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Archive for Cheese/Yogurt/Dairy

VALENTINE’S DAY: Fruit & Yogurt Or Smoked Salmon For Breakfast

fruit_kabobs_siggis-230

Smoked Salmon, Dill & Yogurt

Valentine Toast

Top: Yogurt and “Valentine fruit” for breakfast. Center: Smoked salmon for more sophisticated palates. Photos and recipes courtesy Siggi’s Dairy, producer of artisan yogurt. Bottom: “Valentine toast.” Photo courtesy SmellOfRosemary.Blogspot.com.

 

Following our recent article on chocolate pancakes for Valentine’s Day, one reader tweeted, “Got anything for health-conscious eaters that fits into the schedule of a busy working mom?”

Beth, this one’s for you and the kids. You can easily make one or both recipes.

RECIPE #1: FRUIT SKEWERS WITH VANILLA YOGURT DIP

Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 container (5.3 ounces) vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Fresh fruit (kiwi, melon, pineapple, etc.) sliced 3/4-inch thick
  • Optional: grapes or raspberries for “spacers”
  •  
    Plus

  • 1-inch heart cookie cutter
  • Ice pop sticks or skewers
  • Valentine toast (see below)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the yogurt and honey in a bowl; mix well and set aside.

    2. CUT the fruit with a small heart-shaped cookie cutter. Assemble the skewers, using grapes and/or raspberries between the hearts as desired.
     

    RECIPE #2: SMOKED SALMON & DILLED YOGURT

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 container plain fat-free yogurt
  • 3 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt & fresh-ground pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: lemon zest or thin lemon quarter*
  •  
    Plus

  • Valentine toast (see photo)
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Cut a thin wheel of lemon, then cut the circle into quarters.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT the smoked salmon into large but bite-size pieces.

    2. BLEND the yogurt and dill, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.

    3. SCOOP the yogurt into a bowl and top with the smoked salmon.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve.

     

    VALENTINE TOAST

    Make heart-shaped whole wheat toast with a heart-shaped cookie cutter of any size.

    Toast both the original slice of bread and the cut-out heart.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Valentine Cheese Plate

    To celebrate Valentine’s Day, some cheese lovers make the traditional Coeur à la Crème—sweetened mascarpone cheese in a heart-shaped mold—for dessert.

    It’s very rich, a kind of “French cheesecake.”

    Others serve a cheese course with their favorite cheeses.

    Still others assemble a plate of delicious heart-shaped cheeses. If you’d like to do the same, head to the best cheese stores in town. They’re certain to offer a few limited edition, heart-shaped delights for the big day.

    You can find both domestic heart-shape cheeses like Amour from Coach Farm, a semisoft, bloomy-rinded goat cheese made in New York State; and imports like Godminster Cheddar from the U.K.

    Others you may find include:

  • Capriole, a fresh goat cheese heart with pink peppercorns, made in Indiana.
  • Coeur de Bray, a heart-shaped Neufchâtel cheese from the Normandy region of France.
  • Coeur du Berry, a goat cheese from Fromagerie Jacquin in France, available in a plain heart or with an ash coating.
  •  
    Plus these three bloomy-rinded goat cheeses from Oregon’s River Edge Chèvre:

  • Petit Bonheur, studded with pink peppercorns (the name means “petite happiness”).
  • Heart’s Desire, coated with Spanish paprika for smoky flavor and reddish color.
  • Old Flame, a silky cheese without additional accents.
  •  
    THE HISTORY OF HEART-SHAPED CHEESE

    Heart-shaped cheeses are not a recent invention for Valentine’s Day (the history of Valentine’s Day). They originated more than 500 years ago in the little town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, in the Haute Normandy region of France.

    Most of the maidens in town worked as milkmaids and cheese makers. When some fell in love with the occupying British soldiers during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), they started to produce heart shapes from the local soft cheese (Neufchâtel), to give as gifts to their sweethearts.

    Note that American Neufchatel is very different from its French namesake. In the U.S. it is a name given to a lower-fat type of cream cheese.

     
    THE VALENTINE CHEESE PLATE

    Decorate the plate with fresh raspberries and strawberries or a scattering of pomegranate arils.

       

    Valentine Cheese Plate

    Coeur de Bray Neufchatel Cheese

    Coach Farms Amour Cheese

    Top: This gorgeous cheese and charcuterie plate from Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottseville, Virginia has pink, purple and red color accents that are spot-on for Valentine’s Day. Center: An aged Coeur De Bray Neufchâtel Cheese from Cheeses Of Europe. Bottom: Amour, a soft goat’s milk cheese from Coach Farm, available at Dean & DeLuca.

     
    Or, take inspiration from the gorgeous cheese and charcuterie platter in the top photo, created by Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottesville, Virginia. There’s enough for a party, but you can scale it down to your needs.

    Flora has created the Valentine’s Day platter with:

  • Rose-colored salume
  • Pink ham, especially thin-sliced prosciutto or serrano
  • Red raspberries
  • Red grapes, plus green grapes for a bit of contrast
  • Purple olives with green gherkins
  • White cheeses
  • Marcona almonds
  • Fancy crackers
  •  

    Godminster Heart Shaped Cheddar

    Baby Beets

    Top: Godminster makes a heart-shaped
    British Cheddar for Valentine’s Day. Bottom:
    Pickled baby beets from Sainsbury.

     

    MORE IDEAS TO ACCENT YOUR VALENTINE CHEESE PLATE

    To decorate your cheese plate for Valentine’s Day, here are more pink, purple and red garnishes:

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Pickled baby beets (we like Aunt Nellie’s, or you can pickle your own with the recipe below)
  • Pink dragonfruit and lychees
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Purple figs
  • Purple grapes
  • Radicchio
  • Red cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Red radishes
  • Strawberries
  •  
    RECIPE: PICKLED BABY BEETS

    This recipe saves time by using jarred or canned baby beets.

    Ingredients

  • 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spices or juniper berries
  • 20 baby beets, drained
  •  
    Variations

    For a spiced beets profile, substitute for the pickling spices:

  • ½ cup sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 4-6 pieces star anise
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  •  
    Another variation we like: rice wine vinegar, coriander and cardamom. Let your palate be your guide.
     
    __________________________________
    *You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.In either recipe, you can substitute agave, honey, maple syrup or noncaloric sweetener for the sugar.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients, except the beets, in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

    2. ADD the beets to an airtight container and cover with the pickling liquid, which should cover the beets.
    beets. It will easily peel off with your fingers. Cut the beets in half or leave whole if they are very small.

    3. REFRIGERATE for one day to two weeks.
     
    WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHEESE?

    Check out the different types of cheese in our picture-packed Cheese Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Drink Kefir, Delicious & Very Healthy

    Strawberry Kefir

    Green Valley Lactose Free Kefir

    Lifeway Frozen Kefir

    Top: Kefir as a midday snack or even a better-for-you dessert. Photo © Viktorija | Fotolia. Middle: Green Valley Organics makes lactose-free dairy products, including kefir, yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese. They’re a godsend to dairy lovers with lactose intolerance. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE. If you’re sensitive to cow’s milk, or simply prefer goat’s milk, turn to Redwood Hill Farms kefir. Photo courtesy LAFujimama.com. Bottom: Frozen kefir is an alternative to frozen yogurt with a higher probiotic content. Photo by River Soma | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Media attention is so interesting. In terms of “healthier options,” we’re blanketed with pitches for kale and quinoa, hummus and Greek yogurt, even juice bars.

    But we haven’t heard anything on probiotics in ages. In case you don’t remember: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to promote digestive health and enhance the immune system. Five years ago, probiotics were the “it” food ingredient.

    Today’s tip is to take a look at kefir, a highly probiotic beverage that is also highly delicious.
     
    WHAT IS KEFIR

    Kefir, pronounced kuh-FEAR, is a tart fermented milk beverage. It is often called “drinkable yogurt,” although the recipes for yogurt and kefir vary (see below).

    In fact, kefir is even healthier than yogurt. It has been called “super yogurt,” since it is up to 36 times more probiotic than yogurt.

    Kefir is believed to have originated some 2,000 years ago among the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains region—today’s Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In more modern times, it has long been enjoyed instead of milk, tea or other beverages in northern and middle Europe and the countries of the former USSR.

    As our “January Healthy Foods Month” winds down, we offer up kefir as a must-try. You can drink it at breakfast, lunch and snack time—or enjoy frozen kefir for dessert.
     
    MODERN KEFIR

    Kefir drinkers have benefited from the the explosion of the yogurt category over the last few decades. What was once only plain, rustic kefir is now a vibrant category of yummy, lowfat, probiotic smoothies, so satisfying that you can substitute them for milkshakes when you want a sweet treat.

  • You can find all the standard fruit flavors (banana, berry, peach and pomegranate, for example) as well as seasonal ones. Lifeway Kefir alone offers Cranberry, Eggnog, Pumpkin Spice and Watermelon flavors.
  • There are veggie flavors, too. Lifeway makes vegetable kefirs in Beet, Cucumber and Tomato.
  • There are conventional lines and organic brands.
  • For frozen yogurt lovers, there’s Lifeway Frozen Kefir.
  •  
    KEFIR AS A HEALTH FOOD

    Kefir is not only delicious, it’s therapeutic. It contains millions of live and active probiotic cultures that clean and strengthen the intestines and help the body with healing and maintenance functions.

    People have been touting the numerous healing effects of kefir since the early 18th century. It has been used to treat allergies, atherosclerosis, cancer, candidiasis, digestive disorders, heart disease, hypertension, HIV, metabolic disorders, nervous system disorders, osteoporosis and tuberculosis.

    While kefir isn’t the panacea many believed it to be, it is a very healthy food, chock full of beneficial bacteria and yeast.

  • It contains numerous vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes, including healthy doses of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins A, B2, B12, D and K.
  • Kefir contains a substantial amount of tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids that is known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Some people see it as a “calming” drink.
  •  
    But the reason most people seek out kefir is for digestive health: help from the millions of probiotic bacteria in each serving.

    Probiotic bacteria, which are live and active cultures, occur naturally in the digestive tract, where they help promote a healthy balance, good digestion and overall intestinal vitality. People with digestive problems need more of these cultures than their systems naturally contain.
     
    KEFIR FOR THE LACTOSE-INTOLERANT

    Raw kefir. Some mildly lactose-intolerant people can enjoy kefir, as long as it is is raw and not cooked (cooking destroys the lactase enzyme, which digests the milk sugar, lactose). Read the labels, and if you can’t find raw kefir in your regular market, check the nearest health food store.

    Lactose-free kefir. There’s lactose-free kefir for people with a higher degree of lactose intolerance. Green Valley Organics, a brand of lactose-free dairy products we can’t live without, makes not just kefir and yogurt, but cream cheese and sour cream.

    Goat’s milk kefir. For those who prefer goat’s milk, there’s Redwood Hill goat kefir. People who are mildly lactose intolerant can often tolerate goat’s milk products. Lovers of fresh goat cheese may like the affinity.
     

    THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN KEFIR & DRINKABLE YOGURT

    There are several differences between yogurt and kefir, including how each is made, the types of bacteria present in each, and the flavor and consistency.

    Of greatest interest to those who seek probiotics for digestive health, is that kefir and yogurt contain different types of probiotic bacteria, which perform differently. And, as noted earlier, kefir has up to 36 times more beneficial bacteria. Net net, kefir is better for digestion.

  • Yogurt. The beneficial bacteria in yogurt help keep the digestive tract clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria found in a healthy gut. They pass through the digestive tract and are called transient bacteria.
  • Kefir. The bacteria in milk kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract and team up with the beneficial bacteria that live there. Kefir also contains contains some yeasts.
  •  
    If you’d like to drill down into the details of the differences, a great source is CulturesForHealth.com. The website can also guide you to making your own kefit, yogurt, and other cultured products at home.
     
    MORE TO DISCOVER

  • All about probiotics in our Probiotics Glossary.
  • All the different types of yogurt and kefir products in our Yogurt Glossary.
  •   

    Comments

    CHRISTMAS: A Star Made Of Cheese

    Cabot Cheese commemorates the Christmas Star (Star of Bethlehem) using a different flavor of their excellent cheddars for each point on the star.

    In addition to regular cheddars in different stages of sharpness, there are delicious flavored cheddars: Chipotle, Everything Bagel, Garlic & Herb, Horseradish, Hot Buffalo Wing, Smoky Bacon and Tomato Basil. The company also makes Muenster, Pepper Jack and other popular cheese styles.

    For variety, use other semi-hard cheeses. Look for young Asiago, Colby, Edam, Fontinella, aged Gouda, Jack, Manchego, Provolone and Queso Blanco—for starters.
     
    RECIPE: CHEESE STAR

    You can make the star with one kind of cheese or use a different flavor for each star point—any cheese firm enough to cut into cubes. You can make a larger star for a larger crowd.

    Ingredients For A 13-Inch Diameter Star

     

    Cheese Star

    A cheese star is born. Before building the cheese cube design, place a small bowl in the center for the garnish (here, pecans). Gouda wishes! Photo courtesy Cabot Cheese.

  • 5 (8-ounce) bars or blocks of cheese, cut into cubes
  • Fresh bay leaves or other herb
  • Roasted nuts, mixed olives or grape tomatoes
  • Garnish: fresh sage leaves (substitute basil, bay leaf, sweet bay or perilla [shiso])
  •  
    Ingredients

    1. PLACE a small shallow bowl or saucer in the center of a large platter or cheese plate. Cut the cheese bars into 3/4-inch cubes, about 30 cubes for each flavor.

    2. BUILD the star around the bowl. Each of the five star points will be 5 cubes long and from 1 to 5 cubes wide. (If your bowl is too big, you will need more cubes to evenly the space five star points.)

    3. PLACE 4 or 5 cubes against the bowl to form each star point, for a total of 5 star points. Build out the points by placing more cubes as shown in the photo. In our star, we had a base row of 3 or 4 cubes, followed by one row of 3 cubes, 2 rows of 2 cubes and one row of 1 cube for the tip of each star point.

    4. BUILD up the star by topping the first layer with a second layer of cubes.

    5. TUCK sage leaves into the star as shown. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Fill the bowl in the center with nuts, olives or tomatoes.
     
    HOW ABOUT A CHEESE CHRISTMAS TREE?

    Here’s the recipe to stack cubes of cheese into a Christmas tree cheese board.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Cheese Balls

    Holiday Cream Cheese Balls

    Vegetable Cheese Ball

    TOP PHOTO: Cheese balls decorated like
    ornaments for holiday festivals. Photo
    courtesy Kraft. BOTTOM PHOTO: What’s
    inside the cheese ball? Here it’s red and
    green bell peppers. Photo by Claire
    Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Turn cheese balls into holiday ornaments with the right coatings. This recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese uses only cream cheese, but you can use your favorite cheese ball recipe.

    Instead of one big cheese ball, you make mini cheese balls with different coatings.

    We prefer to take the recipe one step further and flavor the cream cheese. We like bell pepper cream cheese, jalapeño cream cheese, olive cream cheese and scallion cream cheese; and for a splurge, smoked salmon cream cheese rolled in fresh dill.
     
    DESSERT CHEESE BALLS

    You can also make a dessert version to serve with cookies, like chocolate cream cheese (with cocoa powder and sugar), chocolate chip cream cheese (or other chip flavor), berry cream cheese (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry) and peanut butter cream cheese, rolled in cocoa powder, coconut or mini chocolate chips. But back to the savory:

    RECIPE: HOLIDAY CHEESE BALLS

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 packages cream cheese (total 12 ounces), softened
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
  •  
    Plus

  • Cream cheese mix-ins: green and red jalapeños, green and red bell peppers, olives, pimentos, scallions or other fillings
  •  
    Serve With

  • Bagel Chips
  • Crackers
  • Other chips and crisps
  • Preparation

    1. CUT the cream cheese brick into 6 two-ounce pieces; roll each into ball. If you’re flavoring the cream cheese, finely chop and blend in the mix-ins before shaping the balls.

    2. COMBINE the sesame seeds, poppy seeds and half the garlic in small bowl. Mix the herbs and remaining garlic in a separate small bowl. Combine the cranberries and nuts in third bowl.

    3. ROLL 2 cheese balls in the sesame seed mixture, 2 cheese balls in the herb mixture and the remaining 2 cheese balls in the nut mixture.

    4. WRAP each ball in plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve. Alternatively, you can place them in an airtight food storage container, lightly covered with plastic before you close the lid.

     

    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS GOAT CHEESE LOGS

    The glamorous goat cheese log in the photo couldn’t be easier. If you’d rather turn it into round “tree ornaments. See Step 2.

    Ingredients

  • Log(s) of goat cheese, straight from the fridge
  • Dried cranberries and pistachios -or-
  • The coating of your choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX roughly-chopped dried cranberries and pistachio nuts and place them on wax paper on a work surface.

    2. ROLL the log of goat cheese in the mixture, pressing down lightly so the mixture adheres. If you’d rather have round balls of goat cheese, let the cheese soften, form it into balls, and return it to the fridge until it hardens enough to roll easily.

    3. WRAP the finished log tightly in plastic and refrigerate until serving.
     
    TIP: See if you can score some honey goat cheese logs (we get ours at Trader Vic’s). They’re a revelation.
     
    MORE HOLIDAY CHEESE BALL IDEAS

  • Christmas Tree Cheese Ball Recipe #2
  • Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe(#1 is in the photo caption)
  • Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe #2
  • Snowman Cheese Ball Recipe
  • Snowman Cheese Ball Recipe #2
  •  

    Christmas Goat Cheese Log

    Christmas Tree Cheese Ball

    TOP PHOTO: Goat cheese log from More Than Hungry. BOTTOM PHOTO: We love this Christmas tree cheese “ball.” Here’s the recipe from Betty Crocker.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Goat Cheese With Sundried Tomatoes

    We love to serve red and green foods as much as possible during the holiday season. Doesn’t this goat cheese look nice and Christmasy?

    Slices of fresh goat cheese are topped with marinated sundried tomatoes, and you can serve them in several ways:

  • As an hors d’oeuvre, with crostini.
  • As an appetizer, atop a crostino (grilled or toasted bread).
  • Halved or quartered on a plate with a green salad (arugula, beets and radiccho are good choices, as are these).
  • On a goat cheese baguette sandwich.
  • As part of a cheese plate.
  • If you have leftover pieces, you can use them to top pasta and pizza, or add them to a sandwich or burger.
  •  
    And it’s so easy to make.

    You can buy whole sundried tomatoes, or make your own topping. dice them and marinate them in olive oil with oregano and other herbs*.

       

    Goat Cheese Appetizer

    Deck the table with goat cheese rounds. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

     

    The Bella Sun Luci brand of sundried tomatoes has done all the hard work. Look for their jars of:

  • Julienne Cut Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil with Italian Herbs
  • Bruschetta with Italian Basil Sun Dried Tomato and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sun Dried Julienne-Cut Tomatoes with Herbs and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with Whole Pine Nuts
  •  

    Homemade Marinated Sundried Tomatoes

    You can make your own marinated tomatoes, but it’s much quicker to buy them. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

     

    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS GOAT CHEESE

    Ingredients

  • Goat cheese log(s)
  • Sundried tomato topping
  • Garnish: fresh rosemary†
  •  
    Variations

  • Instead of the tomatoes, a mix of red and green bell peppers, diced and marinated.
  • A chiffonade of fresh basil, or a garnish of small basil leaves, instead of the rosemary.
  • If you make your own topping, consider marinating it in a flavored olive oil (basil, chili, rosemary, etc.).
  •  
    _________________________________
    *You can use basil, black pepper, marjoram,oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, sea salt and/or thyme.
    †If you use rosemary, garnish with very small pieces, as guests may be wary of eating a larger sprig.

     

    If you come up with other uses for “Christmas goat cheese,” please share!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Fruit Compote

    First: What’s a compote?

    A popular medieval European dessert that faded out of style in the mid-20th century, compote (COM-poat), also referred to as poached or stewed fruit, is mix of fruits cooked in a syrup. Although a single fruit can be cooked in the same manner, a variety is more interesting.

    In fact, the name derives from the Latin compositus, mixture. Think of it as a cooked fruit salad. It was once so popular that people of means served it from a stemmed compote dish, designed to show off the fruits (see a photo below).

    The syrup is made from the cooking liquid—typically water or wine—plus sugar and spices.

    The syrup could be seasoned with the cook’s choice of cinnamon, cloves, lemon or orange peel, vanilla or other spices. The cooked fruit could be enhanced with candied fruit, grated coconut, ground almonds and/or raisins.

    In the absence of fresh fruit, compote could be made entirely with dried fruits, plumped in water that was optionally enhanced with kirsch, rum or sweet wine.
     
    HOW TO SERVE COMPOTE

    Thus, compote was especially popular in fall and winter, when fresh fruit was limited. Our Nana made it at least once a week during the season.

  • Compote can be served either warm or cold, with or without a dab of whipped cream or mascarpone. Except in Italy, the mascarpone is a modern touch. Nana and the rest of her generation had never heard of it.
  • You can use compote to garnish panna cotta or custard, in an ice cream parfait, even atop plain cake like angel food or pound cakes.
  • You can even serve compote with a cheese course, with or instead of fresh fruit.
  •  

    RECIPE: POACHED WINTER FRUIT COMPOTE

       

    Apple Cherry Compote

    TOP PHOTO: Apple and cherry compote on ice cream. BOTTOM PHOTO: Compote with a cheese course. Photos courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    This recipe, from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, combines classic seasonal fruits—apples, pears, quince and dried fruits—with modern touches like star anise, another ingredient that wasn’t in American grocery stores in Nana’s time.

    For a holiday version, here’s another recipe: compote with cranberries, oranges and maple syrup.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 cups water or juice
  • 1 cup dry or off dry white or rosé(juice may be substituted)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole star anise*
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 to 6 apples, pears or quince (2-3 pounds), peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup dried plums, apricots or cranberries
  •  
    *If you don’t have star anise and don’t want to buy it, for each star you can substitute: 3/4 teaspoon crushed anise seed, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon anise extract, 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder or 1 tablespoon anise liqueur or other licorice liqueur.
     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the first nine ingredients (up to and including the bay leaves) into a pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar; then reduce the heat to low and add the fruit.

    2. COVER the pot and simmer, removing the fruit with a slotted spoon as it softens.† Arrange the fruit in a glass bowl. (Nana mixed everything together like fruit salad, although you can layer the fruits if you wish.) Once all the fruit has been removed…

    3. BRING the poaching liquid to a boil and reduce it by half (it takes 5 to 10 minutes). Taste; if necessary add more lemon juice to balance the flavor. Strain the syrup and carefully ladle it over the poached fruit. The cooked fruit will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
     
    †The fruit should be tender but not mushy. Cooking times vary for different fruits: 10 to 15 minutes for dried fruits, 20 to 30 minutes for pears, 30 to 45 minutes for apples and one hour for quince.
     

     

    Compote Dish

    A simple compote dish. They could be quite elaborate: etched crystal, garnished in gold, etc. Photo courtesy Abigails | Amazon.

     

    THE HISTORY OF COMPOTE

    No doubt, fruits have been stewed since the invention of clay pots, some 17,000 years ago in China. But the oldest known recipe we have, for a pear and fig kompot, dates to the early Byzantine Empire (330 C.E. to 1453 C.E.). Here’s the recipe for that ancient fruit compote, it’s made with dried fruit, date syrup and pomegranate molasses.

    Compote ultimately made its way to Europe. According to Wikipedia, in late medieval England the compote was served as one of the last courses of a feast. Later, during the Renaissance, it was served chilled at the end of a dinner, e.g., a predecessor of the modern dessert.‡

    Because it was easy to prepare, made from inexpensive ingredients and contained no dairy products, compote became a staple of Jewish households throughout Europe.

    Make it one of your household’s desserts!

     
    ‡Sugar was little known in Europe until the 12th century or later, when the it was brought back from the Crusades. Even then it was rare and costly; honey or dried fruits were the common sweeteners. In southeast Asia, where sugarcane originated, it has been in use for 1,000 years or so.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: The History Of Deviled Eggs

    November 2nd is National Deviled Egg Day.

    Deviled eggs took off as picnic and cocktail party fare after the second World War. But their roots date back to ancient Rome.

    The cooks of wealthy Romans boiled eggs, seasoned them with spicy sauces and served them as a first course (known as gustatio).

    Serving these deviled eggs to guests was so common that it featured in a Roman saying, “ab ova usque ad mala,” literally from eggs to apples (indicating from the beginning of a meal to the end), or what we might call “from A to Z.”

    The culinary record is relatively quiet until the 13th century, when stuffed egg recipes begin to appear in Andalusia, the south of Spain. The yolks of boiled eggs are mixed with with cilantro, onion juice, pepper and coriander, fish sauce, oil and salt. After the mixture was stuffed into the egg whites, the two halves were fastened together with a small stick and seasoned with pepper.
     
    DEVILED EGGS VS. STUFFED EGGS

    By the 15th century, stuffed eggs were found throughout Europe. One medieval recipe filled therm with raisins, cheese, marjoram, parsley and mint. They were then fried in oil and topped with a sauce of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, raisins and verjuice, or dusted with sugar. Both executions were served hot.

    The first known printed mention of “devil” as a culinary term appeared in Great Britain in 1786. It referred to dishes that contained hot and spicy ingredients (like paprika), or those that were highly seasoned and broiled or fried.

    By 1800, deviling had become a verb to describe the process of making food spicy. Deviled eggs were seasoned with chiles, horseradish, mustard, paprika and spicy sauce.

    So all deviled eggs are stuffed eggs, but only stuffed eggs with hot spice are deviled eggs.

       

    dlish-deviled-eggs-230

    Deviled Eggs With Smoked Okra

    TOP PHOTO: A book of deviled egg recipes. Get yours at Amazon.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: Deviled eggs with smoked okra (recipe). Photo courtesy Rick’s Picks.

     

    Nonspicy versions were called dressed eggs, mimosa eggs, salad eggs or stuffed eggs.

    In the United States, stuffed eggs began making an appearance in cookbooks by the mid-19th century.

     

    Deviled Eggs With Salmon Caviar

    TOP PHOTO: Deviled eggs topped with
    salmon caviar. Photo courtesy Red-
    Caviar.com.

     

    THE MODERN DEVILED EGG EVOLVES

    A recipe from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cookbook was one of the first to use mayonnaise as a binder for the filling of stuffed eggs.

    While mayonnaise began to be distributed commercially in the U.S. in 1907, the condiment was not commonly featured in deviled egg recipes until the 1940s. The classic version of deviled eggs established then mixed the yolks with mayonnaise, mustard and paprika.

    In more recent times, cooks have reworked the classic with modern ingredients, from beets, chutney and smoked okra to luxury ingredients like caviar, crab and smoked salmon to international influences like kimchi, sriracha and wasabi.
     
    DEVILED EGG RECIPES

  • Bacon & Cheddar Deviled Eggs (recipe)
  • Barbecue Deviled Eggs (recipe)
  • Curried Deviled Eggs (recipe)
  • Halloween Eyeball Deviled Eggs (recipe)
  • Sweet Pea Deviled Eggs For Spring (recipe)
  • Valentine Deviled Eggs With Beets (recipe)
  •  
    This recipe was adapted from History.com.

      

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    HALLOWEEN: Jack o’ Lantern Nacho Cheese Ball Recipe

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/cheese ball cookingchannelTV 230sq

    jack-o-lantern-cheese-ball-snackworks-230

    Make a Halloween cheese ball. TOP PHOTO courtesy The Cooking Channel BOTTOM PHOTO courtesy Snackworks.

     

    It’s easy to make a cheese ball: combine room temperature cream cheese with other ingredients in a bowl or mixer and blend; then form into a ball and coat with shredded cheese or seasonings.

    This recipe has Mexican seasonings, but you can make any cheese ball recipe you like.

    TIP: It is better to shred your own Cheddar, as tempting as it might be to buy pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded has a different texture, from the additives used to keep the shreds from sticking together in the bag.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, chilling time is 2 hours.

    RECIPE: JACK O’ LANTERN CHEESE BALL

    ingredients

  • 2 packages (8-ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
  • 3 tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons prepared salsa (any kind)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno (without seeds, unless you want it spicy, then include the seeds)
  • 12 orange colored corn chips or Ritz crackers*, crushed
  • 1 stem of a green bell pepper or a celery stalk for the pumpkin stem
  • Blue corn chips or black bean chips, crackers for serving
  •  
    *Whichever you use, you’ll have the rest of the bag or box to serve with the cheese ball.

     

    Preparation

    1. CRUSH the corn chips in a plastic bag, using a rolling pin. Set aside.

    2. PLACE the cream cheese, Cheddar, onions, salsa, cumin and jalapeño into the bowl of a mixer and blend thoroughly. Form into a pumpkin-like shape and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. You may find it neater to put the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, and form the ball from the outside of the plastic.

    3. BEFORE serving, roll the cheese ball in the crushed corn chips. Arrange the cheese ball on a plate, and press the bell pepper stem or celery stalk into the top.

    4. MAKE a jack o’ lantern face, if desired, with pieces of break off pieces of blue corn chips/black bean chips to form a jack o’ lantern face. The chip pieces should adhere to the pumpkin cheese ball if you gently press them onto it, but you can also glue them on using a small dab of the plain yogurt or sour cream.

     

    Halloween Jack O Lantern Glowing Pumpkin. FOR DAILY TRAVEL DO NOT USE

    The inspiration: a jack o’ lantern. Photo courtesy PlayBuzz.

     
    5. SERVE the cheese ball with black bean chips, crackers and spreading knives.
     
    WHERE DID THE JACK O’ LANTERN ORIGINATE?

    Pumpkins carved into jack o’ lanterns are an Irish-American tradition. But for centuries before any Irish immigration, jack o’ lanterns were carved from beets, potatoes and turnips and placed in windows of homes in what is now Great Britain, to ward off evil spirits on Halloween.

    The jack o’ lantern is named after Stingy Jack, a fellow of Irish myth. He invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but was too cheap to pay even for his own drink.

    So he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin, which Jack would use to buy their refreshments.

    Jack was not only stingy; he was a cheat. Once the Devil had turned himself into a coin, Jack simply pocketed it. No drinks were had that evening, but Jack was one coin richer. Clever Jack had placed the coin next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

    Jack eventually freed the Devil, under conditions including that, after Jack died, the Devil would not claim his soul.

    When Jack died, however, God would not allow his disreputable soul into heaven. Jack then tried to get into hell. The Devil, who had previously committed not to claim Jack’s soul, would not let him in.

    But the Devil was kind enough to send Jack off into the dark with a burning coal to light his way. To carry it, Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip. The spirit of “Jack of the Lantern,” subsequently shortened to “Jack O’ Lantern” (and evolving to the lower case jack o’lantern) has been roaming the Earth ever since.

    In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into potatoes and turnips, and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used.

    Immigrants brought the jack o’ lantern tradition to the U.S., where they discovered that the native pumpkin made the biggest, scariest and best jack-o’-lanterns.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Fried Feta Cheese With Olives

    Fried Feta Cheese

    Warm, crispy cubes of feta cheese, with a
    side of spicy marinated olives. Photo courtesy
    Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    We really enjoyed this dish last night, served with beer and hard cider. Four of us polished off the 18 pieces of cheese and the spicy olives in 10 minutes, and we look forward to making it again.

    The recipe was sent to us by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Find many great cheese recipes at EatWisconsinCheese.com.

    FRIED FETA CHEESE WITH SPICY MARINATED OLIVES

    Ingredients For 18 Pieces
     
    For The Fried Feta

  • 1 8-ounce block feta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • Grapeseed oil or canola oil, for frying
  • Sea salt
  •  
    For The Olives

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 cup mixed olives
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HALVE the feta horizontally to create two 1/2-inch-thick blocks (or as many as can be cut from your piece). Cut each block roughly into 1-inch cubes to yield about 18 pieces total.

    2. WHISK the egg with the flour and water in shallow bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow, rimmed dish. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the feta cubes in the egg mixture, coat with the breadcrumbs and place on a plate. Refrigerate while preparing the olives.

    3. HEAT the olive oil on low in a medium sauté pan. Add the garlic, orange zest and fennel. Sauté for 2 minutes, taking care not to the brown garlic. Add the olives and pepper flakes; toss to coat. Sauté for 1 minute. Transfer the olives to a serving bowl. Wipe the pan with a paper towel.

    4. REMOVE the feta from the refrigerator. Pour a thin layer of oil in the bottom of the same sauté pan and heat over medium until hot. Test by adding a few breadcrumbs to pan; they should sizzle. Gently place 8 to 10 feta cubes in the pan. When the cubes begin to brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, use a fork to turn each cube to brown the other side. Continue to cook 1 to 2 minutes.

    5. REMOVE the cubes with a spatula; place on a seving plate. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Repeat with the remaining feta cubes, adding additional oil if necessary. Serve immediately with the olives.

     

    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.
     
    *Here are other Greek cheeses.

     

    Feta & Olives

    Quality feta cheese is never over-salted. Photo courtesy Aragec.com.

     

    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.
     
    WHAT TO DO WITH THE OLIVE PITS

    We don’t know what we’d do without our olive pit “ashtray.” It makes the ugly olive pits disappear. We got it at the Museum of Modern Art decades ago, and can’t find anything like it online.

    But we did find this one and this one, made from ceramic. It’s great gift for the olive lover who entertains.

      

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