Monday, October 31, 2005 

Mexicans have the hots for instant ramen

By Marla Dickerson,
Los Angeles Times

My co-workers eat this stuff almost every day. It's a staple in this office, as well as in Mexico, as the article confirms.

Among the reasons for the popularity of the noodles in Mexico, the cost and the speed of preparation. However for some, the popularity of this item is a slap in the face to traditional mexican cuisine, as the natives of that country take great pride in their food.

That's a profane act for some Mexicans whose relationship with food is so sacred that their ancestors believed humankind was descended from corn.

Food here is history. It is religion. It is patrimony. Ask anyone who has savored such delights as ''chiles en nogada," poblano chilies stuffed with spiced pork and topped with creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds to replicate the green, white, and red colors of the Mexican flag.

It's also passion. In Laura Esquivel's popular novel ''Like Water for Chocolate," the sensuous alchemy of Mexican cooking unleashes a family's ravenous desires.

Small wonder that defenders of the nation's cuisine, such as Gloria Lopez Morales, an official with Mexico's National Council for Culture and Arts, are appalled that Mexican palates have been seduced by this ramen import.

It is also contributing to the growing number of weight problems in the country.
'It's cheap energy," said Dr. Gustavo Acosta Altamirano, a nutrition specialist at Juarez Hospital in Mexico City, of the nation's growing addiction to soft drinks, sugary snacks, and starchy foods such as ramen noodles. ''But it's making us fat."

Friday, October 28, 2005 

The Case of the Orange-Honey Chicken

BY Linda Cicero
Miami Herald Columnist

The case: Find a recipe for Orange Honey Chicken published in the Herald prior to the Internet age and earlier than the paper's online archives go back to.

The search turned up 80 year old Libby Strauss, who wrote food articles for the paper back in the 1970's. She has led quite a life outside the kitchen.
She traveled the state for 24 years as a fund raiser for Brandeis University, was active in the civil rights and Vietnam-era anti-war movements and was the Florida office coordinator for George McGovern's 1972 presidential bid. When the Democratic Convention brought them to Miami Beach that summer, his family and staff were so taken with her cooking that she became McGovern's campaign chef and hostess.
Oh yeah, they also found the receipe for the Orange-Honey Chicken.

2 eggs

1 cup matzoh meal

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

4 tablespoons oil

2 (3- to 3 ½-pound) broiler-fryer chickens, each cut into 8 serving pieces

1 cup hot water

1 cup honey

1 (6-ounce) can orange juice concentrate, thawed

2 oranges, sliced thin

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs with 2 tablespoons water in a shallow dish. In a second shallow dish, mix matzoh meal, salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, dip the chicken pieces in the egg mixture and roll them in the seasoned meal. Working in batches, brown the pieces in the hot oil until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a roasting pan.

Mix the hot water, honey and orange concentrate, and pour over the chicken. Cover the roasting pan and bake 25 minutes. Uncover the pan, baste the chicken with the pan juices and arrange the orange slices on top. Bake, uncovered, 20 more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. The sauce will thicken and the chicken will take on a lovely honey-brown color. Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, October 27, 2005 

Can you pair Japanese with Wine?

Matchmaking, Japanese-style
Consider ingredients and seasonings in pairing wine with Japanese food
By Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune.
When it comes to Asian food, especially Japanese, too many wine lovers give up and order tea, beer, sake or some wild vodka-infused "martini." That's because conventional wisdom has it that wine and Asian foods don't get along. Well, break out the Champagne--they can and do, especially the bubbly.

Ably dispelling that misguided notion is "Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers" (Kodansha America, $25), by Machiko Chiba, an author and teacher based in New York, with wine pairings from J.K. Whelehan, a Tokyo-based wine authority. This is more than just a cookbook, despite the extensive collection of recipes. It offers an unique and in-depth glimpse into how a professional works wine and food together to create the perfect match.
We then get some ideas for pairing various Japanese foods with wine.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 

Boneless Perhaps Not Better?

Closer to the Bone

Bones themselves comprise mostly flavorless calcium. It's the fat, collagen and gelatin inside and between the bones that are magnificent carriers of flavor.

"When a dish is cooked with the bones, it literally slides across
your tongue more slowly," Ms. McLagan said. "It tastes better, but also longer, and more."

James Peterson is a cooking instructor and the author of
definitive tomes on soups and sauces. In the French tradition, both take their
fundamental flavors from stock. "You can get good flavor without bones, but the
mouth-feel you get from bones and cartilage is an important component of a dish
- more important than many cooks realize," he said.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 

Say 'bye' to boring veggies

By Wolfgang Puck.
Copyright 2005 Chicago Tribune Media Services, Inc

The first step in making vegetables more exciting is to start with an exciting vegetable. That's why I like broccoli rabe. Also known as rapini, this traditional Italian vegetable--available in well-stocked supermarkets and ethnic grocers, and abundant at this time of year--has an assertive, pleasantly bitter flavor and deep green color. Its edible stems and tiny florets resemble a very skinny version of its much more widespread (and, to me, less interesting) cousin, broccoli.

To enjoy broccoli rabe at its best, you've got to cook it quickly, so it retains some of its crunch and bright color. In Asian kitchens, where it's also popular, you'll sometimes find it stir-fried with a little garlic and crushed chili flakes, or briefly steamed and doused with soy sauce and sesame oil.
He goes on to tell more about how best to prepare this vegetable.

Monday, October 24, 2005 

How to deglaze

...And no, we're not talking about reviving after your eyes glazed over after yet another Monday morning meeting...

Simple deglazing makes elegant sauce
By Karen Fernau, Arizona Republic.

Seven steps are listed in this simple article after which you will have created a tasty, elegant sauce to go with your chicken, steak or fish.

This actually comes in handy, as I was looking to do this very thing for dinner tonight. I'm looking to make over my dinners a bit with less red meat and more chicken and fish with vegetables.

Friday, October 21, 2005 

Wining and dining in the kitchen

A trio of pieces from the Boston Globe this week:
If you're like us, a bottle with a few inches of wine still left in it gets recorked and returned to the fridge. But instead of letting that lonely bottle hide behind the week's groceries, we retrieve it within a couple of days. As a cooking ingredient, that bit of wine adds aroma and luxury to ordinary weeknight fare.
Read complete piece

Also from the same paper:

When it comes to wine, cheap (what the trade calls 'plonk') no longer means undrinkable. We tasted 25 whites and 25 reds -- each bottle $10 or under -- and picked our favorite everday pours.
50 flavorful, affordable wines - All under $10 a bottle.

Interestingly there are only three domestic wines listed - Two from Washington State and one from California.

Thursday, October 20, 2005 

California olive oil claims a rich heritage

By Jacqueline Higuera McMahan, San Francisco Chronicle.

The first trees planted in California (specifically, San Diego) were olive trees. The Mission padres used olive oil as lamp oil and for the sacrament of anointing the sick.

It should be noted that olive oil was one of the first ingredients to dominate the original California cuisine. In the beginning, settlers didn't have enough cattle for suet or enough pigs for lard but they had olive oil.

Availability may have determined the Californian affinity for olive oil as opposed to the Mexican affinity for lard. It gained an early foothold before people who preferred butter moved to California

Wednesday, October 19, 2005 

Rachael Ray and Victor Palencia

Newspaper food sections are hit or miss. For the last couple months, I've felt that the sections around the country were in a bit of slump. A look at the articles today from all those same sections reveal a number of enjoyable, helpful and informative articles.

Today we're going to look at a pair of profiles from the New York Times.

Kim Severson has a lengthy feature on Foot Network star Rachael Ray. The article chronicles her rise to fame and the many projects she's got going on while her incredible empire continues to grow. While the piece acknowledges that many "gourmets" around the country turn their nose up at Ms. Ray and her techniques and mannerisms, be assured that I most certainly do not.

Timothy Egan has a profile of winemaking prodigy Victor Palencia, who at the age of 20, cannot even legally consume the wine that he is being paid to develop and cultivate. While admitting that he has to taste the product, he says that his age has forced him to develop a very keen nose for wine, which has given him a step up on many others in the industry.

I recommend you take a little time to read each of these articles. They're well done.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 

Chefs Transform the Unlovable Rutabaga

By Walter Nicholls
Washington Post Staff Writer

Is the Rutabaga your idea of gourmet food?

"You must erase your childhood memories. Rutabagas are fabulous, with terrific color and a flavor that no one can quite place," says chef and co-owner Patrick O'Connell, who also makes rutabaga gnocchi and rutabaga gratin and pairs rutabaga puree with loin of rabbit. "Buy a 100-pound bag of rutabagas. You'll never regret it," says O'Connell.
Advanced Rutabaga Studies Institute - Mentioned in Article.

Monday, October 17, 2005 

Thanks, Chicago!

From the Chicago Tribune, here are 10 food icons which owe their roots to the Windy City:
  1. The Frango mint
  2. Kraft Dinner (Mac & Cheese)
  3. The Chicago dog
  4. Wrigley gum
  5. Italian beef sandwich
  6. The Twinkie
  7. Quaker Oats
  8. Cracker Jack
  9. Deep-dish pizza
  10. Eli's Cheesecake
complete article

Saturday, October 15, 2005 

Kelly's Roast Beef

A New England Institution.

This was a "small" sandwhich and "small" fries.

Friday, October 14, 2005 

Is Kobe Beef Worth the Price?

Truly, madly moonstruck

  • Chefs and diners are paying a fortune for Kobe beef, the marvelously marbled Japanese-style delicacy. But is it worth the price?

  • By Russ Parsons, Times Staff Writer

    The first thing you notice about wagyu is the marbling, the thin veins of fat running through the muscle. There is so much marbling in a good cut that it makes even Prime meat look lean. In this case, appearances are not deceiving; while Prime beef carcasses average about 8% fat, some wagyu goes 20% and even more.

    The fat has a different consistency too. It is higher than other beef in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, so it is softer at room temperature and it has a "clean" taste — it doesn't coat your mouth the way most beef fat does.

    That chuck steak from Mitsuwa, normally a tough cut that should be braised, was so well-marbled that it grilled up with the slightly chewy texture and deep flavor of a good New York strip.

    But it's not just the fat: Even a lean tri-tip from Vicente Market had a buttery texture and an amazing depth of flavor — good wagyu tastes like the concentrated essence of beef.

    Obviously this meat is not intended to be an everyday thing, but as a very occasional splurge for real beef lovers, it is definitely worth the high price. It is as different from run of the mill beef as a great Burgundy is from Two-Buck Chuck. And because the flavor is so rich, a little bit of it goes a long way.
    Sign me up!

    Thursday, October 13, 2005 

    How to kick back, relax and have fun entertaining

    Morgan Barnes, Special to The San Francisco Chronicle

    It's actually a review of Pam Anderson's "Perfect Recipes for Having People Over"

    Some pointers from the book:
    We should actually stop "entertaining." The word implies a fancy meal, with trips to different stores for special ingredients, flowers and wine. When we entertain, we have to scrub the house, iron the table linens, polish the silver and glasses -- everything has to be perfect. By the time the first guest arrives, we are exhausted and in no mood to have fun.

    On the other hand, when we simply "have people over," the focus is on our friends and family enjoying a meal together. It ultimately becomes a much more pleasant experience.

    There are plenty of tips for planning your meals, having things on hand that can be reheated and made quickly and still taste fresh. It's all about keeping your life simply and uncluttered.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005 

    Which are 'the no-fry' fries?

    (Click on Picture for article)

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005 

    The Secret Life of a Food Critic

    Sure, it's a fun job. But when an owner threatens to get a gun because of my review, that's not so fun.

    By Alison Arnett

    Questions Alison answers in this article:

    • First things first: How do you eat out two or three or four or five times a week and not get fat?
    • Be honest. Do you just stuff your face and write whatever strikes you?
    • Who pays for the meals, and do you wear disguises?
    • What's changed in Boston's dining scene over the years?
    • Anyone ever get angry about a bad review?
    • What's the best meal you've ever eaten? And the worst?
    • Did your resume just say "I like to eat," and you got the job?
    An interesting read all around...

    Friday, October 07, 2005 

    Nigella walks you through Chocolate Banana Cake

    Follow Directions and It's Cake
    by Nigella Lawson in the New York Times

    A little taste of what is involved in making this cake:

    I sometimes think sour cream is the baker's secret weapon. A dollop in a batter or a cake mix seems to ensure a tender crumb and melting texture. That's why I feel first-time cake makers should start with this chocolate banana cake. It requires no "creaming," and no rigorous mixing.

    Yes, you must mash the bananas, and they must be very ripe, but I always seem to have some blackening bananas in the kitchen and I am grateful to use them up.

    The cake is made by melting and then mixing the ingredients in a saucepan before pouring them in a cake tin. For a gorgeous frosting, melt chopped chocolate, cream and a little corn syrup in a pan before pouring it over the cake.

    Intrigued? Here's the recipe.

    Thursday, October 06, 2005 

    Real Ragu

    By Geoff Dougherty Chicago Tribune staff reporter

    A search for the definitive pasta sauce uncovers a singular truth: There are as many versions as there are Bolognese people.

    In the stainless-steel kitchen of a modern building that towers over Michigan Avenue, Spiaggia chef Tony Mantuano bends over the stove, engaged in a ritual that has occupied Italian grandmothers for centuries. He's smelling the ground meat, onions, celery and carrot that are the start of a ragu alla bolognese, the king of Italian pasta sauces.

    "This is about purity and simplicity, " Mantuano said. "You want to get slow-cooked vegetables. That's where you get the flavor."

    It was that wonderful flavor that drove me, on a recent trip to Italy, in search of the secret to a perfect ragu.

    By the end of a weeklong pasta-fueled journey, I had yet to exhaust my enthusiasm for bolognese sauce. The secret proved elusive, however. There is no single "correct" way of cooking ragu, or meat sauce. And Italian cooks still argue heatedly over the ingredients and methods involved in making this classic dish.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005 

    Quick cooking - Which magazines offer the best solutions?

    By Tara Duggan, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

    The crazed schedules of working people and busy families just don't allow for the time it takes to do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning that gourmet cooking requires, especially on weeknights. In response, most cooking magazines now have quick-cooking columns tucked in the back, after pages and pages of elaborate recipe spreads.

    A few newer magazines devote themselves completely to the art of seemingly effortless cooking, such as Everyday Food from Martha Stewart's team, and Every Day with Rachael Ray from the Food Network's perky speed-cooking expert, which is set to debut this month. They promise what sounds like the impossible: a great-tasting dinner made with fresh ingredients that's ready before the kids start getting really whiny.

    But do they work? Do they deliver on their promises?

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005 

    Popped vs. Unpopped...Popcorn.

    A reader to the Washington Post writes in after noticing that the Nutritional Label on Popcorn lists out information for the corn both popped and unpopped. There is a difference. She wants to know why.

    Robert L Wolke answers her question and a couple others, including a reader who believes there is antifreeze and brake fluid in her child's Alpa Bits cereal.

    Interesting chemistry lessons about food.

    Monday, October 03, 2005 

    Rolland speaks out against Mondovino

    During summer, I reviewed the movie Mondovino, which takes a broad look at the wine industry around the World.

    One of the main figures in the movie is Michel Rolland, who is portrayed as going from winery to winery and dispensing the same general advice under a cloud of laughter and cigarette smoke.

    Rolland apparently didn't like how he was portrayed in the movie, as he is quoted in an article by Stephen Meuse in the Boston Globe last week:

    The image is one Rolland and his supporters dismiss as a grotesque caricature. ''This movie is so stupid," Rolland says. ''I do smoke and use a cellphone, but the only reason I was in the back of the car instead of the front was so that Nossiter could photograph me.

    ''The wines I make are not getting their personality from me," he continues. ''They don't get their minerality from me. You can only work with the components on the table."