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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: Plate Decorations

If you admire the fancy plate decoration done by fine chefs, here’s a tip: It’s easy to makes everyday food look quite spectacular!

There are three easy steps:
1. Consider placing a bright-colored sauce or purée atop the plate, under the food. If you’re not using a sauce, try a circular or zig-zag drizzle.

2. Add a garnish/garnishes around the rim of a plate.

3. Top with herbs (chiffonade, leaves or sprigs), microgreens or sprouts.

Just decide on what you want to garnish your plate. Choose from:

RIM GARNISHES

  • Capers/caperberries
  • Caviar/roe: lumpfish, salmon roe, whitefish (plain or flavor-infused)
  • Citrus zest
  • Cress, microgreens or sprouts
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Minced herbs
  • Spices—chili flakes, mustard seeds, pink peppercorns
  •  
    DRIZZLES & DROPLETS

  • Balsamic or flavored vinegar
  • Flavored or plain olive oil
  • Gourmet mustard
  •    

    grilled-fish-rockcentercafe-230

    Grilled fish garnished with a bit of everything: balsamic droplets, pomegranate arils. Photo courtesy Rock Center Café | NYC.

  • Seasoned mayonnaise or aïoli
  • Vegetable or fruit purée
  •  

    lamb-loin-tatsoi-pomwonderful-230

    A simpler version: roast lamb on a bed of sunchoke purée with red sorrel and tatsoi. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     

    BEDS FOR PROTEINS

  • Chopped or diced vegetables, raw or cooked
  • Sauces or coulis (strained purée)
  • Grains and legumes (look for color: red rice, yellow lentils, e.g.)
  • Grain and legume/vegetable blends (rice and beans, succotash)
  • Mashed or puréed vegetables
  •  
     
    MORE GARNISH TIPS

    Collect photos and keep them in a file in the kitchen.

    Check out our many garnish ideas for both sweet and savory dishes, and a separate article on soup garnishes.

     

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Miso Paste

    sweet-white-miso-crumbsandtales-230

    White miso paste, also called mild or sweet
    miso. Photo courtesy CrumbsAndTales.com.
    Try their recipe for carrot, miso and ginger
    salad dressing.

     

    Almost everyone who has been to a Japanese restaurant has had miso soup. But today’s tip includes other things to do with miso (MEE-zoe).

    Thanks to the popularity of miso, you can find at least one type of miso paste in many supermarkets and all natural foods stores (Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, for example).

    Miso is a paste made from soybeans and grains (typically barley or rice), koji (a fungus that serves as a fermenting agent) and sea salt. It can ferment from a short time (for mild homemade miso) to three years (for red miso). The result has the consistency of hummus.

    The fermentation produces an enzyme-rich, living food that contains many beneficial microorganisms. However, it also has a relatively high salt content.

    Miso should be refrigerated and added to cooked foods just before they are removed from the heat.

     

    TYPES OF MISO PASTE

    Different types of miso paste are available in Japanese markets (like Sunrise Mart in New York City). Natural food stores typically carry the three most common.

    The deeper the color, the higher the percentage of soybeans and the stronger the flavor.

  • White miso paste, shiromiso, is the most common form. It has just a small amount of soybeans; the majority ingredient is riceor barley. White miso is also called mild miso and sweet miso, and is used mostly in salad dressings and marinades. It is also incorporated into Japanese and vegan desserts.
  • Yellow miso paste is stronger than white miso. It is a combination of barley and rice, and the most versatile of the varieties, used for glazes, marinades and soups.
  • Red miso paste is the strongest, fermented the longest to a deep red or deep brown color, made from mostly soybeans. The more percentage of soybeans, the longer the fermentation and the deeper the color. It is used to add heartier flavors to vegetables asparagus, eggplant and kale; dips, sauces and spreads.
  •  
    WAYS TO USE MISO PASTE

    In Japan, miso soup is a culinary staple, whisked into dashi (stock) and enjoyed at any meal, starting with breakfast. It is also used to give an earthier flavor to noodle soups, such as ramen and udon.

    It is also used as a condiment/seasoning:

  • Braising meats, seafood (try miso-braised cod) and vegetables (try eggplant and mushrooms)
  • Compound butter: East meets West (how to make compound butter)
  • Dips and spreads: season with spices and use with crudités and rice crackers
  • Dressing: whisked into a dressing for salads and cooked vegetables
  • Grilling, as an overnight marinade and a glaze (coat corn on the cob, wrap in foil and grill)
  • Pickling, for a sweeter variety of vegetables pickles
  • Sauces: misoyaki is a variant of teriyaki
  •  

    Americans have incorporated miso into Western cuisine, from gravy to risotto and quich. For inspiration, pick up a book like The Miso Book: The Art of Cooking with Miso. It not only has many recipes, but shows you how to make your own miso paste from scratch.

    Start by making miso soup and salad dressing with the recipes below.

    RECIPE: EASY MISO DRESSING

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil (peanut, vegetable)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons white miso
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or 1/4 teaspoon agave
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  •  

    miso-soup-2-sushiloungeNJ-230

    A familiar bowl of miso soup. Photo courtesy Sushi Lounge | NJ.

  • Optional additions: chili flakes/sriracha, grated fresh ginger, peanut butter
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Taste and add more honey or vinegar as you prefer.

    2. STORE leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

     
    RECIPE: EASY MISO SOUP

    Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dashi granules*
  • 1/4 cup red miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried seaweed, reconstituted in water and drained
  • 1/2 cup cubed tofu
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the water into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the instant dashi; whisk to dissolve. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the tofu and seaweed. Simmer for 2 minutes. While the soup simmers…

    2. SPOON the miso paste into a bowl. Ladle 1/2 cup of the hot dashi broth into the bowl and whisk until the miso paste melts and is the mixture smooth.

    3. TURN off the heat and add the miso paste to the pot. Stir well. Taste the soup and whisk in another 1-2 tablespoons of miso paste as desired. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.

     
    *This is the easy version; the soup will be ready in 10 minutes. When you have time, try a recipe that uses homemade dashi stock, made from fish and kelp. For quick recipes, dashi is also available in a bouillon cube format.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Poached Eggs On Vegetables

    poached-eggs-asstd-veg-ellarysgreensNYC-230

    Poached eggs atop a medley of sautéed vegetables. Photo courtesy Ellary’s Greens | NYC.

     

    When was the last time a plate of poached eggs looked this tempting?

    On the brunch menu at Ellary’s Greens in New York City, the chef changes vegetables with the seasons and uses them as a base for poached eggs.

    If your thoughts are with weekend brunch or what to serve for Mother’s Day breakfast, adapt this idea from Chef Kurt Alexander.

    The photo shows more of a winter palate, with Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, pattypan squash and sunchoke purée, garnished with fresh dill. You can switch these out for spring vegetables.

    We went to our farmers’ market and came back with asparagus (green, purple and white!), cardoons, fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, morel mushrooms and ramps—a veritable spring feast.

    At any supermarket, you can find broccoli, fennel, pea pods, snow peas, spring peas, Swiss chard and Vidalia onions—and maybe some fava beans or lima beans plus some halved grape tomatoes for color.

     
    ANOTHER TREAT: FARM-FRESH EGGS

    If you do hit the farmers market, bring back farm-fresh eggs. You’ll marvel at how much better they taste than factory-farm eggs that can be in storage for a while before they hit the supermarket shelf.

    We steamed our vegetables and then tossed them in parsley butter with lemon, known in French cuisine as beurre à la maître d’hôtel.
     
    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, get an egg poacher insert. The uniform roundness it creates isn’t as eye-pleasing as a naturally-poached egg, but it beats the frustration of trying to harness meandering egg whites until you perfect the technique.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Simple Syrup

    lemon-vanilla-twist-vodka-nielsenmassey-230

    This cocktail uses homemade lemon-vanilla
    simple syrup. Photo courtesy Nielsen-
    Massey. The recipe is below.

     

    Granulated sugar does not dissolve easily in cold beverages. That’s why simple syrup (also called bar syrup, sugar syrup or gomme, the French word for gum) is used to add sweetness to drinks such as cocktails, lemonade, iced tea and iced coffee.

    Over the last decade, flavored simple syrups have become popular with mixologists. In addition to sweetness, they’re also used to add an extra layer of flavor to drinks.

    There are lots of flavored simple syrups on the market. In addition to common flavors—blood orange, lavender, mint, pomegranate, raspberry—you can find cardamom, peach basil, pineapple jalapeno cilantro, saffron and tamarind.

    Most people buy a bottle of premade simple syrup (also available in sugar-free.) Others simply make their own—not only because it’s easy and so much less expensive, but because they can create special flavors—everything from ghost chile to strawberry rose.

    It couldn’t be easier: Just bring equal parts of water and sugar to a boil and simmer, then add any flavorings. You can even make agave or honey simple syrup by replacing the sugar.

    SUGAR TIP: Superfine sugar dissolves much more quickly than granulated table sugar. You can turn granulated sugar into superfine sugar by pulsing it in a food processor or spice mill.

     

    RECIPE: SIMPLE SYRUP

    Ingredients

  • 2 parts sugar
  • 1 part water
  • Optional flavor: 1-1/2 teaspoons extract (mint, vanilla, etc.)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the water to a boil. Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly until dissolved completely. (Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or it will be too thick.)

    2. ADD the optional flavor once the sugar is fully dissolved. To infuse fresh herbs (basil, mint, rosemary), simmer them in the hot water for 20 minutes and remove before adding the sugar.

    3. REMOVE the pan from the heat. Allow to cool completely and thicken.

    4. STORE in an airtight container in the fridge for up to six months.

     

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: LEMON LIME RASPBERRY TWIST

    For spring, try this Lemon Lime raspberry Twist cocktail (photo above). The recipe from Nielsen-Massey, using their Pure Lemon and Tahitian Vanilla extracts.

    If you like heat, add some jalapejalapeñoo slices as garnish.

    Ingredients For ½ Cup Lemon-Vanilla Simple Syrup

  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 6 fresh raspberries
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce Lemon-Vanilla Simple Syrup
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 2 ounces lemon-flavored sparkling water
  • Lime twist
  • 2 frozen raspberries
  • Orange wedge
  • Optional garnish: sliced jalapeño (remove seeds and pith)
  •  

    simple-sugar-ingredients-zulka-230

    Just mix equal parts of sugar and water, plus any flavorings. Photo courtesy Zulka.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and lemon extract in a small saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup reduces, about 10-15 minutes.

    2. REMOVE from the heat. After the syrup has cooled, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Refrigerate the syrup in an airtight container in the fridge.

    3. MUDDLE in a cocktail shaker the fresh raspberries, lime juice and simple syrup. Add vodka and sparkling water; shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Drop the lime twist and frozen raspberries into glass. Top with a freshly squeezed orange wedge.
     
    WAYS TO USE SIMPLE SYRUP IN BEVERAGES

  • Cocktails
  • Nonalcoholic drinks: agua fresca, iced coffee and tea, lemonade, mocktails, sparkling water (for homemade soda)
  •  
    WAYS TO USE SIMPLE SYRUP TO SWEETEN FOODS

  • Candied peel (grapefruit, orange, etc.)
  • Glaze baked goods
  • Snow cones
  • Sorbet
  •  
    Bakers brush simple syrup on layer cakes to keep the crumb moist. If you use flavored simple syrup, it adds a nuance of flavor as well.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Tomatillo Guacamole

    tomatillo-quacamole-qvc-230

    Guacamole with tomatillos. Recipe and photo
    courtesy QVC.

     

    Plan for Cinco de Mayo with this all-green guacamole recipe, which replaces the red tomatoes with green tomatillos.

    RECIPE: TOMATILLO GUACAMOLE

    Ingredients

  • 4 large tomatillos, peeled, halved, and chopped
  • 3 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and quartered
  • 1-1/3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, stems removed
  • 4 jalapeños, seeded and halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Tortilla chips and/or crudités
  •  

    Preparation

    1. Place the diced tomatillos, avocados, cilantro, jalapeños, garlic, salt, pepper, and lime juice into a food processor, in the order listed. Mix until all ingredients are fully combined and the guacamole is smooth and creamy. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    2. To keep the guacamole from browning until you’re ready to serve it, tamp plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent air from oxidizing the avocado.

    Here’s another tomatillo guacamole recipe with roasted corn.

     

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TOMATOES & TOMATILLOS

    Tomatillos are not little green tomatoes. They are in the same botanical family, but a different species. Here’s the scoop:
     
    THE TOMATO

    The tomato is an edible red berry*, although some varieties grow in colors that range from brown to green (when ripe), orange, purple-black, purple-blue, white and yellow (see photo below and learn more about tomato colors).

  • Originally tiny in size (like the grape tomato), it was cultivated over centuries to its current “beefsteak” heft.
  • Its botanical family is Solanaceae (the Nightshade family, which includes potatoes and eggplant), species/genus Solanum lycopersicum.
  • The plant is native to Central and South America, from Mexico to Peru.
  • It’s an annual plant with a woody stem that typically grows to 3 to 10 feet in height.
  •  
    THE TOMATILLO

     

    kiwi-cherry-berry-tomatillo-thechefsgarden-230

    Tomatillos (top) and their cousins, cherry tomatoes. Photo courtesy The Chef’s Garden.

     
    The tomatillo is also an edible berry. Small and spherical, it is [erroneously] called a green tomato; and also a husk tomato, a Mexican tomato and other names. But it’s a distant cousin to the tomato. Instead, it is closely related to the cape gooseberry.

  • Like the orange-colored gooseberry, the tomatillo is surrounded by a papery husk. The ripe fruit can be green, purple, red or yellow.
  • The tomatillo’s botanical family is also Solanaceae, but it belongs to a completely different species from the tomato, Physalis. Its botanical name is Physalis ixocarpa.
  • Native to Central America, the tomatillo was a staple of Maya and Aztec cuisine.
  • The tomatillo is also an annual plant, with a semi-woody stem that can grow to a height of 4 to 5 feet. However, it usually grows low to the ground and spreads out instead of up.
  •  
    *Yes, tomatoes are fruits. Here’s the difference between fruits and vegetables.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Potato Crusted Fish

    After we jad this delicious potato-crusted cod at Blaue Gans restaurant in New York City, we created our own version at home.

    You can use cod, halibut or other thick, flaky white fish. Blaue Gans set the fish atop a cucumber, yogurt and tarragon salad. You can use any vegetables or grain.

    There are variations of potato crust that use potato flakes or mashed potatoes. But to look as pretty (and get as crunchy) as this, you need to grate long slices of fresh potato. You also must use a nonstick pan so the potato crust doesn’t stick.

    You need to coat the fish with a flavored paste so the potato crust will adhere. This recipe uses pesto. You can also make a garlic or wasabi paste*.

    And, you can “go gourmet” by making parsley and/or carrot oil, a few drops of flavored olive oil, or a bit of carrot or red bell pepper purée.

       

    potato-crusted-cod-blauegansNYC-230

    A beauty: potato-crusted cod. Photo courtesy Blaue Gans | NYC.

     

    RECIPE: POTATO-CRUSTED COD

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 cod fillets, 6 ounces each
  • 4 tablespoons pesto
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled into strips and squeezed dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  
    For The Parsley Vinaigrette†

  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    *Mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste with 4 tablespoons mayonnaiseor full-fat plain yogurt.

    †Recipe adapted from Chef Michael Schlow.

     

    box-grater-230

    Use a box grater to cut thick strips. Photo courtesy Cuisipro.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the vinaigrette: Blanch the parsley in a saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain, rinse, squeeze dry and pat with paper towels to remove remaining moisture. Transfer to a blender, add the ice cubes and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the remaining olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.

    3. GRATE the potatoes and squeeze out all the excess water. If the potatoes are wet, they will not get crisp.

    4. SPREAD one side of each fillet with 1 tablespoon of pesto. Press the grated potato onto the pesto.

    5. HEAT the olive oil in a nonstick pan. The oil is hot when it flows smoothly over the bottom of the pan and glistens. It you’re not certain that it’s hot enough, add a small piece of garlic or onion. It will sizzle immediately when the oil is hot enough.

     
    6. PLACE the fish potato side down in the pan. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes.

    7. MOVE the fish to a baking pan, potato side up. Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Celery Salt, Emeril’s Favorite Spice

    Who’d have guessed that celery salt was the must-have spice of chef Emeril Lagasse?

    In an interview in Nation’s Restaurant News, called “5 Things I Can’t Live Without,” celery salt was at the top of his list.

    “I use it in almost everything,” says Chef Emeril. “People don’t usually guess that it’s in there, but I can tell you that it adds oomph to many dishes. My test kitchen team was very surprised when I shared this secret with them.”

    His other four must-haves include an electric deep fryer, an instant-read thermometer, Julia Child’s The Way to Cook and an immersion blender. You can read the full article here.

    But today we’re expanding on Number One, celery salt.

    WHAT IS CELERY SALT

    Celery salt is a seasoned salt made from ground celery seeds*. It can be used to add flavor to just about anything: eggs, salads, soups, fish and seafood, vegetables. It’s used by manufacturers of hot dogs and sausages. It’s the primary ingredient in Old Bay Seasoning.

    It can be used as a table seasoning in cooking or as a table salt, like garlic salt, onion salt, rosemary salt, truffle salt, saffron salt and so forth.

       

    celery-salt-mccormick-230

    Does Emeril use a supermarket brand, an artisan brand or his own homemade celery salt? Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    Celery salt adds a note of fresh flavor. Some might call it subtly tangy or grassy.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CELERY SALT

    You can use whatever salt you have, including a salt substitute. Gourmet brands use a more flavorful salt—fleur de sel or French grey sea salt, for example.

    If you use a coarse salt, including kosher salt, grind it to the consistency of table salt (or to match the consistency of your ground celery seed).

    You can also purchase ground celery seed, but for the freshest flavor, grind your own as you need it.

    If you find that there’s too much celery flavor for your taste, you can use a 2:1 proportion of salt to celery seed, instead of the 1:1 in our recipe.
     
    *It can also be produced using dried celery or celery root. Large commercial brands can include anti-caking agents like
    sodium bicarbonate, sodium silicoaluminate, and sugar (dextrose).

     

    Celery_Seeds-silkroadspices.ca-230

    Celery seed is ground and mixed with salt to produce celery salt. Photo courtesy SilkRoadSpices.Ca.

     

    Ingredients For 1/2 Cup

  • 1/4 cup celery seed
  • 1/4 cup salt or substitute (e.g. reduced sodium salt)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the celery seed in a spice grinder and process to desired consistency.

    2. BLEND with the salt.

    3. STORE in a tight-lidded container.
     
    If you end up using a lot of celery salt, you can buy celery seed inexpensively in bulk. We found three one-pound bags on Amazon.com for $15.08.

    You can also give your homemade celery salt as gifts to friends who cook.

     
    WHERE TO USE CELERY SALT

    Note that when adding celery salt in recipes, the amount of regular salt should be reduced.

  • Beverages: Bloody Marys, tomato juice, vegetable juice
  • Eggs: deviled, frittata, poached, scrambled
  • Fish and seafood, especially crab dishes and seafood stews
  • Meats: burger and meat loaf seasoning; atop hot dogs†, in addition to the mustard, sauerkraut, etc.; roast chicken and turkey, sausage
  • Salads: chicken, cole slaw, egg, potato, pasta, tuna salad
  • Salad dressings, marinades and rubs
  • Sauces, including barbecue sauces and cream sauces
  • Soups (add to the recipe or sprinkle as a garnish, including atop America’s favorite chicken noodle soup)
  • Snacks: dips, pickles, popcorn
  • Starches: baked potatoes (sprinkle it on), French fries, rice
  • Cooked vegetables
  •  
    Have we left out your favorite use? Let us know!
     
    †A Chicago-style hot dog, or Chicago Red Hot, is a frankfurter on a poppy seed bun that is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled peppers and a dash of celery salt.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fun With Nonalcoholic Beverages

    lavender-lemonade-230-drm

    Lavender lemonade, a truly great experience
    (as is lavender iced tea). Here’s the recipe.
    Photo © Edith Frimcu | Dreamstime.

     

    Many home trends in foods and how to serve them come from restaurants, where chefs are constantly on the look for new ways to tempt customers.

    While mixologists have long been creating menus of specialty cocktails, nonalcoholic customized beverages are moving to the foreground as well.

    In addition to being a money-maker for margin-squeezed restaurants, customers can view these beverages as novel and better for them, tempting some to trade up from tap water.

    Recently, the National Restaurant Association polled nearly 1,300 chefs about nonalcoholic happenings in their restaurants. The top five answers follow.

    For us at home, it’s an opportunity to follow the trend and treat family and guests to something special.

    1. GOURMET LEMONADE

    Chefs point to gourmet lemonade as the hottest nonalcoholic beverage trend in restaurants. The “gourmet” aspect usually comes from adding another fruit or an herb (or both: rhubarb basil lemonade, anyone?), via a syrup or preferably, fresh fruit infused with the tea.

     
    As fruits come into season, make blueberry, mango, raspberry, stone fruit (nectarine, peach, plum), strawberry and watermelon lemonade. Add herbs like basil, lavender and mint. Add heat with jalapeño slices.

    For people who want something more potent, add a shot of eau de vie, gin, lemon liqueur (like Limoncello), saké, tequila or vodka (regular or lemon-infused).

    To start you off, here’s a basic lemonade recipe that you can customize into your signature beverage, plus a recipe for lavender lemonade, made with organic dried lavender.

     
    2. SPECIALTY ICED TEA

    A minor upgrade can turn the ubiquitous liquid refreshment into something special. It was second on the list of trending beverages, both at fine restaurants and chains (Friendly’s offered mango iced tea nd raspberry iced tea as limited-time offers last summer).

    It’s easy to use flavored syrups, but the best taste comes from infusing the fruit with the hot water and tea. You can also try cold infusion, adding the fruit to the cooled brew tea and letting it infuse overnight in the fridge.

    Alternatively, you can buy You can buy fruit-flavored tea bags, loose tea or ice tea mixes (mango, passionfruit, peach, raspberry and more); but when peaches are in season, use the fresh fruit.

    Our local Japanese restaurant makes a celestial lemongrass iced tea (and for what we’ve been spending on two or three glasses each visit, we’d better start brewing our own).

    We added the syrup from canned lychees to iced tea (yum!) and when fresh lychees arrive in June and July, we’ll be making fresh lychee iced tea.

     

    3. HOUSE-MADE SODA

    One tactic restaurants use to get guests to trade up from water is to offer a soft drink that they can’t get anywhere else. For several years, we’ve been tempted by house-made sodas, both to see what “real” cola and root beer tasted like before their flavors were fixed on our palates by commercial brands; and to experience the new (to us) and different (celery and basil, for example).

    The easy way to start at home is to get a Sodastream, practice with their syrups and then create your own.

    Get a recipe book like Homemade Soda, with 200 recipes for making fruit sodas, fizzy juices, flavored sparkling waters, root beer, cola and more.

     
    4. ORGANIC COFFEE

    Consumers are increasingly interested in foods that are healthy and sustainable: two words that describe organic products. Organic coffee is a hot trend.

    Instead of a simple cup of coffee at the end of the meal, some chefs at better restaurants are offering coffee brewed from better beans: organic beans or single-origin beans.

     

    jalapeno-peach-iced-tea-canard-230

    Fresh peach iced tea is a treat, but for a kick, add some jalapeño slices (remove the seeds and white pith). Photo courtesy Canard Inc. | NYC.

     
    Instead of asking your guests, “Who wants coffee?” you can say, “Who’d like a cup of Blue Moon organic, Rain Forest Alliance coffee from Bali?”

    Tiny Footprint is a brand that hits the trifecta: Certified Organic, Fair-Trade and part of the Rainforest Alliance, which is carbon negative and replants forests. It’s also delicious coffee (here’s our review). You can buy it online.
     
     
    5. COCONUT WATER

    Americans are now buying some $400 million in coconut water annually.

    Coconut water is the clear juice of young coconuts, as opposed to opaque white coconut milk, used for Piña Coladas (among other purposes). Here’s more about coconut water.

    The trendy liquid is sought for its high content of potassium and other nutrients, as well as its relatively low calorie content. It’s drunk straight or added to smoothies.

    While coconut water is sold in flavors (peach mango, pineapple, etc.), you can flavor your own. Lemon Cayenne, anyone?

     
    Now that warmer weather is here, it’s time to begin your journey to creating signature nonalcholic beverages. Have fun!

     
    *Coconut water is simply drained from young coconuts. Coconut milk is made by steeping the grated flesh of mature coconuts in water, then puréeing and straining.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sorrel

    fresh-sorrel-goodeggsSF-230

    Green goddess: fresh-picked sorrel. Photo
    courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

     

    If you hadn’t read the headline or the caption, would you have been able to identify the leafy green in the photo?

    Growing wild in grassland habitats, sorrel has long been cultivated as a garden herb and leafy green vegetable. It’s a member of the Polygonaceae family of flowering plants, which include foods such as buckwheat and rhubarb.

    In older times, sorrel was also used as medicine. The leaves contain oxalic acid, which provides both the tart flavor and medicinal properties (respiratory tract and bacterial infections, diuretic).

    Sorrel used to be consumed widely as both herb and vegetable, but has fallen out of style. Some recipes still use it in a sauce for lamb, sweetbreads or veal. Occasionally a chef will offer sorrel soup.

    But it’s time to revisit sorrel at home. Both the stems and leaves can be eaten, raw or cooked.

     

    Depending on your farmer’s market or produce store, you can find:

  • Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa), with large, arrow-shaped leaves (see photo above).
  • French sorrel (Rumex scutatus), milder than common sorrel, with smaller and more rounded leaves.
  • Red-veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus), the handsomest and the mildest of the three. It has subtle notes of lemon, and should be saved for salads and plate garnishes, to show off its beauty.
  •  
    Or, you can plant sorrel in your garden: It’s a perennial that will bloom for years. It grows well in containers, too.
     
    WAYS TO USE SORREL

    Since it can be used as a herb or a vegetable, you’ve got a lot of flexibility when cooking with sorrel.

    In addition to classic uses, think of it especially with dairy, duck, goose and pork, where its acidity counters the fattiness. For the same reason, it goes well with stronger fish. Try sorrel in a side, a sauce or a plate garnish.

    Sorrel recipes from Mariquita Farms, a grower of sorrel, include:

  • Apple Sorbet With Sorrel
  • Beet Salad with Sorrel with Pistachio Dressing
  • Carrot-Sorrel Juice
  • Fish Fillets With Chard, Spinach & Sorrel
  • Leek and Sorrel Pancakes with Smoked Salmon
  •  

  • Penne with Mushrooms and Fresh Sorrel
  • Sorrel and Goat Cheese Quiche
  • Sorrel Omelet
  • Sorrel Pesto
  • Sorrel Risotto
  • Sorrel Soup
  • Split Pea Soup with Sorrel
  •  
    Also use sorrel in your own recipes for:

  • Casseroles
  • Dairy (cream, sour cream, yogurt)
  • Egg Dishes (omelets, quiche)
  • Fish (especially with oily or smoked varieties like bluefish,
    mackerel or smoked salmon)
  • Green Salads
  • Green Vegetable (alone or with other cooked greens like
    chard, kale and spinach)
  •  

    sorrel-field-marquitafarm-230

    A field of sorrel. Photo courtesy Mariquita Farms.

  • Legumes (like lentils)
  • Marinades and Salad Dressings
  • Puréed As A Sauce With Duck, Goose Or Pork
  • Puréed Into Mashed Potatoes (or other potato dishes)
  • Salads
  • Sautéed In Butter
  • Sandwiches (instead of lettuce)
  • Stir Fries
  • Whole Grains
  •  
    If we’ve overlooked your favorite use for sorrel, please let us know!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Raw Milk Cheese

    Today is Raw Milk Appreciation Day.

    Raw milk, another term for unpasteurized milk, is used for drinking and making cheeses. When milk is pasteurized (heated to more than 100°F/40°C), hundreds of varieties of beneficial bacteria are killed along with the potentially harmful ones.

    If left alive, those good bacteria interact with the milk to provide significantly more complexity and depth of flavor to the cheese.

    That’s why many connoisseurs prefer raw milk cheeses.

    Due to rare but potential illness from unpasteurized milk, the FDA restricts the distribution of raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days*; although raw milk cheeses are readily available in Europe.

    So you can buy raw milk cheese in the U.S., just not fresh ones (for example, no fresh goat cheese or Camembert). The restriction also applies to imported cheeses.

    Nor can retailers sell raw milk for drinking; although in its wisdom, the FDA allows consumers who visit farms bring their own containers to buy raw milk.†

    THE ISSUE WITH RAW MILK

    Despite modern sanitation, there are still some questionable practices in industrialized dairying.

       

    ouleout-vultocreameryNYS-230b

    This bloomy-rinded cheese from New York State is aged for 60 days, just enough to be legal in the U.S. It’s made by Vulto Creamery in Walton, New york. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     
    Raw milk may still harbor a host of disease-causing organisms (pathogens), including E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus. A small number Americans become ill each year from raw milk-related causes; in the past, there have been periodic related fatalities in Europe.

    How did mankind survive thousands of years of eating unaged raw milk cheeses?

    They did it before the scourge of food industrialization. With the shift from farm to factory, there was an increase in foodborne pathogens.

    In industrialized production, cows are crammed into feedlots (rather than those that graze in meadows) have a greater risk of carrying pathogens. Milk from different farms is delivered to a central processing facility. There is a much greater risk that one or more farms delivers contaminated milk.

    The U.S. government instituted policies to ensure that the milk, cheese and other dairy products were not harmful to human health by insisting on pasteurization for drinking milk and young cheeses.

    Many of today’s small farmers feel that fresh milk from healthy animals, handled in a responsible manner and used immediately, does not require pasteurization. They drink their own milk raw, because it is far more flavorful.

    As with other foods involving potential rare pathogens—Caesar salad, mousse (it’s made with raw eggs and not cooked), steak tartare, sushi and so forth, the decision to drink raw milk or eat raw milk cheese is a personal one. As outbreaks of E.coli from meat and vegetables prove, many “legal” foods are unsafe.

     

    baylen-hazen-whole-sliced-jaspberhill-230r

    Raw milk Bayley Hazen, aged three months, is one of America’s favorite connoisseur blue cheeses. It’s made at the Cellar at Jasper Hills in Vermont. Photo courtesy Jasper Hill.

     

    BUY RAW MILK CHEESE TODAY

    Head to a cheese store or a market with a good cheese department, and buy a selection of raw milk cheeses. They’re often not marked, so you may need a cheese specialist to point them out.

    Enjoy a cheese plate for lunch—with fruits, nuts, breads or crackers and a salad on the side—or after your main dinner course, instead of dessert.

    Have wine or beer with your cheese plate. After all, it’s a celebration!

     
    *The 60-days rule was established in 1949, with questionable scientific evidence. It posited that within 60 days, the the acid and salt in cheese would kill the harmful bacteria. But there have been outbreaks of pathogens in both raw and pasteurized cheeses.

    †It is illegal to distribute raw milk in the U.S., but the law allows consumers to go to a farm with their own containers and purchase raw milk. This is essentially ludicrous, as many who would buy it cannot get to the farms; and any containers brought from home will not be as clean as new ones used by farmers.

     

      

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