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Archive for January 12, 2016

RECIPE: Homemade Tomato Soup With Goat Cheese Crostini

We love tomato soup, but have run out of patience with the added sweeteners—typically corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. We don’t like the excessive sweet taste of the soup, we don’t like the added calories, and we certainly don’t like HFCS.

For National Soup Month, here’s an easy recipe from Davio’s Boston, one of several locations in the excellent Davio’s Northern Italian Steak Houses in Atlanta, Manhattan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and later this year in Los Angeles.

A side of goat cheese crostini turns the soup into a first course or a sophisticated “soup and sandwich” lunch.

RECIPE: HOMEMADE TOMATO SOUP

Ingredients For 6 To 8 Portions

  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 large white onion, sliced*
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed San Marzano tomatoes†
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Optional garnish: swirl of plain Greek yogurt
  • Optional side: goat cheese and chive crostini (recipe below)
  •    

    Sundried Tomato Soup

    Make tomato soup for National Soup Month. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

    ______________________________
    *While butter adds a nice flavor note, you can substitute oil if you’re avoiding cholesterol, want a vegan option, etc.

    †You can buy the tomatoes crushed or whole. Steve buys them whole and hand crushes them.
     
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a stock pot; add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 1 hour.

    2. ADD the cubed bread and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until cool. Purée until smooth with an immersion blender or in a regular blender or food processor. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

    3. SERVE: Bring the soup to a simmer. Plate and garnish with the optional yogurt, then with the basil and parsley. Serve with the crostini.

     

    Goat Cheese Crostini

    Goat cheese crostini are delicious with soup
    or a glass of wine. Photo courtesy Wines Of
    Sicily.

     

    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 ounces spreadable goat cheese (a softened log is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon chives, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 slices sliced baguette (1/2-inch-thick slices) toasted French bread baguette
  • Optional garnish: extra virgin olive oil, fresh-ground pepper and lemon zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOAST the baguette slices.

    2. BLEND together the goat cheese, dill and minced garlic. Spread evenly over the toasted baguette slices.

    3. GARNISH with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some lemon zest and fresh-ground black pepper.
     
    DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRUSCHETTA
    AND CROSTINI
    ?

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Scotch Whisky Chocolates For Burns Night

    In Scotland, January 25th is a national holiday that celebrates the birthday of the great romantic poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). On Burns Night, family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served.

    This year, instead of cooking a traditional Burns Supper (smoked haddock, beef pie, haggis, colcannon, tatties), we’re taking the sweeter road:
     
    BURDICK SCOTCH WHISKY CHOCOLATES

    Available for only three weeks each year, this special box of chocolates blends Scotch whisky into every piece.

    There are ganache-filled chocolates made with some of the finest whiskys, including Highland Park, Macallan, Springbank and Talisker. They are accompanied by Glenfarclas bonbons and Lagavulin and Whisky Honey truffles.

     

    Burdick Scotch Whiskey Chocolate

    What a way to celebrate Burns Night! Photo of Scotch whisky chocolates from Burdick Chocolate.

     

    The chocolates are available now through January 28th. Get an extra box for Valentine’s Day, at BurdickChocolate.com.

  • A half-pound box of Scotch Whisky chocolates is $38.00.
  • The Scotch Gift Basket includes a quarter-pound box of the chocolates, shortbread cookies dipped in white chocolate, three Scotch Whisky chocolate cigars, a 12-ounce bag of spicy drinking chocolate, 1 chocolate mouse* and a book of Robert Burns Poems and Songs, $78.00.
  •  
    OTHER WAYS TO CELEBRATE BURNS NIGHT

  • Here’s an alternative Scotch and chocolate tasting party with fine chocolate bars.
  • Don’t like chocolate? Go straight to a Scotch tasting party.
  •  
    Here’s more about Burns Night.
     
    WHISKY VS. WHISKEY

    Whisky is the Scottish spelling of whiskey, a term that originated in Ireland. The alternative spelling was chosen to differentiate the Scots’ national product from Irish whiskey.

    The “whisky” spelling is used in Canada, Japan and Wales, as well as Scotland.

    In the U.S., a 1968 directive from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling. However, it allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey.”

    Most U.S. producers prefer to include the “e,” as do we. Without it, it looks like something is missing.

    Ironically, distillation was discovered in the 8th century in Persia—a country that has not permitted the sale and consumption of spirits since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

    Here’s a brief history of whiskey.
    _________________________________
    *The mouse honors the famous Burns poem, To A Mouse.

      

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    TIP: Spice Up Your Diet With Chiles

    Blistered Chiles

    The Great Pepper Cookbook

    Top: Blistered chiles, particularly padróns
    and shishitos, have become a hot side dish
    (no pun intended). Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco. Bottom: Start your chile adventure with a good book, like this one from Melissa’s.

     

    Here’s a healthy food tip for the new year: Check out the health benefits of chiles and add more chiles to your diet.

    Chiles originated in Central and South America, where they have been cultivated for more than seven thousand years. They were first used as a decorative item, then became a foodstuff and a medicine.

    Christopher Columbus encountered them in the Caribbean Islands and brought them back to Europe, where they were used as a substitute for pricey black pepper from India.

    Ferdinand Magellan is credited with introducing chili peppers into Africa and Asia on his voyages. Now, chiles are grown on all continents, and incorporated them into world cuisines.

    Here are ways to use five popular chile varieties: chiles in adobo, habanero, jalapeño, poblano and dried chiles.
     
    HOW TO BUY CHILES

    Here are some tips from Whole Foods Market:

  • Fresh chiles: Place unwashed fresh peppers in paper bags or wrap them in paper towels. They will keep in the vegetable compartment of the fridge for at least one week. Avoid storing them in plastic bags, which can accumulate moisture and cause the chiles (and other vegetables) to spoil more quickly.
  • Dried whole chiles: Buy dried chiles that are still vivid in color. If they’ve begun to fade, they’ve probably lost their flavor as well.
  • Shopping for dried chiles: Look for the best dried chiles at spice stores or ethnic markets. You’ll not only find a larger selection than in American grocery stores, but the selection is likely fresher and of superior quality.
  •  
    Dry Your Own Chiles

    For a fun project, dry your own fresh chiles; then grind them into chili powder as needed. You can hang them in the sunlight to dry (the most fun) or use the oven or a dehydrator. Here are instructions.

    If you garden, you can grow your own chiles as well.

    GET A BOOK

    The best way to add more chiles to your meals is to start with a book that shows all the possibilities. Our favorite cookbook in the category is The Great Pepper Cookbook, a thorough guide to choosing and cooking with peppers.

    From mild to hot and hotter, the book explains how to choose, prep and cook 37 varieties of fresh and dried chiles. The recipes are splendid and the photos are gorgeous. They make you want to prepare every recipe.
     
    EASY MILD CHILE RECIPES: CHILE VERDE WITH CHICKEN & CUBANELLE CHILES

    To start you off, here are some pairings with mild chiles that favored by Steve Lindner, Executive Chef and Founder of Zone Manhattan.

    Chef Steve uses the cubanelle chile to make a version of Chili Verde, a stew from northern Mexico. Originally made with pork, it can be made with chicken as well. Serve it with a whole grain and vegetable sides.

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound chicken thighs
  • ½ pound cubanelle chiles, sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: cilantro, grated jalapeño, lime zest, sliced green onion
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUBE the chicken and sear in a pot. Add the onion and garlic.

    2. COVER with the wine and vinegar. Simmer until soft. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve with garnishes.

     

    PEPPERONCINI RECIPE: COCONUT & SHRIMP CEVICHE

    You can do much more with pepperoncini than add them to a Greek salad. Coconut and shrimp are a popular combination, but you can make ceviche with scallops or any fish. Here’s more about ceviche.

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound shrimp, cleaned and split in two
  • 1 orange, 3 limes and 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 5 pepperoncini chiles, thinly sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup toasted coconut
  • Garnishes: cilantro, shaved baby cucumbers, sliced green onion
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the first four ingredients and marinate for several hours or overnight. Taste and add salt as desired.

    2. TOP with the coconut and serve with the garnishes.
     
    IS IT “CHILE” OR “PEPPER?”

    Chiles were “discovered” in the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus, who called them “peppers” (pimientos, in Spanish) because of their fiery similarity to the black peppercorns with which he was familiar.

    However, there is no relationship between the two plants (or between chiles and Szechuan pepper, for that matter). “Pepper” is a misnomer, but in the U.S., it seems to have taken over. Some people use “chile pepper,” a bit of a correction, still not accurate.

    Here’s more on the history of chiles.
     
    IS IT CHILE, CHILI OR CHILLI?

    The term “pepper” is not used in Latin America. There, the word is chili, from chilli, the word in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. The original Nahuatl word is chilli. The conquering Spanish spelled it chile.

    In the U.K., chilli is the popular spelling. In the U.S., many people use chili, a seeming middle ground between chilli and chile.

     

    Cubanelle Chile & Feta Sandwich

    Chiles Nogada

    Top: Cubanelle chiles are so mild that you can add them to almost any sandwich. Simit + Smith combines them with feta, lettuce and tomato. Bottom: Chiles en Nogada, poblano chiles with walnut sauce, are another mild chile dish. Here’s the recipe from Pom Wonderful.

     

    Now that you know, the choice is yours. We choose “chile” because it’s the spelling by which Europeans were introduced to the chilli, and the best variant of that word.

    How many types of chiles have you had? Check them out in our Chile Glossary.

      

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