Originally created 04/02/97

Small portions: News and notes from the world of food

Bagel bulletin

If you want to get more servings from the grain group, here's a hot tip: Eat a bagel. That's about it; you've just about met your requirement for the day.

That's because one hefty bagel-shop bagel is equivalent to about six servings of grains, according to Barbara Levine, director of the nutrition information center at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

"I've been weighing bagels all over the place," says Ms. Levine, a spokeswoman for the Wheat Foods Council.

And what Ms. Levine has found is that a bakery bagel weighs about 6 ounces. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid, a slice of bread, which usually weighs an ounce, counts as one serving. It's certainly easier to eat a bagel than six slices of bread. If you have a bagel for breakfast and one for a snack, you're practically overdosing.

The USDA recommends that people consume six to 11 servings of grains, depending on their age, sex and activity level. (The lower servings are for sedentary women and some older adults; the mid-range is right for children, teen-age girls, active women and sedentary men; the top servings would be appropriate for teen-age boys, active men and very active women.)

Preparation time

During the week, 72 percent of meal preparers surveyed by the NPD Group said they spent between 16 and 45 minutes making dinner. On weekends, 36 percent said they spent more than 45 minutes, compared to just 19 percent during the week. If company's expected, more than half spend more than an hour in the kitchen.

Java jabber

Why can't I make coffee this good at home?" is the No. 1 question consumers always ask, says Kevin Knox, author of Coffee Basics: A Quick and Easy Guide. He answers:

"The quality of coffee depends on the amount of attention or care that goes into making it." To brew a superior cup of coffee, Mr. Knox advises, "Keep it manual, keep it simple and don't sacrifice flavor for convenience."

  • Make sure the beans are fresh - roasted within a two-week period. Ask a reliable retailer when the beans were roasted. (The freezer keeps whole beans fresh for up to three months.)
  • Grind the beans just before brewing.
  • Use enough coffee: one scoop (2 tablespoons) per 6 ounces of water.
  • Use a plunger pot or a manual drip maker for best results.
  • Use filtered water.
  • Make sure the water comes to a full rolling boil (200 degrees) and pour immediately.
  • Make it fresh and drink it fresh - make only as much as you will drink within 20 minutes.
  • Mr. Knox also advises consumers who own an electric drip coffee maker to give it away:

    "Mr. Coffee, Krups or Braun, it makes no difference. The surest way to ruin good coffee is to use an automated home brewer."

    Pizza sibling

    Pizza is not the only flat bread with a topping, just the most elaborate. In most parts of the world, people top bread dough with nothing but a scattering of herbs, onions or spices.

    The nearest thing to pizza outside Italy is the Middle Eastern product we know as lahmajoon. The name goes back to the Arabic lahm bi-`ajin, "bread with dough," and the topping is ground meat, usually with fried chopped onions. But every locality adds a flavoring.

    The lahmajoon we're familiar with, flavored with tomatoes and sometimes peppers, comes from the city of Ain Tab (now known as Gaziantep, Turkey). It was brought to America by Armenian refugees.

    The Armenians first fled across the Syrian border to the city of Aleppo, where their version has just about obliterated the traditional Aleppo-style lahm bi-`ajin flavored with pomegranate syrup and served with a scoop of yogurt.

    There are a lot of other versions. The Lebanese lahm bi-`ajin includes yogurt and toasted pine nuts in the topping. In Saudi Arabia, they use tomatoes, parsley, garlic and sour ground sumac berries. The Egyptian style is meat, raisins and tahineh. They all have thin, flexible crusts so you can roll them up for more convenient eating.

    There's also a version of lahm bi-`ajin, called sfiha, that's only 3 or 4 inches across. There's no point rolling it up, so the dough is folded up in three or four places around the rim before baking to make a sort of hedge around the filling.


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