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TIP OF THE DAY: Rice Paper For Fun Food & Serious Food

Shrimp Summer Rolls

Summer Rolls

rice-paper-wrappers-c-denzelGreen-cooksinfo-230

Rice Paper For Spring Rolls

Top: Vietnamese Summer rolls with shrimp (here’s the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Second: Vietnamese Spring Rolls with added fruit (photo California Strawberry Commission). Third: Rice paper wrappers (photo © Denzel Green | CooksInfo.com). Bottom: Traditional packaging (photo Three Ladies Brand).

 

ABOUT RICE PAPER

Rice paper is a name for everything different products, including edible paper and decorative papers, including wallpaper. The edible kind, made from rice flour, is the white, translucent wrapper used for Vietnamese spring and summer rolls, chilled and raw or fried and hot. They can be used to wrap savory or sweet ingredients—or a combination.

Here’s more about rice paper from CooksInfo.com.

Beyond traditional spring and summer rolls rolls (here’s the difference between spring rolls and summer rolls), you can make lots of fusion food. Some of the uses we’ve tried:

  • Asian ravioli (i.e., dumplings) with an Asian sauce or an Italian sauce (pesto or olive oil).
  • Baked salmon in “parchment” (the rice paper becomes “edible parchment”—recipe).
  • Gluten-free lasagna.
  • “Leftovers” rolls: proteins, noodles/pasta, salmon usually) and soba noodles, raw or cooked vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, etc.
  • Salad rolls/crudité rolls, with your favorite raw veggies.
  • Wrap “sandwiches”: curried chicken salad, smoked salmon, tuna salad, BLT (bacon, butter lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes).
  •  
    Some supermarkets carry rice paper in the Asian products aisle; or get them from an Asian grocer or online. They may be called spring roll wrappers or spring roll skins.

     
    RECIPE: DIY SPRING ROLLS

    This is a fun dish made by each person at the table, like Moo Shoo Pork. We first had it at a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris in our late teens, and it was love at first bite: grilled beef and fresh mint wrapped in butter lettuce leaves with condiments.

    We’ve since added rice paper for do-it-yourself spring rolls. You can make them vegetarian or add a grilled protein of choice.

    Set the table with ingredients of choice. You can use them all (we do) or make a selection of five or so.

  • Basil or cilantro, freshly minced or shredded
  • Butter lettuce leaves
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Chiles, thinly sliced
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Cucumber, julienned
  • Fresh fruit: mango, blueberries, strawberries, apple
  • Fresh mint sprigs (substitute basil leaves)
  • Daikon, shredded
  • Green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
  • Protein: grilled beef or tuna slices, shrimp, crab, etc.
  • Red cabbage, shredded or made into slaw with Asian vinaigrette*
  • Rice noodle vermicelli, cooked
  • Rice paper wrappers with bowls of warm water
  • Optional: Asian chili sauce, sambal olek†, watercress or baby arugula, whatever appeals to you
  •  
    Plus

  • Dipping sauce: choose from Nuoc Mam Cham (recipe below), peanut sauce, chimichurri sauce (especially with grilled proteins), Asian-style vinaigrette†, or other sauce of choice.
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    *Asian vinaigrette: For 1/2 cup, combine 2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/2 cup olive oil or other salad oil, 1/2 teaspoon dark/toasted sesame oil, 1/2 small garlic clove finely grated. You can also add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and/or grated lime zest.

    †You can make your own sambal olek simply by grinding chiles with water to form a paste. We used a mortar and pestle.

     

    RECIPE: NUOC MAM CHAM, VIETNAMESE DIPPING SAUCE

    Nuoc cham is Vietnamese for “dipping sauce.” Nuoc mam cham is specifically a fish sauce-based dipping sauce.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bird’s eye chile†, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  •  
    _______________________
    †Bird’s eye is a very hot chile, 100,000 ~ 225,000 Scoville Heat Units. You can substitute the less hot jalapeño or serrano—pick the smallest ones. (See the different types of chiles.)

     
    RECIPE #2: HUMMUS & CRUDITÉS “CLOCK”

    Whether you have kids or a sense of whimsy, this Hummus and Crudités “Clock” is a fun and good-for-you snack (photo above).

    We adapted the idea from a photo on the Tio Gazpacho Facebook page, and created the face of the clock from hummus.
     
    Ingredients

  • Rice paper sheets
  • Hummus (flavor of choice)
  • Cucumbers, sliced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Scallion tops
  • Optional garnish: minced parsley
  •  

    Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
    Crudites

    Top: Nuoc mam cham sauce (photo and recipe variation from GastronomyBlog.com). Bottom: Hummus “clock” on rice paper (photo Tio Gazpacho | Facebook).

     
    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN the rice papers according to package directions. Spread with hummus and place on a plate. (It’s difficult to make a perfectly round clock face, so the we use the rice paper for a clean look).

    2. ADD the crudités as shown in the photo to make the face of the clock.

    3. SPRINKLE the the rest of the plate with minced parsley if you need to “fill out the plate.”

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Hibiscus Salt & Ways To Use It

    Hibiscus Salt Rim

    Chocolate Cupcake With Salt Garnish

    Cherry Tomato Salad With Hibiscus Salt

    Fried Egg & Asparagus With Hibiscus Salt

    Hibiscus Blossom

    Top: Margarita rim. Second: Cupcake garnish. Third: Salad garnish. Third: Eggs. Photos courtesy Hibiscus-Salt.com. Bottom: Hibiscus flower. Photo courtesy TypesOfFlower.com.

     

    A number of years ago, hibiscus flowers became a trendy ingredient for mixologists and pastry chefs, with the import of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup from Australia’s Wild Hibiscus Flower Company.

    It took us this long to try the company’s second hibiscus product, Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes. Salty, fruity-zingy-tart and beautiful, it’s become the latest “it” gift for us.

    WHAT IS HIBISCUS SALT?

    First, what is hibiscus? It’s a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae—the same genus that gave us marshmallow. The genus contains several hundred species that are native to subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.

    The flowers often have vivid colors and fragrances. The blossoms are used as a flavoring for everything from beverages to ice pops (we highly recommend hibiscus iced tea. The flavor is fruity and floral, with a tart, red fruit backbone.

    The blossoms are also used to make a gourmet finishing salt with a pyramid shape similar to England’s Maldon salt and Cyprus Sea Salt. Hibiscus salt is a blend of dried, ground hibiscus flowers and Australian pyramid salt flakes.

    Finishing salts are top-quality salts that are known for their unique textures, which allow them to quickly dissolve when applied to finished dishes. These include flake salt, fleur de sel, and French sea salt.
     
    Flake salt is a light crystal salt reminiscent of snowflakes. Seawater is are evaporated by the sun and wind producing salt brine that is slowly heated to the point where delicate pyramids shaped crystals of salt appear. The finished product is light, flaky sea salt.

    Flake salts are harvested all over the world: the Maldon River in England, Anglesey off the island of Wales, New Zealand, and Australia. The pink flake salt shown here comes from Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin, where a red pigment, carotene, is secreted by algae.

    The crystals are small, fine, flat and pink; combining with the hibiscus yields a salt with violet hues.

    In addition to delicate flavor and eye appeal, the salt is rich with calcium and magnesium, among other minerals.

    The product is call natural, certified kosher (by Kosher Australia) and gluten free.
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALT IN OUR SALT GLOSSARY.

     
    HOW TO USE HIBISCUS SALT

    Hibiscus salt can be sprinkled as is, crumbled for a finer presentation or used in a salt grinder. It can be used with sweet and savory foods and beverages.

  • Avocado toast, cream cheese, etc.
  • Cake and cupcake garnish
  • Chocolate bark
  • Cocktails and mocktails
  • Eggs
  • Fish, smoked salmon
  • Glass rimmer
  • Goat cheese log (roll the log in an elegant combination of the violet salt and chopped green pistachios) and other fresh cheeses
  • Hot chocolate
  • Ice cream, sorbet and other desserts (go for a salty contrast, or mix the hibiscus salt with some decorating salt for sweet-and-salty)
  • Melon
  • Plate garnish
  • Popcorn
  • Potatoes, rice and vegetables
  • Salad
  • Yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Lots more (including gifts)
  •  
    Get yours today.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Soufflé Omelet With Balsamic Strawberries

    For Sunday brunch, try your hand at a fluffy Soufflé Omelet. This recipe, adapted from one by the California Strawberry Commission, has a filling of balsamic strawberries.

    Serve it with a bubbly Mimosa (recipe below).

    RECIPE: SOUFFLE OMELET WITH BALSAMIC STRAWBERRIES

    Ingredients

  • 1½ cups (about 8 ounces) fresh strawberries, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or mint
  • 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Garnish: confectioners’ sugar and/or mascarpone or sour cream
  •  
    Preparation

       

    Soufflet Omelet

    A Souffle Omelet, stuffed with balsamic strawberries (photo courtesy California Strawberry Commission).

     
    1. COMBINE the strawberries, mint, vinegar and 1½ teaspoons of the granulated sugar in bowl; set aside.

    2. WHISK the egg yolks, vanilla and remaining ½ teaspoon of granulated sugar in a small bowl for 1 minute, or until slightly thickened.

    3. BEAT the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. With a rubber spatula, fold the yolk mixture into the whites until no streaks remain.

    4. MELT the butter in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling add the egg mixture, spreading it into an even layer with the spatula. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the omelet is golden brown on the bottom and barely set on top.

    5. SPOON the strawberries down the center of omelet. Use the spatula to fold the omelet in half over filling.

    6. SLIDE the omelet onto a plate and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Add a dollop of sour cream or mascarpone as desired.

     

    Mimosa With Strawberry Recipe

    Mimosa Cocktail

    Top: You don’t need Champagne flutes to serve a Mimosa (photo courtesy DrinkSkinny.com. Bottom: Even better, a Blood Orange Mimosa (photo courtesy BakeholicMama.com).

     

    OMELETTE VS. OMELET?

    It’s the French versus British spelling. Both are correct: Omelette is is more elegant while omelet is easier to spell.

     
    RECIPE: MIMOSA COCKTAIL

    Use juice from a carton if you like, but the best Mimosa Cocktail is made from fresh-squeezed juice (juice is half the recipe, after all). Even better is fresh-squeezed blood orange juice!

    Unless you have an excess of Champagne to use up, save the money and buy a Cava or Prosecco, in the $12 to $15 range; or a Sparkling Rosé. If you don’t have Champagne flutes, use white wine glasses or a tall, slender stemless glass.

    Variations: Try a Grapefruit Mimosa substituting grapefruit juice, or a Grand Mimosa with a splash of Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur.

    Ingredients

  • Dry sparkling wine, chilled
  • Orange juice, chilled (if squeezing, plan 1 orange per drink)
  • Optional: orange liqueur
  • Optional garnish: notched strawberry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. POUR the sparkling wine into the flute. It should comprise half of the contents.

    2. TOP the sparkling wine with orange juice, then the optional orange liqueur. The heavier weights of the juice and liqueur will travel to the bottom and self-mix.

    If you feel that mixing is necessary, give the drink half a gentle stir with a swizzle stick so you don’t break the bubbles.

    3. CUT a notch in the strawberry and set it on the rim of the glass. Serve immediately.

     
    THE HISTORY OF THE MIMOSA COCKTAIL

    The Mimosa, a cocktail composed of equal parts of orange juice and Champagne or other dry, white sparkling wine, was invented by bartender Frank Meier circa 1925 at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris.

    Served in a Champagne flute, it is believed to be named after the the mimosa evergreen shrub (Acacia dealbata), which bears flowers of a similar color to the drink.

    Because of the juice component, the Mimosa is often served at brunch. The optional addition of a small amount of orange liqueur like Grand Marnier complements the juice and gives the drink more complexity.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Brown Butter Cinnamon Rolls, A Weekend Treat

    On Mother’s Day we called our aunt to send our best wishes, and ended up chatting about our family’s favorite topic: food. We ended up reminiscing about the Pecan Logs from Fanny Farmer and the Pecan Honey Buns from Horn & Hardart, both chains long gone.

    After the call ended, we couldn’t wait to make these delicious, 90-minute Brown Butter Cinnamon Rolls from one of our favorite bakers, Audra, The Baker Chick.

    If you’d like to bake something this weekend, we recommend these yummy breakfast and tea-time pastries. They’re at best warm from the oven (or warmed up in the microwave), but “best” is relative: They’re always delicious! Any extras can be frozen.
     
    RECIPE: BROWN BUTTER CINNAMON ROLLS

    Ingredients For 12 Rolls

  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package (.25 ounce/2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 egg
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • Optional: 1/4 cup raisins/currants or chopped pecans
  •  
    For The Frosting

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar (we found 2 cups to be sweet enough)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from the heat. Whisk in the butter and stir until melted. Let the mixture cool until lukewarm.

    2. COMBINE in a large mixing bowl 2¼ cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar and salt; whisk together. Add the water, the egg and the milk mixture; beat well with an electric mixer. Add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, using a wooden spoon to stir well after each addition (the dough will be too thick and sticky at this point to use the a mixer.) When the dough has just pulled together…

     

    Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

    Pecan Honey Buns

    Pecan Sticky Bun

    Top: The Baker Chick’s Brown Butter Cinnamon Buns. Center: A version of the original Pecan Honey Buns of our youth, also called sticky buns. Here’s the recipe from Susan Spungen, The Modern Cook. Photos copyright their respective owners. Bottom: A recipe for sticky buns from EzraPoundCake.com.

     
    3. TURN it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, use the dough hook in a stand mixer. When ready, the dough will spring back when lightly pressed. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Meanwhile…

    4. BROWN the butter by placing it in a small microwave-safe container. Cover it with a microwavable saucer or other tight lid (including microwavable plastic wrap with a vent cut in) and microwave for 3-5 minutes. The butter will melt, pop and then turn brown. If you don’t have a microwave, you can do this on the stove top. While the butter cools slightly, mix together the filling—butter, brown sugar and cinnamon—in a small bowl.

    5. ROLL out the dough into a 9×12 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface (use a 9×13 baking dish as a guide.) Using a pastry brush, slather the dough with the brown butter. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and the optional raisins/nuts, and press in lightly so they does’t fall out when you roll the pastry. The brown sugar mix should cover the dough all the way to the edges.

    6. ROLL up the dough and pinch the seam to seal. Using a serrated knife, cut into 12 equal size rolls and place in a 9×13 baking dish. Cover and let the rolls rise in a warm place* until doubled, about 30 minutes.

    7. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until golden. While the rolls bake…

    8. MAKE the frosting: Whip together the softened butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and the powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time. Beat until creamy and spreadable. Let the rolls cool for 10 minutes and then spread the rolls with frosting. Serve warm.

     
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    *Proofing is the final rise of shaped dough before baking—a specific rest period during the fermentation process. Cold air will retard the rise, so if it’s cold in your kitchen, preheat the oven to 200°F and proof the dough in the oven.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Avocado Toast

    Avocado Toast

    Cherry & Grape Tomatoes

    Mini Cucumbers

    Top: Fully Loaded Avocado Toast. Center: A medley of cherry and grape tomatoes. Bottom: Mini cucumbers. Photos courtesy Sunset Produce.

     

    Over the last few years, Avocado Toast has been spreading from casual dining spots to coffee bars. The concept started as part of the trend to eat more nutritiously (avocado nutrition). It falls in the “nutritious and delicious” category.

    We first saw Avocado Toast in the form of seasoned, chunky mashed avocado on whole grain toast—perhaps garnished with sprouts or halved cherry tomatoes. As its popularity grew, so did the creativity.

    Today’s tip is: Design your ideal Avocado Toast recipe. Ours includes capers, fresh basil, pimento, sweet onion, tomato or sundried tomato, and a balsamic drizzle on crusty country loaf toast. Sometimes we add slices of hard-boiled egg.

    Avocado toast can be served for breakfast or snacks, or as smaller hors d’oeuvre (crostini).

    Here are two more takes on Avocado Toast:

    RECIPE #1: LOADED AVOCADO TOAST Loaded Avocado Toast OR CROSTINI

    This recipe, from Chef Roger Mooking for Sunset Produce, uses the brand’s mini cucumbers and Wild Wonders mix of cherry and grape tomatoes in red and orange. Prep time is 15 minutes.

     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed, thinly sliced shallots (substitute sweet onion)
  • 2 mini cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 2 cup halved cherry and/or grape tomatoes
  • 4 slices bread
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse-cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse or flake sea salt (the different types of sea salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds (we ground whole seeds in a mortar with a pestle)
  • 1/2 cup quality extra virgin olive oil (we used basil-infused olive oil)
  • Preparation

    1. SEPARATE the shallot slices into individual rings. Submerge them in a bowl of cold water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and discard the water.

    2. TOAST the bread lightly, place a slice on each plate and spread 2 tablespoons of avocado on each slice. Top the avocado with a pinch of smoked paprika.

    3. DIVIDE the tomatoes, then the cucumbers, on top of the avocado. Sprinkle with a pinch each of cracked black pepper (you can crush peppercorns in the mortar, too), lemon zest, sea salt and ground fennel seed. Place the shallot slices on top or to the side.

    4. DRIZZLE 1 teaspoon of olive oil on top of each slice to finish. Serve immediately.

     

    RECIPE #2: AVOCADO-MISO TOAST

    Miso may seem an unusual pairing with avocado, but the flavors are very complementary. This recipe from Quinciple features an unusual ingredient: hozon, a proprietary miso-style spread made by David Chang’s Kaizen Trading Company.

    Hozon isn’t yet available to consumers outside of Quinciple’s meal delivery service, but you can substitute regular miso. The difference is that traditional miso is made from fermented soybeans, and hozon is made from fermented legumes, nuts and seeds.

    You can easily whip up miso compound butter or hozon compound butter (recipe below). It gives umami flavor and savory contrast to the avocado toast.

    Ingredients For 2 Slices

  • 2 slices rustic bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower hozon or traditional (recipe below)
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and peeled
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • Flake sea salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOAST the bread until golden and crisp. If using hozon…

    2. WHISK together the butter and hozon in a small bowl, until combined. Otherwise, coat each piece of toast generously with miso compound butter (recipe below).

    3. SLICE each avocado half as shown in the photo, and press down gently to fan out the slices.

    4. ARRANGE each fanned avocado half atop a piece of toast. Garnish with scallions, sesame seeds and salt.

     

    Avocado Toast

    Miso Butter

    Top: Avocado Toast with hozon butter, an alternative to soybean miso paste. Photo courtesy Quinciple. Bottom: Miso butter, a compound butter. Photo courtesy MomofukuFor2.com.

     
    RECIPE: MISO BUTTER, A COMPOUND BUTTER

    Compound butter is classic French ingredient: a blend of unsalted butter with another flavor ingredient that complements the particular recipe. It can be anything from blue cheese to nuts, herbs, spices and citrus. Here’s more about compound butter.

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste (any type—see the different types of miso)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Optional minced seasonings: chives or green onions, garlic, ginger; citrus zest; red pepper flakes.
     
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the butter, miso and pepper with a small whisk or a fork.

    2. BUTTER the bread; roll the remainder into a log shape in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze. You can cut off slices to garnish chicken, fish or steak (lots of umami); vegetables; potatoes or rice.
     
    AVOCADO FUN FACTS

  • The avocado is a tree that is native to south central Mexico. Botanically, the fruit is a large berry containing a single seed (the pit).
  • Avocados have been cultivated in Central America for some 7,000 years, although they didn’t arrive in the U.S. until in 1833 in Florida. They were planted in California in 1856. Today California is the largest producer of avocados in the U.S., followed by Florida and Hawaii.
  • Although we only see a handful in supermarkets, there are more than 80 varieties of avocado. The most popular is the Hass avocado.
  • Americans eat an average of 4.5 pounds of avocado per year. About 50 million pounds of avocados are consumed in the U.S. on Super Bowl Sunday.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Stovetop Kabobs In A Cast Iron Pan

    Who needs a grill to make kabobs?

    With the recipe below from Good Eggs, you can make delicious and healthful kabobs on the stovetop, using a cast iron pan to char the meat. A hot cast iron pan yields all of the smoky flavor of a grill—and a lot more.

    THE HISTORY OF CAST IRON COOKWARE

    Cast iron vessels have been used for two thousand years. The first known use was during the Han Dynasty in China, 206– 220 C.E.

    Cast iron cookware was prized for its durability and ability to retain heat—a challenge when cooking in a hearth or an even iffier open fire (the kitchen stove was not created until the mid-19th century).

    The original cast-iron vessels were cauldrons and pots. The flat cast iron skillet as we know it appeared in the late 19th century.

    While cast iron cookware was popular among home cooks during the first half of the 20th century—along with affordable aluminum and expensive copper—the second half led to stainless steel, less durable and flexible but more attractive.

    Even more attractive and less durable was the pricier enamel-coated cast iron, like Le Creuset (the enamel coating will chip if dropped and can’t be repaired).

    Nonstick, easy to clean Teflon-coated cookware became the choice of housewives beginning in the late 1960s, although cast iron, copper and stainless continued to be used in professional kitchens.

    Here’s a longer history of cookware, which began with animal hides in prehistoric times.

    And they’ll endure forever. Ours was purchased by our grandmother in the 1920s! Today, a 15-inch cast iron skillet, large enough for steaks and chops, is $40.
     
    READY FOR A CAST IRON SKILLET?

    Cast iron skillets are available from the petite (6 inches in diameter) to the jumbo (17 inches). Lodge, a top producer of cast-iron cookware, sells them in one-inch increments (6, 7, 8, 9, etc). Lodge-brand pans, our favorites, are pre-seasoned and ready-to-use, eliminating the main objection to buying cast iron.

    In addition to a lifetime of service for an affordable buy-in, cast iron:

       
    Skillet Cookbook

    Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

    Top: A cast iron skillet is the beginning of a cooking odyssey. Three cookbooks from Lodge are also a good start. Bottom: A 15-inch cast iron skillet from Lodge Manufacturing in Tennessee. A line with beautiful craftsmanship, it is the only cast iron cookware manufacturer still in the U.S.

  • Delivers the best heat distribution, which is why it’s the choice of professional chefs. The ability of cast iron to withstand and maintain very high cooking temperatures makes it best for searing or frying. Using cast iron ensures that there’s no “hot spot” on the pan, when some of the food cooks faster, overcooking or burning it before the rest of the contents are ready.
  • Versatility: Excellent heat retention makes cast iron preferable for braises, stews and other long-cooking, as well as quick-cooking dishes like eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches. Before there was bakeware, cast iron skillets were used to make breads, cakes, cobblers, pies, and so forth.
  • Is a “grill” for apartment dwellers, providing char, smoky flavor and a perfect crust on fish and meat.
  • Is nonstick after seasoning. Seasoning must be done before first using the cookware, to create a nonstick surface and prevent rust. It is the process of covering the cooking surface with vegetable oil and baking it at 250°F for 90 minutes. When the pan cools down, the oil is wiped off. After each use, the pan is not washed, but wiped. While this is very easy to do, the concept is foreign to many modern cooks, who therefore avoid cast iron.
  • Can be heated beyond 500°F, the limit of stainless steel. Campfire temperatures average 1,571°F.
  • Provides great performance at a low price for a long time. You can cook anything in it, and it goes from stovetop to oven. If a minuscule amount of iron leaches into your food, that’s a good thing—like taking an iron supplement.
  •  

    Chicken Yogurt Kabobs Recipe

    Spring Red Onions

    Top: Healthful and delicious: yogurt-marinated chicken kabobs with charred vegetables. Bottom: Spring red onions. Spring onions are immature onions, harvested early. If left in the ground, these would grow into conventional red onions. You are more likely to find white spring onions, but Good Eggs specializes in fine produce. Photos courtesy GoodEggs.

     

    RECIPE: YOGURT-MARINATED CHICKEN KABOBS WITH INDIAN SEASONINGS

    Feast on tender chicken and charred vegetables. Prep time is just 20 minutes, and you can marinate the chicken overnight. This dish pairs well with a side of grains—ideally whole grains (barley, brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, etc.), but is fine with good old, less nutritious white rice.
     
    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

    For The Chicken & Marinade

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2” cubes
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Optional: pinch cayenne or other heat
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Bamboo skewers*
  •  
    For The Charred Vegetables

    Three of the four vegetables here are spring vegetables. You can substitute any veggies you like.

  • 1 bunch spring onions†, roots and outer layer pared away
  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and (if larger) halved
  • 1 pound whole fava beans, rinsed
  • ¼ pounds ramps (wild leeks), greens intact but roots pared away
  •  
    _____________________
    *If you don’t have skewers, you can cook the chicken pieces without them.

    †Spring onions are not the same as green onions (a.k.a. scallions). Spring onions are immature onions, harvested early in the season. They are milder than regular onions. You can substitute sweet onions or shallots.(

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Place the bamboo skewers in a large bowl of water and soak for 5 minutes. (Or cook the chicken without skewers. It will taste the same, but skewers are a more special presentation.) Mix the marinade ingredients in a large bowl, add the chicken and toss to combine.

    2. THREAD five cubes onto each skewer. You can do this in advance and store the prepped kebabs in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

    3. HEAT a large cast-iron skillet, then add enough two tablespoons of olive oil, or as much as you need browning. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 2 minutes per side; then place the entire pan into the oven. Bake for 5 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F. Remove the kebabs from the skillet and set aside.

    4. HEAT a second large pan (or wipe the first pan clean), adding the olive oil when the pan is very hot. Add the vegetables in one layer without crowding (cook in two batches if necessary). Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. When the vegetables are a bit tender, very browned and (hopefully) a bit charred, remove them from the pan. Dress with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt, and serve alongside the kabobs.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Delicious Ways To Eat More Grains & Legumes

    Grilled Vegetables On Bean Puree

    Poached Egg On A Bed Of Beans

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/black eyed peas collards goodeggs 230rsq

    Top: Bean purée topped with grilled vegetables and aged balsamic, as a starter or vegetarian main (photo courtesy Chef Eric LeVine). Center: Try poached or fried eggs on a bed of beans or lentils; here, kidney beans and diced sweet potato (photo courtesy U.S. Dry Bean Council). Bottom: Ham with black-eyed peas and collards (photo courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     

    Head to any fine-casual dining spot and the menu is sure to include quinoa, other whole grains (barley, buckwheat, bulgur, farrow) and often, bean and lentil dishes.

    While consumers increasingly respond to these healthful alternatives when dining out, many of us still aren’t in the groove of serving them at home. Some people do their best to put nutritious meals on the table, while others have to default to convenience.

    But with some easy planning, you can have both deliciousness and healthfulness: Just about every grain and legume can be prepared in an hour or two on the weekend, and heated up as needed.

    Grains and legumes have also been turned into convenience. You can buy them frozen or in boil bags, and boil or microwave them. As with the frozen vegetables, enjoy the same nutrition.

    And all of us should now know how to season better with herbs and spices, instead of the salt and pepper shakers of yore.
     
    WHY DON’T WE EAT MORE OF THEM?

    Since the dawn of personal wealth, meat has been a sign of prosperity. Diets of mostly grains, beans and vegetables were fare for the less prosperous.

    Whereas in other cultures meat—especially beef—remains a luxury, the U.S. has always had enough grazing land to produce large quantities of it. Quantity drove down prices, and a result, people ate more meat. In fact, many families could eat it at every meal, starting with breakfast meats.

    As a result, the grains and legumes that still comprise a major part of other cuisines were passed over in favor of meat-and-starch diet: bacon or sausage at breakfast, a ham or roast beef sandwich for lunch, beef, chicken or pork for dinner.

    Our eating habits grew out of balance. Case in point:

    Spaghetti and [large] meatballs that are a signature “Italian” dish are actually Italian-American. It doesn’t exist in classic Italian cuisine. Few people in the old country could afford large amounts of meat on a regular basis—but working-class immigrants to the U.S. could.
     
    HOW TO GET WITH THE PROGRAM

    Americans eat too much processed food (and too much meat) and not nearly enough whole food. This is one reason why we have growing rates of stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and gastrointestinal disorders like constipation.

    While selling the general public on whole grains and legumes as “healthful” isn’t the best marketing approach for many consumers, “delicious” usually works. And truth to tell, it is easy to make these foods taste delicious.

    There’s an easy solution below. But first…

     
    WHAT ARE WHOLE GRAINS?

    Whole grain are cereals with that have their germ, endosperm and bran intact, in contrast to refined grains which retain only the endosperm, and thus tend to retain little nutritional value after being processed.
     
    Whole grains contain far more fiber than heavily-processed grains. They also provide protein, iron and other minerals, even some trace minerals (chromium, copper, molybdenum, selenium, etc). Their valuable phytonutrients (antioxidants) are removed in the refining process.

    There’s overwhelming evidence that a diet including a sufficient quantity of whole grains can result in a healthier, and therefore better, life. The USDA recommends 48 grams of whole grains per day. It doesn’t matter if the grains are cooked ass is or ground into flour: Corn on the cob is a whole grain food, as are cornbread and polenta, made from cornmeal (corn flour).

    The choice boils down to this: Eat refined white flour and white rice, or switch to better-for-you whole grains from the chart below. You can snack on potato chips, or switch to whole grain snacks like popcorn and whole-grain pretzels. (Note: “multigrain” is not “whole grain”: It can indicate a combination of two or more refined grains.)

    Here’s more about whole grains.

    List Of Whole Grains

     

    WHAT ARE LEGUMES?

    Legumes are plants that contain their fruits in pods. They are generally low in fat, high in protein and full of fiber and other nutrients (calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, etc.).

    Examples include all forms of dried seeds, beans and peas, such as chickpeas, navy beans, soybeans, black beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas.

    Among other things, legumes can help prevent blood sugar spikes. They help to lower cholesterol and contribute to gastrointestinal well-being. The USDA recommends that individuals consume three servings of whole grains each day—about half of your total grain intake—and about half a cup of legumes daily.

    They can be easily substituted for pasta, white rice and potatoes.

    14 WAYS TO EAT MORE WHOLE GRAINS & LEGUMES, AND LOVE THEM!

    In our youth, one of the women’s magazines our mother bought had a meal calendar for the month: literally, a monthly calendar page with a suggested dinner menu for every day.

    The meals were very varied—beyond the meat and potatoes that were popular at the time—and the dishes easy to make. As kids, we delighted in selecting which Birdseye frozen vegetables would be served at dinner.

    But the point is the planning. If you take one of the wall calendars you picked up at the bank, you can write in a whole grain and/or legume for every day of the month. Then, implementing is easy.

    Here are just a few ideas that can be incorporated into your everyday meals:

  • Burgers: There are delicious veggie burgers made with beans. Don’t knock them until you’ve tried them—and serve them on whole grain buns.
  • Bread: Buy whole wheat bread or oatmeal bread, including bagels.
  • Eggs: Add beans to an omelet or a scramble, or serve a side of well-seasoned beans with the eggs.
  • Hummus: In addition to dipping and snacking, use hummus or bean purée as a bread spread instead of butter, and as a sandwich spread instead of mayonnaise.
  • Meat loaf: Make your meat loaf with a 3:1 ratio of ground meat to cooked whole grains or legumes. (We love Lentil Meat Loaf.)
  • Mexican/Tex-Mex: Use corn tortillas instead of white flour tortillas. The same goes for wrap sandwiches. Serve brown rice and puréed beans as rice-and-beans sides with non-Mexican mains.
  •  

    Barley Side

    Bean Tostada

    Red Rice Thai Croquettes

    Top: A side of barley, sugar snap peas and sundries tomatoes (All-Clad pot from Williams-Sonoma). Center: Make bean tostadas for lunch or snacks (photo courtesy U.S. Dry Bean Council). Bottom: Red Rice Thai Croquettes (photo courtesy Blogspot.PhilosophersSpoon.com).

  • Oats beyond porridge: Add rolled oats to muffins, pie crusts and cookies. Instead of conventional chocolate chip cookies, make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Pan-fry leftover oatmeal and serve it plain like polenta (with maple syrup or grated cheese), or with eggs. You can also whip up a large batch of oatmeal on the weekend and heat up your daily breakfast.
  • Pasta: Use whole wheat pasta instead of refined white flour pasta. If you don’t like the more pronounced flavor, combine half whole wheat pasta and half white flour pasta.
  • Pizza: Use chickpea flour (gluten free) or whole wheat flour instead of white flour—or buy whole grain pizza dough—for homemade pizza crusts. Purée white beans—cannellini, great northern or navy beans—as a pizza topping instead of tomato sauce, and top with roasted vegetables and mozzarella cheese.
  • Potatoes: Instead of potatoes on most nights, cut back to four nights a week and serve whole grains or legumes on the other nights. You may find yourself happily planning more nights of the better-for-you options.
  • Rice: Beyond brown rice, there are other good-for-you whole ready-to-heat-and-eat grains on the store shelves and in the freezer case. If you’ve never had wild rice, what a treat-well worth the extra time (and higher cost) to prepare it.
  • Salads: Add barley, beans (including edamame) or wheatberries to green salad, tuna salad, etc.
  • Snacks: Substitute popcorn or roasted chickpeas for potato chips and other “empty calorie” snack foods. Buy bags of frozen edamame in the pods, microwave them and serve as them with a sprinkle of coarse salt for a yummy snack (it’s fun to squeeze the beans from the pods). And for a sophisticated snack, make bruschetta or crostini with cooked beans and/or bean purée and a garnish of fresh herbs.
  • Soups: Enjoy more bean or lentil soup, and add beans, lentils or whole grains to other soups.
  •  
    We know you’ll have even more ideas!
     
    This article was inspired by one in the Sysco.com health newsletter.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Caramel Macchiato At Home

    One of our team makes two runs a day for a Caramel Macchiato at the corner Starbucks. This one’s for you, Christina.

    There are numerous types of espresso drinks, from Affogato (espresso served over ice cream) to Vanilla Latte (3:1 steamed milk and espresso with vanilla-flavored syrup).

    “Macchiato” means marked or stained in Italian (in France, it’s called Cafe Noisette). In Italy, Caffe Macchiato is made in an espresso cup, from steamed milk which is “marked” by the addition of espresso. The espresso, poured into the center of the foam, sinks down and leaves a brown spot on top. In Italy, it’s a mid-morning drink’ many Italians add a bit of sugar.

    The chief difference between a Macchiato and a Latte is that the Macchiato has aesthetically pleasing layers of color. With a Latte, the espresso and milk are completely integrated (see photos at right).

    As adapted to American tastes, the Macchiato became a larger drink. A Caramel Macchiato starts with steamed milk and vanilla syrup, adds the espresso, and tops the drink with a drizzle of caramel syrup. (Starbucks says that its 16 ounce size is 250 calories.)

     
    RECIPE #1: HOMEMADE CARAMEL MACCHIATO

    You can make your own at home in five minutes and double the recipe if you like. But try the single size first in case you want to adjust the proportions.

    You can buy the syrups or make your own (recipes below).

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla syrup
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 shot espresso
  • Garnish: caramel sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WARM an empty cup (we microwave it for 10 seconds) and add 1 tablespoon of vanilla syrup. Froth the milk and add it, along with the foam, to the cup.

    2. Pour in the espresso. Drizzle the caramel sauce to garnish, and serve.
     
    RECIPE #2: MAKE YOUR OWN VANILLA SYRUP

    Ingredients For 1-1/3 Cups

  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •  

    Caramel Macchiato Recipe

    Caramel Macchiato

    Regular Latte

    Top: A homemade Caramel Macchiato (photo courtesy Tassimo). Center: A Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. Bottom: A latte from Costa Coffee.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the water, sugars and salt in a heavy saucepan, add granulated sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring slowly until the syrup reaches full a boil.

    2. REDUCE the syrup for 5 minutes over a simmer. Remove from the heat, let cool and stir in the vanilla extract.

    We store the syrup in a squeeze bottle in the fridge.
     
    RECIPE #3: MAKE YOUR OWN CARAMEL SYRUP

    Ingredients For 1-1/3 Cups

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream, cold
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the sugar to a heavy saucepan and cook over medium-high heat. The sugar will liquefy; watch it closely because it burns easily. When the liquid starts to turn amber, remove the pan from the heat and immediately…

    2. WHISK in the butter and fully incorporate it into the sugar. Quickly whisk in the cream (bubbles and foam are natural).

    3. STIR in the vanilla and salt. Let cool and transfer to a squeeze bottle (or other container).

     
    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY & TYPES OF ESPRESSO IN OUR ESPRESSO GLOSSARY.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Barbecue Party For National Barbecue Month

    Backyard Grill

    Grilled Brisket

    Top: Deluxe grill from Landmann. Bottom: Weber’s Q series fits almost anywhere.

     

    Did you fire up the grill for Mother’s Day? It’s one of the biggest barbecue days of the year, with 34% 0f grill owners cooking celebrate Mom. It following the Fourth of July (76%), Labor Day (62%), Memorial Day (62%) and Father’s Day (49%) in popularity.

    More than 75% of Americans own a grill or smoker. May is National Barbecue Month: A survey from the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) names grilling as America’s favorite patio pastime.

    Our Tip Of The Day: Have a BYO Favorite Dish barbecue party. Whether it’s a venerable family recipe or something more recent like grilled poppers, everyone should bring a favorite food: sides, punch, desserts, etc. (In our family, it’s homemade baked beans with molasses and a topping of crisp bacon.)

    It can be quite a feast: Beyond proteins and veggies, people grill everything from bread, pizza and quesadillas to fruit and other desserts.
     
    2016 BBQ TRENDS

    Whether for easy weeknight dinners, weekend feasts or even breakfast, here’s the scoop from HPBA’s most recent State of the Barbecue Industry Report, from a survey conducted in July and August, 2015.

  • Who has a grill? 75% of U.S. adults own a grill or smoker.
  • Gas, charcoal or electric? 62% of households have gas grill, 53% have a charcoal grill and 12% have an electric grill. Two percent own a wood pellet grill and 8% are thinking of purchasing one this year.
  • Why so much grilling? 71% say it’s to improve flavor, 54% simply enjoy grilling and 42% like it for entertaining family and friends.
  • Seasonal or year-round? 63% of grill owners use their grill or smoker year-round; 43% cook at least once a month during winter.
  • Grill accessories. Half of all grill owners have the most basic grilling accessories: cleaning brush, tongs, and gloves/mitts (hmm…what does the other half use?). The most popular new accessories owners plan to buy include pizza stones, broiling baskets and cooking planks.
  • Outdoor kitchens: 10% of grill owners have a full “backyard kitchen,” including premium furniture and lighting.
  • Barbecued breakfast: 11% of grill owners prepared breakfast on a grill in the past year.
  • Beyond the backyard: Nearly one third of grill owners (31%) grilled someplace other than their homes in the past year, including 24% who grilled while camping.
  • Barbecue plans: Nearly half of U.S. adults (45%) plan to purchase a new grill or smoker in 2016, while nearly a third of current owners (30%) plan to grill with greater frequency.
  •  
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BARBECUE & BARBECUE

    Barbecue is a noun and a verb. It’s a meal cooked outdoors—for millennia over an open fire until the development of modern gas and electric grills. “Barbecue” also refers to:

  • A grill or open hearth/fireplace—used to barbecue food.
  • The meat, poultry or fish that is barbecued.
  • Meat or poultry that is basted in a sweetened “barbecue sauce” during cooking.
  • An outdoor party or picnic at which barbecued food is served.
  •  
    BARBECUE, BARBEQUE OR BBQ?

    Barbecue and barbeque are alternative spellings, along with the short form BBQ.

    To quote chef Anthony Bourdain, “Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Pancakes & Maple Syrup Substitutes

    Some people like to serve pancakes with a garnish of berries. But at The Mission restaurant in San Diego, a creative cook embedded the fruit in the pancake itself.

    You can do it easily:

  • SLICE fresh berries in 1/4-inch pieces.
  • SPOON the pancake batter onto the griddle or pan.
  • ADD the sliced fruit while the batter sets. If you work quickly, you can add them in a circle; but random scatters are just as tasty.
  •  
    No berries? Use dried fruit (dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc) or dice any other fruit you have on hand (apples, bananas, pears, etc.).

    While the The Mission serves the pancakes with conventional maple syrup, consider these…
     
    ALTERNATIVES TO MAPLE SYRUP

  • Apple butter, bourbon butter, maple butter, strawberry butter or other compound butter
  • Fruit yogurt (you can mix jam or preserves into plain yogurt)
  • Honey
  • Jam, marmalade, preserves
  • Other syrup (berry syrup, brown rice syrup, cinnamon syrup [recipe below], molasses)
  • More fresh fruit
  • Plain yogurt, sour cream or mascarpone
  • Whipped cream or heavy cream
  •  
     
    For plain pancakes consider:

  • Applesauce or other puréed fruit
  • Dessert sauce (caramel, chocolate)
  • Fruit compote or sautéed fruit
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter
  •  
    You can also mix up a creative syrup; for example, honey with raisins, diced apples and/or chopped nuts.
     
     
    RECIPE: CINNAMON SYRUP

    This is delicious on French toast, pancakes and waffles; along with fruit salad, ice cream, un-iced cakes, etc.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Splash of lemon juice
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Pancakes Embedded Fruit

    Sautéed Apple Pancakes

    Peanut Butter & Jelly Pancakes

    Fun with fruit, in and on your pancakes. Top: Embedded berries (photo courtesy The Mission restaurant | San Diego). Center: “Apple Pie Pancakes,” topped with sautéed apples (photo courtesy PotsAndPans.com). Bottom: Topped with peanut butter and jelly or preserves (photo courtesy Krusteaz).

     
    1. HEAT the water and the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the liquid begins to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.

    2. ADD the cinnamon and lemon juice, stir thoroughly, and let cool or serve warm.

      

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