nina | September 28th, 2012 - 9:00 am

As we enter the thick of fall, apples will tumble from their bins, a harmony of flavors, textures and colors — reds, yellows, browns and greens — that capture the very essence of the season. But when was the last time you thought of using an apple for anything besides pie, applesauce or cider? Perhaps you tossed one into a salad?

Americans eat 2.4 million tons of apples each year — or 15 pounds per person — second only to bananas (though the Virginia-based U.S. Apple Association is quick to point out that apples are the most often consumed domestic fruit). Which means we really should do more than stick them in a lunch box or sprinkle them with cinnamon.

Look at the Shakers. The late 18th-century religious sect had 49 ways to prepare apples — 49! Their recipes ranged from the standard pies and cakes to sausage-stuffed apples, apple “omelets” (a bit like souffle) and switchel, a tonic made of cider vinegar and used to chase their farmers’ thirst during the harvest. They also invented the apple peeler, apple corer and that thingy that cuts them into quarters. To be fair, the Shakers often kept orchards with hundreds of apple trees, so they had a lot of incentive to use them inventively (and to be efficient about peeling and preparing them).

These days, most Americans also have an abundance of apples at their disposal. Alongside the old McIntosh and Red Delicious, newer varieties such as the crunchy, big-juice Honey Crisp and candy-sweet Fuji can be found in nearly any supermarket. Heirlooms like the tartly complex Esopus Spitzenburg and the sweet, purple-skinned Black Oxford pop up at farmers markets. And apples with glamorous names like Jazz and Pink Lady — both “club varieties,” that is, apples licensed only to certain growers and marketers — have become commonplace.

A friend to pork, where it mingles with sage and other fragrant herbs, and to duck, where its acid offsets the richness of the meat, the apple is a natural savory. In a soup or puree it adds complexity to butternut squash or parsnips. In sandwiches — what about a warm gooey grilled cheddar layered with slices of cold, crisp apple.  You can count me in!

There’s a reason Eve went for an apple and not an orange or a persimmon. Besides being tempting, apples are elemental. Adaptable. Basic. You can always count on the apple.

Apple Tips
Because of the variety of flavors and textures now available, choosing the right apple for the right purpose is more difficult than ever. Some general notes:

**A baking or cooking apple is anything that will keep its shape. The Braeburn and Honey Crisp, Jazz and Jonagold are good examples, as are the more tart Rome, Stayman and Granny Smith.

**Softer, less resilient apples, such as McIntosh, Fuji, gala and empire dissolve in the heat, and therefore make great sauce.

**Sweet apples pair nicely with salty items such as cheese and peanut butter. Think Honey Crisp or Fuji.



nina | September 25th, 2012 - 9:00 am

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 4.39 billion pounds in August, up 2 percent from the 4.3 billion pounds produced in August 2011.

Beef production, at 2.37 billion pounds, was 1 percent below the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 3 million head, down 3 percent from August 2011. The average live weight was up 30 pounds from the previous year, at 1,300 pounds.

Pork production totaled 2 billion pounds, up 6 percent from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 9.94 million head, up 4 percent from August 2011. The average live weight was up 3 pounds from the previous year, at 269 pounds.

Veal production totaled 10.1 million pounds, 11 percent below August a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 72,600 head, down 9 percent from August 2011. The average live weight was down 11 pounds from last year, at 237 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 14.2 million pounds, was up 8 percent from August 2011. Sheep slaughter totaled 200,500 head, 1 percent above last year. The average live weight was 142 pounds, up 10 pounds from August a year ago.

January to August 2012 commercial red meat production was 32.6 billion pounds, up 1 percent from 2011. Accumulated beef production was down 1 percent from last year, veal was down 9 percent, pork was up 3 percent from last year, and lamb and mutton production was up 4 percent.

August this year and last both contained 23 weekdays (including no holidays) and 4 Saturdays.

Source: 9.24.12


nina | September 24th, 2012 - 9:00 am

Perhaps nothing symbolized the economic downturn like the sight of an empty, closed restaurant. Eateries have been shutting their doors steadily since 2009…until now. After a long slump, the new restaurants have begun to open. Nearly 1,000 new independently owned restaurants opened over the past year. Though the economy is certainly in better shape than […]


nina | September 13th, 2012 - 9:00 am

It’s the chopped salad, and it’s having a field day in Baltimore. Some restaurants were so successful that this item has been put on the permanent dinner menu.

The chopped salad has always had its fans.  The “Use a Spoon” Chopped Salad, named by Paul Newman, remains a favorite at the restaurant, where it’s created out of seasonal ingredients — in late summer, it’s plums, baby carrots, yellow wax beans, Beltane goat cheese and toasted almonds. 

Baltimore is one of the few cities where the chopped salad inspires memories of fine dining. For decades, a salad of iceberg lettuce, egg, tomato and anchovy, chopped tableside by a stiff-backed waiter has been served at a very famous Baltimore restaurant.

But the chopped salad has seldom been a chef’s calling card. Its culinary pedigree is spotty, related on one side to idle society luncheons and on the other to the so-called garbage salad, a pile of iceberg lettuce, salami, shrimp and mozzarella — It has even been called “a cocktail party in a bowl.”

The chopped salad is not something a chef would stake his culinary reputation on.

At casual Baltimore joints like Bagby Pizza, they make a meat-free version with asparagus, squash, carrots and tomato.

The chopped salads were introduced to Sascha’s lunch operation not long ago. At Sascha’s lunch counter, one customer might art-direct a salad with curried chicken salad, bacon, egg and blue cheese. The next person might go light with grilled chicken, mushrooms, cucumbers and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s a very democratic process.

A trained professional takes the ingredients and works them over with a mezzaluna, a two-handled knife that gets rocked back and forth over the ingredients. The result is a finely chopped, but not minced, salad.

Although working with a mezzaluna takes some practice, it’s worth the trouble. The technique delivers a better final product than a salad that is not chopped, all the favors of the different vegetables, ingredients and dressing really get intermingled.

A chopped salad is easier to eat – Even with a spoon, if you’d like!

Source:, 9/12/12

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