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Archive for August, 2015

NEWS: Italian Food Remains #1 With Americans

Nation’s Restaurant News (NRA) reports something that may not even be news: Italian food remains America’s favorite “ethnic” restaurant cuisine. No other cuisine comes close, although Mexican and Chinese round out the “big three.”

Sixty-one percent of the 1,000 people surveyed said they eat Italian food at restaurants at least once a month. By comparison, Mexican cuisine was eaten at least once a month by 50%, and Chinese cuisine by 36%.

We couldn’t find an official survey of the most popular Italian dishes, but one informal survey we found nominated the following as the Top 10 favorite Italian restaurant entrées in the U.S. (excluding pizza, the majority of which is consumed at pizzerias* rather than conventional Italian restaurants):

1. Chicken Parmigiana
2. Fettuccine Alfredo
3. Lasagna
4. Linguine With Clam Sauce
5. Veal Marsala
6. Chicken Saltimbocca
7. Pasta Primavera
8. Shrimp Fra Diavolo
9. Penne Alla Vodka
10. Spaghetti Marinara (with tomato sauce)

 

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Chicken Parmesan, the American spelling
of Parmigiano. Here’s the recipe. Photo
courtesy CookingClassy.com.

 
Our own Top 10 list would be different, but we wouldn’t turn any of these down! And we’d add our own Top 10 Italian Desserts list: cannoli, panna cotta, zabaglione, tiramisu, berries with mascarpone, riccota cheesecake, biscotti, gelato/semifreddo/spumoni/tortoni, sorbetto/granita and bomboloni.

The NRA defines “ethnic” cuisine broadly as any cuisine originating in a different country or within a specific region of the United States. We prefer the term “international cuisine” (it’s hard to think of French and Italian food as “ethnic”), but that doesn’t always work. American cuisnes—think Cajun and Creole—are ethnic but not international, as are California, Hawaiian, New England, Southern and Southwestern cuisines, among others.

Choose the term you like better and read the full article at NRN.com.

 
*Pizzerias serve other more casual fare as well, including calzones, stromboli and submarine sandwiches.

  

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FOOD FUN: Stovetop Elote

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Elote, Spanish corn on the cob. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

 

Elote is the Mexican version of corn on the cob, a popular street food. It is often grilled, then served on a stick with lime wedge, ancho chili powder and crumbled queso fresco.

Elote is the Aztec (Nahuatl) word for what the corn on the cob. It is pronounced ee-LOW-tee. Removed from the cob, the recipe has a different name, esquites, from the Nahuatl word for toasted corn, ízquitl.

This hack from Good Eggs in San Francisco eliminates the need for a grill. Just use a gas range to turn ears of fresh corn into this Mexican street treat.

Here’s more about elote, including an off-the-cob elote salad.
 
RECIPE: STOVE TOP ELOTE

Ingredients

  • Ears of fresh corn, husked
  • Butter
  • Ancho chili powder (substitute regular chili powder)
  • Crumbled queso fresco (substitute cotija, feta or grated Parmesan)
  • Lime wedges (substitute lemon)
  • Optional: skewers (because corn is heavy, you need thick skewers; you can also use conventional cob holders or these disposable cob holders)
  • Preparation

    1. USE tongs to hold the ears of corn directly over the stove top flame, turning to to blister the kernels.

    2. REMOVE from the heat, slather with butter, roll in crumbled queso fresco and finish with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of ancho chile powder.
     
    ELOTE CONDIMENTS

    In Mexico people serve the classics: ancho chili powder, lime, queso blanco. But in the U.S., some people substitute mayonnaise or sour cream (crema) for the butter.

    Pepper or seasoned salt are also options (lemon pepper is popular in Texas, per Wikipedia). Other options: cilantro, fresh parsley, oregano.

    Or for a true American take, how about crumbled bacon?

     
      

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    TIP: The Right Beer Glass Makes A Big Difference

    We’re one of the many people who likes to drink beer straight from the bottle. We believed, as with sparkling wine, that the narrower the opening, the more the carbonation stays in. A cold bottle from the fridge keeps the beer colder than a room-temperature glass. And, we don’t particularly care for a foamy head.

    But according to Spiegelau, a manufacturer of fine glassware in Bavaria, Germany, we have it all wrong. You only get about 15% of the flavor of the beer when you drink it from the bottle.

    That’s because smell, not palate, is the major component of taste (and explains why you can lose your taste when you have a badly congested nose and can’t smell). You get zero aroma through the narrow neck of the beer bottle, covered by your mouth as you take each sip.

    When you pour beer into a glass, the head* releases the bubbles (carbon dioxide) that burst into aroma.

    On top of that, different types of beer benefit from different shaped glasses, engineered to bring out the special attributes of the beer (Riedel, the parent company of Spieglau, was the pioneer in developing different wine glass types).

       

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    Engineered to bring out the best in American craft beers: from left, IPA, wheat beer and stout glasses. Photo courtesy Spiegelau USA.

     

    Different regions have long made different glass shapes for their beers. Think beyond the German stein to the British pint glass; the tall, tapered Pilsner† glass; the stemmed snifter for Belgian ales and IPAs; the tankard for ales, lagers, stouts and porters; and others. See the different types of beer glasses in the chart below.

     
    *The head is produced by bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that rise to the surface. The carbon dioxide is produced during fermentation.
    †Pilsner is the English spelling of Pilsener, the German spelling. The name derives from the town of Pilsen, a city in western Bohemia in the Czech Republic, where the style was originally brewed in October 1842—a new, clear, pale golden beer created from new malts, Pilsen’s remarkably soft water, Saaz noble hops and Bavarian-style lagering. It was a sensation. The Czech spelling of the town is Plzen.

     
    CRAFT BEER GLASSES FOR SPECIFIC STYLES OF BEER

    Spiegelau has developed a Craft Beer Glass Collection, with custom-designed glasses for the three most popular American craft beer styles: IPA, Stout and Wheat Beer. Each glass is designed, according to the company, to highlight “the complexity of aromas on the nose while demonstrating the optimum beer texture, balance and flavor intensity on the palate.”

    Riedel has done this for wine glasses with great success (you won’t believe how much better the wine tastes in a specially engineered wine glass than on a generic one). Now, they’ve done the same for beer.

    An expert panel of master brewers tested multiple glass shapes before finding the optimum shape for each beer type. Here’s what resulted:

  • The IPA glass was engineered to “showcase the complex and alluring aromatic profiles of American ‘hop-forward’ IPA beers, preserve a frothy head, enhance taste and mouth feel, and present a comfortably wide opening for the drinker to savory each beer.”
  • The Stout glass is designed to “accentuate the roasted malt, rich coffee and chocolate notes that define the Stout beer style.”
  • The Wheat Beer glass (wheat beer is one of the world’s most popular styles‚, has a large, voluminous bowl to harness the delicate aromas. The mouth opening was designed to spread the beer across the palate to “enhance mouth feel and harmony of sweetness and acidity.” The “open bottom glass base drives beer and aromatic foam upward into the main bowl after every sip.”
  •  
    And you thought a glass was just a glass!

    Custom-shape beer glasses isn’t hype: It’s precision engineering and it works. Buy yourself a set and test it against what you’re currently using. We had great results with the Spiegelau glasses.

    Beer glasses are a great gift for beer connoisseurs, and other companies have gotten the custom-shape message.

     

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    Wrong! These are traditional Pilsner glasses, specifically designed to bring out the best qualities in a Pilsener beer. That means that they won’t enhance the flavors of stout (left) and amber ale (center). But wait: The Lenox Pilsner glasses are totally different—a stemmed tulip glass! Photo courtesy WiseGeek.com.

     

    MORE BEER STYLE-SPECIFIC GLASSES

    Lenox has a new line of beer glasses in four styles: IPA, Pint With Crown, Stemmed Pilsner and Wheat Beer. And surprise: The shapes are totally different from conventional designs—as well as from the Spiegelau designs.

    The Pilsner is a stemmed tulip, like the traditional Belgian Ale glass. The IPA and Wheat Beer glasses are tall and narrow with a tapered waist, like the conventional Pilsner glass. The Pint With Crown is a sleeker version of the pub pint glass.

    Here’s what they say about their shapes:

  • The Stemmed Pilsner’s tulip shape “traps the rich aromas and helps maintain a frothy head. The thin flared rim places the beer evenly on the palate, elevating the overall taste experience.” Lenox also recommends the shape for stouts and dark beers.
  • The India Pale Ale glass, tall and slender, “is a perfect complement for IPAs and lighter ales. The contoured shape preserves a frothy head, while maximizing aroma and enhancing taste.”
  • The Wheat Beer glass has a large mouth and a narrow body, “making it the ideal vessel for wheat beers and most pale or blonde beers. By tipping the glass back, the aromas that characterize these brews are pushed to the nose, thus allowing the drinker to enjoy the beer’s full flavor.”
  •  

  • The Pint With Crown is the English-style pub glass that serves an official imperial pint, approximately 20 ounces. “Ideally sized for generous pours of pale ales and lagers, this pint’s curved lip cultivates foamy heads.
  •  
    Frankly, we bet on the precision of the Spiegelau glasses. We’ve tasted with them, and they work! There are no better glassware engineers on earth than Riedel, the parent company of Spiegelau.

    We haven’t tried Lenox or other contenders, and you can’t be sure without trying. So we’ll keep testing, and will keep you posted.
     
    CAN’T WAIT TO TRY THE GLASSES?

  • Lenox Tuscany Beer Glass Collection, set of four styles, $32.12
  • Spiegelau Tasting Glasses, set of four styles, $34.99 (includes the glasses described above plus a lager glass)
  •  
    If you don’t care about precision engineering but like the idea of different glass shapes for different beers, try:

  • Libbey, set of six styles, $19.99 (these glasses are traditional styles, not made with modern engineering to optimize the flavors and aromas)
  •  

    TRADITIONAL BEER GLASSES
     
    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/beer glasses dailyinfographic.eu original copy

    See the original chart at DailyInfographics.eu.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Folgers Iced Café For Homemade Lattes

    We love iced coffee, but have some challenges:

  • We never have enough room in the fridge to make and store a pitcher of it.
  • We can drink several a day, so buying it can run into money—plus a lot of plastic into the landfill.
  • Not every iced coffee we’ve bought has lived up to our taste standards.
  • Finally, with a lactose-free milk requirement, we have to drink our purchased coffee black.
     
    [Sidebar rant: Even Starbucks, which claims to be so customer-focused, offers only sweetened vanilla soy milk for those who can’t have cow’s milk, lactose, whey, are vegan, can’t digest soy, etc.

    Plain soy or almond milk would be acceptable to most people who can’t have cow’s milk. But if you don’t like sugar in your coffee, can’t have sugar, etc., well, as our dad would say, you’re SOL at Starbucks (and many other food service venues).

    Starbucks management: If you’re reading this, take a look at the moronic letter your customer service staff sends to people who suggest an unsweetened milk alternative.]

  •    

    Iced Coffee Mason Jar

    For a refreshing iced latte, just squeeze two drops of concentrate into your favorite type of milk. Photo courtesy Folgers.

     
    FOLGERS HAS SOLVED OUR PROBLEMS!

    Now, all we need to make a truly delicious iced latte—in less than a minute—is our milk of choice and a bottle of the new Folgers Iced Café Coffee Drink Concentrate. The bottle is so small, it fits into a shirt pocket.

    Just fill a glass with milk (and ice, as desired), add two squeezes of coffee concentrate and stir.

    Make it with 2% milk and you have a drink that tastes like a milkshake without the ice cream: so creamy, it’s hard to believe this is a low-calorie drink. The drinks are called lattes, but if you’re used to a skim latte, as we are, the taste with 2% or almond milk approaches a milkshake.
     
    Folgers Iced Café Coffee Drink Concentrates debuted in four equally scrumptious flavors:

  • Original Latte Coffee
  • Caramel Macchiato
  • Hazelnut Latte
  • Vanilla Latte
  •  

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    We used the Folgers Vanilla Latte flavor plus almond milk for an instant latte treat. Photo courtesy Munchery.

     

    The two drops of concentrate (per eight ounces of milk) add just 10 calories to the milk calories. The suggested retail price for a squeeze bottle with 12 portions is $4.99.

    The flavors are very lightly sweetened with Sucralose. It was so light that we, who normally don’t add sugar to coffee, really enjoyed it. Along with the creaminess of the milk, it heightens the “milkshake factor.”

    You can glamorize your latte, of course, adding whipped cream, chocolate syrup, ice cream or whatever. But the drinks are just perfect as is.

    You can find Folgers Iced Café at retailers nationwide (store locator) and can buy it online.

    We’re adding this “instant latte” solution to our list of delicious stocking stuffers.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pozole (Posole) ~ Not Just For Special Occasions

    Much of what we know about Aztec customs is thanks to Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), a Franciscan friar, missionary priest, scholar and ethnographer who traveled to New Spain* (current-day Mexico) after its conquest. Arriving in 1529, he learned the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs and spent more 61 years documenting their beliefs, culture and history.

    He wrote extensively about Aztec cuisine. This article focuses on pozole (poe-SOE-leh, and often spelled posole in the U.S.), a hearty soup or stew made of hominy, meat, chiles and other seasonings.

    The dish has either a red or green color depending on the chiles used for the soup base; there’s also white pozole. In addition to the traditional pork, later variations used beans, beef, chicken and seafood.

    Pozole† is actually the Aztec word for hominy, corn that is hulled (the bran and germ have been removed) by bleaching the whole kernels in a lye bath (called nixtamalization).

    In Sahagún’s time, pozole was cooked only on special occasions. Later, it became a popular holiday and “Saturday night” dish.

       

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    Pork pozole, garnished with cabbage,
    cilantro, lime and radishes. Photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann.

     
    Today, pozole is customized by each individual at the table, with garnishes that include avocado, cilantro, diced red onion, lime or lemon wedges, oregano, radishes, salsa, shredded cabbage, sour cream and tortilla chips or tostadas.

    NOTE: Don’t confuse pozole with pozol, a porrige-like drink made from fermented corn dough.
     
    *After an 11-year struggle for independence, New Spain became the sovereign nation of Mexico in 1821.

    †Also spelled posole, pozolé and pozolli; the original Nahuatl spelling is name is potzolli.
     
    CLASSIC POZOLE RECIPES

  • Beef Pozole With Red Chiles (Pozole Rojo)
  • Green Pozole With Chicken (Pozole Verde)
  • Red Pozole With Chicken (Pozole Rojo)
  • Red Pozole With Pork (Pozole Rojo)
  • Shrimp & Scallop Pozole (Pozole Blanco)
  • Vegetarian Pozole With Beans (Vegan Pozole Rojo)
  • White Pozole With Chicken (Pozole Blanco)
  •  
    A modern variation:

  • Pozole-Stuffed Grilled Onions
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    Pozole interpreted as a salad, for a first course or side. Photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Today we feature a vegan pozole salad from Hannah Kamimsky of Bittersweet Blog. It is intended as a first course or a side dish.
     
    RECIPE: POZOLE SALAD

    Ingredients For 8 Side Servings

  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 Savoy cabbage ((1-1/4 pounds), shredded
  • 1 can (29-ounces) cooked white hominy kernels (not hominy grits), drained and rinsed
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
  •  
    For The Cilantro Dressing

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2-3 limes depending on size and juiciness)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon light agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Toss the cherry tomatoes and onion with the olive oil and oregano, and spread them in one even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 15-25 minutes, until the tomatoes are blistered and beginning to burst. Let cool. Meanwhile…

    2. PREPARE the dressing: Add the cilantro, sundried tomatoes and garlic to a food processor or blender, and slowly pour in the lime juice while running the machine on low. Thoroughly purée, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl or blender jar as needed. Once the purée is mostly smooth, add the agave, chili powder, cumin and salt next, and drizzle in the olive oil (with the motor running) to emulsify.

    3. TOSS together the tomatoes and onions, cabbage, hominy, avocados, and jalapeños in a large bowl. Pour the dressing on top and toss to coat. Chill for at least an hour before serving to allow the flavors to fully meld.

      

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