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Archive for August, 2011

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 TheNibbleGourmetMarket.com. 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.

  

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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.

 

  

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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).

  

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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.

      

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    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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