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TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Bruschetta Bar

Bruschetta

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

DIY Bruschetta Bar

Top: Grab a slice and pick your toppings. We love this selection from WhatsGabyCooking.com. Center: The classic bruschetta topping: tomatoes, olive oil and basil. The tomatoes can be halved cherry or grape tomatoes or diced beefsteak or roma tomatoes (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.com). Bottom: As a bonus for guests, grill the bread as you need it, so it will be warm. Photo courtesy Brit.co (see their other fun DIY bars).

 

Oh, how we love bruschetta and crostini. Take slices of good crusty bread and grill (bruschetta) or toast (crostini—see the differences below) and add your favorite toppings. Crunchy and savory, it’s our idea of what to have with beer, wine or a Martini.

It’s easy to toast bruschetta on the grill, and to take it one step further by setting up a DIY bruschetta bar for guests. If you’re grilling for Father’s Day, it’s a memorable way to start the event, with any beverage from iced tea and soft drinks to alcohol.

By the way, that’s broo-SKETT-uh, not broo-SHETT-uh). The word is not only mispronounced in the U.S., but also misued. Bruschetta is the grilled bread, not the topping: bruscare means “to roast over coals.”

We’ve seen jars of marinated tomatoes and basil sold as “bruschetta.” It should be labeled bruschetta topping.
 
RECIPE: DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR

All you need are bread, olive oil and toppings. For a DIY bar, offer at least three different toppings. Our favorites are below.
 
Ingredients

  • Baguette loaves
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and peeled, halved (horizontally) garlic cloves
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • Avocado, mashed and seasoned (garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc.)
  • Fresh basil, julienned/shredded
  • Greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • Mushrooms, marinated
  • Onions or green onions (scallions), chopped
  • Peppadews, sliced
  • Pimento, chopped or sliced
  • Tomatoes, diced and marinated in oil and vinegar
  •  
    More options: shredded mozzarella or other cheese (ricotta, spreadable goat cheese, thinly-sliced Brie), fish (we have a passion for anchovies and herring salad on bruschetta), other marinated vegetables, prosciutto or sliced salame with mustard or mostarda.
     
    Preparation

    1. SET out the toppings and teaspoons for serving. We use ramekins; you can use any bowls you have.

    2. SLICE the bread from 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Rub each side with cut garlic clove and brush each side with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill to your desired toastiness.

    3. PLACE the bread on a platter next to the toppings and watch people create their appetizers.
     
     
    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

    Bruschetta and crostini are popular hors d’oeuvres/snacks that are easy to make. They’re a perfect pairing to wine and beer, and also can be served as a first course or a light meal, with a salad and/or soup, or with cheese.

    The differences between the two are the size of the slice and the cooking technique.

  • Bruschetta are cut from baguette-style loaves that are three or four inches in diameter, then grilled and topped. Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where they are commonly served as a snack or appetizer. Rubbed with a garlic clove and brushed with oil before grilling, they may have been the original garlic bread.
  • Crostini cruh-STEE-nee) are cut from a narrower loaf like a ficelle, about two inches in diameter, and toasted, then topped.
  • Crostini (are croutons: not in the American sense of small cubes tossed into soup or salad, but slices of toasted bread (it’s the same with French croutons). They are often topped with spreadable cheese or pâté. Plain crostini are served with soups and salads, like melba toast, or set out with cheese.
  • Both can be served plain as toast to accompany another food. But with toppings, they are transformed.
  • The toppings for both can be as simple as extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper or diced tomatoes and basil, to almost any spread, vegetable, cured meat or cheese—even fruit, such as sliced strawberries with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tarragon or other sweet herb*.
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    *Sweet herbs include chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena licorice, mint, rose geranium and tarragon.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Tapas Party For World Tapas Day

    “Official” food holidays are those officially declared by a government: local, state or national. In these fast and loose days of the Internet, however, many companies and individuals don’t bother to seek official sanction for a “special observance day.” Instead, they simply announce online that a particular date is now World Nutella Day (started by two bloggers) or National [Whatever] Day.

    Here’s how official holidays are established in the U.S.
     
    IT’S OFFICIAL: WORLD TAPAS DAY

    No less an entity than the country of Spain has established a welcome new holiday: World Tapas Day. Spain’s tourism agency, Turespaña, has declared El Día Mundial de la Tapa, to recognize the “singular nature of this vital element of Spanish cuisine and culture” (here’s more information).

    World Tapas Day will be held each year on the third Thursday of June. That’s June 16th this year, and you’ve got time to plan a tapas party—or serve tapas for Father’s Day on June 19th. Tapas are easy to make. Check out these recipes from Martha Stewart. You can make it a “group party” and have everyone make a different tapa.

    Tapas are a long tradition in Spain. A snack for agricultural workers evolved into bar food, and has become so popular in modern times that it is now the focus of brunches and cocktail parties.
     
    THE HISTORY OF TAPAS

    While there are legends surrounding the birth of tapas, the accepted theory is that they originated as a snack for field workers. (Paella also originated among field workers, as the lunch meal.)

    As a refreshment during the long hours between breakfast and lunch, workers were served wine from a ceramic jug. The top of the jug was covered with a piece of bread with ham or cheese, which served to keep insects out of the wine. Tapa is a cover or lid.

    As the idea came to cities, tapas with a snack became popular at midday or for an after-work drink. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, tapas (TOP-us) are “a small portion of any food served to accompany a drink.”

    The original tapas were simple: slices of bread with ham or chorizo served free with a drink. The bread was set on top of the glass rim and covered the drink, just as with the jug of wine. Today the choices can be vast, and are served on small plates.

    It has evolved into a verb, tapear: to eat tapas. A tapeo is a social gathering where the food is tapas.As with the free caviar supplied at American taverns in the 19th century (American sturgeon were plentiful then, and caviar was cheap [sigh]), the salty food made patrons thirstier and they bought more alcohol.

       

    Tapas Plate

    Modern Tuna Tapas

    TOP: A platter of tapas: tortilla (potato omelet), boquerones (marinated anchovies) and chiles fritos (fried shishito peppers (photo courtesy Foods From Spain). Bottom: Headed to Vegas? Check out the best tapas restaurants in this feature from Vegas Magazine. This is Julian Serrano’s modern take on tuna tapas.

     

    Today, tapas comprise a wide variety of cold or hot foods can be ordered with a drink or combined into an entire meal.

    Each region of Spain serves tapas that reflect the local cuisine. Meats, cheeses, olives and nuts and tortillas (egg and potato omelet) are common to all areas, with more seafood tapas along the coastline.

    Spaniards seek out the best tapas bars (a bar that serves tapas—not all bars do) as Americans seek out the best pizza. While tapas are ubiquitous all over Spain, cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Málaga, San Sebastian and Seville are known for the quality, variety and innovation of their tapas.

     

    Croquetas de Bacalao

    Empanada Gallega Galicia

    Top: Croquetas De Bacalo, cod croquettes. Bottom: Empanada Gallega Galicia, Galician Pork and Pepper Pie—the original empanada (photos courtesy LaTienda.com).

     

    HOW ARE TAPAS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SMALL PLATES?

    Amuses-bouche, antipasto, hors d’oeuvre, mezzo and tapas are similar, though different.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated on 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, the traditional first course of a formal Italian dinner, is an assortment of anchovies, cheeses (mozzarella, provolone), cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms and other vegetables, olives, peperoncini and pickled foods. The choices vary greatly, reflecting regional cuisines. 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—small pieces of bread or pastry with a savory topping, served at room temperature—were 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 other foods. Also in modern times, several pieces of hors d’oeuvre can be plated to serve as an “hors d’oeuvre plate” appetizer/first course.
  • The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” 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. 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) refers 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 cheese, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Among the many other options, anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers are commonly served. 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.
  •  
    MORE ON TAPAS

  • Entertaining With Tapas
  • Vermouth & Tapas Brunch Or Cocktails
  • Potato Tapas
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bitters In Your Coffee

    Many “cocktail households” have a bottle of Angostura bitters, to splash into a Manhattan or other recipe.

    In fact, you can add bitters to still or sparkling water, regular or diet soda, hot or iced tea and coffee.

    If you follow food and beverage trends, you’ve no doubt seen the Renaissance in artisan bitters. In America, bitters had traditionally meant the ginger-tasting Angostura* bitters (it’s actually made with gentian root, a different botanical family) and the sweeter and more aromatic Peychaud’s Bitters (also gentian) used in the Sazerac cocktail of New Orleans.

    In recent years, flavors of bitters have been introduced by specialty foods companies, ranging from Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters, Hella Bitters Smoked Chili Cocktail Bitters, Stirrings Blood Orange Cocktail Bitters and dozens more flavors producers. So…

    WHAT ARE BITTERS?

    Bitters, which date back to ancient Egypt, are liquids consisting of water, alcohol and botanical extracts. They got their name from the by a bitter or bittersweet derived from botanicals known for their medicinal properties and pleasant flavor: aromatic herbs, barks, fruits and roots.

    Popular botanicals included cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel, and cinchona bark. The word bitters derives from Old English biter, which evolved thousands of years earlier from the Gothic baitrs, “to bite.”

    The Middle Ages saw an increase in the development of medicines that combined botanicals with alcohol: tonics, often used to aid digestion (hence the term, digestive bitters, as opposed to the modern “cocktail bitters”). Available “over the counter,” they came to be used as preventive medicines.

    By the turn of the 19th century, the British practice of adding herbal bitters to wine had become very popular in the U.S. By 1806, there are references to a new preparation, the cocktail, described as a combination of “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”
     

    WHAT ABOUT BITTERS IN COFFEE?

    It is well known that the people of New Orleans (the actual name is New Orleanians) add chicory to create a bitter flavor in their coffee. Why not try some bitters?

    A drop of bitters perks up the brew whether you drink your coffee black or with milk and/or sugar. Try it and see!

    Start with just a few drops (we began with one drop). You can add more to taste. Here’s a recipe for iced coffee with bitters from Hella, using its standard aromatic bitters.

    Yes, start with the traditional before moving on to Aztec Chocolate or Smoked Chili bitters. Consider topping an iced coffee with bitters whipped cream!
     
    RECIPE: ICED COFFEE WITH BITTERS

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 8 ounces chilled coffee
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 4 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, bitters whipped cream
  •  

    Old Bottle Of Bitters

    Bitters

    Thai Iced Coffee

    Top: An old bottle of German bitters (photo Axarus | Wikipedia). Center: The classic, Angostura bitters (photo Restaurant Manifesto). Bottom: An iced coffee with Hella bitters.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a glass. Stir gently, taste, and adjust the sugar or bitters to your taste.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    MORE USES FOR BITTERS

    Check out this article from BonAppetit.com, which includes everything from baking and fruit salad, ice cream, floats and whipped cream.

     
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    *Despite its name, Angostura brand bitters are not made from the bark of the angostura tree but from the gentian a root. The name comes from the town of Angostura, Venezuela (known today as Ciudad Bolívar). There, in 1824, a German physician, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert compounded a cure for sea sickness and stomach maladies. It worked, and Dr. Siegert subsequently formed the House of Angostura to sell his bitters to sailors.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Prep Eggs The Night Before To Save Time

    Scrambled Eggs In Tortilla Cups

    Pepperjack Cheese

    Top: Mexican Scrambled Eggs In Tortilla Cups (photo Land O’Lakes). Bottom: Add more heat with Pepperjack cheese (photo Paoli Cheese).

     

    We often make a vegetable scramble for breakfast, to a proportion of half egg, half veggie. Bell peppers, mushrooms and onions are our basic mix, along with fresh herbs and halved cherry tomatoes.

    It’s easy to prep the night before. You can dice the vegetables and beat the eggs in just a few minutes. If you want to add cheese, you can dice, grate or shred it the night before, too.

    Then, while the coffee brews, heat the pan, combine the ingredients, and voilà.

    When we have extra time, we make something more elaborate, like these Mexican-inspired scrambled eggs in tortilla cups—a crowd pleaser.

    RECIPE: MEXICAN SCRAMBLED EGGS IN TORTILLA CUPS

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 seven-to-eight-inch tortillas (try whole wheat!)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 eggs (or 2 cups/16 ounces egg substitute)*
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar, Jack or Pepperjack† cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
  • Optional: minced jalapeño or chili flakes to taste
  • Optional garnish: 1/4 cup sour cream (or substitute nonfat Greek yogurt)
  • Optional garnish: 4 teaspoons salsa
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • Optional: fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oven to 400°F. Place four 6-ounce custard cups upside down on a cookie sheet. Lightly spray both sides of the tortillas with nonstick cooking spray. Place the tortillas over the custard cups, pressing down lightly to shape.

    2. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tortillas are light golden brown. Remove from the oven and place the cups upright on a cooling rack. Meanwhile…

    3. SPRAY a 10-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Scramble the eggs with the vegetables and seasonings and cook over medium heat. As the eggs begin to set, sprinkle on the cheese. Alternatively, you can sprinkle on the cheese after the eggs are in the tortilla cups. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist.

    4. PLACE the tortilla cups on plates and fill them with the eggs. Top each with sour cream and salsa. Sprinkle with green onions and the herbs.
     
    ______________
    *Most recipes assume large eggs; it is the size of the egg that makes the difference: 2 medium eggs =1/3 cup, 2 large eggs = ½ cup, 3 medium eggs + ½ cup, 3 large eggs = 2/3 cup. 4 large eggs = 1 cup.

    †If you use Pepperjack, you don’t need the added chiles.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Jell-O Mold Is A Mason Jar

    Red White & Blue Jell-O

    Red, White & Blue Jell-O Squares

    Top: Red, white and blue Jell-O mold in Mason jars (photo Victoria Belanger | eHow). Bottom: No spoon is needed with these Jell-O fingers. They’re gummy, like Jell-O shots without alcohol. Here’s the recipe from CommunityTable.Parade.com.

     

    Call them Ball Jars, Kerr Jars or Mason Jars, these 19th century inventions enabled the preserving foods for years, while avoiding spoilage and the growth of harmful bacteria.

    The original “canning” took place in hermetically sealed glass jars, invented to carry food for Napoleon’s army. Here’s the history of canning and the jars.

    The invention created an opportunity for civilians, too: to “put up” foods at harvest time to eat during the winter. But then came tin cans, and

    The growth of the artisan foods movement, small producers added charm to their jams and dilly beans by packaging them in Mason jars.

    Today, we’re presenting an idea adapted from Victoria Belanger. You can see step-by-step photos on eHow.com.

    RECIPE: RED, WHITE & BLUE JELL-O FOR MEMORIAL DAY & JULY 4TH

    Ingredients For 6 Servings
     
    For The Red Layer

  • 1 package ((3 ounces) strawberry Jell-O
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  •  
    For The White Layer

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin powder
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream, liquefied
  •  
    For The Blue Layer

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin powder
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ cups blueberries
  •  
    Plus

  • 6 half pint sized Mason jars
  • Garnish: whipped cream (Reddi-Whip is perfect here)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the red layer. Combine the water and the Jell-O in a bowl, stirring to fully dissolve. Add the cold water and the strawberries. Stir and divide the mixture among the Mason jars. We used a wide-mouth funnel (so the strawberries would fit through) to keep the sides of the jars clean for the other colored layers. Victoria used a different technique.

    2. CREATE the “wave” effect by setting the jars at an angle in a muffin tin. First place uncooked rice in the muffin wells to hold the jars at an angle, then refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes. When the red layer is nearly firm…

    3. MAKE the white layer. In a medium bowl, evenly sprinkle a packet of unflavored gelatin over the cold water. Allow the gelatin to set for 2 minutes, then add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve, and then the melted ice cream. Spoon into the jars, taking careful to keep the inside walls clean for the blueberry layer. Refrigerate until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. When firm, you can remove the jars from the tin and keep them upright in the fridge.

    4. MAKE the blue layer. In a medium bowl, evenly sprinkle 1 packet of unflavored gelatin over the cold water. Allow the gelatin to set for 2 minutes, then add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in the sugar, then the blueberries. Do not add to the jars yet, but first refrigerate the blue mixture until it thickens to the consistency of a gel (otherwise, the blueberries will float to the top of the jar).

    5. SPOON the blueberry mixture into the jars and refrigerate until firm. When ready to serve, garnish with whipped cream.
     
    MORE USES FOR MASON JARS.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Keep Home-Brewed Iced Tea Clear

    Iced Tea

    Cloudy Iced Tea

    Top: Iced tea should be clear (photo courtesy Mighty Leaf Tea. Bottom: Black tea can cloud when you add juice or other flavorings, like this peach iced tea. Herbal teas can also be cloudy. But we got cloudy tea from plain English Breakfast (photo courtesy Peet’s).

     

    Since the weather got warmer, we’ve been consuming four or five bottles of iced tea per day. Given our desire to keep plastic out of the landfill—not to mention the $2 a bottle (including tax), we began home-brewing our iced tea years ago. We pour it into re-purposed beverage bottles, or keep it in a pitcher.

    One thing we noticed this season is that our tea, which is clear when we put the bottles into the fridge, is cloudy when they’ve chilled down. It doesn’t taste as “clear,” either.

    This was top-quality English Breakfast from Rishi Tea. So we put on our science hat to discover why.

    We made hot tea, which was perfectly clear; thus, not a problem with the tea or our kettle. We used a glass pitcher instead of a plastic one to brew. We placed the pitcher in the fridge without pouring into serving-size bottles. We tried distilled water, from which the minerals are removed.

    The result: still cloudy.

    So we asked our wine editor, Kris Prasad—who happens to be a Ph.D chemist—how to solve our problem. Here’s his response:
     
    WHAT MAKES ICED TEA CLOUDY?

  • Generally, higher-quality tea leaves contain more tannins, which are the source of the cloudiness.
  • When tea steeps, the tannins dissolve into the boiling water.
  • When the brewed tea goes into the fridge, the cold can cause tannins to separate out. This causes the cloudiness and adds what we perceived as “nano-grit” to the mouthfeel.
  •  
    So that’s the “why.” Now, what can you do about it?
     
    HOW TO AVOID CLOUDY ICED TEA

  • Do not add ice to hot tea or stick the pitcher in the fridge. Let the tea cool to room temperature—not “slightly warm”—first.
  • With a cloudy pitcher of iced tea, you can add boiling water to re-dissolve the tannins (1 cup of boiling water per quart of tea. This should clear up the cloudiness, but will also dilute the tea. If you anticipate the problem, make a stronger brew.
  •  

  • If you’re new to the area, check to see if you have hard or soft water. Hard water can make iced tea cloudy. Get a water filter or buy distilled water.
  • If all else fails, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda per quart of tea.
  •  
    ICED TEA VS. ICE TEA

    Properly, the drink is iced tea—tea that has been chilled with ice. It is spelled this way in primers on editing and by the line editors* of quality publications.

    But, as more and more Americans care less and less about the rules of English, ice tea—tea with added ice—has been making inroads, even among some editors.

    There is precedent: Ice cream and ice water were originally “iced cream” and “iced water.” We presume that editors in that era were equally chagrinned.

     
    ____________
    *A line editor is responsible for reviewing each sentence for consistency, grammar, punctuation, spelling and word usage prior to publication. Here’s more.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Rosé Wine Tasting

    Sancerre Rose Wine

    Rose Wine For Summer

    Top: Rosé is a style of wine, not a particular grape varietal or wine region. This photo shows a Sancerre, a wine made in the eastern Loire Valley of France in the area around Sancerre, an ancient hilltop town. While white Sancerre is made from the [white] Sauvignon Blanc grape, red Sancerre and rosé Sancerre are both made from the [red] pinot noir grape (photo Thor | Wikimedia). Bottom: Some of the different hues of rosé wines (photo JoTot.com).

     

    In France, more rosé wine is sold than white wine [source]. Rosé is also a popular warm-weather wine, and a great pairing with grilled foods and picnic foods.

    So with Memorial Day at hand, how about a rosé tasting party? There are as many different styles of rosé wines as with other varietals. A tasting is an opportunity to get to know the different producers and identify some favorites.

    Here’s how to have a wine tasting party, although you can simply set out the bottles and let people do their own thing.
     
    WHAT IS ROSÉ WINE?

    Unlike Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other grape varietals, there is no “rosé grape.” Rather, a rosé wine can be made from any red wine grape*. White Zinfandel, for example, is a sweet rosé wine, also called a blush wine. Most rosé wines, however, are dry wines. First:
     
    ROSÉ WINE TERMS

  • The term rosé does not refer to the type of grape or the vinification process, but to the pink color. A rosé wine can be actually be made by blending red and white wine together; however this is not a common process.
  • Most rosés are dry wines made from red wine grapes. The pink color comes from limited skin contact with the red grape skins during vinification. Rosé’s color is actually a hue of what would become red wine with longer skin contact.
  • The juice pressed from red wine grapes is the same color as the juice from white wine grapes: clear. Red wine color comes from extended skin contact during the early stages of winemaking, a process known as maceration†.
  • Pink wines, a term that encompasses rosé, blush, and anything else with a pink hue, can be any shade from pale pink to deep rose. It depends on the grape used and the length of skin contact (from one to three days).
  • Blush wine is an American term that refers specifically to pink wines made from red wine grapes, with only enough skin contact to produce a “blush” of red color. The term first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1980s, as a marketing device to sell pink wines. At the time, Americans were not buying rosé wines, while White Zinfandel, with its pink hue, was flying off the shelves (at one point it was the largest-selling wine in America). There weren’t enough Zinfandel grapes to meet demand, so winemakers had to use other red grape varietals.
  • Pink wines made from other grapes could not legally be called “White Zinfandel,” so a new category name—blush—was created.
  • American pink wines, whether from Zinfandel or another grape, are typically sweeter and paler than French-style rosés. The term “blush” began to refer to not just to pink wines, but to those that were made on the slightly sweet side, like White Zinfandel. These days, all three terms are used more or less interchangeably by people outside the wine-producing industry.
  •  
    ALSO TRY SOME…

  • Rosé Sangria
  • Rosé Champagne & OtherSparkling Rosés
  •  
    ______________
    *“Red grape” skins can be black, purple or red, depending on the varietal. A rosé can also be made by blending red and white wines, although this is less common.

    †The skin contact phase of winemaking is known as maceration. In this phase, the phenolic materials of the grape—tannins, coloring agents (anthocyanins) and flavor compounds—leach into the must (the newly-pressed juice) from the grape skins, seeds and stems. Maceration is a food and wine term that means to soften by soaking. Here’a more about maceration.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Flag Cake For Memorial Day

    American Flag Cake

    American Flag Cake Recipe

    Brown Eggs Carton

    Top and center: This American Flag Cake is easy to make (photos courtesy TheKitchyKitchen.com). Bottom: You’ll need nine eggs for the cake (photo courtesy Organic Valley).

     

    We’re very fond of American flag cakes for Memorial Day and Independence Day. Check out these cakes on Pinterest.

    Many of them require the skills of a pastry chef, but you can make a sheet cake that’s easy to ice and decorate, and tastes just as wonderful.

    This recipe was sent to us by Claire Thomas of TheKitchyKitchen.com. An airy sponge cake is topped with cream cheese frosting and fresh fruit.

    The recipe makes one 9” x 13” sheet cake or two 10” round layers.
     
    RECIPE: AMERICAN FLAG SHEET CAKE

    For The Sponge Cake

  • 1-3/4 cups cake flour, sifted then measured
  • 2-1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cup eggs whites (about 9 large eggs)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, packed
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup water
  •  
    For The Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    For The Decoration

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 half pint raspberries
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 half pint red cherries, red plums or other red fruits
  • Whipped cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
  •  
    _________________________
    *Most cakes are either butter cakes made with a significant amount of butter (which provides firmness and density, as in devil’s food cake and pound cake) or foam cakes. Foam cakes (this recipe) are made without leavening (baking powder, baking soda). They get their volume and light, fluffy crumb by beating air into egg whites. Foam cakes can contain egg (sponge cake) or butter (génoise, gâteau); but as long as the cake is leavened with air instead of a chemical agent, it is considered a foam cake.

     

    Preparation

    This may look like a lot of steps, but each step is very easy.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350F°. Move the rack to the lower third of the oven. Grease or spray a nonstick 9” x 13” pan and line the bottom with parchment. Grease the paper as well.

    2. SIFT the flour, half of the sugar (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) and salt into a bowl; set aside.

    3. CAREFULLY separate the egg whites from the yolks and whip the whites with the whisk attachment in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, just until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup sugar in a steady stream, whisking until you have thicker, stiffer, glossy peaks—about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Scoop the mixture into a VERY large bowl and set aside.

    4. WIPE out the bowl you used for the egg whites, and beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow—about 2-3 minutes. Add the water and beat until thickened, about 4 minutes: the yolks should be very thick and pale. Pour the yolk mixture over the whites and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture; fold to combine. Repeat two more times, just until all the ingredients are incorporated.

    5. GENTLY POUR the batter into the pan and level the top with a spatula. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top springs back slightly when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack and cool for about 45 minutes.

     

    Confectioners Sugar

    While granulated sugar is used to make the cake, powdered sugar is used to make the frosting. The particles are much finer, so it dissolves readily with no graininess (photo Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE).

     
    6. REMOVE the cake from the pan and slip a butter knife down one side of the pan and slowly move it around the perimeter to release the cake. When the sides are free, cover the cake with a rack and invert. Remove the cake pan and parchment. Let the cake cool completely. While the cake cools…

    7. MAKE the frosting. Chill a metal or glass bowl in the fridge, then add the cream and whip until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over-beat the cream or it will curdle (that’s how cream is churned into butter). Set aside.

    8. MIX the cream cheese, salt, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until very smooth (if you have one, use an electric mixer with a paddle attachment). Fold in the whipped cream, one third at a time. If you aren’t frosting the cake right away, keep the frosting in the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for 20 minutes prior to using.

    9. PLACE the cake on a serving platter. Spread the frosting about 1/2 inch thick with a spatula. Create the “stars” in a square in the top left corner with the blueberries, and place the red fruits in “stripes.”
     
    MORE MEMORIAL DAY RECIPES

    To find appropriate recipes for each holiday, pull down the “Holidays & Occasions” menu at the right of the title of this article.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Pelmeni

    Pelmeni

    Pelmeni Stuffing

    Pelmeni Mold

    Top: Pelmeni with Russia’s favorite herb, dill (photo Amazon). Center: Meat stuffing in a pelmeni mold (photo Amazon). Bottom: Ready to cook (photo MumsPrefer.com).

     

    You may have had Polish pillow pasta—pierogi—but how about their Russian cousin, pelmeni (pell-MEN-ee).

    As with dumplings the world over—including ravioli—a simple dough rolled out and stuffed with beef, cheese, chicken, mutton, pork, seafood or vegetables. Or, they can be a blend: A traditional recipe combines beef, mutton and pork. In Europe, add some garlic, onions and pepper to the mix.

    THE HISTORY OF PELMENI

    Historians agree that pelmeni originated among the indigenous Siberian people and later became part of Russian cuisine; they are also called Siberian dumplings in Russia. The word translates to “ear bread”: The bite-size dumplings can be seen as little ear pasta (although not nearly as ear-like as Italian orrechietti, which have the advantage because they aren’t stuffed).

    Pelmeni were a particularly good way to preserving meat during the six months of Siberian winter, with temperatures as low as -47°F and snow on the ground through April. It became a tradition in Siberia households to make thousands of pelmeni as soon as temperatures fell below freezing, in November. Long before electric refrigeration, Siberians had natural refrigeration, i.e., in an unheated barn or shed. A bonus: Livestock could be harvested before the freeze, eliminating the cost to feed them over the long winter.

    Pelmeni have evolved from labor-intensive food prepared by housewives to quality frozen versions to the Russian student substitute for instant ramen noodles!
     
    Pelmeni Cousins

    European stuffed boiled dumplings may be a simplified version of Chinese wontons. The list of cousins includes Chinese jiaozi, Georgian khenkali, Italian ravioli, Japanese gyoza, Jewish kreplach, Korean mandu, Middle Eastern shishbarak, Mongolian bansh, Nepalese and Tibetan momo, Polish uszka, Turkish and Kazakh manti, Ukrainian vareniki and Uzbek chuchvara, among others.
     
    EASTERN EUROPEAN DUMPLINGS: THE DIFFERENCE

    In the U.S., the term pierogi is often used to describe every type of Eastern European dumplings. Of course, there are differences: in shape, size and thickness of dough (these are the differences between all dumplings, as well as cooking technique: boiled versus fried, boiled in water vs. broth or stock).

  • With pelmeni and vareniki, the dough is as thin as possible, and the proportion of filling to dough is high.
  • Pelmeni fillings are usually raw, while pierogi and vareiyki can be sweet.
  • Pelmeni are bite-size, like raviolini.
  •  
    MAKE THEM OR BUY THEM

    Similar to making ravioli, you can short-cut the process by purchasing a pelmeni mold in plastic or aluminum—and make other types of stuffed pasta with it.

    Or, look for a good brand. We recently tried Popkoff’s, and were very pleased. Use the store locator to find the nearest retailer.
     
    POPKOFF’S PELMENI & VARENIKI

    These delicious dumplings, full of Old World flavor, are easy to prepare. It takes just 5 minutes from boiling water to plate. The simplest preparation is a traditional one: butter and sour cream, with fresh dill.

    The dumplings can be served as an appetizer, side or main dish. Or, add a bit of smoked salmon and caviar for a luxurious hors d’oeuvre.

    Why do Popkoff’s pelmeni taste so good?

    Their “farm to frozen” pelmeni and vareniki are made from 100% all-natural ingredients from the best vendors: King Arthur Flour, Mary’s Free Range Chicken, Meyer Natural Angus Beef, Marcho Farms Veal and Good Nature All-Natural Pork. All ingredients are domestic and the dumplings are made in California, and are packaged in GoGreen sustainable packaging.

    The meats are antibiotic-free and hormone-free, the fruits and vegetables are locally grown and non GMO. There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservativess.

    We tried four varieties of pelmeni, all so good that we can’t wait to try the vareniki. Traditionally, pelmeni are filled with meat and vareniki, a Ukranian variation, were filled with cheese or vegetables; vareniki are larger, like ravioli. Popkoff’s choices:

    PELMENI VARIETIES

  • Pelmeni With Beef
  • Pelmeni With Chicken
  • Pelmeni With Farmer’s Cheese
  • Pelmeni With Pork & Beef
  • Pelmeni With Veal & Pork
  •  
    VARENIKI VARIETIES

  • Vareniki With Beef
  • Vareniki With Cabbage & Carrots
  • Vareniki With Cheese & Cherry
  • Vareniki With Chicken
  • Vareniki With Potato & Onion
  • Vareniki With Sweet Farmer’s Cheese
  •  

    PELMENI & VARINIKI TOPPINGS

    Pick a topping, pick a sauce. Some of these are traditional, and some reflect modern tastes.
     
    TOPPINGS

  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Fresh chives, dill or parsley
  • Lemon zest
  • Onions: caramelized, frizzled or sautéed
  • Sliced almonds
  •  
    SAUCES

  • Horseradish sauce
  • Melted butter
  • Mushroom sauce
  • Mustard sauce
  • Plain yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Soy sauce and chopped chives or green onions
  • Tomato sauce
  • Vinegar sauce
  •  
    You can also add pelmeni to broths and green salads. They are traditionally boiled; vareniki can be boiled or pan-fried.

    Also, check out our 50 ways to serve pierogi and adapt them to pelmeni.
     
    RECIPE: PELMENI IN MUSHROOM SAUCE

    You can make this recipe from Chef James Bailey from scratch (recommended), or take a shortcut with canned cream of mushroom soup.

    It’a a variation of the famous Russian dish that originated in the mid-19th-century rage, Beef Stroganoff, which has a sauce made with sour cream (smetana in Russian).

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 10 ounce package Popkoff’s Beef Pelmeni (or other flavor)
  • 2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup onions, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 16 ounces low sodium beef broth
  • Garnish: fresh dill leaves, minced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter over medium heat; add onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic and mushrooms; stir and cook for 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms have softened.

    2. ADD the beef broth and cook over medium heat until the liquid is slightly reduced. Add the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is combined.

    3. BRING a large pot of water to boil and add a pinch of salt. Carefully add Popkoff’s Beef Pelmeni and cook for 5 minutes until cooked through. Drain and reserve.

    4. MIX in sour cream and chopped parsley into mushroom stroganoff, portion dumplings onto plates and top with sauce, optional toppings and dill garnish.
     
    DESSERT PELMENI & VARENIKI

    Pelmeni stuffed with delicate farmer’s cheese is a charming dessert or a sweet lunch.

    Vareniki are typically used for dessert because the cheese can be sweetened. Cheese pelmeni has no sweetener.

    But with sweet toppings, you won’t even notice. We enjoy dessert pelmeni with a few of the following:

  • Cherry preserves
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar
  • Dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins)
  • Fruit purée
  • Grated chocolate and hand-whipped cream
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Mascarpone
  • Mixed fresh fruits
  • Plain or sweetened sour cream
  • Sliced almonds
  • Sweetened chestnut purée and hand-whipped cream
  •  

    Popkoff's Pelmeni

    Pelmeni In Soup

    Pelmeni In Mushroom Sauce

    Pelmeni  With Tomato Sauce

    Vareniki With Cheese & Cherries

    Dessert Vareniki

    Blueberry Vareniki

    Top: A package of Popkoff’s Pelmeni. Second: Pelmeni in miso soup. Third: Pelmeni in mushroom sauce. Fourth: Pelmeni with Moroccan-spiced tomato sauce. Fifth: Vareniki with farmer’s cheese and cherries. Sixth: Dessert vareniki. Photos courtesy Popkoff’s (see the recipes). Bottom: Vareniki stuffed with cottage cheese and blueberries, with blueberry sauce. Here’s the recipe from ToDisCoverRussia.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Vietnamese Cabbage Slaw, a.k.a. Cole Slaw

    Asian Slaw

    Classic Cole Slaw

    Red Boat Fish Sauce

    Top: Vietnamese slaw, made with a fish sauce-accented vinaigrette. Center: Conventional American cole slaw with mayonnaise (photo courtesy Blu Restaurant | NYC). Bottom: Vietnamese fish sauce (photo courtesy Red Boat).

     

    So many slaws, so little time! On summer weekends, we try different slaw recipes and different potato salads.

    When made without mayonnaise, cole slaw is a very low calorie food, and cabbage is an antioxidant-packed cruciferous vegetable. That’s what you’ll find in the Asian-style slaw recipe below.

    Today’s tip also highlights a relatively unfamiliar ingredient to Americans, fish sauce. But first:
     
    WHAT’S A SLAW & WHY IS IT “COLE?”

    Long part of the culinary repertoire, “koolsla,” short for “koolsalade,” means cabbage salad in Dutch; Dutch travelers to the New World made the dish with local cabbage. Instead of being torn into bite-size pieces like lettuce salad, the cabbage was thinly sliced or shredded.

    Cabbage, the “kool,” is pronounced “cole.” “Sla” is short for “salade.” The term got anglicized in the 18th century as cole slaw (and sometimes, cold slaw).

    In English, “slaw” came to specify a salad of shredded vegetables. Over time, shredded cabbage slaw was joined by carrot slaw and more recently, broccoli slaw and shaved Brussels sprouts slaw.
     
    WHAT IS FISH SAUCE?

    Called nam pla in Thai and nuoc mam (“salted fish water”) in Vietnamese, fish sauce is an amber-hued condiment prepared from fermented anchovies and salt. An umami flavor lauded as “the fifth taste” after sweet, sour, bitter and salty, fish sauce is a major ingredient and condiment in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

    Numerous brands are imported to the U.S., including Red Boat Fish Sauce.
     
    Umami, The Fifth Taste

    Fish sauce provides a flavor known as umami, often explained as savory or brothy.

    We consume “umami foods” every day: anchovy paste, asparagus, beef stew, bouillon, cured ham, ketchup, lamb shank, miso sauce and soup, MSG, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, ripe and sun-dried tomatoes, soy sauce, steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce, among others.
     
    European Garum & Colatura Di Alici

    Umami and fish sauce are also part of Western culture. Beginning in Greece and appearing in nearly every ancient Roman recipe as early as the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.E., garum, a fermented fish sauce, was the universal condiment used to add flavor to food.

    As ketchup (and more lately, hot sauce) is to American fare, as soy sauce is to Chinese cuisine, the favorite condiment in ancient Rome was garum, an anchovy sauce. It involved into colatura di alici, juice of anchovies, still popular in Italy. It’s also called anchovy sauce or anchovy syrup; the latter is inaccurate, as a syrup is a thick, viscous liquid.

    As strange as “anchovy juice” may sound, colatura is an aromatic condiment that enhances any dish, adding flavor without fuss.

     
    Ask any great Italian chef, and you’ll probably find that colatura di alibi is their secret ingredient. Chef Lidia Bastianich uses a touch of colatura instead of salt.

    Colatura (the word comes from the Latin colare, to strain) is made by curing anchovies with salt and extracting the free-run liquid that drains from them. It’s a laborious and painstaking process to create a truly artisan food. Different brands are imported from Italy.

    Things came full circle in the 19th century when a British sea captain Henry Lewis Edwardes (1788–1866) brought the recipe for a fish sauce condiment home after travels in India. It somehow got to John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, two dispensing chemists (pharmacists) in Worcester, England, who created the first “umami sauce” (Worcestershire Sauce) sold commercially in England, in 1837.

    Here are more uses for fish sauce, colatura di alici, or whatever you choose to call it.

     

    RECIPE: VIETNAMESE CABBAGE SLAW

    This recipe was created by Gail Simmons for Pure Leaf Tea. She pairs it with Sweet Honey Green Pure Leaf. We paired it with Unsweetened Green and Unsweetened Lemon Flavor Pure Leaf.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Dressing

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large shallot, finely sliced
  •  
    For The Slaw

  • 1/2 head small red cabbage
  • 1/2 head small Napa cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 4 radishes
  • 2 mini seedless cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 small Granny Smith apples
  • Garnish: ¼ cup roughly chopped peanuts or toasted sesame seeds
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing so the shallots have time to marinate. Whisk the ingredients except the shallots in a large mixing bowl. Then add the shallots and set aside.

    2. FINELY SLICE the cabbages, radishes and cucumbers using a mandolin or a food processor with the slicer and grater attachments. Grate the carrots and separate the cilantro leaves.

     

    Asian Cabbage Slaw

    Apple-Infused Coleslaw in a Jar-nestle-230

    Top: Thai Cabbage Slaw. You can add an optional peanut garnish (photo courtesy ACommunalTable.com, which added coconut). Bottom: Use your Mason jars to serve slaw (photo courtesy Nestle).

     
    3. CORE the apples and finely slice them into thin half–moons. Place everything into the mixing bowl with the dressing and toss together well. When ready to serve, top with the peanuts and extra cilantro leaves.
     
    MORE SLAW RECIPES

  • Apple Cole Slaw With Lemon Ginger Yogurt Dressing
  • BLT Slaw
  • Dijon-Vanilla Broccoli Slaw
  • Pear & Cabbage Slaw
  •   

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