All Posts By Debra Puchalla

How to Win Summer: Dino-mite Watermelon Carvings

by in Family, News, July 3rd, 2014

Dino-mite Watermelon CarvingsWatermelon’s always been the coolest fruit of summer. When I cut into a watermelon, it’s either for a last-minute barbecue contribution or an instant “side dish” for the kids — seed-spitting contests are just a bonus. It has plenty of vitamins A and C, and it’s ready in two minutes flat. Wedges, cubes, balls of sugary-sweet juiciness — the options are endless and there’s no oven required. But maybe I need to hone my knife skills and take a slice from Vancouver’s Clive Cooper, a government worker by day and artist by night whose latest extreme watermelon carvings give fruit-platter party planners something to, well, chew on.

I thought Cooper and his fabulous menagerie were the “why” of a spike in watermelon searches reported by Yahoo web trend expert Lauren Whitehouse a week or two ago; since then his fierce alligator carving and the latest, the triceratops above, have been stomping their way through food news and Facebook. He’s not the only one; Pinterest is ripe with countless carved characters. Why, after all, should food fans have to wait for pumpkin season to make faces? As to folks searching “watermelon,” they wanted to know how many calories are in the fruit (about 50 per cup) and how to cut it (try Alton’s cut-the-ends-first method); there was also a 500+ percent increase in searches for “watermelon cake” (not a cake at all but a trompe-l’oeil fun fruit dessert), plus plenty of people pondering perennial favorites likes drinks and refreshing salads with watermelon (with feta as a partner; here is Ina’s take, one of my go-to’s for summer guests).

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How to Win Summer: Beer Can Chickens Doing Yoga (Kind of. It’s a Stretch.)

by in Recipes, June 4th, 2014

Beer Can Chicken RecipesWhile on photo shoots, I’ve bumped into a beer can chicken or two. But I’ve never actually cooked one at home. I am, therefore, somewhat of a grill-season fraud. Last summer “beer can chicken” (with and without hyphens for any of you copy gurus who are wondering) was Googled tens of thousands of times. But not at my house. Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with having a beer out back. But every time I see the resulting pictures of beer can chicken — chickens standing or sitting awkwardly and ridiculously on domestic cans or even imports — as if waiting for someone to hand them beers, toes pointing, flailing, kicking or squatting — I can’t help but laugh at how odd they look, and I move on to chops, steak or salmon. Their accoutrements, spice rubs, glazes and flurries of herbs, help doll them up. Yet a beer can chicken’s crossed legs, uncrossed legs, stretching arms and stoic stance don’t make me hungry; they make me think, randomly, of yoga. See above for a visual reference, wherein a stately beer can chicken looks to be moving toward seated meditation, a pensive, quieting pose that conjures warm breezes and calm waters — and a generous spice rub.

Still, there’s a smart reason such food images are shot the way they are. If the food stylist platters the meat or carves the bird, then the picture doesn’t sell the “why” of the recipe: the beer. Placing the chicken on a can of beer allows air to circulate around the bird and hence gives it crisp skin all over, a major plus, and devotees of the Cult of Beer Can Chicken claim the results are juicy and more flavorful. You can insert a debate on beer brand here, folks. (And then go ahead and argue, as Mr. “Meathead” did two years ago on Huffington Post, about whether the method is good anyway.) In the meantime, I am not waiting for New Year’s this year for resolutions: I resolve to win summer. And that starts with stretching into Sun Salutation, getting past chicken poses, crossing the road to get to a six-pack and grilling beer can chicken. After all, what could be bad about drinking a little beer and cooking out? Namastasty.

Check out my top 5 favorite beer can chicken poses, after the jump.

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Babka and Bagels, Hot and Haute — Trending

by in News, May 28th, 2014

Babka and Bagels, Hot and HauteBagels are hot. No, really. And though babka and matzo ball soup and brisket don’t conjure haute cuisine, they’re hot too. It’s true: Jewish-American foods that highlight tradition (and remix it) — are pushing Dominique Ansel’s latest trendy treats to the side. (So says BusinessWeek.com.)

In April, Black Seed opened in New York’s East Village, and the lines of fans awaiting everything-poppy-sesame-topped cream-cheese-schmeared Montreal-style bagels stretched to rave reviews. But the growing love of Jewish food doesn’t end with breakfast. In yesterday’s New York Times, Julia Moskin detailed the renewal of excitement around innovative Jewish fare, citing the famous Russ & Daughters Cafe, which serves smoked fish and herring but also, she notes, updates like whitefish chowder and halvah ice cream with salted caramel. Julia described hot spots in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle where familiar Jewish-American foods and newfangled ones are enjoying a hip-factor heyday, respecting traditions but also building upon them.

“We are always conscious that we are taking care of a piece of history,” Niki Russ Federman of Russ & Daughters told Julia. “But we can’t run only on nostalgia.” Katherine Alford, senior vice president, culinary, here at Food Network, agrees: “That is how we run here too. We love these rich and cherished traditional foods, and it’s so exciting that they are getting their well-deserved moment.” But, she says, it’s more than a passing fad. “When something is really good, it never goes out of style. Who doesn’t want babka now and always?” You don’t have to head to an old-school new-school chic restaurant to get babka. The next trend might just be staying home and making your own Jewish-American foods for family and friends — no lines!

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The New FoodNetwork.com Is Here!

by in News, January 23rd, 2014

FoodNetwork.com Home Page

It’s ready! We are so excited to introduce FoodNetwork.com’s freshest look, with all-new, improved ways of discovering the best recipes, videos, tips, restaurants, chefs and shows around. After months of planning and plotting, testing and tweaking, our cleaner, smarter, easy-to-browse site is ready for prime time.

“We’re thrilled to roll out our rebuilt sites for desktop and mobile this week,” said Angela Moore, vice president of Food Network’s digital group. “FoodNetwork.com’s new design, navigation, search and overall experience enable our audience to find the content and tools they need to make their lives — and meals! — easier, more enriched and more fun.”

Here’s a quick tour of the new look and feel:

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Behind the Scenes: FoodNetwork.com Upgrade in Progress!

by in News, November 13th, 2013

FoodNetwork.com Update Sneak PeekHere on FN Dish, fans get a daily helping of the latest popular recipes from FoodNetwork.com, plus news and updates about favorite chefs, shows and restaurants. Just a few weeks ago we rolled out an all-new Recipe Box feature to help you save crave-worthy Food Network recipes (plus your own personal ones and those from other websites) and a shopping-list tool that stays synced no matter which device you’re using, from the kitchen to the living room to the market and back again. Now, for the latest look behind the curtain, we’re sharing a sneak peek of FoodNetwork.com’s upcoming website upgrade.

Click for more photos

Anne Burrell Goes to the White House

by in Events, Food Network Chef, April 3rd, 2013

Anne Burrell Easter Egg Roll White HouseFood Network chef Anne Burrell got a thumb’s up from First Lady Michelle Obama Monday at the White House’s Easter Egg Roll, which drew 30,000 people to the South Lawn for fun that went far beyond eggs. “A little love in your food makes everything taste better,” Anne told Mrs. Obama, prepping pasta with broccoli rabe pesto and sausage as a family-friendly all-in-one-meal idea for visitors. “Kids, you would eat this at home, right?” the First Lady asked, getting a big “yes” in reply. Mrs. Obama said the dish — a nourishing mix of protein, veggies, good fat from olive oil and pistachios — tasted cheesy enough to be kid-friendly but sophisticated enough for date night. Watch the video here and get the recipe over on the Let’s Move blog.

“It’s the perfect ratio of pasta to sauce,” Anne said. “When you finish the pasta you should have just enough sauce left to take the last of your bread and get that little bit, wipe it up so your plate’s clean. Then you can put your plate right back in the cupboard because you’re part of the clean-plate club.” Anne was on stage in the Play With Your Food area along with White House chef Cristeta Comerford, White House pastry chef Bill Yosses (pictured above) and other food-famous folks including Al Roker and Ina Garten; there, visitors followed up egg-rolling by peeking into the garden that supplies the First Family with fresh vegetables year-round, eating jelly beans and learning how long it takes to work them off (30 seconds each) and trying out tennis and basketball on the White House courts. The eat-well-move-more activities were in support of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, which aims to reduce the rates of childhood obesity in the United States.

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Cook This Now: The Friendliest Chili Recipe

by in Books, November 7th, 2011

spicy three meat chili

I’m a noncompliant chili chef. I spot a chili recipe, break out the stockpot and handily ignore most of the instructions, unable to keep myself from throwing anything and everything into the mix. Thank goodness food writer, cookbook author and sometime Iron Chef America judge Melissa Clark has come along with a recipe to show me, bite by bite, the merit of chili discipline. A handful of ingredients, well prepared, rather than a whole spice rack of cacophony, are her shared secret.

Bringing a Melissa Clark recipe into your kitchen is like inviting that friend over who always has delicious ideas and solid advice delivered without an ounce of airs. Her cooking is straightforward and smart, at once elegant and inviting. I’ve “known” Melissa, oh, for about a decade, though we’ve never met in person. She wrote food stories I edited at Martha Stewart; she writes my favorite New York Times Dining column, A Good Appetite; I follow her Tweets; we’re Facebook friends. This is all to say I like her style, love her recipes and call her a friend even though we haven’t had the pleasure of sharing a table.

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Hoping for an Unharried Harry’d Halloween

by in Holidays, October 29th, 2011

harry potter butterbeer
The trick of October is for the monster mishmash of kids’-soccer watching, family apple-picking and pumpkin-patch prowling to lead up to a calm, cool finale: Halloween. For months my three boys, ages nine, seven and three, have plotted their costumes: a Harry Potter Quidditch player, a wizard — not Harry! — and a superhero dinosaur (whatever that is). My plans for what to serve while we carve pumpkins is less set in stone.

Inspiration for last-minute Halloween party treats, Harry Potter-style, came during a quick trip to Florida this week. After all, little wizards need food and drink for fruitful spells. At Hog’s Head, a pub at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, executive chef Steven Jayson told me Butterbeer, a drink the characters in J.K. Rowling’s now-classic series loved, is a favorite among the park’s Potter fans. Count my kids as part of that crew — after riding the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster, not before. ”Butterbeer is nonalcoholic and is served either cold or frozen; both versions are frothy and reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch,” he said. Sweet. He’s right about the taste given the thousands of drinks they pour daily, but I’d include cream soda in my description too; with each sip I tried to pull apart the components, knowing I’d want to stir up some at home.

Recipes for Butterbeer and more »

Justin Bieber Ice Sculpture: Pretty Cool, Right?

by in Behind the Scenes, News, March 3rd, 2011

Justin Bieber ice sculpture by Ice Brigades
Ice Brigade ice sculptor extraordinaire Randy Finch chills out with his Justin Bieber ice sculpture.

Baby, baby oh: Ice sculptor Randy Finch, star of Ice Brigade, chips away at massive blocks of ice with cool tools and an artist’s hand. His latest subject? Pop star rock star teen star everywhere Justin Bieber. Happy 17th Birthday, Justin! Nice haircut, Biebs. Up next: Selena Gomez. Maybe. Never Say Never.

Tonight at 10 pm ET, watch as Randy and his crew head to Michigan to design an entire lounge–complete with a working bar, sushi station and pool table. Cool stuff.

What celebrity would you most like to see as an ice sculpture?


Oscar Eats: The Social Network and Toy Story 3

by in Events, February 24th, 2011
Oscar night eats: The Social Network and Toy Story 3
Oscar night picks for the young at heart: Dishes to "Like" or "Share" and recipes that are child's play.

Young at heart, or just too cool for school? The cool kids will be on the small screen at the Oscars this weekend. In a Best Picture field crowded with serious films and old-school subjects, two movies stand out for their youthful appeal: The Social Network and Toy Story 3.

All week The Dish is offering winning menus and recipes tailored to the nominees for Best Picture. Today, the tale of a brainy techno-whizkid’s creation of Facebook is food-fighting with the classic toys adventuring as their kid heads off to college.

So, WWMZE? What might Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg eat to celebrate (or not) if The Social Network wins best picture at this weekend’s awards? WWBLE? What might Buzz Lightyear sit down and enjoy if Toy Story 3 rockets to the winner’s podium (and if he weren’t an animated character)? Consider this a friendly foodie faceoff–which of their food picks wins?

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