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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: Greek Layered Dip

greek-7-layer-dip-foodnetwork-230

This variation, from Cameron Curtis | The
Food Network
, uses artichoke hearts. Photo
courtesy Food Network.

 

How many times have you had a Mexican layered dip—a.k.a. Seven Layer Bean Dip or Seven Layer Taco Dip—a layering of chopped black olives, diced tomatos, grated Cheddar, guacamole, refried beans, sliced green onions and sour cream, served with tortilla chips?

Sure, it’s popular. But for this year’s Super Bowl, how about a different spin: a seven layer Greek-style dip with pita chips? That’s what we’re making.

Yo don’t need seven layers: You can choose as many or as few layers as you like. The one thing we personally insist on is layering the ingredients in a glass salad bowl, so everyone can enjoy the pretty layers before the chip-dippers get busy.

PICK YOUR SEVEN LAYERS

Spreads/Dips

  • Babaganoush
  • Hummus
  • Tzatziki
  •  
    Dairy

  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    Vegetables

  • Artichoke hearts, well drained and chopped
  • Cucumbers, diced and seeded
  • Kalamata olives, chopped
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeded or sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • Red or yellow bell peppers, small dice
  • Chopped red onions or thinly sliced green onions
  •  
    Plus

  • Optional garnish: fresh dill, mint and/or parsley, snipped
  • Pita chips
  •  

    INDIVIDUAL LAYERED DIPS

    Here’s a simple recipe from Stacy’s Pita Chips. If you don’t have verrines (the small glasses in the photo), clear juice glasses or other appropriate vessels, you can buy plastic rocks cups (9 ounces).

    Ingredients

  • Hummus (you can use flavored hummus for one of the layers)
  • Tzatziki
  • Diced tomatoes (you can substitute red bell pepper when tomatoes are out of season)
  • Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, sliced black olives, minced red onion
  • Garnish: chiffonade of mint, pita chip
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE a layer of hummus at the bottom of the glass, followed by a layer of tzatziki. Repeat.

     

    mini-layer-dip-stacyspitachips-230

    You can make layered dips as individual portions—a fun appetizer idea. Photo courtesy Stacy’s Pita Chips.

     

    2. ADD a layer of diced tomatoes. Top with the feta, olives, onion and mint. Crown with a pita chip.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Burns Night Tonight

    When you sang “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, did you recall that it was first a poem from Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland (1759-1796)?

    His birthday, January 25th, is celebrated in Scotland as Burns Night. Family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company—a warm and happy event much like our Thanksgiving. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served. Here’s the supper format, if you want to plan ahead for next year.

    But you can have a much smaller event tonight, as brief as enjoying a tumbler of Scotch and reading a poem. Burns’ complete works are available free online. Some suggestions: A Red, Red Rose (“My luve is like a red, red rose…”); To a Louse; To a Mouse; Tam O’Shanter.

    If you’d like to do something a bit more elaborate, call around and invite a group for a Scotch tasting (here’s how). Everyone can bring whatever brand they have at hand…along with any bagpipe music.

    Then, there’s a Scotch and chocolate tasting. While solid chocolate wasn’t invented in Burns’ lifetime, he was a bon vivant and we’re sure he’d approve.

    Here are more food ideas for Burns Night.

     

    scotch-cheese-wisconsincheesetalk-230

    Celebrate Burns Night with Scotch and a poem. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    Heid doon arse up! (That’s Scottish for Get on with it!)

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Meyer Lemons

    During the cold winter months with most fruits out of season, citrus become a go-to fruit. Calamondins, clementines, grapefruits, kumquats, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, pomelos, satsumas, sweet limettas, tangelo, tangerine, ugli fruit and even more exotic varieties: All are waiting for you to enjoy.

    Cut them into salads, mix them into sauces, turn them into desserts and enjoy [most of them] as hand fruit.

    While your local stores and farmers markets may not carry calamondins or sweet limettas, they should be able to scare up some Meyer lemons. Deep canary yellow, these citrus treats are sweeter and less acidic than other lemons.

    A cross between a true lemon and either a sweet orange or a mandarin, Citrus × meyeri was first brought to the U.S. from China in 1908 by Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who, as an “agricultural explorer,” discovered it there.

    Of course, it was no discovery to the Chinese, who had long been growing the lemon in pots as an ornamental tree. Ornamental trees were planted in California yards, and the Meyer became popular in the U.S. when “rediscovered” by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in the 1990s. Other chefs and personalities like Martha Stewart began featuring them in recipes; groves were planted and the fruits showed up in markets.

       

    meyer-lemon-beauty-goodeggs-230

    Meyer lemons are much sweeter and more flavorful than the Bearss and Lisbon varieties commonly found in American grocery stores. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     
    Much smaller than the supermarket Lisbon lemon, with sweeter juice, less acid, brighter flavor, a thinner peel and more floral scent and flavor than other lemon varieties (more juice than Lisbon lemons, too!), Meyers are a hit among those who have brought them home. So today’s tip is: Bag a batch and decide how to use them.

    The rind and juice can be substituted wherever regular lemons are called for, in sweet and savory foods and beverages.

    Check out the different types of lemons in our Lemon Glossary.
     
    30+ WAYS TO USE MEYER LEMON

    If you find yourself addicted to Meyer lemons, here’s another tip: Squeeze the juice, freeze it in an ice cube tray and then store the cubes in double plastic freezer bags.

    Defrost a cube whenever you need a hit of Meyer lemon.

    MEYER LEMON IN BEVERAGES

  • Beer (squeeze a wedge into a lager, wheat beer or other lighter style)
  • Cocktails
  • Espresso (use the peel)
  • Hot or iced tea
  • Lemonade (recipe)
  • Meyer limoncello (recipe)
  • Regular or sparkling water
  • Simple syrup (recipe)
  •  

    meyer-lemon-trees-slt-230

    Meyer lemons were originally houseplants in China. You can still buy them as houseplants. These are from Sur La Table.

     

    MEYER LEMON IN SAVORY DISHES

  • Aïoli (recipe)
  • Any recipe that calls for lemon
  • Avgolemono soup or sauce (recipe)
  • Beurre citron (lemon beurre blanc), a delicious sauce for salmon or Arctic char (recipe below)
  • Freshly squeezed atop the dish
  • Hollandaise sauce (recipe)
  • Vinaigrette: replace half or all the vinegar and add some of the zest
  • Wedge garnish
  •  
    MEYER LEMON IN DESSERTS

  • Baked or frozen soufflé
  • Ice cream, sorbet, granita
  • Lemon chiffon cake
  • Lemon bundt, pound cake or cupcakes
  • Lemon custard (also delicious as layer cake filling)
  • Lemon meringue pie
  •  
    USES FOR GRATED MEYER LEMON ZEST

  • General garnish
  • Gremolata (minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest used as a condiment with meats—recipe)
  • Lemon shortbread (recipe)
  • Meringue cookies (recipe)
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    MORE USES FOR MEYER LEMON

  • Candied lemon peel
  • Fruit curd
  • Lemon centerpiece—enjoy the aroma for a few days before you use them
  • Preserved lemons
  •  
    RECIPE: LEMON BEURRE BLANC

    This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown, who offers this trick: You can make the sauce in advance and store it in a thermos, where it will stay hot until until ready to serve.

    Ingredients

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces white wine
  • 2 ounces lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the shallots, white wine and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Reduce to 2 tablespoons.

    2. ADD the cream; when the liquid bubbles, reduce the heat to low. Add half the butter, one cube at a time, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat and then add the remaining cubes, continuing to whisk until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency.

    3. SEASON with salt and white pepper to taste.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Jam

    savory-beauty2-230

    Savory jams. From top, clockwise: tomato
    jam, garlic jelly, onion jam and pepper jelly.
    Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Jam is a preserve of crushed whole fruit, boiled with sugar into a sweet spread. The use of jam to describe a food dates at least from the 1730s, and probably derives from the verb jam, which refers to something tightly pressing between two surfaces (in this case, referring to crushing the fruit).

    Over the centuries, there have been jams based on vegetables: garlic, onion, tomato and more recently, bacon jam, often made by adding luscious bacon to an onion base. Caramelized onions or shallots are a chunkier form of onion jam.

    Some jams are both sweet and savory. Pepper jelly, for example, adds bell peppers or hot chiles into a sweet base. Savory herbs—basil and rosemary, for example—can be combined with fruits to add a savory dimension.

    House-made savory jam is trending at fine restaurants nationwide. It won’t appear on supermarket shelves any time soon, but look for them at specialty food stores, farmers markets and online. If you can’t find what you want, look for recipes and make your own savory jam.

    Why pay attention to savory jam? Versatility, and an easy way to add flavor to numerous recipes. Savory jams work as general condiments, dips, glazes, spreads and thickening agents for sauces.

     
    12+ WAYS TO USE SAVORY JAM

    You can use savory jams to enliven food at every meal. Sure, you can spread them on toast; but you can also:

  • Add to the pan when sautéeing. Since the flavors of savory jam are so concentrated, only a teaspoon is needed. Try shrimp sautéed with tomato jam, garlic and a pinch of harissa.
  • Add to sauces, especially when deglazing a pan.
  • Serve as a meat condiment, an update of mint jelly.
  • Use as a burger or sandwich (including grilled cheese!) condiment instead of ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard.
  • Serve as a fish/seafood condiment (especially onion or garlic jam).
  • Make a jelly omelet.
  • Add to a vinaigrette (try pepper jelly).
  • Serve as a condiment with cheeses (especially saltier cheese) and charcuterie.
  • Create canapés, with bits of meat or vegetable (try tomato jam with roasted sweet potato rounds).
  • Make crostini appetizers or snacks.
  • Serve with grains.
  • Fold into mac and cheese (especially bacon jam!).
  • Combine with cream cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt for a creamy spread or dip.
  • Dilute with vinegar or soy sauce into a dipping sauce.
  •  
    Flavor And the Menu, a magazine for chefs, reports chefs using bacon-chile jam in a Brussels sprouts salad, for example, bacon marmalade crostini topped with blue cheese, tomato marmalade on a BLT, tomato-jalapeño jam on flatbread and savory tomato jam as a dip for fries.

     

    JAM, JELLY, PRESERVES: THE DIFFERENCE

    The jam and jelly group falls into the category of spreads.

  • Jelly is sweetened and jelled fruit juice, a clear product that will hold its shape.
  • Jam is a mixture of crushed fruit and sugar, cooked to the texture of a thick purée.
  • Preserve is similar to jam but contains large chunks of fruit.
  • Conserve is similar to a preserve but usually contains more than one kind of fruit and often nuts.
  • Marmalade is citrus-based and contain the fruit’s rind as well as the flesh.
  • Fruit spread is made with fruit juice concentrate or low-calorie sweetener replacing all or part of the sugar.
  • Fruit butter cooks fresh fruit with sugar spices until thick and then blends it to a smooth consistency.
  • Fruit curd is a creamy spread made with sugar, eggs and butter.
  • Chutney is a spiced condiment made of fruit or vegetables. It is typically served as an accompaniment to food, not as a spread.
  •  

    sundried-tomato-jam-spiceamecooksWP-230r

    Sundried tomato jam on goat cheese or cream cheese: a quick and easy crostini. Photo courtesy SpiceAmeWordpress.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Check out our Jam & Jelly Glossary for more information and other types of spreads.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Rethink Your Sandwiches

    PBJSliderTheShedatGlenwood-NatlPeanutBoard-230

    The new PB&J, battered and fried. Elvis
    would approve. Photo courtesy National
    Peanut Board.

     

    As reported in Restaurant-Hospitality.com, chefs nationwide are adding new life to sandwiches with simple ingredients switches. Some of them are fusion (adding an ingredient from a different culture’s cuisine), others are simply new interpretations of classics.

    Check out what they’re up to, and adapt the ideas to your own sandwiches.

    PB&J. At South Water Kitchen in Chicago, the PB&J stands for Pears, Brie and Jam. The sandwich is composed of sliced pear, Brie and blueberry jam on whole wheat bread. If you want a “real” PB&J, Chef Todd Richards of The Shed at Glenwood, Atlanta, batters and fries a conventional PB&J sandwich (see the photo).

    Grilled Cheese. At Cannery Brewing Company in Monterey, California, the Short Rib Grilled Cheese combines braised short rib, oven-roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and Provolone, along with balsamic onions and pickled peppers on sourdough bread.

    Dagwood. How about a piled-high Dagwood with lamb instead of cold cuts? Chef Rodney Scruggs of The Occidental in Washington, D.C. combines thinly sliced lamb shoulder with goat cheese, arugula, pickled ramps and strawberry jam. (That sounds awfully gourmet for a Dagwood!)

     
    Steak Sandwich. Chef John Tesar of Knife in Dallas reinterprets the steak sandwich with braised beef cheeks. Or go for a bulgogi steak sandwich, Korean grilled beef, topped with pickled red onions and kimchi.

    Panini. Italian grilled sandwiches—panini—go fusion filled with Middle Eastern and Asian ingredients such as grilled tofu. The Peanut Panini from Parish in Atlanta combines green peanut “hummus,” tomato jelly and prosciutto on ciabatta bread.

    Pulled Pork. Chef Allison Leono of Goodyear, Arizona transfers classic Carolina pulled pork in mustard sauce from its classic bun into Thai rice paper wraps—with fresh mango!

     

    You don’t have to travel the country to try these sandwiches. Here are the latest hot recipes described above:

  • Beef Cheek Sandwich Recipe
  • Bulgogi Steak Sandwich Recipe
  • Fileo Fish Sandwich Recipe
  • Green Peanut Panini Recipe
  • Honey and Garlic Grilled Tofu Panini Recipe
  • Lamb Dagwood Sandwich Recipe
  • PB&J (Pears, Brie and Jam) Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe
  • PB&J Slider Recipe
  • Potato-Stuffed 1-Pound Burger Recipe
  • Pulled Pork and Mango Rolls with Carolina Mustard Sauce Recipe
  • Short Rib Grilled Cheese Recipe
  •  

    pulled-pork-mango-rolls-natlmangobd-230

    Carolina pulled pork in a Thai fusion recipe. Photo courtesy National Mango Board.

     

    Read the full article.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Microwave Scrambled Eggs

    microwaved-scramble-eggs-aeb-230

    Yes you can…make scrambled eggs in the microwave. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.

     

    Don’t like to scrub pans? Make scrambled eggs in a mug in the microwave. Here’s how from the American Egg Board:
     
    RECIPE: MICROWAVE SCRAMBLED EGGS

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish or mix-in: fresh herbs or shredded cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the eggs, milk, salt and pepper in microwave-safe bowl or 12-ounce coffee mug, until blended. Add cheese or herbs as desired.

    2. MICROWAVE on HIGH for 45 seconds, then stop and stir. Continue to microwave until the eggs are almost set, 30 to 45 seconds longer. Serve immediately.

     
    NOTES

  • Microwave ovens vary in strength. Cook time may need to be adjusted.
  • Even if the eggs look like they can use a few more seconds, don’t overcook. Scrambled eggs will continue to cook and firm up after removed from microwave.
  •  

    Variations For Any Scrambled Eggs Recipe

  • For rich creamy scrambled eggs, you can use cream instead of milk, or add small cubes of cream cheese or a dollop of cottage cheese before cooking. Chef Wylie Dufresne adds cream cheese to his scrambled eggs recipe.
  • For added flavor, stir a bit of creamy salad dressing, pesto or salsa into the egg mixture.
  •  
    MILK VERSUS NO MILK

    Always add milk (ideally whole milk) or cream to scrambled eggs. The fat in the milk/cream slows down the cooking process, and the additional water (milk is approximately 87% water) adds to the tenderness.

    On the other hand, don’t add milk to omelets. They have a more compact structure; adding milk can make them harder.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Pork Ramen Soup

    ramen-soup-ws-230

    Get out your slow cooker and create this
    delicious Japanese comfort food. Photo
    courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    While many Americans think of ramen soup as one of the cheapest ways to feed oneself comfort food, in Japan the finest Japanese ramen soups take considerable culinary skill and many hours to create. Ramen is hearty enough to be a proper main course with some vegetable sides; but you can also use it as a soup course.

    The Williams Sonoma cookbook, “Quick Slow Cooking,” offers a simplified, yet still delicious, version that uses plenty of succulent braised pork. Another key to a glorious dish is high-quality, fresh ramen noodles, available at Asian markets. If you can’t find them, use fresh thin Chinese egg noodles or fresh linguine. If you can’t get any fresh pasta, you can default to packaged ramen noodles.

    Another point of differentiation from packaged ramen soups: yummy toppings. These can include baby corn, baby spinach, bean sprouts, boiled egg, kamaboko*, kimchi, nori (the dried seaweed used to make sushi rolls), sliced braised pork, sliced green onions or deep-fried green onions, soft-boiled eggs, toasted sesame seeds and wakame seaweed.

    When you make your own soup, you can customize the toppings as you wish, and offer other diners the option to customize their own bowls of soup. This recipe specifies green onions and soft boiled eggs, but you can switch them out or add other toppings.

     
    This recipe uses a slow cooker. For more inspiring slow cooker recipes, check out Quick Slow Cooking by Kim Laidlaw.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE PORK RAMEN SOUP

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 3 pounds (1.5 kg) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 equal pieces
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2-inch (5-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 8 cups/64 ounces (2 l) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 leek, white and green parts, halved lengthwise and coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces (125 g) cremini or button mushrooms, brushed clean and coarsely chopped
  • Low-sodium soy sauce for seasoning
  • Sesame or chile oil for seasoning
  • 1-1/2 pounds (750 g) fresh ramen noodles
  • Topping: 8 soft-boiled eggs
  • Topping: 4 green onions, white and pale green parts, finely chopped
  •  
    *Kamaboko is a type of surimi, a Japanese processed seafood product of which crab stick is another variety. To make surimi, white fish are pureed and mixed with flavor and color. Kamaboko is formed into a half moon-shaped loaf and the outside is colored pink over a white center.

     

    Preparation

    1. SEASON the pork with salt. Place a large sauté pan or the stove top–safe insert of a slow cooker on the stove top over medium-high heat. Add the oil and warm until hot. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, add the pork pieces and sear them on the first side without moving them until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the pieces and sear on the second side until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

    2. POUR off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the insert or sauté pan and return the insert to medium-high heat. Add the yellow onion and sear, without stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and 1 cup (250 ml) of the broth. Deglaze the sauté pan or insert, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the insert bottom; then let simmer for 1 minute. If using a sauté pan…

    3. TRANSFER the contents of the pan to the insert of a slow cooker. Add the leek, mushrooms and the remaining 7 cups (1.75 l) of broth; stir to combine. Cover and cook on the low setting for 8 hours. The pork should be very tender and the broth should be fragrant.

     

    quick-slow-cooking-ws-230

    Make complex-flavored dishes in your slow cooker. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    4. TRANSFER the pork to a cutting board. Using 2 forks, break the pork into bite-size chunks, removing and discarding any large pieces of fat. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard the solids. Using a large spoon, skim off and discard any fat from the surface of the broth. Return the pork and broth to the slow cooker and season to taste with soy sauce and sesame or chile oil. Cover and cook on the low heat setting for about 30 minutes to warm through.

    5. COOK the ramen noodles according to the package directions. Put the eggs into boiling water and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water, let cool until they can be handled and peel them. Cut each in half lengthwise.

    6. TO SERVE: Divide the noodles evenly among individual bowls. Ladle the broth and pork over the noodles, dividing them evenly, then sprinkle with the green onions. Top each bowl with two soft-boiled egg halves and serve immediately.
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAMEN

    Ramen is a dish of noodles in meat broth—chicken or pork—that originated in China. It differs from native Japanese noodle soup dishes, in that until ramen appeared, Japanese broth was based on either vegetables or seafood.

    The type of noodles and toppings used in ramen also came from China. It is believed that “ramen” is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word “lamian,” meaning “hand-pulled noodles” (as opposed to noodles that are sliced with a knife).

    While some ramen dishes began to appear in Japan in the late 1600s, they didn’t become widespread until the Meiji Era (1868 through 1912), when Japan moved from being an isolated feudal society to a modern nation. Foreign relations and the introduction of meat-based American and European cuisines led to increased production of meat, and played a large role in the growing popularity of ramen. Almost every locality or prefecture in Japan created its own variation of the dish, served at restaurants.

    The growth of ramen dishes continued after World War II, but was still a special occasion that required going out.

    In 1958, instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando, founder and chairman of Nissin Foods. Named the greatest Japanese invention of the 20th century in a Japanese poll, instant ramen allowed anyone to make this dish simply by adding boiling water. Exported, these ramen soup packages soon became a pop culture sensation across the globe.

    Soup recipes and methods of preparation are closely-guarded secrets in many restaurants. Beyond regional variations, innovative Japanese chefs continue to push the boundaries of ramen cuisine. Curry ramen, invented in the Hokkaido region, became a national favorite, as has ramen based on the Chinese dish of shrimp in chili sauce. Non-Japanese ingredients such as black pepper and butter have found their way into recipes.

    Check out this article, which details the different type of ramen by region.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Romanesco, Neither Broccoli Nor Cauliflower

    Isn’t it beautiful?

    Romanesco looks like it’s been sculpted by an artist. It’s a member of the cruciferous vegetables family (Brassicaceae) that includes broccoli and cauliflower, among others. If it seems exotic, that’s because we rarely find it in U.S. markets. But romanesco grown in California is in season now.

    In the U.S., it’s also called broccoflower, Roman broccoli, romanesco broccoli, romanesque cabbage and romanesque cauliflower. So is it broccoli or cauliflower? Actually, it’s neither.

    Remember high school botany taxonomy: kingdom, order, family, genus, species and sometimes, subspecies? The Brassica genus is unusual in that instead of individual species, it bundles its members into one species. Thus, the species Brassica oleracea includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rapeseed/canola, rapini (broccoli rabe) and turnips. What might be called a subspecies elsewhere are known here as cultivars, and don’t have a separate botanical name.*

    So the answer is: romanesco is neither broccoli nor cauliflower; it is its own cultivar. While you’ll see it called broccoli or cauliflower, you now know better.

       

    romanesco-melissas-230sq

    If you can’t find it locally, order romanesco online as a special treat. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    Botanists believe that Italian farmers in the 16th century developed romanesco through cross-breeding (it was initially called broccolo romanesco). As with cauliflower or broccoli, the pointy “florets” (often called fractals after fractal art) that comprise the head are of varying sizes. They are actually individual buds of the plant’s flower.

    Romanesco tastes more like cauliflower, with a nutty, earthy flavor nuance and a crunchier texture. It is about the same size of a regular head of cauliflower. There is also a smaller variety, which is about half the size. The pale green shade keeps its color through cooking.

    Look in your farmers markets or specialty produce stores; the crops from California are in. You can treat yourself or send a gift from Melissas.com.

     

    romanesco-simplymcghie.blogspot-230r

    It’s almost to pretty to cut! Enjoy it as a centerpiece for a day or two. Photo courtesy SimplyMcGhie.Blogspot.com.

     

    HOW TO SERVE ROMANESCO

    Romanesco can be served raw, lightly cooked, or cooked through, and can be substituted in any recipe calling for cauliflower or broccoli. It’s a shame to destroy the architecture by dicing or puréeing: We wouldn’t want to turn it into soup, for example, when we could use regular cauliflower. Instead, consider:

  • Crudités
  • Lightly steamed (recipe)
  • Marinated
  • Mixed vegetable salads (with mixed greens or other vegetables)
  • Roasted
  • Sautéed (here’s an easy recipe with garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese)
  •  
    RECIPE: ROMANESCO SALAD

    This recipe is from Mariquita Farm in Watsonville, California, which grows romanesco.

     
    Ingredients

  • 1 head romanesco
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata or other favorite olive, pitted and sliced
  • Capers, 1 tablespoon per 4 cups of florets
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion or to taste: green onion, red onion, shallot
  • Fresh herbs, chopped (basil, cilantro and/or parsley are our favorites here)
  • Lemon juice vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: shaved Parmesan or crumbled Gorgonzola
  • Optional garnish: toasted sunflower seeds
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY STEAM the florets to desired consistency. While you can use them raw, a blanching or light steaming makes the texture more uniform with the other ingredients.

    2. TOSS with the other ingredients and the vinaigrette, taking care not to damage the pointy “fractals.” Serve chilled or at room temperature.

     

    RECIPE: LEMON VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK together the lemon juice, zest, mustard, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until the dressing is well blended.

    2. TASTE and season with additional salt and pepper as desired. Drizzle over the salad and toss to coat thoroughly.
     
    WHY ARE CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES SO GOOD FOR YOU?

    The Brassicaceae family of vegetables contains powerful antioxidants that prevent the build-up of free radicals, atoms with unpaired electrons in the body that are destructive, engendering disease.

    Along with their nutritional elements, cruciferous vegetables aid with alkalinization (making the body less acidic), bone health, cancer prevention, cholesterol reduction and detoxification (neutralization and elimination of unwanted contaminants). The high fiber content aids in digestion, heart health, lowering blood sugar, reducing allergy reactions and inflammation, and more.

     
    *Other members of Brassicaceae belong to a different genus. These include arugula, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, cress, daikon, horseradish, mizuna, radish, rutabaga, tatsoi and wasabi.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Global Foods To Try This Year

    causa-perudelifhts-230

    Causa: humble mashed potatoes are
    transformed into a snazzy appetizer or side.
    Photo courtesy PeruDelights.com.

     

    For more than 15 years, the magazine Flavor & The Menu has been the trusted authority on flavor trends for food and beverage menu developers. Here’s their list of 10 items from around the world that are “primed for carrying a new wave of global flavors” in 2015.

    You don’t have to wait for your local restaurants to feature these foods. You can find recipes online and be the trendsetter in your area.

    Bobo Chicken From China

    Like food on a stick? Not to be confused with the Brazilian dish, Chicken Bobó, this spicy snack and street food comprises skewers of chicken, often with vegetables, are marinated in sauces teeming with Sichuan peppers, grilled, then served at room temperature. It can be plated at home without the skewers, with rice or noodle. Here’s more.
     
    Causa From Peru

    Love potatoes? This popular potato dish, served cold or room temperature, is composed of mashed potatoes, sometimes seasoned with lime, onion and chiles, stuffed with various ingredients, then formed into cakes or terrines. Here’s a recipe from PeruDelights.com.

     
    Cemita From Mexico

    This torta from Puebla, Mexico, is a sandwich on a brioche-like roll that is also called cemita. The sandwich is filled with avocado, meat (carnitas, beef Milanesa and pulled pork are popular) plus a fresh white cheese like panela. Here’s a recipe.

     

    Feijoada From Brazil

    If there’s a Brazilian restaurant in your area, it most likely serves feijoada, pronounced fay-ZHWAH-dah. The national dish of Brazil is a rich, smoky stew of black beans, salted pork, bacon, smoked pork ribs, sausage and jerked beef. It’s a one-bowl, comfort-food meal. You can make it at home and serve with sides like fried plantains, hot pepper sauce, pork rinds and stewed greens. Here’s a recipe.
     
    Medianoche From Cuba

    A variation of the popular Cubano pork sandwich, the Medianoche (which means “midnight,” as it was a snack that followed a night of dancing) switches out the crusty French bread for a soft, sweet, yellow egg dough bread. It’s often smaller than the typical Cuban sandwich. It’s easy to make: Just combine roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, sliced pickles and mustard on sweet Cuban bread (no lettuce, no tomato, no mayo!). Here’s the recipe.

     

    Okonomiyaki from Japan

    These savory pancakes are typically made with white flour, grated yam and dashi. Toppings and batters can vary but generally stay on the savory side. Examples include shrimp, green onion and pickled vegetables. The name is a combination of okonomi, “what you like” or “what you want” and yaki, meaning grilled or cooked. Here’s a recipe.
     
    Paratha From India

    Available at any Indian restaurant, this unleavened flatbread from India is traditionally pan-fried. It can be eaten plain, like any flatbread; but it is popularly turned into the Indian version of a knish, filled with boiled potatoes, vegetables, radishes or paneer cheese. Crisp, flaky and endlessly customizable, here’s a recipe.
     
    Piada From Italy

    Also called piadina, this Italian street food, originally from the Emilia-Romagna region, is a thin flatbread that serves as a wrap for fillings: cheeses, cold cuts and vegetables as well as with sweet fillings such as jam or Nutella. Here’s a recipe.

     

    popiah-spring-roll-rasamalaysia-230

    Popiah, a Malaysian spring roll. Photo courtesy Rasa Malaysia.

     

    Popiah From Malaysia

    Malaysia’s answer to the fresh spring roll, the popiah has a thin wrapping, often made with tapioca flour and egg, that is rolled around a variety fillings (shrimp, jicama and fried shallots are popular). Dipping sauces range from sweet to spicy to savory. In mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan there are home-based popiah parties, where the ingredients are laid out and guests roll their own popiah to their own personal liking. Spring roll lovers: This one’s for you. Here’s a recipe.
     
    Simit From Turkey

    A kind of Turkish sesame bagel—but so much more intensely sesame—the simit is a ring of chewy dough that’s perfect for breakfast. In Turkey, it’s purchased as a street food on the way to work or during the day as a snack bread. In the U.S., it’s been turned into a base for sandwiches (see our simit article and the difference between simits and bagels). Here’s a recipe.

    Here’s the full article, with many more ideas on how to enjoy these global delights.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Fish Or Chicken With Salsa

    Salsa has been America’s favorite condiment since 2000, when it supplanted ketchup in sales. But it actually has been a favorite condiment for thousands of years.

    The wild chile was domesticated about 5200 B.C.E. and tomatoes by 3000 B.C.E., both in Central America. The two ingredients were combined into a condiment, incorporating other ingredients like squash seeds and even beans (the predecessor of one of our favorites, tomato, corn and bean salsa). The Spanish conquistadors, taking over in 1529, called it “salsa,” the Spanish word for sauce.

    Salsa was not used as a dip for tortilla chips, which weren’t invented until the late 1940s in Los Angeles. It was a general sauce for meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. (Here are the history of salsa and the history of tortilla chips.)

    So today’s tip is: Take salsa back to its origins and use it as a sauce for fish and poultry. Here’s the easiest way, from Jillipepper, a New Mexico-based salsa maker.

  • Fish steaks or fillets, 4-6 ounces each
  • 1 salsa, jar or homemade
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRUSH the fish liberally with the salsa.

       

    montreal-salsa-chicken-mccormick-230

    Salsa-coated chicken. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    2. COOK on a grill over medium heat or under the broiler. Turn and brush with salsa every 5 minutes until fish is done.
     

    When you use salsa with chicken or fish, it can be traditionally savory, or sweetened with fruit. (See the different types of salsa.)
     

    SWEET SALSA

    If you like things sweet—and easy—McCormick has a popular Salsa Chicken recipe that combines canned tomatoes with apricot preserves, and a Montreal Salsa Chicken that combines mild salsa with peach preserves.

    Both of those combine tomatoes with fruit, but you can also make a pure fruit salsa with no tomatoes.

    Peach salsa is the best-selling fruit salsa flavor in the U.S., beating mango and pineapple. While most bottled peach salsa is tomato-based salsa roja, you can make fresh peach salsa without tomatoes. Wait for peach season, though; then combine 2 cups peeled, finely diced peaches, 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion, 2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 de-seeded and finely chopped jalapeño, juice of 1 lime, 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or basil leaves and 1 clove minced garlic. Add salt to taste.

    Mango pineapple salsa is also easy to whip up. Combine 1 diced mango and 2 cups of diced pineapple with ½ medium onion, diced; ½ cup cilantro, diced; the juice of one lime, and salt and pepper to taste. You can also add minced jalapeño for heat.

    Cherry salsa goes nicely with chicken or fish. You can use fresh cherries in season, but frozen cherries work fine. Here’s a salmon recipe with cherry mango salsa.

    And when watermelon season returns, how about a watermelon, corn and black bean salsa?

     

    Grilled fish with a savory salsa. Photo from the cookbook, South American Grill, courtesy Rizzoli USA.

     

    SAVORY SALSA

    We prefer a largely savory salsa with grilled fish, sometimes with diced fruit—mango, peach or pineapple tossed in for balance, but never, ever with added sugar.

    While you can use salsa from a jar, making your own is easy and you can customize it with your favorite ingredients. You can also create your preferred texture, from chunky hand-diced to puréed in the blender.

    The possible combinations are [almost] endless”

    POSSIBLE SALSA INGREDIENTS

  • Tomatoes: in the off season, use cherry tomatoes
  • Fruit: grape, mango, melon, peach, pineapple or other fruit
  • Onions: green onion, red onion, sweet onion
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley
  • Acid: wine vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice
  • Heat: jalapeño or other fresh chile
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic
  • Enhancements: black beans, capers, corn kernels, gherkins, olives
  •  

    HOMEMADE SALSA RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 3 pounds tomatoes, diced and seeded
  • Optional: 1/2 pound diced fruit
  • 1/2 small red onion (more to taste), small dice
  • 2 or 3 small jalapeño chiles
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 of a lemon or lime, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup or more cilantro (if you don’t like cilantro, substitute parsley)
  • 2 splashes of red wine vinegar (about a 1/2 teaspoon)
     
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the stems from the cilantro. Remove the white membrane and seeds from the jalapeños and mince the flesh.

    2. COMBINE the tomatoes, fruit, onions, jalapeño and garlic. Add the seasonings (vinegar, citrus juice, salt, pepper, cilantro) and toss to thoroughly combine. Allow flavors to blend for a half hour or more (overnight is fine); then taste and adjust seasonings. You may want more vinegar, more jalapeño, etc.

    3. Pulse until desired consistency.
     
    This is making us hungry. Guess what we’re having for lunch!

      

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