Thursday, July 30, 2009

Soy wrappers for sushi

Who makes sushi at home, raise your hand? I saw these colorful soy wraps and thought how cool it would be if I actually made sushi at home, especially since I am a borderline seaweed hater. But then I thought (because I'm in the clutches of a low-carb diet at the moment) that it might also be cool to use these as low-carb sandwich wraps.

The SushiParty soy wrappers are about 7 inches square. Each sheet has 15 calories, .5 gram of fat, and 1 gram of carbohydrate. Just for the sake of comparison, sandwich wraps (of a similar size) can have 170 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 52 grams of carbohydrate.

And [insert trumpet fanfare] they're gluten-free. (When will GF issues subside? Anyone?)

A lot of upside. The downside is that, like many things made with soybeans, it has an extremely neutral flavor. (Can things be extremely neutral? Is it like very unique?) But they look mahvelous. Each package has 5 different sheets: yellow (turmeric), orange (paprika), plain, green (spinach) and sesame. You can find them in sort of random places, including Walmart. They cost about $3. Or, if you're really into the concept, you can buy a 6-pack from Amazon for $24.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Zoo popsicles

I am definitely still pandering to my inner child (actually, it might be my outer child, too...). I like Hello Kitty, silly gadgets and these zoo-shaped popsicle molds.

But here's where my inner grown-up takes over: I do not want to have my pop made with the mysterious colored sugar slush that kids love to eat.

This is what I want instead:
Lion: Super-strong brewed espresso, maple syrup, milk
Monkey: Pomegranate juice, straight up
Polar bear: Coconut milk, guava nectar
Elephant: Pink grapefruit juice with a splash of pineapple juice

The set of 4 Zoo Pop molds is $15 from perpetual kid.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The best frozen pizza

I'm not a big fan of frozen pizza. It's always too bready or too cheesy or too soggy. So when I was at the Fancy Food Show earlier this month, someone offered me a piece of pizza that I couldn't squirm out of accepting....thank goodness, because it knocked my socks off.

It's called American Flatbread and it's been around for a bunch of years (since 1987, in fact), so maybe I'm the last person on the block to get a taste of it. American Flatbread began as a local bakery with a wood-fired oven on a farm in Waitsfield, Vermont. There are now several restaurant/bakeries scattered about the state (plus one, and another on its way, in Virginia), and Lareau Farm (which still houses the principal bakery) is a working farm that also operates as an inn.

The pizzas are organic, hand-made, wood-fired and delicious. The 4 varieties are: Cheese & Herb, Revolution (tomato sauce, caramelized onions, mushrooms), Sun-Dried Tomato & Mushroom, Tomato Sauce & Three Cheese, and Ionian Awakening (tomato sauce, Kalamata olives, 4 cheeses, rosemary). The pies come in 12-inch or 9-inch sizes, depending on the variety; prices are in the neighborhood of $7.50 for the small pies and $12 for the large.

P.S. Their tomato sauce is wood-fired, too [swoon].

To find a store that sells American Flatbread pizza, check their store finder.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Salad dressing jar

This is kind of a cool idea. It's like the Good Seasons dressing mix jar but without the seasoning packet. The jar has 4 different dressing recipes (basic vinaigrette, Caesar dressing, Greek dressing and fat-free raspberry vinaigrette) with the levels of the liquid ingredients marked on the jar. The nonliquid ingredients are also listed by their amounts. Of course you have to like the dressing recipes for this to be valuable, but if you do this sure beats getting measuring cups dirty. The Dressing Jar is $7 from the Blue Ribbon General Store.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The pumpkin tree project: day 60

Blossoms on both types of pumpkin, though Wee-Be-Little (right) is still edging out Sweet Lightning. I'm told that there need to be male and female flowers in order for any fruit to grow, but boy oh boy, do I not know how to tell which flowers are the males. Wait, maybe it's the ones playing video games in the basement...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lime-Ginger Chicken

When I first made this recipe I broiled the chicken because it wasn't quite grilling season for me (I know, there are plenty of you who grill year round, just not me), but of course now the season is in full swing. So go ahead and grill instead of broil, but consider using skinless, boneless chicken thighs instead of breasts. Thigh works a lot better on the grill because the flesh is inherently juicier. Get about 2-1/2 pounds of thigh and trim off as much of the external fat as you can (flare-ups = not good) and open up the thighs so they're flat. Just watch the cooking times: Boneless thigh will cook more quickly than breasts because the pieces are thinner.

A note on the sherry: I used sherry in this recipe because I was going for Asian flavors and dry sherry is commonly used in American versions of Chinese recipes. For a proper Chinese dish I should have used Shaoxing wine.

Shaoxing—from the province of the same name—is a rice wine (made with sticky rice) that is aged for 10 years. It's the color of pale sherry and smells a bit like it as well (though it also smells like sake, for obvious reasons). If you can get it, use it here instead of sherry. The wine will probably come in a bottle that looks a good deal like a bottle of soy sauce, but if you're shopping in a Chinatown or in a well-stocked liquor store, you may run across one of the fancier bottlings, like the cute green bottle (brandname Tediao) in the photo above.

WARNING: Just as with sherry, some Shaoxing wines sold in this country have had salt added to them so that they can be sold in grocery stores. They should, therefore, be labeled "cooking wine;" or they might have a label that says "not to be used or sold as a beverage." You'll be safe if you buy Shaoxing in a liquor store. Failing that, use sherry. The salted stuff is nasty.

Lime-Ginger Chicken
Put the chicken and marinade together in the morning and marinate in the refrigerator (turning once or twice if you think of it) until you're ready to cook.

1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)

1. In a measuring cup, combine the sherry, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and salt. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the mixture, put in a small bowl and stir in the sesame oil. Set the sesame mixture aside to use as a baste.
2. Place the chicken in a nonaluminum container large enough to hold it in a single layer. Pour the remaining marinade in the measuring cup over the chicken and turn to coat. Let marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, turning once, or refrigerate to marinate longer.
3. Preheat the broiler. Place the chicken boned-side up on a broiler pan and drizzle a little of the marinade over it. Broil for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brush with the reserved sesame basting mixture. Broil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through but still juicy.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pimp your measuring spoons

Pity the mundane measuring spoon: practical, homely, living to serve. No reason why it shouldn't get dressed up on the job.

1 Peppy flower spoons are $5.50 from bibelot.

2 Not dressy, just kooky: a set of stainless steel spoons in oddball sizes including a pinch, 1/8 teaspoon, 2/3 teaspoon, 1-1/2 teaspoons and 2 teaspoons. $16 from Spoon Sisters.

3 Colorful stoneware spoons from Anthropologie with the usual sizes plus 1/8 teaspoon and a pinch.

4 Just because there should be no gadget untouched by silicone. This cute set (with stainless steel handles) from William Bounds is $13 from CentralChef.

5 And for that matter there should be no gadget unbranded by Mario Batali. These double-ended melamine spoons have magnets so they stick together and come in Mario's signature orange and green. $5.50 from Amazon.

6 Here's where the Cinderella of kitchen gadgets gets to dress up for the ball. These hand-painted ceramic spoons are $22 from elaineducharmdesigns on etsy. Each set is hand-painted to order.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Samurai eggplant

Japanese eggplant wearing samurai helmet. From Union Square Farmer's Market in NYC.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chuckle for Sunday

A box of 12 goldfish trash bags is $16 from perpetual kid.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

'nuff said

I have neither explanation nor apology for posting this except that it provided a nice Saturday morning chuckle. Over to you.

The King Tut tissue box cover is $25 from Toscano.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mango Cream

There are hundreds and hundreds of mango cultivars in the world, with intriguing names like Rajapuri, Boubo, Parrot Mango, Momi K. and Bez al-Anza. Even in this country, we grow dozens of different mangoes. The problem is that very few of them make it into the marketplace, and when they do they are not often labeled in any helpful way. Store signs usually just say "mangoes," and the PLU (Price Look-Up) stickers are annoyingly vague. In fact, the PLUs for mango include these designations: ripe, green, yellow and red. Pretty dumb.

There are about six mango types found in U.S. markets, with the most common being the Tommy Atkins. Tommy Atkins are grown in Florida (and many other parts of the world) and are large and heavy. Recently there has also been a pretty good supply (at least in New York) of Ataulfos, which are sometimes sold as Mexican mangoes (they're grown there) or champagne mangoes. Their main distinction is that their flesh is creamy and much less fibrous than the Tommy Atkins. Other mangoes that make it into the U.S. market include Haden, Keitt, Francine, and Kent. For more information on mango varieties in this country and their availability, check out the National Mango Board.

Mango Cream
I made this dessert with 1 Ataulfo mango and 3 Keitt mangoes (I think....of course they weren't labeled).

3 medium or 4 small mangoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
1/2 cup light cream or half-and-half
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 envelope gelatin
1/4 cup orange juice
Cinnamon, for garnish

1. In a food processor, puree the mango until very smooth. Add the cream and maple syrup, and puree to blend.
2. In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the orange juice and let sit 5 minutes to soften. Place the pan over medium-low heat and stir until the gelatin dissolves, about 45 seconds.
3. Add the dissolved gelatin to the mango puree and blend.
4. Scrape the puree into a 1-1/2-quart bowl, cover and refrigerate until set up, about 4 hours.
5. Serve dusted with cinnamon.

Makes 6 servings

Mango on Foodista

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Recipe cards from the 1970s

It all started with Fluffy Mackerel Pudding.

I was trading war stories with someone (hey, Deri!) about some of the worst recipe titles we'd run across in our careers, and I mentioned a recipe called Crusty Prune Delight. She countered with Fluffy Mackerel Pudding (which won the contest fins down) and pointed me to a website where the aforementioned fish pudding was displayed along with a collection of other hilarious Weight Watchers recipe cards from 1974.

The scary photos of the food are enough reason to check out, but the commentary from Wendy McClure, the site's author, really makes the click worthwhile. Wendy has also compiled the cards into a book called The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan. If you laughed at the cards on her website, then you'll find more of the same in the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon. The photo above is from the book, and Wendy's comment on the dish is this:
Sometimes, all the photo stylist can do is use a prop so ugly it can only make the food look better in comparison. Thus, for the Pears That Look Like They've Gotten Sick on Themselves, only the Sludge-Drooling Blowfish will do.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Vacu Vin Party People

Here's an interesting spin on the wine charm: little characters that stick to your glass with a suction cup. The Party People from Vacu Vin come in a set of 12, each with a different shape, color, and name. This would be a good way to really annoy your guests by assigning them one of these characters, whose names (personalities) include Deep, Cuddly, Devilish, Honest, Sneaky and Macho.

You can buy the set of 12 characters for $9 from Vital Wares.

I picked the two whose looks I liked best and it turns out that I'm both Mysterious and Naughty. I'll take that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Sister's Potato Salad

[Potato flowers photo by Keith Weller for the Agricultural Research Service]

My sister Megan (she of the home seltzer machine) does not cook. It's not that she doesn't have the palate, because she does, it's that she doesn't have the patience. This, in fact, is the reason that I have always loved her potato salad.

When Megan cuts the potatoes for her potato salad, she does not have the patience to cut them into even little cubes. She cuts them kind of helter-skelter--whatever gets the job done fastest. As a result, when the potatoes cook, some pieces get mushy before the other pieces cook through. The happy by-product of this is that the mushy potatoes blend in with the dressing and make the salad seem extra creamy.

I have made my potato salad this way ever since (Megan, are you grinning?). Of course being the somewhat more methodical cook, I actually use a small baking potato cut small to do the job.

My Sister's Potato Salad
The baking potato is purposely cut smaller so that it will fall apart while the red potatoes stay firm. This contributes a pleasing thickness to the dressing, giving you the sense that you're eating a sinfully rich potato salad. Other health tweaks: no mayonnaise, fewer hard-boiled eggs than a typical potato salad, and green pepper replaces the typical celery for the same crunch but more nutrients.

2 pounds red potatoes, UNpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small (5 ounces) baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs, hard-boiled
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely minced Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 green bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the red potatoes, baking potato and garlic until the red potatoes are fork-tender (but not falling apart), 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice over the hot potatoes.
2. Meanwhile, peel and halve the eggs. Transfer two of the yolks to a small bowl and discard the remaining yolk. Coarsely chop the whites and add to the bowl of potatoes.
3. Mash the egg yolks well with a fork. Whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice until smooth. Whisk in the mustard, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil.
4. Add the onion, bell pepper and egg dressing to the potatoes and toss well. Stir to force the little pieces of baking potato to break down and become a part of the dressing. Add the parsley, if using, and toss.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

DRY sodas

What do you drink when it's summer, it's hot, you like sparkling drinks, you don't want beer and you don't like treacly soda pop? How about one of these really cool looking, not-too-sweet drinks from DRY Soda?

DRY sodas are made with all-natural ingredients--including lemongrass and rhubarb--and they are only lightly sweetened. I am seriously not a fan of sugary things, and I was very impressed with DRY.

The idea for DRY started in the kitchen of Sharelle Klaus, who, after going through four pregnancies unable to drink wine with meals, was looking for:
a drink that was simple, all-natural, caffeine-free, low in sugar and...that could complement great food or act as a light refreshment on its own.
She came up with four original flavors and then last year added two more to the line. You can now get lavender, juniper berry, vanilla, kumquat, lemongrass and rhubarb. Even though the flavors are great, I want to own these just for the beautiful bottles.

You can buy the soda online (though frankly that seems a little silly), but you can also check out the store locator.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Like a hamster habitat for liquids

Seriously, what's not to love here, especially if you're drinking a Scorpion with a friend? Actually, especially if you're sharing a second Scorpion with a friend. Or to put a more responsible and parental spin on this, what better way to get your kids to drink milk?

This DIY Drinking Strawz kit comes with 44 components that you can configure however you choose. This gives you the option of creating a branch off the main straw so that two people can share a drink—though I'm having a little trouble grasping the physics of that, but maybe you take turns sucking.

In the kit are twelve 5-inch pieces, twelve 3-inch pieces, and 20 flexible connectors, all for $10 from Think Geek. If you want to create a giant masterpiece straw, you get a break for buying more than one kit: $19 for two, $25 for three.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Meatball grill basket

This is one of those products that makes the rounds of the internet in a heartbeat. It must be because of the lovability of meatballs combined with the lovability of the grill. Makes you wonder why someone didn't come up with this sooner.

The long-handled, hinged, stainless steel basket has 12 little meatball-shaped holes. Fill the holes with a meat (or vegetable) mixture and place over the grill, flipping it to get both sides. The meatball cups are performated so fat can cook off. It's $50 from Williams-Sonoma.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cool Bottles

These thermal carafes were designed by an award-winning Danish designer named Ole Palsby. They are called Cool Bottles, which they are indeed. They have a frosted translucent body and a vacuum glass center, hold 750 milliliters (a little over 3 cups) and come in five colors.

$32 (per carafe) from Alfi (a website that specializes in thermal pitchers and bottles, or in their words the "home of hot & cold").