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FOOD FUN: Pretzel Doughnuts

Pretzel Doughnuts

For National Pretzel Day, have some pretzels on your doughnut. Here’s the recipe from ACosyKitchen.com.

 

Use pretzels in a different way on April 26th, National Pretzel Day. Consider everything from mini pretzels and pretzel sticks to big, soft pretzels as:

  • As a garnish for scrambled eggs, oatmeal, soup, yogurt (minis or crushed)
  • Instead of croutons on soup (minis or crushed)
  • Plain or toasted, for breakfast (big, soft)
  • Sliced for a sandwich (big, soft)
  • As a topping for potatoes or vegetables (crushed)
  • As a topping for ice cream (minis or crushed)
  • As a topping for cake, pudding, brownies or other dessert (minis or crushed)
  • As a crust for chicken or fish
  • Any other way you like
  •  
    If you come up with something nifty, let us know.
     
    Here’s a recipe for Caramel Pretzel Doughnuts from Betty Crocker.

    Alternatively, here’s an iced doughnut shaped like a pretzel.

    And here’s a recipe to bake your own soft pretzels. Perhaps add a doughnut glaze (recipe below). Have fun with it!

     
    Having a good time? There’s also National Soft Pretzel Day on October 26th.

     
    PRETZEL HISTORY

    Thanks to creative monks, man has enjoyed 15 centuries of pretzel snacks. Here’s the history of pretzels.
     
    RECIPE: DOUGHNUT GLAZE

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Hot water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan; heat over low until warm. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the milk and whisk slowly until thoroughly combined.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and set over a bowl of hot water to keep the glaze from hardening. Dip the doughnuts (or pretzels) into the glaze, one at a time, and set on a rack placed in a half sheet pan to drip. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Eggs In Mini Flower Pots

    Last spring we published a tip on serving foods in mini flower pots—the size that can be used to pot small succulents.

    You can use them anytime: to serve breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks.

    You can find mini flower pots in terra cotta or terra cotta-colored plastic. Either can go into the dishwasher.

    For Mother’s Day or other special occasion, why not start the day by using them to serve scrambled or boiled eggs?

    Use wax paper, parchment or butterhead lettuce leaves (bibb, Boston, green leaf, red leaf) to plug the drainage hole on the bottom of the flower pot; then add the food.

    Garnish scrambled eggs or peeled boiled eggs with:

  • Minced chives or parsley
  • Salmon caviar (or other caviar or roe)
  • Truffles
  •  
    Include a salt shaker (or flavored salt) and a peppermill.
     
    DON’T WANT TO BUY FLOWERPOTS?

    You can serve scrambled eggs in a Martini glass.

    Don’t like eggs? Serve berries in the flower pots.

     

    This variation tops scrambled eggs with bay scallops, and a chive stem for garnish. If the chives are flowering, great! Photo courtesy David Burke Fromagerie.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Stir-Fried Pasta With Leftovers

    Stir Fry Pasta Recipe

    Stir Fried Spaghetti

    Stir-Fried Leftover Bowtie Pasta

    Top: Stir-fried fusilli and shrimp from Tes Photchaman Yuphin of TesAtHome.com. Here’s her recipe. Center: Stir-fried spaghetti from Annie Chun. Bottom: Stir-fried bowtie pasta, Asian-style. Here’s the recipe from KaluhisKitchen.com.

     

    If you can make fried rice from leftover rice and other leftover grains, why not fried pasta? You can serve it as main course or a side.

    You can use any un-sauced pasta or noodle with any other ingredients, and give it the spin you want—Italian versus Asian, for example. You can use pasta with tomato sauce if you select add-on ingredients that would taste good together in an omelet.

    You can use any ingredients you have on hand. We’ve used sausage and fresh mango, and ham and pineapple, for example.

    RECIPE #1: STIR-FRIED PASTA, FREESTYLE

    Here are options for free-styling (combining whatever you want). Or follow the measured recipe below.

    Ingredients

  • Leftover pasta
  • Leftover meat, poultry, seafood; fresh tofu; diced or julienned
  • Egg: raw (mixed into the stir-fry pan or wok to cook) or fried or poached as a topper
  • Sauce: crushed tomatoes, fish sauce, peanut sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce
  • Veggies: bell pepper, broccoli florets, carrots, celery, corn kernels, green beans, mushrooms, onion or scallion (green onion), peas (green, snap or snow), shredded cabbage, spinach, etc.
  • Asian veggies: baby corn, bean sprouts, bok coy, Chinese broccoli, edamame (shelled), mushrooms (black, tree ear/wood ear), snow peas, pea pods, water chestnuts
  • Nuts: cashews or peanuts
  • Stock or broth
  • Olive oil, other cooking oil and some dark sesame oil (optional)
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley
  • Spices: curry, ginger, minced garlic, red pepper flakes (or minced fresh chiles or hot sauce), toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the olive oil and vegetables to a large pan. If using dark sesame oil, add a small amount—it is very strong. Sauté over the medium heat until the veggies are al dente.

     
    2. ADD the sauce components of your choice and stir to integrate. Add vegetable stock and increase the heat to high. When the sauce is bubbling, add the shrimp (if you use raw shrimp, cook until they turn pink and curl up).

    3. ADD the pasta and meat/seafood and mix well. Add the fresh herbs, stir and serve.
     

     

    RECIPE #2: CRISPY LEFTOVER PASTA WITH EGGS, ONIONS & PEPPERS

    This recipe from PatsaFits.org uses ingredients most of us have around the house. You can also use leftover pasta with a tomato sauce in this recipe.

    Ingredients For 4 Main Servings

  • 12 ounces cooked leftover pasta, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups/8 ounces onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups/8 ounces red pepper, finely chopped
  • 8 eggs, well-beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce, or to taste
  • ¼ cup/¼ ounce fresh parsley, chopped (substitute basil, cilantro or other fresh herb)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil and sauté the onions and peppers until softened and starting to brown (about 3 minutes).

     

    Plain Spaghetti

    Leftover cooked spaghetti. Here’s how BackToHerRoots.com used it in a frittata recipe.

     
    2. STIR in the eggs and sriracha and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to using to scramble the mixture. When eggs are mostly cooked but still look a little wet, stir in the spaghetti (about 3 minutes). Continue to cook until the eggs are fully cooked and the spaghetti is warmed through (about 2 minutes more).

    3. DIVIDE among 4 bowls, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
     
    FRIED RICE RECIPES

    Have leftover grains instead of pasta? Here are three ways to stir-fry them.

  • Fried Rice With Kimchi
  • Americanized Fried Rice
  • Stir-Fried Quinoa
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Cabbage Steaks

    Green Cabbage

    Grilled Cabbage Steaks

    Crumbled Blue Cheese

    Top: Take a head of cabbage (photo courtesy Good Eggs). Center: Slice it, grill it and garnish it (photo courtesy McCormick). Bottom: For better flavor, chop quality blue cheese instead of using packaged crumbles (photo courtesy KitchenHealsSoul.com).

     

    What’s next after Grilled Cauliflower Steaks? Why, its cruciferous† cousin, Grilled Cabbage Steaks.

    It can be a side, a vegetarian main, or part of a grain bowl. It’s just as delicious as cauliflower, and less expensive.

    This recipe from McCormick adds more flavor to the thick cabbage “steaks” with a zesty marinade. Crumbled bacon, blue cheese and green onions (scallions) are popular toppers. But if you prefer a vegetarian dish, use any toppings you like, from vegetarian bacon and cheese to grilled tofu and cherry tomatoes.

    An average head of cabbage can be cut into six steaks. Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.
     
    RECIPE: GRILLED CABBAGE STEAKS

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 head green cabbage, cut into six 3/4-inch thick slices
  •  
    For The Marinade

  • 1 package McCormick Grill Mates Smoky Applewood Marinade (or your own marinade*)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 6 slices bacon, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
  •  
    ________________________
    *Marinade mix comprises pre-selected seasonings, to which you add your own oil and vinegar. It’s easy to make a “freestyle” marinade from whatever you have on hand. Here’s a basic recipe: 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon each of three herbs of choice (basil, hot chile flakes, oregano, rosemary, thyme or other favorite. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (hold the pepper if using chile flakes). Or substitute lemon zest for an herb and/or lemon juice for part of the vinegar.

     

    Preparation

    1. COOK the bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Crumble the bacon and set aside.

    2. MIX the marinade packet, oil, vinegar, maple syrup and the reserved bacon drippings in small bowl until well blended. Place the cabbage steaks in large resealable plastic bag or a glass dish. Add the marinade and turn to coat well.

    3. REFRIGERATE the cabbage in the marinade for 30 minutes; longer for extra flavor. Then remove the cabbage steaks from marinade, reserving any leftover marinade (see the next section).

    4. GRILL the cabbage steaks over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until tender-crisp, brushing with the leftover marinade. Garnish with the bacon, blue cheese and green onions, and serve.
     
    Next up: Brussels Sprouts Kabobs?
     
    CAN YOU RE-USE MARINADE?

    For a meat or fish marinade, the answer is no. Potentially harmful bacteria that are killed during cooking will remain in the marinade. If you really want to re-use it, you can boil it first to kill the bacteria: Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Vegetables do not harbor harmful bacteria, so can be re-used or frozen for later use. The marinade will lose flavor each time it is frozen and defrosted, so check it after two additional uses and spruce it up with seasonings as needed.

    Here’s detailed information on marinade safety from FoodSafety.gov.
     
    ____________________________
    †The plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, Brassica, contains nutritional powerhouses that are packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). Brassica members include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga and turnips, among others. Eat up!

     
      

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    TIP: Asian Dumplings & Italian Ravioli, The Difference

    While the historical record is scant, it is believed that the pasta Marco Polo brought back from China in 1295 was pillow pasta: stuffed and crimped sheets of pasta dough, a.k.a. dumplings.

    And a.k.a. ravioli, too. The difference is largely local ingredients.
     
    ASIAN DUMPLINGS & STUFFED PASTA: FRATERNAL TWINS

    Noodles (spaghetti or other “long cut” pasta) had been introduced to the West centuries* before Marco Polo.

    Arab traders brought the long noodles back home over the Silk Road, and then to Sicily during the Arab invasions of the 8th century.

    In addition to being an everyday food, dried pasta was a boon for travelers, including soldiers. It was lightweight and required only boiling water to turn it into a hot meal. As in Asia, pasta was also added to soups.

    In Italy, Chinese dumplings evolved into agnolotti, cannelloni, mezzalune (crescents), ravioli (plus the smaller raviolini and larger ravioloni), sacchette (beggar’s purses) and tortellini.

    Instead Asian sauces made from soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, rice wine and/or hot sauce, among other ingredients, Italian pasta was accented with sauces made from local ingredients: cream, olive oil, Parmesan and tomatoes.
     
    Pillow Pasta/Stuffed Pasta

    Pillow pasta is stuffed pasta (pasta ripiena in Italian), but not all stuffed pasta is pillow pasta. In addition to the stuffed “pillows,” the other stuffed category includes large tubes and other shapes that are stuffed and baked, like cannelloni and jumbo shells. Other tube pasta, such as penne, rigatoni and ziti, are too small to be stuffed.

    Pillow pasta can be stuffed with almost any kind of filling, either a single seasoned ingredient or combinations of different meats, cheeses, vegetables, seafood and herbs.

    Here’s a brief history of pasta.

     
    RECIPE: PORK & GINGER RAVIOLI…OR ARE THEY DUMPLINGS?

    This recipe, from Chef Eric B LeVine could be ravioli. But because of the dough used (wonton wrappers) and the Asian ingredients—soy sauce, fresh ginger, lime, scallions—it could be a dumpling.

    But wait: There’s also basil and Parmesan cheese, two Italian specialties.

    This recipe, a fusion of Asian and Italian, illustrates how close Italian and Chinese (and other Asian) pastas can be; and not just in stuffed pasta, but in long cuts as well (mai fun = angel hair, chow fun = pappardelle, etc.).

    Check out Chef Eric’s book, Small Bites, Big Flavor.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 32 wonton wrappers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dipping sauce: Combine the lime zest, juice, honey, soy sauce, canola oil, sesame oil and pepper flakes. Whisk or shake well to combine and set aside.

    2. WHISK together the Parmesan, basil, ginger, garlic, scallions, nutmeg and egg in a large bowl. Add the pork and mix very gently with your finger tips until just blended. Place the pork mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm.

    3. MAKE the dumplings, one at a time. Brush the flour side of the wrapper with water. Place a heaping tablespoon of the pork mixture in the center of the wrapper. Place another wrapper on top and press the edges together to seal. Use a pastry cutter† or ravioli stamp otherwise trim the edges with a zigzag pastry wheel. Repeat with the remaining filling and wraps.

    4. COOK: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and cook the ravioli for 6 minutes.

     

    Ravioli With Cherry Tomatoes

    Edamame Ravioli

    Pork Ravioli Recipe

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/tortellini mezzaluna eatalychicago 230 1

    Chinese Potsticker Dumplings

    Top: classic ravioli (photo courtesy Delfino Restaurant). Second: round ravioli (photo courtesy Ristorante Morini. Third: The recipe below: Pork-Ginger Ravioli…or are they dumplings? (photo courtesy Chef Eric LeVine. Fourth: Italian mezzalune pasta (half moons or crescents) plus tortellini. Photo courtesy Eataly Chicago). Bottom: Chinese potstickers (photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd).

     
    ________________________

    *The oldest written reference to noodles is in a Chinese dictionary from the third century C.E. However, these noodles were not made from what we know as noodle dough, but from bread dough. The dough was shaped into little bits and cooked in a wok of boiling water. Called mian pian, they are still eaten in China. [Source]

    †If you need to buy a pastry cutter, consider the double-wheel type that cuts both straight and zigzag edges.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Rhubarb, A Spring Favorite

    Rhubarb

    Trimmed Rhubarb

    Top: Rhubarb with its leaves. Don’t eat the leaves—they’re mildly toxic (photo courtesy OurOhio.org). Bottom: Trimmed rhubarb, as it is most often seen in stores (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco).

     

    To many foodies, the beginning of spring means asparagus, fava beans, morels, ramps, scapes and shad roe.

    We add rhubarb to that list. In North America it grows between April and June, paralleling asparagus season.

    Nana was so fond of stewed rhubarb, she made it once or twice a week during rhubarb season. She served it in a dish, like pudding, with or without heavy cream; in a compote; in a parfait; on pound cream (with whipped cream); and as a topping on ice cream.

    Her daughter, Mom, was an inveterate pie baker, turning out Rhubarb Pie, Raspberry Rhubarb Pie and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. We have a Strawberry Rhubarb Tart recipe below.
     
    RHUBARB: A VEGETABLE, NOT A FRUIT

    Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable, a member of the sorrel family. Fruits are not necessarily sweet. Tomatoes are fruit, avocados are fruit, hot chiles are fruits, cucumbers and squash are fruits.

    By botanical definition, fruits have their seeds/pits, on the inside, contained in the fruit’s ovary sac*.

    Fruits carry their seeds inside; vegetable seeds scatter in the wind. You see seeds in an apple, avocado, cucumber and tomato, but not in broccoli, carrots or lettuce. Lacking sweetness doesn’t make it a vegetable.

    Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum, is a vegetable in the Polygonaceae family. The leaf stalks (petioles) are crisp like celery with a strong, tart taste. Rhubarb looks like rosy-pink celery, but is no relation (celery is a member of the Apiaceae family).

     
    Even for a vegetable, rhubarb is very tart. Before it was served sweetened, it was added to soups (try it in lentil soup) and sauces: in the Himalayas, in Moroccan tagines and in Middle Eastern stews. Be sure to cook only the stems; the leaves are mildly toxic (they contain oxalic acid).

    But for most of us, rhubarb needs a sweetener. It’s absolutely delicious as stewed rhubarb, rhubarb ice cream, rhubarb pie and its variation in this recipe, strawberry rhubarb pie. Some people eat the stems raw by dipping them into sugar.

    Rhubarb grew wild in northwest China, and was cultivated about 5,000 years ago for medicinal purposes. It made its way west via Turkey and Russia, and was first planted in England by an apothecary in 1777. Once sweetened, it became popular for jams, sauces and crumbles.

    The thinner and darker pink the fresh rhubarb stalks are, the less tart they will be. Look for stalks that are crisp, bright pink, thin, and unblemished.
     
    _______________________
    *The only exception is the strawberry, which is not a botanical berry but an accessory fruit. True vegetables have no pit or seed sac.
     
    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB GALETTE

    This French-inspired pastry is the perfect balance of tart and sweet, prepared with fresh strawberries and peak season rhubarb enveloped inside a buttery, hand-formed crust and garnished with a touch of sparkling sugar.

    It’s a spring specialty at Hewn, an artisanal bakery in Evanston, Illinois, which advises that this pastry makes a brief appearance only during the late months of spring, when rhubarb season is at its peak.

     
    What’s A Galette?

    In the pastry world, a galette is a rustic, open-face fruit pie. It is flat, with a flaky, turned-up crust that wraps around the filling to creates a “bowl.” The Italian word is crostata.

    A galette is a pie instead of a tart because it uses a pâte brisée crust, instead of the dense, crumbly and sweet pâte sablée used for sweet tarts.

     

     
    Ingredients For A 6-Inch Galette

    For The Filling

  • 1 pint ripe strawberries, cut in quarters
  • 2 stalks of rhubarb, skin removed (use a knife to peel off the dark outside layer)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean (the other is used in the dough)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/16 teaspoon sea salt
  •  
    For The Dough

  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 sticks chilled butter, cut into tiny cubes
  • ¾ cup chilled cold water
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • Optional: fresh thyme or tarragon, chopped, to taste
  • 1 egg (whisked and used to brush the dough before baking)
  •  
    Preparation

    Make the Filling

    1. CHOP the rhubarb into ¼ inch strips. Toss the rhubarb with the quartered strawberries.

    2. ADD the sugar, vanilla bean and sea salt to the rhubarb and strawberries. Toss until it is coated.

    3. ADD the flour and mix the filling.

     
    Make the Dough

     

    Rhubarb Tart

    Stewed Rhubarb

    Top: Rhubarb Galette from Hewn; recipe included, Bottom: Nana’s favorite: stewed rhubarb. Photo courtesy Fast-Ed.com.au.

    The easiest way to make the dough is to use a food processor—but you have to make sure to not overwork the dough.

    1. USING a food processor add the salt and flour and pulse for 5 seconds. With the food processor on…

    2. SLOWLY DROP butter in, in a continuous stream. You should be able to have all the butter added within a minute. Once all the butter is added, let the processor run for 10 more seconds. The dough should look very shaggy and the butter should still be visible. Add the optional herbs.

    3. TURN to the the pulse setting and slowly pour the cold water. This is where the dough can get overworked. Once the water is added, the dough will still be shaggy and should NOT form a ball. The shaggier it is, the flakier the dough will be.

    4. SCOOP out the dough and form into a flat disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and let the dough chill for 2 hours before rolling it out.
     
    Assemble And Bake

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F (325° for a convection oven).

    2. ROLL the dough out and use a ring or bowl to trace a round. The size should be about 6 inches. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper, lay the dough ring on it sheet pan and spoon ¼ cup of the filling in the center. Fold the edges of the dough up, so it creates a pocket to contain the filling. Add the rest of the filling.

    3. BRUSH the edge of the dough with the egg wash and bake the galette for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes check: The crust should be deep golden and the filling should not be runny.

     
    ABOUT HEWN ARTISANAL BAKERY

    Founded by partners Ellen King and Julie Matthei in 2013, Hewn is a cozy neighborhood spot in a historic space. Ellen is a classically trained chef, Julie is the business director.

    Hewn sources local and seasonal ingredients from small, local farmers. The bakery’s name refers to the craftsmanship associated with making something by hand For more information, visit HewnBread.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cider Tasting For Mother’s Day

    Hard Cider & Food

    Drier ciders work better with meats. Photo courtesy Angry Orchard.

     

    Skip the Pinot Grigio and taste some cider for Mother’s Day. It’s more novel than wine, and will suit any guest:

    Cider is equally popular among men and women, whereas beer is significantly more popular among men*. Cider is also gluten-free and less filling than beer.

    While many people think “autumn” when they hear “cider,” that is true for non-alcoholic cider, which is fresh-pressed.

    Hard cider is fermented for eight weeks after the juice is pressed. The cider then matures for several months, is blended, filtered and carbonated. So the “freshest” hard cider is on the market now, not in the fall.

    Another note: In the U.S., alcoholic cider is called hard cider and apple cider/apple juice (the terms are interchangeable in the U.S.) is simply called cider.

    In the U.K. it’s the reverse: “Cider” is hard cider.

    While most cider is made from apples, you’ll also find pear cider, known in the U.K. as perry.

     
    CIDER & FOOD PAIRINGS

    Hard ciders pairs with the same foods as beer and white wine. Styles range from very dry to sweet “hard apple juice.”

  • The sweetness of cider allows you to serve desserts with it, too, especially apple desserts (pie, crumble, bread pudding).
  • For nibbles, serve hearty cheeses and charcuterie.
  • For main courses, consider barbecue, chicken, pork and sausages (beer and brats, meet cider and brats); plus soups, stews and one of our favorite pairings, cheese fondue.
  •  
    TIPS

  • In recipes, you can substitute hard cider for wine.
  • Hard cider is best served chilled or over ice.
  •  

    CIDER TASTING PARTY: WHERE TO START

    1. Gather up a dozen brands or so, and invite friends over for a hard cider tasting. You’ll find hard ciders from the U.S. and England†. Get apple cider for the kids.

    2. For serious foodies, conduct a blind tasting. Serve them in order of alcohol content, lowest to highest. Either cover up the labels with paper (we used a removable glue stick) or place each one in a paper sandwich sack (the size of a take-out coffee bag, which you can get at the nearest deli [offer to pay for them and you’ll likely get them for free]).

    3. Mark each label or bag with a number, and provide each person with a tasting notes sheet. If your group is accustomed to evaluating beer and wine, you can adapt this professional scoring sheet. We put all the descriptors in the left column of that sheet onto one piece of paper, with one for each guest. For notes, we made up a simple sheet with designated areas for rating ciders 1 through 12 (or however many ciders you’re serving) on a second sheet.

    You can also print out this Cider Tasting Wheel.

     

    Cider Goblet

    You can use any glass you like for cider; this one is popular in Europe. Photo courtesy Crispin Cider.

     
    4. Decide on the food and how many bottles of each cider you’ll need for your size crowd.

    5. Start with small pours: An ounce each of 12 cider becomes 12 ounces in relatively short order. At the end of the comparison tasting, people can go back for more.

    6. Provide “dump buckets” so participants can toss what they don’t like. These can be large tumblers or other vessels (we’ve used short vases!).

    7. Have a great time.
     
    _____________________________
    *Beer is preferred by men in terms of market penetration (+10% for men), frequency (+35% for men), and servings consumed (+33% for men).
     
    †Magners Irish Cider is the only hard cider imported from Ireland.

      

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    PASSOVER: Matzoh Strawberry “Shortcake” Recipe

    Matzoh Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

    Substitute matzoh for the biscuits or cake in this Passover Strawberry Shortcake recipe. Photo and recipe courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    In addition to Chocolate Matzoh Crunch and chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, we’ve added anther Passover treat to our recommendations. It’s courtesy of Good Eggs in San Francisco.

    “Shortcake“ is a stretch as a substitute for biscuits or sponge cake, but this no-cook, no-bake Passover dessert is delicious and oh-so-easy to make.

    Speaking of sponge cake, our standard family Passover dessert is Strawberry Shortcake with sponge cake, strawberries and whipped cream. Since sponge cakes are not leavened with yeast, they can be eaten during Passover when made with matzoh meal instead of wheat flour.

    RECIPE: MATZOH STRAWBERRY “SHORTCAKES”

    Prep time is 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 3 Servings

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 orange, juiced and zested
  • 8 ounces mascarpone
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 boards matzoh
  • Optional garnish: mint sprigs
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the strawberries and let them macerate in the orange juice, reserving one tablespoon. Mix the mascarpone with the powdered sugar, half of the zest and the reserved tablespoon of orange juice.

    2. MELT the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the matzoh and fry until crispy and golden-brown, about 1 minute on each side.

    3. ASSEMBLE the shortcakes: spread a generous layer of mascarpone on each piece of fried matzo, then top with sliced strawberries and mint. Dust powdered sugar over the top for an extra touch of sweetness!

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Oven Mitts

    When you’re working with hot oven pans, stove pot handles, steaming pasta pots and the like, you need more protection than a cloth oven mitt. Otherwise, be prepared to say “Ouch!”

    We tossed our cloth oven mitts 15 years ago when the first Orka silicone oven mitts debuted. No matter pleasing the design—or the ability to wear a matching apron—cloth mitts didn’t provide enough burn protection.

    Beyond protection against burns, cloth mitts are neither waterproof nor oil-proof—and get pretty stained pretty fast.

    If you haven’t yet heeded the call, it’s time to toss your cloth oven mitts and bring in the heavy hitter: silicone.
     
    THE SOLUTION: SUPERFLEX GLOVES FROM THE TRIUMPHANT CHEF

    While there are numerous silicone mitts on they market, we recently gave our older ones away in favor of what we think is the new best: the Silicone Flex Mitt from The Triumphant Chef.

    They’re the latest generation of silicone: super-flexible, yet still heat resistant up to 450°F.

  • The no-slip silicone grips better than cloth—and even better grip from the circle-and-spoke pattern.
  • You can flip chops, steaks, hot dogs on the grill without tools.
  • You can easily hold down a turkey or roast while you carve it.
  • You can fully clean them in the sink with soap and hot water—or in the dishwasher.
  •  
    A couple of decades ago, Playtex Living Gloves promoted themselves as “so flexible, you can pick up a dime. We didn’t easily pick up a dime with Flex Mitts, but it was a cinch to pick up a quarter.

    Like those Living Gloves, they have a soft cloth liner, here quilted. They’re currently on sale at Amazon.com for $13.83 a pair, plus a bonus silicone basting brush. The gloves are available in:

  • Black
  • Canary Yellow
  • Dark Red
  • Lime Green
  • Royal Blue
  • Royal Purple
  •  
    Get them for your favorite cooks for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, summer grilling weekends…and think ahead to Christmas season.

     
    THE HISTORY OF OVEN MITTS

    For much of man’s history, hot pots and pans were handled with cloth. One source notes that mittens have been in use for more 1,000 years for a wide range of protective purposes, including protecting hands from hot ovens.

    If so, they were abandoned somewhere along the line for the presumably more effective potholders.

    Apparently, a Texan named Earl Mitt (seriously?) came up with the idea in the early 1870s, after a bad burn while baking. In an effort to prevent getting burned again, he invented the first oven mitt from shoe leather and wool. After experimenting with different materials and designs, he finally came up with the oven mitt style of cooking glove. [Source]

    Today, the outer layers are typically made of cotton or polyester, while the inner layer is filled with an insulator fabric.

    Thanks, Earl; but they’re old technology now. Along with potholders, they provide incomplete protection against high heat, steam and oil splattering. A user can be scalded by boiling water and burned hot pans and steam.

    What are you waiting for?

     

    All Clad pot from Williams-Sonoma. It can be monogrammed!All-Clad Pasta Pot

    Tramontana Deep Fryer

    Super Flex Silicone Oven Gloves

    Super Flex Oven Mitts

    Do you really want to touch a hot pot with kitchen towels or cloth oven mitts? (All-Clad Pasta Pot and Tramontino Deep Fryer from Williams-Sonoma). Bottom: Our favorite protection, Super Flex Oven Mitts from The Triumphant Chef, with a soft quilted liner and a bonus matching basting brush.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Flavored Salt

    Gourmet Flavored Salts

    Flavored Salts

    Szechuan Peppercorn Flavored Salt

    TOP: Flavored salts from Saltopia. Center: Trio of homemade flavored salts from Chef Eric LeVine | Steamy Kitchen. Bottom: Close-up of Szechuan Pepper Salt.

     

    Do you use flavored salt? Is your spice cabinet as packed with different flavors as ours is?

    We have 10 jars of artisan* flavored salts, of which we often use just our three favorites (rosemary, saffron and truffle). The other seven take up a lot of space. It’s not that we don’t like them; it’s similar to shoes and clothing. We own a lot but wear the same three most of the time.

    It’s tempting to reach for yet another exciting artisan salt. Here’s some of what we see when we visit a specialty salt website like Saltopia or US Saltworks:

  • Fruit-flavored salt: caper, coconut, habanero, jalapeño, lemon, lime, orange, peach, pineapple, pomegranate, strawberry, tomato
  • Herb-flavored salt: basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, lemongrass, mint, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, thyme, wasabi
  • Spice-flavored salt: Aleppo pepper, anise, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, curry, ginger, mustard, sumac, vanilla
  • Smoked salt: applewood, alderwood
  • Sweet-flavored salt: brown sugar, honey, maple
  • Vegetable-flavored salt: mushroom, onion, truffle
  • And beyond: balsamic vinegar, Cabernet Sauvignon, chocolate, rose
  •  
    WHAT DO YOU DO WITH FLAVORED SALTS?

    Says Chef Eric LeVine: “One of the easiest ways to elevate your cooking to another level is to use flavored salts, or finishing salts. I call these ‘finishing salts’ because most of the time, its exactly what I use them for. No recipe is needed, really: Flavor + Salt = Flavored Salt.

    “I like to use these salts in place of regular salt. The flavor I use is dependent on either the type of dish I’m cooking, the ethnic cuisine or a flavor I would like to infuse into the dish.

    “Sometimes a dish just needs a little color after plating. A finishing salt is the perfect complement, flavor-wise and eye-candy-deliciousness-wise.

    Learn from professional cooks—who often serve food on white dinnerware—and sprinkle a bit of finishing salt directly on the food and the plate. The vibrant colors are shown off against the white and your dinner guests can dab as much as or as little of the salt [on their food] as they wish. You can make a batch for less than $1….or you could go to a gourmet shop and spend $12 for an itty bitty jar.”

    Spring and summer grilling are another reason to bring out the flavored salt instead of reaching for Morton’s Little Salt Girl or Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.

    “You can also use it as a finishing salt. And you can use it to add a bit of color to all those beige and brown foods.”

    At THE NIBBLE, we use them as in ingredient or a garnish:

  • Baking, especially with lemon salt (lemon muffins, shortbread, garnish a lemon tart)
  • Bread dipper with olive oil and herbs
  • Confections: salted caramels and salted chocolate
  • Cottage cheese, soft cheeses, yogurt
  • Dessert: cobblers, puddings
  • Finishing salt: beef lamb, pork, poultry, seafood, smoked fish
  • Food garnish
  • Fruit salad or grilled fruit (a bit of salt brings out the sweetness)
  • Glass rimmer for sweet or savory salts: Blueberry Mojito, lemonade, Margarita, Bloody Mary, etc.
  • Ice cream or sorbet
  • Pasta, rice and other grains
  • Plate garnish (sprinkle bits on the plate for splashes of color)
  • Popcorn seasoning
  • Potatoes: baked, boiled, fried, mashed
  • Salted nuts
  • Salads and cooked vegetables
  • Any pale-colored food
  •  
    ___________________________
    *Artisan salts are flavored sea salts; as opposed to supermarket garlic salt, onion salt, etc., which are flavored table salts.

     
    SOLUTION: SAVE SPACE & MONEY—BLEND YOUR OWN

    It takes just five minutes to blend salt, herbs and spices in a spice grinder. You can make them on an as-needed basis, or make larger batches for your spice rack.

    At $13 and up retail for a 3.5-ounce jar, you can make your own for perhaps $1 a batch.

    Pick A Base Salt

    If you don’t have sea salt on hand, start with kosher salt or table salt. After you get the hang of blending, you can try more exotic salts, such as:

  • Fleur de sel or sel gris from France
  • Black lava or red alaea salts from Hawaii
  • Pink Himalayan or kala namak salts from India
  • Smoked salt
  •  
    FLAVORED SALT RECIPES

    Here are four recipes, two savory and two sweet. The first three are from Chef Eric; the Blueberry Salt is from THE NIBBLE archives.
     
    Recipe: Szechuan (Sichuan) Peppercorn Salt

    Dry-roasted Szechuan or Sichuan Peppercorn + food processor to grind the peppercorn + sea salt. Chef Eric roasted peppercorns in a hot, dry skillet until they were smoking but not burnt. Let it cool and add to a food processor or piece mill to grind to your preferred granule size. Then add the salt and pulse a couple of times to fully blend the flavors.

    Says Chef Eric: “I like my Szechuan pepper salt a little chunky and not like a fine powder, so I use equal amts of peppercorns and sea salt. You can adjust the proportions based on your tastes. If you are using a very fine sea salt or just regular table salt, decrease the amount of salt.

    “In addition to Asian-accent dishes or for a touch of heat, I also love seasoning my steaks with this salt prior to grilling, instead of the standard salt and pepper. It can also be served as a dipping salt for fried shrimp.”

     

    Recipe: Matcha Salt

    Matcha is Japanese green tea powder made from the highest quality of green tea leaves. It’s very different from simply grinding green tea leaves. It’s a stunning mossy green color, which makes such a pretty finishing salt. Matcha powder + sea salt + couple pulses in food processor if you are using coarse sea salt.

    Chef Eric likes to use it on a chocolate truffle or mousse; you can dip a plain chocolate bar dip in Matcha Salt. Use it with eggs and tofu, and with dishes that are light in texture and flavor, since this salt’s flavor is more delicate and subtle. “Don’t get the super-premium stuff,” says Chef Eric, “It would be a waste to use the expensive powder for the salts.”
     
    Recipe: Citrus Salt

    Peel any citrus and let the peels dry a little bit on a paper towel. Citrus salt is bright, cheery and light, says Chef Eric.

    “Finish your shrimp skewers, any vegetables, grilled chicken breasts or grilled salmon with Citrus Salt. Lighten your risotto or steamed rice.”

     
    Recipe: Blueberry Salt

    For summer, make Blueberry Salt. Start with a small batch (this recipe makes one cup). This recipe takes longer, because you’re drying fresh fruit. Prep time is 35 minutes, cook time is 1 hour to 1 day, depending on whether you choose to oven dry (1 hour) or let dry naturally (24 hours or more).

    After you make this recipe, you can customize it with other ingredients: balsamic vinegar, citrus peel, thyme, rosemary or any of the ideas above. The recipe is courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
     
    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  •  

    Blueberry Salt

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/blueberry salt saltopia 230sq

    Blueberry salt: You can buy a jar or make your own. Photos courtesy Saltopia.

  • 1 cup coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt, or for a beautiful flake salt, use Maldon salt, with unique, pyramid-shaped crystals)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

    2. SIMMER the berries and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the berries pop and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    3. PRESS the blueberries with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, reserving the juice. Further strain the berries with a fine wire sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible; discard the solids. Line the sieve with cheesecloth and strain out the finer particles.

    4. RETURN the juice to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer (watching closely so the juice doesn’t burn) until the juice is reduced to a syrup thick enough to coat a spoon. You should have 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice.

    5. REMOVE from the heat. Stir in the salt until the crystals are evenly coated, then spread the salt onto baking sheets. Let it air dry, stirring occasionally, until dry. This will take 4-24 hours, depending on the humidity. Alternatively, bake the salt in a 150° convection oven, stirring frequently until dry, about 1 hour.

    TIP: For a deeper purple salt, add food color to the blueberry juice in Step 4.

     
    HOW MANY TYPES OF SALT HAVE YOU HAD?

    Check out the different types of salt in our Salt Glossary.

      

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