White Bush Lebanese Summer Squash

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Lebanese Squash

The Lebanese Squash is my favorite of them all. This variety is very versatile and you can use it as a summer or winter squash. Pick the fruit young and treat it like summer squash. It holds up better than zucchini in sauté, soups, stews, or grilled and steamed. It has a slightly nutty flavor with firm meaty flesh and not at all watery. You can also let them grow to 3 to 5 inches in diameter and slice sideways into 1-inch thick ‘steaks’. Simply grill these with olive oil, salt and pepper. IMG_0804Or because it’s so firm you can use BBQ sauce. And of course you can stuff and fry the flowers. Then as the days grow short and the nights cool let the fruit grow large and the skin toughen a little, then stuff and bake it like any other winter squash. (The truth is most summer squash will become winter squash if you just let them.)

The plant is a crawler and can grow very large. Give it room to spread or let it run up a sturdy trellis. It takes about 50 days to harvest and each plant can produce 15 fruit. If you plant in succession about every 3 weeks through spring and early summer you’ll have squash to early winter, and more than you’ll ever need. While you may not want crates of squash I do recommend planting 2 or 3 over the course of about 8 to 10 weeks. This way if one gets powdery mildew you can pull it and have backup, and you’ll still have squash up to the first hard frost. Be sure to cut off old and over sized squash or they will suck some life out of the plant. I’m guilty of leaving old squash on the plant and it does seem to make them weaker. I’m learning.

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Baked squash with feta cheese and roasted red sweet peppers.

Lebanese squash does nick easily so handle with care.

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I used information from these folks. They are not sponsoring me.
They don’t even know me. FEDCO SEEDS and SEED SAVERS

“Cooking all over the world” with Shannon Bennett and Miele

IMG_0099This is my book review of Cooking All Around the World by Shannon Bennett and in partnership with Miele Australia.
This is my third blog post for IFBC (International Food Blogging Conference). Miele was a sponsor of the 2015 IFBC. For the record, I attended their excursion and they gave all attendees a cookbook.

Chef Shannon Bennett was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. He is an author, appears on TV shows, and he is the Chef and director of the Vue de Monde group, an association of restaurants in Melbourne including Burnham Bakery, Piggery Cafe  and Jardin Tan. Chef Bennett has won a number of accolades, has a long list of cookbooks, and his history is quite interesting. If you would like to read more follow this link.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shannon_Bennett

Shannon is also an ambassador for Miele and together they took a unique approach to cooking in the 19 countries they chose. Most of the time when someone visits different cultures to cook and write a book they use local ingredients and cook local dishes. In this case, Shannon and Miele brought a traditional meal from Australia to each country. Cooking All Around the World is a reflection of his experience. Of course the cookbook includes local recipes, using interesting and unusual ingredients.

In each location the Miele team prepared the same menu: Barramundi with prawns, kangaroo filet, and pavlova and lamingtons for dessert. “Modern Australian cuisine”, says Chef Bennett. Getting the ingredients into each country was a challenge, but a rare treat for the lucky people they served.

Shannon and his team traveled the 19 countries in 70 days and prepared the meal in the IMG_8013Miele kitchens. These kitchens are sharp! During the 2015 International Food Blogging Conference (IFBC) in Seattle I took the Miele excursion to the kitchen and show room. They have beautiful equipment. We all worked together in their kitchen and made a fantastic lunch. The ingredients were so fresh, the tables were beautifully set and they gave us a copy of “Cooking All Around the World”. They even mailed the books so we didn’t have to pack them home. It’s a heavy book and most of had flown to the conference.

In Cooking All Around the World, Chef Bennett shares 60 recipes influenced by the people and cultures of the incredible countries and local regions they visited.

The cookbook doesn’t stop there. It’s also a bit of a travel guide sharing ideas, tips and suggestions for visiting each place they stopped. And it has many great photos. I think there should be a law that all cookbooks have pictures. This book complies!

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For the record:

  • Miele gave me written permission to use photos of their photos – and Monique Robinson Public Relations Associate robinson@mieleusa.com is very nice.
  • Miele nor the author gave me anything to review the book.

Strawberry Mousse & Rhubarb Cream

Strawberry Mousse & Rhubarb Cream
Hi Folks. I’m getting set up on yummly and working out some initial kinks. I’ll be posting a few recipes here and there. They’re recipes I didn’t intend on publishing but need some for a test run. Hope you like them.

This dessert is elegant but simple to make. Rich yet light and easy to enjoy after a full dinner. It isn’t as heavy as chocolate mousse, so there is always room for this dessert.

The Strawberry Mousse

  • 6 cups halved strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 to 2 tsp Nutmeg
  • ¼ to 1/2 tsp Clove
  • Tiny pinch of salt
  • 1 oz fruit liquor (I used Raspberry Chambord.)
  • 6 Egg whites

Puree the sugar, strawberries, salt, nutmeg, clove and liquor in a blender.
Using cheese cloth strain the strawberry purée over a bowl to remove some liquid. Place the strawberry purée in the refrigerator. In a sauce pan add the liquid and reduce by half or a third, then refrigerate until cold. Once it’s cooled add to the strawberry mixture and refrigerate.  You can make the mixture the day before.

When you’re ready for the dessert, whip the egg whites as stiff as possible.
Gently fold in the very cold strawberry mixture 1/2 cup at a time until incorporated. Be careful to not collapse the egg whites by using too much purée. Pop it back in the refrigerator. Save the purée you didn’t use as a sauce for this, or yogurt, ice cream, a spoon.
Let the mousse sit in the refrigerator 5 to 10 minutes to chill. When you take the mousse out to serve don’t stir it. Just spoon from the top. A lot of the liquid will have separated, and the top will be a little firmer.

The Rhubarb Cream

Who knew rhubarb is not just red celery? It is yummy and unique. It’s a cross between tangy apples, and more tangy apples.

  • 3 stalks rhubarb.  We all know the leaves are poisonous. So, if you’re not trying to do someone in, remove every bit. Cut the stalks into pieces and put in small pot with a cup of water and simmer until soft. Drain well, pat dry, and put in a blender.
    Add these ingredients and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until very cold. You can do this step the day before.
  • 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • Juice of 1 lemon.
  • ½ cup sugar.

When you’re ready, whip the cream until very stiff and fold in the rhubarb purée.
Spoon on to the strawberry mousse and serve immediately.Strawberry Mousse

Olive Oil is Golden

IMG_8561The Mediterranean produces the best olive oils. Although California is working on producing some very good olive oils, may I say they will never compare to the thousands of years Spain, Italy, and Greece has spent perfecting the product.

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Spain is the largest producer of olive oil. They have more than 300 million olive trees. They aren’t into blending the cultivars, however, and only 20% of the Spanish production is extra virgin. This is where Italy comes in. The country is the largest importers of olives. Even though Italy has an estimated 700 different cultivars of their own, they are also known for taking the Spanish olives and making blends. Because of this the Italians are also the largest exporters of olive oil. And this makes the rest of us very happy.

Greece produces about 400,000 tons of olive oil a year. Even though they have fewer olive trees and less production, Olive oil is a part of Greece in all ways, historically, culturally and economically. There are more than 2800 mills ready to press the olives, and they have about 100 different types of olives.

Other countries producing olive oil include Turkey, where there are 3 olive trees to every citizen. It exports olive oil because it just can’t consume all that they produce. Tunisia, Portugal, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Albania, France, Argentina, Libya, Jordon, the US, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, and Australia all produce the oil. Most import most of the olives they use, but many countries are trying to step up their own production, and many are striving to have the best product.

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As with all foods, it seems, there is an international competition in New York every year – the New York International Olive Oil Competition. In 2015 Spanish olive oil received more awards than the other country. In 2014 Italy had a dire year with the heavy rains, mold, and the Olive Fly screwing things up, and still there were able to enter 671 oils for the contest.  Forty three percent of their entries won, placing them overall 2nd in the event.

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When did the love affair with olive oil begin? Evidently it was about 6,000 years ago. The tree is the oldest known cultivated tree in the world.IMG_8579 Crete has grown the fruit since 3,000BC, before written language. Olives have been a significant part of many early cultures. It was even added to the Greek mythology. Rumor has it, the Goddess Athena brought the olive to the Greeks as a gift, and that’s how Athens received its name.

Standing_Liberty_Quarter holding olive branchThroughout history olive oil has been used for light, heat, medicine, perfume, religious rituals, francsoaps, cosmetics, and food. And of course the “Olive Branch” is a symbol of peace and is found on a number of coins.

Olive Oil is heavily regulated as more crooks are trying to counterfeit the product. Some estimate that as much as 69% of olive oil in the US is a fraud! Fake I say! The crooks!! The ruse is that some aren’t virgin, some aren’t Italian, and some aren’t even olive oil. Check out this article from UC Davis with very good ideas on how to avoid buying the fake stuff. And did you know the Mafia has a huge part in the olive oil fraudulent market? Can’t the mob stick to cigarettes and drugs?

There are a number of myths about olive oil and Nancy Jenkins, a self-proclaimed oleophile, dispels those myths in this article.

During my stay at Solebello in Morro d’alba Italy I had the great privilege of helping pick olives for olive oil. Picking olives in Italy! It was a great experience, and because of the company it was a lot of fun.

Next we took the olives to The Cantina Stefano Mancinelli Winery to press into oil. Stay tuned for part II.

Resources …

SCD Lifestyle

The Daily Beast – The Mafia and olive oil

UC Davis Report Olive Oil Study

The best Olive Oils

The New York International Olive Oil Competition

Peas Health

Olive Source

https://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/history-olive

Think On This New Stuff

Solebello Italy

Ancient oil press (Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Bodrum, Turkey) Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

'My Italy' 2015

IMG_8561The Mediterranean is where the best olive oils are produced. Although California is working on producing some very good olive oils, may I say they will never compare to the thousands of years Spain, Italy, and Greece has spent perfecting the oil.

IMG_8654

Spain is the largest producer of olive oil. They have more than 300 million olive trees. They aren’t really into blending the cultivars, however, and only 20% of the Spanish production is extra virgin. This is where Italy comes in. The county is the largest importers of olive oil. Even though Italy has an estimated 700 different of their own cultivars, they are also known for taking the Spanish olives and making blends. Because of this the Italians are also the largest exporters of olive oil. And this makes the rest of us very happy.

Turkey.Bodrum042" by Georges JansooneTurkey.Bodrum042 by Georges Jansoone

Greece produces about 400,000 tons of olive oil a…

View original post 561 more words

French Fries in Italy

Hoeing the Fields (Pitting Potatoes) (caSome think potatoes were introduced through the Belgians or French (ya’d think the Irish) but it appears it was the Spanish. In 1537, some Spanish conquistadors apparently discovered potatoes in Peru where the Incas had been growing them since 8,000BC. The Spanish called them truffles. A far cry from truffles they are, but potatoes do grow in the ground. In the late 1500s, potatoes were brought back to Spain and introduced to Italy. Italy had the potato before Ireland! At least that’s one of the stories.

When did the potato arrive in Ireland? No one knows, nor do we know who introduced the spud to the island, but we do know it was in early 1600. It could have been Sir Walter Ralegh, Sir Francis Drake or John Hawkins, they have all received credit at some point.

The-Introduction-of-the-Potato-into-Ireland-2What we do know is that the potato came from South America, first domesticated in the Andes, landing in Europe in the 1500­1600s. And thank goodness it found it’s way over.

Over 100 countries cultivate the plant and have created 4,000 varieties specific to different areas. It has now become the third most important food crop in the world after wheat and rice. It is more efficient is water use than the grain crops, an important quality in the drought prone areas.

It was only recently that a vicious campaign against carbohydrates gave potatoes a ‘bad rap’. There is nothing wrong with potatoes. In fact, they are a great source of potassium, fiber, magnesium, Vit B­6, calcium, and protein… and comfort.

Today we have a wide variety of potatoes to use, and we prepare them in many different dishes. They are served at breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner around the world. We have baked, mashed, scalloped, au gratin, gnocchi, latkes, croquettes, roasted, boiled, shredded, sliced, cubed, in stews, casseroles, salads and soups. But most of all we have FRENCH FRIES! And Italy, one of the earliest pioneers on making the potatoes what it is today, has stores dedicated to French Fries. A French Fry shop. Shear genius.

https://www.facebook.com/scartozz

References & More Information

Today I found out

Potato Goodness

History Ireland

International Potato Center

19th Century Paintings

 

My Trip To Italy

Ciao !   I recently took a trip to Italy. For a homebody it was a big deal. I fell in Love with Italy and hope to get back there in 2016. Meanwhile, I’m writing stories and posting pictures in a special blog – https://myitaly2015.wordpress.com/  Please take a look and follow if you like. Italy is beautiful, the people are warm, and the food is incredible!

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Chowder

IMG_8590The origin of Chowder is not as clear as many other foods. The first recipe appeared in 1751 in the Boston Evening Post but traces of the term go back much further.

It looks like the fish chowder was born from the English Channel. References to the soup are found in the fishing villages of the coast of Northwestern France and Southwestern coast of England, right across the English Channel from each other. The French word ‘chaudiere’, a cooking pot, may have evolved into the word Chowder. The village would have a large cauldron ready for the catch the fishermen brought home. Of course, there would be a celebration.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, Cornwall was cooking up their own variation of clams and oysters in broth with potatoes and pork. The Old English term ‘jowter’, meaning fish peddler, could be where our word ‘chowder’ originated. Layering ingredients, called the “layering technique”, made the first chowder. Onions were on the bottom to protect the pork from burning

When someone mentions clam chowder, not that it comes up in conversation that often, most of us probably think of New England Clam Chowder but there are a few more to explore. Chowder is a thick, chunky soup with a key ingredient, like clams or corn, and typically onion, bacon or pork, and potatoes. While the base is not always cream or milk (why not is beyond me), most people think of a cream based soup when they think of Chowder (pretty sure I asked all of them.). There are a couple chowders made with only a tomato base, but either way chowder is a thick, rich and hearty soup that with bread makes a great meal.

The Foundation of Chowder:

  • The main vegetable, seafood, or meat.
  • Stock or broth.
  • Cream or milk, or a thick tomatoes base.
  • Diced onion, bacon, and potatoes.
  • A thickening agent, such as cornstarch, flour, or puree potatoes.

The whole debate of ‘tomatoes or no tomatoes’ in clam chowder is long standing. If you ask me, chowder should include cream (and nutmeg). In fact, in 1939 the state of Maine introduced a bill into legislature to make the use of tomatoes in clam chowder against the law, it was so frowned upon.

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The Union Oyster House

Two of the oldest restaurants serving clam chowder: The Union Oyster House was established 1826 in Boston, MA (you know,  “Boston” Clam Chowder!). The building itself has been a part of history. Built in the early 1700s, it has been an importer of fancy dress goods, a fish store, in 1771 it housed the ‘Massachusetts Spy‘, the longest newspaper in the US. Hancock and Quincy’s wives hung out at the house mending clothes for the colonists. Louis Philippe (king of France from 1830 to 1848) lived in exile on the second floor of the Union Building in the fall of 1797. For more, perhaps interesting, on Phillippe and the exile check out the History of Massachusetts.

0000And on the West Coast one of the oldest restaurants serving clam chowder is Alioto’s Restaurant, a classic seafood restaurant now run by the fourth generation of the Alioto family. Alioto’s began as a fresh fish stall on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf in 1925, and now serving fresh fish in an elegant restaurant on the bay.

There are a number of clam chowders now: New England, Manhattan, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Hatteras (North Calolina), Minorcan , and more. Wikipedia does a good explaining the differences, check it out.

This recipe was using what ingredients I had available. It was for a little contest with mushrooms as the main ingredient, and it was a wonderfully rainy day (in Northern California every rainy day is a beautiful thing!). I would have used potatoes but had none.

Mushroom & Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 1 qt. Broth (Chicken or veggie)
  • All the veggies should be diced ¼ – ½ in.
  • 3 Cups mushrooms – cut into ½ in. pieces
  • 1 Cup corn – frozen is helpful when it’s out of season
  • 1 Leek – diced
  • 1 Celery stalk – diced
  • 1 Carrot – diced
  • 1 Sweet red pepper – diced
  • 1 Onion – diced
  • Parsley – minced
  • Salt, lots of white or black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. grated nutmeg
  • ¼ or less cayenne
  • Olive oil
  • Thickening agent. I used flour
  • Cream to taste

To Do:

  • Cut bacon into approximately ½ in. pieces and brown in a big pot. Remove, drain on towels, and set aside.
  • Pour off the grease, keeping a tbsp. Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil, heat and add diced onion. Sauté onions 2 minutes.
  • Add the flour to 1 cup of broth and whisk out any lumps. Add to the pot and simmer on low to thicken. When the flour doesn’t smell like flour it’s done. Be careful not to brown the mixture. You may need to add some butter or broth as it’s thickening. (You can also use cornstarch or other thickening agent.)
  • Stir in 2 cups of broth.
  • Add the leek, celery, carrot, pepper, mushrooms, and spices, cover with broth and simmer until almost done.
  • Add the corn and stir and simmer until the corn is hot and the veggies are cooked al dente.
  • Add more broth as needed. Chowder is meant to have a thick cream base, but if you want it a bit thinner, that’s OK with me.
  • Add bacon and cream.

* The Alioto and the Union Oyster House photos are not mine They do not give photo credit on their websites but that is where I got the pictures.

References

These are the helpful references I used in this blog. I did not check their sources but feel pretty good about efforts. Many thanks.

History of Chowder
Seasoned Advice
The Chicago Tribune
A Mexican Clam Chowder that looks great.
A spicy Chorizo chowder from A Ducks Oven
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Wikapedia
Hungry Monster
Union Oyster House
Alioto’s Restaurant

(Any links to other sites or mention of products, stores, and such, are not compensated through advertising dollars. I wish they were.)IMG_8613