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TIP OF THE DAY: Roast Leg Of Lamb

Our family typically had turkey for Thanksgiving, prime rib for Christmas, ham and lamb for Easter, lamb for Mother’s Day and a return to prime rib for Father’s Day.

Back in the day, food was seasonal. Lamb was available in the spring. Fall is the natural mating time for sheep, which results in lambing in early spring. From an evolutionary standpoint, in spring there is plentiful grass for the mother, which maximizes her milk production to feed her offspring.

With modern animal husbandry, grass can be replaced with feed, and sheep can be artificially inseminated. Adios nature, hello year-round lamb.

This luscious lamb dinner from Good Eggs in San Francisco is festive without requiring an overly involved preparation process. The artichokes, stewed with herbs and lemon, are a delectable side. But don’t consider them as your “green vegetable’: Add some spring peas, too.

And don’t wait for a holiday to make it. We enjoy it for weekend dinners.
 
RECIPE: LEG OF LAMB WITH STEWED MINT ARTICHOKES & YOGURT SAUCE

Ingredients

  • 4.5 pound leg of lamb
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 3 large rosemary sprigs plus more for garnish
  • 3-4 large artichokes or 1 pound baby artichokes (we prefer the babies—see photo below)
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups Whole Greek yogurt
  • Marash Turkish chile flakes*
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • A few splashes of white wine vinegar
  • A loaf good bread
  •  
    Plus

  • Spring peas, carrots or other vegetable
  •    

    Leg Of Lamb Dinner

    Roast Leg Of Lamb

    Top: A perfect roast lamb dinner from Good Eggs | SF. Bottom: A roast leg of lamb from Allen Bros.

     
    __________________________
    *Marash chile flakes are red pepper flakes from Turkey. They have a complex flavor—fruit and smoke—with moderate heat. Marash is both smokier and a bit hotter than Aleppo pepper, but you can use them interchangeably. The flakes can be blended with lemon juice and salt for a meat rub, or added to olive oil to make a vinaigrette, pasta or rice sauce. Blend the flakes with olive oil for a bread dipper, add to soups and stews, chili or any meat dish.

     

    Marash Chile Flakes

    Grilled Baby Artichokes

    Top: Marash chili flakes; photo courtesy Silver Lake Station, which sells the chile flakes. Bottom: Make extra artichokes to enjoy the next day. These are served at X Bar at the Hyatt Regency | Los Angeles.

     

    Preparation

    1. PAT the meat dry an hour ahead of time, and season it generously with salt and pepper. You can do this the day before and remove it from the fridge about an hour before cooking. Leave any twine or netting around the meat in place.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Place a cast-iron† pan large enough to hold the lamb on the stove top, over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a light coat of olive oil, place the leg in the pan and brown it on all four sides until the skin is deeply golden and crisped (about 4 minutes per side). Tuck three large sprigs of rosemary around the lamb, and roast it for half an hour until the internal temperature reaches at least 145° (for medium-rare). While lamb is cooking…

    3. PREPARE the artichokes: Wash under cold running water, remove the toughest outer leaves and, if necessary peel the stems. Then slice across the base of the leaves, remove the choke, and quarter the large artichoke hearts/stems or halve the baby artichokes.

    4. PLACE the artichoke hearts in a pot and cover with water. Add a bit of olive oil, two tablespoons of salt, two sprigs of thyme, three bay leaves, three sprigs of mint and a splash of white wine vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, until the artichoke quarters are fork-tender. While the artichokes cook…

    5. MAKE the yogurt sauce. Whisk the yogurt with a handful of chopped mint, a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of Marash chili pepper, and the zest and juice of one lemon. Taste for balance; if you prefer a thinner sauce, you can add more olive oil or lemon juice. When the artichokes are done…

    6. REMOVE the artichokes from the liquid with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and set them aside to cool. When cool, taste and season them with salt and a bit more olive oil to taste. Finish with some freshly chopped mint. When lamb is done…

     

    7. REMOVE the pan from oven and let the lamb rest at least 15 minutes. Remove any twine or netting around the lamb and slice against the grain. Garnish with whole herbs as desired. Serve with the artichokes, yogurt sauce and sweet spring peas.
     
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    *Cast iron enables better browning or searing, but if you don’t have it, use your heaviest roasting pan.

      

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Salsify

    We can’t believe that in 15 years of publishing THE NIBBLE, we’ve never published an article on salsify. Ironically, it is known as a “forgotten vegetable.”

    WHAT IS SALSIFY?

    Salsify, pronounced SAL-suh-fee OR SAL-suh-fie, is a root vegetable in the Asteraceae or dandelion family. Dandelions, daisies and lettuce are in the family, but belong to different genuses (they’re not root vegetables).

    Other root vegetables belong to other families entirely:

    Beetroot (Amaranthaceae); burdock/gobo (Asteraceae); carrot and celeriac/celery root (Apiaceae); (Apiaceae); daikon/white Japanese radish, black radish, horseradish, radish, rutabaga, turnip and wasabi (Brassicaceae); lotus root, parsley root and parsnip (Nelumbonaceae).
     
    Not A Looker, But Delicious

    These roots lack the grace of carrot or parsnip. White salsify is “hairy” and black salsify looks like a twig.

    White Salsify. White salsify could be mistaken for a thin parsnip, but its flavor has been compared to an artichoke heart or Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke). Because of its minerality, it has also earned the names oyster plant or vegetable oyster. Because of its purple flowers, some call it purple salsify.

    Black Salsify. Its cousin, black salsify, has yellow flowers and the flavor of mild asparagus. It was first cultivated in Spain, and is also called Spanish salsify and false salsify.
     
    The Value Of Root Vegetables

    Root vegetables have long been important in the kitchen. After harvesting, they last a good while in the pantry without spoiling, and last even longer in the fridge. In older times, the root cellar kept a family fed through the winter.

    Different roots have different flavor profiles. Radishes are pungent, carrots are sweet, beets are sweet and earthy. Parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and salsify have more subtle flavors.

    Root vegetables are also rich in nutrients, low in fat and calories, inexpensive, and in modern times, usually available year-round.
     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE SALSIFY

    The roots have a rough outer skin, which requires scrubbing and, for many people, peeling. (It is fine to eat the skin.)

    Buy firm roots, preferably with the green tops still on. You can refrigerate them in an airtight container, but use them within a week; the roots alone will last for two weeks.

    To store, wrap the roots in plastic and refrigerate. Check periodically to see if the root is drying out. If it is, it’s time to cook them!

    Before cooking, scrub the root under cold running water, peel with a vegetable peeler and immediately place into acidulated water, water with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to prevent discoloration.

    After you peel the root, you can cut it into matchsticks or thicker short lengths, or slice them into coins. Simmer for half an hour until soft, drain, and sauté in a bit of butter.

       

    Salsify

    Salsify Soup

    Black Salsify

    Top: black (right) and white salsify roots at The Chef’s Garden. Center: A bowl of salsify and celeriac soup. Here’s the recipe from InSimonesKitchen.com. Bottom: The leaves are usually removed before the root goes to market; but like beet, turnip and other root greens, they are tasty (photo courtesy Will Bonsall | MOFA.org.).

     
    TYPES OF SALSIFY

    There are two types of salsify: white salsify and black salsify. The latter is more highly regarded for its nutrition. Now pay attention, because while they’re both members of Asteraceae, the daisy family, they’re actually different species!

    Both roots are low in sodium and offer a good amount of protein. They contains modest amounts of vitamin C, some B vitamins, and complex carbohydrates.r in the black variety can boost hair health.

    Both varieties are native to western Eurasia and were originally cultivated for both its root and greens and are grown in the same way.

     

    Salsify Pasta

    Mushroom Salsify Tart

    Pork Chops & Salsify Recipe

    photo and recipe courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco Center: White salsify root courtesy Good Eggs. Bottom: Salsify “pasta” in smoked oyster cream with black pepper and microgreen garnish, from The Chef’s Garden.

     

    HOW TO SERVE SALSIFY

    Salsify may not be the best looking root, but it delivers beautiful flavor. It pairs well with butter, cream, garlic and parsley. We’ve included some recipes below.

    If you find young roots with the leaves attached, the leaves are also quite tasty and can be added to salads, sautés or stir-fries. By the time the roots are mature, however, all but the most inner leaves have grown tough.

    Black salsify and white salsify are interchangeable in recipes. You can use them for:

  • Crudité platter, green salad or slaw (young salsify can be eaten raw, sliced thinly).
  • Sides: Steamed or roasted, sliced, mashed or puréed.
  • Gratins and fritters (slice into coins).
  • Vegetable pasta (use your spiralizer!)
  • Soups and stews (steam before adding).
  • Pickled, with sandwiches and relish trays.
  •  
    RECIPE: PORK CHOPS WITH SALSIFY

    You can find many salsify recipes, from bruschetta to salsa. This recipe, from Good Eggs in San Francisco (photo left/bottom), takes 10 minutes prep time, 35 minutes total time.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • ¾ pound pork chops
  • 1 pound salsify, peeled, ends trimmed off and sliced into 2” chunks
  • 1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed at the ends and sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 tablespoons chives, roughly chopped
  • A handful* of chervil, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 spring onion (substitute green onion/scallion)
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Olive Oil
  •  
    ____________
    *When you see an imprecise measurement like “handful” or “bit,” the amount is usually not very important. If you love the ingredient, use more of it; if you’re not, use less. We can’t get enough basil, for example.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Remove pork chops from their packaging, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Let the meat come to room temperature.

    2. FILL a pot halfway with water. Add a tablespoon of salt and the juice of one lemon; then add the salsify pieces. Cover and bring to a boil; then turn down to a simmer and let cook until very tender, about 25 minutes. While the salsify simmers…

    3. THINLY SLICE the spring onion and place it in a small bowl. Cover it with a few splashes of red wine vinegar and set aside. Once the salsify is tender…

    4. SCOOP it out of the water into a large bowl. Mash it with a fork, adding a tablespoon or two of butter, a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mash to your preferred texture.

    5. HEAT a cast iron pan over high heat with a bit of olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the pork chops and cook until golden brown on one side, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and sear for another 3-4 minutes before moving the entire pan into the preheated oven. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the internal temperature measured at the center of the chop reads 140°-145° (for medium rare). Remove from the pan and let rest for 10 minutes.

    6. FOLD the herbs into the snap peas with a tablespoon of olive oil and half of the vinegar mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more vinegar to taste. After the chops have rested…

    7. SLICE into ½ inch slices and divide between two plates. Serves alongside a few dollops of the salsify and cover the salsify and pork chops with a few generous spoonfuls of herbed snap peas.
     
    MORE SALSIFY RECIPES

  • Salsify Soup with Celeriac
  • Salsify, Lentil & Pineapple Salad
  • Salsify in Garlic Vinaigrette
  • Pan-Roasted Salsify
  • Caramelized Salsify
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Asparagus

    Fresh Green Asparagus

    Green, White & Purple Asparagus

    Top: Freshly cut asparagus from Baldor Food. Bottom: Three colors of asparagus from Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    Asparagus is our favorite harbinger of spring, along with big artichokes, fava beans, green garlic, morels, nettles, ramps and spring peas (a.k.a. English or garden peas).

    Once upon a time—in your mother’s, grandmother’s or great-gran’s generation, depending on your age—people who preferred fresh produce had to get their fill during the growing season. Some growing seasons were quite brief.

    Imported produce had yet to emerge in the off season, to meet the demands of people who wanted asparagus—or peaches or any other fruit or vegetable—year-round. When asparagus or peaches were out of season, you could buy them canned or frozen.

    Now asparagus is available year-round, imported from the Southern Hemisphere during the Northern Hemisphere’s off season. That means carbon miles, plus waning freshness as the they travel a long distance.

    In the U.S., spring is the best season for fresh, affordable asparagus. April through late June is prime asparagus season, so get your fill while you can.

    In the olden days, spring asparagus were served as a side or a first course: buttered spears with a wedge of lemon and/or lemon mayonnaise. They were pickled and served with cocktails, turned into soup and, for people of Italian heritage, added to pasta and risotto.

    While most of the asparagus grown are green (some with green tips, some with purple tips), you can find purple and white in specialty produce stores and farmers markets.

    Here are the differences among green, purple and white asparagus varieties. We’ve even seen pale pink asparagus, possibly a mutation of the purple.

     
    WAYS TO ENJOY ASPARAGUS

    Asparagus blends well with most dishes.

  • Breakfast: In an omelet, frittata, scrambled eggs, with poached eggs or added to Eggs Benedict, with grits.
  • Appetizers: Asparagus crostini with pancetta, bruschetta with hummus, asparagus and prosciutto wraps, a snacking platter of hummus or other spreads and dips, charcuterie, cheese, gherkins and/or olives with steamed or pickled asparagus, crackers or breads.
  • Lunch: Added to a green salad, a conventional sandwich or a wrap; in a luncheon salad topped with grilled sliced beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, scallops or shrimp.
  • First Courses: Asparagus salad with red grapefruit, in any green salad, plain or with added bacon or pancetta; asparagus soup.
  • Mains: Any pasta dish, such as linguine with asparagus and Parma ham; any grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish/seafood (check out these Greek-style lamb chops with feta, kalamata olives, mint and red onion); risotto or other rice/grain dishes; grilled salmon with asparagus and pineapple salsa; scallops with asparagus and morels.
  • Sides: Grilled asparagus (recipe (here’s one with mushrooms and shaved Parmesan), grilled rack of asparagus, sweet and spicy asparagus; stir-fried; pickled asparagus.
  • Diet: Steamed asparagus with balsamic vinaigrette, hummus or yogurt-Dijon dip; on a crudités platter.
  •  

    THE HISTORY OF ASPARAGUS

    The asparagus plant, Asparagus officinalis, is a member of the lily family, Asparagaceae, which also includes agave, and flowering plants such as lily of the valley and star of Bethlehem. There are more than 300 species of asparagus, most of which are grown as ornamental plants.

    Asparagus originated in the eastern Mediterranean region, but today is grown worldwide. It was first cultivated more than 2,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture and alleged medicinal qualities.

    The vegetable gained popularity in France and England in the 16th Century; King Louis XIV of France enjoyed this delicacy so much that he had special greenhouses built to supply it year-round. Early colonists brought it to America.

    Asparagus is a perennial plant raised in furrowed fields. It takes about three years before the plants produce asparagus. The delicate plant needs a temperate climate and requires much hand labor in all phases of cultivation. The spears are cut by hand—backbreaking work—when they reach about 9 inches in length.
     
    Nutrition

    Asparagus is nutritious: a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and zinc; and a very good source of copper, dietary fiber, folate, iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and vitamin K, plus the antioxidant flavonoid rutin.

    It has no fat or cholesterol and is very low in sodium. Asparagus is very low in calories (27 per cup) and contains no fat or cholesterol.

    There are three varieties of asparagus—green, purple and white.

  • Green asparagus, the most common, has a green stalk and a purple tip.
  • White asparagus, popular in Germany, was first created in Argenteuil, France as a delicacy. It is green asparagus grown in the dark but with exposure to ultraviolet light (alternately, earth is piled on top of the stalks so that they grow “underground”), and in our opinion has more of a visual interest than flavor.
  • Purple or violet asparagus has higher sugar and lower fiber levels, although the numbers are not significant. It was originally developed in Tuscany and sold as Violetto d’Albenga, after the valley where it was grown.
  •  

    Asparagus Omelet

    Asparagus First Course

    Top: Asparagus and scrambled eggs for breakfast, from the California Avocado Commission. Bottom: A first course or light lunch of asparagus, prosciutto, burrata and crostini at Barbuto | NYC.

     
    While white and purple asparagus are creations of modern growing techniques, green asparagus has been enjoyed since ancient times. There is a recipe for it in oldest surviving book of recipes, De Re Coquinaria, Book III, written by Marcus Gavius Apicius in the third century C.E.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Create A New Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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    Grilled Cheese Benedict

    Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese

    Hot Fudge Grilled Cheese

    Top: The first contest winner, “Bewitching,” with arugula, bacon, blackberries, spinach and two cheeses. Second: Grilled Cheese Benedict with Canadian bacon, poached egg, spinach and Gouda on an English Muffin; both from The Grilled Cheese Academy. Third: Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese from QVC’s Chef David Venable. Bottom: The Lisa Marie, Elvis’ favored fried PB & banana sandwich with bacon, cheese and hot fudge, from The Grilled Cheese Academy.

     

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month, with National Grilled Cheese Day celebrated on April 2nd.

    Use the occasion to try some luscious new grilled cheese recipes. We have a lot of them on TheNibble.com, along with tips for making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich:

  • With Pork: Bacon & Blue Cheese, Ham, Brie & Blue Cheese, Ham & Cheese With Caramelized Onions
  • With Herbs & Spices: South Of The Border, Tuscan Style
  • With A Sweet Touch: Bananas Foster, Brie, Strawberries & Balsamic, Dulce De Leche and Jam On Raisin Bread, Mascarpone & Dulce De Leche With Fresh Raspberries, The Lisa Marie—Bacon, Peanut Butter, Banana & Hot Fudge, Turkey & Fontina With Honey & Dried Cherries
  • With A Twist: Grilled Cheese Benedict With Poached Egg On An English Muffin, Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese, Turkey & Brussels Sprouts With Lemon Aïoli
  • Festive: Beer Battered With Bacon, Buffalo Chicken, Lobster Grilled Cheese
  •  
    We even have a trompe-l’oeil grilled cheese: Grilled Pound Cake & Frosting that looks like grilled cheese.

    And you must take a look at Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt, made with American cheese and a layer of fried mozzarella sticks.
     
    THE GRILLED CHEESE ACADEMY & RECIPE CONTEST

    The Grilled Cheese Academy.com, a website from EatWisconsinCheese.com, is a treasure trove for lovers of grilled cheese.

    Since 2012, they’ve sponsored an annual Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown. All the winners and runners up are posted on the website, along with a myriad of fetching grilled cheese sandwiches developed by the Academy.

    You can enter the contest (by May 15th) and download e-books of each year’s winners. In case you need some encouragement, the top prize is $15,000.
     
    THE FIRST WINNER

    This beauty (top photo), called BEWITCHING, took the top prize in the first Showdown. It was created by Ally Phillips of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.

    Ally’s bewitching concoction layers fresh blackberries, peppery greens, crispy fried bacon and molten Wisconsin Gouda and Provolone.
     
    RECIPE: BEWITCHING BLACKBERRY GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

    Ingredients For 2 Sandwiches

  • 1/2 cup arugula
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 4 slices quality white bread
  • 4-6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • Cooking spray to coat skillet
  • 20-24 fresh blackberries, divided
  • 2 slices Provolone cheese, cut to fit bread
  • 2 slices Gouda cheese, cut to fit bread
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and drained
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the arugula and spinach in small bowl; set aside. Trim the crust from 3 sides of the bread slices, leaving the curved top crust attached. Butter the bread slices on one sides.

    2. COAT the skillet (preferably cast iron) heavily with cooking spray and then heat it. Place 2 slices of bread, buttered-side down, in the skillet; there should be a slight sizzle. Place 5-6 blackberries in the center of each bread slice.

    3. TOP the berries with a slice of Provolone. Add another handful of berries and top with Gouda for the second layer. Place 3 strips of bacon on each sandwich and place a bread slice on top, buttered-side up.

     
    4. MELD and compact the sandwich, using a spatula to press firmly. Grill 2-3 minutes until the bottom is browned; flip and grill another 2 minutes or until the cheese is melting.

    5. REMOVE the sandwiches to plates. Carefully pull back the top slices and spread the arugula and spinach mixture on top of the bacon. Replace the top, pressing down, and then flip the sandwich so the greens are on the bottom.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Fun Recipe For April Fool’s Day, Like Mashed Potato Donuts

    Because it’s April 1st, you may think that it’s a joke. But these Mashed Potato Donuts are real, and really good.

    The recipe was developed by Jeremy Spector of Wonder City Coffee & Donut Bar at The Brindle Room in New York City. It was sent to us bythe Idaho Potato Commission.

    If you don’t want the salted caramel glaze (top photo), simply garnish the donuts with cinnamon sugar (bottom photo).

    Here’s another Mashed Potato Donut recipe from King Arthur Flour.

    TIP: This doughnut dough can be refrigerated overnight. Equally good doughnuts will result from making the dough and frying the donuts the next day as frying the same day.

     
    RECIPE: MASHED POTATO DONUTS

    Ingredients For 24 Donuts

  • 2-1/2 Idaho potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • 1-1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons fat (like Crisco)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil for frying
  •  
    Ingredients For 2 Cups Salted Caramel Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  

    Mashed Potato Donuts

    Mashed Potato Donuts

    Top: Mashed Potato Donuts, photo courtesy IdahoPotato.com. Bottom: Mashed Potato Donuts from TasteOfHome.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL the potatoes, drain and mash in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, then the orange zest. Set aside.

    2. STEEP the milk, cloves, nutmeg and fat over low heat in a small pot. Strain and discard the cloves.

    3. WHISK the eggs; very slowly whisk in the steeped milk. Pour into the potato mixture and stir to combine. Sift in the dry flour, baking powder and salt and gently stir to just combine. Rest for 1 hour.

    4. MAKE the salted caramel glaze while the dough rests. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the sugar, stirring constantly until it turns golden brown. In a separate pan, bring the cream to a simmer. Slowly pour the cream into the sugar until combined. Whisk in the salt. Cool to room temperature and set aside.

    5. HEAT the oil to 360°F. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll to 1/3-inch thickness.

    6. CUT the doughnuts and fry them in the oil for 4 minutes, turning once. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Drizzle with the salted caramel glaze and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Herb Salad

    Herb Salad

    An herb salad hits the spot. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Even if you’re not in the practice of serving a large green salad with dinner, a small herb salad is an easy way to have a few greens that don’t need a heavy dressing. It goes well with any protein.
     
    This recipe was developed by Chef Eric Dantis for THE NIBBLE. You can substitute parsley for the cilantro, dill for the chives, pear or other fruit for the apple.

    RECIPE: HERB SALAD

    Ingredients For The Salad

  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch basil
  • ½ bunch chives
  • ½ bunch arugula
  • ¼ bunch mint
  • 1 Fuji or Granny Smith apple
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Optional: jalapeño
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Ingredients For The Dressing

  • Juice of 1 or 2 limes or lemons
  • Good-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PICK the leaves* from the cilantro and mint; rinse and dry along with the arugula leaves and reserve in a medium-size bowl.

    2. SLICE or tear the basil into thick strips and slice the chives into 1-inch spears. Add them to the bowl with the herbs.

    3. SLICE the apple and jalapeño into matchsticks and place them in a separate medium-sized bowl. To prevent oxidation, squeeze enough orange juice to coat the apple slices, but not to soak them.

    4. MAKE the dressing: Mix the lime or lemon juice with 1-½ to 2 times the amount of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    5. SERVE: Combine all ingredients except the dressing in a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and toss the salad and repeat until you are satisfied with amount of dressing.
     
    _______________________
    *If you really love cilantro, note that the stems have more flavor than the leaves.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen

    We are encouraged to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for health and nutrition; but the items we buy are often heavily coated with pesticides residue. A quick rinse them doesn’t remove all of them; a sustained rinse under cold water with a light scrub from a vegetable brush is better. We use this special antimicrobial sponge; it’s easier to use than a conventional vegetable brush.

    One reason to buy organic produce is to avoid these potentially harmful chemicals—especially for children and people with compromised health. Animal studies indicate toxicity that disrupts the normal functioning of the nervous and endocrine system, and increases risks of cancer.

    Each year the Environmental Working Group releases a list of produce with the most pesticides—The Dirty Dozen—and the least pesticides—The Clean 15. Here’s the Executive Summary of the most recent report.

    Pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration are analyzed, and result in rankings for the most popular fresh produce items. Blueberries and snap peas showed sharply different results for domestic-grown and imported. Here’s the list of the 50 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables.
     

    THE DIRTY DOZEN

    These are the results of the 2015 ranking of the produce with the greatest amount of pesticide residue. The list actually shows 15, not 12: The last three items were next in line and have been added to the list because of their popularity. Foods are listed in order of pesticide amount.

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  •    

    Apple Varieties

    Celery Stalks With Leaves

    Top: An apple a day…is covered with residual pesticide. Photo courtesy US Apples. Bottom: Celery has more pesticide residue than any other vegetable. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Snap Peas (Imported)
  • Potatoes
  • + Hot Peppers
  • + Kale
  • + Collard Greens
  •  

    Hass Avocado

    Green Cabbage

    Avocado is the fruit with the least pesticide; cabbage is the most residual-free vegetable. (Photos: Avocado Board and Good Eggs).

     

    THE CLEAN FIFTEEN

    These fruits and vegetables are listed in order of least residue.

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes
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    DOWNLOAD A POCKET COPY OF THE GUIDE AT EWG.com.
     
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    *A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the U.S. is produced from genetically engineered seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GE produce.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mussels At Home

    One of our favorite bistro foods is Moules Marinières (mool marin-yair), Sailor-Style Mussels. The mussels are steamed in a flavorful broth, to which they add their briny juice.

    We recently had a pot of the classic dish at Restaurant Dominique in Greenwich Village—a handsome room with big windows facing charming West Village streets.

    We not only ate every mussel; we scraped the pot for every last bit of the divine broth. We can’t wait to go back for more mussels…and everything else on the classic bistro menu.

    There’s also a mussels restaurant in New York City that serves 21 different variations, from the classic (white wine broth with garlic, shallot, parsley) to cuisine-specific riffs.

    We’ve tried everything from Indian Moules (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Mexican Moules (calamari, chipotle in adobo, chorizo, posoles), even Meatball Moules (meatballs, tomato, onion, garlic, pesto, Parmesan cheese).

    During our most recent mussels foray, we however, we were reminded of how cramped and noisy the restaurant is; not to mention that one needs to book a table days in advance. The next day we came across the following recipe from Chef Eric LeVine, for our favorite Moules Marinières: Thai curry with coconut milk and lemongrass.

    We were hit with a blinding revelation of the obvious: We can make this at home in short order. Mussels are $4 a pound, compared with a $25 restaurant serving.

    If you don’t like Thai flavors, find a recipe for what you do like. Here’s one for classic Moules Marinières, plus how to buy and clean mussels.

    Steamed mussels are low in calories and gluten free.

    RECIPE: MOULES MARINIÈRES (STEAMED MUSSELS)
    IN THAI CURRY BROTH

    Ingredients For 4 First Courses Or 2 Mains

  • 8 sprigs cilantro, separate leaves and stems and roughly chop both
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 small shallots, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon zest plus 1 tbsp. juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • 15 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to taste
  •  

    Raw Mussels

    Steamed Mussels

    Mussels In Coconut Curry Broth

    Top: Wild mussels from Good Eggs. Center: Into the pot (Le Creuset). Bottom: Voilà, let’s eat! (Photo chef Eric LeVine.)

  • 2 pounds fresh mussels (ours were from Prince Edward Island), scrubbed with beards removed
  • 1 small Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cilantro stems, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 shallot shallot, the coriander seed, chili flakes, lime zest and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Grind into a smooth paste.

    2. SCOOP 2 tablespoons of thick cream from the top of the coconut milk into a large saucepan. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, shallots and ground paste plus the green curry paste. Cook for 4 minutes.

    3. ADD the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook about 3 minutes. Taste and season as desired,

    4. ADD the mussels, first discarding any that are cracked or already opened. Stir, cover and cook, shaking the pan until mussels open. Stir in the chopped cilantro, sliced chile and lime juice.

    5. DISCARD any mussels that haven’t opened in the pot. Divide the contents, including the broth, among two or four bowls.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake Some Cornbread

    Scallion Cornbread

    Cornbread Toast

    Top: Scallion cornbread from Good Eggs. Bottom: Cream Chipped Beef On Toast from RecipeTips.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    We love, love, love cornbread, a specialty of the South that’s hard to find in the Northeast, where we live. Sometimes you’ll get some at a barbecue restaurant or with a dish of chili; but otherwise, you have to bake your own.

    That’s not a problem. We make four loaves at once and freeze three of them. If you avoid gluten, you can find a recipe that’s all cornmeal.

    You don’t need a plate of barbecue or grits and eggs to enjoy its pleasures. Serve cornbread anytime:

  • At breakfast or lunch
  • With soups and salads
  • As a snack
  • In the dinner bread basket
  • Toast a slice for a twist on Eggs Benedict, grilled cheese or tuna melts
  • Make a modern version of Creamed Chipped Beef On Toast by substituting your favorite protein for the dried beef and your sauce of choice for the cream sauce
  •  
    Cornbread doesn’t last 48 hours in our home; but if you have cornbread that is drying out, make toast or:

  • Cornbread croutons
  • Cornbread bread pudding
  • Dressing/stuffing
  •  
    Some cornbread recipes are so sweet, they taste like corn muffins. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you try to avoid unnecessary added sugar, take a look at this recipe from Good Eggs. It uses only one tablespoon of sugar.

    It also layers extra flavors: scallion, jalapeño, cotija cheese. The heat of the chile bits brings the already-wonderful sweet corn and butter flavors to a new height.

    We also added corn kernels; the texture adds delight.

     

    RECIPE: QUESO FRESCO & SCALLION CORNBREAD

    This recipe, baked in a skillet (you can substitute a round cake pan), requires 15 minutes active time and 30 minutes baking time.

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1¾ cup buttermilk (substitute whole milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar)
  • 3 eggs, beaten with a fork
  • 6 tablespoon ghee (substitute butter)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño (red chiles give bright specks of color; remove seeds and white membrane for less heat)
  • Garnish: 1-1/2 cups queso fresco cheese, crumbled (substitute feta, paneer, ricotta salata)
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and greens chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (half a lime)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup corn kernels
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°. Using clean hands or a rubber spatula, spread one tablespoon of ghee all over the bottom and sides of an 8-10” cast iron skillet. Fit the bottom of the skillet with a disk of parchment paper by tracing the shape of the skillet on parchment with a pencil and cutting out the circle.

    2. COMBINE the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together to blend. Add the milk to the dry mixture and mix well with a fork.

    3. MELT the remaining 4 tablespoons of ghee and add it to the batter. Finish by adding the eggs, 1¼ cup of crumbled cheese and most of the scallions, the optional jalapeño and corn. Mix the batter until all of the ingredients are well-combined.

    4. GENTLY POUR the batter into the skillet and bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Garnish with the remaining queso fresco, lime and scallions and serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF CORNBREAD

    Corn is native to Mesoamerica, and was used to make flatbread (tortillas) by the Mayas, Aztecs and other cultures. They did not have leavening and didn’t bake loaves of bread. Americans of European descent used cornmeal to make hoecakes and porridge like Indian pudding.

    They also had no skillets or baking pans before contact with Europeans. The tortillas were fried on hot rocks. Berries, nuts and sunflower seeds could be added.

     

    Ghee

    Corn Tortillas

    Cornbread

    Top: Ghee is clarified butter: The solids have been skimmed off melted butter so the butter doesn’t burn (photo courtesy Ten Speed Press). Center: Tortillas: the original corn bread (photo courtesy Anson Mills). Bottom: Modern cornbread is often baked in baking pans and cut into squares (photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board).

     
    Settlers made their version in iron skillets. In the absence of a skillet—not easy to find on the frontier—hoe cakes (hoecakes) were baked on a garden hoe held or wedged up against an open fire. They were eaten with soups or stews.

    The most basic hoecake was made with cornmeal, fat, water and a pinch of salt. It was made in a skillet without leavening resulting in dense corn pancakes. As ingredients and disposable income became more plentiful, butter, buttermilk, eggs, milk, molasses and sugar were incorporated into recipes. Wheat flour was added to lighten the taste and density of breads made only with cornmeal. [Source]

    By the 1840s, chemical leavenings such as pearlash (potassium carbonate) and saleratus (potassium bicarbonate) were generally available to American cooks. In 1843, British chemist Alfred Bird invented baking powder (sodium bicarbonate). Modern commercial yeast was not available until the late 1800s, and the granulated active dry yeast we use today was invented during World War II by Fleischmann’s.

    Finally, all the elements were in place to make modern cornbread. However, as a result of America’s modern taste for sugar and more sugar, most modern cornbread recipes are sweeter than those used by prior generations.
     
    WHAT IS GHEE?

    Ghee is similar* to clarified butter: It is butter that is melted and strained of its solids. It returns to a soft solid at room temperature.

    Ghee has less moisture than butter, and for that reason is preferred in some recipes. It is also valuable when you want to pan fry in butter. By removing the milk solids, ghee has a much higher smoke point.

    But if you’re making cake or cookies, you don’t want to use ghee: The buttery flavor largely comes from the milk solids, and the flavor will milder and less buttery.

    Ghee is shelf stable (no refrigeration required). It lasts a good while on the shelf, and a very, very long time in the fridge. When you make it, you can make a double batch and stick the extra in the fridge. Or, give it to a friend who cooks: It will be greatly appreciated.

    Here’s more about ghee.
     
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    *Traditional ghee is made from butter churned from cultured milk, somewhat different from European clarified butter. A few Indian dishes call for using both ghee and sweet butter.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Easter Egg Dessert Pizza Or Fruit Platter

    fruit-pizza-easter-egg-sugarhero-230

    This Easter egg “dessert pizza” is glazed fruit atop baked cookie dough. Photo courtesy Elizabeth LaBau | Sugar Hero.

     

    Pastry chef Elizabeth LaBau of the blog SugarHero.com decided back in 2013 to create an egg-shaped dessert “pizza” for Easter: a cookie dough base topped with glazed fruit.

    Looks delicious, doesn’t it? Here’s the recipe.

    We always bake a cake with Easter decorations, and also serve a fruit salad. So three years ago, we adapted the “pizza” idea to a fruit platter.

  • Year 1: We took a tray and piped royal icing in an Easter egg shape, a border to contain the fruit. You could arrange the fruit without one, but as guests serve themselves, the border keeps the shape of the egg (not to mention, it keeps the grapes from rolling away).
  • Year 2: We had an inspiration to go back to the original recipe’s cookie dough, but use it raw to build the border. Unless you have a very steady hand, it’s much easier to shape strips of cookie dough into an egg than to pipe the shape. We used a tube of egg-free sugar cookie dough. Some people nibbled on the dough, some didn’t.
  • Year 3: We used chocolate chip cookie dough. Not surprisingly, most of it was nibbled up.
  •  

  • Year 4: This year, we’re using cream cheese frosting for the border. It’s easier to pipe and tweak (fix the shape) than royal icing. A recipe is below.
  •  
    Truth to tell, even with three years of practice, Ms. LaBau’s work is still far lovelier than ours. But we never claimed to be a professional pastry chef—just a professional pastry eater.

    RECIPE: CREAM CHEESE FROSTiNG

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  •  
    Note: To frost a cake, you need a larger amount of icing. For vanilla cream cheese frosting, combine: 16 ounces cream cheese, 2 sticks (1 cup) softened butter, 1-1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted after measuring) and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients and place in a piping bag and pipe an Easter egg shape.

    2. TIP: If you don’t want to pipe freehand, cut an egg shape from foil or parchment and use it as a guide. The trick is to fold the foil in half and cut half an Easter egg, so the halves will be perfectly symmetrical when you unfold it.

      

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