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Archive for January, 2008

FOOD HOLIDAY: It’s National Peanut Butter Day

If you love peanut butter, expand your horizons and try some of the more than two dozen flavored gourmet PBs we’ve had the joy to experience. First, take a look at our article on the different flavors of gourmet peanut butter. Then, Read our individual reviews of P.B. Loco and Peanut Butter (Peanut Better is USDA certified organic and kosher, too). P.B. Loco’s Sun-Dried Tomato PB is one of our favorite flavors, by itself or with turkey, ham, roast beef or cheese. It makes wonderful hors d’oeuvres, too—people can’t believe what they’re eating. Whether you fill celery, fennel, pastry cups or just serve it on crackers with a counterpoint of olive or other vegetable (or even a salty peanut), it’s easy and fascinating. You can do similar things with the Asian Curry PB, but we love to use this flavor to make quick and yummy sesame noodles. On the sweet side of P.B. Loco, the Sumatra Cinnamon and Raisin PB is the best we’ve ever had of the genre, and we can eat the White Raspberry Chocolate from the jar for dessert. If you need a real pick-me-up, try it on a piece of chocolate bar—you’ll forget all about peanut butter cups. Read our full review of P.B. Loco.   Peanut Butter
Even if you think plain peanut butter is delicious as is, try the gourmet flavors.
Moving on to Peanut Better, the savory flavors knock our socks off. You might not consider buying Onion Parsley or Rosemary Garlic Peanut Butter—but you’d be missing out on a taste sensation. Enjoy them in the sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres described above, or an any recipe that calls for PB—the dimension that these nut butters add to peanut soup cannot be described! The Thai Ginger And Red Pepper (also great for sesame noodles), Spicy Southwestern and Hickory Smoked PBs also rock the house. The sweet flavors are also delightful, but the savories blow us away. Read our full review of Peanut Better. They’ll make you look at peanut butter not as a bread spread, but as a gourmet cooking ingredient. Happy Peanut Butter Day!

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Kids

  Children as young as five can learn the joy of cooking. Companies like Sassafras and Pelican Bay make junior chef kits that let kids turn out truly delicious cookies, pizzas, pancakes and fun projects like flowerpot cakes complete with gummy worms and chocolate dirt. Share your love of food and empower a kid with a cooking kit. Add the gift of time and be the adult “supervising chef,” too. Visit the Kids’ Foods Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine to see some of our favorite specialty foods products that you can give kids—educate their palates to the “good stuff.”

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RECIPES: And Now For Something Completely Different

Unmentionable Cuisine, Calvin SchwabeUnmentionable Cuisine includes recipes for dogs and cats as well as tamer items like horsemeat. Perhaps a gift for Father’s Day?   We come from a family that loves to cook—on our mother’s side, we must hastily add. No one wanted to be at Grandma’s (Dad’s mom) too close to dinnertime. Our mother’s mother also hails from Canada, and we have kin in Montreal and Toronto. One of them sent my mother this compendium of rodent recipes, compiled by Bert Christiansen of Toronto, who recalls reading rat recipes in the New York Times during the Nixon administration. With Nixon’s historic trip to China, much cultural exploration ensued, including reports of a restaurant in Beijing that specialized in lemon-fried rat. “When you’re short of protein,” Mr. Christiansen points out, such things start to look tempting. He notes that rich Southerners reportedly ate rats during the Vicksburg siege. Similarly, we recall reading a passage in “Gone With The Wind,” when Scarlett O’Hara told Rhett Butler that she feared she would be reduced to eating rats. He responded that he would rather have a nice, juicy rat than the questionable fare that was being served at his hotel.
In Unmentionable Cuisine, Calvin W. Schwabe notes that “Because of prejudice or ignorance, we Americans now reject many readily available foods that are cheap, nutritious, and good to eat…[and] should be using many forms of protein which are routinely consumed in other parts of the world.” The following excerpts are from a section of the book giving recipes for cooking rats and mice. Brown rats and roof rats were eaten openly on a large scale in Paris when the city was under siege during the Franco-Prussian War. Observers likened their taste to both partridges and pork. And, according to the Larousse Gastronomique, rats are still eaten in some parts of France. In fact, this recipe appears in that famous tome.
Grilled Rats Bordeaux Style (Entrecôte à la Bordelaise)
Alcoholic rats inhabiting wine cellars are skinned and eviscerated, brushed with a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots, and grilled over a fire of broken wine barrels. In West Africa…rats are a major item of diet. The giant rat (Cricetomys), the cane rat (Thryonomys), the common house mouse and other species of rats and mice are all eaten. According to a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report, they now comprise over 50 percent of the locally-produced meat eaten in some parts of Ghana. Between December 1968 and June 1970, 258,206 pounds of cane-rat meat alone were sold in one market in Accra! This is a local recipe that shows the South American influence on West African cuisine.
Stewed Cane Rat
Skin and eviscerate the rat and split it lengthwise. Fry until brown in a mixture of butter and peanut oil. Cover with water, add tomatoes or tomato purée, hot red peppers, and salt. Simmer the rat until tender and serve with rice.The ancient Romans enjoyed a tasty mouse:
Stuffed Dormice
Prepare a stuffing of dormouse meat or pork, pepper, pine nuts, broth, asafoetida (a pungent Indian spice made of asafeotida sap, gum arabic, wheat, rice flower and turmeric), and some garum (substitute anchovy paste.) Stuff the mice and sew them up. Bake them in an oven on a tile.Instead of chips with your Margarita, try:Roasted Field Mice (Raton de Campo Asado) / Mexico
Skin and eviscerate field mice. Skewer them and roast over an open fire or coals. These are probably great as hors d’oeuvres with margaritas or “salty dogs.”

Canadian author Farley Mowat gives this innovative Arctic explorer’s recipe—which sounds much tastier in French:

Mice in Cream (Souris à la Crème)
Skin, gut and wash some fat mice without removing their heads. Cover them in a pot with ethyl alcohol and marinate 2 hours. Cut a piece of salt pork or sowbelly into small dice and cook it slowly to extract the fat. Drain the mice, dredge them thoroughly in a mixture of flour, pepper, and salt, and fry slowly in the rendered fat for about 5 minutes. Add a cup of alcohol and 6 to 8 cloves, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Prepare a cream sauce, transfer the sautéed mice to it, and warm them in it for about 10 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit!

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Rhubarb Pie Day

Rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit. The giveaway might be that it looks like red celery stalks with cabbage-like leafy tops (some can be dark green like spinach or kale). By the time it gets to market, the leaves have been cut off, and we only see the red stalks. Native to Asia, rhubarb has long been used in Chinese medicine. As anyone knows who has cooked rhubarb, it needs copious amounts of sugar to offset its natural bitterness; thus, its use as a food didn’t come into play until sugar became widely available in the 17th century. But since then, what a joy! Stewed rhubarb is a delight, as is a rhubarb or strawberry-rhubarb pie or crumble. We’ve made rhubarb ice cream too—terrific! The reason you don’t see more stewed rhubarb or pie is that it’s relatively laborious to work with the vegetable. It’s fibrous, so after you cook it, you need to process it through a Foley food mill. But we learned the joys of cooking rhubarb from our Nana, and assure you, it’s worth it.   rhub-230.jpgRhubarb—it’s pretty, and after you add lots of sugar, it’s tasty. Photo courtesy of OurOhio.com.
We’re not certain why today is National Rhubarb Pie Day, since the vegetable isn’t harvested until April/May in the Northern Hemisphere; and Southern Hemisphere readers have missed the October/November harvest. So, enjoy a piece of seasonal fruit pie—apple or pumpkin, perhaps—and start perusing recipes in advance of pumpkin season. Plan to make a pie or crumble for your own Nana for Mother’s Day.

How can you tell the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? Fruits carry their seeds on the inside—think apples, bananas, melons, pears, and plums. The only exception is the strawberry. By the same token, the following “vegetables” are botanically fruits; we just think of them as vegetables because they are not sweet: avocados, eggplants, olives, squash, tomatoes and zucchini. (Avocados and olives are tree fruit, just like apples and oranges.)

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Serving Spicy & Exotic Foods

Baji’s Papadums

Baji’s Mango Chutney Papadums make a special (and easy!) hors d’oeuvre with spicy chutneys or a quieter yogurt dip. Read our review.

  If you want to serve ethnic foods or spicy foods but are concerned that not all your guests will enjoy them, hedge your bets and serve them as hors d’oeuvres, along with other choices. The foodies can feast, and you don’t have to worry about other guests going hungry. See some of our favorites in the International Foods Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
 

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