Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Football lovers' cookbook

It's never too early to plan your Super Bowl Party, and the Sunday Night Football Cookbook can definitely help you with that. The book is filled with recipes from professional football players who love food and professional chefs who love football. The result is a very interesting collection of recipes that are not all beefy, he-man food (though there's plenty of that, too). Check these out:

• Spicy Miso Chips with Tuna
• Seared Tequila Chicken Skewers
• Warm Bittersweet-Chocolate Cupcakes
• Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Risotto with Blue Cheese
• Thai-Style Braised Pork Shank with Chive Pancakes
• Chicken and Wild Rice Burritos

But the real deal behind the cookbook is the charitable cause that it supports. Since 1992, the NFL has partnered with Feeding America (an organization devoted to getting food on the tables of those who cannot afford it) to put on a fund-raising event called Taste of the NFL. Every year during the Super Bowl, Taste of the NFL serves regional foods used in recipes created by local chefs. Since its first event, they've raised $10 million for hunger relief groups.

For more information on Taste of the NFL events (there are currently 10 regional dinners), go to their website. And for more information on Feeding America (formerly called Second Harvest), go to www.feedingamerica.org. When you buy the the book, you will be helping the cause.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pumpkin racing

Neskoosa, Wisconsin, calls itself the Giant Pumpkin Capital of Wisconsin, and every year, in early October, they hold a regatta. The boats are, of course, made of giant pumpkins. The contestants are given 4 hours to carve their pumpkins into boats. No motors are allowed, but supplementary flotation devices are.

Wouldn't it be cool to race your giant pumpkin in the morning, and then take the boat home and use it to make pumpkin pie for dinner?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mini pastas

Everything is cuter in miniature: puppies, toddlers' shoes, dollhouses. That's the way I feel about pasta, too.

Barilla has a line of pastas called Piccolini (which loosely translates as itty-bitty) that are miniature versions of regular pasta. There are currently five shapes: farfalle (bow-tie), wheels, fusilli, penne and ziti.

If the cuteness weren't enough of a draw, the pastas also cook more quickly than their grown-up counterparts: only 7 minutes.

In order to appreciate their size, you need to know that in the recipe above the tomatoes are grape tomatoes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How I handle chili peppers (don't laugh)

The standard language used by cookbooks for dealing with hot chili peppers is to tell people to use gloves. This is a perfectly reasonable piece of advice, because the substance in chili peppers that makes them hot to the palate also makes them hot to your hands (and lord help you if you rub your eyes).

I usually ignore this advice and go ahead and take my chances. I try to have as little contact as possible with the inner ribs of the pepper (which is really where the heat is by the way, not the seeds) and I wash my hands with hot, soapy water the minute I'm done. What this does is just tame the effects of the capsaicin (the heat-producing compound) to a tolerable level. My hands tingle a bit for awhile, but no biggy.

However I draw the line at Scotch bonnet peppers. These little chili peppers are among the hottest in the world--40 or 50 times hotter than a jalapeƱo! So when I have to cut up one of these suckers, you can be sure I'm not so bold.

But I don't keep a supply of chili-pepper gloves in my kitchen. Do you? So when the need arises, here's my solution. I take a plastic produce bag (which I keep for using a second time anyway), put it on my hand and push it down in between my fingers. A rubber band at the wrist keeps it in place, though that's not entirely necessary.

Then when I'm done cutting the pepper, I just pull the bag off, turning it inside out, and throw it away, not feeling guilty about throwing away a plastic bag because I used it twice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Frugal Food

In the 1970s, a British cookbook author named Delia Smith published a book called Frugal Food. In a moment of divine inspiration, Smith (who is still very much on the scene and has published dozens of cookbooks since) decided to reissue her book, now that frugality is back on everyone's minds.

The original book had a lot of penny-pinching recipes that I feel safe in saying would have limited (or possibly no) appeal for an American audience. Kidney-stuffed onions anyone? How about herrings fried in oatmeal?

But the new book, which is due out in Britain at the end of October, has been updated for this century, starting with a neat looking cover. The revised edition will no doubt also reflect technological changes that have taken place in the past 30 years, like microwaves (which didn't exist at all) and freezers--which amazingly were in only 20% of British households back then.

I can only guess this is the beginning of the onslaught of such books, but Delia Smith can certainly claim to be one of the first ones on the block. To find out more about Delia (who in Britain enjoys the status that Martha Stewart does here), check out her website.

P.S. It's not clear when the new book--which is a hardcover and costs about $36--will make it to this country, but in the meantime, if you're curious, original 1976 book can still be had, often for just a few dollars from used book merchants.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ten by Sheila Lukins

Sheila Lukins, co-author of the Silver Palate cookbooks,
has always been about the foods we love/crave. Gooey, rich, meaty, eggy, crispy, crunchy, silky....whatever it is that floats any of our individual boats.

So in her new book, Ten: all the food we love..., she has pinpointed the foods (or dishes) that most of us love/crave and offers 10 recipes for each of them.

For example, here are a couple of categories (and the recipes I want to make) that had me at hello:
  • Mashed Potatoes (wasabi mashed, lemon-dill parsnip mash)
  • Tomatoes (lush tomatoes and avocados, roasted tiny red and yellow tomatoes)
  • Corn (grilled corn with chipotle butter, farmers' market corn salad)
  • Stews (chicken tagine, seven-vegetable couscous)
  • Barbecued Ribs (maple bourbon country ribs, korean beef short ribs)
Well, you get the point.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Unusual Japanese waiter

I promise this is not a comment on the restaurant industry. It's just a cute video of an unusual waiter in a restaurant in Japan. The reason the story caught my eye is that the restaurant is located in Utsunomiya (in east central Japan), which is where my son spent a summer as the leader of a group of YMCA campers. I wonder if he ever went to this restaurant....

(If you watch closely, you'll notice that the waiter snacks on edamame during his break.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Noble juices

The name of the company that makes these juices is Noble with a capital N, but it turns out the company is also noble, small n. They claim the honor of being the first national, premium juice brand to package their juices in PLA bottles, which are eco-friendly and biodegradable. PLA stands for plastic polylactide, a natural polymer made from corn.

At first I had this image of juice bottles all over the land self-destructing on supermarket shelves. Well as it turns out, the biodegradability of these "E-Bottles" depends on being composted in an industrial composting facility, where they will "return to nature" in just over 3 months.

But enough of this palaver about the container...the juice inside is delicious. It's fresh, 100% pure and deeply flavored. The newest juices are Blood Orange (yum) and Tangerine-Cranberry, but they also have Tangerine-Clementine, Guava-Mango (double yum), Ruby Red Grapefruit and plain Tangerine.

To check on retail availability, go to the Noble Juices website.