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News : Change In US-Cuba Relations Will Affect Food

It took a few hours for some Cubans to realize the magnitude of President Obama's announcement on Wednesday about changes in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, according to Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez.

Why? Because they were at the market, buying fish. "It is important to also say that the news had fierce competition, like the arrival of fish to the rationed market, after years of disappearance," wrote Sanchez, who is perhaps the most celebrated dissident on the island.

As you've probably heard — or seen, if you've traveled to Cuba — food (and, at times, the lack thereof) remains one of the most striking emblems of Cuba's dysfunctional economic system. Let's just say that the agreement between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will probably eventually mean big changes for the food supply in Cuba.

But if you're picturing Cubans sipping Frappuccinos at Starbucks in Havana, or a Carnival cruise ship full of American tourists unloading in the port and filing into a gleaming new McDonald's, hold your horses. Such massive changes are, in theory, more possible than they were on Tuesday, but not before our two governments work out a huge number of issues embedded in our super complex trade relationship, analysts say.

Obama and Castro's speeches were significant and expansive, says John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, but "the details are what matter. What people tend to forget is it's not what the U.S. wants to do to or for Cuba. It's about what Cuba feels is in its interest."

Most Cubans depend on monthly rations (limited amounts of deeply subsidized food) of rice, beans, coffee and a few other staple foods for their sustenance. There's also a thriving black market for food, supplying the wealthy and the foreigners with gourmet items like blue cheese and smoked salmon smuggled in by suitcase. (I traveled to Cuba in 2003 and 2007, first on a person-to-person license and then on a freelance journalist visa. Like so many other American visitors, I was utterly bewitched by the people, the music, the rum. But I lost weight there — probably because candy bars and other snacks were so hard to come by.)

Of course, Cuba is far more food secure than many of its similarly impoverished neighbors in Latin America like Honduras and Haiti. But animal (and fish) protein is in extremely limited supply, and to buy food, Cubans have to wrestle with a "jigsaw puzzle" — different markets and currencies for different food products.

Cuba imports about 80 percent of its food, according to the World Food Program. That costs the government $2 billion a year, and since 2000, a solid chunk of the imports have come from the U.S. In 2013, American firms sold $348 million worth of agricultural goods to Cuba, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. The top three products? Frozen chicken, soybean meal (for animal feed) and corn.

Wednesday's announcement was not the end of the embargo, of course. But Obama's new approach to Cuba includes "expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba." That includes agricultural products, from commodities like rice and beans to butter.

And for U.S. agricultural producers, the most important part of Wednesday's announcement was Obama's call to lift restrictions on financial transactions for food products, says David Salmonsen, a trade specialist with the American Farm Bureau.

Currently, any agricultural producer who wants to sell to Cuba has to get cash upfront from the Cuban government before shipping, and the money exchange must be handled through a third-party bank, which means all kinds of extra transaction costs.

If the Treasury Department and Commerce Department go along with Obama's order, then those producers will now be able to do business more directly with the Cuban government and its banks, says Salmonsen.

Without those extra transaction costs, certain U.S. producers that don't currently sell to Cuba — like fruit and vegetables producers — may finally be able to offer the Cuban government a competitive price. Or rice from the Southeast U.S.: Cuba used to buy it, until we were out-competed by Brazil and Vietnam.

Cargill, for one, says it's optimistic about the opportunities. So is the American Soybean Association.

"Depending on how it develops, it could put our producers back into a more normal trading relationship with Cuba, so that the whole supply chain evolves, and demand rises as barriers are reduced and eliminated," says Salmonsen.

But as Kavulich points out, food isn't necessarily Cuba's biggest priority: Investments in infrastructure may be more desperately needed.

Still, "there are opportunities" for food companies, he says, but what happens when the "Cubans say, 'That's all well and good, but we need help with financing?' The risk of doing business with the Cuban government is huge."

Cuba's government has considerable trade deficits with other nations, but little with the U.S. If American businesses want to sell more to Cuba, they might find themselves waiting a while to get paid, he says.

The big trade picture aside, the outlook for Cuban cuisine is also a bit murky. As I reported in 2012, Cuban chefs haven't been able to incorporate many modern cooking techniques, or exotic ingredients. (I don't think sous vides machines can get past the embargo.) So chefs may have to wait a while before they can import some of the American ingredients they covet.

As Sanchez wrote, Wednesday's announcement "is just the beginning." It's tempting to get excited about the future of Cuban food, but "keep the corks in the bottles," she says.

Contact NPR The Salt
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Sources : US-Cuba Relations Photo | US-Cuba Relations Article
Drinks : American Style Original Turducken

For the house seasoning:
¼ cup garlic powder
¼ cup black pepper
1 cup salt

For the cornbread dressing:
½ cup self raising flour
1 cup self-raising cornmeal
2 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
2 tbsp vegetable oil

7 white bread slices, toasted lightly in warm oven
5 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
7 cup chicken stock
2 cups celery, chopped
1 tsp dried sage, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 sleeve saltine crackers
8 tbsp butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the brine:
18-20lb turkey, skin retained and bones removed except wings and drumsticks.
3-4 lb chicken, boned
3-4 lb duck, boned
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
1 gallon water
Dash of paprika
Cornbread dressing
House seasoning

1. To begin with, prepare the brine by dissolving the salt as well as sugar in water and soak the birds in it overnight.

2. Blend all the ingredients of the house seasoning together into a uniform mixture and seal the mixture into an airtight container.

3. Warm up your oven to 350 F and add all the ingredients of the cornbread into a large mixing bowl.

4. Mix them thoroughly to form a smooth batter and transfer it into a pre-greased baking dish.

5. Bake the cornbread in the preheated temperature for about 20 minutes.

6. Take the bread out of the oven to cool it while you prepare the dressing.

7. Crumble the cornbread, bread slices as well as the crackers into a bowl and toss them together to mix well.

8. Add few splodges of butter into a pan and throw in the onion as well as celery once the butter melts.

9. Sauté them for about 5-8 minutes or until the onions soften and turn lucid.

10. Stir in the crumbled mixture, along with the stock and season with sage, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning.

11. Pour the beaten eggs over the sautéed mixture and stir them together until the former are completely incorporated into the dressing.

12. Spoon it into a bowl and set the oven temperature to 500 F.

13. Place the turkey on your kitchen board with the skin side facing down.

14. Rub the house seasoning all over it and stuff with 1/3 of the cornbread dressing; season and stuff the remaining birds in a similar fashion.

15. Tie up the turkey around its neck and introduce a metal skewer from one side in such a way that it comes out through the opposite side.

16. Draw either side of the turkey together by sewing it between the skewer and skin and do the same with the legs too

17. Insert several skewers and draw the chicken and duck skin together in a similar manner.

18. Season the turkey skin with a dash of paprika and put the turducken into the oven.

19. Roast it for about 15 minutes and lower the temperature to 225 F before cooking it for another 3 hours.

20. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool until the temperature inside the turducken comes down to 150 F.

21. Let it rest for another 20 minutes and cut it out crosswise into thin slices.

22. Serve with a great-tasting sauce and fresh salad.

Turducken Recipes

Sources : Turducken Photo | Turducken Recipe Article
Drinks : Drunken Fruit Cake

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
6 oz bag cup dried cranberries
4 oz bag dried blueberries
5 oz bag cup dried cherries
1/6 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/6 cup dried pineapple, chopped
1/6 cup dried mangoes, chopped
Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 cup spiced rum
1 cup sugar
5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
1 cup unfiltered apple cider
4 whole cloves, ground
6 allspice berries, ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup toasted pecans, broken
Cherry Brandy for basting and/or spritzing

1. Combine all the dried fruits, the zests, and the candied ginger in a large bowl. Add the rum and let them macerate overnight.

2. Add the fruit and rum the next day to a non reactive saucepan. Add sugar, butter, apple cider, and spices. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring constantly. Bowl for 10 minutes over medium heat. Let this mixture cool completely.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the pecans and roast until fragrant, about 5 - 10 minutes. Turn heat down to 325 degrees.

4. Add fruit mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sift the dry ingredients into the fruit mixture. Stir until just combined. Stir in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Fold in pecans.

5. Pour batter in to a 10 inch nonstick loaf pan, or a well greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Cake is done when it passes the toothpick test.

6. Let the cake cool completely in the pan before removing. Then place cake in an airtight container and baste with brandy.

7. Continue to baste every 2-3 days. The cake will be wonderful in about 2 weeks.

Eclectic Recipes
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Sources : Fruit Cake Photo | Fruit Cake Article
Drinks : The Classic Margarita

1 part Grand Marnier
1 part tequila
1 part fresh squeezed lime juice

Add all parts to Shaker tin filled with chopped ice. Shake well and strain into martini glass.

Classic City Catering
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Sources : Classic Eggnog Photo | Classic Eggnog Article
Chefs : Dominique Ansel

Birth Name : Dominique Ansel
Origin : Beauvais, France
Cooking Style : French pastry chef and Restaurant Owner

Dominique Ansel is a French pastry chef and owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City. Since its opening in November 2011, the chef’s eponymous bakery was awarded Time Out New York’s “Best New Bakery of 2012” and Metromix’s “Best Bakery of 2012”, all within four months of opening its doors. Today, it is also Zagat 2013’s highest ranked bakery.

Raised in a working-class family in Beauvais, a small city north of Paris, Dominique is the youngest of four children. After high school, he apprenticed at local bakeries and spent three years as a military cook in French Guiana. Upon returning, he invested his savings in a car and drove to Paris where he eventually got a job at Fauchon. He spent seven years at Fauchon, making his way up from seasonal staff to leading the restaurant’s international expansion and setting up franchises around the world, including Russia, Egypt, and Kuwait.

Prior to starting his own business, Dominique became well known in New York as the executive pastry chef at Daniel, Daniel Boulud's flagship French restaurant. During his six years there, Dominique was part of the team that led the restaurant to receive its first four-star New York Times rating, three Michelin stars, and James Beard's Outstanding Restaurant of the Year Award in 2010.

In 2013, Dominique was nominated a finalist for the “Outstanding Pastry Chef” award by the James Beard Foundation. He was named one of the “Top 10 Pastry Chefs in the United States” by Dessert Professional magazine in 2009. And in 2010, Dominique was subsequently chosen by Time Out New York as one of the city's "Top Ten Pastry Chefs You Need to Know." Deemed the “Willy Wonka of NYC," Ansel is also the creator of the Cronut, a croissant and doughnut hybrid that has been reported on and imitated throughout the world.

In August 2013, it was announced that Ansel’s first cookbook will be published by Simon & Schuster in fall 2014

Popular pastries and desserts
The Cronut: Ansel's doughnut and croissant hybrid. Made from laminated dough, it is sugared, filled and glazed. The bakery produces a different flavor each month. Past flavors include Rose Vanilla, Blackberry Lime, Fig Mascarpone and Apple Creme Fraiche.

Dominique's Kouign Amann (The DKA): Inspired by the Breton kouign-amann, the DKA is a caramelized croissant with a crispy shell and flaky interior. It was named one of Time Out New York’s 100 best dishes in 2012.

Frozen S’more: Inspired by the Turkish dondurma, the Frozen S’more is a chewy ice-cream wrapped in chocolate feulletine which is then enveloped in melted marshmallow, placed on an applewood-smoked willow branch and frozen. It was named Time Out New York's 'Dish of the Moment' in 2013.

Magic Soufflé: The magic soufflé is a portable chocolate Grand Marnier soufflé wrapped in an orange blossom brioche shell, noted as the only soufflé which does not collapse.

Gingerbread Pinecone: A layered pastry with a crunchy hazelnut feuilletine base, a layer of soft nutmeg cake surrounded by flavored mousse and topped with ginger flavored cream.

Salted Pistachio Religeuse: A soft choux pastry filled with white-chocolate ganache and topped with salted pistachio pieces.

Christmas Morning Cereal: The bakery’s first cold cereal made up of puffed rice clusters covered in chocolate, spiced hazelnut pieces and miniature smoked hazelnut flavored meringues.

Ansel supports various charities, including the fight to end hunger with Food Bank for New York City. In August 2013, He worked with Bartle Bogle Hegarty to release The Cronut Project, which raised money for the Food Bank using donations from Cronut sales.

In September 2013, Dominique Ansel Bakery partnered with Shake Shack to offer a limited amount of Cronut Hole Concretes. Hundreds of people lined up as early as 4am at a chance to purchase one of the 1000 Cronut Hole Concretes. All proceeds were donated to the NYPD Widows and Children Fund and Madison Square Park Conservancy. More than $5,300 was raised.

At a live auction in October 2013 to benefit City Harvest’s Bid Against Hunger, Dominique, Questlove and auctioneer Nicho Lowry, auctioned a dozen freshly baked Cronuts for $14,000 in less than twenty minutes.

In November, 2013, Dominique Ansel Bakery collaborated on The Cronut Mission with celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Joan Rivers and the cast of several Broadway shows to raise money for God’s Love We Deliver, a soup kitchen located near the bakery in SoHo. Thanksgiving Cronuts filled with pumpkin cream and topped with 24-karat gold leaves, were placed in packages specially designed and autographed by the participating celebs. The Cronut Mission raised $9,340.00, to fund meals for God’s Love We Deliver’s clients who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves.

Eat At Restaurants
Dominique Ansel Bakery : New York, NY

Contact Dominique Ansel
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Sources : Dominique Ansel Photo | About Dominique Ansel
Menu Items : Smothered Cheese Bread : Deluca Pizzeria : Lansing, MI : USA

Moodi Foodi Dish Definition : Smothered Cheese Bread
Garlic Sticks with a Bed of Cheese on top.
Restaurant : Deluca Pizzeria : Lansing, Mi : USA

About Deluca Pizzeria
This Michigan pizzeria, celebrating 50 years of business in 2010, has involved three generations of family members.

In 1960, Italian immigrants Pat DeLuca and his brother-in-law Jim opened the Willow Bar, a neighborhood bar for nearby factory workers, in Lansing, Michigan, but the pizza they served became so popular the business eventually switched its name to DeLucas's Restaurant and Pizzeria.

When Jim retired in 1977, the transition to family eatery was already under way as word spread about the pies, which featured hearty sauce, a medium-thick crust, and generous amounts of cheese and toppings. "When they opened the business, ethnic foods were just starting to be popular, and pizza was only a part of what they offered," says John DeLuca, the son of Pat, whom owns the pizzeria with his brothers, Chuck and Tom. "But years of perseverance and a dedication to the consistency of the food worked well."

Eventually, the family would introduce several pizza innovations to Lansing, in the size (the 18" pie), toppings (spinach pizza and tuna pizza) and varieties (including stuffed crust and deep dish). Today, the kitchen is five times its original size to keep up with customer demand.

Accordingly, DeLuca's has won a slew of awards and recognitions over the years; John claims that the family has lost count of how many consecutive years now the pizzeria has garnered awards as the best of Lansing.

John credits the success to determination from the entir family: Pat's wife, Helen, pitched in to develop the specialty salad dressings (and still occasionally helps out, at 92 years old); Aunt Louise worked until she was 93, priding herself on the chocolate cake and homemade Italian specialties such as manicotti and lasagna; Pat's daughter Sue works behind the counter, greeting and serving customers; and numerous grandchildren have pitched in to help over the years.

"We began working as children and have stayed with the business - we joke that pizza sauce, not blood, runs through our veins," says John. "We've learned that hands-on management is important, and we never forget to appreciate our customers." - Tracy Morin

Smothered Cheese Bread : Deluca Pizzeria Review By Bonnie F. : Lansing, MI"
"We LOVE Deluca's food! The pizza is unquestionably the best in the greater Lansing area and gives pizza from other areas a definite run as well. Their garlic cheese sticks are nothing short of sinful - fresh bread loaded with cheese and garlic butter...yummy."

Contact Deluca
2006 W Willow St, Lansing, MI 48917 | Phone : (517) 487-6087

Sources : Smothered Cheese Bread Photo | Deluca Pizzeria Photo | Deluca Pizzeria Review