Tag Archives: Lula’s for Lunch

The Value of Saffron

 macrosaffron_flower

By weight, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, and more expensive than many precious metals…this is due to the fact that saffron must be hand harvested from a special fall crocus flower.  Each crocus flower only produces 3 stigmas (strands of saffron), and it takes over a quarter million strands to produce a pound!

Saffron has been around multi-tasking since about 1000 BC – as I wrote in a previous post – it used to be scattered on the floor of gathering halls and theatres in Greece and Rome to help cover the “scent” of humans :).  Other uses are medicinal – as with most yellow and red foods, it’s really good for you!

As far as food goes…saffron is prized for its honey-hay like flavor and aroma, and of course, the golden yellow color it produces with just a pinch into any sauce, rice, soup, etc.  Buy your saffron in tiny amounts in whole stamen form.  The ground stuff isn’t nearly as good as it has more stuff from the flower to make it weigh more.  If you just can’t bring yourself to spend the $$ when a recipe calls for saffron, try substituting turmeric (VERY good for you).

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses saffron in bread, soups, stews, risottos like our Saffron and Orchid Petal Risotto, and even desserts!  Have you tried saffron in a dish?  Tell us how you liked it here !

Make your own Herbed Vinegar!

app Baba Lula Ganoush

Wanna be fancy?  Wanna “look” fancy at your next get together?  Pick your vinegar:  Apple Cider, White, Wine, or Rice …let’s stop there and keep it simple.  Add 3 tablespoons fresh herb or mixture of herbs of your choice (mix a couple and make it a “house” vinegar”) for every quart of vinegar.

Don’t use ground herbs or spices because the vinegar will get cloudy.  Store it at room temperature, with a lid on, making sure your herbs are covered in the vinegar.  It will be ready in 24 hours, and after you use some, you can top it off again with the same original vinegar.  Just make sure your herbs stay covered.  If you’d like, you can remove the herbs after a couple of days.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses our Tarragon Vinegar to make pickles that we put in several recipes ( see pic of our Baba Lula Ganoush garnished with them!)

Vinegar is a preservative, but it does have its limits.  The word itself is derived from the French “vin aigre” meaning  “sour wine”.  Don’t use more than around 3 tablespoons of your herb mix per quart because too much foreign “matter” can result in food poisoning.  Happy Creating!

Let’s Go on a Caper with Capers

MM Veal Piccata

You’re dying to know..you can’t fool Lula.  What in the world ARE capers?  Answer – capers, sometimes called caperberries, are the unopened, pickled flower buds of the trailing Capparis spinosa shrub that grows in desert regions.  Most of these shrubs grow in the Sahara and surrounding regions.  They can be found, however, in various climates that are dry and arid – southern France, for example, and any other place (Texas comes to mind) with similar climate.

There are 170 or so species, and we know they’ve been used in cuisine since around 600 BC.  The younger the caper, the better.  In France, gourmets pick the berries every two days off of the shrubs to ensure the best flavor.  Capers are one of the primary ingredients in any “piccata” dish.   Lula’s for Lunch..and More! Catering uses capers in our Chicken, Veal (it goes without saying free range!), Pork, and Salmon Piccatas, as well as in our Tuna Tapenade Salad and our Nicoise creations.  You can find these selections at our Lula’s for Lunch website and order them any time – because capers come pickled they are not “seasonal” – though people tend to prefer light, refreshing piccatas throughout spring and summer.   Which is happening now.  Put a little piquancy in your life!  Enjoy!

Easter Traditions: Lamb, Eggs, and Ham (Green or Not!)

 

Lula’s Deconstructed Truffled Deviled Eggs

Ever wonder why Easter Eggs are “Easter” eggs?  For anyone marginally schooled in Christianity lamb is a given, borrowed from the Jewish Passover tradition (sacrifical lamb, Lamb of God, etc.), but spring lamb, ham, and eggs far predate Christianity.

Spring lamb is just coming to market at Easter and has been a celebratory menu item for eons across the world symbolizing new beginnings and rebirth.  The pig  was considered a symbol of luck in pre-Christian Europe and, hence, the bringing of ham to the table in springtime.

Pagan rites of spring brought the egg to the table.  The egg is a symbol of rebirth, rejuvenation, and immortality.  The early Christian calendar forbade the ingestion of eggs during lent, so everyone was really excited to eat them again when lent was over (Easter).  Egg decorating has been around for thousands of years.  Particularly intricate and beautiful designs come from central Europe.

Egg breads, particularly the hot cross bun, are very popular at Easter.  Archeological evidence however, proves that the hot cross bun has been around since 79 C.E. at the ancient site of Herculaneum.

Whatever you bring to your Easter table, enjoy with family and friends and celebrate rebirth of all kinds!

Asparagus – I love you Thick or Thin!

Every year around this time I publish something about asparagus – it’s in season and cheap and always delicious – whether it’s thick or thin.  “Diameter” of the asparagus has nothing to do with its age in season, it has to do with the age of the plant.  A thin spear in February for example, if left on the plant, will not grow into a thicker spear in March.

A thinner spear indicates a young PLANT, and vice versa.  Both are equally sweet and tender after snapping off the woody bottoms (or shaving them as I sometimes do for presentation).  Thin is better for steaming and stir frying (quickly, now!), and thick is better for grilling/roasting.  We love to serve our “medium stalked” asparagus grilled with our Feta Jalapeno Dipping Sauce pictured here.  Did you know it is also perfectly acceptable to eat asparagus with your hands?  The Viking in me loves this. 🙂

Let’s Ramp it Up!

 Lula will be foraging in the Red River Gorge this weekend for these lovely delicacies…a bit early but hey!  we’ve got Global Warming!!  Ramps are also called Wild Leek, Wild Garlic, and/or Ramson, and are a member of the onion family that sprouts in early spring in woodlands all over the world.  Bulbs AND leaves can be used raw or cooked.  To me, they are reminiscent of a blend of chive and garlic.  Yummy!!  So…you’ll be finding them all over fun menus where creative chefs dwell – and you won’t need to ask “what’s this?!?” – Lula has already educated you!!  For more fun tips like this one, subscribe to my blog here .

New Orleans Here We Come!

After these two hands have completed the nourishment of 195 souls this week, Gordon and I are off to New Orleans for some R&R (by now you should know that means Research and Revivification!).

Our friends Joe and Joanna (The Duke and Duchess of New Windsor – New York, that is… 🙂 ) are meeting us and we’re staying in a Fabulous condo in the French Quarter. We’ll be sightseeing, eating and drinking our way from the 9th Ward to Tulane, and all the way to Vacherie and back.

If you have a favorite haunt, watering hole, restaurant or attraction that you think I must not miss, please let me know here!  And quickly!  Flight leaves on Sunday, and the Royal “We” has decreed there will be no flight issues!

Some Lentil Learnin’

10,000 years and counting…they must be good, right?  And they’re an absolute POWERHOUSE of nutrition!  Lentils contain the highest protein content of any vegetable other than soybeans (negligably higher)…fat free…cholesterol free…higher in folate than any other non-fortified food…and a really good source of iron (make sure you eat the lentils with Vitamin C foods so you get maximum absorbtion of the iron: tomatoes, green bell peppers, etc).

Simmer (bubbles JUST breaking the surface – I call it “smiling”) your lentils without salt – as salt toughens the skin.  Add the salt at the end to taste.  One part lentils to 3 parts liquid is a good place to start if you want maximum absorption.  The Red Chief tends to be my favorite, as it gets mushy and I like to puree it for a “fine” soup, but beware, they turn yellow, they are not red after they’re cooked!  Golden Lentils cook more quickly if you’re short on time.  French green lentils (Lentille du Puy) contain less starch so they’re firmer when they’re  cooked.  Brown lentils are cheap and easy to find.  They take alot longer to cook though – around 45 minutes because they have tougher skins.  These days, though, you can find multiple varieties of lentils in almost any grocery store!!

That’s BALONEY!

REPRINTED FROM Southern Living – Meghan Overdeep

Few lunchmeats leave us with more questions than the classic bologna. It’s perfectly round, impossibly pink, and as synonymous with brown bag lunches as juice boxes. But for something so common, most Americans know very little about bologna’s origin.

While we’re not going to get into the exact ingredients used to make the homogenous meat (mostly pork), we do want to explore another bologna mystery: why it’s pronounced “baloney” and not “bo-lo-nya.”

Not surprisingly, the answer takes us to Italy. In particular, to the northern town of Bologna (bo-lo-nya), where mortadella, bologna’s kissing cousin, was born. Mortadella is traditional cured sausage made from ground pork. The bologna we know and love was derived from mortadella.

So that clears up how it got its name. As for how we came to pronounce it the way we do, we turn to a recent HuffPost investigation.

Linguist Mark Liberman’s theory is that our bizarre pronunciation follows the pattern of Italian words ending in -ia (Italia, Sicilia, and Lombardia), which took on -y endings in English (Italy, Sicily and Lombardy).

“My hypothesis would be that it’s an instance of the old pattern,” Liberman told HuffPost. “But it’s ‘Bologna’ not ‘Bolognia’, right?”

Others believe that it could have sprung from Italians’ penchant for shortening and altering words like “prosciut” for “prosciutto” and “mozz” or “mozzarel” for “mozzarella.”

Lexicographer and Wall Street Journal columnist Ben Zimmer told HuffPost that he agrees with Liberman’s theory. “It’s clear that the sausage was called that from the mid-19th century, and I’m sure that was a time when other Italian place names were getting anglicized in that way,” he noted.

By the 1920s, people were using “baloney” (or boloney) to describe non-food-related things. According to HuffPost, writer Harry Charles Witwer referred to a big clumsy boxer as “a boloney” in 1920. It wasn’t long before it was being used as a slang term within the larger world of sports.

“It was at a time when sportswriters in particular were looking for funny words to describe these lumbering boxers,” Zimmer told HuffPost. “And whatever connection they were making to the sausage ? whether it was that they had sausage for brains or they kind of looked like big sausages ? it served its purpose as a funny-sounding word.”

And then somewhere along the line, the “funny-sounding word” took on the definition we use it for today: nonsense.

So, there you have it. As for the exact details regarding how the funny-looking meat got it’s funny-sounding name, we may never know. We’re just sure glad it did.

Lula’s Note:  One of my favorite sandwiches is the Muffaletta – an Italian sandwich containing mortadella.  If you want to try a good mortadella go to The Farmstand Café in Union KY – they have a fabu free range mortadella sandwich!  And if you ever want mortadella on your Antipasti Platter from Lula’s … just ask – we’re happy to customize!

HOW MANY SPICES ARE IN ALLSPICE?

Just one! Allspice is the dried berry of a tree that grows all over the tropical Americas – called Pimenta Dioica. The berry is historically called allspice because it tastes like a combination of several spices, especially cloves. Clove can be a VERY strong spice both in aroma and taste (oil of clove is used as a numbing agent).   So when you want a hint of clove with a complex flavor, try allspice!!

Allspice is traditionally used in stuff like fruitcakes and plum puddings; Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses allspice in many savory applications as well as sweet. If you have a favorite use of allspice, let us know at http://lulasforlunch.com/blog .