Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fondue is Fun

For a fun dining experience and and some good food try the "Melting Pot" in Sarasota, Florida. Our Swiss family member approved of the cheese fondue and he is really picky when it comes to the authenticity of his native foods. I was expecting the food to fry in oil, but instead a choice of broths were blended at the table for cooking. The meal began with two different cheese fondues, crusty breads and vegetables. The main course was a choice between meats, seafood, or vegetables, each to be cooked in the appropriate broth. Various dipping sauces came with each entree. For dessert fruits and brownies were dipped in a bubbling mixture of white and milk chocolate, or a dark chocolate fondue. A decent choice of wine and beers were available. Our waitress was new but well trained and versed in what she was serving. The best part is the "slow food experience" with plenty of conversation. This meal can take two hours plus so go to McDonald's if you are in a hurry.
  • Saturday, December 24, 2005

    White Trash Casserole

    We were at a Xmas party and this casserole was served. It was the kind of thing you piled on your paper plate as high as you could. It was such a great junk fix and the more beer you drank the better it was. The hostess who made the dish added green chilis and cumin to give it a Mexican flair. Caution: this recipe includes tater tots. The original recipe comes from the "Southern Culture on the Skids" band website–from the recipe section.

    1 pound hamburger, cooked up with 1 small onion and salt
    1 pound tater tots (still frozen)
    1 can of cream of ___________ soup (mushroom, chicken, asparagus, whatever, condensed, undiluted)
    2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or Velveeta)
    Mix it all up in a casserole dish, saving 1/2 cup cheese/ Velveeta for the top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. YUUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMYY!!!!

    Mike & Jamie Keller

    Pasta Pure de Cacao

    This is my favorite chocolate lable. I found this in Ollantaytambo, Peru at the El Albergue.
  • Saturday, December 17, 2005

    Rye Dough with Caraway Seeds

    The lighter loaves in the picture are called "Pane tipo Altamura" made with 100% durum wheat flour from the book "The Italian Baker"by Carol Field. The darker loaves are the rye.

    Rye Dough with Caraway Seeds
    From the book“Baking and Pastry “by The Culinary Institute of America, page 135. The recipe, divided by three, is as follows. (makes approximately seven one pound loaves)

    3.9 lb bread flour (high gluten)

    1.3 lb medium rye flour

    .5 oz. instant dry yeast = 3 level tablespoons works well with the cool dough

    1.5 oz. dark brown sugar = 3 tablespoons

    49 fluid oz. cold spring water = 6 cups

    1.75 oz. salt = 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons ( up to 3 tablespoons is not to salty )

    1.5 oz. oil = 3 tablespoons ( mild tasting oil oil is good )

    1.5 oz. molasses = 3 tablespoons ( I used “Grandmas” unsulphered )

    1 oz. caraway seed = 4 tablespoons + 1/ 2 teaspoon ( 4 heavy tablespoons )

    Mix all dry ingredients well. Dissolve molasses in a small portion (about 1/2 cup) of the water, warm in the micro wave.

    Add the oil to the warm molasses, stir well and add enough of the cool water so that the temperature does not exceed 100 degrees. Stir into the dry ingredients.

    Add in the remaining cool spring water. Work with a stiff wooden spoon until you have a ragged mass.

    Divide dough in half and place half in work bowl of electric mixer. Allow mixture to work 4 to 5 minutes at slow speed. Repeat with remaining half.

    Lightly flour counter, work both doughs together, and knead for 10 to 12 minutes. Dough will be stiff with just a bit of tackiness.

    Divide dough into two equal halves, and place in two lightly oiled bowls and refrigerate over night.

    Remove one bowl and allow to warm, the dough will begin to rise. Remove the following bowl from the refrigerator one hour after the first bowl.

    Punch down when doubled, this may take 3 hours or more. knead into a ball and divide into one pound pieces. Form round loaves (balls) and set spaced apart on a floured surface for 1 to two hours until doubled and the dough springs back when poked. Note: dough temperature needs to be between 76 F and 80 F to keep the oil fluid in the mixture. Repeat with second batch.

    Cut an X on top of each loaf when fully raised. Bake in a preheated oven starting at 425 F spraying the oven 3 times during the first two minutes then lower temperature to 400 F for a total time of 35 minutes. Cool completely on rack before slicing.

    My Mom Shirley's Linzer Torte

    "I start with:
    1 cup of sugar
    2 sticks of butter
    1 1/2 cups ground almonds
    1 tablespoon cinnamon
    1 teaspoon cloves
    1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
    2 egg yolks
    2 cups all purpose flour
    1/3 cup of "Hero" brand Swiss raspberry preserves

    First I am going to cream the sugar and butter, next add my almonds.

    {I've used slivered almonds toasted and roasted and also made raw almonds and I can't tell a difference because the raw almonds when they are put in they're going to bake anyway so I can't tell that it makes a whole lot of difference}.

    Next I will add the zest
    Next I will add the four gradually
    Then I'll add the spice, then I'll go on with the flour.

    You'll know the consistancy is right when it is mixed well and its a nice stiff dough.

    So now we take more than half the dough and we press it into the tart pan and we take the rest of the dough and we put it in "Saran Wrap" and I'm going to freeze it for at least fifteen or twenty minutes. Its really tricky to work with because it has to be cut so it has to be frozen.

    Most of the time I use "Hero" Swiss brand raspberry preserves and spread it almost to within a half an inch of the outside. Spread it pretty thin. I use about one third of a cup. I just use an old wine bottle for the rolling pin and I find that works pretty well. I've had all kinds of rolling pins and I like this better than any.

    The dough that is frozen, we're going to roll that out and make a lattice top for the tart which is the tricky part. Its the hardest part. It's a stiff dough yet it doesn't cut and you don't handle it very well. It's hard to handle.

    Its better if it is made a few days before you serve it and it doesn't have to be refridgerated. It really needs to season at room temperature. I find it works better that way.

    You need lots of flour and then I just put the film over it. Roll it out with the pin and take off the film and then cut away the jagged edge and I cut it about oh I don't know a half and inch strips {she slides the long serrated knife blade under the strips to lift them off the board}.

    I make the LInzer Torte because of Urs, my son-in-law that comes from Switzerland. Its his favorite thing and I just got into the habit because he always asks me to make one. I've been practicing probably six years maybe five, a while. and now I can whip one up in no time.

    It's easy, a simple recipe, its simple, but very good".

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Tropical Fruits in our Kitchen Garden

    Even though we have less than a quarter of an acre, including house and garage, we still find space to plant our banana trees. The banana trees are useful as a privacy screen and give our yard the feel of a distant tropical location. The bonus in all this is of course the bananas. Unlike the grocery store variety, (Cavendish I believe) the fruits we pick are about four inches in length and sweet with a hint of lemony tartness.

    The bottom photograph, pick your spelling, is a chirimoya or cherimoya, and sometimes called a sugar apple. We were introduced to these exotics while dining at a Vietnamese restaurant; a waitress entered the room with a carton of these strange lumpy fruits and graciously gave us two to sample after our dinner. An explanation of how to eat them was also provided. We had never experienced a fruit as exquisitely sweet with the consistency of cooked custard and overtones of cinnamon and vanilla. Needless to say all seeds were saved and carefully folded in a napkin to be planted at the appropriate time. Our first fruit appeared the second year after planting with a plant height of five feet. Now in their third year they are nearly ten feet tall with many more fruit. For more information on this fruit or to order seeds go to:
  • We Tried Fried

    Two turkeys and a sacrificial chicken were brined in salt and herbs. I read that sugar in the brine blackens the final bird leaving them unappealing. This being my first time at deep frying a turkey, I first test fried a chicken.

    The proper setup is in the middle of the yard where the grease can run free. " Merry Greasemas"

    Safety gear: long heavy glove, safety goggles, long pants, nerve tonic.

    Big mistake––cheap candy thermometer.

    The rising of the phoenix, or George Hamilton by the pool. The bronzed bird rises from the pot. All in just 36 minutes.

    final comment: This was great fun and truly delicious, but the oven and the grill produce their own signature tastes.

    Sunday, October 30, 2005

    Food Advisory: molto un-buono

    If you are looking for good Italian Food in Sarasota, Florida, do not go to Primo's! From the bread and dipping oil to the lukewarm pizza, we endured pure dining torture last night. I do need to give them some credit; the pitcher of Morretti beer on tap was fresh tasting. You can tell the quality of a restaurant initially from the bread they serve and this was white tasteless and stale. We were horrified when the waitress poured dried oregano onto a plate, reached for the oily bottle with no cap and worn label that was part of our table arrangement and dumped a quantity over the dried herbs.The oil itself had no taste and may have been suitable for frying, but not a finishing oil for dipping. This our pre-meal indulgence?

    From the experience we were having, we could not understand why so many people were packing into the place and the waitress confirmed that the restaurant is normally busy year around. How can a restaurant serve such poor quality food and no one notice? From what we understand the owner is from Italy making the whole experience more puzzling. Instead of sensing a well prepared meal, we sensed cut corners.

    Unfortunately our main entree a pizza came out with the wrong toppings and cold. We returned it and the toppings were corrected but it remained cold. Our order of calamare was just ok.

    One way to reduce your chances of dining in hell is to consult the Sarasota Restaurant Reviews at
    This site provides an opportunity to post your dining experience on an already listed restaurant or you can add a new one. I'm going to post my experience at Primo and see if they are posting both positive and negative comments. We shall see....

    It has been a few weeks since I sent my review of Primo to the Sarasota Restaurant Review. I revised the comments above to be more focused and less subjective before I sent it in. So far they have not posted my review. This leads me to doubt the credibility of the review service and to wonder just how they are making their review selections. I will not be looking to this site for a credible restaurant review in the future.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    Nova Scotia Food Poem

    The Nova Scotia Food Poem is a visual and verbal record of our eating tour across the maritimes this summer. These are stills from a digital movie complete with the soundtrack of bagpipes. Click on the image to get a better read.

    To answer any burning questions you have about Poutine, go to:
  • Saturday, October 22, 2005

    Culinary Slumming

    Why am I eating artificial bacon bits directly out of the plastic container? In a pinch when the cabinets are bare and no time to even boil an egg, baco bits hit all the satisfying urges that tongue and mind scream for...well sort of.

    Friday, September 30, 2005

    Dieter's Interest in Cuisine Began at an Early Age

    Click on the image to read his important statement.

    Health 3
    October 12, 1960

    My Favorite Food

    My Favorite food is
    Spaghetti with sliced up hot
    dogs. I like spaghetti and
    hot dogs fried.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    The new Autumn loaves

    september 25
    The top picture is a Sisteron Rye Bread from the book "The Breads of France" by Bernard Clayton, Jr.
    This bread was made with whole grain rye flour giving it a rough exterior, but moist and cool within.
    The Pear Bread (below) is from the same book mentioned above. This is an outstanding bread. You will only find it if you make it yourself. It also makes incredible toast the following day.

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Flatbread from Vinschgau

    This bread begins my investigation into the autumn season where spices begin to push summer flavors aside. Although I am sure many Germanic residents would gladly argue this bread is good year-round. The recipe is taken from the "New German Cookbook" by Jean Anderson and Hedy Würz. Please pay attention to the color bars next to the recipe as we have scanned directly from the book. I have enjoyed this cookbook as my sole source for many German dishes that make up a portion of my heredity. The text sidebar next to the recipe suggests this bread goes well with German cheese or ham. I happened to stop at our local German Food purveyor {Geier's Sausage Kitchen" on South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida} where I purchased an elk salami which was sensational with this bread. When making this bread, I made the mistake of putting all the spice in the dough and none on top. The flavor remained well balanced but the loaves were not as pretty as they could have been. To read the text from the cookbook, click on the images to open them larger in a new window.

    Pain à  l'Ancienne

    We baked this bread from a recipe out of the book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart. It did not fall short of our expectations. The bread is sweet and nutty just like described in the book and we have placed it at the top of our favorite bread recipes right now. Not only was this a great first recipe to cook out of the book, but the book itself is well designed. The photos are well composed and visually descriptive. Buy this book if you like to make bread you will not be sorry.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Citizen Food Bomb

    Read more about Eating Anywhere, an online exhibition addressing the theme of food nomadism at
  • The Citizen Food Bomb, designed by Polly Johnson was exhibited in Milan as part of the show. The Citizen Food Bomb subverts the meaning of the “bomb” from an instrument of death to an instrument of life. The food bomb delivers hope and and nourishment while the deadly bomb brings death and destruction. The food bomb should be shared by all citizens on the planet. It is a reminder of the potential for nourishment over opression and life over death. This was the only piece exhibited from the United States.

    Boulangerie gem of Nova Scotia: Cheticamp, Cape Breton

    to the baker and his wife: or the wife and her husband? after having your pugliese loaf, my first baking after the vacation in nova scotia. pictured are two very odd shaped pugliese breads, and "little rye rounds from the valtellina." both based on carol field's book "the italian baker."the crumb of my bread was nothing like the wonderful loaf that you baked. what are some of the ways to achieve an authentic pugliese? (click the link above for theartisan for great italian bread recipes and also other cuisine from Italy).
    a brief history of the grande boulangerie de l'est pugliese we purchased while in cheticamp:
    1) ripped apart in auto one kilometer from the store
    2) snuck into restaurant and dipped heartily into a white wine and mussel broth.
    3) reappeared at the airport where it was dipped into a vegetable soup.
    4) snacked on to sustain us during our standyby status in the airport (an entire day)
    5) smuggled through customs
    6) unpacked in our kitchen where the final pieces ended up in the toaster and consumed for breakfast in florida.
    7) permanently stored in our memories.

    it was a pleasure to have found you,

    dieter and polly

    (an email sent in appreciation of a good loaf)

    taralli: another life saving snack food for travel in italy and elsewhere. we enjoyed these fennel flavored rings so much in italy, that we made them at home. these keep for days and weeks. we enclosed them as food for thought.

    Peruvian Paella Home Cooked Here!

    The Spanish influence of cuisine in Florida is prevalent throughout. Although Peruvian cuisine has many of is roots in the Spanish influences, it is not common among the Latino restaurants in the Tampa bay area, we only know of two. Much to our delight we now have "El Patio Latino Peruvian". Our recent meal there felt authentically home cooked with that extra ingredient of care. The chef carried our two rustic paella pans to the table himself and displayed them in grand gesture for our approval. Not much English is spoken by the owner and staff, making the experience even that much better. Our other local restaurant serving Peruvian food "The Selva Grille" favors a nouvelle hybrid mix of Peruvian foods a bit on the upscale side.

    These photos feature the ceviche plate (top) and paella (below). Also with our meal came tamales stuffed with savory chicken, a heaping plate of thinly sliced sweet red onions with a light marinade, many many pitchers of sangria, then topped off with coconut flan and a complementary slice of birthday pie. As a note, call ahead if you want to order the paella, it's worth it.

    El Patio Latino Peruvian
    1100 N Tuttle Ave
    Sarasota, FL 34237
    (941) 955-5093

    Thursday, May 05, 2005

    Look in the sky, is it a naked ravioli? a malfatti? a dumpling? a gnocchi?

    It just fell apart. We dropped the tasty ricotta, spinach, ball into the boiling water and loomed large over it with anticipation. It sunk to the bottom and dissolved causing the water to turn a murky tint of green, with melted flour and cheese. The recipe we originally followed came from the book titled “Italy on a Platter: Recipes for Gourmets” by Osborne Putnam Stearns.

    Giuliano Bugialli called his spinach, ricotta mixture "naked ravioli" (ravioli nudi or ravioli alla fiorentina) in his book “The Fine Art of Italian Cooking”. This book is available through Jessica's Biscuit catalogue at an incredibly low price. His recipe is basically the same, but with more explanation in terms of history and cooking, but even with this advice we failed to achieve the proper effect.

    We did a google search with “spinach ricotta balls” and there we found something called a malfatti (which means badly made) It was described as being similar to, or as a green gnocchi (but note that Bugialli claims this recipe is never referred to as spinach gnocchi, page 268) it has up to eight tablespoons of flour clearly not making it gnocchi or naked ravioli. We won’t get bogged down with gnocchi, it is a topic for another discussion. By the time we served the dish we had added and subtracted varying amounts of flour and eggs attempting to get the mixture consistency right for boiling, but every time we dropped them into the water they dissolved. To ensure the ricotta and spinach mixture was not too wet, we strained it over night. Prior to that, the ricotta cheese had been strained the night before. Still no success when we dropped them into the hot water. We had experimented with boiling, frying and baking the balls by the time they were served. What we believe we need to do is to find a ricotta cheese that is thicker. The dryness of the spinach ball seems to be key to success.

    On further investigation, the internet provided the same basic recipes of ricotta and spinach balls fried or baked in the oven, served covered with melted butter and Parmesan cheese. Some recipes fry the spinach before shaping the balls, rather than boiling it. We found these recipes were served with tomato sauce, red pepper sauce and even a thickened butter, flour and milk concoction which all seemed like they would work albeit these are not the authentic spinach balls of Arno, Italy according to Bugialli.

    The guests were coming and we had to figure out a way to salvage this mixture of spinach and cheese. Baking was the way we saved the meal. We topped the spinach balls with butter and Parmesan cheese and it served nicely as a side dish.

    Read about ravioli nudi:
    Bugialli, Giuliano.
    “The Fine Art of Italian Cooking”
    New York: Gramercy Books,1990.

    The original “spinach-ricotta balls” recipe came from:
    Putnam Stearns, Osborne.
    “Italy on a Platter”
    Ward Ritchie Press, 1965.

    “Pallette di ricotta e spinaci
    Wash 1 lb spinach to remove sand or use canned spinach. If fresh spinach is used cook in its own moisture 5 minutes; squeeze dry; chop; add 3/4 1b ricotta (or substitute American cottage cheese), 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 2 tbl grated Parmesan cheese, 2 egg yolks, unbeaten. Mix well with fingers; shape like small eggs. Dust with flour. Drop a few at a time in boiling soup or water. Counting from the time they rise to the surface let them simmer 4 minutes; drain; repeat until all are cooked; put them in a hot serving dish. Sprinkle them with 4 tbl melted butter, 2 tbl grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Serve hot to 4 persons.”