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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    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,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches

Is there anything more wonderful than a favorite comfort food in the hands of a great chef?

We worshipped Parisian pâtissier Pierre Hermé, a fourth generation pastry chef from Alsace, even before we saw these ice cream sandwiches. As his Star Chefs bio says, “Pierre Hermé didn’t just carry on the family tradition; he rocketed it into the stratosphere.”

Hermé began his career at age 14 as an apprentice to Gaston Lenôtre, was a full-fledged pastry chef by 20 at Fauchon, and established Pierre Hermé Paris since 1996.

Unable to get to Paris, we set to work recreating the ice cream sandwiches.

Hermé, the master of macarons, makes rectangular meringue cookies to sandwich his ice cream sandwiches. By all means, try it if you’re up to the challenge. Unschooled in the technique, we couldn’t get ours out of the pan and evenly sliced without a lot of breakage; but the pieces tasted fine.

Otherwise, you can use any base, from cookies to cake slices. We really liked pound cake, pre-toasted and cooled before the ice cream was added.

   

ice-cream-sandwiches-beauty-pierrehermeFB-230

The prettiest ice cream sandwiches, on meringues. Photo courtesy Pierre Hermé.

 

PIERRE HERMÉ ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

Ingredients

  • 2 complementary flavors of ice cream and/or sorbet
  • Optional inclusions: berries, chips, nuts, etc.
  • Sandwich base of choice (cookies, cake)
  •  
    While all combinations we tried were delicious, we especially loved vanilla ice cream with raspberry sorbet or passionfruit sorbet.

     

    swirled-beauty-pierrehermeFB-230

    He also makes dual flavor soft serve. Photo
    courtesy Pierre Hermé.

     

    Preparation

    1. LINE a loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing a border of wrap to hang over the sides so you can pull out the frozen loaf of ice cream.

    2. LAYER the two flavors of ice cream/sorbet, one on top of the other. Sprinkle any inclusions over the first layer.

    3. LET the ice cream soften until you can take a firm spatula or the handle of a wooden spoon and swirl it through the layers. This will create the marbled design. Freeze until hard.

    4. ASSEMBLE by removing the loaf of ice cream, slicing it and adding the sandwich component.
     
    If you want to drool over desserts that are an ocean away, head to PierreHerme.com.

    And if you’re inspired to fly to Paris to enjoy them firsthand, remember: There’s always a line at the shop at 72 rue Bonaparte, in the Saint Germain des Prés district.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Shortcake

    peach-shortcake-kraft-230

    Easy peach shortcake: Slice fruit, top a
    biscuit half, add whipped cream. Photo
    courtesy Kraft.

     

    Sweet summer berries and stone fruits beg to be turned into shortcake. It requires only three ingredients: the fruit of choice, whipped cream and the biscuit or other base.

    In the good old days in the U.S., strawberry shortcake parties were held as celebrations of the summer fruit harvest. This tradition is still observed in some parts of the country on June 14th, which is Strawberry Shortcake Day.

    The original shortcake concept, from the U.K., uses a slightly sweetened baking soda or baking powder biscuit or scone. Split in half, the base is piled with fruit and whipped cream, then topped with the other half, often with more fruit and whipped cream on top.

    And just to confirm: Shortcake isn’t cake. It’s a dry biscuit in the American sense: a crumbly bread that has been leavened with baking powder or baking soda.

    As the concept evolved, the biscuit was replace by everything from sponge cakes to corn muffins. Modern cookies are also switching out the whipped cream.

     
    If you don’t have to bake the biscuits, this is a pretty easy recipe to assemble. There’s a shortcake biscuit recipe below, but other choices include:
     
    For The Biscuit

  • Angel food cake
  • Brioche, lightly toasted (orange brioche is even better)
  • Buttermilk refrigerator biscuits (sprinkle with sugar before baking)
  • Muffin or un-iced cupcake
  • Pound cake
  • Sponge cake (some stores carry individual sponge cakes, four-inch circles with a well for the fruit)
  • Sweet rolls, lightly toasted with a sprinkle of sugar (look for King’s Hawaiian)
  • Yellow cake
  •  

    For The Whipped Cream

  • Crème fraîche (buy it or make it with this recipe)
  • Flavored whipped cream—lavender or spice, for example (recipes)
  • Ice cream/frozen yogurt
  • Mascarpone (you can make your own with this recipe)
  •  
    We intentionally omitted Cool Whip imitation whipped cream. Many people love it, but we can’t get past the ingredients, which include hydrogenated vegetable oil and high fructose corn syrup.

     

    SHORTCAKE BISCUITS

    Shortcake biscuits add a bit of sugar to a conventional biscuit recipe.

    Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Grease a cookie sheet.

    2. SIFT the dry ingredients together. Beat 2 eggs with milk and set aside.

    3. MIX 3/4 cup shortening with the dry ingredients. Add the milk and eggs and knead on a board for a few minutes.

     

    Mango-Shortcake-mangoboard-230

    Think outside the biscuit: Make mango shortcake. Here, mango ice cream replaces the traditional whipped cream. Photo courtesy The Mango Board.

     

    4. ROLL the dough out 3/4 inch thick. Cut with a round cookie cutter and bake 10 to 15 minutes on greased cookie sheet. Cool on a rack.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Cut biscuits in half. Spoon some of the fruit and any juice onto each shortcake bottom. Top with whipped cream and add the shortcake top (you can serve the shortcake open face if you prefer). Spoon more fruit over the top and serve.
     
    SHORTCAKE HISTORY

    Though today’s shortcakes are usually of the biscuit or sponge cake variety, earlier American recipes called for pie crust in rounds or broken-up pieces—a recipe that can still be found in the South.

    The first strawberry shortcake recipe appeared in an English cookbook in 1588. By 1850, strawberry shortcake was being dessert served hot, with butter and sweetened cream. Around 1910, French pastry chefs replaced that topping with heavy whipped cream. [Source: Wikipedia]
     
    MORE SHORTCAKE RECIPES

  • Cupcake Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
  • Red, White & Blue Shortcake Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Carrot Cake Ice Cream

    carrot-cake-weheartfood-colorfulharvestFB-230

    A new way to enjoy carrot cake! Photo ©
    WeHeartFood.com.

     

    In 10 years of writing THE NIBBLE, we’ve covered a lot of ice cream, especially during July—National Ice Cream Month. But here’s a first for us: carrot cake ice cream.

    It’s part of today’s tip: Envision a fantasy ice cream flavor and make it.

    This week, The New York Times acknowledged National Ice Cream Month by publishing a master recipe to help you make any flavor you like.

    We had already found this recipe from the blog WeHeartFood, where Chris and Lisa took one of their (and our) favorite cakes, carrot cake, and turned it into ice cream.

    The recipe incorporates the ingredients of carrot cake—spiced nuts, whiskey-soaked currants and carrots (they’re candied). The recipe takes time, but at the end of it we’ve included our own quick version of carrot cake ice cream.

     
    CARROT CAKE ICE CREAM

    Ingredients For 1 Quart

    For The Spiced Pecans

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Bourbon-Soaked Currants

  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 tablespoon Maker’s Mark or other bourbon
  •  
    For The Candied Carrots

  • 2 cups finely diced carrots
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups water
  •  

    For The Ice Cream Base

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat sour cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped lemon zest
  • Spiced pecans
  • Bourbon-soaked currants
  • Candied carrots
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the spiced pecans. Heat the oven to 350°F. Toss the pecans with the butter. In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and salt. Pour the mixture over the pecans and toss to coat completely. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and cook for 12 minutes, gently stirring halfway during baking to candy the nuts. Remove the tray to a rack and cool the nuts completely. Once cool, coarsely chop the pecans. Set aside.

     

    carrots-stems-grimmway.com

    Turn us into ice cream! Photo courtesy Grimway.com.

     
    2. MAKE the spiced currants. In a small saucepan, heat the currants and bourbon until boiling. Simmer until the currants have absorbed almost all of the liquid. Remove from heat and cover the pan. Set aside to cool completely.

    3. MAKE the candied carrots. In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots, sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring to a low boil and cook until the syrup is reduced to about 2 tablespoons and the carrots are translucent and candied, 20 to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the carrots during the last few minutes so they do not burn. Drain the carrots and set aside to cool.

    4. MAKE the ice cream base. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, blend together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and lemon zest until smooth. Chill thoroughly.

    5. FREEZE the base in an ice cream maker. After churning, gently fold in the spiced pecans, soaked currants and candied carrot cubes. Freeze until firm.
     
    EASY CARROT CAKE ICE CREAM

    You can use this recipe with any leftover cake, including any icing. This recipe adds inclusions (“mix-ins”) appropriate to carrot cake. If you’re making a different flavor of cake ice cream, consider what to pair—chocolate chips with chocolate cake, for example.

    Ingredients

  • Container of vanilla ice cream, softened
  • Cubed carrot cake
  • Optional inclusions: nuts and currants or raisins
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT cake into half inch cubes. Blend into softened ice cream with optional inclusions.

    2. RETURN to freezer and let firm until ready to serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lighter Beer For Summer

    While some beer drinkers quaff their chosen brew month in and month out, others follow the seasons, choosing summer beers when the weather gets hot.

    By varying recipes with different malts, hops and yeasts, craft brewers produce summer beers, The goal is to deliver flavor while keeping the body lighter and more refreshing on a hot day.

    Substituting wheat for some or all of the barley delivers a lighter body with crisp tartness. Different hops add summery notes, from the aromatic orange rind nose of Pacifica hops to the lemony, spicy flavor of the German Noble hop. Yeasts also play their part: Bavarian yeast, for example, add tropical fruit and a hint of clove.

    Brewers can add extra flavors like fresh citrus zest, coriander or thyme, or a touch of caramel malt for sweeter notes.

    For your drinking pleasure, we’ve pulled together a list of the classic summer beers. All are made by American craft brewers and available as imports. Consider having a tasting of the different styles, and pick your favorites to enjoy them through the rest of the summer. As the weeks fly by, they’ll be replaced on store shelves soon enough with Oktoberfest beer and pumpkin ale.

    Fruit Beer. These include the classic Belgian lambics (look for cherry kriek and framboise/frambozen) and newer American styles. U.S. craft brewers add fresh puréed berries or other summer fruits into the secondary fermentation.

     

    summer-ale-bottle-glassliteratureandlibation-230

    With its hazy golden color and bright character, Samuel Adams Summer Ale has crisp citrus notes from the Noble hops, wheat and lemon peel and the subtle peppery spice of grains of paradise. Photo courtesy LiteratureAndLibation.com.

     

    Hefeweizen (also called Hefeweisse, Hefeweissbier and Weissbier). This light bodied wheat beer from Bavaria can still offer great complexity; the body is crisp and effervescent. Hefeweizen is German for “yeast wheat” (Hefe = yeast, weizen = wheat); the traditional Bavarian Hefeweizen/Weissbier yeast strain creates flavors of banana and spicy clove. Hefeweizen is not filtered before bottling; thus, the yeast continue to act (this is known as bottle conditioning) and there may be sediment in the bottle (ignore it).

    Kölsch. This pale golden ale, developed in Cologne (Köln), Germany, uses a strain of yeast that gives it a very distinct flavor profile. Light straw in color with layers of delicate fruit, Kölsch has a very balanced crispness with a slight sweetness.

     

    summer-ale-2-230

    Brooklyn Summer Ale is brewed with English
    barley malt, which gives this light bodied
    golden beer a fresh bready flavor. German
    and American hops lend a light, crisp
    bitterness and a citrus/floral aroma. Photo
    courtesy Brooklyn Brewery.

     

    Summer Lager. Also called Helles-style; “Helles” is the German word for “light.” Don’t expect anything like a mass-produced American “Lite” beer: These beers are maltier and hoppier summer lagers that are bright with fresh grain character. Brewers often choose hops hops that provide notes of citrus and spice.

    Saison. Saison, the French word for season, is a French farmhouse ale. Historically, it was a refreshing summer ale made by farmers for their own consumption. Modern commercial versions are generally around 7% ABV, highly carbonated, fruity and spicy—sometimes from hops, sometimes from the addition of spices.

    Summer Ale. Also called English summer ale, this is a lighter version of a classic pale ale. It retains the wonderful flavors and aromas of ale’s malt and hops, while using a significant portion of wheat for a lighter body and crisp finish.

    Unfiltered Wheat Ale/Beer. See Hefeweizen, above. These beers are left unfiltered to retain all of the flavors derived from the malt and yeast. Don’t be put off by the cloudiness; enjoy the depth of flavor profile.

     

    Wheat Ale. Wheat enhances the mouthfeel of the beer. Some brewers add orange peel, coriander or other flavors for refreshing notes

    Witbier. A Belgian specialty, typically brewed with orange peel and coriander for summer refreshment.

    Check out the history of beer and the different styles of beer.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Banana Split

    Yesterday for National Ice Cream Month we featured the “new” ice cream sandwich, a sandwich/sundae fusion.

    Today, it’s the “new” banana split in the photo: freed from its roots.

    The traditional banana split is a type of ice cream sundae made in a long dish called a boat (hence the alternate term, banana boat).

    The banana is cut in half lengthwise (the “split”) and placed on the bottom of the boat. The banana is topped with three scoops of ice cream—vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream—placed in a row between the split banana halves. Chocolate, pineapple and strawberry sauces are spooned over the ice cream, in no particular pairing. The sundae is garnished with whipped cream, crushed nuts and a maraschino cherry.

    Check out the history of the banana split, below.

    Then, plan a banana split party, where guests create their modern interpretations. It could become your signature annual event!

     

    banana-split-nouvelle-sushisamba-ps-230

    The new banana split: exciting. Photo courtesy SushiSamba.

     

    BANANA SPLIT HISTORY

    The soda fountains of yore were the equivalent of today’s Starbuck’s, where people met for refreshments and socializing. Soda jerks were the mixologists of their day*, inventing treats to excite customers. Malted milks, banana splits and phosphates emerged at the soda fountains of neighborhood drugstore in the 1890s.

    In those days, “jerk” was not a derogatory term; it referred to the quick, sharp pull as the attendant drew the carbonated water tap forward.

    David Evans Strickler, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania†, enjoyed taking on the soda jerk role and inventing sundaes at the store’s soda fountain. He invented the banana-based triple scoop ice cream sundae in 1904.

    The sundae originally cost 10 cents, twice the price of other sundaes, and caught on with students of nearby Saint Vincent College. In those pre-digital days, news of the nifty new sundae quickly spread by word-of-mouth and written correspondence.

    It must have done well for Strickler: He went on to buy the pharmacy, renaming it Strickler’s Pharmacy.

     

    banana-split-calmilkadvisorybd-230

    Traditional banana split: meh. Photo courtesy California Milk Advisory Board.

       

    The city of Latrobe celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the banana split in 2004. In the same year, the National Ice Cream Retailers Association certified Latrobe as the birthplace of the banana split. It hosts an annual Great American Banana Split Festival in late August (sorry, there’s no website), and the city has the original soda fountain where the banana split was created.

    Others tried their hand at the recipe. One, published in 1907, called for a lengthwise split banana, two cones of ice cream at each end of the dish and a mound of whipped cream in between with maraschino cherry on a top. One end was covered with chopped mixed nuts and the other with chopped mixed fruits. [Source: Wikipedia]

    Here’s the history of the ice cream sundae, and the long history of ice cream in general.

     
    *Their day was the late 1800s through the early 1900s.

    †Latrobe is approximately 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The city population was 8,338 as of the 2010 census.
     
    PARTY TIME: BANANA SPLIT BAR

    How about throwing a banana split party, where guests can invent their on banana splits? Here’s what you need to put together:

  • Ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet
  • Sauces: caramel sauce/salted caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, pineapple sauce (or crushed pineapple is a good stand-in), strawberry sauce
  • Bananas, split and/or sliced
  • Chopped nuts (traditional walnuts plus pecans, pistachios and/or slivered almonds)
  • Whipped cream
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Bowls, spoons, scoopers, etc.
  •  
    Ingredients for the “new” banana split:

  • Bananas: caramelized, foster (sautéed in butter and bourbon), fried
  • Cake cubes (the easiest to slice are loaf cakes:carrot cake, chocolate cake, pound cake)
  • Candies: caramel corn/kettle corn, chocolate chips or curls, other baking chip flavors, gummies, mini marshmallows, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces sprinkles, seasonal candies (like candy corn), toffee bits
  • Crumbled cookies: chocolate waters, meringues, oatmeal cookies, Oreos)
  • Fruits: berries; mango, melon and/or pineapple chunks
  • Wild card: brandied cherries and tart cherries, candied bacon, edible flowers, granola, marshmallow cream
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fancy Ice Cream Sandwiches For National Ice Cream Month

    strawberry-ice-cream-sand-garnished-sugarfactory-230

    The Strawberry Rainbow: sugar cookies with strawberry ice cream, sauce and lots of rainbow sprinkles. Photo courtesy Sugar Factory.

     

    Sugar Factory, which has locations nationwide, shows us how to make memorable ice cream sandwiches to celebrate National Ice Cream Month. The tip: garnish, garnish, garnish!

    In fact, as you can see in the photos, Sugar Factory’s ice cream sandwiches are part sundae! Start with ice cream and cookies, but add on:

  • Candy: crushed candy canes, flavored baking chips (butterscotch, mint, peanut butter, vanilla), mini M&Ms, mini Reese’s Pieces, toffee chips and anything you find at the candy store
  • Chocolate: chips/mini chips, shavings
  • Fancy garnishes: dragées (silver, gold, pastel mix), edible glitter
  • Fruit: berries, cherries, coconut, grapes, mixed fruit salad
  • Cookie garnishes: crushed cookies or cookie crumbs, fan cookies (gaufrettes), mini meringues, rolled wafer cookies (like Pirouettes)
  • Nuts: chopped or whole, toasted or caramelized, mini chocolate chips, mini M&Ms, mini Reese’s Pieces, sprinkles
  • Sauce: caramel, chocolate, maple syrup, strawberry, etc.
  • Sprinkles
  • Whipped cream, marshmallow cream
  •  

     

    COMBINATIONS FROM SUGAR FACTORY

  • Bananas Foster: white chocolate macadamia nut cookies with bananas foster ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and white chocolate shavings.
  • The Classic: chocolate chip cookies with vanilla or chocolate ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and chocolate chips.
  • Minty Goodness: double chocolate chip cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
  • Mudslide: double chocolate chip cookies with coffee fudge ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and Oreo crumbles.
  • Peanut Butter Cup: peanut butter cookies with chocolate ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and Reese’s pieces.
  • Strawberry Rainbow: sugar cookies with strawberry ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles.
  •  
    How about a make-your-own party bar?

     

    classic-ice-cream-sandwich-garnished-sugarfactory-230

    Chocolate garnishes galore, plus silver dragées on top. Photo courtesy Sugar Factory.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Red, White & Blue Soft Drinks & Cocktails

    red-white-blue-berries-herradura-230

    Drink red, white and blue for July 4th. Photo
    courtesy Herradura Tequila.

     

    You can turn any clear drink into a July 4th cocktail or mocktail, as Herradura Tequila has done with its “Red, White & Blueberries” Cocktail.

    Just start with a clear spirit or mixer, layer on other flavors (clear liqueurs, coconut water, etc.)

  • Club Soda
  • Mineral Water
  • Seven-Up/Lemon Lime Soda
  • Tonic Water
  • Gin, Tequila or Vodka
  •  
    RECIPE: TEQUILA RED, WHITE & BLUE

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1½ ounces silver/blanco tequila
  • 2½ ounces coconut water
  • ¼ ounce agave nectar
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Optional: crushed ice
  •  
    For Garnish

  • Blueberries and raspberries
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PLACE berries and crushed ice in the glass.

    2. COMBINE drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into the glass.
     

    Find more cocktail recipes at Herradura.com.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Finger Limes

    An import from the Australian outback, finger limes have quietly entered the realm of American produce.

    At the international Citrus Exhibition in 2004, California avocado grower Jim Shanley discovered this unusual Australian fruit. Envisioning endless opportunities with restaurateurs and home cooks, he planted the first trees in the U.S. in 2006. Five years later he harvested Shanley Farms’ first crop, giving them a proprietary name, Citriburst Finger Limes.

    Finger limes, discovered growing wild in Australia, are a micro-citrus, growing on thorny shrubs. The fruit is cylindrical, 1.5 to 3 inches long and variously colored, including rosy-pink and green. Similarly, the pulp color varies, as you can see in the photo at right.

    The pulp is described as citrus pearls or citrus caviar. The tiny beads can be squeezed out of the finger lime and used in any place that would employ lemon or lime juice or zest, from seafood to desserts. An advantage: The pearls are a charming and decorative garnish.

       

    Finger-Limes-shanleyfarms-230

    Finger limes, filled with juicy “pearls.” Photo courtesy Shanley Farms.

     

    And they’re fun. The juice bursts from the citrus pearls when you bite into them, the flavor a bright and refreshing combination of lemon, lime and grapefruit.

    In California, the season is typically from late June/early July through January. But thanks to the very dry and mild winter this year, the trees have been fruiting since early May. Get yours now!

     

    Oysters_w_Finger_Limes-shanleyfarms-230

    Add a burst of fresh citrus to anything. Here,
    oysters get a snazzy finger lime garnish.
    Photo courtesy Shanley Farms.

     

    RECIPE: OYSTERS WITH FINGER LIME MIGNONETTE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 12 finger limes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 oysters, such as Malpeque, Kumamoto, or Belon
  • Crushed ice or rock salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE rice vinegar,shallot, finger lime pearls and pepper in a small bowl. Cover and chill for an hour.

    2. SCRUB the oysters under cold water with a stiff brush to remove the dirt. Next, fold a durable thick cloth several times to create a square; this will steady the oysters as you shuck them. Using the towel as a mitt, place the oyster, cup-side down in the palm of your towel-covered hand with the hinge facing you; have a small bowl handy to catch the delicious juice.

    3. INSERT the tip of an oyster knife or dull butter knife as far into the hinge as it will go. With gentle force, twist the knife back and forth to pry the shell open. Using the knife, cut the muscle away from the top shell, bend the shell back, and discard it. Run the knife underneath the oyster to detach it completely, but leave it in its shell. Tip out the briny liquor into the bowl and pour it back over the shucked oysters.

     

    4. NESTLE the oysters in a bed of crushed ice or rock salt to keep them steady. Spoon the finger lime mignonette on top and serve.

    Find more finger lime recipes at ShanleyFarms.com.

    TYPE OF LIMES

    How many different lime varieties have you tried? Check out the different types of limes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Orange Blossom Water

    orange-blosssom-water-cortas-amz-230

    Orange blossom water is a by-product of
    distilling orange blossoms for oil. Look for
    the Cortas brand. Photo courtesy Cortas.

     

    June 27th is National Orange Blossom Day. The small, white, delicate blossoms, once a favorite flower in bridal bouquets, are used to make orange blossom water (also called orange flower water), a clear, aromatic by-product of the distillation of fresh bitter orange blossoms.

    While the distillate, orange blossom oil*, is used in perfumery, the orange blossom water, delicately scented like the flowers and not the fruit, is used as a calming personal and household fragrance. It is added to skin toners, bath water and spritzed from an aromatizer onto fabric and into the air (our grandmother sprayed it on sheets when ironing).

    And it’s used in foods and beverages, today’s focus. You can add orange blossom water to:

  • Baked goods and desserts: cakes and cookies, candies and confections, custards and puddings, scones…and also in crêpe or pancake batter. It pairs well with almond, citrus, cream and vanilla and cream, lemon and other citrus flavors vanilla.
  • Cocktails and beverages: in mineral water, the Ramos Gin Fizz, café blanc (recipe below) and orange blossom mint lemonade.
  • Middle Eastern, North African and Indian recipes (add some to couscous!).
  •  
    You can buy a bottle in some specialty food stores, Greek and Middle Eastern markets and online. The Cortas brand, from Lebanon, is a favorite among those who use a lot of orange blossom water.

     

    *Used to make perfume, the oil is called neroli oil. In 1680, Anne Marie Orsini, the Italian duchess of Bracciano and princess of Nerola, introduced to orange blossom perfume. She so loved the spicy aroma with sweet and flowery notes that she used the fragrance to perfume everything—her bath, her clothes, her household furnishings. The fragrance became named for her (but we found no explanation of why it’s called neroli, not nerola). The fragrance was also a favorite in the court of Elizabeth I of England.

     

    RECIPE: CAFÉ BLANC, LEBANESE HOT ORANGE BLOSSOM DRINK

    Café blanc, “white coffee” is a refreshing infusion made from boiling water, orange flower water and optional honey sweetener. Thanks to Victoria of BoisDeJasmin.com for her recipes with orange blossom water. There are links to others below, but we’ll start with this easy beverage recipe.

    “Café blanc is a bit of a misnomer because this Lebanese drink contains no coffee at all,” says Victoria. “It’s just hot water flavored with orange blossom, and it’s like sipping air perfumed with flowers. Mixed with water, orange blossom tastes not just floral, but also green, citrusy, spicy and warm. The first sip reveals a zesty freshness, but what lingers is the taste of honeyed petals.”

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon honey
  •  
    Preparation

     

    cafe-blanc-orange-blossom-drink-boisdejamin-230

    Hot orange blossom water: so simple to make, so refreshing. Photo courtesy Bois de Jasmin.

     
    1. ADD the orange blossom water to the boiling water, stir and taste. If you’d prefer the drink sweet, stir in the honey.

    2. FOR a cold drink, do the same with mineral water or lemonade.
     

    MORE WAYS TO USE ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER

    Fruit Desserts. Orange blossom pairs especially well with strawberries and apricots—cakes and tarts, compotes and jams, drinks. Sprinkle apricots with sugar and lemon juice and bake them in a 400°F/200°C oven until the sugar caramelizes and apricots soften. Drizzle with orange blossom water and serve hot or cold. Make a refreshing drink of apricot juice mixed with orange blossom water and sparkling water.

    Ice Cream. Soften a container of vanilla ice cream slightly, and add 4 teaspoons of orange blossom water per pint (or to taste). Mix well, chill and serve. If you make your own ice cream, add orange blossom water to the custard before freezing it.

    Puddings and Ice Cream. Anything creamy—custard, mousse, panna cotta, rice pudding–can be enhanced with orange blossom water gratefully. Victoria uses it to give an adult twist to rice pudding: Rice Pudding with Vanilla and Orange Blossom.

    White Chocolate. Mix orange blossom water into white chocolate-based sauces and desserts, or into cream to make a delicious tart filling. Whip heavy cream with sugar, add a few drops of orange blossom water, fill tart shells and top with fresh berries.

    Read the full article and the discussion threads for much more that you can do with orange blossom water.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pudding, A Cool Dessert

    It’s getting hot and humid in our neck of the woods, and frozen desserts are a welcome way to cool down.

    But what about the pudding family? A chilled dish of pudding is a cool summer dessert.

    This group of comfort foods includes banana, butterscotch, chocolate, coffee, salted caramel, vanilla…just name your favorite flavor and you can find a recipe for it.

    You can use instant pudding or make it from scratch, which, in our opinion, tastes even better. Here’s a from-scratch pudding recipe, which can be used to make any pudding flavor.

    Try this recipe for banana pudding from QVC’s David Venable. It starts with a base of instant vanilla pudding. We tried it both ways; and yes, we preferred our homemade vanilla pudding version.

    The difference in labor between from-scratch and instant is not great: Instant pudding mixes simply save you the time of measuring the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and salt. Some added stirring is required, but it’s no big deal.

    Says David, “This dessert is impossible to mess up. While it always turns out beautiful, it’s really just dumping a bunch of yummy ingredients into a bowl. Make it extra special by serving it in a footed glass bowl.”

    You can prepare the pudding up to two days ahead of time.

       

    banana-pudding-davidvenableQVC-230

    Banana pudding with vanilla wafers and a twist: chopped nuts. Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    NANA’S “NANNER” PUDDING

    We substituted pistachios for the walnuts in Nana’s recipe. If you don’t want nuts, try mini chocolate chips or a salted caramel layer.

    We also made fresh whipped cream instead of using commercial whipped topping. Sorry, David: Our Nana would never approve of the shortcuts taken by your Nana.

    Ingredients

  • 3 packages (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding
  • 4-3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) sour cream
  • Fresh whipped cream or 1 container (8 ounces) whipped topping, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, divided (or other nut of choice)
  • 1 box (12 ounces) vanilla wafer cookies
  • 9 or 10 bananas, sliced
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Optional: salted caramel
  •  

    assorted-puddings-east&westYotelNYC-230

    On the menu at East & West at the Yotel
    New York: A posse of puddings.

     

    Preparation

    1. MIX the pudding and milk according to the package directions and then add the vanilla.

    2. FOLD in the sour cream, 4 ounces of whipped topping, and 1/4 cup of chopped nuts. Refrigerate until the pudding is set or is needed (you can prepare the recipe in advance up to this point).

    3. COMBINE the lemon juice with the banana slices in a medium-size bowl; set aside.

    4. ALTERNATE layers of wafers, bananas, pudding, and optional salted caramel, in large bowl or casserole dish, ending with the pudding.

    5. DOLLOP the remaining whipped topping, followed by 6 or 7 crushed wafers and the remaining chopped walnuts. Refrigerate until set. If using fresh whipped cream, wait until serving to add the whipped cream, wafers and nuts.
     
    Find more of David Venable’s recipes at QVC.com.

     

    PUDDING HISTORY

    “Pudding” means different things in different cultures, and at different points in history. The creamy, rich dessert that Americans call pudding is more closely related to custard, which is made with eggs and dates to the Middle Ages. Today in the U.K., pudding typically refers to dessert but can be a savory recipe, such as Yorkshire pudding.

    The first puddings enjoyed by Greeks and Romans were similar to sausages, and for most of history, puddings were this type of boiled, meat-based dish. It was often stretched with other ingredients: The “pease porridge” in the old English nursery rhyme was a simple boiled pudding of pease meal, a roasted flour made from yellow field peas.

    The word “pudding” is believed to derive from the French boudin, meaning a small sausage. In these Medieval European puddings, encased meats similar to sausages were steamed or boiled to set the contents. Blood sausage and haggis are examples that are still “on the menu” in the U.K. These recipes helped to stretch a small amount of meat to feed a family.

    By the latter half of the 18th century, traditional English puddings no longer included meat; they were still boiled, but the finished product was cake-like (like plum pudding). Our creamy, modern puddings descend from this tradition of steaming sweet ingredients.

    According to Wikipedia, “The distinction between European custard and American pudding became muddled sometime in the 1840s.” Food was plentiful, so traditional boiled puddings were no longer necessary to feed a family.

    At the same time Alfred Bird, an English chemist, invented custard powder as an alternative to egg thickeners. Soon after, Americans began using the imported custard powder and other cornstarch derivatives as thickeners for custard-type desserts. Puddings no longer required the addition of fresh eggs to thicken, and this is where modern, eggless American puddings diverged from traditional egg custards.

    Instant pudding first appears in the U.S. in 1949. By 1952, Royal Pudding & Pie Fillings, still manufactured by Clabber Girl, advertised: “New homogenized Royal Instant Pudding makes your favorite desserts turn out better than ever before. New Royal Instant Pudding is completely different!”

    Our Nana still made pudding from scratch; but the rest is pudding history.

      

    Comments

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