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Friday, November 30, 2007

Pure Dessert

I've said it before, but I'm in awe of Alice Medrich. She was an early chocolate evangelist in the Bay Area, who brought us luscious desserts and truffles, inspired by what she had tasted and learned in France. Over the past few years she has written several terrific and award-winning books on chocolate including Bittersweet , Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts , and Chocolate Holidays . Her latest book is a bit of a departure, it's not just about chocolate, but an exploration into the world of high quality ingredients. The chapters in Pure Dessert are focused on the flavors of Milk, Grain, Nuts and Seeds, Fruit, Chocolate, Honey and Sugar, Herbs and Spices, Flowers and Herbs, and Wine, Beer and Spirits. Intriguing, don't you think? In each chapter is a discussion of the ingredients, the flavors and where they can take you. Best of all are the recipes, which are very simple, in part to highlight flavors and not confuse your palate. It's a celebration...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whole Wheat Mini Pizza: Recipe

In an attempt to eat more whole grain this year, I've switched to whole wheat versions of products I used to buy in more refined form. I buy whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas and whole wheat bread. It's important to make sure wheat bread is whole wheat or you can look for the Whole Grains stamp introduced by the Whole Grains Council (an excellent source of whole grain information), otherwise you may not be getting all the benefits. If you didn't already know, whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, diabetes and help with better weight maintenance. Three servings a day is considered optimal and switching to whole wheat is a good way to do that. Whole wheat bread is a no-brainer but when it comes to using whole wheat pasta and tortillas I've had to rethink how I cook. Whole wheat pasta has a rougher, rustic style that works particularly well with chunky or nutty sauces and not as well with cream-based or smooth sauc...
Monday, November 26, 2007

What is Natural poultry anyway?

Last week there was a flurry of comments about a post in which my Thanksgiving expert Rick Rodgers mentioned "natural" in regard to poultry. Coincidentally while shopping for chicken I had someone ask me if natural was the same as organic. I gave her the short answer, which was "no". But there's a lot more to it than that. Even reading the labels can be confusing. Natural, according to the dictionary, means functioning or occurring in a normal way or existing in or produced by nature; not artificial or imitation. But when it comes to chicken and for that matter turkey, natural isn't what you might think. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the label "natural" means the food contains no hormones, antibiotics or artificial ingredients and is "minimally" processed. But that doesn't prohibit processors from adding sodium, carrageenan and broth or water to the bird. Perhaps those aren't artificial ingredients, but ne...
Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dear Readers, On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for all the usual stuff--family, friends, health, enough to eat, and work that I love--but I am also thankful for you. You, my dear readers have stuck around even when I have been missing in action. Last night I created some buttons so you can read some other things I've written. Writing for other folks has kept me pretty busy recently. The good new is, I've turned in the manuscript for the book, and now I can get back to blogging again. But for today I'm going to take a break and just enjoy the day, the friends, the family and of course the food. I hope you do too. cheers, Amy...
Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Stories

Here are my three favorite reader-posted Thanksgiving disasters--congratulations to the winners, and do check out the rest of the stories in the comments section from this post . Winners will receive a copy of Thanksgiving 101 . "When my mother was first married, she naturally wanted to cook a nice thanksgiving dinner for my father. My grandmother (who is a terrible cook) suggested that she put a towel soaked in chicken broth on top of the turkey as it cooked. The towel, a circa 1973 synthetic polyester avocado-green pseudo-fiber, melted into the turkey before catching on fire and driving my parents from their apartment with the smell of melting chemicals. My father was a grad student at the time and a fellow grad student from Eastern Europe took pity and invited them over for an "American Meal" of spaghetti with ketchup sauce. To cap the day off when they returned home their dog had eaten most of the smelly, green, burned turkey which naturally made him sick fo...
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Disasters--And How to Avoid Them

Back before Katie Holmes became famous for being the wife of Tom Cruise she gave a very memorable performance in the movie, Pieces of April . With any luck it will join the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as a TV classic. In the film the black sheep April attempts to make a Thanksgiving dinner for her very suburban family in her Lower East Side gritty apartment. Lots of her neighbors make cameo appearances as April struggles to get dinner on the table. It's a funny and touching film with a bit of of an indy edge to it. You can see the movie trailer here . Thanksgiving disaster stories are nothing new so it's no wonder it ended up as the theme of a movie. I once heard a story about someone who was invited to spend Thanksgiving with some new friends. All year they looked forward to a big turkey dinner but their friends served only baked ham! Everyone has probably heard the story about someone who forget to defrost the turkey and ended up having to order Chinese food. So w...
Monday, November 12, 2007

Thanksgiving Tips & Techniques

I have a confession to make. I've never made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I always cook something for the feast at my parent's house, but not the whole meal and certainly not the turkey. I'm not sure I could take the pressure! Thanksgiving is one of the most traditional of meals and most of us have very specific expectations about what that dinner should be. Here to help make yours a success, whether you are cooking one dish or ten, is cooking teacher and cookbook author extraordinaire, Rick Rodgers . His book Thanksgiving 101 , is out in paperback and in stores now. Rick is answering questions about Thanksgiving and sharing his advice over on the Epicurious blog but I snagged him for a few questions of my own... What kind of turkey do you recommend for Thanksgiving--organic, heritage, wild, fresh, frozen? Look for a fresh bird from a local source.  Where I live, organic Eberly from Pennsylvania is my bird of choice, but when I teach in Northern California, I...
Friday, November 09, 2007

Cute Food, Japanese Style

The only thing I can say in my defense, is that after two weeks of being bombarded with that special type of Japanese cuteness known as " kawaii " I had a momentary lapse. It was during a trip through the temple of all things adorable, the toy store Kiddy Land , in the trendy shopping area of Ometosando in Harajuku, Tokyo, that I purchased not one, but two little sets of plastic food that would best fit in a dollhouse. Sigh. Yes, even food is cute in Japan. Can you blame me for wanting to go back?...
Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Japanese Hot Stuff

I came back from Japan with numerous delectable food purchases. The first thing I brought was "yuzukosho". I was served this green paste as a condiment with nabe, a dish where you cook what you like in a pot on the table. It's a combination of the peel of the citrus fruit yuzu and kosho, a kind of chile pepper. I also had it with sashimi. Imagine the taste of limes and chiles with just a pinch of salt. Irresistible, right? So is yuzukosho! It is very common in the South of Japan, but a more recent addition to the table in places like Tokyo. Another purchase I made was wasabi in a tube, not the pasty fake wasabi that is really just dry mustard colored to look like wasabi, but real wasabi. Real wasabi actually tastes like horseradish, not mustard. It's bright and hot but has plenty of flavor, not just heat. If you can find the fresh stuff, keep in mind the Japanese rhizome will taste a bit different from the American rhizome. It also needs to be grated on a sharkskin...
Monday, November 05, 2007

Ice Cream City

When I read about the food theme parks and museums of Japan I was determined to check them out on my next trip. In Tokyo I made a side trip out to a pretty goofy amusement park because it also was also the home of Gyoza Stadium and Ice Cream City. After having my fill at the first two stops, I had no room for trying anything at the Dessert Forest. Ice Cream City is pretty much heaven for an ice cream lover. Although, it can be a bit frustrating in some ways because the number of choices are completely overwhelming. There are a series of rooms and kiosks, each featuring a different style of ice cream with lots of flavors to choose from. I spent the most of my time in a gallery called "Cup Ice Museum" where the wall-to-wall freezer cases were filed with individual cups of ice cream from all over Japan. Here I was completely frustrated with my lack of Japanese because I could only read a fraction of the labels. Dracula, deep sea water, Nikka whisky and Hokkaido salty ice crea...