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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Holidays & Occasions

TIP OF THE DAY: Mexican Cheese Course

We’ve been asked how to put together a cheese plate for Cinco de Mayo. Truth to tell, Mexico’s signature cheeses, from fresh to aged, are white cheeses made for cooking. They’re not intended to be nibbled during cocktail hour or as a cheese course.

To learn about Mexican cheeses for cooking, read our article, Cooking With Hispanic Cheese.

For a cheese course, we have three recommendations. You can serve one or all:

  • Panela. A fresh cow’s milk cheese, queso panela is used for snacking and in recipes. Similar in taste and texture to mozzarella, it’s commonly served with fruit. You can get creative and toss cubes of panela in a fruit salad or with berries, or serve it with bread or crackers and a light white wine.
  • Queso Criollo. This semi-hard yellow cheese is similar to Munster, but not easy to find in the U.S. If you want to be flexible, substitute a Monterey Jack made with jalapeño or other chile, and a hearty red wine.
  •  

    manchego-membrillo-thebestspanishrecipes-230

    Creative presentation: wedges of Manchego cheese topped with wedges of membrillo and a sprinkling of chili powder. Photo courtesy The Best Spanish Recipes.

  • Manchego. The famous sheep’s milk cheese from Spain (the breed of sheep is manchega) is also popular in Mexico, served for dessert with dulce de membrillo (quince paste*) and marcona almonds†. The cheese can be aged from six months to two years; the older the cheese, the more complex. Serve it with Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine.
  •  
    We’re already getting hungry for this cheese plate!
     
    *Quince paste, often made in a loaf form, is a sweet, thick, jelly made of the pulp of the quince fruit. It is sliced and served with the cheese.

    †Marcona almonds, imported from Spain, are a variety of sweet almond. They’re slightly shorter and plumper in appearance compared to the almonds typically found in U.S. markets. But you can serve any raw or roasted almonds with manchego or any cheeses.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Ice Cream Tacos

    ice-cream-tacos-tasteofhome-230

    Ice cream tacos: olé! Photo courtesy Taste
    Of Home.

     

    How about ice cream tacos for Cinco de Mayo?

    You can make them the easy way, with frozen round toaster waffles, or make crunchy pizzelles and fold them into taco-like shells.

    But we adapted this recipe from Taste Of Home, which uses actual tortillas. As a neater alternative to tacos, you can form the tortillas into a bowl (drape them over an actual dessert bowl).

    Prep time is 20 minutes. With all due respect to Klondike’s Choco Tacos, these taste a lot better!

    RECIPE: ICE CREAM TACOS

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pint ice cream of choice
  • 4 plain 6″ or 8″ tortillas
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  •  

    Choice Of Toppings

    Select two toppings; you’ll need two tablespoons of each.

  • Chocolate chips or other baking chips or shaved chocolate (see below)
  • Mini candies: M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, marshmallows
  • Shredded coconut
  • Chopped honey peanuts, pecans or other nuts
  • Diced banana, kiwi, mango or strawberries
  •  
    Plus

  • Caramel or fudge sauce
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream and sprinkles
  •  
    Preparation
     

     

    blocks-curls-hebertchocolate-230

    Chocolate shavings. Photo courtesy Hebert Chocolate.

    1. COMBINE the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on one side of each tortilla.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the tortillas, one at a time, with the cinnamon side up. When the tortilla starts to brown, fold it into a taco shape and drain on paper towels.

    3. USING the same skillet, cook and stir the pecans for 2 minutes or until lightly toasted.

    4. ASSEMBLE: Line up the taco shells in a baking dish to keep them upright, open-side up. Place two small scoops of ice cream in each tortilla shell; add the toppings, drizzle with sauce and finish with the whipped cream.

     
    HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CURLS OR SHAVINGS

    To shave chocolate or make chocolate curls, start with your favorite chocolate bars—solid, without nuts or other inclusions.

    1. WARM the chocolate bar in a microwave for 3 seconds. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape down the side (not the front/back) of the bar, forming curls.

    2. PLACE the chocolate curls on a wax paper-covered dish or baking pan and refrigerate until firm. It is easiest to move the curls with toothpicks.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Tortilla Chips & Steak Appetier

    GrilledSalsaSteakAppetizer-beefitswhatsfordinner-230

    Crunchy and beefy! Photo courtesy National
    Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

     

    This isn’t exactly an authentic Mexican recipe, but it’s close enough for Cino de Mayo.

    Presented by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner”), it’s a stylish, fresh way to serve guacamole or salsa with tortilla chips. Just add some steak to it!

    The total recipe time is 35 to 40 minutes. It’s delicious with beer, savory cocktails and wine.

    Find more steak-sational recipes at BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

    RECIPE: GRILLED SALSA STEAK APPETIZER

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 2 flat iron steaks, about 8 ounces each
  • 1 cup thick-and-chunky salsa, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 24 large corn (restaurant style) tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • Optional garnish: 24 fresh cilantro leaves
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the beef steaks and 1/2 cup of the salsa in food-safe plastic bag; turn steaks to coat. Close the bag securely and marinate in the refrigerator 15 minutes to 2 hours.

    2. COMBINE the remaining 1/2 cup salsa and chopped cilantro; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

    3. REMOVE the steaks from the marinade; discard marinade (always discard a marinade when finished; bacteria, which die when the protein is cooked, can remain present in the marinade). Place the steaks on a grill over medium-hot, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 10 to 14 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 12 to 16 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.

    4. CARVE the steaks into thin slices; cut the slices into bite-size pieces.

    5. ARRANGE the tortilla chips on a platter. Top each chip evenly with the reserved salsa mixture, a piece of beef and topping of guacamole. Garnish with a cilantro leaf. Serve immediately.

     

    WHAT IS FLAT IRON STEAK?

    Flat iron steak (also called top blade or patio steak) is cut from the shoulder of the steer (the top blade roast), producing a cut that is flavorful, but a bit tougher because it’s cut with the grain. It thus requires marinating and cooking to no more doneness than medium; but produces a piece of beef with deep, rich flavor.

    If it seems like a newer cut, it is. It was developed by teams at the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida, with research funded by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

    The problem presented to the university researchers was the best way to use a challenging cut of beef from the shoulder of the steer. Though a flavorful and relatively tender cut of meat, the top blade roast has a serious flaw in the middle of it; an impossibly tough piece of connective tissue running through the middle.

     

    flati-ron-geecheemeatmarket-230

    A flatiron steak. Photo courtesy Ogeechee Meat Market.

     

    To make the flat iron steak, the top blade roast is separated into two pieces by cutting horizontally through the center to remove the heavy connective tissue. The result: the roast was turned into tasty, tender, economical steaks.

    See our beef glossary for the different cuts of beef.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Cheesecake

    Cinderella-Plain-Cheesecake-230

    Delicious cheesecake, sugar-free and gluten-free. Photo courtesy Cinderella Cheesecake.

     

    For a cheesecake-loving mother who has given up sugar, here’s a find: sugarless cheesecake from Cinderella Cheesecake Company.

    It’s sweetened with maltitol, the finest-quality sugar substitute, and has a gluten-free cinnamon cracker crust.

    The classic-style cheesecake recipe also includes cream cheese, eggs, sour cream, natural vanilla flavoring. It tastes just as it should: rich, creamy, wonderful. Sugar-free observers, rejoice!

    Cinderella Cheesecake Company is a family-owned business founded in Riverside, New Jersey in 1965 with a broader product line. But by the early 1980s, the cheesecake business was so rocking that founder Alfred Rezende decided to drop the other baked goods to focus on expanding the cheesecake operation.

    The company sells cheesecakes to distributors, restaurants and non-profit groups for fundraisers, as well as direct to consumers online.

     
    In addition to the No Sugar Added cheesecake, the company makes conventional cheesecakes in Almond Amaretto, Egg Nog, Mango, Pineapple, Plain, Pumpkin, Sampler (two slices of each flavor), Southern Pecan, Washington Cherry and White Chocolate Peanut Butter.

    All cheesecakes are eleven inches in diameter and precut into 16 slices. A four-pound cheesecake is $38.00. It freezes nicely.

    Get yours at CinderellaCheesecakeCoInc.com.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Grilled Mango “Bowls”

    For Cinco de Mayo, these mango bowls are great as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet.

    The recipe is from Urban Accents, which makes it with its Rio grande chili blend, an award winning chili seasoning that balances a smoky mesquite flavor with chili pepper, onion, garlic and bell pepper.

    But mixed with the honey, it creates a spicy-sweet glaze.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes.

    RECIPE: GRILLED MANGO-CHILE-HONEY BOWLS (OR SLICES)

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Urban Accents Rio Grand Chili Blend
    or substitute*
  • 2 ripe mangoes
  •  
    Plus

  • Ice cream or sorbet
  •  

    Grilled_Mango-ice-cream-mango.org-230

    Spicy grilled mango is easy to make. Photo courtesy Mango.org.

     
    *Use plan chili powder or blend it with a bit of onion and garlic powders and dried bell pepper, as Urban Accents does.
     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the grill for medium heat. Make the glaze by combining the orange juice, honey and chili blend in small bowl, Mix well.

    2. SLICE the mangoes by cutting the two large side portions from each side of the mango pit. Score each side in a crosshatch pattern, cutting down to, but not through, the skin.

    3. PLACE the mango halves on the grill, cut side down, and cook for 2 minutes until light grill marks form on the fruit. Turn over and brush liberally with the glaze, trying to get glaze to drip down into the cut slits. Turn glazed mangoes over and grill for an additional 30 seconds; then remove from heat.

    4. COOL the mangoes to room temperature; then turn them inside out by pushing them from the skin side. Serve resting on the skin as a tasty side dish or as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    You can stretch the recipe to 6 servings by slicing up the grilled mango halves.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Turkey Chorizo

    Love spicy sausage but have been told to avoid the cholesterol? How about turkey chorizo?

    Made by family-run Diestel Turkey Ranch, it has lots of flavor and less calories, cholesterol and sodium* than conventional pork or beef chorizo.

    Whether in a Cinco de Mayo recipe or everyday breakfast burritos or scrambled eggs, it has only 2g fat per serving.

    The all-natural, Mexican-style chorizo is made from 100% pure ground turkey, is minimally processed and is gluten free. The family’s seasoning blend adds dimensions of flavor as well as a spicy kick.

    The Diestel Family Turkey Ranch has been sustainably raising turkeys for over four generations. Their turkeys and turkey products are humanely raised on GAP rated farms, without hormones, antibiotics or growth stimulants, resulting in tender and juicier turkeys with old-fashioned flavor and great texture.

    The products are sold at independent, natural and upscale food stores nationwide. Here’s a store locator.
     
    *A two-ounce serving has 60 calories, 15 from fat; 0g saturated fat, 30mg cholesterol, 360mg sodium, 2g diegary fiber, 8g protein.

    MEXICAN CHORIZO VS. SPANISH CHORIZO

       

    diestel-turkey-ranch-chorizo-230r

    Turkey chorizo, cholesterol free. Photo courtesy Diestel Turkey Ranch.

     
    Don’t confuse Mexican- and Spanish-style chorizos. They have different uses.

    Mexican chorizo is a spicy ground meat sausage, sold fresh and uncooked. It can be purchased either loose or in a casing: Many traditional Mexican recipes call for the chorizo casing to be removed and the meat to be crumbled while cooking.

    The traditional chorizo meat is pork, but you can find beef and turkey versions. Use Mexican-style chorizo as you would any ground meat.

    Spanish chorizo is a cured, dried, ready-to-eat pork sausage. The casing is not removed prior to eating. Dense and chewy, Spanish-style chorizo is made in smoked, unsmoked, sweet and spicy varieties. It can be served as tapas, with other charcuterie, with a cheese plate, or added to recipes (paellas, soups, tortas, etc).

    Spanish chorizo is seasoned with smoked paprika, which is responsible for the vibrant color. Other traditional herbs and spices include cumin and garlic. Here’s a photo.

     

    chorizo-scrambled-eggs-bettycrocker-230

    Chorizo scrambled eggs. The recipe is below. Photo courtesy Betty Crocker.

     

    THINGS TO MAKE WITH CHORIZO

  • Cheese dishes: grilled cheese, mac and cheese
  • Eggs: baked, omelets, frittatas, scrambled
  • Stuffed: chiles, mushrooms, potato skins
  • Ground meat recipes: burgers, casseroles, meat loaf, stuffing
  • Tex Mex: enchiladas, nachos, tacos
  • Dips: onion dip, queso
  • Pasta and pizza
  • Soups: black bean, white bean with kale
  • Torta/tortilla
  •  
    RECIPE: TURKEY SCRAMBLED EGGS

    In Mexico, chorizo is often served at breakfast with scrambled eggs. Here’s a recipe from Betty Crocker that’s ready in 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 ounces chorizo sausage
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 slices thick-sliced bread or 4 corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the casings from the sausage and cook the sausage on 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes until the meat is no longer pink, stirring and breaking up the sausage.

    2. BEAT the eggs in a medium bowl until blended. Begin to toast the bread or warm the tortillas.

    3. ADD the beaten eggs to the chorizo in the skillet and stir. Cook about 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the eggs are scrambled and set. Taste and add salt as necessary.

    4. SPREAD the butter on the toasted slices of bread and place toast on individual plates. Spoon the eggs over the toast. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Chipotle Meatballs

    To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, how about Mexican-style meatballs?

    Meatballs in Chipotle Chile Sauce with Wisconsin Queso Fresco Cheese. Make them small for an appetizer, or bigger for a main course. Serve them with rice and pinto or black beans; or make a Cinco de Mayo meatball sub.

    This recipe serves four 4 as main course, 10-12 as appetizers.

    RECIPE: MEATBALLS IN CHIPOTLE CHILE SAUCE

    Ingredients

    For The Meatballs

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 3/4 cup Wisconsin Cotija or Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 large white onion, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  •    

    chipotle-meatballs-wmmb-230

    Chipotle meatballs. Photo courtesy WisDairy.com.

  • 2 slices coarse white bread, crust removed and soaked in 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and pepper
  •  
    For The Sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 jar (16 ounces) chipotle salsa
  • 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 sprig mint (or pinch ground dried mint)
  • 1 cup queso fresco cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Garnish: cilantro, mint and queso fresco, as desired.
  •  

    queso-fresco-cut-230

    Queso fresco, made in Wisconsin—America’s largest cheese-producing state. Photo by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the meatball ingredients in bowl, using your hands. Refrigerate for one hour.

    2. SHAPE the meatballs in the desired size: larger for main course, smaller for appetizer.

    3. MAKE the sauce: Add the cinnamon to the chile salsa. Heat oil until quite hot (but not smoking) in a heavy, deep skillet. Add the salsa and “fry” until thick (it will splatter; consider a splatter screen).

    4. ADD the broth and bring to boil. Stir in the mint. Add the meatballs. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until meatballs are done.

    5. GARNISH each serving with crumbled queso fresco, cilantro and additional mint, asdesired.
     
    WHAT IS QUESO FRESCO

    Queso fresco is one of the most commonly-used cheeses for cooking in Latin America. It’s a soft, mild cheese similar to ricotta in that it’s made from curds. Cultures and rennet are added to pasteurized milk to create the curds, which are scooped into molds, then drained briefly.

     

    The resulting queso fresco is crumbly, with a mild and salty flavor and a slightly “grainy” texture. It is often sprinkled over foods, and when heated, it will melt.

    Queso fresco is most often used crumbled, as a topping for everything from salads to soups to enchiladas, and is melted in quesadillas and casseroles.

    Queso fresco should not be confused with queso blanco fresco, although the latter is similar. Queso blanco fresco is a fresh cheese that is made by direct acidification (not cultures and rennet) and pressed into blocks. It consequently has a firm texture and softens but does not melt: It can be sliced for pan-frying.

    The different types of Hispanic cheeses.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Layer Cake

    chocolate-layer-chocolate-pearls-sweetstreetdesserts-230

    You can make this at home, topped with Callebaut Crispearls. Photo courtesy Sweet Street Desserts.

     

    Nothing says love like a homemade cake: for birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, graduation or or other special occasion. Whether you use a cake mix or measure from scratch, it’s fun to bake a cake.

    And it’s very much appreciated by the honoree. Our friend Beth’s children, ages 7 and 10, know enough to appreciate mom’s homemade birthday cakes to store-bought options.

    Over the years, many people have asked our opinion on cake mixes. Here it is:

    Essentially, a cake mix saves you the time and mess of measuring the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, etc. It also includes the flavorings—vanilla, orange, whatever. People who don’t like measuring should reach for the box.

    What we personally don’t like is using oil instead of butter. Others may not notice; but if it doesn’t taste buttery, we don’t want to spend our cake and cookie calories.

     
    And of course, a from-scratch recipe that’s enhanced with buttermilk, cream cheese, sour cream, fresh citrus juice or zest, and so on will be better tasting.

    CAKE MIX YES, CANNED FROSTNG NO!

    We totally avoid the canned frostings most people buy to go along with a cake mix. To borrow a line from Snapple, most canned frosting is not made from “the best stuff on Earth.” Here are the ingredients to Betty Crocker’s Rich & Creamy Vanilla Frosting:

    Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Water, Wheat Starch, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Contain 1% or Less of Salt, Distilled Monoglycerides, Colored with Artificial Color, Yellows 5 & 6, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Nonfat Milk, Freshness Preserved by Potassium Sorbate

    Why eat cottonseed oil and corn syrup, when in 10 minutes you can make real buttercream, which tastes great?

    All you need is a stick of butter, a cup of confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup whole milk and the flavoring of your choice: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 4 ounces chocolate or 1 teaspoon instant coffee. Just blend them together and ice away. The toughest part is waiting for the butter to soften!

    Here’s the full recipe.

     

    IT’S EASY TO DECORATE

    A special occasion deserves a festive garnish. You can turn a homemade or store-bought layer cake into something special with a simple sprinkle of edible cake decorations.

    In addition to chocolate chips (or other flavors), homemade chocolate curls (scrape a chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler), coconut and candies, there are:

  • Bright-colored or pastel confetti
  • Callebaut Crispirls, chocolate-covered cereal balls in dark, milk and white chocolate
  • Dragées in single colors, multicolor “Harlequin,” gold and silver
  • Gold glitter stars
  • Sugar pearls, in white, pastels, multicolor and metallics
  • White pearl shimmers
  •  
    If you live near a baking supplies store, go browsing. Otherwise, browse online until you find your ideal decorations.

     

    harlequin-dragees-culpitt-amz-230

    Sprinkle festive decorations atop your cake. Photo courtesy Wilton.

     

    Here’s an article about the different types of cake decorations.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Mexican Fiesta Won Tons

    fiesta-won-tons-davidvenableQVC-230

    Some fusion fare from QVC’s David Venable.

     

    Here’s some fusion food for Cinco de Mayo from QVC’s Chef David Venable. You can make the wontons ahead of time and freeze them until you’re ready to fry and serve.

    “These little wontons are such a unique way to incorporate all those Tex-Mex flavors you love in one cute package,” says David. “Cheesy, gooey and tangy, they’re the perfect treats to go with your Margaritas.”

    David’s fusion is to serve a queso dipping sauce with the crunchy Chinese fried wontons.

    RECIPE: MEXICAN FIESTA WONTONS

    Ingredients For The Wontons

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup canned green chiles, diced
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons enchilada sauce
  • 22-24 wonton wrappers
  •  
    For The Cheese Dipping Sauce

  • 1 can petite (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with sweet onions, well drained
  • 1/4 cup canned green chilies, diced
  • 1 package (16 ounces) Velveeta cheese, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
  • 1/4 cup Corona beer
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the wontons: Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Place the ground beef into the pan, sprinkle with the salt and cook until no longer pink, about 5–7 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan, drain any excess fat and place into a bowl. Set aside.

    2. ADD the other teaspoon of oil to the pan; then add the onions, peppers and chiles, and cook until tender, about 3–4 minutes. Place the meat back into the pan with the cooked vegetables and add the enchilada sauce. Cook for 2 more minutes, or until the sauce is fully absorbed. Scoop the mixture into a bowl. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

    3. ASSEMBLE the wontons: Brush the edges of each wrapper with water, and one by one, place 1 tablespoon of the meat filling into each. Fold the wonton in half to form a triangle and seal the edges. Brush the tips of the triangles with a little more water to join them together, and press to bind. Freeze the stuffed wontons until you’re ready to fry.

    4. PREPARE the cheese sauce: Place the petite diced tomatoes and chopped chiles into a 3-quart sauce pot and cook over medium heat for 3–5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the chopped Velveeta cheese, enchilada sauce and beer and cook, constantly stirring, until the cheese is completely melted. Place the dip into a warm serving vessel and serve. When ready to serve…

    5. PREHEAT a deep fryer to 350°F. Place the wontons into the deep fryer in batches and cook for 4–5 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until golden brown.

     
    Find more of David Venable’s recipes at QVC.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cava Instead Of Champagne

    You may be thinking ahead to purchasing champagne for Mother’s Day. But you can save a lot of money with Cava, instead.

    Cava, the renowned Spanish sparkling wine, is produced in the region of Penedès, in northeast Spain, south of Barcelona.

    In the late 1800s, a Spanish vintner, Josep Raventós Fatjó of the Codorníu estate, decided to experiment with making sparkling wine, using the méthode champenoise of champagne production. His first batch was produced in 1872.

    He then had a cool cellar, or cava, dug to produce more sparkling wine. It turned out to be an instant success, particularly among the wealthy. Soon, his sparkling was being drunk by the Spanish royal family.

    Other local vintners followed, and today, in addition to the two heavyweights Codorníu (cor-doan-YOU) and Freixenet (FRESH-eh-net), there are hundreds of sparkling wine producers in Penedés.

       

    freixenet-cordon-negro-w-glasses-230

    Cordon Negro in its signature black bottle. Photo courtesy Freixenet.

     

    VARIETIES OF CAVA

    As with champagne, cavas are produced with different sugar levels, to please different palates and pair with different types of food. As with champagne, seco, which means dry, actually indicates a sweeter wine. Semi-seco and dulce are excellent dessert wines. Brut is best for apéritif or with food.

  • Extra Brut, the driest (0-6 g sugar per liter)
  • Brut (0-15 g sugar)
  • Extra Seco (12-20 g sugar
  • Seco (17-35 g sugar)
  • Semi-Seco (33-50 g sugar)
  • Dulce (50+ g sugar)
  •  

    cordoniu-cuvee1872-rose-230

    A rosé cava. Photo courtesy Cordoníu.

     

    Typically, producers make a rose version; and some also make a reserve wine, aged 30 months.

    U.S. merchants typically carry three major brands, all of which produce varieties with different levels of sweetness:

  • Codorníu, which produces the greatest range of cavas, including a selection of rosés and blancs de blanc.
  • Freixenet, the best-known of which is Cordon Negro, in a dramatic black and gold bottle.
  • Segura Viudas, which also makes a rosé and a Reserva Heredad, aged 3 months in a bottle that looks like it was created for royalty
  •  
    As with any sparkling wine, serve cava in chilled flute champagne glasses (place the glasses in the freezer 30 minutes or more before you need them.

    Chilled glasses help to keep the wine cold, and flutes help the bubbles last longer, since they need to travel a longer distance before breaking into the air.

     

      

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