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Archive for Food Fun

FOOD FUN: Red Lettuce

Last week we presented two irresistible heirloom cucumbers. This week’s noteworthy produce comprises red lettuce varieties we discovered while perusing the “produce section” on Burpee.com.

YUGOSLAVIAN RED LETTUCE

Burpee calls Yugoslavian Red Lettuce “perhaps the most beauteous lettuce we’ve grown: a star selection for your salad bowl.”

With bright-green cupped leaves splashed with rose-red and hints of yellow and orange, this butterhead type of lettuce makes a visual and flavorful splash in the salad bowl. Sure, you can tear the gorgeous leaves into bite size pieces. But we’d lay the whole leaves on a plate and use them as a pretty cup to hold other salads, from tuna to rice.

The taste is superb, buttery and mild. The lettuce can be harvested in about 55 days. Get ready to plant and don’t worry about having too much: Heads of this glorious lettuce make beautiful gifts.

 

Dazzling: Yugoslavian red lettuce. Photo courtesy Burpee.com.

 

CIMARRON RED ROMAINE LETTUCE

Red romaine is a bit easier to find in specialty produce markets, along with red leaf lettuce.

Burpee’s Cimarron (photo below) is an heirloom red romaine with terrific flavor. It has been grown in America since the 1700s.

We seek out red leaf lettuces for Christmas salads, but this deep-red-going-on bronze beauty has a place at the table all year long.

We also found this red iceberg lettuce: Imagine a wedge ith blue cheese dressing!

WAYS TO ENJOY LETTUCE

Lettuce is most often used for salads and on sandwiches and as wraps. But you can grill it as a side, make lettuce soup and use it as a wrapper for Korean barbecue: hibachi-grilled beef, chicken or seafood rolled in a lettuce leaf with condiments.

Lettuce is a good source of vitamin A and potassium, as well as a minor source for several other vitamins and nutrients. Generally, the deeper the color, the more nutrients. Romaine, the most nutritious lettuce, has more folate (a B vitamin), vitamin K and lutein (an antioxidant related to vitamin A).

 

Cimarron red romaine. Photo courtesy
Burpee.com.

 

THE HISTORY OF LETTUCE

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) was first cultivated in ancient Egypt. Egyptian farmers developed it—from a weed whose seeds were used to produce oil into a plant grown for its tasty leaves.

Lettuce was carried home by Greeks and Romans. The Romans called it lactuca, the Latin word for milk, referring to the white substance that exuded from the cut stems. (Sativa, which means sown or cultivated, is the species name for numerous types of produce.)

Our word lettuce came to Middle English from the Old French letues or laitues. The name romaine came from that variety’s use in the Roman papal gardens, while cos, another term for romaine lettuce, came from the Greek island of Cos, a center of lettuce farming in the Byzantine period.

 

By 50 C.E., there are descriptions of multiple varieties of lettuce. Over the centuries, many varieties were developed in Europe. Today, it is cultivated around the world: More than half of world production comes from China. (Source: Wikipedia)

TYPES OF LETTUCE

There are seven main cultivar groups of lettuce, each of which includes numerous varieties. Three types—cos or romaine, head and leaf lettuces—are the most common.

  • Butterhead lettuce. Also known as Boston or Bibb lettuce, this type head lettuce has a loose arrangement of leaves, sweet flavor and tender texture. Along with crisphead lettuce, it is also known as cabbage lettuce because the heads are shorter, flatter and more cabbage-like than romaine lettuces.
  • Crisphead lettuce. Better known as iceberg lettuce, crisphead is the most popular lettuce—much to the chagrin of those who declaim its limited flavor and low nutritional content. It has a higher percentage of water than other lettuce types.
  • Leaf lettuce. Also known as looseleaf, cutting or bunching lettuce, this type has loosely bunched leaves. It is used mainly for salads.
  • Oilseed lettuce. The original lettuce, oilseed has few leaves. It is grown for its seeds, which are pressed to extract a cooking oil. The seeds are about twice the size of other lettuce seeds.
  • Romaine/Cos lettuce. This variety forms long, upright heads that are used mainly for salads and sandwiches.
  • Stem lettuce. Stem lettuce is grown for its seedstalk, rather than its leaves. The long, thin stalks (think asparagus) are used in Chinese cooking.
  • Summercrisp lettuce. Also called Batavian or French Crisp lettuce, this group falls midway between the crisphead and leaf types.
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    On your next trip to a farmers market or specialty produce store, see how many of these seven lettuce types you can find.

      

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    FOOD FUN: The Most Mispronounced Foods

    It’s broo-SKET-tuh, not broo-SHET-tuh.
    Photo by Vitalina Rybakova | IST.

     

    When we were young, there was a long-running ad for a self-improvement course that promised to make upwardly-aspirational Americans more cultured. One of the ads had this headline: “I’ll have a cup of expresso, please. And make it black.”

    There is no “expresso,” of course; and it it always black. Take the course, and you’ll never be embarrassed by such errors.

    While this ad began running in the early 20th century, the same mistakes are made today. Eat24.com, an online delivery and takeout service that delivers restaurant food in 950 cities nationwide, pulled together a list of most frequently mispronounced foods; and we’ve added a few.

    Have fun with it, and feel free to submit your own list.

    Beignet: Pronounced ben-YAY, the best of these French-style doughnuts we’ve ever had were at Café du Monde in New Orleans (worth a trip!). Here’s more information and a photo of beignets.

     
    Bruschetta: Pronounced broo-SKET-uh, this grilled bread with choice of toppings is a popular Italian appetizer and snack. Here’s a recipe and the difference between bruschetta and crostini.

    Chipotle: Pronounced chee-POHT-lay, these are dried, smoked jalapeño chiles. For some reason, it’s also misspelled by more than a few of the small producers who send us products. They insist on spelling it (and no doubt, pronouncing it) “chipolte.” These pineapple chipotle ice pops are truly delicious. More about chipotle.

     

    Crudités: Pronounced croo-dee-TAY (or in English, croo-dee-TAYS—the French don’t pronounce the “s” on the end), this is the French term for raw vegetables served in bite-size pieces with a dip. It’s one of our favorite low-calorie party foods and snacks. Serve it with this tzatziki recipe, made with nonfat Greek yogurt.

    Espresso: Pronounced: es-PRESS-oh. There is no “x.” See the different types of espresso drinks.

    Gnocchi: Pronounced NYAWK-kee. The most famous potato pasta, these small dumplings can be served plain or flavored. Here are tips for making gnocchi, a gnocchi recipe and a sweet potato gnocchi recipe.

    Gyro: Pronounced YEE-row or ZHEER-oh. If you must, say “hero,” but never JI-row or GY-row. Here’s how the hero sandwich got its name.

    Habanero: In Spanish, the pronunciation is ah-va-NEH-ro, but Americans can say hah-bah-NEH-row. That’s an “n,” not an “ñ,” in the center of the word. Here’s more about habanero chiles, the hottest in Latin America.

     

    Gnocchi, pronounced NYAW-kee. Photo by Neco Garnicia | SXC. .

     

    Pho: Pronounced FUH. This complex and luscious Vietnamese soup deserves to be pronounced correctly. Here’s a pho recipe.

    Quinoa: Pronounced KEEN-wah. One of the most nutritious foods on earth, “quinoa” means “mother grain” in the Inca language, Quechua. Serve it as a side instead of rice or potatoes, and try this quinoa tabouli recipe.

    Sriracha: Pronounced shree-RAH-cha, lovers of hot sauce should pick up a bottle. Made from hot red chiles, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt, the sauce is named after the coastal city of Si Racha on the Sea of Thailand, where it was first produced and served at seafood restaurants. Try it in this Red Curry Shrimp recipe.

    Quesadilla: Pronounced kay-suh-DEE-yuh. Originating in Mexicao, a quesadilla is a flour or corn tortilla filled with a savory mixture containing cheese (queso) and other ingredients, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape. Here’s a ribeye quesadilla recipe from Bobby Flay. Or, try this American fusion peanut butter snack quesadilla.

    Worcestershire Sauce: Pronounce WUS-teh-SHEER. It is believed that a Captain Henry Lewis Edwardes (1788–1866) brought the recipe for the sauce home after travels in India. It is not known how the recipe got to Lea and Perrins, but John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, two dispensing chemists (pharmacists) in Worcester (pronounced WOO-ster), England, created a recipe that was first sold commercially in 1837. “The Original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce” is now owned by H.J. Heinz Company.

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    ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Green Deviled Eggs Recipe, Green Eggs & Ham

    Green Eggs & Ham

    [1] We’ll be eating green on St. Patric’s Day (photo courtesy Avocados From Mexico). [2] It’s also the perfect day for Green Eggs and Ham (photo courtesy Food Network).

     

    Although we start every St. Patrick’s Day with a green bagel, each year we look for new, fun green dishes for our celebration.

    This year it’s Avocado Deviled Eggs: Avocado replaces the mayo in this party classic.

    This recipe, from Avocados From Mexico, yields 12 deviled eggs.

    GREEN DEVILED EGGS

    Ingredients

  • 6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
  • 1 fully ripened avocado from Mexico, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • Garnish: chopped fresh chives
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the egg yolks and avocado in a small bowl; mash until smooth.

    2. STIR in yogurt, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly. Stir in jalapeño and onion

    3. SPOON into egg white shells, dividing equally. Arrange on a serving plate. Cover lightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Garnish with chives before serving.
     
    RECIPE: GREEN EGGS & HAM

  • Replace the chive garnish with minced ham.
  • Create a surprise layer of deviled ham underneath the green egg layer.
  • Add a topping of frizzled ham or small grilled ham or Canadian bacon slices.
  •  
    Here’s a recipe from Food Network (photo #2).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Start A Tradition With A Halloween Gingerbread House Kit

    Gingerbread houses have long been a popular Christmas tradition. But they may be more appropriate for Halloween. After all, they were inspired by the gingerbread house belonging to the wicked witch done in by Hansel and Gretel. Witches = Halloween.

    THE HISTORY OF THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE

    At the end of the 11th century, when the Crusaders returned to Europe from the Middle East bringing ginger and other spices, gingerbread became popular in Germany.

    It was baked during the Christmas season as well as for year-round festivals. It engendered a trade guild: Only guild members could bake gingerbread, except during Christmas, when anyone could bake it.

    According to a reference in FoodTimeline.org, the tradition of baking gingerbread houses began in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of fairy tales in 1812.

    Inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, who nibbled at the witch’s candy-covered gingerbread house, German bakers created miniature houses from the already popular lebkuchen (gingerbread). Artists were employed to decorate the houses, which became particularly popular during Christmas.

    The tradition crossed the ocean with the German immigration wave that began in 1820. But it’s only in recent years that we’ve seen gingerbread houses for Halloween.
     
    Halloween Gingerbread House Kits

    Halloween gingerbread houses are available in easy-to-assemble kits; Those who just want to decorate can buy pre-assembled houses.

    This week, we tasted two different brands. The Wilton kit we tried was a Victorian mansion—not particularly haunted based on the contents of the kit, but you can add your own touches.

     

    Gingerbread House

    [1] A traditional gingerbread house for Christmas (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] A new tradition: the Halloween gingerbread house available from Wilton.

     
    More important than the accoutrements in the kit, the gingerbread was delicious. We tried another brand’s gingerbread house kit that was full of Halloween-themed decorations: candy ghosts, candy corn, a spider, black cat and tombstone. But the gingerbread was flavorless, and we declined to take a second bite.

    The assembled Wilton gingerbread house measures 6 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep by 9.5 inches high. It is available at Michael’s Stores and Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores. You can find it online at Amazon.com.

    If you want to buy one online, here’s a haunted gingerbread house with all of the aforementioned Halloween decorations. We haven’t tasted it. If you buy one, please send us your opinion on the gingerbread.

    ASSEMBLY TIP: Some of our gingerbread pieces arrived cracked. This is a relatively common occurrence, but not a disaster. The same royal icing you make to decorate the house is a good mortar to “glue” the pieces together. Glue it from the back.

    Start A Family Tradition
    Decorating a gingerbread house is a family activity that can be carried through the generations. Start the tradition and take a photo of the finished house and the participants. See how the skill at decorating changes from year to year.

    If you don’t have kids but want the tradition, invite your friends to an annual Halloween tea party with the gingerbread house as the centerpiece. Here are tea party ideas for every month of the year.

    Gingerbread Recipes

  • Gingerbread Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting. For Halloween, press a piece of candy corn into the top of each piece. Recipe.
  • Gingerbread Whoopie Pies. For Halloween, leave off the crushed peppermint candy. Recipe.
  • Ginger Snaps. You can make these round cookies and add Halloween decorations: black and orange royal icing stripes, candy spiders, candy corn, etc. Recipe.

      

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    RECIPE: Elvis Sandwich

    Elvis Sandwich Recipe

    Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich (photo courtesy Hipsubwg.Blogspot.com.

     

    Elvis Presley was born on January 8, 1935, and left the world too soon in 1977.

    As has been told many times, his favorite food was a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.

    Try one to see if you and Elvis enjoy the same snack. Here’s the recipe, from Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis’ Favorite Recipes.

    Enjoy it while listening to your favorite Elvis tunes. Buy a CD of his 30 top hits or download any of the Top 30 MP3.
     
    RECIPE: ELVIS PRESLEY’S FRIED PEANUT BUTTER & BANANA SANDWICH

    This is Elvis comfort food. The King enjoyed “peanut butter and ‘nanner sandwiches” at all hours of the day and night. Enjoy your sandwich with one of Elvis’ favorite beverages: Pepsi Cola, orange and black cherry soda.

    Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 slices white bread
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MASH the banana in a small bowl with the back of a spoon.

    3. SPREAD the peanut butter on one piece of toast and the mashed banana on the other.

    3. FRY the sandwich in melted butter until each side is golden brown. Cut diagonally and serve hot.
     
    MORE ELVIS RECIPES

  • Elvis Burger
  • Elvis Sundae
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