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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for January, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Use The Daikon Radish At Home

Daikon, a long white radish variety. Photo
courtesy Melissas.com.

 

Daikon (DYE-kon) is a long white Asian radish (there is also a less common black-flesh variety), often found in Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines.

If you’ve had sashimi at a Japanese restaurant, the fish is often set against a mound of grated daikon (which is meant to be eaten—it’s delicious and low in calories).

A long, narrow vegetable, daikon ranges in length from 6 to 15 inches and can average 2 to 3 inches in diameter. The origin of the daikon radish can be traced back to ancient China, but the name derives from two Japanese words: dai (meaning large) and kon (meaning root).

 

Daikon is crisp and juicy, with a sweet flavor. It lacks the acrid sting of some varieties of round red radishes that are prevalent in the U.S.

Daikon is most often enjoyed raw in salads or as shredded into long, thin threads a garnish. It is cooked in stir-frys and other recipes (see below). Raw and pickled, daikon multitasks as a condiment.

 

DAIKON NUTRITION

Daikon is low in calories: A half cup has just 15 calories, plus 1 g fiber and 20% of your Daily Value of calcium.

BUYING & STORING DAIKON

If there’s no daikon in your usual market, check out Asian food stores. Look for well-formed radishes: smooth, hard and free of soft spots or sprouts. Refrigerate, unwashed in a plastic bag for up to 10 days.

When you’re ready to cook it, scrub the daikon with a brush under cool running water. Peel before using, or grate with the skin on.

 

Add shredded daikon to a healthy Asian slaw.
Recipe below. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

 

Try these recipes from Melissas.com, purveyor of specialty produce:

RECIPES WITH DAIKON

  • Salad: Asian Slaw
  • Salad: Salad: Cucumber And Daikon Salad With Thai Omelet Strips
  • Spread: Cool And Creamy Daikon Spread For Crackers
  • Main: Fragrant Beef Casserole With Green Onions & Daikon
  • Main Or Side: Gai Lan Stir Fry, with Chinese broccoli (gai lan), also called Chinese kale (if you can’t find it, use broccoli rape or regular broccoli)
  • Main Or Side: Gai Lan & Baby Bok Choy Stir Fry
  •   

    Comments

    EVENT: We Meet Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai At Benihana

    The original Iron Chef cooking show, devised by Fuji TV in Japan, ran from 1992 through 1999. We were mesmerized each week, as two Iron Chefs had less than an hour to cook a multi-course gourmet meal based on the ingredient of the week (which remained a surprise until the filming began).

    What emerged in each episode was food so glorious, many viewers would have given anything just to be able to taste it.

    Seven different chefs competed over the run, but during our viewing years, the three stars were Iron Chef Chinese, Chen Kenichi; Iron Chef French, Hiroyuki Sakai; and Iron Chef Japanese, Masaharu Morimoto. Each chef owns a restaurant in Japan (Kenichi a Chinese restaurant, Sakai a French restaurant, Morimoto a Japanese restaurant).

     

    Iron Chef French, Hiroyuki Sakai. Photo courtesy Fuji TV.

     

    The host and comic relief, Takeshi Kaga, was not a real “eccentric millionaire” with a castle and a culinary academy, but a well-known Japanese actor, Shigekatsu Katsuta.

    While we loved all the Iron Chefs, we had a special fondness for Chef Sakai, based on the niceness he projected as well as the style of his food. He also has the most wins, and was named “King of Iron Chefs” after winning at the show’s grand finale.

    Yesterday, thanks to Benihana restaurant, we met our favorite Iron Chef, who is executive culinary advisor to the restaurant chain. The occasion was an intimate lunch for journalists, and it reminded us how fun a lunch or dinner at Benihana can be.

    The meal can also fit into most diets, as each table gets a personal chef who can customize the ingredients on the menu—top-quality beef, chicken, seafood and vegetables—to one’s diet (hold the butter, add the monounsaturated safflower oil). There are no tempting desserts (just ice cream and sorbet) and no bread.

     

    Don and Betty Draper dine at Benihana in
    an episode of “Mad Men.” Photo courtesy
    AMC.

     

    BENIHANA: FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

    Although we spotted a few private rooms used for business lunch meetings, Benihana is a communal experience. Whether your party is large or small (or just you), you sit around the teppanyaki (griddle/flat top) table as your chef prepares your meal: grilling, slicing and flipping until the cooked food is moved from the grill to your plate. Adults and kids alike will be mesmerized.

    Benihana was founded in 1964 in New York City by Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki, an alternate on the 1960 Japanese Olympic Wrestling Team.

     

    Aoki moved to New York on a wrestling scholarship. The Big Apple had little Japanese cuisine at the time. Aoki devised the concept of fusion cuisine and theatre: meals theatrically prepared by a knife-wielding chef/entertainer at a teppanyaki table surrounded by guests. His menu took American favorites—steak, seafood and chicken—and served them Japanese style, cut into bite-size pieces.

    Our chef, Carlos, amazed us by flipping a raw egg back and forth on the flat side of a cleaver; then, as a final show, flipping the egg into the air and landing it on the blade edge of the cleaver, breaking the egg in half. Pretty amazing stuff. (The eggs were used in the house’s signature fried rice.)

    The meal begins with a delicate Japanese onion soup, followed by a salad with very tasty ginger dressing. The restaurant has added a sushi menu (there’s also a sushi bar), and the sushi we had was delicious.

    WE FINALLY GET TO TASTE IRON CHEF FOOD

    As much as we enjoyed our seafood entrée, the star of the lunch was a special creation prepared by Chef Sakai: Cercle de St. Jacque. A flat cake of seafood and vegetables—langoustine, live scallop, squid and seafood mousse with lotus root, taro root and chives, bound with a long strip of cucumber, the circle of seafood was garnished with a white miso seafood sauce and black Italian truffles. It’s not yet on the regular Benihana menu, but we’ll be the first to order it if it appears.

    Thanks to Benihana, part of our fantasy—the opportunity to taste Chef Sakai’s food—has been realized. If anyone wants to send us to Tokyo to dine at his restaurant, La Rochelle, we can be packed in an hour.

    There are 63 Benihana restaurants in the U.S., and several overseas. Check the company website to find the one nearest to you.

    The New York City location, on West 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, is convenient to City Center, shopping, Central Park and much more.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Home Dehydrating

    Chef Johnny Gnall hasn’t made kale chips yet (see the review), but he does dehydrate.

    Dehydrated foods are used in a myriad of applications, says Chef Johnny. From Michelin-star kitchens to backwoods cabins full of deer jerky, people have long been removing the moisture from their food in a variety of ways. The technique began thousands of years, initially to preserve meat and other foods.

    You can purchase a dehydrator (they’re reasonably priced—here’s a good model) and dehydrate your favorite fruits and veggies into crisp snacks—with no preservatives, sugar or salt.

    You can also dry meat, fish, granola, herbs and flowers (to decorate cakes or make your own potpourri and sachets). It‘s easy to get hooked on dehydrating.

     

    You don’t need a dehydrator like this one, but it helps! Photo courtesy Nesco.

     

    But unless you plan to make a lot of jerky or dried fruit and veggie snacks, an electric dehydrator may not be worth the space it takes up. If you simply want to experiment at home, just head to the hardware store for a dessicant.

    A desiccant—familiar as the small, white silica gel packets placed in some packages of foods and in boxes of shoes—absorbs moisture. Desiccants are made in a variety of forms but not all are safe near food. So go for the small white packets, which are.

    Then, all you need is some cheesecloth, a plastic food storage container and an airtight plastic bag to place it in.

    What food should you dehydrate? Stick to fruits and vegetables. This simple technique isn’t successful for jerky.

    RECIPE: DEHYDRATED CITRUS RIND

    While dehydrated citrus rind isn’t a snack like dried apple chips or carrot slices, it will provide you with a delicious seasoning that works in certain situations that don’t work with fresh lemon, lime, grapefruit or orange zest.

    A favorite way to use dehydrated citrus rind is to grind it and add it to savory rubs for meat and fish. Try it finely ground in whipped cream: It will add an earthy twist to your favorite dessert. Experiment with your daily recipes to see where it best adds a flavor spark.

    Dried foods have a long shelf life in airtight containers, so you can fill your shelves with little jars of your creations for creative cooking. You may find yourself unlocking some unique flavors.

    Preparation

  • Cut. With a sharp paring knife, remove the rind from the citrus in strips, avoiding as much of the bitter white pith as possible. Lay the strips flat and use the small knife to shave or scrape off any remaining pith, which contains water and will inhibit the drying process.
  • Dry. Place a few of the desiccant packs in the food storage container and stretch a piece of cheesecloth across the top, securing it in place with a rubber band or some string. Lay the strips of rind on the cloth, then carefully place the container into the plastic bag and seal it (don’t use the top of the container).
  • Wait. Set it aside. In a few days, the peels should become shriveled, hard and ready to grind. Success! (In an electric dehydrator, the food will be dehydrated in hours, not days.)
  •  
    The dehydration procedure alters the citrus flavor profile somewhat, concentrating it and adding a slightly different shade of citrus to your kitchen’s repertoire.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Kale Chips

    Rhythm Superfoods kale chips are a healthy snack, bursting with vitamins and flavor. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    It’s been three decades since Terra brand Root Chips first hit the market: a glamorous, tasty and seemingly better-for-you bag of gourmet chips made from batata, parsnip, ruby taro (most people think they’re beets), sweet potato, taro and yucca.

    Segments of our chip-happy society embraced them, and they remain one of the fancy chip alternatives we serve to guests.

    But what about veggies that don’t slice neatly into a round chip?

    Rhythm Superfoods shows how to do it, with its curly kale chips—a raw food slowly dried at 118°F or lower. Instead of baking or frying, foods cooked with raw food techniques maintain nutrients that are lost at higher heats.

    The result is a nutrient-rich alternative to standard chips, 106 calories per ounce (Terra Chips have 140 calories, potato chips have about 155 calories, depending on the brand).

    The chips are made in five flavors: Bombay Curry, Kool Ranch, Mango Habanero, Texas BBQ and Zesty Nacho.

     

    Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, says the manufacturer, with one serving providing 150% Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin A and 117% of Vitamin C.

    The brand is certified organic by the USDA, gluten-free, cholesterol-free and vegan.

    Read the full review.

    Buy Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips.
     
    WHAT DOES DAILY VALUE MEAN?

    Daily Value, a term found on food labels, is based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for individuals four years of age and older. Both values have been established by the FDA to help consumers use food label information to plan a healthy diet.

    For a 2,000-calories-per-day diet, the Daily Values are:

  • Total Fat: less than 65g; saturated fat less than 20g
  • Cholesterol: less than 300mg
  • Sodium: less than 2,400mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 300g
  • Total Sugar: 40g (that’s 10 teaspoons!)
  • Fiber: 25g
  • Protein: 50g
  • The DV list also specifies amounts of vitamins and minerals.
  •  
    For example, the Daily Value for fat, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, is 65g. A food that has 13g of fat per serving would state 20% DV on the label, or, the percent Daily Value for fat per serving is 20%.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Way To Cook Bacon

    Bacon is delicious, bacon is trendy…bacon also comes with a bad rap due to preservatives, nitrites and nitrates, which form carcinogenic nitrosamines in meats that are overcooked or charred.

    That’s why we switched to Coleman Natural Hickory Smoked Bacon, which is naturally cured.

    It contains no preservatives, MSG or added nitrites or nitrates. As with all Coleman Natural meats, the animals are raised without antibiotics or added hormones. If there is guilt-free bacon, this is it.

    In order to cook our bacon to perfection, we asked the experts at Coleman Natural for the best way to cook bacon.

    THE BEST WAY TO COOK BACON: 7 GREAT TIPS

    In A Skillet

  • To avoid burning, cook bacon over medium heat. It will take about 30 minutes, but your patience will pay off.
  •  

    Bacon: crisp and seductive. Photo courtesy iGourmet.com.

  • All pans have hot spots. Rearrange the bacon when flipping so that all areas cook evenly.
  • Cast iron skillets distribute heat more evenly than other frying pans and will help you avoid burning the bacon. If your skillet has been seasoned, it will also give the bacon more flavor. Check out this cast iron grill pan, with grooves that catch the bacon fat.
  •  
    In The Oven

  • Baking bacon in the oven allows you to cook the bacon evenly without having to flip the meat or closely monitor the process. Simply place bacon strips on a cooking sheet, place sheet in a cool oven (preheated to 300°), raise the temperature to 400°F and walk away. The bacon will cook without further supervision, and should be done in about 20 minutes.
  • EDITOR’S NOTE: We tried this technique and prefer it to skillet-frying. Not only can you “walk away”; the aroma of the cooking bacon is minimized.

     

    Coleman Natural: as close as bacon gets to
    guilt-free. Photo courtesy Coleman Natural.

     

    General Bacon Cooking Tips

  • Seasoning your bacon with ground pepper or brown sugar before cooking will give the bacon more flavor.
  • If you prefer very crisp bacon, flip the slices often and carefully drain the fat as it accumulates in the pan.
  • To avoid overcooking, remove the bacon just before it’s cooked to perfection. The bacon will continue to cook for almost a full minute after it is removed from the pan.
  •  

    If there’s no Coleman Natural bacon at your store, try the store locator on the company website.

    TYPES OF BACON

    Bacon lovers should check out the history of bacon and the different types of bacon. How many have you tried?

    A birthday party idea for your favorite bacon lover:

    Have a BLT party, including a tasting of the different types of bacon. Put the different types on platters and let guests build their own sandwiches—or enjoy the bacon right from the fork or toothpick.

    CHOCOLATE & BACON

    We tasted more than 40 different combinations of chocolate and bacon. Here are our favorites.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Use Fresh Ginger Root

    Today’s tip is from Chef Johnny Gnall:

    Ginger is a terrific flavor, adding exotic sweet and floral notes and a spicy kick to any number of cuisines and recipes. It is equally adaptable to sweet and savory foods.

    In your kitchen, is the ginger always powdered in a shaker jar? Or do you head to the produce aisle for a piece of fresh ginger root?

    Dried ginger has its place, but doesn’t hold a candle to the vibrant flavors of raw, fresh ginger. From Vietnamese spring rolls to slow-cooked stews with braised pork and big hunks of raw ginger (not to mention, pickled ginger with sushi), the root is where it’s at. Dried ginger in the spring roll would be just too sharp; and in the stew it would not have the roundness it needs to develop.

    So today’s tip is: Cook with fresh ginger.

     

    Fresh ginger root. Photo by Jan Schöne | SXC.

     

    To start you off, here’s a delicious recipe for honey ginger carrots. If you have kids, Try baby carrots (actual miniature carrots, not the whittled-down thumbs sold in plastic bags), and serve them like sweet little chicken fingers. We promise they will get gobbled up.

    HONEY GINGER CARROTS RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of baby carrots, peeled or scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of grated or minced ginger
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon fresh lavender
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Blanch the carrots until fork tender but not soft; plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Set aside to dry in a colander or on paper towels.

    2. In a sautée pan over medium high heat, melt some butter until it begins to brown. Reduce the heat to medium and add ginger. Cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally.

    3. Reduce heat a bit more and add the honey, then the carrots, stirring continuously. If things get dry, reduce the heat and add a touch of butter or a very small amount of water.

    4. Once the carrots are coated and the water has evaporated, remove from heat and transfer to a dish. Toss in the chopped parsley and lavender. Then chow down.

    MORE USES FOR FRESH GINGER

  • Grate some into your salad dressing.
  • Make more stir-frys: Ginger is equally at home with meat, poultry, tofu and vegetables.
  • Drop some sliced ginger into salad oil or cooking oil to infuse.
  • Use as a garnish: grated or minced atop chicken, soup, vegetables, and of course any Asian-inspired dishes.
  • Make your own pickled ginger. Recipe.
  • Add a slice or two to a cup of green or white tea; or simply enjoy the fresh root infused into boiling water.
  •  
    STORING GINGER ROOT

    Fridge. Wrap the ginger in a paper towel, then place it in a plastic storage bag. It should stay fresh in the crisper drawer for up to three weeks.

    Freezer. If you’re not going to use the ginger soon, freeze it. We peel and freeze slices that quickly defrost (or, just pop the frozen slices into the dish you’re cooking).

    Another option is to peel and grate the root with a microplane grater. Set a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and spoon the ginger in a vertical line. Roll up the plastic, twist the ends and freeze. When you want some ginger, unwrap the plastic and break off a chunk. It defrosts quickly.
     
    GINGER FACTS

    Native to Southeastern Asia, ginger has been used for more than 5,000 years in Chinese medicine.

    The oils in fresh ginger cause the stomach to produce more digestive enzymes, which help to neutralize stomach acids and relieve diarrhea, heartburn, nausea and stomach cramps. Slices of fresh ginger in hot water make a very soothing ginger tea that clears the sinuses as well.

    Ginger has also been shown to help in blood circulation and anti-clotting, as well as lower cholesterol levels. It may also be an anti-carcinogen and provide relief from migraine headaches.

    The ginger plant, Zingiber officinale, is a rhizome, a plant with a horizontal, often underground, stem that is edible (although the leaves are often eaten as well). While we call it a root, it’s actually a stem.

    Here’s more on the healthfulness of ginger, one of the seven highest anti-oxidant spices.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Have An Ice Cream Tasting

    Celebrate National Strawberry Ice Cream
    Day by tasting 4-6 different brands. Your
    favorite may surprise you. Photo courtesy
    Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    Today is National Strawberry Ice Cream Day, a good excuse to have an ice cream tasting.

    Most of us keep buying Brand 1 out of habit; but perhaps we’d prefer Brand 2, 3 or 4. Manufacturers can change their recipes over time, and new brands pop up. Your own tastes change, as well.

    Pick up different brands of strawberry ice cream and treat family or friends to an ice cream tasting. Analyze the different components: creaminess, berryness, density, mouthfeel, texture, sweetness.

    Take notes and rank your favorites. The results may surprise you.

    For Your Ice Cream Tasting

    While we’re happy with just the ice cream, we wouldn’t turn down some shortbread or butter cookies on the side. You want a simple cookie that complements the ice cream.
     
    Also feel free to set up a toppings bar: chocolate chips, fruits, nuts, granola and other favorites.

    Another tip about ice cream: Don’t serve it rock-hard. A good part of the flavor will be frozen solid as well. If your freezer has hardened the ice cream to the max, set the pints on the counter for 15 minutes before scooping and serving.

     

    WHY IS IT CALLED “ICE CREAM?”

    The original frozen desserts were fruit ices, or sherbets, which date back to China, as early as 3000 B.C.E.

    Ice cream as we know it was most likely created in Florence in the 1500s for a Medici banquet (details). While no details survive of the creation, according to FoodTimeline.org, cooks began to make summer desserts by taking the richest part of the milk, the cream, flavoring it with seasonal fruits—like strawberries—and cooling it down with ice. The chillier the cream, the more solid the product.

    Thus, the dessert’s name was a description of the process by which it was made. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “iced cream” first appeared in print in 1688; “ice cream” appeared in 1744.

    Before modern refrigeration, ice cream was a rich man’s treat. Only wealthy people had access to ice in the summer (it was cut from lakes in the winter and stored in cellars and caves).

    And wealthy people had the staff needed to make ice cream: those to hold down the ice-filled bowl and those to hand churn the bowl of cream set in it, until it solidified—constant stirring for up to an hour!

    It was not until the late 19th century that commercially-manufactured ice cream was accessible to people across socioeconomic levels.

    Check out the history of ice cream, which began with flavored ices in China, as early as 3000 B.C.E.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Why Use Sea Salt?

    Bid adieu to one of food’s icons, the Morton Salt Girl, whose highly refined, iodized salt is too salty for table use. Instead, accent your food with the far more vivid flavors of sea salts.

    Sea salts are dehydrated from ocean water. They are not refined like table salts, so contain traces of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc and natural iodine present in the waters from which they were harvested. These individual ocean “terroirs” (tur-WAH) give each sea salt its own unique flavor and appearance.

    This makes them more healthful as well as tastier. And many sea salts are beautiful, sprinkled atop foods for visual as well as flavor notes. (Garnishing salts cost more. Inexpensive sea salts are available for cooking—we use La Baleine.)

    Imported from all over the world, there are scores of different sea salts available in the U.S. Each has its own flavor and beauty.

     

    Alaea, Hawaiian sea salt, in fine and coarse grinds. Photo courtesy Saltworks.us, which sells beautiful sea salts from all over the world.

     

    Some of our favorites are elegant grey Celtic salt from France; coral-hued alaea, a volcanic Hawaiian sea salt (with a mellower flavor than other sea salts); the crunchy crystals of Angsley salt from Wales; the pyramid-shaped crystals of Maldon salt from England; and Himalayan pink salt.

    For table use, sea salt grains are generally too large for most salt shakers. Just treat yourself to a salt mill. This stylish salt mill from Oxo Good Grips also has a matching pepper mill.

    WHAT ABOUT IODIZED SALT?

    Many of us were taught in school that it is important to consume iodized table salt to prevent the development of goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by iodine deficiency

    American salt manufacturers began iodizing salt in the 1920s, in cooperation with the government, after people in some parts of the country were found to be suffering from goiter due to an absence of iodine in their diets.

    Humans require fewer than 225 micrograms of iodine a day. Seafood, cruciferous vegetables*, and sea salt contain iodine naturally and iodized salt is unnecessary if there are sufficient quantities of these items in one’s diet.

    *The cruciferous vegetable group includes bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens and turnips, among other veggies.

    HOW MANY TYPES OF SALT HAVE YOU HAD?

    Take a look at all the lovely salts in our Salt Glossary. You’ll be inspired to run out (or click) for some.

    SPECTACULAR SALT BOOKS

    Love food? Love history? One of our favorite food books is Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History.

    Mark Bittman fans should also pick up a copy of Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with 50 Bittman recipes that showcase the different aspects of salt.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: Healthful, Crunchy Baked Kale Chips

     

    Looking for more healthy snacks?

    Kale is one of a nutritionist’s favorite foods. Healthful and tasty, this member of the Brassica genus (cousins include bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens and turnips, among other veggies) is an antioxidant powerhouse, packed with fiber and an excellent source of calcium, iron, manganese, potassium and vitamins A, B6, C and K.

    But what if you can’t get your family to eat another new green veggie?

    Make kale chips for crunchy snacks, and season them with your favorite flavors!

    This video shows you how easy it is. The chips aren’t chips per se (like potato chips and tortilla chips), but are dried, crispy veggies—the new super-healthy chip.

       

       

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Peach Melba Day & Peach Melba Recipe

    Peach Melba (its original title was in French, Pêche Melba) was created in the summer of 1892 at the Savoy Hotel, London by the the great French chef Auguste Escoffier. It honored the renowned Australian soprano, Dame Nellie Melba (Escoffier also created Melba toast for her).

    The dish combined two summer fruits, peaches and raspberries, with vanilla ice cream. Escoffier poached the peach and topped it with ice cream and raspberry purée. Essentially, it’s an ice cream sundae with poached peaches.

    But the original Pêche Melba was a bit more elaborate. At the time, Dame Nellie was performing in Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin, at Covent Garden. She was the guest of honor at a dinner party hosted by the Duke of Orléans at the Savoy.

    For the party, Escoffier displayed the dessert in a swan ice sculpture. In the opera, the knight Lohengrin arrives and departs in a boat pulled by swans. Here, the ice swan held a bed of vanilla ice cream topped with peaches and spun sugar.

    Needless to say, the dessert was the talk of the town—or at least, that portion of town interested in opera and Escoffier.

    In 1900, for the opening of the Carlton Hotel in London, Escoffier created an easier version of the dessert. He ditched the ice swan and topped the peaches with raspberry purée.

     

    Peach Melba, an ice cream sundae. Photo © Unpict | Fotolia.

     

    Light yet delicious, Pêche Melba became a classic dessert.

    The question is, why is National Peach Melba Day in January, when fresh peaches are out of season? Fresh raspberries are almost always available and you can use canned or frozen peaches, although to do so counters the wisdom of eating seasonally.

    But celebrate we will, by poaching some Dole frozen peach slices. We actually prefer the slices to Escoffier’s half-peach “cap” atop the ice cream.

    PEACH MELBA RECIPE

    FOR THE POACHED PEACHES

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup dry or sweet white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick snapped in half
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 6 peaches (makes 12 portions, but the poached peaches can be enjoyed the next day as seconds, plain, or with extra raspberry purée or the delicious poaching liquid, atop pancakes, etc.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Wash, dry and halve the peaches and discard the pits.
    2. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
    3. Simmer until peaches are slightly softened but not mushy. Frozen peach slices may be there already; whole, less ripe fresh peaches may take 7-10 minutes.

    FOR THE RASPBERRY PUREÉ

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  •  
    Preparation: Wash raspberries, pat dry and purée with other ingredients.

    FOR THE ASSEMBLY

    Ingredients

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Optional garnishes: whole raspberries, mint sprigs or slivered toasted almonds, whipped cream
  • Serving vessels (see below)
  •  
    TO ASSEMBLE
    1. To serve, place a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a bowl—or better yet, make it a glass dessert bowl, a Champagne coupe, a round wine goblet, or a parfait or sundae glass.

    2. Top with a peach half or sliced peaches.

    3. Drizzle with raspberry purée. Garnish as desired.

      

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