Monday, December 29, 2014

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,


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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!


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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,