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TIP OF THE DAY: Rosé Sangria (Think Pink!)

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Shades Of Rose Wine

[1] Rosé sangria, an adieu to the formal summer season (photo courtesy La Marina restaurant | NYC). [2] The many shades of rosé depend upon the grape varietal and the length of skin contact (photo courtesy Jot Dot).

 

We started the summer season with a rose tasting party, and we’re ending it more quietly, with pitchers of rose sangria. Easy to make, easy to drink, we have a pitcher in the fridge all weekend.

RECIPE: ROSÉ SANGRIA

Ingredients For 12 Cups

  • 2 bottles* rosé wine
  • 1 quart or liter* bottle club soda, seltzer or sparkling mineral water, chilled
  • 1/2 cup agave†, honey, superfine sugar or simple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced nectarines or peaches
  • 1 cup melon, sliced
  • 2 blood oranges, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
  •  
    Optional Alcohol

  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (types of orange liqueur) – or –
  • 1/4 cup blackberry, blackcurrant or raspberry liqueur (crème de mûre, crème de cassis, Chambord)
  •  
    ________________
    *1 quart is 32 ounces, 1 liter is 33.8 ounces, 1 standard wine bottle (750 ml) is 25.4 ounces.

    †Use equal amounts of agave or honey, but half as much agave as sugar. Agave is twice as sweet. Always add a portion, taste, and continue to add until the desired sweeteness is reached.

     
    Preparation

    Use a 1-gallon pitcher (128 ounces) or other vessel to blend. You’ll be making 84 ounces of sangria (more if you add brandy and liqueur), and also need room for the fruit. We like this oblong gallon pitcher because it fits more easily in the fridge.

    1. COMBINE the wine, brandy and liqueur and half of the sweetener in the pitcher. Blend well and taste; add more sweetener as desired. We prefer less added sugar to better enjoy the alcohol and the fruit.

    2. ADD the fruit and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day in advance. When ready to serve…

    3. Add the club soda, stir gently and serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF SANGRIA

    Sangria appeared in Spain around 200 B.C.E., when the conquering Romans arrived and planted red grape vineyards. While the majority of the wine was shipped to Rome, the locals used some to make fruit punch, called sangria after the blood-red color.

    Here’s the scoop.

     

    WHAT IS ROSÉ WINE?

    Unlike Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other grape varietals, there is no rosé grape. Any red wine grape can make rosé.

    The term rosé refers to the pink color that is the result of allowing the pressed grape juice limited contact with red grape skins during vinification, a process known as maceration.

    Once it achieves the desired rosiness, the skin contact ends. Extended skin contact products red wine. The juice pressed from red wine grapes is the same color as the juice from white wine grapes: clear.

    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. Some are sweeter, such as White Zinfandel; but this is an American taste for blush wine rather than a European tradition.

  • Pink wine, 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, a sweet rosé wine, 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.
  •  
     
    NATIONAL SANGRIA DAY IS DECEMBER 20TH.

     

    Summer Rose Sangria Recipe

    Mixed Berries

    [1] While luscious summer fruits are still in the market, use them in your sangria. You can get apples and oranges any old time (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco). [2] Don’t forget the berries (photo courtesy Giant Fresh).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Favorite Green Bean Salad

    Green Bean Salad Recipe

    Green Bean Salad Recipe

    Petite Potatoes

    Colored Green Beans

    [1] (photo courtesy Keys To The Cucina). [2] Green beans with petite potatoes and basil (photo courtesy Kqed.org). [3] Petite potatoes, grown in Idaho, are the size of a cherry tomato (photo courtesy Potato Goodness).[4] Check farmers markets for specialty green beans, and pull together a rainbow of colors (photo courtesy The Pines | Brooklyn).

     

    For the big weekend, you may be making potato salad, macaroni salad or cole slaw.

    We’d like to suggest a substitute: a delicious, crunchy and good-for-you green bean salad.

    As a constantly-dieting college student, it was one of the first recipes we perfected (perfection meaning exactly what we like).

    Over the years we’ve tried different dressings we enjoy on other salads—herb vinaigrette; balsamic, lemon or lime vinaigrette; yogurt dressing—but we still return to our original Dijon vinaigrette—and anchovies.

    Ideally this salad should be made with haricots vets, the thin French green beans; but they tend to be pricey. So use whatever you find.

    We like to go to the farmers market for mixed beans in green, purple and yellow (photo #4). We also spring for Idaho petite potatoes (sometimes called marble or pearl), bite-sized cuties that are have even more flavor than standard sizes (photo #3).

    If your crowd loves anchovies, top the salad with them. Otherwise, set the anchovies or tuna next to the platter so people can help themselves.

    You can make this recipe four hours ahead or overnight, for the flavors to blend.
     
    RECIPE: FAVORITE GREEN BEAN SALAD

    Ingredients For 8 Side Servings
     
    For The Salad

  • 2 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 1/2 to 1 pound baby/petite potatoes, or larger red new potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 small bulb fennel, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, shredded (chiffonade)
  • 1 cup Mediterranean black olives (kalamata, niçoise, picholine), ideally pitted
  •  
    For The Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed in a garlic press or finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  •  
    Platter Garnishes

  • Anchovies or Italian tuna
  • Baby arugula
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • Tomatoes, quarters or eighths depending on size; or cherry tomatoes, halved; or grape tomatoes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until fork-tender but not overly soft (remember that the potatoes will continue to cook a bit from their internal heat). Drain and set aside to cool.

    2. COOK the beans in large pot of rapidly boiling salted water to al dente crisp. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, drain and transfer to bowl. If you use larger potatoes, cut them in half after they’re cool.

    3. COMBINE all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and make the vinaigrette: Add the garlic to the olive oil, then whisk in the mustard, followed by the vinegar. Season to taste. Taste the salad right before you serve it and adjust seasonings if desired.

     
    4. REFRIGERATE, covered. Bring to room temperature 2 hours before serving.

    5. PLATE. We like to serve this on a platter or large serving plate, rather than in a bowl. Mound the salad in the center of the platter, and rim the perimeter with the sliced eggs and tomatoes. If using anchovies, place them on top of the salad or on a separate small plate.

     

    RECIPE: YOGURT-MINT DRESSING

    You can make this up to 3 days in advance, and store tightly covered in the fridge.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, drained in fine sieve about 30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, shredded (chiffonade)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed in a garlic press or finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional tablespoon olive oil or lemon juice to thin
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the yogurt in a medium jar or a bowl with a lid. Add the lemon juice and shake or whisk to combine. Add the garlic and stir or whisk.

    2. CHIFFONADE the mint leaves: Stack them, then roll them lengthwise into a tight bundle. Cut the bundle crosswise with a sharp knife. For a dressing, cut the strips in quarters or thirds.

    3. SEPARATE the pieces with your fingers (we pick them up and drop them a few times). Then stir the mint into the dressing.

     

    Green Bean Salad Recipe

    With a yogurt dressing instead (photo courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    4. ADD salt and pepper to taste, and add more lemon juice or olive oil to thin the dressing to taste. You can do the thinning just before serving if you prefer.

    5. SHAKE or stir thoroughly before serving.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Watermelon Cocktails

    Spicy Watermelon Margarita

    Watermelon Mojito Mocktail

    Tajin Seasoning

    [1] A Spicy Watermelon Margarita? Sure! (Photo courtesy STK LA). [2] A Watermelon Mojito Cocktail (photo courtesy The Merry Thought). [3] Tajin seasoning, a versatile hot spice blend (photo courtesy Tajin Products).

     

    If you’re buying a watermelon for the holiday weekend, buy a bigger one and make watermelon cocktails.

    STK LA, which sent us this recipe, calls it the Secret Affair, made with Don Julio tequila.

    Somehow, that name didn’t ring true so we’re calling it as we see it: a Spicy Watermelon Margarita. We have more watermelon cocktail recipes below.

    RECIPE: SPICY WATERMELON MARGARITA

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces silver tequila (the different types of tequila)
  • .75 ounce fresh lime juice
  • .5 ounce simple syrup (we substituted orange liqueur—the different types of orange liqueur)
  • 4 watermelon cubes
  • 1 slice fresh red chile pepper (anything from an Anaheim (modest heat) to jalapeño or habanero
  • Optional: whole red chile or chile slice
  • Ice cubes: make them from watermelon juice for more intense flavor/less drink dilution
  •  
    For The Rim

  • Sparkling sugar/sanding sugar (the different types of sugar)
  • Coarse salt
  • Red chili flakes
  • Substitute: Tajin seasoning (see below)
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the glass rimer: Combine the sugar, salt and chile in the proportions you prefer. We used 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon chili flakes. Moistening the rims of the glasses, twist in the mixture. Set aside.

    2. MUDDLE the chile and watermelon in a cocktail shaker. Add the tequila, lime and simple syrup.

    3. SHAKE and strain on the rocks into the rimmed glasses.
     
    WHAT IS TAJIN SEASONING?

    Made by Tajin Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.); and in cooked fruit recipes.

    It’s a versatile seasoning. In addition to its popularity as a glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks, try it on:

  • Eggs
  • Fries
  • Ice pops and sorbet
  • Popcorn
  • Proteins
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Vegetables and grains
  •  
    A Mexican staple, you can find Tajin seasoning in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.
     
    RECIPE: WATERMELON MOJITO MOCKTAIL

    Thanks to The Merry Thought for this luscious cocktail. Designated drivers, kids, non-drinkers and the regular cocktail crowd will clamor for it.

    For extra fun and flavor, make the ice cubes from watermelon juice.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Drinks

  • 3 cups chopped watermelon
  • Juice of 2 limes (4 tablespoons)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Mint leaves (for cocktails and garnish)
  • Ice
  • Ginger ale
  • Club soda
  • Garnish: mint sprig and watermelon wedge
  • Optional: bottle of tequila for those who might want a real Mojito*
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the watermelon, lime juice and 1 teaspoon sugar in a blender until smooth. Muddle 2 mint leaves with 1/4 teaspoon sugar in the bottom of each glass. Add the watermelon pur ée, filling the glass about 1/2 full.

    2. ADD the ice and a splash of ginger ale and top with club soda. Stir to combine. Garnish as desired and serve.
     
    MORE WATERMELON COCKTAIL RECIPES

  • Watermelon-Cucumber Summer Splash
  • Watermelon Gin Martini
  • Watermelon Margarita
  • Watermelon Mint Lemonade
  • Watermelon Wave & 5 More Watermelon Cocktails
  •  
    ________________
    *Provide a shot glass and stirrers with the bottle.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 12 Ways To Use Toasted Marshmallows

    National Toasted Marshmallow Day is August 30th—not a day of the year that begs for a steaming cup of cocoa.

    So we put on our thinking toques to see how to best use toasted marshmallows in the summer, and how to to toast them without a campfire or fireplace.
     
    USE TOASTED MARSHMALLOWS FOR…

  • S’mores, of course, or a variation. Check out these S’mores recipes and variations other than graham crackers. (National S’mores Day is August 10th).
  • Cocktail garnish for a Black or White Russian, Chocolate Martini, Espresso Martini, Irish Cream Liqueur.
  • Cookie or brownie sandwich.
  • Cupcake, cake, pie, pudding or tart garnish (make an easy tartlet with lemon curd).
  • Grilled marshmallow and fruit skewers.
  • Iced coffee, iced latte, iced hot chocolate.
  • Ice cream or sundae topping.
  • Milkshakes.
  • Peanut butter toast: Top toast with PB and marshmallows, and chocolate if you like!
  • Shots, with marshmallow vodka (made by Pinnacle, Skyy and Smirnoff).
  • Sweet potato garnish.
  • Toasted “Fluffernutter” sandwich, replacing the fluff.
  •  
    PLEASE ADD TO THIS LIST!

    And remember: There’s marshmallow goodness beyond Campfire and Jet-Puffed. Check out gourmet marshmallows.

    Vegan? There are delicious vegan marshmallows from Dandies, all delicious.
     
    TOASTING MARSHMALLOWS WITHOUT A FIREPLACE

    Even if you have a fireplace, you sure don’t want to light it up today.

    Who needs a fireplace—or a campfire? There are other ways to toast marshmallows.

  • On a stove: If you have a gas stove, you can toast the marshmallow over an open flame until it begins to brown—about a minute, depending on how “toasty” you like it.
  • With a candle, an unscented one. Turn down the lights for romance.
  • For best results, hold the marshmallow about two inches away from the flame and turn it continuously. This way, the marshmallow will melts from the inside out and brown evenly.
  • A fondue fork is ideal for toasting because it has a protective handle, but impaling the marshmallow on the tip of a regular fork works, too. You can use skewers, as well; bamboo skewers will not heat up and are easier to hold. You’ll need to soak them first, though, so they won’t catch fire!
  • Avoid toasting over Sterno: The marshmallows will smell and taste of it. A votive candle will work, and if you’re having guests, you can put a votive at each place setting.
  •  
    The Fastest Way To Toast A Batch Of Marshmallows:

  • The Broiler! Place the marshmallows on a baking sheet and set the oven to Broil. When one side is at your desired tastiness, turn them over. If the marshmallows are not browning evenly, rotate the pan.
  •  

    Chocolate Martini With Toasted Marshmallow Garnish

    Toasted Marshmallow Garnish on Milkshake

    Toasted Marshmallow Garnish

    [1] The best garnish for a Chocolate Martini? A toasted marshmallow—and maybe a rim of graham cracker crumbs (that’s a S’mores Martini). Here’s the recipe from Eclectic Recipes. [2] Serve a toasty marshmallow with a cool shake. Here’s the recipe from Honey and Birch. [3] Garnish any dessert or sweet snack, like this cupcake from Cake Boss Baking.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sashimi Rolls

    You may not have great sushi chops—it takes years of training—but you can make a sashimi roll, as long as you have a sharp knife.

    What’s a sashimi roll? It’s sashimi ingredients wrapped in another piece of fish, a cucumber wrap, even nori (toasted seaweed). As long as there’s no vinegared (seasoned) rice, it’s not sushi.

    Some sushi and sashimi basics:

  • Sushi is vinegared rice with raw fish (including shellfish) and related ingredients: cooked proteins (octopus, salmon skin, shrimp), roe/caviar (ikura, masago, tobiko), sliced omelet (tamago), tempura (deep fried), raw wagyu, etc.
  • Su means vinegar and shi means rice; so sushi can be anything served with vinegared sushi rice. It can be fish placed on a bowl of rice (chirashi sushi), pressed into a box of rice and cut into rectangles), stuffed into a tofu pouch (imari) and so on. The common ingredient: vinegared rice. If we’ve said this too often, it’s because it’s an important distinction.
  • Sashimi is raw fish (often including tamago). It can be sliced, chopped (like yellowtail and scallion roll, negi-hamachi), chopped and sauced (spicy tuna or salmon roll), served in an oyster shell (or on top of the oyster), etc. You can also make “crudité sashimi” by wrapping lengthwise-sliced vegetables in a piece of fish, creating a vertical bundle fastened with a pick.
  • Naruto roll is a sushi-sashimi fusion: a roll with no rice. It is stuffed only with different fish, roe, vegetables, crab salad, etc. Naruto also refers to little the small pieces of food that float in soup, ramen, etc: fish cake, seaweed, scallions, tofu cubes, etc. Most people refer to naruto as sushi because it is rolled; but since it has no rice, we call it a sashimi roll. (Note: Slicing an entire cucumber in thin, continuous roll has got to be the hardest task in sushi preparation.)
  • Tamago, a sweetened omelet cooked in a rectangular pan, can be served in any of these preparations. It is neither fish nor vegetable nor dairy (from a mammal’s milk), but is considered an animal by-product.
  •  
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUSHI & SASHIMI IN OUR PHOTO-PACKED GLOSSARY.
     
    WAYS TO SERVE SASHIMI

    The slices of raw fish can be:

  • Arranged artistically on a plate, usually with some vegetable garnish (daikon, shredded radish; shiso, beefsteak leaf, etc.)—the traditional presentation.
  • Placed over a base, such as avocado or salad (if placed over vinegared rice it’s chirashi sushi).
  • Used to top fried tofu, raw or fried oysters, etc. (especially roe and chopped preparations).
  • Wrapped around a core of of crab or other salad, cucumber matchsticks, avocado, etc.
  •  
    RECIPE: SASHIMI ROLL

    We adapted the bottom photo idea from Herringbone restaurant in Santa Monica. That roll mounds albacore tuna sashimi over an avocado half, with a garnish of ginger, tobiko, sambal* and sprouts.

    You can use whatever fish looks best in the market, and customize your dish with as many garnishes as you like. They don’t all have to be on top of the sashimi; you cam artistically scatter them around the serving plate.
     
    Ingredients

  • Base: avocado half, chopped salad, cooked fish, endive or radicchio, hearts of romaine, mesclun, whole grains (cooked), etc.
  • Fish: sashimi-quality fish of choice, sliced thin enough to drape.
  • Garnish: citrus zest, chopped chives or scallions, cress, fresh herbs, grated daikon and/or carrot, microgreens, minced garlic, minced red jalapeño, salmon or flying fish roe (caviar), raw or toasted sesame seeds.
  • Dressing or sauce: flavored olive oil† with lemon or lime juice, ponzu sauce (recipe) rice vinegar vinaigrette.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the salad base. If using an avocado, don’t slice or peel it until you’re ready to plate.

    2. DRESS the base with vinaigrette or olive oil and lemon/lime. If using an avocado, place it plate side down and drizzle the dressing over it.

    3. MOUND the base onto each plate into an oval. Cover with the sashimi strips. Garnish as desired and serve.

    __________________
    *Sambal is a hot relish commonly used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. There are many varieties, using different fruits or vegetables, different spices, and different levels of heat.

    † Basil-, chili-, chive-, citrus- and rosemary-infused oils are all good here.

     

    Sashimi Deluxe

    Naruto Roll

    Salmon Sashimi Roll

    Rainbow Roll

    Sashimi Roll

    [1] Sashimi at Haru | NYC with a naruto roll at the lower right. [2] Naruto roll, with ingredients wrapped in a thin roll of cucumber—at Tamari Restaurant in Pittsburgh. [3] Salmon sashimi roll: crab salad wrapped in a slice of salmon and topped with spicy salmon (photo courtesy Sushi.org.pt. [4] This Rainbow Roll from Blue Ribbon Sushi is a sushi roll covered with sashimi, but it’s still sushi, with vinegared rice. [5] Fish over a bed of guacamole at Herringbone Restaurant.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Treats For Banana Lovers

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    Banana Split

    Banana Hot Fudge Sundae

    Bunch of Bananas

    [1] A grilled banana split: no need for a special banana split dish (photo courtesy Pampered Chef). [2] Another presentation from Women’s Day. Here’s their recipe. [3] Fusion food: a grilled banana hot fudge sundae (photo courtesy Weber). [4] The world’s most popular fruit (photo Nathan Ward | SXC)!

     

    Who doesn’t love a banana? It’s the world’s most popular fruit. Some 25 pounds of bananas are consumed per capita each year.

    In the U.S., more bananas are consumed than oranges and apples combined! And August 27th is National Banana Lovers Day.

    Bananas were introduced to the U.S. in 1880. By 1910, bananas were so popular that cities—which then lacked sanitation systems—had a problem disposing of the banana peels.

    People were literally slipping on banana peels that were discarded on sidewalks and streets (a reality appropriated by comedians), leading to injuries. The Boy Scout Handbook recommended picking up banana peels from the street as a Scout’s good deed of the day (source).
     
    MORE BANANA TRIVIA

  • Man has been growing bananas for some 10,000 years, since the dawn of agriculture. It’s the oldest cultivated fruit.
  • Bananas don’t grow on trees: The banana plant is actually the world’s largest herb. It’s a cousin to ginger and vanilla.
  • There are more than 1,000 varieties of bananas. The majority grow in Africa and Asia: 600 varieties in India alone.
  • The American supermarket banana is a variety called the Cavendish. It’s a more bland banana, but it travels well.
  • Bananas float in water (so do apples)!
  •  
    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BANANA RECIPE?

    Banana Bread? Banana Cream Pie? Banana Daiquiri? Banana French Toast? Banana Ice Cream? Banana Pudding? Peanut Butter and Bananas?

    We say YES! to all, but today are focusing on two: the kid favorite Banana Split and the over-21 Bananas Foster.
     
    BANANA SPLIT HISTORY

    Two towns in the U.S. lay claim as the home of the banana split.

  • In 1904 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, David Strickler, a 23-year-old druggist’s apprentice at Tassel Pharmacy is said to have created the first banana split sundae for the local college crowd.
  • In 1907 in Wilmington, Ohio, restaurateur Ernest R. Hazard held a dessert contest among his employees at The Café. One came up with a sundae of sliced banana topped with three scoops of ice cream, chocolate syrup, strawberry jam, pineapple bits, chopped nuts, whipped cream and cherries.
  •  
    Fortunately for the rest of us, the concept spread nationwide, affording all of us the joy of a Banana Split.

    RECIPE: GRILLED BANANA SUNDAE

    Banana splits are easy to make: Split a ripe banana vertically, place it in a long dish, top with three scoops of ice cream (traditionally vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) and toppings of choice. (You can get Anchor Hocking banana split dishes for about $2 each.)

    Here’s a twist: a grilled banana sundae, a cross between the classic and Bananas Foster. In the latter, bananas are caramelized in butter with brown sugar and cinnamon, then topped with dark rum and flambéed, with the bananas and the flaming sauce served over vanilla ice cream.

    We’ve included a Bananas Foster recipe below. The recipes are very similar, except that for Bananas Foster, the bananas are sautéed in butter instead of grilled; and alcohol is added to the caramel sauce. The banana is typically sliced in half lengthwise and crosswise.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 firm, ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup fudge sauce
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a grill pan over medium heat for 5 minutes.

    2. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish. Gently coat the bananas with the sugar mixture.

    3. SPRAY the grill pan lightly with vegetable oil and add the banana pieces, cut sides down. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until grill marks appear.

    4. SERVE warm with ice cream, ice cream topping and almonds.
     

     

    RECIPE: BANANAS FOSTER

    The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900 to 1977), the Executive Chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish of sautéed bananas, flambéed and topped with ice cream, was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan Sr.

    Note that while both the recipes above and the original Bananas Foster cut the bananas into oblong pieces (see photo above), we prefer the round slices of banana, about 3/4-inch thick.

    While igniting the dish tableside is dramatic both at a restaurant and at home, it isn’t necessary.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 firm, ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Optional garnishes: toasted chopped pecans, grated orange zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each (alternative: cut 3/4″ rounds; you’ll have more than 4 pieces).

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes—this creates a caramel sauce). Add the bananas and cook on both sides until they begin to soften and brown (about 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce. If you want to flambé, follow the instructions below. However, the drama of the flambé works only if the dish is prepared tableside. Otherwise, the drama is lost in the kitchen (the flame extinguishes quickly).

    4. LIFT the bananas carefully from the pan and top the four dishes of ice cream; then spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas and serve immediately.
     
    TIPS ON HOW TO FLAMBÉ

  • Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-109 proof are best to ignite. Don’t use a higher proof; it is highly flammable.
  • The liquor must be warmed to 130°F before adding to the pan. Higher temperatures will burn off the alcohol, and it won’t ignite.
  • Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself.
  • Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames. The alcohol vapor generally burns off by itself in a matter of seconds.
  •  
    MORE

  • Read these tips
  • Watch this video
  •  

    Bananas Foster

    Bananas Foster

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    [1] Bananas Foster at the Bonefish Grill, looking like a more complex Banana Split. [2] It’s harder to sauté a lengthwise half of banana without breaking it. Hence, the suggestion of slicing lengthwise and crosswise (photo Fotolia). [3] This recipe from Taste Of Home slices the bananas into coin shapes (a.k.a. chunks), easier to salute.

     
    READY FOR A DRINK?

    Relax with a Banana Colada.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sgroppino

    Hot enough for you? Cool off with sgroppino.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SGROPPINO

    Sgroppino (sgro-PEA-no), which originated in Venice, is a refreshing, frothy sorbet cocktail: a slushy combination of lemon sorbet, vodka and prosecco.

    It’s served as a digestif (after-dinner drink) or liquid dessert. You don’t want very sweet drinks before a formal European-style dinner, but it works with hot and spicy cuisines. Sgroppino is no sweeter than a frozen Margarita.

    Sgroppino was created by an anonymous kitchen servant in 16th century Venice. At that time, only wealthy households had the means to keep an ice house* and the staff to make sorbet (sorbetto in Italian) by hand.

    In the Venetian dialect the drink is called sgropin from the verb sgropàre, which means to untie a small knot. The reference is to the knots in one’s stomach following at the multi-course dinners of the wealthy. A sweet drink was believed to aid in digestion; hence the after-dinner liqueur.

    Sgroppino was also served as a palate cleanser† to refresh the taste buds between the fish and meat courses as well. This “intermezzo,” used to cleanse the palate of fish before moving onto meat, is still served at some fine restaurants today.

    The classic was made by whisking softened lemon sorbet with prosecco until frothy (it was described as “whipped snow,” although today we call it a slush).

    The recipe evolved to include limoncello, sambuca or vodka. Today it can be both liqueur and vodka.

    More modern variations substitute grapefruit, orange or strawberry sorbetto. If a larger percentage of sorbetto is added, you get a thicker drink.

    In its simplest form, it’s a scoop of sorbet topped with Prosecco, or vice versa.

    The drink separates if left to stand, so in Italy the waiter will often prepare the drink at tableside.

    RECIPE: SGROPPINO, AN ALCOHOLIC LEMON SLUSH

    You can serve sgroppino in a martini glass, coupe, flute or wine glass…or those “sherbet Champagne” glasses‡, designed for Marie Antoinette but not actually good for serving sparkling wine.

       
    Sgroppino

    Pomegranate Sgroppino

    [1] If only every bar and restaurant served these (photo courtesy What’s Cooking America. [2] Chef Bikeski adds pomegranate arils for a bit of color.

     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/3 cup lemon sorbet
  • 3 ounces prosecco
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon liqueur—Limoncello; orange liqueur; sambucca, pastas or other anise liqueur
  • Optional garnish: citrus curl or zest, fresh mint, pomegranate arils, micro-herbs
  •  

    Lime Sgroppino

    [3] Some people prefer the cocktail to be separated. In this version, from Zoetrecepten, a scoop of lime sorbet is added to the top of the alcohol.

     

    Preparation

    1. WHISK together the sorbet and a splash of prosecco until fully blended, using a cocktail shaker or a stainless steel bowl. Continue whisking while slowly pouring in the vodka and prosecco.

    2. If using a liqueur, you can blend it with the vodka or drizzle it, Venice-style, into the center of the glass right before serving.

    3. SERVE immediately. The drink will separate as it stands, so provide iced tea spoons or straws so people can re-blend as desired. If you take the modern approach of adding sorbet on top of the alcohol, you save the trouble of whisking!

    Some mixologists don’t blend the drink in the first place. Instead, they place the scoop of sorbet on top of the alcohol (see photo 3). So separation is not a bad thing, but a choice.
     
    Tips

  • Do not use a blender, but hand-whisk this drink.
  • If you don’t have a whisk that’s small enough, get this graduated set. The smallest is handy for whisking instant cocoa that doesn’t dissolve. They’re inexpensive: here’s a set on Amazon.
  • Don’t add extra alcohol or the drink will be too liquid.
  •  
    ALSO SEE OUR ARTICLE ON ALCOHOLIC SLUSHIES.

     
    ___________________

    *Before refrigeration, only the wealthy could afford to have ice cut from lakes and rivers in the winter and stored in ice houses for summer use. The oldest known ice house, built by a king in Persia, dates from about 1700 B.C.E. Most other people dug ice pits, lined with straw and sawdust as insulation. While commercial refrigeration was available by the late 1800s, the home refrigerator didn’t arrive until 1930. Prior to then, the wealthy as well as the middle class used an insulated metal “ice box,” which held a large block of ice delivered from the “ice man” to keep perishables cold. When the ice melted, it was replaced.

    †The tartness and citrus acid of lemon sorbet clear the taste buds. Citric acid elicits salivation, which aids in cleansing the palate. Lemons and limes have the highest level of citric acid, which can constitute as much as .3 mol/L, depending on the cultivar and growing conditions. By comparison, grapefruits and oranges have just .005 mol/L (source). Passionfruit also can work. It has 38.7 mg/100g compared to 30 mg/100g (source).

    ‡“Sherbet champagne” glasses were purportedly designed by Marie Antoinette, who had them molded after the shape of her breasts. Here’s a photo. They are rarely made anymore, as modern knowledge shows that a wide mouth-glass is not appropriate for sparkling wine: It lets the bubbles escape that much more quickly. But if you have these glasses, they’re just fine for serving sorbet, fruit cocktail and other foods…or sgroppino.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ratatouille Pizza

    Ratatouille (rah-tah-TWEE) is a vegetable side dish that originated in the Provence region of France. The classic recipe consists of sautéed eggplant, onions, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini plus garlic and herbs.

    It is traditionally summer dish, when tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash are plentiful and at peak.

    Ratatouille is delightfully colorful when you use red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers and tomatoes/cherry tomatoes. To make ratatouille as a side dish, check out this recipe.
     
    RECIPE: RATATOUILLE PIZZA

    Ingredients For 1 Large Pizza

    You can save time by purchasing the dough or a prepared crust (we sure did—and saved half the steps in the preparation). But Lisa, of Flour De Lisa made hers from scratch, using a pizza dough recipe from Bobby Flay. She adapted the ratatouille from Smitten Kitchen; we further adapted it.

    This can be a vegan recipe; but we adapted it by adding both ricotta and mozzarella. We put the mozzarella under the vegetables to showcase the colors. We also created a breakfast pizza version by adding eggs, which bake on top of the pizza.

    Without the cheese, the recipe is dairy free and low fat. Use a whole wheat crust and skim-milk cheeses and you have a pizza that’s on the “better for you” list.
     
    Ingredients For The Dough

  • 1-3/4 to 2 cups flour (bread flour for a crisper* crust, all-purpose for chewier)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water (around 100°F)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  
    For The Ratatouille

    Slice the vegetables to a width of 1/8 to 1/16th inch.

  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 Japanese eggplant
  • 1 long red bell pepper or 6 mini red bell peppers
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 yellow or red onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Red pepper or chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Optional Garnishes

  • Capers and/or olives
  • Small or medium eggs
  • Herbs: fresh basil*, rosemary, thyme, other
  •  
    For The Optional Cheese Layer

  • 2 cups whole or part skim ricotta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 handful† flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or provolone
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup, shredded
  •  

    Ratatouille

    Fried Egg Ratatouille

    ratatouille-theformerchef-230r

    Tian Recipe

    [1] Ratatouille pizza (photo courtesy FlourDeLisa.Wordpress.com). [2] Bake eggs on top of the pizza, or fry or poach them in a pan to turn a ratatouille side into a main (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers. [3] courtesy TheFormerChef.com. [4] A tian, also from Provence, is another way to enjoy ratatouille ingredients (All-Clad gratin pan photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.)

     
    ________________
    *You can scatter 10 medium basil leaves or 1/2 cup shredded basil atop the pizza when it comes out of the oven.

    †A handful is one of those imprecise measures that says: Use how much you want. More or less of the ingredient is not critical to the recipe’s outcome.
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pizza dough: Combine 1-3/4 cup flour with the yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the oil and water, i.e. slightly warmer than your body temperature. Mix until the dough starts to form a ball. scraping down the bowl. If the dough is too wet, slowly add more flour. If dough becomes too dry, slowly add more water.

    2. TURN out the dough onto a lightly floured or oiled surface. Knead for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. When you poke it, the dough should spring back readily; when you hold the ball of between your palms, it should hold its shape. Lightly oil a clean bowl, place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. While waiting for the dough to rise…

    3. MAKE the ratatouille. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, minced garlic, sliced onion and a dash of red pepper flakes on the bottom of a 8- or 9-inch diameter springform pan. Alternatively, you can cook the ratatouille on top of the rolled out pizza dough, but the vegetables won’t be as tender or flavorful due to the significantly less cooking time.

    Optional cooking method: We steamed the vegetables separately to al dente, and then were able to pick them up with fingers and layer them perfectly, as in the photo.

    4. LAYER on top of the tomato paste mixture the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and bell pepper, alternating the colors. Start with the inside perimeter and move inward. If you have extra vegetable, save them for a salad, omelet, etc. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the assembled ratatouille. Season with a dash of salt and pepper and thyme or rosemary. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes, increasing the temperature of the oven to as high as possible (450°F or 500°F on most ovens) within the last 5-10 minutes. While the ratatouille is baking…

    5. TURN back to the pizza dough. When the first rise is completed, turn out the dough onto a large sheet of lightly floured or oiled parchment paper. Punch out the air and form a disk. Roll out the dough into a circle about 10-12 inches in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

    6. MIX the ricotta with the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

    7. REMOVE the finished ratatouille from the oven, uncover the pizza dough and place it on a baking sheet. Parbake the pizza dough for a minute or two and remove from the oven. If using ricotta, spread it over the crust, followed by the mozzarella. If you prefer, use the mozzarella to top the pizza.

    8. RELEASE the springform pan carefully—it can be hot! Use one or two spatulas two to gently slide the ratatouille onto the center of the pizza. If you can do it evenly, great. If not, it will still taste delicious. Lightly brush the exposed pizza crust with olive oil.

    9. BAKE the pizza for 8-12 minutes, until the pizza crust is a golden brown. Slice and serve.
     
    CRISPER VS. CRISPIER

    Many people use the adjective crispier when they mean crisp.

  • Crisper is the comparative of crisp, i.e., “The crust is crisp but I’ll make it crisper next time.
  • Crispier is the comparative of crispy, i.e., the crust was nice and crispy but could have been even crispier.
  •  
    It’s a small difference, but a difference nevertheless.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Cuban Sandwich

    Cuban Sandwich

    Pressed Cuban Sandwich

    Cuban Sandwich

    [1] The Cuban Sandwich: composed but not yet pressed (photo courtesy National Cuban Sandwich Day | Facebook). [2] The sandwiches are pressed under hot irons. You can use your George Foreman grill or a panini press (photo courtesy Florida Girl Linda C | Flickr. [3] The crust is now crunchy and the sandwich is ready to enjoy with a cold beer (photo courtesy Columbia Restaurant | Ybor City).

     

    Depending where you reside, you may never have heard of a Cuban Sandwich.

    But August 23rd is National Cuban Sandwich Day, honoring a pressed hero-type sandwich that originated in Tampa and traveled to Miami and points beyond. In fact, there’s a rivalry between the two cities over small details (check out this article on NPR.org).

    National Cuban Sandwich Day even has its own Facebook page.

    The annual Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City attracts competitors from around the United States. This year’s winner is from London!

    In 2015, participating restaurants joined forces to make a 105-foot-long Cuban Sandwich, the world’s longest. Alas, we could find no photo.
     
    WHAT’S A CUBAN SANDWICH?

    The original Cuban sandwich from the Ybor City district of Tampa, Florida is a type of hero sandwich made with glazed ham, shredded roast pork, Swiss cheese, Genoa salami, dill pickle chips and yellow mustard, on Cuban bread.

    Cuban bread itself originated in Ybor City, most likely at La Joven Francesca bakery, established by a Sicilian-born baker in 1896 (it closed in 1973 and is now part of a museum). It’s a long, baguette-shaped loaf made with a bit of added fat (photo below).
     
    The Beginning

  • The late 1800s. The Cuban sandwich we know today originated in Tampa, Florida in the late 1800s, in the now historic cigar-producing neighborhood, Ybor City. The neighborhood was populated by many Cuban immigrants, who came to work in the cigar industry, as well as German cigar workers and Italian laborers.
  • The early 1900s. The sandwich achieved popularity among workers in the district’s many cigar factories. One popular eatery, Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, has been around since 1905. (It’s now an elegant restaurant, with a dolphin fountain in the courtyard.)
  •  
    Ingredients

  • While it’s called “Cuban,” the sandwich has influences from other immigrant groups, particularly the German cigar workers and Italian bricklayers in the area.
  • Genoa salami was added by Italians, who found that placing a hot brick on top of the sandwich for a few minutes pressed it flat and made it taste better—warm and crusty. This led to use of a cast iron grill press, still used today. At home, you can use a George Foreman grill or panini press (both are electric grill presses, with flat and ridged plates).
  •  

  • Mustard was a condiment preferred by the Germans. It also didn’t spoil in the Florida heat as mayonnaise could. Refrigeration was scarce in the early 20th century.
  •  

    Tampa Versus Miami

    Tampa and Miami have an ongoing a rivalry over the correct ingredients for a Cuban sandwich.

    Miami avows that salami should never be used. Plus, Miami-style Cuban sandwiches can be spread with butter!

    But there’s no doubt about the original ingredients.

    In 2012, the Tampa City Council passed a resolution designating the “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich” as the “signature sandwich of the city of Tampa.”

    The Council proclaimed that a traditional Tampa Cuban is to include Cuban bread, ham, mojo-spiced pork, Genoa salami, mustard, Swiss cheese and three pickle chips.
     
    Worldwide Demand

  • By the 1970s, the Cuban Sandwich had spread to menus around the United States.
  • In 2015, the Cuban Sandwich Factory opened in Belfast, Ireland.
  • In 2016, the Tampa Cuban Sandwich Bar opened in Seoul, Korea.
  •  
    In fact, London’s Jama Cubana restaurant won first place in The World’s Best Cuban Sandwich category at the 2016 Annual Cuban Sandwich Festival (held in Tampa on March 5th). It too is newcomer, opened in 2015.
     
    MEDIANOCHE, THE CUBAN SANDWICH SIBLING

    Very similar to the Cuban Sandwich is the Medianoche (“midnight”), which originated in Cuba.

    As the name suggests, this sandwich is popular late-night fare, served in Havana’s nightclubs. It contains the same ingredients as the Cuban Sandwich—ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and dill pickles.

    However, it is smaller and uses a different bread: rolls made from an egg dough with a bit of sugar (similar to challah but a different shape).

    Like the Cuban sandwich, the medianoche is typically warmed in a press.

     

    cuban sandwich bread

    Cuban Sandwich

    [1] Cuban bread is a long loaf like a baguette, but is doughier and without the crustiness of a French or Italian loaf. Here’s the recipe to bake it at home, from The Stay At Home Chef. [2] The best Cuban Sandwich in the world is from London’s Jama Cubana restaurant.

     
    So warm up the press: Wherever you live, today’s the day to enjoy a Cuban Sandwich.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruits & Greens Salad

    Spinach & Strawberry Salad

    Sungold Kiwi

    [1] Spinach with kiwi, grapes, strawberries and pecans (photo courtesy Pampered Chef). [2] SunGold kiwis from Zespri are sweeter and juicier than green kiwis—and other yellow kiwis, too (photo courtesy Zespri).

     

    We eat green salads, we eat fruit salads. But why don’t we mix them together more often?

    We were inspired by this easy recipe from Pampered Chef, which does just that.

    A spinach salad with strawberries (and feta) is not news, but it’s a good place to start. This one has some added twists, and there are other fruit and greens combinations below.

     
    RECIPE: FRUIT & SPINACH SALAD

    Ingredients For 8 One-Cup Servings

    For The Salad

  • 1 package (8 ounces/227 g) fresh baby spinach (wash if not pre-washed)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved (substitute other berries)
  • 1 large kiwi, peeled, sliced (look for our favorite, Zespri’s SunGold® kiwi)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) pecan halves, toasted
  • 1 kirby or Persian cucumber (Persians don’t need to be peeled)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup crumbled cheese—blue, feta, goat
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) raspberry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOAST the pecans (how to toast nuts). Pampered Chef simply heated them in the microwave without toasting, using a Small Micro-Cooker. Microwave the nuts, uncovered, on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cool completely.

    2. PLACE the greens in a large serving bowl. Add the fruit and top with the pecans.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Combine the ingredients and whisk until well blended. Drizzle ¼ cup (50 ml) over the salad and toss lightly just before serving.
     
    SALAD VARIATIONS WITH FRUIT & GREENS

  • Citrus salad, with blood oranges and pink grapefruit, butterhead lettuce (Bibb, Boston) and optional red onion.
  • Gourmet salad, with fresh lychee or rambutan, red and golden raspberry mix, fennel, radicchio and watercress.
  • Herb salad, citrus or stone fruits with basil or mint, butterhead lettuce, cilantro, dill, flat-leaf parsley (de-stemmed), mâche or purslane.
  • Melon salad, with melon balls or cubes, baby arugula, butterhead lettuce, celery, cucumber, large basil leaves.
  • Spicy salad, with citrus or berries, baby arugula, mizuna or other mustard greens, radish.
  •  
    Dressing Variations

    You can use a standard vinaigrette of oil and vinegar, but fruit and greens salads shine with:

  • Lime vinaigrette: lime juice and zest, olive oil and a teaspoon of honey.
  • Fruit-flavored vinegar or oil.
  • Fruit-flavored vinegar and chile-infused oil, for a bit of heat.
  •   

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