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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 Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Waffle Bowls (Ice Cream Cone Cups)

strawberry-sundae-cup-230

Strawberry sundae in a cone cup. Photo
courtesy Joy Cone Co.

 

Can’t decide between a cup of ice cream or a cone? Have two in one with a cone cup, a.k.a. waffle bowl.

Perfect for customers who have trouble deciding whether they want their ice cream served in a cone or a dish, this waffle bowl from Joy Cone Company offers the best of both worlds!

Joy, world’s largest ice cream cone company, has been family owned and operated since 1918. It’s proof that you can be the biggest and still turn out a top-quality product.

The cones and cone cups are made with a blend of cake and pastry flours that produce a light-tasting cone with subtly sweet taste that does not overpower the ice cream—and can be used for savory recipes as well.

The waffle bowl uses the same batter as the company’s waffle cone. Dark brown sugar is used in the recipe. Many other brands, says Joy, use white or liquid sugar with added molasses, which gives a burnt aftertaste when compared to Joy’s recipe.

Beyond sundaes, you can use these bowls for numerous sweet and savory recipes. The sturdy waffle bowl does not get soggy.

 
Sweet Foods & Snacks In Waffle Bowls

  • Apple pie a la mode: vanilla ice cream topped with apple pie filling
  • Custard, mousse, pudding, yogurt
  • Frozen yogurt, ice cream, sorbet
  • Fruit: grapes, fruit salad, apple slices and dip
  • Lemon meringue pie: prepared lemon pie filling and meringue topping
  • Oatmeal and other cereal
  • Snack cups filled with trail mix, candy corn, whatever
  •  

    Nonsweet Foods In Waffle Bowls

  • Asian chicken salad
  • Carrot salad, broccoli carrot slaw, apple slaw
  • Chicken salad with grapes
  • Crudités and dip
  • Shrimp salad
  •  
    Let your creativity be your guide.

    Here’s a store locator for the waffle bowls.

    ICE CREAM CONE HISTORY

    Most sources, including the International Dairy Foods Association, say that the first ice cream cone was produced in New York City in 1896 by Italo Marchiony. An Italian immigrant, he was granted a patent in December 1903 for “small pastry cups with sloping sides.” The bottoms were flat, not conical, much like today’s molded cones.

     

    broccoli-salad-230

    Broccoli salad, one of numerous savory salads that can be served in waffle cups. Photo courtesy Joy Cone Co.

     

    Another story cites an independent creation accidentally born at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. According to the story, Ernest A. Hamwi, a Syrian concessionaire, was selling a crisp, waffle-like pastry called zalabia*; as were other concessionaires. A neighboring ice cream vendor ran out of clean glass dishes. Hamwi rolled one of his waffles into the shape of a cornucopia; the fresh-made “cone” cooled in a few seconds and the ice cream vendor was able to put a scoop of ice cream in it. Three different ice cream vendors claimed credit. In a 1928 letter to the Ice Cream Trade Journal, Hamwi reported that it was either Arnold Fornachou or Charles Menches who ran the ice cream booth next to him.

    Others also lay claim. But while the ice cream cone was popularized in America, it was not invented here.

    Robin J. Weir, co-author of the book, Frozen Desserts, has spent years researching this topic. He purchased a print dated 1807 of a young woman eating an ice cream cone at the Gardens Of Frascati, a Parisian café known for its ices. Was it glass or edible? It’s hard to tell. An 1820 print of an ice cream seller in Naples shows glass cones on his cart.

    This is a story shrouded in the mists of history—and the real answer may still be out there. Here’s more about the invention of the ice cream cone.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Easy Appetizer Napoleons

    mushroom-avocado-napoleons-calavocomm-230

    Avocado-portabella napoleon with lavash
    layers. Photo © Delicious Knowledge |
    California Avocado Commission

     

    When most of us think of napoleons, we think of a mille-feuille (millefoglie in Italian), filled with custard.

    Mille-feuille means “thousand leaves,” three rectangular sheets of puff pastry spread with Bavarian cream, pastry cream, whipped cream, custard, jam or fruit purée, often dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and cut into individual rectangular portions. When filled with custard and iced with chocolate, the pastry is called a napoleon.

    But there are savory napoleons too. And in this recipe by Alexandra Caspero | Redux Recipe for the California Avocado Commission, they’re a lot easier to make than their pastry counterparts.

    Instead of using the tricky puff pastry or phyllo, this recipe uses lavash, the Middle Eastern flatbread. You can substitute another soft flatbread, such as a tortilla.

    Napoleon History

    The mille-feuille is most likely a descendant of layered phyllo pastries like baklava. It is believed that the napoleon, and mille-feuille pastry, was developed by the great chef Antoine Carême. See mille-feuille. Three layers of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) are filled with pastry cream and iced with fondant.

     
    An “American napoleon” has a heavily marbleized chocolate and vanilla fondant top, looking more like Jackson Pollack than the neat French napoleon. An “Italian napoleon” adds layers of rum-soaked sponge cake. Some variations layer fruit, such as raspberries, in the pastry cream.

    Food fact: The napoleon pastry was not named after France’s famous general and emperor. The name is believed to be a corruption of the word “napolitain” (napolitano in Italian), referring to a pastry made in the tradition of Naples, Italy.

    RECIPE: VEGETABLE NAPOLEON APPETIZERS

    This stack of grilled portabella mushrooms and creamy avocados layered between crispy lavash with a lemon-basil mayo, is a delicious vegetarian appetizer or a fancy snack.

    You can vary the vegetables.

  • For the mushroom: summer squash, zucchini or other grilled vegetable(s)
  • For the avocado: onion, tomato
  • For the spinach: arugula, watercress,
  •  

    You can also add another element or two; for example, thinly-sliced cucumber (plain or marinated) or sprouts.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 portabella mushroom cap*, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large ripe avocado (about 8 ounces), peeled, seeded and
    sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ½ lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chiffonade (thinly strips)
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 whole-wheat lavash wrap, cut into 6 equal pieces (substitute tortillas or other flavorful wraps)
  •  

    portabella-burpee-230

    Portabella mushroom caps. Photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Lightly rub olive oil into mushroom slices, season with salt/pepper or all-purpose seasoning. When pan is hot, add mushroom slices and grill 3-4 minutes per side, until slightly charred. Remove from grill and set aside.

    2. ADD the sliced lavash pieces to the grill and heat 1-2 minutes per side until crispy. Remove and set aside.

    3. MAKE the lemon-basil mayonnaise: Combine the mayo, lemon juice, zest, and sliced basil.

    4. ASSEMBLE: Spread the mayonnaise on 4 slices of lavash bread. Stack with avocado slices, spinach and mushrooms. Top with a piece of lavash without spread. Add another layer of avocado, spinach, mushroom. Top with the final piece of lavash, spread side down.

     
    *Reserve the stems for an omelet or scramble, or slice for a salad.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Decipher Food Product Labels

    How confusing is the verbiage on the front of a box, bag, jar or can of food? Actually, it can be pretty misleading. It’s called marketing: Companies want you to choose their product over the competition, so they do what they can to hype on their packaging (most purchase decisions are made at the “point of sale,” or when looking at options on the shelf).

    Hence, each word on the package can help make the sale—whether or not it’s providing accurate information to consumers.

    You’d think that with all of the federal regulations and those helpful nutrition labels, it would be easy to know what you are buy. But while the the nutrition label on the back of the package is all facts, we typically respond to what’s on the front. And it can be misleading.

    After we reported that products made by Newman’s Own Organics aren’t necessarily organic, we’re taking on these other confusions.

     
    WHOLE GRAINS: MULTIGRAIN VS. WHOLE GRAIN

    “Multigrain” may sound like it’s better for you, but it simply means that more than one type of grain is used. Bread flour can be a combination of wheat flour, cracked wheat and oat bran, for example; but none of these is a whole grain. It’s the same with “seven grain bread.” The blend may be flavorful, but that doesn’t mean any of the seven grains is whole grain.

       

    arnolds-multigrain-bread-loaf-230

    This loaf has some whole grain components—wheat bran, brown rice and oats (plus cane sugar, brown sugar and sucralose). But the main ingredient is still unbleached enriched wheat flour. Look for the seal of the Whole grains Association.

     

    If you’re looking for whole grain fiber and nutrition with your bread, breakfast cereal, crackers or pasta, be sure the product is all whole grain, or at least that a whole grain leads the list of grains.

  • “Wheat bread” is not whole grain; it must say “whole wheat.” All of what we call white bread is wheat bread (except gluten-free bread).
  • Wheat bran, which appears on some ingredients lists, is part of the whole wheat kernel, along with the endosperm and the germ. Each of these components has different nutrition benefits. Refined wheat flour with added wheat bran added isn’t enough; go for the whole wheat.
  • It’s the same with seeds—normally good additions to bread and crackers, but in such small amounts that they’re no substitute for a whole grain product. We saw one label touting “flax and grains”: What the heck does “grains” mean? It could mean seeds, or it could be marketing.
  • A dark brown color means nothing: It can be created with molasses. Pumpernickel is made from rye, a whole grain, but most commercial pumpernickel is made from refined flour. Look for 100% rye on the label.
  • “Enriched,” which appears on bags of white bread, is also misleading. Why is it enriched? Because refining the whole wheat flour into white flour removes most of the vitamins and minerals. Because bread is a key component of our diet, the government ordered some nutrients added back in!
  • Words like “healthy” or “nutritious” are just marketing: They mean whatever the manufacturer wants them to mean and have no official standing.
  • You can find gluten free breads made with brown rice flour or a blend of ingredients. Again, look for the words “100% whole grain” on the label.
  • “Organic” is better for you and the environment, but it doesn’t impact nutrition. It’s better to have non-organic whole grain bread than organic white bread.
  •  
    Here’s more on what is a whole grain.

     

    reduced-fat-feta-athena-230

    Cheese is delicious, but high in fat. So
    reduced fat cheese still has a lot of it. Photo
    courtesy Athena.

     

    FIBER

    On a related note, whole grains are an excellent source of fiber. Look to switch out refined white flour products—breads, crackers, breakfast cereals, pasta—to more nutritious versions.

  • The USDA designation “excellent source of fiber” means that there is at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • A product labeled “good source of fiber” needs at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • “Added fiber” needs to have only 10% more than a comparable product; but it that product doesn’t have much fiber to getin with, then “added” doesn’t mean much.
  •  
    FAT: REDUCED FAT VS. LOW FAT

    The USDA has a strict definition of low fat (also spelled lowfat): The product must have 3 grams or fewer per serving.

    To be called “reduced fat” a product must have at least 25% less fat than a regular version of the product (from the same manufacturer or a competitor). But that original product—cheese, for example—could be loaded with fat, so 25% less is still a lot of fat.

    Thus, go for low fat over reduced fat, but remember that reduced fat is still not “good for you” food.

     
    NITRATES: CURED VS. UNCURED

    Nitrites and nitrates are used to preserve processed meats, and to make them look better (pink bacon, ham and franks) and taste better. But they produce a carcinogenic substance, amines, when digested (here’s more on nitrates and nitrites).

    Even organic, uncured products still contain nitrates and nitrates—just less of them. Nitrates and nitrates exist naturally in plants and animals and even a naturally cured product, cured with celery powder or celery juice, will contain them. So for long-term health, the best course is to eat fewer cured meats.

     
    SODIUM: REDUCED SODIUM VS. LOW SODIUM

    The USDA requires that a product labeled “low sodium” contains 140 mg salt or less per serving. A reduced sodium product needs to be just 25% less than the regular version, which could be loaded.

    For example, a can of chicken noodle soup can have 1,622 mg of sodium. Twenty-five percent less than that is still a heck of a lot of salt.

    Fresh-packed, canned or frozen, processed foods are loaded with salt. Check the nutrition label and select products that have fewer than 500 grams per serving. Your daily recommended amount of sodium is less than 2400 mg. Here’s more on sodium from the FDA.
     
    SUGAR: SUGAR FREE VS. NO SUGAR ADDED

    These are typically products that use only the natural sweetener in the product—sugar free grape jam relying only on the grape sugar, for example—or use noncaloric sweeteners.

    “Sugar” refers to any sweetener, including agave, corn syrup, honey, molasses and all other nutritive sweeteners. (Nutritive sweeteners have nutritional value—they produce energy when metabolized by the body. They may or may not be refined.) Check out the different types of sweeteners, both nutritive and non-nutritive (i.e., produced in the lab).

  • Sugar Free means that the product has less than a half gram of sugar/serving. These are typically the products that use artificial sweeteners.
  • No Sugar Added could have no sugar added, but could have lots of natural sugar from sweeteners such as fruit concentrate, fruit juice or unsweetened applesauce.
     
    Neither of these options is better or worse than the other.
     
    FINAL TASK

    You’ve still got to look at the back of the package. Here’s how to read nutrition labels.

      

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Beer

    lindemans-pomme-lambic-230

    Not hard cider, but apple (pomme) lambic, a
    style of Belgian beer. Photo courtesy
    Lindemans.

     

    For a country so keen on fruity cocktails, we don’t drink much fruit beer. But summer is the perfect time for it, so plan to have a few before Labor Day.

    Fruit beers have been popular for centuries, beginning in Belgium, the country best known for them. Creative brewers there ignored the German Rheinheitsgebot, the “purity law” which specified that beer could only be made with three ingredients: barley, hops and water. (The law dates back to 1516; at the time no one knew that the yeast in the air was involved in the process. Yeast is, of course, the fourth ingredient.)

    Belgian lambic styles are produced in popular flavors like cherry (kriek), peach and raspberry. Traditionally, the fruit was fermented with the grain. Modern breweries may use flavored extracts as a shortcut to the finished product (and, not surprisingly, they don’t taste nearly as good). Check the label or online to find those brewed with real fruit.

    Today you can also find fruit beers in apple, apricot, banana, black currant, blueberry, strawberry and tangerine. But look for craft brews, as opposed to Bud Light’s Ritas line, flavored beers in Lime, Mango, Strawberry and Raspberry. They’re a different product entirely.

    Head to your best beer store and pull together a tasting of fruit beers, both domestic and imported. You may be able to find such tasty brews as:

  • Éphémère Blackcurrant Fruit Beer from Unibroue of Chambly, Quebec, Canada
  • Lindemans Pomme [Apple] Lambic, from Brouwerij Lindemans in Vlezenbeek, Belgium
  • #9 Not Quite Pale Ale, an apricot fruit beer from Magic Hat Brewing Company of South Burlington, Vermont
  • Peach Porch Lounger, a saison-style (farmhouse ale) beer from New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Raspberry Redemption Belgian-Style Dubbel, from Joseph James Brewing Company in Henderson, Nevada
  • Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Fruit Beer, from Melbourn Brothers All Saints Brewery of Stamford, Lincolnshire, England
  • Smashed Blueberry Fruit Beer, from Shipyard Brewing Company of Portland, Maine
  • Tangerine Wheat Fruit Beer, from Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, California
  • Three Philosophers Quadruple, from Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, New York
  • Wells Banana Bread English Bitter/Fruit Beer, from Wells & Young’s Brewing Company of Bedford, England
  •  
    HOW TO SERVE FRUIT BEER

    Fruit beers can quaffed as a refreshing cold drink, or paired with foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Consider:

  • Asian chicken salad
  • Brunch eggs, from a simple frittata to Eggs Benedict
  • Cheese courses
  • Chicken, duck or pork dishes made with fruits (apples, apricots, cherries, currants, prunes, etc.)
  • Dessert—fruit desserts, including pies and tarts; and of course, Belgian waffles
  • Shellfish—crab, lobster, plat de mer, scallops, shrimp and yesterday’s recipe for Moules Marinières, steamed mussels
  •  
    Let us know how you enjoy them.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat More Mussels (How About Mussels Marinière?)

    Today’s tip was inspired by a recent “Personal Health” column by Jane Brody in the New York Times called Relearning How To Eat Fish. Among other suggestions, the article urges that you expand your fish and seafood horizons, perhaps starting with a delicious bowl of good-for-you steamed mussels.

    Fish and shellfish are the most nutritious sources of animal protein, and while Americans have been learning to eat more fish and seafood, we should be eating much more of them.

    Yet, surprise of surprises, almost all of the delectable, nutritious fish caught in American waters is exported to other countries. Instead, a whopping 86% of the fish and seafood we consume is imported.

  • About one-third of all our wild catch is exported, while we choose to eat farmed fish and shrimp imported from countries like Chile, China and Thailand.
  • Almost all the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported, half of it farmed in Asia—mostly, says Brody, “under conditions that would ruin even the most voracious appetite.” (If you want to know more, search for any article on shrimp farming in Asia).
  • Shrimp is the favorite seafood in the U.S. But the shrimp we eat farms in Asia have been swept by bacterial and viral infections. When a site becomes unusable, shrimp farmers simply move on, destroying more miles of mangrove along the shore and wrecking habitats for all manner of wildlife, including spawning fish.
  •    

    jumbo-tiger-shrimp-caviarrusse-230

    No matter how much you love shrimp, unless you’re buying from a top restaurant or fishmonger, you may wish to switch to mussels. Photo of premium tiger shrimp courtesy Caviar Russe.

     

    The world’s population consumes some 170 billion pounds of wild-caught fish and seafood per year, caught in oceans, rivers and lakes. If everyone were to eat at least two servings of fish a week, as nutritional guidelines suggest, we’d need 60 billion more pounds per year to meet the demand.

    Hence, fish farming is here to stay, along with, more than a few cases, its negative environmental impact and less than sanitary conditions.

    EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS

    The most popular fish in the U.S. are salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna; shrimp, at the top of the seafood list, is by far the most popular shellfish.

    Other species have all but disappeared from restaurant menus and supermarkets. Remember that supermarkets and restaurateurs offer what is most likely to sell. So you may have to head to a fishmonger to transition to diversity of choice. Brody suggests:

  • For salmon, substitute other oily fish such as anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, and sardines.
  • For the overfished and declining cod, take a look at Alaskan pollock, the fish used to make fish sticks, fast-food fish sandwiches and the “crab leg” of California rolls.
  • Keep an eye out for different varieties—abalone or orange roughy, for example. It’s easy to look online for delicious ways to prepare them.
  • Enjoy mussels, as often as you like.
  •  
    INVITE MUSSELS TO THE DINNER TABLE

    In an ideal world, says Brody, mussels would replace shrimp as America’s favorite shellfish.

    Like other bivalves (clams, cockles, mussels, oysters and scallops), mussels are filter feeders that cleanse the water they live in. In the process, they gain valuable omega-3 fatty acids from the algae they consume. And, in drastic opposition to shrimp, they are nearly always sold from hygienically farmed stock.

    Mussels are also low in calories, and much lower in cholesterol than shrimp and squid. And they’re easy to cook, steamed in easy preparations like Mussels Marinière (recipe below), steamed in white wine, Mussels Provençal with tomatoes, garlic and herbs, or Mussels Marinara, similar to Provençal but with oregano. Add some chili flakes and you’ve got a spicy Mussels Fra Diavolo.

     

    mussels-fried-moules-frites-duplexonthird-230

    A bowl of steamed mussels. Photo courtesy
    Duplex On Third | L.A.

     

    To see how easy it is to enjoy a pot of mussels, here’s the classic recipe for Moules à la Marinière from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck.

    It is typically enjoyed with baguette croutons, and served with sides of green salad and frites. Pair it with your favorite white wine (we’re partial to a Sancerre or a Sauvignon Blanc with this dish).

    RECIPE: MOULES À LA MARINIÈRE, STEAMED MUSSELS

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 quarts (3 pounds) mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (substitute scallions or leeks)
  • 4 parsley sprigs, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley for garnish
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 baguette, in 1/2-inch slices, drizzled with olive oil and toasted
  •  

    Preparation

    1. DISCARD any raw mussels that are open or have cracked shells. Open shells indicate a dead mussel, cracks in shells foster bacteria. Similarly, discard any mussels that don’t open after steaming.

    2. WHISK together the flour and water in a large mixing bowl. Add the cleaned mussels, adding more water as needed to cover the mussels. Soak at least 30 minutes so the mussels can disgorge any sand or grit.

    3. BRING the wine, minced shallots, parsley sprigs, bay leaf, thyme, pepper, and butter to a simmer in a large stockpot ((6 quarts or more) over high heat. Meanwhile…

    4. DRAIN the mussels from the flour water liquid and rinse thoroughly. Add to the stockpot, cover with the lid and continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the majority of the mussel shells have opened. Shake the pot vigorously from time to time, to ensure that the mussels cook evenly. While the mussels are cooking…

    5. DRIZZLE or brush the baguette slices with olive oil and toast them.

    5. SCOOOP the mussels in shallow soup or pasta bowls; ladle the broth on top. Garnish with minced parsley, and serve with the baguette croutons.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eggplant, Three Ways

    From noodle-free lasagna to vegetable soup or gumbo to a goat cheese and eggplant sandwich, eggplant is a versatile ingredient. It can find its way into caponata*, casseroles, dips, mixed grilled veggies, pasta dishes, stews and more.

    Eggplant is low in calories and fat, while boasting a high fiber content. While available year-round, summer is peak harvesting time for the familiar purple “globe” eggplant, so the prices are the best. Look for shiny, smooth skin that isn’t wrinkled or dimpled.

    Executive Chef Tom Leo of Grecian Delight, producer of delicious Mediterranean specialties, shares his tips for perfecting eggplant preparation, plus a delectable baba ganoush recipe.
     
    *A Sicilian dish of eggplant, tomatoes, capers, pine nuts and basil, usually served as a side dish or relish.

    RECIPE: SIMPLE ROASTED EGGPLANT

    Oven roasted eggplant requires only a few ingredients and simple steps to deliver a rich, smoky flavor.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, oregano, parsley etc.
  •    

    roast-eggplant-Elena_Danileiko-230

    Simple roasted eggplant. Dress it up with tomato sauce and cheese. Photo by Elena Danileiko | IST.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. While the oven is heating, trim the stem and the bottom off of the eggplant and cut it in half, lengthwise.

    2. SCORE the flesh of the eggplant, but not all the way through to the skin. Brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 30-40, minutes depending on the size. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

    3. SEASON with salt, pepper, oregano or other favorite spices and herbs. Optionally drizzle with a bit of olive oil or top with crumbled feta, goat cheese or an Italian grating cheese. Or, top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan for Eggplant Parmesan.
     
    RECIPE: EASY GRILLED EGGPLANT

    The optional yogurt mint sauce can be made two days in advance.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, oregano, parsley etc.
  •  
    For The Yogurt-Mint Sauce

  • 7 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 6 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  

    homemade  Baba Ghanoush

    Babaganoush, one of our favorite dips. Photo
    © Fanfo | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the yogurt sauce (recipe below).

    2. TRIM the eggplant by cutting off the stem and bottom, then cut the eggplant into thick, one-inch slices.

    3. SEASON the slices with a generous amount of salt and place them on a paper towel-lined sheet or colander for 30 minutes. This is to draw moisture out of the eggplant. Rinse and pat dry.

    4. COAT the sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side. Top with a refreshing yogurt and mint sauce or enjoy it on its own.
     
    Preparation: Yogurt Mint Sauce

    1. COMBINE the green onions, mint, dill, red pepper flakes, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor and puree until into a coarse paste.

    2. ADD the yogurt, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined.

    3. TRANSFER to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

     

    RECIPE: PURÉED EGGPLANT DIP, BABAGANOUSH

    Babaganoush (pronounced baba-gah-NOOSH) is hummus’ eggplant cousin, a creamy spread based on eggplant instead of chickpeas. It can be used as a dip or spread, and added to sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: chopped parsley
  • Pita, crackers, crudités, etc.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ROAST a whole eggplant (about 1 pound) at 450°F: Prick in several places with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet; bake for 20 minutes and let cool.

    2. CUT the eggplant in half lengthwise, drain off the liquid and scoop the pulp into a food processor. Process until smooth and transfer to a bowl.

    3. COMBINE the garlic and salt until a paste forms; add to the eggplant along with the parsley, tahini and lemon juice. Season to taste.

    4. GARNISH with optional chopped parsley and serve with fresh or toasted pita wedges, pita chips, crackers and/or crudités.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Buy Silly Kitchen Gadgets

    grape-cutter-230

    A special gadget slices grapes in half. A
    better gadget: a sharp knife and a cutting
    board. Photo courtesy OXO.

     

    We have the greatest respect for OXO Good Grips. They, and other manufacturers, produce kitchen gadgets that make food preparation easier.

    But some work better than others. We had great hopes for the mango splitter we purchased; it didn’t work and was promptly donated to Goodwill. While peeling mangoes is a pain, it’s still easier to use a knife and a vegetable peeler.

    Then, starting with the guacamole masher—a device made by Amco and other companies—as well as the separate OXO avocado slicer, without the mashing component, we began to wonder what was going on in the invention of new kitchen gadgets.

    They seemed to be unnecessary—drawer-clutterers that didn’t do any better job than the standard gadgets we already have. Yet, manufacturers won’t make these gadgets unless consumers will buy them.

    With the Caprese salad maker—a tomato and mozzarella slicer from Jed Mart, and another from Rösle—we noticed that things were getting out of hand. If you can’t evenly slice a mozzarella cheese or a tomato, you simply need to practice with a knife.

    A corn stripper/shucker? Don’t even think of it: Some ears of corn are simply too plump to fit through the one-size-does-not-fit-all kernel remover. Here’s how we cut corn kernels from the cob.

     

    The Basics Work Best

    We can’t imagine who would buy gadgets like these, because everyone we know who prepares food at home knows how to hold a knife and slice.

    And that’s all you need: a good knife and a cutting board. So today’s tip is: Please, save your money!

    The gadget that inspired today’s tip is the OXO Good Grips Grape and Small Tomato Slicing Guide (photo above).

    You fill the Guide (the container) with up to 1 cup of grapes, grape tomatoes, or other small fruits like kumquats, pitted cherries or pitted olives.

    Seriously: one cup of grapes or tomatoes? That’s not very much to slice by hand. A sharp kitchen knife will slice them faster and better.

    While we haven’t tried it (we’ve tried too many new-fangled gadgets, with no success), we opine that in the time it takes to load, slice, remove and clean the container, you can slice the grapes on a cutting board with your kitchen knife.

     

    Stop The Insanity

    The next time you’re tempted by a nifty-looking kitchen gadget, ask yourself:

    Will a sharp knife do as well? Then sharpen your knives, or treat yourself to a new paring knife if you must buy something.

    And don’t buy cheap knives: The edge isn’t great to start with, and will dull quickly. It’s no bargain.
     
    The Grand Finale

    A couple of months ago we received this pitch: “Nik of Time, Inc., introduces PantryChic™—a sleek and modern kitchen appliance line designed for precise ingredient measuring and simplified food preparation through its intuitive and innovative engineering. PantryChic promises to re-introduce families to the joy of baking, cooking and sharing a meal by addressing some of the tedious preparation steps to save time and allow for better more consistent results.”

    As you can see in the photo, this comprises a canister on a stand, that you place over a base with a mixing bowl. You dial the amount of flour or other ingredient and it is dispensed into the bowl.

     

    canisters-pantrychic-230

    Does this look like a better option for your kitchen? Photo courtesy Pantrychic.

     

    Seriously once more: Is this an improvement over a conventional canister and a measuring cup? Have we gotten to the point where we can’t scoop and measure with a spatula and achieve “consistent results?”

    And, as the company claims, will this “re-introduce families to the joy of baking?”

    Perhaps we just don’t get it, but you can find out more at PantryChic.com.

    MORE KITCHEN GADGETS TO AVOID.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tataki, Plus Salmon Tataki Salad

    tuna-tataki-seared-haru-230

    Tataki means briefly seared. Photo of tuna
    tataki courtesy Haru | NYC.

     

    Tataki, also called tosa-mi, is a Japanese style of preparing fish or meat. The protein is seared very briefly over a hot flame or in a pan, briefly marinated in rice vinegar, sliced thinly and served chilled or at room temperature.

    The traditional presentation includes garnishes of thinly sliced scallions and finely shredded ginger, with soy sauce for dipping.

    The word “tataki,” meaning “pounded,” actually refers to the ginger condiment: It was originally pounded with a mortar and pestle. While some still prepare it that way, modern cooks can choose to purée it in a food processor or grate it with a zester or other fine grater.

    The port of Nagasaki was the first point of entry for foreigners in feudal Japan. Legend says that tataki was developed by Sakamoto Ryoma, a 19th-century samurai, who picked up the European technique of grilling meat from the foreigners in that city.

    In feudal times, bonito (skipjack tuna) was the preferred fish for tataki. Although bonito is still frequently used in Japan, in modern times, ahi tuna and salmon have taken over in popularity. [Source: WiseGeek] Beef, typically filet mignon or sirloin strip, is also be prepared tataki-style.

     

    RECIPE: FISH OR BEEF TATAKI

    1. CUT the fish or beef into thick pieces. Marinate in rice vinegar or mirin (a low-alcohol rice wine).

    2. SEAR each side for five seconds over an open flame or pan-sear on a stovetop burner. The grill or pan should be very hot, and the meat or fish should be quickly seared on all sides to cook only the outer surface, leaving the flesh raw.

    3. COOL the protein in a bowl of ice water; remove, pat dry and thinly slice for serving.
     

    Dipping Sauce

    1. COMBINE equal amounts of soy sauce and rice vinegar, or to taste. Add finely sliced or minced green onion (scallion).

    2. SEASON as desired with grated ginger (you can substitute wasabi).
     
    RECIPE: SALMON TATAKI SALAD

    You don’t have to go to Nobu in Los Angeles to enjoy this delicious salmon tataki salad. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Nobu Magazine, previously published in the Nobu West cookbook:

    “The Salmon Tataki with Paper Thin Salad is a work of art,” says Nobu. “Incorporating skillfully sliced vegetables and seared salmon, this dish is light and flavorful. With a little help from a mandolin slicer and fresh ingredients, you can impress dinner guests with a beautiful and delicious meal.”

     

    As with sushi or beef tartare, the fish or meat needs to be extremely fresh. Asian specialty stores sell frozen tataki fish slices. Vacuum packed and frozen immediately for freshness, they can be a lot more affordable than fresh tuna and salmon.

    Ingredients For 1 Or 2 Servings

  • 7 ounces boneless, skinless fresh salmon fillets
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Jalapeño dressing (recipe below)
  • 2 baby beets
  • 2 baby carrots
  • 2 baby green zucchini
  • 2 baby turnips
  • 4 red radishes (watermelon radishes are ideal)
  • Bowls of ice water
  •  

    salmon-tataki-nobu-3

    This salmon tataki salad is easy to make. Photo courtesy Nobu Magazine.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT a nonstick skillet until medium-hot. Season the salmon fillets with black pepper, then sear them for 5 seconds on each side. Make sure the outside is completely seared and turns white. Immediately plunge the seared slices into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry with paper towels, then cover and refrigerate.

    2. PREPARE the salad: Keep the beets to one side. Slice the baby vegetable lengthwise very thinly (about 1/32 inch thick) on a mandolin grater, into a bowl of ice water. Leave them in the ice water for 1 hour; this will cause them to tighten up and become crunchy.

    3. REPEAT the same process with the beets, but place the slices in a separate bowl of water, to stop the color from running into other vegetables. Rinse until the water becomes clear; then add some ice to chill. You might want to wear disposable gloves for this, to prevent staining your hands.

    4. DRAIN the baby vegetables and the beets separately, then mix them together.

    5. POUR some of the dressing on the bottom of a serving dish, so it completely covers the bottom. Cut the chilled seared salmon into slices about 1/4 inch thick and arrange across the middle of the plate, then place the vegetable salad in the middle on top of the salmon.

     
    RECIPE: JALAPEÑO DRESSING

    Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño, seeded (you can substitute cilantro)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 6-1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PROCESS the jalapeño, salt, garlic, and vinegar in a food processor until well mixed and the jalapeño is finely chopped. Slowly add the grapeseed oil and process until well blended.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Turn Leftover Pasta Into Antipasto Salad

    antipasto-salad-melissas-230

    For lunch or a light dinner: antipasto salad.
    Photo courtesy Melissas.

     

    Turn your leftover pasta into an antipasto salad.

    You can boil the pasta from scratch, but whenever we make short cut pasta for a hot dish, we make extra for a cold pasta salad later in the week.

    You can customize the recipe with your favorite ingredients, and use up leftover peas and other veggies. With this recipe from Melissa’s The Great Pepper Cookbook, prep time is 30 minutes, total time 50 minutes.

    RECIPE: ANTIPASTO SALAD

    Ingredients For 12 Servings (1-1/4 Cups)

    For The Salad

  • 1 pound fusilli, rotini or other corkscrew pasta
  • 1/2 pound (about 2 cups) cooked ham, cubed
  • 5 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 4 ounces (3/4 cup) hard salami, cubed
  • 3 ounces pepperoni (3/4 cup), cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup pitted or stuffed green olives
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives (Kalamata or Picholine)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion or sweet onion, very thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional Garnishes

  • Pickled garlic
  • Pepperoncini pickled peppers
  • Sundried tomatoes, julienned, or fresh tomatoes (wedges or halved cherry tomatoes
  •  

     

    For The Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 seasoned rice vinegar or wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 sundried tomato, finely diced (about 1
    tablespoon)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or canola oil
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COOK pasta per package directions; drain, rinse with cold water and cool to room temperature.

    2. MAKE the vinaigrette. Combine all ingredients, except for the oil. Drizzle in the oil while whisking, and continue to mix until well combined. Set aside.

    3. COMBINE the pasta with the remaining salad ingredients except optional garnishes; season with salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, toss with dressing and top with the garnishes.

    Here’s another antipasto salad recipe with a different set of ingredients.

     

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Be adventurous: Try different shapes like gemelli (juh-MELL-lee, meaning “twins”) instead of the more common fusilli in the photo above. Photo courtesy Barilla.

     

    WHAT IS SHORT CUT PASTA?

    Think of Italian pasta in these general categories:

  • Long Form Or Strand Pasta. This refers to any spaghetti-like that you can twist around your fork. These pastas are made in varying widths, from the thinnest angel hair to the plumpest bucatini. They can be round or flat (see ribbon pasta, next), solid or hollow, like bucatini.
  • Ribbon Pasta. A sub-category of long form pasta. These are the flat cuts: fettuccine, lasagne, linguine and tagliatelle, for example.
  • Short form pasta takes several forms:

  • Tubular Pasta. From tiny to jumbo, smooth or ridged (“rigati”), straight-cut or diagonally cut, this category includes elbows, manicotti, penne and rigatoni are well-known cuts. In this category, the seemingly same size pasta will have a different name if the ends are straight-cut versus diagonally cut—for example, penne, straight tubes cut on the diagonal, versus rigatoni, with square-cut ends.
  • Shaped Pasta. Farfalle (bow ties), fusilli (corkscrews), ruote (wagon wheels) are prominent examples. There are endless ways to twist and curl and shape pasta; hence, the hundreds of regional varieties.
  • Stuffed Pasta. This group includes agnolotti, mezzelune, ravioli, tortellini and “dumpling” pasta like gnocchi.
  •  
    See the different types of pasta in our Pasta Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Diet Ice Pops

    paletas-taza-2-230

    Turn diet soft drinks into ice pops. Photo
    courtesy Taza.

     

    Looking for something sweet, cool, and virtually non-caloric?

    You can buy sugar-free or no sugar added ice pops from Edy’s or Popsicle. Or, you can make your own from your favorite diet soft drink.

    It couldn’t be easier. Prep time is five minutes plus freezing time.

    RECIPE: DIET ICE POPS

    Ingredients

  • Diet soda, diet fruit beverage, tea (steeped to double strength, as with iced tea)
  • Ice pop molds
  • Optional: yogurt
  •  
    Preparation For 6 Ice Pops

    1. POUR 20 ounces of beverage into a large pitcher.

    2. POUR the mixture into the pop molds; freeze for 3 hours or until completely frozen.

     

    Variations

  • Tea. If you’re a tea fan, experiment with fruit teas, sweetened with noncaloric sweeteners or a bit of agave (which is twice as sweet as sugar or honey, so use half as much).
  • Mix-Ins. Add chopped fruit (fresh or frozen) or citrus zest; for example, diet raspberry soda with chopped raspberries or diet lemon-lime soda with lime zest.
  • Layers. Create layers of different flavors. Add the first flavor, freeze and add the next layer.
  • Yogurt. For a few extra calories, mix flavored, no sugar added yogurt with the beverage. Or, create a separate yogurt layer. We couldn’t find the No Sugar Added Creamsicles at our store, so we made our own with diet orange soda and vanilla yogurt.
  •  
    On a related note, you can also make flavored ice cubes by freezing your favorite diet beverage in an ice cube tray. Toss them into your drink instead of regular ice, and the melting cubes won’t dilute the flavor.

      

    Comments

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