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Archive for Food Holidays

TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Mulled Wine Day

You’ve heard of mulled wine, you say, but you don’t really know what it is? You’re not alone. So we’ll take a moment on National Mulled Wine Day to give you some information to mull over, as well as recipes for mulled wine and its Scandinavian cousin, glögg (pronounced glugg—add Aquivit or vodka along with the brandy, plus almonds and raisins). For those who don’t drink alcohol (or for the kids), there’s also a recipe for mulled apple cider. The basics: Take a modest red wine and add water, brandy, spices and some sugar or honey. Simmer on the stove top (read the recipe) and serve in mugs. Glass mugs are preferable, since, as with any wine, one likes to enjoy the color of the beverage. But any mug will do. (If you’re going to buy glass mugs, we love the double-walled Bistro series from Bodum. They’re beautiful, keep the beverage hot longer and don’t require a coaster because the double wall keeps the heat and moisture raised above your tabletop.)   Mulled Wine
A cinnamon stick for garnish is optional.
The word “mull,” referring to sweetening, spicing and heating of wine or ale, has been traced back to 1610 or so. Wine and ale often went bad; by adding spices and honey (sugar was not widely available for another two centuries), it could be made drinkable again. Almost every European country has its version of mulled wine (even the French make vin chaud), and it is popular in South America as well—today as a comforting drink, not to cover up bad booze. The spicy-sweet aroma of the mulling wine will fill your home—it’s the beverage equivalent of baking cookies. You can buy premixed mulling spices in a specialty food store or spice shop (or even in some supermarkets); or you can measure out a little allspice, some dried orange rind (a.k.a. orange peel) and a few whole cloves into a muslin pouch or spice ball (add peppercorns if you’re into pepper, and star anise if you have it), and throw a few cinnamon sticks into the brew. Historical note: The holiday wassail bowl of yore was a mulled ale, flavored with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, topped with slices of toast (think croutons). The wassail served at today’s Medieval holiday reenactments is likely to be mulled cider, to accommodate modern palates. Find more drink recipes for entertaining in the Cocktails Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Banana Creme Pie Day

White Chocolate Banana Tart
This white chocolate banana tart, scrumptious in and of itself, has been accessorized with a chocolate straw, a miniature cookie, fresh raspberries and a mint sprig. Recipe and photograph courtesy of El Rey Chocolate.
  It’s National Banana Creme Pie Day. As we were going through our recipes, we found this one for a White Chocolate Banana Tart, which is far more interesting (sorry the photo isn’t better). It’s made with El Rey’s Icoa white chocolate, which many people feel is the finest white chocolate made (Icoa was a native goddess). However, it’s hard to find, so buy any top-quality white chocolate bar. Be sure to read the ingredients label: If the words “vegetable oil” appear, steer clear!—it’s imitation chocolate, and won’t taste so good. Look for the words “cocoa butter.”
Tart Dough Ingredients
• 7 tablespoons lightly salted butter, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1-3/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
Tart Dough Directions

1. Cream the sugar and butter using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl.
3. Add the flour. Mix until combined. Refrigerate at least one hour before rolling out.
4. Roll out the tart dough. Using tart pans that have been sprayed with baker’s spray, line each tart pan with dough. NOTE: After tart dough has been rolled out, it can be chilled for at least an hour and re-rolled. After the dough has been re-rolled once, discard it.
5. Poke shells with a fork and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.Pastry Cream Ingredients
• 1-1/3 cups whole milk
• 1/2 vanilla bean
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
• 1 envelope gelatin, softened in 1/4 cup water and melted
• 4 ounces El Rey Icoa or other top quality white chocolate, finely chopped
• 2 ripe bananas, puréed

Pastry Cream Directions
1. Whisk together eggs, sugar and corn starch.
2. Bring the milk to a boil, with the vanilla bean scraped into it. At the boiling point, add some of the hot milk to the egg/sugar mixture and whisk together.
3. When the milk boils, stir in the egg mixture and lower the heat to medium. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until custard thickens and begins to pull from the side of the pot.
4. In a stainless steel bowl, pour the custard on top of the white chocolate. Whisk together until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the butter. Add the melted gelatin and whisk together.
5. Add the puréed banana. Cool in an ice water bath. Refrigerate until needed.

Assembling The Banana Tarts
Ingredients

• 1 recipe banana-white chocolate pastry cream (above), chilled
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 4 bananas
• Optional garnishes: raspberries, mint leaves, chocolate straws, miniature cookies

Assembly Directions
1. Whip the heavy cream and sugar until stiff.
2. Whisk the chilled banana pastry cream.
3. Fold 2/3 of the whipped cream into the banana pastry cream. Reserve the remaining whipped cream for garnish.
4. Fill each tart shell with banana pastry cream.
5. Using a propane torch or the broiler in your oven, brown the sliced bananas.
6. Arrange the bananas around the inside edge of the tarts.
7. Using a pastry bag, pipe a rosette of whipped cream in the center of each tart. If you do not have a pastry bag, scoop a dollop of whipped cream into the center of each tart.
8. Garnish with raspberries, mint leaves, chocolate and cookies and serve.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day

It’s National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day—and starting Monday, our Gourmet Giveaway Trivia Quiz focuses on peanut butter. So, all you lovers, tune back in then and you can win a delicious peanut butter prize. We’re a little constrained here about what we can write about peanut butter, because most of the juicy insights are questions in the trivia quiz. So instead, we’ll talk about flavored peanut butter.There isn’t yet a National Flavored Peanut Butter Day, because all of these “designated holidays” are petitioned by large companies or their public relations firms, and flavored PBs are often made by smaller, artisan companies that don’t have the bandwidth for such initiatives. So, we’ll do a little horn-tooting here for them.   Onion Parsley Peanut Butter - Peanut Better
Try Onion Parsley Peanut Better on a roast beef or turkey sandwich, instead of mustard or mayo.
Our first flavored PB epiphany came when we tasted the Peanut Better peanut butters at the Fancy Food Show in the summer of 2004. Imagine seeing a lineup of jars called Onion Parsley Peanut Butter, Rosemary Garlic Peanut Butter, Thai Ginger & Red Pepper Peanut Butter and Spicy Southwestern Peanut Butter. We could almost imagine the latter two, because we’ve made our share of spicy Szechwan noodle dishes. But Onion Parsley? Rosemary Garlic? After one bite, we were astounded, and Peanut Better quickly became a Top Pick Of The Week. (The company also makes Cinnamon Currant, Deep Chocolate Peanut Praline, Sweet Molasses & Vanilla Cranberry and other sweet and savory flavors. And, the line is organic and kosher.)A short while later, in January 2005, we were at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and discovered P.B. Loco, a company founded by law school graduates in St. Paul, Minnesota. Their Sun-Dried Tomato Peanut Butter knocked our socks off, and two of their numerous sweet PBs—Raspberry White Chocolate and Sumatra Cinnamon & Raisin—remain our all-time favorites (who needs dessert—just dip in a spoon). But back to those exotic savory peanut butters: What do you do with them? They are dynamite on turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef and grilled vegetable sandwiches (pair them with soft cheeses like mozzarella, too). Use them to baste chicken or lamb, mix some into meatloaf, stuffing, bread and muffin batter. Spread them on apples or pears. Make canapés, along with meats, cheeses or vegetables. Dip crudités into them, toss them with steamed vegetables, add them to baked potatoes. Go [pea]nuts! Read more about PB in the Jams, Jellies & Peanut Butters Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Saucy Gifts

March is National Sauce Month, so share the love. If you make a favorite pasta sauce—or if you’ve been thinking of trying a new recipe—all of that work can make many more people happy. Just make double or triple the amount you usually would. You can freeze the extra sauce in pint containers, not just for your own use but as gifts. Birthday celebrants, sick friends, new parents and new neighbors are just a few people who would appreciate something easy-to-make for dinner. Sending guests home from a dinner party with a pint of your homemade sauce is a nice party favor—something they’ll re-thank you for when they enjoy a second delicious dinner. Read about our favorite ready-to-eat sauces in the Pasta & Sauces Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Roast PotatoesRed sauces are not just for Italian food: Try them on roasted potatoes.
 

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Surf & Turf Day

The classic Surf and Turf is a lobster tail and
a filet mignon. Photo courtesy
MackenzieLtd.com.

 

Now, we must ask: Why would anyone make Surf &Turf Day fall on February 29th? Should we celebrate this tasty holiday only once every four years?

Perhaps it’s put on Leap Day because of its ostentatiousness—it is, after all, a dish that combines the two most expensive dishes on the menu, lobster tail and filet mignon.

Of course, mankind has been combining meat and seafood in meals since the dawn of plenty. Fine dining establishments served both lobster and steak on the same plate in the last quarter of the 19th century. Diamond Jim Brady was just one of many gourmands whose table was laden with both beef and lobster.

But the disk known as Surf and Turf (or Surf ‘n’ Turf, to be even more vulgar), is an American invention.

The earliest earliest print reference found by FoodTimeline.org was published in the Eureka [California] Humboldt Standard of August 14, 1964: “An entrée in restaurants in Portland [Oregon] is called surf and turf—a combination of lobster and steak.”

However, there is a second claim, without printed proof, that the same dish by the same name was served at the Sky City restaurant, in the Space Needle, at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

 
The dish is called “Reef and Beef” in Australia. Evidently, ostentatious displays are not limited to the U.S.

Modern Riffs On Surf & Turf

Don”t be constrained by lobster and steak. Pick your favorite seafood and meats: crab cake, crab legs, scallops or shrimp with lamb chops or pork chops, for example.

Or, enjoy a hot dog in a bun paired with lobster, shrimp or tuna salad in a bun, a clam roll or lobster roll.

Fish and chips with a tasty sausage also has its appeal. As does crab cake and ribs.

We could fill the Leap Days for the rest of our life with different options, and not run out.

Happy Surf & Turf Day!

[Updated February 2012]

  

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