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Archive for International Foods

TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Peas, Use ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em

Green Pea Potstickers

Spring Peas

Edamame

Spring Tartine

[1] Recipe #1, Spring pea dumplings (photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog. [2] Spring peas (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] Edamame (photo courtesy Burpee). [4] Recipe #2, a tartine (open face sandwich) with spring peas and other spring ingredients from Chef Alain Ducasse (photo courtesy All My Chefs).

 

Spring pea season is fleeting. Enjoy as much of the tender green nuggets as you can: raw in salads or for snacking; or lightly steamed in recipes.

Spring peas are also known as English peas and garden peas.

At breakfast—the meal least likely to include spring peas—you can use them to garnish eggs, avocado toast, or a bagel with cream cheese.

You can toss raw or cooked peas into plain Greek yogurt. Use them as a garnish, or mash them and stir them in as you would preserves.

Moving on to snacks and appetizers: Here are three tasty recipes for appetizers, first courses or snacking. For a special main course, check out this innovative approach to surf and turf: Squid With Bacon & Spring Peas.

Here are more ways to use spring peas, and the history of peas.
 
 
RECIPE #1: SPRING PEA OR EDAMAME POTSTICKERS

Hannah Kaminsky adapted her easy edamame potstickers recipe to showcase spring peas. She mixes the legumes with hummus for extra protein, although you can skip the hummus and just fill the dumplings with peas).

Hannah notes:

“General folding advice still stands as a good guideline to follow when wrapping things up, but once you get those papery thin skins to stick, you’re pretty much golden.

If you’re less confident in your dumpling prowess, cut yourself a break and fold square dumpling wrappers in half instead. You’ll still get neat little triangles.”

If celebrate Purim, you can serve these as savory Haman’s Hats.

Ingredients For 15 Dumplings

  • 1 cup shelled spring peas or edamame
  • 1/3 cup edamame/pea hummus (mash them into regular hummus, to taste)
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce, plus more for dipping
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Savoy cabbage
  • 15 (3-inch) round wonton skins or gyoza wrappers*
  •  
    Plus

  • Steaming basket or rack
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SET UP the steaming apparatus: Line a bamboo steamer or metal steam rack with leaves of savoy cabbage to prevent the dumplings from sticking to the bottom (and eat it afterward). Place the steamer in a large pot with water and heat the water to boiling; then reduce to simmering. Meanwhile…

    2. MIX together the shelled edamame, hummus, scallion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and cumin, stirring thoroughly. Lay the dumpling wrappers on your work surface and place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each. Run a lightly moistened finger around the entire perimeter and bring the sides together, forming a triangle. Tightly crimp the corners together with a firm pinch.

    3. PLACE the dumplings on the cabbage leaves and cover the steamer or pot. Steam for 2 to 4 minutes, until the wrappers are translucent. Serve immediately, with additional soy sauce for dipping if desired.

    ________________

    *You can typically find these either in the produce section near the tofu, or in the freezer aisle with other Asian ingredients.
     
    RECIPE #2: SPRING TARTINE

    This recipe, courtesy of All My Chefs, is from the great Alain Ducasse.

    It requires no particular cooking technique…or even cooking, except for blanching the asparagus and green beans. Otherwise, you just slice and assemble.

    Serve them as a snack, a first course, or with a glass of wine.

    Here’s more about tartines, French for open-face sandwiches.

    This recipe was originally published in “Nature By Alain Ducasse” (Éditions Alain Ducasse).

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 16 small green asparagus
  • A good handful† peas
  • About 10 radishes, washed and peeled
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, rinsed
  • About 20 cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
  • A handful wild arugula, rinsed, patted dry, stalks removed (you can save them for salads)
  • 4 slices multigrain or whole wheat bread
  • 5-1/2 ounces (100g) Saint-Moret** or similar cream cheese
  • 1-1/2 ounces (40g) grated parmesan cheese
  • Sea salt or flake salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING a saucepan of salted water to a boil, and prepare a bowl with water and ice cubes.

    2. CUT the tips of the asparagus into approximately 2 inch (5-6 cm) pieces. Rinse and immerse in the boiling water with the peas.

    3. DRAIN and immediately plunge them into the ice water to keep their color. Leave for 2 minutes, then drain with a slotted spoon and lay on a dry tea towel. (TIP: We put the vegetables into a strainer. It’s easy to lift the strainer to drain, then plunge it into the ice bath.)

    4. SLICE thee radishes into fine rounds (about 3 mm) with a mandoline (we used a knife). Slice the fennel into thin slivers of the same size.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Spread the bread with cream cheese and arrange the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with parmesan, a bit of crunchy salt and some pepper.

    ________________

    **Saint-Môret is the leading natural fresh cheese in France. While it has a different flavor and texture from American cream cheese, it is the closest comparison. We actually used spreadable goat cheese: We love the extra tang.

     

    RECIPE #3: SPRING PEAS & BURRATA SALAD

    We adapted this recipe from Julie Andrews, The Gourmet RD. It takes just 10 minutes to prep. We could eat it every day.

    Her recipe uses sugar snap peas. We added spring peas as well.

    You can eat the pods (shells) of sugar snap peas, but it depends on the age of the pea. Older sugar snap peas tend to be more fibrous, making the pod hard to chew. Eat one, then decide.

    Unlike sugar snap peas or snow peas, the fibrous pods of English peas cannot be eaten—although they can be saved and used in a vegetable stock (freeze until needed).

    TIPS:

  • Shell spring peas immediately before cooking. Break off the stem and pull the fibrous string down the length of the pod.
  • If you can’t find burrata (we get ours at Trader Joe’s), use a mozzarella ball. And…we serve 1/2 ball with each salad.
  • If you have fresh tarragon on hand, toss in some leaves.
  • As a change, we like to substitute balsamic vinegar for the honey.
  •  
    Ingredients For 4 First Courses

  • 1 medium lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cups fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed, strings removed
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed
  • 1 cup carrots (thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 ball burrata (substitute fresh mozzarella)
  • 1/2 cups pistachios (roughly chopped
  • For serving: toasted sourdough bread
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Spring Peas Salad

    Burrata

    [5] Recipe #3: burrata salad—note that you can’t eat the shells of spring peas (photo courtesy The Gourmet RD). [6] Be prepared when you cut open a burrata: The creamy insides will spill out (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese).

     
    1. WHISK together fresh lemon zest and juice, honey, olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as necessary.

    2. ADD the peas, green beans, carrots, arugula, basil and mint to the bowl, and toss with the dressing.

    3. QUARTER or halve the ball of burrata and arrange on a platter. Top with salad, sprinkle with additional coarse salt and ground black pepper, and garnish with pistachios.
     
     
    MORE BURRATA

    Here are two more burrata salad recipes and a dessert burrata recipe.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Burritos & Burrito History

    April 7th is National Burrito Day. You don’t have to twist most arms to enjoy one.

    THE NIBBLE is having a lunch of gourmet burritos. We share the ingredients below, but first, a bit of…

    BURRITO HISTORY

    A step back in history: In 1519 the Spanish conquistadors arrived in what today is Mexico, bringing with them wheat flour and pigs. This enabled flour tortillas and carnitas. Flour tortillas are more flexible than corn tortillas, and therefore, easily rollable.

    A modern question is: Why are carnitas in a flour tortilla called burrito—“little donkey” in Spanish?

    No one knows for sure, but the leading guess is that it was named for its shape, which resembles the bedrolls carried on the back of donkeys.

    While the modern burrito is no more than 100 years old, Mesoamericans often rolled their food in tortillas for convenience (no dishes or utensils needed). Avocados, chili peppers, mushrooms, squash and tomatoes were sliced and rolled.

    The Pueblo peoples of the Southwestern U.S. were even closer to the mark. They made tortillas with beans and meat sauce fillings, prepared much like the modern burrito [source].

    But the word “burrito” doesn’t appear in print until 1895, in the Spanish-language Dictionary of Mexicanisms. It was as a name used in the region of Guanajuato, in north-central Mexico. It is described as “a rolled tortilla, with meat or other food within, called coçito in Yucatan and taco in the city of Cuernavaca and in Mexico City.”

    That there was a rolled food called burrito in 1895 dispenses with the folk tale of a man named Juan Méndez, who sold tacos from a street stand during the Mexican Revolution (1910–1921) in Ciudad Juárez. As he used a donkey for transport, customers began to call his tacos “food of the burrito,” the little donkey, and the name eventually stuck.

    Food historians opine that the modern burrito may actually have been invented in the U.S., as a convenient lunch for Mexican agricultural workers.

    The Modern Burrito: Born In The U.S.A.

    The precise origin is not known, but it is generally believed to have originated in a Mexican-American community in the U.S., among farm workers in California’s Central Valley (Fresno, Stockton).

    According to Wikipedia, the farm workers who spent all day picking produce in fields would bring lunches of homemade flour tortillas, beans and salsa picante (hot sauce)—inexpensive and convenient.

    Burritos first appeared on American restaurant menus in the 1930s, beginning with El Cholo Spanish Cafe in Los Angeles. El cholo is the word used by Mexican settlers in California for field hands.

    Burritos were mentioned in the U.S. media for the first time in 1934, appearing in the Mexican Cookbook, a collection of regional recipes from New Mexico by historian Erna Fergusson.

    The book includes “celebrated favorites such as enchiladas, chile rellenos, and carne adovada, as well as the simple, rustic foods traditionally prepared and served in New Mexican homes.”

    It was “inspired by the delight and enthusiasm with which visitors to the Southwest partook of the region’s cuisine.” You can still buy a copy.

    In 1999, food writer John Mariani wrote that “What makes burritos different from most other Mexican-American foods is the metamorhpasis of this dish.

    “We tracked down the earliest print references for ‘burritos’ cited by food history in American/English reference books. They are nothing like the burritos we are served today…

    “When and where did the change happen? Early 1960s, Southern California. The who and why remain a mystery. Our survey of historic newspapers suggests food trucks played a roll. Burritos are efficient, economical, easy and delicious.” [Source: Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 48)]
     
    TODAY’S BURRITOS

    In Mexico, meat and beans or refried beans can be the only burrito fillings. In the U.S., things get more elaborate.

    American burrito fillings may include not only the refried (or other) beans and meat, but rice, lettuce, salsa (pico de gallo, salsa picante), guacamole, shredded cheese (cheddar or jack), sour cream and vegetables. Burrito sizes vary—they’re super-sized in the U.S., up to 12 inches. You can also find them in 9- and 10-inch diameters.

    In 1964, Duane R. Roberts of Orange County, California sold the first frozen burrito. He made so much money that he was eventually able to buy Riverside’s iconic Mission Inn and refurbish it.

    The U.S. even developed the breakfast burrito, and astronauts eat them in outer space!

       

    Steak Cilantro Burrito

    Shrimp Burrito

    Wet Burritos

    Green Chili Chicken Burrito

    [1] Steak and cilantro burrito. Here’s the recipe from Half Baked Harvest. [2] Gourmet burrito: grilled shrimp and avocado cream. Here’s the recipe from Foodie Crush. [3] Breakfast burrito: Now an American staple, it first appeared in 1975. Here’s a recipe from She Wears Many Hats. [4] Chipotle restaurants brought burritos and burrito bowls across America (photo courtesy Chipotle). [5] Wet burritos: definitely not grab-and-go. Here’s the recipe from Hezzi D’s Books & Cooks. [6] Not wet, but smothered in a poblano-cheeese sauce. Here’s the recipe from Tastes Better From Scratch.

     
    Tia Sophia’s, a Mexican café in Santa Fe, New Mexico, claims to have invented the original breakfast burrito in 1975, filling a rolled tortilla with bacon and potatoes. It was served “wet,” topped with chili and cheese.

    Many Americans had their first breakfast burrito when McDonald’s introduced the Sausage Burrito in 1991: a flour tortilla, sausage, American cheese, scrambled eggs, onions and peppers. Taco Bell didn’t introduce a breakfast burrito until 2014.

    Which brings us to the choice of the grab-and-go burrito, eaten by hand, and wet burritos, on a plate covered with sauce and other garnishes, eaten with a knife and fork.

    And then there’s the burrito bowl, pioneered by Chipotle: the fillings of a burrito eaten with a fork, no tortilla.

    Chipotle now sells more bowls than conventional burritos. The bowls save 300 calories [source].

     

    Burrito Bowl

    Kale & Bean Burrito

    [7] A burrito bowl provides the fillings without the tortilla. Photo courtesy Simply Recipes. [8] Trendy and vegan: a kale burrito with black beans and avocado. Here’s the recipe from Cookie and Kate.

     

    GOURMET BURRITO INGREDIENTS

    We’re not the type to put gold leaf, foie gras and sturgeon caviar on food just to create the world’s most expensive [fill in the blank]. But we do enjoy the luxury of playing with top-drawer ingredients.

    Rice and beans are fillers. You can make a burrito without them, or can serve them on the side.

    Or, you can take them up a notch with fancier rice and beans.

    Here are typical burrito ingredients and their upscale variations. If you don’t like our ingredients, tell us what you’d use instead.

  • Beans (kidney, pinto, refried) > heirloom beans: cranberry, scarlet runner, yellow Indian woman…or lentils.
  • Carnitas (braised pork) > pork belly.
  • Cheese (cheddar or jack) > gruyère.
  • Diced tomatoes > heirloom tomatoes, marinated yellow cherry tomatoes, fresh tomato sauce (diced tomatoes with seasonings), tomato jam.
  • Chicken (thigh meat): ditto, with the skin removed, crisped and tossed into the burrito (cracklings).
  • Cilantro > cilantro plus basil and parsley.
  • Diced onions > Caramelized onions, onion preserves.
  • Fried fish > roasted or grilled salmon.
  • Garlic > roast garlic cloves, whole or mashed.
  • Iceberg or romaine lettuce > butter lettuce, curly leaf lettuce, mesclun mix with baby arugula, red endive or radicchio, red leaf lettuce, watercress.
  • Lime wedge > lime zest sprinkled on top before rolling.
  • Rice > jasmine rice, multigrain rice, saffron rice, wild rice, other grain (barley, quinoa, e.g.).
  • Exotic rice > Bhutanese red rice, black rice (forbidden rice), Kalijira rice from Bangladesh (considered the finest tiny aromatic rice in the world) (types of rice)
  • Shrimp the same (it’s hard to improve on grilled shrimp).
  • Steak (skirt or hanger) > filet mignon, roast lamb.
  •  
    For lunch today, we’re having:

  • Filet mignon and wild rice burritos with shredded gruyère and [leftover] beluga lentils.
  • Grilled shrimp burritos with romaine and arugula, green rice (parsley), gruyère and dilled sour cream.
  • Grilled salmon, with dilled rice, sour cream, salmon caviar and [leftover] yellow lentils.
  •  
    Have whatever burrito you like, but definitely have a burrito. Where would be be without them?

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Get Creative With A Basic Recipe

    Causa Morada Recipe

    Causa Morada Recipe

    Causa Morada Recipe

    Causa Morada Croquettes

    Causa Morada Appetizer

    [1] Glamorizing potatoes and chicken salad. Here’s the recipe from Potato Goodness. [2] Don’t feel like stacking? Just place the ingredients on a plate, as in this recipe from Live Naturally Magazine. Or, layer them in a glass dish. [3] At Raymi Peruvian restaurant in New York City, a Japanese accent is added via julienned nori (dried seaweed sheets), togarashi mayo for the chicken salad, and ponzu syrup. Here’s the recipe via Star Chefs [4] Croquettes: the chicken is inside! See the recipe at Sweet Cakes Toronto. [5] Turned into an appetizer with a pretzel stick, at Piscomar restaurant in Madrid.

     

    Causa morada is a South American classic, a layered dish of potato-and-chicken salad. (The fancy layering in Photo #1 is restaurant style. At home, layering is more casual.)

    It is served cold (room temperature) as an appetizer or as a lunch entrée.

    Make the mashed potatoes with Purple Peruvians, and you’ve got a dish that screams “Easter week!”

    You can substitute other salads (crab, egg, shrimp, tuna) and add other touches as you wish. We’ve included some variations below.

    The name of the dish comes from the Quechua* word kausay, which means “life” or “sustenance of life.” Potatoes originated in Peru and number hundreds of cultivars. They were the sustenance of life in pre-Hispanic Peru, as rice was in China.

    Morada means purple, referring to the purple potatoes. As you can see in Photo #7 below, there are also blue potatoes.

    The original dish was simply boiled potatoes eaten with slices of aji amarillo (the principal Peruvian chili). Meat was scarce in the Andes Mountains. Much of the cuisine was vegetarian.

    This most basic recipe of boiled potatoes illustrates today’s tip: The simplest foods can be made more flavorful and appealing, with a few twists.

    The recipe below is Adina, a modern Peruvian restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Peruvian cuisine is an interesting fusion, not just of Spanish and Inca cuisines, but of Japanese cuisine, from the immigration of Japanese laborers at the turn of the [20th] century. You’ll see how Japanese touches grace some of the variations.

    This recipe came to us via Potato Goodness, the recipe website of Potatoes USA, the nation’s potato marketing and research organization.
     
    RECIPE: CAUSA MORADA, PERUVIAN CHICKEN SALAD

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 pounds purple potatoes
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup aji amarillo purée†
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1-1/2 cups semi-ripe avocados, thinly sliced
  • Garnish: spicy sprouts, such as daikon (radish) or clover
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until very tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

    2. PEEL the potatoes and pass through a food mill or ricer (or simply mash very finely) into a large bowl. Knead lightly with gloved‡ hands, slowly drizzling in oil, as needed, to a dough-like consistency. Add the lime juice and season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

    3. PLACE the chicken, onion, carrot and mint into a large saucepan, adding just enough water to cover. Bring to a slow boil. Cook until the chicken is fork tender and can be pulled apart, about 20 minutes.

    4. TRANSFER the chicken to a medium bowl. Once cool enough to handle, shred with fingers or a fork. Mix in the mayonnaise, aji amarillo, celery, and red onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

    5a. For individual servings, layer ring molds with potato mixture, then chicken mixture, then potato mixture. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

    5b: For a single dish, use a 2-quart glass casserole. Layer the ingredients, as above. Refrigerate until ready to serve; let warm to room temperature first, as desired.

     

    HOW TO CHANGE IT

    Color: Purple or blue potatoes add so much more punch to Causa Morada than white varieties. As another example, how about a yellow gazpacho, using yellow tomatoes and bell peppers instead of the conventional red?

    Size: Turn a full dish or side into an appetizer: Causa Morada bites (chicken salad stuffed into baby potatoes) or gazpacho shots? Or gazpacho sorbet?

    Format: Change the shape and purpose, like the plated Causa Morada in photo #2, the croquettes in Photo #4, and the appetizers in Photo #5. Can you turn it into a drink? You can make a Caprese Cocktail by reformatting the ingredients of Caprese Salad: a mix of tomato and lettuce juices, with a garnish of mozzarella balls on a pick.

    Another ingredient: The avocado in Photo #1 adds new personality to the dish. What about a surf and turf variation, adding something from the sea (scallops? shrimp?).

    Crunch: If the dish has no crunch, add some. Anything from a side of jicama batons or radish slices, to an artisan cracker or potato plantain chip on top, will do the trick. One of our secrets: Japanese rice cracker snack mix, which is also one of our favorite things to serve with wine and cocktails.

    Sweetness: Add some fruit, minced into the chicken salad, grilled as an extra layer or garnish, or pureéd into a sauce.

    Salty: Blend in olives or capers, for example.

    Condiments: Add chutney; cornichons or gherkins; pickled vegetables; or relish to the plate.

    Vegetables: For Causa Morada, some red color cherry or grape tomatoes, or some texture a bit of frisée or arugula salad.

    Sauce: There are countless types of sauces for every dish. Sweet, savory, herbal, matching, contrasting.

    Bread: Could bread or crackers enhance the dish? For example, Causa Morada could be served with toasts or flatbread on which to spread the soft layers. Consider what would enhance your recipe: anything from garlic crostini (garlic bread) to sesame breadsticks to

    Garnish: Garnish can change the personality of a dish. Imagine Causa Morada topped julienned nori (photo #3), honey peanuts, diced melon, shoestring fried onions. For fun: a few Goldfish?

    ________________

    *Quechua is the language of the Incas. It is still spoken by their ancestors in the Andes Mountains.

    †You can substitute other fresh chile. If you don’t want to take the time to purée the chile, just add minced pieces to the chicken salad.

     

    Purple Peruvian Potatoes

    Blue Peruvian Potatoes

    Aji Amarillo Chile

    [6] Purple Peruvian potatoes. [7] Blue Peruvian potatoes. [8] Aji amarillo, the chile of Peru.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Quick & Easy Paella Recipe For National Paella Day

    March 27th is National Paella Day. Many people think that paella is a complex, time-consuming dish—and classic recipes can be.

    But you can make this simplified version from Good Eggs easily on any weeknight.

    After 20 minutes of prep time, 20 mins active time plus 40 minutes simmer time.

    RECIPE: SPRING SHRIMP PAELLA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and cleaned
  • Optional: 1/2 pound mussels or clams
  • ¾ cup arborio rice, rinsed
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ teaspoon (generous) saffron threads
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 12 ounces fresh spring peas or snap peas, cut on a diagonal (or a mix)
  • 1¼ cups chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, more as desired
  • Garnish: 1/3 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped (save the stems*)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE a large pan over medium heat (a skillet or roasting pan will do). Add in 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil, and add the onions. Crush the saffron threads between your fingers and sprinkle over the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.

    2. ADD the rice, broth, lemon juice and zest, and stir until well combined. Turn the heat to high and bring liquid the to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes.

    3. ADD the peas and 1 teaspoon salt, and stir to blend. Cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if desired.

    4. PLACE the shrimp in an even layer on top of the mixture. Don’t stir, but cover and cook another 10 minutes.

    5. REMOVE the cover and turn the heat to medium. Continue to cook without stirring until the shrimp are fully cooked. Watch carefully to avoid burning the bottom, although a golden-brown crunchy, crusty rice bottom crust—called soccorat—is ideal.

    ________________

    *Save the parsley stems: They add excellent flavor to soups and stews. Parsley stems also prevent artichokes from browning. Just drop them in a bowl of water with the cut artichokes. You can store the stems in the freezer.
     
    MORE ABOUT PAELLA

  • Paella History & Types
  • Paella On The Grill
  •  
     
    WHAT IS ARBORIO RICE

    If you want a creamy risotto or paella, you need to use Arborio rice.

    This medium-length, round-grained rice is named after the town of Arborio, in Italy’s Po Valley, where it is grown. The grains have a more beige color with a characteristic white dot at the center of the grain.

     

    Easy Shrimp Paella

    Shrimp Paella

    Scoop Of Arborio Rice

    [2] You don’t need a special paella pan like this one; but here’s why it helps—plus other uses for it (photo courtesy Imusa). [3] Arborio rice: more beige, and much more creamy when cooked (photo courtesy A Sassy Radish).

     
    Developed to create creamy risottos, Arborio rice develops its creamy texture around a chewy center (the creaminess comes from a high starch content). It has an exceptional ability to absorb flavors.

    Arborio is a cultivar of japonica rice, the same variety that produces the other “sticky rices” including mochi and sweet rice.

    Pricier, creamier rices developed by Italians for their beloved risotto are canaroli rice and vialone nano.

    Rice pudding fans: These three rice varieties make creamier rice pudding, too.

    Here are the different types of rice.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Seed & Mill Halva Is Halva Heaven

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Halva With Ground Coffee Beans

    Halva With Pop Rocks

    Halva Dessert Plate

    Halva Dessert Plate

    Halva Cake

    [1] Clockwise from top: rose, cinnamon, pistachio and coffee. [2] Chocolate chile halva. [3] Lavender halva. [4] From the front: chocolate orange, date, lemongrass and marble. [5] Caffeinated, with ground coffee beans. [6] Vanilla topped with Pop Rocks. [7] A halva dessert plate: mixed flavors and fruits. [8] Dessert plate of halva with dried fruit. [9] For a special occasion cake, just add a candle. All photos courtesy Seed + Mill.

     

    Halva versus halvah? Who cares how to spell it*, when it tastes this good.

    The sweet confection’s name derives from the Arabic word halwa, which means…sweet confection.

    The best halva we can imagine comes from a relatively new company, Seed + Mill, founded by three friends in New York City, one of whom grew up in Israel.

    The company was born when the latter friend couldn’t find quality tahini in the U.S., and decided to grind her own. Fresh tahini is ground on-site at their store in Chelsea Market, New York City, and sold along with other sesame-based products.

    The company says that theirs is the only store in the U.S. that solely purveys sesame seed products (although we noted a frozen yogurt machine with goat’s milk yogurt).

    While all products are excellent, our food-life-changing experience was engendered by the sesame-based confection, halva(h). Seed + Mill makes the most ethereal, exquisite halva we can imagine—and we have been halva-deprived, for reasons we’ll explain in a bit.
     
    ARTISAN HALVA

    Seed + Mill distinguishes its products using white sesame seeds from Ethiopia, considered the world’s best. Known for their richness of flavor, they are grown in the area of Humera, a city in the northwest corner of Ethiopia, at the borders of Sudan and Eritrea.

    Most of the sesame used for halva and tahini sold in the U.S. is made from seeds from India and Mexico, and are not as flavorful. Hence, our disappointment with the halva available to us.

    Seed + Mill’s sesame seeds are shipped from Humera to Israel, where they are roasted. Some stay in for a bit in Israel, to be ground in small batches and turned into halva. Whole roasted seeds are shipped to New York, to be ground into tahini.

    The halva is made by small Israeli producers to the company’s specifications. The producers use ancient artisan technique—no machines, but caldrons, paddles and troughs. The sugar is boiled and whipped into a foam that produces the melting lightness of the confection. Vigorous hand-kneading produces the finest, fluffiest halvah.

    Although halva is approximately half sesame paste and half sugar, you can assuage some of the guilt with sesame’s enviable nutrition† and heart healthy fats.

    The confection is only mildly sweet, the opposite of fudge and American candy bars.

    And let us add: Seed + Mill has as much in common with halva brands like Joyva as McDonald’s has with Per Se.

    Even the large halva cakes sold at Zabar’s and shops on the Lower East Side have become so mediocre through the use of cheaper ingredients, that we gave up eating halvah several years ago.
     
    THE HISTORY OF HALVA

  • Some scholars suggest that an early form of halva originated before the 12th century in Byzantium, the ancient Greek colony that later became Constantinople, and now Istanbul.
  • Evidence exists that the original was a somewhat gelatinous, grain-based dessert made with oil, flour and sugar.
  • The first written halvah recipe appeared in the early 13th century, and included seven variations.
  • In the same period, a cookbook from Moorish Spain describes rolling out a sheet of candy made of boiled sugar, honey, sesame oil and flour; sprinkling it with rose water, sugar and ground pistachios; and covering it with a second layer of candy before cutting it into triangles.
  • Halva spread across the Middle East to the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In each locale, its name and ingredients changed slightly to include regional products.
  • Depending on local preferences, different recipes ground different seeds or nuts to make the halva. For example, Egyptians added pistachios, almonds or pine nuts. Indians flavored their halva with ghee, coconuts and dates.
  • Flour and oil disappeared from the recipe.
  • One recipe, made with sesame tahini, was favored by the Ottoman-ruled Romanians. Their Jewish population passed it on to Ashkenazi Jews throughout Europe. It was this sesame halva recipe that was brought to the U.S. in the early 20th century by Jewish immigrants.
  •  
    Here’s more halvah history.
     
     
    SEED & MILL’S MOST HEAVENLY HALVA

    Halva is made when tahini (ground sesame paste) is blended with sugar at a high temperature, and then hand-stirred.

    The company boasts 27 flavors, including two sugar-free varieties. They’re all available online, and the retail shop in Chelsea carries about ten them at a time. Some are seasonal; for example, expect cranberry in the fall and lavender in the summer.

    Wile many Seed + Mill flavors are vegan, about half of the flavors do include a bit of butter, which makes the halvah even lighter and melt-in-your-mouth. These are noted on the website.

    The non-butter flavors meet dietary preferences including dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo and vegan.

    If this seems like a lot of flavors, note that Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), the Ottoman Empire’s longest-reigning sultan, had a special kitchen built next to his palace that was dubbed the helvahane, house of halva. It produced some 30 varieties of the confection.

    At Seed + Mill, you’ll find traditional and modern flavors:

  • Cardamom Halva
  • Chia Halva
  • Chili Chocolate Halva
  • Chocolate & Orange Halva
  • Chocolate Pistachio Halva
  • Cinnamon Halva
  • Coconut Dark Chocolate Halva
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter Halva
  • Dates Halva
  • Dulce de Leche Halva
  • Ginger Halva
  • Goji Berry Halva
  • Lemongrass Halva
  • Marble Halva
  • Mixed Chocolate Halva (dark, milk and white chocolate)
  • Nutella & Hazelnuts Halva
  • Pistachio Halva
  • Rose Oil Halva
  • Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Halva
  • Sweet Pecans Halva
  • Vanilla Halva
  • Whiskey Halva
  • White Chocolate & Lemon Halva
  • White Chocolate Raspberry Halva
  • Yummy Flaky Halva (for garnish)
  •  
    Sugar-Free Flavors

  • Sugar Free Coffee Halva
  • Sugar Free Pistachio Halva
  •  
    Seed + Mill is certified by United Kosher Supervision. You can purchase a piece as small as a quarter-pound, or order an entire halva cake.

    While you’re at it, treat yourself to a jar of the company’s rich, silky tahini in herb, organic and organic whole seed; and two sesame spices, mixes of sesame with salt or za’atar.

     

    RECIPE: HALVA ICED COFFEE

    Seed + Mill adapted this recipe from Ben of Havoc In The Kitchen. He found it in a Russian food magazine, where it was originally made with peanut halva.

    The shake-like drink does nicely as a snack, a dessert or, with the whiskey, an after-dinner drink.

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 2 cups strong brewed coffee, chilled
  • 1/3 cup peanut or sesame halva
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • Optional: 2-3 tablespoons whiskey (or to taste)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the coffee, halva, ice cubes and ice cream in a blender. Process for 5 minutes or until smooth and foamy.

    2. STRAIN and discard the tiny pieces of halva and the coffee will be silky and smooth.

     

    Halva Iced Coffee

    [105] Serve halva iced coffee with alone or with halva dessert plate.

     
    3. RINSE the bowl of the blender, return the strained coffee and blend for another 2 minutes and to foam.
     
    ________________

    *The word is transliterated from Arabic, so either halva or halvah is correct.

    †Sesame seeds are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Here’s a nutrition profile.

      

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