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"something you wish to share with your online friends." Urban Dictionary

"a small fragment" Merriam-Webster

Actually I think that first definition actually has sexual - of a sado-masochistic kind - connotation, which is definitely not intended here, but I was taken by 'sharing with online friends' - well that's what I do. Anyway time for small bits and pieces from here and there.

Maple poached mandarins - this was from June's Coles Magazine. I definitely don't like porridge which is how they decided to show the mandarins, but I thought the mandarin poaching liquid sounded a little bit different - it included star anise, vanilla and cinnamon as well as the maple syrup. I think I noticed it because we had a temporary overload of mandarins. Now all eaten just as they were. We don't often cook with mandarins do we? Which is probably silly of us.

Sunflowers by Van Gogh - nothing to do with food really. It's today's desk calendar work of art from the Met Museum. At first I thought it was a detail from one of those sunflowers in a vase paintings, but no this is the entire picture. Even a semi art educated person such as I would look at this and immediately think Van Gogh wouldn't they? It's so alive and so vibrant, even though the sunflowers are past their best, which is immensely sad for someone who died so young. To make a couple of very remote connections with food - sunflower seeds. Wonderful things. As are sunflowers themselves of course. Immediately recognised as Van Gogh. Is there a chef whose food is instantly recognisable as theirs without looking further? Ottolenghi is perhaps the prime candidate here - but even he - not in the same instantaneous way as seeing a Van Gogh picture - from any of his phases - and knowing it is Van Gogh. And I never liked him as a young person. Like cream. Our tastes change as we change. Who we are now is not who we were then.

Fennel pollen

"The flowers of wild fennel produce a bright-yellow pollen that, when naturally dried, tastes sweetly and pungently of aniseed. Chefs call it ''magic fairy dust'' and use it as an instant lift for desserts, cakes, salads, fish and chicken dishes." Jill Dupleix

According to Jill Dupleix it's on trend as the officianados say. Well sure, like all those other must have exotic ingredients you find in otherwise tempting recipes these days. I mean where are you going to get fennel pollen? Well don't despair. It's a weed after all - so next time you see some wild fennel in flower:

"Wrap a dozen flowering fennel or dill stalks in a large paper bag and hang upside down, sealed at the top around the stalks. Shake the bag occasionally, then collect the pollen after two or three weeks and store."

You may even be growing some in your own garden for the leaves - or the bulbs if you are a better gardener than I. And everyone, it seems is using the pollen. By everyone, of course, I mean celebrity chefs - not you and me:

''It opens up a whole new way of thinking, Once you use it, you start looking at everything in the garden in a new light.'' Guy Grossi

If you can't find some you can get it online from Herbie's Spices - and just about every other weird and wonderful herb or spice too. I might wait for summer and my own fennel flowers.

The article ends with a recipe for this delectable looking ice-cream - Fennel pollen ice-cream with pineapple.

What are melts? - on the left is the dish that finally made me decide to 'do' melts. It's from the latest Woolworth's Fresh Ideas Magazine and is called Roasted cauliflower and asparagus melts.

I had been dimly, and for some strange reason irritated by various recipes I had noticed here and there for 'melts'. Is this yet another TikTok or Instagram thing that has passed my aged eyes by I wondered? Well actually no as it turns out, and yet again yes.

Of course I cannot remember exactly where else I had seen the name, but anyway I looked for recipes and it seems that here in Australia it seems to refer to either an open sandwich - a kind of toast - with melted cheese on top. Every now and then it refers to a cheese toastie but we Australians generally stick to the term toastie there. So I think that generally it refers to an open sandwich - although - as in the Woolworths example bread is not always involved. Below are a few Australian examples that I found: Zucchini schnitzel melts - from Curtis Stone for Coles; Satay pork melts also from Coles and, an extreme example - Marshmallow melt cake in which the only melted bit is the marshmallow on top of the cake. So it seems to me that it's just a trendy way, for the moment, of describing a dish with something melted on top:

These are not really a true melt though. Or to give it it's full name a patty melt - which dates back to the 1940s and diners in America. In fact it is a sort of predecessor of the hamburger in its classic form - being a toasted sandwich with a hamburger mix, coupled with caramelised onions and melted cheese. delicious. uk has a recipe but I decided to go with this one because it's American - The great American patty melt - from an American site called Add a Pinch and in which the author reminisces of eating this favourite dish at diners as she travelled around with her father.

So - make something with some melted cheese on top and you can call it a melt it seems to me. Choose your audience though. I doubt that anyone over the age of 30 or so would know what you meant.

Red Sauce - Where's the red sauce in this picture you might say. Indeed - no trace of it at all in this small item in the latest delicious. Magazine. Now I haven't read a delicious. Magazine for a while, but today I decided to treat myself. More about the magazine another time, but this caught my eye - Red sauce - what's that I asked myself. And also why haven't they got any in the picture? And that is unanswerable. If you read the accompanying text you will see that it's all about a so-called wave of Italo-American restaurants. Anyway I looked up red sauce - and basically it's just tomato sauce, although, I suppose made in a slightly different way, in that you start by frying garlic, red pepper flakes and dried oregano with some tomato paste before adding your tomatoes. The sauce is puréed by the way. The excellent magazine source for all things American Serious Eats has both a short recipe - this is the link, and also a long version.

"The main flavor difference between a long-cooked tomato sauce (like Italian-American red sauce) and a quicker sauce (like an Italian pomodoro sauce) is that long cooking develops sweeter, caramelized notes, along with a more concentrated tomato flavor." Daniel Gritzer

The slow-cooked version shown here from J. Kenji López-Alt is, he says, commonly known as gravy in America. Gravy? Yet another major difference between English and American which would lead to a bit of confusion I think.

"This is red sauce. The slow-cooked, rib-sticking Italian-American stew designed to fill you up with equal parts flavor and pride. It's the kind of sauce for which you open up the windows while you're cooking just to make sure that everyone else in the neighborhood knows what you're up to. It's the kind of sauce kids defend the honor of in grade school. It's the kind of sauce you want your meatballs swimming in, your chicken parm bathed in, and the sauce that you want not just tossed with your spaghetti, but spooned on in quantities that'd make a traditionalist cry out in distress."

It takes all day to make but I bet it tastes good. Maybe if you have nothing to do one day and you need a confidence boost you could give it a go. It certainly looks good. I'm actually cooking meatballs - yes again - tomorrow for another birthday, but I don't think I'll spend all day on my tomato sauce. More like 20 minutes I think. But the article is very long on explanations, why's and wherefores. And interesting.

What's with the protein yoghurt?

Have you noticed that almost all the yoghurt brands in your local supermarket now have a high protein alternative. Indeed I bought some of the Woolworths one recently because it was really the only choice. Unless I wanted to spend extra dollars on a 'brand', and I'm not one who believes in buying 'brand's when it comes to basics like yoghurt. Yesterday, when I was replacing that finished tub of yoghurt I just bought an ordinary Natural one. I mean it's basically milk isn't it and milk is a good source of protein isn't it? Especially if you are a vegetarian. Well, again, yes and no. It seems that Greek yoghurt which is strained after setting does actually have a higher concentration of protein than ordinary 'natural' yoghurt. Well according to one dietitian, standard natural yoghurt has 4-5.3% protein, Greek has 9-10% and as you can see high protein seems to have from 15-20%. Not a lot more, and it's more expensive to boot. Besides we mostly get most of our protein from other sources - meat for omnivores, dairy and legumes for vegetarians. And interestingly when I was trying to find out more about this, it seemed that really the most interest in such products was from body-builders and the like. Those with high fitness aspirations anyway. So personally I think it's a new marketing con. If you have a balanced diet - no need.

Mediterranean delights from The Guardian - just to end on a hopefully inspiring note, The Guardian newsletter this week had one item which was a selection of brilliant Mediterranean recipes from great cooks. Click on the title of this item to see the whole range but just to tempt you here are a few: Chicken tray bake with olives and boiled lemon from Claudia Roden; Pasta con le sarde from Giorgio Locatelli; Roasted cod with a coriander crust from Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley and Fennel baked with white wine from Richard Olney - an old one this one:

It made me wish I was there - on the Mediterranean that is. It also made me wish for summer. But you could try the chicken and the two fish dishes now. Maybe the fennel will have to wait until it comes down in price.

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