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Archive for Food Holidays/History/Facts

RECIPE: Sweet & Sour Cucumber Salad

June 13th is National Cucumber Day. How about a refreshing cucumber salad? It’s a perfect accompaniment to almost everything: a great sandwich side, hot dog topping, cookout and picnic fare, and a complement to grilled foods and Asian dishes.

This recipe is from Sunset Growers, which used their One Sweet mini cucumbers. The mini cukes are seedless or have limited seeds, and the petite slices are nice visually. But conventional cucumbers are fine.

It’s also much lower in calories and higher in fiber than mayonnaise-based side salads.

This cucumber salad is dressed with a yummy sesame vinaigrette. You can make the recipe a day before serving. Turn it into a first course or luncheon salad with cooked shrimp.
 
RECIPE: ASIAN CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients For 4 to 6 Side Servings (3-1/2 Cups)

  • 6 mini cucumbers or 1-1/2 large convention cucumbers
  • 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Optional: dash of Asian chili sauce
  • 1 green onion (scallion), very thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup tiny-diced red or yellow bell peppers
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    For A Luncheon Salad Or First Course

  • 8 ounces cooked shrimp
  • Green salad for base (we use mesclun)
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    Preparation

    1. MAKE the vinaigrette. Heat the oil in a small saucepan heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the sesame seeds and stir until toasty, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cool to room temperature; then stir in the chili sauce. Meanwhile…

    2. THINLY SLICE the cucumbers. Combine the cucumbers, green onions and bell peppers in a bowl and add the cooled sesame dressing. Toss well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve using a slotted spoon.

    3. ADD the greens for lunch or an appetizer, top with the cucumber salad and garnish with the shrimp.

     

    Asian Cucumber Salad Recipe

    Mini Cucumbers

    Gulf Shrimp

    Top: Cucumber is refreshing, versatile and low in calories: a win-win-win. Center: OneSweet mini cucumbers (photos courtesy Sunset Growers). Bottom: Cook some shrimp for a luncheon salad or first course (photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea.

     
    MORE FOR NATIONAL CUCUMBER DAY

    Here’s a cucumber cocktail recipe—Cucumber Lemonade made with gin—and the different types of cucumbers.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Pick The Best Live Lobster

    Live Lobster

    Steamed Lobster

    Portuguese Lobster

    Top: One sign of a good lobster: long antennae (photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea. Center: Mmm, mmm: a lobster Platter at North River Lobster Company. Bottom: Different lobster have different colors, both live and when cooked. This one is from Portugal (photo courtesy Vermillion Restaurant).

     

    Planning to buy live lobsters for National Lobster Day (June 15th) or Father’s Day (June 19th)? Here are tips from Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo of Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C.

    HOW TO PICK THE BEST LIVE LOBSTER

    1. FEEL THE SHELL. There are hard-shell and soft-shell (new-shell) lobsters. It’s just a function of whether the lobsters have recently molted (shed their shells), an annual process.

  • On a soft-shell (new shell) lobster, the claws will look pristine. On a hard-shell lobster, the claws will have have scrapes from banging against rocks over the course of the year.
  • The meat in soft-shells is a bit sweeter and more tender, but a lobster with a softer shell is likely to have more water weight and less meat. They’re not as hardy, so they don’t travel as well as hard-shell lobsters. Similarly, hard-shell lobsters have more meat, but they can be a bit tougher.
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    2. GIVE IT A SNIFF. A live lobster should not emit any odor.

    3. PICK A LIVELY LOBSTER. The more active the lobster, the more tender the meat. If the lobster is limp when you pick it up, it’s on its last legs. If it isn’t moving at all, it may be dead. Here’s an easy test: If you straighten out the tail, it should swiftly curve back under the body.

    4. LOOK FOR LONG ANTENNAE. The longer the antennae, the fresher the lobster. Lobsters in a holding tank will often eat each other’s antennae. If a lobster has been there for a long time, its antennae can be nibbled down—often to the base.

    5. DON’T MIND THE COLOR. The top shells are usually dark green or greenish-brown, but they can be black, blue, orange, red, white or yellow. The underbody of a live lobster, particularly the claws, are usually a vibrant red.

    6. SIZE MATTTERS. The larger the lobster, the tougher the meat. Chef Cenobio prefers lobsters under two pounds for the most tender and flavorful meat.

    7. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. There are many different species of lobster in the world’s oceans, but Chef Cenobio says the best come from Canada and Maine.

    8. GENDER DOESN’T COUNT. Most aficionados agree that there is no difference in flavor or texture between male and female lobsters. Females have a small, hard, edible roe called the coral (because of its color). These are the unfertilized eggs of the female. Both genders have the soft, greenish, edible tomalley, which serves as both the liver and pancreas.

    9. PAY ATTENTION TO PRICE. Live lobster costs between $9 to $11 dollars per pound. If the price is lower, often the quality is lower as well.
     
     
    LOBSTER RECIPE IDEAS and LOBSTER TRIVIA: Check ‘em out.

     
    ABOUT MICHAEL JORDAN’S THE STEAK HOUSE N.Y.C.

    Michael Jordan’s is uniquely situated, on the balcony overlooking the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal. In addition to fine food, you can enjoy the beautiful Concourse architecture and the elaborate ceiling, picturing the constellations. The Terminal, which opened in 1913, is an example of “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.”

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sweet Or Savory French Toast

    French Toast Recipe

    French Toast Casserole

    Savory French Toast

    Top: French Toast smothered in sautéed apples (photo courtesy Peapod). Center: French Toast Casserole: even easier than regular French Toast (photo courtesy Driscoll’s). Bottom: Savory French Toast (photo courtesy Castello Cheese).

     

    Making perfectly round pancakes is not among our cooking skills. Long before we discovered the gadget known as a pancake batter dispenser, we’d switched to the easier and foolproof French Toast: eggs, milk, white bread or challah, and a pinch of cinnamon.

    Even easier is Baked French Toast (center photo), also known as French Toast Casserole and French Toast Soufflé. Place slices of bread in a baking dish, pour the egg-milk mixture on top, and bake. The benefits: it’s neater (no soaking the bread by hand), all servings are ready at once, and it looks elegant when brought to the table.

    Here’s a recipe that elevates French Toast, substituting brioche for regular bead and sweetened condensed and evaporated milks for whole milk. You can fry it in a pan or bake it in a casserole dish. Yummers!

    Today we recommend two special recipes for Father’s Day: a sweet French Toast with sautéed apples (“Apple Pie French Toast”—top photo) and French Toast with a variety of savory toppings (bottom photo).

    THE HISTORY OF FRENCH TOAST

    The dish known in the U.S. as French Toast has roots at least as far back as ancient Rome, where it was a sweet dish. Pain perdu (lost bread), the modern French name for the dish, was once called pain à la romaine, Roman bread.

    You may read elsewhere that that French Toast was a food of the poor, a way to scrape together a meal from stale bread*. However, recipes from ancient and medieval times denote that it was fare for wealthy people.

    Those recipes used white bread, a luxury, with the crusts cut off (even more of a luxury). Costly ingredients such as spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg), sugar and almond milk are found in numerous recipes. The cooked bread was topped with costly honey or sugar. And cookbooks themselves were the province of the privileged: Only wealthy people and clergy learned to read.

    Poor people ate brown bread, much cheaper because the wheat endosperm did not have to be milled and painstakingly hand-sifted through screens to create refined white flour. (Ironically, this whole wheat bread was more nutritious.)
     
    RECIPE #1: COOKED FRUIT TOPPING FOR FRENCH TOAST

    It’s easy to toss fresh berries onto French Toast. We also like diced mango.

    But for an Apple-Pie-Meets-French-Toast effect, make a quick cooked fruit topping. You can make the topping a day in advance, set it on the counter to warm to room temperature as you make the French Toast, and give it a quick zap in the microwave.

    You can substitute two cups of bananas, blueberries, cherries, peaches, pineapple, etc. for the apples.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon butter (more as needed)
  • 3 large apples (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, etc.), peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes (yields 2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat; add the apples, cinnamon and salt. Cook for 5-6 minutes until tender, then stir in the maple syrup. If you prefer very soft apples, cook them for 10-12 minutes before adding the maple syrup.

    2. COOK for 1 minute more. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
     
    SAVORY FRENCH TOAST

    Ditch the maple syrup or other sweet condiments. Even if you like sweet French Toast, you’ll like it savory, too.

    Here’s the basic recipe, topped with sautéed cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan. Our favorite variations:

  • Blue cheese and sautéed apple slices with a pinch of thyme to garnish
  • Feta and Kalamata olives with an oregano garnish
  • Ham and cheese French Toast sandwich
  • Sautéed onions and chicken livers with a pinch of sage (Dad’s favorite)
  • Smoked salmon, caviar and crème fraîche with a pinch of dill (Mom’s favorite)
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    *The poor used stale bread for crostini (toast) or topped it with soup (the dish was originally called “sops,” referring to the bread or toast used to sop up the hot food), stew or melted cheese (a “Welsh Rabbit”) to soften the bread and make a meal.

     
      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Chocolate Ice Cream Day

    June 7th is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. How will you celebrate?

  • Eat your favorite chocolate ice cream (plain, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Almond Fudge, Rocky Road, etc.)?
  • Have a scoop atop a slice of apple or blueberry pie?
  • Make a Blondie Sandwich or Brownie Sandwich or Jumbo Cookie Sandwich with chocolate ice cream in the middle?
  • Have a chocolate shake, ice cream soda (a.k.a. float) or Brown Cow?
  • Make a Chocolate Stout Float with chocolate stout and chocolate ice cream or a regular Guinness Float?
  •  
    We took a fruit route: We had a pint of fresh raspberries, which we mixed into a pint of Talenti Belgian Milk Chocolate Gelato (here’s the difference between gelato and ice cream).

    RECIPE: YOUR CUSTOM CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

    Ingredients

  • Your favorite chocolate ice cream
  • Your favorite mix-ins (see suggestions below)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN a pint of ice cream on the counter, until it’s the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

    2. ADD your mix-in(s), totaling 1/2 cup per pint.

    3. EAT soft, or return to the fridge for a half hour to harden.

     

    Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

    Soften the ice cream, mix in the raspberries (photo courtesy McConnell’s).

     
    ICE CREAM MIX-INS

  • Baking chips: butterscotch, chocolate, peanut butter, etc.
  • Candies: Butterfinger, diced fudge (chocolate, maple, peanut butter, vanilla) Gummies, Heath Bar, Junior Mints, Kit Kat, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, toffee bits
  • Chopped cookies or brownies, including cookie dough and diced cake
  • Chopped nuts: with chocolate ice cream, we prefer almonds, peanuts, pecans or macadamias
  • Dried & other fruits: dried apricots, brandied cherries, dried cherries, dried cranberries, raisins
  • Fresh fruit: berries, bananas or other fruits
  • Wild card: ancho chilies, bacon, cacao nibs, candied jalapeños, chipotle, coconut, pumpkin seeds, pretzels, toasted sesame seeds, trail mix
  •  
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ICE CREAM AND THE HISTORY OF ICE CREAM.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: A Look At “Gourmet” Chicken & Waffles

    Chicken & Waffles, originally a hearty breakfast, can be had any time of the day in modern times.

    With counterpoints of crisp and soft, salty and sweet, it became a special occasion dish of Southern soul food cuisine. It’s still a special-occasion dish: one that many people enjoy on Father’s Day. You can make a traditional waffle, topped with butter, a piece of fried chicken and a pour of maple syrup.

    Or you can get inspiration from chefs whose re-interpretations are shown in the photos in this article—including Steak & Waffles (recipe below).

    Who created the first Chicken & Waffles? The exact origins are lost to history, but here’s what we know:
     
    THE HISTORY OF CHICKEN & WAFFLES

  • Waffles are an ancient food, dating back to the rustic hotcakes cooked on stones in the Neolithic Age (6000 B.C.E. to ca. 2000 B.C.E.).
  • In ancient Greece (1100 B.C.E. to 146 B.C.E.), cooks made flat cakes, called obleios (wafers), between two hot metal plates. They were primarily savory in nature, flavored with cheeses and herbs.
  • By the Middle Ages, Middle Ages (400 C.E. to 1000 C.E.) obloyeurs—specialist waffle cooks—make different types of oublies, as the word has evolved from the Greek. In the 12th century a clever obloyeur made an iron cast of a pattern that mimicked a honeycomb—which remains the waffle design today. Soon after, the word gaufre, from the Old French wafla meaning “a piece of honeybee hive,” became the French word for waffle.
  • Waffles entered American cuisine in the 1600s with the arrival of Dutch colonists.
  • Thomas Jefferson brought the first waffle iron to America in 1789 (along with the first pasta machine), when he returned to Virginia following his service as Minister to France. Waffles became a fashionable food—an alternative to flapjacks—and the combination began appearing in cookbooks shortly thereafter [source]. The pairing was enthusiastically embraced by slaves, for whom chicken was a delicacy. As a result, Chicken & Waffles became a special meal, often served for Sunday breakfast before a long day in church. However…
  • The recipe does not appear in early Southern cookbooks, such as “Mrs. Porter’s Southern Cookery Book,” published in 1871 and “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,” published in 1881 by former slave Abby Fisher, generally considered the first cookbook written by an African American. The lack of a recipe for the combination of chicken and waffles in Southern cookbooks from the era may suggest a later origin for the dish.
  • In the early 1800s, hotels and resorts around Philadelphia served waffles with fried catfish. Such establishments also served other dishes including fried chicken, which gradually became the topper of choice due to catfish’s limited, seasonal availability.
  • The Pennsylvania Dutch version is a plain waffle topped with pulled, stewed chicken and covered in gravy. It was a common Sunday dish by the 1860s. By the end of the 19th century, the dish was a symbol of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
  • Waffles at home: In 1909, an ad for Griswold’s Waffle Iron promised, “You can attend a chicken and waffle supper right at home any time you have the notion if you are the owner of a Griswold’s American Waffle Iron.”
  •    

    Chicken &  Mini Waffles

    Gourmet Chicken & Waffles

    Chicken & Waffles & A Fried Egg

    Top: Fried chicken with mini waffles at Chicago’s Honey Buttered Fried Chicken. Center: A gourmet approach at the Lazy Bear in San Francisco: Gaufres de Chasse, a Liege-style waffle cut into fingers, with fried game hen, Sauce Chasseur, maple syrup, nameko mushrooms and fines herbes. Bottom: Chicken & Waffles with a fried egg at Hearthstone Kitchen.

  • Chicken & Waffles was an established dish in Harlem’s African-American community by 1930.
  •  
    Here’s the full history of waffles.

     

    Chicken & Stuffed Waffles

    Chicken & Waffles

    Steak & Waffles

    Top: A nod to Pennsylvania Dutch-style Chicken & Waffles: a stuffed waffle topped with adobo pulled chicken. Here’s the recipe from InHarvest.com. Center: Classic Chicken & Waffles with a side of peaches and cream (photo Arnold Inuyaki | Wikipedia). Bottom: Steak & Waffles from BeefBoard.org.

     

    RELATED FOOD HOLIDAYS

    We found scant information on an International Chicken & Waffles Day: the first Friday following the first Thursday in October. It seems to have been established for fun in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and not exactly an official holiday.

    And, it may have been abandoned: Founded in 2003, the website, ICAWD.org, has been abandoned; and the Facebook page, established in 2011, hasn’t been updated since 2014.

    If you have any news about International Chicken & Waffles Day, let us know! You can plan your Chicken & Waffles celebrations around:

  • International Waffle Day, March 25
  • Maple Syrup Saturday, the 3rd Saturday in March
  • National Chicken Month, September
  • National Fried Chicken Day, July 6
  • National Maple Syrup Day, December 17
  • National Waffle Day, August 24
  • National Waffle Week, the first week in September
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    RECIPE: STEAK & WAFFLES

    Ingredients

    This recipe, from The Beef Checkoff, makes enough for a big party (24 servings). The waffles are stuffed with blue cheese. It’s a home run!
     
    For The Batter

  • 6 cups prepared waffle batter
  • 1½ tablespoons dried tarragon
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Plus

  • 24 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • Top quality blue cheese salad dressing* (see Step 4 under Preparation)
  •  
    For The Demi-Glace

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup shallots, minced
  • ½ cup sherry vinegar
  • 6 cups veal demi-glace
  • 6 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  •  
    For The Steak

  • 24 ribeye cap steaks (8 ounce portions)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grapeseed oil, as needed
  • 24 cups Swiss chard, wilted
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all batter ingredients. Mix together and refrigerate, covered.

    2. PREPARE the demi-glace: In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the shallots and sauté until translucent. Add the vinegar and simmer for 4 minutes. Add the demi-glace and bring to a boil. Whisk in the mustard, reduce the heat and simmer 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

    3. COOK the steaks: Season with salt and pepper. You can then sauté or grill them. To sauté, heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a sauté pan until hot. Add the steak; sear on both sides until well browned. Place in a 500°F oven and cook to medium rare or desired doneness. Carve across the grain into thick slices.

    4. MAKE the waffles: Using a waffle iron outfitted with the mini waffle plate (4 waffles per plate), ladle ¼ cup waffle batter into 2 sections of the waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer’s directions. Remove the waffles and immediately push in the center of each waffle with a spoon, to create a small well. Fill with 1 ounce of blue cheese and sandwich the waffles together, making sure the waffle depressions line up so it fits back into the iron. Place the waffle sandwich in the waffle iron and cook 1 minute or until cheese is melted.

    Editor’s note: We took a much easier route with Step 4, making a waffle sandwich from two regular-size waffles. We filled the sandwich with our favorite blue cheese salad dressing*, topped with crumbled blue cheese. We cut the sandwich in half diagonally, set one half on the plate and propped the other perpendicular to the first.

    5. PLACE 1 cup of Swiss chard in the center of a plate; fan the sliced steak on top. Place a stuffed waffle on top of the steak; ladle the demi-glace on and around it.

     
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    *Our all-time favorite is the amazing blue cheese dressing from Kathryn’s Cottage Kitchen. But it’s hard to find (here’s the store locator) and expensive to ship. We buy a year’s supply at a time! If you don’t want to make your own (here’s a recipe), look for __ Among the mass brands, Wishbone Blue Cheese is the best.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Negroni Week

    Negroni Cocktail Recipe

    Negroni Cocktail

    Top: A Negroni, elegantly presented in a stemmed glass at The Heathman Restaurant & Bar in Portland, Oregon. Bottom: A fun presentation at Irvington in New York City.

     

    It’s Negroni Week, an opportunity to try a classic cocktail, created in 1919.

    Negroni Week is a worldwide holiday, launched in 2013 by Imbibe Magazine and Campari, an Italian apéritif wine. It was begun not only to celebrate one of the world’s great cocktails, but as an effort to raise money for charitable causes around the world. Visit NegroniWeek.com to see how you can participate.
     
    NEGRONI HISTORY

    As the story goes, the cocktail was invented at the Bar Cassoni (now the Caffè Cavalli) in Florence, Italy by bartender Fosco Scarselli. He created it for a regular patron, Count Camillo Negroni, who had asked for an Americano* cocktail strengthened with a dash of gin instead of the usual soda water.

    Scarselli mixed the drink, used an orange slice garnish instead of the lemon garnish of the Americano, and presented his client with the first “Negroni.”

    The cocktail took off, and the Negroni family quickly founded Negroni Antica Distilleria in Treviso, producing Antico Negroni, a ready-made version of the drink.

    But the Negroni was unknown in the U.S. until 1947 when Orson Welles, working in Rome, wrote about it. This sent Americans to bars demanding Negronis.

     
    RECIPE: NEGRONI COCKTAIL

    The Negroni is made in 1:1:1 proportions of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. There are many variations of the cocktail today. Check out these in L.A. Magazine.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.25 ounces gin
  • 1.25 ounces Campari
  • 1.25 ounces Martini sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: orange twist or slice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a shaker with ice.

    2. STRAIN into chilled coupe or serve over ice in a chilled rocks glass.

    3. GARNISH and serve.

     
    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE COCKTAIL RECIPES.

    Use the Gourmet Foods pull-down menu at the right, and also check out the Cocktails section on the main site of TheNibble.com.
     
    _____________________
    *An even older cocktail, dating to the 1860s, the Americano was created in Novara, Italy by Gaspare Campari at his Caffè Campari. The ingredients: Campari (an apéritif wine, invented by Gaspare in 1860), sweet vermouth and club soda, with a lemon garnish. The cocktail was originally known as the Milano-Torino because of its ingredients: Campari, the bitter liqueur, was made outside of Milano (Milan) and Punt e Mes, the vermouth, was made in Torino (Turin). Campari was originally colored red with carmine dye, derived from crushed cochineal, a plant-sucking insect. In 2006, Gruppo Campari ceased using carmine in favor of artificial red coloring. [Source]

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Tapas Party For World Tapas Day

    “Official” food holidays are those officially declared by a government: local, state or national. In these fast and loose days of the Internet, however, many companies and individuals don’t bother to seek official sanction for a “special observance day.” Instead, they simply announce online that a particular date is now World Nutella Day (started by two bloggers) or National [Whatever] Day.

    Here’s how official holidays are established in the U.S.
     
    IT’S OFFICIAL: WORLD TAPAS DAY

    No less an entity than the country of Spain has established a welcome new holiday: World Tapas Day. Spain’s tourism agency, Turespaña, has declared El Día Mundial de la Tapa, to recognize the “singular nature of this vital element of Spanish cuisine and culture” (here’s more information).

    World Tapas Day will be held each year on the third Thursday of June. That’s June 16th this year, and you’ve got time to plan a tapas party—or serve tapas for Father’s Day on June 19th. Tapas are easy to make. Check out these recipes from Martha Stewart. You can make it a “group party” and have everyone make a different tapa.

    Tapas are a long tradition in Spain. A snack for agricultural workers evolved into bar food, and has become so popular in modern times that it is now the focus of brunches and cocktail parties.
     
    THE HISTORY OF TAPAS

    While there are legends surrounding the birth of tapas, the accepted theory is that they originated as a snack for field workers. (Paella also originated among field workers, as the lunch meal.)

    As a refreshment during the long hours between breakfast and lunch, workers were served wine from a ceramic jug. The top of the jug was covered with a piece of bread with ham or cheese, which served to keep insects out of the wine. Tapa is a cover or lid.

    As the idea came to cities, tapas with a snack became popular at midday or for an after-work drink. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, tapas (TOP-us) are “a small portion of any food served to accompany a drink.”

    The original tapas were simple: slices of bread with ham or chorizo served free with a drink. The bread was set on top of the glass rim and covered the drink, just as with the jug of wine. Today the choices can be vast, and are served on small plates.

    It has evolved into a verb, tapear: to eat tapas. A tapeo is a social gathering where the food is tapas.As with the free caviar supplied at American taverns in the 19th century (American sturgeon were plentiful then, and caviar was cheap [sigh]), the salty food made patrons thirstier and they bought more alcohol.

       

    Tapas Plate

    Modern Tuna Tapas

    TOP: A platter of tapas: tortilla (potato omelet), boquerones (marinated anchovies) and chiles fritos (fried shishito peppers (photo courtesy Foods From Spain). Bottom: Headed to Vegas? Check out the best tapas restaurants in this feature from Vegas Magazine. This is Julian Serrano’s modern take on tuna tapas.

     

    Today, tapas comprise a wide variety of cold or hot foods can be ordered with a drink or combined into an entire meal.

    Each region of Spain serves tapas that reflect the local cuisine. Meats, cheeses, olives and nuts and tortillas (egg and potato omelet) are common to all areas, with more seafood tapas along the coastline.

    Spaniards seek out the best tapas bars (a bar that serves tapas—not all bars do) as Americans seek out the best pizza. While tapas are ubiquitous all over Spain, cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Málaga, San Sebastian and Seville are known for the quality, variety and innovation of their tapas.

     

    Croquetas de Bacalao

    Empanada Gallega Galicia

    Top: Croquetas De Bacalo, cod croquettes. Bottom: Empanada Gallega Galicia, Galician Pork and Pepper Pie—the original empanada (photos courtesy LaTienda.com).

     

    HOW ARE TAPAS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SMALL PLATES?

    Amuses-bouche, antipasto, hors d’oeuvre, mezzo and tapas are similar, though different.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated on a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives. It is brought after the wine is poured. It is just one bite: A larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture, and enable the chef to show creativity.
  • Antipasto, the traditional first course of a formal Italian dinner, is an assortment of anchovies, cheeses (mozzarella, provolone), cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms and other vegetables, olives, peperoncini and pickled foods. The choices vary greatly, reflecting regional cuisines. Some restaurants have antipasto buffets.
  • Appetizer, a first course lately referred to as a starter in fashionable venues, is small serving of food served as a first course. It can be the same type of food that could be served as an entrée or a side dish, but in a smaller portion (e.g., a half-size portion of gnocchi). Or it could be something not served as a main dish, such as smoked salmon with capers.
  • Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server. Canapés—small pieces of bread or pastry with a savory topping, served at room temperature—were the original hors d’oeuvre. They’ve been joined in modern times by hot options such as cheese puffs, mini quiches, skewers, baby lamb chops and other foods. Also in modern times, several pieces of hors d’oeuvre can be plated to serve as an “hors d’oeuvre plate” appetizer/first course.
  • The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip. Martinets note: In French, the term “hors d’oeuvre” is used to indicate both the singular and plural forms; Americans incorrectly write and speak it as “hors d’oeuvres.”
  • Mezze or meze (pronounced MEH-zay) refers an assortment of small dishes, served to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer plate before the main dish. In Greece, expect mezedes of feta cheese, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Among the many other options, anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers are commonly served. In the Middle East, you’ll typically find dips (babaganoush, hummus), olives, pickles, tabouleh and other items, from raw vegetables to falafel and sambousek (small meat turnovers). Don’t forget the pita wedges!
  • Tapas (pronounced TOP-us) are appetizers or snacks that comprise a wide variety of popular foods in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or hot, from cheese and olives to chorizo to a tortilla, meatballs, or fried squid. While originally traditional foods, some tapas bars now serve very sophisticated plates. You can order one or more tapas with a glass of wine, or order a series of plates to create a full meal.
  •  
    MORE ON TAPAS

  • Entertaining With Tapas
  • Vermouth & Tapas Brunch Or Cocktails
  • Potato Tapas
  •   

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    RECIPE: Shrimp In Adobo Sauce

    Shrimp With Adobo Sauce Recipe

    Raw Shrimp

    Poblano Chiles

    Top: Put some camarónes on the barbacoa: That’s Spanish for put some shrimp on the barbie (photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese). Center: Fresh-caught shrimp from I Love Blue Sea/Vital Choice. Bottom: Poblano chiles (photo courtesy Burpee).

     

    May 10th is National Shrimp Day, celebrating America’s favorite seafood. Here’s a Mexican-style recipe, courtesy of EatWisconsinCheese.com.

    You can serve this dish warm or chilled—perhaps with a warm grain or a room temperature or chilled grain salad, plus dressed greens.
     
    RECIPE: SHRIMP WITH SOUR CREAM CHILI ADOBO SAUCE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from a can* of chipotles in adobo)
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp (10 to 12 count)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons poblano chiles, finely diced
  •  
    _______________________
    *Available in the Latin American foods aisle of most supermarkets.

     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil and 1/4 cup adobo sauce in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and no longer translucent. But don’t overcook them: Cooked shrimp should have a slight curl. When they curl tightly inwards, the flesh will be rubbery. While the shrimp cooks…

    2. MIX the sour cream, lime juice and 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce in a small bowl. Pour into a small serving dish. Sprinkle the poblanos over shrimp to garnish.
     
    TIPS FOR USING FROZEN SHRIMP

    1. THAW the shrimp slowly in the refrigerator beginning 24 hours before you plan to cook them. Place the container in the refrigerator on a low shelf—if not in a sealed bag, then covered lightly with plastic wrap. Then remove any liquid that has collected in the container and use the thawed shrimp within one day.

    NOTE: Keep all raw foods on the lowest shelf and cooked foods on higher shelves to prevent any contamination from raw juices dripping onto cooked food.

    3. QUICK THAWING TECHNIQUE: If you can closely monitor the shrimp, place them in a leak-proof plastic bag (if it is not in one already.) Submerge the shrimp in cold tap water and change the water every 30 minutes until the shrimp has defrosted. Do not try to hasten the process with warm water or hot water because the shrimp will begin to cook. Cook immediately after thawing.

     
    WHAT IS ADOBO SAUCE?

    Adobo is a Mexican spice blend: spicy and rich in flavor, but not too hot. As with chili powder, Chinese Five Spice, curry powder, jerk spice and other spice blends, the ingredients and proportions will vary somewhat among manufacturers and home cooks.

    Traditional adobo blends contain black pepper, cayenne, cumin, garlic, onion and oregano. They have no added salt (but check the label). You can buy the dry spice mix, or ready-made, canned chipotles in adobo sauce.

    Traditional uses are as a rub, along with lime juice and a bit of salt, on grilled chicken, fish or pork. It is added to chili recipes and taco fixings, and used to season guacamole.

    You can buy adobo ready-mixed, or can blend your own. For the latter, try 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon salt (optional), 4 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons onion powder and 2 teaspoons cayenne, ground chipotle or other chile powder.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Barbecue Party For National Barbecue Month

    Backyard Grill

    Grilled Brisket

    Top: Deluxe grill from Landmann. Bottom: Weber’s Q series fits almost anywhere.

     

    Did you fire up the grill for Mother’s Day? It’s one of the biggest barbecue days of the year, with 34% 0f grill owners cooking celebrate Mom. It following the Fourth of July (76%), Labor Day (62%), Memorial Day (62%) and Father’s Day (49%) in popularity.

    More than 75% of Americans own a grill or smoker. May is National Barbecue Month: A survey from the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) names grilling as America’s favorite patio pastime.

    Our Tip Of The Day: Have a BYO Favorite Dish barbecue party. Whether it’s a venerable family recipe or something more recent like grilled poppers, everyone should bring a favorite food: sides, punch, desserts, etc. (In our family, it’s homemade baked beans with molasses and a topping of crisp bacon.)

    It can be quite a feast: Beyond proteins and veggies, people grill everything from bread, pizza and quesadillas to fruit and other desserts.
     
    2016 BBQ TRENDS

    Whether for easy weeknight dinners, weekend feasts or even breakfast, here’s the scoop from HPBA’s most recent State of the Barbecue Industry Report, from a survey conducted in July and August, 2015.

  • Who has a grill? 75% of U.S. adults own a grill or smoker.
  • Gas, charcoal or electric? 62% of households have gas grill, 53% have a charcoal grill and 12% have an electric grill. Two percent own a wood pellet grill and 8% are thinking of purchasing one this year.
  • Why so much grilling? 71% say it’s to improve flavor, 54% simply enjoy grilling and 42% like it for entertaining family and friends.
  • Seasonal or year-round? 63% of grill owners use their grill or smoker year-round; 43% cook at least once a month during winter.
  • Grill accessories. Half of all grill owners have the most basic grilling accessories: cleaning brush, tongs, and gloves/mitts (hmm…what does the other half use?). The most popular new accessories owners plan to buy include pizza stones, broiling baskets and cooking planks.
  • Outdoor kitchens: 10% of grill owners have a full “backyard kitchen,” including premium furniture and lighting.
  • Barbecued breakfast: 11% of grill owners prepared breakfast on a grill in the past year.
  • Beyond the backyard: Nearly one third of grill owners (31%) grilled someplace other than their homes in the past year, including 24% who grilled while camping.
  • Barbecue plans: Nearly half of U.S. adults (45%) plan to purchase a new grill or smoker in 2016, while nearly a third of current owners (30%) plan to grill with greater frequency.
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    WHAT’S A BARBEQUE?

    Barbecue is a noun and a verb. It’s a meal cooked outdoors—for millennia over an open fire until the development of modern gas and electric grills. “Barbecue” also refers to:

  • A grill or open hearth/fireplace—used to barbecue food.
  • The meat, poultry or fish that is barbecued.
  • Meat or poultry that is basted in a sweetened “barbecue sauce” during cooking.
  • An outdoor party or picnic at which barbecued food is served.
  •  
    BARBECUE, BARBEQUE OR BBQ?

    Barbecue and barbeque are alternative spellings, along with the short form BBQ.

    To quote chef Anthony Bourdain, “Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”

      

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    FOOD FUN: Pretzel Doughnuts

    Pretzel Doughnuts

    For National Pretzel Day, have some pretzels on your doughnut. Here’s the recipe from ACosyKitchen.com.

     

    Use pretzels in a different way on April 26th, National Pretzel Day. Consider everything from mini pretzels and pretzel sticks to big, soft pretzels as:

  • As a garnish for scrambled eggs, oatmeal, soup, yogurt (minis or crushed)
  • Instead of croutons on soup (minis or crushed)
  • Plain or toasted, for breakfast (big, soft)
  • Sliced for a sandwich (big, soft)
  • As a topping for potatoes or vegetables (crushed)
  • As a topping for ice cream (minis or crushed)
  • As a topping for cake, pudding, brownies or other dessert (minis or crushed)
  • As a crust for chicken or fish
  • Any other way you like
  •  
    If you come up with something nifty, let us know.
     
    Here’s a recipe for Caramel Pretzel Doughnuts from Betty Crocker.

    Alternatively, here’s an iced doughnut shaped like a pretzel.

    And here’s a recipe to bake your own soft pretzels. Perhaps add a doughnut glaze (recipe below). Have fun with it!

     
    Having a good time? There’s also National Soft Pretzel Day on October 26th.

     
    PRETZEL HISTORY

    Thanks to creative monks, man has enjoyed 15 centuries of pretzel snacks. Here’s the history of pretzels.
     
    RECIPE: DOUGHNUT GLAZE

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Hot water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan; heat over low until warm. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the milk and whisk slowly until thoroughly combined.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and set over a bowl of hot water to keep the glaze from hardening. Dip the doughnuts (or pretzels) into the glaze, one at a time, and set on a rack placed in a half sheet pan to drip. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

     
      

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