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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 April, 2012

COOKING VIDEO: Make A Hat Cake For Mother’s Day

 

Nothing says you care like a home-baked cake. For Mother’s Day, bake Mom’s favorite recipe and decorate it to look like a brimmed hat.

It’s actually easy! You can use cake mix, as in the video, or use your own from-scratch recipe. You bake a 9″ and 8″ layers, then trim the 8″ layer to be a 6″ top layer, the “crown” of the hat.

Then, just frost and decorate. Use a piece of real ribbon around the “brim,” add a fresh flower and use and Mom’s favorite candies to decorate the hat. The recipe uses Reese’s Pieces, which look bright and sunny.

Take a look and you’ll agree: It’s a nice way to surprise Mom. It’s also a charming birthday cake.

Like to look at pretty cakes? Check out our Cake Glossary.

   

   

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TIP OF THE DAY: Add Miso To Your Meals

Genji Miso Dressing. Photo by Elvira Kalviste
| THE NIBBLE.

 

Genji Inc. is a purveyor of sushi to 143 Whole Foods Markets and other food stores across the U.S. They supply the sushi bar and the staff who make the sushi.

Sushi bar customers loved the ginger miso salad dressing so much that the company bottled it. Consumers can purchase it from the sushi case in two versions: regular Ginger Miso dressing and Spicy Ginger Miso dressing, which is pretty spicy (the heat level is like hot salsa—use it to get the heat-lovers in your family to eat more salad).

The tasty, vegan dressings are made from white miso, canola oil and rice vinegar, flavored with onion, pickled ginger, soy sauce and lemon juice. The miso adds unique flavor not found in Western salad dressings—along with a pile of health benefits (more about them below). A two-tablespoon serving has 80 calories, 7g total fat, 0 cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 3 total carbs and 1 g protein.

The dressings are very thick. Some people love thick dressings, but your two-tablespoon portion size doesn’t go too far in coating a bowl of salad greens because it doesn’t “slide.”

 

So we diluted the miso dressing 1:1 with salad oil to get more coverage without using half the bottle.

WHAT IS MISO

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and koji kin, a natural fungus. The mixture ferments for three months to three years, producing an enzyme-rich food. The longer the fermentation, the higher quality the miso.

The result is a thick paste used to make sauces and spreads, to pickle vegetables and meats and to mix with dashi, a soup stock, to become miso soup (misoshiru). Westerners can add it to beans, grains, pasta, seafood dishes, spreads and dips, stews and numerous soups beyond misoshiru.

Here’s an entire book of delicious miso cookery. It also shows you how to make miso paste at home, from scratch.

The less ambitious among us can buy miso paste in the international section of supermarkets, in Asian markets and in health food stores.

There are different types of miso paste, based on whether they are made with bean malt, rice malt or wheat malt. Each type of miso paste can be made into either red miso or white miso, and different miso pastes are used in different recipes.

High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso is widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity and savory, based on fermentation process, length of fermentation and added ingredients (rice or other grains can be added in addition to barley).

 

THE ANCIENT HISTORY OF MISO

While miso is strongly identified with Japan, the predecessor of today’s miso probably originated in China as a salt-fermented food called chiang. It was originally made with animal proteins—meat or fish.

Over time, soybeans were substituted for the animal proteins. The first written record of this is from Chimin Yaushu, who created what is perhaps the oldest agricultural encyclopedia in the world (written between 535 and 550 C.E.). He indicates that fermented soybean foods had been prepared for centuries.

Miso probably arrived in Japan with the introduction of Buddhism, in that same century. To use a modern expression, it was a big hit, and quickly became a staple of the Japanese diet.

All Japanese miso varieties are made with fermented soybeans, but there are broad district and regional differences based on local tradition and preferences.

 

If you can’t find unpasteurized miso locally, you can buy it online. The South River line makes different varieties of miso (including barley, chickpea and brown rice misos), all of which are certified organic.

 

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MISO

Miso is a highly nutritious food. It is a “perfect protein,” containing all eight of the essential amino acids.

  • General health. Miso is low in fat and cholesterol-free. It contains three important antioxidant groups: isoflavones, estrogen-based antioxidants that fight hot flashes; saponins, phytochemicals that may reduce elevated cholesterol levels and may fight against breast, colon, prostate and uterine cancers; and phytosterols, which also may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels.
  • Protein. The fermented soybeans create a high-quality protein that is easily digested.
  • Digestion. Miso aids in the digestion of other foods. Unpasteurized miso (there is also shelf-stable, pasteurized miso) contains natural digestive enzymes and lactic acid bacteria (the lactobacillus found in yogurt). Since these live organisms die at temperatures higher than 104°F, unpasteurized miso should never be cooked at high heat. For miso soup, the paste is stirred into the dashi toward the conclusion of cooking.
  • Detoxification. Zybicolin, an active ingredient in miso, has been found to be effective in detoxifying elements that are taken into the body through chemicals in the soil and food system, industrial pollution and radioactivity.
  •  
    According to Japanese mythology, miso is a gift to mankind from the gods, to assure lasting happiness, health and longevity. We can’t make any guarantees, but we think you’ll like it.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Slate Makes A Great Plate

    A stunning presentation for mixed hors
    d’oeuvre or mini desserts. Photo courtesy
    Chapter 40 restaurant | Kerry, Ireland.

     

    Stylish restaurants are always looking for new plates and other dishes. After all, the presentation—the plate and the garnish—generates the “ooh!” factor when food is set before guests.

    Sometimes, the eating receptacle is not part of a conventional place setting. In this photo, Chapter 40 restaurant repurposes a slate cheese board for an assorted hors d’oeuvre plate and miniature desserts. (And of course, they can be used to present cheese and other foods.)

    Slate is a fine-grained rock composed of layers ash, clay and other sediment, which were fused together millions of years ago. When quarried and cut by experts, they form smooth, flat sheets of stone that have long been used to create handsome roofs and floors.

     

    Slate is most often found in pale-to-dark grey shades, but in also exists naturally in pastel and brighter colors from copper and cyan to green, red and purple.

    Natural slate resists fading, abrasion and chemicals and is highly durable (but it’s highly porous, so floors and roofs require regular sealing).

    In recent years, slate has been made into cheese boards. Its subtle, natural beauty is a complement to food.

  • J.K. Adams makes a slate cheese board, 16 x 12 inches, from Vermont-quarried slate.
  • An 11-3/4 by 6-1/4-inch rectangular plate from Revol (also available in 9.8 x 4.8-inches and other sizes) is made from culinary porcelain that emulates slate. It is designed to be scratch-free and chip resistant; it’s nonporous so it won’t absorb fats or bacteria. It isn’t as handsome as real slate, but it’s easier maintenance.
  •  
    While these plates are not inexpensive (around $30 each), you can pick up one at a time and ask for them as birthday and holiday gifts. Use the first one as a cheese board; the second one becomes “dinner for two,” and so on.

    You can also try to buy slate floor tiles as a more affordable solution. Flooring suppliers want to sell the whole floor and don’t embrace the sale of individual tiles. But if you have connections, or can get the store manager to order a dozen or two tiles (you can give the extras as gifts), you may be able to buy them for as little as $3 apiece.

    We went to a store that sells kitchen and bath tiles to contractors, in boxes of four for $20. While they didn’t have slate, we picked up a dozen beautiful granite tile squares in dark grey; then put felt stickers on the bottom to avoid scratching the table. We have our eyes on handsome dark red granite tiles as well.

    As with kitchen counters made from granite or marble walls and floors in a bathroom, they’re very easy to wash by hand.

    They’re heavier than conventional dinner plates, but gorgeous.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Make The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    The Biloxi: pork butt, bacon and fontina
    cheese. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese
    Academy.

     

    For National Grilled Cheese Month (there’s also a National Grilled Cheese Day, April 12th), feast your eyes upon 30 creative grilled cheese recipes from the Grilled Cheese Academy.

    You’ll find more than a few must-try recipes. In fact, you might be inspired to host a grilled cheese party.

    To make the best grilled cheese sandwiches, here are 10 tips from the experts at EatWisconsinCheese.com, creators of the Grilled Cheese Acadmey.

    CHEESE TIPS

    1. To Slice Or Not To Slice. Often it’s best to grate or shred the cheese. This promotes faster melting, as well as a smooth and more even melt.

    2. Slicing And Melting. It’s easier to slice and grate cheese when it’s cold. Furthermore, cheese melts best at room temperature.

     

    3. More Is Better. Don’t be shy: Pile on the cheese. Expand your horizons by using several types of cheese at once, as well as different toppings (arugula, caramelized onions, chutney, cranberry sauce, figs, garlic-sauteed spinach, gherkins, grapes, grilled vegetables, jalapeño, olives, pepperoncini, pesto, pickled vegetables, relish, sprouts, sautéed pineapple, sundried tomatoes, tomato sauce….whatever’s in the fridge or pantry). Remember, American, Cheddar and Swiss aren’t the only cheeses in town.

     

    BREAD & BUTTER TIPS

    4. Use The Real Deal. For great flavor, use real butter to pan-toast your grilled cheese sandwich. Margarine and other butter wannabes win you no points.

    5. Soft Is Good. Butter at room temperature is the way to go. Not only does it spread easily, but it also browns the bread more evenly.

    6. Use Your Imagination. White bread is not the only answer; in fact, it’s often not the best answer. Pick specialty unique breads to create equally more exciting and flavorful grilled cheese sandwiches.

    COOKING TIPS

    7. Size Matters. Always use the right size skillet or suffer the consequences. If you opt for a skillet that’s too small, your sandwich will cook too slowly and not evenly.

     

    The Nantucket: smoked salmon, cream cheese, scallions and melted aged Cheddar. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

     

    8. Cast Off Cast Iron. Cast-iron pans and grilled cheese sandwiches are not friends. Always use a nonstick pan to minimize “stickage.” It also makes cleanup easier.

    9. Flip. Press. Repeat. You want the cheese to spread evenly as it melts. So always press the sandwich with a spatula after you flip it. (Open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches do not require flipping.)

    10. Low And Steady. Don’t grill over high heat. Not only will the bread brown too fast, but the cheese will not melt completely. Be patient and always grill over low heat.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Turn Espresso Into Affogato

    Affogato: an Italian sundae. Photo courtesy Talenti Gelato.

     

    When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When it gives you gelato, make affogato (ah-foe-GOT-toe).

    We’re perplexed as to why this quickie Italian sundae—a scoop of gelato topped with a shot of espresso—is rarely found on Italian restaurant menus in the U.S. Most of them serve both gelato and espresso. Did someone lose the affogato recipe?

    The next time you’re at an Italian restaurant, order an affogato for dessert. If they won’t make it for you, unleash your inner Robert Eroica Dupea—the character played by Jack Nicholson in “Five Easy Pieces”: 

    Order an espresso and a dish of gelato and combine them yourself.

    Affogato means “drowned” in Italian. You can further drown the gelato with a flavored syrup or a shot of liqueur. Consider amaretto, chocolate, coffee, hazelnut or vanilla syrups or liqueurs—or go fusion with some Irish cream liqueur.

     

    Make Affogato At Home

    It’s easy to make affogato at home—as a treat for yourself or a surprise for family and friends. While vanilla is the traditional gelato flavor, chocolate, coffee and hazelnut gelato are even more delicious. (While it goes without saying, we’ll say it: You can substitute ice cream for gelato.)

    In this cooking video, Giada Di Laurentiis tops vanilla gelato with syrup and and then adds a shot of hazelnut liqueur before topping the “sundae” with with hot espresso.

    You can re-concept affogato from a sundae to a beverage by adding a scoop of gelato to a glass of iced espresso.

    Check out all the different types of espresso drinks.

    The difference between gelato and ice cream.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A New Ingredient Every Month

    Today’s tip is from Chef Johnny Gnall. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

    Home cooks can get intimidated by the thought of trying new ingredients. There’s a time-and-money issue of experimenting with something that might not turn out well.

    But cooking is exploration. Sometimes explorers find that the trip yields nothing exciting, other times they happen upon a game-changer. With all the information and recipes on the Internet, you‘ve got all you need to add vivid new flavors to your cooking.

    Ever heard of galangal (pronounced guh-LAHNG-ull, with a broad “a,” also called galanga and blue ginger)? Native to Indonesia, it is best known in America as an herb that flavors Thai soups.

     

    Galangal. It looks like ginger but is used in a very different way. Don’t be intimidated by it! Photo by Piano Non Troppo | Wikimedia.

    A member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, galangal is similar in appearance to ginger; but instead of ginger’s spice heat, it delivers an earthy, complex favor profile with notes of citrus, pine and cedar (and it’s usually removed prior to serving, not consumed in the same way as ginger). It’s also delicious in stews and stir-fries.

    Once you know what something tastes like—kaffir lime or shrimp paste, for example—you can add it to your favorite recipes to give them new life.

    DON’T BE INGREDIEN-TIMIDATED

    Unleash your inner explorer and plan to try a new ingredient every month. Your supermarket may have enough to start you off—from enoki mushrooms in the produce department, quinoa with the grains, and the spice rack (check out black cardamom, cubeb pepper, fenugreek, grains of paradise, mastic, za’atar and many others).

    Next, look up international markets and produce stores in your area and go browsing. If there are no local markets, search on the internet. Peruse African, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern grocery sites.

    Then, make yourself a list of 12 ingredients you want to try over the next year. Here are some ideas to start you off:

  • Kamut, an ancient, high-protein wheat with a nutty flavor. More about kamut, a whole grain.
  • Laver/Nori, the dried sheets of seaweed used to make sushi rolls. Roll something else in it (we’ve used it for seasoned goat cheese and tuna “rolls”) or use matchstick slices as garnishes on salads, seafood or poultry.
  • Mushrooms—not the ubiquitous white buttons, but some of the more flavorful varieties. You can try a “mushroom of the month.” They’re low in calories and very flavorful. Check out our Mushroom Glossary.
  • Nigella seeds, tiny black peppery seeds popular in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking that are just as much at home in chicken salad, omelets and other American dishes.
  • Nopales, prickly pear leaves with a flavor similar to green beans. Popular in Mexican cuisine, they can be added to salads, scrambled eggs and most Mexican dishes.
  • Quinoa, a grainlike seed that’s one the world’s great complete proteins (it contains all eight essential amino acids). More about quinoa.
  • Sweeteners, from demerara to jaggery, try a new type of sugar instead of refined white sugar on your cereal. Check out our Sugar Glossary for the different types of sugar worldwide; then visit an international market and pick up some.
  • Yuzu, a delightful Asian citrus that we use instead of lemon or lime juice in just about everything. (More about yuzu.)
  • Seasonal vegetables and fruits—our favorite spring dish is a combination of fava beans and ramps. We look forward to it every year, during the fleeting weeks when both are available. We feel the same about stewed rhubarb, a dessert we learned at our grandmother’s knee.
  •   

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    BOOKS: Good Junk Food & Comfort Food

    A great read and a permanent reference book for everyone who wants to make better food choices and teach kids how to do the same. Get your copy now.

     

    Junk food is a pejorative term attributed to Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He first used it in 1972 to refer to food that is of minimal nutritional value (little protein, vitamins or minerals) and worse, typically high in fat, sugar and other empty calories. Some of the culprits include candy bars, potato chips and other salty snacks, soda, and many desserts.

    Could he have known that a substantial number of Americans—junk food lovers—would come to see the term as a positive? No doubt, if someone were to establish a chain called The Junk Food Food Court, the lines would be out the door. (Note that if you take this concept and run with it, you owe THE NIBBLE a royalty, which we will put to the service of healthier-eating awareness.)

    In his series of Eat This, Not That books, David Zinczenko has done a great boon to America by pointing out the horrors in our diet: the salty, sugary and fat-laden foods we consume. While we know they are not good for us, we never realized how bad they were until he garnered so much media attention.

     

    Two new books take on the topic of junk food, and both are worth putting on your bookshelf.

    UNJUNK YOUR JUNK FOOD

    The first book is Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks, by Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer with Lisa Tsakos.

    The premise is that you don’t have to give up junk food to eat healthy; just make smarter choices.

    As such, the book features some 175 favorite brands of junk food, from candy and chocolate, to cookies and ice cream novelties, to chips and dips, to sodas and other beverages. It showcases the “bad food” on the left hand page, with the better alternative on the facing page.

    Equally as important, the book explains why, giving a detailed comparison that is both enlightening and interesting. In addition to the specific food comparisons, there are helpful overviews and glossaries: basic nutrition, bad ingredients to watch out for and things even a ten-year-old can understand and appreciate.

    In fact, we really like this book for both kids and adults. Instead of demanding change, it confers upon the reader a great understanding of the differences between good and bad ingredients, while providing a more-than-satisfactory alternative for each bad food.
     
    Even though we don’t eat much junk food, we were enlightened by:

  • The great tips for reading food labels and recognizing false claims.
  • The explanation of many ingredients—especially the polysyllabic ones that look like the chemicals they are.
  • The nutritious ingredients to look for and dangerous additives to avoid.
  •  

    VEGAN JUNK FOOD

    While Unjunk Your Junk Food truly is about junk food, Vegan Junk Food, by Lane Gold, is misnamed. We’d call it Vegan Comfort Food. Perhaps because there were already a few titles that focus on vegan comfort food, the publisher wanted a point of differentiation. Instead, it’s a point of confusion. This is a vegan cookbook focusing on popular comfort foods.

    While we’re at it, we also don’t like the subtitle, “225 Sinful Snacks That Are Good For The Soul.” Again, there are some snacks (caramel popcorn, cookies) but the majority of the recipes are meal items, not snacks.

    We also don’t find it inviting to call food “sinful” or that other misused word, “decadent.” And we wager that no cleric would agree that sinful undertakings are “good for the soul.”

     

    A terrific book and a great gift for anyone who eats junk food. Get your copy now.

    While we use our editor’s pulpit to point out what others have missed, the good news is that the content of the book is quite appealing: chock-full of vegan recipes for every meal and snack of the day:

  • Muffins, scrambled tofu with biscuits and sausage gravy
  • Cheesesteak, corndog, meatball sub and mac and cheese
  • Asian and Mexican favorites—empanadas, fajitas, tacos, tofu eggplant tikka masala, wontons, etc.
  • Appetizers and dips, from jalapeño poppers to teriyaki kabobs
  • Cakes, candies, cookies and more
  •  
    It’s an inexpensive book ($11.17 on Amazon.com), so we can forgive the limited number of photos. Everyone knows what cheesecake, dip, fried rice and muffins look like.

    We recommend this book for every person/family who enjoys these foods, because eating vegan as often as you can is your contribution to saving the planet.* Not to mention all the cholesterol saved.
     
    *Animal manure is the number-one component of greenhouse gas (which produces climate change, a.k.a. global warming); raising animals depletes and pollutes water tables and a whole bunch more reasons we’ll cover on Earth Day.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Curry Powder & Chile Oil

    Homemade curry powder. Photo by Magda S.
    | Wikimedia.

     

    Today’s tip is a teaching moment from Chef Johnny Gnall. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

    If you produce your own seasonings, you have the discretion to alter them to fit your preferences, whether they be increasing the heat, decreasing the garlic or making whatever changes suit you.

    Here are two Asian seasonings for you to make, store and use: curry powder and chile oil. They’re easy to make, and you can use them in everything from breakfast eggs and luncheon salads to dinner recipes.

    You can give them as gifts, too: delicious ingredients with a personal touch.

    Make them in small batches at first, until you reach a level of comfort with the process. Once you have it down, you can make quarts or more at a time and have them in your pantry for use in specific recipes, or to experiment with—or that last-minute gift.

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN CURRY POWDER

    This recipe is for a very basic curry powder. Curry powders you buy at the grocery store tend to be pretty generic (especially the domestic products made for the “American palate”), so you really are better off creating your own. It will save you money and enable you to bring out the flavors that you prefer. Throughout India and Asia, each household and restaurant has its proprietary recipe.

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup ground coriander
  • 1/3 cup ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard seed
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  •  
    Preparation

    1. It’s a good idea to toast your spices in a pan over medium high heat, tossing as you do so; it will make your curry powder that much more aromatic and flavorful.

    2. You can use a food processor or blender to combine the spices, or just mix them thoroughly with a wire whisk. Mix thoroughly and store in a tightly-capped jar or bottle.

    VARIATIONS: Turmeric gives curry powder its orange/yellow color; cayenne, ginger and chili powder provide the heat. As you play around with the proportions, add the spices by the teaspoon. These spices are by no means the only acceptable ones for a curry powder. Try asafoetida, black cardamom, black pepper, caraway, cayenne (red pepper), cinnamon, clove, fennel seed, fenugreek, garlic, green cardamom, long pepper, mustard seed and/or nutmeg. If something smells or tastes right to you, give it a try.

    ADDITIONAL TIP: Save empty spice bottles and refill them with our homemade blends.

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN CHILE OIL

    This recipe is for a fermented chile oil—much more complex than a store-bought chile oil.

    I absolutely love oils like this. The fermentation develops the flavor in a unique way and brings out umami, which makes a recipe that much better.

    Drizzle it into soups for a garnish-with-a-kick; add some to salad dressings, sauces and marinades; use as a dipping oil; finish a sauté. It can substitute wherever oil is used as a condiment, alone or in combination with a mild oil.

    Ingredients

  • 1 pint red chile flakes
  • 1/2 cup of fermented black beans (available in Asian markets or online)
  • 1/4 cup sliced ginger
  • 10 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 quart canola oil or rice bran oil
  •  

    Homemade chile oil. Photo courtesy Caviar Russe | New York City.

     

    Preparation

    1. Combine the flavor ingredients in the oil and heat over medium-low heat, to about 150°F (use a kitchen thermometer).

    2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, transfer to a jar or other sealable container and cap tightly.

    3. Let the mixture sit for at least a week, preferably two weeks; then it’s ready to go. It’s interesting to see how the favors develop and change as the fermentation process takes place.

    4. Once you’ve made a successful (to your preferences) batch, you can try versions with other herbs and aromatics. For gifts, tie a ribbon around the neck of a bottle and use your computer printer to create a gift label.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Povitica, A Cousin Of Babka

    Chocolate povitica: a winner. Photo courtesy
    Strawberry Hill.

     

    When we received a note telling us to expect a shipment of Strawberry Hill Povitica (poe-veet-suh), we rushed to the company website to answer the question: What is povitica?

    It is, as we discovered, an eastern European yeast cake similar to Russian babka—but better. Richer. More dense and buttery. And some flavors have cream cheese, which opens the door to cake and pastry heaven.

    After tasting the first three flavors, we knew that Strawberry Hill Povitica would be a Top Pick Of The Week. Then, eight more loaf cakes arrived.

    In handsome, reusable boxes, these scrumptious cakes, often in beautiful patterns, are at the top of our list for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts. We’ve become big fans of Strawberry Hill—as will anyone who takes a bite of their povitica.

    Read the full review, check out all 12 flavors and our top three favorites.

    See all the different types of cake in our Cake Glossary.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Rethink The Dinner Salad

    Looking for dinner salad ideas? Look no further than this alluring interpretation we had at Orsay, a restaurant in Manhattan that specializes in classic brasserie fare (with some modern dishes like this French-style “dinner salad”).

    You can also serve it as a luncheon salad, or as a first course to a larger meal.

    The concept is simple: Cook your protein and top it with a salad of dressed baby lettuces. Here’s the easy recipe template:

    1. BASE LAYER: VEGETABLE OR STARCH. In the photo, a round of roasted winter squash is used as the base. Instead of squash, you can use any starch or vegetable: rice, mashed white or sweet potatoes, cucumber salad, tabbouleh or your favorite braised, grilled, steamed, sautéed or grilled vegetables (we like sautéed spinach or kale). If you want more salad, use salad as the base. Or, you can skip the base entirely.

     

    Lemon-mango chicken salad. Photo courtesy Orsay Restaurant | New York City.

     

    2. MIDDLE LAYER: PROTEIN. Slice the protein and set it atop the base. You can use just about any protein: meat, poultry, grilled or poached salmon, other fish or seafood, or vegetable protein such as seitan or tempeh.

    3. TOP LAYER: SALAD. We buy mixed baby greens (mesclun) and snip in some fresh herbs, typically basil, cilantro or parsley. You can use one lettuce, such as frisée or radicchio, or whatever appeals to you at the market.

    4. OPTIONAL SAUCE. Serve with lemon mayonnaise (add 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice to 1/2 cup mayonnaise), aioli (garlic mayonnaise, or a mustard-mayonnaise blend [use Dijon or grainy mustard]). The chef at Orsay added drops of mango purée to create a lemon-mango sauce.

    5. OPTIONAL GARNISH. Use chives, shaved Parmesan curls, crumbled blue or goat cheese, or whatever you have in house, from an artichoke heart or water chestnuts, to a strip of grilled red pepper for color. A bit of fresh fruit also works: a slice of apple or mango, a halved grape or even crispy dried apple chips.
     
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