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TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Balsamic Vinegar, Beyond Vinaigrette

Balsamic Glaze Salmon
[1] Salmon with balsamic glaze. Here’s the recipe from courtesy Cooking Classy.

Carrot Soup With Balsamic
[2] Carrot soup with garnishes, including a splash of balsamic vinegar (photo courtesy Sid Wainer & Sons).

Balsamic Ice Cream Sundae
[3] Balsamic syrup tops a sundae of vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Here’s the recipe from Whole Foods Market.

Pan Sauce

[4] Add some balsamic to pan sauces. Here’s a recipe from Mom 101.

 

Balsamic is our vinegar of choice with salad. We have 10 other vinegars, but when we want rich flavor and low acidity, we always reach for the balsamic. We currently have different ages of traditionale balsamic, condimento balsamic, plus industriale flavored balsamics in blackberry, chocolate, fig and pomegranate (there are numerous other flavors to be had).

With so much balsamic on the shelf, we’re always looking for new ways to use them. The latest is reduced chocolate balsamic syrup on vanilla and chocolate ice cream, but here are classic uses:

Use balsamic vinegar as you would use wine, to finish dishes or reduce into glazes and sauces.
 
 
1. BALSAMIC GLAZE

If you reduce balsamic vinegar into a syrup, you get balsamic glaze, also called creme balsamica (balsamic cream). It’s a luscious condiment for drizzling over savory or sweet dishes. With its complex flavors—sweet, sour, fruity—at its simplest, it can enhance anything grilled or roasted, including panini and other grilled sandwiches. Even nachos!

Balsamic syrup is a dessert syrup, too: on ice cream, pound cake, puddings and more.

Here are dozens of ways to use balsamic glaze, and a simple recipe.
 
 
2. BRAISES WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Braising involves searing the food over high heat, then stewing it in a liquid (in a covered pot at a lower temperature).

Whether you’re braising proteins or vegetables, add a tablespoon of balsamic to the braising liquid. It creates a rich layer of flavor with a hint of sweetness. It waves a magic braised fennel, braised radishes and other veggies.

It also waves a magic wand over caramelized onions and mushroom ragout.
 
 
3. MARINADES WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Balsamic vinegar is a known tenderizer. It imparts a rich, sweet flavor to meat and a cook’s “secret” to tenderize meats. It’s also a star with portabella mushrooms and tofu.

You can make as simple a marinade as you like. We like this combination:

  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary
  •  
     
    4. PAN SAUCES WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

    The simplest sauce is made from the pan juices that result from sautéing a protein: fish, meat or poultry (photo #4).

    When you deglaze the pan to make the sauce, add a splash of balsamic to the wine, broth or other liquid.
     
     
    5. SOUPS WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

    Many soups, including gazpacho, get a touch of glamour from balsamic vinegar. Stir a a half or whole teaspoon per serving at the end of cooking. It adds brightness and a sophisticated layer of flavor.

    Or, splash or drizzle some balsamic on top of a thick purée (photo #2).
     
     
    6. DRINKS

    Tell your inner mixologist to get out the balsamic vinegar and add some (or more) sophistication to drinks.

    You can add balsamic vinegar to soft drinks and club soda to make shrubs. Or, layer more flavor into cocktails.

    This works best with bourbon and whiskey, which have heavier flavors than white spirits and are more adaptable to the balsamic.

     

    RECIPE: BALSAMIC NEGRONI COCKTAIL

    This Pomegranate Negroni from Sid Wainer & Sons (photo #5) will have guests wondering what the “special ingredient” is.

    You can use any flavor of balsamic, or even plain balsamic; but we like fall flavors here, such as fig, ginger, pear and pomegranate balsamic.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.25 ounces gin
  • 1.25 ounces Campari
  • 1.25 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
  • Ice
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Optional garnish: pomegranate arils
  •  

    Pomegranate Negroni

    [5] A Pomegranate Negroni: Just add pomegranate balsamic. The recipe is below (photo courtesy Sid Wainer & Sons).

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients including ice in a shaker. Shake and pour into a chilled glass.

    2. GARNISH with the orange peel and optional pomegranate arils.
     
    NEGRONI HISTORY

    The Negroni is one of the classic cocktails of the 20th century, dating to 1919.

    As the story goes, the cocktail was invented at the Bar Cassoni* in Florence, Italy by bartender Fosco Scarselli. He created it for a regular patron, Count Camillo Negroni, who had asked for an Americano cocktail strengthened with a dash of gin instead of the usual soda water.

    Scarselli switched the garnish of the Americano from lemon peel to orange, and presented his client with a “Negroni.”

    The cocktail took off, and the Count’s family quickly founded Negroni Antica Distilleria in Treviso, producing Antico Negroni, a ready-made version of the drink.

    But the cocktail was unknown in the U.S. until 1947 when Orson Welles, working in Rome, wrote about it, creating a rush to try it.
     
     
    ALL ABOUT BALSAMIC VINEGAR
     
     
    26 USES FOR WHITE DISTILLED VINEGAR
     
    _____________________

    *Bar Cassoni became Caffè Casoni and is now called Caffè Cavalli.

      

      

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    FOOD HISTORY: The Accidental Invention Of Paper Towels

    Scott Paper Towels
    [1] The original paper towels were made by Scott for washroom dispensers (photo courtesy Scott).


    [2] An early ad (photo courtesy Period Paper).

    Early Paper Towels Ad
    [3] It took years for housewives to realize the benefit of paper towels (photo courtesy Toilet Paper World).

    Bounty Select A Size

    [4] We can’t live [happily] without them: Bounty Select-A-Size paper towels (photo courtesy Procter & Gamble).

     

    We have always been fussy about the quality of our paper products: facial tissue, paper napkins, paper towels and toilet tissue. We’d give up cappuccino if we could only afford either coffee or paper goods.

    Our paper towels of choice are the best-absorbent Bounty Towels (introduced in 1965 by Procter & Gamble).

    Since we’re frequently mopping up kitchen spills, we tried to reduce wasteful consumption, actually tearing the full sheets in half to wipe up small spills.

    When Bounty introduced Select-A-Size (photo #4)—one sheet perforated in thirds for those very small spills—we were in heaven.

    Recently, putting away the 15-pack we purchased, we thought to thank the inventor of paper towels. But who was that? And when was it?
     
     
    FIRST THERE WAS TOILET TISSUE

    Scott Paper Company was founded by brothers E. Irvin and Clarence Scott in Philadelphia, in 1879. They debuted Scott Brand Tissue, toilet tissue with 1,000 sheets per roll, at 10 cents per roll.

    It was initially considered a medical item. Print ads were used to increase awareness and address embarrassment.

    In 1907, Arthur Scott, son of E. Irvin Scott and then head of the company, had a big problem:

    An entire railroad car full of paper, unloaded at his plant, had been rolled too thick for toilet tissue. Should he send the whole carload back?

    He recalled hearing about teacher in the city school system who had developed a novel concept to help fight colds:

    She gave students with runny noses a small piece of soft paper to use after washing their hands.

    That way, the cloth roller towels in the washrooms would not become contaminated with germs.
     
     
    THE ACCIDENTAL INVENTION OF PAPER TOWELS

    The light bulb turned on: Scott ordered the thick paper perforated into small towel-size sheets and sold them as disposable paper towels—the kind you still pull out of metal dispensers in public washrooms (photo #1).

    Named Sani-Towel, and sold the paper towels to hotels, restaurants, and railroad stations for use in their washrooms (photo #2).

    The metal towel dispenser of paper towels vied with the roller towel, the earlier solution: a metal cabinet housing a continuous towel that people pulled down (to find a clean piece). That towel was washed and returned to the roller.

    In 1931, Scott saw a use for Sani-Towels in kitchens, and introduced the world’s first “paper towels”—a sheet a perforated, soft paper, on a roll in sheets of 13” x 8” (source).

    To housewives used to washing kitchen rags and other cleaning cloths, it was a non-event. They had a hard time grasping the concept of “Towels you don’t have to wash” (photo #3).Dishes still needed to be dried with towels.

    It would take many years before paper towels replaced cloth towels for kitchen use, but they resulted in the creation of a large new grocery category (and where would be be without them?).

    Today they are now the leading manufacturer of paper towels.

    Paper towels are second only to toilet paper in the tissue paper category. The U.S. is the country with the highest consumption of paper towels and other tissue products, with approximately 53 pounds per capita per year.

    That’s 50% higher than in Europe and nearly 500% higher than in Latin America (source: Wikipedia).

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have An Oktoberfest Party

    This story comes to us from CraftBeer.com, the website for fans of American craft beers.

    Prior to the advent of electricity, brewing was of necessity relegated to specific times of the year: spring and fall. In order for brewing to take place, the environment needed to offer up the right temperatures for brewing and lagering—the step where beers are aged—often in caves in the era pre-electricity.

    Fall, which brought both ample ingredients from the harvest and the right temperatures, was considered the best brewing season.

    For several generations, we’ve had temperature-controlled brewing systems. Today’s brewers have on-demand ingredients from anywhere in the world. Overnight air freight can deliver the yeasts that allow brewers to create the recipes they want.
     
     
    MÄRZEN, GERMAN FOR THE MONTH OF MARCH

    So why do we drink March beer—Märzen (MARE-zen, sometimes spelled Maerzen in English)—in the fall?

    In 1553, Bavarian Duke Albrecht V decreed it illegal to brew beer in Bavaria between April 23rd and September 24th. These months are typically too warm for brewing without risking bacterial growth that spoils beer.

    Thus, brewers ramped up production in March to have enough supply for the next five months. These March beers, Märzens, were brewed stronger and lagered so they would keep throughout the summer.

    A Bavarian Märzen is copper-red in color with a full-bodied maltiness—a little spicy and dryish. It has what is described as a rich bread-crust-like malt flavor.
     
     
    WHY IS MÄRZEN DRUNK FOR OKTOBERFEST?

    The term “Oktoberfest” did not have a connection to Märzen-style beer for another 300-plus years, 62 years after the first Oktoberfest.

    The first Oktoberfest celebration began with the Royal Wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event.

     

    Marzen Beer
    [1] Märzen beers have reddish hues (photo courtesy Craft Beer).

    Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest Beer

    [2] Oktoberfest beer from Sierra Nevada.

     
    According to legend, a brewer ran out of the then-traditional fall beer, the Dunkel—a group of malty, dark German lagers that range in colour from amber to dark reddish brown (Dunkel means dark).

    Instead, he served a beer similar to Märzen.

    The first named “Oktoberfest” beer is a Märzen-style beer that was brewed for the Munich Oktoberfest in 1872 (it seems to have taken a long while for marketing to take over).

    The celebration became an annual festival in Munich, running from the third week in September through the second week in October*.

    HAVE YOUR OWN OKTOBERFEST CELEBRATION

    Oktoberfest/Märzen beer has become a very popular style for U.S. brewers to produce. If you’re a lover of malt, look at your local selection of American craft brews for examples. Just a few examples:

  • Anaheim Brewery | Oktoberfest Lager | Anaheim, California
  • Cape May Brewing | Oktoberfest | Cape May, New Jersey
  • Chuckanut Brewing | Old Fest | Bellingham, Washington
  • Due South Brewing | Oktoberfest | Boynton Beach, Florida
  • Enegren Brewing Co. | Oktoberfest | Moorpark, California
  • Lumberyard Brewing | Oktoberfest Marzen | Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Meadowlark Brewing | Festbier | Sidney, Montana
  • Pedal Haus | Oktoberfestbier | Tempe, Arizona
  • SanTan Brewing | Oktoberfest | Chandler, Arizona
  • War Horse Brewing | Rolling Storm | Geneva, New York
  •  
    Pull together as many selections as you like, and call the crew over for your own little Oktoberfest*. Also scan the shelves for Dunkels to compare.

    And if you have as good a time as we think you will, plan another tasting next month, with pumpkin beers and ales.
     
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEER IN OUR BEER GLOSSARY.
     
     
    PLAN YOUR OKTOBERFEST PARTY

    How To Plan An Oktoberfest Party

    Oktoberfest Foods

    Oktoberfest Burger With Pork Schnitzel & Beer Cheese Sauce

    ________________

    *The 2017 Oktoberfest in Munich runs from September 16th through October 10th.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: An Edible Delicata Vase

    Delicata Squash
    [1] Turn a delicata squash into an edible vase (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    Delicata Squash Bouquet
    [2] An edible delicata squash vase from Olmstead | Brooklyn.

    La Quercia Speck

    [3] Domestic speck from La Quercia in Iowa.

    La Quercia Prosciutto

    [4] Domestic prosciutto from La Quercia (photos #3 and #4 courtesy Murray’s Cheese). Prosciutto and speck look almost identical in photos. The difference is in the flavor and aroma. See why below.

     

    Olmstead, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York, is one of two New York City restaurants that was named to the list of James Beard Award-winning restaurants of 2017 (the other is Le Coucou).

    These delicata squash vases are one of chef Greg Baxtrom’s favorite seasonal dishes. Multiply this recipe by the number of servings you’d like.

    For a vegetarian course, substitute thin curls of a hard cheese like parmesan or aged gouda for the prosciutto/speck.
     
     
    RECIPE: DELICATE SQUASH VASES

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 delicata squash
  • 2 ounces sliced prosciutto or speck
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 3 tablespoons ricotta
  • 1 smallish green pear
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 head lettuce (we used butter lettuce)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Sherry vinegar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Cut the bottom off the squash so it has a level base, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Then slice it in half horizontally, to create two “vases” (you’ll have four pieces, and will use two pieces to make one vase). Season with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes or until tender.

    2. REDUCE the heat to 325°F and bake the prosciutto/speck on a baking sheet until crispy.

    3. HEAT the cooking oil to 300°F and fry the sage for 20 seconds. Remove and set on paper towels to drain.

    4. SEASON the ricotta with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Clean the lettuce and mustard greens. Slice the pear thinly on a mandoline. Dress the lettuce greens and pear with salt, pepper, olive oil and sherry vinegar

    5. ASSEMBLE: Stand up two halves of the squash and fill it halfway with ricotta. Build the vase, adding lettuces to make the bouquet. Decorate the lettuce bouquet with strips of crispy ham, pear slices and sage.
     
     
    WHAT IS DELICATA SQUASH?

    The delicata is a winter squash, a cream-colored cylindrical shape with green stripes. It is a member of the genus/species Cucurbita pepo, which also includes pattypan squash, pumpkin, yellow crookneck squash, yellow summer squash and zucchini.

    Delicata refers to its delicate rind, which can be eaten. Along with its creamy texture, delicata makes a perfect edible vase. It is often stuffed with meat or vegetable mixtures.

    Delicata squash is most commonly baked, but can also be microwaved, sautéed and steamed. The seeds can be toasted and eaten.

    Indigenous to North and Central America, squash were introduced to early European settlers by Native Americans. References to the delicata date to 1856. While the standard delicata is grows on vines, sweeter bush varieties have been introduced and sold with proprietary names such as Honey Boat and Sugar Loaf [source].

    Delicata is not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squashes, but is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, with smaller amounts of vitamins B and C, magnesium and manganese.

    Delicata is also known as Bohemian squash, peanut squash and sweet potato squash. They are easy to grow, mature roughly 105 days after germinating. After harvested, you’ll need to cure them for approximately a week in a warm, dry place, protected from frost. A garage works.

     
    PROSCIUTTO VS. SPECK: THE DIFFERENCE

    Prosciutto and speck are very similar hams, both made from the hind leg of the pig, rubbed with salt and spices.

  • Prosciutto is cured by air-drying.
  • Speck is air-dried, then smoked as a final step in the curing process.
  • The result: speck has a smoky flavor, prosciutto does not.
  •  
      

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    FOOD FACTS: Kappa Does Not Mean Cucumber!

    If you’re a sushi lover, you’ve invariably had—or at least seen—kappa maki. It’s a sushi roll (maki) filled with cucumber, and often garnished with sesame seeds.

    Most of us assumed that kappa is the Japanese word for cucumber. Today we discovered differently.

    The kappa is a well-known Japanese mythological creature, a water imp that inhabits rivers and ponds.

    Threats of the kappa have been used to warn children of the dangers lurking in rivers and lakes. A kappa may try to lure them into water, and pull them down.

    Tke kappa is a trickster. It is typically depicted as roughly humanoid with scaly reptilian skin, about the size of a child.

    Cucumber is their favorite meal. Hence, kappa maki was named for them. The Japanese word for regular cucumber is kyuuri.

    Here’s more about the kappa.

     

    Kappa Maki Goma

    Kappa maki with goma, sesame seeds. Here’s the recipe from JapaneseFood.About.com.

     

      

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