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Archive for 2015

TIP OF THE DAY: Antipasto Platter With Cocktails

Contemplating what to serve during cocktail hour as guests arrive for Christmas or New Year’s Eve? There are dips, chips, crudités, cheese plates, hot and cold hors d’oeuvre and other possibilities to consider.

But a recent email from Baldor Specialty Foods rang true: Let people pick what they want from an antipasto table. Just set it out and let your guests help themselves.

An antipasto platter both pleases foodies and can cover every diet: gluten-free, lactose-free, low calorie, vegan, etc.

OPTIONS FOR YOUR ANTIPASTO

Just because antipasto is an Italian word doesn’t mean every item has to be Italian. If you want to serve Greek feta and kalamata olives, French pâte and Gruyère de Comté: Go for it. Select what you think your guests will like, and select an assortment of colors to make the choices look lively. Here’s a list of possibilities to get you thinking:
 
Vegetables

  • Assorted olive mix (ideally pitted)
  • Cipppolini onions in agrodolce (sweet and sour marinated onions—recipe)
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Marinated artichoke hearts, bell peppers, mushrooms and/or sundried tomatoes
  • Radishes and carrot sticks
  • Red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Roasted red peppers
  •  
    Pickles

  • Cherry peppers or pickled jalapeños
  • Cornichons
  • Peppadews
  • Sweet gherkins
  • Other pickled vegetables
  •  
    Proteins

  • Anchovies
  • Charcuterie (sausage, salame, pâté)
  • Marinated mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
  • Sliced ham and/or turkey
  • Seafood salad (recipe)
  • Semihard cheese (look for one with something extra: peppercorns, chiles, herbs, olives, etc.)
  • Smoked salmon or gravlax
  • Steamed mussels (recipe)
  •  
    Breads & Crackers

  • Breadsticks
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers or other gluten-free option
  • 34 Degrees or other fancy crackers
  • Thin-sliced white or whole-grain baguette
  •  

    Antipasto Platter

    Antipasto Items

    Antipasto Plate

    Different presentations of antipasto. Top photo by Spin12. Middle photo by Yulia Davidovich. Bottom photo by Terrasprite.

     
    HOW MANY SELECTIONS DO YOU NEED?

    The number of items you serve depends on the number of guests. For a smaller group, consider four or five options. For a larger group, plan for eight or more items.

  • Arrange the ingredients artistically on a tray, plate or platter, balancing colors and shapes.
  • If you don’t have the right platter, use smaller plates and bowls.
  • Slice sausages and salamis; with ham, roll or fold.
  • You can leave cheeses whole or cut them into chunks. Semi-hard cheese are better than soft or runny ones; the latter get messier as more people slice them.
  • If any of your selections needs condiments—mustard or cocktail sauce, for example—set them out.
  • Don’t forget small plates, cocktail napkins, cocktail picks or toothpicks.
  •  
    If there are any leftovers, the good news is that you’ll enjoy antipasto the next day, instead of trying to use up dip and cold pigs in blankets.

      

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    RECIPE: White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn Bark

    White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn

    Popcorn, peppermints and white chocolate: Yum! Photo courtesy Popcorn.org.

     

    We enjoyed this confection so much at a holiday party that we asked for the recipe. Turns out it’s from Popcorn.org, the consumer site of The Popcorn Board.

    And it’s easy! Make it for gifts, for your guests and for yourself!

    Also take a look at this recipe white chocolate peppermint pretzels.

    RECIPE: WHITE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT POPCORN BARK

    Ingredients For 1 Pound (Twelve 3-Inch Squares)

  • 5 cups popped popcorn (purchased or home-popped)
  • 12 ounces white chocolate baking chips, chopped white chocolate or white candy coating*
  • 1 cup crushed hard candy peppermints
  •  
    *We use Guittard white chocolate chips or chop Green & Black’s or Lindt white chocolate bars. We avoid white candy coating because it substitutes vegetable oil for the cocoa butter in real chocolate (and that’s the reason many people dislike “white chocolate,” as they’re actually eating white candy coating).

     
    Preparation

    1. COVER a baking pan with foil or wax paper; set aside. Place the popcorn in a large bowl; set aside.

    2. MELT the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Alternatively, melt according to package directions. When the chocolate is melted, stir in the crushed peppermints.

    3. POUR the chocolate mixture over the popcorn mixture and stir to coat. Spread it onto the prepared pan and allow to cool completely. When chocolate is cooled and set…

    4. BREAK into chunks for serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
     
    Variation: White Chocolate Popcorn Crunch (No Peppermint)

    1. OMIT the candy peppermints.

    2. MIX ½ cup dried cranberries and ½ cup sliced almonds with the popcorn. You can also sprinkle chocolate chips over the popcorn. Pour the melted chocolate over the mixture.
     
    POPCORN TRIVIA

    Popcorn was first popped at least 5,600 years ago in Mexico, by throwing corn kernels on sizzling hot stones.

    Although it is an indigenous American snack, it originally was not a snack food, but was pounded into a meal and mixed with water. This same cooking technique was used by the early American colonists, who mixed ground popcorn with milk and ate it for breakfast.

    Popcorn is a whole grain food. Here’s the history of popcorn.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Special Christmas Punch

    When we first received this recipe, we thought: Readers of The Nibble won’t want to buy or make the oleo saccharum. Holiday season is busy enough as it is.

    But we loved the recipe, and decided to make it for our own holiday celebration. We tasted the test batch and thought: We’ll be shortchanging our readers if we don’t share this.

    The recipe was created by Masahiro Urushido, an award-winning New York City bartender. He used Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch, Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur and Lejay Creme de Cassis.

    This punch is inspired by traditional Scottish Christmas pudding, made with dried fruits such as raisins and apricots.

    Masa calls his recipe Pepperdier Christmas Punch, adapting the name of a friend. But since that can be confusing to the rest of us (we tried to research “Pepperdier” online), we’ll rename it slightly to Scotch Christmas Punch, acknowledging both the country of inspiration and the Scotch whisky in the recipe.

    RECIPE: SINGLE MALT CHRISTMAS PUNCH

    Ingredients For 8 To 10 Servings

  • 1/4 cup raisins or sultanas
  • 6 ounces Scotch Whisky
  • 8 ounces Scottish Breakfast Tea (it’s malty Assam tea, but you can substitute any classic black tea)
  • 6 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces Dubonnet Rouge (substitute sweet vermouth)
  • 2 ounces apricot liqueur
  • 1 ounce creme de cassis
  • 3 tablespoons oleo saccharum syrup (citrus sugar syrup—see below)
  • Sparkling wine*
  • Garnishes: rosemary sprigs, whole cranberries, orange slices and bay leaves
  •    

    Christmas Punch

    Oleo Saccharum Syrup

    TOP PHOTO: Christmas punch. Photo by Gabi Porter. BOTTOM PHOTO: Oleo saccharum, a big-sounding name for citrus sugar syrup. Photo courtesy Cocktail & Sons.

     
    *We happened to have a good bottle of Lambrusco—a red sparkling wine—on hand and it went great with this recipe. Most people will use Cava, Prosecco or another sparkling white wine.
     
    Preparation

    1. SOAK the raisins in the Scotch for several hours or overnight.

    2. MAKE the oleo saccharum if you aren’t purchasing it (recipe).

    3. MIX all ingredients except the sparkling wine in a punch bowl. Garnish with rosemary, cranberries, orange slices and bay leaves. Top with sparkling wine and serve.
     
    No Punch Bowl?

    If you don’t have a punch bowl, mix all ingredients except the sparkling wine in a pitcher. To serve, pour the punch into individual glasses, top with sparkling wine and garnish with an orange slice.
     

     

    Harney Scottish Breakfast Tea

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/scottish breakfast tea blend jenierteas 230r

    Both of these are Scottish breakfast teas, yet
    look at the difference in the blends. The top
    photo is Scottish Morn from Harney & Sons.
    The bottom photo is Scottish Breakfast tea
    blend from Jenier Teas.

     

    WHAT IS OLEO SACCHARUM?

    Oleo saccharum is citrus oil blended with sugar. In Latin, oleo means oil and saccharum means sugar. It became prominent in the 19th-century as a way to provide a subtle citrus flavor and aroma to sweetened drinks, instead of plain sugar syrup (simple syrup).

    Oleo saccharum is made from orange and/or lemon peels (lime peels have too much bitterness) that are muddled (crushed) to release the oils. Sugar is added to the muddled peel and mixes with the citrus oil that emerges from the skins. The peel is strained out, leaving sugared citrus oil.

    You can use it to add an elegant citrus note to any cocktail that requires sugar/simple syrup, and can blend it with club soda for a refreshing non-alcoholic drink.

    The bottled oleo saccharum from Cocktail & Sons, featured in the photo above, is a citrus syrup enriched with fresh lemongrass, toasted green cardamom and ginger. You can buy it on Amazon.com.

    Or, it’s easy enough to make your own. Here’s a recipe.
     
    WHAT IS SCOTTISH BREAKFAST TEA?

    Here’s something that few people outside the tea industry realize: Breakfast teas, notably English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast, are simply strong black tea blends.

    The blends have more flavor to stand up to milk or cream, complement British breakfast foods (eggs, porridge, ham, bacon, etc.) and provide heartiness (more body and caffeine) to energize the drinker in the morning. Afternoon tea blends tend to be lighter and smoother, to pair with sweets and tea sandwiches.

     

    The British first imported tea from China in the 17th century, to great public appreciation. Coffee was available at the time, but otherwise beer and stout were drunk by everyone, including children, because of contaminated water sources.

    The British became avid tea drinkers, and since the 18th century have been among the world’s greatest per capita tea consumers.

    In China tea is drunk plain, but in the 1720s, the British began to add sugar and milk or cream to create a more comforting beverage. Black tea came to exceed green tea in popularity, as it goes better with sugar and milk. (The same pattern occurred in the Thirteen Colonies.)
     
    The Different Types Of Breakfast Tea

    In order of robust flavor and body:

  • English Breakfast Tea is the mildest of the strong teas. It can be a blend of teas from Africa, India (Assam), Indonesia and Sri Lanka (Ceylon), with a base of Chinese congou tea. Originally, before tea cultivation expanded beyond China, it was unblended congou tea.
  • Irish Breakfast Tea has a good amount of Assam, giving it Assam’s malty flavor notes and reddish color. It often contain others black teas, including Darjeeling, to balance the intense flavors of Assam.
  • Scottish Breakfast Tea is the strongest of the three, with a base of Assam plus the smoother Keemun tea from China, among other teas in the blend.
  •  
    It’s important to note that there is no standard formula for any of these blends and no governing body specifying what each should contain. The blends evolved over time, likely as one vendor sought to copy a popular blend offered by another vendor.

    Thus, teas of the same name—English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Jasmine, etc.—can vary slightly in taste, aroma and appearance from vendor to vendor, and country to country. Names can also vary for the same type of blend. [Source]

    For example, fine tea vendor Harney & Sons calls its Scottish Breakfast Tea “Scottish Morn.” Describing the blend, which was made to the specifications of the American Scottish Foundation, Harney says:

    “A mixture of dark brown leaves, the smaller pieces of Assam and Ceylon and [the] CTC (cut, tear, curl) method make for a stronger tea. This is one of our darkest teas, brewing a very dark brown color. Many Scots would lighten it with milk. Aroma is not the point of this tea, so there are only hints of suggestions of malt. It is caffeinated [and] a very full bodied tea…perhaps the strongest tea we offer. Strong and simple, this tea is meant to be drunk with milk.”

    And now you know about Scottish Breakfast Tea and its kin, English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast. Enjoy the teas…and the punch!

      

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    INNOVATION: A New Way To Enjoy Breakfast Cereal

    What’s new in breakfast? How about some of America’s favorite breakfast cereals, served with spicy Chinese food? It’s a unique fusion experience, and it’s DEE-licious!

    The concept is a joint venture between Kellogg’s and innovative Chinese chef Danny Bowien.

    Chef Danny is a James Beard Rising Star Chef Award winner, chef/co-founder of the acclaimed restaurants Mission Chinese Food in New York and San Francisco and Mission Cantina in New York, and co-author of The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook.

    Danny worked with Kellogg’s to create original approaches to breakfast cereal, combining American cereal with popular Chinese dishes from his menu. We were lucky enough to be invited to taste his creations (just $6 each!). They’re a revelation, and an inspiration for all of us to create our own innovative cereal combinations.

    The result:

    The marriage of familiar and unexpected flavors, the sweet and crunchy Kellogg’s cereals with the soft and spicy Mission Chinese cuisine, is a winner! We loved every one.

    In fact, we went home and re-created Danny’s pairings as best we could, with the ingredients we had on hand. Since all the thinking had been done for us, it was pretty easy, although with a less refined result than the master’s.!

    The limited-time specialty breakfast menu is available from December 18th to 20th; proceeds (with a minimum donation of $25,000) will benefit The Bowery Mission, which provides meals to homeless men and women in New York City.

     
    THE BREAKFAST MENU: 5 NEW & NIFTY COMBINATIONS

    Each pairing is a conventional cereal course, accompanied by a Chinese dish.
     
    Corn Flakes + Westlake Rice Porridge

    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, yogurt and berries.
    Paired With: Westlake Rice Porridge, essentially the wonderful Chinese dish of congee with chunks of oxtail meat, Dungeness crab and a soft-cooked egg.
    Our Home Version: Corn Flakes, yogurt, berries, Cream Of Rice cereal with a swirl of sriracha.
     
    Corn Pops + Thrice Cooked Bacon

     

    Westlake Rice Porridge With Corn Flakes

    Kellogg's Mini Wheats With Cashew Butter

    Frosted Flakes With Matcha Milk

    TOP PHOTO: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with rice porridge (congee). MIDDLE PHOTO: Kellogg’s Mini Wheats with cashew butter and persimmon jelly. BOTTOM PHOTO: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes with matcha powder, matcha milk and matcha noodles. Photos courtesy Mission Chinese Food.

     
    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Corn Pops with bacon-infused soy milk, topped with a fried egg.
    Paired With: Thrice cooked bacon with stir-fried rice cakes, bitter melon and chili paste.
    Our Home Version: Corn Pops, bacon and eggs with chili paste-braised tofu (alas, we had no rice cakes).
     
    Frosted Flakes + Green Tea Noodles

    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes dusted with matcha (green tea powder).
    Paired With: A carafe of matcha-infused milk and a side of matcha noodles.
    Our Home Version: Frosted Flakes dusted with matcha, green tea soy milk and angel hair pasta tossed with olive oil and matcha “pesto.”
     
    Frosted Mini Wheats & Beef Jerky Fried Rice

    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats on a bed of cashew butter and persimmon jam.
    Paired With: Beef Jerky Fried Rice, peanut-infused milk and a scattering of roasted peanuts.
    Our Home Version: Mini Wheats with peanut butter and fig jam. Next time we’ll make cashew fried rice to go with it.
     
    Raisin Bran + Mapo Tofu

    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran quickly braised in warm almond milk, agave and lime.
    Paired With: Spicy Mapo Tofu—tofu set in a spicy chili-based sauce.
    Our Home Version: Raisin Bran with more of the chili paste-braised tofu and a squeeze of lime juice.
     

    For more ideas on how you can innovate with cereal, visit the Kellogg’s site StirUpBreakfast.com.

    Our fondest wish: that this breakfast menu gets a regular gig.

      

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    RECIPE: Christmas Pancakes

    Orange Cranberry Pancakes

    Artisan Maple Syrup

    Top photo: These festive pancakes taste great even if you don’t stack them. Photo courtesy Zulka Sugar. Bottom photo: Start with quality maple syrup and turn it into cranberry-maple syrup. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    We love this festive pancake recipe for the holidays, from Zulka Sugar. It incorporates an array of holiday flavors: cinnamon, cranberry, orange and maple.

    The pancakes and syrup are made from scratch, so it’s a weekend or vacation day recipe in our home.

    RECIPE: ORANGE CINNAMON PANCAKES WITH CRANBERRY MAPLE SYRUP

    Ingredients
     
    For the Pancakes

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Zest from 2 oranges (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cool
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    For the Cranberry Syrup

  • 1½ cups fresh cranberries
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and orange zest in a large bowl; whisk to combine.

    2. WHISK the eggs in a small bowl, then add the buttermilk, orange juice and vanilla extract. Add the cooled melted butter and stir again to combine. Add the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Let sit for 10 minutes.

    3. MAKE the syrup: Combine 1 cup of the cranberries, the maple syrup, sugar, orange juice and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 2 minutes. When the cranberries start to pop open, use a spoon to smash some of them against the side of the pan.

    4. COMBINE the cornstarch and a little water in a small bowl, just enough water to make the cornstarch liquid. Pour this into the syrup and bring it back to a boil for one minute. Add the remaining cranberries, turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep warm.

     

    Cranberry Pancakes Stack

    A stack of festive pancakes for the holidays. Photo courtesy Zulka Sugar.

     

    5. PREHEAT a griddle and grease with butter or coconut oil. Pour 1/3 cup batter for each pancake and cook 2-3 minutes or until the pancakes are covered in bubbles and edges are starting to look done. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook another 1-2 minutes or until browned slightly. Keep the pancakes warm and repeat with remaining batter.

    6. SERVE: Place a few pancakes on a plate with 1/3 cup of the cranberry syrup. Serve hot.
     
    ABOUT ZULKA SUGAR

    Zulka sugars are minimally processed from freshly-harvested sugar cane. They are not refined, which helps preserve the fresh flavor and natural properties of the sugar cane. You can taste the difference in a cup of tea.

    Zulka makes granulated, confectioners’ (powdered/10x sugar) and brown sugars. Here’s more about Zulka.

      

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