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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 Entertaining

TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Sangria

Thanks to our friends Laura and Charles for reviving our interest in sangria, a Spanish fruit punch. At a light summer dinner last week, the sangria they served paired beautifully with every dish.

Americans were first introduced to sangria at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. The Spanish Pavilion had three restaurants, and the sangria offered with meals changed the way Americans thought of fruit punch.

There are many recipes for red, rosé and white sangria. The types of wine and fruit used in Spain depended on what was grown in the particular region.

We have two recipes from Courvoisier that are a bit more elegant than most recipes. The first uses sparkling wine instead of still wine, plus Cognac and peach liqueur, which complements the fresh summer peaches.

It’s easier to serve sangria from a pitcher, but if you want to show off your punch bowl, go ahead. A tip about ice: The larger the pieces of ice, the slower they melt (and don’t water down the punch). If you have metal ice cube trays with a removable insert, you can omit the insert and freeze a block of ice in the base.

If you happen to have other fruit or mint at hand, feel free to add it to the recipe, in addition to the fruits specified. There is no “best” recipe for sangria. It’s all delicious, and that’s what makes it such an easy drink to concoct (and serve), whether for parties, weekday dinner or weekend lounging.

   

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While many of us started with red sangria (it was introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair), in Spain the type of wine used is based on the wines made in the particular region. Photo courtesy Courvoisier.

 
Sangria is not just for summer. With varied ingredients (stronger wines, more liqueur, winter fruits) it’s a year-round drink. Here’s the history of sangria.
 
RECIPE: SPARKLING WHITE SANGRIA

Ingredients

  • 4 parts VS* Cognac
  • 4 parts peach liqueur or schnapps†
  • 2 bottles Prosecco or other sparkling white wine
  • ½ cup white grape juice
  • 2 ripe peaches
  • Green grapes
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the fruit: Thinly slice the peaches and cut the grapes in half. Add the fruit to a pitcher with the Cognac, peach liqueur and grape juice.

    2. CHILL in the refrigerator for for 1-3 hours. Immediately before serving, add the Prosecco and stir gently (you don’t want to break the bubbles). Serve over ice.
     
    *If you only have VSOP (the next higher grade of Cognac) and don’t want to buy VS just for this recipe, go ahead and use it. V.S. Cognac, also called Three Star, stands for Very Special. The youngest brandy in the blend has been aged for at least two years in cask. Many people prefer VSOP, Very Superior Old Pale, where the youngest spirit in the blend is aged four years in cask but the average can be 10 to 15 years. Scroll down here for the different classifications of Cognac, which are based on how long they have been aged prior to bottling.

    †Is it schnapps or Schnaps? Schnaps is the German spelling (and German nouns are always capitalized). The English added the extra “p,” and “schnapps” prevails in the U.S. In Germany the term refers to any type of strong alcoholic drink. In the U.S. it refers to a liqueur.

     

    white-punch-courvoisier-230

    It’s easier to serve sangria (or any punch) from a pitcher; but if you want to show off your punch bowl, go ahead! Photo courtesy Courvoisier.

     

    RECIPE: LEMONADE PUNCH

    This recipe omits wine altogether, substituting a summer favorite, lemonade.

    Ingredients

  • 250ml/8-9 ounces VS Cognac
  • 750ml/25 ounces lemonade
  • 20 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 3 orange wheels
  • 6 lemon or lime wheels
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the freshly cut fruit to a punch bowl or pitcher. Pour in the remaining ingredients.

    2. INFUSE for at least 10 minutes, or for several hours. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add ice immediately prior to serving.

     

    EAU DE VIE, CORDIAL, LIQUEUR & SCHNAPS: THE DIFFERENCE

    Most people—including American producers and importers—use these terms interchangeably. But there are differences:

  • Schnaps/schnapps, a generic German word for liquor or any alcoholic beverage, is more specific in English, where it refers to clear brandies distilled from fermented fruits. The English added a second “p,” spelling the word as schnapps. True Schnaps has no sugar added, but products sold in the U.S. as schnapps may indeed be sweetened. As one expert commented, “German Schnaps is to American schnapps as German beer is to American Budweiser.”
  • Eau de vie is the French term for Schnaps. American-made brands labeled “eau de vie” (water of life) are often heavily sweetened, and have added glycerine for thickening.
  • Liqueur is an already distilled alcohol made from grain which has already been fermented, into which fruits are steeped. It is sweeter and more syrupy than a European eau de vie or schnapps.
  • Cordial, in the U.S., almost always refers to a syrupy, sweet alcoholic beverage, a synonym for liqueur. In the U.K., it refers to a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink or the syrup used to make such a drink. Rose’s Lime Cordial, a British brand, is called Rose’s Lime Juice in the U.S. so Americans don’t think it’s alcoholic.
  •  
    WATER OF LIFE

    Because spirits were initially intended to be medicinal, “water of life” was a logical term.

  • Eau de vie means water of life in French.
  • The Russian term zhiznennia voda, which was distilled down into “vodka” (that’s a pun), also means “water of life” (the literal translation of vodka is “little water”).
  • The Gaelic uisce beatha, pronounced ISH-ka BYA-ha, also means “water of life.” The pronounciation evolved into the more familiar term, whiskey.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Gin Cocktails For Father’s Day

    gimlet-moscato-gallo-230L

    A gimlet: gin, lime juice and sugar. Photo courtesy
    Gallo.

     

    How about a gin cocktail party for Father’s Day? You can serve your guests the five classic gin cocktails: Gimlet, Gin Fizz, Gin & Tonic, Gin Rickey and Martini. For a mocktail, a pitcher of limeade does nicely (a few dashes of bitters makes the limeade more cocktail-like).

    We love the idea of a tasting of the classics; but if you’d rather have modern gin cocktails, here are recipes for a Gin Mojito, Red Snapper (Bloody Mary) and Watermelon Martini

    You can have a bartender prepare the drinks to order, or make them in bulk in advance and serve them in pitchers (self-service). Provide shot glasses (plastic ones are fine) for tasting all, and full-size glasses for one’s favorite cocktail.

    Recipes vary widely—it’s easy to change proportions, switch lemon juice for lime juice, switch the garnish, etc. There are several styles of gin. Most recipes use London Dry Gin, but if you have something else, use it. If you have a favorite recipe for any of the drinks below, by all means use it!

    RECIPE: GIMLET COCKTAIL

    A gimlet is a tool for drilling small holes; the name was also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing. The word “gimlet” for a cocktail was first used around 1928—perhaps for its effects on the drinker.

     
    According to Wikipedia, another theory is that the drink was named after British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB (who served 1879 to 1913). Gimlette allegedly introduced the drink as a means of inducing his messmates to drink lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication.
     
    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots (or parts) gin
  • 3/4 shot fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 shot simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Garnish: cucumber wedge or lime wheel
  •  
    Preparation

    Shake all ingredients with ice until ice cold. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with lime peel.
     
    RECIPE: GIN FIZZ COCKTAIL

    A fizz is a variation of a sour, a family of cocktails that uses lemon or lime juice. The fizz adds carbonated water (soda water). The first printed reference to a “fiz” appears in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide. It became very popular starting at the turn of the 20th century.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots gin
  • 1/2 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup or 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • Soda water
  • Lemon wedge for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    Shake with ice and strain first 3 ingredients into a highball glass. Top off with soda water and stir lightly. Garnish with lemon wedge.

     

    RECIPE: GIN & TONIC COCKTAIL

    The world’s favorite gin drink was born in colonial India, when the British troops took daily doses of quinine water (tonic water) to ward off malaria. Someone suggested mixing it with gin to make it more palatable, and the Gin and Tonic became the iconic drink of the British Empire.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots gin
  • Tonic water
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    Add the gin and ice to highball glass; top off with tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge.
     
    RECIPE: GIN RICKEY COCKTAIL

    The rickey was created with bourbon in the 1880s, at Shoomaker’s bar in Washington, D.C. The story is that it was a collaboration between bartender George A. Williamson and a good customer, Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey.

     

    gin-tonic-lime-qtonic-230

    A classic G&T with a (non-traditional) sprig of fresh thyme. Photo courtesy Q Tonic.

     

    In the bar for his morning glass of bourbon and Apollinaris sparkling mineral water, with lump ice, history was changed when one day, half a lime was squeezed into, then dropped into, the glass. The guess is that the lime was the bartender’s twist. Colonel Rickey may have preferred bourbon, but the cocktail became a worldwide sensation a decade later when gin was substituted to create the Gin Rickey. It’s similar to a Gin Fizz, but it uses London Dry Gin and lime juice, and less (or no) sugar.

    Ingredients

  • 1.25 shots gin
  • 1/2 fresh lime, juiced
  • Optional: splash of simple syrup
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    Fill a highball glass with ice. Squeeze the lime into the glass, getting as much juice out of it as you can. Add the gin, simple syrup and the lime shell. Top off with soda water.
     
    RECIPE: GIN MARTINI COCKTAIL

    Is there a drink with as many variations as a Martini? The original may have been made in San Francisco in 1850 by bar owner Jerry Thomas. A stronger claim comes from Here’s the scoop. The first reference to a vodka Martini in the U.S. occurs in 1951 in a cocktail recipe book, Bottoms Up, by Ted Saucier. The drink took off when James Bond ordered his vodka Martini “shaken, not stirred.”

    Ingredients

  • 3 shots gin
  • 1/4 shot dry vermouth (for a dry Martini)
  • 1-2 green olives, depending on size
  •  
    Preparation

    Shake the vodka and vermouth with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the olives.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: “Leftovers” Antipasto Plate

    We can’t wait to get to Seattle to eat at Chef Ethan Stowell’s restaurants. Until then, we visit the websites and drool over the food photos.

    And we get ideas. After spotting this asparagus antipasto plate, we thought of different approaches to antipasto.

    Antipasto means “before the meal” in Italian—meaning before the main meal. It’s the traditional first course of multicourse Italian dinner.

    Most of us have had one along the way. The contents vary greatly by region, but Italian restaurants in the U.S. often have cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, mozzarella or provolone, olives, peperoncini and pickled vegetables (giardiniera).

    Our mother’s typical antipasto consisted of artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, Genoa salami, giardiniera, a slice of cantaloupe in season wrapped with prosciutto, olives and our childhood favorite, BQ brand sesame breadsticks.

    But back to Ethan Stowell and his team of chefs:

       

    asparagus-antipasto-ethanstowell-230

    An asparagus-based “antipasto.” Photo courtesy Ethan Stowell Restaurants.

     
    His asparagus plate inspired us to create a “whatever” antipasto with foods we had on hand—which happened to include leftover steamed asparagus. We tossed them in a vinaigrette, and placed them on individual plates with:

  • Cheese (we had truffle cheese)
  • Croutons (thin slices of toasted baguette)
  • Dried figs (wish we’d had fresh figs!)
  • Mixed olives
  • Pâté (two varieties, thanks to a sample shipment from Les Trois Petits Cochons)
  • Pickled red onions (made in an hour with this recipe)
  • Sweet gherkins
  •  
    The tasty result seemed like a lot of thought and effort went into it. But really, we just went through the fridge and added a dab or this and that. Don’t hesitate to combine anything with anything else.

     

    greek-mezze-murrays-230

    Assorted Greek mezze. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    AMUSE-BOUCHE, ANTIPASTO, HORS D’OEUVRE, MEZZE &
    TAPAS: THE DIFFERENCES

    Different but similar: Here’s the scoop on these popular foods:.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated in a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives. It is brought after the wine is poured. It is just one bite: A larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture, and enable the chef to show creativity.
  • Antipasto is a first course of assorted foods, served at the table (some restaurants have antipasto buffets).
  • Appetizer, a first course lately referred to as a starter in fashionable venues, is small serving of food served as a first course. It can be the same type of food that could be served as an entrée or a side dish, but in a smaller portion (e.g., a half-size portion of gnocchi). Or it could be something not served as a main dish, such as smoked salmon with capers.
  • Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server. Canapés are the original hors d’oeuvre; they’ve been joined in modern times by hot options such as cheese puffs, mini quiches, skewers, baby lamb chops and many other options. Technically, the term refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip. The term means “[dishes] outside the work [the main meal].” Several pieces can be plated to serve as an appetizer (first course). Martinets note: In French, the term “hors d’oeuvre” is used to indicate both the singular and plural forms; Americans incorrectly write and speak it as “hors d’oeuvres.”
  • Mezze or meze (pronounced MEH-zay) is an assortment of small dishes served to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer plate before the main dish. In Greece, expect mezedes of feta, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Many other options include anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers. In the Middle East, you’ll typically find dips (babaganoush, hummus), olives, pickles, tabouleh and other items, from raw vegetables to falafel and sambousek, small meat turnovers. Don’t forget the pita wedges!
  • Tapas (pronounced TOP-us) are appetizers or snacks that comprise a wide variety of popular foods in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or hot, from cheese and olives to chorizo to a tortilla, meatballs, or fried squid. While originally traditional foods, some tapas bars now serve very sophisticated plates. You can order one or more tapas with a glass of wine, or order a series of plates to create a full meal.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Belgian Beer Tasting

    How about a Belgian beer tasting for Father’s Day?

    Until the American craft beer revolution, which began in the 1970s and blossomed in the 1990s toward the current wealth of craft breweries, Belgium was the [pretty small] country that produced the broadest range of beers.

    For a social gathering, you can offer tastes of the different styles and pair them with appropriate nibbles. Of course, you can choose any country or style of beer, but this recommendation honors the great Belgian beer tradition.

    Where to start?

    There are styles of beer produced in Belgium; American craft brewers are making some of them. Some closely follow the Belgian style; others are more creative interpretations.

    Here’s a selection to put together for a tasting, recommended by Flavor And The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs who want to know what’s trending:

  • Abbey or Trappist ales, so-called because they were originally created by monks, include dubbels, tripels and quadrupels. Dubbels, between 6% and 8A% ABV*, are reddish brown with moderate bitterness, robust body and a palate that’s fruity and malty. Tripels, 8% to 10% ABV, are usually deep golden yellow and creamy on the palate, with apple, banana, citrus, floral and pear notes, slightly sweet but with a dry finish.
  •    

    Gueuze_Fond_belgium.beertourism-230

    Gueuze, a style of lambic beer, can be an eye opener. Photo courtesy Belgium.BeerTourism.com.

    Quadrupels are more intense versions of dubbels, with an ABV range of 9% to almost 14%—the latter as much alcohol as a glass of wine!
    Food Pairing: Spicy sausage with whole-grain mustard, beef or lamb stew, Stilton or similar blue cheese, peppered gingerbread cookies (get these pepparkakor from Ikea or make this recipe).

  • Flanders sour ales are intense in color (red or brown) with balsamic, berry and plum notes. The style has intense acidity, produced by using cultured yeasts in the primary fermentation and aged in barrels with bacteria and wild yeasts.
  • Food Pairing: Grilled red meat or braises, Chinese food (think sweet-or-sour with the sour beer) and triple crème cheeses.

  • Lambics are an interesting category for sophisticated beer lovers. Gueuze lambics are perhaps the most challenging to drink—including challenging to pronounce (try HYOO-zeh). A blend of young and old lambics, they are dry and complex, with flavor descriptors such as barnyardy, briny and cheesy. Fruited lambics are quite different, with fruit and sweetener added during production. They are typically very sweet and low in alcohol—good “dessert beers.” Cherry lambics, known as kriek, are the most common, but raspberry, peach and other fruits are also popular.
    Food Pairing: Mussels in white wine, crab or washed-rind cheeses for gueuze lambics; mains or desserts that match with the fruit (duck with cherries or cherry pie with kriek, for example); asparagus quiche or frittata; fennel and apple salad.

  •  

    dark-trappist-ale-leffe-230

    Sign us up for a dark Abbey ale! Photo courtesy Leffe.

     
  • Saisons, or farmhouse ales, were traditionally brewed late in the year by farmers for drinking the following summer. Generally highly carbonated and very dry, they feature citrusy aromatics, peppery and floral notes, and a lively hoppiness. Saisons are available in amber, dark or light styles.
  • Food Pairing: Rustic foods, like bouillabaisse, roast chicken, bloomy-rind cheeses and rustic bread.

  • Whitbiers are light and citrusy wheat beer that have become very popular in the U.S. Good summer beers!
  • Food Pairing: Light salads and seafood.

    Start shopping to collect the beers for the tasting. If you don’t already know your area’s best source for craft beers, ask around.
     
    *By comparison, Budweiser and Molson are 5% ABV; Heinecken is 5.4% ABV, Corona is 4.5% ABV.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Use Your Julep Cups For Food

    Don’t put your julep cups away because the Kentucky Derby is over. Instead, think of what else you can serve in them, all year long.

    BEVERAGES

    Serve other cold beverages in these glamorous vessels. Kids won’t drink their milk? Let them drink it from the “special” silver julep cup.
     
    BUFFETS

    Use the julep cups to hold the forks, spoons and knives.
     
    FROZEN & OTHER DESSERTS

    Place julep cups in the freezer to chill them before adding ice cream, sorbet or other frozen dessert. The scoops will stay frozen much longer.

     

    shrimp-cocktail-julep-glass-butterNYC-230

    Today is National Shrimp Day. How about a “Shrimp Julep.” Photo courtesy Butter | NYC.

     
    You can also layer cake and ice cream in the cups, for a surprise ice cream cake dessert.

    And pudding is even more welcome when served in a julep cup.
     
    SALAD & VEGGIES

    Get your family to eat more salad and veggies by serving them in a glam silver container.

    Julep cups are also an impressive vessel for entertaining. Use them to serve anything to guests at a dinner party. They’ll also be impressed by your creativity.
     
    SEAFOOD

    Butter restaurant in New York City adds ice to the julep cup, but instead of bourbon and mint it adds shrimp and cocktail sauce. Can we take some creative license and call it a Shrimp Julep?
     
    SNACKING

    For fancy TV viewing, Oscar parties, Halloween and other occasions, fill the julep cups with snack food, from candy corn to popcorn.
     
    WHAT’S A JULEP?

    A julep is a sweet flavored drink made with sugar syrup, among other ingredients. A Mint Julep also adds bourbon, fresh mint and crushed or shaved ice.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pair Saké With Cheese

    sake-cheese-curdnerds-230

    Buy the cheese, open the saké. Photo courtesy CheeseNerds.com.

     

    Recently, we were invited to a cheese and saké tasting at the French Cheese Board in New York City. Think you should sip saké only with Japanese food? Think again.

    While it doesn’t seem intuitive, the the traditional Japanese drink, brewed by fermenting rice, has a broad range of flavors and styles that pairs with various foods. Like wine, it’s a global beverage.

    Saké is made from four ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji, an enzyme. Saké is fermented and brewed like beer, but served like wine. It is also characterized as a wine because of its alcohol content is similar.

    Think of saké as you’d think of white wine. A bolder saké can stand up to spicy cuisine, like Indian food. It can also pair well with French dishes. A milder sake is better with delicate flavors like sushi and sashimi.

    Now for the cheeses: Another reason saké pairs well with cheese is that both contain lactic acid. Most aged cheeses go better with bolder sakés, fresh cheeses (like chèvre) with milder ones. With aged cheeses, we personally like:

     

  • Genshu saké, a style that’s stronger because it is not diluted with water.
  • Nigori saké, cloudy because it is roughly filtered old-style, which leaves microscopic particles of rice in the liquid. We also like its hint of sweetness with stronger cheeses.
  •  
    As with white wine, serve saké semi-chilled, around 60°F.

    The journey to knowledge includes trying what you can get, and seeing how you like it. That goes with both sakés and cheeses.

     
    WHAT CHEESES SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

    Your favorites! We’re serving saké and cheese today, for Mother’s Day, with Truffle Tremor, a truffle cheese; Point Reyes Blue Cheese; Red Hawk, a strong, Muenster*-style cheese from Cowgirl Creamery; and a Brie. The first three cheeses are from Marin County, north of San Francisco; Brie is imported from France.

    If you want to see what pairings others have done, check out the website TrueSake.com, written by a sommelier who recommends his top three cheese pairings with particular sakés; and look for similar content online.

    If you’re not sure about taking this on by yourself, ask your local cheese store to set up a tasting. Here’s a report from CurdNerds on a tasting at Murray’s Cheese in New York City.

    More to discover:

  • Sake 101, an overview
  • Saké terms, a glossary
  •  
    *That’s Alsatian Muenster, not the mild American “munster.”

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Decorated Macaron

    violet-macaron-w-flowers-culinaryvegetableinstitute-230

    Almost too pretty to eat. Photo courtesy Culinary Vegetable Institute.

     

    Here’s something easy for Mother’s Day: a dessert or tea snack consisting of a single macaron, beautifully decorated.

    It’s from the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Ohio, where farmers grow the most glorious produce and chefs create wondrous dishes with it.

    You can create this macaron at home, either as a light dessert or as one of a number of dessert courses.

    Serve it with a cup of tea or a glass of sparkling wine. For birthdays, add a candle for the honoree.

    RECIPE: MACARON WITH FLOWERS

    Ingredients

  • Macarons
  • Edible flowers
  • Sanding sugar
  • Vanilla frosting
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURCHASE or make macarons, ideally in a bright color for visual appeal.

    2. PLACE the macaron on its side, using a dab of frosting to affix it to the plate and keep it from rolling. While we don’t like canned frosting, in this case its thickness works to adhere the macaron.

    SPRINKLE the plate with sanding sugar in a complementary color. It’s typically available in pastels: blue, green, lavender, pink and yellow.

    3. PLACE the flower near the top.

    4. SCATTER the sanding sugar on the plate.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Plate Decorations

    If you admire the fancy plate decoration done by fine chefs, here’s a tip: It’s easy to makes everyday food look quite spectacular!

    There are three easy steps:
    1. Consider placing a bright-colored sauce or purée atop the plate, under the food. If you’re not using a sauce, try a circular or zig-zag drizzle.

    2. Add a garnish/garnishes around the rim of a plate.

    3. Top with herbs (chiffonade, leaves or sprigs), microgreens or sprouts.

    Just decide on what you want to garnish your plate. Choose from:

    RIM GARNISHES

  • Capers/caperberries
  • Caviar/roe: lumpfish, salmon roe, whitefish (plain or flavor-infused)
  • Citrus zest
  • Cress, microgreens or sprouts
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Minced herbs
  • Spices—chili flakes, mustard seeds, pink peppercorns
  •  
    DRIZZLES & DROPLETS

  • Balsamic or flavored vinegar
  • Flavored or plain olive oil
  • Gourmet mustard
  •    

    grilled-fish-rockcentercafe-230

    Grilled fish garnished with a bit of everything: balsamic droplets, pomegranate arils. Photo courtesy Rock Center Café | NYC.

  • Seasoned mayonnaise or aïoli
  • Vegetable or fruit purée
  •  

    lamb-loin-tatsoi-pomwonderful-230

    A simpler version: roast lamb on a bed of sunchoke purée with red sorrel and tatsoi. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     

    BEDS FOR PROTEINS

  • Chopped or diced vegetables, raw or cooked
  • Sauces or coulis (strained purée)
  • Grains and legumes (look for color: red rice, yellow lentils, e.g.)
  • Grain and legume/vegetable blends (rice and beans, succotash)
  • Mashed or puréed vegetables
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    MORE GARNISH TIPS

    Collect photos and keep them in a file in the kitchen.

    Check out our many garnish ideas for both sweet and savory dishes, and a separate article on soup garnishes.

     

     

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: A Scotch & Chocolate Tasting For National Tartan Day

    It’s National Tartan Day, which recognizes Scottish-Americans’ contributions to America.

    Tartan, familiar in Scottish kilts, is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colors. Originally woven wool, it is now made in many other materials, and can even be found as wallpaper.

    Nineteen of the 56 delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence came to America from Scotland or were Ulster Scots, who had been living in Ireland. Others, like Thomas Jefferson, had Scottish ancestors.

    Today, more than 11 million Americans claim Scottish and Scotch-Irish roots, making them the eighth largest ethnic group in the U.S.

    You don’t have to be of Scottish ancestry to celebrate. Our family celebrated every holiday that involved food), a tip for food-loving families.

    You can celebrate with traditional Scottish foods like haggis, Scottish pie (filled with ground mutton), smoked salmon or tatties (mashed potatoes) and herring.

    Or you can kick back at the end of the day with a glass of Scotch, or a Scotch cocktail.

       

    chocolate-scotch-LaszloRakoskerti IST. 230

    Chocolate with Scotch? Absolutely! Photo by László Rákoskerti | IST.

     
    Among the many options, you can replace the vodka in a Bloody Mary with Scotch, creating a Highland Mary a.k.a. Bloody Scotsman.

    But we suggest a Scotch and chocolate tasting.

     

    kendallbrook-mackenzie-230

    Not into Scotch and chocolate? Celebrate National Tartan Day with an appetizer of Scottish smoked salmon. We like ours with a sprinkling of capers, some snipped fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon or lime. The onions are also welcome. Photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    SCOTCH & CHOCOLATE TASTING PARTY

    Paiing chocolates with wine and spirits is even more enjoyable than drinking the Scotch—or eating the chocolates—by themselves. If you haven’t already seen our wine, spirits and chocolate pairing guide, take a look.

    While we like Scotch from all over Scotland—the flavors vary substantially due to the local water and microclimate—it’s easiest to pair chocolates that have flavor notes similar to the Scotch, for example, smoky, peaty Laphroaig single malt Scotch, paired with single-origin chocolates that have smoky notes.

    Here’s what you need to know to have your own party.

    Here’s some tartan trivia from Laphroaig & Wikipedia to share at your festivity:

  • Tartan is often called plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket such as one would have on a bed.
  • The best-known tartan patterns are the Black Watch and Royal Stewart.
  • Until the mid-19th century, tartan designs were associated with regions or districts, rather than any specific Scottish clan.
  • Tartan became popular throughout the English-speaking world after Queen Victoria expressed her fondness for all things Scottish.
  • The world’s first color photograph was of a tartan ribbon.
  • The English word tartan derives from the French tiretain, from the verb tirer which references woven cloth, as opposed to knitted cloth.
  • The word plaid derives from the Scottish Gaelic plaide, meaning blanket. The word was first used to describe any rectangular garment, including tartan. In time, plaid was used to describe blankets themselves.
  • A belted plaid is a blanket-like piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body with the material loosely gathered and secured at the waist by a belt. A portion of the fabric is wrapped up around the upper body and a portion hangs down to the knees (see it here).
  • The belted plaid was a standard item of men’s Highland dress from the late 16th century until the middle of the 18th century, when it began to evolve into the modern tailored kilt.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Cook Fish

    Lent began yesterday, the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (this year on April 2nd). During Lent, observers recognize Christ’s sacrifice by giving up something pleasurable. Around the world, the most common Lenten practice is to give up meat. In the U.S., seafood sales soar during the six weeks of Lent.

    Whether you’re a lent observer, or simply want to eat more healthfully, here’s inspiration from GetFlavor.com, a magazine and website for professional chefs.

  • Baked fish: salmon wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce; quiche; en papillote; Salmon Wellington
  • Cured/pickled/smoked: ceviche, gravlax, pickled herring; smoked bluefish, cod, salmon, trout, tuna fillets; smoked fish pâté
  • Deep-fried fish: battered, tempura or breaded; calamari, fish and chips, fritters, nuggets, shrimp
  • Dips and spreads: pâté, taramasalata, whitefish
  • Grilled fish: whole fish or fillets; kebabs or skewers; cod, sardines, shrimp, snapper, whitefish
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    It couldn’t be easier: Pan-sautéed fish topped with a light salad. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

  • Pan-fried or sautéed fish: Trout, soft-shell crab, salmon or trout patties
  • Poached fish: crab legs, salmon, shrimp cocktail, whitefish
  • Raw fish: carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, tartare, tataki
  • Roasted fish: fillets, steaks, whole fish
  • Steamed fish: fillets, steaks or whole fish; mussels, gefilte fish
  • Stews and casseroles: bisque, bouillabaisse, chowder, cioppino, curry, gumbo
  • Stir-fried and sautéed fish: Asian-style stir fry, blackened, with pasta
  • Specialty: caviar, crêpes, flan, mousse, pancakes, poke, risotto
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    black-bass-porcini-brodetto-scottconant-230

    You can make this nicely-plated restaurant dish. Just place grilled bass or other fish atop a bed of grains or vegetables and surround with broth or sauce. In a pinch, you can make a sauce from a can of creamed soup. Photo courtesy Chef Scott Conant.

     

    BOILING, POACHING OR STEAMING: THE DIFFERENCE

    These three related cooking techniques are both healthful and easy. Here are the nuances:

    Poaching

    Poaching is a gentle cooking method used to simmer foods in a hot, but not boiling, liquid. Water is often used as the poaching liquid but its flavor is often enhanced with broth or stock, juice, vinegar or wine.

    Typically, vegetables (carrot, celery, onion), citrus (lemon, lime, orange), herbs and/or spices are added to the liquid for additional depth of flavor. Chicken breasts, eggs, fish/seafood and fruit are good candidates for poaching.
     
    Boiling

    Boiling is more intense than poaching. Foods are cooked in rapidly bubbling liquid, most often water. Poaching is best suited to foods such as starches and vegetables that can withstand the high heat and the agitation of rapidly moving water.

    Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower hearty greens (collards, kale, turnip greens), pasta, potatoes and rice are some of the most frequently-boiled foods.

     
    Steaming

    With this technique, foods are cooked by steam generated from boiling liquid. Water is most often used because little to no flavor is transferred to the food from the steam. Since there’s no direct contact with water, steaming retains the shape, texture and bright color (e.g., of asparagus or other vegetables and fruits) without becoming water-logged or soggy.

    Steaming also prevents vitamins and minerals from dissolving into the cooking liquid. Fruits, proteins, vegetables and even desserts—cakes, custards and puddings) can be steamed.

    For instructions on each of these techniques, visit CampbellsKitchen.com.

      

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