Runner Beans

September 30, 2008

Checking Out Chobani

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 6:49 pm

Chobani plain nonfat yogurt, 6oz.

Earlier I wrote a post about Fage Greek yogurt and mangoes. Tiffany from the Chobani Greek yogurt company saw my post and offered to send me samples of Chobani yogurt. Within two days of our email correspondence a box of Chobani Greek yogurt samples – kept cool in a Styrofoam ice chest with ice packs – arrived on my doorstep. That evening I had a Greek yogurt taste testing.

Strawberry, plain and vanilla.

For all my Koine-loving friends, Chobani is derived from the Greek word chopani meaning shepherd. Good thing I had Tiffany to lead me to this yogurt.

AgroFarma, the company that makes Chobani yogurt, is based in upstate New York. It was founded in 2005 by Hamdi Ulukaya, a third-generation Turkish food maker who desired to bring the high quality yogurt of the Mediterranean to the United States.

In addition to plain Greek yogurt, I sampled four flavored yogurts: vanilla, strawberry, blueberry and peach. Chobani also makes a nonfat honey yogurt, lowfat (2%) plain and original (10%) plain yogurt. This review will compare Chobani’s nonfat plain yogurt with Fage’s.

Low in fat and sugar, high in protein.

The first difference I noticed between the Fage and Chobani plain nonfat Greek yogurt was the texture. Chobani has a smoother, more liquid texture than Fage. While I might smear Fage on a slab of pumpernickel and top with fruit, Chobani’s runny texture, which is more akin to traditional American yogurt, made it lovely for simply eating as is. Fage almost sticks to the roof of your mouth, so adding fruit or honey is essential.

Chobani on the left, Fage on the right.

Chobani’s plain nonfat yogurt was also tarter than Fage’s. I really like tart plain yogurt as a starting point because you can add whatever you have on hand to temper the kick to your liking, while still maintaining an undertone of tartness. Think of it as layering the components in yogurt: you could have mild+sweet or tart+sweet.

Fage on the left, Chobani on the right--with honey and walnuts.

I rarely ever eat plain yogurt without any topping, so I decided to try both yogurts with honey and walnuts. The texture and tartness of the Chobani yogurt came together really nicely with this addition.

Peach, vanilla, strawberry, blueberry.

Peach was my favorite fruited yogurt, followed by blueberry and strawberry. I didn’t care for the vanilla, but I’ve never tasted a vanilla yogurt I like. My dad left the room saying, “Mmm, I loved that strawberry one!” and my mom’s favorite was the plain. The fruit yogurts have only a fraction of the sugar of regular American fruit yogurts, which is a huge plus.

The Chobani yogurt was packaged in attractive 6 oz. cups. Serving sizes can vary from 6oz. to 8 oz. from brand to brand, so keep that in mind f you’re doing your own comparing of yogurt nutrition facts.

Still curious about Chobani or wondering where you can buy it? Check out www.chobani.com.

September 19, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Amerika!

Filed under: Germany 08, Restaurants & Excursions — Andrea @ 1:33 am

In a couple hours I’ll be heading to the airport to catch my flight to Frankfurt. I probably won’t be updating my blog for about a week, but check back next weekend for pics and stories of my adventures in the German wine country.

If you haven’t already seen it, check out the new “For the Reader” page at the top of my blog — it will help you stay up-to-date on my blog without having to check it all the time.

Gute Nacht, dear readers!

September 17, 2008

Aunt Barbara’s Oatmeal Cookies

Filed under: dessert, Recipes — Tags: , , , — Andrea @ 1:40 am

The last couple months my mom has patiently borne my wistful sighs of “Oh, I wish it were autumn!” and reminded me that I would miss summer’s home-grown tomatoes and late dinners on the deck. Yet as autumn draws nearer, my anticipation grows and I’m eager to pull out my sweaters and start making stews.

These oatmeal cookies are my first autumn-inspired cooking venture this year. The recipe is from my Aunt Barbara and makes the best oatmeal cookie I’ve ever tried–surely a result of the pecans, dates and generous amount of cinnamon.

1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
¾ cup raisins
¾ cup chopped dates (see note)

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixer bowl. Beat in the honey and eggs until smooth.
  3. Sift the flour, cinnamon and salt together. Stir into the butter mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  4. Add the oats, pecans, raisins and dates. Stir until well mixed.
  5. Shape the dough into 1″ balls. Place about 12 balls on each cookie sheet and then flatten each one with the palm of your hand.
  6. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Immediately move the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: To chop the dates more easily, whirl in a food processor with a cup of the flour.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

September 15, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower

Filed under: vegetables — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 10:03 pm

Roasted Cauliflower

For lunch yesterday we made roasted cauliflower to accompany our asparagus and grilled salmon. Not only is roasting cauliflower simple, but it is a refreshing change from traditional steamed or blanched cauliflower. The roasted cauliflower can be served as is or with any of the variations listed below. We tried the lemon juice, rosemary and caper variation, a fitting complement to our salmon and asparagus.

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 400° F. On a large baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with the oil, salt and pepper. Spread to a single layer without crowding and roast, turning every 10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp-tender, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Variations:
●Toss with lemon juice, minced fresh rosemary and chopped capers.
● Add orange zest, minced fresh parsley and chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes.
● Add a mustard vinaigrette and fresh thyme.

From The Best of Fine Cooking: 101 Quick and Delicious Meals (fall 2003).

September 14, 2008

“This Is Just To Say”

Filed under: Literary — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 11:39 pm

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

Destination Deutschland

Filed under: Germany 08, Personal Essays — Tags: , — Andrea @ 12:20 am

Frankfurt to Bonn to Heidelberg.

Next week at this time I’ll be in Germany.

On Friday I am flying to Frankfurt where I’ll meet Caroline, who will be flying in from Atlanta. From Frankfurt we’ll go to Bonn-Meckenheim to stay with German friends whom we have not seen since I was four. I am really excited to visit the place I spent the first four years of my life (minus the first three months in California), especially with Caroline because she remembers much more of our life in Germany than I do.

After spending the weekend in Bonn, we are taking the train to Heidelberg, where we’ll meet the Winzerkeller Wiesloch representatives and go to the winery. It’s mid-September and the harvest is beginning, so we’ll get to watch the beginning stages of the winemaking process.

I had a fun time looking at the Winzerkeller Wiesloch website, trying to put my rusty two years of high school German to use. In July the winery had a wine festival and crowned three Weinhoheiten or wine royalties. There was one Weinkönigin (wine queen) and two Weinprinzessin (wine princesses). The girls had paragraph-long biographies and I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the last few sentences of each, “In Ihrer Freizet…” or “In her free time…” The exact same wording as in my German class textbooks, and I thought it was a silly script all those years.

Besides wondering what else I should take more seriously from German class, I’ve been thinking of:

–The Diet of Worms (the name kind of sticks with you)

–The Bishop of Bingen in his mouse-tower on the Rhine (Longfellow’s “The Children’s                                 Hour”)

–The Heidelberg Catechism (Thank you, Torrey)

And of course I’ve been thinking about making the list of food I want to try in Germany-but only thinking about making it. After all, who knows when I’ll be in Germany again? This list has to satisfy me for an indeterminate period of time.

September 12, 2008

Carne Asada

Here’s another one from the California Rancho Cooking cookbook: carne asada. Jacqueline Higuera McMahon explains that in Mexico carne asada refers to a particular steak sliced thinly with the grain, whereas on California ranchos, it referred to grilled meats in general.

Despite the length of the recipe, it is really quite simple: whirl the herbs, spices and garlic in a food processor; rub onto meat; pour olive oil and red wine vinegar over the meat and marinate.

Jacqueline Higuera McMahon provides detailed instructions for cooking the meat over a charcoal fire, so if you’re using a gas grill, ignore that part. I’ve also included her recipe for sarsa, which is “sort of the same things [as salsa] but sarsa is meant to be chunkier and calls for milder green chiles.” At the rancho, McMahon says, barbecued meats were never served without it.

Carne Asada

4 pounds flank steak, tri-tip, or 5 pounds butterflied lamb
8 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sea salt
¼ c. minced parsley
3 tablespoons dried oregano
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ c. fresh rosemary needles (optional)
2 tablespoons to ½ c. red wine vinegar, depending on amount of meat
2 tablespoons to ¼ c. fruity olive oil, depending on amount of meat

Sarsa, for serving (see below)

Preparing the Rub and Marinating the Meat

At least 3 hours before barbequing, trim off any excess fat from the meat to prevent flare-ups. Prepare the dry marinade by placing the garlic, salt, parsley, oregano, red pepper, and black pepper on a board and mincing into a rough paste. You can also do this in a food processor. If you are cooking lamb, add the rosemary needles.

Rub the seasoning paste over all the surfaces of the meat. Place the meat in bowls or crocks and sprinkle with wine vinegar and olive oil. If you are preparing only 2 pounds or less of meat, use the smaller amount of vinegar and olive oil. Refrigerate the meat while marinating anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.

Preparing the Fire and Grilling the Meat

At least 1 hour before barbeque time, start the fire with crumpled newspapers, small bits of kindling like dry branches, grapevine cuttings, or good hardwood charcoal. Do not use liquid starter. Place your choice of wood over the embers of the kindling. We often use almond wood because of its steady heat. Do not use a resinous wood like pine. Allow the fire to burn down to white, glowing embers.

Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before barbequing. Do not barbecue ice-cold meat. Place the meat over the hotter part of the fire first to sear and seal in the juices. Then raise the grate or remove the meat to spread out the coals. Return the meat to the medium-hot grill. Brush on more marinade halfway through cooking. Do not drizzle marinade onto the embers; the oil will cause fare-ups. Turn the meat about every 8 minutes. Drizzle water on any flare-up with a soaking wet rag. A plant mister is cute but sprays over to much area.

After removing the carne asada from the grill, allow it to rest 10 minutes, then cut into thin slices against the grain and place on a platter. Accompany with salsas such as Red Chile Sarsa and/or fresh tomato Sarsa, which is my favorite.

Serves 10 to 12 with side dishes.

Sarsa

4 large tomatoes
4 green Anaheim chiles
1 sweet red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fruity olive oil
¼ c. finely snipped cilantro
1 sprig of oregano

Char the tomatoes over a gas flame or on a grill. Char the chiles until blackened in the same way. Place the chiles under a damp cloth or paper towels to steam for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pull off the tomato skins, cut the tomatoes in half, and remove the seeds. Dice the tomatoes. Use a paper towel to rub off the blackened skins from the chiles. Slit the chiles open and pull out the seeds, reserving some of them. Dice the chiles and add to the tomatoes. Add the onion, garlic, salt, vineagr, olive oil, and cilantro. Add enought reserved chile seeds to lend authority to the sarsa. Immerse the oregano sprig in the sarsa and set in a cool place until the barbecue is ready.

All recipes and instructions are from Jacqueline Higuera McMahan’s California Rancho Cooking (Sasquatch Books, 2001).

A Good Thing: Greek Yogurt with Mango

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 12:45 am

If I were Martha Stewart I’d add Greek yogurt with mango to the Good Things list.

This summer Greek yogurt usurped the place of cottage cheese and plain American yogurt in my diet. Who wouldn’t gladly surrender to a creamy, sweet snack jam-packed with protein and calcium but smacks of dessert?

Thicker and tarter than its American counterpart, Greek yogurt certainly gives you more bang for your buck. With 20 g protein, 0 g fat, 25% daily value of calcium and only 9 g sugar (compare that with 25+ g in traditional sweetened yogurt), an 8 oz. serving of FAGE‘s 0% yogurt weighs in at a reasonable 120 calories. So skip the Yoplait and Dannon Lights and pick up a carton of FAGE 0% Yogurt.

Mangoes aren’t the only fruit I’ve been adding to Greek yogurt lately. My August standby was peaches with a sprinkle of cinnamon, squeeze of honey and a couple walnuts. And topping Greek yogurt with frozen berries and a handful of crushed shredded wheat had me wondering whether I was eating dessert in the middle of the day.

Martha Stewart or not, I say Greek yogurt with mangoes is a Good Thing.

September 11, 2008

Mustard’s Grill

"Sorry, everything has ben delicious since 1983"

A couple weeks ago my parents and I went to Napa Valley to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We stopped at a couple wineries along the way, but the highlight of the day was dinner at Mustard’s Grill in Yountville. I had never been to Mustard’s, but I was familiar with the chef and owner Cindy Pawlcyn and her style of cooking because I had scoured the pages of her award-winning The Mustard’s Grill Napa Valley Cookbook. Meriting every ounce of its James Beard Foundation cookbook award, the oversized pages set forth glossy photographs of the chef and her staff at work, vegetables and herbs growing in the garden and the simple yet sophisticated finished dishes. Pawlcyn’s annotations to nearly every recipe oftentimes explain the origin of the recipe (wild rice and game inspired by her Minnesota childhood) and offer tips for the home cook, such as suitable substitutions for chanterelles (morels) or where to look for pickled ginger in the Asian food market (small plastic tubs in the produce section or in the refrigerator). The basics on Mustard’s “truck stop deluxe” menu are all there—pork chops, steak, ribs—but are done-up with that Napa Valley flair: beef tenderloin with Tres Salsas, veal chops with roasted red bell pepper and black olive relish or double lamb chops with tapenade and polenta . Mustard’s Grill, which has been open since 1983, was so well-received that Pawlcyn opened another restaurant, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena. Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen describes itself as “a local joint – hip, casual, not fussy.” It may be casual, but it is certainly not without spunk: the rabbit tostada I had there two summers ago was brilliant. Who would have thought of using rabbit in a tostada? Not to be slowed-down, Pawlcyn opened a sushi and small plates restaurant called Go Fish in 2006, also in St. Helena.

Back to Mustard’s. Before we went into the restaurant, we wandered around the raised beds and rows corn and squash in Mustard’s two-acre garden. Shiny orbs of eggplant hung from bending stems alongside zucchini and summer squash. Between the rows of corn, pink corn husks littered the ground. Green- and orange-mottled winter squash reminded me that autumn was just around the corner. The sun was mellowing in the sky, almost the amber late-afternoon light of autumn.

However peaceful the garden was outside, Mustard’s was all energy inside. With signs out front apologizing “Sorry, everything’s good here” and “Way too many wines” and the fierce loyalty of the locals, Mustard’s had to be busy. Our table was closer to the kitchen-a perfect spot for watching plates of baby rack ribs and piles of shoestring onion rings float by on servers’ arms. The restaurant was loud, but then again Mustard’s marketed itself as a truck stop deluxe.

We had secured a reservation, made the trek to Napa Valley and now faced our next task: ordering. Three-inch industrial looking binders, with “The Wine List” written in orange letters, showcased their extensive and eclectic wine list. Reading the menu and glancing over my shoulder multiple times at the specials board, I finally decided to order the Chipotle Rubbed Quail with Papaya Lime Chutney. The rabbit was tempting, but I’d had that at Pawlcyn’s other restaurant and wanted to broaden my knowledge of fowl. Entrée decided, I frantically scanned a condensed wine list, still overwhelmed by the choices. Our server recommended the Maranet Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, which was an excellent choice. Before we were served our entrees, we were given butter and a chunk of bread. No need for a bread basket—they just plunked it right on the table cloth. Aware of the imminent crumbs, though, the servers had their token scrapers in hand, ready to whisk away crumbs at a moment’s notice. When she brought my quail, our server anticipated my quandary of how to eat quail in a nice restaurant and whispered, “Most people cut it into quarters and pick it up with their fingers. You’d be here all night trying to eat that with a knife and fork.” I smiled thanks, cut my quail in quarters and picked up the toothpick-thin bones of quail. The quail was not as greasy as duck nor as mild as chicken, but somewhere in between the two. The spiciness of the chipotle rub counteracted any greasiness of the quail and the papaya lime chutney and stack of green beans were the perfect complement for the peppery quail—sweet, mild and flavorful. My mom had sea bass with a pesto sauce and my dad had steak, which they enjoyed.

Though we would have normally refused dessert, it was my dad’s birthday and we were in the market to splurge. We decided to split two desserts, a Jack Daniels bittersweet chocolate cake and a corn cake with blueberries. Our server also treated us to a piece of Mustard’s famous Lemon Tart with Brown Sugar Meringue. I’ve made and tasted my fair share of meringue, but this meringue was phenomenal: billowing high, caramel-colored wisps with that earthy, down-home sweetness of brown sugar.

We were stuffed, but it was worth it; a meal like this only comes around every so often and a birthday only comes once a year. I think my dad had a very good day—I know I did. So who has the next birthday?

September 8, 2008

Espresso Granita

Filed under: dessert, Recipes — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Andrea @ 1:04 am

A refreshing summer dessert.

Granitas are coarse ices, which are prepared by freezing coffee, wine, juice or other liquid and scraping ice crystals with the tines of a fork. Shirley O. Corriher, whose cookbook Cookwise is a textbook for Culinary Institute of America students, explains that sugar is the key to the texture of an ice. If you decide to omit the Kahlúa, increase the sugar to ½ cup as this maintains the proper sugar percentage in the dessert.

Ingredients
2 cups cool brewed espresso or strong coffee
⅓ cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur
¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 cup heavy or whipping cream

Method

Stir together espresso, ⅓ cup sugar, Kahlúa and zest. Refrigerate at least an hour to chill well. Pour into a metal or plastic pan or bowl and place in the freezer. When ice crystals begin to form around the edge, stir well every 15 minutes until completely frozen. Fluff crystals lightly with a fork and leave in freezer to dry for about an hour before serving.


In a bowl with cold beaters, whip cream to firm peaks. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar. Spoon granita into sherbet glasses, top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and serve immediately.

From Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher (William Morrow 1997).

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