30 June 2008

NYC keeps the cannoli but drops the trans fats

AP Photo: Chef Franco Amati stuffs cannoli shells at the Ferrara Bakery in New York's Little Italy...

Well, now you may not feel as guilty if you eat six cannoli in New York City...but, seriously, and finally, a small step towards healthier eating.

They said it couldn't be done:

"Chefs who relied on trans fats to make their pie crusts flaky, their crackers crispy and their muffins moist have worked overtime finding substitute ingredients. They have burned through hundreds of gallons of oil, shortening and margarine trying to retool old recipes without damaging flavor, texture or color.

Yet, with the deadline looming, it appears that few, if any foods, are getting whacked."

Read the entire article HERE.

22 June 2008

Izakaya; Izakaya The Japanese Pub Cookbook

You probably are familiar with Spanish tapas and tapas bars. How about the Japanese version, an isakaya? Huh? Here's a little edification from Wikipedia:

"An izakaya (居酒屋, izakaya?) is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the drinks. The food is usually more substantial than that offered in other types of drinking establishments in Japan such as bars or snack bars.

They are popular, casual and relatively cheap places for after-work drinking.

The name "izakaya" is a compound word consisting of "i " (to remain) and "sakaya" (sake shop), showing that izakaya originate from sake shops which allowed customers to remain on the premises to drink.

Izakaya are sometimes called Akachōchin (red lantern) in daily conversation, because these paper lanterns are traditionally found in front of an izakaya.

Depending on the izakaya, customers sit on tatami mats and dine from low tables in the traditional Japanese style, or sit on chairs and drink/dine from tables. Many izakaya offer a choice of both, as well as seating by the bar.

Usually, you will be given an oshibori (wet towel) to clean your hands with; next an otōshi or tsukidashi (a tiny snack/an appetizer) will be served. This is local custom and usually charged onto the bill in lieu of an entry fee. Japanese people in Kantō region call it otōshi and Kansai people call it tsukidashi.

The menu may be on the table, or displayed on walls. Picture menus are common in larger izakaya. Food and drink are ordered throughout the course of the session as desired. They are brought to the table, and the bill is added up at the end of the session. Unlike other Japanese styles of eating, food items are usually shared by everyone at the table.

Common formats for izakaya dining in Japan are known as nomihodai ("drink all you can") and tabehodai ('eat all you can'). These formats are especially popular in large, chain izakaya. For a set price per person, customers can continue ordering as much food and /or drink as they wish, with a usual time limit of two or three hours."

Interested in more? Here is a recent publication, Izakaya The Japanese Pub Cookbook (HC), by Mark Robinson, with a description from Jessica's Biscuit:

"Japanese pubs, called izakaya, are attracting growing attention in Japan and overseas. As a matter of fact, a recent article in The New York Times claimed that the izakaya is 'starting to shove the sushi bar off its pedestal.' While Japan has many guidebooks and cookbooks, this is the first publication in English to delve into every aspect of a unique and vital cornerstone of Japanese food culture.

A venue for socializing and an increasingly innovative culinary influence, izakaya serves mouth-watering and inexpensive small-plate cooking, along with free flowing drinks. Readers of this book will be guided through the different styles of establishments and recipes that make izakaya such relaxing and appealing destinations. At the same time, they will learn to cook many delicious standards and specialties, and discover how to design a meal as the evening progresses.

Eight Tokyo pubs are introduced, ranging from those that serve the traditional Japanese comfort foods such as yakitori (barbecued chicken), to those offering highly innovative creations. Some of them have long histories; some are more recent players on the scene. All are quite familiar to the author, who has chosen them for the variety they represent: from the most venerated downtown pub to the new-style standing bar with French-influenced menu. Mark Robinson includes knowledgeable text on the social and cultural etiquette of visiting izakaya, so the book can be used as a guide to entering the potentially daunting world of the pub. Besides the 60 detailed recipes, he also offers descriptions of Japanese ingredients and spices, a guide to the wide varieties of sake and other alcoholic drinks that are served., how-to advice on menu ordering, and much more.

For the home chef, the hungry gourmet, the food professional, this is more than a cookbook. It is a unique peek at an important and exciting dining and cultural phenomenon."
Izakaya The Japanese Pub Cookbook
by Mark Robinson
HC: 160 Pages
Publisher: Kodansha America Inc.
Pub. Date: Mar 28, 2008
Photos: Color Photographs


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

16 June 2008


Did you know the artichoke is part of the thistle family? Or just a fun, finger-eating vegetable? No matter, here is a bit more information on it, along with a suggested preparation from The California Artichoke Advisory Board.

From Wikipedia:

"The Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial thistle originating in southern Europe around the Mediterranean. It grows to 1.5-2 m tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery glaucous-green leaves 50–80 cm long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 cm diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the "heart"; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke." These are inedible in older larger flowers.

The origin of artichokes is unknown, though they are said to have come from the Maghreb (North Africa) where it is still found in the wild state. The cardoon, a naturally occurring variant of the same species, is native to the Mediterranean, even though it has not been mentioned in Classic literature. Artichokes were cultivated in Sicily in the Greek period, the Greeks called them kaktos. In this period the cultivated leaves and flowerheads, which cultivation had already improved from the wild form, were eaten. The Romans, who called the vegetable carduus received the plant from the Greeks. Further improvement in the cultivated form appear to have taken place in the Muslim period in the Maghreb, although the evidence is inferential only...

Globe Artichokes are known to have been cultivated at Naples around the middle of the 9th century, and are said to have been introduced to France by Catherine de' Medici. Pierre de L'Estoile recorded in his journal on June 19, 1576, the fact that at the wedding of two courtiers, Queen Catherine de Medici 'ate so much that she thought she would die, and was very ill with diarrhea. they said it was from eating too many arthchoke bottoms.'

The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, where they were growing in Henry VIII's garden at Newhall in 1530. They were introduced to the United States in the 19th century, to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. The name has originated from ardi shauki (أرضي شوكي), which is Arabic for ground-thorn, through a Northern Italian dialect word, articiocco.

Today, Globe Artichoke cultivation is concentrated in the countries bordering the Mediterranean basin. The main producers are Italy, Spain, and France. In the United States, California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop, and approximately 80 percent of that is grown in Monterey County; there, Castroville proclaims itself to be "The Artichoke Center of the World," and holds an annual festival at which artichoke ice cream is served. The cultivar 'Green Globe' is virtually the only kind grown commercially in the U.S."

The California Artichoke Advisory Board recommends the following in preparation:

Bend back outer petals, snapping them off at the base.

Continue snapping off petals until the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow.

Using a stainless steel knife, to minimize discoloration, cut the top cone of the leaves at the point where the yellow meets the green. (Green is fibrous.)

Cut the stem level with the base and trim any remaining green from the base of the artichoke. (Just like peeling the skin from an apple.)

Plunge into acidified water.

Steam whole; for stir-fry or sauté, cut in half or quarter horizontally. If there are purple or pink leaves, cut them out. (Those leaves will be tough.) If the interior is white, the entire artichoke is edible. Place in acidulated water to minimize browning while prepping.


Stand prepared artichoke in deep saucepan or pot with 3 inches boiling water. (If desired, oil, lemon juice and seasonings can be added to cooking water.) Cover and boil gently 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size, or until petal near the center pulls out easily. Stand artichoke upside down on a rack to drain,

Place prepared artichoke on a rack above an inch or two of boiling water. Cover and steam 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily.

MICROWAVE (700 watt oven)
For one: Set one medium sized prepared artichoke upside down in a small glass bowl (a 2 cup measure will do) with ¼ cup water, ½ teaspoon each lemon juice and oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Cook on high 6 to 7 minutes. Let stand covered 5 minutes after cooking.

06 June 2008

Local produce online

Fiddleheads (from Wikipedia)

Local fruit, berries and vegetables are available everywhere. And on several blogs we've promoted local, especially organic fare. But to some, especially urban or busy individuals, there's not always the time to search for it, or shop for it. Voila! The Internet! An article in today's New York Times, "Salad Days for the Internet", by Michelle Slatalla, shows how you can benefit both your local farmer and yourself with a few clicks at home (or work).

"Shopping online to eat locally is not just about the food. With oil prices so high, making an effort to reduce the energy costs associated with transporting food from farm to table can be a political stance."

To read the full article and see the web sites featured, visit The New York Times.

03 June 2008

The New England Clam Shack Cookbook (2nd Edition), by Brooke Dojny

I'm originally from New England (Rhode Island), and anything with seafood is heaven, especially in summer. From all-day clambake orgies to a simple steamed lobster, it always seems to taste better near the New England shore. There are as many ways to prepare any fish/shellfish/sea creature as there are towns and cities there. And there seems to be as many cookbooks. And another hits the market: The New England Clam Shack Cookbook (2nd Edition), by Brooke Dojny. Jessica's Biscuit says:

"Rich buttery lobster, fried clams, and thick chowders are the foods that taste of long summer days in New England. Fresh sweet seafood, simply prepared, brings back warm afternoons and cool salty evenings on the beaches of Cape Cod, Maine, Connecticut, and the North Shore of Massachusetts, where local clams were first battered, deep fried, and served up with creamy, tangy tartar sauce.

Simple authentic coastal fare doesn't get any better than in the second edition of Brooke Dojny's culinary tribute, The New England Clam Shack Cookbook. Take a bite of New England's clam shack traditions with nearly 100 recipes gathered from the region's best casual seafood eateries. Here are all New England classic seafood preparations, from clam chowder to lazy man's lobster.

All the sides and sweets are here too, as well as the names and addresses of more than 100 eateries, plus three regional weekend itineraries for the true clam shack devotee."

The New England Clam Shack Cookbook (2nd Edition),
by Brooke Dojny
PB: 240 Pages
Publisher: Workman Publishing Co.
Pub. Date: May 01, 2008
Photos: Color Photographs

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