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Archive for August, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Purple Green Beans & Other Farmers Market Finds

Food can be fun; and unexpected food finds are especially fun.

Take these purple green beans, known as Royalty Purple Pods. While they were introduced in 1957, have you ever seen them? The trick is to arrive at farmers markets early in the day, before the unusual veggies sell out.

While the skin of the Royalty Purple Pod is purple, there’s a green bean underneath. The purple skin turns green when cooked. To retain the color, you can butter baste them in a pan. If you boil them, a pinch of baking soda in the water will help a bit.

Losing the lovely purple color is no fun. So we like to serve these unusual green beans raw:

  • On crudité platters
  • In green salads, potato salad and macaroni salad
  • As a crunchy side with a sandwich
  • As a raw veggie snack
  • As a plate garnish

    These green beans are purple. Photo
    by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Generally, purple green beans (and yellow green beans) have the same taste and texture as conventional green green beans.

    But how can you resist a purple green bean? Even people who eschew green beans can be tempted to take a bite.

    So today’s tip is: Look for something new and different at your farmers market. Make your goal a weekly fun food discovery. Then tell us what you found, and how you served it.

    FOOD TRIVIA: What’s the difference between green beans and string beans?

    The French call them haricots vert (green beans), the Brits call them French beans, and Americans call them green beans or string beans. The term “string bean” refers to the string that ran up the seam of the bean. It had to be removed before cooking.

    The first “stringless” bean was bred in 1894 by Calvin Keeney, in Le Roy, New York, a town in western New York state that is also the is the birthplace of Jell-O.

    Today, just about every bean sold commercially is a stringless bean; but the original name has been passed down through generations and is a legacy.


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    RECIPE: Try Chocolate Raisin Panini

    Chocolate panini: breakfast, snack or
    dessert. Photo courtesy Vosges Haut


    Our favorite breakfast bread is pain au chocolat. Literally “chocolate bread,” pain au chocolat is an oblong breakfast roll made of the same light, flaky, yeast-leavened laminated pastry dough as a croissant,* and filled with pieces of dark chocolate;

    *Pain au chocolat is often called a chocolate croissant in the U.S., but this is incorrect; Croissant means crescent, and pain au chocolat is not crescent-shaped.

    Katrina Markoff, founder of Vosges Haut Chocolat, was inspired to port the concept to Italian panini. From her large repertoire of chocolate bars, she selected her Oaxaca chocolate bar, 75% cacao bittersweet chocolate with guajillo and pasilla chiles. (Oaxaca [wuh-HAH-kuh] is a state in Southern Mexico thought to be the birthplace of chocolate cultivation.)

    Adding raisins evokes Mexicao’s mole sauces. If you want to get even more creative, consider adding other mole sauce ingredients such as cinnamon, peanuts or pepitas.



    Ingredients For One Serving

  • 2 slices of ciabatta or Italian country bread
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce Vosges Oaxaca Bar (3 squares), chopped, or other Aztec-spiced chocolate†
  • 6-8 plump raisins
    1. Heat a panini press. Lightly butter both sides of each slice of bread.
    2. Spread chopped chocolate evenly across one slice of bread with the raisins; add the top slice.
    3. Grill the sandwich in the press until brown and crispy on the outside, about 4 minutes.

    In addition to breakfast, brunch or snack time, consider this as a “dessert panini,” plain, à la mode or drizzled with chocolate sauce.

  • Beyond crossants and panini: Brush up on all the different types of breads in our beautiful Bread Glossary.
  • What’s the difference between guajilla and pasilla chiles? Learn your chiles in our Chile Glossary.
    †Spiced chocolate bars return to the roots of chocolate, first served as a spicy drink by the Olmec and Maya. Vosges also makes a Red Fire bar: dark chocolate with ancho and chipotle Chiles and cinnamon.


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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Chop Suey Day (What Is Chop Suey?)

    Many people refer to chop suey as a Chinese-American invention, like fortune cookies. But that’s a myth that keeps getting perpetuated.

    Chop Suey is actually is a prominent dish in Taishan, a city of 95 islands and islets in the Pearl River Delta of southeast China.

    A stir-fry recipe, chop suey means “assorted pieces.” These can include beef, chicken, quail eggs or other cooked eggs, fish, pork and/or shrimp, plus vegetables such as bean sprouts, cabbage, celery and snow peas. Starch is added to create a thickened sauce from the oil and wok drippings.

    American variations have included popular vegetables not in the original Taishan recipe (for example, broccoli, carrots, onions and zucchini). Numerous American recipes also “specialize”: beef chop suey or chicken chop suey, for example, instead of a mixture of proteins.

    In China, chop suey is typically served with a bowl of rice. Chow mein is chop suey that ditches the rice and adds noodles* to the recipe. In other words, if your “chop suey” contains noodles, it’s chow mein.


    Chop suey has an assortment of meats
    and vegetables, a thick sauce and no
    . Photo © Dušan Zidar | Fotolia.


    For a moment of beauty on National Chop Suey Day, take a look at the painting of a chop suey parlor (as some such restaurants were called many years ago) by Edward Hopper.

    To receive all of the daily food holidays with tips to celebrate, sign up for our Twitter feed:

    *There are two styles of chow mein: crispy chow mein, which uses fried, flat noodles; and soft chow mein, which uses spaghetti-style noodles. “Chow mein” means stir-fried noodles. “Subgum” means “numerous and varied,” a chow mein that is a combination of ingredients (see chop suey list above) instead of all vegetable, all chicken, etc.


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    RECIPE: Make A Hurricane Cocktail

    A Hurricane cocktail served at Pat O’Brien’s
    in New Orleans. Photo by Eric
    Schmuttenmaer | Wikimedia.


    Hurricane Irene, working its way up the East Coast, shut down New York City beginning yesterday at noon. Everything is now closed, including things that never close, such as the public transit system and the theaters. The subway is not expected to be up and running until later on Monday. Instead of a “snow day,” we have two “hurricane days.”

    So last night we threw a hurricane party and invited some friends who live in our apartment building for Hurricane cocktails—an appropriate name even though no hurricane was an inspiration for the drink.

    The rum cocktail called a Hurricane was invented by New Orleans tavern owner Pat O’Brien in the early 1940s.

    He had too many cases of rum, because the wholesale distributors required the purchase of numerous cases of rum in order to buy a case of the more popular whiskeys. Scotch and Irish whiskeys were in limited supply because of World War II. There was still a glut of rum due to Prohibition (which lasted from 1920 to 1933).


    Stuck with many cases of rum in the basement, O’Brien did what any businessman would do: He concocted a cocktail to use it. The curvy, footed cocktail glass he used, shaped like a hurricane lamp, was called hurricane glass. That’s how the drink got its name.

    The Hurricane became a fixture in the French Quarter, with Pat O’Brien’s bar a tourist destination. Alas, with the use of cheap mixes to maximize profits, today’s French Quarter Hurricane is likely to be just another sweet, artificially colored drink, even at Pat O’Brien’s.

    So if you want a good Hurricane, you’ll have to make your own.


    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 ounces dark rum* (we prefer Gosling’s Black Seal or the harder-to-find Coruba)
  • 1 ounce passion fruit syrup (the best one is from Fee Brothers)
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • Orange slice and cherry flag (skewer)
  • Crushed ice
    1. Combine rum, passion fruit syrup and lemon juice in a shaker; shake vigorously until the mixing tin frosts.
    2. Strain into a hurricane glass over fresh crushed ice.
    3. Garnish with an orange and cherry “flag” (skewer) and serve.

    TIP: Try lime juice instead of lemon juice. It makes the cocktail perkier.

    As with almost every recipe, there are myriad variations on the Hurricane. Some use half dark rum, half light rum. Some throw in orange juice. Some substitute grenadine and simple syrup for the passion fruit syrup. Some vary from the spirit of the rum drink: You can find gin and vodka hurricanes and grapefruit juice or cranberry juice substituting for the passion fruit syrup or passion fruit juice.

    The choice is yours.

    *Rum is fermented from sugar cane and molasses. Light rum (also called silver rum or white rum) is fermented in steel and filtered and has a clear color. To make dark rum (also called amber rum or gold rum), the clear light rum is aged in charred oak barrels, acquiring a caramel color and rich layers of flavor. Rich, caramel dark rum is made by aging clear rum in charred oak casks, giving it a deep brown color and a full flavor. Spiced rum, often colored dark with caramel, is not a dark rum.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Do With An Unusual Liquor Gift

    You may receive a bottle of unusual spirits or liqueur* that you don’t know what to do with. Think smoked salmon-flavored vodka or chartreuse liqueur.

    Don’t stick it in a closet and forget about it. Our parents’ liquor closet grew and grew for 30 years, until the house was sold and a bar’s worth of over-the-hill drink had to be drained and recycled.

    Here’s a better approach:

  • Recipes. Head to the brand’s website and check out the cocktail recipes. There may be food recipes as well.
  • Invite Friends. Use the bottle as an occasion to have a small get-together—just to taste the product and chat, or in tandem with a televised game or a DVD. If friends ask what they can bring, tell them: Anything that you think goes with smoked salmon vodka.

    What to drink with bagels and lox? A smoked
    salmon vodka Bloody Mary. Photo courtesy Alaska Distillery.


  • Private Tasting. Not up for a party? Just crack the seal and taste your gift. If it’s not something you’ll use up in the foreseeable future, figure out who might like it and immediately regift it.
    As with any product, don’t let it take up space if you wouldn’t buy it for yourself.

    Instead, make someone else happy.

    *What’s the difference? Spirits are hard liquor. Liqueurs, also called cordials, are a flavored, sweet spirit.


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