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Category Archives: From the Kitchen

‘Prewashed’ Salads May Need Another Rinse

Consumer Reports Analysis Finds Bacteria in Packaged Green Salads

Those "prewashed" and "triple-washed" bagged salad greens that are on my salad plate at this very moment may not be as clean as I had hoped.

In a new investigation from the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, high levels of bacteria commonly linked to poor sanitation and fecal contamination were found in many of the sampled packaged salads.

spinachWhile Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen, PhD, states that the bacteria did not pose a health risk to the public, their presence indicated a higher likelihood of contamination with rare but potentially deadly pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.

An E. coli outbreak in the fall of 2006 traced to packaged fresh spinach killed three people and hospitalized more than 100.

Although the cause of the contamination was never confirmed, the E. coli was widely believed to have reached the spinach through groundwater that contained the feces of cattle and pigs.

Some Key Findings

Consumer Reports investigators sampled 208 packaged salads, representing 16 brands purchased last summer in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. The salads were sold in either bags or plastic clamshell containers.

  • 39% of the samples contained more than 10,000 "most probable number" per gram — a measure of total coliforms, which are bacteria associated with fecal contamination.
  • 23% had more than 10,000 colony forming units (CFU) per gram of the bacterium enterococcus.

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Posted by on February 3, 2010 in From the Kitchen, Health

 

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A Few of My Favorite Things…And Other Top Secret Data

Total Time: 20 Min
Serves: 2

For years now I’ve been making French toast using regular sandwich bread [thick Texas style] or Brioche, but have always found it to be a bit soggy in the middle. Cutting down the soak time helped little, as I still found that the sandwich bread too readily sopped up the egg mixture which resulted in French toast that was never perfect.

French Toast Heaven with Acme Rustic Sour

A few months ago I began using old baguettes that were a day or two beyond prime, and found that they yielded a nicely textured and decidedly not soggy French toast. I called them “Golden Medallions.” The result was more like the French toast I’ve ordered in restaurants. It’s really quite good.

Today I decided to try it again, but this time with Acme’s Rustic Sour French bread [sorry Semifreddi – your crust doesn’t quite make the cut]. So with fork and syrup at the ready I made my attempt, and before I knew what happened, two pieces of golden gastric bliss vanished, and in such rapid succession [thus the absence of a picture…my apologies] that I thought it good enough to post.

When you make this, you definitely want to make sure that the bread has been sitting around for a day or so: it should be bone dry.

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In My Humble Opinion – Worlds Best Pancakes!

TOTAL TIME: 30 MIN
SERVES: 6

Adding fresh ricotta to the batter makes these pancakes incredibly moist and light.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 ounces ricotta cheese (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Unsalted butter, for the griddle
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries or 2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed
  • Pure maple syrup, for serving 

Directions 

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the milk, ricotta, sugar and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is smooth.
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until frothy. Beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain.
  3. Preheat the oven to 225°. Heat a griddle, then lightly butter it. For each pancake, ladle a scant 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle; be sure to leave enough space between the pancakes. Cook over moderately low heat until the bottoms are golden and the pancakes are just beginning to set, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle each pancake with a few blueberries and press lightly. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden on the bottom and cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer the pancakes to plates and keep them warm in the oven while you make the rest. Serve the pancakes with maple syrup.
 
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Posted by on November 1, 2008 in Breakfast Recipes, From the Kitchen

 

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Porterhouse Steak with Pan-Seared Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4

Active time: 35 min         Start to finish: 45 min

July 2008 Gourmet Magazine

This recipe turned out a fabulous late summer dinner for very little work. The balance of the baritone flavor and fat of the steak with the tomatoes’ coloratura acidity is remarkable.

Note – Take care not to overcook the tomatoes—they should be in the hot pan just long enough to release some of their juices, which create a natural sauce for the steak.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 (1 1/2-inch-thick) porterhouse steaks (about 1 3/4 lb each)

4 teaspoons kosher salt

6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise

4 (1/2-pint) containers mixed cherry tomatoes

6 large thyme sprigs

1 1/2 cups coarsely torn basil leaves

 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  • Meanwhile, pat steaks dry and sprinkle with kosher salt and 1 1/2 tsp pepper.
  • Sear steaks 1 at a time, turning once, until well browned, about 10 minutes total per steak. Transfer steaks to a shallow baking pan (do not clean skillet) and cook in oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of steaks registers 120ºF for medium-rare, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let stand 15 minutes.
  • While steaks stand, pour off oil from skillet. Add remaining 2 Tbsp oil and heat over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté garlic until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add tomatoes and thyme to hot oil (be careful; oil will spatter), then lightly season with salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, just until tomatoes begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in any meat juices from platter, and then scatter basil over tomatoes and spoon over steaks.

I would love to write that the absence of pictures was due to the overwhelming nature of this dish…but the real reason is sadly underwhelming; my camera batteries were DEAD! Next time….

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2008 in Dinner Recipes, From the Kitchen

 

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Oh NO! Not This…

Hershey Co. said Friday it plans to raise prices on its products by an average of 11 percent as it tries to stem the impact of soaring commodities costs, and trimmed its projections for 2008 and 2009.

The candy company known for its chocolate bars bite-sized Kisses said the immediate increase was necessary to offset “significant increases” in the cost of raw materials such as sugar, cocoa and peanuts — up as much as 45 percent since the start of the year — as well as the growing cost of fuel, utilities and transportation.

“Commodity costs have been volatile over the last several years and continue to remain at levels that are well above historical averages,” Hershey’s President and Chief Executive David J. West said in a statement.

So the prices ramp up on oil, gasoline, groceries, services, and now chocolate? What in god’s name is going on? Sheeze, you’d almost begin to think we were headed for a recession

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2008 in From the Kitchen, Opinion

 

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Study Reports, Not Only Are You Not Eating Enough Vegetables, You Might Be Lying About It Too

Vegetable Consumption Over-Reported

Vegetable Consumption Over-Reported

Some studies suggest people under-report their caloric intake by 30 percent…or more. But when it comes to fruits and vegetables however, it appears that people are lying in the other direction — stating that they consume far more of the colorful critters than they really do.

The finding, reported in the current Nutrition Journal, suggests the data the health community has collected on fruit and vegetable consumption are tainted by “approval bias.” The bias? We know we are expected to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so that’s what we say when we are asked, and we may even really believe it to be true.

Our results show that self-reports of fruit and vegetable intake by means of both food frequency questionnaires and 24-hour recall are susceptible to substantial social approval bias. Attention to this bias in the context of dietary reports from subjects in nutritional intervention studies is an important consideration in study design, analysis, and interpretation. Continued efforts to improve methods to objectively evaluate nutritional interventions are needed.

It needs be pointed out that the study results were only obtained from a small sample of the Colorado female population.

We were therefore unable to assess the impact of reporting bias among men, or among subgroups defined by age, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Future work should examine effects in such subgroups…

Nonetheless the conclusion was this:

Self-reports of fruit and vegetable intake using either a food frequency questionnaire or a limited 24-hour recall are both susceptible to substantial social approval bias. Valid assessments of intervention effects in nutritional intervention trials may require objective measures of dietary change.

Now off to eat your veggies!

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2008 in From the Kitchen, Science News

 

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Spicy Crab Spaghettini with Preserved Lemon

Spicy Crab Spaghettini with Preserved Lemon

Serves 4

Active time: 20 min

Start to finish: 20 min

ADAPTED FROM SYDNEY SEAFOOD SCHOOL, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA May 2008

Spicy Crab Pasta with Preserved Lemon

Spicy Crab Pasta with Preserved Lemon

 

The combination of flavors here worked quite well and joined together in a unique way with the Green Bean and Hazelnut Salad shown below. The brininess of preserved lemons brings out the sweetness of the king crab you’ll find in each twirl of pasta.

 

·         1/2 lb spaghettini (thin spaghetti)

·         1/2 cup chopped red onion

·         1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

·         1 to 2 teaspoons sambal oelek or Sriracha sauce

·         1/2 lb shelled cooked crabmeat, cut into 1-inch pieces (from about 1 1/4 lb thawed frozen king crab legs)

·         2 pieces preserved lemon (make recipe or use store-bought), pulp discarded and rind rinsed and finely chopped (1 tablespoon)

·         1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

·         2 tablespoons salted butter

 

Cook spaghettini in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente.

 

Meanwhile, cook onion in oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Stir in sambal oelek and cook 1 minute, then add crabmeat. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, just until crabmeat is heated through.

 

Drain pasta, then add to skillet along with remaining ingredients and toss to coat well.

 

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