Sunday, September 9, 2012


HOT DOG! America’s  Favorite Food

          Why do people from other countries consider hamburgers, apple pie, and Coca Cola quintessential American foods, but fail to recognize our uniquely American novelty, the hot dog, in the same category? Most Americans agree that hot dogs should belong on our list of cultural foods. Yet, they are dwarfed by their cousin, the hamburger, and unrecognized internationally as a culinary symbol of the United States. It is true that sausage in a bun is not an American invention. It is, in fact, one of the oldest forms of processed food, having been mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in 850 CE.  ("As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted.")
          The term, “dog” remains a mystery. No one is sure exactly where it originated. Some speculate that it was in response to an unfounded rumor that sausage manufacturers used dog meat until as late as 1845. Others say the term was coined by a cartoon in 1900 that likened the shape of the sausage to the dachshund. Hot Dogs are also called Frankfurters (named after Frankfurt, Germany), Weiners (misspelling of Wieners - short for Wienerwürst, the sausage of Vienna - ‘Wien’), and Red Hots. Red Hots were the invention of a German peddler, Antonoine Feuchtwanger, who sold sausages in the streets of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1880. He supplied white gloves with each purchase so that his customers would not burn their hands while eating the sausage. The customers walked off with the gloves and his profits. His wife suggested he put the sausages into a split bun, baked by his brother-in-law. He called them “Red Hots”, giving birth to our hot dog.
Then there was Charles Feltman, a German butcher, who supposedly opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand in Brooklyn, New York, in 1867, with a succulent pork sausage tucked into a roll. His dog, however, had no association with the “Coney Island” hot dog that refers to the natural casing around the beef hot dog, topped with an all-meat bean-less chili and diced white onions with two stripes of yellow mustard that was developed in Michigan. And, it is still under dispute whether it originated in Detroit, Jackson, or Flint, Michigan, with each claiming it as their own.
In Cincinnati, the "cheese Coney" is a variation of the Coney Island hot dog topped with the city's unique style of chili, onions, and shredded cheese which nearly hide the wiener, which is smaller in size than the typical Detroit-style Coney dog. Its popularity makes Cincinnati nearly synonymous with cheese Coneys. Outside of Cincinnati, the topping is referred to "Cincinnati style chili," whereas within the city it is simply known as "chili" from the many neighborhood franchises started by Greek immigrants.
Although the hot dog is eaten by all (real) Americans, variations are both regional and ethnic. That’s more than anyone can claim about the hamburger. These meaty treats have grown into a food featured at our country’s most revered events and traditions. Every stadium and amusement park sells hot dogs. You can buy a hot dog at every other street corn in New York City, but to purchase a hamburger, one must go into a restaurant.
Nathans earns the award as being most synonymous with America’s hot dogs. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, decided to present something truly American to King George VI of England and Queen Elizabeth (Mother of Queen Elizabeth II). Platters of Nathan's hot dogs were passed at a picnic at their estate in Hyde Park, New York, on June 11, 1939. The picnic menu was featured on the front page of the New York Times, claiming that only in America would visiting royalty be served a hot dog.
At what point the lowly hot dog experienced the metamorphosis from ballpark to ballroom cannot be determined. It might have been destined that something so incredibly receptive to almost any embellishment would eventually know no limits to gourmandizing them. Some say you can differentiate the economic class of hot dog consumers. The Proletariat (lower class) who eat ball park dogs slather on yellow mustard only, whereas the Bourgeoise (middle and upper classes) might begin with a dollop of Grey Poupon® and then add toppings that can range anywhere from bacon, blue cheese with guacamole, pâté de foie gras, or brie with sliced fresh pears.
Hot dog toppings, like those on pizza, are a matter of regional pride. Order a Chicago-style hot dog and you’ll get an all beef frank loaded with mustard, onions, peppers, relish, dill pickles, salt, and fresh tomatoes. Or maybe you prefer Italian hot dogs from New Jersey featuring a topping of peppers, potato, and onions. Then, there’s the truly American Brooklyn hot dog that is unembellished save for a heaping cover of old fashioned sauerkraut. Add your own mustard, but nothing else. Mid-westerners prefer theirs plain with mustard and ketchup. Both sweet and dill relish are acceptable to all, but never a sweet pickle. Atlanta folks smother theirs with coleslaw and sweet Vidalia onions. The all-beef Kosher dog has more ‘zip’ and crunch without any artificial flavoring or color, appealing to a more sophisticated palate, whereas the bland ballpark dog is favored by children.  Everywhere, the hot dog must be accompanied by a dill pickle, preferably Kosher - new, half sour or sour.
There are hundreds of companies that claim to manufacture the best hot dog ranging from skinny dogs to big dinner franks to knockwürst to cocktail size. But, what about Bratwürst?  Is it a hot dog? The folks of German ancestry in Wisconsin consider it the Only hot dog. Made with pork and veal, it is simmered in a Pilsner beer infused with onions and then grilled over charcoal. It is traditionally served with ice cold Wisconsin beer and German Potato Salad. Miller Park Stadium in Milwaukee sells more bratwurst than hot dogs.
Ball Park hot dogs that once were a bargain can cost from $5.00 - $6.00 at Tampa Bay and Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadiums, which is a real hardship for most families. On the other end of the spectrum, the Cincinnati Reds offer food special days with a hot dogs and drinks priced at $1.00 - no limit - when they want to fill their stadium with an opponent that might otherwise not draw a crowd. You can also bring your own water and soda, prohibited at other stadiums. Smart business!

1small sweet onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 package (15 ounces) Oscar Mayer® Selects Chicago Recipe Beef Franks
8 bakery-style hot dog buns, partially split

1.      Combine all ingredients except franks and buns. Refrigerate 1 hour.
2.      Heat grill to medium. Grill franks 7 to 9 minutes, turning until the outsides are seared.
3.      Fill buns with franks and onion mixture.

Yield: Approximately 2 cups
Koegal, Dearborn, and Kowalski are Detroit’s local hot dogs. The best dogs for this recipe are long and skinny, made with a combination of pork and beef because they are not too spicy.
We Detroiters accompanied our hot dogs with Vernor’s® Ginger Ale, the oldest surviving soda in the United States, created over 130 years ago by a 19-year old boy, James Vernor.

1 pound ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 six ounce can tomato paste
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon ground cumin (heaping)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1.      Brown the ground beef in a skillet, adding onions half way through. Add minced garlic when meat is almost done.
2.      Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Simmer over very low heat 15 minutes or longer.
3.      Set hot dogs into buns and cover lavishly with the chili. Some Detroiters spread the dog with extra yellow mustard and raw onions before adding the chili on top.

A great hors d’oeuvre
The original recipe was developed by someone in Detroit during the 1950s. I have changed and added to it many times.

12 ounce package Cocktail Franks - Boar’s Head® quality
1 cup red currant jelly
½ cup Welch’s® grape jelly
½ cup French’s® yellow mustard
¼ cup Heinz® chili sauce
1.      Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low. Cover and allow the flavors to meld and incorporate into the franks. Serve in a chafing dish over heat with toothpicks.

Yield:   Approximately 4 servings
The amount of ingredients will change with beans that are seasoned, as well with individual palates. Taste as you go along.

15 ounce can baked beans of choice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon brown mustard (Gulden’s® Spicy Brown)
2-3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 small red onion, chopped
Optional: 3 strips cooked crisp bacon, chopped

1.      Combine ingredients, reserving the bacon. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover. Simmer at least 15 minutes, stirring often.
2.      Stir in bacon to serve over grilled, boiled, broiled or baked hot dogs, knockwurst, or cocktail franks.

For Bratwürst

2 pounds new or red potatoes, unpeeled
½ pound thick-cut bacon
1 large purple onion, chopped
⅓ cup white vinegar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon coarse grain brown mustard
1 teaspoon or more Kosher salt
¼ cup minced chives or green scallions

1.      Cover the potatoes with water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high. Cover and boil gently until a knife can easily be inserted but the potatoes are still very firm. Drain immediately and cool to room temperature.
2.      Slice into rounds approximately ¼ inch in diameter. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl.
3.      In a skillet, cook the bacon crisp. Drain on paper toweling and crumble. Toss with the  sliced potatoes. Pour off and discard all but ⅓ cup of the bacon fat.
4.      Add the onion to the fat. Cook until soft but not colored over low heat.
5.      Stir in the vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt and cook over medium heat until thickened  and bubbly. Toss with the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper. Keep warm. Sprinkle with chives directly before serving.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rosh Hashanah Menu and recipes

Remember the song, Tradition, from the classic musical, Fiddler on the Roof?  The traditions of the Jewish people began over 5,000 years ago and continue with each generation. Rosh Hashanah, that translates literally as the “head” or “first” of the year, will usher in the year 5,773 on September 16th at sundown when world Jewry will set their tables with their finest cloths and china and dip apple slices into honey and say a prayer asking God for a sweet year with the same wish as their ancestors that their good deeds in the ensuing year should be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate. Honey in Biblical times represented good living and wealth. The Bible refers to Israel as the land of "milk and honey”. 
Chicken fat was once a part not only of every Jewish kitchen but also most European ones. It was used in Northern Europe where oil was scarce and butter expensive. It is still used by Singaporeans and Malaysians to cook delicious Hainanese Chicken Rice.  Animal fat (‘schmaltz’=Yiddish, ‘smalz’=High German). Until the middle of the 20th century, it was a basic cooking staple and spread for bread. Cholesterol concern has caused it to all but disappear even though it is no more of a culprit than butter or other saturated solid fats. However, every gourmet cook knows that pâtés (Chopped Liver) and Potato Pancakes (latkes) suffer when liquid oil replaces the true fat of the ages. Chicken fat remains a pure product, not processed like Canola or soy oils. Rendering chicken fat might even be classified as a gourmet production (See below), or it can be acquired by saving the fat that forms on top of the soup when refrigerated, or by slowly roasting a seasoned chicken without addition of any liquid in the pan. Refrigerate the juices overnight. The fat will rise to the top.
            A typical Rosh Hashanah dinner might begin with chicken liver pâté, followed by a light salad before an entrée of roast chicken. Carrots sweetened with honey remain a favorite of the night. A delicious alternative to potatoes or rice is Kasha (kasza), the Slavic name for buckwheat groats. When cooked with onions and chicken stock or water, and mixed with bowtie pasta, they lend a beautiful flavor balance to a vegetable enhanced with honey. This was traditional comfort food for Russian Jews, who brought it to America. It is a good source of fiber and naturally gluten-free. (In the absence of gluten-free bowties, substitute gluten-free thin penne.)

Remove the skin and fat from a 4-5 pound chicken.  Cut the fat and skin into rather small pieces and place in a saucepan with a sliced onion and a clove of garlic, if you wish. Add a bit of Kosher salt and black or white pepper. Cover and cook over very low heat approximately 45 minutes, turning the fat occasionally.  As the fat melts, strain it into a bowl or jar, and continue cooking until all the fat has been extracted. If the fat pieces become puffy, pierce them with a sharp knife to fully extract the juices. Freeze in one cup amounts to use for pâtés, matzo balls, and poultry dishes.

Yield:  6-8 Servings
Make a day in advance for the flavors to settle.

1 pound fresh chicken livers, fat and connective tissue removed
4 tablespoons chicken fat or butter
1 large onion, chopped
Optional: 1 clove garlic, minced
½ pound white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
4 hard boiled extra large eggs
Thinly sliced sweet onion
Chopped parsley to decorate

1.      Wash the livers, removing any fat, veins and connective tissue.
2.      Warm the fat in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms and brandy. Cook over medium heat, turning the livers often to cook evenly. Cook until livers are done throughout but still soft. Do not overcook or they will become bitter.
3.      Add salt, pepper, nutmeg.
4.      Pour off excess liquid and cool to room temperature.
5.      Combine with the hard boiled eggs and chop with a hand chopper for country style chopped liver. Or put into a food processor and purée for elegant pâté.
6.      Remove to a bowl or crock. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
7.      Set an open leaf of iceberg lettuce on individual plates. Scoop out rounds of the liver to place in the center of each.  Cover with a thin slice of onion and decorate with parsley. Pass sliced Challah bread for all to enjoy.

Yield: 6 servings one-half hen each

3 Cornish hens
Salt and pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 sprigs rosemary, cut into 6 pieces
1 onion, chopped fine
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat
½ cup chicken broth

1.                  Preheat oven to 400°F.
2.                  Slit the hens along the backbone. Slice through the breast from neck to tail. Slice along one side of the backbone. Slice along the other side and remove the bone to discard. Cut off the tails. Wash under cold water and remove any extra fat. Dry on paper toweling.
3.                  Slide a small, sharp knife under the tiny breast bones and, without cutting into the meat, remove them.
4.                  Sprinkle the hens well with salt and pepper.  Squeeze lemon juice over both sides. Mince the garlic and rub it well into the hens on both sides.
5.                  Cover the bottom of a shallow baking pan with the onion and celery. Add the wine to the pan. Place a half a hen over, skin side up. Tuck a sprig of rosemary under each half. Brush with chicken fat.
6.                  Roast, uncovered, ten minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roast another 25-30 minutes, or until the juices run clear or a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the thigh registers 180°F.
7.                  Strain the gravy from the baking pan into a saucepan. Stir in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and pour over the hens to serve.
Yield: 6 servings

1 small purple onion, chopped fine by hand, not minced in food processor
1 rib celery, chopped fine by hand
Optional: 1 clove garlic, minced
Optional: A handful of chopped mushrooms of your choice
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil (Dare I say chicken fat again?)
1 cup Wolff’s® kasha
2 or more cups boiling chicken stock or water seasoned with salt and pepper
½ teaspoon ground thyme or 1 teaspoon minced leaves
Optional: 6 ounces bowtie pasta or thin penne
Salt and pepper to taste

1.      In a deep skillet, sauté the onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms in oil over medium heat until soft but not colored.
2.      Add the kasha and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes until the grains are toasted and separate from each other. Add the seasoned boiling stock or water. Stir, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 30 minutes or longer, checking to add more liquid if needed. The Kasha is done when it has become soft. It is important to keep it moist.
3.      For the Pasta: Bring a pot of water to a full boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When the pasta is done, drain off the water. Combine the kasha and pasta and toss well. Taste to add salt and pepper.

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt to sprinkle
4 tablespoons unfiltered honey (¼ cup)
1 teaspoon RealLemon® juice
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
8 ounces Mott’s® Apple Juice (small bottle)

1.                  Boil the carrots in water to cover until half done and still very firm. Drain.
2.                  Stir the lemon juice into the honey in a glass measuring cup. Stir in the sugar and apple juice until well combined.
3.                  Pour over the carrots and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the mixture has reduced to a glaze. Stir often, being careful not to break or mash the carrots. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Monterey Mushrooms, located on eighty acres on Sadler Road just off Hwy 441 in Zellwood, is the country’s largest and only national marketer of fresh mushrooms. Monterey is vertically integrated and able to control all aspects of mushroom production from seed to customer/consumer. An international, multi-facility company, with 10 mushroom growing farms strategically located throughout North America, Monterey’s mushrooms are literally “locally grown” nationwide. This means that Monterey is uniquely positioned to deliver the best, most innovative mushroom products possible to consumers throughout the country. Their claim to fame, however, is the Portabello Mushroom that was developed approximately 20 years ago at their California facility. This “beefy” overgrown brown baby bella ( proper name, 'Crimini',   named for the Crimini family in Italy ) is the answer to a vegetarian’s prayer. Just one portobello will provide close to 400 IU of vitamin D per serving. And, one does not have to worry about scrubbing anything that arrives from this farm. Everyone who enters the doors of the farm, from the truck drivers to the security guards, must wear hair nets and gloves. The workers who sort and pack the mushrooms in the refrigerated growing rooms also wear face masks. The result is that the finished product is not exposed to any elements that might subject it to contamination.  It is possible to drive through the gates into the facility to take home a bag right from the farm. And, for the home farmer or gardener, compost is also available at a minimal cost.  Nothing is wasted in this environmentally friendly facility, including their dedication to their own re-cycled water.
            The three mushrooms grown at Monterey include White, Baby Bella, and Portobello, also labeled 'Portabella'.The difference in spelling depends on whether one considers them masculine or feminine. Italian is a Romance language. Romance language words have gender. The large portobello mushroom is considered masculine whereas the smaller, baby bella, takes on the feminine gender.  

Care and handling tips from Monterey:
·         Purchase mushrooms that are firm with a fresh smooth appearance.
·         The surface should be plump and dry, but not drie-out looking.
·         A closed veil under the cap indicates delicate flavor, while an open veil and exposed gills will have a richer flavor.
Storing tips from Monterey:
·         Store in their original package or in a porous paper bag for longer shelf life. Some mushrooms will keep up to one week in the refrigerator. Baby bellas and portabellas have a longer shelf life than the white.
·        Do not freeze raw mushrooms. They will lose texture and flavor due to their high water content. Sautéed mushrooms can be frozen up to 1 month.
Cleaning tips from Monterey:
·         Brush off any peat moss with your fingers or a damp paper towel, or quickly rinse under cool water. Pat dry with paper toweling.
·         Never soak a mushroom in water because they absorb moisture.
·         If the stem is tough, remove it. Trim and chop fine or pulverize for gravy or sauce.
·         Portobellos: The gills may be removed because they store a large amount of water. When they are very fresh, the gills will be light brown. The longer they are stored, the darker the gills. Whereas the gills provide a stronger flavor, they also turn sauces dark and watery. Remove them carefully with the point of a small spoon.
Cooking techniques from Monterey:
 To Roast: Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss whole or sliced mushrooms lightly with fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Set on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake approximately 20 minutes, or until browned. (Optional: Add crushed garlic when tossing)
To Microwaave: Place 8 ounces thickly sliced mushrooms in a microwaveable bowl. (No butter or oil needed. Add desired seasonings, such as salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder) Cover and cook on high 2-3 minutes, stirring once in-between. For portobellos, cover and cook in the microwave 6 minutes and blot away excess liquid to serve.

Tune in channel 22 Comcast or BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


Grilled Portobello Mushrooms and Plum Tomatoes
Yield: 6-8 Servings

4 large plum tomatoes, seeds removed and sliced into thick strips
½ red onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves,
1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 large Portobello mushrooms, 6-7 ounces with stems

1.               Slice tomatoes in half.  Remove seeds and slice into thick strips. Combine with chopped onion. Add mint, oregano and basil leaves in a bowl.
2.                Combine vinegars with olive oil and crushed garlic and pour over tomato mixture.  Add some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow mixture to marinate in the refrigerator 1 hour or longer.
3.             Remove mushroom stems and peel the outer layer from the caps. Remove gills with a small spoon. Rub clean with paper toweling. Do not rinse.
4.           Brush caps lightly with the olive oil mixed with 1 clove crushed garlic and place on a grill with the underside of the mushroom facing upward.  Turn over to cook the underside. Brush tops again while underside is cooking.  The underside will cook very fast.  Do not overcook. Portobello mushrooms lose their texture when overcooked. Remove from grill.  Cool slightly and slice into thick strips. Place the strips on both sides of the tomatoes to serve.
Note: The mushrooms may be cooked in a non-stick pan. Combine olive oil with crushed garlic over high heat. Cook as above.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Yield: Approximately 2 cups

2 pounds butternut squash to equal 1 cup cooked squash pulp
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
⅛ teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
¼ cup coffee cream

1.                  Slice the top off the squash 1/4 from the stem. Scoop out the seeds. Place in a microwavable dish with water to cover the bottom. Microwave 3 minutes per pound. Put into a blender or food processor. Add coriander, cinnamon, allspice, honey, white pepper and salt to taste.
2.                  Stir in 1 1/4 cups chicken broth.  Pour into a blender and blend on high until puréed.  Return to the   pot.  Stir in the coffee cream. Taste for seasoning.
3.                  Grate the lemon peel.
4.                  Spoon the soup into bowls and sprinkle the grated lemon over the top.
Note: This soup is good hot or cold.  Crystallized ginger may be sprinkled across the top.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.



Yield:  Approximately 6 cups
This soup is spicy and delicious
Garlic aficionados will be allowed to add with moderation

3 pounds butternut squash
1 large onion of choice
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 inch thin slice ginger, minced fine or ½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 full teaspoon curry powder, more or less to taste
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ or more teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water, more or less for thickness
½ cup fat-free half and half
Optional: ¾ cup coarsely-chopped cooked chestnuts, fresh or canned
1/4 cup grated lemon rind

1.                  Slice squash into thick rounds and cover with water in a pot.  Boil, covered, until very tender.  Pour off water and remove skin and seeds. Or, slice in rounds and microwave with the sliced onion in a bowl with a little water, covered with plastic wrap, 6-8 minutes, or until tender.
2.                  Peel the squash and put it and the onion and water in which they were cooked into a blender or food processor.  Add nutmeg, ginger, coriander, curry, white pepper, salt and 1 ¼ cups of the chicken (vegetable) broth.  Blend on high until smooth. Return to the pot and stir in remaining broth and water for desired consistency.  Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the flavors “marry”. Stir in the half and half. 
3.                  Make an X at the top of the chestnuts and boil in water to cover until very tender.  Remove shells and chop coarse.  Grate the lemon rind.
4.                  Spoon the soup into bowls and sprinkle the chestnuts and lemon rind over the top.  This soup is good hot or cold.                                       

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


Yield:  2 servings for a complete dinner
4        servings as a vegetable accompaniment to meat or fish

2 acorn squash
1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup orange juice
½ - ¾ cup dried cranberries (Craisins®)

1.      Preheat oven to 350°F.
2.      Set the squash on a baking sheet covered with foil. Bake 1 hour, or until a knife inserted feels the inside is very soft.
3.      Remove from the oven to cool 20 minutes.
4.      Slice the squash in half, lengthwise. Discard the seeds and scoop out the pulp, leaving a thin layer next to the skin so the skin will not collapse.
5.      Mash the pulp with a potato masher. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Stir in the orange juice. Taste. The amount of seasonings depends upon the size of the squash.
6.      Fold in the dried cranberries.
7.      Stuff the skins.
8.      To serve: Microwave until hot or heat in the oven.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


Yield: 4-6 servings

1 large (4 to 4½ pound) spaghetti squash
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil mixed with 1-2 cloves minced or crushed garlic
4 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped coarse
Handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced or chopped
¼ cup pitted olives, chopped (Greek or Sicilian olives have most flavor)
1 tablespoon drained capers, coarsely chopped
Optional: Chopped anchovies – not too many
Salt and coarsely ground pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan
Basil leaves for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Bake the squash until a knife inserted tells you it is fully cooked and soft within. Cool 10 minutes for easier handling.
  3. Simmer the olive oil with the garlic in a saucepan over low heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Combine the tomatoes, basil, olives, capers (anchovies), and garlic oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Cut squash lengthwise in half. Remove seeds. (If you like, save them to toss with oil and salt to bake for hors d’oeuvre) Separate the strands with a fork and place in a large bowl.
  6. Toss well with the tomato sauce and divide among 4-6 dinner bowls or plates.
  7. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Yield: 2 salads

1 large or several small cucumbers
2 plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped basil
Feta or crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
hydroponic lettuce This is a soft lettuce, usually a bibb or European buttercrunch type. It is also called “Hydro-Bibb lettuce.

1.      Peel and slice the cucumber lengthwise. If large, remove the seeds with the point of a small spoon. Small cucumbers (called “pickles by Hank Scott of Long & Scott) are more tender and do not contain the large seeds. They do not need to be peeled or seeded.
2.      Slice and seed the tomato.  Cut both into small squares and combine with the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and parsley.
3.      Refrigerate until very cold.  Serve over lettuce with squares or wedges of feta or crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


JULY 4, 2012

July 4th might be the only major holiday that crosses all religious, ethnic and political boundaries. There are no traditional foods, unless one considers hot dogs and apple pie in the same category as candy canes and Easter eggs. And, with the exception of the red, white and blue of the American flag, it has no set format. Although many people have a faint recollection of their 8th grade history class, only those with inherited memberships in the DAR and SAR (Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution) take the holiday seriously. Nor do most care because they have never read nor will read the Declaration of Independence. The British are most likely better informed because they lost precious tax revenue. After all, it has been 236 years since our forefathers were persecuted by the British and revolted for freedom, and most of America’s population today cannot trace their heritage back to England or France or even Western Europe, much less to the thirteen original colonies. And, so, Independence Day is just a day off from work with the high point an intensive study of where the best fireworks can be seen and then getting there ahead of the crowds for a good vantage point. We still sing patriotic songs such as "The Star-Spangled Banner", but Francis Scott Key, who wrote the poem, set it to an old melody that was an English drinking song praising wine. The tune spans almost two octaves and is virtually unsingable unless one is a lyrical coloratura who does not need to take a breath, or a rock singer who cannot carry a tune anyway. And, to make matters worse, America is not mentioned anywhere in the words. But then, England is not mentioned in “God Save the Queen” either. “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land” says it much better without bombs bursting in the air and ramparts of earth and stone protecting forts that no longer exist, but this is only a personal opinion.
And, with that said, let’s go back to fun food, beginning with a 4th of July breakfast coffee cake and a fun flag for the youngsters to mak


Raspberry, strawberry, blueberry or mixed

Yield: 12-16 Squares

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

16 ounces light fat-free yogurt with berries of choice

1 cup vegetable oil

4 jumbo graded eggs

1cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 pint blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries

Optional: Extra berries to serve on the side


1.                  Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.                  Sift the first 4 ingredients together

3.                  Add yogurt, oil and eggs. Beat one minute with a hand electric mixer on medium speed.

4.                  Pour into a 9 X 9 inch greased or non-stick baking pan.

5.                  Toss berries in a strainer with cinnamon-sugar to coat lightly. Gently fold into the batter.

6.                  Sprinkle more cinnamon-sugar over the top.

7.                  Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry. 

8.                  Cut into squares and serve with the reserved blueberries on the side.




And, what is more American than Fried Chicken? Beer! Combine the two for perfect patriotism.
This simplistic recipe for a light, delicious batter insures chicken, fish, seafood and vegetables a flaky crust outside and a moist texture within.
Yield: 3 ½ pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Optional: ¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 jumbo eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter
Approximately 1 cup beer of choice
2 inches Canola oil or a mixture of Canola and Peanut oil

1.      Combine the flour, salt and white pepper (and Cajun seasoning). Stir in the eggs and butter.
2.      Add the beer slowly, stirring, until the batter is thick and smooth.
3.      Let the batter rest in a warm place before dipping in the chicken pieces to fry.
4.      Heat the oil to 375°F. Place the pieces, one at a time into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry in batches, if necessary. Cook, uncovered, until golden on one side. Turn. Cover. Cook 10 minutes. Remove cover. Cook until crisp and light brown on the bottom. Turn. Cook a few minutes longer until crisp. Remove to paper toweling.

Layered by color

1 loaf soft white bread, crusts removed
Cherry tomatoes, sliced thin
Salt to sprinkle
Basil leaves, minced

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons minced scallion greens or chives
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

¼ cup tiny capers or chopped pitted Greek olives
1 sweet onion, minced fine

1.      Remove the crusts from the bread. With a rolling pin, gently roll the slices, not too thin.
2.      Slice the tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and toss with the minced basil.
3.      Mix the cream cheese with the scallions and white pepper.
4.      Mix the capers (olives) with the minced onion.
5.      Spread a thin layer of the cherry tomato mixture on a slice of bread. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese mixture on another slice of bread and place it on top of the tomatoes. Spread a thin layer of capers/onion on another slice of bread and cover the cream cheese. Place a 4th piece of bread on top.
6.      Press down. Repeat until all the bread and ingredients are used. Set the sandwiches on a platter covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
7.      Before serving: Slice the sandwiches lengthwise into 3-4 pieces.
8.      Serve on a platter decorated with parsley and tiny red grape tomatoes.

You can make this flag as small or large as you choose.
The one in the photograph is 12X17

29 large strawberries
30 large blackberries
Approximately 3 large bananas
Lemon juice
Rectangular tray
Paper and scissors
1.      Cut a square from a piece of paper and set it in the upper left corner of a rectangular tray. Hull and halve 29 large strawberries and set them aside.
2.      Arrange 30 large blackberries, as shown, in the upper left corner of a serving tray or cutting board (it should be at least 8 by 13 inches).
3.      Cut approximately 8 bananas into slices 3/4-inch-thick and set into a bowl. Sprinkle on lemon juice and toss the slices gently with a rubber spatula to keep them from browning.
4.      Assemble the banana slices in rows and top each slice with a strawberry half with a flag toothpick to hold together.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


No one is quite sure where or when Mardi Gras began, and folks in New Orleans don’t care. This yearly wild celebration in “Nawlins” (Only the tourists pronounce it “Noo Orleens”) is their most important tradition that not even the most pious will put asunder before it all disappears at the stroke of midnight when Ash Wednesday and forty days of repentance sober everyone.
              Those who have been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras will attest to its madness. Thousands line the streets to catch colorful beads thrown from hundreds of floats built by private individuals and businesses who have spent untold dollars to provide this day of outlandish opulence and ostentation fort their own enjoyment. Bourbon Street is alive with jazz and booze. Outlandish costumes know no limits. As the frenzy of decadence reaches an unbearable pitch, the clock strikes midnight and police and street cleaners suddenly appear to sweep away the mockery. But, even the most pious of New Orleans do not restrain from their cuisine because they know that anything that beautiful – that good – surely must come from Heaven. There is no other cuisine in this world that matches good Creole and Cajun cooking.
            It is said that, in order to fully savor Creole cooking, one must have a “Bouche Creole”, translated simply as a Creole mouth, and a “Boudin Creole”, or Creole Stomach. The real Creole cook doesn’t follow a recipe, but relies on his and her imagination, remembering that Creole cooking began with the French love of and skill in manipulating anything edible into a tasty dish. Combine this with the Spanish passion for piquancy, the native African ability for developing the perfect method of slow cooking, coupled with the gift of herbs and spices from the Indians, and, Voila! Creole! Combine it all in a well-seasoned cast iron pot with a nut brown roux, add onions, celery and peppers and, from there, you can go anywhere with ingredients of choice.
And, now, some translations of New Orleans’ jargon:
JAMBALAYA: Highly-spiced rice, chicken and ham, often mixed with sausage, peppers, tomatoes, shrimp and oysters, as inspired by Spanish Paella.
GUMBO:  The African word for okra. An original creation indigenous to the city of New Orleans, developed from local ingredients of seafood and vegetables and thickened with okra or filé powder. Okra is added at the beginning to simmer with the other ingredients. Filé powder must be added at the end, or it will become gummy. Gumbo is a combination of soup and stew to be eaten as a first or main course. Like other New Orleans dishes, it is served with white, fluffy rice.
ÉTOUFFÉE: Probably derived from the French, étuvée, “to braise”, or slowly simmer.
CRÊPES: The Queen of pancakes and traditional fare of Shrove Tuesday celebrating renewal, family life and hope for good fortune and happiness.
KING CAKE: It is said the cake was brought to New Orleans from France in the 1870s. The decorative colored sugars - purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power – represent the three Kings who visited the Christ child on Epiphany.  Also known as Twelfth Night Cake, it is prepared in New Orleans bakeries during the period between January 6th and Ash Wednesday. The cakes were round to represent the circular route taken by the Kings to confuse King Herod, who was following them to kill the Christ child. A bean or pea or tiny doll is hidden inside the cake to symbolize the baby Jesus.

Yield: 4 servings
For the Roux:
2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Stir together in a heavy pot over very low heat until the flour is browned. Be careful not to burn. This will take approximately 10 minutes.
For the Étouffée:
1 large onion, chopped, 1 bell pepper, color of choice, chopped, 2 ribs celery, chopped, 2 cloves garlic, chopped, 3 ounce can tomato paste, 1 ¼ cups beef broth (10 ounce cans Campbell’s®), 1 cup water, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon dried basil, ½ teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon chili powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon Kosher or coarse sea salt
1- 2 pounds peeled medium shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
½ cup chopped scallion greens, a handful chopped parsley.

1.      Add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic to the roux. Stir.
2.      Add the tomato paste. Stir in the broth and water, a little at a time over medium heat. Add the bay leaves, basil, thyme, pepper and salt.
3.      Simmer slowly over medium – low heat 45 minutes or longer. Cover and let this wonderful dish rest 1 hour or longer for the seasonings to blend.

4.      Peel the shrimp. Sauté in the oil/garlic until just colored and coated. Add salt, if you wish. Add to the sauce directly before serving. Reheat and serve over rice sprinkled with chopped scallions and parsley

Louisiana Crab Dip
8 ounces crab meat (fresh, if possible)
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons white horseradish
½ teaspoon lemon juice
⅛ teaspoon Louisiana style hot sauce or Tabasco®
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1.      Pick over the crab meat for any shells and cartilage.
2.      Beat cream cheese smooth. Beat in sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, hot sauce and mustard. Stir in chopped cilantro. If mixture is too thick, add extra sour cream.
3.      Carefully fold in the crab. Sprinkle the top with paprika or chopped parsley for color.
4.      Refrigerate. Serve with crackers and celery, Belgian endive, or toast points.
Note: This is fabulous served warm from the oven or microwave.

King Cake
2 packages active dry yeast (Fleischman’s®)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup warm water (100° - 115°F)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold milk
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 extra large egg yolks
¼ pound plus 4 tablespoons butter, softened
 3-4 cups all-purpose or bread flour

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup finely chopped pecans

8-9 inch spring form or tube pan

1.      In a large bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and sprinkle over the water. Let it sit 5 minutes. Stir. Let it sit 10 minutes to become doubled and puffy. (to proof)
2.      Stir in remaining sugar, salt, milk, sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
3.      Add the egg yolks and stir again to blend.
4.      With your fingers, quickly work the butter into 2 ½ cups of the flour to a dry, mealy consistency. Add it to the yeast mixture and punch down and turn over the dough many times (knead) to make a smooth elastic dough. Add more flour as needed.
5.      Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and continue to knead approximately 6 minutes.
6.      Shape into a ball. Cover. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until mixture doubles in size.
7.      Place o a lightly floured surface and punch the dough down.
8.      Roll the dough into a rectangle about 10 X 14 inches. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg mixture. Sprinkle the nuts over.
9.      Roll it up from the wide end, jelly-roll fashion.
10.  Grease the bottom and sides of the pan. Set the dough in, pushing the ends together to meet.
11.  Cover and let rise again until doubled in size.
12.  Preheat oven to 375°F.
13.  Bake 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool to the warm point in the pans. Invert on a rack and glaze.
Confectioners’ sugar mixed with a little lime or lemon juice to a smooth cream.
Purple, green and gold colored sugar can be purchased from specialty stores or through King Arthur Flour – Google King Arthur colored sugar to order or call 800.827.6836.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.