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Archive for April, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Very Different Margarita Recipe

Some chefs are inspired to go beyond classic recipes and create their own unusual take on a dish—or a drink.

Chef Julio Medina, who has an empire* of refined Latin cuisine restaurants in New York City, likes to create special menus, including specialty Margaritas, for each location.

His latest creation, for Toloache, is an homage to spring and Cinco de Mayo that combines traditional Mexican flavors with his classic French culinary training.

*The restaurants include Coppelia, Toloache 50, Toloache Taqueria and Toloache 82, Yerba Buena Avenue A and Yerba Buena Perry.

†Today Cinco de Mayo is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla on May 5th. It is actually a bigger event in the United States than it is in Mexico, thanks to American promotional know-how, a large population of Mexican-Americans and other Americans who like Mexican food, music and a good celebration.

 

A different but really good Margarita. Photo courtesy Toloache 50 | New York City.

 

The homage to Cinco de Mayo is the name of the drink: Invaciones Frances Margarita, French Invasion Margarita. The holiday of Cinco De Mayo† commemorates the 1862 victory of a small and poorly-equipped Mexican militia led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, over the much larger French army at The Battle Of Puebla. It temporarily stopped the French invasion of the country.

The homage to spring: the fresh spring peas and tarragon in the mixture.

Peas and tarragon in a Margarita? Absolutely—and absolutely delish. We present, for your pleasure, the French Invasion Margarita.

THE FRENCH INVASION MARGARITA

Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1¼ ounces blanco Tequila
  • ½ ounce Cointreau (you can substitute another orange liqueur)
  • ½ ounce Remy V (you can substitute Pisco Portón—see below)
  • 1 sprig tarragon (3 inches long)
  • 3 bar spoons (teaspoons) spring peas
  • 1 ounce simple syrup (recipe)
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Ice
  • Garnish: Small sprig of tarragon
  •  

    Remy Martin’a unaged eau de vie, V
    (pronounced “vee”). Photo courtesy Remy
    Martin.

     

    Preparation

    1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle together 1 sprig tarragon and the peas. Add the remaining ingredients with ice and shake well.

    2. Double strain the Margarita into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a small sprig of tarragon.
      
    WHAT’S REMY MARTIN V (PRONOUNCED VEE)?

    Produced by the great Cognac maker, Remy V is not a Cognac but an eau de vie. Eau de vie (plural, eaux de vie) is the name given to a spirit distilled from grapes and other fruits that has not yet been aged. At this point it is a clear liquid, like vodka.

    It is through aging in oak barrels for at least 2-1/2 years that eau de vie takes on the complex aromas, color and flavors of Cognac. Instead, Remy Martin V is finished with a cold filtration process, like vodka.

    Hence the name “V,” a reference to eau de vie (also pronounced “vee,” and meaning “water of life”). It’s unaged Cognac.

    And now the challenge: Where to find it. Remy Martin V has limited retail distribution in the U.S.

    So here‘s our recommendation: Substitute pisco, a clear, distilled grape spirit from Peru that, like Remy Martin V, is produced in the manner of Cognac. Pisco Portón is an excellent brand, with good distribution.

     

    WHAT’S A BAR SPOON?

    A bar spoon is a teaspoon on a long handle, typically 11 inches in length. It is used to measure ingredients and to layer drinks (by pouring the different layers of alcohol over the back of the spoon, where they flow gently into the glass).

    The long handle lets the bartender dip deep into jars to scoop up olives and cherries. If you don’t have a bar spoon, it’s inexpensive and doesn’t take up much room. Here’s a good bar spoon.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: For Dessert, Try A Sweet Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    Have you ever had a grilled cheese sandwich for dessert?

    There are more than a few sweet grilled cheese sandwich recipes out there, perfect for dessert or a sweet snack. We’ll start you off with two, courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Academy, the best grilled cheese website, sponsored by the great cheese makers of Wisconsin.

    THE BIANCA: A SWEET GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH WITH DULCE DE LECHE

    Ingredients

    Sink your teeth into this delightful combination of mascarpone, homemade dulce de leche and raspberry preserves on cinnamon raisin bread. Makes 4 servings.

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened, condensed milk (or, you can use prepared dulce de leche)
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 8 slices unfrosted cinnamon raisin bread
  • 4 tablespoons raspberry preserves
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  • Optional garnish: fresh red raspberries
  •  

    Here, mascarpone is the grilled cheese. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

     

    Preparation

    1. To make dulce de leche, place a can of condensed milk in a deep pot and cover with water; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 90 minutes. Turn burner off and let the can sit in the water until cool. Dry and open the can. The contents will be caramel-colored (and hard to resist eating).

    2. Mix mascarpone with vanilla; stir to incorporate air and lighten the cheese.

    3. Heat skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Butter bread slices on one side; place in pan, butter-side down and grill until golden brown and crisp.

    4. Remove and spread the unbuttered sides of 4 slices of bread with 1 tablespoon raspberry preserves, 2 tablespoons mascarpone and 1 tablespoon dulce de leche, in that order. Top with another toasted piece of bread, browned-side up, and more dulce de leche. Garnish with whipped cream and fresh raspberries, if desired.

     

    Bananas, bacon and peanut butter were a favorite of Elvis. But because there is already an Elvis sandwich, this one is called the Lisa Marie. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

     

    THE LISA MARIE: A SWEET GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH WITH HOT FUDGE

    Ingredients

    Bananas, peanut butter, butterkäse cheese and chocolate-sauced bacon caramelized with brown sugar and maple syrup: Wow! Makes 4 servings.

    Butterkäse originated in Germany. A very mild and creamy cheese with a buttery texture, the name literally means butter cheese. If you can’t find it, substitute cream cheese or mozzarella.

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 4 thick slices firm white bread
  • 8 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 4 1½-ounce slices butterkäse cheese
  • 2-3 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup hot fudge or chocolate sauce
  •  

    Preparation

    1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

    2. Place bacon slices on baking sheet pan with sides (a jelly roll pan) and bake until lightly browned and starting to crisp, about 5-6 minutes.

    3. Meanwhile, mix brown sugar and maple syrup until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the hot bacon slices with mixture. Return to the oven for another 5-6 minutes, turning once and being careful not to burn the sugar. Remove to cooling rack and let cool.

    4. Heat griddle or sauté pan over medium heat. Butter one side of the bread slices. Spread other side with peanut butter. Top each slice, peanut butter-side up, with 1 butterkäse slice and some banana slices. Place butter-side down on griddle and grill until sandwich bread bottoms are light golden brown.

    5. Meanwhile, heat chocolate sauce until warm (the microwave is perfect for this). Dip each slice of bacon into warm chocolate to cover half of strip and place over bananas. To serve, drizzle sandwiches with additional chocolate sauce.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Talenti Gelato

    Gelato is the original ice cream, invented in Florence in the 16th century. The key differences vis-à-vis ice cream are less cream/more milk and less air (overrun). This combination enables a more intense showcasing of the fruits, nuts and other flavors.

    Talenti Gelato is named for Bernardo Buontalenti, the impressario who first created gelato for a Medici banquet. We think the Tahitian Vanilla is the best vanilla gelato or ice cream out there.

    Five new flavors launched this month include Banana Chocolate Swirl gelato with chocolate flecks and a dulce de leche swirl, and Black Raspberry Chocolate gelato, a heartbreaking raspberry with chocolate flecks. The heartbreak comes when your store doesn’t carry it.

    Peanut butter lovers can dig into Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Gelato, PB ice cream with an organic peanut butter swirl and chopped miniature chocolate peanut butter cups. It’s not gimmicky, just great.

     

    Talenti: a great gelato experience in 19 flavors (plus 3 sorbetti). Image courtesy Talenti Gelato.

     

    The Joy Of Gelato

  • Read the full review of Talenti Gelato.
  • The difference between ice cream and gelato.
  • Find more of our favorite gelato and ice cream brands, plus recipes.
  • Check out all the different frozen desserts in our Ice Cream Glossary.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Flavored Kefir Instead Of A Smoothie

    You can blend your own smoothie or pour it
    ready-to-drink from a bottle of flavored
    kefir. Photo courtesy RevivalSoy.com.

     

    Many people think that kefir is the same as drinkable yogurt. That’s close, but not exact. Kefir is even healthier than yogurt. In fact, kefir is often called a “super yogurt,” since it is up to 36 times more probiotic than yogurt.

    While the recipes are similar, kefie has even more live and active cultures (naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts) and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It contains easily digestible, complete proteins, and is recommended for those with digestive issues, including colitis, Crohn’s disease, IBS and lactose intolerance.

    The once-exotic drink is now available in supermarkets nationwide. It’s available in luscious fruit flavors in addition to plain.

    The addition of fruit creates what we think of as a kefir smoothie (to differentiate it from a conventional yogurt smoothie). It’s just as delicious and better for you. And it’s more drinkable—less thick—than smoothies made with non-drinkable yogurt.

     

    Our favorite flavored kefir, from Green Valley Organics, is made with lactose-free milk that is Certified Humane® plus a probiotic-rich combination of 10 live and active cultures. A blend of strawberry, pomegranate and açaí, It has less added sugar than many flavored kefirs. Also available in plain, the kefir is kosher-certified, organic and gluten free.

    It is so delicious, an eight-ounce serving (150 calories, 20 from fat) satisfies our craving for ice cream or frozen yogurt, which has more than twice the calories and typically, none of the healthy components.

    Another brand, Lifeway Kefir, makes Blueberry, Cherry, Peach, Pomegranate/Açaí, Raspberry and Strawberry kefir flavors, in addition to plain.

     

    You can make your own kefir smoothie by blending two cups of kefir with a cup of fruit (frozen fruit is just fine) and 2 tablespoons of sweetener (you can use noncaloric sweetener or lower-glycemic such as agave nectar, honey or maple syrup).

    More Kefir Magic

  • The health benefits of kefir.
  • Another way to enjoy kefir: frozen kefir, like frozen yogurt.
  • Check out all the different types of yogurt in our Yogurt Glossary.
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    Just remove cap and pour yourself a delicious strawberry-pomegranate-açaí “smoothie.” Photo courtesy GreenValleyOrganics.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Chocolate Dragées, A.K.A. Panned Confections

    The original dragées* (drah-ZHAY) are sugar-coated almonds. Technically, the nuts are encapsulated in a hard-shell coating. English speakers call them Jordan almonds—not because they’re from Jordan (they’re from Spain). It’s a corruption of the French word for garden, jardin, which refers to the large variety of almond). The almonds can also have a chocolate coating under the sugar. The key is the hard sugar shell.

    In America, we see the word used to refer also to panned products. It’s not correct—they’re two different types of coating, dragées having a very hard (and potentially tooth-breaking) sugar shell and panned products having a softer chocolate shell.

    Panning is one of the four† basic methods of coating chocolate onto a center (typically hard centers, such as nuts and crystallized ginger). In panning, chocolate is sprayed onto the centers as they rotate in revolving pans (think drums); cool air is then blown into the pan to harden the chocolates.

    On a small scale (and before the industrial revolution), nuts are coated on a pan on the stovetop; hence “panning.” The centers can be rolled in cocoa powder or other coating before they harden.

     

    Sophisticated malted milk balls that multitask. Photo courtesy Recchiuti Confections.

     

    *In French, the word also refers to nonpareils and is slang for bullets (small shot). Dragée à la gelée de sucre is a jelly bean.
    †The other methods are enrobing, panning and molding or shell molding.

    RECCHIUTI CONFECTIONS MALTED DARK MILK REVOLUTION

    One of our favorite chocolatiers, Recchiuti Confections, sent us a new product, called Malted Dark Milk Revolution. The confection looks like chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, but the centers are crunchy malted cookies (think malted milk balls) accented with fleur de sel. The centers are then coated with layers of dark milk chocolate (high-percentage cacao milk chocolate, typically 38% or more).

    There’s no hard sugar shell, so they’re easy on the teeth.

    Recchiuti calls these gourmet malted milk balls are a revolution because they use dark milk chocolate and an accent of fleur de sel, which provides a nice counterpoint to what in other hands can be a too-sweet confection.

    For us, the concept of chocolate-coated malted milk centers has been around for a while, regardless of what type of chocolate or seasonings are added. So instead, we think of the name as a pun on the number of times the centers go around in the drum—from 20 to 60 “revolutions,” according to Recchiuti.

    We immediately used the little bites:

  • With after-dinner espresso and coffee, instead of a cookie or a carré/napolitan of chocolate (they more than satisfy).
  • As a topper for ice cream and frozen yogurt—much more delicious than a maraschino cherry.
  • As a quick chocolate fix. (Full disclosure: We love good malted milk balls. Our favorites are these mint malt balls from Marich.
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    A YUMMY GIFT

    Malted Dark Milk Revolution is a lovely small gift, especially for those who like the play of sweet and salty. It’s available in two sizes at Recchiuti.com: a 5-ounce box for $11.00 and 12-ounce box for $19.00.

    Recchiuti also has a sampler of panned products (called the Dragée Sampler) that we love for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifting, 12 ounces, $29.00. It includes Recchiuti’s heavenly Burnt Caramel Almonds, Burnt Caramel Hazelnuts, Peanut Butter Pearls and Cherries Two Ways.

    Learn more at Recchiuti.com.

      

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