The Many Flavors of Halloween

Halloween – a candy fest for kids, pagan ritual, or the hottest holiday for adventurous adults?

Boo! Source: Cincinnati.com

Boo! Source: Cincinnati.com

The spirit of Halloween has different manifestations depending on where you live. When I was a kid, it was a day to dress up as your favorite TV or comic book character and collect candy from all the neighbors. In Mexico, they call it the Day of the Dead, a national holiday where even the banks are closed. In New York City, a raucous Halloween parade draws all manner of adults decked out in creative costumes.

At the heart of all October 31 festivities are both ancient pagan and religious traditions. Many believe Halloween originated in Ireland with the ancient Celtic ritual of Samhain, when people would dress in costumes and light bonfires to fend off wandering ghosts and spirits. On the Christian calendar October 31st or All Hallows Eve precedes All Saints Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs.

[Read more…]

The Taste of Autumn

Where I’m from, fall begins when you spot that supple red apple adorning a tree, climb up the branches and close your eyes as you reach through to grab the quintessential fruit of autumn. With a quick tug and sudden release, the perfect red round apple is yours. In upstate New York, apple picking is a fall affair. The leaves turn bright orange, yellow and red. They crumple and crunch under your boots as you make your way through the apple orchards. One heavy bag of apples is more than an afternoon’s worth of climbing and picking. A bag of apples could become apple sauce, apple crisp or just fresh cut apple slices with caramel dipping sauce.

Apples you might pick in New York State. Photo source: queensmamas.com

Apples you might pick in New York State. Photo source: queensmamas.com

One of my favorite memories as a kid is picking apples, raking and jumping in fall leaves and helping make apple crisp. My sister and I would core and peel the fruit, dump in the brown sugar and wait with our noses by the oven door for a bowl full of warm, cinnamon and sugary apple crisp. The following recipe reminds me of fall and helps fill the absence of hot carefree summer days as the seasons change. From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you can, take the time to pick your own apples. It makes the experience a family affair.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 1.24.57 PM

An Apple Crisp a la Mode.

(NOTE: This same recipe is provided twice, below. The first is given in standard U.S. cups and ounces and the second is given in weights, thanks to Recipe Editor, Betsy Gozzi, of the Ketchum Food Studio in San Francisco.)

Apple Crisp

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup rolled oats
4 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, or add an additional 1/4 cup of oats

Preparation:

Peel, core and chop the apples; toss in a bowl with lemon juice. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; add to the apples and toss to combine.

In another bowl combine flour, sugar and oats. Cut butter into 8 small pieces, and cut butter into flour with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly. Stir in the chopped nuts.

Butter a 9-inch square baking dish. Spread apple mixture in bottom of baking dish then sprinkle with flour mixture. Bake at 375° for 30 to 45 minutes, or until apples are tender and topping is lightly browned.

Serve the crisp warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Apple Crisp

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients:

1.3 Kg tart apples, such as Granny Smith
30 grams lemon juice
100 grams light brown sugar, packed
1 gram ground cinnamon
1 gram ground nutmeg
30 grams all-purpose flour
58 grams granulated sugar
24 grams rolled oats
57 grams cold butter (1/2 stick)
58 grams chopped walnuts or pecans, or add an additional 20 grams of oats

Preparation:

Peel, core and chop the apples; toss in a bowl with lemon juice. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; add to the apples and toss to combine.

In another bowl combine flour, sugar and oats. Cut butter into 8 small pieces, and cut butter into flour with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly. Stir in the chopped nuts.

Butter a 9-inch square baking dish. Spread apple mixture in bottom of baking dish then sprinkle with flour mixture. Bake at 190°C for 30 to 45 minutes, or until apples are tender and topping is lightly browned.

Serve the crisp warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

“Fake Fish”…And It Was Summer Time!

When I was a child, and then a girl, my first feeling that summer had begun started when my mother brought to table a “special” meal, typically served cold: we used to call it “Fake Fish” because of its shape but it was simply a meatloaf of potatoes and canned tuna fish. As it had to be served cool, my mother used to prepare it only during summertime. So, during the winter, my brother and I almost forgot how good it was.

We liked it so much that we ate it quickly and in excessive amounts so that in a few minutes the entire dish was empty. We still love it. During summertime, Fake Fish was often present on the table and when the season was winding down, Fake Fish slowly disappeared from our lunches….with great sadness for me!

Comfort food from Italy: Fake Fish. Source: Giallo Zafferano

Comfort food from Italy: Fake Fish. Source: Giallo Zafferano

Here is my mother’s Fake Fish recipe. I hope it makes happy memories for you at any time of the year.

[Read more…]

In Your Hands

Cathy says…"Do you really want to try a sample of something that has been sitting exposed to critters large and small for days (weeks? months?) in the heat?". Well, maybe you do not need to fly to Istanbul to get dirty.

Study shows that 88 % kids outside schools, fast food restaurants and in the streets have faeces in their hands including escherichia choli and other that may cause diarrhoea and infectious diseases. But we are not alone. Results are consistent all over the world. A study conducted by the Imperial College experts in England show that less than half of adults wash their hands after going to the toilet. More than 3 million kids lives around the world could be saved every year just by washing hands with soap. So, other than restraining from buying food in the Istanbul markets… don’t forget to wash your hands (and teach your kids) at home or at school.

Butter Boy: The New Man in My Life

“I have a confession to make.  I’m not quite sure how to say this, so I’m just going to say it…I’ve found someone new.  No, no…it isn’t you, it’s me.  Over the course of our long relationship, you’ve been good.  You always got the job done and for that, I am grateful.  But let’s be honest…you’re messy.  At the beginning you were fresh and new and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on you, but after awhile, you just let yourself go.  It’s time for me to move on to bigger and better things.  I’ve found someone who is cuter, more efficient and, most importantly, cleaner.  And that someone is…Butter Boy.”

 

You have just read the break-up letter I wrote to the stick of butter currently wedged in my fridge door.  It’s not just any stick of butter, though…it’s that random stick that is reserved solely for buttering corn.  You know what I’m talking about.  That smashed down, half-melted then re-formed stick that still has the impression of corn on the top and maybe even a kernel or two still leftover from the family barbecue last weekend.  Like many of you, I would drag that same stick of butter out every time we had corn on the cob.  And each time I did, I would think to myself, “there has to be an easier way to butter corn on the cob.”

 

After many sleepless nights and lots of prayers, my wish came true.  As I was strolling the produce aisle of my local grocery store, I had a chance encounter with Butter Boy.  His package called to me: “I Butter Corn!  Glides easily onto warm corn on the cob and holds and dispenses ½ stick of butter.”  I picked up the package and could’ve sworn I heard angels singing Halleluiah!  Reality set in when I realized it was a little old lady behind me asking if I was going to buy this because it was really just an infomercial trap.  How dare you relegate Butter Boy to the ranks of such products as the Eggwave or Salad Fingers?  No way…as far as I’m concerned, they’re not even in the same league.  And with that, Butter Boy found himself a front row seat in my cart.

 

When I got him home, I realized he was dressed for any occasion.  His red and white, picnic tablecloth-like kerchief can easily go from an intimate, special occasion meal to a casual family barbecue.  A man ready for anything…I like that.  I put the half stick of butter in and proceeded to butter the corn on the cob that I bought specifically to test this product.  Just push up as much butter as you need, swipe it on the corn and you’re done.  In a word: perfection.  The corn was evenly buttered and there was no mess.  He’s not just eye candy…he actually works!

 

The sting of breaking up with the traditional butter stick is still with me, but I know in time that Butter Boy will make that melt away into a summer full of bliss…and perfectly buttered corn.

 

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans Makes News!

Recently, my Chicago cooking club, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans, was asked to be interviewed for an article in a local suburban lifestyle magazine called Make it Better about our favorite appliances.  It was great fun, as we met at one member’s home and not only did the interview and photo shoot, but made dinner together, finally sitting down with the reporter and photographer to a feast of butternut squash soup, homemade parmesan crackers and grilled asparagus.  We three food bloggers also did guest posts on Make It Better’s Web site (post to follow).  Our club is only eight people, but we have a lot of fun together, sharing recipes, food experiences, insider tips on food sources and trends.  If you want to start a cooking club of your own, feel free to email me or see earlier post here on Appetite.com.  Bon appetit!

Apr 2010  |  By Laura Hine  | 

Mama’s Gotta Have It – Small Appliance Must-Haves for Busy Cooks

TAGS: May 2010 magazine, kitchen appliances, mixer, immersion blender

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans—could there be a more perfect group of foodies to ask about their favorite small appliances?

These women cook, blog, talk and enjoy food.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans and their favorite appliances

Once a month they get together to cook a themed meal and swap recipes. Southeast Asian? They’re on the web to get ingredients rarely seen outside of Thailand. Italian? Amy Miller used to live in Italy, so when she talks about Crostini di Fegatini di Pollo, you need to write down the recipe.

And when they talk appliances, they know what they can’t live without.

Coffeemaker? Of course. And they have opinions about French presses and percolators, but what about those small appliances you’ve been thinking about getting (or hinting about for Mother’s Day)? Here are the ones worth the big splurge.

Stand Mixer
The passion flows when we talk stand mixers. Amy, Liz Barrett and Tina Kalil all love their KitchenAids.

“You could drive a car with the motor in that thing,” says Barrett, who writes the food blog lazycookcrazycook.com. She uses her mixer, which she calls “Bella,” for bread dough, cakes and even homemade marshmallows. Before she got hers, she polled her friends on Facebook to decide which color she should get, and blue won out.

Given that Kalil has had her mixer for 15 years, she agrees that thinking long and hard about the color is a good idea—hers is also blue. “I use it mostly for baking, but also use it for egg whites and whipped cream," she says. Kalil, who lives in Evanston with her husband and three children, uses hers when she entertains, but also when cooking with her children.

Miller loves her new KitchenAid, but also mentions her Cuisinart Mini Prep as a favorite. She uses it to mince everything from garlic to almonds. She then writes about her creations at worldplates.wordpress.com.

“I’ve even pureed cooked chicken breast to almost a paste that I then mixed with porcini mushrooms and piped into penne,” she says. Yum.

Immersion Blender
Mara Rosenbloom, who lives in Hoffman Estates and writes the blog imadedinner.net, and her mother, Mimi Kravits of Evanston, are dedicated to their immersion blenders.

“I got all the appliances for my wedding,” says Rosenbloom, talking about her recent nuptials. “Slow cooker, Cuisinart, rice steamer; I haven’t used the big stuff all that much, but I love my immersion blender.” She uses it for soups, sauces, even frittatas. It purees in the pot or bowl that you’re already using and then it’s an easy cleanup.

The other immersion blender fan, Kravits, has always loved to cook and passed her skills onto her children. She has one daughter—Rosenbloom— who’s a teacher and food blogger and another who’s a professional pastry chef.

So what are these women lacking?

“If I could find an appliance that would clean up, I’d buy it in a second,” says Barrett.

Head to What’s Cooking to find recipes by the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans.

See Ya, Winter! Thanks for the Edible Inspirations!

We decided to pay one final tribute to Winter (only FOUR days til Spring officially arrives!) with our two VERY different Winter favorites. The Lazy Cook’s recipe involves a squash and a microwave (freaking me out for sure, as I envisioned a giant squash bomb exploding out of the microwave, across my kitchen), while I, the Crazy Cook, went with big, fluffy white mounds of homemade marshmallow rolled in flaky coconut — representing pristine drifts of pure winter snow. So really, you get your vegetables and your dessert all in one little video! Enjoy.

On an empty (Cuban) plate…

This year we decided to spent Christmas and New Year in Cuba. We choose several Melia hotels in Bradero, Cayo Santa Maria (an amazingly beautiful key) and Havana. All five-star resort hotels, all included. We flew by Cubana Airlines (that even if they do not announce it like that it’s a low cost carrier, no prior seat reservations, no choices of the (unedible) food. At the time of eating we faced an unexpected problem that we have never considered… Food.

The first problem was lack of. One day you have salads, three days you do not. Next morning whole bread toast that magically dissapeared for the following days. As cuban regulations make it mandatory for international hotels to buy directly, their supply chain is a chaos, hence their instability.

Second, choices. Being an insland and facing the blockade and lack of funds, salads, for example, were scarce everywhere. Fruit selection was veerrryyy short. Ice cream, was, mostly everywhere, softy. No not the Mc.Donalds like machine, irt was softy because it melted…

Third: Forget going on your own. No supermarkets, regulated chains of restaurants, not much choices.

So when we flew to Mexico for a couple of days, all the family wanted was… a good meal.

More on Cuban food in another posting soon…

How to Start a Food Club

Once upon a time there were seven women in Chicago who loved food and cooking.  Of the seven, each only knew one other in the group, until one fateful evening in October, at a restaurant called Sola on the North Side of Chicago.  They met for dinner and talked and talked for hours about food, recipes, cookbooks, chefs, restaurants, the Food Network, grocery stores and specialty markets, cooking and baking techniques, TV food shows, food magazines, cooking equipment, cookware shops – oh, they were in heaven!  It was ALL anyone wanted to talk about! 

And now we are the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans, meeting every eight weeks at one of our homes to cook, eat, drink, laugh and talk about food.  While yours truly (who hosted the inaugural gathering at my home on Dec. 3) forgot to take pictures this time, I will dutifully capture the food fabulosity at our next gathering.
In case you would like to start your own foodie club, let me share some handy tips:
 
1) Gather a group.  Good rule of thumb – keep it smallish at first (or forever).   Four to six, maybe seven people is ideal.  That number fits around a table or in a living room easily, and you net a dish / course for each person, so consider that.
 
2) Decide on your focus.  What’s your group’s passion?  Dining out and trying new restaurants?  Cooking?  Ethnic food?  Wine and/or beer / spirits?  Hamburgers? Specific chefs or cookbook authors?   Make sure everyone’s on the same page.  The Sisterhood is all about cooking and entertaining – ethnic, organic, ingredient-based – whatev – we all LOVE to cook and entertain. 
Each volunteer host gets to decide the theme.  My theme was winter veg and our menu included: 
* kale and white bean soup with sausage
* homemade beet ravioli with poppy seed butter
* chicken in green mole with pumpkin seeds
* butternut, leek and apple casserole
* winter salad of arugula, grapefruit, red onion, fennel and avocado
Our next theme is a little more challenging – the foods of Southeast Asia (anyone have a killer recipe from East Timor?)
 
3) Pick a name.  Preferably something that makes you laugh (In my "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans?"  Yeah, that came to me one day while driving, and I said to myself, "We need a name!").  A name somehow connotes "official-ness" to the group and makes it more real.
 
4) Figure out a schedule.  We meet once every eight weeks or so.  With busy schedules, we decided any more frequent just wasn’t going to be realistic. 
 
5) Establish a new member policy.  Are you going to have an open-invitation policy where anyone can join, or do you want to limit the group in size?  We’ve decided that if a "charter member" wants to invite someone to join, they have to propose that person to the group before extending the invitation.  While at first we thought we were being snobs, I have to say – it’s bestowed an element of exclusivity to us, as we have one new member already who was very happy to have "made the cut!"  We’re hot stuff already! 
 
6) Decide if you’ll keep records or share recipes.  The Sisterhood has set up a fancy recipe-sharing Website, so we all give our recipes to the one computer brainiac in the group, who uploads them and we can all go there and print them out.  We’re sowing the seeds for a best-selling cookbook, we’re sure of it!  So if you’re doing restaurants or wines, determine how you’ll share information, tips, whatever with members, so people have a tangible connection and benefit.
 
Anyway – this club is a lot of fun and a great indulgence to spend time researching ingredients and recipes and trying new things, and most of all – sipping, sampling and savoring a great meal together!  Try it, you’ll like it!

There was Once an Apple Pie. . .

My mom made a mean apple pie, with a light flaky crust brimming with cinnamon-scented apples. I have her crust recipe, but I’ve been reluctant to try it because it calls for hydrogenated vegetable shortening, which cooks and dieticians now look at cross-eyed. It also has a touch of vinegar, which, along with lemon juice, is an old stand-by for producing a flaky crust. (I’ve heard that vodka has the same effect—if not on the crust, at least on the cook!) Butter gives a great flavor but doesn’t give as flaky a crust. So I compromised, and used half lard and half butter. Ideally, the lard used in pie crust should be leaf lard, the fat from around the pig’s kidneys, renowned for giving a delicate texture to pastry. But the blocks of lard you find at the supermarket are rendered from back fat, which meant I had to buy unprocessed kidney fat and render my own (but that’s a story for another day!). I was so happy with the results that I’m looking forward to cherry pie, peach pie, even rhubarb pie. But nothing smells as wonderful as an apple pie, hot from the oven—and nothing disappears faster!