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Purple-flowered saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, a bulbous perennial of the iris family (Iridaceae) treasured for its golden-coloured, pungent stigmas, which are dried and used to flavour and colour foods and as a dye. Saffron is named among the sweet-smelling herbs in Song of Solomon 4:14. It has a strong, exotic aroma and a bitter taste. It is used to colour and flavour many Mediterranean and Oriental dishes, particularly rice and fish, and English, Scandinavian, and Balkan breads. It is an important ingredient in bouillabaisse. A golden-coloured, water-soluble fabric... read more

The History Of Salad

Almost exactly three hundred years ago Londoners could buy the first English-language book on how to make a salad. Called Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets (acetaria being an old word for salad greens), it instructed that only the freshest leaves straight from the garden should be used. They should be 'sprinkled', not soaked, in fresh water, drained in a colander, and then they should be swung"all together gently in clean, coarse napkin." They should be dressed with oil of a pallid olive green . . .such as native Lucca olives afford," with vinegar of the best quality... read more

Histor Of Salad Salats

"...Mezclun mix, $5.99/lb. this week at A & P!" How times have changed. Or should that be, what goes around comes around? Twenty years ago the average customer would have angrily criticized the assortment of mixed greens on his plate as weeds and grass clippings, before sending it back to the kitchen to be replaced with his beloved iceberg lettuce and hothouse tomatoes. Now what's touted as "mezclun mix" (the new "in" assortment of leaf lettuces mixed with arugula, spinach, escarole, and other colorful greens of various shapes) can be found in many restaurants across... read more

A Salmon Primer

Salmon is arguably the most popular fin fish on American menus today. But within the general heading of salmon there are a number of species and subtle variations in appearance, flavor and texture. Salmon available commercially to chefs and restauranteurs in the US, fall into two major groups, Atlantic salmon is typically farm raised, and not always in Atlantic waters. Pacific salmon is mostly caught wild. Atlantic Salmon: Since the late 1980's the popularity and availability of salmon has risen dramatically. This is due in no small part to the production of farm... read more

History Of Salt

Salt was an essential item on every medieval table. It was served not in shakers, as we do, but rather in a communal mound upon a bread trencher, or else in a communal saltcellar. Such saltcellars were often ornate, intricate, and fashioned of precious metals. A particularly popular style was the nef, in the shape of a ship, replete with tiny rigging, cannon, and sailors. Dipping food directly into the cellar was frowned upon. One would take a small portion and place it upon a clean trencher. Good quality salt was made from brine springs by evaporation, or from peat... read more

The King Of Cheeses Roquefort

Perhaps the oldest known cheese in the world, scholars speculate that Roquefort was known even to the ancient Romans. This cheese, made in the desolate southern French town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, was the first cheese in France to be legally protected from fraudulent look-alikes. While Roquefort is certainly not to everyone's liking (which means there is more of it for those of us who adore it), it is undisputedly one of the world's most famous and unique cheeses. Roquefort packs a punch. It does not strive for delicateness of flavor but instead delivers a powerful... read more

Cooking With Popcorn

Mention popcorn and most Americans think of theaters, sporting events, circuses and their microwave ovens. By far the largest use of popcorn is as a confection. However, popcorn also has a long history as a cookery ingredient. While conducting a computer search of the National Agricultural Library's holdings, I misspelled popcorn, leaving a space between the "p" and the "c." On the computer screen, out popped Mary Hamilton Talbott's Pop Corn Recipes, published by the Sam Nelson, Jr., Company of Grinnell, Iowa. Popcorn had long been viewed mainly as a snack food. Few... read more

Proper Poaching

Welcome back to class! Hopefully you have had a month of successful grilling! What have you grilled that was really great? Today, we are going to turn our attention from dry heat cooking methods (sautéing and grilling) and begin looking at moist heat cooking methods. Moist heat cooking methods use liquid or steam to transfer heat, thus cooking the product. In this class we will focus on one particular type of moist heat cooking--poaching. Poaching is certainly less practiced today than the methods covered in previous classes, sautéing and grilling. But poaching is... read more

Olive Descriptions

The lowly olive is one of the world's greatest and most historically coveted foods. Throughout history, the olive tree has been the subject of mythology, a sign of longevity, and a source for excellent wood. From the olive flows olive oil, a precious commodity that was used historically for food, fuel, the anointing of kings, industrial lubricant, medicinal balm, soap manufacture, and polishing finely cut diamonds.   The fruit of the olive tree, the olive itself, has been eaten for centuries (ever since people learned how to tame the raw, inedible olive and make... read more

Oysters Varieties

What's In A Name? The last five years has brought a large proliferation of Oysters to the market. Where as the menu of a few years ago was lucky to include the ubiquitous "Blue Point" the menus of today offer a range of oyster varieties. With the popularity of Oyster Bars, it is not unusual to see as many as 20 different oysters offered to the discriminating consumer. Oyster varieties such as the Quilcene,  Hog Island, Malpeque and Kumamoto have all but become house hold names and now even more recognizable to the under 30 crowd than the Beatles. But where do all these... read more

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