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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 September, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Peanut Brittle

Americans have grown accustomed to a sweet dessert after dinner, or a baked treat as a snack with a cup of coffee.

Instead, consider a couple of pieces of peanut brittle. They deliver sweetness, satisfying crunch and protein-packed peanuts. This recipe has a hint of coffee to complement your cup of joe.

The prep time is 20 minutes, cook time 15 minutes, for a yield of ten 1/4-cup servings. And for those who don’t like corn syrup: This peanut brittle recipe is made without corn syrup.

Switch It Up

  • You can make chocolate brittle by replacing the coffee with 2 tablespoons of baking cocoa.
  • You can substitute another nut to make almond brittle, macadamia brittle, pecan brittle, pistachio brittle or walnut brittle.
  • After you taste the first batch, you can adjust the sweetness the next time. (We typically use less sugar.)
  •  
    You can also make batches as hostess/host gifts.

     

    It’s easy to make your own peanut brittle. Recipe and photo courtesy Nescafé.

     
    If you don’t want to make your own, head over to BrittleBrothers.com, where Grandma’s secret recipe is made into cashew brittle, peanut brittle and pecan brittle, sold in bags and tins for gifts and party favors.

    COFFEE PEANUT BRITTLE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts or other nuts
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE. Line a large baking sheet or tray with wax paper; spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE. Mix the coffee granules, baking soda and salt in small bowl; set aside. Combine sugar, water and cream of tartar in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Stir with wooden spoon over low heat until sugar is dissolved, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush if needed.

    3. BOIL. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes or until the mixture is a light brown color. Remove from heat; add butter and coffee mixture (mixture will foam) and stir quickly to combine.

    4. POUR & COOL. Pour mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Tilt the sheet to spread the mixture evenly (it should spread to roughly 12 x 9-inches in diameter). Quickly sprinkle with peanuts. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

    5. CRACK. Break the brittle into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

    Find more of our favorite candy products and recipes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake Buttermilk Biscuits

    Mmm, hot biscuits. Photo © Robyn Mac |
    Fotolia.

     

    Centuries ago, cooks discovered that the acid in buttermilk reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide bubbles. Buttermilk became a must-have ingredient to create light, tender, highest-rising biscuits, breads and muffins, pancakes and layer cakes.

    It’s Sunday and it’s National Biscuit Month. What more worthy activity is there than baking a batch of biscuits for breakfast, lunch or dinner?

    Up until the mid-20th century, many families who had cooks (or very energetic moms) looked forward to hot buttermilk biscuits at the breakfast table. This recipe, from specialty food doyenne Sarabeth Levine, goes equally well with fresh butter or with Sarabeth’s delicious jams and preserves (we’re particularly fond of her blood orange marmalade).

    Do you remember this tongue-twister from childhood: A batch of biscuits/a batch of mixed biscuits/a biscuit mixer? Say it several times quickly.

    Then, check out this recipe and whip up some fragrant, tender biscuits.

     

    SARABETH’S BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

    Ingredients

  • 3¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ inch sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½ inch thick cubes
  • 1½ cups buttermilk (regular or nonfat/skim)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

    2. SIFT & MIX. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Add the butter. Mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-size pieces of butter. Add the buttermilk, mixing in just until the dough barely comes together.

    3. KNEAD. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until the dough is smooth. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll it out to ¾ inch thick or slightly thicker.

    4. CUT. Using a 2-¼ inch fluted biscuit cutter (you can substitute a round cookie cutter), dipping the cutter into flour between cuts, cut out the biscuits and place 1 inch apart on the pan. Gently press the scraps together (do not over handle the dough). Repeat rolling and cutting.

    5. BAKE. Bake until the biscuits are well risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm. To reheat the biscuits, wrap in aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.

    Makes 16 biscuits.

     

    WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER BUTTERMILK

    Many people who buy buttermilk for baking lament that it only comes in quarts, not pints. A cup is generally enough for any recipe. Buttermilk is expensive.

    But you don’t need to waste the leftover buttermilk.

    Drink It

    If you like yogurt or kefir, buttermilk is has similar flavors. If you don’t like yogurt, you have friends who might appreciate the buttermilk.

    Freeze It

    In our recent article on other things to do with your ice cube tray, we suggested freezing buttermilk.

  • Measure how many tablespoons of liquid go into each compartment of your ice cube tray (you don’t need to fill the compartments to the brim, as with ice cubes).
  • Then, fill with the leftover buttermilk. When it’s frozen, remove the cubes to a plastic freezer bag and mark the tablespoon equivalent on the bag.
  •  

    A jar of Sarabeth’s preserves is a treat for biscuits and a welcome small gift. Here, peach apricot preserves. Photo courtesy Sarabeth.

     

  • The next time you need buttermilk for a recipe, it defrost on the counter or in the microwave. Four tablespoons equal 1/4 cup, so you may want to freeze in two-tablespoon portions.
  •  
    Substitute It
    Buttermilk can also be substituted for whole milk or skim milk in many recipes, from baked goods, frozen desserts and puddings to sauces and soups.
     
    Use It In A Marinade Or Breading

    The acidic properties of buttermilk make it a tenderizing and flavorful marinade. Hunters soak fresh venison in buttermilk overnight to reduce the gamy taste.

    Also use it to adhere the breading for fish, meat and poultry.
     
    Try Other Recipes

    There are scores of recipes where buttermilk’s richness is welcome.

  • For breakfast: biscuits, breads, muffins, scones, pancakes and waffles, soda breads and quick breads.
  • For dessert and snacks: banana bread, cookies, cobblers, coffee cake, pies, pound cake, salad dressing. You can bake fish fillets in buttermilk.
  • For dinner: baked chicken, baked fish (recipe in footnote) fried chicken.
  •  
    *BAKED FISH RECIPE. Ingredients for two portions: 1 pound cod or other white fish fillets, 1/2 cup sherry, 1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill, 1 cup buttermilk (regular or nonfat), salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Preparation: Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Add the sherry and mushrooms to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sherry has evaporated. Place the fillets in a single layer in a baking dish and top with the mushrooms. Sprinkle the dill, salt and pepper. Pour the buttermilk over the fillets and bake for 20 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Vary the spices to your liking: for example, lemon or orange zest or chili flakes for heat.

    BUTTERMILK: JUST 80 CALORIES

    Unlike butter, for which it is named, buttermilk is low in calories. Like nonfat milk, nonfat (skim) buttermilk has 80 calories per cup and the same amount of protein, calcium, other minerals and vitamins as conventional milk.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook Your Steak The Way Steakhouse Chefs Do It

    Those who like their meat rare to medium
    rare should choose filet mignon. Photo
    courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    Yesterday we discussed the best cuts of steak to choose at a steakhouse. What if you want to grill at home?

    Whether at home or at a restaurant, how rare or well done you like your meat can impact your choice of cut. As meat cooks, the fibers break down: That’s why medium-well-done meat is easier to chew than rare meat of the same cut. However, the more done the meat, the less juicy it is.

    Some of the tougher cuts, like hanger steak, can’t be cooked rare: You need to go with medium to avoid the chewiness.

  • If you like rare meat should consider filet mignon, the tenderest cut, or rib eye, the second most tender cut.
  • If you prefer a medium doneness, go for a porterhouse or sirloin.
  •  

    Want to know how steakhouse chefs cook steak? Chef Arturo McLeod of Benjamin Steak House suggests grilling times and techniques for the perfect steak:

    GRILLING TIMES FOR STEAK

    In general, medium rare is considered to deliver the best flavor. However, your preference also depends on the size and thickness of the steak.
     
    Filet Mignon

    Filet mignon is best served rare or medium rare.

  • Rare: Grill 3 minutes on each side.
  • Medium Rare: Grill 4 minutes on each side.
  • Medium: Grill 7 minutes on each side.
  •  
    Porterhouse

    Porterhouse is best served medium rare to medium.

  • Medium Rare: Grill 8 minutes on each side.
  • Medium: Grill 10 minutes on each side.
  •  
    Rib Eye

    Rib eye is best served medium rare.

  • Medium Rare: Grill 8 minutes on each side.
  • Medium: Grill 10 minutes on each side.
  •  
    Sirloin

    Sirloin is best served medium rare to medium.

  • Medium Rare: Grill 8 minutes on each side.
  • Medium: Grill 10 minutes on each side.
  •  

    WHERE TO BUY, WHAT TO BUY

    For USDA prime beef, opt for the best local butchers rather than chain grocery stores, says Chef McLeod. Some grocery stores don’t even carry choice, the second best grade of beef (see the different USDA grades of beef). You won’t know unless you ask.

    Request aged beef; however, not all butchers and stores sell aged beef. Call around to see who has it in your area; or order it online from companies like Allen Brothers.

    Most butchers don’t carry the same quality of meat as a top steakhouse. Even thought they might like to, only 3% of the typical steer is USDA prime, and top restaurants compete that small amount of meat.

    Chef McLeod advises to buy porterhouse or New York strip steaks: They’re the better offering at your local butcher.

    Before you buy, he advises:

     

    Porterhouse: filet mignon and sirloin, separated by a T-shaped bone (hence, its other name, T-bone steak). Photo courtesy AllenBrothers.com.

     

  • Check the color. Make sure the beef is red throughout entire cut (grass fed beef will be darker in color.
  • Check for consistent marbling throughout. This indicates a steak that will be tender and juicy.
  •  
    HOW TO COOK YOUR STEAK

  • ROOM TEMPERATURE. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking so the meat will cook evenly. Otherwise, the outside will cook faster than the inside. If you want to trim the fat before cooking, do so while the meat is cold.
  • BROILER. Use your broiler instead of the stove top to simulate restaurant grills. To finish in the oven as steak houses do, preheat the oven to 450°F for thinner steaks, 500°F for thicker steaks. Use a grill pan that can go into the oven.
  • SALT. Lightly season the meat with kosher salt.
  • COOK. Cook under the broiler according to the times above, but save the final two minutes per side for oven finishing.
  • TURN. Turn the steak with tongs instead of a fork. A fork pierces the meat and juices will run out.
  • BUTTER. Add a pat of unsalted butter to the bottom of pan and insert the pan into the oven.
  • OVEN. Place the grill pan in the oven for two minutes; turn with tongs and cook for the final two minutes.
  • JUICES. Save the natural pan juices and drizzle them over meat. Serve.
  •  
    If you have questions for Chef McLeod, use the Contact Us link on this page.

    Check out the many cuts of beef in our Beef Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Choose Your Steak

    Rib eye or ribeye: the best combination of
    beefiness and tenderness. Photo courtesy
    Allen Brothers, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The
    Week
    .

     

    Some people have a “signature steak.” At a steakhouse, our brother always chooses filet mignon; his friend Robert always orders the porterhouse; When we recently ordered a hanger steak, our brother taste it an declared it too chewy.

    Chewy, juicy, flavorful: What’s your preference? We asked Chef Arturo McLeod of Benjamin Steakhouse in New York City and White Plains New York—someone who has perhaps eaten as much steak as anyone—for an expert point of view.

    His immediate preference: “Porterhouse steak, for sure. Comprising both the strip sirloin and the filet mignon, the Porterhouse is the ‘King of the T-Bones‘— the best of both worlds.

    Benjamin Steakhouse offers six cuts of dry-aged beef, from 36-ounce porterhouses to top sirloins to juicy and tender rib eyes to succulent filet mignon. This is part one of a two-part article. Tomorrow: how to buy and cook the best steak.

    WHICH CUT IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

    In alphabetical order, we present the chef’s choices: the four most popular steakhouse cuts:

     

    Filet Mignon

    Of all the prime cuts, filet mignon has the least marbling. This means that it is leaner and does not have as much flavor as the other cuts. But is also incredibly tender, with almost a buttery texture. Because this cut is so thick, it also takes the longest to prepare, especially when ordered medium-well to well-done. (Editor’s Note: Well done filet mignon? Say it isn’t so!)

    Porterhouse

    The most popular cut at Benjamin Steakhouse, the porterhouse includes the filet and the sirloin, with the T-bone in the middle (it’s also called a T-bone steak). The Porterhouse is best served simply, grilled with just a dusting of kosher salt. The largest cut, it can be divided among two, three, or four people—or one extremely hungry carnivore.

    Porterhouse is the ideal meat for grilling because the center bone conducts heat in the middle of the meat. This enables the steak to cook more evenly and prevents the meat from drying out and shrinking during cooking. For people who don’t like to struggle with the bone: At Benjamin Steakhouse, the porterhouse is served pre-sliced and presented on a piping hot platter, so that it literally sizzles as it is being served.

     

    Rib Eye

    Of all the cuts on the menu, the rib eye steak has the most marbling, which means it is fattier but also has the most flavor. It is this marbling that makes the rib eye the richest and beefiest cut. At Benjamin Steakhouse, it is also served on the bone.

    Sirloin

    Sirloin has medium marbling, so it still delivers a nice, juicy flavor. The flavor is not as robust as the rib eye, but it is much easier to trim. There are no large pockets of fat, making it an easy-to-cook, easy-to-eat cut.

    Benjamin’s serves the sirloin on the bone, which helps it to cook more evenly. Chefs and customers alike agree that any steak cooked on bone—even though it’s on the side, not in the center as with porterhouse—produces a more flavorful piece of meat.

     

    Porterhouse: Combining filet mignon and sirloin, it’s the best of both worlds. Photo courtesy Allen Brothers.

     

    Check out the many other cuts of beef in our Beef Glossary.
     

    IS AGED STEAK WORTH THE EXTRA MONEY?

    The best steakhouses use only USDA prime beef, carefully dry-aged in specially built aging boxes. The beef is chilled to a precise temperature and humidity level, for a minimum of 28 days.

    The dry-aging process enhances the flavor of the steak over time, as moisture evaporates from within the beef. It also tenderizes the beef by allowing the tissues to break down.

    This is a time-consuming, and therefore expensive, undertaking, but for a good reason: The key effect of the dry aging process is the concentration of flavor. Dry aged beef needs to be seasoned only with kosher salt, to allow the well developed flavors of the steak to shine.
      
    TOMORROW: Grill your own steak with Chef MacLeod’s advice on buying and cooking.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Beer & Other Fall Craft Beers

    Invite Fat Jack and Oktoberfest to a fall beer
    tasting. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    We received an email from Innis & Gunn, an Edinburgh brewer that ages beer in oak bourbon barrels, announcing that their Spiced Rum Aged beer has arrived in the U.S.

    It was a reminder that it’s time to switch to “fall beer.” Just as cooks make lighter or heavier recipes based on the weather, so do brewers. Some of the delights of the fall season are pumpkin beer and other spiced beers.

    These beers aren’t sweet pumpkin pie, but you can certainly serve them with the pie. No matter how you serve them, you’re in for a treat: The pumpkin adds body, smoothness and richness to the beer, and the seasonal spices add complex notes.

    One of Samuel Adams’ Small Batch Series, Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale adds 28 pounds of pumpkin to each barrel, along with allspice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, The AVB* is a hefty 8.5% (by comparison, Budweiser is 5% ABV). Along with toasty smoked malts, this delectable brew salutes fall with layers and layers of flavor.

     

    Samuel Adams also makes an Oktoberfest beer with those same roasted malts. After a sweet start, the roasty malt comes up; the beer finishes with a hoppy, biscuity taste we enjoy.

    So when you’re next at the supermarket, roll down the beer aisle and see what fall treats await. Entertain your friends with a fall beer tasting to determine the best pumpkin beer, spiced beer, and other types you find.

    CRAFT BEER TRENDS

    Industry reports from chain stores selling beer across the USA show that:

  • More than half of the 25 top selling SKUs† for import and craft beers—including three of the top five SKUs—were seasonal beers or variety packs. These specialty products are from craft brewers, who produce small batches and have the flexibility to make seasonal and other special brews. This parade of new beers has developed fans who are continually on the lookout for new and exciting brews.
  • At the end of 2011, there were 6,607 beer SKUs in chain stores nationwide (not every store carries every SKU; some SKUs are only available locally/regionally). A whopping 743 new SKUs were introduced during 2011. Not only are there a lot of beer choices in the marketplace, but the rate of new launches is accelerating.
  • According to the data, the average chain branch carries 1,202 SKUs (that sounds incredible!). A growing number of beers are competing for limited shelf-space. Retailers carry what sells the best, so support your favorites!
  •  
    DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEER?

    Check out our Beer Glossary.
     
     
    *Alcohol by volume.

    †A SKU, pronounced “skew” and short for stock-keeping unit, is a number/code used to identify each unique product or item for sale in a store. Different sizes of the exact same product (8 ounces versus 16 ounces, for example) are different SKUs.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Mango Gazpacho With Fromage Blanc Sorbet

    Our bad: We forgot to publish this delicious mango gazpacho recipe in the height of summer gazpacho season.

    But it’s still warm out; and this recipe from Vermont Creamery, served with fromage blanc sorbet, is worth your attention.

    MANGO GAZPACHO RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 8 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 large mango,* peeled, seeded, and diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and minced
  • 4 scallions, chopped fine
  • 1 orange, juiced (set zest aside for the sorbet)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  •  

    Mmm, mmm, mango gazpacho. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     

    *Add 2 teaspoons sugar if the mango and tomato are not quite ripe.
     
    Ingredients For Sorbet

  • 8 ounces fromage blanc
  • 1/8 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. GAZPACHO: Place all ingredients except the orange zest in a large bowl or container overnight. Adjust seasonings in the morning. If the mixture is too chunky, pulse half of it with an immersion blender or a hand mixer.

    2. SORBET: Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and put in freezer 2 hours before serving. Use a small melon baller or sorbet scoop. Place sorbet on top of gazpacho.

     
    Find more of our favorite soup recipes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 12 Delicious Ways To Use Grapes

    Grilled fish with grape relish. Photo courtesy
    California Table Grape Commission.

     

    Grapes are an easily portable snack and energy food, high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Composed 80% of water, they’re also a help with hydration.

    Yet beyond snacking, versatile, popular grapes demand to be incorporated into recipes.

    What kind of grapes? Many different subspecies are grown: Popular varieties include Thompson seedless. an early, green grape; red seedless. an early, red grape; Tokay and Cardinal, early, bright-red, seeded grapes; and Emperor, late, deep-red, seeded grapes.

    But the grocery store typically doesn’t provide the details. It boils down to black, green and red grapes. You can do a taste test among them; we enjoy mixing up the colors in our recipes.

    Seeded versus seedless grapes? Again, do a taste test. Seedless grapes are certainly more convenient, but you may prefer the flavor of the seeded varieties.

     

    BUYING & STORING GRAPES

  • BUYING. According to the Consumer Information Center, you should look for well-colored, plump grapes firmly attached to the stem. Green grapes are sweetest when the color has a yellowish cast or straw color, with a tinge of amber. Red varieties are better when good red predominates on all or most of the berries. Bunches are more likely to hold together if the stems are predominantly green and pliable. Avoid doft or wrinkled grapes, or bunches with stems that are brown and brittle; these are the effects of freezing or drying. Also avoid grapes with bleached areas around the stem ends and leaking berries.
  • STORING. Grapes can keep in a bag or covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you have more than you can use, freeze the grapes, unwashed. Rinse them under lukewarm water prior to using; the water will help to defrost them.
  • SERVING. Use a small scissors to remove small clusters of grapes, instead of pulling off individual grapes and leaving unattractive stem tips. In decades past, refined households had a specialty grape shears for this purpose (we have our grandmother’s pair, silver and gold with a grape cluster motif). Here are contemporary small grape scissors that do the trick.
  •  

    10 EASY WAYS TO ADD GRAPES TO YOUR RECIPES

    Make grape jelly can be a challenge, but here are 10 easy ways to enjoy grapes.

    1. Freeze the grapes as snacks. Just pull them off the stems and place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer to freeze; then store them in a plastic bag. You get a grape sorbet effect without added sugar.

    2. Freeze the grapes as snacks. Make grape sorbet.

    3. Use frozen grapes as ice cubes. Add them to soft drinks or sweet cocktails.

    4. Make grape Margaritas. This frozen grape Margarita recipe is delish.

     

    Serve with cocktails: Blue Cheese & Walnut Dusted Grapes. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market. Get the recipe.

     

    5. Make grape hors d’oeuvre. Skewer them with cubes of cheese or mozzarella balls, wrap them in prosciutto, or make this divine recipe (photo above) for Blue Cheese & Walnut Dusted Grapes appetizer pops.

    6. Add grapes to a salad. Take a look at this recipe for Curried Chicken Salad With Grapes, Pecans & Pomegranate Vinaigrette or this recipe. Or add them to a radicchio salad.

    7. Make a Waldorf Salad. This retro dish, created for ladies who lunched at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, consists of chopped apples, grapes and walnuts dressed with mayonnaise, on a bed of lettuce.

    8. Add grapes to fish and seafood. We love this recipe for Grilled Whole Fish With Minted Grape Relish.

    9. Serve grapes with cheese. We love grapes with blue cheese. Or, serve them with a slice of this savory blue cheese cheesecake.

    10. Use grapes to garnish. You can garnish just about any dish with grapes. For desserts, roll them in confectioners sugar for “frosted” grapes.

    11. Pickle them. Serve pickled grapes with sandwiches, seafood and poultry. Here’s an easy pickling recipe.

    12. Make a dessert soup. Purée the grapes with some grape juice (we prefer Knudsen’s) and mint; sweeten to taste. Garnish with frozen grapes!

    Find more recipe inspiration from the California Table Grape Commission.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: Chocolate Black Russian “Cocktail” Recipe

     

    Our Top Pick Of The Week is Adult Chocolate Milk: a pour-and-serve combination that tastes like chocolate milk with a shot of vodka. It rocks!

    What if you’re jonesing for a shot or two, but don’t have Adult Chocolate Milk?

    If you have chocolate ice cream, coffee liqueur and vodka, you can make this Chocolate Black Russian, a cross between a cocktail and a milkshake.

    Serve it for dessert. You can vary the recipe with flavored vodka: cherry, coffee, orange, raspberry and vanilla vodkas work well in this recipe.

    Your next “ice cream social” will be a lot more social when you serve this!

       

       

    Find more of our favorite cocktail and ice cream recipes.

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Adult Chocolate Milk

    A glass of chocolate milk evokes the pleasures of childhood. A glass of Adult Chocolate Milk shows how the sweet children’s drink can be elevated to please grown ups.

    And it’s not just chocolate milk. The Adult Beverage Company also makes Adult Strawberry Milk for the enjoyment of deserving [adult] boys and girls.

    We love it: a sophisticated hit of chocolate (or strawberry) for a relaxing moment at home, a delight for guests and a great gift idea.

    At $17.99 for a 750ml retro-chic bottle, it’s also a yummy gift.

    Read the full review and lay in a stock.

    If you have an immediate need for a glass of Adult Chocolate Milk but can’t get to the store, here’s a Chocolate Black Russian—a cross between a cocktail and a milkshake—that you can make with chocolate ice cream, coffee liqueur and vodka.

    It’s become one of our favorite desserts!

     

    Adult Chocolate Milk, and the “Neapolitan” cocktail made with Adult Chocolate Milk and Adult Strawberry Milk. Photo courtesy Adult Beverage Company.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Quark Cheese

    Quark can be eaten like yogurt or used as a
    bread spread and in recipes. Photo courtesy
    Vermont Creamery

     

    If you like yogurt—or even if you don’t—try quark. It’s smooth and creamy like Greek yogurt or sour cream. In fact, quark has approximately the same amount of calories, but a richer flavor, than lowfat sour cream. So it’s a real find for your baked potato and chili.

    What is quark?

    It’s a soft, unripened (fresh) cow’s milk cheese. In North America, the recipe is almost identical to fromage blanc, except that fromage blanc is totally fat free.

    Quark is so popular in Germany that it accounts for almost half of that country’s total cheese production: The average German eats about 10 pounds of quark a year. You can find it in every market. But it’s a different style of quark (details below). In other parts of Europe, quark is also known as koarg, kwark, qwark, quarg, twarog, saurmilchquark, speisequark and fromage frais.

    In the U.S. and Canada, quark has yet to catch on. It’s only made by artisan dairies, and some dairies make 2% and fat-free versions in addition to full-fat quark. The next time you see it, take it home and see how it enriches your daily dining. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it online.

     

    THE CONFUSION OVER QUARK: OLD WORLD VS. NEW WORLD STYLES

    Quark is the German word for curds; curds are coagulated milk. Some definitions translate it as “cottage cheese”; however, neither American nor European quark resembles what Americans know as cottage cheese, with recognizable curds. With quark, the curd consistency is smooth, like curdled milk (see photo below).

     

    In Europe, some or most of the whey is removed by hanging the quark in cheesecloth and letting the whey drip off, to achieve the desired thickness. This gives artisan (handmade) European quark its distinctive shape of a wedge with rounded edges. In commercial production it is formed into blocks with the consistency of ricotta or pot cheese.

    In the United States and Canada, quark is a somewhat different product, most often sold in plastic tubs with most or all of the whey. This creates a style that has the texture of yogurt or sour cream: a denser, more spreadable consistency. The texture of domestic quarks varies by the preference of the producer.

    HOW TO ENJOY QUARK

    Both European and American styles are eaten the same way.

    Quark can be eaten like yogurt, plain or blended with fruit or jam. In Germany it is mixed with chives as a bread spread.

    Use it to top a baked potato or chili, as a soup garnish or anywhere you’d like a hit of yogurt or sour cream. Use it to make a creamy sauce: Unlike yogurt, heat won’t curdle it.

    On the sweet side, quark is a popular ingredient in filled pastries, sweet sauces, soufflés, cheesecakes and mousses.

     

    American style, creamy quark from Vermont Creamery. Photo by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Scientific-oriented people may wonder why a cheese is named after subatomic particles. We explain that in the footnote below.

    More about quark and other fresh cheeses, including crème fraîche, fromage blanc, labné, mascarpone and queso fresco.
     
    *In German, Quark and Topfen, the names of cheeses, are also used to mean “nonsense.” This latter usage is believed to be an inspiration for the passage written by James Joyce in his fanciful novel, Finnegan’s Wake: “Three quarks for Muster Mark!/Sure he hasn’t got much of a bark/And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.” This excerpt is from a 13-line poem directed against King Mark, the cuckolded husband in the Tristan and Isolde legend. Use of the word “quark” to describe elementary particles of matter was taken from this poem by Murray Gell-Mann, the physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize for his work in classifying quarks. The allusion to three quarks seemed perfect to him, since originally there were only three subatomic quarks.

      

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