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Archive for Food Facts – Food History

TIP OF THE DAY: Mashed (Or Smashed) Pea Toast, The New Avocado Toast

Smashed Pea Toast

Avocado Toast Caprese

Avocado Toast With Esquites

[1] Mashed avocado toast gives way to mashed green pea toast, called Smashed Pea Toast at Bluestone Lane, a group of Australian-inspired cafés in New York City, Hoboken and Philadelphia. [2] Served Caprese-style. Here’s the recipe from Two Peas And Their Pod. [3] Esquites-style: Mexican corn salad with cotija cheese, lime and cilantro. Here’s the recipe from Closet Cooking.

 

Avocado toast is an open-face sandwich, topping a piece of toast (often made with whole-grain or artisan bread) with mashed avocado seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon or lime juice.

The not-so-recent history of avocado toast is below.

More recently, mashed peas are being substituted for the avocado, along with more elaborate garnishes:

  • Beans: any beans, including chickpeas with a garnish of hummus, and black beans with salsa.
  • Cucumber slices: (plain or marinated) with fresh dill and cracked pepper.
  • Cheese: from crumbled feta and goat cheese to shaved parmesan.
  • Dried vegetables: beets, broccoli, caulifloer, corn, kale, plantain chips, wasabi peas.
  • Eggs: fried, hard-boiled/sliced, poached eggs.
  • Freeze-dried fruit and vegetables: such as Crunchies (see below).
  • Fresh fruit: berries and sliced fruits, including citrus segments.
  • Herbs and spices: from fresh basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, rosemary and thyme to chipotle, garlic, harissa and ras-el-hanout.
  • Lettuces: baby arugula (try it with goat cheese) or spinach, frisée, mesclun, watercress,
  • Onion family: chopped green onion, minced chives, sliced red onion.
  • Savory garnish: capers, edamame, green peas, jalapeño, microgreens, nuts and seeds, olives, pickled onions, radish slices, red chile flakes, sprouts.
  • Shellfish: crab, lobster, scallops, shrimp
  • Smoked fish: smoked salmon, with thin-sliced red onion and fresh dill.
  • Sweet garnish: citrus peel, crushed pineapple, honey-roasted nuts, pomegranate arils.
  • Tomato: halved cherry or grape tomatoes, plain or marinated (try them Caprese-style with bocconcini—small mozzarella balls—fresh basil and a balsamic glaze drizzle); sliced or diced tomato*, sundried tomato.
  • ________________

    *No decent tomatoes? Drain diced or whole canned San Marzano tomatoes.
    ________________

    There are even sweet avocado toast options, such as:

  • A topping of sliced bananas (try caramelizing them in a hot skillet), with optional coconut
  • Chocolate-avocado toast (recipe follows).
  • Dried fruits (see Crunchies, below).
  • Shredded coconut.
  •  
    For chocolate-avocado, mix 1/2 mashed avocado with one tablespoon of cocoa powder and 1-2 teaspoons of honey or maple syrup. Top with berries, coconut and/or mini chocolate chips.
     
    RECIPE: MASHED PEA TOAST†

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 garlic clove, quartered
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for toast
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 pounds pods) or frozen peas, thawed, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 pieces toast of choice
  • Garnish: sliced radishes, whole peas
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE the garlic, parsley, 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Add the peas and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 5 minutes for fresh peas, 2 minutes for frozen peas). Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

    2. TRANSFER the pea mixture to a food processor; pulse to a coarse paste. Alternatively, for a chunkier blend, mash with a fork or a potato masher. Transfer to a medium bowl and mix in the chives, lemon juice and peel, pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

    3. STIR in the reserved cooking liquid, tablespoon by tablespoonful, until the mixture is still thick but spreadable. Season with salt, black pepper and more lemon juice, if desired.

    4. TOP the toast with pea the mash peas. Garnish with the a sprinkle of whole peas, the remaining lemon peel, and more crushed pepper, as desired.
    ________________

    *Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe for mashed avocado sandwiches with preserved lemon.

     

    CRUNCHY FUN WITH CRUNCHIES FREEZE-DRIED FRUIT SNACKS

    We’ve long been fans of Crunchies freeze-fried fruits and vegetables: a healthful, low-calorie, crunchy, all natural grab-and-go snack with no added sugar.

    In addition to grab and go snacking, we use them as garnishes for everything from salad to sorbet.

    The fruits include blueberries, cinnamon apple, grapes, mango, mixed fruit, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries and strawberry banana.

    Alas, our favorite freeze-dried corn kernels has been discontinued; but it’s been replaced by something equally wonderful: freeze dried sliced beets!

    The line is certified gluten free, kosher (OU) and non-GMO.

    You can find a store locator of buy online at CrunchiesFood.com.

     

    Crunchies Freeze-Dried Beet Chips

    Crunchies freeze-dried beet slices, one of 10 varieties from Crunchies Food.

     
    THE HISTORY OF AVOCADO TOAST

    Although a relatively new trend in the U.S. (we first noticed it about four years ago), avocado toast has been “commonplace for a long time,” according to Wikipedia.

  • In Australia and Chile, large avocado growers, people have been eating avocado toast for decades.
  • In the U.K., it has been a popular snack since the early-1970s.
  • In Mexico, where the avocado is indigenous (the history of avocado), avocado on corn tortillas dates to ancient times.
  •  
    Surely, some conquistador, or more likely one of the nuns who followed in the early 16th century (the nuns created fusion European-Aztec cuisine, adapting New World ingredients to Old World cooking styles), first put sliced avocado on a piece of toasted European bread. But the record is mute on that.

    According to an article in The Washington Post, chef Bill Granger of Sydney, Australia may have been the first person to put avocado toast on a menu, in 1993. Another Australian chef believes that the combination of avocado and toast emerged in Queensland, Australia in the mid-1970s.

    Now, Millennials call it “smashed avo.”

    In 1999, Nigel Slater published a recipe for an avocado “bruschetta” in London’s newspaper, The Guardian.

    Even earlier, in 1962, a New York Times article showcased an “unusual” sandwich of avocado on toast.

    And even earlier than that, in 1937, The New Yorker published an article, “Avocado, or the Future of Eating,” in which the protagonist eats “avocado sandwich on whole wheat and a lime rickey.” [source]

    But credit social media with launching this low-key breakfast and snack into stardom, with an endless number of photos making it a must-have for avocado lovers.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Bela Sardines & Mackerel

    School Of Sardines

    Bela Olhao Sardines

    Bela Olhao Sardines Open Can

    Bela Olhao

    Sardine Tapas

    Sardine Tapas

    [1] Close-up on a school of sardines (photo courtesy AP | Ventura County Star). [2] Cleaned, cooked and canned by BELA Brands (photos #2 and #3 courtesy BELA). [3] Open the can and… [4] Dig in (photo courtesy Food52). [5] Easy tapas, with tomato or pimento on a baguette slice (photo Wikipedia Commons). [6] Not-much-more-difficult sardine tapas at Nomad in New York City.

     

    Earlier in our life, we did not care at all for sardines. We turned up our nose at this “cat food.” That’s because what was available in supermarkets then was of pretty low quality. Many Americans grew up eschewing sardines.

    Often, those undesirables weren’t even sardines, but sprats—a different genus, Sprattus in the same family as sardines. They are less tasty cousins of sardines.

    To add to the confusion, sprats are sometimes called brisling sardines, after a canned variety from Norway.

    The sought-after European sardine, also called the pilchard sardine (photo #1), is species Sardina pilchardus Walbaum. You won’t find those words on a can: You have to know the best brands.

    Now we’ve become a foodie nation, and grocers are offering the world’s best. In sardines, that’s the BELA brand. They’re a boon for Mediterranean and Paleo Diet followers, as well as for anyone wanting a quick meal with quality protein.

    Check out the way we enjoy them, below.

    And did we mention they’re just $3 a can?

    BELA SARDINES

    The premium quality “gourmet” sardines from Bela Brands (photos #2, #3 and #4) have found their way into many foodie homes.

    The company also sells premium canned mackerel fillets and skipjack tuna in jars; but given the number of words in this article alone, we’ll have to feature them another time.

    BELA Brand Seafood is a family-owned business which has been sustainably fishing the southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve, for generations.

    The large, juicy, delicious Portuguese sardines have been the main crop in this region for centuries. BELA lays claim to be the best canned sardine there is:

  • They’re the only Portuguese sardines packed within 8 hours of catch, for the finest flavor.
  • The fish are carefully washed and cleaned by hand and then cooked—one of the few brands of sardines that are cooked prior to canning.
  • In fact, they’re twice-cooked, which increases the proteins. One low-calorie serving delivers 11g of protein, omega-3s, vitamin D and calcium.
  • Full, premium fillets are packed fresh in organic extra virgin olive oil and organic sauces.
  • Sustainably wild-caught in nets, certified kosher (OU), gluten free and certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
  •  
    And, you get to choose your flavorings, except in the spring water option. Otherwise, the sardines nestle in seasoned organic olive oil:

  • BELA Lightly Smoked Portuguese Sardines in Olive Oil.
  • BELA Lightly Smoked Portuguese Sardines in Lemon Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • BELA Lightly Smoked Portuguese Sardines in Tomato Sauce.
  • BELA Lightly Smoked Portuguese Sardines in Spring Water.
  •  
     
    HOW WE ENJOY BELA SARDINES

    You can eat them at every meal of the day.

  • Breakfast
    _Eggs Benedict à la Portugal.
    _On buttered toast or avocado toast.
  • Lunch
  • _On a grilled vegetable sandwich, with optional mozzarella.
    _A sardine Cobb salad, in addition to, or replacing, the chicken.
    _A Niçoise salad, in addition to or replacing the tuna; spinach salad with hard-boiled egg.
    _Chirashi-style, on a bed of sushi rice or regular rice, with an assortment of vegetables (raw, cooked or pickled, sliced radishes, seaweed or what you feel like. Photo #7, below, adds an egg for a super-protein bowl.

  • Lunch
    _Place the fillets on top of the salad, or the salad on top of the fillets—for example, under a crown of arugula, mesclun or watercress.
  • _On pizza: Who needs anchovies?

  • Tapas
    _With a glass of wine at brunch or cocktails (see photos #5 and #6).
    _We top Finn Crisp flatbread with sardines and pickled onions.
  • Happy Hour
    _Place pieces on toothpicks and serve with beer and wine.
  • Hors d’Oeuvre
    _Add a piece to a cucumber slice, cracker or toast point.
  • Dinner
    _First course: on an individual crudité plate, like a Greek mezze plate, along with pita, olives and optionally, hummus or babaganoush.
    _Salad: Toss pieces with a green salad, or create a sophisticated plating with endive and/or radicchio.
    _Main course: on pasta, with good olive oil as the sauce (add olives, scallions, parsley—anything else you like—and top with toasted breadcrumbs).
  •  
    A can of sardines is also a grab-and-go protein boost for backpacking and other energy-sapping pursuits.

     

    SARDINES HISTORY

    Sardines are small, oily fish within the herring family of Clupeidae, ray-finned fishes, important, nutrient-rich food fishes comprising, among others, herrings, sardines, shads and whitebait.

    They are also important for fish oil and fish meal—and as food for larger marine denizens.

    Sardines are found around the globe today, although all sardines originally came from somewhere in Europe.

    The name “sardine” first appears in English in the early 15th century. Some historians say it may be named for the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant.

    There are four genera of sardines, the two most important of which are:

  • Sardina, the European pilchard, Sardina pilchardus Walbaum, the only species in the genus.
  • Sardinops, with four species including the Californian, Japanese, South American and Southern African sardines.
  •  
    They are commonly found canned, tightly packed in—leading to their metaphorical use to describe a space where people or objects are crowded together.

    Canned sardines were a staple of millions of soldiers fighting both world wars. They sustained thousands of workers—the fishermen and packers of Cannery Row in Monterey, California, during the worst years of the Depression [source]. Similarly, they provided important fish protein to ravaged parts of Europe.

    Canning is a relatively recent innovation.

    In 1795, Nicolas Appert, a Parisian chef and confectioner, began to experiment with conserving foods, without altering their flavor or texture. He ultimately developed a process using a glass jar, similar to boiling the contents in a Mason jar.

    In 1810, British inventor and merchant Peter Durand patented his own method, using a tin can [source]. So, canned sardines have been available to export for a bit more than 200 years—and they very high quality and expensive: “gourmet” fare.

    But with the Industrial Revolution (from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries) things began to change. Fishing grounds became polluted, and some business practices—like labeling sprats as sardines—transpired to create those less-than-pleasing cans of sardines.

    Good news: The Portuguese Algarve has no industry, and the ocean waters are clean. That’s another reason BELA sardines taste so good.

    Here’s more on the history of sardines.

    WHERE TO GET BELA SARDINES

    Check our local markets, or head online to:

  • Amazon
  • Food 52
  •  

    Sardines On Wilted Greens

    Sardine Chirashi

    Spaghetti & Sardines

    [7] Sardines top a green salad (photo Emily Chang | THE NIBBLE). [8] Sardines in tomato sauce, chirashi style, from Kitchen Gidget. [9] Spaghetti and sardines (photo courtesy Taste Australia).

     
    FRESH SARDINES: IN STORES NOW!

    The Portuguese sardine season runs from May through October (sardines from other waters have their own seasons).

    In season fresh sardines even more wonderful, grilled, pickled or smoked. Grilled sardines fresh sardines with potatoes, bread and a salad are a popular summer meal in Portugal—and will be a revelation to you if you keep an eye out for them.

    Sushi lovers: head to the sushi bar! Raw sardine nigiri is a treat!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: National Hummus Day: Try A New Brand!

    Hope Black Garlic Hummus

    Salad-Topped Hummus

    Chocolate Hummus

    [1] Black Garlic, one of 11 delicious flavors of Hope Hummus (photo courtesy Hope Foods). [2] One of our favorite ways to serve hummus: topped with salad ingredients and, as a lunch dish, with a hard-boied egg (photo courtesy Shayla | NOLA). [3] Woo hoo, chocolate hummus (photo courtesy Hope Foods).

     

    May 13th is International Hummus Day.

    Over the last two decades, hummus has evolved from a mezze at Mediterranean restaurants to the hottest, most nutritious dip and spread at supermarkets nationwide. It’s the darling of nutritionists, nutritious and versatile, and a better-for-you snack.

    Hummus is Arabic for chickpea. The more long-form name for what we refer to as hummus is hummus bi tahina, chickpeas with tahini. Tahini is a paste made of toasted, hulled sesame seeds, which can been joyed as a dip on its own.

    The recipe for hummus is simple: chickpeas, tahini and seasonings (including garlic), mashed and puréed*.

    THE HUMMUS RENAISSANCE

    Two decades ago, the hummus available in the U.S. was the classic: plain. If you didn’t order it at a restaurant or live near a neighborhood with an international market that carried it, you made your own the recipe is easy, once you found a store with tahini).

    But since the hummus renaissance, stores have been sagging under the weight of so many brands and so many flavors. We’ve counted more than two dozen flavors among different brands. Our personal favorites: horseradish and black olive, which we found at Trader Joe’s.

    But, we like everything. So we were very pleased to receive samples of a new brand from Hope Foods. If you head to the website now, you can enter to win a year’s supply of hummus.

    HOPE FOODS ORGANIC HUMMUS

    There are 11 flavors of hummus. We tried three of them, all especially delicious.

    First, the consistency is wonderful, like well-mashed homemade hummus.

    While we enjoy the ultra-smooth texture of big brands like Tribe, we welcome the return of toothsome texture, like Grandma used to make (if your grandma’s ancestry was in the eastern Mediterranean).

    Second, the flavor selection is a bit more interesting, with black garlic, Thai coconut curry, and spicy avocado hummus (the most popular flavor).

    The line is preservative free, certified Gluten-Free, Non-GMO Certified, OU kosher and USDA Organic. There’s a store locator on the website.

    HOPE HUMMUS FLAVORS

    Currently, the line of hummus includes:

  • Black Garlic Hummus
  • Jalapeño Cilantro Hummus
  • Kale Pesto Hummus
  • Lemon Peppercorn Hummus
  • Original Recipe Hummus (nice and peppery)
  • Red Pepper Hummus
  • Spicy Avocado Hummus
  • Sriracha Hummus
  • Thai Coconut Curry Hummus
  • Plus, Dessert Hummus

  • Dark Chocolate Hummus
  • Dark Chocolate Coconut Hummus
  •  
    While we haven’t had Hope’s chocolate hummus, we have had other brands: Thumbs up!

    The company also makes guacamole, which we have not yet tried.

    “Spread” the word!
    ________________

    *Some brands also add olive oil.

     

    THE HISTORY OF HUMMUS

    Chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and garlic have been eaten in the Levant† for millennia. Though widely consumed, chickpeas were cooked in stews and other hot dishes. Puréed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini do not appear before the Abbasid period (750 to 1517 C.E.) in Egypt and the Levant.

    The earliest known recipes for a dish similar to hummus bi tahina are in 13th-century cookbooks from Cairo.

    Some food historians believe it appeared a century earlier, prepared by Saladin, the first sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (1174–1193); and if so, it was more likely created by a cook in his kitchen, the idea of the warlord Saladin-as-cook being tough to swallow.

    Recipes for cold purée of chickpeas without tahini, but with vinegar, oil, pickled lemons, herbs, spices (but no garlic), appear in medieval cookbooks; as do recipes with nuts vinegar (though not lemon), but it also contains many spices, herbs, and nuts. [source]

    Whomever and however, we’re grateful that it came to be part of our [almost] daily diet,

    ________________

    †The Levant is an English term that first appeared in 1497. It originally referred to the “Mediterranean lands east of Italy.” The historical area comprises modern-day Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Among other popular foods, Levantine cuisine gave birth to baklava, balafel, kebabs, mezze (including tabbouleh, hummus and baba ghanoush), pita and za’atar, among other dishes that are enjoyed in the U.S. and around the world.
    ________________

    WHAT IS/ARE MEZZE?

    Mezze (MEH-zay) or meze is the singular form for a number of small dishes served in the Middle East to accompany drinks (add an “s” for the plural form in English). In some countries, an assorted mezze plate is served as an appetizer.

    Each country has its favorites. The ones most often found in the U.S. are:

     

    Mezze Platter

    Hummus Platter

    [4] A mezze plate in California: babaganoush, feta, hummus, olives, pita and a local touch, pickled carrots (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [5] Hummus itself is gluten-free, but not the pita. This gluten-free hummus plate from Glutino Foods offers other options.

  • Babaghanoush, mashed eggplant mixed with seasonings.
  • Dolmades can take many forms. In the U.S., they’re usually Greek-style: grape leaves stuffed with rice, chopped mint and lemon juice (these are also called sarma). In some countries, eggplants, peppers and zucchini are stuffed, often with the same ingredients plus minced lamb.
  • Falafel, a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both.
  • Fattoush – salad made from several garden vegetables and toasted or fried pieces of pita bread.
  • Feta cheese or other local cheese.
  • Halloumi cheese, sliced and grilled.
  • Hummus, a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas.
  • Kibbeh, a mixture of bulghur, minced onions, finely chopped meat, and spices. Depending on the region, it is shaped into balls or patties and fried, baked, cooked in broth, or served raw (tartare).
  • Souvlaki, bite-sized lamb cubes, grilled on a skewer.
  • Labneh, strained yogurt that is more tart, like sour cream.
  • Tabbouleh, bulgur wheat, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, green onion, with lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings.
  • Taramasalata, a carp roe dip based whipped with lemon juice and olive oil. Sometimes, mashed potatoes or bread are added to stretch the recipe. We buy the Krinos brand, which does not add fillers.
  • Tzatziki, a dip made from plain yogurt, chopped cucumber with finely chopped garlic and mint leaf.
  • Yogurt.
  •  
    They are typically served along with Greek-style olives and pita, or other flatbread.

    MORE HUMMUS

  • Beyond Dipping: More Ways To enjoy Hummus
  • Black Garlic Hummus Recipe
  • Carrot Hummus Recipe
  • Hummus Sushi
  • Make Your Signature Hummus
  • Rancho Gordo Hummus Recipe
  • Turn Plain Hummus Into Flavored Hummus
  • 20 Ways To Make A Hummus Sandwich
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Salad In A Wine Glass

    Tumbler Salad

    Riedel O Red Wine Tumbler

    Yogurt Parfaits

    Classic Layered Salad

    Avocado Layered Salad

    [1] A beautiful layered salad in a wine tumbler (photo courtesy Riedel Japan). [2] Riedel’s O series tumbler for red wine (photo courtesy Riedel). [3] How many different ways can you use them? See our list below (photo Riedel | Facebook). [4] A classic layered salad (photo courtesy Kraft). [5] The most recent layered salad trend: in a Mason jar (here’s the recipe from the California Avocado Commission).

     

    Yesterday’s tip was to use salad as a soup garnish.

    Today we’re taking a slightly different turn.

    Serve an elegant layered salad in (photo #1) a wine tumbler, like Riedel’s O Red Wine Tumbler (photo #2).

    In fact, when you’re not drinking wine from the tumblers, you can variously use them:
     
    At Breakfast

  • Fruit Salad
  • Juice or milk
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Yogurt and granola
  •  
    At Lunch

  • Salad
  • Soup
  • Dessert
  •  
    At Dinner

  • First course
  • Sides
  • Dessert
  •  
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WINE TUMBLER & A WINE GLASS?

    Like its entire line of fine glassware for wine and spirits, Riedel’s wine tumblers are sophisticated glassware engineered for different grape varietals, to deliver the maximum flavors and aromas. The shape of the bowl and mouth direct the wine to different areas of the palate.

    Now, to the stemmed wine glass that has been around for many centuries. It is meant to be held by the stem, not by the bowl.

    Stemware was created for elegance, so the heat from one’s hand didn’t warm the wine in the bowl, and so one’s sticky fingers didn’t leave grease marks on the glass.

    But, with the increasing casual that has developed over the last 30 years, few people know or care about etiquette, and most people hold their stemware by the bowl.

    If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em; so Riedel, the world’s greatest wine glass maker, decided to give people what they want: a bowl with no stem.

    The O Stemless Tumblers line did so well, that Riedel has added lines with etched designs and colored bottoms.

    They’re an affordable gift. Check out the choices at Amazon.

    THE HISTORY OF LAYERED SALAD

    Try as we did, we couldn’t find a detailed reference to layered salad before the 1970s. A 2000 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel refers to a seven layer salad as a fat-laden salad that “helped give salads of the 1950s a bad name” [source].

    Ingredients are layered in a glass bowl, with the varied layer colors and textures providing eye appeal. Made for barbecues, parties, picnics, potlucks, it was/is assembled ahead of time and is easy to transport. It can feed a crowd, and was very popular with said crowd.

    The layers—as few or as many as the cook desires—commonly include:

  • Bacon or ham
  • Bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Green or red onions
  • Peas
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • Tomatoes
  •  
    The original dressing may have been mayonnaise-based or a mayo-sour cream combination. Depending on the cook, bottled Italian or ranch dressing can be employed.

    Personally, we skip the shredded cheddar and use a mayo-sour cream-chunky blue cheese dressing.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Soup & Salad

    Part of our job entails keeping on top of culinary innovations around the world, to see might be interesting for the home cook.

    While a soup-topped salad may not sound like an innovation, we don’t come across it often. Usually it’s in the form of a small vegetable garnish.

    Today’s tip was inspired by Botanica, a new vegetarian-focused restaurant in Los Angeles (photo #3).

    Take your favorite chunky soup and add the salad on top, lightly dressed with oil plus vinegar, lemon, lime or orange juice.

    What kind of salad?

    Whatever you like, as long as its lightweight. Tomatoes or anything heavy will sink, and only work with a very shallow bowl of soup.

    Here’s our list:

  • Baby greens
  • Fresh herbs (we like basil, chives, dill, sage—whatever complements the soup)
  • Something for color: bell pepper (small dice), corn kernels, radish slices
  • Croutons
  •  
    Leave off the other logical contenders—broccoli florets, cheese, pepitas, e.g., and make this topping about the salad.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF SOUP

    The history of soup is almost as old as the history of cooking. First: discover fire. You can place raw food over flames or on the hot embers. Then, invent a vessel in which to cook a liquid.

    Add water to the container, toss in whatever vegetables you’ve foraged, cook it over the fire, and voilà, soup: a hot, nutritious meal.

    The first containers for cooking over the fire were cleaned out animal hides. By the Neolithic era, rough pottery had appeared; but the pots could not withstand the direct heat of the fire. Instead, heated stones were tossed in to raise the temperature of the water and cook the food.

    By then Bronze age, at metal cauldrons appeared in the Mediterranean, and spread. This was a tipping point:

  • The round shape enabled the flames to curl up around the sides, so the food cooked faster.
  • The level of heat was controlled by how close to the fire the pot was placed. Food could be boiled rapidly over a high fire or simmered slowly in the hot ashes at the edge of the hearth.
     
    Here’s more on the evolution in cookware.

    Even in the evolved Greco-Roman times, travelers could not be certain of finding food. All travelers, including soldiers, had to carry their own dried ingredients to boiled into soups. Biscotti—twice-baked, dry rusks,—were invented in Roman times to add convenience and variety to the on-the-road fare.

    The very concept of the modern restaurant is based on soup. Restoratifs—meaning something that restores health, strength or a feeling of well-being, and in this case a hearty bowl of soup, is the basis of “restaurant.” Public restaurants with tables and menus first emerged in 18th century Paris, adding to the choice of fare from food stands and public markets.

    The word soup is itself the basis for supper, and the verb “to sup.” Soup derives from the post-classical Latin verb suppare, to soak in a liquid.

  •  

    Salad Topped Soup

    Salad-Topped Gazpacho

    Salad-Topped Soup

    Soup With Salad Garnish

    [1] A nice garnish, but hardly a salad. Here’s the recipe from Sunset magazine. [2] Clear gazpacho topped with salad, a twist from the creative chef Scott Conant. [3] Go big or go home with those greens: a “real” salad atop the soup at Botanica Restaurant in LA. Everything on the menu is equally wonderful. [4] This handsome labor of love is from Apples And Butter. Here’s the recipe.

     
    Poor Man’s Dinner

    Soup was the evening meal of the less affluent, who poured broth onto yesterday’s bread (the ancestor of modern soup croutons) and added whatever else they had.

    The affluent had soup, too, but they didn’t need it to make stale bread palatable. It began to be fashionable to serve the liquid broth on its own (consommé), and many different types of soup began to evolve. By the early 18th century, a bowl of soup assumed its present-day role as the first course of a meal. [source]

    Soup evolved into the categories of soup we know today (the chef Escoffier was first to categorized all French soups).

    The 19th century saw portable soups: canned or dehydrated, soups. These supplied cowboy chuck wagons, the military, wagon trains and other travelers, as well as the home pantry.

    The late 20th century brought us microwave-ready soup in disposable containers. One can only guess what science will produce going forward.

    Whatever it is, it needs a garnish!
     
    MORE ON SOUP GARNISHES

  • Garnishes For 20 Favorite Soups
  • Garnish Glamour
  • Leftover Grains As Soup Garnish
  • Seafood Soup Garnishes
  • Drizzled Soup Garnishes
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    Also check out the different types of soup in our Soup Glossary.

      

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