Cardamom and Squash for Dessert

By Stephanie Charns, pastry chef, CSCE, CWPC

The holiday season is upon us already! As the delightful aromas of pies, cakes and tarts fill our kitchens, memories fill our hearts.  Acorn Squash Panna Cotta_resized

With the temperature outside beginning to cool,  I like to incorporate warm tones into my desserts. Popular spices like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and ginger are prevalent this time of year. There are a plethora of other warming spices, including cardamom.  A member of the ginger family, cardamom offers a spicy, yet sweet note to any dish. Green cardamom has a more floral note than the smoky flavor of black cardamom.

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America’s Almost Forgotten Tomato Queen

The culinary industry is made up of literally thousands of remarkable people whose names have been lost to history. One person, however, who should be remembered along with Julia Child and Alice Waters is Tillie Lewis, America’s Tomato Queen (and so much more).Image 1, Tillie Lewis

Born in abject poverty in 1896, Tillie Lewis was a remarkable woman who became a millionaire in her own right while supporting fair labor policies, encouraging a healthy diet and fighting against world hunger.

Born Myrtle Ehrlich, she grew up in Brooklyn’s early Jewish tenement housing and found her first job in the sweat shops of New York’s garment district at the early age of 14.

Attractive and determined to find a way out of the grinding poverty that surrounded her, she bravely auditioned at 16 for a position as a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl and got it! There she met Fannie Brice, the zany comedian immortalized by Barbra Streisand in the musical Funny Girl.

At the Follies, she encountered a glamorous lifestyle far beyond the poverty of her childhood. There she saw the wealthy mingle with the talented and the beautiful in an intoxicating swirl more powerful than any gin martini. And it was there that she met Florindo del Gaizo.

Florindo was the young son of a wealthy Italian family dynasty that had made a fortune importing Italian plum tomatoes to the American market. At 23, he was sent to New York to represent the family’s interests, especially to the growing community of Italians  arriving in America.

He liked his job, New York City and he especially liked Tillie. Recognizing that Tillie was bright as well as beautiful, he shared with her over cocktails and in between dances the ins-and-outs of how business really works.

Tillie listened and learned but she went further. She wisely perceived that while one’s beauty might come and go, everyone has to eat. In short, a career in food was far more lasting then a career kicking up one’s legs from behind a feather fan.

Under Florindo’s sponsorship, she traveled to Italy where she studied further how business works and met Florindo’s wife. She returned to America aware that a divorce and second marriage was not ever going to be possible for the very Catholic Florindo.

Back in New York she watched as the crash of the Stock Market and the Great Depression slowed both Broadway ticket sales and business opportunities. When Congress passed a 50% tariff increase on imported foods in an effort to protect failing American farms, it was time for Florindo, in more than one way, to return to Italy, and this time without Tillie. His parting gift to Tillie was a large packet of seeds of his beloved Italian plum tomatoes.

With little money, tremendous tenacity and the precious tomato seeds in hand, Tillie relocated to Stockton, California. There she persuaded the local farmers to raise her ‘strange looking’ tomato, promising she would buy their entire crop when ripe. She was going to sell them to the customers Florindo could no longer supply because of the new import tariff.

Next she needed cans. She amazingly persuaded the Pacific Can Company to open a plant in Stockton, with an option for her to buy it, which she later did.  By 1940, she had made San Joaquin County the top tomato-producing county in the United States!

But she went further. She changed the restrictive traditional hiring practices by inviting both men and women of all races and faiths to work at her plants. She hired based on loyalty, good character and willingness to work; she hired the handicapped and the elderly; she brought thousands of Americans out from fields and poverty into the middle class.

Image 8 Can Label

Over the next decade, she began canning spinach and asparagus and built more canning plants. She added canned fruits, nutritious baby foods and healthy juices.

Tillie met her future husband, the charismatic American labor organizer Meyer Lewis, when he came to inspect her expanding plants. He was stunned that the attractive, flaming red haired lady in her fashionable fur-collared suit was running a culinary canning empire that was both humane and profitable!

But Tillie wasn’t done yet. She added the title “Duchess of Diet” to her titles when she launched the world’s first American Medical Association-approved diet and diet products. Her concept of a healthy diet, including increased portions of fruits and vegetables, appeared not only in local grocery stores from coast to coast but also on the room service menus of many high-end hotels.

During the early 1950’s, her company was the largest supplier of Army C-Rations during the Korean War. As a result of her ground breaking activities, Tillie was named in 1951 “Businesswoman of the Year” by the Associated Press.

She began selling shares of her company on the American Stock Exchange in 1961. By 1971, Tillie Lewis Foods had sales of over $90 million per year, equal to over $500,000,000 in today’s dollars.

Yet when most individuals would have been ready to hang up their hat and retire, Tillie was just getting started. She turned her attention to global food production and the fight against world hunger. In 1967 and 1968, she attended the World Council Against Global Hunger as America’s representative. There she spoke out forcefully for the right of all to a healthy diet including fruits, vegetables and food harvested from the sea.Image 7 Tillie in Fur Suit.jpeg

In her later years she served as an advisor to many world leaders and was a popular speaker advocating for the rights of women in the workplace and a healthy diet for everyone. She died from a stroke while giving a speech on this topic in 1977.

Tillie had everything against her — poverty, even beauty in a way. Yet she never gave up. She worked hard and made a difference in countless lives, from the workers she treated fairly to the troops she made sure were well-fed during wartime. She is most definitely a woman worth remembering, as she would want to be remembered, with a great meal.

Mussels with Italian Plum TomatoesImage 11 Mussels with Italian Plum Tomatoes

 Ingredients

6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 garlic cloves, sliced

28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand (with thanks to Tillie Lewis)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp peperoncino flakes

3 lbs Taylor Mediterranean Mussels

10 large fresh basil leaves, shredded

Directions

Heat 5 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add the sliced garlic.

Cook until the garlic sizzles and turns just golden around the edges, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes

Add1/4 cup hot water to the pot.

Season with the oregano, salt, and peperoncino.

Bring to a boil, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Once the sauce has thickened, add the mussels.

Stir and adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering.

Cover, and simmer until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.

Once the mussels have opened, stir in the basil.

Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Transfer the mussels to a serving bowl, and pour juices over.

Serve immediately (and remember the amazing Tillie!).

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Ana Kinkaid brings 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry to her writing. As a world traveler, nothing delights her more than discovering an innovative restaurant or a unique ingredient.  Ana is a consultant to leading food companies and also speaks at major culinary conferences, often linking past culinary traditions to current and future trends. Her areas of expertise include culinary history, ethnic foods, terroir, wines and cocktails, as well as sustainable development within the food industry.

Before Alice Waters There Was Mussels Polonaise

By Ana Kinkaid

Farm-to-table and tide-to-table cuisine have become an enduring trend in the culinary industry that ensures both fresh flavor and sustainability to diners. Alice Waters is often credited with initiating this vital trend. Yet before her very important contribution, there was Albert Stockli and Mussels Polonaise.

Albert Stockli was the original chef at the famed Four Seasons Restaurant, a restaurant that the phrase “power lunch” was coined for by Esquire Magazine. Opened in 1959 (Alice Water’s Chez Pannise opened later in 1971), the restaurant welcomed guests that included Jackie Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Norman Mailer and Barbara Walters, along with many other influential people and celebrities.

Photo 2 Segram Building and Picasso Mural

The Seagram Building, site of The Four Seasons restaurant, and massive hallway mural by Picasso.

Even though its elegant decor, designed by the architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, was designated an interior landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, it was Chef Stockli’s remarkable cuisine that captured the attention of its discerning guests.

Born in Switzerland, Stockli took over housekeeping as the oldest child after his mother’s death when he was just nine years old. He learned more formal cooking from an uncle who was a chef in a leading Zurich hotel.

He soon moved on to Antwerp, Rotterdam and Paris, always studying and learning.  He became, however, increasingly impatient with the rigid culinary view of the time that postulated only one way of preparing a classical dish.

Seeking a change of venue and a new approach, he shipped out on a Dutch vessel to the East Indies. There he became intrigued by the new spices and flavors. He was also fascinated by the quick-cooking method used in the Indies to preserve the rich flavors of local meats and vegetables.

During World War II he bravely served on the hastily built Liberty Ships, bringing aid and support to America’s European allies struggling against Hitler. At the war’s end he found work as a chef at the Claridge Hotel in New Jersey.

He soon joined Restaurant Associates, which received the concession to run the restaurant at the new Arrivals Building at Newark Airport. The owners were looking for a more ambitious and imaginative culinary approach for their new restaurant. There he invented dishes that brought patronage from not only travelers but also from non-traveling diners.

His next move was to the Hawaiian Room in the Lexington Hotel in Manhattan, where the menu soon included dishes like “Flaming Snow Mountain—an Ice Mountain of Tropical Fruits to Dip in a Delicious Rum Sauce—Afire!”

In 1959, he opened the elite Four Seasons in the new Seagram Building on Park Avenue. Stockli, whose commanding presence was extended by his chef’s toque, was the first destination restaurant to print its menu entirely in English.Photo 5 Menu

But Chef Stockli’s innovations went even further. His inventive dishes featured fresh neighborhood foods–he visited farms and dairies himself, and had a network of hunters and fishermen who would bring him game. As a result, his restaurant was the first restaurant in the States to incorporate wild mushrooms into the menu.

Chef Stockli died just one year after Alice Waters opened Chez Pannise in California, Thankfully he left a record of his favorite recipes in his one and only cookbook, Splendid Fare. Written while in semi-retirement (for what chef ever stops cooking and creating entirely?), it preserved for lucky readers his dedication to fine flavorful food prepared with the freshest, locally farmed  ingredients possible.

One of his favorite dishes was Mussles Polonaise, literally shellfish prepared in the Polish style. Chef Stockli’s insightful cuisine reflected his belief in culinary diversity and absolute freshness, resulting in dishes that were created with respect for the original source while still honoring innovation and quality.

Mussels Polonaise

(Adapted from Splendid Fare)

Ingredients

2 lbs Taylor Mussels, yielding 3 cups cooked mussel meat, steamed until done

1 lb cucumbers, peeled and sliced in thin discs

1 tsp salt

1 lemon, juiced

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup sour cream

4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp cider vinegar

2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 egg, hard-boiled, finely chopped or rubbed through a sieve

Directions

  1. Steam mussels until cooked.
  2. Remove meat from shells and refrigerate. Discard mussel shells.
  3. Place sliced cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Allow to sweat for at least 1 hour.
  4. Squeeze all moisture out of cucumbers. Discard cucumber liquid and return cucumbers to bowl.
  5. Add lemon juice and heavy cream.
  6. In another bowl, mix sour cream, oil, vinegar, chopped dill, salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Pour mixture over cucumbers.
  7. Add the chilled mussels.
  8. Chill entire mixture for at least one hour.
  9. Just before serving, plate and sprinkle with finely chopped egg on top of salad.
Kinkaid, Ana
Ana Kinkaid brings 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry to her writing. As a world traveler, nothing delights her more than discovering an innovative restaurant or a unique ingredient.  Ana is a consultant to leading food companies and also speaks at major culinary conferences, often linking past culinary traditions to current and future trends. Her areas of expertise include culinary history, ethnic foods, terroir, wines and cocktails, as well as sustainable development within the food industry.

Old Fashion Snow Cone Recipe

This recipe originally appeared in the summer issue of Sizzle, the American Culinary Federation’s digital quarterly for culinary students, in an article by Maggie Hennessy. Recipe courtesy of Fremont, Chicago.

Fremont 048.JPGThis grown-up throwback to an old-school favorite is sure to cool you down when the temperatures spike.

Yield: 1 snow cone

Source: Fremont, Chicago

Ingredients

1 oz. Basil Hayden

2 dashes Angostura bitters

0.25 oz. Demerara syrup

Crushed ice, as needed

Luxardo cherry syrup, as needed

Thin piece of orange rind, for garnish

2 Luxardo maraschino cherries, for garnish

Method: In a liquid measuring cup, stir together Basil Hayden, bitters and Demerara syrup until combined.

Fill desired container with crushed ice until slightly overflowing. Pour old fashioned mixture over the top. Drizzle with Luxardo cherry syrup, as needed, to cover/absorb within crushed ice.

Garnish with orange rind and two cherries on a cocktail pick.

TIP: To qualify for packaged confection laws, pops must contain below 1% alcohol by volume.

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The summer issue of Sizzle has more grown-up favorites on classic treats, a summer wine and menu-pairing guide, a chef’s guide to foraging and more!

All Hail the American Picnic

By Ana Kinkaid

If there’s any activity that announces, “Summer is here!” in American culture, it’s the tradition of going on an idyllic picnic.

Yet picnics didn’t start in America. Early in 1649, picnics were mentioned in a satirical French poem, which features the Frères Pique-niques, known for visiting friends “armed with bottles and dishes.”1 American Picnic

By 1802, the word made a jump to Britain after a group of Francophiles in London formed a Pic-Nic Society to gorge, guzzle and perform amateur theatricals. Participants drew lots to determine who would supply which dish — from calf’s-foot jelly to blancmange.

In the 1820s, British authors began to record the adventures of picnickers who enjoyed their meals in pastoral locations. In Emma, Jane Austen’s character Mrs. Elton plans a “sort of Gipsy party. We are to walk about your gardens and gather the strawberries ourselves and sit under trees. . . Everything as natural and simple as possible.” What a change from the former days of excess!

In America, picnics started out as large political feasts staged out of doors on long buffet tables, complete with enough alcohol-rich punch to win votes.

5 American Political Picnic

But hands down, cars may have been the greatest influence on picnics in America.

In the early 20th century, automobiles were built more for amusement than long-distance travel. The early Oldsmobile, for instance, could be set up as a dining room on wheels with a strap-on “motor hamper” behind the passengers.

By 1911 Mrs. A. Sherman Hitchcock was instructing hostesses on how to put on a “motor party.” Picnics, she wisely advised, “were not just divertissements; our health depended on them. There never was, and never will be such a remedy for the tired, overworked human body.”

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Half a century later during the post-war boom years of the 1950s America witnessed a dramatic rise in car sales and the development of highway infrastructure. Returning G.I.’s happily purchased cars and hit the road. They wanted a new way to define themselves positively after the horrors of war. One such way was to gather the family together, get in the car and go on the road for a peaceful picnic.

8 Road Picnic

These war-weary men often felt a sense of individuality and control when driving. Car registrations rose during this period from 40 million to 62 million with one automobile for every three persons!

Soon specialized picnic sets appeared on the market, designed for car trips to nearby lakes and campgrounds as well as the National Parks. Catching onto the trend, fast food outlets like McDonald’s appeared along the roadsides like mushrooms.

Convenient drive-through meals quickly replaced the elegant but time-consuming hamper feasts as culinary trends shifted to the faster pace of American life.

Yet chefs today, due to the demand for off-site catering, are rediscovering the favorable but nearly forgotten fare that once graced the legendary hampers of America’s early years.

Chilled Carolina Seafood Hamper Salad14 Seafood Salad

Ingredients

1 T. Old Bay seasoning

Dash Kosher salt

1 1/2 lbs (16- to 20-count) peeled and deveined shrimp

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 lb sea scallops, halved crosswise

1 lb cleaned fresh calamari, sliced crosswise in 1/2-inch-thick rings

2 lbs fresh Taylor Blue Mussels

1/2 cup good olive oil

4 t. minced garlic (4 cloves)

2 t. dried oregano

1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes

3 plum tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed and medium-diced

1/3 cup limoncello liqueur

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced crosswise

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, lightly packed

2 lemons

Directions

Fill a large pot with 3 quarts of water.

Add the Old Bay seasoning and 1 tablespoon of salt.

Bring to a boil, add the shrimp, lower the heat, and simmer for 3 minutes, until just firm.

With a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a large bowl.

Leave 2 cups of the poaching liquid in the pot and discard the rest.

Add the wine to the poaching liquid and bring to a boil.

Add the scallops, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes, until just cooked.

With the skimmer, transfer the scallops to the bowl with the shrimp.

Bring the poaching liquid back to a boil.

Add the calamari, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until just cooked.

With the skimmer, transfer the calamari to the bowl.

Bring the poaching liquid to a boil again.

Add the mussels, cover, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until all the shells have opened.

Turn off the heat and set aside until the mussels in the broth are cool enough to handle.

Add the mussels to the bowl.

Set aside 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid, discarding the rest.

Drain the remaining seafood in a colander and put it all back into the bowl.

For the dressing, heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat.

Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

Cook for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes.

Cook over medium heat for 2 more minutes.

Add the reserved poaching liquid, the limoncello, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Cook for 1 more minute.

Pour the sauce over the seafood and toss gently.

Add the fennel and parsley.

Cut a lemon in half lengthwise, cut it thinly crosswise, and add it to the salad.

Toss gently to combine and cover with plastic wrap.

Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To serve, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the juice of the remaining lemon.

Taste for seasonings and serve cold.

Kinkaid, Ana
Ana Kinkaid brings 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry to her writing. As a world traveler, nothing delights her more than discovering an innovative restaurant or a unique ingredient.  Ana is a consultant to leading food companies and also speaks at major culinary conferences, often linking past culinary traditions to current and future trends. Her areas of expertise include culinary history, ethnic foods, terroir, wines and cocktails, as well as sustainable development within the food industry.