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PRODUCT: Scotch-Infused Chocolates For Burns Day

Scotch-Infused Chocolate Truffles

Whiskey Truffles

Laphroaig & Dark Chocolate

Chocolate for Burns Night. If you need something more simple, grab a quality dark chocolate bar (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Burdick Chocolate, photo #3 courtesy Laphroaig).

 

Luke Scotch? Like chocolate? Combine both on January 25th.

On that day, the birthday of the great Scottish romantic poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) is celebrated. Family and friends gather for Burns Night, an evening of good food and company.

A traditional Burns’ Supper (Scottish supper) is served. It can consist of beef pie, cock-a-leekie soup, colcannon, haggis, nettles and tatties, smoked haddock and more.

Perhaps, some of Burns’ most popular poems are read: A Red, Red Rose; To a Louse; To a Mouse; Tam O’Shanter, Ae Fond Kiss and perhaps most appropriate to the occasion, Address to a Haggis.

You could celebrate with dinner, with a cup of tea and some shortbread, or with a dram of Scotch.

But that dram would be so much better with a box of the Robert Burns Whisky Bonbons from L.A. Burdock Chocolate.

Available for just a few weeks, these chocolates are infused with a variety of fine Scotches, including Macallan, Glenfarclas, Talisker, Springbank, Highland Park and Lagavulin.

A half pound gift box is $42.00.

Don’t tarry: Order yours today at Burdick Chocolate.

Finish the evening with Burns’ most famous poem, set to a folk song:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
And days of auld lang syne, my dear,
And days of auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine.
We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
Sin’ auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin’ auld lang syne,
We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin’ auld ang syne.
We twa hae sported i’ the burn,
From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.
Sin’ auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine;
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

 

You can sing along with this bagpipe version of Auld Lang Syne from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

HERE’S MORE ON PAIRING CHOCOLATE & SCOTCH.
 
  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Tofu Sandwiches

What’s trending in sandwiches?

According to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm, it’s tofu.

The company’s MenuMonitor tracks more than 7,000 commercial and noncommercial menus to identify new ideas, including new menus, seasonal promotions and limited-time offers. The next trending sandwich protein, they say, will be…tofu!

Chicken and bacon are, by far, the most popular “hot” proteins on sandwiches, the company says. But tofu is on the rise due to growing consumer desires for:

  • Healthy eating
  • Sustainable eating
  • Vegan foods
  •  
    So don’t be surprised to find tofu on the sandwich and burger menus of mainstream venues.

    Why not try it in your own kitchen?

    Chop tofu into “egg” salad; grill or pan-fry it to replace sandwich meats or burger patties.

    For starters, here’s a tofu burger recipe from tofu specialist House Foods. They also sent us recipes for:

  • Eggless Egg Salad Sandwich
  • Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich
  •  
    RECIPE: TOFU SLIDERS OR BURGERS

    Ingredients For 8 Sliders Or 4 Burgers

  • 1 package firm or extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons soy oil
  • 8 small slices mozzarella cheese
  • 8 slider buns or small dinner rolls or 4 burger buns, split and toasted
  • 16 fresh basil leaves or 8 small lettuce leaves
  • 8 slices plum tomato
  •  
    For The Pesto Mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pesto mayonnaise. Stir all ingredients for in a small bowl; refrigerate until ready to use.

    2. QUARTER the block of tofu into 4 equal pieces. Slice each quarter horizontally into 2 thin pieces.

    3. BEAT the eggs with the mustard in shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. In a third bowl, combine the flour and herb seasoning.

    4. HEAT the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Dip the tofu in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then the bread crumb mixture. Add to the skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Top with the mozzarella slices after turning the slices.

    5. SPREAD the sides of the buns with the mayonnaise; place the tofu slices on the bottom halves, topping with basil and tomato slices.

    TIPS

  • BUY premium quality tofu. If you care about non-GMO foods—93% of soy is genetically modified—rely on a brand like House Foods, which uses only non-genetically modified soybeans grown in the USA and is Non-GMO Project verified.
  • STORE leftover tofu in a water-filled, airtight container in the fridge. It can keep for two to three days, but change the water every day or two.
  • FREEZE excess tofu in its original container or a freezer bag. To thaw, just leave it out on the counter for a few hours (don’t microwave it). Defrosted tofu’s texture becomes more spongy, great to soak up marinade sauces and great for the grill.
  •    

    Tofu Banh Mi

    Eggless Egg Salad

    Tofu Sliders

    Tofu Pizza "Burger"

    House Foods Extra Firm Tofu

    [1] Tofu banh mi sandiwich (here’s the recipe from Cooking Light). [2] Eggless egg salad, substituting tofu (here’s the recipe from House Foods). Make tofu sliders or burgers, garnished anyway you like: [3] with pesto mayonnaise and fresh basil, or [4] pizza-burger style, with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. [5] House Foods Extra-Firm Tofu.

    MORE TOFU RECIPES

  • Tofu Bean Chili
  • Tofu Caprese Salad
  • Tofu Chocolate Mousse
  • Tofu Fries
  • Tofu Fritters
  • Tofu Salad Dressing
  • Tofu Scramble
  • Tofu Tomato Skewers
  • More Ways To Use Tofu
  •  

    Tofu Blocks

    Tofu Breakfast Scramble

    Tofu Chocolate Pudding

    [6] Tofu blocks (photo courtesy Hodo Soy Beanery). [6] Tofu breakfast scramble (here’s the recipe from Oh My Veggies). [7] Tofu chocolate pudding, or budino in Italian (here’s the recipe from House Foods).

     

    WHAT IS TOFU

    Tofu is made from curding soy milk, much in the same way cheese is made from dairy milk.

    First, soybeans are ground with water and heated. The soy milk is separated from the solids (analogous to milk curds), the hot soy milk is stirred and a coagulant (a natural firming agent, analogous to rennet) is added.

    The curds that form are poured into a forming box (a mold) and the whey is pressed out. The pressing action forms the curd into a solid block of tofu, which is also known as bean curd.

    Here’s more about tofu, including the history of tofu.
     
    TOFU HEALTH BENEFITS

    Nutritionists, physicians and other healthcare providers want you to eat more tofu.

    Tofu offers a variety of health benefits. It’s low calorie, cholesterol-free and an excellent source of high-quality protein, iron and calcium.

    Soy foods in general are associated with decreased risk of cancer. A comprehensive analysis of 28 previously published studies on Chinese adults shows that intake of soy foods in the form of tofu (and soy miso) does a better job of reducing risk of stomach cancer than soy in general.

  • In the U.S., a study released in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism last spring that showed soy might counter the harmful effects of bisphenol A (BPA), and that diets high in soy may improve women’s fertility.
  • More and more experts point to recent studies that demonstrate its benefits, such as lower risk of breast cancer and reduced levels of inflammation.
  •  
    It’s still January, the window for new year’s resolutions is still open. Why not turn Meatless Mondays into Tofu Tuesdays?

    Take a look at these tofu cookbooks:

  • The Guide to Cooking Tofu: The Ultimate Tofu Cookbook That You Will Ever Need
  • This Can’t Be Tofu: 75 Recipes to Cook Something You Never Thought You Would–and Love Every Bite
  • Giant Book Of Tofu Cooking: 350 Delicious & Healthful Recipes
  • Tofu Recipes: The Ultimate Tofu Cookbook With Over 30 Delicious And Amazing Tofu Recipes
  •  

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Our neighborhood Thai restaurant closed on December 31st, victim to a(nother) heartless New York City landlord.

    It left us without our weekly supply of tom kha gai—and at the start of National Soup Month, no less.

    Tom kha gai, literally “chicken galangal soup,” is a spicy and sour hot chicken soup with coconut milk.

    In Thailand, most tom kha gai/kai recipes include coconut milk, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai chili peppers, cilantro (dill weed in Laotian versions), straw mushrooms (or shiitake or other mushrooms), chicken, fish sauce and lime juice.

    Fried chiles are sometimes added, for a smoky flavor as well as texture, color, and heat—just a touch so they don’t overwhelm the other flavors.

    Other versions substitute seafood, pork or tofu for the chicken. We adapted this recipe from the Long Grain restaurant in Camden, Maine.

    The soup is very easy to make. The challenge for people who don’t live near Asian markets is to find some of the ingredients. We’ve suggested substitutes.

    Don’t want to chase after ingredients? Don’t like ginger or lemongrass? Try this recipe for Spicy Sea Bass Chowder With Coconut Milk.

    RECIPE: TOM KHA GAI, THAI CHICKEN & COCONUT MILK SOUP

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 1” piece ginger root, peeled
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves (substitute 1 tablespoon lime zest and ¼ cup lime juice)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1½ pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces
  • 8 ounces shiitake, oyster, or maitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce* (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tough outer layers removed (substitutes†)
  • Garnishes: sliced chiles or chili oil, chopped cilantro, lime wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY SMASH the lemongrass and ginger with the back of a knife. Cut the lemongrass into 4” pieces. Bring the lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until flavors are melded, 8–10 minutes. Strain the broth into clean saucepan; discard solids.

    2. ADD the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the mushrooms, and simmer, skimming occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are soft, 20–25 minutes. Mix in the coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar.

     

    Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Lemongrass

    Tom kha gai, Thai coconut soup. [1] Photo by Evan Joshua Swigart | Wikimedia. [2] A more elegant presentation from DC Cuisine. [3] Lemongrass: top, with the outer leaves, which are removed (center).Photo courtesy Keirsten’s Kitchen.

     
    3. DIVIDE the soup among bowls. Garnish with cilantro; serve with chili oil and lime wedges.

    MORE FOR NATIONAL SOUP DAY

  • Different Types Of Soup: A Soup Glossary
  • The Different Styles Of Soup: Bisque, Broth, Chowder, Consommé, etc.
  • Soup Garnishes
  • Drizzled Soup Garnishes
  • Start A Soup Club
  • Soup In A Tea Cup
  • How To Finish Soups In A Blender
  • How To Puree Soup With An Immersion Blender
  • The History Of Soup
  •  
    ________________
    *Your supermarket probably carries the Thai Kitchen brand. It’s inexpensive and functional; but if you’ll be using fish sauce frequently, spring for one of the better brands from Thailand or Vietnam.

    †There is nothing like fresh lemongrass. Trim the outer leaves and the bottom (see photo above) and use the first six inches of the base. You can buy fresh lemongrass online and you may find frozen lemongrass locally, which is almost as good. Dried lemongrass is as pale a substitute as dried basil, parsley and other herbs. You can steep any leftover lemongrass, including the trimmed tops, into a delicious herbal tea. To substitute: Zest from 1 lemon = 2 stalks lemongrass. You can also use fresh lemon verbena, lemon balm or lemon leaves.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Kale & Chocolate, Kale As A Steak Garnish

    Since it became a media darling in 2011, kale has found its way into every type of recipe imaginable. Even chocolate bars.

    Compartes Chocolatier in Los Angeles makes artisan chocolate bars with what have become more or less mainstream add-ins: Brownie, Coconut Macadamia, Coffee & Cacao Nibs, Crispy Rice, Matcha, Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, Salted Pretzel, Smoked Sea Salt and Whisky, among others.

    Some are quite fun: Animal Cookies, Cookies & Cream, Granola, Malt Ball, Piña Colada, Popcorn, S’mores.

    There are the “seen here first” flavors, the chocolate bars taking a cue from trendy cupcakes: Birthday Cake, Biscuits & Honey, Cereal Bowl, Donuts and Coffee, Hazelnut Toast.

    And then there’s the Vegan* Zen Bar, a 75% dark chocolate bar filled with kale crisps, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, and no added sugar.

    Check it out here.

    While not particularly edgy, a second kale preparation that caught our eye was this chopped kale and herb garnish on a strip steak, from Upper Story restaurant in New York City.

    The balsamic-glazed steak sits on a bed of sautéed greens and garlic smashed potatoes, with a Port sauce and fried onion rings.

    Not exactly health food, but the kale makes it on trend.

    Until the “next kale” hits the store shelves.
     
    WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO WITH KALE?

    While cooks have been using kale on everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to pesto, here are some more fun applications:

  • Chocolate Banana Smoothie With Kale
  • Kale & Black Bean Brownies
  • Kale Enchiladas
  • Kale Guacamole
  • Kale Pizza
  • Mean Green Kale Margaritas
  •  

    Kale Chocolate Bar

    Strip Steak With Kale

    [1] A chocolate bar with kale crisps, seeds and no added sugar from Compartes (the bar has no Brussels sprouts and tomatoes; they are just photo props). [2] A New York strip steak topped with chopped kale and herbs, at Upper Story | NYC.

     
    ________________
    *Most dark chocolate bars have no added powdered milk. Most mix-ins—nuts, fruits, etc.—are not animal-based. If you watch out for those sweetened with honey or with added bacon, for example, a dark chocolate bar naturally contains no animal products and therefore is vegan.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Oysters Rockefeller

    Oysters Rockefeller

    Oysters Rockefeller With Bacon

    Oysters Rockefeller With Cheese

    Oysters Rockefeller

    [1] Many Oysters Rockefeller recipes look something like this (here’s the recipe from Tide & Thyme). [2] Some add bacon (photo courtesy Arch Rock Fish). [3] Some have more sauce (here Mornay, a cheese sauce) than veggies (photo courtesy My Honeys Place. [4] An approximation of Antoine’s original recipe (photo courtesy Saveur Magazine).

     

    January 10th was the first-ever Oysters Rockefeller Day.

    It was celebrated big-time in New Orleans, where it was first created at Antoine’s Restaurant.

    Today, consider your own twist on the world-famous dish.

    OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER HISTORY

    Oysters Rockefeller was invented in 1899 by Jules Antoine Alciatore at the end of Gilded Age. (Jules was the son of restaurant founder Antoine Alciatore, who passed in 1874 and was succeeded by his wife, then his son. The restaurant is still going strong in the hands of the fifth generation, and is America’s oldest family-run restaurant).

    Served as an appetizer or first course created , the dish was named after John D. Rockefeller Sr. (1839 – 1937), who is considered to be the wealthiest American of all time and—by a majority of sources—the richest person in modern history.

    As necessity is the mother of invention, the dish was created because of a shortage of imported French escargots needed for his father’s signature recipe, Escargots Bourguignon: snails in a butter sauce of garlic, parsley and shallots, the first Antoine substituted brandy for the traditional white wine.

    With the shortage of snails and the waning interest in escargots, Jules Antoine created a replacement with local oysters, always available.

    The original sauce recipe is a secret, but is a purée of a several green vegetables: flat-leaf parsley, celery leaves, tarragon leaves, chervil and green onions, seasoned with salt, a dash of hot sauce and anise liqueur.

    There was no spinach, the green most often used in copycat versions.

    Oysters on the half-shell are topped with the sauce and bread crumbs, and then baked (now often broiled). They are served as an appetizer, first course or starter—different terms for the first dish of a multi-course sit-down meal.

    Why Oysters “Rockefeller?”

    The dish was named for the intense richness of its flavored roux (a paste, not a cream sauce, deemed “rich enough for Rockefeller”—John D. Rockefeller Sr., the richest man in history). The greens contributed the color of money. As with the escargots, there was anise liqueur.

    From what can be deduced, in Antoine’s original Oysters Rockefeller recipe, oysters on the half shell are topped with herbed breadcrumbs, butter and cream, then baked.

    The herbs and proportions are secret, but sleuths have determined that they include flat-leaf Italian parsley, celery leaves, tarragon leaves, chervil and green onions. Seasonings included salt, pepper and hot sauce.

    This became a “wow” dish in New Orleans, where oysters were popularly served on the half shell, but not incorporated into complex recipes.

    There is no record that Rockefeller (who died of arteriosclerosis) ever ate the dish.
     
    Chefs Make Oysters Rockefeller Variations

    A later variation of the recipe substituted spinach for most of the herbs, which is mainstream today.

    Some leave off the breadcrumbs and purée the green herbs/vegetables, creating a smooth green cloak over the entire oyster. Some mince the greens and mix them into the breadcrumbs.

    Over the years, other chefs garnished the recipe with shredded Gruyere or Parmesan, some with a thick layer of melted cheese covering both the oysters and the sauce.

    Bacon inevitably worked its way in.

     

    You can make your own signature recipe (more about that below), working off of this template—which of course isn’t the secret recipe, but a re-imagining of Antoine’s recipe by Saveur magazine.

    RECIPE: OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER

    We adapted this recipe from Saveur, which attempted to recreate the original. You can see it in Photo #4, the last photo above.

    The oysters are topped with a roux full of herbs and vegetables. Saveur’s variations from the original include:

  • Celery ribs instead of celery leaves.
  • Scallions instead of shallots (scallions are more flavorful; shallots are sweet and mild with a hint of garlic).
  • Cayenne instead of hot sauce.
  • Broiled instead of baked.
  •  
    As an appetizer, we prefer three large oysters. If you’re serving a big meal, two will suffice. And, if you’re having a NIBBLE-style eight-course meal, one will do.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 12 fresh oysters, chilled (the larger the better, not kumamotos)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 scallions, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, minced
  • 2 sprigs tarragon, stemmed and minced
  • 1 bunch parsley, stemmed and minced, plus sprigs to garnish
  • 1 tablespoon anisette, Pernod or other anise liqueur
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white* pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
  • Rock salt
  • Optional garnish: parsley or tarragon sprigs or whatever appeals to you
  •  
    We decorated the dishes with slender, red cayenne chiles for color—not meant to be eaten. But two guests ate them nevertheless!

    Variations For Your Signature Oysters Rockefeller

    Create your own signature version. Call it Oysters Rockefeller à la [Your Name].

  • Anchovy paste (1 teaspoon)
  • Anise flair: fennel instead of celery, anise liqueur, optional basil
  • Anise be gone: substitute watercress for the tarragon and brandy, sherry or wine for the liqueur
  • Brandy or white wine instead of the liqueur
  • Bread crumbs: panko, crunchy Japanese bread crumbs, instead of fresh crumbs
  • Gruyère, Jarlsberg or Parmesan (1/4 cup or less)
  • Heatless: nutmeg or Worcestershire sauce instead of cayenne
  • Homage to the original inspiration: escargots instead of oysters
  • Pipe the topping, like Duchess Potatoes
  • Spinach lovers: substitute spinach for 3/4 or more of the parsley
  • Surf and turf: add bacon, pork belly, crisped prosciutto
  • Wild card: add whatever you like!
  •  

    Oyster On The Half Shell

    Fresh Tarragon

    Rock Salt

    [5] Be sure to save the oyster liquor (photo courtesy Pangea Shellfish). [6] Tarragon, a popular herb in French cuisine, has an anise-like flavor and aroma (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [7] Rock salt is a good cushion so the oyster fillings don’t spill out when cooking and serving. This fine rock salt is great for serving. You can use a coarser version for baking, if it’s cheaper (photo courtesy The Bite Sized Blog).

     
    Preparation

    1. FILL 2 baking dishes halfway with rock salt. Shuck the oysters over a large measuring cup (e.g. Pyrex with a lip) or bowl to catch their liquor and reserve it (you should have about 1/2 cup). Discard the top shells. Loosen the oysters from the bottoms of their shells with a knife. Nestle 6 shucked oysters in their shells into each bed of rock salt; chill.

    2. MAKE the roux. Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook until smooth, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the oyster liquor; cook until the mixture thickens into a paste, about 2 minutes.

    3. STIR in the cayenne, scallions, celery, tarragon, parsley, and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until soft, about 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor, add bread crumbs, and process into a smooth paste, about 2 minutes.

    4. HEAT the broiler to high. Place the paste in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2″ fluted tip. Pipe the paste completely over the oysters. Broil until the paste begins to brown and the oysters are just cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Garnish each plate with parsley sprigs.
     
     
    CHECK OUT OUR OYSTER GLOSSARY FOR THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF OYSTERS
    ________________
    *White pepper has been traditionally used by French-trained chefs, to avoid black specks in white or light-colored dishes. White pepper is the conventional peppercorn, Piper nigrum, with the black husk removed. In addition, much of the piperine—the compound that gives pungency to the peppercorn—is in the black husk. Frankly, we like the specks and the extra flavor from the husk, and use black peppercorns universally. If you don’t have white pepper, simply use black pepper. Here are the different types of pepper, including pink peppercorns, green peppercorns and dozens of others, none of which is Piper nigrum.

      

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