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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 March, 2013

TIP OF THE DAY: Use Champagne Flutes For Appetizers & Desserts

Use your Champagne flutes for more than
Champagne. Photo courtesy Filicori Zecchini.

 

Since today is a holiday that features a fancy dinner, today’s tip is about fancy presentation of food.

When you create a snazzy presentation for a good recipe, you invariably have a hit.

If you’re not using your Champagne flutes, tulips or coupes for drinking, use them for appetizers or desserts.

What goes into a Champagne flute? Anything that can be spooned out of it.

APPETIZERS

  • A dip or spread garnished with a tall bread stick and served with a side of crackers, crostini or toasts
  • Gourmet mac & cheese; take a look at these gourmet mac and cheese recipes
  • Guacamole with a caviar or shrimp garnish and a side of gourmet tortilla chips
  • Savory yogurt parfait: seasoned plain Greek yogurt (mix in dill and lemon zest) layered with diced cucumbers and red bell peppers
  • Soup, preferably a thick vegetable purée
  •  
    DESSERTS

  • Ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet
  • Pudding or mousse
  •  
    There are many other spoonable recipes, of course. Send us your favorites.

      

    Comments

    EASTER GREETINGS

      
    HAPPY EASTER FROM ALL OF US At THE NIBBLE.

    If you don’t celebrate Easter, today is also:

  • Tater Day
  • National Clams On The Half Shell Day
  • Oranges And Lemons Day
  •  

    Rabbit enjoying his Easter dinner.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Love Beets, Ready To Eat

    We’re so happy with these grab-and-go
    infused beet snacks and easy salad or side
    ingredients. Photo courtesy LoveBeets.com.

     

    Americans don’t eat enough beets. Love Beets, a packager of cooked beets in several enticing formats, wants to change that.

    Growing up in a beet-centric household of Russian descent, we know beets as a truly versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed hot or cold in just about everything—from sandwiches to soup (borscht!) to red velvet cake and ice cream (our beet ice cream was the hit of our 2000 “millennium dinner” on New Year’s Eve).

    So our heart fluttered when we discovered Love Beets’ fresh-cooked, ready-to-eat, conveniently designed clamshell packages of beets, with a fork included.

    There are also plain cooked beets (conventional or organic) that can be used as a salad or sandwich topper, side dish or healthful snack. There‘s beet juice (delicious!) that can be enjoyed plain, in a smoothie or in a Beet Martini. The line is all natural, gluten free, non GMO and certified kosher by OU.

     
    Baby beets are harvested young for a sweeter taste and cooked until tender; then packaged plain or infused with complementary flavors:

  • Balsamic Infused Beets. A modern take on a traditional flavor, beets are infused with balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
  • Honey & Ginger Infused Beets. Beets are infused in a blend of white wine vinegar, dark soy sauce, orange blossom honey, ginger purée and a pinch of sugar.
  • Sweetfire Infused Beets. With a bit of heat, beets are infused in a marinade of wine vinegar, sugar, salt, chili extract and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Vinegar-Infused Beets. Not quite a pickled beet, the sweetness of these baby beets is complimented by mild vinegar.
  • Sweetfire Snack Tray. Packaged with white Cheddar cheese cubes and crostini crackers; 129 calories.
  •  

    We enjoy the flavor-infused beets straight from the package, or with a side of plain nonfat yogurt—it’s the healthier version of the Russian beets and sour cream.

    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY BEETS

    Ruby red baby beets add a delicious kick to just about anything.

  • Add to side salads or luncheon salads. The photo shows a lettuce salad with hard-cooked eggs, crumbled bacon and beets. Add with sliced oranges and beets to lettuce for a new take on a classic Moroccan salad. Arrange with sliced pears, arugula and goat cheese. Our favorite salad: arugula, beets and goat cheese with fresh-snipped dill.
  • Serve with cold cuts, sandwiches and cheese plates. Take a look at this recipe for Steak Sandwich With Beets & Honey Mustard.
  •  

    Add beets to side salads or luncheon salads: here, with hard-cooked eggs and crumbled bacon. Photo courtesy LoveBeets.com.

  • Add sliced beets to a bagel. Slice and layer with smoked salmon and cream cheese. Our diet version: Substitute Greek yogurt for the cream cheese.
  • Create a beet garnish. Sliced, diced or in matchsticks, beets add pizzazz.
  • Make beet bruschetta. Layer beets atop sliced baguette, top with Brie or other favorite cheese, heat to slightly melt cheese and garnish with fresh green herbs.
  • Beet-based dips. It can be as simple as blending beets into plain yogurt with fresh dill. But check out this beet and walnut dip, beet, beet and spinach dip and butterbean hummus and beet and radish chutney.
     
    Return to your roots: Enjoy more beets! Find more delicious beet recipes at LoveBeets.com.
     
    BEET TIPS

    You can use cooked beets in any recipe that requires raw beets. Just reduce the cooking time accordingly.

    Alas, beet juice does stain. If you aren’t a very neat eater, wear dark clothing! But beet juice is a water-soluble dye, so try one of these methods to clean up stains:

  • To remove from hands, rub with lemon juice and salt before washing with soap and water
  • On fabrics, rub a slice of raw pear on the stain before washing or rinse in cold water before washing in detergent.
  • Use a bleach solution for cutting boards and containers.
  •  
    THE HISTORY OF BEETS

    Beets, or Beta vulgaris, evolved from wild sea beet, which grew wild in places as wide-ranging as Britain and India to Britain. The wild sea beet was first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East—although only the leaves were eaten! (Even today, beet greens are delicious. Don’t throw them away: Sauté them.) In early times, the medicinal properties of the root (the red bulb) led that portion to be used to treat a range of ailments from constipation, fevers, skin problems and wounds.

    The Romans cultivated beets; early recipes included cooking beets with honey and wine (that’s still a good recipe today). Apicius, the renowned Roman gourmet, included a beet broth recipe in his cookbook as well as beet salad with a dressing of mustard, oil and vinegar.

    The original beet roots were long and thin like carrots. The rounded root shape of today was developedin the 16th century and by the 18th century was widely cultivated in Central and Eastern Europe. Many classic beet dishes originated in this region, including borscht.

    In 19th century England, beets’ dramatic color was popular to brighten up salads and soups. The high sugar content made it a popular ingredient in cakes and puddings.

    Today there are many varieties of beets sizes large and small, including candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles), orange, white and yellow. Look for these specialty beets in farmers markets.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mustard As Condiment & Ingredient

    A field of mustard plants in Napa Valley. The
    seeds are harvested from the beautiful
    yellow flowers. Photo courtesy Napa Mustard
    Festival.

     

    When some people think “spring,” they think daffodils and tulips. The food-focused think “mustard.”

    A few days before the official start of spring, we look forward to St. Patrick’s Day’s corned beef and cabbage with lots of prepared mustard on the side. Then comes Easter, where we slather on mustard to glaze the ham, and spread different types of mustard on the ham sandwiches that follow (take a look at these cherry-mustard ham glaze and these ham glaze recipes).

    Then come the spring vegetables, accented with mustard: in a sauce for fresh asparagus, mixed into vinaigrette with new, tender greens, as part of a dip for fresh artichoke leaves.

    The next thing you know, it’s baseball season: hot dogs and soft pretzels drizzled with mustard. Then come the picnics: mustard on sandwiches, in deviled egg recipes and mixed into cole slaw and potato salad for an extra hint of flavor.

     
    Many kitchens have a jar of Dijon mustard and a jar of yellow “ballpark” mustard. But there are quite a few different prepared mustards, including some you’ve never heard of. See the different types of mustard in our Mustard Glossary, and try something new. You’ll discover delightful flavors with almost no calories.

    You can also check out the history of mustard.

    Grains of mustard have been found in the tombs of the pharaohs, and mustard was a popular condiment with the ancient Greeks and Romans. By the 1400s, mustard had spread through Europe, with each region making its own style. Mustard arrived in America in the 1700s as immigrants set up their own businesses.

    Here’s a plateful of ideas from Roland brand mustard on ways to use mustard add a punch of flavor to other dishes:

     

    MUSTARD AS A CONDIMENT

  • Serve two mustards. Serving a dish of Dijon and grain mustard side by side highlights the differences in taste and allows everyone to experiment with various combinations of flavor.
  • Try flavored mustards—mustard blended with with tarragon or other herbs, blue cheese, beets and other ingredients—on sandwiches and hamburgers, for a truly special taste twist. Do it even if you like the same old, same old: We adore flavored mustards.
  • Serve mustard as a cheese condiment: Dijon, grainy (old-style or à la ancienne) and flavored mustards are our favorites here. (More about cheese condiments.)
  • Make your own honey mustard. Just blend honey into Dijon mustard, to taste. You can also use maple syrup, or go for low-glycemic agave nectar or calorie-free sweeteners.
  • Experiment by pairing different mustards with your favorite foods. For example, grainy mustard is a great pairing with Cajun style sandwiches: fish, pan-fried oysters or pork. We love herb-flavored mustards with cold cuts. With pâtés, try green peppercorn-flavored Dijon mustard.
  •  

    Fried green tomatoes and crab with Creole mustard. Here’s the recipe from McCormick.com.

     

    COOKING WITH MUSTARD

  • Add flavor to sauces. Mustard is an essential ingredient in everything from hollandaise to reduction sauces to vinaigrettes.
  • Add dry or prepared mustard to vinaigrette or other salad dressing. In addition to the dash of spiciness, mustard helps to hold the emulsion in the dressing.
  • Add mustard at the end of the cooking process. In a sauce or a other cooked recipe, too much heat will make the mustard flavor weak and bitter.
  • Add mustard to dips. Perk up artichokes, asparagus and crudités, as well as steamed and grilled veggies.
  • Put mustard in your rub and your marinade. Mustard mixed with herbs, salt and black pepper makes a great rub for roast meats, and is always a welcome flavor element in marinades.
  • Make compound butter with mustard. ustard works very well in compound butters. Soften butter at room temperature. Then add chopped garlic, parsley, black pepper, minced shallots and the mustard of choice. Mix well, spoon onto parchment paper, form into a roll and freeze. Cut 1/2 inch sections off and place over grilled meat or fish. (More about compound butter.)
  •  
    Try this recipe from Roland Foods: Fresh mint makes it the perfect spring vinaigrette.

    RECIPE: MINT MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 1.5 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1.5 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE mustards, vinegar and mint leaves in a small mixing bowl; briskly whisk to blend. While whisking mixture, slowly drizzle in olive oil.

    2. USE immediately, or be prepared to re-whisk if the vinaigrette separates.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Talenti Gelato In Spring Colors For Easter

    It’s really easy to make this ice cream cake
    for Easter, or to simply serve three pretty
    colors of gelato or sorbetto in a bowl. Photo
    courtesy Talenti Gelato\.

     

    By the time dessert comes, we’ll be bursting at the seams: no room for carrot cake or coconut cake (can we get that to go?), not to mention pie or anything chocolate.

    But what’s a festive meal without dessert?

    Our solution? The beautiful spring colors of Talenti gelato:

  • The green, spring-evoking Mediterranean Mint and Sicilian Pistachio
  • The lavender loveliness of Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip
  • The lush, orange-hued Alphonso Mango Sorbet
  • The pink hues of Blood Orange Sorbet, the intensely hued Roman Raspberry and the pale pink Simply Strawberry
  • The speckled egg effect of Black Cherry and Caramel Cookie Crunch
  •  
    Read the full review of Talenti gelato to see how to turn them into a lovely “Easter Nest” dessert, that everyone will have room for…and how easy it is to make the colorful ice cream cake in the photo.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Lemon Chiffon Cake Day

    March 29th is National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day. A recipe that isn’t seen much anymore, it was a favorite of our mother’s. She baked them in a tube pan and garnished the light, lemony slices with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

    According to General Mills, the chiffon cake, invented in 1927, was the first new cake to come along in 100 years. (One might dispute that—the brownie debuted within 30 years prior to it, although it is classified as a bar cookie and not cake. Digging through culinary history will no doubt produce other challengers.)

    The secret of this fluffy cake are two: That egg whites are beaten separately from the yolks, and the recipe uses vegetable oil instead of butter or conventional shortening. Using oil as the fat enables the cake to be refrigerated without hardening.

    Chiffon cake was invented by the aptly named Harry Baker, a Los Angeles insurance agent, who sold the cakes to the Brown Derby restaurant and to Hollywood stars.

     

    Lemon chiffon layer cake. It can also be made in a tube pan without layers. Photo by K.G, Toh | IST.

     

    In 1947, Baker sold the recipe to General Mills, and it created a sensation when it was published in the May, 1948 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

    For this recipe, you’ll need a 7-inch tube pan.

    FOOD 101:
    The difference between a chiffon cake and a sponge cake is that a chiffon cake contains oil; most sponge cakes contain no fat.

     

    Iced chiffon cake made in a tub pan. Photo
    courtesy American Egg Board.

     

    LEMON CHIFFON CAKE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cake flour*
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest, (about 4 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Garnish: confectioners’ sugar, lemon glaze (recipe below) or whipped cream with berries or candied lemon peel
  •  
    *Regular cake flour, not self-rising.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F

    2. SIFT together flour, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 cup sugar. Set aside.

    3. WHISK together egg yolks, vegetable oil, 1/3 cup water, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Add to the sifted dry ingredients; beat until smooth.

    4. BEAT egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.

    5. ADD gradually the remaining tablespoon of sugar; beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

    6. FOLD egg-white mixture into the batter slowly, 1/3 at a time. Add batter to ungreased tube pan. Using an offset spatula, smooth the top. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is golden, about 45 minutes.

    7. REMOVE cake from oven. Invert the pan over a wine bottle for 2 hours to cool. Remove and run a knife between the between cake and pan; invert again, and remove cake.

    8. GARNISH as desired: Dust the plain cake with confectioners’ sugar before serving, or serve with whipped cream. We like to drizzle the cake with the lemon zest glaze below.
     
    LEMON ZEST GLAZE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well blended.

    2. DRIZZLE over the top of the cooled cake.

    CANDIED LEMON PEEL RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 3 lemons
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH lemons, pat dry and remove the fruit pulp and as much of the white pith as you can. Cut peel into slices 1/4 inch wide.

    2. BOIL water in a small pan; add peel strips. Boil for 5 minutes, until tender.

    3. REMOVE peels from water and whisk in sugar until dissolved. Return water to a boil; add peels and boil until syrup absorbs into peel.

    4. DRAIN cooked peel on paper towels. After they dry, you can store them in an airtight jar for a week.

    You can also use this recipe for candied grapefruit and orange peel.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Black Garlic

    Chef Johnny Gnall takes on a relatively new ingredient, black garlic, which originated in Korea. It’s a fermented…If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

    Sometimes you can dramatically alter the flavor profile of an ingredient simply by leaving it alone; such is the case with my new favorite ingredient, black garlic. By letting raw garlic ferment for a month at high heat under specific conditions, it can be transformed into what appears to be something completely new and unique. Think of the process of caramelizing onions: the flavor, color, and texture of the onion are changed so dramatically by the end that if you didn’t know better, you might think you were dealing with a completely different ingredient.

    Since garlic is even sharper and more acrid than onion when raw, the resulting metamorphosis is that much more dramatic and contrasting. Cloves of black garlic have a rich black hue and are soft enough to squish between your fingers. Tiny pockmarks and imperfections across its otherwise sleek, black surface give it the appearance of freshly laid tar on a blacktop. Its flavor, however, is where you can really taste the magic. With notes of dark beer, caramel, molasses, fig, and balsamic vinegar and an umami similar to that which you taste in soy sauce, black garlic could not taste more different than its raw garlic origin.

     

    As with roasted garlic, you can spread the cloves on bread. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Where before there was acrid bite, there is now sweetness; the soft fruitiness is a sharp contrast to raw garlic’s pungent, often unpleasant odor. In essence, all the work of “taming” raw garlic has been done for you, so there is no need to roast, or sweat, or sauté, or blanch, or whatever other method you might choose to soften the potentially overpowering flavor of garlic. Make no mistake, however: garlic, when cooked and applied properly, is pure heaven (I think most people would agree). In fact, the makers of Black Garlic go out of their way to make it clear that they do, indeed, love regular garlic; they just also love black garlic. I can’t say I blame them.

    When I recently got my hands on some black garlic (which comes in the form of whole heads, peeled cloves, and paste), I was excited to experiment. Having eaten it before, but never cooked with it, I wanted to try a variety of cooking methods across a number of different ingredients, both to test its versatility as an ingredient, and also to find the dishes and techniques that best showcased its unique and delicious flavor.

    COOKING CHICKEN WITH BLACK GARLIC

    I got myself a whole chicken and rooted around for a few other odds and ends (some stock scraps, butternut squash, and farro, among others), broke the chicken down into all its parts, and spent the next 6 hours in the kitchen, up to my elbows in black garlic. What follows is a chronicle of my findings as I cooked and ate my way through the discovery process:

    Chicken Wings: Starting with the wings, I seasoned them with salt and pepper and shallow fried them in oil as I melted some butter and whisked in a couple of tablespoons of the black garlic paste. It was challenging to properly emulsify the butter and the all-natural paste, since “all-natural” means it contains nothing but finely smashed black garlic cloves. This is good for whole food purists, but bad for emulsifying.

    Had I deep-fried the wings, it probably would have helped the butter mixture stick better, as would a light dredge in flour prior to the shallow fry. At any rate, I tossed the wings in the butter and drizzled the remainder over the top, then let them rest for a couple of minutes. Sure enough, the flavor got in there, even if the butter’s broken texture wasn’t exactly what you’d want on your wings. As far as the flavor, the black garlic was sweet, sticky, and rich in umami, which is exactly what you want on your wings.

    It’s worth mentioning that you should use restraint with the salt, as you really want to let the black garlic flavor to come through, and chicken wings can get salty very quickly if you’re heavy handed when you season. All in all, they were super tasty; feel free to rub them with the paste and marinate them overnight to really let that flavor sink in.

     

    Look for black garlic in sealed bags that
    protect the product. Photo by Katharine
    Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Chicken Legs: The next piece I grabbed was a leg. I wanted to braise this one with some red wine, as I imagined the wine’s fruity yet earthy flavor profile would compliment the black garlic’s, their flavors melding and concentrating as they cooked. Unfortunately, I found that while the chicken leg turned a beautiful mahogany color, the black garlic flavor was lost in the wine. The meat was, of course, succulent and juicy, but it tasted nearly all of wine and I barely got the black garlic notes.

    I had used 5 cloves of black garlic, about a cup of wine, and a cup of chicken stock; clearly I needed to up the black garlic content if I wanted to harmoniously blend these two flavors. The chicken now out of the sauce pot it was braised in; I added two heaping tablespoons of the black garlic paste and a few teaspoons of sugar, whisked it into the wine and stock, and set it to a low simmer.

    After about an hour it was reduced by about half, and I tasted it: holy moly. The flavor was absolutely outstanding, sweet and round and full of umami. It was a flavor that would go well on just about anything, a perfect blend of wine and black garlic, and just enough savory to balance the sweet.

     
    In all honesty, it tasted like a nearly indistinguishable substitute for demi-glace, and I immediately thought of French Onion Soup. If one needed a vegetarian version, this reduction, cut with a splash of vegetable stock, stock could replace beef stock and no one would miss a beat. I let mine reduce a bit more, to about a quarter of its original volume, and now I had a luscious, syrupy reduction that I honestly could drink a glass of: pure, sweet, black garlic heaven.

    Chicken Breasts: I attempted a black garlic brine for one of the chicken breasts using a quart of water, ¼ cup of salt, 5 cloves of black garlic, 1 thai chile, and a few pieces of lime peel; after brining it overnight, I seasoned, seared and roasted it. I wanted the preparation after the brine to be as simple as possible so that I could really judge how much the black garlic flavor transferred to the breast.

    In truth, there was not much infusion in the meat; while it was tender and juicy from the brine, it tasted like little more than chicken. Interestingly enough, I did notice that some of the drippings that had fallen as the breast roasted had caramelized on the roasting plan. I dipped my finger in them and tasted, and the favor explosion in my mouth caught me by surprise. Its concentration and richness were like that of the wine reduction, but this time the profile was much more savory, as it had now been combined with the flavors of well-seasoned chicken instead of sugar-rich wine. The caramel-colored goo tasted of umami, its flavors and texture akin to a rich, slightly sweet soy sauce.

    Lessons Learned: I was starting to get a sense of how to cook with the black garlic, from both my misses and successes. It made sense that a very gentle method of developing its flavor wasn’t going to do much; after all, the garlic had already been through a very gentle and mellowed fermentation process to get to its current state. To unlock something even deeper, it was going to take more intense cooking: techniques that involved direct heat might be the key to getting something entirely new out of what is already quite the unique ingredient.

    Infusing butter, brining, and braising didn’t quite work, perhaps because these are slow cooking methods deigned to gently coax the flavors out of ingredients. Roasting, on the other hand, applies direct, dry heat; harsher than a liquid simmer, that worked out much better, even in just a few drops of drippings. Reducing almost all of the water out of the black garlic and wine yielded similar, outstanding results.

    Chicken Legs, Part 2: With this in mind, I rubbed the other chicken leg all over with a paste I’m calling a “Korean Jerk,” made from a tablespoon of neutral oil, a tablespoon of black garlic paste, salt, pepper, and a ¼ of a finely minced habanero (roughly a teaspoon or less), then I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to marinate overnight. The rub was a bit challenging to stick, so you could probably add a bit of corn starch if you wanted, but if you spend a minute really rubbing it in, that and the time marinating in the fridge will do just fine.

    The next day I pulled the leg out and noticed the stunning change in color that it had picked up while marinating: it was now amber all over the skin, with tiny flecks of bright orange from the habanero and sexy splashes of deep black sheen from the paste. I hit it with a touch more salt and pepper and set it to roast at 350 for about 20 minutes, finishing at 450 with a drizzle of olive oil to help crisp up the skin a bit. This result was the best by far. The black garlic provided a nice, soft background for the heat of the habanero, just as you notice in traditional jerk seasoning, and it quite naturally went great with the chicken. All in all, the flavors were infused, balanced, and tasty.

    In retrospect, I probably could have seared it if I wanted to really test my theories of intense heat and get a crispier skin, but I was worried about the black garlic burning. I guess we won’t know until you try it. So try it!

    Next up were the thighs; these I was really excited about: I deboned them completely and stuffed them with a handful of cloves of black garlic and some very thin slices of lemon, rolled them up, tied them, and seared them on all sides. Then I whisked about a quarter cup of the black garlic paste into a cup of particularly earthy cocoa & coffee barbecue sauce I’d made the week prior. I placed the thighs back into the pan in which I’d seared them, added the black garlic barbecue sauce, finished with stock until the thighs were mostly submerged, then braised it, covered, at 350 for about 15 minutes.

    This was another big success. The high concentration of the paste and the thick, rich sauce as a vehicle to carry its flavor meant that everything really came together; it was reminiscent of a red mole sauce, sweet and earthy as it clung to the chicken thighs. Moreover, inside the rolled thighs was another completely different flavor combination of bright lemon, sweet, rich black garlic, and savory dark meat, all keeping one another in check and adding even more overall depth to the dish. A bite containing a bit of everything together was almost indescribable: you got bright, tart, sweet, earthy, salty, tangy, and more, all hitting you at once. It was the veritable surprise party in your mouth that comes only from multiple layers of flavors and ingredients brought together with care.

    On the side I made a simple green salad and dressed it with a black garlic vinaigrette, emulsified in the blender (hyperlink to emulsified vinaigrettes article) and containing 5 cloves of black garlic, about 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, some salt and pepper, and a slow stream of neutral oil (I used neutral as opposed to olive oil in order to let as much black garlic flavor come through as possible). The vinaigrette was subtle and pleasant, the black garlic adding a sweetness that was richer and more complex than if I had simply used white sugar.

    I did notice that, even in the blender, there were still small bits of black garlic that did not blend into the dressing. This was not an issue because the little morsels were delicious, but it was worth noting the continued resistance to easily break down and emulsify. That being said, I think these tiny flavor bursts in the salad were as much a flavor ‘pro’ as they were a consistency ‘con,’ but if you’re not into it, you can always strain them out.

    All the stock I used throughout the cooking process was a black garlic chicken stock I made by rubbing the chicken carcass, thighbones, and wing tips with black garlic paste before roasting them at 375 for an hour and a half; I also added a handful of cloves to the stock as it simmered. The color was absolutely gorgeous, sort of a chestnut brown; and the aroma that filled my entire house was like the combination of a magical forest and a dark chocolate sauna. It was nutty and sweet and savory and gamey, and it brought me several times to stand over the pot, inhaling deeply and smiling as its heavenly, honey perfume wafted about my head.

    Unfortunately it tasted far more like chicken and stock scraps than it did like black garlic, even after it reduced for several hours; it was perplexing to get so much by smelling and so little by tasting, but I have had the same experiences with certain wines. Whether it’s me or what I’m smelling, I think I can pick up more complexity from aroma than I can from taste. It also may have to do with my previously noted observations of gentle versus harsher cooking with this particular ingredient: simmering stock is definitely on the gentler side, and there’s a lot of water, scraps, and bones to dilute the black garlic’s flavor.

    I froze most of the stock, reserving just under a quart to keep on hand for one last use. I ended up using it to make farro the next day, and as the hearty grains of farro took their time soaking it up, the stock reduced to literally nothing, as it goes when you cook most grains. I ran my finger across the bottom of the pan after the farro came out, and when I tasted it, the sweetness was right up front, as if I had added a spoonful of caramel to the pot at some point. The hearty flavor and toothsome texture of the whole grain married with this sticky sweetness, straddling the line between sweet and savory, kind of the way a muffin sometimes does.

    From this point I could have added dried fruit and nuts or fresh herbs and feta and either would been perfect. I went with a squeeze of lemon and some thinly sliced kale, then topped it with chunks of butternut squash that had been roasted in some of the leftover black garlic barbecue sauce, then tossed with a little mascarpone cheese.

    There are literally thousands of other directions you could go with black garlic. Its flavors are very complementary and it’s hard to overdo it, which is most definitely not the case with raw garlic, as I’m sure you know. Plus it happens to be rich in antioxidants (twice the content of raw garlic) and cancer-fighting agents. Bonus!

    Try marinating some Korean style short ribs (or almost any protein) overnight in a black garlic marinade to get the most out of its flavor. Better yet, go uber-simple and serve a pile of whole cloves on a cheese plate to really blow people’s minds. You can put time and love into taking its flavor to the next level, or let let the black garlic speak for its delicious self: both will be crowd pleasers. I’m glad I finally got to know this delicious and unique ingredient. It’s time you did the same!

    THE ORIGIN OF BLACK GARLIC

    It’s one of those things that you’d guess has been around for thousands of years, fermenting in crocks. But it’s quite new, created with a high-heat fermentation process that turns regular garlic into black garlic in 30 days. While it probably developed within the last 10 years in Korea, the American product was invented by a Korean-American named Scott Kim in Southern California, who has a patent pending on the process. He is currently the only supplier in the U.S.

    MORE ABOUT BLACK GARLIC.

      

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    EASTER SNACK: Bunny Pops

    Bunny Pops: Rice Krispie Treats or ice cream
    bars. Photo courtesy Recipe.com.

     

    How cute are these Easter Bunny Pops?

    They’re a creative Easter snack idea: Rice Krispie Treats on a stick. Here’s the recipe, from Recipe.com.

    You can also port the idea to ice cream bars: Paint bunny faces on ice cream bars (our favorite brand is Magnum Ice Cream Bars):

  • ADD 1 or 2 drops of food coloring into melted white chocolate chips or royal icing recipe below; stir to combine.
  • DIP the tip of a paintbrush or a wooden skewer into the pink chocolate, then paint ears, nose and mouth on bars.
  • FREEZE until firm, about 30 minutes.
  •  
    You can make a half batch of this recipe:

    ROYAL ICING RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 drop red food color
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed for 7-10 minutes, or until the icing loses its shine. If the icing is too stiff, add more water, a teaspoon at a time.

    2. STIR in more food color as needed. Put into piping bag with a small icing nozzle, or a plastic storage bag with the tip cut off (smallest possible opening).

    3. OUTLINE the ears, create the eyes, nose and mouth. Switch to a wider nozzle to fill in the ears.

     

    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE COOKIE RECIPES & ICE CREAM RECIPES,

      

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    APRIL FOOL’S DAY: Can You Get A Free Drink?

    There may still be time for you to pitch this idea to your favorite watering hole:

    Customers get a free drink on April Fool’s Day if the bartender likes a joke they tell.

    We just learned that two New York City restaurants, Courgette and Mari Vanna, are giving a complimentary drink to ANY joke told to their server: It doesn’t even have to be a good joke.

    We think every April Fool’s Day should be a free drink opportunity…with more demanding standards.

  • If the bartender or server laughs, you get a free drink.
  • If there’s no great response, you get an H.O. for effort—that’s half off your drink.
  • Let’s call it the April Fool’s Day Joke-For-Drink Challenge.
  •  

    Tell the joke, get a laugh, get a drink. Photo courtesy BeerLime.com.

     

    Spread the word at your favorite hangouts. And if there’s not enough time to do it this year, start contemplating now for 4.1.14.

    A priest, a rabbi and your mama walk into a bar…

      

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    RECIPE: Fig & Brie Bruschetta

    Fig and cheese bruschetta: delicious! Photo
    courtesy CaliforniaFigs.com.

     

    Still looking for that impressive yet easy hors d’oeuvre for Easter?

    Try this delicious bruschetta of seared fresh California black mission figs and your favorite cheese (Brie and blue cheese are particular favorites). A garnish of bacon is optional.

    If you don’t have time to cook the figs, you can substitute fig jam, and use an optional slice of fresh fig as a garnish.

    FIG & CHEESE BRUSCHETTA RECIPE

    Ingredients Per Piece

  • 1/2 fresh, ripe Black Mission fig per piece
  • Fine granulated sugar
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce cheese per piece
  • Baguette slice per piece
  • Optional garnishes: 1-inch piece of bacon, fresh
    herbs
  • Preparation

    1. CUT figs in half lengthwise and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Lightly the coat bottom of a cast iron or other heavy skillet with olive oil; heat to very hot.

    2. ARRANGE fig halves, cut side down in pan and sear for about 2 minutes. Remove; turn cut side up on plate and allow to cool slightly.

    3. ASSEMBLE crostini: Top bread with figs, cheese and optional garnish. Place on serving plate and serve immediately.

     
    The difference between bruschetta and crostini.

      

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