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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 Cheese/Yogurt/Dairy

TIP OF THE DAY: Sweetened Condensed Milk

Sweetened condensed milk is cow’s milk from which the water has been removed; sugar is been added for sweetness. In parts of Asia, it’s the milk used in iced coffee and iced tea. It’s the dairy used to make Key Lime Pie—because before modern refrigeration, there were no cows in the Florida Keys and canned milk was a staple. It’s the special ingredient in Magic Bars and Tres Leches Cake.

Recipes abound to use sweetened condensed milk: in beverages, brownies and other bars, cakes, candy, cookies, pies and puddings. Check out the Eagle Brand website, for starters.

When we have leftover sweetened condensed milk after baking, we use it:

  • As a dip for fresh fruit and cookies (try oatmeal cookies!)
  • On oatmeal and other porridge
  • On toast
  • In French toast (substitute for milk)
  • In coffee and iced coffee
  • As a topping for ice cream and pound cake
  •    

    sweet-condensed-milk-growingnaturals-230

    Homemade sweetened condensed milk. Photo courtesy GrowingNaturals.com.

  • Caramelized into a delicious dessert sauce or dip (recipe below)
  •  
    Lactose intolerant? Here’s a non-dairy version of sweetened condensed milk from GrowingNaturals.com.
     
    RECIPE: SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK SUBSTITUTE

    If you find yourself stuck without a can of sweetened condensed milk, here’s a substitute recipe from Cooks.com.

    Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX all ingredients thoroughly and use in bars, cookies, cakes, etc.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK

    This homemade version isn’t as thick as canned sweetened condensed milk, but it does have the same sweet, milky flavor.

    Ingredients For Scant 1 Cup

  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix together the milk and sugar. Take note of where the milk reaches on the side of the pan.

    2. HEAT the milk and sugar mixture over medium heat until it’s just steaming, then lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. When the mixture has reduced by about half, stir in the vanilla extract.

    3. COOL completely. As it cools, the milk with thicken. Pour into a clean, dry airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

     

    sweetened-condensed-milk-nestle-230s

    Keep a can in the pantry. Photo courtesy
    Nestlé.

       
    SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK TIPS

  • Because it is a natural product, sweetened condensed milk may vary in color and consistency from can to can.
  • To measure, remove the entire lid and scrape the milk into a glass measuring cup, using a rubber spatula.
  • Transfer any leftover milk into a storage container, cover and refrigerate. It will keep for about one week.
  • Sweetened condensed milk will become thicker and more caramel-colored when kept on the shelf for a long time. These changes won’t affect its quality, and when used in recipes with peanut butter, butterscotch, or chocolate, the rich caramel flavor and color will blend with these ingredients.
  •  
    Tips and caramelizing instructions courtesy Eagle Brand.

     
    HOW TO CARAMELIZE SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK

    First, do not cook it in a regular pan on the stove; it will scorch. Instead, use one of these methods.

  • Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Pour sweetened condensed milk into 8 or 9-inch pie plate. Cover with foil; place in larger shallow pan. Fill outer pan with hot water. Bake 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until thick and light caramel-colored; check water level in pan during baking time and refill if necessary. Remove foil. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • Stovetop Method: Pour sweetened condensed milk into top of double boiler; cover and place over boiling water. Over low heat, simmer 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until thick and light caramel-colored. Beat until smooth, if desired. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • Microwave Method: Pour sweetened condensed milk into an 8 cup glass measure. Cook, uncovered, at Medium (50%) for 4 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Reduce power to Medium Low (30%) and cook, uncovered, 12 to 16 minutes or until thick and light caramel-colored. Stir briskly every 2 minutes until smooth. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Cheesecake

    blue-cheese-artichoke-cheesecake-wmmb-230

    For a delightful change of pace, try a savory
    cheesecake appetizer. Photo courtesy
    Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    When you want to serve something impressive and unexpected at your next dinner party or cocktail party, consider a savory cheesecake.

    Instead of sugar and vanilla, it calls for herbs, salt and savory components—cheeses such as blue cheese or Gruyère and additions like seafood and vegetables.

    Cut small wedges—this is a rich starter! Serve with toast points, baguette slices or crackers and decorate the plate with appropriate cheese accompaniments—nuts, and grapes, for example. Add a touches of color with fresh green herbs or red grape tomatoes or peppadews.

    You can also the whole cheesecake at a party, on a tray with crackers.

    Bake the cheesecake the night before and take it out of the refrigerator an hour before serving to allow the cheesecake to reach room temperature. In addition to the recipe below, here are four more savory cheesecake recipes, including Tuna (you can substitute smoked salmon), Gruyère & Lobster, Provolone & Corn and No-Bake Basil Cheesecake. All are courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    RECIPE: BLUE CHEESE CHEESECAKE

    For a perfect cocktail pairing, serve this cheesecake with a Vodka Martini With Buttermilk Blue Stuffed Olives. For a first course, look for a big white wine: either a sweet white (like a Sauternes or a late harvest Vouvray) or Chardonnay (if your budget permits, a Puligny-Montrachet). Another interesting match would be a ruby Port (save the vintage Ports for the end of dinner).

    This recipe was created by Wisconsin chef Mindy Segal, who used Hook’s Wisconsin Blue Cheese and garnished the dish with sweet components: Port Wine Poached Pears, Port Caramel And Candied Walnuts. You can keep it all savory with a lightly dressed salad or any garnish you choose.

    And remember: the better the blue cheese, the better the cheesecake.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

    For The Poached Pears

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) Port wine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, scraped
  • 6 medium pears (Bartlett, Forelle or Comice)
  •  
    For The Sugared Walnuts

  • 1 tablespoon egg white
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup walnuts
  •  

    For The Cheesecake

  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 10 ounces blue cheese, room temperature, finely crumbled
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons clover or orange honey
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional garnish: rosemary sprigs
  •  
    For The Caramel

  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 1/2 ounces light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup reserved poaching liquid
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch cracked pepper
  •  

    blue-cheese-cheesecake-wmmb-230r

    Chef Mindy Segal’s preparation with poached pears, candied walnuts and caramel. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the poached pears. In a heavy sauce pan, combine all ingredients except the pears; bring to a boil and cook until reduced by a quarter. Meanwhile, peel the pears and add the peels to the poaching liquid. Cut the pears in half and core. Strain the poaching liquid and add the pears. Bring to a simmer and poach the pears until tender. Place the pears and liquid in opaque container. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature overnight. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid for the Port caramel.

    2. MAKE the sugared walnuts. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In small bowl, mix all ingredients except the walnuts. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Spread in single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Break into pieces. Set aside.

    3. MAKE the cheesecake. Heat the oven to 250°F. Spray an 8-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper; spray again. In large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the blue cheese; beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl. Add sour cream, honey, salt and pepper. Beat until combined. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until set and knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature in pan.

    4. MAKE the Port caramel. In heavy sauce pot, combine 1 cup sugar and the corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cook at a slow rolling boil until dark amber. In another pot, bring the cream and reserved poaching liquid just to a boil; keep warm. When the sugar is amber, add the remaining sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the cream mixture slowly, allowing the mixture to reduce after each addition. Cook until the consistency of a thick syrup, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

    5. SERVE. Cut the cheesecake into wedges. Serve on plate with some of the poached pear, Port wine caramel and sugared walnuts, or garnishes of choice.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ricotta Salata

    ricotta-salata-ig-230

    Ricotta salata. Photo courtesy iGourmet.com.

     

    Most of us are familiar with ricotta, the fresh cottage cheese-like* Italian favorite used in everything from lasagna to cheesecake to cannoli.

    But what about ricotta salata, a firm, aged sheep’s milk cheese (some refer it ricotta secca). A Sicilian specialty, it is ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried—very different from ricotta and an exciting and versatile cheese.

    Ricotta salata is mildly salty, with a milky and nutty flavor. It is ideal for grating, shaving, slicing or cubing. You can use it anywhere you’d use feta. It’s typically more affordable than feta or Italian grating cheeses.

    You can crumble it, cube it, grate it, shave it or slice it. You can enjoy it with fruit as your cheese course, or add it to a cheese platter or antipasto plate.

     
    *Technically, ricotta isn’t a cheese but a by-product of the cheese-making process. The name “ricotta” means “recooked” in Italian (from the Latin recoctus). Historically, ricotta has been made from the whey that was left over from the process of making a cooked cheese. What to do with the whey has long been a question in the cheese world; many cheese makers of long ago simply fed it to their pigs, a practice still continued today. But somewhere along the line, someone discovered that the whey contained proteins and milk solids that would coagulate under high enough heat and with the presence of acid, and ricotta was born. In addition to ricotta salata, here’s also ricotta affumicata, an aged cheese that is smoked in the early part of the maturing process. Like ricotta salata, it can be eaten with bread or grated on pasta, gnocchi, and cooked vegetables.

     

    Try it:

  • In a green salad, ideally one with tangy greens like arugula and watercress. We love it with arugula, beets and fresh herbs.
  • On grains, potatoes or rice, whether sides or salads.
  • As a soup garnish.
  • On a sandwich, pannino or burger.
  • Atop pasta, or tossed with it. Check out Pasta alla Norma, made with eggplant and ricotta salata.
  • With eggs.
  • On cooked vegetables; try it with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale or spinach.
  • With eggs.
  • Grated on pizza, flatbread or crostini.
  • In stuffed artichokes or vegetable fritters.
  • Atop fruit salad or grilled fruit. An Italian classic mixes watermelon with ricotta salata, basil, pine nuts and olive oil.
  • Cubed on skewers, with vegetables, meats or fruits.
  •  

    ricotta-salata-southernitaliandesserts-230

    Ricotta salata in a traditional shape. Photo courtesy Southern Italian Desserts.

     

    What’s your favorite use? Let us know!
     
    RICOTTA HISTORY

    Ricotta production on the Italian peninsula dates to the Bronze Age (circa 3200–600 B.C.E. in Europe, and varying dates elsewhere). In the second millennium B.C.E., ceramic vessels called milk boilers started to appear frequently.

    Unique to the peninsula, they were designed to boil milk at high temperatures and prevent the milk from boiling over. The fresh acid-coagulated cheeses produced with these boilers were probably made with whole milk. Ceramic milk boilers were still used by Apennine shepherds to make ricotta as recently as the 19th century. Today metal milk boilers are used, but production methods have changed little since ancient times.

    By the first millennium B.C.E., the production of rennet-coagulated cheeses took over. Unlike the fresh acid-coagulated cheese, aged rennet-coagulated cheese could be preserved for much longer.

    The production of rennet-coagulated cheese led to a large supply of whey as a by-product. Cheese makers created a recipe that used a mixture of the whey plus milk, to make the fresh ricotta we know today.

    Because of its perishability, ricotta was most likely consumed locally, by the shepherds and cheesemakers. It is likely that its short shelf life did not allow broad distribution to urban markets; but even so, evidence from paintings and literature indicates that ricotta was known and likely eaten by Roman aristocrats as well. And at some point, ricotta was pressed and aged into ricotta salata. [Source]

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Plum, Burrata & Pepita Salad

    plum-burrata-salad-beeraw-230r

    Summer plums with creamy burrata: a great
    union. Photo courtesy Bee Raw.

     

    We’re always in the mood for burrata. After making grilled grapes with burrata a few days ago, we whipped this up yesterday.

    This recipe combines fresh summer plums, creamy burrata cheese, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and honey into a dish that’s called a “salad,” but consider it a cheese course dessert.

    The contrasting textures, flavors, and colors are what we should aim for in every dish.

    The recipe is from Bee Raw Honey, which used its star thistle honey for extra special flavor. You can substitute pluots for the plums.

    Star thistle honey, harvested from wild star thistle plants in Colorado, is thick and creamy with hints of cinnamon. It also pairs well with apples—drizzled over apple slices or added to baked or roasted apples.

    RECIPE: PLUM SALAD WITH BURRATA, PEPITAS & HONEY

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 6 ounces burrata cheese
  • 3 plums
  • A a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A a few tablespoons star thistle or other honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • A few sprigs fresh mint
  • Preparation

    1. BREAK the burrata into about 24 bite-sized pieces,

    2. PIT and slice plums into 8 slices each, set aside.

    3. LAY out four salad or two dinner plates. Divide the burrata pieces equally among plates. Top the Burrata with plum slices. Dot plates with olive oil and honey, covering cheese and fruit with each.

    4. SCATTER each plate with pumpkin seeds and mint; serve immediately.

     

    WHAT IS BURRATA?

    Somewhere around 1920 in the town of Andria in the Puglia region of southern Italy, a member of the Bianchini family figured out how to repurpose the curds from mozzarella making. Burrata was born, a ball of mozzarella filled with creamy, ricotta-like curds. Cut into the ball and the curds ooze out: a wonderful marriage of flavors and textures.

    Their burrata was premium priced, made in small amounts, and remained the delight of the locals for some thirty years.

    In the 1950s, some of the local cheese factories began to produce burrata, and more people discovered its charms. Only in recent years, thanks to more economical overnighting of refrigerated products, did we find it in New York City’s finest cheese shops.

    Now, you can find domestic burrata anywhere there’s a Trader Joe’s. It’s just as delicious!

     

    sliced-whole-230

    Love that burrata! Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    WHAT’S A PLUOT?

    Pluots, plumcots and apriums are all hybrid combinations of plums and apricots, but with different percentages of each parent fruit’s DNA. The names are trademarked by their respective breeders.

    They were developed to present the best qualities of both fruits. For the consumer, this means more sweetness and juiciness; for the grower, easier to grow, harvest, and ship.

  • A plumcot is 50% plum/50% apricot. Developed by Luther Burbank in the 1920s, it is sweeter than either parent.
  • The pluot, also known as a “dinosaur egg” because of its speckled skin, was created by a California fruit breeder who wanted to improve on the plumcot. A pluot, sweeter than a plumcot, is primarily plum, with a range from 60% plum/40% apricot to 75% plum/25% apricot spanning more than 25 varieties. Because of the percentage of genes, it has the flavor of a plum but the mouthfeel of the apricot. Pluots have a higher sugar content and a more complex flavor profile than either a plum or an apricot.
  • An aprium is the reverse of the pluot: a mix of 70% apricot/30% plum, though it can vary, as long as it is 60% apricot or more. It looks like an apricot, but is sweeter than either an apricot or a plum.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Grapes With Burrata

    Here’s something we’d never have thought of, and we’re grateful to the folks at GQ for sending us the recipe.

    It’s a showstopping appetizer or cheese course that takes literally one minute to cook: red grapes with burrata cheese. Developed by chef Jeff Mahin, the dish has become a staple at his Stella Barra Pizzerias in L.A. and Chicago.

    “While using gas or charcoal to make it is fine, I prefer a screaming-hot wood grill,” says Jeff. “Just remember that when cooking with wood, you want to cook over glowing ruby red coals rather than the flame itself. Cooking directly over an open flame can impart a sour and soot-like flavor, which is never a good thing.”

    Note that since grapes will invariably fall off the bunch while you’re grilling them, a vegetable grilling basket will come in handy.

    RECIPE: GRILLED GRAPES WITH BURRATA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound bunch seedless red grapes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 balls burrata cheese
  • Sea salt and olive oil
  • Rustic bread
  •  

    grilled-grapes-Peden+Munk-GQ-230r

    So simple, and unbelievably delicious. Photo courtesy GQ Magazine.

     

    Preparation

    1. WASH the bunch of grapes carefully under cold water and allow them to dry.

    2. WHISK together in a bowl: olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, chile flakes, garlic cloves. Add grapes and toss until coated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.

    3. PLACE bunch of grapes onto the center of a hot grill, using tongs. Grill for 30 seconds. Turn. Grill for another 30 seconds.

    4. RETURN grapes to marinade to cool for at least 10 minutes, coating them periodically.

    5. CUT grapes into small bunches. Plate. Drizzle on 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar. Serve with grilled bread and a half ball of burrata (or fresh mozzarella) seasoned with sea salt and olive oil.

    Find more delicious recipes in the GQ Grill Guide.
     
    ABOUT BURRATA CHEESE

    Somewhere around 1920 in the town of Andria in the Puglia region of southern Italy, a member of the Bianchini family figured out how to repurpose the curds from mozzarella making. Burrata was born, a ball of mozzarella filled with creamy, ricotta-like curds. Cut into the ball and the curds ooze out: a wonderful marriage of flavors and textures.

    Their burrata was premium priced, made in small amounts, and remained the delight of the locals for some thirty years.

    In the 1950s, some of the local cheese factories began to produce burrata, and more people discovered its charms. Only in recent years, thanks to more economical overnighting of refrigerated products, did we find it in New York City’s finest cheese shops.

    It was love at first bite…and enough Americans thought so that burrata is now made domestically. You can find it at Trader Joe’s.

    For dessert, here’s a delicious burrata and fresh fruit recipe.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: More To Do With Mozzarella

    You love it on pizza, lasagna, pannini and in a Caprese salad. But there‘s more you can do with mozzarella.

    For example, Crave Brothers, Wisconsin-based producers of award-winning cheeses, say that mozzarella and fresh vegetables were made for each other.

    Think beyond the eight-ounce or one-pound balls of mozzarella to other sizes:

  • Perlini (per-LEE-nee), tiny pearl size balls.
  • Ciliegine (CHEEL-yay-genie), the size of cherry tomatoes.
  • Bocconcini (bow-cawn-CHEE-nee), ball size.
  • Ovoline (oh-voe-LEE-nee), egg size.
  • Medallions, pre-sliced from one-pound logs.
  •  
    Then, decide how to use them.

    MORE WAYS TO USE MOZZARELLA CHEESE

  • Appetizer Skewers. Ciliegine are the perfect size for skewers, along with cherry tomatoes and other vegetables, cubed meats or rolled proscuitto.
  •  

    Perlini-230

    What would you do with perlini, pearls of mozzarella? Photo by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.

  • Cooked Vegetables. Pearline create tasty dots of mozzarella, strewn across hot or chilled cooked vegetables.
  • Fruit Salads. Another way to enjoy fruit and cheese! For dessert, try ciliegine and melon balls with snipped basil and a light vinaigrette dressing.
  • Green Salads, Pasta Salads. Toss the smaller sizes into green salads or pasta salads. They elevate

     
    RECIPE: STRING BEAN SALAD WITH CUCUMBER & MOZZARELLA

    Here’s how the Crave brothers are enjoying their mozzarella: with green beans and cucumbers.

    Ingredients

  • Steamed green beans, room temperature
  • Cucumber slices
  • Perlini
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: fresh herbs—basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme or other favorite
  • Dressing: fruity vinaigrette, with olive oil and berry- or cherry-infused vinegar; or a balsamic vinaigrette
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOSS all ingredients. Since there are no greens to get soggy, you can do this ahead of time.

    2. SERVE chilled or at room temperature.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Petite Crème From Stonyfield

    petite-creme-beauty-spoon-230

    New Petite Crème, a creamy yogurt
    alternative without the tang of yogurt. Photo
    courtesy Stonyfield.

     

    The category of Greek yogurt has exploded in the U.S. Is there anyone who isn’t eating it? The Greek category accounts for 47% of all U.S. yogurt sales.

    Yes! A large enough number of people don’t care for the tang, such that Stonyfield, a subsidiary of French dairy giant Danone (of Dannon yogurt fame) that specializes in organic yogurt, has introduced a product to capture their business:

    Called Petite Crème (PEH-tee CREHM), it’s a French dairy product called fromage frais (fresh cheese), known in Germany and elsewhere as quark.

    Fromage frais is high-moisture-content, unaged cheese: drained, coagulated milk (simple lactic set curd) intended to be eaten within days of its production. It is most popularly eaten for breakfast or with fruit for dessert. In the U.S., it is waiting to step right in where the yogurt-averse fear to tread.

    Fromage frais has a creamy, soft texture and fresh, sweet flavor, although the fromage frais cheeses of the U.S. are less flavorful than those made in other countries from unpasteurized milk (U.S. law requires all cheeses aged fewer than 60 days to be made of pasteurized milk to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria; pasteurization kills off friendly, tasty bacteria in the process).

     

    Petite Crème has the consistency of yogurt without the tang and debuts in seven flavors:

  • Belle Blueberry
  • La Vie en Strawberry
  • Mon Cherry Amour
  • Ooh La La Peach
  • Plain & Simple
  • Strawberry-Banana Ménage
  • Vive la Vanilla!
  •  
    The Stonyfield line is certified kosher by OU.

     

    The all-organic ingredients include cultured pasteurized nonfat milk, sugar, cream, cornstarch, vanilla or other flavors and guar gum. What’s missing? Live and active cultures, like Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.

    In yogurt, the cultures ferment the milk, causing the thickening. With Petite Creme, cornstarch and guar gum (a bean-based powder) the job.

    The nutritional content is similar to Greek yogurt: 10g protein per 5.3 ounce cup.

  • For the plain variety, calories per 5.3 ounce serving are 100, 30 from fat, with 5g sugar that is the lactose in the milk.
  • A fruit flavor, such as Strawberry, has 30 calories, 25 from fat, and 15 g sugar.
  •  
    We recently had the opportunity to taste all the flavors and have two personal favorites: Mon Cherry Amour, with intense black cherry flavor, and Plain & Simple, the original fromage frais.

     

    Petite-Creme-plain-230

    Be sure to try the plain version as well as the fruit flavors. Photo courtesy Stonyfield.

     

    ABOUT CHEESE RECIPES

    Fromage frais, quark, yogurt: What’s the difference? Cheese and yogurt* are made from a common ingredient—milk. But depending on how that milk is handled, thousands of different recipes result.

    Cheese is produced from milk due to the activity of special dairy bacteria and the action of rennet. These act on the proteins in milk, causing them to coalesce into a gel-like curd which is the beginning of cheese.

  • Milk type and butterfat level
  • Amount and type of cultures (bacteria)
  • Amount of rennet
  • Added moisture (water)
  • Time and temperature at which the milk is heated
  • Brining time and additives (beer or wine, for example)
  • Size of the cut curds
  • Length of time stirred
  • How the whey is removed
  • How the rind is treated
  • Ripening time
  •  
    Minor changes in any of these areas can have a dramatic affect on the final product.
     
    *Yogurt is not a fresh cheese. The definition of cheese requires rennet. Even though yogurt has a texture very similar to fromage frais and quark, there is no rennet in yogurt. Rennet coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). Curds and whey exist separately even in fresh cheeses like fromais frais, where they are not visible to the naked eye.
      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Live & Active Cultures In Frozen Yogurt

    pinkberry-coffee-230

    Inside: 10 million or more live and active
    cultures. Photo courtesy Pinkberry.

     

    “What happens to the beneficial bacteria in frozen yogurt,” a reader writes. “Does freezing kill them?”

    No. Live culture frozen yogurt maintains the cultures’ benefits because the flash-freezing technique used in the production of frozen yogurt, unlike slow freezing in a freezer, only makes the organisms dormant. It does not kill them—or at least not all of them, as the number of bacteria in frozen yogurt is usually lower than that in the fresh yogurt from which it was made.

    Yogurt is made by culturing milk with bacterial cultures. The words “live and active cultures” refer to the living organisms, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus*, which convert pasteurized milk into yogurt during fermentation. (Note that the milk is pasteurized before culturing in order to remove any harmful bacteria.)

    This fermentation process is what creates yogurt, with its unique taste, texture, and healthful attributes. The yogurt cultures—all the strains of bacteria added to the product—make up about 1% of the ingredients.

     

    Not all yogurt has live and active cultures. Just as some manufacturers use different combinations of cultures, frozen yogurts are created with different processes. Some are heat-treated after culturing, which extends the shelf life of fresh yogurt but kills the cultures.

    Why should you care about the live organisms? There is preliminary scientific evidence suggesting that live cultures in regular and frozen yogurt can boost your immune system, prevent osteoporosis, and prevent gastrointestinal infections, ultimately helping your digestive system as a whole.

     
    *Other cultures may be added as well, but these are always the first two.

     

    Different yogurt brands, fresh and frozen alike, add probiotics, which aid with digestion. Red Mango is one frozen yogurt brand that adds probiotics. Yovation is a packaged brand found in some natural food stores.

    The levels that remain in frozen yogurt depend upon the numbers that were in the fresh yogurt from which it was made, and on the hardiness of the specific cultures that were used. Thus, Some frozen yogurts are better sources of live cultures and/or probiotics than others.

    In order to receive the National Yogurt Association’s Live & Active Cultures seal—a voluntary labeling program—frozen yogurt is required to contain at least 10 million cultures per gram at time of manufacture (for fresh yogurt, it is 100 million per gram). The amount was agreed upon by research scientists who participated in studies of the health benefits of live cultures in yogurt products.

    If you like a brand that doesn’t have the seal but want to know what’s inside, contact the manufacturer to ask what types of bacteria their product contains and how many live and active cultures are in the finished product.

     

    live-active-cultures-seal-natyogassn-230

    Look for the seal on boxes and containers. Image courtesy National Yogurt Association.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Burrata & Fruit Dessert

    We love burrata, and love it all the time since our local Trader Joe’s always has it in stock.

    In this recipe from EatWisconsinCheese.com, burrata provides a different take on a fruit and cheese dessert. It’s more special than simply putting out a platter of cheeses and fruits, but not much more difficult.

  • Using lush summer peaches or nectarines.
  • Instead of burrata, you can substitute fresh goat cheese, mascarpone or ricotta—or a bit of each!
  •  
    RECIPE: BURRATA & FRUIT

    Ingredients

  • Burrata
  • Granola
  • Sliced fresh fruit
  • Honey
  • Optional garnish: pistachio nuts
  •    

    burrata-peaches-eatwisconsincheese-230

    A simple dessert with delicious, fresh flavors. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. SCOOP granola into an individual bowl or onto a dessert plate.

    2. SLICE fruit and arrange atop granola.

    3. TOP with two quarters of a burrata.

    4. DRIZZLE with honey and garnish with chopped pistachio nuts.

     

    sliced-whole-230

    Burrata: a shell of mozzarella with a
    creamy center. Photo by Elvira Kalviste |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    WHAT IS BURRATA

    Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, creamy and luscious, made in the Apulia region of Italy. The name means “buttery” in Italian. It’s a hollow ball of mozzarella di bufala, filled with panna, cream that contains scraps of mozzarella left over from mozzarella-making.

    How Burrata Is Made

    Small pieces of mozzarella curd are soaked in a bath of hot water and sea salt. The cheese is then cooked and stretched with a wooden spoon until the curds can be stretched to create a pouch. The pouch is filled with a combination of mascarpone cheese, ricotta cheese and heavy cream, and tied off with a knot.

    Some cheese makers use different recipes, but the center is always a rich, oozing cream. When you cut into the ball, the cream oozes out.

    In Italy, the cheese is packed into plastic bags with a bit whey to keep it moist, and the bag is tied with a fronds of an Italian plant called asphodel, a relative of the leek. The cheese is highly perishable, and the leaf is an indicator of freshness. As long as the leaf is still fresh and green, the cheese within is still fresh. Dried-out leaves mean a cheese is past its prime.

    This addictively good cheese was created by a mother (or father) of invention, in the Puglia region of southern Italy. Cheesemakers had curds left over from making mozzarella.

     
    Who Invented Burrata

    Somewhere around 1920 in the town of Andria, a member of the Bianchini family figured out how to repurpose the curds, and burrata was born. It was a local product, premium priced, and remained the delight of the townspeople only for some thirty years.

    In the 1950s, some of the local cheese factories began to produce burrata, and more people discovered its charms. Only in recent years, thanks to more economical overnighting of refrigerated products, did we find it in New York City’s finest cheese shops.

    It was love at first bite.

    Burrata Today

    When we first wrote about burrata seven years ago it was hard to come by, made only in Puglia and flown to the U.S. The limited amount that was imported went straight to top cheese stores; the minute it appeared on store shelves, it was snatched up by burrata lovers on the prowl. (We knew what day of the week the plane set down.)

    But that’s old news. Since then, American cheese makers have been making burrata, and much of it is just as delicious and creamy as the Apulian product.

    Burrata works with sweet or savory pairings. In addition to fruit (figs, pears…any fruit, really), serve it as a first course, cheese course, light lunch or snack:

  • With crusty bread and tomatoes
  • With prosciutto
  • In a “deluxe” Caprese salad
  • With a salad garnished with beets and toasted pecans or walnuts
  •  
    Once, at the end of a trade show, we were given several burratas to take home. We used three of them to top a pizza: a memorable luxury.

    For breakfast the next day, we married the burrata with pan-fried slices of herbed polenta and sundried tomatoes, but it could just as easily have been fruit and honey.

    The memories still resonate happily, whenever we pass a cheese case.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Poached Egg As A Glamorous Ingredient

    poached-egg-frisee-dueforniLV-230

    Who could resist a frisée salad with pork
    belly, prosciutto and truffle vinaigrette? And
    how about that poached egg? Photo courtesy
    Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    People who don’t like to eat salad—and of course, those who do—may well be tempted by this creation from Due Forni in Las Vegas.

    To a bed of frisée, the chef adds:

  • Cubes of crisp pork belly (substitute bacon or Canadian bacon)
  • San Danielle prosciutto*
  • A poached egg
  • Truffle oil vinagrette (recipe)
  • Croutons
  • Shaved Grana Padano or other Italian grating cheese
  •  
    This recipe also includes a bundle of asparagus, creating a heartier salad course or vegetarian entrée.

    But the “big idea” ingredient is the poached egg. The humble breakfast food; when paired with other ingredients, adds a unique glamor.

    The smooth texture of the poached egg white contrasts nicely with the rough salad ingredients; the broken yoke adds a silky sauce on top of the delicious truffle vinaigrette. (For this reason, go lightly when you toss the frisée with the vinaigrette.)

     
    *You can use any prosciutto. San Daniele is a PDO-designated prosciutto made in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Food trivia: The ham’s name derives from the Latin words pro and exsuctus, which roughly mean “to remove the moisture.” The ham is hung in sheds and air-dried in pure mountain air to create the beloved Italian ham.
     
    HOW TO POACH EGGS

    1. FILL a large, deep saucepan with 2 inches of water. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium.

    2. BREAK 1 egg into small dish. Carefully slide the egg into the simmering water (bubbles should begin to break the surface of the water). Repeat with the remaining eggs. Poach the eggs for 3 to 5 minutes or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken.

    3. CAREFULLY REMOVE the eggs with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

    If you’re not adept at poaching eggs, try these egg poaching pods. The uniform roundness they create isn’t as attractive as a naturally-poached egg, but it beats the frustration of trying to harness meandering egg whites.

     
    ASSEMBLE THE SALAD

    1. COOK the lardons; set aside. You’ll note in the photo above that the lardons are cut in large slices. You can cut them into smaller cubes, into julienne strips, or however you like. Plan for two or three lardons per plate.

    2. CUT the prosciutto as needed into smaller strips. If you cut a slice in half lengthwise, try rolling it into a “rose” or similar shape for aesthetic effect. One “rose” per plate is sufficient.

    3. TOSS the frisée with vinaigrette (you can first warm the vinaigrette in the microwave for 10 seconds) and distribute among individual salad plates. Top with the pork belly and prosciutto.

    4. NESTLE the poached egg atop the greens. Top with shaved grana padano and scatter the croutons. Serve with a pepper mill for fresh-ground pepper.

     

    LIKE FRISÉE SALAD?

    It’s a favorite of ours! Here are more ideas for frisée salad.

    But there’s more!

     
    POACHED EGG & GRILLED VEGGIES

    We “poached” this idea from the Facebook page of The Guilded Nut, which specializes in flavored pistachio nuts (Garlic, Habanero, Mediterranean Herb, Sea Salt & Pepper).

    Here, a poached egg is surrounded by grilled scallions and garnished with chopped pistachios.

    You can use any grilled vegetables, including leftovers. Heat them in a skillet or in the microwave and serve them with the egg(s). Grated Grana Padano or Parmesan works well here, too.

     

    poached-egg-grilled-scallions-pistachios-theguildednutFB-230sq

    Poached egg with grilled scallions. Photo courtesy The Guilded Nut | Facebook.

     

  • Serve with hearty toast for breakfast or brunch.
  • You can also build on this simple dish and turn it into a luncheon salad or light dinner entrée. Add lardons, Canadian bacon, sliced steak or other protein (lobster tail, anyone?).
  • You can use the poached egg to top an attractive dish of leftovers. Include grains and potatoes, too.
  •   

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