Monday, January 17, 2011

Fancy Food Show Time Again

It's like Christmas in January for food lovers.
It's an annual feast of new and imported delicacies meant for the retail trade but like manna to food bloggers.
It's the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco's Moscone Center.

Sponsored by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), it's a convention center full (more than 80,000 products) of fine foods (pates, cheeses, chocolates, teas and so very much more from the U.S., Argentina, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Asia and more) and new product introductions ranging from the unexpectedly wonderful (such as beet, Parmesan cheese and cashew dip) to the I'm sorry I stopped to taste it (tasteless grey-looking noodles in a gritty glop of a sauce).

Biggest crowds at booths at the show:

1. Cypress Grove Chevre's goat cheese and beer tasting (I liked the stout with the Humboldt Fog cheese and the miniature beer glass they used to serve the beer in.)

2. Republic of Tea's new loose leaf tea introductions.  Wonderful teas for a company that never compromises on quality or taste.  The fact that they were giving out individual tea presses probably accounting for the 30 people deep lines on both sides of the booth.

3. The booth that had mounted a TV showing the football playoff game.  I couldn't see what they were sampling, but the crowd was so dense I had to elbow my way past them.

Want to read about Fancy Foods past? Click here.

I'm going back today for more.  Watch for a full report here at Blog Appetit.  Meanwhile, what NEW food product do you wish would be introduced? 

Graphic credit:  NASFT

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Meal in an Oven for Easy Entertaining With Recipes for Spice-Rubbed Roast Chicken and Chocolate Banana Bread

My friends Dawn and Sandy Margolin usually welcome another family or two to their over-sized dining table most Friday nights, but they never wonder what to serve. For the past 25 years it's been the same menu: Spice-Rubbed Roast Chicken and Chocolate Banana Bread.

“Knowing what I’m going to make each week makes me comfortable inviting over guests without having stress about it. I ask the guests to bring the salad, because making salad causes me stress,” she said with a laugh.

Below are my adaptations of her recipes.
Spice-Rubbed Roast Chicken
Serves 4-6

Dawn serves this with mashed potatoes or adds the potatoes to the baking pan.

4 Tbs. olive oil plus 1 Tbs. for greasing pan
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground red (cayenne) pepper
3 tsp. ground cumin
1 ½ tsp. turmeric
4 ½ to 5 lb. whole chicken
3 large carrots cut into ½” slices
3-4 cups of ½” chunks of root vegetables (such as turnips, butternut squash and/or potatoes)
1 large onion, cut into ½” chunks
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease large, deep baking or roasting pan with 1 Tbs. oil. Mix salt, peppers, cumin, turmeric and remaining oil in small bowl. Remove excess fat from chicken as well as any organs that might be packed inside. Rinse. Rub 1 tsp. of the spice mixture inside the chicken and another 1 Tbs. on the outside. Place in greased pan. Scatter carrots, root vegetable chunks, onions and whole cloves of garlic. Drizzle remaining spice mixture on top. Pour chicken stock over veggies. Roast for about 1 ½ hours, basting chicken occasionally and turning and stirring vegetables in cooking liquid. Chicken is done when juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a sharp knife.

Chocolate Banana Bread
Serves 12

The technique is a bit different, but the result is ooey, gooey and delicious.  Dawn makes hers without the nuts.

½ cup butter or  margarine (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large bananas, cut into ¼” slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and pour into 5”x 9” loaf pan. Sprinkle brown sugar on top. Mix well. Combine flour and baking powder, add to pan. Add egg and mix well. Add nuts (if using) and chocolate chips. Do not stir. Heat banana slices in microwave for 2 minutes until fully softened. Drain if necessary. Add hot bananas to pan and mix well until the chocolate chips melt. Bake about 40-50 minutes until it looks set and the top springs back when touched. Turn out of pan. Cool on wire rack.

Cooking a whole meal in the oven can help save energy.  For more information, see my post on energy efficiency in the kitchen here.

A version of this article appeared in the j. weekly. 

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Warming Soups from Around the World: Potato Goulash, Harira with Greens, and Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Harira with Greens
When the days get short and the weather turns cold and wet, there is nothing like a good bowl of soup. These are some of my favorite meal-in-a-bowl soup recipes, packed with spice and flavor. These vegan recipes rely on winter vegetables as well as pantry staples to warm you inside and out.

The Potato Goulash is a take on the goulash my Italian-Hungarian step-grandmother made. It is more of a soup than a stew, but you could ladle it over noodles if you like. Try serving it with a dollop of regular or non-dairy sour cream on top.

The Harira with Greens is an interpretation of a hearty soup eaten throughout Morocco. The exotic scent and deep flavor make it like a spice market in a bowl.

My twist on a traditional East European sweet and sour cabbage soup includes balsamic vinegar and butternut squash. Serve it with some crusty wheat, rye or black bread.

Potato Goulash
Serves 4

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup bell pepper strips
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 1/2 Tbs. paprika
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbs. tomato paste
6 cups of cubed, peeled new or red potatoes (cut into 1” cubes)

Heat oil in deep pot or sauté pan. Sauté onion until light brown, add garlic and sauté until golden. Add pepper strips and sauté until beginning to soften. Add caraway and paprika and stir well. Add tomatoes with liquid, broth, salt, black pepper and tomato paste. Stir. Bring to a simmer. Add potato cubes, return to a simmer. Lower heat and cook covered at a simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Taste. Add more salt if needed.

Harira with Greens
Serves 6-8

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tsp. dried ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid
4 Tbs. tomato paste
8 cups water
1-15oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup uncooked brown or green lentils, rinsed
4 cups chopped chard leaves
3 oz. of angel hair pasta or spaghetti, broken into 1” pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lemon wedges
Harissa, salsa or hot sauce (optional)

Heat the oil in a deep pot. Sauté onion for a few minutes until softened, add garlic and sauté until light brown. Add jalapeno and celery and sauté for another few minutes. Add ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, cardamom, pepper and salt and mix well. Add tomatoes with their liquid, tomato paste and water. Stir well. Bring to a simmer. Add chickpeas and lentils. Cover pot, lower heat to keep at a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes until lentils are almost done. Add chard and simmer 5 minutes. Add pasta and cook 8-12 minutes until pasta is cooked. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over soup. Pass hot sauce if desired.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup with Butternut Squash
Serves 8

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash (cut into 1" cubes)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground dried thyme
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
6 cups chopped green cabbage
1-15 oz. can tomatoes, chopped with liquid
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and sauté until beginning to soften, add garlic and sauté until just golden. Add celery, carrots and squash and sauté for 3 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme and black pepper. Stir well. Add broth and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer; add cabbage, tomatoes (with liquid) and tomato paste. Stir well cover pot and simmer until cabbage has begun to soften. Add water until soup is at desired thickness. Simmer until vegetables are softened. Taste soup and add salt as needed. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar. Mix thoroughly, let simmer a minute or two and taste. Add more sugar or vinegar as needed. Remove bay leaf before serving.

A version of this post first appeared in the j. weekly. You can read the original article here.