Friday, October 2, 2009

When bad is good

Everyone knows (or should know by now) how bad organ meats are for you, chock full of cholesterol. But that really hasn't slowed the demand for shrimp, foie gras, sweetbreads or red meat. Or for that matter, fried chicken livers. Although I am good about not fixing them at home, and passing them up in the deli, I just couldn't resist them at Granny Bee's in Appomattox today.

Southern Fried Chicken Livers

1/2 pound chicken livers
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Flour, for dredging
Vegetable oil, for frying
Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Pierce livers with a fork. Liberally season livers with the spice mixture. Dredge livers in flour and shake off excess.
Heat oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan over medium heat.
Place livers into the pan and fry until cooked through, turning once. Use a splatter guard to keep oil explosions to a minimum. Don't overcook them.
Drain livers on a rack over a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Serve hot.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Corn varieties

Want to learn a lot about corn in just a couple of minutes? This is a well-done and informative video about varieties of corn by a grower.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Play it safe

You might have missed this little quiz inside the Washington Post food section today, but it has some good information.
How sharp are your food-safety skills? Check them against these guidelines provided by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a coalition of private groups and public agencies. Answer each question true or false.

1. Before being cooked, chicken should be rinsed thoroughly under running water and patted dry.

FALSE: Rinsing poultry increases the risk that you'll splatter salmonella and other contaminants around, outweighing the benefits of washing. Your best bet is to cook it until the meat inside is 165 degrees as measured by a food thermometer.

2. The best way to make sure a hamburger's safe to eat is to cook it until the inside meat is brown.

FALSE: Cook ground meat just until a food thermometer says it's 160 degrees. This will also keep you from overcooking your food.

3. You should wash cantaloupes and other melons before cutting them.

TRUE -- and it's true for any vegetable with a skin or rind, whether you eat it or not. Your knife blade could carry pathogens into the part you eat.

4. If you eat something suspicious but haven't fallen ill after 48 hours, you're in the clear.

FALSE: Incubation periods for food-borne illnesses range from 12 hours to a week or more; listeria can take up to 70 days.

5. Cutting boards need to be sanitized in the dishwasher or with chlorine bleach.

TRUE: It's not necessary every day, but the board should be sanitized. Outside the dishwasher, use soap and hot water, then coat it with a solution of one tablespoon of unscented bleach to one gallon of water. Let it stand a few minutes, then rinse and dab dry with paper towel.

6. You can make sure sprouts aren't contaminated by rinsing them thoroughly.

FALSE: The seeds from which sprouts sprout are often contaminated
with E. coli or salmonella, and even thorough washing won't help. People with compromised immune systems in particular should avoid eating raw sprouts.

7. You shouldn't ever put hot food in the fridge.

FALSE: If you're not going to eat it right away, you should divide hot food into small portions in shallow containers and stick them in the fridge. Bacteria multiply at temperatures between 40 and about 140 degrees, and food left in that range for more than about two hours is no longer safe to eat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Free instant karma - er, coffee

It's official: Coffee culture has gone from high-life to lowbrow, now that Starbucks is coming out with an instant coffee. Not only that, it's going to be at Costco and Target. This is the story from National Restaurant News:

SEATTLE (Sept. 29, 2009) Pledging “this is not your grandmother’s instant coffee,” Starbucks Corp. said Tuesday it would roll out its VIA Ready Brew product nationally with a taste-test challenge for consumers in stores across the United States and Canada.

Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz said the rollout would “transform the coffee industry” and give the global coffee chain a slice of the $21 billion instant coffee market — representing about 40 percent of overall coffee sales — without cannibalizing in-store beverage sales.

Starbucks first introduced the ready-brew product in February. Tests of VIA in Seattle, Chicago and London have exceeded the company's expectations, said Schultz, who noted that he has been serving it for some time at his office and home and “fooling people,” including his wife.

Convinced that the quality of VIA compares to Starbucks’ brewed coffee, the company is inviting customers to visit any store in the United States and Canada from Oct. 2-5 to see if they can taste the difference.

Taste-test participants can try the Colombia Starbucks VIA alongside a fresh-brewed cup of Pike Place Roast. Those who accept the challenge in U.S. stores will be rewarded with a coupon for a free tall brewed coffee on a subsequent visit, as well as $1 off a purchase of VIA. Participants in Canada will receive $1 off the purchase of VIA.

“We’re convinced that the majority will not be able to tell the difference,” Schultz said. “The proof of Starbucks VIA is in the cup.”

With the rollout, VIA will be available in Starbucks, Costco and Target stores nationwide, as well as “places we’ve never lived before,” Schultz said, including retail locations of specialty outdoor gear brand REI, United Airlines, Office Depot, Barnes & Noble and Omni Hotels.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Apple time!

It's fall, and although you can get apples all year round, they are best and freshest right now. There are a ton of great old varieties in Virginia, but as much as I love a good organic Golden Delicious, my favorite is still the California Fuji. Not even a supermarket has been able to ruin their firm, crisp flesh and fresh, juicy sweetness. And Sunset magazine for October has a very easy and yummy oven cake (really, it's more like a German pancake) that is the perfect way to feature the Fuji. Thank you, Peter Zensius of San Francisco, for sharing this recipe.

Apple oven cake

3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 sweet apple, such as Fuji, peeled and sliced
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup each flour and milk
1 tbsp each fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425F.
Melt butter in a 12-in ovenproof frying pan over high heat.
Add brown sugar and cinnamon, swirling to combine.
Add apple and cook until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a blender, whirl together eggs, salt, flour, and milk.
Pour egg mixture into pan and bake until puffed and brown, about 15 minutes.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Tester's note: I used 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and whole wheat flour. I skipped the lemon juice and powdered sugar and instead served it with vanilla ice cream. It was very good.