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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

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Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Beer

lindemans-pomme-lambic-230

Not hard cider, but apple (pomme) lambic, a
style of Belgian beer. Photo courtesy
Lindemans.

 

For a country so keen on fruity cocktails, we don’t drink much fruit beer. But summer is the perfect time for it, so plan to have a few before Labor Day.

Fruit beers have been popular for centuries, beginning in Belgium, the country best known for them. Creative brewers there ignored the German Rheinheitsgebot, the “purity law” which specified that beer could only be made with three ingredients: barley, hops and water. (The law dates back to 1516; at the time no one knew that the yeast in the air was involved in the process. Yeast is, of course, the fourth ingredient.)

Belgian lambic styles are produced in popular flavors like cherry (kriek), peach and raspberry. Traditionally, the fruit was fermented with the grain. Modern breweries may use flavored extracts as a shortcut to the finished product (and, not surprisingly, they don’t taste nearly as good). Check the label or online to find those brewed with real fruit.

Today you can also find fruit beers in apple, apricot, banana, black currant, blueberry, strawberry and tangerine. But look for craft brews, as opposed to Bud Light’s Ritas line, flavored beers in Lime, Mango, Strawberry and Raspberry. They’re a different product entirely.

Head to your best beer store and pull together a tasting of fruit beers, both domestic and imported. You may be able to find such tasty brews as:

  • Éphémère Blackcurrant Fruit Beer from Unibroue of Chambly, Quebec, Canada
  • Lindemans Pomme [Apple] Lambic, from Brouwerij Lindemans in Vlezenbeek, Belgium
  • #9 Not Quite Pale Ale, an apricot fruit beer from Magic Hat Brewing Company of South Burlington, Vermont
  • Peach Porch Lounger, a saison-style (farmhouse ale) beer from New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Raspberry Redemption Belgian-Style Dubbel, from Joseph James Brewing Company in Henderson, Nevada
  • Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Fruit Beer, from Melbourn Brothers All Saints Brewery of Stamford, Lincolnshire, England
  • Smashed Blueberry Fruit Beer, from Shipyard Brewing Company of Portland, Maine
  • Tangerine Wheat Fruit Beer, from Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, California
  • Three Philosophers Quadruple, from Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, New York
  • Wells Banana Bread English Bitter/Fruit Beer, from Wells & Young’s Brewing Company of Bedford, England
  •  
    HOW TO SERVE FRUIT BEER

    Fruit beers can quaffed as a refreshing cold drink, or paired with foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Consider:

  • Asian chicken salad
  • Brunch eggs, from a simple frittata to Eggs Benedict
  • Cheese courses
  • Chicken, duck or pork dishes made with fruits (apples, apricots, cherries, currants, prunes, etc.)
  • Dessert—fruit desserts, including pies and tarts; and of course, Belgian waffles
  • Shellfish—crab, lobster, plat de mer, scallops, shrimp and yesterday’s recipe for Moules Marinières, steamed mussels
  •  
    Let us know how you enjoy them.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat More Mussels (How About Mussels Marinière?)

    Today’s tip was inspired by a recent “Personal Health” column by Jane Brody in the New York Times called Relearning How To Eat Fish. Among other suggestions, the article urges that you expand your fish and seafood horizons, perhaps starting with a delicious bowl of good-for-you steamed mussels.

    Fish and shellfish are the most nutritious sources of animal protein, and while Americans have been learning to eat more fish and seafood, we should be eating much more of them.

    Yet, surprise of surprises, almost all of the delectable, nutritious fish caught in American waters is exported to other countries. Instead, a whopping 86% of the fish and seafood we consume is imported.

  • About one-third of all our wild catch is exported, while we choose to eat farmed fish and shrimp imported from countries like Chile, China and Thailand.
  • Almost all the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported, half of it farmed in Asia—mostly, says Brody, “under conditions that would ruin even the most voracious appetite.” (If you want to know more, search for any article on shrimp farming in Asia).
  • Shrimp is the favorite seafood in the U.S. But the shrimp we eat farms in Asia have been swept by bacterial and viral infections. When a site becomes unusable, shrimp farmers simply move on, destroying more miles of mangrove along the shore and wrecking habitats for all manner of wildlife, including spawning fish.
  •    

    jumbo-tiger-shrimp-caviarrusse-230

    No matter how much you love shrimp, unless you’re buying from a top restaurant or fishmonger, you may wish to switch to mussels. Photo of premium tiger shrimp courtesy Caviar Russe.

     

    The world’s population consumes some 170 billion pounds of wild-caught fish and seafood per year, caught in oceans, rivers and lakes. If everyone were to eat at least two servings of fish a week, as nutritional guidelines suggest, we’d need 60 billion more pounds per year to meet the demand.

    Hence, fish farming is here to stay, along with, more than a few cases, its negative environmental impact and less than sanitary conditions.

    EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS

    The most popular fish in the U.S. are salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna; shrimp, at the top of the seafood list, is by far the most popular shellfish.

    Other species have all but disappeared from restaurant menus and supermarkets. Remember that supermarkets and restaurateurs offer what is most likely to sell. So you may have to head to a fishmonger to transition to diversity of choice. Brody suggests:

  • For salmon, substitute other oily fish such as anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, and sardines.
  • For the overfished and declining cod, take a look at Alaskan pollock, the fish used to make fish sticks, fast-food fish sandwiches and the “crab leg” of California rolls.
  • Keep an eye out for different varieties—abalone or orange roughy, for example. It’s easy to look online for delicious ways to prepare them.
  • Enjoy mussels, as often as you like.
  •  
    INVITE MUSSELS TO THE DINNER TABLE

    In an ideal world, says Brody, mussels would replace shrimp as America’s favorite shellfish.

    Like other bivalves (clams, cockles, mussels, oysters and scallops), mussels are filter feeders that cleanse the water they live in. In the process, they gain valuable omega-3 fatty acids from the algae they consume. And, in drastic opposition to shrimp, they are nearly always sold from hygienically farmed stock.

    Mussels are also low in calories, and much lower in cholesterol than shrimp and squid. And they’re easy to cook, steamed in easy preparations like Mussels Marinière (recipe below), steamed in white wine, Mussels Provençal with tomatoes, garlic and herbs, or Mussels Marinara, similar to Provençal but with oregano. Add some chili flakes and you’ve got a spicy Mussels Fra Diavolo.

     

    mussels-fried-moules-frites-duplexonthird-230

    A bowl of steamed mussels. Photo courtesy
    Duplex On Third | L.A.

     

    To see how easy it is to enjoy a pot of mussels, here’s the classic recipe for Moules à la Marinière from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck.

    It is typically enjoyed with baguette croutons, and served with sides of green salad and frites. Pair it with your favorite white wine (we’re partial to a Sancerre or a Sauvignon Blanc with this dish).

    RECIPE: MOULES À LA MARINIÈRE, STEAMED MUSSELS

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 quarts (3 pounds) mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (substitute scallions or leeks)
  • 4 parsley sprigs, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley for garnish
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 baguette, in 1/2-inch slices, drizzled with olive oil and toasted
  •  

    Preparation

    1. DISCARD any raw mussels that are open or have cracked shells. Open shells indicate a dead mussel, cracks in shells foster bacteria. Similarly, discard any mussels that don’t open after steaming.

    2. WHISK together the flour and water in a large mixing bowl. Add the cleaned mussels, adding more water as needed to cover the mussels. Soak at least 30 minutes so the mussels can disgorge any sand or grit.

    3. BRING the wine, minced shallots, parsley sprigs, bay leaf, thyme, pepper, and butter to a simmer in a large stockpot ((6 quarts or more) over high heat. Meanwhile…

    4. DRAIN the mussels from the flour water liquid and rinse thoroughly. Add to the stockpot, cover with the lid and continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the majority of the mussel shells have opened. Shake the pot vigorously from time to time, to ensure that the mussels cook evenly. While the mussels are cooking…

    5. DRIZZLE or brush the baguette slices with olive oil and toast them.

    5. SCOOOP the mussels in shallow soup or pasta bowls; ladle the broth on top. Garnish with minced parsley, and serve with the baguette croutons.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eggplant, Three Ways

    From noodle-free lasagna to vegetable soup or gumbo to a goat cheese and eggplant sandwich, eggplant is a versatile ingredient. It can find its way into caponata*, casseroles, dips, mixed grilled veggies, pasta dishes, stews and more.

    Eggplant is low in calories and fat, while boasting a high fiber content. While available year-round, summer is peak harvesting time for the familiar purple “globe” eggplant, so the prices are the best. Look for shiny, smooth skin that isn’t wrinkled or dimpled.

    Executive Chef Tom Leo of Grecian Delight, producer of delicious Mediterranean specialties, shares his tips for perfecting eggplant preparation, plus a delectable baba ganoush recipe.
     
    *A Sicilian dish of eggplant, tomatoes, capers, pine nuts and basil, usually served as a side dish or relish.

    RECIPE: SIMPLE ROASTED EGGPLANT

    Oven roasted eggplant requires only a few ingredients and simple steps to deliver a rich, smoky flavor.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, oregano, parsley etc.
  •    

    roast-eggplant-Elena_Danileiko-230

    Simple roasted eggplant. Dress it up with tomato sauce and cheese. Photo by Elena Danileiko | IST.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. While the oven is heating, trim the stem and the bottom off of the eggplant and cut it in half, lengthwise.

    2. SCORE the flesh of the eggplant, but not all the way through to the skin. Brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 30-40, minutes depending on the size. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

    3. SEASON with salt, pepper, oregano or other favorite spices and herbs. Optionally drizzle with a bit of olive oil or top with crumbled feta, goat cheese or an Italian grating cheese. Or, top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan for Eggplant Parmesan.
     
    RECIPE: EASY GRILLED EGGPLANT

    The optional yogurt mint sauce can be made two days in advance.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, oregano, parsley etc.
  •  
    For The Yogurt-Mint Sauce

  • 7 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 6 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  

    homemade  Baba Ghanoush

    Babaganoush, one of our favorite dips. Photo
    © Fanfo | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the yogurt sauce (recipe below).

    2. TRIM the eggplant by cutting off the stem and bottom, then cut the eggplant into thick, one-inch slices.

    3. SEASON the slices with a generous amount of salt and place them on a paper towel-lined sheet or colander for 30 minutes. This is to draw moisture out of the eggplant. Rinse and pat dry.

    4. COAT the sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side. Top with a refreshing yogurt and mint sauce or enjoy it on its own.
     
    Preparation: Yogurt Mint Sauce

    1. COMBINE the green onions, mint, dill, red pepper flakes, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor and puree until into a coarse paste.

    2. ADD the yogurt, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined.

    3. TRANSFER to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

     

    RECIPE: PURÉED EGGPLANT DIP, BABAGANOUSH

    Babaganoush (pronounced baba-gah-NOOSH) is hummus’ eggplant cousin, a creamy spread based on eggplant instead of chickpeas. It can be used as a dip or spread, and added to sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: chopped parsley
  • Pita, crackers, crudités, etc.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ROAST a whole eggplant (about 1 pound) at 450°F: Prick in several places with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet; bake for 20 minutes and let cool.

    2. CUT the eggplant in half lengthwise, drain off the liquid and scoop the pulp into a food processor. Process until smooth and transfer to a bowl.

    3. COMBINE the garlic and salt until a paste forms; add to the eggplant along with the parsley, tahini and lemon juice. Season to taste.

    4. GARNISH with optional chopped parsley and serve with fresh or toasted pita wedges, pita chips, crackers and/or crudités.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Buy Silly Kitchen Gadgets

    grape-cutter-230

    A special gadget slices grapes in half. A
    better gadget: a sharp knife and a cutting
    board. Photo courtesy OXO.

     

    We have the greatest respect for OXO Good Grips. They, and other manufacturers, produce kitchen gadgets that make food preparation easier.

    But some work better than others. We had great hopes for the mango splitter we purchased; it didn’t work and was promptly donated to Goodwill. While peeling mangoes is a pain, it’s still easier to use a knife and a vegetable peeler.

    Then, starting with the guacamole masher—a device made by Amco and other companies—as well as the separate OXO avocado slicer, without the mashing component, we began to wonder what was going on in the invention of new kitchen gadgets.

    They seemed to be unnecessary—drawer-clutterers that didn’t do any better job than the standard gadgets we already have. Yet, manufacturers won’t make these gadgets unless consumers will buy them.

    With the Caprese salad maker—a tomato and mozzarella slicer from Jed Mart, and another from Rösle—we noticed that things were getting out of hand. If you can’t evenly slice a mozzarella cheese or a tomato, you simply need to practice with a knife.

    A corn stripper/shucker? Don’t even think of it: Some ears of corn are simply too plump to fit through the one-size-does-not-fit-all kernel remover. Here’s how we cut corn kernels from the cob.

     

    The Basics Work Best

    We can’t imagine who would buy gadgets like these, because everyone we know who prepares food at home knows how to hold a knife and slice.

    And that’s all you need: a good knife and a cutting board. So today’s tip is: Please, save your money!

    The gadget that inspired today’s tip is the OXO Good Grips Grape and Small Tomato Slicing Guide (photo above).

    You fill the Guide (the container) with up to 1 cup of grapes, grape tomatoes, or other small fruits like kumquats, pitted cherries or pitted olives.

    Seriously: one cup of grapes or tomatoes? That’s not very much to slice by hand. A sharp kitchen knife will slice them faster and better.

    While we haven’t tried it (we’ve tried too many new-fangled gadgets, with no success), we opine that in the time it takes to load, slice, remove and clean the container, you can slice the grapes on a cutting board with your kitchen knife.

     

    Stop The Insanity

    The next time you’re tempted by a nifty-looking kitchen gadget, ask yourself:

    Will a sharp knife do as well? Then sharpen your knives, or treat yourself to a new paring knife if you must buy something.

    And don’t buy cheap knives: The edge isn’t great to start with, and will dull quickly. It’s no bargain.
     
    The Grand Finale

    A couple of months ago we received this pitch: “Nik of Time, Inc., introduces PantryChic™—a sleek and modern kitchen appliance line designed for precise ingredient measuring and simplified food preparation through its intuitive and innovative engineering. PantryChic promises to re-introduce families to the joy of baking, cooking and sharing a meal by addressing some of the tedious preparation steps to save time and allow for better more consistent results.”

    As you can see in the photo, this comprises a canister on a stand, that you place over a base with a mixing bowl. You dial the amount of flour or other ingredient and it is dispensed into the bowl.

     

    canisters-pantrychic-230

    Does this look like a better option for your kitchen? Photo courtesy Pantrychic.

     

    Seriously once more: Is this an improvement over a conventional canister and a measuring cup? Have we gotten to the point where we can’t scoop and measure with a spatula and achieve “consistent results?”

    And, as the company claims, will this “re-introduce families to the joy of baking?”

    Perhaps we just don’t get it, but you can find out more at PantryChic.com.

    MORE KITCHEN GADGETS TO AVOID.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tataki, Plus Salmon Tataki Salad

    tuna-tataki-seared-haru-230

    Tataki means briefly seared. Photo of tuna
    tataki courtesy Haru | NYC.

     

    Tataki, also called tosa-mi, is a Japanese style of preparing fish or meat. The protein is seared very briefly over a hot flame or in a pan, briefly marinated in rice vinegar, sliced thinly and served chilled or at room temperature.

    The traditional presentation includes garnishes of thinly sliced scallions and finely shredded ginger, with soy sauce for dipping.

    The word “tataki,” meaning “pounded,” actually refers to the ginger condiment: It was originally pounded with a mortar and pestle. While some still prepare it that way, modern cooks can choose to purée it in a food processor or grate it with a zester or other fine grater.

    The port of Nagasaki was the first point of entry for foreigners in feudal Japan. Legend says that tataki was developed by Sakamoto Ryoma, a 19th-century samurai, who picked up the European technique of grilling meat from the foreigners in that city.

    In feudal times, bonito (skipjack tuna) was the preferred fish for tataki. Although bonito is still frequently used in Japan, in modern times, ahi tuna and salmon have taken over in popularity. [Source: WiseGeek] Beef, typically filet mignon or sirloin strip, is also be prepared tataki-style.

     

    RECIPE: FISH OR BEEF TATAKI

    1. CUT the fish or beef into thick pieces. Marinate in rice vinegar or mirin (a low-alcohol rice wine).

    2. SEAR each side for five seconds over an open flame or pan-sear on a stovetop burner. The grill or pan should be very hot, and the meat or fish should be quickly seared on all sides to cook only the outer surface, leaving the flesh raw.

    3. COOL the protein in a bowl of ice water; remove, pat dry and thinly slice for serving.
     

    Dipping Sauce

    1. COMBINE equal amounts of soy sauce and rice vinegar, or to taste. Add finely sliced or minced green onion (scallion).

    2. SEASON as desired with grated ginger (you can substitute wasabi).
     
    RECIPE: SALMON TATAKI SALAD

    You don’t have to go to Nobu in Los Angeles to enjoy this delicious salmon tataki salad. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Nobu Magazine, previously published in the Nobu West cookbook:

    “The Salmon Tataki with Paper Thin Salad is a work of art,” says Nobu. “Incorporating skillfully sliced vegetables and seared salmon, this dish is light and flavorful. With a little help from a mandolin slicer and fresh ingredients, you can impress dinner guests with a beautiful and delicious meal.”

     

    As with sushi or beef tartare, the fish or meat needs to be extremely fresh. Asian specialty stores sell frozen tataki fish slices. Vacuum packed and frozen immediately for freshness, they can be a lot more affordable than fresh tuna and salmon.

    Ingredients For 1 Or 2 Servings

  • 7 ounces boneless, skinless fresh salmon fillets
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Jalapeño dressing (recipe below)
  • 2 baby beets
  • 2 baby carrots
  • 2 baby green zucchini
  • 2 baby turnips
  • 4 red radishes (watermelon radishes are ideal)
  • Bowls of ice water
  •  

    salmon-tataki-nobu-3

    This salmon tataki salad is easy to make. Photo courtesy Nobu Magazine.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT a nonstick skillet until medium-hot. Season the salmon fillets with black pepper, then sear them for 5 seconds on each side. Make sure the outside is completely seared and turns white. Immediately plunge the seared slices into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry with paper towels, then cover and refrigerate.

    2. PREPARE the salad: Keep the beets to one side. Slice the baby vegetable lengthwise very thinly (about 1/32 inch thick) on a mandolin grater, into a bowl of ice water. Leave them in the ice water for 1 hour; this will cause them to tighten up and become crunchy.

    3. REPEAT the same process with the beets, but place the slices in a separate bowl of water, to stop the color from running into other vegetables. Rinse until the water becomes clear; then add some ice to chill. You might want to wear disposable gloves for this, to prevent staining your hands.

    4. DRAIN the baby vegetables and the beets separately, then mix them together.

    5. POUR some of the dressing on the bottom of a serving dish, so it completely covers the bottom. Cut the chilled seared salmon into slices about 1/4 inch thick and arrange across the middle of the plate, then place the vegetable salad in the middle on top of the salmon.

     
    RECIPE: JALAPEÑO DRESSING

    Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño, seeded (you can substitute cilantro)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 6-1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PROCESS the jalapeño, salt, garlic, and vinegar in a food processor until well mixed and the jalapeño is finely chopped. Slowly add the grapeseed oil and process until well blended.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Turn Leftover Pasta Into Antipasto Salad

    antipasto-salad-melissas-230

    For lunch or a light dinner: antipasto salad.
    Photo courtesy Melissas.

     

    Turn your leftover pasta into an antipasto salad.

    You can boil the pasta from scratch, but whenever we make short cut pasta for a hot dish, we make extra for a cold pasta salad later in the week.

    You can customize the recipe with your favorite ingredients, and use up leftover peas and other veggies. With this recipe from Melissa’s The Great Pepper Cookbook, prep time is 30 minutes, total time 50 minutes.

    RECIPE: ANTIPASTO SALAD

    Ingredients For 12 Servings (1-1/4 Cups)

    For The Salad

  • 1 pound fusilli, rotini or other corkscrew pasta
  • 1/2 pound (about 2 cups) cooked ham, cubed
  • 5 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 4 ounces (3/4 cup) hard salami, cubed
  • 3 ounces pepperoni (3/4 cup), cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup pitted or stuffed green olives
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives (Kalamata or Picholine)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion or sweet onion, very thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional Garnishes

  • Pickled garlic
  • Pepperoncini pickled peppers
  • Sundried tomatoes, julienned, or fresh tomatoes (wedges or halved cherry tomatoes
  •  

     

    For The Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 seasoned rice vinegar or wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 sundried tomato, finely diced (about 1
    tablespoon)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or canola oil
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COOK pasta per package directions; drain, rinse with cold water and cool to room temperature.

    2. MAKE the vinaigrette. Combine all ingredients, except for the oil. Drizzle in the oil while whisking, and continue to mix until well combined. Set aside.

    3. COMBINE the pasta with the remaining salad ingredients except optional garnishes; season with salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, toss with dressing and top with the garnishes.

    Here’s another antipasto salad recipe with a different set of ingredients.

     

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Be adventurous: Try different shapes like gemelli (juh-MELL-lee, meaning “twins”) instead of the more common fusilli in the photo above. Photo courtesy Barilla.

     

    WHAT IS SHORT CUT PASTA?

    Think of Italian pasta in these general categories:

  • Long Form Or Strand Pasta. This refers to any spaghetti-like that you can twist around your fork. These pastas are made in varying widths, from the thinnest angel hair to the plumpest bucatini. They can be round or flat (see ribbon pasta, next), solid or hollow, like bucatini.
  • Ribbon Pasta. A sub-category of long form pasta. These are the flat cuts: fettuccine, lasagne, linguine and tagliatelle, for example.
  • Short form pasta takes several forms:

  • Tubular Pasta. From tiny to jumbo, smooth or ridged (“rigati”), straight-cut or diagonally cut, this category includes elbows, manicotti, penne and rigatoni are well-known cuts. In this category, the seemingly same size pasta will have a different name if the ends are straight-cut versus diagonally cut—for example, penne, straight tubes cut on the diagonal, versus rigatoni, with square-cut ends.
  • Shaped Pasta. Farfalle (bow ties), fusilli (corkscrews), ruote (wagon wheels) are prominent examples. There are endless ways to twist and curl and shape pasta; hence, the hundreds of regional varieties.
  • Stuffed Pasta. This group includes agnolotti, mezzelune, ravioli, tortellini and “dumpling” pasta like gnocchi.
  •  
    See the different types of pasta in our Pasta Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Diet Ice Pops

    paletas-taza-2-230

    Turn diet soft drinks into ice pops. Photo
    courtesy Taza.

     

    Looking for something sweet, cool, and virtually non-caloric?

    You can buy sugar-free or no sugar added ice pops from Edy’s or Popsicle. Or, you can make your own from your favorite diet soft drink.

    It couldn’t be easier. Prep time is five minutes plus freezing time.

    RECIPE: DIET ICE POPS

    Ingredients

  • Diet soda, diet fruit beverage, tea (steeped to double strength, as with iced tea)
  • Ice pop molds
  • Optional: yogurt
  •  
    Preparation For 6 Ice Pops

    1. POUR 20 ounces of beverage into a large pitcher.

    2. POUR the mixture into the pop molds; freeze for 3 hours or until completely frozen.

     

    Variations

  • Tea. If you’re a tea fan, experiment with fruit teas, sweetened with noncaloric sweeteners or a bit of agave (which is twice as sweet as sugar or honey, so use half as much).
  • Mix-Ins. Add chopped fruit (fresh or frozen) or citrus zest; for example, diet raspberry soda with chopped raspberries or diet lemon-lime soda with lime zest.
  • Layers. Create layers of different flavors. Add the first flavor, freeze and add the next layer.
  • Yogurt. For a few extra calories, mix flavored, no sugar added yogurt with the beverage. Or, create a separate yogurt layer. We couldn’t find the No Sugar Added Creamsicles at our store, so we made our own with diet orange soda and vanilla yogurt.
  •  
    On a related note, you can also make flavored ice cubes by freezing your favorite diet beverage in an ice cube tray. Toss them into your drink instead of regular ice, and the melting cubes won’t dilute the flavor.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Olive Oil Swap

    olive-oil-bread-loaf-flavoryourlife-230

    Instead butter on your bread, try olive oil.
    Photo courtesy FlavorYourLife.com.

     

    August is National Olive Oil Month, reminding us again that it’s easy to make heart-healthy switches in everyday eating.

    While the health benefits of olive oil are no secret (including no cholesterol and less saturated fat than butter), most people are unaware of how simple it is to make the swap. Here are three easy switches:

  • Olive oil vinaigrette instead of creamy salad dressings
  • Sautéeing with olive oil instead of butter or other fat
  • Dipping bread in olive oil instead of spreading it with butter
  • When you swap butter for olive oil, you use need less oil—so that’s also a savings in calories.
     
    HOW TO SWAP BUTTER FOR OLIVE OIL

  • 1 teaspoon butter > ¾ teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter > 2-¼ teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter > 1-½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup butter > 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup butter > ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup butter > ½ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup > ½ cup + 1 tablespoon
  • 1 cup > ¾ cup
  • 2 cups > 1-½ cups
  •  
    For more ways to swap butter for olive oil in everyday recipes, visit Pompeian.com.

    You can also print out Pompeian’s butter to olive oil conversion chart and hang it on the fridge.

    MOVIE POPCORN OIL

    What kind of oil is in and on your movie popcorn?

    Most movie theaters pop the kernels in coconut oil. Coconut oil is 86% saturated fat, the kind that raises cholesterol. Lard is 38% saturated fat.

    The butter-flavored oil topping at the movies is usually partially hydrogenated soybean oil that contains both saturated and trans fats. [Source]

    What happened to “butter topping?” The butter made the popcorn soggier than oil. As a bonus to theater owners, oil is also far cheaper than butter.

    During the month of August, Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil has arranged with some movie theater chains to offer pure olive oil as an alternative to the standard topping. If you find yourself at one of those venues, let us know how you enjoyed the swap.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Get A Food Ring

    crab-mango-avo-tower-theheatherman-portlandOR-230

    This fancy first course is not that hard to
    make. Photo courtesy The Heathman |
    Portland, Oregon.

     

    It isn’t hard to make fancy appetizers like the one in the photo. All you need is a food ring. It is also called a ring mold, although that term can also refer to a multi-serving container like the type used for gelatin molds.

    We admit to a fondness for molded, layered recipes, like this crab, mango and avocado stack served at The Heathman Restaurant and Bar in Portland, Oregon. Thanks to executive chef Michael Stanton for sharing his recipe, below.

    Chef Stanton tops his dish with wild arugula. In the northwest and elsewhere, wild arugula is often found growing in streams, there for the picking. You can substitute cultivated arugula from the market. More substitutions are offered below.

    In fact, part of the fun of cooking is taking the recipe in a different direction, with a substitution. No mango? How about fresh pineapple? No avocado? How about tuna tartare?

     

    RECIPE: DUNGENESS CRAB MANGO SALAD

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1/2 cup mango, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 cup Dungeness or other crab meat
  • Chive oil or other herb-infused olive oil (basil, rosemary)
  • 1 cup wild or cultivated arugula
  • Fresh press olive oil (to taste)
  • Food ring
  • Garnishes: citrus vinaigrette (recipe below) and chive oil*
  •  
    *If you don’t have/can’t find chive oil, use basil oil or rosemary oil.

     

    RECIPE: CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (lemon and/or orange, lime or yuzu)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 leaves fresh basil, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK ingredients together until well-blended.

     

    food-ring-HICbrands-230sq

    The only food ring you’ll need: This one can be adjusted to different diameters. Photo courtesy HIC Brands.

     
    Assembly

    1. MOLD the chopped avocado in 2-3 inch ring atop the serving plate. Place the mango on top, followed by the crab.

    2. REMOVE the ring mold, swirl the vinaigrette and chive oil around the plate. Toss wild arugula in fresh olive oil and place on top.
     
    MORE AT THE HEATHMAN

    If you’re in Portland, stop by for afternoon tea. It’s served in the hotel’s historic Tea Court Lounge; reservations are required.

    The traditional tea menu, created by pastry chef John Gayer, includes Smoked Salmon Napoleon, Paté Maison, John’s Famous Lanai Banana Bread and Parisian Opera Cake, along with a wide selection of teas from Fonté Coffee and Tea Company, a Northwest micro roaster based in Seattle.

    The children’s Peter Rabbit Tea for Little Sippers sports Ants On A Log, Snickerdoodle Cookie, Devil’s Food Chocolate Cupcake and Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cold Infused Iced Tea

    glass-mint-lemon-230-autocratnaturalingredients

    Tea brewed in the fridge. Photo courtesy
    Autocrat Natural Ingredients.

     

    In Pursuit of Tea is a purveyor of the finest teas from Asia and India. Their monthly newsletter often has a good “tea tip.”

    This month, it’s about cold infused tea—the opposite of sun tea. As with sun tea, you simply add tea to water; but you place the container in the fridge, not in the sun.

    “Conventional iced tea is a strongly brewed serving, poured over plenty of ice,” says In Pursuit Of Tea founder Sebastian Beckwith. “But there’s another method—cold infusion—that produces an incredibly [naturally] sweet, full-flavored glass with any loose leaf tea—black, green, white or herbal.

    “The recipe is foolproof,” he continues. “Since cold infusion is a gentle process, the steeping time is very flexible, and the end result is always delicious.”

    Why would you want to brew tea in the fridge rather than the conventional way—steeped in boiling water?

    To bring out subtle nuances in the flavor of your tea. If you’re not a volume quaffer of iced tea, this method lets you make 1-2 servings a day, without taking the time to boil, steep, cool, strain and then refrigerate.

    Can you use tea bags?

    This type of brewing brings out the flavor notes in top quality tea. If you have some truly excellent tea bags, try it (use two bags).

    RECIPE: COLD INFUSED TEA

    Ingredients For 2 Glasses

  • 3.5 g loose leaf tea (about 2 scant teaspoons)
  • 2 cups cold water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STIR tea into cold water. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours. For a stronger brew, add 1-2 hours to infusion time.

    2. STRAIN and enjoy.
     
    SUN TEA

    Cold infused tea is the opposite of sun tea, where one places tea bags and water in a glass or plastic container. The container is placed in the sun for several hours, where solar heat brews the components into a weak tea.

    This has historically been a method of necessity, not of choice—for example, with campers. Fine tea needs a fast infusion of boiling or near-boiling water to fully release its aromatic oils and to create a hearty brew.

    Or now, a cold infusion.
     
    MORE WAYS TO BREW TEA

    How to brew the perfect cup of tea.
     
      

    Comments

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