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TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches & An Ice Cream Sandwich Social

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Adapt the concept of an ice cream social to a DIY ice cream sandwich social (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

Vanilla Milk
This vanilla milk is made with honey. Here’s the recipe from A Well Fed Life. You can use your sweetener of choice (ours is Splenda).

Coffee Milk

An easy way to make coffee milk: Just add coffee syrup, as in this recipe from Cocktail Crafty.

 

July is National Ice Cream Month. In our neck of the woods, gourmet ice cream sandwiches have been the rage for a while.

What makes them “gourmet,” beyond the super-premium ice cream, is the sandwiching—usually homemade cookies in chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter and snickerdoodle.

When we make our own cookies for homemade ice cream sandwiches, we make chocolate-dipped graham crackers. When people ask what they can bring, we assign them a batch of cookies.

There’s plenty of time to invite friends and family for a casual ice cream social* this weekend or next. You set out the fixings, and let guests make their own sandwiches.

Then, make up your menu:

  • Cookies: 3″ diameter, plus mini-cookies if desired*
  • Waffles, quartered*
  • Ice cream
  • Sprinkles, mini-chips, chopped nuts
  •  
    Limit the cookie, ice cream and garnish choices the first time out. See what gets consumed most; then you can vary the choices next time.
     
    UTENSILS

  • Ice trays/bins for ice cream
  • Scoops, spoons, spatulas for ice cream
  • Large plates or trays for adding garnishes
  • Paper plates and napkins
  • Tablecloths
  • Trays
  •  
    BEVERAGES

    What beverages go best with ice cream sandwiches?

    Youngsters might clamor for soft drinks, but coffee and tea, hot and iced, go best.

    You know your guests: Are they insistent on beer and wine, or would they be happy with an iced coffee—with a shot of vodka or coffee liqueur?

    Consider these options, each of which can be enjoyed plain or with a shot:

  • Iced coffee
  • Iced tea
  • Vanilla milk and/or coffee milk (recipe follows)
  •  
    RECIPE: VANILLA MILK or COFFEE MILK

    Ingredients Per 8-Ounce Glass

  • 1 cup milk (0%, 1%, 2%) or nondairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or substitute
  • For coffee milk: black coffee to taste
  • ________________

    *To estimate how many cookies or waffle quarters you’ll need, multiply 2 cookies/sandwich times 2 sandwiches/guest.

     
    ICE CREAM SOCIAL HISTORY
     
    An ice cream social is a party where people come to eat ice cream.

    Ice cream socials date back to 18th-century America, long before the dawn of electric freezers—not to mention electric ice cream makers. The ice cream was hand-cranked.

    While a laborious undertaking, ice cream socials were very popular, traditional gatherings. According to Wikipedia:

  • The first ice cream social in America was in 1744, when Maryland governor Thomas Bladen served ice cream for a dinner party.
  • The first ice cream social in the White House was in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson.
  • When ice cream became more available to the middle classes in the mid-1800s, schools and churches began to host ice cream socials. Those held outdoors by the well-to-do became known as ice cream gardens.
  • Some churches and communities still hold ice cream socials today, but an ice cream social is an easy party to throw at home—no “community effort” required.
  • If you have neither garden nor other outdoor space, you can still host a delightful ice cream social.
  •  
    ICE CREAM TRIVIA: THE FIRST FLAVOR

    Many people would guess that vanilla was the first ice cream flavor, but that is far from the case.

    You have to think back to the origins of ice cream, around 2000 B.C.E. in China, when the first ice cream was made from snow, flavored with fruit syrups.

    The concept reached the Middle East via traders, and Alexander the Great brought it to Greece after conquering Persia in 331 B.C.E., where it became a treat for the nobility, who had the servants to fetch snow and ice from the mountains and turn it into dessert. The shaved ice and snow were combined with fruit toppings, honey and nuts—the first sundae, perhaps.

    Vanilla, which originated in Mexico and was used to flavor the cacao drink, didn’t become a flavor in Europe until the 1600s. As in Mexico, only the wealthy could afford it.

    Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing vanilla to the United States in the late 1700s. He became familiar with vanilla at the court of King Louis XVI, while serving as U.S. minister to France (from 1785 to 1789). When he returned to the U.S., he brought 200 vanilla beans with him, and his cook had learned to make ice cream.

    Here’s the history of vanilla.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pimm’s Cup, The Classic British Summer Drink

    Pimm's Cup
    [1] A bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup and an approximation of the original drink, with a Mason jar standing in for the tankard. Here are recipe variations from Brit.co.

    Pimm's Cup
    [2] A modern interpretation, with so much fruit that it rivals sangria. Here are more variations from Chilled Magazine.

    New Orleans Pimm's Cup
    [3] Here’s the recipe from Joy The Baker.

    Pimm’s Ice Pops

    [4] Fans have turned Pimm’s Cups into ice pops and Jell-O shots. Here are recipes from Brit.co.

     

    Gin and tonic may be the British cocktail best known in the U.S., but we’d like to introduce you to Pimm’s Cup.

    Pimm’s is a line of liqueurs, called fruit cups* in the U.K., first produced in 1823 by James Pimm (1798–1866).

    A tenant farmer’s son from Kent, he studied theology in Edinburgh, but moved to London in his early 20s and became a shellfish monger. Not long after, he opened Pimm’s Oyster Bar in London, which grew to a chain of five restaurants.

    He served oysters with a “house cup,” a gin sling with his proprietary mix of liqueurs and fruit extracts. (Slings were a category of drink that, at the time, combined a spirit with soda water or ginger ale).

    The English gin of the time was not the smooth, botanical spirit we enjoy today, but a rough drink that had departed from its Dutch roots. It was often distilled into a crude, inferior but cheap spirit that was more likely to be flavored with turpentine than the juniper berries of the Dutch jenever from which it evolved.

    So Pimm, ahead of the curve, doctored the rough gin with a “secret mixture” of liqueur, herbs and fruits. He served it in a small tankard known as a No. 1 cup; hence, the name of the drink: Pimm’s No. 1 Cup.

    Reddish-brown in color with subtle notes of spice and citrus fruit, the Cup was a big hit. He sold bottles to other establishments.

    In 1851, he expanded the line† to include Pimm’s No. 2 Cup, made with a Scotch base; and Pimm’s No. 3 Cup, made with a brandy base. He initiated large-scale distillery production to supply his wholesale customers.

    ________________

    *A fruit cup, also known as a summer cup, is a traditional English long drink, most commonly based on gin, with the addition of a soft drink such as lemonade or ginger ale. The drink is a summer drink, garnished with fresh fruit (apple, cucumber, lemon, lime, orange, strawberry) and/or herbs (mint, borage). Other classic British drinks include Dubonnet Cocktail and Regent’s Punch.

    †Over the years, under subsequent owners, Pimm’s created other cups, some using spirits other than gin. After World War II, Pimm’s No. 4 Cup, based on rum was invented; followed by Pimm’s No. 5 Cup, based on rye whiskey. Cups 2 and 5 were discontinued, and Pimm’s No. 6 Cup, based on vodka, debuted in the 1960s. There have been special editions, such as Winter Cup and a Blackberry & Elderflower variant of No. 6 Cup. The first shot was the best: Pimm’s No. 1 cup remains the overwhelming favorite.
    ________________

    PIMM’S CUP HISTORY: FROM FRUIT CUP TO DIGESTIF TO BRITISH STAPLE DRINK

    In 1840, Pimm created what is today known as a Pimm’s Cocktail, as a digestif—a drink that purportedly helps with the digestion of food. It was conceived as a tonic to aid the digestion of customers who had eaten too much (which must have been a common problem among those who could afford it, given the proliferation of digestif liqueurs and wines).

    He combined his No. 1 Cup with lemon juice and a topper of ginger ale or sparkling lemonade, served over ice with mint and fresh fruit—and thus an iconic British drink was born.

    In 1865, the year before his death, Pimm sold the business and the right to use his name to a Frederick Sawyer, who sold it in 1880 to Horatio Davies, a future Lord Mayor of London. A chain of Pimm’s Oyster Houses was franchised in 1887. Today the brand owned by spirits giant Diageo.

    Sidebar: The Scoop On Digestifs

    Taking a liqueur after a meal has long been thought to aid digestion due to its alcohol content. While it may seem to skeptics a opportunity for another drink, there’s some truth to the tradition (but note that heavy-alcohol drinks like brandy and whiskey have an adverse effect on digestion).

    A smaller amount of alcohol stimulates the stomach’s production of the enzyme pepsin, the enzyme that helps digest proteins. It also increases secretions of the pancreas and gall bladder, which similarly break down food for use as energy.

    In actuality, it’s the bitter herb- and spice- based digestifs that work best to help digestion. Ingredients such as caraway seed, fennel seed and savory are thought to be especially beneficial to digestion. If you want an after-dinner drink with benefits, look to Chartreuse, Fernet Branca, Jägermeister and Kümmel.

    Fortified wines such as cream sherry, port, madeira and vermouth are traditional digestif wines; but these days, take a trip to the medicine cabinet for Alka-Seltzer, Pepto-Bismol, Tums, etc., the best cure(s) for what ails your digestive system.

    In our opinion (since we’ve had the drink but don’t know the secret Pimm’s Cup formula), a Pimm’s Cocktail is more of a pleasant summer sipper than a digestif.

     
    RECIPE: PIMM’S CUP COCKTAIL

    There are actually two approaches to Pimm’s Cup Cocktail.

  • The first is the original English style, a long drink combining Pimm’s No. 1 Cup and carbonated lemonade or bitter lemon.
  • A Pimm’s Royal Cup cuses chamagne or other sparkling white wine instead of the lemonade.
  • Pimm’s Winter Cup combines No. 1 Cup with warm apple cider (which is an alcoholic beverage in the U.K.).
  •  
    Garnishes include as much sliced fruit as you like. The conventional fruits are apples, cucumber, oranges, lemons and strawberries, plus herbs such as borage or mint (for a modern twist, try basil).

    Ginger ale is a common substitute for the carbonated lemonade or bitter lemon; but we very much like Sanpellegrino’s Limonata, which has less sugar than other carbonated lemon drinks.

    The second approach was devised in New Orleans. It uses regular lemonade, a top-off of 7-Up or Sprite, and a cucumber garnish. If this sounds more appealing to you, here’s the recipe.

     
    Ingredients For A Pitcher

  • 1-1/2 cups Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
  • 1 navel orange, cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 1 lemon, cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed mint leaves and tender stems
  • 1-1/2 cups carbonated lemonade, ginger ale or lemon-lime soda, chilled
  • 1 cucumber, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
  • 3 cups ice
  • 1 apple, quartered, cored, and cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 pint strawberries, halved
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Pimm’s, the apple, orange and lemon slices, and mint in a large pitcher. Chill until ready to serve.

    2. ASSEMBLE: Add the soft drink and stir gently. Pour over ice in tall glasses. Garnish with cucumber, strawberries, or as you wish.

    PIMM’S CUP PARTY BAR

    Pimm’s Cup is one of the two staple drinks (along with Champagne) at the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the Chelsea Flower Show, the Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. It is the standard cocktail at British and American polo matches. It is also extremely popular at summer garden parties in the U.K…so why not enjoy one in your own garden?

    You can make it by the pitcher, fully garnished. Or, just mix the liquid ingredients and the sliced apple, lemon and orange, let guests garnish their own with the other fruits and herbs.

    You can find more Pimm’s cocktail recipes at AnyoneForPimms.com.

     

    COCKTAIL CATEGORIES

    If you like to understand what you consume, here’s a partial taxonomy of cocktails. The list of categories can be quite extensive—frozen drinks, mulled and other hot drinks, nogs and other egg- and dairy-based drinks, layered drinks, etc. But here are some basics, starting with this basic divider:

  • Short Drinks are served in short glasses, called lowball glasses or rocks glasses, even though they may not contain rocks (ice). A short drink can be on the rocks or straight up (no rocks/ice).
  • Tall Drinks are served in highball glasses, also called collins glasses after the Tom Collins, an early, popular tall drink. Tall drinks typically are served with rocks and contain more mixers, usually in a 1:3 or 1:4 proportion.
  •  
    The differences between categories and sub-categories can be as minor as switching lemon juice for lime juice.

    While this may seem like splitting hairs, remember that in the days before broadcast media, people had more time on their hands. One of our favorite examples of this is nouns of multitude.

    1. Ancestral Cocktails. These are the original, early 19th century cocktails. These can sound generic, such aw “whiskey cocktail” and “gin cocktail.”

    The goal, back in the day, was to make spirits more palatable by sweetening it, with a teaspoon of sugar or a sweet liqueur. Often, aromatic bitters were included for complexity, and the drink was served either straight up or on the rocks. Two enduring examples are the Old Fashioned (without the muddled fruit and club soda found so often in today’s bars) and the Sazerac.

    2. Champagne Cocktails. These are fizzy cocktails, made with champagne or sparkling wine. The champagne can be the principal ingredient, as in the Champagne Cocktail; or can be used to top off a sour or other drink, such as a French 75.

    These drinks, originally served in coupes like champagne, are now largely served in flutes or other narrow glasses.

    3. Highballs. Simple highballs combine a spirit and a carbonated mixer (club soda, cola, ginger ale) plus ice in a tall (highball or collins) glass. Pimm’s Cup and Rum and Coke are examples.

    Replace the mixer with juice or liqueur to make a complex highball: a Dark and Stormy or Screwdriver, for example.

  • A Buck or Mule combines a basic spirit and citrus juice with ginger ale or ginger beer. The Moscow Mule is an example.
  • A Collins is a highball with added lemon juice and sugar, such as a Tom Collins (a.k.a. a gin sour with club soda).
  • A Fizz is a short drink straight up: a complex highball with a different preparation. The spirit and any other ingredients, except for the soda, are shaken with ice and strained into a rocks glass, then topped off with soda. Examples include the Ramos Fizz and Silver Fizz.
  • A Rickey retains the club soda, eliminates the sugar, and substitutes lime juice for the lemon juice. The most popular is the Gin Rickey.
  •  
    4. Juleps. A julep combines a base spirit with sugar, fresh mint and ice. The Mint Julep, made with bourbon, is the best known today; but in earlier eras, juleps were also made with most other spirits.

  • A smash is a julep with middled fruit, and optionally, mint or other herb. Whiskey Smash is an example.
  • A cobbler is a julep with wine or sherry as the base spirit.
  •  
    5. Sours. Add lemon or lime juice (sometimes, grapefruit) and sugar to the spirit and you have a simple sour. They are usually shaken with ice and served straight up in a rocks glass.

    In some sours, an egg white is added for body and a foamy top, as in the Daiquiri and Whiskey Sour.

    Add another sweet ingredient—liqueur, fortified wine or syrup—and you have a complex sour. Examples include the Cosmopolitan and the Margarita.

    If you love details like this, check out our…

    WHISKEY GLOSSARY: The different types of whiskey and related terms.

     

    Old Fashioned
    [5] From the Ancestral group, an Old Fashioned (photo courtesy Angus Club Steakhouse).

    Tom Collins
    [6] From the Highball group, an Tom Collins (photo courtesy Tanqueray).

    Whiskey Sour
    [7] From the Sour group, a Whiskey Sour (photo courtesy The Mercury | Atlanta).

    Mint Julep

    [8] From the Julep group, a Mint Julep (photo courtesy Distilled | NY).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Flavored Ice Cubes

    Today’s tip is to make flavored ice cubes. They’re the easiest way to add dazzle to everyday drinks, be they club soda, juice, soft drinks, mocktails or cocktails.

    We have long made “party ice cubes” that deliver big impact with no effort beyond freezing a liquid in an ice cube tray.

    The benefits of flavored ice cubes:

  • They don’t dilute the drink as plain ice cubes will.
  • They add extra flavor(s).
  • They colors provide visual appeal.
  • There’s something more to drink when the cubes melt.
  • You get exercise your inner mixologist.
  •  
    OUR FAVORITE WAYS TO USE FLAVORED ICE CUBES

  • Coffee & Tea Ice Cubes. They keep iced coffee and tea intensely flavored to the end. You don’t need to specially brew the coffee or tea if you use leftover coffee from the pot or re-brew tea bags or leaves (they may make weaker tea, but are still good for cubes). Herbal tea ice cubes can also be added to a glass of club soda or juice.
  • Juice For Cocktails. Make cranberry cubes for the Cosmos, pineapple juice for the Pina Coladas, tomato juice for Undiluted Marys. You can make beef bouillon ice cubes for a “Beefy Mary” (a.k.a. Bloody Bull or Bull Shot). Freeze clam juice for a Bloody Mariner/Bloody Caesar.
  • Carbonated Mixers. Whether tonic water for a G&T or cola cubes for a Rum & Coke, or tonic water, these mixers come with a bonus: You can use the flat soda that often results at the bottom of a large size. But you can create new “sodas” as well. One of our favorite summer combinations is lime soda ice cubes in raspberry soda, for a raspberry-lime rickey.
  • Wine Ice Cubes. Make them for sangria, or to keep your poolside wine chilled.
  • Combination Ice Cubes. Add small berries, diced fruit, shredded basil or dill to the cubes: whatever adds to the drink.
  •  
    WHAT ABOUT FREEZING FRUIT DIRECTLY?

    You can freeze any high-moisture fruit, such as:

  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Melon balls
  •  
    They’ll defrost more quickly than frozen liquid, so consider a combination of frozen fruit and flavored ice cubes.

    MIX & MATCH CHECKLIST

    Soft Drink Mixers

  • Bitter lemon
  • Cola or root beer
  • Flavored seltzer
  • Ginger ale/ginger beer
  • Lemon-lime (7 Up, Sprite, etc.)
  • Other fruit soda: cherry, grape, orange, etc.
  • Tonic water
  •  
    For Creamy Drinks

  • Coconut milk
  • Cream, milk or half and half
  • Eggnog
  • Melted ice cream
  •  
    Juices: Sweet

  • Apple cider
  • Coconut water
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grape juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Lemonade or limeade
  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  •  
    Juices: Savory

  • Brine (save the juice from pickles!)
  • Clam juice
  • Olive juice
  • Tomato juice or V–8
  • Wheatgrass or other vegetable juice
  •  
    MORE ICE CUBE IDEAS

  • Chocolate Ice Cubes
  • Coconut Water Ice Cubes
  • Coffee Ice Cubes
  • Flower Ice Cubes
  • Frozen Fruit Ice Cubes
  • Herb Ice Cubes
  • July 4th Ice Cubes
  • Layered Color Ice Cubes
  • Lemonade Ice Cubes
  • Strawberry-Thyme Ice Cubes
  • Tea, Coffee Or Lemonade Ice Cubes
  • Watermelon Ice Cubes
  • Wine Ice Cubes
  •  

    Fruit Juice Ice Cubes
    [1] Fruit juice ice cubes at Fig & Olive.

    Coffee Ice Cubes
    [2] Coffee ice cubes for iced coffee, or any coffee cocktail (Black Russian, White Russian, Espresso-tini, anything with Kahlúa), from the Angelica Kitchen.

    Strawberry Ice Cubes
    [3] Crushed strawberry and thyme ice cubes at Shari’s Berries.

    Pineapple Ice Cube
    [4] A cube of frozen pineapple at Hakkasan | NYC.

    Colored Ice Cubes

    [5] A stack of flavors from from Mihoko’s 21 Grams.

     
     
    OTHER WAYS TO USE YOUR ICE CUBE TRAYS

    When you’re not using them for ice, here are other things to freeze in your ice cube trays.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Chocolate Ice Cubes In Vanilla Milk Or Cocktails

    Today’s tip might be a natural for Valentine’s Day, but we like it even more for the cold drinks of summer.

    These chocolate ice cubes are the brainchild of the Parisian chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin.

    His Summer Chocolate Ice Cubes are simply a chocolate ice cream recipe that gets poured into ice cube trays instead of an ice cream churn. Why didn’t we think of this years ago?

    While M. Hévin’s recipe is for a family-friendly, gourmet chocolate milk drink, you can also use the chocolate ice cubes in cocktails or with liqueurs.

    They keep your drinks cold, as they add chocolate flavor by slowly melting. Use them:

  • In regular drinks: Iced coffee, an egg cream, an ice cream soda, or a simple glass of…regular or chocolate milk.
  • In cocktails: Black Russian/White Russian, Chocolate Martini, Coffee Martini, Grasshopper, etc.
  • With liqueurs: Add to a rocks glass of chocolate, coffee or Irish cream liqueur.
  •  
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE ICE CUBES & VANILLA MILK

    The recipe makes enough for one ice cube tray: cubes for 6 rocks glasses or 4 highball glasses. While it goes without saying, we’ll say it: Make the ice cubes 6 hours before you plan to use them, or the night before.

    The vanilla milk also needs to chill for several hours. You can make the entire recipe the night before.

    You can also enhance the flavor with chocolate-friendly seasonings: cayenne pepper, cinnamon, instant coffee, nutmeg, etc.

  • Add a teaspoon of spice to the ice cream mix.
  • Mix the spice with coarse/decorating/sanding/sparkling sugar for a sugar rim.
  •  
    Hévin’s recipe starts with his homemade ice cream, which is poured into ice cube trays instead of churned into ice cream.

    We used Lactaid milk so that all of our crowd, including the lactose sensitive, could have them. Lactose-free milk is virtually like regular milk, but the lactose (milk sugar) that is hard for some people to digest has been de-activated. All the Lactaid products (cottage cheese, ice cream, holiday egg nog) are delish!
     
    Ingredients For The Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 6.8 ounces/200ml milk
  • 3.5 tablespoons/50ml water
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional: 1 cup of instant coffee (prepared, not granules)
  • 70g of 66% cacao dark chocolate
  •  
    For The Vanilla Milk

  • 2.5 cups/600ml whole milk
  • 1/4 cup/60g sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  •  
    Optional

  • Liqueur of choice
  • Straws for tall glasses
  • Sugar, spiced sugar or cocoa mix rim (use sparkling sugar/decorating sugar
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CHOP the chocolate finely and place it in a heat-resistant bowl.

    2. COMBINE the milk and water in a saucepan. Add the sugar, cocoa and coffee and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Then…

     

    Chocolate Ice Cubes

    Chocolate Ice Cubes

    Milk With Cocoa Rim

    A tall glass with chocolate ice cubes, and [2] wioth the vanilla milk added (photo courtesy Nordljus). [3] How about a Black or White Russian in this rocks glass (photo courtesy Ellen Fork). [4] Who won’t drink milk with chocolate ice cubes and a cocoa powder rim (photo courtesy Oxmoor House)?

     
    3. REMOVE from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let it melt for 5 minutes; then gently mix with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and creamy. Allow to cool, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

    4. MAKE the vanilla milk. Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add the sugar and mix to dissolve.

    5. SCRAPE the vanilla bean and add the beans and pod to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and remove from heat. Allow to cool; then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

    6. TO SERVE: Place the chocolate ice cubes in the glasses (depending on the size of the glasses 3 to 4 ice cubes) then pour over the milk to the cold vanilla.
     
     
    This recipe by Jean-Paul Hévin appeared in the Elle à Table and appeared on Nordljus.com. We can across it on Sandra Kavital | Blogspot. Thanks also to Keiko of Nordljus.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bruschetta From The Grill

    Firing up the grill this weekend? Make bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh).

    We love a DIY bruschetta bar. Just rub the bread with garlic, brush it with extra virgin olive oil, grill, and place the slices on a platter along with all the fixings.

    Even easier, brush the bread with garlic olive oil! You can buy it, or infuse your own in advance by dropping halved garlic cloves into a cup of olive oil (or however much you think you’ll need). Any leftover oil can go right into a vinaigrette.

    Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where it is commonly served as a snack or appetizer. It may have been the original garlic bread.

    Plus, we have our own invention dessert bruschetta, below.

    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

    There are two factors:

  • The size of the bread slice.
  • The cooking technique: grilling versus toasting.
  •  
    Bruschetta slices are larger, three or four inches in diameter) and grilled. Crostini, cut from a ficelle, a thinner baguette about two inches wide (the word is French for “string”).

    You can use bread of a different diameter; but if it isn’t grilled, it isn’t bruschetta.

    Here’s how to remember the difference:

  • The verb bruscare is Roman dialect meaning “to roast over coals.” But there’s something simpler.
  • Think of crostini as crust or crouton (which is its literal meaning). Toast has a crust. That’s how we taught ourself to recognize the difference.
  • While Italians serve bruschetta as a snack, the smaller crostini can be served plain with soup and salad, like the original melba toast.
  •  
    Note that some American manufacturers and others in the food industry misuse the term, selling jars of “bruschetta.” To be accurate, it should be labeled bruschetta topping). Bruschetta is the grilled bread, not the topping.

    RECIPE: DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR

    The simplest bruschetta topping is salt and pepper (i.e., seasoned garlic bread), but that’s for a bread basket.

    Almost any cheese, fruit, meat, spread or vegetable can be a topping. Toppings can be cooked, marinated, pickled, raw or smoked.

    For a DIY bar, offer at least three different toppings. We like everything, so tend to go overboard: Our toppings look like a buffet. Regarding bread, we prefer a crusty sourdough or rustic loaf.

  • Be sure the loaf will give you slices of a workable size.
  • If you’re not familiar with the particular loaf, ask to ensure that it doesn’t have holes for the toppings to fall through.
  • We have the loaves sliced at the store, then we cut the slices in half.
  •  
    Along with the bread, make sure you have fresh garlic and check your olive oil for freshness.

    Ingredients

  • Baguette or other loaves of bread
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and peeled, halved garlic cloves
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • Avocado, mashed and seasoned (garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc.)
  • Caprese: quartered cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic glaze
  • Charcuterie: pâté, prosciutto, salume, etc.
  • Cheeses: ricotta, ricotta salata, soft goat cheese
  • Fresh basil, julienned/shredded
  • Fruit: sliced figs
  • Garnishes: capers, chopped herbs, chopped mixed olives
  • Greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Heat: raw jalapeños slices, grilled chile peppers
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • Mushrooms, marinated
  • Onions: caramelized, chives, chopped green onions (scallions)
  • Peppadews, sliced
  • Pimento, chopped or sliced
  • Raw and cooked veggies of choice: asparagus, grilled vegetables, sliced radishes, etc.
  • Spreads: bean, hummus, pimento cheese, tapenade
  • Tomatoes: sliced plain or marinated in oil and vinegar
  •  
     
    More options: shredded mozzarella or other cheese such as thinly-sliced Brie, fish (we have a passion for anchovies and herring salad on bruschetta), other marinated vegetables, mostarda.

    We also like eggplant caponata, pesto and sautéed mushrooms, but tend to use them more in cooler weather.

     

    Bruschetta Bar

    Rustic Loaf

    Rustic Loaf

    Bruschetta Bar

    Strawberry Bruschetta

    [1] Who needs a burger? We’re heading for the bruschetta bar (photo courtesy What’s Gaby Cooking).[2] Buy bread that has a pretty solid crumb (photo courtesy The Stone Soup). [3] This loaf is beautiful, but not for holding toppings (photo courtesy Bake Street). [4] A bruschetta bar from Countryside Cravings. [5] Dessert bruschetta, here with goat cheese (the recipe from Emily Bites). We use mascarpone.

    Preparation

    1. SET out the toppings and teaspoons for serving. We use ramekins; you can use any bowls you have.

    2. SLICE the bread from 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Rub each side with cut garlic clove and brush each side with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill to your desired toastiness.

    3. PLACE the bread on a platter next to the toppings and watch people create their appetizers.
     
     
    DESSERT BRUSCHETTA

    Most people won’t have seen dessert bruschetta. We don’t know if we invented it, but our sweet tooth gave us the idea years ago.

    Start with a loaf of bread with dried fruit, such as cherries or raisins. For toppings:

  • Artisan preserves
  • Flavored peanut butter (chocolate, cinnamon, maple, etc.)
  • Fruits: berries; sliced dates, figs, grapes and stone fruits
  • Honey
  • Mascarpone or sweetened sour cream
  • Nutella
  • Garnishes: chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, etc.
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