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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

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

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for The Nibble

FOOD FUN: Green Tea Fortune Cookie Cake

At last: an idea to repurpose the fortune cookies that so many of us acquire from Chinese food take-out.
This Green Tea layer cake is made by Baked NYC, one of the most popular bakeries in New York City. The cake has three almond white cake layers, frosted and filled with green tea buttercream.

You can call it a Green Tea Cake, Fortune Cookie Cake, or Chinese New Year Cake. It’s easy to whip up with a box of white cake mix and some dark or white chocolate, into which you dip the fortune cookies. Here’s how:

RECIPE: GREEN TEA FORTUNE COOKIE CAKE

  • Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract to a white cake batter (use a boxed mix).
  • If you want an actual green tea cake, add 4 teaspoons of matcha (powdered green tea) to the cake batter/mix and omit the almond extract.
  • Make the green tea buttercream (recipe below).
  • Dip the fortune cookies into melted dark or white chocolate.
  • If you like crunch, crush extra fortune cookies with a rolling pin and add the pieces to the filling over the bottom layer.
  •    

    green-tea_layer-cake-230

    Green tea frosting on a layer cake. The fortune cookies were dipped in white chocolate. Photo courtesy BakedNYC.com.

     
    If you want to make your own fortune cookies from scratch, here’s the recipe.
     

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA BUTTERCREAM

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 sticks butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the water and tea powder to make a paste.

    2. CREAM the butter and tea until completely combined. Gradually add powdered sugar until you reach the consistency you like for frosting.

     

    Matcha

    Matcha, powdered green tea, is whisked with
    water into a foamy beverage. Photo by Kelly
    Cline | IST.

     

    WHAT IS MATCHA?

    Matcha is powdered green tea the consistency of talc, that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony (cha no yu). Matcha has a wonderful aroma, a creamy, silky froth and a rich, mellow taste.

    Matcha is made from ten-cha leaves, which are gyokuro leaves that have been not been rolled into needles but are instead steamed and dried. They are top-grade Japanese green tea, produced by a special process in the Uji district, a region known for producing some of the finest green teas in Japan.

    The tea bushes are shaded from sunlight for three weeks before harvesting, producing amino acids that sweeten the taste. Unlike whole leaf tea, which is steeped, the leaves are then ground like flour, slowly and finely in a stone mill. The powder is whisked into water, creating a foamy drink. It is the only powdered tea.

    Powdered tea is the original way in which tea was prepared. Steeping dried leaves in boiling water didn’t arrive until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

    Matcha contains a higher amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, L-theanine amino acids, polyphenols, chlorophyll and fiber) than other teas.

     
    In recent years, matcha has become a popular cooking and baking ingredient, and now comes in different grades for different uses. Pastry chefs have incorporated it into everything from cakes and custards to ice cream.
     
    WHAT IS THE CHINESE NEW YEAR?

    The Chinese calendar consists of both Gregorian and lunar-solar calendar systems. Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February.

    This year, it begins today, and it’s the Year Of The Goat, one of the 12 zodiac animals. The Chinese zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle. Each year in the cycle has an animal sign: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/ram/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog or pig.

    But what’s with the goat/sheep/ram? Which one is it?

    It’s what you want it to be. In Mandarin, the character “yang” refers to a horned animal, and covers all three of the contenders. But if you go for sheep, know that is one of the least desirable animals on the zodiac. A sheep is seen as a docile, weak follower, rather than a leader.

    So go for the goat: a feisty, independent-minded ruminant whose milk makes our favorite cheese!

    If This Is Your Lunar Year…

    In addition to those born this year, those under the goat/ram/sheep sign were born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 and 2003. For them, 2015 is an auspicious year.

    People born in the Year Of The Goat are said to like to be in groups. They are honest, intimate, and can be easily moved by the misfortune of others.

    Every sign confers lucky numbers, lucky colors, lucky flowers, etc. So whether you’re a goat or one of the other zodiac animals, head on over to ChinaHighlights.com to find yours.

    CHINESE NEW YEAR TRIVIA: The tradition of spending the Lunar New Year holiday with family means that hundreds of millions of Chinese people are traveling home. It’s the world’s biggest annual migration.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Cook Fish

    Lent began yesterday, the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (this year on April 2nd). During Lent, observers recognize Christ’s sacrifice by giving up something pleasurable. Around the world, the most common Lenten practice is to give up meat. In the U.S., seafood sales soar during the six weeks of Lent.

    Whether you’re a lent observer, or simply want to eat more healthfully, here’s inspiration from GetFlavor.com, a magazine and website for professional chefs.

  • Baked fish: salmon wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce; quiche; en papillote; Salmon Wellington
  • Cured/pickled/smoked: ceviche, gravlax, pickled herring; smoked bluefish, cod, salmon, trout, tuna fillets; smoked fish pâté
  • Deep-fried fish: battered, tempura or breaded; calamari, fish and chips, fritters, nuggets, shrimp
  • Dips and spreads: pâté, taramasalata, whitefish
  • Grilled fish: whole fish or fillets; kebabs or skewers; cod, sardines, shrimp, snapper, whitefish
  •  

    pan-sauteed-catfish-230

    It couldn’t be easier: Pan-sautéed fish topped with a light salad. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

  • Pan-fried or sautéed fish: Trout, soft-shell crab, salmon or trout patties
  • Poached fish: crab legs, salmon, shrimp cocktail, whitefish
  • Raw fish: carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, tartare, tataki
  • Roasted fish: fillets, steaks, whole fish
  • Steamed fish: fillets, steaks or whole fish; mussels, gefilte fish
  • Stews and casseroles: bisque, bouillabaisse, chowder, cioppino, curry, gumbo
  • Stir-fried and sautéed fish: Asian-style stir fry, blackened, with pasta
  • Specialty: caviar, crêpes, flan, mousse, pancakes, poke, risotto
  •  

    black-bass-porcini-brodetto-scottconant-230

    You can make this nicely-plated restaurant dish. Just place grilled bass or other fish atop a bed of grains or vegetables and surround with broth or sauce. In a pinch, you can make a sauce from a can of creamed soup. Photo courtesy Chef Scott Conant.

     

    BOILING, POACHING OR STEAMING: THE DIFFERENCE

    These three related cooking techniques are both healthful and easy. Here are the nuances:

    Poaching

    Poaching is a gentle cooking method used to simmer foods in a hot, but not boiling, liquid. Water is often used as the poaching liquid but its flavor is often enhanced with broth or stock, juice, vinegar or wine.

    Typically, vegetables (carrot, celery, onion), citrus (lemon, lime, orange), herbs and/or spices are added to the liquid for additional depth of flavor. Chicken breasts, eggs, fish/seafood and fruit are good candidates for poaching.
     
    Boiling

    Boiling is more intense than poaching. Foods are cooked in rapidly bubbling liquid, most often water. Poaching is best suited to foods such as starches and vegetables that can withstand the high heat and the agitation of rapidly moving water.

    Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower hearty greens (collards, kale, turnip greens), pasta, potatoes and rice are some of the most frequently-boiled foods.

     
    Steaming

    With this technique, foods are cooked by steam generated from boiling liquid. Water is most often used because little to no flavor is transferred to the food from the steam. Since there’s no direct contact with water, steaming retains the shape, texture and bright color (e.g., of asparagus or other vegetables and fruits) without becoming water-logged or soggy.

    Steaming also prevents vitamins and minerals from dissolving into the cooking liquid. Fruits, proteins, vegetables and even desserts—cakes, custards and puddings) can be steamed.

    For instructions on each of these techniques, visit CampbellsKitchen.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Maple Syrup Blondies

    We received a gift of maple syrup, and were checking out our list of ways to use maple syrup. We settled on this recipe we’ve been wanting to try, for Maple Syrup Blondies from Lauryn Cohen of BellaBaker.com.

    We actually prefer blondies with chocolate chunks to brownies. Lauryn prefers toffee bits in her blondies.

    In this recipe, she substituted maple syrup for the toffee. As she explains, it gives the same sweet, caramelized flavor throughout the whole base of the blondie, rather than just in little toffee pockets. She also added in some cinnamon, chocolate chips and coconut.

    The result, she says, “a golden, sweet, amazingly fantastic blondie.”

    RECIPE: MAPLE SYRUP BLONDIES

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped semi sweet chocolate, or chocolate chips/chunks
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  •  

    Maple syrup blondies with lots of chocolate chips. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

    3. CREAM the butter and both sugars together in a large bowl, using electric beaters on medium high speed, until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the maple syrup and vanilla; then reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add in the dry ingredients.

    4. SWITCH to a rubber spatula and add the chocolate, coconut and walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and slightly separated from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.

    5. WAIT until the blondies are completely cool before cutting into squares.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Grilled Cheese

    grated-cheddar-dreamstime_19387653-230

    Shred the cheese first. Daryl Brooks |
    Dreamstime.

     

    Grilled cheese sandwiches, one of America’s favorites, are pretty easy to make,. Yet they’re not problem free.

    Sometimes, the cheese does not melt evenly or quickly. This is especially true when you hand-slice quality cheese from a block, as opposed to using thin, easy-melting plastic-wrapped singles.

    So here’s an easy, fast and foolproof tip for grilled cheese success: Shred the cheese first. It takes only a minute, and cooks so much better.

    The other key to grilled cheese success (as we define it) is superior cheese and bread. To many people, American cheese singles on white bread does the trick.

    Here, that trick doesn’t even get cursory consideration! We demand great cheese and bread (personal preference: a rustic, chewy loaf).

     
    RECIPE: FOOLPROOF GRILLED CHEESE

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2-3 ounces cheese
  • Optional ingredients: bacon, chutney, pickles, tomato, etc.
  • Preparation

    1. BRING the butter to room temperature. If you’re making more than one sandwich, preheat the oven to 350°F so you can keep the first sandwich(es) warm.

     

    2. SHRED the cheese roughly, like pizza cheese. We used a vegetable peeler.

    3. PREHEAT a heavy skillet over medium heat. Slice the bread.

    4. SPREAD one side of both slices of bread with the softened butter. Be sure the butter is spread generously and evenly over the surface.

    5. PLACE one piece of bread, butter-side down, into the hot pan. The butter will sizzle when it hits the heat. Top the bread with the shredded cheese. Add any other ingredients. Top with the second piece of bread, butter side up. Lightly press with a spatula.

    6. CHECK the bottom slice after a minute. If the underside is golden brown, flip the sandwich and cook until the second slice is equally golden.

    7. STASH in the oven to keep the sandwich warm while you’re making the next sandwich. If the cheese is not completely melted before, it will finish melting in the oven.

     

    grilled-cheese-calphalon-WS-230

    Making grilled cheese sandwiches in a nonstick Calpahlon grill pan. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    TRADER JOE’S TRUFFLED CHEDDAR CHEESE

    We picked up Trader Joe’s Farmhouse English Cheddar Cheese with Italian Truffles yesterday. At $9.99 a pound, it’s twice the price of the Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar Cheese we also purchased. But it’s an affordable luxury, and has good truffle flavor.

    Paired with some sliced rustic sourdough bread from Le Pain Quotidien, it made a most satisfying grilled cheese sandwich. The truffle flavor is a big flavor boost; but for our second sandwich we added some caramelized onions that we had in the fridge. Equally good!

    The folks at Sam Adams recently sent us some Rebel IPA, an India Pale Ale made in the West Coast style. It was a perfect complement to our grilled cheese sandwiches.

    What’s a West Coast IPA?

    East Coast IPAs have a stronger malt presence to balance the intensity of the hops. West Coast IPAs showcase the hops more.

    According to Wikipedia, East Coast breweries rely more on spicier European hops and specialty malts than West Coast. According to us: Both are delicious.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Meatloaf Hero Sandwich

    cheesy-meatball-hero-wmmb-230r

    A hearty meatloaf sub for Oscar watchers. EatWisconsin Cheese.com.

     

    Here’s a suggestion from From Eat Wisconsin Cheese.com: Switch the popular meatball submarine sandwich for a meatball hero, sub or hero whatever you call it in your neck of the woods (see the note below).

    It’s an easy way to feed a crowd during events like the Academy Awards. If you serve half a hero to everyone, along with other nibbles, this recipe feeds 12.

    RECIPE: MEATLOAF HERO SANDWICH

    Ingredients For 6 Sandwiches

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 cup (9 ounces) Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon-style mustard
  • 6 sub/hero/French rolls
  • 6 leaves of lettuce
  • 12 tomato slices
  • 12 slices provolone cheese
  • Plus

  • Cole slaw, potato salad or French fries
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the meatloaf; Preheat oven to 375°F (conventional; if using a convection oven, preheat to 325°F).

    2. COMBINE the meats, Asiago, egg, breadcrumbs, parsley, Dijon mustard, pepper and salt in a bowl. Mix well and pack into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake the loaf until cooked through and browned, 55 to 60 minutes.

    3. REMOVE the meatloaf from the oven and drain the fat. Cool completely before slicing into 12 slices.

    4. BLEND the mayonnaise and mustard. Split the rolls and top each bottom bun with 1 tablespoon of the spread plus lettuce, 2 tomato slices, 2 meatloaf slices and 2 provolone slices. Top with the roll tops, and serve the sandwiches with potato salad or French fries.
     

    ONE SANDWICH, SO MANY NAMES

    Hero is the New York term for the sandwich also called the grinder, hoagie, po’ boy, torpedo, submarine, zeppelin and other names, depending on region.

    The term “hero” originated in the late 19th century when the sandwich was created to serve Italian laborers, who wanted the convenient lunch they had enjoyed in Italy. The name is credited to New York Herald Tribune food writer Clementine Paddleford, who wrote that “you needed to be a hero to finish the gigantic Italian sandwich.”

    The original hero sandwich, on an oblong roll, piled on Italian cold cuts, cheese, seasonings, oil and vinegar. Varieties evolved to include the meatball hero, eggplant parmigiana and chicken parmigiana heroes.

    These days, basically, anything served on a large, oblong roll is a hero.

    The other sandwiches—grinders, hoagies, etc.—developed with regional ingredients and preferences, but also evolved to include anything served on a large, oblong roll.

    FOOD TRIVIA: The sandwich is the #1 homemade dish.
     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Oscar Party Sushi

    If your Oscar party will include sushi, how about a platter that looks like a director’s slate?

    This fun idea comes from SushiShop, which isn’t selling the “director’s slate” platters but developed this as part of an advertising campaign.

    You can make it yourself with:

  • 10 pieces of salmon nigiri (fish atop rice pads)
  • 10 pieces of tamago nigiri (egg custard)
  • 24 pieces of pieces of black caviar roll in green soy wrappers (or a cucumber wrap), topped with a dab of green mayonnaise (or a piece of edamame)
  •  
    Your local sushi restaurant can create this for you, or work with you to create a different design with different sushi varieties (check them out in our beautiful Sushi Glossary).

     

    sushi-directors-slate-sushishop-230

    Cut! Eat! Photo courtesy SushiShop.com.

     

    Unless you’re a mogul, you can buy affordable black lumpfish caviar or black capelin caviar. We found 12 ounces for $29.99 and $14.95, respectively, on Amazon.

    Check out the different types of caviar.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Applesauce & Applesauce Bar

    applesauce-bar-USApple-230

    Set up an “applesauce bar” for breakfast,
    dessert or snacking. Photo courtesy U.S.
    Apple.

     

    Mom always made applesauce from scratch. Her apple of choice was the McIntosh, and she cooked them with the peel. It generated a pretty pink color when strained through a food mill.

    When we first had commercial applesauce from a jar (that would be you, Mott’s) at a friend’s house, we couldn’t believe the difference in flavor and texture. That is to say, Mom’s was the winner by far.

    For breakfast, lunch or a healthful dessert or snack, set up an apple sauce bar with custom toppings.

    We share our Mom’s stove top recipe—so easy!—as well as a slow cooker recipe from the U.S. Apple Association.

    If you’re avoiding refined sugar, you can cook the apples without sugar and sweeten the cooled applesauce with a noncaloric sweetener, agave, honey, etc.

    TOPPINGS BAR

  • Fruit: fresh berries; dried blueberries, cranberries, cherries, raisins
  • Nuts, raw or toasted: almonds, walnuts
  • Seeds: chia, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds
  • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice
  • Sweeteners: agave, honey, maple syrup
  •  

    RECIPE: JOAN HOCHMAN’S APPLESAUCE

    This applesauce is delicious in its natural state, but if you like to experiment you can try adding spices or lemon zest. Test your preference by seasoning half the batch after you remove it from the heat.

    We easily devoured the two quarts of applesauce in a week; but if it’s too much for you, rather than reduce the recipe, stick it in the freezer. It freezes beautifully.

    Ingredients For 2 Quarts

  • 4 pounds McIntosh apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (add another 1/4 cup if the apples aren’t sweet enough)
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg or lemon zest, or a combination
  •  
    Preparation

    1. QUARTER and seed the apples; don’t peel. Add to a pot of boiling water that covers the apples, top the pot with the lid, reduce the heat to simmer and cook slowly, until the apples are mushy, about 15 minutes.

    2. TASTE and adjust the sugar if needed. If the texture is too thick for you, add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired thickness is reached. After adjusting either, re-boil for a second or two to blend.

    3. LET cool. Process through a food mill. (If you remove the peel before cooking, you can pulse in a food processor). Serve at room temperature and refrigerate the extra.

     

    RECIPE: SLOW COOKER VANILLA APPLESAUCE

    Ingredients For 3-3/4 Cups

  • 3 pounds apples, peeled and cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the peeled apple chunks in the slow cooker and sprinkle with sugar, lemon, vanilla and salt. Stir to mix. Cover the cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.

    2. UNCOVER the cooker and use a potato masher to coarsely mash the apples. For a really smooth sauce, you can purée in a food processor or blender, or use a food mill. Be careful when handling the hot apples and juice, cover the lid of the processor or blender with a folded towel and hold it closed as you turn on the machine.

    3. TRANSFER the applesauce to sterilized jars and let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

     

    apple-macintosh-230

    McIntosh apples, Mom’s favorites for applesauce. Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

     

    APPLE STATISTICS

    The U.S. Apple Association tells us that the United States has approximately 7,500 apple producers who grow nearly 200 varieties of apples, on approximately 328,000 acres. Nearly 100 varieties are in commercial production; the remainder are heirloom varieties grown in backyards and small-scale farming, generally sold at farmers’ markets.

    The 2013 crop was estimated at 248.6 million bushels, with a wholesale value of the U.S. apple crop is more than $2.7 billion. Sixty-seven percent of the crop is grown for fresh consumption and 33% goes for processing (applesauce, pie filling, juice, fresh slices, etc.).

    Apples are grown commercially in 32 states. The top ten apple producing states are, in order of size of crop:

  • Washington
  • New York
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • California
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Ohio
  • Idaho
  •  
    The Top 10 apple varieties grown in the U.S. are, in order of crop size:

  • Red Delicious
  • Gala
  • Golden Delicious
  • Fuji
  • Granny Smith
  • McIntosh
  • Honeycrisp
  • Rome
  • Empire
  • Cripps Pink (Pink Lady)
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Poke

    tuna-poke_petesseafoodclub-230

    Classic tuna poke. You can buy it ready-to-serve from Pete’s Seafood Club.

     

    Hannah Kaminsky is on a food safari in Hawaii, the land of abundant produce and poke.

    Poke is a raw fish and vegetable dish served as an appetizer or salad course in Hawaiian cuisine. A relative of ceviche, crudo, tartare and tataki, it’s a combination of raw fish and vegetables that becomes a salad appetizer.

    Actually pronounced poe-KEH, it is mis-pronounced poe-KEY by enough people that the latter pronunciation is becoming an accepted alternative.

    Poke is Hawaiian for “to section” or “to slice or cut.” The most popular recipe, ahi poke, is made with yellowfin tuna marinated in sea salt, soy sauce, roasted crushed candlenut (inamona), sesame oil, limu seaweed and chopped chili pepper. Alternatively, it is served sashimi-style with wasabi and soy sauce.

    Other types of tuna can be substituted for the ahi, or you can use a different seafood entirely: Raw salmon and octopus are popular. Vegetarians can substitute tofu.

     
    In less civilized times, some Hawaiians would suck the flesh off the bones and spit out the skin and bones. During the 19th century, mainland vegetables such as tomatoes and onions (now Maui onions) were included were introduced, and are now common ingredients.

    Other accompanying condiments include furikake seasoning*, garlic, hot sauce (such as sambal olek), ogonori (ogo) or other seaweed, sesame seeds and tobiko (flying fish roe).

     
    *Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning meant to be sprinkled on top of rice. It typically consists of a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt and MSG. There are different blends, including Ebi Fumi Furikake, Katsuo Fumi Furikake, Nori Fumi Furikake, Noritamago Furikake, Salmon Furikake, Seto Fumi Furikake, Shiso Fumi Furikake and Wasabi Fumi Furikake. You can find them at Asian food stores or online.

     

    RECIPE: POKE TOFU

    How about a variation for vegetarians? This recipe was “ever so slightly adapted from Aloha Tofu,” by Hannah Kaminsky. “Like some of the best dishes,” says Hannah, “this one couldn’t be simpler to prepare.”

    The is a classic dish made by the tofu masters themselves. Their rendition adheres very closely to the traditional fish-based formula, substituting fried tofu cubes for the raw fish—a move that should appease those who can appreciate tofu well enough, but not so much that they care to eat it raw.

    The finished dish is sold in their brand new eatery, but since I didn’t have a chance to scope out that scene as well, I’m grateful that the full recipe is published on their website as well. No strings attached, no gimmicks or marketing ploys; just the desire to share their tofu and new ways to enjoy it. Now that’s the Aloha Spirit in action.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Side Appetizer Servings

  • 1 package (12 ounces) deep fried tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped ogo limu seaweed (substitute hijijki)
  • 1-2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • Pinch crushed red repper flakes, to taste
  •  

    tofu-poke-kaminsky-230

    Tofu poke. Photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.

     
    Preparation

    1. TOSS the tofu, all of the chopped vegetables, and seasonings together in a large bowl. Thoroughly combine all of the ingredients and coat them with the marinade.

    2. COVER and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to a day. Serve cold.
     
    Variations like this have inspired other recipes. Ko Olina’s Pizza Corner restaurant in Kapolei, Hawaii serves an Original Hawaiian Poke Pizza.

    We look forward to trying it!

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: The Flying Meatballs

    open-package-ps-230

    Six large meatballs are tucked under a
    blanket of smooth tomato sauce. Photo by
    Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

     

    There is a National Meatball Day: It’s coming up soon, on March 9th. And we know just how we’re going to celebrate: with lots and lots of The Flying Meatballs.

    The Flying Meatballs is a side business established by an elegant restaurant in Whippany, New Jersey, Il Capriccio. The restaurant’s meatballs have been a perennial menu favorite, with patrons always asking for orders to go.

    The Grande family, owners of the restaurant, decided that the meatballs were ideal for selling directly to consumers—that they would literally “fly off the shelves.” Hence the brand name.

    Made in small batches, the meatballs are now sold direct-to-consumers at TheFlyingMeatballs.com). They’ll also be at a growing list of deli counters, currently at Balducci’s and King’s (listen up, Fairway!).

    Six meatballs, blanketed in sauce, include a choice of:

  • The Classic Meatballs, a 50:50 blend of beef and veal, $16.00
  • 100% Premium Beef Meatballs, $15.00
  • Organic Grass-Fed Meatballs, $25.00
  • The Three Meats Meatballs—beef, pork and veal—$15.00
  • 100% Premium Turkey Meatballs, $15.00
  •  
    The company sent us a sample of each, and we’re now a raving fan. Each order of meatballs is packed by the half-dozen in a velvety tomato sauce. The meatballs are bit: about 3.5 ounces in weight and about three inches in diameter. Two meatballs is more than enough for adults; small eaters and children will do well with one meatball. A big eater, we consumed them without the conventional pasta or submarine roll, with just a big salad. We were more than satisfied.

    Everything is made from scratch, including the breadcrumbs. Just as at the restaurant, prime, natural cuts of meat and premium ingredients are combined into a dense yet tender texture. You get lots of great meat for the money.

    Chef Grande has a degree in engineering, which enabled him to design and build a proprietary meatball extruder. The technology creates a replicate a perfectly hand-rolled meatball, just like his grandmother makes.

    The meatballs are flash frozen after being made and keep their flavor and consistency until thawed and cooked.

    “We’re bringing the comforts of Nonna’s kitchen to customers’ doorsteps,” says chef Natale Grande. The recipe, handed down through generations, rocks. We must give a shout out to the wonderful sauce. A velvety purée, more a gravy than a conventional chunky sauce, it is so good we would like to buy buckets of it and put it on everything.

     

    DELICIOUS ACCOMPANIMENTS

    Pasta

    The company also sells premium imported pastas from Rustichella d’Abruzzo:

  • The curly al torchio (the torchio is the press that shapes them)
  • Bucatini, thick spaghetti with a hollow center
  • Casarecce, meaning “homestyle,” two-inch twists
  • Farro (spelt) penne rigate, short tubes with ridges
  • Fusilli, “little spindles,” a variation of corkscrew pasta
  • Spaghetti, the oldest cut (the name means “lengths of cords”)
  • Organic whole wheat spaghetti
  • Organic kamut pasta from pasta maker Gianluigi Peduzzi
  •  
    Grating Cheeses

    For a primo pasta experience, there’s a choice of six aged Italian cheeses:

     

    flying-meatballs-plated-230L

    Bundles of love. Photo courtesy The Flying Meatballs.

  • Vacche Rosse (“Red Cow”), 30 months aged), considered to be the finest Parmigiaino-Reggiano
  • Grana padano
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Percorino crotonese
  • Pecorino romano
  • Ricotta salata
  •  
    You can see that it’s not all about Parmigiano-Reggiano. The next time you make pasta, consider one of the others. Check out our article, Italian Grating Cheeses.
     
    Pasta Sauces

    The same is true with the sauce. Much as a tomato sauce is beloved on pasta, consider other favorites from the Grande family, including:

  • Basil pesto
  • Classic tomato ragu (the signature San Marzano-based tomatoes sauce that envelopes the meatballs
  • Roasted garlic and broccoli rabe purée
  • Mascarpone fondu, a smooth and very creamy cheese sauce made from blend of mascarpone cheese and 18-month-aged Grana Padano cheese
  •  
    Along with some fine olive oils and a mac and cheese (a blend of Gruyère, provolone and marscopone with a touch of nutmeg over imported gemelli pasta—we can’t wait to try it), TheFlyingMeatballs.com is a treasure trove for delicious Italian comfort food.

    For a treat or a gift (the packaging is quite attractive), order a slew of meatballs. All are delicious, although our personal favorite was the complex layering of Three Meats.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Hot Chocolate From Scratch

    hot-chocolate-moonstruck--230

    Delicious Moonstruck chocolate bars melted
    into milk for hot chocolate. Photo courtesy
    Moonstruck.

     

    It’s below zero in quite a few areas of the country today. As we write this, in Fargo it’s 2°F, with the wind chill making it feel like -18°. In our own municipality, New York City, it’s 14°F, with a wind chill taking us to -3°, going down to -20° tomorrow morning. In the Hudson Valley north of us, the wind chill is -25° to -35° degrees. At JFK Airport, it’s -40°F.

    Yes, it’s colder here than in Fargo!

    So some warming comfort food is required. We recommend hot chocolate made from scratch.

    No matter how much you enjoy hot chocolate from packets—even the pricier ones—making it from scratch produces a far superior product. It’s richer and more chocolaty, with a sweetness level you can adapt and your choice of milk (lactose free, nondairy, whatever).

    EASY HOT CHOCOLATE FROM SCRATCH

    Unwrap a bar of your favorite good-quality chocolate (or leftover solid Valentine chocolate) in a mug of steamed milk. Like hot chocolate on a stick, you stir until the chocolate melts.

    If you don’t have a steamer, just heat the mil

     
    k in the microwave. A mug with 6 ounces of steamed or heated milk can accommodate a small chocolate bar of around 1.2 to 1.4 ounces. A thin bar will melt very rapidly; a chunk of a thicker bar will melt much more slowly.

    Mora Iced Creamery, on Bainbridge Island outside Seattle, serves something like this called a Submarino” in a glass mug. The chocolate “submarine” melts and turn the “oceand” from white to chocolate brown.

    In Columbus, Ohio, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams serves a variation called Hot Chocolate Soup: hot chocolate in a café au lait bowl, served with animal crackers and a handmade marshmallow.

    Art Pollard of Amano Artisan Chocolate in Utah favors a Chocolate & Cream, a preparation of 2 ounces of his delicious chocolate bars melted into a mug’s worth of whole milk combined with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.

    The City Bakery in New York City adds two tablespoons of butter instead of the heavy cream. (Try it if you like things really rich.)

    When you use actual chocolate, including ground chocolate (often labeled as drinking chocolate) instead of cocoa powder, you are making hot chocolate. Here’s the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate.

     

    RECIPE: HOT CHOCOLATE FROM SCRATCH

    Ingredients Per Large Cup/Mug

  • 2-3 ounces of your favorite semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or as chips
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk*
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream* of water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, marshmallow or
    marshmallow creme
  •  
    *You can substitute lowfat or nonfat milk. The drink will simply be less rich. Similarly, you can substitute light cream or half and half for the heavy cream.
     
    Preparation

     

    mocha-hot-chocolate-red-cups-mccormick-230

    Hot chocolate can be customized in dozens of flavors, from banana to raspberry. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    1. COMBINE the chocolate, cocoa and sugar to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Cover and process in ten second bursts at high speed just until finely ground (a few larger chunks of chocolate are O.K.).

    2. HEAT 3/4 cup whole milk plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream (or 3/4 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons of water) in a small, nonreactive saucepan. If using the cream mixture, stir frequently, preferably with a small whisk, until the mixture is steaming hot. If using water, the mixture should be almost at a boil.

    3. ADD the processed chocolate mixture. Whisk in well until it is dissolved and the mixture is steaming hot.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve immediately. Yields one large or two more reasonable servings
     
    Here are 30 different ways to alter the recipe.
     
    MORE HOT CHOCOLATE RECIPES

  • Bailey’s Irish Cream Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Banana Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Chai Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Ice Cream Float Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Spiced Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Tequila Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • White Hot Chocolate Recipe
  •   

    Comments

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