During my recent convalescence (and by the way, thanks to the many of you who've sent kind E-mail wishes), I've been spending a little more time than usual watching, er, daytime television.
With 100 channels but almost nothing to watch, I find that I end up, more often than not, tuned in to the cable Food Network,
I was excited when this all-food-all-the-time channel came to our local cable system a few years ago, but find that I watch it less and less as time goes by. I love things culinary, but for some reason I've found that much of FoodTV's programming just doesn't seem to be for me. I admire Emeril, for instance, but something about the celebrity chef interacting with a studio audience ("Bam!") doesn't give me what I want in food programming.
As a wine enthusiast, I'm particularly disappointed that FoodTV covers wine so little, and on the occasions when it does examine the grape, it doesn't delve very deep.
Let's keep this positive, though. Rather than picking on the network, I thought I would devote today's space to a few quick reviews of the FoodTV chefs and programs I like best. Then I'll invite you to tell me yours!
Mario Batali - As should be obvious to anyone who reads my reports, I love Italy, Italian food and Italian wine. So what's not to like about the affable chef-owner of New York City's Babbo and Lupo restaurants? His cooking show, "Molto Mario," covers Italy's regions and their food as Batali fashions dishes in a clear, straightforward style that makes them easy to replicate at home (see below). His Italian food travelogue, "Mario Eats Italy," is best where it focuses on Italy and its food, less appealing for its odd convention in which Mario's sidekick, Steve Rooney, mugs and gapes and tells silly jokes. Note to producer: Keep Italy. Dump Rooney.
Alton Brown - Lovably goofy, the host of "Good Eats" is passionate about food and food science. This half-hour program may sometimes veer toward the bizarre, but I love the way Brown focuses on a specific ingredient in each program and covers it in loving detail, from historical and cultural background to recipes. This is food education at its best, made palatable but never "dumbed down."
Ming Tsai - Owner-chef of the Boston area's Blue Ginger restaurant, Ming's forte is "fusion" fare that blends Asia and the Americas as implied in his program's title, "East Meets West." I find many of his recipes appealing and reasonably easy to replicate after watching him make them. (Many FoodTV recipes are published on the network's Website, so there's no need to take notes.)
Best of - Some of my friends don't understand why I enjoy this program, with its chirpy hosts and relentlessly positive reports of restaurants around the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It's simple enough: I enjoy restaurants and like to learn as much as I can about the restaurant industry. "Best of" takes us to five eateries per outing and offers us a glimpse behind the scenes, and I enjoy that.
Iron Chef - Don't take it seriously. This Japanese cult classic is as realistic as professional wrestling, but a lot more fun to watch. And along with the yuks, it can be quite an education to view past the sports-style announcements and color commentary to see professional chefs and the tricks and techniques they use when cooking under competitive pressure.
Emeril Lagasse - "Foodies" bash Emeril as "wine geeks" rip Robert M. Parker Jr., but it's hard to argue with success. The man dominates the FoodTV schedule, and a little of his boisterous personality goes a long way. But give him credit: He's not just a highly successful restaurateur but shows a real passion about good food, and more important, he really seems to teach everyone he meets to enjoy food and cooking as much as he does. Of his many programs, I recommend "Essence of Emeril," a digestible half-hour dose in which he usually takes on a single dish or topic.
Those are some of my favorites. How about you? If you would like to talk about FoodTV, feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or better yet, stop by our interactive online Food Lovers' Discussion Group and take part in the discussion on "You be the producer: How could FoodTV improve?" To join in, simply click to
When I started this E-letter early this year, I figured that sooner or later I would get into a rut with some favorite ingredient or other. But it never occurred to me that it would be CAULIFLOWER! Yet here I am, begging your indulgence as I share with you my third cauliflower recipe since January. Trust me: It's good.
As noted above, this one was featured recently on Chef Mario Batali's "Molto Mario." My rendition probably varies somewhat from the televised dish, as I didn't look up his published recipe but simply based it on my interpretation of his on-air procedure. It's quick and easy, a nutritious dinner-in-a-dish that, with a salad, is really all you need for a good meatless meal.INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
1 head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 large fresh tomato or 3 fresh plum tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces penne, ziti or other short pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or similar Italian cheese
1. Break the cauliflower into florets, and cut the larger florets into thick slices. Blanch (partially cook) the florets in simmering salted water for about five minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Peel and seed the tomatoes and chop the flesh coarsely.
3. Peel the garlic cloves and slice them paper-thin.
4. In a large saute pan, cook the garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until it's golden and aromatic but not brown. Put in the chopped tomatoes, reduce heat to very low, and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes, garlic and oil cook into a sauce. Add the blanched cauliflower, stir, and keep warm.
5. Meanwhile, cook the penne or short pasta in a large pot full of boiling salted water until just al dente. Drain the pasta, toss with the sauce and grated cheese, and serve.
MATCHING WINE: Hearty enough to stand up to a fruity, acidic Italian red, this one made a fine match with the recently reported Renzo Masi 1998 Chianti Rufina Riserva,
If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note. I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can. The Ask A Question form at http://www.wineloverspage.com/ask_a_question.phtml is the easiest way to reach me, but if you prefer, you may also send E-mail to email@example.com.Administrivia
This is The 30 Second Wine Advisor's weekly FoodLetter. To subscribe or unsubscribe, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, click to http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/admin.phtml. In all administrative communications, please be sure to include the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so we can find your record.
For more about food and wine, you're invited to visit us at http://www.WineLoversPage.com, and to join in the interactive online community in our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=2.Thursday, July 11, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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