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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: Summer Fruits & Vegetables

Following our recent article on spring produce, here’s what’s in season for summer. Not everything may be available in your area, but what is there should be largely American-grown—not imported from another hemisphere.

Some of the items are harvested for only a few weeks; others are around for months. So peruse the list, note what you don’t want to miss, and add it to your shopping list.

The list was created by the Produce For Better Health Foundation. Take a look at their website, FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org for tips on better meal planning with fresh produce.

SUMMER FRUITS

  • Acerola/Barbados Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Asian Pear
  • Black Crowberries
  • Black Currants
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Breadfruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Casaba Melon
  •    

    lychee-baldorfood-230

    If you’ve never had fresh lychees, this is the season to get your fill! Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

  • Champagne Grapes/Corinthian Currants/Zante Currants
  • Crenshaw Melon
  • Durian
  • Elderberry
  • Fig
  • Galia Melon
  • Grapefruit
  • Grape
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Jackfruit
  • Lime/Key Lime
  • Loganberry
  • Longan
  • Loquat
  • Lychee (photo above)
  • Mulberry
  • Nectarine
  • Olallieberry*
  • Passion Fruit
  • Peach
  • Persian Melon
  • Plum
  • Raspberry
  • Rose Apple†
  • Sapote/Sapodilla
  • Strawberry
  • Sugar Apple
  • Watermelon
  •  
    *Olallieberries, developed in 1949 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Oregon State University by crossing a loganberry with a youngberry. They are two-thirds blackberry, one-third European red raspberry.

    †Rose apples are not related to European apples (family Rosaceae), which originated in Turkey. They are members of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Native to the East Indies, they are also known as plum roses and Malabar plums.

     

    ong-choy-water-spinach-Eric-inSF-Wiki-230

    Ong choy, Chinese water spinach. Photo by Eric | Wikimedia.

     

    SUMMER VEGETABLES

  • Anaheim Chile
  • Armenian Cucumber‡
  • Beet
  • Bell Pepper
  • Butter Lettuce
  • Chayote Squash
  • Chinese Long Bean
  • Corn
  • Crookneck Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • French Bean
  • Garlic
  • Green Bean
  • Green Soybean (Edamame)
  • Heart of Palm
  • Jalapeño Chile
  • Lima Bean
  • Okra
  • Ong Choy Water Spinach (photo above)
  • Pea
  • Radish
  • Shallot
  • Sugar Snap Pea
  • Summer Squash
  • Tomatillo
  • Tomato
  • Winged Bean
  • Yellow Squash
  • Yukon Gold Potato
  • Zucchini
  •  
    Enjoy the feast!

     
    ‡The Armenian cucumber, Cucumis melo var. flexuosus, is a long, slender fruit which tastes like a cucumber and looks somewhat like a cucumber inside. It is actually a variety of muskmelon, a species closely related to the cucumber. However, cucumbers and melons are botanical first cousins. Both are from the binomial order Cucurbitales, family Cucurbitaceae and genus Cucumis, differing only at the species level. Watermelon rind is edible and tastes like cucumber. That’s why it is often turned into pickles, like cucumbers.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lavender For Summer

    Today is the first day of summer. When we think of summer, we think of lavender.

    Lavender is a flowering plant, a genus of 39 species that originated in the Mediterranean, northern and eastern Africa and southwest Asia, including India. The most widely cultivated species is English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. Though not native to England it has long been the preferred variety grown there.

    As noted in Wikipedia, the names “English lavender,” “French lavender” and “Spanish lavender” are “imprecisely applied.”

    The word lavender may be derived from Latin livere, “blueish.”

    It is grown as an ornamental flower, and also as a culinary ingredient. The oil is used to scent beauty and household products. Medicinally, it was used as a disinfectant and antiseptic by ancient herbalists. It became a cosmetic herb and a tonic due to its popularity with the English royalty.

    The different lavender types vary in the potency and flavor of the flowers and oils. English lavender is the sweetest and the most commonly used.

    If you look for lavender recipes, you’ll find almost every food embellished with lavender. We can’t possibly narrow the selection, so look for what you like.

    What we will do is tell you how to infuse lavender in alcohol and simple syrup, and make lavender cocktails.

     

    lavender-cocktail-drysoda-230

    Lavender makes a summer soft drink or cocktail. Photo courtesy DrySparkling.

     

    INFUSING LAVENDER IN ALCOHOL

    When lavender buds are steeped in alcohol, the essential oils are extracted from the flowers and infused into the alcohol.

    Add sprigs of to a bottle of gin, vodka or tequila, let it infuse in a warm, dark place for a week or two, then put the bottle in the freezer so it will be chilled and ready for summer drinks.

    Note that you need organic lavender: You don’t want pesticides in your food.

    Our favorite is lavender-infused gin. Lavender is a great match with the botanicals in the gin.

    Lavender is a great pairing with lemon, so don’t hesitate to add lavender to a bottle of lemon vodka. of gin and lavender make an absolutely fabulous gin and tonic! A sprig of lavender in a martini with a twist of lemon is another intriguing synergy.

     

    dry-soda-grouping-230

    Dry Sparking is a delicious soft drink or mixer. It’s a non-alcoholic pairing for cheese, grilled fish, hazelnuts, pork tenderloin, salted caramel and tiramisu. Photo courtesy Dry Sparkling.

     

    LAVENDER MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce lavender simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Garnish: lavender sprig
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

    2. SHAKE well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lavender sprig.
     
    LAVENDER SIMPLE SYRUP

    Infuse lavender buds in this simple syrup recipe. Use 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds per each cup of water.

     
    LAVENDER SUGAR RIM

    Put a lavender rim on any cold or hot beverage where you’d like the extra flavor. Try it with iced tea!

    Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
  • 3 cups sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the lavender and sugar in a food processor and pulse to mix evenly. Flecks of lavender should be evenly distributed throughout the sugar.

    2. MAKE the rim by dipping the glass rim in water, about 3/8″ deep. Twist the glass in a dish of lavender sugar to make the sugar rim.

    3. STORE unused sugar in an airtight jar, out of direct light.
     
     
    MORE LAVENDER IDEAS

    We’ve enjoyed lots of lavender products, including:

  • Lavender cheese
  • Lavender chocolate bars
  • Lavender honey
  • Lavender marshmallows
  • Lavender salt caramels
  • Lavender tea
  • Lavender white hot chocolate
  • Lavender lemonade
  • Lavender iced tea
  • Lavender scones
  • Lavender whipped cream
  • Lavender water
  • Blackerry Lavender Fizz
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Infused Oils

    You may see a proliferation of infused olive oils at the market. But you might want to infuse your own:

  • When you don’t have the space to store multiple bottles of oil.
  • When you don’t use infused oils often enough and the they go stale.
  • When you’d prefer an infused oil other than olive oil.
  • When you’d like to save money.
  •  
    Here’s a tip from Sunbasket, a West Coast service that delivers the best foods from the best farms along with personalized, easy recipes.

    Speaking of easy: Infused oils are easy to make. The technique we describe below takes only minutes, not weeks of infusing.

    WHEN TO USE INFUSED OILS

    Infused oils can add a rich, complex boost of flavor and aroma to nearly anything you prepare. We use them to:

  • Make more flavorful salad dressings.
  • Drizzle over pasta, meat and seafood.
  • Dip bread.
  • Cook eggs.
  • Grill vegetables.
  • Add flavor to baked goods.
  •  

    olive-oil-pour-spout-flavoryourlife-230

    Drizzle flavored olive oil on pasta, meat or fish. Photo courtesy Flavor-Your-Life.com.

  • Replace the pat of butter (cholesterol) on potatoes, rice and veggies.
  • Sauté and stir-fry (but don’t deep fry—remember the smoke point).
  • And just about any occasion when you use cooking oil.
  •  

    WHAT FLAVORS TO INFUSE

    Most of the oils in the market are infused with herbs, citrus or garlic. Basil and rosemary are the most popular herbs, but also consider using cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley or thyme.

    For citrus: blood orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin or exotics (calamondin, kaffir lime).

    For spices, just look on the spice shelf and find what piques your interest. How about chile, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, nutmeg or star anise?

    For aromatics: garlic, ginger, lemongrass or scallions.

    How about nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios or walnuts?

     

    olive-oil-pouring-flavoryourlife-230

    Add flavor to grilled vegetables. Photo courtesy Flavor-Your-Life.com.

     

    QUICK-INFUSED OIL

    While many infused oils are made by soaking herbs in oil for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, a quick and easy infused oil can be make on the stove top in minutes.

    Since you’re adding flavor, there’s no need to splurge on an expensive oil. If you’re infusing olive oil, use one that has mild flavor—not too peppery or fruity (unless you want those flavors in the final product). Or, pick a neutral cooking oil like canola (the different types of cooking oils).

     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT 1 cup of your favorite oil over very low heat in a sauté pan, skillet or nonstick pan.

    2a. FOR HERBS: Add three sprigs of fresh herbs and a lightly smashed clove of garlic. Let the herbs cook in the pan until they’re just starting to brown, but not burn.

     
    2b. FOR SPICES: Cook until the oil just starts to bubble.

    2c. FOR NUTS: Use nuts that are raw and unsalted. Cook until they’re just starting to brown.

    Cooking any of these on the lowest heat possible will give the oil time to pull out the flavors while not burning.

    3. COOL and strain the oil with a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Then funnel the oil into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting cap. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

    4. REMOVE the oil from the fridge 20 minutes before using, to bring it to room temperature. Or, use it as soon as it’s made.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bloody Mary Garnishes & A Bloody Mary Cart

    blt-mortonsgrill-group-ps-230

    Who can resist a BLT Bloody Mary, garnished with lettuce, tomato and a crisp bacon strip? This one is from Morton’s Grille.

     

    If Dad’s drink is a Bloody Mary, try something exciting for Father’s Day. You can use different spirits and mixes, but the easiest way to wow everyone is with a Bloody Mary cart or table, that lets each guest customize the garnishes. You need a bartender, but with everything set up, a college student can be a cost-effective solution.
     
    SPIRITS

    Vodka is traditional, but these days Bloody Marys are being crafted with spicy vodkas, botanical-forward gins, whiskey, tequila and even aquavit. Sochu, a neutral grain spirt like vodka, has half the proof of American spirits and is a great solution to keep the crowd sober, longer.
     
    BLOODY MARY MIX

    Everybody has a Bloody Mary mix solution, but could yours be better? For prepared mixes, we like Demetri’s and Master Of Mixes, Freshies, Mixerz and a few others. Look at the ingredients label and avoid anything with corn syrup or other sweetener.

    Our own homemade mix has lots of horseradish, Worstershire sauce and fresh-squeezed lime juice; and for the hot sauce we use smoky chipotle from Cholula or Tabasco.

    You can also add favorite and trending ingredients to a mix. Stonewall Kitchen has Cucumber Dill and Peppadew Sriracha.

     
    GREAT GARNISHES

    We’d rather use the cucumber, dill and peppadew as a garnish.

    The easiest way to make a Bloody Mary stand out with a memorable garnish. You may have seen photos of everything from charcuterie skewers and pepperoni straws to hot wings and an entire slice of pizza (hmmm). You don’t have to go that far, but you still need to do better than the venerable 20th century celery stick. You can use celery, but as of three garnish items.

    Here’s a list of options for your Bloody Mary cart. Use at least two, and preferably three.

    For skewers, get a supply of inexpensive picks like these four-inch bamboo knot picks.
     
    START YOUR GARNISH LIST HERE!

    PROTEINS

  • Bacon strip
  • Cheese cubes (we love blue cheese)
  • Crab claw
  • Ham cubes
  • Salami or sausage slices
  • Shrimp
  • Turkey cubes
  •  

     

    VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus spear, steamed or pickled
  • Beets (baby beets, beet cubes or slices, pickled beets)
  • Celery or fennel stalk (in combination with other garnishes)
  • Cucumber spear or wheel
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, parsley
  • Grape or cherry tomato
  • Green onion (scallion)
  • Ramps and fiddleheads (spring season)
  • Sugar snap peas
  •  
    CONDIMENTS

  • Cocktail onions
  • Cornichons
  • Olives: try a pick with three different types
  • Pickles: dill spear, gherkin, sweet slices
  • Pickled vegetables: carrots, cherry peppers, dilly beans,
    jalapeños, okra, peppadew (you can stuff it with cheese),
    pepperoncini
  •  

    Aquavit_Bloody-Mary-beets-flavorandthemenu-230

    A Bloody Mary made with Aquavit and Swedish garnishes: beets, dill, cucumber. Photo courtesy Aquavit Restaurant | NYC.

     
    OTHER FLAVORS

  • Citrus: lemon or lime wedge or wheel
  • Seasoned salt rim: cracked pepper and sea salt, McCormick, Morton’s, homemade (try curry and garlic)
  •  
    SKEWER IDEAS

    Here are some of the garnishes we’ve skewered together:

  • Beets, dill, cucumber
  • BLT (see top photo)
  • Cherry tomato, cucumber slice, cherry pepper
  • Cornichon, peppadew, pepperoncini, cocktail onion
  • Cucumber and pickle
  • Grape tomato, olive, cheese cube, cocktail onion
  • Ham, cheese, olive, pickle
  • Olive, pepperoncini, gherkin
  • Olive, cornichon, cocktail onion
  • Red and yellow grape tomatoes, sweet pickle slice
  • Shrimp, sausage cube, cocktail onion, gherkin
  •  
    BLOODY MARY CART TIPS

    Have your Bloody Mary mix pre-mixed with extra in the fridge. Keep it in a bucket of ice on the cart, and have lots of ice for drinks.

    Consider offering two spirits, such as vodka and the lower-proof sochu, or vodka and gin. A Bloody Mary with gin is called a Red Snapper.

    Place all the garnishes in bowls, grouped as we have above.

    It’s a nice idea to rent highball glasses if you don’t have enough. Glass is so much nicer for this concept than plastic party tumblers. BUT check out these reusable plastic highball glasses.

    Make it easy for the bartender and the guest by creating a large sign that lists the garnishes. It makes it quicker for guests to decide what they want from each group.

    Enjoy the party!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Shakshouka, Spicy Poached & Baked Eggs

    Our friend Terry commented yesterday that on weekend mornings, she goes to a neighborhood café for a dish of shakshouka (shah-SHOOK-ah). “That’s the NIBBLE tip of the day for Tuesday,” we exclaimed.

    So here’s the scoop, something to consider for Father’s Day or any day you have the extra time to make the spicy sauce.

    Shakshouka is a breakfast dish of eggs baked or poached or both, in a spicy tomato sauce that incorporates crushed tomatoes, garlic, hot chiles, olive oil, onions, paprika and/or cumin and salt.

    Some variations include artichoke hearts, beans, potatoes and salty cheese.

    Shakshouka means “a mixture” in Tunisian Arabic. The dish is believed to have a Tunisian origin, but it’s also a staple of Algerian, Egyptian, Moroccan and Libyan cuisines and is popular in Israel, where it’s served for dinner as well.
     
    The dish is traditionally served in a cast iron pan or in a tagine*, with bread to mop up the sauce. The recipe is similar to Mexican huevos rancheros, Spanish pisto manchego and the Turkish dish menemen.
     
    *A tagine or tajine (tah-ZHEEN) is a North African earthenware that comprises a shallow pan covered with a dome. Here’s a photo, recipe and more about tagines.

       

    shakshuka-1-oneofakind.com-goodeggs-230r-r

    An American approach to shakshouka: Served it for lunch with a salad. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     

    RECIPE: SHAKSHOUKA

    This recipe, from Good Eggs chef Audrey Snyder, is first poached, then baked. But you can poach only if you prefer. Chef Audrey adds both beans (more protein!) and cheese, which add flavor and texture. You can omit them if you prefer.

    You can serve shakshouka with warm bread or toast for dipping, can serve it over polenta, or both. To serve it for lunch or dinner, add a salad and cooked vegetables, as in the photo above.

    If making the sauce is too time-consuming for you, you can substitute a prepared puttanesca sauce along with the fresh herbs and optional cheese. The flavors won’t be the same (anchovy paste, capers and olives instead of cumin, onions and paprika), but they’ll be close enough to enjoy spicy eggs.

     

    Shakshouka_jill-betterhappierstsebastian-230

    This more traditional version of shakshouka, from Jill of ABetterHappierStSebastian.com, uses cheese and parsley to garnish. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cups/15 ounces cooked beans of your choice, drained
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 sprig each of thyme and rosemary
  • 1 28-ounce jar/can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
    and juices reserved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or basil
  • 1 cup grated hard cheese or crumbled feta (optional)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeños. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes.

    3. ADD the beans, paprika, oregano and fresh herbs and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a light boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

    4. SEASON to taste with salt and pepper. Crack the eggs into the sauce one at a time, spacing evenly. Top with the cheese.

    5. TRANSFER the skillet to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set but yolks are still runny, 5 to 8 minutes. Garnish with parsley and basil or cilantro. Serve with warm bread for dipping, or serve over polenta.
     
    Yum!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake A Special Coffee Cake

    Many of us would love a delicious piece of coffee cake with our morning coffee—or to serve to Dad on Father’s Day.

    If you can find an artisan-baked coffee cake in your area, great. We live in a big city where the rents are so high that the beloved neighborhood mom and pop bakery is largely a thing of the past.

    So the only solution: Order by mail (check out this terrific povitica, an Eastern European coffee cake) or bake your own.

    But first….

    WHAT IS COFFEE CAKE?

    Coffee cake is a yeast-leavened cake that is typically served at breakfast or as a snack with coffee or tea. It is often glazed with a white confectioner’s sugar icing or topped with streusel. The latter is also called crumb cake.

    Coffee cake can contain raisins, nuts, other dried fruits and/or chocolate chunks. Most are flavored with cinnamon. More elaborate recipes incorporate cream cheese, jam or fruit curd.

    According to FoodTimeline.org, food historians generally agree that the tradition of eating sweet cakes with coffee likely originated in northern or central Europe in the 17th century, when coffee was introduced (see the history of coffee).

       

    blueberry-muffin-coffee-cake-thebakerchick-230

    A coffee cake inspired by the blueberry muffin. Photo courtesy The Baker Chick.

     
    These areas already had sweet yeast breads, a natural accompaniment that evolved into “coffee cake” The made with flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, nuts, dried fruit and spices.

    German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrants brought the recipes with them to America. Over time, coffee cake recipes evolved to contain sugared fruit; cream cheese, yogurt and other creamy fillings; streusel and other toppings.

    See the different types of cake in our Cake Glossary.

     

    cinnamon-roll-cake-thebakerchick-230r

    The “cinnamon roll” coffee cake. Photo courtesy The Baker Chick.

     

    There are many great coffee cake recipes out there. If you don’t have one, ask family and friends if they have a favorite before heading to recipe websites.

    For an inspired coffee cake recipe, we looked to Audra Fullerton, a.k.a The Baker Chick, the writer, recipe developer and photographer for this blog. We’re big fans.

    The “Blueberry Muffin” Coffee Cake

    The first coffee cake from Audra, photo above, is a blueberry muffin recipe baked as a cake, with an extra brown sugar topping. It’s not a yeast cake but is super moist, with plump blueberries in every bite.

    It takes all of 10 minutes to mix, and 40 minutes in the oven. How can you resist?

    Here’s the recipe.

     
    The “Cinnamon Bun” Coffee Cake

    The second recommendation is a jumbo cinnamon roll, the size of a cake.

     

    Instead of rolling and cutting the dough into individual rolls, you cut the dough into strips and attach them one by one until a monster cinnamon roll is achieved.

    It’s more time consuming than the blueberry coffee cake, but isn’t that “wow” factor worth 1 hour and 15 minutes of your time to assemble?

    After that, in just 20 minutes in the oven you have a warm, fragrant, gooey 9-inch “coffee cake.”

    Here’s the recipe.
     
    MORE BREAKFAST CAKE OPTIONS

    Special enough for Father’s Day: this Apple Streusel Bundt Cake.

    Also for your consideration: a Hummingbird Coffee Cake, a Southern tradition.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Sauce For Chicken & Fish

    salmon-blueberry-sauce-munchery-230

    Rare-cooked salmon with blueberry sauce,
    couscous, pattypan squash and zucchini.
    Photo courtesy Munchery.

     

    One of the easiest routes to a protein-filled, home-cooked dinner is grilled chicken or fish. We often hear from people that they can grill (or poach, roast or sauté) the protein, but because they’re not “good at cooking,” they don’t know what else to do with it.

    Earlier this year we published two articles:

  • Grilled Chicken Or Fish With Salsa
  • Grilled Chicken Or Fish With Pico De Gallo
  •  
    Today, we suggest a fruit sauce, the easiest of which, we think, is a berry sauce. You can use any berry in these recipes, and can use them over rice and other grains instead of on the proteins.

  • If you use larger berries—blackberries or strawberries—slice them first.
  • If these recipes are a bit too sweet for you, lessen the sweetness with fruit spread instead of jam, substitute cider or wine vinegar for the balsamic vinegar and eliminate the sugar.
  •  
    RECIPE: SWEET & HOT BLUEBERRY SAUCE

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons fig or apricot jam
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce (we used sriracha)
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the jam, vinegar, sugar and chili sauce in a small pan.

    2. STIR in the blueberries gently. If using frozen berries, first thaw and drain them.

    3. HEAT over medium low, stirring occasionally (and gently) until the desired heat is reached. We recommend heating the sauce until just warmed, not hot.

     

    RECIPE: SWEET & SAVORY BLUEBERRY SAUCE

    This recipe omits the heat of the first recipe and instead adds vegetables—onions and cherry tomatoes—for more savory notes. While berries and onions may sound incongruous, they are great partners when the onions are caramelized.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple or grape juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  •  
    Preparation

     

    blueberry-carton-burpee-230

    Turn the season’s fresh fruit into fruit sauce. Photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     
    1. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes.

    2. ADD the sugar and cook until the onions are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the juice, vinegar, blueberries and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Then remove from the heat and serve.
     
    MUNCHERY DINNER DELIVERY SERVICE

    We typically don’t write about the mushrooming category of prepared dinner home delivery services. They deliver better-for-you meals instead of conventional takeout and delivery options.

    It’s not easy for us to cover them because we have a national readership, and each company services only a few cities, or just one.

    But we fell in love with Munchery, and you will, too, after scrolling through these photos of the chef-cooked meals that can be on your table. It’s like having a personal chef who cooks in his/her own kitchen and brings the food to you.

    Munchery currently serves Los Angeles, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle.

    You can try it out at Munchery.com. We love that we can send a gift card to friends and family who are overworked, new parents or otherwise have no time to cook.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Layered Salad Bowls

    What’s hot in fast-casual restaurant dining? Layered salad bowls!

    The bowls have a bed of salad greens, with layers of toppings such as beans, cheese, corn, dips (guacamole, hummus, salsa), grains, legumes, noodles, proteins, sour cream, tomatoes and more. Each layer of ingredients adds more flavor and texture.

    According Katie Ayoub’s article in Flavor & The Menu, Chipotle’s Burrito Bowl now surpasses its burritos in sales. Jamba Juice added five Energy Bowls to its lineup last September. Panera rolled out Broth Bowls in January and KFC launched two new Chicken & Rice Bowls. On The Border introduced Border Bowls in April. The list goes on.

    Bowls cross comfort-food and global flavors with better-for-you fresh vegetables and smaller portions of protein. They provide tastes of multiple favorites in one dish. They’re a hit.

    Make your own bowls at home with the layer-by-layer guide to ingredients below, and add your own to the list.

    A tip: If you plan your menus for a few days, you can have leftover beans, grains and proteins with which to construct your bowls.

     

    steak-bowl-gimmedelicious-230

    A homemade version of Chipotle’s Steak Burrito Bowl (hey, where’s the grated cheese?). Here’s the recipe, from GimmeDelicious.com.

     
    BASE

    Salad greens plus:

  • Grains: Quinoa, farro, oats, rice (basmati, brown, cilantro, coconut, etc.)
  • Pasta: cappellini, penne rigate, ramen, rice noodles, soba noodles, whole wheat noodles
  • Potatoes: mashed/smashed white or sweet potato, diced boiled potatoes vinaigrette
  • Pulses: beans, lentils, edamame
  •  
    PROTEIN

  • Beef: braised beef or short rib, cubed or sliced steak
  • Chicken: grilled and cubed or sliced
  • Egg: fried, hard or soft-boiled, pickled
  • Lamb: cubed or sliced
  • Meatballs: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey
  • Shrimp: habanero-mango glazed
  • Salmon: mini salmon cakes
  • Fish: grilled, pepper-crusted
  • Pork: pulled/shredded
  • Vegetarian: baked/grilled tofu or seitan, falafel, vegetarian “meatballs”
  •  

    Shrimp-Border-Bowl-OnTheBorder-Flavor-Menu-230

    From On The Border, the popular Shrimp Border Bowl, with grilled shrimp and
    Tex-Mex fixings.

     

    PRODUCE

  • Charred: beans, broccoli, carrots, greens, onions
  • Fresh: arugula, avocado, baby kale, basil, cilantro, corn, jicama, mint, mixed greens, peas/snow peas, radish, tomato, watercress, zucchini
  • Fruit: apple or pear slices, berries, cranberry sauce, grapefruit or orange segments, stone fruit slices
  • Grilled: corn, eggplant, green beans, mushrooms, peaches, red onion, zucchini
  • Roasted: bell pepper, jalapeño, mushrooms, onions, shallots, squash, tomato
  •  
    FLAVOR BINDERS

  • Broth: beef, chicken, miso, roasted vegetable, seafood (add ingredients that work in a soup bowl)
  • Other: Greek yogurt, hummus, sour cream, tzatziki, vinaigrette
  • Salsa: chimichurri, pico de gallo, roasted tomatillo
  • Sauce: chipotle sauce, guacamole, pesto, red curry paste, roasted harissa, peanut sauce, tikka sauce (to drizzle)
  •  
    TOPPINGS

  • Cheese: grated cheddar or mozzarella, crumbled fresh or aged cheeses
  • Dried fruit: apricot, cherry, cranberry, dates, fig
  • Fermented produce: cabbage, cucumber, kimchi, turnip greens
  • Nuts and seeds: candied, fire-roasted, glazed, spiced, toasted
  • Pickled produce: beets, carrots, onions, peppers, radish, slaw, watermelon
  •  
    We can’t wait until lunchtime!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ricotta For Breakfast

    When you think of ricotta, you probably think of ravioli, stuffed shells, lasagna, cannelloni, manicotti, gnudi and white pizza.

    But ricotta is so versatile: It’s a topper, a binder, a stuffing (cannoli, crêpes, dumplings, pillow pasta) and an ingredient in cheesecake, pancakes, puddings and more.

    This is the first of three tips on ricotta: Enjoy it for breakfast! If you like cottage cheese, you’ll like ricotta; and if you don’t enjoy cottage cheese, you may well like the flavor and texture of ricotta.

    WHAT IS RICOTTA

    Ricotta is a fresh (unaged) cow’s milk cheese that’s used extensively in Italian cooking. It’s soft and spreadable like cottage cheese.

    Technically, ricotta isn’t a cheese at all, but a by-product of the cheese-making process. The name “ricotta” means “recooked” in Italian (from the Latin recoctus).

    Ricotta is been made from the whey left over from making other cheeses. After the curds are coagulated from the milk with rennet, the whey is drained off and the curds are pressed into cheese.

    What to do with all the leftover whey had long been a concern with cheese makers. Many simply fed it to their pigs, a practice continued today. Famously, the whey drained from making the “king of cheeses,” Parmigiano-Reggiano, is used to feed the pigs that become Parma ham (prosciutto).

       

    ricotta-honey-murrays-230L

    Ricotta and honey for breakfast. Delicious! Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     
    Somewhere along the line, some cheese maker hero whose name is lost to history discovered that whey contained proteins and milk solids that could be coagulated into curds. Using an acid and high heat, ricotta was born. Early mentions and depictions of the ricotta-making process date back to the 1100s.

    While ricotta in the U.S. is typically made from cow’s milk whey, in Italy it is also made from goat whey, sheep whey, even water buffalo whey.

    Regardless of the whey used, ricotta is the freshest of cheeses and should be consumed promptly. Supermarket brands tend to be stabilized for longer shelf life, but there is nothing like fresh-made ricotta—higher in price, but so worth it. Ask for it at a cheese store or an Italian specialty market.

     

    caviar-russe-ricotta-ps-230

    Depending on the preference of the cheese maker, fresh ricotta can be the consistency of cottage cheese or slightly less moist. Photo courtesy Caviar Russe.

     

    HOW IS RICOTTA SALATA RELATED TO RICOTTA?

    Ricotta salata is made specifically from the whey of sheep’s milk, but it not sold fresh like ricotta. It is pressed, salted (salata) and aged into a hard, white cheese. Mildly salty, nutty and milky, it is an excellent grating and shaving cheese, often used to garnish pasta, salads and cooked vegetables.

    Here’s a photo and more about ricotta salata.

    There’s also ricotta affumicata, an aged cheese that is smoked in the early part of the maturing process. Like ricotta salata, it can be eaten with bread or grated over other foods.

     
    USES FOR RICOTTA AT BREAKFAST

    When Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet*, eating her curds and whey, she was having a bowl of cottage cheese: Curds are the lumps and whey is the liquid. That was in England. If she’d have been in Italy, she would have eaten ricotta instead. Here’s how we enjoy it at breakfast:

     

  • Spread on toast. We like it plain on crusty toast with a pinch of fresh-ground pepper, but you can add sweet accents (cinnamon sugar, jam) or savory seasonings (cracked black pepper, herbs).
  • Toast with toppers. Green pea and ricotta toast is delicious for breakfast, as a snack, even as a first course at dinner. You can substitute edamame or sugar snap peas (more). Or, you can add fruit yogurt and/or fresh fruit.
  • Ricotta with honey, with or without toast, untoasted bread or a muffin. Here are recipe variations.
  • Ricotta pancakes. Add one cup of ricotta to two cups of pancake mix. Here’s a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, and another for lemon ricotta pancakes from Bobby Flay.
  • Omelet or crêpe filling. As with the previous tip, you can make it sweet or savory. Or, make scrambled eggs with ricotta and chives.
  • Curds and whey update. Top ricotta (as the curds) with fruit yogurt (as the whey). Add fresh fruit.
  •  
    We’re off to enjoy a breakfast of these “curds and whey.” Do you have a favorite way to enjoy ricotta for breakfast? Let us know.
     
    *Have you ever wondered what a tuffet is? It’s a hassock, a piece of furniture used as a footstool or a low seat. Your great-grandmother likely had one that matched the sofa.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Use Soup As Sauce

    Want to serve your grilled proteins with some kind of sauce, but don’t have the time or the direction? An honored shortcut is to use a can or carton of soup.

    A packaged soup can quickly be turned into a tasty sauce, and add color and richness to dishes. By mixing the soup concentrate with herbs or spices, you can have your sauce in minutes.

  • Cream soups have long been used by busy housewives: Has anyone not had a sauce made from Campbell’s Cream Of Mushroom Soup? Don’t overlook Cream of Asparagus and Cream of Celery.
  • Non-cream vegetable soups (less fat and calories) are a particular favorite of ours. We often use the Pacific brand, an organic line with nice soup options: Butternut Squash, Cashew Carrot Ginger, Chipotle Sweet Potato, Curried Red Lentil (the soup is actually yellow), French Onion, Poblano Pepper & Corn, Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato, Rosemary Potato and Thai Sweet Potato, for starters.
  •  
    These two categories of soup, undiluted or diluted to the consistency you like, can be quickly heated in the microwave and placed on a plate, with the protein on top.

    You can also use broth—beef, chicken, mushroom, vegetable—but you need to use a bowl instead of a plate.

       

    soup-as-sauce-vitalchoice-230

    Soup topped with a fish fillet and garnished with sliced green onions and lots of fresh herbs. Photo courtesy VitalChoice.com.

     

    pacific-roasted-red-pepper-tomato-230

    Pick up a quality soup to use as your sauce. Photo courtesy Pacific Foods.

     

    But before you open the soup, think of what you have on hand to enhance the flavor and appearance:

  • Balsamic or flavored vinegar
  • Citrus zest
  • Crumbled soft cheese (just a dab)
  • Dots of cream or flavored olive oil (use a squeeze bottle or
    clean medicine dropper)
  • Herbs
  • Seeds or chopped nuts
  • Spices
  • Raw veggies (use a fine dice of anything)
  •  
    Even though you start with packaged soup, you end up putting your own stamp on the sauce.

    And, given the different soups and enhancements you can add to them, you have endless possibilities!

    So the next time you look at plain grilled chicken, fish or tofu, just open the pantry and fridge to see what you can turn into a soup-based sauce.

     

      

    Comments

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