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TIP OF THE DAY: Pane Bianco For Brunch, Lunch Or Cocktails

Pane Bianco Recipe

Unbleached Bread Flour

[1] Pane bianco, a delicious treat at any meal. [2] The award-winning recipe uses unbelted bread flour (photos courtesy King Arthur Flour).


Pane bianco means “white bread” in Italian, but this jazzy recipe is a cheese bread: dough stuffed inside-out with sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic and Italian cheeses.

It’s a treat for breakfast, with a light lunch like salad or soup, or with beer, wine and cocktails.

If you serve a bread basket at dinner (or at special dinners), these slices will disappear quickly!

The original recipe, by Dianna Wara of Washington, Illinois, took first place in the first-ever National Festival of Breads.

P.J. Hamel of King Arthur Flour simplified the recipe a bit so that any home baker can make it. She notes, “The unique shape is simple to achieve, and makes an impressive presentation.” Thanks to both ladies for this delicious treat!

The recipe takes 2 hours 40 minutes, because the dough must rise and then bake; but actual prep time is just 30 minutes and the steps are easy.


You can see a step-by-step pictorial at

Ingredients For 1 Loaf (About 20 Slices)
For The Dough

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour (see the tips below)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    For The Filling

  • 3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese or the cheese of your choice
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (you can marinate plain sundries tomatoes in your own oil) or your own oven-roasted tomatoes
  • 3 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (purple basil adds something extra)


    1. MAKE the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl (or the bucket of a bread machine). Mix and knead by hand or with a mixer; or in a bread machine set on the dough cycle. You should have a smooth, very soft dough that should stick a bit to the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.

    2. PLACE the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size. Meanwhile…

    3. DRAIN the tomatoes thoroughly, patting them dry. Use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller bits.

    4. DEFLATE gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into a 22″ x 8 1/2″ rectangle. Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

    5. STARTING with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

    6. USING kitchen shears, start 1/2″ from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1″ deep, to within 1/2″ of the other end.

    7. KEEPING the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

    8. UNCOVER the bread and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

    9. REMOVE the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.


  • You can substitute all-purpose flour 1:1 for the bread flour in the recipe, if desired. Reduce the water to 1/4 cup.
  • Use a light touch with your fillings. Over-stuffing this bread will create a messy-looking loaf.
  • Be careful not to let the bread rise too long; over-risen bread will lose its shape.

    Sundried Tomatoes In Oil

    Italian Cheese Blend

    [1] Use sundries tomatoes in oil. You can buy plain sundries and marinate them in your own oil (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci).[2] Use your favorite Italian cheese blend (photo courtesy Sargento).


  • Keep your eye on the loaf: Much of the filling will be exposed as the bread bakes. When it’s a light golden brown, tent it with aluminum foil to prevent the exposed tomatoes and basil from burning.


    RECIPE: Bacon Bourbon Cider

    Bacon Cocktail Garnish

    Cinnamon Sticks

    [1] Another way to enjoy fall’s apple cider: with bourbon and bacon (photo courtesy Davio’s | Manhattan). [2] Make your own cinnamon simple syrup with cinnamon, sugar and water (photo by Ben Fink, Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran).


    As restaurants and lounges switch to their autumn menus, we’re getting lots of fall cocktail recipes. We test cocktail recipes each weekend, typically inviting friends to stop by between their errands.

    This week’s cocktail recipe: Bacon Bourbon Cider from Davio’s Manhattan, one of New York’s fine steakhouses with a Northern Italian-accented menu.

    Two fall favorites—apple cider and maple-candied bacon—will make this a favorite fall cocktail. It’s so easy that it may well end up on your favorite home cocktail list.

    Davio’s uses Bulleit Bourbon for the cocktail. We used another top brand/
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Bulleit Bourbon
  • 1 ounce cinnamon infused* simple syrup
  • 3 ounces apple cider

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a cocktail shaker; shake and pour into a Collins glass.

    2. GARNISH with a slice of candied bacon.
    *You can add ground cinnamon to plain simple syrup or use the recipe below.

    This recipe is for 8 pieces, but trust us: You’ll want to candy the entire pound package.

  • 8 pieces thinly sliced bacon
  • 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons maple syru

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Place the bacon strips flat on a cooling rack screen placed over a baking sheet. Bake the bacon for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, or until thoroughly brown and crisp.

    2. COOL the bacon; then brush both sides of the strips with maple syrup, using a pastry brush. (We long ago replaced our bristle pastry and basting brush with a silicon pastry brush—so much easier to use and clean).

    3. PLACE the bacon back on the rack in the oven and bake for an additional 3-4 minutes.

    4. RESTRAIN yourself from eating all the candied bacon.


    You can make simple syrup up to a month in advance and keep it in the fridge, tightly capped. It can keep even longer, but why take up spice with an item you don’t use?

    Instead, use the cinnamon syrup to sweeten tea or coffee, or to drizzle over desserts: baked goods, fruits, puddings, etc. You can also give it as gifts in a Mason jar tied with a ribbon.


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks

    1. BREAK the cinnamon sticks into pieces (1 inch or longer), using a rolling pin or other implement (or break them by hand). Place them in a small sauce pan with the sugar and water.

    2. BRING to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

    3. STRAIN out and discard the cinnamon stick pieces, and refrigerate, tightly covered.

  • For each 2-inch cinnamon stick piece a recipe requires, substitute 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
  • Taste to see if you want more cinnamon flavor, and proceed 1/4 teaspoon at a time. Ground cinnamon has a stronger flavor than cinnamon sticks.
  • However, the flavor of ground cinnamon dissipates after 6 months or so (the minute a spice is ground and has much more exposure to air, the flavor begins to fade). If you don’t use cinnamon often, buy cinnamon sticks instead: They keep their flavor for up to 2 years. Grind them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder as needed.

    Who knew that most of our ground “cinnamon” is actually cassia—not true cinnamon?

    Check out the different types of cinnamon.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking & Baking With Crème Fraîche

    It would be fair to say that most home bakers in the U.S. have never worked with crème fraîche. It isn’t carried everywhere, it’s pricier than heavy cream and sour cream, which can be used instead of it in most recipes.

    Today’s tip is: Find some and work with it.


    Crème fraîche (pronounced crem fresh, French for “fresh cream”) is a thickened cream—not as thick as sour cream, more of the consistency of yogurt. That’s an appropriate analogy because both are slightly soured with bacterial culture. Crème fraîche has more fat than either, for a richer experience.

    Originally from Normandy, the dairy heartland of France, today crème fraîche used throughout Continental and American cuisines.

    Sour cream, which is more accessible and less expensive, can be substituted in most recipes; but crème fraîche has additional advantages:

  • It can be whipped, and it will not curdle when cooked over high heat.
  • It’s a bit lighter in body than commercial sour creams, more subtly sour, and overall more elegant.
    Crème fraîche is made by inoculating unpasteurized heavy cream with Lactobacillus cultures, letting the bacteria grow until the cream is both soured and thick and then pasteurizing it to stop the process.

    Thus, authentic crème fraîche cannot be made at home in the U.S., because only pasteurized cream is available to consumers. Adding Lactobacillus to pasteurized cream will cause it to spoil instead of sour.

    However, you can still make it at home with pasteurized cream. Here’s a crème fraîche recipe plus the difference between crème fraîche, mascarpone, sour cream and similar products.
    Uses For Crème Fraîche Beyond Baking

  • Creamy salad dressings and soups
  • Crêpe and omelet fillings
  • Sauces for vegetables
  • Topping for fresh fruit and other desserts
  • Coffee, creamy cocktails and bittersweet hot chocolate
  • Caviar (or roe of any kind) and smoked salmon
  • Guilty pleasure (eating it from the container)

    Because you have to start somewhere, here’s a recipe that few people would decline: chocolate cupcakes. The star ingredient in these beautiful cupcakes from Hummingbird High is crème fraîche, used in both the cake and frosting. Rich, chocolaty cupcakes are topped with a creamy, velvety, simple-to-make frosting.

    Ingredients For 12 Cupcakes

  • 1 ounce 72%* cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) Vermont Creamery crème fraîche, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

    Salmon Caviar Creme Fraiche

    Tomato Soup Creme Fraiche

    Chocolate Ganache

    Creme Fraiche Cupcakes Recipe

    [1] Crème fraîche on a baby potato, topped with salmon caviar (photo Fotolia). [2] Tomato soup with caviar in the base and as a garnish (photo courtesy Munchery). [3] A classic chocolate ganache is made from chocolate and cream. Corn syrup is added for glossiness. Here’s the recipe from King Arthur Flour. [4] Crème fraîche cupcakes, recipe below (photo courtesy Michelle Lopez | Hummingbird High).

    Ingredients For The Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting (About 1 Cup)

  • 6 ounces 72% cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces/1/2 stick) Vermont Creamery cultured unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) Vermont Creamery crème fraîche, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • Pinch of kosher salt
    *A 72% bittersweet chocolate is perfect for lovers of bittersweet, and the cacao level used by top pastry chefs. However, if you prefer a lower percentage, go for it. You can make milk chocolate ganache and white chocolate ganache as well. The key is not the percentage cacao, but the quality of the chocolate. Ganache is de facto made just from chocolate and cream, but you can take a few liberties. We’ve added coffee to both dark chocolate and white chocolate ganaches. Here’s a recipe for chocolate ganache with crème fraîche instead of heavy cream.


    Creme Fraiche Vermont Creamery

    Creme Fraiche & Fruit

    [1] One of our fantasies: an entire bucket of crème fraîche from Vermont Creamery. [2] We’d use it to make everything, without forgetting the simple pleasure of crème fraîche with fresh berries (photo courtesy Good Eggs).


    Preparation For The Cupcakes

    1. CENTER a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F. Prepare a 12-well muffin tin by lining with cupcake liners.

    2. COMBINE 1 ounce coarsely chopped dark chocolate and 1/3 cup hot coffee in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. DO NOT STIR. Let sit for 2 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. As the chocolate is melting…

    3. COMBINE in a medium bowl 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; whisk until combined. Set aside.

    4. RETURN to the chocolate. At this point the chocolate should be melty and easily melt into the coffee when whisked. Turn the mixer to its lowest setting and whisk the chocolate and coffee together, then add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup crème fraîche, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 large egg and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract. Continue whisking until just combined.

    5. STOP the mixer and sprinkle the dry ingredients (from the 3rd step) over the liquid ingredients (from the 4th step). Turn the mixer back on to medium-low and continue whisking until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.

    6. DIVIDE the batter evenly between the cupcake liners using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop. Be careful not to overfill and start with as little as 2 tablespoons per cupcake.

    7. BAKE in the preheated oven until the cupcakes are domed and the top springs back when gently touched, around 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack to room temperature before frosting.
    Preparation For The Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting

    1. MAKE the frosting. Combine 6 ounces of dark chocolate, 1/4 cup unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl that sits on top of a pan of simmering water. The water in the pan should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Melt completely, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir occasionally to combine the ingredients.

    2. REMOVE from the heat when the chocolate and butter have fully melted. Whisk the mixture gently to release more heat, before whisking in 1/4 cup crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons half-and-half. Continue whisking until both the crème fraîche and half-and-half are fully integrated and the frosting is a uniform dark chocolate color.

    3. SET the frosting aside for 15 minutes to cool more, giving the frosting a gentle whisk every 5 minutes to allow heat to escape. After 15 minutes, use the frosting. At first it will seem too liquidy, but the frosting will quickly cool as it is spread throughout the cake. Work quickly to frost the cake before the frosting cools completely: It will harden as it cools. Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to divide and spread the frosting evenly among the cupcakes, and garnish with any additional decoration.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Rosé Sangria (Think Pink!)


    Shades Of Rose Wine

    [1] Rosé sangria, an adieu to the formal summer season (photo courtesy La Marina restaurant | NYC). [2] The many shades of rosé depend upon the grape varietal and the length of skin contact (photo courtesy Jot Dot).


    We started the summer season with a rose tasting party, and we’re ending it more quietly, with pitchers of rose sangria. Easy to make, easy to drink, we have a pitcher in the fridge all weekend.


    Ingredients For 12 Cups

  • 2 bottles* rosé wine
  • 1 quart or liter* bottle club soda, seltzer or sparkling mineral water, chilled
  • 1/2 cup agave†, honey, superfine sugar or simple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced nectarines or peaches
  • 1 cup melon, sliced
  • 2 blood oranges, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
    Optional Alcohol

  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (types of orange liqueur) – or –
  • 1/4 cup blackberry, blackcurrant or raspberry liqueur (crème de mûre, crème de cassis, Chambord)
    *1 quart is 32 ounces, 1 liter is 33.8 ounces, 1 standard wine bottle (750 ml) is 25.4 ounces.

    †Use equal amounts of agave or honey, but half as much agave as sugar. Agave is twice as sweet. Always add a portion, taste, and continue to add until the desired sweeteness is reached.


    Use a 1-gallon pitcher (128 ounces) or other vessel to blend. You’ll be making 84 ounces of sangria (more if you add brandy and liqueur), and also need room for the fruit. We like this oblong gallon pitcher because it fits more easily in the fridge.

    1. COMBINE the wine, brandy and liqueur and half of the sweetener in the pitcher. Blend well and taste; add more sweetener as desired. We prefer less added sugar to better enjoy the alcohol and the fruit.

    2. ADD the fruit and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day in advance. When ready to serve…

    3. Add the club soda, stir gently and serve.

    Sangria appeared in Spain around 200 B.C.E., when the conquering Romans arrived and planted red grape vineyards. While the majority of the wine was shipped to Rome, the locals used some to make fruit punch, called sangria after the blood-red color.

    Here’s the scoop.



    Unlike Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other grape varietals, there is no rosé grape. Any red wine grape can make rosé.

    The term rosé refers to the pink color that is the result of allowing the pressed grape juice limited contact with red grape skins during vinification, a process known as maceration.

    Once it achieves the desired rosiness, the skin contact ends. Extended skin contact products red wine. The juice pressed from red wine grapes is the same color as the juice from white wine grapes: clear.

    A rosé wine can be actually be made by blending red and white wine together; however this is not a common process. Most rosés are dry wines made from red wine grapes. Some are sweeter, such as White Zinfandel; but this is an American taste for blush wine rather than a European tradition.

  • Pink wine, a term that encompasses rosé, blush, and anything else with a pink hue, can be any shade from pale pink to deep rose. It depends on the grape used and the length of skin contact (from one to three days).
  • Blush wine is an American term that refers specifically to pink wines made from red wine grapes, with only enough skin contact to produce a “blush” of red color.
  • The term first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1980s, as a marketing device to sell pink wines.
  • At the time, Americans were not buying rosé wines, while White Zinfandel, a sweet rosé wine, was flying off the shelves (at one point it was the largest-selling wine in America).
  • There weren’t enough Zinfandel grapes to meet demand, so winemakers had to use other red grape varietals. Pink wines made from other grapes could not legally be called “White Zinfandel,” so a new category name—blush—was created.
  • American pink wines, whether from Zinfandel or another grape, are typically sweeter and paler than French-style rosés. The term “blush” began to refer to not just to pink wines, but to those that were made on the slightly sweet side, like White Zinfandel.
  • These days, all three terms are used more or less interchangeably by people outside the wine-producing industry.


    Summer Rose Sangria Recipe

    Mixed Berries

    [1] While luscious summer fruits are still in the market, use them in your sangria. You can get apples and oranges any old time (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco). [2] Don’t forget the berries (photo courtesy Giant Fresh).




    RECIPE: Blueberry Ice Pops For National Blueberry Popsicle Day

    Blueberry Ice Pops

    Blueberry Cream Ice Pops

    [1] Puréed blueberries, perked up with a bit of lemon juice (photo courtesy Will Cook For Smiles). [2] Make a creamy blueberry pop with yogurt or non-dairy milk (photo courtesy A Healthy Life For Me). Here’s the recipe with almond and coconut milks; the recipe for a yogurt pop is below.


    September 1st is National Blueberry Popsicle Day, following close on the heels of National Cherry Popsicle Day, August 24th.

    Here’s the history of Popsicles (a happy accident!).

    But the name of the holidays needs to be changed. The Popsicle® brand doesn’t make blueberry Popsicles (here are the current flavors), for starters.

    Regardless of the flavor, only Unilever can call its ice pops Popsicles.

    Well sure, you can call it Popsicle for your own private use; but try to give brands the respect they deserve. Call them ice pops instead of Popsicles®, a slow cooker instead of Crock-Pot®, a food processor instead of Cuisinart®, tissues instead of Kleenex® and lip balm instead of Chapstick® (and on and on).

    Anyone can make or sell blueberry ice pops. And making them couldn’t be easier.



    First, chose what kind of blueberry you’ll use: blueberry juice, fresh or frozen blueberries. See the conversion table below.

  • 24 ounces blueberry juice (our favorite is Knudsen)
  • 1 pound bag frozen blueberries, puréed*
  • 1-2 pints fresh blueberries, puréed*

    Next, choose your sweetener. These are pretty low caloric pops if you use non-caloric sweetener or agave (you need only half the amount of agave, as it’s twice as sweet).

  • Agave
  • Granulated (table) sugar
  • Honey
  • Non-caloric sweetener (the different types of sweeteners)
  • Simple syrup

  • 1/3 cup water
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice (add a 3:1 ratio of juice to zest if you like)
  • Ice pop molds or paper cups with sticks or plastic spoons

    1. BRING bring the sugar (or other sweetener) and the water to a boil in a small sauce pan over high, stirring until the sugar (or other sweetener) dissolves. Transfer to a large measuring cup or other container and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until cool. If using blueberry juice, it may be sweet enough to avoid this step. Taste and decide.

    2. COMBINE the blueberry juice or puréed blueberries with the lemon or lime juice. Add the sweetener/water mix to taste. (The juice may need far less sweetening than the fresh or frozen berries.)

    3. STIR thoroughly and pour into ice pop molds. Freeze for 4-6 hours, with the mold tops on. If you’re not using ice pop molds with built-in handles, insert a stick into each mold after 1 or 2 hours when it can stand up straight.

    4. RUN the molds under warm water to release the pops for serving.


    These measurements are from Volume equivalents will vary based on size of the berries.

    Depending on how many pops you’re making and how many ounces are in each mold, determine how much fruit you need:

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries = 2 cups
  • 1 pound bag frozen berries = 3-1/2 cups
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries = 9 oz


  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tables honey or other sweetener (see list above
  • 2 cups vanilla or blueberry Greek yogurt (or any flavor)

    1. PURÉE the blueberries and sweetener together (see footnote below).

    2. POUR into a large bowl, add the yogurt mix gently: For a swirled effect, use a spatula to make swirls in the bowl. You can also add the yogurt first, then the blueberries, to get a half-and-half effect in photo #2, above. Otherwise, combine thoroughly for a lighter purple pop.

    3. TASTE and adjust sweetener if desired, then pour into the molds or cups. Freeze for 4-6 hours, with the mold tops on. If you’re not using ice pop molds with built-in handles, insert a stick into each mold after 1 or 2 hours when it can stand up straight.

    4. RUN the molds under warm water to remove the pops.


    Blueberry Yogurt Pops Recipe

    [3] Don’t have ice pop molds? Use paper cups and sticks or plastic spoons. But ice pop moles are inexpensive. If you enjoy making pops, treat yourself to a set.

    *To purée, place the berries in a food processor or blender and blend on high speed until the consistency of a smoothie.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Favorite Green Bean Salad

    Green Bean Salad Recipe

    Green Bean Salad Recipe

    Petite Potatoes

    Colored Green Beans

    [1] (photo courtesy Keys To The Cucina). [2] Green beans with petite potatoes and basil (photo courtesy [3] Petite potatoes, grown in Idaho, are the size of a cherry tomato (photo courtesy Potato Goodness).[4] Check farmers markets for specialty green beans, and pull together a rainbow of colors (photo courtesy The Pines | Brooklyn).


    For the big weekend, you may be making potato salad, macaroni salad or cole slaw.

    We’d like to suggest a substitute: a delicious, crunchy and good-for-you green bean salad.

    As a constantly-dieting college student, it was one of the first recipes we perfected (perfection meaning exactly what we like).

    Over the years we’ve tried different dressings we enjoy on other salads—herb vinaigrette; balsamic, lemon or lime vinaigrette; yogurt dressing—but we still return to our original Dijon vinaigrette—and anchovies.

    Ideally this salad should be made with haricots vets, the thin French green beans; but they tend to be pricey. So use whatever you find.

    We like to go to the farmers market for mixed beans in green, purple and yellow (photo #4). We also spring for Idaho petite potatoes (sometimes called marble or pearl), bite-sized cuties that are have even more flavor than standard sizes (photo #3).

    If your crowd loves anchovies, top the salad with them. Otherwise, set the anchovies or tuna next to the platter so people can help themselves.

    You can make this recipe four hours ahead or overnight, for the flavors to blend.

    Ingredients For 8 Side Servings
    For The Salad

  • 2 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 1/2 to 1 pound baby/petite potatoes, or larger red new potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 small bulb fennel, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, shredded (chiffonade)
  • 1 cup Mediterranean black olives (kalamata, niçoise, picholine), ideally pitted
    For The Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed in a garlic press or finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    Platter Garnishes

  • Anchovies or Italian tuna
  • Baby arugula
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • Tomatoes, quarters or eighths depending on size; or cherry tomatoes, halved; or grape tomatoes

    1. COOK the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until fork-tender but not overly soft (remember that the potatoes will continue to cook a bit from their internal heat). Drain and set aside to cool.

    2. COOK the beans in large pot of rapidly boiling salted water to al dente crisp. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, drain and transfer to bowl. If you use larger potatoes, cut them in half after they’re cool.

    3. COMBINE all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and make the vinaigrette: Add the garlic to the olive oil, then whisk in the mustard, followed by the vinegar. Season to taste. Taste the salad right before you serve it and adjust seasonings if desired.

    4. REFRIGERATE, covered. Bring to room temperature 2 hours before serving.

    5. PLATE. We like to serve this on a platter or large serving plate, rather than in a bowl. Mound the salad in the center of the platter, and rim the perimeter with the sliced eggs and tomatoes. If using anchovies, place them on top of the salad or on a separate small plate.



    You can make this up to 3 days in advance, and store tightly covered in the fridge.


  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, drained in fine sieve about 30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, shredded (chiffonade)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed in a garlic press or finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional tablespoon olive oil or lemon juice to thin

    1. PLACE the yogurt in a medium jar or a bowl with a lid. Add the lemon juice and shake or whisk to combine. Add the garlic and stir or whisk.

    2. CHIFFONADE the mint leaves: Stack them, then roll them lengthwise into a tight bundle. Cut the bundle crosswise with a sharp knife. For a dressing, cut the strips in quarters or thirds.

    3. SEPARATE the pieces with your fingers (we pick them up and drop them a few times). Then stir the mint into the dressing.


    Green Bean Salad Recipe

    With a yogurt dressing instead (photo courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

    4. ADD salt and pepper to taste, and add more lemon juice or olive oil to thin the dressing to taste. You can do the thinning just before serving if you prefer.

    5. SHAKE or stir thoroughly before serving.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Watermelon Cocktails

    Spicy Watermelon Margarita

    Watermelon Mojito Mocktail

    Tajin Seasoning

    [1] A Spicy Watermelon Margarita? Sure! (Photo courtesy STK LA). [2] A Watermelon Mojito Cocktail (photo courtesy The Merry Thought). [3] Tajin seasoning, a versatile hot spice blend (photo courtesy Tajin Products).


    If you’re buying a watermelon for the holiday weekend, buy a bigger one and make watermelon cocktails.

    STK LA, which sent us this recipe, calls it the Secret Affair, made with Don Julio tequila.

    Somehow, that name didn’t ring true so we’re calling it as we see it: a Spicy Watermelon Margarita. We have more watermelon cocktail recipes below.


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces silver tequila (the different types of tequila)
  • .75 ounce fresh lime juice
  • .5 ounce simple syrup (we substituted orange liqueur—the different types of orange liqueur)
  • 4 watermelon cubes
  • 1 slice fresh red chile pepper (anything from an Anaheim (modest heat) to jalapeño or habanero
  • Optional: whole red chile or chile slice
  • Ice cubes: make them from watermelon juice for more intense flavor/less drink dilution
    For The Rim

  • Sparkling sugar/sanding sugar (the different types of sugar)
  • Coarse salt
  • Red chili flakes
  • Substitute: Tajin seasoning (see below)

    1. MAKE the glass rimer: Combine the sugar, salt and chile in the proportions you prefer. We used 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon chili flakes. Moistening the rims of the glasses, twist in the mixture. Set aside.

    2. MUDDLE the chile and watermelon in a cocktail shaker. Add the tequila, lime and simple syrup.

    3. SHAKE and strain on the rocks into the rimmed glasses.

    Made by Tajin Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.); and in cooked fruit recipes.

    It’s a versatile seasoning. In addition to its popularity as a glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks, try it on:

  • Eggs
  • Fries
  • Ice pops and sorbet
  • Popcorn
  • Proteins
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Vegetables and grains
    A Mexican staple, you can find Tajin seasoning in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.

    Thanks to The Merry Thought for this luscious cocktail. Designated drivers, kids, non-drinkers and the regular cocktail crowd will clamor for it.

    For extra fun and flavor, make the ice cubes from watermelon juice.
    Ingredients For 2 Drinks

  • 3 cups chopped watermelon
  • Juice of 2 limes (4 tablespoons)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Mint leaves (for cocktails and garnish)
  • Ice
  • Ginger ale
  • Club soda
  • Garnish: mint sprig and watermelon wedge
  • Optional: bottle of tequila for those who might want a real Mojito*

    1. BLEND the watermelon, lime juice and 1 teaspoon sugar in a blender until smooth. Muddle 2 mint leaves with 1/4 teaspoon sugar in the bottom of each glass. Add the watermelon pur ée, filling the glass about 1/2 full.

    2. ADD the ice and a splash of ginger ale and top with club soda. Stir to combine. Garnish as desired and serve.

  • Watermelon-Cucumber Summer Splash
  • Watermelon Gin Martini
  • Watermelon Margarita
  • Watermelon Mint Lemonade
  • Watermelon Wave & 5 More Watermelon Cocktails
    *Provide a shot glass and stirrers with the bottle.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 12 Ways To Use Toasted Marshmallows

    National Toasted Marshmallow Day is August 30th—not a day of the year that begs for a steaming cup of cocoa.

    So we put on our thinking toques to see how to best use toasted marshmallows in the summer, and how to to toast them without a campfire or fireplace.

  • S’mores, of course, or a variation. Check out these S’mores recipes and variations other than graham crackers. (National S’mores Day is August 10th).
  • Cocktail garnish for a Black or White Russian, Chocolate Martini, Espresso Martini, Irish Cream Liqueur.
  • Cookie or brownie sandwich.
  • Cupcake, cake, pie, pudding or tart garnish (make an easy tartlet with lemon curd).
  • Grilled marshmallow and fruit skewers.
  • Iced coffee, iced latte, iced hot chocolate.
  • Ice cream or sundae topping.
  • Milkshakes.
  • Peanut butter toast: Top toast with PB and marshmallows, and chocolate if you like!
  • Shots, with marshmallow vodka (made by Pinnacle, Skyy and Smirnoff).
  • Sweet potato garnish.
  • Toasted “Fluffernutter” sandwich, replacing the fluff.

    And remember: There’s marshmallow goodness beyond Campfire and Jet-Puffed. Check out gourmet marshmallows.

    Vegan? There are delicious vegan marshmallows from Dandies, all delicious.

    Even if you have a fireplace, you sure don’t want to light it up today.

    Who needs a fireplace—or a campfire? There are other ways to toast marshmallows.

  • On a stove: If you have a gas stove, you can toast the marshmallow over an open flame until it begins to brown—about a minute, depending on how “toasty” you like it.
  • With a candle, an unscented one. Turn down the lights for romance.
  • For best results, hold the marshmallow about two inches away from the flame and turn it continuously. This way, the marshmallow will melts from the inside out and brown evenly.
  • A fondue fork is ideal for toasting because it has a protective handle, but impaling the marshmallow on the tip of a regular fork works, too. You can use skewers, as well; bamboo skewers will not heat up and are easier to hold. You’ll need to soak them first, though, so they won’t catch fire!
  • Avoid toasting over Sterno: The marshmallows will smell and taste of it. A votive candle will work, and if you’re having guests, you can put a votive at each place setting.
    The Fastest Way To Toast A Batch Of Marshmallows:

  • The Broiler! Place the marshmallows on a baking sheet and set the oven to Broil. When one side is at your desired tastiness, turn them over. If the marshmallows are not browning evenly, rotate the pan.

    Chocolate Martini With Toasted Marshmallow Garnish

    Toasted Marshmallow Garnish on Milkshake

    Toasted Marshmallow Garnish

    [1] The best garnish for a Chocolate Martini? A toasted marshmallow—and maybe a rim of graham cracker crumbs (that’s a S’mores Martini). Here’s the recipe from Eclectic Recipes. [2] Serve a toasty marshmallow with a cool shake. Here’s the recipe from Honey and Birch. [3] Garnish any dessert or sweet snack, like this cupcake from Cake Boss Baking.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Sashimi Rolls

    You may not have great sushi chops—it takes years of training—but you can make a sashimi roll, as long as you have a sharp knife.

    What’s a sashimi roll? It’s sashimi ingredients wrapped in another piece of fish, a cucumber wrap, even nori (toasted seaweed). As long as there’s no vinegared (seasoned) rice, it’s not sushi.

    Some sushi and sashimi basics:

  • Sushi is vinegared rice with raw fish (including shellfish) and related ingredients: cooked proteins (octopus, salmon skin, shrimp), roe/caviar (ikura, masago, tobiko), sliced omelet (tamago), tempura (deep fried), raw wagyu, etc.
  • Su means vinegar and shi means rice; so sushi can be anything served with vinegared sushi rice. It can be fish placed on a bowl of rice (chirashi sushi), pressed into a box of rice and cut into rectangles), stuffed into a tofu pouch (imari) and so on. The common ingredient: vinegared rice. If we’ve said this too often, it’s because it’s an important distinction.
  • Sashimi is raw fish (often including tamago). It can be sliced, chopped (like yellowtail and scallion roll, negi-hamachi), chopped and sauced (spicy tuna or salmon roll), served in an oyster shell (or on top of the oyster), etc. You can also make “crudité sashimi” by wrapping lengthwise-sliced vegetables in a piece of fish, creating a vertical bundle fastened with a pick.
  • Naruto roll is a sushi-sashimi fusion: a roll with no rice. It is stuffed only with different fish, roe, vegetables, crab salad, etc. Naruto also refers to little the small pieces of food that float in soup, ramen, etc: fish cake, seaweed, scallions, tofu cubes, etc. Most people refer to naruto as sushi because it is rolled; but since it has no rice, we call it a sashimi roll. (Note: Slicing an entire cucumber in thin, continuous roll has got to be the hardest task in sushi preparation.)
  • Tamago, a sweetened omelet cooked in a rectangular pan, can be served in any of these preparations. It is neither fish nor vegetable nor dairy (from a mammal’s milk), but is considered an animal by-product.

    The slices of raw fish can be:

  • Arranged artistically on a plate, usually with some vegetable garnish (daikon, shredded radish; shiso, beefsteak leaf, etc.)—the traditional presentation.
  • Placed over a base, such as avocado or salad (if placed over vinegared rice it’s chirashi sushi).
  • Used to top fried tofu, raw or fried oysters, etc. (especially roe and chopped preparations).
  • Wrapped around a core of of crab or other salad, cucumber matchsticks, avocado, etc.

    We adapted the bottom photo idea from Herringbone restaurant in Santa Monica. That roll mounds albacore tuna sashimi over an avocado half, with a garnish of ginger, tobiko, sambal* and sprouts.

    You can use whatever fish looks best in the market, and customize your dish with as many garnishes as you like. They don’t all have to be on top of the sashimi; you cam artistically scatter them around the serving plate.

  • Base: avocado half, chopped salad, cooked fish, endive or radicchio, hearts of romaine, mesclun, whole grains (cooked), etc.
  • Fish: sashimi-quality fish of choice, sliced thin enough to drape.
  • Garnish: citrus zest, chopped chives or scallions, cress, fresh herbs, grated daikon and/or carrot, microgreens, minced garlic, minced red jalapeño, salmon or flying fish roe (caviar), raw or toasted sesame seeds.
  • Dressing or sauce: flavored olive oil† with lemon or lime juice, ponzu sauce (recipe) rice vinegar vinaigrette.

    1. PREPARE the salad base. If using an avocado, don’t slice or peel it until you’re ready to plate.

    2. DRESS the base with vinaigrette or olive oil and lemon/lime. If using an avocado, place it plate side down and drizzle the dressing over it.

    3. MOUND the base onto each plate into an oval. Cover with the sashimi strips. Garnish as desired and serve.

    *Sambal is a hot relish commonly used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. There are many varieties, using different fruits or vegetables, different spices, and different levels of heat.

    † Basil-, chili-, chive-, citrus- and rosemary-infused oils are all good here.


    Sashimi Deluxe

    Naruto Roll

    Salmon Sashimi Roll

    Rainbow Roll

    Sashimi Roll

    [1] Sashimi at Haru | NYC with a naruto roll at the lower right. [2] Naruto roll, with ingredients wrapped in a thin roll of cucumber—at Tamari Restaurant in Pittsburgh. [3] Salmon sashimi roll: crab salad wrapped in a slice of salmon and topped with spicy salmon (photo courtesy [4] This Rainbow Roll from Blue Ribbon Sushi is a sushi roll covered with sashimi, but it’s still sushi, with vinegared rice. [5] Fish over a bed of guacamole at Herringbone Restaurant.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Treats For Banana Lovers

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    Banana Split

    Banana Hot Fudge Sundae

    Bunch of Bananas

    [1] A grilled banana split: no need for a special banana split dish (photo courtesy Pampered Chef). [2] Another presentation from Women’s Day. Here’s their recipe. [3] Fusion food: a grilled banana hot fudge sundae (photo courtesy Weber). [4] The world’s most popular fruit (photo Nathan Ward | SXC)!


    Who doesn’t love a banana? It’s the world’s most popular fruit. Some 25 pounds of bananas are consumed per capita each year.

    In the U.S., more bananas are consumed than oranges and apples combined! And August 27th is National Banana Lovers Day.

    Bananas were introduced to the U.S. in 1880. By 1910, bananas were so popular that cities—which then lacked sanitation systems—had a problem disposing of the banana peels.

    People were literally slipping on banana peels that were discarded on sidewalks and streets (a reality appropriated by comedians), leading to injuries. The Boy Scout Handbook recommended picking up banana peels from the street as a Scout’s good deed of the day (source).

  • Man has been growing bananas for some 10,000 years, since the dawn of agriculture. It’s the oldest cultivated fruit.
  • Bananas don’t grow on trees: The banana plant is actually the world’s largest herb. It’s a cousin to ginger and vanilla.
  • There are more than 1,000 varieties of bananas. The majority grow in Africa and Asia: 600 varieties in India alone.
  • The American supermarket banana is a variety called the Cavendish. It’s a more bland banana, but it travels well.
  • Bananas float in water (so do apples)!

    Banana Bread? Banana Cream Pie? Banana Daiquiri? Banana French Toast? Banana Ice Cream? Banana Pudding? Peanut Butter and Bananas?

    We say YES! to all, but today are focusing on two: the kid favorite Banana Split and the over-21 Bananas Foster.

    Two towns in the U.S. lay claim as the home of the banana split.

  • In 1904 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, David Strickler, a 23-year-old druggist’s apprentice at Tassel Pharmacy is said to have created the first banana split sundae for the local college crowd.
  • In 1907 in Wilmington, Ohio, restaurateur Ernest R. Hazard held a dessert contest among his employees at The Café. One came up with a sundae of sliced banana topped with three scoops of ice cream, chocolate syrup, strawberry jam, pineapple bits, chopped nuts, whipped cream and cherries.
    Fortunately for the rest of us, the concept spread nationwide, affording all of us the joy of a Banana Split.


    Banana splits are easy to make: Split a ripe banana vertically, place it in a long dish, top with three scoops of ice cream (traditionally vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) and toppings of choice. (You can get Anchor Hocking banana split dishes for about $2 each.)

    Here’s a twist: a grilled banana sundae, a cross between the classic and Bananas Foster. In the latter, bananas are caramelized in butter with brown sugar and cinnamon, then topped with dark rum and flambéed, with the bananas and the flaming sauce served over vanilla ice cream.

    We’ve included a Bananas Foster recipe below. The recipes are very similar, except that for Bananas Foster, the bananas are sautéed in butter instead of grilled; and alcohol is added to the caramel sauce. The banana is typically sliced in half lengthwise and crosswise.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 firm, ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup fudge sauce
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

    1. PREHEAT a grill pan over medium heat for 5 minutes.

    2. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish. Gently coat the bananas with the sugar mixture.

    3. SPRAY the grill pan lightly with vegetable oil and add the banana pieces, cut sides down. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until grill marks appear.

    4. SERVE warm with ice cream, ice cream topping and almonds.



    The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900 to 1977), the Executive Chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish of sautéed bananas, flambéed and topped with ice cream, was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan Sr.

    Note that while both the recipes above and the original Bananas Foster cut the bananas into oblong pieces (see photo above), we prefer the round slices of banana, about 3/4-inch thick.

    While igniting the dish tableside is dramatic both at a restaurant and at home, it isn’t necessary.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 firm, ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Optional garnishes: toasted chopped pecans, grated orange zest

    1. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each (alternative: cut 3/4″ rounds; you’ll have more than 4 pieces).

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes—this creates a caramel sauce). Add the bananas and cook on both sides until they begin to soften and brown (about 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce. If you want to flambé, follow the instructions below. However, the drama of the flambé works only if the dish is prepared tableside. Otherwise, the drama is lost in the kitchen (the flame extinguishes quickly).

    4. LIFT the bananas carefully from the pan and top the four dishes of ice cream; then spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas and serve immediately.

  • Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-109 proof are best to ignite. Don’t use a higher proof; it is highly flammable.
  • The liquor must be warmed to 130°F before adding to the pan. Higher temperatures will burn off the alcohol, and it won’t ignite.
  • Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself.
  • Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames. The alcohol vapor generally burns off by itself in a matter of seconds.

  • Read these tips
  • Watch this video

    Bananas Foster

    Bananas Foster

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    [1] Bananas Foster at the Bonefish Grill, looking like a more complex Banana Split. [2] It’s harder to sauté a lengthwise half of banana without breaking it. Hence, the suggestion of slicing lengthwise and crosswise (photo Fotolia). [3] This recipe from Taste Of Home slices the bananas into coin shapes (a.k.a. chunks), easier to salute.


    Relax with a Banana Colada.



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