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Archive for September, 2017

FOOD FACTS: Kappa Does Not Mean Cucumber!

If you’re a sushi lover, you’ve invariably had—or at least seen—kappa maki. It’s a sushi roll (maki) filled with cucumber, and often garnished with sesame seeds.

Most of us assumed that kappa is the Japanese word for cucumber. Today we discovered differently.

The kappa is a well-known Japanese mythological creature, a water imp that inhabits rivers and ponds.

Threats of the kappa have been used to warn children of the dangers lurking in rivers and lakes. A kappa may try to lure them into water, and pull them down.

Tke kappa is a trickster. It is typically depicted as roughly humanoid with scaly reptilian skin, about the size of a child.

Cucumber is their favorite meal. Hence, kappa maki was named for them. The Japanese word for regular cucumber is kyuuri.

Here’s more about the kappa.

 

Kappa Maki Goma

Kappa maki with goma, sesame seeds. Here’s the recipe from JapaneseFood.About.com.

 

  

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RECIPE: Soft Pumpkin Pretzels With Pumpkin

Pumpkin Stout Pretzels
[1] Warm from the oven and ready to dip in the sweet-and-salty coating. photo courtesy GrowlersAndLace.com.

Libby Pumpkin Puree
[2] Be sure to use pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie filling, which contains sugar and spices (photo courtesy Libby).

Organic Pumpkin Puree Libby
[3] Libby and other brands offer organic pumpkin purée (photo courtesy Libby).

Glass Of Stout

[4] Enjoy the pretzels with a glass of stout (photo courtesy American Craft Beer).

 

Fall begins at 4:02 today, the autumnal equinox.

An equinox is the moment in which the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the center of the Sun’s disk. This means that the Sun is exactly overhead at a point on the equator. It occurs twice each year.

  • The Vernal Equinox occurs roughly around March 20th, when the sun crosses the equator, moving north (in the Northern Hemisphere). It marks the beginning of spring: longer days and shorter nights.
  • The Autumnal Equinox occurs around September 23rd, when the sun crosses the equator, moving south (in the Northern Hemisphere). It marks the beginning of fall: shorter days and longer nights.
  • On a these two days, the length of day and night are equal lengths, all over the planet.
  • The word equinox derives from the Latin equi, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night. Here’s more (equinox information).
  •  
    That’s the science lesson; now for the treat.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN & STOUT PRETZELS

    This recipe, sent to us from the CraftBeer.com website of the Brewers Association, is a treat you can serve through the end of the year. Buttery, salty and sweet, the pretzels are enhanced favorite fall spices: cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.

    The plain, uncoated pretzels can be frozen. Just wrap them in plastic wrap and place in a zipper-sealed plastic freezer bag. When ready to serve, thaw, brush with butter and toss them in the sugar-spice mixture.

    The recipe was developed by Sandy Smith of Growlers And Lace.com. Prep time is 1.5 hours.

    Serve them with a glass of stout or other favorite beer (the different types of beer).

    Ingredients For 10-12 Large Pretzels

  • 1 cup stout (ideally oatmeal stout, like Samuel Smith’s)
  • 1/2 cup pure pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 packet dry active yeast*
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup baking soda (for boiling)
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the stout, pumpkin pureée and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until very warm but not hot (no hotter than 110°F). Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle yeast over the pumpkin mixture. Stir and let stand 5 minutes. At the end of that time, the yeast should be “blooming.”

    2. ADD the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt and spices to the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour in the pumpkin-yeast mixture, add the oil and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to moisten the dry ingredients. If the dough is too dry, add another tablespoon or two of stout. Using the dough hook attachment…

    3. KNEAD on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until the dough forms a smooth ball around the hook and doesn’t cling to the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes. The dough won’t quite double, but it should have a decent lift.

     
    4. LINE baking sheets with parchment and spray with pan spray. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long. Form each dough rope into a pretzel and place on a separate (non-prepared) pan or the countertop. Cover the pretzels with a clean linen cloth and let rise for 25 minutes.

    5. BRING a stockpot or other large pot of water just to a boil. Add the baking soda carefully (it will bubble aggressively for a moment). Stir to dissolve. Boil the pretzels in batches for about a minute, turning halfway through.
    Remove pretzels from water bath and let drain for a minute on clean towels. While you’re boiling the pretzels…

    6. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Place boiled pretzels on the parchment-lined and sprayed baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a deep golden brown. Transfer the pretzels to a rack to cool completely. While they’re cooling…

    7. COMBINE the sugars, spices and salt in a pie plate or a similarly-rimmed dish. Brush the pretzels with a very light coat of melted butter, then toss in sugar-spice mixture until coated. Ideally, serve warm.

    ________________

    *If you buy yeast in 1 pound packages instead of individual packets, the equivalent to a single yeast packet is 2.25 teaspoons.
     
      

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    PRODUCT: Freshpet For Cats & Dogs

    Before deli departments were fully incorporated into our nation’s supermarkets, many larger cities had small, independent delicatessens, typically patronized by immigrants who sought a taste of the homeland. These delis predominantly served cold cuts, typically on display in loaf or sausage form, to be sliced and served cold.

    For instance, bologna, now considered quintessentially American and a kid favorite, has ties to Bologna, Italy where mortadella is a beloved sausage meat. Liverwurst? That’s an Americanized version of German leberwurst, or liver sausage, another kid favorite.

    We recently discovered that one savvy food company, Freshpet, is catering to the other “kid” in the family: the beloved dog or cat.

    FRESHPET = NUTRITIOUS, FRESH PET FOOD

    Freshpet offers all-natural pet food made from scratch with the freshest ingredients; which is why their products, including their loaf styled Freshpet Select, are only sold in a special pet refrigerated section at supermarkets and pet stores.

    Ingredients are sourced from the U.S., which delivers a much safer product for those who remember pet-threatening tainted grains from China and other dangerous vittles from countries less vigilant about food monitoring.

    Since the fresh ingredients are domestic, including veggies grown at local farms, the packaging features a small American flag.

    The Freshpet product line is varied to meet all picky tastes: Freshpet Select Stews, varied fresh meats in resealable bags to mix in with other food, and tasty rewards such as Dog Nation Treats, Dog Joy Treats, among other choices.

    Freshpet prepares its varied and full product line in the company’s own kitchens. Their chicken and beef are gently cooked at low temperatures, which maximize nutrient retention including vital amino acids, the basic building blocks that help your pet thrive.

    Equally important: there are no preservatives, almost unheard of in the billion-dollar pet food industry. Your pet enjoys the same high-quality ingredients that you use to cook a well-balanced, delicious meal.
     
    A BOON FOR AILING PETS

    How did we manage to become familiar with Freshpet? We worried about our ailing dachshund, Liesel. Under the weather, paralyzed from a back injury and heavily sedated, Liesel had lost her appetite.

    The dog’s vet advised that home-cooked “human” meals were only a short-term solution, because only a high-quality dog food offers those crucial, canine- specific nutrients necessary for healing and eventual recovery. Human food just doesn’t have the nutrient mix for sustaining a dog’s health.

     

    Freshpet Beef Recipe
    [1] Freshpet Chunky Beef Recipe.

    Freshpet Tender Chicken
    [2] Freshpet Tender Chicken Recipe.

    Freshpet Roasted Meals

    [3] Freshpet Select Roasted Meals Chicken with Carrots & Spinach.(photos courtesy Freshpet).

     
    Freshpet Chunky Beef Recipe did the trick for little Liesel! Equally appealing were the Tender Chicken and Chunky Chicken & Turkey Recipes. The dog’s appetite kicked in, and after two months of strict confinement, she is walking again, with the renewed energy of a puppy. She’s cheery and bright. True story. No baloney.

    For more information visit Freshpet.com and sign up for Twitter.com/Freshpet.

    —E. B. Wyer

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Biotta Organic Juices & More Good-For-You Foods

    Biotta Organic Juice

    [1] Biotta, king of bottled organic juices, is available in 10 flavors (photo courtesy Biotta).

    Pete & Gerry's Organic Hard Boiled Eggs
    [2] An egg-cellent grab-and-go snack from Pete & Gerry’s.

    Tsamma Watermelon Juices

    [3] Tasty, hydrating watermelon juice Photo courtesy Tsamma Juice | AJC.

     

    This edition of Top Pick Of The Week contains the tastiest good-for-you products. Our Top Pick, Biotta Organic Juices, is joined by two other favorites-of-the-week.

    1. BIOTTA ORGANIC JUICES

    Juicing is hot, but you don’t have to go to a juice bar for a satisfying, healthful glass of vegetable or fruit juice.

    Biotta Juices, imported from Switzerland, raise the juice bar about as high as it can go. An early organic producer—since 1957—they make juices that are beyond delicious. They’re exciting, vibrant and organic to boot.

    How do they get those delicious flavors?

  • Field-ripened produce is carefully harvested, and minimal processing ensures that the juices’ natural minerals and vitamins are left intact.
  • Biotta goes to great measures in the crushing of the fruit and vegetables to ensure that the most nutrients go into the juices.
  • And, of course, the juices are 100% pure juice, “from field to bottle.”
  •  
    Each of the juices offers different health and nutrition benefits. The line includes:

  • Apple Ginger Beet Juice
  • Beet Juice
  • Breuss, a blend of beet, carrot, celery root, potato and radish juices, recommended by The Breuss Cancer Cure
  • Carrot Juice
  • Celery Root Juice
  • Elderberry Juice
  • Mountain Cranberry Juice
  • Sauerkraut Juice
  • Tart Cherry Juice
  • Vegetable Juice
  •  
    These juices are more than just sippers. You can cook with them, make ice cream and sorbet, turn them into kickin’ cocktails, use them as gazpacho or fruit soup bases.

    Beetroot Martini? You can keep it organic with the fine organic gin and vodka from the Organic Spirits Company.

    Frozen yogurt pops? Yes, and you won’t believe how good beet and carrot yogurt pops are.

    The line is certified USDA organic, vegan and Non-GMO Project Verified. It is available at retailers nationwide and online. See more at BiottaJuices.com.
     
     
    2. PETE & GERRY’S ORGANIC HARD-BOILED EGGS

    Should your eggs come from small family farms, or from faceless factory farms, asks Pete & Gerry’s.

    These fourth-generation family farmers have been selling high-quality organic eggs for more than 60 years. As pioneers of humane and environmentally sustainable egg production, Pete & Gerry’s produced many of the first organic and free-range eggs available in supermarkets. They were the first Certified Humane egg farm in the country.

     
    The hens, and their eggs, are free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, GMO feed or animal byproducts. So these eggs not only taste good: They make you feel good. No hens were mistreated, crammed into cages or onto barn floors so crowded that they can’t move.

    To make their quality eggs available more widely, Pete & Gerry’s joined with some 45 other independent, small family farms that produce eggs to their specifications. The network of farms span seven states, with more to come. The commitment is to stay small.

    Products include dozens and half dozens cartons of eggs, liquid egg whites, and the latest: Hard Boiled, Peeled and Ready to Eat packs.

    The latter are great grab-and-go snacks, halved or quartered into salads, sliced onto sandwiches or chopped into egg salad.

    Learn more at PeteAndGerrys.com.
     
     
    3. TSAMMA WATERMELON JUICE

    Some 12 years ago, we were madly in love with Sundia Watermelon Juice, liquid watermelon in a bottle. When the line was discontinued, we scoured markets for a replacement.

    That’s because it takes a pound of watermelon to make 12 ounces of watermelon juice. Our small kitchen has no space for a juicer.

    But other brands didn’t taste pure, like Sundia. They tasted like Jolly Rancher. Some brands include the bottom white portion and rind, which are nutritious but add unwanted flavor components. Heartbroken, we couldn’t even finish the bottles.

    A new entry has cheered us: Tsamma Watermelon Juice. The name pays homage to the Tsamma melon, a variety was first cultivated in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, “the ancient ancestor of all watermelon varieties.” Tsamma juices are made of good old American watermelons, but the name stands out.

    The brand offers pure watermelon juice and a watermelon-coconut water blend.

    Watermelon juice is packed with nutrition:

  • Lycopene for the heart, skin and cancer prevention.
  • Other flavonoids and carotenoids that fight inflammation.
  • Citrulline for better blood flow.
  • Lots of vitamin C, plus beta-carotene (that is converted into vitamin A).
  •  
    As with Biotta juices, you can use Tsamma in cocktails and other recipes, and freeze it into ice pops. Discover more at TsammaJuice.com.

    The line is certified kosher by Star K.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Potato Latkes, Root Vegetable Latkes

    The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, begins tonight, and we’re having latkes.

    Potato latkes are a Chanukah tradition*, but they are enjoyed year-round.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF LATKES

    The popular potato latkes of European Jewish cuisine descend from Sicilian ricotta pancakes that appeared in the Middle Ages. They traveled north to Rome, where the Jewry called them cassola.

    Here’s a recipe for ricotta latkes. Traditionally sweetened, you can make a savory version with herbs instead of sugar.

    Potato latkes (meaning “fried cakes,” i.e. pancakes, in Yiddish) are an Ashkenazi invention that gained popularity in Eastern Europe during the mid 1800s. The Hebrew word, leviva, is found in the Book of Samuel.

    While the ricotta pancakes, a cousin to cheese blintzes are delicious, our bet is that more people would rather have fried potatoes!

    Here’s a longer history of latkes.
     
     
    MODERN LATKES

    For centuries, potato latkes were the rule. Toward the end of the 20th century, cooks went so far as to make sweet potato latkes.

    Then, anything was possible: latkes from beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips…. If it’s a root vegetable, it can be turned into latke. You can also use non-root vegetables, like summer and winter squash.

    Food trivia: Potatoes themselves are not root vegetables, but stem vegetables. They grow on underground stems, called stolons.

    Potato tubers are actually thickened stems: They have buds that sprout stems and leaves; roots don’t. Here’s more about it.
     
     
    HOW TO ENJOY LATKES

  • You can use sweet potatoes or purple potatoes—anything you can grate.
  • You can turn latkes into a main course with the addition of a protein: from sliced steak to fried chicken (the Jewish chicken and waffles) to pickled herring or smoked fish.
  • You can serve it as a salad course, atop a plate of mesclun.
  • You can provide three or four different toppings.
  • You can serve mini-latkes with a beer or glass of wine.
  • Latkes don’t have to be round or oval. If you have pancake or egg molds, make whatever shape you have: diamonds, flowers, hearts, stars, etc.

    Don’t use anything with detail (Mickey Mouse ears, animals, etc.), since the latke batter is chunky, not smooth like pancakes or an egg.

  • Most importantly, you can make latkes any day of the year. Think of them as you would hashed browns.
  •  
     
    LATKE GARNISHES

    You can serve more than one topping or garnish. Our mom always served sour cream and her homemade applesauce, as did her mom. (For Rosh Hashanah, the latkes accompanied roast chicken; for Chanukah, a brisket.)

    We improved on her toppings, by adding a hit of nutmeg to the applesauce and minced chives, and separately, horseradish, to the sour cream.

    While applesauce and sour cream are perfect latke partner, this is a new century. Try fusion seasonings, go crazy (within reason) with toppings like cardamom applesauce, curried Greek yogurt or 3-herb sour cream.

    Some ideas:

       

    Potato Latkes
    [1] Classic potato latkes with sour cream, enhanced with dill. Here’s the recipe from Najwa Kronfel of Delicious Shots.

    Potato Latkes
    [2] Latkes, modernized with Dijon mustard (photo courtesy Maille).

    Potato Latkes

    [3] Latkes made with scallions instead of conventional yellow onions (photo courtesy Shaya | New Orleans).

  • Dairy: crème fraîche, herbed goat cheese or ricotta, Greek yogurt, sour cream with chives, dill or scallions
  • Fish and seafood: caviar/roe, herring in cream sauce, salmon pastrami, smoked salmon, smoked sturgeon, smoked whitefish
  • Fruit sauce: chutney, cranberry sauce, flavored applesauce
  • Gourmet: smoked salmon and salmon caviar (or other roe) with crème fraîche or dilled sour cream
  • Poached egg: for a main or first course
  • Salsa: corn, corn and bean, peach or mango, pesto, roasted tomato)
  • More: Dijon mustard, kimchi, pickled beets, pickled onions and other pickled vegetables, pomegranate arils
  •  
    Plus

  • Chopped fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, thyme
  • Slaw: Asian slaw (no mayo), purple cabbage cole slaw, root vegetable slaw.
  • Vegetables: grilled or roasted, ratatouille or other vegetable medley
  •  
    Our personal favorite latke garnish is gourmet-traditional: creme fraiche with dill, smoked salmon and caviar.

    We would gladly accept a latke trio: three different preparations, as in photo #6.

    ________________

    *Latkes are traditionally eaten by Ashkenazi Jews during the Chanukah. The oil in which the latkes are fried is another tribute to the miracle of Chanukah. The history, in brief: In ancient Judea, the Syrian king Antiochus ordered the Jewish people to abandon their religion and worship the Greek gods. Judah, leader of the band that called themselves the Maccabees (Hebrew for hammer), drove the Syrians from Israel and reclaimed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, removing the Greek statues. They finished their work on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, and wanted to light the eternal light (N’er Tamid), present in every Jewish house of worship, to rededicate the temple. Once lit, the light should never be extinguished. But there was only a tiny jug of lamp oil—enough for a single day. A miracle occurred: the light burned for eight days. This is the origin of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, which is celebrated for eight days. The word Chanukah means “rededication.”

     

    Carrot Latkes
    [4] Carrot and scallion latkes (photo courtesy Elana’s Pantry).

    Celery Root Parsnip Latkes
    [5] Celery root and parsnip latkes. You can make beet latkes or potato latkes, too.

    Gourmet Latkes

    [6] Gourmet latke trio: lobster and white truffles, caviar and crème fraîche, smoked salmon and crème fraîche, all with a quail egg garnish (photo courtesy Duet Brasserie).

     

    RECIPE: GRANDMA BERTHA’S LATKES

    This recipe for quick, light and crisp latkes is from Andrea Watman, Creative Director at New York City’s legendary Zabar’s. The recipe is Andrea’s grandmother’s

    This simple adaptation uses a food processor instead of hand grating, and potatoes that are not peeled. It should only take minutes to prepare.

    The latke recipes of Grandma Bertha’s time required labor-intensive peeling of the potatoes, then grating them on a four-sided metal grater—which invariably ended up scraping one’s knuckles as well.

    The hand grating took so long that the potatoes would start to discolor. Only the enjoyment of the delicious finished latkes made one forget the travail of making them.

    Andrea improved upon the recipe by tossing the potatoes, peel and all, into the food processor. She also uses a coffee scoop to measure the batter. She finds that it makes latkes that are “just the right size.”

    If you don’t have a coffee scoop, you can use a 1/4 cup measure, which makes larger latkes.

    Latkes freeze really well and can be reheated in the microwave; but they are best when eaten right after cooking.

    Ingredients For About 30 Latkes

  • 4 Idaho potatoes, washed but not peeled
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • ½ tablespoon fresh-ground pepper
  • Oil for frying (Andrea uses half olive oil, half corn oil)
  • Garnishes of choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the potatoes and onion into quarters. Place in the bowl of food processor, using the “S” blade or knife blade. Grind until finely ground; pulse if necessary.

    2. ADD the eggs, salt and pepper. Grind until mixed. Remove bowl from food processor and stir in the flour. The mixture should be the consistency of thick oatmeal.

    3. HEAT 1″ of oil in a deep frying pan. Be patient and wait until it heats fully or the latkes won’t get golden brown. (Andrea uses an electric frying pan set at high heat because she finds it provides a more consistent heat than the stovetop.)

    4. SCOOP the batter into the frying pan using a coffee scoop. You should be able to fry 6-8 latkes at a time. The latkes will begin to bubble, just like regular batter pancakes.

    5. TURN them when brown. Try not to turn them more them once. The less you turn them the crisper they will be. Remove all the pancakes that have been cooking before adding new batter. In this way, way you can control the temperature of the oil and keep track of cooking time.

    6. PLACE the cooked latkes on paper towels to drain.

     
    MORE LATKE RECIPES

  • Butternut Squash Latkes With Harissa & Tahini Crème Fraîche
  • Potato, Onion & Cauliflower Latkes
  • Vegetable Latkes: carrots, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, white onion
  •   

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