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Archive for Cheese/Yogurt/Dairy

TIP OF THE DAY: European Style Butter From Land O’ Lakes

We grew up with a mom who had a wicked palate, and if she was brand loyal, you knew that brand was the best in its category. Mom only used Land O’Lakes butter; in fact, that’s how we came to know, at the tender age of five, that Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Mom was a great baker as well as cook, and she’d have loved the new Land O’Lakes European Style Butter, now available in select markets across the country (check out Kroger, Safeway, Super Target and Walmart). The suggested retail price is $3.79 for a half-pound package of two individually wrapped sticks, in both salted and unsalted varieties.

We have long used Plugrá, an American brand made in the European style, and Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, which, as an import, is even pricier ($4.98 for a half-pound at our specialty food store). Both have 82% milkfat. We love the extra flavor they give to pastries, pie crusts and laminated dough, such as croissants; in fact, you can definitely taste the difference in a buttery croissant. Heavenly!

Professional bakers who make artisan products have long used European-style butter, purchased in bulk. American consumers could find Kerrygold and Plugrá in some specialty food stores; and to a lesser extent, the 86% fat European-style butters from Straus Family Creamery of California and Vermont Creamery.

But now, with Land O’ Lakes’ national distribution, European-style butter is available to most people—just in time for the holiday baking frenzy. It also enhances butter-based sauces.

Note, though, that Land O’ Lakes’ and Kerrygold’s 82% butter still give the advantage to the 86% varieties from Straus Family Creamery and Vermont Creamery, if you want to pay for the best.

Beyond baking and cooking, you can use European-style butter as a bread spread on artisan bread. As an indulgence for bread and butter lovers, there’s nothing better than Vermont Creamery’s Cultured Butter Blended with Sea Salt & Maple spread on a slice of fine baguette.

   

Land O Lakes European Style Butter

Linguine With Lobster

TOP PHOTO: The new butter in town is even richer and creamier than regular butter. BOTTOM PHOTO: Yum: Linguine and lobster in a butter sauce. The recipe is below. Photos courtesy Land O’ Lakes.

 
U.S. butter consumption has been steadily on the rise, and—counter-intuitive to the healthier foods movement— have embraced higher-fat butters as well. The American Butter Institute reports that per-capita consumption in 2014 was 5.6 pounds, a 40-year high. According to Mintel, younger consumers (between ages 18-34) are also using more butter annually.
 
WHAT IS EUROPEAN STYLE BUTTER?

European-style butter, also called cultured butter, is slow churned for a longer time to give it an extra-creamy texture, lower moisture content and higher milkfat (butterfat) content. In the case of Land O’ Lakes, the brand’s conventional 80% milkfat is increased to 82%.

In the U.S., butter with more than 82% milkfat is considered European-style. While European-style super premium butters comprise only about 1% of the entire U.S. market volume, the category is growing.

Churning for a longer time decreases the moisture content and increases the fat content. It allows more flavor to develop in the cream. Butter with less fat contains more water, which can act as an unwelcome binding agent, gluing down layers of dough to create a tougher pastry. More fat, less moisture is better for baking, especially for crusts, flaky pastries and laminated dough like croissants. It also adds more flavor and texture to sauces.

Why isn’t all American butter made in the richer European-style? It’s more expensive to take the time to churn out the moisture to create a higher-fat butter. The USDA says that butter must have a minimum of 80% milkfat, so that’s what most brands provide.

For more information, visit LandOLakes.com.

European-style butter is just one type of butter. See our butter glossary for the different types of butter.

 
RECIPE: GOOEY BUTTER SHORTBREAD

Nothing shows off the quality of butter better than shortbread. This recipe from Land O’ Lakes makes shortbreadeven richer, with a buttery topping. Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 2 hours.

Ingredients For 24 Pieces

For The Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup European Style Butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons European Style Butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Optional: powdered sugar for garnish
  •  

    Gooey Butter Shortbread

    Make this gooey butter shortbread with European-style butter. Photo courtesy Land O’ Lakes.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray the foil lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE all the crust ingredients in a bowl and beat at medium speed just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the dough evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.

    3. MAKE the topping: Combine the water, corn syrup and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. Place the tablespoons butter, sugar and salt in bowl and beat until well combined. Add the egg and beat until well mixed. Add the flour alternately with the corn syrup mixture, beating until well mixed after each addition.

    4. SPREAD the topping evenly over the shortbread crust. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

     
    RECIPE: BUTTER POACHED LOBSTER WITH LINGUINE

    Here’s another yummy recipe from Land O’ Lakes. It’s National Pasta Month, so treat yourself. Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 25 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 ounces linguine pasta, cooked al dente, drained but not rinsed
  • 1/4 cup European Style Butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped leek
  • 1/2 cup low sodium or unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons Pernod liqueur*
  • 8 ounces lobster meat, cut into 2-inch pieces (substitute 8 ounces large raw, peeled shrimp)
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Salt, to taste
  • Optional garnish: copped fresh parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until sizzling. Add the leek and cook 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and Pernod; cook 1 minute or until there is bubbling around the edges.

    2. ADD the lobster pieces; cook 3-4 minutes or until the lobster turns pink. Remove the lobster from sauce and cover to keep warm. Continue cooking the sauce another 4-5 minutes until the sauce is reduced to about 3/4 cup.

    3. STIR in the cream and salt. Add the pasta; toss lightly to coat. Cook 1-2 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Place the pasta onto a serving dish; top with the lobster. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.
     
    *If you don’t have Pernod, you can substitute absinthe or Herbsaint. Don’t substitute anise liqueur in this recipe—it’s too sweet for a savory dish. However, you can make a close-enough substitute with anise: Combine 1 tablespoon of anise seeds, ideally toasted in a dry pan for a 2 minutes, with 1 cup of vodka in an airtight jar. Let it infuse for a week in a dark place. If you don’t have the time, simmer the seeds in the vodka for 20 minutes strain them out.

     
    THE HISTORY OF BUTTER

    Where would we be without butter? Here’s the history of butter, which dates back to 2,000 years before Christ in the written record.
     
    ABOUT LAND O’ LAKES

    Land O’Lakes, Inc. is a dairy cooperative based in Minnesota, focusing on the dairy industry. The third largest co-op in the U.S., it is one of the largest producers of butter and cheese in the country, and handles 12 billion pounds of milk annually.

    In addition to milk and butter products, it also markets Alpine Lace cheese and Kozy Shack pudding, among other products.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Labneh, Lebanese Yogurt Cheese

    Labneh

    The trick to plating labneh or yogurt dip: Use a shallow bowl or a plate and add the labneh. You can make a depression in the middle with a soup spoon and fill it with extra virgin olive oil, or drizzle the olive oil on top and around the edges. Then, sprinkle the entire surface with herbs and spices: chopped fresh mint leaves or thyme, paprika, sumac or za’atar. You can also garnish with Kalamata olives, ideally pitted.

     

    If you made the farmer cheese recipe we published last weekend, you probably had a lot of fun. So here’s cheese-making, part 2: Make labneh today, enjoy it this weekend.

    Prep time is just five minutes, plus 1-2 days to let the cheese drain. All you do is place Greek yogurt in a sieve (strainer or colander) lined with cheesecloth or paper towels, place the sieve over a bowl in the fridge and let the moisture (the whey) drain out.

    Once the whey is removed, the firm solids that remain (the curds) are called cheese. This is common to all cheese making, from fresh cheeses like cottage cheesed to aged cheeses, where the curds are pressed into a mold to age.

    Bonus: Labneh is low in calories, 40 per ounce when made with whole milk yogurt. And since the yogurt is not heated after incubation, the active yogurt cultures remain live.

    WHAT IS LABNEH?

    Labneh or labne (pronounced LOB-neh or LOB-nay) is a thick, creamy, tangy fresh cheese, often called “yogurt cheese” in the U.S. Thicker than Greek yogurt, it’s considered the Lebanese version of cream cheese.

    Labneh is packed with live cultures (beneficial bacteria), calcium and protein. It isn’t made with vegetable gum and shaped into a brick like American cream cheese. Rather, it’s sold in a container the size of a large yogurt.

    A mainstay for breakfast and snacking in the Middle East, labneh is available in grocery stores here. But since it’s so easy to make, why not have the fun of making your own?

     
    USES FOR LABNEH

  • Bread spread. Plain or mixed with spices or herbs and a pinch of salt, labneh is delicious on bagels and toast. In the Middle East, the protein-rich spread is enjoyed for breakfast with pita. It’s especially good with whole wheat and multigrain breads and crusty rustic loaves. For a sweet take, drizzle honey over the labneh (we love it on toasted raisin bread), or first spread the bread with jam. For more protein, garnish with chopped walnuts. Labneh can also be used as a bread spread at dinner.
  • Dip. Season with chopped basil, garlic powder, green onion, mint, oregano and/or thyme. Add salt to taste and stir in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Garnished with coarsely chopped walnuts, a drizzle of olive oil and more herbs. You can also mix finely-chopped walnuts into the yogurt for more texture and flavor. Serve with crudités, toasted pita wedges, pita chips or crackers.
  • Vegetable garnish. Top sautéed greens or other veggies with labneh, a drizzle of olive oil, and za’atar (a mix of spices you already have) or sumac (ditto for a sumac substitute—see below).
  • Ingredient. Use labneh in cakes, frostings and other recipes instead of yogurt or fat-laden mascarpone or sour cream.
  • Side or condiment. Serve it topped with chopped fresh mint as a side to roast lamb or pork, lamb chops or pork chops, grilled or roasted chicken.
  • Base. Use instead of cream cheese or sour cream as a base for for canapés or crostini.
  • Garnish. It’s delightful in soups and salads.
  •  

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE LABNEH (YOGURT CHEESE)

    While the recipe for labneh couldn’t be more basic, we thank Good Eggs of San Francisco for inspiring this article.

    Note that straining yogurt can reduce the volume of the yogurt by 50% or more, depending on how long you strain it (how thick the finished cheese is). Save the drained liquid (the whey). It’s filled with nutrients and we enjoy drinking it, but it can be used as a milk substitute in many ways, including mac and cheese.

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • Whole milk plain Greek yogurt
  • Pinch of salt
  •  

    For Serving

  • Bread, crackers, crudités
  • Fresh herbs
  • Olive oil
  • Spices
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the salt and yogurt. Line a bowl or plate with 3 layers of cheesecloth and add the yogurt. If you don’t have cheesecloth, you just place the yogurt in a sieve/strainer or colander. At this point, you can mix in herbs and spices, or use them as garnishes to the finished cheese.

    2. GATHER the edges of the cheesecloth around the yogurt and tie them with a string. Or, place the strainer over a bowl to catch the whey, and place it in the fridge. If you don’t have space in the fridge, in the cool weather you can use a cool spot in your home to let the yogurt drain; but you’ll want to wrap it in cheesecloth.

    3. LET STRAIN for 1-2 days, or until labneh reaches the desired consistency.

     

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    The joy of cheese making. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     
     
    WHAT IS SUMAC?

    Sumac is ground from a red berry-like drupe that grows in clusters on bushes in subtropical and temperate regions. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice. (One of the species not used is the poison sumac shrub.)

    The word “sumac” comes from the old Syriac Aramaic summaq, meaning red. In Middle Eastern cuisine, the spice is used to add a tangy, lemony taste to meats and salads; and to garnish hummus and rice. The spice is also a component of the popular spice blend, za’atar, below.

    An easy substitute for sumac: lemon zest plus salt. (In salads, use lemon juice or vinegar.)
     
    WHAT IS ZA’TAR?

    Also spelled zahtar, za’atar is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines. It is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries, which impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

    Traditional ingredients include marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac. Za’atar is used to season meat and vegetables, mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread, added to hummus, and for a modern touch, sprinkled on pizza, especially ones with feta cheese.
     
    WHAT IS FRESH CHEESE?

    Fresh cheese is a category of unaged cheeses with a high moisture content (whey). They are typically set by adding lactic acid cultures. The cheeses can be made from any type of milk.

    Uncomplicated in flavor, fresh cheeses have a creamy, soft texture and fresh, sweet flavor. They are often used in cooking and with fruit for dessert.

    Fresh cheeses include cottage cheese, cream cheese, crème fraîche, fromage blanc, mascarpone, Neufchâtel, panir, ricotta, queso blanco, queso fresco and quark.

    Fresh cheeses are not made to age, and should be consumed quickly.

    Here’s more about fresh cheeses.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Noosa Yoghurt

    To start with, Noosa is yoghurt, not yogurt. That’s the Australian spelling, and appropriate for a brand that originated Down Under.

    The original Noosa is a picturesque Australian resort town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the home of golden beaches. The name Noosa comes from an Aboriginal word meaning shade or shadows, a probable reference to the tall forests behind the sunny coast.

    On a vacation to Noosa, company co-founder Koel Thomae—an Aussie ex-pat living in Colorado—came across a tub of creamy yoghurt and passionfruit purée.

    It took just one spoonful for her to decide that she must bring this celestial style of yogurt to the U.S. Back in Colorado she found a partner, fourth-generation dairy farmer Rob Graves, who milked happy, pasture-raised cows. He took one taste of the Australian yogurt and agreed with Koel. America needed Noosa.

    They began to make Noosa in small batches, from farm-fresh whole milk, local raw clover alfalfa honey and purées of the best fruits. The “Australian-style” texture is thick like Greek yogurt but oh-so-velvety, as elegant as any dessert. (Some of that texture comes from kosher bovine gelatin.)

    The line is certified kosher (dairy) by OU, certified GMO free and made with rBGH-free milk from pastured cows.

       

    Cherry Yogurt Parfait

    Noosa Yoghurt is so silky, it’s like an elegant dessert. Photo courtesy ChooseCherries.com.

     

    The four-ounce cups, for 140 calories or so, depending on the flavor, is a wonderful bit of fruity sweetness at the end of the meal, or as a snack anytime.

    And for breakfast or lunch, well: What a treat. It’s worth seeking out.

     

    Noosa Yoghurt

    Some of Noosa’s luscious yoghurt flavors. Photo courtesy Noosa.

     

    There are 4-, 8- and 24-ounce sizes (not all flavors in all sizes):

  • Blueberry
  • Coconut
  • Cranberry Apple
  • Honey
  • Lemon
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Plain
  • Pumpkin
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry Rhubarb
  • Tart Cherry
  •  
    Not all flavors are made for each season; for example, Cranberry Apple and Pumpkin—both winners—are fall flavors,

    Here’s a store locator and the main website. Scroll to the bottom of the home page for a link to print a coupon.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Emmental, The Real “Swiss Cheese”

    The U.S. is not known for its food sophistication, knowledge or accuracy. Errors surround the most popular foods. Today’s focus is one of them, “Swiss cheese.”

    There is no Swiss product called “Swiss cheese,” just as there is no “French cheese,” “Italian cheese,” and so forth. It’s a generic reference, like “French wine” or “Italian wine.” (Yes, there is Swiss wine, but you have to go there to try it. Nearly all is drunk domestically, with less than 2% exported,mainly to Germany.)

    Swiss cheese is the generic name used in the United States for several related varieties of cheese, originally made in Switzerland. Emmentaler is the cheese Americans think of as the generic Swiss cheese. While Americans believe that Swiss cheese has holes, properly known as eyes, not all kinds of Swiss cheese do.

    There are 450 known Swiss cheeses, classified into five categories: extra-hard, hard, semi-hard, semi-soft and soft. Cow’s milk is used in 99% of the cheeses produced. Examples include:

  • Extra-Hard Swiss Cheese: Sbrinz
  • Hard Swiss Cheese: Emmentaler, Gruyère/Greyerzer, Sapsago and Vacherin Fribourgeois
  • Semi-Hard Swiss Cheese: Appenzeller, Bündner Bergkäse, Mutschli, Raclette cheese, Tête de Moine, Tilsiter
  • Semi-Soft Swiss Cheese: Vacherin Mont d’Or
  • Soft Swiss Cheese: Gala
  •  
    We suggest assembling examples of the five different styles—or at least, examples of the hard cheeses—for an educational “This Is Swiss Cheese!” tasting party.

    The Swiss cheese variety with the big eyes—the holes—is Emmental, also spelled Emmentaler, Emmenthal or Emmenthaler, and pronounced without the “h” (i.e., em-en-TAL, em-en-TAL-er).

    You may want to pick some up for tomorrow, National Cheeseburger Day. But today, we’ll focus on the glories of Emmental.

       

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    Top photo: Don’t call it “Swiss cheese.” It’s name is Emmental. Bottom photo: Emmental is made in large wheels, 163 to 265 pounds! Top photo courtesy Emmental.ch. Bottom photo courtesy iGourmet.

     
    EMMENTAL HISTORY

    Flavorful and imposing in size, the Swiss consider Emmental to be the king of the Swiss cheeses. It takes its name from the valley of the river Emme, in the canton of Bern*, also home of Bern, the capital city of Switzerland.

    Emmental cheese production traces its origins to the 13th century. Emmentaler AOC is produced by some 200 dairies, from the fresh, raw milk of cows fed on valley grass. The milk accounts for the superior flavor of Emmenthal versus American reproductions:

    The milk from American factory cheeses (as opposed to artisan cheeses) typically comes from feedlot cows, who don’t graze and are fed commercial feed. Their milk does not have the flavor of milk from cows who graze on grass. Swiss milk is also rBgh/rBst-free, and genetically modified ingredients and any additives are forbidden.

    Around 12 liters (12.6 quarts) of milk are needed to produce one kilo (2.2 pounds) of cheese. The round wheels of cheese have a diameter of 80 to 100 centimeters (31-39 inches—that’s more than three feet wide!), and weigh in at 75 to 120 kg (163-265 pounds). Yes, they’re heavy lifting.

     
    THE FLAVOR OF EMMENTAL

    The taste and texture differentiate quality Emmental from rubbery American immitations.

  • Emmental, aged for a minimum of 4 months (and up to 14 months or longer for the most prized cheeses), has a smooth, pale-yellow rind.
  • Like many Swiss mountain cheeses†, Emmental has a cooked, pressed paste (interior), which gives it a smooth, slightly springy texture—a flexible, pliant paste with a lovely deep yellow color from the use of raw milk.
  • In a well-aged Emmental, the aroma is sweet with tones of fresh-cut hay. The flavor is fruity with an intense finish.
  •  
    WHAT ABOUT THOSE BIG EYES?

    While other Swiss mountain cheeses have eyes, Emmental has the largest. The holes range from cherry size to walnut size.

    The eyes develop from the bacteria used in the production of Emmentaler cheese: Streptococcus thermophilis, Lactobacillus and Propionibacter shermani.

    In a late stage of cheese production, P. shermani consumes the lactic acid excreted by the other two bacteria, and releases carbon dioxide gas. This forms the bubbles that appear to be “holes” when the cheese is sliced. The cheese industry calls these holes or tunnels “eyes.” Swiss cheese without eyes is known as “blind.”

     

    smoked-salmon-quiche-230r

    Smoked salmon quiche with Emmental cheese. Photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.

     

    TYPES OF EMMENTAL & HOW TO USE THEM

    Emmentaler AOC is sold in different stages of maturity, for different culinary purposes and palates.

  • Classic. The nutty, mild “classic” is matured for at least 4 months. It is used for sandwiches, gratins and other recipes such as fondue, omelets and quiches. It’s an excellent melting cheese—try an Emmental grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Reserve. The distinctly spicy “réserve” is matured for at least 8 months. It develops deeper flavors, for those who want a more nuanced table cheese.
  • Cave-Matured. The very aromatic “cave-matured” Emmental is matured for a minimum of one year. It is the finest table cheese, delivering all the sensory components of a great Emmental.
  •  
    Be sure you are buying Swiss Emmental. Although it is an AOC cheese, originally, the denomination “Emmental” was not protected. Thus, there are French Emmentals, Bavarian Emmentals, even Finnish Emmentals.

     
    HOW DID EMMENTAL BECOME “SWISS CHEESE” IN AMERICA?

    The original starter culture for Emmental was brought from Switzerland to Wisconsin in the 1850s, by immigrant Swiss cheesemakers, who recreated the cheese from their homeland. The American version of Emmentaler became known as “Swiss” cheese by the locals—perhaps because “Swiss” was easier to say than “Emmental.”

    Alas.
     

    *A canton is analogous to an American state. There are 26 cantons in Switzerland.

    †Also called Alpine cheeses, the term “mountain cheeses” refers to large, firm wheels made in the Swiss mountains (the Alps). These wheels are well-aged and full-flavored, often sprinkled with holes (some quite small). Appenzeller, Emmental, Gruyère, Hoch Ybrig, Raclette (four different cheeses), Sbrinz, Stanser Fladä, Tête de Moine and Vacherin Fribourgeois are examples. Mountain cheeses are not restricted to Switzerland, but to any mountains. Here’s more about mountain cheese.

      

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    RECIPE: Lyonnaise Salad With Bacon & Eggs

    You may know Lyonnaise potatoes, sliced pan-fried potatoes and thinly sliced onions, sautéed in butter with parsley; Rosette de Lyon, a cured rosy saucisson (French pork sausage); and Lyonnaise sauce, a brown sauce for roasted or grilled meat and poultry, made with white wine, vinegar and onions.

    Some of our favorites from the area include as coq au vin and quenelles (a mouselline of pike in cream sauce—the more elegant cousin of gefilte fish)*.

    And now, there’s the classic Salade Lyonnaise (pronounced lee-owe-NEZ), which combines frisée lettuce with bacon, croutons and a poached egg—a great combination of flavors and textures.

    Since the recipe uses raw eggs, pasteurized eggs are a worry-free solution (here’s more about pasteurized eggs and the 12 popular foods where you should consider them to eliminate the Salmonella risk).

    Prep time is 20 minutes; total time is 35 minutes.

    RECIPE: LYONNAISE SALAD

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 extra-thick bacon slices
  • 12 asparagus spears, trimmed (optional)
  • 3 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 pasteurized eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 5 cups frisée salad greens
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  •    

    lyonnasise-salad-safeeggs

    Lyonnaise Salad with bacon and eggs: Perfect for brunch or lunch. Photo courtesy SafeEggs.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. CUT bacon strips into 2 x 1/2-inch pieces. Cook in skillet over medium heat about 5 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Meanwhile…

    2. BRING 2 inches water to boil in wide saucepan or skillet. Cook the asparagus for 3-4 minutes or just until crisp-tender. Immediately drop the asparagus into bowl of cold water to cool. Drain on paper towels.

    3. WHISK together in small bowl the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, pepper and mustard. Set aside.

    4. FILL a deep saucepan or large sauté pan half full with water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add 1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice. Crack eggs individually into small custard cup or bowl and gently ease eggs into water, one at a time, holding cup as low as possible so yolk doesn’t break. Use a spoon to gather whites around yolks of each egg and continue to simmer about 3 minutes, or to desired doneness.

    5. ASSEMBLE the salad: Mound greens in center of each plate. Arrange the asparagus over the greens and sprinkle with bacon. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Carefully place a poached egg on top of each salad. Offer salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
     

    Variations

  • Use 2-1/2 cups frisée and 2-1/2 cups dark kale leaves, cut into ribbons, or baby kale, in place of all frisée.
  • Substitute green beans for asparagus.
  • Here’s another version of the recipe.
  •  
    *Here’s more about Lyonnaise cuisine.

     

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    A head of frisée. Photo courtesy Hy-Vee.com.

     

    WHAT IS FRISÉE

    Frisée has very narrow, curly pale leaves that grow in a bush-like cluster and are feathery in appearance. The name means “curly” and the lettuce is sometimes called curly endive.

    Frisée is a member of the chicory genus of lettuces, which includes endive. Chicories are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals—especially folate and vitamins A and K.

    Frisée is often included in mesclun and other salad mixes. It is extremely labor-intensive to grow, and therefore one of the costliest salad ingredients. For that reason, it isn’t a conventional supermarket item, but can be found at upscale markets and purveyors of fine produce.

    Frisée has a distinctive flavor and a delightful bitterness—less bitter than its cousins endive and radicchio. Its exotic feathery appearance has great eye appeal.

     
    Tips For Using Frisée

  • As with many salad greens, tear it rather cut it with a knife, or the edges may brown. Tear it shortly before use.
  • The tough, external leaves are best used as a plate garnish or fed to the gerbil.
  • Dress the salad right before bringing it to the table, so that it doesn’t discolor or become waterlogged.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Custard

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    Parmesan quiche with arugula salad: as a
    light lunch or a first course for dinner. Photo
    courtesy The Secret Menu. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Custard is one of our favorite dishes: a symphony of cream, eggs and flavorings.

    Most people consider custard to be sweet—a dessert that ranges from good old American chocolate pudding to crème brûlée, crème caramel, flan and others (see all the types of custard in our delectable Custard Glossary).

    The same mixture of cream and eggs that forms the base of sweet custard replaces the sugar with savory inclusions to become a delicious savory custard that can be eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    From a lunch dish with a salad, to a first course or side at a fine dinner, savory custards deliver a lot of bang—especially since most people haven’t yet had them.

    Well, not exactly: Many people have had savory custard in the form of quiche, a variation that’s baked in a pie shell.

    But today’s focus is on savory custard made in individual ramekins.

     
    While you can make them in casserole dishes, individual portions look so much better than the same recipe scooped from a casserole and plopped on a plate. (Of course, you can neatly slice it from a casserole and place it on the plate like a slice of pie, but we still prefer ramekins.)

    Since we’re getting to the end of corn season, here’s your opportunity to start your adventures in savory custard with corn custard. If you didn’t see it a few weeks ago, here’s a rerun of our corn custard recipe. If your Labor Day fare is more elegant than hot dogs and hamburgers, you can make it.

     

    SAVORY CUSTARD RECIPES

  • Asparagus & Parmesan Custard with Tarragon, or Green Pea and Shallot Custard (recipes).
  • Chawan-mushi, Japanese savory custard (the name means “steamed in a tea bowl”). Here’s a recipe with shrimp and green peas. There’s also a steamed savory egg custard in Chinese cuisine.
  • Gorgonzola and Leek Crème Brûlée recipe,
  • Gruyère, Garlic & Thyme Custard recipe.
  • Herb Custard (recipe).
  • Lobster Custard—substitute crab, scallops or shrimp (recipe).
  • Pumpkin Custard (recipe), the savory version. Pumpkin pie is a sweet pumpkin custard.
  •  
    How Is Bread Pudding Related To Custard?

    Bread pudding is a sweet or savory dish bound with custard. Put this recipe on your “to be tried” calendar: a mushroom bread pudding. You can serve it as the dressing with turkey.

     

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    Special occasion savory custard, with sauced with foie gras cream. Although it’s fancier to unmold the custard, you can serve it in the ramekin. Photo courtesy James Beard Foundation.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Fried Eggs On Rice

    Who needs toast? Serve this brunch idea from Gardenia restaurant in New York City.

    A fried or poached egg is served atop a bed of rice with roasted vegetables. It’s a yummy way to use up leftovers.

  • Use brown rice or other whole grain for more nutrition.
  • You can also use polenta or mashed potatoes for the bed.
  • If you don’t have any roasted vegetables—Gardenia used a mélange of beets, butternut squash, carrots and onions—do a quick microwave cook to soften, then sauté, what you do have.
  • A garnish of microgreens finishes the dish at Gardenia, but you can use chives, basil…or perhaps a crumbled bacon garnish?
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    A new way to enjoy fried eggs! Photo courtesy Gardenia Restaurant | NYC.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try The Best Cheeses In America

    If you passion is great cheese, why not try the best on your pizzas, sandwiches, entrées and salads? The winners of the 2015 American Cheese Society Competition, held last month, are worth seeking out.

    Here are the first place winners in the top 5 categories (based on the volume of cheese sold in the U.S.), including sub-categories:

    MOZZARELLA

  • Brick, Scamorza Or String cheese: Farmer’s Rope String Cheese, Crave Brothers (Wisconsin)
  • Fresh Mozzarella, 8 Ounces Or More, Balls or Shapes: Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese (Wisconsin) and Bella Casara Buffalo Mozzarella (Ontario)
  • Fresh Mozzarella Under 8 Ounces: Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Bocconcini (Wisconsin)
  • Burrata: Calabro Cheese (Connecticut)
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    CHEDDAR CHEESE

  • Aged Cheddar, 12 To 24 Months: Face Rock 2-Year Extra Aged Cheddar, Face Rock Creamery (Oregon);
  • Cheddar Aged Up To 12 Months: Tillamook White Medium Cheddar, Tillamook County Creamery (Oregon)
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    The best string cheese in America: Farmer’s Rope String Cheese from the Crave Brothers of Wisconsin. Photo courtesy EdibleMadison.com.

  • Cheddar Aged Up To 12 Months—Goat, Sheep, Buffalo Or Mixed Milks: Goat Cheddar, Central Coast Creamery (California)
  • Mature Cheddar, 24 To 48 Months: Four Year Flagship, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (Washington)
  • Mature Cheddar, Aged Over 48 Months: Cabot Old School Cheddar, Cabot Creamery (Vermont)
  • Cheddar Wrapped In Cloth, Aged Up To 12 Months: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cellars at Jasper Hill, (Vermont)
  • Cheddar Wrapped In Cloth, Aged Over 12 Months: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Select, Cellars at Jasper Hill (Vermont)
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    The best cheese of 2015 is Celtic Blue Reserve from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Ontario. Photo © Misa Me Photography.

     

    MONTEREY JACK CHEESE

  • Southwest Cheese (New Mexico)
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    SWISS CHEESE

  • Baby Swiss, Guggisberg Cheese (Ohio)
  •  
    PARMESAN CHEESE

  • Cello Riserva Copper Kettle Parmesan Cheese, Cello Cheese (Wisconsin)
  •  
    BEST OF SHOW

  • Celtic Blue Reserve, Glengarry Fine Cheese (Ontario)
  •  
    The awards mentioned here represent just a few of this year’s categories and winners. To see the complete list of awards in all categories, visit The American Cheese Society website.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Frittata

    Making an omelet requires a bit of technique. If your omelets don’t look as lovely as you’d like, there’s an easy solution: Make a frittata!

    With an omelet, the filling ingredients are placed on the beaten eggs that are setting in the pan. As the omelet continues to cook, it is folded with a spatula to envelop the ingredients (that’s the part that requires practice, practice, practice).

    With a frittata—the name comes from the Italian friggere, to fry—the eggs and other ingredients are mixed together, then cooked more slowly than an omelet. The egg mixture completely fills a round skillet: no folding. The result looks like a crustless quiche. As with a quiche, a frittata can also be enjoyed at room temperature.

    Frittatas can be packed with vegetables, a sneaky way to get people to eat more of them. You can use the cookware you have, or consider a frittata pan (see photo below), ideal for stovetop cooking when you have to flip the frittata. Alternatively, you can bake it in the oven—no flipping needed.

       

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    Wouldn’t you like to wake up to a weekend brunch like this? It’s easy to make a frittata, watermelon and feta salad, and luscious summer tomatoes on goat cheese-topped toast.

    WHAT TO ADD TO YOUR FRITTATA

    Check the fridge: You may not have to buy anything else! Frittatas are a great receptacle for leftovers—even cooked pasta and grains.

    Vegetables: You can add almost any vegetable* to the beaten eggs, but take advantage of the summer’s specialties: bell pepper, chanterelle mushrooms, corn, eggplant, lima beans, okra, peas, sweet onion, tomatillo, tomato, yellow squash, Yukon Gold potatoes, zucchini.

    Cheese: melting cheeses like Emmenthal/“Swiss cheese,” mozzarella and Provolone; grating cheeses such as Asiago, Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano/Parmesan and Pecorino Romano; and soft cheeses including feta and goat cheese/chèvre.

    Fish/Seafood: clams, mussels, shrimp, smoked salmon.

    Meat: ham/prosciutto, roast chicken/turkey, salame, sausage. When you make chicken or ham, set some aside for the next night’s frittata.

    Accents: capers, chiles (fresh or dried), herbs, olives, red pepper flakes.

     
    *For starters, consider artichoke, asparagus, bell pepper, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, chard, eggplant, kale, mushrooms, onion/leek/green onion, potatoes (boiled/roasted), spinach, zucchini.

     

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    A frittata pan is actually two frying pans that hook together for easy flipping, and can be easily detached for regular use. This one is a Cuisinart Frittata Pan.

     

    RECIPE: OVEN FRITTATA

    With this recipe, you can go heavy on the vegetables—2 cups instead of one. Or, you can make a cheesy frittata by adding a cup of shredded cheese instead of the second cup of vegetables.

    Some cooks start the frittata in a fry pan on the stove, then finish it in the oven. Fritattas can be cooked only on the stove top, but this means they have to be flipped—not easy for some people. Some frittatas can be cooked entirely in the oven, like this one.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetables, diced or sliced
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella or other
    favorite)—or 1 additional cup vegetables
  • One tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, chives,
    oregano, parsley, rosemary, etc.)
  • Olive oil
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. While the oven heats, cook the vegetables: sauté in olive oil until tender or steam in the microwave.

    2. BEAT the eggs, herbs, pepper, salt, and Parmesan cheese together. Put a tablespoon of oil in a heavy, oven-proof skillet. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and scatter the vegetables on top.

    3. BAKE for 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, which will melt.

    4. SLIDE the frittata onto a serving plate. It can be served hot or at room temperature.
     
    ANOTHER TIP

    There are thousands of frittata recipes online, with the oven, stove top or stove top/broiler cooking techniques. Try them all, and see which works best for you.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 20+ Ways To Use Pimento Cheese

    Pimento cheese is known as a Southern specialty, along with barbecue, catfish and hush puppies, grits, red velvet cake and sweet tea. Yet, according to a Southern culinary historian, the soft cheese and red bell pepper spread is a Northern invention.

    THE HISTORY OF PIMENTO CHEESE

    Today’s combination of grated Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, seasonings and finely diced red pimento (the Americanized spelling of the Spanish pimiento, red bell pepper) started in the North as a cream cheese-based spread. It blended the newly-introduced blocks of cream cheese with canned pimentos, newly imported from Spain. The two ingredients may have been first combined by home economists, women who developed new recipes and other tips for homemakers that were eagerly read in books, magazines, newspapers and on product labels.

    In the 1870s, New York State farmers farmers began to make a soft, unripened cheese modeled after the French Neufchâtel cheese. Within a few decades, a recipe for cream cheese appeared, made by mixing cream into the Neufchâtel curd. The new soft cheese was molded into small wood block forms.

    Because the city of Philadelphia had a reputation for fine food, a New York-based manufacturer, Phenix Cheese Company, named its product Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. It was the leading brand then as now (J.L. Kraft and Bros., established in 1909, acquired Phenix Cheese Company in 1930; the company is now called Kraft Foods Group).

       

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    The pimento cheeseburger served at Gardenia restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Photo courtesy Gardenia.

     
    THE PIMENTO CHEESE SANDWICH TAKES HOLD

    The cream cheese/pimento spread became a standard on tea sandwiches, and spread (no pun intended) from the tea party set to the working class. It found its way onto lunch carts, along with the egg salad and ham and cheese sandwiches; and into sandwich shops and diners.

    The first printed recipe unearthed so far is in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1908, for a sandwich filled that blended softened cream cheese, minced pimentos, mustard and chives. The following year, the Up-to-Date Sandwich Book published a simpler version: Neufchâtel cheese with chopped pimentos and a bit of salt on lightly buttered white bread.

    Before World War I, dozens of similar recipes appeared in magazines and cookbooks. Soon after World War I, southern farmers began growing pimentos. Locals mixed the canned domestic pimentos with grated Cheddar instead of cream cheese, which was then less available in the southern states.

    In the South, pimento cheese remains a choice on tearoom menus, sliced into triangles; and as finger sandwich with cocktails. Commercial brands of pimento cheese can be found in most supermarkets, to be spread on crackers at home. Every home cook has his or her favorite recipe.

    Back to the original for a moment: Philadelphia Brand actually sold two flavored cream cheeses in addition to the original plain: Chive and Pimento. All three were staples in our home. Alas, Philadelphia Pimento Cream Cheese was discontinued a few years ago in favor of a dozen more modern flavors, including Blueberry and Spicy Jalapeño. It seems that today’s consumers would rather have Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese than Pimento. Chive has survived as Chive & Onion.

    If you want a taste of the original pimento peerfection, you’ll have to blend your own diced pimentos into cream cheese. But if you want to embrace Southern-style pimento cream cheese, here’s how to do it, along with a recipe to make your own Cheddar-based pimento cheese:
     
    HOW TO SERVE IT: PIMENTO CHEESE FOR BREAKFAST

  • Breakfast tortilla: Warm a corn tortilla in a skillet or the microwave. Spread with pimiento cheese and top with two fried eggs and salsa. Optional garnishes: chopped green onions, sliced black olives, chopped fresh herbs.
  • Cheese omelet
  • Toast spread (bacon optional)
  • Poached eggs on pimento cheese toast
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    With wine, beer or cocktails: pimento
    cheese and crackers, toasts or sliced
    baguette. Photo by Katharine Pollak |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    PIMIENTO CHEESE FOR LUNCH

  • Biscuit sandwich, with lettuce and tomato.
  • Cheeseburger: Spread a heaping knife-full of pimento cheese atop a grillled burger. Add the top bun and wait a minute for the cheese to melt.
  • Dip For fries: Dipping works better with a creamier style pimento cheese (see above). Or, thin the spread with milk, sour cream, mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt.
  • Grilled cheese sandwich
  • General sandwich spread (ham, grilled vegetables, sliced egg, turkey, e.g.)
  • Stuffed grilled tomato or bell pepper
  • Taco/burrito: Warm a small tortilla and spread it with pimento cheese. Top with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, taco-seasoned beef, grated cheese, sour cream and salsa. Sprinkle with chopped green onions; add shredded lettuce and tomatoes.
  • Toasted egg sandwich: Spread pimento cheese on toast; top with fried, scrambled or sliced hard-cooked eggs.
  • Wrap sandwich: Spread instead of mayo on a ham, turkey, grilled veggies or other wrap.
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    PIMENTO CHEESE FOR HORS D’OEUVRE & SNACKS

  • Crudité dip (add more milk, cream or mayo to thin to the desired consistency)
  • Cracker/toast/crostini spread
  • Deviled eggs (mix with the yolks)
  • Stuffed celery
  • Stuffed cherry tomatoes or baby potatoes
  •  
    PIMENTO CHEESE FOR DINNER

  • Baked potato/stuffed potato
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Potatoes gratin
  • Quick fondue
  •  
    RECIPE: PIMENTO CHEESE SPREAD

    You can find recipes made with Cheddar, Cheddar-cream cheese blends and other cheeses. This one sticks with classic Cheddar.

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimiento, drained
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
  • 1 block (8 ounces) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 block (8 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the mayonnaise, pimiento, Worcestershire sauce, onion and cayenne in a large bowl. Stir in the cheese.

    2. CHILL in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld. Serve at room temperature. The sprea can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.

     
    Variations

  • CAROLINA STYLE: Add 1/4 cup diced olives and jalapeños.
  • CREAMY: Make the spread creamier by blending in 4 ounces of cream cheese.
  • HOLIDAY: Add 1/4 cup cranberry sauce (preferably whole cranberry sauce).
  • MEXICAN: Add 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce, drained; or 1 teaspoon dried chipotle. Adjust quantity to taste.
  • ONION: Add finely-diced red onion and fresh parsley to taste.
  • SMOKY: Add 1/4 cup cooked bacon, drained and crumbled.
  • SWEET & TANGY: Add some pickle relish. Start with a heaping tablespoon, drained.
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