Monday, December 4, 2017

Cookbooks, Food Magazines and Recipes

I have been cooking for more years than I care to remember.  I began cooking at an early age, since my mother viewed cooking as a chore rather than a labor of love.   I enjoy cooking and that special time with my granddaughter teaching her the basics of cooking.

Cookbooks

Today, I draw most of my inspiration from the many wonderful food magazines that are published monthly.  The food photography is simply mouth-watering. Magazines like Bon Appetit, Food and Wine and Saveur often have two or three recipes worth trying each edition.

To keep in touch with the latest cooking “science,” I subscribe to Cooking Illustrated, but recently I have switched to Chris Kimball’s Milk Street since I believe it offers more a greater variety of international flavors.

Like many amateur chefs, I kept favorite recipes on note cards and clipped recipes from newspapers and magazines and dropped them into an organizer file.  Needless to say, I never could put my finger on the “right” recipe and my kids (and now grandchildren) insist that I make the soup or cake exactly the same way that I had done many years ago.

At my husband’s insistence, I have now begun to organize my recipes into a loose-leaf binder organized by category.  Each recipe is now covered by an acrylic protector.

I am thrilled that Americans are once again discovering the joy of cooking.  In particular, families across the country are finding that the taste of natural foods is worth spending a few minutes around the table without cellphones.  I am most grateful that civilized dining is making a comeback.  If you would like to learn more about changing foods, read some of my last year’s blog posts about “why your food doesn’t taste like your mothers?”:

Not as Tasty as Your Mother’s Food? – Part 1

Heirloom Tomatoes: Not as Tasty as Mother’s? Part 2

Water: Why your Food Tastes Different than Your Mother’s – Part 3

Cured Pork: Why Your Food Doesn’t Take Like Mama’s – Part 4

Personally, I would rather try something “new” but some of the “old” cooking techniques seem never to go out of style.   For that reason, I still refer to some of my trusted cookbooks.  At my husband’s suggestion, I have links below to get a list of my five favorite “go-to” cookbooks and my 8 favorite kitchen utensils that make great stocking stuffers.

5 Favorite Cookbooks
Favorite Cookbooks Favorite Utensils

Whatever you plan to do this holiday season, cook with “gusto.”

 

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Gyeran Jjim Korean Breakfast Eggs from Anson Mills

We subscribe to the Anson Mills’ blog and I suggest you might want to also!   Anson Mills is the brainchild of Glenn Roberts, who has the visionary goal of restoring forgotten heirloom organic grains to the American diet.  If the rice, cornbread or grits don’t taste quite the same way they did when your Grandmother made them, you might want think about ordering the same organic grains that Anson Mills and supportive farmers are now growing.  Thank you Anson Mills!

I have provided a link to the Anson Mills’ online store.    Most everything for sale is wonderful, but if you are a loss at where to start, I would probably order the Carolina Gold Rice and Sea Island Red Peas to start.   If Anson Mills doesn’t get you off factory-processed grains, nothing will.

Gyeran Jjim for Anson Mills

Found below is a wonderful recipe for Korean eggs, Gyeran Jjim that recently arrived in my email box.  If this doesn’t get you inspired for really tasteful food, nothing will.  I have quoted the recipe in it’s entirety.

“The quality of the eggs is central to the outcome of this dish, and we don’t mean gauging age by the sell-by or even the Julian date. We mean eggs from nearby chickens that have never met refrigeration. Given the number of households raising chickens for eggs (hey, Brooklyn!), it can’t be that much of a stretch. Homemade chicken stock is also essential.

“There are all manner of recipes afoot for Gyeran Jjim. Cook the eggs over direct heat and give them a stir or two and the results are a fluffy, soft, tofu-like curd suspended in chicken stock. Delicious, no question, but more elegant we think is the pure custard that results when the eggs are steamed in a double boiler.

“Rig a double boiler by choosing an attractive 1-quart bowl that fits snugly into a medium saucepan. This way, after steaming the eggs you have an automatic serving vessel.

“Rather than cook the eggs in a double boiler, you can try a bain marie and a traditional Korean cooking vessel. Pour the mixture into a 1-quart (or 6½-inch) ddukbaegi, or Korean earthenware pot (that doubles as a serving bowl), ideally one with a lid. Place a folding steamer basket in a large Dutch oven, set the egg-filled ddukbaegi on the steamer, and pour enough water into the Dutch oven to come up about one-third of the way up the sides up ddukbaegi. Be sure to cover both the inner and outer pots. Keep the water at a very gentle simmer throughout cooking (the cooking time is the same as in the recipe below).

“For this recipe, you will need a small saucepan, a 1-quart liquid measuring cup, a large bowl, a whisk, a mesh strainer, a 1-quart heatproof ceramic bowl that fits snugly on top of a medium saucepan, and a medium saucepan.”

Gyeran Jjim Recipe from Anson Mills

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 2 cups Rich Homemade Chicken Stock  
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt  
  • 5 large eggs  
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce  
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce  
  • ½ teaspoon Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru), plus additional for garnish
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed  
  • 1 recipe No-Peek Carolina Gold Rice Middlins, freshly cooked and hot  
  • Toasted sesame oil, for garnish  
  • Mak Kimchi, for serving

Preparation

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Pour 1½ cups of the stock into a 1-quart liquid measuring cup. Cover the pan and set aside.  
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Slowly whisk the 1½ cups of hot chicken stock into the eggs, and then set a mesh strainer over the empty measuring cup. Pour the egg mixture through the strainer to remove any lumps. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Chop half of the scallions and stir them into the egg mixture, and then pour the mixture into a 1-quart heatproof ceramic bowl that fits snugly on top of a medium saucepan. Fill the saucepan with 2 to 3 inches of water and set the bowl on top. Cover the bowl with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil and set the pan over high heat. As soon as you hear the water bubbling, reduce the heat to keep a simmer, but no higher. Cook until the custard is shiny, slightly “poofed,” and slightly jiggly but a paring knife inserted in the center tests clean, about 20 minutes.  
  3. Carefully remove the saucepan from the heat, uncover the bowl, and let the custard rest over the water bath for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, warm the reserved chicken stock over medium heat until hot. Chop the remaining scallions.  
  4. To serve, portion the hot rice middlins into 4 individual bowls. Spoon Gyeran Jjim over the rice and ladle a tablespoon or two of the hot stock into each bowl. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and additional red pepper flakes and drizzle each portion with 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Pass kimchi separately.

While this is a bit of a complicated recipe to prepare,  we love it.  And a special thanks to the folks at Anson Mills for making eating pleasurable again.

 

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Recipe for Cherry Snowball Cookies

I have been told by a precocious elf that Santa likes a whiskey (single malt please!) and a plate of “Cherry Snowball Cookies” after travelling all night downwind behind a team of reindeer. While a malt whiskey has always been served to Santa at our house, the Cherry Snowball Cookie is a relatively new addition.

Snow Cherry Cookies from Penzy'sSome years ago, we were served some delicious cherry snowball cookies with Luxardo cherries and I have been hooked.  Educated chefs tend to opt for Luxardo cherries, which are actually the “original” Italian maraschino cherry before some mad scientist decided to add more sugar and artificial coloring.   Sadly, Luxardo cherries are often difficult to find in most supermarkets so we now buy ours on Amazon.

In any event, the recipe below uses Luxardo cherries and we strongly recommend that you incorporate them into your Snowball Cookie so Santa won’t be disappointed.  Without further ado, the recipe for Cherry Snowball Cookies from Elizabeth Morris (Toronto) that was published some time ago in a Penzey’s Catalogue

Cherry Snowball Cookies

Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 dozen)

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond paste
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (about 30) pitted Luxardo cherries, drained
  • 2 cups coarse decorating sugar (also purchased on Amazon)

Preparation

Heat the oven to 350º.  Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Using a hand mixer, beat butter and confectioners sugar in another bowl until fluffy. Mix in almond paste, vanilla and egg.  Slowly add dry ingredients until dough forms.

Roll dough into thirty 1-oz balls.  Working with 1 ball at a time, press thumb into dough and place a cherry in the center.  Roll dough into a ball encasing the cherry.

Roll cookies in decorating sugar and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.  Let cookies cool completely.

Santa will thank you as he loosens another button in his red outfit.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Chicken Broth: Better than a Flu Shot?

During the fall season, there is a “big” push by pharmaceutical companies to encourage you to get your FREE flu shot. Is this simply an promotional effort by the pharmaceutical companies and big government to encourage Americans to restock their medicine chests for the cold winter?

While I (Rick) resisted the FREEBIE for many years, my wife Sheila thinks differently and has convinced me to queue at Town Hall each year for my friendly dose. Personally, I prefer the old-fashioned remedy: Chicken broth.

Organic Chicken Broth

Ingredients

  • Carcass of an organic chicken,
  • A carrot cut in three large pieces;
  • A stock of celery cut in three or more large pieces;
  • Half of an onion cut in a couple of large pieces,
  • A sprig of thyme,
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation (makes a 1 1/2 to 2 cups)

  1. Most people can get about four servings from a roasted chicken. For broth, simply strip the chicken meat from the carcass and break down the carcass so that it will easily fit into a large sauce pan;
  2. Cover the carcass in cold water, add the carrot, celery, onion and thyme and bring to a boil;
  3. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer uncovered for about an hour or so until most of the meat is off the carcass;
  4. Strain the broth through cheesecloth or a very fine wire mesh strainer and discard the carcass and veggies.

Join fellow gourmands for other healthy recipes and the joys of a Mediterranean diet.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Rigatoni with White Bolognese from Amanda Hesser

Found below is a delightful recipe for “Rigatoni for White Bolognese,” by Amanda Hesser featuring Gourmet Living’s premium cut dried porcini mushrooms.  Ms. Hesser’s recipe was recently published in the New York Times.

Gourmet Living porcini mushrooms

I have long been a great fan of Ms. Hesser after tasting her delicious Shar-Pei Almond Cake that was first published in Cooking for Mr. Latte.  An excerpt of my old blog post (with the recipe) is reprinted below:

“Hands-down, my favorite almond cake is from Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte.  Actually, Ms. Hesser lifted the recipe from Elizabeth, the mother of “Mr. Latte,” (who must be all right) for shortly after marrying him she left writing a food column for the New York Times.  In any event, the following recipe for Almond Cake is “adapted from Elizabeth” and was published many moons ago in the New York Times magazine.   A word of warning:  This cake caves in on itself while cooking and often resembles the face of the delightful Shar-Pei dog.”

While I would like to tell you that I am cutting back on the carbs, the fact that I am eating rigatoni with “heavy cream” suggests otherwise.  In any event, this is a delicious recipe where a call for second helping is almost a certainty.

Rigatoni for White Bolognese

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 generously)

  • Extra virgin olive oil (from Gourmet Living, of course!)
  • ½ sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound mild Italian pork sausage meat, removed from casings
  • 1 pound ground beef (not lean)
  • 1 ½ cups dry Italian white wine
  • 1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 2 cups simmering water
  • 1 ½ ounces of Gourmet Living’s dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated in 3 cups lukewarm water
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

PREPARATION

  1. Add enough oil to a large, deep sauté pan to coat the base and place over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrots and celery and sauté until glassy and just tender, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the sausage and beef to the pan, breaking it into walnut-size pieces, and brown well.
  2. Pour in the wine and keep at a rapid simmer until the pan is almost dry. Then pour in 1 1/2 cups beef bouillon and lower the heat to medium. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the bouillon is nearly gone, stirring now and then. Meanwhile, chop the rehydrated porcini into small pieces, reserving the liquid.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add mushroom liquid to the sauce to cover the meat halfway (about 1 cup) along with the porcini and continue simmering until the sauce is loose but not soupy, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper; it should be highly seasoned. When the consistency is right, fold the cream in. Remove from the heat and cover.
  4. When the pasta water is at a full boil, add the rigatoni and cook until still firm, but not hard, in the center. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Pour the pasta sauce on top and fold in with a wooden spoon. The pasta should not be dry. Add a little pasta water or mushroom liquid to loosen it. (It will continue to soak up sauce on the way to the table.) Serve in one large bowl or in individual bowls, passing the cheese at the table.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.  This recipe is delicious, particularly for those who need a “carb fix!”

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Choosing the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Gourmet Living sells extra virgin olive oil under its own label.   Our products are sourced and bottled in Spain, Italy and California.

Sadly, most “extra virgin olive oil” sold in the United States and many other countries does not meet the standards adopted by the International Olive Council (“IOC”).

While olive oil “blends” are perfectly acceptable under IOC standards, unscrupulous companies misuse the “standards” and lax controls to misrepresent their product to the consumer.

While there is no right answer in choosing the “best” olive oil for you, the video below helps explain some of the key elements in choosing one where the quality and price point suit your palette.

Remember that olive oil is a juice. Like wine, the taste of olive oil is dependent on the olive variety, when it was harvested, soil and climatic conditions and how (and when) the olive was pressed, filtered and bottled.

I like olive oil with a little personality and prefer oils with a fruitiness and peppery aftertaste. Nevertheless, a reviewer of one of our products suggested that the olive oil had a “green” taste.  Personally, I prefer to experience the “taste” and “aroma” of the olive in the oil, but others may be looking for something less fruity.

There are no “right” answers in choosing an olive oil, which is why we suggest choosing several varieties and make up your own mind. Found below are three distinct olive oils that we regularly use in our cooking.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany, California and Spain

We tend to use the California Picual for quickly sauteing pork and chicken, the Tuscan blend for vegetables and pasta and the Spanish Arbequina for salads. Of the three, the Arbequina tends to have a slightly more elevated flavor profile generally preferred by Europeans.

Like wine, each olive oil has its own distinct flavor profile. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

To learn more, consult Gourmet Living’s FAQ on olive oil.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Is Olive Oil Better Than Butter for Scrambled Eggs?

In a provocative article entitled “Why the French Can’t Scramble Eggs!”, Christopher Kimballs Milk Street cites the science that olive oil makes puffier scrambled eggs.

scrambled egg

To make a long story short (page 3 in the Fall, 2016 magazine), Milk Street’s talented chefs and scientists have determined that olive “oil gets hotter  faster than butter because butter is 20% water.”

Milk Street cooks argue that eggs cooked in olive oil reach the “scramble” temperature (around 160º) faster than butter which produces more steam “and the protein network traps that steam  . . . to produce quicker, bigger puffs and more impressive scrambled eggs.”

The article goes on to suggest that one should use 1 tablespoon of olive oil for two eggs in an 8 or 9 inch skillet.  Allow the oil to warm slowly over medium heat until it just begins to smoke (very important).  Pour the lightly beaten eggs into the center of the skillet which pushes the oil to the perimeter and cooks the edges of the eggs first.

Stir immediately and begin to fold.  It should take 30 seconds or so for a soft scramble.  Allow the scrambled eggs to rest on a warm plate for another 30 seconds before serving.  The eggs finish cooking off the heat.

Now, I am quite sure the French will disagree with the assertion that olive oil is better than butter for making scrambled eggs, but I am happy with the science and strongly endorse using extra virgin olive oil – rather than butter – for healthy cooking.

Frankly, I would suggest Gourmet Living’s California Picual or Tuscan blend to cook your fluffy scrambled eggs.  We do!

tuscan blend evoo and CA extra virgin olive oil

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