Blog Posts by Zester Daily

  • Why Go Against the Grain? Two Recipes that Get Whole Grains Right

    By Maria Speck
    I serve whole grains all day long, for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- yet I never set out a plate or bowl of "healthy whole grains." With our well-meaning efforts to improve our diets and change our fast-food habits, we have done whole grains a disservice. We have labeled them as wholesome, nutritious and "oh so good for you."

    Few people associate whole grains with mouthwatering flavorful meals. But imagine a warm breakfast bowl of citrus-infused millet simmered in milk with a drizzle of honey and topped with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt. Or a mound of comforting Parmesan polenta with a dab of butter next to your sizzling steak. What about the gentle chew of nutty bulgur in a tomato-infused soup, combined with red lentils, a classic Middle Eastern preparation? Surprising to most, these delectable starches make exquisite desserts too.

    I would love for everyone to discover the versatility and rich variety of these ancient staples that have been part of our

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  • Eat Your Green Vegetables -- for Dessert (Kids Will Too!)

    Spinach cake

    By Lauren Chattman

    When my doctor, reviewing routine blood work a few weeks ago, told me I was anemic, the first thing I did was run out and buy a rib-eye steak for myself. It was the quickest remedy I could think of to pep up my tired, almost-vegetarian blood.

    But it was also the least interesting. As a baker and former pastry chef, it didn't take long for me to consider how I might supplement my iron-poor diet with a thoughtfully prepared dessert. I wasn't interested in recipes developed by food faddists.


    What is one cookbook author's beef with new-age vegetarians?

    What are two of the best new vegan cookbooks?

    What is the signature black bean enchiladas recipe from the author of "The Very Best of Health Recipes"?

    It had to be something I'd want to make regardless of doctor's orders. It wasn't until I Googled "spinach cake" that I hit what I believed to be dessert pay dirt. With these magic words I discovered a traditional Turkish recipe

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  • 3 Great Hot Soups to Make You Forget It's Cold

    Hearty vegetable soup

    By Zester Daily Staff

    On dark, cold nights, nothing is more comforting than a warm kitchen filled with the wonderful aromas of food being prepared. Garlic and mushrooms sautéing in olive oil. Pear tarts coming out of the oven, their sweetness bubbling and reaching out to us to have a slice after dinner. And there are the soups.

    As the temperature drops outdoors, we hunger to raise our internal temperature.

    Staring out the window at blustery, darkening skies and steady downpours, we feel we are well protected with a hot bowl of soup in hand. Matzo ball soup, split pea with ham, French onion soup with a fat topping of toasted bread and melted cheese, mushroom-barley soup, lentil soup with browned disks of Italian sausage, oxtail soup with crispy croutons -- everyone has a favorite soup they long for when they feel tired, cold and moody.

    1. Hearty Vegetable Soup

    From Zester Daily contributor David Latt

    To prepare an easy-to-make vegetarian soup, just

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  • 6 Secrets for a Long, Delicious Life

    By Zester Daily staff

    You've read for years that the Mediterranean diet can offer a long life with less chronic illness. But just what exactly are Greeks and Italians doing to get those health benefits?

    Tracey Lawson, author of "A Year in the Village of Eternity" explored the Italian village of Campodimele, to discover how people there live extraordinarily long, healthy lives. In Campodimele, 111 of the 671 people between 75 and 98 years old, and the average life expectancy of both men and women there is 95.

    Similarly, the Greek island of Ikaria was studied by Dan Buettner, author of "The Blue Zone," a book on the areas in the world where longevity is off the charts. Ikarians are a third more likely than Americans to reach the age of 90; they have a 20 percent lower cancer rate, about half the rate of cardiovascular disease and almost no dementia.

    Here are the six secrets to longevity diet:

    1. Cook like the poor. Cucina povera -- the cooking of the poor -- means using

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  • Paula Deen's Diabetes: Why Sugar is Not the Bad Guy

    Sugar in plain sight is a ton better than the covert kind

    Editor's note: As celebrity chef Paula Deen, famous for not being shy with butter or sugar in her down-home recipes, announced she has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, sugar-loving dessert cookbook author Gesine Bullock-Prado reflects on the demonization of sweets.

    By Gesine Bullock-Prado

    I'm a pusher. A sugar peddler. I'm the lady on the street corner with a bag of taffy in her hand who lures you over with: "The first one's free. Come back if you like it."

    Go ahead, cast your aspersions. I'll just be here casting sugar molds and licking the spoon while you rail away at my evil ways. I can take it. Pastry chefs get guff from all sides, especially within the culinary ranks. If you've ever watched an episode of "Top Chef" (not the "Desserts" edition, obviously), there's a guarantee that some perfectly competent chef will mutter, "Not dessert -- I don't do pastry," in a tone so dismissive you'd think they'd been asked to use a toothpick to clean the bottom of a pair of

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  • It's Golden Globes Time! 10 Best Food Movies Ever!

    By David Latt

    If cold weather traps you indoors for months each winter, you might run through your queue of streaming movies pretty quickly. Why not entertain yourself with a library of the best food-related cinema? A great food movie has to have well-detailed cooking and eating scenes, with good production values, casting, writing and direction. A great food movie has to make you hungry.

    Here is my Top 5 list of great food movies. (Editor's note: The link to Nos. 6 through 10 is at the bottom of this list.)

    1. "Julie & Julia" (2009). What a delight to watch Meryl Streep portray culinary icon Julia Child as she discovers the wonders of French cooking. Amy Adams does a charming job of bringing to life blogger Julie Powell who decides to give her life focus by making each and every recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

    Related: How did Julia Child's recipes change over time?

    2. "Mostly Martha" (2001). The American remake, "No Reservations" (2007),

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  • Finding Cookware Gems Everywhere - Even in the Trash

    Wonderfully low-tech and useful food mill.Wonderfully low-tech and useful food mill.

    Editor's note: Anne Mendelson may not fit your description of a dumpster-diver. She is a culinary historian and author of "Stand Facing the Stove," a biography of the authors of "The Joy of Cooking." But when it comes to unearthing kitchen gems, especially from the trash, she leads the parade. Cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins joins in with tips for restoring cast-iron skillets.

    By the Zester Daily staff

    At 9:00 yesterday morning, I carried the garbage down the hall to the trash room in my apartment building. At 9:01, I was the owner of a new carbon-steel wok -- well, not new, but newly grabbed from the trash room floor where I'd found it wistfully gazing up at me. It was perfectly usable, though the wok was a trifle rusted and the lid had lost its wooden knob. A very little work with kosher salt and oil got rid of the first problem. The second was easily enough solved by threading a loop of butcher's twine through the hole and tying a few knots to keep the string

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  • How Martha Stewart Changed My Life

    Martha Stewart in 2008.
    Editor's note: For more than a decade, Martha Stewart has been as much a staple as any food group in shaping the patterns of home cooks. With news that her cable TV show has been canceled, Zester Daily brings the reflections of author Brette Sember, who writes about what comes next and how her Martha Stewart obsession led to exhaustion, dirty dishes and the discovery of one life-changing trick.

    * * *

    By Brette Sember

    Martha Stewart changed my life. And not in the ways you would expect. I have a love/hate relationship with her as do many women -- we are drawn to the perfect world she creates, while simultaneously resenting her for making us feel inadequate. When I was facing down 40 (and all that number stood for), I gave in to the temptation to remake my life in Martha's image. I unofficially apprenticed myself to the queen of "good things" for one year. I cooked her recipes, made her crafts, organized and decorated my house according to her aesthetics and bought her

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  • The Cure for Winter Tomatoes

    Roasting is the perfect answer for imperfect tomatoes.

    By David Latt

    With gray skies overhead and a constant chill in the air, it is easy to long for the fresh taste of sun-ripened tomatoes. Unfortunately, at this time of year, the tomatoes available at farmers markets or supermarkets lack the rich acidic-sweetness of their full-bodied summer cousins.

    In California and some Southern states, tomatoes continue to be cultivated outdoors throughout the year. In the rest of the country, buffeted with ice and snow, tomatoes can only be grown locally in greenhouses. In either case, the resulting tomatoes suffer from sun deprivation, tending to grow thicker skins as if, like us when we are cold, they have put on heavy coats to ward off the chill.

    Recipe tip: How do you "sun-dry" tomatoes in the oven?

    Lacking sustained exposure to the summer sun and frequently pockmarked, these off-season tomatoes have anemic flavors. No matter the kind of tomato -- roma, heirloom or beefsteak -- when used in salads, chopped for salsas or sliced

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  • Limoncello

    By the Staff

    Most of us are bracing for the long, gray stretch of winter that can threaten to crush even the brightest spirit. But take heart, because we're just on the cusp of citrus season -- that time of year fresh oranges, grapefruit, limes and lemons are abundant for all sorts of treats that will hold winter blues at bay.

    Citrus tip 1: Want oranges you can show off to guests? Try preserving them Portuguese style.

    Citrus tip 2: Orange you glad you know how to make this citrusy cake?

    Citrus tip 3: Want to grow your own citrus? It's easier than you think.


    One of the best ways to take advantage of the season is to make limoncello, the appealingly tart-sweet lemony beverage that can be served as an aperitif, an after-dinner drink, or, mixed, perhaps, with bubbly Prosecco, as a midafternoon pick-me-up.

    Limoncello is actually one of a whole class of liqueurs that were, and sometimes still are, made by thrifty Italian home cooks in order to

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