The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to cook, eat, drink, and, of course, live well. Here is where I will rave, rant, report, and review. I will offer recipes, food & beverage tips, cooking techniques, terminology, and whatever else is on my mind.
My friend and fellow Greenbrier attendee (and panelist), David Leite has an awesome website http://leitesculinaria.com/. In a recent post, his team explains how to avoid the dreaded undercooked turkey. It's a must read for all who are responsible for cooking this year's bird. Please take a look here
With Thanksgiving only a few days away (and the rest of the Holidays just around the corner), I thought I’d share a few suggestions to help you make the most of your time in the kitchen.
• Always plan ahead. If there's anything you can do a day or three before, do it. It'll make things a lot easier on the big day.
• Know your recipes. Take the time to actually read your recipes all the way through before you even start organizing your ingredients.
• Make your kitchen time fun. Enlist family and friends to help, turn on the music, and pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage.
• Do all of your “mise en place” (the prep and assembly of your ingredients and equipment) before you start cooking.
• Always taste your food while you’re cooking. It allows you to make any necessary adjustments to the dish before you serve it.
• Try to clean as you go and return everything to its place as soon as you can. After hours prepping and cooking, you won’t be in the mood to deal with a sink full of dirty pots and sticky greasy counters.
• Instead of placing your turkey on a roasting rack, cut onions, celery, and carrots into large chunks and place them in an oiled roasting pan. Then, place your turkey on top of the vegetables.
• Always let your meat rest. One of the biggest kitchen mistakes is not letting meat rest after cooking. So, this Thanksgiving, after roasting your turkey let it rest while you make the gravy (instead of making it while the bird is in the oven).
• If you don't have time to brine the turkey, heavily salt it (inside and out) about an hour before cooking. Then, pat the bird dry and roast it. The skin will still be crispy and the meat will be just as juicy.
• If you are going to bake anything, leave your butter and eggs out the night before. This will make incorporating them easier, smoother, and you’ll have a better final result.
• Pick up some parchment paper for lining your pans. It will make everything you bake easy to remove and it makes for a quick cleanup (no greasy or pasty butter-flour mixture; no errant batter; no scraping).
• Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself — sometimes the best recipes are discovered through mistakes.
You may have heard a bit (or a lot, maybe) about Monsanto and/or GMOs. Either way, here is a terrific two part article written by my friend, Robin Carpenter. She explains what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are, why they represent a threat, and who is behind it all. To make it worse, they are pushing to be exempt from disclosing that their products are genetically modified. Is that really the future we want?
On a somewhat related topic (even if it is tangential), I get asked a lot about the flours and grains that are used in store bought baked goods. So, I thought I’d share my response with you, too.
Don’t let misleading package statements such as “made with wheat flour” or “seven grain” fool you. They are just marketing maneuvers. Remember when everything was “New and Improved?” This is the same thing. It is also impossible to tell by only looking at the product. Some companies just sprinkle white-flour breads with a coating of oats or color them with molasses (or artificial caramel coloring).
So, if you really want to know what you’re getting, read the ingredient list. The first ingredient should be whole wheat or some other whole grain (oats for example). Additionally, the fiber content should be at least 3 grams per serving.
I can’t stress this enough; always read the ingredients lists on ALL packaged goods, not just baked goods. You’ll be surprised by what’s in most of your store bought products.
Back in August, I had the privilege of teaching a hands on cooking class at Ger Nis Culinary Center in Brooklyn, NY and it was a true pleasure. The owner, Nissa Pierson, was terrific (as was all of her staff). The class, “The Tuscan Table,” was a sellout. We began the class with a choice of beverages. Some students had Prosecco with our Lovage Syrup and others our homemade, non alcoholic Italian Fig Soda.
Our menu featured Stewed Squid with Salsa Verde, Fresh Papparadelle with Summer Beans, Herbs, and Tomatoes, and Honey Lavender Fritters (Zeppoli, actually) with Fig Compote. It was a great experience and a fantastic class filled with lively conversation and delicious food.
I was scheduled to appear at Ger Nis a second time in August, but Hurricane Irene forced the evacuation of the neighborhood, cancelling the class. On the bright side, I hope to go back and teach at Ger Nis again in the late Winter/early Spring.
A few weeks ago I attended the Symposium for Professional food Writers at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. To say that it was an eye opening, mind blowing experience would be an understatement. My head is still spinning. The knowledge shared, ideas hatched, and tips given were extraordinary. I can’t think of any single period of time when I’ve had as much stimulating conversation or been exposed to as many interesting people as that week. I was exhilarated. It was absolutely inspiring. The symposium brought to light so many things that I want to put in motion, improve, and try. Yet, I’ve felt overwhelmed to the point of paralysis since I’ve returned. The most I’ve been able to muster is a “to do list.” And even that isn’t complete.
Anyway, here are some questions to start the week...
Does the Lions 4-0 start mean the word will end on 11-11-11?
When will our government start policing industrial farming so we can actually eat fresh, healthy food?
Who are the Dead Sox going to get that’s better than Francona? No, seriousy? Bobby Valentine?
Why am I seeing so many Pumpkin (Punkin, Pumkin, etc) Ales and so few Oktoberfest beers?
Will anyone actually care if there are no NBA games before Christmas Day (or after for that matter)?
Did you know that, per pint, Guinness Draught has less calories that milk and orange juice?
A pint of Guinness has 210 calories. While one pint of semi-skimmed milk has 260 calories and one pint of orange juice has 220 calories. Surprising considering how Guinness is usually described as a "heavy" beer. I think I should to go on diet. So, "Let's drink up, me hearties. Yo-ho!"
Nick Coletto and his nephew, Joe Coletto, recently co wrote the cookbook Wine and Dine 1-2-3. It contains over 500 recipes and over 2,500 specific wine and beer suggestions. They are, respectively, my uncle in law and cousin in law (if there are such titles). For more info, please check it out at www.wineanddine123.com and tell them Barbara's husband sent you. ;)
Sorry for the long time between posts. It has been a crazy year.So much has happened and a lot is still going on. So as not to leave you hanging, I’ll do my best to intersperse those stories with what's going now and happening in the future.
Over the past 15 or so months, I have joined the Adjunct Culinary Faculty of Wake Technical Community College, put our house up for sale, been interviewed by websites twice, moved into an apartment, tested recipes for national magazines and an internationally renowned chef’s recently published cookbook, been dragged into a ridiculous ongoing lawsuit, taught tons of classes at A Southern Season and Ger Nis Culinary Center, become a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Triangle Area Freelancers, watched my daughters dance in Disney World, and been elected Vice Chairman of our town’s Board of Adjustments.
Currently, I’m the food editor for the Raleigh Downtowner, preparing for my second year of teaching at Wake Tech, still trying to sell our house, testing recipes for one of my favorite magazines and a colleague's soon to be published cookbook, helping form the Culinary Historians Of the Piedmont, NC (CHOP, NC), and revitalizing my blog.
During the final four months of 2011, I’ll be attending the Symposium for Professional Food Writers, publishing a monthly e-newsletter, growing my Linked In and Twitter followings, writing and pitching my own cookbook, tweaking my blog and website designs, and writing a new blog post every week.
Aside from my little corner of the block, there have been wide spread food calls on everything from ground turkey to cheese, a war of words between two food TV icons, bans on shark fins, foie gras, and toys in Happy meals, arsenic and ammonia found in chicken samples, plastic routinely found in a popular frozen pizza, and US Marshalls seizing seafood shipments. As well as the debut of baguette vending machines and breast milk ice cream, a lawsuit over Vienna sausage recipes, the retirement of the "Burger King", and popular family restaurants serving alcoholic beverages to kids instead of juice.
...And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head. So, stay tuned as we learn, taste, get caught up, and plot a course forward … together.
Nothing tastes like summer more than ripe tomatoes, sweet corn, and toothsome zucchini. Here is one of my summertime favorites. Enjoy!
1 1/2 lb medium zucchini 1 1/4 teaspoons salt 1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 2 ears) 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 8 oz grape or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise (2 cups) 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1. Special equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer with julienne cutter or a julienne peeler Working with 1 zucchini at a time, cut lengthwise into very thin (julienne) strips with slicer, turning zucchini and avoiding core. Discard core.
2. Toss zucchini strips with 1 teaspoon salt and let drain in a colander set over a bowl, covered and chilled, 1 hour.
3. Gently squeeze handfuls of zucchini to remove excess water and pat dry with paper towels.
4. Cook corn in a small saucepan of boiling water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, then rinse under cold water and pat dry.
5. Whisk together lemon juice, sugar, pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and basil and toss well.
Cooks' note: Salad (without dressing and basil) can be made ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.
Grilled Fish with Sherry Tarragon Vinaigrette Serves 4-6
4 of your favorite skinless white fleshed fish (I like to use either swordfish, halibut, mahi mahi) Olive oil for brushing Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup aged sherry vinegar 1 small shallot, chopped 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon 1/2 cup olive oil
Heat grill to high. Brush fish on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill fish for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until just cooked through.
Combine vinegar, shallot, mustard, tarragon, and salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil until emulsified. Adjust seasoning. Drizzle vinaigrette over the fish and serve.
Grilled Chicken with Eastern NC Style BBQ Sauce (serves 4)
2 cups apple cider vinegar 1 T chopped garlic 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 1 T hot sauce 1 T sugar salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 boneless chicken breasts (can also use bone in but cooking time will be longer)
Heat grill. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, garlic, red pepper, hot sauce, and sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer 15 minutes then remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to cool completely.
Transfer half of BBQ sauce to a gallon-sized sealable plastic bag and reserve remaining sauce. Add chicken to bag, seal, and shake to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Remove chicken from the marinade. Discard bag with marinade. Grill chicken until nicely marked (about 4 minutes) and turn. Brush with reserved sauce and continue grilling until just cooked through about 4 more minutes.
Plate chicken and add more sauce if desired (or you can serve the sauce on the side).
What is happening to our freedom? Smoking bans, oil and fat bans, foie gras bans, snack food bans, soda bans (to name a few) and now a salt ban. Lawmakers are telling us what we can and can’t put in mouths. Yet, they will not bring the FDA out of the Dark Ages. They will not make the commitment to make our produce, meat, seafood, and poultry safe but they will dictate what we should and should not eat. They will not put pressure on “food manufacturers” (who process food so much that it is completly different from its natural state) relying on large amounts of chemicals and sodium (that’s right, salt) to make their products shelve stable as well as edible. They will not put the burden on companies who process salt and add more sodium (and chemicals) to natural salt but they are trying to deprive chefs of a crucial ingredient.
Here’s what scientists have found:
An eight-year study of a New York City hypertensive population stratified for sodium intake levels found those on low-salt diets had more than four times as many heart attacks as those on normal-sodium diets – the exact opposite of what the “salt hypothesis” would have predicted. (1995)
A ten-year follow-up study to the huge Scottish Heart Health Study found no improved health outcomes for those on low-salt diets. (1997)
An analysis of the health outcomes, over a twenty year period, from those in the massive US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) documented a 20% greater incidence of heart attacks among those on low-salt diets compared to normal-salt diets (1998)
A health outcomes study in Finland, reported to the American Heart Association that no health benefits could be identified and concluded “…our results do not support the recommendations for entire populations to reduce dietary sodium intake to prevent coronary heart disease.” (1998)
A Finnish study reported an increase in cardiovascular events for obese men (but not women or normal-weight individuals of either gender) – the article, however, failed to adjust for potassium intake levels which many researchers consider a key associated variable. (2001)
In September of 2002, the latest and highest-quality meta-analysis of clinical trials was published in the British Medical Journal confirming earlier meta-analyses' conclusions that significant salt reduction would lead to very small blood pressure changes in sensitive populations and no health benefits. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has also reviewed the evidence and concluded: "There is insufficient evidence that, for the general population, reducing dietary sodium intake or increasing dietary intake of iron, beta-carotene, or other antioxidants results in improved health outcomes." (2002)
America’s pre-eminent scientific journal, Science, published by the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science, investigated the source of this confusion. The report in Science won author Gary Taubes the Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers. He concluded: “After interviews with some 80 researchers, clinicians, and administrators around the world, it is safe to say that if ever there were a controversy over the interpretation of scientific data, this is it….After decades of intensive research, the apparent benefits of avoiding salt have only diminished. This suggests that either the true benefit has now been revealed and is indeed small or that it is non-existent and researchers believing they have detected such benefits have been deluded by the confounding of other variables.”
So, is it because people can’t control themselves that we have to cook (and eat) inferior, poorly seasoned food?
You decide. I already have.
For more information, you can look up: The Cochrane Collaboration, Oxford University (UK) Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, the Health Information Research Unit (McMaster University), or the Canadian Centres for Health Evidence.
I know we all have been cutting back and tightening belts this year. However, if you can see your way clear, please consider helping some of those much less fortunate. We have all been seeing things lately that we never thought we'd see in our country but these numbers are staggering. So, if your table is as abundant as ours, please consider at least donating some of your leftovers to those who really need it.
24 large shrimp 2-4 T olive oil 6 cloves garlic, minced 2 T fresh thyme, chopped ½ t crushed red pepper 1 cup white wine 4 T butter Salt to taste
In sauté pan, heat 2 T oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot add shrimp and cook, stirring, about 4 minutes until pink. If your pan is not large enough to fit all the shrimp comfortably, you may need to repeat this step. When shrimp are just cooked, remove with slotted spoon and reserve. Returning to pan, add garlic, thyme and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant and garlic is golden. Deglaze with white wine and reduce by half. Stir in butter a tablespoon at a time. Return shrimp to pan, season with salt, and stir to coat. Divide shrimp and sauce evenly onto individual plates.
It is a sad day in the Food Universe. Many hearts have been broken with the news that the Granddaddy of all cooking magazines is no more. The horrid economy and digital media have claimed another victim. Gourmet magazine was the first U.S. magazine dedicated solely to food and wine. It brought fine dining, upscale cocktails, and wine appreciation into the homes of millions of Americans for almost 70 years. Now, it has gone the way of Merrill Lynch, Pontiac's Firebird, and 45s.
While it is true that Gourmet had difficulty keeping up with the times, its demise leaves a great void in the Food Universe. Gourmet magazine did as much for the home cook as Julia. It did as much for chefs as Emeril and as much for restaurants as Zagat's. Not only did this magazine shape food writing and photography as we know it, it also helped thousands of cookbooks get published. It also created career fields in food styling and recipe testing.
Gourmet taught, mentored, inspired, and entertained. It reminded Americans how far we've come in terms of eating, drinking, entertaining, and vacationing. But, alas, nevermore.
To read the full story on Gourmet's closing, please go to:
I've been getting a lot of questions lately about sushi. Most of which have revolved around the terminology and how some of the condiments should be used. So, let's start with a few definitions.
Sushi refers to anything that is served over vinegar rice (rice seasoned with rice wine vinegar). It has nothing to do with raw fish. If vegetables, cooked meat, cooked seafood, and/or cooked eggs are served over cooked vinegar rice, it is still sushi.
Maki are the rolls that most people envision when they think of sushi. To make Maki, a wrapper (nori or seaweed paper, thinly sliced vegetables or fish, etc) is spread with vinegar rice, topped with certain fillings (tuna, avocado, crab, cucumber, salmon, etc) depending on the type of roll, then rolled into a cylinder, sliced into coins, and served.
Temaki are very similar to Maki. They only differ in that Temaki are rolled into a cone shape and are meant to be eaten by hand (kind of like a wrap sandwich).
Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish. It can be served as is with various sauces and just called Sashimi or served on top of an oval rice patty (un-vinegared), in which case it would be called Sashimi Nigiri. If the Sashimi is served over vinegar rice, it is Sashimi Sushi.
Traditional condiments are soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger. The soy and wasabi are meant to be compliments. Soaking your "sushi" in soy sauce is considered bad form and will probably tick off the sushi chef if he catches you. Wasabi is a spicy Japanese horseradish that is turned into a paste to add a little kick. Use it sparingly. If you are not use to it, a very small amount is enough to clean out your sinuses and give you a headache for the night. The pickled ginger is to refresh the palate in between bites. It is especially useful if you are sampling a few different varieties.
You now know how to order and what to expect at a Sushi Restaurant. You also know how to properly use your condiments. You are a Sushi neophyte no more!
P.S. Japanese custom is to drink your Sake before dinner not after or during.
This issue begs me to ask: Who among us did not have that "typical Pavlovian response" to those wonderful, awful jingles coming from the trucks of the heroes of Summer? Who among us didn't have a parent who said "No" much more often than "Yes" when these trucks came around? Who among us had someone to "coach" our parents to say "No"? Who among us were traumatized from these "predatory" villains and their plan to dominate the world by driving Mothers crazy with nap less, tantrum throwing children?
As a parent of two and a lifelong fan of The Ice Cream Man, I say, parents who were children in the 70s and 80s should grow up. Being a parent isn't easy. No one said it was. Parents have a duty to say "No" to their children. It keeps them from getting hurt, hurting others, and being spoiled. If you can't deal with your toddler's ice cream problem, how will you handle drugs, alcohol, and sex in their teen and pre teen years?
Oh, I almost forgot. If you park your stroller and a diesel truck pulls up in front of you, unlock the safety breaks and roll to different spot. Don't blame the truck.
With Labor Day rapidly approaching, the traditional "Grilling Season" is nearing its end. Here are a few grilling tips to make the most of the waning season.
1. Keep It Hot. Preheat your grill, otherwise food will stick. When your grill is ready, you will be able to hold your hand five inches above the grate for two seconds if the fire is “hot” and three to four seconds if the fire is “medium-hot.”
2. Grill Safely. Don’t grill in an enclosed area and be sure your grill is on stable ground before firing it up. Use baking soda to control a grease fire, not water. Have a fire extinguisher, bucket of sand, or garden hose on hand.
3. Have Everything Nearby. The culinary term is mise en place. Have everything you'll need close at hand before you start cooking. You don't want your food to burn by the time you run back inside the house to find what you need.
4. Keep It Clean. Make sure there is no left over debris on your grates. It will make your food stick as well as give it an off, burnt, or flinty flavor.
5. Oil. Make sure you oil either the immediate cooking surface or the food before cooking. This helps keep your food from sticking and makes it easier to clean up later.
6. Decide If You Need a Single-Level or Dual-Level Fire. A single-level fire heats the grill evenly, either with all the gas burners on the same setting, or with the charcoal equally spread out. This method is used for cooking things fast. A dual-level fire (also called indirect grilling) has most if not all, of the charcoal banked to one side, or the burners on a gas grill adjusted to high on one side and the others turned off or set to low. This method allows you to sear your food on the hot side then let it finish cooking on the low side so it cooks evenly and doesn't burn.
7. Leave an Unheated Space on the Grill. Even if you’re cooking over a single-level fire, leave a small space unheated so that you have somewhere to move food if you have a flare-up or if something is cooking too fast.
8. Decide If You Want Your Lid Up or Down. Remember that a closed lid traps moist heat and smoke. So, what you're cooking will determine the position of your lid.
9. Sauce Later. Saucing too soon is a common mistake. If you brush your food with sauce at the beginning of cooking, chances are you will burn it. Wait until the last few minutes to apply your sauce and you’ll get a nice glaze instead of a black, charred mess.
10. Don’t Forget Food Safety. Check for proper doneness with an instant-read thermometer and use separate plates for cooked and raw foods. If you want to use a marinade as a sauce, either reserve some that hasn’t come in contact with raw foods, or boil it first to destroy any bacteria.