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Archive for Food Holidays

TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Tortellini Day

TortelliniHeavenly Porcini Mushroom Tortelloni from Bertagni.   We don’t have to twist arms to get people to celebrate National Tortellini Day at THE NIBBLE. In fact, we’re lunching on several flavors of the wonderful tortellini from Bertagni (the topic of a prior post). Tortellini (tor-teh-LEE-nee) are small pastas stuffed with a variety of fillings, and a favorite pasta dish worldwide (wontons are cousins). They are served in soups—as in the classic dish, tortellini in brodo—or with sauce. We also serve them as hors d’oeuvres and snacks—with dipping sauces, on skewers with complementary meats, cheeses and veggies. Tortellini originated in Bologna and are accompanied by a legend: When the goddess Venus stayed in a tavern on the outskirts of the city, the innkeeper spied on her through the keyhole of her room, but could catch only a glimpse of her navel. Spellbound, he went to the kitchen and, to capture this vision, shaped fresh egg pasta into the bite-sized, navel-shaped tortellini. Larger bites, called tortelloni, are also made.
Tortellini and tortelloni are made by adding a filling to a circle of dough, then folding it in half, making a semicircle of the half and pinching the ends together to form the shape. By the way, the word for navel is not tortellini but ombelico; torte is the past participle of the verb torcere, meaning filled.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Plum Pudding Day

Plum Pudding Hard Sauce

Christmas Pudding Toffee Sauce

Top: Plum Pudding with hard sauce; photo by Gary Lerner | London Lennie’s. Bottom: Plum pudding with toffee sauce at MackenzieLtd.com.

 

“Who on earth would strive to create a National Plum Pudding Day in America, especially on February 12th,” we wondered. This is the boiled pudding dessert made of dried fruit that is traditionally served in the U.K. on Christmas Day (it’s also known as Christmas pudding and figgy pudding).

You can’t even get an American to eat a piece of fruit cake, let alone a dark, dried fruit and suet concoction, mixed with flour and spices (and related to mince pie, another dish not-so-beloved by Americans).

It’s largely that plum pudding is not sweet enough for the American palate, and we aren’t accustomed to desserts made with suet (beef or mutton fat).

And why would National Plum Pudding day be in the middle of February, rather than around the holidays?

In the U.K. it’s available year-round.

We really enjoy a good plum pudding (as well as a good fruitcake and a good mince pie).

  • Plum pudding can be eaten with hard sauce, custard sauce, crème anglaise, lemon cream, etc.
  • With a side of rum raisin ice cream, custard sauce and enough flaming brandy poured upon it, more Americans might warm up to it.
  •  
    Here’s a recipe to make your own plum pudding.

    Here’s more about plum pudding sauces and history.
     
    BUT WHAT ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN?

    The bigger issue, vis-à-vis the scramble to name every day of the year a food holiday, would seem that we’ve forgotten that February 12th is the birthday of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

     
    President Lincoln was born in 1809 in a one-room log cabin on his parents’ farm in Hardin County (now part of LaRue County), Kentucky. Might not a more appropriate holiday for February 12th be Bûche de Noel Day, honoring Honest Abe with that charming buttercream cake decorated to look like a log? Just a thought.

    Those of you from Kentucky or Illinois, where the family relocated and Abe began his political career, might think of petitioning to get something more Lincoln-appropriate in the February 12th food holiday slot. Find out how all of these holidays (known as “special observance days”) are enacted…and perhaps you’ll be inspired to petition for your own.

    National Foie Gras With Château d’Yquem Day, anyone?

     
      

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Peppermint Patty—Not Pattie—Day (Here’s A Recipe)

    February 11th is Peppermint Patty Day. You may indulge in the occasional York Peppermint Patty or box of Junior Mints (we do). But if you love peppermint patties, making them at home is easy.

  • Combine 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons softened butter, 3 teaspoons peppermint extract and 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract.
  • Mix in 1/4 cup evaporated milk. Roll into 1-inch balls, place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and chill for 20 minutes.
  • Flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass to 1/4″ thick, so they look like peppermint patties.
  • Next, prepare the chocolate coating in a double boiler: 12 ounces of good-quality semisweet chocolate (you can use chocolate morsels, but the key is to get the best-tasting chocolate you can find, like Guittard or Valrhona) with 2 tablespoons shortening.
  • Dip the patties and place them back on the waxed paper to harden.
  •  
    If you want to go all out, you can decorate the tops of the patties with candied mint leaves: Dip tiny leaves or cut pieces of leaf and crystallize in sugar syrup.

    This recipe makes about 5 dozen peppermint patties. Be sure to make extra for friends and family—they’re are so good, you’ll want to eat the whole batch.

    IS IT PATTY OR PATTIE?

     

    Homemade Peppermint Patties

    Make a batch of peppermint patties for yourself, plus more for gifts. Yours may not look this perfect, but they’ll taste great (photo courtesy Safe Eggs).

     
    To be perfectly correct, the spelling is patty. Patties is the plural form, so many folks assumed the singular to be pattie.

    The dictionary does not recognize “pattie” as a word; although the York Candy Company chose this [incorrect] spelling to refer to a York Peppermint Pattie.

    Patty first appeared in English around 1700, from the French pâté. It referred to an item of food covered with dough, batter, etc., and fried or baked, such as oyster patties. It then referred to ground or minced food; and finally, the thin, round candy we call a peppermint patty.

    Peppermint Patty is also a character from the Peanuts comic series.

    YORK PEPPERMINT PATTIE HISTORY

    According to a company history in Wikipedia, the York Peppermint Pattie (sic) was first produced by Henry C. Kessler, owner of the York Cone Company, in 1940. The company was named for its location: York, Pennsylvania.

    In the annals of corporate acquisitions, in 1972 the York Cone Company was acquired by Peter Paul. In 1978, Peter Paul merged with Cadbury Schweppes. In 1988 the Hershey Foods Corporation acquired the U.S. operations of Cadbury Schweppes.

    The York Peppermint Pattie we know is different from Henry Kessler’s: the mint centers are only semi hard. In February 2009, Hershey closed the Reading, Pennsylvania plant that made York Peppermint Patties, 5th Avenue and Zagnut candy bars, and Jolly Rancher hard candies. Production was moved to a new factory the company built in Monterey, Mexico.

    Find more of our favorite peppermint candies in the Candy Section of THE NIBBLE webzine.

      

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Cream Cheese Brownie Day

    Why add cream cheese to brownie batter? You might logically say, for more richness. Cream cheese makes a denser, fudgier brownie, and the tangy quality of the cream cheese is a nice counterpoint to both the deep chocolate flavor and the sweetness of the sugar. Some cream cheese brownies simply incorporate the softened cream cheese into the batter; others create a marbled swirl in the batter, still others add a cream cheese layer on the top of the brownie, as shown in the photo at the right. (Then, there’s the full cheesecake topping that makes a half cheesecake, half brownie delight called the “zebra.” But that’s another holiday). Here’s the cheesecake brownie recipe from the photo:
    Ingredients

    Brownie Mixture:
    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
    2 eggs
    3/4 cup superfine sugar
    1/2 cup self-rising flour
    1/8 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

      BrownieWhip up a batch of cream cheese brownies. Photo and recipe courtesy of Diana’s Desserts.
    Cream Cheese Mixture:
    3/4 cup (180g) cream cheese at room temperature
    1 egg
    1/3 cup superfine baker’s sugar
    1/4 cup self-rising flour
    1 tsp. vanilla extract


    Instructions

    1. Butter and lightly flour an 8 x 8-inch square cake pan. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

    2. Combine the flour and salt. Set aside. Melt the butter in a small, heavy-based saucepan, then stir in the cocoa until blended and set aside. Beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and stir in the chocolate mixture. Sift the flour/salt mixture over the top and fold it into the mixture. Add vanilla. Fold in the chocolate chips.

    3. Make cream cheese mixture. Whisk together cream cheese, egg and sugar (or use an electric mixer). Sift 1/4 cup self-rising flour over this mixture and fold in. Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract.

    4. Pour three-quarters of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and spread the cream cheese mixture over it. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining brownie mixture on top, making swirls with a knife. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is springy to the touch, being careful not to over-bake. Cool brownies in the pan, then cut into squares.

    Makes 16 brownies.

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Pizza Pie Day

    Pizza RomanaOur favorite frozen gourmet pizzas, from Pizza Romana.   While National Pizza Week is celebrated the second week of January, today is Pizza Pie Day. Most of us aren’t old enough to remember that pizzas were formerly called pizza pie—you can catch the reference in movies from the 1950s. The history of pizza is relatively recent, given how ancient flat breads and cheese are in man’s cuisine. The key element that turned them into what we know today as pizza is the tomato, which was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century. This was the yellow cherry tomato, and as a member of the Nightshade family of plants, it was believed by many Europeans to be poisonous. The tomato was enjoyed as a houseplant. However, famine in the 18th century caused the fruit to be eaten by the poor, and no one died. The poor in the area around Naples then add tomato to their flat bread, often serving as their main meal with melted cheese and/or anchovies, and so the pizza was born. (So was tomato sauce for pasta and other dishes.)
    Pizza gained in popularity, sold from open-air stands by street vendors, and soon became a tourist attraction. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples is regarded as the world’s first pizzeria. It began as a pizza bakery in 1738, providing street vendors with pizzas, but in 1830 expanded to include a pizza restaurant with chairs and tables. It remains in business today. Pizza arrived in the U.S. with the first wave of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century.
    – See our favorite line of frozen gourmet pizzas, Pizza Romana—imported from Italy.
    – Try something different: An apple, cheddar and bacon pizza recipe.

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