Saturday, August 29, 2015

4 good reasons to own a potato ricer

A potato ricer works like a giant garlic press. In go the cooked potatoes, out come long strands of "riced" potatoes. This particular model comes from OXO.

Mashed potatoes: There is nothing like the light, fluffy texture you get from mashed potatoes made with a ricer. Riced potatoes are also the foundation for gnocchi and a Norwegian bread called lefse.

Spätzle: These are tiny little German egg noodles made by pressing dough through the small holes of a specialized tool directly into boiling water. A potato ricer can also be used for this purpose although it makes thinner noodles than those made with a real spätzle maker.

Mont Blanc: This is a grand French dessert. It's a sweetened chestnut puree that gets extruded through a ricer into a mound that is meant to represent a mountain. The top of the mountain is covered with something white—crème fraîche, whipped cream or confectioners' sugar—to resemble the snow on top of Mont Blanc.

Spaghettieis: I love this German dessert. It's vanilla ice cream pushed through a ricer to look like spaghetti, topped with a red berry puree for the tomato sauce and dusted with something white (coconut, white chocolate, ground almonds) to be the Parmesan.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Early Bird Granola

Just happened to be discussing with my son, Julien, the number of good-for-you foods that were invented in the 19th century. (OK, I know it sounds phony that we were doing that, but honest, we were.)

Sylvester Graham—a diet reformer who advocated a vegetarian diet and whole foods—invented Graham bread in 1829. It was made with unsifted, coarsely ground, whole wheat flour, and no additives. (And you're probably familiar with his other invention, Graham crackers.)

Dr. Caleb Jackson, who ran a sanitarium in upstate New York, invented a cereal called Granula in 1863. It was made with Graham flour (see Sylvester Graham, above) and resembled giant Grape-Nuts.

Then there was John Harvey Kellogg, a doctor who ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, who advocated a vegetarian diet (and enemas). In 1894 he patented, with his brother, a cereal called Granose, later to become Corn Flakes.

Flash forward through the 1960s, where a cereal called Granola became the calling card of the hippies, to today where granola (no longer a tradename) has become an art form.

Early Bird Foods, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, is a good example of how good granola artistry can be. We'll start with the packaging. It makes you want to buy the granola just so you can have the cleverly designed bags the cereal comes in. It's a resealable plastic bag that looks like rice paper and the label is a wonderful interpretation of an old fruit crate label with a bird flying above a city skyline (I'm guessing it's meant to represent Brooklyn).

Moving on to the contents: There are six recipes, Farmhand's Choice, Jubilee, Aloha, Choc-a-Doodle-Doo, Gets the Worm, and Kiss My Oats. The base recipe includes organic rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, toasted organic coconut, Vermont maple syrup, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt. Where the recipes differ is in the kind of fruit and/or nuts that go into them, including pecans, mango, dried apples, chocolate, macadamia nuts, cherries and pistachios. The balance of sweet to salty is seductive. These are really wonderful granolas (and I've eaten my share of granolas over the years).

The granolas are sold in 38 states or you can order it directly from Early Bird.

This brings me to a small sticking point, which is the price. The granolas are made by hand in small batches, which is why they are so good and why they are pricey. They cost $10 for a 12-ounce bag, but you won't be disappointed, and you'll be a patron of the granola arts if you buy it.