31 July 2006

Golden Pear Cafe Cookbook


Summer in the Northeast: Cape Cod. Kennebunkport. Newport. The Hamptons. The Golden Pear Cafe in The Hamptons. Well, if you're not at the beach there, you can "scrape" together a meal from the Cafe with this recently released Golden Pear Cafe Cookbook. A bit more from Jessica's Biscuit:

"More than 75 delicious breakfast and lunch recipes from The Golden Pear Cafe, a four-location Hamptons hotspot.

At the Golden Pear Cafe, the popular Hamptons gourmet eatery, life is one long brunch. This is a collection of the restaurant's best-loved and most-requested recipes, all easy enough to recreate at home.

Each recipe here is more mouthwatering than the last. Try the rich Apple Crumb Muffins or the crusty Scones. For a later brunch, try the zesty Gazpacho, the hearty Texas Turkey Chili, or the Southwestern-style Grilled Chicken Wrap with homemade Guacamole and Salsa. Round out a meal with a delicious Lemon Pound Cake or an over-the-top Chocolate Pecan Bar. The Golden Pear Cafe Cookbook is full of doable recipes for simple, luscious food, plus cooking tips and shortcuts from Davis' chefs and bakers, beautiful photography with a 2-color text, and sinfully delicious armchair Hamptons watching."



Golden Pear Cafe Cookbook: Easy Luscious Recipes for Brunch and More from the Hamptons' Favorite Cafe
by Davis, Keith
Hardcover - 224 pages
Published: April 2006
Color and Black & White Photographs
ISBN: 0312349718
Thomas Dunne Books

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

30 July 2006

Buffalo Wings


Ah, Buffalo Wings! Ya like 'em or you don't.

They exist everywhere and are now available everywhere in more ways than can be counted or eaten. There are probably as many recipes for them as there are people who eat them.

And for the trivia fun of it, a web site exists documenting everything you wanted to know or not know about them. It's worth a visit at On the Wings of a Buffalo or "Mother Teressa's Wings" from Atlas of Popular Culture in the Northeastern United States by John E. Harmon:

"...There is something for most people to like about Buffalo wings and for those many reasons the food has spread rapidly from its origin in Buffalo, New York, and is now part of our national food culture, no longer something you can find only in the Northeastern United States...

29 July 2006

Duxelles; Duxelles recipe

Many of you may use this base for many recipes: sauces, stuffings, and even meat loaf (please let it cool, a bit). "This" being formally called "duxelles". The origin explained by Wikipedia:

Duxelles is a finely chopped mixture of mushrooms, onions, shallots and herbs sautéed in butter. It is a basic preparation used in stuffings and sauces (notably, Beef Wellington). It is said to have been created by the 17th-century French chef François Pierre La Varenne (1615–1678) and to have been named after his employer, Marquis d'Uxelles."

Duxelles

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup sweet butter (and more as needed)
2 lbs. finely chopped mushrooms
1 or 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 small white onion, finely chopped
salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

Gently saute all ingredients in melted butter until mushrooms have turned very dark. Use immediatly on cooked vegetables, pasta, rice or in gravies, or let cool and use in a meat loaf mixture.

27 July 2006

Boysenberry



Gee, there was a food-related answer (clue) on television on "Jeopardy" regarding the origins of boysenberries, and I didn't know the question (answer). Well, you may be amused by this bit of trivia, better explained by Wikipedia:

"A boysenberry is a cross among a blackberry, red raspberry and loganberry. It was created by Rudolph Boysen, and first commercially cultivated by Walter Knott.

In the late 1920s, George Darrow of the USDA began tracking down reports of a large, reddish-purple berry that had been grown by a man named Rudolf Boysen in Napa, California. He enlisted the help of Walter Knott, a Southern California farmer known as something of a berry expert. Knott hadn't heard of the new berry, but agreed to help Darrow in his search.

The pair soon learned that Rudolf Boysen had abandoned his growing experiments several years earlier and sold his farm. Undaunted by this news, Darrow and Knott headed out to Boysen's old farm, where they found several frail vines surviving in a field choked with weeds. They transplanted the vines to Knott's farm where he nurtured them back to fruit-bearing health. Walter Knott began selling the berries at his farm stand in 1935 and soon noticed that people kept returning to buy the large tasty berries. When asked what they were called, Knott said, "Boysenberries". As their popularity grew, Mrs. Knott began making preserves which ultimately made Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California world famous."

***
Boysenberry spread is available online from Eweberry.com.

Nick Nairn's New Scottish Cookery

Another food publication just released in paperback, is Nick Nairn's New Scottish Cookery. Worth reading just to discover what little we know about the Scottish cuisine, Nairn's book's synopsis is from Jessica's Biscuit:

"New in Paper! In the culinary world, Scotland is renowned for the quality of its fresh ingredients. Whether it’s wild salmon, organically raised beef, berries, shellfish, or whisky, it’s bursting with flavor. Team these ingredients with the expertise of Nick Nairn, Scotland’s top chef, and the results are truly outstanding. Although Nairn is a long–time champion of fresh Scottish produce, his cooking has been influenced by the world’s cuisines. In New Scottish Cookery, he combines the very best Scottish ingredients with þavors from around the globe. Among the 160 recipes are Artichoke and Smoked Bacon Soup, Seared Salmon with Avocado Salsa, Shellfish Risotto with Ginger and Coriander, Confit of Duck Legs with Spring Greens, and Casseroled Lamb with Red Wine and Rosemary. The book also includes a sumptuous selection of vegetable dishes, breads, sauces, and desserts. Strikingly illustrated with 100 color photos, New Scottish Cookery is a book for food lovers everywhere."
***

Nick Nairn's New Scottish Cookery
Nick Nairn
ISBN: 0563521511
Paperback, 264pp
April 2006
Trafalgar Square

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

26 July 2006

Chanterelles


Chanterelles are a versatile and delicious mushroom, sometimes very hard to find fresh, but worth the search. They can be used in a variety of dishes, marrying well with many foods. Or it can be prepared on its own -- see or blog for a chanterelle recipe. Wikipedia explains the essentials on the fungus:

"Cantharellus is a genus with many delicious and popular edible mushrooms. It is a mycorrhizal edible fungus, meaning it forms symbiotic associations with plants, making it very challenging to cultivate. Caution must be used when identifying chanterelles for consumption; lookalikes, such as the Jack-O-Lantern, can make a person very ill. Still, the yellow chanterelle is one of the most recognized edible mushrooms and can be found in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.

The best known species of this genus is the yellow chanterelle, which is orange or yellow, meaty and funnel-shaped. It has forking gills on the underside, running all the way down its stalk, which tapers down seamlessly from the cap. It has a fruity smell and a peppery taste, and is considered an excellent food mushroom.

In California and the Pacific Northwest of USA there is also the white chanterelle, which looks like the yellow except for its off-white color. It is more fragile and found in lesser numbers than the yellow chanterelle, but can otherwise be treated as its yellow cousin.

The Pacific golden chanterelle, C. formosus, has recently been recognized as a separate species from the yellow chanterelle. It forms a mycorrhizal association with the Douglas-fir and Sitka spruce forests of the Pacific Northwest. This chanterelle has been designated Oregon's state mushroom, due to its economic value and abundance.

The yellow foot is a yellowish-brown and trumpet-shaped chanterelle found in great numbers late in the mushroom season, thus earning the common name winter mushroom. The cap is convex and sometimes hollow down the middle, and because of this it is also known as funnel chanterelle. The gills are widely separated, and of lighter color than the cap. It grows on moss or rotten wood, and is an excellent food mushroom, especially fried or in soups.

Chanterelles in general go well with eggs, curry, chicken, pork and veal, can be used as toppings on pizzas, be stewed, marinated, fried in butter, or used as filling for stuffed crêpes. Of course these are just examples; chanterelles are versatile and can be added as an ingredient to most dishes."

***

Preserved chanterelles are available online from CAVIARetc. and Splendid Palate.

California Chanterelles with Goat Cheese Croutons

The following recipe is from FoodNetwork in conjuction with our blog on Chanterelles:

California Chanterelles with Goat Cheese Croutons
Recipe courtesy El Encanto Hotel

3 ounces butter
1 pound California chanterelles, cleaned and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Goat Cheese Croutons, recipe follows

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chanterelles and season with salt and pepper. When the chanterelles begin to release moisture, add the shallots and cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or they will become tough

Transfer the chanterelles to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the juices behind in the pan for drizzling. Stir the parsley into the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.

Place croutons around the serving dish with the goat cheese end of the crouton facing outward. Put chanterelles in the center of the croutons and drizzle the mushroom liquid over top of the mushrooms.

Goat Cheese Croutons:
3 tablespoons butter
12 baguette slices, sliced 3/8-inch-thick
2 ounces grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 ounces goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Press the baguette slices into the melted butter. Once coated, place the baguette slices on a sheet pan. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan and herbs. Then sprinkle only the top half of the croutons with the goat cheese. Cook the croutons until crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve with the mushrooms.

Carambola; Star Fruit

What is that strange, quite attractive-looking fruit in the produce section of your supermarket that looks more decorative than edible? How many of you have tried a carambola, a.k.a., star fruit? Well, it is edible, and tasty as is, or as a salad ingredient. Wikipedia provides a bit more background:

"The carambola is a species of tree native to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and is popular throughout Southeast Asia. It is also grown in Brazil, Ghana and Guyana. Carambola is commercially grown in the United States in south Florida and Hawaii. It is closely related to the bilimbi...

...Its fruit, the carambola, more popularly known as star fruit, but also coromandel gooseberry, is a golden-yellow to green berry. When cut across it shows a 5-pointed ( sometimes 6-pointed) star shape, hence the name, "star fruit." Star fruits are crunchy, and have a slightly tart, acidic, sweet taste, reminiscent of grapes, apples, and oranges. The fruits are a good source of vitamin C. Its seeds are small and brown. They consist of a tough outer skin and a tangy white inside.

There are two varieties of starfruit - acidulate and sweet. The tart varieties can often be identified by their narrowly spaced ribs. The sweet varieties usually have thick flesh."

24 July 2006

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of A Critic in Disguise


When Ruth Reichl was the food critic for The New York Times, the first section of the newspaper I would open on Fridays was Arts, where the restaurant reviews were featured. The articles often read like a short story, culminating in a review of the fare of an eatery. And a few were searing. And some made you want to rush to the establishment described before finishing the article. By the time a restaurant was in the paper, it was, of course too late to head there. Sometimes impossible for months. Reichl has written several food-related books, all delightful reading, and her latest, Garlic and Sapphires, The Secret Life of A Critic in Disguise, is now available in paperback if you haven't read it. From Jessica's Biscuit:

"...This delicious new volume of Ruth Reichl's acclaimed memoirs recounts her "adventures in deception," as she goes undercover in the world's finest restaurants. Reichl knows that "to be a good restaurant critic, you have to be anonymous," but when she signs up to be the most important restaurant critic in the country, at The New York Times, her picture is posted in every four-star, low-star, and no-star kitchen in town. Managers offer cash bonuses for advance notice of her visits. They roll out the red carpet whether she likes it or not. What's a critic in search of the truth to do?

Reichl dons a frumpy blond wig and an off-season beige Armani suit. Then on the advice of a friend, an acting coach with a Pygmalion complex, she begins assembling her new character's backstory. She takes to the assignment with astonishing ardor--and thus Molly Hollis, the retired high school teacher from Birmingham, Michigan, nouveau riche from her husband's real estate speculation, is born. And duly ignored, mishandled, and condescended to by the high-power staff at Le Cirque. The result: Reichl's famous double review, first as she ate there as Molly and then as she was coddled and pampered on her visit there as Ruth, The New York Times food critic.

When restaurateurs learn to watch for Molly, Reichl buys another wig and becomes someone else, and then someone else again, from a chic interior decorator to an eccentric redhead on whom her husband--both disconcertingly and reassuringly--develops a terrible crush. As she puts on her disguises, she finds herself changed not just superficially, but in character. She becomes Molly the schoolmarm, Chloe the seductress, and Brenda the downtown earth mother--and imagine the complexities when she dines out as Miriam, her own mother. As Reichl metes out her critical stars, she gives a remarkable account of how one's outer appearance can influence one's inner character, expectations, and appetites.

Reichl writes, "Every restaurant is a theater...even the modest restaurants offer the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while." Dancing with the Stars examines character, artifice, and excellence on the sumptuously appointed stages of the restaurant world and offers an unprecedented backstage tour of the theater where Ruth Reichl played the role of a lifetime, as the critic of record at The New York Times."

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of A Critic in Disguise
by Reichl, Ruth
Paperback - 333 pages
March 2006
ISBN: 0143036610
Penguin

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

22 July 2006

Fenugreek, methi



Fenugreek is not a well-known or much-used spice, except in Indian cuisine, as it is a major ingredient in curry. Here is a little bit more from Wikipedia:

"Fenugreek, also called methi, is a crop plant grown as a potherb and for the spice made from its seeds. The fenugreek plant grows wild from the eastern Mediterranean area to China; it is cultivated worldwide.

The name fenugreek or foenum-graecum is from Latin for "Greek hay".

Fenugreek is used both as an herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seed). The yellow, rhombic fenugreek seed is frequently used in the preparation of pickles, curry powders and pastes, and is often encountered in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent and Thailand. The young leaves and sprouts of fenugreek are eaten as greens and the fresh or dried leaves are used to flavor other dishes. The dried leaves have a bitter taste and a strong characteristic smell which means they need to be used sparingly.

In the Arabian nation of Yemen it is the main condiment and an ingredient added to the national dish called Saltah. The similarity in the Arabic word Hulba and Mandarin Chinese word Hu lu ba reveal the significance of fenugreek in history. Fenugreek is also one of four herbs used for the Iranian recipe Ghormeh Sabzi. Dried fenugreek leaves (called kasuri methi) are used in Indian and Pakistani dishes such as dahls, including in the Bengali spice mixture panch phoron.

A side effect of consuming even small amounts of fenugreek is a maple syrup or curry smell in the eater's sweat and urine which is caused by the potent aroma compound sotolone. Fenugreek is frequently used in the production of flavoring for artificial syrups. The taste of toasted fenugreek is additionally based on substituted pyrazines, as is cumin. By itself, it has a somewhat bitter taste."

***

Fenugreek is available online from SuttonsBayTrading, IndianBlend, and ShopNatural.

20 July 2006

The world's most expensive coffee

How much do you spend for your coffee? Around $104 a pound? The world's most expensive coffee, according to Forbes is

"...Hacienda la Esmeralda Geisha from Panama, which made news at the end of May when it set an auction record of $50.25 per pound. Praised for its fruit and floral flavors, it retails for more than $100 per pound...

...As expensive as these coffees are, when compared with wine, the best coffee beans are a relative bargain.

"If you pay $10 per pound for the coffee you brew at home, a cup of coffee costs less than a Coke from a 12-pack," Howell (George Howell, founder of the George Howell Coffee Company) points out. Even if you pay twice as much for a pound of beans, an entire pot of coffee will still cost less than a glass of wine from a $10 bottle. "

See the story, and prices for other pricey coffees at Forbes.

***



For a wide range of less costly javas visit iGourmet, coffeeAM or EspressoZone.

Dels (New England Frozen Lemonade)


We've had blogs on all manner of sweet frozen concoctions, except one: Frozen Lemonade. And a little nostalgia. Having grown up in Rhode Island, summer meant frozen lemonade and that meant Del's, and vice versa.The stuff was Fresh. You could and can still find it everywhere in Southern New England, and now beyond. The frozen lump in supermarkets just doesn't cut it, especially the ones that now use high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar. Wikipedia even has an entry on Del's:

"Dels is one brand of New England frozen lemonade, typically found in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts during the summer months. Dels is now in 36 states, and has even gone international. While elsewhere in the country, neighborhood children flock to the ice-cream truck, in Rhode Island, they go to the Dels stand. Frozen lemonade is often compared with Italian ice or slush. It is made from crushed ice, lemons, and sugar. While "Dels" is a trademarked brand, that is the term used to order such a beverage; no one ever calls it "New England Frozen Lemonade".

There are four flavors of the popular drink: classic lemon, watermelon, cherry, and blueberry."

Visit the Del's website for more info and to order mixes. I haven't tried the mixes, let me know if they're good!

Ice Cream: A Delicious History

We've recently blogged books on ice cream, ice cream recipe books, given you recipes for sorbet and sherbets, and trivia on all types of frozen desserts. But how about a history of ice cream? Fun facts and delicious recipes on a serious subject. Really. Anyway, just published, Ice Cream: A Delicious History, by Marilyn Powell purports to do this. More from Jessica's Biscuit:

"In this delicious story of ice cream, we are taken on an exotic journey for the old world to the new, from ice harvesting in ancient China to birthday celebrations in the age of Louis XIV to ice cream cones painted by Andy Warhol in the twentieth century. It’s a story filled with history, adventure, myth, and intriguing facts about ice cream. Did you know that Scots believed ice cream parlors were dens of iniquity? Or that there are more than seven hundred flavors and that the flavor you prefer expresses your personality?

In all its many forms, ice cream has become one of the oldest, most popular, and most democratic of pleasures, "The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream," wrote the poet Wallace Stevens. A wonderful surprising, entertaining, and intelligent book, Ice Cream is about the dessert itself and how we have come to regard it. As Marilyn Powell reveals, ice cream is the dessert of memory, a perfect food for the imagination. Containing illustrations, anecdotes, and famous recipes, Ice Cream will delight ice cream lovers around the world."

Ice Cream: A Delicious History
by Powell, Marilyn
Hardcover - 256 pages
June 2006
ISBN: 1585677973
Overlook

Ice Cream: A Delicious History is available online at Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

19 July 2006

Clotted Cream


While reading an article on British food, I saw a reference to clotted cream. Well, I've always been aware of its exixtence, but really didn't know exactly what it was. Wikipedia set me straight on one more food I have to try!:

"Clotted cream is a thick yellow cream made by heating and then leaving unpasteurized cow's milk in shallow pans for several hours; it is very similar to the Indian Malai. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface into 'clots'. Purists prefer the cows to come from the counties of Devon or Cornwall in England; true Cornish clotted cream must be made from unpasteurised milk or the clots will not form. It has a minimum fat content of 55%.

A reasonable facsimile may be made by combining two parts whole milk with one part whipping (heavy) cream, heating at the very lowest possible heat for a couple of hours until a skin forms, leaving it undisturbed overnight, and then harvesting the skin and its underclots—one may do whatever one likes with the remaining milk.

In the European Union, Cornish clotted cream is a protected designation of origin for cream produced by the traditional recipe in Cornwall. In the United States, clotted cream is usually sold in specialty stores with the label 'Devon Double Cream', regardless of the country of origin.

Clotted cream is generally served as a cream tea (also known as a Devonshire Tea) on (warm) buttered scones with strawberry or raspberry jam, although many people frown upon the indulgent use of butter and cream.

While there is no doubt of its strong association with south west England, it is not clear whether clotted cream originated in Devon or Cornwall, and while strong claims have been made on behalf of both, there is a lack of documentary evidence to support them.

Clotted Cream made by the Rodda family in Scorrier, near Redruth, Cornwall is served as part of a Cornish Cream Tea on a major British airline, with strawberries at Wimbledon and is available across Britain in many supermarkets."

Clotted cream is a source of Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Vitamins A, B12 and D, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc.

Clotted cream is available online from iGourmet.

McCormick & Company


Every once in a while we wonder about a certain food company. (See our blogs on Tabasco and King Arthur Flour to name two.) Well, we were wondering about McCormick. You know the Spice company. Did you know they also own Zatarain's? Well, here's a bit more from Wikipedia:

McCormick & Company (NYSE: MKC) is a food company that sells the entire range of spices, herbs and flavorings for the retail, commercial, and industrial markets. The company began in 1889 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Its brands include McCormick, Schilling (on the west coast of the United States), Zatarain's (United States), Old Bay Seasoning (United States), Ducros (Europe), Club House (Canada) and Schwartz (United Kingdom).

And fom the McCormick.com web site is a little chart on spice and herb freshness that most of you should be familiar with (as for myself, once a spice or herb jar has been opened, I replace it if it hasn't been completely used within a year):

Shelf Life:

ground spices, 2-3 years

whole spices, 3-4 years

seasoning blends, 1-2 years

herbs, 1-3 years

extracts, 4 years, except pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely

Visit the McCormick site for more useful info.

Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris)




Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) is a light, yet full-bodied white wine which marries well with many foods: light pastas and pasta salads, salads of all kinds; seafoods; cheeses and fruit; and as just a pleasant wine to savor on a mellow summer day. Cal-Italia.org provides the following:

"Type of wine: Light, very crisp, dry white.

Origin: A mutation of Pinot Noir, which it resembles in the field, Pinot Grigio is the Italian white wine most recognized by American wine consumers. It is most prominent in Alto-Adige, Veneto and especially Friuli, where the finest examples are made in the Collio area. Italians pick the fruit early as it has a tendency to drop acidity when it ripens fully.

Description: Pale, straw-yellow or very light copper in color with a bright and flowery fragrance. Firm acidity gives Pinot Grigio a mouth watering appeal. Generally offers nice mid-palate balance with a short, clean finish.

Aging: Another one to drink young, young, young!

Best location: Warm days and cool nights build acidity and round fruit flavors.

FastFoodFacts: A perfect aperitivo/cocktail wine, Pinot Grigio's crispness primes the palate for food. It pairs well with all seafood, whether raw, lightly sauteed, grilled or lightly sauced with cream or butter. Avoid the acid clashes with citrus fruit and tomatoes."

Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) is available online at The Wine Messenger, Wine.com and Kosher.com.

18 July 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Here is another book of some interest we have found: Published in April, The Omnivore's Dilemna by Michael Pollan, asks "What's for dinner?". Then when we've decided, shows us where the food originates, the environmental implications of its production, how it is processed to reach us, and the health implications in our meal from our ethnic and environmental choices. Jessica's Biscuit provides the synopsis:

The bestselling author of The Botany of Desire explores the ecology of eating to unveil why we consume what we consume in the twenty-first century

"What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't-which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we're realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore's Dilemma is bestselling author Michael Pollan's brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America.

Pollan has divided The Omnivore's Dilemma into three parts, one for each of the food chains that sustain us: industrialized food, alternative or "organic" food, and food people obtain by dint of their own hunting, gathering, or gardening. Pollan follows each food chain literally from the ground up to the table, emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the species we depend on. He concludes each section by sitting down to a meal--at McDonald's, at home with his family sharing a dinner from Whole Foods, and in a revolutionary "beyond organic" farm in Virginia. For each meal he traces the provenance of everything consumed, revealing the hidden components we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods reflects our environmental and biological inheritance.

We are indeed what we eat-and what we eat remakes the world. A society of voracious and increasingly confused omnivores, we are just beginning to recognize the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a long-overdue book and one that will become known for bringing a completely fresh perspective to a question as ordinary and yet momentous as What shall we have for dinner?

***

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Michael Pollan
ISBN: 1594200823
Hardcover, 464pp
April 2006
Penguin Group (USA)

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

17 July 2006

Risotto

Recently, while reading John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels, reference was made to the preparation of risotto, and whenever risotto is mentionned, my mouth waters and I remember the best I ever had.

Several years ago upon the recommendation of a friend, I had a Milanese risotto at Il Madri in Manhattan that was better than any I had ever enjoyed anywhere, including Italy. Sometimes a dish makes an impression that lasts a lifetime. This was one.

Risotto is more than just "rice". If you've ever tried to make it, it is more than a labor of "love"; it is labor, constant attention, the finest ingredients, the love, and guests that can appreciate what fine risotto is. Wikipedia tells you more:

Risotto is a traditional Italian dish made with rice. It represents one of the noblest and at the same time one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. It originated in Northwestern Italy, specifically Eastern Piedmont and Western Lombardy, where rice paddies are abundant. It is one of the pillars of Milanese cuisine.

When risotto is cooked, the dry rice is always fried briefly in oil before the broth is added. Other dishes exist that are similar, but they should not be called "risotto" if the rice is not toasted. Recipes include "Risotto alla Milanese," made with chicken or beef stock and saffron, which is traditionally served with osso buco (a stew made from veal bones) and "Risotto al Barolo," made with fine red wine, but thousands of variations exist, both with vegetables and meat, as well as risottos made with various other wines, cheeses, or even fruits. Risotto Negro is a specialty of the Veneto region, made with cuttlefish cooked with their ink-sacs.

Wikipedia has a basic Risotto recipe here with links to countless variations. Arborio or Carnaroli are the best grains to use for risotto and be found online at iGourmet, Naso & Gola and ShopNatural.

16 July 2006

Jamón ibérico; bellota

Have you ever heard of, or tried, bellota, from Spain?

There is an article in today's Dining and Wine section of The New York Times announcing the arrival the hams. The article is here. And the only place to order them online, for now, is from LaTienda.

A more detailed explanation on the curing process and classifications is from Wikipedia (Note: The last sentence below stating that this product is seldom exported):

Jamón ibérico is a cured ham found only in Spain. It is made from the black-coated ibérico pig (also called the cerdo negro or black pig), although according to Spain's Denominación de Origen rules on food products, jamón ibérico may be made from cross-bred pigs as long as they are at least 75% ibérico.

The ibérico pigs live primarily in the south and southwest parts of Spain, including the provinces of Salamanca, Ciudad Real, Cáceres, Badajoz, Seville, Córdoba and Huelva. Immediately post-weaning, the piglets are fattened on barley and corn for several weeks. The pigs are then allow to roam in pasture and oak groves to feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns, and roots, until the slaughtering time approaches, at which point their diet is strictly controlled. First-class jamones (bellota) come from pigs fed only acorns during this last period; second-class (recebo) are from pigs fed a combination of acorns and grain; third-class (pienso) are from pigs fed only grain. Bellota jamónes are prized both for their smooth texture and rich savory taste. A feature of good ibérico ham are the regular flecks of intramuscular fat in the slices of ham. Because of the pigs diet of acorns, most of the jamón's fat is in the form of oleic acid, an unsaturated fat that lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol.

The hams from the slaughtered pigs are salted and left to begin drying for two weeks, after which they are rinsed and left to dry for another four to six weeks. The curing process then takes about nine months, although some producers cure their jamones ibéricos for over two years.

Jamón ibérico only accounts for about 5% of Spain's cured-ham production, so it is very expensive and is seldom exported.

***

As stated in the Times article, bellota is available online from LaTienda.

15 July 2006

Lovage


What exactly is lovage? Most people have never heard of it, and if you have a recipe that calls for it, usually in soups or stews, you probably don't have it on your spice rack. This info is from Wikipedia:

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is a plant, the leaves and "seeds" or fruit of which are used to flavor food, especially in South European cuisine. It is a tall (3 to 5 ft) perennial that vaguely resembles celery in appearance and in flavor. Lovage also sometimes gets referred to as smallage, but this is more properly used for celery.

The fruit of the lovage plant can be used as a spice, but what appears in the trade as lovage seed is usually ajwain, not lovage. On the other hand, what is sold as "celery seed" is often partially or entirely ground lovage seed.

The root of lovage is used as a diuretic.

Lovage root is available online at Sutton's Bay Trading Co.

The American Lobster


Lobsters. The American lobster. Maine Lobster. Yummy. And Whole Foods will no longer sell it live. Will sell it dead. Well, I like to cook my own lobster to have control over how it is done (minimal cooking for best flavor). I don't care to buy a pre-cooked "live" lobster, to re-heat it for my clambake.

I prefer to throw my losters into a large pot of salted (with a few hot pepper flakes), boiling water, and cook until the lobster is deep red, which is usually when the water is just returning to boil. Any longer, and the flesh turns rubbery and tasteless. I also prefer lobsters that are 2-3 pounds in weight -- there is more flesh per pound paid, it's easier to eat, and can be shared by the two people who can't seem to be able to eat a whole lobster. The extra meat is stuff for great lobster salad, but that seems to rarely happen.

A little background on the creature from Wikipedia:

The American lobster is a species of lobster (scientific name Homarus americanus), also known as the northern lobster, or the Maine lobster. They thrive in cold, shallow waters where there are many rocks and other places to hide from predators. Lobsters are solitary and nocturnal.

Found along the coast of North America as far south as North Carolina, they are famously associated with the colder waters around the Canadian Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador, Massachusetts, and Maine, where they can grow to enormous sizes. They commonly range from 20 cm to 60 cm in length and 0.5 kg to 4 kg in weight, but have been known to reach lengths of well over 1 meter and weigh as much as 20 kg or more, making this the heaviest marine crustacean in the world.

The adult lobster's main natural enemy is the codfish, but other enemies include haddock, flounder, and other lobsters. Overfishing of cod in the early 20th century has allowed the lobster population to grow enormously...

...Lobsters are a popular food, commonly boiled or steamed; for either method, they must be alive until they are cooked to avoid food poisoning. They can survive out of water for up to two days if kept refrigerated.

Lobster on its own is very low fat but not suitable for low sodium diets. One common way of serving lobster tail is in surf and turf.

Lobsters have a greenish or brownish organ called the tomalley that performs the functions of the liver and pancreas in a human, i.e. it filters out toxins from the body. Some diners consider it a delicacy, but others avoid it, considering it a toxin source.

***

For those of you who insist on being politically incorrect and ruled by your gastronomic needs, live lobsters can always be purchased at your local fishmonger, or online at Lobstergram, Massachusetts Bay Trading Co., and Charleston Seafood.

13 July 2006

Amma's Cookbook: From Indian Village to Internet

Here's an interesting item for all you foodies, one I was not aware of, about a site and cookbook, Amma's Cookbook: From Indian Village to Internet. I'll let Jessica's Biscuit tell you all about it:

"...Amma ("mother") is an Indian housewife and grandmother who began posting recipes for her children on the Internet when they moved overseas and missed her cooking. From this simple beginning in 1996, Ammas.com has grown to be the world's largest and most successful Asian food and lifestyle Web site, audited at more than 2 million hits per month. Demand for a cookbook from site users has led to this superb collection of genuine Indian recipes adapted for international use. These include traditional vegetarian, chicken, lamb, and game dishes, vegetables, dals, rices, breads, and seafood. Let Amma introduce you to crayfish in a creamy curry, stuffed eggplant, golden fried coconut rice, cashew nut curry, and other exquisite new dishes and exotic flavors you can create at home...

...Not a book for chefs, full of recipes you might find in an Indian restaurant, instead Amma offers recipes for cooks, with food from a mother's kitchen.

A dish I associate with the towering clouds and pounding rain of the monsoon, my mother's minced lamb curry was unique in our village. All the other women cooked this dish as they would any other meat curry. But Amma added a few eggs, which poached in the heat of the frying pan. The aroma of the lamb would mix with the tenderly cooked eggs. . . . Memory also serves a dab of butter, some yogurt, and a large spoon-ful of lightly cooked vegetables with these monsoon-enriched meals. --from Amma's Cookbook.

Amma is the pseudonym for a southern Indian housewife who wishes to remain anonymous, but who is known through her Web site to millions."

Amma's Cookbook: From Indian Village to Internet
by Amma
Paperback - 160 pages
November 2002
Color Photographs
ISBN: 1869503872
Harper Collins; Item Number: 09391

Amma's Cookbook is available as a closeout (for $7.98) from Jessica's Biscuit.

11 July 2006

Purslane

A recent article in The New York Times "Dining and Wine" section on purslane had me thinking about the "weed" for several days and whether or not it was worth the time for a blog. It does. The article gives you culinary uses of purslane throughout the world. The following from Wikipedia fills you in a bit more:

Portulaca oleracea (Common Purslane, also known as Pigweed, Little Hogweed or Pusley), is an annual succulent in the family Portulacaceae, which can reach 40 cm in height.. It is a native of India and the Middle East, but is naturalised elsewhere and in some regions is considered an invasive weed. It has smooth, reddish, mostly prostrate stems and alternate leaves clustered at stem joints and ends. The yellow flowers have five regular parts and are up to 0.6 cm wide. The flowers first appear in late spring and continue into mid fall. The flowers open singly at the center of the leaf cluster for only a few hours on sunny mornings. Seeds are formed in a tiny pod, which opens when the seeds are ready. Purslane has a taproot with fibrous secondary roots and is able to tolerate poor, compacted soils and drought.

Culinary Uses

Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it can be eaten as a leaf vegetable. It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe and Asia. It can be used fresh as a salad, or cooked like spinach, and due to its mucilaginous quality it is also suitable for soups and stews.

Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. It is one of the very few plants that contains the long-chain omega-3 EPA. It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies.

10 July 2006

Aioli and Aioli Recipe

Aioli is a sauce that is a great alternative to salad dressing on fresh summer vegetables and salads. Along with a baguette, some cheese and a nice wine, and voila! a simple summer picnic. Wikipedia explains aioli:

Aioli is a cold sauce made of garlic, egg, acid (lemon juice or vinegar), and olive oil, basically a garlic-flavoured mayonnaise. In France Aioli is traditionally served with seafood, fish soup and croutons.

In Provence, aioli also designates a complete dish consisting of boiled vegetables (carrots, potatoes..., green beans), boiled fish (normally, desalted cod), and boiled eggs served with the aioli sauce.

Different variants of this sauce exist along the Mediterranean coasts from Andalusia to Sicily.

Aioli has become popular as an accompaniment in Australia, often served alongside potato wedges. (Large chunky-cut french fries dipped in a spicy seasoning).

To make your own Aioli

INGREDIENTS

4-6 crushed garlic cloves
2 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

Whisk eggs with lemon until very thick. Add garlic and salt. Mixing constantly, dribble olive oil slowly into eggs. After about half the oil has been added and the mixture is thickened, add the vinegar and lemon juice. Then continue whisking in the remaining olive oil slowly, beating until a thick emulsion is formed. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Prepared aioli is also available online at iGourmet.

The Hunger Site

We believe in supporting many causes. Sometimes it's very easy. Such as donating food at The Hunger Site with a click. But you can only click once a day, but it's a good habit to get into. Read more at their site.

The Hunger Site.

Don't forget to return here when you finish.

Zinfandel and Primitivo



Zinfandel is a wine that is easily paired with a wide range of foods and flavors, especially if you include "white zinfandels". It fits into any budget range. Until the 1990s most people thought of zinfandel as a merely good jug wine. It's been transformed as tastes, production, and marketing changed it into a mainstream choice for many connoisseurs. Wikipedia gives us a bit of its history:

Zinfandel, also known as Zin, in Europe known as Primitivo, is a red-skinned wine grape. It's also popular in California for its intense fruitiness and lush texture. Typically, Zinfandel tastes of bramble and fresh or fermented red berries. Vintners use Zinfandel grapes to produce a wide range of wine styles including sweet White Zinfandels, light-bodied reds reminiscent of Beaujolais nouveau, full bodied dry reds, sweet late harvest dessert wines, and ports. Most serious wine critics consider White Zinfandel to be insipid and uninteresting, while many also consider the heavy styles to be too high in alcohol, making wines that are too "hot" and food unfriendly.

In the 1990s and 2000s, however, conscientious producers have created ageworthy Zinfandels of remarkable complexity and finesse, although always with great vigour and power.

Vintners have grown Zinfandel in California in quantity for over one hundred years. Many of the oldest wineries in the state grow Zinfandel and the vines are now treated almost like historic landmarks. At the start of prohibition Zinfandel was California's most popular and successful variety. During prohibition, limited home winemaking and the production of sacramental wine was allowed, and Zinfandel remained popular with Northern California's home wine makers. However, on the East Coast Zinfandel fell in popularity and was replaced by thicker-skinned varieties. Zinfandel's tight bunches left its thin skins susceptible to rot on the slow train rides to Eastern home wine makers. The creation of White Zinfandel in the 1970s further saved the vines by providing a larger market for the grape. In the 1990s the market for premium wine increased sufficiently that old vine Zinfandel became valuable on its own.

Wineries in the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Luis Obispo, San Joaquin, Amador, El Dorado, Lake, and Santa Clara (in the Santa Cruz Mountains), and in the Cucamonga region of Southern California all produce Zinfandels. Wineries particularly known for their Zinfandel include Ravenswood Winery, Ridge Vineyards, Rosenblum Cellars, and Sutter Home Winery, the last having developed the "White Zinfandel" that became such a popular seller.

In Italy, the Primitivo grape has been found to be genetically identical to Zinfandel. Primitivo and Zinfandel are thought to be two different clones. They are originally not only from Italy, but also from near Croatia, where it is known as Crljenak Kaštelanski. The link between Zinfandel and Crljenak was discovered through the work of Carole Meredith, a UC Davis geneticist. The Italian wine can be marketed in the U.S. under either name but U.S. Zinfandel cannot be called Primitivo in Europe.

The California Senate voted to make Zinfandel the "historic wine" of California.

A wide variety of zinfandels are available online at Wine.com, The Wine Messenger, and Kosher.com.

09 July 2006

The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Memory, and Justice in the Gardens of Ethnic America


Since we call this the gourmet and ethnic food blog, we found this rather appropriate book to feature here: The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Memory, and Justice in the Gardens of Ethnic America by Patricia Klindienst.

Every ethnic culture identifies certain dishes, flavors, ceremonies as their own. And each individual ethnic dish or flavor or color invariably starts with a plant in a garden. This synopsis of the publication is from Jessica's Biscuit:

"Why have we tamed the history of gardening in America?" Patricia Klindienst asks in The Earth Knows My Name. We are a democracy of gardeners yet, with few exceptions, the garden is presented as the province of the privileged and the white. Garden writing tends to exclude the stories of the ethnic peoples who have shaped our landscape for centuries. As a result, the idea of the garden has been stripped of its cultural weight.
The Earth Knows My Name speaks directly to this gap in our understanding, exploring the deeper implications of what it means to cultivate a garden and to grow one's own food.

The fifteen gardens presented in The Earth Knows My Name have all been fashioned by people usually thought of as other Americans: Native Americans, immigrants, and ethnic peoples who were here long before our national boundaries were drawn, including Hispanics of the Southwest, descended from the Conquistadors, and Gullah gardeners of South Carolina, descendants of West African slaves. All of these gardeners straddle two cultures—mainstream America and their culture of origin. Their stewardship of the land is an expression of the desire to preserve their heritage against all that threatens it. And so each garden becomes an island of hope and offers a model, on a truly sustainable scale, of a restorative ecology that renders justice to both the land and the people who cultivate it.

Patricia Klindienst is a master gardener and an award-winning writing teacher. She lives and gardens in Guilford, Connecticut. This is her first book.

Earth Knows My Name: Food, Memory, and Justice in the Gardens of Ethnic America
by Patricia Klindienst
Hardcover - 304 pages
March 2006
SBN: 0807085626
Beacon

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

08 July 2006

Lemon Curd and Lemon Curd Recipe


Lemon Curd and Lemon Curd Recipe
Lemon curd, I prefer lime curd, is a delightlful alternative to spread on your scone, bagel, or toast. The best have a light, full-fruit taste, with a zing that is not too sweet. Wikipedia explains how it's made:

Lemon curd is a custard-like dessert sauce made with eggs, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and butter. It goes well with scones, short breads, and muffins, and can be used as a filling for cakes or tarts. It may also be spread on bread or toast. The Dutch liquer advocaat is sometimes added during making. It imparts a rounded flavour and often used in the jam version of lemon curd.

***

To make lemon or lime curd yourself, here is a simple recipe:


1 cup fresh lemon or lime juice, about 16 lemons or 24 limes
2 tablespoons finely grated zest from the lemon or lime
3/4 cup sugar
8 egg yolks

In a double boiler, over medium heat, whisk all the ingredients together.

Simmer the mixture until thick, about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and cool.



***



Lemon curd is available online at iGourmet and Food Ireland.

07 July 2006

Taramosalata


A delicious spread found in many Greek restaurants or at Greek weddings and parties, is the pinkish taramosalata. Light and fluffy, with a slighlty fishy, roe aroma and taste, it can be spread or "slobbered" (as you prefer) on pita, vegetables, or even peaches. Here's a bit more from Wikipedia:

Taramosalata (often misspelled 'taramasalata') is a Greek meze. It is made from tarama, the salted and cured roe of the carp (although cheaper cod roe is often used instead). It is usually a bright pink colour, although this is due to food colouring, and a more authentic version is orange. The roe is mixed with lemon juice, bread crumbs, onions, garlic, and olive oil. It is usually eaten as a dip, with pita bread or raw vegetables.

Taramosalata is available online at iGourmet.

Cream of tartar

How do you keep vegetables from discoloring? Egg whites fluffy? Cream of tartar. It helps with other kitchen things, as well as an ingredient in some recipes. Wikipedia explains:

Potassium bitartrate also potassium hydrogen tartrate is a byproduct of wine making. It is also known as cream of tartar. It is a potassium acid salt of tartaric acid.

Tartar crystallises in wine casks during the fermentation of grape juice. This crude form (known as beeswing) is collected and purified to produce the white, odourless, acidic powder used for many culinary and other household purposes, such as:

* Stabilising egg whites, increasing their heat tolerance and volume;
* Preventing sugar syrups from crystallising;
* Reducing discolouration of boiled vegetables;
* Frequent combination with baking soda (which needs an acid ingredient to activate it) in formulations of baking powder.

In wines bottled before they are fully ripe, argol can precipitate on the side of the bottle in a sort of crust, thus forming what is called "crusted wine".

When placed in a Bunsen burner's flame, it turns purple.

When cream of tartar is added to water, a suspension results which serves to clean coins very well. The solution loosens surface dirt and grime on the coins. Then, the dirt can be wiped off quite easily.

Cream of tartar and vinegar combine to make a powerful cleaning agent used to clean encrusted pots, pans and stove tops.

Cream of tartar is readily available in large supermarkets.

05 July 2006

Mung beans


I've had mung beans in various cuisines and preparations and wondered what makes them different from other beans. Here is a bit of an explanation from Wikipedia:

Mung beans are commonly used in Chinese cuisine, where they are called lǜ dòu, or kacang hijau in Malay (both words literally mean "green bean"). Germinated mung bean sprouts (usually sold simply as "bean sprouts," known as taugeh in Malay or yá cài in Chinese) are stir fried (usually with ingredients such as garlic, ginger, spring onions or salted fish pieces to add taste) as a vegetable accompaniment to a meal. Uncooked bean sprouts are used in filling for Vietnamese spring rolls. Mung beans are also used to make a sweet soup, served either warm, or chilled. In Korea, slighly cooked mung bean sprouts (called sukjunamul) are often served as a side dish . They are put in boiling water for less than a minute, immediately cooled down in cold water, and mixed with sesame oil and salt (and often with some other ingredients).

Mung bean sprouts are the major bean sprouts in most Asian countries. In Korea, soybean sprouts (kongnamul) are more widely used, in a variety of dishes.

In several Asian countries, mung bean ice cream and frozen ice lollipops are popular desserts. Mung beans are ground to make transparent cellophane noodles (also known as bean thread noodles, bean threads, glass noodles, fen si, or tung hoon). Glass noodles become soft and slippery when they are soaked in hot water. Mung beans are a major ingredient in a variety of Malaysian dishes including char kway teow, hokkien mee, mee rebus, and pasembor. In Korea, a jelly called nokdumuk (also called cheongpomuk) is made from mung bean starch; a similar jelly, which is colored yellow with the addition of gardenia coloring, is called hwangpomuk.

Mung beans in Indian cuisine are stripped of their outer coats to make mung dal. Mung beans are widely consumed by Keralites along with kanji (rice gruel).

Mung beans are also made into a popular Indonesian dessert snack called es kacang hijau. The beans are cooked with sugar, coconut milk, and a little ginger. The dish is something that looks like a porridge.

Mung beans are available online at Asian Food Grocer and Shop Natural.

04 July 2006

Cooking with Sunshine


Want an alternative to that charcoal or gas barbecue grill? Are you a patient and adventurous sort of cook? And want to try something a bit off-beat for a prepared meal? Then Cooking with Sunshine, just published, may be a method to try. The publication's description is from Jessica's Biscuit:

What could be more entertaining and magical than putting food into a cardboard box outdoors on a sunny day and taking it out fully cooked a few hours later? Solar cooking — a safe, simple cooking method using the sun’s rays as the sole heat source — has been known for centuries and can be done at least during the summer in just about any place where there’s sun.

In Cooking with Sunshine, Lorraine Anderson and Rick Palkovic provide everything you need to know to cook great sun-fueled meals. They describe how to build your own inexpensive solar cooker, explain how solar cooking works and its benefits over traditional methods, offer more than 100 tasty recipes emphasizing healthy ingredients, and suggest a month's worth of menu ideas.

Cooking with Sunshine, 2nd Edition :
The Complete Guide to Solar Cuisine — With 150 Easy Sun-Cooked Recipes
by Anderson, Lorraine and Palkovic, Rick
Paperback - 176 pages
Published: May 2006
ISBN: 156924300X
Marlowe and Co.

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

Falafel


Street vendors in larger cities sell them and falafel sandwiches are often available in Near Eastern delis and sandwich shops. They are good, but a little sloppy and soppy to eat if you put too much yogurt sauce in that pita packet. Wikipedia explains exactly what a falafel is:

Falafel (Arabic: فلافل‎ falaafil (help·info), Hebrew: פלאפל falafel, also known in Egypt as طعمية ta`amiyya), is a fried ball or patty made from spiced fava beans and/or chickpeas. It is a highly popular form of fast food in the Arab East, but is also made as a snack food for the youth. Falafel is very common in Greater Syria and it is the most popular daily food in Syria. The word "falafel" comes from the Arabic word فلفل (filfil), meaning pepper.

Falafel is traditionally served as a filling ingredient in a pita bread wrap (i.e. sandwich), and the term "falafel" commonly refers to this sandwich by synecdoche; falafel in a pita is typical street food or fast food. Along with the falafel balls, which may be crushed onto the bread or added whole, various toppings are usually included. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a mezze. During Ramadan they are sometimes eaten as part of an iftar, the meal which breaks the daily fast after sunset.

Despite initial reluctance by both Arabs and Israelis, falafel is now seen as a uniting, pan-Middle-Eastern dish. In recent years, immigration from the Middle East to Western countries has brought with it a broader availability of Arab and Middle Eastern cuisine, and the falafel sandwich has become a popular and iconic food within alternative fast food or slow food movements, and indeed has spread world-wide.

Ingredients


Falafel is made from fava beans or chick peas or a combination of the two. The Egyptian variation uses exclusively fava beans, while other variations may only use chick peas. Unlike many other bean patties, in falafel the beans are not cooked prior to use. Instead they are soaked, possibly skinned, then ground with the addition of a small quantity of onion, spices, bicarbonate of soda and deep fried at a high temperature. Sesame seeds may be added to the balls before they are fried; this is particularly common when falafel is served as a dish in its own right rather than as a sandwich filling.

Recent culinary trends have seen the triumph of the chickpea falafel over the fava bean falafel. Chickpea falafels are served across the Middle East, and popularized by expatriates of those countries living abroad.

Topping variations


There is more than one way to stuff a pita with falafel. Hummus bi tahini, if used, is typically spread on the pita along with any chili sauce. Falafel and salads are then added. Salads range from a simple tomato-and-cucumber mix to pickled eggplants. In Syria and Lebanon, the typical filling is tahini or hummus (or both), tomato, lettuce, cabbage, pickles and lemon slices. In Israel, Lebanon, and the UAE, french fries are a frequent addition.

Once the entire pita has been packed, tahini (possibly with lemon) or yoghurt sauces may be added. In Israel yogurt is a rare offering; more often seen is amba, a spicy mango paste.

The salads or the pita itself may be seasoned with sumac or salt; alternatively, these may be applied to the top. In Syria, sumac is practically a universal accompaniment to falafel, whether in a sandwich or otherwise.








Prepared falafel balls and falafel mix is available online from Kosher.com.

02 July 2006

Passion for Ice Cream: 95 Recipes for Fabulous Desserts


4th of July. Summertime. Fireworks. Ice cream. Have you tried making your own? If you've looked at the list of ingredients in some ice creams, you would. Even some of the quality, "natural" brands have questionnable ingredients. This new publication, Passion for Ice Cream: 95 Recipes for Fabulous Desserts, by Emily Luchetti, may provide the motivation for conjuring up a batch of the fresh stuff.

Book description from Jessica's Biscuit:

Anybody who loves ice cream knows there's nothing better than a scoopful of homemade. Nothing, that is, except star pastry chef Emily Luchetti's fabulous recipes for making your own. This gorgeous cookbook doesn't just have all the crowd-pleasers, it's bursting with flavors you'll never find in the store. Even better, because sometimes a spoon just isn't accompaniment enough, there's a host of beautiful dessert recipes featuring ice cream in all its lusciousness.

There's chocolate, strawberry, and butter pecan; there's orange-cardamom, root beer granita, and pomegranate sorbet. There's popsicles, floats, and parfaits. And then there's Coffee Meringues with Coconut Ice Cream; Blackberry Sorbet Filled Peaches; and Chocolate Crepes with Peppermint Ice Cream. But wait...There's Shortcake and Rum Raisin Ice Cream Sandwiches; Sauternes Ice Cream and Apricot Sherbet Cake; and Chocolate Cupcakes Stuffed with Pistachio Ice Cream.

Aficionados needn't worry if their tastebuds are more deluxe than their ice cream maker because all of these treats can be made with a modest handcrank model or the fanciest machine. And to top it all off, there's a chapter on making sauces from scratch and a handy chart that lists the ice cream flavors alphabetically for easy reference.

The reason homemade ice cream tastes so much better than store-bought is because you use fresher ingedients and less air. That means it's richer, creamier, and tongue-tingling with flavor. The reason Emily's recipes taste so good is because she's a genius when it comes to desserts. If proof were needed, ice-cream fans need look no further than these mmm, mmm, mmm, melt-in-your-mouth recipes.

Passion for Ice Cream: 95 Recipes for Fabulous Desserts
by Luchetti, Emily
Hardcover - 224 pages
April 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0811846024
Chronicle Books

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

Roux

Roux is a very basic "base" for many dishes. From a nice simple "white" gravy to more complicated sauces. It is an excellent thickening agent for dishes like gumbos. After mastering its preparation (not burning it!), limitless variations in flavors and colors can be achieved.

Wikipedia
provides the long-winded explanation of a roux:

Roux (IPA: /ruː/) (pronounced like the English word "rue") is a mixture of wheat flour and fat. It is the basis of three of the five mother sauces of classical French cooking: Sauce béchamel, Sauce velouté, and Sauce Espagnole. Butter, vegetable-based oils, or lard are common fats used. It is used as a base for gravy, other sauces, soufflés, soups and stews.

The mixture is cooked by stirring over heat in a pot or pan. The fat is heated first, in the process melting it if necessary, then the flour is added, the mixture is stirred until the flour is incorporated and then cooked until at least the point where a raw flour taste is no longer apparent. The end result is a thickening and flavoring agent. The final results can range from the nearly white to the nearly black, depending on the length of time it is over the heat, and its intended use.

Roux are most often made with butter as the fat base. However, they may be made with any edible fat. In the case of meat gravies, they are often made with rendered fat from the meat. In traditional American cookery, bacon is sometimes fried to produce fat to use in the roux.

When combining roux with the water-based liquids, such as broth or milk, it is important that these liquids be added very hot and in small quantities to the roux while stirring, to ensure proper mixing. Otherwise, the mixture will be very lumpy, not homogeneous, and not properly thickened.

Light (or "white") roux provides little flavor other than a characteristic richness to a dish, and are used in French cooking and some gravies or pastries throughout the world. Darker roux, sometimes referred to as "blond", "peanut-butter", or "chocolate" roux depending on the color achieved, add a distinct nutty flavor to a dish, are often made with vegetable oils, as oil has a higher burning point than butter, and are used in Cajun and Creole cuisine for gumbos and stews. The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has; a chocolate roux has about one-fourth the thickening power, by weight, of a white roux.

Preparation of a light roux is rather simple; there is a danger of burning a dark roux, especially if it is attempted over high heat. For the novice cook, pre-made dark roux is available by mail-order and at supermarkets and specialty food stores in some areas.

As an alternative to making a roux, which is high in fat and very energy-dense, to flavor gumbo, some Creole chefs have been experimenting with toasting flour without oil in a hot pan. The results are comparable, but this is a rather difficult technique. A slurry of cold water and corn starch when added at the end of cooking can also thicken like a roux, but does not "enrich" the taste.

Cooks can cheat by adding a mixture of water and flour to a dish which needs thickening since the heat of boiling water will still release the starch, however this temperature is not high enough to eliminate the floury taste. A mixture of water and flour used in this way is colloquially known as cowboy roux since it imparts a flavour to the finished dish which a diligent chef would consider unacceptable.

An interesting variant of the traditional Cajun style roux is a contemporary northeastern recipe for corn roux, popularized in the southern Brooklyn area of New York City by Chef Michael "Freedom" Hart.