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Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Goat Cheese For Breakfast

It’s the second day of the Year Of The Goat, and we’re focusing on goat cheese for breakfast.

We love goat cheese so much, that a log or tomme of fresh goat cheese with toasted baguette (and fresh tomato and basil in the summer) is our kind of meal.

But you can incorporate goat cheese into conventional breakfast recipes, as this tip attests.

At the simplest, there are goat cheese crostini with jam or preserves. If you want to bake, there are goat cheese and mushroom tarts. You can make a breakfast sandwich, or your favorite egg dish.

RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE & PRESERVES CROSTINI

This recipe is from Smucker’s, which uses its Smucker’s Orchard’s Finest Northwest Triple Berry Preserves. You can use your favorite berry preserves or jam.

  • Here’s the difference between jam and preserves.
  • Here’s the difference between crostini and bruschetta.
  •  
    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE & JAM BREAKFAST CROSTINI

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 6 minutes.

    Ingredients For 12 Slices

  • 1/4 cup berry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme*, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 baguette (8 ounces), sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • Optional: fresh thyme leaves for garnish
  •  
    *You can substitute fresh basil, marjoram, oregano or savory for the thyme.

       

    goat-cheese-crostini-smuckers-230

    Crunchy, sweet and savory: These crostini are an alternative to toast with spreads. Photo courtesy Smucker’s.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the preserves, shallots, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper in small bowl.

    2. SLICE the baguette into 1/2-inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice lightly with olive oil. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Grill baguette slices, four at a time, 2 to 3 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Place on serving platter.

    3. SPREAD about 2 teaspoons of goat cheese over each baguette slice. Top each slice with 1 teaspoon of the preserves mixture. Garnish with additional fresh thyme. Serve immediately.

    TIP: The preserves-vinegar-thyme spread can be prepared up to two days ahead and refrigerated, covered.

     

    crustless-breakfast-tarts-kalynskitchen-230

    These Crustless Breakfast Tarts with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese are elegant enough for a special occasion. Photo courtesy Kalyn’s Kitchen.

     

    Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen was inspired by a new tart pan to make breakfast tarts, combining cream, eggs, goat cheese, green onions, mozzarella, mushrooms and Parmesan. You can also use a muffin pan or individual gratin dishes.

    There’s no pastry, so you can save the carbs for your toast or muffin.

    The tarts will keep in the fridge for at least a week and can be reheated in a microwave or hot toaster oven. It only takes a about 70 seconds in the microwave; don’t microwave too long or the eggs will get rubbery.

    RECIPE: CRUSTLESS BREAKFAST TARTS WITH GOAT
    CHEESE & MUSHROOMS

    Ingredients For 6 Breakfast Tarts

  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese (e.g. from a log), crumbled and softened
  • 1/4 cup milk, half and half, or cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • 12 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive oil (depending on your pan)
  • 1 teaspoon Spike Seasoning (see below, or use any all-purpose seasoning blend that’s good with eggs)
  • Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, crated
  •  
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the goat cheese from the fridge, cut off 4 ounces, crumble and place in a bowl to start to soften. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Spray the tart pan (or other cookware) with olive oil or nonstick spray.

    2. USE a fork to mix the milk/cream into the softened goat cheese; then mix in the Parmesan. Beat the eggs in a different bowl and mix 1/3 at a time into the goat cheese mixture, stirring each time you add more egg. (The mixture doesn’t need to be completely smooth.)

    3. WASH and pat dry the mushrooms and slice about 3/8 inch thick. Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan to avoid crowding the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat until all the released liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Divide the mushrooms between the wells in the tart pan.

    4. POUR the custard mixture over the mushrooms and gently stir to distribute the mushrooms evenly. Sprinkle a generous pinch of green onions on top of each tart, followed by one tablespoon of grated mozzarella.

    5. BAKE for 25-27 minutes (or slightly longer if you don’t have this tart pan and your tarts are a little thicker). Cook just until the tarts are starting to barely brown on the top; the custard mixture should be soft. Serve hot.
     
    SPIKE SEASONING

    Spike Seasoning was created by more than 50 years ago and still has a huge fan base; it gets a five-star review on Amazon. You can buy it online or at retailers nationwide. There’s also a salt-free, gluten-free version.

    Original Spike Seasoning a blend of 39 ingredients: Salt and sea salt, de-fatted nutri-soy granules, granular toasted onion, nutritional yeast, granular garlic, celery root granules, ground dill, horseradish granules, mustard powder, lemon peel, orange powder, parsley flakes, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, white pepper, rose hips powder, summer savory, mushroom powder, safflower, parsley powder, white onion powder, spinach powder, tomato powder, sweet Hungarian paprika, ground celery seed, cayenne pepper, ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground ginger, ground coriander, ground fenugreek, ground cloves, cinnamon powder, oregano, tarragon, sweet basil, marjoram, rosemary and thyme.

    If you don’t see it in the spice section, look near the health foods.
     
    MORE GOAT CHEESE BREAKFAST RECIPES

  • Breakfast tarts with mushrooms and goat cheese (recipe)
  • Goat cheese scrambled eggs (recipe)
  • Goat cheese and fresh herb omelet (recipe)
  • Goat cheese and prosciutto strata (recipe)
  • Grilled goat cheese sandwich with honey and figs (recipe)
  • Poached eggs on toasted baguette with goat cheese (recipe)
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Cook Fish

    Lent began yesterday, the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (this year on April 2nd). During Lent, observers recognize Christ’s sacrifice by giving up something pleasurable. Around the world, the most common Lenten practice is to give up meat. In the U.S., seafood sales soar during the six weeks of Lent.

    Whether you’re a lent observer, or simply want to eat more healthfully, here’s inspiration from GetFlavor.com, a magazine and website for professional chefs.

  • Baked fish: salmon wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce; quiche; en papillote; Salmon Wellington
  • Cured/pickled/smoked: ceviche, gravlax, pickled herring; smoked bluefish, cod, salmon, trout, tuna fillets; smoked fish pâté
  • Deep-fried fish: battered, tempura or breaded; calamari, fish and chips, fritters, nuggets, shrimp
  • Dips and spreads: pâté, taramasalata, whitefish
  • Grilled fish: whole fish or fillets; kebabs or skewers; cod, sardines, shrimp, snapper, whitefish
  •  

    pan-sauteed-catfish-230

    It couldn’t be easier: Pan-sautéed fish topped with a light salad. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

  • Pan-fried or sautéed fish: Trout, soft-shell crab, salmon or trout patties
  • Poached fish: crab legs, salmon, shrimp cocktail, whitefish
  • Raw fish: carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, tartare, tataki
  • Roasted fish: fillets, steaks, whole fish
  • Steamed fish: fillets, steaks or whole fish; mussels, gefilte fish
  • Stews and casseroles: bisque, bouillabaisse, chowder, cioppino, curry, gumbo
  • Stir-fried and sautéed fish: Asian-style stir fry, blackened, with pasta
  • Specialty: caviar, crêpes, flan, mousse, pancakes, poke, risotto
  •  

    black-bass-porcini-brodetto-scottconant-230

    You can make this nicely-plated restaurant dish. Just place grilled bass or other fish atop a bed of grains or vegetables and surround with broth or sauce. In a pinch, you can make a sauce from a can of creamed soup. Photo courtesy Chef Scott Conant.

     

    BOILING, POACHING OR STEAMING: THE DIFFERENCE

    These three related cooking techniques are both healthful and easy. Here are the nuances:

    Poaching

    Poaching is a gentle cooking method used to simmer foods in a hot, but not boiling, liquid. Water is often used as the poaching liquid but its flavor is often enhanced with broth or stock, juice, vinegar or wine.

    Typically, vegetables (carrot, celery, onion), citrus (lemon, lime, orange), herbs and/or spices are added to the liquid for additional depth of flavor. Chicken breasts, eggs, fish/seafood and fruit are good candidates for poaching.
     
    Boiling

    Boiling is more intense than poaching. Foods are cooked in rapidly bubbling liquid, most often water. Poaching is best suited to foods such as starches and vegetables that can withstand the high heat and the agitation of rapidly moving water.

    Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower hearty greens (collards, kale, turnip greens), pasta, potatoes and rice are some of the most frequently-boiled foods.

     
    Steaming

    With this technique, foods are cooked by steam generated from boiling liquid. Water is most often used because little to no flavor is transferred to the food from the steam. Since there’s no direct contact with water, steaming retains the shape, texture and bright color (e.g., of asparagus or other vegetables and fruits) without becoming water-logged or soggy.

    Steaming also prevents vitamins and minerals from dissolving into the cooking liquid. Fruits, proteins, vegetables and even desserts—cakes, custards and puddings) can be steamed.

    For instructions on each of these techniques, visit CampbellsKitchen.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Grilled Cheese

    grated-cheddar-dreamstime_19387653-230

    Shred the cheese first. Daryl Brooks |
    Dreamstime.

     

    Grilled cheese sandwiches, one of America’s favorites, are pretty easy to make,. Yet they’re not problem free.

    Sometimes, the cheese does not melt evenly or quickly. This is especially true when you hand-slice quality cheese from a block, as opposed to using thin, easy-melting plastic-wrapped singles.

    So here’s an easy, fast and foolproof tip for grilled cheese success: Shred the cheese first. It takes only a minute, and cooks so much better.

    The other key to grilled cheese success (as we define it) is superior cheese and bread. To many people, American cheese singles on white bread does the trick.

    Here, that trick doesn’t even get cursory consideration! We demand great cheese and bread (personal preference: a rustic, chewy loaf).

     
    RECIPE: FOOLPROOF GRILLED CHEESE

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2-3 ounces cheese
  • Optional ingredients: bacon, chutney, pickles, tomato, etc.
  • Preparation

    1. BRING the butter to room temperature. If you’re making more than one sandwich, preheat the oven to 350°F so you can keep the first sandwich(es) warm.

     

    2. SHRED the cheese roughly, like pizza cheese. We used a vegetable peeler.

    3. PREHEAT a heavy skillet over medium heat. Slice the bread.

    4. SPREAD one side of both slices of bread with the softened butter. Be sure the butter is spread generously and evenly over the surface.

    5. PLACE one piece of bread, butter-side down, into the hot pan. The butter will sizzle when it hits the heat. Top the bread with the shredded cheese. Add any other ingredients. Top with the second piece of bread, butter side up. Lightly press with a spatula.

    6. CHECK the bottom slice after a minute. If the underside is golden brown, flip the sandwich and cook until the second slice is equally golden.

    7. STASH in the oven to keep the sandwich warm while you’re making the next sandwich. If the cheese is not completely melted before, it will finish melting in the oven.

     

    grilled-cheese-calphalon-WS-230

    Making grilled cheese sandwiches in a nonstick Calpahlon grill pan. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    TRADER JOE’S TRUFFLED CHEDDAR CHEESE

    We picked up Trader Joe’s Farmhouse English Cheddar Cheese with Italian Truffles yesterday. At $9.99 a pound, it’s twice the price of the Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar Cheese we also purchased. But it’s an affordable luxury, and has good truffle flavor.

    Paired with some sliced rustic sourdough bread from Le Pain Quotidien, it made a most satisfying grilled cheese sandwich. The truffle flavor is a big flavor boost; but for our second sandwich we added some caramelized onions that we had in the fridge. Equally good!

    The folks at Sam Adams recently sent us some Rebel IPA, an India Pale Ale made in the West Coast style. It was a perfect complement to our grilled cheese sandwiches.

    What’s a West Coast IPA?

    East Coast IPAs have a stronger malt presence to balance the intensity of the hops. West Coast IPAs showcase the hops more.

    According to Wikipedia, East Coast breweries rely more on spicier European hops and specialty malts than West Coast. According to us: Both are delicious.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Applesauce & Applesauce Bar

    applesauce-bar-USApple-230

    Set up an “applesauce bar” for breakfast,
    dessert or snacking. Photo courtesy U.S.
    Apple.

     

    Mom always made applesauce from scratch. Her apple of choice was the McIntosh, and she cooked them with the peel. It generated a pretty pink color when strained through a food mill.

    When we first had commercial applesauce from a jar (that would be you, Mott’s) at a friend’s house, we couldn’t believe the difference in flavor and texture. That is to say, Mom’s was the winner by far.

    For breakfast, lunch or a healthful dessert or snack, set up an apple sauce bar with custom toppings.

    We share our Mom’s stove top recipe—so easy!—as well as a slow cooker recipe from the U.S. Apple Association.

    If you’re avoiding refined sugar, you can cook the apples without sugar and sweeten the cooled applesauce with a noncaloric sweetener, agave, honey, etc.

    TOPPINGS BAR

  • Fruit: fresh berries; dried blueberries, cranberries, cherries, raisins
  • Nuts, raw or toasted: almonds, walnuts
  • Seeds: chia, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds
  • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice
  • Sweeteners: agave, honey, maple syrup
  •  

    RECIPE: JOAN HOCHMAN’S APPLESAUCE

    This applesauce is delicious in its natural state, but if you like to experiment you can try adding spices or lemon zest. Test your preference by seasoning half the batch after you remove it from the heat.

    We easily devoured the two quarts of applesauce in a week; but if it’s too much for you, rather than reduce the recipe, stick it in the freezer. It freezes beautifully.

    Ingredients For 2 Quarts

  • 4 pounds McIntosh apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (add another 1/4 cup if the apples aren’t sweet enough)
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg or lemon zest, or a combination
  •  
    Preparation

    1. QUARTER and seed the apples; don’t peel. Add to a pot of boiling water that covers the apples, top the pot with the lid, reduce the heat to simmer and cook slowly, until the apples are mushy, about 15 minutes.

    2. TASTE and adjust the sugar if needed. If the texture is too thick for you, add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired thickness is reached. After adjusting either, re-boil for a second or two to blend.

    3. LET cool. Process through a food mill. (If you remove the peel before cooking, you can pulse in a food processor). Serve at room temperature and refrigerate the extra.

     

    RECIPE: SLOW COOKER VANILLA APPLESAUCE

    Ingredients For 3-3/4 Cups

  • 3 pounds apples, peeled and cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the peeled apple chunks in the slow cooker and sprinkle with sugar, lemon, vanilla and salt. Stir to mix. Cover the cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.

    2. UNCOVER the cooker and use a potato masher to coarsely mash the apples. For a really smooth sauce, you can purée in a food processor or blender, or use a food mill. Be careful when handling the hot apples and juice, cover the lid of the processor or blender with a folded towel and hold it closed as you turn on the machine.

    3. TRANSFER the applesauce to sterilized jars and let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

     

    apple-macintosh-230

    McIntosh apples, Mom’s favorites for applesauce. Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

     

    APPLE STATISTICS

    The U.S. Apple Association tells us that the United States has approximately 7,500 apple producers who grow nearly 200 varieties of apples, on approximately 328,000 acres. Nearly 100 varieties are in commercial production; the remainder are heirloom varieties grown in backyards and small-scale farming, generally sold at farmers’ markets.

    The 2013 crop was estimated at 248.6 million bushels, with a wholesale value of the U.S. apple crop is more than $2.7 billion. Sixty-seven percent of the crop is grown for fresh consumption and 33% goes for processing (applesauce, pie filling, juice, fresh slices, etc.).

    Apples are grown commercially in 32 states. The top ten apple producing states are, in order of size of crop:

  • Washington
  • New York
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • California
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Ohio
  • Idaho
  •  
    The Top 10 apple varieties grown in the U.S. are, in order of crop size:

  • Red Delicious
  • Gala
  • Golden Delicious
  • Fuji
  • Granny Smith
  • McIntosh
  • Honeycrisp
  • Rome
  • Empire
  • Cripps Pink (Pink Lady)
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Poke

    tuna-poke_petesseafoodclub-230

    Classic tuna poke. You can buy it ready-to-serve from Pete’s Seafood Club.

     

    Hannah Kaminsky is on a food safari in Hawaii, the land of abundant produce and poke.

    Poke is a raw fish and vegetable dish served as an appetizer or salad course in Hawaiian cuisine. A relative of ceviche, crudo, tartare and tataki, it’s a combination of raw fish and vegetables that becomes a salad appetizer.

    Actually pronounced poe-KEH, it is mis-pronounced poe-KEY by enough people that the latter pronunciation is becoming an accepted alternative.

    Poke is Hawaiian for “to section” or “to slice or cut.” The most popular recipe, ahi poke, is made with yellowfin tuna marinated in sea salt, soy sauce, roasted crushed candlenut (inamona), sesame oil, limu seaweed and chopped chili pepper. Alternatively, it is served sashimi-style with wasabi and soy sauce.

    Other types of tuna can be substituted for the ahi, or you can use a different seafood entirely: Raw salmon and octopus are popular. Vegetarians can substitute tofu.

     
    In less civilized times, some Hawaiians would suck the flesh off the bones and spit out the skin and bones. During the 19th century, mainland vegetables such as tomatoes and onions (now Maui onions) were included were introduced, and are now common ingredients.

    Other accompanying condiments include furikake seasoning*, garlic, hot sauce (such as sambal olek), ogonori (ogo) or other seaweed, sesame seeds and tobiko (flying fish roe).

     
    *Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning meant to be sprinkled on top of rice. It typically consists of a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt and MSG. There are different blends, including Ebi Fumi Furikake, Katsuo Fumi Furikake, Nori Fumi Furikake, Noritamago Furikake, Salmon Furikake, Seto Fumi Furikake, Shiso Fumi Furikake and Wasabi Fumi Furikake. You can find them at Asian food stores or online.

     

    RECIPE: POKE TOFU

    How about a variation for vegetarians? This recipe was “ever so slightly adapted from Aloha Tofu,” by Hannah Kaminsky. “Like some of the best dishes,” says Hannah, “this one couldn’t be simpler to prepare.”

    The is a classic dish made by the tofu masters themselves. Their rendition adheres very closely to the traditional fish-based formula, substituting fried tofu cubes for the raw fish—a move that should appease those who can appreciate tofu well enough, but not so much that they care to eat it raw.

    The finished dish is sold in their brand new eatery, but since I didn’t have a chance to scope out that scene as well, I’m grateful that the full recipe is published on their website as well. No strings attached, no gimmicks or marketing ploys; just the desire to share their tofu and new ways to enjoy it. Now that’s the Aloha Spirit in action.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Side Appetizer Servings

  • 1 package (12 ounces) deep fried tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped ogo limu seaweed (substitute hijijki)
  • 1-2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • Pinch crushed red repper flakes, to taste
  •  

    tofu-poke-kaminsky-230

    Tofu poke. Photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.

     
    Preparation

    1. TOSS the tofu, all of the chopped vegetables, and seasonings together in a large bowl. Thoroughly combine all of the ingredients and coat them with the marinade.

    2. COVER and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to a day. Serve cold.
     
    Variations like this have inspired other recipes. Ko Olina’s Pizza Corner restaurant in Kapolei, Hawaii serves an Original Hawaiian Poke Pizza.

    We look forward to trying it!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Hot Chocolate From Scratch

    hot-chocolate-moonstruck--230

    Delicious Moonstruck chocolate bars melted
    into milk for hot chocolate. Photo courtesy
    Moonstruck.

     

    It’s below zero in quite a few areas of the country today. As we write this, in Fargo it’s 2°F, with the wind chill making it feel like -18°. In our own municipality, New York City, it’s 14°F, with a wind chill taking us to -3°, going down to -20° tomorrow morning. In the Hudson Valley north of us, the wind chill is -25° to -35° degrees. At JFK Airport, it’s -40°F.

    Yes, it’s colder here than in Fargo!

    So some warming comfort food is required. We recommend hot chocolate made from scratch.

    No matter how much you enjoy hot chocolate from packets—even the pricier ones—making it from scratch produces a far superior product. It’s richer and more chocolaty, with a sweetness level you can adapt and your choice of milk (lactose free, nondairy, whatever).

    EASY HOT CHOCOLATE FROM SCRATCH

    Unwrap a bar of your favorite good-quality chocolate (or leftover solid Valentine chocolate) in a mug of steamed milk. Like hot chocolate on a stick, you stir until the chocolate melts.

    If you don’t have a steamer, just heat the mil

     
    k in the microwave. A mug with 6 ounces of steamed or heated milk can accommodate a small chocolate bar of around 1.2 to 1.4 ounces. A thin bar will melt very rapidly; a chunk of a thicker bar will melt much more slowly.

    Mora Iced Creamery, on Bainbridge Island outside Seattle, serves something like this called a Submarino” in a glass mug. The chocolate “submarine” melts and turn the “oceand” from white to chocolate brown.

    In Columbus, Ohio, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams serves a variation called Hot Chocolate Soup: hot chocolate in a café au lait bowl, served with animal crackers and a handmade marshmallow.

    Art Pollard of Amano Artisan Chocolate in Utah favors a Chocolate & Cream, a preparation of 2 ounces of his delicious chocolate bars melted into a mug’s worth of whole milk combined with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.

    The City Bakery in New York City adds two tablespoons of butter instead of the heavy cream. (Try it if you like things really rich.)

    When you use actual chocolate, including ground chocolate (often labeled as drinking chocolate) instead of cocoa powder, you are making hot chocolate. Here’s the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate.

     

    RECIPE: HOT CHOCOLATE FROM SCRATCH

    Ingredients Per Large Cup/Mug

  • 2-3 ounces of your favorite semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or as chips
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk*
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream* of water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, marshmallow or
    marshmallow creme
  •  
    *You can substitute lowfat or nonfat milk. The drink will simply be less rich. Similarly, you can substitute light cream or half and half for the heavy cream.
     
    Preparation

     

    mocha-hot-chocolate-red-cups-mccormick-230

    Hot chocolate can be customized in dozens of flavors, from banana to raspberry. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    1. COMBINE the chocolate, cocoa and sugar to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Cover and process in ten second bursts at high speed just until finely ground (a few larger chunks of chocolate are O.K.).

    2. HEAT 3/4 cup whole milk plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream (or 3/4 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons of water) in a small, nonreactive saucepan. If using the cream mixture, stir frequently, preferably with a small whisk, until the mixture is steaming hot. If using water, the mixture should be almost at a boil.

    3. ADD the processed chocolate mixture. Whisk in well until it is dissolved and the mixture is steaming hot.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve immediately. Yields one large or two more reasonable servings
     
    Here are 30 different ways to alter the recipe.
     
    MORE HOT CHOCOLATE RECIPES

  • Bailey’s Irish Cream Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Banana Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Chai Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Ice Cream Float Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Spiced Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • Tequila Hot Chocolate Recipe
  • White Hot Chocolate Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Valentine Cake

    If time has gotten away from you and you haven’t picked up a special treat for the family, here’s a trick from one of our favorite New York bakeries, BakedNYC.

    Buy a plain, iced store-bought cake and add your own decorating touch. It combines store-bought with “homemade.”

    While you can buy a Valentine cake at any supermarket, most have tacky plastic decorations. You can do a much nicer job by adding your own delicious decorations to a plain frosted cake.

  • Sprinkles. Your supermarket may have Valentine sprinkles (a mix of red, pink and white) or heart-shaped sprinkle decorations. If not, get bottles of plain red and white sprinkles.
  • Candies. Or, head to the candy section for chocolate foil hearts, Conversation Hearts, pink and red jelly beans, Hershey’s kisses, red hots or anything else that fits in with the theme.
  • Fresh fruit. How about chocolate-dipped strawberries or raspberries? Here’s how to dip your own. Otherwise, add them plain. If you have enough, dot them around the rim. Otherwise, you can place them in the center.
  •  

    white-layer-valentine-cake-bakenyc-230

    Add your own decorating touch to a plain iced cake. Photo courtesy BakedNYC.

  • Rim garnish. At a minimum, add a rim of garnish to the top of the cake. Sprinkles or Red Hots work well.
  • Base garnish. To go all-out, place Hershey’s Kisses (you can leave the festive foil on), conversation hearts or chocolate foil hearts around the base, instead of the piped frosting shown in the photo.
  •  

    BAKING YOUR OWN CAKE

    If you want to bake, you don’t need to make layers. Buy a box of cake mix (chocolate, red velvet, white or yellow) and toss a bundt cake, loaf cake or single-layer mini sheet cake into the oven.

    About the icing:

    The bakery section of your supermarket may sell tubs of buttercream (CK Products makes it). It’s not as good as homemade, but it’s far better than canned frosting.

    Or, take 10 minutes to make real buttercream. All you need is a stick of butter, a cup of confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup whole milk and the flavoring of your choice: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 4 ounces chocolate or 1 teaspoon instant coffee. Just blend them together and ice away!

    Here’s the recipe.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Valentine Toast

    Get out your heart-shaped cookie cutter and think about your menu for tomorrow.

    You can start Valentine’s Day with with heart-shaped toast and red fruit jam.

    Then, make extra toast hearts:

  • For lunch with soup, spread with herb butter
  • For lunch or dinner as croutons with a salad, spread with goat cheese
  • For cocktails (make it Champagne!), spread with sour cream or crème fraîche and topped with salmon caviar
  • For dinner as garlic toasts, spread with garlic butter; or plain with a cheese course
  •  
    WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVER TOAST TRIMMINGS

    Cut them into a small dice and store in an airtight container. The next day, use them:

  • As salad croutons
  • As omelet filling
  • As soup garnish
  • In a hash or skillet stuffing
  • Mixed into custard or pudding—a kind of reverse bread pudding
  •  

    valentine-toast-nar-gourmetFB-230

    Love toast for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy Nar Gourmet.

     
    You can first pop the croutons into a hot skillet with a bit of butter or oil to crisp them.

    Other ideas? Let us know!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Watermelon Radish

    mahi-mahi-eggplant-puree-dueforni-230

    Roasted mahi-mahi with baby squash,
    roasted eggplant puree, pistachios and
    watermelon radish. Photo courtesy Due
    Forni.

     

    Some vegetables light up any dish; watermelon radishes are one. Thanks to farmers markets, we’re seeing a lot more of them.

    Watermelon radishes are available year-round, with peak seasons in spring and late fall (meaning they’re more bountiful and less expensive). Work them into your Valentine’s Day menu: They’re a great special-occasion ingredient.

    A large Chinese radish, its exterior is creamy white with touches of pale green. But the flesh: ooh-la-la.

    The watermelon radish has a eautiful rosy pink-magenta flesh, reminiscent of the color of watermelon. It is patterned with bright circular striations of color that are captivating whether sliced, quartered or julienned.

    The texture is crisp and firm yet succulent. And the flavor is mild, lacking the peppery profile of conventional radishes. Instead, it tastes more like daikon, the white Japanese radish.

    The Chinese name is shinrimei, and the radish is known by several other names including Rose Heart and Beauty Heart.

    Depending on when harvested, watermelon radishes can range in size from golf ball to soft ball—up to three inches and more in diameter.

     

    The color and mildness of the watermelon radish make it a lovely surface for hors d’oeuvres (and a better-for-you alternative to a bread or cracker base). It perks up a green salad. It makes a beautiful garnish on anything savory.

    But there’s so much more you can do with watermelon radishes.

    Watermelon radishes can be served fresh or cooked, hot or cold. They pair well with apple, bacon, butter, citrus, egg dishes, cheeses such as feta and chèvre, cucumbers, creamy based dressings and vinaigrettes, fennel, mild salad greens, noodles such as soba and udon, white fish and a variety of seasonings, especially cilantro, mint and tarragon.

    That’s a lot to work with!

     

    WAYS TO SERVE WATERMELON RADISH

    You can cook radishes like turnips, but these beautiful radishes deserve to be enjoyed in all their bright color and crispness.
     
    Salads

  • Make a Radish “Caprese”: Serve slices of watermelon radish in lieu of mozzarella with sliced tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar—a change of pace that saves calories and fat. You can substitute slices of actual watermelon for the tomatoes.
  • Make a sophisticated salad: Toss thin slices with mâche or microgreens in a special vinaigrette—sherry or honey-dijon, for example.
  • Use as a salad base: Thinly slice large radishes, spread on the plate and use them as a base for other salad ingredients.
  • Try this Sesame Peanut Cucumber Salad recipe, an artistic delight of bright red radish matchsticks and shaved cucumber ribbons.
  • Pair with mushrooms in this Radish, Mushroom & Watercress salad recipe with a sherry-honey vinaigrette.
  • Pair with fennel in this Watermelon Radish & Fennel Salad with Lavender Vinaigrette recipe.
  •  

    blood-orange-watermelon-radish-lincolnbarbour-230

    A simple citrus salad with blood orange and watermelon radish. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Lincoln Barbour.

     
    Sandwiches

  • Add sliced watermelon radish to sandwiches for color, flavor and crunch, instead of lettuce tomatoes.
  • Try watercress and radish tea sandwiches (or full size sandwiches) with unsalted butter or fresh goat cheese.
  •  
    STORING WATERMELON RADISHES

    To store watermelon radishes, discard the leafy tops and wrap the radishes in plastic. They’ll keep for several weeks.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Kitchen Torch

    The kitchen torch, culinary torch, cooking torch or [less poetically] butane torch is used by chefs and sophisticated home cooks.

    Today’s handy culinary torch descends from the heavy duty blowtorches, long used by gold and silversmiths (the first patent dates to 1791).

    While its most famous kitchen use is to caramelize the sugar on the top of crème brûlée, it is also handy to:

  • Brown meringue (we use it for Baked Alaska)
  • Char vegetables such as bell peppers
  • Melt or brown toppings on casseroles and soups
  • Melt cheese
  • Toast marshmallows
  •  
    Affordable at $25 or so, it’s well worth it if you’d like an easy alternative to using the broiler or holding peppers over the stove flame. You can pick one up at most kitchenware retailers or online.

       

    creme-brulee-davidvenableQVC-230

    Always a treat: crème brûlée. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    If you get one now, you can make Crème Brûlée for Valentine’s Day. Digging into that crunchy, crackly caramelized sugar topping and eating a piece with the creamy custard underneath is one of dessert’s great experiences. You can make it a signature special-occasion dish.

    Here’s a recipe from QVC’s David Venable. If you want to add a Grand Marnier accent, take a look at this recipe.

    You’ll need round or oval ceramic ramekins: 5-ounce ramekins for four servings, 3-ounce ramekins for seven servings. This set (photo below) from Bonjour includes both the torch and the ramekins.

    RECIPE: CRÈME BRÛLÉE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 9 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons dark spiced rum
  • White sugar (2-1/2 teaspoons for 5-ounce ramekins or 1-1/2 teaspoons for 3-oz ramekins)
  • Optional garnish: fresh berries
  •  

    creme-brulee-kitchen-torch-bonjour-230r

    You can also use the torch to melt the cheese on French onion soup, toast marshmallows and more. Photo courtesy Bonjour.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F.

    2. BRING the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar to a simmer in a 2-qt saucepan.

    3. LIGHTLY WHISK together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Temper the egg mixture by slowly pouring the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add the vanilla and the rum and continue whisking until fully incorporated. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Place the bowl with the brûlée mixture into an ice water bath and let cool completely.

    4. PLACE the ramekins in a large baking dish. Divide the brûlée mixture evenly among the ramekins, filling them 3/4 of the way full. Place the baking dish in the middle rack of the oven and then fill it with hot tap water, to 2/3 of the way up the ramekin sides.

    5. BAKE for 35-45 minutes for 4 (five-ounce) ramekins; or bake for 25-35 minutes for 7 (three-ounce) ramekins. When done, each brûlée will jiggle lightly in the center.

    6. REFRIGERATE for 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, sprinkle the white sugar over each cooled crème brûlée and torch until all of the sugar is melted and golden brown (it will begin to harden when the torch is removed). Serve immediately.

     

      

    Comments

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