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Archive for July, 2012

RECIPE: Spicy Veggie Burger

The Carla Burger from chef Carla Hall: a black bean burger with peach salsa. Photo courtesy MorningStar Farms.


We love a good spicy veggie burger. Morningstar Farms makes one Southwestern style, from black beans, corn, tomatoes, bulgur, brown rice and jalapeños (among other ingredients).

We often top our burgers with salsa for added spice. But MorningStar’s consulting chef Carla Hall came up with a version—peach pico de gallo—using this season’s sweet peaches, with spicy chiles and tangy lime juice—an easy-to-make burger topping.

You’ll only need about a third of the recipe to top the burgers. Serve the remainder as a dip with tortilla chips or thin jicama slices…or the next day with another burger.


Prep Time: 25
Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Yield: 4 sandwiches; 4 servings (1 serving =
1 sandwich)


Ingredients: Peach Pico de Gallo

  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 medium peaches, pitted, peeled and finely chopped, or 1-1/4 cups frozen unsweetened peach slices, thawed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 to 3 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
    Ingredients: Burgers

  • 4 MorningStar Farms Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burgers or substitute
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese or crumbled Cotija cheese
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split
  • Lime wedges


    1. MAKE PICO DE GALLO. In medium bowl combine tomatoes, peaches, onion, cup cilantro, chile peppers, lime juice, sugar, salt and garlic. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

    2. PREPARE GRILL. Meanwhile, spray grill rack with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

    3. GRILL BURGERS. Grill veggie burgers directly over medium-high heat about 6 minutes or until burgers reach internal temperature of 165°F and grill marks form on both sides, turning once.

    4. ADD AVOCADO & CHEESE. Top burgers with avocado slices and the 1/4 cup cilantro. Sprinkle with cheese. Grill about 2 minutes more or until cheese melts.


    Look for the green box. Photo courtesy Morningstar.


    5. SERVE. Move burgers to buns. Top each burger with about 1/4 cup peach pico de gallo. Place lime wedges alongside of sandwiches on serving plates.

    1. NONSTICK SPRAY. Spray some non-stick cooking spray on the grilling surface before turning up the heat. It makes flipping your food easier than ever.

    2. SALAD TOPPERS. Think outside the bowl! Take your salad out of the bowl and use it to top your grilled burgers. Whether it’s a slaw or Caprese Salad, consider this the adult-version of playing with your food.

    3. GRILL EVERY COURSE. Use the grill to take advantage of summer’s wide produce selection. Marinate fresh vegetables in a light salad dressing and grill until tender for a tasty side dish. After the meal, add slices of angel food cake and stone fruit or pineapple to the grill for an easy, crowd-pleasing dessert.



    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Re-Crisp Soggy Crackers

    As crisp as they begin, crackers will attract
    moisture over time and get soggy. But you
    can easily re-crisp them. Photo courtesy


    There’s no need to throw away soggy crackers. We were disappointed when a new canister proved not to be airtight, and our open package of WASA Crispbread had lost its crunch.

    But we soon found a solution:

    1. Put the crackers in the microwave on a paper towel. Don’t overlap.

    2. Microwave them for 40 seconds on medium/high.

    3. Allow the crackers to cool for 3-5 minutes. They will crisp up as they cool down.

    Crunch away!
    Find more of our favorite biscuits and crackers.




    PRODUCT: Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cones

    We’ve been enjoying more than a few ice cream cones this month, National Ice Cream Month.

    But what if you have gluten sensitivities. Where’s your cone?

    Goldbaum’s, a natural food company based in Brooklyn, New York, is at the ready with two different cones that crunch as nicely as the “real thing.”

    In the shape of waffle/cake cones, their texture is more like the lighter style wafer/cake cones (here’s the difference between the two types).

    So what’s in a gluten-free cone? Instead of wheat, there’s a mix of potato starch and tapioca starch, plus other ingredients including sugar, salt and vanilla.

    The gluten-free cones don’t have the flavor of wheat-based cones, but when ice cream is added, you won’t notice the difference—you’ll just enjoy the crunch.

    The regular Goldbaum’s cones have just 11 calories apiece, so they’re a boon for calorie counters as well. The sugar cones have 41 calories, are an inch or so taller, and weigh in at 41 calories. Conventional ice cream cones have up to 20% more calories.

    The line is certified kosher by OU. Find out more at


    Gluten-free fun. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Ice cream was invented many centuries before the ice cream cone. Check out the history of ice cream cones.




    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Yanni Grilling Cheese

    Yanni cheese doesn’t melt when grilled or
    fried: It just becomes soft and luscious.
    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    If you’re trying to cut back on cheese, don’t buy Yanni Grilling Cheese from Karoun Dairies. It’s addictive, and you’ll be back at the store the next day to buy more—much more.

    This oh-so-delicious comfort food can be baked, grilled, microwaved or pan-fried. It’s made for grilling without melting.

    Karoun makes original and jalapeño flavors. The jalapeño is only mildly spicy and provides an excellent counterpoint to the creamy cheese. In fact, we find ourselves adding a pinch of crushed chili flakes to the original variety.

    You won’t run out of ways to serve yanni, from appetizers and salads to burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

    Check out the full review, which includes our favorite uses, this week’s recipe and cooking video on how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

    Prepare to discover a new favorite comfort food.

    Find more of our favorite cheese reviews and recipes.




    PRODUCT: Beer Flats Artisan Crackers

    Daelia’s Food Company caught our eye a few years ago with its line of artisan biscuits for cheese. They’re based on an old Mediterranean recipe, twice baked in small batches to create very crisp, three-inch-long flats. The sweet and toasty nut flavors—including Almond with Raisins, Hazelnut with Fig and Pumpkin Seed—go with all types of cheese.

    The company has recently released a new cracker creation, whole grain Beer Flats. They’re a thick, strong, macho cracker with great flavor. We enjoy them so much, we don’t need any cheese. We devour them from the box as a crisp snack, and serve them with soups and salads.

  • The lighter-colored Pilsner Cracker is made with light rye flour and pilsner beer. The flavor is reminiscent of a buttery biscuit—only crunchy!
  • The darker Porter Cracker is made with dark rye flour, caraway seeds and porter, with inspired touches of cocoa and molasses. It has the delicious flavor of pumpernickel. We enjoyed it equally with mild, fresh goat cheese, and pungent Epoisses.

    With or without a bottle of beer, Beer Flats rock as crackers and snacks. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Both crackers deliver a seductive creaminess from the butter in the recipe; the creamy quality pairs perfectly with the creaminess of cheese. The beer adds an exciting malty nuance, and along with the butter, makes these distinctive crackers well worth the price. The sturdy texture and thickness of the crackers provide maximum crunch.

    A story on the package tells that around 4000 B.C.E., an innovative Mesopotamian used beer instead of water in a recipe for grain cakes, the precursor to modern bread. Cheers to that baker!

    A 5.5-ounce box of Beer Flats is $7.99 at specialty food stores and on

    Pick up a few boxes for your own enjoyment, as a gift for beer and cheese lovers or anyone who appreciates fine food. The crackers can be served with charcuterie, dips and spreads, hummus, pâté, prosciutto, smoked salmon or as a base for crunchy canapés.

  • How To Pair Beer & Cheese
  • Beer Glossary
  • Cheese Glossary


    TIP OF THE DAY: Steak Grilling Tips From The Palm Restaurant

    A grilled USDA prime filet mignon. Photo
    courtesy Palm Restaurant.


    We had the chance to “grill” Bruce Bozzi Jr., a fourth generation family member of The Palm Restaurant, about grilling steak. Here are some of his family’s tricks of the trade for preparing the ultimate steak.

    Choose your cut and get grilling:


  • Use a marinade. In the morning, throw the steaks into a favorite vinaigrette, barbecue sauce or other marinade and cook them at night.
  • Hanger steak cooks very quickly, so keep an eye on it as it broils to 425º. Get it nice and charred and bring it all the way to medium.
  • This cut is best served medium, not medium rare or well, as it tends to be a bit chewy otherwise.

    This cut is best cooked on the stovetop and in the oven, rather than grilled over coals or wood:


  • Place filets in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat and sear both sides for about two minutes to give them a nice color and char on the outside. Searing adds texture and flavor.
  • Preheat oven to 400º, then turn down to 350º and roast the filets inside for 4 to 5 minutes. Use a meat thermometer and when the inside reaches 120º, the end result is a perfect, crispy-on-the-outside medium rare filet mignon.


  • Coat the steak in your favorite olive oil. Massage the oil into the meat, then sprinkle sea salt and cracked black pepper on both sides.
  • When it comes to cooking a New York Strip, make sure the grill or the broiler is really hot: 425ºF.
  • Flip the steak just once, after the down-facing side is completely done.
  • Never press down on the steak with your spatula: You press out the flavorful juices.

  • This cut is called “rib eye” because of the rib bone attached to the meat, but it can be served either bone in or bone out. The latter is also called a Delmonico steak. The Palm and other fine beef experts recommend bone-in for maximum flavor.

    A grilled USDA prime strip steak. Photo courtesy Palm Restaurant.


  • Once the steak is cooked, make sure to let it sit for five or more minutes before serving, to let the juices distribute. They will absorb back into the muscle tissue instead of oozing out as soon as the steak is sliced.
    Check out our informative Beef Glossary.



    COOKING VIDEO: How To Make A Grilled Cheese Sandwich


    This recipe includes several grilled cheese tricks from Chef Ryan Davis:

  • Herbs. Add herbs to the melted butter before brushing on the bread.
  • Grate. Grate the cheese—it will melt more evenly than sliced cheese. Harden softer cheeses in the fridge or briefly in the freezer, if necessary, prior to grating.
  • Layer. Layer on the flavor. This grilled cheese sandwich recipe has avocado and salsa ingredients, but you can change it to whatever you have in the fridge or pantry, from leftover meats to a jar of roasted red peppers or sliced figs. One of our favorites: caramelized onions.
    For more grilled cheese deliciousness check out these 12 grilled cheese recipes—including a “dessert” grilled cheese with mascarpone and dulce de leche.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Fruits & Vegetables, Part 2

    Yesterday, chef Johnny Gnall highlighted new ways to serve seasonal produce. Today he discusses five more fruits and vegetables, bursting with flavor and waiting for you to pick up a pound or two. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.


    Some people can get weird about okra, and with good reason. If cooked improperly (which, it appears, is quite often), it can get slimy. No one over the age of five wants to eat slime, so okra tends to get avoided or neglected.

    This is a shame, as it good okra is…very good, and also quite nutritious. My favorite way to eat okra is to pickle it. Simply combine equal parts vinegar (any kind works but I like champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar), water and sugar, in enough quantity to cover the okra in a deep pot.

  • Bring the liquid to a boil, dissolving the sugar; then turn off the heat and add the okra to the pot.

    Pickled okra. Photo courtesy

  • If necessary, place a bowl on top to keep the okra submerged.
  • Keep the pickled okra in the fridge in a tightly-capped container; it will last for months.
  • This is the most simple of pickling recipes: You can put anything you want into the pickling liquid, from herbs to dried chilies to fruit. Add your favorite flavors to your pickling brine and turn okra into a food you enjoy regularly.
    Serve pickled okra on a relish tray, as a garnish for sandwiches and burgers, and anyplace you’d enjoy pickles.

    Big, juicy peppers are at their sweetest and most flavorful at summer’s peak. The simplest, most delicious way to prepare peppers is to grill them, which couldn’t be easier during barbecue season.

  • Rub peppers with a little oil and throw them anywhere on the grill, turning them regularly to achieve even charring. Once charred, they’re ready to eat and will still have some crunch.
  • If you prefer softer peppers, place them in a bowl wrapped tightly with plastic wrap as soon as you take them off the heat: They will steam themselves to softness in five to ten minutes.
  • You can scrape off the outer skin if you’d like to add the peppers to another dish, like a salad. Otherwise, leave it on for texture and smoky flavor.
  • To take things to the next level, stuff the peppers with anything from seasoned ground beef to goat cheese to ratatouille or bean salad. To ensure food safety, take care to pre-cook proteins; they will reheat inside the peppers. If you find your peppers splitting or bursting, you may want to cut back on your filling, or wrap them in aluminum foil for extra security.

    Stone fruits are in their glory: raw, grilled or puréed into vinaigrettes. Nectarine photo courtesy



    Tender and prepared simply, summer squash—yellow squash and zucchini—is indubitably one of my favorite summer produce items. Its versatility is a big part of its appeal: You can roast it, sauté it, blanch it, braise it stew it, grill it, broil it, sear it…and of course, enjoy it raw in salads, as crudités or a garnish—matchsticks atop a chop or filet, for example.

    Summer squash is well complemented by virtually every herb, spice, sauce and starch in the fridge or pantry. There is very little it won’t pair with, from richer proteins like lamb and steak to more delicate ones like poultry and fish. I find that the easiest way to match summer squash to a protein is in how thick you cut it.

  • With a ribeye, for example, I like to cut zucchini into obliques or wedges and sear them, al dente.
  • With fish, I shave the squash thin on the mandolin.
  • In fact, if you slice summer squash thin enough, you don’t even need to cook it. Just marinate your slices in a solution with an acid, like a simple lime juice vinaigrette, for ten to fifteen minutes.

    Serve it up spicy, sweet, or savory; summer squash stands up and delivers, and it couldn’t be simpler.

    If you shop farmers markets in the summertime, you’ve probably tasted some pretty insane tomatoes. They’re one of those foods that tend to literally burst in your mouth with flavor and texture when you bite into them. Their flavors can range from sugary sweet to puckeringly tart, or hit any note in between.

    When they’re at their best, and you’re lucky enough to find some well cared for heirloom varietals, the dazzling colors and patterns on the surface of their skin can be mesmerizing. But we’ve all had captivating caprese salads and bodacious BLTs; we know what the tomato can do… right? Well don’t get tomato jaded just yet.

    For your next summer cocktail party, how about serving up some homemade heirloom tomato Bloody Mary martinis?

  • Start by making your own heirloom tomato “water” by puréeing half a dozen tomatoes in the blender and hanging the mixture in cheesecloth over a large bowl, refrigerated, overnight.
  • The next day, heat the liquid to a very low simmer and add whatever you’d like as far as herbs and flavorings. Keep it subtle and be sparing, as you want the tomato flavor to be what shines through.
  • That being said, try throwing in some mint, thyme or sage, and/or some black peppercorns and horseradish root. A drop or two of Worcestershire also wouldn’t hurt.
  • Steep for an hour or so, seasoning slightly but noticeably with kosher salt; then strain and chill.
  • Mix 3 parts chilled tomato water with 2 parts chilled vodka and serve.
  • Garnishes can also keep things fun: a bit of microplaned horseradish or a tiny drop of Worcestershire, a few celery ribbons, a celery stick or fennel stick, a pearl onion, a gherkin or a traditional olive on a cocktail pick.

    I have saved the best for last. There is absolutely nothing quite like a perfectly ripe and ridiculously juicy stone fruit, be it apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, plum, plumcot or pluot.

    Sometimes I feel that I could eat them without stopping: I imagine a never-ending bushel of rosy peaches sitting in a sunny field of clover, reaching in for another and another, taking no heed of the nectar spilling down my cheeks. It’s pure bliss on your taste buds, and it only comes around for a few months a year.

  • Such perfection, I believe, should not be messed with; I like to eat stone fruit raw whenever possible.
  • Grilled fruit is also delicious; peaches and nectarines are exquisite. Halve and cook them just long enough to mark them. The sweetness comes out with the heat and the earthy char in the markings complements it in the background.
  • Another great way to take advantage of stone fruits is to purée them and turn them into emulsified vinaigrettes (recipe). Purée the fruit with a bit of hot water, just enough to get things spinning smoothly. Then add the acid and seasonings, and finish with oil as you would a conventional vinaigrette. Bright flavors from a dressing like this work for salads and also as meat marinades: Think pork chops!


    TIP OF THE DAY: July & August Fruits, Part 1

    Chef Johnny Gnall is luxuriating in summer produce. Today he shares new ways to use old favorites. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

    In case the massive heat wave didn’t clue you in, summer is at full force right now. If you don’t enjoy the heat, you can still take joy in the bounty of seasonal produce. From the sweet nectar of stone fruits to the spectacular reds, yellows, oranges and greens of heirloom tomatoes, summer means something extra-special to food lovers.

    If you’re not sure what is at its very best, take a look at the list below for the must-grab fruits and vegetables, as well as a couple of fresh ideas for serving them. Whether you get them at your corner grocery or a destination farmers market, these foods are at their tastiest and most inexpensive in July and August. So stock up and stuff yourself until you can eat no more; this sun-soaked bounty won’t be around forever!


    Add berries to savory dishes, like roast meats. Photo courtesy


    Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries…the berry bounty is extensive in the summer months. While they are superb in jams, pies or parfaits, berries like to dip their toes into the savory side of cooking as well.

  • Salads. Pair them in salads with pecans or walnuts and creamy cheeses like brie or chèvre.
  • Rubs. Blend them with herbs and spices to make a wet rub for meats. A liberal sprinkling of sea salt on an rosemary and blackberry rubbed roast lamb loin right out of the oven is the perfect touch for a sweet and summery take on juicy, succulent lamb.
  • Bonus: Low in calories, high in antioxidants. (More about antioxidant-rich foods.)

    Summer melons are one of those foods so perfect that you really don’t want to do much to mask their flavor. But you can, literally, spice things up:

  • Spice. Go to your pantry and grab an armful of your favorite spices, then cut up a couple of melons. Bet you didn’t realize a tiny dash of cayenne could make watermelon so exciting; or that a bit of ground cardamom rubbed on a slice of honeydew could taste like actual ambrosia.
  • Fun. Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Sure, there will be some misses the more you experiment, but it’s all about finding something you haven’t tried before. I personally love chili powder and lime on watermelon; it’s a popular street food in Mexico. Using lime zest in addition to juice adds a subtle, classy nuance.
  • Bonus: Low in calories; watermelon is higher in the phytochemical lycopene (a plant-based antioxidant) than tomatoes!

    Arguably the most popular of all the summer treats, you can’t help but devour a sweet, juicy cob, typewriter-style, paying no heed to flying kernels and buttery cheeks!

    For your next barbeque, set up a DIY corn on the cob bar for your guests. Start with husked ears stacked on a platter, a roll of aluminum foil and a bowl of melted butter with a small pastry brush.

  • Wrap the ears in foil and position them near the edge of the coals (but not completely off them), turning regularly for 15 minutes.
  • Pull everything you can out of the fridge and pantry, from herbs to spices to fruit preserves to anchovies—literally anything! Then people can give their corn a brush of butter and go crazy, rubbing and sprinkling to their hearts’ content.
  • Wrap the ears in foil and position them near the edge of the coals (but not completely off them), turning regularly for 15 minutes. Eat heedlessly, but have plenty of paper towels and wet-naps on hand.

    Assorted eggplants. Photo by Alistair
    Williamson | SXC.



    Here’s my absolute favorite way to prepare eggplant. If seasoned just right it can end up almost tasting like pork belly in its umami, as well as its texture: crispy outside, buttery and tender inside.

  • Dice. Start by cutting your eggplant into 1″-2″ dice and tossing them in a bowl with a few generous pinches of salt. Lay them out on paper towels for fifteen minutes to drain.
  • Sauté. Next, get a sauté pan as hot as possible and add enough canola or rice bran oil to cover the surface. Drop the eggplant dice into the pan; they should sizzle loudly as soon as they hit.
  • Cook. Cook on medium high heat until golden brown, two to three minutes or so, then toss.
  • Repeat this process until the dice are golden brown on all sides. You may have to add oil as you go to keep things cooking evenly; just don’t add so much that all of the dice are sitting in oil or the eggplant will get soggy.
  • If you want to be meticulous, and you’re quick enough, you can go in with a fork or spoon and turn pieces individually to ensure totally even cooking.
  • When all sides are golden brown, lay out one more time to drain excess oil on paper towels for a moment and season with a couple pinches of salt. Then toss in a bowl with some hoisin sauce and serve with fluffy white rice, garnished with sliced green onions.
    Bonus: “vegan pork belly,” cholesterol-free.

    Tomorrow: Part 2: four more delicious ideas.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Enjoy Raw Corn Plain Or In A Recipe

    Many vegetables are enjoyed raw, so why not corn?

    Like broccoli, carrots, green beans and zucchini, fresh corn—eaten on the cob or sliced off it—is delicious. When we get home from the farmers market with our fresh-picked corn, we husk and enjoy an ear on the spot.

    No butter or salt is needed—in fact, the unadorned sweetness of the fresh corn is a-maizing. As a side for dinner, toss the raw kernels with bit of fine olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. It needs no further garnishing, but you can add some grated Parmesan or cracked pepper.

    There are other ways to enjoy the raw, tender kernels in a recipe:

  • In salads
  • In pastas (try Pasta Primavera with corn, broccoli, summer squash and an olive oil sauce)
  • As a soup garnish
  • In pancakes
  • On plain yogurt

    Take a bite: There’s no need to cook! Photo by Zeeshan Qureshi | SXC.

  • In sauces (you can also grate the corn)
  • In salsa and relish (add some black beans to the salsa for even more punch)
  • In classic recipes such as corn chowder, corn fritters, corn muffins, corn pudding and corn soufflé

    Each ear of corn (10 to 14 oz.) will yield about 1 cup of corn kernels.

    Here’s a video showing an easy way to remove the kernels from the cob.


    To eat raw corn from the cob, it needs to be fresh and sweet. The moment it’s picked, the sugars in corn begin to convert to starch. Two days later, the corn can taste starchy rather than sweet.

    It’s easy to tell if the corn is fresh by looking at the silk tassel. It should be a light, whitish color. As the corn ages, the silk turns brown. The corn can still be good as long as the tassel is not dried out.

    If the tassel has been removed, don’t buy the corn. It means the silk dried out and the corn is too old.

    If your mother taught you to peel back the husk before buying the corn, forget it! All it does is dry out the corn. If the tassel and husk look fresh, there’s nothing to see. If a few kernels are missing from the top of the cob, it means nothing. Don’t husk corn until you’re ready to use it.

    Eat corn the day you buy it. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat raw or cook.



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