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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

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

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Cheese & Chocolate

Forget the bread, crackers and fruit: Who knew that plain chocolate, chocolate truffles and chocolate-covered caramels—the latter two with prominent dairy and buttery notes—pair so well with cheese?

We know that chocolate cheesecake, and a chocolate ganache topping on regular cheesecake, are delicious. So how about serving a piece of cheese with a piece of chocolate?

If you love both cheese and chocolate, you can have a party that pairs both, for Valentine’s Day or any special occasion. You can pair almost any cheese, from a sweet mascarpone to a mushroomy Brie to a tangy blue. You can also add toasted nuts and a libation of choice. But start with some guidance from the experts.

When deciding on pairings, contrast textures in the cheese and chocolate. For example, try a soft, creamy cheese with a simple dark chocolate square, or a hard, crumbly cheese drizzled with chocolate ganache.

Lake Champlain Chocolates offers these insights:

  • Soft ripened goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk cheeses tend to be more pungent, acidic and aggressive and pair well with both dark chocolate and milk chocolate.
  •    

    chocolate-and-cheese-dallmanconfections-230

    Cheese and chocolate? Absolutely! Photo courtesy DallmanConfections.com.

  • Aged cheese is nutty, and less acidic, with a crunchy texture that pairs well with chocolates with fillings and inclusions, such as almonds, honey and maple.
  • Blue cheese, with its sharp, pungent aromas and flavors, enhances the undertones of bittersweet dark chocolate (70% or higher cacao content).
  •  
    RealCaliforniaMilk.com suggests pairing:

  • Bittersweet chocolates with salty cheeses, like aged Asiago, Parmesan or pecorino.
  • Dark chocolate with complex, aged cheeses such as Beaufort, Cheshire, aged Gruyère, Manchego.
  • Milk chocolate with fresh, sweet cheese like crescenza, cream cheese, crème fraîche, mascarpone, ricotta, and Teleme; or buttery, semisoft cheeses like Brie, creamy blues, triple crèmes and washed rind cheeses.
  • Chocolate with nuts or dried fruits with creamier, semisoft cheeses as well as aged, more complex cheeses, such as Asiago, Cheddar, fontina, Gouda, or beer or wine washed rind cheeses.
  • Spicy chocolates with sharp cheeses that are not overly salty: aged Gouda and aged Jack for example.
  •  
    Vermont Creamery likes these pairings:

  • Fresh goat cheese with its creamy tartness with dense milk or dark chocolate truffles.
  • Soft, ripened cheese with dark chocolate, especially those spiced with cinnamon, cayenne or anise for a more complex flavor profile. Try Aztec chocolate with aged goat cheese.
  • Aged cheese with nutty notes, such as good Cheddar, well with an almond chocolate bar or chocolate-covered almonds. Bonbons with honey and maple fillings work, too.
  • Strong blue cheese, sharp and pungent with semisweet dark chocolate. Try a great blue like Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue with a simple bar of 50% to 65% cacao.
  •  

    jasper-hill-cheese-chocolate-230

    Jasper Hill’s chocolate and cheese Valentine git set. Photo courtesy Jasper Hill Farm.

     

    You can download an extensive party guide from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, but here are the highlights:

  • Alpine-style cheese like Gruyère or Emmental, with milk chocolate. Since the Alpine cheeses have nutty notes, you can also pair add some nuts, from plain almonds or walnuts to rosemary cashews.
  • Aged Cheddar with chocolate-dipped bacon or with Aztec (spicy) dark chocolate. Hints of cayenne or other pepper really work with Cheddar. Also try spicy chocolate with a blue cheese.
  • Aged Parmesan with dark chocolate and oatmeal stout. The nutty flavor of aged Parmesan also invites dark chocolate covered almonds. If you’re a beer drinker, try it with an oatmeal stout.
  • Blue cheese with dark chocolate truffles and a glass of Port. Blue cheese and Port are already a popular pairing. The dark chocolate bridges the saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the wine.
  • Mixed milk cheese—a combination of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk—tend to have an intense earthy flavor. Pair them with white chocolate, with its sweeter counterpoint. If you like, add some cranberry chutney. These earthy cheeses also work well with chocolate-covered salt caramels. Yum!
  •  
    The great British chef Heston Blumenthal pairs caviar and white chocolate. So if you have a favorite food, test it with a bite of dark, milk or white chocolate to see if it works.
     
    CHEESE & CHOCOLATE GIFT BOX

    Brooklyn chocolatiers the Mast brothers, known for their small batch, artisan chocolate bars, joined up with Jasper Hill Farm to develop a milk chocolate trio that showcases the flavors of cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milks.

    It’s a rare experience to see how a chocolate bar made with other animal milks compare with the familiar cow’s milk used in all conventional milk chocolate. Here’s your chance! These particular bars are made with semisweet 60% cacao that has naturally nutty notes. But what you’ll also find is that:

  • The cow’s milk bar has toasty notes of tobacco and wood smoke.
  • The goat’s milk bar has notes of citrus and date.
  • The sheep’s milk bar tastes of dulce du leche and fresh dairy.
  •  
    Jasper Hill Farm has created a Cheese & Chocolate Gift Box that pairs this unique chocolate trio with two chocolate-loving cheeses. Each gift box contains the three 2.5-ounce chocolate bars plus:

  • Bayley Hazen Blue, made with raw cow’s milk, a creamy blue cheese with sweet undertones (8 ounces). Pairing with chocolate brings out its buttery flavors of the milk.
  • Weybridge, made with organic cow’s milk, a bright, dense cheese with an edible bloomy rind. A bright, tangy cheese, it has a yogurty flavor that becomes more intense and gamey as it ages. It’s made in a limited-edition heart shaped just for Valentine’s Day (3.5 ounces).
  •  
    The gift box is $62.00 at JasperHillFarm.Shop.com. You can order any time and specify your preferred delivery date.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Valentine Cocktail

    Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic interest, friends or family, make the occasion special with a Valentine cocktail.

    What makes a “Valentine” cocktail? Color—a shade of pink, rose or red. If you want a Champagne cocktail, garnish it with “Champagne grapes” (they’re actually Zante currants), a red berry or an edible flower. And of course, it’s got to be a sweet cocktail.

    Chocolate cocktails are also options.

    We’ve listed some of our favorite recipes at the end, but here’s a new idea from Tequila Herradura.

    This sweet cocktail from is almost a good-for-you tonic, mixing the spirit with a serving of fresh fruit, plus fruit juice and low glycemic agave nectar instead of sugar- or corn syrup-filled cocktail mixer.

    LOVE NECTAR

    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 10 seedless red grapes
  • 1 ounce apple cider
  • ½ ounce agave nectar
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: apple fan
  •  

    love-nectar-cocktail-herradura-230

    Get ready to toast Valentine’s Day with some Love Nectar. Photo courtesy Casa Herradura.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the grapes into the base of a cocktail shaker and crush with a muddler. Add the remaining ingredients including ice. Shake hard and strain over ice into an old fashioned glass.

    2. GARNISH with a fan of red apple. (Here’s a video that shows how.)
     
    MORE VALENTINE COCKTAILS

  • Amore Espresso Cocktail Recipe
  • Bright Red Cocktail Recipes
  • Chocolate Basil Martini Recipe
  • Five Chocolate Cocktail Recipes
  • Love Potion Recipe
  • Pink Cocktail Recipes
  • Pomegranate Martini Recipe
  • The Right Kiss Gin Cocktail Recipe
  •  
    Or, since you’ve got time, start thinking about making your own signature cocktail. Hint: There’s nothing easier than

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Green Bean & Potato Salad

    If you’re thinking of potato salad for game day, how about upping the flavor, color, texture and nutrition with green beans, a.k.a. string beans and snap beans (more about that below).

    Fresh green bean crops are harvested year-round, but are best in early winter, early summer and early fall. Beans picked early in the season are smaller and sweeter. As they mature, they lose flavor and get thicker and tougher.

    “The combination of green beans and red potatoes, sometimes known as Green Beans Pierre, is one of my go-to side dishes,” SAYS Preci D’Silva, who contributed the recipe to Taste Of Home.

    The recipe calls for dried herbs, but trust us: fresh herbs give a much more wonderful punch of flavor. You can use a combination of fresh and dried, depending on what you have on hand (e.g., fresh basil and parsley, dried tarragon). While this recipe uses an oil and vinegar dressing, you can also add green beans into mayonnaise-dressed potato salad.

    While the recipe was developed to serve warm, it is equally delicious at room temperature. Prep time is 30 minutes.

    RECIPE: WARM GREEN BEAN & POTATO SALAD

    Ingredients For 10 Servings

  • 1 pound small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon each garlic powder, ground mustard and pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon each dried basil, parsley flakes and tarragon
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  •    

    potato-green-bean-salad-tasteofhome-230r

    Add crunch and flavor to potato salad. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.

     
    *We love balsamic vinegar so much that we often use it, even though it adds a dark color. White balsamic, created to solve this problem, isn’t real balsamic, and doesn’t taste anything like it. Here’s more about balsamic vinegar.
     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the potatoes in a large saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile…

    2. WHISK together the oil, vinegar and seasonings in a large bowl.

    3. ADD the green beans to the pot of potatoes; return to a boil. Cook 3-5 minutes longer or until the vegetables are tender. Drain.

    4. ADD to the dressing and toss to coat. Stir in the tomatoes and onion. Serve warm.

     

    organic-bush-burpee-2-230

    Before breeding eliminated it, green beans had a fibrous “string” atop the long ridges and were known as string beans. Photo courtesy Burpee.

     

    GREEN BEANS OR STRING BEANS: THE DIFFERENCE

    String beans got their name because they originally had a string, a tough fiber that ran from one tip to the other. The string had to be removed before cooking. The task was onerous enough that the string was bred out of most varieties. But the name, handed down from generation to generation, lives on.

    The beans also got the name of snap beans, because when you bend them, they snap.

    There are two types of green beans:

  • Bush beans, which have a rounded pod (see photo).
  • Pole beans, which are usually large and relatively flat.
  •  
    Pole beans are also more tender, so if you have a choice, go for the flat beans.

    But whether bush or pole, raw green beans are tender enough to be eaten raw. They are a standard on our crudité platter, and whenever we have them on hand, we add them to green salads, other vegetable salads, grain salads and protein salads (chicken, egg, tuna, etc.).

     

    HOW TO HANDLE GREEN BEANS

    Here’s advice from Produce Pete:

  • Selection: Choose small to medium-size pods that are velvety-looking and bright green, with no signs of wilting or wrinkling. If you’re not sure of the freshness, bend one and see if it snaps. If it’s rubbery and bends, it’s past its prime.
  • Storage: Don’t wash green beans (or any produce) until you’re ready to use them. While it’s always best to use them as soon as you buy them, you can refrigerate them in a paper bag an or unsealed plastic bag for a day or two. If you’ve had them longer and they start to wilt, you may be able to revive them in ice-cold water. Otherwise, you can purée them or add them to soups or stews.
  • Preparation: To cook, simply steam or cook in a small amount of water in a covered pan for five to eight minutes (we steam them in the microwave), adding a dab of butter (or good olive oil), salt and pepper. Don’t overcook or you’ll get a canned green bean flavor.
  • Freezing: String beans freeze well if blanched for two minutes before freezing.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Flavored Chips For Super Bowl Sunday

    As you stroll down the snacks aisle of the supermarket, instead of grabbing the same old chips, treat your crowd to something special.

    For more than a decade, chips have been exploding in flavor. Although most supermarkets give shelf space to the three or so biggest sellers, bagel chips, bean chips, pita chips, potato chips, tortilla chips and rice chips have gone from plain to Pepperoncini (an actual flavor from Kettle brand chips).

    For decades, potato chips were available in the U.S. in Original (lightly salted), Barbecue and Sour Cream; perhaps you’d find Salt & Vinegar.* Then, artisan chip makers like Route 11 broke through with flavors like Chesapeake Crab, Dill Pickle and Mama Zuma’s Revenge (habanero).

    Kettle Brand works in overdrive to come up with a trending new flavor every year. Its current selection of 18 flavors (not including Krinkle Cut flavors) offers Maple Bacon, Red Curry and Spicy Thai potato chips.

    Now, even megabrand Lay’s makes chips in Dill Pickle and Flamin’ Hot, plus Chile Lemon, Garden Tomato & Basil and a host of others.

       

    FoodShouldTasteGood-asstd-flavors-230

    Food should taste good makes tortilla chips in 19 flavors, from Cheddar to Kimchi (and yes, plain chips too). Photo courtesy FSTG.

     
    Flavored chips create a bigger taste experience with dips of any kind, or with straight nibbling. Why not set up a chip tasting bar for your Super Bowl Party? It just begs for a beer tasting bar alongside.

     

    stacys-pita-chips-fire-roasted-jalapeno-230

    Stacy’s newest flavor, Fire Roasted Jalapeño
    Pita Chips. Photo courtesy Stacy’s Snacks.

     

    THE NEW CHIP IN TOWN

    Stacy’s Pita Chips began plain, as most brands do. Today the original Simply Naked Pita Chips are joined by Cinnamon Sugar, Garden Veggie Medley, Italian Harvest, Multigrain, Parmesan Garlic & Herb and Salted Caramel.

    Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, Stacy’s has released its newest flavor: Fire Roasted Jalapeño Pita Chips.

    Real jalapeño chiles are baked into the chips. The subtle jalapeño kick builds after a minute or so, and made us reach for a beer.

    The chips are available in grocery stores nationwide for a suggested retail price of $3.99.

    For more information, visit StacysSnacks.com.
     
     
    *Although potato chips were born in the U.S.A., the U.K. was an early pioneer in flavored potato chips. Here’s the history of potato chips.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Citrus As A Cake Garnish Or Base

    With a limited offering of sweet fresh fruit during the winter, turn to seasonal citrus to dress your desserts.

    Angel cake, cheesecake, olive oil cake, pound cake, sponge cake: all are highly receptive to a garnish of citrus segments (or, depending on how you look at it, a citrus fruit salad).

    In addition to cheery color, if you use the citrus as a base you can place a smaller piece of cake atop a larger amount of fruit.

    Go for a blend of color—rosy blood oranges, pink cara cara oranges, conventional oranges, pink or red grapefruits (with perhaps some white grapefruit for contrast). You can also add some kumquats and something from the Mandarin group: clementines, satsumas, tangelos and tangerines.

    Cut some of the fruits into disks, and supreme others into segments. “Supreme” is the term that refers to removing the skin, pith, membranes and seeds of a citrus fruit and separating it into segments (wedges). Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to do it.

    One note: You may not want your cake sitting in the citrus juices. If so, be sure to drain the citrus well—but save those delicious juices and drink them or add them to a vinaigrette.

       

    olive-oil-cake-citrus-garnish-froghollowfarm-230r

    Create a colorful citrus garnish for plain cakes. Photo of olive oil cake courtesy Frog
    Hollow Farm.

     

    mandarin-peeled-noblejuice-230

    I am not an orange: I’m a mandarin! Photo courtesy Noble Juice.

     

    FOOD 101: THE MANDARIN IS NOT AN ORANGE

    A mandarin is erroneously called “mandarin orange”, but the two are separate species. Even Produce Pete calls clementines and mandarins “oranges,” so do what you can to spread the truth.

    There are three basic citrus types—citron, mandarin and pummelo—from which all modern citrus derives via hybrids or backcrosses.

    While they look like small oranges and are often called “mandarin oranges,” mandarins are a separate species that includes the clementine, mineola (red tangelo), murcott (also called honey tangerine), tangelo, temple and satsuma, among others.

  • Oranges are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae, genus Citrus and species C. × sinensis. They are believed to have originated in southern China and northeastern India. They were first cultivated in China around 2500 B.C.E.
  • Mandarins are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae and genus Citrus but differentiate at the species level: C. reticulata. Reticulata, Latin for reticulated, refers to the pattern of interlacing lines of the pith. Mandarins, which originated in Southeast Asia, are also identifiable by their loose skin.
  •  
    According to the horticulture experts at U.C. Davis, the mandarin reached the Mediterranean basin in the early 1800s, and arrived in Florida about 1825.You can read more here.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Get Some Gourmet Crackers

    Dr-Kracker-melodylan-230

    Dr. Kracker is packed with different types of
    seeds: good looking and good for you! Photo
    by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Soup and crackers was a popular dish at my mother’s table: animal crackers, oyster crackers, Royal Lunch Milk Crackers*, saltines, Uneeda Biscuits* (water biscuits) and Ritz crackers made frequent appearances. Our favorites were Nabisco’s Triscuits and Stoned Wheat Thins, imported from Canada.

    The gourmet cracker market didn’t exist then. Sesame seed breadsticks were a rare specialty that we had to seek out in Italian markets in Little Italy. The handful of gourmet food stores and cheese stores sold the bland yet purportedly elegant Carr’s Water Biscuits, imported from England, and long flat rectangles of Middle Eastern lavasch.

    But today, there are more fancy crackers than we could desire, serving up interesting flavor profiles and alluring appearances. You can find some in supermarkets, some at natural grocers like Whole Foods and some at specialty food stores. Look for:

  • Asian rice crackers in many flavors, which happen to be gluten free (we especially like San-J’s Black Sesame Crackers).
  • Super-seeded crackers, like those from Crunchmaster, Dr. Kracker and Mary’s Gone Crackers.
  • Olive oil crackers like taralli from Italy, available plain or flavored.
  • Gourmet flatbreads like Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps and assorted gems from Rustic Bakery, pricey but worth it.
  • Flatbreads/crispbreads like La Panzanella’s Croccantini and Primizie, delicious and more affordable.
  • Fricco, an Italian cheese cracker now baked in the U.S. by Kitchen Table Bakers, made 100% from cheese so gluten-free and carb-free.
  •  
    We could go on and on, but the tip of the day is to go on a cracker hunt and find some new and exciting varieties. Look for Daelia’s, Effie’s and 34 Degrees, among others.

    Then, enjoy them with a bowl of soup, a plate of cheese or a craft beer, with or without an accompanying spread.

    *Uneeda Biscuits and Royal Lunch crackers were Nabisco products that were discontinued after Kraft Foods acquired Nabisco.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Non-Ketchup Dips For Fries & Onion Rings

    baconnaise-firebox-230

    Baconnaise, bacon-flavored mayo, is good
    stuff (but stick to the regular, not the Lite).
    Photo courtesy LiteBox.com.

     

    When Chef David Venable of QVC wrote us to suggest Beer-Battered Onion Rings with Horseradish Dill Dipping Sauce—the recipes are below—we thought: What else works as a condiment with French fries and onion rings instead of ketchup?

    For a change of pace or a special occasion, try these condiments, dips and sauces:

  • Aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), the classic for Belgian frites (recipe)
  • Bacon mayonnaise like Baconnaise
  • Blue cheese dip (here’s our favorite)
  • Chipotle ketchup, curry ketchup or sriracha ketchup (recipe)
  • Ginger-sesame sauce (recipe below)
  • Homemade lemon or lime mayonnaise (recipe—grate zest into the mayo to taste)
  • Korean dipping sauce, based on tofu, red pepper paste, soybean paste (recipe)
  • Ponzu sauce
  • Saffron mayonnaise (recipe)
  • Salsa, red or green
  • Spicy mayonnaise (like chipotle or wasabi mayo)
  • Vietnamese dipping sauce, sweet and tangy, with lime juice and Thai chiles (recipe)
  • Yogurt dip—tzatziki or raita
  •  
    RECIPE: GINGER-SESAME SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK together the ingredients in a small bowl.

     

    RECIPE: HORSERADISH DIPPING SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK together the mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish paprika and dill in a small bowl. Set aside and cook the onion rings.
     
    RECIPE: FRIED ONION RINGS

    Ingredients

  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  •  

    onion-rings-horseradish-dipping-sauce-qvc-230

    Onion rings with horseradish dipping sauce. Photo courtesy QVC.

  • 3 large onions, preferably Vidalia, sliced into 1/4-inch rings and separated
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CLIP a deep-frying thermometer to the side of a deep, heavy pot. Add 2 inches of canola oil to the pot and slowly heat the oil to 350°F. While the oil is heating…

    2. WHISK together the flour, egg, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne, salt and black pepper in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the beer, stirring until a thick batter forms.

    3. DREDGE the onion slices in the batter. Using tongs, add four or five onion rings to the hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. Turn them halfway through cooking. (Cook the onion rings in batches or the oil won’t stay hot and the onion rings will be soggy rather than crisp.)

    4. USING tongs, remove the fried onions to a wire rack or paper towels to drain. Cook the remaining batter-dipped onion rings. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Greek Layered Dip

    greek-7-layer-dip-foodnetwork-230

    This variation, from Cameron Curtis | The
    Food Network
    , uses artichoke hearts. Photo
    courtesy Food Network.

     

    How many times have you had a Mexican layered dip—a.k.a. Seven Layer Bean Dip or Seven Layer Taco Dip—a layering of chopped black olives, diced tomatos, grated Cheddar, guacamole, refried beans, sliced green onions and sour cream, served with tortilla chips?

    Sure, it’s popular. But for this year’s Super Bowl, how about a different spin: a seven layer Greek-style dip with pita chips? That’s what we’re making.

    Yo don’t need seven layers: You can choose as many or as few layers as you like. The one thing we personally insist on is layering the ingredients in a glass salad bowl, so everyone can enjoy the pretty layers before the chip-dippers get busy.

    PICK YOUR SEVEN LAYERS

    Spreads/Dips

  • Babaganoush
  • Hummus
  • Tzatziki
  •  
    Dairy

  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    Vegetables

  • Artichoke hearts, well drained and chopped
  • Cucumbers, diced and seeded
  • Kalamata olives, chopped
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeded or sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • Red or yellow bell peppers, small dice
  • Chopped red onions or thinly sliced green onions
  •  
    Plus

  • Optional garnish: fresh dill, mint and/or parsley, snipped
  • Pita chips
  •  

    INDIVIDUAL LAYERED DIPS

    Here’s a simple recipe from Stacy’s Pita Chips. If you don’t have verrines (the small glasses in the photo), clear juice glasses or other appropriate vessels, you can buy plastic rocks cups (9 ounces).

    Ingredients

  • Hummus (you can use flavored hummus for one of the layers)
  • Tzatziki
  • Diced tomatoes (you can substitute red bell pepper when tomatoes are out of season)
  • Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, sliced black olives, minced red onion
  • Garnish: chiffonade of mint, pita chip
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE a layer of hummus at the bottom of the glass, followed by a layer of tzatziki. Repeat.

     

    mini-layer-dip-stacyspitachips-230

    You can make layered dips as individual portions—a fun appetizer idea. Photo courtesy Stacy’s Pita Chips.

     

    2. ADD a layer of diced tomatoes. Top with the feta, olives, onion and mint. Crown with a pita chip.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Burns Night Tonight

    When you sang “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, did you recall that it was first a poem from Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland (1759-1796)?

    His birthday, January 25th, is celebrated in Scotland as Burns Night. Family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company—a warm and happy event much like our Thanksgiving. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served. Here’s the supper format, if you want to plan ahead for next year.

    But you can have a much smaller event tonight, as brief as enjoying a tumbler of Scotch and reading a poem. Burns’ complete works are available free online. Some suggestions: A Red, Red Rose (“My luve is like a red, red rose…”); To a Louse; To a Mouse; Tam O’Shanter.

    If you’d like to do something a bit more elaborate, call around and invite a group for a Scotch tasting (here’s how). Everyone can bring whatever brand they have at hand…along with any bagpipe music.

    Then, there’s a Scotch and chocolate tasting. While solid chocolate wasn’t invented in Burns’ lifetime, he was a bon vivant and we’re sure he’d approve.

    Here are more food ideas for Burns Night.

     

    scotch-cheese-wisconsincheesetalk-230

    Celebrate Burns Night with Scotch and a poem. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    Heid doon arse up! (That’s Scottish for Get on with it!)

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Meyer Lemons

    During the cold winter months with most fruits out of season, citrus become a go-to fruit. Calamondins, clementines, grapefruits, kumquats, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, pomelos, satsumas, sweet limettas, tangelo, tangerine, ugli fruit and even more exotic varieties: All are waiting for you to enjoy.

    Cut them into salads, mix them into sauces, turn them into desserts and enjoy [most of them] as hand fruit.

    While your local stores and farmers markets may not carry calamondins or sweet limettas, they should be able to scare up some Meyer lemons. Deep canary yellow, these citrus treats are sweeter and less acidic than other lemons.

    A cross between a true lemon and either a sweet orange or a mandarin, Citrus × meyeri was first brought to the U.S. from China in 1908 by Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who, as an “agricultural explorer,” discovered it there.

    Of course, it was no discovery to the Chinese, who had long been growing the lemon in pots as an ornamental tree. Ornamental trees were planted in California yards, and the Meyer became popular in the U.S. when “rediscovered” by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in the 1990s. Other chefs and personalities like Martha Stewart began featuring them in recipes; groves were planted and the fruits showed up in markets.

       

    meyer-lemon-beauty-goodeggs-230

    Meyer lemons are much sweeter and more flavorful than the Bearss and Lisbon varieties commonly found in American grocery stores. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     
    Much smaller than the supermarket Lisbon lemon, with sweeter juice, less acid, brighter flavor, a thinner peel and more floral scent and flavor than other lemon varieties (more juice than Lisbon lemons, too!), Meyers are a hit among those who have brought them home. So today’s tip is: Bag a batch and decide how to use them.

    The rind and juice can be substituted wherever regular lemons are called for, in sweet and savory foods and beverages.

    Check out the different types of lemons in our Lemon Glossary.
     
    30+ WAYS TO USE MEYER LEMON

    If you find yourself addicted to Meyer lemons, here’s another tip: Squeeze the juice, freeze it in an ice cube tray and then store the cubes in double plastic freezer bags.

    Defrost a cube whenever you need a hit of Meyer lemon.

    MEYER LEMON IN BEVERAGES

  • Beer (squeeze a wedge into a lager, wheat beer or other lighter style)
  • Cocktails
  • Espresso (use the peel)
  • Hot or iced tea
  • Lemonade (recipe)
  • Meyer limoncello (recipe)
  • Regular or sparkling water
  • Simple syrup (recipe)
  •  

    meyer-lemon-trees-slt-230

    Meyer lemons were originally houseplants in China. You can still buy them as houseplants. These are from Sur La Table.

     

    MEYER LEMON IN SAVORY DISHES

  • Aïoli (recipe)
  • Any recipe that calls for lemon
  • Avgolemono soup or sauce (recipe)
  • Beurre citron (lemon beurre blanc), a delicious sauce for salmon or Arctic char (recipe below)
  • Freshly squeezed atop the dish
  • Hollandaise sauce (recipe)
  • Vinaigrette: replace half or all the vinegar and add some of the zest
  • Wedge garnish
  •  
    MEYER LEMON IN DESSERTS

  • Baked or frozen soufflé
  • Ice cream, sorbet, granita
  • Lemon chiffon cake
  • Lemon bundt, pound cake or cupcakes
  • Lemon custard (also delicious as layer cake filling)
  • Lemon meringue pie
  •  
    USES FOR GRATED MEYER LEMON ZEST

  • General garnish
  • Gremolata (minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest used as a condiment with meats—recipe)
  • Lemon shortbread (recipe)
  • Meringue cookies (recipe)
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    MORE USES FOR MEYER LEMON

  • Candied lemon peel
  • Fruit curd
  • Lemon centerpiece—enjoy the aroma for a few days before you use them
  • Preserved lemons
  •  
    RECIPE: LEMON BEURRE BLANC

    This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown, who offers this trick: You can make the sauce in advance and store it in a thermos, where it will stay hot until until ready to serve.

    Ingredients

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces white wine
  • 2 ounces lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the shallots, white wine and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Reduce to 2 tablespoons.

    2. ADD the cream; when the liquid bubbles, reduce the heat to low. Add half the butter, one cube at a time, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat and then add the remaining cubes, continuing to whisk until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency.

    3. SEASON with salt and white pepper to taste.

      

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