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Archive for April 21, 2017

PRODUCTS: 5 New Favorite Specialty Foods

Four of this month’s roundup of favorite products will brighten your dinner table, and the last will satisfy your sweet tooth.

In alphabetical order, they are:

1. CRACKER BARREL Oven BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE

Cracker Barrel Cheese’s premium mac & cheese line has launched Oven Baked Macaroni & Cheese (photo #1) in three flavors:

  • Sharp Cheddar, seasoned with paprika and ground mustard.
  • Sharp White Cheddar, seasoned with black pepper and ground mustard.
  • Cheddar Havarti, seasoned with garlic and chives.
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    Fans of oven-baked mac and cheese prefer it for the crispy edges and the toasted bread crumbs. The bread crumbs are included, as well as flavorful seasonings; and the level of crispiness is up to you.

    Just boil the noodles and mix the seasoning packet with melted butter and milk. Add the cheese sauce and the flavor mix, spoon into a baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.

    Get yours at major retailers nationwide. Suggested Retail Price is $3.99 for a 12.34-ounce package.

    For more information visit the Cracker Barrel Cheese website.
     
     
    2. DELTA BLUES RICE GRITS

    Delta Blues Rice (that’s the Mississippi Delta) is a fourth-generation family business that grows artisan rice. If you think that all white rice tastes the same, you won’t believe how much more flavorful it is than supermarket brands.

    The company sells the rice in white and brown rice and rice grits, all made in small batches and milled for freshness.

    We’ve enjoyed cornmeal grits since we were small fry, but had never tasted rice grits until the folks at Delta Blues Rice sent us a sample (photos #2 and #3).

    We devoured the package and ordered more. For those who avoid corn-based foods, they’re a real find.

    If you come from a grits-loving family, load up on them as gifts or favors for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

    Get yours at DeltaBluesRice.com.
     
     
    3. ENTUBE FLAVOR PASTES

    Big flavors come from little tubes. Entube is a line of flavorful pastes in three international flavors: curry, harissa and umeboshi (photos #4 and #5).

    These are great to have on hand and are so easy to use. Instead of adding more salt when a dish needs some pizzazz, just add a bit of flavor paste—to anything from grains to cheese fondue to soups and stews.

    We tried two of the three flavors: Curry and Harissa. Here’s how we used them.

    3a. Entube Harissa Paste

  • Dip: Combine with yogurt to your desired spice level and use as dip for crudités or tortilla chips.
  • Sauce: Stir some paste into pasta sauce or the hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict (quite wonderful). With a mushroom sauce for roast chicken, add 1-1/2 teaspoons for 1 cup sauce.
  • Spread: Add to mayo for a great sandwich spread.
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    Roast Chicken: About 15 minutes before the chicken is due to come out of the oven, combine harissa-flavored plain yogurt with the hot drippings. Baste the chicken twice, five minutes apart. For the second basting, add the juice of 1/2 lemon to the yogurt and drippings, along with a bit of kosher salt to taste. This will slightly caramelize and crisp the skin.

    Grilled Lamb: Morroccan lamb dishes are classically made with a harissa spice rub. We made a rack of lamb with the yogurt-Harissa Paste mix (4 tablespoons yogurt with 1 teaspoon paste) and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Brush it in on at the start of roasting and once more 5 minutes from the end. It perks up the slightly gamy flavor of lamb beautifully. (Cooking time for medium rare lamb is 22 minutes in a 425°F oven.)

       

    Cracker Barrel Baked Mac & Cheese

    Delta Blues Rice Grits

    Rice Grits

    Entube Flavor Pastes

    Paella With Harissa

    [1] We love baked mac & cheese with crispy edges (photo courtesy Cracker Barrel). [2] Calling all grits lovers for great rice grits (photo courtesy Delta Blues Rice). [3] Rice grits (photo courtesy Neniemi Food). [4] Entube flavor pastes and [5] Entube harissa spices up paella (photos courtesy Entube | Facebook).

     
    Moroccan Chicken Kabobs: Cube 1 pound of chicken breasts and marinate for 3-4 hours in 3 teaspoons Harissa Paste, juice of 1 lemon, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, with an optional teaspoon of smoked paprika. Skewer onto pre-soaked (30 minutes) wooden skewers or lightly oiled metal skewers. Broil or grill, turning often. Brush with the marinade halfway through and continue until browned and cooked through, 16 minutes total. Serve hot.

    3b. Entube Curry Paste

    Mushroom Sauce: Boost the umami flavor in creamy mushroom sauces. Add as much paste as you like, tasting as you go in 1/2 teaspoon increments. The curry flavor was not overpowering and added depth to the character of the mushrooms. This combination also works in mushroom tarts.

    Grilled Shrimp: Marinate 1 pound deveined shrimp in a yogurt marinade made with 1/2 cup yogurt and 2 teaspoons of curry paste, the juice of 1 lime, mustard oil or coconut oil, chili powder to taste and 2 teaspoons of grated, peeled ginger root. Marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Just before grilling (on medium-high), remove shrimp and wipe off the excess marinade with paper towels. Grill until black spots begin to appear, about 3 minutes per side. Delicious!

    The one complaint we have with the pastes is that there is too much added ascorbic acid (vitamin C)—almost 20%. If you have a sophisticated palate, you may notice a slightly medicinal acidic tang that is not as clean and lively as would have been given by lemon or lime. You can mask it by adding some real lemon or lime juice.

    Find a store locator on the company website.

     

    Salt With Sea Vegetables

    Werther's Cocoa Creme Caramels

    Werther's Sugar Free Caramels

    [6] Sea salt meets seaweed in these tasty blends (photo courtesy Sea Veg). [7] Werther’s new Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels and [8] longtime favorites, the sugar-free caramels line (photos courtesy Werther’s Original).

     

    4. MAINE MADE SEA SEASONINGS

    This naturally iodized sea salt has a little something extra: sea vegetables, including dulse and kelp, seaweeds known for their high vitamin and mineral content.

    The entire line of seaweed-based products are harvested in Maine waters; and the line is targeted to people who want to get the most nutrition they can from their foods.

    Here are the nutritional values of both seaweeds.

    Not that we don’t want the best nutrition; but we like these sea salts for their flavor, especially with rice and other grains and starches. And, we’re big flavor fans of Japanese seaweed, dried or fresh [which is actually reconstituted dry seaweed].

    The company offers variations of the sea salt with added cayenne or garlic; and with other seaweeds. Another product of interest is the applewood-smoked nori sheets.

    Find out more at SeaVeg.com.
     
     
    5. WERTHER’S ORIGINAL NEW COCOA CREME SOFT CARAMELS

    Werther’s newest flavor can be attributed to American palates: a survey of more than 1,000 American adults found that 44% chose caramel as their favorite candy flavor to combine with chocolate. The next closest is mint, at 19%.

    Werther’s Original Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels pair their yummy soft caramel with a cocoa crème filling.

    They join Werther’s other dual-flavor caramels, including Caramel Apple and Coffee Caramel.

    We love soft caramels. Aside from the pricey ones from artisan chocolatiers, Werther’s is our favorite everyday brand.

    Another thing we love about the brand is the sugar-free options.

    The line includes hard, chewy, soft and filled caramels, as well as the sugar-free caramels in seven flavors (the chewy sugar-free caramels and chocolate caramels are a must-try) and caramel popcorn.

    As they say at the company, they’re a treat that’s truly “werth it.”

    For more information visit Werther’s Original USA.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: More Modern Surf & Turf Ideas … Plus Spring Peas

    National Surf & Turf Day falls on February 29th. Why would anyone choose to celebrate this tasty holiday only once every four years?

    That honor should go to, say, National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, which happens to be today’s holiday (April 21st). Or how Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (June 13th), or Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day (July 29th)?

    So today, we’re featuring some novel approaches to surf and turf.

    On THE NIBBLE alone, we have obvious and not-so-obvious recipes:

  • Beef Carpaccio & Anchovies
  • Broiled Seafood With Beef Jerky Garnish
  • Clam Chowder With Bacon
  • Filet Mignon With Lobster Topping
  • Ham & Biscuits With Seafood Gravy
  • Modern Surf & Turf (18 recipe ideas)
  • National Surf & Turf Day (5+ recipe ideas)
  • Raw Scallops With Steak Tartare Or Bacon
  • Salmon BUrger With Bacon
  • Seafood Cobb Salad
  • Sea Urchin & Roast Beef Rolls
  • Surf & Turf Burgers
  • Surf & Turf Sushi & More (18 recipe ideas)
  • Surf & Turf Bloody Mary
  • Surf & Turf Eggs Benedict
  • Veal Osso Bucco On Tuna Sashimi
  • Vietnamese Pancakes With Shrimp & Pork
  • Wiener Schnitzel Surf & Turf
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    Not to mention, Surf & Turf Pizza (clams or shrimp with pepperoni) or skewers (any meat, any shellfish).

    Our latest dish in the collection:

    RECIPE: SQUID & SPRING PEAS

    Who’d have thought of combining squid and bacon with fresh spring peas and fresh mint? Catalan chefs, with bounties of fresh squid pulled from the Mediterranean.

    This recipe is from Executive Chef Jaime Chavez of Sirena Cucina Latina in San Diego (which alas, closed in February).

    It’s a traditional Catalan starter from the chef’s mother, and is one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

    “[Mother] taught me that the best dishes are made from simple flavors, and when we respect the products, they give us back the very best of them,” notes Chavez.

    While Chef Jaime didn’t intend to create “surf and turf,” we’re always seeking new ways to extend the original concept of filet mignon and lobster tail, christened Surf & Turf (here’s the history of Surf & Turf).

    This is an easy recipe; the most demanding parts are slicing the squid and cooking the bacon.

    The season for fresh spring peas is short, so don’t bookmark this for “later.”

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 each squid tubes and tentacles
  • 1½ cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ½ cup sliced fennel
  • 3 tablespoons crisp bacon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Champagne vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: edible flowers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ the squid and garlic in olive oil in a hot pan. Cut the squid into rings.

       

    Squid Salad With Spring Peas

    Shelled Peas

    Raw Squid

    Grilled Bacon

    Fennel Bulb

    [1] Squid, bacon and spring peas unite in a vinaigrette (photo courtesy Chef Jaime Chavez). [2] Just-shelled spring peas (photo courtesy The Chef’s Kitchen). [3] Raw squid (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [4] Fennel (photo courtesy Burpee).

     
    2. ADD the peas and season with salt and pepper. Then add the vinegar and mint.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and add the celery, fennel and bacon. Garnish as desired and serve (the edible flowers add another touch of springtime).
     
     
    Here are more ways to use spring peas.

     

    Spring Peas

    Snow Peas

    Sugar Snap Peas

    The three types of green peas. [5] Spring peas (photo Hannah Kaminsky). [6] Snow peas (photo AllWomensTalk.com). [7] Sugar snap peas (photo Good Eggs).

     

    SPRING PEAS, ENGLISH PEAS OR GARDEN PEAS?

    Spring peas, English peas and garden peas are three are names for the same thing. All can be eaten raw or cooked.

    Three types of green peas:

  • Spring peas (Pisum sativum var. sativum, photo #5), also called English peas and garden peas, which must be shelled to be edible (although some people do cook the stringless varieties).
  • Snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum, photo #6), called “Chinese pea pods” by some consumers, which are edible flat pods with tiny peas inside.
  • Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon, photo #7), also called sugar snap peas, plump edible pods with smaller peas inside.
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    Peas (Pisum sativum) are native to the Mediterranean basin. They grew wild and were one of the earlier vegetables cultivated at the dawn of agriculture in the Neolithic Era, beginning about 12,500 years ago.

    Having said that, pea pods are botanically a fruit, since they are pods that contain seeds, and the pods developed from the ovary of a flower.

    Peas, beans and lentils are all legumes with seeds that grow in pods. It’s easy to distinguish them by their shape:

  • Dry beans are oval or kidney shaped.
  • Lentils are flat disks.
  • Peas are round.
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    Legumes are members of the botanical family Fabaceae, which also includes alfalfa, carob, licorice, peanuts and the sweet pea garden plant.
     
    Peas are sweet but can get starchy soon after harvesting. The fresher, the better.

     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE FRESH PEAS

    For the best flavor, choose small peas. They’re younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. Look for medium-size pods that are firm and green, with no yellowing. Break open a pod and check the peas. They should be small, bright green and firm. Taste the peas in the pod: They should be tender and sweet.

    Freshness counts. As with corn, once picked the peas’ high sugar content begins to convert to starch. Don’t pay for mature peas. You might as well use frozen peas.

    Don’t pay extra for shelled peas. You don’t know how fresh they are; and since you aren’t shelling peas day in, day out, it’s a fun activity.

    Storing Fresh Peas

  • Store the pods in the crisper drawer of the fridge in a plastic storage bag. Use them within two days.
  • Once the peas are shelled, the best way to store them is to freeze them. First, blanch the peas for a minute in boiling salted water. Then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking and maintain their bright color. Drain and freeze them in freezer storage bags for up to six months.
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