Thursday, August 25, 2005

Good News in the School Cafeteria

Ever since I saw the "Supersize Me" documentary I have been on the lookout for information regarding the processed and junk food industries subsidizing school cafeterias. The quality of meals was one of the main questions I asked when looking for a school choice for my child.

I saw the following article in the New York Times, it gave me some hope, both for school cafeteria quality and for the whole Eat Local movement and small family farm future.

Check it out here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Herbs and Dessert

Hmm, am I seeing a culinary trend or have I just been blind to a good thing all this time?

This is another note on the theme of using traditionally savory herbs in sweet dishes. Just got a recipe email from Williams-Sonoma, of course pushing one of their products, Fig Jam. Goat Cheese Crepes with Fig Jam is the dish which can be served as a brunch item or dessert. The recipe calls for thyme, however, in the crepe batter, and a parsley garnish. Though, I would suspect you would omit the parsley garnish for a dessert service of this and garnish with a fresh fig, or a curl of lemon zest, etc.

I think I need to explore this idea in depth. Ever since the "Crumble Awakening," I keep seeing new ways to put herbs into dessert. Earlier this year (Valentine's Day) I was treated to heavenly Rosemary Caramels (and Lavendar and Saffron as well) from Christopher Elbow, and Vosges Exotic Caramels. I am all for this new place for herbs. Lavendar ice cream, anyone?

Just a note on the Christopher Elbow chocolates ... these are stunningly gorgeous. Almost too pretty to eat. But definitely eat them.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Eat Local 2: Herbs and Berries

As always, I am excited to find surprises in our weekly bundle. The first few weeks offer a rare treat, fresh berries, then the weather gets too hot and the tomatoes take over.

This year, the first couple weeks have yielded berries. Large, delicious and juicy blackberries. Small, deep red and flavorful strawberries. Somehow the flavor is particularly good in the locally grown berries. This is especially true of strawberries, which look tiny and deformed compared to the huge, unrealistically perfect ones in the plastic cartons at the store. Yet, one tiny berry contains more flavor than five of the huge ones.

It's summer, and nothing beats a fruit cobbler for summertime, warm, with vanilla ice cream on the side. For the blackberries, I stumbled onto a great recipe that was a leap of faith the first time around. It is Tyler Florence's version of a blackberry crumble. All the ingredients are the usual suspects except for the addition of fresh rosemary. This is normally an herb I associate with roast meat, chicken or pork. But, I gave it a shot. It was amazing. The rosemary adds a depth to the crumble that accents the flavor the berries and gives the dish a character that elevates it from a simple fruit crumble to something you would pay for in a restaurant.

It makes me wonder. What other discoveries await when you start blurring the lines on savory herbs and sweet dishes? Or vice versa. The Todd English August Tomato Tart actually uses mint along with Rosemary and Basil. Both Vosges Chocolates and Christopher Elbow chocolates offer Rosemary Caramels. Vosges has an exotic caramel collection that is amazing in its variety and subtlety. But then, we are getting into the Exotic Chocolate realm now, and THAT is a whole other post.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Cause for Celebration

Somewhere in Culinary Heaven, Julia Child is smiling. Down here on earth, so am I.
Atkins Nutritionals, the former heavyweight champion of the low-carb diet business, filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday.

A few years ago, we used to visit the Italian market store each weekend. Fresh fava beans and Pecorino in spring, baby artichokes, imported pasta, good olive oil. Pure gastronomic delight. No trip was complete until we stocked up on Kalamata olives for tapenade and made a stop next door to buy fresh artisan bread. The two shops shared an open doorway and operated as a team. You could smell the aroma of fresh bread baking while you shopped. You could just buy a hunk of aged gouda and some crusty bread and have a feast on the sidewalk in spring.

Then the dark day came. A note on the bread store's window simply said, "Closed due to lack of business from Atkins diet."

I was crushed. I longed for the capital to buy the bread store and make my own bread, profits and Atkins be damned. The Italian market bought the space to expand and uses the ovens for pizza. The bread store is no more still. But, finally, retribution. Sanity.

Celebrate. Go buy fresh bread.

A little link to an article on the joy of Heirloom Tomatoes from my last blog:
You Think You've Got Tomatoes