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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
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Archive for The Nibble

TIP OF THE DAY: Black Mission & Green Kadota Figs

Summer is fresh fig season. If you enjoy dried figs the rest of the year, go out of your way to enjoy them fresh.

Last month we wrote about how to use fresh figs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we’ve been reveling in them in the weeks since then, and want to send this reminder to everyone who has not yet jumped onto the fresh fig bandwagon*.

This week, a trove of Black Mission and Green Kadota figs arrived from California to our produce market. The Green Kadota figs we purchased are even sweeter than the Black Mission figs. Do your own taste test.

After enjoying them out of hand, focus on these easy, no-cook uses:

  • For breakfast with cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt and pancakes
  • Instead of fig jam, sliced or diced and mixed with honey or agave
  • For lunch in a green salad with bacon, lardons, prosciutto or other ham; or sliced onto a cheese sandwich with Brie, cream cheese or goat cheese on multigrain or raisin bread
  • With a cheese course, with any cheese from mild to strong (our favorite pairing is blue cheese)
  • For an hors d’oeuvre, spread blue cheese on fig halves
  • For dinner make compound butter (use it on bread, for cooking or toss with pasta or rice)
  •  

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    Fresh Green Kadota and Black Mission figs, shown with their dried versions. Photo courtesy California Figs. The website has recipes for everything from fig muffins to fig pizza.

  • For dessert in a fruit salad; or sliced and marinated in liqueur by themselves or as a topping for ice cream, cheesecake and other desserts
  •  
    *To get, jump or leap on the bandwagon is an idiom from the 19th century. It means to become involved in a successful activity so you don’t lose out on the advantages. There are other expressions of the phrase as well. A bandwagon was a festively-decorated wagon that carried a circus band; the band was part of the showy parade through town to generate excitement for the circus. The term first appears in print in P.T. Barnum’s autobiography, published in 1855. Politicians began to “jump on the bandwagon” to be part of the parade, actually renting seats on the wagon to get exposure to the public during the merry occasion.

     

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    Fresh figs are a delicious summer dessert with cheese and a drizzle of honey. Photo courtesy The French Farm.

     

    RECIPE: FRESH FIG COMPOTE

    Compote, the French word for mixture, is a dessert that dates to medieval Europe. It is made of a mixture of whole or sliced fruits, cooked in water with sugar and spices (cinnamon, clove, lemon or orange peel, vanilla). It can be further blended with grated coconut, ground almonds, or dried or candied fruits.

    Our Nana grew up on compote, and we loved it too. There was always a compote when we visited, served warm (with ice cream or whipped cream) in cooler months and cold in the summer.

    In medieval England compote was served as part of the last course of a feast; during the Renaissance it was served chilled at the end of dinner. Any fresh fruit could be used. Nana’s family recipe included rhubarb, sour cherry, apricot, nectarine and plum in the summer; apples, pears, quince, dried apricots, figs, raisins and walnuts in the fruit-challenged winter months.

    Use the compote as a bread spread and a condiment with sweet or savory foods, in yogurt, with cheese, cheesecake, etc.

    Ingredients For 2/3 Cup

    If the figs are very sweet, you may need only a small amount of sweetener.

  • 1 pound fresh figs†, cleaned and trimmed as needed
  • 1 to 6 tablespoons sugar or honey (or half as much agave)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: dried fruits or other fruits, Grand Marnier or other alcohol
  •  
    †Figs do not ripen off the tree, so buy fruit that is soft to the touch. The skin around stem should have begun to twist and wrinkle.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT the figs into quarters or smaller pieces as desired. Place the figs, sweetener, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat.

    2. COOK for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the alcohol near the end (or if using dried fruits in the recipe, you can pre-soak them in the alcohol). To turn into a smooth sauce instead of a chunky dessert or topping…

    3. PULSE, using an immersion blender or food processor, until the desired consistency is reached. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

    TO DEGLAZE A PAN

    Here’s how to deglaze a pan to make a sauce. Include a tablespoon of fig compote (you can also use fig jam).

    To make a sauce without pan juices (terrific with roast duck or pork):

    1. HEAT 1 cup of red wine in a saucepan, and simmer to reduce it by half. Add 1/2 cup of fig compote and a half teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

    2. BRING to a simmer again, stirring for a few minutes to blend the ingredients. Remove from the heat and finish with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add a scant tablespoon of butter to smooth out the sauce.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Oven-Dried Tomatoes

    Sun-dried tomatoes are delicious year-round; but according to the USDA, few if any store-bought sun-dried tomatoes are dried in the sun. The original technique, indeed, was to dry the tomatoes in the sun over the course of several days.

    These days, most “sun-dried” tomatoes are oven-dried. However, they taste the same, or even better, when dried in an oven or food dehydrator.

    The drying process gives the tomatoes a long shelf life, since most of the moisture, on which decay-inducing bacteria thrive, is removed (the same strategy as with jerky).

    Sun dried vs. sun-dried vs. sundried? Any of the three spellings is correct.

    OVEN DRYING

    If you have a bumper crop of tomatoes, or there’s a big sale, you can use this technique to create homemade dried tomatoes. Freshly made, they’re still tender and succulent.

    Instead of drying tomatoes in the sun, oven drying is a more efficient method. The task is complete in three hours at the lowest heat setting, instead of several days. You can also use a food dehydrator.

    Of course, if you’d like the authentic experience, you can leave the tomatoes in the hot summer sun for two days or more, taking them in at night. (The oven is looking even better now, isn’t it?)

       

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    Sun-dried tomatoes. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci, producer of premium sun-dried tomatoes.

     
    WHAT TOMATOES SHOULD YOU USE?

    You can dry any tomato—beefsteak, cherry, grape, or other variety. But plum tomatoes, a type of roma tomato, are the most popular. The walls are thicker, meatier and have less water.

    The tomatoes must be ripe but still firm (i.e., not overripe). While it’s not an exact science, five pounds of fresh tomatoes yield about two cups of dried tomatoes. The tomatoes will shrink to about a quarter of their original size.

     

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    Have extra sundried tomatoes? Bring them as gifts. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

     

    RECIPE: OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES

    Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil, oregano or thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove the tough part on the stem end. Also cut away any soft, bruised flesh. Cherry tomatoes need only be halved; but larger tomatoes should be halved again, into a total of four quarters.

    2. SCOOP out most of the seeds, sprinkle with salt and let them sit skin side up for 15-20 minutes. The excess liquid will drain out, and the oven drying will go faster.

     

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 200°F (some people use a lower temperature, e.g. 150°F, but this will take double the time).

    4. PLACE the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, black pepper and olive oil in a large bowl and gently toss to combine. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, lined with parchment. Sprinkle any garlic and oregano in the bowl on top of the tomatoes.

    5. DRY for up to three hours. Flip the tomatoes halfway through. The amount of time will vary, depending on the water content of the tomatoes, the thickness of the slices, and air circulate (expert home cooks place the tomatoes on screens instead of in pans, to abet air circulation).

    6. CHECK for doneness. The tomatoes should be flexible and tender, not dry and hard. Remove from the oven

    7. COOL to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes. Store in heavy-duty freezer bags, either vacuum-sealed or with the air pressed out. We discovered this technique from PickYourOwn.org:. Don’t overfill the bag, and press out the air pockets. Seal the top of the bag, leaving enough space to insert a soda straw. Suck the air out through the straw. When finished, press straw closed at the insertion point, and finish pressing the bag closed as you remove it.

    8. STORE in a cool, dry place. Keeping them airtight is key; the dried tomatoes will quickly reabsorb moisture and go moldy. If you see any condensation in the bag or other container, remove the tomatoes immediately and put them put them back in the oven to dry.

    The tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks, and in the freezer for up to 12 months. To give them as a gift, place in a sterilized glass jar with regular or infused olive oil, and the instructions to use up within a week.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: McConnell’s Ice Cream

    California-based McConnell’s Ice Cream has always been a small family company. Founded in Santa Barbara in 1949, the McConnells made everything from scratch, in small batches, with milk and cream from cows who graze on Central Coast pasture. It’s still made the same way—including pasteurizing the raw milk at The Old Dairy creamery (it dates to 1934).

    Happy cows give happy milk, and these California girls graze on green grass under blue skies. If you’re a cow, there’s nothing better. Add the finest local, sustainable and organic ingredients—from the cage-free eggs to strawberries grown down the road. Avoid preservatives, stabilizers, or additives of any kind.

    The result: ice cream that tastes fresher, more vibrant and creamier (the ice cream now has more than 18% milk fat).

    The company is under new management (also a family), the ice cream is even better than we remember. Perhaps that’s because one of the owners is an executive chef-restaurateur, and the other is a veteran of winemaking (who grew up eating McConnell’s). They used their palates to fine-tune the classic recipes and create quite a few others.

    They also spent the better part of two years modernizing the equipment and production process.

       

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    Chocolate With Raspberry Jam.
    Photo courtesy McConnell’s.

     

    And they’re taking their updated line on the road: The brand is branching out nationwide. Look for it in specialty food stores and upscale supermarkets.

    The flavors change seasonally, but a representative sample includes:

     

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    While much is updated and improved at McConnell’s Ice Cream, the classic packaging remains. Photo courtesy McConnell’s.

     
  • Chocolate Almond Brittle
  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries
  • Churros Con Leche
  • Coconut & Cream
  • Double Peanut Butter Chip
  • Dutchman’s Chocolate
  • Eureka Lemon & Marionberries (in stores now and exquisite!)
  • Golden State Vanilla
  • Mint Chip
  • Peppermint Stick
  • Salted Caramel Chip
  • Sea Salt Cream & Cookies
  • Sweet Cream
  • Toasted Coconut Almond Chip
  • Turkish Coffee
  • Vanilla Bean
  •  
    One of this summer’s specials is Boysenberry Rose Milk Jam, an impressive combination (though we’re not one for all those boysenberry seeds). We recently tasted an upcoming fall flavor, Cardamom & Swedish Gingersnaps, that was so good, before we knew it the pint was empty (and we hadn’t gotten up from the table).

    If you can’t wait for the ice cream to show up in your local store, you can order it from the website. For the person who has everything, send it as a gift!

    For more information, visit McConnells.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Rainbow Ice Pops

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    Eat the rainbow! Photo courtesy Sue | The View From Great Island.

     

    We were charmed by these homemade ice pops from blogger Sue of The View From Great Island (the island town of New Castle, New Hampshire).

    She puréed blueberries, kiwis, mango, pineapple, strawberries and watermelon to make rainbow pops.

    When you make your own, you may choose to follow the colors of the rainbow in order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Here are some fruit choices:

  • Red (cherry, grape, plum, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon)
  • Orange (apricot, cantaloupe, mango, orange, papaya)
  • Yellow (cherry [Queen Anne, Rainier], golden kiwi*, golden raspberry, nectarine, peache, yellow plum
  • Green (avocado, grape, honeydew, kiwi*)
  • Blue (since there are no naturally blue foods, you can skip this layer or purée white fruits—apple, banana, coconut, pear, white peach—and tint them with food color)
  • Indigo (blueberries)
  • Violet (blackberries, black grapes)
  • Preparation

    You’ll need ice pop molds. Most wide pop molds make only 6 pops. We found one that makes 10 ice pops for not much more money ($18.80 plus free shipping). For all the work you’ll put to make rainbow pops, make as many as you can, whether it’s buying two 10-pop molds or borrowing extra molds from friends.

    1. PURÉE the individual fruits and chill them. Make the darkest layer (violet) first, and work your way up to red at the top. NOTE: When you’re making separate colored layers, it’s important to freeze each layer until set so the layers won’t bleed into each other.

    2. TO REMOVE: Set the mold halfway deep in warm water for 30 seconds, or until the pops begin to release. If you want to remove only a few pops, wrap those individual molds in a kitchen towel dampened with hot water.
     
    *We recommend straining the seeds, which tend to create a “polka dot layer.”

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Peach Bellini Cocktails

    We were inspired by this photo from Audra, The Baker Chick, to look for the ripest peaches—or plan ahead and ripen our own—for fresh peach Bellinis. In the off-season, you can buy frozen peach purée or (surprise!) baby food puréed peaches.

    You can make the peach purée a day or two in advance of your brunch or cocktail party. Well-chilled purée from the fridge is ideal.

    RECIPE: FRESH PEACH BELLINI COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drinks

  • 2 ripe peaches
  • Chilled Prosecco (substitute Cava or other sparkler)
  • Lemon wedge
  • Optional garnish: peach wedge
  •  
    Preparation

    Plan on two peaches for the cocktail. Cut a wedge from one peach, unpeeled, for the garnish. Peel and purée the remainder of the two peaches. The riper the peaches, the better they are for the purée; but you need a ripe-but-firm peach to slice and notch for the garnish.

       

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    A Bellini made with fresh summer peaches. Photo courtesy TheBakerChick.com.

     
    1. POUR 2 ounces of the purée into a flute, tulip or other stemmed glass. Increase the amount of purée for a sweeter and less alcoholic drink.

    2. ADD a squeeze of fresh lemon.

    3. TOP with chilled Prosecco. You don’t need to stir, but if you want to, do it just once, very gently, so you don’t break the bubbles.

    4. GARNISH with a peach wedge.
     
    Audra, The Baker Chick, makes a more complex recipe, combining the peach purée with homemade vanilla bean syrup for a strong vanilla flavor. Here’s her recipe.

     

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    Prosecco’s traditional bottle shape.
    Photo courtesy Mionetto Prosecco.

     

    THE HISTORY OF THE BELLINI COCKTAIL

    While many people use Champagne to make a Bellini, the original recipe, created in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, head bartender at Harry’s Bar in Venice, is made with Prosecco. The dry, sparkling Italian wine is lighter than Champagne—and much less expensive.

    Even if money isn’t an issue, save the Champagne and its complex, yeasty, toasty and mineral-chalky flavors, for sipping straight.

    The peachy color of the cocktail reminded Cipriani of the color of the robe of St. Francis of Assisi in a painting, “St. Francis In The Desert” (sometimes called “St. Francis In Ecstasy”) by Giovanni Bellini, commissioned in 1525. Cipriani named the drink in Bellini’s honor. If you’re a Bellini lover and in New York City, the painting is in the collection of the Frick Museum.

    Some sources report that the original Bellini was made with white peach purée. White peaches were plentiful in the area and were often marinated in wine as a dessert.

    If you can’t find white peaches, don’t worry. When mixed with the Prosecco, the flavor difference between white and yellow peaches is indistinguishable. And yellow peaches provide more of the color for which the drink was named.

     
    ABOUT PROSECCO

    Prosecco is the quintessential summer sparkler: light-bodied for hot weather drinking and sufficiently affordable—most bottles are $10 to $12—to enjoy regularly.

    Hailing from the Veneto region of northeast Italy, Prosecco is the name of the village where the Prosecco grape—now known as the Glera grape—originated. Other local white grape varieties, such as Bianchetta Trevigiana, can be included in the blend.

    The wine can be frizzante—just slightly fizzy, sometimes bottled with a regular cork to be opened with a corkscrew—or spumante—very fizzy, bottled with the mushroom-shap cork and wire cage* used on Champagne bottles.

    The wine is often labeled Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene, after its appellation.
     
    *Dom Perignon created an early version of wire caging on the cork. Manyt of bottles were lost during production because the cork on the bottle was unable to withstand the pressure of the effervescent Champagne. The added strength. In 1844, Adolphe Jacqueson made the cage (called a muselet in French) in the shape we know today. Here’s a further discussion.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: S’mores Cone, S’mores Dip & More Creative Recipes

    For National S’mores Day, August 10th, Reynolds Kitchens has developed two grill approaches that use aluminum foil instead of the original twig over a fire. You can also make them indoors on the stove top.

    The recipes evolve S’mores graham cracker sandwiches into two fun variations: s’mores cones and skillet s’mores.

    Use your favorite chocolate, milk or dark. We use Guittard or Valrhona wafers or chop up Lindt bars; but you can use chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.

    Below, we have links to the history of S’mores and graham crackers, and many more creative S’mores recipes, from S’mores ice cream cake and cupcakes to cinnamon S’mores with a cappuccino cocktail.

    RECIPE: S’MORES WAFFLE CONES

    Ingredients

  • Chocolate
  • Marshmallows (large or mini)
  • Graham crackers, broken into pieces
  •    

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    S’mores cone. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchen.

  • Cones (use the smaller sugar cones instead of the larger waffle cones)
  • Aluminum foil
  •  

    Preparation

    1. STUFF the chocolate, marshmallows and graham cracker pieces into the cones, alternating to distribute the flavors.

    2. WRAP in foil and heat the packet over a campfire or grill for 3-5 minutes.

    3. REMOVE the packet carefully and allow it a few minutes to cool before unwrapping and eating.

     

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    S’mores dip. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchen.

     

    RECIPE: SKILLET S’MORES

    Ingredients

  • Chocolate chunks (you can break up chocolate bars)
  • Marshmallows
  • Graham crackers
  • Aluminum foil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chocolate chunks in a skillet. Top with the marshmallows and place over the campfire or grill until melted.

    2. REMOVE from the heat, ideally with a skillet handle pot holder.

    3. DIP the graham crackers into the skillet s’mores.. Warn people to avoid touching the skillet!

     

    MORE S’MORES RECIPES

  • S’mores History
  • Graham Cracker History
  • Cinnamon S’mores with a Cappuccino Cocktail
  • Creative S’mores Recipes
  • Gourmet Marshmallow S’mores
  • Ice Cream S’mores
  • S’mores Ice Cream Cake, Ice Cream Pie and Cupcakes
  • S’mores in a Cup
  • S’mores with Other Types Of Cookies
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Israeli Salad

    Israeli salad (salat yerakot, vegetable salad*, in Hebrew) is a chopped salad of diced tomato and cucumber. It can also include bell pepper, onion, and parsley (that’s the way we like it). Other ingredients, such as carrot and ethnic-specific ingredients (more about that in a few paragraphs) can be added. The dressing is fresh lemon juice, olive oil or both. A dash of sumac or za’atar (see below) is optional.

    In Israel, the ingredients are diced very fine, and it is a badge of honor among cooks to dice as finely and perfectly as possible. Chunkier versions appear in the U.S.

    As a kibbutz tradition in Israel (and now ubiquitous at restaurants and cafés), Israeli salad is typically eaten for breakfast, along with a host of other options†. It is also served as a side dish at lunch and dinner, and added to pita along with falafel or shawarma.

    ISRAELI SALAD HISTORY

    Israeli salad is actually an Arab salad, adapted from a Palestinian country salad and popularized in the kibbutzes of Israel. Variations include ancestral seasonings: chopped ginger and green chili peppers show India influences, preserved lemon peel and cayenne pepper are popular with North African Jews. Bukharan Jews, who immigrated from Central Asia, dress the salad with vinegar only. A Persian variation substitutes mint for parsley.

       

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    Israeli salad: refreshing, low in calories and good for you. Photo © Pushiama | IST.

     
    RECIPE: ISRAELI SALAD

    Truth be told, although an ideal Israeli salad is known for its fine, even dice, dicing is our least favorite kitchen task. So we make a medium dice, imperfect in every way, and it works just fine.

    You can serve Israeli salad plain or with greens underneath; as a side dish; in a pita with hummus, falafel or both; and on a mezze plate with hummus, babaganoush, grape leaves, tabbouleh and tzatziki or labneh. Add feta and Kalamata olives for a Greek salad, and on top of that, add chickpeas for a Middle Eastern salad.

  • 6 Persian‡ cucumbers or 3 peeled Kirbys, finely chopped (no need to peel the Persian cukes)
  • 4 plum, San Marzano or other roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced, or equivalent red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional seasoning: sumac or za’atar (see below)
  •  
    Plus

  • Pita triangles, warmed or toasted
  •  
    *Israeli salad is also called salat katzutz (Hebrew for chopped salad) and salat aravi (Hebrew for Arab salad).

    †The Israeli breakfast is a dairy meal (meatless), starting with eggs in different styles, including shakshouka (recipe), eggs poached in a spicy tomato. In addition to Israeli salad, other Middle Eastern dishes may be served, such as baba ghanoush (eggplant spread), hummus and labaneh, a thick-strained yogurt. The options continue with breads, cheeses and fish, such as pickled herring, sardines and smoked salmon; olives and fresh vegetables (cucumbers, green bell peppers, onions, radishes, shredded carrots, tomatoes).

     

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    Persian cucumbers. Photo courtesy John Vena Produce.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, along with the optional sumac and za’atar.
     
    MEET THE INGREDIENTS

    Persian Cucumbers

    Persian cucumbers don’t require peeling. They were developed in 1939 on a kibbutz in northern Israeli; the local cucumbers were small and tasty but susceptible to rot and disease. The breeders hybridized them with cucumbers from China, India, Japan, Surinam and the U.S. to improve disease resistance; and crossed them with English and Dutch varieties to be seedless.

    The result was a small, very flavorful cucumber with crisp, sweet, succulent flesh, a smooth, thin, edible skin and without developed seeds. [Source]

     
    They range from four to six inches in length. In Israel, the variety was called Beit Alpha, after its birthplace. Some American growers called it a Persian cucumber or Lebanese cucumber. You can find them at farmers markets, higher-end supermarkets (we found them at Trader Joe’s). Or, buy Persian cucumber seeds,also called baby cucumbers, and grow your own.

    Sumac

    Sumac is ground from a red berry-like drupe that grows in clusters on bushes in subtropical and temperate regions. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice. (One of the species not used is the poison sumac shrub.)

    The word “sumac” comes from the old Syriac Aramaic summaq, meaning red. In Middle Eastern cuisine, the spice is used to add a tangy, lemony taste to meats and salads; and to garnish hummus and rice. The spice is also a component of the popular spice blend, za’atar, below.
     
    Za’atar

    Also spelled zahtar, za’atar is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines. It is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries, which impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

    Traditional ingredients include marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac. Za’atar is used to season meat and vegetables, mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread, added to hummus, and for a modern touch, sprinkled on pizza, especially ones with feta cheese.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Watermelon “Keg” Tap With Watermelon Agua Fresca

    A melon tap turns any large, seedless watermelon into an punch bowl, ideal for filling with watermelon-based beverages. Simply hollow out the melon, insert the tap and fill it with your beverage of choice. In addition to a refreshing drink, you give guests the fun of dispensing their drinks from a watermelon. (In the fall, you can do the same with a pumpkin.)

    For starters, fill your watermelon “punch bowl” with watermelon agua fresca. It’s a memorable finale to the summer.

    Agua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water.” In culinary terms, it refers to sweetened, fruit-flavored water. Like lemonade, it is noncarbonated and nonalcoholic.

    But you can keep a bottle of spirits next to the melon dispenser for guests who’d like a shot or two. May we suggest watermelon vodka? You can find watermelon-flavored vodka from Smirnoff, Three Olives, Pinnacle (Cucumber Watermelon), UV (Salty Watermelon) and others.

    The tap in the photo is the PROfreshionals Melon Tap, $9.99. It includes “feet” that insert into the bottom of the melon to keep it stable. Another variation, from Final Touch, is designed to look like a beer tap handle. It’s $19.99.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/watermelon kegger goodcook bradshawintl 230

    Turn a watermelon into a punch bowl. Photo of PROfessionals Melon Tap courtesy GoodCook.com.

     
    This agua fresca recipe was created by Cheeky Kitchen for Good Cook. Of course, you can also serve the drink from a standard pitcher.

    RECIPE: WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA

    Ingredients For 8-12 Drinks

  • 6 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  • Optional: gin, tequila, vodka
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE and discard a 2” piece from the top of a large, seedless watermelon. Carve out the red melon flesh from the inside of the watermelon and cut into large cubes (they can be as free-form as you like, as they’ll soon be puréed). Place in a large bowl and set aside.

    2. PREPARE the melon for serving by ensuring it can stand upright. Slice a small portion from the bottom of the melon to make it more stable. Place the tap about 3 inches from the bottom of the melon and push it through the rind to the inside. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE the watermelon flesh and all other ingredients in a blender in small batches, as needed. Pour the beverage into the prepared watermelon. Press the melon tap to dispense the drink into large glasses filled with ice.
     
    MORE AGUA FRESCA RECIPES

  • Agua Fresca recipes: horchata (creamy almond), lychee, mango and pineapple
  • Apple-Cucumber-Lime Agua Fresca Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: S’mores Baked Alaska

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/smores baked alaska atwoodrestaurantnyc 230

    S’mores Baked Alaska. Chef Brian molds the
    ice cream on top of the cake layer before
    covering the ice cream with Marshmallow
    Fluff. We took an easier path, creating a
    layered ice cream cake and covering the
    Hotels.

     

    For National S’mores Day on August 10th, here’s a brand new take on the classic, gooey chocolate bar, marshmallow and graham cracker cookie sandwich.

    Chef Brian Millman at Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room in New York City has created S’mores Baked Alaska, a twist on the American classic of ice cream cake*, shrouded in freshly-whipped meringue and then browned under a broiler or with a kitchen torch.

    WHY YOU CAN BAKE ICE CREAM WITHOUT MELTING IT

    The beaten egg whites in the meringue protect the ice cream from melting because beating unfolds the protein molecules. This causes air bubbles to be trapped in the unfolded proteins. This foam acts as an insulating layer around the ice cream and protects it [for a brief time] from the heat.

    This dynamic was discovered by a prominent physicist, Benjamin Thompson, at the beginning of the 19th century. Here’s the history of Baked Alaska.

     
    WHY YOU CAN BAKE ICE CREAM WITHOUT MELTING IT

    The beaten egg whites in the meringue protect the ice cream from melting because beating unfolds the protein molecules and causes air bubbles to be trapped in the unfolded proteins. This foam acts as an insulating layer around the ice cream and protects it from the heat.

    This was discovered by a prominent physicist, Benjamin Thompson, at the beginning of the 19th century. Here’s the history of Baked Alaska.
     
    Meringue has similar ingredients to marshmallow, which is why marshmallow cream also works.

  • Meringue ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar
  • Marshmallow Fluff ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, water, salt and vanilla extract
  •  

    READY TO MAKE YOUR OWN BAKED ALASKA?

    Chef Brian makes these substitutions to turn S’mores into Baked Alaska:

  • Chocolate cake and chocolate sauce instead of the S’mores chocolate bar
  • Marshmallow Fluff instead of the S’mores marshmallows and meringue
  • Graham cracker marshmallow ice cream and graham cracker crumbs instead of the whole graham crackers (Chef Brian makes his own marshmallow and graham cracker ice cream; but you can make hack a variation from a quart of vanilla, some mini marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs)
  •  
    He also adds a pinch of flake sea salt (Cyprus Flake Sea Salt and Maldon Flake Salt flake salts are typically available at specialty food stores or fine supermarkets).

    You can use your broiler to brûlée the Fluff; but if you have one, use a kitchen torch instead. With a torch:

  • You can evenly brown the entire surface. Under a broiler, when the top is perfectly browned, the sides will be much lighter.
  • You don’t have to check the broiler to see how the browning is going. A delicate process, it can turn from done to overdone in seconds. The torch gives you control.
  •  

    RECIPE: S’MORES BAKED ALASKA

    Here’s how we adapted Chef Brian’s concept to make our own version of S’mores Baked Alaska:

    You can bake the cake or buy a chocolate loaf cake (or any unfrosted chocolate cake). You can make the marshmallow ice cream from scratch (here’s a recipe—add the graham cracker crumbs), or buy ice cream and mix in the crumbled graham crackers.

    Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate cake: loaf, sheet or uniced layers
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream plus mini marshmallows, store-bought marshmallow ice cream* or homemade marshmallow ice cream
  • Graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs‡
  • 1 marshmallow fluff tub (16 ounces) Marshmallow Fluff or other marshmallow cream
  • Garnish: graham cracker crumbs
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/mini marshmallows debakery.weebly.com 230

    Add mini marshmallows to softened ice cream to make “quickie” marshmallow ice cream. Photo courtesy DeBakery.Weebly.com.

  • Optional garnishes: chocolate sauce, coarse sea salt or flake salt (like Maldon—see the different types of salt)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE “quick” marshmallow-graham cracker ice cream: Soften the quart of vanilla ice cream on the counter. While the ice cream softens, crumble the whole graham crackers between sheets of wax paper, using a rolling pin. When the ice cream is soft enough to stir, use a spatula to scoop it into a mixing bowl; add the crumbs and stir to combine. Then add the marshmallows and stir. Place the ice cream back into the container. The lid will no longer fit, so cover the top with plastic wrap.

    2. ASSEMBLE the ice cream cake. Create a middle layer of ice cream. For a loaf cake, cut in half horizontally; for a sheet cake, cut two “layers.” Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer. When ready to serve…

    3. PLACE the ice cream cake on a heat-proof (or sturdy) serving plate and use a spatula to cover the sides and top with Marshmallow Fluff. Use the torch to brûlée, on all sides. If the plate isn’t heat-proof, steer clear of the lower part of the cake.

    4. BRING to the table. Dip the knife in warm water to cut. Sprinkle the edges of each dessert plate with graham cracker crumbs and place the sliced cake on top. Pass the optional chocolate sauce and sea salt so guests can customize their portions.

     
    *Baked Alaska is typically made with a thin cake layer on the bottom, and two or more different flavors of ice cream on top. When we created our version of S’mores Baked Alaska, it was easier for us to use thicker layers of cake, for a 50:50 proportion of ice cream to cake. You can construct your Baked Alaska in the proportion you wish.

    †Chocolate Marshmallow ice cream from Turkey Hill, S’mores from Ben & Jerry’s, Schwan’s Chocolate Ripple and others have a base of chocolate ice cream. We prefer a vanilla base, so we made our own.

    ‡We crumbled our own when we could have purchased crumbs. The reason: We preferred the texture of the larger home-crumbled pieces of graham crackers in the ice cream. The purchased crumbs, however, are fine.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Lucky Charms-Type Marshmallows

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/dehydrated marshmallow bits sweetgourmet 230

    You can have your own stash of Lucky Charms-type colored mini-marshmallows. Photo courtesy Sweet Gourmet.

     

    If you got hooked on Lucky Charms cereal, you’re in luck once again: You can buy the dehydrated marshmallows to add to any cereal you like—or any other use.

    We came across these dehydrated marshmallows made by Kraft Foods (Lucky Charms are made by General Mills). They’re regular marshmallow rectangles—not the green clovers, pink hearts, purple horseshoes, tri-color rainbows, orange stars and other Lucky Charms shapes.

    Here’s a fun fact: In October 2012, Lucky Charms posted its best sales volume ever. The company attributed this success to their change in strategy: marketing to adults as well as to children. [Source]

    Add the dehydrated mini marshmallows:

  • To baked goods
  • On cereal
  • As a dessert garnish
  • Atop hot chocolate or warm milk or coffee
  •  

    They’re sold in bag of 6 ounces, 1, 2 and 3 pounds. Get yours at Amazon.com.

     
      

    Comments

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