Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving in Absentia

Once again I'm on the road for Thanksgiving, but thanks to having been blogging pretty much since the beginning of time I still have lots of tips, recipes and ideas for your holiday.

Looking for an ice breaker, try my trivia game.
Need cranberry sauce recipes or maybe want to try a pumpkin hummus, I've got you covered.
Pumpkin pie recipes, pumpkin cheesecake ice cream, yep, got those.
Looking for ways to make Thanksgiving more meaningful?  I've got the links for that as well.

For all this and more, click here and see all my Thanksgiving posts past.  I look forward to sharing Thanksgiving recipes with you next year.

Here's wishing you a happy, meaningful and delicious Thanksgiving.

P.S.  Need ideas for those leftovers?  Check out my j weekly post this Friday on some creative ways to re-purpose them

Thursday, November 06, 2014

How Green Was My Cream Cheese -- Lactose Free and Organic (Plus a Green Valley Wasabi Dip Recipe)

Editor's Note: Samples of the below mentioned product were provided by the manufacturer.  No other compensation was provided.

Green Valley Wasabi Dip
Green Valley  Organics is introducing it's lactose free cream cheese this week and I was given six tubs of the stuff to try out in advance.

I personally don't have an issue with lactose intolerance but I do know several folks for who this is a problem, so I thought I would see what the Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Cream Cheese was all about.  For more about the product and company, click here.

It's a soft cream cheese sold in 8-ounce tubs. The taste is somewhat milder than other cream cheeses I've tried but it is very acceptable.  A few of the samples I received had some liquid separation, but it was easily mixed back in to the cheese. The texture was creamy and rich, and I liked that it was made in a solar-powered creamy in nearby Sonoma County and that it is certified kosher and gluten-free.  I also liked that there are no stabilizers, gums, fillers or other additives (hence perhaps some of the separation I experienced).  This is a cream cheese that almost everyone can enjoy.

Where GVO shined was in cooking.  At room temperature, it mixed completely smooth very quickly and then worked well in a variety of recipes baked and frozen.  For recipes using cream cheese (which were tested with the GVO product), see my post featuring Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream and Apple Caramel Cheese Flan.

In honor of the cream cheese's introduction to the U.S. market, I've adapted a recipe I recently learned from our cousin Debby from Brazil.  She says she and her friends in Sao Paulo heat cream cheese and mix in some wasabi paste and serve warm, room temperature or chilled.  I tried it and liked it.  Use a green-tinted wasabi paste, which gives a very light green color (add a drop of food color for a little more color if desired). I used the kind from a tube. The condiment varies in heat (especially if you are mixing it from a powder yourself) so you may want to add in increments until you get the desired level of heat.  Remember if you plan to serve the dip chilled you'll need to add more since cold dampens the heat.

I used the Green Valley product below, but you can use any soft tub (not whipped or brick) cream cheese, lactose free or not.

Green Valley Wasabi Dip
Serves 4-8

1-8 oz. tub soft cream cheese
3/4 to 1 Tbs. wasabi paste, or more or less to taste

Heat cream cheese in small pan over low heat, stirring until smooth and cheese is warmed throughout.  Remove from heat, stir in wasabi paste until smooth.  Serve warm, room temperature or chilled with chips or dipping vegetables.

Two Fall Dessert Recipes -- Apple Caramel Cheese Flan and Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Ice Cream
Was it the brightly colored fall leaves that inspired me?  The crisp juiciness of the season's first apples?  The promise of pumpkin pie?  I'm not sure what lead me to create these two new fall-flavored desserts, Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream and Apple Caramel Cheese Flan, but there was one unifying theme -- cream cheese.

More precisely, a local dairy gifted me with six tubs of the stuff (but no other compensation).  I'm not mentioning brands here, but I will say I was motivated to develop some recipes, the result of which are posted below.  Use lactose-free cream cheese and the non-dairy margarine if you have lactose issues.  The recipes are tested and work with those products.  If lactose toleration is not an issue for you, use regular soft (not whipped or brick style cream cheese) and pile on the whipped cream.  Most commercial caramel sauces do contain some dairy, so you may also need to seek out a non-dairy caramel sauce for the flan or make your own based just on sugar and water

Try one of both of these as an ending to your fall (and even Thanksgiving) dinner.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
Makes about 1 Quart

This frozen dessert has the flavor of pumpkin pie with the added tang of cream cheese. Not too sweet, it is rich and satisfying.

No pumpkin pie spice in the house?  May your own.  Combine four parts ground cinnamon, two parts ground ginger, one part ground nutmeg and one part ground allspice.  Add a dash of ground clove if you'd like.

2-8 oz. tubs soft cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1-15 oz, can of plain pureed pumpkin
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Pour cream cheese in a large bowl.  Stir until smooth.  Mix in vanilla, sugar, pumpkin and spice.  Stir until very smooth and well combined.  Cover and chill.  Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.  Eat immediately or store in airtight container in freezer.  Take out of freezer about 20 minutes before serving.  Scoop into serving dishes. If desired top with caramel syrup, whipped cream and chopped pecans or walnuts.

Apple Caramel Cheese Flan
Slice of flan with extra caramel sauce
Serves 8

This flan variation combines sweet, buttery, crisp and tangy for a refreshing dessert.  If you use the sugar and water homemade caramel option (see above), you won't need extra to drizzle at the end. Double the apple and butter if desired to use extra as a topping.

About 6 Tbs. caramel sauce, plus extra for drizzling
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored (peeling optional) and diced
1-8 oz. tub soft cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
8 ox. apple juice
4 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat bottom of 9-10" cake pan with about 6 Tbs. of caramel sauce (heating sauce slightly if it is not easy to spread). 

Melt butter in large skillet, saute apple pieces until softened.  Scatter apple pieces on top of caramel sauce in cake pan. (Apple pieces will distribute through flan as it cooks.)

In a large bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth.  Stir in vanilla, sugar and juice, mixing until smooth and well combined.  Stir in eggs, again mixing until smooth.  Pour over apples in prepared pan.

Plan cake pan inside a large, rimmed baking pan.  Boil water and pour hot water inside the larger pan until it comes up about halfway to the outside of cake pan with the flan (do not pour water into cake pan).  You are making a ban marie to help the flan bake evenly and without cracks.

Bake about 45-60 minutes until the flan is somewhat set (it will still be somewhat jiggly) and lightly browned.  Carefully remove cake pan from the hot water, cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the outside of the flan to loosened it from the pan.  Dip bottom of pan briefly in a basin or bowl of hot water.  Quickly invert cake pan over serving platter.  If flan does not release from pan. Turn over and dip pan back in hot water and try again. (Usually flan releases just fine the first time.)  Or slice and serve from pan.  Drizzle with extra caramel sauce as desired.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spiced Lamb or Lox Pizza Made on the Grill

Making a grilled pizza is fast and delicious.  This one is dairy free.
How did a nice Jewish girl with roots in Iraq, India and China become an expert on grilling pizzas? Dianne Jacob did it by making every one of the more than 75 recipes repeatedly in Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas (DK Publishing), her cookbook on the topic with Chef Craig W. Priebe.

Jacob is a Mizrachi Jew whose family traces its lineage back to first Iraq and then India before settling in Shanghai.  Her parents immigrated to Canada after World War II.  She doesn't recall eating pizza before she was an adult.  Jacob, who lives in Oakland, also never did much grilling before working on the cookbook, but working on the cookbook made her a fan.

 “Grilled pizza isn't about being perfect; it is not about have the exact shape, it’s rustic,” she said.  “You don’t need a pizza stone or any special equipment.”

You also don’t need a grill.  You can make also make these pizzas on an indoor grill, grill pan or skillet. To do so, preheat until hot, brush with oil and cook until crust is golden brown.  You can also use commercially available dough or crusts or sturdy flat breads instead of homemade dough.

Turn the extra tomato sauce into a classic pizza by brushing the top of a grilled crust with 1 Tbs. olive, dusting with 1 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of the sauce and 1-2 cups of shredded cheese(s) of your choice.  Finish on the grill as directed below.

All recipes below adapted with permission from Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas by Craig W. Priebe with Dianne Jacob.  

The Millennium
Makes 1-12” pizza

1 grilled crust (see recipe)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. tahini
1 cup tomato sauce (see below)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
12 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
Spiced Lamb (see below)
1 Tbs. pomegranate molasses

Brush the grilled side of the crust with oil.  Drizzle 1 Tbs. of tahini and drop spoonfuls of tomato sauce on top.  Add onions, garlic olives, and Spiced Lamb.  Drizzle with remaining tahini and pomegranate molasses.  Cook as directed in Grilled Crust recipe.

Tomato Sauce:  Chop 1 small clove garlic and 8 large fresh basil leaves until fine.  Mix with 1 1/2 lbs. diced, cored tomatoes (or use 2-14.5 cans, drained). Mix in 2 Tbs. tomato paste, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 3/4 tsp. ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp. sugar.  Stir well.  Add more tomato paste if watery.  Chill for an hour. Makes 2 cups.

Spiced Lamb: Brown 8 oz. ground lamb.  Stir in 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, 1/4 tsp. ground allspice, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 minced garlic clove and 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Variation: Sprinkle on crumbled feta cheese to taste after you drizzle on the pomegranate molasses.

The Ballard Lox
Makes 1-12” pizza

1 grilled pizza crust (see recipe)
2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 Tbs. grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Fontina
4 cups roughly chopped arugula
1 lemon, halved
6 oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon
10 small cherry tomatoes, halved and seasoned with salt and pepper, optional
Freshly ground black pepper, optional

Brush grilled side of crust with 1 Tbs. of oil.  Sprinkle with Parmesan, mozzarella and Fontina cheese. 

Place remaining oil in large skillet, heat on high.  Add arugula and squeeze lemon over it.  Toss greens just long enough to wilt.  Immediately transfer to pizza in small clumps.  Roll salmon slices into small bundles and place atop arugula.  Cook as directed in Grilled Pizza Crust recipe. Garnish with tomatoes and black pepper.

Grilled Pizza Crust
Makes 2 Crusts

Basic Dough (see below)
Flour as needed
Cornmeal as needed

When dough is ready to use, punch down dough. Lightly flour work surface.  Flatten dough to about 1” thick. Cut in half with a knife. Put one piece in center of floured space. Sprinkle a little flour on top.  Roll out to a rough circle about 12” in diameter and 1/8” thick. Sprinkle with fine layer of flour. 

Flip a cookie sheet so bottom is up.  Sprinkle generously with cornmeal so dough with not stick.  Pick up crust with two hands and fold in half. Transfer to back of cookie sheet and unfold, stretching out again if needed.  Repeat with second crust (or refrigerate for up to 3 days).

Preheat charcoal or gas grill until medium heat or medium high (about 400 degrees) according to manufacturer’s directions.  Using tongs transfer crust from cookie sheet. If it folds over itself, quickly spread open.  The dough should take about 3 minutes to cook.  Bubbles should form on top.  Don’t check until dough begins to firm up.  Lift underside. It should be golden brown with grill marks.  Bits of char add flavor.

Using tongs and or spatula return crust to back of cookie sheet. Flip so grilled side is up.  Add toppings.  Shift grill to indirect heat. Slide pizza onto side without coals or flames.  Grill for about 5-8 minutes. Move pizza around grill if necessary. Slide pizza onto cutting board. Cut and serve immediately

Basic Dough: Add 1 packet dry yeast (2 1/4 tsps.) and 1/2 tsp. sugar to 3/4 cup warm water. Stir until yeast dissolves. Let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes) to make sure yeast is active.  Stir together 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 2 Tbs. cornmeal in a large bowl. Mix in yeasted water and 2 Tbs. olive oil.  Mix well with a strong spoon.  Lightly flour a clean, dry work surface.  Form a ball of dough and knead for 8 minutes until smooth.  Add only enough flour to prevent it from sticking.  Add 1/4 tsp. olive oil in a medium bowl.  Place dough in bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in draft-free, warm place for 2 hours until it almost doubles in size.  Chill dough in bowl for 1 hour or overnight in refrigerator.
A version of this post first appeared in the j weekly.  October is National Pizza Month so celebrate with a homemade pizza!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake from Dairy Made Easy

My mini bundt cake version of the cake
I often get feedback on the recipes I share in my j weekly  newspaper column.  Lately people have been raving the most about this Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake recipe.  Irony is that it is not my recipe, but written by the authors of the cookbook I was reviewing.

It was one of the recipes I featured from a new cookbook called Dairy Made Easy: Triple Tested Recipes for Every Day by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek. The book offers contemporary dishes including soups, pizzas, pasta, sandwiches and desserts. It includes lots of helpful tips on cooking with cheese.

The recipe recommends a spring form or bundt pan, but I made my version in mini-bundt pans which was great for eating some now and freezing some for later.  Depending on the size of the mini bundt pans, the recipe will make 6-8 mini bundt cakes (each cake serves 2 or so folks). Baking time for the mini bundts is about 40-50 minutes.

For more on the cookbook, go to  To read my piece in the j with two additional recipes (for Roasted Vegetable Pasta and Pomegranate and Apple Salad with Creamy Parmesan), click here.

Recipe below from Dairy Made Easy by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek. Reprinted with permission from the copyright holders: ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications.

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake
Serves 12

1 cup sour cream (do not use vegan, low fat or fat free)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup    butter
1 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
2              eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour
10 oz.      chocolate chips
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10” inch tube or bundt pan. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream and baking soda. Sour cream should bubble and expand. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and 1 cup sugar. Beat until light and creamy. Add eggs and extracts. Add baking powder and half the flour. Add sour cream mixture, then remaining flour. Beat until just combined. Do not overmix.

Combine chips, walnuts, cinnamon, and remaining sugar. Sprinkle some of the chocolate-nut mixture into the pan. Add half the batter over it, then half of the remaining chocolate-nut mixture. Add remaining batter. Top cake with remaining chocolate-nut mixture. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until top is firm and crispy. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
FYI: Since this was originally written for a mainstream media publication, the j weekly, no disclaimer is needed as per FTC regulations.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

How to Find my j. Weekly Columns and More (Including Playing Jewish Geography in the Produce Aisle)

For the last five years, I have had a regular Jewish cooking column every other week at the j weekly, a print and on line publication based in San Francisco and covering the Bay area and northern California.

It is a joy to work with my editors and the publication and I get a lot of opportunity to speak to Bay area groups about Jewish food, especially some of its international roots and traditions because of my connection to the j.  I also get to talk to and share recipes with some pretty amazing folks from home cooks to restaurant owners to cookbook authors as part of the research for my j. pieces.

I also get recognized a bit, usually in the supermarket and usually in the produce aisle.  Folks will stop me and we will play "I know I know you, I just don't know how" for a bit and then it will finally dawn on me that we really don't know each other and they have just seen the photo the j prints alongside my column (see photo at left.  The j uses a cropped version of it).

I'll ask if they subscribe to the j.  Then I'll ask if they read the recipes.  If they say yes but still don't have a clue, I'll ask if they ever cut out the recipe columns and hang on the fridge. Bingo. My face is staring down at them as they work in the kitchen and I've become so familiar it seems like I'm an old friend.  

An encounter like this makes my day, to say the least.

I do often get questions from non-subscribers (you really should subscribe, it's a great paper.  For a free four week subscription to the j, click here and be sure to let them know Faith sent you!) out-of-area readers and those who have misplaced their clipped out columns how to find my recipes and other writing on the j. website. 

The easiest way to find a relatively current column is to go to my author archive at the j at for the last five or six months worth.  If it's longer ago than that, check out the paper's cook archives at and select the appropriate year.  The archives also feature the work of my co-columnist Josie A. G. Shapiro, and the columnists that came before us.

One of the great resources the j (formerly the Jewish Bulletin) offers is the recipe index where you can search my and others' recipes by ingredient (use keyword sort), holiday (use category sort), etc. 

I am always reaching out to folks with ideas for columns and recipes (I especially like to feature locals with a foodie connection, long-time family recipes, or cuisine expertise but always with some sort of Jewish connection).  If you have an idea or question for me - leave a comment on this post or email me at clickblogappetit AT gmail DOT com.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Make a Cookie Sukkah for a Sweet Sukkot

My cookie sukkah!  Notice the hanging fruit.
There are some very specific rules for building a sukkah (hut) when celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which starts this Wednesday night. The sides and roof have to be built a certain way and the sky must be seen through the roof when you sit inside. The Cookie Sukkah below doesn't adhere to any of these rules and you definitely can’t eat in it, as is the Sukkot tradition, but you can actually sit down and eat the sukkah.

This family project can be a good discussion starter about Sukkot, also known as the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths.  It commemorates the shelters ancestors built for protection during the Exodus and during harvests in Israel. It uses filled, rolled wafer cookies to build a log-cabin style sukkah. There are many brands and flavors of these cookies (several certified kosher). Cookie lengths vary, so adjust directions if needed to keep dimensions proportional. (I used Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes.) Buy extras since breakage (and snacking) is inevitable. When assembling, use enough frosting for the cookies to adhere but not so much as they slide off one another. Decorate with fruit-shaped candies. Use the sukkah for a centerpiece or eat it for dessert. Either way it will help make a sweet holiday.

If you don't want to use or can't get the rolled cookies, pretzel rods or hard bread sticks will also work, although you might have to fuss with the dimensions a bit.

It can be made up to 48 hours in advance and kept very loosely wrapped at room temperature. Try making a etrog and lulav (the traditional Sukkot symbols) out of marzipan tinted with food coloring. (Or use a Lemonhead candy for the etrog and springs of green herbs for the lulav.)

Cookie Sukkah
Inside sukkah

Makes 1 Sukkah

About 8 oz. 6” long, filled, rolled wafer cookies (you'll need at about 24 or so of the 6" cookies)
3/4-1 cup purchased white frosting
Assorted fruit-shaped candies, cereal and or fruit snacks

Have ready a flat tray, parchment or waxed paper, ruler, serrated bread knife, aluminum foil, needle, and thread.

Cover tray with parchment or wax paper. Set aside 18 of the 6” long cookies. Gently saw rest with serrated knife into 8-1” long pieces and 8-2”long pieces.

You will be building this "log cabin" style, using the frosting for glue.  If at any time the structure seems precarious, stop and let frosting set a bit or add in support while it dries.  (See Level 3.)

Building sukkah before roof

Level 1
Smear bottom of 1-6” long cookie with frosting. Press gently to adhere to tray 2 and 1/2" from the middle. This will be the back of the sukkah, side “A.” Frost bottom of 2-2” pieces. Press them down 5” from the first, with the outside ends of the short pieces lining up with the outside ends of the 6” cookie and parallel to side “A.” This will create the opening for the door.  This is side “B,” or the front of the sukkah.

Cover the bottom of 2-6” cookies with frosting. Lay them perpendicular to sides “A” and “B” log cabin style, allowing the ends to protrude 1/2" over “A” and “B.” Press gently to secure. This makes sides “C” and “D.”

Frost the bottom of 2-1” pieces. Press them down perpendicularly across the 2” pieces but parallel to sides “C” and “D” and indented 1/2" from the inside ends of the 2” pieces.

Level 2
Frost the bottom of 1-6” cookie and lay atop side “A.” Frost 2-2” pieces and lay perpendicular to the 1” pieces on side “B.” (So the 2” pieces are parallel to the “A” side.)  Press gently to secure. Cover the bottom of 2-6” cookies with frosting. Place on top sides “C” and “D.” Next, frost the bottom of 2-1” pieces. Lay perpendicular to “A” and B” across the 2” pieces as in level 1.

Level 3
Repeat Level 2 directions. If necessary, crumple up balls of foil to help support inside corners. (This is when I started needing the supports.)

Level 4
Detail of front construction

Repeat level 2 directions.

Level 5
Frost the bottom of 2-6” cookies. Place one atop side “A” and one atop side “B” (to create a door way header). Cover unused frosting.

Let structure sit for 1 hour. Remove foil supports. Frost back of candies and gently press on to inside and outside walls. If using soft candies such as gummies or fruit snacks, thread needle and poke through candy. Tie off ends to make 1” loops. Hang on the 4 remaining 6” cookies. Frost cookie bottoms. Place each about 1” apart across sukkah top parallel to sides “C” and “D” to make roof, with candy dangling down. Store at room temperature, loosely covered with parchment or waxed paper.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Chicken Soup 101: From Bird to Broth

Before it is soup
Chicken soup is more than a recipe and eating it is more than an act of physical sustenance.  It’s almost religious for it is representative of a lifestyle enriched by food symbolism and at-home, meal-based traditions and celebrations.  From Shabbat dinner to the High Holiday table to Passover and beyond a bowl of rich, fragrant golden broth has become a defining part of the Jewish lifestyle whether it is served with homemade noodles, rice and lemon juice, matzo balls, kreplach, liver dumplings, Italian chicken meatballs or Iranian gondi, dumplings of chickpea flour and chicken.

(For a vegetarian substitute, see My Not Chicken Soup recipe.)

Some History:

In Biblical times soup was made in earthenware pots from vegetables and lentils and flavored with onion and garlic.  It was called marak in Hebrew –a name that survives today in the Yemenite marak which is a beef or chicken soup and in marag, the traditional soup for Jews of Calcutta.

Chicken broth has only been made for the past several thousand years. At first it was served for its restorative, medicinal affects (which Maimonides and later science has since supported.)  Chicken soup was part of the Mizrahi (Middle and Near Eastern) and Sephardic culinary experience at least since the early medieval period, long before it entered Ashkenazi cookery, but it was among the Eastern Europeans and their American descendants that it found its greatest appreciation as a traditional Friday night dinner starter.

Chickens were domesticated in India 45,000 years ago and spread widely as the Romans, Persians and Greeks were fans of cockfighting.   Romans were also fond of eating the fowl and in ancient Rome they became a feature in Jewish cooking.  With the fall of the Empire the taste for the bird declined.  Not until the 12th century did they become widely eaten again, mostly because of meat shortages.

For central European Jews, the goose was the bird of choice.  Raising geese was an important source of income for Jews there, but in Eastern Europe Jews favored the easier and cheaper to raise chicken.  In the Sephardic world and elsewhere it was not as much of a staple since it was a more expensive form of protein.

Chicken Soup Tips and Tricks:

Every cook has their own recipe and technique for making chicken soup.  Many of mine are reflected in the recipe that accompanies this post. I prefer to use a whole chicken instead of just pounds of parts.  I use lots of root vegetables to give the soup a deep flavor and add ginger to compliment the richness of the broth.  Sometimes I will add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to the finished soup before serving.  Mostly, I am always conscious that I am making soup, which needs to stand on its own, not stock, which will be enriched by other ingredients. I also don’t let the soup come to a full boil at any stage.  That’s how I was taught and I do think it results in a chicken soup with superior taste and color.

Others have their own tips.  Some add chicken bouillon cubes to enrich the broth.  Karen Bloom’s grandmother disclosed on her deathbed that her secret was adding a can of chicken stock to her broth. (If you try either of these tips, add salt after tasting because of the sodium in the canned stock and bouillon.)  I know at least one cook who adds beef bones to her pot for extra flavor.

Judy Bloomfield swears by adding celery root (celeriac) to the soup pot. Carol Robinson’s grandmother advised parsley root was the secret ingredient. (Parsley root looks like a parsnip but the flavor is different.)  Roz Aronson adds some fresh lemon juice or ginger and like many of us garnishes her soup with fresh dill.

My Chicken Soup Recipe
Makes about 12 cups

My recipe will make enough to for about eight or more servings depending on add ins, serving size and appetites. I’ve broken the recipe down into steps so I can explain what I do and why I do it, but the recipe is really pretty straightforward.   I’ve given exact measurements, but feel free to vary.  I like the peppery sharpness the turnip gives the soup.  Leave it out if it is not to your taste.

My aim is to make a deeply flavored, golden chicken soup with a full taste and a satisfying texture and mouth feel.

If you don’t need soup for eight, freeze some of the plain soup broth for future use and defrost as needed.  It stays well for months and works as soup or as a rich chicken stock.

Part One:  Making the Soup

Start the day before if possible.

1-5 lb. whole chicken
12 cups water
3 medium carrots (8 oz.)
1 large parsnip (6 oz.)
1 medium-large onion (unpeeled) (8 oz.)
1 large turnip (6 oz.)
3 large stalks of celery with leaves (7 oz.)
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1” slice of fresh ginger root, unpeeled and cut in half
1 large leek (10 oz.)
Small handful of fresh parsley stems with leaves (1 oz.)
1 large or 2 small bay leaves
1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste as needed
1/8 tsp. saffron threads (about a pinch)
Ground black pepper to taste as needed

Remove internal organs and any excess fat from inside of chicken and discard. (Save the neck if available and add to the pot with chicken.)  Be sure all little bits of deep red tissue are removed from inside the chicken (they can turn a broth bitter).  Rinse chicken inside and out.  Place chicken in a large, deep soup pot.  Add water.  Leave uncovered and put on medium heat and begin to bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile prepare the vegetables.  Do not peel the carrots, parsnip, onion and turnip.  Scrub well and trim root and stem ends, then cut into 1” chunks and add to soup pot.  Wash and trim celery, leaving leaves on, and cut into 1” chunks and add to pot along with the whole garlic cloves and ginger root.  Trim roots and deep green ends off leek.  Cut in half lengthwise and rinse well to remove any sand or soil.  Cut halves into 1” pieces and add to pot with parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt.  Bring back to a simmer.  Crumble saffron into water.  (Saffron helps give the soup a golden color.) Cover and keep at a simmer lowering heat if necessary, but don’t let it come to a rapid boil.

Simmer for about three hours, stirring occasionally and skimming off and discarding any foam that might form a scum at the top of the pot.  Cook until the chicken is falling off the bone, the vegetables are very soft and the broth tastes rich and full of flavor.  Add additional salt and ground black pepper to taste as needed.  Let cool until safe to handle.  Strain or sieve the soup into a large container. (I ladle soup through a strainer, press on the solids to get out any liquid and put solids in a separate bowl.)  Taste the chicken meat.  If it still has good texture and flavor keep to serve with the soup.  If it is tasteless, dry, stringy or cottony, discard.  Discard soup pot vegetables.

Cover and store soup in refrigerator overnight.

Part Two:  Serving the Soup

Here are some serving suggestions, but your soup is your canvas.

1 recipe chicken soup
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
4 cups chopped vegetables (see below), cooked until just tender, optional
16 cooked matzo balls or 2-3 cups cooked rice or cooked thin, small noodles, optional
2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken (see below), optional
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill OR parsley leaves (or a mixture)

Remove soup from refrigerator.  Skim off fat as desired.  (I find that leaving some fat makes a better soup.  This recipe generally does not produce a lot of fat so I usually don’t skim it off, but do so if it is your preference.)  Place in soup pot, put on medium heat and bring to a simmer (do not let it come to a rapid boil). Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.  If using, add cooked vegetables, matzo balls, rice or noodles and shredded chicken.  Keep at simmer until add ins are heated through.  Serve in bowls topped with dill.

Chopped Vegetables:  Scrub, peel and chop into 1/4" pieces 1 medium parsnip, 3 medium carrots, and 1 large turnip. Trim root end and dark green part of 1 large leek.  Cut in half and rinse out any sand. Chop into 1/4” pieces. Trim 2 large celery stalks and chop into 1/4" pieces.  Combine in pot with salt and pepper to taste and cook in about 2 cups water or chicken broth until just tender.

Cooked, Shredded Chicken:  If the soup pot chicken is not usable, poach 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs with salt and pepper to taste in chicken broth or water until cooked through.  Cool and shred. If using soup pot chicken, discard skin and bones and shred.

Chicken Soup Trouble Shooting:

If soup is too salty, cut a large, scrubbed, unpeeled potato in half and simmer in the strained broth until soft and discard.  It should absorb the excess salt.  Repeat if necessary.

If soup is not “chickeny” enough, poach about 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs in strained, simmering soup until cooked through.  Remove thighs and save to serve with soup or for another use. Taste and adjust seasonings. Strain soup again before proceeding.  If the broth is only slightly watery tasting, try simmering strained stock with cover off until it soup is reduced somewhat and taste is intensified.

If soup needs “something” and you don’t want to add more salt or pepper, try stirring in a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Taste and add more as needed.

If the soup is not “golden” enough, try adding 1/4 tsp. of turmeric to the simmering, strained soup.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Confession

It's been too long since I've posted.  I have lots to say, lots to share, a back up of posts written in my head but not typed out, recipes tried, photos that need to be cropped and more, but somehow the link between intent and actually doing something has been broken.

This is made worse by the longer it's been since I've posted.  I keep thinking I have to come back with something super, super special.  Which makes by blogger's block even worse.

I promise you I have been creating and thinking and recording and I will soon get back to sharing. (Maybe even later today).  But first off I needed to confess.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Currying Favor -- Meal for One with an Assist

Tonight's meal is based on Trader Joe's Curry Simmer Sauce, a favorite pantry short cut, as well as it's arugula and cubed butternut squash.  The protein is Gardein "beefless" ground beef. Eaten over whole wheat pasta.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Low-Hanging Fruit --- Backyard Plums, Over-The-Fence Loquats and a Plum Clafoutis Recipe

Our neighbor's loquats
I cook, I don't garden.  I know with some bloggers you get a kind of two for one.  Not here, you don't.  To be honest, this column is about our accidental fruit.

We don't really do anything for the plums, they just grow and drop. The plums are about the size and color of a cherry tomato and they are sweet-tart. They are too small to do too much with so we occasionally snack on them, but usually they feed the birds. What I really love about them is the early Spring blooms, pale pink and white and just lovely.

The loquat branches drop over our side fence. The loquats taste like an apricot crossed with a lychee with a firmer texture and a slightly astringent skin. There is not a lot of flesh on each fruit.  Inside are two large seeds.  We don't get too many of these, since after all the tree is on the other side of the fence.

Unlike the plums, they are freestones so they are easier to eat or use in recipes.  The fruit bruises easily and you rarely see it commercially available.  I've had a great loquat vinegar (by Lulu, I think), other than that I don't know of any processed foods using them.

I have a soft spot for loquats because my sons attended a preschool with a loquat tree in the yard and they would come home splattered with loquat juice thrilled by the experience of picking and eating them.

Backyard plums swaying in breeze
If you are not fussy about pitting them, the plums would work well in a clafoutis,  just warn folks to watch for pits. Try this recipe, which is egg and dairy free, and which first appeared in the j weekly.  If you have small,  hard to pit plums like the ones at left, leave them whole and warn eaters to be aware.

The clafoutis (pronounced without the final s) recipe is very adaptable and can be made with any other fruit.  I frequently use cherries (easiest if you skip the pitting) or berries.

It's a nice brunch dish or dessert on it's own or try serving it with ice cream and or whipped cream (vegan or not).

Plum Clafoutis
Serves 6

2 Tbs. oil, plus extra for greasing pan
1 lb. fresh Italian prune plums or other small, sweet plums (about 20)
1 cup flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unflavored, unsweetened almond milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8” x 12” baking pan. Halve and pit the prunes and place evenly, cut side up, on bottom of prepared baking pan.

Stir together flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. In large bowl mix eggs, almond milk, almond extract and vanilla extract until well combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg one, whisking well until very smooth. Pour over plums. Bake for 50-60 minutes until firm and golden.  Let cool slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wok Me Up -- Meal for One

Another in my continuing series of meals for one, this dinner was based on a House product, a packaged combo for tofu and sauce that you add veggies to called Wok Me Up Spicy Orange. 

Pretty simple and not complicated to do yourself, but still it made my meal for one easier to just get started. (Sometimes just getting started can be hard for me when I'm only feeding myself.) I was pretty ashamed that I needed my tofu cut into little pieces for me, however it still took a crisis of will to get me to chop some veggies to throw into the stir fry.  (The directions specify 6 oz., I tossed in about double that.)

I served it over Trader Joe's frozen brown rice nuked for 3 minutes, I used about half the mix for my serving only to find that the package claims it contains 3.5 servings. I snorted out loud. Even with the extra veggies and rice it would barely feed two.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The One That Didn't Get Away --- A Tuna Salad Story with Recipe (andHot Lime Pickle)

Often I get an idea for a recipe that seems perfect until I actually get to the kitchen, make it and have my first bite.  This tuna salad, filled with the flavor of Indian hot lime pickle, was almost one of those near misses but I tinkered with proportions and condiments and was able to reel in a tasty winner.

Two Indian ingredients are used in the recipe. In the tuna salad itself you'll need achar -- pickled, spiced lime rinds.  Different companies make it in different degrees of hotness and chunkiness. Since it will be chopped it doesn't matter if you get the relish style (somewhat smaller pieces of lime rind) or regular hot lime pickle.  The pickle adds a little heat, spices, acid and astringency to the the salad.  Serving the mango chutney mayo with the tuna salad smoothes and adds a bit of sweetness to the combo.  Serve as small tea sandwiches as in the recipe below or use fresh or moistened lavash (or large flour tortillas) and roll and slice for party appetizers.

I first envisioned this recipe for my friend Mona's grand baby's "welcome party" when I made the lavash version.  I adapted to this easier tea sandwich version when her Indian auntie came to tea recently.  I've also made it with mashed tofu instead of tuna and with vegan mayonnaise for a vegan version. I haven't tried it yet but I think it would be delicious with smashed chickpeas instead of the tuna. 

A word about the ingredients. I used Patak's hot lime relish, which is fairly widely available on line and in specialty, Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores. This is the first time I've used tuna in several years and I used Sea Fare Pacific wild caught albacore packed in salt-free natural juices. The chutney was from Trader Joe's, but any Major Grey's style or sweet mango chutney will work fine. I also used 1 oz.-sized King's Hawaiian sweet rolls. (Note I'm writing this on my ipad and will update to include the links later)

Hot Lime Pickle Tuna Salad with Mango Chutney Mayo
Makes 8 tea sandwiches or about 4 regular sandwiches

1-6 oz. container of tuna, drained well and flaked
1-2 Tbs. hot lime pickle or relish, finely chopped
3 Tbs. mayonnaise 
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt (optional)
1 1/2 Tbs. mayonnaise 
1 1/2 chutney, finely chopped
8 small sweet Hawaiian or Portuguese style rolls
16 very thin slices of cucumber
8 very thin slices of tomato, drained on paper towel

Mix together tuna, 1 Tbs. lime pickle and pepper.  Stir well.  Taste.  Gradually add in second tablespoon of pickle by teaspoonfuls and mixing and tasting as you go until you get the right level of heat, spice and astringency for you. I like it with the full 2 Tbs. You can probably go a bit hotter than normal for yourself since the bread and mayo will be sweet. Taste again and decide if you want to add salt.. Both the pickle and tuna probably have enough salt you won,t need to add more.)

Mix mayo with chutney.  Spread inside top and bottom of each roll with mayo mixture. Arrange 2 cucumber slices on bottom of roll, top with 1/8th of tuna salad and then with tomato slice. Close roll.  Repeat with remaining rolls and adjust if using larger rolls. (I also like this mounded on top of a tomato half with dollops of mango chutney mayo on top.)

Monday, June 09, 2014

My Day at Sunset

A week ago Sunday I had a blast visiting Sunset Magazine’s Menlo Park campus and participating in the Time-Life publication’s celebration weekend.

Angela Brassinga
Elaine Johnson
A highlight for me was the opportunity to meet test kitchen head Angela Brassinga. The space she and her team of “home cook” recipe testers works out of looks like a home kitchen on steroids with multiple electric and gas cook tops and ovens and one very big refrigerator. (Plus Sunset also uses a commercial walk in fridge.) The pantry was huge. Everything is labeled and organized so testers can find what they need quickly. The testers shop for ingredients at local stores and make every recipe multiple times. I've always found Sunset’s recipes work well and it is this attention to detail that makes the difference.

It was also special meeting Food Editor Margo True and Associate Food Editor Elaine Johnson. I look forward to checking out Sunset’s latest cookbook, The Great Outdoors Cookbook. (Get a peek of two of the recipes here.)   Other highlights included touring the food, wine, travel and merchandise exhibits. (I especially liked the cute turquoise trailer and got very excited about the Alaska marine ferry information.)

There was an array of food vendors offering everything from paella to corn dogs, but I ate and drank so many free samples that I wasn't hungry. Among my favorite noshes were lamb pastrami (Wente brothers), grilled cheese with chutney (San Luis Sourdough Bread), and Torani syrups.  Below is one of my favorite attendees. Check out the Sunset website for living in the West travel tips, recipes, gardening advice and more.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mushrooms and Polenta - Dinner for One

Here's a meal in a bowl I enjoyed today (which also fits in well with this week's Oakland Veg Week Pledge).

I made the polenta in the microwave (easy and fast) and sauteed some roughly chopped oyster mushrooms in olive oil with onion, garlic, Provencal herbs, salt, pepper and a bit of tomato sauce.  I topped with a bit of Parmesan cheese, but vegan cheese or maybe some fontina would work well, too.  It would have been nice with some kale or argula in the dish as well, but I felt like keeping things simple.

For the technique on cooking polenta in the microwave, click here.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Green Tea Diaries - Oh What's in My Cup

My favorite green tea in my favorite tea thermos, both from China
I like to start morning off with a cup of green tea.

For years that tea was blended by Gypsy Zen Tea, a California company known for its creative blending of teas and other natural ingredients that has done me wrong twice. First I had to stave off its discontinuance of my beloved Cocaberry blend by mail order and Grocery Outlet shopping and then I had to go through that all over again when Gypsy Zen ended production of pomegranate green tea replacement I compromised on.

Now I'm just playing the green tea field, brewing up individual samples of tea bags I've collected at Fancy Food shows and elsewhere as well as going through my own substantial stash of loose and bagged teas. (FYI - for more serious tea drinking I prefer full leaf brewed teas without added flavors - but my morning tea is different.)

Below is a list of the teas I've sampled with any notes. I'm sure eventually I'll fall in love with another tea and eventually that tea will become unavailable but at least this way I'll have a lot of tasting notes to call on to find a replacement. Watch for Facebook and Twitter status updates for additions to this list.

Most of these teas are bagged, I'll note when they are not.  These teas tend to taste best and not need additional sugar when brewed with just under boiling temperature water and steeped for only a few minutes.

Many bagged green teas in this country look like sweepings from the processing room floor - tiny bits of chaff and dried leaves.  I've indicated when a bag seems to be filled with full leaves.

My favorite morning green tea of all time is the loose leaf jasmine blend I brought back from China.  I keep it in an airtight container and just need a pinch to make a lovely cup. 

  • Stash Moroccan mint (a stand by - I think the mint helps the taste)
  • Te sweetest jasmine pearls (the best so far -- nice fabric tea bag and nice leaves)
  • Stash fusion green and white tea
  • Harney tropical green
  • Te Shangri La (nice leaves, nice bag but didn't care for added flavor)
  • Republic of Tea Pineapple Ginger (doesn't seem to go bitter, nice pineapple taste)
  • Harney's Bangkok Green Tea (silk "sachet" with slighter larger tea leaves but still bits and pieces. Very strong coconut and ginger flavor, seems more like a Thai sauce than a tea.)
  • Lahaha Jasmine Green Tea (sachet type tea bag with full leaves.  Very perfumy, but nice, no bitterness at all.  Organic, all natural.)
  • Lahaha Lemon Green Tea (same sachet, decent tea leaves, dried lemon peel pieces). Not so good. No lemon flavor.  More bitter than the jasmine.  Would not have again.
  • Tea Tibet "Kindness" Green Tea.  Just green tea -- but the best cup of plain green tea I've ever had from a tea bag.  Quality tea leaves (maybe a bit broken rather than whole).  This is a non profit company that supports Tibetan educational projects and orphanages created by Kombucha Wonder Drink.  The tea itself is from northern India.
  • Ahmed Green Tea with Mint - first one that needed sugar -- tasty with it, not so without
  • Numi Gunpowder Green - a superior taste, would definitely get again
  • Republic of Tea Honey Ginseng Green Tea -- not bad, but I kept thinking I was drinking a melted cough drop.  If I had throat issues or a cough I'd drink this up.

More to come!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dinner for One -- A Confession, a Plan, and a Meal

I have a confession to make. As much as I love food I find I like to cook for an audience. Friends, family, and readers of my cooking columns (kind of a virtual audience) all count.  So when I am alone for extended periods of time (and not on deadline for creating recipes) I actually find it hard to make a real meal for myself.  Oh, I'll defrost leftovers, pour a bowl of cereal, heat a frozen ethnic meal, but it's nothing I look forward to (and usually it's not the best option in terms of calories, salt and or fat).

My lack of decent meals mirrors my issues of establishing some healthy routines while my husband (my best audience) is traveling for months with one of our sons. Today I had a kind of epiphany, I could plan and share some meals for one on Blog Appetit and begin to bring some expectations and planning into my life leading to more routine and better-for-me food.

So tonight's meal for one was pasta with steamed green beans tossed with prepared pesto (I like refrigerated bolani brand with lots of garlic and no cheese). I also have some strawberries for dessert later tonight.  If I need something more I'll add a dollop of yogurt. It feels good to be gaining some control over my evening meals. Next up getting to exercise class.  Watch for posts with suggestions and recipes for dinners for one.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Little Something Sweet -- Chocolate Sandwich Cookie Kugel (Kind of a Baked Custard Pudding) and Chocolate Blintzes (Plus a Bonus Chocolate Blintz Souffle Recipe)

Chocolate Blintz

I'm offering up something sweet to make up for my not posting in way too long -- some sweet dessert or brunch recipes both featuring chocolate.

Most folks know kugel as a (usually sweet) baked noodle pudding.  When I decided to give it a chocolate make over I started by making my own chocolate noodles.  They were a lot of work (especially since I no longer own a pasta machine) and while they tasted okay the texture in the kugel  can be best described as leaden.  As I searched my pantry and local grocery shelves for other options I tried various chocolate wafers and cookies.  Oreos (well actually Safeway's generic Tuxedo cookie variation) worked wonderfully and surprisingly were not too sweet and the crème-filled sandwich cookies held up well to the batter and baking. 
The Chocolate Blintzes feature a cocoa-based crepe and a ricotta filling laced with milk chocolate chips. I wanted to try the blintzes with a layer of Nutella (or other hazelnut-chocolate spread) on the crepe before adding the ricotta filling but I never got around to trying it that way. They were just too delectable this way. 
I did turn some of the leftover blintzes into a Chocolate Blintz Souffle.  If you want to try something similar see the note after Chocolate Blintzes recipe.
Chocolate Sandwich Cookie Kugel

Serves 12

3 Tbs. unsalted butter melted, divided
About 30 chocolate sandwich cookies
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz. sour cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
3 Tbs. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush 1 tsp. of the melted butter inside a 9”x13” baking pan. Cover bottom with cookies, breaking some in half to fill in any large gaps.

Mash softened cream cheese with sour cream until smooth. Add remaining butter, milk, eggs, almond extract, sugar and salt. Beat until smooth.

Pour mixture over cookies. Scatter 1/2 cup of chocolate chips evenly over top. Place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon then scatter remaining chips over top. Bake for additional 15-25 minutes until custard top is firm and puffy and pulling away from sides of pan. Let sit for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with whipped cream if desired.

Chocolate Blintzes
Makes 12

12 chocolate blintz crepes (see below)
1 recipe of blintz filling (see below)
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided
2-3 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/4 cup sour cream (or whipped cream)
12 strawberries, sliced

Lay crepe cooked side down on work surface. Place 2 Tbs. of filling in the middle, leaving about an inch margin at top and bottom of crepe. Fold top over filling then bottom. Fold one side over. Lightly moisten inside edge of last side to help seal. Fold side over crepe. Repeat. Heat large fry pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp. butter. When melted, place first batch of blintzes seam side down in hot pan. Fry for about 2 minutes until beginning to darken. Flip and fry other side. Remove from pan, add additional butter as needed and fry remaining blintzes in batches. Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar, a dollop of sour cream and sliced strawberries.

Blintz Crepes:  Add to blender 1 1/4 cups milk, 1/2 cup cold water, 1 cup flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. baking cocoa, 2 Tbs. sugar,  1 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 Tbs. melted unsalted butter and 2 eggs. Blend until smooth. Melt 1 Tbs. butter. Heat 8” crepe, omelet or fry pan over medium heat. Brush lightly with melted butter. With pan off the heat, pour 1/4 cup batter in center of pan. Swirl pan to distribute batter evenly. Fry on one side until top is set and bottom has darkened. Remove with spatula. Place cooked side down on dishtowel. Repeat, adding butter as needed. (Recipe makes a few extra.)

Blintz Filling:  Mix 2 cups ricotta cheese with 1 beaten egg and 1/2 tsp. almond extract until smooth. Stir in 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, 1 Tbs. sugar and 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips.

Keep reading for turning the blintzes into a soufflé.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

National Pie Day -- The Life of Pie on Blog Appetit -- A Round Up of Pies, Tarts and Other Pastry-Crusted Things

Today's National Pie Day so I thought I would list out a sample of pie and similar recipes available here on Blog Appetit.

While I  yield to no one on my love crust-enclosed goodness, I was a bit surprised to find out there is an American Pie Council with corporate members and sponsors ranging from ingredient producers, bakeries and equipment manufacturers to a pie plate maker. The fun continues with contests, festivals and a tie to the movie Labor Day (which apparently features lots of pie making and or eating going on).

No mention of band camp (American Pie movie reference), slapstick pies in the face, the number pi or other related things.  The council also did a survey of 1000 American pie eaters to find out their preferences.  Alas, they did not present this information in a pie chart -- perhaps I will feel ambitious later and cook one up.

From the overblown and relatively hard to read news release:

"The survey revealed that pie is a preferred dessert even on special occasions other than Thanksgiving, with 70% favoring it on Christmas and 67% considering it a staple of family gatherings. And, it’s not just an after-dinner treat. Pie is a great late-night snack, too, 58% of the respondents said."

No word on what percentage just prefer pie on non-special occasions.

The survey also asked about favorite pie flavors:

"Apple takes, ah, the cake, but perhaps surprisingly chocolate pie tied with pumpkin in the No. 2 spot, while cherry placed third, according to the survey."

I wish the APC provided more info (where for example are my favorites -- lemon meringue and strawberry rhubarb), but the rest of the new release touts the movie not the dessert.

For the record, pies also make a wonderful breakfast dish --- my mother was partial to apple pie with cheese as a way to start her day. (Honestly she would eat that pretty much any time of the day).  I've made oatmeal as well as white bean breakfast pies.  Savory dinner pies (think quiche among others) are also popular.  In addition to the usual slice, pies have gotten themselves tarted up lately with trendy pie pops and hand pies. 

Keep reading for a round up of appropriate recipes from Blog Appetit.

Monday, January 06, 2014

There Is No Place Like Roam (for Burgers, Sodas and Fries)

A Roam beef burger with all the trimmings (Photo courtesy Roam)
It's tough being the parents of hip, young adults.
You want to impress them with your street cred and insight into new places.
You are anxious to find experiences you can share that you'll all enjoy.

Just when I told my two sons I found a great burger place I thought they'd like and offered to take them, I found out not only did they know about the small Bay area regional chain I had newly experienced and become enamored of, that they had eaten at one of its two San Francisco locations often.

Oh well, at least they agreed that the burgers, fries and house-made sodas at Roam Artisan Burgers are exceptional which did help my street cred with them a bit.

It also impressed them somewhat that I had been invited to one of the opening parties for Roam's new Lafayette, CA, location and got pretty much unlimited free food.  (Although, I'm not sure if it is the honor of being invited or the free part that impressed them the most.)

I was impressed enough myself with Roam that I would go there regularly and pay for their delicious beef, turkey and vegetarian burgers (they also serve burgers made from bison as well as elk, but I did not get a chance to try them).  Not to mention their fries, sweet potato fries and a transcendent dish of filament-thin fried sweet onions and zucchini. Oh and the fizzed-just-for-you fruit sodas -- I may never drink Coke again.

It's attention to details that really makes these burgers shine -- Roam uses top quality meat, creative, fresh toppings, and great buns. It's cooks treat griddling burgers like they were cooking filet mignon -- carefully and lovingly.  As a result the burgers look and taste great. 

While the beef patty flavor was rich and satisfying, it was the turkey burger that amazed me.  It was the best turkey burger I've ever eaten. It was moist, flavorful and worked well with toppings.  I've also been raving about the beet and black bean based vegetarian burger.  It doesn't try to fool you with pretending to be something it's not -- it just has good heft, texture and taste. It, too, is sturdy enough in flavor and substance to stand up to Roam's range of creative toppings.

You can see the menu here including a list of the toppings and combinations they offer.  Pick one of their combos or choose your toppings ranging from ketchup to truffle parmesan fries (yes on your burger).  That pickle on your sandwich was made in house. Bun choices include sesame seed, whole grain and gluten free or you can opt to go bunless and have your burger in a lettuce wrap.

Pineapple and blood orange sodas
Roam makes it's own soda syrups and adds them to carbonated water when you order.  The flavors are sweetened but not overly so and are concentrated and intense.  I got to try the caramelized pineapple (the favorite of the ones I tried), blood orange (a seasonal offering) and ginger-lime.  

There are salads, milkshakes and other items on the menu, but I didn't get a chance to try those so I'm just assuming they are as thoughtfully prepared and delicious as the food I was able to taste.

I thought it would be helpful to get some burger making tips from Roam. Below is some advice from Roam's owners, Josh Spiegelman and Lynn Gorfinkle: