Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dunked duck

Judy Rodgers, who wrote one of the best "how to" cookbooks with her "Zuni Cafe Cookbook,"  suggests one needs to buy duck fat to have enough fat to make a proper duck confit. This afternoon, lacking the extra, I simply put two salted duck legs in an enameled cast iron pot, skin side down, along with all the extra skin from the duck and its wings, a little garlic and a dried California chili, and then put the pot on a burner set on its lowest setting. When I returned four hours later, the legs were simmering nicely, covered with fat, and tender as could be. I drained off the fat, let the meat cool, then pulled the meat off the bones. I put the succulent chunks across a broiler pan, and broiled the duck until it sizzled. It then went on top of a salad of romaine and arugula, apples, craisins and walnuts, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil with a grinding of sea salt and black pepper. 

Now, what to do with the breast? Stay tuned.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lusting for lemons

One of the most lovely parts about winter in Sacramento was when people with lemon trees would bring in big bags of lemons to give away. (Note to California friends: If you could send me a box, tell me the weight and I'll send you an addressed and prepaid UPS label to put on it.) 

Three things I love to make and use in cooking require quantities of unblemished lemons: preserved lemons, lemon vinegar and limoncello. I saw this tip today on Chowhound:

The most important piece of advice for making homemade limoncello, says Delucacheesemonger, is to use food-grade grain alcohol instead of vodka to infuse your lemons. “The additional alcohol, or perhaps lack of water, leaches more oil from the zest. Difference is dramatic,” says Delucacheesemonger. Zest your lemons and use only the yellow part for limoncello infusion, sayskosmonut. Infuse the zests in grain alcohol for around three weeks. You’ll know it’s ready “when the zests appear to be almost crunchy,” says kosmonut. Then combine your infused alcohol with an equal volume of clear simple syrup.

I've had luck using vodka, but it does take about a month for the zest to whiten and the liquid to turn yellow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Vineyards and Virginia

Yesterday afternoon, the trees adorned in breathtaking shades of crimson, rust, gold and evergreen, Betsy and I headed toward the ever-earlier setting sun, past the homes and rolling estates of Jefferson and Monroe, to the Kluge Estate Winery and Mrs. Kluge's farm store. With a glass of their Albemarle rosé for me and cider for Betsy, we enjoyed a plate of artisan cheeses: Bra Tenero from Italy; Brie de Nangis from France; a 4-year-old Netherlands Gouda; a double Gloucester from the UK; a Spanish Roncal; and BMF Stilton, also from Great Britain.

Tasting the cheeses and sharing stories on the porch, looking out into the lovely forest (a mulched trail leads through them to an overlook of the vineyards), cheered the heart of someone who hasn't missed a fall in Napa and Sonoma valleys for more than 20 years. I'll be back, soon!

By the way, the rosé, a dry well-balanced, not-too-light beauty, is on sale for $50 a case.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An A+ result for a B vitamin?

An over-the-counter vitamin in high doses prevented memory loss in mice with Alzheimer's disease, and UC Irvine scientists now are conducting a clinical trial to determine its effect in humans. 

Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, lowered levels of a protein called phosphorylated tau that leads to the development of tangles, one of two brain lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease. The vitamin also strengthened scaffolding along which information travels in brain cells, helping to keep neurons alive and further preventing symptoms in mice genetically wired to develop Alzheimer's. 

"Nicotinamide has a very robust effect on neurons," said Kim Green, UCI scientist and lead author of the study. "Nicotinamide prevents loss of cognition in mice with Alzheimer's disease, and the beauty of it is we already are moving forward with a clinical trial." 

The study appears online Nov. 5 in the 
Journal of Neuroscience. 

Nicotinamide is a water-soluble vitamin sold in health food stores. It generally is safe but can be toxic in very high doses. Clinical trials have shown it benefits people with diabetes complications and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

If you haven't already done so, VOTE TODAY! It's important.

I was going to offer some recipes for election night snacks, but the time has passed and I'm sure you have settled on your favorites. Here is a funny menu for the night -- from a recent Washington Post chat on their food section's story on election night food (to read the Post's package, click here) -- from a reader in Berkeley, CA:

Lipstick on a pig sandwiches - ham with cranberry chutney. Elitist sandwiches - goat cheese and arugula. Amnesty dip - guacamole. Bill O'Reilly's falafels with rogue nation pita bread. Tim Russert Memorial Buffalo Wings. Pork barrels - bacon wrapped dates. Green Party - veggies and dip. Real Virginia Peanuts. October Surprise - Jamie Oliver's butternut squash cupcakes. Cookies in the shape of various swing states. Yes We Candy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A prudent China policy

For many unfortunate pet owners in the United States in 2007, their dogs and cats became the canaries in the coalmine that is the food chain. The additive that was making them sick, melamine, is now reported to be in most food in China. If you aren't making every effort to determine where the food you eat is from, this article from Reuters news service should give you added incentive to do so.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Eye of newt and toe of frog...

Boiled peanuts are not quite as exotic as what the weird sisters in Macbeth were cooking up but 
still they look rather unappetizing before they come out of the shell. Once out, they look like normal peanuts with skins. But the taste? Well, they sort of taste like peanuts, salty peanuts, but the texture is more like edamame or a dense bean. They may be an acquired taste, and one I'm not likely to acquire as long as those excellent roasted Virginia peanuts are readily available.