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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 Fruits & Nuts

RECPE: Ambrosia Salad For Fall & Winter

ambrosia-salad-tangerines-melissas-230

Ambrosia salad. Photo courtesy
Melissas.com.

 

In Greek mythology, the gods ate ambrosia and drank nectar, fragrant foods that were typically reserved for divine beings.

While no descriptions of either these foods survive (the word ambrosia means delicious or fragrant and nectar indicates a delicious or invigorating drink), scholars have long believed that both ambrosia and nectar were based on honey. (Mead, popular with the ancients, is a fermented honey drink.)

Modern ambrosia is a variation on a traditional fruit salad. It originated in the southern U.S. in the last quarter of the 19th century, when oranges became more available in markets across the country. The original recipes were simple layerings of grated coconut, sliced oranges and powdered sugar, sometimes called iced oranges.

The recipe became popular in the early part of the twentieth century, according to FoodTimeline.org. Many variations proliferated. Today, it’s a retro recipe that is too often laden with maraschino cherries, canned pineapple and whipped topping.

But make it with the best ingredients, and you’ve got but a fun fruit salad substitute for the colder months, when primo fresh fruit options are fewer.

 

In addition to the coconut and orange or mandarin, ambrosia recipes typically contain pineapple, miniature marshmallows and coconut. Other ingredients can include bananas, cherries, dates, grapes, grapefruit, raisins, strawberries and pecans or walnuts.

For a devilish modern touch, add a bit of diced jalapeño.

The salad is typically bound with something creamy: mayonnaise, whipped cream, sour cream, yogurt, even cream cheese, cottage cheese or pudding.

This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown’s and is so easy that you can assign it to an older child to prepare. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus two hours of chilling.

 

RECIPE: AMBROSIA FRUIT SALAD

This recipe is adapted from an Alton Brown version. It is best served on the day of preparation. The sugar can cause the oranges (and other fruits) to release their juices and the dish can turn to mush.

Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 ounces sour cream
  • 6 ounces homemade mini marshmallows or store bought, approximately 3 cups
  • 1 cup clementine orange segments (approximately
    6 clementines)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup red or purple grapes
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries*
  •  

    valencia_orange-crate-floridajuice.com-230

    Ambrosia salad was developed as oranges became more widely available in the late 19th century. Photo courtesy FloridaJuice.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cream and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Add the sour cream and whisk to combine.

    2. ADD the marshmallows, orange, pineapple, coconut, pecans and cherries; stir to combine.

    3. TRANSFER to a glass serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.
     
    *The best maraschino cherries, worth of a connoisseur, are from Tillen Farms, all natural and made with sugar instead of corn syrup.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cut Back On The Hors d’Oeuvre

    People who love to put out a good spread typically go whole-hog on the hors d’oeuvre. The problem, in advance of a big feast, is that those who have been holding back on eating in anticipation of the big meal may go overboard with the pre-meal tidbits.

    Guests may have eaten very lightly that day in anticipation of the dinner, only to be very hungry when by the time they arrive at your doorstep. They then dive into the platters of whatever you’ve put out: bruschetta, canapés, cheese, crudités, dips and spreads, paté.

    If they arrive an hour or two in advance of sitting down to dinner, by the time the main meal begins, they could be halfway stuffed. The solution:

    1. Let everyone know what time you expect to sit down at the table. Then, whether you plan a cocktail hour or multi-hour get together before serving dinner, everyone will be prepared. (If you’re the guest, call ahead and ask.)

    2. Limit what you serve to little nibbles—the kind most people won’t eat in bulk.

     

    mixed-olives-anchovies-bowl-olivesfromspain-230

    Mixed olives and caperberries with fresh parsley and pink peppercorns. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

     

    LIGHT NIBBLES TO SERVE

  • Olives, either by themselves or as part of an old-fashioned relish platter with gherkins, radishes, carrot and celery sticks (or the modern alternative, baby carrots and fennel sticks).
  • If you want to do something more creative, consider an olive platter with different flavors: plain olives with very distinctive flavors, such as Cerignola and Kalamata; a hot and spicy mix; olives stuffed with anchovy, blue cheese, garlic, jalapeño, etc.
  • Nuts, including spiced nuts, like Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds; or a selection of different nuts.
  •  
    But forewarned is forearmed. You’ve slaved over that dinner, and the last thing you want to hear are guests groaning that they don’t have enough room for it.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Defrosting Frozen Berries

    frozen-triple-berry-wymans-230

    Don’t turn your nose up at frozen berries. They can be sweeter than imported, out-of-season berries. Photo courtesy Wyman’s.

     

    Some people turn up their noses at the thought of frozen berries. But they’re convenient year-round and in the off season, they’re economical and can be sweeter, too.

    Picked at the peak of ripeness and flash-frozen within hours of harvest, they are just as nutritious as fresh berries.

    Keep bags of fresh frozen berries in the freezer and pour out the amount you need. If you’re using the berries in baking or in a smoothie, there’s no need to defrost them. That especially goes for turning them into soft serve*.

    For other uses—garnishing, salads, sundaes, yogurt—you’ll want to defrost the berries first. You can make them taste the best with proper defrosting.

    Note that the defrosted berries will be more delicate than fresh berries. Handle them gently to keep their shape. Use thawed berries within two days.

     

    REFRIGERATOR DEFROSTING

    If you’re not in a hurry, defrost the berries in the fridge. Slow defrosting generally maintains a better flavor and texture for any food item.

    Place the berries in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If you plan to eat them whole or use as a garnish, thaw them for four to six hours so they are still partially frozen and firm. Otherwise, you can let then thaw overnight.

     
    COUNTERTOP DEFROSTING

    Place the berries in a bowl and cover with cold water. Check in five minutes. If the berries are still frozen, drain and add fresh cold water.

    Do not thaw berries in hot or warm water. The heat will cause the berries to release their juices and shrivel. It also provides an environment where harmful bacteria can grow.

     

    DEFROSTING BERRIES WITH A MICROWAVE

    The Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission recommends microwave defrosting. Microwaves vary as to cooking times and berries differ in densities, so do a few small test batches to get the perfectly defrosted berry.

  • Use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw berries.
  • Defrost in small batches, no more than a cup at a time.
  • Place berries atop a paper towel in a single layer, on a microwavable plate. Leave a good amount of space between the berries.
  • Set the time to 60 seconds for blackberries and large strawberries, 30 seconds for raspberries and small strawberries and 15 seconds for blueberries.
  • The microwaved berries should look lightly frosted—don’t overnuke or they’ll lose their shape.
  •  

    Frozen raspberries & blue berries

    Frozen berries. Photo courtesy Thinng.com.

  • Taste a berry. If it’s too frozen, microwave another 10 seconds. Alternatively, you can leave the berries on the counter to finish defrosting at room temperature.
  •  

    HOW TO FREEZE FRESH BERRIES

    When berries are in season, look for the best prices and freeze your own to enjoy when the fruit is out of season.

  • SPREAD the berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Freeze.
  • MOVE the frozen berries to a freezer bag or other airtight container.
  • DEFROST berries in a bowl, either in the fridge overnight or at room temperature.
  •  
    *You can use a food processor, but we get far better results from the Yonanas machine. It’s a great way to turn fruit into frozen dessert as you control the amount and type of sweetener.
      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN: Jackson Pollack Style & Other Chocolate Candy Apples

    You can make candy apples the traditional way or you can cook to the tune of a different drummer. In this recipe, adapted from Cooking Light, melted chocolate is dripped on the apple in a Jackson Pollack approach.

    Green Granny Smiths go well with the sweet white and bittersweet chocolates and provide a better backdrop for the squiggles than darker red apples, but use any apple you like.

    By drizzling the chocolate instead of enrobing the entire apple in a red sugar or caramel coating, these are “candy apples light.”

    You can add colors by tinting the white chocolate orange, and add more layers of tinted color—red and yellow, for example. Just load up on the white chocolate.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE-DRIZZLED CANDY APPLES

    Ingredients For 6 Candy Apples

  • 6 Granny Smith apples
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2-1/2 ounces premium white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Wooden sticks (from the craft store or online—or use forks!
  •    

    jackson-pollock-candied-apples-randymayor-cookinglight-230sq

    Drip the chocolate, Jackson Pollack style. Photo © Randy Mayor | Cooking Light.

     

    Preparation

    1. WASH and dry the apples; remove stems. Insert a wooden stick into the stem end of each apple.

    2. PLACE the bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring every 20 seconds until smooth. Working with 1 apple at a time, hold the apple over a bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle the apple with about 2 teaspoons bittersweet chocolate. Place the apple, stick side up, on a baking sheet covered with wax paper. Repeat the procedure with the remaining apples.

    3. PLACE the white chocolate in a glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring every 15 seconds until smooth. Working with 1 apple at a time, hold the apple over a bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle the apple with about 1-1/2 teaspoons white chocolate. Place the apple, stick side up, on a baking sheet covered with wax paper. Repeat procedure with remaining apples.

    4. CHILL the apples until ready to serve.

     

    AY1005HW015

    More ways to decorate apples with chocolate.
    Photo courtesy MyRecipes.com.

     

    MORE CANDY APPLE RECIPES

  • Traditional Candy Apple Recipe
  • Sugar-Free Candy Apple Recipe
  •  
    CANDY APPLES HISTORY

    The practice of coating fruit in sugar syrup dates back to ancient times. In addition to tasting good, honey and sugar were used as preserving agents to keep fruit from rotting.

    According to FoodTimeline.org, food historians generally agree that caramel apples (toffee apples) probably date to the late 19th century. Both toffee and caramel can be traced to the early decades of the 18th century. Inexpensive toffee and caramels became available by the end of the 19th century. Culinary evidence confirms soft, chewy caramel coatings from that time.

     

    Red cinnamon-accented candy apples came later. And, while long associated with Halloween, they were originally Christmas fare, not a Halloween confection.

    According to articles in the Newark Evening News in 1948 and 1964, the red candy apple was invented in 1908 by William W. Kolb, a local confectioner.

    Experimenting with red cinnamon candies for Christmas, he dipped apples into the mixture and the modern candy apple was born. The tasty treat was soon being sold at the Jersey Shore, the circus and then in candy shops nationwide.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cinnamon Apple Chips

    apple-chips-beauty-kaminsky-230

    Make delicious apple chips. Photo by Hannah
    Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We love apple chips, a better-for-you sweet snack. We’re big fans of the Bare Fruit brand, which we buy online in both single serve and family size bags. The apples they use are so sweet that there’s no added sugar.

    When we’re out of Bare Fruit apple chips, we make our own with this easy recipe from Zulka Morena sugar. If you’re cutting back on sugar calories, you can make half with sugar, half without, and combine them; Splenda fans can try the noncaloric sweetener.

    RECIPE: CINNAMON APPLE CHIPS

    Ingredients

  • 3-4 apples, sweetest variety
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 225°F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and set aside.

    2. REMOVE the apple cores with an apple corer. Use a sharp knife or mandolin slicer to thinly slice the apples into rings.

     
    3. PLACE the slices next to each other on the trays (they can overlap a bit). Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the apples.

    4. PLACE the sheets on the oven racks and bake for one hour. Remove each tray of apple slices, flip the slices and return the tray to a different oven rack than before to ensure even baking.

    5. BAKE for one more hour. Turn off the oven, leaving the apple chips inside for another 2-3 hours or until dried out. Store the chips in an airtight container for up to one week.
     
    Find more delicious recipes at Zulka.com.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Medjool Dates, Nature’s Candy

    Foodies who like lusciousness—not to mention fitness fans looking for a natural source of post-workout muscle recovery—may want to reach for one of the world’s oldest-cultivated fruits: Medjool dates.

    Sure, they’re delicious. But dates and other foods rich in potassium are linked to reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness and connective tissue damage, and enhanced athletic performance going forward. Nutritionists are touting the health and muscle-recovery capabilities of dates as a natural replacement for sports drinks and energy bars that are loaded with processed sugar.

    According to Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness and Eat Your Way to Sexy, dates are one of nature’s best recovery foods.

    “A serving of dates speeds recovery after exercise, replacing needed potassium and other electrolytes, and helping to restock glycogen stores,” explains Somer. “In addition, the potassium and manganese help balance blood-sodium levels that support muscle contraction, reduce fatigue and stimulate recovery.”

    Who knew? We’ve been eating them plain and with cheese simply because we love them. But now, we’ll look at them a guilt-free sweet snack! For those watching their sugar intake, Medjools rate low to low/medium on the Glycemic Index (GI).

       

    bowl-dates-beauty-230

    A great anytime snack. Photo copyright Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association.

     

    ABOUT DATES

    Among the sweetest fruits in the world, with a concentration of natural sugar that has earned them the sobriquet “nature’s candy,” dates are one of the earliest crops to be cultivated, in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.

    Dates are the fruit of the date palm (photo below), a tree that thrives in desert conditions—including the Bard Valley of Southern California, which produces premium Medjools.

    Several varieties are easy to find in the U.S., but the best are Medjools, larger, plumper, moister and more tender, with caramel notes. They are are considered the best-tasting, most luscious dates in the world, and have long been called the “Fruit of the Kings.”

    You may also come across Deglet Noor, Halawy and Khadrawy, all chewier varieties. We like them all, but prefer the larger, softer Medjool.

    In addition to sweet recipes—cakes, compotes, cookies, fruit breads, ice cream, puddings, smoothies, etc.—dates add a sweet accent to braises and roasts, and can be substituted for prunes. (Unless otherwise specified, date varieties are interchangeable in recipes.)

    One serving of Medjool dates (two whole dates) provides 8% of the daily recommended value (DRV) for potassium, 12% for dietary fiber and 4% for magnesium, as well as important vitamins and minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and vitamin B6.

     

    date-laden-trees-230

    Here’s how the fruits grow on the Date Palm.
    Photo copyright Bard Valley Medjool Date
    Growers Association.

     

    HOW TO BUY DATES

    Dates are harvested according to stages of ripeness. Once fully ripened, they need to be picked: The longer they stay on the tree, the drier they become.

    Delicate, just-ripe dates are sold fresh at some farmers markets and Middle Eastern grocers, but they’re most commonly sold partially dried, often with the pit removed.

    Choose dates that are plump and glossy. They can look wrinkled, but shouldn’t feel hard. A thin coating of sugar on the outside is okay, provided it’s not crystallized. If the dates smell sour, pass them by.

    Like dried fruits, dates have a long shelf life and will keep at room temperature for about two months if sealed in plastic.
     
    The Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association (BVMDGA), a consortium of family growers in the southwest, is responsible for more than 60% of the Medjool dates grown in the U.S. For more information, visit NaturalDelights.com.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Asian Pears

    In the spring, when the blossoms fall from the Asian pear trees, the nascent pears are the size of peas. Now, at harvest time, many are as large as croquet balls, some varieties the size of softballs (and yet low in calories—about 50 per 4 ounces).

    If you see a red and white Subarashii Kudamono, the fruits haven’t crossed the Pacific Ocean: They’re grown in Pennsylvania.

    While on business in Japan in 1973, American inventor Joel Spira received a gift of Asian pears. Upon returning home, he tried to obtain more of the crunchy, juicy fruit but couldn’t find it. So, he decided to grow his own.

    Spira and his wife Ruth (who has a botany degree) purchased orchard land in the fertile Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, and set about growing traditional varieties of Asian pears as well as creating new varieties. They named their company Subarashii Kudamono, Japanese for “wonderful fruit.”

    Today, thousands of their trees yield numerous varieties of Asian pears. The 2014 harvest has begun, and the fruit is now available at gourmet grocers from New York and New Jersey down to Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and nationally online at WonderfulFruit.com.

       

    AsianPears_bluebowl_230

    A simple yet elegant dessert. Serve with an optional drizzle of honey. Photo courtesy WonderfulFruit.com.

    Asian pears are also grown in California, Oregon and Washington, in addition to orchards worldwide.

    So today’s tip is to try Asian pears.
     

    ARE ASIAN PEARS PEARS, APPLES OR A HYBRID?

    “Asian pear” is the generic name for more than 25 different varieties of a pear species that originated in Asia. The fruit was first cultivated in what are now China, Japan and Korea, beginning as far back as 330 B.C.E.

    Although the shape is reminiscent of some varieties of apples and has the crunchy flesh of apples, the Asian pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, belongs to the same genus as European pears, Pyrus communis. This means you can eat them in the same way, in recipes or as hand fruit, with the skin or peeled.

    Don’t expect a creamy European pear texture, though, or any apple flavor from the fruit that is also known as apple pear, Korean pear, Chinese pear and sand pear, among other names.

    And unlike European pears, Asian pears don’t soften when ripe. They remain crunchy, even when cooked.
     
    HOW TO SERVE ASIAN PEARS

    This fruit is very versatile, pairing well (no pun intended) in savory and sweet recipes. For starters, consider:

  • Breakfast: Sliced as your morning fruit, atop cereal, baked like a baked apple.
  • Lunch/Dinner: Sliced into a green salad with blue cheese or feta; diced into chicken salad; julienned into cole slaw; added to stuffing; cooked and puréed into soup; in stir-fries or Asian dishes seasoned with curry powder, five-spice powder, ginger, soy sauce and/or star anise; instead of sautéed apples with ham, pork chops and other proteins.
  • Dessert: Poached, using your favorite poached pears recipe, baked in tarts, with a cheese plate, served plain with a drizzle of honey.
  •  
    There are dozens of Asian Pear recipes at WonderfulFruit.com: desserts, salads, slaws, spreads, combined with favorite proteins, even Asian pear fries!

     

    Asian_Pear_PA_sticker-230

    If there’s no sticker, ask the produce
    manager about the variety and provenance
    of the Asian pears. Photo courtesy
    WonderfulFruit.com.

     

    RECIPE: SALAD WITH ASIAN PEARS

    You can turn this side salad into a main course by topping it with a grilled protein: chicken breast; fish fillet, scallops or shrimp; lamb, etc.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 cups of mixed baby greens
  • 1 head radicchio
  • 2 medium Asian Pears, diced
  • Blue cheese, feta or goat cheese, crumbled, diced or sliced
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TEAR the radicchio into bite-sized pieces and combine with greens in a salad bowl (also tear greens if not using baby greens). Add the diced pears.

    2. WHISK the vinegar and mustard, then whisk in the olive oil. Add honey, salt and pepper. Toss with the salad.

    3. ADD cheese to top and serve.
     

    TRADITIONAL ASIAN PEAR VARIETIES

    Depending on the variety, Asian pears can range from medium to large to extra large. Most colors vary from yellow to tan-brown; some have green or russet hues. Their skin may be smooth or speckled. Some of the most popular varieties grown in the U.S. include Hosui (Golden Russet Brown), Kosui (Golden Russet), Nijiseiki or Twentieth Century (Yellow-Green), Shinseiki (Yellow) and Shinsui (Russet Brown).

    These conventional varieties are grown by Subarashii Kudamono:

  • Atago, often heart-shaped,is exceptionally flavorful. Ripening late in the season, it has a lovely butterscotch colored skin. This fruit is juicy and crunch, with subtle tropical flavors of mango, kiwi and passionfruit plus notes of citrus and melon.
  • Hosui has a mild, clear, sweet flavor. This crisp and juicy fruit is golden tan in color with a slight conical shape. In Japanese Hosui means sweet water.
  • Niitaka is a golden light brown in color with a distinctive peaked top. Another very crisp juicy variety, it is sweet with a hint of a nuttiness.
  • Olympic is very round, khaki (brownish-green) color with a blush of dark red. It has a rich flavor, is lightly crisp and displays a delicate amount of juiciness.
  • Yoinashi is very sweet, with a hint of butterscotch. It is golden-orange in color and is slightly oval in shape.
  •  
    The company has also bred and patented five additional varieties: It’s an Asian pear lover’s paradise. One of them, Asaju, is grown artisan-style in a wax-lined bag, so the skin is wafer thin and very crisp.

    You can buy them online for yourself or as gifts. A 5-pound gift box is $29.95; a 9-pound gift box is $39.95.
     

    MORE ABOUT ASIAN PEARS.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A New Apple

    apple-cider-230

    SweeTango juice and apples, now in stores
    nationwide. Photo courtesy The Next Big
    Thing.

     

    While October is National Apple Month, today, September 20th, is International Eat An Apple Day. There are so many varieties of apples, our tip is to step outside of your apple comfort zone and try something new.

    Our favorite apple, Honeycrisp, has an offspring: SweeTango. Introduced in 2009, SweeTango combines the best qualities of the Honeycrisp (released in 1991) and Zestar (released in 1998) varieties. It has the crisp texture of Honeycrisp and the juiciness of the Zestar, with notes of citrus, honey and spice.

    The SweeTango was born at the University of Minnesota, where expert apple breeders, using time-honored horticultural techniques, struck gold by marrying the Honeycrisp and Zestar varieties. If you were about to ask, the brand tells us that Honeycrisp was the bride, Zestar the groom, both varieties with crisp flesh.

    The offspring of marrying the rootstocks created the Minneiska, a hybrid tree. But since “Minneiska” doesn’t have a commercial ring to it, the apples were christened (and trademarked) SweeTango.

     

    A growers cooperative was formed, includes some of the best apple growers in the world and called Next Big Thing. They are the only farmers who can grow SweeTango—an arrangement that allows the breeders to maintain top quality.

    A seasonal apple harvested in early fall, SweeTango is available during apple season across the U.S. and Canada. Enjoy it as a hand fruit, or with stronger cheeses such as blues and Cheddar.

    For more information, visit SweeTango.com. Use the store locator to find a retailer near you.

     

    DOES AN APPLE A DAY KEEP THE DOCTOR AWAY?

    According to HowStuffWorks.com, the first printed mention of this saying was in the February 1866 issue of the British publication Notes and Queries, still in print and still focused on reader questions about the English language and literature, lexicography, history and scholarly antiquarianism.

    The publication printed the proverb thusly: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” But does it, really?

    No more so than many other fruits. Most ailments cannot be cured by diet alone, and nutritionists would recommend a varied selection of fruits: citrus fruits, tropical fruits like mangos and a variety of berries, which pack a nutritional punch.

    Here’s what the nutrients in apples can do for you.

  • An apple a day can reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and many types of cancer. Various studies show health benefits when participants eat an apple between three and five times a week.
  •  

    sliced-apples-shropshireblue-230s

    Sliced SweeTango apples with Shropshire Blue cheese and almonds. Photo courtesy The Next Big Thing.

  • The pectin in apples is a soluble fiber than lowers both blood pressure and glucose levels. It can also lower the level of LDL, or bad cholesterol. Like other forms of fiber, it helps maintain the health of the digestive system.
  • Boron, an abundant nutrient in apples, supports strong bones and a healthy brain.
  • Quercetin, a flavonoid (antioxidant), may reduce the risk of various cancers, including breast and lung cancer. It may also neutralize free radical damage, which has been implicated in a variety of age-related health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The phytonutrients, including vitamins A, E and beta carotene, also fight free radical damage, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
  • Last but not least, the vitamin C boosts immunity, which helps maintain overall health.
  • Other fruits have specific benefits.

  • Bananas are loaded with potassium, which is important for a healthy heart and proper muscle function.
  • All berries are good for you. Apricots, fresh or dried, are high in beta-carotene. Blackberries are loaded with fiber. Blueberries and cranberries help prevent and fight urinary tract infections. Strawberries contain lots of vitamin C and fiber.
  • In terms of juice, apple juice is at the bottom of the top 10 beverages in antioxidant power. Pomegranate juice, wine and purple grape juice at the top, with apple juice in the tenth spot, right behind tea. One of the healthy benefits of apples—the high amount of fiber—is lost during juicing.
  •  
    So why the adage, and why has it been passed from generation to generation for 148 years?

    First, at the time the expression emerged, understanding of nutrition profiles was not what it is today. Next, apples were a bountiful crop in England; once harvested, they could remain in storage for nearly a year, providing one of the few sources of fresh fruit during the winter months.

    And, within that longevity is truth: Recent studies have shown that, unlike many fruits and vegetables, the nutritional benefits of apples remain relatively stable as long as 200 days after harvest.

    So by all means, enjoy an apple a day. It’s still one of the better sweet things you can munch on.

      

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    RECIPE: Grilled Tropical Fruit Skewers

    Here’s something special for Labor Day weekend: Turn grilled fruit into tropical fruit skewers. Thanks to Melissas.com, purveyors of premium produce, for the recipe.

    We’ve also got dessert shots to go with the fruit: delicious coconut- or banana-flavored rum from Blue Chair Bay.

    RECIPE: GRILLED TROPICAL FRUIT SKEWERS

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large ripe papaya, peeled seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 firm ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1 inch rounds
  • Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons dried coconut chips
  •  

    mango-papaya-kabobs-melissas-230

    Grilled fruit skewers topped with coconut chips. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     
    Variation: Pineapple is also a tropical fruit. Feel free to add some.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the brown sugar, orange juice and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add the cubes of mango, papaya and bananas, tossing gently to coat thoroughly.

    2. THREAD the fruit onto skewers alternating the fruits.

    3. GRILL over a medium hot barbeque or hibachi for approximately 4-5 minutes per side. You can also use a grill pan or broiler. Be sure to watch closely so the fruit does not burn.

    4. REMOVE to a serving plate and sprinkle with shredded coconut.

      

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    RECIPE: Plum, Burrata & Pepita Salad

    plum-burrata-salad-beeraw-230r

    Summer plums with creamy burrata: a great
    union. Photo courtesy Bee Raw.

     

    We’re always in the mood for burrata. After making grilled grapes with burrata a few days ago, we whipped this up yesterday.

    This recipe combines fresh summer plums, creamy burrata cheese, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and honey into a dish that’s called a “salad,” but consider it a cheese course dessert.

    The contrasting textures, flavors, and colors are what we should aim for in every dish.

    The recipe is from Bee Raw Honey, which used its star thistle honey for extra special flavor. You can substitute pluots for the plums.

    Star thistle honey, harvested from wild star thistle plants in Colorado, is thick and creamy with hints of cinnamon. It also pairs well with apples—drizzled over apple slices or added to baked or roasted apples.

    RECIPE: PLUM SALAD WITH BURRATA, PEPITAS & HONEY

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 6 ounces burrata cheese
  • 3 plums
  • A a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A a few tablespoons star thistle or other honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • A few sprigs fresh mint
  • Preparation

    1. BREAK the burrata into about 24 bite-sized pieces,

    2. PIT and slice plums into 8 slices each, set aside.

    3. LAY out four salad or two dinner plates. Divide the burrata pieces equally among plates. Top the Burrata with plum slices. Dot plates with olive oil and honey, covering cheese and fruit with each.

    4. SCATTER each plate with pumpkin seeds and mint; serve immediately.

     

    WHAT IS BURRATA?

    Somewhere around 1920 in the town of Andria in the Puglia region of southern Italy, a member of the Bianchini family figured out how to repurpose the curds from mozzarella making. Burrata was born, a ball of mozzarella filled with creamy, ricotta-like curds. Cut into the ball and the curds ooze out: a wonderful marriage of flavors and textures.

    Their burrata was premium priced, made in small amounts, and remained the delight of the locals for some thirty years.

    In the 1950s, some of the local cheese factories began to produce burrata, and more people discovered its charms. Only in recent years, thanks to more economical overnighting of refrigerated products, did we find it in New York City’s finest cheese shops.

    Now, you can find domestic burrata anywhere there’s a Trader Joe’s. It’s just as delicious!

     

    sliced-whole-230

    Love that burrata! Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    WHAT’S A PLUOT?

    Pluots, plumcots and apriums are all hybrid combinations of plums and apricots, but with different percentages of each parent fruit’s DNA. The names are trademarked by their respective breeders.

    They were developed to present the best qualities of both fruits. For the consumer, this means more sweetness and juiciness; for the grower, easier to grow, harvest, and ship.

  • A plumcot is 50% plum/50% apricot. Developed by Luther Burbank in the 1920s, it is sweeter than either parent.
  • The pluot, also known as a “dinosaur egg” because of its speckled skin, was created by a California fruit breeder who wanted to improve on the plumcot. A pluot, sweeter than a plumcot, is primarily plum, with a range from 60% plum/40% apricot to 75% plum/25% apricot spanning more than 25 varieties. Because of the percentage of genes, it has the flavor of a plum but the mouthfeel of the apricot. Pluots have a higher sugar content and a more complex flavor profile than either a plum or an apricot.
  • An aprium is the reverse of the pluot: a mix of 70% apricot/30% plum, though it can vary, as long as it is 60% apricot or more. It looks like an apricot, but is sweeter than either an apricot or a plum.
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