Thursday, January 31, 2008
Quasi Recipe: Moussaka a la Greque
- Brown about a pound of ground lamb and put to the side. (As in the original recipe, you can leave this out.)
- Make some pilaf using about 1 cup of long-grained rice, 1 1/2 cups of beef stock, and 1 cup of red wine. When the rice and liquid come to a boil, add a handful each of raisins and pine nuts, stir, cover, simmer for 15 minutes, and then take off the heat. I actualy used only 2 cups of liquid, total, which might seem like too little, and the pilaf was a bit toothy, but remember that most everything else in the dish will give off liquid, and you'll want to absorb it.
- Take three medium eggplants and slice about 1/2 inch thick. If, like me, you found yourself with only two eggplants, slice them thinner - it makes them a bit harder to handle, but, hey, you do what you gotta do.
- Chop a medium onion and brown it in olive oil in a pan over high heat. Reserve it but leave the pan hot. Add more oil and brown the eggplant slices on both sides, reserving them as well. Yes, for this meal, reservations are necessary.
- Take a six-inch deep casserole dish (I used a stew pot with cover, about 9 inches across, from Emile Henri, which is great for this type of cooking), rub inside with olive oil, and start layering: first eggplant slices to cover, then some rice pilaf, then some lamb, and then some sauteed onions. Keep doing this for a few layers until you've used up everything and ended with eggplant on top. You really have to do this by eye, as it will depend on the exact size and shape of your dish.
- Tomato sauce goes on top. I used maybe a cup and a half of spaghetti sauce with about 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinamon mixed in. De Groot calls for making a sauce out of 1 cup of beef stock, 1 cup of red wine, 6 ounces of tomato paste, a handful of chopped parsley, and some salt and pepper. (I'm elminating the MSG he suggested - yes, this is an old book.) But it worked well this way and cut the preparation time at least a bit.
- Bake the casserole for about 20 to 25 minutes without a top, or until the sauce gets absorbed. You'll know when it's done by when you're finished with the custard that goes on top. Thoroughly whisk three eggs, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and 1 cup of milk. (You won't need the 1 cup of parmasegan cheese if you don't want it.) Cook in a doube-boiler - or in a pot over a medium flame if you're feeling bold and don't mind watching like a hawk so you don't end up with curdled custard. When the mixture thickens so it will coat the back of a wooden spoon and drawing your finger across that spoon back leaves a trail, you're done.
- Take the casserole out of the over, pour the custard over it, cover, and replace in the over for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the custard is set.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Review: Saphara and Lipton "Pyramid" Bag Teas
My testing and tasting suggest that a lot more is due to the quality of the tea first and the bag's shape second. For example, Saphara, which is a brand from Celestial Seasonings, was enjoyable. Of the two types that the PR representatives sent, I gravitated to the mango ginger decaf green, though I was a little less enthused over the tropical rooibos - a South African herbal tea with lemongrass, orange, and coconut. Nothing wrong with it; the mix just wasn't my - my apologies - cup of tea. Calling the tea "whole leaf" is a bit disingenuous, as when you read the box you see that it's "rough cut." I think that means that whole leaves don't hold up in bags, even if they are mesh pyramids. The bags, tags, and strings are biodegradable, which is responsible in my eyes. But the list price is $6.99 for a box of 15 bags, or about 47 cents a bag. Personally, I'd prefer to brew a pot with whole leaf tea, but as each bag comes in a separate plastic wrap, this is more convenient.
I received a greater array of flavors from Lipton, but found that the pyramid bags there seemed more of a gimmick. The PR write up says that the shape "allows for the long leaves and real fruits and caramel to fully infuse while steeping in a hot cup of water." Sorry, but I don't think you'll find a long leaf in one of them, as they are pretty much all broken up as well, though not as much as a country western song or the traditional flat bags. The teas are cheaper, at $3.49 for a 20-count box, or 17 cents a bag, and they taste it. Of the six flavors the PR people sent for me to sample, the Bavarian wild berry was reasonably pleasant. Others seemed weaker in flavor, even steeping for upwards of five minutes.
I'd skip the Lipton, pick up some Saphara - or, better yet, Revolution Tea - for convenience use, and then get a decent tea pot and a good batch of loose tea. You'll pay less and enjoy it more.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (1/28/08)
- Quick, Get Robbie Burns Scotland is thinking of lobbying the US to lift a ban on haggis in hopes of boosting sales. Here's a suggestion: there's a long way between buying a kilt and eating a blood and oatmeal pudding stuffed into a sheep's stomach. (Reuters)
- Holy Watering Hole A pastor in a central Pennsylvania town plans to send chaplains to local bars to provide a sympathetic ear. But are they buying drinks? (AP)
- So Hungry You Could Eat A Horse? A woman, selling her horse, found the classified ad she took out accidentally listed under Good Things To Eat. (AP)
- And No Tequila Shots Someone has introduced a bill in Virginia to lift the state's effective ban on sangria, because it doesn't allow mixing wine or beer with spirits. A restaurant actually received a $2,000 fine for serving the drink in 2006. Next thing: free refried beans. (AP)
- Michelin Star, Bring Your Own Boat British restaurant Tean just won a Michelin star - and is located on an island, population 110, 28 miles out to sea. (AFP)
- Invest That Bonus In Food A restaurant in London's financial district has a $2,000-a-head menu intended to catch people who got huge bonuses. Half a dozen people have signed up since last Friday. (AFP)
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Surely this must be one of the worst names in the annals of food history (though there do seem to be serious contenders for this title every year). It sounds like a cough syrup or even, heaven help the digestion, a laxative. Being neighter, it is, instead, a fruit juice mix "harnessing the natural power of 50 whole tart cherries" - whatever that exactly means - in an 8 ounce bottle. That container also holds water and apple juice concentrate, so it's not straight tart cherry juice. The manufacturer touts the nutritional value, but a quick look shows that while they say it is good for muscle aches and cramps, there are also few vitamins.
But then, I'm no nutrition expert and think that you cannot depend on any one food stuff, no matter how mighty, to balance your diet. What I can say is that the juice is tasty - the whole family tested the sample sent by the company's PR firm and liked it. Be warned, it is also tart, which can be more refreshing, I think, than a sugar-laden slurry. You can purchase the product from the web site in batches of 8 bottles ($2.50 each) or 24 (price drops to $2 per). Shipping on a case of 24 bottles is $6.22 (at least when going to Massachusetts), which would make the least expensive per bottle price $2.26.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Do Rising Food Prices Add Up?
But it seems to me that the price even six months ago was maybe $3.60. Add 5%, and you get a bit under $3.80. I'd figure that if wholesale prices were going up a set percentage, then you could expect retail prices to go up by the same percentage. But clearly the percentage is being doubled. So, are the experts deliberately making their estimates too low to try and stave off political heat? Or is someone jacking up the price even higher to skim extra profit? Or is my memory of pricing going wrong? Maybe it's me, but something seems odd. I will note the following about Archer Daniels Midland Company (or ADM, as they've tried to rebrand themselves) - one of the world's largest grain processors:
|Fiscal Year||Revenue||Gross Profit||Percentage Profit|
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Technique Not: Colanders and Spätzle
I once read that one way of forming the short strands was to force the dough through the holes of a colander, so I gave it a shot. My suggestion? Don't bother. I kept pushing and working away with a wooden spoon and found that the dough exists the colander about as readily as cash leaves a miser's wallet. In the absence of a true spätzle maker, Willan suggests cutting the dough into slivers.
Being lazier, I put the mass on a light cutting board, held the board above the pot of boiling water, and used a metal pastry scraper to pull away strands of dough and flick them off into the pot, which worked reasonably well. As they floated up and cooked for a few minutes, I then transferred them, bit at a time, into a pot of cold water. When all were done, I heated some putter in a pan, added the spätzle, heated it, and then served the pot roast on top.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (1/21/08)
- Smoked - or Not The first restaurant chain in Beijing to ban smoking is going out of business after most of its customers took their embers elsewhere. (Reuters)
- Moo Burp Swedish researchers are going to study just how greenhouse gas comes out when cows belch. I'd hate the be the one standing in front of the cow, waiting for the eruption. (AP)
- Oh, You're Still Here? An inmate was left in a holding cell for two days without food when three deputies forgot the person was there. (AP)
- Imagine the Piece of Cheese Researchers found the remains of a prehistoric rodent that weighed an estimated 2,000 pounds. (Reuters)
- Last Call A 150 old cantina, supposedly the oldest in Mexico, is closed after the National Autonomous University of Mexico won a legal battle to eject it. (Reuters)
- When They Said Drive-Through... A McDonald's patron, angry at not receiving his french fries, literally drove into the establishment, and then drove off. (WFTV)
- But Can They Boil Water? A recent survey suggests that many young people in Britain don't know how to boil an egg, can't name cuts of bacon (or tell how long it takes to cook a rasher), and can't identify regional breads. (Press Release)
- Next Time, Check His ID A 16-year-old Japanese boy ran up a $3,490 bill at a bar in Tokyo, and was then arrested for not being able to pay. (AP)
- Keystone Robbers A pair of Australian robbers apparently needed more practice, as they grabbed a bag of rolls instead of a bag of money from a restaurant and one of the duo shot the other by accident. (AFP)
Friday, January 18, 2008
Recommendation: Nuoc Cham Cha Gio Dipping Sauce
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Experiments on the Latté Front
The big cloud clearing moment has been realizing just how much steamed milk I've been using, and cutting it by at least a third, if not a half. That starts gettijng tricky in the actual steaming, as a smaller pitcher would be helpful. But, all in all, while I haven't hit the Amherst mark, my lattés are significantly better. I just hope the experiment won't require an expenditure for a new espresso maker.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Where's the Beef Beef Beef? There, There, There - FDA OKs Cloning
A long-awaited final report from the Food and Drug Administration concludes that foods from healthy cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as those from ordinary animals, effectively removing the last U.S. regulatory barrier to the marketing of meat and milk from cloned cattle, pigs and goats.The nearly thousand-page government report acknowledges ethical, moral, and religious issues, but says that it is not allowed to consider those.
How about this: until you can do widespread tests and see what the results are of people ingesting clones, you simply cannot state that there is no problem. When issues occur in any type of health study, they can occur so infrequently that it takes large numbers to notice them. I'm not arguing that meat and milk from cloned animals is going to have a problem. I can't know that and wouldn't want to pretend that I did. However, I know enough not to make dangerous assumptions of safety without equally valid information.
To create its final risk assessment, the FDA gathered data on nearly all of the more than 600 U.S. farm-animal clones produced and hundreds of their offspring, as well as many from overseas. But it faced challenges in the process.But permission comes down anyway. It's not as though the world is in danger of starvation through lack of livestock. What the clones are supposed to be is breeding stock, to get only the results companies think they want. But has anyone studied the potential issues of reducing biodiversity? Silly me, of course not - it's unimportant, because, hell, we're already creating genetically modified crops that are displacing traditional varieties. And those are fine, because government has already ruled that they are. So we see arguments for permitting a practice being predicated on permitting the practice, a logical merry-go-round. And who cares whether large markets for US agriculture won't buy genetically modified crops and might well refuse to buy meat and milk from animals bred from clones?
Those animals were made by scientists scattered among various universities and companies using different methods that in many cases were difficult to compare.
Moreover, many of those animals were not just clones but also had genes added to them for projects unrelated to food production.
There won't be any requirement to label meat from cloned animals as such, though the FDA may allow labeling that food comes from non-cloned animals. But how far does the mark of Clone go back? Do an animal's immediate parents cause concern? Next generation back? How would anyone even track this? But the approach the FDA has taken can't take this into consideration:
In the end, facing the reality that epigenetics have never been a factor in assessing the wholesomeness of food, agency scientists decided to use the same simple but effective standard used by farmers since the dawn of agriculture: If a farm animal appears in all respects to be healthy, then presume that food from that animal is safe to eat.What insanity. "Looks fine to me" becomes the food standard, at a time when our food production has become contaminated multiple times from agents and issues we already understand. Just when I think the shortsightedness of government couldn't get any worse, I find new depths of disgust with groups that want to direct nature and that don't want to take a responsible path. Proving a negative - lack of harm - is certainly a difficult, and perhaps ultimately impossible, task. But there's the old saying that the difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer. When you weight financial and corporate convenience with the health of billions, take a little longer.
Scientists also looked at nutrient levels in meat and milk from a few dozen cattle and pig clones and hundreds of their progeny, and compared them with values from conventional animals. They measured vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6 and B12 as well as niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, 12 kinds of fatty acids, cholesterol, fat, protein, amino acids and carbohydrates including lactose.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Review: Magic Bullet Platinum Pro
They position this relatively small device as a cross between a blender and a food processor. Let's look at the first part. The instructions claim that usually 10 seconds of blending does what you need. Not a chance. I tried milkshakes and fruit smoothies, and usually I needed upwards of a minute, which is fine except that you're warned under pain of hellfire and damnation not to let the unit run longer - NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER, as a Lear might instruct - than 60 seconds. A second longer and you could cause a cataclysm. Much longer than that, and I think life as we know it comes to an end.
Seriously, if you need a single serving of blended something, this device is decent. It comes with four plastic cups with removable colored rings at the top. Remove the ring, fill the glass with whatever, screw the blending attachment, invert the lot and put it onto the blender, and you're in business ... eventually. If things dont' seem to be blending, the instructions say to picj up the entire blender and cup (or one of the normal blending containers) and shake away.
Personally, I think this novel approach is probably an attempt to pragmatically spin the problem of not being able to stop the blender, easily remove a container's upward facing lid (remember, the part the screws off is now face down into the blender), shove a rubber spatula in to scrape down the sides, and then remove the spatula, replace the lid, and continue blending. However, hey, it worked for me. When things are done, you remove the container. If it's one of the glasses, you unscrew the blending unit, add on the colored collar, and start drinking. That's a lot better than washing two continers. Also, you can get to the blades to make sure they are clean, rather than having them forever fixed at the bottom of a vessel.
Where the Magic Bullet offers a misfire is in the food processing part. The instructions would have you take a chunk of vegetable (like an onion) that fits into the small blending container, drop it in, attach the flat-bladed chopping base, and pulse away. I tried it and was completely disappointed. Perhaps the piece was a bit large (though it didn't seem stuck in the container). Instead of being sliced and diced in a matter of seconds, the end facing the blade seemed a little chewed up, but that was about it. Now, I did try a few cloves of garlic, but it was a case of all or nothing - either full cloves, or a very find mince. (Had I not been pulsing the unit, it would probably have turned into garlic mush.)
So, if you like smoothies or need other blending jobs where dealing with a large container and heavy base unit doesn't sound good, then by all means check the Magic Bullet - the Platinum Pro runs $139.99 (including tax and shipping) with the two blending containers, four container/cups, blending bases, motor unit, and so on. It also seems to be avaiable various places on the web for about $60. But if you need to chop, forget this device, as it cannot "easily take the place of any food processor."
Monday, January 14, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (1/14/08)
- The Chilly Diet A Japanese mountain climber who got lost in the wild survived on snow for a week. (Reuters)
- Thanks for Dinner A New Zealand crook talked his way into a Canadian family's hotel room, leaving with their valuables - after running up a food and drink tab. (AP)
- Strong Drink, Not Strong Talk St. Charles, MO may pass a bill that would forbid swearing in bars. Next step - no getting wet in pools and no reading in libraries. (AP)
- Demon Electric Ovens A roast duck chain in China has drawn criticism for switching from wood-burning ovens to electric - and re-branding itself in English. (Reuters)
- Food Fight Informers Columbia, MD school officials got an earful - figuratively - for offering a $30 reward to get students to squeal on whoever started a food fight. (AP)
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Review: Amherst Coffee
I ordered a latte and was almost dumbfounded by how good it was. The crema and general mix was much darker than I'm used to. Reading the web site gives one clue: triple ristretto shots in all their espresso drinks. If the term isn't familiar, a ristretto is a concentrated espresso, using half the water of a normal espresso shot, but the same amount of coffee. ironically, in Italian, the word means restricted, but the process opens up intense new venues of flavor. I also found the small latte to contain far less milk than I'm used to having or using. As a result, the drink is darker and more intense, only without the pure edge that espresso alone can give. I liken it to the difference between drinking a good whiskey neat and cut with some water. The latter removes some of the burn of the alcohol, allowing you to taste the flavors more than you might otherwise.
This morning I got closer to what they had by packing the ground espresso more tightly than I usually do and running the water for about 25 to 30 seconds. I used at most half the milk, and the result was closer. But I'm going to try this with the ristretto and see if I can duplicate the results. And if you want some pointers on making espresso, Home-Barista.com is a site I just came across.
And before I forget, if you get to Amherst Coffee, see if they have a pastry they call a snail. This deceptively simply snack is a strip of puff pastry, covered in honey and poppy seeds, rolled, topped with more seeds, and baked. It's lovely, with a deep flavor that grows on you.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
SaltWorks Rears Its Salty Head About Fusion Salt Comments
I am so happy to know that you have the time to create your own spice blend ...Actually, it's called using herbs and spices with food - otherwise known as cooking.
...and flavored salts.Why the hell would I want flavored salt? I have my choice of regular table, kosher, and various sea salts, depending on the effect I want. But why flavored? It's like saying that if I want to use cilantro, I should use cilantro-flavored basil instead of using the cilantro itself. Or both if I want that.
Most professional chefs and home cooks don’t have the time to source the finest flavors and ingredients and develop them into a unique finishing salts and spice blends.And that's why they buy ingredients, herbs, spices, and salts from companies that do have the time to get them. You might be surprised at the wide variety of ingredients that is readily available these days. That is called making life more convenient.
Fusion sea salts are not for every day use.You mean I don't have to use them every day? Thank heavens for small favors.
They are gourmet.Just like McDonalds new Arch Bistro restaurant concept is supposed to be "gourmet" casual?
These salts were created for people and professionals that want to add a little something extra to a dish.And here I thought they were created to rationalize another way to sell salt. If you want something extra in a dish, like mushrooms, you could - who'd have thought it? - add mushrooms.
I am quite sure that it is easier for you to criticize our product than to create one yourself.I promise, if I can come up with an idea that sounds as silly, I'll get right on turning it into a product.
I am sorry that we cannot count on you as a potential customer but we will just have to count on our 100k current customers to pull us through.Do you share your customer list with McDonalds?
Maybe you could share with your readers how they could make these salts at home so that they don’t have to by ours.I'll go one better - add sea salt, and then add either red wine, or mushrooms, or truffle oil, or espresso (instant espresso actually works well in baking), or any other flavor you'd like in the dish. That way you can skip the R&D and skip handing extra money - and skip the extra sodium you'd get by relying on flavored salts to provide the range of tastes you want in a dish. Oh, and a small point: I think you meant buy, not by. Unless you meant bye.
While you are at it why don’t you explain to them why it is one of the top ten food trends in the US for 2008.Given that your press release said that the product was being introduced in a food show that hadn't yet happened, it's remarkable that you achieved this miracle. Maybe you just used the sales flavored salt.
Regards, Mark Zoske, CEO – SaltWorks, Inc.Here's a hint - if you're in business, going on the warpath is usually bad public relations. And if you're trying to be sarcastic, do try to get above the "Oh, yeah?" tone. Hope the salt doesn't taste as flat.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
What is this mania companies have for assuming that people cannot - or should not - add any ingredients other than theirs? What's next? Chicken-flavored salt? Hold the dish, just add salt. Hmm, tastes just like ...
Monday, January 07, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (1/7/08)
- Please, Sir, Could I Have Some More? Two Louisiana men say they've been banned from an all-you-can-eat restaurant because of the definition of the world all. (AP)
- No Kids at Mouse King's Table Walt Disney World has banned kids from its fanciest restaurant. But with prices starting at $125 a person, the chicken fingers would seem a tad steep.(AP)
- Wing of Fire A Chicago restaurant is coating a special chicken wing appetizer in one of the hottest peppers available - the Red Savina. Customers have to sign a waiver before embarking on the culinary journey. (Reuters)
- Round They Go The Chinese quality agency has said that its recent standard for mantou, a cheap streeet food, as having to be perfectly round does not have the force of law. Vendors are rejoicing that their mantou carts do not have to become pi stands. (Reuters)
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Death of a Pizza Legend
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Site Review: Rameniac.com
There are reviews of ramen shops in the US, in Japan, and even reviews of the packaged stuff. Apparently Wong is planning to spend his next vacation bicycling across Japan, eating ramen. You may not be that into the dish - whether you call it ramen or pho, as the Vietnamese do - noodle soup is fabulous (and there's a very pleasant restaurant called Pho in Amherst, Mass serving it). Looking at the words of an aficionado is a good way to pick up tips on making something yourself.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Long and Slow in a Winter Mo
A second recipe is one that I first say in a James Villas book - a real potato gratin. Now there are apparently as many recipes for this dish as there are households in France, with each region having an overall approach that, of course, is the "correct" one. Some have cheese; some don't. Some use milk; some, cream. I take a 2 quart casserole dish, cut a clove of garlic open, and rub the inside of the dish with the cut faces. Using about 3 to 5 potatoes, depending on their size, I peel them and then slice each lengthwise to get pieces only 1/16th of an inch thick. I law a lawyer or two of potato slices in the dish, sprinkle them with a bit of salt and pepper, and then add some more layers. About halfway through, I dot the surface with butter, then add more layers. Give yourself at least half an inch at the top.
Now, mix some light cream and milk (or just light cream, if you prefer) in equal proportions, heat in a pot on the stove, and then pour the liquid into the casserole dish. You need just enough to come even with the top of the potatoes. Dot the top with butter, and then bake for at least 2.5 to 3 hours at 250 degrees. You'll know it's done when you have a brown crust on top. The effect is really cheesy, except without any cheese. This is a big favorite not only at our house, but when we're asked to contribute a dish to a supper cooked by people who've had the gratin at our house.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (12/31/07)
- Cranky Legacy A regular cantankerous customer at a cafeteria left $50K and a car to a worker at the establishment after complaining and cursing around her for seven years. (AP)
- Competitive Lazy Snacking ESPN is hosting the ultimate couch potato competition in Times Square today. Contestants watch continuous sports on large TVs and can have unlimiated snacks and drinks, though no nodding off, and bathroom breaks only once every eight hours. (AP)
- A Baby With That? A teen worker at a Vancouver, WA McDonalds gave birth while on the job - while convinced that she wasn't pregnant. (Internet Broadcasting)
- Purple Pearl Diners at a raw bar supposedly found a rare purple pearl, possible worth thousands, in a $10 plate of clams. Who knew that you could find a pearl in a clam? (AP)