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Archive for Gourmet Foods

PRODUCTS: 5 New Favorite Specialty Foods

Four of this month’s roundup of favorite products will brighten your dinner table, and the last will satisfy your sweet tooth.

In alphabetical order, they are:

1. CRACKER BARREL Oven BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE

Cracker Barrel Cheese’s premium mac & cheese line has launched Oven Baked Macaroni & Cheese (photo #1) in three flavors:

  • Sharp Cheddar, seasoned with paprika and ground mustard.
  • Sharp White Cheddar, seasoned with black pepper and ground mustard.
  • Cheddar Havarti, seasoned with garlic and chives.
  •  
    Fans of oven-baked mac and cheese prefer it for the crispy edges and the toasted bread crumbs. The bread crumbs are included, as well as flavorful seasonings; and the level of crispiness is up to you.

    Just boil the noodles and mix the seasoning packet with melted butter and milk. Add the cheese sauce and the flavor mix, spoon into a baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.

    Get yours at major retailers nationwide. Suggested Retail Price is $3.99 for a 12.34-ounce package.

    For more information visit the Cracker Barrel Cheese website.
     
     
    2. DELTA BLUES RICE GRITS

    Delta Blues Rice (that’s the Mississippi Delta) is a fourth-generation family business that grows artisan rice. If you think that all white rice tastes the same, you won’t believe how much more flavorful it is than supermarket brands.

    The company sells the rice in white and brown rice and rice grits, all made in small batches and milled for freshness.

    We’ve enjoyed cornmeal grits since we were small fry, but had never tasted rice grits until the folks at Delta Blues Rice sent us a sample (photos #2 and #3).

    We devoured the package and ordered more. For those who avoid corn-based foods, they’re a real find.

    If you come from a grits-loving family, load up on them as gifts or favors for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

    Get yours at DeltaBluesRice.com.
     
     
    3. ENTUBE FLAVOR PASTES

    Big flavors come from little tubes. Entube is a line of flavorful pastes in three international flavors: curry, harissa and umeboshi (photos #4 and #5).

    These are great to have on hand and are so easy to use. Instead of adding more salt when a dish needs some pizzazz, just add a bit of flavor paste—to anything from grains to cheese fondue to soups and stews.

    We tried two of the three flavors: Curry and Harissa. Here’s how we used them.

    3a. Entube Harissa Paste

  • Dip: Combine with yogurt to your desired spice level and use as dip for crudités or tortilla chips.
  • Sauce: Stir some paste into pasta sauce or the hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict (quite wonderful). With a mushroom sauce for roast chicken, add 1-1/2 teaspoons for 1 cup sauce.
  • Spread: Add to mayo for a great sandwich spread.
  •  
    Roast Chicken: About 15 minutes before the chicken is due to come out of the oven, combine harissa-flavored plain yogurt with the hot drippings. Baste the chicken twice, five minutes apart. For the second basting, add the juice of 1/2 lemon to the yogurt and drippings, along with a bit of kosher salt to taste. This will slightly caramelize and crisp the skin.

    Grilled Lamb: Morroccan lamb dishes are classically made with a harissa spice rub. We made a rack of lamb with the yogurt-Harissa Paste mix (4 tablespoons yogurt with 1 teaspoon paste) and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Brush it in on at the start of roasting and once more 5 minutes from the end. It perks up the slightly gamy flavor of lamb beautifully. (Cooking time for medium rare lamb is 22 minutes in a 425°F oven.)

       

    Cracker Barrel Baked Mac & Cheese

    Delta Blues Rice Grits

    Rice Grits

    Entube Flavor Pastes

    Paella With Harissa

    [1] We love baked mac & cheese with crispy edges (photo courtesy Cracker Barrel). [2] Calling all grits lovers for great rice grits (photo courtesy Delta Blues Rice). [3] Rice grits (photo courtesy Neniemi Food). [4] Entube flavor pastes and [5] Entube harissa spices up paella (photos courtesy Entube | Facebook).

     
    Moroccan Chicken Kabobs: Cube 1 pound of chicken breasts and marinate for 3-4 hours in 3 teaspoons Harissa Paste, juice of 1 lemon, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, with an optional teaspoon of smoked paprika. Skewer onto pre-soaked (30 minutes) wooden skewers or lightly oiled metal skewers. Broil or grill, turning often. Brush with the marinade halfway through and continue until browned and cooked through, 16 minutes total. Serve hot.

    3b. Entube Curry Paste

    Mushroom Sauce: Boost the umami flavor in creamy mushroom sauces. Add as much paste as you like, tasting as you go in 1/2 teaspoon increments. The curry flavor was not overpowering and added depth to the character of the mushrooms. This combination also works in mushroom tarts.

    Grilled Shrimp: Marinate 1 pound deveined shrimp in a yogurt marinade made with 1/2 cup yogurt and 2 teaspoons of curry paste, the juice of 1 lime, mustard oil or coconut oil, chili powder to taste and 2 teaspoons of grated, peeled ginger root. Marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Just before grilling (on medium-high), remove shrimp and wipe off the excess marinade with paper towels. Grill until black spots begin to appear, about 3 minutes per side. Delicious!

    The one complaint we have with the pastes is that there is too much added ascorbic acid (vitamin C)—almost 20%. If you have a sophisticated palate, you may notice a slightly medicinal acidic tang that is not as clean and lively as would have been given by lemon or lime. You can mask it by adding some real lemon or lime juice.

    Find a store locator on the company website.

     

    Salt With Sea Vegetables

    Werther's Cocoa Creme Caramels

    Werther's Sugar Free Caramels

    [6] Sea salt meets seaweed in these tasty blends (photo courtesy Sea Veg). [7] Werther’s new Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels and [8] longtime favorites, the sugar-free caramels line (photos courtesy Werther’s Original).

     

    4. MAINE MADE SEA SEASONINGS

    This naturally iodized sea salt has a little something extra: sea vegetables, including dulse and kelp, seaweeds known for their high vitamin and mineral content.

    The entire line of seaweed-based products are harvested in Maine waters; and the line is targeted to people who want to get the most nutrition they can from their foods.

    Here are the nutritional values of both seaweeds.

    Not that we don’t want the best nutrition; but we like these sea salts for their flavor, especially with rice and other grains and starches. And, we’re big flavor fans of Japanese seaweed, dried or fresh [which is actually reconstituted dry seaweed].

    The company offers variations of the sea salt with added cayenne or garlic; and with other seaweeds. Another product of interest is the applewood-smoked nori sheets.

    Find out more at SeaVeg.com.
     
     
    5. WERTHER’S ORIGINAL NEW COCOA CREME SOFT CARAMELS

    Werther’s newest flavor can be attributed to American palates: a survey of more than 1,000 American adults found that 44% chose caramel as their favorite candy flavor to combine with chocolate. The next closest is mint, at 19%.

    Werther’s Original Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels pair their yummy soft caramel with a cocoa crème filling.

    They join Werther’s other dual-flavor caramels, including Caramel Apple and Coffee Caramel.

    We love soft caramels. Aside from the pricey ones from artisan chocolatiers, Werther’s is our favorite everyday brand.

    Another thing we love about the brand is the sugar-free options.

    The line includes hard, chewy, soft and filled caramels, as well as the sugar-free caramels in seven flavors (the chewy sugar-free caramels and chocolate caramels are a must-try) and caramel popcorn.

    As they say at the company, they’re a treat that’s truly “werth it.”

    For more information visit Werther’s Original USA.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: More Modern Surf & Turf Ideas … Plus Spring Peas

    National Surf & Turf Day falls on February 29th. Why would anyone choose to celebrate this tasty holiday only once every four years?

    That honor should go to, say, National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, which happens to be today’s holiday (April 21st). Or how Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (June 13th), or Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day (July 29th)?

    So today, we’re featuring some novel approaches to surf and turf.

    On THE NIBBLE alone, we have obvious and not-so-obvious recipes:

  • Beef Carpaccio & Anchovies
  • Broiled Seafood With Beef Jerky Garnish
  • Clam Chowder With Bacon
  • Filet Mignon With Lobster Topping
  • Ham & Biscuits With Seafood Gravy
  • Modern Surf & Turf (18 recipe ideas)
  • National Surf & Turf Day (5+ recipe ideas)
  • Raw Scallops With Steak Tartare Or Bacon
  • Salmon BUrger With Bacon
  • Seafood Cobb Salad
  • Sea Urchin & Roast Beef Rolls
  • Surf & Turf Burgers
  • Surf & Turf Sushi & More (18 recipe ideas)
  • Surf & Turf Bloody Mary
  • Surf & Turf Eggs Benedict
  • Veal Osso Bucco On Tuna Sashimi
  • Vietnamese Pancakes With Shrimp & Pork
  • Wiener Schnitzel Surf & Turf
  •  
    Not to mention, Surf & Turf Pizza (clams or shrimp with pepperoni) or skewers (any meat, any shellfish).

    Our latest dish in the collection:

    RECIPE: SQUID & SPRING PEAS

    Who’d have thought of combining squid and bacon with fresh spring peas and fresh mint? Catalan chefs, with bounties of fresh squid pulled from the Mediterranean.

    This recipe is from Executive Chef Jaime Chavez of Sirena Cucina Latina in San Diego (which alas, closed in February).

    It’s a traditional Catalan starter from the chef’s mother, and is one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

    “[Mother] taught me that the best dishes are made from simple flavors, and when we respect the products, they give us back the very best of them,” notes Chavez.

    While Chef Jaime didn’t intend to create “surf and turf,” we’re always seeking new ways to extend the original concept of filet mignon and lobster tail, christened Surf & Turf (here’s the history of Surf & Turf).

    This is an easy recipe; the most demanding parts are slicing the squid and cooking the bacon.

    The season for fresh spring peas is short, so don’t bookmark this for “later.”

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 each squid tubes and tentacles
  • 1½ cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ½ cup sliced fennel
  • 3 tablespoons crisp bacon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Champagne vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: edible flowers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ the squid and garlic in olive oil in a hot pan. Cut the squid into rings.

       

    Squid Salad With Spring Peas

    Shelled Peas

    Raw Squid

    Grilled Bacon

    Fennel Bulb

    [1] Squid, bacon and spring peas unite in a vinaigrette (photo courtesy Chef Jaime Chavez). [2] Just-shelled spring peas (photo courtesy The Chef’s Kitchen). [3] Raw squid (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [4] Fennel (photo courtesy Burpee).

     
    2. ADD the peas and season with salt and pepper. Then add the vinegar and mint.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and add the celery, fennel and bacon. Garnish as desired and serve (the edible flowers add another touch of springtime).
     
     
    Here are more ways to use spring peas.

     

    Spring Peas

    Snow Peas

    Sugar Snap Peas

    The three types of green peas. [5] Spring peas (photo Hannah Kaminsky). [6] Snow peas (photo AllWomensTalk.com). [7] Sugar snap peas (photo Good Eggs).

     

    SPRING PEAS, ENGLISH PEAS OR GARDEN PEAS?

    Spring peas, English peas and garden peas are three are names for the same thing. All can be eaten raw or cooked.

    Three types of green peas:

  • Spring peas (Pisum sativum var. sativum, photo #5), also called English peas and garden peas, which must be shelled to be edible (although some people do cook the stringless varieties).
  • Snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum, photo #6), called “Chinese pea pods” by some consumers, which are edible flat pods with tiny peas inside.
  • Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon, photo #7), also called sugar snap peas, plump edible pods with smaller peas inside.
  •  
    Peas (Pisum sativum) are native to the Mediterranean basin. They grew wild and were one of the earlier vegetables cultivated at the dawn of agriculture in the Neolithic Era, beginning about 12,500 years ago.

    Having said that, pea pods are botanically a fruit, since they are pods that contain seeds, and the pods developed from the ovary of a flower.

    Peas, beans and lentils are all legumes with seeds that grow in pods. It’s easy to distinguish them by their shape:

  • Dry beans are oval or kidney shaped.
  • Lentils are flat disks.
  • Peas are round.
  •  
    Legumes are members of the botanical family Fabaceae, which also includes alfalfa, carob, licorice, peanuts and the sweet pea garden plant.
     
    Peas are sweet but can get starchy soon after harvesting. The fresher, the better.

     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE FRESH PEAS

    For the best flavor, choose small peas. They’re younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. Look for medium-size pods that are firm and green, with no yellowing. Break open a pod and check the peas. They should be small, bright green and firm. Taste the peas in the pod: They should be tender and sweet.

    Freshness counts. As with corn, once picked the peas’ high sugar content begins to convert to starch. Don’t pay for mature peas. You might as well use frozen peas.

    Don’t pay extra for shelled peas. You don’t know how fresh they are; and since you aren’t shelling peas day in, day out, it’s a fun activity.

    Storing Fresh Peas

  • Store the pods in the crisper drawer of the fridge in a plastic storage bag. Use them within two days.
  • Once the peas are shelled, the best way to store them is to freeze them. First, blanch the peas for a minute in boiling salted water. Then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking and maintain their bright color. Drain and freeze them in freezer storage bags for up to six months.
  •   

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    FOOD 101: History Of The Upside Down Cake & Cake Pans

    If you’ve never had an upside-down cake, today’s the day: April 20th is National Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

    With an upside-down cake, fruit is set on the bottom of the pan, topped with cake batter.

    When the cooking is complete, the skillet is inverted onto a plate, such that the fruit is now on top, although it was baked upside-down.

    SCION OF THE SKILLET CAKE

    This cake was originally made on the stove top in a skillet, and called skillet cake (photo #4). Today, it’s the same process, but with the benefit of cake pans and ovens.

    (Want to be authentic with a skillet and the stove top? No one will stop you! Those who want to go really authentic should try cooking it over a campfire or wood fireplace.)

    To make a skillet cake, fruit is set on the bottom and the batter poured on top. When the skillet or pan is inverted, the fruit that was once at the bottom forms a decorative topping. Any fruit can be used.

    When canned pineapple rings became available in the first half of the 20th century, Pineapple Upside Down Cake became the rage—often with maraschino cherries in the center of the pineapple rings.

    As the recipe evolved, cooks put their skillets in the oven to bake. Nordicware, creator of the bundt pan, created a special round pan with indentations for the pineapple slices (photo #6), guaranteeing a perfect presentation.

    To show how popular the cake became, they also make mini pans for individual Upside-Down Cakes.

    Check out these upside down cake recipes:

  • Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (photo #2)
  • Upside-Down Ginger-Pecan Peach Pie
  • Upside Down Irish Whiskey Cake
  •  
    Upside Down Cake is related to Tarte Tatin, an accidental upside-down pie from 1880s France.

    Also check out the different types of cakes.
     
    THE HISTORY OF CAKE PANS

    Why are cakes round?

    Generally, the round cakes we know today are descended from ancient breads, before there were baking pans of any kind.

    Yeast-risen breads and cakes were made by hand, patted into balls and baked on hearthstones, griddles, or in low, shallow all-purpose pans.

    By the 17th century, cake hoops made of metal or wood were placed on flat pans to shape cakes.

    According to food writer Elizabeth David, in the seventeenth century, tin or iron hoops (photo #4) were increasingly used and to shape cakes, and are frequently mentioned in the “cookery books” (think of the modern flan ring, but much deeper).

    The hoop was placed on an iron or tin sheet, with a layer of floured paper on the bottom (think of today’s parchment paper). The sides of the hoop were buttered to ease removal of the baked cake.

    You can find “these or similar directions offered over and over again in Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife, first published in 1727 (which has recipes for 40 cakes, the large ones being yeast-leavened).

    In the preface of her book, Mrs. Smith says that her recipes reflect some 30 years of experience, so it is likely that her methods date back to the previous century.

    Some recipes direct the reader to bake the cake in a paper hoop (oiled so not to burn), which was used in kitchens of the 1600s [source].

    Wooden hoops were also fairly common. Some cooks preferred them to tin, perhaps because they didn’t rust and thus were easier to store. Wood also didn’t overheat, so were less likely to burn the sides of the cake in those primitive ovens.

    Over time, baking pans in various shapes and sizes became readily available to the general public. Molded cakes in fancy shapes reached their zenith in the Victorian era (commencing with the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1831).

    Today, fancy cake molds can still be had; as well as animal molds, action figures, beehives, sports equipment and football fields, vehicles and other popular culture shapes.
     
     
    LIKE FOOD HISTORY?

    Check out the history of more than 180 foods on THE NIBBLE.

     

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake

    Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

    2 Layer Apple Upside Down Cake

    Skillet Cake

    Wood Baking Hoop

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake Pan

    [1] A Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (here’s the recipe from King Arthur Flour). [2] A Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Good Eggs). [3] A two-layer Apple-Whiskey Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Betty Crocker).[4] A skillet cake. Here’s the recipe for a Pineapple Upside-Down Skillet Cake from King Arthur Flour. [5] An old-fashioned baking hoop (photo courtesy Creeds Direct). [6] Nordicware’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake pan (here it is on Amazon).

     

      

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

    Green Pea Potstickers

    Spring Peas

    Edamame

    Spring Tartine

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hannah notes:

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

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

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

    Ingredients For 15 Dumplings

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

  • Steaming basket or rack
  •  
    Preparation

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

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

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

    ________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ________________

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

     

    RECIPE #3: SPRING PEAS & BURRATA SALAD

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

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

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

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

    TIPS:

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

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

     

    Spring Peas Salad

    Burrata

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

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

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

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

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

      

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    FOOD 101: The History Of Amaretto Liqueur

    Amaretto Disaronno

    Amaretto Disaronno

    Reina Store 1900

    Old Amaretto Bottles

    [1] Disaronno, the original amaretto liqueur brand (photo courtesy ILLVA). [2] A liqueur glass with the amber liqueur (photo courtresy Angela Bax | Pinterest via Flickr. [3] Domenico Reina’s store in Saronno. [4] Bottles of Disaronno from 1900

     

    April 19th is National Amaretto Day. Earlier today, we developed a list of almost 40 ways to use amaretto.

    You may find it hard to believe that one of the top liqueurs in the world (see the list below) was not imported into the U.S. until the 1960s.

    The almond-flavored cordial quickly became a hit in the U.S., in cocktails and food preparation. By the 1980s, it was second in sales only to Kahlùa.

    In Italian, amaro means bitter. Amaretto means a little bitter.

    Why is this sweet, almond liqueur called bitter?

    Surprisingly, no almonds are used to make most brands of amaretto. Rather, the marzipan-like flavor is achieved through apricot kernel oil, burnt sugar and a variety of spices.

    Various commercial brands—but not the top two which “own” the market—are made from a base of apricot pits or peach pits (the source of the oil), almonds, or a combination.

    Most likely, when it was first made, amaretto wasn’t as sweet as it is today. Older recipes use the bitter almond (mandorla amara) local to Saronno, Italy, which give the liqueur its name.

    In Italy, almonds are grown in two basic varieties, sweet and bitter (mandorla).

    WHO INVENTED AMARETTO?

    Before the names DiSaronno or Lazzaroni ever appeared on a bottle, the amaretto legend was born.

    In the Renaissance and earlier, many families would distill their own liqueurs and digestifs.

    According to their history, here’s the scoop:

    In 1525, the artist Bernardino Luini, a former pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, was commissioned by the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie in the city of Saronno, in northern Italy near the Swiss border, in the region of Lombardy.

    He painted a fresco of the the Adoration of the Magi (photo #5) in the sanctuary, which included the Madonna of the Miracles (photo #6). The fresco can still be seen today).

    As the model for the Madonna, Luini hired a young widow, an innkeeper. As a gift, she gave him a flask full of an amber liqueur she made by steeping apricot kernels in brandy.

    Her name is lost to history, but her likeness and her amaretto recipe live on.

    Perhaps she was a member of the Reina family; for somehow, in 1600, Giovanni Reina (who had worked for the Lazzaroni amaretto cookie business) discovered the innkeeper’s old recipe. He made the liqueur, and the “secret” recipe passed from one generation to the next.

    20th Century Amaretto Di Saronno

    At the beginning of the 20th century, Domenico Reina decided to open a store in Saronno to sell food items, including the family liqueur, which he sold as Amaretto di Saronno Originale (Original Amaretto from Saronno, photo #4). The store was called Domenico Reina Coloniali (Domenico Reina’s Grocery—photo #3).

    By 1940, liqueur production had grown into a large artisanal business. In 1947 was incorporated as ILLVA SARONNO. ILLVA is an acronym for Industria, Lombarda, Liquori, Vini & Affini (Industry, Lombarda, Spirits, Wines & Allied Products).

    The product was called Amaretto di Saronno (Amaretto from Saronno), before returning to the latter part of the original name, Disaronno Originale, in 2001. It is still produced in Saronno, and sold worldwide (source).

    It should be noted that Paolo Lazzaroni & Figli S.p.A., makers of Amaretti di Saronno cookies, claims that the Lazzaroni family created amaretto, in 1851.

     

    That may be so, but their recipes are quite different. Disaronno’s is made from apricot kernel oil with “absolute alcohol, burnt sugar, and the pure essence of seventeen selected herbs and fruits” (i.e., no almonds or other nuts).

    Lazzaroni’s amaretto contains their Amaretti di Saronno almond cookies, infused in alcohol (source).

     

    CORDIAL, LIQUEUR, EAU DE VIE: THE DIFFERENCE

    Most people—including American producers and importers—use these terms interchangeably. But there are differences:

    EAU DE VIE, CORDIAL, LIQUEUR & SCHNAPS:
    THE DIFFERENCE

  • Schnaps/schnapps, a generic German word for liquor or any alcoholic beverage, is more specific in English, where it refers to clear brandies distilled from fermented fruits. The English added a second “p,” spelling the word as schnapps. True Schnaps has no sugar added, but products sold in the U.S. as schnapps may indeed be sweetened. As one expert commented, “German Schnaps is to American schnapps as German beer is to American Budweiser.”
  • Eau de vie is the French term for Schnaps. American-made brands labeled eau de vie (“water of life”) are often heavily sweetened, and have added glycerine for thickening.
  • Liqueur is an already distilled alcohol made from grain which has already been fermented, into which fruits are steeped. It is sweeter and more syrupy than a European eau de vie or schnapps.
  • Cordial, in the U.S., almost always refers to a syrupy, sweet alcoholic beverage, a synonym for liqueur. In the U.K., it refers to a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink or the syrup used to make such a drink. Rose’s Lime Cordial, a British brand, is called Rose’s Lime Juice in the U.S. so Americans don’t think it’s alcoholic.
  •  
    EAU DE VIE, “WATER OF LIFE”
     
    The distillation of alcohol may have taken place as early as 200 C.E., possibly by alchemists trying to make gold (alembic still history).

     

    Adoration Of The Magi - Luini

    Adoration Of The Magi - Luini

    [5] Adoration Of The Magi by Bernardo Luini, and [6] the detail of the Madonna.

     
    Because spirits were initially intended to be medicinal, “water of life” was a reasonable name for distilled alcoholic preparations.

    The Russian term zhiznennia voda, which was distilled down (that’s a pun) into “vodka,” also means water of life (the literal translation of vodka is “little water”).

    The Gaelic uisce beatha, pronounced ISH-ka BYA-ha, too, means “water of life.” The pronunciation evolved into the more familiar term, whiskey.

    THE TOP 10 LIQUEURS

    According to The Spirit Business, the top-selling liqueur brands in the world are:

    1. Baileys Irish Cream (whiskey flavored)
    2. Malibu (rum and coconut flavored)
    3. De Kuyper (assorted flavors)
    4. Lubelska (vodka-based liqueur)
    5. Southern Comfort (whiskey flavored)
    6. Kahlúa (coffee flavored)
    7. Amarula (amarula fruit flavored*)
    8. Disaronno Amaretto (almond flavored)
    9. Zoladkowa Gorzka (vodka-based liqueur, black cherry flavor)
    10. Cointreau (orange flavored)
    ________________

    *The African fruit from which this is made has been described as tasting like chocolate-covered strawberries. It is a favorite of elephants.

      

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