28 October 2008

Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food", by Andrew Carmellini

I like to follow the release of new food publications, and often highlight those which I think will interest only small audiences. This newly released cookbook, "Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food", by Andrew Carmellini, will probably have a mass appeal. Which is okay.

The description from Jessica's Biscuit:

"The recipes that one of New York’s best young chefs cooks in his own kitchen: a cookbook full of soulful, sophisticated food and delicious stories.

While waiting for construction to finish on his restaurant A Voce, Andrew Carmellini faced an unusual challenge. After a brilliant career in professional kitchens (including a six-year tour as chef de cuisine at Café Boulud), he was faced with the harsh reality of life as a civilian cook: no prep cooks, no saucier, no daily deliveries--just him and his wife in their tiny Manhattan-apartment kitchen.

Urban Italian is made up of the recipes that result when a great chef has to use the same resources as the rest of us. In these hundred recipes--covering four distinct courses, side dishes, and base recipes--Carmellini shows how to make stunning, soulful food with nothing more than the ingredients, techniques, and time available to the ordinary home cook. The food is sophisticated but also easy to make: lamb meatballs stuffed with goat cheese; veal, beef, and pork ravioli; roast pork with Italian plums and grappa; fennel with Sambuca and orange; and a honey-flavored pine nut cake.

The book opens with a narrative (written by Carmellini with his wife and coauthor, Gwen Hyman) that traces Carmellini’s culinary education--a series of outrageous tales that will delight anyone who loved Heat or Kitchen Confidential. Also scattered through the book are short pieces on places and ingredients, placed alongside recipes to shed light on the history and practice of simple, beautiful cooking. This is a book you’ll find yourself using all the time--to cook from for weeknights and for special occasions, or just to sit down with and read.

Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food
by Andrew Carmellini
Hardcover: 304 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Usa
Pub. Date: Oct 28, 2008
Photos: Color Photographs

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


Do you know of a food-related book we should feature? Please let us know through our comments.

24 October 2008

Sous-vide (Cryovacking)

Photo: Mitchell Feinberg for The New York Times


Sous-vide (Cryovacking)

The more serious kitchen denizens have heard of "sous-vide". For those of you who don't know quite what the term refers to, Wikipedia provides a brief explanation:

"Sous-vide (pronounced /su ˈvid/), French for "under vacuum", is a method of cooking that is intended to maintain the integrity of ingredients by heating them for an extended period of time at relatively low temperatures. Food is cooked for a long time, sometimes well over 24 hours. Unlike cooking in a slow cooker, sous-vide cooking uses airtight plastic bags placed in hot water well below boiling point (usually around 60°C or 140°F).

The method was developed by Georges Pralus in the mid-1970s for the Restaurant Troisgros (of Pierre and Michel Troigros) in Roanne, France. He discovered that when cooking foie gras in this manner it kept its original appearance, did not lose excess amounts of fat and had better texture. Another pioneer in the science of sous-vide is Bruno Goussault, who further researched the effects of temperature on various
foods and became well-known for training top chefs in the method. As Chief Scientist of Cuisine Solutions, Goussault thoroughly developed the parameters of cooking times and temperatures for different foods. The sous-vide method is used in several gourmet restaurants under Thomas Keller, Jesse Mallgren, Paul Bocuse, Joël Robuchon, Charlie Trotter, and other chefs. Amtrak has used this method of cooking in the dining cars of its long-distance trains, and recently began using the method on its Acela Express trains. Non-professional cooks are also beginning to use vacuum cooking.

Clostridium botulinum bacteria can grow in food in the absence of oxygen and produce the deadly botulinum toxin, so sous-vide cooking must be performed under carefully controlled conditions to avoid botulism poisoning. To help with food safety and taste, relatively expensive water-bath machines (thermal immersion circulators) are used to circulate precisely heated water. Differences of even one degree can affect the finished product."

Also, refer to Under Pressure, By Amanda Hesser (Published: August 14, 2005), in The New York Times.

Now that you know what sous-vide is, you may be interested a new publication, Under Pressu
re, by Thomas Keller. A synopsis from Jessica's Biscuit:

"In Under Pressure, Thomas Keller shows us how sous vide, which involves packing food in airtight plastic bags and cooking at low heat, achieves results that other cooking methods simply cannot--in flavor and precision. For example, steak that is a perfect medium rare from top to bottom; and meltingly tender yet medium rare short ribs that haven't lost their flavor to the sauce. Fish, which has a small window of doneness, is easier to finesse, and salmon develops a voluptuous texture when cooked at a low temperature. Fruit and vegetables benefit too, retaining their bright colors while achieving remarkable textures. There is wonderment in cooking sous vide--in the ease and precision (salmon cooked at 123 degrees versus 120 degrees!) and the capacity to cook a piece of meat (or glaze carrots, or poach lobster) uniformly."

Under Pressure
by: Thomas Keller

Hardcover, 304 Pages
Publisher: Artisan

Pub. Date: Oct 01, 2008
Photos: Color Photographs


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

22 October 2008

"Biden, McCain and Palin's states bring a mix of flavors to the table" , by Jenn Garbee

Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

A timely article on our political contenders and their rich regional heritage of foods makes for interesting reading in an article today in the Los Angeles Times, "Biden, McCain and Palin's states bring a mix of flavors to the table" by Jenn Garbee:

"A menu featuring dishes and recipes from regions representing all four candidates might be dangerously closer to a Las Vegas hotel buffet than a state dinner. It'd be a crazy quilt of influences and tastes: for John McCain, a duck tamale from a favorite Arizona restaurant, for example, with some Virginia ham; for Barack Obama, pirogi and pizza from Chicago alongside tropical fruits from Hawaii and spices from Indonesia; roasted game and wild blueberries from Sarah Palin's Alaska; shoofly pie from Pennsylvania and a heritage poultry breed, the Delaware chicken, from Joe Biden's states. But instead of chaos, culinary professionals see delicious combinations."

Maybe you can use this article to narrow your Presidential choice by recipes...

Go to LOS ANGELES TIMES to view the full story.

12 October 2008

FOOD FIGHTS! a la New York Times

Photo: Martin Klimas for The New York Times

For those of you who do not read The New York Times, this week's issue of The Magazine, FOOD FIGHTS!, is devoted to all aspects of food: production, consumption, and much more.

Not knowing which of the many good articles to highlight, I recommend glancing (and reading) the entire issue. Informative and intriguing. And some recipes as a bonus. Even the political/environmental consequences:

"After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact."

Go to The New York Times Magazine.

10 October 2008

Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World

Attention carnivores: This recently published book, Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World
by Andres Rimas, is for your library.

A historical survey, rather than our usual cookbook review, it is another fascinating exploration on one aspect of our diet worth reading. More from Jessica's Biscuit:

"The cow. The most industrious animal in the world. A beast central to human existence since time began, it has played a vital role in our history not only as a source of food, but also as a means of labor, an economic resource, an inspiration for art, and even as a religious icon. Prehistoric people painted it on cave walls; explorers, merchants, and landowners traded it as currency; many cultures worshipped it as a god. So how did it come to occupy the sorry state it does today—more factory product than animal?

In Beef, Andrew Rimas and Evan D. G. Fraser answer that question, telling the story of cattle in its entirety. From the powerful auroch, a now extinct beast once revered as a mystical totem, to the dairy cows of seventeenth-century Holland to the frozen meat patties and growth hormones of today, the authors deliver an engaging panoramic view of the cow's long and colorful history.

Peppered with lively anecdotes, recipes, and culinary tidbits, Beef tells a story that spans the globe, from ancient Mediterranean bullfighting rings to the rugged grazing grounds of eighteenth-century England, from the quiet farms of Japan's Kobe beef cows to crowded American stockyards to remote villages in East Africa, home of the Masai, a society to which cattle mean everything. Leaving no stone unturned in its exploration of the cow's legacy, the narrative serves not only as a compelling story but as a call to arms, offering practical solutions for confronting the current condition of the wasteful beef and dairy industries.

Beef is a captivating history of an animal whose relationship with humanity has shaped the world as we know it, and readers will never look at steak the same way again."

Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World
by Andres Rimas
256 Pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Pub. Date: Sep 30, 2008

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