Morning photo: Foodscapes

Seasonal goodies


New potatoes and asparagus have been on sale recently at Safeway. Together, they make a fine vegetarian meal, and it’s an early season staple and classic in farmhouse restaurants in central Europe. Just boil and serve with some melted butter.

FRISCO — Stepping back from landscapes for a short food interlude today … Continue reading

Food: Kitchen secrets from the Mobile Chef

Tom Castrigno.

Instead of useless gadgets, some good advice

By Tom Castrigno

Christmas stockings always seem to hold a fun bunch of little surprises. Over the years, I have found pocket-sized games and toys, unique chocolates from around the world, and even a magic trick that I use to this day. Christmas stockings often get overlooked. Gift wrapped boxes with ribbons and bows tend to be the main attraction on Christmas morning. I always keep my eyes peeled for little treasures that I know will bring big smiles.

In the kitchen I realize that I have come to rely on many little tips and tricks that I often take for granted. It seems that, new recipes, specific cooking techniques, and fancy cookware tend to be the main attractions. When it comes to speeding meal preparation along, having a few chef secrets up your sleeve can be a big help. Continue reading

Food: Cookbooks versus the web

This week’s featured recipe highlights an earthy Middle Eastern spice

Poached fish with tomato and cumin. PHOTO BY TOM CASTRIGNO.

A spice market in Istanbul features multiple varieties of ground peppers and other spices. PHOTO VIA WKIPEDIA UNDER A CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE.

By Tom Castrigno

The internet has profoundly affected on the way we think about food preparation. Some people feel cookbooks are obsolete. The ability to search the web for recipes by name, key ingredients, or characteristics such as low-fat is a huge advantage. On the other hand, a physical book also has advantages.

Our senses are powerful memory triggers. This is why comfort food has the effect that it does. A particular taste or smell can spur fond memories of a joyous occasion. In some cases the memories can even be triggered by a general association. Ice cream, for example, can bring a smile with a mere mention. Continue reading

Food: A classic French meal to share with friends

Correspondent Tom Castrigno explores the universal language of food

A French classic to enjoy with friends. Coq au vin. PHOTO VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

A spice stand in Nice, France. PHOTO BY TOM CASTRIGNO.

By Tom Castrigno

International travel sometimes presents language barriers. A trip to Nice in the south of France was no different. Going to the store always held a bit of a mystery. Sometimes I just had to take a chance on what I was buying. As my friend, Santos, would say, “At least I didn’t come home with roller skates.”

The European style of a visiting the market daily gave lots of opportunities to practice my French. I found the locals to be very willing to work with me when I showed an honest effort to use their language, no matter how badly I spoke it.

 Fortunately, the language of food is as universal as the language of love or laughter. French cuisine is world-renowned, and I enjoyed some of the finest meals of my life on this trip. From sidewalk cafés to fancy restaurants, the French passion for food shines through. A classic dish I will always remember is coq au vin. Continue reading

Food: Noodling with the Mobile Chef

Beyond pasta …

A tasty shrimp noodle bowl. PHOTO BY TOM CASTRIGNO.

Quick-cooking soba noodles work well in tasty Asian-style noodle bowls. PHOTO BY TOM CASTRIGNO.

By Tom Castrigno

For many people, pasta is a fallback — something quick when you’re in hurry, or an easy meal to make a lot of when you have a crowd to feed. The shelves in the grocery store feature a wide variety of shapes and sizes of Italian-style noodles, but why stop there? From rice noodles to udon to soba, there are so many more to experiment with.

I certainly ate my share of traditional pastas while growing up, and still do today. But now I consider them gateway noodles to more exotic types. Continue reading

Summit County: Shopping with the Mobile Chef

Local food expert finds the best grocery store deals

It's apple season, and there's nothing like a piece of warm apple pie on a cool autumn evening. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN. Click on the pic for a quick and fail-safe apple pie recipe.

By Tom Castrigno

The leaves have fallen and only the hardiest mountain birds remain behind for the next 6 months. No doubt they have food stashes to help them through. It is a quiet time of year that lends itself to stocking up the larder, just as our avian friends have done …

Try a cauliflower mash for a nutritious and low-carb vegetable side dish.

This week’s prime pick is cauliflower, on sale for $.99 per pound at City Market. It makes a great side dish steamed, or you can go one step farther and whip it with a bit of butter and sour cream for a change of pace. This oft-ignored veggie comes to life when curried, roasted, or even served with tomato sauce (Muir Glen organic $2.50). Cauliflower and almond soup is low carb and freezes great for a take-along lunch or afternoon snack.

Apples are rolling in and there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Find golden delicious, braeburn, and granny smith at Uncle John’s farm stand in Frisco. A five-pound bag of gala apples is only $3.99 at City Market and organic Fuji apples are $.99 per pound. Apples are perfect for the lunch box, as a post-workout snack with almond butter, or simply cored and baked. Continue reading

Summit County: Celebrating Food Day

Think about what you cook and eat …

Tom Castrigno, the mobile chef, shares his recipe for stuffed chicken breast.

By Tom Castrigno

My a-ha moment about food came on a Sunday afternoon when I was 11 years old. I was at the table in my grandparents’ dining room, with three generations gathered to share a Sunday dinner. Noni and Grandpa had both immigrated from Italy, bringing their deep cultural roots  to America. I suddenly realized the food on the table was wholesome, real food, prepared from the heart. From that day, I have embraced the belief that food should come from the earth rather than a factory.

There are a number of movements oriented around food awareness, including the Italian-born Slow Food philosophy. This year, Americans for the first time will celebrate Food Day (Oct. 24), dedicated to focus on improving the way we eat. Food Day will feature tastings, cooking demos, movies and other celebrations. The event is backed by an impressive advisory board of anti-hunger advocates, physicians, authors, and politicians. Continue reading


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