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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 Desserts

TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches For Dessert

bananafostergrilledcheese-grilledcheesesocial-230

Bananas Foster on French toast. Photo
courtesy Heidi Larsen | Foodie Crush.

 

April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Wisconsin, American’s premier cheese-producing state (California is runner-up), even has a chef-spokesperson for the occasion.

She is MacKenzie Smith of the blog Grilled Cheese Social, where she creates recipe after recipe for innovative grilled cheese sandwiches. She’s also the sandwich expert for About.com.

Mackenzie developed five new grilled cheese sandwiches for National Grilled Cheese Month—made with delicious Wisconsin cheese of course. The first is what we’d call “dessert grilled cheese,” although you can certainly have it as your main for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

It takes the idea of Bananas Foster—bananas sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and rum. Mackenzie combines these ingredients with sweet, creamy mascarpone and cream cheese on a sandwich of French toast.

It’s a smash, and our tip of the day is dessert grilled cheese.

 
RECIPE: BANANAS FOSTER GRILLED CHEESE

Ingredients For 1 Sandwich

  • 1 ounce (about 1/8 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 ounce cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon banana liqueur or brandy
  • 1/2 small banana, thickly sliced
  • 2 slices brioche bread
  • Sea salt flakes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the mascarpone and cream cheese in bowl. Set aside.

    2. PREPARE the French toast batter: In bowl, beat egg, milk and vanilla and set aside in a shallow bowl wide enough to hold sandwich for dipping.

    3. MELT 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add the liqueur and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the banana, stirring constantly to evenly coat bananas. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the bananas are well coated in sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

    4. PREPARE the sandwich: Spread the mascarpone mixture evenly on one side of each bread slice. Top one mascarpone-covered slice with the banana mixture, a sprinkle of sea salt and the remaining bread slice, mascarpone-covered slice down.

    5. SOAK (gently!) each side of sandwich in the French toast batter for a 1 minute. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet and grill 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and allow to rest 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

     

    RECIPE: DULCE DE LECHE GRILLED CHEESE

    Dulce de leche fans will enjoy this dessert grilled cheese sandwich, made with mascarpone and the addictive Argentinian dessert (made by caramelizing sugar in milk).

    The recipe is courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Academy.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dulce de leche
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves or 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
     
    Preparation

  •  

    mascarpone-dulce-raspberry-grilledcheeseacademy-230

    Mascarpone and dulce de leche on cinnamon raisin bread. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

    1. COMBINE the mascarpone, dulce de leche and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

    2. BUTTER one side of each slice of bread. Spread the mascarpone mixture on the non-buttered side of 4 of the bread slices. Spread raspberry preserves on the non-buttered side of the remaining 4 slices of bread.

    3. PLACE one slice of bread with raspberries or preserves on each mascarpone-topped bread slice, buttered sides out. Place the sandwiches on an electric griddle heated to 350°F, or in a preheated skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until bread is lightly toasted.

    4. REMOVE and serve immediately, unsliced, since cheese is very soft.
     

    WANT MORE?

    Here’s another dessert recipe: Mascarpone Grilled Cheese With Chocolate “Soup.”

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Enjoy Rhubarb

    rhub-230

    By the time it gets to market, the leaves
    (which are mildly toxic) are typically cut off
    rhubarb, and only the stalks are sold.
    Rhubarb looks like pink celery, but it isn’t
    related. Photo courtesy OurOhio.com.

     

    Spring is rhubarb season. It parallels asparagus season, available fresh for just three months a year—April through June.

    So make rhubarb while you can. Naturally tangy, this versatile vegetable can be used in savory sauces or cooked as a vegetable. When combined with sugar it pops into delicious desserts, which is why sweet rhubarb has become more popular than savory preparations.

    Rhubarb first grew wild in northwest China, and was cultivated as far back as 5,000 years ago, for medicinal purposes. Before it was first sweetened by British cooks in the Victorian era, it was added to soups, sauces and stews—Moroccan tagines and Middle Eastern stews, for example.

    The thinner and darker pink the fresh rhubarb stalks are, the sweeter they will be. When shopping for rhubarb, look for stalks that are crisp, bright pink, thin, and unblemished.

    Check your farmers markets and specialty food stores for rhubarb products, fresh-baked (pies, tarts) or prepared (chutneys, jams).

    At the grocer’s, Dry Soda makes a rhubarb flavor; rhubarb syrup to mix into drinks, on pancakes, etc. (you can also find strawberry rhubarb syrup).

     
    COOKING WITH RHUBARB

    Be sure to cook only the stems; the leaves are mildly toxic.

    Savory Uses For Rhubarb

  • Braised and served with meats and as a savory garnish (recipe)
  • Fresh rhubarb in lentil soup (recipe)
  • Homemade rhubarb pickles
  • Hot & sour tilapia with gingered rhubarb sauce (recipe)
  • Rhubarb chutney as a condiment with grilled meats (recipe with pork loin)
  • Rhubarb chutney with a meat and cheese board
  • Rhubarb chutney or jam on a grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwich
  •  
    Sweet Uses For Rhubarb

  • Baked into cobblers, crisps, muffins and more (substitute rhubarb for apples or pears in your favorite recipes)
  • Rhubarb dessert soup (recipe)
  • Rhubarb chutney (recipe)
  • Rhubarb jam (recipe) or rhubarb and ginger jam (recipe)
  • Rhubarb ice cream (recipe)
  • Rhubarb simple syrup for beverages (cocktails, club soda, water, juice) or as a breakfast syrup (recipe)
  • Stewed rhubarb or rhubarb compote, delicious as a side with ham, pork and poultry, does double duty as a dessert (recipe below).
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (recipe—you can substitute raspberries)
  • Tofu pudding with rhubarb topping (recipe—substitute your favorite pudding)
  •  

    RECIPE: NANA’S STEWED RHUBARB

    You can use soft and sweet stewed rhubarb by itself, with an optional topping of crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt. We also like it:

  • With fresh berries or other fruit
  • On a biscuit or slice of cake with whipped cream
  • Atop cheesecake
  • Atop or mixed into yogurt
  • In tart shells or pavlovas (meringue shells)
  •  
    We loved our Nana’s stewed rhubarb so much, we visited twice weekly during rhubarb season just to get our fill.

    This easy recipe requires only three ingredients—rhubarb, sugar, water and lemon juice—with optional flavorings (you can substitute a teaspoon of vanilla for the tablespoon of lemon juice).

    For a purée, like applesauce, run the cooked rhubarb through a food mill or food processor.

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound rhubarb
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Optional: raspberries, strawberries
  •  

    stewed-rhubarb-BalticMaid-230

    A seasonal delight: sweet and tangy stewed rhubarb. Photo courtesy BalticMaid.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. TRIM, wash and dice the rhubarb. Combine in a saucepan with the water, sugar, lemon juice and optional sliced berries.

    2. BRING the water to a boil and then simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is slightly thickened and the rhubarb is is in threads (stringy), about 15 minutes.  

    3. COOL and chill or serve warm.
     
    ABOUT RHUBARB

    Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable, a member of the sorrel family (the difference between fruits and vegetables). Native to Asia, rhubarb has long been used in Chinese medicine.

    Fruits carry their seeds inside; vegetable seeds scatter in the wind. You see seeds in an apple, avocado, cucumber and tomato, but not in broccoli, carrots or lettuce. Lacking sweetness doesn’t make it a vegetable.

    Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum, is a vegetable in the family Polygonaceae. The leaf stalks (petioles) are crisp like celery with a strong, tart taste. Rhubarb looks like rosy-pink celery, but is no relation (celery is a member of the Apiaceae family).
     
    Fruit Vs. Vegetable

    While rhubarb is botanically considered a vegetable, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction on imported rhubarb tariffs, as tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits. [Source: Wikipedia]

    And that’s only one example. Science notwithstanding, on May 10, 1893, tomatoes, a red fruit/berry of the Nightshade family, were declared a vegetable by the United States Supreme Court.

    At the time, there were import tariffs on vegetables but not fruits, yet tomatoes were still being subjected to the tax. In 1887, an importing company had sued the tax collector of the Port of New York to recover back duties collected on their tomatoes, which they claimed had been wrongfully classified as vegetables.

    The Court decided that the tariff act should be based “in common language of people,” not botanists, so tomatoes should be taxed like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets etc.

    More proof that justice is blind.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Dessert Pasta

    Most people think of pasta as a savory recipe. But the noodles themselves are very versatile. Made with flour, water and egg, they can be cooked for dessert as well as the main course.

    While not an April Fool joke, it seems like the right dessert for April Fool’s Day.

    The recipe was created by Michael Stambaugh of the El Conquistador Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a recipe contest held by the National Pasta Association and the Culinary Institute of America. It won third place.

    After you master this recipe, you may develop your own ideas for variations on the theme of dessert lasagna.

    We’ve got 11 more recipes for dessert pasta. Take a look.

    RECIPE: DESSERT LASAGNA

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 8 kiwis, peeled
  •    

    Dessert_Lasagne230-ps

    Fruit lasagna for dessert! Photo courtesy National Pasta Association.

  • 4 cups strawberries, washed and trimmed, 8 berries reserved for garnish
  • 4 cups blackberries, washed
  • 1/2 cup toasted, sliced almonds
  • Garnish: mint sprigs
  •  

    mixed-berries-greengiantfresh.com-230

    If you don’t like one of the fruits in the recipe, pick another to purée. Photo courtesy
    Green Giant Fresh

     

    Preparation

    1. COOK the pasta according to package directions, substituting 2 tablespoons of sugar for the salt. Rinse, drain and set aside.

    2. STIR together the ricotta cheese and ½ cup sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE 4 kiwis with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor. Transfer the purée to a bowl and set aside. Rinse the processor bowl.

    4. PURÉE half the strawberries with 2 tablespoons sugar in the food processor. Strain the purée into a bowl and set aside. Rinse the processor bowl.

    5. PURÉE half the blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar in the food processor. Strain the purée and set aside.

    6. SLICE the remaining kiwis into ¼-inch thick rounds. Slice the strawberries into 1/8-inch thick pieces. Slice the blackberries in half.

     

    To Assemble The Lasagna

    1. RESERVE 1/4 cup of each of the purées to use as a garnish.

    2. COVER the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch glass baking pan with 3 lasagna noodles. Spoon 1/3 of the ricotta on top and spread it evenly.

    3. POUR the kiwi purée over the cheese and arrange the kiwi slices on top of the purée. Lay 3 more lasagna noodles on top and cover with 1/2 the remaining cheese.

    4. POUR the strawberry purée over the cheese and sprinkle with sliced strawberries. Lay 3 more lasagna noodles on top and cover with the remaining cheese. Pour the blackberrys purée over the cheese and sprinkle with blackberries. Top with a final layer of pasta. Cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

    5. TO SERVE: Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and with the toasted almonds. Cut into 8 rectangles and use a spatula to set the pieces on dessert plates. Decorate the plates with dots of the reserved purées. Garnish each piece of lasagna with a strawberry and a sprig of mint.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Hungarian Rice Pudding

    rice-pudding-LittleBucharestBistro-230

    Hungarian Rice Pudding. Photo and recipe courtesy Little Bucharest Bistro | Chicago.

     

    A bone-chilling day like today calls for extra helpings of comfort food. One of our favorites is rice pudding. We’ve made it every way, including conventional, with rum-soaked raisins, with dried cherries and cranberries replacing the raisins, and a Thai-inspired version with black rice and coconut milk.

    Today, it’s Hungarian rice pudding. This is the recipe made by the Hungarian grandmother of Branko Podrumedic, owner of Little Bucharest Bistro in Chicago. In Hungarian, the recipe is called budinca de orez.

    Rice pudding is usually served as a dessert, but Branko notes that it also makes a delicious breakfast. If you’d like an eggier pudding for breakfast, you can increase the eggs to four, and reduce the honey for a less dessert-like (sweet) dish.

    For a richer rice pudding, use half and half instead of regular milk. For a non-dairy version, use coconut milk.

     
    Whether for dessert or breakfast, you can serve it with fresh fruit or a spoonful jam (our own grandmother was partial to cherry preserves).
     
    RECIPE: HUNGARIAN RICE PUDDING

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 cup rice (uncooked)*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • Optional garnishes: chopped toasted nuts, toasted coconut, fresh fruit, preserves or fruit sauce (purée)
  •  

    *We prefer white basmati rice, which makes a creamy rice pudding but holds its texture.

    Preparations

    1. COOK the rice. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

    2. BEAT the eggs in a large bowl. Add the milk, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat very well with a whisk or electric beaters, ensuring that no honey remains at the bottom of the bowl. Add the rice and raisins to the liquid mixture. Stir until combined.

    3. GREASE a baking dish, and gently pour in the rice mixture.

    4. SPRINKLE nuts on top and dust top with cinnamon.

    5. PLACE the baking dish in a pan of warm water and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Serve hot or cold with cream, fresh berries, fruit sauce and/or toasted coconut garnish.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Kitchen Torch

    The kitchen torch, culinary torch, cooking torch or [less poetically] butane torch is used by chefs and sophisticated home cooks.

    Today’s handy culinary torch descends from the heavy duty blowtorches, long used by gold and silversmiths (the first patent dates to 1791).

    While its most famous kitchen use is to caramelize the sugar on the top of crème brûlée, it is also handy to:

  • Brown meringue (we use it for Baked Alaska)
  • Char vegetables such as bell peppers
  • Melt or brown toppings on casseroles and soups
  • Melt cheese
  • Toast marshmallows
  •  
    Affordable at $25 or so, it’s well worth it if you’d like an easy alternative to using the broiler or holding peppers over the stove flame. You can pick one up at most kitchenware retailers or online.

       

    creme-brulee-davidvenableQVC-230

    Always a treat: crème brûlée. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    If you get one now, you can make Crème Brûlée for Valentine’s Day. Digging into that crunchy, crackly caramelized sugar topping and eating a piece with the creamy custard underneath is one of dessert’s great experiences. You can make it a signature special-occasion dish.

    Here’s a recipe from QVC’s David Venable. If you want to add a Grand Marnier accent, take a look at this recipe.

    You’ll need round or oval ceramic ramekins: 5-ounce ramekins for four servings, 3-ounce ramekins for seven servings. This set (photo below) from Bonjour includes both the torch and the ramekins.

    RECIPE: CRÈME BRÛLÉE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 9 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons dark spiced rum
  • White sugar (2-1/2 teaspoons for 5-ounce ramekins or 1-1/2 teaspoons for 3-oz ramekins)
  • Optional garnish: fresh berries
  •  

    creme-brulee-kitchen-torch-bonjour-230r

    You can also use the torch to melt the cheese on French onion soup, toast marshmallows and more. Photo courtesy Bonjour.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F.

    2. BRING the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar to a simmer in a 2-qt saucepan.

    3. LIGHTLY WHISK together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Temper the egg mixture by slowly pouring the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add the vanilla and the rum and continue whisking until fully incorporated. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Place the bowl with the brûlée mixture into an ice water bath and let cool completely.

    4. PLACE the ramekins in a large baking dish. Divide the brûlée mixture evenly among the ramekins, filling them 3/4 of the way full. Place the baking dish in the middle rack of the oven and then fill it with hot tap water, to 2/3 of the way up the ramekin sides.

    5. BAKE for 35-45 minutes for 4 (five-ounce) ramekins; or bake for 25-35 minutes for 7 (three-ounce) ramekins. When done, each brûlée will jiggle lightly in the center.

    6. REFRIGERATE for 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, sprinkle the white sugar over each cooled crème brûlée and torch until all of the sugar is melted and golden brown (it will begin to harden when the torch is removed). Serve immediately.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fondue For National Fondue Month

    Originally a melted cheese dish, the concept evolved to cooking beef, chicken, chocolate or seafood in the fondue pot. February is National Fondue Month, so why not plan a fondue feast?

    THE HISTORY OF FONDUE

    The melted cheese dish originated in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. The word fondue itself is the past participle of the French fondre, to melt down.

    The fondue is served from a communal pot called a caquelon, using long forks to spear cubes of bread that are swirled in the melted cheese. The tradition dates to the 18th century; some say it was developed as a way to use slightly stale bread.

    Each Swiss canton has its own variation on the recipe, which generally consists of at least two varieties of cheese, wine and a bit of flour or cornstarch to keep the melted cheese from separating.

  • Raclette is a related dish, made from a Swiss cheese that is similar to Gruyère. But instead of melting it in a communal pot, the wheel of cheese is brought to the table on a cart, exposed to heat and and scraped onto a plate as it melts (racler is French for “to scrape”). It is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, cornichons and dark bread.
  •    

    fondue-artisanalrestaurant-230

    Classic cheese fondue. Photo courtesy Artisanal Restaurant | NYC.

  • Fonduta is an Italian dish similar to fondue, made with Fontina cheese, milk and egg yolks. Elegant versions top it with shaved white truffle.
  • Kaas Doop is a fondue-style Dutch dish made with Gouda cheese, milk and brandy, with nutmeg seasoning, that uses brown bread for dipping.
  •  
    Although it adds to the aesthetic, you don’t need a fondue pot (caquelon) to melt cheese or chocolate or to heat cooking oil. A heavy-bottomed saucepan or ideally, a double boiler, works fine.

    But then, to keep the fondue heated after it has been served, you’ll need a hot plate for the table. If you don’t have one, you probably know someone who has one stashed away and will lend it.
     
    FONDUE RECIPES

    To help you decide where to begin: We recommend starting with a classic cheese fondue. Here’s the basic cheese fondue recipe plus 28 variations, from blue cheese and goat cheese variations to Nacho and Philly Cheesesteak fondue. Or consider:

  • Reduced Fat Cheddar Fondue Recipe
  • Cheddar Chive Fondue With Tortilla Chips Recipe
  • How To Melt Cheese Tips
  •  
    For Valentine’s Day, how about chocolate fondue—your choice of dark, milk or white chocolate? Here’s an even richer Chocolate Fondue with Mascarpone recipe.

    You can also spice things up with these Spicy Chocolate Fondue recipe variations.

     

    sugardaddys-230

    Chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy Sugardaddy’s.

     

    RECIPE: SEAFOOD FONDUE

    This recipe was adapted from GourmetSleuth.com.

    Ingredients For 4 People

  • 1 pound* salmon, halibut or other thick-fleshed fish filets
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, washed and dried
  • Canola or peanut oil
  • Optional vegetables: bell pepper strips, pearl onions
  • Dipping sauces (see below)
  •  
    *Plan for at least 1/3 pound fish/seafood per person.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT fish into one-inch cubes or 1/4″ w x 2″ long strips, depending on shape of filets. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

    2. SET the table with plates, fondue forks and dips. You can provide individual dip portions, or have guests spoon dips onto their plates. (NOTE: Use only metal fondue forks or bamboo skewers, as wooden skewers can burn in hot oil.)

    3. FILL the fondue pot with oil and heat on the stove until it reaches 350°F. Place the fondue pot on a brazier stand or hot plate on the table, over moderately high heat. Note that for beef or seafood fondue, you must use a stainless steel pot. Ceramic pots aren’t safe with the hot oil.

    4. SPEAR cubes or shrimps and place in the hot oil until cooked.

     
    SEAFOOD FONDUE DIPS

    RECIPE: SPICY COCKTAIL SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • Dash hot pepper sauce
  •  
    1. COMBINE ingredients and store refrigerated until use.
     
    RECIPE: TARTAR SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions (green part only)
  • 2 tablespoons drained sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon drained small capers (chop if large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon (or substitute 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles)
  •  
    1. BLEND all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt.
     
    RECIPE: DILL SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/4 cups crème fraîche or whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  •  
    1. COMBINE clam juice and wine in a heavy small non-aluminum saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 9 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

    2. WHISK in crème fraîche. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in dill. Season with salt and pepper.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Key Limes Are In Season

    persian-key-napkins-230

    Darker green Persian/Tahitian limes and the
    smaller, yellower Key limes. Photo by Evan
    Dempsey | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We love the filling of Key lime pie. Not especially a crust fan, we often make the filling alone, to serve crustless in pots de crème or ramekins.

    If you’ve had Key lime pie made with fresh-squeezed, as opposed to bottled, juice, you know what an exquisite difference that is. But for many years, Key limes weren’t available nationwide, and then, they were limited to their season of June through August.

    So great is America’s love of Key lime pie that the fruits are now available year-round. That means no more bottled juice!

    Key limes (Citrus aurantifolia Swingle), also known as Mexican limes and West Indies limes, are grown in the Florida Keys, Mexico and the West Indies. They are much smaller than standard supermarket limes, known as Persian or Tahitian limes (Citrus x latifolia). You can see the relative sizes in the photo. (See all the different types of limes in our Lime Glossary.

    About the size of a ping pong ball, the Key lime is rounder and more fragrant than the Persian/Tahitian lime, with a much thinner rind. It has more seeds, and we’ll keep it that way: Breeding out features like seeds tends to breed out flavor as well.

    But the real reason people love Key lime is that it’s less acidic than the Persian/Tahitian: pleasantly tart rather than puckery sour. It makes a big difference in a dessert. You can make Key lime pie with regular lime juice, but it will have more tang.

     

    When purchasing Key limes, don’t worry if the skin is more yellow than green, or vice versa. Choose limes that are heavy for their size, which indicates more juice. The limes can be kept at room temperature for several days, or will keep for a week or more in the fridge (keep them in a plastic storage bag or wrap them in plastic wrap).

    As a general tip, before you juice limes or any citrus, bring them to room temperature; then roll them on the counter under firm pressure from your hand. This will release more juice from the sacs.
     
    THE HISTORY OF KEY LIMES

    The Key lime, a.k.a. Mexican lime and West Indies lime, originated in neither the Florida Keys nor Mexico nor the West Indies, but in the Indo-Malayan region of southern Asia. It was unknown in Europe before the Crusades and is presumed to have been brought to North Africa and the Near East by Arabs.

    It was brought by European Crusaders from Palestine to the Mediterranean countries. In the mid-13th century, the lime was cultivated and well-known in Italy and probably also in France. It was taken to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the early part of the 16th century, where it became naturalized in southern Florida, notably in the Florida Key. It was grown in southern Florida at least since the early half of the 1800s, often as an ornamental yard tree.

    By 1883 Key limes were being grown commercially on a small scale. When pineapple cultivation was abandoned in the Florida Keys because of soil depletion and the 1906 hurricane, farmers began to plant Key limes as a substitute crop. Because transporting delicate fruit was iffy in those days, Key limes were pickled in salt water and shipped north, where they became a popular children’s snack. (Remember Amy March in Little Women pining for pickled limes?)

     

    HOW TO USE KEY LIMES

    Use them wherever you might use regular lime juice: in cocktails like Gin & Tonics and Margaritas, in salad dressings (including fruit salad, where just a squeeze will suffice), on chicken and fish/seafood, in marinades, sauces and soups.

    But the flavors soar in desserts. Try these Key Lime Bars (recipe adapted from Martha Stewart).

     
    RECIPE: KEY LIME BARS

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 2-1/2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • 2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice (about 23 limes)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Garnish: 2 Key limes, thinly sliced into half-moons
  •  

    Key-Lime-Pie-Bars-mybakingaddiction-230

    Replace the ubiquitous lemon bars with Key lime bars. This recipe from My Baking Addition incorporates coconut into the crust. Photo courtesy My Baking Addition.
    .

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F. MIX the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Do not turn off the oven.

    2. MAKE the filling: Put the egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium. Add the condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise the speed to high and mix until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low. Add lime juice and mix until just combined.

    3. SPREAD the filling evenly over the crust with a spatula. Bake until the filling is just set, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking dish halfway through. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Cut into 2-inch-square bars. Ungarnished bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.

    4. MAKE the optional whipped cream prior to serving. Place the cream in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Garnish the bars with whipped cream and serve.
    Cook’s Note

     
    MORE KEY LIME RECIPES

  • Key Lime Pie Recipe
  • Key Lime Pot de Creme Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Eggnog Panna Cotta

    eggnog-panna-cotta-driscolls-230

    Eggnog panna cotta. Photo courtesy
    Driscoll’s.

     

    Panna cotta is an Italian dessert whose name means “cooked cream.” The heavy cream and eggs form one of the different types of custard.

    This recipe, from Driscoll’s Berries, adds rum and brandy, ingredients of eggnog; and creates individual portions in ramekins. The puddings get a festive finish with a topping of colorful, sweet-tart balsamic raspberries.

    Prep time is 1 hour, chill time is 2 hours. Find more delicious recipes at Driscolls.com.

    RECIPE: EGGNOG PANNA COTTA WITH
    BALSAMIC RASPBERRY TOPPING

    Ingredients For 8 to 10 Servings

  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • Canola oil for ramekins
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) plain gelatin
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons rum flavoring (or 1 teaspoon each rum flavoring and brandy flavoring)
  •  

    For The Balsamic Raspberries

  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 package (6 ounces or 1-1/3 cups) raspberries
  •  

    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY OIL six 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups.

    2. SPRINKLE gelatin over 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl. Let it stand until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.

    3. PLACE a fine mesh sieve over a heatproof bowl near the stove. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a second heatproof bowl until combined. Heat the cream and the remaining 3/4 cup milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until simmering.

    4. GRADUALLY WHISK the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the spoon (a finger run through the custard on the spoon will cut a swath) and an instant-read thermometer reads 185°F, about 3 minutes.

    5. POUR through the sieve into bowl. Discard any bits of cooked egg white in the sieve. Add the gelatin-milk mixture and rum extract to the cream mixture and whisk until gelatin is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Let stand 5 minutes to cool slightly.

     

    driscolls-boxes-imblogger.net-230

    Driscoll’s raspberries are available nationwide. Photo courtesy IMBlogger.net.

     

    6. DIVIDE the cream mixture evenly among ramekins. Cover each with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 2 hours.

    7. MAKE the balsamic raspberries: Whisk the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar together in a medium bowl to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the raspberries. Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.

    8. ASSEMBLE: To unmold each panna cotta, run a dinner knife around the inside of the ramekin to release the panna cotta. Hold a dessert plate firmly over the ramekin and invert the plate and ramekin together. Shake firmly to unmold the panna cotta onto the plate.

    9. TOP each panna cotta with an equal amount of raspberries and their juices. Serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Fondue

    In supermarkets, displays are currently piled high with panettone and pandoro, Italian holiday breads that are traditionally served and gifted during the Christmas and New Year season.

    The origins of sweet leavened breads date back to Roman times. By Medieval times, different regions of Italy had created signature holiday breads. Best-known, and available in the U.S., are:

  • Pandoro, the star-shaped “golden bread” from Venice, has no inclusions but is sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. This modern version first appeared in late 19th-century Verona. In the Renaissance, cone-shaped cakes for the wealthy were dusted with gold leaf.
  • Panettone, from Milan, has origins in a medieval Christmas yeast bread, filled with candied fruits and raisins. It is tall, dome-shaped and airy. While the recipe has been around for centuries, the first known use of the word “panettone” with Christmas is found in the 18th century writings of Pietro Verri, who refers to it as “pane di tono,” “large loaf.”
  • Panforte is short and dense, almost like fruitcake. It dates to 13th-century Siena, in Tuscany. Like fruitcake, it is served in thin slices.
  •    

    milk-chocolate-fondue-zabars-230

    Dip panettone cubes into chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy Zabars.

     

    PANETTONE DESSERT

    Most panettone is accented with raisins, candied orange peel, citron and lemon zest. Some modern versions add chocolate, which was not available when the recipe originated; others are plain, like pandoro.

    For a dessert or a snack, the classic panettone accompaniment is a sweet hot beverage or a sweet wine such as spumante or moscato (any dessert wine will do). Some Italians add a side of crema di mascarpone, a cream made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, and amaretto (or you can substitute zabaglione, a sherry-flavored custard sauce).

    But you can Americanize it into chocolate fondue with seasonal dippers. Here are recipes for chocolate and white chocolate fondues. Consider a white chocolate version with panettone and green and red fruit dippers—very Christmassy.

    You can also slice the panettone into layers and fill them with whipped cream (how about bourbon or rum whipped cream); then top with berries.

     

    pandoro-monkey-chef.blogspot-230

    A pandoro, baked in the shape of a star, with staggered slices emulating a Christmas tree. Photo courtesy Monkey-chef.blogspot.com.

     

    FONDUE DIPPERS

    Cakes, Cookies & Candies

  • Amaretti
  • Biscotti: cranberry, ginger, pumpkin
  • Crystallized ginger
  • Fruit cake cubes
  • Mini meringues
  • Gingersnaps or mini gingerbread men
  • Panettone cubes
  •  
    Fruits

  • Figs
  • Kiwi
  • Lady apples
  • Red grapes
  • Clementine/orange/mandarin segments
  • Pear slices
  • Strawberries and raspberries
  •  
    MORE PANETTONE DESSERT RECIPES

  • Try this Panettone Bread Pudding recipe.
  • With this Panettone French Toast recipe, you can serve the slices like dessert crêpes, topped with some whipped cream or ice cream.
  •  
    PANDORO DESSERT

    The star shape of a pandoro enables creative cooks to cut the cake into horizontal layers, then stack them in a offset layers to create a Christmas tree effect (see the photo above). You can decorated the tree with red and green candied cherries, or raspberries and and mint leaves.

    Alternatively, layers can be sandwiched with whipped cream or zabaglione. Whipped cream flavored with amaretto, Irish cream liqueur or chocolate liqueur is especially festive. Follow this recipe for Bourbon whipped cream (there’s also a recipe for salted caramel whipped cream).

    Find more pandoro recipes at BauliUSA.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker

    Some gadgets are a snore. Others really make a difference. In the latter camp is the Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker.

    The device enables you to create bite size, multi-layered gourmet appetizers using everyday ingredients. Yes, even peanut butter and jelly or egg salad seems “gourmet” when made in this format!

    The manufacturer claims that this can be done in “just five minutes,” but that’s just for simple layering, slicing and plating. You need to add a bit of time for any prep work—making crab salad, slicing olives and pimentos, chopping nuts, whatever. But what you end up with is worth it: fancy and fun appetizers or dessert bites that can become a signature offering at your home.

    If you have great knife skills, you don’t need this gadget. Just build a loaf of layers and slice your own.

    If, however, you’d never get even slices without help, this is your gadget for triple- or quadruple-layer appetizer or dessert bites that delight adults and kids alike. The instructions are easy to follow and deliver perfectly proportioned pieces. The device is fool-proof: Anyone can turn out impressive, professional looking appetizers with inexpensive ingredients (or, feel free to load in the pricey ones).

       

    Stacked layers of crab salad, garnished with crème fraîche and celery. Feel free to add more complexity to your stacks: some watercress atop one of the crab layers or some pimento strips, for example. Photo courtesy Architec.

     

    HOW IT WORKS

    You layer the ingredients in the plastic mold (see the photo below), then use the slots in the mold to cut the loaf into even pieces.

    You start and ending the stacked loaf with bread or another base. The base can be polenta, tortillas or even sushi rice.

    The fillings can be anything that’s a bit moist or creamy—the ingredients need to be “flexible” since the mold presses them into bites that hold their shape. So avoid a hunk of iceberg lettuce (but arugula, cress, mesclun or baby spinach work) or roast turkey. But if there’s something you really want, you may be able to figure out how to make it work. (Shred the lettuce and dice the turkey into mini cubes in a layer with moist stuffing, for example.)

    The layers are pressed to your desired thickness, and you can keep adding layers until the body of the mold is full. Then slice. When you remove the mold, the appetizers can be served from the plastic bottom tray. But for impressing your guests, you’ll probably want to re-plate them.

    And of course, you can garnish them with whatever you like, from crème fraîche to caviar, or whipped cream for dessert stacks.

     

    Layers of pimento, goat cheese and black olives. In this photo, the bottom tray has been removed from the mold and the individual stacks are being separated for serving. Photo courtesy Architec.

     

    WHAT TO MAKE

    Kids will enjoy peanut butter, jelly and banana bites; ham and cheese; bacon and egg stacks on a toast or waffle base; and mini pizza stacks.

    Foodies will enjoy crab salad, smoked salmon, goat cheese, chicken mousse, and a garnish of caviar.

    For everyone else: you know what your friends and family like (onions? pickle relish?), and where your own creativity will lead you.

    For desserts, you can layer angel or pound cake with jam, fruit compote or pudding; make zebras from brownies, cheesecake and perhaps some jam; and otherwise layer your fantasy dessert ingredients.

    The fun of the Stackable Appetizer Maker is playing around with different ingredients to find what works for you. Do your experimenting right before lunch, so you can eat your experiments.

     
    WHERE TO BUY IT

    The Stackable Appetizer Maker is $19.99, available on Amazon or from the manufacturer, Architec, in your choice of black, blue or red.

    Customers have posted a lot of good comments on Amazon—that the cutting tool isn’t effective (use your own bread knife), that the recipe booklet is a mess (you’ll have no problem putting together your own combinations).

    There are also great tips not provided by the manufacturer, including:

  • Watch the video before you begin.
  • Use “squishable” ingredients with enough fat or moisture content to act as glue when the stacks are compressed. Spreads and salads (chicken, crab, egg, shrimp, tuna) work with a bread base.
  • Be sure that all the ingredients are cold.
  • Dip your knife in ice water after each cut to prevent sticking.
  •  
    You can watch the video and download the recipe book for free on the Architec website (the video link leads to YouTube).

      

    Comments

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