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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 Pasta/Pizza

RECIPE: Pumpkin Lasagna

We love any kind of lasagna, but are happy to have this Pumpkin Lasagna recipe in our fall repertoire. The recipe is courtesy caterer and Lenox Home Entertaining Expert Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs Caterers.

You’ll note in the ingredients list that butternut squash is used instead of pumpkin. This is often done in the restaurant, food service and food manufacturing industries, because it is so much easier to work with butternut squash. Mush of what is sold as “pumpkin pie filling” is butternut squash.

Both pumpkin and butternut squash are orange-fleshed winter squash, members of the Cucurbita genus; they look and taste almost identical in recipes. The rest is, as they say, marketing. (Would you rather have a pumpkin pie or a butternut squash pie?)

RECIPE: PUMPKIN LASAGNA

Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 (15 ounces) can pumpkin purée
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 10 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 (15 ounces) container ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped 1/2 to 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  •  

    Pumpkin lasagna for holiday season. Photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers.

     

    Cross-section of a butternut squash. Photo
    by Half Gig | Wikimedia.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Place the butternut squash directly in the oven, whole. Bake for 20 minutes or until soft enough to cut in half with little effort.

    2. CUT into quarters, place in a baking dish or large cast iron skillet, and roast for 40 more minutes or until the skin can be easily peeled away from the flesh. Cut into chunks about 1/2 inch to 1 inch in size. Set aside.

    3. REDUCE the heat of the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, mix together the pumpkin and the next 7 ingredients (salt through maple syrup). Set aside.

    4. STIR together the ricotta, 2/3 of the chopped mozzarella, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan in another small bowl. Set aside.

    5. LIGHTLY COAT a baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon 1/3 cup of the pumpkin sauce in the dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles. Spoon 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with 1/4 of the butternut squash chunks. Top with 1/3 cup of sauce.

     

    6. TOP with two more noodles, continuing to layer like this until all the cheese and squash is used. Add last 2 lasagna noodles, and remaining sauce. Dot the top with remaining chopped mozzarella and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.

    7. COVER with foil. Bake for 50 minutes. Let stand, covered, on a rack for 20 minutes before serving.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pasta Tips For National Pasta Day

    There are a couple of myths surrounding the proper cooking of pasta, passed down from generation to generation.

    Since October is National Pasta Month—and October 17th is National Pasta Day—today’s tip, from Care2.com, dispels those myths. (Here’s the entire article, which covers other cooking myths, as well).

    Myth: Put Oil In Pasta Water So It Doesn’t Stick

    Reality: If you remember grade school science class, oil and water don’t mix! When you add oil to pasta water, it floats on the top, away from the pasta. So how can it prevent the pasta from sticking together?

    The tip was originally suggested by a vegetable oil company, to get people to use more oil. (A similar trick was devised by the shampoo company that originally advised women to lather, rinse, and then do it again! That’s just a waste of shampoo!)

     

    Enamel stock pot from Tramontina.

     

    But worse, the oil that gets onto the pasta when you drain it prevents the sauce from clinging.

    There’s really only one benefit to adding oil to pasta water, says Care2: It will stop the water from boiling over if the pot is too short. If you use a stock pot to cook your pasta, all you’ll be doing is wasting oil.

    The real key to keep pasta from sticking: Use the largest pot, with lots of water.

     

    Don’t do this, unless you’re making pasta
    salad. Photo courtesy AlexTCooks.com.
    Check out her recipe for gluten-free calamari
    pasta.

     

    Myth: Rinse The Pasta After You Drain It

    Reality: If you want the pasta to stick to the sauce—that’s the way it should be, people—don’t rinse it after you drain it. Rinsing removes all of the starch, which helps the sauce cling.*

    Pasta pros also add a tablespoon of the pasta water to the sauce. The starch that has leached from the pasta into the water helps it cling to the pasta.

    Tip: For the best pasta-sauce marriage, finish cooking the pasta and sauce together in a skillet. This gives the pasta the most opportunity to absorb the sauce.
     
    *One exception to this myth is if you’re cooking the pasta for a cold pasta salad. A lower starch content may be desirable, so if you get instructed to rinse it, do it.

     

    ONE LAST TIP

    Be sure to add salt to the water. Some people never learned to do this, or omit it due to a desire to cut back on salt.

    But unless you’re on a serious salt-free diet, salt gives the pasta (and rice, and potatoes) necessary flavor. Without salted water, the pasta is bland.

    Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt to the rapidly boiling water.
     

    HOW TO COOK THE PERFECT AL DENTE PASTA

    MORE PASTA COOKING TIPS

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Pierogi Day

    Today is National Pierogi Day and October is National Apple Month. So how about combining the two in an easy-to-prepare lunch or dinner?

    The recipe below, courtesy of Mrs. T’s, combines lightly browned apple slices with cooked sweet onions and sautéed pierogies. The dish is topped with a sour cream-cinnamon mixture that smoothly ties the sweet and savory flavor elements together. Think of it for brunch, lunch or dinner.

    WHAT’S A PIEROGI?

    Pierogi (pee-ROW-gee, with a hard “g”) has many spellings.* But no matter how you spell it, what you get are baked or fried dumplings of central and eastern European provenance.

     

    Pierogies and apples with a side of cinnamon sour cream. Photo courtesy Mrs. T’s.

     

    Pierogies can be sweet or savory, stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese or fruit. They are usually semicircular, but can be rectangular or triangular.

    Pierogi have been made in Poland since the 13th century as a holiday food. Each holiday had its own type of pierogi recipe.
     
    *The Polish word pierogi is plural; the singular form is pieróg, but is rarely used since a typical serving consists of several pieces. Alternative spellings include spelled perogi, pierógi, pierogy, pyrogy and pyrohy. Turkish börek and Ukranian varenyky are the same food.

     

    Potato and cheese pierogi with sour cream and bacon garnish (we’d add some chives, too). Photo courtesy PolandForAll.com.

     

    RECIPE: AUTUMN PIEROGIES & APPLES

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen Mrs. T’s Potato &
    Cheddar Pierogies
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 red apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ pierogies as package directs.

    2. COOK onion slices in hot oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally until lightly browned and just tender. Remove to bowl.

    3. MELT butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

    4. COMBINE sour cream with remaining 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon in small bowl.

    5. COMBINE pierogies with onions and apple mixture; toss to mix well. Serve with sour cream.

     
    Find more pierogi recipes at Pierogies.com.

    See all the October food holidays.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Black & White Pizza

    October is National Pizza Month (although in our book, every month is Pizza Month).

    The folks at the California Olive Committee have taken a cue from the recently New York Fashion Week, where the trends included black and white. Hence, this recipe, for a black and white pizza.

    Not just another white pizza, this recipe includes Alfredo sauce, roasted garlic, smoked mozzarella, chicken and black olives. You can make or buy the Alfredo sauce (here’s the recipe to make it from scratch).

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 20-25 minutes.

    RECIPE: BLACK & WHITE PIZZA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for pizza crust
  • 1 cup quartered and thinly sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced, roasted garlic
  • 4 ounces small baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 sheet prepared pizza dough
  • 1 cup prepared Alfredo sauce
  • 1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
  •  

    Black and white pizza, chock full of yummy
    ingredients. Photo courtesy California Olive
    Committee.

  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 can (6 ounces) extra-large black pitted black olives, drained and cut in wedges
  • 1 small boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and thinly sliced (or store-bought rotisserie chicken, torn in small pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  •  

    Grated cheese atop a dish doesn’t blend into
    a recipe; it’s front and center. Use the best
    quality you can afford. Photo by Yin Yang |
    IST.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. HEAT 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until onions are very soft.

    3. ROLL pizza dough into a very thin oval on a lightly floured board. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil, then spread evenly with Alfredo sauce. Top with mushroom mixture, cheeses, chicken and rosemary. Sprinkle olives over pizza.

    4. BAKE for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned around the edges. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PARMESAN CHEESE AND PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

    “Parmesan” cheeses are made in a variety of countries. But authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is produced only in the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua and Bologna.

    By law, only the milk from local cows, whose diet is regulated according to a strict feeding discipline, can be used in the production of the cheese. The cheese is checked by an expert after 12 months; if it passes the test its rind is stamped and it continues aging for an average of 24 month, to develop prime flavors and aromas.

    In Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano is more than a grating cheese for pasta: It is part of a fine antipasto and also enjoyed for dessert, with some balsamic vinegar and a glass of fine wine. Here’s a comparison of Italian grating cheeses.
     
    See more of our favorite pizza recipes.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Strawberry-Orange Pasta Salad With Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

    Bowtie (farfalle) pasta, fruit and oranges:
    delicious! Photo courtesy Kraft.

     

    What if pasta salad were more sweet than savory? That’s how it is in this recipe, a perfect way to make summer last a little longer (summer ends this Saturday, September 21st).

    Creamy lemon poppyseed dressing, mandarin oranges and fresh strawberries create this refreshing twist on pasta salad. Serve it as a first course, or as a main course for lunch with some added chicken strips.

    Prep time 10 minutes, cooking and cooling time total time 1 hour. Makes four 1-cup servings.

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY-ORANGE PASTA SALAD

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups bowtie pasta (farfalle), uncooked
  • 1/3 homemade or bottled poppyseed dressing
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 3 fresh mandarins, peeled and sectioned, or 1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • Preparation

    1. COOK pasta as directed on package, omitting salt. Drain and cool.

    2. MIX dressing and mayonnaise in medium bowl. Add pasta and onions; toss to coat. Gently stir in fruit.

    3. REFRIGERATE 1 hour or longer. Serve with dressing (recipe below).
     
    Variations

  • Save 50 calories and 6 g fat per serving by preparing with reduced fat mayonnaise.
  • Substitute balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
  • Optional additions: almonds or walnuts; avocado; blue, goat or feta cheese.
  •  
    To prepare the salad more than 1 hour in advance:

  • Combine dressing, mayo, cooked pasta and onions in large bowl. Combine oranges and fruit in separate bowl.
  • Refrigerate up to 8 hours. Add fruit to pasta mixture up to 1 hour before serving. Keep refrigerated.
  •  

    RECIPE: LEMON-POPPYSEED SALAD DRESSING

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or use lime juice)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup salad oil
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  •  

    Lemon poppy salad dressing. Photo © ButteryBooks.com.

    Preparation

    1. WHISK together vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, honey, onion powder and salt.

    2. DRIZZLE in oil, whisking constantly until combined. Whisk in poppy seeds.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: A Wall Poster For Pasta Lovers

    Gaze at 250 different styles of pasta! Photo
    courtesy PopChartLab.com.

     

    Passionate about pasta? How many shapes have you eaten?

    If you want to dream about having it all, this wall poster features more than 250 shapes of pasta, broken down by those that are formed by machines and dies (like fusilli, penne and rigatoni) and those that are traditionally crafted by hand (like gnocchi, pappardelle and tagliatelle).

    All pasta is made from flour, eggs and water; it’s the artistry that makes them different*. Both dried and fresh pasta are made in numerous shapes, with 310 specific forms known variably by more than 1300 different names†. But why are there so many different pasta shapes?

    For hundreds of years, what we know as Italy was comprised of warring city-states‡, under different foreign controls.

    The city-states were only united into the nation of modern Italy in 1861. Over the prior centuries, each of the city-states developed its own, insular cuisine, and there wasn’t much sharing with the others. Everything, including pasta, was made by local artisans who pursued their own culinary muses. Similar shapes (bells, flowers, corkscrews) made in different city-states have different names (yes, it’s confusing).

     
    PASTA DID NOT ORIGINATE IN ITALY

    Marco Polo is credited with bringing “pillow pasta” to Italy—the stuffed, fried dumplings of China that evolved into Italian ravioli. The Chinese also made noodles for soup. But credit for the invention of boiled pasta is given to the Arabs. Traders from Arabia packed dried pasta on long journeys over the famed Silk Road to China. It didn’t spoil and could be easily cooked over a fire.

    According to culinary historians, the Arabs first adapted Chinese noodles noodles for long journeys in the 5th century, the first written record of dry pasta. Durum wheat (semolina) was introduced by Libyan Arabs during their conquest of Sicily in the late 7th century and 8th century (source: Wikipedia). So it’s ironic that Italy, not Arabia, became the world’s pasta capital—and that pasta faded out of favor in the Arab world.

    With the Plethora Of Pasta Permutations chart, you can decorate your wall with 250 varieties of pasta, from obscure variations found only in hilltop villages in Italy to those stocked on supermarket shelves around the world.

    Each 24″ x 36″ poster is signed and numbered by the artists, from an edition of 500. The unframed poster is $26, with framing options available, at PopChartLab.com.

    Or, you can see all the different pasta types in our Pasta Glossary for free!

    *Superior qualities of flour, different minerals in the local waters, and different artisan techniques can make the flavors of fine pasta noticeably better from mass-marketed varieties.

    †According to the Encyclopedia of Pasta by Zanini De Vita, Oretta, University of California Press.

    ‡At the start of the 14th century, Italy was a patchwork of independent towns and small principalities whose borders were drawn and redrawn by battles, diplomatic negotiations and marriage alliances. During the 14th and 15th centuries, many of these petty principalities consolidated into five major political units that precariously balanced power on the Italian peninsula: the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, the Papal States and the three major city-states of Florence, Venice and Milan. The other minor city-states which co-existed with these larger powers made political stability in Italy even more tenuous as their loyalties shifted from one main force to another. The most powerful were Ferrara, Florence, Genoa, Mantua, Milan, Pisa, Siena, Verona and Venice. (Source: University of Calgary)

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Pizza Ravioli

    We had fun eating the “pizza ravioli” from Giovanni Rana restaurant and pasticceria in New York City’s Chelsea Market.

    Jumbo cheese ravioli are deep fried and topped with a fresh tomato and basil sauce, then garnished with more of the fresh basil. You’ve got a crisp “crust,” cheese, tomato sauce and basil: a fun first course.

    You can buy jumbo ravioli at shops that specialize in fresh pasta.

    But that’s not the end of the fun.

    Now, think of the opposite approach: ravioli pizza. Top a Margherita pizza, homemade or take-out, with miniature ravioli, boiled the conventional way or fried.

     

    Pizza ravioli: all the flavors of pizza in crisp ravioli. Photo courtesy Giovanni Rana Restaurant | NYC.

     

    You can use standard ravioli, but look for miniature ravioli—they’re easier to eat as a topping. Then, make a fun pasta salad with the extra miniature ravioli. Here’s a recipe from PeanutButterAndPeppers.com.

     

    Mini ravioli make a fun Mediterranean pasta
    salad. Photo courtesy Peanut Butter and
    Peppers.

     

    EVEN MORE FOOD FUN

  • Bacon Cake (recipe)
  • Chocolate Ravioli (recipe)
  • Dough Dogs (recipe)
  • Fork, Knife & Spoon Cookies (recipe)
  • Hamburger Cupcake (recipe)
  • Fried Egg Cupcake (recipe)
  • Heirloom Potatoes (recipe)
  • Hot Dog Sculpture (recipe)
  • Ice Cream Sandwich On A Roll (recipe)
  • Macarons On A Stick (recipe)
  • Peanut Butter Sushi Rolls (recipe)
  • Radicchio Bowl (recipe)
  •  

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Dessert Ravioli

    …AND FOR DESSERT, RAVIOLI!

    Yes, ravioli. Even better, ravioli you can make yourself with the help of a great pasta-maker to teach you how. It’s not just deliciously gratifying, but it’s a good workout too. Rolling fresh pasta dough until it’s as thin as a sheet of paper is not for the “where’s-the-remote?” in you.

    New York City’s renowned Chelsea Market recently nabbed a new restaurant and shop: Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina.

    Rana is Italy’s leading fresh pasta company, and its artisan shop offers great dining, select Italian ingredients and designer kitchen accessories. Each pasta served at the restaurant, as well as those that can be purchased to cook at home, is house-made, fresh from scratch.

    Lucky for us, Giovanni Rana is generous with his expertise and will share his secrets with eager learners. In our class, we learned how to make tiramisu ravioli for dessert.

     

    Preparing chocolate ravioli. Photo courtesy Giovanni Rana.

     
    Pasta-making classes are held once a month and guide you through each step of making your own filled pasta. Individual “stations” are set up for each student, complete with all of the ingredients and tools needed. You begin by learning how to carefully blend the dough ingredients, then get ready to knead and roll—and roll and roll some more.

    By the end of the session, you’ll have your own creation packed up for taking home, after which you enjoy a dinner made for you by Rana’s chefs, some wine and a take-away bag of products and recipes.

    Although there may not be a Rana shop in your area, scout out a local cooking school or culinary program that’s nearby. It’s fun to do, it’s delicious to eat, and it’s made by you.

    By the time your skills become second nature, you’ll be able to delight your family and friends with—yes—tiramisu ravioli as a sweet finale to dinner.

    —Rowann Gilman

     

    Preparation for tiramisu ravioli. Photo
    courtesy Giovanni Rana.

     

    RECIPE: RANA’S TIRAMISU RAVIOLI

    This recipe makes 14 to 16 ravioli, or about two servings. You can double the recipe, and freeze any excess for up to six months. Serve the ravioli with crème fraîche, mascarpone or ice cream.

    Ingredients
     
    For The Dough

  • 100g #00 flour (fine flour for baking)
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10g instant espresso powder
  •  
    Filling

  • 50g ricotta
  • 50g mascarpone
  • 20g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 20g instant espresso powder
  • 10g marsala
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  •  
    For The Dipping Sauce

  • 50g fresh washed, hulled strawberries, dried and cut in halves
  • Optional: brown sugar
  • Optional: fresh mint leaves
  •  
    To Finish

  • Canola oil
  • Confectioners sugar
  • Preparation

    Make The Dough

    1. PLACE the flour on a floured surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into the well and mix it with a fork. Add the salt and instant espresso powder; blend with fingers until dough forms a rough shape.

    2. BEGIN to knead and fold the dough over and over until it forms a smooth ball, about 8 to 10 minutes. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

    Make The Filling

    1. COMBINE all of the filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, mixing with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended.

    Make The Dipping Sauce

    1. PLACE the strawberries in the bowl of a food processor; blend until berries are puréed. If desired, add brown sugar and/or fresh mint to taste. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve; set aside.

    Assemble The Ravioli

    1. REMOVE dough from refrigerator. On a heavily floured surface, begin to roll and rotate the dough, turning it over after every few rolls. Continue until dough is perfectly even (smooth hands over dough to feel any difference in its thickness) and extremely thin.

    2. FOLD the dough in half, then bring the top half upward. Starting about an inch from the halfway fold and left edge, place filling 1 teaspoonful at a time, slightly rounding each, on the bottom half of dough. Leave 1 inch between each mound of filling. When filling is used up, moisten the dough between each spoonful using a pastry brush and water. Be careful not to use too much water; use just enough for the top layer of dough to stick.

    3. GENTLY LIFT the top half of dough and place it over the bottom half. Press between the mounds of filling where dough has been moistened, making sure both layers of dough stick together. Using a hand ravioli cutter, cut out the individual ravioli and place them on a floured surface, keeping them apart.

    4. HEAT about 1 inch of canola oil in a heavy skillet until very hot. Fry the ravioli for about two to three minutes on each side until dough is firm. Remove from skillet and drain very well on paper towels or a brown paper bag. Let cool.

    5. SERVE the ravioli sprinkled with confectioners sugar and a small bowl of the dipping sauce on the side.
     
    MORE DESSERT RAVIOLI & OTHER PASTA

  • Butternut Squash & Maple Syrup Ravioli with Pears, Apples, Walnuts & Rum Raisin Ice Cream (recipe)
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Ravioli With Cinnamon Ice Cream (recipe)
  • Other Sweet Pasta Recipes: Chocolate Fettuccine Mont Blanc, Dessert Lasagne, Songbirds’ Nests, Chocolate Spaghetti, Fettuccine Alfredo With Crème Anglaise, Fettuccine With Chocolate Sauce, Manicotti “Cannoli,” Orange Spaghetti, Pumpkin Ravioli With Mascarpone Sauce, More
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Corn On The Cob Toppings

    You can trade the butter for healthful olive
    oil. Photo courtesy CornTater.com.

     

    If you’re like most people, you spread butter on corn on the cob. It’s a tradition.

    But traditions can be updated. If you like butter, consider adding flavor with a compound butter: chipotle butter, herb butter and numerous others (recipes).

    What if you want to avoid the calories and cholesterol? You’ve got tasty options:

  • Fresh chopped herbs: basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, etc., sprinkled on straight or mixed into olive oil
  • Crumbled cotija or feta cheese, or grated parmesan
  • Flavored salt or seasoning: Cajun spice mix, garlic salt, Mrs. Dash, Old Bay, etc.
  • Olive oil flavored with chipotle, cumin, curry or other spice
  • Pepper and lime—black pepper or cayenne
  • Pesto
  • Salsa
  • Vinaigrette
  •  
    Would you like to add something to this list?

    IF IT’S FRESH, TRY IT PLAIN

    Immediately after harvesting, the sweet sugars that make corn so appealing begin to convert to starch. If the corn is several days old, there may not be much flavor left. So people pile on the condiments to add flavor.

    If the corn is fresh and sweet, it needs absolutely no topping. Try it: You may discover that nothing beats the pure, farm-fresh sweetness of a plain ear of corn. You can even eat it raw—something we do while waiting for the rest of the ears to cook.

    You can boil or microwave corn, but grilling enhances its sweetness. The heat caramelizes the sugar in the kernels. You can brush it with olive oil and then add the seasonings prior to grilling, or hold the seasonings altogether.

     

    SHOPPING FOR CORN

    Many of us were taught by Mom to pull back the husk of the corn and look for….well, what are you actually looking for? There’s nothing to see but the size and color of the kernels (white, yellow, mixed), and that’s not going to impact your purchase decision. At worst, you’ll notice that a few kernels are missing at the very top of the ear. That’s not a defect: It’s how nature grew that particular ear.

    Pulling back the husks is the worst thing you can do. Exposing the kernels to air makes them dry out, and worse, spurs the conversion of the sugar to starch. You shouldn’t husk corn until right before cooking it. So forget what Mom said—she was only passing along bad information.

    Instead:

     

    You should never peel back the husk—it speeds the conversion of the sugar to starch. The silk peeking out it is an indication of freshness. Photo courtesy eHow.

     

    Check the husks and the exposed corn silk (the tassel) for freshness. The more straw-colored/lighter the silk that peeks out from the husk, the fresher the corn. The exposed silk is the first thing to dry out and show age, as it turns to brown and black.

    That doesn’t mean an ear with black silk won’t be sweet—we’ve had plenty of delicious corn where the silk had turned black. It’s just an indicator: If you have a choice between ears with pale silk and those with dark silk, go for the pale. But if the tassel is missing, beware: It’s probably older corn, and the seller has peeled the outer husk leaves and removed the tassel to make it look better.

    Then, look at the husks. Are they bright green, or do they look drier and blotchy? Pale silk and bright husks are the answer to which ears you should pick.

    Now the big “however”: Chances are, all the corn you’re looking at in a store was harvested at the same time. The real choice lies at farmers markets or roadside stands, where you can compare the corn from different growers.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Linguine with Clams and Asparagus

    Linguine and clam sauce with asparagus.
    Photo courtesy Dole.com.

     

    Before asparagus season ends, get your fill by adding it to your favorite dishes. Here’s an example of how easy it is, courtesy of Dole, which adds its fresh asparagus to the classic pasta dish, linguine with clam sauce.

    Consider using whole wheat linguine for fiber and flavor. If asparagus season has passed, add green beans or snow peas.

    This recipe makes 4 servings; prep time 10 minutes; cook time 25 minutes.

     

    RECIPE: LINGUINE & CLAM SAUCE WITH ASPARAGUS

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounces linguine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 package (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed of woody ends and chopped into 2” pieces
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 can (10 ounces) whole baby clams, drained (juice reserved)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. Cook linguine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Meanwhile…

    2. HEAT the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until mushrooms begin to brown.

    3. ADD the asparagus, carrots and two tablespoons of water. Toss to combine and cover skillet. Cook 4 minutes longer.

    4. ADD the tomatoes and the clam juice. Cook uncovered 1 minute longer. If the pasta is not yet cooked, remove vegetables and clams from heat and cook pasta until it is al dente.

     

    Use whole grain linguine for added fiber and flavor. Photo courtesy Pennsylvania Macaroni Company.

     

    5. DRAIN pasta and add to the vegetable mixture along with the reserved clams. Raise heat to high and cook 2-3 minutes longer until pasta is thoroughly coated and most of the liquid is absorbed. Plate and serve.

    LINGUINE vs. SPAGHETTI vs. FETTUCCINE

    Do you know the difference between popular pasta cuts and shapes? Discover the different types of pasta in our delectable Pasta Glossary.

      

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