Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fancy Food Show 2009

I got this letter in my e mail from a reader....

PLEASE answer this online and not via e mail.

Do you use Crisco for frying?

Do raisins belong in a chicken salad?

Which mayo is better Dukes or Hellman's?

While I could certainly give an answer to the first two I had never heard of Dukes, until today at the Fancy Food Show in NY.

So reader stay tuned til the end of this column and I will address your questions, but first a few Fancy Food Show paragraphs.

I think it is time to change the name of this show, Fancy is no longer what it is about. In the past the introduction of new products was often an exotic show. To be able to get things from around the world was awesome, and sometimes it still is, but the majority of crap at this show is neither fancy, nor terribly good.

Do we need another potato chip? Puffed or otherwise?

Do we need 100 new jams that all taste of either corn syrup or too much sugar?

Do we need yet another BBQ sauce that tastes like Kraft?

Do we need another soft drink?

The answer is no, we don't. This show has become more about junk food than products used by Chefs. In order to find the gems I had to work the show for 3 days and at times I felt like a pig pursuing truffles. There were so few for all the sniffing around I did.

There are however some good things out there, and those I want to tell you about.

I have had a lot of truffle oil over the years but the best I have tasted was made by FungusAmongus the flavor is light but true and used as a finishing oil for a risotto...you are talking great food. Actually everything in the product line I tasted was top quality.

Speaking of truffles I rolled my eyes at Susan Rice truffled popcorn, but my eye roll was premature.
This is one of the most perfect snacks I have ever had, a perfect pairing, if you see it in an upscale market, grab it.

I love my friends at Aux Delices and both their white and black truffle butter are absolutely hands down the best. The won best of show last year and they deserved it. I tried a lot of truffle butter and some of it was very good, but no one can beat them.

I had some fun with the ladies at Nueske's today, Wisconsin ladies can be a hoot. Their bacon took an award this year and it was well deserved. It is hands down some of the best bacon I have ever had in my life. Apple wood smoked and just the right balance of fat and lean.

After 3 days I had Fancy Food Fatigue and did not want to taste further, but I am glad I did. Redwood Hill Farm is making an awesome Raw Milk Feta, it is aged for 60 days so it is a much mellower taste than the fresh feta. This is perfect grated onto a bit of toasted bread that has been rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and served with figs and Malbec. I can state this with assurance because that was my dinner tonight along with a nice big salad. I am a happy camper now.

And onto the questions.....

I would use Crisco for nothing. Not a product I like. The taste can ruin delicate foods and make fried ones greasy. I like peanut oil for frying, but the truth is I very rarely fry food, so something better could be out there. Many southern cooks and grandmothers like bacon fat, and it can be pretty good. For potatoes nothing beats duck or goose fat.

As far as raisins in a chicken salad, I suppose if you like raisins then you should put them in your chicken salad. It was all the rage for a very short time when I was in Minneapolis as a youth. Someone put raisins in her chicken salad at a church pot luck, and then my friend Scott's mother used them. Back then grapes were not available year round and among the pot luck set this was considered 'very creative'. Personally I don't like them in much of anything and think that outside of Moroccan food they should never be inflicted upon guests.

Duke's is what ties this whole thing together. Before the e mail I had never heard of it. I tend to make my own for most foods, certainly when I cater I make it. Though they have no distributor yet Duke's was at the food show. Duke's beats the hell out of Hellman's. Hellman's contains sugar and you can taste it, it gives it that slight miracle whip thing. Duke's has no sugar and a bit more tang. If I were just using it on a sandwich or something at home...Duke's.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NY BBQ Festival and Elaine Stritch in Full Monty

To go from vegetables and greens to blocks filled with the smell of roasted pork and beef was a big change for me. I must admit the smell was intoxicating and I wanted to taste everything. I came close to doing so.

We have to mention Blue Smoke and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que for being willing to put their goods alongside the big boys of BBQ. Unfortunately it only highlighted that what we accept in NY is a pale imitation of the real thing.

Ubons is something special, Now they do serve it with a red sauce which is not something I usually enjoy but the one they make is vinegary and spicy, not sweet and cloying like the sauces with a corn syrup base. The real secret of Ubons is the rub. It contains a LOT of citrus with just the right amount of everything else and their Boston Butt is lightly smoky, falling apart tender and succulent beyond words, even without the sauce. Leslie and her mother were so kind and gave me a cup of the rub to take home.

Best in Show was Ed Mitchell of The Pit this is worth a trip to North Carolina. No culinary school for this master of the BBQ, he learned from his mother. As a kid he had no sisters and he was forced into the kitchen. Now grateful for the training he knows what to do with a hog.

The whole pig is pulled right off the BBQ and the skin set aside to go back on the BBQ to dry and crisp. The sauce is vinegar based and not at all sweet, just enough spice to tickle your taste buds. The proper way to make a sandwich is plenty of pulled meat, some crispy skin and Cole slaw. I was truly in BBQ heaven.

Comatose I packed some prunes and almond in my back pack after the festival was over and got on the train to New Jersey for the opening night of Full Monty with Elaine Stritch.

As expected Stritch makes magic doing a real character. Anyone in the tri state area...it's worth the trip.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What I've been eating

I've gotten a few e mail complaining about the lack of new recipes and the truth is that I have barely been cooking.

Dinner these days has been Arugula, probably more than anything else. It's wonderful spiciness is in the markets and growing right outside my bedroom window and I have been powerless to resist a salad and just a bit of something with it.

For lunch I have had a lot of Asian noodles in broth, or peanut sauce with a breakfast of a duck egg and some rye toast I have not been eating foods exciting to write about. But to me the first plate of stone cherries of the season holds more allure than a steak or even a pasta at present.

I've been recording and cataloguing recipes from my travels and diary so that I can remember how to make all the things I have collected over the decades. Heading to the theatre often and grabbing the odd bit of street food, or slice of pizza. This type of eating has it's own rewards. I have been delighted by the simplicity in my diet and the shedding of extraneous fat both on my plate and on my body. A bowl of broccoli with a bit of nutty rice IS a meal in the right company and frame of mind.

One of the random bits that was truly wonderful I will share.

1 big bowl of arugula dressed with rice wine, soy sauce and tossed with a bit of crispy bacon broken into bits. Placed on a flat pan I put a few spoonfuls of ricotta on it and under a hot broiler it went to warm the cheese. The arugula wilted just enough and the cheese made for a melty creamy counterpoint to the sharp salty dressing. A glass of Greco and a crust of bread it was quite satisfying.

For dessert, raspberries with a thick sour yogurt scooped on top.

Life needs to be simple every now and then.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

fusiononthefly on Twitter

But I promise no updates as to my comings and goings and bathroom habits.

I am going to use it to alert people to great sales on food items in NY. Where to go for a good price or that special something delicious as well as any really worth theatre I see. While I use the web to post (no cell phone) I will try to make some posts as I travel so that you might find something truly tasty in your home city.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Freedom in meal planning -curry recipe

There is a great freedom in not planning your meals around meat.

When I was a kid we centered our meals around meat, at the very least we had ground beef and for holidays chunks of beef or a ham, eating well meant steak. That was the way I was raised, it wasn't a meal unless it was meat.

When I first moved away from home my budget was tight, but I knew how to make a chicken last so that I could eat meat every day.

I am not a vegetarian, but I now have much more freedom because I have no commitment to meat. I can just as easily plan a meal around vegetables or basil. I get inspired by Farmer's Markets more than butcher shops.

I often have anchovies, pancetta, or some stock I would use, but they are flavorings, not the star. tonight I am serving a lasagna stuffed with ricotta and olives.

If you like the allure of heady spices and have some greet tomatoes in your garden this preparation will make you very happy.

4 to 6 servings

4 to 6 nice sized greet tomatoes chopped
2 small zucchini cubed
12 green onions sliced half way up the stalk in 1/2 inch segments
2 cloves roughly chopped garlic
2 cups fresh arugula
Olive oil
Curry powder Madras blend
1/2 cup Greek style yogurt

Toss your vegetables and garlic with olive oil and curry powder. You want to coat with curry and the smell should be super fragrant, but not overpowering. Indi makes a great Madras blend which is far superior to the jar mixes in the grocery.

Put veg on baking sheet and roast in a hot (400) oven for roughly 30 minutes. The zucchini should be soft, but you don't want mush. Have Arugula in a bowl, top with the roasted veg and toss on the yogurt. Mix as if it were a salad, the yogurt will coat everything and the heat of the vegetables will wilt the zucchini. Serve with basmati rice.