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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: The Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker

Some gadgets are a snore. Others really make a difference. In the latter camp is the Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker.

The device enables you to create bite size, multi-layered gourmet appetizers using everyday ingredients. Yes, even peanut butter and jelly or egg salad seems “gourmet” when made in this format!

The manufacturer claims that this can be done in “just five minutes,” but that’s just for simple layering, slicing and plating. You need to add a bit of time for any prep work—making crab salad, slicing olives and pimentos, chopping nuts, whatever. But what you end up with is worth it: fancy and fun appetizers or dessert bites that can become a signature offering at your home.

If you have great knife skills, you don’t need this gadget. Just build a loaf of layers and slice your own.

If, however, you’d never get even slices without help, this is your gadget for triple- or quadruple-layer appetizer or dessert bites that delight adults and kids alike. The instructions are easy to follow and deliver perfectly proportioned pieces. The device is fool-proof: Anyone can turn out impressive, professional looking appetizers with inexpensive ingredients (or, feel free to load in the pricey ones).

   

Stacked layers of crab salad, garnished with crème fraîche and celery. Feel free to add more complexity to your stacks: some watercress atop one of the crab layers or some pimento strips, for example. Photo courtesy Architec.

 

HOW IT WORKS

You layer the ingredients in the plastic mold (see the photo below), then use the slots in the mold to cut the loaf into even pieces.

You start and ending the stacked loaf with bread or another base. The base can be polenta, tortillas or even sushi rice.

The fillings can be anything that’s a bit moist or creamy—the ingredients need to be “flexible” since the mold presses them into bites that hold their shape. So avoid a hunk of iceberg lettuce (but arugula, cress, mesclun or baby spinach work) or roast turkey. But if there’s something you really want, you may be able to figure out how to make it work. (Shred the lettuce and dice the turkey into mini cubes in a layer with moist stuffing, for example.)

The layers are pressed to your desired thickness, and you can keep adding layers until the body of the mold is full. Then slice. When you remove the mold, the appetizers can be served from the plastic bottom tray. But for impressing your guests, you’ll probably want to re-plate them.

And of course, you can garnish them with whatever you like, from crème fraîche to caviar, or whipped cream for dessert stacks.

 

Layers of pimento, goat cheese and black olives. In this photo, the bottom tray has been removed from the mold and the individual stacks are being separated for serving. Photo courtesy Architec.

 

WHAT TO MAKE

Kids will enjoy peanut butter, jelly and banana bites; ham and cheese; bacon and egg stacks on a toast or waffle base; and mini pizza stacks.

Foodies will enjoy crab salad, smoked salmon, goat cheese, chicken mousse, and a garnish of caviar.

For everyone else: you know what your friends and family like (onions? pickle relish?), and where your own creativity will lead you.

For desserts, you can layer angel or pound cake with jam, fruit compote or pudding; make zebras from brownies, cheesecake and perhaps some jam; and otherwise layer your fantasy dessert ingredients.

The fun of the Stackable Appetizer Maker is playing around with different ingredients to find what works for you. Do your experimenting right before lunch, so you can eat your experiments.

 
WHERE TO BUY IT

The Stackable Appetizer Maker is $19.99, available on Amazon or from the manufacturer, Architec, in your choice of black, blue or red.

Customers have posted a lot of good comments on Amazon—that the cutting tool isn’t effective (use your own bread knife), that the recipe booklet is a mess (you’ll have no problem putting together your own combinations).

There are also great tips not provided by the manufacturer, including:

  • Watch the video before you begin.
  • Use “squishable” ingredients with enough fat or moisture content to act as glue when the stacks are compressed. Spreads and salads (chicken, crab, egg, shrimp, tuna) work with a bread base.
  • Be sure that all the ingredients are cold.
  • Dip your knife in ice water after each cut to prevent sticking.
  •  
    You can watch the video and download the recipe book for free on the Architec website (the video link leads to YouTube).

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mexican Christmas Pudding

    christmas-pudding-GerryLerner-230

    Oh give us some figgy pudding! Photo
    courtesy Gerry Lerner | London Lennie’s.

     

    Christmas pudding is an English tradition. It has been celebrated in song since at least the 16th century. Thought to bring luck and prosperity to all those who share it, it is typically made five weeks before Christmas, on or after the Sunday before Advent, known in the Anglican church as Stirring Sunday.

    BRITISH PUDDING VS. AMERICAN PUDDING

    Christmas pudding is also known as plum pudding and figgy pudding, popular pudding ingredients along with dates. Irish recipes vary the dried fruits with raisins, currants, sultanas and citrus peel.

    These are nothing the creamy milk-and-sugar-based dessert puddings familiar in the U.S. (chocolate, rice and tapioca puddings, for example), but solid puddings with a binding—essentially, steamed cakes.

    A Christmas pudding is essentially a very wet, alcohol-soaked, boiled fruit cake. Boiling creates a similar dense texture as baking, but more moist (British puddings can also be baked or steamed).

     
    In the U.K., the soft, creamy, thickened milk-based desserts that Americans think of as puddings are called custards if they are egg-thickened and blanc-mange, the French term, if they are starch-thickened (these are our soft chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch puddings).

    Making the Christmas pudding can be a social occasion. Family and friends get together to create the dessert, each giving the mixture a stir, then making a wish with the hope that good fortune will find them once the pudding is served on Christmas Day. The Christmas pudding is traditionally decorated with a spray of holly (which is not edible). In some homes, it is doused in flaming brandy and brought to the table in a darkened room.

    If you want to make a traditional English Christmas pudding, you need to start at least 30 days in advance so the flavors can meld and the alcohol can blend into the cake. Here’s a Christmas pudding recipe: Mark your calendar.

    But if you don’t have 30 days, there are other options to make right before Christmas.

     
    *Traditional British puddings can be baked, steamed, or boiled and can be sweet or savory. They range from Yorkshire pudding (bound with a batter, similar to a popover) to black pudding (also known as blood sausage, bound with blood), to bread pudding, noodle and potato pudding (all bound with eggs, the latter two also called kugels) or plum pudding (a.k.a. Christmas pudding, bound with suet and flour or some other cereal). Savory puddings are served as a side with a main course, sweet puddings as a dessert.

     

    BUDIN DE ROMPOPE, MEXICAN CHRISTMAS PUDDING

    As easy to make as any gelatin mold, budin de rompope, eggnog pudding, is a traditional Mexican Christmas pudding made from eggnog (rompope). It can be made on the day of serving.

    The eggnog, and subsequently the pudding, was originally made by nuns in the convents of Puebla, Mexico†. (These sisters were great cooks: They also invented the classic Mexican dish mole poblano, turkey in mole sauce, among other great recipes.)

    Like other puddings, rompope can be made in a mold or in individual dessert dishes. This recipe is courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

    You can add a bit of liqueur to the fruit sauce: Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, or a berry liqueur to match the berries used.

    RECIPE: BUDIN DE ROMPOPE or GELATINA DE ROMPOPE

    Ingredients

    For The Pudding

  • 1 cup eggnog
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 egg yolks, large
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1 inch long) cinnamon
  • 1 envelope of flavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  •  

    gelatina-de-rompope-gopixpic.com-230

    Boudin de rompope, an eggnog-based Christmas pudding. Photo courtesy GoPixPic.com.

     
    For The Fruit Sauce

  • 1 pint fresh or package thawed frozen raspberries or strawberries (10 ounces)
  • Sugar to taste
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon liqueur
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SCALD the eggnog and milk by heating together in small saucepan over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the temperature reaches 180°F. Set aside.

    2. BEAT the egg yolks with all but one tablespoon of the sugar, until pale and thick. Add the salt and cinnamon stick. Whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Pour the yolk mixture into the remaining hot milk mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat, until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon and thickens slightly (about 4 minutes). Do not boil. Set aside.

    3. SOFTEN the gelatin in cold water and let it stand 5 minutes. Whisk the gelatin into the milk mixture to dissolve. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Add the rum and vanilla.

    4. CHILL in the refrigerator until the mixture begins to set, about 1-1/2 hours. Whip the cream with the remaining one tablespoon of sugar until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the milk mixture and pour into a mold or 8 glass dessert dishes. Chill until set.

    5. MAKE the fruit sauce: Process the berries in a blender until smooth, sweetening to taste with sugar. Add optional liqueur. Strain out the seeds if desired. Pour the sauce into a glass pitcher or gravy boat and serve with the rompope.

     
    †Puebla was one of the five most important Spanish colonial cities in Mexico. It is located in Central Mexico southeast of Mexico City and west of Mexico’s main Atlantic port, Veracruz, on the main route between the two.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Rich Hot Chocolate With Fewer Calories

    valrhona-hot-chocolate-dolcezzagelato-230

    Just a few sips hit the spot. Photo courtesy Dolcezza Gelato.

     

    The headline is a bit of a tease, because the way to enjoy rich hot chocolate, laden with cream, is to have it in an espresso cup.

    A mug’s worth can be 600 calories or more. If you’re holding a cup with 12 ounces of delicious, high-calorie chocolate, you’ll finish it.

    So take this tip from Dolcezza Gelato in Washington, D.C.: Enjoy two ounces in an espresso cup.
     
    RECIPE: RICH HOT CHOCOLATE RECIPE

    The keys to rich hot chocolate are a rich chocolate bar and cream or half-and-half in addition to the milk. Cocoa powder adds extra chocolatey flavor.

    If you don’t have heavy cream, use light cream, half-and-half or milk with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.

     
    Thanks to Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate for this recipe.

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 2 ounces quality chocolate bar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon premium Dutch process cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk plus
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE 2 to 3 ounces of chocolate in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Chop into the size of chips.

    2. ADD sugar and cocoa powder, as well as a few grains of salt. Cover; process in ten second “bursts” at high speed just until finely ground (a few larger chunks of chocolate are O.K.).

    3. HEAT milk and cream in a small, nonreactive saucepan. Stir frequently with a small whisk, until the mixture is steaming hot.

    4. ADD the chocolate mixture. Whisk in well until dissolved. Serve immediately, preferably garnished with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Yields one large or two more reasonable servings.

     
    MORE LUSCIOUS HOT CHOCOLATE

  • The Best Hot Chocolate & Cocoa Mixes: our reviews.
  • The history of hot chocolate
  • The difference between cocoa and hot chocolate
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Salad With Fresh Herbs & A Crouton

    market-salad-ricotta-toast-lemaraisbakerySF-230

    Add panache to a salad by including a
    crouton spread with seasoned fresh cheese
    or Greek yogurt. Photo courtesy Le Marais
    Bakery | San Francisco.

     

    During the produce-challenged winter months, there’s no better way to dress up a salad than with a crouton and fresh herbs. In fact, it works even at the height of summer!

    The typical green salad in the photo—lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber and kalamata olives plus vinaigrette, topped with watercress*—works during any season of the year. The only difference is that in the summer, the tomatoes will taste better (cherry tomatoes are a better choice in the off season) and you may have more selection of unusual lettuces.

    A crouton, in French, is a piece of toasted bread, similar to the Italian crostini. You can spread it with a fresh cheese—chèvre, feta (mashed into a spread, with a bit of cream or olive oil as needed), fromage blanc, pimento cheese, ricotta or with flavored butter (we love truffle butter). A slice of garlic bread also counts.

    If the cheese is plain, you can simply add bits of snipped herbs with a pinch of salt and pepper.
     
    *For an alternative spicy/peppery salad vegetable, use arugula, mizuna, mustard greens or radishes, each with peppery, tangy, zesty, piquant flavor.

     

    FRESH HERBS FOR SALAD

    From our grandmother, we learned the trick of snipping fresh dill and parsley into a green salad. She typically had these herbs on hand for other dishes. Even as a “whatever” teen, we found the flavor lift to be awesome.

  • Basil: It’s even more impressive if you can find the more exotic lemon basil or Thai purple basil.
  • Chives: If you’re not using onion in the salad, use snipped chives as the garnish.
  • Cilantro: It’s ideal with Latin American and Asian-themed salads.
  • Dill: Delicate and feathery in appearance, it packs great flavor.
  • Fennel: Cut the bulb into the salad, use the fronds (which look like dill, but have a sweet, mild licorice flavor as the herb accent.
  • Mint: Like mint, basil is a member of the botanical mint family, Lamiaceae. It has more intense flavor than basil, so use less of it.
  • Parsley: Flat leafed parsley has more intense flavor than curly parsley, but both add lovely flavor to salads.
  • Savory: Another member of the mint family, winter savory tastes like a cross between mint and thyme with a hint of pine. Summer savory tastes like thyme and marjoram.
  •  

    dill-paperchef-230r

    Feathery dill is delicious in any salad—as well as in the cheese or yogurt spread. Photo courtesy PaperChef.com.

     

    Try different herbs until you find your favorite(s). You can add two different herbs to the same salad.

    Instead of snipping them on top of the salad, toss them with the other vegetables and the dressing for maximum palate pleasing.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Trash Fish

    http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-dish-steamed-fish-image21409028

    Steamed dogfish: delicious, especially at $5.50 a pound. Photo © Marco Guidi | Dreamstime.

     

    Our friends at GQ magazine sent us their 50 Best Things To Eat Right Now article, and we learned something new: trash fish.

    In the fishing industry, a by-catch is a fish or other marine species that is caught unintentionally while catching the target species (recall the dolphins swept up in tuna nets).

    A subspecies of by-catch is rough fish—the slang term is trash fish. The term is used in the U.S. to describe fish that are less desirable to sport anglers.

    While not desirable by anglers for sporting purposes, trash fish species can be very important in the commercial fishing industry, where they make up the bulk of commercial food fish catches in inland fresh waters. The challenge is turning them into popular fish, desired and asked for by consumers.

    There is no standard list of trash fish. A fish that is considered trash in one region may be treasure in another. For example, the common carp is considered undesirable in the U.S. and Australia, but is the premier game fish of Europe and the most valuable food fish across most of Asia.

     

    Dogfish, a.k.a. Cape shark, travel in schools with flounder, hake and pollock, so are often landed as by-catch. Fishermen in the U.S. toss them overboard because dogfish don’t often command prices worth the effort of processing them. Yet, the mild, sweet, boneless flesh is desired for fish and chips in the U.K. In Germany, the belly section of the fish, smoked, is considered a delicacy. [Source]

    You can buy a trash fish like dogfish for say, $5.50 a pound to substitute for the fashionable cod or haddock, which command $15 a pound.

    Today’s trash fish lack the marketing heft to become glamorous fish like branzino, cod, flounder, salmon and tuna. But with the increasing demand for fresh fish, the overfishing of popular species and the ever-increasing prices, attention must be paid.

    So today’s tip is: Don’t turn your nose up at a trash fish because it’s oily (blue fish, mackerel), ugly (scorpion fish) or small (sardines). Once it’s cleaned and in the pan or the pot, it looks like other fish, and taste just as delicious. For a fraction of the price.

    Get some suggestions from your fishmonger, and make an entire Feast Of Seven Fishes!

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Way To Thaw Meat

    frozen meat

    We’ve got the two best ways to go from
    freezer to plate. Photo courtesy
    Mart2Go.com.

     

    Many of us keep meat in the freezer and thaw it overnight in the fridge when we’re ready to use it.

    But how long can you keep that thawed meat before cooking it?

    Here’s the scoop from AG Local, which sells pasture-raised animals from family farms.

    The best way to thaw meat is overnight in the fridge. Slow thawing retains the flavor and texture and keeps bacteria from growing quickly. Bacteria grows above 40°F, which is why thawing it on the kitchen counter isn’t a good idea.

    But when you don’t have that much time, here’s the tip we learned from one of THE NIBBLE’s resident chefs, who in turn learned it in school in his food safety class:

    Fill a bowl with tepid water and add the unwrapped, frozen meat. Place the bowl in the sink and let slightly cool water from the faucet drip over it. The dripping water keeps the water in the bowl at a constant temperature, which speeds up thawing; and the moving water helps to deter bacteria growth on the surface of the meat.

    Leave the meat under the dripping water until it is completely thawed. Approximate thawing time with this method:

  • A chicken breast: 20 minutes
  • A thick steak: 1 hour
  •  

    You need to keep watch, though, and be sure not to leave the meat out for more than four hours to prevent bacteria growth.

    After the meat is thawed, be sure to scrub the bowl and the sink to avoid any contamination from the raw meat.
     
    HOW LONG YOU CAN KEEP THAWED FOOD BEFORE COOKING
     
    thawed-meat-chart-aglocal-520

     
    A FOOD-THAWING GADGET

    Recently, we received information about a gadget called the Vortex that helps with thawing foods.

    You measure the food thickness, enter the corresponding number, submerge the frozen food in a bowl of water and click “start.” The Vortex accurately predicts when the food will be thawed and alerts you when done.

    It does this via thermodynamics, circulating the cold water, which thaws the foods more quickly. We haven’t tried it, but you can check it out on Kickstarter.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Share A Favorite Gadget

    For an inexpensive holiday gift or stocking stuffer, give one of your favorite kitchen gadgets—one that most people probably don’t have, but you wouldn’t want to be without.

    Last year for us it was a serrated peeler, two years ago a mushroom brush.

    But this year, it’s going to be a Wavy Knife from Crisp Cooking. Just by slicing in a normal fashion, it provides a decorative side to fruits and vegetables, whether cooked (including fries) or for crudités and salads.

    We have an old-fashioned crinkle cutter, but the wavy knife is an improvement, easier to use and potentially safer.

    The ergonomic handle provides a sure, comfortable grip and better cutting control. The offset blade provides plenty of “knuckle room” while cutting.

    At $12.99, it’s pricier than the peeler or mushroom brush, but it’s also a more substantial gift.

     

    crisp-cooking-wavy-knife-peanutbutterandpeppers.com-230

    This year’s gift to everyone old enough to cook: a Wavy Knife. Photo courtesy PeanutButterAndPeppers.com

     

    Check it out at CrispCooking.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Seasonal Sangria

    Zulka-Sparkling-Apple-Cider-Sangria-Zulka-230

    Celebrate fall with Apple Cider Sangria. Photo courtesy Zulka.com.

     

    Sangria is a popular party drink, and you can moderate the amount of alcohol or use none at all.

    Here’s the version we’re serving at Thanksgiving, compliments of Zulka Sugar. Fall is apple cider season, so Instead of fruit juice, this recipe uses apple cider and sparkling apple cider.

    Cider s available in alcoholic and non alcoholic versions. In the U.S., alcoholic cider is known as hard cider. (See details below.) Find more delicious recipes at Zulka.com.

    RECIPE: SPARKLING APPLE CIDER SANGRIA

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup Calvados or other apple brandy
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) white wine (Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc work best)
  • 1 bottle sparkling apple cider
  • 5-6 apples, cored and sliced thin (use red apples for better color, or a combination of red and green)
  • Garnish: Cinnamon sticks
  • Optional: ice cubes
  •  

    PREPARATION

    1. COMBINE the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Pour a little of brandy in another small bowl. Dip the glass rims in the brandy and then the cinnamon sugar. Add a few apple slices to each glass. Set aside.

    2. ADD the remaining cinnamon sugar to a large pitcher. Add the apple cider and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Top with the brandy and wine and mix. Add the rest of the apples. Chill until ready to serve.

    3. ADD the sparkling cider right before serving. Garnish with an apple slice and a cinnamon stick. Serve chilled. Add ice if desired.
     
    WHAT IS CIDER

    While in the U.S. and parts of Canada, the term “apple cider” is interchangeable with apple juice, in Europe a glass of cider is not kid stuff: It’s an alcoholic drink that many prefer to beer.

     

    bottle-glass-original-230

    One of our favorite cider brands. Photo courtesy Crispin Cider.

     
    Usually made from fermented apple juice (although pears can be used—pear cider is known as perry in the U.K.), the juice ferments for eight weeks after the apples are pressed. The cider then matures or several months, is blended, filtered and carbonated.

    The result is a drink with the carbonation and alcohol of beer and the flavor of apples. As with beer, each brand has a distinct flavor profile and alcoholic content, generally from 3% ABV (alcohol by volume) or less to 8.5% or more.

    In the U.S., alcoholic cider is called hard cider, and it’s becoming more popular. Like wine, it has a relatively high concentration of antioxidants—but enjoy it for the crisp, refreshing taste!

  • Hard cider is best served chilled or over ice.
  • Cider is naturally gluten-free.
  • Cider is less filling than beer.
  • The apple flavor is all-natural (as opposed to artificially-flavored malt beverages).
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Snacking On Chestnuts

    chestnut-package-melissas-230

    New School: Buy chestnuts ready to eat. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    In the old days, winter meant chestnut vendors on street corners. We’d buy a bag, hot off the embers, and burn our fingertips in our eagerness to devour the toasty treats.

    Then we learned how easy it was to make our own (recipe below).

    But these days, we buy bags of whole cooked chestnuts, peeled and ready to be popped into the mouth, tossed into recipes or microwaved to make them toasty. What you miss in the smoky flavor nuance, you gain in moistness.

    Chestnuts are delicious cold or hot in various recipes or as a garnish. There is no need to add anything to them; they are full of flavor and ready-to-eat. (In fact, you can eat chestnuts raw, but they are sweeter and have a better flavor when cooked).

    WAYS TO SERVE CHESTNUTS

    You can eat chestnuts as you would any other nut. Versatile, they work in savory or sweet recipes.

     
    SAVORY CHESTNUT USES

  • In an omelet
  • In breads and muffins
  • As an appetizer wrapped with bacon
  • Pureèd into pestos and dips
  • In soup—try this (cream of chestnut soup recipe)
  • As a garnish: meat, poultry, seafood—whole, diced, mashed or puréed
  • In stuffing: for duck, pheasant, pork, turkey, quail, veal.
  • In salads, whole or quartered
  •  

  • With vegetables: Brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms
  • With grains (risotto, pilaf), diced
  • In casseroles
  •  
    SWEET CHESTNUT USES

  • Candied (marrons glacées)
  • Puréed and added to hot chocolate
  • In ice cream—puréed or diced
  • In a sweetened bread spread
  • Mousse or Mont Blanc, sweetened chestnut purée in a meringue shell, topped with whipped cream (here’s a riff on Mont Blanc: dessert pasta)
  • Cakes (here’s a chestnut loaf cake)
  • Chestnut soufflé and a multitude of other desserts
  •  

    roasted-chestnuts_histomil-230

    Old School: Buy raw chestnuts, cut an X, roast them, peel them. Photo courtesy Histomil.com.

     

    HOW TO ROAST CHESTNUTS

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Wipe the chestnuts with a damp paper towel.

    2. PLACE the chestnuts on a cutting board, flat side down. Use a small, sharp knife to cut an X on the top (rounded) side of each chestnut. This allows the steam to escape and also makes peeling the cooked chestnuts a lot easier.

    3. MOVE the chestnuts to a baking pan or sheet with the X facing up. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the shells burst open at the X.

    4. COOL a bit until the chestnuts are comfortable enough to touch; peel while they are still warm.

    Note that chestnuts can begin to rot inside the shell, and you won’t know it until you’ve roasted and peeled them. So if you need a certain number, buy 20% more to be on the safe side.

    CHESTNUT HISTORY

    Chestnuts were eaten by prehistoric man, and have been cultivted since about 2000 B.C.E.

    The chestnut tree, Castanea sativa, was introduced to Europe via Greece and Asia Minor. The majority of the chestnut trees currently found in America are of European stock, but Native Americans ate an American genus, Castanea dentata, long before the European tree came to America.

    In 1904, a fungus on diseased Asian chestnut trees that were planted in New York spread and nearly wiped out the American chestnut population. While there are some domestic groves in California and the Pacific Northwest, today most chestnuts are imported from China, Italy, Japan and Spain.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

    pumpkin-spice-latte-starbucks-230

    Why run out for one, when you can make Pumpkin Spice Latte at home? Photo courtesy Starbucks.

     

    We know far too many people who have an addiction to Pumpkin Spice Latte. They often require two per day. To them we say: Why spend a fortune on a PSL habit? It’s easy to make Pumpkin Spice Latte at home.

    Sure, it’s easy to brew coffee, steam the milk and add a shot or two of pumpkin-flavored sugar syrup.

    And here’s a better-for-you variation, a recipe that uses canned pumpkin instead of pumpkin-flavored sugar syrup. You get much more pumpkin flavor, plus the ability to customize the amount of sugar, honey, agave, noncaloric sweetener or no sweetener at all.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE

    Ingredients For 2 Lattes

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling*)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice†
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
  • Optional garnishes: whipped cream, dash of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon sticks
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT the milk, pumpkin and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until hot (do not boil). Remove from the heat. Stir in the pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and coffee.

    2. POUR into 2 large mugs. Garnish each with whipped cream, a dash of pumpkin pie spice and a cinnamon stick.

     
    *Pumpkin pie filling is pre-sweetened and spiced.

    †If you do not have pumpkin pie spice, make your own by combining 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. This will make about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice mix.
     
    MAKE YOUR OWN PUMPKIN SYRUP

    Still want pumpkin syrup in your PSL? Here’s an alternative recipe that uses pumpkin syrup that you make yourself.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LATTE & CAFÉ AU LAIT?

    Café au lait is a coffee drink made with regular coffee (typically a stronger roast, like French roast or Italian roast), brewed in a ratio of 1:1 milk to coffee with sugar to taste.

    Latte, also made with a 1:1 ratio, uses espresso—the strongest coffee roast. Espresso is the roast most popular in Italy; French Roast is most popular in France.

    Check out the different espresso drinks in our Espresso Glossary.

     
      

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