cane, and Beef Teriyaki. And, of course, there are plenty of recipes emanating from backyards all across the USA.

Want to get a quick start to your day? Enjoy barbequing in the morning with breakfast recipes such as Buckwheat Flapjacks with Hibiscus Honey or French Toast with Honey Orange Butter and Orange Segments.

But leave room for dessert. Grilling has a chapter devoted entirely to tempting sweet creations made on your grill such as Bananas Foster Tartlets and even a Grilled Banana Split."

Grilling: The Culinary Institute of America
by The Culinary Institute of America
Hardcover - 240 pages, Color Photographs
March 2006
ISBN: 0867309059
Lebhar-Friedman Books

Grilling is available online from Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

Sherry



Many people confuse port with sherry, and vice versa. They are produced differently, though both originated on the Iberian peninsula. See our blog on Port for more on that potent potable; here is the lowdown on Sherry, from Wikipedia:

"Sherry is a type of wine originally produced in and around the town of Jerez, Spain. The town's Persian name during the Rustamid period was Xerex (Shareesh, in Persian شريش), from which both sherry and Jerez are derived. This was because the founder of the empire, Rustam Shirzai (meaning from the city of Shiraz) wanted to produce a wine in remembrance of the famous Shiraz wine in Iran (Persia). Spanish producers have registered the names Jerez / Xérès / Sherry and will prosecute producers of similar wines from other places using the same name. By law, Sherry must come from the triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. However the name 'Sherry' is used as a semi-generic in the United States where it must be labeled with a region of origin such as American Sherry or California Sherry. In earlier times sherry was known as sack.

Sherry is a fortified wine, made in Spain from three types of grapes: Palomino, Pedro Ximénez, and Muscat (Moscatel). Sherry-style wines made in other countries often use other grape varieties.

Sherry differs from other wines because of how it is treated after fermentation. It is first fortified with brandy and then if destined to be fino style a yeast called flor is allowed to grow on top. Oloroso style is fortified to a strength where the flor cannot grow. (In contrast, port wine is fortified to a higher percentage of alcohol than sherry, effectively preventing the growth of any yeast.)

Styles

* Fino ('fine' in Spanish) is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of sherry.
* Manzanilla is a variety of fino sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
* Amontillado is a variety of sherry that has been aged first under a cap of flor yeast, and then is exposed to oxygen, which produces a result darker than fino but lighter than oloroso.
* Oloroso ('scented' in Spanish) is a variety of sherry aged oxidatively for a longer time than a fino or amontillado, producing a darker and richer wine.
* Palo Cortado is a rare variety of sherry that is fortified and aged without flor like an oloroso, but develops a character similar to amontillado, with some of the richness of oloroso and some of the crispness of amontillado.
* Sweet Sherry (Jerez Dulce in Spanish) is created when one of the preceding varieties of dry sherry is sweetened with Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel wine. Cream sherry is a common variety of sweet sherry.

...Because sherry was a major wine export to the United Kingdom, many English companies and styles developed. Many of the Jerez cellars were founded by British families."

Fine sherries are available online from Wine.com, The Wine Messenger, and LaTienda.

The Cook's Book

Another of this 2006 James Beard Awards winners, in the General Category, to be highlighted here, is The Cook's Book by Jill Norman. It is bound to become a must-have reference for all interested in things culinary. Here is a bit more of a description from Jessica's Biscuit:



"Bursting with luscious color photography and clear step-by-step techniques drawn from the world's top chefs, this is a one-stop reference for all home cooks-from those who want to gain more confidence in the kitchen and hone their skills- to anyone who is eager to learn basic methods from scratch.

Jill Norman has published books on food and drink for many years, and has an extensive knowledge of foods and cooking styles from many regions of the world. She is the literary trustee of the Elizabeth David estate, and worked with Mrs. David for many years."

Available online from Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

The Cook's Book
by Norman, Jill, editor
Hardcover - 648 pages, Color Photographs
August 2005
ISBN: 0756613027
DK Publishing

21 May 2006

Noni and Noni Juice


What is noni juice?

It has a pleasant, full-bodied tropical fruit taste, rather hard to describe. It is delicious alone, or mixed with other juices, such as orange. And it has a beautiful color. What about all the health claims and warnings. Judge for yourself from these excerpts from Wikipedia:

"Morinda citrifolia, commonly known as Great morinda, Indian mulberry, Noni (from Hawaiian), Nono (in Tahiti), Aal (in Hindi), is a shrub or small tree in the family Rubiaceae. Morinda citrifolia is native to Southeast Asia but has been extensively spread by man throughout India and into the Pacific islands as far as the French Polynesian Islands prominent in Tahiti Nui.

The plant flowers and fruits all year round. The flowers are small and white. The fruit is a multiple fruit that has a pungent odor when ripening, and is hence also known as cheese fruit or even vomit fruit. It is oval and reaches 4-7 cm in size. At first green, the fruit turns yellow then almost white as it ripens. It contains many seeds. Despite its smell, the fruit is nevertheless eaten as a famine food and, in some Pacific islands, even a staple food, either raw or cooked. Southeast Asians and Australian Aborigines consume the fruit raw with salt or cook it with curry. Seeds are edible when roasted.

Uses

In China, Japan and Tahiti, various parts of the tree (leaves, flowers, fruits, bark) serve as tonics and to contain fever, to treat eye and skin problems, gum and throat problems as well as constipation, stomach pain, or respiratory difficulties. In Malaysia, heated noni leaves applied to the chest are believed to relieve coughs, nausea or colic. In the Philippines, juice is extracted from the leaves as a treatment for arthritis.

The noni fruit is taken, in Indochina especially, for asthma, lumbago and dysentery. As for external uses, unripe fruits can be pounded, then mixed with salt and applied to cut or broken bones. In Hawaii, ripe fruits are applied to draw out pus from an infected boil. Overripe fruits give extracts that regulate menstruation or ease urinary difficulties.

The bark of the great morinda produces a brownish-purplish dye for batik making; on the Indonesian island of Java, the trees are cultivated for this purpose. In Hawaii, yellowish dye is extracted from its root in order to dye cloth. In Surinam and different other countries, the tree serves as a wind-break, as support for vines and as shade trees for coffee bushes. The fruit is used as a shampoo in Malaysia, where it is said to be helpful against head lice.

Scientific studies have investigated noni's affect on the growth of cancerous tissue, while others have found that the noni disrupts vascular growth an exhibits no direct action on cancer.

In August 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Flora, Inc. over their website promotions of noni juice as a medical product in the context of various testimonials and claims of scientific studies. The FDA has not evaluated noni juice and related substances. In the European Union, juice from the noni is registered as a novel food, however, no noni products have been licensed for medical or theraputic use.

In 2005, two scientific publications described incidents of acute hepatitis caused by ingesting noni. One study suggested the toxin to be anthraquinones, found in the root of the noni, while the other named juice as the delivery method. As a result, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) initiated an evaluation of current noni products. In Germany, the National Agency for Risk Evaluation (BfR) started reviewing cases of acute hepatitis which may have been caused by noni products in 2006."

Noni juices and extracts are available online from ShopNatural and MotherNature.

20 May 2006

Spatulatta.com (for kids)

Do you have kids interested in foods and food preparation? Or know some? Or would you like to introduce some kids to the basics (and more) of the kitchen?

This year, A new category—Webcasts on Food—was added to the James Beard Foundation Broadcast Media Awards, presented by Viking Range Corporation. Entries were original programs produced for the Internet. The 2006 winner in this category is Spatulatta.com (www.spatulatta.com), the Awards’ first-ever nominated show with co-hosts under the age of 11.


The site is worth a visit at Spatulatta.com.

17 May 2006

Whisky (or whiskey)

One of this year's James Beard Book Awards is for Whiskey by Michael Jackson. Here's the basic lowdown on whiskey from Wikipedia -- for the rest of you, there is the book (below):

"Whisky (or whiskey) is the name for a broad category of alcoholic beverages distilled from grains, that are subsequently aged in oak casks. The grains used to make various types of whisky include barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and maize/corn.

In most grain growing areas a whisky or whisky-like product is produced. They differ in alcoholic content, base product and quality.

Scotch whiskies are generally distilled twice and must be aged for three years in oak casks.

Irish whiskeys are generally distilled three times and must be aged for three years in oak casks.

American Straight whiskeys must be made using a mash bill that consists of at least 51% (and no more than 79%) of a single grain. Bourbon is made from at least 51% Corn; Straight Rye is made from at least 51% Rye, etc. American whiskies must be aged in new barrels made of American white oak and are charred before use.

The term Malt whisky is reserved for a whisky made from 100% malted barley; malt whisky from one distillery is called single malt whisky to distinguish it from blended varieties. Pure pot still whiskey is a type of Irish whiskey made from a combination of malted and unmalted barley. Blended whisky is the term used when whiskies of different types are mixed together.

Spelling, Whisky vs Whiskey

Whisky (or whiskey) comes from the Gaelic uisge/uisce beatha meaning "water of life", and is ultimately derived from Latin Aqua vitae.

The spelling whisky (plural whiskies) is generally used for those distilled in Scotland, Wales, Canada, and Japan, while whiskey is used for the spirits distilled in Ireland and in the United States. A 1968 BATF directive specifies "whisky" as the official U.S. spelling, but allows labeling as "whiskey" in deference to tradition, and most U.S. producers still use the latter spelling."

The 2006 James Beard Award Winner in the Wine and Spirits Category is Whiskey by Michael Jackson. Here is a short description of the book from Jessica's Biscuit:

"From grain to glass, Whiskey tells you everything anything you'll ever want to know about whiskey, from storing and serving whiskey, whiskey cocktails, to pairing whiskey with food. Whether interested in the story behind aromas and flavors, what makes certain distilleries unique or how weather and environment influence taste--this is the most fascinating illustrated examination of whiskey on the market."

Whiskey
by Jackson, Michael
Hardcover - 288 pages
April 2005
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0789497107
DK Publishing

Available online from Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

15 May 2006

Kahvesi (Turkish coffee)


Have you ever had a cup of real Turkish coffee? Prepared in the true Turkish fashion described below? The taste takes a little getting used to, but like expresso, it is a treat, especially if you can find someone with the proper coffeemaker. The following from Wikipedia describes the process better than I could:

"Turkish coffee (Turkish: Türk kahvesi ), is a specific way of preparing coffee. It is common throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Balkan countries. This method of preparation is believed to have originated in Damascus and to have become widespread during the Ottoman - hence the eventual appelation 'Turkish coffee'. In Turkey, it was known simply as "coffee" (kahve) until instant coffee was brought in during the 1980s. Today younger generations refer to the beverage as "Turkish coffee" (Türk kahvesi). In Armenian communities, it is referred to as surj. It was also traditionally called Turkish coffee in Greece and Cyprus (tourkikos kafes), but the name was changed following the 1974 Turkish intervention/invasion of Cyprus and replaced with the term "Greek coffee" (ellinikos kafes or kypriakos kafes) - though the ingredients and its appreciation remain the same. In Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian communities, this type of coffee is referred to as Bosanska Kafa or simply "coffee". Coffee culture is highly developed in the Balkans region, where Turkish coffee is the dominant method of preparation. It also remains a traditional beverage in Greek, Cypriot and Turkish restaurants around the world.

The necessary equipment to prepare Turkish coffee consists of a narrow-topped small boiling pot called cezve or džezva, a teaspoon and a heating apparatus. The ingredients are finely ground coffee, cold water and (if desired) sugar. It is served in cups (fincan or fildžan) similar in size to Italian espresso or Japanese sake cups. Some modern cups do have handles. Traditional cups did not, and coffee was drunk either by handling the cup with the tip of the fingers or, more often, by placing the cup in a zarf, a metal container with a handle.

Traditionally, the pot is made of copper and has a wooden handle. The size of the pot is chosen to be close to the total volume of the cups to be prepared, since using a too large pot results in most of the precious foam sticking to the inside of it. Also, a certain depth of water is necessary for the coffee particles to sink. The teaspoon is used both for stirring and measuring the amount of coffee and sugar. Note that the teaspoons in the United States are much larger than the teaspoons in countries where Turkish coffee is common. The dipping parts of the teaspoons in these countries are about 1 cm long and 0.5 cm wide. For heating, an ordinary stove burner is sufficient, but too strong of a heat source is undesirable, as the brewing time needs to be at least five minutes.

The amount of water necessary can be measured using the cups. The coffee and the sugar are usually added to water, rather than being put into the pot first. For each cup between one and two heaped teaspoons of coffee are used. In Turkey, four degrees of sweetness are used. The Turkish terms and approximate amounts are as follows: sade (plain; no sugar), az şekerli (little sugar; half a levelled teaspoon of sugar), orta şekerli (medium sugar; one levelled teaspoon), and çok şekerli (a lot of sugar; one and a half or two levelled teaspoons). The coffee and the desired amount of sugar are stirred until all coffee sinks and the sugar is dissolved. Following this, the spoon is removed and the pot is put on the fire. No stirring is done beyond this point, as it would dissolve the foam. Just as the coffee begins boiling, the pot is removed from the fire and the coffee is poured into the cups.

A well-prepared Turkish coffee has a thick foam at the top, is homogeneous, and does not contain noticeable particles in the foam or the liquid. This can be achieved only if cold water and a low heat are used. Starting with warm water or a strong heat does not leave enough time for either the coffee to sink or the foam to form. It is possible to wait an additional twenty seconds past boiling, which makes a homogeneous and delicious coffee, but the foam is completely lost. To overcome this, foam can be removed and put into cups earlier and the rest can be left to boil. In this case special attention must be paid to transfer only the foam and not the suspended particles."

A Turkish coffee ibrik is available from Espresso Zone and a Turkish ground coffee is available from Tulumba.

14 May 2006

Stroopwafels

Sometimes you see a food item mentionned somewhere and glance over it. And sometimes you wonder what it is. So it is with stroopwaffles, which has many different spellings. It's a bit more than a waffle, as explained by Wikipedia:

"Stroopwafels (Dutch for "syrup waffle") are Dutch cookies made from two round waffle-like wafers with a caramel filling in the middle. Sometimes nuts or other flavors are added to the filling. They are about four inches in diameter. They are traditionally prepared by cutting a freshly-made waffle in half, spreading the filling and rejoining the two halves.

Stroopwafels are an old Dutch treat, invented in Gouda in 1784. The story goes that a baker in Gouda decided to make a cookie from all the left over crumbs and spices and then smothered it in caramel syrup. So the stroopwafel started out as a sweet of the poor and eventually became Holland's most favorite tea and coffee chaser. They can seem exceptionally sweet to the untrained tooth.

Traditionally, Dutch eat them with a cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa. Just before it is eaten, the stroopwafel is placed on top of the hot cup in order to soften it up. The stroopwafel is the single best selling food item at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, and in Dutch supermarkets there is a variety of stroopwafels sold in Holland-style containers, bags and boxes. There are also organic stroopwafels.

At many street markets the stroopwafels are made freshly by bakers. The stroopwafel stand can be recognized from afar by the delicious smell of the warm stroop (syrup) and the waffles themselves are bigger - a plate size (8-10 inches) in diameter. Offcuts and crumbs, usually in clotted lumps from the syrup that oozes at the edge during pressing, are also sometimes sold in bags as stroopwafelstukjes (stroopwafel pieces).

For residents of other countries, stroopwafels can be purchased in health food shops, or in the gourmet foods section of a supermarket; sometimes with maple syrup filling instead of conventional syrup. Starbucks recently started selling the mini version of the stroopwafel as well."

Stroopwafels are available online at Typical Dutch Treats.

13 May 2006

Natto

Natto is a soybean product many Westerners have never heard about, let alone tried. Here is a bit of a desciption from Wikipedia:

"Nattō (納豆, Nattō) is a traditional Japanese food product made from fermented soybeans, popular especially at breakfast. A rich source of protein, nattō and the soybean paste miso formed a vital source of nutrition in feudal Japan. With an acquired taste due to its powerful smell and sticky consistency, in Japan nattō is most popular in the eastern Kanto region.

The first thing noticed by the uninitiated after opening a pack of natto is the very strong smell, akin to strong cheese. Stirring the natto produces lots of spiderweb-like strings. The natto itself has a somewhat nutty, savory flavor that belies its odor. Foreigners in Japan trying natto for the first time generally tend to either love it or hate it.

Natto is most commonly eaten at breakfast to accompany rice, possibly with some other ingredients, for example soy sauce, tsuyu broth, mustard, scallions, grated daikon, okra, or a raw quail egg. In Hokkaido and northern Tohoku region, some people dust natto with sugar. Natto is also commonly used in other foods, such as natto sushi, natto toast, in miso soup, salad, as an ingredient in okonomiyaki, or even with spaghetti or as fried natto. A dried form of natto, having little odor or sliminess, can be eaten as a nutritious snack. There is even natto ice cream.

Natto is often considered an acquired taste and causes many different reactions in people. Some people love the taste and the aroma of natto, whereas other people hate the smell and the appearance. The perceived taste of natto can differ greatly between people - some find it tastes very strong and cheesy and may use it in small amounts to flavor rice or noodles, while others find it tastes "bland and unremarkable", requiring the addition of flavoring condiments such as mustard and soy sauce. Some manufacturers produce an odorless or low-odor natto. The split opinion about its appearance and taste might be compared to Vegemite in Australia and New Zealand, haggis in Scotland, blue cheese in France, lutefisk in Norway and Sweden, and Marmite in the UK. Even in Japan, natto is more popular in some areas than in others. Natto is known to be popular in the eastern Kanto region (Tokyo), but less popular in Kansai (Osaka, Kobe). About 50,000 tons of natto are consumed in Japan each year.

Today's mass-produced natto is usually sold in small polystyrene containers. A typical package contains 2 to 4 containers, each of 40 to 50 g. One container typically complements a small bowl of rice. It usually includes a small packet of tsuyu broth and another packet of yellow mustard. Other flavors of sauce, such as shiso, are available."

Natto is available online from Asian Food Grocer.

12 May 2006

Ketchup (or catsup)

Some people use it on everything at every meal. It's everywhere. In all sorts of packages. Free in take-out restaurants. All you want to pour on in diners. I hardly ever use it. But here is probably more than you wanted to know about the condiment from Wikipedia (image GFDL):

Ketchup (or catsup) is a popular condiment, usually made with ripened tomatoes. The basic ingredients in modern ketchup are tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Onions, celery, and other vegetables are frequent additions. In the UK, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, and New Zealand ketchup is commonly referred to as tomato sauce or simply red sauce.

Ketchup has not always been made out of tomatoes. It started out as a general term for sauce, typically made of mushrooms or fish brine with herbs and spices. Mushroom ketchup is still available in some countries, such as the UK. Some popular early main ingredients include anchovy, oyster, lobster, walnut, kidney bean, cucumber, cranberry, lemon, and grape.

The largest major commercial distributors of ketchup in the United States are Red Gold, the H. J. Heinz Company and ConAgra Foods (manufacturer of Hunt's brand).

History

The word "ketchup" may have come from the Malay kēchap, a fish sauce that does not contain tomatoes. The Malay word means taste. A more direct origin for the word may be the Cantonese dialect (Chinese) phrase ke-tsiap ( 茄汁 ) which literally means eggplant sauce. The Cantonese phrase for tomato is fan-ke, which means "foreign eggplant".

Ketchup in the 1800s referred to any sauce made with vinegar. As the century progressed, tomato ketchup began its ascent in popularity, influenced by an American enthusiasm for tomatoes.

In the Sugar House Book, published in 1801, a ketchup recipe was given:

1. Get [the tomatoes] quite ripe on a dry day, squeeze them with your hands till reduced to a pulp, then put half a pound of fine salt to one hundred tomatoes, and boil them for two hours.
2. Stir them to prevent burning.
3. While hot press them through a fine sieve, with a silver spoon till nought but the skin remains, then add a little mace, 3 nutmegs, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper to taste.
4. Boil over a slow fire till quite thick, stir all the time.
5. Bottle when cold.
6. One hundred tomatoes will make four or five bottles and keep good for two or three years."

The salt in this recipe, which served as a preservative, yields an extremely salty taste. This recipe is important because tomato was not widely accepted by people in North America in the early 1800s. Many believed it was poisonous.

The Virginia Housewife (1824), an influential 19th-century cookbook written by Mary Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's cousin, also had a tomato ketchup recipe."

Visit Wikipedia if you really need even more info.

Nobu Now

Photographing food sounds easy. Right. Have you tried it?

Of course, the advertising world has all sorts of tricks to to make food visually appealing to consumers, whether at the supermarket or to attract someone to a restaurant. And then, there are the people who use food as a palette of colors; the forms and shapes as elements of design.

You may not be able to taste every dish ever imagined or concocted, but at least you can revel in its visual canvas. Nobu Now is 2006 James Beard Award Winner for Photograhy. This is a recipe book, but I suspect people will get the book to look at the pictures. More from Jessica's Biscuits:

"Even for those who have never eaten in one of his restaurants, the name Nobu conjures up a magical world where diners enjoy luxurious food in a chic and glamorous setting.

As one of the most celebrated chefs today, Nobu Matsuhisa is also one of the most international. His ever-expanding worldwide empire of fashionable restaurants now numbers thirteen, and they remain very much the places to eat and to be seen in each city.

His first book, Nobu: The Cookbook, a collection of his favorite seafood recipes, was an international bestseller. Nobu Now presents an exhilarating taste of how Nobu’s repertoire has continued to develop, enriched by his travels and experience in South America, the United States, and Europe, and by the cuisines of the nations in which his restaurants operate. Reflecting a new emphasis on fewer ingredients and a more home-cook-friendly sensibility, the dishes in Nobu Now are more inviting than ever to make.

You will find unique delights such as King Crab White Soufflé and Octopus Carpaccio, with nods to Western haute cuisine in dishes like Baby Turban Shells with Escargot Butter Sauce. A Mediterranean flair is evident in White Fish Somen with Pomodoro Sauce and in Black and Red Rice Risotto. Recipes such as Coriander Soba and Sea Eel “Fish and Chips” give expression to his ingenious brand of fusion cuisine.

For the first time Nobu ventures beyond seafood and shares the exquisite meat and poultry dishes he has crafted, including Kobe Beef New-Style Sashimi and Lamb Chop with Miso Anti-Cucho Sauce. For the vegetarian, there are treats like Fruit Tomato and Vegetable Ceviche, Mushroom Toban Yaki, and Avocado Egg Pudding.

Nobu’s inspired desserts also encompass a broad reach of intriguing flavors and textures. Bamboo Jello and Banana Egg Roll lie alongside Passion Fruit Pasta, while Yuzu Soup with Apricot Ice Cream and Fruit Sake remind us of the basic Japanese sensibility underpinning all his food.

Indeed, the essence of Japanese cuisine—using simple techniques to bring out the flavors in the best of ingredients—is still at the heart of Nobu’s cooking. In Nobu Now he demonstrates how widely and how beautifully this tenet can be applied, resulting in the food that his admirers adore—light, modern, clean, and fresh."

Available online from Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

10 May 2006

I Love Cheesecake!

And if you haven't gotten enough information on cheesecake from our other blogs, here is a I Love Cheesecake! on that dessert with recipes, with a blurb from Jessica's Biscuit:

"Divinely decadent cheesecake is the perfect dessert, whether you're bringing it to a party or entertaining friends at home. It's impressive and elegant, yet so easy to make. The authors methods preventing cracking, splitting, and falling, giving you the perfect cheesecake every time. You get detailed information on cheesecake pans, ingredients, and appliances, as well as a special section of recipes for low-calorie, low-cholesterol yogurt cheesecakes."



I Love Cheesecake!
by Crownover, Mary
Paperback - 298 pages
April 2005
ISBN: 1589791878
Taylor Trade

Available from Jessica's Biscuit.

Cheesecake

Here is a bit more information on cheesecake and the varieties of cheesecake out there, following our blog on Junior's and their "famous" cheesecake. From Wikipedia:

"A cheesecake is a sweet, cheese-based dessert.

Cheesecake is one of the most common desserts in the world and perhaps one of the oldest involving dairy other than milk. The first recorded mention of cheesecake was during the ancient Grecian Olympic games in the occidental world. Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder) wrote of cheesecake preparation in his farming manual 'De agri cultura'.

Cheesecakes can be made of ricotta cheese, havarti, quark, twaróg, or, more usually, cream cheese. Other ingredients such as sugar, eggs, cream and fruit are often mixed in as well. Flavorings such as vanilla or chocolate may be added, and a fruit topping, like strawberry is frequently added. Typically, the cheese filling or topping covers a crust, which may be pastry, cookie or graham cracker-crumb. Sometimes the base is a layer of cake.

Unlike it name suggests, Cheesecakes are actually more like custards and are required to be baked at lower temperatures. A common difficulty with baking cheesecakes is its tendency to "crack" when it is cooled. This is due to the coaggulation of the beaten eggs in its batter. There are various methods to prevent this. One method is to bake the cake in a hot water bath to ensure even heating . Alternatively, a little cornstarch blended into the batter prevents the coaggulation of eggs.

The word cheesecake is also used to describe the creamy, cheesy flavor of the cake. In this usage, there are cheesecake yogurts, ice creams, brownies, and cookies.

There are also savory cheesecakes, often flavored with blue cheese and served as hors d'oeuvres or accompanying salads.

Styles of Cheesecake

* American cheesecakes generally rely on cream cheese, invented in 1872 as an alternative to French Neufchâtel. After James L. Kraft invented pasteurized Philadelphia cream cheese in 1912, it became the top product for making cheesecakes.

* New York-style cheesecake, made famous by Lindy's and Junior's Deli, relies upon heavy cream, cream cheese, eggs and egg yolks to add a richness and a smooth consistency. Also called Jewish-style, it's baked in a special 5- to 6-inch tall springform pan in many restaurants. Some recipes use cottage cheese and lemon for distinct texture and flavor or add chocolate or strawberry to the basic recipe.

* Chicago-style cheesecake, typified by Eli's Cheesecake, is a baked cream-cheese version that's firm outside and creamy inside.

* Pennsylvania Dutch-style cheesecake uses a slightly tangy type of cottage cheese with larger curds and less water content, called pot or farmer's cheese.

* Farmer's cheese cheesecake is the contemporary implementation for the traditional use of baking to preserve fresh cheese and often is baked in a pie shell along with fresh fruit like a tart.

* Sour cream cheesecake is thought to have originated in the mid-20th century in the United States after the mass homogenization of milk and the loss of cream as a widely available ingredient. It still uses cream cheese but has no heavy cream. It is the most widely used recipe for cheesecake outside New York-style in the United States. It can be frozen for short periods of time without ruining the texture. Many factory-made cheesecakes use this method because of this trait.

* Roman-style cheesecake uses honey and a ricotta-like cheese along with flour and is traditionally shaped into loaves. Some recipes call for bay leaves, which may have been used as a preservative. It is still baked in areas in Italy that kept culinary traditions alive after the fall of Rome.

* Italian-style cheesecake is a modern version of Roman cheesecake. It uses ricotta cheese, replaces the honey with sugar, omits the bay leaves, and adds other modern ingredients such as vanilla extract. This type of cheesecake is typically drier than American styles. Often, small bits of candied fruit are added.

* French-style cheesecakes are very light, feature gelatin as a binding ingredient and are typically only 1 to 2 inches tall. This variety gets its light texture and flavor from Neufchâtel cheese and is found in outdoor markets in the South of France and fine pastry shops in Paris.

* Greek-style cheesecake commonly uses Mizithra cheese and Mascarpone cheese.

* German-style cheesecake (Käsekuchen) uses quark cheese. The Käsesahnetorte (cheese cream tart) adds cream and doesn't get baked.

* Dutch-style cheesecakes are typically flavored with melted bittersweet chocolate.

* Brazilian-style cheesecake usually has a layer of goiabada (guava marmalade).

* Canadian-style cheesecake often uses maple syrup.

* Japanese-style cheesecake relies upon the emulsification of cornstarch and eggs to make a smooth flan-like texture and almost plasticine appearance. It is a very popular vending machine food in Japan because it is one of the few milk products that can easily be made shelf stable.

* Country-style cheesecake uses buttermilk to produce a firm texture while decreasing the pH (increasing acidity) to extend shelf life.

* Vegan cheesecakes with substitutions such as silken tofu for cream cheese.

* Cottage cheese and lemon versions."



A variety of cheesecakes can be found online at New York First Co., iGourmet, Kosher.com, and LobsterGram.

Junior's Restaurant and Cheesecake

You've probably heard of Junior's cheesecake (I hope you've had some). But did you know (if you're not a New Yorker) Junior's has a physical location in Brooklyn that is worth a visit? It should be on any itinerary to Brooklyn, right after the Brooklyn Museum and Coney Island.

A bit from Junior's:

"Founded by Harry Rosen in 1950, Junior's landmark restaurant is known as the home of New York's best cheesecake. For decades Brooklynites (and other New Yorkers) have come here to eat, laugh, argue and kibitz over cheesecake. In the 1950s an entire generation came of age at Juniors."

Check out Junior's chronology of world events on their site.

2006 James Beard Foundation/KitchenAid Book Award Winners

In case you missed this year's food-related book awards, here is a summary (We'll feature some of these books in upcoming blogs):
.

2006 James Beard Foundation/KitchenAid Book Award Winners

COOKBOOK OF THE YEAR

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

COOKBOOK HALL OF FAME

An Invitation to Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey

BAKING AND DESSERTS

Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread
by Richard Bertinet

COOKING FROM A PROFESSIONAL POINT OF VIEW

Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
by Suzanne Goin

ENTERTAINING AND SPECIAL OCCASIONS

Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties

by Peggy Knickerbocker

FOOD OF THE AMERICAS

The New American Cooking

by Joan Nathan

GENERAL

The Cook's Book

by Jill Norman, editor

HEALTHY FOCUS

Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health

by Nina Simonds

INTERNATIONAL

Molto Italiano: Simple Italian Recipes for Cooking at Home

by Mario Batali

REFERENCE

Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best

by Max McCalman and Max Gibbons

SINGLE SUBJECT

Bones: Recipes, History & Lore

by Jennifer McLagan

WINE AND SPIRITS

Whiskey

by Michael Jackson

WRITINGS ON FOOD

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

PHOTOGRAPHY

Nobu Now

Photographer; Eiichi Takahashi

....................................................................
Pictured at the top of the blog:

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
by Menzel, Peter and D'Aluisio, Faith
Hardcover - 288 pages
September 2005
Color Photographs
ISBN: 1580086810
Ten Speed Press

These books are available online at Jessica's Biscuits and Barnes and Noble.

08 May 2006

Fix-it and Enjoy-It Cookbook

Just published, this is for those of us who often prepare no-nonsense, straightforward meals. Using ingredients on hand, with names that tell you what the dish is, this is the cookbook that should be on your shelf. Here is a description from Jessica's Biscuit:

Meet the Fix-it and Enjoy-It Cookbook, an irresistible collection of more than 800 All-Purpose, Welcome-Home Recipes. Fix-it and Enjoy-It Cookbook offers choice recipes for stove-top and oven cooking.

# Fix-it and Enjoy-It Cookbook brings you: delicious food for everyday that is easy to prepare;
# recipes which use ingredients that are already in most cooks' cupboards;
# recipes which are not intimidating the skills they require are simple and basic;
# nutritional food which your gamily and friends of all ages will heartily enjoy!

This wonderful collection is packed with more than 800 recipes. Each includes the amount of Prep Time and Cooking Time needed. Each includes clear, step-by-step procedures for making the dish.


Fix-It and Enjoy-it Cookbook: All-Purpose, Welcome-Home Recipes
by Good, Phyllis Pellman
Hardcover - 284 pages
Published: March 2006
Black and White Illustrations
ISBN: 1561485276
Good Books

Available online from Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

07 May 2006

Rhubarb

Most people associate rhubarb with strawberries, as in "Strawberry Rhubarb Pie", and that indeed is a wonderful marriage of ingredients. But it can be used in a variety of recipes. Visit FoodNetwork for a varied selecion of uses. If you are a purist, try taking a fresh, young stalk, strip the rough skin, and dip the end in raw sugar, and enjoy a wonderful tart and sweet sensation! More from Wikipedia:

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that grows from thick short rhizomes, comprising the genus Rheum. The large, somewhat triangular leaf blades are elevated on long, fleshy petioles. The flowers are small, greenish-white, and borne in large compound leafy inflorescences.

The plant is indigenous to Asia, and many suggest that it was often used by the Mongolians; particularly, the Tatars tribes of the Gobi. Varieties of rhubarb have a long history as medicinal plants in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but the use of rhubarb as food is a relatively recent innovation, first recorded in 17th century England, after affordable sugar became available to common people. Rhubarb is now grown in many areas, primarily for its fleshy petioles, commonly known as rhubarb sticks. In temperate climate rhubarb is one of the first food plants to be ready for harvest, usually in April/May. The petioles can be cooked in a variety of ways. Stewed, they yield a tart sauce that can be eaten with sugar or used as filling for pies, tarts, and crumbles. This common use led to the German slang term for rhubarb, piestengel or "pie plant." Rhubarb is also used to make wine. In former days, a common and affordable sweet for children in Yorkshire was a tender stick of rhubarb, dipped in copious amounts of sugar. In the UK the first rhubarb of the year is grown by candlelight in dark sheds dotted around the famous ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ of Wakefield, Leeds and Morley.

In warm climates rhubarb will grow all year round, but in colder climates the parts of the plant above the ground disappear completely during winter, and begin to grow again from the root in early spring. It can be forced, that is, encouraged to grow early, by raising the local temperature. This is commonly done by placing an upturned bucket over the shoots as they come up.

The plant occurs in at least four species. Those most commonly used in cooking are the Garden Rhubarb (R. rhabarbarum) and R. rhaponticum, which though a true rhubarb bears the common name False Rhubarb. The drug rheum is prepared from the rhizomes and roots of another species, R. officinale or Medicinal Rhubarb. This species is also native to Asia, as is the Chinese Rhubarb (R. palmatum). Rhubarb is used as a strong laxative and for its astringent effect on the mucous membranes of the mouth and the nasal cavity."


Strawberry Rhubarb jams are available online from StonewallKitchen, MassachusettsBayTradingCo. and SuttonsBayTradingCo.

Belgian Beers and Microbrews


Microbrews have been in the U.S. for quite a while now, and beer afficionados have their favorites, now found in practically every state. And well, if you don't like any of those, you can concoct your own at home, with kits available commercially (and legally). But Belgium is paradise for the guy (or gal) who wants more than a little diversity in choices. From Wikipedia (Pierlala image from CreativeCommons):

"Belgian beer comprises the most varied and numerous collection of beers in the world. Belgian beer-brewing's origins go back to the Middle-Ages, when monasteries began producing beers. Naturally, Belgians claim that theirs are the best beers in the world. This view is supported by beer experts such as Michael Jackson. Although beer production in Belgium is now dominated by Inbev (the world's largest brewer by volume) and Alken Maes, there remain 115 breweries in the country, producing about 500 standard beers. When special one-off beer styles are included, the total number of types of Belgian beer exceeds 1000.

These days, Belgian beers are sold in brown (or sometimes dark green) tinted glass bottles (to avoid negative effects of light on the beverage) and sealed with a cork, a metal crown cap, or sometimes both. Some beers are refermented (subjected to a final fermentation phase) in the bottle. These are often labeled "bottle-conditioned." Although many major brands of beer are available at most supermarkets, beverage centers located throughout the country generally offer a far wider selection, albeit at somewhat higher prices.

Fortunately, Belgium contains literally thousands of pubs (called cafés in Belgium) in spread throughout the country that offer a wide selection of beers usually served with care. To fully appreciate the wide variety of tastes in Belgian beers, each beer should be served at its "ideal" temperature (which is usually in the range of cellar temperature: 8–15°C or 46–59°F) and in an appropriate glass. The vast majority of Belgian beers are sold only in bottles—tap beers tend mostly to be pilsners and the occasional one-off. For the more adventurous, vintage beers are becoming somewhat easier to find. Beers that are bottle-conditioned and then aged often experience a taste evolution that, when successful, vastly improves the flavor of the beer.

Kinds of beers

* Pilsner-style lager, or Pils: although Belgium is best known internationally for its unique top-fermented beers, it is the common bottom-fermented pilsner lager which heads the lists of both domestic consumption and exports. The most well-known brand internationally is Stella Artois, while Jupiler is the most popular in Belgium, along with Maes pils.
* White beers: a particular kind of wheat beer which often contains spices, such as coriander and orange peel. Some classical examples are La Binchoise Blond, Hoegaarden, Brugs and Steendonk.
* Abbey beers: these are top-fermented ales which are either associated in some way with an abbey or an imitation of abbey-style brewing. A few of these beers are still produced in abbey breweries to centuries-old recipes, while most are merely licensed by an abbey. The most internationally well-known brand of Abbey beer is Interbrew's Leffe. Others include Grimbergen, Tripel Karmeliet, Maredsous, Watou, Saint-Feuillien, Floreffe, and Val-Dieu.
* Dubbel beers: brown beverages brewed with double fermentation (Enghien, Grimbergen).
* Tripel beers: blond or sometimes brown, it uses the process of triple fermentation, which makes them strong in alcohol and taste (Sint-Iedesbald, Brugse Tripel).
* Quadrupel: Even stronger than a tripel, these add an additional fermentation phase. Rochefort 10 and La Trappe Quadrupel are examples.
* Blond beers: like Duvel, Delirium Tremens, Blond Ciney and Brigand.
* Brown beers: try Kwak, Brown Ciney or Forbidden Fruit.
* Trappist beers: top-fermented ales brewed in a Trappist monastery. For a beer to qualify for this category, the entire production process must be carried out by, or supervised by, Trappist monks on the site of the monastery. Only seven monasteries currently meet this qualification, all of which are in Belgium or the Netherlands. The current Trappist brands are Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren.
* Lambic Beers (including Gueuze and Fruit Lambics): unique to Belgium and distinguished by their tart taste, Lambics are neither top-fermented nor bottom-fermented, being prepared through spontaneous fermentation by wild yeasts endemic to the vicinity of Brussels. There are various types of Lambics. In its most natural form, Lambic is a draught beer which is rarely bottled, and thus only available in its area of production and one or two cafes in Brussels. Major brands include Mort Subite, Belle Vue, Cantillon and Saint-Louis. Some more mainstream brewers like Mort Subite and St. Louis do not suscribe to the orthodox rules of lambic production, adding extra sugars to sweeten their beers. Gueuze, also known informally as Brussels Champagne, is a sparkling beer produced by combining a young Lambic with more mature vintages. Exponents of this style are Girardin, Oud Beersel, Drie Fontijnen, Cantillon and Boon. Fruit beers are made by adding fruit or fruit concentrate to Lambic beer. The most common type is Kriek (made with cherries). Other fruits used are raspberry (Framboos), peach and blackcurrant.
* 'Belgian Red': typified by Rodenbach, the epynomous brand that started this type over a century ago, this beer's distinguishing features from a technical viewpoint are a specially roasted malt, fermentation by a mixture of several 'ordinary' high-fermenting yeasts and a lactobacillus culture (the same type of bacteria yoghurt is made with) and maturation in oak. The result is a mildly strong 'drinking' beer with a deep reddish-brown color and a distinctly acidic yet fruity and mouthy taste.
* Amber beers. Modifications of British-style ales (hence high-fermenting) that were developed in the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate the discerning Belgian taste. The undisputed market leader Palm has an extremely mouthy, almost gluey taste. The De Koninck brand with its distinctive spherical glasses ('bollekes') is wildly popular in its native city Antwerp, being one of the many sources of pride to her notoriously chauvinistic locals."

A selection of American beers is available online from CheeseandWineUnlimited. Beer tastings are popular, and some can be arranged in selected cities through SignatureDays online.

05 May 2006

Gorgeous Garlic

One of our pet ingredients, and indeed one of our favorite food subjects, is garlic. A new publication, available for pre-order is Gorgeous Garlic:

"Widely used in Italian, Greek, and French cuisines, the legendary garlic takes center stage in this collection with a Southwestern flair. Featuring delights such as Roasted Garlic Quesadillas, Double Garlic Meat Loaf, and Grilled Corn with Garlic-Lime Butter, Gorgeous Garlic also offers recipes for sauces, rubs, butters, and much, much more." From Jessica's Biscuit.

And while you're at it, visit the web site for the 2006 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival.

Gorgeous Garlic
by Grimes, Gwin Grogan
Paperback - 80 pages Not yet released by the publisher.
Anticipated Release Date: June 2006.
Color Photographs
ISBN: 1887896937
Rio Nuevo

Available from Jessica's Biscuit.

04 May 2006

Macadamias


"Most people believe macadamias are the quintessential Hawaiian nut. Not quite. Read the following from Wikipedia:

Macadamia is a genus of eight species of flowering plants in the family Proteaceae, with a disjunct distribution native to eastern Australia (seven species) and Indonesia (Sulawesi; one species, M. hildebrandii).

They are small to large evergreen trees growing to 6-40 m tall. The leaves are arranged in whorls of three to six, lanceolate to obovate or elliptical in shape, 6-30 cm long and 2-13 cm broad, with an entire or spiny-serrated margin. The flowers are produced in a long slender simple raceme 5-30 cm long, the individual flowers 10-15 mm long, white to pink or purple, with four tepals. The fruit is a very hard woody globose follicle with a pointed apex, containing one or two seeds.

The genus is named after John Macadam, who promoted the value of the trees as a food source. Common names include Macadamia, Macadamia nut, Queensland nut and Maroochi nut; Indigenous Australian names include Kindal Kindal and Jindilli.

The nuts are a valuable food crop. Only two of the species, M. integrifolia and M. tetraphylla, are of commercial importance. The remainder of the genus possess poisonous and/or inedible nuts, such as M. whelanii and M. ternifolia; the toxicity is due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides. These glycosides can be removed by prolonged leaching, a practice carried out by some Indigenous Australian people to be able to use these species as well.

The two species of edible Macadamia readily hybridise, and M. tetraphylla is rare in the wild due to this. Wild nut trees were originally found at Mt. Bauple near Maryborough in SE Queensland, Australia. Locals in this area still refer to them as "Bauple nuts". The Macadamia nut is the only plant food native to Australia that is produced and exported in any significant quantity.

The Macadamia tree does not begin to produce commercial quantities of nuts until it is 7-10 years old, but once established, may continue bearing for over 100 years. Growing conditions require fertile, well-drained soils, a rainfall of 1000-2000 mm, and temperatures not falling below 10 °C, with an optimum temperature of 25 °C. The roots are shallow and trees can be blown down in storms; they are also susceptible to Phytophthora root disease. Outside of Australia, commercial production is alsoestablished in Hawaii (the largest commercial producer), Brazil, California, Israel, Kenya, and Malawi.

The Macadamia nut's kernel is extremely hard to mine out of its shell, but after some time in a warm and dry place the shell may develop big cracks. The nut can be opened then with a screwdriver, though the warm dry conditions also reduce the nutritional value of the nut. The shell is most easily cracked with a metalworking bench vice, but care must be taken not to crush the kernel in the process.

Macadamia oil is prized for containing approximately 22% of the Omega-7 palmitoleic acid, which makes it a botanical alternative to mink oil, which contains approx. 17%. This relatively high content of "cushiony" palmitoleic acid plus macadamia's high oxidative stability make it a desirable ingredient in cosmetics, especially skincare.

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. Ingestion may result in Macadamia nut toxicosis, which is marked by weakness with the inability to stand within 12 hours of ingestion. Recovery is usually within 48 hours.

The trees are also grown as ornamental plants in subtropical regions for their glossy foliage and attractive flowers."




Macadamias and macadamia products are available online at Hilo Hattie, Shop Natural and Kosher.com.

Picnic Shoulder (Pork)

A common and not quite understood cut of pork in your local market is the "picnic shoulder". It is usually a good value if you know how to prepare it. First, a little info on the cut from Wikipedia:

"Carnitas (from the Spanish for "little meats") is a type of braised or roasted (often after first being boiled) pork in Mexican cuisine. Sometimes it is actually prepared by frying, although this method is less traditional.

It is traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich 'boston butt' or 'picnic ham' areas of the hog. Contrary to their misleading names, these are neither butt areas nor ham areas, but rather the upper and lower sections of the front shoulder of the hog. The 6-16lb sections are usually sectioned down to a workable (6-10lb) size and seasoned heavily before slow braising or slow roasting, generally in the range of 160-180 F for 8-12 hours. At this stage the collagen in the meat has broken down sufficiently to allow it to be pulled apart by hand or fork or chopped by using a cleaver.

Having been dismantled, some of the rendered liquid is added back to the pork. Prior to serving, the pork is placed in fairly shallow pans to maximize surface area, then roasted at high (375-425 F) heat for a few minutes to produce the famous alternating texture of succulent softness and caramelized crispness.

It can be a dish by itself, or an ingredient for tamales, tacos, tortas, and burritos."

For directions and a recipe for Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder visit FoodNetwork.

03 May 2006

Port and the Douro: Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library

Following our blog on Port wines, Port and the Douro: Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library , can provide you with more information on this potent potable. The following blurb is from Jessica's Biscuit:

This authoritative series is aimed at the wine trade, professionals, and serious consumers who buy a wide range of wines of above-average quality on a regular basis. Each book provides up-to-date essential reference to wine-producing countries and regions with in-depth coverage of the regions and/or communes, wine law, terroir, grape varieties, production details, vineyard areas, and key producers. Written by a collection of the world's most distinguished wine authors.

Fully revised and updated in its second edition, this book recounts the intriguing history of the port region and explores the vineyards, grape varieties, and the many styles of port available. It describes all aspects of its production, and includes a directory of producers, as well as details about the key vintages. It also examines Port's prospects for the 21st century.



Port and the Douro: Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library

by Mayson, Richard
Hardcover - 398 pages 2nd Edition, Published: November 2004
Black and White Illustrations
ISBN: 1840009438
Mitchell Beazley

It is available online from Jessica's Biscuit.

Port Wines


How many different types of Ports are there? And how are they different? Here is a basic explanation from Wikipedia:

Port wine (also Porto wine) is sweet, fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northern part of Portugal; it takes its name from the city of Oporto, the centre of port export and trading. Port has been made in Portugal since the mid 15th Century. Port became very popular in England after the Methuen Treaty of 1703, when merchants were permitted to import it at a low duty, while war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. The continued English involvement in the port trade can be seen in the names of many port shippers: Croft, Taylor, Dow, Graham, Symington. Similar wines, often also called "Port", are made in several other countries, notably Australia, South Africa, India and the United States. It has been made in and around St. Augustine, Florida since the mid 16th Century. In some nations, including Canada, after a phase-in period, and the countries of the European Union, only the product from Portugal may be labeled as "port." In the United States, the Portuguese product, by Federal law pursuant to a treaty with Portugal, must be labeled "Porto" or "Vinho do Porto" for differentiation.

Port wine is typically thicker, richer, sweeter, and possesses a higher alcohol content than most other wines. This is caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits (such as brandy) to fortify the wine and halt fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. It is commonly served after meals as a dessert wine, or with cheese. In France, white port is served as an apéritif. It has an alcohol by volume content of roughly 18% to 20%.

Wine with less than 16% ethanol cannot protect itself against spoilage if exposed to air; with an alcohol content of 18% or higher, port wine can safely be stored in wooden casks that 'breathe', thereby permitting the fine aging of port wine. (In contrast, wines with only a slightly lesser fortified alcohol content of 15% to 17.5% are considered to be sherry, formerly known as 'sack'.)

Tawny
Tawny port is aged in wooden barrels, exposing it to gradual oxidation and evaporation, causing its color to mellow to a golden-brown after roughly ten years "in wood." Often they have pronounced "nutty" flavors. Tawny port without an indication of age is a basic blend of wood aged port. Aged tawny port is a blend of several vintages, with the average years "in wood" stated on the label: 10, 15, 20, and 30 years are common. Tawny ports from a single vintage are called Colheitas (pronounced col-YATE-ah, meaning harvest or vintage). Tawny and Colheita ports are always ready to drink when released and do not typically benefit from aging in bottle, although they will not degrade either. Because it has already been exposed to oxygen, an open bottle of tawny resists oxidation the longest of all ports.

"Tawny" port produced outside Portugal is rarely aged long enough to develop a natural tawny color. Instead, it is the result of blending "ruby" and "white" ports, or possibly the addition of caramel coloring.

Garrafeira
Garrafeira port is similar to Colheita. It is made from grapes of a single vintage, aged in wood between three and six years and then aged in large approximately 10L glass demijohns for an extended time.

Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV)
LBV (Late-Bottled Vintage) port is intended to provide some of the experience of drinking a vintage port but without the decade-long wait of bottle aging. In contrast to vintage port's short time in barrel, LBV port is aged between four to six years in barrel, to mature it more quickly. Typically ready to drink when released, LBV ports are the product of a single year's harvest and tend to be smoother and lighter-bodied than a vintage port. LBV ports that are filtered do not require decanting and are ready to drink at bottling. Unfiltered or "Traditional" LBV ports require decanting like vintage ports do, and may improve in the bottle.

Late-Bottled Non-Vintage (LBNV) or Vintage Character
LBNV (Late-Bottled Non-Vintage) is similar, but not made from a single year. The confusingly named Vintage Character or Reserve port is similar to LBNV port. It is essentially a premium Ruby port.

Crusted
Crusted port is a blend of port wine from several years, but retains the crust otherwise restricted to vintage ports.

Ruby
Ruby port may contain wine from several vintages. Ruby ports are fermented in wood and aged in glass, which preserves the wine's red color. It is considerably cheaper than vintage port, and can be used in cooking or to make cocktails.

White
White port is made from white grapes, and generally served as a chilled aperitif. It is the only one which is optionally available dry as well.

Various types of Ports are available online from Wine.com and TheWineMessenger.