Friday, June 25, 2010

Substituting Ingredients

When it comes to essential kitchen reference books, there are several I wouldn't be without. Substituting Ingredients, 4th Edition by Becky Sue Epstein and published by Sourcebooks, is now in that stack of books.

I can't count the times I've gotten excited to make a dish only to find that I was missing a necessary ingredient. Frustrating! Even with all of my culinary experience I found I was still scratching my head in wonder and eventually throwing in the towel.

Enter Substituting Ingredients. From A to Z there are more than 1,000 substitutions for all types of ingredients. So, whether you need to substitute because of allergies, the need to find more affordable alternatives or just the lack of time to get to the market, this book provides viable and brilliant answers to your ingredient dilemmas.

This being the 4th edition means that there are more ingredients included and more substitutions available than ever before. There are also sections for measurement equivalents, solutions to your most common culinary disasters, green and nontoxic cleaning solutions and a handy herb and spice guide.

This is a book that will make its way to your kitchen counter and most likely never leave! Order a copy today at and never be without the ingredients you need to create perfect meals.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ile De France Fol Epi Cheese

About six months ago I learned that one of my great-grandfathers was a cheese maker. I was thrilled at this information for obvious reasons, the least of which is my love of cheese. I've tried so many types of cheese, some memorable and others not so, but I rarely find a cheese that I dislike. Ile De France produces many of my favorite French cheeses and I'm always happy to try new ones.

French cheeses are so different in nature than others and I find that each has a quality to it that pairs well with certain foods; sort of like I fine wine. Fol Epi is a cheese with a distinctive flavor likened to Emmental. Nutty and smooth, it doesn't have quite the bite that a Swiss would have and is milder in flavor, but equally delicious.

My favorite grilling cheese is of the Swiss variety, so I knew exactly what would become of this lovely sampling. The sandwich was so good, and the flavor of the cheese so mild, that my 3 year-old daughter couldn't get enough ... thankfully the other kids were out for the day.

The Fol Epi Grilled Sandwich
Serves 1
2 teaspoons grainy brown mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1 Naan bread
4 ounces smoked turkey breast slices
1 ounce sliced Ile De France Fol Epi cheese
red pepper slices
tomato slices
leaf lettuce

1. Slice Naan in half crosswise. Spread both halves with mustard and honey on one side only.
2. Layer one side with turkey, red pepper and cheese. Top with other half.
3. Cook in a non-stick grill pan, flipping once, until cheese is melted - about 3 -4 minutes.
4. Carefully remove one half and top with tomatoes and lettuce - replace top and serve.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook

Mireille Guilliano, businesswoman extraordinaire and author took time out of her busy schedule recently to speak with me. Yes, me. I behaved myself rather well and didn't fall apart despite the fact that I was beyond nervous to speak to such an icon. I think I blathered on a bit too much about how I'd love to live in Provence, but she was gracious enough to listen to me.

I had read her first book, French Women Don't Get Fat, several years ago and, forgive the pun, absolutely devoured it. I, like so many American women, was searching for the answer to my expanding waistline and the best way to manage it. I thought then, and still think now, that Mireille hit the proverbial nail on the head with her book.

She espoused a more austere form of eating that had more to do with enjoying what one eats than how much one eats. There was no calorie counting or strict rules, just a common sense approach that was a sort of forehead slapping moment once I'd read it. Rather than the whole chicken, why not just a breast - and slowly consumed at that?

We are so busy and unfocused in America that eating has gone from pleasurable and deliberate to haphazard and as fast as we can get it. Mireille gently but effectively redirected us and has now expanded on her first book with a perfectly sensible and wonderfully delicious cookbook.

We chatted about college and the 'freshman 15', how food choices away from home are often difficult to make wisely (she knew this all too well from her own college days) and how getting to know your food can help to make better choices.

Her advice to parents wanting to make a family-wide change is to take your children to the market and helping them to connect with their food and where it comes from. Letting them help prepare is also a great way to help them want to eat better.

Over at Half Hour Meals we like to ask our interviewees which ingredients they can't live without. Mireille shared hers with me:

Dairy - especially cheese. Mireille has cheese every day.
Eggs - for their versatility and thrift. They're also quick to prepare for unexpected company.
Fresh fruits and vegetables.
Olive oil

There are 150 recipes in the The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook - several from her other books because they were requested so often - and each one looks divine.

I'm completely smitten with her Miracle Breakfast Cream and I prepared the Caramelized Chicken with Vegetable “Pancake” and it was one of the best chicken dishes I've ever eaten and so quick and easy to prepare that it's become a regular dish here. In fact, you can watch Mireille prepare it here:

Caramelized Chicken with Vegetable “Pancake”
• S e r v e s 4 •

For the Vegetable Pancake

1 carrot, washed and grated
2 medium potatoes, peeled
and grated
1 small zucchini, washed
and grated
1 garlic clove, peeled and
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground

1. Place the grated carrot, potatoes, and zucchini
in the center of a large, clean kitchen towel. Wrap
tightly and squeeze as much liquid as possible
from the vegetables. Unroll and place the grated
vegetables in a large bowl. Add the garlic, thyme,
and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix well.

2. In a large, nonstick sauté pan, heat the remaining
2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the vegetable mixture to the pan, pressing
down so the pancake is about 1/2 inch thick and
cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Carefully
flip the pancake over (you can invert onto a
plate first and slide back into the pan if you are
nervous about the pancake falling apart) and continue
cooking until the other side is crisp and
golden and the vegetables are cooked, another 8 to
10 minutes. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
Season to taste.

For the caramelized Chicken

1 lemon, rinsed, dried, and
12 small green olives, pitted
and cut in half
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless,
boneless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine the lemon, olives, red
pepper flakes, honey, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon
olive oil. Add the chicken breasts, season to
taste, and stir to coat.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a
large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the
chicken-lemon-olive mixture and sauté until the
chicken is cooked through and slightly caramelized,
about 8 minutes per side. Serve the chicken
with lemon and olives and accompanied by a
wedge of the vegetable pancake.

I so appreciate Mireille speaking with me and enlightening me about her books and her way of life - I love this cookbook and highly recommend it - there are no overly fussy recipes, just quick, delicious food that will satisfy more than your tummy.

Book provided by and interview arranged through Simon and Schuster.