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TIP OF THE DAY: Ratatouille Pizza

Ratatouille (rah-tah-TWEE) is a vegetable side dish that originated in the Provence region of France. The classic recipe consists of sautéed eggplant, onions, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini plus garlic and herbs.

It is traditionally summer dish, when tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash are plentiful and at peak.

Ratatouille is delightfully colorful when you use red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers and tomatoes/cherry tomatoes. To make ratatouille as a side dish, check out this recipe.
 
RECIPE: RATATOUILLE PIZZA

Ingredients For 1 Large Pizza

You can save time by purchasing the dough or a prepared crust (we sure did—and saved half the steps in the preparation). But Lisa, of Flour De Lisa made hers from scratch, using a pizza dough recipe from Bobby Flay. She adapted the ratatouille from Smitten Kitchen; we further adapted it.

This can be a vegan recipe; but we adapted it by adding both ricotta and mozzarella. We put the mozzarella under the vegetables to showcase the colors. We also created a breakfast pizza version by adding eggs, which bake on top of the pizza.

Without the cheese, the recipe is dairy free and low fat. Use a whole wheat crust and skim-milk cheeses and you have a pizza that’s on the “better for you” list.
 
Ingredients For The Dough

  • 1-3/4 to 2 cups flour (bread flour for a crisper* crust, all-purpose for chewier)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water (around 100°F)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  
    For The Ratatouille

    Slice the vegetables to a width of 1/8 to 1/16th inch.

  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 Japanese eggplant
  • 1 long red bell pepper or 6 mini red bell peppers
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 yellow or red onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Red pepper or chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Optional Garnishes

  • Capers and/or olives
  • Small or medium eggs
  • Herbs: fresh basil*, rosemary, thyme, other
  •  
    For The Optional Cheese Layer

  • 2 cups whole or part skim ricotta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 handful† flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or provolone
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup, shredded
  •  

    Ratatouille

    Fried Egg Ratatouille

    ratatouille-theformerchef-230r

    Tian Recipe

    [1] Ratatouille pizza (photo courtesy FlourDeLisa.Wordpress.com). [2] Bake eggs on top of the pizza, or fry or poach them in a pan to turn a ratatouille side into a main (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers. [3] courtesy TheFormerChef.com. [4] A tian, also from Provence, is another way to enjoy ratatouille ingredients (All-Clad gratin pan photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.)

     
    ________________
    *You can scatter 10 medium basil leaves or 1/2 cup shredded basil atop the pizza when it comes out of the oven.

    †A handful is one of those imprecise measures that says: Use how much you want. More or less of the ingredient is not critical to the recipe’s outcome.
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pizza dough: Combine 1-3/4 cup flour with the yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the oil and water, i.e. slightly warmer than your body temperature. Mix until the dough starts to form a ball. scraping down the bowl. If the dough is too wet, slowly add more flour. If dough becomes too dry, slowly add more water.

    2. TURN out the dough onto a lightly floured or oiled surface. Knead for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. When you poke it, the dough should spring back readily; when you hold the ball of between your palms, it should hold its shape. Lightly oil a clean bowl, place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. While waiting for the dough to rise…

    3. MAKE the ratatouille. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, minced garlic, sliced onion and a dash of red pepper flakes on the bottom of a 8- or 9-inch diameter springform pan. Alternatively, you can cook the ratatouille on top of the rolled out pizza dough, but the vegetables won’t be as tender or flavorful due to the significantly less cooking time.

    Optional cooking method: We steamed the vegetables separately to al dente, and then were able to pick them up with fingers and layer them perfectly, as in the photo.

    4. LAYER on top of the tomato paste mixture the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and bell pepper, alternating the colors. Start with the inside perimeter and move inward. If you have extra vegetable, save them for a salad, omelet, etc. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the assembled ratatouille. Season with a dash of salt and pepper and thyme or rosemary. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes, increasing the temperature of the oven to as high as possible (450°F or 500°F on most ovens) within the last 5-10 minutes. While the ratatouille is baking…

    5. TURN back to the pizza dough. When the first rise is completed, turn out the dough onto a large sheet of lightly floured or oiled parchment paper. Punch out the air and form a disk. Roll out the dough into a circle about 10-12 inches in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

    6. MIX the ricotta with the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

    7. REMOVE the finished ratatouille from the oven, uncover the pizza dough and place it on a baking sheet. Parbake the pizza dough for a minute or two and remove from the oven. If using ricotta, spread it over the crust, followed by the mozzarella. If you prefer, use the mozzarella to top the pizza.

    8. RELEASE the springform pan carefully—it can be hot! Use one or two spatulas two to gently slide the ratatouille onto the center of the pizza. If you can do it evenly, great. If not, it will still taste delicious. Lightly brush the exposed pizza crust with olive oil.

    9. BAKE the pizza for 8-12 minutes, until the pizza crust is a golden brown. Slice and serve.
     
    CRISPER VS. CRISPIER

    Many people use the adjective crispier when they mean crisp.

  • Crisper is the comparative of crisp, i.e., “The crust is crisp but I’ll make it crisper next time.
  • Crispier is the comparative of crispy, i.e., the crust was nice and crispy but could have been even crispier.
  •  
    It’s a small difference, but a difference nevertheless.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruits & Greens Salad

    Spinach & Strawberry Salad

    Sungold Kiwi

    [1] Spinach with kiwi, grapes, strawberries and pecans (photo courtesy Pampered Chef). [2] SunGold kiwis from Zespri are sweeter and juicier than green kiwis—and other yellow kiwis, too (photo courtesy Zespri).

     

    We eat green salads, we eat fruit salads. But why don’t we mix them together more often?

    We were inspired by this easy recipe from Pampered Chef, which does just that.

    A spinach salad with strawberries (and feta) is not news, but it’s a good place to start. This one has some added twists, and there are other fruit and greens combinations below.

     
    RECIPE: FRUIT & SPINACH SALAD

    Ingredients For 8 One-Cup Servings

    For The Salad

  • 1 package (8 ounces/227 g) fresh baby spinach (wash if not pre-washed)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved (substitute other berries)
  • 1 large kiwi, peeled, sliced (look for our favorite, Zespri’s SunGold® kiwi)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) pecan halves, toasted
  • 1 kirby or Persian cucumber (Persians don’t need to be peeled)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup crumbled cheese—blue, feta, goat
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) raspberry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOAST the pecans (how to toast nuts). Pampered Chef simply heated them in the microwave without toasting, using a Small Micro-Cooker. Microwave the nuts, uncovered, on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cool completely.

    2. PLACE the greens in a large serving bowl. Add the fruit and top with the pecans.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Combine the ingredients and whisk until well blended. Drizzle ¼ cup (50 ml) over the salad and toss lightly just before serving.
     
    SALAD VARIATIONS WITH FRUIT & GREENS

  • Citrus salad, with blood oranges and pink grapefruit, butterhead lettuce (Bibb, Boston) and optional red onion.
  • Gourmet salad, with fresh lychee or rambutan, red and golden raspberry mix, fennel, radicchio and watercress.
  • Herb salad, citrus or stone fruits with basil or mint, butterhead lettuce, cilantro, dill, flat-leaf parsley (de-stemmed), mâche or purslane.
  • Melon salad, with melon balls or cubes, baby arugula, butterhead lettuce, celery, cucumber, large basil leaves.
  • Spicy salad, with citrus or berries, baby arugula, mizuna or other mustard greens, radish.
  •  
    Dressing Variations

    You can use a standard vinaigrette of oil and vinegar, but fruit and greens salads shine with:

  • Lime vinaigrette: lime juice and zest, olive oil and a teaspoon of honey.
  • Fruit-flavored vinegar or oil.
  • Fruit-flavored vinegar and chile-infused oil, for a bit of heat.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Ice Cream

    We thought about labeling this article Food Fun instead of a Tip Of The Day. After all, savory ice cream isn’t everyday fare.

    Then, we remembered that our purpose is to expand your food horizons (and impress your guests), so here goes.
     
    SAVORY ICE CREAM

    Savory ice cream flavored with cheese and/or herbs—no sugar or just a small amount—is not a new concept.

    We published a large collection of cheese ice cream recipes 11 years ago, but the savory recipes date to way before that.

    You can find recipes for formaggio gelato (cheese ice cream) and formaggio di parmigiano gelato (Parmesan ice cream) in older Italian cookbooks.

    It replaced the cheese course at the end of summer lunches, or was cut into slices and served as a first course with ham and hard-boiled eggs.

    We have several recipes, below; but the basic Italian recipe is simple:

    1. GRATE one pound of Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano (or crumble Gorgonzola; combine with one quart of heavy cream and a pinch of salt and pepper.

    2. STIR over a moderate flame until the mixture becomes creamy. This infuses the cream with Parmesan flavor.

    3. REMOVE from the heat, cool, strain and process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can freeze the mixture in a container and stir at regular intervals (for a less creamy texture).
     
    HOW TO SERVE SAVORY ICE CREAM

    Use your imagination! For starters:

  • Baked potato, instead of sour cream
  • Cheese course, single or trio scoops—Parmesan, Cheddar and Stilton, for example
  • Chilled soups, savory like gazpacho or sweet like fruit soup
  • Compound butter substitute: for example, a small scoop of blue cheese ice cream on a hot steak, or a scoop of herb ice cream on grilled fish
  • Cone or taco shell
  • Cream puffs or éclairs: substitute the vanilla ice cream for blue cheese or Parmesan
  • Dairy on dairy: with cottage cheese or yogurt
  • Ice cream sandwich with tuilles or waffles
  • Fruit or nut pies
  • Salad: green herb salad or fruit salad
  • Shortcake: on a biscuit with fresh berries
  • Parfait with melon and prosciutto
  •  
    Optional Garnishes

  • Dried fruit: dates, figs or others depending on flavor
  • Fresh fruit: diced apples with cheddar ice cream, berries with goat cheese ice cream, etc.
  • Fresh herbs: basil sprig, herb blossoms, lavender, rosemary sprig, sage leaves, tarragon or thyme sprig
  • Grape tomato, olive or other wee vegetable
  • Nuts
  •  
    RECIPE #1: QUICK PARMESAN ICE CREAM BALLS

    This recipe is much simpler to make. Use it with cold vegetable soups and the other serving suggestions above.

       

    Rosemary Ice Cream

    Cheddar Ice Cream

    Savory Ice Cream Sandwich

    Dill Ice Cream

    [1] Rosemary ice cream on an herb salad (photo courtesy Rosetta Restaurant | Mexico City. [2] Cheddar ice cream on an apple crumble (photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog). [3] Avocado ice cream sandwiched by 34 Degrees crisps (photo courtesy Food Flirt) [4] Dill ice cream cone with smoked salmon topping (here’s the recipe from Cup Of Sugar Pinch Of Salt.

     
    We make a similarly simple recipe of blender gazpacho: tomatoes, basil and olive oil with optional chopped bell peppers, cucumbers and onions (it depends on how much time or desire we have for chopping). Serve it in a Martini glass or large wine goblet, topped with a small scoop of ice cream.

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh herbs for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the cream in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer.

    2. STIR in the Parmesan cheese and continue stir until the cheese is melted. Stir in a dash of fresh ground pepper and remove to a small bowl to cool. When cool…

    3. PLACE the mixture in a small freezer-proof bowl or plastic container. Cover the container and place it in the freezer for 1-2 hours.

    4. SCOOP little balls of the frozen Parmesan ice cream, using a melon baller or a teaspoon. Place a ball of into each bowl of soup just before serving. Garnish with a sprig of fresh herb.

     

    Blue Cheese Ice Cream

    Goat Cheese Ice Cream

    Rosemary Ice Cream

    [1] Blue cheese ice cream (photo courtesy Yummly). [2] Goat cheese ice cream (photo courtesy Charlie Trotter). [3] Rosemary olive oil ice cream (here’s the recipe from Local Food Rocks.

      CHEESE ICE CREAM RECIPES

  • Parmesan Ice Cream from Ferran Adrià
  • Blue Cheese Ice Cream from Point Reyes Farmstead
  • Cheddar Ice Cream
  • Goat Cheese Ice Cream from Charlie Trotter
  •  
    You can turn any of these recipes into herb ice cream, by substituting fresh herbs for the cheese. Our favorites are basil and rosemary; there’s a recipe right below.
     
    Bonus

  • Sweet Cream Cheese Ice Cream for dessert: the best “cheesecake” ice cream.
  •  
    RECIPE #2: ROSEMARY ICE CREAM

    This recipe is sweetened, but you can reduce the honey to 1/8 or 1/4 of a cup for a more savory ice cream, or add just a tablespoon. You can also substitute basil. If you’d like the herb flavor to be stronger, use more next time.

    You can make this recipe up to four days in advance.
     
    Ingredients For 1.25 Quarts

  • 2 cups whipping [heavy] cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 6-inch-long fresh rosemary sprig
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • Large pinch of fine sea salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cream, milk, honey and rosemary in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until small bubbles form around edges of pan. Remove from the heat; cover and let steep 30 minutes.

    2. DISCARD the rosemary and put the pan back on the stove. Bring the contents to a simmer, then remove from the heat.

    3. WHISK the egg yolks and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually add the hot cream mixture, whisking until thoroughly combined. (The eggs and cream make this a custard, the style known as French ice cream. See the different types of ice cream.)

    4. RETURN the custard to the saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until the custard thickens slightly and coats back of spoon. This should take 4 to 5 minutes and the mixture should register 165°F to 170°F on a thermometer. Do not boil!

    5. STRAIN the mixture into a medium bowl. Set the bowl into a larger bowl containing a slurry of ice and water. Allow to cool, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    6. REMOVE the custard bowl from the slurry. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours.

    7. TRANSFER the custard to an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the churned ice cream to a container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

     
    THE HISTORY OF ICE CREAM

    Fruit ices are thousands of years old, dating back to ancient China. But gelato, the first type of ice cream, is comparatively recent.

    The original concept, a sherbet-like concoction, came from Northern China in the more than 4,000 years ago, before the 2nd century B.C.E. Snow and saltpeter in a container served as an ancient ice cream maker to freeze ingredients, the snow mixed with fruit juices, honey and aromatic spices.

    A modern form of it still exists, called snow cream. You can make it with a fresh batch of snow: Here’s the recipe.
     
    Fruit Snow Travels West

    Through trade routes, the frozen dessert recipe was introduced to Persia—about 2,500 years ago. The Persians called the frozen concoction sharbat, “fruit ice” in Arabic. We know it as sherbet, sorbet or sorbetto.

    Alexander the Great, who battled the Persians for 10 years before finally toppling the Persian Empire in 330 B.C.E., “discovered” the fruit ices and returned to Greece with the knowledge. Within three centuries, Emperor Nero was serving fruit juices mixed with honey and snow at his banquets, dispatching the fastest runners to the mountaintops to bring back the snow.
     
    On To Europe

    Fruit ice arrived in Europe with the Arab invasions of Sicily in the fifth century. Italian granita was born, flavored with a wide range of fruits including citrus. Coffee ice was also made.

    It took until the late 1500’s in Florence, for fruit ice to be adapted to gelato. The original ice cream, gelato was (and is) made with cream and eggs. This combination enables a more intense showcasing of the fruits, nuts and other flavors. (The key differences between gelato and ice cream are less cream/more milk and less air [overrun].)

    The invention is credited to Bernardo Buontalenti, a multi-talented genius born Bernardo Delle Girandole (c. 1531 to 1608). Buontalenti, his professional name, means great talent. He was an architect, theatrical designer, military engineer and artist.

    It is believed that he created gelato for a Medici banquet.

    Buontalenti, who spent his life in the employ of the Medici family, was, among other things, the impresario of the fabulous Medici banquets. While no historical record exists that names Buontalenti as the creator, he is a likely candidate.

    Gelato spread from Italy to the rest of Europe. This is attributed to another Italian, Catarina de’ Medici, who married the future King Henri II of France. (She was only 14 when she married; no wonder she liked ice cream).

    Here’s the full history of ice cream, to modern times.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Alcohol Slush

    Zoku Slush Maker

    Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

    [1] Alcohol slush drinks made in the Zoku Slush Maker (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). From top to bottom: Bellini Slush, Gin & Tonic Slush, Screwdriver Slush. [2] Turn your favorite liqueur into a slush (photo courtesy Godiva Liqueurs).

     

    Call it an Icee®, Slurpee*, slush or slushy*, adult versions of shaved ice drinks with alcohol are certainly an delightful advance on the shaved ice or snow with syrup enjoyed in China 4,000 years ago.

    This is the frozen dessert that traveled to Persia and later to Italy. On the dinner table along with plenty of wine, surely someone must have splashed some alcohol on it. (Arabic people drank alcohol until the early 7th century C.E., when the Holy Prophet Muhammad proscribed it.)

    (That shaved ice evolved into granita, sorbet, snow cones and modern shaved ice (a form of granita). A Florentine Renaissance Man adapted the idea and made the first ice cream. Here’s the history of ice cream.)

    Then there’s the present: A company called Beyond Zero has developed a technology that will freeze alcohol. It will be available soon, and will not likely be priced for home use (unless your home has 100 rooms).
     
    FROZEN DRINKS: AMERICA LOVES THEM!

    The beginning of the American frozen drink trend, frozen Margaritas, started in Houston around 1935 with the blender Margarita.

    It reached its zenith with the invention of the frozen Margarita machine in 1971, which greatly enhanced the demand for Mexican restaurants. The history of that machine is below.

    Then there’s the present: A company called Beyond Zero has developed a technology that will freeze alcohol, but it’s not yet available and will not likely be priced for home use (unless your home is a mansion).
     
    SLUSH DRINKS WITH LOW-PROOF ALCOHOL

    The alcohol’s proof is double the ABV, alcohol by volume. So if a wine is 12% alcohol, it is 24 proof. Standard spirits are 80-proof: too much alcohol to freeze in a home freezer. You need to take some extra steps.

    So first, let’s look at lower-proof spirits that will freeze into slush:

  • Apérifs: Aperol, Dubonnet, Lillet, Kahlúa, and others†.
  • Beer: You can freeze your favorite, but try a cherry or raspberry lambic (beers run 3 to 26 proof).
  • Hard cider, from 3 to 24 proof.
  • Some Liqueurs Many are up to 80 proof, but St-Germain‡ is 40 proof and Baileys Irish Cream is 34 proof.
  • Sochu (like vodka but 40 proof).
  • Wine and sparkling wine (with proofs under 26%, the alcohol is low enough so that you can also make ice pops).
  •  
    Mixologists nationwide are creating recipes for low-proof cocktails. You can turn them into slush cocktails. Here are low-proof recipes from Liquor.com

    Even the strongest is 26 proof; and light beer is just 3 proof. Here’s more on ABV, or alcohol by volume. You double the ABV to get the proof.
     
    HOW TO MAKE SLUSHIE WITH 80 PROOF SPIRITS

    You can’t use high-proof spirits and liqueurs straight to make slush. You have to lower them to 40 proof or less.

    Do this by diluting the spirit: with water, a carbonated beverage or juice, even iced tea or coffee. If you dilute it beyond a 1:1 ratio, you can bring the mix to 40 proof, which will freeze (we used a 2:1 ratio).

    You can make, for example:

  • Gin and Tonic Slush
  • Bloody Mary Slush
  • Rum and Coke Slush
  • Scotch and Soda Slush
  •  
    We used a 2:1 ratio of non-alcohol (orange juice) to spirit (vodka) for our Screwdriver Slush and a 1:1 ratio of peach nectar and Prosecco for a Bellini Slush, since wines are under 13% proof.
     
    HOW TO MAKE AN ALCOHOL SLUSHIE

    Technique #1: Combine the alcohol in a blender with ice cubes or better, with crushed ice.

    Technique #2: Pour the alcohol into ice cube trays and allow to freeze thoroughly (at least four hours). The cubes won’t freeze rock-hard like ice cubes. Tip: Smaller slush cubes will melt more quickly than large ice cubes; it’s a matter of personal preference.

    Technique #3: The easy way to do it is to buy a Zoku Slush Maker; but one 8-ounce slush maker is $19.99. That could be for two people; but if you want more portions, you need to purchase others.

    Technique #4: The easiest way is to invest $30 in an electric shaved ice machine).

    Technique #5: The hard way is to make a granita.

    __________________
    *Icee®, and Slurpee® are trademarked names. You can use them at home when presenting your drink to guests, but the names cannot be used commercially (e.g., at a bar or restaurant) without a license from the owner. Instead, use the generic, slush or slushy. It’s the same deal with Popsicle®, the generic of which is ice pop.

    †Check the bottle. Some favorites, like Grand Marnier, are not liqueurs but liqueur blended with brandy and a higher proof (70% for Grand Marnier). Even the generic triple sec orange liqueur ranges from 30 to 60 proof.

    ‡St-Germain liqueur is Saint-Germain l elderflower liqueur is our personal favorite and the best-selling liqueur in history. It is a favorite mixer with sparkling wines.
     

     

    WHO INVENTED THE FROZEN MARGARITA?

    The original Margarita on the rocks began appearing in bars and restaurants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the late 1930s. An improvement on the first electric (1922), the Waring Blender appeared in 1935.

    The Waring, which could efficiently chop ice, enabled the creation of “frozen” drinks”—a conventional cocktail made in a blender with chopped ice.

    By the 1960s, slushy soft drinks (non-alcoholic) had become the craze among kids and adults alike. The concept and the machine to make them was invented by in the 1950s by Omar Knedlik, a Dairy Queen franchisee. He did not have a soda fountain, so he served semi-frozen bottled soft drinks, which became slushy and were immensely popular.

    This gave him the idea to create a machine that made slushy sodas, resulting in the ICEE Company. They were a huge hit, and in 1966 7-Eleven purchased machines to sell their proprietary-brand Slurpees.

    Yet no one made the leap to using the machine for frozen cocktails.

    At that time, frozen drinks were made by bartenders in a blender with ice cubes.

    But it wasn’t a great solution.

     

    Frozen Margarita

    Thanks to Mariano Martinez of Dallas for creating the first Frozen Margarita machine, in 1971 (photo courtesy Herradura Tequila).

     
    In Dallas, a restaurant manager, Mariano Martinez, could not deliver frozen Margaritas to the satisfaction of his customers—who no doubt were comparing them to the Slurpees from 7-Eleven. His bartenders complained that the blender drinks were too time-consuming to make.

    One day in 1971, Martinez stopped for a cup of coffee at a 7-Eleven and saw the Slurpee machine. The light bulb flashed on, and Martinez bought and retrofitted an old soft-serve machine to make frozen Margaritas.
     
    The rest is history. The frozen Margarita was responsible for the growth of tequila in America, as well as the growth of Tex-Mex cuisine to go with all those frozen Margaritas.

    According to Brown-Forman, in 2006 the Margarita surpassed the Martini as the most ordered alcoholic beverage, representing 17% of all mixed-drink sales.

    Martinez’ original machine is now in the Smithsonian. You can see a photo here.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Salsa Gazpacho & 15 More Uses For Salsa

    Salsa  Gazpacho

    Shrimp Cocktail With Salsa

    Salsa

    [1] Salsa-based gazpacho (photo courtesy Knudsen). [2] Shrimp cocktail with salsa; add avocado and lime wedge for a “Mexican shrimp cocktail” (photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com. [3] Grab your favorite salsa from the shelf and check out the 15 ideas below (photo courtesy Mrs. Renfro’s).

     

    If you have more salsa than you need, turn it into a refreshing gazpacho. Or use it in one of the 15 different options below.

    While most Americans think of salsa as a snack with tortilla chips, it began as a general sauce for cooked foods in Mexico. Tortilla chips weren’t invented until the 1940s, in Los Angeles (the history of tortilla chips).

    There is no one salsa recipe: Every region of Latin America has its own style, with recipes divided between tomato-based red salsas and tomatillo-based green salsas. Within each category are many different salsa styles (see our Salsa Glossary).

    You can find dozens of ways to use salsa beyond Tex-Mex. It’s a great pantry item to grab when you need to make—or fix—something, as you’ll see in the list below this salsa recipe.
     
    BONUS: ¼ cup of tomato-based salsa counts as a one serving of vegetables!

    RECIPE: SALSA GAZPACHO

    Ingredients

  • 8-ounce jar mild salsa (or your favorite type—you can even use fruit salsa)
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 fresh tomato, chopped and seeded
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime (2-3 tablespoons in a medium lemon, 2 tablespoons in the average lime)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: small dice cucumber and bell pepper, cilantro leaves or whatever you have*
  • Optional garnish: Greek yogurt or sour cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ROLL the room temperature lemon or lime on the counter, pressing down. This will release more juice.

    2. PURÉE the salsa in a blender or food processor. Mix with the other ingredients (except garnishes) in a mixing bowl.

    3. REFRIGERATE for an hour or more, covered, to allow the flavors to meld.

    4. POUR into serving bowls or cups, garnish and serve.
     
    _____________________
    *Use diced avocado, chopped fresh herbs, carrot coins or radish slices, corn kernels…just look in the fridge and the pantry.

     

    MORE USES FOR SALSA

    Salsa is a versatile ingredient. Beyond Tex-Mex cuisine, you can use different types of salsa for even more variety. For example, you can use a sweeter fruit salsa to make omelet toppings/fillings or sauces for grilled meats, even as a garnish for pound cake or sorbet.
     
    Condiment, Dip, Garnish Or Spread

  • Baked potato: Mix with plain yogurt or sour cream for a spicy topping.
  • Bruschetta or crostini: Mexican-style (the difference between bruschetta and crostini).
  • Cracker spread: Top a brick of cream cheese or a log of goat cheese and serve with crackers, toasts, baguette slices, etc.
  • Dip: Mix with ketchup, mayonnaise, plain yogurt or sour cream as a dip for chips, crudités, fries, etc.
  • Grilled cheese sandwich: Instead of tomato slices, use salsa—especially when tomatoes are not in season.
  • Ketchup substitute: From breakfast eggs to lunch burgers to meat loaf and grilled meats, poultry and seafood for dinner, salsa adds some spice.
  • Mac and cheese: Use as a garnish instead of bread crumbs.
  • Queso: Mix with cheese sauce for a queso, a popular Mexican dip and sauce (tip: you can substitute Velveeta—not as elegant but so much quicker).
  • Seafood: Substitute for cocktail sauce with a seafood cocktail; serve as a sauce with cooked fish.
  •  
    Flavor Booster

  • Compound butter: Make compound butter, refrigerate, and have an “instant” sauce for anything, including proteins, rice and other grains, vegetables.
  • Eggs: Stir into scrambled eggs or add to frittatas, omelets and shakshouka (Eggs in Purgatory).
  • Hearty dishes: Perk up casseroles, soups and stews.
  • Marinade: Add salsa to oil and lime juice, and you don’t need extra seasonings. It’s the same for a ceviche marinade.
  • Tomato sauce: Use it on pasta and pizza.
  • Season anything: From deviled eggs to stuffed mushrooms to Bloody Marys.
  •  
    Have other ideas for salsa? Let us know!

     

    Queso Dip With Salsa

    Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    Salsa Burger

    [1] Make a queso dip with salsa and cheese sauce (a quick substitute is Velveeta; photo courtesy El Original | NYC). [2] This {Chicken fajita” grilled cheese adds a layer of salsa, which also works on a plain grilled cheese sandwich. Here’s the recipe from ClosetCooking.com. [2] A salsa-topped burger or cheeseburger hits the spot (photo courtesy Pace).

      

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    RECIPE: Atlantic Beach Pie, A Spin On Lemon Meringue Pie

    Lemon Meringue Pie Slice

    Atlantic Beach Pie Recipe

    Lemon Meringue Pie

    Chess Pie

    [1] A slice of classic lemon meringue pie (photo courtesy IncredibleEgg.org). [2] The Atlantic Beach Pie variation substitutes a crunchy saltine crust (photo courtesy Crook’s Corner | Our State magazine). [3] You can never have too much meringue (photo courtesy McCormick; here’s the recipe). [4] Chess pie is a lemon custard pie baked in an all-butter pie crust (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day, celebrating one of America’s favorite pies.

    THE HISTORY OF LEMON MERINGUE PIE

    Lemon-flavored custards, puddings and pies date to the Middle Ages, which concluded in the 15th century. Meringue was perfected in the 17th century.

    The modern lemon meringue pie is a 19th-century recipe, attributed to Alexander Frehse, a baker in the Swiss canton of Romandie. By the late 19th century, the dish had reached the U.S. and achieved popularity.

    It combines a lemon custard single crust pie with meringue, the fluffy topping made from egg whites and sugar, baked on top. Here’s the classic lemon meringue pie recipe.

    Fast-forward a century to Atlantic Beach Lemon Pie, a Southern specialty from the beaches of North Carolina.

    It’s a lemon meringue pie with a twist: It has a crunchy, salty crust made from crushed saltine or Ritz cracker crumbs.

    It fell out of fashion for decades, until it was rescued from obscurity by Chef Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

    Chef Bill added his own touch, substituting whipped cream for the meringue topping.

    Chef Bill has been generous with his recipe. We encountered this recipe in OurState, magazine in Greensboro, North Carolina, whose editor asked him to write about it. Here’s the original article.

    RECIPE: ATLANTIC BEACH PIE

    Ingredients For The Crust

  • 1½ sleeves of saltine crackers
  • 1/3 to ½ cup softened unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  •  
    Ingredients For The Filling

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks (tip: eggs separate more easily when cold)
  • ½ cup lemon juice* (about 4 juicy lemons) or Key lime juice (16 Key limes, or substitute juice from 5-6 regular limes)
  •  
    __________________
    *To get more juice from a lemon (or any citrus), microwave it for 10 seconds. Then roll it on the counter, exerting pressure with your palm. You’re now ready to halve and juice it.
     
    Ingredients For The Garnish

  • Whipped cream
  • Coarse sea salt (especially black lava or pink salt like alea for contrast)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the crackers in a plastic bag, seal and crush crush with a rolling pin into tiny, flaky pieces. You will have about 2½ to 3 cups of cracker crumbs. Do not use a food processor or you will end up with cracker dust that doesn’t work.

    2. ADD the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little. While the crust is cooling…

    3. BEAT the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients.

    5. POUR into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.
     
    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIE?

    Check out the different types of pie in our yummy Pie Glossary.
     
    PIE HISTORY

    The ancient Egyptians, who were great bread bakers, worked out the details of early pastry. Theirs was a savory pastry: a dough of flour and water paste to wrap around meat and soak up the juices as it cooked.

     
    Before the creation of baking pans in the 19th century, the coffin, as it was called (the word for a basket or box), was used to bake all food.

    Pastry was further developed in the Middle East and brought to Mediterranean Europe by the Muslims in the 7th century. Another leap occurred in the 11th Century, when Crusaders brought phyllo dough back to Northern Europe (the First Crusade was 1096 to 1099).

    Greek and Roman pastry did not progress as far as it could have because both cultures used oil, which can’t create a stiff pastry. In medieval Northern Europe, the traditional use of lard and butter instead of oil for cooking hastened the development of other pastry types.

    Pies developed, and the stiff pie pastry was used to provide a casing for the various fillings. By the 17th century, flaky and puff pastries were in use, developed by French and Italian Renaissance chefs. These pastry chefs began to make highly decorated pastry, working intricate patterns on the crusts.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

    When you encounter a bumper crop of tomatoes or see a great sale on tomatoes past their peak: roast them! You can use any fresh tomato: beefsteak, cherry, grape, plum, roma; conventional or heirloom.

    Healthful and delicious, you can serve them as a side with anything, add them to salads and pasta, serve them with a cheese course, and on and on.

    There are so many ways to use this basic recipe. Some of our favorites:

  • Sprinkle with coarse and crunchy or seasoned salt and/or fresh-ground pepper and serve as an antipasto or salad course
  • Blend with simmered with onions, red wine and herbs for a flavorful tomato sauce.
  • Use as a pizza topping.
  • Chop and add to risotto.
  • Serve with a cheese plate.
  • Serve with your favorite soft cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and fine olive oil.
  • Use as a general garnish, plate décor or side.
  •  
    RECIPE: OVEN-ROASTED TOMATOES

    This slow-roasted recipe requires 20 minutes prep time and 1 hour of cook time. It makes enough for leftovers, which can be added hot to pasta, cool to burgers, salads and sandwiches. Use them within a week.

    Roast a mix of sizes and colors for a more beautiful presentation.

    Ingredients For 10 Servings

  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, any type
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (substitute basil, marjoram, oregano or savory)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center. Line a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. PREPARE the tomatoes: Wash, remove any stems and slice them in half lengthwise (with large tomatoes, make a few thick slices). Gently scoop out the seeds with a small spoon. Set the tomatoes, cut side up, in a single layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme and garlic.

    3. ROAST for 40 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Continue to until the tomatoes caramelize, about 20 minutes.

    4. TURN off the oven and let the tomatoes sit inside for 10 minutes. Remove the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
     
    PLUM TOMATOES & ROMA TOMATOES: THE DIFFERENCE

    If you wonder why plum tomatoes (a.k.a. Italian plum tomatoes) and roma tomatoes look the same, it’s because for the most part, they are.

    The plum tomato can be oval or cylindrical, while the roma is oval or pear-shaped. Their vines are slightly different.

    They are meatier subspecies, with less liquid and seeds than other tomatoes. That’s why they’re preferred for canning and for tomato sauce.
     
    FUN TOMATO FACTS

    The scientific name of the tomato is Solanum lycopersicum. Individual sizes from cherry to beefsteak are subspecies of lycopersicum.

    Tomatoes are members of the Solanaceae family, popularly called the nightshades. Botanically they are berry*-type fruits.

    Other edible nightshades include eggplant, naranjilla, potato (but not sweet potato), tomatillo.

    Another popular nightshade is the chile pepper: hot and sweet varieties and the spices and condiments made from them, such as cayenne, chili powder, hot sauce and paprika.

    Tomatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru, where thousands of different types grew wild. They were first cultivated by the Incas and spread to Central America, the Aztec Empire.

     

    Beautiful Heirloom Tomatoes

    Cherry Tomatoes

    Roasted Tomatoes Recipe

    Heirloom Plum Tomatoes

    [1] Beautiful heirloom tomatoes (photo courtesy The Chef’s Garden). [2] Simple roasting produces glorious results (photo courtesy Hidden Valley). [3] Roasted cherry tomatoes (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco). [4] Heirloom roma tomatoes (photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).

     
    The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica), a cousin in the Solanaceae family, grew wild in Central America. It was cultivated by the Aztecs and called tomatl (pronounced to-MAH-tay).

    When the Aztecs began to cultivate the red berry* from the Andes, they called the new species xitomatl (hee-toe-MAH-tay), meaning “plump thing with navel” or “fat water with navel.”

    The Spanish arriving in what is now Mexico called the tomato tomatl (spelled tomate). The Spanish called the smaller green fruit, called tomatl by the Aztecs, tomatillo.

    Tomate first appeared in print (in Spanish) in 1595 [source and a deeper discussion].
     
    __________________
    *The scientific use of “berry” differs from common usage. In botany, a berry is a fruit produced from the ovary of a single flower. The outer layer of the ovary wall (the pericarp) develops into an edible fleshy portion. Thus, “berry” includes many fruits that are not commonly thought of as berries, including bananas, cucumbers, eggplants, grapes, tomatillos and and tomatoes. Paradoxically, fruits not included in the botanical definition include strawberries and raspberries, which are not true berries [source].

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Recipes For National Creamsicle Day

    Creamsicle Cheesecake Recipe

    Creamsicle Cheesecake

    Creamsicle Milkshake

    [1] How about a Creamsicle cheesecake for National Creamsicle Day? Here’s the recipe (photo courtesy Sweet Street Desserts). [2] This recipe from Cook’s Country layers the cake, sherbet and ice cream in a springform pan lined with lady fingers. [3] Prefer a drink? Try a Creamicle shake or cocktail (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma).

     

    The Creamsicle® was created by the Popsicle Corporation, established in the Depression by Frank Epperson, who had invented the Popsicle®. The vanilla ice cream pop, coated with orange sherbet, became a sensation.

    Today Creamsicle® and Popsicle® are registered trademarks of the Unilever Corporation. Any company wishing to use the name for a product must get a license from Unilever.

    But in the Wild West of online recipes, anything goes.

    Here’s more Creamsicle history.

    Since August 14th is also National Creamsicle Day, take a look at other Creamsicle-inspired food.
     
    FAVORITE CREAMSICLE VARIATIONS

    The easiest, and a favorite of ours, is a simple bowl of vanilla ice cream and orange sorbet (mango sorbet is a great substitute).

    You can also make vanilla cupcakes with orange frosting or top vanilla ice cream with orange liqueur.

    Here are more celebratory recipes:

  • Creamsicle Cheesecake
  • Creamsicle Cocktail
  • Creamsicle Ice Cream Cake
  • Creamsicle Milkshake (recipe below)
  •  
    Also check out fior di Sicilia, an Italian essence used to flavor baked goods and beverages. Its flavor and aroma are reminiscent of a Creamsicle.
     
    RECIPE: CREAMSICLE MILKSHAKE

    Make this recipe, from Williams-Sonoma kitchens, in 5 to 10 minutes.
     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup orange sherbet, firmly packed
  • 1/3 cup milk, plus more as needed
  • Optional garnish: orange wheel/wedge or whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a blender and process on the low setting. If the shake is too thick, add more milk until the desired consistency is reached.

    2. POUR the shake into a tall glass and garnish as desired.

     
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Tomato Clafoutis

    Clafoutis (cluh-FOO-tee) is a rustic tart, initially made with cherries in the Limousin region of south-central France, where black cherry trees abound.

    Today, other stone fruits and berries are also used. When other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries—apples, berries, pears, other stone fruits including prunes—dried plums—the dish is properly called a flaugnarde (flow-NYARD).

    In the centuries before ceramic pie plates were invented (during the Renaissance), the filling was placed into a hand-crafted dough with no sides (think of a galette, or a pizza with a higher side crust).

    The fruit is placed in a pie shell and covered with a flan (custard)-like filling; then baked until puffy. The fruit is not only inside the custard, but tempting nuggets pop through at the top.

    The recipe originated in the Limousin region of France, where black cherries were plentiful (red cherries can also be used). The name derives from the verb clafir, to fill, from the ancient language of Occitania, the modern southern France.

    Fruit clafoutis can be served warm, room temperature or chilled; vegetable clafoutis are better warm.
     
    RECIPE: SAVORY TOMATO CLAFOUTIS

    A savory clafoutis is similar to a quiche. Without a crust it is a savory custard, and can be made in a pie plate or in individual ramekins.

    This recipe was contributed by Karen, FamilyStyle Food to Go Bold With Butter, a source of wonderful recipes.

    Karen made the dish as a custard, without a crust. You can do the same, or use a pie crust or a crust of crushed biscuits/crackers.

    Prep Time is 10 minutes, cook time is 55 minutes. Serve it warm from the oven or room temperature, for brunch, lunch or dinner, or as a first course or snack.

    For a more artistic presentation, use cherry tomatoes in an assortment of colors. You can also combine cherry and grape tomatoes.

     
    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes in assorted colors, halved
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Kosher salt or seasoned salt*
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • Optional crust
  • Optional garnish: marinated tomato “salad”†
  •  
    __________________
    *We used rosemary salt, a blend of sea salt and rosemary. You can make your own by pulsing dried rosemary (or other herb) and coarse salt in a food processor. Start with a 1:3 ratio and add more rosemary to taste.

    †We cut up the leftover tomatoes and marinated them with diced red onion and fresh herbs in a vinaigrette of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Drain it thoroughly through a sieve and then use it as a topping or a side garnish.

     

    Cherry Clafoutis

    Mixed Berry Clafoutis

    roasted-tomato-clafoutis-goboldwbutter-230

    [1] A classic clafoutis, a custard tart with black cherries (here’s the recipe from FoodBeam.com). [2] This mixed berry clafoutis is from The Valley Table, which highlights the cuisine of New York’s Hudson Valley. It is garnished with fresh berries and a side of crème fraîche. [3]A tomato clafoutis with flavorful summer tomatoes (photo courtesy FamilyStyleFood.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Prick the bottom of the pie shell all over with a fork. Line the bottom with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust begins to color around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, set aside and raise the oven temperature to 400°F.

    2. TOSS the tomatoes and butter on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt to taste. Roast 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and begin to caramelize. Transfer the tomatoes to 9-inch round or square baking dish, or set aside until Step 5.

    3. REDUCE the oven temperature to 375°F. Whisk the egg yolks, 1 teaspoon salt and the sugar in large bowl until lightened and creamy. Stir in the flour, 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan and the cream.

    4. BEAT the egg whites in separate bowl or heavy-duty mixer until they form soft peaks. Fold into yolk mixture until blended. Pour batter over tomatoes and sprinkle with basil.

    5. BAKE 18-20 minutes or until batter is puffed and light golden. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top and serve warm.
     
    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF PIE

    Invented by the ancient Egyptians, for some 2,000 years food was not baked in containers (e.g. pie plates, baking pans), but completely wrapped in dough. The dough wrap was called a coffin, the word for a basket or box.

    Here’s the scoop.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Filet Mignon “Sculpture” For National Filet Mignon Day

    Here’s some food fun for National Filet Mignon Day, August 13th:

    Instead of serving the meat flat on the plate, create a filet mignon “sculpture”: a commemoration of the tenderest cut of beef.

    In this example from Rue 57 restaurant in New York City, the filet is set against a mound of mashed potatoes, and surrounded by:

  • Jus
  • Pearl onions
  • Peas
  •  
    Two croutons (toasted baguette or ficelle slices) garnish the dish, but you can crown the mashed potatoes with sprig of chive, rosemary or thyme instead.

    You can tailor the dish any way you like. For example:

  • Serve the jus on the side.
  • Add mushrooms or other vegetables.
  •  
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT BEEF CUTS IN OUR BEEF GLOSSARY.
     
    WHAT IS JUS?

    Jus, pronounced ZHOO, is the French word for juice. With meat or poultry, it refers to a thin gravy or sauce made from the meat juices.

    The fat is skimmed from the pan juices and the remaining stock is boiled into a sauce, adding water as desired.

    Some cooks use additional ingredients to add flavor; for example, brown or white sugar, garlic, herbs, onion, salt and pepper, soy sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce. Our mother was fond of Gravy Master.

    In France, it would be argued that such additions are not jus, but a more complex sauce.

     

    French Dip Sandwich

    [1] Honor filet mignon on its national holiday, August 13th (photo courtesy Rue 57). [2] The French Dip sandwich, roast beef on baguette with a side of jus for dipping. Here’s the recipe from One Perfect Bite.

     
    “Au jus” (owe-zhoo) is the French culinary term that describes serving the meat with its pan juices.
     
    CAN YOU NAME THE AMERICAN SANDWICH THAT IS SERVED AU JUS?

    In the U.S., jus is served as a side in a small bowl, with a French dip sandwich: a roast beef sandwich on a hero roll or baguette.

    Here’s how the French Dip originated: another happy accident.
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT SANDWICH TYPES IN OUR SANDWICH GLOSSARY.

      

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