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Volume 17   Number 7        No. 6    No. 5    No. 4    No. 3    No. 2   No. 1

  THIS WEEK'S FEATURES AND RECIPES:

  >  Article: Taking the Fear Out of Polenta

  >  Food Funnies: Signs You’re at a Restaurant Run by Cannibals

       S E L E C T E D    R E C I P E S :

    * Carrabba's Italian Grill Stuffed Mushrooms
       
    * Avocado Glazed Chicken Breasts
       
    * Grilled Rock Lobster Tails
       
    * Tournedos with Bearnaise Sauce
       
    * Enchanted Forest Salad
       
    * Roasted Asparagus Tips
       
    * Hasselback Potatoes
       
    * Chocolate Fondue

     Healthy Eating:

    Low Carb: Tuna and Avocado Salad

    Diabetic: Beef Paprikash

    Low Fat: Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

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  This Week's Cooking Tips

  Clarified Butter:

  For clarified butter, slowly melt unsalted butter over low heat.
 Don't let the butter come to a boil, and don't stir it. This
 allows the milk solids to separate from the liquid butter.

  Once the butter has separated into three layers--foamy milk
 solids on top, clarified butter in the middle, and milk solids on
 the bottom--turn off the heat. Skim the foamy white solids from the
 top. Then ladle off the clarified butter. Be careful not to disturb
 the milk solids at the bottom of the pan.

  Clarified butter can be used immediately. Or, let it solidify and
 keep it in the refrigerator for up to three to four weeks.
 Just remelt to use. One pound of unsalted butter yields 1-1/4 cups
 clarified butter. More Cooking Tips

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  This Week's Culinary Quiz (Answer at the bottom of page)

   Famous Victorian cookery writer Mrs Beeton had her
   "Book of Household Management" published in 1861. What
   was her first name?

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  Quote of the Week:

   "I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted
   most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them."

   Nora Ephron, "Heartburn"

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    UPCOMING FOOD HOLIDAYS:

        February is: Berry Fresh in the Sunshine State Month 
                     National Snack Food Month 
                     Canned Food Month 
                     North Carolina Sweet Potato Month 
                     Great American Pies Month 
                     National Grapefruit Month 
                     National Cherry Month 
                     National Potato Month 
                     Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month

           February 13 - National Tortini Day 
           February 14 - National Cream Filled Chocolates Day
           February 15 - National Gumdrop Day
           February 16 - National Almond Day
           February 17 - National Cafe Au Lait Day
           February 18 - National Crab Stuffed Flounder Day
           February 19 - National Chocolate Mint Day
           February 20 - National Cherry Pie Day

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  Taking the Fear Out of Polenta
   by Mark Bittman

  Like risotto, polenta suffers from the misguided belief that it’s a
 hassle to make. Experts say you have to "rain in the grain" - adding
 water to a large pot of water while constantly stirring the cornmeal
 in it to avoid lumps. And purists can be fussy about what type of
 cornmeal to use. These notions serve to intimidate the novice or
 average cook.

  Let’s set the record straight: it takes a while to make polenta, and
 you do have to pay attention. But its high-maintenance reputation is
 highly overstated. It’s easy enough to make for breakfast, and quite
 good with maple syrup.

  The key to making the process easy is starting out with a slurry, a
 slush-like mixture of cornmeal and water that you whisk together
 before cooking. You then put the slurry over not-too-high heat, bring
 it to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and gradually add more water as
 needed to keep the mixture smooth and loose.

  Aside from the occasional need to whisk to stop lumps from forming,
 all you need to to do from here is to make sure that you cook it long
 enough to rid the cornmeal of its raw taste. Coarse cornmeal will
 take up to 30 minutes, while a finer grind can cook in as little as
 15 minutes.

  Once the polenta is tender to the bite and reaches the consistency
 you want - aim for the thickness of sour cream - add black pepper,
 grated Parmesan cheese and butter: more is better.

  Polenta can be topped with almost anything: sausage and other
 juicy meats are nice, but consider sauteed wild mushrooms, roasted
 vegetables or anything saucy. Polenta is adaptable, in more ways than
 one.

  Creamy Polenta with Parmesan and Sausage

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    4 good-quality sweet Italian sausages
    1 cup medium-to-coarse cornmeal
    Salt
    1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
    2 tablespoons butter
    Freshly ground black pepper

  Put oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot,
 add sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on
 all sides and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

  Meanwhile, put cornmeal in a medium saucepan along with 1 cup water
 and whisk well to make a slurry; continue whisking mixture to
 eliminate any lumps. Put pan over medium-high heat, sprinkle with
 salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook,
 whisking frequently and adding water as needed to keep mixture loose
 and free of lumps, between 3 and 4 more cups. If mixture becomes too
 thick, simply add a bit more water; consistency should be similar to
 sour cream’s.

  Polenta will be done in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on grind. Add
 cheese and butter. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and lots of
 pepper; serve topped with sausages.

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  THE E-COOKBOOKS LIBRARY

             ALL YOU NEED TO COOK IT RIGHT!

   Discover The #1 Cookbook Collection In The World!

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  FOOD FUNNIES: Signs You’re at a Restaurant Run by Cannibals

 8. Instead of words on the menu, there are photos of people.

 7. You’re a little uncomfortable with the way the chef keeps
    commenting on how nicely you’ve filled out.

 6. When you visit the restroom, you find the liquid soap
    dispenser filled with a tangy barbecue sauce.

 5. The steak is cooked perfectly and smells great. But it has a
    tattoo on the edge.

 4. "No Bloody Marys tonight. Sorry, we’re all out. Might I
    interest you in an ice-cold Bloody Marguerita?"

 3. Their lunch buffet is named Jimmy, and their dinner buffet is
    named Warren.

 2. The breakfast menu features "Blueberry Pancreas with a side of
    Kevin Bacon."

   ... and the #1 Sign You’re at a Restaurant Run by Cannibals ...

 1. No sirloin in their burgers, just 100% Ground Chuck. 

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  Carrabba's Italian Grill Stuffed Mushrooms
  ================================
    12 to 15 large mushrooms
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 medium onion, chopped finely
    2 ounces diced pepperoni
    1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
    1 small clove garlic, minced
    1/2 cup finely crushed Ritz crackers, about 12 crackers
    3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
    1 tablespoon chopped parsley
    1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/3 cup chicken broth

  Heat oven to 325F. Wash mushrooms and remove stems. Finely chop
 stems and reserve.

  In a large skillet, melt butter and cook onion, pepperoni, green
 pepper, garlic and chopped mushroom stems until tender but not brown.
 Add crackers, parmesan, parsley, salt, oregano and a dash of pepper,
 and mix well. Spoon mixture into mushroom caps, heaping tops. In a
 shallow baking pan with 1/4-inch water covering bottom of pan, place
 stuffed mushrooms. Bake uncovered about 25 minutes until heated
 thoroughly.

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  Avocado Glazed Chicken Breasts
  ==========================
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    Vegetable oil
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon tarragon
    1 teaspoon pepper
    1 teaspoon basil
    1 large whole chicken breast, boned, halved (skin on)
    2/3 cup white wine
    1 tablespoon sweet butter
    1 egg, beaten
    1 ripe California avocado

  Mix flour, salt and pepper. Dip chicken in egg then flour mixture
 to coat. Heat a thin layer of oil in skillet. Saute chicken skin
 side down until golden. Turn and saute other side until chicken is
 tender. This will take about 7 to 10 minutes for the whole operation.

  Sprinkle herbs over chicken. Add wine and butter to pan. Bring to
 boil and simmer uncovered for 3 to 5 minutes until sauce thickens
 and becomes glossy.

  Place halved avocado cut side down and slice. Press down on avocado
 with palm of hand to fan slices slightly. Lift with knife or spatula
 to top of chicken. Spoon some pan juices over top. Cover skillet and
 heat briefly just to warm through.

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  Grilled Rock Lobster Tails
  ====================
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1/8 teaspoon white pepper
    1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
    2 (10 ounce) rock lobster tails

  Preheat grill for high heat. Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl,
 and slowly whisk in olive oil. Whisk in salt, paprika, white pepper,
 and garlic powder. Split lobster tails lengthwise with a large knife,
 and brush flesh side of tail with marinade.

  Lightly oil grill grate. Place tails, flesh side down, on preheated
 grill. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, and basting often
 with marinade. Discard any remaining marinade. Lobster is done when
 opaque and firm to the touch.

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  Tournedos with Bearnaise Sauce
  ==========================
    4 (3-ounce) tournedos of beef
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    2 teaspoons butter
    Bearnaise sauce, recipe follows

  Season tournedos well on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a
 small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the vegetable
 oil and the butter. Add the tournedos to pan and cook for 2 minutes
 on each side for medium-rare. Serve 2 tournedos per person, topped
 with the Bearnaise Sauce.

  Bearnaise Sauce:
    1 tablespoon chopped shallots
    1 lemon, juiced
    1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
    2 or 3 stems tarragon
    1 egg yolk
    1 teaspoon water
    2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted
    2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
    1/4 teaspoons salt
    1/8 teaspoon white pepper

  In a saucepan combine shallots, lemon juice, vinegar and tarragon
 stems and cook over medium heat until liquid has reduced to 2 tbls.
 Let reduction cool to room temperature.

  In a metal bowl, combine egg yolk, water and reduction over a pot
 of simmering water. Whisk well until egg mixture begins to form
 ribbons when whisk is lifted out of mixture. While continuing to
 whisk, drizzle in melted butter little by little until completely
 incorporated and sauce is thick. Add chopped tarragon, taste and
 season with salt and white pepper

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  Enchanted Forest Salad
  ===================
   Vinaigrette Dressing:
    3 tablespoons shallots, chopped
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    salt, to taste
    pepper, to taste

  Combine all ingredients. Set aside.

    12 ounces fresh wild mushrooms, assorted, sliced (shiitakes,
      criminis, oysters)
    extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing
    3 tablespoons fresh herbs, assorted, chopped (tarragon, parsley,
      chives, thyme)
    2 1/4 ounces arugula and radicchio leaves, washed and dried
    3 tablespoons pine nuts, (pignolis) toasted
    3 tablespoons tomatoes, peeled, diced

  Place oil in pan, heat thoroughly. Add mushrooms; saute until
 cooked. Add vinaigrette to pan; toss. Add herbs to pan; toss.

  Place hot mushrooms in bowl with lettuces; toss. Add nuts and
 diced tomatoes. To serve, divide into 2 plates, layering mushrooms
 on top.

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  Roasted Asparagus Tips
  ===================
    1 pound asparagus, trimmed to 4 to 5-inch tips
    1 small shallot, finely chopped
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon leaves
    Salt and pepper
    1/4 lemon, juiced

  Pile asparagus onto a baking sheet. Combine lemon, shallot,
 extra-virgin olive oil and tarragon. Pour the dressing over the
 asparagus and turn to coat spears in fat. Season the asparagus
 with salt and pepper and roast 15 to 17 minutes at 375F. Remove
 asparagus from oven and toss with a squirt of lemon.

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  Hasselback Potatoes
  =================
    2 small baking potatoes, about 3/4-pound total
    2 tablespoons melted butter
    1/3 cup chicken stock
    1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
    1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan
    1 tablespoon fine dry bread crumbs

  Preheat the oven to 425F. Peel potatoes. Cut each potato not quite
 through in a series of crosswise slices about 1/4-inch apart or
 closer so that they are still joined together at the bottom. Brush
 the potatoes with the melted butter and place in a small baking pan.
 Pour the chicken stock around the potatoes and sprinkle with the
 thyme leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until the
 potatoes are half cooked, 25 to 30 minutes, basting every 5 minutes
 with the butter-chicken stock mixture.

  In a small bowl combine the grated cheese and bread crumbs and
 divide the mixture evenly between the tops of the 2 potatoes.
 Continue roasting without any further basting until the potatoes
 are crispy on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

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  Chocolate Fondue
  ===============
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1 cup heavy cream
    8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon cabernet sauvignon
    Pound cake cubes, for dipping
    Strawberries, cleaned, for dipping
    Biscotti bits, for dipping

  In a microwave-safe bowl, mix the sugar, heavy cream, chocolate,
 and butter together and microwave for 2 minutes.

  Take out of microwave and give it a quick whisk. Add wine and whisk
 again. Transfer to a fondue pot with a flame underneath. Serve with
 pound cake cubes, strawberries, and biscotti bits on the side, for
 dipping.

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     This Week's Culinary Quiz Answer: Isabella

   Isabella Beeton was born in Cheapside on March 12th 1836. She
  began to write articles on cooking and household management for
  her husband who was a publisher of books and popular magazines.
  Soon after giving birth to her fourth child in 1865 Isabella was
  struck down by puerperal fever and died a week later at the age
  of 28. 

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