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Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Brief History of Pizza: The Dish that Conquered the World

Pizza, the way we know it today, is a derivation from focaccia (from the Latin word for fire), flat bread that has been prepared since antiquity in different forms and garnished with herbs, olives, fat, raisin, honey, and nuts.

The word pizza in Italian identifies any type of flat bread or pie—fried or baked. Although you’d find many types of pitas or pizzas around the Mediterranean, it is in Naples that pizza in the form we know it today first emerged, after the tomato appeared on the table in the 1700s. Naples has many records of pizza since around the year 1000; the first mentions call these flat breads laganae, and later they are referred to as picea. In those times, pizzas were dressed with garlic and olive oil, or cheese and anchovies, or small local fish. They were baked on the open fire and sometimes were closed in two, as a book, to form a calzone.

 In Naples is also where the first pizzerias opened up, with brick wood-burning oven, covered with lava stones from the Mount Vesuvius. The chefs of those times ignored pizza because was considered a poor people’s food, but the new combination with the tomato, when it entered the kitchen around the 1770s, must have raised some curiosity, even in the royal palace. Ferdinand I Bourbon, King of Naples, loved the simple food of the people and went to taste the pizzas made in the shop of Antonio Testa. He liked it so much that he wanted pizza to be included in the menu at the court. He failed after the opposition of his wife, Queen Maria Carolina. His son Ferdinand II also liked all kind of popular food and he loved pizza to the point that he hired Domenico Testa, son of the now famous Antonio, to build a pizza oven in the royal palace of Capodimonte.

Pizza became very popular, earning its place in Neapolitan folklore. Simple and economical, it turned into the food for all people, even sold on the streets, as shown in many illustrations of the time.

A famous episode extended the popularity of pizza beyond the limits of the city of Naples. It was 1889, and Margherita, queen of Italy, was visiting the city. She was told about pizza and wanted to taste it. A famous cook by the name of Don Raffaele, helped by his wife Donna Rosa, was invited to cook pizza at the royal palace. They prepared three pizzas, typical of that time: one with cheese and basil; one with garlic, oil, and tomato; and one with mozzarella, basil, and tomato. The queen, impressed by the colors of the last pizza, which resembled the national flag, preferred that one. Since then this pizza is known as Pizza Margherita, and Don Raffaele is credited with its invention, even if we know that it already existed for a long time.

At the beginning of the last century, with Italian immigrants, the first pizzerias appeared also in the United States, where pizza has become a mass phenomenon. Yet, even today the best pizza is found in Naples, where it is rigorously made with buffalo mozzarella. Superior pizzas are considered those obtained by moderate variations of the simplest and most popular: Pizza Napoletana with tomato, garlic, oil, and oregano; Pizza Margherita; Pizza Marinara with tomato, anchovies, capers, and olives; and Pizza Four Seasons, divided in four quadrants, each dressed in a different way. Pizza with hot salami, the American pepperoni pizza, is instead found in the Calabria region south of Naples, where this type of hot sausage is produced.


Monday, February 20, 2012

3 Ways To Cook The Perfect Rice


Rice may be cooked by 3 methods, each of which requires a different proportion of water. These methods are boiling, which requires 12 times as much water as rice;  the Japanese method, which requires 5 times as much; and steaming, which requires 2-1/2 times as much. Whichever of these methods is used, however, it should be remembered that the rice grains, when properly cooked, must be whole and distinct. To give them this form and prevent the rice from having a pasty appearance, this cereal should not be stirred too much in cooking nor should it be cooked too long.

BOILED RICE  - Boiling is about the simplest way.  Properly boiled rice not only forms a valuable dish itself, but is an excellent foundation for other dishes that may be served at any meal. The water in which rice is boiled should not be wasted, as it contains much nutritive material. This water may be utilized in the preparation of soups or sauces, or it may even be used to supply the liquid required in the making of yeast bread.

BOILED RICE (Sufficient to Serve Eight)
1 c. rice ; 3 tsp. Salt;  3 qt. boiling water

Wash the rice carefully and add it to the boiling salted water. Boil rapidly until the water begins to appear milky because of the starch coming out of the rice into the water or until a grain can be easily crushed between the fingers. Drain the cooked rice through a colander, and then pour cold water over the rice in the colander, so as to wash out the loose starch and leave each grain distinct. Reheat the rice by shaking it over the fire, and serve hot with butter, gravy, or cream or milk and sugar.

JAPANESE METHOD - Rice prepared by the Japanese method may be used in the same ways as boiled rice. However, unless some use is to be made of the liquid from boiled rice, the Japanese method has the advantage of being a more economical way of cooking this cereal.

JAPANESE METHOD  (Sufficient to Serve Eight)
1 c. rice ; 1-1/2 tsp. Salt; 5 c. boiling water

Wash the rice, add it to the boiling salted water, and boil slowly for 15 minutes. Then cover the utensil in which the rice is cooking and place it in the oven for 15 minutes more, in order to evaporate the water more completely and make the grains soft without being mushy. Serve in the same way as boiled rice.

STEAMED RICE - To steam rice requires more time than either of the preceding cooking methods, but it causes no loss of food material. Then, too, unless the rice is stirred too much while it is steaming, it will have a better appearance than rice cooked by the other methods. As in the case of boiled rice, steamed rice may be used as the foundation for a variety of dishes and may be served in any meal.


STEAMED RICE (Sufficient to Serve Six)
1 c. rice; 1-1/2 tsp. Salt 2-1/2 c. water

Wash the rice carefully and add it to the boiling salted water. Cook it for 5 minutes and then place it in a double boiler and allow it to cook until it is soft. Keep the cooking utensil covered and do not stir the rice. About 1 hour will be required to cook rice in this way. Serve in the same way as boiled rice.


Good luck.
Rahul Patgaonkar
Shrikrishnadining.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

7 Steps for World Class Gourmet Coffee




For a change, a good cup of coffee would be nice. It does take some time and some energy to find a great cup of gourmet coffee these days. If you do know of a perfect coffee shop, you are one of the lucky ones. But, did you know that you can basically make a nice cup of coffee on your own from home?

Here are 7 simple steps that you can take to produce the perfect cup of coffee every time.

Start with quality. One of the most critical aspects of coffee drinking is the grade of the coffee that you start off with. If you have a favorite flavor, then purchase whole beans in that flavor. If you can do this, it will allow you to get the most fresh coffee accessible.

Grind away. Purchase a quality coffee grinder. Some of the best grinders available today are easy to use and easy to clean up. By grinding your own coffee beans, youll be able to only grind what you need, meaning that you will have complete freshness in your coffee.

Store It Right And Tight. It is very fundamental to store your coffee tightly. Air oxidizes the coffee and can make it to get bitter quickly. Metal canisters can also enable a metal taste to get into the coffee, making it taste bad.

The top solution is for a plastic or ceramic air tight container for your coffee and coffee beans. Also, store it at room temperature because the moisture in the fridge or freezer can make it go bad faster.

Getting To The Coffee

The Maker. The coffee maker that you use is also critical. No matter what style that you go with, you can get a good cup of coffee out of it if you take the essential steps to keeping it fresh.

For example, you should insure that the coffee maker is kept clean after each use. In fact, youll need to make sure that you detail clean it, with the assistance of vinegar, every so often as well. Your preferences will ultimately determine which style of coffee maker you will use. Make sure that it uses a permanent filter in it.

Even In The Water. Even the water that you use is central to the quality of the coffee you will get from it. It is essential that you use water that is free from chlorine and minerals.

Often, using bottled water rather than tap water will augment the quality of the coffee. Also, keep the water nice and hot. A good temperature for the water is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Supply The Right Amount. It is also central for you to use the right quantity of coffee beans and coffee grounds in the maker. Too many and you will have a very strong cup of coffee and too few will make it to be too weak. Follow the directions provided by the coffee producer for the best cup of coffee.

Lastly and probably the most vital aspect of getting a great cup of gourmet coffee is to make sure to enjoy your coffee when it is hot and fresh. Most restaurants are told to keep coffee for less than thirty minutes, but at home, the best coffee is the coffee that hasnt sat for more than twenty minutes.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

4 Easy Tips for Making Iced Coffee Drinks at Home




A big chill is sweeping the coffee industry as iced coffee beverages gain popularity.

According to the National Coffee Association, the percentage of Americans who drink iced coffee beverages increased from 20 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2004. Following the popularity of cappuccinos and mocha lattes, consumers are discovering that coffee is just as tasty - and even more refreshing - when served cold.

Iced coffee can be as easy to prepare as iced tea. A variety of options, such as flavoring syrups, cold milk, chocolate and spices, allow you to create personalized coffee concoctions that are just as delicious as those served in your favorite cafe.

Beverages such as iced vanilla mocha, iced rum coffee and iced latte are easy to make at home. Here are some tips for refreshing iced coffee drinks.

* Pour the flavoring syrup into the cup first. To complete the drink, pour in espresso or coffee, then the ice, and top it off with cold milk.

* Don't let your beverage become watered down. Cool your favorite coffee beverage with ice cubes made from fresh-brewed coffee instead of water.

* Use a machine that produces a high quality coffee or espresso. The Capresso CoffeeTeam Luxe, for example, grinds coffee beans right before brewing and allows you to control the strength of your coffee.

* Be creative. Add a personalized touch to your iced coffee beverages with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, nutmeg or cinnamon.