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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 Gourmet News

FOOD FUN & RECIPE: Cauliflower Steak

We admit: We are one of those people who has a double grievance during fall and winter. Not only do we grip daylight hours, but we miss the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables from spring and summer.

Sure, there are asparagus and tomatoes, honeydews and peaches to be had. But as subscribers to locavore and green philosophies, we don’t buy out-of-season produce shipped from other parts of the world.

The folks in California are gifted with the best produce variety in the nation. It helps that the growing is so long, as is the growing area: 770 miles long.

We just heard from Good Eggs, San Francisco’s top quality produce provider, that new fall bounty has arrived:

  • Buttercup squash
  • Baby spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Romanesco, the offspring of cauliflower and broccoli rabe (see the photo below)
  • Mexican Sour Gherkins (they look like tiny watermelons)


    The best fall produce in northern California. Photo courtesy


    On the opposite coast, where we live, we find comfort in colored cauliflower and winter squash. But wherever you live, here’s…


  • Know what’s in season locally. Click your state on this map from Fresh Everyday Produce.
  • Go to farmers markets. Here’s the USDA’s list of farmers markets in the U.S.
  • Patronize stores that have better produce. Our closest supermarket is fine for the dairy and packaged food, but the produce often is wilting so we go elsewhere.
  • Be willing to shop at multiple stores. The specialty supermarket where we buy produce carries an inferior brand of strawberries. We eat lots of strawberries year-round, so we go to yet another store that does carry our brand (Driscolls).
  • Ask the chefs at independent restaurants for advice. They typically have favorite farmers markets and specialty grocers.
  • Recognize that if you live in the northern climes, January and February will be bleak. After the new year, we’ll provide tips on how to cope.

    1. Ask 10 foodies and/or chefs in your area where the best produce can be found. You don’t have to ask them all in one week, of course. But anytime the topic of good food comes up in conversation, ask!

    2. Find a seasonal fruit or vegetable and do something different and exciting with it. To give you a leg up, the next section has a recipe for our latest veggie fancy: cauliflower steaks. You can make them with endless variations of seasonings and sauces, and we’ve included six of our favorite variations.




    TOP PHOTO: Some jewels of fall: colored
    cauliflower. In the front is romanesco, a
    cultivar bred from cauliflower and broccoli rabe (rapini). Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Cauliflower steak with Italian accents. Photo
    courtesy Here’s the recipe.



    Since the summer, cauliflower steak has been trending at almost every restaurant we go visit, as a vegetarian/vegan/paleo/low-calorie/whatever option. It can also be served on top of your favorite whole grain, as a first course or entrée, or atop a bed of greens as a salad course. It’s especially fun with a purple cauliflower!

    A whole head of cauliflower is sliced into “steaks,” which are variously seasoned and roasted.


  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 3 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or other herb, finely

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

    2. COMBINE the lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside momentarily.

    3. REMOVE the leaves and bottom core of a head of cauliflower lengthwise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Season both sides with salt and pepper to taste and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the lemon juice-garlic mixture. Roast 40 minutes or until golden and tender. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

    4. USE the remaining cauliflower pieces in salads raw or pickled, or steam/microwave them for another occasion.

    Turn this spare basic recipe into more flavorful cauliflower steaks. Use your favorite international flavors as seasonings and sauces. For example:

  • Chinese cauliflower steaks: Eliminate the salt, brush steaks with soy sauce instead of lemon juice, top with minced garlic, garnish with fresh chives.
  • Indian cauliflower steaks: Season with ground cumin, coriander and optional curry powder instead of garlic, salt and pepper; garnish with fresh cilantro.
  • Italian cauliflower steaks #1: Use garlic-flavored olive oil and top the cauliflower with minced garlic before roasting. Place cooked steaks atop pesto, or atop marinara sauce seasoned with some oregano. Garnish with sliced black olives.
  • Italian cauliflower steaks #2: Make the basic recipe. After roasting, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  • Japanese cauliflower steaks: Use 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 toasted sesame oil or wasabi oil, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, grated fresh ginger and/or fresh chives.
  • Mexican cauliflower steaks: Replace the lemon juice with lime juice. Serve on a bed of black beans or pinto beans and top with warmed salsa. Garnish with cilantro and optional crumbled queso fresco.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Bananas Foster Topping & Garnish

    As a lover of both chocolate cake and Bananas Foster, we were inspired by the creative use of Bananas Foster at Davio’s Italian Steakhouse in Boston (see photo). It’s traditionally used to top ice cream.

    It’s a most delicious addition. At Davio’s, a slice of flourless chocolate cake is topped with a slice of caramelized banana. But you can adapt the idea to almost any dessert. A chocolate base (or other dark color) is best to contrast the beige banana; but it will be delectable on anything. (It was a hit at THE NIBBLE on top of homemade chocolate pudding.)

    Before we are forthcoming with the recipe, here’s a bit of culinary history.


    Bananas Foster is a more elaborate version of caramelized bananas. Sliced bananas are sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and Grand Marnier (orange-infused brandy) or rum. It is then flambéed at the table for a dramatic effect, and spooned over vanilla ice cream.

    For the flame-averse: While igniting the dish tableside is dramatic both at a restaurant and at home, it isn’t necessary.


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/flourless cake caramelized banana daviosbboston 230

    Two great desserts in one: Bananas Foster atop chocolate cake. Photo courtesy Davio’s |

    The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900-1977), the executive chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan, Sr.

    It is one of the flambé desserts that also include Crêpes Suzette and Cherries Jubilee. Savory dishes are also flamed at the table, from Steak Diane to Veal Marsala. Here’s a list of flambé recipes. Note, though, that the technique has long gone out of style.

    But how did it come into style?


    Flambé (it means flamed in French), is a cooking procedure in which alcohol is warmed and then added to a hot pan, where it is lit to create a burst of flames. The alcohol burns off shortly and the flames die out.

    While the practice of igniting food for dramatic flair can be traced to 14th century Moors, modern flambéing became popular only in the late 19th century, and by accident.

    According to his memoir, in 1895 at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo, 14-year-old Henri Charpentier (1880-1961), an assistant waiter, accidentally set fire to the liqueur in the pan of crêpes he was preparing. At the time, many foods were prepared tableside. The guests happened to be Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and some friends. According to the memoir:

    “It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought I was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I had every tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste.

    The dish was served, and the Prince liked it.

    “He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crêpes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and holding her little skirt wide with her hands she made him a curtsey. ‘Will you,’ said His Majesty, ‘change Crêpes Princesse to Crêpes Suzette?’ Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a panama hat and a cane.”

    SOURCE: Life A La Henri – Being The Memories of Henri Charpentier, by Henri Charpentier and Boyden Sparkes, The Modern Library, New York, 2001 Paperback Edition. Originally published in 1934 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Thanks to What’s Cooking America for the reference.


    Banana with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and hazelnuts


    TOP PHOTO: Bananas Foster served
    banana-split style. Photo | Fotolia. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: Bananas Foster at Brennan’s. Photo
    courtesy We
    prefer to slice our bananas in chunks.



    While the Davio’s recipe cuts the banana into a stylish oblong and the photo at right halves the fruit banana-split style. At Brennan’s the long slices are cut in half. We prefer chunks perhaps 3/4-inch thick—easier to spoon over ice cream…and French toast, pancakes and waffles.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 firm, ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Optional garnishes: toasted chopped pecans, grated orange

  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream, or
  • Cake or whatever else you want with your Bananas Foster

    1. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each (alternative: cut 3/4″ rounds; you’ll have more than 4 pieces).

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes—this creates a caramel sauce). Add the bananas and cook on both sides until they begin to soften and brown (about 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce.

    If you want to flambé, follow the instructions below. However, the drama of the flambé works only if the dish is prepared tableside. Otherwise, the drama is lost in the kitchene.

    4. LIFT lift the bananas carefully from the pan and top the four dishes of ice cream; then spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas and serve immediately.

    Here’s a video on how to flambe from QVC chef David Venable. Tips:

  • Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-109 proof are best to ignite. Don’t try to ignite a higher proof; they are highly flammable.
  • The liquor must be warmed to about 130°F before adding to the pan. (Keep it well below the boiling point. Boiling will burn off the alcohol, and it will not ignite.) This is generally done by holding the liquor, in a spoon, over a candle or other flame.
  • Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself.
  • Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but if you’re just learning, keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames.


    TIP OF THE DAY: International Nachos For National Nachos Day



    TOP PHOTO: Classic nachos. Photo by Chee
    Hong | Wikimedia. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Japanese nachos, made with rice chips and
    spicy tuna. Photo courtesy RA Sushi.


    Today is National Nacho Day, and our tip is: Go where no Mexican nacho has gone.

    The appeal of Tex-Mex nachos—crunchy, creamy, spicy—cannot be denied.

    But how about fusion nachos, with culinary accents (crunchy, creamy, spicy) from the world’s favorite cuisines? We’ll pick up on that below, right after…


    Nachos are an example of necessity being the mother of invention.

    As the story goes, in 1943 a group of Army wives from Fort Duncan, in Eagle Pass, Texas, had gone just across the border to Piedras Negros, Mexico, on a shopping trip. By the time they arrived at the Victory Club restaurant for a meal, the kitchen was closed.

    But the accommodating maître d’hôtel, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya (Nacho is a nickname for Ignacio), threw together a snack for the ladies from what was available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. He cut the tortillas into triangles and fried them, added shredded Cheddar cheese, quickly heated them to melt the cheese and garnished the dish with sliced jalapeño chiles.

    When asked what the tasty dish was called, he answered, “Nacho’s especiales,” Nacho’s Special. (Food trivia: In Mexico, nachos are called totopos, the local word for tortilla chips).

    The dish quickly spread throughout Texas and the Southwest. The first known appearance of the word “nachos” in English dates to 1950, from the book. A Taste of Texas. [Source]


    In the beginning, nachos were a simple dish as Ignacio made them: tortilla chips, shredded melted cheese and jalapeños.

    But as time marched on, so did nachos, leading to “loaded” Tex-Mex nacho options with:

  • Beans: black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, chili con carne, chile con queso.
  • Condiments: garlic, hot sauce, lime, olives, pickles.
  • Meat: carne asada, chicken, chorizo, ground beef, sliced steak.
  • Salsa and dressings: cooked salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo, ranch dressing, salsa fresca, sour cream (see the different types of salsa).
  • Vegetables: chive, cilantro, diced tomato, elote (grilled corn), jalapeño, lettuce, onion, scallion.
    And while these ingredients offer a huge number of combinations, why not look outside Central American ingredients to international combinations. First…


    Step away from tortilla chips (a.k.a. taco chips) or other corn chips. There are lots of different chips to be had, representing all corners of the world. Pick your base, and it will inspire the toppings.

  • Bagel chips
  • Bean chips
  • Cassava/yucca chips
  • Flavored tortilla chips (taco chips)
  • Kale chips
  • Lentil chips
  • Pasta chips
  • Pita chips
  • Plantain chips
  • Potato or sweet potato chips
  • Rice chips
  • Soy crisps
  • Vegetable chips (e.g. beet, lotus root, yucca)


    Top the base chip with the main ingredients and cheese, melt the shredded cheese under the broiler or with a kitchen torch, and top with the sauces and garnishes.

  • American Nachos: potato chips, popcorn, sliced hot dogs, dill pickles or relish, shredded American cheese, onion dip.
  • Barbecue Nachos: tortilla chips, barbecued pork, melted cheese, barbecue sauce, and sliced jalapeños.
  • California Nachos: vegetable chips, kale chips, guacamole, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, sprouts.
  • French Nachos: French fries, goat cheese, crème fraîche, frizzled onions.
  • German Nachos: potato chips, munster cheese, sliced sausage, caramelized onions (or sauerkraut, if you want a pucker).
  • Greek Nachos: pita chips, mini lamb meatballs, crumbled feta cheese, shredded saganaki (melting cheese; substitute mozzarella), sliced pepperoncini, tzatziki, kalamata olives.
  • Hawaiian Nachos: plantain chips or sweet potato chips, kalua pork (smoky; made from a whole, slow-roasted pig), melted cheese, barbecue sauce, diced pineapple.
  • Healthy Nachos: vegetable chips, roasted vegetables or jarred pimentos, fat-free plain Greek yogurt, salsa fresca.
  • Indian Nachos: lentil chips, shawarma (spit-grilled meat) with Indian spices, raita, green peas.
  • Irish Nachos: Fried potato slices topped with corned beef, shredded Irish cheddar, cooked bacon, lettuce, chopped tomatoes and scallions.

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/Oyster Nachos zagat 230


    TOP PHOTO: “Pacific” nachos with oysters. Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO: Barbecue pork nachos. Photo courtesy

  • Italian Nachos: pasta chips, Italian sausage or pepperoni, sweet peppers, marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella and chili flakes.
  • Japanese Nachos: rice chips, cooked or raw fish/seafood, wasabi-accented plain yogurt or sour cream, shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend).
  • Jewish Nachos: bagel chips, chopped herring, sour cream, dill.
  • Middle Eastern Nachos: pita chips, grilled meat or vegetables, hummus, plain yogurt.
  • Pacific Nachos: Crispy wontons, cornmeal-crusted fried oysters (substitute any seafood), shredded Swiss, cocktail sauce or tartar sauce.

    Beyond the chip, here are other spins on nachos:

  • Baked potato nachos recipe
  • Nacho stuffed shells recipe
  • Naked nachos recipe


    FOOD HOLIDAY: The History Of Deviled Eggs

    November 2nd is National Deviled Egg Day.

    Deviled eggs took off as picnic and cocktail party fare after the second World War. But their roots date back to ancient Rome.

    The cooks of wealthy Romans boiled eggs, seasoned them with spicy sauces and served them as a first course (known as gustatio).

    Serving these deviled eggs to guests was so common that it featured in a Roman saying, “ab ova usque ad mala,” literally from eggs to apples (indicating from the beginning of a meal to the end), or what we might call “from A to Z.”

    The culinary record is relatively quiet until the 13th century, when stuffed egg recipes begin to appear in Andalusia, the south of Spain. The yolks of boiled eggs are mixed with with cilantro, onion juice, pepper and coriander, fish sauce, oil and salt. After the mixture was stuffed into the egg whites, the two halves were fastened together with a small stick and seasoned with pepper.

    By the 15th century, stuffed eggs were found throughout Europe. One medieval recipe filled therm with raisins, cheese, marjoram, parsley and mint. They were then fried in oil and topped with a sauce of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, raisins and verjuice, or dusted with sugar. Both executions were served hot.

    The first known printed mention of “devil” as a culinary term appeared in Great Britain in 1786. It referred to dishes that contained hot and spicy ingredients (like paprika), or those that were highly seasoned and broiled or fried.

    By 1800, deviling had become a verb to describe the process of making food spicy. Deviled eggs were seasoned with chiles, horseradish, mustard, paprika and spicy sauce.

    So all deviled eggs are stuffed eggs, but only stuffed eggs with hot spice are deviled eggs.



    Deviled Eggs With Smoked Okra

    TOP PHOTO: A book of deviled egg recipes. Get yours at BOTTOM PHOTO: Deviled eggs with smoked okra (recipe). Photo courtesy Rick’s Picks.


    Nonspicy versions were called dressed eggs, mimosa eggs, salad eggs or stuffed eggs.

    In the United States, stuffed eggs began making an appearance in cookbooks by the mid-19th century.


    Deviled Eggs With Salmon Caviar

    TOP PHOTO: Deviled eggs topped with
    salmon caviar. Photo courtesy Red-



    A recipe from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cookbook was one of the first to use mayonnaise as a binder for the filling of stuffed eggs.

    While mayonnaise began to be distributed commercially in the U.S. in 1907, the condiment was not commonly featured in deviled egg recipes until the 1940s. The classic version of deviled eggs established then mixed the yolks with mayonnaise, mustard and paprika.

    In more recent times, cooks have reworked the classic with modern ingredients, from beets, chutney and smoked okra to luxury ingredients like caviar, crab and smoked salmon to international influences like kimchi, sriracha and wasabi.

  • Bacon & Cheddar Deviled Eggs (recipe)
  • Barbecue Deviled Eggs (recipe)
  • Curried Deviled Eggs (recipe)
  • Halloween Eyeball Deviled Eggs (recipe)
  • Sweet Pea Deviled Eggs For Spring (recipe)
  • Valentine Deviled Eggs With Beets (recipe)
    This recipe was adapted from



    TIP OF THE DAY: Breadcrumb Topping On Pasta

    Macaroni & Cheese With Breadcrumbs


    TOP PHOTO: Mac & cheese, crumbed for
    crunch and glamour. Photo courtesy Morgans
    Hotel | NYC. BOTTOM PHOTO: Linguine
    tossed in olive oil, Parmesan and herbs,
    topped with bread crumbs. Photo courtesy
    All’onda | NYC.


    If you peruse recipes for mac and cheese, you’ve likely noticed that the better recipes—certainly those by name chefs—regularly add a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs on top of the dish. Chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Michael Symon have contributed crumbed mac recipes to this website.

    While mac and cheese may not be a southern Italian tradition, toasted breadcrumbs are, often replacing grated cheese as a garnish for the pasta.

    As we close out National Pasta Month, our tip is: Go southern and garnish some of your pasta dishes with breadcrumbs instead of cheese. If you can’t live without grated Parmesan, toss the pasta with it before topping with breadcrumbs.

    In its simplest form, just toss cooked pasta in olive oil, plate it and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. If you like anchovies, try the classic recipe with anchovies and chile flakes below.


    According to Academia Barilla, the tradition of pasta with breadcrumbs in Southern Italy was created by poorer people who could not afford pricier ingredients like cheese.

    They would prepare the breadcrumbs using stale bread leftovers. Those who had them also added kitchen staples, salted anchovies and dried chili peppers.

    Over time in the region of Calabria, people began to prepare this dish on Christmas Eve, which was traditionally fish or seafood (or, in the Feast Of Seven Fishes, both).

    When we have enough bread ends left over, we make pangrattatto (“grated bread”) instead of buying gourmet seasoned breadcrumbs. This classic Italian garnish consists of breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil and seasoned.

    Feel free to use your favorite seasonings. Anchovy paste, cayenne, chili flakes, garlic, herbs, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and parsley are traditional; but you can try curry, nutmeg or whatever you think adds pizzazz to your pasta recipe.


    The type of bread doesn’t matter; a combination of different loaves only adds to the flavor. If you don’t have enough bread ends saved up, you can dry out fresh bread (details follow) or default to panko, Japanese breadcrumbs.

    In addition to pasta topping, use the crumbs on casseroles and gratins, in meatballs and meatloaf.



    1. PLAN ahead. Store all the ends and leftover slices from loaves of bread in a heavy-duty freezer bag. You can keep it in the freezer or not. When you’re ready to make breadcrumbs…

    2. LET the bread sit at room temperature overnight or until it gets hard enough to grate into breadcrumbs. (Our Nana kept the ends in a breadbox for weeks until she had enough to make crumbs.) If your bread isn’t hard enough, you can dry it in a 250°F oven.

    3. GRATE the bread on the grating disk of a food processor to the desired texture, or with a hand grater. We prefer a coarser crumb that provides crunch, rather than the fineness of commercial breadcrumbs.

    4. STORE the crumbs in an airtight jar. When ready to use, measure out what you need for the recipe.

    5. HEAT a bit of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat (1/4 cup olive oil for 4 tablespoons crumbs). Add the breadcrumbs and seasonings. Toast the breadcrumbs for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are golden.



    This version of Bucatini With Anchovies & Chilies uses anchovy paste and adds kale, with a light dusting of crumbs. Here’s the recipe from The Culinary Chronicles.


    This Calabrian dish, courtesy of Acadamia Barilla is made with bucatini, a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. The name comes from the Italian buco, “hole” and bucato, “pierced.” You can substitute any ribbon pasta.

    This dish is traditionally served on—but not confined to—Christmas Eve. You can make it in just 25 minutes, anytime you have a hankering for anchovies.

    If you don’t want the brininess of anchovies but want a depth of piquant umami flavor, substitute anchovy paste.

    Serve the dish with a full-bodied red wine.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound bucatini
  • 4 salted anchovies (substitute 1 heaping tablespoon anchovy paste)
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch red chili flakes (more to taste)

    1. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. While it heats…

    2. RINSE the anchovies well under running water and debone them. Place a pan over low heat and add half the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the anchovies and cook for a couple of minutes, until the anchovies break down. While the anchovies are cooking…

    3. PLACE another pan with the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and chili flakes. Toast the breadcrumbs for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are golden.
    Once the water is boiling…

    4. ADD the salt and cook the bucatini following the package instructions. Drain the pasta when done and toss with the anchovies and toasted breadcrumbs.



    HALLOWEEN: Jack o’ Lantern Nacho Cheese Ball Recipe

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/cheese ball cookingchannelTV 230sq


    Make a Halloween cheese ball. TOP PHOTO courtesy The Cooking Channel BOTTOM PHOTO courtesy Snackworks.


    It’s easy to make a cheese ball: combine room temperature cream cheese with other ingredients in a bowl or mixer and blend; then form into a ball and coat with shredded cheese or seasonings.

    This recipe has Mexican seasonings, but you can make any cheese ball recipe you like.

    TIP: It is better to shred your own Cheddar, as tempting as it might be to buy pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded has a different texture, from the additives used to keep the shreds from sticking together in the bag.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, chilling time is 2 hours.



  • 2 packages (8-ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
  • 3 tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons prepared salsa (any kind)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno (without seeds, unless you want it spicy, then include the seeds)
  • 12 orange colored corn chips or Ritz crackers*, crushed
  • 1 stem of a green bell pepper or a celery stalk for the pumpkin stem
  • Blue corn chips or black bean chips, crackers for serving
    *Whichever you use, you’ll have the rest of the bag or box to serve with the cheese ball.



    1. CRUSH the corn chips in a plastic bag, using a rolling pin. Set aside.

    2. PLACE the cream cheese, Cheddar, onions, salsa, cumin and jalapeño into the bowl of a mixer and blend thoroughly. Form into a pumpkin-like shape and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. You may find it neater to put the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, and form the ball from the outside of the plastic.

    3. BEFORE serving, roll the cheese ball in the crushed corn chips. Arrange the cheese ball on a plate, and press the bell pepper stem or celery stalk into the top.

    4. MAKE a jack o’ lantern face, if desired, with pieces of break off pieces of blue corn chips/black bean chips to form a jack o’ lantern face. The chip pieces should adhere to the pumpkin cheese ball if you gently press them onto it, but you can also glue them on using a small dab of the plain yogurt or sour cream.


    Halloween Jack O Lantern Glowing Pumpkin. FOR DAILY TRAVEL DO NOT USE

    The inspiration: a jack o’ lantern. Photo courtesy PlayBuzz.

    5. SERVE the cheese ball with black bean chips, crackers and spreading knives.

    Pumpkins carved into jack o’ lanterns are an Irish-American tradition. But for centuries before any Irish immigration, jack o’ lanterns were carved from beets, potatoes and turnips and placed in windows of homes in what is now Great Britain, to ward off evil spirits on Halloween.

    The jack o’ lantern is named after Stingy Jack, a fellow of Irish myth. He invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but was too cheap to pay even for his own drink.

    So he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin, which Jack would use to buy their refreshments.

    Jack was not only stingy; he was a cheat. Once the Devil had turned himself into a coin, Jack simply pocketed it. No drinks were had that evening, but Jack was one coin richer. Clever Jack had placed the coin next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

    Jack eventually freed the Devil, under conditions including that, after Jack died, the Devil would not claim his soul.

    When Jack died, however, God would not allow his disreputable soul into heaven. Jack then tried to get into hell. The Devil, who had previously committed not to claim Jack’s soul, would not let him in.

    But the Devil was kind enough to send Jack off into the dark with a burning coal to light his way. To carry it, Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip. The spirit of “Jack of the Lantern,” subsequently shortened to “Jack O’ Lantern” (and evolving to the lower case jack o’lantern) has been roaming the Earth ever since.

    In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into potatoes and turnips, and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used.

    Immigrants brought the jack o’ lantern tradition to the U.S., where they discovered that the native pumpkin made the biggest, scariest and best jack-o’-lanterns.



    RECIPE: Boston Cream Pie

    October 23rd is National Boston Cream Pie Day, but don’t let the name fool you. Boston Cream Pie is a cake: two layers of buttery sponge cake sandwiched with crème pâtissière (pastry cream or vanilla cream filling) or custard filling, and topped with a glaze of chocolate ganache.

    The modern Boston Cream Pie was created for the opening of the Parker House Hotel in Boston, in October 1856. An Armenian-French chef, M. Sanzian, sandwiched two layers of sponge cake with crème pâtissière, and topped the cake with a chocolate ganache glaze.

    His recipe was a re-working of the early American pudding-cake pie. The first reference, a recipe published in 1855, calls it a “pudding pie cake.” It had a powdered sugar topping.

    According to What’s Cooking America, the cake was originally served at the hotel with the name Chocolate Cream Pie or Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie. “Boston” came later.

    As a throwback to its origin, the ganache top of the cake is sometimes decorated with confectioners’ sugar, or icing designs can be made in the ganache, as in the second photo. For a more festive cake, the bare sides can be covered with pastry cream and toasted almonds (which is how the cake is currently prepared at the Parker House—here’s their recipe).

    According to Omni Parker House, what made the dessert so special was its chocolate icing. Back in 1856, chocolate was mainly consumed as a beverage or in puddings; the chocolate bar was yet to be perfected (here’s the history of chocolate timeline). So chocolate icing was an innovative use of chocolate at the time. [Source]

    So why is it called a pie?



    Boston Cream Pie

    Boston Cream Pie. Top photo by Cara Fealy Choate | Wikimedia. Bottom photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.

    The answer is most likely that, in the mid-19th century pie tins were more common than cake pans. The distinction between calling something pie or cake was more flexible than it is today. The cake might well have been baked in pie tins. (By the same token, cheesecake is not a cake, but a cream cheese-flavored custard pie.)

    Boston Cream Pie was declared the official dessert of Massachusetts in 1996. The pie beat out other iconic Massachusetts desserts, including Fig Newtons, Toll House Cookies and Indian Pudding.

    This recipe was sent to us by It was developed by Taylor Mathis of

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 40 minutes.
    Ingredients For A 9-Inch Cake
    For The Sponge Cake

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus extra for the baking pans)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cup granulated sugar
    For The Vanilla Cream Filling

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
    For The Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips*
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    *Substitute quality chopped chocolate in 70% cacao.



    Boston Cream Pie

    Boston Cream Pie. Top photo by Taylor
    Mathis | Taylor Takes A Taste for Go Bold
    With Butter. Bottom photo courtesy Kraft



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

    2. SIFT together the flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

    3. BRING the milk to a boil in small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until the butter melts. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, stir and set the pan aside.

    4. BEAT the eggs on medium high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer, for 7 minutes. Add the sugar and mix an additional 8 minutes.

    5. REDUCE the mixer speed to low. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture. After the flour has been mixed in, add 1/2 of the milk mixture and blend. Add the next 1/3 of flour and blend. Add the remaining milk mixture and blend. Add the remaining 1/3 of the flour and blend. Turn off the mixer and scrape the batter down from the sides of the mixing bowl.

    6. DIVIDE the batter equally between the two prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and let the layers cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Invert the cakes and cool completely on a wire rack.

    7. PREPARE the vanilla cream filling: In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, flour, sugar and salt. Stir with a fork until the flour and sugar are well mixed with the egg yolks. Set aside.

    8. BRING the milk to just boil in large heavy bottomed saucepan. Remove the pan from stove. Add 1/3 of the hot milk to the egg mixture; stir to blend. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining 2/3 of the milk; stir to blend. Return the saucepan to medium high heat, stirring constantly. When custard begins to boil…

    9. REDUCE the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the pastry cream thickens. Remove the pastry cream from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the butter and stir until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and almond extracts; stir to blend. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.

    10. PREPARE the chocolate glaze: Place chocolate chips, milk and salt into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir the chocolate until melted and well blended with milk. Remove from the heat. Add the butter to the chocolate, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add the vanilla and stir to blend. Set chocolate glaze aside.

    11. ASSEMBLE the cake: Place 1 sponge cake layer on a cake plate. Generously cover with chilled vanilla pastry cream. Top the cream with the second layer of cake. Cover with chocolate glaze. Some of glaze should run over the sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until the glaze sets, about 30 minutes. Serve.

    What’s the deal with two different spellings, cream and creme?

    Cream is the appropriate spelling in the U.S. Crème, pronounced KREHM, is the French spelling.

    To make things appear more fancy or exclusive, some Americans began to use the French spelling without the accent, pronouncing creme as KREEM.

    It may be pervasive, but it isn’t correct.

    And for a different twist, here’s a Boston Cream Cheesecake recipe (actually a pie).



    HALLOWEEN: Jack O’Lantern History & Macarons

    Jack O Lantern Macarons

    Yummy jack o’ lantern macarons from
    Williams Sonoma. Here’s the history of
    macaroons and macarons
    . Photo courtesy


    We love these jack o’lantern macarons, made exclusively for Williams-Sonoma by Dana’s Bakery.

    We asked ourself: We know the history of Halloween, but not how the jack o’lantern got its name. So we researched it, and the History Channel provided the answer.


    Pumpkins carved into jack o’ lanterns are an Irish-American tradition. But for centuries before any Irish immigration, jack o’ lanterns were carved from beets, potatoes and turnips and placed in windows of homes in what is now Great Britain, to ward off evil spirits on Halloween.

    The jack o’lantern is named after Stingy Jack, a fellow of Irish myth. He invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but was too cheap to pay even for his own drink.

    So he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin, which Jack would use to buy their refreshments.


    Jack was not only stingy; he was a cheat. Once the Devil had turned himself into a coin, Jack simply pocketed it. No drinks were had that evening, but Jack was one coin richer. Clever Jack had placed the coin next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.


    Jack eventually freed the Devil, under conditions including that, after Jack died, the Devil would not claim his soul.

    When Jack died, however, God would not allow his disreputable soul into heaven. Jack then tried to get into hell. The Devil, who had previously committed not to claim Jack’s soul, would not let him in.

    But the Devil was kind enough to send Jack off into the dark with a burning coal to light his way. To carry it, Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip. The spirit of “Jack of the Lantern,” subsequently shortened to “Jack O’Lantern” (and evolving to the lower case jack o’lantern) has been roaming the Earth ever since.

    In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into potatoes and turnips, and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used.


    Jack O Lantern

    The American jack o’lantern. Photo courtesy Burpee.


    Immigrants brought the jack o’lantern tradition to the U.S., where they discovered that the native pumpkin made the biggest, scariest and best jack-o’-lanterns.



    FOOD FUN: Halloween Mummy Apples

    I want my mummy! Photo courtesy Marci Coombs.


    Here’s a fun Halloween treat that makes a nutritious apple even more attractive than a piece of candy.

    All you need are apples, gauze and candy eyes. Here’s how Marci Coombs did it.

    You can set the apples out in a glass bowl, use them as place settings, or wrap them in cellophane bags as gifts or party favors.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Top 10 Pasta Cooking Tips

    It seems like a no-brainer to boil pasta, yet there are several “best practices.”

    For National Pasta Month, here are some basic pasta tips that many people—including our interns—don’t know.

    1. USE A LARGE, LIDDED POT. Pasta needs room to cook without sticking: 4-5 quarts of water per pound of pasta. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, after the pasta is added, a larger pot of water will return to a boil faster. Especially with long cuts (strand or ribbon pasta), more water helps to reduce sticking, by washing away the exuded starch* from the pasta surface more efficiently. A six-quart stock pot is perfect for boiling pasta.

    2. SALT THE WATER. Salt the water before you boil it—1-2 tablespoons for a large pot. You need the salt or the pasta will be bland.

    3. NEVER ADD OIL TO THE POT. This longstanding “tip” was a marketing ploy from a salad oil company back around the 1960. The company sought ways for consumers to use more oil, and convinced many people that adding oil to the water prevents the pasta from sticking. However, the practice covers the pasta with a slick of oil so the sauce doesn’t stick.


    Stock Pot for Pasta

    This six-quart stock pot from Tramontina has a removable drain spout: No colander is needed to drain the pasta.


    4. PLACE A LID ON THE POT to EFFICIENTLY bring the water to boil. It takes long enough boil with a lid holding in the heat. You’ll be waiting forever (and water will evaporate) without one.

    5. SCOOP UP A CUP OF PASTA WATER and set it aside before you drain the pasta. This starchy water can thicken your sauce. Add a tablespoon to the sauce, or more as desired. This is especially important with egg-based sauces like carbonara, since it also helps prevent the egg from curdling when it touches the hot pasta.

    6. NEVER RINSE THE PASTA AFTER YOU DRAIN IT. This washes away the remaining surface starch, which you need in order for the sauce to stick to the pasta.



    Another tip: Cut down on carbs by serving smaller portions of pasta as a first course, followed by a protein course. Photo courtesy Steak & Whisky.


    7. QUICKLY TOSS THE HOT PASTA WITH THE HOT SAUCE. While restaurants in the U.S. often place the sauce on top of the pasta, that’s a visual enhancement rather than a flavor enhancement. A top restaurant will serve the pasta already tossed with the sauce. The hotter both the pasta and the sauce are, the more flavor the pasta will absorb. Have the sauce heated in a covered pot (or in the microwave), ready to go when you drain the pasta.

    8. USE THE POT TO BLEND THE PASTA AND SAUCE. After you’ve drained the pasta pot, dump the pasta back in, along with the sauce. Cover the pot and let the pasta absorb the sauce for a minute; then stir again and serve immediately.

    9. ADD SOME MINCED FRESH HERBS. You can toss them with the pasta and sauce, or use it as a garnish on top of the dish. We also have a peppermill filled with crushed red chili flakes, to grind into the pasta or for self-service at the table.

    10. USE REAL PARMESAN CHEESE. The best way to get the most robust cheese flavor is to keep a wedge and pass it around the table with a grater, so people can freshly grate as much as they like.


    Here’s advice from Barilla:

  • One pound of dry short-cut pasta (bow ties, elbows, penne, rigatoni, etc.) yields nine cups cooked. One pound of spaghetti or linguine yields seven cups cooked.
  • As a main course, plan for 1/4 cup of dried pasta (4 ounces) per person. A one-pound package should provide four dinner-size servings.
  • If you’re serving pasta as a first course or a side dish, plan for 1/8 cup of dried pasta (2 ounces) per person.
  • The final cooked amount will vary by shape. Spaghetti and macaroni shapes (short cuts) can double in volume when cooked. Read the package information. For example, it may say that 1/2 cup elbow macaroni = 1 cup cooked pasta, 3/4 cup penne = 1 cup cooked pasta, 1/8 pound spaghetti = ¼ cup cooked pasta, etc.
  • Egg noodles do not expand significantly when cooked; and fresh pasta, which contains a lot of moisture, doesn’t expand at all. For these varieties, plan three ounces for a first course or side dish and five ounces for a main dish.
    Rule Of Thumb Measurements

  • Small to Medium Pasta Shapes (bow ties, elbow macaroni, medium shells, mostaccioli, penne, radiatore, rigatoni, rotini, spirals, twists, wagon wheels): 8 ounces uncooked = 4 cups cooked.
  • Long Pasta Shapes (angel hair, bucatini, fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti, vermicelli): 8 ounces uncooked or 1½ inch diameter bunch = 4 cups cooked.
  • Egg Noodles: 8 ounces uncooked = 2½ cups cooked.


    *When you drop pasta into a pot of boiling water, the starch granules on the surface of the pasta instantly swell up and pop. This discharges the surface starch and briefly, the pasta’s surface is sticky with the released starch. Most of this surface starch will dissolves into the water.



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