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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: Try A Tian

Tian is an ancient Chinese term for the cosmos. But head west, and tian is a word from the old Provençal language of the south of France.

It’s an earthenware vessel used both for cooking and serving, and it’s also the name of the au gratin vegetable dish prepared in it.

The dish can be oval, rectangular, round or square. A more contemporary name is a gratin dish—a shallower casserole dish (the cassole is an earthenware vessel that originated in the Camargue and Languedoc regions of France).

In Provençal cuisine, sliced vegetables are layered in straight or circular rows, then topped with a light cloak of grated cheese and baked. The layering of different colored vegetables creates a very pretty dish. In fact, a Pyrex baking dish works even better to show off more of the layering.

 

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A popular tian trio: tomatoes, yellow squash and zucchini. We like to add onions. Photo courtesy ForTheLoveOfCooking.net.

 

MAKING A TIAN IS EASY

Like quiche, a tian can be served cold, hot or room temperature. With both plenty of flavor and visual appeal, tians are a nice buffet food and can also encourage your family to eat more veggies on a dull weekday night.

Tians also can be composed of layers one on top of the next, like a layered casserole or a seven-layer salad. It’s just as tasty, but not as attractive. It also allows the flexibility to include a layer of cooked ground meat (we like lamb), diced chicken or ham, hard-cooked eggs or tofu.

A traditional layered recipe is made with yellow beans, diced zucchini, sautéed onions and green beans. In addition to the cheese, a layer of breadcrumbs can be sprinkled on top.

 

tian-frenchfarm-230

Here, a mandoline was used to cut the yellow
squash and zucchini very thin. Photo
courtesy The French Farm.

 

This recipe is courtesy The French Farm, which used the Provençal brand of Moulin de la Brague herbes de Provence and olive oil.

RECIPE: VEGETABLE TIAN

Ingredients

  • 2 cups onions, sliced thin (use red onions for extra color)
  • 1 pound zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 pound eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1-1/4 pounds roma tomatoes (about 8)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (you can substitute Parmesan)
  • 4 ounces of extra virgin olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Brush a baking dish with olive oil.

    2. SLICE all the vegetables into even widths, using a mandolin or knife. Layer them, alternating colors, around the perimeter of the baking dish. Repeat until all of the vegetables have filled up the baking dish.

    3. SPRINKLE the minced shallots, garlic, salt, freshly ground black pepper and herbes de Provence over the top, and drizzle the olive oil.

    4. COVER the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes then uncover and bake for another 20 mintutes. when vegetables are tender, sprinkle the cheese on top, and broil until browned. let sit for 10 minutes before eating.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Leftover Ham Recipes

    white-bean-ham-soup-qvc-230

    Use leftover ham in a delicious bean soup.
    Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    You can just enjoy so many ham sandwiches and ham scrambles with the leftover Easter ham. Here are two recipes from QVC’s David Venable, that take a different approach.

    RECIPE: WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH HAM

    This recipe uses the ham bone, hock, or shanks.

    David comments, “Though it may officially be spring, there are still plenty of days that call for a recipe that takes out the chill. This broth-based soup is a great way to use leftover ham: It’s light enough for spring, but hearty enough to be filling.”

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry Great Northern beans*
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 meaty ham hock or 2-3 lbs of ham shanks
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups ham, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: fresh parsley
  •  
    *A mild, white, oval bean, similar to the white kidney bean.

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the beans, sorting out any that are broken or discolored.

    2. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and the beans and remove the pot from the heat. Let the beans sit in the hot water for at least 60 minutes.

    3. RETURN the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves in the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 60 more minutes.

    4. REMOVE the ham bone and discard. Stir in the chopped ham and simmer for 30 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley (if desired).

     

    RECIPE: SMOKED HAM & CHEDDAR HASH

    David advises, “This hash recipe works just as well with ham that hasn’t been smoked. Try serving it as a breakfast item by throwing some fried eggs on top. Like a little spice in your hash? Add some hot sauce to the pan!”

    Ingredients

  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked)
  • 6 cups smoked ham, diced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup coarse breadcrumbs (such as panko)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  •  

    smoked-ham-cheddar-hash-qvc-230

    Yummy smoked ham and Cheddar hash. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. In a large sauce pot, boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain the water and set aside.

    2. ADD the butter to a 10″ or larger, deep nonstick skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly colored.

    3. STIR in the paprika and ham. Add the broth, cream of mushroom soup and scallions. Stir well to combine and bring to a simmer.

    4. ADD the parboiled potatoes and stir carefully to evenly incorporate all ingredients. Season the hash, to taste, with salt and pepper.

    5. COMBINE the Cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the hash. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until evenly browned.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Purple Asparagus, White Asparagus

    It’s spring, it’s asparagus season, and your specialty produce purveyor just may have wondrous, fresh asparagus in the non-traditional colors of purple and white.

    Low in calories, asparagus is a good sourcs of folic acid, potassium, amino acids and dietary fiber. But people who love their flavor don’t always concern themselves with these details: They just want their spears blanched, grilled, raw, sautéed, steamed or otherwise prepared.

    All asparagus should be firm to the touch, with closed tips. The diameter of spear does not matter; the flavor remains the same.

    Asparagus will keep for up to seven days in the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp paper towel; but serve them promptly after purchase for the best flavor.

    WHITE ASPARAGUS

    White asparagus has always been considered a delicacy, not just for its color but because of the expense—often double that of green—which is a function of the extra effort required to grow it.

     

    3-colors-australianasparagusgrowers-230

    Asparagus lovers: look for fresh white and purple spears. Photo courtesy Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    The spears must be grown underground or in the dark, without exposure to sunlight. The sun engenders photosynthesis and the development of chlorophyll, which creates asparagus’ conventional green color.

    To keep them white, asparagus were conventionally grown by “hilling” the soil into a mound, the earth creating a barrier to light. As soon as the spear poked its head up from the mound, specialist workers would cut deep into the mound to harvest it. But “blind harvesting” increased the risk of injuring the spears.

    Modern growers now use black plastic “polyhouses” or “igloos” constructed over the crop to ensure that the spears are not exposed to sunlight. These white asparagus can be harvested above the ground cleanly and efficiently, without damaging the spears.

    White asparagus have a thicker outer layer that can be easily removed, if needed, with a vegetable peeler.

    Note that canned white asparagus are no more interesting than canned asparagus and most other canned vegetables. If you have a chance to purchase white asparagus, its wonderfully distinctive flavor will make the high price more palatable.

     

    white-loose-australianasparagusgrowers-230

    White asparagus can be double the price, but
    connoisseurs don’t mind paying. Photo
    courtesy Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    PURPLE ASPARAGUS

    Purple asparagus are larger, sweeter and tastier than the conventional green types of asparagus.

    The flesh is creamy white, like green asparagus. The purple skin color comes from the high levels of anthocyanins (potent antioxidants) in the spears.

    Purple asparagus have a lower fiber content than green or white asparagus, making the spears more tender. Even though the spears are thicker than green or white asparagus, the very bottom of the spear can be eaten (more for your money!).

    Alas, they turn a deep green-bronze color when cooked. So enjoy them raw in bean, green or grain salads; or as crudités with dip. Try blanching them or adding to stir-frys at the end of cooking, to see if you can maintain the color.

    [Source: Asparagus.com.au]
     
    PREPARING ASPARAGUS

    To peel or not to peel? We’ve never had the need to peel asparagus, but some cooks do so to ensure extra tenderness.

    Snap versus trim? Snapping off the white ends creates uneven spears. Use a knife to trim them.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegetable Medley With Color

    asparagus-carrots-lecreuset-SLT-230

    Asparagus and carrots in a Le Creuset dutch
    oven. Photo courtesy Sur La Table.

     

    The English word “asparagus” derives from the Latin sparagus, derived from the Greek asparagos, which itself derived from the Persian asparag, meaning sprout or shoot. The stalks shoot up from the crown of the plant and, if not harvested, the precious tips grow into fern-like leaves.

    That little tidbit is an introduction to asparagus season. If you’re an asparagus lover, it’s a great time: prices are lower and the flavor is better, since domestic asparagus get to market faster (Peruvian imports, for example, travel weeks by ship).

    Whether you’re looking for different ways to serve asparagus, or a way to cut down on the cost per portion, serve a medley—asparagus with one or two other vegetables.

    We were especially attracted to this handsome combination of asparagus and carrots from Sur La Table, with the carrots cut in lengths to match the shape of asparagus.

    But a memorable spring medley is the “big four” of spring: asparagus, garlic scapes, morel mushrooms and ramps (wild leeks).

    Otherwise, take a look at our list of vegetables by color, and pick your own medley.

    WHAT’S A MEDLEY?

    A medley is a mixture of different things: music, sports, vegetables, whatever. The word comes from the French medler to mix, which entered Middle English.

    A vegetable medley provides the opportunity to create more interest through blending flavors, colors and textures.

    You can grill, roast, sauté or steam your veggies—or enjoy them raw, as crudités with a dip.

    Most people believe that the finest texture and the taste come from the asparagus tips. They are called points d’amour (“love tips”) in French.

    But we enjoy the whole asparagus, including the texture of the stems. Just trim the white stem ends, which are tough.
     
    Asparagus Recipes

  • Asparagus Crostini With Pancetta & A Parmesan Crisp (recipe)
  • Asparagus & Grapefruit Salad (recipe)
  • Asparagus With Linguine & Parma Ham (recipe)
  • 12 More Easy Asparagus Recipes—including frittata, grilled, risotto, sautéed, scramble, sides and spring rolls
  •  

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF ASPARAGUS

    Asparagus has been enjoyed as a vegetable since ancient times. The earliest image is as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 B.C.E. It was also enjoyed in ancient Greece, Rome, Spain and Syria.

    Greeks and Romans ate asparagus fresh in season and dried in winter. The Romans would even freeze it high in the Alps: Emperor Augustus created the “Asparagus Fleet” for transporting the vegetable, and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” to indicate a quick action. [Source: Wikipedia]

    There’s a recipe for cooking asparagus is in the world’s oldest surviving cookbook, Apicius’s “De Re Coquinaria” (“On Cookery”), Book III. It is attributed to a first-century Roman epicurian named Marcus Gavius Apicius, but compiled sometime between the third and fifth centuries.

     

    3-colors-dark-bkgd-australianasparagusgrowners-230b

    The three colors of asparagus. Photo courtesy Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    And it’s still in print—in the original Latin! There’s an English translation for $10.95, and a translated Kindle edition is free!

    After the fall of the Roman Empire, asparagus seems to have fallen out of favor, reappearing in France in the 15th century and in England and in Germany in the 16th century. It arrived in the U.S. around 1850, and has resumed its position as a sought-after vegetable.

    So don’t let the season escape you: Pick up asparagus on your next trip to the market. It has just three calories per spear, so you don’t need to worry about portion control.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 6 Steps To Brewing Better Coffee

    caffe-americano-black-filicorizecchino-230

    It’s easy to brew better coffee. Photo
    courtesy Filicori Zecchino.

     

    Do you buy more coffee outside the home because you can’t brew a better cup of coffee? Consider this checklist to improving your home efforts:

    1. Start with a clean carafe. Coffee has oil that builds up in the carafe. You can’t see it, but it will become rancid, adding unpleasant flavor notes to the brewed coffee. Similarly, if you live in a hard water area and use tap water to brew, you need to remove the with calcium deposits. While most people rinse out the pot before each use, after every few uses you should wash the glass carafe with white vinegar and water, using a scrubbing brush. Just swishing water around doesn’t do the job. Once a month, run a vinegar-water solution through the entire apparatus, per manufacturer’s instructions.

    2. Grind your own beans. It’s less convenient, but coffee beans begin to lose flavor and aroma immediately after grinding. Within two hours, we can taste the difference! It’s better to buy whole beans and grind them immediately prior to brewing.

     
    If you don’t have the will to do it, buy small amounts of ground coffee a few times a week, rather than grinding a pound at a time. Experts advise that vacuum packed ground coffee (it’s what Starbucks uses) will turn out a better brew than beans ground at the market for use the next day or beyond.

    3. Use the correct grind. Drip machines require a medium grind, espresso machines use a fine grind and French press and drips systems require a coarse grind. If the grind isn’t right for the brewing technique, you won’t get enough extraction from the beans.

    4. Don’t use boiling water. Contrary to what most of us have been taught, the temperature of the water should be 200°F, not 212°F. While it doesn’t seem that significant, the extra twelve degrees of heat extract more bitterness and acid from the beans. Good electric coffee makers accommodate for this. If you’re boiling water to pour over ground beans, use a thermometer. You can use any thermometer that measures 200°; Taylor makes a special thermometer for coffee and tea.

     

    5. Use the right amount of coffee. The correct measure is two tablespoons of ground beans per six ounces of water. Machines make a six-ounce cup, not an eight-ounce cup. Be sure to use a coffee scoop or the tablespoon from your measuring spoon set, rather than eyeballing the amount with a regular spoon.

    6. Don’t store coffee in the freezer or fridge. Beans are porous and easily absorb moisture, odors and flavors. Keep the beans, whole or ground, at room temperature in an airtight container. We use the Friis Coffee Vault, an airtight stainless steel canister specially designed to vent carbon dioxide gas that continuously emits from the beans as a result of the roasting process.
     
    WHAT IF YOU HAVE TOO MUCH COFFEE?

  • Brew iced coffee. In the warmer weather, you’ll drink up the coffee faster if it’s iced.
  •  

    friis-coffee-vault-ps-230

    Keep whole or ground beans fresh longer in this special airtight container. Photo courtesy Friis.

  • Make coffee ice cubes. Freeze brewed, cooled coffee in ice cube trays. Pop them into freezer bags and use them to keep the iced coffee cold.
  • Give it away. Offer it to neighbors or co-workers, or donate it to the coffee room at work.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Ataulfo Mango (Champagne Mango)

    ataulfo-champagne_mango-ilovemangoes-230

    The Ataulfo, or Champagne, mango. Photo
    courtesy ILoveMangoes.com.

     

    When you think of mangoes, you may think of the familiar reddish-green mangos, and wonder about the petite golden yellow ones that some people call baby mangoes.

    They’re Ataulfo mangos from Mexico, also commonly called Champagne mangoes, and they’re in season now.

    Mango lovers prefer them to the more prevalent Tommy Atkins cultivar (the red-green ones in the photo below). Their buttery flesh is not fibrous, and their thin pit makes them easier to slice and dice than other varieties.

    The Ataulfo—it was found in a conventional mango grove owned by Mr. Ataulfo Morales—goes by several other names as well: Adaulfo, Adolfo, baby, honey and yellow mango. It is closely related to the Alphonso variety popular in India.

     
    MANGO NUTRITION

    Mangoes deliver sumptuous tropical flavor with easy calories.

  • One cup of mango is just 100 calories, fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free.
  • Mangos contain more than 20 different vitamins and minerals. One cup provides 100% DV of vitamin C, 35% of vitamin A, 20% of folate, 12% of fiber and good amounts of B6, copper, K and potassium.
  •  
    Believed to be native to India, mango trees have been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. The different cultivars come in a rainbow of reds, yellows, oranges and greens and a wide variety of shape, flavor, texture and aroma.
     
    HOW TO ENJOY MANGO

    Our favorite way to eat mango is with a knife and fork, as a delicious fruit snack or dessert (note that the skin can cause stomach irritation, so should not be eaten). Second place goes to mango sorbet.

    But use mango however you would use peaches or pineapples—the two fruits to which mango’s flavor is compared.

  • Beverages: Daiquiri, Margarita, shake with mango sorbet or ice cream, smoothie
  • Breads: muffins and fruit breads
  • Condiments: chutney and salsa
  • Desserts: cobbler, fruit salad, grilled fruit, ice cream or sorbet, pie, pudding, tart, tartlet
  • Fruit Soup: mango gazpacho
  • Mains: poultry, pork, seafood
  • Salads: green salad, shrimp salad
  •  
    Recipes

  • Asian Fruit Salad With Pernod (recipe)
  • Blueberry Mango Cobbler (recipe)
  • Halibut With Mango-Blood Orange Salsa (recipe)
  • Ice Cream With Grilled Mango (recipe)
  • Orange Blossom Waffles With Mangoes & Nutmeg Cream (recipe)
  • Salmon with Cherry Mango Salsa (recipe)
  •  
    Find many more recipes at ILoveMangoes.com.

     

    HOW TO SLICE A MANGO

  • Peel the skin from the flesh with a small, sharp knife.
  • There is a long pit that runs down the center of the length of the fruit. Cut the mango lengthwise down the side of pit to free the first half (called a cheek). Do the same with the other half.
  • Dice or slice the flesh as you wish.
  • We nibble the remaining fruit on the pit in thin slices, although it can be used in sauces or pudding.
  •  
    There’s a second slicing technique that produces the “hedgehog”-like diced effect in the photo above:

  • Without peeling, cut the fruit from the cheeks, using the technique above.
  • Score the flesh into squares, about 1/2- to 3/4-inch in size, cutting up to, but not through, the skin.
  •  

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    The Tommy Atkins mango is the most commonly available in the U.S., due to its hardiness. Photo courtesy National Mango Board.

  • Gently push the mango cheek inside out, which pushes the cubes up and apart.
  • Cut the cubes from the skin to serve, or cut and eat cubes from a mango half with a knife and fork.
  •  
    Peeled and cut fruit will hold at least three days in the fridge, in an airtight container. The flesh may darken a bit, but the flavor changes only slightly. You can tell by the aroma when the time to enjoy it has passed.
     
    RIPENING MANGOES

    Mangoes need to ripen in a warm room. To speed ripening, you can place them in a paper bag.

    Color is not the best way to determine ripeness. Instead, touch and smell: A ripe mango will have a fruity aroma and the flesh will yield to gentle pressure. Unripe mangoes have no scent.

    Ripe mangoes can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. The peeled flesh can be dried, frozen, puréed or stewed.
     
    GO FOR THE GOLD

    Ataulfo mangos have only recently gained popularity in the United States, but have been a major crop in Mexico for decades. In season between March and September, they are the second-most popular variety of mango sold in the U.S., behind the Tommy Atkins cultivar.

    And here’s the big tip of the day: The most prevalent mango, the Tommy Atkins, is not considered to be the choicest mango in terms of sweetness and flavor. Retailers prefer it for its very long shelf life and ability to be handled with little or no bruising, which is why it’s the mango offered first and foremost. [Source: Wikipedia]

    So go for the gold: Bring home some Ataulfos and taste the difference.

    The other less common mango varieties found in the U.S. include the Haden and Kent, which appear along with the and Ataulfo and the Tommy Atkins in spring and summer; and the orange and green Keitt from Australia, which comes from Australia in the fall (and has a lemony note to the flesh).

    Many people attest that mangoes taste best right off the tree, fresh and succulent. So if you’re in Florida, Mexico or other mango haven, see if you can seek out the experience, called by one expert “a taste experience you’ll never forget.”

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Australian Liquorice (Licorice!)

    mix-beauty-230

    Flower-like “shooters” and other specialty
    shapes. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Today is National Licorice Day. There is much debate in the U.S. over Red Vines versus Twizzlers, but if you haven’t had English or Australian liquorice, as they spell it, you haven’t had great licorice.

    The natural flavors and chewy consistency are magnificent. Alas, our American-produced, artificially-flavored licorice can’t hope to compete.

    While there are American products labeled “Australian-style,” seek out the authentic Australian product or a U.K. brand like Bassetts. One of our favorite brands is Kookaburra from Australia (OU-kosher).

    There are bags of familiar red or black licorice twists, but Kookburra and other Australian and English companies take licorice to an art. At Kookaburra:

  • Twists are also available in apple, mango and raspberry flavors.
  • Creamy Strawberry & Cream Bites are dual color and flavor cylinders.
  • Liquorice Shooters are blue, brown, green, red and yellow flower-like shapes with white centers
  • Allsorts are a combination of all of these plus other colorful cylinders
  •  
    “Rich, Chewy & Delicious,” exclaims the package. “Best Liquorice in the World.” We don’t dare disagree—the kookaburras would laugh us down.

    You can buy all of them online at KookaburraLiquorice.com.

    Of course, if you’d rather celebrate with Belgian salt liquorice, licorice cats, chalk (black liquorice with a white mint coating), coins, drops, Scotties, ropes, wheels or other shapes, just head to Amazon.com and search for “liquorice.”

    WHO INVENTED ALLSORTS

    Allsorts is our favorite type liquorice—a variety of colorful and flavorful shapes and chewing consistencies. They were first produced in Sheffield, England, by Geo. Bassett & Co Ltd (now part of Cadbury).

    As the story goes, in 1899, Charlie Thompson, a sales representative, was in Leicester showing the liquorice to a client when he dropped the tray of samples, mixing up the various styles. He picked them up but before he could properly arrange them, the client was attracted to the mix of shapes and colors, and put in an order. The company quickly began to package “allsorts,” and they became very popular.

    Each company makes its own assortment of shapes, which can include balls covered in nonpareil-type sprinkles, colorful cylinders (rolls) and multicolored, sandwiched squares. They look beautiful in a candy dish, and more than one young girl has strung them into a necklace.

     

    WHAT EXACTLY IS LICORICE

    Licorice is a confection flavored with the extract from the root of the licorice plant, combined with sugar or other sweetener and a binder (gelatin, gum arabic or starch). The big American brands use corn syrup*.

    Additional ingredients can include flavoring, beeswax for a shiny surface, molasses to provide the familiar black color, and ammonium chloride. Some brands substitute anise oil instead of with licorice root extract.

    The ingredients are dissolved in water and heated to 275°F, then poured into molds. The resulting pieces are sprayed with beeswax to make their surface shiny. Who knew?

    The original liquorice was black. Later, “red licorice” was made with strawberry flavoring. Today it is made in numerous flavors, including apple, blackcurrant, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, grape, mango, raspberry and watermelon.
     
    *Red Vines ingredients include corn syrup, wheat flour, citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40 artificial food color. Strawberry Twizzlers are made with corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, sugar, cornstarch, palm oil, salt, artificial flavor, mono and diglycerides, cytric acid, potassium sorbate, Red 40, mineral oil, soy lecithin and glycerine.

     

    fml-AT7WF0.jpg

    Some of the shapes of allsorts licorice. Photo courtesy Sporticia.com.

     

    WHAT’S A KOOKABURRA?

    The kookaburra is a bird in the kingfisher family, native to Australia and New Guinea. Its loud call is said to sound like echoing human laughter.

    Here are some photos.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Tagine

    A tagine (tah-ZHEEN) is a Moroccan stew of vegetables with meat, poultry, fish or seafood. More specifically, it’s a Berber dish from North Africa that is named after the type of earthenware pot in which it is cooked, originally over coals. (A similar dish, tavvas, is made in Cyprus.)

    There are traditional clay tagines, some so beautifully hand-painted as to double as decorative ceramics; modern tagines, such as Le Creuset enamelware; and even electric tagines for people who don’t have stoves or ovens.

    You can buy a tagine, but you can make the stew in whatever pot you have.

     
    HOW A TAGINE WORKS

    The traditional tajine pot is made of clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a round, flat base pot with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that covers it during cooking.

    The cover is designed to promote the return of all the liquid condensation back to the pot, allowing for a long simmer and moist chunks of meat. The stew is traditionally cooked over large bricks of charcoal that have the ability to stay hot for hours.

     

    chicken-tagine-lecreuset-230

    A modern enamelware tagine. Photo courtesy Le Creuset.

     
    Tajines can also be cooked in a conventional oven or on a stove top. For the stove top, a diffuser—a circular piece of aluminum placed between the tajine and burner—is used to evenly distribute the stove heat to permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking. Modern tajines made with heavy cast-iron bottoms replace them.

     

    black-white-tagine-230

    A traditional hand-painted tagine. You can
    buy this one online.

     

    MAKE A TAGINE

    This vegetarian tagine recipe is from FAGE Total Yogurt. You can serve it as a side or as a main dish with sliced grilled chicken, lamb or salmon.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 1 hour, 10 minutes. Serve with couscous and a crisp salad.
     
    RECIPE: MOROCCAN CHICKPEA & VEGETABLE
    TAGINE WITH YOGURT DRESSING

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, cinnamon and turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1-3/4 cup chickpeas
  • 1-3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 cup baby corn
  • 1/4 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 cup baby carrots
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley and coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT half of the oil in a tagine or other pan. Add onion, garlic, and spices. Fry over a low to medium heat for 5 minutes until golden.

    2. ADD the chickpeas, tomatoes and stock. Cook for 20 minutes.

    3. STIR FRY the vegetables in a separate frying pan or wok with remaining oil, and then add to the chickpea mixture.

    4. BRING to a boil, cover and simmer for a further 20 minutes.

    5. MAKE the herb yogurt dressing: Mix the yogurt, chopped parsley and coriander together. To finish, add half the yogurt, adjust seasoning to taste and serve with the rest of the yogurt on the side. NOTE: Don’t boil the stew after adding the yogurt or it may separate.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Create A Signature Breakfast Sandwich

    breakfast-sandwich-goat-cheese-melissas-230

    Go beyond the Egg McMuffin and create your
    fantasy breakfast sandwich like this one
    (recipe below). Photo courtesy Melissa’s.

     

    Ask an American to name a breakfast sandwich and you might hear “bagel and lox”; but “Egg McMuffin” is more likely to be the answer. It was invented by a McDonald’s franchisee, Herb Peterson, in the late 1960s and introduced nationwide in 1972.

    Popular as it is, the Egg McMuffin has not exactly spawned a major food trend in breakfast sandwiches.

    So today’s tip is: Create a signature breakfast sandwich and get your friends to do the same. Then, you can get together for breakfast sandwich brunches. We can’t wait!

    Peruse this list to put together your dream ingredients.

    BREAKFAST SANDWICH INGREDIENTS

  • Bread: bagel, baguette, biscuits, brioche, challah, focaccia, toast of choice (rye, sourdough, whole wheat, etc.), roll of choice (note that we’ve deliberately excluded donuts and pancakes)
  • Eggs: fried, poached, scrambled, soft boiled, sliced hard boiled
  • Cheese: blue, Cheddar, goat, Gruyère, mozzarella, pepperjack or other favorite
  • Meat: bacon types (including Canadian bacon and pancetta), chicken breast, chorizo or other sausage, ham, pork
  • Veggies: avocado, bell peppers (sautéed, grilled, diced fresh), fresh herbs, greens (sautéed arugula, broccoli rabe, kale, etc.), hash browns, jalapeños, onion (red or sweet), roasted poblanos, sprouts, tomato (fresh, sundried)
  • Condiments: aïoli, caramelized onions, chutney, extra virgin olive oil, gravy, honey, horseradish sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard-yogurt spread, pesto, salsa, sautéed peaches or other fruit, tomato sauce, vinaigrette
  •  
    You don’t need to include eggs or meat, as this recipe demonstrates:
     
    RECIPE: OPEN-FACED BREAKFAST SANDWICHES

    This sandwich (photo above) will wake you up sweetly, with chile-infused honey.

    If you don’t want the heat of the chiles, substitute a bit of fresh-ground black pepper for the ground cayenne, and don’t use the final chile garnish.

    Prep time is 20 minutes, plus 4 hours to infuse the honey.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 ounces honey
  • 2 fresh cayenne chiles, stems and seeds removed, finely diced, divided
    (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 4 thick slices whole-wheat French bread
  • 2 tablesppoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup creamy goat cheese (4 ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • Salt
  • Ground cayenne pepper or black pepper
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE honey and half of the cayenne chile in a glas container. Seal tightly and let sit 4 hours or overnight. Wrap and reserve remaining chiles in the fridge.

    2. TOAST bread; spread each slice with 1 teaspoon butter and 2 tablespoons goat cheese.

    3. HEAT the remaining 2 teaspoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Crack eggs into skillet; cook until yolks are set, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

    4. DRIZZLE each slice of toast with 2 tablespoons cayenne honey. Top with a fried egg; drizzle evenly with the remaining honey and garnish with the remaining fresh cayenne chiles.

     

    toad-in-the-hole-melissas-230

    Toad In The Hole is a British favorite. The recipe is below. Photo courtesy Melissa’s.

     

    A related recipe is Toad In The Hole (photo above), a British specialty that pan-fried day-old bead with an egg in the middle. The recipe’s colorful name no doubt appealed to children.

    With the added crushed chiles, this toad sure is hoppin’! If you don’t like the heat, leave off the chiles.

    RECIPE: HOPPIN’ TOAD IN THE HOLE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 one-inch-thick slices sourdough bread, toasted
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 dried de arbol chiles, stems and seeds removed, finely crushed
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded pepperjack cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT a 1-1/2-inch hole in the center of each slice of bread, using a small round cookie cutter or a juice glass.

    2. MELT 2 tablespoons butter over low heat in a large skillet. Add half of the crushed chile and cook until fragrant, stirring often, about 1 to 2 minutes.

    3. INCREASE heat to medium; arrange 3 bread slices in the skillet. Crack 1 egg into the hole of each slice, taking care not to break the yolks. Cook until eggs are just firm but the yolk is slightly runny, about 5 to 8 minutes.

    4. SPRINKLE evenly with cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Repeat procedure for the next three slices of bread.

    5. SPRINKLE with salt, pepper an paprika to taste. Serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Truffle Cheese

    A good truffle cheese is a knockout. It you’re going to serve one cheese for a special occasion, this is it.

    There are different truffle cheeses from the U.S., France, Italy, and elsewhere. Some deliver the aromatic, spectacular truffle aroma and flavor you’re looking for. Others don’t, the black flecks of truffle seemingly there like the black flecks in vanilla ice cream—for appearance, not for taste.

    That’s because some truffles have little or no flavor and aroma, and not all producers use the more flavorful truffles. If you can taste before you buy, do so. More about truffles.)
     
    TYPES OF TRUFFLE CHEESE

    Truffle cheeses are aromatic cheeses that have been flavored with bits of fresh truffles and sometimes with truffle oil, when the truffles themselves are not particularly flavorful. They can be made from any milk, in soft, semi-soft or semi-hard styles.

    These cheeses are available in the U.S.:

  • Boschetto al Tartufo: a mild, semi-soft Italian cheese made with a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk and white truffles. Nice. The names means truffles from the woods.
  •  

    truffle-tremor-beauty

    Truffle Tremor. Photo courtesy Cypress Grove.

  • Fromager d’Affinois: from France, this variety of fromager d’affinois, a Brie-like double-crème cow’s milk cheese, is a beautiful blend of the creamy cheese with the subtle earthiness of the truffles. The black truffles are from Périgord—the best truffles in the world. It is a seasonal product that is in store for the holidays from October to January and then again in March (for Easter). You can find it in most gourmet/specialty stores, Whole Foods Markets, Trader Joe’s (as a unit size under their label called the Truffle Brie) and some Costco stores.
  • Moliterno Black Truffle Pecorino: A Sardinian raw sheep’s milk cheese covered with black truffle paste. Unlike most truffle cheese, the truffle paste is infused after the cheese has been aged, creating veins of truffle that permeates the entire paste. Once cut, the dark paste oozes out of the crevices of the cheese. It makes a great cheese course with a big, earthy Italian red wine.
  •  

    truffle-cheese-assortment-ig-230

    Truffle cheese assortment from iGourmet. Serve it with hearty red wine: It’s a party!

     
  • Perlagrigia Sottocenere: a semi-soft Italian cheese originally from Venice, made from raw cow’s milk and slices of truffles. It is then rubbed with herbs and spices (cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, licorice, nutmeg) and aged in an ash rind, a Venetian technique to preserve the cheese over a long period without losing flavor. The ash is also used to convey subtle flavors into the cheese, with a variety of spices mixed with the ash.with flavors of coated on to the rind. The name means “under ash.”
  • Truffle Gouda: a mild Dutch Gouda (cow’s milk, semihard) sprinkled with black truffles, the mildness of the cheese lets the flavor of the truffles shine through.
  • Truffle Tremor: from Cypress Grove Chevre of California, this soft, creamy goat’s milk cheese filled with Italian black summer truffles.is one of our favorites. What could make goat cheese better than truffles? Enjoyable any time, try it for dessert with a glass of Port.
  •  

  • Truffle and Salt Cheddar: From Idaho’s Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese, this aged, pasteurized Cheddar (cow’s milk) is flavored with black truffle salt. As a result, it isn’t as truffle-redolent as cheeses that use actual truffles, but it is a lovely expression of artisan Cheddar.
  •  
    You can get a truffle cheese assortment—five of the cheeses above—from iGourmet. It’s a special treat that will be long remembered.

      

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