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Archive for June, 2012

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Crunchies Healthy Snacks

Addictively good and good for you snacks. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

 

Crunchy, freeze-dried vegetable and fruit snacks have been growing in popularity. They taste good, provide the crunch factor, are full of fiber and moderate in calories. If you haven’t tried them, you’re missing out.

One of our favorite brands is Crunchies, A selection of all natural snacks that are gluten free and available in kosher-certified and organic-certified versions.

Fresh fruits and veggies are placed in a refrigerated vacuum chamber that removes up to 97% of the moisture. The process retains a high percentage of the nutritious enzymes that are lost through conventional heat-drying dehydration and provides an extra-crunchy texture.

While snacking on the crunchy delights by the handful is the original intent, they make most excellent additions to everyday foods and recipes, from yogurts and salads to tea and hot chocolate.

Read the full review to see all the different ways we’ve used Crunchies in recipes.

See all of our favorite snacks in our Gourmet Snacks section.

 

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Corned Beef & Pastrami

Some home cooks just like to go the extra yard. Why buy corned beef and pastrami when you can make your own?

You can create the complex flavors and tender texture that will bring kudos from others at the dinner table while you get deeper in touch with your inner chef.

The first time you make corned beef or pastrami from scratch, you may want to rely on a kit of ingredients and instructions that walks you through the process of curing and cooking a brisket (the base of corned beef and pastrami). Even professional chefs use this Corned Beef & Pastrami Kit from Leener’s.

The kit comes with everything you need except the brisket: Morton Tender Quick, a very effective meat tenderizer, curing salts, plus spices, wood chips and a tenderizing tool. While you can certainly come up with your own tenderizer, black pepper, garlic powder, mustard seed, paprika and and other spices, this Make It kit is a turnkey cookbooks with simple instructions.

 

BYO brisket and make corned beef and pastrami with this kit. Photo courtesy Leeners.

 

There’s enough in each kit for up to 10 pounds of brisket. The only caveat is that you need to cure the seasoned meat in the fridge for five days per each inch of meat thickness. In our packed apartment-size fridge, we’d have to toss all the condiments to make space!

It took Leener’s, which specializes in “Make It” kits, six months to perfect the Corned Beef and Pastrami Kit. “We tried many recipes and methods of making corned beef and found that the traditional brine method produces the highest quality corned beef possible,” says company president Jim Leverentz. “Our goal is to bring back the old-fashioned goodness and flavors of a more patient time along with the satisfaction of making it yourself. You will be enjoying the best corned beef and pastrami sandwiches you have ever eaten.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: Although it goes without saying, you also need a top-quality brisket.)

In fact, the company also makes kits for the other ingredients of a Reuben sandwich: an Artisan Bread Kit to make deli-style rye, a Sauerkraut and Dill Pickle Kit, a Deluxe Cheese Kit for the Swiss cheese and a Mustard Making Kit. Pair the Reuben with your choice of brews from Leener’s Home Brewery System.

The Corned Beef & Pastrami Kit is sold in a four-pack for $32.95, or $8.00 and change per brisket. You can give any extra kits to people who invite you over for barbecue or other meat-centric meals. Kits are also fun gifts for anyone who likes to cook.

Get your kits now.

BRISKET 101: A beef brisket consists of two parts, the flat and the point. Traditionally the flat is used to make corned beef for slicing. The point, while cured in the same way, is smoked to make pastrami.

  

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FOOD HOLIDAY: National Catfish Day & Grilled Catfish Recipe

Parsley leaves, cherry tomatoes and lime
juice make a salad topping for catfish. You
can do a mixture of parsley and cilantro, as
well. Photo and recipe from Whole Foods
Market
; get the recipe. A second recipe is
below.

 

Chefs nationwide are adding catfish dishes to their menus today, National Catfish Day.

The catfish, one of the world’s least attractive fishes, gets its name from the long barbels (feelers) hanging down from around its mouth, which resemble whiskers (but far less cute). Catfish is found worldwide: Most catfish are freshwater, though there is also a saltwater variety found on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The majority of catfish sold today in the U.S. are farmed in ponds in the Mississippi Delta.

Looks apart, catfish is a tasty fellow, lowfat with firm, mild-flavored flesh (though the tough, inedible skin must be removed before cooking). Catfish is versatile, suited to most manners of preparation, including soups and stews. Much of the time, it’s filleted and fried, grilled or sautéed.

At the Grand Central Oyster Bar (the seafood restaurant located “below sea level” at Grand Central Terminal in New York City), executive chef Sandy Ingber shares his National Catfish Day recipe so you can whip it up at home (we got our catfish at Whole Foods Market).

 

GRILLED CATFISH FILET WITH ESPRESSO-ANCHO RUB & LEMON CAYENNE SAUCE

Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 catfish filets, 5-6 ounces each, skin off (either wild or farmed)
  • Espresso-ancho rub (recipe below)
  • Soy or other oil for grilling
  • Lemon-cayenne sauce (recipe below)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Rub all catfish filets with the espresso-ancho rub (below). Shake off excess.

    2. Heat grill to medium hot. Dip rubbed filets into a small amount of oil and place on grill. Cook fairly slowly until browned on one side, about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn. Flip over and repeat. Catfish should be cooked all the way through.

    3. Put on a plate and serve with 2 ounces of sauce per person. Serve with brown rice and cornbread—both whole grain foods—and a side salad.

    ESPRESSO-ANCHO RUB

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. The rub can be made up to one week ahead, covered and stored at room temperature.

    LEMON-CAYENNE VIN BLANC SAUCE

    Vin blanc is one of the mother sauceswe presented a few months ago. It’s a key ingredient of Coquilles St. Jacques and Oysters Rockefeller. After you make it the first time, you’ll find many ways for to use it with fish, seafood and poultry. This recipe makes about 1-1/3 cups.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1¼ cups water
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons instant fish bouillon
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Combine the wine and shallots in a saucepan and bring to a full boil. Reduce by half. Add the water, cream and bouillon and return to a boil.

    2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until it smells toasty, about 1 minute. Don’t let the flour brown. Now you have a roux (pronounced ROO).

    3. Add about half of the liquid and stir well to dissolve the roux. Stir in the rest of the liquid and bring to a simmer.

    4. Add cayenne pepper, that you liquefy with 1 teaspoon of water. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Finish with the lemon juice. Strain the sauce through a fine strainer.

    Let us know if you think it’s the cat[fish]’s meow.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Summer Ice Cream Desserts

    “Summertime is about simplicity,” says TV chef and “Chopped” judge Alex Guarnaschelli, as she shared these summer dessert ideas with us (originally published in The Daily Meal).

  • Ice Cream: Buy lemon verbena or five varieties of mint, mash the leaves and stir them into ice cream. EDITOR’S NOTE: We also use basil. Purée the leaves of the herb and blend 1/4 cup of purée into a pint of softened vanilla ice cream. If you want a more intense flavor, add more purée.
  • Ice Cream Or Sorbet Pie: Ice cream pie is the new ice cream cake, says Guarnaschelli. Fill a pie shell with raspberry sorbet, pack it down and top it with a “sauce” of warmed raspberry jam. EDITOR’S NOTE #1: Warm the jam in the microwave and drizzle or spread with a spatula. You don’t want the jam hot, or it will melt the sorbet. EDITOR’S NOTE #2: A garnish of fresh rasperries—or sliced strawberries with strawberry ice cream, blueberries with blueberry ice cream, peaches with peach ice cream, etc.—make this dessert even more festive.
  • Wild Card: Guarnaschelli sautés small cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes) and tops with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a squeeze of lemon juice. Or, take cinnamon ice cream (you can blend cinnamon into vanilla) and top with brown sugar, honey and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice.
  •  

    A strawberry ice cream pie, topped with sugar-dipped strawberries. Photo courtesy Miki’s Recipes. Get the recipe.

     

    “All of a sudden,” says Guarnaschelli, “you’ve created this whole new universe, and yet it’s so easy.”

    Here’s another recipe for a Strawberry Daiquiri Cocktail Pie from Miki’s Recipes.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Switch Wines For Summer

    Enjoy affordable, sparkling Prosecco all
    summer long. Photo by Marcelo Terraza |
    SXC.

     

    In the hot weather months, we eat lighter foods and drink lighter styles of beer.

    How about wine?

    In addition to pairing well with lighter foods, consider three summer-appropriate wines—Albarino, Malbec and Prosecco—that are also lighter on the wallet ($10 to $15 a bottle). And, they’re vinified to be drunk as soon as you buy them—no aging required.

    VERO restaurant and wine bar in New York City is highlighting three wines on its summer menu: red Malbec, white Albariño and sparkling Prosecco.

    They work with lighter summer foods, as well as with bold-flavored favorites—such as beef and spicy dishes—that we enjoy year-round, and which require wines that are equally intense and full-flavored.

    So instead of sticking with the tried and true, embrace the joy of wine and discover new favorites.

    WHAT TO TRY

    Argentinean Malbec instead of Cabernet
    Sauvignon

    Both red wines are robust in body and flavor, with firm tannins that pair beautifully with grilled meats. But Malbec is vinified to be drink younger than Cabernet Sauvignon.

     

    Malbec has been called “the more rustic cousin of Merlot” by wine expert Jancis Robinson. The primary red grape of Argentina, Malbec is deep purple in color and lush with ripe, juicy berry and plums flavors. Some yield herbal, licorice/anise and violet notes. VERO is serving the 2010 Callia Alta Malbec (black cherry and plum flavors with hints of oak and spice, around $10 in stores) with a seared New York strip of beef and fries, finished with a smoked chili aïoli.

    Spanish Albariño instead of Sauvignon Blanc

    The grapefruit notes of both of these white wines compliment appetizers, grilled fish, shellfish, poultry and vegetarian dishes, as well as spicy seafood-based foods such as jambalaya (recipe).

    Albariño is the primary white grape grown in the Rias Baixes wine region, in the northeast corner of Spain (the part that sits on top of Portugal). The wines are highly aromatic with excellent acidity, an attribute that makes them very food-friendly. The palate yields apple, citrus and/or pear notes.

    VERO is serving the 2010 Morgadio Albariño (kiwi and mineral flavors, around $15 in stores) with pan seared mahi mahi over creamy polenta, with roasted tomatoes, baby fennel and sundried tomato vinaigrette.

    Prosecco instead of Champagne

    The effervescence of both sparklers is charming. But whereas Champagne’s sophisticated profile is heavy on yeast and breadiness/toastiness, Prosecco is light and fruity on the palate, with a nose of almonds, apples, and pears. Because it is meant to be drunk young, it is typically non-vintage. Serve it with charcuterie, salads, fish and seafood and spicy Asian foods. It is a very food-friendly wine.

    VERO is serving the Ricardo Pasqua Prosecco (an extra-dry spumante with a nose of sweet almonds, about $11 in stores) with a rock shrimp tempura and yuzu chili aïoli.

    So hit the wine store and start trying different bottles to find your favorite producers. Remember that you can search for reviews online to match up the specific wine producer’s profile with your tastes.

    *Champagne is unique among wine regions. The bottlings are usually a mixture of wines from different vintages (called non-vintage or NV). Vintage Champagne is a blend of wines from that one particular year indicated on the label, when the quality of the harvest, measured by the sweetness of the grapes, meets the requirements to declare a “vintage.” True vintage years may happen three or four times a decade, or fewer; vintage Champagnes need to be laid down for a longer period of time to mature. Because vintage Champagne commands a significantly higher price, some Champagne houses “declare” a vintage in a year when others do not feel the quality of the harvest merits it. This doesn’t imply that nonvintage Champagnes are inferior; in fact, in non-vintage years, wines are blended together to create the house’s “perfect” recipe.

      

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