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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,
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Archive for The Nibble

FOOD 101: Sponge Cake History & Types

August 23rd is National Sponge Cake Day. It celebrates an airy cake that’s just right for summer, garnished with fresh berries and whipped cream.
 
THE HISTORY OF SPONGE CAKE

The modern sponge cake dates to Europe in the early 19th century. Precursors were cookie-sized treats called biscuit bread and sponge fingers (a.k.a. boudoir biscuits, ladyfingers, Savoy biscuits [English] and savoiardi [Italian]); as well as sweet “breads” from Italy, Portugal and Spain.

These earlier forms date back to the Renaissance (15th century) and were used in numerous desserts including trifles and fools. Early 17th century English cookbook writers note that recipes for fine bread, bisquite du roy [roi] and common biscuits were similar to sponge cake.

Savoiardi, ladyfingers, originated in the late 15th century at the court of Catherine of Medici, created to mark the occasion of a visit by the King of France to the Duchy of Savoy. The recipe found its way to England in the early 18th century.

The sponge cake is thought to be one of the first of the non-yeasted cakes; the rise comes from well-beaten eggs. The earliest recipe in English is found in a 1615 book by Gervase Markham*. The term “sponge cake,” describing the sponge-like openness of the crumb, probably came into use during the 17th century. The earliest reference cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is in an 1808 letter written by Jane Austen, who apparently was fond of them. [Source: Food Timeline]
 
THE MODERN SPONGE CAKE

The modern American sponge cake is a light-textured cake made of eggs, sugar and flour†; there is no fat or leavening. The rise comes from the beaten egg whites. The French sponge, génoise, is used for thinner cake layers, so the egg whites and yolks are beaten together.

Sponges can be baked in cake pans, tube pans or sheet pans. They can be used to make layer cakes, tube cakes, roulades (rolled cakes) and cupcakes. They can be variously flavored and filled.

   

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Top photo: a Victoria Sponge, filled with strawberry jam instead of Queen Victoria’s favorite, raspberry jam, and topped with powdered sugar. Photo courtesy Stylenest. Bottom photo: a simple sponge cake, made American-style in a tube pan. Photo courtesy Chicago Metallic Bakeware. Use a tube pan with feet, since sponge cake (as well as angel cake) must be inverted when removed from the oven.

 

The basic sponge cake recipe is also used to make ladyfingers and madeleines; slices can be used instead of biscuits to make shortcake.

*“The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman.”

†Since sponge cakes are not leavened with yeast, they can be eaten during Passover, made with matzo meal instead of wheat flour.

TYPES OF SPONGE CAKES

AMERICAN SPONGE CAKE

The American Sponge is a high-rising cake, gaining volume from the air whipped into the egg whites and yolks. The dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt are folded in. Then the egg whites and more sugar are beaten until stiff and fold into the yolk mixture. It is often baked in an ungreased tube pan, which maximizes the volume of the cake, and emerges the springiest and spongiest of the sponge cakes.
 
BRITISH SPONGE CAKES

The classic British sponge of modern times is the Victoria Sponge Cake (see below).

GÉNOISE SPONGE CAKES & COOKIES

The French sponge cake, génoise (jen-WOZ), is named for the Italian port city of Genoa, where an precursor of it, Genoa Cake, originated in the early 19th century.

Génoise sponge differs from American sponge cakes in that the eggs are beaten whole, rather than beating the the yolks and whites specialty for more rise. In fact, rise is not the goal; flatter cake layers are sought. Sheets of genoise are used to make Swiss rolls and other roulades, such as Buche de Noel. Genoise is also used to make ladyfingers and madeleines.

Génoise sponge is the basis of many French layer cakes and roulades. Baked in pans or thinner sheets, it can filled with fruit purée, jam or whipped cream. It can be iced and decorated simply, elaborately or not at all.

 

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Top photo: chocolate genoise roulade (roll) filled with chestnut cream. Photo courtesy Dirty Kitchen Secrets. Bottom photo: thin layers of genoise used to assemble cakes. Photo courtesy La Cigale Doree.

  GENOA CAKE (NOT A GÉNOISE SPONGE)

By the middle of the 18th century, cake bakers began to use well-beaten eggs instead of yeast as a leavening agent. The cake would be baked in a mold or in layers made by pouring the batter into two hoops, set on parchment paper and a cookie sheet (hoops atop baking sheets were the precursor of the modern cake pan).

Genoa Cake originated in the port city of Genoa, Italy in the early 19th century. Some ingredients that came into the busy port from the East and Middle East—almonds, candied fruit and peel, citrus zest, currants, raisins, vanilla, cinnamon and other spices—often found their way into Genoa Cake, a light fruitcake that is different from the the airier genoise. Liqueur could be incorporated into the batter.

Like the French génoise sponge, it could be served plain, filled with jam and/or cream, iced, or simply dusted with powdered sugar.

There is also Italian génoise, called pan di Spagna (“Spanish bread”) in Italy.
 

SPONGE ROLL (ROULADE)

A sponge roll is a thin layer of génoise, no more than an inch deep, baked in a sheet pan. It has the flexibility to be filled with jam and/or cream and and rolled into a Bûche de Noël (Yule Log), Jelly Roll, Swiss Roll† or other type of roulade.
 
‡A Swiss roll is also called a cream roll when filled with whipped cream or other cream variation, and is often used as another term for jelly roll.
 
VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE

England’s Queen Victoria enjoyed a slice of sponge cake with her afternoon tea, garnished with raspberry jam and whipped heavy cream (called double cream in the U.K.) or vanilla cream (vanilla-flavored whipped cream, called chantilly in French).

 
Her preferences led to the creation of the Victoria Sponge. Jam and cream are sandwiched between two sponge layers; the top of the cake is served plain or with a dusting of powdered sugar. It also came to be known as the Victoria Sandwich, and sometimes the Victorian Cake. (See the photo at the top of the page.)
 
SPONGE CAKE VARIATIONS

  • Angel Cake or Angel Food Cake, a sponge cake that uses only the egg whites. This produces a white cake instead of a conventional sponge colored yellow by the egg yolks.
  • Castella, a Japanese sponge cake that’s a specialty of Nagasaki. It was introduced there by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century (see Pão de Castela, below), and is typically made in long loaves.
  • Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake, steamed in a water bath and called Ma Lai Gao in Cantonese. You may find it in the U.S. at restaurants that serve dim sum
  • Chiffon Cake, invented in 1927 in Los Angeles. It is based on the sponge cake recipe plus some added fat. Here’s more about Chiffon Cake.
  • Eve’s Pudding, a Victoria Sponge made with sliced apples that cook at the bottom of the cake pan or baking dish, underneath the cake batter. Think of it as a cousin to Tarte Tatin.
  • Italian Génoise—see Pan di Spagna, below.
  • Ma Lai Gao—See Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake, above.
  • Malay Steamed Cake, a steamed sponge, based on the Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake.
  • Pandan Cake or Pandan Chiffon, a fluffy sponge cake of Indonesian and Malaysian origins, flavored with the light green juice of pandan leaves (which has notes of coconut, citrus and grass). It sometimes made a deeper green with food color.
  • Pan di Spagna, also called Italian Génoise or Torta Genovese. An Italian recipe that evolved in Sicily during the Spanish rule (1559–1714), it is flavored with vanilla and/or citrus zest. It is the cake base for Sicilian Cassata, Tiramisu, Zuccoto and Zuppa Inglese. [Source]
  • Pão de Castela, “bread from Castil,” is a Portuguese variation of Pan di Spagna.
  • Pão de Ló is an unsweetened bread sponge “cake,” created by a Genovese cook, Glovan Battista Cabona, in the mid-1700s‡‡. It was cooked in a water bath, which was more reliable than early ovens.
  • Passover Sponge Cake or Plava, is made with Kosher for Passover ingredients, with matzo meal, matzo flour or potato flour, replacing the wheat flour. It is sometimes flavored with almonds or pecans, apples or apple juice, dark chocolate, lemon, orange juice, or poppy seeds.
  • Tres Leches Cake, a sponge soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk. The recipe originated in Latin America.
  •  
    ‡‡According to About.com, the cook’s name was Giobatta Cabona, and was in the service of Marchese Domenico Pallavicini, Genova’s (Genoa in English) Ambassador to Spain in the mid-1700s. The Marchese asked for a new cake for a banquet, and Cabona created a light and airy confection he called Pâte Génoise, or Pasta Genovese in Italian. A slightly simplified version was called Pan di Spagna, to honor the Spanish Court.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Food In A Rocks Glass

    One way to make food more interesting is to serve it in (or on) an unusual vessel. Chefs at better restaurants are always looking for more interesting presentations, serving food on everything from bricks of Himalayan Pink Salt to slate tiles and cutting boards.

    Consumer magazines contribute their own ideas, styling food in hollowed-out oranges or butternut squash shells, mini flower pots and re-purposed oyster shells.

    For today, consider something much simpler: your tumblers or rocks glasses. In addition to a fun factor, they’re also good for controlling portion sizes of macaroni and cheese and other fattening food, and to constrain runny foods from running into neighbors on the plate.
     
    A rocks glass, also called an Old Fashioned glass, is a form of tumbler. With a capacity of nine to twelve ounces, it is used for a simple cocktail or plain spirit served over ice cubes—i.e., “on the rocks.”

       

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    Tartare in a tumbler. Photo courtesy Bo’s Kitchen and Bar Room | NYC.

     
    While you don’t have a cocktail with every meal, you do serve food that can be presented in those idle rocks glasses. Some ideas:
     
    Breakfast In A Rocks Glass

  • Cereal, cold or hot
  • Fruit salad
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese
  •  
    Lunch & Dinner In A Rocks Glass

  • Beans and legumes
  • Ceviche
  • Condiments (e.g. pickles and olives)
  • Garnishes (e.g. croutons, grated cheese, gremolata, salsa)
  • Layered parfaits (e.g., guacamole, salsa, sour cream)
  • Pasta
  • Rice or other grains
  • Salad or slaw
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Sides, from thick (like mashed potatoes) to runny (like sauerkraut)
  • Soup (no spoon required!)
  • Steak, salmon or tuna tartare
  •  

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    Serve a side salad in a tumbler. Photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Catering.

     

    Desserts In A Rocks Glass

  • Berries
  • Compote
  • Dirt cake
  • Fruit soup
  • Garnishes (e.g. chocolate chips, shredded coconut)
  • Ice cream or sorbet
  • Mini meringues or other small cookies
  • Parfaits
  • Pudding or mousse
  •  
    Snacks In A Rocks Glass

  • Candies (we love a glass of gummies)
  • Cheese spread or cubes
  • Chips or pretzels with dip
  • Cookies
  • Crackers or Goldfish
  • Crudités with hummus or other dip
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Trail mix
  •  
    Our list is far from exhaustive. So the next time you open the cabinet door to select plates or bowls for serving food, think: Would this food be more fun in a rocks glass?

    If you don’t have enough tumblers, use wine goblets or Champagne coupes, also called sherbet Champagne glasses.

    The latter are so-called because, contrary to Marie Antoinette’s preferences, we now know that they shouldn’t be used for sparkling wines (the bubbles dissipate too quickly). But they work just great for sorbet, ice cream, pudding and mousse.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Is Sambal Oelek The Next Sriracha?

    The taste buds of the nation have changed since the 1960s, when immigration laws were relaxed and more Asians moved to the U.S., bringing their culinary traditions with them. Their bolder flavors began to attract Americans who had only known a blander European-based diet.

    There were American hot sauces, but they were popular largely in the South and Southwest. Hot sauce manufacturing in the U.S. began in Louisiana with Tabasco brand pepper sauce in 1868. While it was distributed in other regions, most people didn’t know about it. Much later, in 1947, Dave Pace combined tomatoes, jalapeños and onions into “picante sauce,” refining the recipe over the next decade.

    With the national expansion of Tex-Mex restaurants beginning in the 1960s, more people were introduced to hot sauce, and the demand began to expand. Around the same time, the expanding popularity of the Bloody Mary meant that a bottle of Tabasco could be found in many households.

    The most recent hot sauce to take hold in the category is Sriracha, a recipe from Thai port of Sri Racha that is produced in California by the Huy Fong company. “Rooster bottles” of the hot chili pureé (the logo is a red rooster), with its ketchup-like sweetness and notes of garlic and spice, have found their way into restaurants and homes alike.

       

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    A spoonful of sambal olek, an Indonesian chile paste. Photo courtesy Ryan Spilken.

     
    Sriracha has gone from an Asian condiment few people had heard of, to the go-to hot sauce for millennials. Sriracha sauce has found its way onto burgers, breakfast eggs, fries, noodles, salads, sandwiches, stir-frys and wings. Chefs have added it to everything from rémoulade sauce to brownies, ice cream and other desserts.

    There are even Sriracha-specific cookbooks, including:

  • The Sriracha Cookbook: 50 “Rooster Sauce” Recipes that Pack a Punch (including Peach-Sriracha Sorbet) and its companion book…
  • The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook: 50 Vegan “Rooster Sauce” Recipes that Pack a Punch (including Maple-Sriracha Doughnuts and Watermelon Sriracha Sangria)
  • Sriracha Sauce Cookbook: Top 50 Easy Sriracha Recipes to Satisfy Your Spicy Food Addiction! (including Baked Sriracha Spaghetti Squash and Strawberry Sriracha Margaritas)
  •  
    Here’s the history of Sriracha sauce and the popular Huy Fong Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce that gave the product its nickname, “rooster sauce.”

    O.K., we know that Sriracha is mainstream, appearing in everything from hummus to potato chips. But in the words of fickle foodies and millennials everywhere, what’s next?

    It could be sambal oelek!

     

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    A thick paste, sambal oelik has vinegar tartness and fruity sweetness (like ketchup). Top photo courtesy RyanSpilken.com, bottom photo courtesy Huy Fong.

     

    WHAT’S SAMBAL OELEK?

    Vinegar-based sambal oelek is a staple in Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai cooking. The first packaged brand was Indonesian; and the name, Javanese in origin, means “ground by stone mortar.”

    Sambal is sauce typically made from a hot chiles and other ingredients, which can include fish sauce or shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, lime juice, rice vinegar or other vinegar, scallion, shallot and sugar.

    Tart and vinegary, with fruity notes, it is a paste rather than a thin liquid. And it’s definitel for heat lovers: The vinegar makes the heat even more intense.

    The folks at Huy Fong are at the ready, with jars of sambal oelek also bearing their familiar rooster logo.

    You can find it at Asian markets or online.

    And here’s a trick from Paul McMillan, executive chef at Wyoming Seminary, a prep school where the students love Sriracha:

  • Spread Sriracha over parchment or wax paper on a sheet pan and dry it in the oven at 180 degrees for at least an hour.
  • Remove from the oven, cool, and then break it up into crunchy crumbles that you can sprinkle on soups, salads, baked potatoes, rice and…anything.
  •  

    Industry experts predict that next on the hot sauce horizon is gochujang sauce (pronounced ko-choo-CHONG), a pungent, hot red chili paste from Korea. It’s made from fermented soybeans, glutinous rice, red chiles, garlic, honey and salt.

    The gochujang chili paste is also is made in a sauce version, for easy sprinkling.

    But for the rest of the details: That’s another story.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Fried Eggs On Rice

    Who needs toast? Serve this brunch idea from Gardenia restaurant in New York City.

    A fried or poached egg is served atop a bed of rice with roasted vegetables. It’s a yummy way to use up leftovers.

  • Use brown rice or other whole grain for more nutrition.
  • You can also use polenta or mashed potatoes for the bed.
  • If you don’t have any roasted vegetables—Gardenia used a mélange of beets, butternut squash, carrots and onions—do a quick microwave cook to soften, then sauté, what you do have.
  • A garnish of microgreens finishes the dish at Gardenia, but you can use chives, basil…or perhaps a crumbled bacon garnish?
  •  

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    A new way to enjoy fried eggs! Photo courtesy Gardenia Restaurant | NYC.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP: Eat More Peaches ~ The Season Ends Soon!

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    Skillet photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Photo of Wisconsin Fontina courtesy Emmi Roth USA.

     

    Soon, juicy peaches will be gone from the shelf. Even if you’ve had a few, as hand fruit or in recipes, seek them out in the next few weeks and enjoy peaches while you still can.

    Our personal favorite is peach ice cream, the favorite flavor of our childhood that has fallen out of favor. While some artisan ice cream producers make it, we haven’t seen a pint in our area in decades: We have to make it. And it’s worth it: Here’s a peach ice cream recipe.

    But first up, in our featured peach recipes, is a delicious appetizer, side dish or snack with wine from Eat Wisconsin Cheese.

    RECIPE: GRILLED TOMATOES & PEACHES WITH FONTINA

    You might not think to combine tomatoes with peaches, but they are very complementary—especially when grilled and topped with melted Fontina cheese, as in this recipe.
     
    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 medium peach, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Fontina cheese, shredded (substitute
    Emmenthal, Gruyère or Provolone)
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, grated (substitute
    Asiago, Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT a gas grill to medium, or prepare a charcoal grill for indirect heat.

    2. DRIZZLE the baguette slices with olive oil and grill, until toasted, turning once.

    3. DRIZZLE the tomatoes and peaches with olive oil; toss. Place in well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Cook on grill 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally (but do not over-stir).

    4. ADD the Fontina and Parmesan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Remove from the grill and sprinkle with rosemary and black pepper. Serve immediately with baguette slices and spreading knives.
     
    WHAT IS FONTINA?

    Fontina is a semisoft cow’s milk cheese which has been made since the Middle Ages in Valle d’Aosta, in the Western Alps of northwest Italy. It has PDO status (protected domain of origin), which means that cheese called Fontina can only be made in this area.

    The Italian cheese is mild when young and pungent when aged, when the rind turns an orange-brown color. The texture of PDO Fontina is semi-soft, rich and creamy with eyes (holes). It belongs on a cheese plate, and is an excellent melting cheese.

    In the U.S., the cheese called Fontina is typically sold on the younger side, when it has a buttery, nutty taste. Danish Fontina is pale yellow with a mild, slightly sweet flavor; it is often used as a sandwich cheese. These differences illustrate the importance of authenticity labels like PDO and AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) is the French version of PDO) if you’re looking for the original experience.

     

    RECIPE: PEACH SHORTCAKES WITH ICE CREAM OR
    WHIPPED CREAM

    You’ve likely had strawberry shortcake, but what about peach shortcake?

    In this recipe is from Annalise of Completely Delicious for Go Bold With Butter, the conventional whipped cream that tops the fruit is replaced with ice cream. Annalise specifies vanilla, but we used peach ice cream.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 25 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 6 Servings

    For The Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, cold
  • 1 large egg + 1 teaspoon water (the egg wash)
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 4 peaches, ripe but firm
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 6 scoops vanilla ice cream
  •  

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    In this peach shortcake recipe, ice cream replaces the traditional whipped cream. Photo courtesy Go Bold With Butter.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or butter well.

    2. MAKE the biscuits: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in medium bowl. Add the cold cubed butter and cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks, until butter is size of small peas. Add the buttermilk and mix until the dough begins to come together. Place it on a clean surface and knead a few times to incorporate all of the dry bits. Do not over-handle (it toughens the dough).

    3. PAT the dough to about 1 inch thick. Use a 3- or 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut the dough. Place the rounds on the prepared sheet pan. Brush them with the egg wash and bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes.

    4. PREHEAT a grill to medium low heat. Halve the peaches and remove the pits. Brush with melted butter and place them cut side-down on the grill. Grill 3-4 minutes until the peaches have grill marks and have softened somewhat. Transfer them to a plate and drizzle with maple syrup.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Slice the biscuits in half. Top with ice cream and grilled peaches. Serve immediately.

     
    KNOW YOUR PEACHES

    Check out these peach facts: the history of peaches, types of peaches and more.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Pool Party Punch

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    Match your cocktail to the pool (the miniature
    beach balls
    are plastic, made for doll houses).
    Photo courtesy Pinnacle Vodka.

     

    For your next pool party, make this Pool Party Punch, an tasty and fun idea from Pinnacle Vodka.

    Pinnacle made it with their Original Vodka; you can make it your own with a flavored vodka. If you prefer, you can substitute gin or tequila.
     
    RECIPE: POOL PARTY PUNCH

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 part vodka
  • 2 parts lemonade
  • Splash of Blue Curaçao (we used DeKuyper)
  • Garnish: fruit of choice (we used blueberries on cocktail picks)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX ingredients and serve over ice. It’s that simple! Here’s a video with the full punch bowl recipe.

    MOCKTAIL VERSION

    Make a mocktail by exchanging the vodka for 7 UP, Sprite or white cranberry juice. Use blue food coloring instead of Blue Curaçao.

    And for garnish, perhaps a red Swedish Fish?

    Here’s the mocktail recipe.

     

    WHAT IS BLUE CURAÇAO

    Curaçao is an orange liqueur made from the dried peels of the laraha (LA-ra-ha) citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles (southeast of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean).

    The laraha is a de-evolved descendant of the Valencia orange, which was brought over from Spain in 1527. It did not thrive in the Southern Caribbean climate. The oranges that the trees produced were small, fibrous, bitter and inedible. The trees were abandoned, and the citrus fruit they produced evolved from a bright orange color into the green laraha.

    When life gives you bitter fruit, distill it! It turned out that while the flesh of the laraha was inedible, the dried peel remained as aromatic and pleasing as its cultivated forebear. Experimentation led to the distillation of Curaçao liqueur from the peel.

    The distilled liqueur is clear. Some brands are colored blue or bright orange to create color in cocktails. The color adds no flavor.

     

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    Blue Curaçao. The clear orange liqueur is colored blue. It is also made in an orange-colored version.

     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ORANGE LIQUEUR

    Here’s how the different types of orange liqueur differ, including Curaçao and triple sec, which are generic terms, plus brands like Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Gran Gala.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fresh Lemonade

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    It’s easy add a hit of extra flavor to lemon-
    ade, from lavender to jalapeño. Photo
    courtesy The Great Pepper Cookbook by
    Melissa’s Produce.

     

    August 20th is National Lemonade Day. If the only lemonade you drink comes from a bottle, you’ve never experienced real lemonade.

    Bottled drinks are not only pasteurized, but typically use reconstituted lemon juice. If you’ve ever tasted bottled lemon juice, you know that the flavor is simply not bright and lemony like fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

    Lemonade “made from concentrate” and sold in cartons like orange juice is the far better choice (as are cans of frozen lemonade concentrate).

    But the best choice of all is to squeeze fresh lemons. It takes just five minutes to make a single glass, and you can adjust the sweetening to your own taste.

    Leave a pitcher of lemonade unsweetened to accommodate every family member or guest. For a party, set up a bar where guests can add their own sweeteners—agave*, honey, noncaloric, superfine sugar or simple syrup. You can buy or easily make the latter two, which, unlike granulated sugar, dissolve easily in cold drinks.

    For adults bottles of gin, tequila or vodka expand the options.

     

    You can also use this recipe to make fresh limeade. We have more lemonade (or limeade) tips below.

    LEMONADE RECIPE

    You don’t want ice cubes to dilute your lemonade. Ideally, freeze lemonade or a complementary fruit juice (we especially like blueberry and watermelon) in ice cube trays so regular ice cubes won’t dilute the flavor. And keep the lemonade as chilled as possible to use fewer cubes.

    Ingredients For 15 Glasses

  • 1.5 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (6 large lemons)
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 cup of table sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: berries, cherries, lemon wheel, mint leaves, sprig of herbs, watermelon cubes
  • Optional: straws
  •  
    Ingredients For 1 Glass Of Lemonade

  • 2 tablespoons sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • Ice
  •  
    *Agave tends to be twice as sweet as the equivalent amount of other sweeteners, so use half as much.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the optional lemonade ice cubes a half day in advance or the night before. For the ice cubes, we save time by reconstituting frozen lemonade concentrate instead of making lemonade from scratch. When ready to make the lemonade…

    2. ROLL room temperature lemons on the counter top before squeezing. This maximizes the juice output.

    3. PREPARE the superfine sugar if you’re using granulated sugar. If you don’t have a box of superfine sugar, simply pulse regular table sugar to a superfine consistency in a food processor. The time you spend to do this is more than offset by the time it will take to get table sugar to dissolve. Another technique for dissolving table sugar is to boil the water several hours in advance, stir in the sugar to dissolve, and chill.

    4. COMBINE the water, lemon juice and three-quarters of the sweetener in a pitcher; mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust the sweetness bit by bit. Your goal is to keep the fresh lemon flavor first and foremost, and not make sugar the first thing you taste. It’s better to under-sweeten than over-sweeten: People can always add more sweetener to suit their individual tastes.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/lavender lemonade 230

    It’s easy to add a nuance of flavor to lemonade. Our favorites are ginger, lavender and lemongrass. Photo © Edith Frincu | Dreamstime.

     

    5. ADD ice to the glasses, fill with lemonade and garnish. Ideally, chill the lemonade prior to serving so it will be cold and require less ice.

    6. ADD the garnish: Slice extra lemons or contrasting limes into wheels, and cut notches so they sit on rim of glasses. You can also notch watermelon cubes or strawberries, place blueberries or raspberries on a cocktail pick, add a sprig of lavender or rosemary, etc.
     
    TO MAKE ONE GLASS AT A TIME

    1. COMBINE the sugar and hot water in a 16-ounce glass (we use a Pilsner glass) and stir until the sugar dissolves.

    2. ADD the the lemon juice and cold water. Fill the glass to the top with ice and serve.
     

    LEMONADE RECIPE TIPS

  • For a zero-calorie drink, use non-caloric sweetener.
  • For a low-glycemic drink, use agave nectar.
  • Varying the garnishes makes the recipe “new” each time.
  • A shot of gin, tequila or vodka turns lemonade into a splendid cocktail. Use citrus-flavored versions if you have them.
  • Infuse a second flavor by adding it to the pitcher of lemonade or infusing it in the simple syrup: fruit juice (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), lychees, sliced chiles or ginger, organic lavender, etc.
  • If you don’t want to squeeze lemons every time you feel like lemonade, you can do a “bulk squeeze” and freeze the lemon juice in ice cube trays. Or, do what our busy mom did and use frozen lemonade concentrate.
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Ice Cream Topped With An Itty Bitty

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/izzy scoop raspbery maple blueberry 230

    The Izzy Scoop, topped with an Itty Bitty. Photo courtesy Izzy’s Ice Cream.

     

    Move over, sprinkles: There’s a better ice cream topping in town—at least, if your town is Minneapolis or St. Paul.

    There, Izzy’s Ice Cream, an artisan scoop shop, has a repertoire of 150 flavors. And the good news is, you can try two at a time without filling up.

    That’s because Izzy’s pioneered The Izzy Scoop with the Itty Bitty, a mini, 3/4-ounce scoop on top of the regular scoop. It was conceived 12 years ago as a way to enable customers to enjoy a second flavor, perhaps exploring a new flavor, while providing a little something extra.

    While the concept is trademarked, you can use it at home without licensing the idea. The company explains, “Izzy’s Ice Cream would love to see the Izzy Scoop take off and become an option for ice cream lovers all over, as long as credit is given to Izzy’s.”

     

    Be the first in your crowd to offer an Itty Bitty on your ice cream cone or dish of ice cream. All you need are a regular ice cream scoop and a cookie scoop.

    You can also create a multiple of Itty Bittys with this tiny scoop, which creates even ittier Itty Bittys, just half a tablespoon’s worth.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tomatillos

    The tomatillo, like the tomato, is an edible berry—it’s the size of cherry tomatoes. (Trivia: the original tomatoes were the size of cherry tomatoes, and were developed into larger sizes).

    Round and tart, it is erroneously thought of as a green tomato; and is called a husk tomato, a Mexican tomato and other names.

    While both tomatoes and tomatillos originated in Latin America (the tomato in Peru and the tomatillo in Central America), they are second cousins. They share a botanical family, Solanaceae (the Nightshade family), but belong to different genuses.

  • The tomato’s genus and species is Solanum lycopersicum. The tomatillo is Physalis ixocarpa, and is closely related to the smaller, sweeter cape gooseberry.
  • Like the orange-colored gooseberry, the tomatillo is surrounded by a papery husk.
  • The ripe tomatillo can be green, purple, red or yellow.
  •  
    Tomatillos were a staple of Maya and Aztec cuisines. They are still enjoyed today in chili, enchiladas, gazpacho, guacamole, salsa and tostadas, among other specialties.

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/tomatillos goodeggs 230

    Fresh tomatillos in their papery husks. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     
    But, you can create a fusion dish, adding it to anything that begs for a tart accent and green color. We just finished the last bite of a tomatillo quiche for breakfast.
     
    COOKING WITH TOMATILLOS

    It’s very easy to cook with tomatillos: They don’t need to be peeled or seeded. Their texture is firm when raw, but soften when cooked.

    You can incorporate tomatillos in different ways:

  • Raw, they add a fresh, citrus-like flavor to sauces.
  • Blanched, they are more mellow. Boil in water for five minutes or until soft. Drain and crush or purée.
  • Fire roasted under the broiler or over an open flame, the charred skins will give sauces a smoky flavor.
  • Dry roast them for an earthy, nutty flavor. Place the tomatillos in a cast iron or other heavy pan; roast over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
  •  
    Just remember to remove the husk and rinse the berry before using tomatillos.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/salsa verde domenicacooks 230r

    One of the easiest ways to enjoy tomatillos: Make salsa verde. Poto courtesy DomenicaCooks.com.

     

    WHERE TO START?

  • Start with breakfast: Add tomatillos to omelets, scrambled eggs or Huevos Rancheros; or grill or sauté them and serve as a side with the eggs.
  • Make salsa verde as a condiment for eggs or anything else: fish and seafood, meat and poultry, rice and grains, sandwiches, vegetables.
  • Make corn salad or salsa or guacamole
  • Add them to any Tex-Mex dish.
  • Slice them as a soup garnish.
  • Use them as a drink garnish for Bloody Marys and Margaritas.
  •  

    RECIPE: SALSA VERDE

    For an easy salsa verde, remove the papery tomatillo husks and roast the tomatillos for a few minutes. Then, blend with lime, cilantro and green chiles to taste.

    You can use salsa verde on just about any savory dish, and of as a snack with chips raw vegetables. Turn it into a creamy dip with a bit of sour cream or plain yogurt.

     
    MORE TOMATILLO RECIPES

  • Ají Sauce, a favorite hot sauce in Ecuador and Peru
  • Enchiladas Suizas
  • Gazpacho Verde
  • Salsa
  • Tomatillo Guacamole
  • Tomatillo Guacamole With Roasted Corn
  • Tostadas
  •   

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Blossom Water

    For two years we’ve had our eye on Blossom Water, an innovative beverage in a crowded field that has not yet gotten the distribution we think it deserves. We keep checking the store locator, hoping for something near us.

    We drink it at the trade show where we first discovered it; and we do buy it online. A 4-bottle package that’s $12.00 has a shipping cost of $4.95.

    And we think it’s worth it. But we want to drink so much Blossom Water, that the shipping charges quickly add up. (Blossom Water folks: Can you put the product on Amazon so we can at least use Amazon Prime?)

    Perhaps by publishing a rave review, some retailers will take notice. So here it is:

    WHY DO WE LOVE BLOSSOM WATER?

    The flavors are perfectly blended:

  • Grapefruit Lilac
  • Lemon Rose
  • Plum Jasmine
  • Pomegranate Geranium
  •    

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/lemon rose 230

    Lemon Rose Blossom Water. Photo courtesy Blossom Water.

     
    We have particular favorites, but every palate is different so please try them all.

    The flavors taste exactly as they sound: like a delicious sip of nature. We love each flavor as is, so we haven’t considered adding gin, which itself is made with botanicals that would complement those in Blossom Water.

    We’ll get around to it; but for 45 calories for an entire bottle of heaven, we’re not in a rush to add more calories.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/grapefruit lilac 230

    Grapefruit Lilac Blossom Water. Photo courtesy Blossom Water.

     

    The delicately nuanced flavors are refreshing for every day drinking and for special occasions, including lawn parties, showers and weddings, holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

    The beautifully-designed bottles are also ready to serve as party favors.

    OK, men: You think it’s a chick product. But it’s a beverage for anyone whose palate seeks exciting new flavors.

    The only solution: Taste it for yourself.

    Discover more at DrinkBlossomWater.com, and ask your specialty store manager or supermarket beverage manager to bring some in. They, too, will never know until they try.

     

      

    Comments

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