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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

RECIPE: Bread Salad #3, Grilled Chicken Panzanella

We are fans of panzanella, and this is our fourth recipe of the year. The others:

  • Summer Bread Salad, with tomatoes and basil
  • Summer Panzanella #2, with zucchini, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes
  • Panzanella With Fruit
  •  
    Panzanella is a Tuscan-style bread salad made with a loaf of day-old (or older) bread, cubed into large croutons and tossed with vinaigrette or other dressing to soften it. The translation we have found for “panzanella” is “bread in a swamp,” the swamp being the water or vinaigrette in which it was soaked.

    While Italian loaves are used in the original, you can use any bread from baguette to challah to semolina raisin to sourdough. Chopped salad vegetables are then added.

    In this recipe, adapted from one by Annie of Annie’s Eats for Go Bold With Butter, a protein is added to make it into a luncheon salad. Annie (and we) use grilled chicken; we also like grilled salmon. But you can use any protein and it’s a great way to use up leftovers.

       

    chicken-panzanella-salad-goboldwbutter-230

    Instead of a Chicken Caesar, try a Chicken Panzanella. Photo courtesy GoBoldWithButter.com..

     
    Annie grills the bread. We live an apartment without a grill, so we baked the croutons in the oven (recipe below).

    We save time by buying pre-grilled, shrink-wrapped chicken breasts at Trader Joe’s.

    RECIPE: GRILLED CHICKEN PANZANELLA

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

    For The Chicken

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup olive or canola oil
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 chicken breasts, butterflied into halves (4 pieces total)
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 thick slices (1-inch) sourdough bread (about 4-5 cups when cubed)
  • 1 large or 2 small cucumbers, sliced and quartered into wedges
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced, or halved cherry tomatoes*
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Optional: fresh herbs of choice
  •  
    *Off-season tomatoes tend to be bland. When tomatoes aren’t in season, you can substitute red bell pepper, grilled red pepper (pimento) or sundried tomatoes.

     

    serrated-knife-bread-SLT-230

    We prefer a crusty loaf, but any day-old
    bread can be used for panzanella. Photo
    courtesy Sur La Table.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a grill to medium-high heat. While the grill is heating, make the marinade.

    2. COMBINE the lemon juice, canola oil, salt, pepper and garlic in a medium bowl. Stir well to combine. Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, mixing briefly to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. Meanwhile…

    3. PREPARE the bread slices. Combine the butter, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix until evenly combined. Spread a thin layer of the garlic butter on both sides of each slice of bread.

    4. GRILL the chicken on the heated grill until browned on the outside, turning once. The internal temperature should register 160°F. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate or cutting board to rest briefly. Meanwhile…

     

    5. PLACE the bread slices on the grill and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes total. Keep a close eye on the bread to prevent charring. Remove the finished bread pieces to a plate or cutting board.

    6. CUT up the chicken and the bread into bite-size pieces and add to a large bowl. Add the cucumber, tomatoes and feta; toss gently just until evenly combined. Serve immediately.
     
     
    CROUTONS RECIPE

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F.

    2. CUT bread into cubes and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you like heat, add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Mix well.

    3. SPREAD cubes in a single layer on a shallow pan or cookie sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Ceviche Vs. Tiradito

    When you live in a ceviche culture, what do you do for something new?

    Ceviche, raw seafood marinated in lime juice with onions and other vegetables, is the national dish of Peru—and our favorite food. While the variations in ceviche recipes seem never-ending—there’s a seeming infinite combination of seafood, vegetables and marinade recipes—Peruvian chefs have taken the concept further.

    They’ve created tiradito, a dish of raw fish similar to carpaccio, ceviche, crudo and sashimi, but garnished with a piquant or spicy sauce. It reflects the influence of Japanese immigrants on Peruvian cookery. It also differs from ceviche in the way in which the fish is cut (sashimi-style slices) and in the lack of onions. The fish can also be lightly seared.

    Both are typically served as a first course. Cool and refreshing, they are ideal summer dishes but delicious year-round (not to mention easy to make, healthful and low in calories).

    The classic tiradito sauce is made from citrus juice and a zesty paste of aji amarillo, made from the Peruvian yellow chile pepper (Capsicum baccatum) plus seasonings—grated garlic or ginger, salt and pepper. Of course, chefs can create a myriad of sauces with other ingredients.

    Unlike ceviche, the fish isn’t marinated in the sauce; the sauce is used as a dressing—think sashimi with sauce and garnishes. Common garnishes include sweet potato and jumbo white corn kernels, both native to Peru.

       

    ceviche-scallop-shells-raymiNYC-230

    Ceviche preparation of white fish with two different marinades. Photo courtesy Raymi | NYC.

     

    The key to both dishes is the freshest fish. Ask your fishmonger what’s best.

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CEVICHE & TIRADITO

    In South America, marinated raw fish dishes date to pre-Colombian times, when seafood was “cooked” (acid-cured) with a fruit called tumbo (Passiflora tarminina, a relative of passionfruit). The Incas cured fish in salt and fermented corn.

    In the 16th century, the Spaniards arrived with lemons for the marinade, creating modern ceviche: cubed or sliced, lightly marinated raw fish. Recently, a variation has morphed into tiradito, cutting the fish sashimi-style and adding a spicy dressing.

    Tiradito derives from the Spanish verb tirar, which means to throw—throwing together raw fish with a sauce.

     

    tiradito-cucharasbravas.com.pe-230r

    Tiraditio of mackerel with a sauce of yellow
    aji chile paste. Photo courtesy
    CucharasBravas.com.pe.

     

    Here’s a tiradito recipe from Peru Delights. Prep time is 20 minutes.

    Look for the aji amarillo paste in supermarkets with a large Latin American products section (Goya makes it), at a Latin American grocer, or online. If you can’t get hold of it, use a mixture of fresh yellow bell peppers and serrano chilies to approximate the hot and fruity flavor of the aji amarillo.

    RECIPE: TIRADITO DE PESCADO

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound white fish fillets (e.g. tilapia)
  • 6 limes, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon aji amarillo paste, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon diced chile pepper (e.g. serrano)
  • ½ teaspoon grated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garnish: 1 sweet potato cut in thick slices
  • Garnish: microgreens or sprouts
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SLICE the fish fillet very thin and divide among four plates. Sprinkle with salt.

    2. COMBINE lime juice in a bowl with the aji amarillo paste, diced chile, garlic, ginger, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon over the fish to cover.

    3. TOP each portion with two sweet potato slices, cover with microgreens and serve, chilled or room temperature.

     
    MORE CEVICHE

  • Types of ceviche.
  • How to create your signature ceviche recipe.
  • Shrimp ceviche recipe.
  • What to drink with ceviche.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Scuffins

    apricot-scuffin-230

    Surprise: a center of apricot conserve. The
    black flecks are flaxseeds. Photo courtesy
    Frog Hollow Farm.

     

    Today’s tip comes from Frog Hollow Farm, a beloved grower of organic fruit in Brentwood, California, an hour east of San Francisco in the fertile Sacramento River Delta.

    Before there was the cronut, there was the scuffin. Necessity was the mother of invention.

    Some five years ago, Frog Hollow Farm began to make frozen purées from fruit that wasn’t cosmetically attractive enough to sell to consumers. They then set about creating products from the purées, and the winner was the scuffin.

    What sounds like a cross between a scone and a muffin is actually a triple hybrid, which includes the center of a jelly donut— substituting conserve, jam or preserve for the jelly. (Here are the differences between jelly, jam, conserve, etc.)

    A hearty, sconelike dough formed into a muffin shape, a scuffin is more dense than a muffin, with a texture that goes from a crisp exterior and crumbly scone interior to center of smooth fruit filling, made from the purée. It eliminates the need to choose between a scone and a muffin. They can be breakfast bread, snack or dessert.

    Served at the Frog Hollow Café in San Fransicso’s Ferry Building, the scuffin was an instant hit. The whole grain flour and flaxseeds, add healthful elements and a nuttiness that pairs well with the jam.

     
    Total prep and baking time is 1 hour.

    RECIPE: SCUFFINS

    Ingredients For 12 Scuffins

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 ounces), plus 2 tablespoons for buttering muffin cups
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal or wheat germ (1 ounce)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown or raw sugar (2 ounces), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup fruit jam, conserves, preserves or fruit butter (do not use jelly or marmalade)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a microwave or over very gentle heat. Using a pastry brush, butter the cups of a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin (3-1/2-ounce-capacity). Let each coat of butter cool, then apply another coat; continue until the 2 tablespoons are all used.

    2. COMBINE dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just combined.

    3. WHISK together the egg, milk and cream in another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix to combine (the dough will be quite sticky).

    4. RESERVING about a quarter of the dough for topping, scoop 2 tablespoons dough into each cup. Using the back of a spoon, press the dough gently down into the cups. The dough will move up the sides, and there should be a shallow well in each dough cup. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t come all the way up to the top; there should be about 1/2 inch of space between the top of the dough and the rim of the cup.

     

    nectarine-scuffin-froghollowfarm-230

    Scuffins filled with blueberry preserves. Photo courtesy Frog Hollow Farm.

     
    5. SPOON about 1 tablespoon of jam into each well. Using your fingers, pinch the remaining dough into small clumps and scatter evenly over the jam in each cup, making a bumpy topping. Sprinkle sugar over the tops.

    6. BAKE 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned. Let cool in the pan on a rack; run a blade around the sides of each scuffin before turning out.

    Variations

  • Try different flavors of jams and preserves.
  • Use different spices—nutmeg, ginger or allspice, for example, instead of cinnamon or cardamom.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pecan Sandies

    pecan-sandies-tasteofhome-230

    Pecan sandies. Photo courtesy Taste Of
    Home.

     

    September 21st is National Pecan Cookie Day. Our favorite has got to be the pecan sandy, modeled after the French sablé.

    A shortbread-like butter cookie with a sandy texture, sablé means “sand” in French and refers to both the color and the texture of the cookies.

    The cookies originated in the Normandy region of France and are a very popular tea cookie. Common variations include chocolate and lemon sablés.

    In some sandy recipes, the dough is lighter than traditional dense, buttery shortbread. A pecan sandy is simply the shortbread with chopped pecans added to the dough, or a pecan half embellishment on the top of the cookie.

    This recipe is courtesy Taste Of Home. Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 55 minutes.

     
    RECIPE: PECAN SANDIES

    Ingredients For 18 Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet.

    2. CREAM in a bowl the butter and sugar; stir in vanilla. Add flour; mix on low until well blended. Stir in pecans; mix well. Chill for 30 minutes.

    3. ROLL into 1-inch balls; place on the sheet. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes or until bottom edges are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
     
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES IN OUR COOKIE GLOSSARY.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cheese-Stuffed French Toast

    Today for brunch, we made this tasty recipe from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. It’s sweet and savory: cheese with the sweet notes of conventional French toast.

    The recipe uses Havarti from Wisconsin, but you can substitute another cheese of choice. Suggestions: Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Tilsit or for a stronger flavor, Muenster, Port du Salut or Reblochon. (Check out our Cheese Glossary.)

    RECIPE: CHEESE STUFFED FRENCH TOAST

    Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce challah or French bread loaf, cubed
  • 1 package (8 ounces) Havarti or other cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) blueberry preserves
  •  

    cheese-stuffed-french-toast-wmmb-230b

    Cheese-stuffed French toast. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

    2. ARRANGE half of bread cubes in lightly buttered 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Top evenly with Havarti; top with remaining bread cubes.

    3. WHISK together the eggs, milk, sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, butter and maple syrup in large mixing bowl; pour over bread mixture, pressing bread cubes to absorb egg mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon over the top. Cover baking pan with foil.

    4. BAKE for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 more minutes or until lightly browned and set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

    5. MAKE the sauce. Stir together blueberries and blueberry preserves in a small saucepan over low heat until warm. Serve over the French toast or on the side.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Pastilla, Bastilla, Bisteeya, B’stilla

    pastilla-moroccan-kaminsky-230

    Alluring and delicious. Photo © Hannah
    Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Pastilla, pronounced “bastilla” in the Arabic of North Africa, is a traditional Moroccan dish that crossed the Straits of Gilbraltar from Andalusia, Spain. It is transliterated from the Arabic pastilla, bastilla, bisteeya, b’stilla or bstilla.

    It all means “delicious,” says Hannah Kaminsky.

    Traditionally served as a first course of a special meal, this squab pie with flaky, crêpe-like dough is more often made with chicken these days. Fish, offal and vegetarian recipes are also made.

    In traditional recipes, the meat is slow-cooked in broth and spices, then shredded and layered in the pastry with toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar.

    “I may have never known about the wonders of pastilla, the mysterious pastry with a half-dozen different spellings, if not for the ethereal prose of Fatima Mernissi,” says Hannah. “So inspired by her lavish, unrestrained words of praise, this was my call to action, to secure a literal piece of the pie for myself.”

    Looking for a vegan substitute, she turned to chickpeas, noting:

     
    “Most curious with pastilla is the incongruous addition of powdered sugar right before serving; a light dusting of confectionery snow, frosting a decidedly savory main course.

    “Humbly, I must admit, it does work, tempering the hot, bold and intense spices without turning the pastry into a dessert. Though it could still taste equally delicious without the sugar, for those as hesitant as myself, I must urge you to just give it a shot.”
     
    RECIPE: CHICKPEA PASTILLA

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (14-ounces) chickpeas (1-3/4 cups cooked), drained
  • 1/2 cup coarse almond meal
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8-10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • Optional: confectioner’s sugar to garnish
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a 6-inch round springform pan.

    2. HEAT 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar; cook for 8-10 minutes while stirring frequently, until lightly golden and aromatic. Add the ground cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne, cooking for a minute or two longer to gently toast the spices.

    3. ADD the drained chickpeas and almond meal, stirring to combine, before slowly pouring in the broth and lemon juice together. Cook for another minute to heat through and slightly thicken the mixture. It should be thoroughly moistened but not soupy. Season with salt to taste. Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.

    4. LAY 1 sheet of phyllo across the bottom of the prepared springform pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges. Lightly brush with the remaining olive oil, and then place another sheet of phyllo on top, turning it slightly so that the points stick out at different angles. Repeat this process so that you end up with 4-5 sheets lining the pan, covering the sides completely.

     

    baklava-wiki-star-230

    This baklava, made in a star-shaped cup, shows the numerous layers of phyllo dough. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

     

    5. SPOON the chickpea filling into the center, smoothing it out so that it fills the pan evenly. If you end up with a bit too much filling to comfortably squeeze in, you can always use leftover sheets of phyllo later, to make individual parcels.

    6. COVER the filling with another sheet of phyllo, brush with olive oil and repeat the same process as before, ending up with another 4-5 sheets on top. Fold the overhanging dough back over the top, smoothing it down as neatly as you can. Give it a final brush of olive oil before sliding it into the oven.

    7. BAKE for 15-18 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pie until it is golden brown (it cooks quickly at this high temperature). Let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding. Sift a fine dusting of confectioner’s sugar on top right before serving.

    THE HISTORY OF PHYLLO DOUGH

    Phyllo (FEE-low), fillo or filo is the traditional dough of the Greek, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. It is used for pastries from the sweet, like baklava (with honey and nuts) to the savory, like spanakopita (spinach and feta).

    Phyllo means “leaf” in Greek, and refers to the many tissue-thin leaves (so thin you can read through them) of unleavened flour sheets that comprise the dough. The paper-thin layers are separated by a thin film of butter.

    The earliest form of the dough was made in the 8th century B.C.E. in northern Mesopotamia, when the Assyrians made an early version of baklava, layering very thin pieces of dough with nuts and honey, and baking them in wood-burning ovens.

    The practice of stretching raw dough into paper-thin sheets is believed to have evolved in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, based on Central Asian prototypes.

    Greek seamen brought the concept home, and Athenian bakers created phyllo, the leaf-thin layers of dough, as early as the 3rd century B.C.E. Given the labor required, it was served in wealthy Greek households for special occasions.

    The dough (flour, water, oil and white vinegar) was made by gently rolling, stretching or pressing into the ultra-thin sheets. This takes time and skill, requiring progressive rolling and stretching into a single thin and very large sheet. A very large table and a long roller are required, with continous flouring between layers to prevent tearing.

    Machines for producing phyllo pastry were perfected in the 1970s. Today, phyllo is made by machine and available in the freezer section of most food stores, or fresh in some specialty markets.

    In preparation for baking, the dough is brushed with butter or oil; it must be worked with quickly as it dries with exposure to air. It can be cut into sheets and layered in a tin, cut into individual rolls or rolled up as one large roll.

    In any form, it is delicious!

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: German Marble Cake

    Make this delicious marble cake. Photo
    courtesy Zabars.com.

     

    With the Jewish New Year approaching, we think back to tables laden with holiday food, and desserts both homemade and from New York’s great Jewish bakers.

    Immigrants from Europe contributed much deliciousness to our childhood. As a youngster we were lucky to live in a town rich with postwar refugees from Germany, Hungary and Eastern Europe. Among the trades they brought with them, our favorite artisans were (of course) the bakers.

    Bagel makers, bread bakers, pastry makers: We loved them all for the scrumptious products of their artisan skills. Alas, we are now their age, and not one bakery from those memorable times survives in Manhattan. The last one we knew of—Jon Vie Bakery, 492 Avenue of the Americas between 12th and 13th Streets—lost its lease in 2004, unable to afford double the rent on slender bakery margins. At last glance it was a 16 Handles frozen yogurt shop, where the inventory doesn’t go stale at the end of the day.

    The owner of Jon Vie was a third-generation baker, the manager was the fourth-generation of a baking family, both families originally from Poland. Both men were in their mid-70s when the bakery closed. Needless to say, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

     
    The bakery specialized in German, Hungarian and Jewish specialties—almost a memory today—along with cream puffs, éclairs and napoleons that met customers’ desires for French pastry.

    While there will always be French pastry for sale somewhere—and rugelach and strudel at outposts like Zabar’s, —we’re left with only the memories of great babka, mandel brot and marble cake with ganache icing.

    While we can still find cheese danish, they don’t compare to the wonders from those European bakers, stuffed with plentiful, sweet cheese and topped with slivered almonds and a honey glaze. We bought one daily from Éclair, which—ignominously—lost its lease to Krispy Kreme, itself long gone.

    And now, a paean: Louis Lichtman: Life hasn’t been the same since you retired. Bloom’s Bake Shop, we remember you well. Sutter’s, you are in our heart forever.

    The Hungarian Pastry Shop by Columbia University, another hangout of our youth, is still there, but has undergone a succession of management changes. It sells some items that look like the ones from yore, but taste nothing like them. Don’t even go there—it will just break your heart.

    For those who remember, or want to understand that joyous past, bake a marble cake in remembrance. Here’s the recipe.

    By the way, marble cake arrived on these shores with German immigrants before the Civil War. Here’s the history of marble cake.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: The Best Baklava

    baklava-cookbookchick-calwalnutboard-230

    A winning baklava recipe. Photo courtesy
    Food 52.

     

    We admit to an enthusiasm for baklava. Good baklava—made with quality honey—is one of the world’s great pastries. Here’s the history of baklava, an ancient pastry that dates to the 8th century B.C.E.

    This recipe was the runner up in a contest held by Food52 for the California Walnut Board.

    “This is my mom’s recipe,” says CookbookChick, who submitted the recipe. “I don’t know where she got the idea for her ‘secret ingredient,’ but it produces the best baklava ever. [Mom is Mrs. Z, credited below.]

    “If you like baklava but can’t get past the cloying sweetness, this is the one to try: You will never go back or be satisfied with the stuff you get in Greek restaurants again.”

    Honey and apples is a Rosh Hashanah tradition, a wish for a sweet new year. The Jewish New Year begins next Thursday; some sweet, honeyed baklava would not be out of place. Try this recipe, courtesy of Food52 for the California Walnut Board.

     
    RECIPE: MRS. Z’S SECRET-INGREDIENT BAKLAVA

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

    For The Baklava Syrup

  • 1/2 cup mild honey
  • 1-1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  •  
    For The Baklava

  • 1 cup graham crackers, finely crushed (the secret ingredient!)
  • 1-1/2 pounds walnuts
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound butter, melted and clarified*
  • 1 pound filo dough
  • 24 whole cloves
  •  
    *To clarify, melt the butter, skim off the milk solids and pour off the clear yellow butter. Discard the white solids in the bottom of the pan.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, just until a thin syrup is formed. Allow to cool to room temperature while you build the baklava.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    3. CRUSH the graham crackers into fine crumbs. You can do this (a) by putting them in a sealed plastic bag and pounding them with a meat tenderizer, (b) rolling with a rolling pin, or (c) pulverizing in a food processor.

    4. GRIND the nuts finely with a manual nut grinder (preferable) or in a food processor. With the latter, take care not to grind too far, or you will have nut butter.

    5. COMBINE the graham cracker crumbs, nuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl.

     

    walnut-halves-murrays-230

    California walnuts. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    6. LAY out the filo dough on a clean kitchen towel. Lay another towel on top of the filo to help prevent it from drying out.

    7. BUILD the baklava in an 8 x 8-inch square pan. Layer 6 to 8 sheets of filo in the bottom of the pan, brushing each sheet lightly with butter before adding the next (a silicone basting brush makes it easy). Many Greek cooks, including Mrs. Z, simply drizzle the butter from a teaspoon; or you can use a traditional boar bristle pastry brush.

    8. SPRINKLE the nut mixture in a thin layer over the filo dough. Cover with 3 to 4 more sheets, each brushed lightly with butter. Repeat until the nut mixture is completely used up. Cover with 6 to 8 filo sheet, brushing each layer lightly with butter.

    9. REFRIGERATE the uncooked baklava for an hour or two until the butter solidifies. Then, before baking, cut with a sharp knife into small squares or diamond shapes. If you want the traditional diamond shapes, start with a corner-to-corner diagonal cut. Stick a whole clove into the center of each piece.

    10. BAKE at 350°F for no longer than one hour, until it becomes a light golden brown. If the baklava dries out, it is ruined.

    11. REMOVE from the oven and immediately pour the room temperature syrup evenly over the hot pastry. The rule is hot pastry, cool syrup or you’ll get a soggy dessert! Start with about half of the syrup, letting the pastry absorb it (you may not use it all).

    Serving idea: Nestle each piece in a pretty paper cupcake cup or foil cupcake cup and present on a platter.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Leeks

    When was the last time you cooked leeks?

    Leeks are closely related to onions and shallots, although they are not interchangeable in recipes, as their flavors and intensities differ.

  • Leeks look like jumbo green onions (scallions). The long, thick stalks are mild. Leeks are hardier than onions and shallots, and are also more difficult to clean and cook. Unlike onions, leeks don’t produce bulbs or grow underground.
  • Onions come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and tastes, from sweet and mild to pungent, spicy and even acrid. Easy to grow, it is used in cuisines worldwide. The bulb grows underground, revealing itself by a single, vertical shoot above ground.
  • Shallots look like small yellow onions, a bit more oblong in shape. They grow underground. Their flavor is onion-like—sharper when raw but much more sweet and delicate when cooked, an onion-garlic hybrid. Like garlic, the bulbs grow in cloves. Unlike onions, shallots normally bloom white or violet flowers.
  •  
    Leeks are often called “gourmet onions” because they are harder to find and costlier than onions. They can be prepared easily—boiled, braised, fried, sautéed or poached—or in elaborate recipes, or served raw as a milder substitute for onions.

       

    roast-leeks-latourangelle-230

    Roasted leeks are delicious, low in calories and easy to make. Photo courtesy La Tourangelle.

     

    The only rub is cleaning them. Leeks grow in sandy soil and don’t have a protective skin cover like onions and shallots; so you’ve got to be sure to get the sand out. Here’s a video showing how to clean leeks.

    Leeks are available throughout the year, although they are in greater supply from the fall through the early spring. Purchasing tips:

  • While larger leeks may look more impressive, they are generally more fibrous in texture. Select leeks with a diameter of one and one-half inches or less.
  • In a recipe where the leeks are cooked whole (like the one below), select leeks that are of similar size to ensure consistent cooking.
  •  
    Try this easy recipe from La Tourangelle, producers of the finest culinary oils and a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. The recipe tastes extra-special using their Roasted Walnut Oil or Roasted Hazelnut Oil, but is certainly delicious with EVOO. You can serve it as a side or a first course.
     
    RECIPE: ROASTED LEEKS WITH MUSTARD-TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds small leeks, trimmed, rinsed and halved lengthwise
  • 2.5 tablespoons walnut oil, hazelnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  •  

    leeks-organic-goodeggs-230ps-r

    Leeks, fresh from the field. Photo courtesy
    GoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Prepare an ice bath in a bowl.

    2. BRING a 2-quart pot of salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the leeks to the ice bath. Let chill completely, about 1 minute. Transfer the leeks to a paper towel-lined plate to drain about 3 minutes.

    3. DRIZZLE the leeks with the oil and toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet or baking pan and roast the leeks until they become slightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl…

    4. WHISK together the vinegar, mustard, garlic and lemon zest to make a vinaigrette.

    5. REMOVE the leeks from the oven and transfer to a platter. Spoon the vinaigrette over the leeks and garnish with the black pepper and tarragon. Serve hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!

     
    MORE LEEK RECIPES

  • Fried Leeks Garnish
  • Leek & Giblet Stuffing
  • Leek Soup
  • Leek & Seaweed Salad
  • Vichyssoise (leek and potato soup)
  •  
    ABOUT LEEKS

    Leeks are a member of the Allium genus, which includes garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions. Their botanical family, Amaryllidaceae, comprises herbaceous, perennial and bulbous flowering plants including the amaryllis, from which it takes its name.

    Leeks look like large scallions, having a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of superimposed layers that flows into green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves. Cultivated leeks are usually about 12 inches in length and one to two inches in diameter and feature a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of shallots but sweeter and more subtle.

    Wild leeks, known as ramps, are much smaller in size, but have a stronger, more intense flavor. They are available for a short period of time each year and are often widely sought out at farmers markets when they are in season.

    Believed to be native to Central Asia, leeks have been cultivated in there and in Europe for thousands of years. They were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were thought to be beneficial to the throat. The Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.

    The Romans most likely introduced leeks to Britain; they were so esteemed in Wales that they became country’s national emblem. As the story goes, during a battle against that Saxons in 1620, Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from the enemy—and won the battle, of course.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Orange Date Ice Cream

    orange-date-ice-cream-spiceislands-davidlebovitz-230

    Different and delicious: Orange Date Ice
    Cream. Photo courtesy SpiceIslands.com.

     

    Here’s something special for ice cream lovers: Date-Orange Ice Cream, a citrusy-sweet, sophisticated combination crafted by David Lebovitz for Spice Islands. He happened upon a sale on dates and created what he calls “a uniquely delicious cross between a classic Creamsicle and exotic dates.”

    If you want to dial up the orange flavor, says David, use an orange-flavored liqueur with the dates. You can also add a tablespoon of rum or orange-flavored liqueur to the custard just before churning.

    RECIPE: ORANGE DATE ICE CREAM

    Ingredients For 1 Quart

  • 5 ounces pitted dates, snipped into pieces
  • 1/3 cup dark rum or orange-flavored liqueur
  • 4 teaspoons Spice Islands orange peel
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • big pinch of salt
  • 1-1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands pure vanilla extract
  •  

    Preparation

    1. Combine the dates, rum (or orange-flavored liqueur) and orange peel in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture gently and let simmer for about a minute, or until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, then cover and set aside.

    (You can do this the day before.)

    2. To make the ice cream, combine the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.

    3. Pour the cream into a medium-sized bowl, set a mesh strainer over the top and nest the bowl in a bigger bowl of ice.

    4. In a small bowl, whisk the yolks together.

    5. Warm the milk until the sugar is dissolved. Once warm, slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour.

     

    medjool-dates-bowl-murrays-230

    Dates—“nature’s candy”—are delicious for snacking and with cheese. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    6. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture just begins to thicken and coats the spatula. Do not overcook.

    7. Immediately pour the mixture through the strainer into the cream, add the vanilla and stir to cool. Once cool, chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

    8. Freeze the ice cream mixture in your ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once churned, fold in the macerated dates and orange peel, along with any liquid that might still be in the pan. Chill in the freezer before scooping.

      

    Comments

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