Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Favorite TV Chef

I have not been to one her restaurants, and the reviews of her restaurant in Pittsburgh are not good. I have seen her show on PBS, and she seems like she is a task master with her crew and family. She also gushes excessively about her grandchildren. Her show teases you about the recipes and doesn't give details, so you have to buy the book. So why is she my favorite?

As I said previously, I have an ability to look at a recipe and have good idea if my family and friends would like the food. Normally, out of a cookbook you find 2-4 recipes that you would make again. Lidia's Family Table contains dozens recipes that are so tasty and relatively easy. I have received rave reviews each time I make the Venetian Braised Beef. My family raved so much about it that I had to make it for Christmas dinner. I now make her White Bean Soup base regularly for various soup recipes including the ones in her book. I made the Arrabiata (spicy tomato) sauce on Sunday. Mine was a little spicy for some, but it dissappeared in minutes, so it couldn't be too spicy.

I said below, I judge TV chefs based on the number of their recipes that I can recreate successfully. Lidia is far in the lead. Now only if she looked like Giada

Monday, October 23, 2006

Rating Food Network Chefs

Someone asked me the other day who are my favorite chefs on The Food Network. I like to judge my favorites by how many recipes I made from that chef that are successful. The number 1 is obvious from my last post. Giada's recipes are easy, well balanced flavors and are pleasing to my friends and family. Second place goes to Alton Brown. Although I wouldn't consider him a chef, most of his recipes are cullanarily sound and use good everyday techniques. I have usually been able to slightly alter his recipe to improve on depth of flavor. Number 3 is probably Ina Garten. Her outrageous brownies are the best I have ever tasted (verified by my daughter, niece and nephew all in college).

My least favorite you ask? Tyler Florence comes to mind. Charming on TV, I watch him regularly, but each time I make one of his recipes, its bland and lacks depth. They usually taste like something you would get from a box or premixed package.

Paula Deen is right up there. With my desire to eat more healthly, her recipes contain at least a pound of butter, a pound of maynaise or a pound of sour cream. All of which is out of scope for me. I dont think she can make anything without one of those ingredients. My dad used to say the difference between food and gourmet food was the quantity of butter in the recipe. If this is true, her recipes must be on top of the gourmet list.

Sandra Lee uses processed foods to make her recipes. As i have migrated to quality ingredients, using processed foods in any recipe makes that recipe taste like processed foods.

The others like mega stars Emeril and Rachael Ray are interesting. Emeril's recipes are complicated, lots of technique and plenty of ingredients, but usually tasty (his food at his Orlando restaurant was outstanding). Rachael is a personality that cooks things quickly. She has some good ideas, but nothing that grabs me by the tongue and says wow.

Next post i will tell you about my favorite chefs from other sources.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Food Network and cooking

There is no question that the Food Network has advanced my abilities to cook. What started as a need to make some cookies for a team party for my daughter's softball team, graduated to different breads from a bread maker and then, thanks to the Food Network, I not only expanded my knowledge of food, but also expanded the techniques to cook food.

People now say I am a good cook, but I think I have an ability to follow a recipe. What I am good at is being able to look at a recipe and determining if my family and friends will like the result. I now review hundreds of recipes from all sources (Food Network, Epicurious, Google Search and magazines) and pick out a few that I think will please my family and mostly myself. 95% of the time, I get rave comments from the food consumer.

In my mind three things are required to produce a decent meal.
  • Good Equipment - Having good pans, spoons and mixers makes all cooking easier and more fun.
  • Good Ingredients - When a recipe has only a few ingredients, it is crucial to make sure that each of those ingredients are of top quality.
  • Simple Recipes - If you have good ingredients, the more simple the recipe the better. Complicated recipes make things difficult and mistakes are easily made. Simple does not mean short, as many great recipes call for long cooking times. By simple I mean easy to do. Let the artistic chefs create those multi layer goose liver pates.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Italy old and not so old

Rome is full of suprises. Walking along a road with cars and modern shops then all of a sudden something ancient catches your eye. Nothing like seeing a car from 2005, building from the 1800s and then the Colliseum from 80AD. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 06, 2006

Seamhead Tours

My brother on the right has for several years organized a baseball road trip to visit ball parks throughout the country. Here we are at Coors field. Thanks to some contacts our actual seats were just above my left shoulder. Chip has only one park left, while I have two. We both need to get to Minnesota and I have to add Cleveland to the list. The summer of 2007 will complete the tour, but with new parks scheduled for DC, New York (2), and Minnesota, I am sure there will be more Seamhead tours.