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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: A Retro Cocktail Party

Cranberry Mojitos, Dirty Martinis, Frozen Mango Margaritas…none of these cocktails existed when your parents (for Baby Boomers and Gen X) or grandparents (for everyone else) had their first cocktails. None would be featured on “Mad Men.”

How many people do you know who have even had a Daiquiri, Old Fashioned or Tom Collins? A retro cocktail party may be just the thing to introduce them to tippling in the good old days.

So banish the Cosmopolitans for an evening, and turn back the clock with a menu of five classic cocktails. These famous oldies date to the 1800s:

1. Daiquiri: Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail combines rum, lime juice and simple syrup, shaken and served neat.

2. Dry Martini: This combination of gin and dry vermouth is garnished with an olive or lemon twist garnish. The less vermouth, the drier the Martini. People who wanted to drink straight gin could ask for just a splash of it. It’s the only cocktail in this group that isn’t sweet. From early times, people used sugar to mitigate the hard edge of the alcohol.

 

The Manhattan was created in the 1870s by a New York bartender whose name is lost to history. Photo courtesy Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

 

3. Manhattan: This classic whiskey cocktail, dating to the 1870s, is made with bourbon or rye and sweet vermouth, served in a rocks glass and garnished with a maraschino cherry. A gin-based version is the Martinez, another oldie made with sweet vermouth, bitters and the cherry. That recipe was first published in 1887, attributed to a bar in Martinez, California.

4. Old Fashioned: Bourbon based and served in a rocks glass, sugar, bitters and an orange slice are muddled in the glass; ice and bourbon are then added. The term originated with late 19th century bar patrons, to distinguish cocktails made the “old-fashioned” way from newer, more complex cocktails.

5. Tom Collins: A tall drink of dry gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and soda water, garnished with a maraschino cherry and a lemon slice. The recipe was first published in 1876. There was no particular Tom Collins for whom it was named; rather, “Tom Collins” was an everyman name referenced in conversation, along the lines of John Smith and John Doe.

Bonus option:

6. Mint Julep: Not just for Kentucky Derby parties, this tall glass of muddled mint and sugar syrup, crushed ice and bourbon deserves attention year-round. It originated in the South in the 1800. A julep is generally defined “as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine.”*
 
*Source: Wikipedia. It should be noted that before it became a leisure drink, spirits were developed for, and used as, medicine.

 

A Tom Collins. Photo courtesy Bombay
Sapphire Gin.

 

RETRO HORS D’OEUVRE

  • Cheese sticks or cheese wafers
  • Celery stuffed with pimiento cream cheese
  • Cheese ball or cheese log, coated with toasted nuts and served with crackers
  • Deviled eggs
  • Endive leaves stuffed with crab salad
  • Hot crab dip, served with crackers or toast points
  • Mixed salted nuts
  • Rumaki: chicken liver and water chestnut wrapped in bacon
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Swedish meatballs
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Relish tray: carrot sticks, celery sticks, olives, radishes, sweet gherkins
  • Stuffed dates: with cream cheese or an almond (bacon wrap optional)
  •  

    COCKTAIL HISTORY

    Cocktails as we know them today have existed since the early 1800s. A reader wrote to “The Balance and Columbian Repository,” a newspaper in Hudson, New York, asking “What is a cocktail?” The reply, published in the May 13, 1806: “Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling….”

    The first published bartenders’ guide with cocktail recipes was “How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon Vivant’s Companion,” by “Professor” Jerry Thomas, in 1862. In addition to recipes for “cocktails,” there cobblers, flips, punches, shrubs, slings, and toddies. Bitters was the key ingredient that differentiated cocktail recipes.

    Bitters are combinations of herbs, fruits, spices and/or roots, distilled in a base liquor. As with spirits, they began as medicinal tonics. Classic cocktails with bitters include the Manhattan, Negroni, Old Fashioned, Pisco Sour, Rob Roy, Rum Swizzle, Sazerac and Singapore Sling. The recent renaissance in artisan bitters has led to more of their use in new creations.

    The leading claim to the first cocktail party goes to Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri. In May 1917, she invited 50 guests to her home at noon on a Sunday. The cocktail reception lasted an hour, and lunch was served at 1 p.m.

    While the record is mum on the subject, the cocktail event may have followed the Sunday church service.† Now there’s an idea ready for revival: church followed by cocktails with friends.

    †Since 1924, the Walsh mansion has been the residence of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Hot Dog Recipes For Labor Day

    A hot dog Boston-style, topped with baked
    beans, crumbled bacon and chopped red
    onion. Photo courtesy Applegate.

     

    If you didn’t whip up some gourmet hot dogs on July 23rd, National Hot Dog Day, Labor Day Weekend is another opportunity to strut your hot dog stuff.

    In case you’re thinking chili cheese dogs, corn dogs and pizza dogs, take a look at these gourmet hot dog recipes. Below are more examples created by chefs across the country. Now, you’re ready to turn hot dogs to haute dogs.

  • Downward Dog, Japanese Style Hot Dogs. At The Corner Office in Denver, there’s a Japanese spin: Downward Dogs, two hot dogs with Japanese mustard, kewpie mayo, sweet soy sauce, nori and cucumber tsukemono (Japanese pickles sliced thin and marinated in rice wine vinegar, mirin, sugar, and salt for two days). The dogs are served in a split-top bun with a side of butter fries (tossed in clarified butter and salt). Kewpie mayo is a Japanese brand, a smoother, creamer mayonnaise made with rice vinegar rather than distilled white vinegar. You can buy it online.
  •  

  • Coney Island Style Hot Dogs or Coney Dogs. They’re not from New York’s famed Coney Island: This style of hot dog originated in Michigan in the early 20th century at Todoroff’s Original Coney Island. The original dog was topped with an all-meat (beanless chili), chopped white onions and stripes of yellow mustard. A special coney sauce evolved at hot dog stands that combined ground beef, onion, ketchup, mustard, celery seed, Worcestershire sauce and other seasonings. Here’s a coney sauce recipe. Toasted Oak in Novi, Michigan, an American brasserie, serves them with a twist: mini dogs topped with venison (instead of beef) coney sauce.
  • Southwestern Style Hot Dogs. Kachina Southwestern Grill in suburban Denver makes a Sonoran Dog, named after the state in the northwetern corner of Mexico. The restaurant pays homage to this culinary melting pot with a Kobe beef hot dog topped with applewood bacon, cowboy beans, pico de gallo, crumbled cotija cheese and smoked tomato aïoli, wrapped in house-made bolillo, a long, crusty roll with a baguette-like texture.
  •  

  • Poutine Dog, Breakfast Dog. There are two special dogs at Portland’s The Original Dinerant (a cross between a diner and a restaurant). Poutine Dog adds a hot dog to the classic Canadian dish. The dog is topped with warm cheese curds, crispy French fries and veal gravy. Or try a Breakfast Dog instead of sausage and eggs. It’s a grilled hot dog topped with a sunny-side-up egg, and wrapped in a bun that’s been French toast-battered and fried bun. The condiments: a drizzle of maple syrup and powdered sugar, of course.
  •  
    These recipes are from our chef friend Ken:

  • BLT Dogs. Shredded lettuce, bacon, mayonnaise, diced tomatoes.
  • Peking Dogs. The dog is topped with the fixings of Peking Duck—julienne cucumbers, chopped scallions and hoisin sauce—and wrapped in a crepe.
  •  

    A San Francisco-style hot dog: healthy salad fixings on your frank. Photo courtesy Applegate.

  • Taco Dogs. Wrap halved hot dogs in grilled tortillas, topped with taco condiments (shredded cheese and lettuce, diced tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, etc.).
  •  
    WANT SOMETHING EASIER?

    Just provide some special ingredients in addition to the traditional hot dog condiments.

  • Traditional hot dog condiments: barbecue sauce, chili, cheese (shredded), ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles, pickle relish, sauerkraut.
  • Special hot dog condiments: bruschetta and fresh basil leaves, caramelized onions, cilantro, crumbled blue cheese, corn relish, jalapeños (raw and/or pickled), fruit salsa (mango, peach, pineapple), Onion Crunch.
  •  

    HOT DOG TRIVIA

    According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, an estimated seven billion hot dogs are eaten by Americans between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And every year, Americans eat an average of 60 hot dogs each!

  • Miller Park in Milwaukee is the only Major League ball park in which sausages outsell hot dogs. We recently featured “The Beast,” their “turducken” of hot dogs.
  • Ball park hot dog vendors need to be strong. A fully loaded bin weights approximately 40 pounds, and vendors typically walk 4 to 5 miles per game, up and down steps. They work on tips and commission.
  • “Nobody, I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog” is a phrase less famous than “Go ahead, make my day.” But Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry said them both (the former in “Sudden Impact”).
  • Glamour queen Marlene Deitrich’s preferred meal was hot dogs and Champagne.
  • Visitors can purchase hot dogs at the Vatican Snack Bar.
  •  
    Want more trivia? Take our hot dog trivia quiz.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Shandy ~ Half Beer, Half Lemonade

    Strawberry shandy. Photo courtesy Traveler
    Beer Company.

     

    Shandy, short for shandygaff (no one knows the origin of the word), is beer diluted with a non-alcoholic beverage. It’s a traditional British pub drink that mixes lager with lemon soda, ginger ale or ginger beer. Carbonated lemonade, cider or other citrus-flavored soda can be used.

    Whatever you use, consensus is that shandy is a refreshing summertime drink.

    The shandy tradition dates back to the 17th century. Today, English publicans blend an English ale or beer with various lemon and lime beverages.

    With a new twist on the tradition, Traveler Beer Company of Burlington, Vermont, makes three craft shandies (4.4% ABV):

     

  • Curious Traveler Shandy, a shandy from wheat ale infused with real lemons and limes (4.4% ABV). Lemon lovers: This shandy has a lively fruit flavor and a powerful fresh lemon aroma
  • Time Traveler Shandy, a wheat beer, brewed with real strawberry
  • Jack-O Traveler Shandy, the newest flavor, brewed with lemon peel and added pumpkin
  •  

    DIY SHANDY: CREATE A SHANDY BAR

    It you’re looking for a Labor Day activity, how about a make-your-own shandy bar? Just assemble the ingredients, print out brief “instructions*” and put them in a frame next to the beer.

    Shandy Bar Ingredients

  • Lager beer (plus wheat beer or nonalcoholic beer if you’d like two styles)
  • Citrus soda, sparkling lemonade, sparkling soda
  • Ginger ale/ginger beer
  • Lemonade: plain, sparkling, Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  • Berry lemonade: blueberry, strawberry, raspberry (muddle the berries and mix with regular lemonade)
  • Sparkling cider
  •  

    Shandy Garnishes

  • Lemon wedges
  • Lime wedges
  • Berries
  •  
    Plus

  • Glasses (start with small-to-medium size)
  • Swizzle sticks to stir
  • Paper towels for spills
  • Napkins
  •  

    What adult trick-or-treaters want: pumpkin shandy. Photo courtesy Travel Beer Company.

     
    A COMPARATIVE SHANDY TASTING

    If you don’t want a shandy bar, gather whatever shandy brands you can find and have a tasting.

    Samuel Adams makes Porch Rocker, if you can still find it (the distribution period is through July). Anheuser-Busch’s Shock Top Lemon Shandy is available through August. Also look for Harp Lemon Shandy, Labatt Shandy and Saranac Shandy Lager and Lemonade.

    Fentiman’s brews two soft drink shandy styles, non-alcoholic shandy and a low alcoholic version brewed to .5 ABV ABV (1 proof), which allows it to be sold as a soft drink.

    We like to use shot glasses or juice glasses for this type of tasting. It lets everyone try a small amount of each brand, and return to their favorite with a larger glass.

    More about shandy.

     
    *Instructions can include: (1) Shandy is half beer, half soft drink. (2) Create your own signature shandy with the soft drink of your choice. (3) Be neat, and clean up your spills!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegetable Bouquet

    Irresistible crudités for kids. Photo courtesy
    Living Locurto.

     

    Hey there, Edible Arrangements: You’re missing out on dazzling vegetable bouquets like these.

    The vegetable arrangements were created by blogger Amy Locurto of LivingLocurto.com, who developed the veggie bouquet concept to entice her children to eat more vegetables.

    Serve them at home, or bring them to parties and barbecues as your contribution. You can make a large basket or bowl centerpiece, or make individual servings in juice glasses.

    VEGETABLE BOUQUET RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • Vegetables: baby carrots, grape or cherry tomatoes in red and orange/yellow, cucumbers, radishes, yellow squash, zucchini and anything else your friends and family like
  • Celery for the stems
  • Fennel, bok choy or other stalk vegetables with leaves at the top
  • Cream cheese, an optional “glue”
  • Flower shaped cookie cutter
  • Long toothpicks/wood skewers
  • Small vases, cups, jars or orange juice glasses to
    hold individual bouquets
  • Water to fill the jars
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUCUMBER & ZUCCHINI FLOWERS: Cut cucumbers/zucchini into flower shapes and cut small circles for the flower centers. Affix centers with cream cheese.

    2. CARROT, TOMATO & RADISH BLOSSOMS: Affix individual vegetables to the top of long toothpicks.

    3. CELERY LEAVES: Cut the leafy upper stems of celery to fill out the bouquet. If you don’t have enough leafy stalks, use regular celery sticks. Make cuts in the top about 1/2 inch deep as a design element. If you place the tops in water with ice cubes, the “fringe” should open a bit.
     
    You can wash and recycle the skewers.

    Check Out These Nifty Vegetable Cutters

  • Floral cutters set
  • Animal cutters set
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A S’mores Party

    S’mores can be as basic as two graham crackers, a piece of chocolate bar and a marshmallow. This is the campfire treat first published by the Girl Scouts in their 1927 handbook.

    Or you can get creative with it. If you do, today’s the day:

    August 10th is National S’mores Day. So make yourself a toasty, melty treat—and consider a summer s’mores bash, maybe for Labor Day Weekend. You can serve the classics plus riffs like these, and invite guests to create their own signature s’mores:

  • Chocolate Graham Cracker S’mores
  • Deconstructed Sundae S’mores
  • Gourmet Marshmallow S’mores
  • Ice Cream Sandwich S’mores
  • Le Petite Écolier S’mores (with “Little Schoolboy” cookies)
  • S’mores Ice Cream Pie or Tart
  • More!
  •  

    S’mores to the max. Photo courtesy ZoeBakes.com.

     

    Pastry chef Zoë François of ZoeBakes.com used her skills to create the ultra-fancy s’mores in the photo (here’s the recipe).

    Here’s how to throw a s’mores party, including the recipes mentioned above.

    If you invent something special at your s’mores party, we want to hear about it!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Budget Tips For Barbecues

    Anyone who entertains knows how costly it can be to host a aimple barbecue. We can’t believe how much we spent for July 4th. We could have taken everyone to a really good restaurant!

    With much summer entertaining ahead, we’re publishing these budget-friendly tips from Jeanette Pavini, consumer savings expert for the philanthropic savings site, CouponsForChange.org, shares her tips for hosting a barbecue on a budget:

    TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SUPERMARKET SALES

    Don’t wed yourself to certain menu items. Be flexible, and build your menu around foods that are on sale. For double the savings, find coupons that match the sale items. Sites like CouponsForChange.org have printable coupons for thousands of grocery items. Plus, for every 3 coupons you clip, a free meal is provided to a needy person.

     

    Tailor your menu to items on sale. Photo courtesy 123rf.com.

     

    KNOW WHEN TO SHOP

    Ask your butcher what time of day the store marks down meat. It’s usually in the early morning or in the evening. Some stores have two rounds of markdowns. For example, a package of chicken might be marked down 30% in the morning, and if it doesn’t sell by evening, it will be further marked down to 60%.

     

    Be sure to put different veggies on the grill
    Corn grilling cage available at Sur La Table.

     

    ADD COLOR TO THE GRILL

    The grill is not just for cooking meat. Make your grill do double duty with vegetables, so you get the most from your charcoal. Grilled vegetables are easy and delicious (we love the color of orange, red and yellow bell peppers). If you’re serving a large crowd, see if there is a wholesale produce market in your area. That’s where the restaurants shop, so you’ll get the same wholesale prices as they do as well as the freshest fruit and veggies available.

    BUY IN BULK

    Usually, a large cut of meat will be cheaper than the same amount cut into smaller pieces. If you don’t want to cut it yourself, you can always ask the butcher if he or she will cut it into smaller pieces for free. You can save even more if you buy bone-in cuts of meat.

     

    BE A BUDGET BARTENDER

    If you’re looking for a lower-cost beer and wine alternative, sangria is a popular and refreshing option—and a little goes a long way. Buy whichever fruit is on sale: apples, berries, oranges, pineapples, whatever. Combine with a bargain bottle of wine, add carbonated water and a sweetener like orange juice.

     
    Please share your budget barbecue tips!

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Homage To The Square

    As a student, we loved the “Homage To The Suare” paintings of Josef Albers, who created more than a thousand squares-within-squares over a 25-year period.

    When we saw this photo of a dish from Daniel restaurant in New York City, we thought: square food, square plates.

    You’ll be the opposite of a square when you present guests or family with fun squared food. While our list below is dinner fare, you can easily square off breakfast and lunch.

    Cutting certain foods into squares can produce a lot of trimmings, but it’s easy to use them in omelets, salads, hors d’oeuvre and snacks.

     

    A dinner plate from Daniel. Photo courtesy Thomas Schauer Photography.

     
    You can square up rice, vegetables, and other foods with:

  • A square egg mold
  • A square cookie cutter or other square cutter
  •  
    These square glass dinner plates from Libbey are inexpensive; or you can spring for these square white porcelain plates.

     

    A composite of some “Homage To The
    Square” paintings. Photo courtesy
    Mysticmedusa.com.

     

    WHAT TO SQUARE OFF ON YOUR PLATE

    Mains

  • Beef, lamb, pork loin
  • Casserole
  • Grilled fish steak
  • Grilled tofu
  • Lasagne
  • Moussaka
  • Polenta with mushroom ragout
  • Quiche (bake it in a square pan)
  •  
    Sides

  • Corn bread
  • Diced vegetables
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Rice or grains
  • Stuffing or other dressing
  • Vegetable pudding: carrot, corn, potato, zucchini, etc.
  •  
    Desserts

  • Brownies and bars
  • Flan or other custard (bake it in a square pan)
  • Ice cream (sliced from a rectangular quart)
  • Loaf cake
  • Melon
  •  
    What would you add to this list?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Iced Tea Ice Cubes

    Iced green tea with green tea ice cubes.
    Photo by Tomo Jesenicnikc | IST.

     

    It’s National Iced Tea Month, so we‘re repeating one of our favorite tips for iced tea lovers:

    Make your ice cubes from the same tea.

    This way, you can keep your iced tea ice-cold without diluting it. It’s a more elegant solution than brewing the tea extra-strong, anticipating that it will be diluted by regular ice cubes.

    You can also use the tea ice cubes in lemonade, creating an “Arnold Palmer” effect; or use them to add a different flavor nuance to any cold drink, including cocktails.

    HOW TO MAKE ICED TEA ICE CUBES

    While it sounds like a no-brainer, here’s the recipe:

    Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 8 tea bags of your choice (or 24g loose tea—each tea bag has the equivalent of 3g of tea)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BOIL the water and pour over tea in a heat-resistant pitcher. Allow to infuse for the variety’s recommended steeping time.

    2. REMOVE tea bags or loose tea; allow tea to cool to room temperature. Pour tea into ice cube trays and place in freezer.

    3. KEEP ice cubes in the tray or remove to a freezer bag or other container so you can freeze more ice cubes. Make black, green and herbal tea ice cubes, depending on what you typically drink.

      

    Comments

    RECIPES: 1920s Cocktails, Part 1

    The Gin Rickey. Photo courtesy Tanqueray
    Gin.

     

    The latest version of “The Great Gatsby” opens in cinemas today, begging the question, what did Gatsby serve at those wild parties?

    We know from the novel that Gatsby was a bootlegger. In the summer of 1922, when novel is set, Prohibition was two and a half years old. (Read this delightful article on Jay Gatsby by Kevin Roose, who explores how Gatsby made his money and whether author F. Scott Fitzgerald may have attributed more wealth to him than he could actually have had.)

    Aside from the Gin Rickey, the novel doesn’t mention what else people were drinking at those weekend-long extravaganzas. But given the popular cocktails of the Prohibition Era, Tthe Martini and the French 75 most certainly would have been on the menu.

    So get your cocktail shaker ready and mix up your own Jazz Age cocktail menu for Mother’s Day. This is Part 1; Part 2 presents two more 1920s cocktails, the South Side and the White Lady.

     
    These recipes are courtesy of Tanqueray Gin. Despite an abundance of bootleg liquor and “bathtub gin,” it’s rumored that the social set continued to enjoy top shelf imported gins like Tanqueray, delivered via cases that were unloaded offshore and floated to islands just off the U.S. coastline.

    GIN RICKEY RECIPE

    Why did the Gin Rickey alone get mentioned in “The Great Gatsby?” It is said to have been the preferred pour of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a wonderful warm weather drink.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.25 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 5 ounces soda water
  • Ice cubes
  • Lime wedge
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Build in a highball glass with ice. Stir and top with soda water.

    2. Garnish with a lime wedge.

     

    FRENCH 75 COCKTAIL RECIPE

    Made from gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar, the French 75 was created in 1915 by Harry MacElhone at the New York Bar in Paris (later called Harry’s New York Bar). It was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm field gun, also called a 75 Cocktail or a Soixante Quinze. The French 75 was popularized in America at New York City‘s famed Stork Club.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1.25 ounces gin
  • .5 ounce simple
  • .5 ounce lemon juice
  • Champagne
  • Garnish: lemon peel
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Shake ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.

    2. Strain into a rocks glass and top with champagne. Garnish with a lemon peel curl.

     

    The French 75, a sparkler. Photo courtesy Tanqueray Gin.

     

    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE COCKTAIL RECIPES.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Meatball Sub

    Nice enough, but you can make a meatball
    sub that soars to new heights. Photo
    courtesy Earl of Sandwich.

     

    As popular as meatball submarine sandwiches are, they’re pretty ho-hum. Even if you make the tastiest meatballs and marinara sauce, there’s still room for improvement.

    Today‘s tip: Play around with different ingredients until you create your meatball sub masterpiece. You can turn the search into a build-your-own party buffet for the Final Four, Memorial Day, Father’s Day or just because it’s party time.

    Your first decision: what to put in the meatballs (a basic meatball recipe is below). Every ingredient counts, as does the quality of the meat and cheese.

  • Meat: beef, chicken, pork, pork-beef blend, turkey or vegetarian.
  • Meatball filling: bread crumbs or rice, onion, garlic, heat (crushed red pepper flakes, minced jalapeno), herbs (chopped parsley and/or cilantro, rosemary, thyme).
  • Cheese: Argentine Sardo, grated Asiago, cotija, grana padano, Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano*, Pecorino Romano, Sbrinz or other hard cheese.
  •  

    Next decision: bread and toppings. Beyond the supermarket-variety “hero rolls,” consider:

  • Bread: baguette, garlic bread made on long rolls, semolina rolls…or think outside the elongated shape and pick up any good rolls offered by local bakers.
  •  
    Next, what to layer atop the meatballs:

  • Cheese: crumbled goat cheese, shredded Gruyère or mozzarella (room temperature or melted under the broiler), grated Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano, sliced Provolone or Fontina.
  • Greens: arugula, shredded lettuce.
  • Heat: cracked red pepper, pickled or sliced fresh jalapeños (in addition to what you may have put into the meatball mix).
  • Herbs: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, parsley; dried oregano.†
  • Sauce: marinara, mushroom gravy, Parmesan cream sauce (recipe below), pesto, spicy Bolognese.
  • Garnishes: bacon strips, beans, caramelized onions, giardiniera, fried egg, sliced gherkins or other pickles, mashed potatoes, onion rings, sliced olives, sliced tomatoes.
  •  
    *The difference: The product called Parmigiano Reggiano can only be made from local milk in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, where it is carefully monitored for quality by a supervising consortium. The related product made in the U.S. is called Parmesan. More about Parmigiano Reggiano.

    †Oregano is the exception to the rule: It tastes as good fresh or dried.

     

    You can also elect to “go global” with creations like these (and others that spring from your mind):

  • Greek Meatball Sub: dilled lamb meatballs with crumbled feta and yogurt sauce.
  • Indian Meatball Sub: curried lamb meatballs (add almonds and raisins), grated paneer cheese and raita sauce.
  • Hawaiian Meatball Sub: pork meatballs, sliced ham, pineapple slices, sweet gherkins.
  •  
    EASY MEATBALL TEMPLATE

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground meat or poultry
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs or panko
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  •  

    A glamorous and flavorful chicken meatball sub. Photo by Jill Chen | IST.

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F.

    2. PLACE ground meat in a large mixing bowl and with your knuckles or a large wooden spoon, punch a well into the center of meat. Fill the well with all of the other ingredients. Mix all ingredients until well combined.

    3. DIVIDE mix into 4 parts, and divide each part into 4 meatballs. Place on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes. Cut one meatball open to check doneness.
     

    EASY PARMESAN SAUCE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup quality grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 dash pepper or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MICROWAVE cream cheese, milk and cheese on medium (50%) for 6-8 minutes or until sauce is smooth. Stir every 2 minutes.

    3. BLEND in seasonings. Serve.

      

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