Simple NY Style Bagels. Oy, what a recipe!

I don't know about you but, I love a good bagel. When I lived in Florida, trying to get a good NY style bagel was an adventure to say the least. So, for all you transplanted NY'ers as well as those who love a good bagel and a schmear, the following bagel recipe, along a link to my recipe for home-made lox found here, should keep you going. Both recipes are easy to do and well worth the effort!

The bagel was invented  in Kraków, Poland, as a competitor to the bublik, a lean bread of wheat flour designed for Lent. Leo Rosten wrote in "The Joys of Yiddish" about the first known mention of the word bajgiel in the "Community Regulations" of the city of Kraków in 1610, which stated that the item was given as a gift to women in childbirth. In the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, the bajgiel became a staple of the Polish national diet and a staple of the Slavic diet generally.

Bagels were brought to the United States by Polish-Jews, and first gained popularity in New York City, an industry that was controlled for decades by Bagel Bakers Local 338, which had contracts with nearly all bagel bakeries in and around the city for its workers, who prepared all the bagels by hand. The bagel came into more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century, which was due at least partly to the efforts of bagel baker Harry Lender,then sons Murray and Sam along with Florence Sender, who pioneered automated production and distribution of frozen bagels in the 1960s.

Fresh Homemade Bagel Recipe
1 1/4 cups warm water (80 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 quarts boiling water
3 tablespoons white sugar

 Optional Toppings
1/2 cup lightly toasted chopped onions (2 teaspoons each)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
1 tablespoon pretzel salt (about 1/4 teaspoon each)


Pre-heat oven to  350F (180C)
Mix water, salt, sugar, yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 min. Add remaining ingredients. Mix until it forms a single dough ball. (If using a bread machine, place water, salt, sugar, flour and yeast in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough setting.) Allow bread to rise for 45 minutes (bread machine will beep when rising cycle is done). Place dough on a floured surface and cut into 9 equal pieces and roll each piece into a small ball. Flatten balls. Poke a hole in the middle of each with your thumb. Twirl the dough on your finger or thumb to enlarge the hole. Cover with a clean cloth and allow bagels to rise another 40-50 min or until double in size.

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 3 tbs of sugar. Boil bagels one minute on each side, then place on wire rack to allow water to drip off.

Brush bagels with either egg wash (1 egg white and 1/4 cup warm water). Top with your favorite topping. Sprinkle an un-greased baking sheet with cornmeal. Place bagels on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake
20 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 9 medium sized bagels. Just like Mr. Lender's, you can freeze and enjoy whenever you're in the mood for a delicious bagel.

Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy!

Bon Appetit,



A Simple Guide to Understanding Champagne

It's time for me cover my all time favorite result of the fermentation of grapes, champagne. I absolutely adore it in all its forms and will never, ever, turn down a glass of 'the bubbly'. While Champagne is quite popular throughout most of the year, I was not surprised to learn that a full quarter (25%) of all the champagne & sparkling wine sold in a given year, is done so during the final week of the year between Christmas and New Year's. I'm going to cover the ABC's of this wonderful sparkling beverage and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Let's start out by examining what makes champagne, well...champagne!

Champagne is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France, the area from which it takes its name, and only wines made from this region are allowed and can properly be called champagne. While the term 'champagne' is used by some makers of sparkling wine in other parts of the world, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the champagne appellation. In Europe, this is strictly adhered to due to its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, have some leeway with regard to the use of the term 'champagne' by use of a legal structure that allows those producers who have been making sparkling wine for a long period of time to continue to use the term 'champagne' under specific circumstances.

How It's Made
Champagne is a blend of, for the most part, three grape varieties; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. When making the base wine, grapes are pressed in a very careful method so as not to allow the color or bitter qualities from the skin to flow into the juice. This is especially true of the black grape types. This juice is then set aside and starts the first fermentation and aging process. Each batch of juice is set aside separately and blending is not done until after fermentation. Once this process is done, the juices are blended to make the base wine which is known as cuvée. In some cases, aged samples, as well as those from many different vineyards, are used. In very rare situations, it is possible that close to 100 different samples have been used to make this base wine.

Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Pérignon did not invent sparkling wine. Around 1700, sparkling champagne, as we know it today, was born in France. However, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merrett documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation six years before Dom Pérignon arrived in the Abbey of
Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk 'invented' champagne. This is the process that gives champagne and sparkling wine its 'bubbles'.

Méthode Champenoise is the traditional Dom Pérignon method by which champagne is produced. After primary and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast and several grams of rock sugar. According to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, a minimum of 1.5 years is required to completely develop all the flavor. In years where there is an exceptional harvest, a millesimé is declared. This means that the champagne will be very good and has to mature for at least 3 years. During this time the champagne bottle is sealed with a crown cap similar to that used on beer bottles.

As the yeast consumes the sugars, alcohol and carbon dioxide are produced. Since it is trapped in the bottle, it waits for you and I to 'pop' the cork and release it for all of us to enjoy, and yes, even to sometimes wear. A sediment is then formed that settles to the bottom of the bottle called lees. In the traditional labor intensive method of fermentation and aging, bottles are turned and rotated either manually or mechanically in a process called remuage for a period of up to three months to allow all the lees to settle into the necks of the bottles. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in the wine. Some syrup is sometimes added to maintain the level within the bottle.

I should note here that when buying 'cheaper', less expensive champagnes, the reason they are less expensive is that they do not go through méthode champenoise, the long and traditional process described above. They get their carbonation in the same way soda does, through compressed carbon dioxide gas blasted into the wine. This is the reason that truly well made champagnes are so delicate. The méthode champenoise creates very small bubbles that last quite a long time, while the compressed air carbonation method creates very large bubbles that have a short life and can actually be quite aggressive.

History of Champagne
Although the French monk Dom Perignon did not invent champagne, it is true he developed many advances in the production of this beverage, including holding the cork in place with a wire collar to withstand the fermentation pressure. In France, the first sparkling champagne was created accidentally; its pressure led it to be called 'the devil's wine' (le vin du diable) as bottles exploded or the cork jolted away. Even when it was deliberately produced as a sparkling wine, champagne was for a very long time, made by the méthode rurale, where the wine was bottled before the only fermentation had finished. Champagne did not utilize the so-called méthode champenoise, the second fermentation of adding of the yeast and sugar, until the 19th century, 300 years after Christopher Merrett documented the process.

Although the first wine-producing vineyards in Champagne appeared between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, the events of the 17th century brought the beginning of champagne as we know it today. The vine-growers of Champagne had learned how to stabilize their wines and keep them fresh for several years. As a result of their hard work and the preciseness, the Champenois also obtained a white wine by combining both black and white grapes using grapes that had been grown in the Champagne region. By the last decades of that century, they mastered the mysteries of effervescence, which was their stroke of genius.

As with most great culinary discoveries, which seem to come from either Italy or France, champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power. The leading manufacturers went well out of their way to make sure that they and the champagne they produced was associated with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging, they sought to associate champagne with high luxury, festivities and rites of passage.

In 1866 the famous entertainer and star of his day, George Leybourne, began a career of making celebrity endorsements for champagne. The champagne maker Moët commissioned him to write and perform songs extolling the virtues of champagne, especially as a reflection of taste, affluence, and the good life. He agreed to drink nothing but champagne in public.

Types of Champagne

Vintage And Non-Vintage
Most of the champagne produced today is 'non-vintage,' meaning that is a blended product of grapes from multiple vintages. Most of the base will be from a single year vintage with producers blending anywhere from 10-15% (even as high as 40%) of wine from older vintages. A designated 'vintage' is usually up to the wine maker and specifically tied to conditions that are very favorable. 'Vintage' wine must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from the vintage year. Under champagne wine regulations, houses that make both vintage and non-vintage wines are allowed to use no more than 80% of the total vintage's harvest for the production of vintage champagne. This allows at least 20% of the harvest from favorable vintages to be reserved for use in non-vintage champagne. In less than ideal vintages, some producers will produce a wine from only that single vintage and still label it as non-vintage rather than as 'vintage' since the wine will be of lesser quality and the producers have little desire to reserve the wine for future blending.

Blanc de blancs
Blanc de Blancs means 'white of whites' and is used to designate champagnes made only from Chardonnay grapes. The term is occasionally used in other sparkling wine-producing regions, usually to denote Chardonnay-only wines rather than any sparkling wine made from other white grape varieties.

Blanc de Noirs

Blanc de Noirs are white champagnes made only from the black grape varieties of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Typically, these sparkling wines are full-bodied and deeper yellow-gold in color. They are ideal for full-flavored foods, including meats and cheeses.

Pink or Rosé
Pink or Rosé champagnes are produced by one of two methods. The traditional method involves the addition of a small amount of Pinot Noir still wine to the base wine or cuvée prior to the second fermentation. The maceration method, or skin contact method, involves the pressing of the grape skins, allowing them to soak with the juice of the grapes prior to fermentation.

Prestige cuvée
A prestige cuvée, or cuvée de prestige, is a proprietary blended wine (usually a champagne) that is considered to be the elite of a producer's range. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.

The original prestige cuvée was Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, launched in 1936 with the 1921 vintage. Until then, champagne houses produced different cuvées of varying quality, but a top-of-the-line wine produced to the highest standards (and priced accordingly) was a new idea. In fact, Louis Roederer had been producing Cristal since 1876, but this was strictly for the private consumption of the Russian tsar.

Cristal was made publicly available with the 1945 vintage. Then came Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne (first vintage 1952), and Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle 'La Cuvée' in 1960, a blend of three vintages (1952, 1953, and 1955). In the last three decades of the twentieth century, most champagne houses followed these with their own prestige cuvées, often named after notable people with a link to that producer (Veuve Clicquot's La Grande Dame, thenickname of the widow of the house's founder's son; Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, named for the British prime minister; and Laurent-Perrier's Cuvée Alexandra Rosé, to name just three examples, and presented in non-standard bottle shapes (following Dom Pérignon's lead with its eighteenth-century revival design).

Champagnes also come in a variety of sweet to the extra dry. Here is a brief chart that will help you in picking the type that best suits your tastes:

Doux: Sweet
Demi-sec: Half-dry
Sec: Dry
Extra sec: Extra dry
Brut: Nearly completely dry
Extra Brut / Brut zero: No added sugar at all

Sparkling Shiraz
This is a relatively new sparkling wine experience from the Shiraz producers of Australia, and I felt it deserved a mention here. As a fan of Shiraz, I was intrigued and found the wine to have all the characteristics of the traditional Shiraz that I admire, blackcurrants, blackberries, chocolate, cherries, strawberries, hints of tobacco with a rich smoky oak flavor and that trademark peppery finish. Sparkling Shiraz wines should be served slightly chilled. If it's summer, place in the fridge for 30 to 40 minutes. However, if it's mid winter, then room temperature will do fine. The bottom line is you want it slightly cooler than you would serve traditional Shiraz, yet not quite as cold as a Chardonnay.

Opening a Champagne Bottle
The trick to opening a bottle of champagne while maintaining its integrity is to avoid 'popping' the cork. Also note that the better the champagne, the less 'pop' you will experience. Begin by scoring the foil around the base of the wire cage. Then, carefully untwist and loosen the bottom of the cage, but do not remove it. In one hand, enclose the cage and cork while holding the base of the champagne bottle with your other hand. Twist both ends in the opposite direction. As soon as you feel pressure forcing the cork out, try to push it back in while continuing to twist gently until the cork is released with a sigh.

The Drinking
This, of course, is my favorite part. Champagne should always be served chilled (43 to 48 F) and served in a champagne flute, a long stemmed glass with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. You should hold the flute by the stem or base as opposed to the bowl and since 'clinking' seems to be the norm when consuming champagne, don't overdue it and be careful. I am a perfect example of what not to do when holding a delicate champagne flute, as one New Year's Eve, while trying to make a point rather over-zealously, I found myself holding a base and stem while my bowl sailed across the room, getting the attention of a rather large guy who was none to pleased as it hit his forehead, but that, my friends, is a story for another day. I have included below a simple guide as to which particular champagne goes with certain types of food so the next time you are hosting, you can wow all your friends with your acute knowledge of 'the bubbly.'

Blanc de Blanc Champagne: Oysters, crustaceans and gently flavored white fish.
Blanc de Noirs: Lighter meat dishes (pigeon breast, partridge, veal, pork). If it's an aged wine, it can stand up to a bit richer protein such as kidneys or venison.
Non-Vintage Champagnes: Especially young and fruity versions are recommended with cheeses such as Beaufort, Gruyère, Emmental. Older non-vintage champagnes can cope with dishes with darker, nuttier flavors. (Caviar for instance)
Vintage Champagnes: Great with black truffle,scented foods, cheeses such as Parmesan and lightly smoked foods. Younger vintage champagnes can provide a foil for a wide variety of dishes, from fish with rich sauces to poultry (especially duck), light meats (veal and pork) and many cheeses (Chaource and Lancashire). Japanese dishes are also suggested.
Non-Vintage Rosé: Prawns, lobster and other seafood work here.
Vintage Rosé: Aged vintage rosé champagnes have a rich, savoury character that can pair well with meat dishes, and have the power to stand up to high levels of herbs and spices, specifically basil, mint and coriander.
Demi Sec Champagnes: These go superbly with savory dishes, foie gras is an obvious example. If there is an edge of sweetness to the food (caramelizing, a fruit ingredient or sugar,) then this style can provide a better match than a dry selection. These also pair well with most desserts as long as they are not overly sweet.

The only hazard in drinking champagne tends to be that it is so delicate in body and flavor, it is very easy to find yourself a bit buzzed rather quickly. As always, do enjoy it, but don't overdo it. As we all know, anything in excess tends to not be a good thing. I hope that you have learned a bit more about champagne than you already knew, but the learning here is not in the reading, my fellow Champagne-ites, it's in the drinking, so go out and eat, drink and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!



From Weird Science to Kelly's Kitchen: Reinventing Kelly Le Brock

Life is a journey. High points, low points all melding into the path we call our lives. Those strong of heart and mind, realize at some point that to get to the high points, we must start at the low points and climb. Sometimes those hills are outside, sometimes, they are inside. For actress, model, mom, rancher and foodie Kelly Le Brock, it seems the hills are almost something she looks forward to now. A self testing if you will. Overcoming obstacles.

I recently sat down with this iconic lady to discuss her new passions, her incredible life and as she put it, "her new found voice." She opened up about finding peace in her life and reinventing herself, well outside the lime-light and glitz of Hollywood. I remarked on her recent reemergence.
"Well, I have a rather passionate, and sometimes painful past. It's time to tell my story. I have a book coming out soon and I think that with it, I'm going to empower people who say, 'I'm too hurt to get out of bed in the morning.'" She explained, "they'll get out of bed in the morning after they've read my story and say '...if she can do it, so can I.'"

Her recently launched Kelly's Kitchen, while about food, is more about a lifestyle, with its center, the kitchen and the table, as the 'core of the family' as she put it. "Getting people back to the table," she stated, "is really the bones of any relationship in any family. I think that good healthcare actually starts at the table and I encourage and am actually disappointed in the mothers of America for not taking their kids to the table."

An accomplished horse-woman, most days will find her riding one of her horses, either, Ruby, Kiwi, Tess and Chubby. "He is," she laughed. She rides on her 700 acre farm where she grows her own produce, raises and butchers her own beef and is now, as she put it, "going into the pig business." Far flung from the pages of Vogue, and the 'glitz' of Hollywood this is the Kelly LeBrock who took her horse and spent a week with the grizzlies of Yellowstone Park...with a homeless person.

"I really wanted to be a veterinarian," she stated, "how I got into Hollywood I'll never know. I was raised in England and I spent a lot of time in the field by myself. I'm really a very simple girl. When I had my first child, when she turned 3, I was outta there (Hollywood), I headed for the hills. I wanted to raise my children in an atmosphere where I did not lose control of being a parent. I am happy that I grew my kids up in an atmosphere that was not all, Facebook, tv and online."

I asked her to elaborate on her love of the outdoors and about raising her own beef, produce and now, pigs on her 700 acre ranch. "I have a large spread, one might say," she quipped. Her British accent becoming a bit more pronounced. "I've been living in the wilderness for the last 20 years. We have cattle, and I've just gone into the pig business. Raising pork. We have a freezer full of beef and a freezer full of pork. I will not eat meat out. We treat our meat correctly. No corn and we finish off with barley. We actually make our own little things to finish off, using apples, or carrots, or beets. When you eat our meat you feel happy. I love collecting eggs, butchering meat, growing the produce. I even learned how to make my own cheese!" she claimed proudly, her inner foodie coming out. "I make yogurt too!"

Her love of all things natural started when her children were young when she took to making her own baby food. "It just came from wanting the best ingredients for my children. Seeing how contaminated our food system is, the want and need to be more proactive in my health. 'Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.' I really live by that."she stated. That led me to questions about one of her new passions,  "Kelly's Kitchen" and her love of cooking and being in the kitchen.

She explained, "You know, for a time in England, I did Health Kitchen for a number of years, and I was lucky enough to be in the kitchen with 3 Starred Michelin Chef, Marco Pierre White and that was the most exciting two weeks of my life. I learned how to burn myself," she laughed, "I was known as the screamer because I kept burning myself, but I was on the line and we got out service for 76 people every night. I did it. From 7 in the morning til 1 am. I got to do all the stations, but my favorite thing was Prep. You work all day getting these ingredients ready and then the dish is cooked and served eaten in 25 minutes. But, the prep is the kitchen to me" she added. "It's a quiet time, to think about the people you are making the meal for. You look at the colors, how beautiful and all the work you put in, and that it's going to be given to the people you love."

With Kelly's Kitchen, Kelly is all about healthy eating and good healthcare, starting in the kitchen, at the table. "It came about within the last four years," she offered. "I am just horrified at the way people are eating and I really want to get out there and show people how to make a delicious meal out of a bag of beans or a bag of brown rice. It doesn't have to be expensive to eat well. Yes it is expensive in time, but that is something that people have come to confuse with eating healthy being expensive in dollars. Seems that people don't have time anymore," she lamented, "but you can make a decent meal in 30 minutes. Families should have to drop their phones in a little basket when they come through the door and sit down every night at the dinner table and look at each other. Really talk to each other."

She has lent her voice and become an ambassador for a cause she believes in, foodtweeks™ and has re-emerged from a self imposed cocoon with a new-found, vibrant voice. "It's time to give back,"she declared. "We don't need to leave our country to help people, they are right here in our face. I know what it's like to struggle for food or not have enough to eat. There are people in this country a paycheck away from hunger. I am the ambassador for this great new app that is affiliated with 50 food banks across the country. The beauty of it is that there are people who are always trying to get healthy cutting calories, they take those calories and put them into foodtweeks™ and those calories go into the food bank and translate to available food."

Here's how the program works;
For every calorie users "tweek" from their food, foodtweeks™ makes a donation to a local food bank so they can distribute the same number of nutritious calories to feed a hungry child and their family. There’s no cost of any kind to the foodtweeks™ user and it's easy for food banks to participate. You remove calories. They give them away!

To get involved, simply enter the promo code KELLYLEBROCK and foodtweeks™ will double all of your donations! Here's how:
  • Download the foodtweeks™ mobile app for your Android or iPhone. It's free!
  • Create an account in the foodtweeks™ app. Also free!
  • When creating your free account, in the promo code area, enter: KELLYLEBROCK
That's it. Every time you remove calories from your food using the foodtweeks™ app, foodtweeks™ will double all of your donations. And it doesn't cost you anything! Get started today helping yourself, food banks across the country, and the people they nourish in their communities.

"Finally there is an app out there that's doing good for everybody." she explained, getting excited, "People are losing weight and getting into better shape and what they are losing, people are gaining in real food. I had been working with a friend and she was doing some work with Jay Walker, founder of Priceline and she thought I'd be a good ambassador and she put us together. It's two fold, people eating healthy and feeding the hungry.

As to what the future holds, for herself and for her new project, Kelly's Kitchen, she stated, "It's all about the journey. If I can come out with some simple things that can help people then that's what I want to do. Kelly's Kitchen can go anywhere. It's about healthy eating. About bringing people back to the table wherever that table may be. Right now, she expanded, "I've rented a little room in Maui. I have one burner and don't need much else to make a healthy meal. It's an ongoing process. My biggest concern is to get moms and dads back to the table again cooking for their family again. Teach the children how to cook for their moms and dads. There are little people out there that can maybe help with the parents."

Agreed. In speaking with Kelly, I reflected on how fortunate I am to be surrounded lately, by those who are about tradition of back to basics as it were, and who come from a mindset that it all starts with the food, the product, but more importantly, our connection to the land and each other. It's about that connection we get from "the table" and that human interaction that we seem to have lost with today's technology. Face to face interaction. 

With a new book coming out, a new cooking and food platform and her advocacy in feeding the hungry, with foodtweeks, it certainly seems that Kelly has indeed found that new strong inner voice, and that focus of directions and passions that blend to create the journey we call life. Her day-to-day life with her children, grandchildren, tending to the ranch, the back to nature lifestyle, all seem to have healed old wounds and given her a clear perspective on life and what's truly important. Talking with her I sensed a peace and contentment. With life and her family, but more importantly...herself. 

I look forward to more chats with Kelly as she follows her new path. I recall some talk about coming out to the ranch. Now, I'm a city boy.....can you see me on a horse? Yea, me either.....
I hope you enjoyed this informal chat with Kelly Le Brock. You can find out  more about Kelly's Kitchen on facebook: Kelly's Kitchen 

Till next time, 


Dumplings Around The World.....who knew?

So, I decided to explore the world of dumplings. I thought in all honesty, "This will be a nice, short, concise article." That statement turned out to be very uninformed and not well thought out. Why? Because after I Googled the word dumplings, I was looking at 3,440,000 results. Okay, turns out I'm a dumpling neophyte and there are literally 100's, if not 1000's of types of dumplings. In some regions of the world, much like dialects, dumplings can change from village to village and even house to house, creating myriads of different recipes and nuances. Who knew?

The following is a result of my trek through the world of dumplings, the information gleaned from hours long research on the web and of course on the plate in front of me. Hey, it's my job! How do I know if I don't prepare and eat it myself? When finished reading, while you may not be an expert, you'll be a hit the next time you and your foodie friends bring up that oh so hot party topic....gnocchi.

From simple 'chicken and dumplings' to the more exotic international varieties, I'll delve into the starchy goodness of this wonderful little comfort food. It seems that nearly every nation has some form of dumpling, and it's easy to see why. They are tasty, versatile and when feeding a family, very filling. I'll cover some of the international variations, mostly sticking to the basics. Each nation's dumpling offering gives you a great starting point for your own recipe experimentation as well. You never know, 50 years from now, it could be your family's version that makes it into some future food writer's article. Let's get started...

Chinese Cuisine
The jiaozi is a common Chinese dumpling which generally consists of minced meat and chopped vegetables wrapped into a piece of dough. Popular meat fillings include ground pork, ground beef, ground chicken, shrimp and even fish. Popular mixtures are pork with Chinese cabbage, lamb with spring onion, leeks with eggs, etc. They are usually boiled or steamed and are a traditional dish for Chinese New Year's Eve. Family members gather together to make dumplings.

The other version of the Chinese dumpling is made of rice, with meat and vegetables stuffed into it. It is then steamed or boiled. If fried in a small amount of oil, they are called guotie or potstickers. Compared to wontons (dumplings served boiled in a soup), jiaozi have a thicker skin and are bigger. Wontons are traditionally wrapped in rectangular dough, jiaozi in round. Chinese cuisine also includes sweet dumplings and the commonly called tangyuan. These are smaller dumplings made with glutinous rice flour and filled with sweet sesame, peanut or red bean paste. There are also other kinds of dumplings such as har kao, siew mai, small cage-steamed bun (xiaolongbao), pork bun and crystal dumplings. When it comes to dim sum, just type the word in your browser and numerous descriptions are at your finger tips. Variations of Chinese dumplings are also found in the Philippines, Korea and Japan.

British and Irish Cuisine

Savory dumplings made from balls of dough are part of traditional British and Irish cuisine. The simplest dumplings are dropped into a bubbling pot of stew or soup, or into a casserole. They sit partly submerged in the stew and expand as they are half-boiled, half-steamed, for ten minutes or so. The cooked dumplings are airy on the inside and moist on the outside. The dough may be simply flavored with salt, pepper and herbs, or the dough balls may have a filling such as cheese pressed into their center. Cotswold dumplings call for the addition of breadcrumbs and cheese, and the balls of dough may be rolled in breadcrumbs and fried, rather than cooked in a soup or stew. These sour-dough dumplings, when sweetened and made with dried fruit and spices can be boiled in water to make a dessert. In Scotland, this is called a Clootie dumpling, after the cloth.

Caribbean Cuisine
The Jamaicans created the first Caribbean dumplings, which were English-influenced. A simple recipe including self-rising flour, water and salt is made into a thick dough before frying on a pan until golden brown. These are usually rounded or rolled into balls and are served with Ackee and Saltfish or chicken as a side dish. Like English dumplings, they have a soft, fluffy texture. Eventually the recipe spread across the Caribbean as it reached the Lesser Antilles such as Barbados, Trinidad, Grenada and also the eastern section of the Dominican Republic, where the dish is known as dumplin. It was introduced to the island by immigrants from the British Lesser Antilles who went to work in the sugar industry. There is also a type of dumpling that is put into chicken stews. It is a mix of flour and water and boiled in the water with the meat. In Haiti there is a similar dumpling dish that is rolled into a ball or log shaped, which is then boiled in various soups, some which are known as bouillon.

Italian Cuisine
In Rome, you can sample some of the best gnocchi every Thursday night in a citywide tradition. Florence is home to strozzapreti, a gnocchi so good, rumor and legend has it that priests of an earlier period had been known to choke from eating them too fast. In true Italian fashion, their name means 'priest-stranglers.' The word gnocchi means "lump" or "knot" and is originally a Germanic word that may describe the distinctive shape of gnocchi. These delicious lumps do not just vary from region to region, but from household to household as well, depending upon what is available. However, the most common way to prepare gnocchi is to combine potatoes (boiled, peeled and mashed) with flour to form soft bite-size lumps of dough. Each gnocchi is then ridged along one side like a seashell; this gives the sauce a surface to cling to when eating. Gnocchi also come in different sizes, with gnocchetti being the smallest version. Other types of gnocchi are made with semolina flour, milk and cheese, also known as Gnocchi alla Romana.

When it comes to sauces for gnocchi, almost anything is acceptable from butter and sage, to a rich cheese sauce (such as Gorgonzola), tomato sauce or even pesto. Gnocchi are both delicious and very filling, making great use of just a few ingredients in near limitless ways.

Jamaican Cuisine
Dumplings or, as Jamaicans say, "dumplin," come in two forms: fried and boiled. Both are made with flour, either white or wheat, and the white-floured variety is often mixed with a bit of cornmeal. They are often served with dishes like Ackee, saltfish, kidneys, liver salt mackerel etc. and often taste better when refried. A refried dumplin is usually prepared a day after the boiled dumplin is first made. The boiled dumplin is thinly sliced and then fried, which gives it a slightly crispy outer layer and a tender middle. A purely fried white flour dumplin is golden brown and looks a lot like a roll, it is enjoyed predominantly as part of breakfast.

Peruvian Cuisine
In Peru there are a number of dishes that may be classified as dumplings. "Papas Rellenas" or stuffed potatoes consist of a handful of mashed potatoes (without the milk and butter) flattened in the palm of the hand and stuffed with a savory combination of ingredients. The stuffing usually consists of sauteed meat (could be beef, pork or chicken), onions and garlic. They are all seasoned with cumin, South American chillies, called Aji, raisins, peanuts, olives and sliced or chopped hard boiled eggs. After stuffing a ball is formed, rolled in flour and deep fried in hot oil. The stuffed potatoes are usually accompanied by onion sauce consisting of sliced onions, lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and slices of fresh chilli peppers. The same dish may also be made with seafood. In some countries yucca puree is used as the starch component of these Latin American dumplings.

Central European Cuisine
In Germany, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, dumplings, both sweet and savory, have been a staple of families for generations. A dumpling is called Klöße in Northern Germany, Knöpfle or Knödel in Southern Germany and Austria. There are flour dumplings, the most common dumplings, thin or thick, made with eggs and semolina flour, boiled in water. Meat dumplings (called Klopse or Klöpse in North-Eastern Germany, Knöpfe and Nocken are in Southern Germany) contain meat or liver. Liver dumplings are frequent additions to soup. The most famous German meat dumplings are Königsberger Klopse which contain anchovy or salted herring and are eaten with caper sauce. Thüringer Klöße are made from raw or boiled potatoes, or a mixture of both, and are often filled with croutons. Bread dumplings are made with white bread and are sometimes shaped like a loaf of bread, and boiled in a napkin, in which case they are known as napkin dumplings (Serviettenknödel). In the Hungarian cuisine the dumplings are called galuska - small dumplings made from a thick flour and egg batter which is cut into small pieces, and thrown into boiling water, similar to Spätzle or Knödel. Sweet dumplings are made with flour and potato batter, by wrapping the potato dough around whole plums or apricots, boiled and rolled in hot buttered bread crumbs. Shlishkes or Krumplinudli are small boiled potato dumplings made like the sweet plum dumplings, also rolled in hot buttered bread crumbs.

Eastern European Cuisine
In Siberia dumplings are called pozi (buuz in Mongolian). They are usually made with an unleavened dough. The traditional filling is meat, but the kind of meat and how it is processed varies. In Mongolia, mutton is favored, and is chopped rather than ground; pork and beef mixes are more popular in Russia. Unlike most other European dumplings, a poza is steamed not boiled.

Norwegian Cuisine
In Norway, dumplings have a vast variety of names, as the dialects differ a lot. Names include (ready inhale): potetball, klubb, kløbb, raspeball, komle, kumle, kompe, kumpe, kodla, kudle, klot, kams, ball, baill, komperdøse, kumperdøse, kompadøs, ruter, ruta, raskekako, risk, klotremat, krumme and kromme. (Whew, say that five times fast!) Usually made from potatoes and various types of flour and boiled, occasionally containing pork, like bacon, in the middle. In some areas it is common to use syrup along with the dumplings.

Swedish Cuisine
In the north, they are usually called Palt, or Pitepalt, filled with salted pork and eaten with melted butter and lingonberry jam. In the south it is called Kroppkaka, and is usually filled with smoked pork, raw onions and coarsely ground pepper and served with cream and lingonberry jam.

Himalayan Cuisine
Nepal, Tibet and Sikkim's steamed dumplings are known as 'momos' and are a popular snack. Similar to the Chinese jiaozi, they probably arrived with the influx of Tibetan refugees into Nepal during the 1950s. Many different fillings, both meat-based and vegetarian, are common. It is also very famous in Newar Communities which has adopted the dish and is one of the mostly eaten snacks and meal in Kathmandu Valley. The people there have adopted the dish calling it MO:MOcha (mo mo) in newari.

Indian Cuisine
Karanji are fried sweet dumplings made of wheat flour and stuffed with dry coconut delicacies. They are popular with the Maharastrians and the South Indians. Also popular is the Modak, made of fresh coconut, jaggery or sugar and steamed rice dough. It is eaten hot with ghee.

Kozhukottai (Tamil) or Modagam or Kajjikayi (Telugu), also found in the south, are either sweet, salty or spicy versions. In the sweet version, a form of sweet filling made with coconut, boiled lentils and jaggery is used, whereas, the salty version, is a mixture of steamed cracked lentils, chillies and some mild spices.

Japanese Cuisine
Bocchan dango is a fried dumpling made from eggs and eaten with dashi and known as akashi no tamagoyaki. Similarly shaped dumplings, but with octopus (or sometimes konnyaku) and flavored with pickled ginger, negi (welsh onion) and other ingredients, are a Kansai dish known as takoyaki. The gyoza is the Japanese version of the Chinese jiaozi. Made from rice flour it is often served with green tea.

Korean Cuisine
Called mandu they are similar to Chinese and Japanese dumplings. Typically filled with a mixture of ingredients; ground pork, kimchi, vegetables, or cellophane noodles, there are many variations. Steamed, fried, or boiled, they can also be used to make a soup called mandu guk(soup).

Jewish Cuisine
Matzah balls are particularly popular during Passover, when matzah meal is often used in observant Ashkenazi Jewish households as flour may not be used. Some recipes may add a number of ingredients. Butter is not used as milk products are not allowed to be used in chicken (meat) soup in accordance with the rules of Kashrut. There are even recipes for fat-free Matzah balls. Handmade, the balls are shaped then placed into a pot of salted, boiling water or chicken soup. The balls swell during the boiling time and come out light or dense, depending on the recipe. Roughly spherical, they range anywhere from a couple of inches in diameter to the size of a large orange, depending on preference.

American Cuisine
Chicken and Dumplings is easily the most common preparation using dumplings in the United States. Popular varieties of southern dumplings can be made with eggs, milk, baking powder and/or yeast, or just flour and water. In Kentucky, dough is dumped into boiling chicken broth along with a variety of vegetables. In the Allegheny Mountains of central Pennsylvania, "Pot Pie" is dough made from flour and broth [usually ham], cut into squares and boiled in the same broth with potatoes.

There you have it. Well, most of it anyway. I am always fascinated by the fact that the more I explore the world of food with and, for you, the more I am convinced that many food traditions prepared by families throughout the world, expose the commonality of being human. Though raised in diverse locations, with different cultures and backgrounds, there are certain cuisine staples that cross international boundaries. Most of us, no matter who we are or where we live, can remember some form of dumpling and those things that define comfort food for us. Dumplings are universal. Though the names are different, the faces, the memories and flavors are strangely familiar. Imagine that, a dumpling version of six degrees of separation. Who knew?

Bon Appetit,


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The World of Gourmet Salts, a definitive guide...

Salt is no longer just a condiment. It has risen to nouveau culinary stardom as the next designer specialty ingredient, so I've decided to break it all down for you and help you navigate the 'seas of salt.' Yes, I did go there, but then again, by now you should all know what you're in for when you read my articles. Though salt has been around for centuries, sea and artisanal salts have become the new must have ingredient for your pantry if you consider yourself a gourmet foodie. Specialty stores and gourmet sections of your supermarket all now include arrays of this 'jewel of the seas.'

So isn't salt just salt? Well... no. For those with discriminating palates, subtle variations in climate, local vegetation, sediments, minerals in the soils, and the infusion of herbs and spices, have taken sea and artisan salts to the top of the charts. Chef's and home cooks alike are all using salts in ways our grandmothers never envisioned. That is, of course, unless your grandmother was raised in France. The French have long embraced artisanal and sea salts as mainstays in gourmet cooking. There are now many companies on the market, offering salts infused with an infinite variety of herbs, flavors and ingredients, all of which can add that special touch to your meals and desserts. Designer finishing salts are now being combined with chocolates and truffles to bring out fantastic flavors and nuances never before explored.
First we're going to break down the basics of salt, then focus in on the sea and artisanal (or custom designed) varieties.

Salt (sodium chloride) 101:
All the salt that we consume is made from either sea salt, which includes bay and ocean salt, or that which is mined from inland deposits. Himalayan salt, for instance, is mined from deep inside the Himalayan Mountains in Tibet, where it was deposited when the sea covered the area more than 250 million years ago.

There are four varieties of salt:
Iodized table salt: Not much to tell here as this is the basic shaker on the table most Americans are used to. Over 70 % of all salt sold in the US falls into this category. Table salt is refined salt, 99% sodium chloride. It usually contains substances that make it free-flowing, called anti-caking agents, such as sodium silicoaluminate or magnesium carbonate. Most refined salt is prepared from rock salt which are simply mineral deposits that are high in salt. These deposits were formed by the evaporation of ancient salt lakes, and may be mined conventionally, or through the injection of water. Injected water dissolves the salt so the brine solution can be pumped to the surface where the salt is then collected.

Kosher salt: Gets its name because of its importance in making meat kosher, not because it follows the guidelines for kosher foods as written in the Torah. The salt grains are larger than regular table salt grains, so when meats are coated in kosher salt, the salt dissolves more slowly, remaining on the surface of the meat longer and drawing out the fluids (blood) of the meat. Like common table salt, kosher salt consists of the chemical compound sodium chloride. Unlike common table salt, kosher salt typically contains no additives.

Sea salt: Created by evaporating sea water until you are left with salt. The more pristine and unique an area's salt content is, determines its value on the market. Unrefined sea salts are also commonly used as ingredients in bathing additives and cosmetic products such as bath salts, which use sea salt as its main ingredient and combined with other ingredients for its healing and therapeutic effects.

Fleur de Sel: Easily the highest rated salt by the world's leading chefs, this salt is the cream of the crop of Celtic sea salts. Harvesting only takes place in the summer months, when the sun is its strongest. Of note is how these top end salt varieties are harvested. Grey salt and Fleur de Sel are collected by hand with wooden rakes by artisan paludiers (salt harvesters, salt rakers or salt farmers ) who sweep the top of the evaporating sea water. This is the same, 1500 year old method developed by their Celtic ancestors, which earns the grey salt its alternate name of Celtic sea salt. New paludiers study for one year to learn the slow and precise movements and patient methods of the ancient craft. Most are drawn to the profession by a love of nature, working outdoors and the romance of tradition. The average age of a paludier is now under 40, thanks both to a renewed interest in the craft, and the explosion in popularity of sea salt. There are around 200 traditional paludiers in France today working the salt-marshes, producing an annual harvest of 10,000 tons of quality sea salt each year.

Sea & Artisanal Salts

Sea salt that has a soft, flaky texture and is from the water off of the west coast of Wales, where it is freshly harvested from the Atlantic waters that surround the Isle of Anglesey. The salt is also smoked over 800 year old Welsh oak chips, producing a champagne-colored flake with a delicate smokiness. Salt sold under the Halen Môn brand is Anglesey. Crunchy in texture, it is also available in a spiced form with peppercorns, cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, chili and cloves.

A variety of unrefined mineral salts that range from dark grey to black in color, including Hawaiian volcanic sea salt (black lava salt) and Cyprus black sea salt. Indian black salt, or kala namak, is actually a pearly pinkish gray rather than black, and has a strong, sulfuric flavor. Available in very fine or coarse grain.

A Korean salt made by roasting sea salt in bamboo cylinders plugged with yellow mud. The salt absorbs minerals from the bamboo and mud, which in turn leach the salt of impurities. A powerful ingredient in Taoist medicine, believed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, cure fevers, relieve edema, and serve in remedies of dozens of other conditions.

A grey French sea salt, hand harvested using the Celtic method of wooden rakes allowing no metal to touch the salt. Celtic salts are available ground in different levels of coarseness. Celtic salt refers to naturally moist salts harvested from the pristine Atlantic seawater off the coast of Brittany, France. These salts, which are rich in trace mineral content, are available in coarse, stone ground, fine and extra fine grain.

A salt substance derived from acidic citrus fruits, such as lemon and limes, that is dried and formed into a powder or crystal. When used as an ingredient to flavor foods, it provides a distinctively sour or tart taste. It is a common substance used in canning, to keep the color of fruits from darkening, and is commonly used as a substitute for lemon juice.

Coarse salt is a larger-grained sea salt crystal. Most recipes calling for salt imply finely ground salt, however, many professional chefs prefer cooking with coarse salt because they can easily measure it with their fingers. It is less moisture sensitive, so it resists caking and is easily stored. Coarse salt is useful for making beds for oysters and salt crusts on meat or fish, for lining baking dishes and the rims of margarita glasses. Kosher salt and sea salt come coarsely ground.

Like fleur de sel, this “flower of salt” is so-named because the delicate salt “flowers,” or crystals, comprise the top layer of the salt pans that rest on the surface of the sea. Fior di Sale comes from the Trapani area of Sicily and is harvested by master salt makers. It can only be harvested on windless mornings, when the surface waters of the Mediterranean are unruffled. It is a very white crystal with a much lower percentage of sodium chloride than regular table salt. It is rich in fluorine, magnesium, potassium and all the trace elements contained in sea water. It has a delicate, sweet flavor with good taste, not too strong or salty. A finishing salt, it should be sprinkled on salads, tomatoes, fish, to finish roasts and sauces, on buttered bread and bruschetta. It is extremely soluble and will dissolve even on cool foods.

A light crystal salt with a snowflake like texture. Sea-waters are evaporated by the sun and wind producing salt brine that is slowly heated to the point where delicate pyramid shaped crystals of salt appear. The finished product is light, flaky sea salt. Flake salts are harvested all over the world: the Maldon River in England, Anglesey off the island of Wales, New Zealand and Australia. The pink flake salt shown here comes from Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin, where a red pigment, carotene, is secreted by algae.

Salts can be smoked or otherwise flavored by mixing them with spices (saffron), herbs (bay leaf, fennel, thyme), berries or other seasonings like truffles. Complex blends can be found, including those that mix sea salts with regionally-themed spices and herbs to create “Mediterranean” or “Southwestern” blends. The salts usually have a lot of visual appeal on top of foods and as plate garnishes because they are crafted for beauty, they make a better presentation than a home cook would achieve by combining sea salt with the same ingredients from the spice cabinet.

French for “flower of the salt.” Like sel gris, it is also raked by hand from the salt ponds (fields) of the village of Guèrande, Brittany, on the coast of France. It is harvested from May to September; artisan paludiers patiently wait as the shallow pools of water evaporate, creating the precious salt crystals. The slightest movement will cause the “flower” to sink to the bottom, so salt can only be collected when the weather is warm and the sea is calm. For every 80 pounds of sel gris produced, only three pounds of fleur de sel is harvested. The salt rises to the top of the water, forming delicate flakes that, upon drying, are white and can acquire a pinkish hue. Long prized by chefs and gourmets for its high quality, fleur de sel provides a very delicate and somewhat earthy flavor. Like sel gris, it is an excellent cooking and finishing salt, smooth with a light crunch.

Artisan salt is hand-harvested in small batches all over the world. It can be evaporated in ponds or salt pans from any body of water. Based on the body of water, the salt will vary in texture and moisture content. The popularity of artisan salt has created cottage industries in artisan salt. Cayman Sea Salt is an example, located in the popular Cayman Islands tourist destination, between Cuba and Mexico.

There are two distinct varieties of salt from the Aloha state. Black Lava Salt: This salt is created with purified sea water that is evaporated in pools with purified black lava rock to add minerals. It is then dried in a greenhouse.

The second is called Alaea: On the island of Kauai, sediment of iron oxide-rich red volcanic clay seeped into the ocean from its rivers. Alaea takes its name from the area’s red volcanic clay. The clay imparts a subtle flavor that is more mellow than regular salt. This natural additive is what gives the salt its distinctive pink color. It is the traditional and authentic seasoning for native Hawaiian dishes such as Kalua Pig, Poke and Hawaiian Jerky. Also good on prime rib and pork loin. Hawaiian Sea Salt comes in fine and coarse grain.

Also known as black salt or sanchal, an unrefined volcanic table salt with a strong sulfuric flavor. Despite its name, kala namak, which is mined in Central India, is actually light pink in color. It is mineral-rich and most often used to flavor Indian dishes like chaats, vegetable and fruit salads.

Certifying organizations include Bio-Gro in New Zealand, Nature & Progres in France and Soil Association Certified in Wales.While the standards are not the same as botanicals, agriculture or livestock, these various organizations are setting up rigorous guidelines for the production of organic salt. They ensure the purity of the water, cleanliness of the salt beds and strict procedures on how the salt is harvested and packaged etc.

This salt is harvested from an ancient ocean now underground, which feeds a spring located 10,000 feet high in the Andes. The salt has a mineral quality. Sprinkle a few grains on sliced ripe tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and potatoes.

Mined from deep inside the Himalayan Mountains in Tibet, Pink Himalayan salt was deposited when the sea covered the area more than 250 million years ago. Often the salt is brought down from the mountains on the backs of yaks. It is available in a variety of grinds, as well as in block form where a grater is used.. The unrefined and unpolluted pink translucent crystals have a subtle, crunchy texture.
A relatively new category of gourmet salts, which can be naturally smoked over wood fires to infuse the salt crystals with natural smoke flavor, or be artificially infused. Smoked salts add a smoke house flavor to a wide range of dishes including roasts, chicken and grilled meats, salmon, soups, salads and sandwiches, steamed vegetables, on corn, egg dishes, on baked potatoes, or as a dry rub. Interesting in color, sprinkle as a decorating garnish—or use as a glass rimmer on a Bloody Mary. Examples include alder smoked salt and tropical sea salts that have been smoked over coconut shells and kaffir lime leaves.

These salts can raise the level of your presentations, adding subtle and wonderful flavors to any traditional dishes you may create, while at the same time, fostering a creativity and propensity to have you think outside the norm of what is your comfort zone. Adding a few jars of these exotic tastes to your pantry will cause you to explore more of the the world with your palate. As I sit here looking at a jar of lavender infused salt and another infused with truffle, I am inspired to go search through my cabinets for some other bought, but long forgotten ingredients that I can take on the culinary journey with me. Today's gourmet trends can be the perfect vehicle when searching out new cultures, flavors, experiences and ideas.

Bon Appetit!

Credits: Some of the photo's in this feature have been provided by Mark Bitterman,, &