Stop Spiralizing Zucchini — a Peeler Works Better

Christopher Kimball wrote . . . . . . . . .

Spiralizing zucchini into “noodles” often translates into a wan and watery dish, a poor imitation of the pasta it attempts to emulate. Generally, it’s better to let an ingredient shine on its own merits. And for raw zucchini, we didn’t need to look far to find a better answer.

The Italians have done it for ages, reducing whole zucchini to paper-thin ribbons, then dressing them simply — some lemon juice, a bit of oil, maybe some honey, Parmesan, fresh herbs and nuts. The effect is a fresh and vibrant salad made in minutes.

In this recipe from our book “Milk Street Tuesday Nights,” which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we use a vegetable peeler to slice zucchini into thin ribbons. The zucchini really shines, balanced with the clean, sharp flavors of a lemony dressing along with Parmesan and hazelnuts. The hazelnuts — or almonds, if that’s what you have on hand — give the salad crunch and a slightly buttery note.

Don’t worry if the ribbons vary in width; this adds to the visual appeal of the dish. And don’t dress the salad until you are ready to serve. The zucchini and herbs are delicate and quickly wilt.

Shaved Zucchini and Herb Salad with Parmesan

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons juice (1 lemon)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon honey

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 pound zucchini (2 medium)

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus shaved to serve

1/2 cup lightly packed mint, torn

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and roughly chopped

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, oil, honey, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside. Use a Y-style peeler or mandoline to shave the zucchini from top to bottom into ribbons; rotating as you go. Stop shaving when you reach the seedy core. Discard the cores.

To the dressing, add the shaved zucchini, grated cheese, mint and basil, then toss until evenly coated. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and hazelnuts.

Source: AP

Gardening: A Tomato Lover’s 7 Tips for Growing Them Big

Jessica Damiano wrote . . . . . . . . .

Tomatoes are not only my favorite backyard crop — they’re also the most popular among American home gardeners. And it’s no wonder: Have you ever compared a supermarket tomato to a backyard one? The homegrown scent alone will transport you straight to summer.

Another benefit of growing your own tomatoes is variety. Seeds for yellow, black, pear-shaped and even giant tomatoes — which you won’t typically find in the produce aisle — are readily available in catalogs and many garden centers. And since my tomatoes-of-choice are large and lumpy, that’s typically how I roll.

I’m so enamored with them that while writing a garden column for Newsday in New York, I created and for 13 years hosted The Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, a gathering of fellow tomatophiles in search of the biggest fruit of the season (yes, tomatoes are technically fruits).

Over the years, I came face-to-face with many beautiful, sweetly scented, giant tomatoes, including a 5 lb., 4 oz., beauty that was the largest ever entered into the competition — not to mention heavier than some newborn humans.

I also got to meet and speak with the competitive tomato growers who raised those champions, and it didn’t take long to notice some commonalities in practice among them.

But first things first: Although tomato plants can be a little fussy, they aren’t difficult to grow. Give them consistent watering (deep and infrequent trumps a daily sprinkle), well-draining soil (incorporate generous helpings of compost into beds or containers at planting time), plenty of heat and light (direct, unobstructed sunshine for a minimum of 6 hours daily is best) and a slow-release, balanced fertilizer formulated for tomatoes.

Keeping beds well-weeded will remove breeding grounds for pests and diseases while eliminating competition for nutrients and water.

Tomatoes thrive best in soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8. Test kits are worth their $10-$20 cost and will last for many years. If the pH reading is lower than 6.0, incorporate about 2 cups of dolomitic lime into the soil for each plant, working it about 8-12 inches deep.

So, you want to grow a whopper? Follow these seven expert tips for success:

1. Select large, indeterminate varieties like Big Zac, Porterhouse, Rhode Island Giant or Bull’s Heart, all genetically programmed to produce large fruit.

2. Start seeds early indoors and transplant seedlings into larger containers several times before moving them outdoors. Plant them deeply each time, removing leaves from the bottom one-third of plants and burying stems up to the next set of leaves. This will produce stronger plants.

3. Remove new flowers that develop at the top of the plant when older fruits near the bottom begin to grow. This will force the plant’s energy into producing fewer but larger tomatoes.

4. Be vigilant! Monitor plants daily for pests and diseases — and react to problems quickly to keep plants from becoming stressed.

5. Remove suckers — the small shoots that grow at the junction where the plant’s stems and branches meet — to prevent them from sapping the plant’s energy and shading developing fruit beneath them.

6. Prune plants to retain only one main branch instead of allowing them to develop into shrubby forms.

7. Be diligent: Water, fertilize and weed regularly.

Source: AP

How to Eat Millefeuille?

Sweetsholic wrote . . . . . . . . .

Bonjour from Southern France!

Living here is full of surprises. Things that overturn the image of France are scattered all over the place in our daily lives.

That’s why today I would like to introduce you to the “correct way to eat mille-feuille” that surprised me when I lived in France.

Here, you can find mille-feuille everywhere, from small bakeries to gorgeous cafes and supermarkets. The Napoleon pie with strawberries is also delicious, isn’t it?

Well, how do you guys eat?

I think there are many people who are worried that “the crust is hard to cut with a fork, the cream sticks out, and you can’t eat it neatly!!”.

How French people eat the mille-feuille?

Actually, not only us but also French people think that “mille-feuille is hard to eat!”

So how do you eat it like the French?

The answer is, grab it! Tilt the mille-feuille to the side, pinch it with your hands, and eat it like a sandwich. Certainly, this way of eating does not cause the cream to squeeze out or the crispy puff pastry to scatter.

By the way, the classic French snack “crepe” is often eaten by hand here!

However, eating by hand is only at home or picnics. Whether you eat it by hand or eat it with a fork depends on the person you eat with and the situation.

In any case, if you eat mille-feuille sideways, it will not crumble and will be easy to eat!

Source: You Pouch

How Chains Are Challenging Traditional Chinese Cooking

Zhong Shuru wrote . . . . . . . . .

Chinese cuisine defies easy characterization. It encompasses a wide range of regional sub-cuisines, each defined by local tastes, techniques, and ingredients. Even staple dishes like fried tomatoes and eggs or twice-cooked pork can look and taste radically different depending on the chef’s background. More complex dishes rarely have a standard recipe and require a highly refined skillset and years of practice to master.

Perhaps that’s one reason why Chinese have been slow to embrace the consistency of chain restaurants. According to a 2021 industry report, chains accounted for just 15% of all food service businesses in China in 2020, compared to 61% in the United States and 53% in Japan.

That gap is closing quickly, however. In recent years, Chinese malls have been flooded by an eclectic range of mid- to high-end franchise dining options, led by brands like Haidilao, Home Original Chicken, and Xibei Youmiancun. The largest of these, hot pot giant Haidilao, has 935 outlets and has begun expanding overseas, though it still accounts for just 5% of China’s hot pot market.

Chains are not a new concept in China. For years, low-cost fast-food brands like Shaxian Delicacies, Lanzhou Beef Noodles, and Braised Chicken With Rice have battled for market share. But their management model, wherein stores are operated by independent franchisees with little oversight, results in a far lower degree of standardization and consistency than Western fast-food chains like McDonalds.

What sets the new generation of Chinese chain restaurants apart from earlier Chinese chains is their use of “central kitchens.” These facilities are essentially factories where ingredients purchased by the chain’s headquarters are prepared, either partially or completely, according to a standardized procedure before being sent to restaurants.

Take the Chinese Sauerkraut Fish chain, for example. Most ingredients used in the chain’s South China region stores are processed at three central kitchens. These kitchens gut and cut the fish, package it with seasonings, and chop up vegetables. Once these pre-processed ingredients arrive at the chain’s outlets, all chefs have to do is boil the soup, blanch the fish meat, and drizzle oil on top — basic tasks that can be completed within 15 minutes of a customer placing their order.

Central kitchens may run counter to Chinese culinary tradition, which emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients, but they free chains from the hassle of local supply chains. According to a department head at Jiumaojiu Group, which operates restaurants specializing in Northwest Chinese cuisine, the company purchases ingredients in bulk quantities from suppliers throughout the country. The company directly oversees the production of some key ingredients, such as pork, to ensure quality and consistency. Chain restaurants are products of industrialized agriculture — and their success is another sign that the traditional relationship between food and the land is breaking down.

The central kitchen model also has little use for chefs. A good chef used to be the guarantor of a decent meal, with many patrons basing their decision to visit a certain restaurant purely on its chef’s reputation. By contrast, central kitchens operate on an assembly line model: All manner of specialized industrial machines, such as vegetable dicers and bone saws, are involved in the processing of ingredients. The culinary experience no longer lies in the hands of chefs, meaning they aren’t required to be masters of their craft; their prior experience is irrelevant; and they’re easy to replace.

As for menus, central kitchen-based chains often adopt a “less is more” approach. As anyone who has handled a Chinese menu can attest, traditional Chinese restaurants typically offer a wide range of dishes, and better establishments continually update their menus to create new options for regular patrons.

That is not the case at many newer chain restaurants. The shorter their menus are, the simpler quality control becomes. The goal is efficiency, achieved by minimizing the time it takes to produce each dish. Chinese Sauerkraut Fish takes this minimalist approach to the extreme, offering diners just one flavor, one type of fish, and one level of spice.

The financial advantages of this model are obvious. Central kitchens allow Chinese chain restaurants to save on raw materials, labor, and rent. (Because the vast majority of ingredients have already been prepared elsewhere, outlets don’t need large kitchen spaces.) Carefully designed assembly lines and standardized outputs make expansion a matter of copy-and-pasting.

For some chains, central kitchens have even become a key business in their own right. Haidilao subsidiary Shuhai Supply Chain Solutions uses the chain’s central kitchen model to supply ingredients to over 2,000 outlets of more than 300 restaurant brands. As of the end of 2019, Shuhai’s overall sales had surpassed 6 billion yuan ($942 million) — more than that of many of Haidilao’s leading competitors.

The pandemic has reinforced chains’ competitive edge. Rising labor costs and rents, combined with overworked urban consumers’ growing desire for solitary and fast dining experiences, have put chain restaurants with central kitchens at a significant advantage. At the same time, more and more households have begun to purchase pre-prepared meals — that is, ingredients that have already been thoroughly processed and which the buyer can simply throw into a pan and heat up after coming home from a hard day of work. Even our dinner tables are being integrated into the chain system.

But does the rise of chain restaurants really signal the end of traditional Chinese cuisine? Perhaps I’m an optimist, but I’m not so sure. Chain restaurants still represent a niche market, heavily concentrated in large cities and catered to young people who value efficiency. Competition in these oversaturated markets is cutthroat: Many Chinese chains invest tremendous resources in social media marketing, hoping to become the next must-visit destination for young influencers. This tempers the chains’ appeal to other consumers, including families and high-end luxury diners.

It’s also worth noting that central kitchen-reliant chains are concentrated in a handful of cuisines, such as hot pot. The heady spice of the mala flavor profile is not particularly demanding in terms of ingredients or culinary techniques, and it helps mask some of the deficiencies of the central kitchen model. Demand for spicy food has grown in recent years, but there are still plenty of diners who have little tolerance for peppers, and who prefer independent restaurants with a more diverse flavor profile.

China is not immune from the “McDonaldization” of society. Chains promise investors a high degree of control and efficiency while producing steady, predictable results. They’ll probably continue to grow in the coming years. But it’s unlikely they’ll overturn traditional Chinese culinary culture. If anything, there’s an argument to be made that many of today’s independent restaurant operators will outlast the current crop of chains. After all, when a business relies on machine-like processes to expand, all it takes is a competitor with a slightly better machine to leave them in the dust.

Source: Sixth Tone

Chocolate Flavour Wheel – Learn to Taste Chocolate Like an Expert!

Like wine, fine chocolate can have many amazing individual flavors.

They are influenced by where the cacao is grown, their climate and soil, as well as by techniques used by the chocolate makers.

Flavours wheels can help identify these flavors.

Use this flavour wheel to help you identify and express aromas in chocolate.

Source: True Chox