Bruce Kraig, Ph.D., professor emeritus in history and humanities at Roosevelt University, was the scholar-in-residence. He is internationally recognized as an expert on the cultural and social significances of food, which led to a fascinating presentation and dialogue with members.
The wide range of cutting-edge topics included trends as in "Organics Gone Mainstream"; interactive workshops led by two of the world's top culinary problem-solvers, Shirley Corriher and Harold McGee; and an in-depth study of global foods and wines.
Since we were in the Windy City -- home to more than 2,000 pizza parlors -- one talk was devoted strictly to pizza, where arguments raged over which is the best and why. The panel explored the history of pizza in America, as well as what's new in toppings, including heaps of fresh arugula at Quartinos in Chicago to Chez Panisse's pizza topped with nettles.
Single ingredients were also targeted. For decades, American cooks have taken plain old butter for granted, not paying much attention to flavor. But standards are changing, and there's a demand for better, fuller-flavored butters. Check your market, and you'll find a variety of freshly imported brands.
What's hot, new and trendsetting? Gluten-free, natural and organic items are in the forefront for consumers.
And just released, the National Organic Standards Board, an expert advisory panel to the USDA, has made it clear that organic agriculture should not allow the use of cloned animals in the production of organic foods.
Then, of course, there's the recent "Fear Factor," which has resulted in a demand for safer foods and beverages, as well as organic and environmentally friendly products. This shows up in the increased demand and use of locally grown products. Farmers markets have increased more than 110 percent since 1994.
Pomegranates are the hottest new item and the preferred mixer for martinis or as a reduction to glaze meats.
Premium products, such as bottled water, upscale coffees and exotic mushrooms are also in high demand.
As with every IACP conference, sponsors showcased their products in generous tastings and meals. Below are a handful of recipes, many that have been adapted for the kosher kitchen.
Country Breakfast Cereal
Enriched whole-grain brown rice gives the gluten-free a healthy, nutritious grain option. Leftovers may be refrigerated and heated through in the microwave for next day's breakfast or snack. To keep pareve, serve with soy milk. For dairy, substitute cream or milk for the soy milk.
1 cup brown rice
2 Tbsps. pareve margarine
1/2 cup seedless raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup orange juice
brown sugar, honey and soy milk (optional)
In a medium saucepan, stir together the rice, margarine, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, vanilla, orange juice and 11/3 cups water.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 40 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
Serve with brown sugar, honey and vanilla-flavored soy milk.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 272; protein, 6 g; carbohydrates, 41 g; fat, 11 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 4 mg.
Chili-Spiked Yellow Split-Pea Soup
Adapted from Chef Raghavan Iyer's recipe
1/2 cup yellow split peas, sorted and rinsed
21/2 cups water
1 tsp. bottled chopped garlic
2 Tbsps. chopped ginger root
3 Tbsps. canola oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 serrano chili, coarsely chopped, or 11/2 tsps. chili powder
3/4 tsp. powdered cumin
3/4 tsp. kosher salt or to taste
1 small tomato, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsps. low-fat plain yogurt
Place the peas and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Skim off any foam. Add the garlic and ginger. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the peas are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low.
Add the onion, chili or chili powder and cumin. Sauté for 5 minutes.
Add the salt and tomato; cook, stirring, for 5 more minutes. Add this mixture to the peas.
Stir and bring soup to simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes longer. Cool slightly.
Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. To serve, heat through and top with a spoonful of yogurt.
Serves 4 to 6.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 127; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates,12 g; fat, 7 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 242 mg.
Citrus Flank Steak, 'Cuban Style'
Ground cumin, coriander and peppercorns heated in a skillet bring out the nutty flavor of this updated Cuban favorite. Serve this dish with the Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsps. coriander
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cups orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp. bottled chopped garlic
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
11/2 lbs. flank steak, cut in 6 pieces
In a small skillet, stir together the cumin, coriander and pepper. Heat through over low heat, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer to a 13x9-inch glass baking dish.
Stir in the brown sugar, orange and lime juices, garlic, scallions and salt.
Place the flank steak into this mixture, turning to coat all surfaces. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, turning several times.
Preheat the broiler.
Transfer the steak and marinade to a metal baking dish or rimmed cookie sheet.
Broil for 10 to 15 minutes, turning several times, to desired doneness.
Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing across the grain.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 240; protein, 24 g; carbohydrates, 15 g; fat, 9 g; cholesterol, 59 mg; sodium, 271 mg.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
3 sweet potatoes (about 11/2 lbs.), peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsps. frozen orange-juice concentrate, thawed
1 Tbsp. pareve margarine
3/4 tsp. pumpkin-pie spice*
2 Tbsps. honey or to taste
salt and ground pepper
(*or substitute 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. each nutmeg and ginger)
Place the potatoes in a medium pot. Cover with boiling water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium.
Cook for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not broken down. Drain well.
Add the orange-juice concentrate, margarine, pumpkin-pie spice and mix well. Add the honey, salt and fresh pepper to taste. Potatoes should be slightly lumpy. If you want a smooth mixture, beat with electric mixer.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 167; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 36 g; fat, 2 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 37 mg.
Sabra liqueur from Israel was used for this recipe, though any orange liqueur may be used.
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut in thin wedges
3 Tbsps. sugar
13/4 cups milk
3 Tbsps. orange liqueur
1/8 tsp. lemon extract
5 cups challah, cut in 3/4-inch chunks
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup diced fresh or frozen peaches
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray a 9-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the apples and sugar.
Sauté until the sugar is melted and the apples begin to turn golden. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, orange liqueur and lemon extract. Set aside.
Place half of the challah in prepared baking dish. Spread the apple mixture, blueberries and peaches over. Top with remaining challah. Pour the milk mixture over top, gently pressing the challah to submerge.
Bake until puffed and golden-brown, 50 to 60 minutes.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 286; protein, 10 g; carbohydrates, 36 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 173 mg; sodium, 263 mg.
Chocolate-Ganache Tart With Glazed Figs
Sinfully rich. Recipe courtesy of Orchard Choice Figs.
1 refrigerated piecrust at room temperature
1 cup figs (6 oz.), stemmed and halved
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsps. almond, hazelnut or orange flavored liqueur
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup unsalted mixed nuts
whipped cream to garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°.
Unroll the pie crust, and press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9- or 10-inch pie dish. Prick all over with a fork. Bake until pale brown, 9 to 11 minutes. Cool.
In a small saucepan, combine the figs and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook until liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, for 1 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the liqueur. Let stand 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve, reserving the syrup. Set aside to cool.
In a small saucepan, bring the cream to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat.
Add the chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Spread over the baked crust.
Refrigerate for 5 minutes, or until chocolate begins to firm up but is not set. Arrange the figs and nuts over the chocolate. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Before serving, brush the figs and nuts with reserved syrup.
Serve with whipped cream.
Makes 10 servings.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 339; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 38 g; fat, 20 g; cholesterol, 16 mg; sodium, 96 mg.