Friday, March 6, 2009

This Doggy Bag’s For You

by Millicent K. Brody

Hey, you have to be nice these days. There are a lot more folks who absolutely cannot do the running and chasing they were accustomed to doing at this time last year. It’s not that they don’t want to be out there shopping, dining, and spending, they simply can’t. And the reason is also simple: They can’t afford to.

Recently, we had the occasion to dine with dear friends, who had already given us the heads-up that they were not going to their usual haunts.

“Not a problem,” I replied. “We can go wherever you’d like. Just let us know how you’d like us to dress.”

“Absolutely casual,” my friend said. “We’re going to our favorite pizza place. You’ll love it.”

“Hey, I can always eat a slice of great pizza,” I replied. To which they said, “This is the best!”

Once buckled into the car, my friend’s husband offered an alternative. “Listen guys,” when we go to this particular restaurant, we usually share a large pizza and one entree.”

Catching on, I said. “Oh, I could never eat half of a large pizza and an entree. No, we’ll just get a pizza, and in fact....we’ll order the medium size.”

Expecting the restaurant to be mobbed, we were surprised to find a plethora of empty tables, and immediate excellent service.

“What’ll it be?” asked the friendly waitress.

“We’ll share a Caesar salad, and have a medium-size pizza, half with pepperoni, and the other half with extra cheese,” said my husband. And I’ll have a glass of white wine. Do you have Pinot Grigio?

“Of course,” said our server, and she mentioned one of the finer brands. To which my husband replied: “The house wine will be fine.”

With that, the waitress offered another alternative. “Oh, Caesar salads come with an entree, would you like to change your order?”

Being a lover of good chicken parmigiana, I placed my order. My husband opted for the chicken francaise. Our friends selected chicken parmigiana with eggplant.
Within minutes, we each received Caesar salads that consumed the entire plate.

Again, not being hefty eaters, we could only finish a couple of bites, when my friend turned to the server and said, “Listen, I really can’t finish my salad. May have a small box? I’ll take the rest home." Then, looking over at my husband, she added, “If you’re not going to finish your salad, I’ll take yours as well....and then to me, “Should I ask her to wrap yours too?”

“Of course,” I said. “Whatever you’d like.”

Not only did they wrap the salads, they wrapped a good portion of my dinner as well as my husband’s dinner, and of course whatever remained on their plates.
In these times, you do what you have to do. The good news is they had dinner for a couple of extra nights, and they did not have to visit a supermarket. The other good news? The full glass of white wine cost a mere $3.99.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In the Loveless Kitchen

By Judith Garfield

Cookbooks…highbrow, lowbrow, it doesn’t matter. I won’t remember much anyway. All those recipes. So little interest. Where’s the fun?

In The Loveless Cookbook I plan to include a joke with every recipe. Like this:

Surprisingly, Julius Caesar preferred ranch.

For those of us who hate to cook, it helps to laugh while cooking or cook while laughing. Either way, the slicing and dicing become a little less tedious the more cheerful we are. What also helps is proper cooking equipment, like a great set of knives.

What doesn’t help are questionable kitchen tools. Like that thankless garlic press. Chef Anthony Bourdain calls it an abomination. Alton Brown, of Iron Chef, calls it a uni-tasker. Not worth the space it occupies in the utensil drawer. I call it, well, have you ever tried to clean one? Enough said.

Using the knife skills you will learn in chapter two of my book, (The Loveless Cook Cuts Up) you will be ready to mince your garlic. Then, you can try this recipe for the best Caesar dressing you will ever taste, courtesy of my friend M.

3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tube of anchovy paste
1/2 lemon
splash of white vinegar
raw egg
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in bowl. Whisk in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Although foreign to your nature, a garnish of grated parmesan cheese and pimentos look impressive.

Pour over cold crisp romaine. Be thankful some loveless cook invented salad in a bag and use it. Serve with pan-seared pork tenderloin and roasted sweet potatoes. Look for these recipes in my book. Along with this.

Wife: The two things I cook best are meat loaf and apple pie.
Husband: Which is this?

Are you a loveless cook? Enter your favorite loveless recipe in our Recipe Contest for a chance to win dinner for two at a New Jersey restaurant!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Port and Poetry

By Maureen C. Petrosky

Please stop being so cold outside! I’m not sure who that scream was for, I just couldn’t keep it inside any longer. Since these dreadful wintry days insist on sticking around, I’ve been determined to make the best of them. So I went to basement--not to hide, that’s where we keep the wine.

There are many bottles we keep saving with hopes of uncorking on a special occasion or pouring after a long day. Port usually falls in that category for us. Since a little goes such a long way we usually don’t open a bottle unless we have friends to share with (or I’m doing a review). Since this winter is pushing me to the edge, I thought we could use a little warming from a sassy new bottle of Warre’s OTIMA Port. The modern packaging is clearly meant for a new audience, and frankly it’s about time! Port seems to be one of those styles of wine that just seems to be stuck in the past, but this little sexpot is sure to turn heads and with one sip convert cynics to the rich and alluring world of Port wine. The OTIMA can be found in 10 or 20-year-old versions.

The 10-year-old Tawny Port is sleek and slight in body in comparison to cloying, heavy-handed ports. The 20-year-old Tawny is a bit more serious, with rich body and a super seductive finish. These two will be easy to spot on the shelves among their peers; that is, if they aren’t already sold out.

Even Better:
Sip your Port as you swoon over the pages of Angels, Thieves and Winemakers, published by Press 53. Author Joe Mills’ compilation of wine poems is a soothing and sensual read to pair with Port. I guarantee flipping through the pages while swirling a glass of Port will help make the last of these winter nights much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On the Trail of Brandywine Valley Wineries

By Brianne Harrison

New Jersey and its surrounding environs are not exactly known as a wine-producing Mecca. Mention local wineries, and what you’ll typically get is a smirk or a snide comment. Which is too bad, really, because there are some beautiful wineries with decent wines sprinkled throughout the area. Anyone who wants to explore some of them and sample their offerings should check out Barrels on the Brandywine, an annual event that kicked off last weekend in which the seven wineries of the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail throw open their cellar doors to wine aficionados and curious locals alike.

Barrels on the Brandywine, which is being held every weekend throughout March, is a great opportunity to learn about the local wineries, explore their cellars and grounds, and enjoy some of the entertainment and food on offer. This year’s attendees can try some local, organic cheeseburgers, sausages, and cheeses while viewing artwork from local artists at Paradocx Vineyard, pick up some of Tim and Melissa’s famous gumbo at Twin Brook Winery, or, if the weather holds out, pack a picnic to eat on the grounds of Penns Woods Winery. Most of the wineries are featuring tastings of premium wines or debuting new bottles, and Chaddsford Winery is offering discounts on purchases of three, six, and 12 bottles.

A $25 passport is an all-access pass to the participating wineries. The BVWT wineries participating this year are Black Walnut Winery, Chaddsford Winery, Kreutz Creek Vineyards, Paradocx Vineyard, Penns Woods Vineyard, Stargazers Vineyard, and Twin Brook Winery. Passports are only available for sale online until March 7. To purchase a passport, either visit one of the participating wineries or go to Sante!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cook Up a Cookbook: No Culinary School or Publisher Required

By Pat Tanner

When Lorraine Bodger’s kit for creating your own cookbook arrived on my doorstep, I was prepared to scoff. In these days of simplified desktop publishing, I reasoned, who couldn’t put together a binder or spiral bound book of favorite family recipes? But once I delved into the box, I began to appreciate that it takes a bit more thought, organization, time, and commitment than most of us realize - and that some well-thought-out professional advice goes a long way towards producing the best version of whatever cookbook may be in floating around in our heads.

Ms. Bodger both inspires (“Find Your Own Food Personality”) and dispenses practical advice. No one, after all, is equally adept at all the tasks involved: collecting, test-driving, and rewriting recipes (including family stories); choosing a format (notebook, scrapbook, bound book); and designing attractive pages. She even includes cogent directions for taking great photos of food.

Practical advice for organizing, personalizing, preserving, and sharing recipes is shared in a 64-page booklet. There are chapters on how best to collect the recipes (by email, over the phone, in person, or by snail mail), testing (and re-testing) the recipes so they are failsafe, rewriting them “like a pro,” and producing a personalized final product.

The kit also comes with Chef’s Tips cards listing kitchen shortcuts, ingredient substitutions, yields, food storage guidelines, and other useful info. There are sheets of colorful stickers for “garnishing” your pages, but even these are well thought out, with labels like “Perfect for Parties”, “Kid Tested”, and “Grandpa’s Favorite.”

There is just one component of the kit that I do still scoff at: a paper chef’s toque that declares the wearer a “Culinary Genius.”

“Cook Up a Cookbook: Create Your Own Recipe Book From Scratch” (Potter Style, 2008, $21.95)