This post might include affiliate links for your convenience.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Good Guinness

I'm not much of a drinker. But I am a fan of Guinness stout. One of the reasons I like it is it works well with food. Guinness and oysters is a classic but it also complements smoked fish, and of course fish and chips. Guinness is also a good cooking liquid. You can use it in broth for a beefy barley soup or in an Irish stew. I've even seen chocolate cake recipes that use Guinness. Actually it sounds pretty good to me! Many people know about the reputed health benefits of Guinness. In Ireland pregnant women were given it to drink as a tonic as well as post op patients and blood donors. While currently pregnant women are not advised to drink alcohol of any kind, there was some sense to this recommendation. Guinness draught is very high in iron, and has about 10% of your required B vitamins. It also has trace amounts of protein. At 125 calories and 10 carbs per 12 ounce serving, it practically qualifies as a light beer despite its dark hue. Recent research from the Uni...
Monday, July 26, 2004

Grilled Mozzarella Tomato & Pesto Sandwiches Recipe

Lots of people pooh pooh the George Foreman grill . Not me. I think it's great for roasting vegetables, making shish kebabs and grilling delicate things like fish. But most of all I love it for being a makeshift panini press. Last night's grilled sandwich was mozzarella, heirloom tomato and pesto. Perfect with a green salad dotted with olives and shreds of parmesan cheese. It's the end of July and tomatoes are just starting to ripen in California. While I cook with canned tomatoes all year round, when tomatoes and fresh and in season I find the less you mess with them the better. Heirloom tomatoes come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. But whether your tomatoes are heirloom or not, the best things to do with ripe fresh tomatoes is to make a salad out of them, add them to a sandwich or toss them with pasta. Cooking fresh tomatoes does not enhance them. When they are at their most sweet and delicious, eat them as close to raw as possible. That's what makes thi...
Saturday, July 24, 2004

How To Eat:Cookbook

I was very fortunate to grow up in a household of eaters. My family genuinely enjoyed food, and still does. My parents grew fruit and vegetables and even raised chickens for a while. No one was a picky eater and we all ate dinner together every night. My mom did the cooking in those days and she was a fabulous cook. She even baked bread and canned fruits and vegetables and made jams. Later after my dad retired he took the lead in the kitchen. While his style is different than my mothers, he's also a talented and creative cook. So often I meet people who have a difficult relationship to food. Their parents were not good cooks. They didn't enjoy each others company at mealtimes. They battled weight problems or health issues or childhood traumas that has lead to a diminished experience of food today. So who is the cookbook author for these sad folk? Nigella Lawson that's who. Nigella Lawson not only loves food but wants to spread the joy. Her joy is of eating food, a...
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sugar Bowl

In the morning there are three things needed in our household. A kettle, a tea pot and a sugar bowl. Oh sure you need the tea and a tea strainer and a cup or a mug but the main hardware for preparing tea is the kettle, the pot and the sugar bowl. Our kettle is a gorgeous affair that my sister bought us as a wedding present. It's a Windsor whistling tea kettle which is nearly as lovely to say as it is to use. Our teapot is nothing special, which is kind of funny because we have a collection of no fewer than nine teapots. Not all of them function as teapots, one is a candle and another is a kitchen timer, but all in all there are still plenty to choose from. For everyday purposes the one I use is covered with a tea cozy we got at the Empress Hotel on our honeymoon. Which brings us to the sugar bowl. I looked and looked and looked for a sugar bowl to meet my specifications--a lid with a notch, preferably attached to the bowl, and a spoon. Seems simple enough but just try lo...
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Pomegranate Syrup

Are you convinced that it's a good idea to buy pomegranate syrup yet? If not, let me tell you about what I made for dinner yesterday. Eggplant and lentil stew with pomegranate molasses. The recipe is in an article written by Paula Wolfert in the July issue of Food & Wine magazine. It is a layered, slow cooked casserole of chopped onions, garlic, tomatoes, large chunks of eggplant and parboiled lentils stewed in olive oil and pomegranate syrup. Succulent and tangy this dish is a real keeper. The pomegranate adds a richness to the dish and a complexity. Served over rice for a very hearty vegetarian dinner. The same issue of Food & Wine also included a similar Turkish salad to the one I created the other day also using pomegranate syrup. So it can work well as a dressing and as cooking liquid. I am looking forward to cooking even more dishes with pomegranate syrup. The pomegranate council has a number of interesting recipes including a version of a Persian recipe fo...
Sunday, July 18, 2004

Pomegranate Lamb Kebabs with Cucumber Salad Recipe

It's that time again! Is my blog burning is a virtual event created by a fellow blogger Alberto who came up with the idea of many people cooking versions on a single theme in the space of a day. There have been IMBB events on themes such as tartines , rice dishes , and cakes among other things. This time around it's Grillers Delight . I've written about pomegranate before, but I've never actually used pomegranate syrup. I've been thinking it would be good to marinate lamb with but I only had ground lamb in the freezer. I couldn't find any recipes for ground lamb and pomegranate so I improvised. I made Middle Eastern inspired lamb kebabs and a tomato, cucumber and sumac salad. Pomegranate syrup is pretty easy to find in markets locally and one Lebanese brand Cortas is rather inexpensive. I bought a bottle for only $1.79. It is very thick and syrupy, a rich dark color and more tangy and astringent than sweet. It's very good with lamb since lamb can...
Friday, July 16, 2004

Za'atar Spice Mix Recipe

When I find a new ingredient I am intrigued. So it's not unusual for me to buy something I have absolutely no idea what to do with. Lately I have have been drawn to the Middle Eastern ingredients I've discovered in a fresh produce market. Last week I bought both a bottle of concentrated pomegranate juice and a spice called sumac. Sumac is a plant with bright red berries. When dried and ground up they are sour and tangy, almost lemony. Sumac is the main ingredient in a spice blend called za'atar. It is composed of sesame seeds, thyme, sumac, salt and pepper. But it varies depending on who is making it. It might also include marjoram, oregano or cayenne. From what I've read za'atar actually means "thyme". It's often mixed with oil and served a dip with veggies or pita, but you can put it on almost anything, meats, eggs, potatoes, fish, salads or in a vegetable tagine. It's great sprinkled over feta cheese or over sliced white onions. I am crazy ab...
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Semi Steamed Salmon:Recipe

Wild salmon is in season and it is amazingly good this year. When I was growing up we didn't call it "wild salmon" we called it "pop's-going-fishing-so-we're-probably-having-salmon-for-dinner". If he caught a lot, we took it to a smoke house and made lox. But most often we just ate our fresh delicious salmon and thought little more about it. But now the source of our fresh salmon is something we need to think about. As salmon has increased in popularity and it has gotten easier to buy inexpensive farmed salmon from Chile, Canada and Norway in the supermarket, the environmental and health costs have risen dramatically. While fish farming may seem sustainable, raising salmon in net pens releases fish waste into the water and can spread disease and parasites to wild salmon, so it may play a role in destroying non-farmed salmon. Even more frightening, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group just last yea...
Monday, July 12, 2004

Salt Cellar

Reading the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini in college made me want to live in Florence. It brought the renaissance period to life. Filled with art, crime and intrigue it was gossipy and a great read. The cover featured a photo of one of Cellini's few surviving masterpieces, a gold salt cellar. According to Cellini, the figures that decorate it represent earth and water, although other sources claim they depict Neptune and Amphitrite, additional reclining figures, representing winds and the times of day, are carved into the base. At the time I'd never even heard of a salt cellar. But just like Cellini's writing, it is an over-the-top work of art. Lately as I've spent more and more time in places like Sur La Table , it dawned on me that I really really needed a salt cellar. You can't underestimate the importance of salt. Salt makes all the difference in cooking a great meal. Having salt at your fingertips is key so that you can season your food as you cook...
Saturday, July 10, 2004

My Yahoo

Do you Yahoo ? I do. My home page is a "My Yahoo" page. And the Cooking with Amy email is a Yahoo address. Now Yahoo is offering RSS headlines for My Yahoo. Without getting too techy, RSS is a format for syndication, but it lacks a simple way for ordinary folk to use it. The current "XML" and "RSS" buttons may make sense to tech-savvy visitors, but can be confusing to everyone else. All you really need to know is that if you would like to see headlines from this blog as content on your "My Yahoo" page, click on the "Add to myYahoo!" button on the left hand navigation under the heading of Syndication. Since February, Yahoo has been testing support for syndication formats like RSS and Atom, so give it a try, and see if you like it....
Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Occasional Gourmet Spices

Cinnamon toast makes a wonderful comfort food. It's only bread, cinnamon, sugar and butter but it sure smells good. If there are just a couple of spices to always have on hand, cinnamon is one. Cinnamon is found in a variety of cuisines--Mexican, Middle Eastern, Greek, Moroccan and Scandinavian. It can be used in baked goods, spiced fruits, pumpkin and yam dishes, rice and noodle pudding, in meaty stews, mulled wine, coffee, cocoa, and sugared nuts. The problem is many spices are not as versatile as cinnamon. You buy them, then use them once, maybe, then they go stale before you can use them again. If you would rather buy a smaller amount of certain spices or dried herbs, the Occasional Gourmet is offering very small packets that stay fresher much longer. Most of the single spices range from two to six gram packages and cost around a dollar fifty each. That's way less than what you'd spend at the grocery store! I think these packets are perfect to give to a novice coo...
Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The New Food Lover's Companion

As you may be able to tell from reading along, I love doing research. Just the other day I was asked to name a fruit or vegetable that started with an "H". Don't ask me why, I'm sworn to secrecy. But I knew just where to look to find out. The New Food Lover's Companion is a definitive guide to all things culinary. It includes nearly 6,000 definitions of food, drink and culinary terms. Needless to say, it lives on my desk. Even when I think I know what something is, it can be helpful to look it up and see for sure. And if I need even more information, the appendix includes a list of food information sources that ranges from alligators to yeast. I can also view a directory of additives to find out what polysorbates are doing in my food. And I can check out the pan substitution list to see if the 9" x 9" x 1 1/2" square pan is equivalent in volume to the 8" x 8" x 2" square pan (it is exactly the same). You can look up most of th...
Sunday, July 04, 2004

Double Blue Pancakes Recipe

Summertime is when all sorts of berries appear. Strawberries first, then raspberries and blueberries and eventually blackberries. Right now you can buy big baskets of blueberries for only a couple of dollars. They are sweet and turn your tongue blue if you eat too many. A classic recipe for blueberries is blueberry pancakes. It's rather incongruous because pancakes are flat and blueberries are often big and round. As a result you can run into some real problems. Cooking pancakes with blueberries may start out fine, but then when you go to flip them, the berries stick up from the batter and they never cook quite right. So first off you need a thick batter. You also need way more blueberries than most recipes call for. After all, the blueberries are the main event. But since it is pancakes we're talking about, the next thing you need is a really tasty batter. If not, you'll wonder, why not just eat the berries and skip the pancake altogether? A grainy cornmeal batter m...
Friday, July 02, 2004

Food Museums

I admit it. I am one of those people who believes that many trends begin in Japan and then make their way here to the US. So it is with a balance of trepidation and excitement that I share with you the latest culinary trend in Japan--food theme parks. The food theme park that sparked my interest in the concept is one featuring ice cream . The wackier world or Japanese ice cream to be precise. Apparently the Japanese have taken to ice cream and developed flavors that no one else had considered, such as oyster, seaweed, spinach, garlic, miso, and of course, chicken. Ice Cream City , a new attraction at the theme park Nanja Town follows the success of two other food theme parks that opened in 2002--the Ikebukuru Gyoza Stadium where up to 23 restaurants serve different styles of the Japanese dumpling (similar to a Chinese pot sticker--see the photo above) and Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho which recreates an entire "gastronomic alley" that typifies Osaka dining. If a trip ...