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Archive for August, 2011

COOKING VIDEO: Make A Black Bean Salsa Dip


Why spend money on small jars of “specialty” bean dip when it’s so easy to make your own? You can use black beans (also known as common beans and turtle beans, among other names) or white beans (use cannellini, Great Northern or marrow bean varieties).

The cooking video below demonstrates a chunky black bean salsa dip: a combination of beans, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice and zest. (The word “dip” is extraneous, except when necessary to explain to non-Mexicans what to do with it.)

Personally, we skip the last step in the video recipe, which adds the juice, zest and segments of an orange. It’s a “fusion” addition: The orange originated in Southeast Asia* and although available in modern Mexico, isn’t part of traditional Mexican cuisine. Instead, add a cup of cooked or raw corn kernels (corn is indigenous to Mexico).

How To Use Black Bean Salsa/Dip

In addition to a dip for chips, it’s a delicious salsa (the word means sauce) for broiled or grilled fish, burgers, chicken, over rice and in a salad with greens and/or vegetables. (Beans are legumes, not vegetables.)

For an even better flavor, plan a day ahead and start with dry beans: They need to soak overnight and cook for up to 90 minutes, until soft and ready to purée.

Want a white bean dip? Try this recipe. This spreadable, puréed dip is delicious on bruschetta and sandwiches as well as for dipping chips.

Beans are a guilt-free food. Among the most inexpensive and nutritious foods available, beans are a great source of protein that can substitute for meat. They are typically low in [beneficial] fat and are cholesterol free, while delivering folate, iron, magnesium and potassium and fiber.

  • Check out our Bean Glossary for the many different types of beans.
  • All about bean nutrition.
  • Make a vegetarian sandwich with white bean dip, using our recipe for a hummus sandwich.

*For those who point out that the lime also originated in Southern Asia: OK, but it’s been a flavor in Mexican cooking for hundreds of years.




TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Hummus Sandwich

On whole wheat bread or whole wheat
pita, a hummus sandwich is delicious and
better for you. Photo by Night And Day
Images | IST.


Looking for a healthier sandwich? Try a hummus sandwich. It has nutrition* galore, no cholesterol (unless you add cheese or turkey), lots of fiber and the versatility to pair with other ingredients for a different hummus sandwich every day of the month.

So enjoy a simple hummus and cucumber sandwich in pita, or become a creative sandwich artist with this list of sandwich ideas:

Choose Your Hummus

There are so many different flavors of hummus that you can choose from dozens, including artichoke, garlic, horseradish, jalapeño, olive, pesto, red pepper and sundried tomato.

Choose Your Bread

Go for a good-for-you bread: whole wheat bread/roll/pita or other whole grain bread (look for the ingredients: corn, flaxseed, hemp, oats, rye, spelt (farro) or whole wheat).


Add Some Of These 20+ Items To Your Hummus Sandwich

  • Almond slices, chopped pecans or other favorite nut
  • Apple or pear matchsticks
  • Avocado slices
  • Cheese: crumbled feta cheese, a slice of Jarlsberg or other Swiss cheese, shaved goat or sheep cheese
  • Dried fruit: blueberries, cherries, cranberries or chopped dried apricots
  • Cucumber slices
  • Grilled veggies (bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, zucchini)
  • Edamame
  • Herbs: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, tarragon, thyme
  • Heat: chopped or pickled jalapeños or other chile, chipotle, fresh-ground peppercorns
  • Microgreens
  • Pickled vegetable slices (we like pickled carrots; see this easy recipe for any pickled vegetables or herbs, like pickled garlic)
  • Roasted red peppers (pimiento) from jars
  • Shredded carrots or red cabbage
  • Sliced or chopped olives
  • Spices (caraway seed, cumin, toasted sesame seeds, za’atar)
  • Sprouts
  • Sweet onion, diced
  • Tomato slices or chopped dried tomatoes
  • Turkey or ham slices
  • Other fresh veggies: lettuce, mixed leaf lettuces, sliced bell pepper, spinach leaves

    What else would you add to this list?

    Let us know, and enjoy your sandwich!

    *Hummus is loaded with vitamins and minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc; vitamins B6, C, E, folate, K and thiamin [B1]), plus 20 essential amino acids. It is low glycemic. The add-ons are also rich in nutrition. The calories in hummus: 27 per tablespoon, according to


    In Arabic, hummus means “chickpea,” the principal ingredient of hummus. Falafel means “fluffy.”


  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lemon Wheel Vs. Lemon Wedge

    A reader writes: “When I order a beverage, sometimes it comes with a wedge of lime or lemon, sometimes a wheel (a circular slice). Is there a substantive difference or is it just an individual choice?”

    The difference is style over substance.

    Whether your beverage is a soft drink, juice, water, tea/iced tea or a cocktail, a garnish adds a nice touch.

  • Wheel. As an attractive garnish, the elegant wheel has it all over the clunky wedge. With a slit cut from the rind to the center, a wheel perches on the glass without falling off, even as you consume the drink.
  • Wedge. As a source of juice to squirt into the drink for flavor (in club soda, for example), the wedge provides more juice and a neater way to squeeze it. (You can twist a wheel, but you’ll need to touch the juice sacs with your fingers instead of holding on to the rind of a wedge.)

    A bit of citrus enhances water, juice, soda, iced tea and other beverages. Photo by Chris Johnson | SXC.


    Some bartenders do the work for you by squeezing the juice and then adding the squeezed wedge to the drink. Others notch the wedge from the fruit edge to the rind, and affix it to the rim of the glass for you to squeeze.

    Here’s Option 3

    If you don’t need the citrus flavor, garnish with a slice of cucumber, which goes with just about any drink. It’s elegant in appearance and is a crunchy edible bonus.

    Orange wheels, berries, melon and fruit slices are other options. Look at contrasting colors, such as the attractive green of a kiwi wheel.

    And don’t overlook one of our favorite tips:

    Fill your water pitcher with any combination of sliced fruits and berries. You’ll get an absolutely delicious infused water that’s calorie-free.



    FOOD HOLIDAY & RECIPE: Sweet And Sour Mix Recipe For A Whiskey Sour

    You can make a whiskey sour with or
    without egg whites (for foam). Photo ©
    Lognetic | Fotolia.


    Today is Whiskey Sour Day. What’s a Whiskey Sour?

    Sweet and sour mix, also known as sour mix or bar mix, is an ingredient in many cocktails—and not just those called “sour,” such as Apricot Sour, Bourbon Sour, Brandy Sour, Southern Comfort Sour, Whiskey Sour and Vodka Sour.

    Sour mix is found in numerous other cocktail recipes that require sweetness (sugar) and tartness (lemon or lime juice). Long Island Iced Tea, Margarita, Mai Tai, Texas Tea and Singapore Sling are examples.

    Ready-to-use sour mixes are available in supermarkets and are used in many bars.

    We think it’s far better to make your own sour mix. There’s nothing better than fresh-squeezed citrus juice. If your Margarita (or other sweetened cocktail) tastes better in certain establishments, it’s probably not because of better tequila, but due to the use of fresh lime juice instead of a mix.


    Why You Shouldn’t Use A Pre-Made Sour Mix

    Mixes use bottled, reconstituted juice (concentrate and water) or citrus oil from the peel (a very different flavor profile from the juice). Real Lemon brand reconstituted bottled lemon juice is made from lemon juice concentrate, water, lemon oil and the preservatives sodium benzoate, sodium metabisulfite and sodium sulfite.

    The prominent Mr. and Mrs. T brand of sweet and sour mix uses bottled lime juice, bottled lemon juice, corn syrup, sugar and artificial coloring. Thanks, but no thanks.

    There’s no substitute for fresh citrus juice in any recipe—unless the goal of substituting is to cut down on the cost of ingredients, and by extension, deliver a finished product that doesn’t taste anywhere as good.

    If you aren’t keen on juicing, consider an electric juicer, which makes juicing a snap (and fun, too). Take a look at this Oster juicer, moderately priced with a small footprint.

    While an electric juicer will get every last drop of juice from the citrus, here are techniques that anyone can use to get the most juice.

    So, start juicing and then kick back with a well-deserved Whiskey Sour.


    Making sour mix is just one step tacked on to a simple syrup recipe: It’s half simple syrup and half lemon and/or lime juice.

    Easy Sweet & Sour Mix

  • Make simple syrup by combining 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly as the water begins to simmer, until completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
  • Add 1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice. You may also wish to try batches with only lemon juice or only lime juice, to see if you prefer either to the blend.
  • Blend thoroughly, pour into a clean bottle or other container (we reuse the bottles from grapefruit juice), cap and refrigerate. It will last for weeks. If you have too much, you can also freeze it.
  • Make the cocktail: Shake 1-1/2 ounces whiskey (Bourbon, Canadian, Jack Daniels, Irish or Scotch) with three ounces sour mix. Pour over ice cubes or crushed ice into your choice of a rocks or a collins glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry (these are the best!) or a fresh cherry in season, or go 21st century and sprinkle with dried cherries.
    How Many Lemons & Limes Do You Need?

    It depends on the size of the fruit. There are 16 tablespoons in a cup.

  • A medium lime yields 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons of juice; 1 cup requires 8 to 10 limes.
  • A medium lemon yields 2 tablespoons of juice; a large lemon can deliver up to 4 tablespoons.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Lamb Burgers Instead Of Hamburgers

    Make your Labor Day cookout different this year: Serve lamb burgers instead of hamburgers. (O.K., serve them in addition to hamburgers).

    If you love lamb and don’t eat it often enough, you can get as much enjoyment from a lamb burger as from pricier lamb chops and legs of lamb. The same wonderful lamb flavor comes through in ground lamb.

    A lamb burger is delicious plain with lettuce, tomato and onions, just like a regular burger.

    But lamb burgers can be accessorized in a variety of ways. Try these favorites:

  • Greek-style, mixed with chopped Kalamata olives, crumbled feta, oregano, fresh dill and a touch of mint.
  • Indian-style, with curry powder, turmeric and ginger, plus optional onions, raisins and almonds.

    A luscious lamb burger from Built Burger, a NIBBLE Top Pick.


  • Asian-style, with scallions, a drop of sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds, served with hoisin sauce and pickled ginger on the side instead of pickles and ketchup.
  • And of course, add salt and pepper to taste.

    We can’t wait for Labor Day: We’re heading to Whole Foods Market to pick up some ground lamb for a lamb burger lunch.

    Tips for making great burgers.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: Original Saratoga Chip Day

    Original Saratoga Chips in a replica of the
    original 1800s packaging. Photo by Hannah
    Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    Where would we be without potato chips?

    Today is the 158th anniversary of the invention of the potato chip by Chef George Crum at Moon’s Lake House, a restaurant on Saratoga Lake in Saratoga Springs, New York.

    Read the whole story, which started with a sort of food fight between the crusty chef and a wealthy older patron who complained that his fried potatoes weren’t crisp enough. It led to the invention of the potato chip.

    That day will be commemorated today as Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott T. Johnson proclaims August 24th as “Saratoga Specialties Original Saratoga Chip Day” on the steps of Saratoga City Hall.

    Two years ago, two friends from Saratoga launched the Saratoga Specialties Company to reintroduce the original chips, which hadn’t been made since the 1920s when regional brands of chips became prominent. The friends’ inspiration was seeing one of the original packages at the Saratoga Museum. The Mayor’s proclamation will recognize the entrepreneurs’ considerable effort to recreate the product for the nationwide consumer market.


    We love the chips so much, we sell them at Take a look at the delicious options, which pair the original 1853 chips with more modern sour cream-based dips.

    Celebrate Original Saratoga Chip Day by treating yourself to a box of chips. Just be sure to get the larger box. While we love the small, 1.5-ounce size for party favors and stocking stuffers, any chip eater will want the 9-ounce box—several of them, in fact.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Skillet Bacon Spread

    Bacon lovers are in for a treat with Skillet Bacon Spread.

    Made by a Seattle caterer and restaurateur, it’s now available online.

    What do you do with bacon spread? We have dozens of suggestions.

    And we also have a recipe, so you can make your own.

    Read the full review.

    Do you know the different types of bacon? The difference between guanciale and pancetta, two Italian bacons? And the proper name for “American” bacon?

    Check out the history of bacon and the different cuts, including back bacon, side bacon, Canadian bacon and Irish bacon.


    The latest way to enjoy bacon: Skillet Bacon
    Spread. Photo courtesy Skillet Street Food.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Glass Of Muscat (Moscato) For Dessert

    For dessert: a glass of Moscato wine.
    Photo courtesy Gallo Family Vineyards.


    America doesn’t enjoy enough dessert wines. From late harvest Rieslings to sparkling red Italian Brachettos, hearty Ports and unctuous Sauternes, a plethora of dessert wines is waiting to be discovered.

    A sweet wine can be enjoyed with more than just dessert. Think of the sweet carbonated beverages that are enjoyed at lunch, dinner and in-between. It’s easy (and much more delicious and food-friendly) to substitute a light, sweet wine like Muscat (Moscato in Italian).

    The Muscat grape is not well known in the U.S. But it’s so prevalent the world over that wine historians believe it may be the oldest domesticated grape variety—the one from which all other grape varieties are descended.

    While it is possibly to vinify the grape into a dry wine, Muscat/Moscato is more popular as a sweet dessert wine.

    Not only is Muscat very flavorful, but it can also be very inexpensive. The low cost of growing the grapes in other countries translates into bargain Muscats. This summer, we’ve been enjoying Gallo Family Moscato from the famed California vintners, made from Argentina Moscato grapes. The cost: just $5.99 per 750 ml bottle.


    Sweet yet elegant and sophisticated, the lush, fruity aroma beckons from the glass. The flavors—notes of peaches and honey—are satisfying enough to be the dessert, for fewer than 130 calories per glass.

    A glass of sweet wine, with or without a piece of fresh fruit, is often served as dessert in Europe. You can also serve it with cookies: Follow the Italian tradition of serving Vin Santo, a dessert wine from the Tuscany region of Italy, with biscotti and other cookies (shortbread works nicely).



    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Mostarda Di Frutta

    Most people we know select three cheeses for a cheese plate and add a crusty loaf of bread.

    The more ambitious add some nuts and fresh or dried fruits.

    We get a bit more elaborate (see our list of cheese garnishes).

    Years ago, on a trip to Italy, we were inspired by mostarda di frutta, a sweet-and-hot fruit and mustard condiment. Now, it’s our go-to condiment with Italian cheeses.

    Think of mostarda as a mustardy fruit chutney. It’s lovely to look at: Whole small fruits or larger pieces of fruit are beautifully suspended in a clear syrup.

    Initially, mostarda was a condiment served with bollito misto, a plate of mixed boiled meats that’s a specialty of northern Italian cuisine (the boiled ingredients vary by region, and an elaborate version can include seven kinds of meat, seven vegetables and seven condiments—consider it for a special dinner party).


    Mostarda: fresh fruits candied in a mustard-
    sugar syrup. Photo by Silvio | Wikimedia.


    Over the last few decades, mostarda has become a popular cheese condiment as well.

    And as with any recipe, each region of Italy has its own mostarda variation; you can find many of them online. Fruit is the main ingredient—apples, cherries, figs, pears, quince or a mixture of whatever is plentiful in the region. Raisins, nuts and other ingredients can be added to create the condiment of your dreams (try some cardamom pods, for example—not traditionally Italian, but very exciting).

    In addition to serving mostarda with cheese—as a side or drizzled over a slice, tome or other shape—you can serve it:

  • With any braised, broiled, smoked or boiled meats, from chicken and turkey to ham, pork loin and beef brisket.
  • With salume (salami and other charcuterie) and sausages.
    You can find many mostarda recipes online, and can purchase it in specialty food stores and Italian markets. You can also buy it online.

    Don’t be put off by the high price for a small jar. If you look at the ingredients in the recipe, you’ll see it as a bargain.

    By the way, mostarda’s origins date back to the honey and mustard condiments of ancient Rome. Grape must (freshly pressed grape juice) was mixed with ground mustard seeds and honey to create a sweet mustard. Later, fruit was added.

    Let us know how you like it.

    Discover the world of mustard in our Mustard Glossary.


  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Microwave Ears Of Corn

    Cook it, then husk it. Photo by Zeeshan
    Qureshi | SXC


    We remember frequent trips to farm stands with our mom each summer, for a dozen ears of fresh-picked corn. Back home, we’d watch her husk the ears of corn and pop them into a large stock pot filled with salted boiling water.

    Why has it taken us decades to discover the ease of microwaving ears of corn? There’s nothing to do but put the ears on the rotating plate. The husks enable the corn to steam in its own moisture.

  • It’s quick. Microwaving ears of corn still in their husks takes as little as a tenth of the time it takes to boil a large pot of water: just two minutes.
  • It’s easy. The “cooked” husks are much easier to remove after the corn is cooked (and the pesky corn silk also comes off more easily).
  • The temperature is perfect. Boiled corn needs to cool down after it’s removed from the water; microwaved corn is ready to eat. The husks also keep the ears warm for 10 minutes or more, if you need time to assemble the meal.
  • Plus, it saves energy.

    To start, we rinse the ears of corn and place a paper towel on the plate of the microwave—but only because we’re obsessively neat. It isn’t essential.

    The time it takes to microwave the corn depends on the number of ears. We’ve seen some huge time ranges for microwaving corn. While microwave ovens differ, our midsize Sharp Carousel cooks two ears in two minutes. Try adding 30 seconds for each additional ear and adjust as necessary for your oven. Don’t pack the microwave with corn; cook it in two or more batches if you’re making a lot.

    Husking The Cooked Corn

    While the tendency is to husk the corn the minute the microwave beeps, the husks can be a bit too hot to the touch. You can wear a clean pair of Playtex kitchen gloves, or you can also wait a few minutes until the husks are comfortable to hold. Then, use both hands to pull down opposite sides of the husk. The husk will come off in one good yank, along with most of the corn silk.

    Remove the remaining few strands of corn silk, and the corn is ready to serve.

    While Americans tend to proceed to the buttering stage, fresh-picked corn has such exquisite natural sweetness that it requires no seasoning at all (a nice savings of calories and cholesterol).

    However, after the corn is a day or more off the stalk, the sugars will convert to bland starch. That’s when butter, salt and pepper are needed. For no-calorie seasoning, do what the Mexicans do and add a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of chili powder.

    Another tip: You can use raw corn kernels in salads, salsa and as garnish. Remove the husks and silk, and shave the kernels from the husk with a sharp knife.



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