Category Archives: Food

The Almond as Dessert

 

Recently, a friend called me in despair because she couldn’t get her cookie recipe right.  I asked about her ingredient list and she told me she had used Marzipan as the recipe had called for Almond Paste.  Mystery solved!  Though they are both made from almonds, they are DEFINITELY not interchangeable. 

 

Almond Paste is made (check the label) from almonds (first on the label if it’s a decent almond paste) and some sugar or sugar product  and cooked till creamy then canned.  Marzipan is value added almond paste – the added value being more sugar.  It’s stiffer, and much sweeter, and used more to decorate and make candy rather than in baked goods.  So there you have it – if you love almonds (and dessert), try some recipes with either of these two ingredients!  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering wishes for you a VERY satisfied sweet tooth!

 

 

Dry Sugar Part 5 – Demerara

A light brown, partially refined raw sugar, Demerara originally was called so because it actually came from Demerara – once a colony that has now become the country of Guyana.  The sugar has large crystals and is somewhat brown in color, but there are no additives.  It is crunchy with a warm caramel flavor.  It is an excellent topping for baked goods – it won’t break down and melt during the baking process.

Demerara has become so popular that it is now produced in many other countries, and is generically referred to as “turbinado” which is more of a descriptor of the PROCESS, rather than a type of sugar.    The terms are pretty much interchangeable.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses demerara A LOT in many applications…because it’s DEEEELICIOUS!

Sweet Potato or Yam, Ma’am?

Tis the season…and Oh, the drama!  Which is it?  They are NOT related, and another fun fact, the sweet potato isn’t even related to the potato!  First, let’s scientifically (but not TOO scientifically) differentiate:

Sweet Potato:    Originated in Central/South America.  A relative in the Morning Glory family.  Skin a plethora of colors.  Flesh a plethora of colors – the lighter the starchier.   The bad news is…you can never tell the color of the flesh until after you buy them!

Yam:        Originated (and 95% still comes from) Africa/Asia.  A member of the Lily family.   Mostly soft fleshed.  Can grow to over 100 pounds!  Sweet Potatoes are frequently mislabeled in the US because African Americans called them Yams as they resembled them.  Yams are hard to get in the US.  You’d have to go to an international market.  You WILL see sweet potatoes labeled as yams in grocery stores.  But if you look closely, they are also labeled sweet potatoes, because it’s the law.  A wonderful use of sweet potatoes, on the menu now at Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering is our Roasted Sweet Potato Salad! You can order as a side with your lunch or entree at www.lulasforlunch.com  Yummy Yummy!!

Those Crazy Gourds

It’s butternut squash season… a few hints and tips:  Choose one that’s “dusty” looking – shiny means it was picked too soon.  DID YOU KNOW…uncut squash can last up to 3 months at room temperature?!?!?  This is, obviously uncut and skin on.  So if you like it, stock up!  You can be eating squash in February/March when it’s all gone from the store!!  Butternut squash lends itself to both sweet and savory preparations.  One of my favorites (surprise) is soup – with sage. Lula wishes you heady gourdy delight!

A Brief History of Sugar

Did you know that Christopher Columbus is responsible for sugar in the Americas?  His mother in law owned a sugar plantation in Madiera, Spain.  Before he was the great “discoverer” he ferried sugar to the European mainland from his mother in law’s plantation!   India had sugar around 3,000 years ago, but the rest of our ancestors used honey until about 800AD when it found its way to southern Europe and North Africa.  The least caloric of all sugar is still a kiss!!

Don’t Throw That Lemon Out!

lemons'nlimes

Citrus costs have skyrocketed.  At Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering we use alot of citrus.  It’s a major flavoring agent and provides depth and background to many dishes.  It’s not cheap, though, so we save wherever and whenever we can.  Buying bags of lemons or limes instead of the one you need at a time can save well over 50% and you don’t have to waste a drop (or a curl).

You can zest your citrus and freeze it, and after it’s zested, you can squeeze all of the juice out into a bowl (and depending on what method you’re using you won’t even have any seeds to contend with!).  Keep a plastic ice tray for just such occasions and you will always have a measured supply of citrus on hand.  Each “cube” spot holds the juice of approximately one lemon or lime.  Fill your tray, freeze it, and pop them out into a baggie to keep in your freezer for easy, measured access.

If you want to know the best way to get maximum juice out of your citrus, you can search “lemon, citrus, or juice” at blog.lulasforlunch.com and a previous “how-to” will pop up!!  Now SMILE, sourpus!!  – Lula

The Carapace Conundrum (Crustacean or Mollusk?)

If you’re like me, you LOVE shellfish.  But they’re not all the same…a fun icky fact for you:  CRUSTACEANS have shells that are grown from a carbohydrate that they manufacture themselves called chitin, just like insects (way back when they were related… )   We’re talking shrimp, prawns, lobster, crab here.
Risotto
MOLLUSKS grow their shells from materials they eat -mostly calcium carbonate – that is found in marble and limestone (not to mention egggshells!).   Mollusks grow their shells once or twice a year when they need to (the house gets kinda cramped when they grow) during the warm months.  You can see their growing cycle on their shells – the rings.  So you can tell how old your clam  (or mussel, or oyster, or scallop) is by counting the rings and multiplying by 1.5.    There are scores of fun shellfish and mollusk options on our menu at www.lulasforlunch.com.   Here’s to the party in your mouth!

A “Salty” Topic

Oh!  I could get technical on you…but let’s not.  All salt is sea salt.  Mineral salt (the kind you shake on your food, whether it’s been iodized or not) is really old sea salt that has been “mined” from sea deposits left millenia ago.

Stuff labeled sea salt is “raked” (alot more to that but again, let’s not) from fresh deposits, is kissed by the sun, and is flakier.  Trace residual seawater mineral content left at certain “levels” of the salt bed result in salt that can look, smell, and taste a bit different to accomplished palates, hence, gray salt or pink salt or any other color.

The way a salt crystal is shaped results in how it is perceived on the tongue (flavor).  If you cook with expensive salts like Fleur de sel you’re TOTALLY wasting your money – when salt dissolves you can’t tell the difference.  Get a bang for your buck and impress your table with a little bowl of whatever flaky sea salt you enjoy, and sprinkle the crystals on your finished plate, and you will totally enjoy the flavor burst in your mouth.   I wish for you some yummy in your tummy!  – Lula

The Wine Bottle Cork

A wine bottle is opened at the table if ordered at a restaurant.  The cork is presented to you.  Why?  Well, the cork should bear the name of the producer (a practice begun many decades ago), as will the bottle.  This prevents passing off lesser wine in a better bottle.  If your bottle isn’t opened in front of you, be suspicious.  Look at the cork – it should be wet at one end.   If it is dry, your wine hasn’t been stored properly and then you must take very seriously the sniffing and tasting before the approval!   You probably want to sniff  the glass(and even touch your tongue to it if you don’t embarrass easily); if it smells or tastes like detergent you will surely have an unexpected taste of the wine you ordered!  It is perfectly acceptable to ask for new glasses – they should be embarrassed, not you!   No need to sniff the cork if you don’t want to – sniffing the wine will tell you all you need to know.  I however, prefer to sniff the cork – it delights me – the fragrance of wine meeting tree like that!  Happy sniffing, AND drinking! – Lula