A new challenge is in the near future for all of us who do the weekly grocery shopping and cooking: New labeling on meat.
While I am not necessarily an "if it isn't broken don't fix it" gal, the new system, which will go into effect in late spring or early summer, may drive all of us veteran cooks absolutely bonkers for a while.
According to an article written by Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch, the American meat industry is rolling out a refresh of the often confusing 40-year-old system used for naming the various cuts of beef, pork, lamb and veal.
In all, more than 350 cuts of pork and beef (veal and lamb updates are coming later) will sport new labels, which will include not only simplified names, but also detailed characteristics of the meat and cooking guidelines.
So what once was called pork butt -- and actually does not come from the pig's nether region -- will now be called a Boston roast and be described as a bone-in pork shoulder.
That will take some getting used to.
Hirsch goes on to say that where appropriate, the new labels also will use universal terms across species -- a bone-in loin cut will be called a T-bone whether it's pork or beef. Before the update, a properly labeled sirloin steak would be called a "beef loin top sirloin steak, boneless." Now it will be called ... a sirloin steak.
Here's my problem: While the new names will eventually catch on, there are a lot (understatement) of cookbooks and recipes that call for cuts of meats by their old names.
Hirsch asked: Will people know to buy a New York chop if a pork recipe calls for a top loin chop? And what about older cooks who grew up with legacy names, such as pork rump (now called leg sirloin)?
Gonna be some confusion. No doubt.
My advice? Talk to a butcher at the store if you need a translation when the new labeling goes into effect.
My advice to supermarkets? Create and erect a big chart in the meat section that will show photos of cuts of meat with old names alongside new names. I wouldn't mind a down-sized copy I could slip in my purse for shopping, either, or an extra for at home. I'll keep you posted.
Fajitas are so easy to make for dinner. This recipe calls for marinating the meat, so make the sauce ahead of time and soak the meat overnight. The recipe is from Healthy Cooking magazine.
Citrus Chicken Fajitas
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 each medium green, sweet red and yellow peppers, julienned
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
1/2 cup shredded lettuce
1/4 cup sliced ripe olives
1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Divide marinade equally between two large resealable plastic bags; add the chicken to one bag. Add peppers and onion to remaining bag. Seal bags and turn to coat; refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Drain chicken and vegetables; discard marinade. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir chicken over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add vegetables; cook 3-5 minutes longer or until chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are crisp-tender.
Spoon filling onto tortillas; top with lettuce, olives and cheese. Roll up.
Yield: 4 servings; 1 fajita equals 360 calories, 10 grams fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 426 mg sodium, 38 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 31 grams protein. Diabetic exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1 1/2 starch, 1 fat.
A reader asked for a simple biscotti recipe. Typically, the ingredients are simple, but it takes just a bit of attention to the instructions to get biscotti right. This recipe is from Joyofcooking.com. You'll notice there is no butter or oil used. The biscotti gets its moisture from the eggs.
3/4 cup whole almonds, skins on or off
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until very lightly brown and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.
Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla and almond extracts.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chopped almonds.
Add the egg mixture and stir until a dough forms.
Divide the dough in half, and on a lightly floured surface, roll each half into a 7-inch log that is about 3 to 4 inches wide.
Transfer logs to the prepared baking sheet and bake about 35 minutes, or until firm to the touch (log will spread during baking). Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack about 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer logs to a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut logs into slices about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick on the diagonal.
Place the slices on the baking sheet and bake about 10-15 minutes. Turn slices over, and bake another 10-15 minutes or until firm to the touch. (The longer you bake the biscotti the more crisp and crunchy they will be.)
Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container for several weeks.
To dip in chocolate: Place chocolate in microwave bowl and very carefully heat at 15 to 20 second intervals until it has completely melted and is smooth and glossy. Taking one biscotti at a time, dip one end into the melted chocolate and place on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet. Once all the biscotti have been dipped in the chocolate, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, or until the chocolate has hardened. Store as above.
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