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Archive for September, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Your Best Cheese Plate Passion

Our favorite cheese course: four different
goat cheeses. Photo courtesy Payard.com.

 

What’s your cheese passion? Are you singing the blues? Do you clamor for Cheddar? Do you pine for Parmigiano-Reggiano?

We have a passion for goat cheese (chèvre). While variety may be the spice of life, nothing makes us happier at the dinner table than when the cheese course comprises three or four different types of chèvre.

The next time you put a cheese plate together, focus on your cheese passion. You can do it by milk type:

  • Cow’s milk cheeses: for example, Cheddar, Comte, Emmenthaler, Gouda and Gruyère
  • Goat’s milk cheeses: Bonne Bouche, Drunken Goat, Goat Cheddar or Gouda, Goat Cheese Log, Humboldt Fog and Selles sur Cher
  • Sheep’s milk cheeses: Agour Ossau-Iraty, Cabrales, Manchego, Pecorino Toscano, Robiola and Roquefort
  • Mixed milk cheeses: Boschetto al Tartufo, Cabrales, Ibérico and Kasseri
  •  

    Or go by cheese group. For example:

  • Bloomy-Rind Cheeses: Brie, Brillat-Savarin, Camembert and Rocchetta
  • Blue Cheeses: Gorgonzola , Roquefort, Stilton and a blue Brie or chèvre
  • Cheddar-Style Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Double Gloucester and Red Leicester
  • Hard Italian Cheeses: Asiago, Grana Padano, Parmigiano-Regiano, Pecorino Romano
  • Pungent Cheeses: Epoisses, Livarot, Alsatian Munster, Taleggio
  •  
    We could go on forever, but you may prefer to browse through our Cheese Glossary for ideas.

    Then, combine the cheese course with some lightly dressed salad greens and a cheese condiment or two.

    You’ll be in cheese heaven.

    Here are more of our favorite cheeses and cheese recipes.

     
      

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    PRODUCT: The Best Mexican Chocolate

    Chocolate lovers: Have you tried Mexican chocolate?

    Also called Oaxaca chocolate, Mexican chocolate is a cinnamon-scented sweet chocolate accented with cinnamon. Some varieties include clove, ground almonds and/or nutmeg.

    Mexican chocolate is used primarily to make hot chocolate, but it’s also an ingredient in pork rubs, as a seasoning for beans, and of course, in Mole Poblano or Mole Negro.* You can also just eat it like candy, bake with it, make ice cream and do anything else you’d do with chocolate.

    The Ibarra brand is a large commercial brand and can be found in the U.S.

    But for those who want the best Mexican chocolate, take a look at the artisan product—handmade and stoneground—from the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project. An American company and a Mexican company are working together to help small farmers continue to grow the indigenous foods of Mexico.

     

    Handmade, stoneground Mexican chocolate: an artisan treat. Photo courtesy RanchoGordo.com.

     

    From state of Guerrero, on the southwest coast of Mexico, a cooperative of women grow their own cacao and then harvest it and toast it on clay pans called comales. They then stone grind it with piloncillo (an unrefined sugar) and canela, a loose-bark variety of cinnamon grown in Ceylon (it’s easier to grind than hard-stick cinnamon).

    The result is rich, dense, 70% cacao chocolate: intense, delicious and rustic with hints of smoke.

    You can buy it at RanchoGordo.com.
     
    *ABOUT MOLE (moe-lay): Each region of Mexico has its own mole recipe. One of the most famous, mole negro from Oaxaca, uses the base mole ingredients—roasted dried chiles, unsweetened chocolate, almonds and spices—plus peanuts, plantains, cloves, cinnamon, onion, garlic, sesame seeds and five different chiles. Mole poblano, from Pueblo, uses the base ingredients plus tomatoes, raisins, bread, lard, anise, cloves, cinnamon, three different chiles, garlic, sesame and other ingredients. The sauces accompany beef, chicken, enchiladas, seafood and turkey, and are served with rice and tortillas.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Hors d’Oeuvre

    Grilled beef and horseradish-yogurt spread
    on a baguette. Photo courtesy Nature’s
    Flavours.

     

    Even if you live in Maine, it’s still warm enough to grill outdoors. So the next time you have a cocktail party or a simple wine gathering, grill your hors d’oeuvre. (In French, “hors d’oeuvre” is used for both singular and plural forms of the noun. Americans who don’t know French add an “s” at the end.)

    Start with canapés: finger foods composed of a base and topping, meant to be eaten in one bite. The name is the French word for sofa: the topping sits upon the “sofa.” The topping itself is called the “canopy.”

    (Punsters: You can make a “couch potato” by topping the base with a potato-based food, such as cubed ham and potato salad with grainy mustard-mayonnaise and capers, or mashed potatoes mixed with salmon caviar.)

     

    Miniature versions of grilled cheese (slice a regular sandwich into quarters) can be enhanced with chutney or any of these wonderful gourmet grilled cheese recipes. We’ve served several different grill cheese on the same tray: blue cheese, cheddar and smoked Gouda, for example.

    To plan your grilled hors d’oeuvre, select a base, a spread (which acts as a flavorful binder between the base and the topping) and a “canopy.”

    MIX & MATCH YOUR INGREDIENTS

    Pick Your Base

    There are many different bases for canapés, ranging from pastry shells to tortilla chips. Here’s the best selection for grilled canapés.

  • Baguette slices
  • Blini or other mini pancakes, including potato pancakes
  • Crackers
  • Cucumber slices
  • Crostini (grilled baguette slices) or grilled pita wedges or toast (multigrain, wheat or white)
  • Polenta (sliced from a preformed tube)
  •  

    Pick Your Spread

    Many canapés are simply a base and a spread, such as cheese, pâté or relish. With grilled canapes, a different type of spread serves as the binder between the base and the grilled “canopy.”

  • Aïoli, Baconaise or other flavored mayonnaise
  • Chutney
  • Compound butter (so many delicious varieties)
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Mustard (from Dijon, grainy mustard and honey mustard, see the different choices)
  • Seasoned Greek yogurt
  • Soft cheese: crème fraîche, fromage blanc, goat cheese, pimento cream cheese
  •  

    Hors d’oeuvre on grilled pita wedges and grilled polenta rounds. Photo courtesy AddSomeLife.com.

     

    Pick Your Canopy (Topping)

  • Grilled cheese (many gourmet variations)
  • Fish and seafood: oysters, sardines, scallops, shrimp
  • Fruit-meat combinations, like prosciutto-wrapped figs stuffed with blue cheese and pecans
  • Meats: beef, lamb or pork from the grill
  • Sausage, grilled and sliced (look for special flavors, like chicken basil)
  • Vegetables, grilled and sliced to fit on the base
  •  
    Pick A Garnish
     
    Garnishes add another layer of flavor, along with color and visual appeal.

  • Chopped fresh herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
  • Grated cheese
  • Lemon or lime zest
  • Sliced vegetables or fruits: capers, gherkins, grape tomato half, marinated mushrooms, olives, pickled onion half, pimento, radish, watercress
  • Spice: chili flakes, cracked black pepper
  •  
    ANOTHER GRILLED OPTION: SKEWERS

    Canapés aren’t the only hors d’oeuvre that can be grilled. Skewers, in fact, are the obvious choice.

  • Grilled chicken skewers with satay sauce
  • Mini kabobs: meat or tofu, vegetables, fruits
  • Shiitakes or assorted mushrooms
  • Shrimp wrapped in bacon
  • With a skewer instead of bread base, you save the carbs; but you often replace the calories with a dipping sauce.

    You can pick up a book about grilled appetizers: Appetizers On The Grill.

    Find more of our favorite hors d’oeuvre recipes.

      

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    RECIPES: Mocha Latte, Iced Mocha Latte & More

    Iced mocha latte. Photo courtesy Krups.

     

    After we published the recipe for three-minute caramel latte, the mocha latte fans wrote in: “Where’s our mocha latte recipe?”

    Here it is, just in time for National Coffee Day, September 29th. Thanks to Krups for the recipe: We’re making the espresso in a Krups combination Coffee Maker & Espresso Machine (the company also makes an espresso machine with a glass carafe, but note that “four cups” means four espresso-size cups).

    This recipe isn’t a Starbucks-variety mocha latte: It has a kick of coffee liqueur. For kids and non-drinkers, we have an iced mocha latte milkshake,” below.

    ICED MOCHA LATTE RECIPE FOR ADULTS

    Ingredients

  • 2 ounces of fresh brewed espresso
  • 4 ounces of skim milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup (regular or reduced fat—we use Guittard)
  • 2 ounces of Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, chocolate shavings and/or chocolate syrup drizzle
  • Preparation

    1. Brew the espresso according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow to cool to room temperature.

    2. Fill a tall glass with ice and pour over the ice in this order: chocolate syrup, milk, Kahlúa and espresso. Stir well to combine.

    3. Garnish and serve. Toast to National Coffee Day.

     

    HOT MOCHA LATTE RECIPE

    A mocha latte is a variation of caffé latte (called latte for short) to which some type of chocolate flavor has been added.

    It can be dark, milk or white chocolate syrup, cocoa powder/mix or even chocolate milk or powder.

    Ingredients

  • Strong-brewed coffee (we use espresso, French roast or
    Italian roast)
  • Milk
  • Chocolate flavor component
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, chocolate shavings, drizzled chocolate syrup
  •  

    Preparation

     

    Mocha milkshake. Photo and recipe (below) courtesy Nescafé Taster’s Choice.

    1. Brew coffee. Mix in chocolate flavoring of choice, stirring to combine thoroughly.

    2. Heat milk in a saucepan, whisking to create a froth. (Alternatively, we love our milk foamer.)

    3. Fill a cup with half coffee/chocolate mix, half milk. Spoon foam on top. Garnish as desired.
     
    MOCHA LATTE MILKSHAKE RECIPE FOR KIDS

    Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup (about 1 large scoop) chocolate ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND. Place milk and coffee granules in blender; cover and blend until coffee is dissolved.

    2. ADD. Add ice, ice cream and sugar; blend until smooth.

    3. GARNISH with whipped cream, chocolate shavings or chocolate sprinkles. Serve immediately.

    Find more of our favorite coffee recipes.

    Check out the different types of coffee in our Coffee Glossary.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Throw An Oktoberfest Celebration

    Oktoberfest beer with a spicy cheese dip.
    Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    Each year, many people look forward to Oktoberfest, an annual 16-day beer festival held since 1810 in Munich, Germany—the country’s renowned Bavaria region, comprising southeast Germany.

    Oktoberfest is said to be the world’s largest fair, with more than 6 million people attending—15% of the beer fans come from outside Germany. Other cities around the world hold their own Oktoberfests, modeled after the original.

    While it’s called Oktoberfest (German for October feast), the event begins in late September and ends in early October.

    As you can imagine, large quantities of Oktoberfest beer are consumed—almost 7 million liters were served during the 16-day festival in 2007. The traditional style of Oktoberfest beer is Märzen,* an amber-red, smooth, mildly sweet lager with a malty aroma, which originated in Bavaria.

     

    To be designated Oktoberfest beer in Germany, the beer must conform to the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law), which dictates a minimum of 6% alcohol (by comparison, America’s Budweiser has 5%). The beer must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich.

    Traditional foods served with the beer include:

  • Cheese noodles (Käsespätzle, a noodle casserole with cheese and onions—here’s a recipe)
  • Grilled chicken (Hendl)
  • Grilled fish (Steckerlfisch)
  • Grilled ham hock (Schweinshaxe)
  • Potato dumplings (Knödel)
  • Potato pancakes (Reiberdatschi)
  • Pretzels (Brezeln)
  • Roast pork (Schweinebraten), and of course,
  • Sauerkraut and Blaukraut (red cabbage sauerkraut) with
  • Sausages (Würstl, including the Bavarian specialty Weisswurst, a white sausage made from veal and pork, seasoned with bacon, lemon, onions and parsley)
  •  
    *For German speakers who wonder why a beer named for the month of March (März in German) is celebrated in October: Märzen was originally brewed in March and laid down in caves before the summer heat made brewing impossible. At the end of September, any remaining kegs were consumed during the two-week Oktoberfest. While some modern brewers make Märzen seasonally for Oktoberfest, others brew it year-round.

     

    TIME TO PARTY

    There’s still time for you to have an Oktoberfest celebration. You don’t need to adhere to the German schedule: Consider that you’ve got all of October.

    For an adult Halloween party, combine the two events and do a tasting of Oktoberfest beers, fall beers and pumpkin beers/ales.

  • Brown Ales
  • Dunkelweizen
  • English/India Pale Ales
  • Harvest Beers/Ales
  • Oktoberfest/Märzen beers
  • Pumpkin Beers/Ales
  •  
    (Check out all the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.)

     

    Oktoberfest beer from Wisconsin: Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest beer with sausage and sauerkraut. Photo courtesy Leinenkugel.

     

    Here’s a recipe from the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, for brats steamed in Oktoberfest beer.

    BRATS COOKED IN BEER

    Enjoy Leinenkugel’s recipe for Oktoberfest-Infused Bratwurst, brats boiled in beer, then grilled.

    Ingredients

  • 1 dozen brats
  • 1 dozen brat buns
  • Oktoberfest beer, to cover†
  • 1 medium large sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 2 ounces butter
  •  
    †We used 5 bottles.
     
    Preparation

    1. Place brats in a Dutch oven with sliced onions, peppers and butter; cover the brats with beer. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until brats are cooked. Remove brats and set aside remaining beer mixture.

    2. Grill brats until golden brown and return to beer mixture until ready to serve.

    3. Serve brats on fresh brat buns, plain or toasted, with your favorite toppings: ketchup, mustard, onions, peppers (chopped bell peppers or jalapeños) and sauerkraut.
     
    HOW MUCH BEER DO YOU NEED FOR A CROWD?

    If you’re planning a large event, use the handy calculator at Kegerators.com. We calculated that for a party of 25 guests consuming 3-5 beers apiece, we’d need 1 keg, 35 pounds of ice for a room temperature keg, and 30 cups, “Assumes 17% breakage, excluding drinking games.”

      

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