November 26, 2009
So many food blogs have been flooding the internet with favorite dishes from Thanksgivings past, new twists on traditions, and some last minute technique advice. I thought about it. But by now you all know, I’m not much of a test first kinda cook. To cook a bunch of dishes as a test run for the big day just seems a bit off. Thanksgiving cooking is about spending time with the people you care the most for and the stories that come from all that ridiculous food; the good and the bad.
But rather than hanging everyone out to dry, I have a great last minute suggestion for desserts. If your checking this post out, it could be that your scrounging for something easy but impressive. Well who doesn’t love ice cream sandwiches! Individually wrapped and nostalgic, I love making home made ice cream sandwiches for any occasion. And by making homemade pumpkin cookies and a fresh cranberry sauce that I folded into vanilla ice cream, these will most definitely be a hit. And if you don’t have time to make the cookies, buy some store bought and your good to go! So Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And take some pictures! Send them to me for next weeks blog postings!
November 23, 2009
When it comes to eating seasonal, some times it’s a lot easier than others. Walking through the grocery store and seeing vibrant green stalks of asparagus in November is a perfect example of why it has become so difficult. But in other cases, the decision is easy and is already made for us….
Spaghetti squash is available maybe two months out of the year, popping up right before thanksgiving and fading into oblivion with the new year. Many of the other squashes we love to eat this time of year have similar availabilty but the spaghetti squash seems to be the most elusive. And it’s sort of a shame. If we only had this amazing ingredient more often, I’d probably start to use it as something other than a replacement for pasta. But with a great sweetness that balances wonderfully with tomatoes and other great sauces, spaghetti squash works perfectly as a stand in for some of our favorite dishes. This portion topped with a hearty fennel, kale, and sausage ragu was absolutely delicious and perfectly seasonal. And I didn’t even miss the pasta!
November 19, 2009
There are only two types of pumpkin. The ones we carve and use as decoration and the ones that come out of a can. You know, the stuff we make pumpkin pie and other delicious desserts with. Well this may seem true around this time of year, but the reality is, pumpkins come in all sorts of varieties and can be used in all sorts of culinary creations; and not just the sweet ones.
Actually, pumpkin is more prevalent than we tend to think. In fact you’ve probably seen it on menus across a number of cuisines. From the pumpkin ravioli that pops up around this time of year to the thai curry dishes that pair the subtle sweetness of fresh pumpkin with pungeont herbs and spices, pumpkin is an overlooked but delicious ingredient for savory meals. The thai curry is what gave me inspiration for this amazing soup. Rather than pureeing everything together like I’ve done in the past with these types of soups, I decided to keep the pumpkin in large chunks and build the spice and flavor around it. Combining both curry paste and coconut milk with fresh ginger, cilantro, and other fresh veggies, this soup was packed with flavor and comfort. Finishing with just a few shrimp and a squeeze of lime, this soup is an amazing go to winter meal.
November 18, 2009
Have you ever thought about your childhood most hated list. And no, I’m not talking about your 6th grade teacher. I mean the foods you just wouldn’t eat. For my older brother it was onions. We still debate whether or not that meatloaf my mom made had them hidden inside. For me it was tomatoes. Couldn’t stand the sight of them (unless of course they were on top of pizza or a bowl of pasta). Luckily I think most of us get over these dislikes but sometimes it takes longer than you’d think.
I also recently realized I never really ate sweet potatoes feeling that they were only filler for an overly sweet dish my grandma made for Thanksgiving (sorry Bubba). But recently the amazing flavors that can be combined with these orange root vegetables have made me a convert. Anytime I can use them, I find a way. Including an amazing addition to a stew as a thickening agent. But this use (unfortunately not seen all that well in the picture) was by far my favorite. Combining shredded sweet potato with shredded cabbage, shredded carrot and scallions, these sesame and soy flavored pancakes worked perfectly with the honey glazed salmon and brussel sprouts. An amazing combination of flavors and textures and unbelievably healthy, without tasting like it.
November 17, 2009
Who doesn’t like mac and cheese? No, the question isn’t whether you enjoy eating this comfort food, it’s which type is your favorite. Some people still sware by the college staple, Easy Mac, while others refuse to use anything but Velveeta. But as I’ve written about before, so many restaurants try to dial in the gourmet for their version of this American favorite. My favorite has to be the lobster mac and cheese. Because…well come on, does this really need explaining.
I had attempted a similar dish almost a year ago using rock shrimp instead of the lobster to try and replicate the version at Nolita House. The flavors were good but shrimp just isn’t as rich and flavorful as lobster. So this time I wanted to go all out. But lobster is expensive. Not to mention how much of that weight is not used in the final dish. But rather than breaking the bank and buying more lobster, I simply got a bit creative. By steaming the lobster and breaking it down into the edible portions, I was left with the filler for my mac. But taking those shells and leftovers and steeping them in the milk I ended up using to make the cheese sauce was what really did it. All of that delicious flavor made its way into the final dish pairing great with the gemelli pasta, and cheddar and havarti cheeses. It’s just another example of how much flavor comes from the “throwaway pieces” of our groceries. And what a great dish for the holiday season…just a little bit more luxurious than the Velveeta version.
As a side note, my good buddies from The Canon Logic are playing this friday at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan at 8 pm. It should be a great show as they get set to release their album sometime soon. And if you haven’t heard them yet, let me just say, they are the lobster mac and cheese in a city full of velveeta….
November 16, 2009
Remember when late in the summer you were browsing the supermarket and you saw all those hot dogs and hamburgers on sale. Just like the christmas decorations that cost pennies in January, its tough to turn them down. Throw them in the freezer and they are just a quick thaw away from that first cookout in Spring. But what about when you’ve got nothing in the fridge, and have no interest in trucking out in the rain to the store? Rather than reaching for the take out menus, re-consider those summer staples stored away for the winter and you’ll be surprised what dinner can become…
In the middle of tropical storm Ida, I was faced with this exact scenario. But there were the frozen chicken sausages (that somehow taste exactly like hot dogs but I guess are healthier) and hamburger patties frozen solid. A quick search through the pantry and the fridge and this moroccan inspired stew was born. What amazing flavors from the curry, the cumin, the rosemary and the yogurt along with roasted red peppers, stewed tomatoes, roasted onions and chickpeas. And with the great reminder of our summer favorites mixed throughout giving the dish some cold weather heartiness, it almost makes you wonder why you ever needed mustard and ketchup…
November 13, 2009
I’m a little bit late on this one but it’s taken me a while to figure out how to discuss the details. The issue of E.coli has had a resurgence as of late because of the multitude of cases and documentation related to the beef industry of America. Yet most of us still take major risks everyday. Why? Well how many people do you know who have suffered from E.coli? I can’t name a single one. Which makes it easy to believe that “it couldn’t happen to me”.
This New York Times article from a few weeks back does a good job of explaining one of the major pieces of the problem. The story is told through the unfortunate case of a young girl paralyzed by one single frozen hamburger patty. It is pretty gruesome but as always, I prefer to let you do the reading as to not simply restate what was written. But a few of the major points are crucial to realize.
The scary thing, this article only scrapes the surface of the problem. The frozen patties, among other ground beef options in stores, are not what their labels may have you believe. Scraps or trimmings coming from multiple cows from multiple plants are blended together bringing along the high risk of contamination from contact with feces and bacteria. And even worse, the regulations and testings are not sufficient to overcome these issues. In fact most retailers don’t ever test their beef before grinding (believe it or not Costco is one of the best retailers for testing policies).
But if you go beyond this article and dig a little deeper the problem becomes even more appalling. How many times have you seen signs at your local store’s meat section that says “vegetarian diet” in association with beef. Think about that for a second. How sad is it that now stores and vendors get credit for not having meat in their herbivore’s diet! And no, this doesn’t mean grass fed. This means corn. The route of most of our agricultural and food industry problems. So how does corn relate to E.coli?
Since we have started feeding our cattle corn in their feed, the problem has expanded immensely. With the non-natural diet wreaking havoc on the cow’s digestive system, more and more antibiotics are required. This has created strains of antibiotic resistant E.coli making it more and more complicated to treat the effects of contracting this deadly bacteria. Not only antibiotic resistant, these new strains have developed under acidic conditions (the stomach of cow’s is acidic when being fed corn) making them perfect to grow and proliferate in our systems. The long and the short of it…as long as we feed the cows corn, the longer the manufactures will have to take drastic steps to avoid cases like the one in the article. One of those methods is to use bleach. Yes thats right, use bleach on the meat itself!
So does this mean we should avoid beef altogether? Well just like anything, it’s about making the good decisions as much as you can. Maybe eat less beef but when you do treat yourself to the grass fed variety. It’s a bit pricier but trust me the flavor is better and the insurance of quality is well worth it.
For more information I encourage everyone once again to read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore Dilemna and also see Food Inc.