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Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Our 20+ Favorite Ways To Use Mustard

National Mustard Day is the first Saturday in August—which happens to be today. The holiday was initiated in 1988 by a mustard lover named Jill Sengstock, and was taken under the wing of the National Mustard Museum in 1991. If you’re anywhere near Middleton, Wisconsin, you can join in the day of mustard-centric family activities (or is that family-centric mustard activities?).

Mustard has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years, beginning in India in 3000 B.C.E. It grew wild in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used mustard as a condiment; some actually chewed the mustard seeds with their meat. Egyptian pharoahs were buried with seeds to use in the afterlife.

Fast forward: By the 1400s, mustard had spread through Europe, with each region making its own style. Mustard came to the U.S. with European immigrants. Mustard came to America in the 1700s and immigrants established mustard businesses. The style of the day was strong, spicy and brown, but later, the yellow “ballpark” mustard style was born in the U.S.A. Here’s more history of mustard.

   

/home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/5 open jars mailleFB 230

Five of the 20+ types of mustard made
by Maille Mustard.

 
Today, there are dozens of different types of mustard—far beyond the all-American yellow mustard (like French’s), brown mustard (Chinese mustard, like Colman’s), Dijon (like Grey Poupon) and whole grain (like moutarde à l’ancienne—one variety, moutarde de Meaux, is called the “king of mustards” by connoisseurs).

For National Mustard Day, commit to trying any of these you aren’t familiar with, plus a flavored mustard. Beyond honey mustard, look for Roquefort mustard, tarragon mustard and walnut mustard—three of our favorites.

20+ WAYS TO USE MUSTARD

Beyond hot dogs, burgers and sandwiches, mustard is a natural complement to many foods. Before we start the conventional list, take a look at this first course: gravlax with mustard ice cream. There’s no sugar in the ice cream, just novelty. Think of it as a cold mustard cream sauce!

 

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Pâté with whole grain mustard (also called grainy mustard and in French, moutarde a l’ancienne). Photo courtesy Dusek’s |
Chicago.

 
  • Barbecue: The essential in South Carolina mustard barbecue sauce, and a help to tomato-based barbecue sauces, to cut the sweetness.
  • Butter: Blend mustard with butter and lemon for a compound butter topping for toast, grilled meat or sauteed meat and seafood.
  • Canapés: Spread a base of bread or cucumber with a flavored mustard, then top with cheese, pâté, meat or other ingredients.
  • Charcuterie: As a condiment with bacon, ballotines, confits, galantines, ham, pâtés, sausages and terrines.
  • Cheese: Serve mustard as a condiment with strong cheeses (more about cheese condiments).
  • Chicken: Mustard brightens chicken stews and makes a delicious glaze for chicken breasts and wings.
  • Dip: Serve it straight or mixed with mayonnaise, sour cream or plain yogurt, with crudités, chips, fries and pretzels. Mustard is also an ingredient in beer and Cheddar dips. You can also add it to a Mexican queso dip.
  • Eggs: Mustard adds complexity to deviled eggs. It also makes a delicious sauce for poached eggs.
  • Fish: Sturdy fish like salmon and tuna are wonderful with a mustard crust. As a glaze, brush it on salmon fillets before broiling or on tuna before searing. Here’s a recipe for a mustard glaze for fish.
  • Glaze: In addition to fish, glaze chicken, ham, pork and lamb.
  • Grilled meats: Use mustard as your condiment for meats (including sausages) and poultry.
  • Ground Meat & Seafood: Add a spoonful along with other seasonings, to burgers, crab cake, meat loaf, etc.
  • Mussels: Swirl mustard into lager-steamed mussels and garnish with dill. Here’s a mussels and mustard recipe from Pierre Franey, chef of the legendary (and belated) Le Pavillon restaurant in New York City.
  • Mustard Sauce: Here’s a recipe for mustard sauce.
  • Pan Sauces: After sautéing chicken breasts or searing steaks, whisk the fond (the browned bits at the bottom of the pan) with a splash of wine and a dollop of mustard, into a tasty sauce.
  • Pasta: Add acidity to a cream sauce for pasta with a spoonful of mustard. Make a butter-mustard sauce for noodles with grainy mustard.
  • Potatoes: Add a spoonful of mustard to mashed potatoes. Then top it with crumbled bacon and minced chives or scallions! Add Dijon mustard to a gratin; add a bit to a sour cream or yogurt sauce for potatoes and vegetables.
  • Roasts: To create a beautiful crust for a leg of lamb, pork loin or turkey breast, rub it with an herb mustard before roasting.
  • Salads: Add a spoonful to the “protein” salads—chicken, egg, ham, tuna—and the side salads—cole slaw, potato salad and macaroni salad.
  • Sandwich Spread: Mix mayonnaise with mustard, half and half or to taste. It adds flavor and cuts the calories and fat of the mayo in half.
  • Soup: Add a spoonful to a pot of dull soup.
  • Tartar Sauce: Here’s a zingy recipe from Colman’s.
  • Vinaigrette: A mustard dressing is a classic with salad greens, but it’s also delicious with roasted vegetables (try it with parsnips and turnips!).
  •  
    Thanks to Colman’s Mustard for some of these yummy ideas. Click the link for recipes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Salad Topping For Fish

    Today’s tip was inspired by this dish (photo at left) at The Sea Fire Grill, in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center.

    At its simplest, the tip is: Serve fish fillets—baked, grilled, pan-fried, roasted or sautéed—topped with a salad of baby greens, very lightly dressed in vinaigrette or olive oil and lime juice.
     
    ADD COLOR TO EVERY PLATE OF FOOD

    The salad adds vibrant color to a plate of beige, brown and/or white foods, a longstanding practice of chefs (even if times past, the color was a sprig of parsley). You can add even more color a side of yellow squash, carrots, sautéed heirloom cherry tomatoes or any of these “Rainbow Vegetables.”

    The Sea Grill adds fun and flavor by layering the dish with a south-of-the-border spin:

  • A house-made tortilla shell, filled with corn and bean salad (corn salad recipe).
  • A drizzle of basil olive oil under the tortilla shell.
  •    

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    Salad-topped grilled black sea bass in a corn salad-filled tortilla bowl. Photo courtesy The Sea Grill | NYC.

  • Dots of balsamic vinegar reduction (or purchased balsamic glaze—check your local Trader Joe’s).
  • Chipotle aïoli (add chipotle powder powder to taste, to this aïoli recipe (aïoli is garlic mayonnaise). You can substitute chile powder for the chipotle, but it won’t have the signature chipotle smokiness.
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/sauteed cherry tomatoes leitesculinaria 230

    Sautéed cherry tomatoes are another
    easy way to add color and flavor to a fish
    fillet dish. Here’s a sautéed cherry tomato
    recipe
    from Leite’s Culinaria.

     

    You don’t need to make tortilla bowls: You can place the fish on top of the corn salad, or substitute cucumber salad, beans/legumes/bean purée, guacamole, rice or other starch, or vegetables/vegetable purée. But if you want to make the bowls, here’s how:

    RECIPE: TORTILLA BOWLS

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Lightly spray both sides of 8-inch corn tortillas with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. PRESS each tortilla over a custard cup, ramekin or other oven-safe bowl; crimp to form the fluted bowl shape. Place on a baking sheet.

    3. BAKE for 10 minutes or until the edges are browned. Remove from the oven and cool for 3 minutes. Remove the tortillas from the bowls and cool completely.
     
    For larger tortilla bowls that you can use for entrée salads, purchase burrito-size wraps and drape them over a 1-quart ovenproof bowl (we use Pyrex).

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Paella On The Grill

    We love paella and don’t make it often enough. So when Fagor wrote to us about their paella pan and included a recipe to make it on the grill, our ears perked up.

    PAELLA HISTORY

    Paella (pronounced pie-AY-ya) originated in Valencia, a region on the Mediterranean (east) coast of Spain. It was originally a peasant dish, made by agricultural laborers who cooked a mixture of rice, snails and vegetables in the fields. Cooked in a pan over an open fire. it was a communal dish, eaten directly from the pan with wooden spoons.

    Valencianos who lived closer to the coast added local eel plus butter beans (lima beans). Paella is the type of dish that lends itself to adding whatever you have on hand, so can change seasonally. Recipes thus evolved in many directions.
     
    MODERN PAELLA

    The paella we know today—saffron rice mixed with chorizo, chicken and seafood—did not evolve until the late 18th century century, when living standards rose affording the use of more expensive ingredients—especially saffron, the world’s costliest spice.

    It’s easy to vary the ingredients to create any type of paella, including vegetarian and vegan recipes. But three main styles developed in the 19th century:

  • Paella Valenciana combines rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), snails, beans and seasoning
  • Paella de marisco, a seafood paella that replaces meat and snails with seafood, and omits the beans and green vegetables
  • Paella mixta, a freestyle combination of meat, seafood and vegetables. Note that in the U.S., dishes called “Paella Valenciana” are actually paella mixta, the combination of ingredients preferred by most people.
  •    

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    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/fagor paella pan 230

    Above, paella on the grill; photo courtesy A Couple Cooks. Underneath, the Fagor paella pan; photo courtesy Fagor America.

     

    By the mid-1800s, paella included short-grain white rice and a mix of proteins: chicken, duck, rabbit and snails (less affluent people often made do with snails alone). The dish was actually a “rice and beans” dish, with a mix of butter beans, Great Northern beans (white beans) and runner beans (green beans). Artichokes and tomatoes replaced runner beans in the winter. Spices included garlic, pimentòn (sweet paprika), rosemary, saffron and salt. The dish was cooked in olive oil.

    The recipe continued to evolve as chorizo, green peas, olives and roasted red pepper found their way into the dish. We’ve seen recipes with chopped chard or escarole, eggplant, fennel, mushrooms, oives, onion, piquillo chiles, red or green bell pepper, snow peas, tomatoes (fresh diced or roasted) and seasonal (spring asparagus and winter squash, e.g.). Some cooks garnish the top of the paella with sliced hard-boiled eggs and lemon wheels.

    The cook’s favorite ingredients were sure to be included. The chef at Soccorat, Soccarat, a group of tapas and paella restaurants in New York City, devised a paella menu that includes:

  • Arroz negro (black rice): calamari, fish, scallops, piquillo peppers and shrimp with squid ink rice.
  • Carne (meat): chicken, chorizo, mushroom sofrito, short ribs and snow peas.
  • De la huerta (from the orchard, i.e., vegetarian*): artichokes, cauliflower, eggplant, snow peas and tomatoes.
  • Fideuà† de mar y montana (ingredients from the sea and mountains): Brussels sprouts, chicken thighs, cuttlefish and shrimp, with noodles instead of rice
  • Langosta (crustacean): lobster, roasted peppers, scallops, shrimp and squid.
  • Pescados y mariscos (fish and seafood): cockles, English peas, mussels, scallops, shrimp, squid and white fish.
  • Socarrat‡ (house signature recipe): beef, chicken, cockles, cuttlefish, fava beans, mussels, shrimp and white fish.
  • Valenciana: asparagus, pork ribs, rabbit, scallions and snails.
  •  
    *The word vegetariano does exist in Spanish, but there is some poetic license involved with the orchard reference.
     
    †Fideuà denotes the a type of cuisine from Catalonia, the northeastern part of Spain (north of Valencia). The style originated in the 1920s in the city of Gandia, when thin noodles like vermicelli (fideu in the Catalan language) were used instead of rice in the paella. The pasta is broken into short lengths and cooked in the paella pan. There are many variations of it, and it is optionally served with allioli sauce, the traditional Catalan garlic and olive oil sauce. Other examples of the cuisine: calçots—barbecued spring onions with romesco sauce—cured anchovies, embutidos y butifarras (cured meats and sausages), sparkling Cava wine and anything made with the local bolet mushrooms. Canelons, Spanish cannelloni, and Pa amb tomaquèt, bread rubbed with tomato (and sometimes with with garlic and olive oil), and Escudella de carn d’olla, is a hearty Catalan stew, round out the list of “must trys” when you’re next in Barcelona.
     
    ‡Soccorat is the hard, crunchy rice crust that develops on the bottom of the pan from its proximity to the heat. Some people particularly enjoy it.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/chicken Wm Son paella 230

    Paella is a freestyle dish: Whatever you have on hand can go into the pan. Here, chicken legs and thighs, green beans and corn are included. Our personal favorite combination: a mixto with pimento (red bell pepper in a jar), black and green olives, artichoke hearts and green peas, plus fresh asparagus in the spring. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.com.

     

    RECIPE: PAELLA ON THE GRILL

    This recipe, sent to us by Fagor, takes about 40 minutes. Created by ACoupleCooks.com, can easily be made as a vegan dish. You can also add the traditional mixto ingredients, chicken thighs and sliced chorizo.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 15-inch paella pan or any large, shallow, flameproof pan (stainless steel or aluminum preferable)
  • 12 mussels or clams
  • 12 high-quality deveined shrimp (or substitute cooked chickpeas for a vegetarian version)
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 zucchini
  • ½ head cauliflower or any vegetables of your choice (we used a classic blend of roasted red peppers [pimento], peas and olives)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup tomato purée
  • 5½ cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups Arborio (short grain) rice
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 2 tablespoons pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the grill to medium high heat. Prepare the ingredients: Scrub the mussels or clams; place them in a bowl with the shrimp. Slice the zucchini and mushrooms; chop the cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Place the vegetables in a bowl.

    2. MINCE 4 cloves of garlic and put them in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons olive oil. In a medium bowl, place ½ cup tomato purée and 5½ cups broth; mix to combine. In a another bowl, add 2 cups arborio rice, 1 pinch saffron, 2 tablespoons pimentón, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a good amount of fresh ground pepper.

    3. ASSEMBLE the paella: Bring the bowls of ingredients and the paella pan to the grill. Prior to cooking, add about 15 briquettes to the fire to keep the temperature up. Place the pan on the grill and add the olive oil and garlic; cook for about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the seafood; cook for about 2 minutes, flipping the shrimp once. Pour in the rice and spices so that they cover the pan. Add the broth and purée mixture and stir to combine.

    4. COOK the paella for 20 to 30 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cook uncovered on a charcoal grill or with the cover down on a gas grill. Make sure not to stir, since this when the soccorat develops. (Editor’s note: Soccorat is the rice crust on the bottom of the pan, which some people find very exciting. We personally don’t like hard, crunchy rice).

    5. CHECK to see that the rice on the bottom does not burn; it cooks fairly quickly. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to cool.
     
    WHY BUY A PAELLA PAN?

    Why not make paella in a roasting pan or other vessel you already have?

    You can, of course; but a paella pan is specifically designed for seamless heat conduction and retention. Fagor’s, with a heavy weight and enamel-on-steel design, is a great heat conductor on the grill, oven or stovetop.

    You can buy it Fagor Paella Pan or at retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond. Be sure to get the 15-inch size. With a dish like paella, you want to make as much as you can and enjoy the leftovers.

    A paella pan is a versatile piece of cookware that can also be used to make:

  • Eggs and bacon
  • Pancakes
  • Roast chicken (the pan goes from oven to table)
  • Stir-frys (or anything you’d use a wok for)
  • Pizza: grease and flour the pan well or use nonstick spray
  •  
    And the pan easily goes from stove to table (don’t forget a trivet).
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Chimichurri Sauce

    Each country in Latin America has a national salsa, or sauce. In Argentina, it’s chimichurri.

    Chimichurri sauce is made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, white or red vinegar and red pepper flakes. Oregano can be added. Cilantro can replace parsley in some regions; vegetable oil can replace the olive oil.

    The original sauce is green from the parsley; later red versions add tomatoes, red bell peppers and/or hot chiles.

    In beef-endowed Argentina chimichurri is the steak sauce of choice, also used with other beef-based dishes and any grilled meats.

    As one story goes, the name name evolved from “Jimmy McCurry,” an Irishman who developed the recipe in Argentina. However, there is no written documentation of this.

    Purportedly, McCurry was sympathetic to the cause of Argentine independence in the 19th century, and served in a troop under the command of General Jasson Ospina. The sauce was popular but “Jimmy McCurry” was difficult for Argentineans to say, so it became “chimichurri” sauce (pronounced chimmy CHOO-ree).

       

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    Classic: grilled beef with chimichurri sauce. Photo courtesy D’Artagnan.

     
    Another theory is that the name comes from the Basque settlers who arrived in Argentina in the 19th century. According to grilling expert Steve Raichlen, the name of the sauce comes from the Basque term tximitxurri, loosely translated as “a mixture of several things in no particular order.” [Source: Raichlen, Steven, “Planet Barbecue!,” Workman Publishing Company. p. 159. ]

    It’s easy to make chimichurri in a blender or food processor; but purists may want to make it the original way, with a mortar and pestle. We find that pesto made this way tastes better than food processor pesto, even when the exact same ingredients are used.
     
    RECIPE: BASIC CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

    Ideally, make the chimichurri sauce a day in advance to allow the flavors to meld. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

    Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves, tightly packed
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh oregano leaves or 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the parsley, garlic, oregano, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a blade attachment. Process until finely chopped, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, about 1 minute total.

    2. ADD the oil in a steady stream, with the motor running. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse a few times to combine.

    3. TRANSFER the sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 day, allowing the flavors to meld. Stir, taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

     

    Grilled Halloumi With Chimichurri Sauce

    This chimichurri sauce has been made elegant by pureeing. It’s served with a vegetarian dish, Grilled Halloumi And trumpet Mushrooms. Photo courtesy Gardenia Restaurant | NYC.

     

    CREATE YOUR SIGNATURE CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

    You can adding or substitute other ingredients to create a signature chimichurri:

  • Substitute lemon or lime juice for the vinegar.
  • Use fresh or roasted chiles instead of the red pepper flakes.
  • Add minced onion.
  • Try balsamic or flavored vinegar instead of wine vinegar
  • Give it an Asian spin with fresh ginger and mint, or an Indian influence of green curry and cilantro.
  • Turn it into mint sauce by substituting mint for the parsley; or make a parsley-mint blend.
  • Substitute basil for “Caprese sauce.”
  • Add a spoonful of Dijon mustard.
  • Make red chimichurri sauce by adding red bell peppers and/or raw or roasted tomatos (Red Chimichurri Rcipe).
  • For elegance, purée the naturally textured sauce into a smooth one (see photo at left).
  •  
    21+ WAYS TO USE CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

    Like Italy’s pesto, chimichurri is a bright green, herb-based, versatile sauce that you can use with:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Burgers
  • Caprese salad dressing
  • Crostini (serve the toasts with grilled meats)
  • Eggs, any style
  • Egg salad, chicken salad, potato salad, tuna salad, etc.
  • Fries and onion rings
  • Grilled fish or seafood (recipe: Mango Grilled Shrimp With Chimichurri Grilled Mango-Citrus Chimichurri Shrimp)
  • Grilled halloumi or other grilling cheese (see photo above)
  • Grilled or roasted beef, chicken, lamb, pork
  • Hot dogs, brats and other sausages
  • Marinades (add more oil, vinegar, citrus juice or and/or water to thin out)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pasta (toss pasta lightly with EVOO before adding the chimichurri)
  • Rice and other cooked grains
  • Soup and stew garnish
  • Tacos
  • Tofu
  • Sandwich spread (mix with mayo or mustard)
  • Vegetarian dishes, including veggie wraps
  • Vinaigrette
  • Yogurt sauce (blend into plain Greek yogurt)
  •  
    Other ideas? Post them here.
     
    SEE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALSA IN OUR SALSA GLOSSARY.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Blend Your Own Seasoned Salt

    If you shake salt on your food, one of the easiest ways to add more flavor is to use a seasoned salt. Why not add other seasonings at the same time?

    Perhaps that’s why Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, created in 1938 to season the prime rib served at Lawry’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, has remained a prominent fixture on the spice rack in many households.

    The blend of salt, herbs and spices (garlic, onion, paprika and turmeric, plus sugar—here’s the copycat Lawry’s Seasoned Salt Recipe) adds more flavor than salt alone.

    Home cooks found that it worked on everything, from breakfast eggs to any grain, protein, starch or vegetable.
     
    BUYING FLAVORED SALTS

    Over the last decade, numerous specialty food artisans—Urban Accents, Saltworks and quite a few other—have created collections of seasoned salts, with a base of sea salt. Even McCormick has joined in, with 11 McCormick sea salt grinders from Chipotle to Sweet Onion.

       

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    Casina Rossa seasoned sea salts from
    Italy—Porcini, Saffron, Edible Flowers,
    and others, are available from Seasoned
    Sea Salts
    . Photo by Naheed Choudhry |
    THE NIBBLE.

     
    The Urban Accents blends tend to mirror popular cuisines: Caribbean, Indian (curry and mango), Mediterranean, Provençal (herbes de Provence), Spanish (smoked paprika).

    The Fusion line of sea salts from Saltworks goes farther, with gourmet salts such as Black Truffle, Espresso, Ginger, Lemon, Lime, Maple, Matcha, Merlot, Sriracha, Sundried Tomato, Vanilla and White Truffle.

    But at $15 or so per 3.5-ounce jar (more for pricier items like porcini and truffle), you might want to try blending your own with what you have on hand.

    We’re addicted to truffle salts, and to Casa Rossa’s saffron salt. A pinch of salt lets us enjoy these two favorite flavors in everything from scrambled eggs to mashed potatoes and vinaigrette.

    Unfortunately for us, it’s so costly to purchase dried saffron or truffles—two of the priciest ingredients in the world—that there’s no money to be saved by blending our own.

    But there’s much more to blend than saffron and truffles.

     

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    Coarse sea salt as a base for your seasoned
    salts. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel | THE NIBBLE.

     

    START BLENDING!

    It takes just five minutes to blend salt, herbs and spices in a spice grinder. You can make them on an ad hoc basis, or make larger batches to store and use as needed.

    Pick A Salt

    If you don’t have sea salt on hand, start with kosher salt or table salt. After you get the hang of blending, you can try more exotic salts, such as:

  • Fleur de sel or sel gris from France
  • Black lava or red alaea salts from Hawaii
  • Pink Himalayan or kala namak salts from India
  • Smoked salt
  •  
    See our Salt Glossary for the different types of salts).
     
    Pick Your Seasonings

     
    Start with flavors you use in daily cooking: basil, chipotle, oregano, paprika, parsely, whatever. Pick as many as you like, although when starting out, limit your blends to salt plus four or five herbs/spices.
     
    You can also add ground pepper, although if you’re making enough to store, you may want to add it freshly ground. You can also add a pinch of white or brown sugar.
     
    Some basic blends to try:

  • Basic Seasoned Salt: salt plus garlic powder, onion powder and paprika
  • Lemon Pepper Salt: salt plus dried lemon peel and ground pepper
  • Rosemary Salt: salt plus garlic and rosemary
  • Celery Salt: salt plus dried celery leaves and celery Seeds (so much better than off-the-shelf celery salt!)
  • Hot & Smoky Salt: smoked sea salt plus ancho chiles and smoked paprika
  • Wild Mushroom Salt: salt plus dried chanterelles, dried porcinis, tarragon and white pepper
  •  
    Then, decide on ratios: which flavors do you want to be dominant, which flavors should be background hints.

    Start with twice as much salt as other flavors, and even less of hot flavors. You may find, after making different blends, that you’re using less salt and more herbs/spices.
     
    RECIPE: SAMPLE FLAVORED SALT BLEND

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup salt
  • ¼ cup each garlic and onion powders
  • ¼ cup ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder, chipotle, red pepper flakes, etc.
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well-combined. Working in batches, add the blend to a spice grinder and process into a fine powder. If you don’t have a spice blender, you can try a regular blender.

    2. STORE the salt in an airtight container. Store away from heat and light (as all herbs and spices should be stored!).
     
    If you want to make other blends but already have too much of homemade seasoned salt on hand, give it as gifts!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Serve Fresh Figs

    figs-blue-cheese-230b-r

    It doesn’t get simpler than this: halved ripe
    cheese topped with a bit of blue cheese or
    chèvre. Photo courtesy Castello USA.

     

    We were surprised not too long ago when a friend mentioned she liked figs, but had only eaten figs in their dried form. Why, we asked, since they are easily available?

    “I didn’t know what to do with them,” she replied.

    Today’s first tip: Never let unfamiliarity stop you from trying a new food. Buy it, bring it home, look it up.

    A sweet, soft and moist tree-ripened fig is luscious, eaten plain, with cheese or yogurt, or in many recipes. Just as with, say, fresh versus dried mango, it’s a completely different experience.

    And the season is now: In the U.S., figs have two seasons: a short season in early summer and a main crop that starts in late summer and runs through fall.

    Fresh figs are fragile and don’t travel well: The think skins easily split and the flesh can bruise. This makes fresh figs even more of a treat, worth seeking out.

    THE HISTORY OF FIGS

    Man has been cultivating figs for more than 11,400 years. It is now believed to be the first food cultivated by man, in the Near East* some 11,400 years ago. This is roughly 1,000 years before the other “earliest crops,” barley, legumes and wheat were domesticated in the region. [Source]

     
    Domestication of crops was a tipping point in the evolution of human thinking after 2.5 million years as nomadic hunter-gatherers: the decision to settle down and grow their own food rather than relying on finding food that was growing wild.
     
    *According to National Geographic, the terms Near East and Middle East are synonymous. Afghanistan, Armenia, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank, and Yemen are included in the definition. According to Wikipedia, different bodies—Encyclopedia Britannica and the United Nations, for example—may exclude some countries and add others. [Source]
     
    Figs Today

    The fig is a member of the Moraceae binomial family, sometimes called the fig family. It’s the family member that’s most familiar to us: Other members include the banyan, breadfruit, mulberry and Osage orange (which not an orange).

    There are almost 200 cultivars of figs, in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures. While most of think of figs as having skins that are brown, green, red or purple, take a look at the lovely yellow Tiger Stripe Fig.

    Figs are now grown in warm, dry and sunny climates in around the globe (fig trees can’t tolerate temperatures below 20°F).

    The top 10 fig producing countries are, by crop size, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, United States, Brazil, Albania and Tunisia.

     

    HOW TO ENJOY FRESH FIGS

    Since figs are sweet, we think of them in the context of desserts or sweet snacks. But sweetness is also an excellent counterpoint to bitter, salty and spicy/hot foods.

    Eat up: Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. They are rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and K, and are a good source of flavonoids and polyphenols (antioxidants). They are sodium-free and cholesterol/fat-free.

    Don’t peel the figs. Enjoy them with breakfast cereal, yogurt or cottage cheese; sliced on sandwiches with fresh or aged cheese; chopped and added to rice; stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre; or raw or grilled as a side dish, cut in half and served with grilled meat or poultry.

    Figs For Breakfast

  • With yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • With pancakes, instead of berries.
  • On cereal, hot or cold.
  • Sliced as an omelet filling, with cream cheese or goat cheese.
  • In muffins and breakfast pastries.
  •  

    fig-fondue-californiafigs-230

    Fresh figs with a sweet mascarpone dip; figs dipped into chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy California Figs.

     
    Figs For Lunch

  • On panini with fig jam (recipe—add sliced figs atop the jam; use orange marmalade if you don’t have fig jam).
  • Cheese Soufflé With Figs (here’s a recipe with blue cheese but you can substitute fresh goat cheese).
  •  
    Figs In Appetizers, Hors D’oeuvre And Salads

  • Bacon or prosciutto-wrapped figs.
  • Brie & Fig Torte (recipe).
  • Endive Salad With Figs (recipe).
  • Figs In Prosciutto Bundles (recipe).
  • Fig & Radicchio Salad (recipe.)
  •  

    Cocktails With Figs

  • Fig & Maple Fizz (recipe).
  • Give A Fig Cocktail (recipe).
  • Fig-infused vodka (Fig Infused Vodka).
  •  
     
    Dinner Courses With Figs

  • Honey Balsamic Fig-Glazed Ham (recipe).
  • Bison With Fig Balsamic Reduction (recipe).
  • Pork Loin With Fig & Port Sauce (recipe).
  •  

    Desserts With Figs

  • Bonbons dipped in chocolate (like these from John & Kira’s).
  • Cheese plate with fresh figs.
  • Compote.
  • Fig Flower With Honey Goat Cheese (recipe).
  • Fig Fondue, quartered and dipped into your favorite chocolate or white chocolate fondue recipe.
  • Ice cream—we love this recipe from Charlie Trotter, but you can simply dice the figs, marinate them in brandy or Grand Marnier, and add them to softened vanilla ice cream before returning to the freezer. It’s a riff on rum raisin.
  • Roast Figs With Honey & Hazelnuts (recipe).
  •  
    TOO MANY FIGS?

    If you have too many ripe figs, you can place them on paper towels, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for a few days. Or, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.

    Or, purée the ripe figs and use the purée in cocktails (mixed with white spirits, for example), smoothies, or as a topper for ice cream or sorbet (add sweetener as necessary).
     
    Hungry yet?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Saison (Farmhouse Ale) For Summer

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/saison bottle glass beerobsessed 230

    Saison, a refreshing summer ale. Photo
    courtesy BeerObsessed.com.

     

    We’ve written before on summer beers, brewed to be refreshing on a hot day: lighter in body with a moderate A.B.V. (alcohol by volume).

    Perhaps the most interesting of the lighter, hot weather styles is the saison (say-ZONE, meaning “season” in French).

    It is alternately referred to as farmhouse ale, since it originated on farmsteads in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium, a French-speaking region that shares a border with France.

    Saison was traditionally brewed by farmers at the end of winter, then set aside for the summer, where it was happily consumed by field workers. Yes, beer drinking on the job was common, because before the advent of quality-tested municipal water, it was safer than many water supplies.

    But that’s not your problem: You have a good municipal water supply. Instead, think about hosting a saison tasting party.

     

    SAISON: THE FREESTYLE ALE

    Often referred to as a dry, fruity Belgian ale, the interesting thing about saison is that no two taste the same. That’s because each farmer brewed it with whatever he or she* had on hand, so there was no common recipe.

    We can’t think of any other style of beer where this is true. (See our Beer Glossary for the different styles of beer.)

    The colors vary (golden, amber, orange, from light to dark); the aromas vary (citrusy/fruity, spicy). Perhaps what they have in common is their refreshing nature.

    Another feature we happen to love to find in saisons is a mild “barnyard” character. Famous in certain Burgundy wines, it comes from from Brettanomyces yeasts that naturally exist on the farm (and can be purchased by breweries). “Brett,” as it’s often called, contributes earthy, musty aromas and some tart flavor.
     
    *As history was written by men, the role of women is often overlooked or understated. For example, farmer’s “wives” were also farmers. They may not have had the physical strength to plow the field (and certainly, some did), but they did many other essential farm tasks. And they brewed beer!

     

    IT’S PARTY TIME!

    Check your local shelves for supplies of saisons. While the classic Belgian import is Saison Dupont (a fruity and spicy style), American craft brewers make hoppy, malty, spicy, fruity and floral.

    So, the real Tip Of The Day: Collect as many as you can find and invite friends for a saison tasting. Do it now, or make it your end-of-the-season Labor Day celebration.
     
    What To Serve With Saison

  • Gougères, the delightful French cheese puffs (Gougeres Recipe)
  • Fondue with a hearty cheese like blue or Cheddar
  • Grilled meat or fish
  • Spicy dishes, including Asian and Indian specialties and for a salad, peppery greens like arugula and radishes
  • Rustic French fare: coq au vin roast chicken, stew
  • Cheese: Aged or fresh chèvre, Asiago, Colby, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Parmesan and “stinky” washed rind cheeses
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/belgian style saison 230

    Have a saison with crudités. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEER & ALE

    Although most of us use “beer” to refer to all suds, three parts of the brewing process actually defines what is a beer—illustrated by the lager style—and what is an ale.

    Ales tend to be fruity-estery in aroma and flavor, while lagers are clean-tasting and crisp. These differences are created by:

    The Yeast

  • Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast strains, which means exactly that: The yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank (they typically rise to the top of the tank near the end of fermentation).
  • Ale yeasts tend to produce esters, chemicals that can affect the flavor of the beer.
  • Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeasts, strains which do not typically add much flavor (the flavor comes from the other ingredients, especially hops and malt).
  •  
    Temperature and Time

  • Ale yeasts ferment best at warmer temperatures—room temperature up to about 75°F. They ferment faster than lager yeasts.
  • Lagers ferment at colder temperatures, 46°F to 59°F, and typically ferment over longer periods of time. The combination of colder temperatures and bottom-fermenting yeast is responsible for the mild and crisp taste delivered by most lagers.
  •  
    The Ingredients

  • Ale recipes often contain a higher amount of hops, malt and roasted malts, hence they typically have a more prominent malty taste and bitterness. Styles like India Pale Ale (IPA) are very hoppy.
  • Ales have more room for recipe experimentation than lagers; thus additional ingredients (called adjuncts) can be added during brewing. Examples: fruits (cherry, pumpkin, raspberry, etc.), sugars (honey, maple syrup, molasses) and spices (allspice, coriander, clove, etc.).
  •  
    Thanks to BeerTutor.com for the quick tutorial.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Tequilas

    margarita-glass-wisegeek-230

    Tequila sales in the U.S. have exploded with
    the popularity of the Margarita, one of
    America’s most popular cocktails. The
    “Margarita glass” is used in Mexico for all
    tequila-based mixed drinks. Photo courtesy
    WiseGeek.

     

    For National Tequila Day, July 24th, expand your knowledge of tequila. It’s not just a Margarita mixer, but comprises five different expressions, two of which you’d never mix! Plan a tasting party with the first four expressions—and the fifth, if you’re in the chips.

    The spirit gets its name from the municipality of Tequila, in the west-central Mexican state of Jalisco (40 miles northwest of Guadalajara).

    The native Aztecs fermented agave into mezcal, the forerunner of tequila; but did not know how to distill. That knowledge arrived with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. When they ran out of the brandy they brought, they began to distill agave into what is now called tequila.

    Tequila is one of five major distilled spirits that are indigenous to the Americas. Can you name the others? The answers are at the end of this article.

    Tequila is made by distilling the juice from the blue agave plant, not a cactus but a large succulent closely related to lilies. The best tequila is 100% blue agave, the finest agave juice that minimizes the “burn.” But at the two entry levels, tequilas can be “mixto,” at least 51% blue agave with the remainder coming from other agave species. They must be so labeled.

     
    THE 5 TYPES OF TEQUILLA

    Depending on the aging process and the quality of the agave, the tequila becomes one of the following five types. The more a spirit is aged, the more complex the flavors.

    BLANCO TEQUILLA

    Also called: White, plata/silver or platinum tequila.

    Qualities: Clear and transparent. The tequila is unaged, bottled or stored immediately after distillation. It can also be briefly aged, up to two months.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     

    JOVEN TEQUILA

    Also called: Gold or young tequila.

    Qualities: Pale yellow in appearance. This is un-aged tequila that is blended with rested or aged tequilas; or can be colored with caramel coloring, sugar-based syrup, glycerin, and/or oak extract to resemble aged tequila.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     
    REPOSADO TEQUILLA

    Also called: Rested tequila.

    Qualities: Light yellow and translucent, the tequila is aged for at least six months but less than a year. The spirit takes on a golden hue and the flavor becomes nicely balanced between agave and wood. American or French oak barrels are most commonly used* for aging, although bourbon, cognac, whiskey or wine barrels can be used. The tequila will take on nuanced flavors from the spirit that was previously aged in the barrel. Reposado began to emerge as a new category of tequila in the late 1980s.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     
    AÑEJO TEQUILA

    Also called: Aged or vintage tequila.

    Qualities:: brighter yellow, aged at least one year, but less than three years. The tequila is aged in smaller barrels where the flavor can become smoother, richer and more complex. The aging process darkens the tequila to an amber color.

    Use it for: sipping.

    EXTRA AÑEJO TEQUILA

    Also called: Extra aged or ultra aged tequila.

    Qualities: Golden color, aged at least three years in oak. This is a new classification which received official classification in 2006. It is the most expensive tequila, made from the finest agave for true connoisseurs.

    Use it for: sipping.

     

    HOW TO DRINK TEQUILA

    In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt, or as a sangrita. Outside of Mexico, a shot of tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime. This is called tequila cruda.
     
    The Sangrita

    In some regions of Mexico it is popular to drink a shot of fine tequila with a side of sangrita, a sweet, sour, and spicy drink usually made from orange juice, grenadine or tomato juice, and hot chiles. Equal shots of tequila and sangrita are sipped alternately, without salt or lime.

    Another popular drink in Mexico is the bandera (flag, in Spanish), named after the Flag of Mexico, it consists of three shot glasses, filled with lime juice (for the green), white tequila, and sangrita (for the red).

     

    caballito-lime-wisegeek-230

    The tequila shot glass is called a caballito, “little horse.” Photo courtesy WiseGeek.com.

     

    When served neat (without any additional ingredients), tequila is most often served in a narrow shot glass called a caballito (little horse, in Spanish), but can be served in anything from a snifter to a tumbler.

    In 2002, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (regulating council) approved a stemmed “official tequila glass” shape made by the great glassmaker, Riedel. It’s called the Ouverture Tequila glass and, like all Riedel glassware, is engineered to enable the finest aromas and flavors from the spirit.
     
    TEQUILA TRIVIA: THERE ARE NEVER WORMS IN THE BOTTLES

    Many people believe that some tequilas have a worm in the bottle. They don’t; but certain brands of mezcal do contain a worm, the larval form of the moth Hypopta agavis, which lives on the agave plant.

    The larvae are used by several brands of mezcal to give flavor to the spirit. As a marketing gimmick that began in the 1940s, some brands put a worm in the bottle. Any flavor from the worm has long been removed during production.

    According to the website Mezcal-de-Oaxaca.com, in 2005 the Mexican government legislated to remove the worm from mezcal (it was already prohibited in tequila). One reason is that at 20¢ to 40¢ per worm and between 200-500 worms per plant, irresponsible harvesters actually uproot and destroy an agave plant to harvest the worms.

    Tequila should not contain an insect of any kind, and if it does, then “you’ve either purchased gag-inducing hooch aimed at gullible gringos, or your top-shelf booze is infested by some kind of alcohol-breathing, alien bug,” according to author James Waller (Drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail, page 224, published 2003).
     
    THE OTHER MAJOR AMERICAN SPIRITS

    Also indigenous to the Americas: Bourbon (USA), cachaça (Brazil), mezcal (Mexico), pisco (Peru) and rum (Caribbean).

    Numerous other spirits are distilled locally throughout the Americas, but are not distributed far beyond their place of origin.
     
    *After fine wine is aged in [expensive] new oak barrels, the used barrels are often sold to the producers of spirits for aging. New oak imparts specific flavors to wine; but with spirits, the distiller is not looking for prominent oak flavor. Thus, the same used barrel can be used for several years, where it imparts slight nuances.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Individual Ice Cream Cakes

    Don’t let National Ice Cream Month end without some ice cream cake. In today’s tip, you add to the fun by giving each person his or her own individual-size ice cream cake.

    All you need are two ingredients—cake and ice cream—plus an optional garnish. And a fun flavor pairing, although chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream work fine.
     
    RECIPE: INDIVIDUAL ICE CREAM CAKES

    Ingredients

  • Ice cream
  • Un-iced cake (loaf cake works best)
  • Individual custard cups, ramekins or other dishes (glass is best, to show off the layers)
  • Optional garnishes or “surprises”, such as:
  • >Berries
    >Candies
    >Caramel, chocolate or fruit sauce
    >Chocolate chips or shaved chocolate
    >Sprinkles
    >Whipped cream

     

    individual-ice-cream-cake-questnutrition-230

    Portion-sized ice cream cake. (Can we eat two?) Photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese.

     
    Preparation

    1. CUT and layer the cake and ice cream in the dish, leaving a bit of room at the top for sauce or other garnishes.

    2. HIDE surprises between the layers: mini chocolate chips, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, shaved chocolate, sliced strawberries. Place the layered dishes in the freezer until you’re ready to serve.

    3. GARNISH the top with anything you like. One of our favorite garnishes: miniature York Peppermint Patties (we buy them by the carton-full at Costco).
     
    TIPS

    SLICING: Peel the carton from the ice cream to slice the ice cream into layers. Trim and fit the variously-sized pieces of ice cream and cake in the individual dishes.

    SUBSTITUTE: If you have all the ingredients except the cake, you can substitute cookies or sweet muffins.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Beware Of Fake Italian Olive Oil

    bottle-question-mark-fake-livefreelivenatural

    The odds are high that your bottle of
    imported “extra virgin in olive oil” isn’t,
    especially if it’s a major supermarket brand
    and/or sold in bulk. Photo courtesy
    LiveFreeLiveNatural.com.

     

    “Is this for real?” a reader wrote, sending us a link to an article about fake olive oil. While we’ve covered this topic previously and also here, it’s worth revisiting. There’s a lot of fake imported oil claiming to be Italian olive oil.

    In fact, fake olive oil has been a major scandal in Italy for decades. People have gone to jail for oil fraud, although that doesn’t stop the practice.

    Unscrupulous Italian distributors import oil from Morocco, Spain (the largest producer of olive oil), Tunisia or elsewhere; bottle it in Italy and sell it a Italian olive oil. Sometimes, it’s a blend of a lower-quality Italian oil cut with non-Italian olive oil. Or it can be another oil entirely, such as soybean oil labeled “olive oil” on the manifest.

    Totally fake olive oil can be made by mixing cheap vegetable oils with beta-carotene to disguise the flavor, and chlorophyll to provide the green color many people believe (erroneously) indicates higher-quality olive oil.

    If the olive oil is bottled in Italy, it is not illegal to label it “Packed in Italy” or “Imported from Italy,” terms that easily deceive consumers. While a different country of origin is supposed to be listed on the label, often it is not. Italy is, in fact, the world’s largest importer of olive oil. Much of the oil sold as “Italian olive oil” isn’t, based on tests conducted in the U.S.

     
    A special branch of the Italian police is trained to detect bad oil; but as in most inspections of most product categories in any country, there are too many products and too few inspectors. Even when fraud is found, producers—many of whom have connections to powerful politicians—are rarely prosecuted. [Source]

     
    EVEN IF IT’S OLIVE OIL, IT MAY NOT BE “EXTRA VIRGIN”

    Just because the label says “extra-virgin olive oil” does not mean that’s what’s in the bottle. In fact, it may not even be 100% olive oil. It can be a blend of lower-quality vegetable oils that may include less than 20% olive oil.

    The “extra virgin” label has strict IOC (International Olive Council) requirements; namely, that the acidity of the oil is less than 1%. If the acidity is between 1% and 3.3%, the oil is called virgin olive oil; and the higher the acidity, the lower the grade of oil (here are the grades of olive oil). Much olive oil sold as “extra virgin” isn’t.

    A 2010 study by U.C. Davis, one of America’s top agricultural universities, found that 69% of the imported “extra virgin” olive oil sold in California supermarkets did not qualify as extra virgin (the results can be extrapolated to the rest of the country). That means your chance of buying real extra virgin is less than 1 in 3. Here’s the full report.

    The Executive Summary begins:

    While there are many excellent imported and domestic extra virgin olive oils available in California, our findings indicate that the quality level of the largest imported brand names is inconsistent at best, and that most of the top-selling olive oil brands we examined regularly failed to meet international standards for extra virgin olive oil.

    Of the five top-selling imported “extra virgin” olive oil brands in the United States, 73% of the samples failed the IOC sensory standards for extra virgin olive oils, analyzed by two separate IOC-accredited sensory [tasting] panels.

    The fraud typically comes from supermarket brands, store brands and club store brands that sell in big volume. There is nothing harmful about the olive oil, but it isn’t of the quality of the Italian olive oil you think you’re paying for. If you’re buying it for it’s heart-healthy benefits, you may not be getting them.

    In 2010, a class action lawsuit in California targeted 10 major olive oil brands: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Filippo Berio, Mazola, Mezzetta, Pompeian, Rachael Ray, Safeway Select and Star. It also names 10 major supermarket chains and big box stores that allegedly sold substandard oil as “extra-virgin.” This includes olive oil mixed with cheaper types of oil, lower quality olive oil and olive oil degraded by heat or age.

    Artisan oils from smaller brands are typically what they claim to be. They don’t sell in enough volume to interest the fraudsters.

     

    GREEN COLOR DOESN’T MEAN BETTER OLIVE OIL

    Consumers have come to believe that green olive oil is better quality. So another trick fraudsters use is to color yellow olive oil green with chlorophyll.

    While some green oils are top quality, the color of the oil is determined by:

  • The ripeness of the olives at harvest; for example, unripe, green olives yield green-hued oil and ripe, purple-black olives produce golden-toned oil.
  • Some olive varieties produce greener oil, just as some varieties of grapes produce deeper or lighter hues.
  • The International Olive Oil Council does not consider color as a factor in its blind grading of olive oils. In fact, oil is tasted from blue glasses to obscure the color.
  •  
    The fake can be discerned through lab analysis, although the retailers themselves don’t conduct these analyses. Read more at OliveOilSource.com.
     
    HOW TO DETERMINE IF OLIVE OIL IS REAL

  • Look for a label from a certifying agency, for example, the International Olive Council (IOC) for imported oils and the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) for California oils. Oils with these labels of authenticity generally undergo strict quality control testing.
  •  

    extra-virginity-230

    What started out as an exposé in The New York Times is now an even more informative book. Photo courtesy W. W. Norton & Company.

  • Buy American-grown and -made olive oil. U.S. growers and manufacturers are generally held to stricter standards than companies that export to the U.S. California and Texas are the top two producing states. Olive oil is also made in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and Oregon.
  • Look for the Non-GMO Project seal. The Non-GMO Project rigorously evaluates products before bestowing their seal.
  •  
    And by all means:

  • Buy directly from olive oil producers when you’re in an oil-producing region.
  •  
    Here are two “tricks” that are not 100% foolproof:

  • Avoid the “fridge test.” Dr. Oz perpetuated the myth that authentic olive oil will thicken and become cloudy in the refrigerator. Although some will, many varieties of oil will react that way. Here are details.
  • Avoid thw “flame test.” Real olive oil is flammable because of its low smoke point. But numerous other oils also have low smoke points. Here’s a chart. Thus, advice to light the oil with a match to see if it burns is no more accurate than the fridge test.
  •  
    Want to learn more? Get Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.
     
    And for free, you can read through our informative Olive Oil Glossary.

      

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