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Archive for July, 2017

TIP OF THE DAY: Shaved Salad

Get out your mandoline and make a shaved salad.

Thinly-shaved foods not only have visual elegance, but enable a better melding of flavors on the fork.

Serve them as a first course, a salad course after the main course, or a light lunch (for example, plated with cold chicken, roast, seafood).

Photo #1, from Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, layers slices:

  • Green tomato (substitute red, purple or other heirloom color)
  • Husk cherry/ground cherry* (substitute red or orange grape tomatoes or small tomatillos)
  • Nectarine (substitute other stone fruit)
  • Coppa di testa*, a Tuscan version of head cheese (substitute other meat)
  • ________________

    *The coppa di testa or other block of charcuterie can also be sliced on the mandoline. See more about ground cherries and testa below.

    Photo #2 presents a shaved pear salad with beets, blue cheese and fennel.

    You can switch out all the elements—fruits, vegetables, dressings, etc.—to combine your favorite flavors.

    This recipe is from USA Pears, but during prime stone fruit season (July and August), feel free to substitute. The only caveat is that you need to slice a firm fruit.

    Most fruits should be used before they ripen into a softness that can’t be sliced on a mandoline. The texture to aim for is similar to an apple, pineapple or watermelon.

    USA Pears suggests vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, celery, sweet onion, and seasonal ingredients like delicata squash and summer squash.

    Ingredients For The Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons tangerine juice (from one juicy tangerine), or other mandarin
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
    Ingredients For The Salad

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 fennel bulb (reserve the delicate fronds for garnish)
  • 1 small bunch radishes, bottoms trimmed and about ½ inch of the top left on (leaving a little greenery on makes the radishes easy to hold while slicing on the mandoline)
  • 2 raw beets, peeled and trimmed (use golden or chiogga [candy stripe] beets if you can find them—red beets will bleed on the other vegetables)
  • 2 slightly under-ripe pears, such as Anjou or Concorde
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (substitute feta or goat cheese)

    1. MAKE the dressing: Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.

    2. PREPARE the salad: Slice all of the vegetables as thinly as possible on a mandoline slicer, transferring them to a large bowl as you go. This can be done several hours in advance; be sure to cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. So the pears don’t brown, just before serving the salad…

    3. THINLY SLICE the pears on the mandoline, leaving the core behind. Add the pears to the bowl with the other vegetables along with about two-thirds of the dressing. Gently toss the ingredients together, sliding apart vegetables that remain stacked together with your fingers.

    4. ARRANGE the salad on a platter, drizzling with more dressing, if desired. Crumble the blue cheese on top and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.


    Ground cherries, Physalis pubescens, are not cherries at all. They are members of the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and tomatillos as well as the cape gooseberry (their cousin), chile peppers, eggplants and potatoes.


    Shaved Salad
    [1] A shaved salad of summer fruits on top of thinly-sliced charcuterie (photo courtesy Rolf & Daughters | Nashville).

    Shaved Salad
    [2] Shaved pear salad with beets and blue cheese (photo courtesy USA Pears).

    Groundcherry On Bush
    [3] Want to grow your own ground cherries? Here’s how from Rodale Organic Life.

    Dutch Head Cheese
    [4] The Dutch version of head cheese, called preskop (photo Takeaway | Wikipedia).

    Microplane Mandoline

    [5] Handheld mandolines have become popular recently. They take up less room, but require more effort than the traditional models that have a fold-out stand for stability (photo courtesy Microplane).

    Like the tomatillo and cape gooseberry, ground cherries grow inside a papery husk.

    Other names include husk tomato, low ground-cherry and hairy ground cherry, strawberry tomato, winter cherry and a variety of others.

    Ground cherries are typically eaten raw, as a snack or in recipes like salads and salsas.


    Head cheese is a cold cut that originated in Europe. Each country has a version of it.

    The most popular version in the U.S. is a variation of the Italian soppressata or coppa di testa (coppa refers to air-cured pork meat).

    It is not a dairy cheese, but got the name because it was made in a rectangular block (terrine). The grocer sliced it the same as a loaf of cheese.

    The meat really does come from the head of a pig or calf (less commonly from a cow or sheep). Artisan versions are often set in aspic.

    Head cheese may be flavored with onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt, and vinegar. It is usually eaten cold or at room temperature.

    Peasants used every part of an animal (even the “squeal,” as some oldsters like to joke). Historically, the skulls, which contain natural gelatin, were used to produce aspic.

    The cleaned head of the animal, all meat removed, was simmered to produce stock, a peasant food made since the Middle Ages. When cooled, the stock congeals into aspic.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Affordable Caviar

    Kazunoko Herring Roe
    [1] This golden herring caviar (kazunoko) is not particularly flavorful, but is served with seasonings for the Japanese new year (photo courtesy Just One Cookbook).

    Salmon Roe
    [2] Salmon caviar is much less pricey than sturgeon caviar, but if you want to eat a lot of it, prepare to open your wallet (photo courtesy Petrossian).

    Avruga Herring Caviar

    [3] Avruga, herring “caviar,” is not caviar at all, but made from different ingredients (including herring meat and squid ink) to resemble black caviar (photo courtesy Pescaviar).


    July 18th is National Caviar Day. When we looked into our purse, we decided we could not afford the “good stuff”: sturgeon caviar (prices* range from $123 to $349 for the rareat; prices per 30g/1.06 ounce).

    We couldn’t even afford sturgeon’s relatives, hackleback (a.k.a. shovelnose, $76/ounce) and paddlefish caviar ($32/ounce).

    What is caviar? When the term is used by itself, “caviar” refers to unfertilized eggs (roe) harvested from any species of sturgeon.

    Fifty years ago and in the centuries prior, that meant Beluga, Osetra, and Sevruga caviar from sturgeon that swam in the Caspian and Black Seas, in Russia and Iran. Caspian caviar was considered the world’s most luxurious and expensive caviar. There was enough stock so that anyone who could afford it could have it—and if you had to ask, you couldn’t afford it.

    Beginning in the 1990s, the stocks were reduced by shameful poaching, pollution and river dams that cut off the beluga’s spawning grounds. The beluga sturgeon became an endangered species, and the other two were on the critical list.

    Laws were passed in 2001 by The United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to halt the caviar trade in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. It then proposed a ban on exporting Caspian caviar by the Russian states that border the Caspian Sea (i.e., it could be sold to locals, but not exported to Europe, the U.S., or anywhere else (more).

    This spawned an international frenzy on how to replace that fine sturgeon caviar. Farming of other species of sturgeon began all over the world, resulting in access to whomever could afford it (farmed caviar is less expensive than wild, but still $70 an ounce, compared to $200 an ounce for wild sevruga).

    The good news is, there is a lot of local, sustainable caviar produced right here in the United States. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Guide, your best choice for caviar is produced by U.S. farmed white sturgeon and paddlefish.

    Hence, a brief history of caviar.

    Caviar was first prepared by the ancient Chinese, from carp roe. The Persians learned the technique from the Chinese, and were the first to use the technique on sturgeon from the Caspian Sea.

    The word “caviar” comes from the Persian khavyar, from khayah, egg. It came into the English language in the 16th century.

    While “Russian caviar” has a global reputation as “the best” (some might vote for the lesser-known Iranian caviar), the Russians themselves do not call any fish roe caviar. They use the Russian word for egg, ikroj (pronounced EEK-ruh with a rolled “r”).

    In Japan, the Russian ikroj was transformed into ikura—the name by which it is ordered at sushi bars the world over.

    In the trade, the eggs of a fish are also called berries, grains and pearls. Once the roe has been salted it becomes caviar.

    However, the rising popularity of other types of fish roe in modern cuisine and the growth of the American hackleback and white sturgeon farming, have caused the definition of “caviar” to broaden.

    Today, the terms caviar and roe are interchangeable for consumers. Basically any fish egg is referred to as caviar; although in the U.S. only sturgeon caviar can be labeled simply “caviar.” Non-sturgeon caviars must be modified with the name of the fish (salmon caviar, whitefish caviar, etc.).

    A number of these more recently popular roes come from fish that are plentiful, like flying fish, trout and whitefish. This means affordable caviar.

    Their roe was not mainstream for decades. In many cases they were tiny, colorless, and/or marginally flavorful.

    But faced with the demands of the American palate, which has grown steadily since the rise of California cuisine in the 1980s, producers have rose to the occasion, to present caviar options that were both affordable and sustainable.

    Today there’s a broad choice of attractive and delicious roes. They taste like sturgeon roe as much as a meatball tastes like filet mignon. But most are very palate-worthy, and will expand your horizons.

    How much caviar should you buy? Well, you can get between 8 to 10 (1/2 teaspoon) servings per ounce of caviar. Figure at least 1/2 to 1 ounce of caviar per person.

    While this is a small amount, it’s enough for a tasting of different caviars. Buy what your pocketbook can afford. When we treat ourselves, we can eat a 7-ounce jar of salmon caviar or truffled whitefish roe as a garnish with dinner (yes, the whole jar).


    *Prices vary widely, depending on supply and demand, as well as the graded quality. For example, Tsar Nicoulai offers six different grades of American white sturgeon caviar alone, with prices ranging from $40 to $210, and everything in between. The highest-regarded retailers also charge more than other stores and e-tailers. You can find less expensive caviar online, but unless it is from a truly reputable vendor, you may be getting caviar that is old (there is no expiration date on caviar tins) or not what it is purported to be.

    Prices are stated in ounces, although European-based vendors like Petrossian use the European weight, grams. Since 30 grams equals 1.06 ounces, think of it as a wash.

    †Prices are provided for relative comparison. They were obtained from different websites, because we could not find one vendor who offered all or most of the options. Note that the price will also vary based on the amount purchased: A single ounce costs more than an eight-ounce jar or tin.



    If you can’t afford $70 an ounce and up for sturgeon caviar, what are your choices? They’re on this list. We’ve provided Japanese names to reference the types most often found in sushi bars.

  • Avruga, Spanish herring roe. It looks like large, glossy black caviar pearls, but it isn’t caviar at all! Avruga is a roe-free caviar substitute made by a Spanish company, Pescaviar, from herring in Spanish waters. It comprises 40% local Spanish herring plus squid ink, salt, corn starch, lemon juice, citric acid and stabilizers (about $7/ounce; (more).
  • Bottarga is cured, dried fish roe: no longer in the form of caviar, but pressed into a block that can be sliced or grated (and is sold as the whole roe (about $6/ounce) or a grated in a jar (about $9/ounce). It is typically made from the roe of the grey mullet, and is very popular in Italy, for grating over pasta, rice, salads and other dishes (more). Also see mullet.
  • Bowfin caviar comes from a fish in the southern U.S. that is not related to the sturgeon. Its eggs visually resemble sturgeon roe, but taste entirely different (muddy, some call it, and it lives on mud river bottoms). That’s why it’s also called mudfish, swampfish, cypress trout, and by the Cajun name “choupique.” It was considered a trash fish, the flesh used to make fish cakes, until the ban of imported Caspian caviar led to a search for alternatives ($4.75/ounce; more).
  • Capelin roe or smelt roe, called masago at sushi bars (more).
  • Herruga caviar (another brand name is stromluga) is a version of avruga, a product made from herring meat to look like caviar. The herring comes from the North Atlantic and Baltic seas. The color of the beads ranges from dark gray to black, and they have a light smokey character ($5/ounce†).
  • Kazunoko comes from the golden herring, and is available during the holiday season, eaten for the Japanese new year by those hoping for children (gold color symbolizes fertility). Its bright roe sac (the ovary) contains thousands of tiny eggs, which crunch like tobiko. While the roe is not particularly flavorful, it is marinated in a dashi-soy seasoning. its golden beauty makes it a popular New Year’s dish in Japan. The name is made up: kazu means number and ko means child. Here’s more (about $2/ounce).
  • Lumpfish roe from the North Atlantic lumpfish. If your family used Romanoff caviar as as garnish back in the day, you’ve had it. The pale, crunchy eggs are dyed black, red or golden, but the food coloring runs. It is used mostly as a garnish on hors d’oeuvre (about $4/ounce; more).
  • Mentaiko and tarako are roe of the Alaskan cod or pollock. Mentaiko is spiced with powdered red pepper, which makes it pink to dark red in color. Tarako is not spiced, but is salted instead.
  • Mullet roe (karasumi in Japanese) is the Japanese equivalent of Italian bottarga. The the roe sac of the mullet is cured and vacuum packed. The whole roe sac is sold, to be sliced for hors d’oeuvre served with saké, sliced on top of rice, or grated as a garnish. It’s considered a delicacy, .
  • Pollock roe, called tarako in Japanese. Not widely available in the U.S., we couldn’t even find it on Amazon!
  • Salmon caviar, called ikura at sushi bars, is popular in the U.S. as a colorful, tasty garnish. As with any product, prices and quality vary (and start at about $7 to $10/ounce). The imported roe from the keta salmon of Russia has larger eggs, which are considered more desirable.
  • Smelt roe, called masago in Japanese, looks like the pricer, higher-quality flying fish roe (tobiko); but is crunchy rather than flavorful like tobiko. California rolls are often coated with a splash of masago; while the gunkan maki are filled with tobiko. You can use a few beads of garnish to add color to canapés (about $2/ounce).

    Affordable Caviar
    [4] No sturgeon need apply for this caviar sampler from Firebird in New York City.

    Clear Roe
    [5] Clear roe from different species of fish are colored and flavored into tasty garnishes (photo courtesy Nutra Ingredients).

    Affordable Caviar

    [6] The results: colored and flavored roe like these whitefish caviars (photo courtesy Tsar Nicoulai).

  • Tarama, the tiny roe of carp, cod or mullet (more). Pale orange in color, they are most often found blended into taramosalata but also available in their original form from Krinos (an 8-ounce jar is about $5.00). Tarama means fish roe in Greek and Turkish.
  • Tobiko, roe from the Icelandic flying fish (a superior product to the similar-looking masago—more). It is typically dyed orange, but can be found in red, green (with wasabi flavor) and black (about $2/ounce).
  • Trout roe, pale yellow in color, has become a popular garnish, especially when colored red-orange to resemble the pricier salmon roe, which it resembles (about $6/ounce).
  • Whitefish roe, also pale, has been colored and flavored into delights such as beet (red), ginger (yellow), mango (orange), truffle (brown), wasabi (green), even black (about $4/ounce).

    Take care of the eggs. Caviar is very fragile and must be handled with care to keep the eggs from bursting.

    Caviar hates metal. Never touch a metal utensil of any kind to caviar: Metal oxidizes the roe and will make it taste metallic. Use a caviar spoon made of bone, tortoise shell, or mother of pearl. A plastic spoon works, too.

    Keep it cold. Caviar that is not shelf-stable (i.e., pasteurized) should be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator (between 28 to 32°F.) Don’t freeze it! The caviar can last 15 to 20 days, unopened, in the fridge. Don’t open the caviar jar or tin until it’s ready to serve.

    Cover and refrigerate any leftovers promptly and use within a day or two. If caviar is left in the tin, the surface should be smoothed and a sheet of plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface. Turn the tin over each day so the oil reaches all of the eggs.

    More caviar tips.



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    TIP OF THE DAY: Beyond Gazpacho Light Summer Soups

    Chilled Strawberry Coconut Soup
    [1] Chilled strawberry coconut soup from Carlsbad Cravings.

    Chilled Carrot Soup

    [2] Spicy chilled carrot soup with ginger and turmeric from Gourmande In The Kitchen.


    Cool off with chilled soup versions of a few classics, like borscht, cold cucumber soup (with yogurt and dill) and gazpacho are the classic soups of summer, and we love them all.

    We have lots of recipes for these soups, so we decided to look at other options, and found more recipes than we could use in 10 summers.

    You can make a chilled soup from any vegetables or fruits; corn and zucchini are excellent summer soups. The classic French potato soup, vichyssoise, is a chilled soup.

    Any chilled vegetable soup can be served warm, but not vice versa. Some soups with animal fats don’t work, because the fat globules aren’t melted into the soup.

    Here are summer soups for your consideration with a note: fruit soups can be served as a soup course or for dessert, the latter with a tuille or other cookie.


  • Beet Gazpacho With Cucumber & Avocado
  • Chilled Cream Of Basil Soup
  • Cold Avocado Soup
  • Creamy Zucchini & Coconut Milk Soup
  • Cucumber, Pineapple & Jalapeño Soup (sweet and spicy)
  • Green Tomato Gazpacho
  • Lobster Fennel Soup
  • Pea & Mint Soup
  • Spicy Chilled Carrot Soup (photo #2)
  • Sweet Corn Gazpacho
  • Sweet Pea & Avocado Soup
    BONUS TIP: Next time you’re putting shrimp or other seafood on the barbie, grill some extra for the next chilled soup garnish. It not only tastes great, it looks great.

  • Chilled Cantaloupe-Basil Soup
  • Chilled Mango-Raspberry Soup
  • Chilled Melon & Lavender Soup
  • Five Minute Strawberry Coconut Soup, photo #1, a blender soup
  • Swedish Blueberry Soup
  • Watermelon Gazpacho
    Check out the history of soup and the different types of soup in our Soup Glossary.


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    FOOD FUN: Shark Cocktails For Shark Week

    Discovery Channel’s Shark Week begins this Sunday, July 23rd, at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, and concludes on the 30th.

    And what a week it will be:

    In addition to a daily schedule of shark-related films, the week kicks off with the most spectacular sports event since 2012, when daredevil Felix Baumgartner free-fell from the edge of space.

    Anyone who has paid attention to the media for the past month knows that mega-medalist* Michael Phelps will race against a Great White shark off Cape Town, South Africa.

    “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White” begins at 8 p.m. on the 23rd—followed by “Shark-Croc Showdown” (no Phelps) at 9 p.m.

    The eight-day schedule of events has numerous other shark-filled specials. Phelps will also appear inon the last night; not a rematch with the shark but in an educational special, “Shark School with Michael Phelps.”



    We published the recipe for photo #1 last year.

    Substitute blue gummy sharks for the red Swedish fish in the photo. Or, for a touch of the macabre, keep a Swedish fish or two among the frenzy of sharks. Why a frenzy? See below.

    As with the second recipe, it can be made as a cocktail or mocktail.

    Lemonade and blue curacao turn this drink green in this recipe from Sparkling Ice.

    For a blue drink, substitute a clear carbonated drink (club soda, Sprite, 7Up, etc.)

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounce vodka
  • .5 ounce blue curaçao
  • Sparkling Ice Classic Lemonade or other lemonade
  • Garnish: blue shark gummies

    1. COMBINE the vodka and curaçao in a shaker; add the ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

    2. TOP with Sparkling Ice Classic Lemonade and garnish with some blue shark gummies.


    Fish Bowl Punch
    [1] Shark tank punch from Cocktails Details. Here’s the recipe.

    Gummy Sharks
    [2] Substitute the Swedish fish for blue gummy sharks (photo courtesy Candy Crate).

    Shark Cocktail

    [3] Create a shark lagoon in a cocktail glass (photo courtesy Sparkling Ice).

    A gaggle of geese, a pride of lions, a pod of whales†: What is a group of sharks called?

    According to, a group of sharks is called a frenzy, gam‡, herd, school or shiver (pronounced shivver, an earlier spelling of the word).

    Frenzy and shiver sound right to us!


    *Phelps has 39 world records and 23 Olympic gold medals.

    †“Nouns of multitude,” in this case, collective nouns for animals, were first developed in the Middle Ages (when people had nothing else to do after dark, we guess). The first documentation that survives, the Egerton Manuscript, dates from circa 1450.

    These “books of courtesy,” as they were called, encompass animals, people and professions: a misbelief of painters, a stalk of foresters, a tabernacle of bakers, et al. Here’s a list of collective nouns for animals, and a discussion of how some nouns were derived (a murder of crows, a sentence of judges, etc.).
    ‡In terms of “gam,” the only definitions we could find are the slang referring to a leg, and a mid 19th century English dialect, perhaps from “game,” or shortened from “gammon,” early 18th-century slang for nonsense or rubbish.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Toast

    Summer Fruit Toast
    [1] Your toast should dress for summer, too. Here, fruit, honey and mascarpone cheese in a recipe from Wry Toast Eats.

    Summer Avocado Toast

    [2] Switch to savory with this pretty avocado toast from Bluestone Lane. a café in Hoboken, New Jersey.


    We love toast. We could eat it three times a day, with different toppings.

    Today’s tip: Go seasonal with your toast, be it for breakfast, snack or other nourishment.

    We like this idea (photo #1) from Christine of Wry Toast Eats so much that we’re planning a summer iced tea party, just so we can serve it.

    Christine, who makes everyday foods look so delicious, tops a conventional slice of toast with a fruit and cheese fantasy:

  • Berries
  • Grilled peaches
  • Mascarpone cheese
  • Honey
  • Chopped pistachio nuts
  • Mint
    Here’s the recipe.

    If you prefer the savory to the sweet, try this avocado toast (photo #2) from Bluestone Lane, an Australian-style café “influenced by the renowned coffee culture hub of Melbourne, Australia.”

    Most locations are in greater New York City, but if you live in San Francisco or King Of Prussia, Pennsylvania you’re close to one, too.

    You might look at the photo and opine that avocado toast is a year-round recipe, and you’d be correct.

    The difference here is in the details: the flavor of summer cherry tomatoes over year-round hothouse tomatoes, the trio of colors that evoke summer flowers, and the microgreens garnish that does the same.

    But for the true summer touch, buy some freshly-picked summer corn and sprinkle the toast with sweet, raw kernels of corn. That’s summer!

    We eyeballed the photo and recreated the recipe with:

  • Toasted rustic bread
  • Diced avocado
  • Multicolor cherry tomatoes
  • Crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • A scoop of sour cream
  • A garnish of microgreens
    What would you like on your summer toast?

    Make it so!


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