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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 The Nibble

TIP OF THE DAY: Blend Your Own Seasoned Salt

If you shake salt on your food, one of the easiest ways to add more flavor is to use a seasoned salt. Why not add other seasonings at the same time?

Perhaps that’s why Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, created in 1938 to season the prime rib served at Lawry’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, has remained a prominent fixture on the spice rack in many households.

The blend of salt, herbs and spices (garlic, onion, paprika and turmeric, plus sugar—here’s the copycat Lawry’s Seasoned Salt Recipe) adds more flavor than salt alone.

Home cooks found that it worked on everything, from breakfast eggs to any grain, protein, starch or vegetable.
 
BUYING FLAVORED SALTS

Over the last decade, numerous specialty food artisans—Urban Accents, Saltworks and quite a few other—have created collections of seasoned salts, with a base of sea salt. Even McCormick has joined in, with 11 McCormick sea salt grinders from Chipotle to Sweet Onion.

   

/home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/salts ritrovo 230w

Casina Rossa seasoned sea salts from
Italy—Porcini, Saffron, Edible Flowers,
and others, are available from Seasoned
Sea Salts
. Photo by Naheed Choudhry |
THE NIBBLE.

 
The Urban Accents blends tend to mirror popular cuisines: Caribbean, Indian (curry and mango), Mediterranean, Provençal (herbes de Provence), Spanish (smoked paprika).

The Fusion line of sea salts from Saltworks goes farther, with gourmet salts such as Black Truffle, Espresso, Ginger, Lemon, Lime, Maple, Matcha, Merlot, Sriracha, Sundried Tomato, Vanilla and White Truffle.

But at $15 or so per 3.5-ounce jar (more for pricier items like porcini and truffle), you might want to try blending your own with what you have on hand.

We’re addicted to truffle salts, and to Casa Rossa’s saffron salt. A pinch of salt lets us enjoy these two favorite flavors in everything from scrambled eggs to mashed potatoes and vinaigrette.

Unfortunately for us, it’s so costly to purchase dried saffron or truffles—two of the priciest ingredients in the world—that there’s no money to be saved by blending our own.

But there’s much more to blend than saffron and truffles.

 

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Coarse sea salt as a base for your seasoned
salts. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel | THE NIBBLE.

 

START BLENDING!

It takes just five minutes to blend salt, herbs and spices in a spice grinder. You can make them on an ad hoc basis, or make larger batches to store and use as needed.

Pick A Salt

If you don’t have sea salt on hand, start with kosher salt or table salt. After you get the hang of blending, you can try more exotic salts, such as:

  • Fleur de sel or sel gris from France
  • Black lava or red alaea salts from Hawaii
  • Pink Himalayan or kala namak salts from India
  • Smoked salt
  •  
    See our Salt Glossary for the different types of salts).
     
    Pick Your Seasonings

     
    Start with flavors you use in daily cooking: basil, chipotle, oregano, paprika, parsely, whatever. Pick as many as you like, although when starting out, limit your blends to salt plus four or five herbs/spices.
     
    You can also add ground pepper, although if you’re making enough to store, you may want to add it freshly ground. You can also add a pinch of white or brown sugar.
     
    Some basic blends to try:

  • Basic Seasoned Salt: salt plus garlic powder, onion powder and paprika
  • Lemon Pepper Salt: salt plus dried lemon peel and ground pepper
  • Rosemary Salt: salt plus garlic and rosemary
  • Celery Salt: salt plus dried celery leaves and celery Seeds (so much better than off-the-shelf celery salt!)
  • Hot & Smoky Salt: smoked sea salt plus ancho chiles and smoked paprika
  • Wild Mushroom Salt: salt plus dried chanterelles, dried porcinis, tarragon and white pepper
  •  
    Then, decide on ratios: which flavors do you want to be dominant, which flavors should be background hints.

    Start with twice as much salt as other flavors, and even less of hot flavors. You may find, after making different blends, that you’re using less salt and more herbs/spices.
     
    RECIPE: SAMPLE FLAVORED SALT BLEND

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup salt
  • ¼ cup each garlic and onion powders
  • ¼ cup ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder, chipotle, red pepper flakes, etc.
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well-combined. Working in batches, add the blend to a spice grinder and process into a fine powder. If you don’t have a spice blender, you can try a regular blender.

    2. STORE the salt in an airtight container. Store away from heat and light (as all herbs and spices should be stored!).
     
    If you want to make other blends but already have too much of homemade seasoned salt on hand, give it as gifts!

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Ice Cream Bar Trifle

    There are only a few days left of this year’s National Ice Cream Month. Here’s something a bit off the beaten track: an ice cream trifle. Is it a form of ice cream sundae or a variation of ice cream cake? Make it and take a vote.

    Trifle is an English dessert dish made from layers of custard, diced fruit, syrup or fruit juice and cubes of sponge cake, topped with whipped cream. It was traditionally served in a footed glass bowl.

    In QVC chef David Venable’s recipe, below, ice cream bars replace the custard and chocolate-covered pretzels replace the fruit and caramel takes over for the syrup.

    Adapt the recipe as you like, for example, trading the pretzels for sliced strawberries, and exchanging the chocolate cake for pound cake or ladyfingers. Instead of caramel, we tried a version with custard sauce (crème anglaise).

    David used Klondike bars in this recipe, easy to chop because there’s no stick. We prefer Magnum ice cream bars: better quality ice cream and chocolate coating, more flavor choices.

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/Klondike Bar Triffle qvc 230

    Ice cream bar trifle: Is it a jumbo ice cream
    sundae or a different approach to ice cream
    cake? Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    RECIPE: ICE CREAM BAR TRIFLE

    Ingredients

  • 3 packages frozen double-chocolate cake (10.8 ounces each) cut into 1″ pieces; we substituted fresh chocolate loaf cakes
  • 6 ice cream bars, each cut into 6 squares
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate-covered pretzels
  • 12 ounces caramel sauce
  • 16 ounces whipped cream or frozen topping
  •  

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    Our favorite ice cream bar: Magnum. Photo courtesy Unilever.

     

    Preparation

    1. CUBE the cake first, then the ice cream bars. If using a fresh cake, freeze it first; it will be easier to cut. Freeze the cubes separately until ready to assemble.

    2. CRUSH the chocolate-covered pretzels gently into smaller pieces. Don’t over-crush—you want small pieces, not dust. Reserve 2 ounces to decorate the top of the trifle.

    3. PLACE 1/3 of the chocolate cake squares into a large trifle dish. Place 1/3 of the ice cream bar cubes on top, followed by 1/3 of the crushed chocolate-covered pretzels. Drizzle 1/4 of the caramel sauce over the pretzels and top with a 1/3 of the whipped cream. Repeat this order two more times, finishing with the whipped cream.

    4. ADD the rest of the caramel sauce and top with the reserved crushed chocolate-covered pretzels. Freeze immediately. David suggests that before serving, you should let the trifle sit at room temperature for 3–4 minutes so the cake can thaw slightly. We like eating frozen cake (especially in small cubes), and brought the trifle straight to the table.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Elote & Esquites, Mexican Corn Recipes

    Elote is the Mexican version of corn on the cob, a popular street food. The ear of corn is roasted or boiled in the husk, then husked and served on a stick with condiments. If the kernels are removed from the corn and served in a bowl, the dish is called esquitas. These recipes are also made at home, where corn holders often replace the stick.

    Corn on a stick has become popular in the U.S. at state fairs, and as street food in areas as disperse as Chicago and Texas.

    Elote is the word for corn in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs (the Spanish word for corn is maíz). The cooked corn is served with a range of condiments: butter, cotija cheese (and/or feta in the U.S.), chili powder, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise, sour cream (crema in Mexico) and salt. Popular combinations include chili powder and lime juice in Mexico, butter and cheese in the U.S.

    In some areas of Mexico, the cooked kernels are cut into a bowl, topped with the same condiments and eaten with a spoon. This variation is called esquites (or ezquites) in southern and central Mexico, and troles or trolelotes in the north. (The word esquites comes from the Nahuatl word ízquitl, toasted corn.)

       

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    Make elote at home. Photo courtesy IWashYouDry.com.

     
    CORN PORN

    Our colleague Hannah Kaminsky created what she calls “corn porn.”

    “The simplest elements of a meal,” says Hannah, “those unassuming side dishes that are all too often overshadowed by flashier, more expensive or more complex main dishes, serve up far more nuance than they’re given credit for. A perfect example of this is the humble ear of corn.

    “As summer marches on and those golden yellow kernels swell larger, juicier and sweeter underneath the hot sun, truly sumptuous fresh corn is a rare treat despite its ubiquity. A whole world of flavor can be found within those pale green husks, just beyond the tangled forest of corn silk, if only one knows how coax it out.

    “Finesse is the key to letting such a pared-down dish shine, accentuating the inherent flavor of is base ingredients without covering them up with a heavy-handed smattering of seasonings. Elote, served up either straight on the cob or sheared off and mixed up in the trolelotes presentation, is worth getting excited about.”

    A vegan, Hannah eschews the butter, cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream used to bind the seasonings. Instead, she created the vegan sauce recipe below and serves the corn esquitas-style, as kernels in a bowl.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/trolelotes shopcookserve 230

    Trolelotes, garnished with butter, cheese, chili powder, lime and mayonnaise. Photo courtesy ShopCookServe.com. Here’s their trolelotes recipe.

     

     
    RECIPE: ELOTE OR ESQUITAS WITH CASHEW SAUCE

    Don’t want cashew sauce? Load up on the original condiments: butter, cotija cheese (substitute feta or use both), chili powder, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise and sour cream.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 8 ears sweet corn, husked
  • 2 tablespoons oliveoil
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 clove garlic, eoughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • Optional garnish: chili powder
  • Preparation

    1. SOAK the cashews for 3 hours and thoroughly drain them.

    2. MAKE the sauce. Place the cashews, garlic and lime juice in a food processor and pulse to combine. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula so that the nuts are fairly well broken down. Add the nutritional yeast, agave, paprika, cayenne and salt, pulsing to incorporate.

    3. DRIZZLE in the water, allowing the motor to run slowly to blend thoroughly. The sauce should still be a bit coarse in texture, and the small pieces of cashew that remain will emulate the traditional curds of cotija cheese.

    4. COOK the corn on a hot grill, or indoors on a large griddle over high heat. Depending on the size of your cooking surface, you may need to work in batches since the corn must make full contact directly with the surface. Lightly brush the corn with oil and grill the corn until lightly charred, turning as needed. This process should take approximately 10 minutes, but let the color of the corn serve as your guide. Set aside to cool.

    5. CUT the kernels off the corn cobs and place them in a large bowl. Pour the cashew sauce on top and mix thoroughly. Add the fresh cilantro, tossing to combine. Divide the corn into 6 to 8 cups or bowls and top with a sprinkle of chili powder.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Paint Hard-Boiled Eggs

    Why should Easter be the only occasion to rouse your inner artist by painting hard-boiled eggs?

    The practice of decorating eggshells is ancient, predating Christianity. Engraved ostrich eggs found in Africa date back 60,000 years. Decorated ostrich eggs, also replicated in gold and silver, have been found in 5,000-year-old graves in Egypt and Sumeria. [Source]

    The Christian custom of decorating eggs at Easter has been traced to the early Christians of Mesopotamia, sometime after 100 B.C.E.

    But you don’t need a religious context to decorate eggs. On a hot summer day, it’s a quiet activity that can be done while in the shade—or in the air conditioning. For summer themes, think beach, birds, blue sky, butterflies, flowers and yes, palm trees.

    Cook a batch of eggs and let family and friends paint away. Take a vote afterward and give a prize for the “people’s choice.”

    Then, you can peel the eggs for protein-rich snacking, or turn them into sliced egg sandwiches or egg salad.

    You don’t have to hard-boil the eggs, either.

     

    painted-palm-tree-hb-egg-zevia-FB-melodramablog-230

    Why wait for Easter to decorate eggs? Photo from the Zevia Facebook page, attributed to “Melodrama blog.” (We couldn’t find the blog.)

     
    Those who are not likely to break the eggs can paint raw eggs. The decorated eggs can then be used for cooking. But for cooking, keep them cool, first in air conditioning and then in the fridge.

    You can keep raw painted egs as art by removing the innards. Simply pierce each end of the shell with a thick sewing needle. Then, blow strongly on one of the holes. The contents will be expelled through the other hole.
     
    WANT TO HARD-BOIL EGGS MORE EASILY?

    Here are tips on how to make hard boiled eggs from the American Egg Board.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Pisco Punch For Pisco Day

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/pisco porton 230

    Pisco Portón, one of the finest pisco
    brands. Photo courtesy Pisco Portón.

     

    Pisco (PEE-skoe), the national spirit of Peru, is celebrated with two holidays each year: Pisco Day on the fourth Sunday of July, and Pisco Sour Day on the first Saturday of February, honoring Peru’s national drink.

    So for Pisco Day, here are two pisco punch recipes that aren’t the Pisco Sour. Punches are good for a crowd, can be made a day in advance, and are easy to pour from a pitcher.

    Make the punch a day in advance, you can chill it thoroughly in the fridge so less ice will be required (it dilutes the drink as it melts). The larger the cubes, the slower they melt.

    RECIPE: EASY PISCO PUNCH

    Ingredients

  • Peels of three lemons, each cut into spirals with a vegetable peeler
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice*
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) pisco
  • 1 quart cold water
  • Garnish: 1 star fruit
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    *Juice the three lemons after you cut the peels

    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE the lemon peels and sugar together and let sit for at least 90 minutes. Muddle the lemon and sugar again, then stir in the lemon juice.

    2. ADD the pisco and the water and stir. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
     
    3. CUT the star fruit into ¼ to ½ inch slices right before serving. To serve, pour into a glass pitcher and float the star fruit slices. Add ice cubes as needed.

     

    RECIPE: PINEAPPLE PISCO PUNCH

    Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750ml) pisco
  • 16 ounces pineapple juice
  • 6 ounces simple syrup (Simple Syrup Recipe)
  • ½ fresh pineapple in cubes
  • 7 ounces fresh strawberries, diced
  • Ice cubes
  • Mint leaves
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX all ingredients in punch bowl or pitcher.

    2. SERVE in rocks glasses; garnish with pineapple and strawberry squares and mint.

     

    pisco-punch-pitcher-piscoporton-230

    Pineapple Pisco Punch. Photo and recipe courtesy Pisco Portón.

     

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF PISCO

    As Spanish emigrés settled in Latin America, they needed to find local substitutes for products that took many months to come from Europe.

    Pisco, a replacement for European-distilled brandy, was first made in the 16th century from grapes grown in the fertile Pisco Valley.

    While most pisco brands imported to the U.S. are Peruvian, you can alo find some that are made in Chile.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Serve Fresh Figs

    figs-blue-cheese-230b-r

    It doesn’t get simpler than this: halved ripe
    cheese topped with a bit of blue cheese or
    chèvre. Photo courtesy Castello USA.

     

    We were surprised not too long ago when a friend mentioned she liked figs, but had only eaten figs in their dried form. Why, we asked, since they are easily available?

    “I didn’t know what to do with them,” she replied.

    Today’s first tip: Never let unfamiliarity stop you from trying a new food. Buy it, bring it home, look it up.

    A sweet, soft and moist tree-ripened fig is luscious, eaten plain, with cheese or yogurt, or in many recipes. Just as with, say, fresh versus dried mango, it’s a completely different experience.

    And the season is now: In the U.S., figs have two seasons: a short season in early summer and a main crop that starts in late summer and runs through fall.

    Fresh figs are fragile and don’t travel well: The think skins easily split and the flesh can bruise. This makes fresh figs even more of a treat, worth seeking out.

    THE HISTORY OF FIGS

    Man has been cultivating figs for more than 11,400 years. It is now believed to be the first food cultivated by man, in the Near East* some 11,400 years ago. This is roughly 1,000 years before the other “earliest crops,” barley, legumes and wheat were domesticated in the region. [Source]

     
    Domestication of crops was a tipping point in the evolution of human thinking after 2.5 million years as nomadic hunter-gatherers: the decision to settle down and grow their own food rather than relying on finding food that was growing wild.
     
    *According to National Geographic, the terms Near East and Middle East are synonymous. Afghanistan, Armenia, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank, and Yemen are included in the definition. According to Wikipedia, different bodies—Encyclopedia Britannica and the United Nations, for example—may exclude some countries and add others. [Source]
     
    Figs Today

    The fig is a member of the Moraceae binomial family, sometimes called the fig family. It’s the family member that’s most familiar to us: Other members include the banyan, breadfruit, mulberry and Osage orange (which not an orange).

    There are almost 200 cultivars of figs, in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures. While most of think of figs as having skins that are brown, green, red or purple, take a look at the lovely yellow Tiger Stripe Fig.

    Figs are now grown in warm, dry and sunny climates in around the globe (fig trees can’t tolerate temperatures below 20°F).

    The top 10 fig producing countries are, by crop size, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, United States, Brazil, Albania and Tunisia.

     

    HOW TO ENJOY FRESH FIGS

    Since figs are sweet, we think of them in the context of desserts or sweet snacks. But sweetness is also an excellent counterpoint to bitter, salty and spicy/hot foods.

    Eat up: Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. They are rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and K, and are a good source of flavonoids and polyphenols (antioxidants). They are sodium-free and cholesterol/fat-free.

    Don’t peel the figs. Enjoy them with breakfast cereal, yogurt or cottage cheese; sliced on sandwiches with fresh or aged cheese; chopped and added to rice; stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre; or raw or grilled as a side dish, cut in half and served with grilled meat or poultry.

    Figs For Breakfast

  • With yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • With pancakes, instead of berries.
  • On cereal, hot or cold.
  • Sliced as an omelet filling, with cream cheese or goat cheese.
  • In muffins and breakfast pastries.
  •  

    fig-fondue-californiafigs-230

    Fresh figs with a sweet mascarpone dip; figs dipped into chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy California Figs.

     
    Figs For Lunch

  • On panini with fig jam (recipe—add sliced figs atop the jam; use orange marmalade if you don’t have fig jam).
  • Cheese Soufflé With Figs (here’s a recipe with blue cheese but you can substitute fresh goat cheese).
  •  
    Figs In Appetizers, Hors D’oeuvre And Salads

  • Bacon or prosciutto-wrapped figs.
  • Brie & Fig Torte (recipe).
  • Endive Salad With Figs (recipe).
  • Figs In Prosciutto Bundles (recipe).
  • Fig & Radicchio Salad (recipe.)
  •  

    Cocktails With Figs

  • Fig & Maple Fizz (recipe).
  • Give A Fig Cocktail (recipe).
  • Fig-infused vodka (Fig Infused Vodka).
  •  
     
    Dinner Courses With Figs

  • Honey Balsamic Fig-Glazed Ham (recipe).
  • Bison With Fig Balsamic Reduction (recipe).
  • Pork Loin With Fig & Port Sauce (recipe).
  •  

    Desserts With Figs

  • Bonbons dipped in chocolate (like these from John & Kira’s).
  • Cheese plate with fresh figs.
  • Compote.
  • Fig Flower With Honey Goat Cheese (recipe).
  • Fig Fondue, quartered and dipped into your favorite chocolate or white chocolate fondue recipe.
  • Ice cream—we love this recipe from Charlie Trotter, but you can simply dice the figs, marinate them in brandy or Grand Marnier, and add them to softened vanilla ice cream before returning to the freezer. It’s a riff on rum raisin.
  • Roast Figs With Honey & Hazelnuts (recipe).
  •  
    TOO MANY FIGS?

    If you have too many ripe figs, you can place them on paper towels, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for a few days. Or, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.

    Or, purée the ripe figs and use the purée in cocktails (mixed with white spirits, for example), smoothies, or as a topper for ice cream or sorbet (add sweetener as necessary).
     
    Hungry yet?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Saison (Farmhouse Ale) For Summer

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/saison bottle glass beerobsessed 230

    Saison, a refreshing summer ale. Photo
    courtesy BeerObsessed.com.

     

    We’ve written before on summer beers, brewed to be refreshing on a hot day: lighter in body with a moderate A.B.V. (alcohol by volume).

    Perhaps the most interesting of the lighter, hot weather styles is the saison (say-ZONE, meaning “season” in French).

    It is alternately referred to as farmhouse ale, since it originated on farmsteads in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium, a French-speaking region that shares a border with France.

    Saison was traditionally brewed by farmers at the end of winter, then set aside for the summer, where it was happily consumed by field workers. Yes, beer drinking on the job was common, because before the advent of quality-tested municipal water, it was safer than many water supplies.

    But that’s not your problem: You have a good municipal water supply. Instead, think about hosting a saison tasting party.

     

    SAISON: THE FREESTYLE ALE

    Often referred to as a dry, fruity Belgian ale, the interesting thing about saison is that no two taste the same. That’s because each farmer brewed it with whatever he or she* had on hand, so there was no common recipe.

    We can’t think of any other style of beer where this is true. (See our Beer Glossary for the different styles of beer.)

    The colors vary (golden, amber, orange, from light to dark); the aromas vary (citrusy/fruity, spicy). Perhaps what they have in common is their refreshing nature.

    Another feature we happen to love to find in saisons is a mild “barnyard” character. Famous in certain Burgundy wines, it comes from from Brettanomyces yeasts that naturally exist on the farm (and can be purchased by breweries). “Brett,” as it’s often called, contributes earthy, musty aromas and some tart flavor.
     
    *As history was written by men, the role of women is often overlooked or understated. For example, farmer’s “wives” were also farmers. They may not have had the physical strength to plow the field (and certainly, some did), but they did many other essential farm tasks. And they brewed beer!

     

    IT’S PARTY TIME!

    Check your local shelves for supplies of saisons. While the classic Belgian import is Saison Dupont (a fruity and spicy style), American craft brewers make hoppy, malty, spicy, fruity and floral.

    So, the real Tip Of The Day: Collect as many as you can find and invite friends for a saison tasting. Do it now, or make it your end-of-the-season Labor Day celebration.
     
    What To Serve With Saison

  • Gougères, the delightful French cheese puffs (Gougeres Recipe)
  • Fondue with a hearty cheese like blue or Cheddar
  • Grilled meat or fish
  • Spicy dishes, including Asian and Indian specialties and for a salad, peppery greens like arugula and radishes
  • Rustic French fare: coq au vin roast chicken, stew
  • Cheese: Aged or fresh chèvre, Asiago, Colby, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Parmesan and “stinky” washed rind cheeses
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/belgian style saison 230

    Have a saison with crudités. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEER & ALE

    Although most of us use “beer” to refer to all suds, three parts of the brewing process actually defines what is a beer—illustrated by the lager style—and what is an ale.

    Ales tend to be fruity-estery in aroma and flavor, while lagers are clean-tasting and crisp. These differences are created by:

    The Yeast

  • Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast strains, which means exactly that: The yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank (they typically rise to the top of the tank near the end of fermentation).
  • Ale yeasts tend to produce esters, chemicals that can affect the flavor of the beer.
  • Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeasts, strains which do not typically add much flavor (the flavor comes from the other ingredients, especially hops and malt).
  •  
    Temperature and Time

  • Ale yeasts ferment best at warmer temperatures—room temperature up to about 75°F. They ferment faster than lager yeasts.
  • Lagers ferment at colder temperatures, 46°F to 59°F, and typically ferment over longer periods of time. The combination of colder temperatures and bottom-fermenting yeast is responsible for the mild and crisp taste delivered by most lagers.
  •  
    The Ingredients

  • Ale recipes often contain a higher amount of hops, malt and roasted malts, hence they typically have a more prominent malty taste and bitterness. Styles like India Pale Ale (IPA) are very hoppy.
  • Ales have more room for recipe experimentation than lagers; thus additional ingredients (called adjuncts) can be added during brewing. Examples: fruits (cherry, pumpkin, raspberry, etc.), sugars (honey, maple syrup, molasses) and spices (allspice, coriander, clove, etc.).
  •  
    Thanks to BeerTutor.com for the quick tutorial.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Tequilas

    margarita-glass-wisegeek-230

    Tequila sales in the U.S. have exploded with
    the popularity of the Margarita, one of
    America’s most popular cocktails. The
    “Margarita glass” is used in Mexico for all
    tequila-based mixed drinks. Photo courtesy
    WiseGeek.

     

    For National Tequila Day, July 24th, expand your knowledge of tequila. It’s not just a Margarita mixer, but comprises five different expressions, two of which you’d never mix! Plan a tasting party with the first four expressions—and the fifth, if you’re in the chips.

    The spirit gets its name from the municipality of Tequila, in the west-central Mexican state of Jalisco (40 miles northwest of Guadalajara).

    The native Aztecs fermented agave into mezcal, the forerunner of tequila; but did not know how to distill. That knowledge arrived with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. When they ran out of the brandy they brought, they began to distill agave into what is now called tequila.

    Tequila is one of five major distilled spirits that are indigenous to the Americas. Can you name the others? The answers are at the end of this article.

    Tequila is made by distilling the juice from the blue agave plant, not a cactus but a large succulent closely related to lilies. The best tequila is 100% blue agave, the finest agave juice that minimizes the “burn.” But at the two entry levels, tequilas can be “mixto,” at least 51% blue agave with the remainder coming from other agave species. They must be so labeled.

     
    THE 5 TYPES OF TEQUILLA

    Depending on the aging process and the quality of the agave, the tequila becomes one of the following five types. The more a spirit is aged, the more complex the flavors.

    BLANCO TEQUILLA

    Also called: White, plata/silver or platinum tequila.

    Qualities: Clear and transparent. The tequila is unaged, bottled or stored immediately after distillation. It can also be briefly aged, up to two months.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     

    JOVEN TEQUILA

    Also called: Gold or young tequila.

    Qualities: Pale yellow in appearance. This is un-aged tequila that is blended with rested or aged tequilas; or can be colored with caramel coloring, sugar-based syrup, glycerin, and/or oak extract to resemble aged tequila.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     
    REPOSADO TEQUILLA

    Also called: Rested tequila.

    Qualities: Light yellow and translucent, the tequila is aged for at least six months but less than a year. The spirit takes on a golden hue and the flavor becomes nicely balanced between agave and wood. American or French oak barrels are most commonly used* for aging, although bourbon, cognac, whiskey or wine barrels can be used. The tequila will take on nuanced flavors from the spirit that was previously aged in the barrel. Reposado began to emerge as a new category of tequila in the late 1980s.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     
    AÑEJO TEQUILA

    Also called: Aged or vintage tequila.

    Qualities:: brighter yellow, aged at least one year, but less than three years. The tequila is aged in smaller barrels where the flavor can become smoother, richer and more complex. The aging process darkens the tequila to an amber color.

    Use it for: sipping.

    EXTRA AÑEJO TEQUILA

    Also called: Extra aged or ultra aged tequila.

    Qualities: Golden color, aged at least three years in oak. This is a new classification which received official classification in 2006. It is the most expensive tequila, made from the finest agave for true connoisseurs.

    Use it for: sipping.

     

    HOW TO DRINK TEQUILA

    In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt, or as a sangrita. Outside of Mexico, a shot of tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime. This is called tequila cruda.
     
    The Sangrita

    In some regions of Mexico it is popular to drink a shot of fine tequila with a side of sangrita, a sweet, sour, and spicy drink usually made from orange juice, grenadine or tomato juice, and hot chiles. Equal shots of tequila and sangrita are sipped alternately, without salt or lime.

    Another popular drink in Mexico is the bandera (flag, in Spanish), named after the Flag of Mexico, it consists of three shot glasses, filled with lime juice (for the green), white tequila, and sangrita (for the red).

     

    caballito-lime-wisegeek-230

    The tequila shot glass is called a caballito, “little horse.” Photo courtesy WiseGeek.com.

     

    When served neat (without any additional ingredients), tequila is most often served in a narrow shot glass called a caballito (little horse, in Spanish), but can be served in anything from a snifter to a tumbler.

    In 2002, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (regulating council) approved a stemmed “official tequila glass” shape made by the great glassmaker, Riedel. It’s called the Ouverture Tequila glass and, like all Riedel glassware, is engineered to enable the finest aromas and flavors from the spirit.
     
    TEQUILA TRIVIA: THERE ARE NEVER WORMS IN THE BOTTLES

    Many people believe that some tequilas have a worm in the bottle. They don’t; but certain brands of mezcal do contain a worm, the larval form of the moth Hypopta agavis, which lives on the agave plant.

    The larvae are used by several brands of mezcal to give flavor to the spirit. As a marketing gimmick that began in the 1940s, some brands put a worm in the bottle. Any flavor from the worm has long been removed during production.

    According to the website Mezcal-de-Oaxaca.com, in 2005 the Mexican government legislated to remove the worm from mezcal (it was already prohibited in tequila). One reason is that at 20¢ to 40¢ per worm and between 200-500 worms per plant, irresponsible harvesters actually uproot and destroy an agave plant to harvest the worms.

    Tequila should not contain an insect of any kind, and if it does, then “you’ve either purchased gag-inducing hooch aimed at gullible gringos, or your top-shelf booze is infested by some kind of alcohol-breathing, alien bug,” according to author James Waller (Drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail, page 224, published 2003).
     
    THE OTHER MAJOR AMERICAN SPIRITS

    Also indigenous to the Americas: Bourbon (USA), cachaça (Brazil), mezcal (Mexico), pisco (Peru) and rum (Caribbean).

    Numerous other spirits are distilled locally throughout the Americas, but are not distributed far beyond their place of origin.
     
    *After fine wine is aged in [expensive] new oak barrels, the used barrels are often sold to the producers of spirits for aging. New oak imparts specific flavors to wine; but with spirits, the distiller is not looking for prominent oak flavor. Thus, the same used barrel can be used for several years, where it imparts slight nuances.

      

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    RECIPE: Pineapple Gazpacho

    pineapple-gazpacho-urbanaccents-230

    Pineapple gazpacho, spicy and refreshing. Photo courtesy Urban Accents.

     

    Yesterday we featured a spicy Grilled Pineapple Cocktail, but only the garnish was grilled.

    Today, The pineapple is marinated in spices and lilme juice, then grilled to provide this chilled soup with a more complex flavor.

    The recipe is by Jim Dygas, president of Urban Accents, using Urban Accents’ Mozambique Peri Peri spice blend. The garnish was added by THE NIBBLE.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 15 minutes. The gazpacho needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours or overnight. The flavor will be better the next day.

    RECIPE: PINEAPPLE GAZPACHO

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 whole pineapple, skin removed & cut into 1-inch slices,
    cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons Urban Accents Mozambique Peri Peri
    or substitute*
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 seedless (English) cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 med garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 small jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: minced chives or thin-sliced scallions, or the
    garnish recipe below
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup seedless cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  •  
    *Urban Accents’ Mozambique Peri Peri has a base of crushed chile peppers and paprika combined with six herbs and spices plus citrus. You can make a less complex seasoning blend by combining crushed chile flakes and paprika with dried herbs of choice.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the grill to med-high heat.

    2. COMBINE the lime juice, zest with Mozambique Peri Peri in a large bowl. Add the pineapple, stir and marinate for 15 minutes.

    3. GRILL the pineapple on all sides to get light grill marks. Remove from the grill, let cool slightly and cut into small chunks.

    4. PURÉE 1 cup of the pineapple chunks in a blender or food processor, along with the pineapple juice and olive oil until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. While the soup chills…

    5. MAKE the garnish. Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Individual Ice Cream Cakes

    Don’t let National Ice Cream Month end without some ice cream cake. In today’s tip, you add to the fun by giving each person his or her own individual-size ice cream cake.

    All you need are two ingredients—cake and ice cream—plus an optional garnish. And a fun flavor pairing, although chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream work fine.
     
    RECIPE: INDIVIDUAL ICE CREAM CAKES

    Ingredients

  • Ice cream
  • Un-iced cake (loaf cake works best)
  • Individual custard cups, ramekins or other dishes (glass is best, to show off the layers)
  • Optional garnishes or “surprises”, such as:
  • >Berries
    >Candies
    >Caramel, chocolate or fruit sauce
    >Chocolate chips or shaved chocolate
    >Sprinkles
    >Whipped cream

     

    individual-ice-cream-cake-questnutrition-230

    Portion-sized ice cream cake. (Can we eat two?) Photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese.

     
    Preparation

    1. CUT and layer the cake and ice cream in the dish, leaving a bit of room at the top for sauce or other garnishes.

    2. HIDE surprises between the layers: mini chocolate chips, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, shaved chocolate, sliced strawberries. Place the layered dishes in the freezer until you’re ready to serve.

    3. GARNISH the top with anything you like. One of our favorite garnishes: miniature York Peppermint Patties (we buy them by the carton-full at Costco).
     
    TIPS

    SLICING: Peel the carton from the ice cream to slice the ice cream into layers. Trim and fit the variously-sized pieces of ice cream and cake in the individual dishes.

    SUBSTITUTE: If you have all the ingredients except the cake, you can substitute cookies or sweet muffins.

      

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