What I’m Reading Today

Hope the spring sun is shining upon you where ever you may be!  Happy Wednesday.

A friend once asked me what my favorite scent was.  I didn’t need to think long-fresh, and I mean really fresh, strawberries. Inhaling that sweet fragrance is divine and now is the time to do it.  In Southern California, the berries are at their peak now with the season rolling up the west coast over the next couple of months.  In today’s LA Times David Karp writes about using your taste buds to pick the best berries.  Visual clues are of course important-humongous berries with hollow or white centers are a sure sign of a tasteless disappointment.  David said these bigger berries are the first to flower on the plant.  Growers like them because they are cheaper to harvest-less is more.   I always prefer the small or medium fruit to those engineered looking monsters and find the best ones are at my farmers’ market.  Look for fully red berries that smell strongly of strawberry-I know, that sounds pretty obvious.  But, next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up the plastic container of conventional strawberries and take whiff.  When it smells like nothing you’ll know exactly what I’m taking about.  The best ways to eat fresh strawberries?  Quickly and straight up!  Strawberry Rhubarb tarts will do too.

A tagine is a North African braised dish, usually made with very slow cooked meat and served over couscous.  The fragrant spices, like cinnamon and cumin, give it a distinctive flavor while the slow braise gives the meat its melt-in-your-mouth consistency.  In today’s NY Times Mark Bittman expedites the tagine by using chicken thighs, which cook much more quickly than the traditional lamb shoulder.  With the addition of chickpeas, dried apricots, and bulgur instead of couscous this is a one pot meal at its best.  Tagine is the name of the dish and the cooking vessel it is usually made in.  Bittman cooks his in a heavy saucepan instead, something all of us are more likely to have around.  The net?  Accessible and reasonably priced ingredients make this a stew that will transport you to Morocco in just about 45 minutes.

Meatballs are a sure fire family favorite at my house.  We eat them as-is, over pasta, or on top of polenta.  I make mine with a combination of beef, pork, and veal and always make sure I don’t overmix so I get them nice and light.  In today’s Chicago Tribune Diane Worthington writes about her version of simple and light meatballs.  The trick?  A combination of turkey and veal.  I have another friend who does this and I’ll tell you from a taste test, they were amazing.  Generally not a fan of the turkey meatball (so dry!), I was won over by the addition of veal as it kept everything nice and tender.  Worthington goes a few steps further by adding Parmesan and Dijon along with grated carrots and zucchini.  The veggies give off moisture as they keep, keeping the meatballs from drying out.  Love the idea of this trick and I’m definitely trying it asap. 
Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!
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One Response to What I’m Reading Today

  1. Amelia PS says:

    this “what I'm reading” post always makes me smile! I picture you in your corner sofa going through food magazines and books…and feel a sister-hood of traveling food thoughts 🙂
    I can't wait to try the expedited tagine.
    Amelia from http://www.ztastylife.com

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