Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mom's mystery torte still a winner

Several years ago, I shared my mother's Mystery Torte in The Sacramento Bee, but a search on SacBee.com turns up nothing with my byline anymore. (After five years away, it's like my 21 years at that newspaper never happened.) 

For a good long time, the 3x5 card that had the recipe on it was nowhere to be found, and I wasn't the only one who missed it. While cleaning out my email, I came across a friend's lament that he had not saved The Bee with the recipe, and would dearly love to have it if it ever turned up.

Here you go, Fred! And if Nancy doesn't want to share her sticky toffee pudding recipe, that's OK; I'd love to have her make it for us the next time we're in Sacramento.


Mystery Torte
Serves 8

From the recipe box of Attie Ardoin Korleski. Source unknown (it's a mystery!). If you don't have an 8-inch pie tin, use a 9-inch; it won't be as thick, but still very tasty. 

Ingredients
-Torte
16 Ritz crackers
2/3 cup walnuts 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla 

-Topping
1 cup (1/2 pint) whipping cream
Sugar to taste

Instructions
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll crackers, grind nuts and mix together (or put both in a food processor and mix until you can't tell them apart). Set aside. 

Mix baking powder and sugar. Set aside. 

Beat egg whites until stiff; add sugar mixture slowly. When done, fold in the cracker-nut mixture and add vanilla. Pour into lightly greased 8-inch pie tin. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool completely (but do not refrigerate yet).

Use the last two ingredients to make whipped cream. Push down the thin top layer of the torte, then spread the whipped cream on top, taking care not to lift any of the crumbs from the top while you are spreading the cream. Put in the refrigerator and chill for at least three hours before serving.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When is balsamic just a cheap imitation of the real thing?

Good to know, from Good Stuff NW:

Bottles of balsamic vinegar on store shelves labeled "Balsamic Vinegar of Modena" are a commercial grade product made of wine vinegar with the addition of coloring, caramel and sometimes thickeners like guar gum or cornflour.

Authentic balsamic vinegar, labeled "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena," is produced from the juice of just-harvested white grapes (typically, Trebbiano grapes) boiled down to approximately 30% of the original volume to create a concentrate or must, which is then fermented in a slow aging process which concentrates the flavors.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Real spaghetti carbonara

In Virginia, you can find pork jowl bacon in the stores, and this is a great use for it. This has been one of my favorite dishes for years, because I usually have most of the ingredients on hand (although sometimes I cheat and use cooked bacon crumbles, which I keep in the freezer after opening).

If anyone can point me to a source for pork jowl in Sacramento, I'd be most appreciative.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

In full cauliflower

Cauliflower is perhaps the mildest of the cole family vegetables, and that makes it a good entry vegetable if you can't seem to bring yourself to eat broccoli or despise the smell of cooked cabbage. And this soup, which my friend Bambi Nicklin featured on a Facebook posting recently, makes the nutritious vegetable even more inviting. I served it with fried calamari (recipe below the soup) for a good, gluten-free meal. If you want to stretch this out to serve four people, add some appetizers and a salad.


Bambi's Cauliflower Soup
Serves 2

Cook a cored cauliflower in broth until it's very soft. Remove from broth with a slotted spoon and blend with a little broth until smooth. Return to pot. Add 3/4 cup finely grated cheese and dried thyme and whisk to blend the melted cheese. Meanwhile, cook 1 cup peas for 2 minutes in the microwave. Whisk in about 1/3 cup sour cream and add the peas.

Lori's note: I didn't have any sour cream on hand, so I used Mexican table cream instead. It was delicious.

Crispy Calamari
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 pound small calamari
½ cup rice flour
2 teaspoons Mas Guapo or other spicy salt

Instructions
Clean calamari and cut into rings. Drain well. Mix the flour and seasoned salt together. Dredge the calamari in the flour and shake off excess. You can do this in advance.

When ready to cook, bring the calamari to room temperature. Over medium heat in a cast-iron skillet, heat about ½-inch of canola oil. When hot, add rings in small batches so they aren't crowded. Cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes, then drain on paper towels. Let the oil come back up to temperature before adding more. Serve with lemon wedges or your favorite sauce.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hollandaise starts with a Mexican morning

Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson
My Food and Wine newsletter this weekend contained a most intriguing sauce: Avocado Hollandaise. I love poached eggs, but don't often eat them a la Benedict because of the copious amount of butter that goes into the topping. This sounded much healthier, and easy enough to do on a weekday.

I made the sauce while waiting for my Virginia ham slices to cook to a caramel perfection, today using a layer of orange juice in the pan (the package said to use cola or brown sugar and water).

I found that English muffins now come in a higher fiber, multigrain version, and they were quite tasty. Jim toasted them as I poached the eggs in boiling water to which I added a little salt and lemon juice.

Here's the recipe for the sauce:

Avocado Hollandaise

Serves: 4

Ingredients
1/2 very ripe medium Hass avocado, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Poached eggs, for serving

Instructions
In a blender, combine the avocado and lemon juice with 1/3 cup of hot water. Puree until smooth and light in texture, about 2 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil and purée until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the hollandaise over poached eggs.

Blogger's note: Your avocado half may be larger than the one tested. If your purée isn’t moving after 2 minutes, add a little more hot water until it does, then add the olive oil, salt and pepper.

From Food and Wine, contributed by Kay Chun
Photograph ©2014, Lori Korleski Richardson

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Vaccinate, yes - salt, maybe

Image by 3D4Medical.com/Getty Images
In this week's Science magazine, a study suggests that a buildup of chloride levels in rodent fetuses damages their developing neurons, and prevents a switch that moderates the extreme activity from engaging in newborns, thus triggering autistic behavior. The report focuses on the use of a chloride-lowering drug, bumetanide, that seems to be helpful even after the young have developed autistic symptoms.

Fifty or 60 years ago, doctors used to recommend that women cut out extra salt (sodium chloride) in their diet, to ease the swelling and risk of pre-eclampsia, but lately, doctors have advised women that they should stick to their regular diets during pregnancy - and we know how much salt is in fast food and processed foods. Is it too much? Could it be the trigger?

Anecdotally, my mother kept to a salt-free diet while she was pregnant with me and had no problems with delivery. When my dad returned from Japan, she couldn't keep to the salt restriction, and they had to use forceps to deliver my brother.

Growing up, we all had to be vaccinated, and many of those vaccinations, such as for small pox and polio, were done in school. I cannot recall any autistic kids, although I had several classmates with other mental disabilities.

I didn't have my first taste of McDonald's until I was in my teens. But we probably got plenty of salt from canned goods, sauerkraut, cured ham and sausages.

Although I suspect a link to high salt consumption and autism spectrum disorders, more study needs to be done. I don't have the same wariness of vaccination; the overwhelming good vaccines do outweighs the fear that they may do harm, and so far, scientific studies have not linked them to autism.

Here's the news release on the study:
A drug given to pregnant mice with models of autism prevents autistic behavior in their offspring, a new report shows, and though the drug could not be administered prenatally in humans (there is no way to screen for autism in human fetuses), clinical trials of this drug administered later in development, in young children who have already developed autistic symptoms, are showing progress. The causes of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, are complex. Prolonged excitation of brain neurons seems partly to blame. Thus, GABA - the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain - has drawn attention; GABA typically excites neurons in the brain of a growing fetus and then quiets them during birth, a switch mediated by oxytocin from the mother, and one that has a protective effect. But in autism, this switch doesn’t happen. The neurons remain excited because chloride - a key signaling molecule - builds to higher concentrations than it should. In the aforementioned clinical trials, a chloride-lowering drug called bumetanide appeared to have restored the GABA switch in children with ASD, reducing the severity of both autism and Asperger syndrome. To better understand if bumetanide affects the cellular processes that underlay the GABA switch in the way they believed it did (by lowering chloride levels), and to determine whether restoring the switch alone could reduce autistic symptoms, Roman Tyzio and colleagues (several of whom had been involved in the trials) studied two rodent models of autism. Oxytocin didn’t signal from mother to baby in the pregnant rodents, the researchers found, and as a result, chloride built to higher concentrations than it should have inside fetal neurons. By injecting the mothers with bumetanide, however, the researchers were able to reduce chloride levels to their appropriate amount - and in turn, to restore the GABA switch. Critically, mouse offspring exposed to this treatment didn’t demonstrate traits of autism. This study provides support for use of bumetanide in ongoing clinical trials in young children who have already developed autistic symptoms. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Eggs-actly why do Americans refrigerate eggs?

Penny, Betty and Veronica, ©2013, Lori Korleski Richardson
As a home poultry keeper, I was told NOT to wash eggs and that they would keep much longer unwashed. (Not that I ever got too many eggs.) So it always made me wonder why commercial egg producers did so. I figured that the hens were kept in such squalor that it was necessary.

But the real eye opener in the article below was that there is actually a vaccine against salmonella and that it's not required in the United States. Really? When you have to search for chicken feed that doesn't have antibiotics? When we've had so many cases of salmonella that almost no one makes a good Caesar salad dressing anymore and all eggs (low in fat and a good, inexpensive source of protein) are suspect?

In a somewhat related vein, how can my dog be vaccinated for Lyme disease, and although I live on property frequented by deer, and have found several ticks on me, there's no vaccine for me?

The egg article is here: http://io9.com/americans-why-do-you-keep-refrigerating-your-eggs-1465309529