Articles in Cooking
Looking ahead to hot days when meals must be light and flavorful, home cooks and restaurant chefs alike want light and flavorful dishes to put on the table. One dish perfect for the summer is tuna tartare, delicately seasoned and plated to satisfy any gourmand’s need for luxurious food, beautifully presented.
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Gabriel Kreuther, executive chef at The Modern, the fine dining restaurant at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art is a master at preparing beautifully delicious comfort food. With a dining room view of MoMA’s sculpture garden, Chef Kreuther lets his food take its cue from the art. His plates are mini-sculptures, animated with color, contrasts and meticulous detailing.
Tartare, like sashimi, is only as good as its ingredients and those must be as fresh as possible. Quality seafood purveyors are a good source of the high quality yellowfin tuna and diver scallops required for the recipe.
Adding to the quality of the seafood is the visual design. For Kreuther, the extra effort it takes to make a visually striking plate gives added pleasure to a dish.
Tartare of Yellowfin Tuna and Diver Scallops Seasoned with American Caviar
For the tartare:
12 ounces yellow fin tuna, sushi grade, medium dice (½-inch cubes)
12 ounces diver scallops (8 to 10 of the freshest, highest quality, firm), medium dice (½-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces American Caviar
3 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cucumber, not too thick, preferably seedless, unpeeled
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar (or reduction of regular balsamic vinegar made by reducing 8 tablespoons over a low flame), as needed
Baby greens or arugula for garnish
For the chive oil:
Chives, leftover parts from above chopped portion
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
To prepare the chive oil:
1. Blend the chives and oil in a blender. Strain the mixture and reserve in a squeeze bottle.
To prepare the seafood:
1. Dice the tuna into ½-inch cubes. Place into a bowl, cover and reserve in the refrigerator.
2. Dice the scallops into similarly sized ½-inch cubes. Place into a separate bowl, cover and also refrigerate.
To prepare the bed of cucumber:
1. Wash the cucumber and pat it dry. Slice it very thinly using a Japanese mandoline slicer for better precision or if unavailable, use a very sharp knife.
2. Season the slices with salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil and arrange the slices on a chilled plate in 2 overlapping columns (6 slices each, arranged like shingles on a roof) down the center of the plate. Refrigerate until ready to plate the dish.
To prepare the tartare mixture:
1. Combine the tuna and scallops in one bowl and add the chopped chives, hazelnut oil, olive oil and caviar.
2. Season with salt and pepper and mix all the ingredients together gently. On the final stir, add some lemon juice to taste.
Note: Do not use too much lemon juice, as it will overpower the dish.
To plate the dish:
1. Place several spoonfuls of the tartare mixture along the length of the 2 columns of cucumber, down the center, leaving some of the outer edge of cucumbers to be visible.
2. Season the baby greens with some of the remaining lemon juice and olive oil.
3. Spike one end of the tartare with a few leaves of the seasoned greens.
4. Finally, using the aged balsamic vinegar (or reduced balsamic vinegar) and the chive oil in 2 separate squeeze bottles, make 2 straight lines, on either side of the columns of cucumber (parallel to and approximately ½ inch away from the cucumbers.)
Top photo: Tartare of yellowfin tuna and diver scallops seasoned with American caviar. Credit: Diana DeLucia
Most recipes seem to call for all-purpose flour. But should you use bleached or unbleached? Has it occurred to you to experiment with the myriad options, including pastry flour, bread flour, self-rising flour, whole wheat and gluten-free?
Know your flours
Unbleached cake flour is good for cakes, biscuits and muffins. This blend of unbleached flour and cornstarch that replicates cake flour’s performance without bleaching.
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Unbleached all-purpose flour is good for cakes, breads, pies, cookies, quickbreads, and muffins. This is the best all-around flour with enough protein for good structure, but not so much that baked goods are tough or chewy.
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Unbleached bread flour is good for breads, pretzels, combined with whole grain or non-gluten flours. This flour’s high protein level gives more support to non-gluten flours like rye and it also helps the structure of whole grain breads. It makes excellent pizza crust and artisan loaves, which have a high water content.
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Premium whole wheat flour is good anywhere you’d use white flour, with recipe adjustments. Ground from the entire wheat berry, whole wheat flour contains bran, germ, and endosperm. The oil in the germ can go rancid. To delay this, store it in an airtight container in the freezer.
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Unbleached white whole wheat flour is good anywhere you'd use white flour, with recipe adjustments. This flour is nutritionally identical to traditional whole wheat, though the bran is lighter in color and has a milder, sweeter flavor.
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Self-rising flour is good for biscuits, quickbreads and cakes. This is a low-protein flour that has baking powder and salt added to it already.
Or have you sent your husband or wife or partner or friend to the grocery store for flour and been stunned at what they bring home? With the wardrobe of flour options, how are they to know which one to purchase?
All flours begin as wheat. The wheat berry has four parts, bran, germ, endosperm and cotyledon. White flour is created by sifting out the bran, germ and cotyledon. Whole-wheat flour is made from the entire grain. To complicate things further, there is white whole-wheat flour that is made from a hard white wheat as opposed to regular whole-wheat flour that is made from hard red wheat. They are both milled the same way. And one begins to understand why it is difficult to decide which flour to use.
Understanding gluten content
When baking, it is important to understand the differences in all the flour options. The bottom line is it is all about the gluten content. Gluten is a protein in wheat that when hydrated creates the structure of your dough, be it cake, bread, pizza, etc. The higher the gluten content the tougher or chewier your end result.
All-purpose flour was developed to have a gluten content that works for most household baked goods without having to make adjustments. If you use a high-protein (high-gluten) flour such as whole wheat, you will need to add more moisture or let your dough rest a little longer so it behaves more like all-purpose flour.
Even though you might be tempted to replace your all-purpose flour with white whole-wheat flour it is not a perfect substitution. The white whole-wheat flour has more gluten protein and will result in tougher dough if you do not add more moisture or allow it to rest for a longer period of time.
A flour experiment
Susan Reid, editor of “The Baking Sheet” at King Arthur Flour is a food scientist and a flour aficionado. She did a test to show how different flours act by making the exact same recipe with a range of flours. She used a random store brand, bread flour, all-purpose flour, unbleached cake flour, white whole wheat flour, whole wheat flour, self-rising four and gluten-free flour.
Her thesis was that all flours are not created equal. One could taste and see the differences. The unbleached cake flour was the softest whereas the whole-wheat was the toughest, and the gluten-free clearly had a different structure than the wheat-based flour specimens.
So how do you select the right flour for your baking needs? Most recipes seem to call for all-purpose flour. Should you deviate from using all-purpose flour just know you may need to adjust the moisture content to obtain your desired texture.
If you are making an artisanal sourdough bread, perhaps whole wheat or white whole wheat would be your choice. But if you want to make bagels with lots of structure then a higher gluten flour would be your best choice. The key is to know you have options and to choose the best flour for the baked good that you are making.
Remember, despite all the negative press that gluten has been getting these days, it is the most important ingredient in baked goods because it provides their structure. And herein lies the difficulty with gluten-free baking and why it is so hard to find great gluten-free bread or cookies that have the structure of the wheat-based flours. Gluten does have a role in baking and if you are not gluten intolerant, then experimenting with the different flours can be fun and liberating.
Try making two batches the following scone recipe from King Arthur Flour. Make one with whole wheat flour and one with white whole wheat flour. And let us know your observations.
Whole-Wheat Raisin Scones
For the scones:
2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur 100% white whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons (⅞ ounce) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 ounces, 1 stick) chilled, unsalted butter
¾ cup (6 ounces) buttermilk
1 egg yolk (save the white for topping the scones)
½ cup dried fruit (optional)
For the topping:
1 egg white
Sparkling white sugar
1. Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender.
3. Whisk together the buttermilk, orange juice, and egg yolk and stir into the dry mixture until a dough forms.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and gently and quickly knead in the optional dried fruit.
5. Pat the dough into a flat disk about 7 inches across and cut it into wedges.
6. Transfer the disk to a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. For crispier scones, separate the wedges; for softer, higher rising scones, leave them in the circle.
7. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg white and sprinkle with sparkling white sugar. Bake them in a preheated 375 F oven for 25 to 27 minutes, inspecting at midpoint to admire and turn.
8. Remove the scones from the oven when they’re light, golden brown and cool them on a wire rack.
Top photo: The great flour experiment. Credit: Courtesy of King Arthur Flour
Traditions of the ancient Greeks continue to echo through modern life, including food customs such as trahana. This combination of a grain and protein sustains modern Greek supermarket shoppers just as it did ancient travelers.
The temple of Delphi, where the ancient Greeks consulted their politically astute oracle, was once a month’s journey over land from Athens but can now be reached virtually overnight by boat through the Corinth Canal, provided the vessel is shallow and slender enough to slip between the narrow cliffs.
Delphi is no longer inaccessible but can be reached via the port of Itea by taking an hour’s coach ride with fellow tourists through a fertile valley with newly planted olive trees and almond trees. As the road rises into the mountains through pine trees with bee hives, snaking up near-vertical slopes in hairpin bends, the landscape becomes bleak and inhospitable, dotted with thorn bushes. It is dry as a desert, so it is impossible now to imagine the survival of any living thing, let alone a community of the size that occupied what are now the Delphic ruins.
The ruins are visible from a distance as planes of pale stone that reveal themselves, on closer inspection, as a vast stone pavement bordered by half-broken Corinthian columns. The semicircular amphitheater is perfectly angled toward the setting sun and a handful of semi-restored domestic buildings, all reached by a steep pathway heavily trodden by tourists’ feet.
There is a museum, of course, an elegant modern building in which rescued artifacts are displayed in cool white rooms. These include statues, fragments of bas-relief, drinking vessels, amphorae, domestic utensils and jewelry.
Eat like the ancients
In an anteroom, a line of screens displays information in Greek and Italian of the foodstuffs used by the temple-dwellers in the days of Homer. The medicinal plants available in region included lemon, bay, juniper, dianthus, unidentified wild fungi, opium poppy and disinfectant rosemary. There also was tilia, or lime-blossom, for soothing infusions. Hemp was grown for rope, genester for thread, and flax for cloth. Olives were pressed for oil and grapes, Vitis vinifera silvestris, for wine.
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Fruits enjoyed by the inhabitants were rose hips, quince and peaches. The little scarlet fruits of arbutus or strawberry trees were available, as were figs and pears, which were preserved in honey. There was also, on occasion, feasting on fresh meat from the temple offerings because the gods received the smoke and mortals consumed the substance.
More dependable protein, however, was goat’s or sheep’s milk consumed in the form of yogurt or cheese or conserved as a miniature grainfood, trahana. It is prepared by mixing wheat flour into a dough with some form of liquid, such as milk, yogurt or whey from the cheesemaking. It is then rolled or broken into little pieces and spread in the sun to dry.
Given the Delphic spring-water and a store cupboard full of trahana — protein and grain food in a single portable package — the Delphic community could survive without outside provisioning from one year to the next. This was an important consideration when the advice delivered by the oracle didn’t deliver as planned.
Sweet and savory versions of trahana are sold in most Greek grocery stores at home and abroad. Some households still prepare it in much the same spirit as Italians make their own pasta, because it’s good for you and you know what’s in it.
On Ithaca, the island that Ulysses called home, I watched trahana prepared in the old way, with a pestle and mortar for grinding the wheat and the cheesemaking whey used to bind the flour. The dough was then shaped into egg-sized balls turned daily till dry enough to crumble onto clean cotton sheets spread in the sun.
“A most convenient foodstuff,” said my informant, adding that if trahana is prepared in sufficient quantity, your family will never go hungry. Fishermen take it to sea in case they miss the evening tide. Travelers never leave home without it. Trahana, one might suppose, provisioned Agamemnon’s ships as they sailed to Troy to recapture runaway Helen.
1 pound flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1. Mix the eggs with your hand slowly into the flour and salt until you have a few pieces of very stiff dough. If you need more liquid, add a little water. If the mixture is too soft, add more flour. Leave the dough, covered with a cloth, to rest and dry out a little.
2. To use right away — perhaps as tiny dumplings to fortify a soup or as first food for a baby – grate the dough through the largest holes of a grater straight into the boiling liquid and they’ll take less than a minute to soften.
3. To dry trahana for storage, grate the dough onto a clean cloth over a roomy tray, allowing the gratings to fall loosely in a single layer like grains of barley. Leave them on the cloth for 2 to 3 days in a warm dry kitchen, tossing them lightly every now and again to keep the grains separate and allow them to dry evenly till they’re as hard as catapult pellets. Thereafter they can be stored in an airtight tin more or less forever.
To prepare dried trahana as porridge: Bring 1 pint milk and 1 pint water to the boil and stir in the above quantity of dried trahana. Simmer for 3 minutes or so, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Eat with honey and yogurt as a nourishing breakfast, or with grated cheese for supper.
To prepare as gratin: Toss the cooked trahana with butter or olive oil and spread in a heated gratin dish, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake in a hot oven — 450 F — for 10 minutes or till brown and bubbling.
To prepare as a risotto or pillau: Treat dried trahana exactly as you would grains of rice: fry them first with your chosen flavorings, then add the cooking liquid and simmer till soft.
Top illustration: The amphitheater at Delphi. Credit: Elisabeth Luard
I’ve never really understood the lure of molecular gastronomy. I’ll admit that the science behind it is fascinating, but as food it just never rocked my world. While dining on cotton candy foie gras at a restaurant known for molecular gastronomy, I ordered an Old-Fashioned. By the time I’d swallowed the chemically engineered “cherry” at the bottom of the drink, I’d had a brainstorm. This experience would be a lot more fun if the chef would simply sit beside me and explain why the seemingly solid maraschino cherry magically disappeared in my mouth. In fact, I wanted to know everything about the scientific principals that made crazy concoctions like this possible.
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Unfortunately I’d never found a way to make this happen. That is, until I attended the 2nd Annual Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Social at LA Makerspace in Los Angeles. It was really less of an ice cream social and more of a molecular gastronomy magic show. This event answered my question about the maraschino cherry, plus a few I’d never thought to ask.
The molecular gastronomist at work
The mastermind behind the event was Ariel Levi Simons. He’s a passionate amateur molecular gastronomist, as well as a physics teacher at Wildwood School in West Los Angeles and a founding member of LA Makerspace. In front of a group of about 50 people, Simons created culinary illusions, while simultaneously explaining the science behind the magic. Families with small children helped him freeze ice cream in less than 30 seconds under a cloud of bubbling liquid nitrogen. Grown-up science geeks mulled the question of which tasted better, carbonated pineapple or fizzy habañero-infused avocado.
I was most excited to learn about spherification, the process by which my faux-maraschino cherry was created. Simons enthusiastically described a magical elixir that could turn almost any liquid into a sphere. It’s all thanks to sodium alginate, a common food additive derived from kelp that many of us eat every day. It’s used to prevent freezer burn in ice cream and thicken McDonald’s apple pies. Simons makes a slightly more upscale concoction: synthetic caviar.
Simons loads equal amounts of a concentrated syrup, such as Torani, and sodium alginate into a syringe. Then he squeezes small drops of the mixture into a solution of food-grade calcium chloride. When the two solutions meet, the calcium ions bind to the sodium alginate, forming a skin around the liquid that magically transforms into a sphere within a few seconds.
It’s pure physics and chemistry. When you bite into these tiny spheres, the thin skin immediately bursts, unleashing the taste of tangerine or black tea inside. It’s not quite caviar, but the mystery of the faux-maraschino was solved.
The greater mystery of the event turned out to be Simons himself. I was surprised to learn that Simons’ interest in food chemistry runs deeper than the simple parlor tricks of molecular gastronomy, which he describes as “the showiest and quickest” way to talk about food chemistry.
Molecular gastronomy illuminates our food preservation traditions
Simons is passionate about traditional methods of food preservation, as I am, and we discussed real magic: the slow but startling fermentation of kimchi, the alchemy of 1,000-year-old eggs, and the mysterious transformation of black garlic. Simons is fascinated with the chemistry of even the most basic foods. He revealed the fact that corn syrup is far more chemically complex than anything he made at the ice cream social. In fact, the production of corn syrup is so complex that it is only economically feasible because the United States government subsidizes the production of corn, which makes it almost free as a raw product.
Simons thinks the complexity of our food actually may be a problem, especially because no one realizes how ubiquitous it is. “Food production has been a driving force in human history,” he said. And sadly, this driving force has largely been forgotten.
“We don’t think about food production because we don’t have to,” he said. “We’ve sort of won the game.”
But Simons recognizes that there are good reasons to understand where our food comes from and how it’s made. The point of Simons’ “magic show” at the ice cream social was to “show that it’s not actually magic. It’s a technique we developed to take food and transport it and sell it across the world.”
For me, the real thrill of molecular gastronomy is discovering the science behind the seemingly magical concoctions that I eat. I’ve tried my own food alchemy demonstrations with my kids, including making my own sugar from sugarcane. And when I next have the opportunity to taste potato foam gnocchi or dried olive soil, I won’t need the chef sitting next to me to fully enjoy the experience.
But frankly, my favorite form of molecular gastronomy involves the chemical reaction between a large bag of salt and the back leg of a pig. Country ham — now that’s magic.
Top photo: Molecular gastronomy in action. Credit: Susan Lutz
Wild asparagus was one of the first wild foods I learned to pick as a kid, and it is probably the one I hold dearest to my heart. I’m so smitten with the wild variety that I refuse to eat store-bought asparagus, with rare exceptions like an elderly aunt’s Thanksgiving table.
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When I teach people to identify asparagus in the wild, I remind them that it is the very same species of asparagus, Asparagus officinalis, sold in stores (in the U.S.). Thus, wild asparagus looks remarkably similar to the spears sold in grocery markets and is readily recognized once one knows what to look for. It may vary in diameter, from very thin as a whip to thicker than my thumb. Sometimes wild asparagus twists and curls as it reaches for the light, and it occasionally looks wild and raggedy. But more often than not, it looks quite similar to asparagus found in the store, and it always tastes good.
It occurred to me this year that I should run a taste test between wild and store-bought asparagus, given that they are essentially the same thing. I used the participants in one of my wild foods cooking classes as the test subjects. I presented two batches of identically cooked asparagus (steamed and dressed in olive oil and salt). I informed them that one was wild and one was purchased from a supermarket, and in a blind test, asked them which they preferred.
The results shocked me. I had thought that there was no way wild asparagus could lose. However, the tasters preferred the store-bought asparagus by a 3 to 1 margin. Even the tasters were surprised by the results, many swearing they thought for certain they had correctly chosen the wild asparagus.
I have some theories as to why the commercial asparagus won. Most of the tasters agreed wild asparagus tasted sweeter. Perhaps they had pre-formed notions that wild asparagus might taste slightly more bitter. I think my biggest mistake was in informing my tasters that they would be choosing between wild and store-bought asparagus. I simply should have asked them which they preferred without informing them why I wanted to know.
Will the results of my informal poll alter my preference for wild asparagus? Not a chance. For me, wild asparagus is as much about ritual and celebration as it is about flavor. I will continue to boycott the asparagus that comes from the store, and look forward to next spring’s crop of wild asparagus.
Simple Grilled Asparagus
1 pound thick asparagus
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon wild onion compound butter
1. Prepare the asparagus by using a vegetable peeler to peel the lower third of each stalk, and snapping off any ends that seem too woody.
2. Place the asparagus pieces on a sheet pan, drizzle them with the olive oil. Toss them around lightly until each spear is evenly coated with the oil. Next, season the asparagus with salt.
3. Grill the asparagus over moderately high heat, turning once, just until they start to blister and are tender when pierced with a knife. Do not overcook the asparagus, or it will become soggy and develop a bad flavor.
4. Once the asparagus is off the grill, finish it by letting the compound butter melt over the hot spears, then sprinkle them with the lemon zest.
Top photo: Grilled asparagus. Credit: Wendy Petty
Marshmallows were a staple in our house when I was growing up. Not a staple like potatoes and carrots, which showed up in one form or another on the table for most dinners, but marshmallows were always in the cupboard, waiting to float in hot chocolate or be skewered and toasted over a campfire. Other times, they got all gooey, sandwiched with chocolate between graham crackers; was there ever a better name for a treat than s’mores?
We even made our own marshmallows, from my grandmother’s recipe. Sometimes we left them as marshmallows, cubes rolled in confectioner’s sugar, while other times we added a short crust and a dusting of sweet coconut and transformed them into marshmallow squares (still one of my favorite cookies).
We had marshmallow love, just like people have had for centuries.
Marshmallows have a surprisingly long history, dating to ancient times. They were first made from the pulp of the marsh mallow plant root, which was boiled with sugar or another sweetener like honey, then strained and cooled. The ancient Egyptians used to make this candy for their pharaohs and gods.
Mere and poor mortals in ancient Greece and Rome ate the marsh mallow plant because it was abundant and fed their hunger. Lucian, a satirist of the day, thought it should be eaten like lettuce.
Marsh mallow was also used medicinally. It helped to treat wounds, and when mixed with wine, it calmed coughs. Marsh mallow water treated catarrhs (inflammations of mucus membranes), among other things.
Marshmallows similar to what we know today were first made in France around 1850 in small sweet shops. Candy makers extracted the sap from the plant’s root, whipped and sweetened it. Although very popular, the resulting marshmallows took a lot of time and effort to make.
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In the late 19th century, French manufacturers incorporated egg whites or gelatin and corn starch into their marshmallows (also known as pâte de guimauve). This eliminated the sap but required new ways to combine the gelatin and corn starch.
By the turn of the last century, marshmallows were sold alongside licorice whips and peppermint drops, but they became even more popular when some smart marketers suggested that marshmallows went well with other popular items such as Jell-O. Jellied salads with fruit and miniature marshmallows are still a staple at family celebrations, especially in summer.
In the 1950s, the United States had more than 30 marshmallow manufacturers. Around this time, Alex Doumak patented the extrusion process which allowed marshmallows to be cheaply and quickly produced. This process forced the marshmallow mixture through a tube; it was then cut into pieces and rolled in cornstarch and confectioner’s sugar.
Marshmallow Fluff and creme
Where would a banana split be without a scoop of Marshmallow Fluff or marshmallow creme to go along with the chocolate or strawberry sauce?
The earliest mention of marshmallow creme in an American cookbook is in Fannie Farmer’s “Boston School Cook Book” from 1896. She advises the home baker to, “Put Marshmallow Cream between the layers and on the top” of a cake for a splendid result.
The first marshmallow creme manufactured and marketed in America was Marshmallow Fluff. Although Fluff and creme are similar, Fluff is made using a more expensive batch-whipping process, while creme is made with a continuous mixing process.
Marshmallow Fluff was first made in 1917 by Archibald Query in Somerville, Mass. He turned out batches of the stuff in his kitchen and sold it door to door to housewives, but food shortages during the war caused him to stop production. When the war was over, he was no longer interested in Marshmallow Fluff, so he sold the recipe to H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower for $500.
These World War I veterans continued to sell their product door to door, and soon it became so popular it was stocked on grocers’ shelves. As their business grew more successful, Durkee and Mower advertised in Boston newspapers and on radio. In 1930, they began sponsoring a weekly radio show called “Flufferettes.” It aired Sunday evenings before Jack Benny, and with its live music and comedy skits, the “Flufferettes” remained popular throughout the 1940s.
Today, sophisticated marshmallow flavors such as chai, champagne and dark chocolate are popular and delicious, but when I want a comforting and easy-to-make treat, I make my grandmother’s marshmallows.
They were sure sellers at her Anglican Church Women’s teas and bake sales. When she made Marshmallow Squares for these socials, her Kenmore mixer practically vibrated as it whipped gelatin, water and vanilla into bowl after bowl of fluffy delight. I sneaked spoon after spoon of the pale pink or yellow-colored marshmallow and later, she would let me roll the top and sides of the marshmallows in coconut. She saved the edges, sliced away first so it was easier to remove the squares from the pan, and set them aside. Later, when the plates of squares were wrapped, waiting to go to the church hall, she and I sat in the mud room and ate what she’d saved for us, marshmallow first and then the crust. That’s still how I eat them.
Marshmallow love truly is forever.
Mom Skanes’ Marshmallow Squares
Makes 16 to 20, depending upon size.
For the marshmallow:
2 packages of gelatin
½ cup cold water
2 cups white sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops of red food coloring (optional)
Sifted confectioner’s sugar for rolling
For the crust:
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
1½ cups white flour
For the crust:
1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
2. Cream butter and sugar together.
3. Mix in flour (only until combined).
4. Turn mixture into a 9-by-9-inch pan and press into a uniform thickness of crust.
5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Note: The crust should still be a little warm when you add the marshmallow mixture.
For the marshmallow:
1. Soften the gelatin in the cold water for 5 minutes.
2. Place the softened gelatin, sugar, boiling water and vanilla extract in the bowl of a mixer.
3. Start on low speed, gradually moving to high speed, beating the ingredients until you have a thick marshmallow (about 10 minutes).
4. Pour the marshmallow onto the still-warm crust.
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set (about three hours).
6. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. (This will make the crust easier to cut.)
7. Cut into squares.
8. Roll the marshmallow (top and sides) in sweet coconut.
Top photo: Marshmallow squares. Credit: Sharon Hunt
Fava beans are a spring vegetable with a short season. The good news is these versatile little wonders are about to be plentiful. You can find them at farmers markets, where they will be at their least expensive toward the end of June when they’re abundant.
The first thing I love about fava beans is that they’re easy to shuck. The beans pop out of their pods almost like you’ve unzipped them.
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Next, experts debate whether you should remove the beans’ skin or leave them. I’ve always believed that depends on what you plan to do with them. To make the fava bean purée, the skin must come off. That’s easily done by plunging the beans in boiling water for about five minutes so the skins are loosened. Each bean will have a little black seam, which is where you pinch to remove the skin.
I often end up making this fava bean purée because everyone likes it and it’s a great starter dish to feast on while you await grilled food. I have a good number of ways of cooking fava and I have many favorites, including linguine and fava, grilled scallops and fava, purée fava and chicory soup. But this simple purée is such a winner I thought I’d encourage you to try.
Fava Bean Purée
This is a great antipasto or party dip. My original recipe calls for 10 pounds of fava beans, which takes me about 45 minutes to pod and peel. This is a scaled-down version, and you could cut it in half again should you want something even more manageable.
5 pounds fava bean pods
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or more as needed
2 large garlic cloves, pounded until mushy in a mortar with ½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1. To remove the beans from their pods, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the beans for 10 minutes. Drain. Once they are cool enough the handle, pinch the peel and pop the beans out. You will have about 4 cups of peeled beans.
2. Place the beans in a food processor, in 2 batches if necessary, with the garlic and salt, and run continuously as you slowly pour the olive oil in as if you were making mayonnaise. Stir in the cinnamon and white pepper, taste and correct the seasoning.
3. Store in the refrigerator, but serve at room temperature with grissini sticks or flatbread broken into wedges and fried in olive oil.
Top photo: Fava bean purée. Credit: Clifford A. Wright
These app reviews will teach you to become a vegan in 21 days or to mix perfect cocktails from sight alone. There’s also a complete guide to garden herbs (perfect for a farmers market) and finally, a tool to identify the hottest peppers. Enjoy!
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Eyeball those cocktails
Clinq takes a strikingly different approach to the cocktail recipe. Instead of listing shot measures, Clinq shows you the ratio of ingredients, each represented by a different color. The idea being, whether you’re making one drink or 20, you’ll get the measures right without counting shots. The stunning yet simple visuals add to the app’s appeal. The home page gives you a choice of five different spirits (gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and rum) spelled out in stylish black typeface on a white background. Once you touch the screen to make your choice the screen slides to the left, revealing the outlines of four different glass shapes (highball, martini, hurricane and lowball). Choose your glass and you are given a choice of cocktails — there are over 140 listed. Once the color-coded ratio is shown, you can press the screen for a few seconds and the ingredient names are revealed, then hold it again for a few more and the cocktail making procedure is shown. It may take a few times to get used to the controls, but this has to be one the more creative apps around. Happy mixing!
99 cents on iTunes
Help for the Virgin Vegan
Just how does one become a vegan? The first step is probably the most difficult, but if you want to take it, 21-Day Vegan Kickstart might just be the app you need. Designed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the app provides you with daily food lists and recipes to help you along your vegan route. You are able to see what ingredients you’ll need a week in advance, then each day you are given a plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a snack (one I imagine you will look forward to each day). Click on the meal and the page flips, providing you with the recipe and nutritional information. All in all, a very resourceful app that is simple to use and follow. It might just change the way you eat, forever …
Free on on iTunes
How hot is that pepper?
Say you’re cooking up a vindaloo curry or making a salsa, and you want to calibrate the heat that you’ll be bringing. When you’re talking peppers, you need to know one word: Scoville. That’s the name of the scale that measures a pepper’s spiciness. Every pepper has a Scoville rating, from the slightly sweet bell (0 units) to the burn-your-head-off habanero (100,000 to 350,000 units). The scale was invented by Wilbur Scoville a century ago — and no, he didn’t assign the heat levels by chomping his way through the world’s chilis. He got other people to do it for him. Scoville the app lists pretty much every pepper in existence, its Scoville rating, and tasting notes or other background information. The “Jamaican hot,” for example, has flavors of apples, apricots and citrus (under a furnace-like heat on your palate, one presumes) and is mainly used for hot sauces in the Caribbean. In fact, after a quick browse, it seems that everything higher on the scale than the habanero has some sort of health warning and can only be eaten in the tiniest of quantities, with a pint of milk at the ready. One of the hottest peppers, the terrifyingly named Naga Viper, has a Scoville rating of up to 1,382,118 units. It is usually dabbed on food with a toothpick, so as to only use a tiny drop – that is hot to the point of pain!
$1.99 on iTunes
Apps field guide to kitchen herbs
Most of us can tell the difference between rosemary and basil … but to the untrained eye (especially my own), telling lavender from sage can sometimes prove difficult. That’s where Herbs+ fragrantly wafts in. This app would be particularly good for finding fresh herbs in the wild. The entry for each herb offers gardening tips, culinary ideas, medicinal uses and an image to help you identify the herb.
There’s also a handy link to Wikipedia, which you can access without leaving the app. In the “Herb Garden,” you’ll find basic guidelines for how to launch your garden successfully as well as sections on harvesting, preserving, propagating and winterizing your herbs. There are also useful tips — did you know dill doesn’t grow well if planted near fennel? No, neither did I. All in all, a very good app to spice up your phone and quite possibly your next dinner too!
$2.99 on iTunes
Top image, clockwise from top left: logos for Clinq, Scoville, Herbs+ and 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.