Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkeys Everywhere

We've just returned from a walk and spotted a flock of wild turkeys in our neighbors yard. Even from a distance you could see that they were really large birds. Obviously they survived Thanksgiving!

After a traditional holiday dinner at friends on Thanksgiving Day, I roasted a turkey breast yesterday. Last night we had hot turkey sandwiches with cranberry chutney.

Today I'm making a list of possible meals using turkey. Here are my favorites:

Turkey Tamale Pie
Turkey and Brie Paninis
Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole
Turkey Tetrazini
Turkey Quesadillas or Enchiladas

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chocolate is Healthy?

I'm appearing on Showcase Minnesota (KARE 11 TV at 10 a.m.)on Monday December 1 so I'm busy preparing "Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen". One of my favorite candies contains bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate, chopped dried cherries and almonds. Both chocolate and cherries are high in antioxidants and almonds have healthy fatty acids. Of course. I'm including Butter Rum Cake and Pumpkin Streusel Breads from Baking Basics and Beyond.

Most chocolate today is labeled with the percent of cocoa and higher content reflects higher antioxidants. As the amount of cocoa rises so does the bitterness of the chocolate. Dark chocolate must contain at least 35% cocoa but the better brands contain 60% and higher. I think around 70 % cocoa tastes best. As cocoa content rises so does the bitterness of the chocolate.

Some quality brands to look for are El Rey, Valrhona, Green&Blacks Organic Dark Ghiriadelli and Scharfen Berger. But remember chocolate also contains lots of calories.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spice Up Your Holidays

Because Thanksgiving is late this year, only a few days before December 1, the day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Holiday Baking for many. I recently wrote an article for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for their Cookie Contest Winners section (December 4) so I'm really in the mood to bake. This is a good time to replace your spices. Spices should be replaced about every six months but I don't do it that often.

At the holidays I think cinnamon and nutmeg are used the most. A few years ago I got a nutmeg grater and started grating nutmeg as I needed it. It is one of the spices that actually provides more flavor when fresh, so grate it sparingly. A little from a jar goes a long way but when freshly grated all of its essential oils are released and it lifts your recipe to something unique. Nutmeg is a dried pit from a fruit and keeps a long time.

When you buy ground cinnamon look for cinnamon from Viet Nam. It has the strong spicy sweet flavor everyone recognizes. Cinnamon enhances the flavors of baked goods and can be used with abandon.

Although not a spice, I use vanilla in almost everything. I think it deepens chocolate and makes other flavors sparkle. Always use pure vanilla extract. I like vanilla that comes from Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter Squash

This time of year there are a lot of different kinds of squash at the supermarket. My favorite is butternut because it has a slightly sweet nutty flavor and is very tender. I also like acorn squash but I've found that sometimes its texture is fibrous. I like to peel butternut squash and roast it at 400 degrees F. with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roasting concentrates the flavor and the sugar caramelizes adding sweetness. We don't eat a whole squash at one meal so for the second time around, I puree the squash and add a little honey and fresh or dried thyme.

Squash is high in vitamins A and C and has lots of fiber. Like all yellow vegetables it is also high in antioxidants that are part of a healthy diet.

I recently read a recipe for Roasted Acorn Squash in Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters. She places a clove of garlic and a spring of thyme under each half of squash before roasting and the flavors are infused into the meat of the squash.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's Turkey Time !

What kind of turkey will you serve on Thanksgiving? An online survery conducted by The Culinary Institute of America found that 43% of responders were serving frozen and 25% marked free-range. Most frozen turkeys are injected with a basting solution to keep them moist. Free-range turkeys roam outside and eat mainly grass which affects flavor. Organic turkeys by law must be raised on grass grown without genetic engineering, ioizing radiation or sewege sludge. These birds may not be given hormones or antibiotics. Free range turkeys are often organically raised. Unless you decide on frozen turkey which are usually in great supply, it is a good idea to order ahead. Then you can be sure you'll get what you want. Shop early for frozen turkeys or you may end up with a 26 lb. bird. That's a lot of turkey. To thaw safely, place the frozen bird in the refrigerator and allow about 24 hours for each 5 lbs. Plan ahead!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Try Some Sherry Vinegar

Last night I taught a class on Cookng for Two at Mothersauces, a local cooking school. My recipe for a simple salad of mixed greens had a vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar. Sherry vinegar is listed as one of the four vinegars no kitchen should be without by a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. (The others are rice, wine, and balsamic). It has a nutty woodsy flavor and is not as sweet as balsamic vinegar. It's unique flavor is highlighted in dressings that use nut oils such as walnut oil. It is made from sherry grapes and comes from the Jerez region of Spain. In addition to salad dressing it also makes flavorful a pan sauce after sauteing chicken or pork. Like balsamic, as the cost increases so does the quality. Buy the best you can afford.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November- Almost the Holidays

Now that it is November everyone is thinking about the holidays. I'm teaching a Cooking for Two class at Mothersauces Cooking School on Thursday night with ideas for special dinners for two. For a simple Thanksgiving dinner, roast a Cornish hen and serve it with this cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. I like to use a whole package of cranberries and make enough cranberry sauce for several meals. I also serve it with ham and chicken. This sauce can also be frozen.

Tipsy Cranberry Sauce with Port

Makes 2 ½ cups

1 (12 oz) pkg. cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
2 tablespoons port or orange juice

Combine the cranberries, sugar and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming foam from top. Cook until the sauce thickens and the cranberries burst.

Remove from the heat and stir in the marmalade, orange rind and port. Cool. Store in the refrigerator.

Copyright by Pat Sinclair, 2008