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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

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Archive for Tip Of The Day

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.

      

    Comments

    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.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches For Dessert

    bananafostergrilledcheese-grilledcheesesocial-230

    Bananas Foster on French toast. Photo
    courtesy Heidi Larsen | Foodie Crush.

     

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Wisconsin, American’s premier cheese-producing state (California is runner-up), even has a chef-spokesperson for the occasion.

    She is MacKenzie Smith of the blog Grilled Cheese Social, where she creates recipe after recipe for innovative grilled cheese sandwiches. She’s also the sandwich expert for About.com.

    Mackenzie developed five new grilled cheese sandwiches for National Grilled Cheese Month—made with delicious Wisconsin cheese of course. The first is what we’d call “dessert grilled cheese,” although you can certainly have it as your main for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    It takes the idea of Bananas Foster—bananas sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and rum. Mackenzie combines these ingredients with sweet, creamy mascarpone and cream cheese on a sandwich of French toast.

    It’s a smash, and our tip of the day is dessert grilled cheese.

     
    RECIPE: BANANAS FOSTER GRILLED CHEESE

    Ingredients For 1 Sandwich

  • 1 ounce (about 1/8 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 ounce cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon banana liqueur or brandy
  • 1/2 small banana, thickly sliced
  • 2 slices brioche bread
  • Sea salt flakes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the mascarpone and cream cheese in bowl. Set aside.

    2. PREPARE the French toast batter: In bowl, beat egg, milk and vanilla and set aside in a shallow bowl wide enough to hold sandwich for dipping.

    3. MELT 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add the liqueur and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the banana, stirring constantly to evenly coat bananas. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the bananas are well coated in sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

    4. PREPARE the sandwich: Spread the mascarpone mixture evenly on one side of each bread slice. Top one mascarpone-covered slice with the banana mixture, a sprinkle of sea salt and the remaining bread slice, mascarpone-covered slice down.

    5. SOAK (gently!) each side of sandwich in the French toast batter for a 1 minute. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet and grill 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and allow to rest 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

     

    RECIPE: DULCE DE LECHE GRILLED CHEESE

    Dulce de leche fans will enjoy this dessert grilled cheese sandwich, made with mascarpone and the addictive Argentinian dessert (made by caramelizing sugar in milk).

    The recipe is courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Academy.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dulce de leche
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves or 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
     
    Preparation

  •  

    mascarpone-dulce-raspberry-grilledcheeseacademy-230

    Mascarpone and dulce de leche on cinnamon raisin bread. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

    1. COMBINE the mascarpone, dulce de leche and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

    2. BUTTER one side of each slice of bread. Spread the mascarpone mixture on the non-buttered side of 4 of the bread slices. Spread raspberry preserves on the non-buttered side of the remaining 4 slices of bread.

    3. PLACE one slice of bread with raspberries or preserves on each mascarpone-topped bread slice, buttered sides out. Place the sandwiches on an electric griddle heated to 350°F, or in a preheated skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until bread is lightly toasted.

    4. REMOVE and serve immediately, unsliced, since cheese is very soft.
     

    WANT MORE?

    Here’s another dessert recipe: Mascarpone Grilled Cheese With Chocolate “Soup.”

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Stinging Nettles

    stinging-nettles-goodeggsSF-230r

    Wild nettles. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San
    Francisco.

     

    If you like to scour farmers markets looking for rare seasonal delicacies, keep an eye out for stinging nettles, Urtica dioica.

    Now there’s a name that can get the juices flowing—or not. Some varieties have no sting or burn*; those that do can be neutralized by soaking in water, blanching or cooking.

    Nettles are slightly bitter green herbs that taste a bit like spinach with a cucumber accent. Not all of the varieties are prickly (stinging). Those that are get picked with gloves, and soaking or cooking eliminates the sting.

    Other names are common nettles and wild nettles.

    An herbaceous perennial flowering plant native to Asia, Europe, northern Africa and North America, nettles sprout up very briefly in early spring and late fall, growing like weeds at the edges of cultivated farmland.

    HOW TO SERVE NETTLES

    Like most herbs, nettles are good for you, rich in calcium, iron, manganese, potassium and vitamins A and C. They have been called “seaweed of the land” because of their complete spectrum of trace minerals and soft, salty flavor.

     
    Creameries in Europe and the U.S. use them to flavor their cheeses.

  • Valley Shepherd Creamery in New Jersey adds stinging nettles (boiled so they don’t sting you!) to a sheep-and-cows’ milk cheese called Nettlesome. (See photo below).
  • Holland’s Family Cheese in Wisconsin makes 13 different flavors† of Goudas, including Burning Nettle. (“Burning” is marketing; the nettles are soaked first to remove the burn.)
  •  
    They and other American creameries learned the trick from European cheesemakers. Nettles have long been added to Gouda by the Dutch. We’ve delighted in Beemster Gouda’s nettle flavor; although from a quick look at their website, it appears that they’ve pared back their flavored Goudas to garlic, mustard, red pepper and wasabi.

     
    *In the stinging varieties, hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems inject three chemicals hen touched by humans and other animals: histamine which irritates the skin, acetylcholine which causes a burning feeling and serotonin. They produce a rash that can be treated with an anti-itch cream, aloe vera or baking soda. But the plant doesn’t do a good job of keeping us away: It has a long history of use as a medicine and food source. Further, you need to eat them before they begin to flower, which produces other compounds that cause stomach irritation. Dangerous food, indeed! If you’ve purchased a sweater that lists ramie on the contents label, it’s a fiber made from plants in the same family (Urticaceae) as nettles!

    †The others include black pepper, cumin, burning nettle, burning mélange, foenegreek, garden herb, Italian herb, mélange, mustard yellow, onion/garlic, smoked and just plain Gouda

     

    You can find many nettle recipes online. If you purchase a stinging variety, soaking them in water or cooking them eliminates the stinging chemicals from the plant. Then:

  • Have it for breakfast, in omelets or scrambled eggs.
  • Add to soup stocks or stews, they contribute a rich earthy/briny flavor.
  • Steam and add to enchiladas.
  • Make nettle pesto or risotto; add to lasagna; top a pizza.
  • Purée it for a sauce for chicken, fish and seafood.
  • Make soup: nettle potato, nettle garlic, nettle sorrel and many other variations, including nettle by itself.
  • Combine with spinach and/or mushrooms as a side, in a goat cheese tart, spanakopita, quiche, etc.
  •  
    DANGEROUS FOOD TRIVIA

    While your family and friends may raise an eyebrow when you serve them stinging nettles, nettles don’t even make the list of the top 10 dangerous foods that people actually eat.

    Here they are. Fugu (blowfish) is on the list, but some of the others will surprise you.

     

    nettlesome_cheese-valleyshepherdcreamery-230r

    Nettlesome, a cheese made with nettles. You can buy it online. Photo courtesy Valley Shepherd Creamery.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Steamed Mussels (Moules Marinière)

    mussels-fried-moules-frites-duplexonthird-230

    A classic bowl of mussels. Photo courtesy
    Duplex On Third | Los Angeles.

     

    Recently we joined a group for dinner at a French bistro.

    Others dug into rilletes and onion soup hidden under a heavy layer of Gruyère, cassoulet and steak frites. We, still feeling guilty about all the Easter candy consumed pre- and post-holiday, opted for the steak tartare and moules marinière, steamed mussels.

    As we devoured mussel after plump mussel, we pondered:

    This is such an easy to make, better-for-you, delicious dish. Why do we no longer make it at home?

    It turns out that our chief obstacle, sand, no longer exists.

    Wild mussels can be quite sandy, requiring soaking after soaking. We lacked the patience for it, especially when after all the soaking we still bit into grains of sand.

    But these days, most mussels don’t grow on the ocean floor; they’re farm raised, in bags that hang vertically on ropes above the ocean floor. They’re pretty sand-free. (Yay!)

    All you need is a good fish store; and you can even find quality frozen mussels that do the trick (check out VitalChoice.com—no thawing required, just pop them in the pot).

     
    The two most popular recipes hail from France and Italy:

  • Classic Mussels (Moules Marinière), made with garlic, onions/shallots, parsley, tarragon, white wine.
  • Mussels Fra Diavolo, made with fresh basil, crushed chili flakes, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.
  •  
    Many Recipe Variations

    After you’re comfortable with the basic recipe, you can go all out with seasonings.

    Flex Mussels in New York City serves 21 different recipes, from the classics to cuisine-specific riffs from Indian (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Thai (coconut broth, coriander, curry, kaffir lime, lemongrass, lime, ginger, garlic).

    If you’re old enough to remember Alice’s Restaurant—the hit song, which begat the feature film and cookbook—Alice liked to vary her recipes. On steamed mussels, she commented:

    “Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”

    Now, let’s get ready to make mussels!

    HOW TO BUY & CLEAN MUSSELS

    For dinner, figure two-thirds of a pound of mussels in the shell per person—more for hearty eaters. Leftover mussels are delicious the next day, either warmed or chilled with a green salad and vinaigrette.

    Mussels and other some other bivavles (clams, cockles, oysters) are sold live, kept cold on ice. Unlike other seafood, once a bivalve is no longer alive, the flesh decomposes quickly.

    Buy mussels with moist shells (not dry-looking) that are tightly closed, with no external blemishes. Western mussels have black shells. You may find New Zealand mussels, which have green shells and tend to be meatier.

    Even if you buy farm-raised mussels, you may want still want to go through the classic rinsing process.

  • Set them in a pot filled with cold water with a tablespoon of dry mustard. After 20 minutes, drain and move them to a colander.
  • Srub them under running water to eliminate any debris.
  • Check for beards, straw-like filaments that can get protrude from the two halves of the shell. Pull them off and discard. (Most farm-raised mussels won’t have beards.)

  • What about partially opened mussels?

    Most people who cook bivalves know to discard these: They may be dead. But here’s a trick:

    Tap them firmly a few times with a spoon or other implement. If they’re alive, they will slowly close their shells. If there’s no motion, consider them dead and toss them in the trash.

    And definitely toss any mussels with cracked shells prior to cooking. Bacteria may have entered through the crack.

    What if you’re not going to cook the mussels immediately?

    You can keep the mussels for a few days if you place them in a bowl or other container in the coldest part of the refrigerator (generally the rear of the bottom shelf). First line the bowl with a plastic storage bag filled with ice resting on top. Cover with a damp paper towel.

     

    RECIPE: MOULES MARINIÈRE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot (about 6 shallots)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley and/or tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Optional: garlic cloves, sliced celery and/or carrot
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 4 dozen mussels
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley
  • Optional garnish: halved cherry tomatoes or strips/dice of red bell pepper for color
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the first six ingredients (through the cayenne) in a large pot, and simmer until reduced to a half cup. Strain into a large pot and add the mussels.

     

    spicy-mussels-barnjooNYC-230

    Spicy mussels. If you like heat, add sliced jalapeno or crushed red pepper flakes—or make Mussels Fra Diavolo. Photo courtesy Barnjoon | NYC.

     

    2. COOK 5 to 10 minutes or until the shells open, shaking the pot from time to time. With a slotted spoon, remove the mussels to individual soup bowls (ideally, large and shallow), retaining the liquid in the pot.

    3. MAKE the sauce: Add the butter and optional salt to the liquid in the mussels pot.

    MUSSELS FRA DIAVOLO

    Fra diavolo means “brother devil” in Italian, a nickname given to a Neapolitan guerrilla leader in his feisty childhood. The spicy-hot recipe was named in his honor. (The Italian word for mussels is cozza, plural cozze, pronounced CUT-sah and CUT-say).)

    The recipe features marinara sauce (you can use tomato paste and tomato purée) and heat from crushed red pepper.

    Here’s a recipe from Chef Jasper White.

    In Italy, it is often served atop a dish of linguine.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Quinoa Fried Rice

    Fried rice is a typically made from leftover steamed rice, stir-fried in a wok with leftover vegetables and meats. This leads to countless variations, not just in China but throughout the Pacific Rim.

    There’s American fried rice (with sliced hot dogs, popular in Thailand), curry fried rice, Filipino garlic fried rice, Indonesian fried rice (nasi goreng), kimchi fried rice and much, much more. Take a look.

    Then, perusing some online photos from PF Chang’s, we found this photo of quinoa fried rice, topped with a fried egg. So today’s tip is:

    When you have leftover cooked grains of any kind, turn them into “fried rice.”

    Of course, you don’t need leftovers. You can cook the grains from scratch for the recipe. In addition to those you commonly cook, this is an opportunity to try something new from this list:

  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Couscous
  • Farro
  • Kasha
  • Rice (black, brown, red, wild, white)
  • Quinoa
  •    

    quinoa-fried-rice-pfchangs-230

    Have “fried rice” topped with an egg for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Photo courtesy PF Changs.

     

    RECIPE: QUINOA FRIED RICE

    If you want to serve a cooked egg on top of the quinoa, you can opt to leave out the raw eggs that get scrambled into the grain at the end. We prefer using both.

    You also can add leftover corn, beans, or what-have-you. If the item is soft (cooked zucchini, e.g.), add it at the end to warm it, without cooking it further.

    And of course, dice any leftover meat or seafood and add it at the end, also to warm.

    Ingredients For 3 Servings

  • 2½-3 cups cooked* quinoa or other grain
  • 1½ tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 2½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¾ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • ¼ small onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped and divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 eggs, raw
  • ½ cup peas, fresh, cooked or frozen/thawed
  • Optional: 3 eggs, cooked
  •  
    *If cooking from scratch for this recipe, cool the grain to room temperature, or preferably overnight in the fridge.

     

    quinoa-methylsoy-wiki-230

    Quinoa grows in black, red and white varieties. Above, raw white quinoa seeds. Photo by Methyl Soy | Wikimedia.

     

    Preparation

    1. MIX the sauce: Combine the teriyaki sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

    2. FRY or poach the eggs and keep warm.

    2. HEAT ½ tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté or frying pan over a high heat. Add onion and carrots and cook for two minutes.

    4. ADD 2/3 of the scallions, the garlic and the ginger to the pan. Cook for another two minutes. Add the rest of the olive oil and the quinoa. Stir-fry about two minutes.

    5. ADD the sauce and stir-fry until incorporated, about two minutes. Make a well in the center of the quinoa; add the raw eggs and stir to scramble.

    6. ADD the peas and stir until they are warmed through. Top with the optional fried/poached egg, garnish with the remaining scallions and serve.

     

      

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