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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Food Holidays/History/Facts

FOOD FUN: Pool Party Punch

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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.


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    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.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fresh Lemonade

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    It’s easy add a hit of extra flavor to lemon-
    ade, from lavender to jalapeño. Photo
    courtesy The Great Pepper Cookbook by
    Melissa’s Produce.


    August 20th is National Lemonade Day. If the only lemonade you drink comes from a bottle, you’ve never experienced real lemonade.

    Bottled drinks are not only pasteurized, but typically use reconstituted lemon juice. If you’ve ever tasted bottled lemon juice, you know that the flavor is simply not bright and lemony like fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

    Lemonade “made from concentrate” and sold in cartons like orange juice is the far better choice (as are cans of frozen lemonade concentrate).

    But the best choice of all is to squeeze fresh lemons. It takes just five minutes to make a single glass, and you can adjust the sweetening to your own taste.

    Leave a pitcher of lemonade unsweetened to accommodate every family member or guest. For a party, set up a bar where guests can add their own sweeteners—agave*, honey, noncaloric, superfine sugar or simple syrup. You can buy or easily make the latter two, which, unlike granulated sugar, dissolve easily in cold drinks.

    For adults bottles of gin, tequila or vodka expand the options.


    You can also use this recipe to make fresh limeade. We have more lemonade (or limeade) tips below.


    You don’t want ice cubes to dilute your lemonade. Ideally, freeze lemonade or a complementary fruit juice (we especially like blueberry and watermelon) in ice cube trays so regular ice cubes won’t dilute the flavor. And keep the lemonade as chilled as possible to use fewer cubes.

    Ingredients For 15 Glasses

  • 1.5 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (6 large lemons)
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 cup of table sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: berries, cherries, lemon wheel, mint leaves, sprig of herbs, watermelon cubes
  • Optional: straws
    Ingredients For 1 Glass Of Lemonade

  • 2 tablespoons sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • Ice
    *Agave tends to be twice as sweet as the equivalent amount of other sweeteners, so use half as much.



    1. MAKE the optional lemonade ice cubes a half day in advance or the night before. For the ice cubes, we save time by reconstituting frozen lemonade concentrate instead of making lemonade from scratch. When ready to make the lemonade…

    2. ROLL room temperature lemons on the counter top before squeezing. This maximizes the juice output.

    3. PREPARE the superfine sugar if you’re using granulated sugar. If you don’t have a box of superfine sugar, simply pulse regular table sugar to a superfine consistency in a food processor. The time you spend to do this is more than offset by the time it will take to get table sugar to dissolve. Another technique for dissolving table sugar is to boil the water several hours in advance, stir in the sugar to dissolve, and chill.

    4. COMBINE the water, lemon juice and three-quarters of the sweetener in a pitcher; mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust the sweetness bit by bit. Your goal is to keep the fresh lemon flavor first and foremost, and not make sugar the first thing you taste. It’s better to under-sweeten than over-sweeten: People can always add more sweetener to suit their individual tastes.


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    It’s easy to add a nuance of flavor to lemonade. Our favorites are ginger, lavender and lemongrass. Photo © Edith Frincu | Dreamstime.


    5. ADD ice to the glasses, fill with lemonade and garnish. Ideally, chill the lemonade prior to serving so it will be cold and require less ice.

    6. ADD the garnish: Slice extra lemons or contrasting limes into wheels, and cut notches so they sit on rim of glasses. You can also notch watermelon cubes or strawberries, place blueberries or raspberries on a cocktail pick, add a sprig of lavender or rosemary, etc.

    1. COMBINE the sugar and hot water in a 16-ounce glass (we use a Pilsner glass) and stir until the sugar dissolves.

    2. ADD the the lemon juice and cold water. Fill the glass to the top with ice and serve.


  • For a zero-calorie drink, use non-caloric sweetener.
  • For a low-glycemic drink, use agave nectar.
  • Varying the garnishes makes the recipe “new” each time.
  • A shot of gin, tequila or vodka turns lemonade into a splendid cocktail. Use citrus-flavored versions if you have them.
  • Infuse a second flavor by adding it to the pitcher of lemonade or infusing it in the simple syrup: fruit juice (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), lychees, sliced chiles or ginger, organic lavender, etc.
  • If you don’t want to squeeze lemons every time you feel like lemonade, you can do a “bulk squeeze” and freeze the lemon juice in ice cube trays. Or, do what our busy mom did and use frozen lemonade concentrate.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Sipping Rum

    Rum is a new world spirit, initially distilled by slaves on Caribbean sugar cane plantations. The distilled rum can be drunk in its clear state (white or blanco rum), or aged in oak barrels for various lengths of time, the process of which creates the different types of rum.

    Why is one blanco (or añejo, etc.) better than another? If the aging time is the same among different rums, the quality factors include the type of the sugar, yeast, and still and aging barrel and how long the fermentation is, and the quality of the still.

    Clear rum is mostly used for mixed drinks; among the more popular are the Daiquiri, Hurricane, Mojito, Piña Colada and Rum and Coke (Cuba Libre).

    Light rum, also used for mixed drinks, is aged briefly or not at all. As with other grades of rum, the longer it is aged (Añejo, Extra Añejo, etc.) the more complex it becomes.

    For National Rum Day, August 16th, here’s an explanation of how rum is made, courtesy of Cruzan Rum (there’s an infographic at the end of the page.

    1) Molasses, a by-product of refining sugar from sugar cane, travels from the sugar plantation to the distillery. There it is diluted with water—often spring water from local aquifers.

    2) Yeast cultures, often proprietary, are added to the molasses to start the fermentation. The yeast convert the sugars in the molasses to alcohol.


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    Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, a fine sipping experience. Photo courtesy Cruzan.

    3) The alcohol is distilled into a clear rum distillate. Light rum, also called clear, crystal, silver and white rum, is bottled immediately. rum which is then aged for a brief or extensive period.

    4) Distilled rum to be aged goes into oak barrels, which are laid down in warehouses to age for a minimum of two years; some are aged for twelve years or more. As much as half the rum can be lost to evaporation, which is why, along with the cost of carrying the inventory, older rums are that much costlier.


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    Dark rum on the rocks. Photo courtesy Baccardi.

      5) After barrel aging, the rum is charcoal filtered and diluted to 80 proof; it is then bottled.

    See the infographic below.


    The finest rum for sipping is single barrel rum. If you’re looking for that ultimate experience, look for award-winning Cruzan Single Barrel Rum. It’s made from a proprietary blend of vintage rums that have been aged for up to 12 years,

    The term “single barrel” refers to the process: After its initial aging, the rum is handpicked and blended before it is barreled for a second time in new American oak barrels. It is slowly aged again, bottled and individually numbered, one cask at a time.

    The resulting spirit well-rounded, mellow and full-bodied, with a balance of caramel sweetness and oak from aging. The finish is smooth and buttery (the latter also from the oak.

    Single barrel rum is best enjoyed sipped neat or on the rocks. Cruzan’s is just $29.99 per 750ml bottle.


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    FOOD HOLIDAY RECIPE: Creamsicle Cheesecake

    August 14th is National Creamsicle Day. How about a “Creamsicle” Cheese Cake?

    First, a bit of food history, and why we put the word Creamsicle within quotation marks:

    The Popsicle® was invented by a 29-year-old husband and father working in the real estate industry in the Great Depression. Frank Epperson made what he called Epsicles for a fireman’s ball.

    They were a sensation, and Frank obtained a patent for ”a handled, frozen confection or ice lollipop.” His kids called the treat a Popsicle, after their Pop. So Frank created Popsicle Corporation, which developed the Creamsicle® and collaborated with the Loew Movie Company for the nationwide marketing and sales of the product in movie theaters.

    Here’s the history of the Creamsicle. Today, Creamsicle® and Popsicle® are registered trademarks of the Unilever Corporation. Any company wishing to use the name for a product must get a license from Unilever.

    We adapted this recipe from Krista of Check out her other delicious recipes!

    Krista recommends that you make the cheesecake a day in advance; but you can get by with a few hours of chilling.



    Bake one or order this Orange Cream Cheesecake from Sweet Street Desserts.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time time is 40 minutes, plus a minimum of 3 hours for freezing/chilling.


    For The Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    For The Cheesecake

  • 2 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/diet orange n cream stewarts 230

    Want Creamsicle flavor without the calories? We love Diet Orange ‘n Cream from Stewart’s, also available in regular (with sugar). If you can’t find it locally, order it from Amazon. Photo courtesy Stewart’s Restaurants.


    For The Orange Creamsicle Layer

  • 1 three-ounce box orange flavored gelatin
  • 1-1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 eight-ounce container of whipped topping such as Cool Whip


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F.

    2. COMBINE combine the butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl. Stir until combined. Pat into a 9″ springform pan. Set aside.

    3. WHIP the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time; then beat in the sour cream.

    4. POUR the filling into the crust. Bake for 40 minutes. Turn of the oven and crack the oven door for 30 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled…

    5. MIX the “Creamsicle” layer by stirring the gelatin with the boiling water until it dissolves. Gently whisk in the whipped topping until it’s completely combined. Set the cheesecake on a plate or dish to catch any dripping, and pour the “Creamsicle” mixture over the cheesecake.

    6. PLACE in the freezer for an hour. Remove from the freezer and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve, at least two hours; but it is preferable to chill it overnight.

    7. TO SERVE: Run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan to separate the gelatin layer from the side. Unhinge the pan and gently lift the bottom from the cheesecake.


    A cheesecake is not a cake, but an open face custard pie. Unlike a cake, there is no raised layer made with flour.

    Rather, like a pie, it has a bottom crust into which a filling (a cheese custard) is poured and baked.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: Carpaccio For National Filet Mignon Day

    For National Filet Mignon Day you have two easy choices: cook it or enjoy it uncooked (yes, raw).

    The easiest ways to serve cooked filet mignon:

  • Whole, plated with vegetables and potatoes
  • Steak sandwich, on a toasted baguette with caramelized onions, or with lettuce and horseradish mayo (blend prepared horseradish into mayonnaise, to taste)
  • Steak salad, sliced and placed atop a bed of greens with blue cheese dressing; substituted for tuna in a Nicoise Salad; or substituted for ham in a Cobb Salad
    The easiest ways to serve raw filet mignon:

  • Sliced into carpaccio
  • Ground into steak tartare
    Carpaccio is the absolute easiest.

    Carpaccio is the Italian term for raw beef filet (crudo is the term for raw seafood). Typically made from sirloin, the dish was created in Venice in 1963, at the time of an exhibition dedicated to Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio (1465-1526).


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    A traditional carpaccio with basil-infused olive oil. Photo courtesy Atlantic Paradise Hotel | NYC.

    The carpaccio dish was based on the Piedmont speciality, carne cruda all’albese, created by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice. Using fine Piedmontese beef (Piemontese in Italian), he originally prepared it for a countess whose doctors had recommended that she eat raw meat. [Source]

    It is a very popular first course.

    To make carpaccio, buy freshly-cut filet mignon or sirloin from the butcher.


  • Filet mignon or sirloin
  • Fine olive oil (infused oil, such as basil or rosemary, is great)
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese or white truffles
  • Baby arugula (or baby spinach if you prefer)
  • Optional: sliced onions
  • Toasted baguette on the side
  • Optional: lemon wedges
  • Dishes of flake salt (Cyprus, Maldon, Smoked—substitute coarse sea salt) and cracked pepper

    1. PLACE the beef in the freezer for 30 minutes (longer if needed) to firm it and make it easier to slice thin. Using your sharpest knife, slice thin pieces. Arrange on individual plates or a platter. You can create a “sunburst” or “wheel spoke” or parallel slices, depending on the plate or platter.

    2. DRIZZLE olive oil over the top of the beef or around the rim of the plate. If using onions (not part of the original recipe), scatter over the beef, along with the shaved Parmesan. Lastly, top with the arugula.

    3. SERVE with optional lemon wedges and pass dishes of salt and pepper (or go the conventional route, with salt and pepper shakers).


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    Filet mignon. To make carpaccio, freeze it for 30 minutes to make it easy to slice thin pieces. Photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.



  • Filet mignon is the most tender cut of beef. It is cut from the tenderloin, a muscle in the middle of the back between the sirloin and the ribs. Because the muscle is not weight-bearing, it contains less connective tissue. This is why it’s the most tender.
  • The name is French for “tender fillet” or “dainty fillet.” Fillet, pronounced FILL-it, is the English spelling of filet. Americans use the French spelling and pronunciation, fee-LAY min-YONE.
  • Filet mignon is the most expensive cut of beef. That’s not only because it’s so desirable for its tenderness, but because the tenderloin is very small.
  • The tenderloin weighs an average of five to seven pounds. It is not an even width; it tapers on both ends, so filets mignon can only be cut from the center. The center cut of a 5-1/2 pound tenderloin is just 2 pounds or so.
  • The entire center cut can be roasted whole—the dish known as Chateaubriand. For even more tenderness, you can poach the center cut. It’s our favorite dish for entertaining—very easy, requiring no time to check on it as it cooks. We’ll publish the recipe in a future tip.
  • The tenderloin is generally not as flavorful (“beefy”) as other premium cuts of beef (e.g., the rib eye or the strip steak). That’s why it is sometimes wrapped in bacon or served with a sauce.
  • Tournedos are small round pieces of beef cut from the tail and head of the tenderloin, often cooked with bacon.
  • The pieces that are too small to use as steak are often cut into 1-inch pieces for a Beef Stroganoff or other dishes. You can use them in a steak salad.

  • Dutch: ossenhaas
  • English (U.S.): medallions, tenderloin steak
  • English (UK, Ireland): fillet steak
  • English (Australia, New Zealand): eye fillet
  • French: filet de bœuf (the entire center-cut tenderloin is the dish known as Chateaubriand)
  • French (Québec): filet mignon
  • Italian: filetto
  • Norwegian: indrefilet
  • Portuguese: filé or filé mignon
  • Spanish: filete miñón or filet mignon
  • Swedish: oxfilé


    FOOD HOLIDAY: S’mores Cone, S’mores Dip & More Creative Recipes

    For National S’mores Day, August 10th, Reynolds Kitchens has developed two grill approaches that use aluminum foil instead of the original twig over a fire. You can also make them indoors on the stove top.

    The recipes evolve S’mores graham cracker sandwiches into two fun variations: s’mores cones and skillet s’mores.

    Use your favorite chocolate, milk or dark. We use Guittard or Valrhona wafers or chop up Lindt bars; but you can use chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.

    Below, we have links to the history of S’mores and graham crackers, and many more creative S’mores recipes, from S’mores ice cream cake and cupcakes to cinnamon S’mores with a cappuccino cocktail.



  • Chocolate
  • Marshmallows (large or mini)
  • Graham crackers, broken into pieces


    S’mores cone. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchen.

  • Cones (use the smaller sugar cones instead of the larger waffle cones)
  • Aluminum foil


    1. STUFF the chocolate, marshmallows and graham cracker pieces into the cones, alternating to distribute the flavors.

    2. WRAP in foil and heat the packet over a campfire or grill for 3-5 minutes.

    3. REMOVE the packet carefully and allow it a few minutes to cool before unwrapping and eating.



    S’mores dip. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchen.




  • Chocolate chunks (you can break up chocolate bars)
  • Marshmallows
  • Graham crackers
  • Aluminum foil

    1. PLACE the chocolate chunks in a skillet. Top with the marshmallows and place over the campfire or grill until melted.

    2. REMOVE from the heat, ideally with a skillet handle pot holder.

    3. DIP the graham crackers into the skillet s’mores.. Warn people to avoid touching the skillet!



  • S’mores History
  • Graham Cracker History
  • Cinnamon S’mores with a Cappuccino Cocktail
  • Creative S’mores Recipes
  • Gourmet Marshmallow S’mores
  • Ice Cream S’mores
  • S’mores Ice Cream Cake, Ice Cream Pie and Cupcakes
  • S’mores in a Cup
  • S’mores with Other Types Of Cookies


    RECIPE: S’mores Baked Alaska

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    S’mores Baked Alaska. Chef Brian molds the
    ice cream on top of the cake layer before
    covering the ice cream with Marshmallow
    Fluff. We took an easier path, creating a
    layered ice cream cake and covering the


    For National S’mores Day on August 10th, here’s a brand new take on the classic, gooey chocolate bar, marshmallow and graham cracker cookie sandwich.

    Chef Brian Millman at Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room in New York City has created S’mores Baked Alaska, a twist on the American classic of ice cream cake*, shrouded in freshly-whipped meringue and then browned under a broiler or with a kitchen torch.


    The beaten egg whites in the meringue protect the ice cream from melting because beating unfolds the protein molecules. This causes air bubbles to be trapped in the unfolded proteins. This foam acts as an insulating layer around the ice cream and protects it [for a brief time] from the heat.

    This dynamic was discovered by a prominent physicist, Benjamin Thompson, at the beginning of the 19th century. Here’s the history of Baked Alaska.


    The beaten egg whites in the meringue protect the ice cream from melting because beating unfolds the protein molecules and causes air bubbles to be trapped in the unfolded proteins. This foam acts as an insulating layer around the ice cream and protects it from the heat.

    This was discovered by a prominent physicist, Benjamin Thompson, at the beginning of the 19th century. Here’s the history of Baked Alaska.
    Meringue has similar ingredients to marshmallow, which is why marshmallow cream also works.

  • Meringue ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar
  • Marshmallow Fluff ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, water, salt and vanilla extract


    Chef Brian makes these substitutions to turn S’mores into Baked Alaska:

  • Chocolate cake and chocolate sauce instead of the S’mores chocolate bar
  • Marshmallow Fluff instead of the S’mores marshmallows and meringue
  • Graham cracker marshmallow ice cream and graham cracker crumbs instead of the whole graham crackers (Chef Brian makes his own marshmallow and graham cracker ice cream; but you can make hack a variation from a quart of vanilla, some mini marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs)
    He also adds a pinch of flake sea salt (Cyprus Flake Sea Salt and Maldon Flake Salt flake salts are typically available at specialty food stores or fine supermarkets).

    You can use your broiler to brûlée the Fluff; but if you have one, use a kitchen torch instead. With a torch:

  • You can evenly brown the entire surface. Under a broiler, when the top is perfectly browned, the sides will be much lighter.
  • You don’t have to check the broiler to see how the browning is going. A delicate process, it can turn from done to overdone in seconds. The torch gives you control.


    Here’s how we adapted Chef Brian’s concept to make our own version of S’mores Baked Alaska:

    You can bake the cake or buy a chocolate loaf cake (or any unfrosted chocolate cake). You can make the marshmallow ice cream from scratch (here’s a recipe—add the graham cracker crumbs), or buy ice cream and mix in the crumbled graham crackers.


  • 1 chocolate cake: loaf, sheet or uniced layers
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream plus mini marshmallows, store-bought marshmallow ice cream* or homemade marshmallow ice cream
  • Graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs‡
  • 1 marshmallow fluff tub (16 ounces) Marshmallow Fluff or other marshmallow cream
  • Garnish: graham cracker crumbs

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    Add mini marshmallows to softened ice cream to make “quickie” marshmallow ice cream. Photo courtesy

  • Optional garnishes: chocolate sauce, coarse sea salt or flake salt (like Maldon—see the different types of salt)


    1. MAKE “quick” marshmallow-graham cracker ice cream: Soften the quart of vanilla ice cream on the counter. While the ice cream softens, crumble the whole graham crackers between sheets of wax paper, using a rolling pin. When the ice cream is soft enough to stir, use a spatula to scoop it into a mixing bowl; add the crumbs and stir to combine. Then add the marshmallows and stir. Place the ice cream back into the container. The lid will no longer fit, so cover the top with plastic wrap.

    2. ASSEMBLE the ice cream cake. Create a middle layer of ice cream. For a loaf cake, cut in half horizontally; for a sheet cake, cut two “layers.” Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer. When ready to serve…

    3. PLACE the ice cream cake on a heat-proof (or sturdy) serving plate and use a spatula to cover the sides and top with Marshmallow Fluff. Use the torch to brûlée, on all sides. If the plate isn’t heat-proof, steer clear of the lower part of the cake.

    4. BRING to the table. Dip the knife in warm water to cut. Sprinkle the edges of each dessert plate with graham cracker crumbs and place the sliced cake on top. Pass the optional chocolate sauce and sea salt so guests can customize their portions.

    *Baked Alaska is typically made with a thin cake layer on the bottom, and two or more different flavors of ice cream on top. When we created our version of S’mores Baked Alaska, it was easier for us to use thicker layers of cake, for a 50:50 proportion of ice cream to cake. You can construct your Baked Alaska in the proportion you wish.

    †Chocolate Marshmallow ice cream from Turkey Hill, S’mores from Ben & Jerry’s, Schwan’s Chocolate Ripple and others have a base of chocolate ice cream. We prefer a vanilla base, so we made our own.

    ‡We crumbled our own when we could have purchased crumbs. The reason: We preferred the texture of the larger home-crumbled pieces of graham crackers in the ice cream. The purchased crumbs, however, are fine.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Oyster Shells

    In this era of recycling consciousness, it’s important to re-use something at least one more time before it ends up in the trash. There are suggestions galore, from re-using plastic dry cleaning bags to wrap clothes for wrinkle-free traveling, to filling empty drink bottles with water for in-home or grab-and-go use.

    Even if something must ultimately end up in a landfill, it’s surprising how many different items destined for the garbage can be re-purposed at least once.

    We were feasting upon a mammoth plateau de mer* at a local bistro, wondering if we should ask to take the empty lobster and shrimp shells home to make stock. Then it struck us: If the larger scallop shells have long been used to serve Coquilles St. Jacques and other foods, we could find uses for the cast-off oyster shells. The solution was easy: Use them as replacements for appetizer spoons (also called amuse-bouche spoons or tasting spoons, and a popular way to serve at cocktail bites).

    You can wash and refill the oyster shells ad infinitum; you can use scores of them at parties; and if you collect too many, you can give sets to your friends.

    As we munched our way through the platter of seafood, we thought of the visual fun of using those half-shells to serve something other than oysters. Here’s our preliminary list, especially appropriate since today, August 5th, is National Oyster Day:

  • Fill with salmon, scallop or tuna tartare
  • Ceviche “shooters”


    What would you serve in an oyster shell—besides oysters, of course?James Beard Foundation. This dish was created by chef Kyle Koenig of Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, New York.

  • Add a fried oyster, topped with tartar sauce, horseradish cream or spicy mayo, garnished with chopped chives
  • Serve anything topped with tobiko, from a hard-boiled quail egg to grilled cauliflower florets
  • The natural: Oysters Rockefeller or “Scallops Rockefeller,” substituting scallops for the oysters
  • As a “spoon” for smoky whitefish salad, chopped herring salad or any salad
  • Use for non-seafood purposes, such as stuffed mushrooms (you can serve the mushrooms chopped instead of filling the caps)
  • Use for anything you would serve in an appetizer spoon (this is often a repurposed ceramic Chinese soup spoon)
    *French for “plate of seafood,” a plateau de mer, or plateau de fruits de mer, is a seafood appetizer that consists of raw mollusks (clam, oyster, periwinkle, scallop) and cooked shellfish (crab, lobster, prawn, shrimp). The seafood is served cold on a platter, on a bed of ice. At restaurants, depending on the size ordered, the platter can be two or three tiers high and plated in silver for a grand presentation.


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/tasting spoons 1 libbey 230

    Why purchase tasting spoons when you can repurpose oyster shells to do the same thing? These spoons are from Libbey.



    We traveled the Web to see how others were using empty oyster shells. Here’s what we found:

  • Crafts. Turn the shells into craft projects.
  • Gardening. Crush and mix them into your garden soil. The shell is 95% calcium carbonate and provides a slow release of calcium that de-acidifies and helps balance soil pH, loosen clay and improve drainage. That’s good news for tomato and other vegetable gardens.
  • Gardening. Similarly, use crushed shells in container gardening; the coarse texture of the crushed shells promotes drainage. Sprinkle them in the bottom of planting holes for vegetables and bulbs. Be sure to use crushed shells, not commercial oyster shell flour, for an even release of calcium throughout the growing season.
  • Gardens. Save enough shells to create a garden path. Oyster shell paths are a recycling effort that originated in Colonial times: If you’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg, you’ve seen them. They’re a charming alternative to gravel, and can also be used as a cover material for patios, courtyards and driveways.
  • Aquaculture. If you live near salt water, or are headed there, toss the dried oyster shells back into the sea. Young oysters will attach themselves to the empty shells, helping to propagate more oysters. The person who contributed this dip dumps the shells near her dock to create a mini oyster reef. “It creates a habitat for crabs, for which we have crab-pots (YUM!).”
    If you have other ideas, let us know!



    RECIPE: Watermelon Pizza

    How about a watermelon pizza for National Watermelon Day, August 3rd? Here are two snack or dessert recipes, and they couldn’t be easier.

    The first is from the National Watermelon Promotion Board,


    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 watermelon round, from a watermelon 8 to 10 inches in
    diameter, sliced 1 inch thick
  • 1 cup strawberry preserves
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/watermelon pizza 230

    Pizza for dessert! Photo courtesy National Watermelon Promotion Board.


    1. DRAIN the watermelon round on paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Place on a serving platter and cut into 6 wedges, leaving them in the shape of a pizza.

    2. SPREAD the preserves (the “sauce” on top and sprinkle the toppings over the preserves. It’s ready to serve!


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/watermelon pizza zespriFB 230

    Easiest watermelon pizza: Just add sliced kiwi! Photo courtesy Zespri | Facebook.



    The second watermelon pizza couldn’t be easier. If you like, you can add on additional fruits—whatever you have on hand, from stone fruit slices (peaches, nectarines, plums, etc.) to orange segments.

    Without the chocolate chips, coconut, raisins and walnuts, it qualifies as a “diet dessert.”

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 watermelon round, from a watermelon 8 to 10 inches in
    diameter, sliced 1 inch thick
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • Optional: other sliced fruits, as desired
  • Optional garnish: shredded coconut “cheese”

    1. DRAIN the watermelon round on paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Place on a serving platter and cut into 6 wedges, leaving them in the shape of a pizza.

    2. PEEL and slice the kiwi. Place on slice on each watermelon wedge. Sprinkle with optional coconut.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 20+ Ways To Use Pimento Cheese

    Pimento cheese is known as a Southern specialty, along with barbecue, catfish and hush puppies, grits, red velvet cake and sweet tea. Yet, according to a Southern culinary historian, the soft cheese and red bell pepper spread is a Northern invention.


    Today’s combination of grated Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, seasonings and finely diced red pimento (the Americanized spelling of the Spanish pimiento, red bell pepper) started in the North as a cream cheese-based spread. It blended the newly-introduced blocks of cream cheese with canned pimentos, newly imported from Spain. The two ingredients may have been first combined by home economists, women who developed new recipes and other tips for homemakers that were eagerly read in books, magazines, newspapers and on product labels.

    In the 1870s, New York State farmers farmers began to make a soft, unripened cheese modeled after the French Neufchâtel cheese. Within a few decades, a recipe for cream cheese appeared, made by mixing cream into the Neufchâtel curd. The new soft cheese was molded into small wood block forms.

    Because the city of Philadelphia had a reputation for fine food, a New York-based manufacturer, Phenix Cheese Company, named its product Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. It was the leading brand then as now (J.L. Kraft and Bros., established in 1909, acquired Phenix Cheese Company in 1930; the company is now called Kraft Foods Group).


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/pimento cheeseburger gardeniaNYC 230

    The pimento cheeseburger served at Gardenia restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Photo courtesy Gardenia.


    The cream cheese/pimento spread became a standard on tea sandwiches, and spread (no pun intended) from the tea party set to the working class. It found its way onto lunch carts, along with the egg salad and ham and cheese sandwiches; and into sandwich shops and diners.

    The first printed recipe unearthed so far is in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1908, for a sandwich filled that blended softened cream cheese, minced pimentos, mustard and chives. The following year, the Up-to-Date Sandwich Book published a simpler version: Neufchâtel cheese with chopped pimentos and a bit of salt on lightly buttered white bread.

    Before World War I, dozens of similar recipes appeared in magazines and cookbooks. Soon after World War I, southern farmers began growing pimentos. Locals mixed the canned domestic pimentos with grated Cheddar instead of cream cheese, which was then less available in the southern states.

    In the South, pimento cheese remains a choice on tearoom menus, sliced into triangles; and as finger sandwich with cocktails. Commercial brands of pimento cheese can be found in most supermarkets, to be spread on crackers at home. Every home cook has his or her favorite recipe.

    Back to the original for a moment: Philadelphia Brand actually sold two flavored cream cheeses in addition to the original plain: Chive and Pimento. All three were staples in our home. Alas, Philadelphia Pimento Cream Cheese was discontinued a few years ago in favor of a dozen more modern flavors, including Blueberry and Spicy Jalapeño. It seems that today’s consumers would rather have Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese than Pimento. Chive has survived as Chive & Onion.

    If you want a taste of the original pimento peerfection, you’ll have to blend your own diced pimentos into cream cheese. But if you want to embrace Southern-style pimento cream cheese, here’s how to do it, along with a recipe to make your own Cheddar-based pimento cheese:

  • Breakfast tortilla: Warm a corn tortilla in a skillet or the microwave. Spread with pimiento cheese and top with two fried eggs and salsa. Optional garnishes: chopped green onions, sliced black olives, chopped fresh herbs.
  • Cheese omelet
  • Toast spread (bacon optional)
  • Poached eggs on pimento cheese toast

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    With wine, beer or cocktails: pimento
    cheese and crackers, toasts or sliced
    baguette. Photo by Katharine Pollak |



  • Biscuit sandwich, with lettuce and tomato.
  • Cheeseburger: Spread a heaping knife-full of pimento cheese atop a grillled burger. Add the top bun and wait a minute for the cheese to melt.
  • Dip For fries: Dipping works better with a creamier style pimento cheese (see above). Or, thin the spread with milk, sour cream, mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt.
  • Grilled cheese sandwich
  • General sandwich spread (ham, grilled vegetables, sliced egg, turkey, e.g.)
  • Stuffed grilled tomato or bell pepper
  • Taco/burrito: Warm a small tortilla and spread it with pimento cheese. Top with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, taco-seasoned beef, grated cheese, sour cream and salsa. Sprinkle with chopped green onions; add shredded lettuce and tomatoes.
  • Toasted egg sandwich: Spread pimento cheese on toast; top with fried, scrambled or sliced hard-cooked eggs.
  • Wrap sandwich: Spread instead of mayo on a ham, turkey, grilled veggies or other wrap.

  • Crudité dip (add more milk, cream or mayo to thin to the desired consistency)
  • Cracker/toast/crostini spread
  • Deviled eggs (mix with the yolks)
  • Stuffed celery
  • Stuffed cherry tomatoes or baby potatoes

  • Baked potato/stuffed potato
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Potatoes gratin
  • Quick fondue

    You can find recipes made with Cheddar, Cheddar-cream cheese blends and other cheeses. This one sticks with classic Cheddar.


  • 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimiento, drained
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
  • 1 block (8 ounces) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 block (8 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

    1. COMBINE the mayonnaise, pimiento, Worcestershire sauce, onion and cayenne in a large bowl. Stir in the cheese.

    2. CHILL in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld. Serve at room temperature. The sprea can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.


  • CAROLINA STYLE: Add 1/4 cup diced olives and jalapeños.
  • CREAMY: Make the spread creamier by blending in 4 ounces of cream cheese.
  • HOLIDAY: Add 1/4 cup cranberry sauce (preferably whole cranberry sauce).
  • MEXICAN: Add 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce, drained; or 1 teaspoon dried chipotle. Adjust quantity to taste.
  • ONION: Add finely-diced red onion and fresh parsley to taste.
  • SMOKY: Add 1/4 cup cooked bacon, drained and crumbled.
  • SWEET & TANGY: Add some pickle relish. Start with a heaping tablespoon, drained.


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