31 August 2006

Real American Food: A Culinary Tour of the United States

A recent release that I missed, but should be noted is Burt Wolf's Real American Food: A Culinary Tour of the United States. A food authority seen often on PBS, his book is described here, from Jessica's Biscuit:

"Real American Food draws from Burt Wolf's lifetime of experiences traveling the country producing programming for PBS. Packed with fascinating trivia and history, this book defines the distinctive contributions of key regions to American cuisine. Readers will come away knowing exactly what characteristic foods to look for the next time they travel to one of these regions, exactly which stores and restaurants offer the best version of these items, and how to cook these specialties once they return home. Filled with more than seventy generational recipes, Real American Food is organized by culinary region, each with its distinct identity, such as traditional Jewish food in New York, New England-style seafood in Boston, Eastern European-influenced meals in Chicago, upscale Southern cooking in Charleston, Cajun in New Orleans, Latin-influenced fish dishes in Miami, and organic Nouvelle Cuisine in San Francisco. Sidebars focus on regional star chefs, restaurants, food shops and markets, techniques, tools, ethnicities, produce, and farmers. This collection of local tried and true recipes, fun-filled facts, and charming anecdotes is the perfect addition to the armchair traveler or home cook's library."

Real American Food: A Culinary Tour of the United States
by Wolf, Burt
Hardcover - 272 pages
Published: July 2006
ISBN: 0847827925

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

Ume; umeboshi

I saw jars of umeboshi in a local Japanese market recently. And of course, I wanted to know exactly what they were. Ume fruit. I knew that. What's a ume? Here's a better explanation on ume and umeboshi from Wikipedia:


"Ume (梅) is the Japanese name for a species of Asian plum (Prunus mume, Rosaceae). Although the tree originates from China, where it is called méi (梅), it has also been grown in Japan and Korea since ancient times. In Korean, it is called maesil (hangul: 매실; hanja: 梅實). The tree is cultivated for its fruit and flowers. Although normally called a plum, it is actually more closely related to the apricot. Another species commonly referred to as the "Japanese plum" is the sumomo.Ume (梅) is the Japanese name for a species of Asian plum (Prunus mume, Rosaceae). Although the tree originates from China, where it is called méi (梅), it has also been grown in Japan and Korea since ancient times. In Korean, it is called maesil (hangul: 매실; hanja: 梅實). The tree is cultivated for its fruit and flowers. Although normally called a plum, it is actually more closely related to the apricot. Another species commonly referred to as the "Japanese plum" is the sumomo."


"Umeboshi (Japanese: 梅干, "pickled ume") are a type of Japanese pickle. They are a traditional food which are popular in Japan. Their natural colour are brown, but umeboshi are often dyed red using an herb called akajiso (often supplemented with artificial red coloring in commercially available umeboshi). Umeboshi may be round, and vary from unwrinkled to very wrinkled. They taste very sour and salty. Umeboshi are made by drying ume fruits and then packing them in barrels with salt. A weight is placed on top and the fruits gradually exude all remaining juices, which accumulate at the bottom of the barrel.

Umeboshi are usually eaten with rice. As part of a bento (Japanese lunchbox), a single umeboshi is often placed in the centre of the rice, resulting in what looks like the flag of Japan. It is also a common ingredient in onigiri, rice balls wrapped in nori. Among the Japanese, umeboshi are believed to be good for health and may be eaten as a folk remedy for the cold. Because of their high salt content, they can be kept for a very long time without spoiling."

Umeboshi is available online at AsianFoodGrocer.

30 August 2006

All New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook

We usually highlight a past or current publication on food that we consider should be brought to your attention. But All New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook, by Cooking Light Magazine, has been generating some interest and is available for pre-order from Jessica's Biscuit. It is due out some time in September 2006. From Jessica's Biscuit:

"Most of us simply aren’t willing to sacrifice culinary excellence for meals that are "good for us." It’s no wonder, then, that Cooking Light is America’s leading epicurean magazine and the most trusted authority on healthy cooking. And this newest hardcover beauty is the most comprehensive collection of 1,000 top-rated, double-tested, healthy, yet rich and tasty recipes ever combined in one cookbook. Features:

# Over 1000 tips from the Cooking Light Test Kitchens experts
# 200 step-by-step photographs simplify "complicated" cooking methods 50 new and varied menu options, including the Cooking Light staff’s top 10 favorites
# Cook & prep times, plus complete nutritional analysis for every recipe"

All New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
by Cooking Light magazine
Hardcover - 560 pages Not yet released by the publisher.
Anticipated Release Date: September 2006
500 Color Photographs
ISBN: 0848730232
Oxmoor House

Available at Jessica's Biscuit; Item Number: 09325

28 August 2006

Weeniecello, hot dog infused vodka; The Weenie-Tini

Well, this blog does cover recipes and food trivia. And the weeniecello, hot dog infused with vodka, and The Weenie-Tini, a "cocktail", do fall into both categories.

This culinary story appeared on another blog and has been featured on several news services. I guess you do have to try this at home because I don't think you'll find these hot dogs at Whole Foods yet, or the drink at your favorite bar, yet.

Visit Weeniecello, for all the news that's fit to eat -- and drink.

27 August 2006

Russ & Daughters

One of my favorite sources for an indescribable variety of "deli" (though no one calls it a deli) foods in New York City is Russ & Daughters on Houston Street (prounounced "how-sten"). I would guess one could shop here for years without purchasing the same ingredient twice. The characters (crackers sometimes) vary as the time of day you are there. The aroma when you enter is thick and palpable. And some of the languages overheard must be from lost civilizations. Let them tell you the timeline:

"Circa 1900- The First Generation: Joel Russ, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, arrives on New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood. He starts out selling herrings from a pushcart.

1914- Joel Russ opens a small shop at 179 E. Houston St. called, “Russ’ Cut-Rate Appetizers.” In the following years he and his wife, Bella, have three children, all girls: Hattie, Ida and Anne.

1940- The Second Generation: Russ’ girls grew up working in the store. People loved seeing beautiful young women reaching their hands into the herring barrel. Eventually, Russ made them partners, and that’s when the store got its name, “Russ & Daughters.”

All three Russ daughters met their husbands through the store. From the 50’s to the 70’s, Anne and her husband, Herb, Hattie and her husband, Murray, ran the shop.

1978- The Third Generation: After 10 years of practicing law, Mark Russ Federman returns to the family business. He has been running the operation since then alongside his wife, Maria.

2000- The Smithsonian Institute deems Russ & Daughters, “part of New York’s cultural heritage.”

2001- Russ & Daughters and the former tenement building in which it’s housed are accepted onto the National Register for Historic Places.

2002- The Fourth Generation: Russ, Joshua Russ Tupper, leaves his career as a Chemical Engineer to continue the family legacy by taking his place in the store.

2006- Russ' Great Granddaughter returns! After growing up in the business, fourth generation Russ, Niki Russ Federman, takes her place in the lineage. Together with her cousin, Joshua Russ Tupper, she will ensure the continuity of the tradition."

Russ & Daughters

26 August 2006

Simit; koulouri

What is a simit? It looks like a pretzel and bagel that were combined. Well, not quite a pretzel or a bagel, but read more from Wikipedia:

"A simit (Turkish) or koulouri (Greek: κουλούρι) is a circular bread with sesame seeds, very common in Turkey and Greece. The exact size, crunchiness/chewiness, etc. tend to vary by region. In the city of Izmir, simit is known as "gevrek," (literally, 'crisp') although it is very similar to the Istanbul variety.

Simit is generally eaten plain, or for breakfast with jelly, jam, or cheese.

Simit and koulouri are often sold by street vendors. In Istanbul, they sell them for 0.50 YTL each. Street merchants generally advertise simit as fresh ("Taze simit!"/"Taze gevrek!" [in Izmir]); this is often not the reality. A general rule of thumb for obtaining fresh simit is to select a vendor with a large quantity, indicating that he has recently restocked his supply.

Simit and Bagel

While having a similar shape—although a simit has a much larger opening and is thinner—the texture of simit and bagel is very different. Unlike a bagel, a good simit is crisp."

Simit is available online from Tulumba.

Snickers Candy Bar

Not decidedly gourmet food, but a pretty good pick-me-up, a Snickers ( © 2006 Mars, Incorporated and its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved) candy bar is near the top for me. And 75 years old in 2005. Here is a snippet on Snickers from Wikipedia:

"Snickers is a candy bar made by Mars, Incorporated. It is made from nougat topped with peanuts and caramel covered with milk chocolate. Snickers is the best selling candy bar of all time and has annual global sales of $2 billion.

The original Snickers bar was sold as Marathon in the UK and Ireland until 1990. More recently, the name Snickers Marathon has been associated with energy bar variants of the standard Snickers sold in some markets.

In 1930, the Mars family introduced its second brand, Snickers, named after one of their favorite horses. They were first sold for a nickel. It is made by forming a nougat center into large slabs, which are cut to size once the caramel and peanuts have been added. After the centers are formed, they are coated with thick milk chocolate. The completed bars are inspected, wrapped, and packed in cases for shipment. From 1949 to 1952, Snickers was a sponsor of "The Howdy Doody Show". The "Fun Size" bar was introduced in 1968 and has been a popular Halloween treat ever since. The following decades saw even more Snickers varieties introduced.

Snickers bars were particularly popular among movie-goers during the 1970s and early 1980s, outselling some of its important competitors at movie theaters. The Snickers brand is also available at many supermarkets, pharmacies and stores worldwide.

In 1995, Snickers launched a website to support its sponsorship of Euro '96, a pan-European soccer tournament. The website was groundbreaking in soliciting match previews and reviews from its visitors, who generated some 4,000 match reports, and the website won various international design, advertising and online community awards."

25 August 2006

Cubanelle pepper

A pepper that is becoming more common in supermarkets is the cubanelle pepper. Similar in taste and price to the bell pepper, a further description comes from RecipeTips.com:

"A long slender banana-shaped pepper that is considered to be a sweet pepper, despite having a mild to moderate spicy heat. Ranging in color from green to yellow or red, this pepper has a glossy outer skin that is smooth and firm in texture. Also known as Italian frying pepper, this pepper is mildly hot and very similar to an Anaheim pepper. Cabanelle peppers are often used in casseroles, salads, pizzas, and as a pepper to be stuffed with a savory filling."

The Irish Spirit: Recipes Inspired by the Legendary Drinks of Ireland

On a seemingly less serious but more "spirited" vein in the spate of new cookbook releases is The Irish Spirit: Recipes Inspired by the Legendary Drinks of Ireland by Margaret M. Johnson. Jessica's Biscuit pours out the essence:

"The Irish Spirit combines the Emerald Isle's favorite recipes with a touch of ale, stout, cider, or whiskey, creating terrific new flavor combinations. Whether scallops and shrimp are poached in single-malt whiskey, tender brisket is simmered in ale and topped with a golden cheese cobbler, or old-time pineapple upside-down cake is updated with a buttery, toffee liqueur topping, each recipe is enhanced by Ireland's famous spirits. In addition to the terrific recipes is the fascinating history of Irish whiskey, stories of classic events like Belfast's popular Pub Crawl, and the origins of the infamous "black and tan," making this spirited cookbook a delight for all with a touch of the Irish."


The Irish Spirit: Recipes Inspired by the Legendary Drinks of Ireland
by Margaret M. Johnson
Paperback - 160 pages
August 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0811850420

Available online from Jessica's Biscuit (Item Number: 09227).

Lobel's Meat and Wine: Great Recipes for Cooking and Pairing

There seems to be a deluge of extraordinarily good cookbooks being released. Lobel's Meat and Wine: Great Recipes for Cooking and Pairing, by Leon, Stanley, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel is another. The book's synopsis supplied by Jessica's Biscuit:

" When it comes to meat, the Lobel family of New York is recognized as the prime purveyor and authority. Whether it's beef, pork, lamb, poultry, or game, they know not only how to choose it, but also the very best ways to prepare each cut. Here they describe and integrate the flavors of wine and reveal which of its components are the most food-friendly. And then there are nearly 100 recipes. From the easy-to-prepare rib steaks, marinated in Pinot Noir, to the delicious surprise of a gratin of chicken and Gruyère cheese cooked in Bourgogne blanc, each recipe gives detailed wine notes and, where appropriate, butcher's notes and make-ahead tips. Lobel's Meat and Wine is a cut above."


Lobel's Meat and Wine: Great Recipes for Cooking and Pairing
by Leon, Stanley, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel
Hardcover - 192 pages
August 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0811847322

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

Tartine, by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

Another great looking and informative cookbook, Tartine, by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, has just been released. The best description of the publication is from Jessica's Biscuit:

"Every once in a while, a cookbook comes along that instantly says "classic." This is one of them. Acclaimed pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt and master baker Chad Robertson share not only their fabulous recipes, but also the secrets and expertise that transform a delicious homemade treat into a great one. It's no wonder there are lines out the door of Elisabeth and Chad's acclaimed Tartine Bakery. It's been written up in every magazine worth its sugar and spice. Here their bakers' art is transformed into easy-to-follow recipes for the home kitchen.

The only thing hard about this cookbook is deciding which recipe to try first: moist Brioche Bread Pudding; luscious Banana Cream Pie; the sweet-tart perfection of Apple Crisp. And the cakes! Billowing chiffon cakes. Creamy Bavarians bursting with seasonal fruits. A luxe Devil's Food Cake. Lemon Pound Cake, Pumpkin Tea Cake. Along with the sweets, cakes, and confections come savory treats, such as terrifically simple Wild Mushroom Tart and Cheddar Cheese Crackers. There's a little something here for breakfast, lunch, tea, supper, hors d'oeuvres—and, of course, a whole lot for dessert!

Practical advice comes in the form of handy Kitchen Notes. These "hows" and "whys" convey the authors' know-how, whether it's the key to the creamiest quiche (you'll be surprised), the most efficient way to core an apple, or tips for ensuring a flaky crust. Top it off with gorgeous photographs throughout and you have an utterly fresh, inspiring, and invaluable cookbook."
by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
ISBN: 0811851508
August 2006

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

24 August 2006

Licorice candy

I saw someone eating some licorice yesterday and thought, gee, what is licorice and how is it made? Black licorice is true licorice (which I knew), and red licorice is, well, red. Read on, from Wikipedia:

Traditionally, black licorice candy is made by boiling the root of the liquorice plant (or in the US, the related American licorice plant), adding sugar, molasses or other sweetener, and flour as a thickening agent, then allowing the candy to set in molding trays, or in the case of larger manufacturers, extruding it. Licorice candies are a notoriously difficult confection to produce, and worldwide, most producers making licorice-like candies are specialists....

...Licorice candy (liquorice in British English) is flavored with the extract of the roots of the licorice plant, and usually anise oil as well. A wide variety of licorice candies are produced around the world, though the finest production (and harvesting) occurs in the Macedonian region. In the U.S., the most common form of licorice candy is known as black licorice and normally consists of chewy ropes or tubes. In the Commonwealth a mixture of various licorice candies is known as liquorice allsorts. In the Netherlands and Nordic countries, some licorice candy is salty like salmiakki that often includes licorice extract, together with ammonium chloride. The black color is strengthened by the use of carbon black as a food coloring agent.

In the US, UK and Australia, there is also a product known as red licorice, which resembles American black licorice, but is made with strawberry or cherry flavorings rather than licorice. Red Vines and Twizzlers are the most well known products of this type. More recently similar products have been introduced in a wider variety of flavors including apple, mango, blackcurrant and strawberry.

21 August 2006

Mojito; Mojito recipe; Margarita Martini Mojito

A recent reference in an article to a cocktail, a mojito, a cocktail I really didn't know much about (excuse me), sent me to scurrying to Wikipedia, of course, for a further explanation -- and then for a recipe and a book (see below for both):

"Mojito (pronounced [mohi.to]) is a traditional Cuban cocktail which became quite popular in the United States during the late 1980s, but has recently seen a resurgence in popularity. This drink is a cousin of the Brazilian cocktail, Caipirinha.[see our blog]

A mojito is traditionally made of five ingredients: mint, rum, powdered sugar, lime juice, and club soda. Its combination of sweetness and refreshing citrus and mint flavors are intended to mask the potent kick of the rum.

The mojito is currently (in 2006) considered a highly fashionable drink. Its popularity is evidenced by its prominent role in recent Bacardi advertisements."

From TasteofCuba is the following:

Mojito recipe - the original authentic recipe from Havana Cuba

1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Juice from 1 lime (2 ounces)
4 mint leaves
1 sprig of mint
Havana Club white Rum (2 ounces)
2 ounces club soda

There are countless recipes for the Mojito (prounced moh-HEE-toh), but this version is for the one Hemingway himself enjoyed at the Mojito's place of birth: La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba. If you are throwing a Cuban theme party (Havana night themed party), plan on serving mojitos.

Place the mint leaves into a long mojito glass (often called a "collins" glass) and squeeze the juice from a cut lime over it. You'll want about two ounces of lime juice, so it may not require all of the juice from a single lime. Add the powdered sugar, then gently smash the mint into the lime juice and sugar with a muddler (a long wooden device, though you can also use the back of a fork or spoon if one isn't available). Add ice (preferably crushed) then add the rum and stir, and top off with the club soda. Garnish with a mint sprig.

And if that recipe is not enough, then this new publication is for you:

Margarita Martini Mojito: 50 of the Best Margaritas, Martinis and Mojitos
by Alan Gage
Paperback - 96 pages
August 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 1552857549
White Cap


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

Grits, hominy; 101 Things To Do With Grits

Grits, hominy; 101 Things To Do With Grits

A while ago we blogged polenta. Grits is the American version -- Southern U.S., i.e., -- of polenta. Polenta is refined, grits is well, the grittier version. Wikipedia explains:

"Grits is a type of maize porridge and a food common in the Southern United States, and southern Manchuria (where it is called gezi in Mandarin) consisting of coarsely ground corn, traditionally by a stone mill. The results are passed through screens, with the finer part being corn meal, and the coarser being grits. Many communities in the South had a gristmill until the mid-20th century, with families bringing their own corn to be ground, and the miller retaining a portion of the corn for his fee. Grits aficionados still prefer stone ground grits, although modern milling tends to prefer faster methods.

The word "grits" comes from Old English grytta meaning a coarse meal of any kind. Yellow grits include the entire kernel, while white grits use hulled kernels. Grits are prepared by simply boiling into a porridge; normally they are boiled until enough water evaporates to leave them semi-solid. They are traditionally served at breakfast, but can also be used at any meal.

Hominy grits is another term for grits, but explicitly refers to grits made from nixtamalized corn, or hominy. These are the common grits sold in supermarkets outside of the Southern U.S.

Grits are also similar to farina and polenta. Polenta is also known in parts of the US as cornmeal mush, and is often sold precooked and chilled in sticks to be sliced and fried as a breakfast dish."

Grits are available online at ShopNatural.

And, do you need some ideas for what to do with grits? Well, here's a book to help:

101 Things To Do With Grits
by Cottingham, Harriss
Spiral - 128 pages
Published: August 2006
ISBN: 0941711897


101 Things To Do With Grits
is available online from Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

Carr's Table Water Crackers

Another common edible product that has prompted further exploration by us for some food trivia is Carr's Table Water Crackers. They are rather good and are pretty tasty with a variety of dips and hors d'oevres. But first, what is a water biscuit? From Wikipedia, simply:

"A water biscuit is a type of biscuit or cracker. Water biscuits are baked using only flour and water, without shortening or other fats usually used in biscuit production. They are thin, hard and brittle, and usually served with cheese or wine. Originally produced in the 19th Century as a version of the ship's biscuit, water biscuits continue to be popular in the United Kingdom, with the two leading manufacturers (Carr's and Jacob's) selling over seventy million packets a year.

Carr's water biscuits are sold as "table water crackers" in the United States. Several varieties are available.

Several versions of water crackers exist in ex-British colonies, such as, Jamaica, where the Excelsior brand of water crackers are a popular breakfast/snack staple. They are often served with a spread, including a spicy pepper-and-herring paste called Solomon Gundy."

The Carr's web site provides little information on the company itself. But a bit more background comes from DiBruno.com:

"The story of Carr's Biscuits began during the British Industrial Revolution, when Jonathan Carr set up a small bakery in the city of Carlisle, England in 1831. The business thrived and became so popular that only 10 years later it was granted Queen Victoria's Royal Warrant, an award that has been granted to Carr's continuously by British royalty since that time. Thin and crispy crackers that won't interfere with the flavor of sophisticated cheeses."

20 August 2006

FDA OKs Viruses to Treat Food

Several news services carried the story yesterday, "FDA OKs Viruses to Treat Food", :

"WASHINGTON -- A mix of bacteria-killing viruses can be safely sprayed on cold cuts, hot dogs and sausages to combat common microbes that kill hundreds of people a year, federal health officials said Friday in granting the first-ever approval of viruses as a food additive."

The full story is available at Wired.com.

18 August 2006

Nathan's Famous and Coney Island

Nathan's Famous and Coney Island

At least once a year I have to go to Coney Island. I go for the nostalgia of the place, to ride the famous Cyclone two or three times, check out the redevelopment going on (slow...slow...), and then to top it off with two or three hot dogs and fries from Nathan's. They taste different there. Really good. The ever-present seediness, the same-looking customers, taxi drivers hopping out of their cabs, running in and grabbing a couple or more dogs and running back to their hacks before getting slapped with a ticket, the tourists (many Asians) not knowing what and how to order, the street person handed a dog and a beer, the Goth couple in black intertwined and looking lost, and the Nathan's faithful. The sea air, the gulls ever circling over the outdoor tables, sometimes swooping down for your fries, well, it's a truly unhealthy treat that has to be experienced. And then I head to Brighton Beach, via the Boardwalk, to do serious fruit and vegetable shopping with the vast Russian population there, elbowing for the goods -- best produce and prices in New York. Wikipedia provides a little more background:

"Nathan's Famous is a chain of U.S.-based fast food restaurants specializing in hot dogs. The original Nathan's stands at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in the Coney Island neighborhood of the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

Nathan's began as a nickel hot dog stand in Coney Island in 1916 and bears the name of founder Nathan Handwerker. A second branch on Long Beach Road in Oceanside, New York, opened in 1955, and another debuted in Yonkers in 1965. All were sold by the Handwerker family in 1987, at which point Nathan's was franchised and a great number of establishments were opened around New York City and beyond. The company went public in 1993, and Bill Handwerker, the founder's grandson, left the company three years later...

...Every July 4, Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is held at the original location on Coney Island. Contestants try to consume the most hot dogs (and buns) in a twelve-minute time period. The Nathan's event is the crown jewel of the competitive eating circuit. Takeru Kobayashi won the 2006 competition by ingesting a world-record 53¾ hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes. This was his sixth consecutive victory in the tournament."

For more information visit Nathan's Famous and "Everybody Comes to Nathan's".

16 August 2006

Stonewall Kitchen Favorites

Stonewall Kitchen is one of our favorite sites for online food gifts, especially Maine food products -- ah, those blueberry goods! But they carry a full range of specialty food products as well as kitchen and home and garden goods, all with a "down east" flavor. And now about to be released is the latest of their own publications on foods and recipes, Stonewall Kitchen, Favorites, Delicious Recipes to Share with Family and Friends Everyday. If it's as good as the goods on their site, it's bound to be a wonderful publication to add to your library. Here's the synopsis from Stonewall Kitchen:

"For release on August 22, 2006 . . . a new cookbook from Stonewall Kitchen, Favorites, Delicious Recipes to Share with Family and Friends Everyday.

Recipes can bring back powerful memories in an instant. A special “birthday meal”, mom’s meatloaf or what you had for dinner every Sunday night are as clear in your mind as if it were yesterday. This book is a tribute to those dishes, updating many and offering alternatives to those classic recipes we all can almost taste when the memories pop up.

285 pages of fabulous recipes from authors Jonathan King, Jim Stott and Kathy Gunst’s. Jim Stott photographed over 150 stunning full color images for this book."

Visit Stonewall Kitchen for further information.

15 August 2006

The Bon Appétit Cookbook

The Bon Appétit Cookbook is scheduled to be released this week. At a whopping 800 pages and a suggested retail price of $34.95, it is a "must-have" publication for everyone's culinary library. Or as a just plain good cookbook, if it lives up to this description from Jessica's Biscuit (where it is $20.97 or $29.97 with a year of Bon Apetit magazine and free shipping!):

"Bon Appétit has been America's favorite food and entertaining magazine for decades, celebrating the culinary experience with recipes that have made cooking both a pleasure and a triumph for generations of home cooks.

Now, for the first time, The Bon Appétit Cookbook brings together more than 1,200 of the magazine's all-time, best-loved recipes for every meal and occasion. These recipes represent the very best of the magazine's sophisticated, foolproof style: easy-to-make dishes that incorporate a variety of regional and international influences—recipes that are delicious the first time out. Like Bon Appétit itself, The Bon Appétit Cookbook is, as Editor in Chief Barbara Fairchild puts it, "approachable, relevant, and fun." From Cajun-Grilled Shrimp to Artichoke and Mushroom Lasagna to Hot and Sticky Apricot-Glazed Chicken to Molasses Chewies with Brown Sugar Glaze, you will find dishes to tempt every palate.

The book is accessible and easy to use, and includes engaging headnotes and clear explanations along with nearly sixty illustrations of ingredients and techniques. You will also find invaluable tips, techniques, and advice from the experts at Bon Appétit. Throughout the book, they share test kitchen secrets in how-tos that demystify and simplify more than three dozen techniques—such as deveining shrimp, cutting corn off the cob, and frosting a layer cake.

Complete with thirty-two pages of gorgeous color photographs to tempt and inspire, The Bon Appétit Cookbook is a must for those who truly love to make and enjoy great food. Whether you're a novice cook or a seasoned expert, it is a book you will turn to again and again—for reference, for ideas, and, of course, for terrific recipes. Here's to making everything you cook a delight to prepare and a joy to eat: Bon Appétit!"

The Bon Appétit Cookbook
by Fairchild, Barbara
Hardcover - 800 pages, Color Photographs
Published: August 2006
ISBN: 0764596861
John Wiley & Sons

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

14 August 2006

Zucchini, courgette. Italian squash; Zucchini Relish

If you planted a vegetable garden or have a neighbor who did, it's that time of summer when it looks as if the zucchini plants are set to take over the world. It seems like they actually grew overnight -- you always discover more in the morning that weren't there the night before. Why don't the neighbors open the door when they see you coming with two arms full of the squash? Hmmm...

At the bottom of this blog is a simple recipe for a tasty zucchini relish (handed down from my grandmother to mother), a variation of many out there. But first, a little about zucchini from Wikipedia:

"Zucchini (US, Australian, and Canadian English) or courgette (New Zealand and British English) is a small summer marrow or squash, also commonly called Italian squash. Its Latin name is Cucurbita pepo (a species which also includes other squash). It can either be yellow or green and generally has a similar shape to a ridged cucumber, though a few cultivars are available that produce round or bottle-shaped fruit. Unlike the cucumber it is usually served cooked, often steamed or grilled. Its flower can be eaten fried or stuffed. Culinarily, zucchini is considered to be a vegetable. However, biologically, the zucchini is a fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. Zucchini are traditionally picked when very immature, seldom over 8in/20cm in length. Mature zucchini can be as much as three feet long, but are often fibrous and not appetizing to eat.

Zucchini is one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate in a temperate climate. As such, zucchini has a reputation among home gardeners for overwhelming production, and a common type of joke among home growers revolves around creative ways of giving away unwanted zucchini to people who already have been given more than they can use.

In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the courgette to be Britain's 10th favourite culinary vegetable. In Mexico, the flower (known as Flor de Calabaza) is preferred over the fruit, and is often cooked in soups or used as a filling for quesadillas.

Closely related, to the point where some seed catalogs do not make a distinction, are Lebanese summer squash or kusa, which closely resemble zucchini but often have a lighter green or even white color.

The zucchini flower can be male or female. The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of baby zucchini. The male flower grows on the stem of the zucchini plant and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible.

Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are cooked to be eaten, with stems and pistils removed. There are a variety of recipes and the flowers may be stuffed, sautéed, baked, or even used in a soup.

The zucchini fruit is low in calories (approximately 15 food calories per 100 g fresh zucchini) but contains useful amounts of folate (24 mcg/100 g), potassium (280 mg/100 g) and vitamin A (384 IU [115 mcg]/100 g)."

Zucchini Relish


5 cups ground zucchini
2 cups ground onions
1 medium ground green bell pepper
1 medium ground red bell pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 1/8 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I prefer allspice)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Combine zucchini, onions, bell peppers and kosher salt. Let stand for one hour. Drain.

Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for one hour. Preserve following your preferred preservation method.

13 August 2006

Preserving Nature's Bounty

It's getting to be that time of year when the garden's is bursting with fruits and vegetables. There always seems to be one plant, one you only planted a few of, that took over, and presents you with an abundance that even the neighbors have had enough of:squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, corn, carrots, rhubarb, or apples, pears, etc. Ah, time to start preserving. And just in time, a new publication with some new and old solutions, Preserving Nature's Bounty, by Frances Bissell. Here's a brief description from Jessica's Biscuit:

" Food preservation has never been simpler! This illustrated guide to canning and preserving covers everything from selecting and using equipment to choosing suitable fruits and vegetables, preparing the jars, and bath processing. Foolproof recipes for a vast assortment of delicious jellies, jams, chutneys, marmalades, cucumber and dill pickles, and much more are included. And with these streamlined processes and time-saving tips, making smaller batches of fruit butters and cheeses, syrups, pickles, and salsa is fast and easy. Tempting recipes include Red Currant, Cider & Pepper Jelly, Pineapple & Roasted Yellow Pepper Salsa, Passion-Fruit Vinegar, Spiced Pickle Spears, Tamarillo Jam, and Blackberry Vodka. Spice up the holidays with Fig & Apple Mincemeat, Cranberry & Cinnamon Jelly, and old fashioned Christmas Jam."


Preserving Nature's Bounty
by Bissell, Frances
Hardcover - 176 pages
August 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 1402727313
Sterling Publishing

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

12 August 2006


Ever heard of a mangosteen? I have. Ever tasted one? I haven't. But I would like to have a go at one after having read the article in the Dining and Wine section of The New York Times. I'm always looking for "new" fruits and vegetables to try, and I can hardly wait for this one to be available. From The New York Times:

"For decades it has been famously, tantalizingly unavailable on the United States mainland, but Mr. Crown’s Panoramic Fruit Company has sent several test shipments in the past month to New York and Los Angeles. Sherry Yard, the pastry chef at Spago Beverly Hills, was thrilled to be able to taste a few. “This is like seeing a unicorn,” she said.

More information is available at Mangosteen.com.


It's amazing that many people don't know that paprika is simply dried red bell peppers, and that it's not really spicy. I guess that bright red color is misleading. It's often used when making rice to add a yellowish tinge, giving the impression that it's saffron rice. Regardless, it's a nice addition to plain rice. Wikipedia explains:

"Paprika is principally used as an ingredient in a broad variety of dishes throughout the world. Paprika (pimentón in Spain) is principally used to season and color rices, stews, and soups. In Spain, Germany, Hungary, and Turkey, paprika is also used in the preparation of sausages as an ingredient that is mixed with meats and other spices.

All varieties of capsicum including the bell peppers used to make paprika have a high vitamin C content (150–250 mg/100 g). In 1932, the Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi, using Vitamin C from a red pepper, proved that scurvy was caused by Vitamin C deficiency."

Paprika is available online at MexGrocer, ShopNatural, SuttonsBayTradingCo., and many other retailers.

09 August 2006


I like fresh ginger root and add it to a variety of dishes, e.g., lentils, for its wonderful clean taste and aroma, and not unimportantly, for its health benefits. Minced fine, it adds a subtly exotic, slighlty spicy tang. Try adding it to a soup, such as chicken vegetable soup, for a delightfully fresh, clean taste, or to almost any pork dish, which ginger seems to have a special affinity. If you have a special liking for garlic in some dishes, well ginger and garlic, are like a song and dance team. The lowdown on ginger from Wikipedia:

"...The pungent taste of ginger is due to nonvolatile phenylpropanoids (particularly gingerol and zingerone) and diarylheptanoids (gingeroles and shoagoles); the latter are more pungent and form from the former when ginger is dried. Cooking ginger transforms gingerol into zingerone, which is less pungent and has a spicy-sweet aroma. None of these pungent chemicals are related to capsaicin, the principal hot constituent of chile pepper...

...Young ginger roots are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can also be stewed in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey is often added as a sweetener. Mature ginger roots are fibrous and nearly dry. The juice from old ginger roots is extremely potent and is often used as a spice in Chinese cuisine to cover up other strong odors and flavors such as in seafood and mutton....

...Powdered dry ginger (ground ginger) is typically to add spiciness to gingerbread and other recipes. Ground and fresh ginger taste quite different and ground ginger is a particularly poor substitute for fresh ginger. Fresh ginger can be successfully substituted for ground ginger and should be done at a ratio of 6 parts fresh for 1 part ground. You generally achieve better results by substituting only half the ground ginger for fresh ginger...

...In India, ginger is used in all sub-varieties of the indian cuisines. In south India, ginger is used in the production of a candy called Inji-murappa ("ginger candy" from Tamil). This candy is mostly sold by vendors to bus passengers in bus stops and in small tea shops as a locally produced item. Candied ginger is also very famous around these parts. Additionally, In Tamil Nadu esp in the Tanjore belt, a variety of ginger which is less "spicy" is used when tender to make "fresh" pickle with the combination of lemon juice, salt and tender green chillies. This kind of pickle was generally made in the "pre-refrigeration" days and stored for not more than 4-5 days. The pickle gains a 'mature' flavor when the juices "cook" the ginger when kept for more than 24 hours...

...Medical research has shown that ginger root is an effective treatment for nausea caused by motion sickness or other illness, and also contains many antioxidants. Powdered dried ginger root is made into pills for medicinal use. Although very effective against all forms of nausea, PDR health officials do not recommend taking ginger root for morning sickness commonly associated with pregnancy, though Chinese women traditionally eat ginger root during pregnancy to combat morning sickness. Ginger ale and ginger beer have been recommended as "stomach settlers" for generations in countries where the beverages are made. Ginger water was commonly used to avoid heat cramps in the United States in the past.

Ginger has also been commonly used to treat inflammation, although medical studies as to the efficacy of ginger in decreasing inflammation have shown mixed results. It may also have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties, making it effective in treating heart disease; while early studies have shown some efficacy, it is too early to determine whether further research will bear this out..."


Fresh ginger is best purchased at your local market, but a variety of interesting ginger products can be found online at AsianFoodGrocer, ShopNatural, SuttonsBayTradingCo., IndianBlend, and TheSpottedLeopardTeas.

The Emperor of Wine

Another new publication for all you wine enthusiasts, The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste, by Elin McCoy, has just been released in paperback. A description from Jessica's Biscuit follows:

" New paperback! The first book to chronicle the rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., the world's most influential and controversial wine critic, who, over the last twenty-five years, has dominated the international wine world and embodied the triumph of American taste.

This is the story of how an American lawyer raised on Coca-Cola caused a revolution in the way wines around the globe are made, sold, and talked about.

To his legions of fans, Parker is a cross between Julia Child and Ralph Nader -- part enthusiastic sensualist and part consumer crusader. To his many enemies, he is a self-appointed wine judge bent on reducing the meaning of wine to a two-digit number. The man who now rules the world of wine has been the focus of both adulation and death threats. He rose to his pinnacle of power by means of the traditional American virtues of hard work, determination, and integrity -- coupled with an unshakeable ego and a maniacal obsession with a beverage that aspires to a seductive art form: fine wine.

Parker's influential bimonthly newsletter, The Wine Advocate, with more than 45,000 subscribers across the United States and in more than thirty-seven countries, exerts the single most significant influence on consumers' wine-buying habits and trends in America, Europe, and the Far East, and impacts the way wine is being made in every wine-producing country in the world, from France to Australia. Parker has been profiled in countless magazines and newspapers around the world and most of his dozen books have been best sellers in the United States and abroad. Yet, despite the world's attention and unending acclaim, Robert Parker stands at the center of a heated controversy. Is he a passionate lover of wine who, more than anyone else, is responsible for its vastly improved quality, or is he, as others claim, waging a war against centuries of tradition and in the process killing the soul of wine?

The Emperor of Wine tackles the myriad questions that swirl about Parker and reveals how he became both worshipped and despised, revered as an infallible palate by some and blamed by others for remaking the world's wine industry into a single global market, causing prices to skyrocket, and single-handedly reshaping the taste of wine to his own preference."

The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste
by McCoy, Elin
Paperback - 320 pages
Published: July 2006
ISBN: 0060093692
Harper Collins

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

07 August 2006


I was a bit confused recently by a display for edamame in a Whole Foods market. They looked like dark, dried soybeans to me. Well, that's what they are. Wikipedia explaines it a bit more clearly than the Whole Foods market employee who look annoyed at my question (and didn't know what they were):

"...Soybeans may be boiled whole in their green pod and served with salt, under the Japanese name edamame (IPA pronunciation: [eda-naa-me]). Soybeans prepared this way are a popular local snack in Hawai'i, where, as in China, Japan, and Korea the bean and products made from the bean (miso, natto, tofu, douchi, doenjang, ganjang and others) are a popular part of the diet..."

03 August 2006

True Blueberry: Delicious Recipes for Every Meal

Following our blog on blueberries we had to find a book that would do the subject justice (and make you want to run out, get the book, and well, blueberries, of course.). The publication we found is True Blueberry: Delicious Recipes for Every Meal. Jessica's Biscuit provides a bit more information:

"From the restaurants of today's most creative chefs to the kitchens of savvy home cooks, blueberries have become a favorite ingredient not just for breakfast and dessert but for dishes at every meal. And the doctor approves. Recent medical studies have shown that blueberries are one of nature's most beneficial foods, known to help fight cancer and diabetes, and may aid in lowering cholesterol and combating aging.

True Blueberry is a celebration of the fruit long prized by cooks for its distinctive color and delicate sweet flavor. The book begins by highlighting the health benefits of blueberries, and then presents 80 fresh, innovative recipes that will appeal to every palate. Featured are such winning creations as Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry-Peach Compote; Fennel, Arugula, Orange, and Blueberry Salad; and Blueberry Martinis, gathered from home cooks and renowned chefs, including Debra Ponzek and Alain Ducasse, as well as venerable restaurants such as Moody's Diner in Maine."

True Blueberry: Delicious Recipes for Every Meal
by Dannenberg, Linda
Hardcover; 128 pages
Published: May 2005
Color Photographs
ISBN: 1584794178
Stewart Tabori & Chang

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

Blueberries; Chilled Blueberry Soup Recipe

It's blueberry time and the Maine blueberries are the best! I like 'em plain, by the handful; then again, in fresh ice cream, or frozen yogurt, and well, anything with blueberries will do...

Stonewall Kitchen has a basketful of blueberry products and recipes including this one recipe perfect for a summer afternoon:

Chilled Blueberry Soup

Serves: 4


* 1 cup (1-13 ounce jar) Stonewall Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry Jam
* 1 cup heavy cream (or light if you prefer)
* 2 Tbsp.Chardonnay (or similar white wine)
* 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
* 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
* 1/4 cup water
* A dash of cinnamon


1. Heat the Stonewall Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry Jam over low heat in a medium sauce pan until melted. Transfer jam to a medium bowl.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the jam and mix until uniform.
3. Chill in the refrigerator. This soup can be made a day in advance.
4. Stir before serving and add a little more water if too thick.

Recipe Tips

* Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream, sour cream, small blueberries, or fresh grated lemon peel if desired.


Many blueberry products and recipes are available at Stonewall Kitchen.

01 August 2006

Tabbouleh; Tabouli

Tabbouleh is a great, light summer dish, and also a favorite for vegetarians. It's a another great way to use all those fresh tomatoes and parsley that's everywhere (parsley is good for you, too!). From Wikipedia:

Tabouli (or tabbouleh) is a Middle Eastern dish, often used as part of a mezze. Its primary ingredients are bulgur, mint, tomato, scallion (spring onion), and other herbs chopped with lemon juice and various seasonings, generally including black pepper and sometimes cinnamon and allspice. In Lebanon, generally considered to be its home territory, it is often eaten by scooping it up in cos lettuce leaves.

Tabouli is also popular in Brazil, due to Lebanese immigrants who settled there.

In the United States, it is sometimes used as a dip.


Bulgur is available online at ShopNatural.