29 September 2006

173rd Oktoberfest and FREE Cookbook Offer

October almost here. Octoberfest. Free cookbook (s&h applies) from GermanFoods.org:

O'Zapft 'Is ! The Keg's Been Tapped!

September 2006 -Yes, that's right, the keg's been tapped and the 173rd Oktoberfest, the world's largest beer bash, is underway in Munich, Germany. Meanwhile, all over the US and Canada, preparations are underway for hundreds of American-style Oktoberfests, so there's no need to miss out on the festivities even if you can't make it to the "real" Oktoberfest! You'll find a comprehensive list of Oktoberfest celebrations on our Oktoberfest resource page along with recipes and ideas to stage your own party. And make sure to visit us at the Fredericksburg Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg, Texas to receive free samples of authentic German specialties and a free cook-book amongst other goodies!


28 September 2006

Lard; Basic Pie Crust

With the recent publicity on New York City's attempt to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants (see our blog), maybe a return to the use of lard is due. What? I never stopped using it in pie crusts. My grandmother always used lard in her pie crusts, and they were incredible: nice and flaky, tasty, and browned beautifully. And lard is easy to work with, and stores indefinitely. Used judiciously, it is a good alternative in some recipes. And inexpensive. AND and it has no trans fats.

What exactly is lard? Here's a little bit of background from Wikipedia:

"Lard is an animal fat produced from rendering the fat portions of the pig. Lard was a commonly used cooking oil though its use in contemporary cuisine has been diminished due to the health concerns posed by saturated fat and cholesterol. Lard is still commonly used to manufacture soap by small-scale artisanal soapcrafters and large industries alike. Rendered fat obtained from cows or sheep is known as tallow...

...During the 19th century, lard was used in a similar fashion as butter in North America and many European nations. Lard was also held at the same level of popularity as butter in the early 20th century, and was widely used as a substitute for the butter during World War II. As a readily available by-product of modern pork production, lard had been cheaper and more flavorful than most vegetable oils and featured prominently in many people's diet until the industrial revolution made vegetable oils more common and more affordable.

Toward the late 20th century lard began to be regarded as less healthy than vegetable oils such as olive and sunflower due to its high saturated fatty acid and cholesterol content.

Despite its similar chemical constituency and lower saturated fat content than butter, lard typically incites much consternation and disapproval from many North Americans. This is possibly due to attitudes and the perceived nature of the source animal for lard, or the methods required to obtain the fat from its source. Many restaurants in the western nations have eliminated the use of lard in their kitchens due to the religious or health related dietary restrictions of many of their clients. Many industrial confectioners substitute beef tallow for lard in order to compensate for the lack of mouthfeel in many baked goods and free their food products from pork based dietary restrictions...

...Lard is one of the few edible oils with a relatively high smoke point due to its high saturated fatty acids content. Pure lard is especially useful for cooking since it produces very little smoke when heated and has a distinct and pleasant taste when combined with other foods. Many chefs in fact agree that lard is a superior culinary fat in terms of its possible applications and its taste. Lard also does not contain any trans fat.

Due to its higher melting point than butter, pie crusts made with lard tend to be more flaky than those made with butter. Many cooks now employ both types of fats in their pastries to improve the product's texture and flavour. (Ed.: my highlights)

Even today, lard still plays a significant role in British, German, Hungarian, Polish, Mexican, Norwegian, and Chinese cuisines. Lard was the commonly used solid fat in the United States prior to the introduction and popularization of Crisco, which is made from hydrogenated cottonseed oil."

Basic Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup lard at room temperature
2 1/2 tablespoons water

Combine flour, salt, sugar and lard by hand or in blender.

Add water, mixing with a fork in a bowl. Knead until smooth. Cover with waxed paper and chill at least one hour before rolling for your recipe.

27 September 2006

Starting with Ingredients; by Aliza Green

The latest food book to be published that deserves our mention is "Starting with Ingredients: The Quintessential Recipes for the Way We Really Cook", by Aliza Green. Jessica's Biscuit provides the gist:

" Once every generation, a cookbook comes along that transforms the way we cook. Starting with Ingredients is a touchstone of modern cooking. Its revolutionary approach will transform the way we shop, prepare, cook, and even think about food. With each of its 100 chapters focusing on a single ingredient, the recipes in Starting with Ingredients demonstrates the broad range of culinary possibility for each ingredient, using varied cooking methods, flavors, and ethnic inspirations.

This culinary masterpiece is the product of Chef Green’s ceaseless culinary curiosity and ability to create crowd-pleasing dishes. This invaluable chef's resource brings together Green's in-depth knowledge of ingredients with the clear and imaginative recipes she's developed. With this innovative approach to the kitchen, experienced and fledgling home chefs will be able to recognize how foods should look and behave, their fragrance and feel, their seasonal changes, how they are transformed by different cooking methods, and their flavor affinities. Extensive sidebars satisfy the most curious epicure."

Starting with Ingredients: The Quintessential Recipes for the Way We Really Cook
Aliza Green
Hardcover - 1024 pages
September 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0762427477
Running Press

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

New York City Plans Limits on Restaurants’ Use of Trans Fats - New York Times

Quite an article on the first page of today's New York Times, and I hope a milestone in this first skirmish against trans fats.

"'Like lead paint, artificial trans fat in food is invisible and dangerous, and it can be replaced,' said Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, after the Board of Health vote yesterday. 'No one will miss it when it is gone.''

Read the whole article:

New York City Plans Limits on Restaurants’ Use of Trans Fats - New York Times

26 September 2006

Apples; Basic Apple Sauce Recipe

It's apple time. For all manner of apples. Sweet, tart; small, large; red, ochre. And besides the delicious taste of a crisp, fresh apple, or the aroma of a freshly baked apple and quince pie, apples can be a delightful addition to a stew, whether chicken or pork, and almost all foods in-between. My favorite spice when using apples in not cinnamon (though good), but allspice (see our blog on it), which adds a more complex flavor to any apple recipe. But first a few apple facts from VermontApples.org:

# In an average year, U.S. farmers grow about 250 million bushels of apples.
# About 60 percent of the U.S. apple crop is consumed fresh.
# Red Delicious is the apple variety with the greatest production in the U.S.
# The top U.S. apple varieties are: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji and McIntosh.
# The average American consumes about 19 pounds of fresh apples each year.
# The average American eats just over 4 pounds of canned apples and about 1.7 gallons of apple juice annually.
# Around the world, apple growers grow over 1 billion bushels of apples.
# Largest apple producers (in decreasing order): China, United States, Italy, France, Poland and Germany.

(And nutritionally)

* A medium-size apple weighs154 gram or 5.5 ounces.
* A medium-size apple has only 80 calories, no fat, no sodium and no cholesterol.
* Cornell University researchers have found that that 100 grams of unpeeled fresh apple (about 2/3 of an apple) provides the total antioxidant activity of 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.
* Researchers in Finland reported in the May 2000 issue of The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that individuals who ate the most apples had the lowest risk of thrombic stroke, possibly due to phytonutrients found in apples.
* British researchers have found that apple eaters have better lung function than non-apple eaters, as reported in the January 2000 journal, Thorax.
* Epidemiologists from Finland’s National Public Health Institute found that consumption of a favonoid-rich diet (including apples) was associated with a reduced risk of developing cancer.

Basic Apple Sauce (from VermontApples.org):

Yield: 3 cups

8 medium-sized apples
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. reconstituted lemon juice
1/2 cup or more brown sugar

Core and dice apples; place in saucepan, add water and salt, simmer until soft. Press through sieve or food mill; add cinnamon, salt, lemon juice and add sugar to taste; stir until dissolved. Serve hot or cold.


StonewallKitchen offers a variety of prepared apple products online.

24 September 2006

Correction to "Three Guys from Miami Celebrate Cuban"

This is a correction to an earlier blog on the featured book, Three Guys from Miami Celebrate Cuban, by Glenn M. Lindgren, Jorge Castillo, Raul Musibay.

The photograph on the blog is of their first book, Three Guys from Miami Cook Cuban. One of the three "Guys" contacted me to point this out. I'm happy to promote both books and republish this blog with the correct image. Sorry about that folks!

"The Three Guys from Miami have done it again with 100 all-new delicious Cuban recipes for creating an amazing party, no matter the occasion! After all, the Three Guys know that when you eat Cuban food, every meal is a celebration. For Cubans, getting together with family is at least a monthly, if not weekly, ritual. And the perfect Cuban party includes these things: Good food, good friends, good music, more good food, good conversation, a good drink or two, and of course, a good time. Cuban parties have always revolved around food-and oh, the food! Huge platters of tender roasted pork, plates of crispy yellow tostones, and bowls of black beans cooked to perfection in a thick aromatic stew, tropical drinks, sweet desserts, and more. This cookbook includes some of the Three Guys' favorite party dishes. These festive recipes are perfect for ALL occasions, and they'll surely inspire you to put together a unique party as an excuse to create a unique Cuban menu!" From Jessica's Biscuit.

Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban: 100 Great Recipes for Cuban Entertaining
by Glenn Lindgren, Raul Musibay, Jorge Castillo
Hardcover - 224 pages
September 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 1423600630

Both books are available online at Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.


You may or may not have ever heard of harissa, depending on the type of cooking you do. Period. Well, if you don't know what this ingredient/condiment is, Wikipedia expands your food knowledge for the day:

"Harissa is a Tunisian hot red sauce or paste made from chile peppers (often smoked) and garlic, often with coriander, cumin, caraway, and/or olive oil added. It may also contain tomatoes. It somewhat resembles sambal and chili sauce.

Harissa is used both as a condiment and as an ingredient. It has been described as the most important item in Tunisian cuisine, and can be found in other cuisines of North Africa, such as those of Morocco and Algeria.

The sauce is normally sold in tubes and cans, and often eaten with couscous, with pasta, on sandwiches, and in soup. Harissa paste can be used as a meat rub."

Harissa is available online at iGourmet.

23 September 2006

The wine enthusiast's ultimate dream: The smart wine cellar

Here's an interesting video for serious oenophiles.

Video: The wine enthusiast's ultimate dream: The smart wine cellar

In the "House of Innovation" in Alamo, Calif., the kitchen leads to a vino lover's dream: a wine cellar complete with a touch-screen system that lets you keep tabs on what bottles you have in stock, what you already drank, and what you want to get.


Note: You may have to sign in to view.

22 September 2006

Eating Cuban: 120 Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores

There seems to be a profileration of things Cuban recently: politics in the news on the air and in print, online with Cuban shopping sites (Cuban Food Market, for one), our recent blog on Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban: 100 Great Recipes for Cuban Entertaining (see our blog elsewhere here), and now another new food book just published, Eating Cuban: 120 Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs. Jessica's Biscuit provides the synopsis:

"To “eat Cuban” is to savor a deliciously complex culinary culture. Spanish, Native American, African, Chinese, and French traditions have all contributed to Cuban cooking, producing a distinctive Caribbean cuisine as richly chorded as the island’s music.

Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs’s itinerary takes them from the barrio, paladars (private restaurants), and chic nightspots of Havana to the eateries of Florida’s emigré communities. From their journeys, they’ve gathered more than 120 recipes that comprehensively document Cuban cooking’s diversity, from the black bean soup found on any Cuban table, to the empanadas sold by Havana’s street vendors, to the grilled sandwiches that are a mainstay of Miami’s Calle Ocho, to the innovative dishes devised by chefs at top Cuban restaurants.

Gorgeously illustrated with Jacobs’s photographs —many shot on the authors’ travels through Cuba—Eating Cuban highlights Cuban food’s historical roots, the classic Creole dishes that evolved from these disparate cultural influences, current trends in Cuban cooking, street foods and on-the-go snacks, and quintessential Cuban beverages from café Cubano to the mojito. A valuable resource list helps American cooks locate the required ingredients, and a restaurant directory points the way to the very best in Cuban cuisine—in Cuba and the U.S."

Eating Cuban: 120 Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores
by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs
Hardcover - 192 pages
Published: September 2006
ISBN: 1584795417
Stewart Tabori & Chang

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

21 September 2006

In Search of Grocery Gems - New York Times

For those of you who search your generic supermarket for products that are tasty, healthy and a good value, this short article in the New York Times is a must-read. Our concern with the widespread use of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is highlighted in this paragraph:

In Search of Grocery Gems - New York Times: "Many, many products, including surprising ones like Thomas’ English Muffins, didn’t even make it into my cart because high-fructose corn syrup, vegetable shortening or both were listed high on the ingredients lists."

20 September 2006

Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban: 100 Great Recipes for Cuban Entertaining

The Three Guys from Miami is a nice, new ethnic culinary publication for partying and/or reference. Or just good, plain reading (I read cookboooks like novels). The book description provided by Jessica's Biscuit:

"The Three Guys from Miami have done it again with 100 all-new delicious Cuban recipes for creating an amazing party, no matter the occasion! After all, the Three Guys know that when you eat Cuban food, every meal is a celebration. For Cubans, getting together with family is at least a monthly, if not weekly, ritual. And the perfect Cuban party includes these things: Good food, good friends, good music, more good food, good conversation, a good drink or two, and of course, a good time. Cuban parties have always revolved around food-and oh, the food! Huge platters of tender roasted pork, plates of crispy yellow tostones, and bowls of black beans cooked to perfection in a thick aromatic stew, tropical drinks, sweet desserts, and more. This cookbook includes some of the Three Guys' favorite party dishes. These festive recipes are perfect for ALL occasions, and they'll surely inspire you to put together a unique party as an excuse to create a unique Cuban menu!"

Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban: 100 Great Recipes for Cuban Entertaining
by Glenn Lindgren, Raul Musibay, Jorge Castillo
Hardcover - 224 pages
September 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 1423600630

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

19 September 2006

Ganache; Master Ganache Recipe

Many of you have heard of "ganache", but really have no idea what it is. Simply, heavy cream and chocolate. Wikipedia explains:

"Ganache is a French word for a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream, used as an icing or filling for pastries, filled chocolates, or other desserts. Its origins date to around 1850, possibly invented in Switzerland or in France (perhaps Paris).

Ganache is made by boiling heavy cream, then pouring it over chopped chocolate. The mixture is stirred or blended until smooth.

Depending on the intended usage of the ganache, the proportions of chocolate to cream can vary. Typically, a ganache is equal parts chocolate and cream. However, a higher ratio for chocolate is common, 2:1 or 3:1 (chocolate to cream). Ganache is often flavored with liqueurs or extracts."


And here is a recipe from FoodNetwork:

Master Ganache
Recipe courtesy Sherry Yard, The Secrets of Baking, Houghton Mifflin, 2003

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch pieces. Don't be lazy here. Big chunks will not melt.

Traditional method: Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boiling means the cream will actually rise up in the pan and threaten to boil over.

Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl, and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. It may look done after 1 minute of stirring, but keep going to be sure it's emulsified.

Food processor method: Place the chopped chocolate in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat (or bring to a boil in the microwave.)

Immediately pour the hot cream into the food processor, on top of the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then pulse the machine 3 times. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and pulse 3 more times, until all the chocolate is melted. This smooth, silky chocolate is now ganache. Transfer the ganache to a bowl.

Let the ganache sit at room temperature until it cools to 70 degrees F. In a 65 degree F room, this will take approximately 4 hours or 2 hours in the refrigerator. You can speed up the process by pouring the ganache out onto a clean baking sheet (thinner layers cool faster.) Once the ganache reaches 70 degrees F, it is ready to be used. At this point it can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

18 September 2006

"Cooking by Numbers"

Is that title of the blog correct?

Well, we usually try to present items here that are for people who have a little background and expertise with foods and ingredients, and feel comfortable in the kitchen. A few of you aren't. There's a web site that might be to your liking, called "Cooking by Numbers". Simple enough.

From the intro at the site:

"Welcome to Cooking By Numbers, are you ready to cook?.....Get clicking on what you've got and we'll show you what you can cook.....Don't worry, Skills By Numbers will make you look great in the kitchen..... Can't make up your mind about what to cook? Click I feel lucky as well..... Want to email something tasty to a friend?"

Cooking by Numbers

Bon Apetit!

New Cook Book, Special Edition "Pink Plaid"

We are pleased to feature a new publication, New Cook Book, Special Edition "Pink Plaid" by Better Homes and Gardens, to support the fight against breast cancer. A bit more about the book from Jessica's Biscuit:

"The complete 12th edition New Cook Book with all the goodness and reliability that's made the Red Plaid a trusted kitchen resource for millions of families.

Inspiration at its finest, with more than 1,200 delicious recipes and 700 full-color photos.

Hundreds of hints and tips.

Easy-to-read cooking charts.

Complete nutrition and exchange information for every recipe.

Plus all the "best-loved" recipes found in the Red Plaid version.

All new remarkable 64-page "pink" section that includes:

Healthful dietary and lifestyle suggestions.

More than 60 delicious recipes containing wholesome "super foods" associated with a reduced risk of cancer.

Triple gift impact: a sought-after limited edition cookbook, meaningful cancer-fighting information, and a significant contribution to a highly-visible, respected foundation.

New Cook Book, Special Edition "Pink Plaid"
by Better Homes and Gardens
Spiral - 672 pages
Published: August 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 069623310X
Meredith Books

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

17 September 2006

New Tea Bag; Better Tea

Do you know about the new tea bags? Have you seen them; tried them?

Never mind the bags? How's the tea taste?

An article, "Tea’s Got a Brand New Bag", in today's New York Times Dining and Wine section, will explain. A quote:

"THE tea bag, a clever enough idea at first, went terribly awry somewhere along the way, at least in the view of people who love to savor their tea. Now it is in the process of large-scale reinvention, and some of those who currently shun it with almost ostentatious disdain are very likely to be won over."

(Photo: Garret Lown for The New York Times)

See the whole article here: "Tea's Got a Brand New Bag".

For those of you who still favor loose teas, visit Spotted Leopard Teas.

16 September 2006

The Soul of a New Cuisine, by Marcus Samuelsson

A new publication worthy of our mention is The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa by Marcus Samuelsson. Read the interesting description from Jessica's Biscuit:

"In The Soul of a New Cuisine, award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson takes his formidable culinary talents and curiosity to Africa to bring the continent’s diverse cultures and cuisines alive for home cooks. Sharing more than 200 recipes from all parts of Africa, from Curried Trout with Coconut-Chili Sauce of Kenya to Braai Vegetables of South Africa, Samuelsson recounts fascinating stories of his journey across the continent. Beautifully designed in full-color throughout and featuring more than 250 breathtaking color food and travel photos, the book is ideal for readers who would like to explore the free, relaxed spirit of African cooking.

Marcus Samuelsson (New York, NY) is Executive Chef and co-owner of Restaurant Aquavit and AQ Café at Scandinavia House as well as Riingo restaurant in New York. Star of the Discovery Home Channel’s Inner Chef, he is the author of Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine. He was born in Ethiopia and raised by adoptive parents in Sweden."

The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa
by Samuelsson, Marcus
Hardcover - 368 pages
Published: September 2006
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0764569112
John Wiley & Sons

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

14 September 2006

Cobb Salad

You know almost everything in the world has a specific name; so what? Well, it's food for our trivia (pun intended). That salad you throw together with everything you can find in the fridge, chopped up with lettuce, and some dressing: a Cobb Salad. Now, that sounds better than leftovers and lettuce. The trivial history from Wikipedia:

"The Cobb salad was a signature menu item of the Brown Derby, a landmark restaurant in Los Angeles, California. The salad is now served in restaurants world-wide. It generally consists of finely chopped lettuce, avocado, tomato, chicken or turkey, hard boiled eggs, bacon, grated blue cheese, and French dressing.

In 1937, Brown Derby owner Robert H. Cobb went into the restaurant's kitchen to fix himself a late night snack. He combed the refrigerator for what ingredients he could find, chopped them up and made himself a salad. Cobb shared the new creation with his friends and it became popular enough to be added to the restaurant's menu."

13 September 2006

The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop

A revised publication on coffee was recently released, The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop by Gregory Dicum, Nina Luttinger, Luttinger. A history of coffee for the coffee addict. From Barnes and Noble:

"An engaging, informative look at one of the most popular products in the world. Jammed full of facts, figures, cartoons, and commentary, The Coffee Book covers coffee from its first use in Ethiopia in the 6th century A.D. to the dramatic rise of Starbucks and other specialty retailers in the 1990s. Written with verve and filled with little-known facts, the book explores the process of cultivation, harvesting, and roasting from bean to cup; surveys the social history of caf society from the first coffeehouses in Constantinople to Renaissance French caf s to beatnik havens in Berkeley and Greenwich Village; and tells the dramatic story of international trade and speculation for a product that can make or break entire national economies. The book also examines the industry's major players -- General Foods, Nestl , Proctor & Gamble -- revealing how they have systematically reduced the quality of the bean and turned a much-loved product into a lifestyle. Finally, The Coffee Book considers the exploitation of labor and damage to the environment that mass cultivation causes, and explores the growing "conscious coffee" market and "fair trade" movement."


Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop
by Gregory Dicum, Nina Luttinger, Luttinger
ISBN: 1595580603
ISBN-13: 9781595580603
Paperback, 224pp
The New Press
April 2006

Available online from Barnes and Noble.


And while you're at it, visit EspressoZone for a new coffee maker and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters for the java.

12 September 2006


If you've been to an Indian restaurant, you may have had some after a meal and didn't know exactly what they were or called: Mukhwas. A brief explanation from Wikipedia here:

"Mukhwas is an Asian Indian aftermeal snack or digestive aid made primarily of fennel seeds, anise seeds, coconut, and sesame seeds. They are sweet in flavour and highly aromatic due to added sugar and the addition of various essential oils, including peppermint oil. The seeds are often also coated in sugar and brightly coloured."

If you have to absolutely have to have some, you can order online at IndianBlend.

11 September 2006

Home Food Preservation

Do you do home canning of fruits and vegetables? Drying? Want to make your own jams and jellies, pickles? Do you know how to properly freeze foods to retain as much flavor as possible? Did you know:

"...Chocolate sauces are low acid recipes and are a risk for botulism food poisoning. Therefore any recipes that use the boiling water canning process are especially at risk. Furthermore, there are no science-based, tested recipes for chocolate sauces utilizing the pressure canning process in either the “USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning” (1994), the University of Georgia’s “So Easy to Preserve” (1999), or in publications from land grant University partners in the Cooperative Extension System."

Well, you probably guessed there's a web site that will answer all these queries, and a whole lot more to help you preserve the summer's bounty and other food preparations. It's at The National Center for Home Food Preservation.


is a very popular, full-flavored soup -- almost a stew -- from Vietnam. A clear broth holds any number of tasty vegetable, and most often beef ingredients. Wikipedia explains more fully:

"Phở, written as pho and pronounced /fə/ or /fʌ/ by English-speakers, in IPA: /fɤ̌/) is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup dish. It is served as a bowl of white rice noodles in clear beef broth with thin cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations featuring tendon, tripe, meatballs, chicken leg, chicken breast, or other chicken organs (heart, liver, etc.) are also available. The dish is garnished with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, coriander leaves, ngo gai ("saw leaf herb"), mint, basil, lemon or lime, bean sprouts, and chile peppers. The last four items are usually provided on a separate plate, which allows customers to adjust the soup's flavor as they like. Some sauces such as hoisin sauce, fish sauce, and the Thai hot sauce Sriracha, are popular additions as well. Phở can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The broth is generally made by boiling beef (and sometimes also chicken) bones, oxtails, flank steak, and spices, and takes several hours to prepare. Spices include Saigon cinnamon, star anise, and ginger. The noodles, called bánh phở in Vietnamese, are traditionally cut from wide sheets of fresh rice noodles similar to Chinese shahe fen, although dried noodles (also called "rice sticks") may also be used."


Sriracha and other Far Eastern food ingredients can be found online at Asian Food Grocer.

10 September 2006

Galco’s Soda Pop Store

An article of interest to soft drink lovers appears in today's New York Times Travel section, "Los Angeles: Galco’s Soda Pop Store", :

"You can practically float on the sugary carbonation: Lined up on the shelves of Galco’s Soda Pop Stop, in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, is a veritable library of sodas and beers from around the world, from Brooklyn egg cream to Brazilian guarana soda to Indian Malta. It’s one part soda museum, two parts sugar boutique."

The whole article is worth reading, but one more quote is notable, if you don't have the time or inclination for the whole thing:

"You’ll find Coke and Pepsi, too, but the cola is made in Mexico, where independent bottlers still use real sugar, as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup."

Go to article at Los Angeles: Galco’s Soda Pop Store.

07 September 2006

Happy in the Kitchen: The Craft of Cooking, the Art of Eating

Keeping you informed of new culinary publications is one of favorite endeavors here. There are many, and we are able to highlight only a few. Published this month, Happy in the Kitchen: The Craft of Cooking, the Art of Eating, by Michel Richard, Peter Kaminsky and Susie Helleris, our current feature. Jessic's Biscuit provides the gist of the book:

" Michel Richard is a man giddy with invention. Enamored of crispness, this master chef, who calls himself Captain Crunch, makes a potato gratin that is all crust. He makes his grits with tomato water rather than stock (lighter and fresher). He brûlées chocolate mousse, makes risotto from potatoes, and “salami” out of raspberries and almonds. He’s always looking for the twist that makes good things great—whether it’s his lamburgers, lobster burgers, tuna burgers, turkey “steak” au poivre, or the chocolate reverie Michel calls Le Kit Cat.

Happy in the Kitchen is teeming with "Richard-esque" discoveries, whether it's an amazingly simple technique for dicing vegetables, a delicious [low-carb] carbonara made with onions rather than pasta, or a schnitzel made of pureed squid. He's playful—always—but also a perfectionist and an iconoclast. What can you say about a chef who makes risotto with potatoes, prefers frozen Brussels sprouts, and whips up spectacular chocolate pudding and béchamel in the microwave? A chef who doesn't shock blanched vegetables in ice water, but uses his freezer as though it were a fifth burner, and turns raspberries and almonds into "salami"?

Every delicious moment is captured in glorious images of finished dishes, as well as exceptional step-by-step photographs that make easy work of slicing, dicing, shaping, and other essential hand skills. Happy in the Kitchen is a book that will make you laugh and learn, and it will delight you every step of the way."

Happy in the Kitchen: The Craft of Cooking, the Art of Eating
by Michel Richard, Peter Kaminsky, Susie Heller
Hardcover - 352 pages
September 2006
225 Color Photographs
ISBN: 1579652999

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

Stars Used to Rate Foods for Nutrition

An item of dietay interest appears in today's New York Times, "Stars Used to Rate Foods for Nutrition". The idea deserves merit, and is a simple step in rating foods, and is easily understandable to everyone:

"ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Shredded wheat gets 3 stars. Baked beans, 1 star. Doritos, no stars. Those movie-style ratings for food, launched by a New England grocery chain, take nutritional hand-holding to a new level."

Read the whole article at The New York Times.

05 September 2006

Tilapia; tilapia recipes

You have seen or purchased tilapia from your local supermarket or from your fishmonger. It's a mild-tasting, easy to prepare fish. Here is a little bit more about why it has become so widely available and popular, from Wikipedia:

"Tilapia is the common name name used for a variety of cichlid fishes of the genera Oreochromis, Sarotherodon, and Tilapia. Tilapias inhabit a variety of fresh and, less commonly, brackish water habitats from shallow streams and ponds through to rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Most tilapias are omnivorous with a preference for soft aquatic vegetation and detritus.

Because of their large size, good flavour, and rapid growth rate, many tilapias are at the focus of major fishing and aquaculture efforts. Set against their value as food, tilapias have acquired notoriety as being among the most serious invasive species in many subtropical and tropical parts of the world. For example Oreochromis aureus, Oreochromis mossambicus, Sarotherodon melanotheron melanotheron, Tilapia mariae, and Tilapia zilli have all become established in the southern United States, particularly in Florida and Texas...

...Although their meat is somewhat bland, tilapia are a good source of protein and a popular target for artisanal and commercial fisheries. The majority of such fisheries are in Africa, but accidental and deliberate introductions of tilapia into freshwater lakes in Asia have allowed large fisheries to develop in countries with a tropical climate such as Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Tilapia species occur in tropical areas, as such in temperate zone localities, aquaculture operations sometimes use waste heat from factories and power stations.

Tilapia species are also among the easiest and profitable fish to farm. This is due to their omnivorous diet, mode of reproduction (the fry do not pass through a planktonic phase), tolerance of high stocking density, and rapid growth. In some regions the fish can be put out in the rice fields when rice is planted, and will have grown to edible size (12–15 cm, 5–6 inches) when the rice is ready for harvest. One recent estimate for the FAO puts annual production of tilapia at about 1.5 million tonnes, a quantity comparable to the annual production of farmed salmon and trout.[7] Unlike salmon, which rely on high-protein feeds based on fish or meat, commercially important Tilapia species eat a vegetable or cereal based diet..."

A number of recipes for tilapia are available at The Food Network.

04 September 2006


Only once or twice a year I "treat" myself to a pomegranate. Not that I don't like them. It's the commitment to the consumption. Once I peel away a small section and pop a few of those glimmering jewels in my mouth, I have to eat the whole fruit. It's delicious, labor-intensive, and messy. Wikipedia provides the essential juice:

"The Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5–8 m tall. The pomegranate is believed to have originated in eastern Iran and eastward, but its true native range is not accurately known because of millennia of extensive cultivation.

The leaves are opposite or sub-opposite, glossy, narrow oblong, entire, 3–7 cm long and 2 cm broad. The flowers are bright red, 3 cm in diameter, with five petals (often more on cultivated plants). The fruit is between an orange and a grapefruit in size, 7–12 cm in diameter with a rounded hexagonal shape, and has thick reddish skin and many seeds. The edible parts are the seeds and the brilliant red seed pulp surrounding them. There are some cultivars which have been introduced that have a range of pulp colours like purple.

The only other species in the genus Punica, Socotra Pomegranate (Punica protopunica), is endemic to the island of Socotra. It differs in having pink (not red) flowers and smaller, less sweet fruit...


After opening the pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the arils (seed casings) are separated from the skin and internal white supporting structures. (Separating the red arils can be simplified by performing this task in a bowl of water, whereby the arils will sink and the white structures will float to the top.) The entire seed is consumed raw, though the fleshy outer portion of the seed is the part that is desired. The taste differs depending on the variety of pomegranate and its state of ripeness. It can be very sweet or it can be very sour or tangy, but most fruits lie somewhere in between, which is the characteristic taste, laced with notes of its tannin.

Pomegranate juice is a popular drink in the Middle East, and is also used in Iranian and Indian cuisine; it began to be widely marketed in the US in 2004. Pomegranate concentrate is used in Syrian cuisine. Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice; it is used in cocktail mixing. Before the tomato arrived in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Persian foods; it can still be found in traditional recipes. The juice can also be used as an antiseptic when applied to cuts.

Pomegranate seeds are sometimes used as a spice, known as anardana (which literally means pomegranate (anar) seeds (dana) in Persian), most notably in Indian and Pakistani cuisine but also as a replacement for pomegranate syrup in Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine. As a result of this, the dried whole seeds can often be obtained in ethnic markets. The seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10-15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry production. The seeds of the wild pomegranate daru from the Himalayas is considered the highest quality source for this spice.

In Turkey, pomegranate (Turkish: nar) is used in a variety of ways, notably as pomegranate juice (Turkish: nar ekşisi), which is used as a salad dressing, to marinate meat, or simply to drink straight. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads, in Muhammara (Turkish Walnut Garlic Spread) and in Güllaç, a famous Turkish dessert.

In Greece pomegranate, (Greek: ροδι, rodi), is used in many recipes; such as kollivozoumi, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins; legume salad with wheat and pomegranate; traditional Middle Eastern lamb kabobs with pomegranate glaze; pomegranate eggplant relish; avocado and pomegranate dip; are just some of the dishes it is used in culinary. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur and popular fruit confectionery that can be used as ice cream topping, or mixed with yogurt, and even spread as jams over toast for breakfast.

Health benefits

One pomegranate delivers 40% of an adult's daily vitamin C requirement. It is also a rich source of folic acid and of antioxidants. Pomegranates are high in polyphenols. The most abundant polyphenols in pomegranate are hydrolysable tannins, particularly punicalagins, which have been shown in many peer-reviewed research publications to be the antioxidant responsible for the free-radical scavenging ability of pomegranate juice.

Many food and dietary supplement makers have found the advantages of using pomegranate extracts (which have no sugar, calories, or additives), instead of the juice, as healthy ingredients in their products.

Many pomegranate extracts are essentially ellagic acid, which is largely a by-product of the juice extraction process, and is not absorbed into the body. Other pomegranate extracts are described as 'punicosides', a new term invented by a clever marketing team and not found in any peer-reviewed journals. It may be advisable to look for finished products which have pomegranate ingredients that are backed by their own clinical science, standardized to punicalagins, and are of reputable quality.

In several human clinical trials, the juice of the pomegranate has been found effective in reducing several heart risk factors, including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status, and foam cell formation, all of which are steps in atherosclerosis and heart disease. Tannins have been identified as the primary components responsible for the reduction of oxidative states which lead to these risk factors.

Pomegranate has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum angiotension converting enzyme (ACE).

Pomegranate juice has also been shown to be effective against certain cancers such as prostate cancer."

Visit Wikipedia for more information on the pomegranate.

02 September 2006

A pound of anything equals a pound

Here's an interesting food trivia question (and answer) for you from a new site, CHOW.com:

"If you ate 11.3 pounds of food, would you gain 11.3 pounds?
by Billy Baker

Sonya Thomas, competitive eating champion, weighs 98 pounds. At a contest in Maine last summer, she ate 44 lobsters, the equivalent of 11.3 pounds of meat. If you weighed her before and right after, would she weigh 11.3 pounds more?

Yes. “If you ate a pound of anything and stepped on the scale immediately, you would weigh a pound more,” says Carla Wolper, a nutritionist with the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. “But the digestive enzymes begin immediately, so that doesn’t last long.” In fact, because lobster is very low in calories (just 5,400 for those 11.3 pounds), and because the average 98-pound woman burns roughly 1,600 calories a day, Thomas would have consumed only 3,800 excess calories, which translate to just over a pound. By the next day, she probably only weighed a pound more."

From CHOW.com

Bottled Water

Bottled Water

Top 10 Bottled Waters in the United States (2003)
by wholesale revenue and market share

1. Aquafina (PepsiCo)
2. Dasani (Coca-Cola)
3. Poland Spring (Nestle Waters)
4. Arrowhead (Nestle Waters)
5. Deer Park (Nestle Waters)
6. Crystal Geyser (CGWC)
7. Ozarka (Nestle Waters)
8. ZephyrHills (Nestle Waters)
9. Ice Mountain (Nestle Waters)
10. Evian (Coca-Cola/Danone)
*source: Adbrands.net

Do you really know where your bottled water comes from? Is it from a spring, a well, or just from a tap, jazzed up, and sold at a nice mark-up? That's what the two largest selling waters are, Aquafina and Dasani, glorified tap water. From How Stuff Works:

"The pretty pictures and superlative language on the labels of bottled waters can sometimes be misleading. One famous example is the now defunct Alasika Water, which stated on the label, "Alaska Premium Glacier Drinking Water: Pure Glacier Water From the Last Unpolluted Frontier," and came from one of the municipal water supplies in Juneau. The currently available Glacier Clear Water comes from a source in Greeneville, Tennessee. But if you look past the names and descriptions and go straight to the water type, the label will more or less tell you what's in the bottle. "Spring water" and "artesian water" are examples of bottled-water types."

Get the whole revealing story at How Stuff Works.

01 September 2006

Meringue and Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

Meringue and Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

We all know meringue and its various permutations in untold dessert settings. Here's a little background from Wikipedia and a recipe from FoodNetwork:

"Meringue is a type of dessert, originally from France, made from whipped egg whites and caster sugar. Some meringue recipes call for adding a binding agent such as cream of tartar. Meringues are often flavoured with a small amount of essence, e.g., almond or coconut, or most commonly, vanilla. They are very light and airy and extremely sweet. It is believed that Meringue was invented in the Swiss town of Meiringen by an Italian chef named Gasparini (legend varies in regard to the date of invention, between 1600 and 1720).

Meringues used like cookies are baked at a very low heat for a long time. One name for them is "Forgotten Cookies"; with a gas stove, you can turn off the heat and forget about them until morning. They are not supposed to be browned at all, but they need to be very crisp and dry. Cooked meringue cannot be refrigerated or it will become soggy. It will keep for at least a week in an airtight container.

Meringue can be used as the basis for various other desserts including angel food cake, Pavlova (food), baked Alaska, Queen of Puddings and lemon meringue pie. In these cases, the meringue may be cooked at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time, resulting in a soft meringue with slightly browned peaks on top."

Recipe: Not Your Usual Lemon Meringue Pie

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 lemon, zested and grated
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Meringue, recipe follows
Phyllo triangles, recipe follows
8 mint sprigs
Confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup pureed fresh or frozen raspberries (optional)

Bring about 1-inch of water to a simmer in a large saucepan. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar together until very light yellow and fluffy. Whisk in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Rest the mixing bowl in the saucepan with the bowl's base above the simmering water (pour out some of the water if necessary.) Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is thick and custard like, about 15 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Squeeze a dab of meringue on each of 8 plates and press one phyllo triangle down on it. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of lemon curd in the center, then pipe on some meringue. If possible, brown the meringue with a blowtorch. Place another phyllo triangle on top and repeat, topping off with a final phyllo triangle. Garnish with a mint sprig, a dusting of powdered sugar, and raspberry puree, if desired.

1 cup egg whites (from about 8 eggs), at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer) and a clean dry bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the brown sugar and continue whipping until stiff and glossy, about 30 seconds more. Gently spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip.

Phyllo Triangles:
6 sheets thawed phyllo dough
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Place 1 sheet of phyllo on the pan and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and then place another sheet of phyllo on top. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with sugar, lay another sheet of phyllo on top, and brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat on another sheet pan with remaining 3 sheets of phyllo, butter, and sugar. You should have 2 stacks of phyllo dough, each 3 sheets thick. With the tip of a sharp knife, cut each stack into 12 triangles. Cover both stacks with parchment paper. Place one of the pans on top of the other to weight it down. Then place another empty sheet pan on the very top (this is to keep the phyllo from buckling during baking). Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the phyllo is golden brown. Remove the whole stack of sheet pans and let cool (do not unstack the pans).

From FoodNetwork.