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Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP: The New Linguine & Clam “Sauce”

If you make linguine and clam sauce the way most Americans do—with canned clams—try it the way they serve it at Olio e Piú in New York City.

Eight whole steamed clams surround a plate of linguine.

The linguine is cooked and tossed in olive oil with fresh parsley and placed in the center of the plate.

The clams, lightly cooked in a garlic broth, surround the linguine. EVOO is poured into the other half of each clam shell.

In our interpretation of this dish, we made clams in garlic broth (vongole in brodetto). We also grilled up a side of crostini; the crunch of the bread is a nice counterpoint to the soft pasta and clams, and the arugula adds some color to the plate. You can substitute your favorite garlic bread recipe.

RECIPE: LINGUINE & CLAMS

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for tossing with the pasta
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons red chili pepper flakes
  • 8-10 clams in shell per person
  • 1-1/4 cups white wine
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 package linguine (or fresh linguine)
  •    

    linguine-alla-vongole-clam-olionyc-230

    A modern interpretation of linguine and clam sauce. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | NYC.

     

    For The Garlic Crostini

  • 1 baguette, sliced into 1-inch-thick pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 to 1 cup ricotta
  • 1-2 cups baby arugula, cleaned and dried
  •  

    ricotta-truffle-oil-arugula-blackpepper-olionyc-230

    Garlic-ricotta-arugula crostini. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | NYC.

     

    Preparation

    First, make the clams in garlic broth.

    1. WASH the clams to remove any dirt or sand.

    2. COOK the clams. In a heavy pot over moderate heat, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown (about three minutes). Add the salt, pepper and chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

    3. INCREASE the heat to moderately high and add the clams, white wine, water and thyme. Cover and bring to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the clams open (5 to 7 minutes). Discard clams that do not open. Drain the clams and toss with the chopped parsley.

    4. MAKE the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss lightly with olive oil and a pinch of salt. While the pasta cooks, grill the bread:

     

    5. PREHEAT the broiler or grill to high. Brush the crostini slices on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Grill, flipping once, until golden brown and crisp. While the bread is grilling…

    6. SEASON the ricotta with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the crostini from the broiler/grill and rub each slice on the top side with the raw garlic. Spread with ricotta and top with arugula.

    6. PLATE the pasta in a mound in the center of the plate. Serve clams with the crostini.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake Irish Soda Bread

    Having published a recipe for Irish soda muffins for St. Patrick’s Day, we hadn’t planned to feature Irish soda bread this year.

    Then, we received this recipe from The Baker Chick and realized how much we wanted to tear into a warm loaf of soda bread and slather it with Kerrygold butter from Ireland.

    So we bumped our previously scheduled Tip Of The Day for this suggestion: Bake a loaf of Irish soda bread. If you’re already at work, bake it when you get home. It’s delicious with dinner—or in our case, instead of dinner. (We can make a joyous meal of great bread and butter.)

    Traditional Irish soda bread, the recipe below, has just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Other recipes add butter, caraway seeds, chocolate, eggs, orange peel or zest, raisins and/or sugar.

    The style of soda bread we enjoy in the U.S. is American-style, developed by Irish immigrants with butter, sugar and raisins.

    We adapted the recipe to meet in the middle: no butter or egg, but a bit of raisins and caraway.

    RECIPE: TRADITIONAL IRISH SODA BREAD

    Ingredients For 1 Loaf

       

    irish-soda-bread-thebakerchick-230

    Traditional Irish soda bread has no raisins or caraway. Photo courtesy The Baker Chick.

  • 1 pound (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups buttermilk
  •  
    We couldn’t help ourselves: We added these optional, non-traditional ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raisins, sultanas or dried cherries, currants or cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  •  
    But in the name of tradition, we held back on the butter, egg and sugar.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F.

    2. STIR together the flour, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk. Use a wooden spoon or your hand to combine the ingredients. You want the dough to be soft, so don’t over-mix it. Add more buttermilk if needed to get the dough to come together.

    3. TURN the dough onto a floured surface and give it just a few kneads (more will result in a tougher crumb). Shape it into a 6-inch diameter disk, about 2 inches high. Use a sharp knife to score a shallow X on the top of the loaf. Transfer to a cookie sheet or pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes.

    4. REDUCE the heat to 400°F and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden, and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.

     

    kerrygold-brick-230

    For St. Patrick’s Day, spring for Kerrygold butter, made with milk from cows who graze
    on the green grass of the Emerald Isle. Photo
    courtesy Kerrygold.

     

    THE HISTORY OF IRISH SODA BREAD

    Baking soda, called bread soda in Ireland, was invented in the early 1800s. In those days most people didn’t have an oven—they cooked in a fireplace over coals or a peat fire (called turf fire in Ireland). They placed the dough in a lidded cast-iron pot which went right on top of the fire.

    In County Donegal and County Leitrim, there was a tradition of adding caraway seeds to bread. Immigrants brought that recipe to the U.S. In America, the recipe evolved to include butter, eggs, raisins and sugar—ingredients which frugal housewives in Ireland wouldn’t have thought to add to the dough.

    Today, the soda bread recipe options include:

  • White soda bread: all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk and optional caraway seeds.
  • Brown soda bread, also a traditional recipe that substitutes whole wheat flour for part or all or all of the white flour.
  • Irish soda bread with raisins and caraway, the classic Irish-American version also made with sugar, butter, and eggs.
  • Numerous modern recipes, from healthier variations of whole grains, flax and sunflower seeds to walnut soda bread to oat soda bread with browned butter, rosemary and black pepper.
  •  
    Check out these and other recipes here.

    FOOD TRIVIA: The cross cut into the top of the loaf before baking allows the heat to penetrate into the thickest part of the bread. As a bonus, in a Catholic country it adds the symbolic note of giving thanks.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Chocolate Chip Mint Cupcakes

    chocolate-mint-cupcakes-zulkasugarFB-230

    St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes. Photo courtesy
    Zulka.

     

    Family-owned Zulka manufacturers premium-quality sugars/ They’re dedicated to producing more natural sugar through responsible, environmentally friendly cane production. The sugars are minimally processed, which helps to preserve the fresh flavor of the sugar cane and more of the nutrition that is stripped away when cane is processed. The result: better tasting sugar!

    The company provides lots of recipes for how to use the sugars. Here’s their suggestion for the perfect St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes. Get out your muffin tins!

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE MINT CUPCAKES

    Ingredients For 18 Cupcakes

    For The Cupcakes

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 oz dark or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup canola oil*
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
  • 1/3 cup full fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 cups mini chocolate chips, divided
  • For the Frosting:

  • 6 ounces full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 10 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon mint extract (use more for a stronger flavor)
  • 6-10 drops green food coloring
  •  
    *Mild virgin olive oil, sunflower or grapeseed oil can be substituted.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Prepare the muffin tins with 18 cupcake liners.

    2. COMBINE the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl, whisking well. Set aside.

    3. MIX the butter and sugars until in a large bowl with an electric or stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

    4. ADD the melted and cooled cocoa mixture, mixing well until fully combined. Add the oil and extracts and mix again, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.

    5. ADD the sour cream and then the flour mixture and mix slowly until just combined. Add the milk and mix for another 20 seconds. Fold in 1 cup of the mini chocolate chips.

    6. FILL the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes bounce back slightly when lightly pressed. Let them cool in the pan for 3 minutes, then carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

     

    zulka-morena-cane-sugar-2-230

    Cane sugar, one of the three different types used in this recipe. Check out the different types of sugar in our sugar glossary. Photo courtesy Zulka Morena.

     

    7. MAKE the frosting. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the cream cheese, butter and salt until lightened and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well in between each addition.

    8. ADD the vanilla extract and food coloring, starting with small amounts until you reach the desired flavor and color. It will darken more as it sits.

    9. FROST the tops of each cupcake using either a spatula or a frosting bag fitted with an open star tip, and sprinkle the remaining mini chocolate chips on top. Serve at room temperature.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Arugula Pizza

    arugula-pizza609972SXC

    Arugula pizza, here shown with pine nuts and crumbled goat cheese. Photo courtesy SXC.

     

    Last week we finally made it across town to a pizza café we’ve been yearning to try. It’s called Farinella Bakery. What they bake are the most heavenly pizzas and calzones.

    We haven’t yet tried the calzones yet; there are too many great pizza toppings to work our way through. In the glass case in front of us were some 20 different gourmet pizzas by the slice, on the thinnest, cut on rectangles, with crispest crust we’ve had in memory.

    We chose three of the slices, starting with Tartuffo (sliced sautéed mushrooms atop a mushroom-ricotta paste, drizzled with truffle oil) and V.I.P (artichoke heart pesto, fresh mint, pecorino romano, goat cheese and black pepper. Both were as delicious as we’d hoped.

    But our third slice, Filetto, blew us away. What a simple yet divine concept: fresh cherry tomato filets (an Italian reference to roasted cherry tomatoes) and mozzarella, garnished with fresh arugula.

    Not just a few leaves, mind you, but a thorough carpeting of fresh, peppery, bright green arugula. It will be hard to return to Farinella without adding a slice of it to our order.

     

    For St. Patrick’s Day lunch, we’ll be making our own version of arugula pizza. While arugula is a popular ingredient in Italy (where it’s called rucola), for St. Pat’s you can call it fusion food, taking inspiration from the Emerald Isle.

    No matter what you choose, you’re in for a treat.

     

    ARUGULA PIZZA VARIATIONS

    We’ll be trying some variations of Farinella’s simple yet elegant recipe.

  • Salty is a good counterpoint to the pepperiness of the arugula, so we’ll add anchovies or sardines to one side of our pizza, and prosciutto or serrano ham to the other.
  • If you like heat, sprinkle with chili flakes or minced or sliced jalapeño.
  • If you want more cheese, consider a garnish of crumbled blue, feta or goat cheese, or shaved Parmesan.
  • You can also add a garnish of pine nuts (pignoli in Italian).
  • It you’d like more seasoning, get out the oregano.
  • Down the road, we’ll try a blend of fresh basil and arugula.
  •  
    We’ll never be able to turn out a brilliant crust like the masters at Farinella, but we can guarantee: There won’t be a crumb left over.

    You don’t have to wait for St. Patrick’s Day to head to the store for arugula, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and a pizza crust.

     

    arugula-salvatica-wild-burpee-230

    Fresh-picked arugula. Try growing it in your garden! Photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     
    THE HISTORY OF ARUGULA

    Arugula, botanical name Eruca sativa, is a member of the Brassicaceae family of great-for-you cruciferous vegetables. It’s called rocket in the U.K. and rucola in Italy, its home turf.

    A pungent, peppery, leafy green vegetable resembling a longer-leafed, open lettuce, arugula is rich in vitamin C and potassium. The leaves, flowers, young seed pods and mature seeds are all edible.

    Used as an edible herb in the Mediterranean area since Roman times, it was gathered wild or grown in home gardens along with other staples like basil and parsley.

     
    ARUGULA SERVING SUGGESTIONS

  • In Italy, raw arugula is often added to pizzas just before the baking period ends or immediately after as a garnish, so that it won’t wilt from the heat.
  • It’s chopped and added to sauces and cooked dishes, or made directly into a sauce by frying it in olive oil and garlic. It is also used a condiment for cold meats and fish (substitute it for parsley in a gremolata).
  • In the Puglia region of Southern Italy, the pasta dish cavatiéddi combines copious amounts of coarsely chopped arugula with tomato sauce and grated pecorino cheese.
  • Add chopped arugula parsley-style to boiled potatoes, as they do in Slovenia.
  • For an appetizer or lunch main, serve the Italian dish straccietti, thin slices of beef with raw arugula and parmesan cheese.
  • Enjoy arugula raw in salads, as part of a mesclun mix or with perlini (small mozzarella balls) and fresh or sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Use it instead of lettuce on a sandwich.
  • Cook it in an omelet, with or without your favorite cheese.
  •  
    There are many other ways to serve arugula, raw or cooked. Feel free to add your favorites.
     
    Food trivia: Arugula was mentioned by classical authors, including Virgil, as an aphrodisiac. For that reason, it was often mixed with lettuce, which was thought to have a calming influence (source).

    Here’s the history of pizza.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Easiest Chocolate Bark

    white-pistachio-bark-pan-blogerikarax-230

    It couldn’t be easier to make chocolate bark. Photo courtesy Erika Rax.

     

    We found this tip from Erika Rax, a home baker living in Sydney, Australia.

    “I have a little secret to make really pretty and quick bark,” she says.

    Forget the chopping and melting of chocolate, ladies and gents. Erika’s technique will give you almost instant bark for special family treats or gifting. In the conventional technique, the inclusions get mixed into the chocolate. Here, they sit on top—an even prettier presentation, with no dimunition of flavor.

    Erika’s pistachio and rosemary bark, green ingredients on a white chocolate background, is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. For Christmas, add some dried cherries or cranberries.

    RECIPE: THE EASIEST CHOCOLATE BARK

    Ingredients

  • White chocolate bar(s)
  • Chopped pistachio nuts
  • Fresh rosemary
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 170°F/75°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the bar(s) on the parchment.

    2. ARRANGE the toppings over the bar. Place the sheet in the oven for 3-5 minutes until it just starts to soften. Take care not to overbake or the bar will lose shape.

    3. REMOVE from the oven. We lifted the parchment from the pan to cool on the counter, so the bars would not continue to get heat from the pan.
     
    Erika wrapped her gift bars in parchment paper, tied with a piece of kitchen string and a sprig of fresh rosemary. It’s charming! Here’s the photo.

    Find more of Erika’s tips at Blog.ErikaRax.com.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Green Macarons

    Paris may not be as festive as Dublin or New York when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day; but rest assured, there are celebrations! Both expats and locals head to the city’s numerous Irish pubs and yes, there is green beer. (Who knew that Paris had “numerous Irish pubs?” Source)

    We, however, would head to Ladurée or Pierre Hermé for pistachio macarons, a classic flavor where the meringue is colored green.

    You don’t have to head to Paris. If there are no macarons in your neck of the woods, you can order them from Dana’s Bakery, Macaron Café or Mad Mac. There are also Ladurée outposts in New York City and Miami, but we couldn’t find online ordering options for either.

    Dana’s Bakery, which doesn’t make classic flavors*, has two green options right now: Key Lime Pie and Thin Mint. So if pistachio nuts are not your thing, she’s your gal.

    While a classic pistachio macaron is filled with pistachio or vanilla ganache, or possibly chocolate ganache, we’ve found varieties from creative macaron artists that feature matcha ganache, peanut butter ganache, red bean jam and other fillings (like Dana’s chocolate mint and Key lime). Whatever your preference, include a bit of France in your St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

       

    pistachio-pierre_herme-230

    Plan in advance: green macarons (pistachio)
    for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo courtesy Pierre
    Hermé.

     

    *The current flavors at Dana’s Bakery include Birthday Cake, Cookie Dough, Cotton Candy, Fruity Cereal, Jelly Doughnut, Orange Creamsicle, Peanut Butter & Jelly, S’mores and Strawberry Shortcake, among others.

     

    AmarettiCookies-recchiuti-230

    Ameretti, the “original” macaroons. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Michael Recchiuti.

     

    WHO INVENTED MACARONS?

    The ganache-filled meringue cookie sandwiches shown above are called Parisian macarons. The first macaroons, from Italy, were quite different: almond meringue cookies similar to today’s amaretti, with a crisp crust and a soft interior (see the photo at left).

    The name derived from the Italian maccarone or maccherone, itself derived from ammaccare, meaning to crush or to beat. (The reference is to the crushed almonds or almond paste, which is the principal ingredient.)

    These original macaroons arrived in France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, who married France’s King Henri II. More than two centuries later, two Benedictine nuns, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the cookies.

     
    According to Wikipedia, “[Pâtisserie] Ladurée’s rise to fame came in 1930 when his grandson, Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée, had the original idea of the double-decker, sticking two macaron shells together with a creamy ganache as filling.

    The first versions combined two plain almond meringues with a filling of chocolate ganache; but today, various varieties of ganache, buttercream or jam are sandwiched between meringues of seemingly limitless colors and flavors.

    Other stories variously give the invention date as “the beginning of the 20th century” and 1952. The latter date has credence if you believe the blog ParisPatisseries.com, that in 2012, Laduree hosted a 60th anniversary party for the macaron.

    Here’s the history of macarons.
     
    MACARONS VS. MACAROONS

    Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening, and thus can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in certain recipes, replaced them.

    When the coconut cookies arrived in England and the U.S., macaron became macaroon. Until the Parisian macaron craze began within the last ten years, coconut macaroons were far more prevalent in the U.S. and the U.K. They’re a lot easier to make and transport than the fragile Parisian variety.

    A tasting plate of amaretti, coconut macaroons and Parisian macarons would be an excellent “educational dessert.”

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherimoya

    WHAT’S A CHERIMOYA?

    When our colleague Hannah Kaminsky mentioned that cherimoya was her favorite fruit, we were curious. Depending on where you live, you may not come across this heart-shaped subtropical fruit often.

    We had to head to a Latin American supermarket uptown. But seek it out we did, and the trip was worth it. The fruit’s blend of banana, mango, passionfruit and pineapple notes is luscious. The ivory-colored flesh is creamy, similar to a ripe peach.

    Also called a custard apple in the U.S., cherimoya is believed to have originated in the Andes Mountains. The name originates from the Quechua (Inca) word chirimuya, meaning “cold seeds” (because the seeds germinate at high altitudes). It grows as a shrub or tree.

       

    cherimoya-baldorfood-230

    A cherimoya. Now you know! Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

     

    HOW TO BUY & SERVE CHERIMOYA

    The pale green, shingled skin must be handled with care to avoid bruising. Choose unblemished fruit that is firm and allow it to ripen at room temperature.

    As it ripens, the skin will turn a darker green and will yield to gentle pressure. Refrigerate soft fruit and consume it as soon as possible for the best flavor.

    To serve, chill the cherimoya, cut it in half, spoon out the seeds and eat the flesh with a spoon. It can also be turned into desserts, such as crêpes, custard (hence the name “custard apple)”, dessert sauce (purée), fruit salad (as with apples, dip cut fruit in lemon or orange juice to prevent darkening), mousse, pie filling, pudding and sorbet.

    You can freeze the cherimoya and eat it as ice cream, from the shell. Definitely try this!

    And you can drink it. Whip up a shake, smoothie, cherimoya Daiquiri or other fruity cocktail.

    To usher in spring, which began today, make Hannah Kaminsky’s tropical cocktail or smoothie, Cherimoya Lava Flow.

     

    cherimoya-shake-hannahkaminsky-230

    Celebrate spring with this Cherimoya Lava Flow. Photo and recipe courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    RECIPE: CHERIMOYA COCKTAIL OR SMOOTHIE,
    THE CHERIMOYA LAVA FLOW

    From Hawaii, where her local farmers market has plenty of cherimoyas, Hannah writes: “It’s a pricy treat to be sure,” even though grown locally. Her favorite way to enjoy the ripe, custard-like flesh is to dig in with a spoon.

    “With an overripe fruit, though,” she advises, “the only thing one one can do is blend and drink it. That’s where the idea to create a tropical shake came from, playing off the classic umbrella drink, the lava flow.

    “Fiery red rivulets of strawberry ‘lava’ flow throughout a classic coconut-pineapple rendition of this refreshing island staple, finished with a kiss of light rum. The sweet, creamy richness of cherimoya transforms the drink into an exotic new experience, which is just as luscious with or without the booze.

    “In lieu of fresh cherimoya, you can substitute either 1 medium banana or 2/3 cup young coconut meat for a different, yet still delicious, taste.”

    Of course, you can leave out the rum for a tropical smoothie. Substitute an equal amount of pineapple juice.

     

    RECIPE: CHERIMOYA LAVA FLOW

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

    For The Strawberry Lava Sauce

  • 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen/thawed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  •  
    For The Creamy Cherimoya Cocktail

  • 1 medium cherimoya
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4-1/2 cup light rum
  • Optional garnish: fresh pineapple wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the strawberry sauce first by combining the strawberries, sugar and lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, just until the berries have softened and the sugar dissolved. Transfer to a blender and thoroughly purée so that no chunks of fruit remain. Strain out the seeds if desired and set aside.

    2. RINSE and dry the blender bowl and return it to the base. Slice the cherimoya in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, discarding the black seeds as you encounter them. Add the cherimoya to the blender, along with the pineapple, coconut milk and 1/4 cup of rum. Blend on high speed until completely smooth. Add more rum to taste.

    3. DIVIDE the cocktail between two glasses and drizzle the strawberry “lava” into each one, aiming for the sides of the glass to create the greatest visual impact. Serve with a tall straw and an additional wedge of fresh pineapple for garnish.

      

    Comments

    TIP: How To Microwave Artichokes

    The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a species of thistle cultivated as a vegetable. It is actually a flower head, a cluster of numerous immature buds of what would be a blossom if not picked before it bloomed. The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is a wild variant available in spring.

    The artichoke stem is also delicious. It is an extension of the artichoke heart.

    The thistle family is a group of flowering plants that have leaves with sharp prickles. They, along with the inner choke (more about that in a bit), make eating whole artichokes a labor of love, like eating a whole lobster. But like that lobster, what’s inside is more than worth it.

    ARTICHOKE HISTORY

    Native to the Mediterranean, the artichoke was popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks called them kaktos and the Romans called them carduus. The English word evolved from the medieval Arabic al-khurshuf, which evolved into alcachofa in Arabic, alcachofa in Spanish, carciofo in Italian, artichaut in French and Artischocke in German.

    Artichoke cultivation spread to Italy and southern France in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The original artichokes were small, the size of hens’ eggs. Breeding created the globe.

     

    thistle-Cynara-scolymus-alvesgaspar-wiki

    An artichoke in bloom in Montpellier, France. One the flower blooms, the flesh becomes coarse and barely edible. Photo by Alvesgaspar | Wikimedia.

     

    The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, and they were grown in Henry VIII’s garden by 1530. They arrived in the U.S. in the 19th century, brought to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. [Source]

    And now, let’s eat!
     
    HOW TO MICROWAVE ARTICHOKES

    Microwaving is much faster than conventional steaming on the stove top. Prep time is 3 minutes, cook time is 7 minutes.

    While freshly-harvested artichokes are sweet, some cooks add a drizzle of lemon juice before cooking to eliminate any bitterness. (We’ve never had a bitterness problem.)

    Ingredients

  • Globe artichokes, 8-12 ounces (or smaller varieties)
  • Optional: lemon juice
  • Plastic wrap
  • Optional for serving: lemon wedge, melted butter or other dip (see options in Step 6, below)
  •  

    microwave-artichoke-melissas-230ps

    Melissa’s sells artichokes ready to microwave, wrapped in plastic with a red timing device that pops up when it’s ready. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the artichokes, not just to clean them but to provide moisture for microwaving. Tear off any tiny lower leaves or leaves that are blemished.

    2. TRIM any leaves from the stem. You can leave the stem on, or cut it off at the base of the globe and cook it next to it. (NOTE: Some supermarket artichokes have already been trimmed of the stem.)

    3. USING a scissors, slice off the prickly tips of the leaves. Our mother, ever the creative kitchen artist, used a pinking shears to create a decorative edge. Drizzle a tablespoon of lemon juice into the wells of the leaves.

    4. PLACE the artichoke in a microwave safe dish with 1/4 inch of water in the bottom, and over tightly with plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can cook them in a dish with a tight cover that keeps in the steam. Microwave on high for 7 minutes for one artichoke; 10 minutes for two; 15 minutes for four; 19 minutes for six.

    5. CHECK for done-ness by removing a leaf from the center of the leaves. If it pulls out easily, the artichokes are done. If not done, continue to cook at 30-second intervals. After you try this technique, you’ll know what works for your microwave.

     

    6. PLATE and serve. While we love eating them plain, perhaps with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, others like to dip the artichokes in melted butter or another dip such as aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), rouille (red pepper aïoli), romesco sauce, yogurt dip with your favorite herbs or spices (dill or cumin are popular) or vinaigrette (try this green olive vinaigrette).
     
    You can serve steamed artichokes warm/hot, at room temperature or chilled.
     
    HOW TO EAT AN ARTICHOKE

  • Tear off the leaves one by one, as you are ready to eat them. Place the leaf between your teeth, inside up, and use your teeth to scrape out the flesh at the base of each leaf. Discarding the remainder of the leaf on your plate or in a separate bowl.
  • The outer leaves are less tender, but it no flesh is coming off, the artichoke needs further cooking.
  • The leaves become increasingly tender as you work your way to the heart. You know you’re there when you encounter a pale, thistle-like center, the choke. It is not edible, and removing every last tiny piece is the one pain in the process. With a small spoon, scoop out and discard the choke.
  • You’ll then discover the prize, the artichoke heart: a truly delicious treat.
  •  
    HOW TO BUY ARTICHOKES

    We look for artichokes with the fewest blemishes and the longest stems.

    As with any produce, don’t buy more than you will use in a few days. Keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Poppyseed Pockets

    Last night at sunset, the Jewish holiday of Purim began. As recounted in the Old Testament’s Book Of Esther, it commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in 5th century B.C.E. Persia from a plot by Hamen, advisor to the king, to annihilate them in a single day. (Here’s the whole story.)

    Traditional foods are part of the celebration, the most famous of which is hamentaschen.

    The name means “Hamen’s pockets” (the singular is hamentasch).

    A three-cornered filled cookie, named after the tricorner hat worn by Haman. It is created by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough, with filling placed in the center. Traditional fillings are poppy seed, prune, date, apricot, and fruit preserves. Of course, modern bakers have increased the appeal by using chocolate, dulce de leche and sweetened cheese.

    You don’t have to celebrate Purim to bake a batch. You can make a traditional hamentashen recipe, or try the modern version below. The cookies are round instead of triangular, and cream cheese is added to the traditional poppyseed filling.

       

    poppyseed-pockets-goboldwithbutter-230

    Poppy pockets are a spin on traditional hamentaschen. Photo and recipe courtesy GoBoldWithButter.

     
    RECIPE: POPPYSEED POCKETS

    Ingredients For 3 Dozen Cookies

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2-3/4 cups flour
  • 1 12.5-ounce can poppy seed filling*
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  •  
    *You can find it online if your local supermarket doesn’t have it.

     

    poppyseed-filling-solo-230

    Buy poppyseed filling in the can. You can find
    it in supermarkets or online. Photo courtesy Solo.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer; mix until well combined. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and vanilla; mix to combine.

    2. SLOWLY ADD the flour and mix just until thoroughly incorporated. Remove the dough and divide it into four equal parts. Flatten each into a round disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. On a well-floured surface, roll out one packet of dough at a time, to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 2-inch, round cookie cutter, cut circles from the dough and transfer half of the circles to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Reserve the remaining circles to use as tops for each cookie. Re-roll and cut any remaining dough scraps.

    4. PLACE 1 teaspoon of poppy seed filling in the center of each dough circle. Dip the tip of your finger or a small pastry brush in water and lightly brush water around the edge of each filled circle. Quickly cover each with a reserved dough circle top and use the tines of a fork to gently crimp the edges of the two circles together. Cut an “X” into the top of each cookie with tip of a sharp knife.

     
    5. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies just start to turn golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and dust generously with confectioners’ sugar. Let the cookies cool on baking sheets for 3 to 4 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
     
    WHAT ELSE TO DO WITH POPPYSEED FILLING

    Solo Foods, producers of the most prominent brand in the U.S., has recipes for:

  • Bread: muffins, quick breads, yeast breads
  • Candy: fudge, truffles
  • Desserts: custards, mousse, puddings, trifles
  • Savory: barbecue sauce, chicken Kiev, chicken wings, kebab sauce
  • Sweet baked goods: bundts, brownies and bars, cake and cheesecake, cookies, cupcakes,
    frostings/icings, pie/pastry, tarts
  •  
    Check them out at SoloFoods.com. Our personal favorite: poppyseed yeast cake (coffee cake).

    UPDATE:

    Reader Cheryl Olenczak writes that it’s easy to make homemade poppyseed filling and avoid the additives in commercial brands. She uses a recipe submitted by Hepzibah to AllRecipes.com, substituting butter for the margarine.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes Ready In: 1 Hour

    RECIPE: HUNGARIAN POPPY SEED FILLING

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound poppy seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  •  
    Preparation

    1. GRIND the poppy seeds in a mill or coffee grinder.

    2. COMBINE the milk, butter/margarine and sugar in a saucepan. Cook on low heat, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Gradually pour about half of the hot milk mixture into the beaten eggs, whisking constantly.

    3. RETURN the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a metal spoon. (Run your finger down the coated spoon: it should draw a clear line.) Add the poppy seeds and stir well to blend.

    4. REMOVE from the heat; cool before using. Store unused filling in the refrigerator for up to five days.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Serve Fish

    Did you give up meat for Lent? Are you looking for different ways to add fish to your diet?

    Here are recommendations from Chef Charlie Baggs, of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations in Chicago, to which we’ve added some of our own suggestions.

    The original article was written for Flavor & The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs that made these suggestions for their menu during the six weeks of Lent when seafood sales soar.

    Chef Baggs offers different techniques for cooking seafood in both traditional and more modern preparations. You can try a different one every day!

  • Baked: clams/oysters/clambake, en papillote; quiche; Salmon Wellington, smoked cod flan, wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce.
  • Boiled/steamed: crab, fish boil, gefilte fish, lobster, mussels, quenelles, shrimp cocktail, whole fish/fillets.
  • Cured/raw: carpaccio, ceviche, clams/oysters on the half shell, gravlax, sashimi/sushi, tartare.
  • Deep-fried: battered (calamari, clams, fish & chips, fish sticks, nuggets, poppers, tempura), breaded, fritters.
  • Dips and spreads: crab dip, smoked trout or whitefish, taramasalata.
  •    

    bouillabaisse-mackenzie-230

    Make a hearty bouillabaisse. Photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    shrimp-fondue-230

    How about shrimp fondue? Photo courtesy The Melting Pot.

     
  • Grilled/broiled: fillets or whole fish—cod, mixed grill, octopus, salmon, sardines, skate, shrimp, snapper, squid, whitefish or other favorite; skewers/kebabs.
  • International: curry, fish tacos, seafood paella, stir-fried, Szechuan Fish, many more.
  • Pan-fried/sautéed: blackened, croquettes, frogs’ legs, trout, soft-shell crab, sablefish (black cod), salmon or trout patties.
  • Pickled: herring or salmon.
  • Poached: Salmon and whitefish; using shallow and deep poaching techniques.
  • Roasted: Whole fish, fillets or steaks
  • Roe/caviar: lumpfish, salmon roe, tobiko and whitefish caviars.
  • Smoked: halibut, kippered haddock (finnan haddie), herring, mackerel, salmon, scallops, smoked fish platter with bagels and cream cheese; sturgeon, trout, turbot, whitefish.
  • Soups: bouillabaisse; fish or seafood bisque or chowder.
  • Stews/casseroles: bouillabaisse, cioppino, etouffee, gumbo, New Orleans barbecued shrimp.
  • Stir-fried: Asian-style stir fry.
  • With starch: blini (buckwheat pancakes), crêpes/pancakes, jambalaya, pasta, pizza with clams, pot pie, risotto, shrimp and grits.
  • Other: Caesar salad with anchovies, escargots, lobster roll, crab/lobster/shrimp salad, seafood mousse, shrimp fondue.
  •  
    We’re sure we’ve left out other favorites. Don’t hesitate to let us know.
     
    Read the full article about Lenten dishes on Flavor & The Menu.

      

    Comments

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