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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 Fish/Seafood/Caviar

TIP OF THE DAY: Make It A Trio

Once upon a time there was a magical restaurant in Wheeling, Illinois, Le Français, the creation of chef-owner Jean Banchet. There, among other glories, we were first introduced to the “trio” approach he brought from his classic French training:

Whatever protein you hungered for—beef, duck, seafood, veal—would be served in three different preparations on one plate. For example, the lobster trio might include truffled lobster, Lobster Thermidor and lobster sausage.

By varying cuts, preparations and sauces, Banchet created a symphony of flavors and visual appeal. It became our favorite way of eating.

The trio approach never took great hold in the U.S. In New York City, we find them mostly in seafood preparations:

  • The trio of fish tacos at Haru Japanese restaurants.
  • A trio of mussels, variously prepared as a seasonal special from Anita Lo of Annisa (see photo).
  • Wild salmon sushi with three different garnishes (fresh ginger and scallion, concasse of tomato and a lemon and vodka marinade topped with lemon zest) at Sushi Seki.
  •  

    mussels-trio-annisa-230

    Photo courtesy Annisa Restaurant | NYC.

     
    Following our enlightenment from Banchet way back in the 1980s, we took to making trios at home for dinner parties. You don’t need a large kitchen staff to turn out three completely different preparations. Here are some tricks:
     

  • Include a sausage as one of the trio. It requires only a quick grilling and an interesting flavored mustard, chutney or other condiment.
  • Consider poaching one of the other two, and grilling, pan frying or roasting the other two. Poultry, filet of beef and seafood are delicious when poached, and the texture is very tender.
  • Use a marinade. A very well-seasoned marinade (lots of herbs, spices, balsamic, etc.) on one of two remaining proteins will differentiate the flavor.
  • Use a dairy based sauce (butter, cheese or cream) and a non-creamy one. The choices are vast: caper, horseradish, mushroom, olive, tomato and wine reduction aren’t even the tip of the iceberg. Browse the sauces section in your cookbooks and check out the mother sauces of France.
  • Think garnishes. The options are endless, but go for good color contrasts.
  •  
    Today’s homework: Start to sketch out some trios: protein, preparation, sauce, garnish. Keep on the refrigerator door and update it as inspiration strikes.
     
    *Jean Banchet, a French chef, founded Le Français in 1973, and soon earned a rare five-star distinction from Mobil. In 1980, it was named the best restaurant in America by Bon Appetit magazine. Banchet retired from Le Français in 2001 and passed away last year.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Boil Lobster—Grill It!

    live_lobster_ilovebluesea-230

    Grill, don’t boil. Photo courtesy
    ILoveBlueSea.com.

     

    David Chang is a well-known New York chef and restaurateur, founder of the Momofuku restaurant group. He wants you to enjoy lobster that’s more tender.

    So don’t boil the lobster, he advises in an article from GQ, which the magazine shared with us.

    “I’ve sent thousands of lobsters to Valhalla in my day,” says Chef Chang, “and I’ve found that baking, or better yet, grilling them over indirect heat, yields tastier, more tender results.

    “Undercook them slightly, like steaks, and let them rest when they come off the heat. There will be some carryover cooking.”

    The chef also advises to leave that three-pounder in the tank.

    “Buy lobsters that weigh 1.5 pounds or less,” Chang advises. “Bigger beasts are tougher and less sweet. Alive is great, but frozen will do—just make sure to defrost them [slowly, in the fridge] before cooking.”

    How much lobster do you need?

     
    A 1.5-pound lobster yields four to six ounces of meat, and it’s a luxury item so you can’t plan to serve two to each guest.

    Chang suggests corn, potatoes, cole slaw, and “maybe some sausages.”

    “Forget clarified butter,” he concludes. “Just use melted unsalted butter. Add a touch of lemon or vinegar to the butter and have plenty of lemon wedges on hand.”

    For the full article, head to GQ.com

    Right now, we’re dreaming of lobster rolls.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Seared Tuna With Roasted Peaches

    It’s not an orange: It‘s a roasted peach,
    served with grilled ahi tuna. Photo courtesy
    Waterbar | San Francisco.

     

    Peach season in the U.S. lasts from May through August or early September, thanks to the different zones and climates where they are grown. In the cooler weather states, the harvest starts later but lasts into September and even October.

  • California peaches appear from early May to early September
  • Georgia peaches appear from early May to early August
  • South Carolina peaches appear from early May to early August
  • Michigan peaches appear from mid July to late September
  • Idaho peaches appear from August to October
  •  
    Enjoy the juicy yellow-orange orbs while you can. In addition to hand fruit and desserts, add peaches to your savory recipes.

    Here‘s one for roasted peach with seared ahi tuna. You can substitute any seafood, poultry, pork, even lamb.

    The recipe is from Parke Ulrich, Executive Chef of Waterbar in San Francisco.

     

    This recipe has a special significance for Chef Parke. Each year he participates in the Adopt-A-Tree program from Masumoto Family Farm, which grows the organic Elberta peaches for his dishes. They are harvested in late July or early August. Chef Parke then creates dishes using the peaches in the month of August.

    See more about Elberta peaches below.
     
    Headed to San Francisco?

    Plan a visit to Waterbar. Perched on the water’s edge, with one of the most extraordinary views of the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge, the famed Ferry Building and the Embarcadero skyline, the seafood is as good as the view. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily.

     
    RECIPE: SEARED AHI TUNA WITH SALT ROASTED PEACH & WHITE BALSAMIC REDUCTION

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 fresh peaches, rinsed and patted dry
  • 10 ounces ahi tuna (thick loin works better than thin filets)
  • 3 ounces white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bunch basil, finely chopped
  • 2 ounces arugula
  • Rock salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SCORE the bottom of each peach (opposite the stem end) with a small X. Place a ½ inch layer of rock salt in the bottom of a sauté pan. Place the peaches stem end down in the salt.

    2. SLOW ROAST the peaches at 300°F until they are tender to the touch (approximately 7 minutes, depending on ripeness). Let cool. Remove the skin and reserve the peaches for plating.

    3. POUR vinegar into a non-reactive saucepan. Reduce by ¾ and chill. When the vinegar is cool, the consistency should be like syrup. If it is too thick, thin it out with Champagne vinegar. Reserve for plating.

    4. SEASON the tuna with salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes until the tuna starts to sweat. Place finely chopped basil on a sheet tray. Once the tuna is moist, roll the tuna in the chopped basil, crusting it.

    5. SEAR the tuna on all sides in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Be careful not to burn the basil. Cook the tuna to medium rare.

     

    elberta-peaches-gurneys-230

    Eberta peaches. Photo courtesy Gurneys.com.

    6. TO SERVE, split the peaches in half and remove the pits. Place arugula equally in the base of 4 bowls. Place peach half on top of the arugula nest. Slice the tuna into 8 pieces. Lay tuna over the peach. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction.
     

    ABOUT AHI TUNA

    Ahi can be a confusing term. It us the Hawaiian word for the bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), but is also used in restaurants to refer to the related yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares).

    Bigeye tuna are amongst the tuna species most threatened by overfishing, so go for the yellowfin if you can distinguish it. Here are the main species of tuna.
     
    ABOUT ELBERTA PEACHES

    The Elberta variety was once the most popular of peaches in the U.S., a yellow freestone peach with creamy flesh, juicy and ideal for eating, canning and freezing.

    Named for the wife of the Georgia peach grower who identified the hybrid in the 19th century, the Elberta began to be phased out after World War II as newer peach varieties were developed and introduced by university experimental agricultural stations. [Source]

    These hybrids traveled better than the Elberta and were more durable at supermarkets. Heirloom Elbertas are still grown, and can be found in farmers markets.

    Wild peaches originated in China, and have been cultivated there since at least 1000 B.C.E. Here’s the history of peaches.

      

    Comments

    NEWS: Russian Caviar Is Back

    caviar-spoon-gold-dish-petrossian-230

    Fine sturgeon caviar: so pricey, yet to those
    who love it, so wonderful. Photo courtesy
    Petrossian.

     

    Following a decade long prohibition on importing Russian caviar to the U.S.—due to damming, overfishing and pollution in the Caspian sea—those with the desire and the coin can have it again.

    A bit of history: CITES, the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, aims to protect wildlife against over-exploitation, and to prevent international trade from threatening species.* In 2001, CITES responded to high levels of poaching and illegal trade in caviar by halting the caviar trade by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. It proposed the ban on exporting Caspian caviar by the Russian states that border the Caspian Sea. The U.S. supported the treaty.

    Since then, the harvesting of Osetra sturgeon caviar has moved from their native Caspian Sea to farms built in rivers around the world—in China, Italy, Israel, Uraguay and the United States, among others. Those who want fine sturgeon caviar have no problem buying it; and those who purchase it find it an even switch for the Russian Osetra.

    Russia, too, has taken up sustainable river farming of sturgeon; and this caviar is now authorized by CITES for export.

     
    *CITES (the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Life Fauna and Flora), created in 1973, is an international concurrence between governments. It is placed to ensure that the international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES is an international agreement in which countries adhere voluntarily. With now 180 parties, CITES is among the conservation agreements with the largest membership.
     
    Black Caviar Company has announced an exclusive partnership with Russian Caviar House to import of CITES certified Russian osetra sturgeon caviar into the U.S. It joins the other farmed sturgeon caviars that have been available since the ban.
     
    DEEP POCKETS REQUIRED
    If you want to try black sturgeon caviar, you can buy it, and ideally compare it to a product from another origin (we’re partial to the Transmontanus caviar, farmed in the U.S., that you can buy from Petrossian and elsewhere). Black Caviar Company sells it for prices comparable to other fine, farmed sturgeon caviar:

  • 1 ounce/28g is $135
  • 1.8 ounces/50g is $240
  • 4.4 ounces/125g is $600
  • 8.8 ounces/50g is $1,150
  •  
    Note to buyers: The pressed caviar sold on the website, 2.2 ounces/60g, seems way overpriced at $390. Pressed caviar comprises eggs that have been squashed or broken along the way and can’t be packaged with perfect eggs. Unlike individual pearls, the texture is like a thick caviar jam, and the flavor is also somewhat different. We think it should be discounted more heavily.

    Check out the different types of caviar.

     

    ABOUT CAVIAR FARMING

    Unlike the poor Caspian sturgeons, living in polluted waters and heavily poached, slit open and left to die, caviar farming uses modern technology to produce ethically raised fish in a sustainable system.

    In the case of Black Caviar Company, the fish are raised in a remote location of the Suda River. The Suda flows into the Rybinsk Reservoir of the Volga River, the longest in Europe, which flows through central Russia.

    The company describes the Suda as “a treasure of pristine water surrounded by clean forest in a sparsely populated region of Russia. There is no industry or agriculture upstream; the cold, clean water provides an incomparable area to grow healthy, clean, fish with no pesticides, GMOs, or other pollutants.”

    One point of confusion: The Black Caviar Company’s press release both says their product is Russian Osetra† caviar and that it “is harvested from a brood stock that consists of Beluga Sturgeon, Russian sturgeon, Siberian sturgeon, and Thorn Sturgeon.” None of these is the Osetra sturgeon.

     

    caviar-jar-cites-seal-blackcaviarcompany-230

    Imported authentic Russian caviar will have a holographic CITES seal on the jar. Photo courtesy Black Caviar Company.

     
    †From the press release: “Using modern technology, Russian Caviar House produces a sustainable supply of Osetra caviar by actively preserving the natural habitat and microclimate of the Suda River where the sturgeon are raised.”
     
    Yet, just as with different species of chicken—Bantam, Brahma, Leghorn, Rhode Island, etc., where the meat tastes similar—the roe of sturgeon cousins will taste similar and numerous other factors affect the flavor (river environment, food supply, age of the fish at harvest, processing, etc.).

    Note that caviar would be a lot more affordable if it weren’t for all the big mark-ups from the middlemen in the process. Black Caviar Company buys it from Russian Caviar House, “the premier supplier of authentic black Russian caviar,” which in turn acquires it from Diana, Russia’s largest aquaculture company. Our fantasy is to be adopted by a caviar-farming family.

    Alas, unlike with other emails we receive announcing products, this one did not offer samples.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat More Mussels (How About Mussels Marinière?)

    Today’s tip was inspired by a recent “Personal Health” column by Jane Brody in the New York Times called Relearning How To Eat Fish. Among other suggestions, the article urges that you expand your fish and seafood horizons, perhaps starting with a delicious bowl of good-for-you steamed mussels.

    Fish and shellfish are the most nutritious sources of animal protein, and while Americans have been learning to eat more fish and seafood, we should be eating much more of them.

    Yet, surprise of surprises, almost all of the delectable, nutritious fish caught in American waters is exported to other countries. Instead, a whopping 86% of the fish and seafood we consume is imported.

  • About one-third of all our wild catch is exported, while we choose to eat farmed fish and shrimp imported from countries like Chile, China and Thailand.
  • Almost all the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported, half of it farmed in Asia—mostly, says Brody, “under conditions that would ruin even the most voracious appetite.” (If you want to know more, search for any article on shrimp farming in Asia).
  • Shrimp is the favorite seafood in the U.S. But the shrimp we eat farms in Asia have been swept by bacterial and viral infections. When a site becomes unusable, shrimp farmers simply move on, destroying more miles of mangrove along the shore and wrecking habitats for all manner of wildlife, including spawning fish.
  •    

    jumbo-tiger-shrimp-caviarrusse-230

    No matter how much you love shrimp, unless you’re buying from a top restaurant or fishmonger, you may wish to switch to mussels. Photo of premium tiger shrimp courtesy Caviar Russe.

     

    The world’s population consumes some 170 billion pounds of wild-caught fish and seafood per year, caught in oceans, rivers and lakes. If everyone were to eat at least two servings of fish a week, as nutritional guidelines suggest, we’d need 60 billion more pounds per year to meet the demand.

    Hence, fish farming is here to stay, along with, more than a few cases, its negative environmental impact and less than sanitary conditions.

    EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS

    The most popular fish in the U.S. are salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna; shrimp, at the top of the seafood list, is by far the most popular shellfish.

    Other species have all but disappeared from restaurant menus and supermarkets. Remember that supermarkets and restaurateurs offer what is most likely to sell. So you may have to head to a fishmonger to transition to diversity of choice. Brody suggests:

  • For salmon, substitute other oily fish such as anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, and sardines.
  • For the overfished and declining cod, take a look at Alaskan pollock, the fish used to make fish sticks, fast-food fish sandwiches and the “crab leg” of California rolls.
  • Keep an eye out for different varieties—abalone or orange roughy, for example. It’s easy to look online for delicious ways to prepare them.
  • Enjoy mussels, as often as you like.
  •  
    INVITE MUSSELS TO THE DINNER TABLE

    In an ideal world, says Brody, mussels would replace shrimp as America’s favorite shellfish.

    Like other bivalves (clams, cockles, mussels, oysters and scallops), mussels are filter feeders that cleanse the water they live in. In the process, they gain valuable omega-3 fatty acids from the algae they consume. And, in drastic opposition to shrimp, they are nearly always sold from hygienically farmed stock.

    Mussels are also low in calories, and much lower in cholesterol than shrimp and squid. And they’re easy to cook, steamed in easy preparations like Mussels Marinière (recipe below), steamed in white wine, Mussels Provençal with tomatoes, garlic and herbs, or Mussels Marinara, similar to Provençal but with oregano. Add some chili flakes and you’ve got a spicy Mussels Fra Diavolo.

     

    mussels-fried-moules-frites-duplexonthird-230

    A bowl of steamed mussels. Photo courtesy
    Duplex On Third | L.A.

     

    To see how easy it is to enjoy a pot of mussels, here’s the classic recipe for Moules à la Marinière from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck.

    It is typically enjoyed with baguette croutons, and served with sides of green salad and frites. Pair it with your favorite white wine (we’re partial to a Sancerre or a Sauvignon Blanc with this dish).

    RECIPE: MOULES À LA MARINIÈRE, STEAMED MUSSELS

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 quarts (3 pounds) mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (substitute scallions or leeks)
  • 4 parsley sprigs, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley for garnish
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 baguette, in 1/2-inch slices, drizzled with olive oil and toasted
  •  

    Preparation

    1. DISCARD any raw mussels that are open or have cracked shells. Open shells indicate a dead mussel, cracks in shells foster bacteria. Similarly, discard any mussels that don’t open after steaming.

    2. WHISK together the flour and water in a large mixing bowl. Add the cleaned mussels, adding more water as needed to cover the mussels. Soak at least 30 minutes so the mussels can disgorge any sand or grit.

    3. BRING the wine, minced shallots, parsley sprigs, bay leaf, thyme, pepper, and butter to a simmer in a large stockpot ((6 quarts or more) over high heat. Meanwhile…

    4. DRAIN the mussels from the flour water liquid and rinse thoroughly. Add to the stockpot, cover with the lid and continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the majority of the mussel shells have opened. Shake the pot vigorously from time to time, to ensure that the mussels cook evenly. While the mussels are cooking…

    5. DRIZZLE or brush the baguette slices with olive oil and toast them.

    5. SCOOOP the mussels in shallow soup or pasta bowls; ladle the broth on top. Garnish with minced parsley, and serve with the baguette croutons.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tataki, Plus Salmon Tataki Salad

    tuna-tataki-seared-haru-230

    Tataki means briefly seared. Photo of tuna
    tataki courtesy Haru | NYC.

     

    Tataki, also called tosa-mi, is a Japanese style of preparing fish or meat. The protein is seared very briefly over a hot flame or in a pan, briefly marinated in rice vinegar, sliced thinly and served chilled or at room temperature.

    The traditional presentation includes garnishes of thinly sliced scallions and finely shredded ginger, with soy sauce for dipping.

    The word “tataki,” meaning “pounded,” actually refers to the ginger condiment: It was originally pounded with a mortar and pestle. While some still prepare it that way, modern cooks can choose to purée it in a food processor or grate it with a zester or other fine grater.

    The port of Nagasaki was the first point of entry for foreigners in feudal Japan. Legend says that tataki was developed by Sakamoto Ryoma, a 19th-century samurai, who picked up the European technique of grilling meat from the foreigners in that city.

    In feudal times, bonito (skipjack tuna) was the preferred fish for tataki. Although bonito is still frequently used in Japan, in modern times, ahi tuna and salmon have taken over in popularity. [Source: WiseGeek] Beef, typically filet mignon or sirloin strip, is also be prepared tataki-style.

     

    RECIPE: FISH OR BEEF TATAKI

    1. CUT the fish or beef into thick pieces. Marinate in rice vinegar or mirin (a low-alcohol rice wine).

    2. SEAR each side for five seconds over an open flame or pan-sear on a stovetop burner. The grill or pan should be very hot, and the meat or fish should be quickly seared on all sides to cook only the outer surface, leaving the flesh raw.

    3. COOL the protein in a bowl of ice water; remove, pat dry and thinly slice for serving.
     

    Dipping Sauce

    1. COMBINE equal amounts of soy sauce and rice vinegar, or to taste. Add finely sliced or minced green onion (scallion).

    2. SEASON as desired with grated ginger (you can substitute wasabi).
     
    RECIPE: SALMON TATAKI SALAD

    You don’t have to go to Nobu in Los Angeles to enjoy this delicious salmon tataki salad. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Nobu Magazine, previously published in the Nobu West cookbook:

    “The Salmon Tataki with Paper Thin Salad is a work of art,” says Nobu. “Incorporating skillfully sliced vegetables and seared salmon, this dish is light and flavorful. With a little help from a mandolin slicer and fresh ingredients, you can impress dinner guests with a beautiful and delicious meal.”

     

    As with sushi or beef tartare, the fish or meat needs to be extremely fresh. Asian specialty stores sell frozen tataki fish slices. Vacuum packed and frozen immediately for freshness, they can be a lot more affordable than fresh tuna and salmon.

    Ingredients For 1 Or 2 Servings

  • 7 ounces boneless, skinless fresh salmon fillets
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Jalapeño dressing (recipe below)
  • 2 baby beets
  • 2 baby carrots
  • 2 baby green zucchini
  • 2 baby turnips
  • 4 red radishes (watermelon radishes are ideal)
  • Bowls of ice water
  •  

    salmon-tataki-nobu-3

    This salmon tataki salad is easy to make. Photo courtesy Nobu Magazine.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT a nonstick skillet until medium-hot. Season the salmon fillets with black pepper, then sear them for 5 seconds on each side. Make sure the outside is completely seared and turns white. Immediately plunge the seared slices into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry with paper towels, then cover and refrigerate.

    2. PREPARE the salad: Keep the beets to one side. Slice the baby vegetable lengthwise very thinly (about 1/32 inch thick) on a mandolin grater, into a bowl of ice water. Leave them in the ice water for 1 hour; this will cause them to tighten up and become crunchy.

    3. REPEAT the same process with the beets, but place the slices in a separate bowl of water, to stop the color from running into other vegetables. Rinse until the water becomes clear; then add some ice to chill. You might want to wear disposable gloves for this, to prevent staining your hands.

    4. DRAIN the baby vegetables and the beets separately, then mix them together.

    5. POUR some of the dressing on the bottom of a serving dish, so it completely covers the bottom. Cut the chilled seared salmon into slices about 1/4 inch thick and arrange across the middle of the plate, then place the vegetable salad in the middle on top of the salmon.

     
    RECIPE: JALAPEÑO DRESSING

    Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño, seeded (you can substitute cilantro)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 6-1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PROCESS the jalapeño, salt, garlic, and vinegar in a food processor until well mixed and the jalapeño is finely chopped. Slowly add the grapeseed oil and process until well blended.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Get A Food Ring

    crab-mango-avo-tower-theheatherman-portlandOR-230

    This fancy first course is not that hard to
    make. Photo courtesy The Heathman |
    Portland, Oregon.

     

    It isn’t hard to make fancy appetizers like the one in the photo. All you need is a food ring. It is also called a ring mold, although that term can also refer to a multi-serving container like the type used for gelatin molds.

    We admit to a fondness for molded, layered recipes, like this crab, mango and avocado stack served at The Heathman Restaurant and Bar in Portland, Oregon. Thanks to executive chef Michael Stanton for sharing his recipe, below.

    Chef Stanton tops his dish with wild arugula. In the northwest and elsewhere, wild arugula is often found growing in streams, there for the picking. You can substitute cultivated arugula from the market. More substitutions are offered below.

    In fact, part of the fun of cooking is taking the recipe in a different direction, with a substitution. No mango? How about fresh pineapple? No avocado? How about tuna tartare?

     

    RECIPE: DUNGENESS CRAB MANGO SALAD

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1/2 cup mango, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 cup Dungeness or other crab meat
  • Chive oil or other herb-infused olive oil (basil, rosemary)
  • 1 cup wild or cultivated arugula
  • Fresh press olive oil (to taste)
  • Food ring
  • Garnishes: citrus vinaigrette (recipe below) and chive oil*
  •  
    *If you don’t have/can’t find chive oil, use basil oil or rosemary oil.

     

    RECIPE: CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (lemon and/or orange, lime or yuzu)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 leaves fresh basil, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK ingredients together until well-blended.

     

    food-ring-HICbrands-230sq

    The only food ring you’ll need: This one can be adjusted to different diameters. Photo courtesy HIC Brands.

     
    Assembly

    1. MOLD the chopped avocado in 2-3 inch ring atop the serving plate. Place the mango on top, followed by the crab.

    2. REMOVE the ring mold, swirl the vinaigrette and chive oil around the plate. Toss wild arugula in fresh olive oil and place on top.
     
    MORE AT THE HEATHMAN

    If you’re in Portland, stop by for afternoon tea. It’s served in the hotel’s historic Tea Court Lounge; reservations are required.

    The traditional tea menu, created by pastry chef John Gayer, includes Smoked Salmon Napoleon, Paté Maison, John’s Famous Lanai Banana Bread and Parisian Opera Cake, along with a wide selection of teas from Fonté Coffee and Tea Company, a Northwest micro roaster based in Seattle.

    The children’s Peter Rabbit Tea for Little Sippers sports Ants On A Log, Snickerdoodle Cookie, Devil’s Food Chocolate Cupcake and Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Oyster Day

    oysters-bacon-iSt1531875JamesAntrim-230

    Surf and turf: oyster on the half shell topped
    with crumbled bacon. Photo courtesy James
    Antrim | IST.

     

    It’s National Oyster Day. But hey—aren’t you supposed to avoid oysters in the hot summer months?

    Fresh oysters are available year-round, with caveats.

    The advice not to eat oysters during months spelled without an “r” does not refer to spoilage and food poisoning from eating oysters during June, July and August.

    Rather, it refers to the oyster’s spawning months, May, June, July and August (in the Northern Hemisphere). The meat from spawning oysters is softer, milkier and more bland than in the fall and winter.

    When oysters are fattening up, they load up on glycogen, a polysaccharide that is the principal storage form of glucose. This sugar is greatly depleted when oysters spawn, diminishing the quality of their flesh.

    “If oysters don’t spawn, they grow plump and sweet, and can be harvested year-round,” says Michael Kirkpatrick in his article, ‘Duxbury Pearls: Island Creek Oysters,” in Edible Boston, Spring 2007.’ ”

    Here’s a tip to enjoy your oysters in the warmer months: Choose oysters from the colder waters of New England and Canada. The oysters don’t spawn, although they grow large as if they were going to.

     

    If the oysters don’t spawn, won’t the colony die out?

    We contacted oyster Kirkpatrick, who advised: “Oyster colonies naturally die out all the time, which is one reason why many, if not most, commercial oyster beds are re-seeded on a regular basis (another reason: to ensure a reliable harvest).” Reseeding involves obtaining oysters from hatcheries and adding them to the beds.

    Thanks, Michael! If you visit the Cooperstown, New York, area, you can stay at Michael’s bed and breakfast, The Farm.

     

    OUR FAVORITE WAYS TO ENJOY OYSTERS

    The fresher the oysters, the more they demand to be enjoyed absolutely plain. That’s how you taste their terroir and enjoy the undiluted brine in the cups.

    That’s how we like to eat oysters. If there’s any garnish, it’s a bit of caviar—salmon caviar, tobiko, whitefish, sturgeon or other (the different types of caviar).

    Need a garnish? Go for a bit of citrus juice (yuzu is the best!) or mignonette sauce: dry white wine, sherry vinegar, chopped shallot and fresh-cracked white pepper. There’s no need to add salt, as oysters have natural salinity.

    That’s mignonette (min-yo-NET) sauce in the photo at left. The name is French, derived from the word for dainty.

    Sauces and other toppings were created to spruce up oysters that have lost their spanking freshness. When you top an oyster with cocktail sauce, or with herbed bread crumbs, butter and cream, salt, pepper and hot sauce—Oysters Rockefeller—the oyster flavor is buried under other layers.

     

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    Oysters with mignonette sauce. Photo courtesy Del Frisco.

     

    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF OYSTERS

    How many types of oysters have you had?

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sea Urchin

    Today’s tip is sea urchin: beyond the sushi bar. It was inspired by a story in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine.

    At the sushi bar, we always order an uni sushi or two. If they were less pricey, we would toss down half a dozen.

    Uni is the Japanese word for sea urchin, an ancient shellfish, found worldwide. In the U.S., sea urchins are harvested in the oceans off California, Florida and Maine. They’re expensive to gather, and the price is passed along.

    More than a few of the world’s sea urchin sites have been overfished. But in the waters off of Norway lie a king’s ransom of sea urchin.

    Evidently, Norwegians are not as fond of sea urchin as we are, and until Roderick Sloan began to develop a trade among Europe’s fine restaurants, they had no market. Once cursed as a pest by lobstermen, they were routinely smashed with hammers and tossed overboard.

    Sloan, a 44-year-old émigré Scot, lives 88 miles north of the Arctic Circle, outside the town of Nordskot (population 55). It’s one of Norway’s darkest, bleakest, most remote coastal villages. He is the only full-time sea urchin diver in Norway, with one employee to tend the boat.

    Sloan dons scuba equipment and swims down to depths of 50 feet, diving among treacherous waves and gutsy squalls. The local species, called Norwegian greens (for the hue of the shell—the binomial name is Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis), are at their prime from November to the end of February (imagine how cold the water is!).

       

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    Sea urchin, fresh from the sea. Photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea.

     

    More than 100,000 tons of the delicacy are consumed a year worldwide. France and Japan are big consumers; the Japanese exchange urchins as gifts during New Year celebrations.

    In the center of the hard shell is a row of five roe or coral (sometimes called tongues), which are the gonads of both males and females. Exotic, briny and grainy, the meat has nuances of iodine and metal and a custardlike, pillowy consistency. Uni is a love-it-or-hate-it food.

    Of the 800 species of sea urchin, some are much more palatable than others. As a sea urchin lover, we are chagrined that the flavor of expensive sushi bar uni can be wildly inconsistent. It is based on gender, season, terroir and even the particular seaweed the animal eats.

    When all the factors are united, uni are celestial. At other times, they are as are as bland and disappointing as a mealy apple.

     

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    Sea urchins brought up from the floor of the
    ocean. Photo by Karoline O.A. Pettersen |
    Smithsonian.

     

    HOW TO ENJOY SEA URCHIN

    Here are culinary ideas from around the world for how to enjoy sea urchin:

  • Raw in New Zealand; with a squeeze of lemon in the Mediterranean; and with lemon, onions and olive oil in Chile.
  • In pasta sauce in Italy.
  • In omelets and scrambled eggs, mayonnaise, béchamel and Hollandaise sauces and the boullie (egg foam) for a soufflé in France.
  • As sashimi or sushi, with soy sauce and wasabi, in Japan; or in a donburi (rice bowl) with ikura and shiso leaf.
  •  
    It’s up to the cook to decide how to use them in recipes. Think baked, ceviche, chowder/soup, croquettes, custard, grilled fish, mousse, oyster stew, pasta, sauce and tempura.

    Here’s an interesting surf and turf: raw sea urchin wrapped in roast beef. Just as it sounds, wrap a thin slice of roast beef around a raw sea urchin or two; lay on a bed of boiled spinach and serve with ponzu (a combination of soy sauce, vinegar and citrus juice).

     

    For a delightful hors d’oeuvre or first course, make uni toast: Spread crostini with quality unsalted butter and uni, garnished with scallions and a sprinkling of sea salt.

    Uni burrata combines creamy burrata cheese with with the briny flavor of uni, then sides it with button mushrooms and yuzu for balance.

    Here are some sea urchin recipes.
     
    ABOUT SEA URCHINS

    Sea urchins, sometimes called sea hedgehogs (for their protruding spiny needles) and krakebolle, “crow’s balls,” in Norwegian, are among the earliest known forms of life. The fossil record dates back some 450 million years. The creatures can be found in almost every major marine habitat from the poles to the Equator, and from shallow inlets to ocean depths of more than 17,000 feet.

    Sea urchins “look like squash balls encased in pine thistles” according to Franz Lidz, who wrote the Smithsonian article (you can read it in full here).

    The shell is round and spiny, typically from 1.2 to 3.9 inches in diameter. The colors vary: black, blue, brown, green, olive, purple, red. The animals lack brains.

    Sea urchins have hundreds of adhesive tube feet and move slowly over the sandy sea floor pursuing a diet of kelp. They are members of the botanical class Echinoidea, and are cousins of sand dollars (there are some 950 species of echinoids, and 800 species of sea urchins).

    And the pricey critters will no doubt get pricier. The French and Irish exhausted their resident stocks of sea urchin years ago. In Maine, Nova Scotia and Japan, urchin populations have been drastically reduced by overfishing and disease.

    They are not always welcome: The colonies can be destructive. Off the coasts of California and Tasmania, overfishing of the animal’s natural predators and large-scale change in ocean circulation (believed to be an effect of climate change) have turned vast stretches of the sea floor into moonscape-like “urchin barrens.” The urchins multiply, chew down the kelp and devastate marine ecosystems.

    No doubt, those species are not among the tasty species, or divers would appear to reap the wealth on the ocean floor.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Wood-Planked Seafood

    grilled-oysters-bleunortheastseafood-230

    How delicious: oysters lightly cooked on a
    cedar plank. Photo courtesy Bleu Northeast
    Seafood | Burlington.

     

    Simple yet sophisticated, cedar planking is an easy grilling technique. The wood plank adds a smoky and woodsy flavor to meats, vegetables and especially seafood.

    Executive Chef Doug Paine of Bleu Northeast Seafood in Burlington, Vermont is currently cooking Cedar Plank Roasted Whole Trout with Malt Vinegar, Rhubarb and Dandelion Cole Slaw. A delicious recipe that uses everyday ingredients, Cedar Plank Trout pairs exceptionally well with a farmhouse style saison beer.

    But you can start small. How about grilling oysters?

    RECIPE: WOOD GRILLED OYSTERS

    Ingredients

  • 2 dozen well washed oysters (any variety will work; Chef Paine recipe used Pemaquids)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated horseradish (you can substitute prepared horseradish)
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • Cedar grilling plank (available everywhere barbecue supplies are sold, or online)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the grill with hard wood. Apple, oak or maple is recommended for flavor. Charcoal or gas will also work, but it won’t have the same smoky aroma.

    2. PLACE the oysters on the grill with the cup side down. Grill them for about 5 minutes or until they open.

    3. USE tongs to remove oysters from the grill and place them on a towel carefully, so as to not spill the juice inside.

    4. ALLOW oysters to cool for a few minutes, then remove the top shell. A paring knife may be needed to cut the oyster from the shell.

    5. SPRINKLE with the grated horseradish and spoon a few drops of vinegar on top. Enjoy with a beer. The two dozen oysters will disappear quickly.

     

    cedar-planks-elizabethkarmelAMZ-230

    Cedar planks add woodsy aroma and flavor to grilled foods. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Karmel | Amazon.

     

      

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