Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What is Truly Artisan?

You've probably noticed as I have that products on grocery store shelves have increasingly featured the words "Artisan" this or that.

So what does it mean to have artisan pizza, bread, chocolates, etc.?

There is no guidance or oversight for the use of the word "artisan", so technically a food company could use it on whatever they choose.

A generally accepted description of an artisan product would be one that is handmade (you would probably know the person or at least where the business is located), contains whole unprocessed ingredients,  prepared using traditional methods of cooking/baking, and usually in small quantities.

If the item doesn't fit the generally accepted description above, (and almost all of the grocery store stuff won't), it just isn't an artisan product.

For the real deal, check out local bakeries, farmers markets, and off-the-path restaurants.  You'll know when you've found it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mortar and Pestle -- Old School

Jamie Oliver Mortar and Pestle
Not many modern home kitchens have a mortar and pestle, and if they do, it's more for decoration.

I really like my mortar and pestle and purchased it about a year ago.  My favorite cookbooks are those of Jamie Oliver and he uses a mortar and pestle frequently in his recipes to crush and grind fresh herbs and spices, mix oils and create fresh mayonnaise and pesto.

There are plenty of sources for buying a mortar and pestle, including grocery stores and World Market, but I chose to order the Jamie Oliver brand and have been completely satisfied.

Look for one that holds about a cup or cup and a half -- bigger if you plan to really create a lot of creations.  Find one that is solid (stone) and that has a good amount of weight to keep it steady.
Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker

Jamie's "Flavour Shaker" is a bit more limiting, but can still quickly crush herbs and spices and easily create flavored oils and dressings.  This would be a good option for those who have more limited space, have less ability to use heavy objects, or who want something a bit more modern and basic.

The mortar and pestle or shaker are great ways to grind whole and fresh herbs and spices and really create something nice for your recipe.

The aroma from your creation and old world connection to your food preparation will bring extra pride to your finished dish.

I highly recommend this addition to any kitchen.