Saturday, May 2, 2009

To wine, to life

From an undisclosed iPhone deep in the Upper West Side comes this bit of cheery news:
Half a glass of wine a day may add five years to your life, a new study suggests. Drink beer, and you’ll live only 2 1/2 years longer.

Dutch researchers followed 1,373 men for more than four decades, noting their eating and drinking habits. Men who had about 20 grams of alcohol daily -- equivalent to a half a glass of wine -- had 2 1/2 years added to their life expectancy at age 50, compared with men who didn’t drink at all, according to the research published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Men who consumed only wine had twice as much added longevity.

Light alcohol intake was linked to lower cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and overall mortality in the study. Researchers had known that moderate drinking is tied to a lower risk of heart disease, possibly because of an increase in high density lipoprotein or so-called good cholesterol as well as a reduction in platelet clumping, making it more unlikely for clots to form. It is the first study to show that one kind of alcohol is superior to others in prolonging life, the researchers said.

“In this study, 70 percent of all wine consumed was red wine,” the researchers, led by Marinette Streppel of the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, said in the paper. “This suggests that the cardioprotective effect of wine could be due to a protective effect of polyphenol compounds in red wine, but other explanations cannot be ruled out.”

Polyphenols are chemical substances found in plants such as tannins and flavonoids.

The research, dubbed Zutphen Study after the Dutch town from which the participants were recruited, followed men born between 1900 and 1920 and examined them several times between 1960 and 2000.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eva von Schaper in Munich at

To which I add: Salud!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Savory marshmallows

For people who have grown up with tiny little Kraft marshmallows in their hot-cocoa mugs, the words "savory marshmallows" sound like an oxymoron. But Harvest Moon Catering, a fine group of professionals in Charlottesville, served a trio of them as part of their offerings for the Piedmont Council of the Arts' Trio Party last night. The bitty, billowy dollops, flavored with beets, carrot and basil and topped with powders of orange, ginger and black olive, were light and jiggly, served on tiny plates with little forked picks. (I could not get in to photograph them - I am happy to report that the turnout was good.) They were delicious, and would make a good alternative to sorbet, especially in winter, for cleaning one's palate between dinner courses.

For those of you interested in trying to make some, here's a recipe that I intend to try when we get moved and settled into our new digs. If you get to it before I do, please share your experience!

Savory Marshmallows

Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe by nightscotsman on eGullet.

4 envelopes gelatin
1/2 cup roasted vegetable puree
1 1/4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon extract (optional)
Corn starch (with powdered sugar, if you want a sweeter touch)

If you are making cut shapes, line a sheet pan with a 1" rim with aluminum foil. Coat the foil with vegetable oil or non-stick spray. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.

Mix the puree, extract (if using) and 1/2 cup of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over to soften.

Put the sugar, corn syrup, remaining 3/4 cup water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234-240 F).

With the mixer at full speed, pour all of the hot syrup slowly down the side of the bowl. Be careful as the mixture is very liquid and hot at this point and some may splash out of the bowl - use a splash guard if you have one. whip until the mixture is very fluffy and stiff, about 8-10 minutes.

If you're using individual dishes, pipe or spoon out a dollop on each. Otherwise, pour mixture into the foil-lined pan and smooth with an oiled offset spatula so that it's level with the top of the rim (it won't completely fill the pan). Either way, allow the mixture to sit, uncovered at room temp for 10 to 12 hours.

Sift the cornstarch or a mixture of cornstarch and powered sugar generously over the rested marshmallow slab. Turn it out onto a cutting board or counter, peel off foil and dust with more starch or sugar/starch mixture. Slice with a thin-bladed oiled knife or oiled cookie cutters. Dip all cut edges in sugar/starch mixture and shake off excess. Marshmallows will keep several weeks at room temp in an air-tight container. Do not try this with the unstarched dollops.

Sweet Variation - Chocolate Marshmallows:

Replace puree and initial 1/2 cup of water in mixing bowl with 1/2 cup of cocoa disolved in 1/2 cup boiling water in a separate bowl. Soften gelatine in an additional 1/4 cup cold water in mixing bowl. Add cocoa mixture to mixing bowl and procede with recipe as above. This will produce a marshmallow with a strong chocolate flavor, but somewhat denser than the other version. To get a lighter texture as well as a lighter chocolate flavor, reduce cocoa to 1/4 cup.

Sweet Variation - Vanilla Marshmallows:

Replace puree and initial 1/2 cup of water in mixing bowl with 3/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or the seeds scraped from 2 vanilla beans.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kitchen: The heart of a home

I really can't wait to be in our new home and to put up my utensils and pots and pans where I can get at them. This apartment has been a fine temporary home, but one of the stipulations was that nothing could be attached to the walls. And when it comes to cooking, out of sight is out of mind. If you don't have your food processor, your mixer, your toaster out, you might as well give them away, because if you have to drag them out to cook, you aren't using them enough to make them worth having in your life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An appetizing app

Every day, it seems something new comes out for the iPhone. Doctors in some hospitals now carry it instead of patients' charts, with instant, secure access to all their records right there on the iPhone. You can play it like an ocarina or a trombone. You can pretend to fly fish, or drink a beer. So it goes, from the serious to the frivolous. In just nine months, the iPhone App Store has provided a billion downloads.

And I just saw this on Kraft food's site:
Based on the popularity of iPhone within Kraft, the company cooked up its own application for the iPhone App Store, called iFood Assistant. The app gives consumers more than 7,000 delicious recipes, a library of instructional cooking videos, full-meal shopping lists, and a store locator — all accessible via iPhone or iPod touch.

With iPhone, Kraft can deliver interactive, consumer-focused content where and when its customers need it. “We're able to make our content come alive on iPhone,” says Ed Kaczmarek, Kraft’s Director of Innovation, New Services. “It provides the best consumer experience available.”

Kraft built iFood Assistant with iPhone SDK and Apple developer tools. Kaczmarek describes the development process as straightforward and quick. Now that the app is available to the public, Kraft expects the downloads, plus potential content partnerships, to introduce new revenue streams.

By making the most of the groundbreaking features and capabilities of iPhone, Kraft shows its commitment to expanding its business through mobility and innovation. “iPhone is ready for business,” says Kaczmarek. “All the tools are there, plus the security we demand. And the added benefit is that we can develop compelling applications.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flounder, no floundering

A lovely, fresh flounder fillet called for a special treatment, but I had no time to consult my books - dinner had to be on the table in a half hour. So I picked up a half-pound of crab meat, some red, yellow and green pepper strips from the salad bar and some green onions, and headed for home. I had a half of a peeled yam left in the fridge.

I turned on the oven to 450, and put the 8-ounce fillet on a sheet of nonstick foil, about 4 inches longer than the fish. As the oven was heating, I diced the fresh pepper strips into tiny cubes and sliced two of the green onions. In a small bowl, I whipped one farm-fresh egg thoroughly with a fork, then mixed together the crab, peppers and onions with a generous grinding of pepper. I piled the crab mixture on the fillet, almost to the edges. Gathering up the long sides, I folded the edged a couple of times to seal, then folded up the ends so it was tightly wrapped. I placed the packet on top of the broiler pan, along with the yam, which I sprayed with olive oil and seasoned with a little salt and pepper. I baked the fish for 20 minutes; the yam wasn't quite done, so I put it in the microwave for another two minutes after I took out the pan from the oven. I made a simple salad of lettuce, arugula, cucumbers and feta while the fish cooked.

I opened the packet, which was still steaming, cut the fish in half horizontally, and put it on two plates, surrounded by a piece of vibrant orange yam, and the green salad. The confetti of the diced peppers gave the otherwise white dish a festive flair, and the plate looked great. I wish I had taken a shot of it - but we ate it immediately! A satisfying, low-fat, low-carb, low-salt meal. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This little piggy went to the hospital ...

There may be one piece of information that's gotten a bit lost in all the news about the swine flu outbreak that is believed to have originated in Mexico:  There is absolutely no evidence that it can be transmitted by eating meat, said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director general of the World Health Organization.

And in other news, a Grist magazine article connects the Mexican pork operation blamed for the outbreak with giant U.S. pork producer Smithfield. I'm not convinced that big agribusiness is evil, but I can't remember the last time a family farm started a pandemic.