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Archive for June, 2013

FOOD FUN: Heirloom Potatoes

Exotic looking, but they’re just potatoes!
Photo courtesy Costanera Cocina Peruana.


Potatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru, where more than 2,000 varieties still grow wild (there are more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes worldwide). They were first domesticated more than 6,000 years ago.

Don’t you wish you could buy some of these beauties, instead of the plain potatoes grown for the mass market?

If you look closely, you’ll see versions that look similar to what we can buy today. What we can buy is based on which varieties:

  • Produce the highest yields
  • Are the hardiest
  • Appeal most to consumers (much as we’d love them, many people don’t want to buy those curled or knobby potatoes)

    Wild potatoes are indigenous to the Andes Mountains in Peru, and were cultivated by the Incas.

    The name is said to originate from the Spanish patata, a combination of batata, the sweet potato, and papa, a word for potato from the Inca language, Quechua.

    The Spanish conquered Peru around 1530 and brought potatoes back to Spain. News traveled fast (or what passed as “fast” in the centuries prior to the telegraph), and potatoes reached the rest of Western Europe relatively quickly.

    However, not everyone was enamored of the potato (or the tomato). They were feared at first, accused of causing leprosy and being poisonous. They were classified as a relative of deadly nightshade, because both contain toxic compounds known as glycoalkaloids, though the levels in domestic potatoes and tomatoes fall far short of being harmful to people.

    Slowly, more countries realized the power of the potato. It could grow in any climate. It thrived in Ireland, so much so that when hit by a potato blight, Phytophthora infestans, three years in a row, more than a million people died of starvation and disease.

    Potatoes were introduced to America in the 18th century. They were first planted in Idaho in 1836; the state now grows 25% of the nation’s potatoes.

    Idahoan Luther Burbank developed the Russet Burbank potato in 1872, a more disease-resistant version of the Irish russet potato (there have been additional russet developments since).

    And the rest is history—even if modern history is not as colorful as the original created by nature.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tequila On The Rocks

    Sure, you enjoy tequila in a Margarita, Tequila Sunrise or hundreds of other drinks that use the popular Mexican spirit.

    But have you tried tequila on the rocks? That’s how the aged tequila expressions, Añejo and Extra Añejo, should be enjoyed (here are the different types of tequila).

    Even if all you have is a bottle of Blanco/Silver tequila, you can pour it over rocks. Here‘s a refreshing tip for summer sipping from the folks at Milagro Tequila:

    Serve Silver tequila on the rocks with a sprig of spanked mint.

    Least you think that “spanked” mint is something kinky: Just crush the mint lightly in your hand to release some of the essential oil inside. It’s a tip to use with all fresh herbs, whether you’re adding rosemary to a marinade or basil to a sauce.


    Tequila on the rocks: no mixing required. Photo courtesy Milagro Tequila.


    Spanking is different from muddling, where the ingredients—fruits, herbs, and/or spices—are mashed in the bottom of a mixing glass to release their flavor.

    A long, stick-like gadget (the muddler), similar to a mortar-and-pestle effect, is used for crushing.


    Red, white and blue tequila shots. Photo
    courtesy Navan Liqueur.



    You can exchange the mint for fruit and turn tequila on the rocks to red, white and blue tequila shooters.

    Just add a spoonful of purée or fruit juice to the shot glass:

  • Red purée: raspberry or strawberry
  • White purée: lychee or white peach
  • Blue purée: blackberry or blueberry

    While explorers of the New World brought much exciting food back to Europe (cacao/chocolate, potatoes, tomatoes and turkey, for starters), they contributed two pretty essential foods to the New World: distilled spirits (they taught the Aztecs how to turned the original fermented mezcal into tequila) and honey.

    Check out the history of Tequila.



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    TIP OF THE DAY: More Red, White & Blue Food

    A healthful dessert or snack for Independence Day Weekend: You can’t go wrong with Red, White & Blue Fruit Salad. This fanciful fruit dessert was created by the National Watermelon Promotion Board.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 cups watermelon balls
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 4 dollops prepared whipped topping or substitute*
  • Optional garnish: red, white and blue star sprinkles

    *Whipped Topping Substitutes

    Prepared whipped toppings typically have high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, which we avoid. Instead, use crème fraîche, mascarpone, sweetened sour cream, vanilla frozen yogurt, whipped cream or miniature white meringue cookies.


    Another beautiful dish of red, white and blue. Photo courtesy National Watermelon Promotion Board.



    1. MIX together the watermelon and blueberries. Divide among 4 sundae bowls.

    2. TOP each with a dollop of topping and sprinkle with red, white and blue sprinkles. Serve immediately.



    Another way to enjoy the red, white and
    blue. Photo courtesy


    Here‘s a delicious idea from Knicole of, where you can find many wonderful cookie recipes.

    It’s essentially a chocolate chip cookie with added dried raspberries and blueberries. You can incorporate the red, white and blue into other cookies, including oatmeal. If you don’t like white chocolate, use macadamia nuts.


    Ingredients For 24 Cookies

  • 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips or 3 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks


    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Have ready two ungreased cookie sheets.

    2. MIX together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl.

    3. CREAM butter and both sugars together in a second bowl. Add egg and vanilla and beat for 30 seconds.

    4. ADD flour mixture and stir with a mixing spoon until well mixed. Stir in all dried berries and white chocolate.

    5. DROP by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.



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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Panasonic Electric Kettle

    Summer is iced tea time. If you’re a fan, here’s a question:

    Why take the time and effort to brew iced tea? You can buy it in individual bottles and large formats just about everywhere.

    The main reasons to brew your own are sustainability, cost and, if you have a good palate, better quality tea.

  • Save The Environment. Just as with water bottles, all of that extra plastic goes into landfill. Some people recycle, but that, too, requires energy and expense.
  • Save Money. How much does a 16-ounce bottle of iced tea cost? About $1.79 where we live. Even if you buy them at club stores, you’re still paying a dollar—as opposed to pennies to brew your own.
  • Please Your Palate. Brew iced tea from loose tea or quality tea bags and enjoy superior tea flavor. We use great tea that’s so complex and flavorful, it never needs sugar.
  • Decaffeinated Tea. People who limit their caffeine can enjoy decaffeinated iced tea to their hearts’ content.

    Panasonic’s sleek new electric kettle. Photo courtesy Panasonic.



    Electric kettles have been around for generations, but they keep getting better and better.

    Introduced last month as part of Panasonic’s new Breakfast Collection, the The Panasonic C-ZK1 is a sleek 1.4 liter tea kettle with 1500 watts of power. It’s $179.95 on You can find an electric kettle for $25.00, but it doesn’t have these features:

  • Quick to heat. Heats up water faster than a traditional tea kettle. The 1.4 liter capacity equates to 47 ounces. Our pitcher holds 64 ounces. The water for the the extra 16 ounces heats in two minutes.
  • Cool to touch. It has a cool-touch exterior.
  • Automatic shutoff. A welcome safety feature, here’s automatic shutoff when the water has boiled.
  • There are more benefits. Read the full review.

    Or head on over to to buy one.



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    TIP OF THE DAY & FOOD HOLIDAY: National Ceviche Day

    Ceviche with a fried plaintain garnish. Photo
    courtesy Chef Todd English | MXDC.


    The third annual National Ceviche Day is June 28th. The holiday started in Peru, where ceviche is the national dish.

    Ceviche, seafood served chilled, is delicious any time of the year, but is especially refreshing in summer. It’s a great dish: high in protein, low in calories, with as many recipe variations as there are cooks to create them.

    Ceviche (pronounced say-VEE-chay) starts with raw fish and/or shellfish that is marinated and cured in citrus juice. The highly acidic citrus juice creates a chemical reaction in the proteins, the result of which is similar to what happens when the fish is cooked with heat. As the fish marinates, you can see it change from translucent to opaque. For people who avoid raw fish: Consider ceviche to be cooked.

    We don’t know how long ceviche has existed, only that it has been around for more than 500 years. In the early 1500s, the Spanish conquistadors wrote of an Inca dish of raw fish marinated in chicha, a fermented maize beer.


    The Spanish contributed lime and onion, ingredients that are integral to modern ceviche. In fact, the term “ceviche” is thought to come from the Spanish escabeche, meaning marinade.

    Ceviche has spread over Latin America, with both Ecuador and Peru claiming to have originated the dish. Both were part of the Incan Empire. But why quibble: Today, ceviche—or seviche or sebiche, depending on the country—is so popular that there are cevicherias, restaurants that specialize in ceviche.

    Each country adds its own spin based on local seafood and preference for ingredients like avocado. The classic marinade is called leche de tigre, tiger’s milk: lime juice, sliced onion, chiles, salt, pepper and often a bit of juice runoff from the fish. Some preparations add a dressing of ketchup or a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise. Don’t be afraid to customize a recipe with your favorite ingredients.


    You can use our ceviche recipe template to create your own signature ceviche. Here’s what to drink with ceviche.

    The classic ceviche is fluke marinated with aji rocoto (a very hot Peruvian chile) and cilantro. A mixto (fluke, octopus, shrimp, squid) with avocado, onion and tomato is also popular, as are hundreds of variations, including contemporary versions with ingredients from apple to zucchini. Here are some of variations from restaurants in our area:

  • Ceviche, marinated in leche de tigre and aji chilies and served with red onion, cilantro, yams and choclo (Peruvian corn with jumbo kernels); Crab, arctic char, shrimp; Arctic char with aji amarillo, avocado and soy-lime dressing; fish that is cut sashimi style (at Costanera Cocina Peruana)
  • Mahi-mahi in citrus juice with fermented pepper, napa cabbage, cucumber, cilantro, red onion, nori garnish; shrimp ceviche in leche de tigre with red onion, pomegranate, chives, avocado and dashi; bay scallop ceviche with lime, Thai sweet chile, avocado, peanut, mint, crispy shallot garnish; fluke ceviche with guanabana (soursop, a South American fruit), grapefruit, lychee, cucumber, serrano chile and avocado sorbet (at Richard Sandoval Restaurants)
  • Mahi-mahi with guanabana, grapefruit, red onion, serrano chile, avocado, tomatillo and pico de gallo; shrimp ceviche with aji panca, hearts of palm, roasted corn, fresh orange, serrano chile and a bonito garnish; sea bass with aji amarillo, red onion, cucumber, apple, tomato and a shiso garnish (at Richard Sandoval Restaurants)


    Peru has a large Japanese population, which has resulted in “fusion ceviche” by adding traditional Japanese ingredients—daikon radish, kaiware sprouts, ponzu sauce, scallions, sesame, shiso, ume, yuzu, soy sauce, wasabi.

    In addition to conventional dishware—plates and bowls—consider:

  • Martini Glasses. Served in martini glasses like they do at top restaurants, and this simple fish preparation becomes a luxury experience.
  • Shot glasses. Serve ceviche in shot glasses, with small seafood forks, as an accompaniment to cocktails.

    A tasting trio. Photo © Pampano Botaneria | NYC.



  • Master Ceviche Template: choose your favorite ingredients
  • Lobster Ceviche
  • Shrimp Ceviche
  • Trout Ceviche (or other fish of choice)
  • Wasabi Ceviche with mixed seafood

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