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TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking In Parchment, Or “En Papillote”

Today is the first-ever National Parchment Day, celebrated on the last Wednesday of June to bring awareness to those who have not yet discovered the joy of working with culinary parchment.

The holiday was created by PaperChef, a leading producer of premium culinary parchment.

The right way to declare a holiday is to submit a proposal to the federal government, state or local government. A less official way to do it is to submit it to the National Day Calendar a commercial venture originally begun as a hobby by two enthusiasts in North Dakota.

 
WHAT IS CULINARY PARCHMENT PAPER?

Culinary parchment paper, also called kitchen parchment and bakery paper or baking paper, is a cellulose-based paper that provides a disposable, non-stick surface. It is a popular aid for oven cooking: It saves greasing and enables easy clean-up.

It also is used to create a packet for moist-heat cooking in the oven—for fish and shellfish, poultry, vegetables and so on. The French call this technique en papillote (on poppy-YOTE); it is al cartoccio in Italian, and cooking in parchment in English. The food is put into a folded pouch (parcel) and then baked in the oven.

You can also cook in parchment on a grill, up to 425°F, using a metal plate on the top rack and closing the lid. Unlike aluminum foil, the parchment won’t scorch.

Don’t confuse parchment with waxed paper, which has a thin coating of wax on each side to make it nonstick and moisture-resistant. Unlike parchment paper, it is not heat-resistant; the wax can melt and the paper can ignite in the oven. Parchment paper is impregnated with silicone, which prevents it from catching fire.

But you can do the reverse: In most applications that call for wax paper as a non-stick surface, you can substitute parchment.
 
CULILNARY PARCHMENT HISTORY

Culinary parchment has only been available since the 19th century. The earliest reference we have found is in the London Practical Mechanics Journal in October 1858.

We don’t know when it was applied to culinary use. Some sources cite the early 20th century. The 1858 reference suggests architects’ and engineers’ plans (today’s blueprints), tracing paper, bookbinding and maps.

   

Salmon En Papillote

Chocolate Chip Cookies Baked On Parchment

[1] Salmon cooked in folded parchment paper (photo courtesy PaperChef). [2] Cookies baked in a pan lined with parchment (photo courtesy Jules | Wikipedia).

 

Before cooking parchment, according to the website of The Telegraph, a daily newspaper in the U.K., “cooks would have used normal sheets of whatever white paper was on hand.” The article references a cookbook from 1823 by Mary Eaton, for baking beef in an earthenware dish covered in “two or three thicknesses of writing paper.” She warns against using brown paper, because “the pitch and tar which it contains will give the meat a smoky bad taste.”

More options in olden times:

  • Oil-soaked or buttered paper, for baking and roasting. Buttered paper was put on top of a roast to stop it from cooking too quickly—the way we use foil today.
  • Fish was cooked en papillote in a parcel of paper brushed with olive oil. Fish was cooked en papillote in a parcel of paper brushed with olive oil.
  • Brandy-soaked paper circles were used to seal fruit jams and preserves.
  • Beyond skimming, excess grease was removed from the top of a stock or soup with ink-blotting paper. Today, paper towels do the trick.
  •  
    Parchment used as writing paper dates to ancient Egypt. It is a completely different animal, so to speak: It is made from sheep and other animal skins, and was first created as scrolls, with the skins trimmed and stitched together as required. Animal parchment is still used for applications from college diplomas to religious texts.

    What the two parchments—animal and vegetable—have in common is their creamy white color.

     

    Salmon In Parchment

    Vegetables In Parchment

    Paperchef Parchment Bag

    [1] You can add a sauce or create one. Here, compound butter will melt to flavor the fish and vegetables (photo courtesy GoodLifeEats.com). [2] Vegetables cooked in parchment: so much more delicious than steaming but the same calories (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [3] There’s no need to fold paper: Just put the contents in a parchment bag [photo courtesy Paperchef).

      THE BENEFITS OF PARCHMENT PAPER

  • Low-fat cooking with fewer calories: You can cook healthier meals, without the need for added fat. No vitamins are “washed way” in the cooking process.
  • Convenience: The parchment packets may be prepared up to a day in advance, and are perfect for a single serving when you are cooking for one. It’s non-stick, non-scorching, and clean-up is a snap. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven without drying out (or becoming mushy, as with the microwave).
  • Flavorful and tender: Moist heat cooking captures and imbues the food with anything you add to the packet: aromatics (garlic, ginger, scallions, sliced lemon or lime), herbs, spices, wine and liquids from coconut milk to sauce and stock. The method produces very tender meat and vegetables.
  • Simple yet elegant: Parchment entrées are impressive at the dinner table. At a restauraunt, it is traditional for the maitre d’ to slice open the paper in front of the guest, delivering a delightful gust of aroma. At home, when everyone cuts open his or her packet, the effect is the same.
  • Environmentally friendly: Parchment is 100% biodegradable and FSC* certified.
  • Kosher: PaperChef is kosher-certified by Star-K and OU. Reynolds parchment and foil are certified kosher by OU.
  •  
    _____________________
    *Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification means that the materials have been sourced in an environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and economically viable manner.

     
    TYPES OF CULILNARY PARCHMENT PAPER

    More many decades, cut sheets, or those cut from a roll of parchment, were the options for lining baking pans, cake and pie tins, casseroles and the like.

    Different formats evolved to meet consumer needs.

  • Parchment sheets are the most convenient way to cook with parchment paper. Simply grab a pre-cut sheet to line pans, bakeware and cookware. You can buy rectangles as well as rounds.
  • Parchment rolls are a multipurpose kitchen paper. Like foil and waxed paper, you pull out the amount you need and cut it on the serrated package edge.
  • Parchment cooking bags are a recent innovation and our favorite parchment product. Just toss the ingredients into a bag, fold and cook. It saves the time of cutting a piece of paper to size and folding into packets.
  • Parchment baking cups allow muffins to slide out of the pan—like cupcake papers for muffins. We also like them to create perfectly round baked eggs, for Eggs Benedict or other fancy preparation. Lotus cups are deeper, for larger muffins. Tulip cups are made to add panache to specialty cupcakes, with a petal-like top for an impressive presentation.
  •  
    FIND PARCHMENT-BASED RECIPES FOR EVERYTHING FROM BREAKFAST TO DESSERT

    They’re all over the Web, including on the website of PaperChef.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Off-Season Coconut Macaroons

    Chocolate Dipped Macaroons Recipe

    Coconut Macaroons

    Coconut Macaroon Inside

    Top: Chocolate-dipped macaroons (photo courtesy McCormick). Center: Plain coconut macaroons (photo courtesy Recchiuti Confections). Bottom: Up close (photo by Georgie Grd | Wikipedia).

     

    If you like coconut, don’t wait until Passover* to make coconut macaroons. They’re a great treat year-round, and gluten-free. Bring them as house gifts: They travel well without breaking.

    We adapted this recipe from one by Serena Rain of VanillaQueen.com, purveyor of top-quality vanilla beans, extracts, pastes, powders, sugars and salts.
     
    RECIPE: COCONUT MACAROONS

    You don’t need to add chocolate to macaroons; but if you want to, there are two options:

  • Dip the macaroons in a chocolate glaze.
  • Mix chocolate chips into the dough. This is an especially good option for warm-weather months.
  •  
    Ingredients For About 24 Cookies

  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup almond meal†
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (for the dough)
  • Optional: 4 ounces quality chocolate bar (for a glaze)
  • Option: 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  •  
    Preparation

    You can incorporate the orange peel into the dough or the glaze. We like the “lift” it gives to the recipe.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line baking pans with parchment paper.

    2. COMBINE the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until well incorporated. Use a spoon to scoop tablespoon-sized mounds of the coconut “dough.” Shape into round balls and place on the parchment paper. Alternative: You can drop the dough as unshaped mounds. See the difference between the top photo (dropped) and the bottom photo (shaped).

    3. BAKE for about 20 minutes or until golden brown (aim for the color in the center photo). Let cool.

    4. MAKE the glaze. Place the chocolate in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, and if necessary, heat for 30 more seconds until fully melted. Dip the bottoms of the cooled macaroons into the chocolate. Alternatively, place the cookies on a tray lined with parchment paper and drizzle the tops with chocolate; let cool until set. Some people prefer the glaze on top: a chocolate dome. Take your pick.

     
    THE HISTORY OF MACAROONS

    Macaroons appeared in the late 15th or early 16th century in Italy. The historical record isn’t clear, but they are believed to have been created by monks. There were thousands of monasteries in medieval Europe, and monks created different types of beers, brandies and liqueurs, cheeses, pretzels, sweets, wines and spirits.

    The first macaroons were almond meringue cookies similar to today’s amaretti cookies, with a crisp crust and a soft interior. They were made from egg whites and almond paste.

    Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it had no flour or leavening‡, so could be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in some recipes, replaced them. Today in the U.S., coconut macaroons are the norm.

    Macaroons came to France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of France’s King Henri II. In France they evolved into delicate meringue cookie sandwiches filled with ganache or jam.

    Here’s more about the different types of macaroons.
     
    _____________________
    *During the week of Passover, in April, celebrants eat no leavened grains. Macaroons (all varieties) are grain free.

    †Almond meal, or almond flour, is ground from whole, blanched sweet almonds. The nuts are very low in carbohydrates and very nutritious.

    ‡Leavening is the agent that raises and lightens a baked good. Examples include yeast, baking powder and baking soda. Instead of these, macaroons (all types) are leavened with egg whites.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bouquet Of Crudités

    At every party and dinner, we have a basket of crudités as a better-for- you option and for those with dietary constraints. For Mother’s Day, we’re adding some flower power with this Bouquet Of Crudités from Hidden Valley,

    Hidden Valley serves them with their Original Ranch Dressing; we’re making a nonfat yogurt dip.

    RECIPE #1: BOUQUET OF CRUDITÉS

    Prep time is 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 orange bell peppers
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 mini orange, red or yellow bell peppers (or substitute 2 more conventional size)
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes (substitute radishes)
  • 6 snap peas
  • 6 six-inch bamboo skewers
  • Yogurt dip (recipe below)
  •  

    Crudites Bouquet

    Take an artistic approach to crudités with this vegetable bouquet (photo courtesy Hidden Valley).

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dip (recipe below) and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    2. WASH and seed the peppers. Cut jagged edges into the tops.

    3. STICK the snap peas on the skewers to create the leaves. Insert the skewers through the bottoms of each pepper and put the tomato in the center as shown. Arrange in a flower pot, vase or on a plate.

     
    RECIPE #2: GARLIC-LIME-HERB YOGURT DIP & SAUCE

    This recipe can be served as a dip with crudités, pretzels and other snacks, or as a topping/sauce for grilled fish, meat, poultry, even burgers. You can also mix it with boiled potatoes, macaroni or shredded cabbage for a fat-free potato salad, macaroni salad or cole slaw.

    Or sweeten it and use it as a fruit dip.

    The recipe makes a small bowl of dip, or 4 sauce servings for a main course. You can use your creativity to mix and match the seasonings to your main.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt (you can substitute other plain yogurt, but Greek style is the thickest and creamiest)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, basil, chives or other favorite herb, minced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the yogurt, garlic, lime juice and ginger in small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

     
    VARIATION: YOGURT DIP FOR FRUIT

    1. REPLACE the garlic with one teaspoon agave, honey or sweetener of choice. (Only lightly sweeten the dip: You want to appreciate the sweetness of the fruit, not overwhelm it.)

    2. REPLACE the herb with grated lime zest or other citrus zest (lemon, grapefruit).
     
    ___________________________
    *The Hidden Valley recipe combines 1/2 cup Original Ranch Light Dressing and 8 ounces softened fat-free cream cheese, chilled until ready to serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cider Tasting For Mother’s Day

    Hard Cider & Food

    Drier ciders work better with meats. Photo courtesy Angry Orchard.

     

    Skip the Pinot Grigio and taste some cider for Mother’s Day. It’s more novel than wine, and will suit any guest:

    Cider is equally popular among men and women, whereas beer is significantly more popular among men*. Cider is also gluten-free and less filling than beer.

    While many people think “autumn” when they hear “cider,” that is true for non-alcoholic cider, which is fresh-pressed.

    Hard cider is fermented for eight weeks after the juice is pressed. The cider then matures for several months, is blended, filtered and carbonated. So the “freshest” hard cider is on the market now, not in the fall.

    Another note: In the U.S., alcoholic cider is called hard cider and apple cider/apple juice (the terms are interchangeable in the U.S.) is simply called cider.

    In the U.K. it’s the reverse: “Cider” is hard cider.

    While most cider is made from apples, you’ll also find pear cider, known in the U.K. as perry.

     
    CIDER & FOOD PAIRINGS

    Hard ciders pairs with the same foods as beer and white wine. Styles range from very dry to sweet “hard apple juice.”

  • The sweetness of cider allows you to serve desserts with it, too, especially apple desserts (pie, crumble, bread pudding).
  • For nibbles, serve hearty cheeses and charcuterie.
  • For main courses, consider barbecue, chicken, pork and sausages (beer and brats, meet cider and brats); plus soups, stews and one of our favorite pairings, cheese fondue.
  •  
    TIPS

  • In recipes, you can substitute hard cider for wine.
  • Hard cider is best served chilled or over ice.
  •  

    CIDER TASTING PARTY: WHERE TO START

    1. Gather up a dozen brands or so, and invite friends over for a hard cider tasting. You’ll find hard ciders from the U.S. and England†. Get apple cider for the kids.

    2. For serious foodies, conduct a blind tasting. Serve them in order of alcohol content, lowest to highest. Either cover up the labels with paper (we used a removable glue stick) or place each one in a paper sandwich sack (the size of a take-out coffee bag, which you can get at the nearest deli [offer to pay for them and you’ll likely get them for free]).

    3. Mark each label or bag with a number, and provide each person with a tasting notes sheet. If your group is accustomed to evaluating beer and wine, you can adapt this professional scoring sheet. We put all the descriptors in the left column of that sheet onto one piece of paper, with one for each guest. For notes, we made up a simple sheet with designated areas for rating ciders 1 through 12 (or however many ciders you’re serving) on a second sheet.

    You can also print out this Cider Tasting Wheel.

     

    Cider Goblet

    You can use any glass you like for cider; this one is popular in Europe. Photo courtesy Crispin Cider.

     
    4. Decide on the food and how many bottles of each cider you’ll need for your size crowd.

    5. Start with small pours: An ounce each of 12 cider becomes 12 ounces in relatively short order. At the end of the comparison tasting, people can go back for more.

    6. Provide “dump buckets” so participants can toss what they don’t like. These can be large tumblers or other vessels (we’ve used short vases!).

    7. Have a great time.
     
    _____________________________
    *Beer is preferred by men in terms of market penetration (+10% for men), frequency (+35% for men), and servings consumed (+33% for men).
     
    †Magners Irish Cider is the only hard cider imported from Ireland.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Riced Cauliflower, Cauliflower Rice

    Cauliflower Risotto

    Cauliflower Rice

    Flavored Cauliflower Rice

    Top: No rice involved—this mushroom “risotto” was made by HealthyFellow.com from riced cauliflower. Here’s the recipe. Center: JoyLoop brand is sold at Good Eggs | San Francisco, perhaps the most wonderful food purveyor in the U.S. Bottom: In the U.K., CauliRice.com sells plain cauliflower rice, plus Indian, Mediterranean and Thai flavors.

     

    Cauliflower rice, also called cauliflower couscous, is poised for fame. There’s no actual rice involved; it’s a grain-free rice substitute made from cauliflower, that can be used in just about every rice recipe from plain boiled to fried rice to risotto.

    Cauliflower rice—cauliflower chopped in a ricer, became popular with the Paleo Diet, and it is takes time to make it from scratch.

    Fortunately, the Paleo Diet is making people more aware of it, and small producers have begun to cut and package it. It can be found minced or pulverized, fresh and frozen.

    Who invented cauliflower rice? There may be several different “inventors” who first pulverized a head of cauliflower. The Italian supplier who makes other cauliflower products for Trader Joe’s ended up with lots of leftover florets and trim. Rather than toss them, Trader Joe’s says, “We put our heads together and came up with a new product made from this extra cauliflower.”

    Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse, a “superfood,” a term that evaluates foods based on their calorie density vis-a-vis their amount/types of nutrients. A member of the Brassica family, it is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C (also an antioxidant). It is low in calories and low on the Glycemic Index (GI). But there’s more:

  • Cauliflower contains more vitamin C per 100g than an orange.
  • It has a range of protective plant compounds (the antioxidants quercetin, beta carotene and caffeic acid) that help to reduce oxidative stress in the body, a key risk factor for cancer.
  • Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps to alleviate symptoms of other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
  • Its sulphur compounds support detoxification in the liver, and promote levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • As with cauliflower mashed potatoes, you can pass it off to kids and adult finicky eaters as regular rice.
  •  
    WHERE TO BUY CAULIFLOWER RICE

    Now here’s the rub: Cauliflower rice is not yet available as widely as it should be. But it’s poised for fame and on its way: We recently spoke with a specialty food manufacturer who will be bringing it to market soon. In the interim:

     

  • Trader Joe’s imports it frozen from Italy. It was so popular that as of this writing, it is sold out and the retailer is waiting for a new shipment.
  • Joyloop Foods, in greater San Franciso, sells to some California retailers and online.
  • Paleo On The Go, a meal delivery service, packages it and sells it on Amazon.
  • You can buy Green Giant Cauliflower Crumbles in a Steam In Pack. Although the crumbles are larger than riced cauliflower, you can cook them al dente and rice them.
  •  
    And of course, you can make your own from a head of cauliflower.
     
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    *Brassica is the plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). They include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga and turnips, among others.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CAULIFLOWER RICE

    Cauliflower rice can be buttered, sauced or otherwise made more flavorful by adding vegetables, herbs and/or spices. This recipe, from CauliRice.com, advises that homemade versions will taste more strongly of cauliflower and less like actual rice, but we have no issue with the homemade “rice.” Light seasoning, butter, etc. will mask any subtle cauliflower flavor.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Salt and pepper and/or other seasonings (herbs, spices)
  • Optional: cooking oil
  • Chopping board and knife
  • Food processor with an “S” blade, or a hand grater
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH the cauliflower and remove any leaves. Remove the main stem and set it aside for another purpose†. The fine stems that hold the florettes together need not be removed.

    2. CUT or break the florettes into chunks so they better fit into your food processor. Attach the ‘S’ blade and place the florettes into the processor bowl. Pulse until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous (course grains) or until all large lumps disappear. Do not over-process, as this will result in mushy cauliflower rice when cooked. If you have a particularly large cauliflower, or a small processor or hand grater, you may have to do this in batches.

    3. MICROWAVE for 3 minutes. Microwaving retains more moisture than dry-frying or oven baking, and is CauliRice’s preferred method. Place the cauliflower rice into a microwave-safe dish. Add a teaspoon of water—no more, or the cauliflower rice will become too wet. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or a lid. Cook for 3 minutes at 900 watts.

    4. LEAVE the cauliflower rice covered, and let it stand for another 2-3 minutes. It will continue cooking in its own heat. Add seasoning to taste and serve.

     

    Cauliflower Rice

    Trader Joe's Cauliflower Rice

    Top: Homemade cauliflower rice from TheKitchn.com. Here’s their recipe and a video. Bottom: Cauliflower rice from Trader Joe’s.

     
    _______________________
    †You can steam and slice or purée it, finely dice or slice and add to salads, add to soups and stews, etc. You can also stick it in the freezer and decide later.

     
    TO DRY FRY

    1. HEAT a tablespoon of your preferred cooking oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the cauliflower bits and spread evenly across the base of the pan. Cover the pan and cook for approximately 7-8 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. If you prefer a less crispy cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water to the pan about halfway through cooking—but be sure to cook this added moisture off before serving.

    2. Add seasoning to taste, and serve.
     
    TO OVEN COOK

    Oven cooking produces a drier, crunchier cauliflower rice that some people prefer, although it gives a less rice-like effect.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Spread the cauliflower pieces evenly across a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the cauliflower every 5 minutes or so.

    2. REMOVE from the oven, add seasoning to taste and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mussels At Home

    One of our favorite bistro foods is Moules Marinières (mool marin-yair), Sailor-Style Mussels. The mussels are steamed in a flavorful broth, to which they add their briny juice.

    We recently had a pot of the classic dish at Restaurant Dominique in Greenwich Village—a handsome room with big windows facing charming West Village streets.

    We not only ate every mussel; we scraped the pot for every last bit of the divine broth. We can’t wait to go back for more mussels…and everything else on the classic bistro menu.

    There’s also a mussels restaurant in New York City that serves 21 different variations, from the classic (white wine broth with garlic, shallot, parsley) to cuisine-specific riffs.

    We’ve tried everything from Indian Moules (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Mexican Moules (calamari, chipotle in adobo, chorizo, posoles), even Meatball Moules (meatballs, tomato, onion, garlic, pesto, Parmesan cheese).

    During our most recent mussels foray, we however, we were reminded of how cramped and noisy the restaurant is; not to mention that one needs to book a table days in advance. The next day we came across the following recipe from Chef Eric LeVine, for our favorite Moules Marinières: Thai curry with coconut milk and lemongrass.

    We were hit with a blinding revelation of the obvious: We can make this at home in short order. Mussels are $4 a pound, compared with a $25 restaurant serving.

    If you don’t like Thai flavors, find a recipe for what you do like. Here’s one for classic Moules Marinières, plus how to buy and clean mussels.

    Steamed mussels are low in calories and gluten free.

    RECIPE: MOULES MARINIÈRES (STEAMED MUSSELS)
    IN THAI CURRY BROTH

    Ingredients For 4 First Courses Or 2 Mains

  • 8 sprigs cilantro, separate leaves and stems and roughly chop both
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 small shallots, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon zest plus 1 tbsp. juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • 15 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to taste
  •  

    Raw Mussels

    Steamed Mussels

    Mussels In Coconut Curry Broth

    Top: Wild mussels from Good Eggs. Center: Into the pot (Le Creuset). Bottom: Voilà, let’s eat! (Photo chef Eric LeVine.)

  • 2 pounds fresh mussels (ours were from Prince Edward Island), scrubbed with beards removed
  • 1 small Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cilantro stems, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 shallot shallot, the coriander seed, chili flakes, lime zest and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Grind into a smooth paste.

    2. SCOOP 2 tablespoons of thick cream from the top of the coconut milk into a large saucepan. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, shallots and ground paste plus the green curry paste. Cook for 4 minutes.

    3. ADD the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook about 3 minutes. Taste and season as desired,

    4. ADD the mussels, first discarding any that are cracked or already opened. Stir, cover and cook, shaking the pan until mussels open. Stir in the chopped cilantro, sliced chile and lime juice.

    5. DISCARD any mussels that haven’t opened in the pot. Divide the contents, including the broth, among two or four bowls.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Brazilian Cheese Bread, Pão de Queijo

    On a recent trip to a churrascaria to indulge in the salad bar, our colleague Hannah Kaminsky discovered something more memorable than the jumbo asparagus and whole cloves of caramelized garlic: pão de queijo, Brazilian Cheese Bread.

    Not a conventional bread (no kneading required), pão de queijo (pow de KAY-zoo) is a Brazilian variation of gougères (goo-ZHAIR)—airy cheese puffs made from savory choux pastry mixed with grated Gruyère cheese.

    A key difference: Pão de queijo is made from gluten-free flour, either yucca (a.k.a. cassava or manioc) or tapioca flour. This makes pão de queijo gluten free, and also more dense and chewy (much like savory, baked mochi, Hannah notes).

    They’re delicious with beer, wine and cocktails.

     
    RECIPE: BRAZILIAN CHEESE BREAD (PÃO DE QUEIJO)

    Ingredients For 2 Dozen Puffs

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) sour* cassava flour or tapioca flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450F. Lightly grease two mini muffin pans.

    2. COMBINE the milk, oil, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally until large bubbles form.

    3. REMOVE the pot from the heat and add the flour, stirring until it is fully incorporated (it will be gelatinous and grainy). You don’t need to worry about over-mixing the dough, since there’s no gluten to toughen. Pause as needed to scrape down the sides of the blender to ensure that everything is thoroughly incorporated. Once the dough is completely smooth…

    4. TRANSFER the dough to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat at medium for a few minutes until it is smooth. When it is cool to the touch…

    5. WHISK the eggs in a small bowl; then mix into the dough on medium speed. Incorporate half of the eggs first, incorporate fully and add the second half.

    6. BEAT in the cheese with the mixer on medium. The dough will become very sticky.

    7. DISPENSE the dough into the muffin cups, filling 3/4 of the way to the top. Dip your spoon or scoop in water to prevent sticking.

    8. LOWER the heat to 350°F and bake for 25-30 minutes, until puffy and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes. Don’t be alarmed if some of the centers fall as they cool.

    9. ENJOY them warm and crisp. Leftover puffs can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week and re-crisped in a warm oven or toaster oven.
     
    *Use sweet (untreated) cassava flour if you can’t find the sour version. The sour style provides a nuance of dlightly fermented flavor.

     

    Brazilian Bread

    Brazilian Bread

    Cassava Flour

    Tapioca Flour

    Top and second: Brazilian Cheese Bread photos © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog. Third and fourth: Check natural food stores or Latin American markets; or order online.

     
    CASSAVA FLOUR VS. TAPIOCA FLOUR: THE DIFFERENCE

    Both cassava flour and tapioca flour are made from the cassava root. However, the process and end result differ.

  • Cassava flour, a staple ingredient Brazil and Portugal, is made from the root of the cassava plant by peeling, drying and grinding the whole root. Called polvilho in Portuguese, it can be either sour (untreated) or sweet (treated). It has more dietary fiber than tapioca flour, so has broader applications (for example, you can make cassava flour tortillas and other flatbreads that need the fiber to hold together).
  • Tapioca flour, also called tapioca starch, is obtained through a process of washing and pulping the whole cassava, not just the root. The wet pulp is squeezed to extract a starchy liquid; the water is evaporated, yielding tapioca flour.
  •  
    Among the gluten-free flour options, cassava and tapioca flours are most like wheat flour. Unlike almond or coconut flour, they have a mild, neutral flavor and are powdery like wheat flour—not grainy or gritty.

    They can be replaced for wheat flour on a 1:1 basis in many recipes. Note, though, that when mixed with liquid, the dough turns gelatinous and sticky. Keep a bowl of water and paper towels handy for rising your fingers and utensils.

    You can find these flours in health food stores and natural food stores such as Whole Foods Markets; and of course, online.

      

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    RECIPE: Korean Spaghetti & Meatballs

    Korean Meatballs

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/rice noodles indochine kitchen 230r

    Peacock Rice Spaghetti

    Top: Spicy Korean meatballs from Noodles & Company. Center: Cooked rice noodles from Indochine Kitchen. Bottom: Peacock Brand rice noodles, one of our favorites.

     

    March 9th is National Meatball Day. Suggestion: Try something different, instead of the very familiar Italian-American pork blend meatballs with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.

    How about a Korean interpretation of Meatballs & Spaghetti? The meatballs are flavored with spicy gochujang sauce (pronounced Go-CHOO-jang); the spaghetti is made from gluten-free rice noodles.

    The meatball and sauce recipes are from Executive Chef Nick Graff of Noodles & Company. THE NIBBLE put them together rice noodles to create the Meatballs & Spaghetti. The substitutions are:

  • Korean BBQ sauce instead of tomato sauce
  • Rice noodles instead of wheat noodles
  • Shredded basil or chopped cilantro instead of grated cheese
  •  
    Don’t want spicy Korean meatballs? Try this Italian-influenced veal meatball recipe.
     
    RECIPE: KOREAN MEATBALLS & SPAGHETTI

    Ingredients For 32 One-Ounce Meatballs

  • Korean BBQ sauce (recipe below)
  • Meatballs (recipe below, or use your favorite recipe)
  • Rice noodles (spaghetti or vermicelli—Peacock Brand rice noodles are available at Amazon, Walmart, Wegmans and retailers nationwide)
  • Garnish: black and white sesame seeds, fresh basil chiffonade or cilantro
  •  
    Ingredients For The Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  •  
    Ingredients For The Korean BBQ Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled & minced
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang sauce/paste (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the ground chicken and beef with the eggs, salt and white pepper. Portion and roll into 1 ounce-size balls (the size of golf balls) and place on an oiled sheet pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.

    2. MAKE the BBQ sauce. Place the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, gochujang paste and red chili flakes in a pan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile…

    3. WHISK the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and add to boiling sauce. Stir until thickened. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the heated meatballs and toss to coat completely with the sauce.

    4. COOK the rice noodles according to package directions, while the BBQ sauce is coming to a boil.

    5 COMBINE the spaghetti, meatballs and sauce, garnish and serve.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Modern Oats Instant Oatmeal

    Two years ago we recommended Modern Oats, a packaging concept that places elegantly-flavored, gluten-free* oatmeal in stylish grab-and-go cups.

    All you have to do is add hot water to cover the oats in the coated paper cup. Put the lid back on, wait a few minutes and enjoy. No added sweetener, milk or microwave is required. The colorful designs give a boost to starting the day.

    Success has enabled the brand to expand the number of flavors to 10. The lineup now includes:

  • Apple Walnut
  • Chocolate Cherry
  • Coconut Almond
  • 5 Berry
  • 5 Berry No Sugar Added
  • Goji Berry
  • Just Oats
  • Mango Blackberry
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Vermont Maple
  •    

    Grab & Go Oatmeal

    Cheerful packaging adds to the enjoyment of these delicious flavored oatmeal cups. Photo courtesy Modern Oats.

     

    Suggested retail price is $3.50 per cup.

     

    Modern Oats Coconut Almond

    Coconut Almond, one of 10 flavors. Photo courtesy Modern Oats.

     

    MODERN OATS ARE GOOD OATS

    The rolled oats in the containers are grown by family farmers in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. They are minimally processed by steaming and flaking; you look into the carton and see what looks like “real oats,” instead of the small particles familiar to consumers of instant oatmeal.

    Not surprisingly, the oat flakes provide a textural differences that deliver a more solid bite (and, the company says, optimal absorption of nutrients).

    Modern Oats are produced in a 100% gluten free facility and are Certified Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Halal, Kosher, Vegan and 100% Whole Grain. (Whew: There’s no more room left on the carton for any more certifications).

    Bonus: Oats are the only major grain proven to help blood cholesterol†.

     

    If you can’t find the cups locally (here’s the store locator), buy them on the Modern Oats website.

    There’s a four-flavor gift-boxed set; an assortment of flavors makes a nice Easter gift for the nutritionally-focused.
     
    ____________________
    *To be certified gluten-free, they must be processed in a facility that does not also process grains with gluten. In the milling and processing process, oats are susceptible to cross-contamination; so not all oatmeal and other oat products are gluten free.

    †Eating three grams of soluble fiber from oats each day, as part of a diet that’s low in fat and cholesterol, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Good For You, Quick Sauces

    We’re still in “New Year’s Resolutions Month,” and today the tip is good-for-you sauces.

    Perhaps you’ve already been cooking dinner regularly; or perhaps you’re trying to do more of it to avoid sugar-, salt- and fat-laden take-out food.

    One of the easiest ways to complete a simple home-cooked meal is to cover it with purchased sauces. That’s no better for you than take-out, as reading the nutrition labels will prove.

    Here are 10 couldn’t-be-easier sauces that are good for you, and good on chicken, fish, grains, pasta, and so forth. Before you make a sauce from a can of soup, read the ingredients label—and see how easy these alternatives are:
     
    JUST POUR

  • Flavored Olive Oil. Drizzle basil-, rosemary- or other infused olive oil under the main food (chicken breast, fish fillet, pasta—see top photo) or drizzle it it around the perimeter of the plate (see second photo). Use a pour-top or a squeeze bottle for a thinner drizzle. With flavors from blood orange to garlic and hot chile, you can deliver lots of flavor while enjoying your government-approved two tablespoons of olive oil daily. Here are other ways to use infused olive oil.
  • Unflavored Olive Oil & Herbs. No flavored olive oil at hand? Sprinkle in some dried herbs before drizzling. We add both to a Pyrex measuring cup, stir in a pinch of salt and pepper, and pour.
  • Balsamic vinegar. Balsamic adds great flavor to just about anything. You can layer it on top of the oil. We use a small squeeze bottle and squeeze dots of balsamic on top of the oil (very arty!). You can also use a clean medicine dropper.
  • Pesto.You can also make pesto and keep it in the fridge. Then, 10 seconds in the microwave gives you a delicious hot sauce.
  •  
    LESS THAN 5 MINUTES OF COOKING

  • Tomato sauce: There are many riffs on quick tomato sauce, but they all involve cooking, usually for a minimum of 25 minutes. Here’s our quickest technique, using a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or other quality tomatoes). Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan and cook a clove of sliced garlic. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a minute or two. Add salt and pepper (or red pepper flakes) to taste, plus any herbs (basil, oregano, thyme). Voilà!
  • Vegetable purée. If you have leftover cooked vegetables, purée them into a sauce. Pop them into the food processor, purée, taste and add seasonings as desired (salt, garlic salt, pepper or other heat). Thin the purée to the desired consistency with a bit of olive oil or broth.
  •  
    PAN SAUCES

    The easiest sauce for pan-cooked food is to deglaze the pan.

    Another French technique typically combines butter or cream with other ingredients to make an on-the-spot sauce for the just-cooked dish. The sauce is thickened by the butter or cream—two ingredients we want to cut back on.

    So here we’re substituting chicken broth (or vegetable broth) and olive oil. The ingredients below are basic, and you should already have them in the kitchen. Feel free to add whatever else you have: capers, garlic and other herbs, lemon zest, minced onion, etc.—or to substitute flavorful balsamic vinegar for the white wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • Quick Mushroom Sauce. Microwave 1 cup chicken broth and 2 tablespoons finely chopped dried mushrooms until hot. Stir to combine, and pour into a hot skillet. Simmer until reduced by half, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in 4 teaspoons of milk (or cream, if you will) to form a lightly thickened sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Quick Dijon Mustard Sauce. Follow the same recipe as above, but substitute 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard for the mushrooms.
  • Quick Herbed Tomato Sauce. Heat the skillet over hot heat; combine 1/3 cup chicken broth, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, ¼ cup canned crushed tomatoes and a generous pinch of tarragon or other herb in a small bowl or mixing cup. Pour into the hot skillet, simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce by half. Whisk in 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  •  
    NONFAT “CREAM SAUCE”

    You can turn any of these sauces into a creamy sauce with the addition of nonfat Greek yogurt. There’s a hitch, though: Yogurt curdles over heat and can’t be added to a hot pan. Instead, use this technique:

     

    Steak With Rosemary

    Grilled Salmon With Gremolata

    Steak and Gravy

    Spaghetti With Fresh Tomato Sauce

    Top: Pan-grilled steak atop a pool of garlic-infused olive oil. Photo courtesy Quinciple. Second: Grilled salmon on a plate rimmed with basil olive oil and a garnish of gremolata: finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Photo courtesy Eddie Merlot’s. Third: Have fun with it: Use a squeeze bottle to turn your sauce into polka dots or zig-zags. Photo courtesy Strip House. Fourth: A can of San Marzano tomatoes becomes a quick sauce. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

  • Spoon the yogurt into a bowl and let it warm to room temperature.
  • Temper the yogurt by stirring in a tablespoon of the hot sauce—not enough to curdle it but enough to get the yogurt used to it.
  • Blend in the rest of the sauce.
  •  
    Bon appétit!
      

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