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Archive for Food Holidays/History/Facts

PRODUCT: Mardi Gras King Cake Kit

King Cake

King Cake

Here’s what you can make from the King Cake Kit. You can use the icing and sparkling sugars to create your own special design. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.

 

Egad: It’s a perfect storm of food holidays! The Super Bowl is February 7th, Lunar New Year begins February 8th, Mardi Gras follows on February 9th, and Valentine’s Day is February 14th.

We’re tackling them one by one. Here, an easy and most delicious King Cake kit from King Arthur Flour lets you celebrate in style. It has everything you need to make a fine King Cake. You can even host a King Cake party, as many do in Louisiana.

Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in Louisiana during the Carnival season: at home, in offices and at King Cake parties.

While people in other parts of the country may order a King Cake from a baking company in Louisiana, making your own with a King Arthur product is likely to be tastier, not to mention less expensive and more fun.
 
THE KING CAKE KIT

What’s included:

  • 1-pound box of premium cake mix (an egg- and butter-rich yeasted sweet dough)
  • Almond paste for the filling
  • White icing mix
  • 2-ounce bag of each decorating sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of yellow, green and purple
  •  
    The traditional plastic baby is not included, but you can get one at the nearest party store (in the Baby Shower section).

    The kit is $19.95 at KingArthurFlour.com.

     
    ________________________________________
    *The colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, whose house colors were purple, green and gold. Purple signifies justice, green represents faith and gold is for power.

     

    THE HISTORY OF KING CAKE

    The King Cake is an adaptation of the French Epiphany Cake. While an Epiphany Cake is subdued—a round of crisp brown pastry—the celebration cakes in New Orleans are decorated in the three official colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green and gold*.

    The cake itself is named for the three Wise Men, also called Magi or Kings. In France the Epiphany Cake is called galette des rois, king cake.

    The King Cake tradition is believed to have arrived in New Orleans around 1870. In France, puff pastry (pâte à choux) is filled with almond cream (frangipane). But in New Orleans, the concept took another direction.

    The first King Cakes for Mardi Gras were simple rings of yeast dough, some braided, with a small amount of decoration.

    The cakes became more festive over time, incorporating the Mardi Gras colors.

    In more recent years, the fillings have followed modern tastes. You can find them in chocolate, numerous fruit flavors, even cream cheese. Royal icing with the three official colors of sparkling sugar decorate the tops.

    Shapes have evolved, too: round, oval, square, and at fine restaurants, deconstructed. There are also cookie and macarons in purple, green and gold.

    The ubiquitous cakes range from garish supermarket options to elegant pastry from the best bakers.
     
    What About The Baby?

    The cake traditionally includes a small plastic baby representing Baby Jesus. The person who gets the piece of cake with the baby is said to have good luck for the next year.

    Note, however, that the lucky trinket has various privileges and obligations, which can include hosing next year’s party—or at least, bringing the cake.

    After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the Mardi Gras colors.

    Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the “baby.” If so, then that person is named “King” for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.
     
    In earlier days, the baby might be made of porcelain, or even gold in wealthy homes.

    These days, since no one should bake plastic inside a cake, the trinket is typically inserted through the underside of the baked cake.

    In the past, as in France, other trinkets such as coins and charms could be baked into the cake. In humbler homes, a pecan, pea or bean could be baked in.

    Trinket or not, we look forward to a big slice of our King Arthur King Cake.

     

    King Cake

    Glamorous King Cake

    Deconstructed King Cake

    Baby Figurines

    Top: A nicely decorated King Cake from Hudson Valley Chocolates. Second: A glamorous King Cake from New Orleans confectioner Sucre. Third: Chef Ric Tramonto’s deconstructed King Cake at Restaurant R’evolution. Bottom: A baby figurine is inserted into the cake. These are from Wilton, but any party store should have them.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Snow Cream (Snow Ice Cream)

    AN ANCIENT TREAT

    Although the crank ice cream freezer wasn’t invented until 1843, and the first large-scale commercial ice cream plant in 1851, esearch shows that ice cream was first created in the cold regions of China more than 4,000 years ago. There, milk and cream, perhaps some overcooked rice, and spices were packed in snow to harden.

    Fruit ices were also developed, prepared with fruit juices, honey and aromatic spices. Snow and saltpeter served as an ancient ice cream maker to freeze ingredients in a container.

    Through trade routes, the frozen desserts were introduced to Persia about 2,500 years ago. The Persians called the frozen concoction sharbat, “fruit ice” in Arabic and the origin of sherbet, sorbet and sorbetto.

    Alexander the Great, who battled the Persians for 10 years before finally toppling the Persian Empire in 330 B.C.E., discovered fruit “ices” sweetened with honey and chilled with snow. He returned to Greece with the knowledge; and within three centuries, Emperor Nero was serving fruit juices mixed with honey and snow at his banquets.

    Here’s more on the history of ice cream.

    Turn history into fun: With the next fresh snowfall, you, too can make sharbat—or snow ice cream, also called snow cream. Transport yourself back to ancient China, or to Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia. (Nero’s banquets? Maybe not so safe!)

    First up is a simple recipe from Julie Blanner for strawberry snow cream, ready in just three minutes.

    RECIPE: SNOW ICE CREAM (SNOW CREAM)

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Strawberry Nesquik*
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups clean snow
  • Optional garnish: fresh or frozen/thawed strawberries
  •  
    *Instead of Nesquik, you can purée frozen strawberries and add sweetener as desired.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Nesquik and milk, and pour over the snow. Blend as desired.
     
    RECIPE: SHARBAT

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fruit juice
  • 2 cups clean snow
  • Optional sweetener: agave or honey
  •  
    Prepare as above.
     
    Variations

  • Sweeteners: try whatever you like, from honey and maple syrup to lower-glycemic sweeteners like agave and sucralose (Splenda).
  • Flavors: Instead of fruit or juice, add an extract to the snow: coffee, lemon, mint, vanilla, etc.
  •  

    Ice Cream

    Making Snow Cream

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/snow ice cream strawberry julieblanner 230

    Top photos: An ancient recipe with modern decorations, and the preparation process, from GimmeSomeOven.com. Bottom: Strawberry snow ice cream from Julie Blanner.

  • Milk type: You can use almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and other nondairy options; and can add more flavor with the flavored varieties (chocolate, coffee, green tea, vanilla, etc.).
  •  
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF FROZEN DESSERTS

    Ice cream and sorbet are just two types of frozen desserts. Discover more in our Frozen Desserts Glossary

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Corn Chips Vs. Tortilla Chips

    January 29th is National Corn Chip Day.

    Before THE NIBBLE, we thought that corn chips and tortilla chips were synonymous. They aren’t, as you’ll see below.

    The best-known corn chips in America are Fritos, which were created in 1932 by Charles Elmer Doolin of San Antonio.

    Dolan was the manager of the Highland Park Confectionery in San Antonio. As the story goes, he found a local man who sold deep-fried corn snacks and had 19 retail accounts. He purchased the recipe, the accounts and a handheld potato ricer for for $100, which he borrowed from his mother.

    Doolan and his mother perfected the recipe in their kitchen, and Doolan created the Frito Corporation. [Source]

    In 1948, Doolin invented Chee-tos. In 1961, a merger between The Frito Company and H.W. Lay & Company, makers of potato chips in 1961 to form Frito-Lay. In 1965 Frito-Lay became a subsidiary of The Pepsi-Cola Company.

    Here are more photos from the early years of Fritos, on FlashbackDallas.com.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CORN CHIPS & POTATO CHIPS

    Corn chips and tortilla chips are made in very different ways.
     
    Corn Chips

  • Corn chips are made from corn meal (ground corn, or masa), which has been is mixed with salt and water, extruded (shaped) and fried.
  •  
    Tortilla Chips, A.K.A. Taco Chips

  • The corn in a tortilla chip undergoes a process known as nixtamalization, in which the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution such as lime water, and then hulled, ground and made into tortillas.
  • The tortillas are then sliced and fried into crispy chips.
  • This ancient process was developed by the peoples of what is today Mesoamerica.

  • Tortilla chips, however, were invented in the late 1940s in Los Angeles. Here’s the history of tortilla chips.
  • National Tortilla Chip Day is February 24th.
     
    HERE ARE ALL THE AMERICAN FOOD HOLIDAYS.

  •  

    Fritos Corn Chips

    Bag Of Fritos

    old-fritos-bag-flashbackdallas-230

    Fritos, America’s most famous Corn chips. Top photos courtesy Frito-Lay. Bottom photo courtesy FlashbackDallas.com.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Happy Salad For Sad Weather

    Colorful Salad

    Pick up these bright ingredients and make a happy salad. Photo courtesy Evolution Fresh.

     
  • Weather: Cold.
  • Sky: Gray.
  • Snowstorm: Heading this way.
  • Cheer: This bright, happy salad.
  •  
    We saw the photo and recipe on Evolution Fresh’s Pinterest page, where it was featured as a summer recipe. But all of the ingredients are just as available in the winter.

    Because there are no leafy greens to wilt, you can make a large batch and eat it over several days. You can vary it with olives, crumbled cheese, crunchy seeds or other favorite salad additions.

    RECIPE: BURST OF SUNSHINE SALAD

    Ingredients

  • Bell peppers, red, yellow or orange, diced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • English or Persian [seedless] cucumbers, sliced in half-moons
  • Radishes, sliced
  • Optional: red onion or sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • Optional: fresh herbs, minced
  • Dressing: balsamic vinaigrette or Dijon mustard vinaigrette
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients, toss toss to coat with dressing, and serve.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SALAD

    Man and his ancestors have been eating salad greens since they crossed from homonids (great apes) to hunter-gatherers.

    More recently in our history, ancient Romans and ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with dressing. They brought the custom with them in their imperial expansions, and green salads became a European convention/ [Source]
     
    IS IT SALAD IF THERE’S NO LETTUCE?

    Yes, indeed. A salad is a dish consisting of small pieces of food, typically served cold and usually mixed with a sauce (called salad dressing).

    Beyond vegetable salads of all types, raw or cooked, there are bean salads, grain salads, pasta and noodle salads and meat/poultry/protein salads such as chicken, egg, tuna and seafood.

    The leafy green salads most of us think of as “salad” is technically “garden salad” or “green salad.”

    The word “salad” comes from the Latin salata, salty. During Roman times, the vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings. In English, the word first appears as “salad” or “sallet” in the 14th century.

     
      

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    FOOD 101: Those Oldies But Goodies ~ The First Cultivated Crops

    Emmer Wheat

    Brown Turkey Figs

    Top: Emmer wheat, one of the eight founder crops. Photo courtesy Sortengarten. Bottom: Figs were the first fruit to be cultivated. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    All of the plant-based food we eat first grew wild. When man transitioned from packs of nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled villages of farmers, they learned to cultivate the foods that were most important to them.

    This happened some 10,000 or 11,000 years ago, in the Neolithic Age (sometimes referred to as the Agricultural Revolution). Man domesticated animals as well; and the stable food supply supported an increasingly large population.

    The Neolithic Age is considered to be the final stage of cultural evolution among prehistoric humans: living together in communities. Also called the New Stone Age, it was the period where man developed stone tools by polishing or grinding*, and began to develop crafts such as pottery and weaving.
     
    THE FOUNDER CROPS

    After 9500 B.C.E. the eight so-called “founder crops” of agriculture appear in the Fertile Crescent, the land in and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that is now include Mesopotamia, and the Levant, the eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea. Levant†.

    The eight wild crops that were the first to be cultivated were:

  • Cereals: einkorn and emmer wheat (farro)
  • Legumes: bitter vetch (heath pea, a species of pea), chickpeas, hulled barley, lentils, peas
  • Flax (linseed)
  • ____________________________
    *The previous age or period, the Paleolithic, was the age of chipped-stone tools. Following the Neolithic was the Bronze Age, which saw the development of metal tools.

    †The previous age or period, the Paleolithic, was the age of chipped-stone tools. Following the Neolithic was the Bronze †The Levant was a large area in southwest Asia: south of the Taurus Mountains, with the Mediterranean Sea as the western boundary, and the north Arabian Desert and Mesopotamia in the east. Today, the area includes Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

     
    Although archaeologists believe that wheat was the first crop to be cultivated on a significant scale, all eight crops appear “more or less simultaneously” in sites in the Levant. [Source]
     
    Fig trees follow shortly; or, based on newer evidence, they may have been the first cultivated crop of all.

    Scientists have found remains of figs in Jericho, near the Jordan River in what is now called the West Bank, an area formerly called Palestinian territories and the State of Palestine. They appear to be the earliest known cultivated fruit crop—and perhaps the first cultivated crop anywhere. The figs were dated to 11,400 years ago. As archaeologists continue to unearth new evidence, our knowledge will evolve.

    For example, the latest findings show that the olive was first domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago, following figs as the earliest domesticated fruit.

    Even with the advent of farming, other foods were still gathered wild, including lentils, almonds and pistachios, wild oats and wild barley. No food source was left uneaten!

    Remains of dates have been found on a number of Neolithic sites, particularly in Syria and Egypt. This means that they were being eaten by man as much as 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, although we have no proof that they were cultivated that early. [Source]
     
    WHAT ABOUT ANIMALS?

    Sheep and goats were the first domesticated food animals, followed by cattle and pigs. Man’s best friend, the dog, was domesticated in the Paleolithic by hunter-gatherers, some 12,000 years ago.

     

    HOW DID FARMING BEGIN?

    People collected and planted the seeds of wild plants. Over time, the first farmers learned how much water and sunlight were needed for success. Weeks or months later, when the plants blossomed, they harvested the food crops.

  • Between 9100 and 8600 B.C.E., farming communities built communal brick buildings to store the village’s harvests.
  • By 7000 B.C.E, sowing and harvesting were practiced in Mesopotamia.
  • By 8000 B.C.E., farming was established on the banks of the Nile.
  • Maize was domesticated in west Mexico by 6700 B.C.E. Other New World crops included the potato, the tomato, the chile pepper, squash, several varieties of beans.
  • In parts of Africa, rice and sorghum were domestic by 5000 B.C.E.
  • Evidence of cannabis use by 4000 B.C.E. and domestication by 3000 B.C.E.—in Siberia, no less!
  • In the 6th millennium B.C.E. in the Indus Valley, fertile plains in what are now Pakistan and northwest India, oranges were cultivated; by 4000 B.C.E. there were barley, dates, mangoes, peas, sesame seed and wheat; and by 3500 B.C.E. cotton.
  •  
    In the Far East, domestication occurred separately, but at about the same time.

  • In China, rice was the primary crop instead of wheat. Rice and millet were domesticated by 8000 B.C.E., followed by mung, soy and azuki beans.
  • In New Guinea, ancient Papuan peoples are thought to have begun practicing agriculture around 7000 BCE. They began domesticating sugar cane and root crops.
  •  

    Fresh Chickpeas

    Just Picked Olives

    Top: Chickpeas (they’re inside the green shell) were a founder crop. Photo courtesy Melissas.com. Bottom: Olives were one of the first cultivated foods. Photo courtesy Kaldi Tastes.

     
    And the rest is [agriculture] history!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Granola Bars

    Granola Bars

    Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

    Top: No-bake chocolate chip granola bars
    from Fearless Homemaker. Here’s the recipe.
    Bottom: Cherry, chocolate and cashew
    granola bars from Love And Zest. Here’s
    the recipe.

     

    It’s National Granola Bar Day. Even if you’re happy with the bars you buy, it’s the day to make your own custom recipe (ours is dark chocolate chunks, dried cherries and pistachio nuts, sometimes with a bit of coconut).

    HISTORY OF THE GRANOLA BAR

    Heree’s the history of granola breakfast cereal, which was invented in the 19th century by Dr. James Caleb Jackson for his sanitarium patients. It was the first dry breakfast cereal, and the first to be eaten cold.

    He actually invented “granula.” In 1881, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, proprietor of another sanitarium, copied his recipe; when Jackson brought a lawsuit, Kellog changed the name of his product to granola.

    Granola bars did not appear until much later, as a better-for-you snack. Most sources credit Stanley Mason (1921-2006) as the innovator. Mason was a tireless inventor. His more than 100 inventions also included the squeezable ketchup bottle, dental floss dispensers and disposable diapers.

    Granola bars are dense, chewy cereal bars made from granola ingredients—oats, honey and inclusions like dried fruits and nuts. These days, chocolate baking chips, peanut butter and other ingredients not imagined by either Jackson or Mason, are often added.

    There are no “wrong” ingredients, although M&Ms and marshmallows seem to defeat the purpose of a nutritious snack. Here’s a basic recipe:

     
    RECIPE: GRANOLA BARS

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (or a mix of other seeds)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice (a mixture is fine)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ, oat bran or ground flaxseed*
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or canola oil), melted, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted nuts)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups dried fruit in any combination (a list follows)
  •  

    *If you don’t like these ingredients, use more oats. For gluten-free bars, use gluten-free rolled oats.
     
    Dried Fruit Options

  • Apricots, chopped
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Coconut, shredded or flaked
  • Currants
  • Cranberries
  • Dates, chopped
  • Figs, chopped
  • Raisins and/or sultanas
  • Tropical dried fruits: mango, papaya, pineapple
  •  
    More Ingredients

  • Candied ginger, diced
  • Chocolate chips
  • Nuts, in any combination
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter
  • Rice Krispies
  • Seeds, any kind or mixture
  • Spices: gingerbread spices, orange zest, pumpkin pie spices
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper or foil, leaving “handles” on two sides for lifting. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE the oats, seeds and nuts and spread onto a rimmed sheet pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

    3. STIR in the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the oat mixture, toss until the mixture is well coated, then add the dried fruit.

     

    Coconut Cranberry Granola Bar

    Apple Pie Granola Bars

    Top: Coconut cranberry raisin granola
    bars from Bella Baker. Here’s the recipe. Bottom: Apple pie granola bars from The Baker Chick. Here’s the recipe.

     
    4. POUR the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press down on it, tamping it as tightly as possible with a rubber spatula or other implement. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the granola is golden brown. (The longer it bakes, the harder the bars.)

    5. COOL for 2 hours before slicing into bars. Use a serrated knife. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week, using parchment or wax paper to keep the bars from sticking. You can also freezer them for up to 6 months.

      

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    RECIPE: Homemade Tomato Soup With Goat Cheese Crostini

    We love tomato soup, but have run out of patience with the added sweeteners—typically corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. We don’t like the excessive sweet taste of the soup, we don’t like the added calories, and we certainly don’t like HFCS.

    For National Soup Month, here’s an easy recipe from Davio’s Boston, one of several locations in the excellent Davio’s Northern Italian Steak Houses in Atlanta, Manhattan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and later this year in Los Angeles.

    A side of goat cheese crostini turns the soup into a first course or a sophisticated “soup and sandwich” lunch.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE TOMATO SOUP

    Ingredients For 6 To 8 Portions

  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 large white onion, sliced*
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed San Marzano tomatoes†
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Optional garnish: swirl of plain Greek yogurt
  • Optional side: goat cheese and chive crostini (recipe below)
  •    

    Sundried Tomato Soup

    Make tomato soup for National Soup Month. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

    ______________________________
    *While butter adds a nice flavor note, you can substitute oil if you’re avoiding cholesterol, want a vegan option, etc.

    †You can buy the tomatoes crushed or whole. Steve buys them whole and hand crushes them.
     
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a stock pot; add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 1 hour.

    2. ADD the cubed bread and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until cool. Purée until smooth with an immersion blender or in a regular blender or food processor. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

    3. SERVE: Bring the soup to a simmer. Plate and garnish with the optional yogurt, then with the basil and parsley. Serve with the crostini.

     

    Goat Cheese Crostini

    Goat cheese crostini are delicious with soup
    or a glass of wine. Photo courtesy Wines Of
    Sicily.

     

    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 ounces spreadable goat cheese (a softened log is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon chives, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 slices sliced baguette (1/2-inch-thick slices) toasted French bread baguette
  • Optional garnish: extra virgin olive oil, fresh-ground pepper and lemon zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOAST the baguette slices.

    2. BLEND together the goat cheese, dill and minced garlic. Spread evenly over the toasted baguette slices.

    3. GARNISH with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some lemon zest and fresh-ground black pepper.
     
    DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRUSCHETTA
    AND CROSTINI
    ?

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Scotch Whisky Chocolates For Burns Night

    In Scotland, January 25th is a national holiday that celebrates the birthday of the great romantic poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). On Burns Night, family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served.

    This year, instead of cooking a traditional Burns Supper (smoked haddock, beef pie, haggis, colcannon, tatties), we’re taking the sweeter road:
     
    BURDICK SCOTCH WHISKY CHOCOLATES

    Available for only three weeks each year, this special box of chocolates blends Scotch whisky into every piece.

    There are ganache-filled chocolates made with some of the finest whiskys, including Highland Park, Macallan, Springbank and Talisker. They are accompanied by Glenfarclas bonbons and Lagavulin and Whisky Honey truffles.

     

    Burdick Scotch Whiskey Chocolate

    What a way to celebrate Burns Night! Photo of Scotch whisky chocolates from Burdick Chocolate.

     

    The chocolates are available now through January 28th. Get an extra box for Valentine’s Day, at BurdickChocolate.com.

  • A half-pound box of Scotch Whisky chocolates is $38.00.
  • The Scotch Gift Basket includes a quarter-pound box of the chocolates, shortbread cookies dipped in white chocolate, three Scotch Whisky chocolate cigars, a 12-ounce bag of spicy drinking chocolate, 1 chocolate mouse* and a book of Robert Burns Poems and Songs, $78.00.
  •  
    OTHER WAYS TO CELEBRATE BURNS NIGHT

  • Here’s an alternative Scotch and chocolate tasting party with fine chocolate bars.
  • Don’t like chocolate? Go straight to a Scotch tasting party.
  •  
    Here’s more about Burns Night.
     
    WHISKY VS. WHISKEY

    Whisky is the Scottish spelling of whiskey, a term that originated in Ireland. The alternative spelling was chosen to differentiate the Scots’ national product from Irish whiskey.

    The “whisky” spelling is used in Canada, Japan and Wales, as well as Scotland.

    In the U.S., a 1968 directive from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling. However, it allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey.”

    Most U.S. producers prefer to include the “e,” as do we. Without it, it looks like something is missing.

    Ironically, distillation was discovered in the 8th century in Persia—a country that has not permitted the sale and consumption of spirits since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

    Here’s a brief history of whiskey.
    _________________________________
    *The mouse honors the famous Burns poem, To A Mouse.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Apple Ginger Toddy For National Hot Toddy Day

    ginger-toddy-castelloUSA-230

    Enjoy a hot toddy on a chilly day. Photo
    courtesy Castello USA.

     

    January 11th is National Hot Today Day. Here’s some toddy history.

    And here’s a riff on the classic rum toddy, made with apple cider, Cognac and fresh ginger slices. It’s topped off with a garnish of delicious crystallized ginger chunks.

    The recipe is courtesy Castello USA.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 whole allspice berries or 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 ounces brandy/Cognac
  • 8 candied ginger chunks for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cider, fresh ginger and allspice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cover. Let stand 10 minutes. Skim the foam and strain to remove any solids.

    2. LADLE a half cup hot cider into each mug and add ¾ ounce brandy. Skewer the ginger cubes as garnish for each glass.

     

    RECIPE: CRYSTALLIZED GINGER

    You can buy crystallized ginger (candied ginger) or make your own. If your grocer doesn’t carry it, look in natural food stores or candy stores, or get them online.

    This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 1 hour.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 pound fresh ginger root
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SPRAY a wire rack with nonstick spray and set it on a half sheet pan lined with parchment.

    2. PEEL the ginger root and slice it into chunks. You can use the side of a spoon to scrape the peel. Add the ginger and water to a 4-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the ginger is tender.

    3. TRANSFER the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and the rest for another purpose (it’s ginger syrup, great for drinks and desserts).

    4. WEIGH the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes. Stir often and keep an eye on the syrup so it doesn’t start to burn.

     

    Crystallized Ginger

    Crystallized ginger chunks from The Ginger People.

     

    5. TRANSFER the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and separate the individual pieces. Once it is completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Save the sugar that drops from the cooling rack and use it for tea and coffee.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cacio E Pepe

    In addition to National Pasta Day on October 17th, there’s a National Spaghetti Day and it’s today, January 4th. Today’s tip is to celebrate a preparation that is rarely found on restaurant menus: Cacio e Pepe.

    Cacio e Pepe, “Cheese and Pepper,” is a Roman dish from central Italy. Cacio is a dialect word for a sheep’s milk cheese (like Pecorino Romano), and pepe refers to black pepper. The recipe is that simple: long, thin spaghetti*, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly-ground pepper.

    The only other ingredient in the dish is a bit of olive oil to bind the ingredients. It whips up very quickly when you don’t have time or energy to make a more elaborate recipe.

    SUBSTITUTES

    If you don’t have the ingredients in the classic recipe—or prefer others—here’s what we would substitute:

  • For the spaghetti: any thin flat noodle such as bavette, bavettine, fettucelle, linguine, linguettine, tagliatelle, taglierini.
  • For the Pecorino Romano: any hard Italian grating cheese.
  • For the black pepper: red chile flakes, dried chipotle or jalapeño flakes.
  •  
    RECIPE: CACIO E PEPE

    In this recipe from Good Eggs, the Pecorino Romano cheese is blended with some Parmigiano-Reggiano for more depth of flavor.

    Ingredients

  • 10 ounces fresh spaghetti (substitute dried)
  • 1-3/4 cups of Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • 10-12 grinds of black pepper peppercorns, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried chile (more to taste)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  •    

    Cacio e Pepe

    Pecorino Romano

    Top photo: Cacio e Pepe, a classic Roman pasta dish. Photo courtesy Good Eggs. Bottom photo: Pecorino Romano cheese from Fulvi, the only company still making the cheese in greater Rome. Photo courtesy Pastoral Artisan.

     
    *Long, thin spaghetti has different names in different regions of Italy; for example, capellini, fedelini, spaghetti alla chitarra and tonnarelli. In the U.S., you’re most likely to find spaghettini, vermicelli and of course, spaghetti. The widths of all of these strands vary, but not in a significant way to impact the recipe.
     
    Preparation

    1. FILL a large pot with water about 3/4 full. Add 1/4 cup of salt and taste the brine. The rule of thumb is that the cooking water should be as salty as ocean water. Add up to an additional 1/4 cup salt as desired—but don’t over-salt, since the cheese is very salty. Cover the pot and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Meanwhile…

    2. GRATE the cheese into the bottom of a large bowl. This will be the bowl in which you’ll toss and serve the pasta, so choose accordingly. When the cheese is grated, add about 10 grinds of fresh black pepper to the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

    3. REDUCE the heat and add the pasta to the boiling water. Fresh pasta will take about 3-5 minutes to cook, while dried spaghetti will 10-12 minutes, per package directions. When the pasta is at the right state of al dente, dip a mug into the pot to reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water; then strain the pasta in a colander. (Why do cooks reserve some of the pasta cooking water for blending? The heat melts the cheese, while the starches in the water help to bind the cheese and pepper to the pasta.)

    4. ADD the strained pasta to the bowl, along with a splash of the pasta water and a drizzle of olive oil. Use a large fork or soft tongs to toss the pasta, pepper and cheese. (We love our silicone pasta tongs). When the spaghetti is well coated, taste it and adjust the cheese and pepper levels as desired. If the texture is a little dry, add another splash of pasta water or a bit more olive oil. Serve immediately.

     

    Pouring Olive Oil

    Cacio e Pepe has no formal sauce; just a bit
    of olive oil that binds the grated cheese into
    a coating. Photo courtesy North American
    Olive Oil Association.

     

    ABOUT PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

    Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty, full-flavored Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk (pecora is the Italian word for sheep). An ancient cheese, Pecorino Romano was a dietary staple for the Roman legionaries. Today’s Pecorino Romano is made from the same recipe, albeit with pasteurized milk.

    The method of production of the cheese was first described by Latin writers like Pliny the Elder, some 2,000 years ago. It was made in Roman countryside until 1884, when a city council ruling over cheese salting in shops caused producers to move to the island of Sardinia.

    One brand, Fulvi, is still made in the countryside outside of Rome. It is known as genuine Pecorino Romano. Like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano is made in very large wheels, typically 65 pounds in weight.

    Today, the designation “Pecorino Romano” is protected under the laws of the European Union. [Source]

    Pecorino Romano is often used in highly flavored pasta sauces, particularly those of Roman origin such as Bucatini all’Amatriciana and Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.

     
    Like Asiago, Parmesan and other grating cheeses, Pecorino Romano is often served on a cheese plate, accompanied by some hearty red wine. Typically, a younger cheese (five months of maturation) is used for table cheese, and a more mature, sharper cheese (eight months or longer) for grating and cooking.
     
    Don’t Confuse These Cheeses

    There are two other well-known pecorino cheeses, which are less salty and eaten as table cheese or in sandwiches. Don’t confuse them with Pecorino Romano:

  • Pecorino Sardo from Sardinia
  • Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany
  •  
    And beware of “Romano” cheese sold in the U.S. This is a mild, domestic cow’s milk cheese, bland and not right for this recipe. If you can’t find Pecorino Romano, the best bet is to substitute Asiago or Parmesan.

      

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