Sunday, September 18, 2011

Grab-Bag Foodie News From Around the Web

What to eat (or not) at a funeral....

Ready, Set, Open Windows

Every year it happens to me. You could set a clock by it. The weather cools and I start craving the same 5 things:

1. Fireplaces and hot drinks in mugs (in my case it's a fire pit)
2. Soups. Mainly onion, hot and sour and roasted tomato.
3. Dahlias and zinnias.
4. Braises and stews.
5. Reading on the couch under Jean's blanket with Sander socks on my feet. (I'll explain those later)

Numbers 1, 3, and 5 are relatively easy to arrange. I've got the fire pit and the wood and plenty of mugs. The socks and the blanket I can pull out of storage. Flowers I can buy on weekends when the Farmer's Markets open. The rest require cooking. And because I want my food to be as healthy and tasty as I can make it, those braises, stews and soups have to start with Home Made Stock. 

For this blog we'll do the most difficult and the one most of us usually avoid: Beef. Why bother you ask?

I was in the grocery store today. The stock I prefer to buy---if I buy any---is College Inn. It's an old favorite and I like the taste. But....if you turn that carton around you'll find this on the label....

Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Whey Protein (Milk) and Wheat Bran Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Dextrose, Onion Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Caramel Color, Natural Flavor, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate. 

I don't see anything that sounds like beef or cow in there. And, then there's the sodium: 570 mgs for a (1 cup) serving. Now I hear you thinking. Many of the labels are organic, low salt and fat free. That's good. The price is not. At my grocery it's $3.79 for a 32 ounce box of the regular. The organic, salt and fat free is a dollar more and the ingredients are still mysterious.

For about $5 worth of stuff and 30 minutes of my time I can made 3 quarts of salt free, fat free, chemical free stock at home.

Still with me? Here's how to do it. It's easy...don't be afraid. (Smile!)

Very Good Beef Stock
makes 3 quarts
The Veg and the Herbs
  • 3 pounds of beef bones. (Go to your butcher, either in your supermarket or a local guy. Ask him for beef bones. Any kind as long as it comes from a cow (or steer). No goat or lamb. Veal is okay; that's a young cow (or steer). Oh, oxtail is okay too. If the bones have a little meat on them that's good, if not, no worry. If you know your butcher he might just give them to you for free. Other wise they should cost you about $3.)
  • 2 large onions, skin left on, cut in quarters    
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 carrots, cut in quarters. Don't peel them. Just wash.
  • 3 stalks of celery cut in thirds, leaves left on
  • 1-2 parsnips, cut in quarters. Don't peel them, just wash. (If you don't have parsnips, or forgot to buy them or can't find them, add another carrot.)
  • 1 leek, light green part included, cut in half down the length and well washed. (If you don't have a leek or can't find one or forgot to buy one, just skip it.)
  • 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, skin on, just smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 stems of fresh flat leaf parsley, use stems and leaves
  • 5-6 stems fresh thyme. Don't use dried thyme on this. Please try to find fresh.
  • 1 teaspoon paprika for color
  • 4 quarts of cold water
  1.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Wash the beef bones under cold water and remove any large pieces of fat. Pat dry.
  3. Put the bones and the onions into a shallow roasting pan and toss them with a generous 3-4 tablespoons of oil. Make sure everything is in one layer. Roast, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Turn the bones once after 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
    Bones and onions, nicely roasted
  4. Transfer the bones and the onions (and their skins) to a deep stock pot. Discard all the oil from the roasting pan and set it over medium high heat. Pour in 1/4 cup of the cold water. Bring to a boil, scraping up all the roasted bits from the pan. Pour this into the stock pot.
  5. Add all the vegetables, seasonings and herbs. No salt! Pour in the remaining cold water.
  6. Set your stock pot over high heat, cover it and bring it to a boil.
  7. As it comes to the boil the ingredients will throw off a
      Foamy stuff, discard this
    foamy scum. Try to strain off as much of it as you can. Don't worry if you don't get it all. 
  8. Lower the heat to keep the pot at the gentlest simmer, cover it and walk away....yes, walk away! Let it go, undisturbed for 5-6 hours. Do. Not. Stir.  
  9. After the time is up, remove the lid, take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  10. Strain it into another clean pot or storage containers and let it cool, uncovered, on your counter. When the stock is cool to the touch, cover and refrigerate it over night.
  11. The next day, skim off and discard the accumulated fat and leave refrigerated for 4-5 days or freeze up to 6 months.
Sander socks.  
Years ago my friend's son gave me a pair of brightly patterned flannel socks. They
Sander socks
were cozy and a little large and fit high up my shin for extra warmth. I loved them for around the house during cold weather months. No shoes or slippers required. I dubbed them Sander socks. I now have several pairs in different colors and patterns but the original will always be my sentimental favorite.

Thank you Sander!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cookbook Heaven

There are a lot of cookbooks out there and more keep coming. For me most are a great disappointment offering little new past gorgeous food-porn shots promising results that the recipes don't deliver.

Yet we keep wishing on our foodie stars that one day a winner will be published. And ouila! It has come to pass. Welcome please, The Geometry of Pasta. This is one really fascinating book. It is cool enough for the most accomplished cook and simple enough for  uncertain beginners.

It is a certainly a pasta lovers dream as it cleverly walks us through the process of matching pasta shapes to sauces, why one enhances the other and the recipes are flawless. The recipes are also adaptable....go ahead and substitute crimini for morel.

Now, no cookbook is completely perfect, there may be a few things you will not like: no glossary photographs and ingredients are metric. Get past it. The purpose is the subtle art of combining pasta shapes with sauces. That they've gotten absolutely right.

Click here and have a smile: Farfalle


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Offering Chicken Soup

There will be few of us who will not take pause this weekend to remember the unspeakable horror of September 11, 2001. We will all note where we were and recall the overwhelming revulsion for such a hideous attack.

Much has changed in our country and in our lives in the decade that has ensued. We have learned to live with an underpinning of fear. We continue to suffer through unresolved conflicts overseas and divisiveness at home. Our economy is skidding and more than half our citizens are teetering on financial ruin. The American Dream is lost for many, at risk for many more.

Our souls crave nurturing in these trying times and there is nothing more satisfying than the nourishing comfort of favorite foods. Comfort foods. They have made a comeback in a big way. There is little wonder why.

Mashed potatoes, meatloaf and gravy. Mama's pasta and homemade sauce. Tomato soup and grilled cheese. Ice cream, warm Toll House cookies, peanut butter and jelly. Hot chocolate, rice pudding. And what is it about a hot bowl of home made chicken soup that will calm us, soothe us, ease our troubles and smooth our brow? 

Why do certain foods make us peaceful, make us smile? Is it just because they carry the memories of home? Because they're familiar and traditional? Are they tangled with the happy ignorance of our youth?

Exactly why do we crave comfort foods when we are in need of comfort? There is a scientific reason and it's pretty easy to understand:

Many of these foods are loaded with carbohydrates. During stressful times our bodies crave carbohydrates because stress breaks down serotonin, a neurotransmitter in our brains needed to regulate sleep, reduce pain, control appetite and calm nerves. Eating foods high in carbohydrates triggers the body to release insulin, which then allows the brain to produce more serotonin which in turn, makes us happy again.*

Do not fight that bowl of pasta or the scoop of ice-cream with chocolate fudge. Your body and soul are talking to you when those cravings hit. Indulge moderation of course. It will truly make you feel much much better.

What do I eat for comfort? Ah, I knew you'd ask. For me it's always a four minute poached egg (in well salted water) on buttered rye bread toast. Oh, and extra toast for mopping up the yolk.  Mother always made that when I wasn't feeling well. Sometimes applesauce with raisins would follow for dessert.

*from an article by Nutritionist Maria Karalis, MBA, RD, LDN