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Archive for Food Holidays/History/Facts

TIP OF THE DAY: Grenache (Garnacha) For Fall & Winter

The third Friday of September—the 18th this year—is International Grenache Day. With its high alcohol content and spicy notes, it’s an excellent wine for autumn and winter food pairings (see below).

Grenache (gruh-NOSH) in French, Garnacha in Spanish, is easy to grow and thus one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. Because pure Grenache wines (monovarietals) tend to lack acid, tannin and rich color, the grape is often blended with other varietals. For red Grenache, these are chiefly:

  • Mourvèdre and Syrah in France and Australia.
  • Tempranillo in Spain.
  • However, if you want a pure Grenache, you can find it.
    There are also white Grenaches and rosé Grenaches. Noteworthy examples of the latter are Tavel from the Côtes du Rhône of France and the rosés of the Navarra region of Spain.

    The high sugar levels of Grenache make it good for fortified wines, as well. It is used in most Australian fortified wines and in the Port-like red vins doux naturels of Roussillon, France such as Banyuls, Maury and Rasteau.

    Today, narrow down your options and try a red Grenache or Garnacha. What should you try it with?


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/garnacha sematadesign shutterstock230

    A glass of Grenache. It’s hard to tell Grenache by its color, since most are blended with other grapes. A Grenache blend with Syrah or Temperanillo, for example, will be much more purple than a 100% Grenache. Photo courtesy Semata.


    Red Grenache is a versatile wine, even though—as with any wine—its flavors vary, depending on where the grapes are grown, the soil and microclimate characteristics and diverse winemaking styles among producers.

    But red Grenache is generally spicy* with raspberry or strawberry notes. As the wine ages, leather and tar flavors can emerge.

    Pair red Grenache with:

  • Fall and winter dishes: braises, casseroles, roasts, roast turkey and stews (beef, fish, lamb, pork, poultry, veal).
  • Hearty regional fare: classic French bistro dishes, Indian curries, Moroccan tagines, paprika/pimenton-spiced dishes (great with goulash), Portuguese and Spanish country dishes.
  • Vegetarian dishes: bean- and lentil-based dishes, casseroles, cooked tomatoes and eggplant.
  • Smoky foods: barbecue and other smoked meats and related dishes like pork and beans. For smoky pairings, try lighter, affordable Garnachas from Spain.
  • Comfort foods: burgers, mac and cheese, pizza.
  • Strong aged cheeses: blue, cheddar and washed rind cheeses, for example.
    *In wine, “spicy” refers to flavors such as anise, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, mint, nutmeg and pepper. Some grapes—and the wines made from them—are naturally spicy: Grenache, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel. New oak barrels also impart spicy notes.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/beaucastel jacquesperrin skinner 230

    One of our favorite grenache blends, Chateau de Beaucastel from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region of the Rhone. Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds tend to be earthy and gamy flavors, with hints of tar and leather: big, lush wines that are terrific with roast beef or lamb. Photo courtesy Skinner Inc.


  • Artichokes
  • Charcuterie
  • Cheese dishes: fondue, gratin, soufflé
  • Paella
  • Seafood dishes
  • Tataki, tartare and sushi (especially stronger flavors, like
    salmon and tuna)

  • Chocolate and chocolate desserts
  • Figs and blue cheese (one of our favorite cheese courses)

    Garnacha most likely originated in the Aragon region of northern Spain. In the 12th century it spread to Catalonia and other regions under the Crown of Aragon.

    When the Roussillon region was annexed by France, Garnacha became Grenache, and the grape was planted in Languedoc and the Southern Rhone region. The latter is the home of perhaps the world’s greatest grenache blend, the A.O.C.† Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

    †Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), or controlled designation of origin, is the French certification granted to certain wines, cheeses, and other agricultural products made in specific geographical areas, from local ingredients and according to time-honored artisanal practices. The terroir of the region and the artisan techniques assure the authenticity of the product.



    TIP: Create A Guacamole Party Bar

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/guacamole sabrinamodelle calavocomm 230

    Guacamole with crispy bacon and shredded
    cheddar. Here’s the recipe. Photo and recipe
    courtesy Sabrina Modelle | The Tomato Tart
    via California Avocado Commission.


    National Guacamole Day is September 16th, and we wondered: If there are salad bars and frozen yogurt bars, cereal bars, baked potato bars and chili bars*, why not a guacamole bar? Who doesn’t love the opportunity to customize their foods?

    Individual bowls and an array of ingredients enable each person to start with a base of smashed avocado, and pile on the fixings. They can then be mixed in or eaten as is—a mountain of flavors and textures.

    Whether for a general party or drinks, we like to include a crunchy salad base, to make a more substantial dish. We prefer shredded cabbage, a.k.a. coleslaw mix. You end up with “guacamole coleslaw” at the bottom of the dish.

    To encourage creativity, mix some non-traditional items (bacon? mint? pineapple?) with traditional ones.

  • Avocado: mashed, smashed or diced†
  • Cheese: crumbled cotija, goat cheese, queso blanco, queso fresco or queso oaxaca; shredded cheddar or jack
  • Diced veggies: bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, green and/or red onion, jicama, radish, tomatillo, tomato/sundried tomato
  • Seasonings: cayenne, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and/or minced garlic, hot sauce, lemon and/or lime wedges, paprika, salt/seasoned salt, Worcestershire sauce
  • Heat: chile flakes, minced chipotle and jalapeño‡
  • Herbs: chives, cilantro, mint, parsley
  • Salad base: arugula, chicory, escarole, iceberg, radicchio, romaine, shredded cabbage, watercress
  • Toppings: bacon, corn, crushed pineapple, diced mango, olives, salsa, sour cream or plain yogurt, toasted nuts

  • Chips and dippers: celery sticks, crostini (toasted or grilled baguette slices), endive leaves, pita chips, tortilla chips, flatbread
  • Drinks: beer, white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or other crisp, medium-body white wine), white sangria
    Set the dishes on a table or buffet in this order: bowls, salad, avocado, veggies, heat, seasonings and toppings; include serving utensils with each option.

    At the end of the table, place the forks and spoons for blending and napkins, and dinner plates for the individual bowls and chips. Place large bowls of chips or other dippers on the tables.
    *More food bar ideas: Breakfast & Brunch Bar, Lunch & Dinner Bar and Dessert Bar.

    †Hass avocados are preferred. While other varieties are larger, the Hass variety is creamier, a desired characteristic for guacamole.

    ‡To accommodate those who just like a little heat, have two bowls of jalapeño: one minced and served as is, one with the heat-carrying seeds removed before mincing.



    Mesoamericans cultivated the avocado, a fruit which had grown in what we now call Central America for millions of years. The conquering Aztecs‡‡ called it ahuacatl; the “tl” is pronounced “tay” in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. Guacamole was compounded in a molcajete, a mortar and pestle carved from volcanic stone.

    When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1519 under Hernán Cortés, they heard ah-hwah-cah-tay as “aguacate,” the spelling and pronounciation they adopted.

    The name guacamole comes from Mexican Spanish via the Nahuatl “ahuacamOlli,” a compound of ahuacatl [avocado] + mOlli [sauce]. The chocolate-based mole sauce comes from that same word, mOlli.

    Ahuacatl means “testicle.” Aztecs saw the avocado as resembling testicles and ate them as a sex stimulant. According to Linda Stradley on the website, for centuries after Europeans came into contact with the avocado, it carried its reputation for inducing sexual prowess. It wasn’t purchased or consumed by anyone concerned with his or her reputation.


    Guacamole On Spoon

    Custom-blending guacamole is not only fun; you get exactly what you want. Photo courtesy McCormick.

    American avocado growers had to sponsor a public relations campaign to dispel the myth before avocados could become popular. After then, their dark green, pebbly flesh also earned avocados the name, “alligator pear.”
    ‡‡The Aztecs, who probably originated as a nomadic tribe in northern Mexico, arrived in Mesoamerica around the beginning of the 13th century.


  • Avocados been cultivated for over 10,000 years.
  • Avocados have more potassium that a banana, plus many other health benefits (here are the 12 health benefits of avocado).
  • Leaving the pit in to keep it from browning doesn’t really work.
  • The largest-ever serving of guacamole weighed 2,669.5 kg (5,885.24 lbs), created by the Municipality of Tancítaro Michoacan in Tancítaro, Mexico, on April 4th 2013. But how many tortilla chips were needed?
  • During festivities for the last Super Bowl, 104.2 million pounds of avocados were consumed nationally, mostly as guacamole.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Wiener Schnitzel

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/wiener schnitzel 15196426 l cokemomo 230r

    Wiener Schnitzel, Austria’s national dish.
    Photo © Cokemomo | 123rf.


    Wiener Schnitzel (pronouced VEE-ner not WEE-ner) is the national dish of Austria and a standard of Continental cuisine. In The Sound Of Music, Maria sang that Schnitzel with noodles was “one of my favorite things.” The name means Viennese [-style] scallops, referring to the scallops of veal (der Schnitz means a slice or a cut).

    Wiener Schnitzel is a thin, breaded, fried veal cutlet fried served with a slice of lemon, traditionally served with a simple green salad or cucumbers plus German potato salad or boiled parsley potatoes. Lingonberry jam can be served as a condiment (you can buy it at better food stores, Ikea or online).

    In Austria the term is protected by law; “Wiener Schnitzel” assures you of a veal cutlet. Since veal is pricey, a less expensive Austrian alternative uses pork (Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein). It can also be made with beef, chicken, mutton, pork, turkey, boar and reindeer—any meat that can be cut into thin slices. Just call it Chicken Schnitzel instead of Wiener Schnitzel.

    While Wiener Schnitzel itself is out of fashion in the U.S., its spirit lives on in the American dish, Chicken-Fried Steak, a similar recipe made with beef. It was created in the Texas Hill Country by German immigrants, who found themselves with plenty of available beef. There’s more about Chicken-Fried Steak below.

    And a recipe for authentic Wiener Schnitzel is also below. But first:


    According to legend, Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, an Austrian general, brought the recipe from Italy to Vienna in 1857. But this story was invented, like George Washington and the cherry tree. Here’s what we know from the historical record:

  • A recipe for thinly sliced meat, breaded and fried, appears in the only remaining ancient Roman cookbook, published in the 4th or 5th century by “Apicus*.”
  • In the Middle Ages, breaded, fried veal was a very popular dish in both Northern Italy and what is now Austria.
  • Cotoletta Milanese, a bone-in veal chop that is breaded and fried, dates to a banquet held by the Hapsburg rulers of what is now Italy in 1134.
  • Before Wiener Schnitzel there was another popular Viennese dish, Backhendl: thin chicken breast slices, breaded and deep fried. It was first mentioned in a cookbook from 1719. [Source]
  • The term “Wiener Schnitzel”” dates to at least 1862. [Source]
    Far from being a German dish, Germans across Austria’s northern border frequently refer to Austrians as Schnitzelfressers (Schnitzel munchers).

    A Southern specialty, Chicken-Fried Steak is the American version of Wiener Schnitzel; but instead of a tenderized veal cutlet, a tenderized cut of beef (a cube steak) is coated with seasoned flour and pan fried. It gets its name from its resemblance to fried chicken.

    In a redundant twist, a dish called Chicken-Fried Chicken pounds, breads, and pan fries a chicken cutlet. This preparation is distinctively different from regular fried chicken, which breads bone-in chicken parts and deep-fries them.
    *The book is thought to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century C.E. and given the title De Re Coquinaria (“On the Subject of Cooking”). The name Apicius had long been associated with an excessively refined love of food, exemplified by Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet who lived sometime in the 1st century C.E. The author of the book is one Caelius Apicius; however, no person by this name otherwise exists in the historical record. The book was no doubt compiled by a person or persons who wished to remain anonymous. [Source]



    While home cooks tend to pan fry Wiener Schnitzel, professional chefs will deep-fry it, as in the recipe below. However, feel free to pan fry.

    This recipe is from Kurt Gutenbrunner, Austrian-born chef and owner of Wallsé in New York City, where he creates fine Austrian cuisine that reflects contemporary tastes and classic traditions. He is the author of . New York City chef and author of Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna.

    We’ve added our own touch to Chef Gutenbrunner’s recipe: our Nana’s preferred garnishes of capers, sardines and sliced gherkins. Think of it as “surf and turf” Wiener Schnitzel.

    Our favorite sides are cucumber salad and boiled parsley potatoes; but like Maria, we could go for some buttered egg noodles with parsley and cracked pepper.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 cups fine plain dried breadcrumbs

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/veal scallops cutlet freshdirect 230

    Veal cutlets, or scallops, are typically cut from the leg. Photo courtesy Fresh Direct.

  • 1/2 pound veal scallops (leg) or eye round, cut across the grain into 4 equal pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
  • Curly parsley or lettuce
  • Optional garnishes: capers, sardines, sliced gherkins


    1. LINE a large baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

    2. WHISK the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a wide shallow bowl. Lightly whisk the eggs and cream in another wide shallow bowl until the yolks and whites are just streaky. Mix breadcrumbs and 2 teaspoons salt in a third wide shallow bowl.

    3. POUND the veal slices between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8”–1/16” thickness, being careful not to tear. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

    4. PROP a deep-fry thermometer in a large deep, skillet. Pour in the oil so that the bulb is submerged. Heat oil over medium heat to 350°. Add butter to skillet and adjust heat to maintain 350°F.

    5. DREDGE 2 veal slices in the flour mixture and shake off the excess. Dip in the egg mixture, turn to coat and shake off excess. Dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere. Shake off the excess and transfer the veal to the skillet. Using a large spoon, carefully baste the top of the veal with the hot oil.

    6. COOK until the breading puffs and starts to brown, about 1 minute. Turn and cook until browned, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet. Repeat with the remaining veal slices.

    7. ASSEMBLE: Place the veal on individual plates. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley or lettuce.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Ants On A Log

    September 8th is National Ants On A Log Day. Most kids growing up in the 1950s or later ate them as a healthy snack: celery stalks stuffed with peanut butter (the log) topped with raisins (the ants).

    Our mom took a creative approach, alternating the ants with purple raisins (the boy ants) and golden raisins (sultanas, the girl ants).

    This kiddie favorite can easily be made more sophisticated for grown-ups, as well as more fun for kids.

    Play with these substitutions. There combinations are [almost] endless. For sophistication, we like fennel or celery with goat cheese, dried cherries or cranberries and pistachio nuts (call them the visiting friends of the ants); as well as tzatziki with sliced black olive ants. For comfort food, it’s chocolate peanut butter with dried cherries and pecans.

    And don’t forget flavored peanut butter*!

    To customize your Ants On A Log, cut celery in 3-inch long pieces and fill with your spread of your choice and topping of choice. Suggested substitutions:


    Ants On A Log With Guacamole

    Ladybugs On A Stick: Photo courtesy California Avocado Commission. Here’s the recipe.

  • For peanut butter: flavored peanut butter* or other nut or seed butters, including almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower butter
  • Beyond nut butter: cottage cheese (plain or seasoned), cream cheese (plain or flavored), goat cheese, Greek yogurt (plain, seasoned or tzatziki), hummus (plain or flavored)
  • For the raisins: blueberries, chocolate-covered raisins, dried cherries or cranberries, freeze-dried vegetables, nuts, sliced black olives, sultanas
  • For the celery: bok choy, carrots (sliced with a flat top), Chinese celery, fennel

    Hats off to Food Network for these variations:

  • Ants On A Ranch: cream and ranch dressing with peas (we used crunchy freeze-dried peas or corn)
  • Beans On A Stalk: guacamole with black beans
  • Berries On A Branch: cookie butter and blueberries
  • Fish In A Stream: hummus with Goldfish
  • Ladybugs On A Log: strawberry cream cheese with dried cranberries
  • Pigs In A Pen: pimento cheese and bacon
    *Check out for Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, Dark Chocolate Dreams, Mighty Maple, Pumpkin Spice, The Bee’s Knees, The Heat Is On, White Chocolate Wonderful.



    And the award for creativity goes to…The Food Network, for these variations. From top to bottom: Ants On A Log, Berries On A Branch, Ladybugs On A Log, Beans On A Stalk, Fish In A Stream, Pigs In A Pen. Photo courtesy Food Network.



    Celery and raisins have been eaten—not necessarily together—since ancient times. Celery, raisin and nut salads arrived on our shores with German immigrants in the 19th century.

    George Washington Carver invented a form of peanut butter in the 19th century and made a soup of peanut butter and celery. But the smooth, spreadable peanut butter we know today was invented in 1890 by a St. Louis physician.

    He sought a high-protein food substitute for people with poor teeth who couldn’t chew meat. Others soon discovered how tasty peanut butter was, and, like many products, it was sold in bulk from barrels at grocery stores.

    Peanut butter was first distributed commercially by Krema Nut Company, the oldest peanut butter company still in operation today (and the PB is superb!). Here’s more on the history of peanut butter.

    Now for the celery: The American practice of stuffing celery began in the early 20th century, with anchovy paste, Roquefort, cream cheese and soon, pimento cheese, port wine cheddar and other cheese spreads. The filling was topped with spices, including curry and paprika.


    According to old cookbooks, stuffed celery was served as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre at the beginning of a meal. People of all ages enjoyed it at dinner parties, family get-togethers and holiday meals. Stuffed celery was also served as to children as snacks.

    These appetizers and hors d’oeuvre remained popular through the 1960s. There are some old recipes that include nuts and raisins, although none quite describe the “ants on a log” we know today. Peanut butter fillings for celery surface in the early 1960s. [Source]

    We actually don’t know who invented Ants On A Log. Magazine and newspaper articles from the 1980s attribute it to the Girl Scouts, but they don’t give specific references. The recipe appears in Girl Scout cookbooks dating to 1946; however, the recipe is simply called Celery Sticks.

    We may never know who named it, but “Ants on A Log” was first used in the 1950s. Whoever you are: Thanks for putting a fun name on peanut butter-stuffed celery sticks.



    RECIPE: Baked Acorn Squash With Wild Rice

    September 7th is National Acorn Squash Day. If today’s weather is to warm for roasting, plan to make it on the next cool day.

    You can serve stuffed acorn squash as a first course, or as a main along with a protein and a green vegetable or salad.

    This recipe is from USA Pears, which has many recipes on its website.


    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 3 acorn squash
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • ¾ cup wild rice
  • 1½ cups canned low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/pear stuffed acorn squash USAPears 230

    Baked acorn squash is stuffed with wild rice, nuts, fruits and herbs. Photo courtesy USA Pears.

  • 2 firm Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into ½-inch dice (substitute
    Granny Smith apples)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Toast the nuts to bring out their full flavor. Place the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350°F oven until lightly browned, about 5 to 8 minutes. When the nuts come out, the squash goes in.

    2. CUT each squash in half crosswise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. If necessary, trim the top and bottom so that the squash will be level, and place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up.

    3. SPRINKLE each half with a little salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Dot each half wit butter, using 3 tablespoons. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake the squash just until moist and tender, about 45 minutes.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/acorn duo beauty goodeggs 230

    The first acorn squash of the season. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.


    4. COMBINE the rice, broth, salt and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, about 40 minutes. When the rice is done most of the water should be evaporated.

    5. HEAT the olive oil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Swirl to coat the pan and sauté the onion, garlic, celery and carrot until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the pears and sauté 2 minutes longer. Cover the pan, adjust the heat to medium-low and cook the vegetables until crisp-tender, 3 minutes longer. Add the sage, thyme and parsley and sauté 1 more minute. Remove from the heat.

    6. COMBINE the cooked rice, sautéed vegetables, pears, walnuts, and dried cranberries in a large bowl. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Mound the rice mixture into the squash halves, dividing it evenly. Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into small pieces. Dot each stuffed squash with butter. Cover with foil. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.


    Acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata) is a member of the Cucurbitaceae botanical family, which also includes cucumber, gourds, other winter squash (including pumpkin), summer squash (including zucchini and yellow squash) and watermelon.

    Known for its acorn shape, hard green skin (often with a splotch of orange) and deep, longitudinal ridges. Inside is sweet, yellow-orange flesh. While the most common variety is dark green in color, newer varieties have been developed, including the yellow- and white-skinned varieties.

    Acorn squashes typically weigh one to two pounds and are between four and seven inches long. Before modern refrigeration, acorn squash was a hardy variety to store throughout the winter. It kept for several months in a cool dry location, such as a cold cellar or a root cellar.

    Acorn squash are indigenous to Central America, and were cultivated by pre-Columbian natives (Mayas, Aztecs and their predecessors) as long as 8,000 years ago. Initially, only the seeds were eaten since the flesh was considered too hard. The flesh layer at the time was much thinner than modern-bred varieties, so not worth the trouble. Today, it is flesh that is prized and the seeds that are typically thrown away!

    Squash traveled north and across what is now the U.S., where it was cultivated and highly prized. The seeds were dried for eating during lean times, or as portable food for travelers.

    The Pilgrims encountered it upon their arrival in Massachusetts. The locals called the fruit askutasquash, which gave way to the English word “squash.”

    Squash became a staple of colonial gardens. Both Washington and Jefferson, among many others, grew squash on their plantations and farms. Today, while other Colonial garden items have come and gone (horehound, lovage, orach and peppergrass, purslane, sea kale and others), squash remains on the popular vegetable list.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Gyros At Home

    September 1st is National Gyro Day, and the first thing you need to know is that gyro is pronounced YEE-ro, not JY-ro.

    A gyro is a Greek lamb sandwich on pita bread, roasted on a vertical spit and served with tomato, onion, and tzatziki, a yogurt-cucumber sauce (recipe). Other condiments and sauces can be added or substituted.

    Eating food off of pita bread or wrapping food in pita is an Ancient Greek tradition; the pita served as an edible plate. The tradition continues today—although you’ll also get a piece of foil or kitchen parchment to hold the pita from a street vendor, and a plate in a restaurant.

    Most people eat gyros made by food vendors, but for National Pita Day, try making your own at home. The recipe below is adapted by one from Maria Benardis, award-winning author, chef and founder of Greekalicious, Sydney, Australia’s first exclusively Greek cooking school.

    Traditionally, the deboned leg of lamb is grilled on on a rotating vertical spit (see photo below), and shaved off the leg in thin slices. In fact, the Turkish name for the same sandwich, döner kebab, literally means “rotating roast.”

    But for Maria’s recipe you don’t need a spit: Roasting the lamb is just as delicious.

    Of course not! Cuisine evolves constantly, and each cook can put his or her spin on a recipe. If you don’t like lamb, or don’t want to roast a whole leg, you can use any of the following:

  • Grilled or roasted beef, chicken or pork
  • Lamb sausage or other sausage variety
  • Grilled portobello mushrooms
  • Grilled fish fillet

  • Traditional condiments: lettuce, onion, tomato, tzatziki
  • Cilantro or parsley
  • Feta cheese
  • Black olives (pitted), pickles, pepperoncini
  • Shredded red cabbage or yogurt-based slaw
  • Tahini sauce (recipe)

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/lamb sausage gyro kevineats 230

    Gyros can contain any protein other than lamb lamb. Here, lamb sausage is the protein (any sausage works). Photo courtesy Kevin Eats.



    This recipe is more layered than your typical gyro. A salty feta crust forms on the lamb with some heat from the red chili flakes. Instead of the standard tzatziki yogurt-cucumber-garlic-dill sauce, Maria makes a herbed yogurt sauce which eliminates the cucumber but adds basil, mint and parsley. (It’s also a delicious dip.)

    Maria also adds the baby potatoes to the gyro, but we prefer to serve them on the side. You can replace them with an all-American side of fries.
    Ingredient For 8 Servings

  • 8 pocketless whole wheat pita breads
  • 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby arugula, washed and patted dry
    For The Lamb

  • 2-pound leg of lamb, de-boned
  • Salt and freshly-cracked pepper
  • Extra olive oil for drizzling
  • 16 bite size potatoes

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/giro stand Eaeeae Wiki 230

    A traditional lamb gyro is made from lamb roasted on a vertical spit. Photo by Eaeeae | Wikimedia.


    For The Feta Mixture

  • 6 ounces Greek feta, cubed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions or shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
    For The Herbed Yogurt Sauce

  • 1-1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup dill fronds
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 355°F (180°C). Place the lamb and potatoes in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

    2. PLACE all ingredients for the feta mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth and thick. Coat the lamb well with the feta mixture. Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the lamb and the potatoes. Add enough water to the baking dish to just cover the base.

    3. COVER the baking dish with aluminum foil and place it in the oven. Reduce the temperature to 300°F (150°C). Bake for at 2 to 2-1/2 hours until the lamb is cooked through: 155°-160° on a meat thermometer for medium, 160° for well done. Because ovens vary, it is important to use a meat thermometer! Uncover and cook for a further 30-45 minutes until the top is golden brown.

    4. COMBINE the ingredients for the yogurt sauce in a food processor and blend until all the herbs are chopped and the sauce is smooth and thick. Place in a bowl and refrigerate. When the lamb is ready…

    5. SLICE the lamb thinly. Warm the pita; if you like, you can lightly brush each side with olive oil and place the bread on a hot grill or in a grill pan for warming and grill marks.

    6. ASSEMBLE: Place some yogurt sauce in the center of the pita, arugula and slices of tomato and onion. Top with some lamb and some more yogurt sauce. Serve flat, with an optional side of roasted potatoes.

    Find more of Maria’s delicious recipes at



    FOOD HOLIDAY: Banana Split Sushi For National Banana Split Day

    How should you celebrate August 25th, National Banana Split Day?

    There’s the tried and true banana split, of course. Classically served in a long dish, called a boat (which gives the sundae its alternative name, banana boat), the recipe is familiar to most ice cream lovers:

    A banana is cut in half lengthwise and set in the dish with scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. The strawberry ice cream is garnished with pineapple topping, chocolate syrup is poured on the vanilla ice cream and strawberry topping covers the chocolate ice cream. Crushed nuts, whipped cream and maraschino cherries garnish the entire boat.

    Today, there are many variations to the classic banana split. We’ve had Deconstructed Banana Splits, Banana Split Cheesecake and the recipe below, Banana Split Sushi from RA Sushi.


    Ingredients For 2 Servings


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    The deconstructed banana split at Sushi Samba in New York City. Photo courtesy Sushi Samba.

  • 2 bananas, ripe but firm
  • 1 tablespoon butter or neutral oil (canola, grapeseed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Peeled kiwi slices
  • Clementine/tangerine segments (or substitute other fruit)
  • Whipped cream
  • Strawberries, washed and halved
  • Sauces: chocolate, strawberry*
    *You can easily make strawberry purée by processing the berries with a bit of sweetener to taste, and a splash of lemon or lime juice.

    1. CUT the bananas into 1-1/2 inch slices. While a restaurant can deep-fry the bananas in tempura batter, you can use a simpler approach: Combine the bananas, fat, honey and cinnamonan in a nonstick pan over medium heat and fry until golden brown (4-5 minutes on each side).

    2. ARRANGE each cooked banana piece on a plate as desired and top with a kiwi slice, which is the base for the remaining toppings. Add the clementine segment, whipped cream and strawberry halves.

    3. DRIZZLE with chocolate sauce and strawberry purée. Serve with chopsticks.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/banana split whlsmjnkfdckbkb 230

    The classic banana split. Photo courtesy
    The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook.



    The banana split was invented in 1904 by David Evans Strickler, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He enjoyed inventing sundaes at the store’s soda fountain.

    His first “banana-based triple ice cream sundae” sold for 10 cents, which was double the cost of the other sundaes. News of the new sundae was picked up by the press and spread nationwide. Variations of the recipe appeared in newspapers.

    The enterprising Strickler went on to buy the pharmacy, re-naming it Strickler’s Pharmacy. The city of Latrobe celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the banana split in 2004, and the National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) certified the city as its birthplace.

    The annual Great American Banana Split Celebration is held throughout the downtown Latrobe in late August, this year on August 29th.


    According to Wikipedia, Walgreens is credited with spreading the popularity of the banana split. The chain of drug stores established in the Chicago area by Charles Rudolph Walgreen promoted the banana split as a signature dessert.



    RECIPE: A Waffle Sandwich (Wafflewich) For National Waffle Day

    For special occasions, a waffle sandwich is true food fun. There’s an immediate special occasion: August 24th is National Waffle Day.

    Andrea Correale, CEO of Elegant Affairs Caterers, sent us two yummy sandwich recipes to celebrate the day. Both replace the bread with waffles. The result: a wafflewich!

    Waffle sandwiches require the extra step of making fresh waffles. Frozen waffles don’t taste anywhere as good.

    To assauge any waffle guilt, check out our recommended whole grain pancake and waffle mixes.


    When a wafflewich includes cheese, the sandwich is even better if you place it in a panini press to melt a bit.

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 2 waffles, freshly made from a waffle mix or your own recipe*
  • 3 slices ham per sandwich (Andrea prefers hickory honey ham)

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/waffle ham and cheese elegantcaterers 230ps

    Enjoy your ham and cheese on a waffle. Photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers.

  • 3 slices cheese per sandwich (Andrea prefers sharp Cheddar; we like Emmental)
  • Mustard
  • Optional: lettuce and tomato
  • Sides: baby carrots or other crudités, coleslaw, pickles†, pickled vegetables, candied jalapeños
    *For big eaters, you can make a triple decker sandwich (three waffles). If your waffle recipe contains sugar—which is normal for breakfast waffles—cut it back to 1/2 teaspoon or none at all.

    †We added sweet and spicy pickle chips to the sandwich before grilling in the panini press. Check out our article on the best pickles.

    1. COOK the waffles in a waffle maker.

    2. PLACE the ham and cheese, lettuce and tomato between two waffles, with the pickle chips if desired (or, serve the pickles on the side). We added Dijon mustard between the ham and cheese layers.

    3. PLACE the waffle sandwich in a panini press and cook until the cheese is gooey. Remove and serve immediately with the sides.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/blt waffle sandwich elegantcaterers

    A twist on the BLT: a BLT Waffle Sandwich. Photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers.



    You can make this a vegetarian sandwich with Morning Star Bacon Strips or Lightlife Smart Bacon, and/or Baconaise bacon-flavored mayonnaise (one of our favorite mayos). These products get their bacony taste from natural smoke flavor and other seasonings.

    You can also add sliced avocado, chicken or turkey.

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 3 slices cooked bacon (Andrea prefers hickory smoked bacon)
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Lettuce (we prefer iceberg or romaine for the crunch)
  • Optional: sliced avocado, chicken or turkey
  • Mayonnaise (we prefer flavored mayonnaise)
  • Optional: long toothpicks (we like these festive cellophane frill toothpicks)
  • Sides: coleslaw or potato salad, chips (corn/tortilla, lentil, vegetable, etc.)
  • Preparation

    1. PILE the bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and optional avocado, chicken or turkey on the bottom waffle. If using iceberg lettuce, we find it helpful to slice it in slabs from the head, so the lettuce will lie flat on the sandwich.

    2. SEASON with salt and pepper as desired.

    3. SPREAD the top waffle with mayonnaise. Place the top on the sandwich and anchor with toothpicks as necessary.

    4. SERVE with sides.



    FOOD 101: Sponge Cake History & Types

    August 23rd is National Sponge Cake Day. It celebrates an airy cake that’s just right for summer, garnished with fresh berries and whipped cream.

    The modern sponge cake dates to Europe in the early 19th century. Precursors were cookie-sized treats called biscuit bread and sponge fingers (a.k.a. boudoir biscuits, ladyfingers, Savoy biscuits [English] and savoiardi [Italian]); as well as sweet “breads” from Italy, Portugal and Spain.

    These earlier forms date back to the Renaissance (15th century) and were used in numerous desserts including trifles and fools. Early 17th century English cookbook writers note that recipes for fine bread, bisquite du roy [roi] and common biscuits were similar to sponge cake.

    Savoiardi, ladyfingers, originated in the late 15th century at the court of Catherine of Medici, created to mark the occasion of a visit by the King of France to the Duchy of Savoy. The recipe found its way to England in the early 18th century.

    The sponge cake is thought to be one of the first of the non-yeasted cakes; the rise comes from well-beaten eggs. The earliest recipe in English is found in a 1615 book by Gervase Markham*. The term “sponge cake,” describing the sponge-like openness of the crumb, probably came into use during the 17th century. The earliest reference cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is in an 1808 letter written by Jane Austen, who apparently was fond of them. [Source: Food Timeline]

    The modern American sponge cake is a light-textured cake made of eggs, sugar and flour†; there is no fat or leavening. The rise comes from the beaten egg whites. The French sponge, génoise, is used for thinner cake layers, so the egg whites and yolks are beaten together.

    Sponges can be baked in cake pans, tube pans or sheet pans. They can be used to make layer cakes, tube cakes, roulades (rolled cakes) and cupcakes. They can be variously flavored and filled.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/Victoria Sponge .uk copy 230

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/sponge cake tube pan chicagometallic 230

    Top photo: a Victoria Sponge, filled with strawberry jam instead of Queen Victoria’s favorite, raspberry jam, and topped with powdered sugar. Photo courtesy Stylenest. Bottom photo: a simple sponge cake, made American-style in a tube pan. Photo courtesy Chicago Metallic Bakeware. Use a tube pan with feet, since sponge cake (as well as angel cake) must be inverted when removed from the oven.


    The basic sponge cake recipe is also used to make ladyfingers and madeleines; slices can be used instead of biscuits to make shortcake.

    *“The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman.”

    †Since sponge cakes are not leavened with yeast, they can be eaten during Passover, made with matzo meal instead of wheat flour.



    The American Sponge is a high-rising cake, gaining volume from the air whipped into the egg whites and yolks. The dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt are folded in. Then the egg whites and more sugar are beaten until stiff and fold into the yolk mixture. It is often baked in an ungreased tube pan, which maximizes the volume of the cake, and emerges the springiest and spongiest of the sponge cakes.

    The classic British sponge of modern times is the Victoria Sponge Cake (see below).


    The French sponge cake, génoise (jen-WOZ), is named for the Italian port city of Genoa, where an precursor of it, Genoa Cake, originated in the early 19th century.

    Génoise sponge differs from American sponge cakes in that the eggs are beaten whole, rather than beating the the yolks and whites specialty for more rise. In fact, rise is not the goal; flatter cake layers are sought. Sheets of genoise are used to make Swiss rolls and other roulades, such as Buche de Noel. Genoise is also used to make ladyfingers and madeleines.

    Génoise sponge is the basis of many French layer cakes and roulades. Baked in pans or thinner sheets, it can filled with fruit purée, jam or whipped cream. It can be iced and decorated simply, elaborately or not at all.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/chocolate chestnut cream dirtykitchensecrets 250

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/genoise baba 230

    Top photo: chocolate genoise roulade (roll) filled with chestnut cream. Photo courtesy Dirty Kitchen Secrets. Bottom photo: thin layers of genoise used to assemble cakes. Photo courtesy La Cigale Doree.


    By the middle of the 18th century, cake bakers began to use well-beaten eggs instead of yeast as a leavening agent. The cake would be baked in a mold or in layers made by pouring the batter into two hoops, set on parchment paper and a cookie sheet (hoops atop baking sheets were the precursor of the modern cake pan).

    Genoa Cake originated in the port city of Genoa, Italy in the early 19th century. Some ingredients that came into the busy port from the East and Middle East—almonds, candied fruit and peel, citrus zest, currants, raisins, vanilla, cinnamon and other spices—often found their way into Genoa Cake, a light fruitcake that is different from the the airier genoise. Liqueur could be incorporated into the batter.

    Like the French génoise sponge, it could be served plain, filled with jam and/or cream, iced, or simply dusted with powdered sugar.

    There is also Italian génoise, called pan di Spagna (“Spanish bread”) in Italy.


    A sponge roll is a thin layer of génoise, no more than an inch deep, baked in a sheet pan. It has the flexibility to be filled with jam and/or cream and and rolled into a Bûche de Noël (Yule Log), Jelly Roll, Swiss Roll† or other type of roulade.
    ‡A Swiss roll is also called a cream roll when filled with whipped cream or other cream variation, and is often used as another term for jelly roll.

    England’s Queen Victoria enjoyed a slice of sponge cake with her afternoon tea, garnished with raspberry jam and whipped heavy cream (called double cream in the U.K.) or vanilla cream (vanilla-flavored whipped cream, called chantilly in French).

    Her preferences led to the creation of the Victoria Sponge. Jam and cream are sandwiched between two sponge layers; the top of the cake is served plain or with a dusting of powdered sugar. It also came to be known as the Victoria Sandwich, and sometimes the Victorian Cake. (See the photo at the top of the page.)

  • Angel Cake or Angel Food Cake, a sponge cake that uses only the egg whites. This produces a white cake instead of a conventional sponge colored yellow by the egg yolks.
  • Castella, a Japanese sponge cake that’s a specialty of Nagasaki. It was introduced there by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century (see Pão de Castela, below), and is typically made in long loaves.
  • Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake, steamed in a water bath and called Ma Lai Gao in Cantonese. You may find it in the U.S. at restaurants that serve dim sum
  • Chiffon Cake, invented in 1927 in Los Angeles. It is based on the sponge cake recipe plus some added fat. Here’s more about Chiffon Cake.
  • Eve’s Pudding, a Victoria Sponge made with sliced apples that cook at the bottom of the cake pan or baking dish, underneath the cake batter. Think of it as a cousin to Tarte Tatin.
  • Italian Génoise—see Pan di Spagna, below.
  • Ma Lai Gao—See Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake, above.
  • Malay Steamed Cake, a steamed sponge, based on the Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake.
  • Pandan Cake or Pandan Chiffon, a fluffy sponge cake of Indonesian and Malaysian origins, flavored with the light green juice of pandan leaves (which has notes of coconut, citrus and grass). It sometimes made a deeper green with food color.
  • Pan di Spagna, also called Italian Génoise or Torta Genovese. An Italian recipe that evolved in Sicily during the Spanish rule (1559–1714), it is flavored with vanilla and/or citrus zest. It is the cake base for Sicilian Cassata, Tiramisu, Zuccoto and Zuppa Inglese. [Source]
  • Pão de Castela, “bread from Castil,” is a Portuguese variation of Pan di Spagna.
  • Pão de Ló is an unsweetened bread sponge “cake,” created by a Genovese cook, Glovan Battista Cabona, in the mid-1700s‡‡. It was cooked in a water bath, which was more reliable than early ovens.
  • Passover Sponge Cake or Plava, is made with Kosher for Passover ingredients, with matzo meal, matzo flour or potato flour, replacing the wheat flour. It is sometimes flavored with almonds or pecans, apples or apple juice, dark chocolate, lemon, orange juice, or poppy seeds.
  • Tres Leches Cake, a sponge soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk. The recipe originated in Latin America.
    ‡‡According to, the cook’s name was Giobatta Cabona, and was in the service of Marchese Domenico Pallavicini, Genova’s (Genoa in English) Ambassador to Spain in the mid-1700s. The Marchese asked for a new cake for a banquet, and Cabona created a light and airy confection he called Pâte Génoise, or Pasta Genovese in Italian. A slightly simplified version was called Pan di Spagna, to honor the Spanish Court.



    FOOD FUN: Pool Party Punch

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/pool party punch pinnacle recipe 230

    Match your cocktail to the pool (the miniature
    beach balls
    are plastic, made for doll houses).
    Photo courtesy Pinnacle Vodka.


    For your next pool party, make this Pool Party Punch, an tasty and fun idea from Pinnacle Vodka.

    Pinnacle made it with their Original Vodka; you can make it your own with a flavored vodka. If you prefer, you can substitute gin or tequila.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 part vodka
  • 2 parts lemonade
  • Splash of Blue Curaçao (we used DeKuyper)
  • Garnish: fruit of choice (we used blueberries on cocktail picks)

    1. MIX ingredients and serve over ice. It’s that simple! Here’s a video with the full punch bowl recipe.


    Make a mocktail by exchanging the vodka for 7 UP, Sprite or white cranberry juice. Use blue food coloring instead of Blue Curaçao.

    And for garnish, perhaps a red Swedish Fish?

    Here’s the mocktail recipe.



    Curaçao is an orange liqueur made from the dried peels of the laraha (LA-ra-ha) citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles (southeast of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean).

    The laraha is a de-evolved descendant of the Valencia orange, which was brought over from Spain in 1527. It did not thrive in the Southern Caribbean climate. The oranges that the trees produced were small, fibrous, bitter and inedible. The trees were abandoned, and the citrus fruit they produced evolved from a bright orange color into the green laraha.

    When life gives you bitter fruit, distill it! It turned out that while the flesh of the laraha was inedible, the dried peel remained as aromatic and pleasing as its cultivated forebear. Experimentation led to the distillation of Curaçao liqueur from the peel.

    The distilled liqueur is clear. Some brands are colored blue or bright orange to create color in cocktails. The color adds no flavor.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/blue curacao dekuyper 230

    Blue Curaçao. The clear orange liqueur is colored blue. It is also made in an orange-colored version.


    Here’s how the different types of orange liqueur differ, including Curaçao and triple sec, which are generic terms, plus brands like Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Gran Gala.



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