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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 TheNibble.com,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Vegan

TIP OF THE DAY: Rich, Creamy Almond Milk

Some people never touch a glass of milk, but we love it. We can drink two eight-ounce glasses a day. That’s in addition to cereal milk, yogurt and other milk-based products.

Our brother is the same. So we were surprised recently when he asked if we’d like a few quarts of almond milk; he had purchased too much.

Why? A physician had suggested that he cut back on cholesterol. He found that he preferred the rich, creamy taste of almond milk to fat-free cow’s milk (plant-based foods are cholesterol free). He also likened the flavored varieties—Chocolate, Coconut, Vanilla—to milkshakes without the calories.

Almond milk can be used in just about any recipe calling for cow’s milk: in baking, hot and cold beverages, sauces and soups. The only significant limitation is in recipes that require cow’s milk starches to thicken, such as custard, pudding and yogurt. You need to add other thickening agents.

Another benefit: You need never run out of milk. Brands like Almond Breeze have shelf stable versions. Just store extra cartons in the pantry. Like Parmalat brand cow’s milk, no refrigeration is required until the container is opened.

TRENDS: WHAT’S HAPPENING TO MILK IN AMERICA

   

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Almond milk is our favorite of the nondairy milk alternatives. Photo courtesy Juice Queen.

 
For decades, cow’s milk consumption per capita has been on the decline, as newer generations—even pre-teens—drink coffee and soft drinks instead of a glass of milk. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumption across all age groups dropped 25% in the 37 years between 1975 and 2012.

Since 1999, according to market research firm Euromonitor, plant-based alternatives, called non-dairy milks, have grown in annual sales by an average of 10.9%. They are now a $1 billion-plus category in domestic retail sales.

The trend is based on personal factors, largely allergies, kosher and vegan diets, lactose intolerance and sustainable lifestyles*.
 
*Cow manure and flatulence produces huge amounts of methane, a major greenhouse gas. Here’s more information.
 
NON-DAIRY MILKS

Twenty years ago, the option for non-dairy milk at supermarkets was soy milk. Then rice milk arrived. Today, the list is threefold larger:

  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Oat milk
  • Rice milk
  • Soy milk
  •  
    Which one you choose should depend on two factors: taste preference and nutritional components. For example, if you want the milk to supplement your protein intake, look at the nutrition label. Some have more protein and other nutrients, some add nutrients equal to fortified cow’s milk (cow’s milk usually has added vitamin D; reduced fat varieties have added vitamin A). Some may contain additives you don’t want, from lecithin to sugar.

    As the disclaimer goes, speak with your healthcare professional before making any changes.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/Califia Chocolate and Vanilla 2301

    The problem with flavored almond milk: It tastes so much like a shake, you can drink buckets of it. The good news: These 10.5- ounce portions have only 30 calories and 6 grams of protein. Photo courtesy Califia Farms.

       
    HOW THE MILK ALTERNATIVES COMPARE

    Almond milk doesn’t have the protein of cow’s milk, but it is lower in calories and some brands add calcium and vitamins during processing. The key benefit for us is the mild taste. You probably wouldn’t even notice if someone replaced almond milk for cow’s milk in your coffee. A close second to soy in terms of sales, almond milk is the non-dairy milk with the largest annual sales increases.

    Coconut milk (the drinkable milk in a carton, not to be confused with the canned coconut milk for cooking and cocktails) has a noticeable amount of coconut flavor. If coconut is one of your favorite flavors and you want to taste it every time you use milk, then this is your milk alternative. While coconut milk is low in calcium and protein, on the good side it is also low in calories.

    Hemp milk is a product that people either love or hate. Personally, we don’t like the earthy flavor in a milk product. Like rice milk, it is an option for people who have nut and soy allergies.

    Rice milk can be gritty and watery. It is also higher in calories, carbs and sugar, lower in calcium and a poor source of protein. It is best for people who have nut and soy allergies.

     
    Soy milk is tasty when flavored, but in its plain form, we don’t like the beany aftertaste. Perhaps that’s why Starbucks eschews plain soy milk in flavor of sweetened vanilla soy milk as its only non-dairy alternative. Soy milk has the most protein of the non-dairy milks; but on the down side, processed soy isoflavones can affect hormones, raising the risk for breast cancer; they can also depress thyroid function. Unless it’s organic, soy milk is likely made with GMO soybeans. Soy is the highest milk alternative in sales, but that’s because it’s been around for so long and anyone who has drunk it for years has no incentive to change. But almond milk is closing in!

    Other non-dairy milks are on the shelves, and no doubt more will follow.

    Cashew milk is beloved by our vegan expert Hannah Kaminsky, who drinks and cooks only with non-dairy milks. We should have tried it by now, but are too enthralled by almond milk.

    We tried oat milk once, and didn’t care for it. Ditto with flax milk. Be your own judge.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Dave’s Killer Bread

    Milwaukie, Oregon, founded in 1847 on the banks of the Willamette River and now a suburb of Portland, is also known as the the birthplace of the Bing cherry. But soon, it may be known as the birthplace of Dave’s Killer Bread.

    Dave’s Killer Bread is “the best bread in the universe,” according to the company website.

    While we might add other favorite breads in the tie for “best,” Dave’s Killer Bread is up there. It’s the #1, best-selling organic bread in the U.S.

    And it is, indeed, killer: all natural, whole grain breads packed with protein, fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and great flavor. Whole grain bread has never tasted better.

    The line of organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan whole grain breads began 10 years ago with Blues Bread (with blue cornmeal). You can tell how much the locals love “DKB”: That original loaf has expanded to 14 different killer breads ranging in flavor and texture, plus dinner rolls and a whole grain cinnamon roll. The line now sold nationwide.

    We tried samples of two varieties and are converts. This is the best seeded, whole grain bread we can imagine. We wouldn’t use anything else for sandwiches and toast.

       

    guac-sandwich-yvonne-triedandtasty-230

    Photo courtesy Yvonne | TriedAndTasty.com.

     

     

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    PowerSeed has 6g protein, 6g fiber and 500 mg omega 3 per slice. And it’s delicious! Photo courtesy Dave’s Killer Bread.

     

    A Cornucopia Of Delicious, Better-For-You Breads

  • Blues Bread, rolled in organic blue cornmeal, giving it a crunchy crust and sweet flavor. 5g protein, 4g fiber, 340mg omega 3, 130 calories per slice.
  • Good Seed, with the boldest texture and sweetest flavor of the breads. 6g protein, 4g fiber, 670mg omega 3, 130 calories per slice.
  • 100% Whole Wheat, with a smooth texture and a touch of sweetness (try it as French toast). 4g protein, 3g fiber, 90mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • Powerseed, sweetened with organic fruit juices instead of sugar, 6g protein, 6g fiber, 500 mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • Rockin’ Rye, with a seedless crust and soft texture. 6g protein, 4g fiber, 130mg omega 3, 120 calories per slice.
  • Seeded Honey Wheat, with nearly 4 tablespoons of pure organic honey packed into each loaf, the sweet taste and crunchy texture make Seeded Honey Wheat an instant favorite. 5g protein, 5g fiber, 100mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • Spelt, with a smooth texture and an earthy, nutty flavor. 5g protein, 4g fiber, 410mg omega 3, 130 calories per slice.
  • Sprouted Wheat, with bold flavor and crunchy texture. 6g protein, 4g fiber, 840mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • 21 Whole Grains and Seeds, with a hearty texture, subtle sweetness, and a seed-coated crust. 6 protein, 5g fiber, 220mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • It that’s not enough, there are:

  • Thin Slice Breads, five versions of the most popular loaves, with calories from 60-90 slice (compared to 110-130 for the regular breads).
  • Buns, dinner rolls and hamburger buns.
  • Cinnamon Roll, called Sin Dawg, a whole grain, baguette-shape treat.
  •  
    What’s in those breads? Depending on the loaf, you’ll get:

  • Whole grains: barley, blue cornmeal, brown rice, buckwheat, cracked rye, cracked whole wheat, Kamut khorasan wheat, millet, quinoa, rolled oats, rye, spelt, sorghum, triticale, whole wheat flour, yellow cornmeal
  • Seeds: amaranth, black sesame seeds, brown sesame seeds, flaxseeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, unhulled sesame seeds
  •  
    Bread lovers: Get up, go out and get some! Here’s a store locator.

    Or, order online.

    Thanks, Dave, for each delicious bite.

      

    Comments

    RECIPES: Vegan, Delicious Tempeh

    asian_noodle_bowl_with_seared_tempeh_lightlife-230

    Make this delicious Asian Noodle Bowl for lunch or dinner. Photo courtesy Lightlife.

     

    You may have read last week that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its 2015 report. The Committee urges Americans to eat less processed meat and turn to plant-based diets for a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

    Remember Meatless Mondays? If you’re not already observing them, here’s a nudge via a delicious recipe for net Monday. It uses tempeh, a meat substitute made from soybeans.

     
    TEMPEH VS. TOFU: THE DIFFERENCES

    Tempeh is a soy-based product that originated in Indonesia, where it is a staple protein. It is made by a natural culturing and a controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty.

    Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. It has a higher content of protein, dietary fiber and vitamins.

    Tempeh has a firm texture and an earthy flavor, and is used worldwide as a meat substitute.

     

    TOFU VS. TEMPEH

  • Production: Tofu, also known as been curd, is made by curdling fresh, hot soy milk* with a coagulant. Tempeh is made by fermenting cooked soybeans with a mold. Because it is fermented, it is easier to digest than tofu among people with a sensitivity to beans.
  • Format: Tofu is sold in pillowy blocks packed in water, in five different degrees of softnes from silken to extra firm. Tempeh is sold in flat, rectangular pieces, about eight inches long, with a chewy consistency like meat.
  • Color: Tofu is white, smooth and moist. Tempeh is brownish, rough (you can see the whole soybeans ) and dry.
  • Consistency: Tofu is soft, smooth and spongy. Tempeh is firm and chewy.
  • Flavor: Tofu has hardly any flavor; it takes on the taste of other ingredients. Tempeh has a slight earthy/nutty, sweet flavor. You can find versions mixed with brown rice, flax or other grains.
  •  
    How Do they Differ From Seitan?

    Seitan is made from wheat gluten. Like tempeh, it is high in protein with a texture similar to meat,

     
    *Soy milk in turn is made from dried, ground, filtered and boiled soybeans.

     

    RECIPE: ASIAN NOODLE BOWL WITH SEARED TEMPEH

    This delicious recipe can be served as a main course or a first course. It makes two main courses or four first courses or wraps.

    The recipe is courtesy of Lightlife, which used its organic soy tempeh.

    Ingredients

    For The Sweet & Sour Sauce

  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
  •  
    For The Tempeh Noodles

  • 1 package (8 ounces) soy tempeh
  • 6 ounces thin rice noodles (vermicelli style)
  • 1/8 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  •  

    lightlife-organic-tempeh-230

    Look for tempeh in any natural foods market, including Whole Foods. Photo courtesy Lightlife.

  • 2/3 cup matchstick-cut red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch strips
  • 1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrot, cut into 1 1/2 inch strips
  • 1/2 cup snow peas, thin diagonally sliced
  • 2 large green onions, diagonally sliced
  • Optional garnish: fresh basil leaves chiffonade, cilantro sprig, 1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE sauce; set aside.

    2. PLACE the noodles in large bowl. Pour boiling water over the noodles to cover. Let stand about 10 minutes or until softened. Rinse with cold water; squeeze to drain well.

    3. CUT the noodles in half or thirds; return noodles to the bowl. Add the sesame oil; toss until evenly coated. Set the noodles aside. Meanwhile…

    4. HEAT 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in medium-heavy skillet. Add half of the tempeh in a single layer. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and crisp, turning the pieces over halfway during cooking. Transfer to a medium bowl. Repeat with another tablespoon of the oil and the remaining tempeh. Pour half of the sauce over the tempeh; toss to coat and set the tempeh aside.

    5. ADD the remaining teaspoon of oil to the hot skillet, along with the bell pepper, carrot, green onions and snow peas. Cook and stir about 1 minute or until crisp-tender. Transfer to the bowl with the noodles. Add the tempeh mixture; gently toss until combined.

    6. SERVE: Spoon the noodle mixture into individual bowls and drizzle with the remaining sauce. Garnish with basil, cilantro or sesame seeds.
     
    Variation: Asian Noodle Wraps with Seared Tempeh

    Serve the tempeh in lettuce leaf wraps.

    1. PREPARE the noodle mixture as directed above.

    2. SPOON about 1/2 cup of the noodle mixture onto each of 12 large leaf or iceberg lettuce leaves; fold or roll up. Serve with remaining sauce for dipping. Makes about 12 wraps or 4 servings.

    For more delicious tempeh recipes, head to Lightlife.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Crispy Fried Cauliflower (Lashooni Gobi)

    Junoon is one of the most popular Indian restaurants among gourmand New Yorkers. The name, which means passion, interprets Indian cuisine with a modern spin. The space is large and comfortable, unusual for New York City. And the food: Well, it inspires passion.

    While many American home cooks are wary of taking on Indian cuisine without the benefit of a class or an expert friend, here’s one of Junoon’s dishes that’s easy to make. The Indian name is Lahsooni Gobi, but Crispy Fried Cauliflower sounds so much more tempting.

    We love cauliflower in all its forms, plain and fancy. But here, lightly battered and tossed in a tomato garlic sauce, this hearty appetizer or side will make even those who don’t typically crave cauliflower want more.

    No eggs are used in the batter because in India, eggs are not part of a vegetarian diet (this recipe is actually vegan). This recipe is also gluten-free. Chef Vikas Khanna notes, “I use rice flour here, not just for its superior crisping quality but also for people who are gluten sensitive. It’s a warm and homey dish and can easily be adjusted in terms of heat and garlic to suit anyone’s palate.”

     

    crispy-fried-cauliflower-junoon-worleygig-ps-230

    Junoon’s delicious Crispy Fried Cauliflower. Photo courtesy Worleygig.

     

    RECIPE: LAHSOONI GOBI, CRISPY CAULIFLOWER

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 medium sized head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • Vegetable oil for frying, plus 2 tablespoons to make the sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ½ cup rice flour
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or more to taste
  • ¼ cup tomato purée
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Two pinches salt
  • Two pinches sugar
  • Two pinches ketjiap spice (recipe below)
  • Garnish: 2 sprigs cilantro
  •  

    cauliflower-beauty-goodeggs-230

    Turn an everyday cauliflower into something special. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. SPRINKLE 2 teaspoons of sea salt evenly over the cauliflower and let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.

    2. PREHEAT the oil to 350°F: Heat two tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and ginger, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

    3. ADD the tomato purée, water, cayenne pepper, sugar, salt and ketjiap spice; mix well with a whisk until combined. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary just before serving.

    4. PREPARE the batter by quickly blending the rice flour and water together in a large bowl. Coat the florets in the batter by placing all of the florets in the bowl. Toss gently and then carefully drop the florets into the hot oil. Fry the cauliflower until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

    5. BRING the sauce to a simmer over medium heat and then add the cauliflower to the pan. Stir and toss gently to coat the cauliflower with the sauce until well combined. Serve the cauliflower in a bowl garnished with cilantro.

     

    KETJIAP SPICE MIX

    Ketijap is a traditional Indonesian spice mix used for the many different sauces that are loosely called cat-siop and ketjiap (and other spellings*). A pinch or two livens up soups and sauces. You can keep the spice tightly covered in a cool, dark place for up to two months.

  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon mace flakes†
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, preferably tellicherry
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY TOAST the whole spices in a small heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat for about one minute.

    2. COOL, then grind to a fine powder with the cinnamon in a spice grinder.
     
    *Yes, this is the origin of our word catsup/ketchup, although our familiar tomato ketchup was a New World invention. Here’s the history of ketchup.

    †It can be difficult to find mace flakes, also called mace blades, in consumer markets. Use ground mace instead.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Harvest Pumpkin, Seasonal Tortilla Chips From Food Should Taste Good

    How delicious are the fall flavor tortilla chips from Food Should Taste Good?

    Very delicious! You can enjoy them plain, with a savory or sweet dip, or as “fall nachos.”

    • Harvest Pumpkin tortilla chips are as good as eating a cookie. Deftly spiced with cinnamon, clove, allspice and nutmeg (and a touch of cane sugar), stone ground corn is mixed with pumpkin, spices, sea salt.
    • Sweet Potato tortilla chips, which are made with a touch of sugar, can be served with fruit salsa, raspberry jam or apple butter; served with ginger snap dip, or instead of cookies with vanilla ice cream.

    The all natural line is certified gluten free, certified vegan and OU kosher. The snack contains 19 grams of whole grains per serving. (The USDA recommends 48 grams of whole grains daily.)

     
    RECIPE #1: GINGERSNAP DIP

    This recipe, adapted from Taste Of Home, makes a “dessert dip.” For a less sweet dip, cut the sugar in half or eliminate it entirely.

       

    sweet-potato-pumpkin-kaminsky-230

    Sweet Potato and Harvest Pumpkin tortilla chips from Food Should Taste Good. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

    Ingredients For 3 Cups

    • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
    • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
    • 1 carton (8 ounces) plain Greek yogurt
    • 1 package (16 ounces) gingersnaps

     
     
    *You can combine equal amounts of allspice, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg or adapt the spices and proportions to your preferences.>
     
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl until fluffy. Beat in the yogurt.

    2. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve.

     

    gingersnap-dip-tasteofhome-230

    Gingersnap dip for cookies or seasonal tortilla chips. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.

     

    RECIPE #2: BISCOFF SPREAD DIP

    Biscoff Spread looks like peanut butter but smells like gingerbread and is nut-free. It is made from spice cookies, called spéculoos cookies in Belgium, where they are the national cookie—a variation of gingerbread. (The cookies are called Belgian spice cookies in the U.S.)

    The name Biscoff is a combination of “biscuits and coffee,” a nod to enjoying the cookies with your cup of java. The spread, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week, was the winner of a recipe competition in Belgium that was held by the largest producer of the cookies. The winning concept: Grind the cookies into a “cookie spread” that can be enjoyed an alternative to Nutella or peanut butter.

    Biscoff Spread is available at supermarkets nationwide and onlineonline; Trader Joe’s sells a private label version called Cookie Spread. In Europe, the generic version is called spéculoos spread.

    This recipe, which was originally developed for dipping fruit and cookies, is equally delicious with pumpkin and sweet potato tortilla chips.

     
    Ingredients For 4 To 6 Servings

    • 1/4 cup Biscoff Spread
    • 1 container plain lowfat yogurt (6 ounces or 3/4 cup)†
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    Plus

  • Pumpkin and/or sweet potato tortilla chips for serving
  •  
    Optional Fruit To Serve Alongside The Chips

    • 1 red apple, washed and cored, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
    • 1 small banana, peeled, cut into 1-inch slices
    • 1 cup whole or halved strawberries, washed and dried
    • 1 ripe pear, washed, dried and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, or other favorite dipping fruit

     
    †Or, use lowfat vanilla yogurt and omit the vanilla extract.
     
    Preparation

    1. WHISK together the Biscoff Spread and yogurt until smooth.

    2. WHISK in vanilla and cinnamon. Place in small serving bowl. Serve with chips and optional fruit.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Pastilla, Bastilla, Bisteeya, B’stilla

    pastilla-moroccan-kaminsky-230

    Alluring and delicious. Photo © Hannah
    Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Pastilla, pronounced “bastilla” in the Arabic of North Africa, is a traditional Moroccan dish that crossed the Straits of Gilbraltar from Andalusia, Spain. It is transliterated from the Arabic pastilla, bastilla, bisteeya, b’stilla or bstilla.

    It all means “delicious,” says Hannah Kaminsky.

    Traditionally served as a first course of a special meal, this squab pie with flaky, crêpe-like dough is more often made with chicken these days. Fish, offal and vegetarian recipes are also made.

    In traditional recipes, the meat is slow-cooked in broth and spices, then shredded and layered in the pastry with toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar.

    “I may have never known about the wonders of pastilla, the mysterious pastry with a half-dozen different spellings, if not for the ethereal prose of Fatima Mernissi,” says Hannah. “So inspired by her lavish, unrestrained words of praise, this was my call to action, to secure a literal piece of the pie for myself.”

    Looking for a vegan substitute, she turned to chickpeas, noting:

     
    “Most curious with pastilla is the incongruous addition of powdered sugar right before serving; a light dusting of confectionery snow, frosting a decidedly savory main course.

    “Humbly, I must admit, it does work, tempering the hot, bold and intense spices without turning the pastry into a dessert. Though it could still taste equally delicious without the sugar, for those as hesitant as myself, I must urge you to just give it a shot.”
     
    RECIPE: CHICKPEA PASTILLA

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (14-ounces) chickpeas (1-3/4 cups cooked), drained
  • 1/2 cup coarse almond meal
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8-10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • Optional: confectioner’s sugar to garnish
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a 6-inch round springform pan.

    2. HEAT 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar; cook for 8-10 minutes while stirring frequently, until lightly golden and aromatic. Add the ground cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne, cooking for a minute or two longer to gently toast the spices.

    3. ADD the drained chickpeas and almond meal, stirring to combine, before slowly pouring in the broth and lemon juice together. Cook for another minute to heat through and slightly thicken the mixture. It should be thoroughly moistened but not soupy. Season with salt to taste. Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.

    4. LAY 1 sheet of phyllo across the bottom of the prepared springform pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges. Lightly brush with the remaining olive oil, and then place another sheet of phyllo on top, turning it slightly so that the points stick out at different angles. Repeat this process so that you end up with 4-5 sheets lining the pan, covering the sides completely.

     

    baklava-wiki-star-230

    This baklava, made in a star-shaped cup, shows the numerous layers of phyllo dough. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

     

    5. SPOON the chickpea filling into the center, smoothing it out so that it fills the pan evenly. If you end up with a bit too much filling to comfortably squeeze in, you can always use leftover sheets of phyllo later, to make individual parcels.

    6. COVER the filling with another sheet of phyllo, brush with olive oil and repeat the same process as before, ending up with another 4-5 sheets on top. Fold the overhanging dough back over the top, smoothing it down as neatly as you can. Give it a final brush of olive oil before sliding it into the oven.

    7. BAKE for 15-18 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pie until it is golden brown (it cooks quickly at this high temperature). Let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding. Sift a fine dusting of confectioner’s sugar on top right before serving.

    THE HISTORY OF PHYLLO DOUGH

    Phyllo (FEE-low), fillo or filo is the traditional dough of the Greek, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. It is used for pastries from the sweet, like baklava (with honey and nuts) to the savory, like spanakopita (spinach and feta).

    Phyllo means “leaf” in Greek, and refers to the many tissue-thin leaves (so thin you can read through them) of unleavened flour sheets that comprise the dough. The paper-thin layers are separated by a thin film of butter.

    The earliest form of the dough was made in the 8th century B.C.E. in northern Mesopotamia, when the Assyrians made an early version of baklava, layering very thin pieces of dough with nuts and honey, and baking them in wood-burning ovens.

    The practice of stretching raw dough into paper-thin sheets is believed to have evolved in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, based on Central Asian prototypes.

    Greek seamen brought the concept home, and Athenian bakers created phyllo, the leaf-thin layers of dough, as early as the 3rd century B.C.E. Given the labor required, it was served in wealthy Greek households for special occasions.

    The dough (flour, water, oil and white vinegar) was made by gently rolling, stretching or pressing into the ultra-thin sheets. This takes time and skill, requiring progressive rolling and stretching into a single thin and very large sheet. A very large table and a long roller are required, with continous flouring between layers to prevent tearing.

    Machines for producing phyllo pastry were perfected in the 1970s. Today, phyllo is made by machine and available in the freezer section of most food stores, or fresh in some specialty markets.

    In preparation for baking, the dough is brushed with butter or oil; it must be worked with quickly as it dries with exposure to air. It can be cut into sheets and layered in a tin, cut into individual rolls or rolled up as one large roll.

    In any form, it is delicious!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sea Asparagus & Other Sea Vegetables

    Today’s tip is: Keep your eyes open for new foods. Then, share them with foodie friends.

    Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog discovered sea asparagus—a vegetable that grows in or adjacent to salt water—on a recent trip to Hawaii. Sea asparagus grows in warm salt marshes and on beaches, there for the foraging. It is harvested wild, and also cultivated.

    What Is Sea Asparagus

    Sea asparagus (Salicornia europaea), also known as glasswort, samphire or sea beans, is a tender, green, spindly stalk that resembles tiny land-grown asparagus (although they are not related). It is a member of the Amaranthaceae family, which includes everything from amaranth, a high-protein grain, to ornamental cockscomb and picturesque tumbleweed.

    Sea asparagus can be purchased fresh in areas where it is harvested, and packaged in specialty food markets. You can purchase it fresh, frozen, pickled (this year’s stocking stuffer?) and in other forms (sea pesto, powdered seasoning) from Olakai Hawaii. The season in British Columbia is currently “in full swing,” according to West Coast Seaweed, another e-tailer.

    Fresh sea asparagus can be eaten raw, pickled or steamed (and then tossed in butter or olive oil); in a salad, as a side dish or a garnish (see the sushi photo below). Dried sea vegetables can be added directly to soups or stews and to the cooking liquid of beans or rice.

       

    sea-asparagus-salad-kaminsky-230

    Invite a new vegetable to lunch or dinner. Sea asparagus photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    No Extra Salt Required

    “Absorbing the sea salt like a sponge, sea asparagus can be quite salty if not thoroughly rinsed, and should never be salted no matter what else you add to it,” says Hannah. “Slightly crunchy when raw or par-cooked, it’s an exotic delight, and a surprise given my experience with flat, gelatinous, and/or stringy sea vegetables. As long as I can find sea asparagus, you can be sure that this salad will find its way to my table.”

    Hannah’s recipe was inspired by the serving suggestion printed on the label for Olakai sea asparagus, purchased in Hawaii. Hannah combined them with other local pleasures: tiny currant tomatoes, a local product even smaller than grape tomatoes, and sweet Maui onions.

    You can add a protein to turn the recipe into a luncheon salad. Consider grilled or smoked salmon (which makes the Hawaiian recipe lomi lomi), tofu, canned tuna, grilled fish or seafood. We used raw scallops: delicious!

    RECIPE: SEA ASPARAGUS SALAD

    Ingredients For 2-3 Side Dish Servings

  • 4 ounces fresh sea asparagus
  • 1 ounce sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces currant tomatoes (substitute halved cherry or grape tomatoes)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SNIP off any brown ends on the sea asparagus before rinsing them thoroughly under hot water. Toss them in a bowl along with the diced onion, oil and lemon juice.

    2. MASSAGE the vegetables with your fingers for a minute or two, just to tenderize the stalks slightly. Add the tomatoes and mix to distribute throughout the salad.

    3. SERVE immediately or chill. The salad will keep for up to two days. Don’t be tempted to add any salt, since sea asparagus is already infused with sodium from the sea.

     

    sea_asparagus_inari-tastyislandhawaii-230

    Sea vegetables as a garnish, here on inari
    sushi. Photo courtesy TastyIslandHawaii.com.

     

    WHAT ARE SEA VEGETABLES

    Vegetables don’t grow only on land. If you’re a fan of Japanese food, you’ve probably had one or more types of seaweed—a salad of hijiki or wakame, the nori wrapper of sushi rolls or a bowl of dashi (clear soup) made from kombu (kelp).

    Sea vegetables are loaded with of chlorophyll, dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals from the ocean, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamins A and C and trace minerals such as iodine and vanadium. Many health food advocates eat them for the nutrition (details).

    Sea asparagus, in particular, is an excellent source of calcium, iron and vitamins A, B2, B9 (folic acid), plus dietary fiber, amino acids and minerals.

    Look for sea vegetables in natural food stores in dried form. Just soak them in water for 10 minutes and they’re ready to use.

    If you like seaweed salad, you’ll like a mixed sea vegetable salad—say, arame/hijiki, dulse, sea palm and wakame. Try a mirin-tamari-ginger juice-soy sauce marinade, or a simple rice vinegar, olive oil and sesame oil vinaigrette.

     
    POPULAR SEA VEGETABLES

  • Agar Agar. Also called kanten or Japanese gelatin, agar agar is a clear, tasteless alternative to animal or chemical-based gelatin. It is sold in opaque flakes and dissolves in hot liquid. It thickens at room temperature and is used to firm up confections, jellies, pies and puddings.
  • Arame. These thin, wiry black shreds of seaweed have a sweet, mild flavor. In Western cuisine, they can be added to green salads, omelets, pasta salads, quiches and stir-fries.
  • Dulse. This reddish brown sea veggie is sold as dried whole stringy leaves or a powdered condiment. The leaves have a chewy texture and can be eaten like jerky; or, they can be pan-fried in sesame oil and added to salads or sandwiches. It is not reconstituted, but used as is.
  • Kombu. Thick, dark purple kombu is sold in strips or sheets. It’s the principal ingredient of the Japanese broth, dashi; and can be added to Western recipes in the liquid for beans, rice or soup.
  • Nori. Nori can be dark purple to blackish green in color. It is best known as the thin, flat sheets of toasted seaweed used to make sushi rolls (the sheets are not reconstituted, but used as is). It’s also available untoasted, and plain or flavored snack strips have become quite popular. We use julienned nori as a garnish for rice, soups, salads, casseroles or grains either crushed into flakes or cut into strips. Nori is also available in a flakes with a seasoning mix of sesame seeds, salt and sugar, called nori komi furikake. If you like nori, get some: You’ll enjoy it.
  • Sea Palm. This vegetable, brownish-green in color, looks just like a miniature palm tree. It’s also called American arame and is harvested from America’s Pacific Coast. Sweet and salty, it can be enjoyed it raw or sautéed, in soups or in salads.
  • Wakame. We always look forward to a bowl of silky, tender wakame-su, wakame seaweed marinated in rice vinegar. It is also a popular addition to Japanese soups.
  •  
    Ready, set: Enjoy discovering the world of sea vegetables.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Meatless Monday

    veggie-burger-morningstar-230

    A delicious veggie burger for Meatless
    Monday. Photo courtesy Morningstar.

     

    Meatless Monday is a global movement that began in 2003, launched in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It is now active in 34 countries and growing, with appeal to different constituencies:

  • Environmentally concerned citizens who want to cut back on the damage that raising animal crops does to the planet.
  • Nutrition advocates who aim for a diet lower in cholesterol, a harmful animal fat.
  • Vegetarians and vegans, who support ethical treatment of animals and want everyone to eat less (or no) meat.
  •  
    But it doesn’t go far enough. Eating “meatless” still allows the consumption of dairy products including cheese, which are part of the same cycle of environmental damage and cholesterol.

    Instead, go vegan. You don’t give up much more, and the options are equally delicious.

     

    Just a few examples:

  • Asian vegetarian dishes
  • Pasta Primavera
  • Portabella and other veggie burgers
  • Vegan lines like Field Roast’s delicious vegan meat products and Vegetarian Plus, gourmet vegan entrées
  • Vegan sushi
  • Vegan wrap sandwiches (recipes)
  •  
    Here’s a tasty family recipe from Hannah Kaminsky: vegan cheesesteaks.

    All you need are vegan cheese and vegan steak. Given the growth of top-quality vegan foods, that’s not hard to find.

    Hannah favors Daiya vegan cheese for the burger. “A pivotal player in the vegan cheese game,” she writes, “no other dairy-free shreds have achieved mainstream approval, initially making a splash back in 2009 as the very first meltable vegan cheese option.” Today, the company sells vegan slices that imitate the flavors of cheddar, Swiss and provolone.

     

    “These are not fine cheeses you’d want to eat plain, on a cracker or otherwise uncooked,” says Hannah. “Where they really come to life is under a hot broiler, melted down to gooey, creamy, and yes, stretchy sheets. Mild but with a pronounced tang and satisfying salty accent, they’re appropriately rich, imparting an addictive sort of fattiness upon any dish.”

    In her recipe, soy curls—available in natural foods stores—soaked in mushroom broth stand in for the steak, “tossed with lightly charred onions and roasted peppers, all smothered under a blanket of that prize-worthy provolone cheese. Altogether, it’s the kind of dish you could use to convert meat-lovers, cheese-lovers, and generally picky omnivores alike.”
     
    RECIPE: VEGAN CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients For 3 Sandwiches

  • 1-1/2 cups (about 2.8-3 ounces) dry soy curls
  • 1-1/2 cups mushroom broth
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup reserved mushroom broth
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 hoagie rolls, split and toasted
  • 9 slices provolone-style Daiya cheese
  •  

    vegan-cheesesteak-hannahkaminsky-230

    Vegan cheesesteak for Meatless Monday. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the dry soy curls in a large bowl; cover with warm mushroom broth and let soak for 15-20 minutes, until the soy curls are fully re-hydrated and tender. Pour off (but reserve) any excess liquid.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté, stirring often, until aromatic browned around the edges. Add the bell pepper, oregano and pepper and continue cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are wilted and soft; about 5 minutes.

    3. REDUCE the heat to low, sprinkle the vegetables with flour and stir to coat. Gently pour in 1/4 cup of the reserved broth along with the soy sauce, bringing the mixture up to a simmer. After another two minutes, remove the pan from the heat.

    4. ASSEMBLE: Divide the soy curl filling between the three toasted rolls and lay three provolone slices on top of each. Run them all under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is perfectly melted and gooey all over. Dig in immediately!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegan Wraps For Earth Day

    We’re recommending vegan wraps for Earth Day. Animal-free foods are more sustainable, so today’s the day for a vegan lunch.

    These two recipes were sent to us from Red Rock Press, from their book, A White House Garden Cookbook by Clara Silverstein.

    Both are lettuce wraps, but you can also use tortilla wraps.

    The first recipe, Daniel and Annie’s Salad Wraps, originated in the children’s section of the New York Botanical Garden and contains the surprise—and optional—ingredient of an edible wildflower.

    You can serve these wraps with a dip, or spread mustard or Nasoya’s Nayonaise (excellent vegan mayonnaise) on the lettuce leaves before filling.

    RECIPE: DANIEL & ANNIE’S SALAD WRAPS

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 lettuce leaves, plus 6 more for slicing
  • Spread or dip of choice
  • 1 kohlrabi bulb or 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 5 radishes
  • 6 scallions
  • 6 mint or basil leaves (or more to taste)
  •  

    online-vegetarian-deli.com-230

    Thus wrap is packed with arugula, carrots, cucumber, lettuce and red cabbage. Photo courtesy Online-Vegetarian-Deli.com.

  • Garnish: edible flowers (such as Johnny jump-ups, chive blossoms or nasturtiums—read all about edible flowers)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH and dry the lettuce leaves. Peel and slice the kohlrabi. Wash and dice the radishes. Wash the scallions, and cut off and discard the root ends.

    2. LAY out 6 lettuce leaves on the counter top or a large plate. If using a spread, place atop leaves.

    3. CUT cut the remaining 6 leaves into ribbons with scissors. Into each lettuce leaf, lay some kohlrabi and radishes, 1 scallion (cut it in half if it’s too long), and 1 mint or basil leaf. Roll it up and pin closed with a toothpick as needed. Garnish the top with edible flowers.

    4. SERVE with your favorite dressing as a dip.

     

    tofu-hummus-wraps-housefoods-230

    Tofu hummus wraps, a vegan sandwich with
    the added protein of tofu. Photo courtesy
    House Foods.

     

    The second recipe, Lettuce Wrap Treats, is almost a dessert, folding dried fruits and nuts and a dab of vanilla yogurt into the lettuce leaf.

    And, it couldn’t be easier to make!

    If you want to present the ingredients as a “build your own,” each person can choose his or her own mix of ingredients.

    RECIPE: LETTUCE LEAF WRAPS

    Ingredients Per Wrap

  • 1 lettuce leaf*
  • Fillings: 1 tablespoon each of any or all of the following: chopped apples, chopped celery, walnuts or pecans, raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt (regular or vegan soy yogurt)
  •  
     
    *Pick the largest, most pliable lettuce leaves that you can find. Leaf lettuces work really well for this.
     
    Preparation

    1. RINSE the lettuce in cold water and pat dry between sheets of paper towels.

    2. ADD the fillings to the center of the leaf. Top with a dollop of vanilla yogurt.

    3. FOLD the lettuce lengthwise over the toppings and then fold up the ends, like a burrito or a little package. Use a toothpick to secure as needed. Pick up and eat!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lettuce Cups or Wraps

    tofu-lettuce-cups-230

    Lettuce cups: Fill them with something warm
    for a contrast with the cool, crunchy lettuce.
    Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    First introduced in Asian cuisines, lettuce wraps are now popping up on the menus of other types of restaurants and on the dinner table at home. We’ve really been enjoying this lettuce cups recipe as a light lunch or dinner.

    Sent to us by House Foods America from an original recipe by Mutsumi Gonzales, it’s a vegan recipe that we tried in celebration of Earth Month.

    But you can substitute the cubed protein of your choice—beef, chicken, pork, seafood—for the tofu.

    RECIPE: TOFU LETTUCE CUPS

    Ingredients

  • Crisp lettuce leaves
  • ½ package (7 ounces) firm tofu, drained well and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Garnishes: shredded carrots, chopped cilantro
  •  
    For The Sauce

  • 1-½ tablespoon miso (red or awase)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1-½ tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sake
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ teaspoon corn starch mixed with ¼ cup cold water
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT olive oil, garlic and tofu in a frying pan over moderately high heat. Cook until tofu and garlic are well toasted.

    2. ADD all the sauce ingredients and continue cooking for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and cornstarch mixture, stirring until the mixture thickens. Mix in walnuts.

    3. PLACE the warm mixture on lettuce cups, garnish with shredded carrots and chopped cilantro, and serve.

     

    LETTUCE CUPS & WRAPS

    Lettuce cups and wraps are very easy to make. The cups are just that—a base of lettuce topped with the filling.

    Wraps put the filling inside lettuce leaves and roll them up.

    You can fill them with an almost endless array of ingredient. Start with the ones that you use in burritos, pita, sandwiches, spring rolls or tortillas.

    The contrast of warm, flavorful fillings with the cool crunch of lettuce is a crowd pleaser and a calorie saver.
     
    HOW TO MAKE LETTUCE CUPS

    Use large, pliable lettuce leaves. Iceberg is most often used, but escarole, red leaf lettuce, radicchio, romaine or large spinach leaves are options. Wash and dry lettuce thoroughly.

    Here’s a demonstration.

     

    house-foods-firm-tofu-pkg_230

    House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Firm.

     

    To keep iceberg lettuce crisp, cut the core out. Fill the core with cold tap water, then drain for 15 minutes. It will stay crisp for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

    For a party, offer a variety of lettuces and fillings.

      

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