Articles in Cooking

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As the 72nd Venice Film Festival opens in September, a platoon of celebrities are gracing the city. Would you fancy a drink with stars such as Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci, Robert Pattinson, famous actresses such as Bérénice Bejo, Jennifer Jason Leigh or the legendary director Brian De Palma? How about a glass of Krug Grand Cuvée with Johnny Depp? That could happen after the premiere of “Black Mass,” the true story of the infamous murderer and mob boss Whitey Bulger.

Where? At the exclusive PG’s Restaurant, the culinary sanctuary belonging to the Design Hotel Palazzina G. It’s Philip Stark’s celebrity-filled — and nearly impossible to find — hotel in Venice.

To get there, reach San Samuele Piazza, then head out on an adventure to a small calle. Your destination is Ramo Grassi 3248, but you won’t find a name or a sign — just look for the bull. He’s fiercely looking at you from above an anonymous door. That’s the entrance.

The hotel is such a Depp favorite that he rented an entire floor while shooting “The Tourist” five years ago. This time, the stars will be here not on location, but for the Venice Film Festival.

The aim of the festival is to raise awareness and promote the various aspects of international cinema as art, entertainment and industry. In the past edition of the festival, 7,300 journalists and critics were accredited. This year more than 100 new films are expected to be screened. There will also be retrospectives and tributes to major figures to pay tribute to and help further an understanding of the history of cinema.

But you don’t have to be a celebrity or critic to experience the creativity of PG’s 28-year-old chef Matteo Panfilio, who was born in the province of Alessandria, where he studied, was nurtured and inspired by his family’s great love for cooking. In 2006, upon completing his studies, he left for London, where he had the opportunity to work with starred chefs such as Alberico Penati, Tristan Mason and Tristan Welch. Back to Alessandria, he opened his own restaurant La Locanda dei Narcisi. Matteo arrived at the PG’s in October 2014.

His style is inspired and guided by great Italian, French and Japanese cuisines, with meticulously prepared dishes and low-temperature, slow cooking methods.

Fish and sweets

Scallops with beetroot jelly, cream of licorice and coffee powder. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laure Jacquemin

Scallops with beetroot jelly, cream of licorice and coffee powder. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laure Jacquemin

Fish reigns here. There is capesante (scallops with beetroot jelly, cream of licorice and coffee powder) baccalà (creamed salt cod, caramelized red onions and polenta chips) Champagne risotto (with sea urchins and prawns tartare) tuna fillet (with pistachio crust, goat cheese and a merlot reduction).

These are just some of the offerings on the young chef’s menu, and that doesn’t even include what Matteo is really passionate about: sweet delights like babà (wild berries, Champagne sabayon) or sorbetto all’albicocca  (creamy saffron, anisette and white peach sorbet).

Two ways to learn

Learning from Matteo Panfilio with the "Eat & Learn" experience. Credit: Copyright 2014 Claudio Sabatino

Learning from Matteo Panfilio with the “Eat & Learn” experience. Credit: Copyright 2014 Claudio Sabatino

Panfilio loves to share his passion by offering two unforgettable cooking lessons: “Eat & Learn” and “Culinary Experience.”

During “Eat & Learn,” Matteo will reveal secrets and provide explanations, putting on a real show of creativity in which you will plunge into the art of Italian cooking by learning and preparing outstanding dishes.

The cooking demonstration and dinner last approximately 2 hours. It costs €100 (approximately $113) and includes a gift: a special book from the chef. (The classes must be paid in euros.)

To market with the chef

The "Culinary Experience" includes a trip to a Venetian fish market Credit: Copyright 2014 Claudio Sabatino

The “Culinary Experience” includes a trip to a Venetian fish market Credit: Copyright 2014 Claudio Sabatino

If you choose the “Culinary Experience,” you will venture with Matteo in a three-hour morning tour through the aromas of the Mercato di Rialto, the market that has always been the commercial heart of Venice. In its two buildings overlooking the Grand Canal, the Campo de la Pescaria (fish) and the Erberia (fruits and vegetables), you can find the best bargains in action seeing the skilled tradesmen.

Before returning, you will stop at one (or two…) traditional osteria (wine bars) for a typically Venetian ritual: a glass (or two … ) of wine and some traditional small appetizers called cecchetti. In the evening, you are expected at the beautiful 7-meter long kitchen counter for a 3-hour cooking lesson. There you will prepare, under Matteo’s guidance, a four-course tasting dinner using the ingredients bought at the market. The cost is €480 (approximately $546) for two people, €200 (approximately $227) for each additional person.

PG’s Restaurant is definitely a straordinaria life experience.

A culinary sanctuary

PG’s Restaurant. Credit: Copyright 2012 Cesare Zucca

PG’s Restaurant. Credit: Copyright 2012 Cesare Zucca

 Main photo: The “Eat & Learn” experience with Chef Matteo Panfilio. Credit: Copyright 2014 Claudio Sabatino

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Sorrel soup with crème fraîche prepared by chef Jacques Fiorentino at L'Assiette Steak Frites. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Puréed vegetable soups make an excellent entrée for a delicious meal consisting entirely of a soup and salad.

Wanting an authentic French recipe, I visited chef Jacques Fiorentino in the West Hollywood kitchen of his restaurant L’Assiette Steak Frites where he demonstrated his easy-to-prepare sorrel soup.

Sorrel brings dark, leafy goodness

Fresh sorrel, Coleman Family Farm (Santa Barbara and Ventura County) at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Fresh sorrel, Coleman Family Farm (Santa Barbara and Ventura County) at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Sorrel is not spinach. The leaves are similar, but the flavor is completely different. Richly flavored with citrus notes, sorrel’s dark green pointed leaves are a good source of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Unlike many leafy greens, sorrel is a perennial. One spring we were given a small plant in a 3-inch pot. During the first year the plant doubled in size. By pinching off the floral buds and harvesting the young leaves, the plant flourished and we enjoyed sorrel soup on a regular basis. After several years it grew so vigorously that it all but took over the garden.

A riff on soupe à l’oseille, a French classic

Calling his restaurant Steak Frites, Fiorentino announced to the world that his restaurant was solidly in the French bistro tradition. The dark wood interior and precise menu puts a spotlight on favorites that would be found in neighborhood restaurants throughout France.

Like Proust and his madeleines, Fiorentino uses a few carefully chosen dishes to evoke his childhood in Paris. For him that means grilled steak, double-cooked french fries (frites), foie gras and sorrel soup with deep herbal accents. As a nod to contemporary preferences he added salmon and, for vegetarians, portobello mushrooms with frites.

Wash. Sauté. Simmer. Blend. Season.

Immersion blender puréeing sorrel soup in the kitchen at L’Assiette Steak and Frites. Copyright2015 David Latt

Immersion blender puréeing sorrel soup in the kitchen at L’Assiette Steak and Frites. Copyright2015 David Latt

Depending on the chicken flavoring used, you will need more or less salt. Homemade chicken stock has the least salt and is preferred. Packaged stock, chicken concentrate and bouillon cubes have considerably higher salt contents.

Good quality concentrated chicken stock and bouillon cubes can be purchased in restaurant supply stores and supermarkets. Since the sodium content varies considerably, delay adding salt to the soup until all ingredients have been blended, then taste and season.

A vegetarian version can be created by substituting vegetable for chicken stock. As with chicken stock, homemade vegetable stock is preferable to bouillon cubes and will have a lower salt content.

In the restaurant, Fiorentino uses potato flakes for flavor and convenience. If you would prefer to use potatoes, boil the potatoes in salted water until a paring knife pierces the flesh easily. Allow to cool, peel, cut into quarter-sized pieces, add to the soup and blend.

L’Assiette Sorrel Soup

Sorrel soup with sorrel simmering in the kitchen of chef Jacques Fiorentino's L’Assiette Steak and Frites. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Sorrel soup with sorrel simmering in the kitchen of chef Jacques Fiorentino’s L’Assiette Steak and Frites. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces unsalted butter

1 small red onion, washed, peeled, roughly chopped

1/2 stalk celery, washed, trimmed, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves

1 medium-sized potato, Yukon Gold preferred, washed

1 1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred) or 1½ cups water and 3 cubes Knorr chicken bouillon

8 ounces whole milk

4 ounces cream

1/4 pound fresh sorrel, washed, leaves only

Sea salt to taste

Pinch freshly ground white pepper, finely ground

Directions

1. Heat a large saucepan over a medium flame. Add butter, melt and allow to lightly foam. Add chopped onion and celery, stir well and sauté until the onion is lightly translucent. Do not allow to brown. Add thyme and marjoram, stir well to combine flavors.

2. Boil a pot of salted water, cook whole potato, covered, for 20 minutes or until a pairing knife enters easily. Set aside to cool.

3. Add liquid, either chicken stock or water, stir well and continue simmering for a minute or two. Pour in milk and cream, stir well and bring flame up to medium so the liquids simmer five minutes to combine the flavors, being careful not to boil.

4. Add whole sorrel leaves. Stir into the soup. Reduce flame so the soup simmers. Stir frequently and cook 25 to 30 minutes to combine flavors. If water was used instead of chicken stock, add chicken bouillon or base, stir well. Simmer an additional 5 minutes.

5. Blend the soup using either an immersion or a general purpose blender, about 5 minutes. Peel the cooked potato, dice and add to the soup. Blend until smooth.

6. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Serve hot with fresh bread and, if desired, a tossed green salad.

Main photo: Sorrel soup with crème fraîche prepared by chef Jacques Fiorentino at L’Assiette Steak Frites. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

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Broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2011 Lori Shepler

Broccoli is a vegetable that makes for a wonderful salad. Its bright green color and crisp-tender texture can be appealing if cooked properly.

Cooking broccoli properly might seem like a no-brainer, but many people do not do so. Broccoli, and all cruciferous vegetables, must not be overcooked, otherwise chemicals in the plant break down and release sulfurous compounds, such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, and interact with the chlorophyll in the plant, which cause the broccoli to turn an unappetizing brownish-grey color and have a very unpleasant smell.

This chemical reaction is probably why some people don’t like broccoli. I imagine that at a young age they ate improperly cooked broccoli.

Broccoli should always be cooked in small amounts of water until it is crisp-tender and retains its bright green color; it should never be cooked until limp. That means broccoli should not be cooked more than five minutes.

Here are five broccoli recipes, all Mediterranean-style dishes that make wonderful accompaniments to your Labor Day grill party.

Broccoli With Golden Bread Crumbs, Oil-cured Olives and Orange Zest

Broccoli with golden bread crumbs, oil-cured olives and orange zest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broccoli with golden bread crumbs, oil-cured olives and orange zest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

This is an appealing Sicilian-style salad with a great taste thanks to the orange zest and black olives. It’s important not to overcook the broccoli even by a minute because you want the taste and the beautiful color contrast of bright  green to come through. Oil-cured olives are crinkly skinned, but you can use any good-quality black olive if you can’t find them.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound broccoli

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

15 oil-cured black olives, pitted

1 teaspoon orange zest

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Directions

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and blanch the broccoli for 3 minutes. Drain, cool and break into florets.

2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat with the anchovies and garlic until sizzling. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring until the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

3. Arrange the broccoli on a serving platter and sprinkle on the olives. Sprinkle the bread crumb and anchovy sauce around and then add the orange zest. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and serve at room temperature.

Broccoli and White Onion Salad

Broccoli and white onion salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broccoli and white onion salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

White onion rather than yellow onion is critical in this broccoli salad not only because of taste but for the color contrast with the green, white and orange. This salad also makes for a nice antipasto or accompaniment, with grilled or roast meat.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

3 pounds broccoli

1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped

Zest from 1 orange

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Orange wedges for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and plunge the broccoli in to blanch it for 2 minutes. Drain and cool quickly. Return the broccoli to a steamer or strainer and steam until tender with a slight crunch, 6 to 7 minutes. Let the broccoli drain and cool in the strainer.

2. Break the broccoli into florets and toss with the white onion and orange zest in a large bowl.

3. In another bowl, dissolve the sugar in the white wine vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil, oregano, anchovies and garlic. Pour over the broccoli and toss again seasoned with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large serving platter and garnish with orange wedges, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Green and Yellow Salad

Green and yellow salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Green and yellow salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

The colors are startling in this zippy salad. It’s great with something off the grill, and the leftovers can be tossed with pasta and olive oil.

Prep time: 3 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Total time: 11 minutes

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound broccoli, broken into small florets

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Coarse salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the broccoli 5 minutes. Drain well, cool, then toss with the yellow pepper and add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Broccoli With Oil-cured Olives and Lemon Zest

Broccoli with oil-cured olives and lemon zest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broccoli with oil-cured olives and lemon zest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

What a beautiful dish! The brilliant green of broccoli, the pitch black of the olives and the sunny flecks of lemon zest make for an appetizing presentation. In this recipe, you blanch the broccoli first to keep its brilliant green color.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

2 pounds broccoli

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted or unpitted

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

Zest of 1/2 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a rapid boil, then blanch the broccoli for 2 minutes. Drain and dunk into ice-cold water immediately to stop it cooking. Set aside.

2. In a bowl, mix the garlic with the olive oil.

3. Remove and drain broccoli from ice-water bath.

4. Slice the broccoli and after it has cooled, mix it in a large bowl with olives, chile, lemon zest, garlic mixture, salt and pepper.

5. Serve at room temperature.

Broccoli and Roasted Red Bell Pepper

Broccoli and roasted red bell pepper. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broccoli and roasted red bell pepper. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Good and good for you. That was a phrase I often heard from my mom when I was growing up. She never quite made it this way, but this Italian-American family-style side dish of bright green broccoli and brilliant red bell pepper is a delight to look at, a delight to eat and it’s good for you.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, sliced and broken into florets

1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced into strips

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the broccoli 5 minutes. Drain a bit and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss with the remaining ingredients and arrange on a serving platter.

Main photo: Broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2011 Lori Shepler

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Terrine. The brasserie's romantic back patio takes advantage of the Southern California weather. Credit: Copyright 2015 Jesus Banuelos

Los Angeles’ restaurant scene is on fire with exciting new spots scattered across the basin. In this chef-driven movement, folks such as Nancy Silverton, Neal Fraser, Michael Cimarusti, David Lentz and Josef Centeno are cementing their status as LA’s culinary trendsetters. You can’t go wrong at any of their restaurants.

True to the city’s Hollywood-centric culture, dining rooms here are graceful, relaxed and torn-jean-friendly environments. The city’s food covers the culinary map, embracing Latin, Asian, European and American traditions. LA is a city that refuses to be pigeonholed.

You will come to the city for the endless sunny days, beautiful beaches and spectacular shopping. You’ll stay for the food. Be one of the smart folks who appreciates that the future of American food is being served now in Los Angeles. Below is a slideshow of some of the restaurants you must try on your next trip to the Southland.

More from Zester Daily:
» The 5 best restaurants in Mexico City
» Venice and Northeast Italy: 14 must-see restaurants
» 19 top European restaurants worth a trip
» 12 top U.S. restaurants worth a summer trip

Main photo: Terrine’s romantic back patio takes advantage of the Southern California weather. Credit: Copyright 2015 Jesus Banuelos

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Pancakes are a breakfast (or lunch or dinner) food that never gets old. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

Pancakes are everyday magic. There is something about a puff of flour rising to the occasion of an otherwise dull morning that makes me want to eat pancakes all day long.

My dad invited me into this dedication more than 40 years ago, letting me tend the griddle. Each time I hold the spatula in my hand, waiting for bubbles to break and tell me it’s time to flip, I am in that second when he surrendered the tool and the task.

An early love of pancakes

The author, Amy Halloran, makes corn crepes with her son, Felix. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

The author, Amy Halloran, makes corn crepes with her son, Felix. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

This was never about the syrup. We had the fake stuff growing up, and I didn’t develop a taste for the real. My love is for the cake. For the way something comes from almost nothing, and carries so much — butter, maybe some berries, and always a delicious, soft bite.

“My name is Amy Halloran. I am 7 years old. I have a new baby brother and I like pancakes.”

So I declared in my second-grade autobiography. My interest bloomed into a curiosity about baking, and throughout my childhood I made sure our cookie tins were full. In my 20s a blue cornmeal pancake at a restaurant, served with salsa and crème fraîche, directed my attention back to the griddle. I studied old cookbooks and baking powder pamphlets, scouting the perfect formula for corn cakes, savory and sweet.

Using locally grown grains

Cornmeal and buckwheat flour elevate the regular pancake. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

Cornmeal and buckwheat flour elevate the regular pancake. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

When I met the man I would marry, the first meal I made him was pancakes. There were ears of cooked corn in the fridge and nice cornmeal in his pantry. I debated about whether I should make them sweet, savory or both? Should I add flour? I wanted them to be perfect because I really liked him. I wanted him to know the self I made toying with recipes for oatmeal cookies and making my father’s favorite chocolate cake over and over again. The pancakes would be a tour of me.

We’ve been together 20 years, and most mornings, we have pancakes. Once I discovered freshly milled, locally grown grains, my devotion stretched over every corner of my mind. I started following these tasty flours back to the field and meeting the pioneers who are growing and using grains outside of the wheat belts. Farmers, millers and bakers let me watch them work and answered a gazillion questions. When I met the people who started the first malt house in New England in 100 years, I also met malt. Adding this sweet grain to my pancakes took them to another level.

Room for change

Cornmeal cakes made with fermented vegetables and yogurt. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

Cornmeal cakes made with fermented vegetables and yogurt. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

Pancakes are my sun rising each morning, and I want to make a constellation of them for family, friends and crowds. Occasionally, people suggest I should try theirs, and the idea makes me cringe. I know the offer is generous, and that my rejection is not, but other people’s pancakes are just that: not mine. I might as well live in someone else’s house and try to have her dreams.Yet within my reluctance, there is room for change, as baker and cookbook author Peter Reinhart showed me a couple of weeks ago in Maine, at the Kneading Conference.

“Bread has a story to tell, and we wouldn’t be here if bread didn’t touch us in some special way,” Reinhart said in his keynote speech. Part of that captivation is the transformation of grain that was once living into living dough. Another part is the oven turning that dough into a currency that feeds more than our bellies.

His words were really hitting home for me. The translation of grains from ground to loaf requires the cooperation of farmers, millers and bakers. I love being the pancake chef and delivering a piece of me through food. That stitchery of baking fascinates Reinhart as well.

While researching his book about pizza, “American Pie,” he interviewed Chris Bianco, the poster boy of the artisanal pizza movement. The man, Reinhart said, was shy as he tried to get him to discuss what made his pizza so special. The unique ingredient, he eventually admitted, was him. Although he had been approached to make products or franchises, he couldn’t bottle himself to make any replicas represent what he did. When the author asked what connection Bianco wanted to make with people, he said, “I want them to experience my soul.”

Trying others’ recipes

Peter Reinhart makes Red Fife pancakes with Brenna MacNeil and Sophrinia Smith at the Kneading Conference. Credit: Copyright 2015 Jesse Cottingham

Peter Reinhart makes Red Fife pancakes with Brenna MacNeil and Sophrinia Smith at the Kneading Conference. Credit: Copyright 2015 Jesse Cottingham

This is what made pancakes my beloved. I have been staring at the griddle forever. I’ve given little else in life the same energy. I have arrived at an expression of my ideal pancake, a fluffy whole-grain loft, and I’m reluctant to taste anyone else’s estimation of the food.

However, I so admired Peter Reinhart and his ideas that when he announced he would be making pancakes from his latest book, “Bread Revolution,” I wanted to help.

The next morning, I was excited for a pancake date, but I had to fight the urge to bring my own pancake mix as an offering. I knew such an offering would prevent me from experiencing his recipe and method, so I left my mixes in the car and had a great time working with him and a few work-study students at the griddle. Plus, I actually liked the cakes!

Mixing it up

Amy Halloran prepares to cook pancakes. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

Amy Halloran prepares to cook pancakes. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

The next day, I had another person’s pancakes, and loved them also. Father Paul Dumais spoke last year at the Kneading Conference about his family’s Acadian flatbread, and now he’s making a mix. I was still reluctant to receive pancakes I didn’t make, but I’ll never forget the wonderful feeling of biting into the soft, yellow buckwheat cake he’d curled into a roll.

This was him. His family had grown and milled the grain, and he had worked and worked to find a formula to re-create his mother and aunt’s ployes. He gave me mix to take home, and I’m serving it to my family and friends. They love these cakes, and I can’t wait for them to try the ones in their true form, made by Father Paul. He is missing from his food, but at least I get a reminder.

Making pancakes, making connections

Cornmeal pancakes get a different flavor with bits of sweet potatoes. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

Cornmeal pancakes get a different flavor with bits of sweet potatoes. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

The dish that escorted me into a five-year, book-long exploration of flour is bringing me into a new appreciation of people and food. While this is a surprise, it is also in keeping with the main thing I learned about grains. Other foods can go from ground to mouth without as much handling. Farmers, millers and bakers are collaborating with the seasons, soil and tools to feed us. I have been stunned by their work, and very appreciative of it. Now that my walls against other people’s pancakes are crumbling, I can feel connected to flour in another, equally enchanting way.

(Full disclosure: Peter Reinhart wrote a beautiful blurb for my book after he read it, but otherwise we have no connection.)

Main photo: Pancakes are a breakfast (or lunch or dinner) food that never gets old. Credit: Copyright 2013 Ellie Markovitch

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The Biryani cart offers flavor-packed kati rolls. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nicole Litvak

New York City is a prime destination for gastro-tourism. It is home to some of the greatest chefs, restaurants and culinary schools in the country. The variety, the deliciousness, the sheer volume of good food here is incredible.

There are more than 24,000 restaurants in New York City, according to the Department of Health. While the quantity is impressive, the quality is as well. I’m not sure if it’s something in the water, or if cooks in New York City are just better, but you might be hard-pressed to find a bad meal in this town.

In the spirit of pursuing good food in unconventional ways, here are 16 street eats that capture the diversity and scope of NYC cart food. I invite you to transcend the halal cart and the hot dog, and join me for homemade tamales, fresh-cut durian, hibiscus doughnuts, and yes, a hot buttered lobster roll.

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» Food trucks that serve a better kind of justice

» Austin’s food trucks

» Rocking the food trucks

» Vietnamese street food will be a hit at your next barbecue

Main photo: The Biryani cart offers flavor-packed kati rolls. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nicole Litvak

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Summer recipes are a good chance for kids to learn some simple cooking techniques and help out in the kitchen. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Summer break gives kids more time to spend in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s just too hot to be near the stove. These seven no-cook recipes require no heat sources, but they still teach some kitchen skills with delicious results.

From gazpacho to watermelon sandwiches, these are recipes that celebrate the flavors of summer. Kids might need some adult help with cutting and blending, but, since there’s no cooking involved, they can do most of the work themselves.

And to make it even cooler? Eat outside, preferably with a nice summer breeze.

More Zester Daily stories on kids and cooking:

» 7 healthy on-the-go snacks kids can help make
» Kids eat smart? There’s a trick to family dinner
» 5 stone fruit dishes kick summer into high gear
» 8 dishes that taste best on a picnic blanket

Main photo: Summer recipes are a good chance for kids to learn some simple cooking techniques and help out in the kitchen. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

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If indulgence is good, overindulgence is better. Or at least that’s the message at Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts. Credit: Copyright 2015 Voodoo Doughnuts

Has the kooky doughnut fad finally gone too far? Gone off the deep end? Jumped the shark? I was recently at the taping of a Fox News episode where we tasted more than a dozen different doughnuts from Fractured Prune, a Maryland-based doughnut chain that promises numerous combinations based on its 19 glazes and 13 toppings. I expect they taste better at the store than in a Manhattan studio. But, still, how did we get to this orgiastic excess of fried dough rings?

The origins of sweet fried dough are lost to history, but it’s a good bet that we’ve had doughnuts as long as we’ve had frying. Certainly the ancient Greeks and Romans had their own version of the hot, greasy treats. Medieval Arabs dropped blobs of yeast dough into fat rendered from a special kind of fat-tailed sheep before soaking the fritters in syrup. Medieval Europeans boiled theirs in pig fat, which meant doughnuts were off limits on the many non-meat days declared by the church.

As a consequence, there were widespread fried-dough frenzies prior to the 40-day doughnut desert, otherwise known as Lent. Perhaps the greatest doughnut orgy of all occurred at the 1815 Congress of Vienna that ended the Napoleonic Wars, where 8 to 10 million jelly doughnuts reportedly were served during Mardi Gras.

Americans would have none of these papist restrictions. After all, the Pilgrims left England so they could eat doughnuts 365 days a year. And apparently they did. They arrived with an obscure English specialty called a “dough nut” (because that’s what it looked like) and soon doughnuts were synonymous with New England. They were eaten for breakfast, lunch and supper, stuffed into travelers’ pockets, much as we might carry granola bars. America being a land of equal opportunity — at least when it comes to fried dough — the fritters of the French, German, Dutch and other immigrants gave the English version a run for their money, and the hybrids of all these fritter cultures eventually resulted in the doughnut promised land dreamed of by generations of the huddled masses on Europe’s teeming shore.

Here is a short view of current variations of this sweet, deep-fried treat.

Main photo: If indulgence is good, overindulgence is better. Or at least that’s the message at Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts. Credit: Copyright 2015 Voodoo Doughnuts

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