Archive for the ‘Cuisine’ Category

h1

What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Entrée to Judaism: Cooking in the Diaspora

January 13, 2010

Do these chocolate chip cappuccino brownies make my butt look big? 
By Patti Freeman Dorson, recovering attorney, facilitator for the Mothers Circle of Greater Indianapolis and cooking and eating enthusiast

Who but your mother would answer that question honestly?  But that is not the essential question to ask.  The real question is what is a recipe for chocolate chip cappuccino brownies doing in a book about Jewish cooking?

In her spectacular new book Entrée to Judaism: Cooking in the Diaspora, nationally known cooking instructor, food writer and professional speaker Tina Wasserman answers that question with historical and anthropological precision:

The expulsion from Spain and Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century sent many Jews fleeing to Holland, Brazil, and the Far East.  Trade routes were set up from the Caribbean and the Far East to Holland, and Jewish immigrants were directly responsible for the brisk trade in cocoa and coffee from their newfound countries to their relatives trading on the Dutch market. 

Who knew?

Growing up Jewish in Indianapolis, Jewish cooking seemed limited to the staples of Ashkenazic (Eastern European) tradition: beef brisket, honey cake, baked chicken, noodle kugel, chicken soup and matzah balls.  Wasserman takes us on a journey around the world, explaining the literal meaning of the phrase wandering Jew. 

Mass Jewish immigration has occurred in every age and for many different reasons: at the behest of not-so-benevolent government leaders, the pursuit of economic freedom, the instinct for self-preservation, or the dream of a better life.  Wasserman as storyteller and historian explains how Jews came to live in a certain place – Spain, India, Turkey, Russia, Latin America, Africa, the Far East – and how they adapted to local conditions and created Kosher dishes incorporating the flavors and colors of their new surroundings. 

Wasserman as food writer, cookbook author, cooking instructor and Jewish woman demonstrates the breathtaking variety of Jewish cooking in the Diaspora with exceptional recipes ranging from Syrian eggplant with pomegranate molasses to dolmas (Turkish stuffed grape leaves) to Chilean pastel de choclo to Sanbat Wat (Ethiopian Sabbath Stew) and so many more.  And in each recipe, she adds “Tina’s Tidbits”, her wisdom, ideas and variations to enrich the cook’s experience.

The book is divided into three sections: a region and ingredient specific world tour, recipes connected with the celebration of Jewish holidays and iconic Jewish ingredients as interpreted in many different cultures.  Wasserman’s collection has the breadth and depth of other international cookbooks (think Mark Bitman and The Best Recipes in the World) but she writes as she cooks – with passion, with soul and with love.

Oh, and about those Chocolate Chip Cappuccino Brownies:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 pound light brown sugar
1-1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon water
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces chocolate chips or white chocolate chips

1. Place the butter in a 3-quart saucepan and add the brown sugar. Stir over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add the espresso powder, water, and cinnamon, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool while you measure the other ingredients.

2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line the bottom of a 9 X 9-inch pan with parchment paper, and butter or spray the sides of the pan to prevent sticking.

3. Meanwhile, using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and the vanilla into the butter mixture (still in the saucepan). Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix to combine. Using a rubber spatula, add the chocolate chips and stir by hand to thoroughly incorporate without melting the chips.

4. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and back for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the pan. The mixture should be very moist but not liquid.

5. Cool and cut into 1 ½-inch squares.

Note: This recipe may be doubled and baked in a 16 X 11 X 1-inch pan for 30 minutes.
Yield: 3-4 dozen small bars

Tina’s Tidbits

  • Do not overbake these brownies! When they’re done, a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan will come out clean.
  • Never cut brownies while they are not or the sides will mash down.
  • I keep a jar of instant espresso in the freezer to use whenever a recipe calls for some coffee flavoring.
Advertisements
h1

What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Best Food Lit of 2009

January 6, 2010

For this week’s What-are-you-reading-Wednesday, we invite you to check out Amazon’s list of the best Food Lit from 2009 (composed of editor picks and bestsellers) here. Which ones have you read? Which ones are you planning to read for 2010?

Coming in at Number 1 is Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman

Here’s the rest of the best:

Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater byFrank Bruni

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen by David Sax

Sex, Death and Oysters: A Half-Shell Lover’s World Tour by Robb Walsh

Far Flung and Well Fed: The Food Writing of R.W. Apple, Jr. by R. W. Apple

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession by Julie Powell

Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York by William Grimes

Gourmet Rhapsody byMuriel Barbery

h1

Meandering Indiana 18 – Lawrence County

November 30, 2009

It was about this time of year, many years ago, when I took my first trip to southern Indiana. The occasion was a visit to my new husband’s hometown of Bedford, Indiana, where he had graduated from the old Bedford High School (before Bedford North Lawrence). A Hoosier boyhood among the quarries was his experience, as in the movie “Breaking Away.” Known as the Land of Limestone, this area of Indiana was the source of building material for the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and most of Indiana University. Generations of stone cutters and carvers, some from the craft traditions of Italy, worked in that industry.

As the Indiana Humanities Council gears up for its theme program, Food for Thought, let me pause here to note that the Lawrence County Tourism Commission has provided a Dining Guide to the county, as well as other useful information.

Persimmon Pulp

Persimmon Pulp

Speaking of food, Mitchell, another notable town in Lawrence County, has a few claims to fame of its own. First, it’s the home of the Mitchell Persimmon Festival, held annually in September since 1947. My mother-in-law first introduced me to persimmon pudding, a Hoosier treat described as “a baked dessert with a taste similar to pumpkin pie filling but with the texture of gingerbread.” Sure enough, we had some for Thanksgiving this year.

I didn’t get to see much of Lawrence County on my first visit, which we spent hanging out with my husband’s old pals, but since then I’ve enjoyed a number of area attractions. Spring Mill State Park, a popular facility with a delightful inn, a pioneer village, and a memorial to Astronaut Gus Grissom, is a destination near Mitchell. And I have yet to visit Oolitic, but it’s one of my favorite Indiana town names.

h1

What-are-you-reading-Wednesday – Dying for Chocolate

September 30, 2009

Last weekend I read a mystery novel by Diane Mott Davidson, Dying for Chocolate. I was going through the Indiana Humanities Council’s collection of books for reading and discussion groups, looking for novels related to food. This book was one of several titles containing the word “chocolate” (Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat), so I decided to give it a try.

First of all, it was a lot of fun. But I also discovered that Dying for Chocolate is a prime example of a subgenre that has become very popular in the last few decades – the culinary mystery. Like all detective fiction, it offers the satisfaction of an intellectual puzzle, on the one hand, and a morality play, on the other. The master detective solves the crime, and the wicked are caught and punished.

CookingThe culinary mystery, however, adds some delightful and delicious ingredients to the basic mix. Like other “cozy” mysteries, it often takes place in an idyllic setting, such as a small town or village, populated by easily recognizable characters, whether eccentric, endearing, or just ordinary. The detective is usually a woman who is a caterer, innkeeper, or other purveyor of food. In Dying for Chocolate, the heroine is a caterer and single mother who has to track down her boyfriend’s killer while coping with demanding clients and gourmet menus. Culinary mysteries often include recipes for the dishes described, and it’s hard to imagine the book group that could discuss this novel without at least a package of store-bought frosted brownies on hand.

The setting for Dying for Chocolate is Aspen Meadow, Colorado, but the Council’s collection also has culinary mysteries from other regions of the country. Joanne Fluke’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder is set at the Cookie Jar Bakery in Lake Eden, Minnesota, owned by Hannah Swenson. Tamar Myers’ No Use Dying Over Spilled Milk features Magdalena Yoder, Mennonite proprietor of the Pennsylvania Dutch Inn. Nancy Pickard’s The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders takes sleuth Eugenia Potter from her New England base to her ranch in Arizona. As small business owners, these women have a lot on their plates.

For those who can’t consume just one, most culinary mysteries are part of a series of novels. Like Agatha Christie herself, these writers are very prolific. They also have a penchant for puns in their titles. My favorites: Tamar Myers’ The Crepes of Wrath and the next book by Diane Mott Davidson, The Cereal Murders.

Also recommended (by Keira Amstutz): Julie Hyzy’s State of the Onion (White House Chef Mystery series).

h1

What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Eat, Pray, Love

September 16, 2009

I finally picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” — a book I’d been begging my sister to borrow, but she kept lending it out to someone else before I could get my hands on it. Now, I feel like I’m the last person (or at least woman) to read it — especially because Gilbert’s sequel will hit the shelves in January.

Just from the jacket’s description, I knew this was a book for me — and not just because my sister told me so. “Liz” is everything I love in a great fictional character –s trong, funny, passionate, and of course, an avid traveler — but she’s not fictional. Even better. Knowing a little about Gilbert, I was also looking forward to exceptional writing.

So I woke up early one morning over Labor Day weekend just to crack open the book before anyone else stirred. I crashed through the first 75 pages before I even realized it, intermittently laughing out loud and getting a bit teary-eyed. As much as I hated to be pulled out of Liz’s world, when I got interrupted, it was just as well. The book was so delicious that I didn’t want to waste my enjoyment in one setting. Now, I get to live vicariously through Liz’s world a few nights a week. And maybe more. Like my sister, I may read this one twice.

By Kristen Fuhs Wells, communications director at the Indiana Humanities Council