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TIP OF THE DAY: Toss Some Dried Cherries On Everything

We don’t think that cherry recipes on Presidents Day or Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd) are clichéd. We think they’re a great opportunity to enjoy dried cherries.

The question isn’t what you can do with dried cherries; but rather, what you can’t. They’re so versatile!

Some of our favorite uses for dried cherries:

  • Breakfast: On cereal or yogurt, in pancake batter, in omelets.
  • Lunch: In green salads and protein salads (chicken, tuna, etc.).
  • Cocktails: Garnish away!
  • Cheese Board: Accent with dried cherries and other dried fruits.
  • Dinner: Great with duck, fish, pork and veal in sauces, salsas, or a simple garnish; in stuffings.
  • Dessert garnish: For cakes, fruit salads, puddings, ice cream and sorbet.
  • Baked Goods: biscotti, chocolate chip cookies, muffins.
  • Snacks: from the bag, in trail mix, with mixed nuts.
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    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE SALAD WITH DRIED CHERRIES, CANDIED WALNUTS & CHERRY BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

    This recipe came to us from Melanie Flinn, MS, RD, for ChooseCherries.com, the consumer website of the Cherry Marketing Institute. There you’ll find recipes for every form of cherries, including fresh, dried, juice.

    You can make the candied walnuts and dressing ahead of time, so that when you’re ready to eat there is little prep involved.

    The dressing is a keeper, by the way. You can add cherry juice to a vinaigrette or creamy dressing for a flavor lilt.

    If you don’t like goat cheese, substitute butterkäse, halloumi or queso blanco for a crusted cheese, or simply add chunks of blue cheese or feta.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 cups mixed greens, mesclun or other (we like a mix ofgreen and red leaf lettuce, arugula and baby spinach)
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup candied walnuts (directions below)
  • 4 crumb-crusted goat cheese medallions (directions below)
  • Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste (directions below)
  •  
    For The Walnuts

  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1/4 heaping cup loose brown sugar
  •  
    For The Goat Cheese Medallions

  • 4 one-ounce slices from goat cheese log
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3-4 teaspoons olive oil
  •  
    For The Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup cherry juice (for an intense flavor, reduced 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 scant tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing. Place 1/2 cup cherry juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup.

    Meanwhile, place the minced garlic in a medium bowl and add reduced cherry juice. Whisk in the vinegar and honey. Slowly whisk in oil drop by drop until well combined. Season with a salt and pepper.

    2. MAKE the candied walnuts. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

    In a medium nonstick skillet heated to medium heat, add walnuts and sugar and stir constantly until sugar has melted and coated the walnuts, no more than 5 minutes. Turn onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out to prevent clumping. Once dry, store in an airtight container.

    3. MAKE the goat cheese medallions. The best way to slice neat pieces from the log is to freeze it for about 5 minutes before slicing.

       

    goat-cheese-candied-walnuts-choosecherries-230

    cherry-salad-ingredients-choosecherries-230

    Salmon With Cherry Sauce

    Veal Chop With Dried Cherries

    Cereal With Dried Cherries

    [1] Featured recipe: goat cheese salad and [2] cherry vinaigrette for the salad (photos courtesy Choose Cherries). [3] Salmon with cherry sauce. [4] Veal chop with cherry sauce. [5] Cereal with a sprinkle of cherries (photos courtesy Choose Cherries).

     
    Combine the breadcrumbs and panko on a plate; dip the medallions into the eaten egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Add olive oil to a nonstick skillet, place the medallions in the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes total, flipping once when the underside is lightly browned.

    4. ASSEMBLE the salad. Combine the greens, dried cranberries and walnuts. Toss with the desired amount of dressing or serve the dressing in a gravy boat or pitcher so people can drizzle their own. Divide the salad onto plates and top each with one warm goat cheese medallion.

     

    Fresh Cherries

    Dried Cherries

    [6] Fresh off the tree (photo courtesy Washington Fruit Commission). [7] Finally: dried to enjoy year-long (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese).

     

    CHERRY HISTORY

    Closely related to plums and other stone fruits, cherries Prunus cerasus have been eaten since cave men plucked them off trees: Cherry pits have been found in Stone Age caves.

    The cherry is believed to have originated as a natural hybrid between two other Prunus genuses in the Iranian Plateau. The hybrids stabilized and interbred to form a new, distinct species. Extremely popular among Persians, the Greeks were cultivating them by 300 B.C.E.

  • Theophrastus, an early botanist and protégé of Aristotle, mentions them in his “History of Plants” in the 3rd century B.C.E., going so far as to mention that they had already been known to the Greeks for centuries.
  • Roman historian Pliny the Elder later writes that the decadent Roman general Lucullus brought cherries to Italy around 74 B.C. Some myths even tell of the old soldier committing suicide when he realized his supply of the sweet treat had lapsed.
  • George Washington was not the only U.S. leader to have a particular relationship with Prunus cerasus: Another founding father, Thomas Jefferson, grew cherries on his plantation at Monticello.
  • President Zachary Taylor had a less pleasant experience. He was reported to have developed dysentery after enjoying “cold cherries and milk” during a long, hot Independence Day celebration in 1850. Five days later, Taylor was dead, the cause listed as “gastroenteritis—inflammation of the stomach and intestines.”
  •  
    Alas, the health benefits of cherries could not come to his rescue.

    A superfruit with more than 12,000 ORAC units per hundred grams, cherries have a higher antioxidant capacity than grapes, oranges, plums, raspberries and strawberries combined.

    MORE ABOUT CHERRIES

    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHERRIES

     
    CHERRY TRIVIA

  • The English word cherry derives from the Latin cerasum, referring to an ancient Greek region near Giresun, Turkey from which cherries were first thought to be exported to Europe. The French word is cerise, the Spanish word is cereza, the Turkish word is kiraz, etc.
  • A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, in Turkey, in 72 B.C.E.
  • Cherries were introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent by order of Henry VIII who had tasted them in Flanders.
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    RECIPE: Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes, Homemade Chocolate Cherries & Cherry Liqueur

    George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree, but you can still celebrate his birthday (either Presidents Day or his actual birthday, February 22nd) with something cherry.

    Here, we have three options: chocolate cherry cupcakes, chocolate cherry cordials, and cherry liqueur (the last one you can make today, but you need several weeks for it to infuse. It will be ready by Mother’s Day.

    The first recipe was developed by Jen of the website Baked By An Introvert. She notes that “This recipe was inspired by my favorite candy, chocolate covered cherries.”

    The chocolate cupcakes have a “surprise” filling of cherry preserves; and the buttercream also has some cherry preserves for color and flavor. You can use plain buttercream if you prefer, tinted pink.

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    Before you start baking, make it a point to look at all the wonderful recipes on BakedByAnIntrovert.com.

    RECIPE #1: CHOCOLATE CHERRY CUPCAKES

    Ingredients For 20 Cupcakes

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup black cherry preserves or regular cherry preserves
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon kirsch (cherry liqueur)
  • Optional garnish: chocolate-covered cherries with stems (purchase or make)
  • Other garnishes: Hershey’s Kisses (unwrapped), fresh stemmed cherries in season, brandied cherries (recipe)
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    For The Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup black cherry preserves (substitute red cherry preserves)
  •    

    Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

    Bowl Of Pink Frosting

    [1] Pretty as a picture: chocolate cherry cupcakes from Baked By An Introvert. [2] If you want to play against the cherry filling, tint plain buttercream pink or make this pink champagne frosting from Wicked Good Kitchen.

  • Substitute for preserves: red food color to tint frosting pink, or this pink champagne frosting recipe
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F, line 12 muffin cups with paper liners (or 20 muffin cups, if you have two pans). Set aside.

    2. BEAT in a large bowl until fluffy the oil, butter and sugars. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl…

    3. WHISK together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually add it to the wet ingredients, along with the milk. First add some of the dry mixture, then some milk, then some dry mixture, repeating as necessary and beating after each addition. The contents should be well blended.

    4. SPOON 2 tablespoons of batter into each paper cup. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean (with only a few dry crumbs). Remove the cupcakes from the pan(s), and cool completely on a wire rack. When cool…

    5. CUT a small well in the top center of each cupcakes, using the point of a sharp knife. Fill but don’t stuff the well with cherry preserves, and replace the top portion of the cupcake. (Nibble on the well pieces or keep them in a plastic snack bag to toss on ice cream or yogurt.)

    6. MAKE the frosting. Using a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar; then beat in the cream until the frosting reaches your desired spreading consistency. Then beat in the preserves or food color to tint pink. Garnish and serve.

    TIP FROM JEN: If the frosting becomes too loose or curdled looking, add more powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until the frosting comes together again.

     

    Chocolate Covered Cherries

    Chocolate Dipped Cherries

    Kirsch

     

    RECIPE #2: CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHERRY CORDIALS

    Making chocolate-covered cherries is as easy as dipping strawberries or other fruit in chocolate: Melt the chocolate, dip the fruit and let dry.

    However, if you want to make cherry cordials—with the cherry floating in syrup, here’s a recipe Taste Of Home (photos #3 and 4).

    Prep time is 25 minutes plus chilling.

    Ingredients For 36 Pieces

  • 2-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 jars (8 ounces each) maraschino cherries with stems, well drained (we placed them on paper towels, too)
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate (quality chocolate or chocolate chips)
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the sugar, butter, milk and extract in a small bowl. Knead until smooth and pliable. Shape into 1-inch balls and flatten each into a 2-inch circle.

    2. WRAP one circle around each cherry and lightly roll in your hands. Place with stems up on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

    3. MELT the chocolate and shortening in the microwave; stirring until smooth (the shortening helps the chocolate adhere to the cherry). Holding onto the stems, dip the cherries into the chocolate, allowing the excess to drip off. Place them waxed paper until the chocolate is set. Store in a covered container. Refrigerate for 1-2 weeks before serving, to allow the flavors to meld.

    RECIPE #3: MAKE CHERRY LIQUEUR

    You can’t have it today; it takes 40 days to infuse (photo #5).

    But here’s how, from Balkan Lunchbox.

    ____________________
    Captions For Photos:

    [3] Make your own chocolate covered cherries (photo courtesy Taste Of Home).

    [4] It’s more than dipping fruit: You create the almond-nuanced syrup inside the chocolate shell, too (photo courtesy Choclatique).

    [5] Finish with homemade cherry liqueur (photo courtesy Balkan Lunch Box).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: King Cake & Milk Punch For Mardi Gras

    Mardi Gras 2017 falls on Tuesday, February 28. It always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

    Celebrating the Carnival season, Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) has been a state holiday in Louisiana since the 19th century.

    WHAT’S MARDI GRAS?

    The Carnival season begins on or after the Epiphany or Kings Day (January 6th), and culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday refers to the practice of eating richer, fatty foods the last night before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.

    Mardi Gras is sometimes referred to as Shrove Tuesday, from the word shrive, meaning “confess.” But the idea of rich foods is far more appealing.

    Why “Carnival?”

    Centuries ago, Catholics in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. It stuck, engendering huge Carnival events elsewhere, including New Orleans and Rio de Janiero.

    In New Orleans, parades and other celebrations begin the extended weekend before, starting Friday, February 24th.

    You don’t have to go all-out to celebrate, or even prepare a Jambalaya Bar for friends and family.

    Instead, invite them to drop by for a slice of King Cake, a glass of milk punch, or both.

    You can buy a King Cake—the traditional Mardi Gras buttery yeasted sweet cake, or make one with the excellent mix kit from King Arthur Flour. It includes the yeast cake mix, almond paste, white icing mix and decorating sugars.

    BYO plastic baby: Per, tradition the person who gets the piece of cake with the baby (or coin, or other token) gets good luck all year!

    IMPORTANT: Never bake anything plastic in a cake; it will melt and render the cake inedible (and for all we know, it can catch fire). The technique is: after the cake is baked and still warm (and more pliable), insert the good luck token into the cake from the underside, before icing.

    Here’s more on the history of King Cake.

    TO DRINK: MILK PUNCH

    Milk punch is in the category of drinks made with milk or cream: Brandy Alexander, Classic Ramos Gin Fizz, Grasshopper, Irish Coffee, Mudslide, Pink Squirrel, White Russian, and many others (hey—another idea for a themed cocktail party: cream-based cocktails).

       

    King Cake Mardi Gras

    King Cake Kit

    King Cake

    [1] [2] [3] These King Cakes were made from a mix kit from King Arthur Flour. The rectangular shape isn’t traditional, but you can be as creative as you like.

     
    Milk punch combines brandy or bourbon* with milk, sugar and vanilla extract, typically garnished with grated nutmeg. It is served cold and usually has nutmeg sprinkled on top.

    FOOD TRIVIA: sugar was added to cocktails to cover up the taste of the alcohol, as was milk.

     

    Milk Punch

    Nutmeg and Microplane

    [4] You can serve milk punch in whatever glasses you have (photo Michelle Banovic | Atwood Hotel | Chicago. [5] Don’t forget the nutmeg. We have a special nutmeg grater (like a peppermill for nutmeg); but you can use your Microplane (photo courtesy McCormick).

     

    It was popularized in the 17th century by Aphra Behn, one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing. At the time, all types of punch were served from a punch bowl.

    The milk punch of the era was made with cream curdled with lemon juice. Those recipes gave way to milk punches that use(d) fresh milk or cream, like egg nog—which is a milk punch enriched with eggs.

    Milk punches—egg nog or other—became holiday and celebratory traditions (for example, Mardi Gras).

    In modern-day New Orleans, milk punches vie as brunch drinks with the Bloody Mary, created in 1940 in New York City Bloody Mary history.

    There are as many recipes for milk punch as for anything else, but for Mardi Gras we serve up the recipe from Brennan’s, a favorite New Orleans restaurant since 1946.

    For a 17th-century-type recipe, try Benjamin Franklin’s recipe. He used brandy and included lots of lemon juice (which curdled the milk).

    MILK PUNCH RECIPES

    This, and other cognac-based milk punches, often use Napoleon brandy, a designation for a brandy or cognac aged at least five years. Feel free to use VSOP; with all the cream and sugar, the nuances of the Napoleon will be covered up.

    If you don’t like or don’t have brandy, you can substitute bourbon, rum, whiskey and even tequila.

    RECIPE #1: BRENNAN’S BRANDY MILK PUNCH

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces/4 tablespoons brandy or cognac
  • 4 ounces/1/2 cup half & half
  • 1 ounce/2 tablespoons simple syrup† (recipe)
  • 1/4 ounce/1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg
  •  
    Plus

  • Cocktail shaker and ice
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

    2. SHAKE vigorously and pour into a chilled old-fashioned glass. Garnish with nutmeg.

    RECIPE #2: BRANDY MILK PUNCH

    Here’s a recipe from New Orleans Online that uses more milk and less sugar.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 oz brandy or bourbon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
  • 3 ice cubes
  • Cracked ice
  • Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the brandy, milk, and sugar with the ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, and shake until frothy (about 1 minute).

    2. STRAIN into a double-old fashioned glass filled with cracked ice. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.
    ________________

    *Some people prefer gin, tequila or other spirit.

    †We prefer less sweetness, so reduce the simple syrup.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Jambalaya Bar

    For Mardi Gras—February 28—try a new take on food bars (a.k.a. buffets): DIY Jambalaya.

    Jambalaya is a delicious, spicy, main course consisting of rice and practically everything else in the refrigerator! It’s a great way to use favorite meats and veggies (shrimp, peas, carrots, bell peppers). You can start from scratch; for a family night, using leftovers is more than acceptable.

    Jambalaya is also an economical and easy way to feed a large group—Super Bowl Sunday, Oscar parties, even outdoor fêtes.

    But, as a creation of New Orleans, we like it best for Mardi gras.

    JAMBALAYA HISTORY

    Jambalaya originated in Louisiana. Creole jambalaya, called red jambalaya by the Cajuns to differentiate it from their take—sprang from the French Quarter of New Orleans, the sector originally inhabited by Europeans.

    Jambalaya was an adaptation of paella by the Spaniards, most of whom could not afford saffron (an essential paella ingredient) due to high import costs. Tomatoes were substituted to color and flavor the dish.

    French Creoles introduced jambalaya to the Cajuns of southern Louisiana, who rarely used tomatoes (it’s swamp country). Instead, they browned the meat for color and smoky flavor and referred to their recipe as brown jambalaya.

    The word “jambalaya” is a combination of the Spanish jamón or the French jambon, meaning ham, and another word; however, what word that is can be controversial.

  • You may read that the word is “aya, African for rice.” But there are no rice varietals in Africa with names like “yaya,” “aya,” or “ya.” “Ya” in Mambila (the language of Cameroon and Nigeria), and “y?” or “yala” (among the Grusi and Lyela peoples of Burkina Faso) refer to another grain, sorghum.
  • A better explanation may be the combination of jamón/jambon and paella: It doesn’t take too close a look to notice that jambalaya is an adaptation of paella, using white rice instead of saffron rice. Jam-paella or jamb-paella = jambalaya.
  •  
    While there are different recipes for each dish, both paella and jambalaya incorporate chicken, ham, sausage and seafood.

    Since jambalaya could be made economically in big black cast iron pots for crowds*, it became popular for large events, including church suppers, weddings and political rallies.

    The recipe evolved to seafood-only versions, meat-only versions, and vegetarian/vegan recipes. One of the benefits of a jambalaya bar is that each person can customize the dish as he/she wishes.

    The easiest way to make the rice is to use Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix. Alternatively, use plain white rice with cajun seasoning from McCormick, or other brands.

    Thanks to Olivia Manning and Zatarain’s for the suggestion!

    RECIPE: JAMBALAYA BAR

    This recipe makes five dinner-size portions. Multiply it for a larger crowd. Don’t worry about leftovers: leftover Jambalaya is delicious (even cold!).

    Ingredients For 5 Servings

    Cooked Proteins (Total 1.5 Cups)

  • Andouille or other smoked sausage, sliced
  • Ham, cubed
  • Chicken, cubed or sliced
  • Shrimp, peeled and deveined shrimp
  • For an all-shellfish jambalaya: scallops, mussels, oysters, shrimp
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    Vegetables

  • Green bell peppers, cubed or sliced, cooked
  • Heat: hot sauce, red chile flakes, sliced jalapeños
  • Onions: sliced cooked onions, raw green onions (scallions)
  • Red bell peppers, cubed or sliced, cooked
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    Rice

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 package Zatrain’s Jambalaya Mix, Original
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the water and rice mix in a large saucepan until well blended. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low; cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender

    2. REMOVE from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving and place on a platter or individual serving plates. Bring to the table with the add-ins.

       

    Jambalaya

    Jambalaya Bar

    Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix

    Cajun Seasoning

    King Cake

    [1] A pot of Jambalaya, served at the table (here’s the recipe from Gimme Some Oven). [2] Deconstruct the ingredients for a Jambalaya Bar (photo courtesy Olivia Manning | Zatarain’s). [3] Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix. [4] You can use Cajun seasoning to flavor plain white rice (photo courtesy McCormick). [5] Yes, please! It’s easy to make a King Cake with the mix kit from King Arthur Flour.

    ________________

    *One of the charms of paella is the crispy rice crust that develops at the bottom of the pan, called soccorat. You can’t get soccorat from cooking in a large kettle. Paella is cooked in a wide, shallow pan with a layer of rice on the bottom. At the end of cooking, the heat is turned up to create the crust. Socorrat derives from the Spanish verb socarrar, to singe.

     

    Sazerac Cocktail

    Sazerac de Forge 1811 Cognac

    [6] The Sazerac Cocktail, a New Orleans specialty (photo courtesy Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse). [7] A bottle of the original Sazerac cognac, currently for sale for €12,500 at Old Liquors.

     

    WHAT TO DRINK? A SAZERAC!

    Beer and Jambalaya are natural companions, but you might like to start the event with a round of one of New Orlean’s signature cocktails, the Sazerac.

    Developed in the 1830s, the Sazerac is a New Orleans variation of a cognac or whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils house of cognac with which it was originally made, plus rye.

    As the story goes, the cocktail was first mixed at Antoine Amédée Peychaud’s apothecary on Royal Street. With his own bitters—still called for in the recipe— Peychaud’s bitters, served friends a cognac cocktail made with his own bitters (you can make your own too—here’s more about bitters). It was then popularized at Sazerac Coffee House, a saloon on Exchange Place in the French Quarter.

    The primary ingredient in the cocktail was switched from cognac to rye in 1870 and an absinthe rinse added, due to changing tastes; the recipe remains so today, but you can go back to the original—or make both recipes to see which you prefer.

    It is one of many descendants of the Old Fashione. The absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters make it unique to New Orleans.

    Bartenders of today use rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar:water ratio instead of 1:1) instead of the sugar cube.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/4 ounce absinthe (herbsaint)
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1-1/2 ounce rye or cognac
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters (you can substitute Angostura—both are made from gentian)
  • Garnish: lemon peel
  •  
    Preparation

    1. RINSE a chilled old-fashioned (rocks) glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice and set it aside.

    2. STIR the remaining ingredients in a shaker over ice and set it aside.

    3. DISCARD the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Garnish and serve. Optionally, you can serve the drink straight up.

     
    MORE MARDI GRAS RECIPES

    Cocktails

  • Purple, Gold & Green Cocktails—the colors of Mardi Gras
  •  
    Mains

  • Easy Gumbo Recipe
  • Gumbalaya—a cross between gumbo and jambalaya
  • Shrimp & Grits
  •  
    Desserts

  • Beignets
  • King Cake Mix
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Types Of Meringue, Plus Red Wine Meringue Cookies

    All meringue begins the same: with egg whites beaten with some form of sugar. But from there, pastry chefs evolved different preparation techniques to produce different results.

    You may think of meringue as cookies, or dessert cups that hold fruit or mousse, like vacherins or pavlovas*. It can also be made into a cake layer (dacquoise), or float, freshly beaten, in a sea of creme anglaise.

    The Difference Between Pavlova & Vacherin

    Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert or formed into a crisp shell. It is filled with fresh fruit, ice cream, mousse and/or whipped cream.

    Vacherin is also made of crisp meringue, but typically formed into layers that are filled with almond paste, fruits, ice cream and/or whipped cream.

    Essendially, they use the same ingredients, but style them differently.

    (Note that vacherin is also the name of a cow’s milk cheese made in France and Switzerland).

    TYPES OF MERINGUE

    French Meringue

    That’s classic meringue, a dry meringue also called basic meringue.

    Egg whites are beaten until they form soft peaks. Then sugar—ideally superfine sugar, which you can make it by pulsing table sugar in a food processor—is slowly incorporated to maximize volume. This results in soft, airy, light peaks that stand up straight—for a while, anyway (they’ll ultimately deflate).

    French meringue is spooned or piped into dessert shells (such as vacherins) and cake layers (as in a dacquoise), and baked, later to be topped with fruit, mousse, or whipped cream.

    It is also often folded into batter to make lady fingers, sponge cakes and soufflés.

    Italian Meringue

    A softer style of meringue, Italian meringue can top a lemon meringue pie or Baked Alaska.

    One of our favorite childhood desserts, Floating Island (île flottante in French), consists of beaten egg whites form into “islands” and set in a sea of custard sauce (crème anglaise).

    After the whites have been whipped to firm peaks, boiling sugar syrup is poured in. Whipping continues until the meringue has reached its full volume, sand is stiff and satiny.

    The technique delivers a more stable, soft meringue for cakes, pastries and pies, that doesn’t collapse.

    Italian meringue is often used to frost cakes; it can be used alone or combined with buttercream. It creates meringue toppings on pies.

    Here‘s a recipe.

    As a technique, pastry chefs use it to lighten ice cream, sorbet and mousse.

    Swiss Meringue

    Swiss meringue is whisked over a bain-marie to warm the egg whites. After the sugar is completely dissolved, the mixture is removed from the heat and beaten vigorously to attain full volume. It is then beaten at a lower speed until cool and very stiff.

    This forms a dense, glossy marshmallow-like meringue. It is usually then baked.

    Swiss meringue is smoother, silkier, and somewhat denser than French meringue and is often used as a base for buttercream frostings.

    Here’s a recipe from Martha Stewart.

    MERINGUE-MAKING TIPS

  • The mixing bowl and beaters must be absolutely clean. Any grease in the mixture will deflate the meringue.
  • Do not make meringues in humid weather. Moisture will prevent egg whites from forming stiff peaks.
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    RECIPE #1: RED WINE ITALIAN MERINGUE COOKIES

    Only a pinch of red wine sea salt is used, to garnish; so if you don’t have/want to make red sea salt (the recipe is below), look to see what you do have; lavender or rosemary sea salt, for example. In a pinch (pun intended), you can use plain kosher salt or coarse sea salt.

    Ingredients

  • 4 ounces dry red wine
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg whits, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the wine and sugar to a rolling boil, in a saucepan over high heat.

    2. ADD the egg whites to a clean bowl and mix at high speed, until the egg white is all frothy and starts to form soft peaks. When the wine comes to a rolling boil…

    3. LET the wine boil for another 60 seconds, remove from the heat and pour into a measuring cup with a lip, or other easy-pouring vessel. With the mixer on high…

    4. SLOWLY pour the wine down the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix at high speed until the hot mixture reaches room temperature (the volume will continue to increase). Turn off the engine of the mixer once the mixture has cooled down.

       

    Meringue Cookies

    Pavlova

    Vacherin

    Vacherin

    Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

    Floating Island

    [1] Meringue cookies (photo courtesy American Egg Board). [2] Pavlova: a hollow center that’s filled with strawberries (photo courtesy Rob Shaw | Bauer Media). [3] Vacherin: layers of meringue filled with fruit, etc. (here’s the recipe from Hello Magazine). [4] A vacherin variation: stacked layers of meringue garnished with fruit and whipped cream (here’s the recipe from Martha Stewart). [5] Floating island: freshly-beaten meringue in crème anglaise (here’s a recipe from Big Red Kitchen). [6]. Swiss meringue, colored to frost cakes and cupcakes (photo Johnny Miller | Martha Stewart).

     

    Red Wine Meringues

    Red Wine Sea Salt

    Pink Meringues

    [7] Red wine sea salt meringues (photo and recipe courtesy Raw Spice Bar). [8] Homemade red wine salt (photo and recipe courtesy Two Wolves). [9] Pink and chocolate: the perfect meringues for Valentine’s Day (here’s the recipe from The Kitchn)

       

    5. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F, and pipe or otherwise shape the meringue as you wish. First line baking sheets with parchment, dusted with confectioner’s sugar to prevent sticking. Then you can use a piping bag with or without nozzle (the original meringues were shaped with two spoons!). You can pipe roses, stars, or use the occasion to pipe different shapes (why must they all be uniform?). Here’s more about piping meringues.

    6. BAKE for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and cool to room temperature (you can leave in the oven with the door open). If not using the same day…

    7. STORE completely cooled in an airtight container, packed loosely and with room at the top, so you don’t crush them.

    RECIPE #2: HOMEMADE RED WINE SEA SALT

    Ingredients

  • 3 cups red wine
  • 1-1/2 cups coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the wine to a boil in a saucepan over medium to high heat. Reduce the temperature and simmer until the liquid reduces to 1-2 tablespoons and is thicker and a bit syrupy.

    2. ADD 1 to 1-1/2 cups of salt For every tablespoon of reduced wine. Add one cup, stir and if the liquid hasn’t absorbed as well as you would like it to, add some more. Stir until the salt is completely covered. Spread over paper towels on a plate and let dry overnight.

    3. STORE in clean air-tight jars; add a ribbon and present as a gift.

    HERE’S MORE ABOUT MAKING YOUR OWN FLAVORED SALTS.

    It’s easy, it’s great for gifting, and you’ll save a fortune! Check it out.

    Here’s more about flavored salts—not all are made from actual sea salt. Conventional salt is less expensive; and when it’s flavored, you can’t detect the subtle mineral and other terroir nuances of sea salt anyway.

    THE HISTORY OF MERINGUE

    Some sources say that that meringue was invented in the Swiss village of Meiringen in the 18th century, and improved by an Italian chef named Gasparini.

    Not all experts agree: The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, states that the French word is of unknown† origin.

    The one fact we can hang on to is that the name of the confection called meringue first appeared in print in chef François Massialot’s seminal 1691 cookbook (available in translation as The court and country cook…. The word meringue first appeared in English in 1706 in an English translation of Massialot’s book.

     
    Two considerably earlier 17th-century English manuscript books of recipes give instructions for confections that are recognizable as meringue. One is called “white biskit bread” in the book of recipes started in 1604 by Lady Elinor Poole Fettiplace (1570-c.1647) of Gloucestershire.

    The other is called “pets” in the manuscript of collected recipes written by Lady Rachel Fane (c. 1612–1680) of Knole, Kent. Slowly-baked meringues are still referred to as pets in the Loire region of France (the reference appears to be their light fluffiness, perhaps like a kitten?).

    Meringues were traditionally shaped between two large spoons, as they are generally at home today. Meringue piped through a pastry bag was introduced by the great French chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833—he preferred to be called Antonin), the founder of the concept of haute cuisine.

    He also invented modern mayonnaise, éclairs, and other icons of French cuisine.

    ________________
    †Contenders from include 1700 on include, from the Walloon dialect, maringue, shepherd’s loaf; marinde, food for the town of Meiringen (Bern canton, Switzerland), is completely lacking. None of the others sounds right, either. By default, we like the Latin merenda, the feminine gerund of merere to merit, since who doesn’t merit a delicious confection? But as our mother often said: “Who cares; let’s eat!”

      

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