Friday, December 29, 2017
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
My husband has a nasty cold, so I decided to prepare my world-famous “Get Better Soup.” Actually, it is not my “Get Better Soup,” This winter soup recipe was published in the New York Times some time ago by Marian Burros.
You are looking at between 8 to 20 garlic cloves so please make sure you stay well downwind of your sick patient. Actually, cooked garlic doesn’t smell all that bad. This soup is guaranteed to give you a sharp kick in the backside to help speed your recovery.
Get Better Soup
- 6 cups rich turkey or chicken stock
- 2 HEADS of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
- 4 to 6 small fresh jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped, or less if desired
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pepper Jack cheese
- Combine the stock, garlic, jalapenos and herbs in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the garlic is very soft, about 30 minutes
- Transfer to a blender, and puree until smooth. Season with salt, and serve in mugs, garnished with the Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pepper Jack cheese if you are up to it.
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Sunday, December 24, 2017
Buying most anything at a grocery store – particularly olive oil and balsamic vinegar – has become increasingly complicated. I am constantly amazed at the number of choices available. While I know that roughly 75% of labels are misleading – if not fraudulent – I generally don’t have the time to read the fine print.
Most people don’t have the interest, money or time to create their own olive oil or balsamic vinegar brand, but I was saddened to see how American consumers are “fed” a series of substandard products by unscrupulous producers and resellers.
Recently, My Italian Inspiration, sent me a lovely Infographic which provides much useful information on what to look for in purchasing balsamic vinegar. While it doesn’t address every potential issue that may arise, the Infographic does provide a useful overview to guide to help you sort through the options in purchasing balsamic vinegar.
Needless to say I would be remiss in not plugging Gourmet Living’s balsamic vinegar. Our best-selling Goccia d’Oro is a premium brand IGP certified balsamic vinegar. In addition, Gourmet Living has two DOP traditional balsamic vinegars aged 12 and 25 years, as well as a condimento bianco. Visit the Gourmet Living store for more details.
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Monday, December 18, 2017
There is one thing that Germans and Italians can agree on: Chicken and dumplings make for a most satisfying meal. (Note: Actually, the only “Italians” who enjoy dumplings are from the remnants of the Habsburg Empire — South Tyrol, Trieste, Trentino, and Istria – that were ceded to Italy after World War I. In fact, Knödel soup is still served in many homes in the region).
I have again become a huge fan of chicken now that it is possible to find farm-raised organic chickens rather than the Tyson variety that has been genetically modified and produced in factory-farms for the likes of McDonalds and KFC. Let’s face it, chickens will eat most anything and if you put them in a decent environment where they are free to roam (but not too far!), you will have a great tasting bird and it will cut down on the tick and spider population.
Found below is a delightful recipe from Bon Appétit for Chicken and dumplings with mushrooms. What made this recipe stand out from previous “stew” recipes is the overabundance of lovely mushrooms that take the place of the traditional carrots, celery and potatoes. This is a meal fit for a king. Enjoy!
Chicken & Dumplings with Mushrooms
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 6 oz. slab bacon (Benton’s bacon please), cut into ¼” pieces
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 chicken legs (drumsticks with thighs; about 2 lb.)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ pound mixed mushrooms
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic crushed
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Dumplings and Assembly
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup whole milk
- Crisp bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat; transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
- Place flour in a shallow bowl. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Working in batches, cook chicken, skin side down, in same pot over medium heat until deep golden brown and crisp (do not turn), 12–15 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Working in 2 batches, cook mushrooms in same pot, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring occasionally, until brown, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add onion and garlic to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, 5–8 minutes.
- Add wine to pot; simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add chicken, bacon, thyme, bay leaves, and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer, partially covered, skimming occasionally, until chicken is falling off the bone, 2–2½ hours. Add mushrooms and simmer until flavors meld, 10–15 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
Dumplings and Assembly
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, pepper, and ¾ teaspoon. salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs and milk (batter will be slightly lumpy). Reduce heat until water is at a strong simmer. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into water; cook until dumplings are cooked through and doubled in size, about 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon; add to stew just before serving.
DO AHEAD: Stew (without dumplings) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.
Clearly, this is a hearty meal and best served during the late Fall or Winter when the weather is cool. It also makes for great leftovers, although the dumplings are not nearly as light and flavorful the next day.
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I have no idea on the source of this delicious cookie recipe, but my brother suggested I give try it this Christmas season. If you are looking for something a little “offbeat” this holiday season, Aunt Gertie’s Molasses Spice Cookies is just your cup of tea.
While this recipe is reprinted in its entirety, the glaze is quite potent. As you can see from the image above, I simply dribbled a bit of the glaze over the cookie rather than coat it. I recommend you do the same. I recommend making a full batch of the glaze but it is generally more than required.
Aunt Gertie’s Molasses Spice Cookies
Ingredients (makes about 50 cookies)
- 1/3 cup of granulated sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces) plus 1/2 cup for dipping
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/4 oz)
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of table salt
- 12 tablespoons of of unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened, but still cool
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup of molasses (about 6 ounces- light or dark)
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar (about 4 1/2 ounces)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of dark rum
Measure the molasses in a liquid measuring cup. If you find that the dough sticks to your palms as you shape the balls, moisten your hands occasionally in a bowl filled with cold water and shake off the excess. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time. If baked two sheets at a time, the cookies started on the bottom rack won’t develop the attractive cracks. The cookies should look slightly raw and undercooked when removed from the oven.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375º. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup sugar for dipping in 8- 9-inch cake pan.
- Whisk flour, baking soda, spices and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly combined: set aside.
- In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter with brown and granulated sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to lowest setting: add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom. Dough will be soft.
- Using tablespoon measure, scoop heaping tablespoon of dough and roll between palms into 1 1/2 inch ball, drop ball into cake pan with sugar and repeat to form about 4 balls. Toss the balls in sugar to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are browned, still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft ( cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone) – about 11 minutes. Rotate baking sheet halfway through baking. DO NOT OVERBAKE.
- Cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack. When completely cooled, return cookies to cooled parchment-lined baking sheets. Whisk confectioners’ sugar and 2 1/2 tablespoons dark rum in medium bowl until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. Transfer to wire rack and allow glaze to dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. You may not use all of the glaze.
These cookies are a winner!!!!!
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Monday, December 4, 2017
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.
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?”:
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.
|Favorite Cookbooks||Favorite Utensils|
Whatever you plan to do this holiday season, cook with “gusto.”
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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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
Some 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)
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
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
- 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)
- 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;
- Cover the carcass in cold water, add the carrot, celery, onion and thyme and bring to a boil;
- Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer uncovered for about an hour or so until most of the meat is off the carcass;
- 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
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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Thursday, November 9, 2017
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Late last fall I thought I was going to overdose on truffles while visiting Italy in the fall. Sure, it was a bit of a spluge, but eating fresh truffles in season is one of those “bucket list” events that must be indulged.
Unfortunately, the truffle season is rather short and you could pay an “arm and a leg” to find fresh truffles. Unless you can afford a trip to Italy or southern France, your next best opportunity might be preserved truffles.
Since I had difficulty finding authentic truffles in the U.S., I decided to seek out my own. Gourmet Living’s truffle carpaccio consists of sliced black summer truffles preserved in sunflower oil. While summer truffles lack the intensity of black and white truffles, they tend to be more affordable. Truffle slices are preserved in sunflower oil which tends to have less “flavor” than olive oil which would compete with the distinct aroma and flavor of the truffle.
Found below, is a cozy and special recipe from Marcella Hazan featured her cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. For those looking for an affordable truffle option, consider Gourmet Living’s truffle carpaccio found below.
Marcella Hazan’s Spaghetti alla Nursina
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of black truffles (or Gourmet Living’s summer truffles)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 1 flat anchovy fillet chopped very fine
- 6 ounces (less than half a package) of Italian spaghettini, thin spaghetti
- If using fresh truffles, clean them with a stiff brush, rinse them briefly, and pat thoroughly dry. It using preserved truffles, drain them and pat them dry. Do not discard the liquid; save it to add to a roast or meat sauce.
- Grate the truffles to a very fine-grain consistency, using the smallest holes of a flat-sited grater. If you have a good mortar and pestle, chop them up and grind them to a pulp in the mortar.
- Put the truffles into a small earthenware saucepan. If you do not have earthenware, use enameled cast iron. Add the olive oil, trickling it in a little at a time, and stirring thoroughly.
- Turn on the heat to low, and add the garlic and the chopped anchovy. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes, mashing the anchovy until it is almost completely dissolved into a paste. Keep the heat low, and do not let the oil bubble. If the oil becomes too hot, move the pay away from the heat for a few moments. Add salt to taste, stir once or twice, and remove from heat.
- Cook the pasta in 3 to 4 quarts salted boiling water. Bear in mind that thin spaghetti cooks rather quickly. As soone as it is cooked al dente, tender but firm to the bite, drain it quickly, and transfer to a war bowl.
- Remove the garlic from the truffle sauce, and pour all the contents on the pan over the spaghetti. Toss thoroughly, and serve at once.
Join fellow “foodies” for more great tested recipes, food ideas and promotions from Gourmet Living
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Sunday, October 15, 2017
Eating a great risotto is one of my favorite dining experiences. For some masochistic reason, I will often order risotto at a restaurant to determine if the chef has enough trained staff in the kitchen willing to carefully add broth at the right time to the arborio rice. Cooking a credible risotto takes about 20 minutes of concentration and attention to detail. I am generally underwhelmed by the outcome, but still persist in my hope that a divine risotto will appear at one of my favorite restaurants.
Frankly, it is far easier to prepare risotto at home. The recipe we use comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essential Classic Italian Cookbook for Risotto with Porcini mushrooms.
Marcella argues that dehydrated porcini mushrooms pack more flavor punch than fresh porcini mushrooms. I agree! While there is nothing quite like the taste of fresh porcini mushrooms in Italy, the season is short and why confine yourself to one month out of the year to eat porcini?
The secret to Marcella’s risotto is that we use the liquid that we hydrated the mushrooms to add flavor to the broth that we use to cook the Arborio rice. Enjoy this great recipe from Marcella and do use Gourmet Living’s premium grade porcini mushrooms when doing so. The flavor and texture of premium porcini mushrooms makes a huge difference in both the taste and presentation.
Marcella Hazan’s Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms
Ingredients (for 6 persons)
- 1 ounce imported dried porcini mushrooms (preferably from Gourmet Living)
- 1 quart of homemade meat broth or 1 cup of canned chicken broth mixed with 3 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons fine chopped shallots or yellow onion
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups raw Italian Arborio rice
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt, if necessary
- Freshly grated pepper, about 4 twists of the mill
- Soak the mushrooms in 2 cups of lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes before cooking. After the liquid turns very dark, stain it through a sieve lined with paper towels and set aside. Continue soaking and rinsing the mushrooms in frequent changes of water until the mushrooms are soft and thoroughly free of soil.
- Bring the broth or the canned broth and water to a slow, steady simmer.
- In a heavy-bottomed casserole, over medium-high heat, sauté the chopped shallots or onion in half the butter and all the oil until translucent but not brown. Add the rice and stir until is is well coated. Sauté lightly for a few moments and then add a ladleful, 1/2 cup, of the simmering broth. Continue adding a ladleful of the simmering broth after the liquid is fully absorbed into the rice. Stir frequently to avoid having the risotto stick. When the rice has cooked for 10 to 12 minutes add the mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the strained mushroom liquid, 1/2 cup at a time. After you’ve used up the mushroom liquid finish cooking the rice with hot broth. (If you run out of broth, add water).
- When the rice is done, turn off the heat and mix in the grated Parmesan and the rest of the butter. Taste and correct for salt. Add a few twists of pepper and mix. Spoon the rice into a hot serving platter and serve immediately with a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the side.
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Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Yesterday we invited our granddaughter over to help make pumpkin cake for her school class. It is never too early to encourage kids to cook and we are fortunate that our granddaughter approaches cooking with much enthusiasm and interest. It could well be that we have another Simone Beck or Nigella Lawson in the making.
This is a delicious improv recipe that – while slightly spicy – would be delicious for most any meal leading up to Thanksgiving.
Improv Pumpkin Soup Recipe
- Medium-size pumpkin
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Small onion (diced)
- One garlic clove (sliced)
- 2 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth for die-hard vegetarians)
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 small can of diced chiles (not drained)
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/2 cup of creme fraiche
- Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Brush well with oil and roast open half down in an oven for an hour to an hour-and-a-half at 350° F.
- Saute the diced onion and slice garlic clove in oil until soft (about 10 minutes)
- Scoop out the pumpkin pulp and add to sautéed onion and garlic.
- Pour two cups of chicken broth into the mixture and add paprika, ancho chile powder and salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat and continue to stir lightly to mix ingredients and then add diced chiles (no need to drain).
- Once the pumpkin pulp is mixed well with the other ingredients add the mixture to a blender together with a 1/2 cup of creme fraiche.
- Blend well and serve the soup hot.
This is a keeper, particularly for those who like a bit of a kick in their pumpkin soup.
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Sunday, October 8, 2017
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Thursday, September 21, 2017
For the most part, my husband and I are wedded to the Mediterranean diet or lifestyle, but will occasionally venture out and test some new diets.
At the suggestion of my sister-in-law, my husband and I decided to see what the Paleo diet had to offer. I checked out a few books at the library, but eventually decided on a few cookbooks that I thought provided some interesting recipes.
The paleo diet is loosely based “on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.” In effect, it is the food that hunters and gatherers would consume rather than the food farmers who produce from domesticated animals and farmed vegetable gardens, particularly legumes.
As such, it differs considerably from the Mediterranean diet in the sense that you are eliminating one more level of “food processing” from your diet. Clearly, a reduction in factory-processed and potentially chemically-treated foods is a way to eat more naturally and help restore body health. In fact, many people have told us that they “feel better” after being weaned from artificially processed foods, sugar and dairy. Who am I to argue?
The following recipe for West African Chicken Stew is reprinted from the Healthy Foodie Blog, which has some gorgeous photos on how this dish is assembled. While the author of the blog substituted chicken breasts, I strongly recommend using chicken thighs because they have far more flavor. We served this lovely stew with coconut cauliflower rice (also available in Well Fed 2).
WEST AFRICAN CHICKEN STEW
Ingredients (Serves 2 to 4)
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (no sugar added)
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- garnish: minced fresh parsley leaves, sunflower seeds
- Sprinkle the chicken enthusiastically with salt and pepper. Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the chicken in a single layer and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. (Don’t crowd the pan; cook in batches if you need to.) Remove the chicken to a bowl to catch the juices.
- In the same pot, cook the onions and ginger until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cayenne, and bay leaf, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and water, stirring to combine. Nestle the chicken into the sauce, along with any juices it released. Increase the heat to bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the pot; it will be very tender. Break the chicken into large pieces with the side of a wooden spoon. Add the sunflower seed butter and vanilla to the pot and mix to combine. Return the chicken to the pot and cover. Heat through, about 5 minutes, then serve, sprinkled with parsley and sunflower seeds.
Enjoy. This recipe is a little spicy but delicious. It can easily be made ahead of time and reheated. Thank you Melissa. We love your cookbook!
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Sunday, August 27, 2017
Monday, August 21, 2017
Sunday, August 6, 2017
During our delightful getaway to Perdido Key in the Florida panhandle several years ago, our good friends Christy and John F. took us by boat through the intercostal waterways to LuLu’s in Homeport, Alabama.
LuLu’s is the brainchild of Lucy Anne Buffet, the sister of Jimmy Buffet, who resurrected a small family-owned property in Homeport and quickly turned it into a world famous restaurant. LuLu’s well-deserved reputation is owed in great part to the caring and delightful food that is served there and their friendly staff. This is the real deal for all who appreciate fine food.
LuLu’s West Indies Salad has been adapted by Lucy from a recipe of Bayley’s Steak and Seafood restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. In her delightful cookbook – with a very interesting introduction – entitled Crazy Sista Cooking, Lucy Anne Buffet lays out her recipes in simple yet easy to follow steps.
Now, I did not eat the salad shown below, but I certainly would have given it a go because of its elegant simplicity. Lucy cautions to use the ice cubes as described below to chill the water. I think it probably has something to do with the amount of water added to the crabmeat, but this looks great served with pink champagne.
LuLu’s West Indies Salad
Ingredients (Serves 4-6 as an appetizer)
- 1 lb fresh jumbo lump blue crabmeat (regular lump crab OK, but watch for shell bits)
- Salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon)
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste (1/2 teaspoon)
- 1/2 medium Vidalia (or sweet) onion, sliced paper thin, in half moon shapes
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup ice water (with 4-5 ice cubes)
- Place half the crabmeat gently in th bottom of a glass bowl or plastic container, carefully picking out any shell. Sprinkle with just a smidgen of salt and pepper.
- Cover crab with a layer of onion.
- Repeat steps with remaining crab, salt, pepper and onion.
- Pour oil and vinegar over layers.
- Place ice cubes in a liquid measuring cup. Fill with water until volume reaches 1/3 cup and pour over crab. (Ice cubes are essential but don’t pour the cubes into the mixture)
- Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours before serving.
- When ready to serve, shake bowl gently, or if using a leak-proof plastic container, turn upside down and back upright to gently mix salad.
- Serve in a shallow bowl with juice.
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Thursday, August 3, 2017
Monday, July 24, 2017
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
The last time I ate a soft-boiled egg was over 25 years ago when a particularly gooey drop of yolk decided to befriend my $150 Hermes tie. Thanks to a botched job at the dry-cleaner, they have become inseparable friends and, as such, I decided then to give up both expensive ties and soft-boiled eggs.
Nevertheless, our daughter has insisted that I share a recent recipe that appeared on Cook’s Illustrated that explains how you “steam” rather than “cook” an egg to achieve a soft-cooked egg “that delivered a set white and a fluid yolk every time.” Before caving into our daughter’s request, I have decided to share the highlights of Cook’s Illustrated “science” required to achieve the perfect soft-cooked egg.
Science Class: According to America’s Test Kitchen, the traditional way of cooking soft-cooked eggs is to add eggs to boiling water. Sadly, this lowers the temperature of the water and makes for uneven cooking results depending on when eggs are added, hom many, and how quickly the water reaches the boiling temperature again after each immersion.
The folks at America’s test kitchen have found that “steaming” eggs in a small amount of water achieves consistently perfect results.
How to Cook Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs
Note: This recipe works for any number of eggs. Use large eggs that have no cracks and are cold from the refrigerator.
- Bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Using tongs (or better yet a steamer basket), gently place the refrigerated eggs into the boiling water. The eggs will not be submerged. Cover the saucepan and cook the eggs for 6 1/2 minutes.
- Remove cover, transfer saucepan to sink and place under cold running water for 30 seconds. Remove eggs from pan and serve, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
This is a simple and foolproof way to cook perfect soft-boiled eggs.
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Sunday, July 9, 2017
Friday, July 7, 2017
Salmon is a rich oily fish. Salmon is “high in protein, high omega-3 fatty acids, and high vitamin D content.” Pair salmon with quinoa, which is also a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, several B vitamins and dietary minerals, and you have a protein-packed meal that is great for diets.
Inspiration for this wonderful recipe came from my niece, Katherine (aka Kit-Kat). The beauty of this great recipe maybe prepared beforehand, is relatively simple to prepare and quite colorful.
I prefer to poach the salmon to avoid smells in the kitchen and then break off chunks depending on how many servings I need. Most diets seem to call for 4 oz of protein and once you add quinoa and some color and greens you have a salad bowl that most gourmands would relish.
You can prepare the bowls before your guests arrive and refrigerate, but do try to bring the bowl to room temperature before serving. Poached salmon will last about 3 days in the refrigerator.
I have used the following New York Times recipe for years. Once you poach the salmon, allow to cool to create several flavor-packed protein bowls. Refrigerate the salmon and you can get several meals or snacks from leftovers.
Ingredients (2 lbs makes eight 4 oz servings)
- 1 small bunch fresh dill
- Center cut for size consistency (roughly 4 oz per serving). Wild salmon is great, but farm-raised salmon is fine if you are poaching.
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- Place small bunch of dill with salmon SKIN UP in a large skillet or saucepan.
- Cover with water, and add salt, sugar, mustard seeds, peppercorns and onion.
- Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes.
- Turn off heat and let salmon cool in water for an hour.
- Remove skin.
Kit-Kat’s Poached Salmon and Quinoa Bowl
Ingredients (for eight 4 oz salmon servings)
- 2 lbs of center-cut poached salmon (see preparation above)
- 4 oz per serving of cooked quinoa (follow instructions, but drain thoroughly and allow to dry)
- 2 tablespoons of chopped red pepper
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped scallions
- Several arugula leaves (optional)
- Sprig of mint
- 1 wedge of lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add warm or room temperature quinoa to bowl
- Pull apart about 4 oz of poached salmon and place on top of the quinoa
- Add pepper, scallions and mint over salmon
- Garnish wish wedge of lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bowls can be prepared beforehand, but cover if you plan to refrigerate. Serve at near room temperature.
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Monday, July 3, 2017
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Balsamic vinegar is frequently used in Italian cooking. In fact, many restaurants will often bring a bottle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to your table when dining.
White balsamic vinegar is found less frequently, but is often used in preparing foods where the dark color of balsamic vinegar may cause distraction.
Officially, there is no such thing as “white balsamic vinegar,” it is referred to as “condimento bianco” because it is not regulated by the Italian consortium and is not aged in wooden barrels like most fine balsamic vinegars from Modena.
We have sampled many white balsamic vinegars and found them lacking. As such, we decided to private label our own white balsamic vinegar to use occasionally with salads and fish.
For those unfamiliar with condimento bianco, it tends to be somewhat lighter and less viscous than good quality aged balsamic vinegar. We find it particularly refreshing on spring and summer salads.
This following recipe is from Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman and is reprinted in May, 2010 Epicurious from their cookbook: Pastry Queen Parties: Entertaining Friends and Family, Texas Style.
White Balsamic Vinegar and Jicama Slaw Salad
INGREDIENTS (12 Servings)
- 1 medium head napa cabbage (about 2 1/2 pounds)
- 3 medium carrots, grated on the large holes
- 1 large jicama (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into large matchsticks
- 1 bunch chopped green onions, white part only
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into large matchsticks
- 3/4 cup dried currants or dried cranberries
For White Balsamic Dressing
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1 medium lime)
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (Gourmet Living)
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
To Make the Salad:
Trim off the cabbage root end, thinly slice crosswise, then chop into pieces that can be easily picked up with a fork. Combine the cabbage, carrots, jicama, green onions, apples, and dried currants in a large bowl.
To Make the Dressing:
Vigorously whisk together the garlic, lime juice, honey, oil, mustard, balsamic vinegar, and mayonnaise in a medium bowl until the dressing is thoroughly combined. Whisk in the fennel seeds and pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture. Stir until the dressing evenly covers the slaw. The slaw will be a little soupy, which is just the way I like it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve.
For those who plan to wear their summer shorts short, you can lighten the dressing: for the 1 cup mayonnaise, substitute 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise plus 3/4 cup nonfat or low-fat yogurt.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017
During winter, it seems like one’s batteries run down quite a bit quicker than they do on a warm summer’s day. This is certainly true in my kitchen where I try to focus on hearty meals that I can prepare and then serve on more than one occasion. Certainly, stews and soups can be refrigerated, so one can often can more than one meal with a little forward planning.
I recently came across this appealing recipe on Pinterest. The photograph, shown below, caught my eye and I decided to give this Paleo Mediterranean skillet chicken a go. While it may be a bit heavy and elaborate for a summer meal, it hit the spot for a chilly evening at home and my husband and I can enjoy the leftovers another day. The spinach leaves gave this hearty winter recipe a lively bit of color.
The recipe comes from a lovely website called Paleo Newbie, so if you are into Paleo diets, you may want to give it a go. I can certainly recommend this particular dish – love the artichokes.
Ingredients (Serves 2 – 4)
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
- 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 8 oz jarred artichoke hearts, liquid drained
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
- 1 lb cooked organic chicken
- Fresh spinach – a couple of handfuls
- 2-3 tablespoon olive oil or ghee (1-2 tablespoons to sauté the veggies, another tablespoon for cooking)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (Gourmet Living, of course!)
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped for garnish
- Salt & pepper to taste
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the chopped onions for 3-4 minutes
- Add the minced garlic and sauté together one more minute
- Add the sliced mushrooms to the sautéed onions and garlic and cook 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms are golden. Add salt and pepper to taste while cooking
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the pan then toss in the Roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives. Sprinkle in the parsley, oregano, and stir a few minutes
- Next add the chopped chicken and spinach to the pan – stir and cook 1-2 minutes, or until chicken is heated through. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Serve hot garnished with the fresh basil
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