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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,
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Archive for Recipes

FOOD FUN: Summer Caprese Salad With Flowers

We saw this photo on GourmetAttitude.com and thought: We must make this!

It’s a miniaturized Caprese Salad, with these substitutions:

  • Bite-size mozzarella balls instead of sliced mozzarella
  • Cherry and/or grape tomatoes instead of sliced beefsteak tomatoes
  • Baby basil leaves instead of large leaves
  • A garnish of edible, summery flowers
  •  
    It’s a beautiful summer salad; and since good cherry tomatoes can be found year-round, it’s also a treat for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

    For more food fun, you can serve the salad in individual Martini glasses.

    RECIPE: SUMMER SALAD WITH FLOWERS

    Ingredients

  • Bocconcini, bite-size mozzarella balls, or the tinier pearl-size perlini
  • Cherry tomatoes, ideally heirloom in an array of colors
  •  

    cherry-tomato-mozz-flower-salad-gourmetattitude-230

    We call this salad “Flower Power.” Photo courtesy GourmetAttitude.com.

  • Optional: yellow grape tomatoes for contrast
  • Small basil leaves (if you can’t find any, make a chiffonade of regular leaves)
  • Edible flowers (more information)
  • Good olive oil (infused olive oil—basil, rosemary, etc.—is great)
  • Vinegar, lemon or lime juice (we like balsamic, but anything works)
  •  

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    Cacio di Roma. Photo courtesy Cheese Of The Month Club.

     

    Preparation

    You can dress the salad in oil and vinegar, allow guests to pour their own from cruets, or drizzle olive oil and vinegar on the plate before adding the salad, and allow guests to “swoosh” the tomatoes in it.

    1. TOSS the tomatoes with a small amount of salt. Combine in a mixing bowl with the drained bocconcini and herbs.

    2. SERVE on a platter or shallow glass bowl or on individual plates.
     
    WHAT IS CACIO CHEESE?

    Formally called Cacio de Roma, cacio is a semi-soft Italian cheese originally made in the countryside outside of Rome from sheep’s milk. Cacio simply means cheese in some dialects (formaggio is the word used universally in Italy).

     
    The cheese—not readily found in the U.S.—is made in small rounds called caciotta and aged for about one month. It is a classic sheep’s milk cheese. Like mozzarella, made from the milk of cows or water buffalo, it melts very well for cooking and is enjoyed as a snack, with pasta, pizza and salad.
     
    SOME CAPRESE SALAD HISTORY

    Like most recipes, Caprese salad has evolved.

    The original name originated on the island of Capri, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. The island has been a resort since Roman Times.

    But Caprese Salad is a more modern invention, dating (by name, anyway) to the early 20th century. The original salad was made with four ingredients: cacio cheese, beefsteak-type tomatoes called cuore di bue (steer’s heart), whole basil leaves and olive oil.

    Later, possibly after World War II when American tourists ventured to Capri (it was a Jet Set favorite), sliced mozzarella (fior di latte or bufala) replaced cacio and the recipe spread throughout Italy and overseas with the tourists who loved it.

    In classic style, slices of mozzarella and tomatoes plus the basil leaves were overlapped on a plate, drizzled with olive oil.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Carpaccio For National Filet Mignon Day

    For National Filet Mignon Day you have two easy choices: cook it or enjoy it uncooked (yes, raw).

    The easiest ways to serve cooked filet mignon:

  • Whole, plated with vegetables and potatoes
  • Steak sandwich, on a toasted baguette with caramelized onions, or with lettuce and horseradish mayo (blend prepared horseradish into mayonnaise, to taste)
  • Steak salad, sliced and placed atop a bed of greens with blue cheese dressing; substituted for tuna in a Nicoise Salad; or substituted for ham in a Cobb Salad
  •  
    The easiest ways to serve raw filet mignon:

  • Sliced into carpaccio
  • Ground into steak tartare
  •  
    Carpaccio is the absolute easiest.
     
    WHAT IS CARPACCIO?

    Carpaccio is the Italian term for raw beef filet (crudo is the term for raw seafood). Typically made from sirloin, the dish was created in Venice in 1963, at the time of an exhibition dedicated to Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio (1465-1526).

       

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    A traditional carpaccio with basil-infused olive oil. Photo courtesy Atlantic Paradise Hotel | NYC.

     
    The carpaccio dish was based on the Piedmont speciality, carne cruda all’albese, created by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice. Using fine Piedmontese beef (Piemontese in Italian), he originally prepared it for a countess whose doctors had recommended that she eat raw meat. [Source]

    It is a very popular first course.
     
    RECIPE: BEEF CARPACCIO

    To make carpaccio, buy freshly-cut filet mignon or sirloin from the butcher.

    Ingredients

  • Filet mignon or sirloin
  • Fine olive oil (infused oil, such as basil or rosemary, is great)
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese or white truffles
  • Baby arugula (or baby spinach if you prefer)
  • Optional: sliced onions
  • Toasted baguette on the side
  • Optional: lemon wedges
  • Dishes of flake salt (Cyprus, Maldon, Smoked—substitute coarse sea salt) and cracked pepper
  •  
    Ingredients

    1. PLACE the beef in the freezer for 30 minutes (longer if needed) to firm it and make it easier to slice thin. Using your sharpest knife, slice thin pieces. Arrange on individual plates or a platter. You can create a “sunburst” or “wheel spoke” or parallel slices, depending on the plate or platter.

    2. DRIZZLE olive oil over the top of the beef or around the rim of the plate. If using onions (not part of the original recipe), scatter over the beef, along with the shaved Parmesan. Lastly, top with the arugula.

    3. SERVE with optional lemon wedges and pass dishes of salt and pepper (or go the conventional route, with salt and pepper shakers).

     

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    Filet mignon. To make carpaccio, freeze it for 30 minutes to make it easy to slice thin pieces. Photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.

     

    FILET MIGNON TRIVIA

  • Filet mignon is the most tender cut of beef. It is cut from the tenderloin, a muscle in the middle of the back between the sirloin and the ribs. Because the muscle is not weight-bearing, it contains less connective tissue. This is why it’s the most tender.
  • The name is French for “tender fillet” or “dainty fillet.” Fillet, pronounced FILL-it, is the English spelling of filet. Americans use the French spelling and pronunciation, fee-LAY min-YONE.
  • Filet mignon is the most expensive cut of beef. That’s not only because it’s so desirable for its tenderness, but because the tenderloin is very small.
  • The tenderloin weighs an average of five to seven pounds. It is not an even width; it tapers on both ends, so filets mignon can only be cut from the center. The center cut of a 5-1/2 pound tenderloin is just 2 pounds or so.
  • The entire center cut can be roasted whole—the dish known as Chateaubriand. For even more tenderness, you can poach the center cut. It’s our favorite dish for entertaining—very easy, requiring no time to check on it as it cooks. We’ll publish the recipe in a future tip.
  • The tenderloin is generally not as flavorful (“beefy”) as other premium cuts of beef (e.g., the rib eye or the strip steak). That’s why it is sometimes wrapped in bacon or served with a sauce.
  • Tournedos are small round pieces of beef cut from the tail and head of the tenderloin, often cooked with bacon.
  • The pieces that are too small to use as steak are often cut into 1-inch pieces for a Beef Stroganoff or other dishes. You can use them in a steak salad.
  •  
    SOME OTHER NAMES FOR FILET MIGNON

  • Dutch: ossenhaas
  • English (U.S.): medallions, tenderloin steak
  • English (UK, Ireland): fillet steak
  • English (Australia, New Zealand): eye fillet
  • French: filet de bœuf (the entire center-cut tenderloin is the dish known as Chateaubriand)
  • French (Québec): filet mignon
  • Italian: filetto
  • Norwegian: indrefilet
  • Portuguese: filé or filé mignon
  • Spanish: filete miñón or filet mignon
  • Swedish: oxfilé
  •  
    Source
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Black Mission & Green Kadota Figs

    Summer is fresh fig season. If you enjoy dried figs the rest of the year, go out of your way to enjoy them fresh.

    Last month we wrote about how to use fresh figs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we’ve been reveling in them in the weeks since then, and want to send this reminder to everyone who has not yet jumped onto the fresh fig bandwagon*.

    This week, a trove of Black Mission and Green Kadota figs arrived from California to our produce market. The Green Kadota figs we purchased are even sweeter than the Black Mission figs. Do your own taste test.

    After enjoying them out of hand, focus on these easy, no-cook uses:

  • For breakfast with cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt and pancakes
  • Instead of fig jam, sliced or diced and mixed with honey or agave
  • For lunch in a green salad with bacon, lardons, prosciutto or other ham; or sliced onto a cheese sandwich with Brie, cream cheese or goat cheese on multigrain or raisin bread
  • With a cheese course, with any cheese from mild to strong (our favorite pairing is blue cheese)
  • For an hors d’oeuvre, spread blue cheese on fig halves
  • For dinner make compound butter (use it on bread, for cooking or toss with pasta or rice)
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/fresh and dry figs californiafigs 230

    Fresh Green Kadota and Black Mission figs, shown with their dried versions. Photo courtesy California Figs. The website has recipes for everything from fig muffins to fig pizza.

  • For dessert in a fruit salad; or sliced and marinated in liqueur by themselves or as a topping for ice cream, cheesecake and other desserts
  •  
    *To get, jump or leap on the bandwagon is an idiom from the 19th century. It means to become involved in a successful activity so you don’t lose out on the advantages. There are other expressions of the phrase as well. A bandwagon was a festively-decorated wagon that carried a circus band; the band was part of the showy parade through town to generate excitement for the circus. The term first appears in print in P.T. Barnum’s autobiography, published in 1855. Politicians began to “jump on the bandwagon” to be part of the parade, actually renting seats on the wagon to get exposure to the public during the merry occasion.

     

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    Fresh figs are a delicious summer dessert with cheese and a drizzle of honey. Photo courtesy The French Farm.

     

    RECIPE: FRESH FIG COMPOTE

    Compote, the French word for mixture, is a dessert that dates to medieval Europe. It is made of a mixture of whole or sliced fruits, cooked in water with sugar and spices (cinnamon, clove, lemon or orange peel, vanilla). It can be further blended with grated coconut, ground almonds, or dried or candied fruits.

    Our Nana grew up on compote, and we loved it too. There was always a compote when we visited, served warm (with ice cream or whipped cream) in cooler months and cold in the summer.

    In medieval England compote was served as part of the last course of a feast; during the Renaissance it was served chilled at the end of dinner. Any fresh fruit could be used. Nana’s family recipe included rhubarb, sour cherry, apricot, nectarine and plum in the summer; apples, pears, quince, dried apricots, figs, raisins and walnuts in the fruit-challenged winter months.

    Use the compote as a bread spread and a condiment with sweet or savory foods, in yogurt, with cheese, cheesecake, etc.

    Ingredients For 2/3 Cup

    If the figs are very sweet, you may need only a small amount of sweetener.

  • 1 pound fresh figs†, cleaned and trimmed as needed
  • 1 to 6 tablespoons sugar or honey (or half as much agave)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: dried fruits or other fruits, Grand Marnier or other alcohol
  •  
    †Figs do not ripen off the tree, so buy fruit that is soft to the touch. The skin around stem should have begun to twist and wrinkle.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT the figs into quarters or smaller pieces as desired. Place the figs, sweetener, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat.

    2. COOK for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the alcohol near the end (or if using dried fruits in the recipe, you can pre-soak them in the alcohol). To turn into a smooth sauce instead of a chunky dessert or topping…

    3. PULSE, using an immersion blender or food processor, until the desired consistency is reached. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

    TO DEGLAZE A PAN

    Here’s how to deglaze a pan to make a sauce. Include a tablespoon of fig compote (you can also use fig jam).

    To make a sauce without pan juices (terrific with roast duck or pork):

    1. HEAT 1 cup of red wine in a saucepan, and simmer to reduce it by half. Add 1/2 cup of fig compote and a half teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

    2. BRING to a simmer again, stirring for a few minutes to blend the ingredients. Remove from the heat and finish with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add a scant tablespoon of butter to smooth out the sauce.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Oven-Dried Tomatoes

    Sun-dried tomatoes are delicious year-round; but according to the USDA, few if any store-bought sun-dried tomatoes are dried in the sun. The original technique, indeed, was to dry the tomatoes in the sun over the course of several days.

    These days, most “sun-dried” tomatoes are oven-dried. However, they taste the same, or even better, when dried in an oven or food dehydrator.

    The drying process gives the tomatoes a long shelf life, since most of the moisture, on which decay-inducing bacteria thrive, is removed (the same strategy as with jerky).

    Sun dried vs. sun-dried vs. sundried? Any of the three spellings is correct.

    OVEN DRYING

    If you have a bumper crop of tomatoes, or there’s a big sale, you can use this technique to create homemade dried tomatoes. Freshly made, they’re still tender and succulent.

    Instead of drying tomatoes in the sun, oven drying is a more efficient method. The task is complete in three hours at the lowest heat setting, instead of several days. You can also use a food dehydrator.

    Of course, if you’d like the authentic experience, you can leave the tomatoes in the hot summer sun for two days or more, taking them in at night. (The oven is looking even better now, isn’t it?)

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/sudried bowl bellasunluci 230

    Sun-dried tomatoes. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci, producer of premium sun-dried tomatoes.

     
    WHAT TOMATOES SHOULD YOU USE?

    You can dry any tomato—beefsteak, cherry, grape, or other variety. But plum tomatoes, a type of roma tomato, are the most popular. The walls are thicker, meatier and have less water.

    The tomatoes must be ripe but still firm (i.e., not overripe). While it’s not an exact science, five pounds of fresh tomatoes yield about two cups of dried tomatoes. The tomatoes will shrink to about a quarter of their original size.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/sundried tomatoes beauty bellasunluciFB 230

    Have extra sundried tomatoes? Bring them as gifts. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

     

    RECIPE: OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES

    Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil, oregano or thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove the tough part on the stem end. Also cut away any soft, bruised flesh. Cherry tomatoes need only be halved; but larger tomatoes should be halved again, into a total of four quarters.

    2. SCOOP out most of the seeds, sprinkle with salt and let them sit skin side up for 15-20 minutes. The excess liquid will drain out, and the oven drying will go faster.

     

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 200°F (some people use a lower temperature, e.g. 150°F, but this will take double the time).

    4. PLACE the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, black pepper and olive oil in a large bowl and gently toss to combine. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, lined with parchment. Sprinkle any garlic and oregano in the bowl on top of the tomatoes.

    5. DRY for up to three hours. Flip the tomatoes halfway through. The amount of time will vary, depending on the water content of the tomatoes, the thickness of the slices, and air circulate (expert home cooks place the tomatoes on screens instead of in pans, to abet air circulation).

    6. CHECK for doneness. The tomatoes should be flexible and tender, not dry and hard. Remove from the oven

    7. COOL to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes. Store in heavy-duty freezer bags, either vacuum-sealed or with the air pressed out. We discovered this technique from PickYourOwn.org:. Don’t overfill the bag, and press out the air pockets. Seal the top of the bag, leaving enough space to insert a soda straw. Suck the air out through the straw. When finished, press straw closed at the insertion point, and finish pressing the bag closed as you remove it.

    8. STORE in a cool, dry place. Keeping them airtight is key; the dried tomatoes will quickly reabsorb moisture and go moldy. If you see any condensation in the bag or other container, remove the tomatoes immediately and put them put them back in the oven to dry.

    The tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks, and in the freezer for up to 12 months. To give them as a gift, place in a sterilized glass jar with regular or infused olive oil, and the instructions to use up within a week.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Rainbow Ice Pops

    rainbow-popsicles-theviewfromgreatisland-230sq

    Eat the rainbow! Photo courtesy Sue | The View From Great Island.

     

    We were charmed by these homemade ice pops from blogger Sue of The View From Great Island (the island town of New Castle, New Hampshire).

    She puréed blueberries, kiwis, mango, pineapple, strawberries and watermelon to make rainbow pops.

    When you make your own, you may choose to follow the colors of the rainbow in order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Here are some fruit choices:

  • Red (cherry, grape, plum, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon)
  • Orange (apricot, cantaloupe, mango, orange, papaya)
  • Yellow (cherry [Queen Anne, Rainier], golden kiwi*, golden raspberry, nectarine, peache, yellow plum
  • Green (avocado, grape, honeydew, kiwi*)
  • Blue (since there are no naturally blue foods, you can skip this layer or purée white fruits—apple, banana, coconut, pear, white peach—and tint them with food color)
  • Indigo (blueberries)
  • Violet (blackberries, black grapes)
  • Preparation

    You’ll need ice pop molds. Most wide pop molds make only 6 pops. We found one that makes 10 ice pops for not much more money ($18.80 plus free shipping). For all the work you’ll put to make rainbow pops, make as many as you can, whether it’s buying two 10-pop molds or borrowing extra molds from friends.

    1. PURÉE the individual fruits and chill them. Make the darkest layer (violet) first, and work your way up to red at the top. NOTE: When you’re making separate colored layers, it’s important to freeze each layer until set so the layers won’t bleed into each other.

    2. TO REMOVE: Set the mold halfway deep in warm water for 30 seconds, or until the pops begin to release. If you want to remove only a few pops, wrap those individual molds in a kitchen towel dampened with hot water.
     
    *We recommend straining the seeds, which tend to create a “polka dot layer.”

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: S’mores Cone, S’mores Dip & More Creative Recipes

    For National S’mores Day, August 10th, Reynolds Kitchens has developed two grill approaches that use aluminum foil instead of the original twig over a fire. You can also make them indoors on the stove top.

    The recipes evolve S’mores graham cracker sandwiches into two fun variations: s’mores cones and skillet s’mores.

    Use your favorite chocolate, milk or dark. We use Guittard or Valrhona wafers or chop up Lindt bars; but you can use chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.

    Below, we have links to the history of S’mores and graham crackers, and many more creative S’mores recipes, from S’mores ice cream cake and cupcakes to cinnamon S’mores with a cappuccino cocktail.

    RECIPE: S’MORES WAFFLE CONES

    Ingredients

  • Chocolate
  • Marshmallows (large or mini)
  • Graham crackers, broken into pieces
  •    

    smores-cone-reynolds-230

    S’mores cone. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchen.

  • Cones (use the smaller sugar cones instead of the larger waffle cones)
  • Aluminum foil
  •  

    Preparation

    1. STUFF the chocolate, marshmallows and graham cracker pieces into the cones, alternating to distribute the flavors.

    2. WRAP in foil and heat the packet over a campfire or grill for 3-5 minutes.

    3. REMOVE the packet carefully and allow it a few minutes to cool before unwrapping and eating.

     

    smores-skillet-fondue-reynolds-230sq

    S’mores dip. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchen.

     

    RECIPE: SKILLET S’MORES

    Ingredients

  • Chocolate chunks (you can break up chocolate bars)
  • Marshmallows
  • Graham crackers
  • Aluminum foil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chocolate chunks in a skillet. Top with the marshmallows and place over the campfire or grill until melted.

    2. REMOVE from the heat, ideally with a skillet handle pot holder.

    3. DIP the graham crackers into the skillet s’mores.. Warn people to avoid touching the skillet!

     

    MORE S’MORES RECIPES

  • S’mores History
  • Graham Cracker History
  • Cinnamon S’mores with a Cappuccino Cocktail
  • Creative S’mores Recipes
  • Gourmet Marshmallow S’mores
  • Ice Cream S’mores
  • S’mores Ice Cream Cake, Ice Cream Pie and Cupcakes
  • S’mores in a Cup
  • S’mores with Other Types Of Cookies
  •   

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Watermelon “Keg” Tap With Watermelon Agua Fresca

    A melon tap turns any large, seedless watermelon into an punch bowl, ideal for filling with watermelon-based beverages. Simply hollow out the melon, insert the tap and fill it with your beverage of choice. In addition to a refreshing drink, you give guests the fun of dispensing their drinks from a watermelon. (In the fall, you can do the same with a pumpkin.)

    For starters, fill your watermelon “punch bowl” with watermelon agua fresca. It’s a memorable finale to the summer.

    Agua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water.” In culinary terms, it refers to sweetened, fruit-flavored water. Like lemonade, it is noncarbonated and nonalcoholic.

    But you can keep a bottle of spirits next to the melon dispenser for guests who’d like a shot or two. May we suggest watermelon vodka? You can find watermelon-flavored vodka from Smirnoff, Three Olives, Pinnacle (Cucumber Watermelon), UV (Salty Watermelon) and others.

    The tap in the photo is the PROfreshionals Melon Tap, $9.99. It includes “feet” that insert into the bottom of the melon to keep it stable. Another variation, from Final Touch, is designed to look like a beer tap handle. It’s $19.99.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/watermelon kegger goodcook bradshawintl 230

    Turn a watermelon into a punch bowl. Photo of PROfessionals Melon Tap courtesy GoodCook.com.

     
    This agua fresca recipe was created by Cheeky Kitchen for Good Cook. Of course, you can also serve the drink from a standard pitcher.

    RECIPE: WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA

    Ingredients For 8-12 Drinks

  • 6 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  • Optional: gin, tequila, vodka
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE and discard a 2” piece from the top of a large, seedless watermelon. Carve out the red melon flesh from the inside of the watermelon and cut into large cubes (they can be as free-form as you like, as they’ll soon be puréed). Place in a large bowl and set aside.

    2. PREPARE the melon for serving by ensuring it can stand upright. Slice a small portion from the bottom of the melon to make it more stable. Place the tap about 3 inches from the bottom of the melon and push it through the rind to the inside. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE the watermelon flesh and all other ingredients in a blender in small batches, as needed. Pour the beverage into the prepared watermelon. Press the melon tap to dispense the drink into large glasses filled with ice.
     
    MORE AGUA FRESCA RECIPES

  • Agua Fresca recipes: horchata (creamy almond), lychee, mango and pineapple
  • Apple-Cucumber-Lime Agua Fresca Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: S’mores Baked Alaska

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/smores baked alaska atwoodrestaurantnyc 230

    S’mores Baked Alaska. Chef Brian molds the
    ice cream on top of the cake layer before
    covering the ice cream with Marshmallow
    Fluff. We took an easier path, creating a
    layered ice cream cake and covering the
    Hotels.

     

    For National S’mores Day on August 10th, here’s a brand new take on the classic, gooey chocolate bar, marshmallow and graham cracker cookie sandwich.

    Chef Brian Millman at Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room in New York City has created S’mores Baked Alaska, a twist on the American classic of ice cream cake*, shrouded in freshly-whipped meringue and then browned under a broiler or with a kitchen torch.

    WHY YOU CAN BAKE ICE CREAM WITHOUT MELTING IT

    The beaten egg whites in the meringue protect the ice cream from melting because beating unfolds the protein molecules. This causes air bubbles to be trapped in the unfolded proteins. This foam acts as an insulating layer around the ice cream and protects it [for a brief time] from the heat.

    This dynamic was discovered by a prominent physicist, Benjamin Thompson, at the beginning of the 19th century. Here’s the history of Baked Alaska.

     
    WHY YOU CAN BAKE ICE CREAM WITHOUT MELTING IT

    The beaten egg whites in the meringue protect the ice cream from melting because beating unfolds the protein molecules and causes air bubbles to be trapped in the unfolded proteins. This foam acts as an insulating layer around the ice cream and protects it from the heat.

    This was discovered by a prominent physicist, Benjamin Thompson, at the beginning of the 19th century. Here’s the history of Baked Alaska.
     
    Meringue has similar ingredients to marshmallow, which is why marshmallow cream also works.

  • Meringue ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar
  • Marshmallow Fluff ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, water, salt and vanilla extract
  •  

    READY TO MAKE YOUR OWN BAKED ALASKA?

    Chef Brian makes these substitutions to turn S’mores into Baked Alaska:

  • Chocolate cake and chocolate sauce instead of the S’mores chocolate bar
  • Marshmallow Fluff instead of the S’mores marshmallows and meringue
  • Graham cracker marshmallow ice cream and graham cracker crumbs instead of the whole graham crackers (Chef Brian makes his own marshmallow and graham cracker ice cream; but you can make hack a variation from a quart of vanilla, some mini marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs)
  •  
    He also adds a pinch of flake sea salt (Cyprus Flake Sea Salt and Maldon Flake Salt flake salts are typically available at specialty food stores or fine supermarkets).

    You can use your broiler to brûlée the Fluff; but if you have one, use a kitchen torch instead. With a torch:

  • You can evenly brown the entire surface. Under a broiler, when the top is perfectly browned, the sides will be much lighter.
  • You don’t have to check the broiler to see how the browning is going. A delicate process, it can turn from done to overdone in seconds. The torch gives you control.
  •  

    RECIPE: S’MORES BAKED ALASKA

    Here’s how we adapted Chef Brian’s concept to make our own version of S’mores Baked Alaska:

    You can bake the cake or buy a chocolate loaf cake (or any unfrosted chocolate cake). You can make the marshmallow ice cream from scratch (here’s a recipe—add the graham cracker crumbs), or buy ice cream and mix in the crumbled graham crackers.

    Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate cake: loaf, sheet or uniced layers
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream plus mini marshmallows, store-bought marshmallow ice cream* or homemade marshmallow ice cream
  • Graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs‡
  • 1 marshmallow fluff tub (16 ounces) Marshmallow Fluff or other marshmallow cream
  • Garnish: graham cracker crumbs
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/mini marshmallows debakery.weebly.com 230

    Add mini marshmallows to softened ice cream to make “quickie” marshmallow ice cream. Photo courtesy DeBakery.Weebly.com.

  • Optional garnishes: chocolate sauce, coarse sea salt or flake salt (like Maldon—see the different types of salt)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE “quick” marshmallow-graham cracker ice cream: Soften the quart of vanilla ice cream on the counter. While the ice cream softens, crumble the whole graham crackers between sheets of wax paper, using a rolling pin. When the ice cream is soft enough to stir, use a spatula to scoop it into a mixing bowl; add the crumbs and stir to combine. Then add the marshmallows and stir. Place the ice cream back into the container. The lid will no longer fit, so cover the top with plastic wrap.

    2. ASSEMBLE the ice cream cake. Create a middle layer of ice cream. For a loaf cake, cut in half horizontally; for a sheet cake, cut two “layers.” Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer. When ready to serve…

    3. PLACE the ice cream cake on a heat-proof (or sturdy) serving plate and use a spatula to cover the sides and top with Marshmallow Fluff. Use the torch to brûlée, on all sides. If the plate isn’t heat-proof, steer clear of the lower part of the cake.

    4. BRING to the table. Dip the knife in warm water to cut. Sprinkle the edges of each dessert plate with graham cracker crumbs and place the sliced cake on top. Pass the optional chocolate sauce and sea salt so guests can customize their portions.

     
    *Baked Alaska is typically made with a thin cake layer on the bottom, and two or more different flavors of ice cream on top. When we created our version of S’mores Baked Alaska, it was easier for us to use thicker layers of cake, for a 50:50 proportion of ice cream to cake. You can construct your Baked Alaska in the proportion you wish.

    †Chocolate Marshmallow ice cream from Turkey Hill, S’mores from Ben & Jerry’s, Schwan’s Chocolate Ripple and others have a base of chocolate ice cream. We prefer a vanilla base, so we made our own.

    ‡We crumbled our own when we could have purchased crumbs. The reason: We preferred the texture of the larger home-crumbled pieces of graham crackers in the ice cream. The purchased crumbs, however, are fine.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Frittata

    Making an omelet requires a bit of technique. If your omelets don’t look as lovely as you’d like, there’s an easy solution: Make a frittata!

    With an omelet, the filling ingredients are placed on the beaten eggs that are setting in the pan. As the omelet continues to cook, it is folded with a spatula to envelop the ingredients (that’s the part that requires practice, practice, practice).

    With a frittata—the name comes from the Italian friggere, to fry—the eggs and other ingredients are mixed together, then cooked more slowly than an omelet. The egg mixture completely fills a round skillet: no folding. The result looks like a crustless quiche. As with a quiche, a frittata can also be enjoyed at room temperature.

    Frittatas can be packed with vegetables, a sneaky way to get people to eat more of them. You can use the cookware you have, or consider a frittata pan (see photo below), ideal for stovetop cooking when you have to flip the frittata. Alternatively, you can bake it in the oven—no flipping needed.

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/summer frittata crostini labreabakery 230 copy

    Wouldn’t you like to wake up to a weekend brunch like this? It’s easy to make a frittata, watermelon and feta salad, and luscious summer tomatoes on goat cheese-topped toast.

    WHAT TO ADD TO YOUR FRITTATA

    Check the fridge: You may not have to buy anything else! Frittatas are a great receptacle for leftovers—even cooked pasta and grains.

    Vegetables: You can add almost any vegetable* to the beaten eggs, but take advantage of the summer’s specialties: bell pepper, chanterelle mushrooms, corn, eggplant, lima beans, okra, peas, sweet onion, tomatillo, tomato, yellow squash, Yukon Gold potatoes, zucchini.

    Cheese: melting cheeses like Emmenthal/“Swiss cheese,” mozzarella and Provolone; grating cheeses such as Asiago, Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano/Parmesan and Pecorino Romano; and soft cheeses including feta and goat cheese/chèvre.

    Fish/Seafood: clams, mussels, shrimp, smoked salmon.

    Meat: ham/prosciutto, roast chicken/turkey, salame, sausage. When you make chicken or ham, set some aside for the next night’s frittata.

    Accents: capers, chiles (fresh or dried), herbs, olives, red pepper flakes.

     
    *For starters, consider artichoke, asparagus, bell pepper, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, chard, eggplant, kale, mushrooms, onion/leek/green onion, potatoes (boiled/roasted), spinach, zucchini.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/frittata pan cuisinart amz 230

    A frittata pan is actually two frying pans that hook together for easy flipping, and can be easily detached for regular use. This one is a Cuisinart Frittata Pan.

     

    RECIPE: OVEN FRITTATA

    With this recipe, you can go heavy on the vegetables—2 cups instead of one. Or, you can make a cheesy frittata by adding a cup of shredded cheese instead of the second cup of vegetables.

    Some cooks start the frittata in a fry pan on the stove, then finish it in the oven. Fritattas can be cooked only on the stove top, but this means they have to be flipped—not easy for some people. Some frittatas can be cooked entirely in the oven, like this one.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetables, diced or sliced
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella or other
    favorite)—or 1 additional cup vegetables
  • One tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, chives,
    oregano, parsley, rosemary, etc.)
  • Olive oil
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. While the oven heats, cook the vegetables: sauté in olive oil until tender or steam in the microwave.

    2. BEAT the eggs, herbs, pepper, salt, and Parmesan cheese together. Put a tablespoon of oil in a heavy, oven-proof skillet. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and scatter the vegetables on top.

    3. BAKE for 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, which will melt.

    4. SLIDE the frittata onto a serving plate. It can be served hot or at room temperature.
     
    ANOTHER TIP

    There are thousands of frittata recipes online, with the oven, stove top or stove top/broiler cooking techniques. Try them all, and see which works best for you.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mix Zucchini Ribbons With Pasta

    When we were 10 years old, Mom planted zucchini in the backyard. We watched in awe as they multiplied faster than the brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene from Fantasia. It wasn’t a big plot—maybe 6′ x 8’—but it produced so much zucchini, we couldn’t eat half of it, and gave the rest away.

    A pre-tip tip: Pick or buy zucchini on the smaller side. As they get bigger, they get more watery and bland. We left a few on the vine until the end of the season. There’s a photo of us with our brother, holding up one that grew to three feet long and very wide in girth. (According to Guinness World Records, the longest zucchini measured 7 ft 10.3 inches, harvested in October 2005 in a home garden in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.)

    HOW VERSATILE IS ZUCCHINI?

    That summer Mom made zucchini crudités with dips; zucchini grilled, steamed, stewed, stir-fried, stuffed and baked; zucchini bread and muffins; zucchini casseroles and lasagna; zucchini pickles and salads; zucchini soup and our very favorite childhood recipe, fried zucchini with a squeeze of lemon (and of course, ketchup).

    Much of the zucchini we gave away to our grandmother was returned to our home as ratatouille, a delicious Provençal summer dish that also includes bell peppers, eggplant, garlic, onions and tomatoes.

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/zucchini noodles 230

    Regular pasta ribbons mixed with zucchini ribbons, to create a fun dish that really cuts down on calories. Photo courtesy Vegetarian Everyday Cookbook.

     
    Here’s Nana’s recipe. It can be served hot or cold, or used as a topping for bruschetta or crostini. Serving it chilled or room temperature, topped with Greek yogurt and a chiffonade of fresh basil, is a delicious first course with toasts or crackers, Or, use it to top salad fixings, and garnished with black olives.

    CELEBRATE NATIONAL ZUCCHINI DAY

    August 8th, National Zucchini Day, is a good day for zucchini in any form. Last year, we made zucchini “pasta” with the Microplane Spiral Cutter, a gadget that peels whole zucchini into pasta-like strands (it does the same with cucumbers, carrots and other root vegetables). You can use a box grater, but for less than $15, this gadget makes it easy.

    Since then, we’ve been playing with other ways to use zucchini pasta, including swirling the uncooked ribbons into a bird’s nest shape, filled with deviled eggs, egg salad, scrambled eggs and, beyond the nest-and-eggs theme, with marinated cherry tomatoes and other salad ingredients.

    But today, we share this idea sent to us from Good Eggs [a supplier of the exceptional produce and specialty foods], excerpted from The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook: A Year of Cooking on Martha’s Vineyard.

    The recipe combines conventional ribbon pasta (long strands, like spaghetti and fettuccine) with zucchini ribbons, and makes the pasta dish more nutritious. Zucchini contains lots of vitamin C, plus B6, magnesium, iron and calcium.

    But more important to most people, cooked zucchini has just 20 calories per cup, compared with 182 calories for pasta (174 calories for whole wheat pasta). Do the math—and use whole wheat pasta instead of refined white flour pasta for lots more fiber.
     
    RECIPE: REGULAR & ZUCCHINI PASTA WITH CRAB

    Crab adds a touch of elegance to this pasta dish, but you can use any seafood (clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, etc.) or make a vegetarian version.

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound picked crabmeat
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 medium summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini or one of each)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces thick spaghetti or bucatini*
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, cut in slivers
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  •  
    *Barilla makes both of these round ribbon pasta shapes. However, since the zucchini ribbons are flat, we went with fettuccine, a flat ribbon pasta (linguine is a thinner version).

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/zucchini noodles macadamia pesto kaminsky 230

    Who’d have guessed it’s zucchini? Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog. See our Pasta Glossary for the different pasta shapes.

     

    Preparation

    1. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil.

    2. COMBINE in a small bowl the crab, jalapeño and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Chop half of the mint and mix gently with the crab.

    3. PUT the remaining mint in a second bowl. Grate the squash using a large-hold grater, stopping short of the seedy cores. Add the squash to the mint along with vinegar, garlic, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix and set aside.

    4. COOK the pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the marinated crab, marinated squash and basil and heat through.

    5. DRAIN the pasta, reserving some pasta water. Add the pasta to the crab mixture along with some reserved pasta water (enough to loosen the sauce). Heat, tossing to mix well. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

     
    ZUCCHINI HISTORY

    A botanical fruit†, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, used as a savory dish or accompaniment (with the exception of zucchini bread and muffins).

    All squash originated in Central and South America, and was eaten for thousands of years before Europeans discovered it in the 16th century. It grew in different shapes, including round zucchini balls that you can grow from heirloom seeds.

    Christopher Columbus originally brought seeds to the Mediterranean region and Africa. However, the long, green zucchini that have become the standard were developed at the end of the 19th century near Milan, Italy.

    Zucchini, Cucurbita pepo, is a member of the cucumber and melon family, Cucurbitaceae. The word squash comes from the Narraganset language of the Native Americans of Rhode Island, who grew askutasquash, “a green thing eaten raw.” The Pilgrims had difficulty pronouncing the whole word, and shortened it to squash. It was an important food crop for both peoples.

    The word zucchini comes from the Italian zucchino, meaning a small squash (zucca is the word for pumpkin).

    A word about squash blossoms: A long orange blossom grows on the end of each emerging zucchini. It is considered a delicacy, and can be stuffed and fried or pan-fried plain. Alas, this treat was not widely known in our youth, and Mom simply tossed them out.

     
    †All squash are botanical fruits. Zucchini is the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. Here’s the difference between fruits and vegetables.

      

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