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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,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Rice/Beans/Grains/Seeds

FOOD FUN: Bear In A Blanket

Who can resist this edible bear? Photo
courtesy LittleInspiration.com.

 

We love this brown rice bear in an omelet blanket. What a fun dinner idea for this quiet week, along with a colorful side salad. Have the kids help make it!

Bear in a Blanket was created by Angie Ramirez of LittleInspiration.com, who shares yummy food, easy DIY crafts, adventures of motherhood and everything in between on her blog.

The recipe takes only 20 minutes of prep time, 50 minutes of cook time.

RECIPE: BEAR IN A BLANKET

Ingredients For One Bear & Blanket

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 scrambled eggs (for the blanket)
  • Small, thin slices of cheese (for the ears and nose)
  • Small, thin slices of black olive (for the eyes and nose)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COOK brown rice on stove top as directed on package, or about 45-50 minutes.

    2. SCRAMBLE eggs with a pinch of salt over medium/high temperature in a lightly buttered skillet pan.

    3. ASSEMBLE the bear in a blanket: Place about 1/2 cup of rice in the middle of the plate to form the bear’s body. Then scoop a medium size ball of rice to form the head. To form the bear’s ears, use a small amount of rice by shaping it like a half circle. Place the omelet on top of the bear’s body to form the blanket. Attach the olive and cheese slivers to form his ears, nose and eyes.

    Serve to happy diners!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Quinoa Bar

    Last month we presented a series of tips to create exciting food bars for entertaining (links below). You can do smaller versions for the family dinner table.

    A few days ago, we discovered a delicious and nutritious quinoa bar at Fresh&Co., a fast-casual, seasonal and organic restaurant concept for health-conscious people who care as much about the quality as the taste. The company currently has eight locations in New York City. For menus and location information, visit:

    Quinoa is perhaps the most nutritious food on earth—a complete protein with more protein per serving than milk! So today’s tip is: for a healthy menu that’s fun and tasty, call on quinoa.

    Fresh&Co Executive Chef Jeremy Leech shared tips for creating a quinoa bar party at home (below); but here are the popular choices at the restaurant which provide a list of ingredients for your own quinoa bar:

     

    The Burrito Quinoa Bowl. Photo courtesy Fresh&Co | NYC.

     

  • Asian Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, smoked tofu, kale, daikon, red bell peppers, edamame, roasted brussels sprouts and scallions with sweet chili sauce
  • Bangkok Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, thai-spiced turkey, daikon, napa cabbage, carrots, broccoli, scallions and cilantro with soy ginger sauce
  • Burrito Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, roasted corn, tomatoes, kale, red beans, cilantro and tortilla strips with chipotle vinaigrette
  • Ginger Seitan Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, kale, kalamata olives, feta, tomatoes and chickpeas with roasted garlic vinaigrette, with grilled shrimp
  • Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, kale, seitan, white cabbage, carrots, daikon, broccoli, scallions, pickled ginger and cilantro with soy ginger sauce
  •  
    Chicken, smoked tofu, thai-spiced turkey and jumbo shrimp are options for any of the salads.

     

    The quinoa bar at Fresh&Co. Photo courtesy
    Fresh&Co | NYC.

     

    TIPS TO CREATE YOUR OWN QUINOA BAR

  • Use fresh and locally sourced products, whenever possible.
  • Have all your ingredients pre-cooked and prepped before guests arrive.
  • Provide a good variety of produce and meats.
  • Make vegans/vegetarians happy with a variety of fresh veggies, as well as some meat substitutes such as tofu or seitan.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw in less common ingredients, such as daikon and napa cabbage.
  • Offer a variety of vinaigrettes and sauces. Make or buy fun options such as chipotle vinaigrette, roasted garlic vinaigrette and sweet chili sauce.
  • Suggest combinations, like the ones served at Fresh&Co.
  •  
    ABOUT QUINOA

    High in the Andes Mountains, quinoa has been cultivated by the Incas for some 5,000 years. Along with corn and potatoes, it was the foundation of the Andean diet.

    Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wa or KEE-noo-ah, is an exceptionally nutritious supergrain (in fact, it’s the Quechua/Inca word for “mother grain” or “super grain”). It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain; it is not a member of the true grass family. Rather, it’s a broad-leafed, annual herb. The seeds—the part we eat*—are white, red or beige in color.

    Quinoa contains more protein—and higher-quality protein—than any other grain. A complete protein equivalent to milk, it contains all eight essential amino acids and a portfolio of vitamins and minerals: calcium, fiber, iron, lysine, magnesium, vitamins A, B and E and zinc. Everyone should eat more quinoa.

    Cooked quinoa is delicious and extremely versatile; it may be used in the place of almost any other grain, including rice, to make everything from appetizers to desserts (make quinoa pudding instead of rice pudding). It has a slight nutty flavor (red quinoa is the nuttiest), which makes it a good substitute for couscous or bulghur. It has a unique texture as well. When cooked, the thin germ circlet falls from the seed and remains crunchy while the pearly grain melts in the mouth.
     
    *The spinach-like leaves are equally nutritious and tasty, but they are rarely found outside of their growing area.

     
    MORE FOOD BAR IDEAS

  • Breakfast & Brunch Food Bars
  • Lunch & Dinner Food Bars
  • Dessert Food Bar Ideas
  • Drinks & Snacks Food Bar Ideas
  •   

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Electric Rice Cooker

    The more sophisticated rice cookers double as
    slow cookers. Photo courtesy Blendworx.

     

    An electric rice cooker can make fluffy, light, perfect rice every time, without the stove top mess-ups that some people encounter when trying to cook rice.

    You don’t have to lower the flame and watch that the water doesn’t boil over. Just add rice, water and salt, set the dials and walk away until it’s time to serve the rice.

    The rice cooker can cook other grains as well. So if your goal is to pack more fiber and nutrition via barley, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains, consider adding a rice cooker to your countertop.

    Thanks to USARice.com and Blendworx.com for some of these tips.

     
    CHOOSING A RICE COOKER

    You can find an electric rice cooker for under $20, or a superpremium Zojirushi model for $150 or more (take a look at this beauty). You’ve got decisions to make, starting with capacity. Size: Is a a four-cup rice cooker enough, or do you want the option to make 10 cups? Then, consider your other options:

  • Slow Cooker: Some rice cookers double as slow cookers—a great idea. You can also use them to make soups, stews, breakfast cereals, even desserts.
  • Keep Warm Function: Rather than turning off, the rice cooker will switch to a lower temperature after cooking to keep the rice warm and moist until serving.
  • Steam Tray: A useful attachment that fits over the rice to simultaneously steam fish, meat and/or vegetables.
  • Delay Timer: You can program it in the morning so the rice is ready to eat when you return from work.
  •  

  • Brown Rice/Sushi Rice: An option to cook rice longer.
  • Fuzzy Logic/Smart Logic: A microprocessor senses and adjusts the amount and type of rice to generate the right amount of heat at varying points in the cooking cycle. These tend to be the best rated and most expensive rice cookers, and are ideal for people who enjoy different varieties of rice.
  •  
    Other rice cooker features include slow cook, quick-cook (a cooking cycle that bypasses the soak stage for faster rice), cake “baking” functions and more.
     
    MEASURING RICE FOR A RICE COOKER

    The rice cooker includes a measuring cup that conforms to rice cooker industry standards. Different from U.S. cooking standards, it measures 180 ml or about ¾ cup.

     

    Advanced rice cookers can make conventional white rice, brown rice, sushi rice and more. Photo courtesy Zojirushi.

     

    If your recipe does not call specifically to measure a “rice cooker cup,” you may need to adjust your recipe accordingly.
     
    TYPES OF RICE

    How many different types of rice have you had? Check out our rice Glossary and discover some new options.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook Beans

    Beans are delicious, beans are healthful, beans are inexpensive protein, and we should all eat more beans.

    That’s beans made from scratch, not canned beans, which have a lot of sodium and a mushier texture. (But, let us hastily add: It’s better to eat canned beans than no beans).

    Beans can be added to green salads, served as sides with everything from breakfast eggs to dinner meats. They purée beautifully into dips (try this white bean dip recipe or this white bean bruschetta).

    But some people have trouble cooking beans. Here are tips from Steve Sando, proprietor of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food. Steve scours the Americas for the finest small-batch, artisan beans. Some are so beautiful, you just want to keep them as decoration in glass jars.

    SOAKING THE BEANS

    If your beans are taking forever and a day to cook, the first question to ask is whether you are soaking them or not. A good soak should last from four to eight hours or overnight.

    Soaking rehydrates the beans, which begin to lose their moisture as soon as they are harvested.

     

    Chili with beans. Photo courtesy Ninja Kitchen.

     
    Fresh-harvested beans can be cooked without soaking. Otherwise, you need to reintroduce moisture so the beans will cook faster. When rehydrated, the beans will double in size.

    Some people have a magical situation where they don’t need to soak their beans, yet they still cook in a reasonable amount of time. But if you have planned ahead and have the time, by all means soak your beans. In addition, soaked beans generally have a more pleasant texture when cooked.

    The big question is whether or not to change the soaking water prior to cooking. Old timers insist on changing the water, which gets rid of the water-soluble oligosaccharides that can cause gas.

    But you are also tossing out vitamins, minerals and pigments. As Harold McGee says in his seminal work, On Food and Cooking, “That’s a high price to pay.” If gas is really an issue (and from what we hear, and we hear it all, it isn’t), try cooking your beans for longer—or pick up some Beano.

     

    Warm Tuscan white bean salad with lemon-
    vinaigrette. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy
    McCormick.com.

     

    THE INITIAL RAPID BOIL

    More than anything, advises Steve Sando, this is the key to how long beans cook. Whether you are using the soaking water, new water, aromatic broth or some combination, you want to bring the beans and liquid to a full-on boil.

    Then, boil for 10 minutes (15 minutes for big, starchy beans or varieties known to take a long time to cook). Then turn the heat to low and allow the beans to cook at a very gentle simmer.

    After one hour, check the beans for doneness. Depending on age, size and variety, beans can take anywhere from an hour to three hours to cook through. Add more water as needed to keep an inch of water on top of the beans; stir occasionally.

    Low and slow is the way to go. If you’re short on time, you can increase the heat to a gentle boil, but you will compromise the texture of the beans.

     

    TROUBLE SHOOTING

    Salt: If you’re having persistent trouble getting your beans to cooking, refrain from adding salt or acids until the beans are soft. It may be an old wives’ tale, but it helps some people.The best time to add the salt is when the beans are al dente.

    Adding baking soda: The alkaline in baking soda can help break down tough beans, but it can also make the beans feel slimy or soapy. Steve doesn’t recommend it, but does suggest Sal Mixteca (Mixteca salt), which is naturally high in bicarbonates that will actually soften your beans. Just a bit at the beginning of cooking will speed things up if you’re having trouble. It’s like the old trick of adding baking soda, but without the off taste and texture.

    Water: The problem might be your water, if you have especially hard water. The solution: Buy a water filtration system (like Brita) and use the filtered water for soaking and cooking.

    EASY RECIPE: BEANS ON TOAST

    Readers of British mysteries will find frequent mentions of “beans on toast,” a common breakfast, lunch or dinner item.

    “I’ve heard that the British love beans on toast, only it’s usually canned beans [in tomato sauce] on plebian white toast,” says Steve Sando. “Here’s my version:”

  • Toast a piece of rustic bread and lightly butter it.
  • Generously pile on hot cooked beans. Any good bean will do, including leftovers.
  • Finally, drizzle the finest olive oil over them.
  •  
    Finish with herbs or other seasoning, from diced onions to shaved Parmesan cheese or sliced sausage. Serve with a side of pickles.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Amaranth, The Grain Of The Future

    Following yesterday’s recommendation of four uncommon whole grains, we received several queries about amaranth.

    Amaranth is planted worldwide, harvested for cereal and leaf vegetables, and used as ornamental plants. It has been cultivated for 8,000 years.

    There are some 60 species, tall plants with foliage ranging from purple and red to green or gold. Like buckwheat and quinoa, amaranth is not a grain but a pseudograin. The difference: True cereals are grasses, pseudocereals are broadleaf plants. Their overall nutrient profile is similar to that of cereals, and they are similarly utilized in cooking.

    The seeds of pseudograins (analogous to the grains of cereals) can be cooked whole or ground into flour, which in turn becomes cereal, goes into tortillas and other baked goods, and becomes snack food: made into candy and chips, popped and made into a bar mixed with honey, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

     

    Tiny beads of amaranth, the seeds of the plant. Photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill.

     
    Pseudocereals can be even more nutritious than grains: both amaranth and quinoa are whole proteins and gluten free.

    A whole protein contains all of the essential amino acids—like meat or milk, but actually a higher quality protein. Amaranth also contains significantly more calcium, iron, fiber, magnesium and protein than cereals like oats, rice, rye, sorghum and wheat.

    In fact, amaranth packs more protein than any other plant on earth; NASA selected it as part of its astronauts’ diets. The leaves Amaranth pack more calcium, iron and vitamin C and than spinach. It also can withstand the triple digit temperatures of climate change, which corn cannot.
     
    8,000 YEARS OF AMARANTH

    Amaranth was a staple grain of the pre-Colombian Aztec diet, along with corn (maize). But amaranth was banned by the Spanish conquistadors for its use in human sacrifice rituals. Corn went on to become a staple grain worldwide, while amaranth faded into obscurity in Mexico.

    It did, however, spread around the world: Both leaves and seeds became important food sources in areas of Africa, India and Nepal. In recent decades, amaranth it has spread to China, Nigeria, Russia and Thailand, and other parts of South America.

    And, it’s now grown in the U.S., in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New York (Long Island) and North Dakota.

    The plant, called “the crop of the future” by Science magazine in 1977, is finally making a comeback in Mexico thanks to two American philanthropists who are encouraging farmers to grow it. Mexico has the highest rate of adult obesity in the world, yet each year some 10,000 children die from malnutrition.*

     

    Amaranth cookies. Here’s the recipe. Photo ©
    ChocorrolDeVainilla.com.

     

    COOKING AMARANTH

    The flavor of amaranth flavor runs from light and nutty to lively and peppery. It’s a natural ingredient for breads, cookies, crackers, muffins, pancakes and porridge. The cooked grains can be spread sprinkled on salads and soups.

    Cooking amaranth is very easy. As with cereal grains, simply boil with water and salt (6 cups of water per cup of amaranth) for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally; then drain, rinse and eat. The cooking liquid becomes thick and viscous from the starch released as the amaranth cooks.

    Cooked amaranth never loses its crunch completely. Chewing a spoonful of cooked amaranth grains has been compared to eating a spoonful of caviar: a slight pop on the surface and a soft inside.

     
    Try these recipes:

  • Popped Amaranth Crunch
  • Amaranth Polenta With Wild Mushrooms
  • Blueberry Amaranth Porridge
  • Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup
  • Oat and Amaranth-Crusted Ham and Cheese Quiche
  • Amaranth Banana Walnut Bread
  • Amaranth-Ginger Muffins
  •  
    *Ironically, these issues are linked: Childhood malnutrition makes children seven to eight times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult.

    Sources:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/devinthorpe/2013/06/26/amaranth-how-will-it-change-the-world/
    http://www.pri.org/stories/science/environment/mexicans-pushing-for-return-of-ancient-grain-amaranth-to-agriculture-14176.html
    http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Something New For National Whole Grains Month

    Just because it’s National Whole Grains Month doesn’t mean you have to flock to the brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Good as they are, why not try something new—something you might enjoy as much or more? Because whole grains are not only good for you; they’re delicious.

    Thousands of years ago, many more grains were cultivated; in modern times, the majority have fallen out of fashion. Yet, with focus on the important health benefits of whole grains and the recommended 3-5 servings daily, these largely-forgotten nutritional powerhouses call out for your attention.

    All of the ancient grains are very healthful and excellent sources of protein and dietary fiber. They’re a less expensive way to add high protein to your diet, with minimal fat. You may know farro, quinoa and other newly “discovered” ancient grains, but how about these four?

    1. Amaranth. Amaranth was first cultivated 8,000 years in Mesoamerica. Like quinoa, is actually a seed, not a grain. Like quinoa, it is a whole protein, containing all of the essential amino acids (the amino acid lysine is lacking in many grains); and is gluten free. Amaranth contains unusually high-quality protein and is higher in fiber than wheat, corn, rice, or soybeans. Use it place of corn grits in your polenta. Try this Amaranth Polenta with Wild Mushrooms recipe.

     

    Quinoa cakes with spinach, feta and lemon-dill yogurt sauce is a healthier take on spanakopita. Photo courtesy PaniniHappy.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    2. Kamut. Kamut is a trademarked term for khorasan wheat, an ancient relative of modern durum wheat. It originated in Egypt thousands of years ago. Legend says that Noah brought khorasan wheat on the ark, hence the nickname “Prophet’s Wheat.” The grain has inherent sweetness and a buttery taste; it also delivers iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc, plus 7 grams of protein per serving. Try using it in a vegetarian main course, such as Kamut Grain and Shiitake Risotto with Thyme.

     

    Banana bread made with teff. Here’s the
    recipe. Photo courtesy
    52KitchenAdventures.com.

     

    3. Millet. Millet was cultivated in China some 10,000 years ago, making it one of the earliest cultivated grains. It was revered in ancient China as one of five sacred crops*. Whole grain millet is a good source of protein, essential amino acids and fiber. Quick-cooking, easily digested and naturally gluten free, millet has a mild, sweet flavor and can be served in sweet or savory preparations. Try it as a hot breakfast cereal. Serve it as an alternative to rice in salads and stir-fries. Serve millet with a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper in place of mashed potatoes. Add a crunch to deviled eggs, salads and other recipes with toasted millet seeds (recipe). You can also add uncooked millet to breads for a crunchy texture and a hint of sweetness.

     

    4. Teff. Teff is an ancient North African cereal grass, and the smallest grain in the world. The germ and bran, where the nutrients are concentrated, account for a much larger volume of the seed compared to more familiar grains, which provides its “nutritional powerhouse” standing. One serving of whole grain teff averages 4 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of protein and nearly one quarter of our suggested daily calcium intake. Cook or bake with it: Here’s a delicious Apple and Pear Crisp made with teff.

    There’s more to consider, of course. Here’s a complete list of whole grains:

    Amaranth, barley (but not pearled barley), buckwheat (kasha), bulgur (cracked wheat), chia/Salba®†, corn (whole grain corn or cornmeal, yellow or white, but not grits), farro (emmer wheat), flaxseed, grano, hemp, Kamut® (khorasan wheat), millet, oats (oatmeal, whole or rolled oats), popcorn, quinoa, rice (black, brown, red, wild), rye (whole), spelt, sorghum, teff, triticale (a barley/wheat hybrid), whole wheat.

     
    *The list varies by source. The Classic of Rites, compiled by Confucius in the 6th century B.C.E., lists broomcorn, foxtail millet, hemp, soybeans and wheat.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Couscous Salad With Grilled Peaches

    Grilled peaches and shaved pecorino make
    this couscous salad very glamorous. Photo
    courtesy Stasty.com.

     

    Want something more sophisticated and whole grain? A salad that can be used as a side or a first course?

    Make a couscous salad. Here’s another delicious end-of-the-summer idea from a very delicious blog, Stasty. Thanks, Vicky!

    The pecorino cheese and salami strips add an Italian twist.

    RECIPE: COUSCOUS SALAD WITH GRILLED
    PEACHES

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 peach
  • 1 apricot
  • 1-1/4 pound/200 g dry couscous
  • 1 or more tablespoons chives to taste, finely chopped
  • Salami or substitute protein, chopped into thin strips
  • Pecorino cheese, shaved
  • 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar (substitute
    white wine vinegar)
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COOK the couscous. Shave Pecorino with a vegetable peeler.

    2. CUT the peach and apricot into segments and remove the stones. Brush with melted butter.

    3. HEAT a grill pan over high heat. Using tongs, place the fruit segments on the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, then turn and grill the other side. Once the fruit is nicely marked by the grill, remove with tongs and set aside on a plate.

    4. MIX the vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl; add salt and pepper to taste.

    5. MIX the the cooked couscous with the finely chopped chives, strips of salami and shaved Pecorino. Pour the dressing over the couscous and mix together with a fork. Place the couscous in a large serving dish and place the grilled stone fruit on top.

    Serve with a crisp white wine.

     

    Pecorino cheese and strips of salami add an Italian twist. Photo courtesy Stasty.com.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Substitute Tofu For Cream & Try This Dairy Free Chocolate Pudding Recipe

    Soft tofu can be turned into a substitute for
    heavy cream. Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    We learned from Japanese and Asian-influenced restaurants that you can have lush, creamy tofu-based desserts and not even notice there’s no cream. Substituting tofu for heavy cream helps to save calories and avoid cholesterol. It produces recipes that support kosher, lactose-free and vegan diets. It’s also less expensive than cream, and is available in organic and conventional varieties.

    Erin Dow of Guiding Stars shared how to make a heavy cream substitute from soft (silken) tofu.

    “Abstaining from heavy cream, regardless of the reason, can pose a serious challenge in the kitchen,” Erin notes. “Its thickening power, its silky rich mouth feel, and the flavor-balancing power of its fat content, are tough to replicate with plant-based alternatives. But for certain applications, a substitute made with silken tofu can help. The recipe is simple.”

     

    RECIPE: SOFT/SILKEN TOFU “HEAVY CREAM”

  • Combine one part silken tofu with one part liquid of your choice (see last two bullets) in a blender and process until smooth.
  • If desired, strain through a fine mesh strainer before using.
  • For sweet recipes, use coconut milk or unsweetened vanilla soy milk for the liquid. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla for every cup of cream you make.
  • For savory recipes, use almond or oat milk. They will help balance out the flavor without risking a curdled mess.
  •  
    Soft/silken tofu heavy cream is a great substitute for pastry creams and other desserts, quiches and chocolate truffles and for thinning out frostings and dips. Use it to add body to sauces, gravies and smoothies. Extra firm or firm tofu is used for scrambles, kabobs, stirfries and other mains.

     

    And pudding—chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, etc.: Tofu substitutes easily for cream. The following recipe is dairy free and cholesterol free. It’s a companion to the tofu chocolate mousse recipe we published last year for National Chocolate Mousse Day.

    It was created by Debi Mazar & Gabriele Corcos, hosts of Cooking Channel’s show “Extra Virgin.” Budino is the Italian word for pudding.

    RECIPE: TOFU CHOCOLATE BUDINO

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 package (14 ounces) soft/silken tofu
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  •  

    No cholesterol, no lactose. Photo courtesy Cooking Channel.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE sugar, water, and cocoa water in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cool slightly.

    2. MELT chocolate in a glass bowl set over a saucepan of lightly simmering water.

    3. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and purée until completely smooth. Divide the chocolate mixture among ramekins and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
     
    ABOUT TOFU

    Tofu was first created from soybeans more than 2,000 years ago in China. While lots of tofu and soy sauce are consumed, approximately 85% of the world’s soybean crop is processed into soybean meal and vegetable oil.

    In Japan, edamame (immature soybeans), miso (soybean paste), natto (fermented soybeans) and kinako (roasted soybean flour) are popular foods. Soy milk, tempeh and textured vegetable protein are increasing in popularity in the U.S.

    If you’re ingredient-conscious, look for organic tofu, made from sustainably grown, non-GMO soybeans. Commonly used tofu processing aids such as defoamers, bleaches and preservatives are not used in organic tofu.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Things To Do With Polenta Slices

    Stack slices of grilled polenta with your
    favorite fillings; here, crab salad and
    guacamole. Photo courtesy Costanero
    Cocoino Peruana.

     

    Polenta—which is both the Italian word for cornmeal and a cooked dish made from it—has become popular in America through Italian and Continental restaurants. But it’s not new to America. For the first two centuries of The United States, American diets contained much cornmeal—in bread, breakfast cereal and other recipes. It was gradually replaced by refined wheat flour.

    While corn itself is a whole grain, polenta is refined: It is degerminated cornmeal, with the germ and endosperm (which contain the fiber and other nutrition) removed. As with all refined grains——the majority of the grains we consume—the protein, iron and vitamins are left on the factory floor.

    But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a delicious addition to the table. We spotted this attractive starter at Costanero Cocoino Peruana, a Peruvian restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey. It reminded us of Caprese stacks, one of our favorite first courses to make with summer’s heirloom tomatoes (see photo below).

    You can make polenta from scratch, or buy it in rolls, available in most supermarkets. The latter makes it easy to create stacked appetizers and sides. It’s available in plain plus flavors such as basil-garlic and sundried tomato.

     

    STACKED POLENTA APPETIZER RECIPE

    The most time-consuming part of this recipe is deciding what to layer in-between the polenta slices. Tips: Select different colors, and check out your leftovers to see what could work. You can serve the stacks with a lightly-dressed frisée or mesclun salad.

    Ingredients

  • Polenta, three slices per serving
  • Pesto, remoulade, thousand island dressing or other sauce for garnish (match sauce to fillings)
  • Optional: fresh herbs for garnish
  •  
    Then, select two fillings:

  • Bacon, crumbled (variation: bacon and onions cooked in the bacon fat) or prosciutto
  • Carrot salad
  • Cheese: goat cheese, mozzarella or other favorite, preferably soft or semisoft
  • Crab, shrimp or other protein salad, finely chopped
  • Cranberry sauce or chutney
  • Giardiniera or marinated chopped vegetables
  • Guacamole or vegetable puree (broccoli, pea, red bell pepper or anything colorful)
  • Chicken, ham, turkey or other protein, diced (a great use for leftovers)
  • Herb-marinated mushrooms, finely chopped
  • Mashed potatoes—update the flavor with fresh chives, basil, or flavored olive oil
  • Sautéed or steamed spinach or kale, seasoned with garlic
  • Smoked salmon or other smoked fish
  • Spread of any kind
  • Anything else that appeals to you
  •  

     
    Preparation

    1. SLICE polenta into desired thickness; broil, fry or grill until edges become slightly crisp.

    2. TOP first polenta round with first filling and top with second polenta round. Use a spatula to make the filling flush with the edges of the polenta. Repeat with second filling and third polenta round.

    3. PLATE as desired, with pesto/sauce, fresh herbs and/or salad.

     
    MORE RECIPES

    There are two styles of polenta: creamy polenta, which is like cooked grits, and sliced polenta, in rounds or squares/rectangles. These recipes use rounds from purchased rolls of polenta. Start by slicing and grilling/frying the rounds.

    Breakfast

  • With maple syrup or topped with a fried egg.
  •  

    A vertical Caprese salad: tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. You can grow the beautiful opal basil here with seeds from BonniePlants.com, or buy it at a farmer’s market.

  • “Huevos rancheros” style, topped with cheese, a poached egg and salsa.
  •  
    Lunch, Dinner Or Sides

  • Topped with mushroom ragu.
  • On a bed of sautéed bell peppers, mushrooms and onions.
  • Topped with any kind of sauce or mix of leftovers: cubed ham, capers, whatever.
  • “Hash browns” or fries: Cut roll into fry-size planks,fry and dust them with grated parm Parmesan.
  • Breaded, fried and served with pesto or a dipping sauce.
  •  
    MORE POLENTA IDEAS

  • Polenta cookies (recipe)
  • Ratatouille With Crispy Polenta (recipe)
  • Smoked paprika Shrimp With Poblano Polenta (recipe)
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Tofu Fries

    A spin on fries: tofu and coconut. Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    Most people have had french fries in some or all of their variations*, sweet potato fries, zucchini fries, even yucca fries. But how about tofu fries?

    House Foods created this tasty recipe, which evokes coconut-battered shrimp:

    CRISPY COCONUT TOFU FRIES WITH SPICY
    APRICOT SAUCE

    Ingredients

    For Tofu Fries

  • 1 package (14 ounces) extra firm or super firm tofu, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  •  

    *French fries in all their shapes—crinkle, curly, shoestring, steak cut, thick-cut, wedges and others—and recipes such as cheese fries, chili fries, poutine, etc.

     

    For the Spicy Apricot Sauce

  • ½ cup apricot jam
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha† or other hot sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  
    †Sriracha is a hot chili sauce from Thailand. It is made from sun-ripened chile peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It can be found in the Asian aisle of some supermarkets, in Asian grocery stores and online.

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick baking spray.

     

    House Foods makes conventional tofu and organic varieties. Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    2. SLICE tofu crosswise into 4 slabs. Line a plate with several layers of paper towels, arrange tofu in a single layer on the plate, cover with more paper towels and then top with a second plate weighed down by a heavy pot. Set aside for about 15 minutes to dry out, then slice tofu slabs into 1/2” sticks.

    3. BEAT together eggs, salt, pepper and lime zest in shallow dish.

    4. MIX panko and coconut in a second shallow dish.

    5. DIP tofu in egg mixture, turning to coat; then toss in breading mixture pressing gently to help coating adhere.

    6. ARRANGE in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until crisp and golden, flipping the fries after 15 minutes.While the fries bake…

    7. MAKE the sauce by melting the apricot jam with the lime juice, sriracha and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Transfer to a bowl.

    8. SERVE the fries hot, with the warm sauce for dipping.

      

    Comments

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