July 31

It's Scaloppine Day

Falling Frogs. Scaloppine. Calf. Pantown. Hank. People Named "Cook." Ignatius.

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Begins tomorrow.

Today's Flavor

Sharpen the knife and get out the meat mallet, because this is National Scaloppine Day. Scaloppine (plural of scaloppina, since you rarely cook just one) are thin, small slices of meat. Other words for the same thing include cutlets, medallions, medaillons, escalopes, and collops. The meat most often turned into scaloppine is veal, but chicken is not far behind and gaining. Pork makes excellent scaloppine, and other meats can be used, too.Scaloppine are usually cooked in a hot pan with a little butter or olive oil. The cooking is very brief, the time measured in seconds, not minutes. The juices and browned bits left in the pan are the beginnings of a wide range of sauces, among which piccata (white wine, lemon, butter, and capers), marsala (made with the fortified wine of the same name) and parmigiana (with tomato sauce) are the most popular. But cooks with even a little imagination can deglaze that pan with almost any liquid after the scaloppine are cooked, and add an almost infinite range of other ingredients.A few points are essential. The first is to make sure the meat (other than chicken) is cut across the grain. This is especially important for veal. Pre-sliced veal in the supermarket is almost always cut along the grain, making for very tough meat. The meat used for scaloppine should have a uniform texture over a wide area. Round is excellent in that regard, and relatively inexpensive. Loins cut from rib racks is pricier but makes beautiful scaloppine.Getting thin scaloppine can be accomplished by slicing very thinly or by pounding, or by doing both. Finding a good pounder is essential. Everybody's pounder is different My favorite, until it fell apart from all the banging, was what looked like a stainless-steel hockey puck with a handle on one flat face. A chef friend has a heavy, oddly-shaped piece of cast iron that looks like foundry scrap. My mother used an old, heavy, small Coca-Cola bottle.Today is also Jump For Jelly Beans Day for the pre-school constituency. And Cotton Candy Day and National Raspberry Cake Day. As we bring July to a close, we note that it's been National Baked Bean Month, National Culinary Arts Month, National Hot Dog Month, And National July Belongs To Blueberries Month.

Edible Dictionary

calf, n.--In the fresh meat case at the grocery store, calf is from older animals than those producing veal. The dividing line is crossed when the young cattle begin eating grass, instead of just their mother's milk or formula. Calf is distinctly darker and redder, but lacks fat and collagens that would make it very tender. The next older is baby beef. Baby beef and calf are not as common as they once were, because of the routine by which veal calves are sent to market. Almost all of them are male. Since few bulls are needed in a herd of cattle, the males are culled early and butchered for veal.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pantown is a neighborhood in the northern part of St. Cloud, Minnesota, population 66,000. It's upstream on the Mississippi River seventy-one miles northwest of Minneapolis. The city was incorporated in 1856, just five yeasr after the first settlers arrived. At one time steamboats could make the trip all the way to St. Cloud from New Orleans if the river was high enough. Pantown is named for the Pan Motor Company, an early (1917) manufacturer of automobiles. The most promising nearby restaurant for panneed veal is Ciatti's Ristorante, a mile away from the park in the center of Pantown.

Deft Dining Rule #810

When a restaurant menu includes more than three variations on veal scaloppine, it's just mixing and matching sauces and toppings to make it seem more various than it really is.

Music To Dine By

The jazz pianist Hank Jones was born today in 1918. He was highly respected in jazz circles for his elegant, highly listenable improvisations. Many jazz keyboard players refer to him as an influence--even though he was not well known to most casual jazz listeners. Any restaurant playing his music would find people lingering on for an after-dinner drink.

Food And Weather

Today in 1921, it rained frogs in Connecticut. And that wasn't the only time. Apparently a big enough storm can sweep frog eggs and frogs themselves from trees into the sky, to fall down much later and very far away from the frogs' homes. So pray for rain, and get the flour, butter and garlic ready.

Food Namesakes

Amazing! We have four people born on this date whose name is Cook! In 1963, Norman Cook, singer with the group The Housemartins, flew into the world. . . Former Playboy Playmate Victoria Cooke was born today in 1957. . . and South African cricket pro Jimmy Cook was born today in 1953. . . Philip Cook, Jr., a brigadier general in the Confederate Army and later a Congressman, was born today in 1817. . . It's the birthday, in 1958, of Bill Berry, the drummer in the group R.E.M. . . Jean DuBuffet, a French artist, began eating all she could today in 1901.

Words To Eat By

"Omit and substitute! That's how recipes should be written. Please don't ever get so hung up on published recipes that you forget that you can omit and substitute."--Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet.

Words To Drink By

“We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!”–Benjamin Franklin.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Like many people worldwide, I've experienced the Jesuit influence again and again throughout my life. I am Jesuit-educated, as is my son. I attend a Jesuit retreat every year. I work for a radio station founded by the Jesuits. The Jesuits are everywhere. . . Today is also the feast day of Saint Neot, who was reputed to be less than two feet tall and of being able to relate with animals unusually. He is the patron saint of fish. He lived in the 800s, and has a church named for him in Cambridgeshire, England.