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Archive for January 16, 2016

RECIPE: Pickled Fennel (Fennel Pickles)

Fennel

A head of fennel. The white portion is the
bulb, the feathery green tops/stems are the
fronds. Photo courtesy Valerie Confections.

 

We’ve always loved fennel in a salad (like cucumber salad or this Orange-Fennel Salad) or on a crudité plate. But we never thought to pickle it until we saw this recipe from Quinciple, which makes weekly deliveries of the freshest seasonal produce.

Fennel makes such a charming, crunchy pickle that we began to make it as house gifts. It’s made without sugar, and is low in sodium: a win for everyone!

Quinciple recommends the pickled fennel in and on:

  • Cheese plates
  • Ham sandwiches (we like it on other sandwiches too, including grilled cheese and burgers)
  • Potato salad (chop it finely)
  • Green salad (add some fresh herbs and use a bit of the pickling liquid as the acid in the dressing)
  •  
    RECIPE: PICKLED FENNEL

    Ingredients For 1 Pint

  • 1 head fennel
  • 2 strips orange zest, neatly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar (substitute cider vinegar)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. CUT off the fennel leaf stalks just above where the bulb ends and the fronds begin. Reserve 3-4 of the prettiest leaf fronds; wash and set aside.

    2. TRIM off the bottom of the bulb and, if bruised, the outer layer. Give the bulbs a quick rinse. Slice them in half lengthwise, then cut the fennel into ¼-inch-wide slices.

    3. PLACE the fennel fronds, zest and peppercorns into a clean pint jar, making sure they are arranged nicely against the glass. Add the fennel slices. Make sure there is ½” of headroom above the fennel.

    4. COMBINE the vinegar, water and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling brine over the fennel. Let cool, cover tightly with the lid and place in the fridge. The pickles will keep for about 2 weeks.
     
    FENNEL FACTS

    Fennel is in season from fall to early spring. It’s crunchy like celery, with a slight anise taste.

     

    Pickled Fennel

    Elegant and yummy fennel pickles. Photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.

     
    A member of the parsley family, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and celery (Petroselinum crispum) are botanical cousins, members of the same order* (Apiales) and family* (Apiaceae). Both are believed to be indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, growing wild before they were cultivated.

    Records of fennel’s use date back to about 1500 B.C.E, although it has been enjoyed by mankind for much longer.

    Fennel is highly aromatic and flavorful, with both culinary and medicinal uses. The bulb and stalks resemble celery, the leaves look like dill (Anethum graveolens, also of the same order and family), and the aroma and flavor resemble sweet licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabraa, a totally different order [Fabales] and family [Fabaceae]).

    Fennel can be substituted for celery in recipes when an additional nuance of flavor is desired. We also enjoy it as part of a crudité plate. The fronds make a lovely plate garnish, and can be dried and used as herbs.

    Fennel seeds are a popular spice, for baking, bean dishes, brines, fish, pork, sausages and much more. We especially like them in cole slaw and cucumber salad. Plain and sugar-coated fennel seeds are used as a spice and an after-meal mint in India and Pakistan.
     
    ___________________________________________
    *In case you don’t remember plant taxonomy from high school biology, here’s a refresher.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Almond Milk

    Homemade Almond Milk

    Homemade almond milk. Photo courtesy
    Juice Queen.

     

    Here’s a fun project for the weekend: homemade almond milk. All you need are almonds, water, cheesecloth and a jar.

    Almond milk is a dairy-free milk alternative, favored by the lactose-intolerant, vegans, raw foodists and as a kosher (pareve) milk alternative. Others simply like the creaminess and hints of almond on the palate.

    Almond milk is the number one nondairy milk in the U.S. It can be used anywhere cow’s milk is used, from morning cereal to afternoon smoothies to after-dinner coffee. (Here’s a nutrition comparison.)

    In just five minutes (plus eight hours soaking time), you can make a batch, From there, you can make flavored almond milk, like vanilla or cocoa. You can add a sweetener of choice—agave, honey, maple syrup, noncaloric sweetener, sugar—or drink it as is (it has its own natural sweetness).

    You can even give a cocoa almond milk kit to a child, useful for everything from Show and Tell to inspiring the joy of cooking.

     

    But today’s project is making a batch of plain almond milk. Sure, you can buy it ready made. But making your own is not only fun; it tastes a lot better than the manufactured, shelf-stable product, which typically contains additives and preservatives.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • Jar
  • Water
  • Cheesecloth
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the almonds in a large bowl or jar and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Cap the jar or cover the bowl with a dish towel, and let the almonds soak for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. The almonds will plump as they absorb water. The longer you soak them, the creamier the milk will be. If you plan to soak them for more than 8 hours or overnight, put the bowl in the fridge.

    2. STRAIN the almonds in a colander, thoroughly rinse them with cold water and place them in a blender. Pulse them to break up the almonds. Add 4 cups of water and blend on high until the mixture is very smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. The almonds should break down into a very fine meal and the water should be white and opaque.

    3. PLACE the cheesecloth in a large strainer over a bowl. If you don’t have a strainer, gather the edges of the cheesecloth in one hand so as to create a well. Carefully pour the water and almond mixture into the cheesecloth, taking pains to not let any spill out of the sides. When all of the mixture has been poured…

    4. SQUEEZE the remaining almond meal in the cheesecloth to extract any remaining liquid. You can wring the cheesecloth to get every last drop. See below for what to do with the leftover almond meal. At this point you can taste the almond milk and sweeten to taste. It has natural sweetness, so we don’t add anything more.

    5. STORE the almond milk in an airtight container in the fridge. Since it has no preservatives and isn’t pasteurized, it only keeps for two or three days. Because there are no emulsifiers, the milk can separate. Just shake the bottle.

    If you’ve had commercial almond milk, you’ll be wowed by the fresh flavor.

     

    Make Almond Milk

    Making Almond Milk

    Top: Soaking the almonds. Bottom: Wringing the last delicious drops from the cheesecloth. Photos and recipe courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     
    If you’d like a thinner milk, use more water next time; for thicker milk, use less water.

    If you plan to make almond milk regularly, buy a nut milk bag from a health food store or online. It’s easier to work with than cheesecloth.

    HOW TO USE THE LEFTOVER ALMOND MEAL

    You can toss or compost it, of course. But you can also:

  • Add it to oatmeal, muffin batter or smoothies for extra protein.
  • If you want to keep it for future baking, dry it by spreading it onto a baking sheet and baking it in a low oven (275°F to 300°F) until completely dry, 2 to 3 hours. You can then freeze it for up to 6 months.
  •  
    MAKING ALMOND MILK: BLENDER VS. FOOD PROCESSOR

    You can use either a blender or a food processor to make almond milk. The differences:

  • With a blender, the milk has a silkier texture and subtly sweet flavor notes.
  • With a food processor, the milk is a bit thicker with a nuttier flavor. It may contain some the bits of ground almonds.

     
    ALMOND MILK HISTORY

    In the Middle Ages, almond milk was made in Europe to East Asia. It was a staple because it kept longer than cow’s or goat’s milk; and it was appropriate for consumption during Lent and fast days.

      

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