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TIP OF THE DAY: Deconstruct Your Favorite Foods

For National Black Forest Cake Day, March 28th, we deconstructed the Black Forest Cake (photo #1), inspired by the dessert (photo #2) at Compère Lapin in New Orleans.

We had so much fun with it, that today’s tip is: Deconstruct one of your favorite recipes.

Here’s what we did with Black Forest Cake:

Instead of a chocolate layer cake with cherry filling, garnished with shaved chocolate and whipped cream, we followed Compère Lapin’s lead with:

  • An individual chocolate round covered with ganache.
  • A side of morello cherries in kirshwasser (cherry Liqueur).
  • A scoop of cherry sorbet atop a bed of flakes of grated chocolate.
  •  
    We like the deconstructed even better than the traditional.

  • It’s elegant and sophisticated, as opposed to the old-fashioned layer cake with whipped cream.
  • The richness of the chocolate ganache added an intense chocolate hit, lacking in the original.
  • The morello cherries in kirschwasser added just the right counterpoint to a sweet dessert.
  •  
    Serve it with a liqueur glass (or snifter, or jigger) of kirschwasser.

    If this seems like too much work, here’s a super-easy deconstructed Black Forest Cake:

    Take a slice of chocolate pound cake, chocolate sour cream cake or even a brownie. Top with the Red Sour Cherry Topping from Chukar Cherries (or a quality cherry pie filling) cooked with kirschwasser, and a generous topping or side of whipped cream.

       

    Black Forest Cake

    Deconstructed Black Forest Cake

    [1] A conventional Black Forest Cake (photo courtesy Sweet Street Desserts. [2] Black Forest Cake deconstructed, at Compère Lapin restaurant | New Orleans.

     
    There’s more about Black Forest Cake below, including its origin and a link to traditional recipes.

    WHAT ARE DECONSTRUCTED RECIPES

    Deconstruction is an avant-garde culinary trend of the last 15 years or so, championed by the famed Catalan chef Ferran Adrià, who has referred to his cooking as “deconstructivist.”

    Hervé This, the “father of molecular gastronomy,” reintroduced the concept in 2004 as “culinary constructivism.” Essentially, all of the components and flavors of a classic dish are taken apart and presented in a new shape or form.

    The idea is art plus fun, and the deconstruction must taste as good as the original. For example:

  • Deconstructed pecan pie could be brown sugar custard [emulating the filling], with crumbled shortbread cookies [for the crust] and a side of caramelized pecans.
  • Deconstructed key lime pie could be the key lime filling in a Martini glass, topped with graham cracker crumbs.
  • Deconstructed stuffed cabbage is our favorite way to make stuffed cabbage. We’ve done this for some 25 years—who knew we were so avant garde? We slice the cabbage and cook it in the tomato sauce (sweet-and-sour, with raisins and vinegar) along with rice-filled meatballs.
  •  
    The deconstruction saves hours of blanching cabbage leaves, filling them with chopped meat and rice, rolling them and simmering in tomato sauce.

    All the flavors are there, and it’s also easier to eat: One often needs a steak knife to saw through those blanched cabbage leaves. We say: Our deconstructed version is better than the original.

     

    Deconstructed Buffalo Wings

    Deconstructed Buffalo Wings

    Two ways to deconstruct Buffalo Wings: [3] as a parfait (Hungry Girl) and as a chicken meatball topped with blue cheese (Carlos Andres Varela Photography).

     

    SOME DECONSTRUCTED RECIPES

    Study these for ideas. When you’ve created your own masterpiece of deconstruction, send us a photo.

  • Deconstructed Bloody Mary
  • Deconstructed Buffalo Wings #1
  • Deconstructed Buffalo Wings #2
  • Deconstructed Caesar Salad
  • Deconstructed Coffee Ice Cream
  • Deconstructed Crab Cake
  • Deconstructed Fruit Loops Cereal
  • Deconstructed Guacamole
  • Deconstructed Ratatouille
  •  
     
    WHAT IS BLACK FOREST CAKE

    The Black Forest region of southern Germany is known for its sour morello cherries and kirsch, or kirschwasser, a clear cherry brandy made from them.

    It’s not surprising, then, that desserts made with both the cherries and the kirsch are part of the regional repertoire.

    Black Forest Cherry Torte—torte is the German word for cake and Schwarzwälderkirschtorte is its name in German—is a chocolate layer cake filled with layers of whipped cream and Kirsch-soaked morello cherries.

    The cake is garnished with more whipped cream, morello or maraschino cherries (the latter more readily available in the U.S.), and chocolate curls or shavings.

    In the traditional German cake, the chocolate layers are soaked in kirsch syrup, although brandy or rum can substitute. American recipes tend to omit all spirits to make the cake family-friendly (and nowhere near as interesting).

    The earliest version of the recipe possibly dates to the late 16th century, when cacao ground from costly New World beans was first integrated into cakes and cookies.

     
    The first “Black Forest Cake” was probably not a conventional cake but a dessert comprising cooked cherries, cream, kirsch and a biscuit: similar to the original berry shortcake.

    One of the quintessential Old World desserts, Black Forest Cake transports us to eras past, when the thought of chocolate cake, cherries, liqueur and whipped cream were a dessert equivalent of heaven.

    If you want to make a traditional Black Forest Cake, here’s a recipe.

      

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    RECIPES: Spinach Salad with Pan-Seared Salmon & Other Recipes For National Spinach Day

    March 26th is National Spinach Day, and you know what that means: Eat some spinach to celebrate!

    This colorful, nutritious recipe (photo #1) makes a nice lunch or dinner. Fresh spinach, orange segments, peppers and red onion make a colorful base for salmon or other fish fillets.

    And there are many more recipes below, including spinach mashed potatoes: a great idea (photo #4).

    RECIPE #1: SPINACH SALAD WITH PAN-SEARED SALMON, ORANGES, RED ONION & AVOCADO

    The recipe, sent to us by the California Avocado Commission, is from Salmon: A Cookbook, by Diane Morgan (photo #3).

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Fresly gound pepper
  • 7 cups (about 6 ounces) lightly packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise, seeded, deribbed, and cut into long, thin slices
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled and white pith removed, cut into segments
  • 4 Copper River or other salmon fillets (about 5 ounces each), skin and pin bones removed
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ripe avocado, seeded, peeled, and cut into 16 thin wedges*
  • ________________

    *Brush the exposed avocado with olive oil or cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent oxidation (browning). As with all fruits and vegetables, wash the avocado before cutting.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and sugar in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, with salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings; set aside.

    2. PLACE the spinach, onion and bell pepper in a large salad bowl. Put the orange segments in a separate, small bowl.

    3. SEASON the salmon on both sides with a bit of salt and pepper. Place a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the remaining olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the salmon, skin-side down, and cook until the skin is crisp, about 4 minutes.

    4. CAREFULLY TURN the salmon and cook until the fillets are almost opaque throughout, but still very moist—or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125°F to 130°F—about 4 minutes. Transfer to a warm plate and set aside while you toss the salad.

    5. TO SERVE: Add the orange segments to the salad bowl, give the dressing a last-minute shake, and pour it over the salad. Toss gently. Arrange the salad on 4 dinner plates. Place a salmon fillet in the center, on top of the salad; garnish each salad with 4 slices of avocado; and serve immediately.

       

    Spinach Salad With Salmon

    Fresh Spinach

    Salmon: A Cookbook

    Spinach Mashed Potatoes

    [1] Top a spinach salad with a salmon fillet (photo courtesy California Avocado Commission). [2] Pick up some perky, fresh spinach (photo courtesy Ocean Mist | Chronicle Books). [3] Thanks to Salmon: A Cookbook for this recipe (photo courtesy Chronicle Books). [4] Recipe #2: mashed potatoes and spinach (photo courtesy Idaho Potato Commission).

     
    RECIPE #2: SPINACH & MASHED POTATOES

    What a great idea! Sun chokes add another dimension to the recipe, but if you can’t find them or don’t want them, leave them out.

    In fact, here’s a very easy preparation for spinach mashed potatoes: Simply make mashed potatoes. Cook frozen spinach and press out the water. Blend with the mashed potatoes. Add butter or cream, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Roasting a head of garlic (photo #5) and mashing it into the potatoes and spinach is a delicious idea.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 2 pounds Idaho/russet potatoes, washed but unpeeled
  • 1 head garlic
  • ½ pound sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
  • 1 head (bulb) of garlic, unpeeled but with a half inch removed from the top
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 1½ cups heavy cream, divided into ½ cup measure and 1 cup measure portions
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach
  • Ice water bath for blanched baby spinach
  • Additional salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the potatoes: Place the potatoes in cold water and heat the water to just below boiling. The water will be steaming but not moving. Cook the potatoes in the steaming water until fork tender, about 1½ hours.

    2. HEAT the oven to 350°F. Toss the sunchokes in olive oil and salt and pepper. Rub the garlic head with olive oil and wrap it in foil. Place the sun chokes and garlic on a sheet pan. While the potatoes are cooking…

     

    Roasted Garlic Head

    Spinach Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

    Baked Spinach Chips

    [5] Roast garlic bulb (photo courtesy Domesticate Me). [6] Portabellas stuffed with spinach (here’s the recipe from Healthy Recipes Blog). [7] Baked spinach chips (here’s the recipe from Hungry Couple).

     

    3. ROAST the sunchokes and garlic until soft, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove them from the oven and turn down the oven temperature to 325°F. Squeeze the cloves from the garlic and set aside. Remove the cooked sunchokes from oven and puree with 1/2 cup cream, using an immersion blender or food processor.

    4. REMOVE the fork tender potatoes from the water. Place in the to dry the potato skins. While potato skins dry…

    5. HEAT a second pot of water to boiling, to blanch the spinach. While waiting for the water to boil, melt the butter in a small saucepan, and blend in the remaining cup of cream until hot. Set aside.

    6. PREPARE the ice bath (ice cubes in a bowl of water). Prepare the spinach in boiling water for two minutes. Remove it with a strainer and plunge into the ice water. Squeeze out the water and purée the spinach with a food processor or immersion blender. Set aside.

    7. REMOVE the potatoes from oven. Leave the skins on. In a large pot, smash the potatoes with a potato masher, adding small amounts of the hot cream/butter mixture as you go, until potatoes are fluffy. Squeeze in the garlic cloves and sunchoke purée and continue to smash. Fold in the puréed spinach. Adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), is native to central and western Asia (think ancient Persia). It is a member of the botanical family Amaranthaceae, which also includes amaranth, beet, chard, lamb’s quarters (mache) and quinoa, plus numerous flowering house and garden plants.

    At some point, spinach was introduced to India and subsequently to Nepal. It arrived in China around 647 C.E., where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”

    It became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean, and in 827 was brought to Italy by the Saracens. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century, and in Germany by the 13th century.

    Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century and quickly became popular because it could be harvested in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce.

    Spinach was supposedly the favorite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henry II of France. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” after her birthplace, Florence.

    “Florentine” dishes are sometimes served with Mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce with cheese (usually Gruyère or Parmesan).

     
    MORE SPINACH RECIPES

  • Artichoke & Spinach Stuffed Potato
  • Beet, Spinach & Apple Salad
  • Cheese Tortellini Recipe With Spinach & Wild Mushrooms
  • Creamed Spinach Without The Cream
  • Curried Spinach Tart
  • Grill-Wilted Spinach With Tzatziki
  • Kansas City Crab Grass Dip (warm crab and spinach dip)
  • Mushrooms, Ramps & Spinach Tart
  • Penne Pasta Salad With Spinach
  • Portabella Mushrooms With Spinach Stuffing
  • Pxali, Georgian spinach dip with walnuts
  • Savory Spinach Bread Pudding
  • Shrimp & Grilled Spinach Pizza
  • Spanakopita, Greek spinach pie
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Spinach Dip: 13 Ways To Use It
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad With Dijon-Honey Vinaigrette
  • ats/stuffed-pork-roast-recipe.asp” target=”_blank”>Spinach-Stuffed Pork Roast
  • Turkey & Peanut Butter Club Sandwich With Spinach
  • Warm Spinach & Mascarpone Dip (also great on baked potatoes)
  •   

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    PRODUCT: Facundo Baccardi Premium Rum & A Chocolate Banana Cocktail Recipe

    Chocolate Banana Rum Cocktail

    Facundo Neo Rum

    Facundo Rum Collection

    [1] Chocolate banana cocktail. The recipe is below. [2] Ready for its close up: Facundo Neo rum. [3] The Facundo Bacardi Rum Collection (photos courtesy Bacardi).

     

    Weekends are time for testing new cocktail recipes. The one below is from the Facundo Rum Collection, a luxury portfolio.

    If we were lucky enough to have a bottle, we’d sip it straight as the rum was intended, and substitute another white rum in the cocktail.

    Bacardi’s Facundo Bacardi Rum Collection, introduced in 2013, is the distiller’s commitment to the emerging category of premium sipping rums. The rums are made from the company’s private rum reserve: the finest batches of rum aged for very long times.

    The line was championed by Facundo L. Bacardi, who strongly felt that the company should be a player in the emerging category of premium rums.

    The four expressions range from $45-$250 a bottle. They are made in different styles, and produce a wide range of flavor experiences.

    For example, the first rum in the collection, Facundo Neo, is a blend of rums that have been aged for up to eight years.

    It’s not exactly your basic quality brand white rum, used to make a Mojito or Piña Colada. Regular white rum is aged for a year, sometimes more.

    The result of the extra aging and the fact that the “best” barrels were aged: Neo’s flavor profile is a beautifully balanced, with notes of banana, almonds and freshly cut grass. To experience them, sip them neat or on the rocks.

    If you’re a person for whom money is no object, you can use whatever rum you like in mixed drinks. But truth to tell with the recipe below, after you mix vermouth and two liqueurs with the rum, only the most professional palate could articulate the difference.
     
     
    A NOTE ABOUT AGED RUM

    It’s easy to understand the age categories of tequila, scotch and other spirits. The producing countries have laws that govern, among other things, how long the spirit has been aged prior to bottling.

    For example, Mexican laws govern how many months a tequila can be aged in order to be called silver, reposado, anejo, extra anejo tequilas (details).

    With rum, aging can last from one to thirty years or more, but you often won’t find a number on the bottle*. There are exceptions, such as Appleton (the top expression is 50 years old!) and Flor de Cana.

    The Facundo expressions include Facundo Neo Rum, Facundo Eximo Rum, Facundo Exquisito Rum and Facundo Paraiso XA Rum. Each is aged longer than the next. But as with most rums, don’t expect to know how long that aging period was.

    That’s because unlike other spirit-producing areas, Caribbean countries did not stake their claim to exclusivity by passing appropriate laws to protect their rights, i.e., that only alcohol distilled in the Caribbean can be called rum. (Scotch can only be produced in Scotland, bourbon can only be produced in the U.S., tequila in Mexico, etc.)

     
    As a result, rum has no consistent standards among countries. Beyond the Caribbean, rum is now produced in Australia, India, Reunion Island, South America and elsewhere around the world.

    That makes any rules and regulations hard to enforce. Even proofs vary (40 proof vs. 50 proof for white rum, for example).

    Thus, Mexico requires white rum to be aged a minimum of 8 months. The Dominican Republic requires one year. Venezuela requires two years.

    Naming standards also vary. Argentina defining rums as white, gold, light, and extra light. Barbados calls them white, overproof and matured. The U.S. defines the categories as rum, rum liqueur, and flavored rum [source].

    Some distillers use the word “premium” to describe their best aged spirits. Another common description is the word “anejo,” old. “Gran anejo” is even older.

    But none of these terms tells you how long the rum has aged. It’s the blender or distiller who decides what to call it.

    In their marketing literature you’ll find terms like aged, aged even longer and aged extensively—without explanation. Here’s an article that tries to explain what cannot be explained.

    So don’t try to figure it out: Just enjoy it.
     
     
    RECIPE: BANANA CHOCOLATE COCKTAIL

    Beyond the Banana Daiquiri: a banana-chocolate cocktail for those who like to drink their dessert.

    Ingredients

  • 1½ parts Facundo Neo rum (substitute other white rum)
  • ½ part dry vermouth
  • ¼ part Giffard Banane du Brésil (or other banana liqueur)
  • ¼ part Giffard Crème de Cacao white (or other white crème de cacao)
  • Garnish: lemon peel for garnish and dried banana chips
  •  
    Preparation

    In a mixing glass, stir all the ingredients with plenty of ice. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Garnish with a dry banana chip and a lemon peel.

    ________________

    *Age is beginning to appear in some rum bottles, such as Appleton and Flor de Cana aged rums. But again, statements of age may vary by country. For example, a Scotch may be a blend of ages from 8 to 15 years, but by law it has to specify the youngest Scotch in the blend, e.g., 8 Year Old. It’s too soon to tell what will happen with the rum category as a whole.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Seed & Mill Halva Is Halva Heaven

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Halva With Ground Coffee Beans

    Halva With Pop Rocks

    Halva Dessert Plate

    Halva Dessert Plate

    Halva Cake

    [1] Clockwise from top: rose, cinnamon, pistachio and coffee. [2] Chocolate chile halva. [3] Lavender halva. [4] From the front: chocolate orange, date, lemongrass and marble. [5] Caffeinated, with ground coffee beans. [6] Vanilla topped with Pop Rocks. [7] A halva dessert plate: mixed flavors and fruits. [8] Dessert plate of halva with dried fruit. [9] For a special occasion cake, just add a candle. All photos courtesy Seed + Mill.

     

    Halva versus halvah? Who cares how to spell it*, when it tastes this good.

    The sweet confection’s name derives from the Arabic word halwa, which means…sweet confection.

    The best halva we can imagine comes from a relatively new company, Seed + Mill, founded by three friends in New York City, one of whom grew up in Israel.

    The company was born when the latter friend couldn’t find quality tahini in the U.S., and decided to grind her own. Fresh tahini is ground on-site at their store in Chelsea Market, New York City, and sold along with other sesame-based products.

    The company says that theirs is the only store in the U.S. that solely purveys sesame seed products (although we noted a frozen yogurt machine with goat’s milk yogurt).

    While all products are excellent, our food-life-changing experience was engendered by the sesame-based confection, halva(h). Seed + Mill makes the most ethereal, exquisite halva we can imagine—and we have been halva-deprived, for reasons we’ll explain in a bit.
     
    ARTISAN HALVA

    Seed + Mill distinguishes its products using white sesame seeds from Ethiopia, considered the world’s best. Known for their richness of flavor, they are grown in the area of Humera, a city in the northwest corner of Ethiopia, at the borders of Sudan and Eritrea.

    Most of the sesame used for halva and tahini sold in the U.S. is made from seeds from India and Mexico, and are not as flavorful. Hence, our disappointment with the halva available to us.

    Seed + Mill’s sesame seeds are shipped from Humera to Israel, where they are roasted. Some stay in for a bit in Israel, to be ground in small batches and turned into halva. Whole roasted seeds are shipped to New York, to be ground into tahini.

    The halva is made by small Israeli producers to the company’s specifications. The producers use ancient artisan technique—no machines, but caldrons, paddles and troughs. The sugar is boiled and whipped into a foam that produces the melting lightness of the confection. Vigorous hand-kneading produces the finest, fluffiest halvah.

    Although halva is approximately half sesame paste and half sugar, you can assuage some of the guilt with sesame’s enviable nutrition† and heart healthy fats.

    The confection is only mildly sweet, the opposite of fudge and American candy bars.

    And let us add: Seed + Mill has as much in common with halva brands like Joyva as McDonald’s has with Per Se.

    Even the large halva cakes sold at Zabar’s and shops on the Lower East Side have become so mediocre through the use of cheaper ingredients, that we gave up eating halvah several years ago.
     
    THE HISTORY OF HALVA

  • Some scholars suggest that an early form of halva originated before the 12th century in Byzantium, the ancient Greek colony that later became Constantinople, and now Istanbul.
  • Evidence exists that the original was a somewhat gelatinous, grain-based dessert made with oil, flour and sugar.
  • The first written halvah recipe appeared in the early 13th century, and included seven variations.
  • In the same period, a cookbook from Moorish Spain describes rolling out a sheet of candy made of boiled sugar, honey, sesame oil and flour; sprinkling it with rose water, sugar and ground pistachios; and covering it with a second layer of candy before cutting it into triangles.
  • Halva spread across the Middle East to the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In each locale, its name and ingredients changed slightly to include regional products.
  • Depending on local preferences, different recipes ground different seeds or nuts to make the halva. For example, Egyptians added pistachios, almonds or pine nuts. Indians flavored their halva with ghee, coconuts and dates.
  • Flour and oil disappeared from the recipe.
  • One recipe, made with sesame tahini, was favored by the Ottoman-ruled Romanians. Their Jewish population passed it on to Ashkenazi Jews throughout Europe. It was this sesame halva recipe that was brought to the U.S. in the early 20th century by Jewish immigrants.
  •  
    Here’s more halvah history.
     
     
    SEED & MILL’S MOST HEAVENLY HALVA

    Halva is made when tahini (ground sesame paste) is blended with sugar at a high temperature, and then hand-stirred.

    The company boasts 27 flavors, including two sugar-free varieties. They’re all available online, and the retail shop in Chelsea carries about ten them at a time. Some are seasonal; for example, expect cranberry in the fall and lavender in the summer.

    Wile many Seed + Mill flavors are vegan, about half of the flavors do include a bit of butter, which makes the halvah even lighter and melt-in-your-mouth. These are noted on the website.

    The non-butter flavors meet dietary preferences including dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo and vegan.

    If this seems like a lot of flavors, note that Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), the Ottoman Empire’s longest-reigning sultan, had a special kitchen built next to his palace that was dubbed the helvahane, house of halva. It produced some 30 varieties of the confection.

    At Seed + Mill, you’ll find traditional and modern flavors:

  • Cardamom Halva
  • Chia Halva
  • Chili Chocolate Halva
  • Chocolate & Orange Halva
  • Chocolate Pistachio Halva
  • Cinnamon Halva
  • Coconut Dark Chocolate Halva
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter Halva
  • Dates Halva
  • Dulce de Leche Halva
  • Ginger Halva
  • Goji Berry Halva
  • Lemongrass Halva
  • Marble Halva
  • Mixed Chocolate Halva (dark, milk and white chocolate)
  • Nutella & Hazelnuts Halva
  • Pistachio Halva
  • Rose Oil Halva
  • Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Halva
  • Sweet Pecans Halva
  • Vanilla Halva
  • Whiskey Halva
  • White Chocolate & Lemon Halva
  • White Chocolate Raspberry Halva
  • Yummy Flaky Halva (for garnish)
  •  
    Sugar-Free Flavors

  • Sugar Free Coffee Halva
  • Sugar Free Pistachio Halva
  •  
    Seed + Mill is certified by United Kosher Supervision. You can purchase a piece as small as a quarter-pound, or order an entire halva cake.

    While you’re at it, treat yourself to a jar of the company’s rich, silky tahini in herb, organic and organic whole seed; and two sesame spices, mixes of sesame with salt or za’atar.

     

    RECIPE: HALVA ICED COFFEE

    Seed + Mill adapted this recipe from Ben of Havoc In The Kitchen. He found it in a Russian food magazine, where it was originally made with peanut halva.

    The shake-like drink does nicely as a snack, a dessert or, with the whiskey, an after-dinner drink.

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 2 cups strong brewed coffee, chilled
  • 1/3 cup peanut or sesame halva
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • Optional: 2-3 tablespoons whiskey (or to taste)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the coffee, halva, ice cubes and ice cream in a blender. Process for 5 minutes or until smooth and foamy.

    2. STRAIN and discard the tiny pieces of halva and the coffee will be silky and smooth.

     

    Halva Iced Coffee

    [105] Serve halva iced coffee with alone or with halva dessert plate.

     
    3. RINSE the bowl of the blender, return the strained coffee and blend for another 2 minutes and to foam.
     
    ________________

    *The word is transliterated from Arabic, so either halva or halvah is correct.

    †Sesame seeds are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Here’s a nutrition profile.

      

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    RECIPE: Melba Toast

    Melba Toast & Crostini

    Pate & Melba Toast

    Salmon Tartare & Melba Toast

    Raincoast Crisps

    Raincoast Crisps Copycat Recipe

    [1] Melba toast and olive tapenade. Here’s the recipe from Sprinkles & Sprouts. [2] Chicken liver paté and Melba toast, with a dab of marmalade. Here’s the recipe from Drizzle And Drip. [3] Salmon tartare and melba toast. Here’s the recipe from Olive Magazine. Crackers or crisps like these are thin and crunchy, but were baked that way. They are not toasted from bread, so are not toasts. [4] These are Raincoast Crisps (photo Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE), and [5] this is a copycat recipe from The Wandering Fig.

     

    March 23rd is National Melba Toast Day, celebrating dry, crisp and thinly sliced toasts.

    First, and with all due respect, packaged Melba toast has as much to do with homemade Melba toast as the Keebler Elves have with the best homemade cookies.

    Melba toast, which became a diet staple in the U.S. thanks to manufacturers such as Devonsheer and Old London, dates to the end of the 19th century.

    THE HISTORY OF MELBA TOAST

    Melba toast was born in 1897 at the Savoy Hotel in London, where the legendary French Chef Auguste Escoffier ruled the kitchen, and César Ritz ran the hotel. Dame Nellie Melba, the great Australian soprano, was a guest.

    There is an unsubstantiated tale that Melba toast was a mistake in the hotel kitchen; that the dieting diva asked for some dry toast which arrived as overtoasted, thin and crunchy slices. However, as with the story of the history of potato chips, the guest enjoyed the result.

    The more likely explanation is that Melba toast was created by Escoffier* either as a lower-calorie food for the singer, or as simple fare during a bout of illness in 1897 when she was unable to tolerate richer foodstuffs.

    It is said that César Ritz bestowed the name Melba toast, and put it on the menu.

    Since then, manufacturers have marketed Melba toast as a reduced-calorie bread option.

    But for those who want to enjoy a piece of Melba toast, modern crostini are a much closer match.

    MELBA TOAST & CROSTINI VS. CRACKERS & CRISPS: THE DIFFERENCE

    Those thin toast points served with caviar, pâté and steak tartare…those crunchy toasts served with cheese…are they Melba toast?

    And what do they have to do with biscotti and bruschetta?

    Melba Toast Vs. Crostini

    These two are very similar. Both are cut from a loaf of bread and toasted. However:

  • Melba toast is toasted dry, saving calories.
  • Crostini are brushed with olive oil, and can be thicker than Melba toast.
  • Thin toast points made without added fat (butter, oil), as served with caviar, pâté, etc., are also Melba toast.
  •  
    Melba Toast Vs. Crackers/Crisps/Toasts

    In the U.S., makers of artisan crackers sometimes call them crisps, to sound more elegant. That works in the U.S., but in the U.K., crisps are potato chips.

  • Melba toast is a slice of bread that is toasted.
  • Crackers and crisps are made from a dough that is baked to its finished size and shape. They are not slices of anything
  • Toasts, or party toasts, are actually bread that is dry-toasted like Melba toast. They are baked to size, sliced and then toasted until dry and crunchy. They are a miniature, thicker type of Melba toast.
  •  
    Bruschetta Vs. Crostini

  • Bruschetta are grilled, crostini are toasted.
  • Bruschetta are larger and thicker than crostini.
  • Here’s more on the differences between bruschetta and crostini.
  •  
    Melba Toast Vs. Biscotti/Rusks

    What about savory biscotti?

  • Biscotti are made from a dough that is shaped into a loaf, then baked. The biscotti are then cut from baked loaf and baked again: twice baked, like Melba toast.
  • They are also called rusks (and have a history with teething babies).
  • However, biscotti, also known as rusks, are much thicker and larger than Melba toast.
  •  
    WAYS TO SERVE MELBA TOAST

    Whatever you call them, serve them:

  • As a crostini base.
  • With dips.
  • With pâté, rillettes and other fish and meat spreads.
  • With soft cheeses and cheese spreads.
  • With salads and soups.
  •  
    Are you ready to toast your own?
     
    RECIPE: MELBA TOAST

    Melba toast is made by lightly toasting thin slices of bread in an oven or under a grill (no grill marks!), on both sides.

    The thin slices are then returned to the heat with the untoasted sides towards the heat source.

     
    Ingredients

  • 1 unsliced loaf of bread, 1 or 2 days old
  • Serrated knife, sharpened
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 250°F. Remove the crust from the loaf. You can save them and turn them into parmesan crisps, or let them dry out overnight and pulse (or use other technique) to make bread crumbs.

    2. DECIDE on your toasting technique. 3a. Cut the loaf into sections 3 inches thick. Cut each chunk into triangles, then cut each triangle into three or more thin slices. 3b. Lightly toast thick slices of bread. While still hot, slice horizontally into two; then create triangles or rectangles as you prefer.

    3. PLACE on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown. Toast bread in oven, flipping slices halfway through, until dry, about 2 hours. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning.

    4. COOL thoroughly. Then store in an airtight container.
     
     
    *MORE FOODS NAMED FOR NELLIE MELBA

    Escoffier created four foods in total in Melba’s honor. In addition to Melba toast, there are:

  • Peach Melba, a dessert made of peaches, raspberry sauce, and vanilla ice cream.
  • Melba Sauce, a dessert sauce of puréed raspberries and red currants.
  • Melba Garniture, tomato stuffed with chicken, truffles and mushrooms in velouté sauce.
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