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TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Cabbage Steaks

Green Cabbage

Grilled Cabbage Steaks

Crumbled Blue Cheese

Top: Take a head of cabbage (photo courtesy Good Eggs). Center: Slice it, grill it and garnish it (photo courtesy McCormick). Bottom: For better flavor, chop quality blue cheese instead of using packaged crumbles (photo courtesy KitchenHealsSoul.com).

 

What’s next after Grilled Cauliflower Steaks? Why, its cruciferous† cousin, Grilled Cabbage Steaks.

It can be a side, a vegetarian main, or part of a grain bowl. It’s just as delicious as cauliflower, and less expensive.

This recipe from McCormick adds more flavor to the thick cabbage “steaks” with a zesty marinade. Crumbled bacon, blue cheese and green onions (scallions) are popular toppers. But if you prefer a vegetarian dish, use any toppings you like, from vegetarian bacon and cheese to grilled tofu and cherry tomatoes.

An average head of cabbage can be cut into six steaks. Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.
 
RECIPE: GRILLED CABBAGE STEAKS

Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 head green cabbage, cut into six 3/4-inch thick slices
  •  
    For The Marinade

  • 1 package McCormick Grill Mates Smoky Applewood Marinade (or your own marinade*)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 6 slices bacon, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
  •  
    ________________________
    *Marinade mix comprises pre-selected seasonings, to which you add your own oil and vinegar. It’s easy to make a “freestyle” marinade from whatever you have on hand. Here’s a basic recipe: 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon each of three herbs of choice (basil, hot chile flakes, oregano, rosemary, thyme or other favorite. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (hold the pepper if using chile flakes). Or substitute lemon zest for an herb and/or lemon juice for part of the vinegar.

     

    Preparation

    1. COOK the bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Crumble the bacon and set aside.

    2. MIX the marinade packet, oil, vinegar, maple syrup and the reserved bacon drippings in small bowl until well blended. Place the cabbage steaks in large resealable plastic bag or a glass dish. Add the marinade and turn to coat well.

    3. REFRIGERATE the cabbage in the marinade for 30 minutes; longer for extra flavor. Then remove the cabbage steaks from marinade, reserving any leftover marinade (see the next section).

    4. GRILL the cabbage steaks over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until tender-crisp, brushing with the leftover marinade. Garnish with the bacon, blue cheese and green onions, and serve.
     
    Next up: Brussels Sprouts Kabobs?
     
    CAN YOU RE-USE MARINADE?

    For a meat or fish marinade, the answer is no. Potentially harmful bacteria that are killed during cooking will remain in the marinade. If you really want to re-use it, you can boil it first to kill the bacteria: Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Vegetables do not harbor harmful bacteria, so can be re-used or frozen for later use. The marinade will lose flavor each time it is frozen and defrosted, so check it after two additional uses and spruce it up with seasonings as needed.

    Here’s detailed information on marinade safety from FoodSafety.gov.
     
    ____________________________
    †The plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, Brassica, contains nutritional powerhouses that are packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). Brassica members include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga and turnips, among others. Eat up!

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Rhubarb, A Spring Favorite

    Rhubarb

    Trimmed Rhubarb

    Top: Rhubarb with its leaves. Don’t eat the leaves—they’re mildly toxic (photo courtesy OurOhio.org). Bottom: Trimmed rhubarb, as it is most often seen in stores (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco).

     

    To many foodies, the beginning of spring means asparagus, fava beans, morels, ramps, scapes and shad roe.

    We add rhubarb to that list. In North America it grows between April and June, paralleling asparagus season.

    Nana was so fond of stewed rhubarb, she made it once or twice a week during rhubarb season. She served it in a dish, like pudding, with or without heavy cream; in a compote; in a parfait; on pound cream (with whipped cream); and as a topping on ice cream.

    Her daughter, Mom, was an inveterate pie baker, turning out Rhubarb Pie, Raspberry Rhubarb Pie and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. We have a Strawberry Rhubarb Tart recipe below.
     
    RHUBARB: A VEGETABLE, NOT A FRUIT

    Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable, a member of the sorrel family. Fruits are not necessarily sweet. Tomatoes are fruit, avocados are fruit, hot chiles are fruits, cucumbers and squash are fruits.

    By botanical definition, fruits have their seeds/pits, on the inside, contained in the fruit’s ovary sac*.

    Fruits carry their seeds inside; vegetable seeds scatter in the wind. You see seeds in an apple, avocado, cucumber and tomato, but not in broccoli, carrots or lettuce. Lacking sweetness doesn’t make it a vegetable.

    Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum, is a vegetable in the Polygonaceae family. The leaf stalks (petioles) are crisp like celery with a strong, tart taste. Rhubarb looks like rosy-pink celery, but is no relation (celery is a member of the Apiaceae family).

     
    Even for a vegetable, rhubarb is very tart. Before it was served sweetened, it was added to soups (try it in lentil soup) and sauces: in the Himalayas, in Moroccan tagines and in Middle Eastern stews. Be sure to cook only the stems; the leaves are mildly toxic (they contain oxalic acid).

    But for most of us, rhubarb needs a sweetener. It’s absolutely delicious as stewed rhubarb, rhubarb ice cream, rhubarb pie and its variation in this recipe, strawberry rhubarb pie. Some people eat the stems raw by dipping them into sugar.

    Rhubarb grew wild in northwest China, and was cultivated about 5,000 years ago for medicinal purposes. It made its way west via Turkey and Russia, and was first planted in England by an apothecary in 1777. Once sweetened, it became popular for jams, sauces and crumbles.

    The thinner and darker pink the fresh rhubarb stalks are, the less tart they will be. Look for stalks that are crisp, bright pink, thin, and unblemished.
     
    _______________________
    *The only exception is the strawberry, which is not a botanical berry but an accessory fruit. True vegetables have no pit or seed sac.
     
    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB GALETTE

    This French-inspired pastry is the perfect balance of tart and sweet, prepared with fresh strawberries and peak season rhubarb enveloped inside a buttery, hand-formed crust and garnished with a touch of sparkling sugar.

    It’s a spring specialty at Hewn, an artisanal bakery in Evanston, Illinois, which advises that this pastry makes a brief appearance only during the late months of spring, when rhubarb season is at its peak.

     
    What’s A Galette?

    In the pastry world, a galette is a rustic, open-face fruit pie. It is flat, with a flaky, turned-up crust that wraps around the filling to creates a “bowl.” The Italian word is crostata.

    A galette is a pie instead of a tart because it uses a pâte brisée crust, instead of the dense, crumbly and sweet pâte sablée used for sweet tarts.

     

     
    Ingredients For A 6-Inch Galette

    For The Filling

  • 1 pint ripe strawberries, cut in quarters
  • 2 stalks of rhubarb, skin removed (use a knife to peel off the dark outside layer)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean (the other is used in the dough)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/16 teaspoon sea salt
  •  
    For The Dough

  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 sticks chilled butter, cut into tiny cubes
  • ¾ cup chilled cold water
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • Optional: fresh thyme or tarragon, chopped, to taste
  • 1 egg (whisked and used to brush the dough before baking)
  •  
    Preparation

    Make the Filling

    1. CHOP the rhubarb into ¼ inch strips. Toss the rhubarb with the quartered strawberries.

    2. ADD the sugar, vanilla bean and sea salt to the rhubarb and strawberries. Toss until it is coated.

    3. ADD the flour and mix the filling.

     
    Make the Dough

     

    Rhubarb Tart

    Stewed Rhubarb

    Top: Rhubarb Galette from Hewn; recipe included, Bottom: Nana’s favorite: stewed rhubarb. Photo courtesy Fast-Ed.com.au.

    The easiest way to make the dough is to use a food processor—but you have to make sure to not overwork the dough.

    1. USING a food processor add the salt and flour and pulse for 5 seconds. With the food processor on…

    2. SLOWLY DROP butter in, in a continuous stream. You should be able to have all the butter added within a minute. Once all the butter is added, let the processor run for 10 more seconds. The dough should look very shaggy and the butter should still be visible. Add the optional herbs.

    3. TURN to the the pulse setting and slowly pour the cold water. This is where the dough can get overworked. Once the water is added, the dough will still be shaggy and should NOT form a ball. The shaggier it is, the flakier the dough will be.

    4. SCOOP out the dough and form into a flat disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and let the dough chill for 2 hours before rolling it out.
     
    Assemble And Bake

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F (325° for a convection oven).

    2. ROLL the dough out and use a ring or bowl to trace a round. The size should be about 6 inches. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper, lay the dough ring on it sheet pan and spoon ¼ cup of the filling in the center. Fold the edges of the dough up, so it creates a pocket to contain the filling. Add the rest of the filling.

    3. BRUSH the edge of the dough with the egg wash and bake the galette for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes check: The crust should be deep golden and the filling should not be runny.

     
    ABOUT HEWN ARTISANAL BAKERY

    Founded by partners Ellen King and Julie Matthei in 2013, Hewn is a cozy neighborhood spot in a historic space. Ellen is a classically trained chef, Julie is the business director.

    Hewn sources local and seasonal ingredients from small, local farmers. The bakery’s name refers to the craftsmanship associated with making something by hand For more information, visit HewnBread.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cider Tasting For Mother’s Day

    Hard Cider & Food

    Drier ciders work better with meats. Photo courtesy Angry Orchard.

     

    Skip the Pinot Grigio and taste some cider for Mother’s Day. It’s more novel than wine, and will suit any guest:

    Cider is equally popular among men and women, whereas beer is significantly more popular among men*. Cider is also gluten-free and less filling than beer.

    While many people think “autumn” when they hear “cider,” that is true for non-alcoholic cider, which is fresh-pressed.

    Hard cider is fermented for eight weeks after the juice is pressed. The cider then matures for several months, is blended, filtered and carbonated. So the “freshest” hard cider is on the market now, not in the fall.

    Another note: In the U.S., alcoholic cider is called hard cider and apple cider/apple juice (the terms are interchangeable in the U.S.) is simply called cider.

    In the U.K. it’s the reverse: “Cider” is hard cider.

    While most cider is made from apples, you’ll also find pear cider, known in the U.K. as perry.

     
    CIDER & FOOD PAIRINGS

    Hard ciders pairs with the same foods as beer and white wine. Styles range from very dry to sweet “hard apple juice.”

  • The sweetness of cider allows you to serve desserts with it, too, especially apple desserts (pie, crumble, bread pudding).
  • For nibbles, serve hearty cheeses and charcuterie.
  • For main courses, consider barbecue, chicken, pork and sausages (beer and brats, meet cider and brats); plus soups, stews and one of our favorite pairings, cheese fondue.
  •  
    TIPS

  • In recipes, you can substitute hard cider for wine.
  • Hard cider is best served chilled or over ice.
  •  

    CIDER TASTING PARTY: WHERE TO START

    1. Gather up a dozen brands or so, and invite friends over for a hard cider tasting. You’ll find hard ciders from the U.S. and England†. Get apple cider for the kids.

    2. For serious foodies, conduct a blind tasting. Serve them in order of alcohol content, lowest to highest. Either cover up the labels with paper (we used a removable glue stick) or place each one in a paper sandwich sack (the size of a take-out coffee bag, which you can get at the nearest deli [offer to pay for them and you’ll likely get them for free]).

    3. Mark each label or bag with a number, and provide each person with a tasting notes sheet. If your group is accustomed to evaluating beer and wine, you can adapt this professional scoring sheet. We put all the descriptors in the left column of that sheet onto one piece of paper, with one for each guest. For notes, we made up a simple sheet with designated areas for rating ciders 1 through 12 (or however many ciders you’re serving) on a second sheet.

    You can also print out this Cider Tasting Wheel.

     

    Cider Goblet

    You can use any glass you like for cider; this one is popular in Europe. Photo courtesy Crispin Cider.

     
    4. Decide on the food and how many bottles of each cider you’ll need for your size crowd.

    5. Start with small pours: An ounce each of 12 cider becomes 12 ounces in relatively short order. At the end of the comparison tasting, people can go back for more.

    6. Provide “dump buckets” so participants can toss what they don’t like. These can be large tumblers or other vessels (we’ve used short vases!).

    7. Have a great time.
     
    _____________________________
    *Beer is preferred by men in terms of market penetration (+10% for men), frequency (+35% for men), and servings consumed (+33% for men).
     
    †Magners Irish Cider is the only hard cider imported from Ireland.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Oven Mitts

    When you’re working with hot oven pans, stove pot handles, steaming pasta pots and the like, you need more protection than a cloth oven mitt. Otherwise, be prepared to say “Ouch!”

    We tossed our cloth oven mitts 15 years ago when the first Orka silicone oven mitts debuted. No matter pleasing the design—or the ability to wear a matching apron—cloth mitts didn’t provide enough burn protection.

    Beyond protection against burns, cloth mitts are neither waterproof nor oil-proof—and get pretty stained pretty fast.

    If you haven’t yet heeded the call, it’s time to toss your cloth oven mitts and bring in the heavy hitter: silicone.
     
    THE SOLUTION: SUPERFLEX GLOVES FROM THE TRIUMPHANT CHEF

    While there are numerous silicone mitts on they market, we recently gave our older ones away in favor of what we think is the new best: the Silicone Flex Mitt from The Triumphant Chef.

    They’re the latest generation of silicone: super-flexible, yet still heat resistant up to 450°F.

  • The no-slip silicone grips better than cloth—and even better grip from the circle-and-spoke pattern.
  • You can flip chops, steaks, hot dogs on the grill without tools.
  • You can easily hold down a turkey or roast while you carve it.
  • You can fully clean them in the sink with soap and hot water—or in the dishwasher.
  •  
    A couple of decades ago, Playtex Living Gloves promoted themselves as “so flexible, you can pick up a dime. We didn’t easily pick up a dime with Flex Mitts, but it was a cinch to pick up a quarter.

    Like those Living Gloves, they have a soft cloth liner, here quilted. They’re currently on sale at Amazon.com for $13.83 a pair, plus a bonus silicone basting brush. The gloves are available in:

  • Black
  • Canary Yellow
  • Dark Red
  • Lime Green
  • Royal Blue
  • Royal Purple
  •  
    Get them for your favorite cooks for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, summer grilling weekends…and think ahead to Christmas season.

     
    THE HISTORY OF OVEN MITTS

    For much of man’s history, hot pots and pans were handled with cloth. One source notes that mittens have been in use for more 1,000 years for a wide range of protective purposes, including protecting hands from hot ovens.

    If so, they were abandoned somewhere along the line for the presumably more effective potholders.

    Apparently, a Texan named Earl Mitt (seriously?) came up with the idea in the early 1870s, after a bad burn while baking. In an effort to prevent getting burned again, he invented the first oven mitt from shoe leather and wool. After experimenting with different materials and designs, he finally came up with the oven mitt style of cooking glove. [Source]

    Today, the outer layers are typically made of cotton or polyester, while the inner layer is filled with an insulator fabric.

    Thanks, Earl; but they’re old technology now. Along with potholders, they provide incomplete protection against high heat, steam and oil splattering. A user can be scalded by boiling water and burned hot pans and steam.

    What are you waiting for?

     

    All Clad pot from Williams-Sonoma. It can be monogrammed!All-Clad Pasta Pot

    Tramontana Deep Fryer

    Super Flex Silicone Oven Gloves

    Super Flex Oven Mitts

    Do you really want to touch a hot pot with kitchen towels or cloth oven mitts? (All-Clad Pasta Pot and Tramontino Deep Fryer from Williams-Sonoma). Bottom: Our favorite protection, Super Flex Oven Mitts from The Triumphant Chef, with a soft quilted liner and a bonus matching basting brush.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Malbec

    Glass Of Malbec In Riedel Malbec Glass

    A glass of Malbec in the specially designed Riedel Malbec glass. Photo courtesy Riedel.

     

    Celebrated on April 17th, World Malbec Day is the perfect opportunity to open up a bottle of the wine that is Argentina’s claim to varietal fame.

    Malbec is a black grape that produces red wine—a deep purple-red in color and nearly opaque, similar to Syrah and Mourvedre.

    The original Malbec rootstock came from France, where it was widely planted in the Cahors region in the Midi-Pyrénées region of south-central France, with some in the Loire Valley of central France. Argentina now has 75% of the world’s Malbec acreage.

    Argentine Malbec is very different from its French parent. As is true among all wine grapes (and some other crops), planting the same vines in different terroirs* yield different results.

  • Argentine Malbec is fruit forward, with notes of black cherry, black plum and currant. They have lower acidity, more tannins, and fuller body than French Malbec.
  • French Malbec has moderate tannin, higher acidity and flavor notes of black pepper and spice. Because of their moderate tannin and acidity with lower alcohol, French Malbec wines tend to age longer.
  •  
    World Malbec Day commemorates April 17, 1853, when President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina launched a mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry. To start that endeavor, a French soil expert bought grape varietals from France, one of which was Malbec. During the experiment period, which planted different wines in different terroirs, Malbec proved to be a star. It flourished in the Mendoza region of Argentina, in the northwest part of the country at the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
     
    Malbec Is A Very Well-Priced Red

    As a result of the volume produced and the economics of wine production in Argentina, Malbec also proved to be a bargain. It’s a well-priced alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon. You can find many good Malbecs for $10 a bottle or less.

    You can also find bottles at twice that price, and even pricier—for example, $95 for a bottle of Cheval des Andes, a joint venture between Bordeaux’s great Chateau Cheval Blanc and Argentina’s Terrazas de los Andes.

  • Some Argentine Malbecs, like the latter, are blended with some Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/or Petit Verdot—classic grapes of Bordeaux, to give some Bordeaux style to the wines.
  • But there’s a fifth Bordeaux grape: Malbec is also grown there as a blending grape. Because the varietal has poor resistance bad weather and pests, it never became a top French varietal like Merlot and Caber.
  • Some vintners blend in a bit of Petit Syrah instead. Petit Syrah, now grown largely in Australia and California, is a cross that originated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.
  •  
    Three Favorite Malbecs From Argentina

    Our wine editor, Kris Prasad, has a fondness for Altos Las Hormigas and Alamos (one of the wines with Syrah, depending on the vintage). Both can be found for $10 or less, although special bottling (e.g., certain vineyards) cost more.

    He also likes Tinto Negro “Limestock Block,” pricier at around $15. He calls it an “interesting wine”; it is two-thirds Malbec. We haven’t had it, but we do love the label, with part of the name spelled backwards (see the photo of the label above).

     

    PAIRING MALBEC WITH FOOD

    Steak—of which Argentina has a bounty—is a classic pairing (give us a T-bone, please!). But Malbec is much more flexible than a pairing with beef. Try it with:

  • Any grilled red meat or pork (serve with some Argentine chimichurri sauce).
  • Duck and other dark-meat poultry like game birds.
  • Full-flavored fish such as salmon and tuna.
  • Braised short ribs.
  • Burgers and barbecue.
  • Pasta and pizza.
  • Blue cheese, washed rind and other strong cheeses.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Dishes with earthy or smoky flavors.
  • Dishes spiced with clove, cumin, garlic, juniper berry, smoked paprika or sumac.
  •  
    Serve it instead of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Syrah and other full-bodied reds.

    For an even bigger celebration, put on some tango music—which developed in Argentina—and dance!
     
    ___________________________
    *ABOUT TERROIR: The same rootstock that is grown in different locations produces different flavors; for example, depending on where it is grown, Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit notes—or neither. Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH, is a French agricultural term referring to the unique set of environmental factors in a specific habitat that affect a crop’s qualities. It includes climate, elevation, proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of sun. These environmental characteristics gives the wine its character. Terroir is the basis of the French A.O.C. (appellation d’origine contrôlée) system.

     

    Los Altos Malbecs

    Malbec Label

    Top: Look for Los Altos Las Hormigas Malbecs, a favorite of our wine editor. Photo courtesy Los Altos. Bottom: The quirky label of another favorite Malbec, Tinto Negro.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: First Course, Small Bites

    Ravioli Hors d'Oeuvre

    san-marzano-tomatoes-can

    Fancy Appetizers

    Top: A Swordfish-Ravioli Stack with Mexican garnishes. Photo courtesy Chef Eric LeVine. Center: Canned San Marzano tomatoes. Bottom: Chef LeVine’s delectable cookbook; photo courtesy Lyons Press.

     

    Today’s tip is that it’s easy to be creative in food preparation. Start with a first course/appetizer/starter (use the word of your choice).

    This recipe may look complicated, but putting it together is easy. The hard part was thinking it up, and that was done by Chef Eric LeVine, Food Network Chopped Champion and ICA* Chef Of The Year.

    He used Mexican seasonings, so think of serving a mini Margarita (in shot glasses or other small glasses) with the course.

    Chef Eric is also author of Small Bites Big Flavor: Simple, Savory, And Sophisticated Recipes For Entertaining. He wrote it for the home cook who wants to make imaginative and fun dishes. It’s a great start on a path to cooking more creative food.

    We’ve created our own version of his recipe.

  • If you don’t eat shellfish, substitute a ravioli of choice. For surf and turf, use meat ravioli.
  • Chef Eric made a spicy shrimp sauce. We took a simpler approach: crushed San Marzano tomatoes with minced fresh herbs.
  • The amount of fish you need will vary based on what portion size you want to serve. You can also serve the recipe as a main, by purchasing a 6-ounce swordfish steak for everyone and adding more ravioli.
  • We purchased the ravioli, pico de gallo and guacamole, making the assembly pretty speedy.
  •  
    RECIPE: TEQUILA-LIME SWORDFISH & RAVIOLI STACKS.

    Ingredients

  • Swordfish steaks, 2-4 ounces per person
  • Shrimp ravioli or substitute
  • Sauce (recipe below)
  • Fresh pico de gallo
  • Guacamole
  • Garnish: lime wedges
  •  
    For The Marinade

  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    For The Sauce

  • 1 can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves (or substitute basil or parsley, if you have them on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the marinade and marinate the swordfish steaks for 30 to 40 minutes, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge. Use a glass or ceramic dish to marinate, or plastic storage bags. While the swordfish marinates, cook the ravioli.

    2. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add a tablespoon of olive oil to keep the ravioli from sticking. Add the ravioli and stir constantly for 5 minutes, taking care not to break the ravioli. Cook to al dente, since you’ll be reheating it before serving. Remove the ravioli one-by-one with a slotted spoon and place, not touching, on a microwavable baking sheet, tray, or in a glass baking dish. Cover with foil and set aside.

    3. MAKE the sauce: Combine the tomatoes and seasonings and blend thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

    4. GRILL the swordfish over medium heat to desired doneness, 10 to 12 for medium (we like ours medium rare). Cut into pieces. We cut 6-ounce swordfish steaks into 3 pieces for a portion size of 2 stacks. You may wish to serve only one stack.

    5. MICROWAVE the ravioli and the sauce briefly to warm them.

    6. ASSEMBLE the stacks. Place a small pool of sauce on the plate, topped with a piece of swordfish, a ravioli, and a garnish of guacamole and pico de gallo. Add the lime wedge and serve.

     
    __________________
    *The International Caterers Association
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Farro, The Original Wheat & A Moroccan Chicken Recipe

    With all the focus on quinoa as the “it” grain, don’t hold yourself back from trying other ancient grains.

    Farro, an early, very tasty wheat subspecies, is also known as emmer wheat. Some people also confuse it with spelt (more about that below).

    But it shouldn’t keep you from seeking it out at better supermarkets, specialty food stores, natural foods stores or online. If you don’t like the flavor of quinoa but want more nutrition, this is a must-try.
     
    WHAT IS FARRO?

    An unhybridized ancestor of modern wheat, farro was one of the first grains cultivated by man in the Fertile Crescent, also known as The Cradle Of Civilization.

    Here’s more on the earliest cultivated crops.

    Farro was a mainstay of the daily diet in ancient Rome, and it sustained the Roman legions as they conquered Europe. It was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times.

  • Farro has a mild, nutty flavor, is high in fiber content and nutrients.
  • It can be tolerated by lightly wheat-sensitive people because it has less gluten and the glutenis more easily digested (check with your healthcare provider).
  • It has slightly more protein than modern wheat: 7 grams per 1/4 cup uncooked farrow.
  • Farro cooks like rice and other grains: Rinse, add to a pot with water or stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
  •  
    So Why Did Farrow “Go Away?”

    Because the yields aren’t as high as with other wheat species.

    Over the millennia, the tastier and more nutritious strains of many crops were abandoned in favor of strains and hybrids that produced greater yields and were less resistant to weather fluctuations, diseases and pests. Farro ceased to be cultivated, except in a few remote areas.

    (This selective breeding process was also conducted with animal species, both food animals, work animals and companion animals.)

    The growing interest in better-for-you foods has brought farro back.

       

    Farro

    Farro

    Top: A field of farrow (photo courtesy Institute For Plant Sciences | Zurich. Bottom: Farro from Anson Mills.

     
    FOOD 101: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPELT & FARRO

    It’s easy to confuse farrow and spelt. Farro looks rather like spelt, another early species of wheat; but they are not the same. Farro is emmer wheat, the original wheat. The botanical name for farro and emmer wheat is Triticum dicoccum; spelt is Triticum spelta; the most common modern wheat is Triticum aestivum.

  • Farro must be soaked (except for quick-cook brands), whereas spelt can be cooked directly from the package.
  • Cooked farro is firm and chewy; spelt is soft and becomes mushy when overcooked.
  •  
    But note: To be sure you’re getting whole grain farro, look for “whole” or “whole grain” on the label. “Pearled” or semi-pearled farrow, which is quicker cooking, is not whole grain and lacks the fiber and nutrition from the germ and bran of whole grains.

    Pearling removes the inedible hull that surrounds the grain, but the process also scours off part (semi-pearled) or all (pearled) of the nutritious germ and bran. Whole-grain farro is hulled using a gentler process that leaves the germ and bran intact.

     
    WAYS TO SERVE FARRO

    Today’s demands for better foods are bringing back some of the oldies. You can find:

  • Bob’s Red Mill Organic Farro at Whole Foods.
  • 10 Minute Farro at Trader Joe’s (see note below re pearled farro).
  • Fargo adds heft and, mouth feel and “chew” to recipes, or as a standalone side. You can serve it hot or cold, as a substitute for rice, quinoa, pasta, or other grain or starch.

  • Farro has a nutty flavor and chewy texture, similar to barley.
  • It can be added to any soup or stew.
  • It can be substituted for rice salad or pasta salad.
  • It is more flavorful than pasta.
  • Whole grain farro is high in fiber plus magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E. It has less gluten than other varieties of wheat, making it easier to digest. As with other grains, it can be ground into flour to make bread and pasta.
  •  
    Farro For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

  • Breakfast: Use farro in place of your morning oatmeal. Top it with apples, maple syrup and cinnamon.
  • Leftovers: Add any type of leftovers to farro to create a new side or salad, as we did in the photo above.
  • Lunch Salad or Side: Combine cooked farro with olive oil, tomatoes, feta and olives for a Mediterranean-inspired salad. Or try this delicious farro and beet salad recipe.
  • Rice Substitute: Cook and serve as you would serve rice.
  • Soups & Stews: Use farro in soups and stews for a heartier, earthier flavor.
  • Soup Meal: Cook farro with vegetable or chicken stock and your favorite vegetables for a warming and delicious light meal.
  •  

    Moroccan Chicken Recipe

    Farro Salad

    Top: Fragrant and flavorful: Moroccan Chicken recipe from Good Eggs. Bottom: A farrow salad can be served hot or cold. Photo © Dreamtime.

     

    RECIPE: BRAISED MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH FARRO-CARROT SALAD

    This fork-tender braised chicken recipe from Good Eggs is packed with flavor and ready in an hour.

    Don’t be fooled by the number of ingredients: This dish is deceptively simple and easy to put together. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 30 minutes.
     
    Ingredients

  • 3 pounds whole chicken legs
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Marash* chile flakes
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems sliced into thin rounds and and kept apart from the leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 bunch carrots, one diced and the rest cut into matchsticks
  • 1 dried espelette chili pepper
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • ½ can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups farro
  • Handful of almonds, lightly toasted & roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • 12 Castelvetrano olives, pitted
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  •  
    ____________________
    *Marash chile flakes are red pepper flakes from Turkey. They have a complex flavor—fruit and smoke—with moderate heat. Marash is both smokier and a bit hotter than Aleppo pepper, but you can use them interchangeably. The flakes can be blended with lemon juice and salt for a meat rub, or added to olive oil to make a vinaigrette, pasta or rice sauce. Blend the flakes with olive oil for a bread dipper, add to soups and stews, chili or any meat dish. See the different types of chiles and the different types of peppercorns.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Combine the spices—cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, cinnamon and Marash chile—in a small bowl and set aside. Pat the chicken legs dry and season with salt, pepper and about half of the spice mix.

    2. ADD 2 tablespoons of olive oil (more if needed) to an oven-safe pan large enough to fit the chicken legs and all of the vegetables. Turn the heat to medium, and when the oil is hot add the diced onion, carrot, celery and cilantro stems (not the leaves). Add a pinch of salt, the remaining spice mix, the dried espelette chile and the bay leaves. Cook until the vegetables are completely soft and the onion is a bit translucent.

    3. ADD half a can of crushed tomatoes and olives to the pan, then the chicken legs, skin-side up. Pour the chicken broth into the pan until the liquid is halfway up the chicken—you’ll want to leave some skin above the liquid so that it can crisp up in the oven.

    4. BRING the ingredients to a boil on the stovetop, then place the entire pan uncovered on the middle or bottom rack of the oven (to prevent burning) for about 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to ensure that the skin is getting crispy but not burnt: The pan can be covered with aluminum foil or a lid if it is browning too quickly. If the chicken doesn’t seem to be browning at all, move it up a rack in the oven, but watch it closely.

    5. REMOVE the pan from the oven after 30 minutes and check for doneness using a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should be 165°F. If not, place the pan it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. When it’s done, set it aside to cool for 10 minutes. While the chicken is braising in the oven…

    6. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with 2 tablespoons of salt and add 2 cups of farro. Cook according to the package instructions until al dente, then drain and let cool. Toss with a bit of olive oil to help prevent clumping.

    7. COMBINE the carrots, cilantro leaves, farro, almonds, a generous squeeze of lemon and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a mixing bowl. Toss gently and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve the farro salad alongside a chicken leg, with some braising liquid spooned over it.
     
    HERE’S ANOTHER FARRO SALAD RECIPE

    Try this Farro & Beet Salad Recipe.
      

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    TIP: Melt The Butter For Grilled Cheese

    April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day but all of April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Here are some tips from Sara Lee Artesano Bread: the three “Bs” for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich:

  • Base. The bread you choose guides the personality of your sandwich. Use one that crisps nicely on the outside—ideally not supermarket white bread.
  • Butter. While most recipes direct you to spread softened butter on the outside of the bread slices, Sara Lee recommends melting it in the pan first, then moving the bread over the melted butter. This enables every corner of bread to be coated for an even, edge-to-edge sear.
  • Blend. In grade school, grilled cheese sandwiches were most often American cheese or Velveeta, with a slice of tomato and some bacon on a lucky day. But we have grown-up palates now, and those two cheeses should go the way of Puff The Magic Dragon.
     
    THINK OUTSIDE THE VELVEETA BOX

    We respect anyone’s right to use American or Velveeta cheeses, but here are a dozen better choices: Brie, Cheddar, Emmental, Époisses, Fontina, Gruyère, Havarti, Halloumi, Mozzarella, Pepper Jack, Provolone and Taleggio (among others).

    Our personal favorite of the moment: Beecher’s Flagship—a slightly nutty blend of Cheddar and Gruyère cultures—on raisin-walnut bread; or any of those 12 cheeses on slices of a rustic loaf with tomato* and fresh basil leaves. Our forever favorite: truffle cheese!

    Don’t hesitate to pile anything on top of the cheese, from bacon and ham to condiments (caramelized onions, chiles (slices or flakes), chutney, Dijon, olives, pickles, prepared horseradish, preserves, sautéed mushrooms, tapenade, whatever) to fresh herbs, berries and apple slices. Look through the fridge and the pantry. Got capers? Use ‘em. Pickled jalapeños? Ditto.
     
    ON-TREND GRILLED CHEESE RECIPES

    Sara Lee Artesano Bread has taken three of the top food trends of 2016—Hawaiian flavors, vegetable-centric dishes and fermentation—and turned them into grilled cheese recipes.

  • Hawaiian Grilled Cheese: Pair a sharp, salty cheese with meat and fruit. For starters, try Cheddar with ham or turkey and tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple. Sara Lee’s Aloha Pork Grilled Cheese layers Hawaiian Chili Pepper Havarti (substitute Pepper Jack) with tangy pork, barbecue sauce and pineapple rings. Here’s the recipe.
  • Vegetable Grilled Cheese: Pair a sweet-and-slightly-salty cheese with leafy greens. The sweetness and saltiness of a cheese like Gruyère blends nicely with fresh greens. Try a Farm-To-Table Grilled Cheese with Gruyère, microgreens and a fried egg. Here’s the recipe.
  •  

    Fontina Grilled Cheese

    Gruyere Grilled Cheese

    Top: “Fermentation” grilled cheese with Fontina, pickles and charred red onions. Bottom: “Farm To Table” grilled cheese with Gruyère, baby arugula and cracked pepper. Both sandwiches are made with Sara Lee Artesano bread. Photos courtesy Sara Lee.

  • Fermentation Grilled Cheese: Pair a semi-soft cheese with any type of pickled vegetables. This Zesty Grilled Cheese sandwich combines Fontina cheese with spicy pickle slices, charred red onion and aïoli (garlic mayonnaise). Here’s the recipe.
  •  
    We have many more ideas for grilled cheese sandwiches. Just type into the search box at the top of the page, and get lots of options for National Grilled Cheese Month.
     
    ___________________________
    *When there are no decent tomatoes to be had, we default to sundried tomatoes or roasted red pepper (pimiento).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Roast Chicken Recipe

    Our mom was a terrific cook, of everything from the simple to the elaborate. On weekday nights, meals would be more simple: grilled meats and fish, salad, a vegetable, a starch. Once or twice a week she roasted a plump whole chicken in a countertop rotisserie, similar to this one but bigger, and without today’s multi-tasking options. It grilled meat on a spit, period.

    She gave it to us one year, when she upgraded to a new model. But as much as we loved roasting a juicy Bell & Adams chicken, taking up two feet of counter space was a hardship in a typical New York City kitchen. So one day, we passed it on to someone with enviable counter space.

    It’s easy to pick up a roasted chicken in a supermarket these days, and some markets use quality birds with a quite satisfactory result. But it’s not in our DNA to buy a pre-cooked chicken. We tried a vertical roaster from Cuisinart which saved us eight inches of footprint—but that was still too much forfeited counter space for us.

    More recently, we came across a simple broiler-and-oven roasting technique from GFF Magazine. If you have a butcher who can debone the chicken for you—or you like to do it yourself (here’s a video tutorial)—you’ll find that the roasting technique delivers the most delicious chicken: very crisp skin and very moist meat.

    The recipe was developed by Chef Daniel Patterson, whose San Francisco restaurant, Coi, earned two Michelin-stars.

    Chef Daniel finished the dish with fried herbs and an herb vinaigrette. We took a shortcut and sprinkled the cooked chicken with fresh herbs.

    It’s not Mom’s beloved rotisserie chicken, seasoned with paprika and garlic salt that scented the air, but it’s time to move on.

    RECIPE: CHEF DANIEL PATTERSON’S ROAST CHICKEN

    Ingredients For 4 to 6 Servings

  • 1 whole chicken, about 4-1/2 pounds, deboned
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Garnish: minced fresh parsley or other herb of choice
  •  

    Roast Chicken

    Whole Raw Chicken

    Top: Chef Daniel Patterson’s easy roast chicken (photo courtesy GFF Magazine). Bottom: If you have a good palate, it pays to spend extra on the best chicken (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     
    Preparation

    This recipe was made in an oven with a top broiler element. If your broiler is in a separate unit, preheat your oven to 250°F.

    1. SALT the chicken 1 to 3 hours prior to cooking and place it in the fridge. Remove it 10 minutes before cooking and place it in a rimmed pan, skin side up.

    2. ADJUST the oven rack to 3 inches from the broiler heating element, and preheat the broiler. Place the pan under the heat for 10 minutes. This browns and crisps the skin. Rotate the pan a few times for even browning.

    3. TURN the oven temperature down to 250°F and cook for an additional 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest for 5-10 minutes, cut the chicken into pieces and serve.

     
    CAN YOU NAME THE CUTS OF CHICKEN?

    There’s much more beyond breast, drumstick, thigh and wing. Check out the parts of a chicken in our Chicken Glossary. Cluck, cluck, cluck.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Let Nettle Season Pass You By

    Green Garlic Soup

    Stinging Nettles

    Green Garlic

    Top: Add nettles to soup, such as this Potato, Nettle and Green Garlic Soup. Center: Nettles. Bottom: Green garlic. Photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

     

    A year ago, we wrote about stinging nettles. also called common nettles and wild nettles. Here’s that background article.

    Today’s tip is a reminder not to let the brief season pass you by (it ends this month, depending on your location).

    WHAT ARE NETTLES?

    Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica, are slightly bitter green herbs that grow wild in the spring. Other names are common nettles and wild nettles.

    They are members of Urticaceae, family of flowering plants, also known as the Nettle Family. The family includes other useful plants, including ramie, which is used to make fabric.

    Different varieties grow worldwide, many without the sting. Those that are picked with garden gloves (rubber kitchen gloves work, too). The sting comes from chemicals* in the plant. Once stinging nettles are blanched, boiled or soaked in water, the sting is gone.

    In North America, nettles sprout up very briefly in early spring and late fall, growing like weeds at the edges of cultivated farmland. That’s why the best place to find them is farmers markets.

    Why go after something that stings? They have charming flavor, a bit like spinach with a cucumber undertone. You can use as a substitute for cooked spinach.

    You can find numerous nettles recipes online, but we’ll start you off with some soup and pesto.
     
    RECIPE #1: POTATO, NETTLE & GREEN GARLIC SOUP

    This recipe, from Good Eggs, unites two limited spring vegetables: nettles and green garlic. The soup tastes even better the next day. Prep time is 20 minutes, total time is 45 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 2 pound waxy or all-purpose potatoes, rinsed well and cut into 1″ pieces
  • Salt
  • 3 stalks green garlic, white parts minced and green parts set aside
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups nettles, carefully de-stemmed and washed (substitute spinach)
  • Garnish: ½ cup crème fraîche (substitute plain Greek yogurt)
  • Garnish: ½ cup parsley, rinsed and patted dry
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons chives, chopped finely
  •  
    ________________________
    *In the stinging varieties, hollow stinging hairs on the leaves and stems called trichomes inject three chemicals when touched by humans and other animals: histamine which irritates the skin, acetylcholine which causes a burning feeling, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to relay signals in the brain. They produce a rash that can be treated with an anti-itch cream, aloe vera or baking soda. But the protective chemicals doesn’t do a good job of keeping us away from nettles: They have a long history of use as a medicine and food source. Further, they need to be eaten before they begin to flower and produce other compounds that cause stomach irritation. (Perhaps serve them with some fugu—blowfish?)
     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Salt the water generously—it should be salty as ocean water—and add the bay leaves and a handful of the green garlic tops. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 25-30, minutes or until potatoes are soft but not falling apart. Drain in a colander and cool by spreading the potatoes in a single flat layer on a tray. While potatoes are boiling…

    2. SAUTÉ the onion in a large stock pot with a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil over medium-low heat, until soft and translucent. Add the minced green garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes, until soft and aromatic.

    3. HALVE or quarter the cooled potatoes, depending on size, and add to the onions and garlic. Stir gently to combine. Add the chicken stock to the pot until the potatoes are just covered; bring to a boil.

    4. TURN off the heat and purée half the soup in a blender. Use a kitchen towel to hold down the lid of the blender and be careful of steam and hot splashes. You can also use an immersion blender. If you prefer a more rustic soup, you can lightly mash the potatoes with the back of a spoon or a potato masher, instead of puréeing.

    5. USE protective gloves, a kitchen towel or tongs and carefully de-stem and wash the nettles (we cut them from the stems with a kitchen scissors). Drain them in a colander, then chop roughly. Fold into the hot soup and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve hot with a generous dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of chives and parsley.

     

    RECIPE #2: NETTLE & PISTACHIO PESTO

    Nettles make a delicious pesto; here are 20+ ways to use pesto.

    This recipe is from Quinciple.com, a premier meal delivery service.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup stinging nettle leaves, de-stemmed
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, toasted
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup packed Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated (substitute freshly grated Parmesan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. DE-STEM the nettle leaves: Hold onto the stem with tongs and use your other hand to carefully snip the leaves with kitchen scissors.

    2. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the nettles by adding the leaves to the water for 1-2 minutes. Remove them with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place them in an ice bath (a bowl with water with ice cubes) to cool. Once the nettles are cool to the touch, strain and squeeze all water from the leaves.

    3. ROUGHLY CHOP the blanched leaves and add them to a food processor with the garlic, pistachios, lemon juice and zest, cheese, salt and pepper. Pulse into a coarse paste. Then stream in the olive oil to the desired consistency or about 1/3. Serve immediately or store in a jar for up to 5 days.
     
    MORE WAYS 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 their soft, salty flavor.

  • Have them for breakfast, in omelets or scrambled eggs.
  • Add them to soup stocks or stews, where they’ll contribute a rich earthy/briny flavor. Some combinations include nettle-potato soup (recipe above), nettle-garlic, nettle-sorrel and just plain nettle.
  • Use them instead of spinach in a nettle & artichoke dip.
  • Steam and add them to enchiladas.
  • Add them to lasagna or risotto; top a pizza.
  • Purée them as a sauce for chicken, fish and seafood.
  •  

    Nettle Pesto Recipe

    Nettles

    Nettle pesto from Quinciple.com.

  • Combine them with spinach and/or mushrooms as a side, add them to a goat cheese tart, spanakopita, quiche, etc.
  •  
    Until next spring!

      

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