Prez’s “Crustmaker” Departs, Chocolate is the Best Health Food Ever and a Smell-Conjuring App

by in News, March 22nd, 2014

Chocolate BarThe “Crustmaster” Moves On: Bill Yosses, who has been whipping up pies (President Obama’s preferred dessert) and other confections at the White House as its executive pastry chef since his appointment by Laura Bush in 2007, is packing up his whisk and leaving his post for new, as yet unspecified, ventures. Bill, whom President Obama affectionately called “the Crustmaster,” is credited with bringing a healthier approach to White House desserts and integrating more seasonal ingredients, including those grown in the South Lawn Kitchen Garden he helped the First Lady create. He has also worked closely with Michelle Obama on her Let’s Move! campaign. She said she was “incredibly sad” to see him go. Bill called the decision to leave for personal reasons “bittersweet.” [Obama Foodorama]

Chocolate — Best Health Food Ever: If you ever wonder who or what to thank for all that is good about chocolate — in addition to the unparalleled joy of eating it — look down at your belly. The bacteria in your gut, NPR reports, are responsible for breaking down the antioxidants in dark chocolate and converting it into the compounds that help our hearts, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and help regulate appetite. The findings, presented this week to the American Chemical Society by Louisiana State University, hold for cocoa powder. Alas, John Finley, the food scientist behind the study, says the results “don’t translate to a Hershey bar.” He notes, however, that “cocoa powder goes well with many foods. I put it on my oatmeal every morning with berries.” [NPR's The Salt]

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Classic Pound Cake — Down-Home Comfort

by in Recipes, March 21st, 2014

There’s nostalgia associated with comfort food. Comfort food is food that is simple, solid and reminds us of childhood. Buttery, rich pound cake might very well be the ultimate down-home comfort dessert. It’s the cake that consoles as well as celebrates. It’s the all-purpose cake that’s perfect for birthdays, baby showers, funerals and everything in between. Pound cake is the slice of cake served with gossip and coffee to the neighbor down the street as well as for a baby’s first birthday. It’s the solid understudy waiting patiently under the cake dome, ready to step in at a moment’s notice. Read more

Parmesan Fennel Gratin — The Weekender

by in Recipes, March 21st, 2014

Parmesan Fennel Gratin - The WeekenderDuring the winter months, when most of the farmers markets in my area are closed, I find that I almost always default to the same five vegetables at the grocery store. We can eat only so much broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale, however, before edible fatigue sets in.

So I’ve been making a point to reach for vegetables outside of the standard five. I picked up a bag of snow peas recently, which made for a nice treat. Beets have made several appearances. And fennel has been hopping into my shopping basket a lot lately.

Fennel is actually a great vegetable to have in the crisper drawer, because it can do a variety of things. You can mince it and saute it into soups and stews in place of celery. You can shave it finely and dress it with a simple vinaigrette. It makes a very nice quick pickle. And as I learned recently, it works beautifully as a gratin.

I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Parmesan Fennel Gratin. She is the queen of simple, lush dishes, and this recipe did not let me down. She has you core the bulbs and cut them into two to four wedges. They get a dose of wine-fortified stock, are dotted with butter and covered with foil. You slide the pan into a hot oven and let them braise until they are entirely tender.

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What to Watch: Haylie Duff on The Kitchen and Comedians on Chopped

by in Shows, March 21st, 2014

The KitchenThis weekend on Food Network, watch all-new episodes from Amy, Giada, Jeff and more in the mornings, plus new Sunday night episodes of Food Court Wars, Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen.

It’s all about cheese on Heartland Table as Amy runs the gamut of cheesy recipes. Then on The Kitchen, the co-hosts make the ultimate meatloaf and share their best meatloaf tips. Also Haylie Duff stops by to talk about her new book The Real Girl’s Kitchen, a copy of which will be given away tomorrow on FN Dish.

On Sunday morning, Giada cooks recipes that are healthy but packed with flavor. Then on Sandwich King, Jeff makes Caribbean-inspired sandwiches. On Buy This Restaurant, Keith helps a couple find a perfect pub location in sunny Florida. In the evening, on Food Court Wars, two couples go head-to-head in a battle to win an eatery space. After, watch four comedians step into the Chopped kitchen in Round 3 of the Tournament of Stars: Will it be all fun and games or a serious competition? And last but not least, watch an all-new episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, in which one chef must make breakfast in bed, literally.

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Spring Into Spring with 4 Seasonal Ingredients

by in Food Network Chef, In Season, March 20th, 2014

Spring Into Spring With 4 Seasonal IngredientsSpring is here. I’ll admit that when I lived in colder climates such as Vermont or Paris, the arrival of spring was more anticipated (“When can I put my boots away?!”). I remember in Burlington, Vt., we had the tradition of breaking out our swimsuits on the first day that it hit 50 degrees F, a temperature that would have me snuggling up to the fireplace now. Even in San Diego, I’m excited about spring for two reasons. First, my daughters’ spring break is around the corner, and we are hunkering down for a family staycation here in San Diego (all the family time and fun, none of the stress of travel!). And the second reason I’m eager for the end of winter is — traditional spring food! Yes, I know these days we can get many ingredients year round, but they are lackluster compared to their in-season versions. Quite simply, there are certain flavors that are just better in that magical shoulder season between winter and summer.

Here’s my ideal springtime menu, featuring seasonal ingredients that you can get at any supermarket right now:

Asparagus: I’ll start here because it’s perhaps the quintessential spring vegetable, with its tender stalk and earthy flavor. While you can get asparagus many months of the year, the flavor (and the cost!) both tell you that spring is the time to indulge. I buy several bunches a week in peak season. My methods of cooking asparagus are almost exclusively roasting or grilling: a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and about 10 minutes in a hot oven (or seven minutes on a hot grill) is all it takes to bring out the natural sweetness and earthiness. Roasted asparagus can be served hot, at room temperature or cold (toss it with a tangy mustard vinaigrette for a fresh spring salad as in my Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette). Or cook for even less time to make a fresh soup (try my Almost-Raw Asparagus Soup with Yogurt and Almonds — it couldn’t be easier to serve spring in a bowl).

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Organize Your Cabinets — Spring-Cleaning

by in How-to, March 20th, 2014

Organize Your CabinetsWith the new season just beginning it’s time to start thinking about spring-cleaning, your kitchen included. Getting organized means less time spent searching through your cabinets for key utensils or ingredients. That means less time in the kitchen overall when you need to get dinner on the table on a busy weeknight. From spices to baking tools, Vivian Jao put together her top tips for getting the most out of your space.

1. Your Pantry
Make meal planning easier with a well-organized pantry. Assign designated areas for different kinds of food, like baked goods, breakfast items, boxed goods and canned goods. Label these areas or shelves as a reminder for when you’re unpacking groceries. Designate a section for quick-cooking meals, like mac and cheese or canned soup, for when you just need to grab something in a pinch.

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New “It” Ingredient, Spoiled-Milk Detectors and a $25 Corn Dog

by in News, March 20th, 2014

Spoiled-Milk DetectorsTrend Watch (for Cooks with Deep Pockets): What’s the the newest ‘it’ ingredient among discerning New York City chefs? Ramp seeds (“not the fawned-over leaves or bulbs”), according to Food Arts, which describes them as “tiny, with a pungent punch and an equally sock-it-to-me price tag.” Often preserved using salt or vinegar, the caper-like green seeds have a taste that evokes garlic and onion, and they are being used to add punch to dishes. One chef calls them “tiny flavor bombs.” But even extravagant chefs are sprinkling them sparingly: Labor intensive to harvest, ramp seeds cost about $120 per pound. [Food Arts]

Spare Your Schnoz: To tell if your milk has spoiled, you probably subject it to the sniff test — which really means subjecting yourself to the sniff test, but is still better than skipping directly to the taste test. (Yuck — yet expiration dates are not always reliable freshness indicators.) Now you can spare your senses such unpleasantness. Chinese scientists have come up with “smart tags” — small, gelatinous squares — you can stick on containers that change colors to indicate when the food in them has gone bad. [CBS News]

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