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Archive for June, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Cherries

Rainer cherries are now in stores. We got
ours at Trader Joe’s. Photo courtesy
Washington State Fruit Commission.


You can enjoy dried cherries year-round, but fresh cherries are a special event. They’re only available from mid-May through August, so don’t miss out: Put cherries on your shopping list.

Cherries are a healthy snack food on their own, but also consider them as recipe ingredients. Just for starters:

  • Toss plump cherries into green salads (and fruit salads, of course)
  • Make a salsa or relish to top burgers or other grilled meats, fish and poultry
  • In pasta with feta and basil
  • Make fresh cherry sorbet
  • Make sweet or savory cherry sauce to grace just about anything
    Northwest Cherries, an association of growers, has a wealth of fresh cherry recipes, from breakfast to appetizers, salads, mains and of course, desserts.

    TIP: Make life easier: Buy a cherry pitter. You can also use it to pit olives. Here’s an excellent basic cherry pitter, plus a more complex one for faster pitting.

  • Enjoy cherry trivia, history and a cherry tiramisu recipe.

    Calories In Cherries
    Cherries have a bad rap as a more “fattening” fruit. A single cherry contains about 5 calories; a cup of cherries with pitts, 87 calories; a cup of pitted cherries, 97 calories.

    Cherries & Health
    A growing number of Americans are drinking cherry juice 365 days a year. Tart red cherries contain significant levels of 17 different antioxidants, including anthocyanins and melatonin. Reports about cherry health benefits are promising. Antioxidants can help fight cell damage, which produces cancer and heart disease.

    You’ll want to get guidance from your healthcare provider, but according to the Cherry Marketing Institute, to date no other fruit or vegetable has been found to have the pain-relieving properties of tart cherries.

    Anthocyanin, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants, is a natural Cox-2 inhibitor that can relieve the pain of arthritis, gout and possibly fibromyalgia for many people. Ongoing research at Michigan State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio shows that tart cherries contain enough anthocyanins to help relieve the pain of these diseases, and can be a safe alternative to drugs such as Vioxx and Celebrex for the relief of pain from arthritis.

    CHERRY TRIVIA: Cherries have been eaten since prehistoric times. Wild cherry trees grew throughout Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa. The word cherry (cerise in French, cereza in Spanish) derives from a city in northern Turkey—Cerasus in the Roman Empire, Giresun today—from which the cherry was first exported to Europe.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Grenadine

    First, what is grenadine?

    A deep red syrup used for hundreds of years to flavor and give a reddish/pink tinge to drinks and other recipes, true grenadine is made from pomegranate juice and sugar syrup. The name comes from the French grenade and the Spanish grenada, words for pomegranate.

    Alas, today’s mass-marketed “grenadine” is faux grenadine, containining neither pomegranate nor sugar. If you want to pour HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) into your drink, go ahead.

    Otherwise, look for artisan brands and check the label.

    Or, make your own grenadine. Here’s the recipe.

    Making grenadine syrup couldn’t be easier. And once you’ve made a batch, you can use it to make dozens of delicious recipes: not just drinks, but everything from mains to desserts.

    And you can give it as gifts.

  • Grenadine Overview & History
  • Grenadine Recipes

    Grenadine. Some European brands contain
    alcohol and are drunk as a cordial. Photo
    by Coatilex | Wikimedia.




    JULY 4TH FOOD: Goat Cheese Stuffed Celery

    Updated retro: goat cheese-stuffed celery
    with pomegranate arils. Blueberries not
    shown. Photo and recipe courtesy Pom


    An update of the 1950s classic, this stuffed celery recipe replaces the old school cream cheese and pimento-stuffed olives with goat cheese and capers.

    For July 4th, the white goat cheese is accented with red pomegranate arils and blueberries. You can also substitute blue cheese.

    For Christmas, switch out the blueberries and put extra green capers on top of the goat cheese.

    Stuffed Celery Ingredients

  • 6 large celery stalks, cleaned and trimmed of strings
  • 4 ounces mild goat cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons chopped green onion (shoots only, not tops)
  • 4 teaspoons chopped capers (optional)
  • 1/2 cup arils (the pomegranate seed sacs—from 1 fresh pomegranate, or a bag of arils)
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried

    Stuffed Celery Preparation

    1. If using a whole fresh pomegranate, score and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top.

    2. Sieve the arils and place in a separate bowl. You only need half the arils (1/2 cup); refrigerate or freeze the rest. Or put them to work on the holiday menu: in a salad or cocktails, or as a tray garnish.

    2. Clean six stalks of celery; cut into four pieces each and set aside.

    3. Mix together goat cheese, green onion and optional capers, if desired.

    4. Using a knife, fill each piece of celery with cheese mixture.

    5. Divide the arils and blueberries evenly and press onto the cheese. Lightly press down the blueberries.

    6. Serve chilled.



    RECIPE: Make A Creamy Cannoli Pie

    Like cannolis? You can enjoy the same creamy ricotta filling and chocolate chips—baked into a pie. Enjoy this recipe, courtesy Eagle Brand condensed milk. If you want to add the crunch of a cannoli shell, add pieces of sugar cones to the pie filling.


  • 1 nine-inch unbaked pie shell at room temperature (we prefer a chocolate shell or a graham cracker shell to a plain pastry shell)
  • Water
  • Cinnamon sugar (blend 2 tablespoons cinnamon with 2 tablespoons sugar)
  • 1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1 can (14 ounces) Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/3 cup powdered (confectioners’) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

    Cannoli pie: a baked variation of the popular
    filled cannoli shell. Photo courtesy Eagle Brand.


  • Optional: 2 sugar cones, broken into half-inch to one-inch pieces
  • Optional: whipped cream for garnish
  • Optional: extra chocolate chips to garnish whipped cream
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush pie shell very lightly with water; generously sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
    2. Blend ricotta cheese, sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into pie crust.
    3. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until [plain pastry] crust is golden brown. Filling will appear slightly soft.
    4. Cool completely on wire rack. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream.

    A Sicilian pastry, cannoli is actually the plural form of the word. The singular is cannolo (cannolu in Sicilian dialect), meaning “little tube.” The crunchy, fried pastry dough tube (sometimes dipped in chocolate) is filled with a sweetened ricotta cream (sometimes mascarpone), which can be mixed with vanilla, chocolate chips, chopped pistachio nuts, candied citron, marsala, rosewater and other flavorings. The open ends of the tube can be decorated with mini chips, shaved chocolate or chopped pistachio nuts. Cannoli range in size from finger-sized “cannulicchi” (mini-cannoli) to five-inch-long tubes.

  • Peruse our Pastry Glossary: a beautifully illustrated description of the different pie and pastry types.


  • Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: Portabella Mushroom Burger Recipe


    Call it a portabella or a portobello: Just put this giant mushroom on the grill and enjoy it as a meaty burger. Even carnivores will love this vegetarian burger.

    When you choose a vegetarian burger, you eliminate artery-clogging cholesterol (sure it tastes great, but it’s one of the unhealthiest things you can ingest).

    You also help save the planet. The production of meat contributes to more greenhouse gas than anything else on earth, including gasoline emissions.

    So even if a portabella burger weren’t so delicious, you earn angel points for switching between beef and portabella burgers. Consider it as a regular dish for Meatless Mondays.

    There are a few tricks to making the perfect portabella burger, including removing the gills and marinating the mushrooms. You’ll see how easy it is in this video.

  • This portabella burger recipe is topped with a chopped tomato, feta and onion salad. If you have vegan guests, hold the feta. You can substitute chopped olives, raw corn stripped from the cob, or other vegan ingredients (nothing that’s animal-derived).
  • Instead of iceberg or romaine lettuce, we prefer piquant arugula on a portabella burger.
  • Go with good nutrition in your burger bun. Look for whole wheat buns, like Rudi’s and Udi’s Gluten Free. We also buy the private label* brand from Trader Joe’s.
    *What’s a private label brand? It’s one that is made by a brand-name manufacturer—or a manufacturing company that makes nothing but private label products—and packaged under the name of the retailer. Kroger’s, Publix, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and other retail chains are not food manufacturing companies. They contract with manufacturers to place their name on the package.

    What’s the difference between a portabella and a porcini? Learn your mushroom types in our Mushroom Glossary.




    PRODUCT: Hot-Hot-Hot Ghost Pepper Salsa

    Here’s a salsa to enjoy while listening to Donna Summer belt “Hot Stuff.”

    It’s the first salsa we’ve tried from an artisan producer that uses the world’s hottest chile pepper—the ghost chile, or bhut jolokia.

    Salsa is a billion dollar industry in America, with consumer preferences trending to hot. Lots of people think that, for food, heat can’t be beat. If you’re one of the many who like it hot-hot-hot, get some of Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa. It recently won at the 2011 Scovie Awards, the world’s leading competition for hot and spicy products.

    Ghost Pepper Salsa is the fastest growing product in the company’s 71-year history. It’s also one of Mrs. Renfro’s three best sellers, along with two other hotties: Habanero and Green (jalapeño) Salsa.

    How hot is ghost pepper?


    Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot stuff, baby! Photo by River
    Soma | THE NIBBLE


  • The ghost pepper chile, or bhut jolokia, from northeast India, has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s hottest chile.
  • The chile is so hot, it’s used by the Indian military in tear gas—and it’s an ingredient in pepper spray, hand grenades and smoke bombs.
    The “explosive” Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa is available at retailers nationwide, or online at The cost per 16-ounce jar is $3.25 (prices will vary by market); online sales from Mrs. Renfro’s are in four-packs.

    Try it at your own risk. Says Mrs. Renfro’s: “This Ghost Pepper Salsa is scary hot!”

  • Check out the different types of chiles in our Chile Glossary.
  • How many different types of salsa can you name?


    GIFT OF THE WEEK: The Best Barbecue Sauce

    Grandville’s is the best for barbecue. Photo
    by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.


    If you’re invited to a July 4th barbecue, don’t bring a bottle of wine. Bring something memorable!

    We recommend Grandville’s Barbecue Sauce, the best barbecue sauce we’ve ever had. It’s so thick, flavorful and chock-full of the best ingredients—not loaded with sugar or HFCS—that creator Steve Gerst calls it Barbecue Jam.

    It’s what we’re bringing to our July 4th hosts.

    Each flavor is packed with minced onions, bell peppers, chiles, garlic cloves and, depending on the flavor, pineapple and other real fruits, vegetables and herbs. This fresh bounty of nature provides the deep texture and memorable taste of Grandville’s sauces.

    Flavors include Cajun Kick, Ginger Glaze, Pineapple, Original Spicy, Extra Spicy and Mild.

    Treat your hosts, treat yourself. Select your favorite flavors:

  • Two-pack
  • Six-pack

    COUPON CODES FOR 10% DISCOUNT: Dad2011 through June 30th, 1776 for July.

    Read our full review of Grandville’s, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.



    JULY 4th FOOD: Red, White & Blue Angel Food Cake Recipe

    You can grill more than fruit for dessert. Have you ever grilled cake?

    While the grill is hot, toss on slices of pound cake or angel food cake. Serve them with grilled fruit and whipped cream or ice cream.

    Here’s an easy red, white & blue dessert for July 4th, courtesy of Grilled Angel Food Cake with Peppered Berries & Vanilla Cream. With a luscious mascarpone topping instead of whipped cream and a touch of heat from black pepper, it’s memorable, festive and just right to celebrate the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

    Makes 6 servings. Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time: 5 minutes.


  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • 6 slices angel food cake (1-1/2-inches thick)

    Red, white, blue & delicious. Photo courtesy


    1. Beat cream, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gently stir in mascarpone cheese. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    2. Mix remaining 1/3 cup sugar and cornstarch in medium saucepan. Stir in water and vinegar until well blended. Stir in blueberries. Stirring constantly, bring to boil on medium heat and boil 1 minute. Pour into medium bowl to cool slightly. Add raspberries and pepper; toss gently to coat.

    3. Grill angel food cake slices over medium heat 45 to 60 seconds per side or until golden brown grill marks appear. To serve, spoon berry mixture over each slice of cake. Top with a dollop of whipped cream mixture.

    Grill on!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Throw A Fruit Preservation Party

    Put up fruit for home and gifts. Photo
    courtesy Washington State Fruit Commission.


    Last week we suggested a pie-baking contest as a summer soirée.

    This week’s idea: Throw a fruit preservation party, to preserve the delicious fruits of summer—or make your own jam.

    Preserve lush summer fruits now to give later, as holiday gifts or wedding favors. Or, stock your own pantry and treat yourself to summer goodness when apricots, cherries, peaches and plums are no longer in season. is a website dedicated to the art of preserving fruit. There you’ll find:

  • Preservation 101: how to preserve fruit, everything you need to know to get started
  • How to host a preservation party
  • How to buy the best fruit
  • Recipes
  • Downloadable label templates to customize your jars

    The site is sponsored by the Washington State Fruit Commission, folks who know their fruit.

    Set a date and get ready to become the prince or princess of fruit preservation. It could become an annual event that your friends really look forward to!

  • Check out our favorite fruits: reviews, recipes and more.
  • Take a fruit trivia quiz.


    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Hibiscus Iced Tea

    What’s delicious hot or cold, has zero calories and no caffeine, is a bright ruby red color and is full of therapeutic powers?

    It’s hibiscus tea, an herbal tea that’s our nominee for the tea to try this month (June is National Iced Tea Month).

    Hibiscus has complex and vibrant flavors: fruity and floral notes with a tart, red fruit backbone—like a tart lemonade that you can sweeten to taste.

    Well-chilled from the fridge and poured over ice, it’s a wonderful refresher.

    And hibiscus is a superflower, full of potent antioxidants that do the body a lot of good.

  • Check out this summer refresher in the full review.
  • Get the 411 on tea—types, how to brew, recipes and more—in our Gourmet Tea Section.

    Colorful, tasty and very healthful: hibiscus
    iced tea. Photo courtesy Republic Of Tea.




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