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Archive for Gourmet Foods

TIP OF THE DAY: A Pudding Parfait Is An Easy Dessert

Chocolate Pudding Parfait

Pudding Parfaits

Tiramisu Pudding Parfait

Butterscotch Pudding Parfait

[1] All chocolate pudding parfait (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers.) [2] Mixed flavors and garnishes (photo courtesy Yotel |NYC). [3] Tiramisu pudding parfait (photo courtesy The Vegan Cookie Fairy). [4] Butterscotch and vanilla pudding parfait (photo courtesy Gather By D’Amico).

 

It’s the annual crazy-busy holiday season. In the midst of gift shopping, holiday cooking and sending cards (or e-letters or whatever), there’s a stream of adult friends and kids’ friends dropping by, planned get-togethers and other celebrations. When you don’t have time to bake a cake (and don’t want to pay $$$ for them), the solution is pudding parfaits.

Instant pudding, cookie crumbs and a garnish make a pudding parfait with little work, but everyone will be delighted. In our home, there are always boxes of Jell-O pudding (regular and sugarless), cookies and some type of chocolate or candy.

With just 15 minutes advance notice—or while the coffee brews—you can make a pudding parfait.
Combinations:

  • All Chocolate Pudding Parfait: brownie base, chocolate dark chocolate pudding layer, milk chocolate pudding layer, garnished with whipped cream and any chocolate you like.
  • Banana Pudding Parfait: vanilla wafer crumbs, banana pudding, topped with a banana slice (you can caramelize the slices in advance and they won’t “brown”.
  • Butterscotch or Caramel Pudding Parfait: cake crumbs, butterscotch pudding, garnished with toffee chps
  • Cannoli Cream/Mascarpone Pudding Parfait: biscotti crumbs (substitute yellow or white cake), pudding or sweetened mascarpone, topped with cocoa drink powder, shaved chocolate, chocolate chips
  • Coffee/Tiramisu Pudding Parfait: coffee liqueur-soaked lady finger crumbs, coffee pudding, chocolate garnish
  • Lemon Pudding Parfait: butter cookies/shortbread, lemon pudding, lemon zest, tangerine garnish
  • Milk Chocolate/White Chocolate Pudding Parfait: topped with mini chocolate chips
  • Pistachio-Chocolate Pudding Parfait: cookie crumbs, pistachio pudding, chocolate pudding, pistachio nut garnish
  • Red Velvet/Chocolate Pudding Parfait: chocolate cookie crumbs, red velvet pudding, chocolate pudding, strawberry/raspberry garnish
  • Vanilla Pudding Parfait: chocolate cake crumbs, vanilla pudding, topped with drinking chocolate
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    NO COOKIES?

    Substitute:

  • Bread crumbs, slightly sweetened or spice
  • Cake, brownies or muffins, diced
  • Dessert sauce: caramel, chocolate, strawberry, etc.
  • Fruit, diced
  • Preserves, marmalade, sweet chutney
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    FOR ADULTS: LIQUEUR

    Add a hint of liqueur to:

  • Crumbs or other bottom layer
  • In-between layers
  • On top, as a garnish
  •  
    GARNISHES

    See what you have on hand:

  • Berry, fruit slice, orange/mandarin segment
  • Brandied or maraschino cherry
  • Brownie cube
  • Candies (allsorts licorice? candy corn? gummies? M&Ms/Nerds/Skittles, toffee bits?)
  • Chocolate chips (or other flavor)
  • Chocolate square, shaved or curled chocolate, cacao nibs
  • Citrus peel or grated zest
  • Coconut, grated
  • Mini biscotti, cookies, meringues
  • Mini marshmallows or a regular toasted marshmallow
  • Nuts
  • Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, slightly sweetened
  • Pocky sticks
  • Spices: clove, cinnamon, garam masala, nutmeg
  • Sprinkles or dragées
  • Sweet herbs: basil, chervil, lemon thyme, marjoram, mint, pink peppercorns, sage, sweet cicely, tarragon
  • Whipped cream, crème fraîche, mascarpone
  •  
    WHAT’S IN THE PHOTOS?

    [1] All Chocolate Parfait: chocolate cookie crumbs, chocolate pudding, chocolate mini chips.

    [2] Assorted Flavors: chocolate layered, vanilla, vanilla/chocolate layered, variously topped with candied orange peel, chopped nuts, cookie crumbs, mini meringue, strawberry, raspberry.

    [3] Tiramisu Parfait: chocolate cookie crumbs flavored with coffee liqueur, vanilla pudding flavored with coffee liqueur and instant coffee, topped with whipped cream and a chocolate wafer.

    [4] Double Pudding Parfait: chocolate and vanilla pudding layers, topped with whipped cream and a chocolate “cigarette.”

     
      

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    GIFTS OF THE DAY: Artisan Honey, Spicy Honey

    SAVANNAH BEE COMPANY ARTISAN HONEYS

    Anything from this wonderful company makes a great gift, including the honey beauty products. Since 2002, we’ve been avid customers.

    The company gathers varietal honeys:

  • Acacia Honey
  • Lavender Honey
  • Orange Blossom
  • Rosemary Honey
  • Sourwood Honey
  • Tupelo Honey
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    They’re sold in different sizes, with prices varying slightly by varietal. These prices are for the tupelo honey:

  • 3 ounce jars, $15.00 for a two-jar package
  • 12-ounce jar, $22.00, 12-ounce pump top jar, $27.00
  • 20-ounce flute, $38.00
  • 80 ounces (for foodservice, unless you eat a heck of a lot of honey), $150
  •  
    You can’t go wrong with anything, but if you need a recommendation:
     
    FOR ANYBODY: WHIPPED HONEY

  • In Original, Chocolate, Cinnamon or Lemon. The cinnamon version is nicely seasonal; the chocolate flavor is a must for chocolate lovers. There are also samplers.
  • This creamy honey spreads like butter. We especially like it for breakfast with toast or spooned into oatmeal or tea.
  • Anyone who has a jar may or may not admit to eating it by the spoonful as a snack.
  • A 12-ounce jar is $16.55, two 3-ounce jars are $12.00 (put one jar each into each of two stockings).
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    FOR THE CONNOISSEUR: TUPELO HONEY

       

    Savannah Bee Whipped Honey

    Savannah Bee Tupelo Honey

    [1] Whipped honey: spreadable in four luscious flavors. [2] Tupelo honey: 12-ounce jar, 20-ounce flute, 3-ounce jar (photos courtesy Savannah Bee).

     
    Tupelo honey is “the gold standard by which all other honey varieties are measured,” says company founder Ted Dennard. “It’s like a thick, slow-moving river of liquid sunshine.”

    For two weeks each spring, white tupelo trees in the Southeastern swamps bloom with flowers that glisten with nectar. The bees flock to the blossoms. The result: tupelo honey with its buttery undertones and mellow, clean sweetness.

    Tupelo honey complements numerous foods, and it’s definitely another one of those “eat from the spoon” delights.

    The entire line is certified kosher by KSA. Just try some on those latkes!

    NOTE: The honeys recommended here have nothing to do with “supermarket honey,” which is gathered overseas from many sources and blended to create a profile that will appeal to the lowest common denominator (with all due respect).
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HONEY

    THE HISTORY OF HONEY

     

    Bee's Knees Honey

    Bee's Knees Spicy Honey

    Oh honey: The spicy honey is one of our favorite new [to us] products of the year (photos courtesy Bushwick Kitchen).

      SOME LIKE IT HOT: CHILE PEPPER-INFUSED HONEY & OTHER SPECIAL FLAVORS

    Sugar with spice is certainly nice. We love the palate buzz that comes with the chile-infused honey from Bushwick Kitchen.

    Wildflower honey from New York State’s Hudson Valley is infused with fresh chiles in Brooklyn, delivering a New York state of mind that we love.

    The artisans also produce Meyer Lemon Honey and Salted Honey, flavored maple syrups and other products that we hope to try soon. Take a look at Bushwick Kitchen.

    The honey we’ve had several times (and loved so much we didn’t sufficiently pay attention to the other flavors) is the Bee’s Knees Spicy Honey. The honey is first infused, and for a finishing touch a single red chile is suspended in the bottle.

    This charmer of a hot honey condiment goes well with…

  • Berries and other fresh fruits
  • Beverages, including hot and iced tea, club soda and cocktails
  • Cakes and other baked goods
  • Cheese and charcuterie plates
  • Chicken and other poultry
  • Croissants, muffins and toast
  • Ice cream and sorbet
  • Ribs
  • Sandwiches and crostini
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    A 13½-ounce squeeze bottle is $15.95 at King Arthur Flour.

    But we bet your bottle won’t last the week. So…

    A gift set of all three bottles is $44.99 at Bushwick Kitchen.

    Honey Trivia: Honey is the oldest edible food, found in the tomb of a pharaoh. It doesn’t decay because it has virtually no moisture. That’s also why it was used to dress wounds in ancient times: No bacteria could survive to infect the injury.

    MORE HONEY TRIVIA

     

      

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    FOOD 101: It’s Repeal Day, Drink Some Real Gin

    On December 5th, in the spirit of Repeal Day—the repeal of the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution—raise a glass to your federal right to drink alcohol.

    In the winter of 1919, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, outlawing the production and consumption of alcohol in the United States.

    The original intent was to put an end to social misconduct, crime and family crisis—since on payday, too many breadwinners would squander much of their paychecks at the saloon, leading to brawling, inability to pay for rent and food, aggression at home, etc.

    Alas, instead of creating a better society, the law engendered the growth of organized crime, which was happy to bootleg, provide protection to speakeasies, and so on.

    Those who wanted to party at home found a way with bootlegged spirits, bathtub gin (which could cause blindness), and other horrors.

    After thirteen years of living with Prohibition, the 18th Amendment was repealed on December 5th, 1933 under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt*. The date has been referred to as “Repeal Day.”

    So celebrate your freedom from bathtub gin with one of the…

    TOP 12 GIN COCKTAILS

  • French 75, with champagne, lemon juice and simple syrup.
  • Gibson, a gin Martini with a cocktail onion replacing the olive.
  • Gimlet, with lime juice and simple syrup.
  • Gin Rickey, with lime juice and soda water.
  • Gin & Tonic, with tonic water.
  • Gin Fizz, with lemon juice, sugar and soda water.
  • Martini, the original made with gin, dry vermouth and an olive garnish.
  • Negroni, with Campari and sweet vermouth.
  • Pink Lady, with egg white and grenadine.
  • Tom Collins, with lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water.
  • Salty Dog, gin and grapefruit juice with a salt rim.
  • Singapore Sling, with benedictine, benedictine, bitters, cherry heering, Cointreau, lime juice and pineapple juice.
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    BATHTUB GIN: WHAT WAS IT?

    Gin was the predominant spirit in the 1920s. After the Volstead Act (which led to the 18th Amendment), bathtub gin was “of necessity” created in actual bathtubs or other large containers. The alcohol to make it was either purchased from bootleggers or from legitimate medical suppliers, which sold denatured or wood alcohol.

     

    Gin & Tonic

    Caviartini

    The Gin & Tonic, photo [1] (courtesy Drizzle And Drip) and the Martini, photo [2], courtesy Petrossian, vie to be the most popular gin drink in America. We’re wild about Petrossian’s Caviartini® garnish, caviar cubes made exclusively by the company.

     
    By mixing wood alcohol with other flavorings, such as the juniper berries that flavored real gin, and allowing the mixture to steep in a tub for hours or days, the wood alcohol became more drinkable.

    Many gin cocktails were created to cover up the less-than-ideal flavor of bathtub gin.

    Actual distillation requires a closed distillation apparatus; it can’t be done in an open container like a bathtub.

    The process for converting wood alcohol into a drinkable form was not always reliable, resulting in batches that were poisonous, often leading to blindness and even death: About 10,000 people died from drinking bad alcohol during Prohibition.

    ________________
    *Not everything was rosy after the 19th Amendment was passed, repealing Prohibition. Prohibition gave way to the start of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Constitution trivia: The 18th Amendment is the only one to be repealed; a total of 27 have been ratified. The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as The Bill Of Rights, were ratified together in 1791.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Feast Of The Seven Fishes, Anchovies With Bread & Butter

    Anchovies, Bread & Butter

    White Anchovies

    White Anchovies

    Stirato, Italian Baguette

    [1] Nonna Menna’s buttered bread with anchovies (photo courtesy Giulia Scarpaleggia). [2] We substitute pimiento for the capers (photo courtesy La Tienda). [3] You can use anchovy filets in olive oil or boquerones, marinated filets turned white by the vinegar (photo courtesy La Tienda). [4] Stirato is the closed Italian bread to the French baguette (photo courtesy Them Apples).

     

    You don’t have to be of Italian descent to create the traditional Feast Of The Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.

    We do it every year as a co-op event: Seven of us prepare the seven fish/seafood dishes, and the eighth makes dessert. (Note: With seven courses, the portions are smaller.)

    If you’re having a “regular” Christmas Eve party, set out the Feast Of The Seven Fishes as a buffet.

    We live near a good Italian bakery and can pick up stirato, the Italian bread closest to a baguette; but you can bake it yourself.

    Or buy baguettes!

    It’s a splendid feast, with opera playing in the background (or Christmas carols or Il Volo, if you prefer).

    For menu suggestions and a backgrounder on the holiday, check out our:

  • 2009 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2010 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2014 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2015 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  •  
    RECIPE #1: OUR 2016 APPETIZER

    As we sit around the sofa with bottles of wine, warming up for the main meal, we’re having a bread and butter with anchovies, inspired by the Tuscan grandmother of food writer Giulia Scarpaleggia. Nonna Menna added capers as well.

    “Just use quality ingredients,” says Giulia, “because there are no tricks nor deceits!” You can even…
     
    HAVE A TASTING, COMPARING THE DIFFERENT BRANDS

    Butter. Our go-to butters are from Cabot’s and Vermont Creamery, but we’ll add Kerrygold, Organic Valley and Plugrá. If we had more capacity, we’d test Breakstone and Land o’ Lakes as well.

    Anchovies. We are happy with Cento, an inexpensive brand available at supermarkets, Trader Joe’s and elsewhere. We can also find Ortiz and Roland in our neighborhood, and are ordering some fancy brands online. (There are no fresh anchovies in our markets now.)

    Capers. Instead of Nonna’s capers, we’re using pimiento, a wonderful pairing with anchovies, with a garnish of chopped parsley. If we have time, we’ll add some lemon zest and garlic, or gremolata.
     
    PUTTING IT TOGETHER

    The recipe is a no-brainer, but here’s how we’re serving it:

    Place all the ingredients on the table and let people butter and top their own.
     
    Ingredients & Preparation

  • A basket of sliced plain striate and a basket of toasted slices (substitute baguette for stirato).
  • Unsalted butter, softened in ramekins, served blind with butter spreaders. A number written on each ramekin with a china marker, and revealed at the end of the course.
  • Anchovies in oil, drained and piled into shallow bowls or small plates, with appetizer/cocktail forks for serving.
  • Pimiento (sweet red pepper) strips.
  • Fresh minced parsley, in a ramekin with an espresso spoon (because what’s a fish course without fresh herbs).
  •  
    Variations

  • Replace the anchovies butter or sardine butter, a compound butter you can throw together.
  • Mash 1 cup of softened, unsalted butter with 1/2 cup mashed anchovies or sardines.
  • You can substitute anchovy paste, but it’s typically made with the cheapest anchovies, and very salty.
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    RECIPE #2: FRUTTI DI MARE FIRST COURSE

    Frutti di mare, “fruits of the sea” in Italian, is the name of a dish made of different seafood on the coasts of Italy.

    Frutti di mare literally means “fruits of the sea” and can include all types of seafood, including mussels, clams, prawns and other shellfish.

    It can be served in different ways: crudo (raw), fried and sautéed, for example.

    Sautéed, it is often used to top bucatini, linguine or spaghetti.

    For a first course, gather your favorite seafood and:

  • Serve it as a marinated seafood salad with good olive oil and lemon juice for at least part of the vinegar. You can serve it as is, but we prefer turning it into a green salad course.
  • You can mix the seafood with olives or capers. You can add onion. Place it atop Boston lettuce or mesclun mixed with fresh basil and baby arugula.
  • Pile it into a Martini or coupe glass, with a small romaine leaf for garnish.
  • You can serve frutti di mare as a pasta course, with good olive oil or garlic-infused oil as your sauce (don’t forget the fresh herbs). Or, use your favorite red sauce.
  • Like to make cannelloni or crêpes? Fill them with frutti de mare and top with mornay sauce.
  • Need a soup course? Cook the fish and seafood in some Swanson broth.
     
    HOW CUTTLEFISH ARE DIFFERENT FROM SQUID

    They’re different from calamari, too.

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    Frutti Di Mare

    Frutti di mare, mixed seafood, can be served in many ways. [1] Marinated, at All’ Onda | NYC). [2] With pasta; here’s the recipe from InPerugia.com.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies

    Chocolate Chip Ginger Cookies

    Swedish Pearl Sugar

    Mini Chocolate Chips

    [1] Gingerbread cookies with two hits of chocolate: cocoa powder and chocolate chips. [2] Swedish pearl sugar, not to be confused with Belgian pearl sugar, which is much larger. [3] Don’t forget the mini chips! (Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.)

     

    How can you improve gingerbread?

    Add chocolate chips, and a tablespoon of cocoa powder. Swedish pearl sugar adds a festive touch.

    The cookies are soft and chewy, and are a delight served warm from the oven. They’ll keep for several days in an airtight container.

    Prep time is 10 to 15 minutes, bake time is 10 to 12 minutes.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP GINGERBREAD COOKIES

    Ingredients For 30-32 Cookies

  • 2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose baking cocoa, or Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 cup semisweet mini mini chips
  • 5 tablespoons Swedish pearl sugar*
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    ________________
    *The difference between Swedish pearl sugar and Belgian pearl sugar (they’re not interchangeable) and all types of sugar.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease the sheets lightly.

    2. COMBINE the flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and cocoa. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light and creamy. Add the molasses and beat until combined.

    3. BEAT in the dry ingredients, then stir in the chips.

    4. SCOOP the dough a tablespoon at a time (a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here). Roll the top portion of each dough ball in the pearl sugar.

    5. PLACE the unbaked cookies 1-1/2″ apart, sugar side up, on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookie surface begins to crack.

    6. REMOVE from the oven, cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.

     

     
      

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