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Archive for July 30, 2014

FOOD 101: Simits Vs. Bagels

We are so happy that simits have come into our life. This traditional Middle Eastern street food is breakfast fare or snack in Turkey and other parts of the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Thanks to a Turkish family whose children moved to a simit-less New York City, simits are now baked in the area, served at the company’s Simit + Smith cafés and sold at specialty food stores (a partial list: Agata & Valentina, Amish Market, Blue Olive Market, Food Cellar, Francela, Garden of Eden, Parrot Coffee and Zeytuna).

We’d like to offer our perspective of simits versus bagels.

Wanting to make their product stand out, the Simit + Smith folks don’t want to compare simits with that ensconced American standard, the bagel. They suggested that we call it “artisan bread,” a generic term that applies to any bread that’s handmade.

But we don’t agree. What’s the best way to convince people to try something new? Compare it to something everyone already knows and loves.

So take it from THE NIBBLE: If you like sesame bagels, you’ll like simits—maybe a lot more.

SIMITS & BAGELS: THE DIFFERENCES

   

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A simit (on top) with its cousin, a sesame bagel. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

 
Like bagels, simits are made with all natural ingredients, without fat or preservatives, and are hand rolled and baked fresh daily. The recipes and process are slightly different, but here are the key differences:

  • Shape. As you can see in the photos, simits are larger and flatter, even when compared to the overblown bagel from our neighborhood, made with a scant hole in the middle so the fillings don’t fall out. Simits are not used for sandwiches in Turkey—it’s not a tradition, and besides the fillings would fall out through the center. To make simit sandwiches, Simit + Smith also bakes a non-traditional, “American” simit roll without the hole.
  • Texture. Simits are crispy on the outside, and the inside is light and fluffy, in contrast with the denser, chewier bagel.
  • Fewer carbs. The flatter shape of simit means less crumb (the bready inside). You get bagel-like flavor with less bread.
  • More flavor. Comparing a simit to a sesame bagel, simits have more flavor. Why? The sesame seeds are adhered to the simit with a mixture of water and 5% molasses. That 5% adds wonderful flavor and there’s a bonus: It makes the sesame seeds really adhere. They don’t fall off and make a mess (as with a sesame bagel).
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    Inside the simit and bagel. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    MORE ON THE MENU

    In its home countries, simits are always coated with flavorful, healthful healthy sesame seeds. To meet American’s tastes, Simit + Smith also offers multigrain and whole wheat simits (you won’t find them in Turkey).

    If you’d like a simit sandwich, there are traditional Mediterranean fillings such as black olive paste and kasseri cheese, and American-style fillings as chicken, Nutella and banana (wonderful!), roast beef and our favorite, smoked salmon and cream cheese.

    There are toasted Simit chips with a variety of Mediterrean dips and spreads. We’ve been enjoying simit in some form or other for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

    Other products include beverages (the tea and coffee are delish), oatmeal, yogurt and fresh fruit, soups, salads, paninis, scones and excellent baked goods sourced from top local bakeries.

    The company has also makes pogaca (poh-AH-cha), a savory pastry filled with feta and parsley or kasseri cheese and olives. Here’s the whole menu.

     
    Simit + Smith cafes are located at 124 West 72nd Street, 111 Worth Street and 100 Williams Street in New York City. In New Jersey, visit the bakery itself at 721 Anderson Avenue in Cliffside Park.

    For more information on Simit + Smith,including a list of specialty food stores that carry simits, head to SimitAndSmith.com.

      

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    RECIPE: Blackberry Cheesecake

    In the U.S. Blackberries typically peak during June in the South, and in July in the North. Crops are ready at various times of the month depending on which part of the state you are located. In order to produce good local Blackberries, producers depend on ideal spring and early summer weather conditions.

    In this recipe from Driscoll’s, a deep purple blackberry purée spiked with blackberry liqueur dresses up a creamy cheesecake with a chocolate wafer cookie crust.

    Today’s the perfect day to bake it: July 30th is National Cheesecake Day (see all the food holidays).

    Prep time is 20 minutes plus cooling, cook time is 50 minutes plus cooling.

    Don’t like blackberries? Can’t find any? Use another berry.

    RECIPE: SWIRLED BLACKBERRY CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients For 16 Servings
     
    For The Crust

  • 3 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 60 cookies)
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
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    blackberry-cheesecake-driscolls-230r

    Celebrate National Cheesecakde Day. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

     
    For The Filling and Topping

  • 2 cups blackberries, divided
  • 1 tablespoon blackberry liqueur or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cups sour cream
  • Garnish: mint leaves
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    In the U.S., blackberry season peaks in July.
    Photo © Pretoperola | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Combine chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter in a medium bowl. Press into and up sides of 9-inch non-stick springform pan (if pan is not nonstick, brush first with melted butter). Bake about 14 minutes or until firm. Let cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

    2. MAKE the filling. Purée 1 cup blackberries in a blender or food processor and strain. Discard seeds. You should have about 1/3 cup purée. Stir in blackberry liqueur and 2 teaspoons sugar. Set aside until ready to use.

    3. MIX cream cheese and remaining 1 cup sugar in bowl of an electric mixer on low speed until blended. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed. Add sour cream and mix until blended. Spoon half batter into cooled crust.

    4. DROP half of the blackberry purée mixture into batter, one teaspoon at a time. Swirl into filling using a toothpick or wooden skewer. Repeat with remaining batter and blackberry purée mixture.

     

    5. BAKE about 50 minutes or until edges are just set and center jiggles slightly. Turn oven off and prop the door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon. Let cool in oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool completely. Place in refrigerator and chill until cold throughout, 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

    6. SERVE: Make a pile of the remaining blackberries on top of cheesecake and garnish with mint leaves.

     
    BLACKBERRY TIPS

  • Select plump, firm, fully black berries. Blackberries do not ripen off the vine; unripe berries will not ripen once picked.
  • Buy only what you need. Like all fresh berries, blackberries quickly mold when left at room temperature, and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
  • If you have more than you can use, you can easily freeze berries. Just wash, cut the hulls off and pop them into a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.
  • Buy only what you need. Like all fresh berries, blackberries quickly mold when left at room temperature, and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
  • If you have more than you can use, you can easily freeze berries. Just wash, cut the hulls off and pop them into a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.
  • One quart equals 1-1/2 pounds of fresh berries.
  • One cup of blackberries has just 62 calories, and is high in antioxidants.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Fruit & Toast, a.k.a. Breakfast Tartines

    Many people spread jam on their toast. But in the summer season, why not use fresh berries instead?

    Pair those berries with your favorite dairy spread: cottage cheese, cream cheese, crème fraîche, fromage blanc, fromage frais/quark, goat cheese, mascarpone, sour cream, yogurt.

    In France, these would be called tartines: open-face sandwiches.

    You don’t have to toast the bread. Toast adds crunch and texture, but if fresh-baked bread is calling to you, enjoy it straight from the loaf.

    You can also enjoy these tartines as a snack. They’re just right for a mid-afternoon tea break.

    RECIPE: FRUIT TOAST / BREAKFAST TARTINES

    Ingredients

  • Fruit: berries, mango or other soft fruit
  • Bread of choice
  • Dairy spread
  • Optional garnish: fresh or dried herbs or other seasonings
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    Who needs jam when you have fresh fruit? Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     

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    Not a fruit fan? Use vegetables; here, sliced
    radishes and fresh-snipped chives atop
    Greek yogurt. Photo courtesy La Tartine
    Gourmande
    .

      Preparation

    1. Choose some delicious bread: date nut bread, Irish soda bread, multigrain, peasant bread, pumpernickel, raisin bread, rye, sourdough, spelt, whole grain or other bread with great flavor and texture.

    You can also use crispbread, like Wasa. Mild breads like challah, English muffins and white bread are best left to another occasion. See the different types of bread.

    2. Pick your dairy product: cottage cheese, cream cheese, crème fraîche, goat cheese, Greek yogurt, mascarpone, sour cream, quark or other spreadable dairy.

    3. Pick your fruit: berries, dates, figs, mandarin or orange segments, mango and sliced stone fruits (apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums) are our favorites.

    4. Toast the bread (or not); spread with the dairy, top with the fresh fruit and enjoy. If you need more sweetness, drizzle with honey or cinnamon sugar.

     

    VARIATIONS

  • Herbs and spices. Sprinkle with a chiffonade of basil, chili flakes, cinnamon, ground black pepper or other favorite accents.
  • Veggies. Top with vegetables instead of fruit. We like grated carrots (and raisins!), tomatoes* with fresh herbs, radishes or shaved zucchini. With vegetable tartines, you can use other herbs such as cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley.
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    *Yes, tomatoes are a fruit, but they are eaten a vegetable. Here’s why the tomato is fruit, not veggie.

      

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