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Nibbles: Cooking class bound for the Aegean

Thursday, August 29, 2002

By Nancy Anderson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Cooking instructor Penny Lawrence, who had her neck broken in a serious car accident last winter, will resume cooking classes at several schools this fall.

She also plans to take a group on a Greek Aegean Harvest trip Sept. 18 to Oct. 1, featuring cooking classes, tours of wineries and historic spots and other aspects of Greek culture firsthand.

Stops include Athens, Nafplion (where Penny is from) and Santorini. Cost is $2,295 (does not include air fare). Call 1-800-669-4330 and ask for Tom Sevidas.

New breads

Speaking of Greek goodies, MediTerra Bakehouse in the Parkway West Industrial Park has added two new breads to its lineup: naturally leavened loaves of olive oil focaccia and cinnamon-tinged Saint Isadore, a bread in the Greek tradition made with mastic, a tree resin found only on the island of Chios.

Coming next, says owner Nick Ambeliotis, is pain de mie, a fine-crumb sandwich-type bread, and, for the holidays, a chocolate cherry with Michigan dried cherries and Valrhona chocolate.

In the mailbag

Last week's column elicited these responses:

Susy Moran of Arlington e-mailed about burdock: "I believe that the burdock referred to in your [column] is actually burdock root. It's sort of like a carrot, but white, and used in some Asian cooking.

"I've eaten it in a tempura with carrots, and it's good! I'm pretty sure that you could find it at the East End Food Co-op.

"You can also find burdock plants in weedy lots and fields -- the round, jaggery seed pods are the ones that always get stuck on dogs' fur and are so hard to get out!"

Jane Campbell of Munhall gathers her own burdock in May.

"I take a bag and fill it with plants," she said. Using the stems only, she cuts them in four-inch pieces and pressure cooks them.

"My mother always made it, so I do, too."

Free-lance writer Virginia Phillips of Mt. Lebanon sent along these thoughts after buying burdock for a vegan feature she was working on:

"Burdock doesn't look like something you should eat. It looks like what it sounds, maybe a carrot with radiation sickness. Brown, woody and wizened. Even when fresh."

She never did get around to cooking with it and left it on a window sill in Asheville, N.C.

Responding to the item from Vox Vodka about martinis and food pairings, Bob Bittner of Zelienople called to say he and his friends make a different martini:

"It's called a Stifferini -- vodka or gin -- or a little of each -- and apple cider," enthused the retired chef and one-time Beatles bodyguard.

As far as pairing it with fancy food, his comment was, "After a couple of these, you won't care what you're eating."

Tabasco awards

It's Tabasco Community Cookbook award time. Enter your organization's 2001 cookbook in this prestigious contest, which honors the books and the committed volunteers who assemble them for charitable causes. Regional and national prizes will be awarded.

For an entry form, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Tabasco Community Cookbook Awards, c/o McIlhenny Co., Attn: Sheryl Dartez, General Delivery, Avery Island, LA 70513.

Deadline is Oct. 1. Details on the awards can be found at www.TABASCO.com.

Sweet news

Good news for honey lovers.

The range of antioxidants in honey is comparable to that in apples, bananas, oranges and strawberries, according to research presented at the American Chemical Society meeting earlier this month.

A five-week study of blood from 25 men aged 18 to 68 indicated that drinking a mixture of water and honey, about 4 tablespoons per 16-ounce glass, improved the antioxidant levels in their blood.

The darker the honey, the better it was at lifting the levels. Researchers at the University of Illinois are now studying rabbits to determine if honey has an inhibitory effort on hardening of the arteries.

5 A Day contest

Kids ages 5 to 12 who like to cook and/or invent recipes might want to try their hand at the 5 A Day Kids Recipe Contest, sponsored by Dole Food Co.

If your child can whip up an original recipe using canned fruit or vegetables in one of eight categories -- breakfast, snacks, soups, salads, entrees, side dishes, beverages or desserts -- there may be big bucks in it.

Grand prize is a $10,000 savings bond. Seven first-place winners will receive $500 savings bonds and every entrant gets a book of coupons for Dole foods.

Recipes must contain at least one Dole product, be easy to prepare and contain no more than 12 ingredients. Deadline is Nov. 15.

Mail recipes to: Dole 5 A Day Recipe Contest, 100 Hegenberger Road, Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94621. For contest rules, visit www.dole5aday.com.

The last word

"I don't overeat because my mother slapped me when I was 5. I overeat because I'm a damned hog." -- Dolly Parton.

E-mail Nancy Anderson atnanderson@post-gazette.com . Or call 412-263-3549.

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