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RECIPE: Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

May 10th is National Shrimp Day.

We could easily be happy with plate of boiled jumbo shrimp, a lemon wedge and a bit of seafood sauce.

But this recipe for bacon-wrapped shrimp, sent to us by Zatarain’s, wins the nostalgia vote.

It took us back decades to our parent’ cocktail parties, when bacon-wrapped shrimp and bacon-wrapped dates, or a rumkai—were de rigeur.

Those with more basic tastes drank bourbon or scotch on the rocks. Few people were home mixologists Drinks of whiskey mixed with club soda or ginger ale were served on the rocks in highball (tall) or lowball (short, a.k.a. rocks) glasses.

There was no American craft beer in those days, or even wine (except for gourmets who drank it as apéritifs and with meals at European restaurants). No one had even had a tequila drink, unless they’d been to Mexico.

And there was no National Shrimp Day.

But we have it all now. So, we’re turning on the broiler and making a pile of bacon-wrapped shrimp. Who’s in?

RECIPE: ZESTY BACON WRAPPED SHRIMP

In New Orleans, cooks add a Creole spin to this retro shrimp appetizer. You can prepare it in the morning and pop it in the oven later in the day. Find more shrimp at McCormick.com/Zatarains.

You can have it as an appetizer, or make a dinner of it. Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

Ingredients For 8 Two-Piece Appetizer Servings
—Or—
2-3 Dinner Servings

  • 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined, tails left on
  • 16 slices bacon
  • Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning
  •    

    Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

    Zatarain's Creole Seasoning

    [1] Bacon-wrapped shrimp from Zatarain’s. [2] Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning; photo courtesy Flour On My Face, who uses it in a Crockpot Jambalaya recipe.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Line baking pan with foil and place flat baking rack in the pan.

    2. WRAP each shrimp with 1 slice of bacon, lightly sprinkle with Creole seasoning and place the shrimp on the rack, seasoning side down. Sprinkle all the tops with the seasoning as well. Let stand 15 minutes

    3. BAKE 15 to 20 minutes or until the bacon is crisp around the edges and the shrimp turn pink. Serve warm.

     

    Angels On Horseback

    Devils On Horseback

    Rumaki

    The predecessors of bacon-wrapped shrimp: [3] Angels On Horseback, bacon-wrapped oysters. Here’s a recipe from the Wealden Times. [4] Devils On Horseback. Here’s a recipe from Martha Stewart Living. [5] Rumaki, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. Here’s a recipe from Goldilocks Kitchen.

     

    RECIPE: CREOLE SEASONING

    If you don’t have Creole seasoning, it’s easy to make your own. This recipe makes much more than you need for the chicken salad, but you can cut it down or use the extra in other recipes, from eggs to burgers.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 4 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 4 teaspoons granulated garlic
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all the spices in a bowl, and stir to combine.

    2. STORE in an airtight container away from light and heat, but use as quickly as possible.
     
     
    WHAT ELSE TO MAKE WITH CREOLE SEASONING

  • Use it as a general seasoning for dips, fish, ketchup, mayonnaise, popcorn, poultry, rice, soup, vinaigrette—even spicy yogurt!
  • Andouille Sausage Pizza
  • Cajun Chicken Salad
  • Gumbalaya (a mash-up of gumbo and jambalaya)
  • Gumbo
  • Jambalaya
  • Hazelnut-Crusted Sea Bass
  • Steamed Mussels
  •  
     
    THE HISTORY OF BACON-WRAPPED SHRIMP

    Nineteenth-century Britain saw the rise in popularity of an appetizer called Angels On Horseback: skewered broiled oysters wrapped in bacon and “riding on slivers of toast.” It was also called Oysters And Bacon and yes, Pigs in Blankets, a recipe now known as mini sausages wrapped in pastry.

    “It’s an excellent lesson in how words, like recipes, change meaning over time,” says etymologist John Ayto in An A to Z of Food and Drink [source].

    The recipe is first documented in the 1888 edition of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

    Devils On Horseback, a later recipe, substituted stuffed prunes for the oysters.

    Fast forward to the other side of the pond. Other foods began to be wrapped in bacon: scallops, shrimp, even stuffed olives and pineapple chunks.

    Another variation, bacon-wrapped chicken liver—rumaki—appeared. The first known reference of rumaki is on the 1941 menu of the Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Palm Springs, California.

     
    Rumaki were skewered water chestnuts and chicken livers, wrapped in bacon and marinated in soy sauce and ginger or brown sugar prior to broiling.

    The restaurant was founded in 1934, and was the beginning of the tiki craze in the U.S.

    Tiki restaurants—an American “interpretation” of Polynesian food and decor—featured a selection of different bites as faux-Hawaiian pupu (hors d’oeuvre).

    A flaming pupu platter of mixed “Polynesian” hors d’oeuvres was a sensation that trickled down to home preparations.

    So where’s the bacon-wrapped shrimp? So far, there’s a missing link.

    We did find a reference to shrimp skewered with a chestnut and a piece of green onion. It isn’t a stretch to think that someone added a bacon wrap…and that the recipe devolved to just the shrimp and bacon.

     
    CAJUN VS. CREOLE: THE DIFFERENCE

    Cajun and Creole are not the same, although people removed from Louisiana often use them without distinction.

  • Creole referred to people who were born to settlers in French Colonial Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans. In the 18th century, Creoles were the descendants of the French and Spanish upper class that ruled the city.
  • Cajuns, on the other hand, emigrated from the Acadia region of Canada, which consisted of present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. They settled in the swampy region of Louisiana that is today known as Acadiana. Their name in French, les Acadians, became shortened in the vernacular to Cajun.
  • Some people think of Creole cuisine as “city food” and Cajun cuisine as “country food.” But to eyeball a dish and tell its provenance, here’s a simple trick: Creole cuisine uses tomatoes and Cajun food typically does not. That’s how to quickly distinguish a Cajun gumbo or jambalaya from a Creole gumbo or jambalaya.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Truffles Vs. Truffles Vs. Truffles

    Original Chocolate Truffles

    Classic Chocolate Truffles

    Flavored Chocolate Truffles

    Royce Chocolate Truffles

    Perigord Black Truffle

    [1] The original truffles (photo by Roz Marina | 123rf). [2] The selection at Pierre Hermé, a Paris destination. [3] Contemporary flavors at Good Eggs. [4] Royce Chocolate, a commercial producer in Japan, prefers rectangle truffles (they’re easier to make and pack). [5] The Périgord black truffle, more than $1,000 per pound, inspired the naming of chocolate truffles (photo courtesy D’Artagnan).

     

    May 2 is National Truffle Day. Truffles: so delicious, somewhat confusing.

    The word truffle has several meanings in the world of confection. Like the word praline, you have to clarify what is being discussed.

    That’s because in different regions, words mean different things; and American English incorporates used by immigrants from the world over.

    Even in northern Europe, one person’s truffle is another’s praline (which, in turn, has nothing to do with brown sugar-pecan pralines of the American South).

    We’re not going near the truffle fungus, for which the chocolate was named. But if you want to take a tour, here’s an extensive article on the world’s costliest vegetable.

    Truffles are members of the Tuberaceae family of fungi, like their cousins, the mushrooms (truffles are not mushrooms, but a different genus—Tuber for truffles, Agaricus for mushrooms).

    Truffles, the tubers, inspired truffles, the chocolates.

    THE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

    Truffles are balls of ganache; so first, someone had to invent ganache (gah-NOSH).

    According to legend, this happened in the kitchen of French culinary giant Auguste Escoffier, during the 1920s.

    One day, as his stagiaire (apprentice) attempted to make pastry cream, he accidentally poured hot cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks rather than the bowl of sugared egg for which it was destined. He yelled “Ganache!” at the boy—the French word for idiot.

    As the chocolate and cream mixture hardened, Escoffier found that he could work the chocolate paste with his hands to form a bumpy, lopsided ball. He must have had a sense of humor, since he called the creamy paste ganache.

    After rolling the new creation in cocoa powder (to contain the creamy ganache—although in doing so, one ended up with cocoa powder fingers instead of ganache fingers), he was struck by their resemblance to the luxurious truffles from the French Périgord region (photo #4). It tasted great.

    As the concept developed, different truffle textures and flavors were created by variously rolling balls of ganache in white confectioner»s sugar or finely chopped nuts. The ganache was flavored with Champagne, Cognac, raspberry and other liqueurs. For starters.

    In the classic repertoire, anything other type of bonbon, including chocolate-enrobed fruit cremes and other creme centers, whipped cream-filled chocolates, and any filled chocolate that isn’t filled with ganache—is not a truffle. However…

    Today, the term truffle is often used to in America to describe any filled chocolate, and it becomes very confusing. If you see a box labeled “chocolate truffles,” are you going to get round balls of ganache, or ganache-filled chocolates? Or are you going to get a box of assorted cremes and other mixed chocolates?

    As Forrest Gump observed, you never know what you’re going to get. There is no standard of identity to stop any confectioner from selling whatever he or she wants as “truffles.”

    Not to mention, these days people tend to bestow names without knowing (or caring) about history and accuracy. Is this a serious problem?

    No, but it does a disservice to whomever sees different terms and tries to figure them out. We’re one country, we should have one standard. E trufflis unum.

     
    SO WHAT IS A CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE?

    What Is A Truffle

  • Balls of ganache, coated classic-style, or enrobed in chocolate.
  • Ganache in other shapes (rectangles, squares—see photo #3), with a powdered or hard chocolate coating.
  • Modern truffles can be coated in the classic powders (cocoa, nuts, sugar) or modern spice trends (curry, peppercorns, sea salt, paprika etc.)
  • They can be enrobed in hard chocolate, known as couverture chocolate; or used to fill chocolate shells (see MODERN TRUFFLES), below.
     
    The commonality, regardless of shapes, flavor or coating, is ganache.
  •  
    What Is Not A Truffle

    Anything else, including fruit cremes and other creme centers, whipped cream-filled chocolates, and any filled chocolate that isn’t filled with ganache.

    Now, this pronouncement here doesn’t stop any confectioner from selling whatever he or she wants to call “truffles.”
     
    MODERN TRUFFLES

    In 1912, the Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented the first hard chocolate shell, enabling the production of hard chocolates with soft centers.

    While he called them pralines (see the discussion of this term), and it became the term used in Belgium, French and other chocolatiers referred to them as truffles because the early chocolate shells were filled with ganache.

     

    As words evolve, the term truffle is often used to in America to describe any filled chocolate, and it becomes very confusing: chocolate cremes or assorted chocolates, e.g., would be more accurate. If the term is applied to a filled, hard-shell chocolate, the use should be limited to round shells filled with ganache.

    But the good news in truffledom is the explosion of flavors, based on America’s greater foray into international cuisines.

    Over the last few decades, the classic European flavors paired with chocolate—berry, citrus, coconut, coffee, nut—has been augmented with trending flavors such as pumpkin and salted caramel.

    White chocolate ganache was created for variety, and as a carrier for flavors that didn’t mix as well with milk and dark chocolate ganache.

    Then, there are the global flavors that may sound unusual, but are actually delicious fusion with chocolate.

    Today’s chocolatiers can roll their balls of ganache—or infuse the ganache itself—with spices such as curry, flavored salts, paprika peppercorns…or teas such as Earl Grey, jasmine and matcha…or anything they like. The Smokey Blue Cheese Truffles from Lille Belle are outstanding!

     

    LINDOR FROM LINDT: AMERICA’S FAVORITE TRUFFLES

    Rodolphe Lindt of Switzerland, one of the most famous chocolate-makers of his day (1855-1909), created the technology to turn hard chocolate into creamy chocolate (called conching).

    Before then, chocolate was roughly-hewn, as it were: not the creamy, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate we know today.

    Lindt’s conching technique enabled the manufacture of a superior chocolate, with finer aroma and texture. His “melting chocolate,” as it was known, soon achieved fame, and contributed significantly to the worldwide reputation of Swiss chocolate.

    His company merged to become Lindt & Sprungli.

    The Lindor line of truffles was introduced in 1949. A hard chocolate shell enrobes a smooth, melty filling: 20 flavors of fillings, plus seasonal varieties. The shells are in your choice of dark, milk or white chocolate.

    Once you bite into the shell, the creamy filling starts to melt onto your tongue. If this sounds good to you, head to your nearest retailer, or to…
     
    Lindt Chocolate Shops

    One of the most memorable chocolate “field trips” you can take is to a Lindt Chocolate Shop.

    It’s like Chocolate Disneyland—so many different types of chocolate, so many different flavors, so much you haven’t seen elsewhere.

    You don’t know where to head first!

    Lindt operates more than 50 U.S. retail stores, including Lindt Chocolate Shops, Lindt Outlets, Lindt Chocolate Drinks Bars and Lindt Factory Outlets.

    You get to try before you buy; and buy you must! Everyone who eats chocolate will want a box or bag.

    Here’s a store locator.
     
    You can buy single flavors or assortments; on line as well, and at retailers nationwide.
     
     
    HAPPY NATIONAL CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE DAY!

     

    Lindor Assorted Truffles

    Lindor Chocolate Truffles

    Lindor Chocolate Truffles

    [6] A box of assorted Lindor Truffles. [7] Open the wrapper and gaze fondly. [8] Here’s what it looks like cut in half (all photos courtesy Lindt).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Pretzel Bites For National Pretzel Day

    What do you bake on National Pretzel Day (April 26th)? Pretzel bites!

    These soft, chewy pretzel bites are a version of the jumbo soft pretzels sold by street vendors, and are easier (well, let’s say more elegant) to eat than pulling apart a six-inches-wide pretzel.

    Warm from the oven and served with a cold beer: There’s no better way to celebrate the day.

    The recipe that follows is from King Arthur Flour. If you want a gluten-free recipe, they’ve also created a recipe for gluten-free pretzel bites.

    There are more recipes below.
     
     
    RECIPE: SOFT PRETZELS

    Prep time is 20 to 30 minutes, resting time 30 minutes, baking time is 12 to 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For About 6 Dozen Pretzel bites

    For The Dough

  • 2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 7/8 to 1 cup warm water*
  • Vegetable spray
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • Coarse, kosher or pretzel salt (see Salt Alternatives)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  •  
    Salt Alternatives

    Don’t want salt? You can leave it off, or substitute:

  • Crushed chile flakes
  • Cinnamon-sugar
  • Grated cheese
  • Pearl sugar
  •  
    Plus

  • Mustard, for dipping†
  • ________________

    *NOTE: Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

    †DIPPING MUSTARD doesn’t have to be ballpark yellow, even if it’s your standard. Go gourmet with a great mustard from Maille. The company makes 50 different flavors, including seasonal limited editions. For spring, there’s a limited-edition honey mustard collection (photo #5). The mustards can be paired with meats, fresh vegetables, and cheese, mixed into vinaigrettes…and used to dip pretzels, of course!
    ________________

       

    Soft Pretzels Recipe

     Pretzel Bites Recipe

    Glass Of Lager

    [1] Pretzel bites, mustard and beer: a great way to celebrate (photos #1 and #2 courtesy King Arthur Flour, photo #3 courtesy Pizzeria Uno).

     
    Preparation

    You can make the dough by hand or with a bread machine.

    1a. MAKE dough by hand: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or with a mixer for about 5 minutes, until it’s soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough, place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

    1b: MAKE dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of the bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise). Then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag for 30 minutes.

    While the dough is resting…

     

    Maille Honey Mustard

    Maille Honey Mustard

    Maille Old Style Mustard

    [4] and [5] Did someone say Mother’s Day gift? The limited edition honey mustard set from Maille. Mustard with Acacia Honey and Balsamic Vinegar, Mustard with Acacia Honey and Orange Blossom and Mustard with Acacia Honey and Walnut, are available individually or as a boxed set. [6] Are you old school? Use Maille’s Old Style grainy mustard.

     

    2. PREPARE the topping. Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm or room temperature.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper. If you’re not using King Arthur Flour, do both: grease the parchment with vegetable oil spray to make double-sure the bites won’t stick.

    4. TRANSFER the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into six equal pieces. Roll the six pieces of dough into 12″ to 15″ ropes. Cut each rope crosswise into about 12 pieces.

    5. POUR the cooled baking soda solution into a pan large enough to hold the bites. Place the bites into the solution, gently swish them around, and leave them there for a couple of minutes. Transfer them to a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and top with pretzel salt or sea salt; or with pearl sugar or cinnamon sugar, for sweet pretzel bites.

    6. BAKE the bites for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove them from the oven and roll them in the melted butter. For cinnamon-sugar pretzels, toss with cinnamon-sugar once you’ve rolled the bites in the butter.

    7. PLACE on a rack to cool. In you’re not going to enjoy the bites the same day, store them, well-wrapped, at room temperature. Reheat briefly before serving.
     
     
    MORE PRETZEL RECIPES

  • Buttery Soft Pretzels: moist, with a brush of melted butter.
  • Classic Soft Pretzels
  • Everything Pretzels
  • Gluten Free Soft Pretzels
  • High Fiber Pretzel Rolls
  • Pigs In Pretzel Blankets
  • Rye Pretzels
  • Sourdough Soft Pretzels
  • White Whole Wheat Pretzels
  •  
     
    PRETZEL HISTORY

    The first pretzels were baked by monks to reward children for learning their prayers, way back in the year 610. The shape represents their arms folded in prayer.

    More pretzel history.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: More Modern Surf & Turf Ideas … Plus Spring Peas

    National Surf & Turf Day falls on February 29th. Why would anyone choose to celebrate this tasty holiday only once every four years?

    That honor should go to, say, National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, which happens to be today’s holiday (April 21st). Or how Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (June 13th), or Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day (July 29th)?

    So today, we’re featuring some novel approaches to surf and turf.

    On THE NIBBLE alone, we have obvious and not-so-obvious recipes:

  • Beef Carpaccio & Anchovies
  • Broiled Seafood With Beef Jerky Garnish
  • Clam Chowder With Bacon
  • Filet Mignon With Lobster Topping
  • Ham & Biscuits With Seafood Gravy
  • Modern Surf & Turf (18 recipe ideas)
  • National Surf & Turf Day (5+ recipe ideas)
  • Raw Scallops With Steak Tartare Or Bacon
  • Salmon BUrger With Bacon
  • Seafood Cobb Salad
  • Sea Urchin & Roast Beef Rolls
  • Surf & Turf Burgers
  • Surf & Turf Sushi & More (18 recipe ideas)
  • Surf & Turf Bloody Mary
  • Surf & Turf Eggs Benedict
  • Veal Osso Bucco On Tuna Sashimi
  • Vietnamese Pancakes With Shrimp & Pork
  • Wiener Schnitzel Surf & Turf
  •  
    Not to mention, Surf & Turf Pizza (clams or shrimp with pepperoni) or skewers (any meat, any shellfish).

    Our latest dish in the collection:

    RECIPE: SQUID & SPRING PEAS

    Who’d have thought of combining squid and bacon with fresh spring peas and fresh mint? Catalan chefs, with bounties of fresh squid pulled from the Mediterranean.

    This recipe is from Executive Chef Jaime Chavez of Sirena Cucina Latina in San Diego (which alas, closed in February).

    It’s a traditional Catalan starter from the chef’s mother, and is one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

    “[Mother] taught me that the best dishes are made from simple flavors, and when we respect the products, they give us back the very best of them,” notes Chavez.

    While Chef Jaime didn’t intend to create “surf and turf,” we’re always seeking new ways to extend the original concept of filet mignon and lobster tail, christened Surf & Turf (here’s the history of Surf & Turf).

    This is an easy recipe; the most demanding parts are slicing the squid and cooking the bacon.

    The season for fresh spring peas is short, so don’t bookmark this for “later.”

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 each squid tubes and tentacles
  • 1½ cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ½ cup sliced fennel
  • 3 tablespoons crisp bacon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Champagne vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: edible flowers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ the squid and garlic in olive oil in a hot pan. Cut the squid into rings.

       

    Squid Salad With Spring Peas

    Shelled Peas

    Raw Squid

    Grilled Bacon

    Fennel Bulb

    [1] Squid, bacon and spring peas unite in a vinaigrette (photo courtesy Chef Jaime Chavez). [2] Just-shelled spring peas (photo courtesy The Chef’s Kitchen). [3] Raw squid (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [4] Fennel (photo courtesy Burpee).

     
    2. ADD the peas and season with salt and pepper. Then add the vinegar and mint.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and add the celery, fennel and bacon. Garnish as desired and serve (the edible flowers add another touch of springtime).
     
     
    Here are more ways to use spring peas.

     

    Spring Peas

    Snow Peas

    Sugar Snap Peas

    The three types of green peas. [5] Spring peas (photo Hannah Kaminsky). [6] Snow peas (photo AllWomensTalk.com). [7] Sugar snap peas (photo Good Eggs).

     

    SPRING PEAS, ENGLISH PEAS OR GARDEN PEAS?

    Spring peas, English peas and garden peas are three are names for the same thing. All can be eaten raw or cooked.

    Three types of green peas:

  • Spring peas (Pisum sativum var. sativum, photo #5), also called English peas and garden peas, which must be shelled to be edible (although some people do cook the stringless varieties).
  • Snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum, photo #6), called “Chinese pea pods” by some consumers, which are edible flat pods with tiny peas inside.
  • Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon, photo #7), also called sugar snap peas, plump edible pods with smaller peas inside.
  •  
    Peas (Pisum sativum) are native to the Mediterranean basin. They grew wild and were one of the earlier vegetables cultivated at the dawn of agriculture in the Neolithic Era, beginning about 12,500 years ago.

    Having said that, pea pods are botanically a fruit, since they are pods that contain seeds, and the pods developed from the ovary of a flower.

    Peas, beans and lentils are all legumes with seeds that grow in pods. It’s easy to distinguish them by their shape:

  • Dry beans are oval or kidney shaped.
  • Lentils are flat disks.
  • Peas are round.
  •  
    Legumes are members of the botanical family Fabaceae, which also includes alfalfa, carob, licorice, peanuts and the sweet pea garden plant.
     
    Peas are sweet but can get starchy soon after harvesting. The fresher, the better.

     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE FRESH PEAS

    For the best flavor, choose small peas. They’re younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. Look for medium-size pods that are firm and green, with no yellowing. Break open a pod and check the peas. They should be small, bright green and firm. Taste the peas in the pod: They should be tender and sweet.

    Freshness counts. As with corn, once picked the peas’ high sugar content begins to convert to starch. Don’t pay for mature peas. You might as well use frozen peas.

    Don’t pay extra for shelled peas. You don’t know how fresh they are; and since you aren’t shelling peas day in, day out, it’s a fun activity.

    Storing Fresh Peas

  • Store the pods in the crisper drawer of the fridge in a plastic storage bag. Use them within two days.
  • Once the peas are shelled, the best way to store them is to freeze them. First, blanch the peas for a minute in boiling salted water. Then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking and maintain their bright color. Drain and freeze them in freezer storage bags for up to six months.
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    FOOD 101: History Of The Upside Down Cake & Cake Pans

    If you’ve never had an upside-down cake, today’s the day: April 20th is National Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

    Why are cake pans round? The answer is below, with the history of cake pans.

    With an upside-down cake, fruit is set on the bottom of the pan, topped with cake batter.

    When the cooking is complete, the skillet is inverted onto a plate, such that the fruit is now on top, although it was baked upside-down.

    SCION OF THE SKILLET CAKE

    This cake was originally made on the stove top in a skillet, and called skillet cake (photo #4). Today, it’s the same process, but with the benefit of cake pans and ovens.

    (Want to be authentic with a skillet and the stove top? No one will stop you! Those who want to go really authentic should try cooking it over a campfire or wood fireplace.)

    To make a skillet cake, fruit is set on the bottom and the batter poured on top. When the skillet or pan is inverted, the fruit that was once at the bottom forms a decorative topping. Any fruit can be used.

    When canned pineapple rings became available in the first half of the 20th century, Pineapple Upside Down Cake became the rage—often with maraschino cherries in the center of the pineapple rings.

    As the recipe evolved, cooks put their skillets in the oven to bake. Nordicware, creator of the bundt pan, created a special round pan with indentations for the pineapple slices (photo #6), guaranteeing a perfect presentation.

    To show how popular the cake became, they also make mini pans for individual Upside-Down Cakes.

    Check out these upside down cake recipes:

  • Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (photo #2)
  • Upside-Down Ginger-Pecan Peach Pie
  • Upside Down Irish Whiskey Cake
  •  
    Upside Down Cake is related to Tarte Tatin, an accidental upside-down pie from 1880s France.

    Also check out the different types of cakes.
     
    THE HISTORY OF CAKE PANS

    Why are cakes round?

    Generally, the round cakes we know today are descended from ancient breads, before there were baking pans of any kind.

    Yeast-risen breads and cakes were made by hand, patted into balls and baked on hearthstones, griddles, or in low, shallow all-purpose pans.

    By the 17th century, cake hoops made of metal or wood were placed on flat pans to shape cakes.

    According to food writer Elizabeth David, in the seventeenth century, tin or iron hoops (photo #4) were increasingly used and to shape cakes, and are frequently mentioned in the “cookery books” (think of the modern flan ring, but much deeper).

    The hoop was placed on an iron or tin sheet, with a layer of floured paper on the bottom (think of today’s parchment paper). The sides of the hoop were buttered to ease removal of the baked cake.

    You can find “these or similar directions offered over and over again in Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife, first published in 1727 (which has recipes for 40 cakes, the large ones being yeast-leavened).

    In the preface of her book, Mrs. Smith says that her recipes reflect some 30 years of experience, so it is likely that her methods date back to the previous century.

    Some recipes direct the reader to bake the cake in a paper hoop (oiled so not to burn), which was used in kitchens of the 1600s [source].

    Wooden hoops were also fairly common. Some cooks preferred them to tin, perhaps because they didn’t rust and thus were easier to store. Wood also didn’t overheat, so were less likely to burn the sides of the cake in those primitive ovens.

    Over time, baking pans in various shapes and sizes became readily available to the general public. By the 17th century, it was common for a western kitchen to contain a number of skillets, baking pans (including cake pans with bottoms), a kettle, and several pots, along with a variety of pot hooks and trivets.

    In the American colonies, these items would have been produced by a local blacksmith from iron, while brass or copper vessels were more common in Europe.

    Improvements in metallurgy during the 19th and 20th centuries enabled the economical production of pots and pans from lighter metals such as steel, stainless steel and aluminum [source].

    Molded cakes in fancy shapes reached their zenith in the Victorian era (commencing with the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1831).

     

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake

    Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

    2 Layer Apple Upside Down Cake

    Skillet Cake

    Wood Baking Hoop

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake Pan

    [1] A Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (here’s the recipe from King Arthur Flour). [2] A Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Good Eggs). [3] A two-layer Apple-Whiskey Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Betty Crocker).[4] A skillet cake. Here’s the recipe for a Pineapple Upside-Down Skillet Cake from King Arthur Flour. [5] An old-fashioned baking hoop (photo courtesy Creeds Direct). [6] Nordicware’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake pan (here it is on Amazon).

     
    Today, fancy cake molds can still be had; as well as animal molds, action figures, beehives, sports equipment and football fields, vehicles and other popular culture shapes. Here’s the history of the bundt pan.
     
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