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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Cooking

TIP OF THE DAY: Veggie Skewers, Veggie Grilling Tips

We discovered these nifty grill combs from Fusion Brands at Sur La Table. What better way to get everyone to eat more veggies than to skewer and grill them?

Americans are woefully behind when it comes to eating the recommended 3-5 servings of vegetables a day; and no, spaghetti sauce and ketchup don’t count.

So make it fun by grilling skewers of veggies while you’re cooking your proteins. Aim to build skewers of 70% veggies, 30% protein; or make all-veggie skewers.

BEST VEGETABLES FOR GRILLING

Many different types of vegetables can be grilled, but start with a selection from these:

  • Asparagus: If you loose them between the spokes of the grill, get a grilling basket or a shaker basket.
  • Bell peppers: Grill whole, char and peel, or cut into chunks and grill until just charred around the edges.
  • Corn: Some people leave corn in the husks for grilling. Others like the char that comes from grilling the husked corn. Try both and decide.
  •    

    veggie-skewers-comb-SLT-230

    A fun way to cook and eat veggies. Photo courtesy Sur La Table.

  • Eggplant: Slice then into 1/4” pieces and briefly marinate in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and basil.
  • Green beans: Few people think to grill these. All you need is a grilling basket/shaker basket.
  • Mushrooms: Marinate whole portabellas in balsamic vinaigrette for 1 hour; grill over high heat for 10 minutes. Smaller mushrooms can be skewered or grilled in a basket.
  • Onions: Cut crosswise into half-inch slices, skewer and grill over medium heat.
  • Potatoes: Parboil fingerling or new potatoes until they are al dente thread and finish them on the grill.
  • Radicchio or Endive: Quarter, leaving the core in, and serve warm with a vinaigrette.
  • Tomatoes: Cut in half and grill cut-side down; flip halfway through (3-4 minutes), top with pesto and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  • Zucchini And/Or Summer Squash: Use the eggplant marinade above.
  •  
    GENERAL GRILLING

    Karen Schultz and Maren Jahnke note in their book, Vegetarian Grilling, that vegetables contain far less fat than proteins. They thus require added fat so that they don’t dry out.

    This is done both by marinating and by brushing often with olive oil or other oil. “Be heavy on the brush,” they recommend.

    For more on how to grill vegetables, John Kennedy, in an article on SteakBytes, the blog of Omaha Steaks, offers these tips:

     

    grilling-basket-mr-bar-b-q-amz-230r

    How to keep small veggies from slipping
    through the grill: Use a grilling basket. Photo
    courtesy Mr. Bar-B-Q.

     

    VEGGIE GRILLING TIPS

    1. USE skewers. Skewers are the best way to keep vegetables from rolling around on the grill, and to easily flip to ensure that each side is getting equal contact with the heat. If you don’t want to invest in skewers, you can wrap the vegetables in a sheet of foil, then place the packet on the grill. Use nonstick cooking spray on the foil before adding the vegetables to help prevent sticking.

    2. BRUSH the vegetables with olive oil or canola oil to prevent them from sticking to the grill. Avoid the temptation of butter, to keep the cholesterol/saturated fat levels low.

    3. SEASON with dried or fresh herbs instead of salt. You’ll add great flavor without increasing sodium levels.

    4. SLICE the vegetables thickly since they will cook fast (unless you want thin, crisp slices). However, denser vegetables take longer to cook: Potato slices require a lot more time than zucchini slices, for example.

     

    5. COOK vegetables directly on the grill at medium-high heat and turn over halfway through cooking.
     
    Do this often, and you’ll eat better while enjoying the superior flavor of grilled vegetables.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Use Olive Oil When Grilling

    demedici-beaker-230

    When grilling, trade the olive oil for a high
    smoke point oil. Photo courtesy
    DeMedici.com.

     

    Do you use olive oil when grilling? Perhaps you shouldn’t. Olive oil has a lower smoke point than other oils, so it will burn faster.

    Each fat (including butter, lard, oil and shortening) has a particular smoke point, which is the temperature at which the fat begins to break down. At this point, both the flavor and the nutritional value of the fat begin to degrade; and the fat will eventually smoke and burn if kept on the heat.

    The higher the cooking heat, the higher smoke point your fat must be. That’s why grapeseed oil (485°F), soybean oil (490°F) and safflower oil (510°F) are so popular for deep fat frying, the highest heat of stovetop cooking.

    While extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 440°F, few people would use this pricey oil for grilling. Much of the regular olive oil has a smoke point of just 320°F.

    Here are some comparative smoke points:

    440°F:
    Peanut Oil
    Sunflower Oil

     

    450°F:
    Corn Oil (Refined)
    High-Oleic Sunflower Oil (Refined)
    Palm Oil
    Peanut Oil (Refined)
    Safflower Oil (Refined)
    Sesame Oil (Semi-Refined)
    Soybean Oil (Refined)
    Sunflower Oil (Semi-refined, Refined, High Oleic, Refined)
    Vegetable Shortening

    468°F:
    Olive Oil, Extra Light

    485+:
    485°F: Grapeseed Oil
    485°F: Tea Seed Oil
    490°F: Rice Bran Oil
    495°F: Soybean Oil
    510°F: Safflower Oil
    520°F: Avocado Oil (Refined)

     

    salmon-chicken802078_SXCSlavomirUlicny

    Use a high smoke point oil for grilling, regardless of what you’re grilling. Photo by Slavomir Ulicny | SXC.

     

    MORE ABOUT THE SMOKE POINT

    Why your fats smoke and burn, or not: What’s the smoke point?

     
    CHART OF SMOKE POINTS OF OILS

    Different oils have different uses in smoke points. Here are the comparative smoke points of most oils.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Healthier Grilling Options

    turkey-burger_salad-cheesecakefactory-230

    Topped with garnishes, most people will
    enjoy a turkey or veggie burger as
    much as beef. Photo courtesy Cheesecake
    Factory.

     

    At the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, creating “better for you” cuisine is a hot topic of discussion. Many culinary schools first train students in classic French technique. But today’s trend is to learn how to cook foods that are healthier—still mouth-watering and satisfying, but with lower saturated fat, calories or sodium, more dietary fiber, or all of these.

    Kendall’s resident nutrition expert and dean, Chef Renee Zonka, RD, CEC, CHE, notes that barbecuing and grilling are excellent opportunities to serve more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, leaner meats and antioxidant-rich seafoods. No one notices this better-for-you food, because virtually everything tastes better when cooked on a grill. Her 10 tips:

    1. Non-Beef Burgers. Burgers do not have to be beef in order to be delicious. Turkey, veggie, shrimp and salmon taste great yet have far less fat and cholesterol. Many stores sell them pre-made at the meat counter; look for Chef Big Shake shrimp burgers, loaded with peppers and spices, in the freezer case.

    2. Trim the fat, skin the bird. If you must have beef, try ground sirloin for burgers, which contains less saturated fat than 80/20 (20% fat) ground beef. Choose leaner steaks like top sirloin for grilling; with fattier steaks such as Porterhouse, trim all visible fat.

     
    Do the same for loin pork chops (pork tenderloin is naturally leaner than beef). Skin chicken and duck breasts, thighs and legs before marinating and tossing on the grill to lock that just-grilled flavor into the meat.

    3. Go fish. Oily fin fish like cod and salmon fillets are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Tilapia is not only a sustainable species, but is naturally lean, and can accept virtually any flavor from a marinade or rub before grilling. Heartier fish fillets can go right onto an oiled grill, and more delicate fish can rest on aluminum foil or even sturdy lettuce or banana leaves. Shellfish such as oysters and scallops can be grilled right in their shells. With any lean fish, watch grilling times, as less-fatty species cook quickly.

    4. Grill your veggies. Vegetables taste better when grilled, and can tempt even stalwart veggie-avoiders. From asparagus to zucchini, grilling coaxes out vegetables’ natural sugars. Other favorites include bell peppers, corn on the cob, eggplant, mushroom caps, onion, yellow squash, and even sturdy long-leaf lettuces like romaine and endive. Marinate for an hour in the refrigerator first or brush fresh veggies with olive oil on both sides. Experiment with grill times, turning once for those beautiful caramelized grill marks, until done.

     

    5. Serve fruit for dessert. Stone fruits like apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums (halved and pitted) and seeded tree fruits like apples and pears, become more exciting when grilled (over medium heat). Fruit’s natural sugars caramelize nicely for a tantalizing smoky/sweet flavor. Pineapple rings, strawberries and even sliced mango and watermelon wedges can go on the grill. Skewer smaller fruits for easy turning and serving. When grilling any fruit, make sure to lightly spray a clean grill with vegetable oil spray to prevent sticking. For softer fruits like stone fruits and mango, leave the peel on to help the fruit stay together on the grill. Serve with optional garnishes such as vanilla yogurt, fat-free plain Greek yogurt sweetened to taste, and pistachios or other nuts.

    6. Marinate! Before grilling, marinate meats, seafood and vegetables in citrus juice, vinaigrette, wine, or a simple brine of salted water, for a few minutes to a few hours in the refrigerator. Marinating both tenderizes and adds bolder flavors, so you can use less salt while grilling.

     

    grilled-plums-peaches-healthyinahurrybook

    Grilled fruit with Greek yogurt and pistachios. Photo courtesy Healthy In A Hurry.

     
    Adding a little sweetness to the marinade—like brown sugar, fruit juice, honey or molasses—helps balance the flavor. Add just a touch; you don’t need to “dump the sugar bowl” onto proteins and veggies. Or consider a homemade spice rub from dry herbs and seasonings for a delicious and salt-free flavor boost. For cut fruits, soak in water with a splash of lemon juice (and, if desired, a little cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove or ginger) for up to a half-hour before grilling to maintain their natural juiciness and color.

    7. Whole grains salads. Instead of high-fat potato and macaroni salads, a lightly dressed quinoa side dish not only delivers fresh, bright flavor; but whole-grain quinoa is packed with protein and all eight essential amino acids for optimal human health. Available in white, black and red varieties, it is naturally gluten free. Take a look at —like Chef Zonka’s Quinoa & Lentil Salad with Sherry-Dijon Vinaigrette—and Pomegranate Quinoa Tabouli). Make other cold salads with trending whole grains like barley, farro, freekeh and wheat berries. Wild rice, often relegated to autumn and winter, is delicious served cold, studded with fresh veggies and spiked with zesty citrus dressing.

    8. Watch your buns. Replace hamburger and hot dog buns made with refined white flour with whole-grain varieties. You’ll get added fiber plus enhanced flavor.

    9. Bake beans without the bacon. A hearty and satisfying side dish of baked beans need not rely on animal fat to taste delicious. Beans are a naturally good source of meatless protein and dietary fiber. You can add smoky flavor with a touch of liquid smoke.

    10. Watch the sauce. Most commercial brands of barbecue sauce are loaded with sugar (often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup) and sodium. Check the labels and go for those sweetened with agave or Splenda, or consider making your own sauce. Blend canned tomato paste with agave (or much less sugar than commercial brands), spices, vinegar and, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, fruit juice and/or mustard. Taste as you go. For portion control, don’t pour liberally over meats: Brush the sauce on.

    Now, your cook-outs will be better-for-you, and you didn’t have to go to culinary school to learn how to do it!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 7 Uses For Broth Or Stock

    Digging in the back of the pantry, we found several cartons of beef, chicken and vegetable broth and stock stock nearing expiration. We grabbed a pencil and created this list of how to use them:

    Braise & Glaze. Braise meats, glaze vegetables. Any savory recipe that calls for the addition of water can probably be improved by substituting stock.

    Cook Grains. Substitute chicken or vegetable stock for the cooking water and your grains will taste so much better. Use two parts stock to one part barley, couscous, rice, quinoa or other favorite grain.

    Drink A Cup. Beef and chicken broth are protein-packed alternatives to a hot cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy a cup plain or with cracked pepper, minced herbs and/or a tablespoon of grated Parmesan. Spice it up with a splash of hot sauce or minced chiles.

    Make Pasta En Brodo. An Italian classic, soup pasta or tortellini cooked in broth and served in the cooking broth with generous amounts of pasta. You can substitute barley, quinoa or other nutritious grain for the pasta. (Add spaghetti to chicken broth and you’ve got chicken noodle soup.)

     

    swanson-chicken-broth-carton-230b

    A versatile pantry sample. Photo courtesy Swanson.

     

    imagine-vegetable-broth-carton-230

    For recipes or a cup of pick-me-up. Photo
    courtesy Imagine Foods.

     

    Make Polenta. While we typically save time by purchasing premade rolls of polenta, the homemade version is so much better—and even better when made with stock instead of water. (In cooking school, which followed French techniques, we were instructed to make it with cream. Nope!)

    Make Risotto. We love an excuse to whip up a risotto. You need arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano rice (these starchier varieties create risotto’s creaminess—see the different types of rice). While plain risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano or other Italian grating cheese is delicious, wild mushroom risotto or seafood risotto is submlime. Seasonal vegetables are another fine addition. Here’s a recipe for asparagus and shrimp risotto.

    Make Soup. Add pasta and veggies for homemade chicken noodle soup; use as a base for anything from minestrone to hot and sour soup.

     
    STOCK & BROTH: THE DIFFERENCE

    The difference between a stock and a broth is the seasoning. Stock is not seasoned; it is an unfinished product that is an ingredient in another dish. For example, stock is used to make gravy (beef stock is use used for au jus), marinades, risotto, sauces and other soups.

    So, if you’re using stock, you’ll need to add salt to your desired level. Broth already contains salt.

    Broth is a thin soup is made from a clear stock foundation. The terms bouillon and broth are used interchangeably. However, a bouillon is always served plain (with an optional garnish), whereas broth can be made more substantive with the addition of a grain (corn, barley, rice) and vegetables.

    Here are the related types of soups, including consommé and velouté.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP: Save Your Olive Pits

    olive-pits-flheritage.com-230r

    Save those olive pits! Photo courtesy Florida
    Department Of State.

     

    Here’s something new to try this barbecue season: olive pits.

    Who knew:

    Dropping a few olive pits (a.k.a. stones) onto the barbecue coals adds a really special aroma that will have people guessing as to its origin.

    Here’s all you have to do:

  • Collect the olive pits, clean them and dry them.
  • Store them in an airtight jar until ready to use.
  • Toss onto the hot coals before adding the food.
  •  
    Let us know how you like it.

     

    What else can you do with olive pits?

    If the climate is right, you can grow a tree from scratch. Otherwise, we’re stumped. If you have suggestions, let us know!

      

    Comments

    TRENDS: What’s New In Barbecue

    Spell it barbecue, barbeque or the short form BBQ, May first is the start of the May-September peak outdoor cooking season. Not surprisingly, it’s National Barbecue Month.

    According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), nearly 14 million grills and smokers were shipped in 2013. This year’s industry expo, held in March, displayed more innovative grills, smokers and outdoor living products to tempt gung-ho grillers.

    Here are the 2014 barbecue trends:

  • Wood pellets are on the rise. Made from compressed sawdust, wood pellets are heating up grills and smokers across the country. An all-natural product, wood pellets produce a strong, slow-burning source of heat that gives a unique smoky flavor to foods. This year, new wood pellet grills and smokers are making it easier to cook outdoors no matter what time of year. Wood pellets grills and smokers use a variety of pellet forms to create different smoky tastes, all with a simple and easy cleanup process.
  •  

    grilled-flank-steak-quesadillas-kingsfordcharcoal-230

    Grilled flank steak quesadillas. Photo courtesy Kingsford Charcoal. Here’s the recipe.

     

  • Grills and smokers are more portable. Whether for tailgating, campsites or cooking on the beach, manufacturers have made it easier to take the party anywhere. The new, lightweight grills and smokers are easily collapsible and portable, with all-terrain features that make it simple to cook and smoke foods on-the-go.
  •  

    grilled-pizza-grilling.com-230

    Grill your pizza. Here’s the recipe. Photo
    courtesy Grilling.com.

     
  • Outdoor ovens. Innovations in outdoor gas and wood-fired ovens make it easier to cook anything you can make on the inside. Use your outdoor oven for baked desserts, pizza and roasted (as opposed to grilled) vegetables. Outdoor ovens also provide an extra cooking space during the holidays and other special occasions.
  • Organized accessories. When entertaining outdoors, it’s important to have everything you need right at your fingertips. New innovations such as countertops with drawer storage and drink coolers make it easy to party outside. With full sinks, refrigerators and lighting, you can be equipped outdoors with all the amenities of your indoor kitchen.
  •  
    THINGS TO BARBECUE

    Beyond proteins and veggies, have you grilled bread, desserts, pizza and quesadillas?

    Get yourself a barbecue recipe book, like The Barbecue! Bible, which has more than 500 recipes.

    Or, check out blogs like 100 Things To Barbecue.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Tagine

    A tagine (tah-ZHEEN) is a Moroccan stew of vegetables with meat, poultry, fish or seafood. More specifically, it’s a Berber dish from North Africa that is named after the type of earthenware pot in which it is cooked, originally over coals. (A similar dish, tavvas, is made in Cyprus.)

    There are traditional clay tagines, some so beautifully hand-painted as to double as decorative ceramics; modern tagines, such as Le Creuset enamelware; and even electric tagines for people who don’t have stoves or ovens.

    You can buy a tagine, but you can make the stew in whatever pot you have.

     
    HOW A TAGINE WORKS

    The traditional tajine pot is made of clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a round, flat base pot with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that covers it during cooking.

    The cover is designed to promote the return of all the liquid condensation back to the pot, allowing for a long simmer and moist chunks of meat. The stew is traditionally cooked over large bricks of charcoal that have the ability to stay hot for hours.

     

    chicken-tagine-lecreuset-230

    A modern enamelware tagine. Photo courtesy Le Creuset.

     
    Tajines can also be cooked in a conventional oven or on a stove top. For the stove top, a diffuser—a circular piece of aluminum placed between the tajine and burner—is used to evenly distribute the stove heat to permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking. Modern tajines made with heavy cast-iron bottoms replace them.

     

    black-white-tagine-230

    A traditional hand-painted tagine. You can
    buy this one online.

     

    MAKE A TAGINE

    This vegetarian tagine recipe is from FAGE Total Yogurt. You can serve it as a side or as a main dish with sliced grilled chicken, lamb or salmon.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 1 hour, 10 minutes. Serve with couscous and a crisp salad.
     
    RECIPE: MOROCCAN CHICKPEA & VEGETABLE
    TAGINE WITH YOGURT DRESSING

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, cinnamon and turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1-3/4 cup chickpeas
  • 1-3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 cup baby corn
  • 1/4 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 cup baby carrots
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley and coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT half of the oil in a tagine or other pan. Add onion, garlic, and spices. Fry over a low to medium heat for 5 minutes until golden.

    2. ADD the chickpeas, tomatoes and stock. Cook for 20 minutes.

    3. STIR FRY the vegetables in a separate frying pan or wok with remaining oil, and then add to the chickpea mixture.

    4. BRING to a boil, cover and simmer for a further 20 minutes.

    5. MAKE the herb yogurt dressing: Mix the yogurt, chopped parsley and coriander together. To finish, add half the yogurt, adjust seasoning to taste and serve with the rest of the yogurt on the side. NOTE: Don’t boil the stew after adding the yogurt or it may separate.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 5 Ways To Separate Eggs

    egg-separator-oxo-bowl-230

    A conventional egg separator (strainer).
    Photo courtesy Oxo.

     

    Everyone has a technique to separate eggs. We’ve tried five:

    1. Hand Method. Crack the egg and pour it into the palm of your hand; let the whites drain through your fingers (this was probably the original technique). It’s a great technique to know if you can’t find the egg separator! If you don’t like the idea of using your hands, you can use a slotted spoon; but you’ll probably need an assistant to hold the spoon.

    2. Shell Transfer Method. You’ve seen chefs do this: cracking the egg, separating the shell and pouring the yolk back and forth between the halves as the whites drain into a bowl. It’s considered the “professional” way; with practice, anyone can do it. Here’s a video.

    3. Funnel Method. Stand a large funnel up in a cup and crack the egg. The white will slip through.

    4. Egg Separator Method. This is the one we use, relying on a gadget that allows the white to easily strain through into a bowl. This one from OXO can also clip to the rim of a mixing bowl. Here’s a video.

     

    5. Plastic Bottle Method. A video circulating the Internet in fun engendered today’s tip. Squeeze some of the air from a clean plastic water bottle or soft drink bottle. Crack the egg in a bowl and, squeezing the bottle slightly, place mouth of the bottle on top of the yolk. Slowly release your grip; the air pressure will push the yolk into the bottle. You can also buy small, attractive yolk extractor (photo at right) that does the same thing.

    EGG SEPARATING TIPS

    Buying

  • Size. Buy large, as opposed to extra-large or jumbo, eggs. The smaller the egg, the thicker the shell, the less likely you are to get shell fragments in the separated egg.
  • Freshness. Fresh eggs separate more easily. The younger the egg, the tighter the yolk. The older the egg, the thicker and more gluey the white. Fresher eggs have stronger proteins, which are needed if you’re making meringues, soufflés or other recipes that require stiffly-beaten egg whites.
  •  

    egg-separator-niceshop-230

    The newest egg separating device: a suction cup. Photo courtesy Niceshop.

     
    Using The Eggs

  • Chill first. The yolk is less likely to break when it’s cold. If you need the whites or yolks at room temperature, just let them sit after separating.
  • Freeze leftovers.You can freeze any unused whites or yolks. Freeze them separated in small containers, labeled with how many whites or yolks are stored.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Arrope

    arrope-beauty-mieldepalma.com-230

    Arrope syrup. There’s also an arrope
    preserve with pumpkin (see photo below).
    Photo courtesy Miel de Palma.

     

    Arrope (ah-ROE-pay), a cooking and condiment syrup, is a product that few of us have in our kitchens. Yet, if you’re a serious cook (or eater), it’s an ingredient you should know about.

    If your parents are serious cooks/eaters, it’s an idea for a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift—so much tastier than another scarf or tie.

    And if no one cooks, there’s a delicious arrope pumpkin preserve, a recipe that derives from the ancient use of arrope to preserve or stew fruits. The pumpkin is cooked in the arrope until it is candied. It’s delicious as a sweet-and-earthy bread spread or a condiment with creamy goat’s or sheep’s milk cheeses (see photo below).

    In fact, when you go to purchase arrope, you need to be specific. Otherwise, you can easily be sold the preserve instead of the syrup, or vice versa. Tip: If the word “pumpkin” appears, it’s the preserve.

    WHAT IS ARROPE

    A reduction of grape must, arrope is a condiment that dates to ancient Rome, where it was called defrutum or sapa. It survives as a gourmet Spanish condiment. The name comes from the Arabic word rubb, syrup.

     
    Arrope is closely related to saba (also called sapa, mosto d’uva cotto and vin cotto). This group comprises ancient precursors to “modern” balsamic vinegar, which appeared in the 11th century.

    So if you’re a balsamic vinegar fan, chances are good that you’ll be happy to discover arrope.

     

    Like honey* and saba, in the days before sugar was widely available arrope was used to add sweetness. Today it is used in everything from drinks to salad dressings to sauces to desserts (try it with fruit salad or drizzled over ice cream). We use it as a glaze for roast poultry and meats. It easily substitutes in cooking for sweet wines such as sherry and marsala.

    As civilization embraced massed-produced foods over artisan products in the latter half of the 20th century, the craft of making arrope—which involves carefully cooking down the must into a syrup over a period of weeks—has almost disappeared. It survives among a handful of artisan producers, carrying on family traditions. (Before modern times, arrope was made by the cook of the family.)

    In Spain, the few remaining artisans produce arrope syrup (grape must reduction) and preserved pumpkin.

    While it’s no leap to combine arrope in Spanish recipes, you can port it over to any cuisine—just as with Italy’s saba and France’s verjus.

     

    arrope-jam-forevercheese-230

    A Spanish cheese plate with typical condiments: fig cake, fresh figs, and in the back, a bowl of arrope preserve with candied pumpkin.

     
    *Honey is sweet and syrupy straight from the hive (or straight from the hive and pasteurized). Arrope and saba are cooked to develop sweet-and-sour flavors including notes of cooked caramel.
     
    HOW ARROPE IS MADE

    It starts with a large quantity of grape must, freshly pressed grape juice that still contains all of the skins and seeds and stems. The must is very flavorful with high levels of sugar.

  • The fresh-pressed grape juice can be strained and sold as verjus, where it is used instead of citrus juice or vinegar.
  • Or, it can be cooked down into arrope or saba.
  • To make arrope, the must is boiled until the volume is reduced by at least 50%, and its viscosity is reduced to a thick syrup. There is no added sugar or pectin.
  • Saba is similarly boiled down into a syrup.
  •  
    Ready to try it? Check at your local specialty food market or order it online:

  • Arrope syrup (grape must reduction)
  • Arrope with pumpkin (preserve)
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Deconstruct Your Favorite Foods

    deconstructed-carbonara-foodrepublic-230

    Deconstructed carbonara. Here’s the recipe.
    Photo courtesy Christopher Hirsheimer and
    Melissa Hamilton.

     

    Today’s tip is to have fun deconstructing a favorite family dish.

    Deconstruction is an avant-garde culinary trend of the last 15 years or so, championed by the famed Catalan chef Ferran Adrià, who has referred to his cooking as “deconstructivist.”

    Hervé This, the “father of molecular gastronomy,” reintroduced the concept in 2004 as “culinary constructivism.” Essentially, all of the components and flavors of a classic dish are taken apart and presented in a new shape or form.

    The idea is art plus fun, and the deconstruction must taste as good as the original. For example:

  • Deconstructed pecan pie could be brown sugar custard [emulating the filling], with crumbled shortbread cookies [for the crust] and a side of caramelized pecans.
  • Deconstructed key lime pie could be the key lime filling in a Martini glass, topped with graham cracker crumbs.
  • >Deconstructed stuffed cabbage: our favorite way to make stuffed cabbage. We’ve done this for some 25 years—who knew we were so avant garde of culinary deconstruction? We slice the cabbage and cook it in the tomato sauce along with rice-filled meatballs. It saves hours of blanching cabbage leaves, filling them with chopped meat and rice, rolling and cooking. All the flavors are there, and it’s also easier to eat (you often need a steak knife to saw through those blanched cabbage leaves).
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    SOME DECONSTRUCTED RECIPES

  • Deconstructed Bloody Mary: recipe
  • Deconstructed Buffalo Wings: recipe
  • Deconstructed Caesar Salad: recipe
  • Deconstructed Coffee Ice Cream (an affogato):
    recipe
  • Deconstructed Crab Cake: recipe
  • Deconstructed Fruit Loops Cereal: recipe
  • Deconstructed Guacamole: recipe
  • Deconstructed Ratatouille: recipe
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    When you’ve finished your own deconstructed dish, send us a photo.

     

    deconstructed-cheesecake-garretkern-230

    Deconstructed cheesecake maintains the flavors and textures of the original. Photo courtesy Garret Kern. See more.

     

      

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