Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Cooking Pasta Made Easy

Now that we have covered some of the more time-consuming aspects of pasta, like making pasta from scratch, let's move on to more familiar territory. Have you ever noticed how big the pasta aisle at the super market is? It's because pasta is a quick meal that can be tailored to fit any tastes, no matter how sophisticated or how picky. Dry pasta can be used to make hot or cold meals. It stores well and doesn't lose its flavor. There are even some excellent jarred sauces that make preparation even quicker. The following dishes use dry pasta and some prepackaged ingredients for the sake of expediency.

Baked pasta dishes are great for a crowd or for leftovers the next day. Dinner that can also feed everyone lunch the next day? Perfect! This version of baked ziti uses store-bought pesto, but this can easily be made fresh if you prefer.

Baked Ziti

1 package Hot Italian Sausages, casings removed

4 cloves Garlic, diced

1 large White Onion, diced

1/2 of a package Pesto, the kind found in the refrigerated section works well here

1 28 ounce can Tomatoes, diced and peeled

1 package Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and drained

8 ounces Mozzarella cheese diced into cubes

1 cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated

3 cups cooked Ziti or Penne Pasta


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13 inch Pyrex pan.

Sauté sausage, garlic and onions until slightly browned. Add Pesto and diced tomatoes. Allow this mixture to simmer on low for 30 to 40 minutes.

In a bowl combine, spinach, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Add the Ziti to the spinach mixture. Combine Ziti and tomato mixture. Mix thoroughly and pour into greased pan. Cover with foil and bake Ziti mixture for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the top is slightly browned.

The spinach and sausage in this dish make it extremely tasty, and the cheese gives it a satisfying creaminess.

An Easier Pasta Dish

For an even easier dish cook the Ziti or Penne and let it cool slightly. To this add your choice of chopped olives, chopped pepperoni, cubed mozzarella and chopped roasted red peppers (these can be found jarred in the pickle section of your supermarket). Dress this with Italian dressing. Allow to sit 30 minutes before serving. This is a great dish to serve on hot days or as a side dish. It can be modified a million different ways by adding fresh produce or different kinds of cheese.

A good place to find easy pasta dishes is on the box of dry pasta itself. Depending on the type of noodle you will find hundreds of recipes this way.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Dragutin_Filipcic

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6710140

Friday, 6 January 2012

A Brief History of Pizza: The Dish that Conquered the World

Pizza, the way we know it today, is a derivation from focaccia (from the Latin word for fire), flat bread that has been prepared since antiquity in different forms and garnished with herbs, olives, fat, raisin, honey, and nuts.

The word pizza in Italian identifies any type of flat bread or pie—fried or baked. Although you’d find many types of pitas or pizzas around the Mediterranean, it is in Naples that pizza in the form we know it today first emerged, after the tomato appeared on the table in the 1700s. Naples has many records of pizza since around the year 1000; the first mentions call these flat breads laganae, and later they are referred to as picea. In those times, pizzas were dressed with garlic and olive oil, or cheese and anchovies, or small local fish. They were baked on the open fire and sometimes were closed in two, as a book, to form a calzone.

In Naples is also where the first pizzerias opened up, with brick wood-burning oven, covered with lava stones from the Mount Vesuvius. The chefs of those times ignored pizza because was considered a poor people’s food, but the new combination with the tomato, when it entered the kitchen around the 1770s, must have raised some curiosity, even in the royal palace. Ferdinand I Bourbon, King of Naples, loved the simple food of the people and went to taste the pizzas made in the shop of Antonio Testa. He liked it so much that he wanted pizza to be included in the menu at the court. He failed after the opposition of his wife, Queen Maria Carolina. His son Ferdinand II also liked all kind of popular food and he loved pizza to the point that he hired Domenico Testa, son of the now famous Antonio, to build a pizza oven in the royal palace of Capodimonte.

Pizza became very popular, earning its place in Neapolitan folklore. Simple and economical, it turned into the food for all people, even sold on the streets, as shown in many illustrations of the time.

A famous episode extended the popularity of pizza beyond the limits of the city of Naples. It was 1889, and Margherita, queen of Italy, was visiting the city. She was told about pizza and wanted to taste it. A famous cook by the name of Don Raffaele, helped by his wife Donna Rosa, was invited to cook pizza at the royal palace. They prepared three pizzas, typical of that time: one with cheese and basil; one with garlic, oil, and tomato; and one with mozzarella, basil, and tomato. The queen, impressed by the colors of the last pizza, which resembled the national flag, preferred that one. Since then this pizza is known as Pizza Margherita, and Don Raffaele is credited with its invention, even if we know that it already existed for a long time.

At the beginning of the last century, with Italian immigrants, the first pizzerias appeared also in the United States, where pizza has become a mass phenomenon. Yet, even today the best pizza is found in Naples, where it is rigorously made with buffalo mozzarella. Superior pizzas are considered those obtained by moderate variations of the simplest and most popular: Pizza Napoletana with tomato, garlic, oil, and oregano; Pizza Margherita; Pizza Marinara with tomato, anchovies, capers, and olives; and Pizza Four Seasons, divided in four quadrants, each dressed in a different way. Pizza with hot salami, the American pepperoni pizza, is instead found in the Calabria region south of Naples, where this type of hot sausage is produced.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Food and Drink

Food and Drink is any substance or liquid, composed of carbohydrates, water, fats and/or proteins, that is eaten or drunk by any animal, which includes humans, this can be for nutrition or just for pleasure. Items considered as ‘food’ are often sourced from plants or animals, but sometimes from other categories, such as fungus. Although typically food and drink was once sourced by hunting and gathering, today most cultures use farming, ranching and fishing, with hunting, foraging and other methods of a local nature are included, but play a very minor role.

Many different traditions have recognizable cuisine different from all others, or a specific set of cooking traditions using various different spices or combinations of flavour unique to that culture, other differences can include variations hot and cold, or spicy and mild. Many different cultures around the world have diversified their foods by means of preparation, cooking methods and manufacturing. This also includes complex food trade, which helps the cultures to economically survive by-way-of food, not just by consumption. Some of the most popular types of ethnic food and drink include Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Thai.

Sources of Food and Drink

Almost all foods and drinks originate from plants or animals some plants, such as Nori, is an underwater plant that is eaten with sushi in Japanese cuisine. Seafood refers to underwater life, especially fish, for food sources; however, water and salt are both important parts of the human diet too. Salt is often added as a flavouring, but is typically used as a preservative in canned foods. Salt has had a very long history of being used to preserve meats and fish, to the point where it has been used as a means of payment in the past. Other foods that are not from animal or plant sources include various forms of edible fungi, such as mushrooms. Fungi and ambient bacteria are used in the preparation of fermented and pickled foods, such as leavened breads, alcohol and alcoholic drinks, cheese, pickles and yogurt.

Food from Plants

Many plants or plant parts are eaten as food. There are around 2,000 plant species which are cultivated for food. Seeds of plants are a good source of food for animals, including humans because they contain nutrients necessary for the plant’s initial growth, including many healthy fats, such as Omega fats. In fact, the majority of food consumed by human beings are seed-based foods. Edible seeds include cereals (such as maize, wheat, and rice), legumes (such as beans, peas, and lentils), and nuts. Oil seeds are often pressed to produce rich oils, such as sunflower, flaxseed, rapeseed and sesame seed oils. One of the earliest food recipes made from ground chickpeas is called hummus, and can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egyptian times.

Fruit is the ripened ovaries of plants; this includes the seeds you find within them. Fruit make up a significant part of the diets of most cultures; however some botanical fruits, such as tomatoes, pumpkins and eggplants, are often eaten as vegetables. Veg is the second type of plant matter that is commonly eaten as a food stud, and this includes any root vegetables (such as potatoes and carrots), leafy vegetables (spinach and lettuce), stem vegetables (bamboo shoots and asparagus), and inflorescence vegetables (like broccoli). Many herbs and spices are also highly flavoursome vegetables.

Food from Animals

Animals can be used as a food source either directly or indirectly by the products that they produce. Meat is an example of a direct product taken from an animal, and usually comes from either muscle systems or organs. Food products produced by animals include milk produced by mammary glands, which in many cultures is drunk or processed into dairy products such as cheese or butter. In addition birds and other animals lay eggs, which are often eaten, and bees produce honey – a reduced nectar from flowers, which is a popular sweetener in many cultures.

The Tastes of Food and Drink

Humans have 5 different types of taste, which are sweet, sour, salty, bitter and what is known as ‘umami’. As we have evolved over the years, the tastes that provide the more energy, such as sugary and fatty foods, give us the most energy, whereas more unpleasant tastes, such as bitter foods, are not as enjoyable, Fats, such as oil and cream, are thicker and rich and are thus enjoyable to eat. Water is the only true liquid with no taste to it, as most of our body and saliva is composed of it.

- Sweet

Generally regarded as one of the most pleasant tastes, sweetness is almost always caused by a type of simple sugar, such as glucose or fructose. Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose are used to mimic the sugar molecule, giving one the sense of sweet, without the calories. Other types of sugar include raw sugar which is known for its amber color, as it is unprocessed. As sugar is vital for energy and survival, the taste of sugar is pleasant.

- Sour

Sour tastes are usually regarded as unpleasant, however some people enjoy them. Sourness is caused by the taste of acids such as vinegar or ethanol in alcoholic beverages. Sour foods can also include citrus fruits, specifically lemons and limes, and to a certain degree, oranges too. Most foods are slightly sour as it can help to stimulate the taste buds and enhance flavour.

- Salty

Saltiness is the taste of sodium, and is found in almost every food, ranging from low to moderate proportions, in order to enhance flavour, however, eating pure salt is extremely unpleasant and not very good for you. There are many different varieties of salt, including sea salt, fleur de sel, mined salt and grey salt. Salt is significant and necessary within the body because it maintains a delicate electrolyte balance, but too much salt and very little water can lead to dehydration and death, so the taste of salt is significant for it’s evolution, we have learned to find the taste on its own unpleasant in order to safe guard us.

- Bitter

Bitterness is a highly unpleasant taste, and it is characterized by having a sharp, pungent taste, foods that are bitter tend to be unsweetened chocolate, coffee, lemon rind and also some types of fruit.

- Umami

Umami is one of the least know tastes in Western culture, but has always had a very long tradition within Asian cuisines. Umami is characterized as savory, meaty and delicious; foods such as salmon and mushrooms are both high in Umami.

Eating with our eyes

It is well known that when we are presented with food or drink, we tend to ‘eat with out eyes’ first, a universal psychological phenomenon. Food that is presented in a clean and appetizing way will encourage a good taste, possibly even if it only tastes average, or ‘okay’. Similarly, food is usually garnished with a main ingredient in the dish so that the consumer will know what to expect when prior to consumption. For example, a lemon curd would appropriately be garnished with some lemon slices so that the eater will anticipate a satisfying lemon taste. Consequentially, messy or poorly ‘plated’ dishes, such as drippings, burnt spots or the inclusion of any hair are not appetizing to eat as they psychologically and trigger thoughts of un-cleanliness and potential contamination, especially if one has a previously foreseen expected knowledge of how the plate should look.

Popular Drinks

One of the most popular alcoholic drinks, drank worldwide, has to be wine. Wine is an alcoholic beverage typically made from fermented grape juice. The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they can ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. Wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various different types of yeast. Yeast consumes the sugars found within grapes and turns them into alcohol. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts are used depending on the type of wine being produced. Other popular drinks include milk, taken from animals and then pasteurized, and fruit juices.