"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Fruit for Holiday Baking

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    I am traveling this week, so do pardon a repost. But it is a timely repost….

    As Bad Wolf Cookie Season and the Holidaze approach, I find I must start prepping for the rush of baking. One item specifically requested is fruit cake. This is a multi-stage and multi-week project. It starts with preparing the dried fruit to be used. Some people buy pre-candied fruit at governmental prices, I prefer to make my own at a less stellar cost, but with true fruit flavor, not chemicals.

    Simmering dried fruit in a light syrup magically makes them soft and plump and imbues them with a vivid, fresh fruit flavor and perfume. The plumped fruit will last indefinitely in the refrigerator to be drawn on to make instant desserts and quick improvisations.

    In this case I am preparing fruit that I will age for the specific purpose of creating fruit cakes and various fruit and cereal based cookies.

    (They are especially useful in winter months when fresh fruit is disappointing). These fruits are delicious as a simple compote with drained sheep’s milk yogurt, ice cream or crème fraiche, or served alongside a plain cake. They make an excellent filling for tarts and turnovers.

    Wikipedia says :

    In food preparation, maceration is softening or breaking into pieces using a liquid.

    Raw, dried or preserved fruit or vegetables are soaked in a liquid to soften and to absorb the flavor of the liquid. In the case of fresh fruit, they are often just sprinkled with sugar, then left to sit and release their own juices. This process makes the food more flavorful and easier to chew and digest.

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  • Meatless Monday – Shaved Ice and Flavors

    One of the things that tell me summer has hit Manhattan, is the presence on every other corner of a man with a HUGE saddle shaped block of ice, a ice plane, and bottles of fruit syrup. For the minimal price of a dollar he will scrape out a cup of ice, dump it into a cone cup, and add a drizzle of fruit flavored syrup.

    Is it sanitary? Your guess is as good as mine. Is it COLD? Oh, YES!. Is it REFRESHING? YES!. Is it just what you need on a hot humid day after a trip on a subway with no AC? ABSOLUTELY!!!

    Now we can do this at home, expect those flavored syrups are kinda hard to come by. So IF we sort out how to make them, we have the keys to all kinds of snow cones, icee’s, fruit spritzers, fruit teas, and possibly a sorbet or so…

    Simple syrup is the real heart to the best cold homemade beverages. Once make the syrup, you can add any fruit juice and create your own special summertime drinks.

    There are several thicknesses of simple syrup and they have different uses. but for the purpose of this post will work with a thick simple syrup, a ratio of 1 part water to 1 part sugar, and is the basis of cold drinks.
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  • Meatless Monday – Sweet Salsa

    After the meat fest of Spring’12, it is time for something a bit lighter, but I do want taste, a hint of heat, and a kick of sweet…

    Thinking sweet, thinking sweet with a hint of spice to wake up the taste buds and emphasize the sweet. Now think cool, think crisp, and think of this salsa as a delicious addition to a meal with fish or seafood, pork, or chicken.

    Wikipedia says:

    Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican, Spanish and Italian cuisine.

    Mango Salsa: a spicy-sweet sauce made from mangoes and used as a topping for nachos. It is often also used as a garnish on grilled chicken or grilled fish due to the sauce’s gamut of complementary flavors.

    Based on a mango salsa, this quick and easy salsa, is made with fresh peaches, mangos, jalapeños, lemon, ginger and mint, and goes perfectly with grilled meats.

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  • Apple Rings / Fritters

    A wonderful evening meal, topped by the arrival of a very noisy “hipster hen party”. How noisy, noisy enough I asked to cancel my desert and for the check so I could escape the inane drool drone of the less washed masses…

    The proprietor, offered me a coffee, desert and a seat at the, (much quieter), bar. I was prepared for a workman desert and so so coffee. I was MOST wrong. The desert was quite the hit.

    Thin rings of tart apple, dipped in a light batter, fried to a crisp yet tender state, and then rolled / tossed in a sugar / cinnamon confection, and served with fresh whipped cream…. Such a taste sensation….

    A fritter is any kind of food coated in batter and deep fried. Although very similar to a doughnut it differs in the fact that it requires some base ingredient beyond the dough it is cooked with. In this case thin rings of apple.

    Do note … Whole lot of things brought this post into existence… First of all it is apple season, Second of all it is almost Sukkot, when by tradition apples are eaten with honey, third of all I wound up with about 10 apples that were going to go to waste, and forth of all the glorious desert spoken of prior.

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  • Meatless Monday – Fried Mushrooms Asian Style

    A little twist on a pub grub favorite. Fried Mushrooms, or it is fired mushrooms due to the glaze of honey, ginger, soy, and sirachia sauce. This provides for a nice sweet sneak up and hit you right in the back of the throat blast of heat.

    Background
    A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. Like all fungi, mushrooms are not plants and do not undergo photosynthesis. The standard for the name “mushroom” is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word “mushroom” is most often applied to those fungi (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes) that have a stem (stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae, sing. lamella) or pores on the underside of the cap.

    Mushrooms are one of those “binary foods” where people seem to hate it or love it, just like okra, seaweed, and tofu. The hate is usually because of the meatiness of the flesh, but the lack of “meat fat”.

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  • Meatless Mondays – Apple Sauce

    In my last post, I mentioned my fresh applesauce, as always the loyal critics noted that I had not provided a proper Apple Sauce post.

    Now given that is is fall, and apples are ripe, and it is a Meatless Monday, perhaps a post on apple sauce is due.

    Wikipedia says:

    Apple sauce (or applesauce) is a purée made of apples. It can be made with peeled or unpeeled apples and a variety of spices (commonly cinnamon and allspice). Fruit flavorings or sweeteners such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or sucralose are also commonly added to commercial versions. Apple sauce can be fine or chunky.

    Apple sauce is used as an accompaniment to a main course, usually ham, pork or bacon. Swedes normally eat apple sauce as a condiment for roast pork and for breakfast, such as oatmeal, muesli and a buttermilk-like product called filmjölk, In Germany it accompanies potato pancakes. In the Netherlands it is popular with children to give their stamppot, potatoes or fries more flavor. In France, it is viewed solely as a dessert and referred to as compote.

    Apple sauce is used during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah as a sauce for latkes, usually topped with cinnamon to give it more flavor. The cinnamon gives it its unique taste.

    Apple sauce can also be used as an alternative ingredient for many foods such as brownies and cake, to add moisture, sweetness and flavor.

    I say there are few things better than homemade applesauce made with hand-picked apples, from your own trees. If chunky texture is desirable, use a potato masher to mash the cooked apples. For a smooth apple sauce, run the cooked apples through a food mill, and somewhere in between, just take a stick to it. I use a mixture of delicious, Granny Smith and Winesap apples and go for a somewhere in between for a taste and texture contrast.
    One rogue chef twist is to add a few strips of lemon peel to the apples while cooking, I am also known to add a bit of butter and a jigger of bourbon. These heighten the apple flavor.

    Do note as we are adding sugar and can not accurately determine the acid level of the apples, one should be conservative in the initial additions of sugar, this rule should apply to the lemon zest / juice as well.

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