Thursday, March 31, 2005
Schwartz makes the point that New York has always been a restaurant town. Even when it was a Dutch colony, NYC was first and foremost about business, which always requires the proper amenties for the business traveler such as restaurants. You soon realize just how much of New York's history is tied up in it's glorious tradition of restaurants. Schwartz is an entertaining and informative writer and if this subject is at all interesting to you then it is a "must read." A few recipes from featured restaurants are at the end of every chapter.
COOKOFF: RECIPE FEVER IN AMERICA by Amy Sutherland
After being forced to cover a cookoff for her publication, Amy Sutherland became interested in the whole cookoff concept and the regular competitors who cross the country every year cooking their way to the top. She spent a year following contestants for a year on the cookoff circuit watching them face off time after time. Each chapter focuses on a particular cookoff and Sutherland makes it riveting reading to see which competitor will win and why. A winning recipe or two follow every chapter.
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup plain Pepperidge Farm stuffing
1/2 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in food processor or by hand until well blended.
Form mixture into bite-size balls and place on a baking sheet.
Bake at 375° until heated through, 20-25 minutes. Serves 4. (The spinach balls can be frozen on the baking sheet. Defrost for 20 minutes before baking as above.)
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
As long as they’re a little open-minded, the French are definitely curious about American food. Brownies, muffins, and Oreo cookies have made their way to France, and people like it. What actually amazes me is that you can find Oreo cookies in a fancy department store in Paris (Galeries Lafayette) right next to the Mariages Freres tea corner (a 150-year-old French tea shop)!
- Adam and Eve on a Raft:
Two poached eggs on toast (and Wreck 'em: = Scrambled eggs)
- Black and White:
Chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream
- Cowboy with Spurs:
Western omelet with French fries
- Hold the Grass:
Sandwich without lettuce
- Ice on Rice:
Rice pudding with ice cream
- Splash out of the Garden:
Bowl of vegetable soup
- Twist It, Choke It, Make it Cackle:
Chocolate malted milkshake with egg
- Noah's boy on bread:
Saturday, March 26, 2005
It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon it says, "Work!" After beefsteak and porter, it says, "Sleep!" After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don't let it stand for more than three minutes), it says to the brain, "Now rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature, and into life: spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!"
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Too Many Chefs gives us a Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Dip that puts the regular mayo-ranch dressing ones to shame. They also promise a soup recipe later for those dip leftovers. Can't wait to give this one a try.
ORIGIN OF THE CROISSANT
According to one of a group of similar legends, which vary only in detail, a baker of the 17th century, working through the night at a time when his city (either Vienna in 1683 or Budapest in 1686) was under siege by the Turks, heard faint underground rumbling sounds which, on investigation, proved to be caused by a Turkish attempt to invade the city by tunneling under the walls. The tunnel was blown up. The baker asked no reward other than the exclusive right to bake crescent-shaped pastries commemorating the incident, the crescent being the symbol of Islam. He was duly rewarded in this way, and the croissant was born.
This story seems to owe its origin, or at least its wide diffusion, to Alfred Gottschalk, who wrote about the croissant for the first edition of the Larousse gastronomique (1938) and there gave the legend in the "Turkish attack on Budapest in 1686" version; but who subsequently, in his own book (1948) on the history of food, opted for the "siege of Vienna in 1683" version.
In fact, the world-famous croissant of Paris (and France) cannot be traced back beyond the latter half of the 19th century, at the very earliest. The first relevant mention in any dictionary definition of the word was in 1863, the first recipe under the name "croissant" (but describing an oriental pastry) in 1891, and the earliest recipe which corresponds to the modern croissant in 1905.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
One day a traveling salesman was driving down a country road when he was passed by a three-legged chicken. He stepped on the gas, but at fifty miles per hour the chicken was still ahead. After a few miles, the chicken ran up a driveway and into a barn behind an old farmhouse.
The salesman drove up to the house and knocked at the door. When he told the farmer what he'd just seen, the farmer said that his son was a geneticist and had developed this breed of chicken so that the, his wife and his son could each get a drumstick.
The salesman said, "That's fantastic. How do they taste?" The farmer said, "I don't know. We can't catch 'em."
Buster Keaton elevated pie throwing to an art form in the 1940s. Keaton developed all sorts of slinging styles ranging from "the catcher's pie throw" to the "Roman discus pie throw."
The first time he flung a pie was in the 1939 movie Hollywood Cavalcade. Alice Faye was his target, and Keaton practiced by throwing a wooden plate at a wall on which he'd drawn, with chalk, a circle the approximate size of Faye's head. Keaton even drove nails into the plate to make it as heavy as the real custard pie he would actually toss. He learned the hard way that a double-bottom crust was essential to prevent the pie from crumbling midflight.
If he was pieing a blonde, Keaton liked to use a chocolate, strawberry, or blackberry filling for contrast. For brunettes, lighter lemon meringue was the flavor of choice.
American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie)
from America's Back Roads
by Pascale Le Draoulec
PURPOSE OF SPICING IN MEDIEVAL TIMES
As Gillian Riley (1993) has written: "The idea that spices were used in the Middle Ages to mask the flavour of tainted meat has been expressed with considerable conviction by many writers about food and cookery."
The same author demonstrates that:
Riley believes that the frequent use of the words "tainted meat" is significant in implying a derogatory and backward glance at cultures less fortunate than our own; and that the "disguising" role allocated to spices betrays a killjoy attitude which could not acknowledge the simple fact that they add to the pleasure of eating and were so perceived by people in the Middle Ages.
- no convincing evidence has been produced to support this idea;
- in particular, the alleged recommendations in medieval texts to use spices for this purpose cannot be found;
- the supposition that the "tainted meat" theory is the only way of accounting for heavy consumption of spices in the Middle Ages is based simply on a misconception, since consumption of spices in that period was not unduly heavy -- and indeed could not have been, given their cost;
- detailed evidence about how cattle were slaughtered, how meat was sold, how cooks kept it and cooked it in particular places at particular times -- all this can now be studied in detail and produces no evidence in support of the myth.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
This is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Texas Home Cooking by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. This a crowd pleaser and couldn't be easier. I recently took a double batch of this salad to a CRHP retreat where we were providing lunch and it disappeared in no time.
I use broccoli flowerets and stems in this. I just peel the stems and dice them up. For the olives I have used everything from pimiento-stuffed to fancy olive mixes. It is really flexible. You might not think this looks like enough dressing but it is not supposed to be really creamy. Just be sure to add some salt to pop the flavor.
3 cups (about 1-1/2 pounds) chopped fresh broccoli
1/3 - 1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients, including a generous grind of black pepper. Refrigerate the salad, covered, for a couple of hours. Serve the salad chilld. The salad keeps for 2 days.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Makes 4 servings.
1 beef flank steak or top round steak (1 pound)
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 medium red peppers, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 cup water
4 hamburger buns, split
Holding knift almost parallel to cutting surface, cut crosswise into paper-thin slices.
In 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat; add steak and cook, stirring frequently, about 2-3 minutes, until steak loses its pink color throughout. Transfer steak to bowl.
In drippings in skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over high heat; add peppers and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp and lightly browned.
Stir chili powder into vegetables in skillet; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire, vinegar, brown sugar, and water; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 15 minutes, until vegetables are very tender. Return steak to skillet; heat through. Serve in buns.
Although consuming more than the recommended amount of fat is often associated with obesity, what many people fail to recognize is that fat is not in and of itself the cause of obesity. Fat doesn't necessarily make people fat; excess calories do. But fat is calorie-dense. One gram of fat contains 9 calories, whereas 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein contains only 4 calories. It is therefore quite easy to consume a great many calories in just a few bites when eating foods that are high in fat.
Particularly two particular types of fats have received a great deal of media coverage. The first of these is known as trans fat. When liquid oils are made into margarines or shortenings during a process known as hydrogenation, additional hydrogen atoms are forced to bond with the liquid unsaturated fats, effectively increasing their saturation levels and causing them to become more solid at room temperature. Their process results in the formation of trans fats (trace amounts of trans fats also occur naturally in some foods).
Until recently, trans fats were thought to be the lesser of two evils when compared to saturated fats in terms of their effect on serum cholesterol levels. The most current research, however, seems to indicate that trans fat is more detrimental than originally thought. It raises blood cholesterol levels and may be carcinogenic. However, American generally tend to consume much less trans fat than saturated fat, so current dietary advice places more of an emphasis on reducing saturated fat in the diet.
Commercially baked goods, margarines, and foods fried in or containing shortening that is solid at room temperature are the main sources of trans fats in the American diet ...
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been in the nutrition spotlight. These polyunsaturated fatty acids occur in fatty fish, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, and certain nuts and oils such as walnuts and canola oil. They have been shown to be quite effective in reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering the amount of cholesterol manufactured in the liver and reducing the likelihood of blood clot formation around deposits of arterial plaque. Omega-3 fatty acids may also slow or prevent tumor growth, stimulate the immune system, and lower blood pressure.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
McDonalds and Burger King sugar-coat their fries so they will turn golden-brown.
Since Hindus don't eat beef, the McDonald's in New Delhi makes its burgers with mutton.
The average child will eat 1,500 PB sandwiches by high school graduation.
She said, "Sure." They teed off on the first hole, and she said, "What's wrong?"
He said, "You know, if it hadn't been for your stupid oat bran, we could have been here years ago."
Thursday, March 10, 2005
1 salmon fillet (1 pound total), room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
Salt and pepper
Brush salmon with oil and season. Bake at 250° on a lightly oiled, foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake exactly 17 minutes.
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons light sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2-3 teaspoons horseradish
2 teaspoons drained capers
Whisk together. Top each serving of salmon with a heaping tablespoon of sauce.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
The collection began fifteen years ago with a recipe for ful medames. I was a schoolgirl in Paris then. Every Sunday I was invited together with my brothers and a cousin to eat ful medames with some relatives. This meal became a ritual. Considered in Egypt to be a poor man's dish, in Paris the little brown beans became invested with all the glories and warmth of Cairo, our hometown, and the embodiment of all that for which we were homesick.
Our hosts lived in a one-room apartment, and were both working, so it was possible for them to prepare only with tinned ful. Ceremoniously, we sprinkled the beans with olive oil, squeezed a little lemon over them, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and placed a hot hard-boiled egg in their midst. Delicious ecstasy! Silently, we ate the beans, whole and firm at first; then we squashed them with our forks and combined their floury texture and slightly dull, earthy taste with the acid tang of lemon, mellowed by the olive oil; finally, we crumbled the egg, matching its earthiness with that of the beans, its pale warm yellow with their dull brown.
I always have loved A Book of Middle Eastern Food even though I have never cooked anything out of it. My affection stemmed from the fact that it has qualities no long found in most cook books. Roden is passionate about the food of the Middle East and writes with a charm and enthusiasm that is infectious. Throughout are stories of her life growing up and old folk tales from the region. Although the writing styles are very different, this book makes me think of M.F.K. Fisher's which have a connection to times past and human experience.
I have known for some time about the updated version but didn't become curious about it until recently. For one thing, I wasn't cooking from this book, which is perhaps all to the good as many of the Amazon reviews of this older edition are not very happy with recipe quality.
After reading the updated book I am sure that the recipes probably are more accurate and better written. However, much of the charm is gone. Roden herself admits that, upon rereading the original, she was embarrassed at the youth and passion which poured out of it. It is all too obvious where her prosaic, modern voice is inserted and many of the stories that flowed naturally in the original are now broken out into boxes which I thought broke up the book in a choppy manner.
I am happy enough to go to local restaurants for Middle Eastern food. If you want to make it yourself I am sure the new book is the best bet. I will stick with the original, however, and the passionate voice of Roden's youth.
Monday, March 07, 2005
In recent years fat has become the focus of countless articles, books, diet plans, and advertising claims, many of which give the false impression that fat is the ultimate dietary villain, to be avoided at all costs. While it is true that excess fat in the diet is unhealthy because it raises the risk of coronary artery disease, obesity, and certain cancers, it is still an essential nutrient that provides energy and fulfills vital bodily functions. Fat is essential in making the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K available to our bodies. Fat is digested slowly, providing a lasting sensation of fullness (known as satiety), and slows the digestion of carbohydrates and protein ingested along with it, thus giving the body time to absorb the nutrients contained in foods. Lastly, fat has a crucial role in the development of flavor in cooking.
Fats are grouped into three main categories according to their degree of saturation, a term that refers to the molecular structure of the fat. A single fat is actually a number of chains, known as fatty acids, composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen linked together. The individual fatty acids can be saturated, monounsaturate, or polyunsaturated, depending on how many open sites there are for hydrogen atoms to bond with a carbon atom. Saturated fatty acids cannot accept any more hydrogen, monounsaturated fatty acids have one open site on the chain, and polyunsaturated fatty acids have more than one site open.
Current dietary recommendations are that fat should account for 30 percent of calories at most, and most of the fat should be mono- and polyunsaturated. Saturated fats should not exceed 10 percent of total daily calories because they have been shown to have an adverse effect on serum cholesterol levels. In a 2,000-calorie diet, these limits translate to approximately 600 calories from all fats (about 67 grams), with no more than 200 of these calories (22 grams) coming from saturated fats.
(to be continued...)
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Everyone loved it. Even my picky 16-year-old ate it tossed with the sauce and that is unheard of. The recipe says that it serves 4 but that was really too generous. It would easily serve 8. By the way, pizzaiola means something like in the style of the pizza maker, because of the oregano used.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-3/4 pounds rump steak, cut into strips 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide
1 14-ounce can chopped Italian plum tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup pitted, sliced black olives, such as kalamata or gaeta
1 pound dried pasta
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Heat oil in a skillet. Add steak and cook over high heat until browned all over, 3 minutes. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon, cover to keep warm, and reserve.
Reduce heat to medium high. Add tomatoes, garlic, oregano, capers and olives. Simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Return steak to the skillet to keep warm.
Meanwhile, cook pasta (I used spaghetti) in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain. Add pasta and parsley to the hot sauce. Toss well to coat. Serve immediately
MARCO POLO'S SUPPOSED INTRODUCTION OF PASTA FROM CHINA TO THE WESTERN WORLD
This durable myth, which requires that nothing should have been known of pasta in Italy until 1295, when Marco Polo returned from the Far East, can easily be shown to be wrong by citing references in Italy to pasta of an earlier date. What is interesting about the myth is the question of how it arose. An explanation was offered to a distinguished audience at Oxford University by the famous Italian authority Massimo Alberini:As far as I can make out, the "Chinese" story originates from an article entitled "A Saga of Catai" that appeared in the American magazine Macaroni Journal in 1929. There it was written that a sailor in Marco Polo's expedition had seen a Chinese girl preparing long strands of pasta, and that the sailor's name was Spaghetti. Obviously an unlikely tale.It is tempting to add that the Macaroni Journal explanation may itself be a myth; but no better explanation has been offered. The question of interaction between oriental and occidental forms of pasta and the extent to which particular forms may have traveled either eastwards or westwards, through C. Asia, is a different one, of a subtlety and complexity sufficient to deter myth-makers from trying to intervene in it. (To be effective, a myth must be comprehensible at the lowest level of intelligence.)
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
1 can condensed milk
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding
8-9 bananas, sliced
3 cups whole milk
1 large container Cool Whip, thawed
1 to 1-1/2 boxes vanilla wafers
Prepare both packages of pudding mix with the 3 cups of whole milk, stir until thickened and set aside. Mix condensed milk and cream cheese together until smooth. Add cream cheese mixture to pudding mixture and blend well. Reserve 1 to 1-1/2 cups of Cool Whip and fold remaining Cool Whip into pudding mixture.
In a large bowl, place a layer of vanilla wafers followed by a layer of bananas and end with a layer of pudding mix. Repeat 2 to 3 times (depends on depth of bowl). Top with reserved Cool Whip and sprinkle crushed vanilla wafers on top. Keep refrigerated.
CATHERINE DE' MEDICI TRANSFORMED FRENCH COOKERY
Catherine de' Medici arrived in France form Italy in 1533, as the 14-year-old financée of the future Henri II of France. She was accompanied by a train of servants including cooks. The myth consists in the idea that she and her retinue between them transformed what had been a rather primitive cuisine at the French court into something much more elegant and sophisticated, on Italian lines.
Barbara Ketcham Wheatam (1983) is not alone in demolishing this myth -- far from it, since it has become an almost routine activity for food historians. However, she has mustered more evidence and more detail on this matter than more of her colleagues. She shows that French court cuisine was not transformed (in any direction) in the 1530s and 1540s, and that in any case the interchange of ideas of people between France and Italy had begun before Catherine was born and continued after her death. Italian culinary practice could exert such influence as it may have had on the French by means of the steady traffic and also through books; but the French in the 16th century had a conservative outlook which in any case immunized them against sudden and foreign influences. Where Catherine did eventually have an effect, it was less on the cooking and more on the attitudes and expectations of the diners, for the wonderful festivals or masquerades which she planned and executed (this was after the death of her husband Henri II) developed into an institution of great visual and dramatic significance.