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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.
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Cheese – A versatile food for many occasions
Posted: March 15, 2011
Cheese is a wonderful food that offers almost limitless varieties from a number of milk sources (cows, sheep, buffalo or goats and rapidly expanding into more exotic varieties made from camel and even horse milk!!) and today exotic cheeses can be found in almost every grocery that features a gourmet cheese department, as opposed to just a dairy aisle with American Kraft singles or a brick of sharp cheddar….which have their place too, but isn’t variety wonderful?
Cheese types, textures, flavor profiles come from all parts of the world today, but cheese has been on a global evolution since it was first produced somewhere in the European, greater Mediterranean arena, or Central Asia. Actual origins are not recorded as it predates recorded history, but today like the proliferation of wines, production of cheese has gone global in a big way.
Today however we have so many choices and consumers can experience the myriad of cheese types that are produced around the world. Thanks to the internet, you can often order right from the source.
There is even a relatively new magazine and web portal devoted to the subject, “Culture- the word on cheese.” http://www.culturecheesemag.com which features great articles…background on cheese production and a cheese finder directory which will let you track down a cheese near you! They have an interesting column online “ Ask the Cheesemonger” which has detailed answers to cheese questions and the best part is that all of the subject matter is archived.
On a local level here in Summerlin ( Las Vegas) where I live, I have been very lucky to establish a great contact at my local Smith’s grocery store.. Marisa heads up the gourmet cheese department and features samplings of new and unique varieties of cheese. She is my go to expert and she works closely with the head of the wine department on wine and cheese tastings.
Marisa goes through a lot of cheese as her recommendations are well received and her customers come back for her counsel and advice. Smith’s has a great employee with Marisa conveying a winning smile along with experience. She has contributed greatly to my exposure to new types of cheese and I look forward to more advice.
Marisa…great advice form a cheese professional – the gourmet department at Smith’s
While I tend to think of cheese as a stand alone for my usage, it also makes numerous appearances in recipes. A favorite spot for recipes is:ilovecheese http://www.ilovecheese.com/default.htm or to check out a variety of cheeses…go to www.cheese.com which has over 670 cheeses in it’s database which you can also search by country of origin.
A cheese platter looking and tasting good
An ancient history…a burgeoning future as new cheeses and flavor combinations hit the market….cheese…it’s what’s for dinner…or lunch….or breakfast!
National Garlic Day (Thur. April 19, 2007)
Posted: April 18, 2007
GILROY, Calif., April 16, 2007 — For thousands of years, garlic has held near mythical status. Egyptians worshipped garlic and folklore has touted garlic’s power in warding off vampires. And even today, garlic’s nutritional properties, from fighting colds to preventing cancer, coupled with the herb’s unique flavor, are helping to keep garlic in popular demand among home chefs everywhere. With all of these benefits packed into one single clove of the infamously-coined “stinking rose,” there’s even more of a reason to crack open a bulb of flavorful California-grown garlic on April 19th in celebration of National Garlic Day.
Flavoring Up Dishes
Today, Americans consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually to add flavor to many meat, poultry and seafood dishes. Consumers are also calling for more of the herb at their favorite restaurants across the United States, as evidenced by Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2006 survey, where 21 percent of respondents indicated that they’d like to see more garlic dishes on the menu. In fact, garlic was the second most requested ingredient/menu choice after “healthy” items. Garlic even stands alone as the primary ingredient in new “adventurous” food items including garlic ice cream and garlic jellybeans.
Keeping You Healthy
It addition to garlic’s flavor, research has shown that it can help keep you healthy. According to Tufts University, researchers in Italy found that both onion and garlic were linked to significant reductions in certain cancers. Those consuming the most garlic showed a 25 to 88 percent reduced risk, depending on the type of cancer, compared to those eating less. Studies have also found that daily garlic consumption can reduce the risk of catching a cold by half. And garlic has been found to be effective in treating the "superbug," a germ that usual antibiotics won't kill.
Heading to the Garlic Mecca
For those of you wanting to celebrate “National Garlic Day” all year round, head to Gilroy, Calif., the garlic capital of the world and home to one of the largest garlic growers, Christopher Ranch. While there, make sure to stop by Garlic World, where you’ll find a large selection of signature foods and novelties from garlicky olives to garlic pistachios: http://www.garlicworld.com/. And, make sure to mark your calendars for the 29th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, July 27-29: http://www.gilroygarlicfestival.com/. More than three million have made the pilgrimage to Gilroy to attend the world-famous event, co-founded by Christopher Ranch. With, on average, more than two tons of fresh California-grown garlic — courtesy of Christopher Ranch — used each year to prepare beef, pasta and seafood dishes, not to mention 750,000 garlic fries, this three-day event is bound to appease every garlic connoisseur’s palate.
Recipe For Garlic Artichoke Dip
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts – drained, finely chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1 small can chopped green chile peppers
4 cloves of fresh California-grown garlic – crushed
Mix all ingredients in bowl, spoon into baking dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350°. Serve warm or cold on crackers or bread.
For other flavorful and fresh California-grown garlic recipes, please visit http://www.christopherranch.com/recipes.htm.
About Christopher Ranch
Established in 1956, Christopher Ranch grows, packs and ships more than 60 million pounds of fresh California-grown garlic each year for retailers and foodservice while continuously improving farming, food safety and good agricultural practices. The Ranch, owned and run by the Christopher Family for more than 50 years, has grown into a major international agribusiness with 600 employees year-round and a seasonal harvesting crew of 1,200 working its 4,000 plus acres of fresh garlic, bell peppers, shallots, Bing cherries, and sweet corn. Christopher Ranch is co-founder of the world famous Gilroy Garlic Festival that takes place July 27 through July 29, 2007. To learn more, please visit our Web site at http://www.christopherranch.com/.
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Juustoleipa - Cheese From Reindeer Milk
Posted: March 14, 2007
I chose to give up eating meat several years ago and even ventured into the world of the vegan. Two foods held me back from crossing over - one, seafood and the other cheese. The world of cheese is as rich as gold. The variations from country to country are fascinating. If you are a cheese lover, consider Juustoleipa.
Considered a specialty in Finland and Lapland, Juustoleipa may be made from reindeer's milk. Curd is drained and pressed into a flat wooden platter with a rim and placed on fire until the outer layer is toasted. The end result is a crispy cheese that resembles bread (a la the name cheese bread). Under the surface it is rich and creamy. Served at breakfast it is delicious with jam and your favorite hot beverage. Rumor: Santa is said to enjoy Juustoleipa before making his famous annual trek!
Back To Pasture With Grass Fed Farms
Posted: October 7, 2006
Trends are usually not without cause and natural farming, including pasture feeding, is picking up steam. If you’re interested in the benefits of pasture feeding, here is a resource page from a web site called EatWild.com. Jo Robinson, an investigative journalist and New York Times best-selling writer, is the author of the new book, Pasture Perfect and the principal researcher and writer for the eatwild.com web site.
Once you’ve completed research and made a lifestyle decision, it’s time to source your products. I recently met one farm owner by the name of Thomas Weddle with Grass Fed Farms. I was so impressed with his story, I wanted to share it with you.
The Grass Fed Farms story is extremely American. You’re familiar with farm cooperatives; well this marketing company is a consortium representing small Indiana family farms that specialize in grass fed farming practices. Below is a clip from their About page:
Grass Fed Farms™ is a consortium of small southern Indiana based family grass farms dedicated to producing the finest grass finished beef and pastured poultry for the gourmet and health conscious consumer. Our goal is to extend the market reach for our member family farms, pre-selling their limited production, thereby enabling them to maintain small grass farming operations while bringing the exceptional quality, health benefits and taste of grass fed beef and free range chicken to your table. We are committed to providing you better food for better health!
Grass fed, or natural farming, is not a simple matter of putting chickens or livestock in a different environment. Grass Fed Farms web site will tell you that it involves organic practices, (elimination of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics & hormones) ecological farm design and natural grazing and living environment for livestock.
Grass fed beef, range free chickens and eggs are the primary offerings. The prices are reasonable. The shipping quantities are several pounds so you may want to plan for extra freezer space to store your inventory. Happy grass fed eating!
Zucchinis and Eggplants and Grapes…Oh My!
Posted: August 16, 2006
Having grown up with gardens as a child, filled with assorted vegetable plants, I always recognized August as a month when it seemed the whole world had been taken over by zucchini and eggplants.
Tomatoes were my favorite, sometimes eaten fresh and warm from the garden, with a little salt for added flavor. But it was the zucchini and eggplants that seemed to be everywhere. First off, the vines would be taking over the rest of the garden space and their orange blossoms were the precursors to zucchini in varying lengths that ultimately were lying about everywhere.
What with the warm summer temperatures and abundant rainfall in southern Ohio summers, the size seemed to double over night. At a certain point they became so large, that it was problematic as to what to do with them. Well that solution was solved when my Dad introduced the zucchini boat to us. No, “Zucchini Boats” weren’t something you floated in, like the giant pumpkins that people hollow out and try to sail on cold October mornings for the morning news. No, these were an edible version of a boat and here is how to make your own:
One giant Zucchini (preferably about 18 inches or more: the bigger and fatter the better)
Slice very carefully in half-lengthwise
Scoop out shallowly any seedy content- leaving you with firm zucchini flesh
Fill a shallow pan with water and place the zucchini in them
Bake on 350 for awhile (45 minutes)…till the insides become sorta tender
Remove from oven
In the interim:
Lightly Brown some ground beef, turkey or buffalo with some diced onions (ostrich if you are into the exotic)
Place the browned ground into the scooped out areas of the zucchini boats
Layer thinly sliced tomatoes on top
Top with your favorite cheese (pepper jack- mozzarella –cheddar)
Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper
Tent with aluminum foil…bake for another 15-20 minutes
When ready…slice the width dependent on the appetite of your guests
While that is happening…take some eggplants from the garden…slice
Sprinkle with salt…blot after 5 minutes
Drizzle with olive oil ..sprinkle with sea salt….and splash with a few crushed red peppers
Place on grill and cook until tender to your fork
You now have a colorful summertime meal with late summer bounty out of your own garden…the best of summer! Now sit back, enjoy your meal and take a sip from a wine from some of those nice grapes, that you let someone else grow! Pinot Grigio anyone?
Figs…Enjoying Summer’s Bounty
Posted: July 24, 2006
As summer reaches its peak, its fun to enjoy the bounty of summer. In the next series of columns we will look at what can be grown and enjoyed simply and tastefully. For it’s from natural gardens that so much of our quality food experiences emanate.
Figs are one of those culinary wonders that come on suddenly and provide a unique accent item for cooking and as a fresh fruit garnish. Figs are most often associated with the Mediterranean region, having migrated from Asia, as people traded plant starts as their food value was realized. Highly adapted to mild temperate zones of Europe, they are even grown in tubs or cleverly protected in places like New York City, to provide some of the “Old World” flavor.
I, like many of my peers in the Midwest in the 50’s and 60’s, only knew of figs from eating “Fig Newtons” that crumbly cookie like covering wrapped around that sticky sweet granular interior. Not exactly a culinary delight…but great when you are a kid with a glass of milk.
Fortunately as my interest in gardening blossomed, I discovered what real figs were about. There are a wide variety of fig cultivars, sizes, flavors, texture and as plant innovators discovered, some hardy cultivars that extended the zone for growing fresh figs.
Reaching tree size form as far north as the Jersey Shore barrier Islands, the large sized leaves of the fig tree can give an exotic Mediterranean look to gardens, especially if grown against houses or stucco walls.
Before my move to Las Vegas, which comedian actress Sandra Bernhard referred to in her performance as “The Cultural Center of America”, I was always an adventuresome gardener. I researched and discovered a hardy cultivar, “Chicago Hardy” that remains root hardy to around zero degrees. I donated one to my family in southern Ohio and while generally freezing back each year, the warm humid and wet southern Ohio summer allowed the tree to flourish and reach six to eight feet every year. Figs would ripen sometimes just ahead of the frost because of the northerly latitude and the effort that the tree had to put forth in new above ground growth each year, which delayed fruit production.
I think my Dad enjoyed the novelty of growing them in Ohio and my brother Dan reminded me how he ate figs off the tree into October one year. One exceptionally mild fall in southern Ohio, my dad was able to pick some figs just before Thanksgiving and bring them to Myrtle Beach, where we had Turkey and figs on the beach. It’s nice to look back and have those memories.
While the trees make an excellent garden accent in milder climates, it is the fresh fruit that really makes the tree worthwhile. My courtyard garden in Las Vegas has a Brown Turkey variety. The tree can reach substantial size and mine in only three short years is 12 feet high. I was rewarded this June with a great crop of tasty figs. They make great breakfast fruits, picked warmed from the morning’s sun, their purplish exterior signaling their readiness. And many varieties provide two crops a year, early in summer and then again in the fall…doubling your opportunity to enjoy the sweet earthy flavor.
They also make a nice accent fruit with a variety of summer dishes and alfresco dining.
I even used them with humble pepperoni and the juxtaposition of the flavors was great for a weekend lunch snack...and a nice glass of Pinot Grigio.
Chicken Saltimbocca, with creamed Peppercorn sauce. As a garnish on the side, the fresh figs can make your gourmetstation presentation perfect!
So dive in and enjoy the wonders of fresh figs…It’s Not Your Father’s Fig Newton….
The Art Of Salt
Posted: June 29, 2006
Sodium, better known as salt, is an essential mineral component of a health diet. According to James Mellgren, writer for The Gourmet Retailer Magazine “if anyone ever tells you that they don’t eat salt, check their pulse or at least take it, well, with a grain of salt.”
Besides being essential for health, salt has more uses that you can begin to imagine.
Boiling eggs in salty water makes them peel easier
Poaching eggs in salted water helps set the egg whites
Soaking pecans in salt water for several hours before shelling will make the meat easier to remove.
Cleaning an iron-cooking pan is easy with a little salt.
You can even rub teacups with salt to remove tea or coffee stains.
Did you know a pinch of salt in coffee would enhance the flavor and remove bitterness from overheating?
There are basically three types of salt. Sea salt is literally harvested from the se. Mined salt is brought up from the earth, crushed, cleaned and then packaged for consumer use. And the third type is also mined but is the overly processed table salt that we are accustomed to.
SaltWorks assists connoisseurs with a wealth of information on salt including definitions and applications.
Celtic Sea Salt – Originates from the Atlanta Ocean off of France’s Brittany coast.
Fleur De Sel – Harvested from evaporation ponds like France’s Guerande region.
Hawaiian Sea Salt – A tradition with a natural mineral called alaea (volcanic baked red clay) that enriches iron oxide and gives it a pinkish color
Kosher Salt – Contains few or no additives in accordance with Jewish dietary guidelines
There you have it. There’s an art to everything, including salt.
Olives - I Did It My Way
Posted: December 5, 2005
A Year or two in Las Vegas - by Mark Stine
Welcome back guest writer Mark Stine. Mark has been a friend for many years and what I enjoy most about him is his ability to bring a multicultural lifestyle to any situation - no matter where he is living or working. In this post Mark shares his love for the Mediterranean region and his gift for bringing a little "faux Mediterranean" to his home in Las Vegas. Enjoy.
Always loving the Mediterranean lifestyle and yet never having the guts to do a Peter Mayle and spend a year in Provence renovating a house with all the ensuing humorous stories and profitable book royalties and BBC credits, or as Richard Hewitt did in a follow up book A Cottage in Portugal...I settled for a life in Las Vegas.
Taking a gamble on this move to Las Vegas, I basically owe it all to a story in Smart Money Magazine, which positioned Vegas as the next major boom town. It sure was and it sure did..three years later my desert home is now surrounded by growth.....barrel tiled roof tops as far as the eye can see. And one of the things I discovered in Vegas was the penchant for naming everything after Italian or Mediterranean based themes. To that end Olive trees have become as ubiquitous as well...casinos.
But not just any olive trees...newly planted olive trees in Las Vegas must be sterile..to reduce pollen. Now, I love olives..all kinds of olives. They are wonderful to eat..alone..with wine..with cheese..as accents in Italian dishes...so you can imagine my disappointment that I was surrounded by olive trees that would yield no bounty. I remember eating cans of pitted olives as a child...nothing was better. But as I grew up and discovered all the variety of specialized and prepared olives ...my palate craved these new offerings.
My earliest exposure to freshly grown and cured olives came in college, where while attending the University of Arizona in Tucson I was introduced to Nick, the Greek neighbor of my friends Lyn and David Streeter. Lyn's lilting English accent and David's mechanical abilities kept my car running and me well fed those years of college and Lyn and David shared Nick's wonderful olives with me (and also introduced me to Ranch dressing...but that is a whole nother story). Cured olives, the old world way....without lye.
So as I observed all these olive trees in my new neighborhood in Vegas and the memories of college years circa 1974/75 flooded back, I felt that my own little paradiso in Summerlin, The Vistas in the Canterra subdivision surrounded by olive trees had finally provided me with the faux Mediterranean life of which I had dreamed. And....just as Jeff Goldblum had pointed out in Jurassic Park, through chaos theory and how nature abhors a vacuum and fills a void, those sterile dinosaurs found a way to reproduce..... well....those sterile Olive trees in Summerlin weren't so sterile after all.
So in late October and early November, I began harvesting the bounty of olives growing on all of the allegedly (no pollen intended)! sterile trees. Downloading a recipe for brine curing olives off the internet....I went to my local 99 cent only store and procured four large square glass vessels (vessels sounds so much more European than jars) with wooden stoppers. Following the Internet recipe directions, I sliced each of the firmly black olives, placed them compactly into the vessels filled each with salt and water for my brine solution and proceed to top each one with the wooden stopper.
It all looked so official and I felt....accomplished. Nick, from oh so many decades ago was no doubt looking over my shoulder from somewhere in the great beyond. I am sure, maybe not agreeing with my technique, but smiling no less that someone who had tasted his old world olives, was starting down that road of harvesting, preparing and eating this Mediterranean bounty. And maybe someday you will to.
Posted: September 5, 2005
My neighbor’s daughter Ireland surprised me with a precious gift this weekend; a basil bouquet. It was for a science project and after the project was completed, Ireland showered many of us with basil bouquets.
I think I’m jealous of basil. It has an upper crust name you know, Ocymum minumum. It’s ancestry is rather fru fru as well. While basil originated in tropical Asian, it is considered sacred in Hindu religion and is closely linked to folklore and mythology.
Never mind all that. Let me tell you what I did with my bouquet. First I put it in a vase in the kitchen as the swirling white flowers and the delicate mint green leaves intrigued me. (Basil is actually a large member of the mint family, you know.)
The next day I cut away the leaves, leaving some whole and others in quarters. Now for the fun. I seasoned eggs, beans, noodles, sauces, you name it; everything was seasoned with fresh basil from this bouquet. Afterwards I simply placed what was left remain in an open container in the refrigerator. Everything had a fresh invigorating aroma. Thanks Ireland!
Know Your Pasta
Posted: August 23, 2005
Pasta enthusiasts, you must study Pasta Shapes 101. We can all identify angel hair pasta, but do you know that another name for angel hair pasta is "capellini", Italian for "fine hairs." Macaroni is one of the first words we speak, but do you know about ditalini (little thimbles)? Ditalini is extremely versatile and can be used for soups, salads and stir-fry entrees. Kids spend hours arranging wagon wheel (ruote) pasta on their plates, but do you know about radiatore (radiator) pasta with it's ruffled, ridged shape?
As far as history is concerned there seems to be an international debate as to who developed the first pasta. Was it the Italians, Greeks or Chinese who invented the stuff? Never mind. Never mind those carbs either. When you're in the mood for pasta, go for it. Remember to moderate in moderation.
GourmetStation has a lovely pasta collection, for your next dinner party or a gourmet gift for a pasta lover.