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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “July, 2016”

Pass The Buckwheat!

Buckwheat On The Hoof

Buckwheat On The Hoof

It’s not wheat at all, not even vaguely related to the grain, other than by its misnomer, nor is it even a grass.

Buckwheat Kernels

Buckwheat Kernels

Believed to have first been cultivated in China, buckwheat spread eastward to Japan, and westward to Russia and the Middle East, before eventually coming to Europe and the Americas.

The most familiar buckwheat dish in the United States is buckwheat pancakes, a perfect breakfast served simply au naturel or with a little maple syrup and butter.

Blini With Salmon Caviar

Blini With Salmon Caviar

One close relative is the authentic Russian blini made with buckwheat flour (perhaps mixed with wheat flour), delightful paired with caviar, particularly red (salmon) caviar or smoked salmon, and a dot of sour cream. (By the way, inauthentic blini, made with wheat flour alone, are not bad at all!)

Another is the French crepe, particularly popular in Brittany, and usually served with savory filllings like ham and cheese. Watch for the French word, sarrasin, on the menu for this treat. To read more, check out “A Crepe-s Salute to Bastille Day”  http://wp.me/p1VQOz-of .

Pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri

A relatively obscure dish from Northern Italy is Pizzoccheri, buckwheat noodles, often cooked with Swiss chard or cabbage, potatoes and cheeses, Taleggio and/or Fontina and Parmesan. Recipes abound on line, each reflecting someone’s grandmother’s approach, all in varying degrees of deliciousness.

Dried Soba

Dried Soba

But, making buckwheat noodles is not easy, so myMEGusta suggests taking a shortcut by way of Japan, substituting dried Japanese soba noodles, broken into shorter pieces rather than in long strands.

Japanese soba is a myMEGusta favorite, whether hot in a soup or cold with a dipping sauce, perfect on a hot summer day. Both are traditionally served with garnishes, like wild mushrooms or tempura for hot soup or grated yam or nori seaweed for cold. In a really authentic setting, the waiter brings a pitcher of hot buckwheat broth at the end of a cold soba meal to mix with, and be sipped, with the remaining dipping sauce.

Cold Soba With Grated Yam and Dipping Sauce

Cold Soba With Grated Yam and Dipping Sauce

Hot Soba With Wild Mushrooms

Hot Soba With Wild Mushrooms

A favorite Manhattan destination for authentic Japanese soba is Soba Nippon, sister restaurant of Nippon, a few doors away, owned by a soba aficionado who has his own buckwheat farm in Montreal, Canada. The noodles are made twice daily at Nippon, losing nothing in the translation as they cross Fifth Avenue.

Buckwheat is a great gluten free food for people with Celiac disease, but read the label on any prepared food, or ask in a restaurant, as it could contain a mixture with regular wheat flour, as most soba noodles (including Soba Nippon) do.

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Happy Bastille Day, July 14! Have a Macaroon!

Macaroons at Dalloyau in Paris

Macaroons at Dalloyau in Paris

Pretend you are sitting with your morning coffee at the wonderful Dalloyau in Paris, enjoying the complimentary macaroon that arrives with it as you gaze at the Jardin de Luxembourg.

 

Or, you are in the countryside, wandering through the old city of Dole in the Jura region in the foothills of the Alps, and stop into a little patisserie to indulge in an afternoon snack of a colorful little bite.

Macaroons at a Patisserie in Dole, Jura, France

Macaroons at a Patisserie in Dole, Jura, France

 

French macaroons have come to the forefront as a major international treat. Once obscure, they are now well known (and loved) enough to be appearing in an ad for Fios, the fiber-optic utility. Creative chefs, particularly caterers, are having fun creating macaroon lollipops and decorating cakes with them.

 

Macaroon Wedding Cake

Macaroon Wedding Cake

On a recent episode of Hell’s Kitchen, the losing team made a “mountain of macaroons” for a wedding reception (while the winners flew off for a night of fun in Las Vegas). Another example of macaroons’ trendiness was appearing after an exquisitely prepared, set menu at Hakkasan, a superb Chinese restaurant in London (and New York); the green tea, pistachio and chocolate treats were tasty, but felt out of place, although house-made macaroons appear on the regular dessert menu.

Macaroon Lollipops

Macaroon Lollipops

 

The name, “macaroon” derives from the Italian “maccarone”, or paste, the same root as “macaroni” (flour paste rather than nut paste). The newly modish French macaroon is made with ground almonds (plus beaten egg whites and sugar) and stuffed, like an Oreo.

 

The macaroons many of us grew up with, the English version and myMEGusta’s favorite, are coarser, made with coconut, and normally served “au naturel,” although sometimes made with, or dipped in, chocolate.

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons

Even on Bastille Day, myMEGusta would take the coconut, but would hardly be unhappy with the colorful French style!

Macaroons!

Macaroons!

 

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