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

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
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Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Is Sambal Oelek The Next Sriracha?

The taste buds of the nation have changed since the 1960s, when immigration laws were relaxed and more Asians moved to the U.S., bringing their culinary traditions with them. Their bolder flavors began to attract Americans who had only known a blander European-based diet.

There were American hot sauces, but they were popular largely in the South and Southwest. Hot sauce manufacturing in the U.S. began in Louisiana with Tabasco brand pepper sauce in 1868. While it was distributed in other regions, most people didn’t know about it. Much later, in 1947, Dave Pace combined tomatoes, jalapeños and onions into “picante sauce,” refining the recipe over the next decade.

With the national expansion of Tex-Mex restaurants beginning in the 1960s, more people were introduced to hot sauce, and the demand began to expand. Around the same time, the expanding popularity of the Bloody Mary meant that a bottle of Tabasco could be found in many households.

The most recent hot sauce to take hold in the category is Sriracha, a recipe from Thai port of Sri Racha that is produced in California by the Huy Fong company. “Rooster bottles” of the hot chili pureé (the logo is a red rooster), with its ketchup-like sweetness and notes of garlic and spice, have found their way into restaurants and homes alike.

   

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A spoonful of sambal olek, an Indonesian chile paste. Photo courtesy Ryan Spilken.

 
Sriracha has gone from an Asian condiment few people had heard of, to the go-to hot sauce for millennials. Sriracha sauce has found its way onto burgers, breakfast eggs, fries, noodles, salads, sandwiches, stir-frys and wings. Chefs have added it to everything from rémoulade sauce to brownies, ice cream and other desserts.

There are even Sriracha-specific cookbooks, including:

  • The Sriracha Cookbook: 50 “Rooster Sauce” Recipes that Pack a Punch (including Peach-Sriracha Sorbet) and its companion book…
  • The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook: 50 Vegan “Rooster Sauce” Recipes that Pack a Punch (including Maple-Sriracha Doughnuts and Watermelon Sriracha Sangria)
  • Sriracha Sauce Cookbook: Top 50 Easy Sriracha Recipes to Satisfy Your Spicy Food Addiction! (including Baked Sriracha Spaghetti Squash and Strawberry Sriracha Margaritas)
  •  
    Here’s the history of Sriracha sauce and the popular Huy Fong Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce that gave the product its nickname, “rooster sauce.”

    O.K., we know that Sriracha is mainstream, appearing in everything from hummus to potato chips. But in the words of fickle foodies and millennials everywhere, what’s next?

    It could be sambal oelek!

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/sambal oekek huyfong 230

    A thick paste, sambal oelik has vinegar tartness and fruity sweetness (like ketchup). Top photo courtesy RyanSpilken.com, bottom photo courtesy Huy Fong.

     

    WHAT’S SAMBAL OELEK?

    Vinegar-based sambal oelek is a staple in Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai cooking. The first packaged brand was Indonesian; and the name, Javanese in origin, means “ground by stone mortar.”

    Sambal is sauce typically made from a hot chiles and other ingredients, which can include fish sauce or shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, lime juice, rice vinegar or other vinegar, scallion, shallot and sugar.

    Tart and vinegary, with fruity notes, it is a paste rather than a thin liquid. And it’s definitel for heat lovers: The vinegar makes the heat even more intense.

    The folks at Huy Fong are at the ready, with jars of sambal oelek also bearing their familiar rooster logo.

    You can find it at Asian markets or online.

    And here’s a trick from Paul McMillan, executive chef at Wyoming Seminary, a prep school where the students love Sriracha:

  • Spread Sriracha over parchment or wax paper on a sheet pan and dry it in the oven at 180 degrees for at least an hour.
  • Remove from the oven, cool, and then break it up into crunchy crumbles that you can sprinkle on soups, salads, baked potatoes, rice and…anything.
  •  

    Industry experts predict that next on the hot sauce horizon is gochujang sauce (pronounced ko-choo-CHONG), a pungent, hot red chili paste from Korea. It’s made from fermented soybeans, glutinous rice, red chiles, garlic, honey and salt.

    The gochujang chili paste is also is made in a sauce version, for easy sprinkling.

    But for the rest of the details: That’s another story.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Eat More Peaches ~ The Season Ends Soon!

    grilled-tomatoes-peaches-wmmb-230
    fontina_kronenost_rothkase-230

    Skillet photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Photo of Wisconsin Fontina courtesy Emmi Roth USA.

     

    Soon, juicy peaches will be gone from the shelf. Even if you’ve had a few, as hand fruit or in recipes, seek them out in the next few weeks and enjoy peaches while you still can.

    Our personal favorite is peach ice cream, the favorite flavor of our childhood that has fallen out of favor. While some artisan ice cream producers make it, we haven’t seen a pint in our area in decades: We have to make it. And it’s worth it: Here’s a peach ice cream recipe.

    But first up, in our featured peach recipes, is a delicious appetizer, side dish or snack with wine from Eat Wisconsin Cheese.

    RECIPE: GRILLED TOMATOES & PEACHES WITH FONTINA

    You might not think to combine tomatoes with peaches, but they are very complementary—especially when grilled and topped with melted Fontina cheese, as in this recipe.
     
    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 medium peach, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Fontina cheese, shredded (substitute
    Emmenthal, Gruyère or Provolone)
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, grated (substitute
    Asiago, Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT a gas grill to medium, or prepare a charcoal grill for indirect heat.

    2. DRIZZLE the baguette slices with olive oil and grill, until toasted, turning once.

    3. DRIZZLE the tomatoes and peaches with olive oil; toss. Place in well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Cook on grill 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally (but do not over-stir).

    4. ADD the Fontina and Parmesan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Remove from the grill and sprinkle with rosemary and black pepper. Serve immediately with baguette slices and spreading knives.
     
    WHAT IS FONTINA?

    Fontina is a semisoft cow’s milk cheese which has been made since the Middle Ages in Valle d’Aosta, in the Western Alps of northwest Italy. It has PDO status (protected domain of origin), which means that cheese called Fontina can only be made in this area.

    The Italian cheese is mild when young and pungent when aged, when the rind turns an orange-brown color. The texture of PDO Fontina is semi-soft, rich and creamy with eyes (holes). It belongs on a cheese plate, and is an excellent melting cheese.

    In the U.S., the cheese called Fontina is typically sold on the younger side, when it has a buttery, nutty taste. Danish Fontina is pale yellow with a mild, slightly sweet flavor; it is often used as a sandwich cheese. These differences illustrate the importance of authenticity labels like PDO and AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) is the French version of PDO) if you’re looking for the original experience.

     

    RECIPE: PEACH SHORTCAKES WITH ICE CREAM OR
    WHIPPED CREAM

    You’ve likely had strawberry shortcake, but what about peach shortcake?

    In this recipe is from Annalise of Completely Delicious for Go Bold With Butter, the conventional whipped cream that tops the fruit is replaced with ice cream. Annalise specifies vanilla, but we used peach ice cream.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 25 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 6 Servings

    For The Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, cold
  • 1 large egg + 1 teaspoon water (the egg wash)
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 4 peaches, ripe but firm
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 6 scoops vanilla ice cream
  •  

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    In this peach shortcake recipe, ice cream replaces the traditional whipped cream. Photo courtesy Go Bold With Butter.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or butter well.

    2. MAKE the biscuits: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in medium bowl. Add the cold cubed butter and cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks, until butter is size of small peas. Add the buttermilk and mix until the dough begins to come together. Place it on a clean surface and knead a few times to incorporate all of the dry bits. Do not over-handle (it toughens the dough).

    3. PAT the dough to about 1 inch thick. Use a 3- or 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut the dough. Place the rounds on the prepared sheet pan. Brush them with the egg wash and bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes.

    4. PREHEAT a grill to medium low heat. Halve the peaches and remove the pits. Brush with melted butter and place them cut side-down on the grill. Grill 3-4 minutes until the peaches have grill marks and have softened somewhat. Transfer them to a plate and drizzle with maple syrup.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Slice the biscuits in half. Top with ice cream and grilled peaches. Serve immediately.

     
    KNOW YOUR PEACHES

    Check out these peach facts: the history of peaches, types of peaches and more.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fresh Lemonade

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    It’s easy add a hit of extra flavor to lemon-
    ade, from lavender to jalapeño. Photo
    courtesy The Great Pepper Cookbook by
    Melissa’s Produce.

     

    August 20th is National Lemonade Day. If the only lemonade you drink comes from a bottle, you’ve never experienced real lemonade.

    Bottled drinks are not only pasteurized, but typically use reconstituted lemon juice. If you’ve ever tasted bottled lemon juice, you know that the flavor is simply not bright and lemony like fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

    Lemonade “made from concentrate” and sold in cartons like orange juice is the far better choice (as are cans of frozen lemonade concentrate).

    But the best choice of all is to squeeze fresh lemons. It takes just five minutes to make a single glass, and you can adjust the sweetening to your own taste.

    Leave a pitcher of lemonade unsweetened to accommodate every family member or guest. For a party, set up a bar where guests can add their own sweeteners—agave*, honey, noncaloric, superfine sugar or simple syrup. You can buy or easily make the latter two, which, unlike granulated sugar, dissolve easily in cold drinks.

    For adults bottles of gin, tequila or vodka expand the options.

     

    You can also use this recipe to make fresh limeade. We have more lemonade (or limeade) tips below.

    LEMONADE RECIPE

    You don’t want ice cubes to dilute your lemonade. Ideally, freeze lemonade or a complementary fruit juice (we especially like blueberry and watermelon) in ice cube trays so regular ice cubes won’t dilute the flavor. And keep the lemonade as chilled as possible to use fewer cubes.

    Ingredients For 15 Glasses

  • 1.5 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (6 large lemons)
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 cup of table sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: berries, cherries, lemon wheel, mint leaves, sprig of herbs, watermelon cubes
  • Optional: straws
  •  
    Ingredients For 1 Glass Of Lemonade

  • 2 tablespoons sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • Ice
  •  
    *Agave tends to be twice as sweet as the equivalent amount of other sweeteners, so use half as much.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the optional lemonade ice cubes a half day in advance or the night before. For the ice cubes, we save time by reconstituting frozen lemonade concentrate instead of making lemonade from scratch. When ready to make the lemonade…

    2. ROLL room temperature lemons on the counter top before squeezing. This maximizes the juice output.

    3. PREPARE the superfine sugar if you’re using granulated sugar. If you don’t have a box of superfine sugar, simply pulse regular table sugar to a superfine consistency in a food processor. The time you spend to do this is more than offset by the time it will take to get table sugar to dissolve. Another technique for dissolving table sugar is to boil the water several hours in advance, stir in the sugar to dissolve, and chill.

    4. COMBINE the water, lemon juice and three-quarters of the sweetener in a pitcher; mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust the sweetness bit by bit. Your goal is to keep the fresh lemon flavor first and foremost, and not make sugar the first thing you taste. It’s better to under-sweeten than over-sweeten: People can always add more sweetener to suit their individual tastes.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/lavender lemonade 230

    It’s easy to add a nuance of flavor to lemonade. Our favorites are ginger, lavender and lemongrass. Photo © Edith Frincu | Dreamstime.

     

    5. ADD ice to the glasses, fill with lemonade and garnish. Ideally, chill the lemonade prior to serving so it will be cold and require less ice.

    6. ADD the garnish: Slice extra lemons or contrasting limes into wheels, and cut notches so they sit on rim of glasses. You can also notch watermelon cubes or strawberries, place blueberries or raspberries on a cocktail pick, add a sprig of lavender or rosemary, etc.
     
    TO MAKE ONE GLASS AT A TIME

    1. COMBINE the sugar and hot water in a 16-ounce glass (we use a Pilsner glass) and stir until the sugar dissolves.

    2. ADD the the lemon juice and cold water. Fill the glass to the top with ice and serve.
     

    LEMONADE RECIPE TIPS

  • For a zero-calorie drink, use non-caloric sweetener.
  • For a low-glycemic drink, use agave nectar.
  • Varying the garnishes makes the recipe “new” each time.
  • A shot of gin, tequila or vodka turns lemonade into a splendid cocktail. Use citrus-flavored versions if you have them.
  • Infuse a second flavor by adding it to the pitcher of lemonade or infusing it in the simple syrup: fruit juice (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), lychees, sliced chiles or ginger, organic lavender, etc.
  • If you don’t want to squeeze lemons every time you feel like lemonade, you can do a “bulk squeeze” and freeze the lemon juice in ice cube trays. Or, do what our busy mom did and use frozen lemonade concentrate.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tomatillos

    The tomatillo, like the tomato, is an edible berry—it’s the size of cherry tomatoes. (Trivia: the original tomatoes were the size of cherry tomatoes, and were developed into larger sizes).

    Round and tart, it is erroneously thought of as a green tomato; and is called a husk tomato, a Mexican tomato and other names.

    While both tomatoes and tomatillos originated in Latin America (the tomato in Peru and the tomatillo in Central America), they are second cousins. They share a botanical family, Solanaceae (the Nightshade family), but belong to different genuses.

  • The tomato’s genus and species is Solanum lycopersicum. The tomatillo is Physalis ixocarpa, and is closely related to the smaller, sweeter cape gooseberry.
  • Like the orange-colored gooseberry, the tomatillo is surrounded by a papery husk.
  • The ripe tomatillo can be green, purple, red or yellow.
  •  
    Tomatillos were a staple of Maya and Aztec cuisines. They are still enjoyed today in chili, enchiladas, gazpacho, guacamole, salsa and tostadas, among other specialties.

       

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    Fresh tomatillos in their papery husks. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     
    But, you can create a fusion dish, adding it to anything that begs for a tart accent and green color. We just finished the last bite of a tomatillo quiche for breakfast.
     
    COOKING WITH TOMATILLOS

    It’s very easy to cook with tomatillos: They don’t need to be peeled or seeded. Their texture is firm when raw, but soften when cooked.

    You can incorporate tomatillos in different ways:

  • Raw, they add a fresh, citrus-like flavor to sauces.
  • Blanched, they are more mellow. Boil in water for five minutes or until soft. Drain and crush or purée.
  • Fire roasted under the broiler or over an open flame, the charred skins will give sauces a smoky flavor.
  • Dry roast them for an earthy, nutty flavor. Place the tomatillos in a cast iron or other heavy pan; roast over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
  •  
    Just remember to remove the husk and rinse the berry before using tomatillos.

     

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    One of the easiest ways to enjoy tomatillos: Make salsa verde. Poto courtesy DomenicaCooks.com.

     

    WHERE TO START?

  • Start with breakfast: Add tomatillos to omelets, scrambled eggs or Huevos Rancheros; or grill or sauté them and serve as a side with the eggs.
  • Make salsa verde as a condiment for eggs or anything else: fish and seafood, meat and poultry, rice and grains, sandwiches, vegetables.
  • Make corn salad or salsa or guacamole
  • Add them to any Tex-Mex dish.
  • Slice them as a soup garnish.
  • Use them as a drink garnish for Bloody Marys and Margaritas.
  •  

    RECIPE: SALSA VERDE

    For an easy salsa verde, remove the papery tomatillo husks and roast the tomatillos for a few minutes. Then, blend with lime, cilantro and green chiles to taste.

    You can use salsa verde on just about any savory dish, and of as a snack with chips raw vegetables. Turn it into a creamy dip with a bit of sour cream or plain yogurt.

     
    MORE TOMATILLO RECIPES

  • Ají Sauce, a favorite hot sauce in Ecuador and Peru
  • Enchiladas Suizas
  • Gazpacho Verde
  • Salsa
  • Tomatillo Guacamole
  • Tomatillo Guacamole With Roasted Corn
  • Tostadas
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lettuce Wraps ~ Wrap It Up

    Lettuce wraps are a Vietnamese specialty, often used as an appetizer or side instead of a main course. But for a light, better-for-you lunch or dinner, we enjoy them as a main.

    Lettuce wraps are a fun, interactive course for lunch or dinner. You can wrap up any boneless protein in a lettuce leaf; or make it a vegetarian dish, using anything from tofu or seitan to stir-fried vegetables.

    While the recipe below is so easy it can be made on weekdays, it’s also festive for Labor Day weekend. The secret is pre-cooked Tony Roma’s Boneless Ribs (other brands sell a similar product).

    The meaty ribs ready to heat and eat. You can heat them on the grill, in the oven or in the microwave. The ribs are sold at Sam’s Club and other retailers nationwide.

    The other tasks are simply to wash the lettuce, make a quick Asian slaw and set out the sauces. If you want to cut back on the number of sauces, just pick the one everyone will like (we recommend hoisin*). Whatever you choose should be thick, so it doesn’t dribble out of the wrap.

       

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    Wrap cooked boneless ribs in lettuce leaves and top with Asian slaw, cilantro and a sauce of choice. Photo courtesy Tony Roma’s.

     
    *Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet-and-pungent sauce popular in Chinese cuisine as a glaze for meat, an addition to stir fries, as dipping sauce and a condiment (e.g., in lettuce wraps as well as dishes with pancake wrap such as Moo Shoo Pork and Peking Duck). It is dark brown in color. Hoisin is not the same as plum sauce, which is an orange-colored sweet and sour sauce. In Vietnamese, hoisin sauce is called tuong den.
     

    WHAT ARE BONELESS RIBS?

    Boneless ribs, also called country-style pork ribs or or pork shoulder country-style ribs, are thick strips of meat cut from the pig’s shoulder. They come from a cut called the pork shoulder steak; so they are not actually from the rib cage, but look like the meat removed from a rib. They are marinated and seasoned before cooking.

    Boneless ribs, also called pork loin country-style ribs, can be cut from the shoulder blade as well. They can be sold bone-in, but the bone is usually to make them boneless.
     

     

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    Boneless country-style pork ribs. Photo courtesy Calumet Diversified Meats.

     

    RECIPE: BONELESS RIB LETTUCE WRAPS

    Since the ribs are pre-cooked, prep time is just 15 minutes; cook time is 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 32 ounces† Tony Roma’s Boneless Pork Ribs
  • 12 leaves of crisp green leaf lettuce (we use romaine hearts, but Boston or bibb work well too)
  •  
    For The Slaw

  • 1 radish, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons sweet rice vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    †There are 3 boneless ribs in each 16-ounce package and 6 boneless ribs in each 32-ounce package. Each person can have two lettuce wraps.
     
    For The Garnish

  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  •  
    For The Sauces

  • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 4 tablespoons sambal oelek chili sauce or Sriracha hot sauce
  • 4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
  •  

    Preparation

    1. WASH the lettuce and pat dry with paper towels.

    2. PREPARE the boneless ribs per package instructions.

    3. MAKE the salad topping: Combine the radish, carrot, cucumber and green onions in a mixing bowl. Add the sweet rice vinegar and season with a pinch of salt (or more to taste). Gently toss and set aside in a cool place. When ready to serve…

    4. INSTRUCT everyone on how to serve themselves: Take a lettuce leaf and place a strip of boneless rib in center. Top with some of the slaw; then garnish with cilantro and choice of sauces (hoisin, Sriracha, sambal oelek, sweet chili).

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Avoid Grill Toxins With Organic Grilling

    August 16th is National Bratwurst Day. Before you throw some brats on the grill, here are tips on organic grilling from Maria Rodale, CEO and Chairman of Rodale Inc., a publisher of health and wellness magazines, books, and digital content*.

    Not surprisingly, she’s committed to organic living. This article is adapted from a larger article:

    AN ORGANIC GUIDE TO GRILLING

    Grilling in America needs an organic makeover—independence from exposure to conventional grilling toxins, says Maria. We need to apply that spirit of revolution to our health and the environment and take it organic every time we fire up the grill!

    Sure, you can find throw a grass-fed, certified-organic steak or an Applegate Farms organic hot dog on the grill. But there’s more to organic grilling than just what you cook.

    Organic grilling is a complete process that minimizes toxic chemicals from beginning to end, as it maximizes flavor and healthful benefits for you and the environment.

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/hot dogs grill hillshirefarmsFB 230

    Avoid toxic charcoal briquettes; use organic charcoal. Photo courtesy Hillshire Farms.

    Here Maria demystifies the grilling process and detoxifies it as much as possible. Her tips are safe and simple.
     
    *This article was originally published on June 24, 2015 on Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen blog.
     
    STEP 1: USE ORGANIC GRILLING MATERIALS

    You can use any grill; Maria uses a Big Green Egg charcoal grill with certified-organic charcoal. Big Green Egg sells organic charcoal, as do other companies.

    Whatever the brand, always use charcoal that’s made from natural materials like wood (look for “lump charcoal,” bamboo or coconut). You can use wood logs instead of charcoal; just make sure you have time to let them burn down a bit first. Avoiding toxic briquettes is the most important organic choice you can make for the environment and for your health.

  • To start the grill, you will need a chimney starter, which lets you light the charcoal without poisonous lighter fluid. A chimney starter and organic charcoal solve most of your toxin problems.
  • Everything else you need: paper to stuff under the chimney, matches, organic food to grill, tongs and a silicone hot pad. Maria recommends tongs that are long, non-locking and without plastic parts.
  •  
    STEP 2: PREPARE THE GRILL

    Make sure your grill is in a safe place, all your materials are handy, and the grill is clean enough.

  • Never use a wire cleaning brush to clean your grill. Those little wire bits can break off and get stuck in your stomach. Instead, use a heavy-duty sponge, a wood grill scraper or a natural-fiber scrub brush.
  • When the grate is clean, rub it with some high smoke point oil on the grill—Maria likes coconut oil but canola, peanut, soybean, sunflower and others are fine—to keep your food from sticking.
  •  
    STEP 3: LIGHT THE FIRE

    First, remove the grill grate. Put a few pieces of crumbled dry paper (or one piece of newspaper) at the bottom of the chimney; then load the charcoal on top. Spread a bit of charcoal around the sides, too. Light the paper on fire underneath.

  • Keep checking to make sure that it’s burning hot enough. For example, in damp weather, it might take a few tries to get the paper burning hot enough to light the charcoal.
  • You will know if it’s caught fire when you see smoke coming out of the top of the chimney and/or feel the heat.
  •  

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    Put some shrimp on the barbie… Photo courtesy The Smoked Olive (try their terrific smoked olive oil!).

     

    STEP 4: WAIT

    It will take 10 to 15 minutes for the charcoal to get hot enough. You’ll know it’s ready when you can see red coals glowing through the chimney holes.

  • During that time, make sure all your food is ready to be put on the grill.
  • When the fire is hot enough, grasp the handle of the chimney with a hot pad and dump the burning coals into the grill.
  • Remove the chimney, which will be burning hot, to a safe place, out of the reach of anyone (adults as well as children).

     
    STEP 5: GRILL!

    Put the grill grate back on the grill. It will need a few minutes to warm up, so don’t rush. Spread some oil on the grill to prevent sticking and add the food.

  • You can use aluminum foil if you want, but it’s not necessary. The important thing is to give the food the time it needs to cook properly.
  • Remove the food from the grill onto a clean platter and get ready to dig in.
  •  
    ADDITIONAL GRILLING SAFETY TIPS

  • Keep a squirt bottle or squirt gun handy in case the fire gets too hot. This is especially important if you are using wooden logs—they can get really hot. If they do, give the grill a squirt. Most natural or organic charcoal doesn’t get super-hot, unless you use lots of it.
  • Don’t put cooked meat on the same platter you used for raw meat without washing it first. That’s just good food safety.
  • Don’t get distracted. You can’t grill successfully while trying to get the rest of the meal ready. You need to keep an eye on the food or it can easily burn (or not cook fast enough). If you have no other hekp, make sure all of the other items on your list are ready before you start to grill.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Portabella Salad

    Whether you’re planning for meatless Monday or looking for something tasty to grill on any other day, how about a meaty grilled portabella salad?

    Grill not only the mushrooms, but red and yellow bell peppers and anything else you’d like to add to it, including polenta (see photo below).

    Place the grilled veggies atop your favorite greens, with an optional garnish of crumbled feta or goat cheese and a vinaigrette.

    PORTABELLA? PORTABELLO? PORTOBELLO?

    How can one mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, have three different spellings? After all, carrot is carrot, tomato is tomato, zucchini is zucchini.

    The answer: When Americans began to grow and sell them in the 1980s, it was a very small output. The growers, initially Italian Americans who grew the creminis they liked from the old country (creminis are the young form of portabellas), named it. Portabella means “beautiful door; portobello means “beautiful port.”

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/grilled portabella salad daviosboston 230

    A grilled portabella salad on baby greens, with grilled bell peppers, balsamic vinaigrette and a garnish of crumbled feta. Photo courtesy Davio’s Boston | Boston.

     
    Or perhaps, as you’ll read below, someone with marketing chops realized it needed a glamorous name in order to sell the mushrooms.

    According to Food Timeline, food experts generally agree on these points when it comes to the history of portabellas:

  • The mushroom was developed in southeastern Pennsylvania from the Italian cremini—which, we must point out, is also spelled crimini, and also called the brown mushroom, Italian brown mushroom and Roman mushroom. Newer “marketable” names including baby portobellos, mini bellas and portabellinis. “Baby Bella” is a trademarked name.
  • A 1996 article in Nation’s Restaurant News noted that many of the mushroom farmers were of Italian origin. While they originally produced the creminis they knew from Italy, there was no market: The public wanted pristine white mushrooms. The back-to-earth movement of the 1960s and 1970s opened the door for the growers to make another stab at selling creminis.
  • By accident, growers found that creminis that weren’t harvested grew into extra-large mushrooms. These large mushrooms are here today despite early efforts to thwart them. In a 1996 article in Nation’s Restaurant News on the growing popularity of portabellas, Wade Whitfield of the Mushroom Council, an industry trade group, noted, “They are really culls. You didn’t want them in the mushroom bed. [Growers] would throw them away. There was no market. Growers would take them home.”
  • Whitfield then noted: “This thing has gone from nearly zero in 1993 to a predicted 30 million pounds this year. It’s a major item. It will be the largest specialty mushroom.” Both cremini and portobello mushrooms are first mentioned in the New York Times during the mid 1980s.
  • According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, “‘portobello’ began to be used in the 1980s as a brilliant marketing ploy to popularize an unglamorous mushroom that, more often than not, had to be disposed of because growers couldn’t sell them.”
  • There is no definitive spelling. According to Food Timeline, an un-scientific Google survey at one point showed that portobello got the most searches (169,000), followed by portabella (33,100) and portobella (3,510). Wade Whitfield noted The Mushroom Council preferred “portabella”; we use “portabella” because we prefer how it rolls off the tongue.
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    Grilled polenta and portabellas are a delicious pairing. Add arugula, shaved Parmesan and a balsamic vinegar reduction Photo courtesy Urban Accents.

     

    RECIPE: STUFFED PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS

    Ingredients For 8 Side Salads

  • 8 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed* and brushed clean
  • Olive oil for grilling, plus extra virgin olive oil for dressing
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 large red yellow bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary for dressing
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 package (4 to 5 ounces) baby greens
  • 1 large handful baby arugula (substitute baby spinach)
  • Optional garnish: shaved Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta
  •  
    *Save the stems for an omelet or another salad. To clean mushrooms,
    first use a mushroom brush (much more delicate than a regular vegetable brush) and remove any remaining dirt with a slightly damp paper towel.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the grill to medium. Brush both sides of the mushrooms with olive oil. Halve and seed the bell peppers.

    2. PLACE the mushrooms and bell peppers on the rack and grill until tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    3. CUT the peppers into strips. You can also cut the mushrooms into strips, but they make a nicer presentation whole.

    4. MAKE the dressing: Combine 1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil in a blender or food processor with the balsamic vinegar, minced garlic and chopped fresh rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    5. CREATE a bed of greens on individual serving plates. Place the mushroom in the center, surrounded by pepper strips. Place some arugula in the center of each mushroom. Garnish as desired with cheese. Drizzle with dressing serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try The Best Cheeses In America

    If you passion is great cheese, why not try the best on your pizzas, sandwiches, entrées and salads? The winners of the 2015 American Cheese Society Competition, held last month, are worth seeking out.

    Here are the first place winners in the top 5 categories (based on the volume of cheese sold in the U.S.), including sub-categories:

    MOZZARELLA

  • Brick, Scamorza Or String cheese: Farmer’s Rope String Cheese, Crave Brothers (Wisconsin)
  • Fresh Mozzarella, 8 Ounces Or More, Balls or Shapes: Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese (Wisconsin) and Bella Casara Buffalo Mozzarella (Ontario)
  • Fresh Mozzarella Under 8 Ounces: Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Bocconcini (Wisconsin)
  • Burrata: Calabro Cheese (Connecticut)
  •  
    CHEDDAR CHEESE

  • Aged Cheddar, 12 To 24 Months: Face Rock 2-Year Extra Aged Cheddar, Face Rock Creamery (Oregon);
  • Cheddar Aged Up To 12 Months: Tillamook White Medium Cheddar, Tillamook County Creamery (Oregon)
  •    

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    The best string cheese in America: Farmer’s Rope String Cheese from the Crave Brothers of Wisconsin. Photo courtesy EdibleMadison.com.

  • Cheddar Aged Up To 12 Months—Goat, Sheep, Buffalo Or Mixed Milks: Goat Cheddar, Central Coast Creamery (California)
  • Mature Cheddar, 24 To 48 Months: Four Year Flagship, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (Washington)
  • Mature Cheddar, Aged Over 48 Months: Cabot Old School Cheddar, Cabot Creamery (Vermont)
  • Cheddar Wrapped In Cloth, Aged Up To 12 Months: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cellars at Jasper Hill, (Vermont)
  • Cheddar Wrapped In Cloth, Aged Over 12 Months: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Select, Cellars at Jasper Hill (Vermont)
  •  

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    The best cheese of 2015 is Celtic Blue Reserve from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Ontario. Photo © Misa Me Photography.

     

    MONTEREY JACK CHEESE

  • Southwest Cheese (New Mexico)
  •  
    SWISS CHEESE

  • Baby Swiss, Guggisberg Cheese (Ohio)
  •  
    PARMESAN CHEESE

  • Cello Riserva Copper Kettle Parmesan Cheese, Cello Cheese (Wisconsin)
  •  
    BEST OF SHOW

  • Celtic Blue Reserve, Glengarry Fine Cheese (Ontario)
  •  
    The awards mentioned here represent just a few of this year’s categories and winners. To see the complete list of awards in all categories, visit The American Cheese Society website.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Black Mission & Green Kadota Figs

    Summer is fresh fig season. If you enjoy dried figs the rest of the year, go out of your way to enjoy them fresh.

    Last month we wrote about how to use fresh figs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we’ve been reveling in them in the weeks since then, and want to send this reminder to everyone who has not yet jumped onto the fresh fig bandwagon*.

    This week, a trove of Black Mission and Green Kadota figs arrived from California to our produce market. The Green Kadota figs we purchased are even sweeter than the Black Mission figs. Do your own taste test.

    After enjoying them out of hand, focus on these easy, no-cook uses:

  • For breakfast with cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt and pancakes
  • Instead of fig jam, sliced or diced and mixed with honey or agave
  • For lunch in a green salad with bacon, lardons, prosciutto or other ham; or sliced onto a cheese sandwich with Brie, cream cheese or goat cheese on multigrain or raisin bread
  • With a cheese course, with any cheese from mild to strong (our favorite pairing is blue cheese)
  • For an hors d’oeuvre, spread blue cheese on fig halves
  • For dinner make compound butter (use it on bread, for cooking or toss with pasta or rice)
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/fresh and dry figs californiafigs 230

    Fresh Green Kadota and Black Mission figs, shown with their dried versions. Photo courtesy California Figs. The website has recipes for everything from fig muffins to fig pizza.

  • For dessert in a fruit salad; or sliced and marinated in liqueur by themselves or as a topping for ice cream, cheesecake and other desserts
  •  
    *To get, jump or leap on the bandwagon is an idiom from the 19th century. It means to become involved in a successful activity so you don’t lose out on the advantages. There are other expressions of the phrase as well. A bandwagon was a festively-decorated wagon that carried a circus band; the band was part of the showy parade through town to generate excitement for the circus. The term first appears in print in P.T. Barnum’s autobiography, published in 1855. Politicians began to “jump on the bandwagon” to be part of the parade, actually renting seats on the wagon to get exposure to the public during the merry occasion.

     

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    Fresh figs are a delicious summer dessert with cheese and a drizzle of honey. Photo courtesy The French Farm.

     

    RECIPE: FRESH FIG COMPOTE

    Compote, the French word for mixture, is a dessert that dates to medieval Europe. It is made of a mixture of whole or sliced fruits, cooked in water with sugar and spices (cinnamon, clove, lemon or orange peel, vanilla). It can be further blended with grated coconut, ground almonds, or dried or candied fruits.

    Our Nana grew up on compote, and we loved it too. There was always a compote when we visited, served warm (with ice cream or whipped cream) in cooler months and cold in the summer.

    In medieval England compote was served as part of the last course of a feast; during the Renaissance it was served chilled at the end of dinner. Any fresh fruit could be used. Nana’s family recipe included rhubarb, sour cherry, apricot, nectarine and plum in the summer; apples, pears, quince, dried apricots, figs, raisins and walnuts in the fruit-challenged winter months.

    Use the compote as a bread spread and a condiment with sweet or savory foods, in yogurt, with cheese, cheesecake, etc.

    Ingredients For 2/3 Cup

    If the figs are very sweet, you may need only a small amount of sweetener.

  • 1 pound fresh figs†, cleaned and trimmed as needed
  • 1 to 6 tablespoons sugar or honey (or half as much agave)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: dried fruits or other fruits, Grand Marnier or other alcohol
  •  
    †Figs do not ripen off the tree, so buy fruit that is soft to the touch. The skin around stem should have begun to twist and wrinkle.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT the figs into quarters or smaller pieces as desired. Place the figs, sweetener, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat.

    2. COOK for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the alcohol near the end (or if using dried fruits in the recipe, you can pre-soak them in the alcohol). To turn into a smooth sauce instead of a chunky dessert or topping…

    3. PULSE, using an immersion blender or food processor, until the desired consistency is reached. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

    TO DEGLAZE A PAN

    Here’s how to deglaze a pan to make a sauce. Include a tablespoon of fig compote (you can also use fig jam).

    To make a sauce without pan juices (terrific with roast duck or pork):

    1. HEAT 1 cup of red wine in a saucepan, and simmer to reduce it by half. Add 1/2 cup of fig compote and a half teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

    2. BRING to a simmer again, stirring for a few minutes to blend the ingredients. Remove from the heat and finish with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add a scant tablespoon of butter to smooth out the sauce.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Oven-Dried Tomatoes

    Sun-dried tomatoes are delicious year-round; but according to the USDA, few if any store-bought sun-dried tomatoes are dried in the sun. The original technique, indeed, was to dry the tomatoes in the sun over the course of several days.

    These days, most “sun-dried” tomatoes are oven-dried. However, they taste the same, or even better, when dried in an oven or food dehydrator.

    The drying process gives the tomatoes a long shelf life, since most of the moisture, on which decay-inducing bacteria thrive, is removed (the same strategy as with jerky).

    Sun dried vs. sun-dried vs. sundried? Any of the three spellings is correct.

    OVEN DRYING

    If you have a bumper crop of tomatoes, or there’s a big sale, you can use this technique to create homemade dried tomatoes. Freshly made, they’re still tender and succulent.

    Instead of drying tomatoes in the sun, oven drying is a more efficient method. The task is complete in three hours at the lowest heat setting, instead of several days. You can also use a food dehydrator.

    Of course, if you’d like the authentic experience, you can leave the tomatoes in the hot summer sun for two days or more, taking them in at night. (The oven is looking even better now, isn’t it?)

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/sudried bowl bellasunluci 230

    Sun-dried tomatoes. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci, producer of premium sun-dried tomatoes.

     
    WHAT TOMATOES SHOULD YOU USE?

    You can dry any tomato—beefsteak, cherry, grape, or other variety. But plum tomatoes, a type of roma tomato, are the most popular. The walls are thicker, meatier and have less water.

    The tomatoes must be ripe but still firm (i.e., not overripe). While it’s not an exact science, five pounds of fresh tomatoes yield about two cups of dried tomatoes. The tomatoes will shrink to about a quarter of their original size.

     

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    Have extra sundried tomatoes? Bring them as gifts. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

     

    RECIPE: OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES

    Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil, oregano or thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove the tough part on the stem end. Also cut away any soft, bruised flesh. Cherry tomatoes need only be halved; but larger tomatoes should be halved again, into a total of four quarters.

    2. SCOOP out most of the seeds, sprinkle with salt and let them sit skin side up for 15-20 minutes. The excess liquid will drain out, and the oven drying will go faster.

     

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 200°F (some people use a lower temperature, e.g. 150°F, but this will take double the time).

    4. PLACE the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, black pepper and olive oil in a large bowl and gently toss to combine. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, lined with parchment. Sprinkle any garlic and oregano in the bowl on top of the tomatoes.

    5. DRY for up to three hours. Flip the tomatoes halfway through. The amount of time will vary, depending on the water content of the tomatoes, the thickness of the slices, and air circulate (expert home cooks place the tomatoes on screens instead of in pans, to abet air circulation).

    6. CHECK for doneness. The tomatoes should be flexible and tender, not dry and hard. Remove from the oven

    7. COOL to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes. Store in heavy-duty freezer bags, either vacuum-sealed or with the air pressed out. We discovered this technique from PickYourOwn.org:. Don’t overfill the bag, and press out the air pockets. Seal the top of the bag, leaving enough space to insert a soda straw. Suck the air out through the straw. When finished, press straw closed at the insertion point, and finish pressing the bag closed as you remove it.

    8. STORE in a cool, dry place. Keeping them airtight is key; the dried tomatoes will quickly reabsorb moisture and go moldy. If you see any condensation in the bag or other container, remove the tomatoes immediately and put them put them back in the oven to dry.

    The tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks, and in the freezer for up to 12 months. To give them as a gift, place in a sterilized glass jar with regular or infused olive oil, and the instructions to use up within a week.

      

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