Friday, March 27, 2015

STACK OF GOODNESS

FALL IS TYPICALLY the season for epic cookbooks -- cookbooks written by the talented and famous -- books that every home chef wants in their library. But if you ask me, the releases this Spring are going to be hard to beat. The last few weeks have been like Christmas at my house.
"1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die" followed by "Gluten-Free Flour Power," "Passion for Pizza" and "The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook" from America's Test Kitchen.
I've not had any of these books long enough to cook through the pages, but I've spent enough time with them to know that they are not going out on loan anytime soon.
"The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook" ($29.95)
This incredible book is the new bible for vegetarians. It's packed with fresh twists and tweaks of recipes you may have seen before -- but they're re-imagined, fresher, lighter and incorporating a greater range of flavors. I love that it embraces a broad range of ethnic flavor combos -- the Israeli Shakshuka recipe is spot-on delicious and such a great reminder that satisfying comfort does not need to be centered around meat -- nor loaded with fat. Baked Barley with Porcini, Stuffed Naan, Roasted Butternut Sqush Salad wwith Za'atar and Parsley, Quionoa Patties with Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes -- to name a few.
"1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die" ($24.95, Workman)
Anyone who loves food and loves to travel will love the adventure found inside the covers of this book. It's a feast in the hand -- and so much fun to thumb through in anticipation of a trip to just about anywhere. I love how this book celebrates what we put in our mouths, and inspires us to eat better. The book is packed with pictures and includes specific details on where to go to taste great examples of the dishes
"Gluten-Free Flour Power" ($35, Norton)
For the gluten-free cook or baker, this is yet another bible to add to your library. Even though there's a picture of a cake on the cover, the book consists of an entire menu of recipes, from gnocchi to crackers to cookies. Recipes are centered around some flour mixes that are used throughout the book.This book is the one forthose who love pictures of food. The other must-have in this category is the America's Test Kitchen title "How Can It Be Gluten-Free," also released this March.
"Passion for Pizza" ($29.95, Surrey)
This really fun book takes readers on a taste-tour of the best pizzerias in the world, giving mouthwatering descriptions of such divine and inspired pies as squash blossom and goat cheese, and potato, chorizo, quail egg. The book shares the personalities, flavors and traditions of one of America's favorite foods. The last half of the book is packed with recipes for doughs, sauces and toppings.
 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SAUCE TIP

Photo courtesy Larry's Sauces website.
WHEN IT COMES to bottled sauces, I am not a fan. I have tried hundreds upon hundreds of sauces -- way too many to count. They're supposed to be a meal shortcut, but most are are what I call a mistake in a jar. They're out of balance, sorely in need of doctoring in some way or another.
That said, every now and then, I taste a sauce that is terrific -- so delicious straight out of the jar that I think everyone needs to know about it. That's the case with Larry's Southwestern Sauces, a trio of Mexican-style sauces that are the mastermind of Larry Sombke, an author and chef. His sauces taste like something a great Mexican chef labored over for hours in the kitchen. They aren't too salty, too garlicky, too hot, too bold. The flavors are perfectly balanced, authentic and just plain perfect.  Add chicken to the Mole Sauce and it's dinner. Dump some Ranchero Sauce over tortillas and eggs and it's breakfast. Find Larry's sauces online at Amazon. A 3-pack is $17.95.


Monday, March 16, 2015

OIL DISCOVERY


MOST OF THE OIL I use in my kitchen comes from either olives, rapeseed or sesame seeds, but in the last few weeks, I've encountered some very interesting -- and delicious -- oils from alternative sources that deserve a much closer look.
The most amazing and new-to-me are a pair of oils from Stoger in Austria pressed from pumpkin seeds and cherry seeds. These are nothing short of amazing. They are packed with unexpected flavor; fruity yet nutty. These unique finish oils are stunning on top of a bowl of creamy cauliflower soup. The company also presses oil from chile seeds, tomato seeds and hazelnuts. The oils are not cheap; the cherry oil is $29, the pumpkin seed is $15. www.stogeroil.com 
Second in line, and a lot less expensive, are the line of Avocare avocado oils. These are not quite so unusual or bold, but the silky, buttery avocado essence makes for a gorgeous oil. It has a high smoke point, but it's so delicious that it seems a shame to heat it. The oil is extra virgin, cold pressed and unrefined. The line includes oils flavored with basil, chipotle and garlic, but the natural is my favorite as it allows the natural flavor of the oil to shine. These oils are $13.99 for 500 ml.
Last up is Sioma, a super interesting, bright red oil  pressed from red palm fruit. It comes from Ecuador. The oil tastes just like vegetable oil -- rather non-descript -- but it's rich in vitamins A and E --it has 300 times more beta carotene than tomatoes. It has no trans fatty acids and is cholesterol-free, which makes it a perfect kitchen workhorse. The oil is $14 online at www.siomaredpalmoil.com  

Friday, March 13, 2015

FEAR OF ANCHOVIES


 

OK, SO MAYBE these anchovies look gross. But they aren't. Really! Wild Planet, an awesome company known for packaging the tastiest sustainable fish you'll ever encounter, has just introduced anchovies to it's lineup. The anchovies are white, generously sized and really great straight out of the tin. They have an umami kick that's lightly salty and just a touch fishy. Those who are wrinkling their noses should take note: That tuna sandwich you ate had more fish-flavored punch than these silvery fish. Besides adding great flavor to all kinds of foods, these anchovies are also a nutritional powerhouse, providing lots of omegas, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. They come packed in oil or packed in water. Find them at gourmet and natural markets or online at www.wildplanetfoods.com  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

CIAO CHAIR

CHECK THIS OUT -- it's a Ciao Baby -- The Portable High Chair, what I call a perfect solution for grandparents, aunts, people who host a lot of parties -- or even parents who are always on the go. The high chair is designed like a sturdy adult chair, with a wide base and thick canvas covering, but it's outfitted with belts and an adjustable, plastic-covered tray that make it perfect for little ones.
My chair-tester wasn't exactly thrilled that the thick straps actually work -- she could not stand up when she wanted to -- but the water-bottle sized holder was an instant hit.
The chairs are sold via Camping World and REI websites or via www.theportablehighchair.com. The chairs can even be personalized with collegiate team logos (although not many of the CA colleges are on the list). The chairs are $68; $99 with a team logo. Shipping is $9.99.
 

Friday, February 27, 2015

FIG FAN ALERT


THOSE WHO LOVE figs probably have a few favorite spreads tucked away already. But if you spot these Orchard Choice California Fig Spread from Valley Fig Growers, don't pass up a chance to try them. They come in a range of flavors and have exactly the right level of sweetness. The added orange and balsamic vinegar and pepper are inspired. They play very well with the flavor of the figs, and pull the spread directly onto the cheese plate. Love these. They're $5.49 per jar if you get at least 3 (plus shipping.) Find them online at http://shop.valleyfig.com/Organic-Mission-Fig-Spread/p/VFG-309455&c=ValleyFig@Spreads