Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Product review: Palm Leaf Plates

By Paul Briand

If you're looking for a sturdy alternative to paper or plastic plates -- an alternative that has a high eco-cool factor to it too -- look into plates made from palm leaf.

I had the opportunity recently through the good folks at to test drive a set of plates and bowls made from the leaves of palm trees in a way that is about as carbon neutral as possible.

Information about the plates can be found here.

First, a little bit about how the plates are made as provided by Justin Marx at MarxFoods.

The leaves themselves come from fallen or discarded leaves of the Adaka palm, then prepped in a cleaning process that includes hand washing with a mixture of water and turmeric. Once thoroughly cleaned and rinsed, the leaves are dried, then hand stretched and flattened.

The various shapes -- bowls, rectangle and hexagon-shaped dinner plates -- are molded using a heated press. Up to three plates can be created from each leaf. Each plate is then sun dried and packaged in groups of 25.

"Every piece has a unique natural pattern and the line includes bowls, plates, serving dishes and utensils," said Marx. "We sell them in 25 piece orders and picnic and dinner party themed setting combinations are also available."

My test drive included the heaviest food I could think of -- a barbecue-type meal of ribs, potato salad and corn on the cob. I really loaded up the rectangle plate and found there was no sagging, and no leaking ... not from the buttered corn or from the ooey-gooey barbecue sauce on the ribs. The food remained hot and the plate absorbed and conducted it well with no discomfort whatsoever as I walked around, palm plate in one hand, a rib in the other.

The next morning, just out of curiosity, I ate my cereal out of a palm leaf bowl. Again, the material held fast -- no sagging, no leaking.

What's interesting is that the plates are reusable to a certain extent. Sandwiches and chips, for example, produce a few crumbs that can be wiped with a damp paper towel from the plates. I didn't try reusing the plates after the barbeque meal given how dirty they were.

According to MarxFoods, the plates can be thrown away or even composted after use.

To give you an idea of price, a 25-piece dinner party set that includes round bowls (two sizes), round plates (two sizes) and forks, knives and spoons costs $80.25.

And they must be selling pretty well. Various combinations of the palm-leaf ware is temporarily out of stock, according to the web site.

There's a certain cool factor to the plates, as in telling someone, "You know, these plates are made out of palm leaves."

And the usual response is: "Wow, that's pretty cool."
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuna Salad Mix-Ins

By Paul Briand

I love how this works. I make a honkin' tuna salad for lunch. Return to my study to do some more work. Tune into "Tyler's Ultimate" on the Food Channel at 3:30 and what is Tyler Florence making? The Tuna Everything Bagel.

I approach tuna salad for sandwiches the same way some people approach handcrafted ice cream -- the more taste you mix in the better.

I've always wanted to dress up my tuna. If I'm out and ordering a tuna sub, I always ask for pickles and tomatoes on it.

If I'm making it at home, I see no reason to alter my approach. What I do, however, is rather than layer the pickle or tomato or whatever on top of the tuna, I mix it right in.

Here's a recent example of my tuna mix-ins (see photo):

I started with a can of white tuna in water, water drained, tuna broken up in a mixing bowl. I added:
Ground black pepper;
Bread and butter pickle spear, chopped;
Sweet grape tomatoes, halved (sometimes quartered depending on their size);
Chopped green onion.

Into that I stirred in enough mayonnaise to get everything wet.

I put it on toasted oatmeal bread and topped it with some hot banana pepper rings.

Just for fun, here's Florence's tuna salad recipe from above:

3 cups good quality canned tuna (packed in water), drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 cornichons, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
2 everything bagels, sliced and toasted
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced crescents
1 vine-ripened tomato, sliced
1 seedless cucumber, sliced
4 Bibb lettuce leaves

1. Begin with the tuna salad. Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper;
2. Take cut bagels and toast under a hot broiler until golden brown. While still hot smear the bottom with the cream cheese immediately;
3. Top with a scoop of the tuna salad and then layer with red onion, tomato, cucumber and lettuce. Add the top half of the bagel and serve.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Grilled Stuffed Portobellos

By Paul Briand

A favorite present from this Christmas past was a new set of grilling tools and Bobby Flay's "Grill It!" recipe book from my children.

Now that it's more like grilling weather here in northern New England I've broken out both the tools and the cookbook, and it's a sure thing you'll be seeing some of the "Grill It!" recipes here.

Flay is a fan favorite on the Food Channel. I especially like his throw-downs -- when puts his recipe up against the recipe of a local crowd favorite somewhere in the country. I wrote about a meatloaf throw-down back in August 2008.

I treated this adapted recipe of Portobello mushrooms, sweet Italian sausage, spinach, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes as a meal. And with a side dish of zucchini and squash that I also grilled, it was quite the pleasing medley.

6 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes (Note: Flay likes heat in most all his dishes. This is optional for those who don't like heat.)
1/2 cup dry red wine
8 ounces fresh spinach, stems removed, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
4 large Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2 tomatoes, sliced

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium pan over high heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces;
2. As the sausage starts to lose its pink add the chopped onion, pepper flakes (if you choose to use them) and garlic;
3. As the onion starts to become translucent, add the wine and simmer until completely evaporated;
4. Add the spinach and a half a cup of water, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the spinach is wilted and the water evaporates;
5. Stir in four cubes of mozzarella (which will help act as a binder), plus the basil and parsley;
6. Once the cheese melts throughout, remove from heat and set aside;
7. Brush mushroom caps on both sides with olive oil and place on heated grill, cooking both sides until brown;
8. Remove mushroom caps from grill and, cap side down, fill each mushroom with sausage mixture, top with mozzarella cubes and tomato;
9. Return mushrooms to the grill, close the cover and cook until cheese has melted and tomatoes are soft, about five minutes.
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009


By Paul Briand

When I make guacamole, it's a pretty simple concoction: Avocado, garlic, dash of Tabasco, smidgen of mayonnaise and a spritz of lemon juice.

By way of Relish magazine, courtesy of my wife Jane, I found a twist on guacamole that combines the richness of avocado with the sharpness of Roquefort cheese (blue cheese) and the tang of sour cream.

Relish magazine says this recipe for Roquamole is adapted from "Nigella Express," by British food writer Nigella Lawson.

1 cup crumbled Roquefort or blue cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeno peppers (eliminate if your not into the heat)
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1. In medium size bowl, prepare avocado as you would for guacamole;
2. Crumble in the cheese;
3. Add the sour cream and stir mixture together;
4. Roughly chop the jalapeno, add to mixture with green onions and lime juice, and stir;
5. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips.
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