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Archive for June 3, 2013

FATHER’S DAY: Fun Dessert For Dad

These cuties were created by pastry chef Dominique Ansel, proprietor of the Dominique Ansel Bakery in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City.

The chef fills éclairs with a bourbon-chocolate creme, tops them with caramel glaze and decorates with a mini chocolate moustache and bow tie.

You can melt chocolate and hand-pipe moustaches and bow ties onto wax paper; then use your chocolate art to decorate store-bought eclairs.

Make extra chocolate decorations so you can decorate Father’s Day cupcakes, too.

 

Decorate éclairs for a memorable Father’s Day dessert. Photo courtesy Dominique Ansel Bakery.

 
THE HISTORY OF ÉCLAIRS

The éclair is a finger-shaped pastry made of pâte à choux, filled with custard or whipped cream and topped with a glacé icing. It is known to have originated in France around the turn of the 19th century. Many food historians speculate that éclairs were first made by the great Marie-Antoine Carême (1874-1833), the first “celebrity chef,” considered the founder and architect of French haute cuisine. He is credited with the inventions of croquantes, hot soufflés and numerous other creations.

“Éclair” is the French word for lightning. It is suggested that the pastry received its name because it glistens when coated with confectioner’s glaze. (We would suggest that it is because they are so popular, they disappear as quickly as lightning.)

The Oxford English Dictionary traces the term “éclair” in the English language to 1861. The first known printed recipe for éclairs appears in the 1884 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book edited by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln.

  

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FATHER’S DAY RECIPE: Potato Chip & Beer Pancakes

“Mancakes” are made with beer and potato
chips. Photo courtesy SurLaTable.com.

 

This Father’s Day, treat Dad to a breakfast featuring some not-so-traditional pancakes, made with BBQ potato chips and beer.

Created by Chef David Burke (one of our favorite creative culinary artists) for Samuel Adams Boston Lager, these easy-to-make “mancakes” may become an annual tradition in your family.

RECIPE:

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces crushed BBQ potato chips
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 cup of Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • 2 eggs
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX flour, baking soda, Boston Lager and eggs in a large mixing bowl

    2. HEAT a skillet on medium and pour batter into large circles. Let bubble.

    3. SPRINKLE potato chips on top of pancakes and flip. Cook until lightly browned

    5. SERVE with bacon or sausage and maple syrup.

     

    WE’VE TESTED HUNDREDS OF PANCAKE MIXES. HERE ARE OUR
    FAVORITE MULTIGRAIN & WHOLE GRAIN PANCAKE MIXES.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Storing Fresh Fruit, Part 2

    Yesterday we featured Part 1 of How To Store Fresh Fruit. Continuing in alphabetical order, here are:

    GRAPES

    Grapes continue to ripen after picking, and can be refrigerated to slow the ripening process. You can determine freshness by examining the stems. Fresh grapes will have green and pliable stems, while grapes that have been stored for a while will have twiggy and woody ones.

    KIWI

    Keep kiwifruit at room temperature until ripe. Once ripe, kiwi will keep in the fridge for a few days. Very firm unripe kiwi will keep refrigerated for up to two months.

    MANGOES

    Mangoes can be stored at room temperature and will continue to ripen. When they give slightly to touch, they are ready to eat. They can be refrigerated to slow down the ripening process.

     

    Grapes look great in a pedestal bowl. Photo courtesy California Grape Commission.

     
    MELONS

    Store melons at room temperature until ripe. The FruitGuys say that the best indicator of ripeness is aroma: If a melon’s sweet fragrance is noticeable, it’s probably ready to cut and eat. In our own experience, we may not get the aroma but the outside of the melon gives slightly to pressure, particularly on the end where the stem was. If the melon feels rock-hard, give it a little more time. The exception is watermelon: A ripe watermelon has a yellow or light-colored bottom. If it’s covered with stripes, it’s not yet ready.

    NECTARINES

    Nectarines are climacteric, which means that they ripen after picking. They should be stored at room temperature, away from sunlight and heat, until they give softly to touch and have a sweet aroma. Ripening can be hastened by placing the fruit in a paper bag on the counter. When they’ve reached the desired ripeness, they can be refrigerated for several days.

     

    Perfect peaches. Photo courtesy Washington
    State Fruit Commission.

     

    PASSION FRUIT
    Passion fruit is a fragrant fruit. You can tell a passion fruit is ripe when it begins to look shriveled. For the best flavor, store it on the counter out of direct sunlight and give it a few days to “wrinkle-up.”

    PEACHES

    Like nectarines, peaches are climacteric: They ripen after picking. They should be stored at room temperature, away from sunlight and heat, until they give softly to the touch and have a sweet aroma. Ripening can be hastened by placing them in a paper bag on the counter. You can refrigerate peaches, but cold temperatures may change their texture and taste.

    PEARS

    Pears are picked hard to avoid bruising and should be stored at room temperature, away from heat and sunlight. They ripen from the inside out, so when they give to the touch, particularly near the stem end, they are ready to eat.

    PLUMS, PLUOTS & APRIUMS

    Both pluots and apriums are plum-apricot crosses. Like nectarines and peaches, plums continue to ripen after picking. They should be stored at room temperature, away from sunlight and heat, until they give softly to the touch and have a sweet aroma. Once ripe, refrigeration is necessary to prevent spoiling, but cold temperatures may change their texture and taste.

    Now that you know how to store it, it’s time to buy some fresh fruit…and enjoy it three times a day.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Red Lettuce

    Last week we presented two irresistible heirloom cucumbers. This week’s noteworthy produce comprises red lettuce varieties we discovered while perusing the “produce section” on Burpee.com.

    YUGOSLAVIAN RED LETTUCE

    Burpee calls Yugoslavian Red Lettuce “perhaps the most beauteous lettuce we’ve grown: a star selection for your salad bowl.”

    With bright-green cupped leaves splashed with rose-red and hints of yellow and orange, this butterhead type of lettuce makes a visual and flavorful splash in the salad bowl. Sure, you can tear the gorgeous leaves into bite size pieces. But we’d lay the whole leaves on a plate and use them as a pretty cup to hold other salads, from tuna to rice.

    The taste is superb, buttery and mild. The lettuce can be harvested in about 55 days. Get ready to plant and don’t worry about having too much: Heads of this glorious lettuce make beautiful gifts.

     

    Dazzling: Yugoslavian red lettuce. Photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     

    CIMARRON RED ROMAINE LETTUCE

    Red romaine is a bit easier to find in specialty produce markets, along with red leaf lettuce.

    Burpee’s Cimarron (photo below) is an heirloom red romaine with terrific flavor. It has been grown in America since the 1700s.

    We seek out red leaf lettuces for Christmas salads, but this deep-red-going-on bronze beauty has a place at the table all year long.

    We also found this red iceberg lettuce: Imagine a wedge ith blue cheese dressing!

    WAYS TO ENJOY LETTUCE

    Lettuce is most often used for salads and on sandwiches and as wraps. But you can grill it as a side, make lettuce soup and use it as a wrapper for Korean barbecue: hibachi-grilled beef, chicken or seafood rolled in a lettuce leaf with condiments.

    Lettuce is a good source of vitamin A and potassium, as well as a minor source for several other vitamins and nutrients. Generally, the deeper the color, the more nutrients. Romaine, the most nutritious lettuce, has more folate (a B vitamin), vitamin K and lutein (an antioxidant related to vitamin A).

     

    Cimarron red romaine. Photo courtesy
    Burpee.com.

     

    THE HISTORY OF LETTUCE

    Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) was first cultivated in ancient Egypt. Egyptian farmers developed it—from a weed whose seeds were used to produce oil into a plant grown for its tasty leaves.

    Lettuce was carried home by Greeks and Romans. The Romans called it lactuca, the Latin word for milk, referring to the white substance that exuded from the cut stems. (Sativa, which means sown or cultivated, is the species name for numerous types of produce.)

    Our word lettuce came to Middle English from the Old French letues or laitues. The name romaine came from that variety’s use in the Roman papal gardens, while cos, another term for romaine lettuce, came from the Greek island of Cos, a center of lettuce farming in the Byzantine period.

     

    By 50 C.E., there are descriptions of multiple varieties of lettuce. Over the centuries, many varieties were developed in Europe. Today, it is cultivated around the world: More than half of world production comes from China. (Source: Wikipedia)

    TYPES OF LETTUCE

    There are seven main cultivar groups of lettuce, each of which includes numerous varieties. Three types—cos or romaine, head and leaf lettuces—are the most common.

  • Butterhead lettuce. Also known as Boston or Bibb lettuce, this type head lettuce has a loose arrangement of leaves, sweet flavor and tender texture. Along with crisphead lettuce, it is also known as cabbage lettuce because the heads are shorter, flatter and more cabbage-like than romaine lettuces.
  • Crisphead lettuce. Better known as iceberg lettuce, crisphead is the most popular lettuce—much to the chagrin of those who declaim its limited flavor and low nutritional content. It has a higher percentage of water than other lettuce types.
  • Leaf lettuce. Also known as looseleaf, cutting or bunching lettuce, this type has loosely bunched leaves. It is used mainly for salads.
  • Oilseed lettuce. The original lettuce, oilseed has few leaves. It is grown for its seeds, which are pressed to extract a cooking oil. The seeds are about twice the size of other lettuce seeds.
  • Romaine/Cos lettuce. This variety forms long, upright heads that are used mainly for salads and sandwiches.
  • Stem lettuce. Stem lettuce is grown for its seedstalk, rather than its leaves. The long, thin stalks (think asparagus) are used in Chinese cooking.
  • Summercrisp lettuce. Also called Batavian or French Crisp lettuce, this group falls midway between the crisphead and leaf types.
  •  
    On your next trip to a farmers market or specialty produce store, see how many of these seven lettuce types you can find.

      

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