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Saturday, November 30, 2013

All about Parmigiano Reggiano & Parmigiano Reggiano Night

Last year I got a chance to visit a caseficio, or cheese maker where Parmigiano Reggiano is made. I had to go early in the morning so I could see the cheese being pulled from curds out of large copper vats.  I also saw where the cheese rested, where it was bathed in a salty brine and the delicious smelling room where it was aged. And of course I got to try the cheese at various ages. The main way to distinguish between different types of Parmigiano Reggiano is by age, 14-18 months, 24 months, which is most popular with Italian consumers and 36 months. Generally speaking, 14-18 month Parmigiano is paler and fruitier, with notes of citrus and pineapple. 24 month Parmigiano is nuttier and more buttery. 36 month Parmigiano is drier and spicier. As it ages, the cheese develops more crunchy crystals and more intensity. Here in the US we buy Parmigiano Reggiano grated or in chunks, but we don't usually pay much attention to the age, season it was produced or the type...
Friday, November 29, 2013

Family Cookbooks Roundup Review

I generally avoid reviewing "family cookbooks" because they tend to focus on food for children. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I don't happen to have any. Happily several new cookbooks also expand the notion of family and as a result serve a much broader audience. After all, our family should include all the people we care deeply about, not just those related to us by blood. Whenever I'm in London I end up eating at Leon . In a city with frightfully expensive food, Leon serves what they call "naturally fast food." It's healthy, quick and inspired by flavors from all around the world. They source ingredients responsibly and so it's food that makes you feel good and that you can feel good about. Truly a winning formula. The latest book from Leon (there are two others) is Leon Family & Friends . The book has lots of basic kinds of recipes for things like roast chicken and hummus but also amazing stuff like Anna Hansen's ...
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Last Minute Thanksgiving Tips

Thanksgiving cocktail Ruby Sparkler Recipes from the archive Chutney Cheese Puffs Brussels Aprouts with Brown Butter and Hazelnuts  Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Apple & Walnuts Grapefruit Radicchio Salad Savory Roasted Pears Curried Butternut Squash Soup Apple Crisp Cranberry Coffeecake Turkey help! Turkey Talk-Line 1-800-BUTTERBALL (288-8372) open from 6 am until 6 pm CST What wines go with turkey? Beaujolais Nouveau Pinot Noir Cotes du Rhone Pinot Grigio But really, drink whatever you like! Learn about the holiday? Laura Schenone's Thanksgiving timeline Top 10 Thanksgiving leftover ideas Happy Thanksgiving everyone! ...
Monday, November 25, 2013

Vanilla Purr Cambric Recipe

I'm a tea drinker and I love experimenting with it as an ingredient. I make hot chocolate with tea and use tea to smoke chicken . But I have to admit, I only heard the term cambric to describe tea made with milk, such as chai, at an event recently at the T-We Tea shop hosted by the California Milk Processor Board . It's an old fashioned term for a combination of tea, milk and sugar often served to children. But that doesn't mean you can't make it into something enticing for adults.  The certified tea specialist and proprietor Christopher Coccagna made a number of wonderful drinks for Winter with tea and milk. Some of the drinks had alcohol in them and others didn't. Some used herbal teas and some used black teas. Some will definitely perk you up while others are perfect as a relaxing nightcap. There's really something for everyone, even kids and teetotalers. Check out the recipes for all kinds of luscious tea and milk drinks including Vanilla Mint Ca...
Friday, November 22, 2013

Grocery Shopping for the Holidays

Grocery shopping this time of year can be stressful but it's also a great time to save on lots of pantry items, especially in the baking department. Whether you are looking for an organic turkey, a full Thanksgiving meal or the perfect holiday recipes, here are some tips to help you get the best deals.  1. Cooking, Baking & Holiday Staples This is the best time of year to find good deals on sugar, flour and even nuts and chocolate chips. Many stores also have chicken broth on sale right around now, even Costco. Scour the ads before you shop. I recommend the Safeway iPhone app , it's much better than clipping coupons. You can search for discounts on items you need and save when you shop. This year Safeway is offering a lot of holiday Wilton baking items and decorating kits . See what you can find at out your local supermarket. Look for house brands like the Whole Foods 365 line and bulk bins for good value, and don't forget about fresh cranberries! They can be...
Friday, November 15, 2013

Idaho Potato Quiz & How to Fluff a Baked Potato

Recently I was invited to learn more about Idaho's  number one crop, potatoes. I've written about potatoes before, so this time I've decided share some tidbits I learned on the trip in a trivia quiz format so grab a pencil and paper (no Googling for the answers!). This quiz is just for fun. More giveaways soon, I promise.  1. Potatoes originally came from A. South America B. North America C. Ireland 2. At one time potatoes were appreciated by royals in Europe for their A. blossoms B. skins C. nutritional value 3. School kids in Idaho get time off from school for A. Potato planting in the Spring B. National Potato Day in the Winter C. Potato harvest in the Fall 4. In order to be affected by any allowable pesticide residue, in one sitting you would have to eat A. 1300 pounds of potatoes  B. 130 pounds of potatoes C. 13 pounds of potatoes 5. In Idaho potato farming dates back to A. Prehistoric times B. the early 1800&...
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ruby Sparkler Recipe

Thanksgiving is a potluck affair at my parent's house. My folks cook the turkey and stuffing but the other dishes are up to the guests who arrive with appetizers, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, salads and dessert. Those who can't cook, are tasked with bringing wine or bread. Everyone contributes and has a chance at bragging rights.  The feast always starts off with sparkling wine, except for last year when I mixed up a sparkling cocktail, the Aperol Spritz instead. This year, in addition to cooking as I always do, I've settled on a cocktail with port. Fonseca Bin 27 is a lovely and inexpensive ruby port, lush and filled with lots of ripe dark berry flavors. To lighten it up, a fizzy not too sweet sparkling wine is perfect. You want something good and bubbly but not too sweet.  Another nice reason to use Fonseca Bin 27 is that for the holidays they have released a bottle with a limited edition Artist Label which raises funds for Waterkeeper Alliance , a non-pro...
Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Fall Chocolate Salon Tickets Giveaway!

The Fall Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason in San Francisco offers a fantastic opportunity to try, buy and learn about chocolate in many forms from bars to confections to beverages. I've participated many times as a judge for the awards and moderating panels and discussions by some chocolate luminaries including people like Art Amano of Amano Artisan Chocolate and Gary Guittard of Guittard Chocolate Company.  It's fun to see what some of my favorite chocolatiers are creating and and to discover new treats.  Here are some of my top picks: Amano Artisan Chocolates for their exquisite bars and luscious hot chocolate Clarine's Florentines for the best florentine cookies ever Charles Chocolate for his toasted nutty chocolate bars Feve Artisan Chocolatier for their delicate confections like their award winning chocolate covered rosemary caramel Neo Cocoa for delicate but intense tru...
Monday, November 04, 2013

Macaroni & Cheese Cookbook Smackdown!

There are plenty of macaroni and cheese cookbooks, and some of them are quite good. So do we need another one? That was my question when I heard about both of these new books, The Mac + Cheese Cookbook and Melt . Coincidentally both books are from renowned Northern California food bloggers.  Out first and in a small format is The Mac + Cheese Cookbook, 50 Simple Recipes from HOMEROOM , America's Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant. The subtitle really tells it all. These are recipes from Allison Arevalo (her blog Local Lemons is no longer being updated) and Erin Wade's darling restaurant in Oakland. While the recipes are creative, they are straightforward, uncomplicated and fairly simple really. The ingredients are good quality but not particularly expensive or exotic. The book rounds out the mac and cheese recipes with side dishes and desserts.  It's not a traditional restaurant cookbook, but rather very practical. Some of my favorite recipes in this book are actu...