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Archive for July 18, 2014

RECIPE: Blackberry Mint Iced Tea

blackberry-mint-iced-tea-driscolls-230

A refreshing spin on iced tea: blackberry
purée and fresh blackberries. Photo courtesy
Driscoll’s.

 

We love iced tea. Most of it we brew from really fine tea leaves, so flavorful that we don’t even add sugar.

You can eliminate the sugar from this home-brewed blackberry iced tea recipe, and allow people to select their own level of sweetness and their sweetener of choice: agave, honey, noncaloric sweetener, sugar or nothing at all.

If you have a windfall of blackberries, you can make blackberry ice cubes to serve with the drink. Fill ice cube trays with water as usual, and drop a blackberry and a mint leaf into each section.

You can make the recipe caffeine-free with herbal mint tea bags. You can also use the blackberry purée in lemonade.

Prep time for the blackberry iced tea is 15 minutes plus chilling. The recipe is courtesy of Driscoll’s, the country’s leading berry distributor.

 
RECIPE: BLACKBERRY MINT ICED TEA

Ingredients For 2 Quarts (About 8 Servings)

  • 5 black tea bags
  • 1/4 cups mint leaves, crushed, 1 whole leaf per serving reserved for garnish
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or make it unsweetened)
  • 6 packages (6 ounces each) blackberries, with 16 reserved as garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE tea bags and mint in a heat-proof pitcher. Add boiling water. Steep at least 10 minutes.

    2. STRAIN into another pitcher and discard the mint and tea bags. Stir in sugar.

    3. PURÉE the blackberries in a blender or food processor; strain through a fine sieve. Discard pulp and seeds. Stir the blackberry purée into the tea. Taste and adjust sugar as desired. Chill.

    4. SERVE over ice garnished with a mint leaf and 2 blackberries (use cocktail picks if you have them).

      

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    PRODUCT: Brown Turkey Figs

    A trip to the farmers market yesterday reminded us that brown turkey figs are in season (June through September). Other nice surprises were fresh lychees and okra, but our pitch today is for the figs.

    Figs are a “locavore” food: The fresh-picked fruit neither keeps well nor transports well. That’s why most figs on the market are dried, and you should enjoy the fresh ones while you can.

    There is nothing more special than a sweet, tree-ripened fig. Different species have skins that range from dark brown to green to purple. The brown turkey fig has it all: a beautiful purple brown color with a green collar surrounding the stem. The flesh is amber color with a mild flavor.

    The brown turkey fig (Ficus carica)* is an all-purpose fig, delicious fresh and in preserves and other recipes (see recipe ideas below).

    Brown Turkey figs were first cultivated in Provence, France, bread from earlier varieties. Today, they grow best in Southern California.

    Ripe figs yield to the touch. You can ripen them at room temperature.

       

    brown-turkey-figs-whole-half-melissas-230

    ‘Tis the season for brown turkey figs. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     
    *Other names include Aubique Noire, Negro Largo and San Piero.
     
    TOO MANY FIGS

    If you have too many ripe figs, you can place them on paper towels, covered with plastic and refrigerate them for a few days. Or, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.

    Or, purée the ripe figs and use the purée in cocktails (mixed with white spirits, for example), smoothies, or as a topper for ice cream or sorbet (add sweetener if necessary).
     
    HISTORY OF THE FIG

    Figs have been a food source for man for more than 11,000 years. They were first cultivated in ancient Egypt, though they are believed to be indigenous to Western Asia.

    The fig is one of man’s first cultivated crops—perhaps the first. Archaeological evidence finds that the fig predates the domestication of barley, legumes, rye and wheat, and thus may be the first example of agriculture. In fact, archaeologists propose that the fig may have been cultivated 1,000 years before the next crops—rye and wheat—were domesticated [source].

     

    Roasted Figs in Mascarpone Cheese Honey and Hazelnuts

    Roasted fresh figs with honey and hazelnuts:
    a simple, elegant dessert. Photo by Karcich |
    Dreamstime. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Native to the Middle East and western Asia (it grows wild in dry and sunny climates), the fig is now widely grown throughout the temperate world.

    The fig is a member of the Moraceae binomial family, sometimes called the fig family. Other members include the banyan, breadfruit and mulberry. There are almost 200 cultivars of figs, in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures.

    Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. They are rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and K and are a good source of antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols. They are sodium-free and cholesterol/fat-free.

    Today, the top 10 fig producing countries are (beginning with the largest) Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, United States, Brazil, Albania and Tunisia.

    Cultural trivia: The word “sycophant” comes from the Greek word sykophantes, meaning “one who shows the fig.” “Showing the fig” was a vulgar hand gesture.

     
     
    RECIPES WITH FIGS

    Don’t peel the figs. Enjoy them with breakfast cereal, yogurt or cottage cheese; sliced on sandwiches with fresh or aged cheese; chopped and added to rice; stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre; or raw or grilled as a side dish, cut in half and served with grilled meat or poultry.

    Here are a few recipes from THE NIBBLE’s collection:

    Cocktails

  • Fig & Maple Fizz Recipe
  • Give A Fig Cocktail Recipe
  •  
    Appetizers & First Courses

  • Endive Salad With Figs Recipe
  • Fig & Radicchio Salad Recipe
  • Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs Recipe
  •  
    Main Courses

  • Honey Balsic Fig-Glazed Ham Recipe
  • Bison With Fig Balsamic Reduction Recipe
  •  
    Dessert

  • Brie Torte With Fig Jam Recipe
  • Fig Flower With Honey Goat Cheese Recipe
  • Roast Figs With Honey & Hazelnuts Recipe
  • Goat Cheese Ice Cream With Whole Figs Recipe
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 2

    Yesterday we presented the first five of the world’s 10 spice blends you should know: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

    Even if you won’t be cooking with them anytime soon, you should know them: They’re popular global, popping up in fusion dishes outside their native cuisines.

    The second half of the Top 10 include nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

    NORI SHAKE

    Nori shake is made from sheets of nori seaweed (the type used to wrap sushi rolls), ground with with salt and sesame seeds. Nori is the seaweed, furi means shake. Beyond its traditional use as a rice seasoning, shake it on other grains, cooked vegetables, plain yogurt and dips.

  • Traditional uses: Cooked rice seasoning.
  •  

    Quatre_Epices-silkroadspices.ca-230

    Quatre epices, a bend of cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper. Photo courtesy Silk Road Spices | Canada.

  • Traditional ingredients: Seaweed, sesame seeds, salt. Some recipes include sugar or shiso leaves
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast 4 nori sheets (one at a time) in a hot skillet for a few seconds on each side; coarsely grind them. Toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds until golden; combine in a bowl with 2 teaspoons coarse salt, the ground nori and cayenne to taste. Note that unlike other blends, this keeps for only a week or so.
  •  

    PIMENTÓN MIX

    Pimentón is the Spanish word for what is better known as paprika, a spice ground from dried New World chiles (Capsicum annuum). Although paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, in Europe it was first used in Spanish recipes. The story has it that Christopher Columbus brought the ground chiles back to Spain at the end of his second voyage. It was served to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who found it too hot and spicy; but local monks shared it with other monasteries. It spread throughout Spain, and subsequently to Hungary and elsewhere.

  • Traditional uses: A universal seasoning for casseroles/stews, eggs, meats, salads, soups, tapas and vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: Pimentón is usually sold as pure ground chile, not blended, in sweet, medium and hot levels.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Combine ¼ cup pimentón, 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Before using, add some freshly grated lemon zest.
  •  

    ras-el-Hanout-spiceandtea.com-230

    Ras el hanout can be a blend of 30 or more
    spices. Photo courtesy SpiceAndTea.com.

     

    QUATRE ÉPICES

    Quatre épices (kahtr-ay-PEECE) is a French spice mix that is also used in some Middle Eastern cuisines. The name literally means “four spices,” and they are cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper.

  • Traditional uses: A universal spice, used for everything from soup and salad to broiled chicken and fish to vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: The traditional version uses white pepper; black pepper can be substituted.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons each black and white peppercorns, 1 tablespoon allspice berries and 1 teaspoon cloves. Combine with 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
  •  
    RAS EL HANOUT

    There is no one recipe for ras el hanout: Every Moroccan spice merchant has a proprietary recipe, and the cooks who buy the spices debate who has the best version. The name translates as “top of the shop” and the mixture often includes 30 or more of a spice merchant’s best ingredients: whole spices, dried roots and leaves, ground together.

     
    Some of the 30 can be exotics as cubeb berries, grains of paradise, and rose petals; or more the more familiar ingredients listed below. The complex blend delivers many subtle undercurrents of floral, peppery and sweet.

  • Traditional uses: As a dry rub for grilled meats, in starches (couscous, potatoes, rice) and traditional Moroccan dishes like b’stilla and tagines.
  • Traditional ingredients: A “secret” recipe that can include anise, cardamom, cayenne and other chiles, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, lavender, nutmeg, mace, pepper, saffron and turmeric.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons each coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Combine with 2 teaspoons each ground cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric and salt; add 2 tablespoons ground pepper. It’s a stripped-down version, but feel free to add what you like—you have 22 more slots available.
  •  
    ZA’ATAR

    Za’atar (also spelled zahtar) is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, including Israeli. Za’atar is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries. The latter grow in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. They impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

  • Traditional uses: As a seasoning for meat and vegetables or mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread. Add to hummus or for a modern touch, sprinkle on pizza (especially with feta cheese).
  • Traditional ingredients: Marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 2 tablespoons each cumin seeds and sesame seeds. Combine with 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 tablespoons sumac, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
  •  
    Your homework: Plan to use at least one of these blends for the first time this week.
      

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    NO-BAKE DESSERT: Mascarpone Spread & Basil Blackberries

    This fresh blackberry dessert is sophisticated yet so easy to make and serve.

    A tub of mascarpone turns into a sophisticated spread when topped with a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, blackberries and basil.

    Serve it with biscotti, cookies/biscuits or unsalted crackers, and guests will be asking for the recipe.

    This recipe is from Driscoll’s. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes.

    RECIPE: MASCARPONE DIP

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/3 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 package (6 ounces or 1-1/2 cups) fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Large pinch of fleur de sel or other sea salt
  • 1 container (8 to 8.8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  •    

    mascarpone-basil-blackberries-driscolls-230

    Mascarpone spread, a delicious no-cook, no-bake dessert. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

  • Biscotti, plain cookies or non-salty crackers/biscuits*
  •  

    http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-ripe-blackberries-bowl-food-close-up-image33432102

    We love finding new ways to enjoy
    blackberry season. Photo © Olha Afanasieva
    | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. BRING vinegar and brown sugar to a boil in a nonreactive small saucepan over high heat. Boil until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour into a medium bowl. Let cool.

    2. GENTLY STIR in blackberries, basil, pepper and salt.

    3. FILL a bowl with hot water. Dip bottom of the mascarpone container in water for about 5 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, unmold mascarpone onto a serving platter.

    3. SPOON blackberry mixture over mascarpone, being sure to scrape all juices out of the bowl, and letting berries fall randomly. Serve with biscotti, cookies and/or crackers.

    It’s that easy!
     
    *Examples: almond cookies, butter cookies, cream crackers, digestive biscuits, graham crackers, ginger snaps/ginger bread, ladyfingers, Moravian cookies, pizzelle, shortbread, speculos, springerle, stroopwafel, tea biscuits, water biscuits, wafer cookies, wheatmeal.

     

    ABOUT BLACKBERRIES

    Blackberries grow wild around the world, and in most places they are picked in season, not cultivated. Cultivation is relatively modern and done mostly in America [source].

    The blackberry is a member of the Rosaceae family of flowering plants. The largest genus in the family is Prunus, which includes almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums.

    The blackberry is a member of the Rubus genus, which also includes dewberries (which look like raspberries to the untrained eye), raspberries and hybrids such as boysenberry, loganberry and tayberry.

    The blackberry isn’t black, per se, but a very deep purple. It is not the same as a black raspberry, Rubus occidentalis, a raspberry grown on a limited basis*, primarily in Oregon.

    What distinguishes the blackberry from the raspberry genus is that its torus (receptacle or stem) “picks with” the fruit. When picking blackberries, the torus comes along with the berry (as you get with strawberries). With raspberries, the torus remains on the plant, leaving a hollow core in the raspberry fruit.

    Blackberries typically peak during June in the South, and in July in the North. You can enjoy a simple bowl of berries at breakfast, lunch (add them to green salads, enjoy them for dessert), dinner or for snacking; for drink garnishes on a cocktail pick; or use them in recipes.
     
    *Black raspberry plants yield significantly less fruit than red raspberries, and also commonly suffer from a disease complex that gives them shorter lifespans. They are more costly to produce on a large scale.

      

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