Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 – A Year of Culinary Types

The 2012 Christmas Cake - A Glorious Egg Nog Bundt Cake
In a year that brought change, sorrow, uncertainty and the cruel forces of nature, the healing and restorative power of food provided nourishment.   
Katie Stagliano and the giant cabbage that inspired "Katie's Krops"
Many Culinary Types devoted their energies in 2012 to nurturing communities in need.  Inspired by a giant cabbage she grew from seed, vegetable gardener Katie Stagliano started a nationwide movement, recruiting other teens like herself to plant gardens to feed the hungry.   Katie’s Krops gardens are flourishing across the country, and Katie aims to establish gardens in all 50 states.
Susan Salem and Annie McPartlin nurtured The Garden at St. Mark's
Susan Salem and Annie McPartlin set an example for churches all over Long Island that wondered how to better utilize their property.  The women planted "The Garden at St. Mark’s" at their church in Bellmore.   The produce is harvested to feed hungry families throughout Long Island.  
Courtney and Jim Thompson opened "A Taste of Long Island"
Daughter and Dad team Courtney and Jim Thompson were inspired by the local foods and food artisans all over Long Island.   They opened “A Taste of Long Island” in Farmingdale, a specialty food market and shared use kitchen.   Food entrepreneurs can create artisanal food products in the professional kitchen, and sell their goods in the storefront retail market.    
Restoration Farm offered a harvest of life for its members
Restoration Farm, the CSA located in Old Bethpage, Long Island continued to flourish, not only as a source of locally-grown food, but as a life-giving source of community for its members.

My friend Louise Volper retired her excellent blog “Months Of Edible Celebrations” after a long run.    A meticulous researcher and historian, Louise was for years the premiere source of information on how to celebrate life with festive foods ranging from Chocolate Fondue to Cracker Jacks.     
The Daffodil Cake welcomed Spring
The Daffodil Cake, first discovered on Louise’s blog, proved a light and delectable harbinger of the season of Spring.  
Hope springs eternal for the Twinkie
We mourned the demise of the Twinkie, and hoarded any remaining cream-filled sponge cakes from the supermarket shelves.   There are seven Twinkies remaining in my freezer, but I haven’t given up hope that, like the Phoenix, the Twinkie will rise again!
Hudson Valley cheese maker Rory Chase of The Amazing Real Live Food Co.
We visited cheese makers in the Hudson Valley and learned how their craft reflects the heart, soul and soil of the region.   
Mad Me-Shell defended her title as the Queen of the Food Trucks
My buddy Mad Me-Shell continued to burnish her creds as the High Priestess of Street Food with a smack down at the SamichBox on the streets of Chicago. 
The Durger hit the streets of New York City
Speaking of food trucks, the smoky and lip-smacking “Durger” from Trusty Burgers and Bites rocked my world.
Zany's "Lobster-fest"
Dear Zany took her appetite all the way to Russia, and joined me on the streets of New York for a summertime seafood extravaganza that would put a certain restaurant chain to shame.
Apple Trace at Restoration Farm remembers the spirit of my Dad
And, Apple Trace was planted in memory of my dad James at Restoration Farm.    Although we miss Dad terribly, these eight heirloom saplings are a living reminder of his love and energetic spirit.  
Vasilopita - St. Basil's Bread for New Years
Recipe at "One Perfect Bite"
May we all experience love, energy, spirit, community and nourishment in 2013.   Happy New Year!  

©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Zany’s Visions of Cinnamon Rolls

With Christmas Eve just hours away, what better way to mark the occasion than with a post on something warm, sweet and delicious?  As the big day approaches, guest blogger and birthday girl Zany shares her coveted recipe for Mini Cinnamon Rolls – perfect for a holiday breakfast – and offers some personal memories of Christmas Past:  

I love the holiday season. Maybe it's because I was born on Christmas Eve and it's second nature to me. Whatever the reason, no other time during the year makes me as happy as now, strolling down city streets lit with shimmering bulbs or turning on the TV any night of the week to find my favorite holiday flick, "The Christmas Story."

But, some of my favorite holiday memories come from the kitchen. While my older sister would snooze through the early morning hours on Christmas morning, my mom would entertain her anxious, early-riser in the kitchen, preparing a number of breakfast finger foods to sustain our gift-opening extravaganza. One recipe that particularly stuck with me is one that my mom collected from a Pampered Chef party in the 90's - mini cinnamon rolls. Easy to pull together (less than 30 minutes!), and there isn't a lot of time commitment in stealing one and popping it into your mouth, making for a smooth transition in the gift-opening process.

In fact, the cinnamon rolls became such a staple for me that I pull out the recipe any time of year now - breakfasts when we have guests, weekend brunch and even just a simple treat for my co-workers. The dish elicits at least one, "oh so cute!" from someone in the group who hasn't seen them before, and for those holiday calorie hawks, one of these bad boys doesn't make a person feel as guilty as that delicious-looking doughnut. 

I pride myself in searching for the perfect holiday gift for those on my list. So, for my Culinary Types friends, I think this recipe does the trick! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Zany’s Mini Cinnamon Rolls 

Two cans of crescent rolls
½ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 stick butter
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 ounces cream cheese
 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Break open crescent roll containers. Pinch together the dotted seems so that two triangles make one rectangle.
  • Spread butter on each of the rectangles.
  • Mix sugar and cinnamon and spread equally across all rectangles.
  • Rolls rectangles into a jelly roll. Pinch the seam together. Cut each roll into five equal pieces.
  • Grease two 9” round pie pans. Split the number of pieces between the two pans and stagger the pieces.
  •  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Remove the pie pans and turn them upside down on plates. Wait 30 seconds until the cinnamon rolls “drop” from pans onto the plates, lift the pans.
  • While the rolls are cooling, mix all ingredients for the icing. (Note:  A hand mixer works well, and sifting the powdered sugar will make the icing nice and smooth.   Use a tablespoon of milk if you want a more spreadable consistency.)  Coat the rolls with icing once cooled.
  • Serve for a special holiday breakfast, bring into the office on birthdays, or “just because” days. Extra points if you also bring in coffee and Bailey’s.
©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved   

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mad Me-Shell Dishes on Delicious Food Trends of 2012

It’s that most wonderful time of year – the time for “lists!”  The best of, the worst of, the most pretentious, the cheesiest, blah, blah, blah.   When it comes to food, I sometimes wonder about the creds of these folks who are telling me what to eat and what to avoid.  Vegetables for dessert? Really??  What do they know?   For the genuine dish, I turn to a true culinary road warrior, the Siren of Street Food and the Queen of Cured Meats, the insatiable Mad Me-Shell for an all-you-can-eat feast of the best and worst of 2012 in food!  

TW:  What was the best thing you ate this year?

MMS: Who could pick just one!? I know most will assume I will choose something like a quadruple bacon cheeseburger (that does sound amazing), but I think I’ll class things up a bit with this one!  I am still having dreams about the warm pulled duck salad I had this summer at Albannach, a fantastic restaurant and whiskey bar in London. This ‘salad’ featured green beans, bacon (yes, bacon!), shallots, sautéed potatoes and pulled duck. Unmmm, yeah, I had to be stopped from licking my plate.

TW:  What was the worst thing you ate this year?

MMS:  For me, this one is easy. I was at an event and tried one of the passed appetizers, a stuffed artichoke. Approximately three seconds after shoving said artichoke in my mouth, I realized I, in fact, detest artichokes. I got cold chills just reminiscing about this experience!

TW:  What do you think are the top two or three food trends of 2013?

MMS:  Well I sure as heck hope it’s not small plates!! Seriously restaurants, enough with the small plates already, we get it.  I do think we’ll see a continued surge of old-fashioned cocktails on drink menus and chefs getting adventurous with some exotic animal meats (alligator, kangaroo, etc.). Most importantly, I HOPE 2013 will further solidify the local food sourcing trend for restaurants.

TW:  Who's your favorite celebrity chef?

MMS:  Curtis Stone! He is a highly trained chef with a simple food philosophy and approachable recipes that appeal to a culinary novice such as me. And I guess he’s not bad to look at. No seriously, Curtis, call me maybe?

TW: Who do you think is the most annoying celebrity chef?

MMS: Jamie Oliver! Jamie Oliver. Jamie Oliver. His restaurants and television shows present laughably contradictory points-of-views and his recommendations are largely misinformed. I could go on all day…

TW:  What's your "secret comfort food?"

MMS:  You just had to go there, didn’t you? This hurts my soul to admit out loud, but Totino’s Pizza Rolls are just little slices of meat-filled heaven. I have surely eaten more of them in the last few years than any human should consume in a lifetime.

TW:  If you could start a food truck business, what would you serve?

MMS:  I feel confident a ‘liquid’ food truck would be a hit! Zany and I would start a bar on wheels…what could go wrong?!

TW:  What are you eating on New Year’s Eve?

MMS:  Whiskey and Champagne. What? Do people actually consume anything other than booze on New Year’s Eve? Oh, they do? Hmmmm, I’ll probably still just stick with the whiskey/champagne combo!
TW: If you were in an Iron Chef competition - what would the secret ingredient be?

MMS:  Is bacon too obvious of an answer?? Man, I love bacon…what were we even talking about? Oh, yes. You know what? I’m still going to go with bacon! 

©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Aunt Greta's Christmas Stollen

A Holiday Favorite from the Culinary Types Archives circa 2006:

Holiday food traditions are a miraculous mix of time, place, ideology and ingredients. Often times, a single person can be the catalyst for a family culinary tradition. They bring it to the table as a delectable gift, wrapped with their own cherished memories and life experiences. Through this act, they offer us a bit of themselves, and enrich our holiday celebrations.

In our family, there is the story of Margareta West, better known as Aunt Greta. Born in Kleinheubach, Germany in the year 1919, Greta began working as a domestic when she was 17 years old in the town of Offenbach. Greta worked for Frau Knudle for 23 years where she learned to cook and bake. At the age of 40, Greta was sponsored by her friend Sophie and came to the United States in 1959. In New York City, she worked for a doctor who resided on West End Avenue, and eventually met others who had immigrated from her hometown in Germany. She was introduced to my mother’s Uncle Karl by mutual friends and married him in 1961.

Throughout my lifetime, our family has enjoyed Aunt Greta’s homemade stollen at Christmas. Stollen is rich fruit bread made with yeast that originated in Central Germany in the town of Dresden. The characteristic oblong shape, with a ridge down the center is said to represent the Christ Child in swaddling clothes, and it is sometimes called the “Christstollen.” Greta’s stollen was enriched with butter and eggs, adorned with brilliant red, green and gold candied fruit, flavored with almonds and citrus zest and generously dusted with powdered sugar.

These days, Greta’s hair is snowy white and she moves a bit more slowly. She has essentially retired from baking. Her words are sprinkled with German phrases like “Ach du Lieber.” She is wry, usually opinionated and direct, and always incredibly generous.  (Note:  Aunt Greta passed away several years ago)  

I was of the impression that Greta’s recipe was an old European family heirloom, perhaps committed to memory. As I became more interested in food, I asked her to teach me how to make it and spent a Saturday at her home in Laurelton, New York learning her techniques. There, she produced a tattered, yellow clipping from a defunct Long Island newspaper, dated December 13, 1968, some nine years after she’d arrived in the United States.

At first, I was taken aback. Did this mean there was none of the history I’d typically associated with Greta’s stollen? But, when I read the recipe clipping, my perspective began to change. It showed an enticing picture of a plump stollen decorated with whole candied-cherries and flanked by two cups of black coffee. The article described the importance of home baked goods to the German “kaffeeklatsch”tradition. The phrase translates as “coffee chat” and refers to conversation or gossip enjoyed by German hausfraus who gather for a cup of coffee and a sweet treat.

I think the newspaper clipping was a tangible reminder for Greta of community and family traditions from her original home, and as she adapted the recipe and made it here, it was her way of sharing a festive custom from her homeland with her new family. I am now the keeper of that original newspaper feature that Greta clipped so many years ago when it likely inspired a fond holiday memory in her own mind that she generously passed on to us each year. Here’s the recipe:

Aunt Greta’s “Old Time Stollen"
¾ cup milk
1 pkg. active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3 ½ cups enriched flour (divided)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
6 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon grated lemon and orange peel
2 egg yolks
1 cup mixed, diced candied fruits
¾ cup golden raisins
¼ cup whole glace cherries
¼ cup slivered or sliced blanched almonds

Scald milk; cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add to lukewarm milk. Sift 1 ½ cups flour with salt; stir in to yeast mixture and cover. Let rise in warm place until doubled. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar gradually, while creaming. Add lemon and orange peel. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gently combine egg mixture with raised dough. Add fruits and almonds. Roll out on a lightly floured board or canvas into circle, about 10 inches in diameter. Fold over once into traditional pocketbook shape. Place on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown 35-40 minutes. Brush with melted butter. Cool on rack. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

The 2012 Christmas Stollen fresh from the oven this afternoon

On Christmas morning, we will be enjoying Aunt Greta’s stollen and coffee, now prepared by me, chatting about the diversity of our family and our yuletide traditions and wishing Greta a hearty Merry Christmas, or Frohe Weihnachten!

©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved