Brought To You By The Color Red

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Color plays an important part in the appeal of creating recipes, menu planning and presentation. I taught my students years ago the importance of visual appeal in cooking - it can be the first impression encountered with a plate, if you don't catch its aroma first. Critical with food prepared on TV, since there's no smell-a-vision. The finished dish better appear tasty for the eye. Today, it would be called "style" or "design" of a plate. I even titled a recent GHL TV episode, Food is Art!

Tomato Mozz Salad from George Hirsch Lifestyle

I don't believe in over complicating a dish for presentation, but there are some basics. How exciting would an all-white menu be? Such as, poached fillet of sole, cauliflower, and steamed rice? You get the drift here. A much more eye pleasing and appealing color combo (not to mention flavor) would be tomato and mozzarella plate as above. A salad with steamed asparagus, a charred sliced steak, and served with colorful mixed berries with a golden marsala sabayon. Agree?

Which brings me to summer foods - a very exciting time to liven-up a menu with the bounty of colors from the garden. Today let's look at the color red in foods starting with Bruschetta.

I am not talking about artificial coloring. Red fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigments called "lycopene" or "anthocyanins." Lycopene in fresh garden tomatoes, a chilled watermelon and pink grapefruit, for example, may help reduce risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Lycopene in foods containing cooked tomatoes, such as spaghetti sauce, and a small amount of fat are absorbed better than lycopene from raw tomatoes.

Anthocyanins in fresh strawberries churned into homemade ice cream, raspberries, red grapes and other fruits and vegetables act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Antioxidants are linked with keeping our hearts healthy, too.


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Final Four Fifty-Fifty

It's Final Four Weekend with a lot of excitement surrounding these games. Who will be dishing-up the winning basket. We'll see. 

Need a perfect one-pot dish that everyone will enjoy gameday? Here's a new spin on a classic, dressed up a bit for grown-up flavor. Everyone likes macaroni and cheese. Cheddar is the common cheese of choice, but I like using Gruyere as well, to put a bit of bite in my baked mac; using the fifty-fifty cheese ratio. But feel free to use chef's poetic license and use more or less Cheddar if you like.

Cheddar & Gruyere Macaroni and Cheese 

by Chef George Hirsch | Makes 6 servings

2 Tablespoons Butter
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon hot sauce
pinch fresh grated nutmeg
2 cups half & half
3/4 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/2 pounds uncooked elbow, shells, or other small pasta

Melt Butter in a large soup pot or saucepan. Add onion, and garlic, nutmeg and sauté for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add the broth, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the hot sauce, and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Stir in the half & half and heat to a simmer. Slowly add the Cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmesan cheeses, stirring until they melt and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the cooked pasta. Place in a serving dish and eat immediately or sprinkle with Mac Topping, and bake five minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

For the Mac Topping

4 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 Tablespoons bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon each fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Put your own spin on this one pot dish by adding a variety of ingredients such as:

Vegetables: peas, broccoli, or muchrooms

Meats: prosciutto, smoked baked ham, or pulled pork

Seafood: crab, lobster, or shrimp

image, © GingerBlossom | istock

Pacific Northwest Style

You are going to need cedar planks for today's fish recipe. I am encouraging you to step outside and grill with this recipe. Soak planks for 30 minutes before you fire up the grill. Make sure the grill is good and hot, this is key! Cedar planked fish takes on a wonderful smokey flavor with more flair and a lot less hassle. The plank will be charred, but the fish will be perfectly cooked. This technique of cooking on planks is not new. Developed by Indians in the Pacific Northwest, cooking on cedar and alder has been a tradition for centuries.

This weekend when you are running errands, head to the hardware store and pick up some cedar planks. Oh- be sure they are untreated non-resined wood, and no thicker than 1 inch. Cedar and alder are popular choices, but mesquite, cherry, peach, apple, and oak also add their own unique flavors. Enjoy.

image,© Olga Lyubkina

New England Summer

I have traveled up-n-down the east coast and every seaside village has their version of the classic lobster roll. I will tip you off to one of my favorites, I know I have mentioned this spot before. We even filmed TV segments for Living it UP! at The Clam Bar - located here in the Hamptons, on the Napeaque stretch between Amagansett and Montauk. The owner Dick Ehrlich sets the bar very high serving-up their chock-filled fresh lobster rolls, manhattan clam chowder and locally caught grilled fish dish specials. 

The lobster roll is yet another great in season option to served at your outdoor gatherings and picnics. Feel free to mix seafood, such as crab or shrimp. Then just call it a seafood roll. Or, skip the carbs and stuff a summer vine ripened tomato with your fresh lobster salad. Now kick back and enjoy!

New England Lobster Roll

Makes six sandwiches 

* 1 1/2 pounds Lobster meat, cooked and cooled
6 soft rolls
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 green onion chopped
1 Tablespoon chives, chopped
1 Tablespoon parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon fresh dill 
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Cut lobster meat into 1 inch pieces. In a small bowl toss lobster meat, mayonnaise, green onion, lemon, mustard, dill, and hot sauce.
Serve immediately on soft rolls with sliced tomatoes.
*shrimp and crab meat may be substituted 

Take Along Treat

I'm always interested in finding new snacks, especially ones that are good for you. Today's snack made my Good Stuff picks; is ideal for travel or take-along treat for the beach. Seaport Farms' Dry Roasted Edamame is coated in wasabi; which has a similar bite to horseradish. Edamame also happens to be a great source of protein.

What is edamame?

Edamame is a specialty soybean harvested as a green vegetable when the seeds are immature and have expanded to fill 80 to 90 percent of the pod width. Like field-dried soybeans, the seeds of Edamame varieties are rich in protein and highly nutritious. Worldwide, it had only been considered a minor crop or used as a cover-crop, but was quite popular in East Asia as a snack food. In recent years it has become very popular as a vegetable used in many recipes including soups, stir-fry's, casseroles and salads.  As a snack, the pods are cooked in lightly salted boiling water and then only the beans are eaten by pushing them directly from the pods into your mouth. 

Available in most food markets.