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Archive for Fruits, Nuts & Seeds

TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Fruit Compote

First: What’s a compote?

A popular medieval European dessert that faded out of style in the mid-20th century, compote (COM-poat), also referred to as poached or stewed fruit, is mix of fruits cooked in a syrup. Although a single fruit can be cooked in the same manner, a variety is more interesting.

In fact, the name derives from the Latin compositus, mixture. Think of it as a cooked fruit salad. It was once so popular that people of means served it from a stemmed compote dish, designed to show off the fruits (see a photo below).

The syrup is made from the cooking liquid—typically water or wine—plus sugar and spices.

The syrup could be seasoned with the cook’s choice of cinnamon, cloves, lemon or orange peel, vanilla or other spices. The cooked fruit could be enhanced with candied fruit, grated coconut, ground almonds and/or raisins.

In the absence of fresh fruit, compote could be made entirely with dried fruits, plumped in water that was optionally enhanced with kirsch, rum or sweet wine.
 
HOW TO SERVE COMPOTE

Thus, compote was especially popular in fall and winter, when fresh fruit was limited. Our Nana made it at least once a week during the season.

  • Compote can be served either warm or cold, with or without a dab of whipped cream or mascarpone. Except in Italy, the mascarpone is a modern touch. Nana and the rest of her generation had never heard of it.
  • You can use compote to garnish panna cotta or custard, in an ice cream parfait, even atop plain cake like angel food or pound cakes.
  • You can even serve compote with a cheese course, with or instead of fresh fruit.
  •  

    RECIPE: POACHED WINTER FRUIT COMPOTE

       

    Apple Cherry Compote

    TOP PHOTO: Apple and cherry compote on ice cream. BOTTOM PHOTO: Compote with a cheese course. Photos courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    This recipe, from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, combines classic seasonal fruits—apples, pears, quince and dried fruits—with modern touches like star anise, another ingredient that wasn’t in American grocery stores in Nana’s time.

    For a holiday version, here’s another recipe: compote with cranberries, oranges and maple syrup.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 cups water or juice
  • 1 cup dry or off dry white or rosé(juice may be substituted)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole star anise*
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 to 6 apples, pears or quince (2-3 pounds), peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup dried plums, apricots or cranberries
  •  
    *If you don’t have star anise and don’t want to buy it, for each star you can substitute: 3/4 teaspoon crushed anise seed, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon anise extract, 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder or 1 tablespoon anise liqueur or other licorice liqueur.
     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the first nine ingredients (up to and including the bay leaves) into a pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar; then reduce the heat to low and add the fruit.

    2. COVER the pot and simmer, removing the fruit with a slotted spoon as it softens.† Arrange the fruit in a glass bowl. (Nana mixed everything together like fruit salad, although you can layer the fruits if you wish.) Once all the fruit has been removed…

    3. BRING the poaching liquid to a boil and reduce it by half (it takes 5 to 10 minutes). Taste; if necessary add more lemon juice to balance the flavor. Strain the syrup and carefully ladle it over the poached fruit. The cooked fruit will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
     
    †The fruit should be tender but not mushy. Cooking times vary for different fruits: 10 to 15 minutes for dried fruits, 20 to 30 minutes for pears, 30 to 45 minutes for apples and one hour for quince.
     

     

    Compote Dish

    A simple compote dish. They could be quite elaborate: etched crystal, garnished in gold, etc. Photo courtesy Abigails | Amazon.

     

    THE HISTORY OF COMPOTE

    No doubt, fruits have been stewed since the invention of clay pots, some 17,000 years ago in China. But the oldest known recipe we have, for a pear and fig kompot, dates to the early Byzantine Empire (330 C.E. to 1453 C.E.). Here’s the recipe for that ancient fruit compote, it’s made with dried fruit, date syrup and pomegranate molasses.

    Compote ultimately made its way to Europe. According to Wikipedia, in late medieval England the compote was served as one of the last courses of a feast. Later, during the Renaissance, it was served chilled at the end of a dinner, e.g., a predecessor of the modern dessert.‡

    Because it was easy to prepare, made from inexpensive ingredients and contained no dairy products, compote became a staple of Jewish households throughout Europe.

    Make it one of your household’s desserts!

     
    ‡Sugar was little known in Europe until the 12th century or later, when the it was brought back from the Crusades. Even then it was rare and costly; honey or dried fruits were the common sweeteners. In southeast Asia, where sugarcane originated, it has been in use for 1,000 years or so.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Almost Apple Pie (Slow Cooker Apples)

    If an apple a day keeps the doctor away (see below), it stands to reason that an apple dessert helps, too.

    We have two slow-cooker apple recipes for you today. The second is like apple pie filling. Both are classic fall and winter desserts, suitable for weeknights or for company. They can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled.

    While you can prepare both recipes in an oven, a slow cooker with a liner saves you from scrubbing a pan—and leaves the cooked apples juicier, too.

    Both recipes were developed by Reynolds Kitchens.

    RECIPE #1: SLOW COOKER STUFFED “BAKED” APPLES
    WITH CINNAMON & BROWN SUGAR

    Prep time is 20 minutes, slow cooker time is 3 hours. You can make the recipe even healthier by replacing the brown sugar with half as much agave syrup*. While there’s not a lot of refined sugar in the recipe, every little save helps.
     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

       

    Slow Cooker Baked Apples

    “Baked” apples from the slow cooker. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchens.

  • 4 medium tart baking apples (such as Braeburn, Granny Smith or Jonathan), cored
  • 1/4 cup regular rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  •  
    *Want to cut back on sugar? A better choice than sugar is agave nectar, a low-glycemic natural sweetener from the agave plant. Agave nectar has a glycemic index (GI) of 32, half that of table sugar (GI 60-65). Honey has a GI of 58, pure maple syrup has a GI of 54. Here’s more information on agave.
     
    Preparation

    1. LINE a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner. Place the sliced apples in the liner.

    2. COMBINE the oats, raisins, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spoon the mixture into the centers of the apples, patting down with the back of a spoon or a narrow metal spatula. Mound any remaining oat mixture on top of the apples. Pour apple juice around the apples in the cooker.

    3. COVER and cook for 3 hours on low.

    4. TRANSFER the apples to serving bowls and drizzle with the cooking liquid.

     

    Slow Cooker Sauteed Apples

    More like apple pie: apple slices slow-cooked
    with cinnamon. Photo courtesy Reynolds
    Kitchens.

     

    RECIPE #2: SLOW COOKER GLAZED CINNAMON APPLES

    Prep time is 15 minutes, slow cooker time is 3 hours (low) or 2 hours (high).
     
    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut in eight wedges
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Optional topping: vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
  • Optional cookies: gingersnap, oatmeal, shortbread or sugar cookies
  • Preparation

    1. LINE a 5-to-6 quart slow cooker with a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner. Open a slow cooker liner and place it inside a slow cooker bowl. Fit the liner snugly against the bottom and sides of bowl; pull top of the liner over the rim of the bowl.

    2. PLACE the apples in the bowl and drizzle with lemon juice.

    3. MIX the granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples; stir gently with a rubber spatula to coat the apples. Drizzle with butter.

    4. PLACE the lid on the slow cooker and cook on the low-heat setting for 3 hours or on the high-heat setting for 2 hours, until the apples are done.

    5. CAREFULLY REMOVE the lid to allow the steam to escape. Transfer the apples to serving bowls and top with ice cream or whipped cream; or spoon the apples over a scoop of ice cream. Serve with cookies, if desired.

    6. COOL the slow cooker completely; remove the liner and toss. Do not lift or transport the liner with food inside.
     
     
     
    “AN APPLE A DAY” ORIGIN

    According to a website that tracks the origins of English phrases, the earliest known print reference dates to Wales in 1866:

    Eat an apple on going to bed, And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.

    By the turn of the 20th century, a number of variants of the rhyme were in circulation, including the one popular in the U.S.

    Why were apples singled out to keep the doctor away? While they are healthful*, the answer is more complex. In Old English, “apple” was used to describe any round fruit that grew on a tree. Adam and Eve’s forbidden fruit is cited in English as an apple; but the word in the original Hebrew and the subsequent 1611 King James version of the Bible, it simply called “a fruit.”

    Most historians believe that the apple originated in the Dzungarian Alps, a mountain range separating China from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (far away from the Middle East/Garden of Eden). Scholars believe that the fruit tree in the Middle East, the designated home of the Garden Of Eden, may actually have been a pomegranate.

     
    *According to Phrases.org.uk and medical resources: Apples contain vitamin C, which aids the immune system, and phenols, which reduce cholesterol. Apples help to reduce tooth decay by killing bacteria that adhere to the teeth. Cornell University researchers believe that the quercetin in apples protects the brain cells against neuro-degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

      

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    RECIPE: Make & Bring Sweet & Savory Nut Clusters

    Homemade Nut Clusters

    Sweet and savory nut clusters, with pumpkin
    seeds added for the holidays. Photo courtesy
    QVC.

     

    If you’ve been invited to Thanksgiving but not asked to contribute, you may still want to bring a gift that isn’t a bottle of wine.

    Something like these Sweet & Savory Nut Clusters from QVC’s chef David Venable can be a gift to the hosts be enjoyed later. Package them in a decorative tin or jar.

    Or, they can be served with after-dinner coffee by those who are too stuffed for pie.

    For any occasion, they can be served with a slice of Gorgonzola as the cheese course, or as a garnish for a green salad along with crumbled Gorgonzola.
     
    RECIPE: SWEET & SAVORY NUT CLUSTERS WITH
    GORGONZOLA

    Ingredients For 8-10 Servings

  • 1-1/2 cups raw pecan halves
  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1-1/2 cups raw walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Optional: Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
  • Optional: green salad with vinaigrette
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

    2. TOSS the pecans, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds with the beaten egg white in a large bowl, until coated.

    3. COMBINE the brown sugar, sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and rosemary in another bowl and toss with the nuts until evenly coated. Pour in the honey and fold until coated.

    4. SPREAD the mixture out on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until toasted. Serve as desired.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Meyer Lemons

    Meyer Lemons

    A profusion of Meyer lemons at Good Eggs |
    San Francisco.

     

    You should start seeing Meyer lemons in stores now. The no-pucker lemon’s season is November through March.

    A cross between a true lemon and either a sweet orange or a mandarin, Citrus × meyeri was named for Frank Nicholas Meyer, who brought it back from China in 1908. Meyer worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an “agricultural explorer,” traveling the world to find new foods that might be desirable in America.

    The Chinese had long been growing the lemon variety in pots, as ornamental trees. Meyer lemon trees thus were planted in California yards, and the fruit was enjoyed by the home owners.

    Meyer lemons became a hot food item when they were “rediscovered” by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in the 1990s. Other chefs and personalities like Martha Stewart began featuring them in recipes; groves were planted and the fruits began to arrive in markets.

    The benefit is yours.

     
    THE DELIGHTS OF MEYER LEMONS

    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, which is why the juice is sweeter and brighter.

    While they are smaller than the Bearss and Lisbon lemons, they are much juicier with a very thin (and edible) peel, and can even deliver more juice per lemon.

    And their fragrance is beguiling.

     

    GROW YOUR OWN MEYER LEMONS

    You can buy ornamental dwarf Meyer lemon trees to keep in pots indoors or on the patio. Planted in the ground, they can grow to heights of eight feet. Check out the options at:

  • BrighterBlooms.com
  • LemonCitrusTree.com
  • NatureHills.com
  •  
    The trees produce lovely white blossoms before they fruit, and have glossy leaves year-round. Consider one for your own home or for gifting.
     
    HOW TO USE MEYER LEMONS

  • Lemonade without the pucker (and just a bit of sugar required)
  • Cocktails, spritzers and lemon water
  • Cakes, pies and other baked goods
  • Ice cream, sorbet, pudding
  • Marmalade, lemon curd
  •  

    Meyer Lemon Tree

    This fragrant tree can grace any home. We’d love to receive one as a gift. Photo courtesy BrighterBlooms.com.

  • In any recipe that calls for lemon juice and/or peel: chicken, ham, fish and seafood, vegetables, salads, etc.
  •  
    Here are 30+ ways we use Meyer lemons, plus a recipe for Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc. You can also peruse these recipes from Sunset.com.

    Perhaps our favorite Meyer lemon recipe:

    RECIPE: MEYER LEMON SORBET

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
  • 1 cup Meyer lemon juice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ZEST all the lemons and save the extra (it freezes well). You can add it to salad dressings, baked goods, anything.

    2. BRING the sugar and the water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice and zest; stir to combine.

    3. POUR the mixture into the canister of a 1-quart ice cream maker. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions (approximately 25-30 minutes). Transfer to a freezer container and freeze for 4 hours or longer.

    4. SET the container on the counter to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

      

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    FOOD FUN & RECIPE: Cauliflower Steak

    We admit: We are one of those people who has a double grievance during fall and winter. Not only do we grip daylight hours, but we miss the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables from spring and summer.

    Sure, there are asparagus and tomatoes, honeydews and peaches to be had. But as subscribers to locavore and green philosophies, we don’t buy out-of-season produce shipped from other parts of the world.

    The folks in California are gifted with the best produce variety in the nation. It helps that the growing is so long, as is the growing area: 770 miles long.

    We just heard from Good Eggs, San Francisco’s top quality produce provider, that new fall bounty has arrived:

  • Buttercup squash
  • Baby spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Romanesco, the offspring of cauliflower and broccoli rabe (see the photo below)
  • Mexican Sour Gherkins (they look like tiny watermelons)
  •    

    fall-produce-goodeggs-230

    The best fall produce in northern California. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     

    On the opposite coast, where we live, we find comfort in colored cauliflower and winter squash. But wherever you live, here’s…

    HOW TO FIND THE BEST PRODUCE

  • Know what’s in season locally. Click your state on this map from Fresh Everyday Produce.
  • Go to farmers markets. Here’s the USDA’s list of farmers markets in the U.S.
  • Patronize stores that have better produce. Our closest supermarket is fine for the dairy and packaged food, but the produce often is wilting so we go elsewhere.
  • Be willing to shop at multiple stores. The specialty supermarket where we buy produce carries an inferior brand of strawberries. We eat lots of strawberries year-round, so we go to yet another store that does carry our brand (Driscolls).
  • Ask the chefs at independent restaurants for advice. They typically have favorite farmers markets and specialty grocers.
  • Recognize that if you live in the northern climes, January and February will be bleak. After the new year, we’ll provide tips on how to cope.
  •  
    YOUR FUN FOOD ASSIGNMENT

    1. Ask 10 foodies and/or chefs in your area where the best produce can be found. You don’t have to ask them all in one week, of course. But anytime the topic of good food comes up in conversation, ask!

    2. Find a seasonal fruit or vegetable and do something different and exciting with it. To give you a leg up, the next section has a recipe for our latest veggie fancy: cauliflower steaks. You can make them with endless variations of seasonings and sauces, and we’ve included six of our favorite variations.

     

    multicolored-cauliflower-nourishtheroots-230

    cauliflower-steaks-olive-tomato-epicurious-230r

    TOP PHOTO: Some jewels of fall: colored
    cauliflower. In the front is romanesco, a
    cultivar bred from cauliflower and broccoli rabe (rapini). Photo courtesy
    NourishTheRoots.com. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Cauliflower steak with Italian accents. Photo
    courtesy Epicurious.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    CAULIFLOWER STEAKS

    Since the summer, cauliflower steak has been trending at almost every restaurant we go visit, as a vegetarian/vegan/paleo/low-calorie/whatever option. It can also be served on top of your favorite whole grain, as a first course or entrée, or atop a bed of greens as a salad course. It’s especially fun with a purple cauliflower!

    A whole head of cauliflower is sliced into “steaks,” which are variously seasoned and roasted.

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 3 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or other herb, finely
    chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

    2. COMBINE the lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside momentarily.

    3. REMOVE the leaves and bottom core of a head of cauliflower lengthwise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Season both sides with salt and pepper to taste and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the lemon juice-garlic mixture. Roast 40 minutes or until golden and tender. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

    4. USE the remaining cauliflower pieces in salads raw or pickled, or steam/microwave them for another occasion.
     
    Variations

    Turn this spare basic recipe into more flavorful cauliflower steaks. Use your favorite international flavors as seasonings and sauces. For example:

  • Chinese cauliflower steaks: Eliminate the salt, brush steaks with soy sauce instead of lemon juice, top with minced garlic, garnish with fresh chives.
  • Indian cauliflower steaks: Season with ground cumin, coriander and optional curry powder instead of garlic, salt and pepper; garnish with fresh cilantro.
  • Italian cauliflower steaks #1: Use garlic-flavored olive oil and top the cauliflower with minced garlic before roasting. Place cooked steaks atop pesto, or atop marinara sauce seasoned with some oregano. Garnish with sliced black olives.
  • Italian cauliflower steaks #2: Make the basic recipe. After roasting, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  • Japanese cauliflower steaks: Use 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 toasted sesame oil or wasabi oil, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, grated fresh ginger and/or fresh chives.
  • Mexican cauliflower steaks: Replace the lemon juice with lime juice. Serve on a bed of black beans or pinto beans and top with warmed salsa. Garnish with cilantro and optional crumbled queso fresco.
  •   

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    RECIPE: Apple Crisp With Ambrosia Apples

    Contributing Editor Rowann Gilman returned from picking Ambrosia apples in Washington’s Wenatchee Valley, glowing over the food and restaurants there. If you didn’t catch her report on the apples, here it is.

    She brought back an apple crisp recipe that she can’t wait to have again. Since fall is prime apple crisp season, it arrives just in time.

    If you don’t know the difference between a crisp and a cobbler, crumble, betty and other kin, THE NIBBLE has spelled it out below.
     
    RECIPE: OLD-FASHIONED APPLE CRISP

    Try this old-fashioned recipe with new-fashioned Ambrosia apples. It’s from Chef David Toal of Ravenous Catering in Cashmere, Washington.

    Ingredients For 6 to 8 Servings

    For The Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (do not use quick cooking oats)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup butter, cut into small chunks
  •  
    For The Ambrosia Apple Filling

  • 6 to 8 large Ambrosia apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest from one lemon
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  •  
    Plus

  • Vanilla ice cream
  •    

    Apple Crisp A La Mode

    Ambrosia Apples

    TOP PHOTO: A crisp is has a crumb or streusel topping. The crumbs can be breadcrumbs, breakfast cereal, cookie or graham cracker crumbs, flour or nuts. Photo courtesy Ambrosia Apples. BOTTOM PHOTO: Ambrosia Apples. Photo by Rowann Gilman | THE NIBBLE.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Butter a 13×9-inch baking dish or 6 to 8 individual ramekins and set aside.

    2. COMBINE the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl; toss well to combine. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients.

    3. STIR together all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine. Transfer the filling to the prepared baking dish or ramekins. Top the filling with the crumb topping.

    4. BAKE for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly around the edges. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

    5. SERVE with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle some of the juice from the baking dish over top.
     

     

    applecrisp-themeaningofpie-230

    blueberry-cobbler-top-melissas-230

    TOP PHOTO: In our book, it isn’t apple crisp
    if it isn’t topped with vanilla ice cream. Photo
    courtesy TheMeaningOfPie.com. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: A cobbler has a dropped dough
    topping that bakes up to resemble
    cobblestones (hence, the name). Photo
    courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    PAN-BAKED FRUIT DISHES

    Most people use these terms interchangeably. Even Produce Pete called a crisp a cobbler in last week’s episode on NBC. If you really care about food, you’ll care about knowing the differences among pan-baked fruit dishes.

  • BETTY, or brown betty, alternates layers of fruit with layers of buttered bread crumbs. Some modern recipes use graham cracker crumbs.
  • BIRD’S NEST PUDDING is a bit different: A pan of fruit is covered with a batter that bakes into an uneven top with the fruit poking through. It’s served in a bowl topped with heavy cream and spices.
  • BUCKLE, very similar to the French clafoutis (often spelled clafouti in the U.S.), adds fruit, usually berries, to a single layer of batter. When baked, it becomes a cake-like layer studded with berries. It is topped with a crumb layer (streusel), which gives it a buckled appearance. Alternatively, the cake, fruit and crumbs can be made as three separate layers.
  • COBBLER has a pastry top instead of a crumb top. Biscuit pastry is dropped from a spoon, the result resembling cobblestones.
  • CRISP is a deep-dish baked fruit dessert made with a crumb or streusel topping. The crumbs can be made with bread crumbs, breakfast cereal, cookie or graham cracker crumbs, flour or nuts.
  • CROW’S NEST PUDDING is another term for bird’s nest pudding. In some recipes, the fruit is cored, the hole filled with sugar, and the fruit wrapped in pastry.
  • CRUMBLE is the British term for crisp.
  • GRUNT is a spoon pie with biscuit dough on top of stewed fruit. Stewed fruit is steamed on top of the stove, not baked in the oven. The recipe was initially an attempt to adapt the English steamed pudding to the primitive cooking equipment available in the Colonies. The term “grunt” was used in Massachusetts, while other New England states called the dish a slump.
  •  

  • PANDOWDY or pan dowdy is a spoon pie made with brown sugar or molasses. It has a rolled top biscuit crust that is broken up during baking and pushed down into the fruit to allow the juices to seep up. It is believed that the name refers to its “dowdy” appearance. Sometimes it is made “upside down” with the crust on the bottom, and inverted prior to serving.
  • SLUMP is another word for grunt.
  • SONKER or ZONKER, a North Carolina term for a deep-dish cobbler made of fruit or sweet potato.
  •   

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    PRODUCT: Ambrosia Apples

    THE ORCHARD OF EDEN

    No one is sure about which apple variety Eve might have plucked from the tree of knowledge, causing all hell to break loose. In the millennia gone by though, the rest of us have gone from fig leaf to overalls trying to re-create the paradigm of that luscious, lascivious fruit.

    Leave it to a maverick bee. Rather than head for the usual haunts, this one took a tour of British Columbia, picking up some pollen from this apple blossom and leaving it on that apple blossom en route.

    One day, a lucky apple grower noticed a stranger in his orchard: an apple that didn’t look like the others. Without so much as a snake to tempt him, he bit. Ahhh. Ambrosia!

    Indeed, Ambrosia is the recently coveted variety of apple that Washington State apple growers have been perfecting for several years, and now it’s freshly harvested and making its way to markets far and wide, including yours.

    What has made Ambrosia sprint to the top 10 varieties of apple sold in 2015? It has everything going for it:

  • It’s thin-skinned, crisp as a potato chip, honey-sweet, and so juicy that you’ll have to lick your fingers now and then.
  • It’s shapely and has a blemish-free, enviably blushed complexion.
  • It cooks and bakes up beautifully, although eating one out of hand is enthusiastically recommended.
  • Add the just-100 calories per apple factor and Ambrosia truly takes away the cake for health-savvy snackers craving something sweet.
  •  
    A visit to Washington State’s McDougall & Sons, the family-owned and operated orchard that is currently the exclusive grower of Ambrosia apples in the U.S., reveals the intensely detailed hand labor required to produce such perfection.

     

    Ambrosia Apple Tree

    Apple Bath

    TOP PHOTO: Like the Garden of Eden: a tree brimming with Ambrosia apples. Photo courtesy AmbrosiaApples.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: After picking, apples are sorted and get a bath prior to packing and shipping. Photo by Rowann Gilman | THE NIBBLE.

     
    From root stock to loading dock, every apple is hand-picked, graded, sorted and even x-rayed for imperfections so that each one that reaches you is Garden of Eden-worthy.

    The process takes an entire year, after which the fruit is cold-stored for shipping to markets from September through July. Ambrosia are harvested with an ideal sugar/starch balance in mind rather than color as other apples are, and because of that you can always spot Ambrosia in a crowd: The pretty patterns arrayed around their stems and cheeks are creamy yellow where leaves have shaded them from the sun.

    GENERAL TIP: Select apples that have stems intact. The stem acts as a “cork,” making sure moisture and flavor do not dissipate.

    To become an Ambrosian, just look for the label in the photo below.

    Discover more at MySweetAmbrosia.com.

    —Rowann Gilman

     

    Ambrosia Apples

    label-ambrosia-apples-stemit-230

    TOP PHOTO: Fresh off the tree. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: Look for the label. Photos courtesy
    Ambrosia Apples.

     

    THE HISTORY OF APPLES

    Apples seem like the universal European fruit. But they first grew wild in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, millions of years ago.

    Those early apples were likely smaller and more sour than modern apples—more like crabapples.

    By about 6500 B.C.E., travelers were carrying cultivated apple seeds west, to West Asia, and east to China. Charred remains of apples have been found at a Stone Age village in Switzerland. (The Stone Aged spanned 6000 B.C.E to 2000 B.C.E.) [Source]

    The Greeks grew several varieties of apples by the third century B.C.E.; the ancient Romans also grew and loved the fruit.

    Around 100 C.E., the Roman Legions brought apples with them as they advanced north through Europe. Gaul (ancient France) became a fertile region for apple cultivation. Brittania (England) also grew the Roman-brought apples. Centuries later, following the Norman conquest in 1066, new varieties of apple from France were introduced to England.

    Apples were a boon to Europeans. They ripened just as it was getting cold and they could keep all winter, a valuable food source when nothing else was growing. Apples were also sliced, dried and stored. And bitter varieties were pressed to make cider.

    Apples arrived in the New World in 1607, with the Jamestown settlers. The seeds and cuttings they brought from Europe were not all suited for cultivation in Virginia, but they began to mutate to new varieties of American apples.

    Many of these apples were fairly bitter—not hand fruit, but important for making cider, which was more valuable than hand fruit or cooking fruit.

     
    Most colonists grew their own apples. Due to unhealthy water supplies, most people, including children, drank beer or hard cider instead of water (the same was true in Europe).

    Apples were being grown in Massachusetts as early as 1630. Mutation was continually creating new breeds. The McIntosh mutation was discovered in 1796 (by a farmer named John McIntosh).

    Sweet apples for eating were grown as well (and today they’re grown in every state). Thomas Jefferson had a part in the development of the Fuji apple.

    As the story goes, the French minister to the United States gave Jefferson a gift of apple cuttings; Jefferson donated them to a Virginia nursery which cultivated them as the “Ralls Genet.” In 1939, Japanese apple breeders crossed the genes from the Red Delicious apple with the Ralls Genet, resulting in the now-ubiquitous Fuji apple. [Source]

      

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    PRODUCT UPDATES

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    TOP PHOTO: Almonds with a sriracha kick.
    Photo courtesy Blue Diamond. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: Bean & Tortilla Chips from Food
    Should Taste Good.

     

    Brands we enjoy and have previously reviewed are busy launching new lines. Here’s what we tasted lately.

    BLUE DIAMOND BOLD SRIRACHA ALMONDS

    Companies that have jumped on the “hot” bandwagon have figured out how to make products hot enough to please hotties, but not so hot that they loses sales from the other segments.

    These “bold” roasted almonds are delightful, and not as intense as the can indicates, or we would not have been able to eat them (medium salsa is the hottest we go).

    Consider them as stocking stuffers. Almonds are a healthful nut, so this is a guilt-free snack. The line is certified kosher by OK. More information.
     
    FOOD SHOULD TASTE GOOD BEAN CHIPS

    Our favorite line of tortilla chips, known for deftly combining other foods with corn-based tortilla chips, is now adding beans to the mix.

    Food Should Taste Good Black Bean Chips and Pinto Bean Chips combine nutritious, fiber-filled beans to deliver real bean flavors.

    Food Should Taste Good Bean Chips are gluten free, have zero grams trans-fat and are certified kosher by OU. More information.

    We must shout out to the line of tortilla chips in flavors galore. Beyond Cantina chips, there are Cheddar, Falafel, Guacamole, Harvest Pumpkin, Jalapeño, Jalapeño With Cheddar, Kettle Corn, Lime, Multigrain, Olive, Sweet Potato, The Works and White Cheddar.

    Love those chips!

     

     

    NASOYA CHIPOTLE BAKED TOFU

    Who says tofu isn’t flavorful? Nasoya, the country’s largest producer of tofu, has added a new flavor to its line of TofuBaked.

    Chipotle TofuBaked is ready to eat, sliced cold into salads or sandwiches, or heated for scrambles, omelets and Tex-Mex favorites (burritos, fajitas, tacos). Recipes on the website include Seven Layer Chipotle Dip, Southwest Breakfast Bake and Chipotle Tortilla Soup.

    We’re also fans of Ginger TofuBaked.

    The product is USDA certified organic and certified kosher by Star K.

    More information.
     
    POPCHIPS CRAZY HOT

    Quite hot, if not crazy hot, these chips are also quite tart, with as much vinegar as heat.

    In addition to red chili pepper flavor, there are hints of Cheddar cheese. We think it’s a winner for hot stuff lovers.

    The line is certified kosher by KOF-K and certified gluten free. More information.
     
    RUNA ICED TEA

    Runa Clean Energy has no sugar added iced teas, which, thanks to the guayusa from which the tea is brewed, has a natural sweetness as well.

    The line is certified kosher by OU, Fair Trade Certified and a Certified B Corporation.

    In 8.4-ounce/250 ml cans, flavors include Berry, Orange Passion and Original. More information.

     

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    TOP PHOTO: Spicy tofu, ready to eat from Nasoya. BOTTOM PHOTO: More hot stuff, this time in crunchy potato chips from Popchips .

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Halloween Mummy Apples

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    I want my mummy! Photo courtesy Marci Coombs.

     

    Here’s a fun Halloween treat that makes a nutritious apple even more attractive than a piece of candy.

    All you need are apples, gauze and candy eyes. Here’s how Marci Coombs did it.

    You can set the apples out in a glass bowl, use them as place settings, or wrap them in cellophane bags as gifts or party favors.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pears At Every Fall Meal

    Who doesn’t like to bite into a perfectly ripe pear, soft to the touch, dripping with juice? Whether in a packed lunch or as a grab-and-go snack, pears are one of the delights of fall.

    But pears don’t have to be ripe to be delicious. Hard pears can be baked, cooked (especially poached), even grated as a garnish onto cake, pudding, pancakes and yogurt.

    Here are suggestions from USA Pears, the national trade association, for incorporating pears into cooked recipes. There are many delicious pear recipes on the organization’s website.

    At the least, treat yourself to pear purée, the pear version of applesauce that can be served at any time during the day, as a condiment, side, topping or dessert. You can also use it in pear-accented cocktails. Peartini, anyone?

    Here’s a quick recipe to try with a ripe pear. A hard pear can be cooked first.

    RECIPE: NO-COOK SIMPLE PEAR PURÉE

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 1 ripe pear
  • Dash of lemon juice
  • Optional: cinnamon or added sweetener, to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL and core the pear. You can leave the skin on the pear; it will provide vibrant flecks of color in the purée.

    2. CUT into chunks and purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. The splash of lemon juice helps prevent the purée from browning.

    3. TASTE and adjust for sweetness as needed. Add a dash of cinnamon as desired.

       

    Pear-Butternut Squash Soup

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    TOP PHOTO: Pear-Butternut Squash Soup. BOTTOM PHOTO: Pear Purée (like applesauce). Images courtesy USA Pears.

     
    Preparation For Hard Pears

    Poach the pears before pureeing. Pears can be poached in red and white wine, fruit juice, beer, sake, coconut milk or water. Add some spice to your poaching liquid: cloves, cinnamon, salt, black pepper, vanilla bean, orange zest, nutmeg, cardamom.

    1. PEEL THE pears, leaving stem and core intact. Heat the poaching liquid over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue simmering while fully immersing pears into the poaching liquid. Simmer until pears are soft and easily pierced with a fork, 5 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the pear.

    2. REMOVE the pears from liquid and let cool. Core the pears, remove the stems, cut into chunks and purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness; add spices as desired.
     
    PEAR RECIPES FOR BRUNCH

  • Cheddar Pear Scones (recipe)
  • German Pancake with Caramelized Pears (recipe)
  • Pear and Maple Breakfast Sausage (recipe)
  • Pear and Quinoa Breakfast Custard (recipe)
  • Pear-Stuffed French Toast (recipe)
  •  
    PEAR RECIPES FOR LUNCH

  • Curried Butternut Squash & Pear Bisque (recipe)
  • Curried Pear & Chicken Salad (recipe)
  • Ham, Brie & Pear Sandwich (recipe)
  • Pear & Cabbage Slaw (recipe)
  • Pear & Quinoa Salad With Greens (recipe)
  • Pear, Sausage & Fontina Calzones (recipe)
  • Pear, Spinach & Parmesan Salad (recipe)
  • Red Wine Poached Pear Salad (recipe)
  • Shaved Pear & Beet Salad (recipe)
  • Shrimp Tacos With Pears & Slaw (recipe)
  • Turkey Burgers with Caramelized Pears and Sweet Onion (recipe)
  •  
    PEAR RECIPES FOR COCKTAILS & HORS D’OUEVRE

  • Feta & Pear Crostini (recipe)
  • Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Flatbread (recipe)
  • Pear Hummus (recipe)
  • Pear Martini With Pear Purée (recipe)
  • Walnut Pesto Toast with Sliced Pears and Gorgonzola Cheese (recipe)
  •  

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    TOP PHOTO: Pear hummus. BOTTOM PHOTO: Pears Belle Hélène (poached pears with chocolate sauce). Images courtesy USA Pears.

     

    PEAR RECIPES FOR DINNER

  • Braised Pork with Pears and Sherry Vinegar (recipe)
  • Grilled Pork Chops with Pears and Rosemary Butter (recipe)
  • Korean Barbecue Beef (recipe)
  • Pear Barbecue Sauce (recipe)
  • Pear and Sesame Glazed Beef (recipe)
  • Penne With Roast Pear & Feta (recipe)
  • Pizza With Pears, Shaved Ham and Fresh Basil (recipe)
  • Soba Noodles With Tea-Poached Pears (recipe)
  •  
    PEAR RECIPES FOR SIDE DISHES

  • Anjou Pear and Red Potato Gratin (recipe)
  • Grilled Pears Stuffed With Mascarpone & Bacon (recipe)
  • Braised Cabbage With Pears (recipe)
  • Pear Purée (recipe)
  • Savory-and-Sweet Ham, Pear, and Gruyère Strata (recipe)
  • Quinoa Pilaf With Carrots, Ginger & Pears (recipe)
  •  
    PEAR RECIPES FOR DESSERTS

  • Cider & Bourbon Poached Pear Tart (recipe—note that the recipes says “torte,” but it’s actually a tart. A torte is a cake. Torte means cake in German.)
  • Cider-Poached Pears With Pound Cake (recipe)
  • Pears Belle Hélène (recipe)
  • Pear-Caramel Galette (recipe)
  • Pear Cranberry Bread Pudding (recipe)
  • Pear Sorbet (recipe)
  • Pear & Frangipane Tart (recipe—also delicious with chocolate sauce)
  • Pumpkin Ale-Poached Peas In Caramel Sauce (recipe)
  •  

    THE HISTORY OF PEARS

    Pears are one of the world’s oldest cultivated and beloved fruits. The trees thrive in cool temperate climates, and there is evidence of pears as food since prehistoric times. Many traces of it have been found in Switzerland’s prehistoric lake dwellings. [Source]

    In the pear genus Pyrus, some 3,000 varieties are grown worldwide, The tree is thought to have originated in present-day western China, and to have spread to the north and south along mountain chains. In 5000 B.C.E., one Chinese diplomat was so enamored of them that he resigned his post to develop new varieties.

    In The Odyssey, the Greek poet Homer lauds pears as a “gift of the gods.” Roman farmers documented extensive pear growing and grafting techniques. Pliny’s Natural History recommended stewing them with honey and noted three dozen varieties.

    Seventeenth-century Europe saw a great flourishing of pear cultivation, especially in Belgium and France. Many of the modern varieties began to emerge.

    Early colonists brought the first pear trees to America’s eastern settlements, where they thrived until crop blights proved too severe to continue widespread cultivation. Fortunately, pioneers had brought pear trees brought to Oregon and Washington in the 1800s, where they thrived in the agricultural conditions of the Pacific Northwest. It remains the major pear-growing center of the U.S.

      

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