THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TIP OF THE DAY: Teriyaki, Beyond Japanese Food

Teriyaki is a Japanese cooking technique in which foods are broiled or grilled with a glaze of mirin*, saké, soy sauce and sugar†.

Proportions vary according to recipe: You can create a more sweet or more savory sauce, a thicker or a thinner sauce. Here‘s a basic teriyaki sauce recipe.

The alcohol in the glaze gives a luster (teri) to the grilled (yaki) protein; the brown color comes from the caramelization of the sugar.

Proper preparation of teriyaki involves repeated applications of the sauce during the latter stage of cooking, until the sauce thickens and acquires luster (the meat or fish can also be marinated in the teriyaki sauce up to 24 hours before cooking).

While some Americans grilling the meat and then pour on the sauce, this does not produce the same results.

The addition of garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and/or and chiles to teriyaki may be tasty, but is not traditional. The bottled teriyaki sauces that contain them are actually versions of the spicier Korean bulgogi sauce, which features garlic and hot chiles.

Teriyaki dishes are served with steamed white rice, which is made flavorful with the excess sauce. The dish is often garnished with chopped scallions (green onion).

While chicken teriyaki seems to be the most popular in the U.S., it isn’t even on menus in Japanese.

Instead, the authentic teriyaki protein of choice is fish, such as mackerel, marlin, skipjack tuna, salmon, trout, yellowtail and sometimes, squid.

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*Mirin and saké are types of rice wine. Both are fermented from rice, but mirin has a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content (as an analogy, thing of sweet and dry vermouths). If you have saké but no mirin, make a mirin substitute by adding a half teaspoon of sugar to the saké, and warm it slowly to dissolve the sugar.

†Modern American substitutes include honey for the sugar and other alcohol for the saké (e.g. bourbon, vodka).
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THE HISTORY OF TERIYAKI

Most of the modern Japanese dishes familiar in the U.S. first appeared during Japan’s Edo period (1603 to 1867), an era characterized by stability and economic growth. That included exposure to new ingredients from abroad, which gave rise to new styles of cooking.

Food historians believe that teriyaki was created in the 17th century, one of a number of new dishes using roasted or grilled fish and meat. The special sweet-and-savory glaze distinguished teriyaki from other grilled dishes.

With the proliferation of Japanese restaurants in 1960s America (thanks to the 1965 Immigration & Nationality Act, which enabled many more Asians to emmigrate), teriyaki dishes became popular [source].

To cater to American tastes, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, salmon and tofu with vegetables were offered instead of the traditional varieties of fish.

More recently in the U.S., fusion cooking has engendered teriyaki burgers, meatballs and other variations; and teriyaki sauce is used as a dipping sauce and a marinade ingredient (more about this in a minute).

In fact, the concept of a discrete teriyaki sauce (as opposed to a glazed fish dish cooked teriyaki [grilled] style) is believed to have originated in Hawaii, among Japanese immigrants. Local pineapple juice was incorporated, not just for flavor: It’s enzymes also help to tenderize the meat.

   
Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

Chicken Teriyaki

Beef Teriyaki With Salad

[1] Homemade teriyaki sauce (photo courtesy Olive This). [2] Classic chicken teriyaki with a not-so-classic side of sautéed bok choy. Here’s the recipe from Chowhound. [3] A fusion “steak and salad”: beef teriyaki bowl (photo courtesy Glaze Teriyaki).

 
According to a history on Leaf TV, “there is apparently no official teriyaki sauce history, and the term refers rather to the aforementioned cooking method, and applies primarily to the preparation of fish, such as mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna.”

TERIYAKI ON TREND

Teriyaki was part of the first wave of Asian flavors to find a foothold here (source).

Modern trends find teriyaki in all sorts of comfort food, from burgers and meatballs (try a meatball bánh mì sandwich) to grain bowls.

Flavor And The Menu, a magazine that shares national restaurant trends for chefs and restaurateurs, notes dishes like these popping up nationwide:

  • Chicken Teriyaki Bowl: Grilled chicken with snow peas, onions, carrots, broccoli and rice; topped with teriyaki sauce (at RA Sushi, multiple locations). See the teriyaki bowl ideas below.
  • Fish Teriyaki Bowl combines wild mahi-mahi with tropical salsa, macadamia nuts, and lemongrass teriyaki sauce (at Tokyo Joe’s in Colorado).
  • Hawaiian-Style Meatballs with roasted pineapple, modernizing the teriyaki sauce by introducing coconut milk (from R&D chef Andrew Hunter).
  • Mexican Mash-Ups: tacos and burritos with teriyaki-seasoned fillings. Teriyaki Chicken Tacos, at Da Kine Island Grill in San Jose, combine chicken teriyaki, tomatoes, green onions and a fiery mango sauce.
  • Prime Teriyaki Tenderloin Bites with scallions and orange supremes (at Metropolitan Grill, Seattle).
  • Teriyaki Burgers, brushed with teriyaki sauce, served with teriyaki mayo (at Hotel Monaco | DC, photo #5).
  • Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich: grilled chicken breast, teriyaki, grilled pineapple, melted Swiss, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo (at Red Robin, multiple locations).
  • Teriyaki Lamb Pops with spicy apple-pepper jelly (at Share Kitchen & Bar, Williamsville, NY).
  • Teriyaki Meatball Hero: Teriyaki meatballs, Asian slaw and kimchi on a baguette with fresh basil or mint leaves, sliced jalapeño and scallions (at THE NIBBLE offices).
  • Teriyaki Peppercorn Shrimp with sun-dried pineapple (at Angelina Café, NYC).
  • Wings: Chicken Wings In Whiskey-Teriyaki Sauce (at The Comedy Zone in Greenville, NC), Wasabi Teriyaki Wings (at John & Peter’s Place, New Hope, PA), Maple-Bacon Teriyaki Wings (at Preston’s, Killington, VT), Sesame-Pineapple Teriyaki Wings (Dry Dock Bar & Grille, Norwalk, CT).
  • Other Meat Snacks: teriyaki-glazed meatballs, ribs, lamb riblets and skewers.
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    Teriyaki Meatballs

    Teriyaki Burger

    [4] Teriyaki meatballs (here’s the recipe from Mom On Time Out). [5] Teriyaki meatball at Dirty Habit | Hotel Monaco | D.C.

     

    BUILD YOUR OWN TERIYAKI BOWL

    Mix and match:

  • Teriyaki-style fish or meat of choice
  • Grain of choice
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    For The Salad

  • Salad of choice: mesclun, Asian cabbage slaw (recipe), other greens of choice
  • Bell pepper
  • Carrots (shredded if possible)
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Edamame, shelled
  • Onion, sliced
  • Peas: spring peas (shelled), snow peas, sugar snap peas
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    Dressing

  • Ginger Dressing
  • Japanese Restaurant Salad Dressing (recipe below)
  • Mint cilantro vinaigrette
  • Miso salad dressing
  • Nobu’s sashimi salad dressing
  • Rice vinegar sesame oil vinaigrette.
  • Wasabi-passionfruit dressing
  • Yuzu dressing
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    Garnish

  • Chopped scallions
  • Sesame seeds (ideally toasted)
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    Love that textured, orange salad dressing at Japanese restaurants?

    It’s easy to make at home:

    Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 two-inch piece fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
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    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients except the oil in a blender. Process until liquified.

    2. ADD the peanut oil and pulse a few times to combine.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Things To Change On Earth Day (Pick 1)

    April 22nd is Earth Day an opportunity to make small changes to our eating habits to contribute to a healthier planet.

    The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970 (here’s the history). It led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

    Forty-seven years later, the need to save the planet is even greater. You’ve heard all this before; but if you make even one of the following changes, you’re helping the cause.

    Here are 10 little changes you can make. Pick [at least] one!

    LOOK CLOSELY AT WHAT YOU EAT

    1. Add more plant-based protein into your diet.

    Industrial farmed meat has a higher impact on the environment than any other food group. For a healthier and more environmentally friendly protein, try beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds instead.

    Meatless Monday only goes so far: If you consume cheese or other dairy products, they still come from animals that require deforestation and excrete methane, a greenhouse gas.

    Action Steps:

  • Smaller portions of meat, larger portions of vegetables and grains.
  • Aim for two veggies at lunch and dinner (a salad counts as one).
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    2. Go locavore.

    You don’t have to have a diet of 100% local food; in fact, if you drink coffee or tea or eat bananas, it’s pretty impossible.

    But seek out local foods when you can, or at least those grown and made in the U.S.A. (photo #2). It’s the best way to lower your carbon footprint.

    Bonus: Locally-grown crops are typically fresher and often taste better compared to foods that are shipped across the globe.

    Here’s more about locavorism.
     
    3. Eat seasonally.

    This is a corollary to eating locavore. Foods that travel across oceans are often those from the southern hemisphere that are out of season in the northern hemisphere.

     
    4. Eat more raw foods.

    You don’t need to embrace raw foodism; simply enjoy more raw fruits and vegetables.

       

    Nutritious Dinner

    Fresh Green Asparagus

    Apple Pie

    [1] Less meat, more veggies: better for you, better for the environment (photo Tara Donne | Food Network). [2] Americans demand asparagus year-round; but except for spring’s domestic asparagus, it’s shipped in from Chile (photo courtesy Baldor Food). [3] Apple pie: tempting, but… Fresh apple: better for you, better for the environment (photo courtesy U.S. Apple Association).

     
    The environment benefits by the savings on energy to cook the food, as well as the packaging of, chips and cookies. You benefit from all the hydration and nutrients in the raw fruits and veggies.

    The next time you’re thinking about packaged snacks instead of crudités, or apple pie instead of an apple, make the raw choice and tell yourself: “I’m saving the planet.”

    Bonus: fewer calories.

    5. Cook once, eat twice.

    Make double batches when you cook, so you’ll have leftovers for another meal. Even though you might need to reheat the food, even freeze it, the net energy saved is tremendous.
     
     
    REDUCE THE DISPOSABLE PACKAGING ON THE FOODS YOU BUY

    6. BYO Bags & Containers To The Store.

    We always have two fold-up nylon shopping bags at the bottom of our backpack or purse. They come in endless colors and patterns, and you don’t have to take bags from the store (photo #4).

    If you want large-haul reusable bags, we like these collapsible boxes (photo #5).

     

    Reusable Produce Bags

    Collapsible Grocery Bag - Box

    [4] Embrace reusable produce bags (photo courtesy Bekith) and [5] grocery bags and boxes.

     

    7. Avoid excessive packaging.

    Look for foods with the least amount of packaging. While cardboard boxes can be recycled, certain types of plastic cannot be—including the plastic produce bags.

    You don’t really need them: The cashier will weigh your fruit or vegetables without a bag.

    But if you prefer the convenience, get a set of these reusable produce bags, which go from shopping cart to refrigerator.

    Yes, this might keep your food fresh and protected, however the excess packaging only ends up in landfills and adds more pollution to our land. Try buying produce that is not in a package.

    8. Carry water in a reusable bottle.

    Bottled water doesn’t necessarily mean its cleaner or better for you than tap water. Look for a filter system to install in your kitchen sink or even a water pitcher filter will work well.

    The fewer disposable plastic bottles we use, the cleaner our planet will be. There are so many attractive, efficient, reusable water balls on the market. Just pick one and use it!

    If you buy bottled water because you don’t like the taste of your tap water, consider a faucet-based, countertop or under-sink filtration system.

    If you do need to buy a bottle of water, bring home the empty and refill it. Give it a life beyond Day 1. See the infographic below and the bottled water crisis.

     
    9. Get a Sodastream.

    If you drink a lot of carbonated beverage, you’ll save on empty bottles and lugging both, with a Sodastream carbonater. The flavors are delicious and the carbonation units are recycled.

    10. Reuse plastic containers.

    We do purchase fresh prepared foods packed in plastic containers, but we reuse those containers for everything from leftovers to storage.

    Make Every Day Earth Day!
     
    Bottled Water Chart

      

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    PRODUCTS: 5 New Favorite Specialty Foods

    Four of this month’s roundup of favorite products will brighten your dinner table, and the last will satisfy your sweet tooth.

    In alphabetical order, they are:

    1. CRACKER BARREL Oven BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE

    Cracker Barrel Cheese’s premium mac & cheese line has launched Oven Baked Macaroni & Cheese (photo #1) in three flavors:

  • Sharp Cheddar, seasoned with paprika and ground mustard.
  • Sharp White Cheddar, seasoned with black pepper and ground mustard.
  • Cheddar Havarti, seasoned with garlic and chives.
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    Fans of oven-baked mac and cheese prefer it for the crispy edges and the toasted bread crumbs. The bread crumbs are included, as well as flavorful seasonings; and the level of crispiness is up to you.

    Just boil the noodles and mix the seasoning packet with melted butter and milk. Add the cheese sauce and the flavor mix, spoon into a baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.

    Get yours at major retailers nationwide. Suggested Retail Price is $3.99 for a 12.34-ounce package.

    For more information visit the Cracker Barrel Cheese website.
     
     
    2. DELTA BLUES RICE GRITS

    Delta Blues Rice (that’s the Mississippi Delta) is a fourth-generation family business that grows artisan rice. If you think that all white rice tastes the same, you won’t believe how much more flavorful it is than supermarket brands.

    The company sells the rice in white and brown rice and rice grits, all made in small batches and milled for freshness.

    We’ve enjoyed cornmeal grits since we were small fry, but had never tasted rice grits until the folks at Delta Blues Rice sent us a sample (photos #2 and #3).

    We devoured the package and ordered more. For those who avoid corn-based foods, they’re a real find.

    If you come from a grits-loving family, load up on them as gifts or favors for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

    Get yours at DeltaBluesRice.com.
     
     
    3. ENTUBE FLAVOR PASTES

    Big flavors come from little tubes. Entube is a line of flavorful pastes in three international flavors: curry, harissa and umeboshi (photos #4 and #5).

    These are great to have on hand and are so easy to use. Instead of adding more salt when a dish needs some pizzazz, just add a bit of flavor paste—to anything from grains to cheese fondue to soups and stews.

    We tried two of the three flavors: Curry and Harissa. Here’s how we used them.

    3a. Entube Harissa Paste

  • Dip: Combine with yogurt to your desired spice level and use as dip for crudités or tortilla chips.
  • Sauce: Stir some paste into pasta sauce or the hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict (quite wonderful). With a mushroom sauce for roast chicken, add 1-1/2 teaspoons for 1 cup sauce.
  • Spread: Add to mayo for a great sandwich spread.
  •  
    Roast Chicken: About 15 minutes before the chicken is due to come out of the oven, combine harissa-flavored plain yogurt with the hot drippings. Baste the chicken twice, five minutes apart. For the second basting, add the juice of 1/2 lemon to the yogurt and drippings, along with a bit of kosher salt to taste. This will slightly caramelize and crisp the skin.

    Grilled Lamb: Morroccan lamb dishes are classically made with a harissa spice rub. We made a rack of lamb with the yogurt-Harissa Paste mix (4 tablespoons yogurt with 1 teaspoon paste) and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Brush it in on at the start of roasting and once more 5 minutes from the end. It perks up the slightly gamy flavor of lamb beautifully. (Cooking time for medium rare lamb is 22 minutes in a 425°F oven.)

       

    Cracker Barrel Baked Mac & Cheese

    Delta Blues Rice Grits

    Rice Grits

    Entube Flavor Pastes

    Paella With Harissa

    [1] We love baked mac & cheese with crispy edges (photo courtesy Cracker Barrel). [2] Calling all grits lovers for great rice grits (photo courtesy Delta Blues Rice). [3] Rice grits (photo courtesy Neniemi Food). [4] Entube flavor pastes and [5] Entube harissa spices up paella (photos courtesy Entube | Facebook).

     
    Moroccan Chicken Kabobs: Cube 1 pound of chicken breasts and marinate for 3-4 hours in 3 teaspoons Harissa Paste, juice of 1 lemon, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, with an optional teaspoon of smoked paprika. Skewer onto pre-soaked (30 minutes) wooden skewers or lightly oiled metal skewers. Broil or grill, turning often. Brush with the marinade halfway through and continue until browned and cooked through, 16 minutes total. Serve hot.

    3b. Entube Curry Paste

    Mushroom Sauce: Boost the umami flavor in creamy mushroom sauces. Add as much paste as you like, tasting as you go in 1/2 teaspoon increments. The curry flavor was not overpowering and added depth to the character of the mushrooms. This combination also works in mushroom tarts.

    Grilled Shrimp: Marinate 1 pound deveined shrimp in a yogurt marinade made with 1/2 cup yogurt and 2 teaspoons of curry paste, the juice of 1 lime, mustard oil or coconut oil, chili powder to taste and 2 teaspoons of grated, peeled ginger root. Marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Just before grilling (on medium-high), remove shrimp and wipe off the excess marinade with paper towels. Grill until black spots begin to appear, about 3 minutes per side. Delicious!

    The one complaint we have with the pastes is that there is too much added ascorbic acid (vitamin C)—almost 20%. If you have a sophisticated palate, you may notice a slightly medicinal acidic tang that is not as clean and lively as would have been given by lemon or lime. You can mask it by adding some real lemon or lime juice.

    Find a store locator on the company website.

     

    Salt With Sea Vegetables

    Werther's Cocoa Creme Caramels

    Werther's Sugar Free Caramels

    [6] Sea salt meets seaweed in these tasty blends (photo courtesy Sea Veg). [7] Werther’s new Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels and [8] longtime favorites, the sugar-free caramels line (photos courtesy Werther’s Original).

     

    4. MAINE MADE SEA SEASONINGS

    This naturally iodized sea salt has a little something extra: sea vegetables, including dulse and kelp, seaweeds known for their high vitamin and mineral content.

    The entire line of seaweed-based products are harvested in Maine waters; and the line is targeted to people who want to get the most nutrition they can from their foods.

    Here are the nutritional values of both seaweeds.

    Not that we don’t want the best nutrition; but we like these sea salts for their flavor, especially with rice and other grains and starches. And, we’re big flavor fans of Japanese seaweed, dried or fresh [which is actually reconstituted dry seaweed].

    The company offers variations of the sea salt with added cayenne or garlic; and with other seaweeds. Another product of interest is the applewood-smoked nori sheets.

    Find out more at SeaVeg.com.
     
     
    5. WERTHER’S ORIGINAL NEW COCOA CREME SOFT CARAMELS

    Werther’s newest flavor can be attributed to American palates: a survey of more than 1,000 American adults found that 44% chose caramel as their favorite candy flavor to combine with chocolate. The next closest is mint, at 19%.

    Werther’s Original Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels pair their yummy soft caramel with a cocoa crème filling.

    They join Werther’s other dual-flavor caramels, including Caramel Apple and Coffee Caramel.

    We love soft caramels. Aside from the pricey ones from artisan chocolatiers, Werther’s is our favorite everyday brand.

    Another thing we love about the brand is the sugar-free options.

    The line includes hard, chewy, soft and filled caramels, as well as the sugar-free caramels in seven flavors (the chewy sugar-free caramels and chocolate caramels are a must-try) and caramel popcorn.

    As they say at the company, they’re a treat that’s truly “werth it.”

    For more information visit Werther’s Original USA.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: More Modern Surf & Turf Ideas … Plus Spring Peas

    National Surf & Turf Day falls on February 29th. Why would anyone choose to celebrate this tasty holiday only once every four years?

    That honor should go to, say, National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, which happens to be today’s holiday (April 21st). Or how Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (June 13th), or Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day (July 29th)?

    So today, we’re featuring some novel approaches to surf and turf.

    On THE NIBBLE alone, we have obvious and not-so-obvious recipes:

  • Beef Carpaccio & Anchovies
  • Broiled Seafood With Beef Jerky Garnish
  • Clam Chowder With Bacon
  • Filet Mignon With Lobster Topping
  • Ham & Biscuits With Seafood Gravy
  • Modern Surf & Turf (18 recipe ideas)
  • National Surf & Turf Day (5+ recipe ideas)
  • Raw Scallops With Steak Tartare Or Bacon
  • Salmon BUrger With Bacon
  • Seafood Cobb Salad
  • Sea Urchin & Roast Beef Rolls
  • Surf & Turf Burgers
  • Surf & Turf Sushi & More (18 recipe ideas)
  • Surf & Turf Bloody Mary
  • Surf & Turf Eggs Benedict
  • Veal Osso Bucco On Tuna Sashimi
  • Vietnamese Pancakes With Shrimp & Pork
  • Wiener Schnitzel Surf & Turf
  •  
    Not to mention, Surf & Turf Pizza (clams or shrimp with pepperoni) or skewers (any meat, any shellfish).

    Our latest dish in the collection:

    RECIPE: SQUID & SPRING PEAS

    Who’d have thought of combining squid and bacon with fresh spring peas and fresh mint? Catalan chefs, with bounties of fresh squid pulled from the Mediterranean.

    This recipe is from Executive Chef Jaime Chavez of Sirena Cucina Latina in San Diego (which alas, closed in February).

    It’s a traditional Catalan starter from the chef’s mother, and is one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

    “[Mother] taught me that the best dishes are made from simple flavors, and when we respect the products, they give us back the very best of them,” notes Chavez.

    While Chef Jaime didn’t intend to create “surf and turf,” we’re always seeking new ways to extend the original concept of filet mignon and lobster tail, christened Surf & Turf (here’s the history of Surf & Turf).

    This is an easy recipe; the most demanding parts are slicing the squid and cooking the bacon.

    The season for fresh spring peas is short, so don’t bookmark this for “later.”

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 each squid tubes and tentacles
  • 1½ cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ½ cup sliced fennel
  • 3 tablespoons crisp bacon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Champagne vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: edible flowers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ the squid and garlic in olive oil in a hot pan. Cut the squid into rings.

       

    Squid Salad With Spring Peas

    Shelled Peas

    Raw Squid

    Grilled Bacon

    Fennel Bulb

    [1] Squid, bacon and spring peas unite in a vinaigrette (photo courtesy Chef Jaime Chavez). [2] Just-shelled spring peas (photo courtesy The Chef’s Kitchen). [3] Raw squid (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [4] Fennel (photo courtesy Burpee).

     
    2. ADD the peas and season with salt and pepper. Then add the vinegar and mint.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and add the celery, fennel and bacon. Garnish as desired and serve (the edible flowers add another touch of springtime).
     
     
    Here are more ways to use spring peas.

     

    Spring Peas

    Snow Peas

    Sugar Snap Peas

    The three types of green peas. [5] Spring peas (photo Hannah Kaminsky). [6] Snow peas (photo AllWomensTalk.com). [7] Sugar snap peas (photo Good Eggs).

     

    SPRING PEAS, ENGLISH PEAS OR GARDEN PEAS?

    Spring peas, English peas and garden peas are three are names for the same thing. All can be eaten raw or cooked.

    Three types of green peas:

  • Spring peas (Pisum sativum var. sativum, photo #5), also called English peas and garden peas, which must be shelled to be edible (although some people do cook the stringless varieties).
  • Snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum, photo #6), called “Chinese pea pods” by some consumers, which are edible flat pods with tiny peas inside.
  • Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon, photo #7), also called sugar snap peas, plump edible pods with smaller peas inside.
  •  
    Peas (Pisum sativum) are native to the Mediterranean basin. They grew wild and were one of the earlier vegetables cultivated at the dawn of agriculture in the Neolithic Era, beginning about 12,500 years ago.

    Having said that, pea pods are botanically a fruit, since they are pods that contain seeds, and the pods developed from the ovary of a flower.

    Peas, beans and lentils are all legumes with seeds that grow in pods. It’s easy to distinguish them by their shape:

  • Dry beans are oval or kidney shaped.
  • Lentils are flat disks.
  • Peas are round.
  •  
    Legumes are members of the botanical family Fabaceae, which also includes alfalfa, carob, licorice, peanuts and the sweet pea garden plant.
     
    Peas are sweet but can get starchy soon after harvesting. The fresher, the better.

     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE FRESH PEAS

    For the best flavor, choose small peas. They’re younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. Look for medium-size pods that are firm and green, with no yellowing. Break open a pod and check the peas. They should be small, bright green and firm. Taste the peas in the pod: They should be tender and sweet.

    Freshness counts. As with corn, once picked the peas’ high sugar content begins to convert to starch. Don’t pay for mature peas. You might as well use frozen peas.

    Don’t pay extra for shelled peas. You don’t know how fresh they are; and since you aren’t shelling peas day in, day out, it’s a fun activity.

    Storing Fresh Peas

  • Store the pods in the crisper drawer of the fridge in a plastic storage bag. Use them within two days.
  • Once the peas are shelled, the best way to store them is to freeze them. First, blanch the peas for a minute in boiling salted water. Then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking and maintain their bright color. Drain and freeze them in freezer storage bags for up to six months.
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    FOOD 101: History Of The Upside Down Cake & Cake Pans

    If you’ve never had an upside-down cake, today’s the day: April 20th is National Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

    With an upside-down cake, fruit is set on the bottom of the pan, topped with cake batter.

    When the cooking is complete, the skillet is inverted onto a plate, such that the fruit is now on top, although it was baked upside-down.

    SCION OF THE SKILLET CAKE

    This cake was originally made on the stove top in a skillet, and called skillet cake (photo #4). Today, it’s the same process, but with the benefit of cake pans and ovens.

    (Want to be authentic with a skillet and the stove top? No one will stop you! Those who want to go really authentic should try cooking it over a campfire or wood fireplace.)

    To make a skillet cake, fruit is set on the bottom and the batter poured on top. When the skillet or pan is inverted, the fruit that was once at the bottom forms a decorative topping. Any fruit can be used.

    When canned pineapple rings became available in the first half of the 20th century, Pineapple Upside Down Cake became the rage—often with maraschino cherries in the center of the pineapple rings.

    As the recipe evolved, cooks put their skillets in the oven to bake. Nordicware, creator of the bundt pan, created a special round pan with indentations for the pineapple slices (photo #6), guaranteeing a perfect presentation.

    To show how popular the cake became, they also make mini pans for individual Upside-Down Cakes.

    Check out these upside down cake recipes:

  • Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (photo #2)
  • Upside-Down Ginger-Pecan Peach Pie
  • Upside Down Irish Whiskey Cake
  •  
    Upside Down Cake is related to Tarte Tatin, an accidental upside-down pie from 1880s France.

    Also check out the different types of cakes.
     
    THE HISTORY OF CAKE PANS

    Why are cakes round?

    Generally, the round cakes we know today are descended from ancient breads, before there were baking pans of any kind.

    Yeast-risen breads and cakes were made by hand, patted into balls and baked on hearthstones, griddles, or in low, shallow all-purpose pans.

    By the 17th century, cake hoops made of metal or wood were placed on flat pans to shape cakes.

    According to food writer Elizabeth David, in the seventeenth century, tin or iron hoops (photo #4) were increasingly used and to shape cakes, and are frequently mentioned in the “cookery books” (think of the modern flan ring, but much deeper).

    The hoop was placed on an iron or tin sheet, with a layer of floured paper on the bottom (think of today’s parchment paper). The sides of the hoop were buttered to ease removal of the baked cake.

    You can find “these or similar directions offered over and over again in Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife, first published in 1727 (which has recipes for 40 cakes, the large ones being yeast-leavened).

    In the preface of her book, Mrs. Smith says that her recipes reflect some 30 years of experience, so it is likely that her methods date back to the previous century.

    Some recipes direct the reader to bake the cake in a paper hoop (oiled so not to burn), which was used in kitchens of the 1600s [source].

    Wooden hoops were also fairly common. Some cooks preferred them to tin, perhaps because they didn’t rust and thus were easier to store. Wood also didn’t overheat, so were less likely to burn the sides of the cake in those primitive ovens.

    Over time, baking pans in various shapes and sizes became readily available to the general public. Molded cakes in fancy shapes reached their zenith in the Victorian era (commencing with the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1831).

    Today, fancy cake molds can still be had; as well as animal molds, action figures, beehives, sports equipment and football fields, vehicles and other popular culture shapes.
     
     
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    Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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    2 Layer Apple Upside Down Cake

    Skillet Cake

    Wood Baking Hoop

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake Pan

    [1] A Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (here’s the recipe from King Arthur Flour). [2] A Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Good Eggs). [3] A two-layer Apple-Whiskey Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Betty Crocker).[4] A skillet cake. Here’s the recipe for a Pineapple Upside-Down Skillet Cake from King Arthur Flour. [5] An old-fashioned baking hoop (photo courtesy Creeds Direct). [6] Nordicware’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake pan (here it is on Amazon).

     

      

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