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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cheese from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2014

There is a lot of cheese at the Fancy Food Show ! I wait until the last day to indulge and I try to focus on the cheeses that are new or new to me. Here are some of note:  I always make a point of checking out the cheeses at Fresca Italia . The standout this year was Fiore de Bufala from Bergamo. It is the lightest fluffiest cheese I’ve ever tasted and yet unbelievably rich at the same time. Despite my ability to read Italian, the information on the website doesn’t tell me much about the cheese except that it’s new and made from 100% buffalo milk  Miette from Baetje Farms in Missouri is a bloomy rind sheep and goat’s milk cheese that melts in your mouth. It’s mild and sweet and very creamy and a little bit oozy near the rind. A really luscious cheese. All Baetje cheese is Certified Humane.   Milton Creamery makes outstanding clothbound cheeses. The Flory’s Truckle is made in Iowa from milk that comes from Missouri, and is an old fashioned style cheddar. It’s age...
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chocolate from the Winter 2014 Fancy Food Show

The Fancy Food Show can be overwhelming since there are more products than it's physically possible to try in three days. Attendees have to decide what they will focus on tasting. I'm always curious to see what's happening in the world of chocolate. Here are some of the most tasty and interesting things I discovered this time around.  I’ve always been impressed by Vosges for their willingness to take a risk. Sometimes it pays off, other times it doesn’t. I didn’t try all of the new Super Dark bars, but I loved the Coconut Ash & Banana Super Dark Chocolate Bar. It’s made with ash from coconut shells burnt into charcoal. The flavors were deep and true, not artificial. It contains Sri Lankan coconut and charcoal coconut ash, Hawaiian banana and 72% cacao.  The other coconut chocolate I liked was the Coco Besas Coconut Kisses bar from Taza . I generally like   Taza's hot chocolate but usually find the texture of their bars too unrefined and rough, but in...
Monday, January 27, 2014

Top Trends from the Winter 2014 Fancy Food Show

One of the reasons I attend the Fancy Food Show is to see what’s trending. Some flavors and categories just seem to be everywhere. This year was no exception.  The top trends I spotted were vinegar-based drinks , coconut in everything, popped corn and peanut butters .  One of the most exciting trends I saw this year was vinegar-based drinks . Years ago we saw more sophisticated “dry” sodas being introduced, and I think this is a continuation of that, as they are less sweet but generally still fruity and fizzy.  The last couple of years making your own shrubs has been covered in publications like Imbibe: Homemade Drinking Vinegars ,  Serious Eats: How to Make Shrub Syrups  and The Kitchn: The Tale of the Shrub .  Here are the ones I saw at the show:  Silk Road Soda is based near Sacramento. They make three varieties based on a Middle Eastern recipe, cucumber and mint, pomegranate mint and original mint, which also has pear. They are each refreshing and light.  Pok Pok...
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Paiche Recipe and Giveaway

It’s not everyday that you get the chance to try a fish you’ve never even heard of before. Last week I cooked paiche (pie-chay) a fish from the Amazon, also known as arapaima or pirarucu. Freshwater paiche are huge, growing be up to near 500 pounds, and breathe through lungs rather than gills. Considered a prehistoric fish, the flesh is very firm, but also rich and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Endangered in the wild from overfishing, paiche is now raised commercially in ponds so wild fish remain protected, and free of any antibiotics or mercury. It’s one of the top fish farmed in Peru, and you may find it on restaurant menus or at Whole Foods, the only retailer currently selling it in the US.  It’s easy to cook paiche for a couple of reasons, because it’s dense and firm it won’t easily fall apart and because it’s rich it doesn’t get dry, even if you overcook it. It has a very clean, buttery slightly sweet flavor and is somewhat similar to sea bass or cod in texture.  I prepare...
Monday, January 20, 2014

New Cookbooks for the New Year

The beginning of the year represents a time for new things and that includes cooking. These cookbooks have the power to inspire you in the kitchen and get you cooking, baking and even fermenting.  Mary Karlin has written books about wood fired ovens and making cheese and now takes on the broader subject of fermented food in  Mastering Fermentation . The book has both recipes for making and using fermented foods—everything from from cheeses, to breads and grains, vegetables and meats as well as beverages. The recipes include some ingredients you’ll have to go out of your way to find, but the instructions are clear as day. Karlin, who is also a cooking instructor, writes clearly and inspires confidence.  While much of the food faddists are shunning grain, Whole-Grain Mornings embraces it. Beyond just simple bowls of oatmeal or buttermilk pancakes, first time author Megan Gordon tempts readers with Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies, Triple Coconut Quinoa Porridge, Zucchini Farro Ca...
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Endive Salad with Prosciutto Recipe

Growing up I ate a green salad pretty much every night with dinner. In Italy, we did the same, though it was served at the end of the meal. These days, I find it hard to convince my other half to eat salad. My solution is to make main dish salads. This one uses Belgian endive and is easy to make for one or a group. It has many delicious things added to a base of endive and fennel, namely candied walnuts, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto. Endive and fennel just seem to have a natural affinity for one another. Both are crisp, but fennel has a chewier  texture and a sweetness, while endive is lighter and juicier and has a slightly bitter edge. You could use them to make a simple side salad but this one has lots of goodies to make it a main dish. Use a Champagne vinaigrette or a Dijon mustard vinaigrette to dress it. Or even just lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. One of the tricks to this salad is that one thin slice of prosciutto pulled into shreds adds loads of flavor. If you...
Friday, January 10, 2014

Healthier Snacks & Treats

Snacks are part of the American way of life. We are a nation of snackers. Because I work from home, I have no "break room" stocked with drinks and snacks, but that doesn't mean I don't help myself to a nibble now and then. I most frequently indulge in snacks when I'm traveling because it's not always easy to find a satisfying meal in between departure and arrival. In general I prefer healthier snacks, they just taste better to me. Stock up on these for the home, office or on to take the road. G.H. Cretors When I pass through Chicago O'Hare, I sometimes buy some "Chicago mix" that wacky sounding but utterly delicious combination of caramel corn and cheese corn. Each bite is salty sweet and so crisp and buttery. I've never found anything as good as what they sell in Chicago, until I got a sample of G.H.Cretors. They offer cheese popcorn and caramel corn separately but trust me, you want to try them combined. So truth be told, ...
Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Warm Cauliflower Dip Recipe

Tahini is a very rich sesame seed paste used in hummus. But that's not the only thing you can do with tahini. It adds richness and creaminess to a variety of dishes including salads, fish, grilled meats and vegetables. To make an amazing tahini sauce, all you have to do is combine tahini, mashed garlic, water and lemon juice. You can make it to be thick and creamy or thin and saucy. Either way it is delicious. Recently I needed to make some appetizers that were lactose free. I looked in my fridge and found a head of cauliflower and some tahini (which is a staple ingredient at my house) and those formed the basis of this luscious warm cauliflower dip. No butter, no cheese. No problem!  Warm cauliflower dip is vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and lactose free. So pretty much anyone should be able to enjoy it. It's surprisingly rich and creamy, considering it doesn't have any cream. I made it the first time in my Vitamix, but I tested it in the food processor and it c...
Friday, January 03, 2014

Nightstand Cookbooks & Giveaway

For a while the memoir with recipes was a very popular genre. These days there are quite a few memoir cookbooks that offer much more than just a recipe per chapter. They are books you may or may not actually cook from, but you will read them and savor every page because their authors are compelling characters with fascinating journeys and stories to tell.  Top of the list for me is Coi . If Daniel Patterson is equal parts culinary genius and awkward social misfit, this book gets to the root of it, in a very soul baring way. He also just happens to be a fantastic writer. The format of the book is completely unique. Long essays on each page are paired with stunning photos and recipes written “longhand” I’d say, with the pesky details like measurements relegated to the index. Sure, it’s tweezer food that you might never cook, but that's beside the point. Each dish comes with so much background and story, it’s a fascinating ride. I really adore this book. Take a look at this pr...