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Archive for Fruits, Nuts & Seeds

TIP OF THE DAY: Walnuts On Pizza

Apple Walnut Pizza

Blue Cheese Walnut Pizza

Chicken Alfredo Pizza

Top: Apple Cheddar Pizza With Walnuts from OhMyVeggies.com. Center: Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Pizza from 2Teaspoons.com. Bottom: Chicken Alfredo Pizza With Walnuts & Gorgonzola from Pillsbury.com.

 

We’d never had walnuts on a pizza—or even thought of it—until a recent excursion to Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The restaurant serves both conventional pizzas (arugula, mushrooms, pesto, sausage, etc.); but we can get those elsewhere. Instead, we go for the more unusual selections, such as:

  • Gouda, Sliced Canadian Bacon & Maple Syrup
  • Beef Brisket, Pickled Red Onions & BBQ Sauce
  • Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Prosciutto, Dried Bing Cherries
    & Orange Blossom Honey
  • Speck & Pickled Pineapple (a better version of ham-and-pineapple pizza)
  •  
    This time, we chose a “special” topped with walnuts, goat cheese and baby spinach. We loved the toasty, nutty crunch—plus the opportunity to deny the carbs we were consuming by focusing instead on the added nutrition of the walnuts: protein, fiber and different phytonutrients (types of antioxidants).

    We then returned to the office to research other approaches to walnut-topped pizza.
     
    We found quite a few pizza recipes that combined walnuts with different cheeses—blue, cheddar, goat and others—with fruits (apples, pears) and with more conventional pizza toppings (bacon, ham).

    So this tip is for home pizza makers: Try some of these ideas for a gourmet Super Bowl experience or for a new take on the comfort food.

    You can also add some of the ingredients to delivery pizza and frozen pizza.
     
    TAKE A BITE OF WALNUT PIZZA

    So many walnut pizzas, so little time to try them all!

  • Apple Cheddar Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts Recipe
  • Arugula, Goat Cheese & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Blue Cheese, Pear & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Caramelized Onion, Walnut & Goat Cheese Pizza With A Beer Crust Recipe
  • Chicken Alfredo Pizza With Gorgonzola & Walnuts Recipe
  • Gorgonzola, Pear & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Arugula & Walnut Pizza Recipe
  • Walnut Pesto and Zucchini Pizza Recipe
  •  
    SUMMER WALNUT PIZZAS

    These are summer recipes that require seasonal ingredients such as fresh tomatoes and summer squash (yellow squash, a close relation* of zucchini).

  • Summer Squash Pizza with Goat Cheese and Walnuts Recipe
  • Walnut Pizza with Arugula and Yellow Tomatoes Recipe
  •  
    Today we’re making the Caramelized Onion, Walnut & Goat Cheese Pizza,; and we have fresh baby arugula so we’ll add that, too, when the pie comes out of the oven.

    What’s your choice?
    __________________________________
    *Both zucchini and yellow squash are varieties of the species Cucurbita pepo, which also includes crookneck squash, scalloped squash, straightneck squash, vegetable marrows (no relation to bone marrow, but a name given to the mature fruit (see below), zucchini and cocozelle, a type of zucchini with pale green or yellow stripes. Zucchini and yellow squash are picked from the vine before they are mature, but are are tender. If they remain on the vine and grow to maturity, they are larger, drier and tougher—and referred to as marrow.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Fruit Substitutes

    Fuyu Persimmons

    Fuyu Persimmons

    Fuyu persimmons can substitute for summer
    tomatoes. Top photo by Jirkaejc | IST.
    Bottom photo courtesy Good Eggs | San
    Francisco.

     

    Eating seasonally, a practice that has always existed in culinary meccas like France and Italy (and existed everywhere by default prior to modern transportation and food technology), is an idea that’s been promulgated for some 40 years in the U.S., first by chef and restaurateur Alice Waters. The the “farm-to-table” movement and subsequent awareness of sustainability and carbon miles continue to underscore the need to change the on-demand desires of American consumers.

  • Instead of asparagus in winter, for example, the idea is to substitute seasonally available leeks, broccolini or broccoli rabe.
  • Instead of longing for fruits that aren’t in season, reach for those that are: apples, cactus [prickly] pear, cherimoya, dates, grapefruits, kiwifruit, mandarins (clementines, tangerines and others), papaya, oranges, passion fruit, pears, persimmons, pomegranates.
  •  
    Seek them out not only as hand fruit, but to substitute in recipes for out-of-season fruits.
     
    WINTER SUBSTITUTES FOR SUMMER FRUITS

    Some do better when frozen than others, and fruits, frozen at their peak, are an option. But if you want fresh-to-fresh, here are some good substitutes:

  • Berries: pomegranate arils
  • Cantaloupe: kiwifruit, mango, papaya
  • Cherries: raspberries, dried cherries
  • Honeydew: green grapes, kiwifruit
  • Peaches: mangoes
  • Pineapple: cherimoya
  • Tomatoes: persimmons, radishes, red bell peppers or pimentos*
  • Watermelon: red grapefruit
  •  
    SUBSTITUTE PERSIMMONS FOR TOMATOES

    Perhaps the most missed fruit or vegetable is the fresh tomato, a staple of salads and sandwiches. Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog, residing in the produce capital of America, writes:

    “Even in balmy California, farmers market tables once straining under the weight of plump tomatoes and juicy peaches look comparatively sparse, bearing dusty tubers and hearty greens instead.

    “I’d never dream of making classic tabbouleh† in winter, when only mealy tomatoes shipped halfway across the globe can be found in markets.”

    Her solution: Substitute persimmons for bland imported tomatoes. The recipe is below.

    “It makes perfect sense the moment you taste the persimmons in this light salad” Hannah notes. “Their juicy, meaty texture and natural sweetness are an excellent substitution.” She adds even more seasonal produce to the standard tabbouleh recipe:

    “Pomegranate arils lend tart, crunchy bursts of flavor. And while parsley could be the sole herbaceous element, I felt compelled to toss in those unloved green carrot tops that are all too often discarded, rather than savored as they should be.”

  • You can substitute persimmons for tomatoes in any vegetable salad.
  • You can try them on sandwiches; although we prefer jarred roasted red bell peppers (pimento or pimiento*), sundried tomatoes in olive oil (drained) or plumped in water, or peppadews.
  •  

    RECIPE: WINTER TABBOULEH

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1/4 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Fuyu persimmon, peeled, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups carrot tops, minced (or substitute parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the bulgur, turmeric and vegetable broth in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover, turn off the heat, and let stand for 15-20 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile…

     

    Persimmon Tabbouleh

    Eat seasonally: Substitute persimmons for tomatoes in winter salads. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    2. PREPARE the fruits and vegetables accordingly, and toss them together in a large bowl. Add the cooled bulgur, followed by the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust flavors according to personal preference.

    3. COVER and chill for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry.
     
     
    WHAT ARE PERSIMMONS?

    In the late 1880s, the first persimmon arrived in the U.S., brought by a naval commander returning to Washington D.C. from Japan.

    Here’s more about persimmons, including how to enjoy them at every meal of the day.
     
     
    *What is a pimento? Also spelled pimiento (a variation of the Portuguese spelling; pimento is Spanish), the pimento is a heart-shaped variety of Capsicum annuum, the same genus and species as the familiar red bell pepper. Its flesh is sweet, succulent, and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper. Pimento is what is used to stuff green olives, and is ground into paprika. The standard pimento measures 3 to 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Some varieties of pimento are actually hot. In the U.S., they are typically sold pickled, as hot cherry peppers. Don’t confuse pimento with pimenta, which we know as allspice and is also called the Jamaica pepper, and myrtle pepper.

    †Classic tabbouleh ingredients are bulgur wheat, parsley, tomato and onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: An Apple A Day

    Pinata Apple

    Apple Compote

    Sauteed Apples

    Applesauce Bar

    Apple  Pie

    Top: The Piñata apple from Stemilt is a crisp, juicy eating apple. Second: Try it in a warm compote, plain or with ice cream. Photo courtesy Ziploc. Third: It’s also a great cooking apple. We love sautéed apples with a pork roast or ham. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma. Fourth: Is there anything better than homemade applesauce? Photo courtesy U.S. Apples. Bottom: Perhaps everyone’s favorite way to eat apples: apple pie! Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    It’s the last day of January. How are you doing on those new year’s resolutions?

    If you’re like most food lovers, you haven’t done as well as you’d like with regard to eating more of the better-for-you foods.

    So here’s what may be the easiest resolution of all: an apple a day. Not because it keeps the doctor away, but because they’re yummy. And new varieties are always coming onto the market.

    Take the Piñata apple. Named Apple of the Year in Germany in 2001, it caught the notice of U.S. growers and is now available nationwide. The name Piñata comes from combining syllables of the apple’s two European names, Pinova and Sonata. Pinova is the cultivar of apple trees that produce Piñata apples.

    Why do we need a new apple? Don’t we have enough Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, etc. etc. etc.?

    The answer is marketing. Food-oriented folk are always looking for something new, and retailers want to give it to them. We remember rushing to try the first Gala apples* and the first Honeycrisps*.
     
    HOW TO CREATE A NEW APPLE VARIETY

    Apple varieties take decades to develop. They are typically developed at university agricultural schools, although independent companies and individual growers may also develop them.

    First, existing varieties need to be cross-bred, or mutations need to be propagated. The Piñata originated way back in 1970, after researchers in Germany crossed three varieties: the Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Duchess of Oldenburg, an Orange Pippin variety from 18th century Russia. (The latter two provide the vibrant orange-ish hue to the peel). You want a new apple not only to taste special, but to look special, too.
     
    The root stock is tested in different soils and climates to determine where the sweetest fruit will grow. Then, the saplings need to be planted.

  • In every phase of development, it takes 5 to 8 years for a tree to bear fruit. (One tree yields 4 to 5 bushels of apples per year.)
  • Development takes much longer than you’d think. From its start in 1970, the Piñata was first released in 1986 to European growers. Some varieties take even longer. Honeycrisps were first developed in 1960, but not released commercially until 1991.
  • Before it purchases the right to grow the apples from the developer, a grower needs to test the apple in its own orchards: another 5 to 8 years of growing, which may or may not produce the apple qualities the grower is hoping for.
  •  
    Then, the apple variety must be licensed from the developers, and a name chosen and trademarked. Licensing is how the developer gets paid back for years of development.

  • In the U.S., Stemilt Growers in Washington holds the exclusive rights to grow and market Piñata apples. Why “Piñata?” In English, Piñata sounds more alluring than Pinova.
  • The grower plants the stock and waits, yes, 5 to 8 years for the first commercial crop.
  • Only then does a new variety make its way to your market. Hopefully, you’ll appreciate its long journey and enjoy each bite even more.
  • ________________________________________
    *Gala apples are a cross between Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red, first planted in New Zealand in the 1930s. In turn, it was bred into dozens of other varieties, including the Royal Gala and the Scarlett Apple. Honeycrisps are a hybrid of Macoun and Honeygold varieties, were developed at the University of Minnesota in 1960. They were patented in 1988 and released commercially in 1991.
     
    PIÑATA APPLE FACTS

    The Piñata apple thrives in eastern Washington’s arid climate and is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after apples, thanks to its unique tropical flavor and culinary attributes. The stripy red skin over an orange background has eye appeal. The flesh has a blend of high sugar and high acid levels, producing a welcome tangy taste.

    The apple is super crispy and juicy. Its classic apple flavors are complemented by nuances of tropical fruits.

    Piñata is one of the most versatile apples on the market. Its crisp bite and great flavor make it ideal for eating out-of-hand, while its thin skin and fine-grained flesh make it a delight in salads and baking.

    Use Piñata apples any way you like: baking, cooking, juicing, salads and snacking (known as hand fruit in the industry). Here are recipes from the grower. You can also download their e-book of savory soups and sides recipes.

    The season for Piñata apples is November through May. So what are you waiting for?

     
    Here’s more about Piñata apples from the grower at Stemilt.com.

    And if you want to know what an apple a day does for your health and well-being, here’s the scoop from the U.S. Apple Association.
     
    THE TOP TEN APPLES IN THE U.S.

    According to the U.S. Apple Association, the 10 most popular apples in the U.S. based on sales are, in order, Red Delicious, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Rome, Empire and Cripps Pink (Pink Lady).

    Of course, the popularity is retailer-driven. Retailers want to buy varieties that will sell, and customers can only buy what the retailer has. Personally, we’d like to see fewer Delicious apples (they haven’t been exciting in a long time) and more new varieties.

    But keep those apples handy, whatever the variety, and you won’t even notice that they are helping you with your better-eating resolutions.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Red Grapefruit, The Best Winter Fruit

    Grapefruit is a winter fruit, and we’re glad to have it.

    America is the world’s largest consumer of grapefruit, with large commercial groves in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. But the grapefruit’s ancestor, the pummelo (also pomelo, pomello and other spellings), comes from far away. It’s native to Malaysia and Indonesia.

    THE HISTORY OF GRAPEFRUIT

    In 1693, pummelo seeds were brought from the East Indies to the West Indies—Barbados—by an English ship commander, one Captain Shaddock. The grapefruit may have been a horticultural accident or a deliberate hybridization between the larger pummelo and the smaller sweet orange. The original grapefruit was about the size of the orange.

    Its name evolved in English to a descriptive one: The fruit grows on trees in grape-like clusters. The fruit was pretty but very sour and the thick took time to peel. For a long time, it was grown only as an ornamental tree.

    The grapefruit arrived in the U.S. in 1823, but it was not immediately popular for eating. The tart fruits had numerous tiny seeds and required a generous sprinkling of sugar.

    Growers learned how to breed selective fruits that were sweeter, and in 1870, the first grapefruit nursery was established in Florida.

    In 1885, the first shipment of grapefruits arrived in New York and Philadelphia, generated interest and helped to create the commercial grapefruit industry.

    Here’s a longer history of grapefruit.

    Most grapefruit grown is white grapefruit. But hopefully that will change: Red grapefruit (not pink) is where it’s at.
     
    HOW RED GRAPEFRUIT DEVELOPED

    The first grapefruits were white. Pink grapefruit, a mutation, was first discovered in 1906 in the groves of the Atwood Grapefruit Company in Manatee County, Florida.

       

    Sweet Scarlett Red Grapefruit

    Star Ruby Grapefruit

    Top: Sweet Scarlett red grapefruits. Photo courtesy Wonderful Fruit. Bottom: The yellow rinds often have a pink blush. Photo of Star Ruby grapefruits courtesy Specialty Produce.

     
    One day, a grove foreman peeled a grapefruit with the intention of eating it, and discovered that the fruit inside was pink! A local nurseryman was able to propagate the pink fruit, and it met with big success: In addition to a more pleasing color, the flesh tended to be sweeter.

    Another mutation gave us red grapefruit, which was originally discovered growing on a pink grapefruit tree in Texas. It was patented as Ruby Red grapefruit in 1929. Red grapefruit is known in agriculture as a “limb sport,” a mutation of one limb (branch) that has different fruit characteristics than the rest of the tree.

    A hit from the start, sweeter with alluring rosy red flesh, Ruby Reds are marketed under different names: Flame, Rio Red, Rio Star, Ruby-Sweet, Star Ruby, Sweet Scarletts, TexaSweet and others.

    While consumers call these different red grapefruits “varieties,” botanically it’s more accurate to call them different “selections” because they are all derived from one another as descendants of the original Ruby Reds. Each has different small attributes, tailored to succeed in different climates and soils.

    Otherwise stated, all of the different deep red grapefruits grown around the world—Rio Red in Texas, Star Ruby in South Africa, Flame in Florida, etc.—are not botanically different, but have been adapted to the the climate and soil in each region.

    Different selections also have different shades of flesh. For example, Florida’s Ruby Reds are deep pink, while Flame grapefruits have deep red flesh.

     

    Red Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

    Simple yet elegant: Rio Star grapefruit
    sections in an avocado half. Here’s the easy
    recipe
    . Photo courtesy TexaSweet.

     

    WHAT MAKES THE FLESH RED?

    Red and pink grapefruits contain lycopene, a phytochemical (antioxidant) found in tomatoes and some other red fruits and vegetables such as papaya, red carrots and watermelon. Red grapefruits have a greater concentration than pink grapefruits.

    Why are red grapefruits sweeter?

    It’s all in the weather. Sweet Scarletts, for example, are grown in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where hot days, cool nights and the unique terroir† merge to create the ideal grapefruit.

    Most red grapefruits are grown in Texas, since the The Texas climate produces the sweetest red grapefruits.
     
    DON’T LET THE SEASON PASS YOU BY

    Different regions are ready to harvest at different times; but in general, red grapefruit is available from October through March.

    We have been enjoying a box of Sweet Scarletts, and couldn’t be happier. They’re so sweet and lush, who needs ice cream?

     
    If you aren’t already a grapefruit lover, head to the store and bring some home. They’re sweet, juicy, and low in calories* (42 calories per 3.5 ounces of flesh). It’s one of our favorite great-tasting and great-for-you foods.
     
    HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS CAN YOU SERVE RED GRAPEFRUIT?

    Here are nine pages of red grapefruit recipes, from cocktails and appetizers through main courses, sides and desserts.

  • One of our favorite preparations is red grapefruit sorbet. Here’s a recipe from Emeril via Martha Stewart.
  • Red grapefruit sorbet is also delicious in a dessert cocktail. Fill a Martini glass or coupe with sparkling wine and add a scoop of sorbet. Garnish with some grated grapefruit zest.
  • Another favorite preparation: broiled grapefruit. It takes just three minutes: Sprinkle a half grapefruit with brown sugar, place on a cookie sheet and broil for three minutes. It’s ready when the sugar melts and gets crispy—the grapefruit version of crème brûlée.
  •  
    Many thanks to to Etienne Rabe, Vice President, Agronomy at Wonderful Citrus in California, for explaining the fine points of this “wonderful” fruit.
     
    ______________________________________
    *For those who closely monitor their nutrition, they’re high in the cancer-fighting antioxidant vitamin A; the free-radical-fighting antioxidant vitamin C; the vision-friendly flavonoid antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein, naringenin and xanthin; the dietary fiber pectin (which also lowers cholesterol); and potassium, which counters the negative effects of sodium; among other nutrients such as B vitamins. Red grapefruit also contains the powerful flavonoid antioxidant, lycopene, which protects skin from damage from UV rays and fights macular degeneration and several types of cancer.

    †Terroir, a French word pronounced tur-WAH, refers to the unique combination of geographic location, climate and microclimate, soil and temperature that creates the individual personality of an agricultural product. As in the growing of grapes for wine or beans for coffee, terroir dramatically affects the flavor profiles of the product.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Fruits & Vegetables

    Here’s our final installment of seasonal fruits and vegetables. We began this series with spring produce, then summer produce, then fall produce.

    With the winter season, our “year of produce” is complete. But don’t think of winter produce as bleak and limited. It’s time to revel in different types of citrus, try new fruits and winter squash varieties, and take a look at recipes for items you rarely buy: cherimoya and chestnuts, cardoons and collards.

    Then, look online for interesting ways to prepare them.

    If your main food market doesn’t have some of the more specialized items, check international markets that focus on Chinese, Indian, Latin American and other specialties. You can also check online purveyors like Melissas.com.

    The list was created by the Produce for Better Health Foundation. Take a look at their website, FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org, for tips on better meal planning with fresh produce.

    A final tip: Know where your produce comes from. While some imported produce is excellent, others are picked too early and have a long ocean voyage. If you buy something that’s lacking flavor, speak with the produce manager and get recommendations.

    WINTER FRUITS

  • Cactus Pear
  • Cherimoya
  • Clementines
  • Date Plums*
  • Dates
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwifruit
  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Maradol Papaya
  • Oranges
  • Passion Fruit
  • Pear
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranate
  • Pummelo
  • Red Banana
  • Red Currants
  • Sharon Fruit*
  • Tangerines
  •    

    Persimmons

    When was the last time you had a persimmon? Persimmons can be eaten as hand fruit, made into tarts and sorbet, baked into muffins, sliced into salads, turned into mousse and more. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

     
    *The date plum, also known as the lotus persimmon, is the variety known to the ancient Greeks as “the fruit of the gods.” Its English name probably derives from the Persian khormaloo, literally “date-plum,” referring to its flavor, reminiscent of both dates and plums. Sharon fruit is an Israeli cultivar of persimmon, called Triumph. The fruit is named for the Sharon Plain where it is grown. Sharon fruit” has no core, is seedless and particularly sweet. It can be eaten whole. You may find still other varieties of date plums in your market.

     

    Cardoons

    Not a variety of celery, these stalks are
    cardoons, a member of the artichoke family.
    If you’re an artichoke lover, snap them up:
    They taste like artichokes without the bother
    of the thorns and the fur. Photo courtesy
    Johnnyseeds.com.

     

    WINTER VEGETABLES

  • Belgian Endive
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Buttercup Squash
  • Cardoon
  • Chestnuts
  • Collard Greens
  • Delicata Squash
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Sweet Dumpling Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turnips
  •  
    DON’T OVERLOOK FARMERS MARKETS

    Farmers markets are our go-to place for something different. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask the farmers if they know where you might find it, or to suggest other items in the market that you shouldn’t pass up.

     

    You can search the National Farmers Market Directory for locations near you.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Berries In Champagne

    For an easy, light dessert to cap off your New Year’s Eve dinner, we nominate berries marinated in Champagne or other sparkling wine.

    Some sparkling wines are vinified to be sweet (see below). But if you can’t find one, or have dry sparkling wine on hand, you can mix it with a bit of agave (a great low-glycemic sweetener) or honey to sweeten the marinade.

    You can also use simple syrup if you have it on hand. It’s more difficult to dissolve sugar; but if that’s all you have, pulse it to a superfine consistency in a food processor.

    If you sweeten the marinade, note that agave is twice as sweet as honey and sugar, so you need less of it. Agave is like honey in sweetness and viscosity, but without the unique honey flavor.

    Final tip: Champagne is expensive, so for the marinade you can substitute a more affordable sweet wine like Moscato. It can be found for just $8 or $9 a bottle. Splurge on a sweet-style Champagne to serve with the berries; or continue on with the Moscato.

       
    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/berries whipped cream truwhip 230

    Marinate berries for 30 minutes before serving. Photo courtesy TruWhip.

     

    RECIPE: CHAMPAGNE MARINATED BERRIES

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1/2 cup sweeter-style Champagne or other sparkling wine
  • Optional: agave or honey to taste
  • 2 pints berries—ideally assorted raspberries, sliced strawberries, and whatever else tastes good
    seasonally
  • 2 cups whipped cream (substitute 8 ounces mascarpone)
  • Optional garnish: 8 amaretti cookies, coarsely crumbled
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Champagne and agave in a large bowl. Add the berries; toss gently to combine. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or longer.

    2. PLACE 3/4 cup berry mixture in each of 8 bowls. Top each serving with 1/4 cup whipped cream or a dab of mascarpone. Divide the crushed amaretti cookies among servings.
     

     

    Brut Champagne

    Veuve Cliquot Demi Sec Champagne

    TOP PHOTO: Brut Champagne is the most
    commonly-purchased style, but it’s too dry
    and acidic to go well with desserts. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: Instead, look for a demi-sec
    Champagne, which has more residual sugar
    to match the sweetness of the dessert.

     

    THE SEVEN LEVELS OF SWEETNESS IN CHAMPAGNE

    Champagne is made in seven styles, or levels, of sweetness. The sweetness comes from a step in the secondary fermentation of Champagne, when the bubbles are created. The process is called dosage (doe-SAZH): a small amount of sugar is added into the wine bottles before they are corked. The sugar also reduces the tartness/acidity of the wine.

  • Primary fermentation of Champagne: In the classic méthode champenoise used to make Champagne, Cava and American sparkling wines, the primary, or alcoholic, fermentation of the wine transforms the grape must (the pressed juice of the grapes) into wine. Natural yeast consumes the natural grape sugars, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • Secondary fermentation of Champagne: To create a secondary fermentation, the dosage is added to the wine. The the added yeasts eat the added sugar, again creating alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  •  
    Based on the amount of sugar in the dosage, the seven levels of sweetness based on residual sugar (what’s left after the secondary fermentation) are:

  • Brut Nature/Brut Zero: 0-3 g/l* residual sugar
  • Extra Brut: 0-6 g/l residual sugar
  • Brut: 0-12 g/l residual sugar
  • Extra Dry†: 12-17 g/l residual sugar
  • Dry: 17-32 g/l RS residual sugar
  • Demi-Sec: 32-50 g/l residual sugar
  • Doux: 50+ g/l residual sugar
  •  
    ________________________________________
    *Grams per liter.

    †It’s a paradox in the Champagne industry that “dry” indicates a sweeter wine; as do sec (which means dry in French) and demi-sec. Doux, the sweetest style of Champagne, does mean sweet.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Preserved Meyer Lemons

    In addition to other splendid winter citrus, it’s Meyer Lemon season, through March.

    Meyer lemons are much sweeter and more flavorful than the Bearss and Lisbon varieties commonly found in American grocery stores (here are the different types of lemons). They have much less acid, making the juice sweeter and brighter.

    Here’s the history of Meyer lemons, discovered as an ornamental houseplant in China; along with how to use them, how to grow your own and a delicious recipe for Meyer Lemon Sorbet.

    Today’s tip: Make preserved lemons, for yourself and as gifts. If you read this when Meyer lemons are not in season, grab any supermarket lemons.

    Preserved lemon is a condiment made of whole lemons that have been pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice, salt and sometimes, spices (essentially they’re pickled lemons, and the same treatment makes the pickled limes beloved of Amy March in Little Women).

    The lemons then ferment at room temperature for weeks, or even months. The result is a concentrated and earthy lemon flavor without too much tartness when made with regular lemons; and even sweeter when made with Meyer lemons.

       

    Meyer Lemon Tree

    Meyer lemons were discovered as house- plants in China. You can continue the tradition in your own home. This mini tree is from BrighterBlooms.com.

     
    Preserved Meyer lemons are an umami food that have been called an “amazingly tasty ingredient,” guaranteed to convert you to their allure.

    The salt mellows out the bitterness in the rind and pith, and punches up lemonness, which is often described as “sunny”—just what’s needed during gray winter days.

    WAYS TO USE PRESERVED LEMONS

    Preserved lemons are popular in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisines. But you don’t have to make a tagine; you can use this bright condiment in Western cuisines, with anything from meatballs to tortellini.

    Preserved lemons can replace regular lemons—juice, slices or zest—in any savory recipe, from meat (beef, chicken, lamb, stews) and poultry to fish and seafood (a perfect pairing), grains (think beyond couscous to any cooked grains you enjoy), vegetarian stews, even salad dressing.

     

    Preserved Lemons

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/preserved meyer lemons in jar goodeggs 230

    It takes just 5 minutes to prepare preserved
    lemons. Then they sit for 3-4 weeks in the
    fridge until soft and succulent. Photos and
    recipe courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    PRESERVED LEMON RECIPES

    From TheNibble.com

  • Dips: Add a fine dice to guacamole, hummus and salsa. Try one teaspon per cup, and adjust to your preference.
  • Israeli Salad: Preserve lemon is added by North African Jews.
  • Garnish for Fried Green Tomatoes.
  • Grain salads and pilafs: Add a dice of preserved lemon to barley, farro, rice, quinoa and other grains.
  • Kebabs: Add them to the skewers of any meat, fish/seafood or vegetable kabobs. Try these Moroccan Potato Kebabs.
  • Moroccan Baked Chicken & Olives is a classic. You can substitute fish fillets for the chicken.
  • Pesto and other sauces: Start with a teaspoon or less. You want to add mystery rather than wallop.
  • Pasta: Toss any pasta with olive oil, sliced garlic and diced or sliced preserved lemon. Here’s a recipe for Tortellini With Bay Leaf & Preserved Lemon.
  • Soup Garnish: Slice and serve in ramekins along with chopped cilantro, croutons, green onions, chopped parsley and tomatoes, so people can customize their bowls of soup (here’s a recipe for Tunisian Chickpea Soup).
  • Stews of any kind: Add a tablespoon or more to taste, even if no lemon is specified in the original recipe.
  • Vinaigrette: Use a blender or food processor to combine diced preserved lemon with olive oil and vinegar or fresh lemon juice.
  •  
    Here are more recipes from Bon Appetit and the Huffington Post.

    What About Pizza?

    Of course! No recipe list would be complete without a pizza with preserved lemon.

    It can be as simple as fresh basil, smoked mozzarella and preserved lemon; or fresh ricotta, preserved lemon, basil and za’atar*. Trust us: These are well worth making.

     
     
    RECIPE: PRESERVED MEYER LEMONS

    It requires just 5 minutes of active time to make preserved lemons. Then, they sit and ferment for 3-4 weeks.

    Instead of making them in a quart jar, you can use two pint jars and give one as a gift.

    Ingredients For 1 Quart

  • 6 Meyer lemons, cut into quarters
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • Juice of 3 Meyer lemons†*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 dried chile
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the lemons, chile and bay leaves and salt in a bowl, then pack them tightly into a sterilized quart jar with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the juice then seal the jar.

    2. LET sit at room temperature for three days, turning the jar over once or twice a day. After three days, place the jar in the refrigerator for 3 weeks, until the rind has softened. They’re then ready to use.

    If you want to give them as gifts before the three weeks are up, tie a ribbon around the jar with a tag that tells the date on which the lemons will be ready; and that they’ll keep for a year in the fridge.
     
    *Also spelled zahtar, za’atar is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines. It is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries, which impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends. Traditional ingredients include marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac. Za’atar is used to season meat and vegetables, mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread, added to hummus, and for a modern touch, sprinkled on pizza, especially ones with feta cheese.

    †You can first zest the lemons and use the zest in anything else you make today, from grains and vegetables to hot tea or sparkling water.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Make Cranberry Mimosa cocktails or mocktails. Photo courtesy Ocean Spray.

     

    There’s still time to create a signature drink for Christmas: a Cranberry Mimosa cocktail or mocktail. It combines cranberry juice with sparkling wine (or ginger ale), instead of the orange juice of a traditional Mimosa.

    Or use cranberry liqueur for a Cranberry Kir Royale, a.k.a. Kir Royale à la Canneberge (if you haven’t guessed, canneberge [can-BERZH] is French for cranberry). Note that using liqueur instead of juice creates a stronger drink.

    You can also serve a Mimosa mocktail with cranberry juice and ginger ale, and a diet version with diet cranberry juice and diet ginger ale.

     
    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MIMOSA, CRANBERRY KIR ROYALE OR CRANBERRY MOCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces cranberry juice or cranberry liqueur
  • 4 ounces sparkling wine*, regular or rosé, chilled
  • Optional garnish: lemon curl, strawberry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cranberry juice/liqueur and the sparkling wine in a Champagne flute or wine glass. Add the juice first. If you need to stir, do so gently, once, so as not to collapse the bubbles.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    *Well-priced sparkling wines include Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Crémant from France and our Top Pick Of The Week, Yellow Tail Bubbly.

     
    THE HISTORY OF THE MIMOSA COCKTAIL

    The Mimosa, a cocktail composed of equal parts of orange juice and Champagne or other dry, white sparkling wine, was invented circa 1925 in the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, by bartender Frank Meier. Served in a Champagne flute, it is believed to be named after the the mimosa evergreen shrub (Acacia dealbata), which bears flowers of a similar color to the drink.

    The optional addition of a small amount of orange liqueur like Grand Marnier complements the juice and gives the drink more complexity.

    Because of the juice component, the Mimosa is often served at brunch. A Grapefruit Mimosa with grapefruit juice is a popular variation. A related drink, the Buck’s Fizz†, has two parts Champagne to one part juice—and sometimes a splash of grenadine. Created at London’s Buck’s Club by bartender Pat McGarryhe, the Buck’s Fizz predates the Mimosa by about four years.

    If you’re making Mimosas, fresh-squeezed orange juice makes a huge difference. One expert recommends trying different types of orange juice: The sweeter Navel juice vs. the more acidic Valencia, for example. Blood oranges, with their rosy color and raspberry notes, will provide a different experience entirely (and a wonderful one!).

    [Source]
     
    †Buck and mule are old names for mixed drinks made with ginger ale or ginger beer, plus citrus juice. They can be made with any base liquor. Why buck? Why mule? That answer is lost to history, but here’s a detailed discussion.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Strawberry Wreath

    No matter how many pies, cakes and cookie platters were served at Christmas dinner, our mom always put out one more dessert: fresh fruit salad.

    It always had takers, from calorie counters to healthy eaters to people avoiding lactose, gluten, refined sugar, whatever, to people who were too full to eat something rich.

    But as much as we treasure memories of mom sectioning all types of citrus for her fruit salad, this strawberry wreath is an even better idea.

    Buy four or more pints of strawberries with fresh green crowns (your grocer may have jumbo value packages). Wash and pat dry, leaving the crowns intact. If the crowns are dried out, remove them and accent the berries with some green grapes instead.

    Lay the berries out in a wreath shape on a tray or cutting board. Cover with plastic wrap to keep in the moisture until you’re ready to serve the wreath.

    Provide a low-calorie yogurt dip, such as:

  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt sweetened with agave and a pinch of cinnamon
  • Siggi’s Icelandic Style Strained Nonfat Vanilla Yogurt*
  •    

    Strawberry Wreath

    This is the easiest Christmas fruit dessert. Photo courtesy California Strawberries.

  • Dannon Oikos Nonfat Yogurt in Strawberry or Strawberry Banana
  •  

    Strawberry Heart

    For Valentine’s Day, make a strawberry
    heart. Photo courtesy WeHeartIt.com.

     

    You’ll get oohs and aahs plus voices of appreciation.

    If the berries aren’t sweet enough, provide a bowl of sugar and noncaloric sweetener, or a squeeze bottle of agave or honey.

    We actually sprinkle Splenda over the berries before plating them, which solves the problem. But not everyone likes the idea of artificial sweetener.

    We wish you a berry happy holiday!
     
     
    *You can use any vanilla yogurt, but Siggi’s is one of the lowest sugar vanilla yogurts on the market.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter’s Seasonal Fruit, Citrus

    While many delightful fruits have gone “on hiatus” until next summer, winter is not without its comforts: citrus fruits. Get your fill of the winter citrus bounty, and especially seek out varieties you haven’t had before.

    All of the following are different species in the Citrus genus: order Sapindales, family Rutaceae.
     
    BLOOD ORANGES

    A good blood orange is our favorite citrus. Named for their deep pink or red-streaked flesh, blood oranges are smaller than other oranges and have slightly rougher skin. The skin often has a red blush.

    Once a rare European import, blood oranges from California are now in abundant supply in the U.S. from December through March. If you keep trying them, you may find the simply celestial ones with luscious, raspberry-orange-flavored flesh*. They are a variety of conventional orange, Citrus × sinensis. Here’s more about blood oranges.

     
    *Today, too much fruit is grown to look great on the shelf, to be durable for transport, to eliminate bothersome seeds, and just about every reason other than natural sweetness and deep flavor. The terroir—soil and microclimate—of the orchard also has a big impact on flavor.

     
    CARA CARA ORANGES

    Another citrus delight (when you get a good one), Cara Cara oranges are worth seeking out. A variety of navel orange, it has rosy pink, juicy, sweet flesh and low acidity. The taste is sweet with undertones of cherry.

    The variety was discovered in 1976 as a mutation at the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Valencia, Venezuela. They are also a variety of conventional orange, Citrus × sinensis. Here’s more about Cara Cara Oranges.
     
    GRAPEFRUITS

    Grapefruits, Citrus × paradisi, have been a seasonal staple in the East since the 1920s, when winter visitors to sunny Florida drove back with carloads of them for friends and family, along with oranges and jars of orange and grapefruit marmalade. Eventually, growers began shipping commercially to the north and then nationwide.

    While is was most commonly served at breakfast, halved and usually topped with honey or sugar, it is now used in many recipes, including our favorite, grapefruit sorbet.

    Pommelos/pummelos are a different fruit, Citrus maxima, also known Citrus grandis. They have a much thicker peel. a green-tinged skin and a slightly drier texture. They can be substituted for grapefruit in any recipe.

       

    Blood Oranges

    Cara Cara Oranges

    Ruby Red Grapefruit

    Similar colors, very different flavors! TOP PHOTO: Blood Oranges from Melissas.com. MIDDLE PHOTO: Cara Cara Oranges from Whiteflower Farm. BOTTOM PHOTO: Ruby Red Grapefrut from Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     
    KUMQUATS

    These wee fruits, looking like teeny oval oranges, are C. japonica, although the name comes from the Chinese gam gwat, meaning golden tangerine. (C. is the abbreviation for Citrus; in taxonomy, to shorten the genus and species, the genus is usually designated by the first letter of its name.)

    You eat them skin and all (except for the seeds), but some varieties can be tart. Halve them and toss them into green salads and fruit salads, chicken and shrimp salads.

     

    Kumquats

    Mandarin Orange

    Ugli Fruit

    TOP PHOTO: Kumquats from Good Eggs |
    San Francisco. MIDDLE PHOTO: Mandarins
    are easy to peel. Photo courtesy Noble Juice.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Ugli Fruit from Melissa’s. Following careful breeding, these are less ugly—less lumpy and less green—than earlier ugli fruits.

     

    MANDARINS

    First note that it’s “mandarin,” not a “mandarin orange” or “satsuma orange”; the two are separate genuses (more about that below).

    There are many varieties of mandarins, Citrus reticulata, bred the world over. In the U.S. it’s easy to find clementines, satsumas, tangerines and tangelos. They are relatively similar size and appearance (as well as calories—50—and nutrition), and the lay person can confuse them.

  • Clementines are seedless and sweeter than tangerines and tangelos. They’re the most commonly grown mandarin in the world, with a thinner skin and a hint of apricot flavor. They are named after Father Clément, a priest who began cultivating them in Algeria around 1900, crossing a mandarin with an orange. Spain and Morocco are the biggest exporters.
  • Satsumas are mostly seedless, and tend to have more juice and less pulp between their membranes. This makes them the softest and most prone to shipping damage, which is why they can be less available than other varieties. They are usually the variety sold in cans as mandarin oranges. Satsuma was a former province of Japan.
  • Tangerines have seeds and are less sweet than the others. Tangerines came to Europe by way of North Africa in the 1800s. They were exported through the port of Tangier in Morocco, hence the name. Different varieties were exported, generically called tangerines. In earlier times, all mandarins in the U.S. were “tangerines.”
  • Tangelos are a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. They’re especially juicy and lack grapefruit’s acidity. Minneolas and Orlandos are types of tangelos. The Minneola, which has a distinctive knob at one end, are also marketed under the brand name Honeybells.
  • Ugli Fruit (C. reticulata × paradisi) is a type of tangelo cross between a tangerine, a grapefruit and an orange. It looks like a lumpy, ugly grapefruit. Here’s more about it, also sold as Uniq Fruit.
  •  
    MANDARINS & ORANGES: THE DIFFERENCE

    There are three basic citrus types—citron, mandarin and pomelo/pummelo—from which all other modern citrus varieties derive via hybrids or backcrosses.

     

    While they look like small oranges and are often called “mandarin oranges,” mandarins are a separate species that includes the clementine, mineola (red tangelo), murcott (also called honey tangerine), tangelo, temple and satsuma, among others.

  • Oranges are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae, genus Citrus and species C. × sinensis The orange is a hybrid cross between a pomelo (Citrus maxima) and a mandarin (Citrus reticulata), with genes that are about 25% pomelo and 75% mandarin.
  • Mandarins are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae, genus Citrus and seven different sub-groups (clementines are C. clementina). “Cuties” and “Sweeties” are brand names for clementines.
  •  
    More Confusion

    Mandarins are also called loose-skin oranges—a usage which is both unfortunate and confusing given the numerous, highly distinctive differences between the two genuses. According to the experts at U.C. Davis:

  • In the U.S., where the name tangerine first came into common usage, mandarin (or “mandarin orange”) and tangerine are used more or less interchangeably to designate the whole group. Since mandarin is the older and much more widely employed name, its use is clearly preferable.
  • The term “tangerine” was coined for brightly-colored sweet mandarins that were originally shipped out of the port of Tangiers, Morocco to Florida in the late 1800s; the term stuck.
  • Presumably because of the orange-red color of the Dancy variety, which originated in Florida and was introduced in the markets as the Dancy tangerine, horticulturists have tended to restrict the use of the term tangerine to the mandarins of similar deep color. However, this is a usage of convenience only and the tangerines do not comprise a group of natural significance.
  •  
    The mandarin probably originated in northeastern India, home of the Indian wild mandarin, Citrus indica Tan. As with all agricultural products, many hybrids followed.

    The mandarin reached the Mediterranean basin in the early 1800s, and arrived in Florida about 1825. Thanks to the University of California Davis for providing this information. You can read more here.

    Then, go out and gather some great citrus fruits.

      

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