Food and Drink

I have confessed to a number of people that as healthy and as fashionable as it is, I simply do not like the taste of kale. And much to my surprise, almost every one of them agreed. If the vegetable is braised with apples and bacon, to mask the taste,  I can eat it. But served plain—I gag. The truth of the matter is that green leafy vegetables are just too rich in health benefits to ignore, so I am in search of recipes that make them palatable if not delicious. (I would appreciate any of your suggestions.) Recently professional culinary magazines have been singing the praises of collard greens. Almost as rich in powerful nutrients as kale, collard greens have a milder flavor that marries better with other ingredients. It is predicted that collard greens will unseat kale in the coming year on many fashionable restaurant menus.
It is a worthy initiative when those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy great food and wines can partake in our pleasures while supporting the less fortunate. The South African Braai co-sponsored by Pine Plains Fine Wines and Spirits and Wines of South Africa, raised more than $17,000 to fund the Pine Plains Community Food Locker and provide funds for the initiation of a BackPack Program in conjunction with the local school to help feed local children who would otherwise go hungry on weekends. It is estimated that the program will provide food for at least 65 children for the entire school year. "This is a tribute to the many people who supported the South African Braai with their presence and with their additional contributions. It's also a terrific reason to shop local and support local merchants," said Will Carter, the engine behind the event.
Some of you may remember that during my trip to France last year, I reported on being served a salad with fresh flowers in it. It was beautiful, tasty and quite a surprise to me. Little did I know that flowers have been used in cooking for thousands of years and after a period of being out of favor, they are back in style and on the tables of the very best chefs. Edible flowers are more than just trendy. Used as a garnish or as an integral part of a dish, they bring unusual flavors, color, and fragrance. Flowers can be frozen in ice cubes and added to beverages; made into jellies and jams; used to flavor teas; added to cheese spreads, herbal butters or pancakes; or candied. Squash flowers may be fried in light batter. Certain flowers are commonly used to make vinegars for cooking, marinades or salad dressings. Below are some of the most common edible flowers and their most popular uses.
Where were you born and raised, and how did you come to the Hudson Valley?  I am from El Paso, Texas, and came here to attend the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park. You have worn many different chef's hats (all toques). Yes, I was chef and executive chef in fine dining restaurants, executive chef for the governor, owned and operated a bakery, taught courses in culinary arts, and worked at Hudson Valley Hospital Center.
Courses in craft beer brewing will be added to the  curriculum in 2015 as Brooklyn Brewery donates a brewery to the school. A special bill sponsored by State Senator Terry Gipson and Assembly woman, Didi Barett signed into law by Governor Cuomo last week gives the Culinary Institute of America the same rights and status as the Farm Breweries. Created in  2012 the license stipulates that  they may craft “New York” beer with specific levels of locally grown ingredients, gradually increasing from 20 percent to 90 percent by 2024."   
I bought a pound of these little orange tomatoes and tasted one. It was so sweet yet tangy with tomato flavor that I bought a second pound. That night we had tomato salad and the next day we just ate them like grapes. I always knew that tomatoes were fruit not vegetable, but this is the first time they really tasted like it. Wow what a treat. 
I was so happy to find these precooked baby organic beets last week at the Sharon Market. Since then I have also seen them at the A&P in Pleasant Valley. They are freshly cooked, tender, simple and delicious, and packaged the way I used to find them in France. The sweetness of the beets complements the mild organic vinegar flavor. Simply slice the organic beets onto your salad (my choice: baby spinach leaves), and then toss together with olive oil and goat’s cheese or Gerard's favorite into one of my potato salads. 
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