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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

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Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: “Leftovers” Antipasto Plate

We can’t wait to get to Seattle to eat at Chef Ethan Stowell’s restaurants. Until then, we visit the websites and drool over the food photos.

And we get ideas. After spotting this asparagus antipasto plate, we thought of different approaches to antipasto.

Antipasto means “before the meal” in Italian—meaning before the main meal. It’s the traditional first course of multicourse Italian dinner.

Most of us have had one along the way. The contents vary greatly by region, but Italian restaurants in the U.S. often have cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, mozzarella or provolone, olives, peperoncini and pickled vegetables (giardiniera).

Our mother’s typical antipasto consisted of artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, Genoa salami, giardiniera, a slice of cantaloupe in season wrapped with prosciutto, olives and our childhood favorite, BQ brand sesame breadsticks.

But back to Ethan Stowell and his team of chefs:

   

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An asparagus-based “antipasto.” Photo courtesy Ethan Stowell Restaurants.

 
His asparagus plate inspired us to create a “whatever” antipasto with foods we had on hand—which happened to include leftover steamed asparagus. We tossed them in a vinaigrette, and placed them on individual plates with:

  • Cheese (we had truffle cheese)
  • Croutons (thin slices of toasted baguette)
  • Dried figs (wish we’d had fresh figs!)
  • Mixed olives
  • Pâté (two varieties, thanks to a sample shipment from Les Trois Petits Cochons)
  • Pickled red onions (made in an hour with this recipe)
  • Sweet gherkins
  •  
    The tasty result seemed like a lot of thought and effort went into it. But really, we just went through the fridge and added a dab or this and that. Don’t hesitate to combine anything with anything else.

     

    greek-mezze-murrays-230

    Assorted Greek mezze. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    AMUSE-BOUCHE, ANTIPASTO, HORS D’OEUVRE, MEZZE &
    TAPAS: THE DIFFERENCES

    Different but similar: Here’s the scoop on these popular foods:.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated in a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives. It is brought after the wine is poured. It is just one bite: A larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture, and enable the chef to show creativity.
  • Antipasto is a first course of assorted foods, served at the table (some restaurants have antipasto buffets).
  • Appetizer, a first course lately referred to as a starter in fashionable venues, is small serving of food served as a first course. It can be the same type of food that could be served as an entrée or a side dish, but in a smaller portion (e.g., a half-size portion of gnocchi). Or it could be something not served as a main dish, such as smoked salmon with capers.
  • Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server. Canapés are the original hors d’oeuvre; they’ve been joined in modern times by hot options such as cheese puffs, mini quiches, skewers, baby lamb chops and many other options. Technically, the term refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip. The term means “[dishes] outside the work [the main meal].” Several pieces can be plated to serve as an appetizer (first course). Martinets note: In French, the term “hors d’oeuvre” is used to indicate both the singular and plural forms; Americans incorrectly write and speak it as “hors d’oeuvres.”
  • Mezze or meze (pronounced MEH-zay) is an assortment of small dishes served to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer plate before the main dish. In Greece, expect mezedes of feta, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Many other options include anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers. In the Middle East, you’ll typically find dips (babaganoush, hummus), olives, pickles, tabouleh and other items, from raw vegetables to falafel and sambousek, small meat turnovers. Don’t forget the pita wedges!
  • Tapas (pronounced TOP-us) are appetizers or snacks that comprise a wide variety of popular foods in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or hot, from cheese and olives to chorizo to a tortilla, meatballs, or fried squid. While originally traditional foods, some tapas bars now serve very sophisticated plates. You can order one or more tapas with a glass of wine, or order a series of plates to create a full meal.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Brown Rice Pudding For Breakfast

    Yesterday we popped into our local Le Pain Quotidien to meet a colleague for coffee. On the breakfast menu was brown rice pudding, topped with mixed nuts and raisins.

    We love rice pudding, so of course we ordered it: our first “breakfast” rice pudding. It had much less sugar than dessert rice pudding, and, though served at room temperature, was not far removed from other porridge, like Cream Of Rice or oatmeal.

    We went online and found a breakfast rice pudding recipe from Tiffany at LiveLearnLoveEat.com.

    We also found the recipe below from the folks at Lundberg, the California-based premium rice producer, which uses just 1/2 cup of brown sugar in the entire recipe.

    Both recipes are made with cooked rice, and are a great way to use leftover rice. Add nuts for protein!

    RECIPE: RICE PUDDING WITH BROWN RICE

    Ingredients

  • 1½ cups cooked short grain brown rice
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  •    

    livelearnloveeat.com-230

    You can justify brown rice pudding: It’s whole grain! Photo courtesy LiveLearnLoveEat.com.

  • Optional mix-ins: ½ cup raisins, chopped dates or other dried fruit—blueberries, cherries, cranberries
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • Nutmeg
  • Optional garnish: nuts (try a mix), shredded coconut
  • Optional: half and half, heavy cream, whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the eggs; add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the milk, salt and vanilla and blend.

    2. ADD the rice and the raisins or other dried fruit. Pour into a greased shallow baking dish and sprinkle with nutmeg.

    3. SET the baking dish in pan of hot water and bake at 350°F. After baking for approximately 30 minutes, gently stir the custard to suspend the rice. Continue baking for 60 minutes or until the custard is set (a total of 90 minutes).

    4. SERVE warm or cold, with cream as desired. To serve as dessert, you can use whipped cream.

     

    shrimp-miso-grits-silkroadtavern-230

    Shrimp and grits. Grits, ground from corn, are also porridge. Photo courtesy Silk Road Tavern.

     

    WHAT IS PORRIGE?

    Porridge is a dish made by boiling ground, crushed or chopped cereal in water, milk, or a combination of both. It is usually served hot, often sweetened, sometimes savory (the beloved cheese grits are porrige).

    Any cereal grain can be made into porrige. Some of the most common in the U.S.:

  • Buckwheat: kasha
  • Corn: cornmeal mush, grits, Indian pudding, polenta
  • Oats: oatmeal
  • Rice: congee, Cream of Rice
  • Wheat: Cream of Wheat, farina, Wheatena
  •  
    Other cereals—flax, millet, quinoa, rye, sorghum and spelt, for example—are also made into porridge; as are non-cereals like legumes and potatoes. Pease porridge, from the old English nursery rhyme, is made from dried peas.

     

    WHAT IS GRUEL?

    Gruel is a thinner version of porridge—so thin that it can be drunk, rather than spooned. Historically, gruel has been a staple of the Western peasant diet.

    Gruel is often made from barley, hemp and millet. In hard times, chestnuts and even the less tannic acorns of some oaks were ground into flour and made into gruel.

    Gruel was a cheap way for officials to feed the poor—most famously described by Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, a ward of the parrish, who couldn’t even get a second helping of it in the orphanage.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sumac With Spiced Roasted Carrots

    This recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen was so breathtaking, we traipsed through three different farmers markets to hunt down the beautiful heirloom carrots (and finally found them at Trader Joe’s).

    The recipe gave us an excuse to purchase sumac, a slightly tart and fruity spice popular in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. We’d never worked with it, and we like lemony tartness. (More ways to use it are below.)

    RECIPE: SPICED ROASTED CARROTS

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 bunches rainbow carrots, peeled and trimmed, larger carrots halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •    

    spiced-roasted-rainbow-carrots-ws-230

    Who could refuse to eat their vegetables? Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

  • Flaky sea salt for finishing (check out Maldon sea salt, beautiful pyramid-shaped flakes)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F (220°C).

    2. STIR together the sumac, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes and salt in a small bowl.

    3. TOSS the carrots with the olive oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle the spice blend on top of the carrots and toss until the spices are evenly distributed.

    4. HEAT a frying pan over medium heat until warm. Add the carrots and toss two or three times. Transfer to the oven and roast until the carrots are just tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

    5. TRANSFER to a serving dish and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve immediately.

    Find more terrific recipes at Blog.Williams-Sonoma.com.

     

    Sumac-silkroadspices.ca-230

    Sumac, a popular spice in the Middle East. Photo courtesy The Silk Road Spice Merchant.

     

    WHAT IS SUMAC?

    Sumac comprises some 35 species of flowering plants that grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world. If you were a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, you likely learned to spot one of the varieties, the poison sumac shrub, in the woods. (Like poison ivy and poison oak, skin contact generates a nasty rash.)

    The fruits of the bush form in dense clusters of what we might call little round red berries—like holly berries—but are actually drupes. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice; the word “sumac” comes from the old Syriac Aramaic summaq, meaning red.

    The spice is also a component of the popular spice blend, za’atar.

    In Middle Eastern cuisine, sumac is used to add a lemony taste to meats and salads. It is used to garnish meze like hummus, and rice.

     
    Try it with recipes where you’d like lemony tartness as well as some bright red color.

    You can find sumac online or at Middle Eastern markets. If you can’t get hold of any, add some lemon juice. Its tart flavor is an alternative to the tart-sour sumac profile.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 25+ Egg Salad Additions

    Today is National Egg Day, which rings nostalgic to us. The approach of summer reminds us of Mom’s fresh egg salad sandwiches, served to us with the just-cooked eggs still warm.

    Basic egg salad combines chopped hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise with finely chopped celery and onion, seasoned with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (or some pickle juice), salt and pepper.

    Some people then build a sandwich by adding lettuce and tomato, even strips of bacon. But today’s tip is what to add to the egg salad itself. They turn egg salad from ordinary to memorable.

    It doesn’t have to be a sandwich. Scoop your egg salad atop greens, into a crisp bell pepper, a stuffed tomato, a bacon bowl, even into potato skins. Make canapés with a base of apple, cucumber or potato or.
     
    Kitchen tip: When preparing hard boiled eggs, add a teaspoon of baking soda or vinegar the pot of water. This will help when removing the shell & have a perfectly peeled egg. Here’s more on how to make hard-boiled eggs.
     
    25+ FAVORITE ADDITIONS TO EGG SALAD

  • Antipasto, with diced mozzarella, salami.
  •  

    egg-salad-tartine-theeggfarm-230

    Find more delicious recipes at TheEggFarm.com.

  • Asian, with garlic, green onions, ginger, soy sauce instead of salt and a few red chili flakes (note: the soy will darken the egg salad).
  • Bacon horseradish: Add crumbled bacon to your favorite egg salad recipe and a teaspoon of prepared horseradish to the mayonnaise.
  • Beet: Diced beets turn your favorite egg salad recipe pink.
  • Curried, with chopped almonds, raisins and fresh apple.
  • Deviled, using your favorite deviled egg recipe ingredients.
  • Greek, with lemon zest, kalamata cheese, peperoncini, oregano, thyme and optional crumbled feta cheese.
  • Dried fruit: dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins or sultanas, especially in combination with sliced almonds.
  • Français: Add finely chopped shallot, fresh tarragon, and tarragon or wine vinegar mixed with the mayonnaise.
  • Fruit: diced apples, halved grapes, dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, blueberries)—consider combining with nuts.
  • Giardiniera, with diced pickled vegetables (pickle carrots, celery and onion for one hour). Alternative: capers.
  • Gremolata, a combination of garlic, lemon zest and parsley (recipe). Or, add any one or two of these ingredients.
  • Gribiche, with capers, diced cornichons and fines herbes (fresh chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon).
  • Ham, diced.
  • Heat: chile in adobo, crushed red pepper, minced fresh chiles.
  •  

    curried-egg-salad-louisemellor-safeeggs-230

    Bacon and egg salad. Photo courtesy SafeEggs.com.

     
  • Herbed: Pick two fresh herbs from among basil, chives, dill or parsley.
  • Mom’s: Our mother’s recipe uses finely chopped celery, red bell pepper, red onion; minced fresh parsley; and Durkee’s Famous Sauce*.
  • Mustard: Dijon or grainy mustard (add minced cornichons), honey mustard (add dried fruit).
  • Mushrooms, marinated or sautéed.
  • Niçoise, with drained flaked tuna, chopped picholine or Kalamata olives, chopped cooked green beans.
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts (consider combining with a fruit).
  • Olives: It’s fun to combine two varieties, e.g. Kalamata and pimento-stuffed.
  • Peppadew, especially combined with diced red pepper.
  • Pesto: Bind with half mayonnaise, half pesto.
  • Pickles/relish, from chopped cornichons or dills to sweet pickle relish and mustard pickles.
  • Russian, with dill, boiled potatoes, pickled onions and 50:50 sour cream and mayonnaise (optional: diced beets).
  • Soft cheese: crumbled blue, chèvre or feta; diced mozzarella.
  • Three onion: chive, red and sweet onion, finely diced.
  • Tomatoes: diced cherry tomatoes, sundried, and when the good summer tomatoes come in, with big, thick slices.
  •  
    SANDWICH BREAD

    Forget the supermarket white or whole wheat bread for a day, and try:

  • Baguette
  • Ciabatta
  • Croissant
  • Flatbread
  • Pita (look for whole wheat pita!)
  • Pretzel rolls
  • Pumpernickel, rye or black bread
  • Seeded bread
  • Semolina bread
  • Tortilla wrap
  •  
    BINDERS

    Plain supermarket mayonnaise is so 20th century. Blend proportions of any of the following, to taste:

  • Blue cheese, Italian, ranch or Russian/Thousand Island dressing
  • Chili sauce, ketchup or barbecue sauce
  • Durkee’s Famous Sauce (see footnote below)
  • Flavored olive oil
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus, plain or flavored
  • Mayonnaise, including flavored mayo (bacon, lemon, chipotle, wasabi, etc.) or sandwich spread (mayo mixed with pickle relish)
  • Mustard, from Dijon to grainy to flavored (types of mustard)
  • Pesto
  • Plain yogurt flavored with herbs or spices, or tzatziki
  • Salsa
  • White bean purée
  • Wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon vinaigrette
  •  
    VEGETABLES: BEYOND ICEBERG LETTUCE

  • Arugula or watercress
  • Cucumber slices
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Radish slices
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Romaine or bibb lettuce
  • Sliced tomatoes in season, or chopped cherry tomatoes year-round
  •  
    This should keep you busy until the next National Egg Day! If you have anything to add to the list, let us know.

     
    *Durkee’s Famous Sauce is a tangy salad and sandwich spread that combines mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar and seasonings. Mom used it in cole slaw, deviled eggs, potato salad and on sandwiches. Patented in 1857, Durkee says it was served in the Lincoln White House! It is still sold online and at some Wal-Marts and other retailers. We haven’t tried this recipe, but it claims to be a Durkee’s Famous Sauce clone. Here’s another version.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Oil & Vinegar Sprayer

    evo-oil-sprayer-230

    Spray on oil and vinegar. Photo courtesy Delta.

     

    Just in time for summer cook-outs and picnics, we were sent samples of the large and small Evo Oil Sprayers.

    They’re different from misters: The spray is less fine and wider. The company claims that the spray nozzle is no-clog (a complaint with the finer-spray misters); so far, that’s been true for us.

    Today’s tip is: If you’re not yet using a mister/sprayer in the kitchen and for grilling, now’s the time to try one:

  • On cooking and baking pans and grill grates, instead of misters or aerosol-propelled (chemical) sprays. You also use your own quality oils, and can vary them (canola, olive, peanut or herb-infused, for example).
  • To evenly spray vegetables before roasting.
  • To spray butter- or herb-flavored oil on grains, popcorn and vegetables.
  • On salads, to save calories and the waste of vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl.
  •  
    Available in two sizes, 8 ounces and 18 ounces, Evo is an option for people who aren’t happy with their current oil sprayers/misters. (We gave up on misters after trying to unclog two different brands.)

     
    The smaller size package consists of two bottles ($24.08). You can use one for oil and the other for vinegar; the bottles are different colors so you can easily tell which is which. We combined different oil and vinegar combinations into each bottle: one a balsamic vinaigrette, one a red wine vinaigrette.

    The large bottle ($19.99) comes with changeable silicone neck tags that identify five different kinds of oil plus balsamic vinegar (although you’d think that the color of the latter would be a dead giveaway). A funnel (provided) twists on to the bottle for easy filling.

    The Evo sprayers are made of high-quality plastic and are top-rack dishwasher safe; the sprayers are easily hand-washed in soapy water. Both components are BPA-, DEHP- and latex-free.

    The sleek ergonomic design is by Michael Graves Design Group, the architectural firm that has designed a variety of housewares including the iconic Alessi Michael Graves Kettle with Bird Whistle.

    Get your sprayers on Amazon.com, for yourself and for house gifts.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Shave Parmesan Onto Everything

    You shave Parmesan cheese onto pasta and risotto, meatballs and Caesar salad; maybe on other green salads, too; perhaps to garnish soups. But why stop there?

    Armed with two different grating gadgets*, the space for which we need to justify, we’ve been shaving Parmesan cheese onto just about everything. Just a bit goes a long way as a tangy, nutty garnish.

    We add shaved Parmesan cheese to these dishes (if cooked, after they come off the heat):

  • Beef, from slices to whole steaks and burgers. Try a roast beef sandwich with shaved Parmesan and arugula and of course, on a steak salad.
  • Carpaccio and crudo. (In Italian cuisine, carpaccio is raw beef fillet, crudo is raw seafood.)
  • Chicken and fish, grilled or baked. Not a surprise for those who like Chicken Parmigiano or Parmesan-breaded chicken or fish.
  • Eggs, any style.
  •    

    beef-salad-parmesan-blissfullydelicious-230

    Sliced steak and salad with shaved Parmesan. Photo courtesy Blissfully Delicious. Here’s the recipe.

  • Grains, from rice to quinoa. The best cheese grits are made with grated Parmesan and topped with some shavings.
  • Vegetables, particularly grilled vegetables and steamed asparagus. A favorite summer side is a grilled or broiled tomato, removed from the grill and covered with shaved Parmesan.
  •  
    As an aside to shaved Parmesan ideas, in Italy, chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano are often eaten for dessert with a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and perhaps some fresh strawberries. The same wedge you use for shaving can be broken into chunks for a cheese plate.

     

    shaved-parmesan-onceuponachef-230

    You can shave Parmesan with a vegetable peeler. Photo courtesy Once Upon A Chef.

     

    PARMESAN & PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO: THE DIFFERENCE

    “Parmesan cheese” can be produced anywhere on earth, however the manufacturer desires.

    Parmigiano-Reggiano dates to medieval Italy. It is PDO-protected and produced only by members of a consortium, the Consorzio del formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano. It can only be made from the milk of local cows in the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and certain parts of Bologna and Mantova.

    Producers must adhere to strict Consorzio guidelines, which ensure that the cheeses develop the profoundly complex flavors of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano. Wheels that don’t meet the standards are declassified and aren’t given the official Consorzio stamp.

    Note to connoisseurs: The best Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is considered to be Vacche Rosse (“Red Cow”), with milk from a specific herd of cows, that is 30 months. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it at iGourmet.com.

     

    For most people, generic Parmesan is just fine. For connoisseurs, tasting the real deal can be an eye-opener. It is intense and complex, with nutty, sweet, grassy, creamy and fruity flavors. That’s why it has long been called called the “King of Cheeses.”
     
    PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO TIPS

  • Buy it only in wedges. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano begins to lose its flavor after grating.
  • Keep the cheese in the fridge for up to a month. After then, it slowly starts to lose flavor but can still be used.
  • Rewrap with fresh plastic or parchment paper at least once a week.
  • Don’t toss the rinds. Use them to add flavor to soups or pasta sauces.
  •  
    Here’s more on Parmesan vs. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and still more about Parmigiano Reggiano itself.

     
    *You can use a vegetable peeler; no special gadget required.
      

    Comments

    TIP: Food In Flower Pots

    If you’re charmed by food served in tiny flowerpots, invest in a set and see how many different foods you can serve in them.

    BREAKFAST

  • Berries, grapes or other fruit
  • Biscuits/rolls (photo below plus this recipe and this one)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Yogurt container
  •  
    LUNCH & DINNER

  • Biscuits, bread sticks
  • Fries (photo)
  • Mixed olives, pepperoncini
  • “Relish tray”—carrot and celery sticks, gherkins, black or
    green olives, radishes
  • Sides
  •  
    SNACKS & DESSERTS

  • Candies, pretzels, snack mixes
  • Crudités and dip (photo above)
  • Cupcakes (photo and recipe)
  • Dirt pudding (photo and recipe)
  •    

    hummus-carrots-dandyfreshFB-230

    Hummus and baby carrots. Photo courtesy Dandy Fresh | Facebook..

     

    rolls-bbcggoodfood.com-230

    Who needs a bread basket? Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com.

     

    ALL YOU NEED

    1. Small terra cotta flowerpots like these. Your garden store may also have them in plastic “terra cotta.”

    2. A liner—napkin, parchment or wax paper to plug the hole.

    3. The food to put in it.
     
    HAVE A CONTEST

    Why not have a contest to see how many flowerpot food ideas your friends and family can generate? We’d be delighted to publish your winners.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Coconut Oil

    If you like coconut, have you cooked with coconut oil?

    We’re not talking about hydrogenated coconut oil, a trans fat long been used in American processed foods, which has been phased out of use over the past few years.

    We’re talking extra virgin coconut oil, which is 90% saturated fat but of a type that metabolizes in the body similar to an unsaturated fat. It thus does not increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.

  • Pressed from the fruit (the “flesh” or “meat”) of the coconut, coconut oil is very popular in India and throughout Southeast Asia. It adds a hint of coconut flavor and aroma to cooked dishes.
  • If you don’t want the coconut aroma and flavor, you can use refined coconut oil. But since we only use coconut oil for that hint of coconut, why bother when there other neutral oils in the pantry?
  •  
    At room temperature, coconut oil solidifies but turns liquid as soon as it hits the heat (or if your room is warmer than 76°F). Don’t put it in the fridge: It will turn rock-hard.

    You can find liquid coconut oil, which is fractionated coconut oil that has had the good-for-you lauric acid removed so it doesn’t solidify. It stays liquid, even in the fridge. Use it on your hair and skin if you want, but not for cooking.

       

    Coconut-oil-dr-bronner-230

    The same coconut oil that is used to cook is also used as a beauty product to make skin soft and hair shiny. Photo of virgin coconut oil—Fair Trade, organic and certified kosher—courtesy Dr. Bronner.

     

    DIFFERENT TYPES OF COCONUT OIL

    When you’re in the store, you may discover a confusing list of options, including extra virgin coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, expeller-pressed coconut oil, the aforementioned liquid coconut oil, and generic products simply called “coconut oil.”

    Go with the virgin or extra virgin. According to Health Impact News, they’re the same thing. There’s no industry standard for “extra virgin”; it’s simply better marketing that leverages consumers’ preference for extra virgin oil oil.

    Here’s a detailed explanation of the different types of coconut oil.

     

    Coconut-and-oil-w-coconut-PhuThinhCo-230

    Refined coconut oil is pale yellow in color; unrefined (virgin) coconut oil is white.
    Photo courtesy Phu Thinh Co.

     

    WAYS TO USE COCONUT OIL

    Manufacturers use coconut oil in candies, cookies, whipped toppings, nondairy creamers and other foods. At home, we use it to add a hint of coconut flavor in:

  • Baked goods
  • Sautéed veggies: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, root vegetables, potatoes
  • Stir fries
  • Sautéed chicken or fish (if you’re making a breading, use half bread crumbs and half flaked unsweetened coconut)
  • Stir fries
  • Marinades
  • Popcorn drizzle (add flaked coconut and toasted almonds!)
  • Bread spread (a vegan friend uses it to make delicious cinnamon toast)
  • Grains, as a butter alternative (we love what it adds to rice, regular and fried)/li>
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    The same coconut oil that is eaten is also used as a beauty product. You can use it to soften skin, shine hair or as a massage oil.
     
    BAKING WITH COCONUT OIL

    You can replace other oils or butter at a 1:1 ratio in baked goods. For shortening, replace 1 part with 3/4 part coconut oil.

    Solid coconut oil will mix like softened butter with other ingredients are at room temperature; but to be sure to please the gods of baking chemistry, we melt it first.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fun With Radishes

    Low in calories, high in crunch, often with a hot pepper spiciness, radishes (Raphanus sativus) can be a fun food. They’re nutritious*, too.

    If you’re old enough, you may remember the time when radish “roses” were almost as common a plate garnish a sprig of parsley. You sliced the rose in a certain way (or used a radish cutter), then dropped the radish into cold water, where the slices opened up into “petals.” As a child, we ate them petal by petal.

    There are numerous varieties of radish beyond the red globe “supermarket radish” (Burpee alone sells 30 varieties). They have different levels of heat-spiciness, mostly depending on growing conditions: soil, water, hot vs. cold weather, early vs. late harvest and other factors. Some people like them hot, others not so much. Unfortunately, you have to sample one to know what you’ve got.

     

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    Add radish matchsticks for crunch and spice. Photo courtesy Duda Farm Fresh Foods.

     
    The wild radish may have originated somewhere in southeast Asia, and developed by farmers in central Asia, China and India. Radishes enter the written record in the third century B.C.E. and appear in Greek and Roman texts in the 1st century C.E., which describe small, large, round, long, mild and sharp varieties.

    Burpee currently sells 30 varieties of differing shapes, sizes and colors. Our favorite is the watermelon radish: When sliced, it resembles a slice of watermelon. Runner up: Mardi Gras radishes, a mix of seeds that yield black, purple, white and yellow radishes. And we love Candy Stripe radishes—concentric circles of red and white—but can never find them.
     
    *Radishes are rich in folic acid, potassium and vitamin C.
     
    WAYS TO SERVE RADISHES

    Appetizer & Snack

  • Crostini or tea sandwiches. For crostini, toast slices of baguette and top with sweet butter or pesto, thinly-sliced radish, a bit of cress or other green, and a pinch of sea salt. For tea sandwiches, trim the crusts from un-toasted white or whole wheat bread.
  • Raw, with butter and sea salt. It’s a popular dish in France. If you can find longer-shape radishes, cut a slice lengthwise, drop into cold water to open a channel, and pipe in softened butter. Otherwise, slice round radishes in half horizontally, butter the bottom half and serve like poppers.
  • Pickled. Any type of radish can be quickly and easily pickled, for snacking, sandwiches, garnish, etc. Here’s the recipe.
  • With ricotta. Put together a plate of fresh radishes and a dish of mild ricotta drizzled with olive oil. We enjoy this as a weekend breakfast with crusty rustic bread.
  • Crudités and dip! In decades past, the predecessor of the crudité plate was the relish tray, with celery, radishes and olives.
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    radish-tic-tac-toe-230

    Three varieties available from Duda Fresh Farm Foods: whole with ends trimmed, crinkle-cut coins and matchsticks. Photo courtesy Duda.

     

    Lunch & Dinner

  • Julienned. Toss radish strips into salads, scrambled eggs, rice and grains and anything that needs some color and crunch. Duda Farm Fresh Foods sells radishes already trimmed, sliced into matchsticks and coins (see photo).
  • Boiled or steamed. Top with a cheese sauce, Eastern European-style.
  • Garnishes: Sandwiches (a must on Vietnamese bánh mì), burgers, tacos, soups, sides.
  • Salads: In addition to green salads, see the Radish Salad recipe below.
  • Roasted or braised: A great solution to deal with radishes that are too hot. The heat of the oven removes much of the heat from the radishes, making them sweet and buttery. If you don’t want to turn on the oven, braise on the stove top in butter until tender.
  • More: Kabobs, chilled radish soup and as many options as you can research or invent.
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    RECIPE: RADISH & CUCUMBER SALAD

    This recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen is a Ukranian influence.

    The sour cream dressing helps to neutralizes the pungency of the radishes. Easy to make, prep time is just 10 minutes. It goes very nicely with grilled meats and anyplace you’d serve cole slaw.

    Ingredients For 6 Side Servings

  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 bunches radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or whole grain mustard (more to taste)
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (substitute half garlic salt for a touch of garlic flavor)
  • Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped dill (more to taste)
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cucumbers, radishes, bell pepper and green onion in a medium salad bowl

    2. COMBINE the sour cream, dill and salt in a small bowl.

    3. STIR the sour cream dressing into the salad just before serving.
     
    WHAT ABOUT THE RADISH TOPS?

    If the radish leaves are fresh and sprightly, consider leaving them on. They’re edible and pretty.

    In fact, the leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant. They have a very mild flavor, like lettuce.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fried Cheese For The Cheese Course

    Sophisticated diners in the U.S.—and many people in Europe—have long finished dinner with a cheese course and small salad, instead of a sweet dessert.

    How about a twist: fried cheese with salad on top—or underneath?

    There are many fried cheese recipes; today’s is a Sicilian specialty. Caciocavallo, which means “cheese on horseback,” is a cheese that dates back to Roman times. Two large, pear-shaped cheeses are tied with rope and slung over a wooden board to drain and age.

    Believed to have been so shaped to make it easy to transport by slinging over pack animals, the cheese duo evokes the image of saddlebags, hence the name (here’s a photo).

    Caciocavallo is hard to find in conventional U.S. markets, although you can find it at Italian specialty stores and online from cheesemongers like Murray’s Cheese.

       

    fried-caciacavallo-esquaredhospitality2

    Fried caciacavallo cheese topped with salad. Photo courtesy E-squaredhospitality.

     
    Or, substitute halloumi, kasseri, provolone, scamorza, smoked mozzarella or queso de freier (Mexican frying cheese). You’ve got plenty of options!

    RECIPE: FRIED CHEESE COURSE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3/4 pound of Caciocavallo, cut into 4 slices
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • Italian bread, sliced
  • Salad of choice (we like arugula, basil, cress, endive, chives or sliced green onions and sometimes, fennel; but you can use absolutely anything, very lightly tossed with vinaigrette to slightly moisten)
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    fried-cheese-eatwisconsincheese-230

    Fried caciacavallo served atop the salad. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and slices of cheese and lower the heat.

    2. COOK covered for 1 minute; then turn the cheese over and cook covered for an additional minute, or until the cheese is golden in color.

    3. REMOVE the skillet from the heat, add the oregano and pepper and transfer the fried cheese to the serving plates.

    4. ADD the vinegar and sugar to the hot oil in the pan and cook for about 1–2 minutes until some of the liquid evaporates. This creates a sweet and sour sauce.

    5. DECIDE if you want your salad on top or underneath the cheese. Add the salad accordingly.

    6. TOP the cheese with the sauce if the cheese is on top of the salad; or use it to dot the plate if the salad is on top. Use the garlic as garnish and serve immediately with slices of fresh Italian bread.

     

    ABOUT CACIOCAVALLO CHEESE

    Caciocavallo, a popular cheese in southern Italy and Sicily, is typically made from unpasteurized cow’s or sheep’s milk. Two pear-shaped cheeses, about 4 pounds each, are joined at the neck by a rope to age.

    Like burrata, mozzarella, provolone and scamorza, caciocavallo is a pasta filata, a cheese made by stretching and forming the curd by hand.

    It is then aged for two to three months, and optimally for one year. Because the pairs of tied cheeses hang from rods in the air to age, instead of sitting on shelves like other cheeses, more microbes can enter the cheese, where they help to develop sharp, spicy flavors, deep, earthy undertones and fruity aromas.

    The result is a layered, complex cheese that is typically sliced and served with fresh fruit, plus a glass of hearty red wine. The yellow rind is edible.

    There are different types of caciocavallo:

  • Caciocavallo Silano, a PDO* cheese made in the southern Italian regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise and Puglia.
  • Caciocavallo Ragusa, a PDO* cheese made in Ragusa, Sicily.
  • Caciocavallo affumicato, smoked caciocavallo.
  • Caciocavallo piccante, spicy caciocavallo.
  • Caciocavallo primaverile, made from milk gathered in the spring, which has subtle flavors of the aromatic herbs in spring pastures.
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    MORE FRIED CHEESE RECIPES

  • Cashew-encrusted fried cheese recipe.
  • Fried cheese curds recipe.
  • Grilled halloumi cheese recipe.
  •  
    *PDO, Protected Designation of Origin, is a designation of authenticity from the European Union. In the case of Caciocavallo Silano or Ragusa, it guarantees that the milk used comes only from local herds.

      

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