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TIP OF THE DAY: Drinks For Mexican Independence Day

Tequila & Grapefruit Juice Cocktail

Bandera Shots

[1] The Paloma, said to be Mexico’s favorite tequila-based cocktail (photo courtesy [2] The Bandera comprises shots in green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag (photo courtesy [3] A layered bandora shot with chartreuse, maraschino liqueur (clear) and grenadine (photo courtesy


September 16th is Mexican Independence Day. It’s also National Guacamole Day. Coincidence? We think not!

Yesterday, we explained how Mexicans celebrated with shots of Reposda tequila, aged for up to a year.

But what if you don’t like drinking straight tequila?

You can enjoy another tequila cocktail or a non-alcoholic Mexican drink. Here are some of the most popular:

You can have a plain Mexican beer, of course. Bohemia, Corona, Dos Equis and others are commonly found across the country.

But if you like a bit of heat, have a Michelada (mee-cha-LAH-dah), a traditional cerveza preparada, or beer cocktail.

Michelada is a combination of beer, lime and hot sauce served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. Chela is Mexican slang for a cold beer, combined with mixto, referring to the the mix of ingredients added to the beer. Eliminate the hot sauce and you’ve got a Chelada.

Here’s the complete Michelada recipe.

This cocktail couldn’t be easier: 3 parts grapefruit soda and 1 part tequila, served over ice cubes in a highball glass, garnished with a lime wedge. You can add an optional salt rim.

And you can make it by the pitcher-ful, which we’ll be doing tonight.

Paloma is the Spanish word for dove. In Mexico the soft drink of choice is Jarritos brand grapefruit soda (in the U.S., look for it at international markets or substitute Fresca.

You can purchase pink grapefruit soda from the premium mixer brand Q Drinks, or combine grapefruit juice with club soda or grapefruit-flavored club soda.

At better establishments, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice is combined with club soda. Use pink grapefruit juice and you’ll have a Pink Paloma (our term for it).

Here’s the history of the Paloma from, which says it’s the most popular tequila-based cocktail in Mexico.

In Mexico the Bandera (flag), named after the flag of Mexico, consists of three shot glasses representing the colors of the flag (photo #2).

The first is filled with lime juice (for the green), the middle has white (silver) tequila, and the last contains sangrita (for the red), a chaser that usually contains orange and tomato juices. Here’s the recipe from Food Network.

You can also make layered shooter with liqueurs in the national colors (photo #3). Here’s a recipe.




In Spanish, agua fresca means fresh water.

In culinary terms, it refers to a variety of refreshing cold drinks that are sold by street vendors and at cafés throughout Mexico and other Latin American countries (photo #4). They’re also sold bottled at stores, and are easily whipped up at home.

Agua fresca is nonalcoholic and noncarbonated. The recipe can include a combination of fruits or veggies, flowers (like hibiscus), herbs and/or spices, cereals (barley, oats, rice), seeds (chia), even almond flour (which is used to make horchata, the next example).

A traditional agua fresca is an infused, sweetened water, flavored with fruits and/or vegetables—often a more complex layering of flavors than lemonade and limeade.

Our favorite combinations: watermelon (or any melon), basil cucumber and mint hibiscus. Here’s how to make them.

As you can see from this recipe template, it’s easy to mix your favorite flavors.

Agua de horchata—horchata for short—is a very popular recipe, made from ground almonds and rice spiced with cinnamon (photo #5). Other flavors such as coconut can be added.

Here’s a recipe from

It’s not conventional, but, you could add a shot of tequila or rum.

After all, it’s a day to celebrate!


Watermelon Agua Fresca

Mexican Soft Drink

[4] Whip up a pitcher of watermelon aqua fresca with this recipe from Whole Foods Markets. [5] Horchata, made from ground almonds and cooked rice, may sound unusual—but it’s unusually good (photo courtesy Noshon.It).




TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Uses For A Trifle Bowl

English Trifle Bowl

English Trifle Bowl

Peanut Butter Trifle

Homemade Edible Arrangement

[1] A classic English trifle (photo courtesy [1] This modern trifle combines peanut butter pudding and pretzels. [3] A good-for-you substitute. Move over, Edible Arrangements (photos #2 and #3 courtesy Pampered Chef).


Trifles are one of the easiest desserts you can make—and impressive to present. Most of the ingredients are purchased ready-to-use, with only custard or other pudding requiring a few minutes of preparation.

A trifle is a layered British dessert of fruit, sponge fingers or sponge cake soaked, custard, and a topping of whipped cream. Other ingredients can be added (gelatin/Jell-O, cookie crumbs) and the cake can be soaked in alcohol.

Trifle is an evolution of a fruit fool, a dessert that probably originated in 15th -century Britain. Puréed stewed fruit was swirled with sweet custard.

The classic was (and is) gooseberry fool, but seasonal fruits—apples, berries, rhubarb—were also used.

Other countries have their own versions that followed the British concept. In Italy, for example, zuppa inglese, a layering of liqueur-soaked sponge and custard, appeared in the late 19th century.

The first known reference to a trifle appears in 1585 in a cookbook, The Good Huswifes Jewell. It was flavored with sugar, ginger and rosewater (a recipe for the well-do-do, as sugar and spices were costly).

The trifle evolved to include a layer of crumbled biscuits (cookies) and alcohol-soaked sponge cake or sponge fingers (ladyfingers) as the bottom layer. Brandy, madeira, port and sherry were used to soak the sponge.

When powdered gelatin* became available in 1845, a layer of fruit “jelly” was added to recipes.

As was so common among the fashionable in Renaissance Britain, France, and other European countries, new foods engendered new styles of dishes and flatware. For trifles, a straight-sided pedestal glass bowl showed off the beauty of the layers.

Today, many people prefer bowls without the pedestal (easier to store), and modern ingredient layers that range from layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter pudding, pretzels and Oreos.

Glass bowls with or without a pedestal are used for other desserts and can also be repurposed. Anyone who owns a straight-sided glass bowl has already figured out how to use it for layered dips, layered salads (fruit, green, pasta) and as a fruit bowl.

It can serve as anything from a bread basket (nice with muffins at brunch) to a chip bowl.

Here are more ways to use a trifle bowl. Thanks to Pampered Chef for some of these ideas and photos.



  • Candle Holder. A trifle bowl can make a candle holder with lots of flair. Just place a flame-proof base inside the bowl, place a pedestal candle on top, then fill around the base with any festive decoration: pretty stones, marbles, nuts, wine corks, wood chips. TIP: For the dinner table, use an unscented candle.
  • Centerpiece. For fall, fill the bowl with apples, chestnuts, dried wheat, gourds, Indian corn, mini pumpkins or a combination (photo #4). For the holidays, use candy canes, ornaments, pine cones, or mini evergreen trees (photo #5). For summer: sand and seashells, topped by a starfish. With any season, you can also place that pedastel candle in the center.
  • Desserts. Nouvelle trifle: Think of how to expand beyond the classic. Butterscotch pudding and pretzel layers? Banana pudding and ‘Nilla Wafers? Oreos and whipped cream? Baked Alaska? It’s so much easier to layer the cake and ice cream. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Or create a stunning fruit salad, either in colored layers or like the one in photo #3.
  • Drinks. Serve party punch or even ice cold shrimp cocktail. It makes a great visual impact that doesn’t require any additional decoration. Beautifully presented food speaks for itself!
  • Flatware. For buffets, wrap the flatware in napkins and present them in the bowl.
  • Flower Vase. Grab a bouquet or two of your favorite blooms and arrange them in the bowl. To hide the stems, try filling the vessel with rocks, fruit, or even crushed ice. Not much of a florist? No worries: Decorating your table with a few vases that have the same flower in the same color creates a pretty, modern look.
  • Ice Bucket. Make it the centerpiece of your drink station. Mini bottles of wine or champagne look just plain adorable displayed in the bowl.
  • Parties. Fill them with anything, from candy to party favors.
  • Punch Bowl. A smaller punch bowl can contain a mocktail version for those who don’t want alcohol (photo #6).
  • Snacks. Chips, pretzels, Chex Mix, etc.
    What else?

    We look forward to your suggestions!
    *Gelatin was first extracted by boiling animal bones, in 1682. But this laborious process was only undertaken in large kitchens with staff to prepare it. While gelatin is pure protein, it is colorless, flavorless and odorless, so it also needed to be enhanced for serving.


    Fall Centerpiece

    Christmas Centerpiece

    Trifle Bowl For Punch

    [4] Fall centerpiece. [5] Christmas centerpiece. [6] Punch bowl (all photos courtesy Pampered Chef).




    TIP OF THE DAY: Instead Of Cinco De Mayo, Celebrate September 16th…With Reposado Tequila

    Blue Nectar Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Manhattan Cocktail

    [1] Reposado tequila is the preferred type for celebrations [2] Distrito Federal is Manhattan cocktail that replaces the bourbon with tequila (all photos courtesy Blue Nectar Tequila).


    Many Americans look forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo each spring. This relatively small Mexican holiday commemorates a regional battle in 1862, long after Mexican Independence was declared. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day.

    That honor goes September 16th, known as Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores, the town where the battle began). It’s the most popular holiday in Mexico.

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810.

    As with America’s Independence Day, the Mexican National Day of Independence is a patriotic holiday, with celebratory drinks, food and fireworks.

    Today’s tip: Wherever you live, celebrate Mexican Independence Day on the 16th.

    The folks at Blue Nectar Tequila tell us that the most popular type of tequila consumed in Mexico on national holidays is the more aged (and more expensive) Reposado, not the clear Blanco (a.k.a. silver or white tequila—here are the different types of tequila).

    Blanco is aged not at all or up to two months, while Reposado and Añejo tequilas are aged longer: Reposado for six months to a year, Añejo for one to three years. Aging gives layers of complexity to the spirit.

    While tequila was first produced in the 16th century by Spanish immigrants to Mexico, aged tequila styles such as Reposado and Añejo did not appear until the early 1900s.

    Some producers began to age their tequila in oak casks left over from red wine, brandy and rum that had been imported for consumption by the Spanish aristocracy.

    This stroke of genius changed the overall quality and taste of basic tequila, which at the time was raw-edged and without complexity.

    So today’s tip is: Celebrate September 16th by sipping a glass of Reposado or Añejo tequila, neat or on the rocks, enjoying the flavors with each sip.

    Or try one of the cocktails below, or this wonderful menu of tequila cocktail recipes.


    Reposado tequila has a woodsy quality that pairs well with beef-based, poultry and pork-type main dishes. (complementary flavors in recipes include orange, cinnamon and honey).

    Instead of America’s go-to grilled food for Independence Day, a favorite dish in Mexico is pozole, a classic soup made of hominy and pork.

    In modern times it’s also made with beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables and beans. Here’s a selection of pozole recipes.

    For dessert, have churros or dark chocolate with Añejo tequila.

    And sure: Bring on the guacamole, salsa, chips and esquites—Mexican corn on the cob.

    The classic bourbon-based Manhattan cocktail is the inspiration for this Mexican version, which is named after historic Mexico City, an area known as Distrito Federal.
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Reposado or Añejo tequila
  • 1 ounce sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: brandied cherry

    1. COMBINE the spirits and bitters in a cocktail glass. Add ice and stir until cold, about one to two minutes.

    2. STRAIN into a coupe glass, garnish with the cherry and serve.



    Ingredients Per Drink

    The vodka-based Cosmo is remade with Reposado teqila.

  • 4 lime quarters
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ½ ounces Reposado tequila
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • ¾ ounce orange liqueur
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: lime wheel

    1. MUDDLE the lime quarters with the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add the tequila, orange liqueur and cranberry juice.

    2. TOP with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wheel.


    Tequila Cosmopolitan Cocktail

    [3] The Mexipolitan: A Cosmopolitan with tequila instead of vodka. Calling Carrie Bradshaw!



    Blue Nectar Tequila, is a hand-crafted, super-premium tequila that focuses on agave-forward flavor profiles.

    While by Mexican law Reposado must be aged a minimum of 2 months, Blue Nectar Reposado Extra Blend is aged 6-8 months and then blended with three-year-old Extra Añejo, to deliver hints of vanilla and smoke.

    For more information on the different expressions of Blue Nectar tequila, visit



    TIP OF THE DAY: Whole Roasted Cauliflower

    Yesterday, Meatless Monday, we went one step beyond the meaty cauliflower steaks and cabbage steaks we’ve become so fond of.

    We remembered a recipe from Frieda’s Specialty Produce that we had tucked away in anticipation of the glorious fall cauliflower harvest.

    We love farmers market cauliflower. Not only is it fresher, but you can find the splendid colors of purple, orange and pale green, as well as the exotic-looking, lime green romanesco (bottom photo). Whatever you choose, look for a dense head with a thick center stem.

    Roasting a whole cauliflower is simple; you just have to allow 90 minutes for it to roast. To see just how easy it is, check out this video from Frieda’s.

    “The crispy, nutty crust and sweet, tender core are the stuff dreams are made of,” they aver (and we agree).


  • 1 whole cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed to sit flat, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt or seasoned salt
  • Optional: fresh-ground pepper
  • Optional: chutney, herb butter, olive relish, pesto or sauce of choice

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Place the cauliflower on a plate and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, using your hands to coat the cauliflower all over.

    2. SEASON all over with salt and transfer the cauliflower to a small roasting pan or cast iron skillet, floret-side up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

    3. BAKE for 30 minutes; remove the foil and roast 1 hour until the florets are golden (larger heads can take longer). Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.

    4. SLICE as desired: in wedges (our preference) or vertical, in 3/4- to 1-inch slices. You can also cut the cauliflower into individual florets, but why spend the time?

    Use your favorite international flavors as seasonings and sauces. Here are some simple replacements:

  • Chinese seasonings: Eliminate the salt, brush with soy sauce instead of lemon juice, top with minced garlic; garnish with fresh chives. A dab of hoisin sauce? Why not!
  • Indian seasonings: Season with ground cumin, coriander and optional curry powder instead of salt and pepper; garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with raita or other yogurt sauce.
  • Italian seasonings #1: Use garlic-flavored olive oil and top the cauliflower with minced garlic before roasting. Place the slice atop pesto, or marinara sauce seasoned with oregano. Garnish with sliced black olives.
  • Italian seasonings #2: After roasting, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  • Japanese seasonings: Use 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 toasted sesame oil or wasabi oil, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, grated fresh ginger and/or fresh chives. Serve with ponzu sauce.
  • Mexican seasonings: Replace the lemon juice with lime juice and sprinkle with lime zest and red chile flakes. Serve on a bed of black beans or pinto beans and top with warmed salsa. Garnish with cilantro and optional crumbled queso fresco.

    The plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, Brassica, contains nutritional powerhouses that are packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). It’s easy to eat a cup or more daily from the long list below.


    Roasted Cauliflower

    Roast Cauliflower

    Purple Roast Cauliflower

    Romanesco Cauliflower

    [1] A tricolor roasted cauliflower feast (photo courtesy San Francisco Chronicle). Here’s the recipe, which includes garlic breadcrumbs and fennel-olive relish. [2] Roast cauliflower Indian style, with a rich Mughlai sauce of tomato, cashew nuts, milk, cream and butter. Here’s the recipe from [3] This cauliflower is garnished with a mint-parsley sauce. Here’s the recipe from[4] You can do the same with an exotic romanesco, often called romanesco cauliflower but it’s actually its own cultivar (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    There are more than 30 wild species of Brassica, plus numerous cultivars* and hybrids of cultivated origin. The best-known Brassica members include:

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Horseradish/wasabi
  • Kai-lan/gai-lan (often called Chinese broccoli in the U.S.)
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard greens
  • Radish
  • Rapeseed/canola
  • Rapini (broccoli rabe)
  • Romanesco
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
    Eat up!
    *A cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Liberté Organic Yogurt

    Liberte Organic Yogurt

    Liberte Organic Yogurt

    Liberte Organic Yogurt

    [1] From top clockwise: French Lavender, Washington Cherry and Philippine Coconut. [2] Close-up on coconut. Note the haiku under the top foil. [3] Lemon and strawberry; note the triangular containers (all photos courtesy Liberté).


    We have long been enamored with Liberté yogurt, from the moment some 10 years ago that we plucked a few flavors off the shelf of our Whole Foods.

    Since then we’ve come to know other artisan brands, from FAGE and Siggi’s to small local brands like Culture and White Moustache.

    But in terms of accessibility, year after year we eat more Liberté than anything else.

    Liberté USA plans to transition all products to USDA organic-certified. A line of new whole milk yogurt flavors is debuting now at retailers nationwide, for a suggested retail price of $1.89. The eight delicious flavors, sundae-style (fruit on the bottom) include:

  • Baja Strawberry
  • Californian Pomegranate
  • Ecuadorian Mango
  • French Lavender
  • Lemon*
  • Philippine Coconut
  • Sweet Cream†
  • Washington Black Cherry
    The elgant triangular containers are new to us, and we enjoyed the haiku under each lid.

    The line is rBST/rBGH-free and certified kosher by OK.


    Have a yogurt tasting. Compare four or more brands to see which one(s) you truly like best.

    One 6-ounce container allows four people to have a heaping spoonful, plus enough left over to re-taste and compare.

    The ideal way to do this is in a blind taste test, trying the same flavor of each brand. Strawberry is a best bet, but survey the options for flavors-in-common.

    With wine, you simply put a brown bag around the bottle. Yogurt requires a bit more work. You can cut and cover the containers with brown paper, or mark the names on the bottom of bowls and scoop the appropriate brand into each bowl.

    We did the latter, spring for two containers of each of five brands and making it part of a small brunch party.

    Did Liberté come out on top?

    We’ll only say this: Different tasters prefer different tastes. Do your own test!

    For more information about Liberte Organic Yogurt and a product locator, visit

    Check out these and other good-to-know yogurt terms in our Yogurt Glossary.

    *We to wonder why Lemon is left without a modifier.

    †The Sweet Cream flavor is not flavored with vanilla, but has a slight sweetness that reminds us of some quarks and fromage blancs. We liked it very much, although it is quite different from the fruit flavors.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur & How To Infuse Your Own

    Ancho Reyes Liqueur

    Casa Noble Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Cocktail

    [1] Today’s pick: Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy Ancho Reyes). [2] Casa Noble reposado and blanco tequilas. Mix reposado with the liqueur in the cocktail below (photo courtesy Casa Noble). [3] Combine them to make this delicious cocktail (photo courtesy Casa Noble).


    If you like tequila, mezcal and the cuisine and culture of Mexico, why should you celebrate September 16th?

    Because it’s Mexican Independence Day.

    In the U.S., the holiday Americans celebrate is Cinco de Mayo. But Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810—the biggest holiday celebration in Mexico.

    Why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

    The date commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over superior French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is celebrated locally in the city and state of Puebla, in south-central Mexico.

    A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo has taken on a life of its own. It has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations, and many non-Mexican fans of the cuisine. Here’s more on the holiday.

    So what’s today’s tip?

    Celebrate with some chile-infused liqueur.

    In 1927, the Reyes family of Puebla, Mexico made a homemade liqueur from the area’s ample ancho chile crop. Fortunately, they decided to make it commercially.

    We love its smoky heat, for mixing, sipping neat, in marinades or for drizzling over lemon or lime sorbet.

    It’s not simple, sweet heat: Beyond the smoky chile are notes of cinnamon, cocoa, herbs and tamarind (maybe more depending on the sensitivity of your palate).

    Here’s a detailed story in pictures of how the chiles are grown and infused to become Ancho Reyes.

    We’ve seen it on Wine-Tracker from $29.99 to a high of $48.99.

    We really enjoyed this cocktail from Casa Noble Tequila (here are more recipes).

    The recipe specifies reposado tequila, slightly aged (a minimum of two months by law): Casa Noble reposed is matured in French white oak barrels for 364 days!

    We had only silver/blanco, but it was delicious just the same. (Here are the different types of tequila.)

  • 1.5 ounces reposado tequila
  • .5 ounce ancho chile liqueur
  • .25 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 drops mole bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients—except the garnish and ice—in a mixing glass. Stir and strain the drink into a glass over ice.

    2. SQUEEZE the orange peel into the glass; then rub the inside of the peel around rim and drop into the glass.

    Here’s an Ancho Reyes cocktail we published, featuring grilled pineapple.



    While not an exhaustive list, we found these products at retailers:

  • Tanteo (a NIBBLE favorite) and other brands make chile-infused tequila.
  • Stolichnaya and other brands make chile-infused vodka.
  • Patrón XO Cafe Incendio adds arbol chiles to a chocolate liqueur based on their tequila.
  • Kiss Of Fire is another chile-infused liqueur.

    You can infuse tequila or vodka (or any other spirit) with fresh chiles. The spirit adds more heat to Margaritas and Bloody Marys (and the tequila-based Bloody Maria and Chipotle Maria.

    You can also cook with the infused spirits. Just search online for “cooking with tequila” (or vodka) and you’ll find everything from salad dressing and marinades to pasta sauce and tequila-lime sorbet.

    You can use any type of chile; habaneros will give more heat than jalapeños (check the Scoville Heat Units. For a smoky flavor, chose ancho or chipotle.

    Try three chiles your first time out. If you want more heat when you taste it after 3-4 weeks, you can add more chiles and infuse for another 3-4 weeks (or just use more chiles next time).

    Here’s our glossary of the different types of chiles.

  • 1 bottle (750ml) tequila, vodka or other spirit
  • 3 large chile peppers

    1. WASH the chiles, pat dry, slit lengthwise and insert into the bottle of tequila.

    2. CAP the bottle tightly and place in a cool (away from a heat source), dark place for 3 weeks. Taste and if you want more chile flavor, infuse for another 1-2 weeks.

    3. KEEP or strain the chiles from the bottle, depending on how you like the look.


    Ancho Chile

    Infused Tequila

    [4] An ancho chile, used to infuse the alcohol base of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy [5] It’s easy to infuse your own favorite chiles into tequila or vodka. This photo shows how Foodie Misadventures did it (photo © Foodie Misadventures).

    Infused spirits are great for gifting!



    RECIPE: A Simple Salmon Dinner & The History Of Oven Cooking

    Salmon With Herb Butter

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    Poached Salmon

    [1] Spoon the herb butter sauce over the fillet. [2] Plated with a butter lettuce salad (recipes below). [3] With kale and baby potatoes (all photos courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco).


    Last night we had guests over for a simple salmon dinner. It was an impromptu event: Our fishmonger had a sale on wild-caught salmon and we decided it would be a “salmon weekend.”

    We adore complicated recipes in the right hands. When we dine out, it is usually to have food from gifted chefs whose technique to make it surpasses anything we could hope to achieve.

    But at home, we tend to keep things simple. The best ingredients, simply prepared to show them off, create the best meals.

    While many people say they can’t cook fish well, baking it is pretty fool-proof (as it is tossing a marinated fish on the grill, if you have one).

    This easy recipe from Good Eggs, bakes the salmon in a slow oven (see the chart below), to “gently coax out the salmon’s delicate flavor.”

    Add a simple green salad and a steamed fresh vegetable and you’ve got a delicious dinner. Everything will be ready in 35 minutes.

    The best wine pairings are chosen by preparation, not by ingredient. A classic wine pairing for salmon baked in butter sauce is Chardonnay/White Burgundy. You can also serve rosé or a sparkling wine.

    We served a luscious Pinot Gris* from our favorite Alsatian producer, Zindt-Humbrecht, and a Grüner Veltliner (a superb Austrian white) from Pichler. Sauvignon Blanc is another favorite.

    Red wine is typically paired with a meatier preparation, such as grilled or blackened salmon. But if you only drink red, a light Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy, Gamay/Beaujolais, or Valpolicello Classico will work.


    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 1 pound fresh salmon
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 handful† basil leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for the salad
  • 2-3 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    For The Salad

  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Butter Lettuce, leaves washed and trimmed (or lettuce of choice)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Additional salad ingredients as desired
    *Pinot Gris is a white wine grape now planted around the world, but originally known by the wines from Alsace, France. Pinot Grigio is Italian for the same grape. Pinot Blanc is very similar: Both grapes (Pinot Gris/Grigio and Pinot Blanc) are mutations of Pinot Noir. Alsatian Pinot Gris tends to be a more finely crafted wine. While there are fine Pinot Grigios, much of what is sold in the U.S. is a lighter, mass-market wine.

    †A handful is one of those imprecise measures that says: Use how much you want. More or less of the ingredient is not critical to the recipe’s outcome.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F. While it heats, make a simple herb butter by combining the basil leaves with the butter. If you have other herbs in the kitchen—parsley, tarragon, etc.— feel free to add them also.

    2. PLACE the salmon fillet(s) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season it lightly with salt and pepper, and scoop a few dollops of herb butter over it. Then bake it for about 30 minutes, until it is just barely firm to the touch. While fish bakes…

    3. MAKE the salad dressing. Place the onion in a bowl, cover it with the vinegar and let sit for about 15 minutes. Then whisk in the olive oil with, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When fish is done…

    4. REMOVE the fish from oven and let it rest for a minute as you make the salad. Toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette, sliced avocado and a few torn basil leaves; serve with a big piece of salmon and a glass of nicely chilled wine.

    When early man mastered the creation of fire, food was cooked in pits dug into the ground, over flame-heated stones, and then—with the invention of cooking vessels—suspended over fires. Cooking was at best imprecise, but so was all of life back then.

    When nomadic man settled into agricultural communities, an outdoor or indoor fireplace could be constructed; an indoor fireplace also provided heat in colder climates. All cooking was still approximate in terms of how large a fire was needed, and how long to cook the food. In those days, food was sustenance rather than cuisine. Fire was used to make tough foods more chewable.

    In earlier times before ovens had sophisticated temperature controls, it was a challenge for cooks to make temperature-sensitive recipes. Even in recipes from the early 20th century, you’ll find directions like “cook in a slow oven for 2 hours or until meat is tender.”

    Today, ovens have precise temperature controls and those general times have been converted to degrees. For example, a “moderate oven” is 350°F to 375°F.

    This history of ovens is adapted from an article in Smithsonian Magazine by Lisa Bramen.

    Before ovens, there was cooking over an outdoor fire (think campfire) or an indoor fireplace and chimney with pots suspended over a wood fire.

  • Ancient Ovens: Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Jews and other peoples baked their bread in a wood-fired stone or brick oven—the same general format used for today’s wood-fired pizza ovens.
  • Cast Iron Stoves With Ovens: Over the centuries, brick ovens were refined to contain a door—the only way to regulate heat. Wood-fired cast iron stoves appeared in the mid-1700s, but still there were no gauges. To bake a cake or other heat-sensitive recipe, ovens were “regulated” by burning the right amount of wood to ash. Bakers stuck their hands inside the oven to feel the temperature, adding more wood for heat or opening the door to let the oven cool to what seemed like the right temperature.
  • Gas Ovens: The first recorded use of gas for cooking was by a Moravian named Zacchaeus Andreas Winzler, a German-born inventor living in Moravia (now the Czech Republic) in 1802. It took another three decades for the first commercially produced gas stove, designed by Englishman James Sharp nine 1834. The stoves became popular by the end of the 19th century. They were easier to regulate and required less upkeep than wood or coal stoves, the ashes of which had to be swept out often—a dirty job.
  • Electric Stoves/Ovens: Home electricity came into use at the end of the 19th century. In 1892, an early electric stove and oven was manufactured by Thomas Ahearn, a Canadian electric company owner.

    Oven Temperature Chart

    Pot Over Campfire

    Ancient Pompei Oven

    Iron Stove

    [1] Slow oven? Fast oven? Here’s what it means (chart courtesy Wikipedia). [2] After fire was invented, man could have a campfire with a simple spit to hold the food, until flameproof cooking vessels (clay pots) were invented. The oldest pot found is from China and dates to 20,000 B.C.E., at the height of the Ice Age, long before the beginnings of agriculture (photo with a contemporary pot courtesy [3] An oven in Pompei (photo courtesy [4] A Victorian cast-iron oven: still wood-fueled, no temperature dials (photo courtesy

  • The Microwave: In 1946, Percy LeBaron Spencer, an engineer for the Raytheon Corporation, was doing research on microwave-producing magnetrons when he discovered that the chocolate bar in his shirt pocket had melted. He experimented further and found that microwave radiation could cook food more quickly than gas and electricity. Raytheon’s Amana division released the first consumer microwave oven in 1967. The high price and [unfounded] fears about radiation took another decade for adventuresome consumers to adopt.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Pane Bianco For Brunch, Lunch Or Cocktails

    Pane Bianco Recipe

    Unbleached Bread Flour

    [1] Pane bianco, a delicious treat at any meal. [2] The award-winning recipe uses unbelted bread flour (photos courtesy King Arthur Flour).


    Pane bianco means “white bread” in Italian, but this jazzy recipe is a cheese bread: dough stuffed inside-out with sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic and Italian cheeses.

    It’s a treat for breakfast, with a light lunch like salad or soup, or with beer, wine and cocktails.

    If you serve a bread basket at dinner (or at special dinners), these slices will disappear quickly!

    The original recipe, by Dianna Wara of Washington, Illinois, took first place in the first-ever National Festival of Breads.

    P.J. Hamel of King Arthur Flour simplified the recipe a bit so that any home baker can make it. She notes, “The unique shape is simple to achieve, and makes an impressive presentation.” Thanks to both ladies for this delicious treat!

    The recipe takes 2 hours 40 minutes, because the dough must rise and then bake; but actual prep time is just 30 minutes and the steps are easy.


    You can see a step-by-step pictorial at

    Ingredients For 1 Loaf (About 20 Slices)
    For The Dough

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour (see the tips below)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    For The Filling

  • 3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese or the cheese of your choice
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (you can marinate plain sundries tomatoes in your own oil) or your own oven-roasted tomatoes
  • 3 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (purple basil adds something extra)


    1. MAKE the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl (or the bucket of a bread machine). Mix and knead by hand or with a mixer; or in a bread machine set on the dough cycle. You should have a smooth, very soft dough that should stick a bit to the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.

    2. PLACE the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size. Meanwhile…

    3. DRAIN the tomatoes thoroughly, patting them dry. Use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller bits.

    4. DEFLATE gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into a 22″ x 8 1/2″ rectangle. Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

    5. STARTING with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

    6. USING kitchen shears, start 1/2″ from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1″ deep, to within 1/2″ of the other end.

    7. KEEPING the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

    8. UNCOVER the bread and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

    9. REMOVE the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.


  • You can substitute all-purpose flour 1:1 for the bread flour in the recipe, if desired. Reduce the water to 1/4 cup.
  • Use a light touch with your fillings. Over-stuffing this bread will create a messy-looking loaf.
  • Be careful not to let the bread rise too long; over-risen bread will lose its shape.

    Sundried Tomatoes In Oil

    Italian Cheese Blend

    [1] Use sundries tomatoes in oil. You can buy plain sundries and marinate them in your own oil (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci).[2] Use your favorite Italian cheese blend (photo courtesy Sargento).


  • Keep your eye on the loaf: Much of the filling will be exposed as the bread bakes. When it’s a light golden brown, tent it with aluminum foil to prevent the exposed tomatoes and basil from burning.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking & Baking With Crème Fraîche

    It would be fair to say that most home bakers in the U.S. have never worked with crème fraîche. It isn’t carried everywhere, it’s pricier than heavy cream and sour cream, which can be used instead of it in most recipes.

    Today’s tip is: Find some and work with it.


    Crème fraîche (pronounced crem fresh, French for “fresh cream”) is a thickened cream—not as thick as sour cream, more of the consistency of yogurt. That’s an appropriate analogy because both are slightly soured with bacterial culture. Crème fraîche has more fat than either, for a richer experience.

    Originally from Normandy, the dairy heartland of France, today crème fraîche used throughout Continental and American cuisines.

    Sour cream, which is more accessible and less expensive, can be substituted in most recipes; but crème fraîche has additional advantages:

  • It can be whipped, and it will not curdle when cooked over high heat.
  • It’s a bit lighter in body than commercial sour creams, more subtly sour, and overall more elegant.
    Crème fraîche is made by inoculating unpasteurized heavy cream with Lactobacillus cultures, letting the bacteria grow until the cream is both soured and thick and then pasteurizing it to stop the process.

    Thus, authentic crème fraîche cannot be made at home in the U.S., because only pasteurized cream is available to consumers. Adding Lactobacillus to pasteurized cream will cause it to spoil instead of sour.

    However, you can still make it at home with pasteurized cream. Here’s a crème fraîche recipe plus the difference between crème fraîche, mascarpone, sour cream and similar products.
    Uses For Crème Fraîche Beyond Baking

  • Creamy salad dressings and soups
  • Crêpe and omelet fillings
  • Sauces for vegetables
  • Topping for fresh fruit and other desserts
  • Coffee, creamy cocktails and bittersweet hot chocolate
  • Caviar (or roe of any kind) and smoked salmon
  • Guilty pleasure (eating it from the container)

    Because you have to start somewhere, here’s a recipe that few people would decline: chocolate cupcakes. The star ingredient in these beautiful cupcakes from Hummingbird High is crème fraîche, used in both the cake and frosting. Rich, chocolaty cupcakes are topped with a creamy, velvety, simple-to-make frosting.

    Ingredients For 12 Cupcakes

  • 1 ounce 72%* cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) Vermont Creamery crème fraîche, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

    Salmon Caviar Creme Fraiche

    Tomato Soup Creme Fraiche

    Chocolate Ganache

    Creme Fraiche Cupcakes Recipe

    [1] Crème fraîche on a baby potato, topped with salmon caviar (photo Fotolia). [2] Tomato soup with caviar in the base and as a garnish (photo courtesy Munchery). [3] A classic chocolate ganache is made from chocolate and cream. Corn syrup is added for glossiness. Here’s the recipe from King Arthur Flour. [4] Crème fraîche cupcakes, recipe below (photo courtesy Michelle Lopez | Hummingbird High).

    Ingredients For The Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting (About 1 Cup)

  • 6 ounces 72% cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces/1/2 stick) Vermont Creamery cultured unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) Vermont Creamery crème fraîche, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • Pinch of kosher salt
    *A 72% bittersweet chocolate is perfect for lovers of bittersweet, and the cacao level used by top pastry chefs. However, if you prefer a lower percentage, go for it. You can make milk chocolate ganache and white chocolate ganache as well. The key is not the percentage cacao, but the quality of the chocolate. Ganache is de facto made just from chocolate and cream, but you can take a few liberties. We’ve added coffee to both dark chocolate and white chocolate ganaches. Here’s a recipe for chocolate ganache with crème fraîche instead of heavy cream.


    Creme Fraiche Vermont Creamery

    Creme Fraiche & Fruit

    [1] One of our fantasies: an entire bucket of crème fraîche from Vermont Creamery. [2] We’d use it to make everything, without forgetting the simple pleasure of crème fraîche with fresh berries (photo courtesy Good Eggs).


    Preparation For The Cupcakes

    1. CENTER a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F. Prepare a 12-well muffin tin by lining with cupcake liners.

    2. COMBINE 1 ounce coarsely chopped dark chocolate and 1/3 cup hot coffee in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. DO NOT STIR. Let sit for 2 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. As the chocolate is melting…

    3. COMBINE in a medium bowl 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; whisk until combined. Set aside.

    4. RETURN to the chocolate. At this point the chocolate should be melty and easily melt into the coffee when whisked. Turn the mixer to its lowest setting and whisk the chocolate and coffee together, then add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup crème fraîche, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 large egg and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract. Continue whisking until just combined.

    5. STOP the mixer and sprinkle the dry ingredients (from the 3rd step) over the liquid ingredients (from the 4th step). Turn the mixer back on to medium-low and continue whisking until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.

    6. DIVIDE the batter evenly between the cupcake liners using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop. Be careful not to overfill and start with as little as 2 tablespoons per cupcake.

    7. BAKE in the preheated oven until the cupcakes are domed and the top springs back when gently touched, around 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack to room temperature before frosting.
    Preparation For The Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting

    1. MAKE the frosting. Combine 6 ounces of dark chocolate, 1/4 cup unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl that sits on top of a pan of simmering water. The water in the pan should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Melt completely, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir occasionally to combine the ingredients.

    2. REMOVE from the heat when the chocolate and butter have fully melted. Whisk the mixture gently to release more heat, before whisking in 1/4 cup crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons half-and-half. Continue whisking until both the crème fraîche and half-and-half are fully integrated and the frosting is a uniform dark chocolate color.

    3. SET the frosting aside for 15 minutes to cool more, giving the frosting a gentle whisk every 5 minutes to allow heat to escape. After 15 minutes, use the frosting. At first it will seem too liquidy, but the frosting will quickly cool as it is spread throughout the cake. Work quickly to frost the cake before the frosting cools completely: It will harden as it cools. Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to divide and spread the frosting evenly among the cupcakes, and garnish with any additional decoration.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Additional Uses For A Waffle Iron

    Recently we had to get rid of some things in our appliance cabinet to make room for a large countertop pizza maker.

    Two items bit the dust: an old Cuisinart kept as a “back-up” for 15 years, but have never needed to use; and a beautiful double waffle iron, barely used (we’d rather make French toast or pancakes than drag out and clean the waffle iron).

    Then, I took some advice from Posie Harwood of King Arthur Flour, who noted with sagacity that “a waffle iron is just a teeny, tiny oven…a much cooler version of a panini press.”

  • A waffle iron can do everything from toast to bake to griddle.
  • It provides all those honeycomb indentations, which create extra crispness and crunch and soak up better, sauces, whatever.
  • You can make a single serving of what you’re yearning for.
  • Why turn on the oven on, or take the time to preheat it?

  • Spray your waffle iron very well so the food doesn’t stick.
  • Don’t overfill. Start with less batter or dough than you think you need.
  • When baking foods that are traditionally baked in an oven (brownies, cookies, muffins), resist the temptation to peek. These particular foods tend to stick more and need to be fully baked before you lift the lid.

    One of the nicest things about a waffle iron is how much time it saves you, especially when you’re baking a single serving. Sometimes you just want a brownie, and you want it right away!

    Just ladle in your batter of choice, close the lid, and cook until baked through, like a waffle. This may even be the preferred way of cooking brownies for those who like the “edges”: The waffled brownie is crisp and crunchy.


    Cook the muffin batter and you get what is essentially a jumbo, crisp muffin top.

    Portion your favorite cookie dough into individual scoops and freeze them. When you need a warm cookie, bake one or two. Help you make just one instead of a baking pan full of temptation.

    We haven’t tried it, but Posie says: “Doughnut batter performs surprisingly well in a waffle iron. It bakes up into a puffy, light disc with a wonderfully crunchy top. It’s not shaped in a circle, but it tastes just the same.” She recommends drizzling a glaze (and loves this apple cider glaze recipe) or a ganache frosting. Add coconut, crushed nuts, sprinkles or other garnish.


    Waffled Carrot Cake

    Waffled Hash Brown Potatoes

    Grilled Cheese In Waffle Maker

    [1] Carrot cake in a waffle iron! Here’s the recipe from Food Network Kitchen. [2] Waffled hash brown potatoes. [3] Pop grilled cheese and almost any sandwich into the waffle iron (photos #2 and #3 courtesy Posie Harwood | King Arthur Flour).



    Brownie Waffles

    Waffled Biscuits & Gravy

    Will It Waffle Recipes

    [4] A brownie comes out “all edges” in a waffle maker. Here’s a recipe from Food Network Kitchen (photo courtesy Posie Harwood | King Arthur Flour). [5] Waffled biscuits with sausage gravy. Here’s the recipe from Food Network Kitchen. [6] Get 53 recipes for waffled food.



    Consider your waffle iron as a panini press with different grill marks. Spray the waffle iron, add a slice of bread, the cheese and any extras (bacon, tomato, etc.) and the top slice of bread. Close the iron and cook until the cheese is melted.

    A tip from Posie: Spread some mayonnaise on the outside of each slice of bread. It makes the sandwich extra crisp and golden.

    They’re not just for breakfast, either. For a quick dinner, top the hash browns with a fried or poached egg, leftover proteins and/or vegetables. Rosie likes to add wilted greens.

    But all you need is grated potatoes (we grate in onion as well, and you can also add cheese). Wring out as much liquid as you can, season with salt and pepper and waffle a thick layer until crisp and brown.

    Ditto. You get waffle marks instead of grill marks.


    For breakfast or as a side with lunch or dinner, here’s a recipe from Julie’s Jazz.

    Posie has also made waffled calzones, omelets and zucchini fritters—even simple buttered toast.

    There’s a whole book on the topic, Will It Waffle? Get your copy on Amazon with 53 foods to waffle, including:

  • Apple pie
  • Gnocchi
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Meatballs
  • Pierogi
  • Pizza
  • Steak
    Here are more recipes from Food Network including:

  • Bibimbap
  • Biscuits & Gravy
  • Falafel
  • Quesadillas
  • French Toast (fusion food!)
    Also check out, which features a bunch of the recipes above plus a healthier Waffled Eggplant Parmesan!
    Who knew?



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