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Fancy Food Show

Fancy Food Show

If  you didn’t make it to the Fancy Food Show during its recent three-day run at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, take a stroll down the aisles through the eyes of Ciao Chow Linda. Granted, it’s my Italian-centric vision, but I did taste foods from countries all around the world too – Canada, France, China, South Africa, Morocco and the U.S.A. of course, as well as many more I can barely remember.

This is a long post with lots of pictures but if you stay tuned to the end, you’ll see my top five favorite things among the thousands of foods available for tasting in the huge convention space, plus a recipe using one of the top five products on my list. The Fancy Foods Show is North America’s largest specialty food and beverage trade event with 180,000 products including confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more.  There were 2,500 exhibitors from 81 countries represented, and 24,000 attendees. So you see why it takes three days to make the rounds. I know I missed some things with just one day there, but there’s always next year. If you want to head to the West Coast, the 2011 Winter Fancy Food Show takes place from January 16-18, 2011 in San Francisco. Comfortable shoes were de rigueur, since the Javits center has 760,000 square feet of exhibition space and I was trying to see it all in five or six hours. I walked in just after it opened at 10 a.m. and saw a ton of cheeses. I stopped immediately to sample some of the Italian cheeses. Can’t resist a good aged parmigiano. June 2010 595 This  “La Tur” cheese from  the Piedmont region was a real winner – a soft cheese made with three different types of milk – goat’s, sheep’s and cow’s milk. The Rosso di Langa is delicious too and they’re not that hard to find. I saw the Rosso di Langa in my supermarket this morning. June 2010 597 I wish I had sampled this French girolle cheese, but I took the picture and forgot to try it. It looks interesting doesn’t it, with that spinning crank on top? Next time. June 2010 596 How about this cake made of different wheels of cheeses from Cypress Grove Chevre in good old Cal-i-for-ni-a. They make delicious, award winning goat cheeses like Humboldt Fog and Bermuda Triangle, a triangular shaped goat cheese that makes a distinctive presentation.  June 2010 607 Many of the exhibitors were serving these crackers from 34 degrees that I had never tasted before, and I am now sold on them.  They were the perfect accompaniment and come in many different flavors aside from “natural” including rosemary and lemon zest. June 2010 603 I tasted lots of olive oils too, from France, Italy, and Greece, among other places. My palate was getting jaded at a certain point, but this one made from Moroccan olives– Less Terroirs de Marrakech – was new to me and I really liked it. June 2010 590 I tasted so many balsamic vinegars too, including one that was 50 years old. But I have to say, nothing compared to the complex, caramel-y aged balsamic vinegar I tasted in Italy at Acetaia San Giacomo, owned by Andrea Bezzecchi. Some of his products were also on display at the show. image I was getting thirsty so had to have some liquid refreshment, starting with this sparkly blood orange soda made by Lorina, a French company. It was a cool, refreshing break. Their product comes in lots of different flavors including a lemonade. June 2010 604 Later in the day, I saw a woman holding a tray of green apple martinis for sampling. I had already nixed the hard liquors like cognacs and whiskeys, since I had to keep my wits about me, but couldn’t let this pass me by. I haven’t had one of these in years and this one was just as good as I remember. I’m sorry I forgot to get the name of the company that makes this cocktail mix. June 2010 657 At a certain point, I needed a cup of coffee to keep me going. You can’t go wrong with a cup of Illy espresso. June 2010 615  After a few hours of walking, tasting and carrying a lot of brochures and samples in a bag slung from my shoulder, I thought I had done a pretty good job of perusing the booths. But then I found out there was another entire floor with at least as many exhibitors. OK, so I rested up a few minutes in a chair and plunged ahead. Hey, it’s all in the name of research for you guys, so I steeled myself for a few more trying hours. I’m so glad I did because I discovered a few really great specialty products and ran into a few notables too, including this gal, who’s the reigning Miss Italia, Maria Perrusi. We have a kind of inside joke in the family about Miss Italia because our vacations for many years seem to have coincided with the televised beauty pageant whether we were in Italy, the Czech Republic or in Hungary. One year we bumped into quite a few actual contestants in Salsomaggiore, a spa town where the pageant is held and nearby to where my relatives live, but this time I only had to schlep to New York to meet Miss Italia in person.   June 2010 636 But even more fun was saying hi once again to Tanya and her mother, Lidia Bastianich.  They were serving up some pasta made with Lidia’s line of pasta and sauces. Naturally I couldn’t pass up a plate from my food guru. The only time I’ve ever bought a jar of commercially prepared tomato sauce was decades ago for a camping trip, but I have to admit that Lidia’s jarred sauce was delicious. But what would you expect from the queen of Italian cuisine? June 2010 656 There were a few funny characters walking the aisles too:

Mona Lisa was also there. Can you believe this was made entirely of Jelly Belly jelly beans? June 2010 641 OK, so maybe you didn’t want to sample cheeses anymore, you wanted something more substantial for lunch. You want to start with some olives or an antipasto bar?

How about some pizza? June 2010 617 Octopus, seafood salad and anchovies –  if fish is more your thing. June 2010 620 Or maybe gnocchi in pesto sauce ladled from a huge parmesan wheel? June 2010 625 Take your pick of these pastas in red sauce being served up by Lombardi’s Gourmet Imports. June 2010 651 Or how about a porchetta sandwich. This porchetta is made in Kentucky by Porchetta Primata, but they even had one a producer from a vendor in Ariccia, Italy, the world-famous home of porchetta. June 2010 637 Eating light today? Try some of this really flavorful tuna from Tonnino. June 2010 606 Now if you wanted to have something sweet, you were in heaven. There were enough chocolates, candies, cakes, pastries and cookies to satisfy the most indulgent sweet tooth ever. This Gooey Butter Cake mix from Ann & Allen Baking Company in St. Louis was really good, especially the chocolate variety. June 2010 661 Here are some other products I would gladly eat again and again. I loved these cherries in Kirsch alcohol – Griottines – made by a French company. They’re delicious all by themselves in a shot glass, but they’d also be great with champagne or prosecco, or served over ice cream, or cooked in a sauce and poured atop a duck breast. June 2010 614 There were soooo many types of pasta, both fresh, frozen and dried. These little shapes were so adorable – one in the shape of clusters of grapes, the other like little ears – and both in multi-colored varieties. But from what I could gather, this brand – Casa Temporin – is still not available in the U.S. June 2010 621 Now  here was something really hot in more ways than one. Have you ever eaten ‘Nduja’? It’s a fiery red spread from Calabria made with hot peppers and sausage. This one is from a producer called “TuttoCalabria.”  June 2010 645 This was new to me too – chocolate puff pastry from DuFour Pastry Kitchens. Served with whipped cream and strawberries, it gave me ideas for future desserts. June 2010 591 These cookies made out of rice and corn flour and flavored with orange were really good. Even if I weren’t wheat intolerant, I’d eat a bunch of these Italian cookies made by the Oryza Group.June 2010 622 This fig balsamic dressing from Stonewall Kitchens is a new product for them and was a nice find. I’ll be looking for it in specialty stores near me.  June 2010 650 OK, counting down to the five yummiest things I ate and plan to search out and eat again and again are: 5. Bobbysue’s Nuts – These were so addictive I could have eaten a ton. They’re organic pecans, cashews and almonds that are spicy and sweet but not too sweet. There’s even a variety that’s drizzled in chocolate if you want to take it a step further. image 4. These Italian jams from Fattoria Antica Tuscia were sensational – and there was no sugar or other sweetener added. June 2010 623 3. These figs from F.illi Marano, “bocconi della nonna” or “grandmom’s little bites” were a real treat. Stuffed with almonds or walnuts and then rolled in a cinnamony sugar mixture, or dipped in chocolate. yumm. June 2010 6472.  Point Reyes blue cheese from Farmstead Cheese Company. Forget those gorgonzolas, those Stiltons, those Saga blues. This buttery, creamy, tangy blue cheese made in California is THE BEST blue cheese I have ever eaten.  June 2010 593 1. If I came away with nothing else from the show, I was thrilled to have discovered this product made in Armenia. It may not look like much, but what you’re looking at are fresh walnuts in the shell by a company called Harvest Song. Fresh baby walnuts are picked green from the tree before they have a chance to age. Then they’re cured with lemon juice and sugar and served complete with shells that are still soft. This was my number one pick from the show not just because it was so darn good, but because of the unusual nature of the product. The company also makes a line of wonderful fruit preserves too. June 2010 600 By the way, I was not paid to endorse any of these products. I’m just giving you my honest opinion on what I thought were really delicious foods and beverages that I tasted the day I attended. I know I left out a lot of things too, but I didn’t want this post to run on forever. I tried to find out whenever possible, where consumers could buy these foods. Some of the exhibitors didn’t know. In many cases, Whole Foods was mentioned. Murray’s Cheese Shop and Zabar’s in New York City were also cited as places to buy some of these items. If you’re not in New York, check with the specialty food store near you, or look online. Many of these companies have websites and I’ve included links whenever possible. Other times, you can find them for sale at online companies like Amazon.com. Hope you enjoyed the tour of the 2010 Fancy Food Show. Ciao Ciao to the Javits Center from Ciao Chow Linda. June 2010 664OH, not over yet.  I headed back to Times Square (where I used to work) when I saw this fella on the street having a nosh. Us humans at the Javits Center weren’t the only ones with food on our minds. June 2010 666  As promised, a recipe, courtesy of Point Reyes, Farmstead Cheese Company: Gourmet Mac and Cheese printable recipe here 1 pound elbow macaroni 1/4 cup butter 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/4 cup flour 4 cups whole milk 2 t. Dijon mustard 1 t. Worcestershire sauce 1 t. hot pepper sauce 1 cup grated Jack cheese 1 1/2 cup grated Point Reyes Vintage White Cheddar cheese 3/4 cup (about 6 ounces) Original Blue cheese crumbles salt and pepper to taste Cook the macaroni a la dente. Drain well and set aside. While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter and saute the onion until soft. Stir in flour and cook until mixture is smooth. Whisk in milk and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly. Add the mustard, Worcestershire, pepper sauce, and all the cheese. Stir to melt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the sauce with the cooked macaroni and pour into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Cover with foil and bake in 350 degree F. oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and return to oven for 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Serves 8.   Javits Center, Fancy Foods Show, Point Reyes, Farmstead Cheese Company, Harvest Song, Lidia Bastianich, Ann & Allen, 34 degrees, Cypress Grove Chevre, F.illi.Marano, Fattoria Antica Tuscia, Rossa di Langa, La Tur, DuFour Pastry Kitchens, Les Terroirs de Marrakech, Oryza Group, Illy, Bobbysue’s Nuts, Miss Italia, Maria Perrusi, Stonewall Kitchens, Jelly Belly, Lombardi’s Gourmet Imports, Porchetta Primata, Tonnino, TuttoCalabria

Marcus Of Umbria Giveaway And Minted Eggplant

Marcus of Umbria Giveaway and Minted Eggplant

How many people dream of chucking it all – the deadlines, the battles with the boss, the toxic office environment – and moving to Italy to live la dolce vita?  Lots of people fantasize about it but not many follow through on the dream. Enter Justine van der Leun, a young American woman living in New York City, who did just that.  She left her job at a well-known lifestyle magazine to move to a small village in Italy, where an abandoned English pointer stole her heart even more than the Italian gardener whose family she lived with. In her recently released book, “Marcus of Umbria – What an Italian Dog Taught An American Girl About Love,” Justine writes with humor and poignant honesty about her life in Collelungo, a village of 200 people in Umbria, a region called “the green heart of Italy.” Anyone who has ever known or lived with an Italian family in a small town will immediately identify with the cultural differences as Justine unsuccessfully tries to adapt to her newly-adopted family and boyfriend. image It’s a tale filled with love, with sadness, with traditions that have played out for generations – traditions such as wild boar hunting, sparrow-shooting, horse-wrangling, and pig-butchering among other things.  But more importantly than learning these traditions was the knowledge Justine gained about herself during her year in la bell’Italia. Maybe I loved the book so much because it reminded me of my own hiatus from the daily stresses of being a journalist in New York City and my escape to Italy for a year.  But “Marcus of Umbria” is a real page turner and makes a perfect summer read for anybody. Maybe even you. The publisher has agreed to send one copy of the book to a reader of this blog. All you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this post, no later than 9 pm. EDT Monday June 28, telling me where you would move to if you could live in Italy for a year. Or anywhere in the world actually, that you would love to call home for a year-long break. The winner will be picked at random. Want even more of a chance to win? Just connect with me on Facebook and/or Twitter to increase your odds by leaving a comment there too. “Marcus of Umbria” doesn’t contain any recipes per se, although there are references to food sprinkled throughout the book. Justine offered to write about one such recipe for Ciao Chow Linda that she ate during her year in Collelungo – minted eggplant. Below is a guest post written by Justine van der Leun. All photos here are also taken by her. ************************************************************************************************* “During my year in the Umbrian countryside, I spent my days with the Crucianis, a farming family. They were proudly simple people and they grew, raised, or hunted everything they ate. The Crucianis weren’t precious about their meals: Preparing and eating food was as natural to them as breathing. From them, I learned how to balance a nearly religious ardor for fresh, local ingredients with a casual approach to meals. But above all, I learned how to prepare and serve food the Italian way, which is, of course, with wild, nearly-aggressive generosity (hence their world-famous tendency to shout “Mangia! Mangia!”). In other words, the Italian way to serve food is to serve it with love. As my then-boyfriend Emanuele (the middle Cruciani child) once said, “Here you eat every day love, not only food.” The woman responsible for my Umbrian meals was Emanuele’s mother, Serenella—a brash, no-nonsense, utterly tenderhearted woman who fed me everything she could from the first time I stepped in her kitchen until the day I left. Serenella could whip up from scratch a five-course meal for a family of eight in under 20 minutes, and she did, twice a day. She didn’t understand what the big deal was. Serenella made vegetable dishes—from sautéed fresh chicory to field asparagus—mainly for me, as her male-dominated household really just wanted their pork and pasta. This eggplant dish was a departure from her normal repertoire, a light addition to a spring lunch. I was immediately taken by the nearly caramelized exterior of the eggplant, the balance of salt and garlic, and the fresh, fragrant mint. I liked that it could be part of a big spread or a standalone dish with some crusty bread and soft cheese. Lucky for me, it’s easy to throw together. Now when I make it, I always think of the Crucianis, and especially of Serenella. And so, without fail, I make it with love. And it’s always buonissimo.”  – Justine Minted Eggplant image  –Wash the eggplant and slice into rounds a quarter-inch thick. image –If you aren’t sure as to the eggplant’s freshness, place slices in a colander, sprinkling with salt, and tossing to coat evenly. –Let sit over sink or bowl for an hour. image –Coax out any extra moisture by patting with paper towels or kitchen cloth, then rinse in cold water and pat dry again. –Put olive oil in a pan (non-stick is best; if you don’t have a non-stick pan, you’ll just have to use extra oil) and heat over medium heat for a few minutes. –Add the eggplant slices. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to cook the eggplant in batches. Give the slices plenty of room. imageWhile the eggplant is cooking, wash and chop the mint. I love mint so I use loads of it, but you can cater the amount to your taste. image –Make sure the eggplant gets really golden brown—I think it’s most delicious when it’s slightly caramelized. Make sure as well that the eggplant doesn’t get too dry as it cooks; sprinkle with oil as you see fit. –When the batch is done, set it on a paper towel to drain. imageEach time you put a new batch of eggplant in the pan, make sure to film the bottom of the skillet with more olive oil. –After the eggplant is all cooked and is set on its paper towels, add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté the finely chopped garlic on medium heat until golden brown. imagePlace eggplant slices on a pretty platter and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Then sprinkle on the garlic and top with the chopped fresh mint. I place lemon quarters on the platter, more for color than for taste. –Serve. Preferably with a light, dry, summery white wine. image Minted Eggplant Printable Recipe Here 1 large eggplant or 2-3 small eggplants Olive oil 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped Handful of fresh mint leaves Salt and pepper –Wash the eggplant and slice into rounds a quarter-inch thick. –If you aren’t sure as to the eggplant’s freshness, place slices in a colander, sprinkling with salt, and tossing to coat evenly. –Let sit over sink or bowl for an hour. –Coax out any extra moisture by patting with paper towels or kitchen cloth, then rinse in cold water and pat dry again. –Put olive oil in a pan (non-stick is best; if you don’t have a non-stick pan, you’ll just have to use extra oil) and heat over medium heat for a few minutes. –Add the eggplant slices. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to cook the eggplant in batches. Give the slices plenty of room. –While the eggplant is cooking, wash and chop the mint. I love mint so I use loads of it, but you can cater the amount to your taste. –Make sure the eggplant gets really golden brown—I think it’s most delicious when it’s slightly caramelized. Make sure as well that the eggplant doesn’t get too dry as it cooks; sprinkle with oil as you see fit. –When the batch is done, set it on a paper towel to drain. –Each time you put a new batch of eggplant in the pan, make sure to film the bottom of the skillet with more olive oil. –After the eggplant is all cooked and is set on its paper towels, add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté the finely chopped garlic on medium heat until golden brown. –Place eggplant slices on a pretty platter and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Then sprinkle on the garlic and top with the chopped fresh mint. I place lemon quarters on the platter, more for color than for taste. –Serve. Preferably with a light, dry, summery white wine.

Maiale In Agrodolce (Sweet And Sour Glazed Pork Chops)

Maiale in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Glazed Pork Chops)

You won’t find the April 2010 edition of Saveur on the newsstands anymore, but you can certainly make this easy-to-prepare recipe from the article on Classic Roman Food in that issue.  You’d have to be a die-hard vegetarian not to be seduced by the photo of these pork chops that were on the magazine’s cover. June 2010 446 I fell for them hook, line and sinker and it was sweet surrender from the get-go (or shall I say sweet-and-sour surrender?) They’re just about the best thing you will make on your grill this summer. They’re so easy to prepare and the glaze is deliciously sweet but tempered by the acidity in the balsamic vinegar at the same time. The rosemary simmering in the sauce adds just the right seasoning note. All you need are some roasted peppers and a side dish (in this case a cous-cous salad) and you’ve got a really dynamite dinner in less time than it takes to order take-out. June 2010 464 Although you won’t find the April issue on newsstands any longer, maybe your library carries Saveur magazine. If so, check out the other classic Roman dishes in the issue, including spaghetti alla carbonara, carciofi alla Romana and bucatini all’Amatriciana. The issue made me long to be back in the Eternal City. Maiale In Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Glazed Pork Chops) From Saveur Magazine, April 2010 printable recipe here 4  10-oz. bone-in pork chops, frenched (I used regular bone-in pork chops, but didn’t French them, which means to clean off the area near the tip of the bone. Your call.)
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. unsalted butter (I used only 3 T. – it was plenty)
1  sprig fresh rosemary, torn into 1″ pieces
1. Put pork chops on a plate; drizzle with oil; season generously with salt and pepper; let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. Combine vinegar and honey in a 1-qt. saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1⁄4 cup. Stir in butter and rosemary and set aside.
3. Put pork chops on grill and cook, occasionally turning and basting with balsamic mixture, until browned and cooked through, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Summer Fruit Tart And Tartlets

Summer Fruit Tart and Tartlets

Have you ever bought something and come home to discover that your husband just bought the exact same thing? It’s happened to me many times, not just with groceries, but with big ticket items too, like a whole house fan, camping gear or a 42-foot sailboat (just kidding about that last one).  This time I think the fruit fairy must have sprinkled some fairy dust in my husband’s ears.  “Fruit is your friend. Buy more fruit, buy more fruit,” was her mantra.  Meanwhile, I was having trouble resisting all those summer fruits that spoke to me too. That’s how we ended up with enough fruit to give even Carmen Miranda (er, Minnie Miranda) a run for her money. http://www.clipartsegifs.com.br/cliparts/disney/minnie/minnie_carmen_miranda.gif Forget the blueberries, strawberries, peaches and pineapple that you see here. I’ve still got plenty of grapes, cherries and bananas waiting for their moment of glory too. But the blueberries and strawberries were first in line, so I got to thinking about Marie of Proud Italian Cook’s blueberry tart using lemon curd. With different friends coming by two nights in a row, it was a no-brainer to prepare once for separate nights’ desserts. The first night I’d make the tartlets using two different fruits and for the second night, the larger tart with several kinds of fruits. June 2010 296 I made my own pastry shell, but bought the lemon curd from the supermarket and used it straight from the jar on the tartlets, topping it with the fruit and a glaze of apricot jam. We finished off the tartlets quicker than you could say pate brisee. June 2010 271 But I wanted something more than the jellied/jam-like consistency of lemon curd for the base of the large tart -something a little creamier. I could have mixed the lemon curd with yogurt as Marie did in her tart, but I was feeling a little more decadent. I went with whipped cream and added a small amount of the lemon curd. Ka-ching –Jackpot!  This is so easy to prepare and tastes so creamy and lemony that I know I’ll be using it as my go-to filling for many tarts to come. June 2010 298 This pastry shell recipe is pretty darn delicious too. I know you can buy those ready-to-use shells in the refrigerated section of the supermarket and I’ve used them too, but there’s really no comparison to a well-made pastry shell with its delicate buttery flavor and tender flaky crumb. Even though it’s not as golden brown as I wanted, it was still fully cooked. I had the oven temperature at 350 degrees, but I’m cranking it up to 375 degrees next time. I am giving you the recipe to make enough for two 11-inch tart pans so you can use one now and freeze the other one for the future if you like. Just roll in out into a disk about 6 inches in diameter, wrap it well in plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer for the next time your tart fairy speaks to you too. If you’ve got these little tart pans, the pastry recipe makes enough for about 16 tartlets and one 11-inch tart pan. I bought my little Swedish tart tins decades ago from some catalog and the box is showing its age. OMG, I just did a Google search under “tart pans” and found the same assortment for $9.99 through Amazon.com in case you wanted to buy some. June 2010 258 To make the little tarts, roll out the dough and turn the the little tart pans upside down on the dough. Cut a shape a little bigger than the pan. Flip it over and press it down into the pan. No need to butter the pan. The dough has enough butter in it and the shell will slip out easily after it’s baked. June 2010 254 Just be sure to prick the dough all around with a fork so it won’t puff up during baking. June 2010 256 Prick the large shell the same way. But I go the extra step on the large pastry shell and cover it with buttered aluminum foil and some hard, dry beans to weigh it down during the first half of baking. June 2010 262 After it cools, fill it with the creamy-lemony filling. June 2010 292  Arrange an assortment of fresh fruit on top and brush with some apricot jam that has been slightly heated to allow you to spread it easier.

Then take any remaining fruit from the refrigerator and start working on a hat. You never know when there might be a remake of Carmen Miranda movies. Printable Recipes Here Flaky Tart Pastry (pate brisee) (enough for two 11-inch tarts or 1 11-inch tart and 18 tartlets) 3 cups flour 4 T. sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 sticks cold unsalted butter 2 egg yolks about four Tablespoons ice water Put the flour, sugar and salt into the food processor and blend. Add the butter and egg yolks and pulse until it has the texture of coarse sand. Add a little of the water while the motor is running  – just enough to make it cohesive enough to work. DON”T OVERMIX IT or you’ll have a tough dough. Remove it from the food processor and place it on the counter or work table. Shape it into two disks and put it in the refrigerator for an hour. (Put one, well-wrapped, in the freezer if saving for a future use.) If you keep it in the refrigerator any longer, I find it becomes so hard to roll out that it cracks on you. I’ve even been known to roll it out without refrigerating at all and it works just fine too. When ready to use, roll out on a floured board and place into the tart pan. Price all over with a fork, then put it in the freezer for 1/2 hour or longer. When ready to bake, line the pastry shell with a buttered piece of aluminum foil and pour in some dried beans. Bake it at 375 for about 8 minutes then remove the aluminum foil and beans. Place it back in the oven and bake it for another 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Fill it with pastry cream, top with fresh fruit and glaze it with some apricot jam that has been slightly heated. Filling for one large tart 1/2 cup whipping cream 1/3 cup lemon curd Whip the cream in a mixer until it starts to hold together in soft peaks. Add the lemon curd, a teaspoon-full at a time and continue beating just until it’s all blended together.

Father’s Day Surf And Turf And A Giveaway Winner!

Father’s Day Surf and Turf And A Giveaway Winner!

Want to pamper your Dad on Father’s Day? Or maybe just indulge in a special meal for a special someone? Unless you’re a vegetarian, this combo is sure to win you brownie points and give you a free pass on the dishes. The lobster tails were an indulgence, granted. But I couldn’t resist when they went on sale for 1/2 price recently at my supermarket. The price of the beef wasn’t exactly chopped liver either, since I made the shish-kebobs with Black Angus Choice sirloin steak. But you could try a less expensive cut and marinate it longer. Besides, for the two of us I used less than 3/4 pound of beef. Truth be told, I didn’t serve these both on the same night. Aside from breaking the bank, we just can’t eat that much at one sitting. The lobster tails alone were about 7 ounces each – that’s a lot of seafood for one person.  But if you want to impress your Dad, your boss or your favorite significant other, get that grill going on all burners and present both these dishes at the same meal. Both are really easy to prepare but let’s start with the beef. I cut the steak into chunks and marinated it with about 1/4 cup of soy sauce, a drizzle of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, two smashed garlic cloves and a couple of sprigs of minced rosemary. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator about a half hour to one hour. Use wooden skewers that have been soaked in water and start threading them with the meat, alternating with peppers, onions and cherry or grape tomatoes.  Place over hot coals and grill until desired doneness. For us, people like our steak medium rare, it was only about five minutes on each side, turning once. May 2010 738 Now for the lobsters, which are a little trickier to prepare.  May 2010 696 There are plenty of ways to cook lobster tails. Honestly, my favorite way is to steam them – plain and simple. But since it’s summer and the grill is king, I decided to try them this way. Take a heavy knife or kitchen shears and cut down the middle right through the shell. It will take some strength, and be careful not to cut yourself because the edges of the lobster shells are sharp. May 2010 697 Put some olive oil in a bowl and mix in some herbs and spices. I used about 1/4 cup of olive oil (You could use softened butter if you prefer) and I added some fresh chopped thyme, some paprika, some minced garlic, salt and pepper. May 2010 699 Lift the meat away from the shell and spread some of the olive oil over the shell. Replace the lobster meat over the shell. May 2010 702 Do the same thing to the other side, but reserve a little of the olive oil mixture. May 2010 703 Place the lobster tails, shell side down, on the grill. Brush the lobster meat with the olive oil mixture that you reserved.  Keep a little water handy to spritz on the coals in case you have a flare-up. DON”T LEAVE THE GRILL. You don’t want to set fire to the lobster tails and see all that money you spent go up in flames. May 2010 704 After they’ve cooked for about 10 minutes on the shell side, flip them over. There was actually no flare-up when I flipped them over, because most of the olive oil had either been absorbed into the lobster meat or had already dripped down into the coals. Cook them on this side for another 10 minutes. If it looks like they’re not done, just keep them on longer. A lot depends on your grill and on the size of the lobster tails. May 2010 707 Serve with melted butter and some lemon wedges. May 2010 720 Now for the winner of the Tupperware Quick Chef giveaway. I used a random number generator and the winner was number three – Kristin!! Congratulations! Kristin send me your address in a separate email so I can mail you the prize. Thanks to all of you who left a comment, especially those of you who left a suggestion on how to improve the blog. Many of you said I need to have a recipe finder and I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ll be working on implementing it in the next few weeks.

Banana Whip, Techmunch And A Giveaway

Banana Whip, Techmunch and a Giveaway

Raise your right arm if you love creamy, luscious ice cream. OK, now lower that arm quickly if there’s too much jiggle from all those fat-rich desserts. Don’t despair though. I’ve got an alternative that could have you perusing the bikini aisles once more. I first ate this Banana Whip at the Bent Spoon, Princeton, New Jersey’s much lauded ice cream/gelato store run by an adorable couple, Matt Errico and Gabriel Carbone. They bought a special machine from Italy to turn bananas into a concoction that has all the consistency and flavor of ice cream but with none of the fat.  It’s made from bananas – only bananas. No sugar, no flavorings, no guar gum or whatever that disgusting additive is. But you don’t need an expensive machine from Italy. All you need is a freezer and a food processor. Take three or four really ripe bananas – like totally-brown-on-the-outside bananas. You know the kind you get all squeamish about eating and are ready to toss into the trash. They’re the ones. Now freeze them. Freeze them good and hard overnight if possible. Then peel them, by hand or with a knife if need be. Cut the bananas into chunks and whir the chunks in the food processor for a few minutes. Hopefully your food processor is sturdy and won’t want to start prancing across the counter. After a few minutes, the bananas should turn into a luscious creamy dessert. It’s not likely to be as scoopable (is that a word?) as the photo above, but pop it in a plastic container, put it in the freezer a few more hours, and you’ll be scooping with the big boys. If you have an ice cream machine (even one that you hand-crank like my old Donvier) you can plop the banana mixture in there and give it a few turns and scoop away immediately. I took things a step further and crumpled in two chocolate cookies that were looking forlorn. It raises the calorie count, but heck, it’s minimal compared to a scoop of your favorite premium brand ice cream. I’ve been feasting a little too much lately, including at last week’s TECHmunch one-day food bloggers’ conference in New York City, where the food was bountiful as you might have guessed. We had already been served breakfast – these were just some of the mid-morning snacks. Who could eat lunch an hour and a half later after all this? OK, guilty as charged. I indulged in a heaping bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich and a lemon bar with a crispy, flaky bottom that beats out any I’d eaten before. How can I get that lemon bar recipe? June 2010 207The event was co-produced by Bakespace.com and Cupcakes Take The Cake.com. June 2010 202   Babette Pepaj of BakeSpace.com and Nichelle Stephens of Cupcakes Take The Cake I met lots of nice people with blogs I was already familiar with – and some that were new to me. It was great to put faces to blog names and to discover some tips for improving your blog. The day was filled with back-to-back panels on everything from food trends to how to leverage traditional media. June 2010 211 Among the panelists were  Jaden Hair of SteamyKitchen.com, David Leite of LeitesCulinaria.com and Cathy Erway, of NotEatingOutInNY.com. June 2010 218 There were lots of great tips given by many of the panelists. Here are just a few on how to build blog traffic:

  • invite some guest bloggers or write a guest post for another blogger
  • reach out to do interviews
  • use social media, like Facebook and Twitter
  • tell good stories
  • write clear, consistent recipes that work. Place ingredients in the order they are used.
  • be topical. For example, if the World Cup is taking place, figure out how to incorporate something about it in your blog

There were lots of giveaways too, with KitchenAid sponsoring the event. Look at this booty! June 2010 201 I won a prize early on and got to choose from among this grouping (except for the big anniversary edition of the KitchenAid stand mixer). I really needed a new toaster, so this couldn’t have been more timely. If there’s ever a TechMunch conference in your area, it’s well worth your time and money. There were even goody bags to take home, which included this nifty gadget from Tupperware. image It’s  Tupperware’s Quick Chef – a hand-operated alternative to an electric food processor and it retails for $52.50 on Tupperware’s website. But it can be yours if you want. I’m offering it to any reader of this blog, chosen at random, who leaves a comment by midnight Eastern time, Wednesday, June 16.  Just let me know what you think I can do to improve this blog – layout-wise, recipe-wise, frequency of posts, whatever comes to mind. You don’t have to have a blog to win, but if you don’t, please leave an email address or some way for me to reach you. For those of you who receive updates in email format, please leave your comment on the blog, not in email. One more thing before I leave you and go make a cup of tea. Ciao Chow Linda has been on Facebook for a couple of months. Connect with me there if you haven’t already. Now I’m on Twitter too, so if you’ve got a Twitter account, follow me @ciaochowlinda.  I’m still figuring this whole technology thing out, so bear with me if I stumble here or there. I’m of the generation that still remembers dial phones.

Nectarine Tart

Nectarine Tart

Don’t make this tart. Let me rephrase. Don’t make this tart unless you’re obsessive about detail, have a high tolerance for nit-picky tasks and two hours to kill.  Oh, and if you have a tendency to spurt forth with four-letter words when a hot tart slips from your hands onto the table and smashes the entire fluted rim of a certain just-baked dessert, you may want to think long and hard about calling that bakery downtown. If, on the other hand, you still want to proceed, may the Gods of all tarts sweet and savory bless you every step of the way. You’ll need it.  Should you decide to accept this mission however, your patience, time and guests will be rewarded with this stunner of a dessert that tastes every bit as wonderful as it looks. But hurry, grab a fork or this tart will disappear quicker than a dewdrop on a rose petal. June 2010 097 Let me guide you through the process. First I made the crust. The original recipe (from Martha Stewart, wouldn’cha know?) calls for a standard pastry crust. But I made one using amaretti cookies, since the flavor goes so well with peaches and nectarines. So make the crust and let it cool. I made the mistake of not buttering the tart pan well enough, making it a little difficult to remove the slices neatly when it was time to cut into the tart. Now comes the tricky part – making the roses. I pitted the nectarines, split them in half, then sliced each pitted half with a mandoline. You could use a knife too, but it’s harder to get slices with a uniform thickness. If you make the slices too thick, they’ll be resistant to curving into a circular shape. Too thin and they disintegrate or they’re a mess to handle. The nectarines should not be dead ripe, but not rock hard either. Somewhere in the middle is perfect. Once you have slices, then cut them in half down the middle. Work on one nectarine at a time to get the hang of it. Don’t slice all of them at once. June 2010 076 Using a knife, make a little hole in the center. This will make it easier to roll nicely. You’ll see what I’m talking about once you start making the roses. June 2010 077 OK, now take one little slice of the nectarine and coil it around on itself. Stand it up on end. The moisture in the fruit will help the slices stick to each other. June 2010 078 Take another slice and wrap it around the last one you rolled. June 2010 079 Continue with this procedure. June 2010 080 Keep going. June 2010 081 You’re getting there. June 2010 082 Ah yes. That’s it. Now place (carefully) each rosette on the cooked pastry shell. Oh quick, see that fluted edge. That’s what fell by the wayside when I tried to unmold a tart from a very hot pan. June 2010 074 When you’ve got the tart shell completely filled, you’re ready to pour in the topping (and ready for a rest). June 2010 083 Take it out of the oven and wait for tart to cool before attempting to extract it from its removable bottom. Otherwise, the hot tart is likely to slip from your hands, plop on the table, and that pretty fluted rim you worked so hard to achieve will be history. Take my word for it. (Well, actually make that a few four letter words that shall remain unsaid here in this family blog.) June 2010 086 Even if do manage to mangle the fluted rim, there’s likely still plenty of crust left to hold it all together and present your piece de resistance. June 2010 133 Nectarine Tart Printable Recipe Here Amaretti Crust 3/4 cup amaretti cookies 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup almonds 6 Tablespoons butter Place cookies, sugar and almonds in food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form. Add melted butter and whir a few seconds longer to blend. Press into 9″ tart pan and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. 6 or 7 nectarines Filling: (This part is a Martha Stewart recipe) 1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Chambord or brandy
1/4 tsp salt
1. Make and pre-bake a tart shell according to a recipe of your choice.  Set aside to cool completely.
2. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat, whisk occasionally until butter solids begin to brown, about 5 mins. Remove from heat, set aside.
3. In medium bowl, whisk egg, sugar, lemon juice, Chambord and salt until light in color and double in volume, about 2 minutes. Add flour and reserved brown butter, whisk until well combined.
4. Slice nectarines into 1/8 inch slices. Make roses by loosely coiling a thin slice of nectarine for the center, then wrapping each additional slice around it, offsetting each slice from the previous one. Make and transfer enough roses to fill tart shell, filling any gaps with extra nectarine slices.
5. Whisk filling briefly, pour evenly over fruit, using a spoon to fill empty spaces. Bake at 375F, rotating tart halfway through, until filling has slightly puffed, about 40 mins. (When tart came out of oven, I brushed the rosettes with a little melted apricot jam, and filled in the empty spaces where the filling looked sparse. Actually I think you could eliminate the filling entirely and this tart would taste delicious with only the rosettes and apricot jam.) Cool on wire rack. Makes one 9 inch tart. (I stupidly used a very large tart pan – about 11 inches – and it took forever to fill with rosettes. Plus the filling amount given in the original recipe was not enough to cover the entire surface very well. I filled in with apricot jam at the end as I mentioned above.)

Pasta E Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

When I was growing up, my mother made pasta e fagioli with broad cannellini beans in a rich tomato gravy or ragu’ as we used to call it.  The pasta was usually a thick spaghetti or rigatoni and the dish was heavy, but delicious. I thought that’s how everybody ate pasta e fagioli. Later in life I learned there are as many versions of pasta and fagioli as there are varieties of beans – maybe more.  For example, my friend Alessandra who’s originally from Padua, makes it the way it’s served in that Northern Italian city – almost a beige puree with no tomato at all – and just a few bits of pasta and beans peeking through the creamy soup-like dish. I’ve eaten it that way at her home and in Padua and I love that version too.  Now that summer grilling season is here, and really good tomatoes are coming to market, I’m offering you another version with grilled tomatoes and small white beans. I actually prefer larger cannellini beans, but these small white Navy beans are what I had on hand. It’s a snap to put together in under a half hour and you’ve got a nutritious, delicious vegetarian meal with all the important food groups – vegetables, carbs and protein. Start by spreading out tomatoes on a baking sheet, adding some thick slices of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, plus some salt, pepper and fresh herbs (I used fresh oregano from my garden, but you could use dried if that’s all you have. I also used fresh grape tomatoes that had a wonderful sweetness to them, but you could try cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, or even regular small salad tomatoes.) May 2010 748 Put the cookie sheet on the grill and keep a close watch on the tomatoes. They only take a few minutes to cook and will easily burn if you leave them for too long. Stir them once with a spatula. May 2010 749 Drain and rinse a small can of your favorite beans – cannellini, small white beans or even chickpeas, and toss them in a bowl with the tomatoes and cooked pasta. Add more seasoning (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes) and a drizzle of olive oil if it needs more. Finish off with fresh basil. I’ve got both the vibrant green and the dark purple variety outside my door and the aroma is intoxicating at this time of year before the stems get woody. May 2010 751 I minced a bit to toss into the pasta just before serving, and also garnished the dish with a few sprigs of the colorful leaves. Sprinkle a little freshly grated parmesan over the pasta and sit down to a healthy, flavorful and quick-to-prepare meal. May 2010 766 Pasta E Fagioli Farfalle with Grilled Tomatoes and Beans Printable Recipe Here serves two to three people 1/3 to 1/2 pound farfalle pasta 2 cups grape tomatoes a drizzle of olive oil over the tomatoes (maybe 1/4 cup total) 4 garlic cloves, cut into large pieces several sprigs of fresh oregano (or a sprinkling of dried oregano) salt, pepper small can (13 oz.) of white beans red hot pepper flakes, optional fresh basil, minced  – and more whole sprigs to garnish parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top Place the tomatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Cut pieces of garlic and sprigs of oregano and place in cookie sheet. Add salt, pepper and toss everything together. Place pan over grill grates and watch carefully to make sure tomatoes don’t burn. Use a spatula to turn them once or twice. They should take no longer than five minutes to cook. Remove the cooked tomatoes to a pasta serving bowl. Meanwhile, boil the pasta and drain. Drain a small can of white beans (cannellini, navy beans or chick peas). I used only about 2/3 of the can. Add the drained beans to the tomatoes in the pasta bowl, then add the red pepper flakes if desired, more black pepper and the drained pasta. Toss everything together and add more olive oil if needed (I didn’t need to). Toss in the minced basil and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Strawberries!

Strawberries!

It’s that glorious time of year again in New Jersey as June approaches. No, not graduation time, or wedding time, but strawberry time! Nothing beats a freshly picked, ripe red strawberry from New Jersey (except maybe Jersey tomatoes) and these juicy beauties were too lovely to resist. So naturally I didn’t. How could you say no to perfect specimens like these? May 2010 632 It’s also rhubarb season, another one of those seasonal treats, and I wanted to include them in the party too, but not with the baked tarts and pies I normally make. May 2010 634 Those first farm-fresh berries deserved to be eaten in their raw state, with all their juicy goodness and crimson color intact.  How about cooking the rhubarb and letting it cool, then adding the fresh strawberries to create a colorful, fresh sauce or compote? Raise your hand if you’re with me, then get out there and get yourself  some really good strawberries and rhubarb. This sauce would be great over yogurt for breakfast, or as a topping on angel food or pound cake. May 2010 685 Oh heck, who am I kidding? Get yourself some premium vanilla ice cream and indulge. May 2010 694 Looking for some other ideas for those plump, juicy strawberries? Here are a few: strawberry almond cream tart image strawberry “tiramisu” image Strawberry Frozen Yogurt image   Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce or compote Printable Recipe Here 2 cups rhubarb, sliced 1/3 cup orange juice 1/2 cup sugar 2 T. Grand Marnier or Cointreau 1 T. vanilla 1 cup cut-up strawberries (or more to your liking) Place orange juice and sugar in a saucepan and let it cook for about five minutes at high heat, or until it’s slightly reduced (about 1/4 of the way reduced.) Add the rhubarb and cook about three or four minutes – NO LONGER THAN THAT – or you’ll end up with rhubarb mush, not distinct pieces. Here’s what it should look like after a few minutes cooking: May 2010 635 Take it off heat and stir in the vanilla and Grand Marnier. Let it cool, then add about a cup of cut-up strawberries and let it sit for a half hour or so. Serves four over ice cream, cakes, yogurt, etc.