Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gift Ideas List---Finale

Sometimes a great gift is many little gifts all wrapped together. Choose a container that’s useful like a basket or a bucket or a bowl and wrap it all with a dishtowel or two or three or an apron or a picnic cloth and fill it with a bunch of fun kitchen gadgets. Like a child and her toys, the cook never has too many gadgets.

There are dozens and dozens to choose from. Here are a handful of my favorites.

The Whisk.
Select one large, one medium and one small in dishwasher safe stainless steel. Look for the classic shaped balloon whisks with smooth fat stainless handles (not plastic or wood). Some of the newer models have ergonomically correct handles---made of silicon or nylon---for greater comfort. Those are very nice too. Count the number of tines (wires). There should be at least 20. The more tines, the faster the job goes. What about some of those newer shapes you ask? Well, I prefer classic equipment that’s been around for a long time (and with good reason).

Okay, okay, let me backtrack a bit and qualify that statement. Several years ago my Christmas stocking produced a tiny whisk with a handle shaped like an egg.
I love that little thing and use it happily and often for small jobs like beating single eggs.


Shop for stainless steel with a nylon tip to avoid scratching non-stick pans. Self locking tongs close flat, store nicely and are a plus. OXO has a terrific line of kitchen do-dads and their tongs are winners. One long and one short should fit the bill.

Silicon Spatulas.
Le Creuset Exclusive 3-Piece Silicone Spatula Set, Cobalt Blue 
The silicon spatula has got to be the greatest improvement in the kitchen gadget family that I have ever seen. No more dried out rubber bits crumbling into our food or misshapen rubber coming out of the dishwasher. These things are impervious to heat up to 800°, dishwasher safe and come in a multitude of fun colors that I adore. Big ones, small ones, spatulas that can scoop…..I love them all and have many. Look for smooth solid handles that are comfortable to hold. I prefer wood and Le Creuset offers a nice set (pictured) in a full range of colors.

Wooden utensils.

If I were starting out today I’d only buy bamboo. Bamboo is a renewable wood resource and that appeals to my environmentally conscious self. Bamboo is heat and stain resistant and will not scratch non-stick pans. It is dishwasher safe, light weight and built to last forever. Look for a set with spoons and spatulas of assorted sizes and shapes.

Graters (including the microplane).
One of my earliest favorite kitchen gadgets is the box grater. It is a turn of the century tool that has shown remarkable lasting power and is, for me, quite sentimental. I can still see my Mother, my Grandmother and Nana shredding their knuckles along with potatoes, cheese, chocolate and onions. The box grater is versatile and has benefited from updating. The catch plate that snaps onto the bottom of the newer models is very handy indeed and I do like the new ergonomic rubber grips. To go with the box grater are micro planes of various lengths and widths and enough specialty graters to fill a barrel.

A micro plane has joined my old grater and I do have one of those old fashioned (metal) rotating barrel graters that is going to rust and has many dents. I don’t have the heart to throw it away. It still works….sort of.
OXO Softworks Grater
Look for long lasting stainless when buying a box grater. Go for the ergonomic rubber handle and the catch plate on the bottom. OXO has a nice slim one with good sharp blades and a box at the bottom for catching and storing.

For micro planes, I like the medium grate flat bladed, long and skinny rubber handled models.

It will be labeled grater-zester because that is what it does and it does it very, very well. The brand I like best (and the one that my friend gave me) is actually called microplane. Look for this logo:

Zyliss Restaurant Cheese GraterThe old fashioned rotating cheese grater is especially nice to put on the table with a favorite hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Zyliss makes a rotating barrel grater that does a great (no pun here) job, is dishwasher safe and is the grater you’ll find on most restaurant tables. A model offering interchangeable barrels with finer and coarser grates is a big plus.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gift Ideas List Part Deux

The Pan.

Let me say one thing up front and then we’ll move on. On principle, I do not endorse buying any cooking equipment labeled for celebrity chefs unless they do what Paul Newman did and donate every nickel and penny to charity. A name does not make the product.

OK. Nuf said.

The best value is a very good cast iron pan. And, the best are the pre-seasoned pans made by Lodge. There is little you cannot do---and do well---with these pans. I use them for sauté, frying, braising, searing and moving between stovetop and oven. They make the best pancakes and corn bread and are built to last beyond a lifetime.

What can’t you do with a Lodge cast iron pan? Put it in the dishwasher. These pans must be washed by hand and given a regular rub down with vegetable oil. Given their price---under $25 for a 12” model---they are a spectacular value.

At the other extreme----the most luxurious and expensive---are pans made of copper. Copper is beautiful and heats quickly and evenly which means it is highly responsive. There is little wait time for your pan to reach temperature and it also cools quickly, protecting delicate sauces or meat from over browning. Copper does need regular polishing but there is something about using a copper pan that just promises gorgeous food.

The most popular copper cookware found in this country are made by Calphalon, Ruffoni , All-Clad, Falk and Mauviel Cuprinox.

What you need to look for when buying a copper pan:
1. A lifetime warranty from the manufacturer. You’ll be spending a king’s ransom when you buy good copper and you need assurance that the manufacturer will guarantee it’s quality.
2. Thickness or gauge. The thicker the copper the better the heat distribution. Look for a pan that is 2.5mm thick.
3. Lining. The best copper pans are lined in aluminum. If you find one that is cheap, chances are it’s lined with tin and the copper coating is just for show and will wear off quickly. Do not waste your money on a thin tin lined copper pan.

Falk and Mauviel Cuprinox make the best copper cookware. Prices for a 12” pan average $290. (I said it was a luxury.)

For all around practicality, price and general use I love Cuisinart's Chef's Classic Stainless cookware. I give it high scores for performance and value and it is good looking. The handle is handsomely attached with rivets and stays cool to the touch. It goes easily from stovetop to oven and is dishwasher safe. No, it is not non-stick but food cooked in a properly heated pan will not stick….even crepes.

A 14” Cuisinart stainless pan is about $38. If you can buy only one good pan, make it this one.

Non-stick. I love non-stick pans for every day use. They are forgiving and you don’t have to break the bank to get a good one.

But, the main benefits of using nonstick pans, besides easier cleanup, is that you don't have to use much oil to coat the surface. This cuts down on fat and keeps meals healthier. Look for nonstick cookware that has several layers of the nonstick coating. Three layers are good enough. More means the price soars. Calphalon has a 2-pan set-----12” and 10”----for under $50. They get my vote.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Cutting Edge

Tis the season. It has arrived. The frantic shopping-cooking-visiting-partying-drinking season that lasts from Thanksgiving through the New Year. The season where we are urged to buy-to save-to get it here.

Well if we are going to buy, let’s at least purchase the best (which is not always the most expensive). Here is Part I of my Gift Ideas for the Home Cooking Enthusiast.

A Very Good Knife

There are dozens and dozens of brands and an even larger selection of shapes and sizes. Prices run from a few dollars to a few thousand. I will focus on the best all around size: the 8” Chef’s knife.

Forschner Victorinox makes the best of what I’ll call the Chevrolet class of knives. They keep a nice sharp edge and are comfortable to hold. Their knives are well balanced, of moderate weight (although not as heavy as some of the German brands) and run about $30.

Next up the knife food chain are Shun , WusthofGlobal and Henckels. These are the brands usually found in American cooking stores. They cost up to $150. Now, I can hear you screaming, “$150 for a knife??!!” Well, what is wrong with spending that on something you’ll use every day and will last a lifetime? (Besides, what did you spend on your last computer?).

My favorite in this group is Henckels.
Why? Because I’ve had mine for over 30 years and they are as good today as when I first bought them. They are the right weight (for me) and hold a sharp edge for a good long time. Also, the spine of  Henckels knives are smooth and do not hurt my hand when I’ve been cutting and chopping for a long time.

The cream of the knife crop, frequently the most expensive---and currently the cutting edge (no pun intended)---are knives made in Japan. I am not including the saber like creations you see in the hands of your local Sushi guy but Western style knives that are sharpened on just one side.

These knives run from $50 to well over $1000. Food world talking heads declare that Japanese knives have better steel than their German counter parts, tend to be a lot lighter, hold their edges longer and are easier to re-sharpen.

“They tend to be designed with a different philosophy: a light, thin, extremely sharp blade that glides through food, rather than the German model with a galumphing heavy blade that elbows its way to the cutting board,” wrote one foodie blogging expert.

Masamoto makes the Rolls Royce of Japanese knives. Their Honyaki Wa-Gyuto knives start at $1100. If you have it, go ahead, go for it, spend it. I frankly think that’s excessive and would not if I could.

I recommend Misono if you are buying Japanese. These knives are scary sharp and stay that way for a very long time. They are light, comfortable and are very nicely balanced, The 8” chefs knife will be about $250.

Other Japanese brands to consider are Masahiro, Mac and Hattori. Korin is a good site for shopping Japanese knives.

Now, beyond all of this, the very best advice I can really offer is to go out and try several. Hold them. Cut with them. Speak to local chefs, foodie friends and ask their opinion. Then buy the one YOU like best.

To quote a fellow blogger, “They’re just knives. They all cut stuff. You spend more than 10 bucks and you’re going to be OK.”

Knife Maintenance

Any sharp knife is better than any dull knife and most people use dull knives. Keep your knife sharp with a steel, one of those long metal sticks with a handle on the end. A ceramic steel is the best choice; I like a MAC. It costs about $50.

Steeling is easier than you might think and it’s not a tragedy if you don’t get the perfect angle. But steeling doesn’t sharpen a knife; it just helps maintain the existing edge, which will eventually fail. A good way to see if your knife needs sharpening is to slice a tomato. If you have trouble breaking the skin, and the steel doesn’t help, it’s time to sharpen.

If you like the idea of busting out some whetstones and grinding a new edge, sharpening isn’t hard to learn and the equipment isn’t very expensive.

Korin sells a tutorial DVD and Chad Ward’s book An Edge in the Kitchen has several illustrated chapters on sharpening. Electric sharpeners such as Chef's Choice work well on German knives but not on Japanese knives.

Me? I take my knives to pros for sharpening. For a typical home cook, taking your knives to a professional sharpener once a year is a good rule of thumb (It is a proven fact that there are more hands and fingers cut because of dull knives than because of sharp ones). Make sharpening a New Year’s resolution.

In Atlanta, I recommend The Blade Smith. Check with your local cooking stores for professional sharpeners in your community.

One last word of advice: Never, Ever put your beautiful knife in the dishwasher. Always wash it by hand with hot water and mild detergent. Dry it immediately and store it on a magnetic strip or in a knife block. Do Not let it knock around in a drawer with your other tools.


I am food obsessed and everyone who knows me knows that. And a few months ago, I took my obsession a step further and started to write about it. At first, it was a good idea and then, after I started, I wondered, “Who cares?”

So I started checking what the blog site calls my dashboard, counting the “hits”, watching for remarks and blog generated email. People were reading what I wrote: one day there were over a hundred visits and a friend (Bless Him!) told me he shares all my recipes with people at work. They actually look forward to reading what I write.

Now I’m a monster with fantasies of becoming the newest Mark Bittman, Ruth Reichl and MFK Fischer dancing in my head. Then I wake myself up and snap out of it. Still Me in the mirror with the messy kitchen and the latest food disaster in my garbage.

But that has got to count for something. Not everyone grows up to be Top Chef Master, Escoffier or Julia. Most of us just muddle along to become above adequate cooks who enjoy feeding ourselves and others. There have got to be us hidden gems out there in the great unknown, unsung and unpaid. Yep, I am serving a purpose after all. I am one of The Little Ones, a very happy foil to all of The Great Ones.

Nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My 1st Confit

Recently my friend mentioned she wanted to learn to make confit, duck confit and I blustered, "I can show you" knowing full well I'd never confited duck much less watched someone else.

For rescue, I turned to my Julia books, the last words (for me) on classic French cooking. I found a recipe covering both sides of two pages with notes directing the cook to an additional recipe taking up both sides of another page. The combined directions detailed a time consuming process that called for, among other things, pounds of melted duck fat, esoteric equipment and herbs (that despite my extensive collection) I had never heard of.

Not easily dissuaded, I also searched the web, my faithful Larousse , a 40 year old NY Times Cookbook written by Craig Claiborne (no mention there of confit) and an even older book written in French (I used WordMonkey to translate).

What follows is an amalgam of ingredients and procedures and pictures of some of the steps. And my reactions to this first attempt at making duck confit? Not bad. Would I do it again? Yes! in exactly the same way. I enjoyed the challenge; it was fun (and it didn't taste half bad).


  • 2 fresh duck legs with thigh attached
  • 4 juniper berries
  • 6 pepper corns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch allspice
  • 4 TBS Kosher salt
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled, left whole 
  • Optional additional seasonings: pinches of fresh nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, dried ginger
  • Regular olive oil to cover the duck legs by 2”. I used almost all of a 34-ounce bottle

  • Using a mortal and pestle, lightly crush the juniper berries, clove and peppercorns together.

  • Crumble in the bay leaf, dried thyme, all spice, salt and sugar and mix everything together. If you are using fresh thyme, do not add it yet.
  • Select a porcelain or glass dish (with sides) that will hold the legs snugly.
  • Spread half the mix on the bottom of your dish along with 2 sprigs fresh thyme (if you are using fresh).
  • Put the duck legs in the dish, skin side up and spread the remaining mix over the skin side of the duck. Put one sprig of fresh thyme (if you are using fresh) over the top of each leg.  
  • Cover tightly and refrigerate undisturbed for 48 hours.

  • Preheat over to 225°
  • Remove the duck legs from the cure and brush off as much of the mix as you can.
  • Return the ducks to a high sided oven proof container and cover them with the olive oil. The oil should come over the legs by about 2”
  • Float in the two cloves of garlic.
  • Slowly poach the duck, uncovered, for 3 hours or until the duck starts coming off the bone.
  • Do not let the oil bubble. It should cook very slowly and have little or no bubbling.
  • After the duck is cooked, remove it from the oil and put it into a clean glass or porcelain container large enough to hold the legs and all the oil.
  • Remove the garlic cloves and save them for slathering on a crusty piece of bread: cook's treat!
  • Strain the oil and pour it over the duck legs. Be sure the cooked duck is fully submerged in oil. Leave the duck to cool and then cover tightly and refrigerate. It will keep up to 3 months.


Some years ago I attended a cooking demonstration given by someone who (at the time) I considered the last word on all matters food. Her advice---which I took very much to heart----was that we use too much salt consequentially masking the natural deliciousness of our ingredients not to mention doing our health little good. She adamantly maintained that the sign of a very good cook was to learn to develop flavor with little or no salt.

The lady’s advice was forward thinking and many experts soon espoused that position. Wanting to be modern and a good and healthy cook, I eschewed the saltshaker, almost to the extreme. There were other ways to enhance food and I happily sallied forth using lemons, herbs and spices to gild my dishes and wake up the palate.

Now, I did not harbor any ill will toward salt, as I still was a closeted salter of corn on the cob, grilled meat and pasta water. For those foods my health concerns were out the window rationalizing that some things require salt, lots of it, and there simply was no substitute.

Over time the obsessiveness with salt as evil eased. The food world gradually directed that salt was okay again and not only that but now we would have many choices as to what salt to use. Some were for cooking, some for finishing, some for the table, all literally from all over the world. Some were to be used with meat and some with fish or fowl. Salt was to be paired much like wine and suddenly I was looking at exotic salts carrying prices akin to the finest Barolo or a vertical of Silver Oak.

Climbing again on the food trend bandwagon, I set out to acquire a few varieties and study the impact of gray salt, pink salt, sea salt (fine grain, large grain) and Kosher salt on my cooking. I prosthelytized on salt and imposed my opinion on the benefits of using artisanal salts (other than the usual blue box stuff) to anyone who would listen.

But secretly I was growing some serious confusion. All these exotic salts---one website listed forty! Forty? (yikes)---and I still had trouble telling them apart. Aside from larger or smaller grains, few offered any significant differences in taste and I am concluding that hand harvested French sel gris at $7.99 an ounce is just too much.

So here I am, after many years of ups and downs with salt, settled on just three: Kosher salt for general use, rock salt to make a bed for meaty juicy roasts and sea salt when I’m cooking fish. And that, my friends, is it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It is finally autumn in Atlanta, my favorite time of year. Time for soup. Rich, long simmering pots of deliciousness to warm us and bring comfort. Number one out of the gate this year? Onion. My take on classic French Onion Soup using an apple, a good splash of ruby port and three kinds of onions.

Try this. It's good.

Three Onion Soup
serves 6

• 4 cups of onions sliced---1 leek, 2 large sweet onions and 4 shallots should be enough to make the 4 cups/cut the sweet onions in ½ and slice them in half moons.
• 1 large apple (I use Braeburn), peeled, cored and cut into small dice
• 4 TBS unsalted butter---1/2 stick
• 1 TBS vegetable oil
• 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
• 2 TBS flour
• 1 TBS sugar
• 5 cups good beef stock, warmed
• ½ cup ruby port
• S&P to taste
• Croutons: ½” thick  rounds of day old French bread or baguettes, toasted
• 2 cups shredded cheese, Swiss, Jarlsberg or Gruyere.

• Select a heavy duty 4 quart pot with a lid. Melt the butter with the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for 1-2 minutes or until they begin to soften
• Stir in the remaining onions, apple, thyme and pepper to taste, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
• Uncover the pot and stir in the salt and sugar. Continue cooking for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are a deep golden brown.
• Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
• Add the stock, port and check the seasonings. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

To serve:
Ladle the soup into oven proof soup bowls. Float a crouton on top of the soup and pile the crouton with cheese. Put the bowls under a broiler until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately

Cook’s notes:
• For a de-fated version---Refrigerate the soup overnight and skim off the congealed fat that will accumulate before reheating over low heat.
• If you don’t have oven proof bowls, put the croutons on a baking sheet, pile the cheese on top and broil until the cheese is melted. Using a spatula, float the crouton into the soup and serve.

Parker's on Ponce

We had lunch last week at Parker's on Ponce in Decatur. Impressions? Well, I have to divide that into three parts.

Let’s start with the best, appearance and staff. Parker’s has a lovely outdoor patio in front and a welcoming low key interior. Tables are covered in crisp white linen and are comfortable and well spaced apart. We were warmly greeted at the door by a smiling hostess and seated promptly.

Service. Our server was very nice (like everyone we met there) but clearly disorganized and perhaps over whelmed as we noticed only two other staff for a half full dining room and patio. There wasn’t a manager in sight.

Service was also quite slow and I am guessing it was a combination of short staff and perhaps a kitchen not quite as ready as it should have been. It took twenty minutes to get two cups of decaf coffee----the coffee had not been brewed yet---and three requests before water appeared. Our order was collected after fifteen minutes at the table and took another thirty minutes before we were served.

During our wait for the food a manager did show up and promptly seated himself for a time at a table next to us. I can only say that the gentleman could use a shave and a haircut or else perhaps some effort to make his waist length pony tail a bit tidier (for a person handling and working around food he looked unkempt).

The food. We were three and wanted to taste everything, the menu was so appealing. We did end up ordering a lot so we could share and taste each other’s plates. Portions are generous.

• "Irish" onion soup with Guinness and cheddar crouton. After wading through lots of wonderfully gooey cheese and a nice thick crouton I found the soup underneath greasy and missing on the rich flavor I was expecting from long simmered onions and stock. Onion soup should have a lovely sweetness but this one was almost bitter. Unfortunately, it was also served along with everything else and I had a cold entrée by the time I finished my soup.

• Grilled flat-iron steak sandwich on ciabatta bread with onion jam, melted gruyère cheese, Bibb lettuce and tomato-garlic mayonnaise. Heaven! The steak was perfectly tender, rich and delicious. The combination of onion jam, gruyere and kicked up mayo was wonderful. I could easily eat that again and again.

• Slider combination plates with crab cake remoulade, prime rib, fried oyster, White Oak Pastures burger and barbequed pork with coleslaw. Every one of these---except the oyster---was a rich delicious mouthful. Our favorite was the prime rib…as tender, juicy and flavorful as any I have ever tasted.

• The oyster slider was another story. It had a horrible metallic taste. Just a bite had me spitting into my napkin. (Sorry). I am very uneasy when a restaurant of this purported quality serves bad seafood. It literally and figuratively left a terrible taste in my mouth.

• Potatoes at Parker’s rock. Garlic mash and hash browns were nearly perfect with one miss... they were not hot and barely at room temp. (Something I expect goes to short handed staff leaving cooked food sitting in the kitchen. That impression was reinforced later when we noticed the Chef serving food).

• Creamed corn was rich with fresh corn flavor and lots of corn but it suffered from a gritty texture we couldn’t figure out. Maybe cornmeal that wasn’t pre-soaked or cooked enough?

• We took black bean and cannellini bean hummus to go. It comes with olives, feta cheese, pepperoncini peppers & tomatoes, and was perfect with our at-home-before-dinner-wine. It’s an unexpected combination that really works.

All in all Parker’s on Ponce reminds me of a poem my Mother used to recite (called The Little Girl with the Curl and she was usually referring to me). “When she’s good she is very, very good; but when she’s bad she is horrid.

I would love to go back and find it running on all burners with stepped up managers directing the show. Parker's on Ponce could be great.

Parkers on Ponce on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Time to Make the Marshmallows

There’s a fire pit sitting in my back yard looking all forlorn and lonely. I want to turn it over, set it on the grass, fill it with wood and light it up.

I want to toast marshmallows until they’re charred and almost dripping off the stick. I want to tilt back in my chair, watch the night sky, sip some wine.

I have been waiting for this all summer, waiting through the swampy heat and humidity, waiting for a suitably cooler evening. It’s almost here.

Time to make the marshmallows!

Makes about 50 2” squares

Note--- these can be made using a hand mixer however, I’d urge you to borrow a good stand mixer (my borrow is a KitchenAid) if you don’t have one. It will save a lot of wear and tear on your mixer and your back.

• About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• 3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
• 1 cup cold water, divided in half
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup light corn syrup
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 large egg whites from very fresh eggs
• 1 tablespoon vanilla


• Grease the bottom and sides of a rectangular 9x13x2 inch metal baking pan with plain vegetable oil, then heavily dust the bottom and sides with confectioners’ sugar.
• In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup ice water and let sit about 5 minutes to soften.
• In a heavy duty 3 quart saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes.
• Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
• With standing, or a hand-held electric mixer, beat sugar mixture on high speed until white, thick and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.
• In separate medium bowl, using very clean and dry beaters, whisk the egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks.
• Fold beaten whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan
• This is the hardest part of the entire process. The mixture is very sticky and is difficult to spread evenly in the prepared pan. You will also not be able to get every bit of it out of the mixing bowl. Use a lighty oiled spatula to spread the mix evenly in the pan and use what’s left in the bowl for tasting. When you’ve had your fill, soak it immediately in hot soapy water to make for an easier clean up.
• Sift 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow uncovered for at least three hours.
• Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board that has been sprinkled lightly with confectioner’s sugar. Lift up one corner of the inverted pan and with your fingers ease the marshmallow onto a cutting board. Use a large lightly oiled knife to trim the edges of marshmallow and then cut into roughly two-inch cubes. (If you have one, an oiled pizza cutter works well here also.)
• Sift remaining confectioner’s sugar back into the now-empty baking pan and roll the marshmallow squares through it, coating all sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away in an airtight container.
• Marshmallows will keep at cool room temperature for 2 weeks

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Locavore, Locavorism

It used to be, when I was learning about food and cooking (which I admit I still am), I would occasionally stumble across a term like brunoise that sent me scurrying to my Larousse for a look up. But those were words long a part of the traditional food lexicon. And, as there were a finite number of those words, I knew at some point I would learn them all.

But our twenty first century food scene has morphed into a whole new beast growing rarefied techniques using unapproachably expensive equipment and a peculiar new vocabulary. Case in point locavore and locavorism.

Hailed as “The Best New Food Trend” by Atlanta’s Creative Loafing, locavorism sent me scrambling. Finding nothing in Larousse and nothing in an unabridged Webster’s, I found myself trolling the web.

Along the way, I stumbled on this article published two years ago by William Safire. I guess I really missed the boat on locavorism. Silly me.

“As the economy began its downturn last year and imports became more expensive, localness challenged cleanliness as being next to godliness in the food dodge. The lust for the local is even competing with organic — food grown or raised without a chemical assist but often transported around the world — and Wal-Mart, having joined the organic parade two years ago, is now touting its purchases of produce grown in-state near its supercenters.

Naturally, a name was needed to describe the new anti-exoticism. The word locavore was coined in 2005 on the analogy of carnivore, “flesh eater” (which most dictionaries prefer to “meat eater” because the Latin caro is translated as “flesh,” but nobody eats fattening flesh these days), and herbivore, “plant eater.” The suffix -vorous means “eating, devouring” and spawned the adjective “voracious.”

The coiner is Jessica Prentice, who was challenged to come up with a name for what Prentice had been calling the nearby foodshed, I presume on the analogy of “watershed.” She promptly melded the Latin locus, “place,” with vorare, “swallow, devour” and (gulp!) there was locavore, the noun that became the Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year for 2007.

“The Rise of the ‘Locavore’ ” was a Business Week headline this spring in an article about the spread of farmers’ markets: “Consumers increasingly are seeking out the flavors of fresh, vine-ripened foods grown on local farms rather than those trucked to supermarkets from faraway lands.” Name of the trend (in a recent review in The New York Sun, which lamentably set last month): locavorism.

The trend was also confirmed in a macabre New Yorker cartoon by Bruce Eric Kaplan. A man-eating shark, munching on a human arm, says to another shark, “I’m trying to eat more locals.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Stu's Pink Applesauce

Apples remind me of my boys when they were small…all rosy cheeks from running wild.

We took them apple picking in the fall, ate fresh donuts hot from the fryer and tasted new cider. A bushel of red Macintosh always came home with us and Stu loved the applesauce I’d make….it was pink from leaving the skins on.

I made applesauce again today. That brought the memories back. It made me smile. I feel happy.

Stu’s Favorite Pink Applesauce
Makes approximately 4 cups

3# Macintosh apples, cored, skin on, cut into ¼’s
2/3 cup cold water
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sweet butter

The quantities of sugar and water will vary based on how sweet and juicy the apples are. Half way through the cooking taste it and add more sugar if you want a sweeter result. Do the same with the water. If you like a looser applesauce add more water, a tablespoon at a time. The applesauce will thicken as it cools so don't fret if it looks a little loose.

Choose a heavy duty pot with a tight lid.  (I use my 5 quart le Creuset---it's older than my boys and is still in great shape).

Add everything at once and stir. Put the pot over medium heat and bring the mix to a boil. Cover and adjust your heat to keep everything at a gentle boil.

Cook for about 20 minutes----stirring occasionally---until the apples are soft and easily mashed.

Remove from the heat and check seasonings. Adjust as needed. If you are adding more sugar, spices or water at this time, return the applesauce to the heat and cook, covered, another 5 minutes. 

Remove from the heat, uncover and cool, in the pot, for about 15 minutes. (Do this to avoid burns. Hot applesauce hurts!)

Put the applesauce in a food mill and puree to remove skins and any stray seeds.

Cover and chill. Lasts for one week in the refrigerator or can  in a water bath canner for 20 minutes. I use 1/2 pint jars so I can enjoy Stu's pink applesauce as a snack.

Pink Applesauce---Enjoy!