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Archive for September, 2017

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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    FOOD FUN: Mezuzah Sushi

    Sushi Mezuzah

    A mezuzah created as sushi, at Catch | NYC.

     

    First, let us state emphatically that no disrespect is intended to any devout observers who might take umbrage at a mezuzah turned into food as humor.

    Personally, we were charmed by this sushi mezuzah, from the Facebook page of Catch | NYC; we had to share it.

    It was published during Rosh Hashanah of last year, but we didn’t see it until the holiday was over. Our guess is that it was easier to make a sushi mezuzah than a sushi shofar.

    Since the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, begins tomorrow night, we saved it to share with you.

    A mezuzah, literally the Hebrew word for doorpost, is a small, handwritten parchment scroll, rolled up and housed in a long, narrow, decorated case of metal, wood, glass, ceramic or other durable material.

    Mezuzahs are affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes, designating the home as Jewish and reminding those who live there of their connection to God and their heritage.

     
    Mezuzahs fulfill the Biblical commandment to “write [the words of God] on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates*” (Deuteronomy 6:9).

    The scroll contains the first two verses of the Shema Yisrael a section of the Torah, the central reference document of Judaism. The Shema serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services.

    These words are handwritten in Hebrew by an expert scribe, who is trained in the regulations involved in writing a mezuzah scroll.

    Here’s more about it.

    ________________

    *Some interpret Jewish law to require a mezuzah on the doorway of every room* in the home. The exceptions are bathrooms (which are not living spaces), laundry rooms, closets and areas that are too small to qualify as rooms.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Ice Cream Without An Ice Cream Maker

    You need only four ingredients to make ice cream—and NO ice cream maker.

    There may be an extra ingredient, such as lemon juice with fruit flavors.

    Just whip the cream, fold it into the sweetened condensed milk with the other ingredients, freeze in a loaf pan and voilà, ice cream!

    The other ingredients are sugar or other sweetener (use Splenda for sugar-free ice cream), and flavor: coffee, cocoa, peanut butter, strawberry, vanilla, etc.). With some recipes, other ingredients substitute for the sugar; for example, a box of cake mix for cake batter ice cream.

    Then, of course, there are optional mix-ins: brownie chunks, chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, fruit, M&Ms, nuts, sprinkles, etc.
     
     
    NO-CHURN VS. CONVENTIONAL ICE CREAM

    Traditional ice cream starts with a sweetened base—usually a combination of heavy cream, milk and sugar and sugar (add eggs for a French custard base).

    The custard and added flavors are churned in an ice cream maker, which incorporates air and breaks up ice crystals as they form, creating a creamy texture. The mixture is then frozen.

    No-churn ice cream uses sweetened condensed milk as the base. The whipped cream adds the air and produces the creamy texture.

    The result is very similar, with a few minor differences:

  • If you have a sensitive palate, you may taste the sweetened condensed milk. It’s a rich, slightly “cooked” flavor that many people don’t even notice in dulce de leche, Key Lime Pie and other favorite sweets. Some of us even eat it straight from the can, with a spoon.
  • The density of the sweetened condensed makes slow-churn more scoopable. It doesn’t get rock hard like conventional ice cream can.
  •  
     
    NO-CHURN ICE CREAM RECIPES

    For most no-churn recipes, prep time is less than 10 minutes, plus 4-5 hours freezing time.

  • No-Churn Cake Batter Ice Cream
  • No-Churn Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Ice Cream
  • No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream with Brownie Chunks
  • No-Churn Coconut Peach Ice Cream (substitute banana)
  • No-Churn Fresh Blackberry Ice Cream (substitute any berry)
  • No-Churn Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
  • No-Churn Snickerdoodle Ice Cream
  • No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream
  •  

    Chocolate Brownie No Churn Ice Cream
    [1] Chocolate brownie ice cream, made in a loaf pan. Here’s the recipe from Wonky Wonderful.

    No Churn Blackberry Ice Cream

    [2] Blackberry ice cream (here’s the recipe from Baked By An Introvert).

     
    There are vegan options as well. Just search for “no-churn ice cream” and you’ll be overwhelmed by the choices.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF NO CHURN ICE CREAM

    Alas, we could not find the origin of no-churn ice cream. This bugs us, because it is a relatively recent recipe—no reaching into the distant past required.

    Our best guess is that it is Eagle Brand Borden sweetened condensed milk, which is constantly testing new recipes for its product.

    There are no-churn recipes on their website, but we hadn’t heard back from them by press time. We’ll update this when we do.

    Borden and Eagle brand, the two big names in sweetened condensed milk, merged and are now owned by Smucker’s.

    Here’s the history of sweetened condensed milk.

      

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    FOOD FUN: DIY Filled Donut Holes

    Filled Donuts
    [1] David Burke’s Warm Drunken Donuts.

    Chef David Burke Warm Drunken Donuts
    [2] A showman as well as a chef, David Burke often has special serveware made for his creations. Donut carousel, anyone? (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Chef David Burke).

    Beignets

    [3] Banana beignets add another popular flavor to donut holes. Here’s the recipe from Food Network.

     

    Chef David Burke, master of invention, has intrigued us yet again with Warm Drunken Donuts: fresh-fried donut holes with three “drunken” fillings: bourbon caramel, chocolate kahlua and raspberry limoncello.

    David Burke serves the donuts with three small squeeze bottles of the fillings, and you get to inject your own filling. It’s fun.

    Although we haven’t gotten to one of his restaurants to try them, we cobbled together our own version using store-bought donut holes (not as good as homemade, but they let us try the concept).

    The recommended wine pairing is a sparkling rosé.

    The drunken donuts are powdered sugar munchkins with several plastic needle pointed syrups that you squeeze into the donuts holes.
     
     
    RECIPE: OUR ROUGH APPROXIMATION OF DAVID BURKE’S WARM DRUNKEN DONUTS)

    Prep time is 15 minutes plus 5 minutes frying.

    Ingredients For 2-3 Dozen (depending on size)

  • 4 cups canola or grapeseed oil (high smoke point oil)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar
  •  
    Plus fillings: see note below.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together, sift together and set aside as you whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

    2. ADD the oil to a deep, heavy saucepan and heat it to 350°F over medium heat. Watch the thermometer closely: If the oil goes above 350°, your donuts may get too crunchy.

    3. ADD the egg mixture into the flour mixture a bit at a time, and whisk until the dough is well combined. Add the melted butter and thoroughly combine.

    4. DROP small balls of dough into the hot oil, using a small cookie scoop (plan B: roll them in your hands). Fry in small batches: You don’t want to crowd the pan, because the dough balls need to float without making contact with each other. When they start to turning brown on the underside, flip them over with a fork. Continue to cook until both sides are golden brown.

    5. REMOVE the donut holes with a slotted spoon, onto a baking sheet or platter lined with paper towels. Allow them to cool and then roll them in the optional sugar. We used a bit of cinnamon sugar on half of them (we’re not keen on powdered sugar garnishes: they’re too messy).

    Serve warm.

     
    FOR THE FILLINGS

    Taste and add more as alcohol as desired. You should go for a subtle layer of flavor, not a knockout.

  • For the Bourbon Caramel filling: We had so much delicious caramel sauce from The King’s Cupboard that we simply warmed it, added bourbon to taste, and then added cream to thin it for pourability.
  • For the Chocolate Cream filling: make this recipe and add a teaspoon of Kahlua or other coffee liqueur.
  • For the Raspberry Limoncello filling: We took the easy way out and combined quality raspberry jam with Limoncello and a bit of lemon zest. You can substitute Grand Marnier for the Limoncello.
  •  
     
    WHO INVENTED DONUT HOLES?

    First, we thank the Dutch for olykoeks, meaning oil cake, batter fried in oil.

    While dough was fried the world over, we can thank the Dutch for the sweet balls fried in hog fat that became modern doughnuts.

    An old word for ball was nut; a doughnut is literally a nut (ball) of dough. The term “doughnut” was first used in print in 1809 by American author Washington Irving in his satirical “Knickerbocker’s History Of New York.” Irving wrote of:

    “…balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks.”

    Because the center of the cake did not cook as quickly as the outside, the softer centers were sometimes stuffed with fruit, nuts, or other fillings that did not require cooking (think of the chopped onions in the center of a bialy).

    What about the hole?

    Per Smithsonian, a New England ship captain’s mother made a notably delicious, deep-fried doughut that used her son’s spice cargo of nutmeg and cinnamon, along with lemon rind. She filled the center with hazelnuts or walnuts.

    As the story goes, in 1847, 16-year-old sailor Hanson Crockett Gregory created the hole in the center of the doughnut. He used the top of a round tin pepper container to punch the holes, so the dough would cook evenly.

    He recounted the story in an interview with the Boston Post at the turn of the century, 50 years later.

    He effectively eliminated the need to fill the less-cooked center, and provided an inner cut-out that enabled the dough to be evenly cooked.

    This was a breakthrough not just for donut holes, but for the donut in general. Previously, it had been cooked as a solid piece (no hole), so the sides were always crisper than the center. In fact, toppings were often put on the soggy center to cover up the flaw.

    After the creation of the doughnut hole, donut makers also fried the dough “holes.”

    It took more than a century and a mass marketer to popularize donut holes in America.

    While the forerunner of Dunkin’ Donuts began in 1948 (here’s the history of Dunkin’ Donuts), Munchkins “donut hole treats” were not introduced until 1972. Tim Hortons followed with Timbits in 1976.
     
     
    WHO CHANGED THE SPELLING FROM DOUGHNUT TO DONUT?

    The first known printed record of the shortened word “donut” appears (likely an inadvertent misspelling) in “Peck’s Bad Boy And His Pa,” a story by George W. Peck published in 1900.

    The spelling did not immediately catch on. That impetus goes to Dunkin’ Donuts.

    Donut is a easier to write, but we prefer the old-fashioned elegance of doughnut. Take your choice.

    Doughnuts didn’t become a mainstream American food until after World War I. American doughboys at the front were served doughnuts by Salvation Army volunteers. When the doughboys returned, they brought their taste for doughnuts with them [source].

    The name doughboy wasn’t related to the doughnuts, by the way. It dates to the Civil War, when the cavalry unchivalrously derided foot soldiers as doughboys. Two theories are offered:

  • Their globular brass buttons resembled flour dumplings.
  • They used flour to polish their white belts.
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