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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

FOOD 101: Ceviche Vs. Tiradito

When you live in a ceviche culture, what do you do for something new?

Ceviche, raw seafood marinated in lime juice with onions and other vegetables, is the national dish of Peru—and our favorite food. While the variations in ceviche recipes seem never-ending—there’s a seeming infinite combination of seafood, vegetables and marinade recipes—Peruvian chefs have taken the concept further.

They’ve created tiradito, a dish of raw fish similar to carpaccio, ceviche, crudo and sashimi, but garnished with a piquant or spicy sauce. It reflects the influence of Japanese immigrants on Peruvian cookery. It also differs from ceviche in the way in which the fish is cut (sashimi-style slices) and in the lack of onions. The fish can also be lightly seared.

Both are typically served as a first course. Cool and refreshing, they are ideal summer dishes but delicious year-round (not to mention easy to make, healthful and low in calories).

The classic tiradito sauce is made from citrus juice and a zesty paste of aji amarillo, made from the Peruvian yellow chile pepper (Capsicum baccatum) plus seasonings—grated garlic or ginger, salt and pepper. Of course, chefs can create a myriad of sauces with other ingredients.

Unlike ceviche, the fish isn’t marinated in the sauce; the sauce is used as a dressing—think sashimi with sauce and garnishes. Common garnishes include sweet potato and jumbo white corn kernels, both native to Peru.

   

ceviche-scallop-shells-raymiNYC-230

Ceviche preparation of white fish with two different marinades. Photo courtesy Raymi | NYC.

 

The key to both dishes is the freshest fish. Ask your fishmonger what’s best.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CEVICHE & TIRADITO

In South America, marinated raw fish dishes date to pre-Colombian times, when seafood was “cooked” (acid-cured) with a fruit called tumbo (Passiflora tarminina, a relative of passionfruit). The Incas cured fish in salt and fermented corn.

In the 16th century, the Spaniards arrived with lemons for the marinade, creating modern ceviche: cubed or sliced, lightly marinated raw fish. Recently, a variation has morphed into tiradito, cutting the fish sashimi-style and adding a spicy dressing.

Tiradito derives from the Spanish verb tirar, which means to throw—throwing together raw fish with a sauce.

 

tiradito-cucharasbravas.com.pe-230r

Tiraditio of mackerel with a sauce of yellow
aji chile paste. Photo courtesy
CucharasBravas.com.pe.

 

Here’s a tiradito recipe from Peru Delights. Prep time is 20 minutes.

Look for the aji amarillo paste in supermarkets with a large Latin American products section (Goya makes it), at a Latin American grocer, or online. If you can’t get hold of it, use a mixture of fresh yellow bell peppers and serrano chilies to approximate the hot and fruity flavor of the aji amarillo.

RECIPE: TIRADITO DE PESCADO

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound white fish fillets (e.g. tilapia)
  • 6 limes, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon aji amarillo paste, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon diced chile pepper (e.g. serrano)
  • ½ teaspoon grated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garnish: 1 sweet potato cut in thick slices
  • Garnish: microgreens or sprouts
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SLICE the fish fillet very thin and divide among four plates. Sprinkle with salt.

    2. COMBINE lime juice in a bowl with the aji amarillo paste, diced chile, garlic, ginger, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon over the fish to cover.

    3. TOP each portion with two sweet potato slices, cover with microgreens and serve, chilled or room temperature.

     
    MORE CEVICHE

  • Types of ceviche.
  • How to create your signature ceviche recipe.
  • Shrimp ceviche recipe.
  • What to drink with ceviche.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Scuffins

    apricot-scuffin-230

    Surprise: a center of apricot conserve. The
    black flecks are flaxseeds. Photo courtesy
    Frog Hollow Farm.

     

    Today’s tip comes from Frog Hollow Farm, a beloved grower of organic fruit in Brentwood, California, an hour east of San Francisco in the fertile Sacramento River Delta.

    Before there was the cronut, there was the scuffin. Necessity was the mother of invention.

    Some five years ago, Frog Hollow Farm began to make frozen purées from fruit that wasn’t cosmetically attractive enough to sell to consumers. They then set about creating products from the purées, and the winner was the scuffin.

    What sounds like a cross between a scone and a muffin is actually a triple hybrid, which includes the center of a jelly donut— substituting conserve, jam or preserve for the jelly. (Here are the differences between jelly, jam, conserve, etc.)

    A hearty, sconelike dough formed into a muffin shape, a scuffin is more dense than a muffin, with a texture that goes from a crisp exterior and crumbly scone interior to center of smooth fruit filling, made from the purée. It eliminates the need to choose between a scone and a muffin. They can be breakfast bread, snack or dessert.

    Served at the Frog Hollow Café in San Fransicso’s Ferry Building, the scuffin was an instant hit. The whole grain flour and flaxseeds, add healthful elements and a nuttiness that pairs well with the jam.

     
    Total prep and baking time is 1 hour.

    RECIPE: SCUFFINS

    Ingredients For 12 Scuffins

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 ounces), plus 2 tablespoons for buttering muffin cups
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal or wheat germ (1 ounce)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown or raw sugar (2 ounces), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup fruit jam, conserves, preserves or fruit butter (do not use jelly or marmalade)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a microwave or over very gentle heat. Using a pastry brush, butter the cups of a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin (3-1/2-ounce-capacity). Let each coat of butter cool, then apply another coat; continue until the 2 tablespoons are all used.

    2. COMBINE dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just combined.

    3. WHISK together the egg, milk and cream in another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix to combine (the dough will be quite sticky).

    4. RESERVING about a quarter of the dough for topping, scoop 2 tablespoons dough into each cup. Using the back of a spoon, press the dough gently down into the cups. The dough will move up the sides, and there should be a shallow well in each dough cup. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t come all the way up to the top; there should be about 1/2 inch of space between the top of the dough and the rim of the cup.

     

    nectarine-scuffin-froghollowfarm-230

    Scuffins filled with blueberry preserves. Photo courtesy Frog Hollow Farm.

     
    5. SPOON about 1 tablespoon of jam into each well. Using your fingers, pinch the remaining dough into small clumps and scatter evenly over the jam in each cup, making a bumpy topping. Sprinkle sugar over the tops.

    6. BAKE 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned. Let cool in the pan on a rack; run a blade around the sides of each scuffin before turning out.

    Variations

  • Try different flavors of jams and preserves.
  • Use different spices—nutmeg, ginger or allspice, for example, instead of cinnamon or cardamom.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pecan Sandies

    pecan-sandies-tasteofhome-230

    Pecan sandies. Photo courtesy Taste Of
    Home.

     

    September 21st is National Pecan Cookie Day. Our favorite has got to be the pecan sandy, modeled after the French sablé.

    A shortbread-like butter cookie with a sandy texture, sablé means “sand” in French and refers to both the color and the texture of the cookies.

    The cookies originated in the Normandy region of France and are a very popular tea cookie. Common variations include chocolate and lemon sablés.

    In some sandy recipes, the dough is lighter than traditional dense, buttery shortbread. A pecan sandy is simply the shortbread with chopped pecans added to the dough, or a pecan half embellishment on the top of the cookie.

    This recipe is courtesy Taste Of Home. Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 55 minutes.

     
    RECIPE: PECAN SANDIES

    Ingredients For 18 Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet.

    2. CREAM in a bowl the butter and sugar; stir in vanilla. Add flour; mix on low until well blended. Stir in pecans; mix well. Chill for 30 minutes.

    3. ROLL into 1-inch balls; place on the sheet. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes or until bottom edges are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
     
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES IN OUR COOKIE GLOSSARY.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cheese-Stuffed French Toast

    Today for brunch, we made this tasty recipe from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. It’s sweet and savory: cheese with the sweet notes of conventional French toast.

    The recipe uses Havarti from Wisconsin, but you can substitute another cheese of choice. Suggestions: Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Tilsit or for a stronger flavor, Muenster, Port du Salut or Reblochon. (Check out our Cheese Glossary.)

    RECIPE: CHEESE STUFFED FRENCH TOAST

    Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce challah or French bread loaf, cubed
  • 1 package (8 ounces) Havarti or other cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) blueberry preserves
  •  

    cheese-stuffed-french-toast-wmmb-230b

    Cheese-stuffed French toast. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

    2. ARRANGE half of bread cubes in lightly buttered 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Top evenly with Havarti; top with remaining bread cubes.

    3. WHISK together the eggs, milk, sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, butter and maple syrup in large mixing bowl; pour over bread mixture, pressing bread cubes to absorb egg mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon over the top. Cover baking pan with foil.

    4. BAKE for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 more minutes or until lightly browned and set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

    5. MAKE the sauce. Stir together blueberries and blueberry preserves in a small saucepan over low heat until warm. Serve over the French toast or on the side.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Pastilla, Bastilla, Bisteeya, B’stilla

    pastilla-moroccan-kaminsky-230

    Alluring and delicious. Photo © Hannah
    Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Pastilla, pronounced “bastilla” in the Arabic of North Africa, is a traditional Moroccan dish that crossed the Straits of Gilbraltar from Andalusia, Spain. It is transliterated from the Arabic pastilla, bastilla, bisteeya, b’stilla or bstilla.

    It all means “delicious,” says Hannah Kaminsky.

    Traditionally served as a first course of a special meal, this squab pie with flaky, crêpe-like dough is more often made with chicken these days. Fish, offal and vegetarian recipes are also made.

    In traditional recipes, the meat is slow-cooked in broth and spices, then shredded and layered in the pastry with toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar.

    “I may have never known about the wonders of pastilla, the mysterious pastry with a half-dozen different spellings, if not for the ethereal prose of Fatima Mernissi,” says Hannah. “So inspired by her lavish, unrestrained words of praise, this was my call to action, to secure a literal piece of the pie for myself.”

    Looking for a vegan substitute, she turned to chickpeas, noting:

     
    “Most curious with pastilla is the incongruous addition of powdered sugar right before serving; a light dusting of confectionery snow, frosting a decidedly savory main course.

    “Humbly, I must admit, it does work, tempering the hot, bold and intense spices without turning the pastry into a dessert. Though it could still taste equally delicious without the sugar, for those as hesitant as myself, I must urge you to just give it a shot.”
     
    RECIPE: CHICKPEA PASTILLA

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (14-ounces) chickpeas (1-3/4 cups cooked), drained
  • 1/2 cup coarse almond meal
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8-10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • Optional: confectioner’s sugar to garnish
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a 6-inch round springform pan.

    2. HEAT 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar; cook for 8-10 minutes while stirring frequently, until lightly golden and aromatic. Add the ground cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne, cooking for a minute or two longer to gently toast the spices.

    3. ADD the drained chickpeas and almond meal, stirring to combine, before slowly pouring in the broth and lemon juice together. Cook for another minute to heat through and slightly thicken the mixture. It should be thoroughly moistened but not soupy. Season with salt to taste. Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.

    4. LAY 1 sheet of phyllo across the bottom of the prepared springform pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges. Lightly brush with the remaining olive oil, and then place another sheet of phyllo on top, turning it slightly so that the points stick out at different angles. Repeat this process so that you end up with 4-5 sheets lining the pan, covering the sides completely.

     

    baklava-wiki-star-230

    This baklava, made in a star-shaped cup, shows the numerous layers of phyllo dough. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

     

    5. SPOON the chickpea filling into the center, smoothing it out so that it fills the pan evenly. If you end up with a bit too much filling to comfortably squeeze in, you can always use leftover sheets of phyllo later, to make individual parcels.

    6. COVER the filling with another sheet of phyllo, brush with olive oil and repeat the same process as before, ending up with another 4-5 sheets on top. Fold the overhanging dough back over the top, smoothing it down as neatly as you can. Give it a final brush of olive oil before sliding it into the oven.

    7. BAKE for 15-18 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pie until it is golden brown (it cooks quickly at this high temperature). Let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding. Sift a fine dusting of confectioner’s sugar on top right before serving.

    THE HISTORY OF PHYLLO DOUGH

    Phyllo (FEE-low), fillo or filo is the traditional dough of the Greek, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. It is used for pastries from the sweet, like baklava (with honey and nuts) to the savory, like spanakopita (spinach and feta).

    Phyllo means “leaf” in Greek, and refers to the many tissue-thin leaves (so thin you can read through them) of unleavened flour sheets that comprise the dough. The paper-thin layers are separated by a thin film of butter.

    The earliest form of the dough was made in the 8th century B.C.E. in northern Mesopotamia, when the Assyrians made an early version of baklava, layering very thin pieces of dough with nuts and honey, and baking them in wood-burning ovens.

    The practice of stretching raw dough into paper-thin sheets is believed to have evolved in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, based on Central Asian prototypes.

    Greek seamen brought the concept home, and Athenian bakers created phyllo, the leaf-thin layers of dough, as early as the 3rd century B.C.E. Given the labor required, it was served in wealthy Greek households for special occasions.

    The dough (flour, water, oil and white vinegar) was made by gently rolling, stretching or pressing into the ultra-thin sheets. This takes time and skill, requiring progressive rolling and stretching into a single thin and very large sheet. A very large table and a long roller are required, with continous flouring between layers to prevent tearing.

    Machines for producing phyllo pastry were perfected in the 1970s. Today, phyllo is made by machine and available in the freezer section of most food stores, or fresh in some specialty markets.

    In preparation for baking, the dough is brushed with butter or oil; it must be worked with quickly as it dries with exposure to air. It can be cut into sheets and layered in a tin, cut into individual rolls or rolled up as one large roll.

    In any form, it is delicious!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Cheesecake

    blue-cheese-artichoke-cheesecake-wmmb-230

    For a delightful change of pace, try a savory
    cheesecake appetizer. Photo courtesy
    Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    When you want to serve something impressive and unexpected at your next dinner party or cocktail party, consider a savory cheesecake.

    Instead of sugar and vanilla, it calls for herbs, salt and savory components—cheeses such as blue cheese or Gruyère and additions like seafood and vegetables.

    Cut small wedges—this is a rich starter! Serve with toast points, baguette slices or crackers and decorate the plate with appropriate cheese accompaniments—nuts, and grapes, for example. Add a touches of color with fresh green herbs or red grape tomatoes or peppadews.

    You can also the whole cheesecake at a party, on a tray with crackers.

    Bake the cheesecake the night before and take it out of the refrigerator an hour before serving to allow the cheesecake to reach room temperature. In addition to the recipe below, here are four more savory cheesecake recipes, including Tuna (you can substitute smoked salmon), Gruyère & Lobster, Provolone & Corn and No-Bake Basil Cheesecake. All are courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    RECIPE: BLUE CHEESE CHEESECAKE

    For a perfect cocktail pairing, serve this cheesecake with a Vodka Martini With Buttermilk Blue Stuffed Olives. For a first course, look for a big white wine: either a sweet white (like a Sauternes or a late harvest Vouvray) or Chardonnay (if your budget permits, a Puligny-Montrachet). Another interesting match would be a ruby Port (save the vintage Ports for the end of dinner).

    This recipe was created by Wisconsin chef Mindy Segal, who used Hook’s Wisconsin Blue Cheese and garnished the dish with sweet components: Port Wine Poached Pears, Port Caramel And Candied Walnuts. You can keep it all savory with a lightly dressed salad or any garnish you choose.

    And remember: the better the blue cheese, the better the cheesecake.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

    For The Poached Pears

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) Port wine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, scraped
  • 6 medium pears (Bartlett, Forelle or Comice)
  •  
    For The Sugared Walnuts

  • 1 tablespoon egg white
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup walnuts
  •  

    For The Cheesecake

  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 10 ounces blue cheese, room temperature, finely crumbled
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons clover or orange honey
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional garnish: rosemary sprigs
  •  
    For The Caramel

  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 1/2 ounces light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup reserved poaching liquid
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch cracked pepper
  •  

    blue-cheese-cheesecake-wmmb-230r

    Chef Mindy Segal’s preparation with poached pears, candied walnuts and caramel. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the poached pears. In a heavy sauce pan, combine all ingredients except the pears; bring to a boil and cook until reduced by a quarter. Meanwhile, peel the pears and add the peels to the poaching liquid. Cut the pears in half and core. Strain the poaching liquid and add the pears. Bring to a simmer and poach the pears until tender. Place the pears and liquid in opaque container. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature overnight. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid for the Port caramel.

    2. MAKE the sugared walnuts. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In small bowl, mix all ingredients except the walnuts. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Spread in single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Break into pieces. Set aside.

    3. MAKE the cheesecake. Heat the oven to 250°F. Spray an 8-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper; spray again. In large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the blue cheese; beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl. Add sour cream, honey, salt and pepper. Beat until combined. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until set and knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature in pan.

    4. MAKE the Port caramel. In heavy sauce pot, combine 1 cup sugar and the corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cook at a slow rolling boil until dark amber. In another pot, bring the cream and reserved poaching liquid just to a boil; keep warm. When the sugar is amber, add the remaining sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the cream mixture slowly, allowing the mixture to reduce after each addition. Cook until the consistency of a thick syrup, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

    5. SERVE. Cut the cheesecake into wedges. Serve on plate with some of the poached pear, Port wine caramel and sugared walnuts, or garnishes of choice.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: German Marble Cake

    Make this delicious marble cake. Photo
    courtesy Zabars.com.

     

    With the Jewish New Year approaching, we think back to tables laden with holiday food, and desserts both homemade and from New York’s great Jewish bakers.

    Immigrants from Europe contributed much deliciousness to our childhood. As a youngster we were lucky to live in a town rich with postwar refugees from Germany, Hungary and Eastern Europe. Among the trades they brought with them, our favorite artisans were (of course) the bakers.

    Bagel makers, bread bakers, pastry makers: We loved them all for the scrumptious products of their artisan skills. Alas, we are now their age, and not one bakery from those memorable times survives in Manhattan. The last one we knew of—Jon Vie Bakery, 492 Avenue of the Americas between 12th and 13th Streets—lost its lease in 2004, unable to afford double the rent on slender bakery margins. At last glance it was a 16 Handles frozen yogurt shop, where the inventory doesn’t go stale at the end of the day.

    The owner of Jon Vie was a third-generation baker, the manager was the fourth-generation of a baking family, both families originally from Poland. Both men were in their mid-70s when the bakery closed. Needless to say, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

     
    The bakery specialized in German, Hungarian and Jewish specialties—almost a memory today—along with cream puffs, éclairs and napoleons that met customers’ desires for French pastry.

    While there will always be French pastry for sale somewhere—and rugelach and strudel at outposts like Zabar’s, —we’re left with only the memories of great babka, mandel brot and marble cake with ganache icing.

    While we can still find cheese danish, they don’t compare to the wonders from those European bakers, stuffed with plentiful, sweet cheese and topped with slivered almonds and a honey glaze. We bought one daily from Éclair, which—ignominously—lost its lease to Krispy Kreme, itself long gone.

    And now, a paean: Louis Lichtman: Life hasn’t been the same since you retired. Bloom’s Bake Shop, we remember you well. Sutter’s, you are in our heart forever.

    The Hungarian Pastry Shop by Columbia University, another hangout of our youth, is still there, but has undergone a succession of management changes. It sells some items that look like the ones from yore, but taste nothing like them. Don’t even go there—it will just break your heart.

    For those who remember, or want to understand that joyous past, bake a marble cake in remembrance. Here’s the recipe.

    By the way, marble cake arrived on these shores with German immigrants before the Civil War. Here’s the history of marble cake.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Avocado Saver

    It looks like an S&M harness for an avocado. But it’s the Avocado Saver from Williams-Sonoma, yours for $6.95.

    Why would you need an Avocado Saver? To quote the retailer:

    “Keep halved avocados fresh longer with this handy gadget, which reduces oxidation and browning by protecting the exposed side from air. Simply align the pit over the indentation, then secure the avocado with the adjustable rubber strap, which creates a tight seal against the plastic base.”

    Uh…have you not heard of plastic wrap?

    If you have use for an Avocado Saver, here’s the link to purchase it.

    Related Articles

  • Don’t Buy Silly Kitchen Gadgets
  • Kitchen Gadgets To Avoid
  •  

    avocado-saver-WS-230

    Another silly kitchen gadget? Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

      

    Comments

    EVENT: Oyster Frenzy

    belon_oysters-jpshellfish-230

    Belon oysters from Maine. Photo courtesy J.P.
    Shellfish.

     

    What’s shucking in your town?

    In ours, New York City, we’re in the middle of New York Oyster Week—actually two weeks of oyster-centric events, from September 11th through September 28th.

    Once, in the waters surrounding us, oysters were so plentiful that anyone could enjoy as much as he chose. Alas, as with the sturgeon that once swam the Hudson River, so plentiful that free caviar was served at pubs (the salty caviar made people drink more beer), we over-fished our bounty by the mid-nineteenth century.

    Now, if you crave it—oysters or caviar—you pay dearly (a little less dearly in the case of oysters versus caviar).

    You can indulge in oyster excitement on Saturday, September 27th, when the 12th Annual Grand Central Oyster Frenzy takes place at The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal.

    Admission is free to view:

  • A shucking competition among top professional oyster shuckers. Seven-time champion Luis “The Mexican Menace” Iglesius will try for yet another title.
  • The Slurp Off Competitive Eating Competition for the public, to see who can slurps 12 oysters in the fastest time.
  • The Beer Shucking competition, crowning the person who “shucks” a case of beer in fastest time—is sponsored by Blue Point Brewing Company.
  • Chef demonstrations of culinary wizardry.
  •  
    There are also tastings, with oysters and beverages priced per item, including:

  • 16 Oyster Pairings! From 12 noon to 4 p.m., Oyster Frenzy will present 16 varieties of oysters—eight each from the East and West coasts—paired six championship wines. We can’t wait!
     
    For information call 1.212.490.6650 or email info@oysterbarnycom…or just show up!

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    OYSTER-WINE PAIRINGS & DUCK ISLAND OYSTERS

    We had never heard of Duck Island, a tiny spot on Long Island Sound (between Long Island, New York and Connecticut) that you can’t even see clearly on a map.

    But yesterday we were treated to Duck Island oysters, plus Kumamotos from Baja, California, along with 23 different wines under consideration for the Oyster Frenzy at the Oyster Bar.

    Our challenge was to select which of the wines went better with the very briny Kumamotos and which went better with the fruity, honeydew-note Duck Island oysters from Long Island Sound.

    Lest anyone think, “Oh boy, 23 different wines,” let us emphasize that this is very tough work! And without going into detail on the 23 wines (kudos to the sommeliers at the Oyster Bar for such an informative challenge), our philosophy is:

  • Go for a classic Chablis or Pinot Blanc with fruity oysters. You don’t want any fruit sweetness from the wine interfering with the subtle notes of the oyster.
  • For briny oysters, a touch of fruit in the wine can offset the salinity. In the blind taste test, we picked a Sauvignon Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay blend and a dry Riesling.
  •  
    As for those Duck Island oysters, we couldn’t get enough of them. We’re heading back to The Oyster Bar this weekend for more!

     

    oyster-salmon-caviar-theseafiregrillFB-230

    Our favorite way to enjoy oysters—apart from naked, as absolutely plain oysters are called—is with salmon caviar. Photo courtesy The Sea Grill | NYC.

     

    HOW TO EAT OYSTERS

    When you’re eating fresh oysters on the half shell, the best way to eat them is naked. That’s how you’ll taste the different flavor notes in different varieties.

    Any addition—lemon juice, cocktail sauce, mignonette sauce, horseradish—just covers up those wonderful flavor notes.

    On the other hand, if the oyster is bland, you need those condiments to add flavor! But that should never be the case at a seafood restaurant or oyster bar.
     
    WHAT ABOUT OYSTER CRACKERS

    Oyster crackers are small, salted, soup crackers, typically hexagonal in shape and molded into two halves, roughy suggestive of an oyster shell. They were so-named because they were commonly served with oyster chowder, oyster stew and similar fish and seafood dishes.

    The best ones we’ve ever had—served at the Oyster Bar—are from Westminster Bakers. We can’t stop eating them!

     
    TYPES OF OYSTERS

    Check out the different types of oysters in our Oyster Glossary.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A New Apple

    apple-cider-230

    SweeTango juice and apples, now in stores
    nationwide. Photo courtesy The Next Big
    Thing.

     

    While October is National Apple Month, today, September 20th, is International Eat An Apple Day. There are so many varieties of apples, our tip is to step outside of your apple comfort zone and try something new.

    Our favorite apple, Honeycrisp, has an offspring: SweeTango. Introduced in 2009, SweeTango combines the best qualities of the Honeycrisp (released in 1991) and Zestar (released in 1998) varieties. It has the crisp texture of Honeycrisp and the juiciness of the Zestar, with notes of citrus, honey and spice.

    The SweeTango was born at the University of Minnesota, where expert apple breeders, using time-honored horticultural techniques, struck gold by marrying the Honeycrisp and Zestar varieties. If you were about to ask, the brand tells us that Honeycrisp was the bride, Zestar the groom, both varieties with crisp flesh.

    The offspring of marrying the rootstocks created the Minneiska, a hybrid tree. But since “Minneiska” doesn’t have a commercial ring to it, the apples were christened (and trademarked) SweeTango.

     

    A growers cooperative was formed, includes some of the best apple growers in the world and called Next Big Thing. They are the only farmers who can grow SweeTango—an arrangement that allows the breeders to maintain top quality.

    A seasonal apple harvested in early fall, SweeTango is available during apple season across the U.S. and Canada. Enjoy it as a hand fruit, or with stronger cheeses such as blues and Cheddar.

    For more information, visit SweeTango.com. Use the store locator to find a retailer near you.

     

    DOES AN APPLE A DAY KEEP THE DOCTOR AWAY?

    According to HowStuffWorks.com, the first printed mention of this saying was in the February 1866 issue of the British publication Notes and Queries, still in print and still focused on reader questions about the English language and literature, lexicography, history and scholarly antiquarianism.

    The publication printed the proverb thusly: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” But does it, really?

    No more so than many other fruits. Most ailments cannot be cured by diet alone, and nutritionists would recommend a varied selection of fruits: citrus fruits, tropical fruits like mangos and a variety of berries, which pack a nutritional punch.

    Here’s what the nutrients in apples can do for you.

  • An apple a day can reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and many types of cancer. Various studies show health benefits when participants eat an apple between three and five times a week.
  •  

    sliced-apples-shropshireblue-230s

    Sliced SweeTango apples with Shropshire Blue cheese and almonds. Photo courtesy The Next Big Thing.

  • The pectin in apples is a soluble fiber than lowers both blood pressure and glucose levels. It can also lower the level of LDL, or bad cholesterol. Like other forms of fiber, it helps maintain the health of the digestive system.
  • Boron, an abundant nutrient in apples, supports strong bones and a healthy brain.
  • Quercetin, a flavonoid (antioxidant), may reduce the risk of various cancers, including breast and lung cancer. It may also neutralize free radical damage, which has been implicated in a variety of age-related health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The phytonutrients, including vitamins A, E and beta carotene, also fight free radical damage, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
  • Last but not least, the vitamin C boosts immunity, which helps maintain overall health.
  • Other fruits have specific benefits.

  • Bananas are loaded with potassium, which is important for a healthy heart and proper muscle function.
  • All berries are good for you. Apricots, fresh or dried, are high in beta-carotene. Blackberries are loaded with fiber. Blueberries and cranberries help prevent and fight urinary tract infections. Strawberries contain lots of vitamin C and fiber.
  • In terms of juice, apple juice is at the bottom of the top 10 beverages in antioxidant power. Pomegranate juice, wine and purple grape juice at the top, with apple juice in the tenth spot, right behind tea. One of the healthy benefits of apples—the high amount of fiber—is lost during juicing.
  •  
    So why the adage, and why has it been passed from generation to generation for 148 years?

    First, at the time the expression emerged, understanding of nutrition profiles was not what it is today. Next, apples were a bountiful crop in England; once harvested, they could remain in storage for nearly a year, providing one of the few sources of fresh fruit during the winter months.

    And, within that longevity is truth: Recent studies have shown that, unlike many fruits and vegetables, the nutritional benefits of apples remain relatively stable as long as 200 days after harvest.

    So by all means, enjoy an apple a day. It’s still one of the better sweet things you can munch on.

      

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