Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stromboli Recipe -- Feed a Crowd with Wow!

This rolled baked sandwich is perfect for feeding a crowd of hungry sports fans, or a hungry family for a casual supper. You can really use any combination of meats, cheeses and even veggies you choose, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt. One hint however, the more veggies you use, the more liquid they'll release, so too many veggies can make a somewhat soggy stromboli. You can help alleviate this problem by blanching your vegetables first.

Use as many different fillings as you like, but it's important to not layer them too thickly, as this will make it difficult to roll the stromboli.

Another great thing about this sandwich is that it's also good cold, making it not only perfect for Football parties, but for picnics or lunch boxes as well.

Serves 6

1 1/4 cups warm water (105° - 115°F)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
between 3 1/2 - 4 cups flour

Fillings (mix and match as you like)
about 1/2 pound thinly sliced meats such as ham, salami, pepperoni, etc.
about 1/4 pound sliced cheese (I like Provolone, but use what you like)
1/4 cup grated hard cheese like Romano or Parmesan

Other Options
thinly sliced tomatoes
thinly sliced onions
thinly sliced bell peppers or roasted bell peppers
chopped black or green olives
roasted garlic
fresh or dried basil and/or Italian seasoning

1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Combine 1/4 warm water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining warm water olive oil and salt. Gradually add 1 1/2 - 2 cups flour, mixing until smooth. Gradually add enough remaining flour until you have a smooth dough that comes away from the bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes, working in more flour as needed. Shape into a ball, place in a greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a large baking sheet (if you have a pizza or bread stone in your oven you can forgo the baking sheet and bake the stromboli directly on the stone).

Punch dough down and cut in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into a rectangle about 10" x 8". Arrange fillings over dough as shown in photo at right, finishing with a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Roll the dough much like you would if you were making a jelly roll (photo left). Pinch the edges of the seam and tuck the ends under.

Cut long diagonal slashes, about 1/2 inch deep, along the top of the loaf every 3 inches or so, as shown in photos. Brush top of loaf with beaten egg, avoiding the area in the slashes. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds if desired (photo right).

Bake for about 30 minutes or until bread is golden brown. Cool slightly before cutting and serving, or if you prefer to eat your stromboli cold, cool completely on a wire rack before wrapping and refrigerating.

New to working with yeast dough? Click here for the FabulousFoods.com tutorial -- a step-by-step photo cooking tutorial will show you the basic techniques needed to make and bake yeast doughs.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Discovering Spaghetti Squash

One of the most popular ingredient features we have at FabulousFoods.com is my article on Spaghetti Squash. I think a lot of people are enamored of the idea of a healthy, low calorie, low carb vegetable that can be substituted for pasta.

If that's your sole reason for using this vegetable, I predict you'll be disappointed. While spaghetti squash does have long pasta strands, the texture is not quite the same, nor is the taste. Which is not to say that spaghetti squash isn't great served with any number of pasta sauces. It's just that, for me, it won't exactly "cure" a pasta craving (luckily I don't get those too often).

Now that I've gotten that little bit of editorializing out of the way, I will proudly state that I am a fan of this vegetable. It's versatile and cheap for two things, not to mention the above mentioned health qualities -- a dieter's dream, a four-ounce serving of spaghetti squash has only 37 calories. Spaghetti squash also offers cooks a lot of creative space, as its mild neutral flavor can adapt to all kinds of flavors and cooking styles.

Buying and Storing Spaghetti Squash
Averaging from 4 to 8 pounds, the cylinder shaped spaghetti squash is generally available year-round with a peak season from early fall through winter. While a true spaghetti squash is pale ivory to pale yellow in color, in the early 1990's, an orange spaghetti squash, known as "Orangetti" was developed and this is what is frequently found in today's supermarkets. Higher in beta carotene, the orange variety is also bit sweeter than its paler counterpart, although both have a mild flavor that is easily enhanced by the food served with or on it.

When buying spaghetti squash, look for hard fruit that is heavy for its size, about eight to nine inches in length and four to five inches in diameter and with a pale even color. Avoid any squash with soft spots and green color is a sign of immaturity. The average four-pound spaghetti squash will yield about five cups.

Spaghetti Squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month. After cutting, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Spaghetti squash also freezes well. Pack cooked squash into freezer bags, seal, label and freeze. Partially thaw before re-using, then steam until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash
Every spaghetti squash recipe I've ever seen starts with precoked squash that is already separated into pasta like strands. You have several ways of accomplishing this task:

  • Bake It -- Pierce the whole shell several times with a large fork or skewer and place in baking dish. Cook squash in preheated 375 degree F oven approximately 1 hour or until flesh is tender.

  • Boil It -- Heat a pot of water large enough to hold the whole squash. When the water is boiling, drop in the squash and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on its size. When a fork goes easily into the flesh, the squash is done.

  • Microwave It -- Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place squash cut sides up in a microwave dish with 1/4 cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and cook on high for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on size of squash. Add more cooking time if necessary. Let stand covered, for 5 minutes. With fork "comb" out the strands.

  • Slow Cooker - Choose a smaller spaghetti squash (unless you have an extra large slow cooker) so that it will fit. Add 2 cups of water to slow cooker. Pierce the whole shell several times with a large fork or skewer, add to slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours.

Once the squash is cooked, let it cool for 10 to 20 minutes so it will be easier to handle, before cutting in half (if it wasn't already) and removing the seeds. Pull a fork lengthwise through the flesh to separate it into long strands. (See photos.)

Prepare spaghetti squash ahead of time, then you have it ready for recipes whenever the mood strikes.

Spaghetti Squash Recipes

You Could Be the Next Food Network Star!

The Food Network is now casting for Season 5 of their popular search for the next Food Network star, and it could be you!

Do you think you have what it takes to be a TV star and host your own show on Food Network?

Here’s what they’re looking for:

  • Cooking Know-How: You can be self-taught or professionally trained or somewhere in between, BUT YOU MUST HAVE FOOD KNOWLEDGE!!
  • Personality that Pops: Do people often tell you that you have the charisma and personality to have your own cooking show?
  • Teaching Skills: Do you teach at culinary school or maybe a cooking class and want to bring those teaching skills to the next level? Do you have a clear point of view on food and want to teach America about it?
One winner will receive his or her own six-episode show!

There are two ways to apply for the show:

1. Send in a Video: Visit www.foodnetwork.com/star to download the application and learn how to send in your video. Completed applications and videos (DVD/Mini-DV tape/ or Uploaded video to fn.com) must be received by October 31, 2008. (Please DO NOT submit in VHS, HI8, CD-ROM format)

2. Attend and Open Call: Bring your filled out application to one of the open call events listed below.

  • Washington DC- Friday, October 3rd, 2008- 10am-3pm The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington 1820 North Fort Myer Drive Arlington, VA 22209
  • New York, NY- Monday, October 6th, 2008- 11am-3pm Sutton Place Restaurant and Bar
    1015 Second Ave. (btw. 53rd and 54th) New York, NY 10022
  • Los Angeles, CA- Wednesday October 15th, 2008 10am-3pm Art Institute of California- Los Angeles 2900 31st Santa Monica, CA 90405- 3035
  • Charleston, SC- Thursday October 23rd, 2008 10am-3pm The Art Institute of Charleston 24 North Market Street Charleston, SC 29401-2623
  • Portland, OR- Thursday October 23rd, 2008- 10am-3pm Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront 1401 SW Naito Parkway Portland, OR 97201
  • Philadelphia, PA- Wednesday October 29th, 2008 10am-3pm Embassy Suites Center City Philadelphia 1776 Benjamin Franklin Parkway Philadelphia, PA 19107.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Recipes and Tips for Cooking with Beer

After everyone from last night's poker game went home, I found myself left with a few half full (or half empty depending on how you look at it) beer cans and bottles. Having been raised by depression era parents and grandparents who never throw anything away, I tried to think of a way to put the brew to practical use (it's ingrained in me).

I had, conveniently, been looking for an excuse to smoke some ribs anyway. And so the somewhat flat beer found new life soaking wood chips for the long, slow cooking process.

The incident got me to thinking about the great beer and food I had years ago while researching a story for FabulousTravel.com on New Brunswick, one of Canada's maritime provinces. One of the benefits of being a food and travel writer is that you can often persuade restaurants to part with recipes for dishes you really like. And such was the case with the generous folks at Tapp's Brewpub and Steakhouse in downtown Saint John (pictured above).

The restaurant offers a respectable variety of microbrews along with hearty pub fare -- sandwiches and snacks (unfortunately, not much for vegetarians), with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. While steakhouse is in the place's name, the soups were a standout, along with one of the best chocolate pies I have ever tasted.

Much of the fare, like the Tapp's recipes published here, have beer as one of the ingredients. Even the aforementioned chocolate pie. Yes, you read that right. Chocolate pie made with beer. A hearty dark stout to be exact. The bitterness of the stout, mixes wonderfully with the richness of the chocolate. Give it a try, you won't be sorry!

Recipes from Tapp's Brewpub, Saint John, New Brunswick

Have Extra Beer -- Don't throw it out!
If you have an opened unfinished can or bottle of beer, don't thrown it out. Try one of these uses instead:

  • Use beer to soak wood chips before smoking meats, fish or veggies.
  • Beer can make a tasty addition to barbecue sauce.
  • Add extra beer to the liquid when cooking dried beans.
  • Use as a marinade ingredient for chicken or meats, mix beer with citrus juice, garlic, chile peppers, spices, and oil.
  • Use it when making bread, like at the recipe below for Cheri's Beer Cheese Bread.
  • Use in making a beer batter for fish, onions rings, or other vegetables (recipe link below).
If you have other suggestions for using small amounts of beer, please post them to the comments.

More Great Recipes Using Beer
  • Beer Can Chicken -- The whole chicken looks funny perched on its beer can throne, but the final product is a delicious, moist bird that's always a hit at cookouts.
  • Cheri's Beer Cheese Bread (pictured above) -- This tangy sesame encrusted loaf will disappear like magic as soon as you serve it, and the smell coming from your oven will draw everyone to the table.
  • Three Ingredient Beer Bread -- This recipe is one of the easiest you'll ever find. It uses packaged biscuit mix and is perfect with soups and salads, and even makes great toast for sandwiches.
  • Ultra-Hot Beer Wings -- This recipe is not for wimps! It is ultra-hot. Since beer is traditionally used to help put out culinary fires, we've incorporated it right into this recipe. It's still hot. Better have some cold brews at hand as well.
  • Ribs 'N Beer -- Fabulous barbecue -- ribs are marinated in beer then cooked long over low heat.
  • Steamed Clams with Beer and Bacon -- If you are simmering this dish on a beach, people will come from miles around just to discover what smells so good.
  • Clams Steamed in Ale -- Here's a fast and easy recipe from Williams-Sonoma.
  • Beer Batter for Fried Fish -- A great recipe when making British style Fish and Chips.
  • Dave Lieberman's Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes -- These cupcakes are light in texture, but heavy in the chocolate department.

Fabulous Coffee

As I gaze out the window of my Big Bear Lake, CA home I can see (and feel) evidence of the season changing. There's a distinct chill in the air and I can see the dog's breath as they run around the yard chasing squirrels. Soon the "Silent Rain" (my business partner Mitch Mandell's name for snow) will start to fall.

Likewise, I know the time has come to change my morning ritual of iced coffee and answering email to the more traditional hot coffee and answering email.Coffee is such an integral part of the average American morning routine that many folks take coffee for granted, which is something I don't understand. What other food has such a wide discrepancy between good and bad? Think about it.

What could be better than a fresh, hot cup of perfectly brewed coffee? And what could be worse than a bad cup of coffee - old, stale, with more sludge in the bottom than the Mississippi River delta.

So today I thought I'd give you some tips, tricks and trivia related to making
Fabulous Coffee, as well as links to even more detailed info and great recipes so that all your coffee drinking experiences will be fabulous!

Kinds of Coffee
There are two main types of coffee that are produced in various parts of the world: Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica Beans - Named for the Arabs who first grew them, Arabica beans are characterized by rich, complex flavors. The individual coffees will vary in flavor and nuance depending on where they are grown. Coffee connoisseurs prize Arabica Beans. Coffee fanatics will be able to distinguish the different regions where the Arabica beans came from, much in the same way that wine experts can recognize where certain grapes were grown. The finest coffee beans tend to come from mountainous tropical areas near the equator.

Robusta Beans - Higher in caffeine than their Arabica cousins, Robusta beans, despite their impressive sounding name, have less complex flavors. Most of your mass produced supermarket blends will be made from Robusta beans, sometimes with a little Arabica thrown in to boost the quality.

Coffee Brewing Tips

  • Never pour water over used grounds a second time. You will not get a stronger coffee, you will get a cup of coffee filled with bitter and acidic elements - in other words, the part of the coffee that you want to stay behind with the grounds.

  • Water quality matters - if the water you brew with has an off flavor, so will your coffee. Use bottled or filtered water if necessary to get a great tasting cup of coffee.

  • Instead of using paper filters, consider a gold plated metal filter for better taste. It's also more economical over the long run as gold plated filters can last for several years. They also eliminate paper waste so are better for the environment.

  • When buying a drip coffee maker, try to get one with a flat bottomed filter cone, as opposed to one that that tapers to point. The flat bottom allows for better saturation of the coffee grounds, and likewise a more flavorful cup of coffee.

  • The higher wattage on a coffee maker, the stronger the coffee maker's heating element. A higher heating element will produce a better cup of coffee than a weak one.

  • Do not leave brewed coffee on the heating element for more that 10 minutes. After that transfer to a thermal carafe and turn off the heat. Some coffee makers, such as Capresso's 500 come with a thermal carafe instead of a glass pot, so you can brew your coffee and enjoy it all morning long, right from the very same pot.

  • Be sure to clean your electric coffee pot every few months by running a mixture of one part distilled white vinegar and four parts water through the machine. Follow that by running clear water through the machine three or four times to get rid of any trace of vinegar flavor before brewing coffee. " As French Press or Plunger Pots cool quickly, rinse them with hot water before brewing to help the coffee stay warm longer. Transfer what you don't drink to insulated carafe for further drinking.

  • Always clean the steam tube of your espresso machine immediately after using, as dried on milk can clog the tube.

  • Got extra coffee? Don't throw it out! Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Use later in ice coffee - you'll get a delicious drink that won't dilute as the ice melts.

Favorite Coffee Gadget The Moka Pot
If you're looking for an easy, inexpensive way to make espresso, look no further than the Moka Pot. This little device brews right on the stove top. The pot consists of a tightly sealed bottom chamber (which holds the water), a central tube and filter basket, and an upper chamber to hold the brewed coffee. When water is heated in the bottom chamber, steam builds and forces the water through the center tube and filter and into the upper chamber. Moka pots are easy and inexpensive to use, and result in a cup of coffee with a flavor and consistency somewhere between regular drip coffee and that made by a pump espresso machine. An annual replacement of the
pot's rubber gasket is all that's necessary to maintain a Moka Pot.

Coffee Trivia
Are you a true java junkie? If so then you should know all about your favorite drink. This trivia will help make you the "Cliff Clavin" of coffee knowledge. (If you're a television junkie, you know who that is.)

  • Espresso has 1/3 of the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee! That's right, contrary to popular belief, the darker the roast, the less caffeine the coffee will contain.

  • ALL coffee is grown within 1000 miles of the equator between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

  • In the coffee world, "excelso" or "supremo" do not indicate the quality of the beans, but rather, the size of the beans.

  • Coffee was first known in Europe as "Arabian Wine."

  • Brazil, the world's largest producer, grows about 35% of the world's coffee.

  • Because they ripen at varying degrees, all coffee beans must be individually hand picked.

  • A mature coffee tree will produce about one pound of coffee per growing season.

  • It takes 2,000 hand-picked Arabica coffee cherries to make one roasted pound of coffee - or approximately 4,000 beans.

  • Coffee, grown in more than 50 countries, is the second largest export in the world (in dollar value) after oil.

  • The heavy tea tax imposed on the colonies in 1773, (remember the Boston Tea Party from your history class) was the catalyst that made Americans switch their beverage of choice from tea to coffee.

  • The first commercial espresso machine was manufactured in Italy in 1906.

  • Raw coffee beans, soaked in water and spices, are chewed like candy in many parts of Africa.

  • Coffee represents 75% of all the caffeine consumed in the United States.

  • Jamaica Blue Mountain is regarded as the best coffee in the world (not to mention the most expensive).

  • Turkish bridegrooms were once required to make a promise during their wedding ceremonies to always provide their new wives with coffee. If they failed to do so, it was grounds for divorce!

Related Articles:

Favorite Coffee Drink Recipes:

Recommended Reading

In a worthy follow up to his previous book, Hot Chocolate, author Michael Turback explores this combination in it most popular forms from cocktails to nonalcoholic drinks to decadent desserts. You'll find a collection of 50 recipes (35 drinks, 15 desserts) illustrated by more than 15 beautiful full color photos.

Coffee Creations
Coffee Creations will have you thinking about coffee in new ways, as there is a wide variety of recipes in this tasty little collection. Chapters include: Coffee Drinks; Coffee for Breakfast; Coffee for Lunch or Dinner; Coffee for Dessert; Gifts for Coffee Lovers.