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Archive for Condiments

TIP OF THE DAY: Mostarda, A Sweet-Hot Italian Condiment

Mostarda di Cremona

Mostarda di Cremona

Mostarda

Mostarda Bolognese

Mostarda di Mantova

[1] The classic: mostarda di cremona. Here’s a recipe to make your own from The Spruce). [2] A cremona close-up (photo courtesy Cucina Corriere. [3] Mostarda vicentina has a jam-like consistency, losing the physical beauty of other mostardas (photo courtesy Buonissimo). [4] Mostarda di mantova, made from apples, pears and quince (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese).

 

Years ago, on a trip to Italy, we first came across mostarda di frutta, mostarda for short.

A sweet-and-hot, fruit-and-mustard condiment from the north of Italy, it’s our go-to condiment with Italian cheeses, and some other nationalities on the cheese board. We offer more uses below.

Think of mostarda as a mustardy fruit chutney—although mostarda uses mostly candied fruits. (The Italian word for mustard in the English-language issenape).

Candied whole small fruits or larger pieces of fruit are beautifully suspended in a clear syrup flavored with mustard oil. It’s clear and doesn’t cloud the syrup. Home recipes often use mustard powder mixed into white wine.

Some mostarda is lovely to look at, like part of a still life painting. It is cooked slowly (often over three days) to maintain the natural bright colors of the fruit, and the perfect texture.

Buy jars as gifts for your foodie friends.

The origin of the word comes from a Latin term of the Middle Ages, mustum ardens, “grape juice [must] that burns,” a term first used in the Middle Ages by French monks, for the mustard they made (the history of mustard).

It burns because of the addition of crushed mustard seeds. Once crushed, the seeds release the fiery mustard oil that gives the mustard condiment its flavor.

THE HISTORY OF MOSTARDA

From the Middle Ages forward, man has sought ways to enjoy the fruits that are scarce in winter, at least through the celebrations of Christmas.

Mostarda is a food born from the need to preserve fruits for the off-season. Originally, the fruits were preserved in mosto (grape must*), unfermented grape juice that has been reduced to a syrup.

Mostarda’s origins date back to the honey and mustard condiments of ancient Rome. Grape must (freshly pressed grape juice) was mixed with ground mustard seeds and honey to create a sweet mustard. Later, fruit was added.

Recipes for “modern” mostarda, dating from the 13th century, call for the use of grape must. The first written document “Fruit Mostarda for festive season” dates to 1393 and is attributed to Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan [source].

  • Grape must, called must for short, is the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes. Among other uses (in saba and vin cotto, for starters), it is mixed with ground mustard seeds to make mustard.
  • Subsequently, the condiment mostarda was made by candying the fruits and adding mustard oil to create sweet heat. Both the sugar to candy the fruits and the mustard oil were preservatives.
  • And by the way, mostarda became a Christmas tradition, traditionally eaten with creamy, slightly sweet mascarpone cheese.
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    Beginning in the 16th century, newly-affordable sugar replaced the must to candy the fruits, then mustard was added [source]. The oldest known recipe prepared with fruit, mustard and sugar, without the grape must, was found in 17th century Belgium.

    From that point on, cookbooks began to include mostarda as a main ingredient. By the 19th century there were some 93 different varieties.

    The sweet heat went really well with boiled meats. Initially, mostarda was the served with bollito misto, a plate of mixed boiled meats that’s a specialty of northern Italian cuisine (there’s more below about uses for mostarda).

    TYPES OF MOSTARDA

    According to legend, mostarda was invented by chance in medieval times. In an apothecary shop, a piece of melon fell unnoticed into a barrel filled with honey.

    When it was later discovered, the melon was still as delicious as if it had been freshly picked (honey, which is virtually moisture-free, is an excellent preservative) [source].

    Mostarda itself takes on different ingredients in different regions, incorporating local fruits—whatever is plentiful in the region. Raisins, nuts and other ingredients can be added.

    As one source notes, almost every town in the Po valley has its own recipe.

    There are many, many mostarda recipes, from grape and fig (uva e ficchi) to vegetable mustards (also candied) modern recipes with non-Italian ingredients, from cardamom pods to pineapple and pumpkin.

    Here are some of the most famous, named for the areas where they originated.

  • Mostarda bolognese is made from apples, oranges, pears, plums and quince. In the area of Bologna, it is used to flavor the classic dish of boiled pork and cooked sausages, as well as to fill tarts and in other sweets.
  • Mostarda di carpi, from a town in the Emilia-Romagna region. It still uses red grape must in its recipe, along with oranges, pears, quince and sweet apples,
  • Mostarda di cremona also called mostarda cremonese, is the classic recipe, made with several different kinds of fruits (the makers choice among apricots, cherries, figs, peaches, pears, quinces and tangerines). It is the most commercially available style.
  • Mostarda di mantova, also called mostarda mantovana and mostarda di mele campanine, is made from tart= green apples called mele campanine (singular mela campanina) and pears or quince.
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  • Mostarda veneziana, from the Venice region, is made with fresh quince pulp (a minimum of 36% pure pulp), and candied fruits (apricots, clementines, figs, white pears, yellow cherries). It is intentionally grainy/sugary.
  • Mostarda vicentina, from the town of Vicenza in the Veneto region, is characterized by a jam-like consistency and the use of quince (mele cotogne) as its main ingredient. During the Christmas holidays, it is eaten with spoonfuls with mascarpone.
  • Mostarda di voghera, in the Lombardy region of Italy, has documentation from 1397, when Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti requested “mostarda de fructa cum la senavra.” The recipe can include apples, apricots, candied orange peel, cherries, clementines, figs, lemon, melon and pears.
  • Mostarda siciliana is made with orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and often, toasted chopped almonds.
  • Dalmatian mostarda, made in Croatia across the Adriatic Sea from Venice, is a simpler recipe, made with quinces and honey.
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    WAYS TO USE MOSTARDA

    Any discussion starts with bollito misto a fundamental part of Northern Italian cuisine. It’s a one-pot meal, Italian comfort food.

    The boiled meats vary by region, and a very elaborate presentation can include seven kinds of meat and fowl, seven vegetables and seven condiments.

    The meats can include beef brisket, beef cheeks, calf’s tongue, chicken or capon (or turkey), cotechino sausage, pork shank, sweet Italian sausage, veal shank—slowly boiled in a large pot with carrots, celery, onions and potatoes.

    The cooked cooked meats are sliced, placed on a platter and served with mostarda—or, for those seeking a different flavor profile, with a green herb sauce (salsa verde). The savory broth that remains in the pot can then be turned into soup.

    Why not plan a dinner party, with a multi-mostarda tasting?

    Over time, mostarda became a broad-purpose condiment.

    The heat of mostarda varies by producer. In general, however, it needs a hearty food that can show off both the sweet and the heat.

    Serve mostarda with:

  • Eggs: omelets, sliced egg sandwich on crusty toast.
  • Cheeses: as a condiment on a cheese board, or drizzled over individually plated slices or scoops of mascarpone or ricotta. In Italy, gorgonzola and stracchino are popular.
  • Meats: any boiled, braised, broiled, roasted or smoked, from chicken and turkey to ham, pork loin and beef brisket and sausages.
  • Up-condimenting: added to a dip base or mayonnaise for a more complex flavor.
  • Salume and other charcuterie).
  • Sandwiches: grilled vegetables, Italian cold cuts, porchetta, roast beef, strong cheeses.
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    You can find many mostarda recipes online, and can purchase it in specialty food stores and Italian markets. You can also buy it online.

    Don’t be put off by the high price for a small jar. If you look at the ingredients in the recipe, you’ll see it as a bargain.

    Let us know how you like it.

    Discover the world of mustard in our Mustard Glossary.

    PHOTO CAPTIONS

    [5] Bollito misto, a dish often served with mustard (photo courtesy Cucina Italiana).

    [6] Add a ramekin of mostarda to a cheese and/or charcuterie board (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    [7] A delicious appetizer or snack: bruschetta with prosciutto, burrata and pear mostarda (photo courtesy Davio’s Boston).

     

    Bollito Misto

    Cheese Board

    Prosciutto Burrata Bruschetta

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Aïoli, The Original, The Modern & A Party

    Aioli Dip With Seafood

    Basil Aioli

    Aioli Platter

    Saffron Aioli

    Habanero Aioli

    [1] As a sauce or dip with boiled potatoes (photo courtesy Quinciple). [2] Tarragon aïoli as a dip with shrimp (here’s the recipe from Real Simple). [3] Le Grand Aioli: make a platter for your next gathering (here’s a story from Edible Seattle). [4] Just open the jar and use these flavorful aïoli from Delicious And Sons: Basil Lemon Aïoli and Saffron Orange Aïoli. [5] Southern Europe meets South America: Habanero Aïoli from Salsa Maya (remember that in Spanish, salsa is a generic word for sauce).

     

    Americans eat a lot of mayonnaise, but not enough aïoli: garlic mayonnaise.

    The word is pronounced eye-OH-lee from the French word for garlic, ail (pronounced EYE).

    What we think of as a bread spread is used as a dip and sauce from Catalonia (the northeast tip of Spain; think Barcelona) through Provence (Marseilles along the coast through Toulon, Cannes, Nice and Monaco.

    It hopped the border of Monaco to the Liguria region of Italy. It spread to the south of Catalonia to Valencia, Catalonia, Murcia and eastern Andalusia, and offshore to the Balearic Islands. It crossed the sea to Malta.

    In fact, mayonnaise was invented in France by the great chef Marie-Antoine Carême, around 1800. You may think of mayo as a spread, but it was created as a sauce (the history of mayonnaise).

    But before then, the original sauce was made with just garlic and olive oil, which, by the way, was not an easy combination to emulsify into a sauce in the centuries before blenders.

    Later, possibly inspired by Carême’s mayonnaise, Provençal cooks incorporated egg yolks and lemon juice and voila: a richer, more flavorful, more stable mixture than mashed garlic and olive oil. (When you look at your food processor or blender, remember that everything prior to modern times was done in a mortar and pestle.)

    There are numerous seasoning variations. In France, it can include a bit of Dijon mustard. In Malta, some tomato is added.

    Everywhere, aïoli is served at room temperature.

    Ingredients vary by region, too. Catalan versions leave out the egg yolk and use much more garlic. This gives the sauce a more pasty texture, while making it considerably more laborious to make as the emulsion is much harder to stabilize.
     
    AÏOLI USES

    Yes, you can put it on your sandwich or burger; but aïoli can be used instead of mayonnaise anywhere, from canapés to to dips to potato salad.

    You can even plan a luncheon or dinner party around it. And you can buy it or make it.

    Then, serve it:

  • With escargots, a French favorite.
  • With fish and seafood: boiled fish (in France, cod and aïoli are a popular pair), bourride (Provençal fish soup).
  • In the U.S. with broiled, poached or grilled fish and shellfish, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail
  • Spread on hard-cooked eggs.
  • On vegetables, especially artichokes, asparagus, boiled potatoes and green beans.
  • As a substitute for butter, oil or vinaigrette.
  • Fries!
  • Salted boiled potatoes and bay leaf (a Ligurian specialty).
  • Mixed into chicken salad, egg, tuna and potato salads.
  • As a crudités dip.
  • On Mexican corn (elote).
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    SERVE LE GRAND AÏOLI

    In Provence, Le Grand Aïoli (a.k.a. Aïoli Garni or Aïoli Monstre) is a special-occasion dish consisting of boiled vegetables (artichokes, beets, carrots, green beans, potatoes); salt cod or other poached fish, snails, canned tuna, other seafood; hard-boiled eggs, and a large dish of aïoli.

    In Provence, the dish is served in a celebration around August 15th, after the garlic has been harvested. If you like the idea, plan an occasion.

    You don’t have to wait until August. A room-temperature dish, Le Grand Aïoli delightful in the spring or summer with a lightly-chilled Côtes de Provence rosé or a red Bandol.

    If you like crème de cassis (cassis liqueur, made from blackcurrants), it’s a local product; so serve a Kir or Kir Royale as an aperitif.
     
    AIOLI HISTORY

    Aioli, aïoli, alhòli, aiòli or allioli, arjoli or ajjoli: Depending on the country and region, they are different spellings for a Mediterranean sauce (in southeastern Spain, it’s called ajoaceite or ajiaceite).

    Made of garlic and olive oil—two staple ingredients of the area—the name means garlic and oil in Catalan and Provençal.

     
    There are numerous flavored mayonnaises. Since the expansion of specialty food producers in the late 1980s, it became fashionable for producers and chefs to call all flavored mayonnaises—basil, chili, cilantro, red pepper, saffron, etc.—aïoli.

    While purists insist that only the garlic-seasoned recipe should be called “aïoli,” we think, logically, that as long as there’s garlic in the recipe, it can still be called aïoli. Consumers will understand.

    Otherwise, you’ll find even purer purists who insist that only the original garlic-oil sauce—no egg, no lemon juice—be called aïoli.

    RECIPE: A QUICK AÏOLI WITH STORE-BOUGHT MAYONNAISE

    If you want to make your aïoli from scratch, here’s a recipe.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil or other herb*
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • Pinch salt
  • Optional: 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon olive oil (to thin)
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    Preparation

    1. BLANCH the basil in boiling water for 15 seconds. Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    2. REFRIGERATE, covered, for at least 1 hour or overnight, to allow flavors to meld.

    ________________

    *If you want a spice instead of an herb, season to taste.
     
      

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    RECIPE: Beet Marmalade

    Talk about memorable fall foods: This beet marmalade recipe from our colleague Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog is an eye-opener.

    With its beautiful color and rich flavor, it’s a condiment that goes well:

  • As a spread with bread or crackers
  • On a cream cheese brick or goat cheese log
  • With grilled and roasted meats and poultry
  • Mixed into a dip with yogurt or sour cream
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    The flavor is earthy yet sweet and zesty, with layers of flavor from the caramelized onions, orange zest and maple syrup. It may well convert beet haters to beet lovers.

    If you like to make food gifts, add this one to your repertoire.

    While the recipe specifies red beets for a ruby-color marmalade—a color that’s ideal for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day—you can also make it with orange beets as a change of pace.

    You can make canapés, or put out the ingredients and let people assemble their own.
     
    RECIPE: BEET MARMALADE

    Ingredients For About 2 Cups

  • 4 medium red beets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons 100% Grade B maple syrup*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
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    For Serving

  • Crackers or crostini (toasted baguette slices)
  • Goat cheese log, sliced in fairly thin (i.e. not thick) circles
  • Boston lettuce or baby greens
  • ________________
    *Grade B is the darkest and most flavorful maple syrup. Here are the four grades of maple syrup. You can substitute what you have, as long as it’s 100% real maple syrup.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets completely in aluminum foil and roast for about an hour, or until fork tender. Let cool before peeling. The skins should just rub right off with a bit of pressure.

    Meanwhile…

     

    Beet Marmalade & Goat Cheese Recipe

    Fresh Red Beets

    Orange Beets

    [1] Beet marmalade on a cracker with goat cheese (photo by Hannah Kaminsky). [2] Red and [3] orange beets (photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    2. HEAT the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat and add the sliced onion. Cook gently, stirring frequently for 30 to 40 minutes, until deeply caramelized and almost silky in texture. Add the orange juice halfway through, and reduce the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

    3. ROUGHLY CHOP the cooked beets and place them in a food processor along with the caramelized onions. Add the orange juice and zest, maple syrup and and salt. Lightly pulse all of the ingredients together until broken down and thoroughly combined but still quite chunky.

    4. SERVE warm or chilled.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAM, PRESERVES & MARMALADE?

    Check out our “spread sheet”: a glossary of the different types of bread spreads and fruit condiments.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Horseshoe Brand Hot Sauce

    We receive lots of hot sauce samples. Most of them are fine, but not special.

    Enter the special: Horseshoe Brand hot sauce, developed by two entrepreneurs in New York State’s food mecca, the Hudson Valley.

    All natural, made in small batches, you can’t help but say, “This is good stuff!”

    Why? The hot sauces are made from scratch using fresh chiles. Many hot sauces use extracts that provide heat, but not flavor. Macerating fresh chiles provides a lively, fresh-tasting hot sauce that is a delight.

    The current line-up includes:

  • Cajun Hot Sauce
  • Chipotle Hot Sauce
  • Habanero Hot Sauce
  • Kiwi Jalapeño Hot Sauce
  • Mango Fatali Hot Sauce
  • Peach Hot Sauce
  • Roasted Garlic Hot Sauce
  • XXXTra Hot Hot Sauce
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    Horseshoe Garlic Hot Sauce

    One of six delicious flavors; horseshoe not included (photo courtesy Horsehoe Brands).

     
    At $5.99 a bottle, they’re affordable stocking stuffers, party favors.

    Head to HorsehoeBrand.com and load up!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Martini With A Side Of Olives

    If you’re not the type to sip seasonal cocktails with apple, cinnamon, cranberry or pumpkin flavors, here’s a tip to seasonalize that American classic, the Martini*.

    Recently we read an interview with a fashionable mixologist. Asked, among other things, of his pet peeves, he said, “I sell cocktails, I don’t sell garnishes. Everyone who orders a Martini keeps asking for more olives. We should make ‘dish of olives’ an bar menu item.”

    Voilà, our tip of the day: Serve Martinis with a side dish of olives—ideally, a vibrant mix of different colors and shapes.

    We adapted Sable & Rosenfeld’s Blue Martini, garnished with its blue-cheese-stuffed olives (photo #1), with red or reddish† olives, for a red-and-green holiday theme.

    There is one really red olive, and other options in the purplish range.

  • Red† Cerignola olive: from Italy, a jumbo olive with mild, buttery flesh.
  • Gaeta olive from Italy, popular in recipes
  • Kalamata olive from Greece, a meaty olive
  • Niçoise olive from France, pleasantly bitter with nutty undertones
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    Other purplish varieties you may encounter are the Alfonso, Amfissa, Nyon. But essentially: Head to the nearest olive bar and buy the reddest olives.

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: HOLIDAY MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2½ ounces gin or vodka
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 3 regular-size olives or 1 Red Cerignola olive
  • Ice
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    Plus

  • A small dish of olives in mixed colors and sizes
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    Preparation

    1. PRE-CHILL the glass.

    2. PREPARE the garnish. Strip the leaves from bottom 2 inches of the rosemary sprig and skewer three small olives onto it, or one large Red Cerignola olive.

    TIP: Some kitchen scissors have a leaf stripper in the center for herbs. We use this one from Esschert.

    2. FILL a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add the alcohol and ice; shake and strain into the glass.

    3. GARNISH and serve with a side of olives.

    If your guests don’t polish off all the olives with their cocktails, you can toss them into the salad or serve them with the cheese plate!
     
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    *Check out the history of the Martini.

    †The color of an olive is an indication of its ripeness. Green olives ripen and become black olives in shades from black to purple-black and brown-black. As the olive ripens, it produces colors in-between: light brown, purple and reddish. In general, the darker the olive, the riper it was when picked. As they mature, some varieties may be red for a day or two. But what nature doesn’t provide, man will: Red Cerignola olives are actually dyed bright red with an FDA-approved colorant (red #3) and a patented process to provide festive color. La Bella di Cerignola is the formal name for the olives grown in the area of the town of Cerignola in Puglia, Italy.

     

    Olive Martini

    Mixed Olives

    Red & Green Cerignola Olives

    Esschert Herb Scissors

    Sable & Rosenfeld). [2] What Martini drinkers want: a side dish of olives (photo courtesy Pompeian | Facebook). [3] The reddest olive available is the jumbo Red Cerignola, shown with the Green Cerignola (photo courtesy DeLallo). [4] Strip leaves of of herb stems using the center part of this Esschert herb scissors.

     

      

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