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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: Layered Salad

Layering is trending as a light and refreshing approach that makes you want to eat more salad. The contrast of different colored vegetables (and fruits) make the food all the more tempting.

This recipe is by Zac Benedict for the California Avocado Commission.

This recipe uses 12-ounce mason jars, a main-dish size salad for each person. You can also use 16.5-ounce mason jars. The handled jars can be used for food or drinks.

If you don’t want to buy mason jars, check to see what you already have; for example, glass dessert bowls or jumbo wine goblets. Use smaller jars for a side salad. Zac suggests collecting large baby food jars, and for the larger mason jars uses chopsticks, which easily reach the bottom of the jar.

The idea is to eat the the layered salad from the jar, although Zac advises that you can also set out serving bowls for people who want to toss their salads.

VEGETABLE & FRUIT OPTIONS

Select vegetables with a variety of color. For example, if you like scallions but have too much green, substitute red onion. If you’re using red tomatoes, use orange and yellow bell peppers instead of read ones.

  • Green vegetables: broccoli, edamame (soybeans), herbs (basil, cilantro, dill, parsley), green beans, green peas (frozen are fine), mesclun or other salad greens, snow peas, spring peas, sugar snap peas
  •    

    7-layer-avocado-salad-in-jar-calavocom-230

    Is there a prettier salad? Photo courtesy California Avocado Commission.

  • Orange vegetables: bell pepper strips, carrots (baby carrots, sliced or shaved carrots), cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, kumquats, grape tomatoes, mandarin wedges, mango, sweet potatoes (cubed or sliced)
  • Purple vegetables: cauliflower, grapes, heirloom tomatoes, kale, Peruvian potatoes, red cabbage, purple raisins (you can plump them in cider)
  • Red vegetables: beets, bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, dried cherries or cranberries, grape tomatoes, lady apples, mini red jacket potatoes, pomegranate arils, radicchio, radishes, red grapes/champagne grapes, red onion, sundried tomatoes, tomatoes
  • Yellow vegetables: artichoke hearts, bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, lemon peel, miniature pattypan squash, star fruit (carambola), yellow squash
  • White vegetables: cauliflower, cucumbers, daikon, Granny Smith apples, grapes, mushrooms, water chestnuts, zucchini
  •  
    You can also add diced meats and cheeses, cooked grains, beans and legumes.

     

    7-layer-salad-ingredients-calavocomm-230

    Prepare the ingredients; then, it’s easy to
    layer. Photo courtesy California Avocado
    Commission.

     

    Preparation

    1. LAY out the rinsed, dried, cut produce ingredients.

    2. PLACE the heaviest ingredients on the bottom and the most crushable items at the top.

    Try to be as even as possible: The layers don’t have to be perfect but they look very nice when the ingredients are in neat rows.

    3. CHOOSE your dressing; keep it separate until ready to eat. This recipe uses a fresh citrus Dijon dressing, which is poured over the salad ingredients before serving. Then, seal with the lid and then gently invert the jar a few times to disperse the dressing.

    Another option is to place the dressing in the jar before layering the salad ingredients.

     

    RECIPE: 7 LAYER SALAD

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 Persian cucumbers, diced with peel on
  • 1 cup red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup cooked, shelled edamame
  • 8 each orange and yellow mini bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced into rings (or substitute equivalent large bell peppers)
  • 1 cup cooked artichoke hearts, coarsely chopoped
  • 1-1/3 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 avocado, diced and sprinkled with citrus juice to prevent browning
  •  
    RECIPE: DIJON CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (lemon and/or orange or lime)*
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or spicy mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 leaves fresh basil, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the ingredients in a small jar with a lid; shake until well-blended.

    2. POUR dressing over each of the layered salads. Seal with jar lid and serve.
     
    *You can make the dressing sweeter or more tart to your liking depending on which citrus juice you use.

    Find more delicious recipes at CaliforniaAvocado.com.
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Blackberry Cheesecake

    In the U.S. Blackberries typically peak during June in the South, and in July in the North. Crops are ready at various times of the month depending on which part of the state you are located. In order to produce good local Blackberries, producers depend on ideal spring and early summer weather conditions.

    In this recipe from Driscoll’s, a deep purple blackberry purée spiked with blackberry liqueur dresses up a creamy cheesecake with a chocolate wafer cookie crust.

    Today’s the perfect day to bake it: July 30th is National Cheesecake Day (see all the food holidays).

    Prep time is 20 minutes plus cooling, cook time is 50 minutes plus cooling.

    Don’t like blackberries? Can’t find any? Use another berry.

    RECIPE: SWIRLED BLACKBERRY CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients For 16 Servings
     
    For The Crust

  • 3 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 60 cookies)
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  •    

    blackberry-cheesecake-driscolls-230r

    Celebrate National Cheesecakde Day. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

     
    For The Filling and Topping

  • 2 cups blackberries, divided
  • 1 tablespoon blackberry liqueur or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cups sour cream
  • Garnish: mint leaves
  •  

    http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-blackberries-basket-image26804436

    In the U.S., blackberry season peaks in July.
    Photo © Pretoperola | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Combine chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter in a medium bowl. Press into and up sides of 9-inch non-stick springform pan (if pan is not nonstick, brush first with melted butter). Bake about 14 minutes or until firm. Let cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

    2. MAKE the filling. Purée 1 cup blackberries in a blender or food processor and strain. Discard seeds. You should have about 1/3 cup purée. Stir in blackberry liqueur and 2 teaspoons sugar. Set aside until ready to use.

    3. MIX cream cheese and remaining 1 cup sugar in bowl of an electric mixer on low speed until blended. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed. Add sour cream and mix until blended. Spoon half batter into cooled crust.

    4. DROP half of the blackberry purée mixture into batter, one teaspoon at a time. Swirl into filling using a toothpick or wooden skewer. Repeat with remaining batter and blackberry purée mixture.

     

    5. BAKE about 50 minutes or until edges are just set and center jiggles slightly. Turn oven off and prop the door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon. Let cool in oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool completely. Place in refrigerator and chill until cold throughout, 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

    6. SERVE: Make a pile of the remaining blackberries on top of cheesecake and garnish with mint leaves.

     
    BLACKBERRY TIPS

  • Select plump, firm, fully black berries. Blackberries do not ripen off the vine; unripe berries will not ripen once picked.
  • Buy only what you need. Like all fresh berries, blackberries quickly mold when left at room temperature, and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
  • If you have more than you can use, you can easily freeze berries. Just wash, cut the hulls off and pop them into a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.
  • Buy only what you need. Like all fresh berries, blackberries quickly mold when left at room temperature, and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
  • If you have more than you can use, you can easily freeze berries. Just wash, cut the hulls off and pop them into a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.
  • One quart equals 1-1/2 pounds of fresh berries.
  • One cup of blackberries has just 62 calories, and is high in antioxidants.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Fruit & Toast, a.k.a. Breakfast Tartines

    Many people spread jam on their toast. But in the summer season, why not use fresh berries instead?

    Pair those berries with your favorite dairy spread: cottage cheese, cream cheese, crème fraîche, fromage blanc, fromage frais/quark, goat cheese, mascarpone, sour cream, yogurt.

    In France, these would be called tartines: open-face sandwiches.

    You don’t have to toast the bread. Toast adds crunch and texture, but if fresh-baked bread is calling to you, enjoy it straight from the loaf.

    You can also enjoy these tartines as a snack. They’re just right for a mid-afternoon tea break.

    RECIPE: FRUIT TOAST / BREAKFAST TARTINES

    Ingredients

  • Fruit: berries, mango or other soft fruit
  • Bread of choice
  • Dairy spread
  • Optional garnish: fresh or dried herbs or other seasonings
  •    

    strawberry-toast-vermontcreamery-230

    Who needs jam when you have fresh fruit? Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     

    radish-cheese-spread-latartinegourmande-c--230

    Not a fruit fan? Use vegetables; here, sliced
    radishes and fresh-snipped chives atop
    Greek yogurt. Photo courtesy La Tartine
    Gourmande
    .

      Preparation

    1. Choose some delicious bread: date nut bread, Irish soda bread, multigrain, peasant bread, pumpernickel, raisin bread, rye, sourdough, spelt, whole grain or other bread with great flavor and texture.

    You can also use crispbread, like Wasa. Mild breads like challah, English muffins and white bread are best left to another occasion. See the different types of bread.

    2. Pick your dairy product: cottage cheese, cream cheese, crème fraîche, goat cheese, Greek yogurt, mascarpone, sour cream, quark or other spreadable dairy.

    3. Pick your fruit: berries, dates, figs, mandarin or orange segments, mango and sliced stone fruits (apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums) are our favorites.

    4. Toast the bread (or not); spread with the dairy, top with the fresh fruit and enjoy. If you need more sweetness, drizzle with honey or cinnamon sugar.

     

    VARIATIONS

  • Herbs and spices. Sprinkle with a chiffonade of basil, chili flakes, cinnamon, ground black pepper or other favorite accents.
  • Veggies. Top with vegetables instead of fruit. We like grated carrots (and raisins!), tomatoes* with fresh herbs, radishes or shaved zucchini. With vegetable tartines, you can use other herbs such as cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley.
  •  
    *Yes, tomatoes are a fruit, but they are eaten a vegetable. Here’s why the tomato is fruit, not veggie.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fruit Punch

    fruit-punch-davidvenableQVC-230

    A recipe for summer: fruit punch. Photo
    courtesy QVC.

     

    Have you made a bowl of fruit punch yet this summer? Our mom never planned a cookout without punch. Her recipe: equal parts of grape juice, lemonade and orange juice, from frozen concentrate.

    Among the hundreds and thousands of punch recipes out there, here’s one from chef David Venable of QVC. He adds a bit of fizz with lemon-lime soda.

    The frozen fruit in the recipe offsets some of the ice so the punch doesn’t dilute. Another anti-dilution tip: Freeze some juice into “ice cubes.” Finally, consider the drink dispenser below, which has a central core to hold ice cubes apart from the punch. The cubes melt into the core and can easily be refreshed.

    For adults, you can keep a bottle of vodka, gin or tequila next to the punch.

    Here are 10 punch making tips from THE NIBBLE.

     
    RECIPE: BASIC FRUIT PUNCH

    Ingredients For 12-14 Servings

  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 3 cups pineapple juice
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grenadine syrup*
  • 1 (1-liter) bottle lemon-lime soda, chilled
  • 16 ounces frozen strawberries
  • 16 ounces frozen peach slices
  •  
    *Here’s a recipe for homemade grenadine.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all of the juices and the syrup into a large pitcher and place into the refrigerator. Chill for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Just before serving…

    2. POUR the fruit juice mixture into a large punch bowl (or a drink dispenser as shown in the photo). Add the lemon-lime soda, frozen strawberries, and peaches. If desired, serve the drink over ice cubes.

     
    MORE PUNCH RECIPES

  • Frozen Margarita Punch Recipe
  • Saké Punch Recipe
  • Tea Punch Recipe
  •  
    THE NEW PUNCH BOWL: A SPIGOT DISPENSER

    Forget the punch bowls of yore. For entertaining, this plastic beverage dispenser with spigot (see photo) is the neater option for pouring. Outdoors, it keeps the bugs out of the punch bowl.

    The model in the photo has a center ice core—a plastic insert for ice that doesn’t melt into the punch. Learn more about it on Amazon.com.

     

    fruit-punch-spigot-dispenser-budeez-amz-230

    The new punch bowl: This affordable plastic beverage dispenser has a central core to hold ice, so the punch stays cold without dilution. Get it on Amazon.com.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Lychees

    lychee-baldorfood-230

    A peeled lychee. Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

     

    Lychee is a a tropical evergreen fruit tree native to southern China. The evergreen grows wild in southern China, northern Vietnam and Cambodia, although there is evidence that it has been cultivated since around 2000 B.C.E.

    Today it grows throughout southeast Asia, notably in southern Japan, India, Pakistan, north Thailand and Vietnam. More recently, the tasty fruit has been planted in California, Florida and Hawaii, ensuring U.S. fans a more reliable supply. Depending on location, the harvest runs from May through September.

    We’ve been coming across it in farmers markets: the skin of different varieties ranges from rosy red to pale dusty rose to golden tan and pale olive green. The paper-thin skin is peeled away to revel the milky white fruit inside. Here’s everything you’d ever want to know about lychee from Purdue School of Agriculture, including how to dry them in the skin.

    The fruit is also transliterated as litchi. Perhaps the more useful information, though, is how to pronounce lychee.

  • In south China, where the fruit originated, Cantonese is the dominant language and in Cantonese the fruit is pronounced LYE-chee. The transliteration from Cantonese is lai chi.
  • In Mandarin, the language of Beijing, however, it is pronounced LEE-chee.
  •  

    Like stone fruits (apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines), the lychee is a drupe, a fruit that has an outer fleshy part that surrounds a large, hard center seed. It has been called a “lychee nut” because the seed/pit looks like a glossy brown nut (it is definitely not a nut). The pit is inedible and slightly poisonous.

    The typical lychee is about one inch in diameter. The outer covering is a pink-red, roughly-textured rind that is inedible but easily peeled with one’s fingers. The flesh inside is white, translucent and sweet, rich in vitamin C, with a texture somewhat similar to that of a grape. Children liken lychees to “eyeballs,” and you can see why in this photo.

    The fresh fruit has a floral aroma; one account says that the perfume is lost in the process of canning. However, canning adds sugar for a higher level of sweetness, and the organoleptic difference between fresh and canned lychee is not as drastic as, say, with peaches. The canned fruit has more integrity, like canned pineapple.

     

    BUYING & STORING LYCHEES

    Lychees are extremely perishable. Store in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week.

    Or, freeze them whole, with the skin on. When they are defrosted, they’ll be fine. You can even eat them frozen: instant lychee sorbet. (You may have to run the frozen lychees under warm water for a few seconds to soften the skin.)
     
    In China, lychees are enjoyed out-of-hand. In the West, peeled and pitted, they are used in:

  • Baked ham, instead of pineapple rings
  • Canapés, stuffed with goat cheese or cream cheese and pecans
  • Chinese Chicken Salad
  • Cocktails (muddled or puréed with vodka or gin, and as a garnish)
  •  

    green-lychee-melissas-230

    So delicious; we wish there were less pit and more flesh. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

  • Eyeballs: Create lychee “eyeballs” for sweet cocktails and mocktails by stuffing the pit hole with blueberries, dried cranberries or pieces of grape. (For a savory cocktail, make a radish eyeball instead.)
  • Fruit Salad (delicious combined with banana, melon, mango, papaya, etc.)
  • Gelatin desserts
  • Green Salad
  • Sorbet
  • Parfaits & Sundaes
  •  
    For an exotic presentation, serve unpeeled lychees in dessert bowls over crushed ice (provide a bowl for the pits).
     
    LYCHEE RECIPES

  • Lychee Panna Cotta Recipe
  • Seared Tuna With Lychee Coulis Recipe
  • Lychee Agua Fresca Recipe
  •  
    There are dozens of recipes at LycheesOnline.com.
     
    LOVE THE FLAVOR OF LYCHEE?

    We find that St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur tastes like lychee (or perhaps it’s that elderflowers taste like lychee). We find it far superior to Soho lychee liqueur.

    Head out to find fresh lychees. Enjoy them today, and freeze some for later.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Olive Oil Cake

    Our first encounter with olive oil cake came at a trattoria in our neighborhood. It sounded strange to us: We were raised in a butter culture, with a palate trained to recognize buttery goodness over margarine and cake mixes made with salad oil.

    But, this olive oil and basil cake (also made by the restaurant in an olive oil and rosemary version) was love at first bite. The extra virgin olive oil—not canola or corn oil—donated wonderful flavor. And while cake isn’t exactly a good-for-you food, heart-healthy olive oil instead of cholesterol-laden butter was an excuse to have another piece. (Note, however, that this particular recipe does include some butter.)

    Use a fruity EVOO, not a peppery or grassy one. Fruity means that it tastes olive-y (see the different flavors of olive oil).

    You can make the tangerine marmalade to top the cake, enjoy the cake plain, or serve with berries and a dab of mascarpone or crème fraîche. By all means, add a chiffonade of fresh basil.

    The nine-inch cake serves eight.

    This recipe, by Sarah Copeland, is from The Newlywed Cookbook.

    RECIPE: OLIVE OIL CAKE

    Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup/150 g sugar
  • 2/3 cup/165 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup/75 ml melted unsalted butter
  •    

    olive-oil-cake-newlywedcookbook-230

    It’s not hard to make this delicious olive oil cake. Photo courtesy Chronicle Books.

  • Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 tangerine, orange, or lemon
  • 1-1/2 cups/175 g all-purpose/plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or iodized salt
  •  
    For The Tangerine Marmalade

  • 4 large tangerines, Minneolas, lemons, Meyer lemons or Temple oranges, or a mix (about 1-3/4 lbs/800 g)
  • 1 cup/200 g sugar
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • Crème fraîche or whipped cream/double cream
  •  

    bottle-with-tree-flavoryourlife-230

    Who knew: Olive oil tastes just as good as
    butter in certain cakes.FlavorYourLife.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F/165°C/gas 3. Lightly butter a 9-inch/23-cm springform pan with a removable bottom.

    2. COMBINE the eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the eggs are thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Drizzle in the olive oil and melted butter and continue to beat. Fold in the citrus zest and juice.

    3. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients gradually to the egg mixture and stir until evenly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no dry bits at the bottom.

    4. POUR the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is lightly brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating once during baking to make sure it cooks evenly. Cool the cake on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the pan sides and cool the cake completely on the rack.

     

    5. MAKE the marmalade: Scrub and dry the tangerines and trim off their tops and bottoms. Slice 2 of them as thinly a possible while still keeping their shape, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch (3 to 6 mm) thick, discarding the seeds as they appear. Place the tangerine slices in a small pot with a heavy bottom. Juice the remaining 2 tangerines (you should have a scant cup/240 ml of juice) and pour the juice over the sliced fruit. Set aside for 20 minutes.

    6. COOK the fruit over medium-high heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Decrease the heat slightly and simmer until the tangerine peel is soft, about 20 minutes. Don’t stir: It will destroy the pretty round shape of the citrus.

    7. ADD the sugar and continue cooking until the sugar is dissolved. Cook until thickened and the juice has gelled slightly and is syrupy, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

    8. ARRANGE the candied citrus slices over the top of the cake, overlapping to make beautiful jeweled tiles of fruit. Drizzle some of the citrus syrup over the slices and allow it to drip down the sides of the cake. Slice and serve with crème fraîche or whipped cream/double cream.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pie Dough Crumb Topping Sundae

    It’s the reverse of pie à la mode; perhaps it should be called an ice cream crumble.

    Today’s tip was inspired by The Strawberry Barbara, a sundae from McConnell’s Ice Cream in Santa Barbara.

    McConnell’s marries strawberry ice cream, house made rhubarb sauce (think rhubarb pie filling) and pie crust crumbles, topped with whipped cream.

    You can build the sundae in a bowl or a sundae dish, on a dessert plate or even in a large wine goblet.

    You can also use the topping on puddings and yogurt.

    RECIPE: PIE DOUGH CRUMBLES #1

    Ingredients

    Ingredients For The Pie Dough Crumbs

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  •    

    strawberry-sundae-pie-dough-crumbles-mcconnellsicecream-230

    Strawberry ice cream with pie dough crumbles. Photo courtesy McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.

     

     

    key-lime-ice-cream-pie-crumbles-mcconnellsicecream-230r

    Key lime ice cream on a bed of crumbles. Photo courtesy McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F.

    2. MIX ingredients together large, moist clumps form (we tend to like them on the larger size, about 1/2 inch diameter). If the ingredients stick together too much to make crumbs, add a bit more flour and sugar in a 2:1 ratio until the mixture becomes crumbly.

    3. BAKE on a sheet for 10-15 minutes until golden (but not brown). Let cool; store in an airtight container until ready to use.

    If you’d like crumbles with a deeper flavor, add brown sugar.

    RECIPE: PIE DOUGH CRUMBLES #2

    Ingredients For The Pie Dough Crumbs

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  •  
    ASSEMBLING THE SUNDAE

    Ingredients

  • Ice cream of choice
  • Pie crumbles
  • Whipped cream
  • Optional garnishes: chocolate shavings, diced fruit, sauce, sprinkles, etc.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SCOOP ice cream onto a plate. Top with pie crumbles.

    2. ADD garnishes and serve

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sea Asparagus & Other Sea Vegetables

    Today’s tip is: Keep your eyes open for new foods. Then, share them with foodie friends.

    Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog discovered sea asparagus—a vegetable that grows in or adjacent to salt water—on a recent trip to Hawaii. Sea asparagus grows in warm salt marshes and on beaches, there for the foraging. It is harvested wild, and also cultivated.

    What Is Sea Asparagus

    Sea asparagus (Salicornia europaea), also known as glasswort, samphire or sea beans, is a tender, green, spindly stalk that resembles tiny land-grown asparagus (although they are not related). It is a member of the Amaranthaceae family, which includes everything from amaranth, a high-protein grain, to ornamental cockscomb and picturesque tumbleweed.

    Sea asparagus can be purchased fresh in areas where it is harvested, and packaged in specialty food markets. You can purchase it fresh, frozen, pickled (this year’s stocking stuffer?) and in other forms (sea pesto, powdered seasoning) from Olakai Hawaii. The season in British Columbia is currently “in full swing,” according to West Coast Seaweed, another e-tailer.

    Fresh sea asparagus can be eaten raw, pickled or steamed (and then tossed in butter or olive oil); in a salad, as a side dish or a garnish (see the sushi photo below). Dried sea vegetables can be added directly to soups or stews and to the cooking liquid of beans or rice.

       

    sea-asparagus-salad-kaminsky-230

    Invite a new vegetable to lunch or dinner. Sea asparagus photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    No Extra Salt Required

    “Absorbing the sea salt like a sponge, sea asparagus can be quite salty if not thoroughly rinsed, and should never be salted no matter what else you add to it,” says Hannah. “Slightly crunchy when raw or par-cooked, it’s an exotic delight, and a surprise given my experience with flat, gelatinous, and/or stringy sea vegetables. As long as I can find sea asparagus, you can be sure that this salad will find its way to my table.”

    Hannah’s recipe was inspired by the serving suggestion printed on the label for Olakai sea asparagus, purchased in Hawaii. Hannah combined them with other local pleasures: tiny currant tomatoes, a local product even smaller than grape tomatoes, and sweet Maui onions.

    You can add a protein to turn the recipe into a luncheon salad. Consider grilled or smoked salmon (which makes the Hawaiian recipe lomi lomi), tofu, canned tuna, grilled fish or seafood. We used raw scallops: delicious!

    RECIPE: SEA ASPARAGUS SALAD

    Ingredients For 2-3 Side Dish Servings

  • 4 ounces fresh sea asparagus
  • 1 ounce sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces currant tomatoes (substitute halved cherry or grape tomatoes)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SNIP off any brown ends on the sea asparagus before rinsing them thoroughly under hot water. Toss them in a bowl along with the diced onion, oil and lemon juice.

    2. MASSAGE the vegetables with your fingers for a minute or two, just to tenderize the stalks slightly. Add the tomatoes and mix to distribute throughout the salad.

    3. SERVE immediately or chill. The salad will keep for up to two days. Don’t be tempted to add any salt, since sea asparagus is already infused with sodium from the sea.

     

    sea_asparagus_inari-tastyislandhawaii-230

    Sea vegetables as a garnish, here on inari
    sushi. Photo courtesy TastyIslandHawaii.com.

     

    WHAT ARE SEA VEGETABLES

    Vegetables don’t grow only on land. If you’re a fan of Japanese food, you’ve probably had one or more types of seaweed—a salad of hijiki or wakame, the nori wrapper of sushi rolls or a bowl of dashi (clear soup) made from kombu (kelp).

    Sea vegetables are loaded with of chlorophyll, dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals from the ocean, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamins A and C and trace minerals such as iodine and vanadium. Many health food advocates eat them for the nutrition (details).

    Sea asparagus, in particular, is an excellent source of calcium, iron and vitamins A, B2, B9 (folic acid), plus dietary fiber, amino acids and minerals.

    Look for sea vegetables in natural food stores in dried form. Just soak them in water for 10 minutes and they’re ready to use.

    If you like seaweed salad, you’ll like a mixed sea vegetable salad—say, arame/hijiki, dulse, sea palm and wakame. Try a mirin-tamari-ginger juice-soy sauce marinade, or a simple rice vinegar, olive oil and sesame oil vinaigrette.

     
    POPULAR SEA VEGETABLES

  • Agar Agar. Also called kanten or Japanese gelatin, agar agar is a clear, tasteless alternative to animal or chemical-based gelatin. It is sold in opaque flakes and dissolves in hot liquid. It thickens at room temperature and is used to firm up confections, jellies, pies and puddings.
  • Arame. These thin, wiry black shreds of seaweed have a sweet, mild flavor. In Western cuisine, they can be added to green salads, omelets, pasta salads, quiches and stir-fries.
  • Dulse. This reddish brown sea veggie is sold as dried whole stringy leaves or a powdered condiment. The leaves have a chewy texture and can be eaten like jerky; or, they can be pan-fried in sesame oil and added to salads or sandwiches. It is not reconstituted, but used as is.
  • Kombu. Thick, dark purple kombu is sold in strips or sheets. It’s the principal ingredient of the Japanese broth, dashi; and can be added to Western recipes in the liquid for beans, rice or soup.
  • Nori. Nori can be dark purple to blackish green in color. It is best known as the thin, flat sheets of toasted seaweed used to make sushi rolls (the sheets are not reconstituted, but used as is). It’s also available untoasted, and plain or flavored snack strips have become quite popular. We use julienned nori as a garnish for rice, soups, salads, casseroles or grains either crushed into flakes or cut into strips. Nori is also available in a flakes with a seasoning mix of sesame seeds, salt and sugar, called nori komi furikake. If you like nori, get some: You’ll enjoy it.
  • Sea Palm. This vegetable, brownish-green in color, looks just like a miniature palm tree. It’s also called American arame and is harvested from America’s Pacific Coast. Sweet and salty, it can be enjoyed it raw or sautéed, in soups or in salads.
  • Wakame. We always look forward to a bowl of silky, tender wakame-su, wakame seaweed marinated in rice vinegar. It is also a popular addition to Japanese soups.
  •  
    Ready, set: Enjoy discovering the world of sea vegetables.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Select The Best Fresh Cherries

    Cherry season is fleeting—just a couple of weeks in some locations. It is also frustrating, because we’re not having a good cherry season this year. Every cherry we’ve sampled has been bland. They look good, but don’t deliver on the palate.

    The term “cherry-pick” is a hint. The expression comes from harvesting the fruit: The pickers are instructed to carefully select the ripe fruit only. Unlike other tree fruits, cherries don’t ripen or improve in flavor after they’re picked.

    Are we getting unripe fruit? Have growing conditions been substandard? Is the fruit mishandled after it’s harvested? We want answers (but more importantly, we want good cherries).

  • Picked too soon, cherries are pale and tasteless; too ripe, they’re soft and watery. According to Produce Pete, the best time to pick seems to be when the birds start eating them (birds have an instinct for ripe cherries).
  • Weather challenges are a fact of life: Produce is at the mercy of the growing season. Fruit needs sufficient heat to develop full flavor and can be harmed by excessive rain during crucial weeks, when water penetrates the skin and dilute the flavor.
  • Bad storage can easily diminish flavor and texture. Fruit doesn’t respond well to changing temperatures. From a warm grove to a hot or cold transport or storage room and back again, varying temperatures can wreak havoc. If you’re in a key cherry growing state (California, Idaho, Michigan, Oregon, Washington State), you’ve got a better chance to get the best fruit.
  •    

    picota-cherries-basket-foodsfromspainFB-230

    Fresh cherries, one of the happy signs of summer. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

     

    TRY IT BEFORE YOU BUY IT

    You can’t bite into a peach to see if it’s sweet enough before you buy it, but you can score a cherry. It’s the only way to make sure you’ll be happy with them.

    If the flavor doesn’t deliver, it’s not worth the calories if you’re looking to snack on raw fruit. Find another variety, keep tasting cherries as you come across them, and hope for a successful score elsewhere.

    This is not to say that you can’t use less flavorful cherries to make delicious cherry pies, tarts, jams, sauces or ice creams. In recipes, added sugar compensates for what’s missing in the fruit.

     

    queen-anne-bing-cherries-230r

    Queen Anne and Bing cherries. Photo courtesy Washington State Fruit Commission.

     

    REAL CHERRY PICKING: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

    While these tips don’t ensure that the fruit will be sweet, they’re a good start:

  • Firmness. The most common varieties (Bing, Rainier, Queen Anne) should be firm. However, some heirloom varieties (Black Tartarian is an example) are naturally softer. Be sure to taste them: Some heirloom cherries have the best flavor.
  • Plumpness. Good cherries will be plump and dark for their variety and have fresh, green stems, indicating that they were recently harvested. Cherries without stems won’t keep as well as fruits with intact stems.
  • Size. Look for fruits that are large for their variety and avoid smaller fruits with a higher proportion of pit and skin to flesh.
  • What To Avoid. Shriveled skin, dried stems and dull patina indicate cherries that are over the hill. Leaking flesh and brown discoloration are signs of decay.
  •  
    If the cherries aren’t sweet enough in their natural state, perhaps a homemade cherry tart will put you in the summer grove?

    Our favorite easy tart recipe follows; pâte brisée is our tart crust of preference.

     
    The most demanding part of the recipe is pitting the cherries. You don’t need a cherry pitter.

  • Pit cherries with a paper clip.
  • Pit cherries with a pastry tip.
  •  
    EASY CHERRY TART RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • Pâte brisée (recipe below)
  • 4-6 cups cherries, depending on tart size, pitted
  • 1 jar currant jelly
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE pâte brisée crust.

    RECIPE: PÂTE BRISÉE

    Pâte brisée (pot bree-ZAY), or short crust*, is a buttery tart crust with a crumbly texture. It is used for sweet and savory pies, tarts and quiches. It can be made several days in advance and kept in the fridge, or frozen for a month.

    Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PULSE the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse 15 seconds, until the ingredients resembles coarse meal.

    2. ADD 1/4 cup ice water through the feed tube in a slow stream, until the dough just holds together when pinched (add remaining water as needed). Do not process more for than 30 seconds.

    3. PLACE the dough on a work surface and gather it into a ball; divide ball into two equal pieces, flatten into a disk and tightly wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

    4. PRESS into tart pan, refrigerate or freeze for later use (defrost in the fridge for several hours or overnight). First spray tart pan with cooking spray if desired.

    5. BAKE. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour before adding fruit.
     
    *Brisée actually is a participle of the French verb briser, which means to break, shatter or smash. We don’t know the origin, but inspired by the store of ganache, we like to think cookware was broken by whomever created the recipe.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Poached Egg As A Glamorous Ingredient

    poached-egg-frisee-dueforniLV-230

    Who could resist a frisée salad with pork
    belly, prosciutto and truffle vinaigrette? And
    how about that poached egg? Photo courtesy
    Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    People who don’t like to eat salad—and of course, those who do—may well be tempted by this creation from Due Forni in Las Vegas.

    To a bed of frisée, the chef adds:

  • Cubes of crisp pork belly (substitute bacon or Canadian bacon)
  • San Danielle prosciutto*
  • A poached egg
  • Truffle oil vinagrette (recipe)
  • Croutons
  • Shaved Grana Padano or other Italian grating cheese
  •  
    This recipe also includes a bundle of asparagus, creating a heartier salad course or vegetarian entrée.

    But the “big idea” ingredient is the poached egg. The humble breakfast food; when paired with other ingredients, adds a unique glamor.

    The smooth texture of the poached egg white contrasts nicely with the rough salad ingredients; the broken yoke adds a silky sauce on top of the delicious truffle vinaigrette. (For this reason, go lightly when you toss the frisée with the vinaigrette.)

     
    *You can use any prosciutto. San Daniele is a PDO-designated prosciutto made in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Food trivia: The ham’s name derives from the Latin words pro and exsuctus, which roughly mean “to remove the moisture.” The ham is hung in sheds and air-dried in pure mountain air to create the beloved Italian ham.
     
    HOW TO POACH EGGS

    1. FILL a large, deep saucepan with 2 inches of water. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium.

    2. BREAK 1 egg into small dish. Carefully slide the egg into the simmering water (bubbles should begin to break the surface of the water). Repeat with the remaining eggs. Poach the eggs for 3 to 5 minutes or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken.

    3. CAREFULLY REMOVE the eggs with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

    If you’re not adept at poaching eggs, try these egg poaching pods. The uniform roundness they create isn’t as attractive as a naturally-poached egg, but it beats the frustration of trying to harness meandering egg whites.

     
    ASSEMBLE THE SALAD

    1. COOK the lardons; set aside. You’ll note in the photo above that the lardons are cut in large slices. You can cut them into smaller cubes, into julienne strips, or however you like. Plan for two or three lardons per plate.

    2. CUT the prosciutto as needed into smaller strips. If you cut a slice in half lengthwise, try rolling it into a “rose” or similar shape for aesthetic effect. One “rose” per plate is sufficient.

    3. TOSS the frisée with vinaigrette (you can first warm the vinaigrette in the microwave for 10 seconds) and distribute among individual salad plates. Top with the pork belly and prosciutto.

    4. NESTLE the poached egg atop the greens. Top with shaved grana padano and scatter the croutons. Serve with a pepper mill for fresh-ground pepper.

     

    LIKE FRISÉE SALAD?

    It’s a favorite of ours! Here are more ideas for frisée salad.

    But there’s more!

     
    POACHED EGG & GRILLED VEGGIES

    We “poached” this idea from the Facebook page of The Guilded Nut, which specializes in flavored pistachio nuts (Garlic, Habanero, Mediterranean Herb, Sea Salt & Pepper).

    Here, a poached egg is surrounded by grilled scallions and garnished with chopped pistachios.

    You can use any grilled vegetables, including leftovers. Heat them in a skillet or in the microwave and serve them with the egg(s). Grated Grana Padano or Parmesan works well here, too.

     

    poached-egg-grilled-scallions-pistachios-theguildednutFB-230sq

    Poached egg with grilled scallions. Photo courtesy The Guilded Nut | Facebook.

     

  • Serve with hearty toast for breakfast or brunch.
  • You can also build on this simple dish and turn it into a luncheon salad or light dinner entrée. Add lardons, Canadian bacon, sliced steak or other protein (lobster tail, anyone?).
  • You can use the poached egg to top an attractive dish of leftovers. Include grains and potatoes, too.
  •   

    Comments

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