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TIP OF THE DAY: Other Uses For A Paella Pan

Shrimp Paella

A paella pan from IMUSA USA. The delicious shrimp and bay scallop paella has lots of fresh spring peas.

 

Today is National Paella Day, one of our favorite foods. It’s a great party dish. It can feed a crowd. It can be served at the table or can sit on a buffet. It can be a special weekend dinner. Any leftovers can be microwaved for lunch at work—but it tastes just fine at room temperature.

Paella can be made on a stovetop or atop a grill. In fact, it was originally a worker’s meal, cooked in the field over a wood fire.

Here’s the history of paella, and a recipe for paella on the grill.

 
DO YOU NEED A PAELLA PAN TO MAKE PAELLA?

Paella pans were developed to meet specific criteria for cooking the dish. If you don’t have a paella pan, you can use a large skillet, of course.

Be sure that it’s a flat-bottomed conventional, nonstick skillet. If you want soccorat, the caramelized rice an the bottom of the pan which many people cherish, it won’t happen in a nonstick pan. (That said, there are nonstick paella pans for those who would rather not scrub the rice off the bottom of the pan.)

The major “pro” for the skillet is that you don’t have to buy a piece of specialized cookware.

 
Not surprisingly, there are more reasons to use a paella pan.

  • First is the diameter. Paella pans are very large so you can make a lot at once. Paella is usually served as a large family meal or for a party. It takes enough effort so that you want leftovers, too. A 15″ pan is fine for family dinners, and since the pans are made in one-inch increments (15″, 16″, 17″, 18″, etc.) the choices are staggering,
  • Diameter is important so the rice can be spread out to cook properly; a layer half an inch deep is ideal. Pans are made up to 50 inches in diameter. The jumbo ones are for restaurant use; but on a consumer level.
  • Another important criterion is even heat distribution.
  •  
    In sum, the shape was developed over time to be ideal for…cooking paella!
     
    OTHER USES FOR A PAELLA PAN

    Beyond paella, the pan can easily substitute for skillets, griddles and baking and roasting pans.

  • Make breakfast. You can cook larger amounts of bacon, eggs, and pancakes in a wok than in most frying pans and griddles.
  • Fry or sauté fish and meat. A paella pan is much larger than a standard frying pan. You can fit numerous chicken breasts, chops, fish fillets or steaks, even large steaks, without crowding the pan.
  • Make stir fries. Don’t have a wok? Use your paella pan to stir fry.
  • Bake and roast. Need an extra baking sheet or roasting pan? Bake those biscuits or roast that chicken in your paella pan!
  • Serve. If your pan looks new enough, use it as a serving tray.
  • Use as a plancha. A plancha is a flat-top metal grill that gets very hot, enabling cut-up food or small items like shrimp to cook quickly. It’s the high-heat, quick-cooking Spanish version of a wok.
  •  
    If you have other kitchen uses for paella pans, we’d love to hear them!
     
      

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    RECIPE: Creamed Spinach Without The Cream

    March 26th is National Spinach Day, honoring the most iron-rich vegetable, the reason Popeye was strong to the finish. Many people name Creamed Spinach as their favorite way to enjoy the vegetable—along with a juicy steak. It’s a steakhouse staple.

    To help tone down the richness a bit, some steakhouses are making their Creamed Spinach without cream. Chicken stock, flour and butter are substituted for the heavy cream or cream cheese.

    Executive Chef Eddie Advilyi from Angus Club Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan is one of the steakhouse chefs turning out Creamless Creamed Spinach (we’ve also had the dish at Benjamin Steakhouse). Chef Eddie shares his recipe with us:

    RECIPE: CREAMLESS CREAMED SPINACH

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base*
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (substitute black pepper)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup of melted butter
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Chicken base is a highly concentrated stock available in powder or cube form.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL or steam the chopped spinach and drain well.

    2. ADD the other ingredients. Mix until it becomes creamy, about 5 minutes.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY SPINACH

  • Pxali, Georgian spinach dip with walnuts
  • Savory Spinach Bread Pudding
  • Spanakoita, Greek spinach pie
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip
  • Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
  •  

    Creamless Creamed Spinach

    Ribeye, Creamed Spinach

    Fresh Spinach

    Top: Creamless Creamed Spinach at Benjamin Steakhouse. Center: Ribeye steak with Creamless Creamed Spinach at Angus Club Steakhouse. Bottom: Fresh spinach from Good Eggs.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), is native to central and western Asia (think ancient Persia). It is a member of the botanical family Amaranthaceae, which also includes amaranth, beet, chard, lamb’s quarters (mache) and quinoa, plus numerous flowering house and garden plants.

    At some point, spinach was introduced to India and subsequently to Nepal. It arrived in China around 647 C.E., where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”

    It became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean, and in 827 was brought to Italy by the Saracens. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century, and in Germany by the 13th century.

    Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century and quickly became popular because it could be harvested in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce.

    Spinach was supposedly the favorite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henry II of France. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” after her birthplace, Florence. Florentine dishes are sometimes served with Mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce with cheese (usually Gruyère and Parmesan).

      

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    RECIPE: Chocolate Covered Raisins

    March 24th is National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day, honoring a confection that dates well before the introduction of Raisinets in 1927.

    You need only three ingredients to make chocolate-covered raisins: raisins, chocolate and coconut oil. The oil thins the chocolate so it adheres better.

    We loved this suggestion from TheRoadNotProcessed.com: Add a bit of spice to elevate the recipe.

    You can coat the raisins in dark, milk or white chocolate using chocolate chips. But the better the chocolate quality, the tastier the results. We chop up a Lindt bar.

    Look for jumbo raisins you can find. You can substitute jumbo sultanas (golden raisins) as well.

     
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE COVERED RAISINS

    Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar
  • 1/2 tbsp virgin* coconut oil (substitute vegetable shortening)
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or cloves (if you like heat, add chipotle)
  • 1 cup jumbo raisins
  •  
    ____________________________
    *Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, like vegetable oil. Virgin coconut oil is fresh-pressed, unrefined coconut oil—superior to refined coconut oil. Here’s more about coconut oil.

     

    National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day

    Jumbo Sultanas

    Top: Homemade Raisinets. Photo courtesy TheRoadNotProcessed.com. Bottom: Jumbo sultanas, golden raisins. Photo courtesy CandyMax

     
    Preparation

    1. MELT the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler or microwave for 30-seconds, then at 10-second intervals as needed, taking care not to scorch it. Stir well with a whisk, adding the optional spice(s).

    2. ADD half the raisins and mix well to coat them all; then add the rest of the raisins and do the same. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Harden in the refrigerator and break up the hardened pieces. For faster hardening, use the freezer (they’ll be ready in 5-10 minutes).

    6. BREAK up the hardened pieces into individual pieces or raisin clusters. Refrigerate any leftovers.
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAISINETS

    Raisinets, raisins in chocolate shell, is a movie theater staple and the third-largest selling candy in U.S. history.

    To make the candy, raisins are coated with oil and spun in a hot drum with milk chocolate or dark chocolate. They’re then polished to a shine.

    Raisinets are the earliest brand of chocolate-covered raisins on record, introduced by the Blumenthal Brothers Chocolate Company of Philadelphia in 1927 (the brand was acquired by Nestlé in 1984).

    The Blumenthals did not originate the concept. Hard chocolate was invented in 1847, enabling confectioners to develop all types of chocolate candies (the history of chocolate), including chocolate-dipped fresh and dried fruits.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Hot Cross Buns

    Hot Cross Buns

    Hot Cross Buns

    Top: What a treat: Warm hot cross buns (photo King Arthur Flour). Bottom: You can substitute dried cherries or cranberries for the raisins (photo Ocean Spray).

     

    Tomorrow is Good Friday, a traditional time for Hot Cross Buns. You can mix up the dough today, divide it into muffin pans, mix up the frosting…and have everything ready when you wake up tomorrow. In just 20 minutes, Hot Cross Buns will emerge from the oven: fragrant with spices, sweet with dried fruit.

    from King Arthur Flour

    And you don’t need to save these delicious breakfast buns for Easter. Although that’s why they have an icing cross, you can…

    RECIPE: HOT CROSS BUNS

    Prep time is 25-35 minutes, rise time is 1 hour, bake time is 20 minutes. You can prepare the dough in advance and refrigerate it overnight. See footnote*.

    Ingredients For 12 To 14 Buns

    For The Buns

  • 1/4 cup apple juice or rum
  • 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried currants
  • 1-1/4 cups milk, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, 1 separated
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • For The Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg white, reserved from above
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  •  
    For The Icing

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing
  •  
    ___________________________________
     
    *You can refrigerate the completed dough for the first rise (first proof), from a few hours to a few days. For loaves of bread, refrigerate unshaped dough; then shape it after removing it from the fridge. Refrigerate the dough immediately after mixing, not after a rise. After removing from the fridge, let it rise a second time on the counter. This can take one hour or several, depending on the yeast. Refrigeration actually yields tastier results because the yeast has more time to do its work. Allow the dough to warm up a little before baking.

    You can shape loaves before refrigeration, but it may produce an uneven rise because the center of a large loaf will warm much more slowly after removal from the fridge. However, buns are small enough to avoid this problem, so feel free to shape before you refrigerate. [Source]

     

    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY GREASE a 10″ square pan or 9″ x 13″ pan.

    2. MIX the rum or apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave briefly, just until the fruit and liquid are very warm and the plastic starts to “shrink wrap” itself over the top of the bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature. When the fruit is cool…

    3. MIX together all of the dough ingredients except the fruit. Knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, until the dough is soft and elastic. Mix in the fruit and any liquid. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

    4. DIVIDE the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces. That’s about 3-3/4 ounces each—about 1/3 cup, a heaped muffin scoop. Use greased hands to round the dough into balls and place them in the prepared pan.

     

    Good Friday Buns

    Originally, the cross atop Hot Cross Buns was a simple knife cut. The icing came later. Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com. Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com.

     
    5. COVER the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they’ve puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

    6. WHISK together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns. Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

    7. MIX together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe a cross shape atop each bun.
     

    THE HISTORY OF HOT CROSS BUNS

    The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733. A sweet yeast bun filled with raisins or currants, the cross on top was originally made with knife cuts. Over time, icing was piped over the cuts.

    The cross symbolizes the crucifixion, and the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday.

    They are believed to predate Christianity: Similar buns were eaten by Saxons to honor Eostre, the goddess of spring. In their ancient pagan culture, the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon.

    “Eostre” is believed to be the origin of Easter. Many pagan holidays were ported into Christianity in its early days, to encourage pagans to convert to the new faith.

    You don’t have to wait for Good Friday to enjoy hot cross buns. They’re too delicious to save for one day of the year. You can variety the recipe with dried cherries or cranberries instead of raisins.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: The History Of Ravioli For National Ravioli Day

    Lobster Ravioli

    Cutting Ravioli

    Fazzoletti Ravioli

    Ligurian Pasta

    Sardinian Ravioli

    Fried Ravioli

    Lobster & Crab Ravioli

    Chocolate Ravioli

    (1) A classic dish of ravioli with tomato sauce (photo courtesy CBCrabcakes.com). (2) An illustration of why ravioli is also called “pillow pasta.” (3) Fazzoletti, meaning “handker-chiefs,” at Osteria Morini | NYC. (4) Casoncelli, the twisted shape of Liguria (photo TripAdvisor.uk.co.). (5) Culurgione, Sardinian stuffed pasta shaped like wheat (photo It.Wikipedia). (6) Ravioli can be fried and served with a dipping sauce (at Giovanni Rana | NYC). (7) Lobster and crab ravioli in duo-tone pasta sheets (at Nuovo Pasta). (8) Chocolate ravioli for dessert. Here’s the recipe from Fashion Newbie.

     

    When we were growing up, our mom had access to an Italian restaurant supply store, from whom she purchased a copious amounts of ravioli: in pinked but uncut sheets, four layers to a cardboard carton. When tossed into boiling water and they’d magically separate for an brief swim, until ready to drain and sauce.

    Each week we had Ravioli Night. In those days it was meat or cheese with Mom’s homemade pasta sauce. Lobster ravioli, pumpkin ravioli, and even spinach ravioli were still in the future. She did, however, have a wedge of Parmesan cheese, which she grated over our dishes.

    There has always been ravioli in our life. But who invented ravioli?
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAVIOLI

    China gets the credit for inventing not only strand pasta—thin chow mein noodles like Italian angel hair, thin wonton noodles like Italian linguine, lo mein noodles like Italian pappardelle, and wide wonton noodles like Italian fettuccine—but filled pasta.

    Those stuffed wontons (boiled in soup or steamed separately) or pot stickers (pan-fried) wrapped wheat dough around a filling. Other Asian countries followed suit, and also made pasta from rice and from mung bean threads.

    When it arrived Italy, stuffed pasta was called ravioli (another name is pillow pasta). Some food historians believe the name derives from the old Italian word riavvolgere, to wrap. Others believe that the dish was named after a renowned 13th-century chef by that name, who lived in what is now the Italian region of Liguria), who is credited with the invention of the dumpling composed of two layers of thin pasta dough with a filling sealed between them.

    Today, you can find pasta shaped in circles, novelty shapes (fish, hearts, stars, etc.), rectangles, squares, triangles and other shapes. But let’s start at the beginning.

    When Did Pasta Get To Italy?

    Many have credited Marco Polo, who returned from China in 1295 after 17 years of service in Kublai Khan’s court. But more recent archeological discoveries in Southern Italy have uncovered examples of square ravioli dating to the 9th century. They recipe initially arrived during the Arab conquests of Sicily in the 9th century, which also brought that iconic Italian food (via Arabia via China), spaghetti.

    Of course, in those days communications weren’t great over large distances, and it could be that the Venetians didn’t know about stuffed pasta until Marco Polo returned.

    Like the Chinese, Italians served ravioli (singular: raviolo) in broth, or with a pasta sauce—oil- or cream-based. Tomatoes, which arrived from the New World in the late 16th century, were used as houseplants, believed to be poisonous, and not eaten in Italy until the 18th century.
     
    The Creativity Begins

    By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout Italy. Each region would fill them with local ingredients and give them local names.

    The creative chefs of wealthy families expanded on the square ravioli idea shape to circles, half-moons, hats and other shapes, creating agnolotti, cappelletti, tortelli, tortellini, tortelloni and a host of other shapes. Affordable by all economic classes, stuffed pasta grew in popularity during the Middle Ages.
     
    Whatever the shape, stuffed pasta was made from very thin layers of a dough consisting of wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs (egg pasta was popular in the north and central regions, less so in the southern regions). A bottom sheet of dough was dotted with filling, the top sheet added and the individual pillows scored and crimped.

    Fillings could include:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese: Parmigiano and related cheeses (Asiago, Gran Padano), ricotta, sheep’s milk (pecorino) and other soft cheeses
  • Fish or seafood
  • Fruits, nuts, breadcrumbs
  • Herbs: borage, garlic, marjoram, parsley
  • Meat: boar and other game, beef, chicken, cured meats, deer, lamb, pork, sausage
  • Vegetables: mushrooms, pumpkin or other squash
  •  
    Regional Specialties

    Emilia-Romagna, called “the capital of filled pasta” by some, served tortellini (also called cappelletti or tortelli) in beef or capon broth. Other preparations included meat sauce (ragù alla Bolognese) and fresh cream with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Traditional fillings were mortadella or prosciutto with Parmigiano, nutmeg and pepper.

    Here are some of the numerous specialties from other regions:

  • In Abruzzo, tortelli abruzzesi di carnevale was served on the last Sunday of Carnival and other occasions. With a filling of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon, they were cooked in a meat broth and served with grated pecorino cheese.
  • In Piemonte (Piedmont), agnolotti, stuffed, bite-size squares, were served in beef broth, sauced with the juices from roasted meats or tossed with browned butter with sage. The pasta was topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • In Liguria, casoncelli (a twisted shape reminiscent of Jewish kreplach) and pansotti (triangular ravioli) were popular shapes, served in beef broth.
  • In Lombardia (Lombardy), casoncelli were served with butter and sage. A famous dish from the region, tortelli di zucca [pumpkin] mantovani [from Mantua], was filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti and mostarda (fruit mustard).
  • In Molise, a traditional filled pasta was ravioli scapolesi (after a village called Scapoli). The egg dough filling was complex: chopped chard, roasted ground meat, sausage, beaten eggs, ricotta and pecorino cheese. These large ravioli were first boiled, then topped with a pork and sausage ragù, then baked.
  • In Sardinia, culurgioni were filled with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes, pecorino cheese, chard or spinach were added. And then, something unique: They were molded to resemble the tip of a stalk of wheat, boiled and served—these days, with a fresh tomato and basil sauce. In Sardinia, the local aged pecorino is shaved on top instead of the Parmigiano of the continent. A variation of the filling uses fresh (day old) pecorino cheese, mashed potatoes and mint, onions or oregano.
  • In Toscana (Tuscany), tortelli alla lastra was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone (lastra) over a fire. Large squares were filled with mashed potatoes, sometimes with added pancetta, and topped with a sauce made of braised carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, garlic and sage.
  •  
    Today, the different shapes, fillings and sauces are available throughout Italy.

    Surprise: Sweet Accents

    Until the 16th century, pasta of all types was customarily served with a sweet accent—crumbled amaretti biscotti, currants, marmalade and/or sweet spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg). These ingredients could also be added to the filling.

    While cooking in broth was a common preparation, the ravioli could be fried and served with spices, sugar or honey.

     
    But today, full-fledged dessert ravioli is available, from chocolate and vanilla dough to fillings of chestnut, chocolate, fruit and tiramisu. We even have a recipe for peanut butter and jelly ravioli.

    And there’s no end in sight.

    Many thanks to Piergiorgio and Amy Nicoletti for their scholarship on the history of ravioli.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Dutched Cocoa Powder

    Top: Sweet and salty, chocolate and caramel: How can you resist? A recipe and photo from The Baker Chick. Bottom: Dutch process, or Dutched cocoa, is processed with alkali to neutralize cocoa’s natural acidity. It is milder in flavor and lighter in color than non-Dutched cocoa powder. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    Thanks to The Baker Chick for helping us celebrate National Chocolate Caramel Day, March 19th. We made her wickedly good Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies.

     
    RECIPE: SALTED CARAMEL PRETZEL BROWNIES

     
    Ingredients For 24 Brownies

    For The Pretzel Crust

  • 4 cups small pretzels, crushed into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  •  
    For The Brownies

  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Fit a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper. Overlap two sheets, including two tabs that hang over the sides, so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan.

    2. ADD the crushed pretzels to the bottom of the pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Set aside while you make the brownie batter.

     
    3. WHISK together the cocoa powder and boiling water in a large bowl, whisking quickly until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Add the oil, melted butter, eggs, yolks and vanilla, whisking after each addition. Add the sugar, mix until well-combined. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the batter and then fold in, mixing until smooth and well incorporated while not over-mixing.

    4. POUR the caramel sauce over the batter in lines going vertically, then horizontally. Use the tip of a knife or skewer to swirl the batter back and forth.

    5. BAKE for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Ginger Ale

    March 13th is National Ginger Ale Day, time to enjoy a refreshing glass of ginger ale.

    You can buy a commercial brand, of course; but for something special, you can purchase ginger syrup and add it to club soda. If you like a hot and spice sizzle, pick up some ginger beer syrup.

    The syrups can also be used to flavor barbecue sauce, cocktails, desserts, dips, dressings, glazes, iced tea and other foods and beverages.

    Or, make your own ginger ale from scratch, using fresh ginger root simmered in water. The flavor is so much more vibrant: It sizzles.

    And, since St. Patrick’s Day is this week, you can color it green!

    We adapted this recipe from Epicurious. A squeeze of lime juice, not an ingredient in conventional ginger ale, adds terrific flavor complexity.

    The recipe makes about 1-1/2 cups syrup, enough for 4 to 6 drinks. Prep time is 10 minutes, total time including chilling is 3 hours.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE GINGER ALE

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups (7 ounces) chopped peeled ginger
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 quart club soda or selter (the difference), chilled
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the syrup: Over a low simmer, cook the ginger and water in a small saucepan, partially covered, for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the ginger steep, fully covered, for 20 minutes.

    2. STRAIN the mixture into a bowl, pressing on the ginger to extract all liquid; then discard the ginger. Return the liquid to the saucepan, add the sugar and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.

    3. CHILL the syrup in a covered jar until cold. To make ginger ale, mix 1/4 cup of ginger syrup with 3/4 cup club soda and 1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice. Taste and adjust the proportions as desired. Use up the syrup within one week.
     
    THE HISTORY OF GINGER ALE

    First came ginger beer, which originated in England in the 1800s. It was brewed like beer from ginger, sugar, water, lemon juice and ginger beer plant, a cluster of microorganisms like kombucha. It had an alcohol content of 11%. Today’s supermarket beers average 4%-6% and craft beers average 5.9%, although some styles are brewed with ABVs in excess of 11%).

    The first non-alcoholic ginger ale was created in Ireland in 1851. But modern-style ginger ale was born in 1907 when a Canadian, John McLaughlin, invented what eventually became Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

       

    Homemade Ginger Ale

    Ginger Syrup

    Fresh Ginger Root

    Top: Homemade ginger ale (photo courtesy Malibu Rum). Center: Ginger syrup. Mixit with club soda to make ginger ale (photo The Ginger People). Bottom: Use fresh ginger root to make ginger syrup from scratch (photo Jan Schone | SXC).

     
    It was available in two versions: dry ginger ale, the style of modern ginger ale—pale color, mellow ginger flavor—and golden ginger ale, with a much deeper ginger flavor and golden color.

    Canada Dry ginger ale was introduced in 1907; the “dry” style prevails today. It gained favor around the time of Prohibition (1920-1933).

    Today, the golden style—deeper color and flavor—survives as non-alcoholic ginger beer. While modern ginger beers do have a touch of alcohol from the fermentation, they are categorized as non-alcoholic drinks in the U.S. because their alcohol content is less than 0.5% (this meets FDA requirements for a non-alcoholic beverage).

     

    Old Ginger Ale Bottle

    Launched in 1907, Canada Dry is the “father” of modern ginger ale. This bottle is from the 1940s. See more old soda bottles at Printmag.com.

     

    Ginger ale was the most popular soft drink in the U.S. until the 1930s, when it was surpassed by Coca-Cola (first was bottled for distribution in 1899).
     
    Modern Ginger Ale Vs. Modern Ginger Beer

    The main differences between today’s ginger ale and ginger beer are the sweetness and spiciness.

    Ginger beer is less sweet than ginger ale, and has a sizzling ginger kick. The spicier ginger beer provides a bite to cocktails and food pairings (any spicy or highly-seasoned foods, as well as foods with sweet glazes and sauces like barbecue or glazed ham). The lighter ginger ale provides more sweetness and effervescence as a soft drink or cocktail mixer.

    Production processes differ. Ginger beer is brewed (naturally fermented), a reason for the higher price. Ginger ale is a soft drink made from flavored carbonated water.

    Historically, both were fermented. Today only ginger beer is fermented, a reason for the higher price.

  • The natural fermentation of ginger beer yields less carbonation.
  • Ginger beer can have a beer-like head when poured into a glass.
  •  
    Now, the exception: Some artisan soft drink makers, including Reed’s Original Ginger Brew in the U.S. and Fentinman’s in England, ferment their soft drinks for more flavor and complexity.

    Will this become a trend? Stay tuned?

     

      

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    RECIPE: Korean Spaghetti & Meatballs

    Korean Meatballs

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/rice noodles indochine kitchen 230r

    Peacock Rice Spaghetti

    Top: Spicy Korean meatballs from Noodles & Company. Center: Cooked rice noodles from Indochine Kitchen. Bottom: Peacock Brand rice noodles, one of our favorites.

     

    March 9th is National Meatball Day. Suggestion: Try something different, instead of the very familiar Italian-American pork blend meatballs with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.

    How about a Korean interpretation of Meatballs & Spaghetti? The meatballs are flavored with spicy gochujang sauce (pronounced Go-CHOO-jang); the spaghetti is made from gluten-free rice noodles.

    The meatball and sauce recipes are from Executive Chef Nick Graff of Noodles & Company. THE NIBBLE put them together rice noodles to create the Meatballs & Spaghetti. The substitutions are:

  • Korean BBQ sauce instead of tomato sauce
  • Rice noodles instead of wheat noodles
  • Shredded basil or chopped cilantro instead of grated cheese
  •  
    Don’t want spicy Korean meatballs? Try this Italian-influenced veal meatball recipe.
     
    RECIPE: KOREAN MEATBALLS & SPAGHETTI

    Ingredients For 32 One-Ounce Meatballs

  • Korean BBQ sauce (recipe below)
  • Meatballs (recipe below, or use your favorite recipe)
  • Rice noodles (spaghetti or vermicelli—Peacock Brand rice noodles are available at Amazon, Walmart, Wegmans and retailers nationwide)
  • Garnish: black and white sesame seeds, fresh basil chiffonade or cilantro
  •  
    Ingredients For The Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  •  
    Ingredients For The Korean BBQ Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled & minced
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang sauce/paste (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the ground chicken and beef with the eggs, salt and white pepper. Portion and roll into 1 ounce-size balls (the size of golf balls) and place on an oiled sheet pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.

    2. MAKE the BBQ sauce. Place the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, gochujang paste and red chili flakes in a pan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile…

    3. WHISK the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and add to boiling sauce. Stir until thickened. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the heated meatballs and toss to coat completely with the sauce.

    4. COOK the rice noodles according to package directions, while the BBQ sauce is coming to a boil.

    5 COMBINE the spaghetti, meatballs and sauce, garnish and serve.

     
      

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    FOOD “HOLIDAY”: Caffeine Awareness Month

    Coffee Cup & Beans

    Cold Brew

    Top: People with no conflicting conditions can enjoy coffee 4 cups of brewed coffee daily. Want more? Switch to decaf (photo La Panineria). Bottom: Cold brew coffee, growing in popularity, has the most caffeine by a long shot (photo Seaworth Coffee).

     

    March is Caffeine Awareness Month. The National Consumers League (NCL) shared these facts on the world’s most consumed pick-me-up:

  • Caffeine has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. Tea was first consumed in China as early as 3000 B.C.E., and coffee consumption in Ethiopia appears to have commenced in the 9th century C.E.
  • Caffeine is found naturally in more than 60 plants. It is also produced synthetically and added to products including soft drinks and energy drinks. The actual source of caffeine—natural or synthetic—does not matter to performance or health.
  • Six beverages contain natural caffeine. Can you name them? The answers are below.
  • We are a nation of caffeine consumers. Some 85% of Americans drink at least one caffeinated beverage per day.
  • The caffeine intake of American adults ranges from 110 mg/day (for women ages 19-30) up to 260 mg/day (for men ages 51-70). National caffeine intake has remained steady over the past decade. It is much higher in the world’s top caffeine-consuming nations: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
  • Most caffeine intake in the U.S. comes from coffee, tea and soda. Caffeine is sometimes found in surprising places like orange soda, lemonade and enhanced water beverages. Read the labels!
  • Moderate coffee consumption—up to 400 mg/day of caffeine—can be part of a healthy eating pattern, according to the recently released 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. This amount has also been found to be safe by Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority.
  • Here’s what 400 mg of caffeine comprises:
  • – 16.6 servings of green tea (24 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    – 11.5 servings of a cola soft drink (average 35 mg caffeine/12 fl. oz.)
    – 8.5 servings of black tea (47 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    – 5 servings of Red Bull energy drink (80 mg caffeine/8.4 fl. oz.)
    – 4.2 servings of regular brewed coffee (95 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    – 2.2 servings of coffee house coffee (180 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    – 2 servings of 5-Hour Energy (200 mg caffeine/2 fl. oz.)
    – 1 serving of 10-Hour Energy shot (422 mg caffeine/2 fl. oz.)

     

  • Amounts of caffeine in cold-brew coffee can be astonishing: as much as 2,160 mg of caffeine in a 32 fl. oz. bottle, or 540mg per eight-ounce cup. It equates to about 23 cups of home brewed coffee, 62 cans of cola or 45 cups of black tea.
  • Scientific consensus is that everyone is different when it comes to the effects of caffeine. Children and teens should generally consume less caffeine due to their lower body weights.
  • Moderate caffeine consumption in healthy adults is not associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, heart disease) or premature death, according to the Dietary Guidelines.
  • The Dietary Guidelines are silent on most population groups, but advises that pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, and those who are breastfeeding should consult their health care providers for advice concerning caffeine consumption.
  • Dogs, cats, and birds cannot metabolize caffeine, so don’t feed them chocolate or anything else with caffeine.
  •  

    LABELS DON’T TELL ALL

    The FDA currently requires food labels to disclose added caffeine as an ingredient, but the label is not required to provide the amount of added caffeine or to list natural caffeine.

    As a result, very few products voluntarily list the total amount of caffeine they contain; although some companies, like Red Bull and Monster, and some soft drinks, provide this information voluntarily.

    The NCL is an advocate for transparency. To be able to moderate their intake, says the organization, consumers need to know how much caffeine is in the foods and beverages they consume.

    The NCL believes that all products containing caffeine should declare the amount of caffeine per serving-and per container-on the label—and we agree.
     
    And The Answers Are…

     

    Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows

    Not so innocent: Cacao beans, and the cocoa powder made from them, contains caffeine. Photo courtesy La Panineria.

     
    The six foods/beverages that contain natural caffeine are: cacao/cocoa, coffee, guarana, the kola nut, tea (black, green or white Camellia sinensis but not herbal tea, which has no caffeine) and yerba maté.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Plan Something Special For St. Patrick’s Day (45+ Recipes!)

    It’s March first, and that means one thing in our home: Do we want to have a St. Patrick’s Day party?

    If so, should it be dinner for eight of classic Irish dishes or very modern ones (corned beef and cabbage egg rolls and tacos, Guinnesss Stout floats); an after-work cocktail hour with green cocktails; an Irish beer or Irish whiskey tasting with Irish cheeses; or Irish-themed desserts for our sweet-toothed friends, served with coffee, Irish tea and Irish Coffee?

    Note that “Irish-themed” comprises any authentic Irish food, or anything colored green, from Appletinis and Broccoli Salad to Chocolate Mint ice cream, to a anything containing Irish spirits: Guinness and other Irish beers, Irish cream liqueur and Irish whiskey.

    While we mull it over, we sorted through these recipes. As you peruse them, think of what you might like to do.

    IRISH-THEMED BREAKFAST

  • Avocado & Sour Cream On Toast
  • Corned Beef Hash (With Poached Eggs)
  • Irish Breakfast Tea
  • Irish Soda Bread
  • Irish Soda Muffins
  •  
    IRISH-THEMED COCKTAILS

  • Absinthe, The “Green Beast”
  • Appletini
  • Champagne & Oysters
  • Emerald Isle With Pressed Green Juice
  • Irish Coffee Shots
  • Peppermint Paddy Martini
  • Pot O’ Goldtini
  • The Shamrocker (Bright Green)
  • The White Irishman (A White Russian Variation)
  •  
    IRISH-THEMED LUNCH & DINNER RECIPES

  • Avocado Potato Salad
  • Broccoli Salad
  • Corned Beef & Cabbage Egg Rolls
  • Corned Beef & Cabbage Potato Salad
  • Green Deviled Eggs
  • Green Lasagna Or Any Pasta With Pesto
  • Guinness Fish & Chips
  • Guinness-Marinated Corned Beef & Cabbage
  • Lamb Kabobs With Guinness Marinade
  • Leafy Greens
  • Potato-Rosemary Rolls
  • Slow Cooker Beef Stew
  • Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
  •  
    IRISH-THEMED DESSERTS

  • Green Cheese With Green Fruits (Granny Smith Apples, Grapes, Green Pears, Kiwi)
  • Grasshopper Pie
  • Green Macarons
  • Green Mint Cheesecake Bars
  • Green Ombre Layer Cake
  • Green Velvet Cupcakes
  • Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Guinness Chocolate Mousse
  • Irish Cheese Plate
  • Irish Cream Liqueur Cheesecake
  • Irish Cream Swirl Brownies
  • Upside-Down Irish Whiskey Cake
  • Shamrock Cupcakes With Green Jelly Beans
  •  
    IRISH-THEMED SNACKS

  • Apple Leprechaun For Kids
  • Cheddar & Bacon Guacamole
  • Green Marshmallows
  • Green Mint Milkshake
  • Leprechaun Gingerbread Men
  • Matcha Shortbread Cookies
  • Microwave Kale Chips
  • Shamrock Cookies
  •  

    Green Deviled Eggs

    Irish Soda Bread

    Irish Cheddar

    Guinness Float

    Corned Beef & Cabbage

    Green Ombre Cake

    See captions and photo credits at the left, below.

    _______________________________
    PHOTO CAPTIONS
  • Top: Green Deviled Eggs from the California Avocado Commission.
  • Second: Irish Soda Bread Recipe from The Baker Chick.
  • Third: Irish Cheddar from Murray’s Cheese.
  • Fourth: Guinness Float from R Lounge | Times Square.
  • Fifth: Guinness-Marinated Corned Beef & Cabbage from Justin O’Connor | Guinness Storehouse | Dublin.
  • Bottom: Green Ombre Layer Cake from McCormick.
  •   

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