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Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Lychees

lychee-baldorfood-230

A peeled lychee. Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

 

Lychee is a a tropical evergreen fruit tree native to southern China. The evergreen grows wild in southern China, northern Vietnam and Cambodia, although there is evidence that it has been cultivated since around 2000 B.C.E.

Today it grows throughout southeast Asia, notably in southern Japan, India, Pakistan, north Thailand and Vietnam. More recently, the tasty fruit has been planted in California, Florida and Hawaii, ensuring U.S. fans a more reliable supply. Depending on location, the harvest runs from May through September.

We’ve been coming across it in farmers markets: the skin of different varieties ranges from rosy red to pale dusty rose to golden tan and pale olive green. The paper-thin skin is peeled away to revel the milky white fruit inside. Here’s everything you’d ever want to know about lychee from Purdue School of Agriculture, including how to dry them in the skin.

The fruit is also transliterated as litchi. Perhaps the more useful information, though, is how to pronounce lychee.

  • In south China, where the fruit originated, Cantonese is the dominant language and in Cantonese the fruit is pronounced LYE-chee. The transliteration from Cantonese is lai chi.
  • In Mandarin, the language of Beijing, however, it is pronounced LEE-chee.
  •  

    Like stone fruits (apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines), the lychee is a drupe, a fruit that has an outer fleshy part that surrounds a large, hard center seed. It has been called a “lychee nut” because the seed/pit looks like a glossy brown nut (it is definitely not a nut). The pit is inedible and slightly poisonous.

    The typical lychee is about one inch in diameter. The outer covering is a pink-red, roughly-textured rind that is inedible but easily peeled with one’s fingers. The flesh inside is white, translucent and sweet, rich in vitamin C, with a texture somewhat similar to that of a grape. Children liken lychees to “eyeballs,” and you can see why in this photo.

    The fresh fruit has a floral aroma; one account says that the perfume is lost in the process of canning. However, canning adds sugar for a higher level of sweetness, and the organoleptic difference between fresh and canned lychee is not as drastic as, say, with peaches. The canned fruit has more integrity, like canned pineapple.

     

    BUYING & STORING LYCHEES

    Lychees are extremely perishable. Store in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week.

    Or, freeze them whole, with the skin on. When they are defrosted, they’ll be fine. You can even eat them frozen: instant lychee sorbet. (You may have to run the frozen lychees under warm water for a few seconds to soften the skin.)
     
    In China, lychees are enjoyed out-of-hand. In the West, peeled and pitted, they are used in:

  • Baked ham, instead of pineapple rings
  • Canapés, stuffed with goat cheese or cream cheese and pecans
  • Chinese Chicken Salad
  • Cocktails (muddled or puréed with vodka or gin, and as a garnish)
  •  

    green-lychee-melissas-230

    So delicious; we wish there were less pit and more flesh. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

  • Eyeballs: Create lychee “eyeballs” for sweet cocktails and mocktails by stuffing the pit hole with blueberries, dried cranberries or pieces of grape. (For a savory cocktail, make a radish eyeball instead.)
  • Fruit Salad (delicious combined with banana, melon, mango, papaya, etc.)
  • Gelatin desserts
  • Green Salad
  • Sorbet
  • Parfaits & Sundaes
  •  
    For an exotic presentation, serve unpeeled lychees in dessert bowls over crushed ice (provide a bowl for the pits).
     
    LYCHEE RECIPES

  • Lychee Panna Cotta Recipe
  • Seared Tuna With Lychee Coulis Recipe
  • Lychee Agua Fresca Recipe
  •  
    There are dozens of recipes at LycheesOnline.com.
     
    LOVE THE FLAVOR OF LYCHEE?

    We find that St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur tastes like lychee (or perhaps it’s that elderflowers taste like lychee). We find it far superior to Soho lychee liqueur.

    Head out to find fresh lychees. Enjoy them today, and freeze some for later.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Olive Oil Cake

    Our first encounter with olive oil cake came at a trattoria in our neighborhood. It sounded strange to us: We were raised in a butter culture, with a palate trained to recognize buttery goodness over margarine and cake mixes made with salad oil.

    But, this olive oil and basil cake (also made by the restaurant in an olive oil and rosemary version) was love at first bite. The extra virgin olive oil—not canola or corn oil—donated wonderful flavor. And while cake isn’t exactly a good-for-you food, heart-healthy olive oil instead of cholesterol-laden butter was an excuse to have another piece. (Note, however, that this particular recipe does include some butter.)

    Use a fruity EVOO, not a peppery or grassy one. Fruity means that it tastes olive-y (see the different flavors of olive oil).

    You can make the tangerine marmalade to top the cake, enjoy the cake plain, or serve with berries and a dab of mascarpone or crème fraîche. By all means, add a chiffonade of fresh basil.

    The nine-inch cake serves eight.

    This recipe, by Sarah Copeland, is from The Newlywed Cookbook.

    RECIPE: OLIVE OIL CAKE

    Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup/150 g sugar
  • 2/3 cup/165 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup/75 ml melted unsalted butter
  •    

    olive-oil-cake-newlywedcookbook-230

    It’s not hard to make this delicious olive oil cake. Photo courtesy Chronicle Books.

  • Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 tangerine, orange, or lemon
  • 1-1/2 cups/175 g all-purpose/plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or iodized salt
  •  
    For The Tangerine Marmalade

  • 4 large tangerines, Minneolas, lemons, Meyer lemons or Temple oranges, or a mix (about 1-3/4 lbs/800 g)
  • 1 cup/200 g sugar
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • Crème fraîche or whipped cream/double cream
  •  

    bottle-with-tree-flavoryourlife-230

    Who knew: Olive oil tastes just as good as
    butter in certain cakes.FlavorYourLife.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F/165°C/gas 3. Lightly butter a 9-inch/23-cm springform pan with a removable bottom.

    2. COMBINE the eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the eggs are thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Drizzle in the olive oil and melted butter and continue to beat. Fold in the citrus zest and juice.

    3. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients gradually to the egg mixture and stir until evenly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no dry bits at the bottom.

    4. POUR the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is lightly brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating once during baking to make sure it cooks evenly. Cool the cake on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the pan sides and cool the cake completely on the rack.

     

    5. MAKE the marmalade: Scrub and dry the tangerines and trim off their tops and bottoms. Slice 2 of them as thinly a possible while still keeping their shape, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch (3 to 6 mm) thick, discarding the seeds as they appear. Place the tangerine slices in a small pot with a heavy bottom. Juice the remaining 2 tangerines (you should have a scant cup/240 ml of juice) and pour the juice over the sliced fruit. Set aside for 20 minutes.

    6. COOK the fruit over medium-high heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Decrease the heat slightly and simmer until the tangerine peel is soft, about 20 minutes. Don’t stir: It will destroy the pretty round shape of the citrus.

    7. ADD the sugar and continue cooking until the sugar is dissolved. Cook until thickened and the juice has gelled slightly and is syrupy, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

    8. ARRANGE the candied citrus slices over the top of the cake, overlapping to make beautiful jeweled tiles of fruit. Drizzle some of the citrus syrup over the slices and allow it to drip down the sides of the cake. Slice and serve with crème fraîche or whipped cream/double cream.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pie Dough Crumb Topping Sundae

    It’s the reverse of pie à la mode; perhaps it should be called an ice cream crumble.

    Today’s tip was inspired by The Strawberry Barbara, a sundae from McConnell’s Ice Cream in Santa Barbara.

    McConnell’s marries strawberry ice cream, house made rhubarb sauce (think rhubarb pie filling) and pie crust crumbles, topped with whipped cream.

    You can build the sundae in a bowl or a sundae dish, on a dessert plate or even in a large wine goblet.

    You can also use the topping on puddings and yogurt.

    RECIPE: PIE DOUGH CRUMBLES #1

    Ingredients

    Ingredients For The Pie Dough Crumbs

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  •    

    strawberry-sundae-pie-dough-crumbles-mcconnellsicecream-230

    Strawberry ice cream with pie dough crumbles. Photo courtesy McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.

     

     

    key-lime-ice-cream-pie-crumbles-mcconnellsicecream-230r

    Key lime ice cream on a bed of crumbles. Photo courtesy McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F.

    2. MIX ingredients together large, moist clumps form (we tend to like them on the larger size, about 1/2 inch diameter). If the ingredients stick together too much to make crumbs, add a bit more flour and sugar in a 2:1 ratio until the mixture becomes crumbly.

    3. BAKE on a sheet for 10-15 minutes until golden (but not brown). Let cool; store in an airtight container until ready to use.

    If you’d like crumbles with a deeper flavor, add brown sugar.

    RECIPE: PIE DOUGH CRUMBLES #2

    Ingredients For The Pie Dough Crumbs

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  •  
    ASSEMBLING THE SUNDAE

    Ingredients

  • Ice cream of choice
  • Pie crumbles
  • Whipped cream
  • Optional garnishes: chocolate shavings, diced fruit, sauce, sprinkles, etc.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SCOOP ice cream onto a plate. Top with pie crumbles.

    2. ADD garnishes and serve

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sea Asparagus & Other Sea Vegetables

    Today’s tip is: Keep your eyes open for new foods. Then, share them with foodie friends.

    Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog discovered sea asparagus—a vegetable that grows in or adjacent to salt water—on a recent trip to Hawaii. Sea asparagus grows in warm salt marshes and on beaches, there for the foraging. It is harvested wild, and also cultivated.

    What Is Sea Asparagus

    Sea asparagus (Salicornia europaea), also known as glasswort, samphire or sea beans, is a tender, green, spindly stalk that resembles tiny land-grown asparagus (although they are not related). It is a member of the Amaranthaceae family, which includes everything from amaranth, a high-protein grain, to ornamental cockscomb and picturesque tumbleweed.

    Sea asparagus can be purchased fresh in areas where it is harvested, and packaged in specialty food markets. You can purchase it fresh, frozen, pickled (this year’s stocking stuffer?) and in other forms (sea pesto, powdered seasoning) from Olakai Hawaii. The season in British Columbia is currently “in full swing,” according to West Coast Seaweed, another e-tailer.

    Fresh sea asparagus can be eaten raw, pickled or steamed (and then tossed in butter or olive oil); in a salad, as a side dish or a garnish (see the sushi photo below). Dried sea vegetables can be added directly to soups or stews and to the cooking liquid of beans or rice.

       

    sea-asparagus-salad-kaminsky-230

    Invite a new vegetable to lunch or dinner. Sea asparagus photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    No Extra Salt Required

    “Absorbing the sea salt like a sponge, sea asparagus can be quite salty if not thoroughly rinsed, and should never be salted no matter what else you add to it,” says Hannah. “Slightly crunchy when raw or par-cooked, it’s an exotic delight, and a surprise given my experience with flat, gelatinous, and/or stringy sea vegetables. As long as I can find sea asparagus, you can be sure that this salad will find its way to my table.”

    Hannah’s recipe was inspired by the serving suggestion printed on the label for Olakai sea asparagus, purchased in Hawaii. Hannah combined them with other local pleasures: tiny currant tomatoes, a local product even smaller than grape tomatoes, and sweet Maui onions.

    You can add a protein to turn the recipe into a luncheon salad. Consider grilled or smoked salmon (which makes the Hawaiian recipe lomi lomi), tofu, canned tuna, grilled fish or seafood. We used raw scallops: delicious!

    RECIPE: SEA ASPARAGUS SALAD

    Ingredients For 2-3 Side Dish Servings

  • 4 ounces fresh sea asparagus
  • 1 ounce sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces currant tomatoes (substitute halved cherry or grape tomatoes)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SNIP off any brown ends on the sea asparagus before rinsing them thoroughly under hot water. Toss them in a bowl along with the diced onion, oil and lemon juice.

    2. MASSAGE the vegetables with your fingers for a minute or two, just to tenderize the stalks slightly. Add the tomatoes and mix to distribute throughout the salad.

    3. SERVE immediately or chill. The salad will keep for up to two days. Don’t be tempted to add any salt, since sea asparagus is already infused with sodium from the sea.

     

    sea_asparagus_inari-tastyislandhawaii-230

    Sea vegetables as a garnish, here on inari
    sushi. Photo courtesy TastyIslandHawaii.com.

     

    WHAT ARE SEA VEGETABLES

    Vegetables don’t grow only on land. If you’re a fan of Japanese food, you’ve probably had one or more types of seaweed—a salad of hijiki or wakame, the nori wrapper of sushi rolls or a bowl of dashi (clear soup) made from kombu (kelp).

    Sea vegetables are loaded with of chlorophyll, dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals from the ocean, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamins A and C and trace minerals such as iodine and vanadium. Many health food advocates eat them for the nutrition (details).

    Sea asparagus, in particular, is an excellent source of calcium, iron and vitamins A, B2, B9 (folic acid), plus dietary fiber, amino acids and minerals.

    Look for sea vegetables in natural food stores in dried form. Just soak them in water for 10 minutes and they’re ready to use.

    If you like seaweed salad, you’ll like a mixed sea vegetable salad—say, arame/hijiki, dulse, sea palm and wakame. Try a mirin-tamari-ginger juice-soy sauce marinade, or a simple rice vinegar, olive oil and sesame oil vinaigrette.

     
    POPULAR SEA VEGETABLES

  • Agar Agar. Also called kanten or Japanese gelatin, agar agar is a clear, tasteless alternative to animal or chemical-based gelatin. It is sold in opaque flakes and dissolves in hot liquid. It thickens at room temperature and is used to firm up confections, jellies, pies and puddings.
  • Arame. These thin, wiry black shreds of seaweed have a sweet, mild flavor. In Western cuisine, they can be added to green salads, omelets, pasta salads, quiches and stir-fries.
  • Dulse. This reddish brown sea veggie is sold as dried whole stringy leaves or a powdered condiment. The leaves have a chewy texture and can be eaten like jerky; or, they can be pan-fried in sesame oil and added to salads or sandwiches. It is not reconstituted, but used as is.
  • Kombu. Thick, dark purple kombu is sold in strips or sheets. It’s the principal ingredient of the Japanese broth, dashi; and can be added to Western recipes in the liquid for beans, rice or soup.
  • Nori. Nori can be dark purple to blackish green in color. It is best known as the thin, flat sheets of toasted seaweed used to make sushi rolls (the sheets are not reconstituted, but used as is). It’s also available untoasted, and plain or flavored snack strips have become quite popular. We use julienned nori as a garnish for rice, soups, salads, casseroles or grains either crushed into flakes or cut into strips. Nori is also available in a flakes with a seasoning mix of sesame seeds, salt and sugar, called nori komi furikake. If you like nori, get some: You’ll enjoy it.
  • Sea Palm. This vegetable, brownish-green in color, looks just like a miniature palm tree. It’s also called American arame and is harvested from America’s Pacific Coast. Sweet and salty, it can be enjoyed it raw or sautéed, in soups or in salads.
  • Wakame. We always look forward to a bowl of silky, tender wakame-su, wakame seaweed marinated in rice vinegar. It is also a popular addition to Japanese soups.
  •  
    Ready, set: Enjoy discovering the world of sea vegetables.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Select The Best Fresh Cherries

    Cherry season is fleeting—just a couple of weeks in some locations. It is also frustrating, because we’re not having a good cherry season this year. Every cherry we’ve sampled has been bland. They look good, but don’t deliver on the palate.

    The term “cherry-pick” is a hint. The expression comes from harvesting the fruit: The pickers are instructed to carefully select the ripe fruit only. Unlike other tree fruits, cherries don’t ripen or improve in flavor after they’re picked.

    Are we getting unripe fruit? Have growing conditions been substandard? Is the fruit mishandled after it’s harvested? We want answers (but more importantly, we want good cherries).

  • Picked too soon, cherries are pale and tasteless; too ripe, they’re soft and watery. According to Produce Pete, the best time to pick seems to be when the birds start eating them (birds have an instinct for ripe cherries).
  • Weather challenges are a fact of life: Produce is at the mercy of the growing season. Fruit needs sufficient heat to develop full flavor and can be harmed by excessive rain during crucial weeks, when water penetrates the skin and dilute the flavor.
  • Bad storage can easily diminish flavor and texture. Fruit doesn’t respond well to changing temperatures. From a warm grove to a hot or cold transport or storage room and back again, varying temperatures can wreak havoc. If you’re in a key cherry growing state (California, Idaho, Michigan, Oregon, Washington State), you’ve got a better chance to get the best fruit.
  •    

    picota-cherries-basket-foodsfromspainFB-230

    Fresh cherries, one of the happy signs of summer. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

     

    TRY IT BEFORE YOU BUY IT

    You can’t bite into a peach to see if it’s sweet enough before you buy it, but you can score a cherry. It’s the only way to make sure you’ll be happy with them.

    If the flavor doesn’t deliver, it’s not worth the calories if you’re looking to snack on raw fruit. Find another variety, keep tasting cherries as you come across them, and hope for a successful score elsewhere.

    This is not to say that you can’t use less flavorful cherries to make delicious cherry pies, tarts, jams, sauces or ice creams. In recipes, added sugar compensates for what’s missing in the fruit.

     

    queen-anne-bing-cherries-230r

    Queen Anne and Bing cherries. Photo courtesy Washington State Fruit Commission.

     

    REAL CHERRY PICKING: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

    While these tips don’t ensure that the fruit will be sweet, they’re a good start:

  • Firmness. The most common varieties (Bing, Rainier, Queen Anne) should be firm. However, some heirloom varieties (Black Tartarian is an example) are naturally softer. Be sure to taste them: Some heirloom cherries have the best flavor.
  • Plumpness. Good cherries will be plump and dark for their variety and have fresh, green stems, indicating that they were recently harvested. Cherries without stems won’t keep as well as fruits with intact stems.
  • Size. Look for fruits that are large for their variety and avoid smaller fruits with a higher proportion of pit and skin to flesh.
  • What To Avoid. Shriveled skin, dried stems and dull patina indicate cherries that are over the hill. Leaking flesh and brown discoloration are signs of decay.
  •  
    If the cherries aren’t sweet enough in their natural state, perhaps a homemade cherry tart will put you in the summer grove?

    Our favorite easy tart recipe follows; pâte brisée is our tart crust of preference.

     
    The most demanding part of the recipe is pitting the cherries. You don’t need a cherry pitter.

  • Pit cherries with a paper clip.
  • Pit cherries with a pastry tip.
  •  
    EASY CHERRY TART RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • Pâte brisée (recipe below)
  • 4-6 cups cherries, depending on tart size, pitted
  • 1 jar currant jelly
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE pâte brisée crust.

    RECIPE: PÂTE BRISÉE

    Pâte brisée (pot bree-ZAY), or short crust*, is a buttery tart crust with a crumbly texture. It is used for sweet and savory pies, tarts and quiches. It can be made several days in advance and kept in the fridge, or frozen for a month.

    Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PULSE the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse 15 seconds, until the ingredients resembles coarse meal.

    2. ADD 1/4 cup ice water through the feed tube in a slow stream, until the dough just holds together when pinched (add remaining water as needed). Do not process more for than 30 seconds.

    3. PLACE the dough on a work surface and gather it into a ball; divide ball into two equal pieces, flatten into a disk and tightly wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

    4. PRESS into tart pan, refrigerate or freeze for later use (defrost in the fridge for several hours or overnight). First spray tart pan with cooking spray if desired.

    5. BAKE. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour before adding fruit.
     
    *Brisée actually is a participle of the French verb briser, which means to break, shatter or smash. We don’t know the origin, but inspired by the store of ganache, we like to think cookware was broken by whomever created the recipe.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Poached Egg As A Glamorous Ingredient

    poached-egg-frisee-dueforniLV-230

    Who could resist a frisée salad with pork
    belly, prosciutto and truffle vinaigrette? And
    how about that poached egg? Photo courtesy
    Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    People who don’t like to eat salad—and of course, those who do—may well be tempted by this creation from Due Forni in Las Vegas.

    To a bed of frisée, the chef adds:

  • Cubes of crisp pork belly (substitute bacon or Canadian bacon)
  • San Danielle prosciutto*
  • A poached egg
  • Truffle oil vinagrette (recipe)
  • Croutons
  • Shaved Grana Padano or other Italian grating cheese
  •  
    This recipe also includes a bundle of asparagus, creating a heartier salad course or vegetarian entrée.

    But the “big idea” ingredient is the poached egg. The humble breakfast food; when paired with other ingredients, adds a unique glamor.

    The smooth texture of the poached egg white contrasts nicely with the rough salad ingredients; the broken yoke adds a silky sauce on top of the delicious truffle vinaigrette. (For this reason, go lightly when you toss the frisée with the vinaigrette.)

     
    *You can use any prosciutto. San Daniele is a PDO-designated prosciutto made in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Food trivia: The ham’s name derives from the Latin words pro and exsuctus, which roughly mean “to remove the moisture.” The ham is hung in sheds and air-dried in pure mountain air to create the beloved Italian ham.
     
    HOW TO POACH EGGS

    1. FILL a large, deep saucepan with 2 inches of water. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium.

    2. BREAK 1 egg into small dish. Carefully slide the egg into the simmering water (bubbles should begin to break the surface of the water). Repeat with the remaining eggs. Poach the eggs for 3 to 5 minutes or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken.

    3. CAREFULLY REMOVE the eggs with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

    If you’re not adept at poaching eggs, try these egg poaching pods. The uniform roundness they create isn’t as attractive as a naturally-poached egg, but it beats the frustration of trying to harness meandering egg whites.

     
    ASSEMBLE THE SALAD

    1. COOK the lardons; set aside. You’ll note in the photo above that the lardons are cut in large slices. You can cut them into smaller cubes, into julienne strips, or however you like. Plan for two or three lardons per plate.

    2. CUT the prosciutto as needed into smaller strips. If you cut a slice in half lengthwise, try rolling it into a “rose” or similar shape for aesthetic effect. One “rose” per plate is sufficient.

    3. TOSS the frisée with vinaigrette (you can first warm the vinaigrette in the microwave for 10 seconds) and distribute among individual salad plates. Top with the pork belly and prosciutto.

    4. NESTLE the poached egg atop the greens. Top with shaved grana padano and scatter the croutons. Serve with a pepper mill for fresh-ground pepper.

     

    LIKE FRISÉE SALAD?

    It’s a favorite of ours! Here are more ideas for frisée salad.

    But there’s more!

     
    POACHED EGG & GRILLED VEGGIES

    We “poached” this idea from the Facebook page of The Guilded Nut, which specializes in flavored pistachio nuts (Garlic, Habanero, Mediterranean Herb, Sea Salt & Pepper).

    Here, a poached egg is surrounded by grilled scallions and garnished with chopped pistachios.

    You can use any grilled vegetables, including leftovers. Heat them in a skillet or in the microwave and serve them with the egg(s). Grated Grana Padano or Parmesan works well here, too.

     

    poached-egg-grilled-scallions-pistachios-theguildednutFB-230sq

    Poached egg with grilled scallions. Photo courtesy The Guilded Nut | Facebook.

     

  • Serve with hearty toast for breakfast or brunch.
  • You can also build on this simple dish and turn it into a luncheon salad or light dinner entrée. Add lardons, Canadian bacon, sliced steak or other protein (lobster tail, anyone?).
  • You can use the poached egg to top an attractive dish of leftovers. Include grains and potatoes, too.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 2

    Yesterday we presented the first five of the world’s 10 spice blends you should know: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

    Even if you won’t be cooking with them anytime soon, you should know them: They’re popular global, popping up in fusion dishes outside their native cuisines.

    The second half of the Top 10 include nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

    NORI SHAKE

    Nori shake is made from sheets of nori seaweed (the type used to wrap sushi rolls), ground with with salt and sesame seeds. Nori is the seaweed, furi means shake. Beyond its traditional use as a rice seasoning, shake it on other grains, cooked vegetables, plain yogurt and dips.

  • Traditional uses: Cooked rice seasoning.
  •  

    Quatre_Epices-silkroadspices.ca-230

    Quatre epices, a bend of cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper. Photo courtesy Silk Road Spices | Canada.

  • Traditional ingredients: Seaweed, sesame seeds, salt. Some recipes include sugar or shiso leaves
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast 4 nori sheets (one at a time) in a hot skillet for a few seconds on each side; coarsely grind them. Toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds until golden; combine in a bowl with 2 teaspoons coarse salt, the ground nori and cayenne to taste. Note that unlike other blends, this keeps for only a week or so.
  •  

    PIMENTÓN MIX

    Pimentón is the Spanish word for what is better known as paprika, a spice ground from dried New World chiles (Capsicum annuum). Although paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, in Europe it was first used in Spanish recipes. The story has it that Christopher Columbus brought the ground chiles back to Spain at the end of his second voyage. It was served to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who found it too hot and spicy; but local monks shared it with other monasteries. It spread throughout Spain, and subsequently to Hungary and elsewhere.

  • Traditional uses: A universal seasoning for casseroles/stews, eggs, meats, salads, soups, tapas and vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: Pimentón is usually sold as pure ground chile, not blended, in sweet, medium and hot levels.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Combine ¼ cup pimentón, 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Before using, add some freshly grated lemon zest.
  •  

    ras-el-Hanout-spiceandtea.com-230

    Ras el hanout can be a blend of 30 or more
    spices. Photo courtesy SpiceAndTea.com.

     

    QUATRE ÉPICES

    Quatre épices (kahtr-ay-PEECE) is a French spice mix that is also used in some Middle Eastern cuisines. The name literally means “four spices,” and they are cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper.

  • Traditional uses: A universal spice, used for everything from soup and salad to broiled chicken and fish to vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: The traditional version uses white pepper; black pepper can be substituted.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons each black and white peppercorns, 1 tablespoon allspice berries and 1 teaspoon cloves. Combine with 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
  •  
    RAS EL HANOUT

    There is no one recipe for ras el hanout: Every Moroccan spice merchant has a proprietary recipe, and the cooks who buy the spices debate who has the best version. The name translates as “top of the shop” and the mixture often includes 30 or more of a spice merchant’s best ingredients: whole spices, dried roots and leaves, ground together.

     
    Some of the 30 can be exotics as cubeb berries, grains of paradise, and rose petals; or more the more familiar ingredients listed below. The complex blend delivers many subtle undercurrents of floral, peppery and sweet.

  • Traditional uses: As a dry rub for grilled meats, in starches (couscous, potatoes, rice) and traditional Moroccan dishes like b’stilla and tagines.
  • Traditional ingredients: A “secret” recipe that can include anise, cardamom, cayenne and other chiles, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, lavender, nutmeg, mace, pepper, saffron and turmeric.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons each coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Combine with 2 teaspoons each ground cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric and salt; add 2 tablespoons ground pepper. It’s a stripped-down version, but feel free to add what you like—you have 22 more slots available.
  •  
    ZA’ATAR

    Za’atar (also spelled zahtar) is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, including Israeli. Za’atar is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries. The latter grow in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. They impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

  • Traditional uses: As a seasoning for meat and vegetables or mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread. Add to hummus or for a modern touch, sprinkle on pizza (especially with feta cheese).
  • Traditional ingredients: Marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 2 tablespoons each cumin seeds and sesame seeds. Combine with 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 tablespoons sumac, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
  •  
    Your homework: Plan to use at least one of these blends for the first time this week.
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 1

    Today we present spice blends you should know, even if you aren’t about to use them immediately. Seasonings are the easiest ways to add different flavors to foods. If you’re looking at dieting with a month of broiled chicken or fish, for example, each of these blends will make each plate taste different.

    While the blends originated in specific countries, they are cross-cultural. You can change the perspective of a classic French dish by adding Indian spices, for example. The basic ingredients and technique are still French, but with a nice touch of fusion flavor.

    You can also use spice blends in non-traditional ways: to flavor mayonnaise or yogurt or on fruit, for example. Our tip is: Be adventurous with spices, and conquer the world. (At least, the culinary world.)*

    Several months ago in the New York Times, Mark Bittman recommended making your own spice blends. He recommends whole spices, which are typically of better quality than ground spices, and stay fresh longer in their whole state.

    If you buy them in bulk, they can be surprisingly inexpensive. You can give what you don’t need as gifts to friends and neighbors, and you may still be ahead. Check at local international markets, on Amazon.com or the websites of specialists like Penzeys. Their website has plenty of options, but is surprisingly bare-bones, with no photos of the spices. For beautiful spice photos, check out SilkRoadSpices.ca, a Canadian e-tailer.

       

    chinese-five-spice-230b

    Chinese Five Spice, used to cure artisan pork. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    *Mark Bittman advises: “…don’t feel as if you have to relegate these mixtures solely to their original uses, like jerk spice on chicken or garam masala in curry. Rub them on meat, poultry, seafood, tofu or vegetables before grilling, broiling or roasting; cook them in oil or butter to begin braises or stir-fries; or just sprinkle them on almost anything. My recently regenerated enthusiasm for these came about when I sampled a couple of blends on raw apple slices with ice cream, which was transformational.”
     
    HOW TO START

    You can blend and then grind your spices as needed. This is traditionally done with a mortar and pestle, but you can repurpose an old coffee grinder just for spices. First, clean it and then fill it with raw white rice; grind and then toss the rice. If you still find residual coffee aroma, do it again.

    You’ll get more flavor from your spices if you toast them first. Place them whole in a small skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan occasionally until the fragrance rises, 2 to 5 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then grind.

    Store all ground spices in tightly sealed jars in a dark, cool place. While some will keep well for months, for the most potency make only what you need for a few weeks.

    Here are the first five spice blends: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

     

    kashmiri_masala_spice_blend_mccormick-230r

    Garam masala, an Indian spice blend that
    varies by region and individual cook. Photo
    courtesy SilkRoadSpices.ca.

      ADOBO

    Adobo is a popular Mexican spice mix: spicy and rich in flavor, but not hot. Traditional blends have no added salt. People on low-salt diets can use it in place of salt (but check the label).

  • Traditional uses: Rub on chicken, fish or pork with a bit of lime juice and salt to taste, then grill or broil. Add to chili or taco fixings, or perk up guacamole.
  • Traditional ingredients: garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, cumin and cayenne red pepper.
  • Bittman’s recipe: 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 4 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons onion powder and 2 teaspoons ground ancho.
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    CHILI POWDER

    There are different strengths of chili powder, depending on the heat of the chiles used. Some are labeled medium or hot.

  • Traditional uses: Chili powder is the backbone of traditional Mexican dishes such as red chili and tamales. It is added to mole sauce, stews, beans and rice.
  • Traditional ingredients: ancho chili pepper, red pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic and Mexican oregano.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons coriander seeds; stir in 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, 4 tablespoons ground ancho chiles and 1 teaspoon cayenne.
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    CHINESE FIVE SPICE

    Five spice powder is a versatile Chinese seasoning. The five spices vary by region and individual preference.

  • Traditional uses: stir-frys. The spice has traveled far beyond that with innovative chefs. You’ll find it in artisan chocolate bars, for example.
  • Traditional ingredients: cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds are also commonly included.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons , 12 star anise, 3 teaspoons whole cloves, two 3-inch cinnamon sticks and ¼ cup fennel seeds.
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    GARAM MASALA

    As with other all-purpose spice blends, including curry and five spice, the ingredients in this Indian spice vary by region and individual cook.

  • Traditional uses: very popular on cauliflower, fish, lamb, pork, poultry and potatoes.
  • Traditional ingredients: coriander, black peppercorns, cardamom, cassia cinnamon, kalonji, caraway, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind the seeds of 20 cardamom pods, 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, 1 teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 tablespoons cumin seeds and 2 tablespoons fennel seeds.
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    JERK

    Jerk seasoning is a hot Jamaican spice blend. There are different blends for chicken, fish and pork.

  • Traditional uses: grilled chicken, fish, pork chops, pork tenderloin, whole roast pig; also.
  • Traditional ingredients: paprika, allspice, ginger, red pepper, sugar, ground Grenadian nutmeg, black pepper, garlic, thyme, lemon grass, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and mace.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons allspice berries, ½ teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons dried thyme. Combine with 2 teaspoons cayenne, 2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup salt. Before using, add some minced fresh garlic and ginger.
  •  
    Continue to Part 2 the next five blends: nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Create Your Fantasy Custom Ice Cream Flavors

    chocolate-raspberry-jam-mcconnellsicecream-230

    No fresh raspberries? Make chocolate
    raspberry jam. Photo courtesy McConnell’s
    Ice Cream.

     

    When you’re peering into the ice cream case at the market, do you ever long for flavors that don’t exist? Maybe you want chocolate cookie dough, or rum date instead of rum raisin.

    How about vanilla orange marmalade, a riff on the Creamsicle, or salted caramel candy corn? We’re personally considering coffee-chocolate chip- brownie-Heath Bar.

    Make them yourself!

    You don’t have to own an ice cream maker. Just buy the base flavor at the store, along with the inclusions (the mix-ins) to make your flavor.

  • Start with a pint of chocolate, vanilla or other base flavor, soften it on the counter, and when it’s soft enough to mix, scoop it into a mixing bowl.
  • Then, pile in your inclusions, blend with a couple of large cooking spoons, taste and adjust as desired. Be cautious: add smaller amounts first, especially with alcohol and sauces.
  • Repack the ice cream into the pint and return to the freezer.
  • Work on your recipes over time, adding more or less of some ingredients and introducing new ones.
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    WHAT CAN YOU MIX IN?

  • Alcohol: beer, liqueur, spirits, wine
  • Candy: baking chips (mix the flavors!), chocolate chips/chunks/shavings, mini marshmallows, marzipan, toffee bits, candies of choice
  • Cookies, Cake: broken or cut into small pieces
  • Fruits: diced fruits, jam/preserves, purées, shredded coconut, zest
  • Ice Cream & Sorbet: make a blend of favorite flavors; add a sorbet swirl to ice cream
  • Nuts: raw, roasted or candied nuts, mixed nuts
  • Sauces: balsamic, caramel/salted caramel, chocolate, fruit, honey, marshmallow
  • Spices: cayenne, chili flakes, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, sea salt
  • Vegetables/Herbs: basil, carrots (shredded/purée), mint, tomato
  • Wild Card: granola/other cereals, potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, trail mix
  •  
    More? You tell us!
     
      

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    RECIPE: Adult Ice Pops

    Here’s a way to enjoy Happy Hour in the heat: Turn your favorite fruit cocktail into an adult ice pop.

    We started with the Margarita, re-interpreting the Strawberry Frozen Margarita as a Strawberry Margarita Ice Pop. You can substitute the fruit and spirits to adapt your favorite cocktail.

    Prep time: is 15 minutes plus freezing time (overnight).

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY MARGARITA ICE POPS

    Ingredients For 8 – 10 Pops

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 package (16 ounces) fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons tequila
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  •  

    strawberry-margarita-pops-driscolls-230

    Truly frozen cocktails: Strawberry Margarita Ice Pops. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

     
    Preparation

    1. BRING water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Cool completely.

    2. PURÉE strawberries in a blender or food processor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to yield 1-1/2 cups purée.

    3. COMBINE strawberry purée with sugar syrup, lime juice, tequila and orange liqueur. Pour into ice pop molds.

    4. FREEZE for 2 hours, then sprinkle the base of the pops with salt and add the sticks. Let freeze at least 12 hours longer or overnight until frozen solid.

      

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