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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: 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.
  •   

    Comments

    BOOK: Everyday Cheesemaking

    everyday-cheesemaking-230

    Are you ready to make cheese? Photo
    courtesy Microcosm Publishing.

     

    A copy of this small paperback arrived yesterday. We picked it up and read it straight through to the end. It’s a real page-turner, and we’ve never even thought about making cheese.

    (O.K., we did make mozzarella once, from a kit, and made butter with a tabletop butter churn).

    “Everyday Cheesemaking: How to Succeed at Making Dairy and Nut Cheese at Home,” by K. Ruby Blume, is a treasure for the knowledge that it imparts, and especially the teachings on why things go wrong and how to fix them.

    Ms. Blume had purchased cheese books to teach herself how to make cheese. The problem is, unlike baking brownies, many things can go wrong in the cheesemaking process, resulting in a lot of wasted time and milk.

    So after she learned, she shared her knowledge via cheesemaking classes, and now this book. It is targeted to “everyday people” who have other jobs, and want to make cheese easily for the joy of it (or perhaps more accurately, to impress their friends and family with delicious homemade cheese). It is very clear on what can go wrong and how to avoid it.

     
    Ready, Set, Make Cheese!

    As we thumbed through page after page of how-to, we, who have never thought of it, wanted to run right out for the milk to make feta and ricotta, two cheeses we love and the easiest recipes in the book.

    The book covers a wide rage of homemade cheeses, from fresh cheeses such as chevre, halloumi, queso fresco and mozzarella to aged classics such as blue cheese, Brie and Camembert.

    In addition to cheese, you can make buttermilk, sour cream and yogurt, as well as vegan cheese, made from ingredients like nuts or soy protein.

    The book is published by Microcosm Publishing, a small publisher in Portland, Oregon. We like the book so much that we forgive them the errata that should have been caught: many missing commas, typos like “feed” instead of “fed,” and a duplication of the same paragraph.

    But these don’t get in the way of the fine writing style and the wealth of information. This is a great gift for anyone who has thought of making cheese.

    Get yours on Amazon.com.

     
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Gourmet Lassi From That Indian Drink

    We wish Ipshita Pall would invite us to dinner. Now that we’ve had her lassi yogurt drink, we’re dying to taste her food.

    Ms. Pall is a trained French culinary chef experienced in Indian-Latin fine dining.

    We enjoy all lassi, but so far, we like That Indian Drink’s products the best. Chef-crafted, they use fresh fruit instead of purchased concentrates and purées. And oh, the spices!

    The spices make a delightful difference—so much so that Chef Ipshita and her husband, Amrit Singh, were convinced to sell it commercially (their company is called The Indian Milk & Honey Co.). The result are three flavors, each more wonderful than the next:

  • Alphonse Mango Lassi
  • Blueberry Cardamom Lassi
  • Raspberry Cinnamon Lassi
  •  
    The ingredients include rBST-free lowfat milk, fruit, live active cultures, cane sugar and spices; 130 to 150 calories per eight-ounce serving. That Indian Drink isn’t just good, it’s good for you!

    Each bottle delivers more than a full serving of fruit, 7 grams of protein, dietary fiber, probiotics, antioxidants and addictive deliciousness.

       

    blueberry-cardamom-fruit-230

    Blueberry Cardamom is one of four delicious fruit flavors. Photo courtesy The Indian Milk & Honey Co.

     
    Look for That Indian Drink at Whole Foods Markets and other natural foods channels. Here’s the store locator.

    WHAT IS LASSI?

    Lassi is a traditional Indian-style yogurt-based drink blended with ripe fruits and spices—in essence, the original smoothie.

    The word “lassi” means “yogurt drink” in Hindi. The light, cool and creamy beverage originated in India around 1000 B.C.E. The probiotic cultures in the yogurt are believed to have healing properties in Ayurvedic medicine.

    As with kefir, another yogurt-based beverage that originated in the Middle East, lassi can often be tolerated by lactose-intolerant people. The probiotic bacteria compensate for the lack of an intolerant person’s production of lactase, the enzyme that digests milk proteins.

     

    strawberry-lassi-230

    Surprise friends and family with a refreshing
    glass of Lassi. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Lassi is a simpler recipe than kefir.

  • Kefir is made by adding a colony of bacteria and yeast to milk.
  • Lassi can be made simply by mixing milk or water into plain or flavored yogurt. Some historians believe that lassi may have been created as a way to stretch yogurt in the bowl, by stirring some liquid into it.
  •  
    You can find plain lassi, sweet lassi and savory lassi.

    Depending on the milk with which it is made—cow, goat, sheep, soy, water buffalo and yak—the taste and texture of the drink will vary widely.

    WHEN TO DRINK LASSI

    In India, lassi is served as an apéritif, drunk savory with meals, enjoyed sweet as a light dessert, or as a healthful sweet or savory refreshment at any time of day.

    Savory lassi is a perfect drink with spicy Indian food. Sweet lassi—yogurt and fruit often blended with ice cubes these days—is a smoothie, appropriate for a quick breakfast, a light lunch, rejuvenating snack or a light dessert.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Prosciutto & Peaches

    prosciutto-peaches-charliepalmer-briscola-230sq

    Peaches with prosciutto and a drizzle of
    balsamic, from Briscola by Charlie Palmer in
    Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort.

     

    Juicy summer peaches beg to be enjoyed in as many ways as possible. For a delicious first course or a dessert, pair them with prosciutto and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar—an update to the classic melon or figs with prosciutto.

    To amp up the first course, add fresh chèvre and some lightly dressed mesclun.

    You can also replace the prosciutto with serrano ham. Here’s the difference.

    Serve the dish with prosciutto-friendly Italian white wines such as Italian Moscato, Pinot Grigio or Prosecco; or look northward and grab an Alsatian-style Pinot Gris, Gewürtztraminer or Riesling.

    WHAT IS PROSCIUTTO

    Prosciutto is the Italian word for ham; specifically a dry-cured, uncooked ham that is aged for 400 days or longer. It originated in the hills around Parma, Italy.

     

     

    The pigs are fed a special diet of whey and grains, and the hams are trimmed and massaged with natural sea salt before aging. Prosciutto is served in thin slices, showing off rosy-colored meat with a pearl-white marbling of fat.

    Prosciutto di Parma, called Parma ham in English, is made from only two ingredients—pork leg and sea salt. What makes a great prosciutto is the artisan curing that creates prosciutto crudo (raw prosciutto, distinguished from cooked ham, or prosciutto cotto).

    The pork leg is carefully hand-rubbed with salt. It then passes through a series of curing rooms of different temperatures and humidity levels.

    Prosciutto made in the Parma and Langhirano areas of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna province is D.O.P.-protected by the European Union (in English, it’s D.P.O. or Domaine of Protected Origin). Prosciutto from other cities is also D.O.P. protected, but Prosciutto di Parma is the most famous export.

    Prosciutto-style products are made elsewhere in the world. La Quercia, in Iowa, is a fine domestic producer.

     

    proscuitto-laquercia-murrays-230


    American-made prosciutto from LaQuercia in Iowa. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY PROSCIUTTO

    Prosciutto is served plain as part of an antipasto or appetizer plate. In Italy, restaurants serve prosciutto in overlapping folded-over slices with bread or bread sticks as an appetizer, or wrapped around melon slices, with dates, figs or pears.

    The ham is incorporated into many recipes: wrapped around chicken, rolled with veal scallopini and diced into pasta and risotto. Find recipes at ParmaHam.com.

    But if you want to enjoy it as an Italian ham sandwich—on crusty baguette-style bread with arugula, tomatoes, mozzarella or provolone and a sprinkle of vinagrette—we think it’s an improvement on the American version.

    A drizzle of honey or some honey mustard also works.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Blue Cheese BLT Sandwich

    blt-blue-cheese-castelloUSA-230

    Add blue cheese for a tangy twist to the BLT.
    Photo courtesy Castello.

     

    We’ve had chicken salad BLTs and turkey BLTs, but were only recently inspired by Castello USA to make this blue cheese BLT.

    It’s a lovely a new take on a BLT:

  • Blue Castello (or other rich, creamy blue cheese)
  • Sliced heirloom tomatoes
  • Arugula
  • Bacon
  • Mayonnaise
  • On a toasted baguette
  •  
    You can make it vegetarian by substituting Baconnaise [a NIBBLE favorite] or Nasoya’s Nayonaise and optional vegan bacon, such as Smart Bacon from Lightlife.

    Enjoy it open face or not, with a cold beer.

     

    It may be the perfect sandwich to enjoy over July 4th holiday: It’s red (tomato), white (bread and blue cheese) and blue (blue cheese again).

    You can apply the same principle to the red, white and blue burger in the photo below, adding a slice of red onion.

     

    Other “patriotic” ways to serve blue cheese and tomatoes (you can subtsitute peppadews or red bell pepper):

  • Bagel with blue cheese/cream cheese spread (mix half and half), tomato and red onion
  • Blue cheese nachos (with red salsa)
  • Breakfast omelet or scrambled eggs (use halved cherry or grape/pear tomatoes—and add red onion)
  • Blue cheese-stuffed peppadews
  • Fruit and cheese plate, with red apples and grapes
  • Green salad with red onion, tomato and blue cheese garnish
  • Grilled cheese and red apple panini
  • Plain Greek yogurt with red onion, tomato and blue cheese toppings
  • Stuffed radicchio or red endive leaves (mash blue cheese with a bit of mayo or yogurt)
  •  

    blue-cheese-burger-castello-230

    Red, white and blue burger. Photo courtesy Castello.

     
    MORE RECIPES FROM CASTELLO

    Castello has a long heritage of making creatively crafted cheese in Denmark. Each type of cheese is made at a single dairy, which specializes in the production of that particular cheese.

    There are many more more delicious recipes with all of Castello’s cheeses at CastelloCheese.com.

    We especially earmarked:

  • Baked Apples With Blue Cheese (Recipe)
  • Blue Cheese-Pineapple Souffle (Recipe)
  • Grilled Eggplant & Tomato Sandwich (Recipe)
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese Plate With Bacon

    cheese-carpaccio-w-bacon-castello-230

    A cheese course with bacon. Photo courtesy
    Castello.

     

    Thanks to Castello, a Danish producer of classic cheeses, for this cheese plate inspiration. The cheese is sliced into thin, carpaccio*-like slivers.

    For the cheese course, Castello used its Castello Alps Selection Classic, an Alpine-style cheese (the category of semifirm cheeses that includes Appenzeller, Gruyère, Raclette and Vacherin Mont-d’Or, among others).

    It’s easy to make.

  • Fry up the bacon, ideally a specialty brand such as Edwards, Niman Ranch or Nueske.
  • If you have a mandoline, use it to slice the cheese into carpaccio-like pieces. Otherwise, slice cold cheese as thinly as you can.
  • You can turn it into the salad course by adding some lightly dressed mesclun or frisée.
     
    *Carpaccio is a dish of raw meat or fish, thinly sliced or pounded thin and typically served mainly as a first course.

  •  
    RECIPE: CHEESE PLATE “CARPACCIO” WITH BACON

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 3 ounces (100 g) semihard cheese, very thinly sliced
  • 4 bacon slices, cooked and cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarsely ground pepper
  • 4 lemon wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ARRANGE cheese and optional salad on two plates. Add bacon.

    2. TOP with capers. Sprinkle cheese with olive oil and fresh-cracked pepper.

    3. ADD the lemon wedges and serve.

     

    WHAT IS SEMIHARD CHEESE?

    Semihard is a classification of cheese based upon the body of the cheese, based mainly on the moisture content. Most semihard (and hard) cheeses are pressed during production to remove moisture. As they age, they become firmer, more pungent and crumbly.

    What about semisoft cheeses? Semisoft cheese contains more than 45% water, while semihard cheese contains 30% to 45%. A cheese can start as semisoft, then move to semihard as it ages and moisture evaporates.

    Because semihard cheeses contain less moisture than the soft and soft-ripened types, they hold their shape much better and can be easily sliced—a requirement for the recipe above.

    The semihard category includes a broad range of textures and ages, from semifirm to very firm and from cheeses that are only weeks old to those aged for several months or more.

     

    castello_alps_classic-230

    Use Castello Classic or other Alpine-style or semihard cheese. Photo courtesy Castello.

     
    Examples include Abondance, Appenzeller, young Asiago, Beaufort, Caciotta, Caerphilly, Cantal, Cheddar, Cheshire, Colby, Comté, Danbo, Derby, Edam, Emmental, Fontina, Fontinella, Gjetost, Gloucester, aged Gouda, Gruyère, Idiazabal, Jarlsberg, Lancashire, Leicester, Leyden, Manchego, Provolone, Raclette, Saint Nectaire, Tête de Moine, Queso Blanco and Wensleydale, among others. So you’ve got lots of choices for the cheese plate “carpaccio.”

    Find more of the different types of cheese in our Cheese Glossary.

    Learn more about Castello cheeses, and check out the delicious recipes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE SAY: Season Your Feta

    feta-beauty-eatwisconsincheese-230

    Feta, plain and seasoned. Photo courtesy
    EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     

    If you enjoy a homemade Greek salad or other recipes accented with feta cheese, here’s how to make them even better:

    Roll the feta cheese in dried or fresh herbs before cutting into cubes or strips, or crumbling. It adds instant flavor and dimension. For starters, consider basil, chives, cracked black pepper, dill, oregano and thyme. If you like heat, consider red chili flakes.

    While you’re at it, develop your own signature Greek salad recipe by adding complex flavors and textures beyond the classic six ingredients: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, Kalamata olives and stuffed grape leaves.

    RECIPE: CLASSIC GREEK SALAD

    Ingredients

  • Romaine, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Tomatoes, cut into wedges (or cherry tomatoes)
  • Cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • Red onion or sweet onion, sliced
  • Bell pepper, sliced into strips or diced into squares
  • Radishes, sliced
  • Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)
  • Anchovies/sardines
  • Feta, cut into cubes or crumbled
  • Kalamata olives
  • Peperoncini
  • Capers
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Oregano plus optional dill and/or flat-leaf parsley
  • Dressing: extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or red wine vinegar
  •  
    The one thing you don’t need is salt: Feta, which is cured in brine (salt water), has enough on its own.

    In Greece, the dish is horiatiki, which translates into country, peasant salad or rustic salad.

    Serve it with crusty peasant bread and a dish of good olive oil for dipping.

     

    Preparation

    1. TOSS lettuce with bell pepper, black pepper, capers, cucumber, herbs olives, radishes and tomato.

    2. DRESS with oil and vinegar/lemon juice if desired (or serve dressing separately). Plate.

    2. TOP with anchovies/sardines, feta and peperoncini.
     
    WHAT IS FETA CHEESE

    Feta is Greece’s most famous cheese*, a pure white, aged curd cheese that crumbles easily. While the cheese has been made since antiquity, the modern name came into the Greek language in the 17th century, from the Italian word fetta, slice, referring to slicing the cheese from the brick.

    Authentic feta is a sheep’s milk cheese, or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milks. Outside of the European Union, where it is protected designation of origin (PDO) product, it can also be made of cow’s milk. The cheese is semi-hard, with a flavor that can range from mild and milky to salty with a very tangy acidity.
     
    *Other Greek cheeses.

     

    greek-salad-its-all-greek-to-me-book-230

    Feta cheese with olives, a drizzle of olive oil and bread: a delicious mezze (appetizer). Photo by Frente | Wikimedia.

     

    Authentic feta is formed into bricks and salted and cured in a brine solution. It is aged in wood barrels for 60 days, creating a creamy, tangy cheese with citric notes.

    Only 2% of the feta consumed in the U.S. actually comes from Greece. Much of it is saltier feta from Bulgaria and other countries. Some feta is simply too salty. You can soak oversalted pieces it in water or milk to remove some of the saltiness.

    Find more favorite types of cheese in our Cheese Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit & Cheese Bites

    dried-apricots-parmigianoreggianoFB-230r

    Dried apricot and Parmesan “sandwiches.”
    You can sandwich almost any cheese
    between the fruit. Photo courtesy
    ParmigianoReggiano.com | FB.

     

    Fruit and cheese is a popular dessert in Europe’s best foodie countries, including France and Italy. But you don’t need to put together a platter. We found this quick idea on the Parmigiano Reggiano Facebook page.

    Make fruit and cheese “bites.” Stuff dried apricots, fresh or dried figs or other dried or fresh fruits with a piece of cheese—with anything from creamy goat cheese to salty, tangy Parmigiano Reggiano.

    These suggestions from EatWisconsinCheese.com provide pairing ideas along with drink ideas beyond the conventional beer, red or white wines most people serve with cheese:
     
    Soft-Fresh Cheeses
    Cheeses: Chevre, Feta, Mascarpone, Ricotta
    Fruits: Figs (fresh, dried or stewed), Fresh Peaches, Plums
    Garnishes: Pistachios, Toasted Almonds or Walnuts*, Fruit Jam
    Drinks: Chenin Blanc, Green Tea
     
    *Raw nuts have a slight bitterness. The best way to serve nuts with cheese is toasted or candied/caramelized. Almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts go best with cheese.

     
    Soft-Ripened Cheeses
    Cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Other Double Crèmes
    Fruits: Dried Apricots
    Garnishes: Dried Cherries or Cranberries
    Drinks: Cherry Kriek, Kir Royale, Lillet (fortified wine)
     
    Blue Cheeses
    Cheeses: Cabrales, Danish Blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort
    Fruits: Dried Apricots, Figs (fresh or dried, or any dried fruit), Stone Fruit, Apples
    Garnishes: Caramelized Hazelnuts or Walnuts, Dried Cherries or Cranberries, Honey, Fruit Jam, Membrillo, Toasted Almonds
    Drinks: Chocolate Stout, Gin Gibson

     

    Semisoft Cheeses
    Cheeses: Fontina, Havarti, Monterey Jack, Muenster
    Fruits: Apples, Pears (fresh, dried or spiced and preserved), Quince
    Garnishes: Toasted Hazelnuts or Walnuts, Tomato Jam, Vegetable Tapanade
    Drinks: Gewürtztraminer, Kirsch Royale (with Champagne)
     

    Hispanic Cheeses
    Cheeses: Asadero, Cotija, Queso Bresco
    Fruits: Dried Apricots or Figs
    Garnishes: Toasted Nuts
    Drinks: Cava, Mead (honey wine), Mexican Beer
     
    Semihard Cheeses
    Cheeses: Cheddar, Edam, Gouda
    Fruits: Dried Apricots, Honeycrisp Apples, Pears
    Garnishes:Caramelized or Toasted Nuts, Jams/Compotes (apricot, blueberry, fig, quince)
    Drinks: Ale (especially fall’s spiced ales), Riesing, Small Batch Bourbon, Sparkling Cider

    Alpine/Swiss Cheeses
    Cheeses: Comté, Gruyère, Emmenthaler
    Fruits: Any Dried Fruit
    Garnishes: Toasted Nuts
    Drinks: Lambic, Manhattan Cocktail

     

    comte-figs-compteUSAfb-230

    Fresh figs with Comté wraps. Photo courtesy Comté USA | FB.

     
    Hard Cheeses
    Cheeses: Asiago, Grana Padano, Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Romano
    Fruits: Dates, Figs (fresh or dried)
    Garnishes: Fig Jam, Honey, Membrillo, Toasted Almonds or Marcona Almonds
    Drinks: Sparkling Prosecco, Nebbiolo
     
    MORE ABOUT CHEESE

    Check out our delicious Cheese Glossary and much more about gourmet cheeses.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Creme Fraiche, Mascarpone, Sour Cream

    creme-fraiche-in-pail-beauty-vtcreamery-230

    In photos, four cream-based products look
    alike. But the flavor, weight and production
    techniques differ. Vive la différence! Photo
    courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     

    Cream is easily whipped into a delicious topping or filling. With a bit more effort at the dairy, it can be turned into enriched creams, including clotted cream, crème fraîche, mascarpone and sour cream. Each has its own distinct character, each is a gift to people who love a bit of richness.

    IT STARTS WITH MILK

    Cream starts with milk, a suspension of whey proteins, casein proteins and globules of fat in water. The largest amount of the suspension is fat, which is also the lightest component. If the milk is not homogenized, it rises to the top to a rich cream layer. The longer the milk sits at warm temperatures (which speed separation), the richer and thicker the cream becomes.*

    Cream can also be thickened by fermenting with Lactobacillus bacteria, which is how three of our four featured, enhanced creams are made.

    In the U.S., the raw milk is heated (pasteurized) and the fat (cream) is separated (leaving nonfat milk). It can then be processed into different products:

  • Clotted cream/Devon cream, which relies on boiling and resting time to thicken (double cream is similar to clotted cream but with a higher fat content).
  • Crème fraîche, cream cultured/thickened with Lactobacillus bacteria, a lighter, thinner alternative to sour cream†.
  • Mascarpone, the Italian version of crème fraîche, but thicker and sweeter, soured by a lactic culture or an acid like vinegar or cream of tartar.
  • Sour cream, cream that gets its sharp, tart edge by adding Lactobacillus culture.
  •  
    *Historically, dairy farmers skimmed the cream from shallow pans of milk, let it sit again, and did this repeatedly to get the richest cream. Modern dairies use massive centrifuges to perform the same task in seconds (and produce creams with a consistent percentage of milk fat).

    †Note that depending on the producer, crème fraîche can be thicker than sour cream, or vice versa.
     

    The three cultured creams all have a delightful, piquant edge. We like them even better than the simple, often-too-sweet whipped cream, to garnish chocolate cakes and other sweet, rich desserts.
     
    MILK FAT COMPARISONS

    These comparisons help to explain the difference among products created from milk. Note that the percentages are averages; different dairies can manage their recipes to include more or less fat. (Note that milk fat/milkfat is the same as butter fat/butterfat.)

  • Nonfat milk: 0%-1% fat
  • 1% and 2% milk: 1%-2% fat
  • Lowfat milk: 2%-4% fat
  • Whole milk: 4% fat
  • Half-and-half: 12%-15% fat (it’s half milk, half cream)
  • Sour cream: 18%-20% fat
  • Light cream: 18%-30% fat
  • Heavy cream (whipping cream): 30%-36% fat
  • Crème fraîche: 35%-40% fat
  • Heavy whipping cream: 36%-44% fat
  • Manufacturer’s cream: 44% fat or higher (not available in consumer markets)
  • Double cream: 43%-48% fat or higher
  • Clotted cream/Devon cream: 60% fat
  • Mascarpone: 70%-75% fat
  • Butter: 80%–84% fat
  •  
    CLOTTED CREAM or DEVON CREAM

    Heavy whipping cream is warmed gently to a near boil, so the fat globules float to the top and form a firm layer. It is then left to cool for a day. This is the famed clotted cream of Devon and Somerset, England: a very rich, thick delight of about 60% milk fat, with flavors both creamy and buttery.

    Clotted cream is popularly enjoyed with fruit preserves on scones, on other baked goods, or as a topping for fresh fruit.
     
    CRÈME FRAÎCHE

    Developed in France, crème fraîche (pronounced crehm fresh) is an often-thinner form of sour cream, with a more delicate texture and tartness.

    Cream is gently heated and then inoculated with bacterial cultures. The bacteria consume the cream’s natural sugars, producing lactic acid in exchange. This gentle acidity thickens the cream and imparts a mild, refreshing tang (less tang than sour cream because the amounts of the bacterial cultures used are far fewer).

    Crème fraîche is used as a topping, in sauces and other recipes. Aside from the celestial taste, the best thing about crème fraîche is that it can be heated and used in sauces without curdling.

    And, you can make it at home. Here’s a crème fraîche recipe; a quicker alternative is to blend equal amounts of heavy whipping cream and sour cream.

     

    MASCARPONE

    Mascarpone takes a third approach to thickening cream. The result is the richest, sweetest and most luscious; and spoonable, spreadable mascarpone is actually classified as a fresh cheese (a triple-crème).

    The cream is brought to a simmer until approximately a third of its original volume has evaporated. Then, an acid ingredient such as vinegar or cream of tartar is mixed into the warm, extra-rich cream. The acidity causes the cream to congeal to a thick, almost stiff texture, while retaining its mild and creamy flavor. It is the thickest and richest enriched cream, at 70%-75% milk fat.

    Mascarpone is intensely rich and used for desserts (cannoli filling, tiramisu, cheesecake, with fresh fruit) as well as in savory recipes (dips, sauces, spreads). It is often called “Italian cream cheese,” but the two products are technically different.

     

    mascarpone-berries-230

    Mmm, mmm, mascarpone! Photo by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

     

    SOUR CREAM

    To make sour cream, cream is fermented by lactic acid bacteria, which sours and thickens the cream. The production of lactic acid by bacterial fermentation is called souring. The taste of sour cream is only mildly sour—tangy would be a better word.

    Sour cream is used in recipes and as a garnish. When Little Miss Muffet ate her curds and whey, she was enjoying cottage cheese. We’d have topped it off with sour cream, which is how we enjoyed cottage cheese before we made the diet switch to nonfat yogurt.
     
    YOGURT

    Yogurt is milk—not cream—that is fermented with Lactobicillus bacteria. It can be used as sour cream is used, to cut back on cholesterol (fat) and calories.

    Some material in this article was adapted from GlobalPost.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Poached Egg With Lentils & Arugula

    lentils-poached-egg-theculinarychronicles-230

    A delicious trio of tastes: poached eggs,
    lentils and arugula. Photo courtesy
    CulinaryChronicles.com.

     

    We love to discover new food blogs and introduce our readers to their bounty. Today, we’d like to present a recipe from Nam of Culinary Chronicles. We encourage you to visit her blog for more.

    Nam used Safest Choice pasteurized eggs in this recipe. Pasteurized eggs are recommended in dishes that use raw eggs without further cooking (Caesar salad, mousse and steak tartare, for example). In this recipe the eggs are fully cooked, so pasteurized eggs are a nice luxury.

    Consider this tasty trio of protein, legume and green, leafy vegetable for weekend brunch or lunch, and a celebration of National Egg Month (see all the May food holidays).

    RECIPE: POACHED EGGS OVER LENTILS &
    ARUGULA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, thoroughly washed and dried
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup lentils
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh arugula leaves
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese shavings
  • Quality extra virgin olive oil
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter with the olive oil in a heavy bottom pot, over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, leeks and garlic. Sauté until softened but not browned—about 5-7 minutes.

    2. ADD the red chili flakes, thyme sprigs, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the lentils and then pour in the wine. Continue simmering until the wine has reduced and is nearly evaporated.

    3. ADD the vegetable stock and bay leaf and bring the liquids to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce to a simmer. Cook the lentils for about 25-30 minutes or until tender. While the lentils cook…

    4. BEGIN POACHING the eggs. Fill a separate pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a rolling boil. Pour in the vinegar and slightly lower the heat. Crack one egg into a small bowl. Take a spoon and swirl it around quickly in the pot to make a whirlpool in the water. Slowly pour the egg into the center of the whirlpool. The movement of the whirlpool will help the egg form but you can also use a spoon to help it along.

     

    arugula-salvatica-wild-burpee-230

    There are different varieties of arugula available. We prefer baby arugula, which has just enough pepperiness and none of the bitterness of some other varieties. Photo courtesy Burpee.

     

    After about 2 minutes…

    5. USE a slotted spoon to remove the egg and set aside in a warm bowl of water. Cook the eggs just under of how you’d normally like your eggs. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Once done, cover the pot and turn the heat down to low to keep the water hot.

    When the lentils are tender…

    6. REMOVE the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Drain any excess stock that may remain. Season with kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Toss the lentils with the arugula leaves and use a slotted spoon to plate into 4 dishes. Using the slotted spoon…

    7. DIP each poached egg into the pot of hot water to rewarm it. Gently blot them dry with a paper towel and place on top of each lentil mound. Place Parmesan cheese shards over plate and drizzle the tops with a bit of the olive oil. Garnish with additional thyme sprigs and serve immediately.

     
    FOOD TRIVIA: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PARMESAN AND PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

    In the European Union, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a D.O.P.-protected term that can only be used by members of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano, which approves each and every wheel of cheese as meeting the highest Consorzio standards (substandard cheeses are removed from the process before aging concludes).

    However, in 2008 the E.U. also defined the term “Parmesan” to refer to the genuine Consorzio cheeses. Prior to then, Parmesan referred to Parmigiano-Reggiano-style cheeses made outside the D.O.P.-designated regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy. Thus, within the E.U., Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano are the same cheese. (Why ask why?)

    In the U.S. and other parts of the world, the word “Parmesan” is not regulated. A cheese labeled as Parmesan in the U.S. is a domestic cheese approximating Parmigiano-Reggiano.

    Why is the word capitalized? It’s an editorial choice. Both Parmesan and Parmigiano are adjectival forms of Parma, the city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna where the cheese originated. We would apply the same style, for example, to an Iowan cheese or a Chicagoan cheese (as opposed to an iowan cheese or chicagoan cheese).

    Here’s more about Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

      

    Comments

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