Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas dinner


I'll post recipes for roast beef sirloin, mashed potatoes and gravy and Yorkshire pudding if anybody wants me to.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where is Jack LaLanne when you really need him?


This post has been a niggling thought in the back of my head since I saw a piece on "Squeezing the Truths out of Juice Myths" on CBS The Early Show last week. The story bothered me when I saw it, but I ignored it and it's been festering like a splinter ever since.

This is a line from the story as posted on the Early Show website:

"Dr. Jennifer Ashton debunked myths about the health benefits of juice. In some cases, juices have more calories than soda."

I need to add a Dave Barry-like disclaimer here: I'm not making this up.

Say what? Since when is number of calories the determining factor in terms of whether or not a food is good for you?

Am I the only one who thinks it is dangerous for a "doctor" to be telling parents that soda is better for their children than juice because it has fewer calories?

Here's an excerpt from the show transcript:

A cup of apple juice, she said, can contain 117 calories while a cup of cola contains just 91 calories and is also less caloric than orange juice (105 calories). A cup of grape juice has 154 calories. There's also more than 37 grams of sugar in a glass of grape juice, compared with cola's 22 grams. "If you just go by calorie to calorie and put them head to head...you could be getting a lot more bang for the buck in terms of calories, obviously sugar, in the juice versus the soda," Ashton said.

Maybe there is some validity to the problem of parents giving their children too much of a good thing, but why not just tell them to try and get their kids to drink more water instead of making it look like - in a comparison between soda and juice - soda might be a better choice?

I'm pretty sure this is the same woman who tried to tell us a month or so ago that Fruit Loops contain an arsenal of antioxidants. http://cookingoutloud.blogspot.com/2009/08/is-there-some-conspiracy-to-keep-us.html

Stories like these make me wonder who is paying for these "studies."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Scenes from the Southside

My mother fixed chicken many ways - roasted, fricasseed, chicken and dumplings - but frying was never part of her repertoire.

Before I met William, my idea of fried chicken was the stuff that the Colonel sells by the bucket.

Every summer we would drive from New Jersey to visit my grandmother in Florida.
Some of my fondest memories are of blistering August afternoons sitting on the beach in Dunedin turning various shades of red and eating volumes of original recipe and extra crispy. Wet naps were optional, sand was not.


The first time we visited William's hometown in North Carolina after we were married, my concept of fried chicken changed forever.

From my first bite of Parker's fried chicken in Greenville I knew I would never eat chicken from a bucket ever again unless I was desperate. And then there were the corn sticks and the hush puppies!



Since it was my first time meeting my husband's extended family, half the population of the state dropped in to visit every day we were there (I started to feel as if I was being vet-checked and wouldn't have been surprised if someone had asked if they could take a look at my teeth). But the good news was, everybody that came to see us, brought food.

I was in hog heaven. Not only did I experience chicken enlightenment, I had my first East Carolina pulled pork barbecue sandwich and decided that Farmville had to be close to Nirvana. How could it not be with Jack Cobb's at one end of town and Contentnea Creek BBQ on the other?


I may never be able to replicate Aunt Ann's marvelous turkey gravy with pieces of hardboiled eggs, but, after much trial and error, I can fry a mean piece of chicken.




Buttermilk fried chicken


Ingredients:

1 3-4 pound fryer

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons Creole seasonings

(Tony Chachere’s or Zatarain’s)

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups unbleached all purpose white flour

Directions:

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces, removing the backbone.

Put the buttermilk, seasoning and pepper into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and mix well.

Add the chicken, close the bag and turn it over a few times to coat the chicken with the mixture then put the bag of chicken in the refrigerator to marinate for at least two hours or overnight.

Put the flour in a plastic bag or large bowl. Remove the chicken pieces one at a time and shake in the bag or dredge in the flour in the bowl to coat.


Place on a baking sheet and let the coated chicken sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. If the coating is wet, shake or dredge in the flour for a second time (makes a crispier coating).


Gently shake off the excess flour and deep fry four pieces at a time for 20 minutes, starting with the legs and thighs. Place the first four pieces on a baking sheet in a warm oven while the second batch is frying.




Carolina On My Mind...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tourte reform


When I die and go to heaven, I'm going to have a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a Viking gas stove.


I have a confession to make. I hate my kitchen.


Under no circumstances will I ever buy another smooth surface electric range. The front right burner has two settings that work - el scorcho and not hot enough. The white porcelain has darkened over the burners and, no matter how hard I try, they never look clean any more.


The oven is fickle and runs sometimes too hot, and sometimes not, which makes baking somewhat of an adventure.


My refrigerator never seems to have enough room.


The sinkhole is making the kitchen floors wavy and my cabinet doors gape annoyingly open.


I try to look at things from the perspective of the lyrics of a Sheryl Crow song:


"It isn't having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."


But I can dream.


What does any of this have to do with the recipe?


Well, not much.


I've been watching cooking shows on TV for a very long time and I'm starting to become a little disappointed in the offerings on the Food Network.


In my opinion, the shows seem to be less about food and more about personalities and selling cookware or knicknacks - like Semi-Homemade - or create dishes using equipment and ingredients no home cook realistically has access to - like Iron Chef. (When was the last time you saw squab or sea urchin at the grocery store?)


The other day we were flipping through the channels and came across an old Julia Child series on PBS.


Julia was all about the food and never seemed to rely on fancy gagets or equipment. She created her masterpeices with quality ingredients, a serviceable stove, a few good pots, pans and knives and a copper bowl and a whisk.






Tourte Milanese adapted from the PBS series In the Kitchen with Julia - Episode: Puff pastry with Michel Richard

Ingredients:

1 pound puff pastry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound fresh spinach (blanched, chopped, and drained very well)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 large roasted red bell peppers
8 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons chopped chives
2 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
½ pound thinly sliced Swiss cheese
½ pound thinly sliced ham
soft butter to grease pan
1 beaten egg for egg wash

Directions:

Grease an 8-inch spring form pan with soft butter. Roll out ¾ of the puff pastry ¼ inch thick and line bottom and sides of pan leaving a 1-inch overhang. Roll out the remaining pastry into ¼ inch thick and cut out 8-inch circle. Transfer into a plate. Keep both pastries refrigerated while preparing the filling.


To roast peppers: If you have a gas stove, turn one burner on low to medium and place pepper directly on the flame to char the outside skin and soften the pepper. Keep turning the pepper until all sides are charred. Put the peppers in a paper or plastic bag to steam then peel the charred skin from the pepper and remove the stem and seeds.
The peppers can be roasted the same way on an outdoor gas or charcoal grill or in an electric oven set to broil.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Add spinach and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat, set aside.

To make the omelets, whisk four eggs in a bowl then add half of the herbs and salt to taste. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in an 8-inch skillet over medium heat, coating the bottom of skillet evenly. Pour the egg mixture and stir briefly. As eggs start to set, lift edges
so liquid can run under. When eggs are completely set but still moist, transfer omelet onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining eggs and herbs.
Remove the lined pan from the refrigerator.

Layer ingredients in following order: 1 omelet, half of the spinach, half of cheese, half of ham, all of the red bell peppers. Repeat layering in reverse order using the remaining ingredients.

Remove the 8-inch pastry from refrigerator and place over omelet. Seal well to pastry lining by pinching together with fingers. With tip of knife, draw desired number of slices directly on the pastry. Make a small hole in the center of the pastry. Brush all over with beaten egg. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Position rack in lower third of oven, preheat to 350 degrees F.

Brush pastry one more time with beaten egg. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 1 ½ hours. Cool for 30 minutes, release from pan. Slice and serve warm.


A couple of tips on using frozen puff pastry:
Don't let the pastry get too warm when you thaw it or you will have a hard time getting the packaging off and rolling it out.
If you don't let it thaw enough, it will crack when you unroll it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

End of an era

Closing the Book on Gourmet
By KIM SEVERSON The New York Times
ONE of the first things Ruth Reichl did after telling her staff on Monday that Condé Nast had closed Gourmet was to lock up the library with its landmark collection of 70 years of cookbooks and typewritten recipes.

“That’s not going to disappear,” she said, adding that she had strongly suggested to S. I. Newhouse Jr., the company’s chairman, that he donate the archives to the New York Public Library or to a university.

Then she and her staff gathered bottles of wine and liquor from the office and held a wake at her apartment. Readers are mourning in their own ways.

Killing Gourmet and keeping Bon Appétit, which had more readers and stronger ad numbers, may have made business sense for Condé Nast. But to the food elite — especially of an older generation — it felt like a gut punch.

How had the magazine that seemed more likely to stay home, broil pork chops and take care of the kids won out over its sexy, well-read, globetrotting sister? And what does a world without Gourmet portend for an age when millions prefer to share recipes online, restaurant criticism is becoming crowd-sourced and newspaper food sections are thinner and thinner?

“It has a certain doomsday quality because it’s not just a food magazine. It represents so much more,” said James Oseland, editor in chief of Saveur, a smaller, younger food magazine. “It’s an American cultural icon.”

The magazine, founded in 1941, thrived on a rush of postwar aspiration and became a touchstone for readers who wanted lives filled with dinner parties, reservations at important restaurants and exotic but comfortable travel.

Although it was easy to paint Gourmet as the food magazine for the elite, it was a chronicler of a nation’s food history, from its early fascination with the French culinary canon to its discovery of Mediterranean and Asian flavors to its recent focus on the source of food and the politics surrounding it.

In the decade since Ruth Reichl took over as editor, she underlined everything from the exploitation of tomato pickers in Florida to dishes like chicken and dumplings that could be on the stove, simmering, in 15 minutes.

But whatever the fashion of the time, Gourmet remained a place where people learned how to eat and cook — particularly for an older generation.

“Gourmet was the only resource you had other than your cookbooks,” said Judy Walker, the food editor of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

Over the course of nearly 70 years, Gourmet has a recipe database enviable in both size and quality. The pool is so deep that Gourmet compiled a cookbook of more than 1,000 recipes in 2006, then turned around and published more than 1,000 more in “Gourmet Today,” which arrived — in one of the industry’s great moments of bad timing — in September.

“It feels like the last act of this magazine should be to support this book,” said Ms. Reichl, who is heading to the Midwest this week to promote it.

After a short rest, she plans to write a book about her years at Condé Nast.

Chefs, too, lamented the magazine’s passing. For many, their dreams of a life in the kitchen were born in its pages.

“Growing up, my parents’ copies of Gourmet were my only window into the high-end restaurant world,” said Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde.

Scott Peacock, the Atlanta chef who has become known for Southern cooking, made his first biscuits as boy using a recipe from Gourmet. Years later, biscuits from his own recipe would be on the cover of the magazine.

“That magazine was a big deal to me growing up in Hartford, Alabama,” he said. “It was a glimpse into another world, one that I was interested in.”

The magazine also provided a home for literate, thoughtful food writing. Its stable of contributors included James Beard, Laurie Colwin and M. F. K. Fisher. In the 1940s and ’50s, the restaurateur Lucius Beebe wrote a meandering column called Along the Boulevards.

“Gourmet was the New Yorker of food magazines back in the 1970s and ’80s,” said Jim Lahey, a Manhattan baker.

Gourmet magazine was an early influence on Alice Waters, who recalls building files of recipes and photographs of dishes that she and Lindsey Shere, the first pastry chef of Chez Panisse, wanted to make. And, she said, for some restaurateurs, a review in Gourmet used to mean everything.

“Yes, you could be in The New York Times, but that was sort of fleeting. Gourmet was just a bigger cultural picture,” she said.

The magazine had its detractors, too, and they are doing plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking: Gourmet was out of step with the times, both in content and design, they say.

“The magazine has been casting about and remade itself too many times,” said Nach Waxman, the owner of the Kitchen Arts and Letters bookstore in Manhattan.

“Gourmet got away from the things that are going on in people’s homes, and seemed to be for an elite that got smaller and smaller,” said Judith Jones, the Knopf editor, who believes food magazines in general have become too focused on fashion and style.

Still, there are believers. Kylie Sachs, a venture capitalist and subscriber for 15 years, took to Twitter on Monday and started a campaign to save Gourmet. In 24 hours, she had almost 200 followers.

Ms. Sachs, 37, thinks readers could rise up to save what she says is a tested brand whose reliability is even more important in a digital age.

And if she fails, she will still head into Thanksgiving — the first she is cooking for her family in her Brooklyn home — with Gourmet’s November issue, its last, at her side.

“I’ll have a good, trusted friend guiding me,” she said.

Julia Moskin and Florence Fabricant contributed reporting

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Got Milk? Maybe not for long.

Florida’s Milk Industry Soured by Bad Economy


News Service of Florida - Oct 3rd, 2009

First there was the housing implosion. Then banks melted down.

Now, Florida’s milk industry is souring.

The state’s already shrinking dairy industry is getting pummeled by the recession, with a Senate report released Thursday showing each farmer will lose an average $709,000 this year.

“Milk prices have come way down but our costs remain very high,” said Joe Wright, who runs a 1,400-head dairy farm in Avon Park. “It’s a double whammy that’s really hurting the industry.”

There are 140 dairy farms in Florida, fewer than half the number that existed as recently as 1992. Milk sales account for 90 percent of the revenue collected at Florida dairy farms, but prices have plunged 50-cents-a-gallon over the past year, costing farms an expected $99 million this year, according to the study by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The findings are scheduled to be reviewed by the committee next week. Wright, who also serves as a vice-president with Dairy Farmers Inc., in Orlando, said Floridians’ milk consumption has slowed with the recession – falling 5 percent some months last year.

Florida’s population, which declined last year for the first time in 60 years, also contributed to the state’s milk malaise. Consumption, however, has picked up again in recent months, spurred by a price-war among Florida retail stores, industry analysts say.

But feed costs remain high, rising sharply in part because of the federal ethanol program which now absorbs roughly one-third of the corn that otherwise would be available to go to cattle, according to the industry.

“Corn prices were three times their 10-year average last year,” Wright said. “They’ve since come down a bit. But you can’t stay in business with those kinds of increases.”

The Legislature is being asked to consider taking steps to bolster the industry in coming months – although no big bail-out is proposed.

Instead, possible moves range from the heavy-handed — a proposed requirement that government institutions in Florida buy a certain percentage of milk from the state’s dairy industry – to more traditional tax incentives and other proposals easing state environmental regulations for farms.

Another approach encourages the state to provide tax credits to encourage more development of bio-fuel from Florida dairy farms – what the industry calls anaerobic digestion technology.

Even taking modest steps in converting Florida cow manure and its accompanying methane gas to electricity could power as many as 2,000 homes in each Florida county, Senate analysts said.

The new report also points out that the state’s dairy industry is concentrated in the Lake Okeechobee area and Suwannee River basin in North Florida. Since those regions also are home to most of Florida’s prisons, those facilities could be pushed to convert waste management systems to those using bio-fuel from nearby dairies, the study suggested.

“If you can make bio-fuel economically worthwhile, farmers would give it a try,” Wright said.

Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee whose district includes a belt of dairy farms near Lake Okeechobee, said he was uncertain what steps are needed for the industry’s survival. “But we can’t let agriculture go by the wayside, and dairy is a big part of it,” Aronberg said.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Contest, anyone?

Food & Water Watch's Second-Annual Sustainable Seafood Recipe Contest

You want to put safe and environmentally sound fish on your family's plate, and it can be more challenging than ever in tough economic times. Luckily, there's our Smart Seafood Guide, with recommendations of fish that are most likely to be healthy for you and the environment! Now we're challenging chefs of all types to create a sustainable seafood dinner for four -- for under $25.
Visit our site to read the full Frugal Fish contest rules and guidelines.
THE BASICS- Your entry must be your own original creation - Each entry must feature at least one of the fish recommended in our seafood guide- The combined cost of all ingredients must be $25 or less (please include item prices)
DATES- Submissions accepted from September 21, 2009 to midnight EST on October 16, 2009 - The winners will be announced by the end of October JUDGING- Recipes will be judged by Chef Rocky Barnette and Food & Water Watch staff - Recipes will be evaluated based on the following criteria: - Features a recommended fish and meets other contest requirements - Taste - Working within the $25 budget - Uniqueness - Healthiness (i.e. low sodium, low saturated fat, few processed ingredients) - Simplicity - Bonus points for using sustainable/local ingredients
WINNERS- Winning entries will be published in our online recipe collection (click here to see last year's winners in Fish & Tips)- All winners will receive a Food & Water Watch gift- The grand-prize winner will receive $250.00HOW TO ENTERRead the full contest rules and fill out the form below. Send us links to photos or to video as well. When you enter, we'll keep you informed about who wins and about other important actions you can take to protect our seafood.

Smart Choices Program not so smart after all

Victory: Change.org Members Force Health Organizations to Back Away from Food Labeling Ploy
Hey Changemakers,
This week thousands of Change.org members took on the food industry's new marketing scheme to persuade customers to buy more highly processed foods - and won a major victory.
The new marketing program, called "Smart Choices," is a front-of-the-package nutrition-labeling program designed in theory to help shoppers make smarter food choices.
But as the New York Times exposed last week, the selections are anything but healthy. One of the selections is Froot Loops, which was chosen, according to one board member, because "it's better for you than donuts." (No, we're not kidding. We couldn't make this up.)
Despite the program's dubious standards, it maintained the appearance of legitimacy because researchers associated with three reputable organizations - American Diabetes Association, American Dietetic Association, and Tufts University - were on its board.
In response, thousands of Change.org members sent letters to the presidents of these three major research institutions urging them to remove their name from the program.
The result? All three organizations responded to the pressure this week by publicly distancing themselves from the food labeling scheme and officially asking Smart Choices to remove their name from its website and marketing materials - thereby publicly embarrassing and discrediting the program.
Mark this as a victory for consumer advocacy on the web. If anyone still questioned whether the Smart Choices program had any legitimacy, they now have their answer. And if food companies had any question about whether they'd be able to introduce a new marketing program to sell more unhealthy foods without repercussion, they now know there are thousands of consumers who will be watching.

For Your Health, Froot Loops

By WILLIAM NEUMAN
Published: September 4, 2009
A new food-labeling campaign called Smart Choices, backed by most of the nation’s largest food manufacturers, is “designed to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices.”
The green checkmark label that is starting to show up on store shelves will appear on hundreds of packages, including — to the surprise of many nutritionists — sugar-laden cereals like Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops.
“These are horrible choices,” said Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health.
He said the criteria used by the Smart Choices Program were seriously flawed, allowing less healthy products, like sweet cereals and heavily salted packaged meals, to win its seal of approval. “It’s a blatant failure of this system and it makes it, I’m afraid, not credible,” Mr. Willett said.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture have also weighed in, sending the program’s managers a letter on Aug. 19 saying they intended to monitor its effect on the food choices of consumers.
The letter said the agencies would be concerned if the Smart Choices label “had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods and refined grains instead of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.”
The government is interested in improving nutrition labeling on packages in part because of the nation’s obesity epidemic, which experts say is tied to a diet heavy in processed foods loaded with calories, fats and sugar.
The prominently displayed label debuts as many in the food industry and government are debating how to provide information on the front of packages that includes important elements from the familiar nutrition facts box that usually appears on the back of products.
Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said the program’s criteria were based on government dietary guidelines and widely accepted nutritional standards.
She said the program was also influenced by research into consumer behavior. That research showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them.
“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’ ” Dr. Kennedy said. “Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product. They want to have a choice. They don’t want to be told ‘You must do this.’ ”
Dr. Kennedy, who is not paid for her work on the program, defended the products endorsed by the program, including sweet cereals. She said Froot Loops was better than other things parents could choose for their children.
“You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal,” Dr. Kennedy said, evoking a hypothetical parent in the supermarket. “So Froot Loops is a better choice.”
Froot Loops qualifies for the label because it meets standards set by the Smart Choices Program for fiber and Vitamins A and C, and because it does not exceed limits on fat, sodium and sugar. It contains the maximum amount of sugar allowed under the program for cereals, 12 grams per serving, which in the case of Froot Loops is 41 percent of the product, measured by weight. That is more sugar than in many popular brands of cookies.
“Froot Loops is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals and it is also a good source of fiber with only 12 grams of sugar,” said Celeste A. Clark, senior vice president of global nutrition for Kellogg’s, which makes Froot Loops. “You cannot judge the nutritional merits of a food product based on one ingredient.”
Dr. Clark, who is a member of the Smart Choices board, said that the program’s standard for sugar in cereals was consistent with federal dietary guidelines that say that “small amounts of sugar” added to nutrient-dense foods like breakfast cereals can make them taste better. That, in theory, will encourage people to eat more of them, which would increase the nutrients in their diet.
Ten companies have signed up for the Smart Choices program so far, including Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, Unilever, General Mills, PepsiCo and Tyson Foods. Companies that participate pay up to $100,000 a year to the program, with the fee based on total sales of its products that bear the seal.
The Smart Choices checkmark is meant to take the place of similar nutritional labels that individual manufacturers began plastering on their packages several years ago, like PepsiCo’s Smart Choices Made Easy and Sensible Solution from Kraft.
In joining Smart Choices, the companies agreed to discontinue their own labeling systems, Ms. Kennedy said.
Michael R. Taylor, a senior F.D.A. adviser, said the agency was concerned that sugar-laden cereals and high-fat foods would bear a label that tells consumers they were nutritionally superior.
“What we don’t want to do is have front-of-package information that in any way is based on cherry-picking the good and not disclosing adequately the components of a product that may be less good,” Mr. Taylor said.
He said the agency would consider the possibility of creating a standardized nutrition label for the front of packages.
“We’re taking a hard look at these programs and we want to independently look at what would be the sound criteria and the best way to present this information,” Mr. Taylor said.
Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, was part of a panel that helped devise the Smart Choices nutritional criteria, until he quit last September. He said the panel was dominated by members of the food industry, which skewed its decisions.
“It was paid for by industry and when industry put down its foot and said this is what we’re doing, that was it, end of story,” he said. Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Clark, who were both on the panel, said industry members had not controlled the results.
Mr. Jacobson objected to some of the panel’s nutritional decisions. The criteria allow foods to carry the Smart Choices seal if they contain added nutrients, which he said could mask shortcomings in the food.
Despite federal guidelines favoring whole grains, the criteria allow breads made with no whole grains to get the seal if they have added nutrients.
“You could start out with some sawdust, add calcium or Vitamin A and meet the criteria,” Mr. Jacobson said.
Nutritionists questioned other foods given the Smart Choices label. The program gives the seal to both regular and light mayonnaise, which could lead consumers to think they are both equally healthy. It also allows frozen meals and packaged sandwiches to have up to 600 milligrams of sodium, a quarter of the recommended daily maximum intake.
“The object of this is to make highly processed foods appear as healthful as unprocessed foods, which they are not,” said Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do we really want other countries controlling what we eat?

Brazilian beef producer JBS to become world’s largest meat maker with Pilgrim’s Pride deal
Emily Fredrix September 16th, 2009 Brazil beef producer to be world’s largest meat co

MILWAUKEE — A Brazilian meat conglomerate could leap ahead of American meat producer Tyson Foods Inc. to become the world’s largest meat company with two deals announced Wednesday that would expand its interests in beef, dairy and chicken.


One of the deals would take struggling Texas chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. out of bankruptcy court protection, while the other merges Brazilian beef producer JBS SA said with Bertin SA, one of Latin America’s largest producers and exporters of milk products, beef and leather.

JBS cemented its status as an international meat conglomerate with its 2007 purchase of Greeley, Colo.-based Swift & Co. for $225 million. It said the newly minted JBS-Bertin will make it the world’s largest meat producer.

With annual revenue forecast at $28.7 billion, JBS-Bertin will edge out Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc., which brought it just under $27 billion in its fiscal 2008.

JBS-Bertin will have operations in North and South America, Africa, Europe, Russia, China and Australia.

“We have already passed Tyson and we’re just starting. We made it all the way here, and we are in a capacity to continue investing,” JBS CEO Joesley Batista told reporters at a news conference in Sao Paulo, according to Brazil’s Agencia Estado news agency.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the deals may change the rankings in the meat business but “won’t determine which company is the best.

“We remain focused on our own business strategies, which we believe will enable us to continue to provide the best protein products and service, both in the U.S. and around the world,” Mickelson wrote about Tyson in an e-mail.

KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Akshay Jagdale likened the new company’s U.S. operation to a clone of Tyson and said diversifying with the two new deals was a smart tactic for surviving downturns that affect like chicken more than beef, which has higher profit margins.

The JBS purchase gives a lifeline to Pittsburg, Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride, which was the largest U.S. chicken producer, with about 23 percent of the market, when it filed for bankruptcy protection late last year. It had been hobbled by debt from its buyout of a competitor and by high feed costs that left much of the industry in a slump.

JBS will buy 64 percent of the stock in the reorganized Pilgrim’s Pride for $800 million, which implies a total company value of $1.25 billion. The deal includes paying off Pilgrim’s Pride’s creditors in full and distributing new stock to current shareholders — something unusual for a company in bankruptcy protection.

Existing shareholders will receive shares in the remaining 36 percent of Pilgrim’s Pride worth $450 million. Including the plan to pay off $1.5 billion in debt, the entire transaction is worth $2.8 billion, Pilgrim’s Pride said.

In addition, the plan calls for exit financing of $1.75 billion, although spokesman Ray Atkinson said the company would not draw all of that.

Terms were not disclosed for the deal to buy Bertin.

Even before the Pilgrim’s Pride deal, rumors of which surfaced earlier this month, JBS was a top producer of beef and pork in the U.S. and worldwide. With the deals announced Wednesday, JBS will be the largest beef producing company in Brazil, Australia, Argentina and Italy.

JBS became the third-largest beef processor in the U.S. after purchasing Swift. The company’s Web site says it is also the third-largest U.S. pork producer.

Batista said the company will continue with an initial public offering in 2010 for JBS USA, which he expects to raise $2.5 billion. He said no more acquisitions are planned for 2009.

“In 2010, however, I expect to make new announcements,” he said.

Pilgrim’s Pride said the deal is subject to antitrust clearance. U.S. regulators earlier this year sued to block JBS’ acquisition of a major beef producer, citing pricing concerns for consumers and producers. JBS later dropped the $560 million deal with National Beef Packing Co., though it did buy Smithfield Foods Inc.’s beef group.

Pilgrim’s Pride, whose creditors’ valid claims would be paid in cash or by issuance of a new note, said it could emerge from bankruptcy court protection by December if the court approves the deal.

Doug Conn, managing director at Hexagon Securities, said it was unusual for shareholders to receive stock — or any value for their shares — from a company in bankruptcy protection.

“This is due to the fact that there is (one) very interested purchaser in the company in its entirety,” he said. “Normally bank assets are sold in parts or shut down.”

Associated Press Writer Marco Sibaja contributed to this report from Brasilia and AP Business Writer Mae Anderson contributed from New York.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How to say I love you with a stew

I sometimes drive William crazy asking "what sounds good for dinner?'

And he drives me equally crazy when he says "hot dogs."


I was mortified the first year we were together and I wanted to fix him something special for his birthday and told him to pick anything in the world he wanted and the thing he requested was sloppy Joes, the kind you make with the crap in a can.


I guess the difference between our outlook on food stems from the different ways we were raised. His dad did most of the cooking. His mom made holiday desserts and roasted pecans. Food was something you fixed because you had to eat.


My mom was more the Betty Crocker type who stayed at home and had dinner waiting on the table when my dad got home at 6 o'clock, so cooking has always been on my radar.


A combination of events turned my average interest in cooking into a passion. When our twins, Ryan and Emily, were born and I had to quit my job, it gave me something creative to do. And then, there's Ryan.


Without going into details, I can honestly say that when he was small, and even to this day, feeding him and keeping him healthy has been one of the greatest challenges of my life.

To me, in it's most elemental definition, food is love.

If you want to watch a movie that poignantly illustrates this philosophy, I suggest Babette's Feast, based on a book written by Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa. It's beautifully filmed and the story will touch your heart.

I could never recreate the meal Babette serves at the conclusion of this film, but Beef Bourguignon is also a labor of love.




Beef Bourguignon


Ingredients for the Stew:

8 ounces thick sliced bacon,
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine (a full bodied wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy or Chianti)
2-3 cups beef stock (Simple Beef stock is posted on the site, unsalted and defatted)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed (you may choose to add more)
1 sprig thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
Ingredients for the braised onions
18-24 white pearl onions, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock
salt & fresh ground pepper

Ingredients for the Sauteed Mushrooms
1 lb mushroom, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil




Directions:


First prepare the bacon: slice width wise into 1/4 inch pieces (lardons)

Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9" - 10" wide, 3" deep) fireproof casserole and warm over moderate heat.

Saute the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.
Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry off the pieces of beef and saute them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides.
Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon.

In the same oil/fat, saute the onion and the carrot until softened.
Pour off the fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion.

Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.

Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes.
Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.

Now, lower the heat to 325°F and remove the casserole from the oven.
Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs.
Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.

Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for three to four hours.

The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms and set them aside till needed.

For the onion, if using frozen, make sure they are defrosted and drained.
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and add the onions to the skillet.
Saute over medium heat for about ten minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart.

Pour in the stock, season to taste and cover.

Simmer over low heat for about 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
Set the onions aside.

For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large skillet.
As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and toss and shake the pan for about five minutes.

As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

To Finish the Stew:
When the meat is tender, remover the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it (discarding the bits of carrot and onion and herbs which remain in the sieve).
Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat.

Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or two, skimming off any additional fat which rises to the surface.
You should be left with about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock.
If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.
Taste for seasoning.

Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
If you are serving immediately, place the covered casserole over medium low heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley.

If serving later or the next day, allow the casserole to cool and place cold, covered casserole in the refrigerator.


20 minutes prior to serving, place over medium low heat and simmer very slowly for ten minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.


Spaetzle





Ingredients:




2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder







Directions
Bring a saucepan of salted water it a boil, reduce the heat, and maintain a simmer.

In a bowl, stir all the ingredients together. Place a colander over the pan, pour about1/4 of the batter into the colander, and press through the holes with a plastic spatula into the hot water.
When the spatzle starts to float to the surface, cover the pan and keep covered until the spatzle appears to swell and is fluffy. Remove the dumplings and repeat procedure with the remaining batter.















French Bread



Ingredients:


1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups water (105 -115 F)
4-4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt





Sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water and let stand in the bowl of you mixer until foamy, about 5 - 10 minutes.


Stir in flour and salt and process with the paddle attachment of the mixer until mixture forms a stiff dough.


Change to the dough hook and knead dough on low for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding in enough of remaining 1/2 cup flour to keep dough from sticking.


Transfer dough to a lightly oiled deep bowl, turning to coat with oil, and let rise, bowl covered with plastic wrap, until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.


Preheat oven to 475 and place a Dutch oven filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Punch down dough and form into two long loaves.



Put each loaf diagonally on a lightly greased large or 17 x 14-inch baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, about 30 minutes.


Make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes on loaf with a razor or sharp knife and lightly brush top with cool water.


Bake in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped Transfer to a rack to cool.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dinner and a movie

First, a few words from William:
Our choice – mine, actually, without objection from my lovely bride – for a movie was “Big Night,” a 1996 drama starring Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci.
Co-directed and co-written by Tucci (now starring in “Julie & Julia”) “Big Night” is about two Italian immigrant brothers (Tucci and Shalhoub) struggling to keep the doors open to their Italian restaurant in the Chelsea section of New York City. They withdraw all but $63 from their bank account and plan a major party when told that famed jazz and swing band singer Louis Prima would be dining at their restaurant.
If you like food movies, especially those with a great soundtrack, this is a good one. Realistic cooking scenes, and Prima, Rosemary Clooney and Claudio Villa are featured on the soundtrack.
Though considered a drama, “Big Night” has some very funny and poignant moments, especially with Shalhoub, who probably is better known as the strange detective “Monk.” I highly recommend this movie. It’s one of the best food movies I’ve ever seen.
I wasn't quite up to trying to make a timpano, but since I am still working on my mozzarella technique,I decided to make stromboli. Stromboli is sort of like pizza, sort of like calzone. It is a sandwich made from pizza dough and the filling is rolled inside the dough. If you don't like the meats or vegetables I used, feel free to substitute toppings of your choice in equivalent proportions. The next time, I am going to try sliced meatballs in a little tomato sauce instead of the sausage, and sauteed mushrooms instead of the black olives. I've inserted a step by step slide show of how to assemble the Stromboli at the end of the post.
Stromboli
Ingredients:
Basic Pizza Dough, recipe follows
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1 thinly sliced yellow onion
1 thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 thinly sliced green bell pepper
1 large jalapeno, seeded, stemmed and minced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 pound sliced ham
1/4 pound thinly sliced pepperoni or salami
1/2 cup sliced black olives
8 ozs sliced provolone (12 slices)
8 ozs sliced, fresh mozzarella
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet and set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until browned and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos and cook, stirring, until very soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool.
Punch down the dough and divide half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough to a large rectangle, about 10 by 14 inches. Spread half of the cooled sausage mixture across the dough leaving a
1-inch border. Overlapping slightly, layer half of the ham, pepperoni, olives, provolone and mozzarella cheeses over the top. Using a pastry brush, paint the border of 1 long edge with egg wash. Starting at the opposite long end without egg wash, roll up the dough into a cylinder, pinching the edges to seal. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Let the dough rise, 20 to 30 minutes.
Brush the top of each stromboli with egg wash. Bake until nearly completely golden brown and starting to crisp, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Slice thickly and serve.
Basic Pizza Dough:
1 1/2 cup warm (110 degrees F) water
3 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/3 tsp sugar
1 TBS plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tsp salt
In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar, and 1 tablespoon oil and stir to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add the flour and the salt, mixing with the paddle attachment of your mixer or by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Knead by hand or with the dough hook on your mixer for five to 8 minutes.
Oil a large mixing bowl with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Use as directed.
A few suggestions: Less is more or sometimes, more can be too much. Since I am still trying to perfect my homemade mozzarella, I made a batch to use in this stromboli. I used the whole pound and it was a little too much cheese so I altered the recipe to call for 1/2 pound instead.
If you make your own cheese using the recipe on the blog, I have a tip to make the cheese even better. Don't overwork the curds. Once you have separated the cheese from the whey, gently knead the curds into a cohesive ball during the microwave process and you will get a softer cheese more like the expensive fresh mozzarella you can find at the grocery store or specialty market. The more you work the curds, the tougher and stringier the cheese will become. I have also expreimented with the amount of salt and in this batch added 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the warm curds before kneading and that made for a more flavorful end result.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is there such a thing as blog envy?

Well, William and I went to see the movie Julie & Julia and now I need a shrink (or a drink).

I have a deep-seated aversion to people who seem to whine and fall apart for no good reason and Julie Powell, who chronicled a year of her life preparing every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in her blog "The Julie/Julia Project," is, at least in the movie version, a first-class whiner.

Other than that, I really did enjoy the film, but it is hard to empathize with someone whose problems seem so ... well, shallow.

For example, in the middle of this blog's post about beef broth from scratch, I did not sink into a "woe is me" diatribe over the fact that my house is slowly (or not so slowly) descending into a sinkhole.

Even though it put him in the doghouse, I think Julie's husband was right, she was more than a little self-absorbed.

I left the movie thinking about the beef tenderloin on sale at the Winn Dixie in a wine and mushroom sauce. William nixed that for pork chops. There is probably a German name for them that would make them sound exotic, like Schweinsomething, but I just call them pork chops in onion gravy and my dad used to love them too.

FYI Julie - just wait until you hit 40.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smile and say cheese!

I feel like dancing a jig, blowing a horn or jumping up and down. I made mozzarella cheese on my first try and I am ridiculously happy.



If you have ever wanted to make your own cheese but thought it would be too hard, too complicated or take too long, stop thinking about it and make some cheese.




The whole process took less than 45 minutes, start to finish, and was easier than making pancakes.

Once you have the rennet and the citric acid, all you need is a gallon of milk, salt to taste, a thermometer and a microwave.



The recipe I followed was from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company:




Mozzarella

Ingredients:


1 gallon of whole milk (not ultra pasteurized)

1 1/2 level tsp of citric acid, dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water

1/4 tsp liquid vegetable rennet, diluted in cool water

Directions:






Dissolve the citric acid in water in a small glass or plastic cup and set aside. Dilute the rennet in a small glass or plastic cup and set aside.
Pour the milk into an 8 quart stainless steel pot and heat slowly until it reaches a temperature of 55 degrees then add the citric acid solution and stir thoroughly. I used a stainless steel whisk for this.



When the milk reaches 88 degrees, it will begin to curdle



Pour in the rennet and fold it in with gentle scooping motions.










Continue heating until the temperature reaches just over 100 degrees.

At this point, the curds should be pulling away from the edge of the pot and the whey should look clear, not cloudy.









Use a slotted spoon to remove the curds from the pot and place them in a two quart microwaveable bowl.
Press the curds gently with your hands to remove as much hey as possible - this takes a few minutes.










Microwave the curds for 1 minute on high then knead the cheese with your hands or the back of a spoon to remove more whey.

Microwave two more times for 35 seconds, kneading the curds each time to remove more whey. At this point, add salt to taste.
Remove the cheese from the bowl and knead and pull it until it is smooth and elastic. If it starts to break apart, reheat for another 35 seconds.

When the curds can be stretched like taffy, the cheese is finished and can be rolled into one large ball or several small balls. The mozzarella can be eaten right away warm or stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Don't discard the whey. You can use it to make ricotta cheese later.

The whey of the world, part 2 - Just do it

In an earlier post I mentioned Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A Year of Food Life "in which she describes the year her family devoted to growing as much of their own food as possible, eating only what was in season in their own gardens or could be purchased from local farmers markets. One section of the book details a cheese making course Kingsolver took from Ricki Carroll, author of Home Cheese Making and owner of The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
The 30-minute mozzarella recipe she learned became a staple in their diet and reading about it started me thinking again about making my own cheese.
I spent all last week researching cheese making and cheese recipes and trying to find a local source for the two ingredients needed to make the most simple cheeses: food grade citric acid and rennet.
Rennet is a complex enzyme coagulant found in the stomach of ruminants and certain plants and is necessary to separate curd (the cheese) from whey (the protein-filled liquid left over after making cheese).
Citric acid is used to increase the acidity in the milk and to help prevent curds from falling apart.
I could probably have found the citric acid at a health food store or pharmacy but the rennet was proving elusive. It can sometimes be found in shops selling wine-making supplies or brewing supplies but, in the end, the easiest way to get what I needed was from an online source.
I placed my order for two bottles of liquid rennet and a pound of citric acid from Leeners, a supply company selling everything from wine making supplies to books on how to cure meat, and spent the next six days waiting UPS to deliver.
The box arrived Tuesday, right on schedule. Now, the only thing left was to just do it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The whey of the world, part 1

The on-going saga of my quest to make cheese

For years now I have thought about making cheese.

Every once in a while on my travels through the Internet looking for a recipe I would stumble across a recipe for one kind of cheese or another and I would save it and then forget about it. It seemed like an impossible dream. I had visions of the need for big, stainless steel vats and kitchens as sterile as an operating room - equipment beyond the average home cook.

Then, William bought me Lynne Rosetto Kasper's "The Splendid Table" and there I found a cheese I thought I could handle, Fresh Squaquerone.
Described as "A fresh cow cheese originating in Romagna, squaquerone is tangy and creamy at the same time, a cross between yogurt and cream cheese."

It's quick, simple and, speaking for myself, idiot-proof.


Fresh Squaquerone
Ingredients:
6 oz cream cheese made without guar gum (read the label)
1/4 cup chilled sour cream
1/2 cup of chilled buttermilk
3/4 cup chilled plain yogurt made with live cultures and without pectin
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
salt

The instructions (paraphrased)

In a medium size bowl, blend the cream cheese and sour cream together then stir in the buttermilk, leaving pea-sized lumps of the cream cheese mixture. Gently fold in the yogurt and lemon juice, taking care not to stir so hard that the yogurt liquefies. Add salt to taste. Mellow in the refrigerator in a covered bowl for 24 to 36 hours before using.

Kasper suggests adding 2 cups of chopped herbs (basil, parsley, etc) for a savory dip or spread.
Other uses for the finished product include replacing squaqureone for mayonnaise in potato salad; as a sauce for pasta with garlic and olive oil or with sauteed onion, minced garlic and basil, as a topping for baked potatoes; a dressing for fruit salad or spread on fresh baked bread.

I was baking bread every day back then and that's how Emily and I liked it.

Ryan wouldn't touch it and William was highly suspicious so I think I only made this a couple of times. I may just give this one another shot now as William has expanded his culinary horizons.

I've realized now how this cheese must have come about - farm wives with all of those cultures hanging around their kitchens looking for ways to use up odds and ends.

Cheese is all about culture and it's simple and complicated all at the same time.
It's simple because, with access to the right milk to start with, many soft and semi-soft cheeses and cheese products can be made practically out of thin air, - literally. Or rather the bacteria which can be found floating around in it.

I myself, can't imagine a world without cheese.

Back when it wasn't as easy as driving to the grocery store and pulling it off the shelf, if you wanted it, you had to do it yourself or know someone who did.

Blessed are the cheese makers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The lovely bones

No, not the novel or the movie which is supposed to come out based on the book, this post is an ode to homemade beef broth.
It was a quest, a mission, a crusade Emily and I embarked on while she was visiting from the far away north. I had just recently finished listening to the audio version of Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A year of Food Life " and was inspired to try and put my money where my mouth is (no pun intended) in supporting my local farmers.
On a trip to the Brooksville Farmers Market the Saturday before Emily arrived, William and I noticed a sign for Circle H Meat Masters, a small butcher shop claiming to sell locally grown meat. We followed the directions to the market but unfortunately, it was closed.


Emily and I are old hands at chicken stock so she was as exited as I was to try and make our own from beef, but first we had to get our hands on some of those bones. After a couple of days of phone tag, we finally ran Mark Herbert, the owner of the butcher shop, to earth and he supplied us with a bag of meaty bones for $5. A real bargain compared to what they want for a few anemic looking ones at the grocery store, that is, if they even have them.

We decided the best test of our labor would be a recipe where the quality of the broth would make or break the dish and came up French onion soup. While we were at it, we decided to make bread for croutons from the beautiful semolina flour Emily brought me from a farm market in Pennsylvania.
The result was the best onion soup I have ever eaten. Emily and I practically arm wrestled over the last few spoonfuls of the leftovers.

I used the remaining broth to make Pasta Fagioli one night and shredded beef enchiladas another.





Beef Stock


5 lbs. meaty beef bones

3 or 4 very large onions

4 large carrots

4 stalks celery

1 large bunch parsley

1 head garlic, whole


4 tablespoons peppercorns



2 teaspoons thyme

A few bay leaves


2 to 3 tablespoons beef base


Quarter the onions and arrange them in the bottom of a very large stock pot. Add the carrots, celery (keep the leaves), parsley and next four ingredients and fill the pot with water, about two gallons.

Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least four hours, probably closer to five, until heavily fragrant and the liquid has reduced to about half of what is at the beginning.

Strain the liquid, discard the bones and vegetables, and stir in the beef base, mixing thoroughly.

Makes about a gallon of stock.





French Onion Soup



4 lbs. sweet onions, chopped


1 stick (8 TBs) unsalted butter


2 tablespoons flour

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 or 3 bay leaves


2/3 cup sherry

8 cups beef stock

1 cube beef bouillon

black pepper

Gruyere or provolone

1/2 loaf semolina bread, cut into large chunks and toasted in a 350 degree oven


Heat the butter on high in a three or four-quart soup pot and add the onions,stirring frequently for at least 20 minutes, until they are deeply caramelized, taking care not to burn them.


With the heat still on high, add about half of the sherry and stir the onions some more, until the liquid has mostly evaporated.


Add the flour and incorporate until it's dissolved, then add the beef stock, thyme, bay leaves, the rest of the sherry and a generous amount of black pepper and simmer for 30minutes or so, until the onions have absorbed some of the liquid and and it has thickened. Discard the bay leaves, add the bouillon cube. To serve, ladle soup into oven-proof bowls, top with croutons and cheese and bake until cheese in melted.





Semolina Bread

Sponge - 2 cups warm water

2 packages active dry yeast (1-1/2 tablespoons)

3 cups semolina flour

Dough - 3 tablespoons sugar or malt syrup

3 tablespoons shortening or olive oil

2 to 3 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

Cornmeal, for dusting baking sheet
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)


Directions:


Sponge - In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow to soften. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cover and let stand in a warm spot until doubled in volume (30 to 45 minutes).


Dough - Stir down the sponge, then add the sugar, shortening, 2 cups of the flour, and the salt. Mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.


Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding more flour 14 cup at a time if the dough is sticky. Continue kneading vigorously until the dough feels smooth and elastic (10 to 12 minutes). The dough should push back when pressed down.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in volume (35 to 45 minutes). Punch down, cut in half, shape into rounds, and cover. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Shaping - Form into 2 Italian-shaped loaves about 18 inches long. Place the loaves on a baking sheet that has been dusted with cornmeal. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise until doubled in size (45 to 60 minutes).


Brush the tops with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds. When the bread has proofed, cut 3 diagonal slashes with a sharp knife or razor blade. Hold the knife at an angle to the bread and try to cut inside and underneath the crust. This will cause the bread to break open, or bloom, while baking and form a thick, crunchy crust.

Baking - Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake with steam until the loves are browned and emit a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom with your fingertips (35 to 45 minutes). If baking on an oven stone or tiles, the bread can be removed from the baking pans for the last 10 minutes to firm up the crust.

Yield: Makes 2 large loaves





Quiche Lorraine






Filling - 1 lb thick sliced bacon


1 cup evaporated milk




1 cup whole milk




6 ounces of shredded Gruyere cheese

1/2 tsp. salt

4 extra large or jumbo eggs




black pepper




dash of cayenne pepper




1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg




Pie crust - 2 level cups all-purpose flour


1 level teaspoon salt


3/4 level cup all-vegetable shortening


5 tablespoons cold water




Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry cutter until it is blended into pea-sized chunks. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time stirring with a fork until a rough ball is formed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and press it into a round disk. Let the dough rest for at least 10 minutes them roll out the dough on a floured counter.

Place in a 9 inch, deep dish pie plate and cut the excess dough from the edges and flute the rim of the crust by pinching the dough with your fingers.




Refrigerate the dough while you make the filling.




Cook the bacon and drain thoroughly then cut into one inch pieces.


Preheat the oven to 450.

Whip the eggs with the salt, cayenne, nutmeg and black pepper.


Scald the milk then whisk slowly into the eggs.

Sprinkle layers of cheese and bacon into the pie shell and pour the egg mixture over all. bake for 15 minutes then lower the oven to 350 and continue baking for another 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is there some conspiracy to keep us eating crap?


Whatever happened to oatmeal, cream of wheat, wheat germ? Do we really need Kellog, Post and General Mills and all of their additives? Why are these natural alternatives not even mentioned in this report?

Play CBS Video Video Healthy Snacking
Dr. Jennifer Ashton showed Jeff Glor some nutritious snacks that are high in antioxidants.
Photo
(CBS/The Early Show)
NEW YORK, Aug. 19, 2009
Unlikely Foods Pack Antioxidant Punch

Research Finds Whole-Grain Cereals, Popcorn Loaded with the Disease-Fighting Nutrients
(CBS) Vegetables are known to be a great source of antioxidants, but new research suggests some foods you might not think of are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, such as whole-grain cereals and snacks, such as popcorn.

Antioxidants reduce inflammation and stress on cells to help prevent or slow the process of cellular aging, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained on "The Early Show" Wednesday.

Ashton said, "Antioxidants were known to be in fruits and vegetables, green tea and red wine, but this is the first time researchers have measured the antioxidant content in these foods, finding they're full of them."

The University of Scranton (Pa.) study by Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry, found almost all whole-grain breakfast cereals and many common, grain-based snacks contain substantial amounts of polyphenols, a form of antioxidants that is thought to have major health benefits. Ashton said antioxidants are linked to benefits for many health issues, from heart disease to cancer.

Ashton explained some cereals with raisins, in addition to the whole-grain content, were the highest in antioxidants. The researchers also found that cereals with added cinnamon or cocoa also had high rates of antioxidants due to the polyphenols in cinnamon and cocoa.

Ashton added, "You want to make sure that you choose cereals that don't have a lot of extra sugar, and artificial ingredients that will counteract the good of the antioxidants."

As for snacks, popcorn had the highest antioxidants, followed by whole grain crackers.

Ashton said popcorn -- as long as it's not loaded with butter -- is a good source, Ashton said.

But can these foods and snacks replace fruits and vegetables?

Ashton said "no," adding the key is a balanced, well-rounded diet.

"Though this research found that whole grain products have comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and veggies, they are often different kinds and you should eat a wide variety of healthy foods," Ashton told CBS News. "Sorry, you still need to eat your vegetables."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kind of off-topic but I wish I had written this:

Huffington Post Katherine Goldstein First Posted: 08-13-09 01:45 PM Updated: 08-13-09 01:54 PM
On The Today Show, Matt Lauer hosted dietitian Elizabeth Ward to discuss how to make "healthy" food choices on a road trip. Virtually the only measure Ward used to evaluate what was healthy was how many calories is in it.
She started out with breakfast at McDonalds, stating she was a big proponent of eating eggs. She recommended scrambled eggs and an English muffin. (This item doesn't actually appear on the menu, but these ingredients are served at McDonalds -- maybe she was suggesting making a special order, or throwing out the rest?)
For the record, scrambled eggs at McDonalds, which one could easily mistake for being comprised of well, eggs, actually contain the following:
Pasteurized whole eggs with sodium acid pyrophosphate, citric acid and monosodium phosphate (added to preserve color), nisin (preservative). Prepared with Liquid Margarine: Liquid soybean oil, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, soy lecithin, mono-and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene (color).
She goes onto recommend Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC Grilled Chicken and processed and packaged snacks.
While Ward and Lauer tout the value of eating fruit as a healthy snack, for the most part this dietitian throws her support behind the idea that processed fast food, filled with additives, preservatives and factory farmed meat is good for us, as long as it doesn't exceed a certain number of calories.
My favorite thing to eat while traveling, food I made at home and bring with me, was not mentioned as an option.
For a full list of what Ward thinks is healthy to eat, check out her USA Today article.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The pizza gods have answered my prayers

Dade City finally has a place that sells a pizza that is so good I will actually buy it when I don't feel like making my own.

Francesco's New York Style Pizza opened two months ago on the edge of downtown Dade City where Manolo's used to be. Emily and I decided to give it try for lunch today after getting very good reviews from the owner of the book store across the street.

During a brief chat with one of the owners, I learned that the pizza chef is from Italy and they make their dough and sauce from scratch. The menu included pizza, stromboli, calzones, hot and cold subs, pasta and dinner entrees of chicken, veal or eggplant parmesan, chicken Sorrentino and Veal Sorrentino.

The pizza we got had a lovely crip crust even after the drive home in a box (I had to bribe Emily not to eat a piece before we got it here so I could take the picture) and had just the right amount of cheese and sauce.

I don't know if anyone from my town reads this blog, but if they do, I highly recommend Francesco's and hope people will stop in and give this place some business so they are open when I need them.

They are open Monday through Thursday, 11a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The address is 14418 7th Street, Dade City

352-518-0009 or 518-0348.