Sushi Etiquette; Eating Bugs; Making Food Pretty; Chocolates & Paris; Dr. Cocktail; Herbfarm at Home
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Photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D'Aluisio tell what it's like to eat bugs all over the world. Loaded with spectacular photographs and sensitive writing, their phenomenal book, The Hungry Planet, is a powerful assessment of how our global relationship with food is undergoing tremendous change.
Dave Lowry, author of The Connoisseur's Guide to Sushi, offers some tips on how to eat sushi without committing any social faux pas.
From cheese pulls to ice cream scoops, Lisa Schroeder tells about the trials and tribulations of being a food stylist.
David Lebovitz, who's new book is The Great Book of Chocolate, speaks with us about chocolate makers here and in France. A gifted pastry chef, he also offers day-long and week-long chocolate tours through Paris. David offers the following tips for chocolate buyers:
- As you enter the shop, look to confirm that it's clean and orderly -- it certainly should be. The best chocolatiers are fanatical about quality, hygiene, and appearance and are very proud of their creations, working very diligently to present hem properly. The salesman will often put on a white cotton glove to handle the chocolates. This doesn't mean that hands are dirty; it's to avoid getting fingerprints on your chocolate.
- Note the condition of the chocolates. Small bubbles on the upper edge indicate that when the chocolates were being molded, the molds ere not properly agitated to release the air. While this is a small flaw, it's a reflection on the chocolate maker's level of care and precision.
- Check to see that the chocolates have no cracks. Cracks mean either that the fillings that were dipped were tool cold or overfilled, or that the chocolates are old. If there is filling bubbly and oozing out, it means that the insides were not hygienically prepared before being enrobed and they're spoiled. If the cracks are the result of cold filling, there s the possibility that the center may have suffered in quality, as a solid chocolate coating provides a protective case for the enclosed filling.
- When ordering individual chocolates to be arranged in a box to fit your specifications by a salesperson, always choose the flattest chocolates first rather than those that are tall or shapely. Requesting the flat ones first means that subsequent layer(s) will be easier to pack and arrive at their destination in better condition. The chocolates on the bottom won't get damaged, and having a variety of shapes and sizes on top makes the box more attractive upon opening.
- Handle chocolates with care after you take them from the shop. Store them properly in a cool, dark place until you eat them.
Chef Jerry Traunfeld of The Herbfarm tells us how to cook with fresh farm ingredients. His book, The Herbal Kitchen : Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor, explores how we can use herbs in our kitchens at home. The following recipe takes advantage of the wonderful fresh flavor of marjoran with sweet corn. He suggests using this moist bread with main-course soups or bean dishes.
Marjoram Corn Bread
Yield: Nine (8" x 8") servings
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
- 1 cup all purpose flour (spoon and level; 4 1/2 ozs)
- 11/2 tsps baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup whole or low-fat buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 Tablespoons fresh marjoram, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Wine pairing: A medium-bodied American Chardonnay such as the Byron Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2001
Lavender-Rubbed Duck Breast with Apricots and Sweet Onions
- 4 large boneless duck breasts (about 2 lbs), preferably Muscovy, skin on
- 2 Tablespoons lavender buds, fresh or dried
- 1 Tablespoon dried coriander seeds
- 1 tsp dried fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 large sweet onion, thickly sliced
- 8 fresh apricots (12 ozs), pitted and quartered, or 1 cup (4 ozs) sliced dried apricots
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or Vermouth
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 to 2 tsps sherry vinegar if needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Trim any excess skin from the sides of the duck breasts. Score the skin with the tip of a sharp knife in a diagonal grid pattern, about 1 inch wide, being careful to cut just deep enough to slice the skin but not pierce the flesh.
- Put all the rub ingredients into a spice grinder (rotary coffee mill) and spin until very finely ground. Rub both sides of the duck breasts with the spices, spreading it on as evenly as you can and working some into the score marks on the skin side. If you are not ready to cook the duck, wrap it and store it in the refrigerator for up to a day, which will actually improve the flavor.
- Swirl the olive oil in a large skillet placed over medium-low heat. Place the duck breasts skin side down in the pan and cook them gently, shaking the pan occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary. Most of the cooking takes place on the skin side; you want to go about it slowly enough that the skin has a chance to render out as much fat as possible before it, and the spices, get too dark. In about 15 minutes a considerable amount of fat should fill the skillet, some red juices should collect on the surface of the duck, and the duck skin should be a deep bronze color. If it's not, turn up the heat to medium and cook further. When the skin is well browned, turn the breasts and cook the other side for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they feel springy and an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the center registers 135--F to 140--F (for medium). Lift them out onto a warm plate and allow them to rest while you prepare the sauce in the same skillet.
- Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the duck fat. Stir in the onion over medium heat until it softens and picks up a rich brown color from the pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apricots, wine and broth and simmer the sauce until it reduces to about half its original volume and thickens lightly, about 5 minutes. Taste it and add the vinegar (depending on the tartness of the apricots), pepper, and salt if you think it needs it.
- Put the duck breasts skin-side down on a cutting board and slice them into a 1/2 inch-thick pieces (it's easier to make neat slices if the skin is on the bottom). Flip them skin side up and fan the slices on warmed plates. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve right away.
Slow-Roasted Salmon with Spring Herb Sauce
- 1 1/2 lbs fresh Wild King or Sockeye salmon fillet
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup mixed coarsely chopped soft-leafed herbs, such as basil, chervil, chives, dill, fennel, lovage, mint, sorrel, or tarragon, plus additional small tender herb sprigs for garnish
- Coarse sea salt for finishing
- Pull out any small bones that were left in the salmon and, if you wish, trim off the gray fat that was next to the skin. Holding your knife at a 30-- angle to the cutting board, cut the salmon into 4 wide slices that are about 3/4-inch thick. Lay them in a shallow baking dish and pour olive oil, rubbing it around the fillets to coat all the sides. Let the fish sit in the oil as it comes to room temperature, 30 to 60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 225--F or 200--F if you have the option of convection bake. Lift the fillets from the oil and evenly space them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the fish lightly with salt. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. When it's done, the fat between the layers of fish will just begin to turn opaque, a small amount of liquid will collect under the fillets, and the fish will flake slightly when nudged with your finger. Pick up a piece and it should easily break apart between the layers rather than holding firmly together. It might appear to be underdone because the color will be vivid, but it will be fully cooked.
- While the fish is roasting, make the sauce. Boil the wine, shallots, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a small saucepan until you have half as much as you started with. Turn the heat to medium-low and whist in the butter, on-third of it at a time, until it is all incorporated. If you have an immersion blender, use it to blend the sauce for about 10 seconds, which gives it a creamier consistency. If the fish is not quite ready, keep the sauce warm by putting the saucepan in a large pan of hot water.
- When the salmon is done, transfer the fillets to individual warmed plates (since the sauce will run, choose plates with deep rims that will contain it, or use shallow bowls). Stir the coarsely chopped herbs into the sauce, taste it and add more salt if you think it needs it, then ladle it around the fish. Sprinkle each fillet with a pinch of coarse sea salt. Toss the reserved herb sprigs onto the plates in a casual way and serve.
Ted Haigh--aka Dr. Cocktail, tells us how to use bitters. The author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Ted writes a regular column for www.MartiniRepublic.com and runs the Internet Cocktail Database, a comprehensive encyclopedia of cocktails, barware, and more. The websites he mentioned are:
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