Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chocolate Dipped Caramels with Grey Sea Salt

Looking for a great homemade holiday gift? These dark chocolate covered caramels are divine! The sea salt is key. It adds a whole new dimension of flavor and texture. Enjoy!

Makes approximately 150 pieces

4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1 quart whipping cream
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature,
   cut into pieces
1 teaspoon grey sea salt, plus extra
1 pound tempered bittersweet chocolate or
   dark chocolate candy melts

Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Smooth out wrinkles and generously butter bottom and sides.

In deep, heavy-bottomed 8-quart pot, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. (Be sure to choose a very deep pot so the sugar mixture doesn’t boil over.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Swirl the pot once or twice to combine ingredients, but do not stir. Boil until mixture turns a medium amber color. Be sure to watch the boiling sugar closely because the color can deepen quickly.

As the caramel continues to boil, it will turn a very dark mahogany brown, the bubbles will turn tan in color. This is your cue to remove it from the heat and add the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of salt. The mixture will bubble up; just let it sit a moment to subside. Place back over medium-high to high heat and swirl pot around a few times to combine ingredients. Clip on a candy thermometer and boil until mixture reaches 250 degrees, swirling mixture several times during boiling to make sure the temperature is consistent throughout. Immediately pour mixture into prepared pan but do not scrape the bottom of pot.

Allow to sit overnight or until firm enough to cut. Cut into squares (1/2” each).

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over lightly steaming water. Remember, chocolate doesn’t need a lot of heat to melt, if you over heat it, it will seize up and be unusable.

When the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, skewer a caramel with a bamboo skewer or candy making fork and dip it in the chocolate. Remove the caramel from the chocolate and allow the excess chocolate to drip away – it makes for a neater finished candy vs. a pool of chocolate around each caramel. I even gently tap the skewer on the side of the pan to get the last few drops off.

Using another skewer, coax the chocolate dipped caramel onto a sheet of wax paper. Use the tip of the skewer to swirl the chocolate slightly to cover up the puncture mark. Sprinkle with a few grains of sea salt and allow the chocolate to set. Once the chocolate has set, place each one in a paper candy cup.

Note: Caramel recipe adapted from Fleur de Sel Caramels, "Unforgettable Desserts: More than 140 Memorable Dessert Recipes for All Year Round" by Dede Wilson

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fast and Fabulous Holiday Hors d'oeuvres!

It seems like we are all pressed for time around the holidays with shopping, family activities, office parties, and social gatherings. If you are planning a party this year my best advice is to choose a few items to make from scratch and purchase the remainder pre-prepped – like vegetable trays, deli platters and spiral-cut hams. When selecting items you want to make yourself, try to choose simple preparations that won’t stress you out.  Here are a few of my favorite simple, yet elegant, holiday hors d’œuvres

  • Baked Potato Bites with Blue Cheese, Walnuts & Honey
    Buy the smallest baby red skin potatoes you can find. Cut them in half. You can scoop out a little of the center with a melon baller, but it’s not really necessary. Toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet cut-side down. Roast them in a 400ºF oven for 15 minutes or until soft. Turn cut-side up and top with blue cheese crumbles and walnut pieces. Pop them back in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes to melt the cheese slightly. Drizzle the potatoes with a touch of honey and serve.

  • Salmon “Mousse” on Endive Spoons
    Combine 8 oz of smoked salmon cream cheese with 8 oz of plain whipped cream cheese. Blend thoroughly. Add salt and lemon pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into a quart size freezer bag. Snip off one of the bottom corners of the bag – about a ¼ inch opening is perfect. Use the bag to pipe the mixture onto Belgian Endive leaves. (If your local grocer doesn’t carry endive, use a water cracker instead.) Top with some lemon zest and a sprig of fresh dill.

  • Brie Brûlée
    Cut the top off of a wheel of brie. Sprinkle the bottom layer with your favorite dried fruit and nuts. I like dried cranberries and pecan pieces or diced dried apricots and slivered almonds. Place the top of the wheel back onto the bottom layer. Bake in a 350ºF oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the brie begins to melt slightly. Remove from the oven and sprinkle generously with brown sugar. Using a kitchen torch, brown the sugar until it bubbles and caramelizes. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, place the wheel of cheese under the broiler of your oven for a couple minutes. (Keep a close eye on it under the broiler so that the sugar doesn’t burn.) Cool slightly then carefully transfer the brie to a cake plate or serving platter. Surround the beautiful caramelized cheese with grape clusters and crackers. This dish will be the perfect centerpiece for your holiday buffet!  

  • What are some of your favorite fast and fabulous holiday hors d’œuvres?

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Just Say No to Over Cooked White Meat

    It’s an age-old holiday struggle. How do you keep the white meat of your turkey moist while waiting for the dark meat to finish cooking? Well, I have a suggestion for you that will not only decrease your cooking time but also make the dark meat the most popular option. This holiday season why don’t you try removing the turkey legs and stuffing them. It’s easy. I will lead you through each step with photos to demonstrate what to do.

    First, using a sharp knife, slice through the skin of the bird between the body and the thigh to expose the flesh.

    Next bend the leg toward the backbone of the bird enough to pop the thigh joint out. Cut along the body of the bird, around the joint, to remove the leg. Repeat the process on the other leg.

    When you have removed both legs, lay them cut-side up on the cutting board. You should see a line of yellowish fat running down the inner thigh of the leg. Use the tip of your knife to cut along that line down to the thigh bone. Continue to cut a straight line from that point on down the leg. When you reach the ankle joint, slice around the leg to free the skin from the bone.

    Use the blade of the knife to scrape the meat away from the leg bones. At the knee joint, carefully use the tip of your knife to free the meat from the joint. Try not to puncture the skin.

    You are almost done! The last step is to remove the hard tendons from the leg portion. The tendons look and feel like white “sticks” in the leg meat. I hold the exposed end of the “stick” while running the tip of my knife along the length of the tendon. A little tug should free the tendon after you run your knife the length of it. If you are having trouble pulling the tendons out, try using a pair of kitchen tweezers or pliers.

    If you are removing the leg bones the night before, simply cover and refrigerate them until you are ready to put the bird in the oven. For food safety reasons, you should not stuff the legs until you are ready to roast them.

    When you are ready to cook the whole bird, lay the boned leg sections out flat on a cutting board. Each leg section should form the shape of a rectangle. Spoon a line of your favorite stuffing down the center on the long side, then roll the stuffed leg into a cylinder.
    Using kitchen twine, truss the stuffed leg to hold it together. You start by tying the twine around one end of the leg, then make a loop, twist it and slide it around the leg. Space each loop about 1 to 2 inches apart. Repeat until the whole leg is secure.

    Stuff the breast cavity as you normally would. Nestle a little aluminum foil around any exposed stuffing to keep it from drying out. Place the stuffed breast into your roasting pan and lay the stuffed legs on either side. Roast, basting occasionally, until the breast meat has reached 170ºF. By the time the white meat of the breast is fully cooked, the legs will be as well. Slice the breast and stuffed legs and arrange on a platter.

    I promise the dark meat will be a hit!

    Guiltless Gourmet - Go Slow, Save Dough

    Posted on January 15, 2010

    Fall and winter are the perfect time to try a little Slow Food. The Slow Food Movement originated in Italy in the mid 1980’s as kind of rebellion against fast food. Slow food is food prepared the old fashioned way, slowly - a meal made with care, attention to detail and tradition.

    One slow food cooking method is braising – browning larger pieces of meat and then cooking them in a small amount of liquid over low heat. Remember mom’s pot roast? That’s braising.

    Stewing is another wonderful slow food method. Stewing is very similar to braising but is typically associated with smaller pieces of meat and requires more liquid.

    One of the nicest things about braising or stewing is that dishes take a little preparation in the beginning then you more or less forget about them for several hours and dinner’s ready. On top of that, some of the less expensive cuts of meat work best when cooked slowly. I love using pork shoulder, beef short ribs, and chicken thighs, in particular.

    You can take a cue from the Slow Food Movement to create belly-warming, economical dinners. The results are mouthwatering. Here are some ways for you to try them.

  • Chile Verde – Mexican Green Chile Stew
    Brown ¾ pound of pork shoulder cubes and some diced onion in a little oil. Add a clove of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 7 oz can of green chiles, 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, ½ cup dry red wine or beef broth, and simmer over low heat for about three hours. When the pork is fork-tender, it’s done. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice and tortillas.

  • Braised Short Ribs
    Lightly dredge beef short ribs in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat a small amount of oil in a heavy pan or Dutch oven. Sear the meat on all sides. Remove from the pan. Add ½ cup sliced shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Return the ribs to the pan and add enough red wine or beef broth to the pan to come about halfway up the sides of the meat. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over low heat for 5 to 6 hours. The meat should be tender and falling off the bone. Serve with roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

  • Chicken Thighs with Olives and Tomatoes
    Season 1 pound of chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a heavy pan. Brown the chicken on all sides. Add ½ cup white wine to deglaze the pan. Then stir in a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, two cloves of minced garlic, ½ cup sliced green olives and a tablespoon of dried parsley. Add a little crushed red pepper if you like spice. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer covered for 1 hour. Serve with noodles or rice.
  • Friday, October 16, 2009

    The Seasonal Food Guide - Fall

    Ah fall…misty afternoons, pumpkins, falling leaves, a chill in the air. I just love this time of year. Fall has always been my favorite season, not only because I think it’s beautiful but also because after all the light eating of summer I crave something hearty. I am ready for chili, stews, roasting meats, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pies and caramel apples.

    It’s a wonderful time of year for food and you can still find a wide variety of seasonal produce. Among the cornucopia of autumn produce are: apples, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, celery root, cranberries, fennel, mushrooms, pears, pomegranates, spinach, and a variety of winter squash including acorn and delicata.

    Here are some delicious ways to celebrate fall:
  • Wild Mushroom Toasts

  • Clean and coarsely chop a variety of mushrooms like Chanterelles, Shitake, Cremini, Porcini or white buttons, then sauté them in some butter with a little minced garlic. When they are soft, try adding a splash of dry sherry or brandy. Let it simmer away, and then add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon some of the buttery mushroom goodness onto toasted slices of artisan bread and you’ve got a simple but elegant autumn appetizer.

  • Prosciutto and Pear

  • Try wrapping paper thin slices of Prosciutto ham around wedges of ripe pears. Sprinkle with a bit of freshly cracked black pepper and you’re done. You can offer them as appetizers or use them as a garnish for a mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette and toasted pecans.

  • Potato and Celery Root Puree

  • Here’s a new twist on mashed potatoes! Substitute celery root for half of the potatoes you intend to mash. Peel the celery root and boil it with a touch of salt, as you would regular potatoes for mashing. When the celery root is fork tender, mash it together with boiled potatoes, butter and cream. Add a little salt and pepper and you’ve got a delicious and different side dish. I think you’ll find the subtle celery flavor perfect with roasted pork.

  • Sautéed Apples

  • What a wonderful way to enjoy the taste of an apple pie without all the work. Sautéed apples are terrific on top of oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast, and make a delicious accompaniment to roast turkey or pork tenderloin. Slice 4 tart apples, peeled or un-peeled, and sauté in ¼ cup butter. As the apples begin to soften add ½ tsp of cinnamon, and ¼ cup brown sugar. You can also add a pinch of nutmeg if you like. Stir until the sugar has melted and you are ready to serve.

    What are your favorite fall recipes? Does your family have some special side dishes that you serve for Thanksgiving?

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Comfort Food Poll

    I recently read a summary of a report by the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) that discussed trends in generational comfort foods. The idea that different generations might crave different comfort foods fascinated me, so I decided to create my own informal poll examining both generational and regional influence on comfort foods.

    My survey was simple. I asked people to identify: their generation, their favorite comfort food and where they were raised. I received nearly 100 responses from around the country.

    While sweets dominated the CCD survey findings, I found that fats and starches topped the list. Potato and Pasta dishes topped my poll.

    My results concurred with the national poll regarding Boomers craving comfort foods that remind them of their childhoods. They were more likely to casseroles, stews and roasted meals.

    Gen Xer’s showed the influence of international foods citing Mexican foods like burritos, tacos and nachos.

    Gen Y continued the international food trend with Asian food though they also mentioned convenience foods like more readily.

    Now it’s your turn to weigh in.
    What is your favorite comfort food?
    What is your generation? a) Baby Boomer(ish) (1943 - 1964) b) Generation X (1965 - 1980) c) Generation Y (1981 and beyond)
    Where were you raised?

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Guiltess Gourmet - Save Money, Savor Flavor

    Originally posted on August 22, 2009

    Looking for ways to stretch your food budget without compromising quality? Here are a few simple suggestions for you to try.

    Buy whole chickens
    There is a saying in the restaurant industry that you can make a $100 on one chicken. You won’t get that kind of return at home but you will be amazed what you can get from one chicken. If you buy chicken whole not only will you save money but you can stretch one chicken into three meals for four people.

    You will need to cut the chicken up yourself. First, remove the breasts by trimming carefully along the ribs. You can use these to make a stir-fry or cube them and skewer with fresh vegetables for kabobs. Next, remove the thighs and legs. Bone them and use the dark meat for a delicious simmered Thai or Indian Curry. If you like chicken wings as a snack you can freeze them until you have enough for an appetizer later. Finally, use the carcass to make stock for soup or risotto.

    You’ve just gotten three meals and a snack from one chicken!

    Make your own salad dressing
    Making your own salad dressing is a simple way to give your family fresh, preservative-free flavor while saving money. The average price of homemade vinaigrette made from extra virgin olive oil is about $.35 an ounce.

    Simply mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, add a little chopped shallot, fresh minced herbs like basil or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. If you want a dressing that doesn’t separate as quickly, mix in a little Dijon mustard.

    Your homemade vinaigrette will last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. On day 5 use it to marinate chicken breasts for tasty kabobs.

    Plant an herb garden
    I love fresh herbs but I cringe each time I purchase a tiny package of fresh basil leaves for $2.50 to $2.99. Still, when tomatoes are in season I just can’t resist. I probably purchase fresh basil a minimum of 6 times over the summer. I also use a lot of cilantro and fresh parsley. When you add up the cost of a few fresh herbs, you will quickly see the benefit of growing your own.

    You don’t need a garden to benefit from growing fresh herbs; all you need is a sunny window sill. Stop by your local nursery or hardware store and pick up a rectangular planter, some organic potting soil and a few seeds or seedlings and you’ll have fresh herbs in no time. Don’t be afraid to snip off what you need, the more you snip the more they grow.

    Imagine sitting down to dinner of chicken kabobs marinated in homemade salad dressing using herbs you’ve grown yourself.

    Do you have creative ways to save money while serving your family high-quality foods?

    Friday, July 31, 2009

    The Seasonal Food Guide - Summer

    Originally posted on July 31, 2009

    Summer, more than any other season, offers a variety of fresh produce options. I would argue that summer is as much about eating as the holiday season. The only difference is the type of eating we are doing.

    Summer is filled with picnics, barbeques and outdoor events. Sure we might eat hot dogs and hamburgers galore, but our side dishes include green salads, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

    Okay then, hurray for summer and all its abundance! Remember eating seasonally not only ensures optimal flavor and ripeness, but prices also drop when there is plenty. Some items that will be easy on your waistline as well as your pocketbook this season include: apricots, beans, berries, cherries, corn, cucumbers, melons, peaches, peppers, summer squash, tomatoes, and watermelon.

    Here are a few of my favorite summer-inspired dishes:
  • Grilled Peaches With A Drizzle Of Aged Balsamic Vinegar And Crumbled Blue Cheese Or Feta
    Cut peaches in half and remove the pit. Then, brush them with a tiny bit of olive oil just before grilling to keep them from sticking to your grill. You’ll be surprised how delicious this combination is. (If you don’t have aged balsamic vinegar, simmer any balsamic vinegar for about 10 minutes to create a thicker “balsamic syrup” for your drizzle.)

  • Lasagna With Shredded Zucchini Instead Of Pasta
    Shred zucchini on a box grater/cheese grater and drain on paper towels for a half an hour. Assemble the lasagna as you normally would except instead of using pasta, layer shredded zucchini. By substituting the zucchini, you’ll decrease the overall calories and increase the fiber.

  • Shortbread Crostini
    For a quick and delicious summertime dessert, combine mascarpone cheese or cream cheese with sugar and lemon zest to taste. Spread the cheese mixture on shortbread cookies and top with fresh blueberries or homemade blueberry jam. Top with extra lemon zest if you want to be fancy.

  • Watermelon with Mint and Feta
    Here’s a new way for us to increase watermelon consumption! Cube watermelon as you would for a fruit salad. Add a handful of torn or chopped mint leaves, and crumble in a good amount of feta cheese. The mint is refreshing while the saltiness of the feta compliments the sweetness of the watermelon.

  • And here’s a fun watermelon fact: according to the USDA, the United States consumes about 3.9 billion pound of watermelon each year. That’s almost 13 pounds per person! If you’re filling up on watermelon, that ought to reduce your calorie intake overall.

    What are some of your favorite summer recipes?

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    The Seasonal Food Guide - Spring

    Originally posted on June 11, 2009

    Summer might be right around the corner, but it’s prime time to take advantage of Spring’s ripest offerings. There is a great emphasis on returning to seasonal eating these days. However, as you peruse the produce section of your local grocery store, it may be difficult to tell the difference between November and April. Tomatoes, oranges, peppers and cauliflower are available year-round so determining seasonality may be confusing.

    Why concern yourself with seasonality when a world of food options is at your fingertips? Three reasons: taste, nutrition and cost. Sure you can get tomatoes in January. They might be anemic looking, tasteless, gas-ripened orbs running upwards of $4.99 or more a pound but you can get them. Let’s face it, what we are really craving is the sun-ripened tomatoes of our childhood. Plus, a sun-ripened tomato is higher in lycopene (an antioxidant associated with lower risk of prostate cancer and heart disease) than its gas-ripened counterpart. And the cost, well, if you are like me you are thinking twice about your monthly food budget these days; seasonal produce is typically less expensive than its off-season counterpart.

    I challenge you to plan a menu not by flipping through your cookbooks or your old reliable standards, but by seeking what is fresh and economical for inspiration. So, let’s explore seasonal eating in spring.

    Spring is transitional, maybe more so than other seasons. We are coming off the hearty vegetables of winter and not quite experiencing the bounty of summer. If you are lucky enough to have a farmer’s market close by, choosing seasonal produce is much easier. If you shop at a big box grocery store, here are a few examples of spring fruits and vegetables to look for: artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beets, berries, butter lettuce, cucumbers, mangoes, morel mushrooms, pea shoots, radishes, spinach, sugar snap peas and summer squashes (including pattypan, yellow crookneck and zucchini varieties).

    The beauty of seasonal eating is that you don’t have to over-do preparation. The food you choose is at its peak. Here are a few of my favorite simple spring dishes:

  • Steamed asparagus, tossed with a little butter, salt and pepper and topped with lightly scrambled eggs with fresh tarragon – delicious for brunch or an appetizer.

  • Simple grilled steak on a bed of arugula with a wedge of lemon – the peppery arugula is a delightful compliment to steak.

  • Grilled artichokes with curry mayonnaise – simply mix curry powder into mayonnaise to taste.

  • Butter lettuce with baby beets and spring goat’s milk cheese – a delicate vinaigrette is perfect with this salad.

  • Where can you find seasonal produce where you live? What are some of your favorite springtime dishes?

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Cookbook Review - Chefs on the Farm

    A friend of mine gave me this cookbook for Christmas last year. I thought I'd share my thoughts about it and share a recipe I tested.

    Chefs on the Farm
    Recipes and Inspiration from Quillisascut Farm School for Domestic Arts
    By Shannon Borg & Lora Lea Misterly

    The Overview
    Seasonable, Sustainable and Local
    Chefs on the Farm follows a year of seasons at Quillisascut Farm in northeastern Washington.

    The Recipe
    I chose a recipe from the Winter Recipes section to test (as I began this review in late March), Anise Seed Roast Pork with Celeriac Mash by Chef Kären Jurgensen*. I had never cooked celeriac and was intrigued by trying something new.

    Roast pork:
    2 pounds pork loin
    5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    1 tablespoon anise seed, crushed lightly with mortar and pestle
    ½ tablespoon kosher salt
    ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

    Celeriac mash:
    1 pound celeriac, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
    3 russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    ¼ cup heavy cream or sour cream
    ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    Kosher salt

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    Trim the pork loin of any silver skin but leave fat intact. With a sharp knife tip, shallowly score the loin on all sides. Slip the garlic into the scores. In a small bowl, combine the anise seed, salt, and pepper and rub the surface of the loin with the mixture.

    Put the loin in a heavy cast iron skillet or roasting pan and cook in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 25 more minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Let the loin rest for about 7 minutes before slicing. Reserve pan juices to pour over when serving.

    To prepare the celeriac mash, put the celeriac and potatoes into separate saucepan and cover with water. Bring each to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and run both vegetables through a food mill into a large bowl. Stir in the butter, heavy cream, and nutmeg. Season with salt to taste.

    *Recipe reprinted with the consent of Chef Kären Jurgensen.

    Recipe Test Notes
    The recipe is simple, relying more on quality products than the complication of multiple ingredients. I purchased a pork roast from a local ranch (Skagit River Ranch) in keeping with the book’s themes of organic, local and sustainable food.

    I found the crust mixture a bit scant so I mixed half again as much to coat the roast.

    The recipe simply suggested peeling it and cutting it into 2” pieces. Chef Jurgensen included a brief note regarding cooking dense root vegetables in cold water to prevent the outside from going mushy before the inside cooked. This suggestion worked well for the celeriac but the potatoes did disintegrate a bit before they cooked fully. (A few years ago, I started slicing potatoes in ¾ inch slices when boiling them. I found that they cooked quicker and more evenly that way. I’d suggest the same when boiling potatoes for this recipe.) The celeriac took about 5 minutes longer to cook than the potatoes but remained more solid.

    The smell of the anise seeds roasting in the oven coupled with the succulent smell of roast pork made my mouth water before I even got the roast out of the oven. The combination was remarkable. The anise and garlic enhanced the pork. I loved the celeriac / potato combination. The celeriac added a subtle parsley and celery flavor to the mash without being overpowering. The consistency of the combination was lighter than standard mashed potatoes. The suggested amounts of butter and cream were perfect. The result was a rounded, rich mash with piquant notes.

    My Overall Impressions
    The book is filled with beautiful photographs of seasonal life on Quillisascut Farm, visiting chefs, and delicious food. The introduction is a bit wordy; once the general setting is established it does have a tendency to drone on a bit. I get it though, the farm is inspiring and Borg and Misterly want to convey that.

    For city dwellers, or anyone who isn’t familiar with the cyclic nature of farming, the book sets the scene for each season – the hibernation and planning of winter, the rebirth of spring, the abundance of summer, and the harvest and storage of fall. Recipes are interwoven in text, and feature enticing descriptions or explanations of key ingredients.

    Sidebars offer insight from culinary professionals regarding the benefits and challenges of seasonal, sustainable, and local foods. Other vignettes profile small producers, discuss biodiversity, and feature seasonal harvest lists.

    As for the recipes, Jurgensen does a wonderful job of letting the food speak for itself. Her recipes finesse flavor without feeling heavy-handed. She often includes suggestions and variations for ingredients that are less common. You get a sense of the chef’s creativity; the ingenuity that happens when you work with what’s ripe vs. following a recipe verbatim.

    The final section offers guidelines for incorporating local, sustainable and organic foodstuffs into our own kitchens and lives. The information is practical and plentiful – providing resources for everything from books to producers and suppliers to sustainability organizations.

    In summary, though Chefs on the Farm has its verbose moments, it’s a delightful cookbook and respectable reference for those interested in the sustainability and local food movements.

    I would give it 4 out of 5 ladles.

    Buy It If:

  • You are interested in the local food movement

  • You enjoy cooking seasonally

  • You live in the Pacific Northwest
  • Friday, January 9, 2009

    Limited Choices - 10 Foods or Less

    Originally posted on January 9, 2009

    Gourmet Magazine recently published an interesting statistic: "one out of five Americans lives on a diet of ten foods or fewer. Among the most common choices? French fries, fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies and Kraft macaroni and cheese."

    Ten foods or fewer. Wow. I just don’t think I could do it. Almost every meal I cook involves a recipe that I’ve never tried before. I realize this may make me something of a culinary daredevil, but I was stunned by the thought of such limitation.

    I fully embrace the idea of comfort foods - food you’ve liked forever; a recipe you know by heart, something easy to put on the table when you have to have dinner ready in an hour. I have my share of fall-backs tucked into the recesses of my brain, but to cook or eat only those foods week after week would drive me batty.

    Still, the idea got me thinking. If I could only have ten foods, what would they be? First, I thought about exotic items, food I save for special occasions like caviar or lobster. If you are going to be limited, at least indulge, right? Then I thought about comfort foods like chili or mashed potatoes and gravy. Who could live without them?

    Finally I started a list, basic things that I could rotate through. This is what I’d pick: Steak, Pork Tenderloin, Salmon, Spinach, Arugula, Cheese (am I supposed to pick only one???) potatoes, chocolate, tomatoes and mushrooms. I could stick to this list only if herbs, spices and seasonings (including onions, shallots and garlic) were unlimited.

    How about you? Do you find yourself eating the same ten foods? If you had to choose just ten, what would they be