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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

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

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Archive for Recipes

ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Irish Cream Swirl Brownies

Irish-Cream-Swirl-Brownies-mccormick-230

Irish Cream Swirl Brownies. Photo courtesy McCormick.

 

The zebra brownie takes on a seasonal twist with a splash of Irish cream liqueur and green food coloring. Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 35 minutes.

RECIPE: IRISH CREAM SWIRL BROWNIES

Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1 package fudge brownie mix (or adapt your own from-scratch recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon green food color
  • Optional: vanilla ice cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the brownie mix as directed on the package, adding the vanilla.

    2. RESERVE 1 cup of batter. Spread the remaining batter in greased 9-inch square baking pan. (Tip: For easy clean-up, line the pan with foil, with the ends of the foil extending over sides of pan. Use foil handles to remove brownie from pan.)

    3. BEAT the cream cheese, flour and sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the Irish cream liqueur, egg and food color; beat until well blended. Pour over the brownie layer in pan. Drop the reserved 1 cup of batter by spoonfuls over the cream cheese layer. Cut through batter with knife several times for the marble effect.

    4. BAKE as directed on package for 9-inch square baking pan. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Serve with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Easiest Chocolate Bark

    white-pistachio-bark-pan-blogerikarax-230

    It couldn’t be easier to make chocolate bark. Photo courtesy Erika Rax.

     

    We found this tip from Erika Rax, a home baker living in Sydney, Australia.

    “I have a little secret to make really pretty and quick bark,” she says.

    Forget the chopping and melting of chocolate, ladies and gents. Erika’s technique will give you almost instant bark for special family treats or gifting. In the conventional technique, the inclusions get mixed into the chocolate. Here, they sit on top—an even prettier presentation, with no dimunition of flavor.

    Erika’s pistachio and rosemary bark, green ingredients on a white chocolate background, is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. For Christmas, add some dried cherries or cranberries.

    RECIPE: THE EASIEST CHOCOLATE BARK

    Ingredients

  • White chocolate bar(s)
  • Chopped pistachio nuts
  • Fresh rosemary
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 170°F/75°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the bar(s) on the parchment.

    2. ARRANGE the toppings over the bar. Place the sheet in the oven for 3-5 minutes until it just starts to soften. Take care not to overbake or the bar will lose shape.

    3. REMOVE from the oven. We lifted the parchment from the pan to cool on the counter, so the bars would not continue to get heat from the pan.
     
    Erika wrapped her gift bars in parchment paper, tied with a piece of kitchen string and a sprig of fresh rosemary. It’s charming! Here’s the photo.

    Find more of Erika’s tips at Blog.ErikaRax.com.

     
      

    Comments

    ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Guacamole Recipe

    What’s Irish about guacamole, the quintessential Mesoamerican sauce, we wondered as we saw the headline in the email for St. Patrick’s Day Guacamole, sent to us by the California Avocado Commission.

    The answer: the integration of Irish ingredients—bacon, carrots, Cheddar, onion, parsley—into conventional guacamole. The idea was developed by Sabrina Modelle of TheTomatoTart.com.

    Alas, conventional Irish crackers (cream crackers, digestive biscuits, oat cakes) don’t go well with guacamole. Instead, default to tortilla chips.

    Food Should Taste Good makes Guacamole Tortilla Chips that have a slight green tinge, but we’re going with their Yellow Corn Dipping Chips.

    And some Irish beer.

    Prep time is 20 minutes. For a beautiful presentation, set aside a small portion of the Step 2 ingredients to use as garnish.
     
    RECIPE: ST. PATRICK’S DAY GUACAMOLE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 3 ripe Hass* avocados, seeded and peeled
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  •    

    guacamole-sabrinamodelle-calavocomm-230

    Guacamole with “Irish” ingredients for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo courtesy TheTomatoTart.com.

  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ cup very finely diced carrots
  • ¼ cup very finely diced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ jalapeño, seeded and very finely diced (optional)
  • 3 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • ¼ cup very finely chopped parsley
  • 2 ounces Irish Cheddar cheese, crumbled (substitute other sharp Cheddar)
  • Tortilla chips, crudités or other dippers (how about green endive leaves?)
  •  
    *While there are much larger varieties of avocado, the Haas has the creamiest, most delicious flesh. As a result, 98% of the avocados grown in Mexico are Hass, a variety discovered as a seedling by Rudolph Hass, a California postman who planted it in his front yard in the 1920s. He patented the cultivar in 1935.

     

    avocados-board-hassavocado-230

    The avocado was long considered too sexual for “proper” people to eat. Photo courtesy Hass Avocado Board.

     

    Preparation

    1. MASH the avocado with lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

    2. STIR in the bacon, carrots, cheese, garlic, jalapeño, onion and parsley.

    3. GARNISH and serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF GUACAMOLE

    Mesoamericans cultivated the avocado, a fruit which had grown there for millions of years. The conquering Aztecs called it ahuacatl; the “tl” is pronounced “tay” in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1519 under Hernán Cortés, they heard ah-hwah-cah-tay as “aguacate,” the spelling and pronounciation they adopted.

    Guacamole was compounded in a molcajete, a mortar and pestle carved from volcanic stone.

     

    The name guacamole comes from Mexican Spanish via the Nahuatl “ahuacamOlli,” a compound of ahuacatl [avocado] + mOlli [sauce]. The chocolate-based mole sauce comes from that same word, mOlli.

    Ahuacatl means “testicle.” Aztecs saw the avocado as resembling testicles and ate them as a sex stimulant. According to Linda Stradley on the website WhatsCookingInAmerica.com, for centuries after Europeans came into contact with the avocado, it carried its reputation for inducing sexual prowess. It wasn’t purchased or consumed by anyone concerned with his or her reputation.

    American avocado growers had to sponsor a public relations campaign to dispel the myth before avocados could become popular. After then, their dark green, pebbly flesh also earned avocados the name, “alligator pear.”

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Broccoli Madness Salad

    For green fare on St. Patrick’s Day, try this very green broccoli salad from Souplantation. It has plenty of added ingredients (bacon! raisins! cashews!) to make it a crowd pleaser.

    RECIPE: BROCCOLI MADNESS SALAD

    Ingredients For 6 Side Salad Servings

  • 1 head raw broccoli
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  •  

    broccoli-madness-salad-souplantation-230r

    An easy broccoli salad, sure to please all. Photo courtesy Souplantation.

     
    Preparation

    1. WASH the broccoli and pat dry. Chop off the bottom 2 inches or so of stems and break the head into florets.

    2. PLACE the florets in a large bowl; add the bacon, cashews, raisins and red onion.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Combine the mayonnaise, sugar and cider vinegar in a small bowl; stir until smooth.

    4. TOSS the broccoli mixture with the dressing. Let it set 10 minutes or longer before serving. Serve on chilled salad dishes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Green Bean Casserole

    green-bean-casserole-comteUSAfb-230

    A green bean casserole smothered with
    delicious Comté cheese. Photo courtesy
    Comté USA.

     

    In our mother’s day, green bean casserole was a popular family dish. We can’t remember the last decade we saw one, either at home or on a restaurant menu.

    So St. Patrick’s Day, coming up on March 17th, seems like the time to try a good recipe and put more green on the table.

    This recipe was shared with us by Comté USA, the American bureau for France’s popular Comté cheese. Also called Gruyère de Comté, it has a much milder flavor than the Swiss Gruyère, aged for only three months compared to 8 months with Swiss Gruyère.

    How popular is it? Comté has the highest production of all French AOC cheeses: around 40,000 tonnes* annually.

    Dating back to the 12th century, Comté is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Here’s some fun cheese trivia: Comté is made only during the summer months, in huge wheels. In the fall, milk from the same cows is used to make Vacherin Mont d’Or, a small, creamy cheese that couldn’t be more different.

    If you want to focus on Irish ingredients, look for a Gruyere-style Irish cheese like Glebe Brethan.

     
    *In American English, a ton is a unit of measurement equaling 2,000 pounds. In Europe and elsewhere, a tonne equals 2,240 pounds (1000 kg). Don’t assume it’s the same measurement with a different spelling!
     
    RECIPE: GREEN BEAN & MUSHROOM GRATIN WITH COMTÉ & FRIED SHALLOTS

    This is a sophisticated version of a classic green bean casserole. No condensed cream of mushroom soup, no canned French-fried onions!

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound shallots (about 6 whole), peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms†, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4-ounces Comté, shredded (2 scant cups shredded)
  •  
    †Cremini/crimini mushrooms are baby portabello/portobello mushrooms, often marketed as Baby Bellas. Check out the different types of mushrooms in our Mushroom Glossary.

     

    Preparation

    1. LINE a large plate with paper towels. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer and lightly smoke. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until light golden brown, about 7-9 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to the paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

    3. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes. While the beans cook, fill a large bowl with ice water. Drain the beans and immediately plunge them into the ice water to stop cooking. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel to dry.

    4. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and toss. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and the minced garlic; cook 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Whisk in the broth and milk and bring to a simmer. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until thickened.

     

    comte-platter-comteUSA-fb-230

    Comté cheese. Photo courtesy Comte USA.

     
    5. TURN off the heat and add half of the shredded Comté, along with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add the green beans and stir to coat.

    6. TRANSFER the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Comté over the top. Bake 10 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle the fried shallots over the gratin. Serve warm.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Meatball Pot Pie

    For National Meatball Day, March 9th, here are two fun recipes with meatballs. courtesy of Casa Di Bertacchi,

    Both will be popular with busy moms, because the ingredients are quick to assemble. We don’t often use recipes that use a can of soup or canned potatoes as an ingredient; but here we make an exception to make it easy to celebrate National Meatball Day.

    The meatballs, too, are purchased frozen from Casa di Bertacchi.

    Of course, you make it from-scratch, using your favorite homemade pot pie recipe.

    RECIPE: MEATBALL POT PIE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed and drained
  • 13 frozen fully cooked meatballs, thawed
  • 2 cans (10.5 ounces each) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can (15 ounces) diced potatoes, drained
  • 1 teaspoon chopped dried rosemary
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 frozen or refrigerated pie crusts, at room temperature
  •    

    meatball-potpie-casameatballs-230

    Meatball Pot Pie. Photo courtesy Casa di Bertacchi.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients except the crusts in a 2-quart bowl. Place one pie crust evenly over the bottom and sides of a deep dish pie pan, pressing it up over the sides.

    3. FILL the pie crust with the meatball mixture. Cover with the second crust, sealing the edges and cutting slits in the top to vent steam. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

     

    meatball-kabobs-casameatballs-230

    Fun food: Try meatball kabobs. Recipe and photo courtesy Casa di Bertacchi.

     

    RECIPE: MEATBALL KABOBS

    Spell it kabob, kaboab, kebab or kebap: The word is transliterated from Arabic, so there’s no one definitive spelling.

    Originating in the Eastern Mediterranean, a kabob consists of pieces of meat, fish or vegetables roasted or grilled on a skewer or spit.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 18 frozen, fully cooked meatballs, thawed
  • 1 medium yellow or green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 12 equal pieces
  • 1 large or 2 small yellow summer squash*, cut into 12 slices, 1-1/2 to 2 inches
  • 12 whole mushrooms
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup Caesar dressing
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 long metal skewers†
  •  
    *Substitute yellow bell pepper.

    †If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes prior to assembling kabobs.
     
    Preparation 

    1. THREAD a meatball, bell pepper slice, yellow squash slice, mushroom and tomato on a long metal skewer. the Repeat pattern ending with a meatball.

    2. REPEAT for the other five skewers.

    3. COMBINE the Caesar dressing and black pepper.

    4. PLACE the meatball skewers directly on a hot grill. Baste the kabobs with the dressing.

    5. GRILL for 6–8 minutes, turning and basting every 2–3 minutes until done. Makes 6 kabobs.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Grasshopper Pie For St. Pat’s

    Grasshopper Pie is a crème de menthe chiffon pie with a chocolate cookie crust. It was invented in the U.S. in the 1950s following the popularity of the Grasshopper Cocktail, a dessert cocktail made from cream, green crème de menthe and white crème de cacao.

    The drink’s name derived from its green color. While it reputedly originated at Tujague’s, a landmark bar and Creole restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the story is a bit more complicated.
     
    THE HISTORY OF THE GRASSHOPPER COCKTAIL

    The recipe, created by Philibert Guichet Jr., owner of Tujaque’s, began as an entry submitted to a cocktail contest in New York City. It won the second place prize. Of note is that the contest was held in 1928—before the end of Prohibition (1920-1933). [Source]

    The cocktail gained popularity in the South during the 1950s and 1960s.

    In the 1950s, liquor became much more widely available as it filled grocery store shelves across the land. With women doing most of the grocery shopping at this time, the popularity of sweeter, dessert-type drinks increased. By the 1960s, the Grasshopper had become a standard cocktail.

       

    grasshopper-pie-tasteofhome-230r

    Plan ahead for something green and delicious: Make a Grasshopper Pie for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo and recipe courtesy Taste Of Home.

     
    NEXT STOP: GRASSHOPPER PIE

    At the same time the cocktail became a national standard, the pie appeared. Chiffon pies were very popular at that time, and food historians speculate that the recipe was invented by food companies to promote their products.

    In the American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes For The 20th Century, Jean Anderson writes, “I suspect—but cannot verify—that [Grasshopper Pie] recipes descend from one that appeared in High Spirited Desserts, a recipe flier published jointly by Knox Unflavored Gelatin and Heublein Cordials. [Source]

    Prep time is 30 minutes plus several hours to chill (or overnight).

    An easy frozen version follows the standard version below.

    You can play with the garnishes, using chocolate chips instead of chocolate shavings. If you want a more vivid green for St. Patrick’s day, add food color before you whip the cream.

     

    ice-cream-grasshopper-pie-tasteofhome-230

    The easiest Grasshopper Pie is made with mint chip ice cream. Photo and recipe courtesy Taste Of Home.

      RECIPE: GRASSHOPPER PIE

    Ingredients For 8 Servings
     
    For The Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon chocolate wafer crumbs, divided (about 32 wafers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1-1/3 cups well-chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup green crème de menthe
  • 1/4 cup white crème de cacao
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Garnish: grated chocolate or mint-flavored chocolate*
  •  
    *Green & Black’s and Lindt are two brands of mint chocolate bar available at many supermarkets.
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust. Stir together the wafer crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl to combine. Pat the mixture onto the bottom and up the side of a buttered 9-inch pie plate. Bake the crust in the middle of a preheated 450°F oven for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

    2. MAKE the filling. In a heat-proof bowl or the top half of a double boiler, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/3 cup of the cream; let it soften for 5 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, crème de menthe, crème de cacao and egg yolks. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 160°F on a candy thermometer.

    3. REMOVE the bowl to a larger bowl of ice and cold water. Stir the mixture until it is cooled and thickened.

    4. BEAT the remaining 1 cup cream in a separate bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold it into the crème de menthe mixture thoroughly.

    5. POUR the filling into the crust and chill the pie for 4 hours, or until set. Sprinkle the pie with the grated chocolate.
     
    RECIPE: ICE CREAM GRASSHOPPER PIE

    This version is even easier, using store-bought mint chocolate chip ice cream (photo above left). It’s a kid-friendly recipe without the liqueurs; but feel free to add 1/8 cup of crème de menthe to the softened ice cream.

    Ingredients

  • 4 cups mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
  • 1 chocolate crumb crust (8 inches—store-bought or made with the recipe above)
  • 5 Oreo cookies, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chocolate-covered peppermint candies (e.g. Junior Mints)
  • Chocolate hard-shell ice cream topping
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPREAD the ice cream into the pie crust. Sprinkle with the cookies and candies.

    2. DRIZZLE with the ice cream topping and freeze until firm. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherimoya

    WHAT’S A CHERIMOYA?

    When our colleague Hannah Kaminsky mentioned that cherimoya was her favorite fruit, we were curious. Depending on where you live, you may not come across this heart-shaped subtropical fruit often.

    We had to head to a Latin American supermarket uptown. But seek it out we did, and the trip was worth it. The fruit’s blend of banana, mango, passionfruit and pineapple notes is luscious. The ivory-colored flesh is creamy, similar to a ripe peach.

    Also called a custard apple in the U.S., cherimoya is believed to have originated in the Andes Mountains. The name originates from the Quechua (Inca) word chirimuya, meaning “cold seeds” (because the seeds germinate at high altitudes). It grows as a shrub or tree.

       

    cherimoya-baldorfood-230

    A cherimoya. Now you know! Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

     

    HOW TO BUY & SERVE CHERIMOYA

    The pale green, shingled skin must be handled with care to avoid bruising. Choose unblemished fruit that is firm and allow it to ripen at room temperature.

    As it ripens, the skin will turn a darker green and will yield to gentle pressure. Refrigerate soft fruit and consume it as soon as possible for the best flavor.

    To serve, chill the cherimoya, cut it in half, spoon out the seeds and eat the flesh with a spoon. It can also be turned into desserts, such as crêpes, custard (hence the name “custard apple)”, dessert sauce (purée), fruit salad (as with apples, dip cut fruit in lemon or orange juice to prevent darkening), mousse, pie filling, pudding and sorbet.

    You can freeze the cherimoya and eat it as ice cream, from the shell. Definitely try this!

    And you can drink it. Whip up a shake, smoothie, cherimoya Daiquiri or other fruity cocktail.

    To usher in spring, which began today, make Hannah Kaminsky’s tropical cocktail or smoothie, Cherimoya Lava Flow.

     

    cherimoya-shake-hannahkaminsky-230

    Celebrate spring with this Cherimoya Lava Flow. Photo and recipe courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    RECIPE: CHERIMOYA COCKTAIL OR SMOOTHIE,
    THE CHERIMOYA LAVA FLOW

    From Hawaii, where her local farmers market has plenty of cherimoyas, Hannah writes: “It’s a pricy treat to be sure,” even though grown locally. Her favorite way to enjoy the ripe, custard-like flesh is to dig in with a spoon.

    “With an overripe fruit, though,” she advises, “the only thing one one can do is blend and drink it. That’s where the idea to create a tropical shake came from, playing off the classic umbrella drink, the lava flow.

    “Fiery red rivulets of strawberry ‘lava’ flow throughout a classic coconut-pineapple rendition of this refreshing island staple, finished with a kiss of light rum. The sweet, creamy richness of cherimoya transforms the drink into an exotic new experience, which is just as luscious with or without the booze.

    “In lieu of fresh cherimoya, you can substitute either 1 medium banana or 2/3 cup young coconut meat for a different, yet still delicious, taste.”

    Of course, you can leave out the rum for a tropical smoothie. Substitute an equal amount of pineapple juice.

     

    RECIPE: CHERIMOYA LAVA FLOW

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

    For The Strawberry Lava Sauce

  • 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen/thawed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  •  
    For The Creamy Cherimoya Cocktail

  • 1 medium cherimoya
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4-1/2 cup light rum
  • Optional garnish: fresh pineapple wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the strawberry sauce first by combining the strawberries, sugar and lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, just until the berries have softened and the sugar dissolved. Transfer to a blender and thoroughly purée so that no chunks of fruit remain. Strain out the seeds if desired and set aside.

    2. RINSE and dry the blender bowl and return it to the base. Slice the cherimoya in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, discarding the black seeds as you encounter them. Add the cherimoya to the blender, along with the pineapple, coconut milk and 1/4 cup of rum. Blend on high speed until completely smooth. Add more rum to taste.

    3. DIVIDE the cocktail between two glasses and drizzle the strawberry “lava” into each one, aiming for the sides of the glass to create the greatest visual impact. Serve with a tall straw and an additional wedge of fresh pineapple for garnish.

      

    Comments

    TIP: How To Microwave Artichokes

    The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a species of thistle cultivated as a vegetable. It is actually a flower head, a cluster of numerous immature buds of what would be a blossom if not picked before it bloomed. The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is a wild variant available in spring.

    The artichoke stem is also delicious. It is an extension of the artichoke heart.

    The thistle family is a group of flowering plants that have leaves with sharp prickles. They, along with the inner choke (more about that in a bit), make eating whole artichokes a labor of love, like eating a whole lobster. But like that lobster, what’s inside is more than worth it.

    ARTICHOKE HISTORY

    Native to the Mediterranean, the artichoke was popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks called them kaktos and the Romans called them carduus. The English word evolved from the medieval Arabic al-khurshuf, which evolved into alcachofa in Arabic, alcachofa in Spanish, carciofo in Italian, artichaut in French and Artischocke in German.

    Artichoke cultivation spread to Italy and southern France in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The original artichokes were small, the size of hens’ eggs. Breeding created the globe.

     

    thistle-Cynara-scolymus-alvesgaspar-wiki

    An artichoke in bloom in Montpellier, France. One the flower blooms, the flesh becomes coarse and barely edible. Photo by Alvesgaspar | Wikimedia.

     

    The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, and they were grown in Henry VIII’s garden by 1530. They arrived in the U.S. in the 19th century, brought to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. [Source]

    And now, let’s eat!
     
    HOW TO MICROWAVE ARTICHOKES

    Microwaving is much faster than conventional steaming on the stove top. Prep time is 3 minutes, cook time is 7 minutes.

    While freshly-harvested artichokes are sweet, some cooks add a drizzle of lemon juice before cooking to eliminate any bitterness. (We’ve never had a bitterness problem.)

    Ingredients

  • Globe artichokes, 8-12 ounces (or smaller varieties)
  • Optional: lemon juice
  • Plastic wrap
  • Optional for serving: lemon wedge, melted butter or other dip (see options in Step 6, below)
  •  

    microwave-artichoke-melissas-230ps

    Melissa’s sells artichokes ready to microwave, wrapped in plastic with a red timing device that pops up when it’s ready. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the artichokes, not just to clean them but to provide moisture for microwaving. Tear off any tiny lower leaves or leaves that are blemished.

    2. TRIM any leaves from the stem. You can leave the stem on, or cut it off at the base of the globe and cook it next to it. (NOTE: Some supermarket artichokes have already been trimmed of the stem.)

    3. USING a scissors, slice off the prickly tips of the leaves. Our mother, ever the creative kitchen artist, used a pinking shears to create a decorative edge. Drizzle a tablespoon of lemon juice into the wells of the leaves.

    4. PLACE the artichoke in a microwave safe dish with 1/4 inch of water in the bottom, and over tightly with plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can cook them in a dish with a tight cover that keeps in the steam. Microwave on high for 7 minutes for one artichoke; 10 minutes for two; 15 minutes for four; 19 minutes for six.

    5. CHECK for done-ness by removing a leaf from the center of the leaves. If it pulls out easily, the artichokes are done. If not done, continue to cook at 30-second intervals. After you try this technique, you’ll know what works for your microwave.

     

    6. PLATE and serve. While we love eating them plain, perhaps with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, others like to dip the artichokes in melted butter or another dip such as aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), rouille (red pepper aïoli), romesco sauce, yogurt dip with your favorite herbs or spices (dill or cumin are popular) or vinaigrette (try this green olive vinaigrette).
     
    You can serve steamed artichokes warm/hot, at room temperature or chilled.
     
    HOW TO EAT AN ARTICHOKE

  • Tear off the leaves one by one, as you are ready to eat them. Place the leaf between your teeth, inside up, and use your teeth to scrape out the flesh at the base of each leaf. Discarding the remainder of the leaf on your plate or in a separate bowl.
  • The outer leaves are less tender, but it no flesh is coming off, the artichoke needs further cooking.
  • The leaves become increasingly tender as you work your way to the heart. You know you’re there when you encounter a pale, thistle-like center, the choke. It is not edible, and removing every last tiny piece is the one pain in the process. With a small spoon, scoop out and discard the choke.
  • You’ll then discover the prize, the artichoke heart: a truly delicious treat.
  •  
    HOW TO BUY ARTICHOKES

    We look for artichokes with the fewest blemishes and the longest stems.

    As with any produce, don’t buy more than you will use in a few days. Keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Microwave Kale Chips

    “I am so sick of kale,” our friend Bonnie exclaimed, as we sat down to a restaurant lunch. We have nothing against a kale salad, but we were trended-out by the kale Caesar salad as a menu item. We wanted the original Caesar salad: We wanted romaine!

    The one thing we agreed upon was kale chips as an alternative to potato chips or fries. Unlike baked kale chips, they can be ready in five minutes, in time to join a cold beer or soft drink.

    We made this recipe in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, to test how much we’d need for a party.

    You can make chips (of any kind) in minutes with the Microwave Chip Maker, a handy device from Mastrad. Two trays are $20. We bought a second set, since they can be stacked to turn out a greater volume of chips.

    You can use a microwave-safe plate also; or cook the kale directly on the glass turntable.

    Using herb-infused oil adds another layer of flavor to the chips.

       

    kale-chips-thepamperedchef-230

    Kale chips made with conventional curly kale. Photo courtesy Mastrad.

     
    RECIPE: MICROWAVE KALE CHIPS

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch kale, cleaned and thoroughly dried
  • 4 tablespoons regular or herb-infused olive oil or canola oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    lacinato-black-tuscan-dinosaur-kale-beauty-goodeggs-230r

    Lacinto kale, also called black kale or dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale. Photo courtesy TheGoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the stems from the dry kale. Tear the leaves into 2″ pieces. Toss with the oil to coat and place the pieces in one layer on the tray. Don’t overlap the pieces; doing so can cause arcing* in the microwave. Season with salt and pepper.

    2a. WITH MICROWAVE CHIP MAKER TRAY: Microwave on HIGH for 1½ minutes. Continue microwaving in 30-second intervals until the desired crispness is reached. Allow to cool before removing to a bowl.

    2b. WITH A REGULAR MICROWAVE-SAFE PLATE: Microwave for 3 minutes, continuing in 30-second intervals until the desired crispness is reached. Transfer to serving bowl.

    3. REPEAT with additional batches. For the best flavor and texture, serve immediately; but you can store the chips in an airtight container for up to a week.
     
    WHICH KALE SHOULD YOU USE?

    There are more than 50 varieties of kale, of which four are most often found in the U.S. Curly kale is the variety typically found in grocery stores.

     

    You may have to hit farmers markets or specialty produce stores for the others: lacinato kale (also called black kale, dinosaur kale, and Tuscan kale. among other names), redbor kale (ornamental kale, which is equally edible) and red Russian kale.

    For kale chips, we personally preferred using lacinto kale or red Russian kale. The leaves are longer, flatter and better to tear into chip-size pieces. But you may prefer curly kale, which was used in the photo above.

    Here’s more about kale.
     
    *Arcing, or sparking, is rare and the USDA can’t explain what causes it. Theories include the mineral or moisture content of certain vegetables; and foods with sharp rather than round edges arranged too closely in the microwave.

      

    Comments

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