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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Food Holidays/History/Facts

FOOD HOLIDAY: National Frozen Food Day

While fresh is fashionable, we can’t ignore the importance of frozen foods today, National Frozen Food Day.

Frozen food revolutionized the way Americans consume food. First came the joy of off-season fruits and vegetables (which are tastier and a fraction of the price when purchased frozen at their peak than shipped fresh from South America or elsewhere). Then the ability to buy larger quantities when on sale. Then the convenience for busy moms.

In 1984, President Ronald Regan declared March 6th to be National Frozen Food Day, stating: “…I call upon the American people to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Our ceremony consists of frozen foods for breakfast and dinner, at least. We already had a delicious Cedarlane omelet, and cooking SeaPak frozen butterfly shrimp for lunch (thanks, SeaPak, for the samples).

(For dinner, it’s the last day of New York Restaurant Week and we’re heading out.)

Most supermarkets today have 2-3 aisles of frozen foods, and many Americans rely upon the convenience of frozen food for their weekly dinners and other meals.

   

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Today, it’s jumbo butterfly shrimp for lunch at THE NIBBLE. You can bake or fry the frozen shrimp. Photo courtesy SeaPak.

 

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Butterfly shrimp “scallopini” with lemon, butter, garlic, parsley and white wine. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy SeaPak.

 

WHO INVENTED FROZEN FOOD?

Since ancient times, foods were frozen in climates that were cold enough to freeze them (here’s more about early freezing and refrigeration). But the invention of the home refrigerator-freezer after World War II brought modern-age frozen food into every home.

Many people think that Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food; but in fact, others preceded him. However, before Birdseye, foods were frozen at a fairly slow rate. This caused large ice crystals to form, which ruptured the cell membranes of the food. When the food was defrosted, the ice crystals melted and water would leak from the food, taking with it flavor and texture.

What Birdseye did invent, in 1924 was the quick freezing method, which produces the type of quality frozen foods that we know today.

While working as a fur trader in Labrador, Newfoundland, Birdseye discovered that the fish that he caught froze almost immediately after being pulled from the water—and that the fish was just as delicious when thawed out months later. He developed quick-freezing methods that retained the taste and texture of foods.

 
Another revolution in frozen food came in 1948, when Sea Island Packing Company (SeaPak) in Georgia developed the Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) to flash freeze shrimp, lock in flavor at its original state of freshness. This new process forever changed the way the shrimp industry (and others) would freeze products. [Source]

 
The First Home Freezer

The first home refrigerator with a small freezing compartment that held two ice cube trays was launched in the 1923 (it was a Frigidaire—Source.)

Large “deep freezers” for retail use only became common during the 1940s. That’s why people in period novels and films went to the neighborhood drug store to get ice cream! Big freezers did not go into mass production for home use until after World War II. Along with new refrigerator-freezer units, they enabled American homes to stock ice cream and other frozen foods.

Prior to World War II, Americans primarily ate locally and regionally grown foods. The technology didn’t exist to pack and transport fresh foods over greater distances. Consequently, only those who lived near coastal waterways had access to shrimp, clams, oysters, and other seafood.

Since shrimp is America’s #1 consumed seafood—a lot of that, for both home and foodservice use, is frozen—and SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Company is the #1-selling retail brand of frozen shrimp entrees, we make them our choice for lunch. Check out all the varieties at SeaPak.com.

  

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RECIPE: Peanut Butter Fudge

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Mmm, peanut butter fudge. Photo courtesy Horizon.

 

March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. Fudge a recipe so easy to make that we urge you to try it. You most likely have the ingredients on hand, and it will take less than 15 minutes to prepare.

There are different ways to make fudge, using butter, cream, whole milk or sweetened condensed milk. This recipe, adapted from one by Alton Brown, uses butter.

Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 4 minutes, plus two hours in the fridge.

RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

Ingredients For 64 Pieces

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, honey roasted peanuts
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the butter and peanut butter in a 4-quart microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Use caution when removing this mixture from the microwave, it will be very hot.

    2. ADD the vanilla and sugar to the peanut butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. The mixture will become hard to stir and lose its sheen. Add optional inclusions.

    3. SPREAD into a buttered 8 x 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Fold the excess parchment paper so it covers the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.

    4. CUT into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Strawberry Cake Pops

    strawberry-cake-pops-bella-baker-230

    Strawberry-themed cake pops. You can use
    any flavor of cake that you like. Photo
    courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    February 27th is National Strawberry Day.

    What better activity than to make these luscious strawberry cake pops from Lauryn Cohen of BellaBaker.com.

    If you’ve never made cake pops but think they’d fit in with family and entertaining, there’s a fool-proof appliance to make round balls of cake: the Babycakes Pop Maker.

    There are several cake pops recipe books to help you become an artist. This recipe book has 175 different recipes/designs.

    If you like to decorate, you’ll be set for many hours of food fun.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Strawberry Salsa

    How about something special for National Strawberry Day (February 27th): strawberry salsa.

    In addition to serving with tortilla chips, strawberry salsa is delicious over grilled chicken, fish or pork.

    This recipes was adapted from TasteOfHome.com. You can customize it by adding other fruits to the strawberries. Mango, grapes, pineapple, pomegranate arils and stone fruits are a few options.

    TIP: Wear disposable gloves when cutting and seeding hot chiles; then clean the cutting board and knife, wash your gloved hands and dispose of the gloves. Accidentally touching your eye with the most minute amount of capsaicin fom the chile is an experience you never want to have.

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY SALSA

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (do not substitute)
  • Optional: green, orange, red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  •  

    strawberry-salsa-tasteofhome-230

    Strawberry salsa made with optional bell pepper. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all the ingredients. Refrigerate and let the flavors meld for an hour or more.

    2. SERVE with chips or as a protein garnish.

     
    Variations

  • Chunky Strawberry Salsa With Quartered Cherry Tomatoes Recipe
  • Strawberry Mango Salsa Recipe
  • Strawberry Salsa With Grape Tomatoes & Corn Kernels Recipe
  • Strawberry Salsa With Plum Tomatoes Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Banana Bread

    banana-bread-chips-nuts-LuluDurand-230

    Banana bread with chocolate chips and nuts.
    We highly recommend the optional chocolate
    glaze in the recipe (not shown). Photo
    by Lulu Durand | IST.

     

    You’d think we could get a decent piece of banana bread in this town, but it’s surprisingly tough. Most of what we purchase at specialty food stores has only a nodding acquaintance with bananas. With no banana punch but a high level of spices, it could be zucchini bread.

    One does do better at bakeries; but alas, bakeries are fast becoming extinct here due to low margins and astounding rents. So since today is National Banana Bread Day, grab the bananas and a loaf pan and start baking.

    One reason that some recipes fall short on banana flavor is that the recipe requires overripe bananas. When they’re brown and splotchy and unappealing, that’s when you want to bake. The more brown/overripe, the sweeter the banana flavor.

    A trick for always having the perfect ripeness on hand: Buy the bananas before you need them. (If you’re lucky, you’ll find overripe ones that have been marked down.) Once they become overripe, peel them, wrap them tightly and freeze them. They thaw quickly at room temperature when you’re ready to bake.

    We always bake a double batch and put the second one in the freezer; although work colleagues, hairdressers, friends and neighbors would be grateful for a slice.

    This recipe was adapted from one by Charles Masters for the Food Network.

     
    Ingredients For the Bread

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup mashed banana (2-3 very ripe bananas)
  •  
    For The Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

    2. COMBINE the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the chocolate chips.

    3. WHISK the eggs, melted butter, sour cream, vanilla and orange zest in a medium bowl. Stir in the mashed banana, then fold the mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

    4. ADD the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn the bread out onto the rack to cool completely.

    5. MAKE the glaze: Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Pour over the cooled banana bread and let set, 15 to 20 minutes.

     

    overripe-bananas-bakinglibrary.blogspot-230

    Make banana bread with overripe bananas. These are just beginning to get ripe enough. The splotchier, the better. Photo courtesy Baking Library | Blogspot.

     

    DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “BREAD” & CAKE

    There is a transition between sweet breads and lower-sugar cakes that are baked in loaf pans, such as carrot bread and banana bread.

    What’s the difference between a banana bread and a banana cake? The obvious difference is that the bread is baked in a loaf pan while the cake is baked in a round, square or rectangular cake pan.

    A less obvious distinction is that the bread style of cake, as a quickbread*, is leavened with baking soda instead of yeast, which makes them quicker to rise.

    In general, loaf cakes or “breads” also have a denser crumb, a rougher texture and often less sugar than their cake counterparts.

    While the origin of the “bread” style of cake is unknown, food historians believe that it was originated in the 18th century with housewives experimenting with pearl ash. Banana bread became common in American cookbooks in the 1930s, with the popularization of baking soda and baking powder, and very popular in the 1960s, when variations with simple inclusions (nuts, chocolate morsels) created simple but delicious snack cakes.

     
    *Other quickbread examples include biscuits, cornbread, muffins, scones and soda bread.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Best Cherry Pie

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    This cherry pie gets a fancy lattice top. Photo courtesy Cherry Marketing Institute.

     

    It’s National Cherry Pie Day, and we’re honoring both the holiday and Jean Van’t Hul by publishing her recipe for “the best cherry pie ever.”

    Like all good cooks, Jean has worked on this recipe for years, adapting recipes from prominent sources like Rose Levy Beranbaum and Cook’s Illustrated.

    Jean notes that her recipe uses cherries canned in water. “not that dreadful canned cherry pie filling.”

    RECIPE: THE BEST CHERRY PIE

    Ingredients

    For The Pie Crust

  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons ice water
  • For The Filling

  • 3 cans tart cherries in water (Jean likes Oregon Fruit Products Red Tart Cherries, which she often finds with the canned fruit instead of in the baking aisle)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  •  
    Plus

  • Optional garnish: crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pie crust. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor (or use a pastry blender). Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse a few times. Cut the shortening into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse a few more times, until butter and shortening are the size of peas or smaller. Transfer to a large bowl.

    2. SPRINKLE 3-4 tablespoons of ice water over the dough mixture at a time, mixing and pressing with a sturdy rubber spatula until the dough comes together. Divide into two and wrap each half in plastic wrap. (Tip: Dump the semi-formed dough onto plastic, wrap it up, knead it bit until it forms a ball, then flatten it into a disk.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

    3. MIX the 3 cans of cherries plus the juice from 1-1/2 cans with sugar, cornstarch, salt and almond extract in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until the liquid is thick and bubbly (partially jelled). Set aside to cool.

     

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    Look for pitted cherries in water, not “glop.” Photo courtesy Oregon Specialty Fruit.

     

    4. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place on a lower rack, to catch any drips.

    5. SPRINKLE the counter with flour and roll out the bottom pie crust. Arrange in a pie pan. Pour the cooled pie filling into the crust.

    6. ROLL out the top crust. Use a sharp knife to cut the top crust into strips for a lattice crust or use a cookie cutter to make other designs. Either drape your top crust over the pie, if you used a cookie cutter design, or weave your traditional lattice crust (here’s a YouTube video).

    7. TRIM Tthe edges of the top and bottom crust to 1/2-1 inch beyond the pie pan and then fold them under. Either press around the perimeter with the tines of a fork or crimp it with your fingers.

    8. BRUSH the crust with a beaten egg white (or cream) and sprinkle sugar on top.

    9. BAKE for 20 minutes at 425°F, then lower the oven temperature to 375°F and add a pie crust shield (or a foil tent with the center cut out) to protect the outer edges of the crust from burning. Bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the crust looks nicely browned and the juices bubble up thickly.

    10. REMOVE the pie from the oven and let cool for 3 hours or so before eating, so the filling will gel properly. Garnish as desired and serve.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Green Tea Fortune Cookie Cake

    At last: an idea to repurpose the fortune cookies that so many of us acquire from Chinese food take-out.
    This Green Tea layer cake is made by Baked NYC, one of the most popular bakeries in New York City. The cake has three almond white cake layers, frosted and filled with green tea buttercream.

    You can call it a Green Tea Cake, Fortune Cookie Cake, or Chinese New Year Cake. It’s easy to whip up with a box of white cake mix and some dark or white chocolate, into which you dip the fortune cookies. Here’s how:

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA FORTUNE COOKIE CAKE

  • Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract to a white cake batter (use a boxed mix).
  • If you want an actual green tea cake, add 4 teaspoons of matcha (powdered green tea) to the cake batter/mix and omit the almond extract.
  • Make the green tea buttercream (recipe below).
  • Dip the fortune cookies into melted dark or white chocolate.
  • If you like crunch, crush extra fortune cookies with a rolling pin and add the pieces to the filling over the bottom layer.
  •    

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    Green tea frosting on a layer cake. The fortune cookies were dipped in white chocolate. Photo courtesy BakedNYC.com.

     
    If you want to make your own fortune cookies from scratch, here’s the recipe.
     

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA BUTTERCREAM

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 sticks butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the water and tea powder to make a paste.

    2. CREAM the butter and tea until completely combined. Gradually add powdered sugar until you reach the consistency you like for frosting.

     

    Matcha

    Matcha, powdered green tea, is whisked with
    water into a foamy beverage. Photo by Kelly
    Cline | IST.

     

    WHAT IS MATCHA?

    Matcha is powdered green tea the consistency of talc, that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony (cha no yu). Matcha has a wonderful aroma, a creamy, silky froth and a rich, mellow taste.

    Matcha is made from ten-cha leaves, which are gyokuro leaves that have been not been rolled into needles but are instead steamed and dried. They are top-grade Japanese green tea, produced by a special process in the Uji district, a region known for producing some of the finest green teas in Japan.

    The tea bushes are shaded from sunlight for three weeks before harvesting, producing amino acids that sweeten the taste. Unlike whole leaf tea, which is steeped, the leaves are then ground like flour, slowly and finely in a stone mill. The powder is whisked into water, creating a foamy drink. It is the only powdered tea.

    Powdered tea is the original way in which tea was prepared. Steeping dried leaves in boiling water didn’t arrive until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

    Matcha contains a higher amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, L-theanine amino acids, polyphenols, chlorophyll and fiber) than other teas.

     
    In recent years, matcha has become a popular cooking and baking ingredient, and now comes in different grades for different uses. Pastry chefs have incorporated it into everything from cakes and custards to ice cream.
     
    WHAT IS THE CHINESE NEW YEAR?

    The Chinese calendar consists of both Gregorian and lunar-solar calendar systems. Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February.

    This year, it begins today, and it’s the Year Of The Goat, one of the 12 zodiac animals. The Chinese zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle. Each year in the cycle has an animal sign: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/ram/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog or pig.

    But what’s with the goat/sheep/ram? Which one is it?

    It’s what you want it to be. In Mandarin, the character “yang” refers to a horned animal, and covers all three of the contenders. But if you go for sheep, know that is one of the least desirable animals on the zodiac. A sheep is seen as a docile, weak follower, rather than a leader.

    So go for the goat: a feisty, independent-minded ruminant whose milk makes our favorite cheese!

    If This Is Your Lunar Year…

    In addition to those born this year, those under the goat/ram/sheep sign were born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 and 2003. For them, 2015 is an auspicious year.

    People born in the Year Of The Goat are said to like to be in groups. They are honest, intimate, and can be easily moved by the misfortune of others.

    Every sign confers lucky numbers, lucky colors, lucky flowers, etc. So whether you’re a goat or one of the other zodiac animals, head on over to ChinaHighlights.com to find yours.

    CHINESE NEW YEAR TRIVIA: The tradition of spending the Lunar New Year holiday with family means that hundreds of millions of Chinese people are traveling home. It’s the world’s biggest annual migration.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: The Flying Meatballs

    open-package-ps-230

    Six large meatballs are tucked under a
    blanket of smooth tomato sauce. Photo by
    Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

     

    There is a National Meatball Day: It’s coming up soon, on March 9th. And we know just how we’re going to celebrate: with lots and lots of The Flying Meatballs.

    The Flying Meatballs is a side business established by an elegant restaurant in Whippany, New Jersey, Il Capriccio. The restaurant’s meatballs have been a perennial menu favorite, with patrons always asking for orders to go.

    The Grande family, owners of the restaurant, decided that the meatballs were ideal for selling directly to consumers—that they would literally “fly off the shelves.” Hence the brand name.

    Made in small batches, the meatballs are now sold direct-to-consumers at TheFlyingMeatballs.com). They’ll also be at a growing list of deli counters, currently at Balducci’s and King’s (listen up, Fairway!).

    Six meatballs, blanketed in sauce, include a choice of:

  • The Classic Meatballs, a 50:50 blend of beef and veal, $16.00
  • 100% Premium Beef Meatballs, $15.00
  • Organic Grass-Fed Meatballs, $25.00
  • The Three Meats Meatballs—beef, pork and veal—$15.00
  • 100% Premium Turkey Meatballs, $15.00
  •  
    The company sent us a sample of each, and we’re now a raving fan. Each order of meatballs is packed by the half-dozen in a velvety tomato sauce. The meatballs are bit: about 3.5 ounces in weight and about three inches in diameter. Two meatballs is more than enough for adults; small eaters and children will do well with one meatball. A big eater, we consumed them without the conventional pasta or submarine roll, with just a big salad. We were more than satisfied.

    Everything is made from scratch, including the breadcrumbs. Just as at the restaurant, prime, natural cuts of meat and premium ingredients are combined into a dense yet tender texture. You get lots of great meat for the money.

    Chef Grande has a degree in engineering, which enabled him to design and build a proprietary meatball extruder. The technology creates a replicate a perfectly hand-rolled meatball, just like his grandmother makes.

    The meatballs are flash frozen after being made and keep their flavor and consistency until thawed and cooked.

    “We’re bringing the comforts of Nonna’s kitchen to customers’ doorsteps,” says chef Natale Grande. The recipe, handed down through generations, rocks. We must give a shout out to the wonderful sauce. A velvety purée, more a gravy than a conventional chunky sauce, it is so good we would like to buy buckets of it and put it on everything.

     

    DELICIOUS ACCOMPANIMENTS

    Pasta

    The company also sells premium imported pastas from Rustichella d’Abruzzo:

  • The curly al torchio (the torchio is the press that shapes them)
  • Bucatini, thick spaghetti with a hollow center
  • Casarecce, meaning “homestyle,” two-inch twists
  • Farro (spelt) penne rigate, short tubes with ridges
  • Fusilli, “little spindles,” a variation of corkscrew pasta
  • Spaghetti, the oldest cut (the name means “lengths of cords”)
  • Organic whole wheat spaghetti
  • Organic kamut pasta from pasta maker Gianluigi Peduzzi
  •  
    Grating Cheeses

    For a primo pasta experience, there’s a choice of six aged Italian cheeses:

     

    flying-meatballs-plated-230L

    Bundles of love. Photo courtesy The Flying Meatballs.

  • Vacche Rosse (“Red Cow”), 30 months aged), considered to be the finest Parmigiaino-Reggiano
  • Grana padano
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Percorino crotonese
  • Pecorino romano
  • Ricotta salata
  •  
    You can see that it’s not all about Parmigiano-Reggiano. The next time you make pasta, consider one of the others. Check out our article, Italian Grating Cheeses.
     
    Pasta Sauces

    The same is true with the sauce. Much as a tomato sauce is beloved on pasta, consider other favorites from the Grande family, including:

  • Basil pesto
  • Classic tomato ragu (the signature San Marzano-based tomatoes sauce that envelopes the meatballs
  • Roasted garlic and broccoli rabe purée
  • Mascarpone fondu, a smooth and very creamy cheese sauce made from blend of mascarpone cheese and 18-month-aged Grana Padano cheese
  •  
    Along with some fine olive oils and a mac and cheese (a blend of Gruyère, provolone and marscopone with a touch of nutmeg over imported gemelli pasta—we can’t wait to try it), TheFlyingMeatballs.com is a treasure trove for delicious Italian comfort food.

    For a treat or a gift (the packaging is quite attractive), order a slew of meatballs. All are delicious, although our personal favorite was the complex layering of Three Meats.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Homemade Peppermint Patties

    February 11th is National Peppermint Patty Day. Whip up a batch today, and make extras to hand out on Valentine’s Day. (For Valentine patties, top with heart-shaped sprinkles or Conversation Hearts.)

    IS IT PATTY OR PATTIE?

    Whether it’s candy, meat or veggies, to be perfectly correct, the spelling is patty. Patties is the plural form, so many folks assumed the singular to be pattie.

    The word first appeared in English around 1700-1710, derived from the French pâté (paste in English), a mix of finely-ground ingredients. Pasta is the Italian word for paste; and in modern French cuisine, pâté refers to a meat loaf as well as the more finely ground goose or duck liver pâté.

    Perhaps America’s most famous patty is the [incorrectly spelled] York Peppermint Pattie. According to a company history in Wikipedia, the York Peppermint Pattie was first produced by Henry C. Kessler, owner of the York Cone Company, in 1940. The company was named for its location: York, Pennsylvania. (Today the company is owned by Hershey and the production is in Monterey, Mexico.)

       

    peppermint-patties-safeeggs-230

    Homemade peppermint patties. Photo courtesy SafeEggs.com.

     
    Sure, you could run out and get a York Peppermint Pattie. Or, you could spend 40 minutes of prep time making your own (plus 9 hours of drying time).

    Because the recipe uses uncooked egg whites, you may wish to consider Safest Choice pasteurized egg whites.

    And if you’re not in a candy mood, how about a Peppermint Patty Martini?

     

    deBrand-230

    Semisweet (50% cacao or more) or bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao or more) are a better counterpoint to the lively mint than milk chocolate. Photo courtesy Debrand.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE PEPPERMINT PATTIES

    Ingredients For 30 Pieces

  • 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus extra as needed
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon water, plus extra as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 4 four-ounce dark chocolate bars, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut a separate 2-inch square of parchment paper. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE the powdered sugar, egg whites, water and peppermint extract in stand mixer on low speed until smooth. Increase the speed gradually to high, to form a stiff, smooth dough, adding ½ teaspoon of water at a time if mixture becomes too stiff.

    3. DUST a clean surface with powdered sugar and roll the dough into a log, approximately 12-inches long and 1-1/4-inches in diameter. Slice the log into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces, rolling the pieces into balls as you go. Arrange them on lined baking sheets, about an inch apart.

     
    4. PLACE the square of parchment paper on top of each dough ball and flatten it into a a disk, using the bottom of shot glass. Repeat. Let the candies dry, uncovered, at room temperature for at least six hours. After the patties have dried…

    5. COMBINE the chocolate and vegetable oil in a small bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly. Dip each candy into the melted chocolate, coating both sides.

    6. RETURN the candies to the parchment paper until the chocolate has set, about 3 hours. To set faster, place the candies in the refrigerator.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Molasses Bar Day

    It’s National Molasses Bar Day, so consider whipping up a batch of chewy molasses bar cookies.

    This recipe, from Grandma’s Molasses, ups the chewiness and nutrition by adding nuts and dried dates. Walnuts are popular, and pistachios and dates are a classic Middle East combination; but you can use any nut you favor.

    For a special dessert tonight, top a bar with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    RECIPE: DATE NUT MOLASSES BARS

    Ingredients For 32 Bars

  • 1 cup enriched flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup nuts, chopped
  • 1 package/7 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped
  •    

    molasses-date-bars-grandmasmolasses-230

    Date, nut and molasses bars. Photo courtesy Grandma’s Molasses.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. SIFT together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

    3. COMBINE the egg, sugar, molasses, shortening and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, nuts and dates.

    4. LINE a 9 x 9 x 2-inch pan with wax paper, greased and lightly floured. Pour in the batter and bake 40 minutes or until done.

    5. TURN out onto cooling rack; remove the wax paper. When cool, cut into 32 bars. Store in an airtight container.

     

    michigansugar.com

    Dark molasses. Photo courtesy Michigan Sugar Co.

     

    WHAT IS MOLASSES?

    Molasses is thick syrup produced as a by-product during the refining of sugar cane. Molasses is the residue that is left after the sugar crystals are extracted (i.e., molasses is produced when no more sugar may be economically crystallized by conventional means).

    Molasses is predominantly sucrose, with some glucose and fructose. It is 65% as sweet as sugar. The better grades of molasses, such as New Orleans drip molasses and Barbados molasses, are unreprocessed and contain more sucrose, making them lighter in color. They are used in cooking and confectionery and in the production of rum.

  • Light molasses comes from the first boiling of the cane. It is also called sweet molasses and is used as pancake syrup or a sweetener.
  • Dark molasses comes from the second boiling. It is more flavorful and less sweet than light molasses, and often used for gingerbread and spice cookies.
  • Treacle is the British term for dark molasses; light molasses is called golden syrup.
  • Blackstrap molasses, the lowest grade, comes from the third boiling; it is strong and bitter, and mainly used in mixed cattle feed and in the manufacture of industrial alcohol.
  • Sulfured molasses has had sulfur dioxide added as a preservative (or, the sulfur in the manufacturing process is retained in the molasses).
  •   

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