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Melt www.meltchocolates.com is a wonderful chocolate boutique in London that I discovered some years ago and since it’s in our old neighborhood of Notting Hill, I always like to visit. I was there last week chomping on some unique flavors (Thank God, chocolate-covered bacon was not among them!!) One of their most popular products is the “hot chocolate blocks”. They are like lollipops. You put in a mug, add hot milk or cream to make hot chocolate. I’ve seen them elsewhere, but the unique thing about Melt’s is that they have 5 different types of chocolate and each one has an unusual and unique flavor:
Venezuelan~ dark chocolate with a rich, buttery, caramel taste combined with an earthy dustiness and a long, strong, finish.
Madagascan~ milk chocolate with honeycomb, cinnamon and pomegranate qualities.
Papau-New Guinea~ milk chocolate with a masculine, earthy quality with notes of tobacco leaves and red berries
Columbian~ actually grown and manufactured in its place of origin, has strong coffee notes, nutty sweetness, and a delicate smoky finish.
Carribbean~ a dark chocolate that’s lively and complex. Hints of licorice mingle with banana and olives.
I bought a bunch for gifts and a friend thought they would make great stocking stuffers. My husband now has a new late afternoon snack. J
Enjoy!! Stay tuned for upcoming videos from my travels to China and London.
I can’t remember exactly the first time I ate Shanghai juicy buns. I was 19 living in Taipei, Taiwan and studying Mandarin. One of my classmates had taken me to a little shop on Xin Yi Road. It was a tiny hole-in-the-wall, but the steamed dumplings called xiaolongbao were exquisite!! In time, that little restaurant, called Din Tai Fung, would become VERY famous for its dumplings. When properly made, Shanghai juicy buns are really juicy. The trick is to dip the hot dumpling into the dipping sauce of black vinegar with shreds of fresh gingerroot before stuffing it into your mouth so that when you bite into it, the juice doesn’t spurt out all over the front of your shirt.
Today Din Tai Fung has branches all over China. There are several in Beijing but my favorite is near the consulates. Last week, during my trip to Beijing I made it a point to squeeze in a visit. I dragged my old friend, Cheng Zhu, who had been my research assistant when I wrote my travelogue/ food guide to China 22 years ago. Together we visited 32 cities in China (Was I crazy??). Zhu still loves to eat and between us we polished off two steamer trays of dumplings. They were as good as I remembered.
Shanghai juicy buns are VERY labor intensive and it’s not easy to make the skin paper-thin and stuff the dumpling so full of juice. Instead I offer another, easier dumpling recipe below. I think it’s equally delicious.
When Marilyn Donati and Erika, her daughter, opened Vidalias Fresh (vidaliasmarket.com), in May they never expected the sandwiches to draw crowds. After all, the store is stocked with fresh local produce, (quite a bit of which is grown on Ms.Donch’s Utopia Farm several miles away in Wenham) 30-40 different varieties of artisanal cheeses, homemade soups, enticing baked confections, gourmet coffee, and a slew of selected specialty food products.
But it is the signature sandwiches like the Donati, (my favorite ) which features sopressata, mortadella, prosciutto di parma, provolone cheese topped with tomatoes, lettuce, red onions & hot peppers, drizzled w/EVOO & balsamic glaze, homemade meatball sandwiches, The West Beach, sliced all-natural turkey with Brie topped with mixed greens, cranberry horseradish sauce & /or mayo, that people line up for. My husband, Don, swooned over his lobster salad sandwich on toasted white bread (unlike the classic rendition served on a buttered hot dog bun, Vidalia serves their’s on toasted bread or a ciabatta roll. “It’s a little messy, but you get more lobster,” my husband remarked. Cooking classes will be held on alternate Wednesday nights.
Vidalias Eat Fresh is located at 9 West Street, Beverly Farms. Hours are Mon-Sat 7 am-6 pm, Sunday 8 am -4 pm.
Mid-summer is the most glorious time for enjoying local fruits and vegetables- especially berries, tomatoes and corn. Of course, I enjoy all the other fresh bounty from the garden and fields as well. But mid-July is an EXCRUCIATING time for me because I am impatiently waiting for local corn. I’m talking newly-picked-that-day-still-warm-and-moist-from-the-vine-corn. On the East Coast, we are getting corn from New Jersey and western Massachusetts, but that’s not FRESH ENOUGH for me.
Still, I see the ears of corn in the local farmer’s market and they call to me… “Nina, eat me!!”
So last week I bought some and developed a recipe for Smoky Grilled Sesame Corn for the new cookbook that I’m writing.. It was so good that I used the leftovers and created another new recipe for Smoky Corn and Red Pepper Salsa. I discovered that you can camouflage the flavor of “almost fresh enough” corn by grilling it!! My friend, Jaime Dominguez, who is a great cook, was visiting from San Francisco with his family and taught me the easiest way to grill corn on the cob. I previously thought I had it perfected, but Jaime showed me how to make it taste even smokier.
These two recipes are the first of many that I will share from the new book. The working title is “Simple Asian Meals” and the recipes are EASY, DELICIOUS, and ACCESSIBLE. They reflect the way I cook at home and how I deal with the daily dilemma of “What to make for dinner?” Yes, even though I’m a cookbook author, I deal with this boring issue every day just like everyone else. Although, its so much easier now when local products are so inspiring.
The majority of the recipes in the new book are meal-in-one dishes. Smoky Grilled Sesame Corn and the Smoky Corn and Red Pepper Salsa are from the chapter titled “Easy Sides” which accompany the “Asian Grill” recipes. “Easy Side” dishes can also be served with pan-fried, stir-fried, grilled, or steamed foods and include Spicy Fennel Slaw, Sake-Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Roasted Cherry Tomato Cilantro Salsa, and Vietnamese Cole Slaw with Dill.
Enjoy the recipes and celebrate my favorite time of year!!
Photo from: www.howstuffworks.com/corn.htm
Rachel Ray recently flashed her toothy grin to promote a topic more pressing than the latest 30-minute meal. She lobbied Congress to increase the budget for healthy school lunches.
FYI, the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010”, (a retooling of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966), passed the Senate with a $4.5 billion increase for school lunches over the next ten years. Sounds pretty good, huh? Unfortunately, it is shockingly short of the $10 billion over 10 years that the Obama Administration had suggested. Food advocates also agree that this amount is necessary for a true, healthy overhaul of the nation’s school lunch program.
It is time for change: Under the current requirements potatoes-even in the sorry form of soggy French fries- count as a vegetable. Your voice needs to be heard in order to make these reforms a reality. Here’s what you can do:
• Write or call your state representative and ask them to support greater increases to the school lunch reforms We’re hoping for an increase of 70 cents to $1. To contact your representative call the capitol switchboard at 1-800-815-3740 and ask for your state’s representative.
• Join Jamie Oliver’s revolutionary Food Revolution. Sign the petition here!
• Most importantly, make yourself aware of the issues. Check out the work
Renegade Lunch Lady, Ann Cooper, is doing: http://www.chefann.com/.
Let’s all help promote change and make it a reality.
I’m reveling in the delights of summer and picking plump blueberries and raspberries in my back yard. I’m also dreaming of pies, cobblers, “grunts”, and muffins.
I remember as a child watching my Mom make blueberry pie. It was a bit of a production so my Mom would grumble a little as she made the pastry and rolled out the dough, but once she pulled the newly baked pie came out of the oven resplendent with the golden brown pastry and oozing with blueberry juice, she couldn’t help but smile at her handiwork. My brothers and sister and I would watch the clock impatiently until dinner or that magical moment when we were each served a piece topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was SO GOOD!!
I love to make pie and I am also fond of peachaberry cobblers, another delicious summertime dessert my Mom would make. I like to add chopped candied ginger which makes it a little special. Go to the recipe section and try it out. You won’t be disappointed.