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Archive for Top Pick Of The Week

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Tony Roma’s Heat & Eat Barbecue

Tony Roma's Ribs

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Spare Ribs

Top: We love these meaty boneless ribs. Center: Look for this package in your supermarket. Bottom: Baby back ribs. All photos courtesy Tony Roma’s.

 

We try to avoid barbecue joints because way beyond the barbecue, we fill up on cornbread, buttermilk biscuits, cole slaw, mac and cheese and banana pudding. We feel overstuffed now, just by thinking of it.

That’s why it was our lucky day when we accepted Tony Roma’s offer of heat-and-eat pork ribs to consider for THE NIBBLE. They’re available at supermarkets nationwide, and we’re thankful for that! (Here’s a store locator.)

They’re as good or better than what we get in restaurants…and we don’t face a menu of tempting, high-carb, high-sugar, high-fat choices. And we don’t have to make anyone’s brother’s award-winning recipe.
 
ABOUT THE RIBS

The ribs and barbecue are marinated and slow-cooked. Fully cooked and nicely sauced, we microwaved them and they were ready in minutes. We tried:

  • Tony Roma’s Baby Back Pork Ribs
  • Tony Roma’s Boneless Pork Ribs
  • Tony Roma’s BBQ Pulled Pork
  •  
    There are other choices we didn’t taste—but look forward to:

  • Pulled Chicken
  • St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs
  •  
    All are available in with either Sweet & Spicy or Sweet Hickory barbecue sauces, and all made us happy. But the boneless ribs are by far our favorite: thick slices of tender meat with no bones to contend with.

    We were in hog heaven, and the boneless ribs have joined our “addiction list”—Top Picks that we continue to buy regularly at the grocer’s.

    Now, we can enjoy delicious ribs without all the empty carb sides and without sticky fingers: We eat them with a knife and fork. We…

  • Ate them with a big, crunchy salad and homemade cole slaw (purchased a package of shredded cabbage and tossed with a light vinaigrette—and sometimes blue cheese dressing).
  • Rolled them in lettuce leaves with shredded carrots, shredded daikon and watercress.
  • Served them with sides of sweet potatoes and sautéed apples* or caramelized onions.
  • Made burritos and tacos.
  • Served three slices atop a bed of [variously] sautéed vegetables, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, grits and San Gennaro polenta.
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    *We bought a jar of Grandma Hoerner’s Big Slice, delectable and time-saving.
     
    A QUICK PORK RIBS TUTORIAL

    There are two types of barbecue preparation: dry and wet. Dry ribs are rubbed with a mixture of herbs and spices. The rubs don’t require advance preparation; they can be applied just before barbecuing. Wet ribs are basted with sauce prior to and during the barbecuing process.

  • Baby Back Ribs are sourced from the loin area. These ribs tend to be smaller in size than spare ribs, but are considered to be more tender than other rib cuts. Think of them as tender and tasty.
  • Spare Ribs, also called side ribs, are from the belly area. They are longer and fatter than baby back ribs, but less meaty. The mix of meat and fat add to their tenderness and make slow-cooking a great way to enjoy these pork ribs. They’re what you want if you love to chew on the bones.
  • Boneless Ribs are sourced from the shoulder-area of the hog. They are slow cooked at low heat until tender and then portioned into various size boneless rib pieces. Most often, boneless ribs are marinated and seasoned for tenderness.
  • St. Louis-Style Ribs are a particular cut of the pork rib. The shape is almost rectangular and bone has been removed. These are meaty and tasty ribs, typically marinated for tenderness.
  • Pulled Pork is made with meat sourced from the shoulder area. It is slow cooked at low heat until it becomes tender enough to be “pulled” apart. Most often, pulled pork is marinated and seasoned for tenderness and tastiness.
  • Types Of Pork Ribs Chart

     
    Glossary information and chart courtesy Rupari Foods, maker of Tony Roma’s retail barbecue products.
     
    LOVE PORK?

    Check our the different cuts of pork in our Pork Glossary.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Garlic Bread, Old School & New School

    American-style garlic bread is a descendant of Italian bruschetta and crostini. The first recipe we found was published in 1940 in Edith Barber’s Cook Book, written by the editor of the New York Sun food column. [Source]

    The Americanized version used a baguette or narrow loaf of Italian bread, substituted butter for oil, mixed with garlic powder/salt instead of rubbed with cut fresh garlic cloves, and topped with dried oregano. It might also include grated Parmesan or other cheese.

    The loaf is sliced vertically or horizontally, topped with the butter spread and heated in a hot oven (400°F). Often, the loaf was sliced vertically and buttered between the slices before heating. Our Mom first lightly toasted the bread slices crostini-style, though she didn’t hear the word “crostini” for decades.

    THE HISTORY OF GARLIC BREAD

    American garlic bread began life as bruschetta, a peasant food. Some sources say in was made in ancient times, others cite medieval times as the origin. It was common for Italian peasants, who lacked costly ceramics plates, to eat their meals on slices of grilled bread. Charred, bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, was grilled over the fire.

    In medieval cuisine, “sops” were common across Europe: stale bread soaked in broth, soup or wine and topped with other foods.

       

    Garlic Bread Recipe

    Classic American garlic bread. Photo courtesy La Panineria | Facebook.

     

    Over time, the recipe was refined into an antipasto (appetizer), on more easily handled small toasts. It became a popular bread basket freebie in Italian-American restaurants. By the 1990s, visitors to trendy restaurants were paying for bruschetta (grilled from a thinner loaf) or crostini (toasted from a wider loaf), with different toppings and the original olive oil and minced fresh garlic.

    These days, garlic bread is old school, and bruschetta and crostini are the rage. Here’s the old-school recipe, followed by an example of the new school.
     
    RECIPE #1: CLASSIC GARLIC BREAD (OLD SCHOOL)

    This recipe first slices the entire loaf in half, horizontally.

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 baguette (1 pound), halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat)-leaf parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE butter and garlic in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the top of the slices and sprinkle with parsley (you can also blend the parsley into the butter).

    2. PLACE on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for 8 minutes. Broil for an additional 2 minutes or until golden brown, 4-6 inches. from the heat.

    3. CUT into 2-inch slices. Serve warm.

     

    Spring Pea Crostini

    Spring Peas

    Top: Creative crostini. Bottom: Fresh green peas. Recipe and photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

     

    RECIPE #2: GARLIC CROSTINI WITH SPRING PEAS & BURRATA (NEW SCHOOL)

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 thick slices of country bread or sourdough
  • 1 eight-ounce burrata
  • ½ pound English Peas, shelled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 12-14 castelvetrano olives, pitted and roughly chopped (substitute other green olives)
  • ¼ cup parsley or mint, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. DRAIN the whey from the burrata in a colander lined with a paper towel. Don’t pierce the skin of the burrata.

    2. TOAST the bread until golden brown—even with a bit of char around the edges. Rub the tops with the cut side of the garlic and drizzle with olive oil.

    3. USE clean hands (instead of slicing) to carefully divide the burrata among the three pieces of toast, including all the creamy drippings. Divide the peas, olives and herbs among the slices.

    4. FINISH with a hearty drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cut in half or allow each dinner to do so.
     
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF BREAD

    Check them out in our Bread Glossary.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Halos, Sweet & Lovely Mandarins

    Bowl Of Halos

    Halos Peeled

    Photos: Halos, unpeeled and peeled, and perhaps the easiest fruit to peel. Photos courtesy Wonderful Foods.

     

    April is the end of the season for the sweet little mandarins called Halos. We have been enjoying them by the bagful, and in addition to flavor and nutrition, they keep us from eating refined-sugar snacks.

    They deserve their halo!

    WHAT ARE HALOS?

    The fruit aisle can be confusing. Depending on the store, you can find clementines, Cuties, Halos, Dimples, tangerines and mandarin “oranges” (mandarins are not oranges, but a different species—more about that in a minute).

    Welcome to the world of single serving, easy to peel, sweet and juicy—and branded—citrus.

    Halos, Cuties and Sweeties are mandarins from California, different brand names for what are often clementines.

    Don’t call them mandarin oranges: While both are from the genus Citrus, mandarins are a different species, just as broccoli and cabbage, both members of the genus Brassica, are different species.

    Here’s the difference (Produce Pete and Wikipedia take note!).

    From a visual perspective:

  • Oranges are medium to large round or ovoid shapes covered with a thick peel that can take time to remove. They are in the genus Citrus, with separate species (e.g. Citrus sinensis, the sweet orange group, includes the common sweet orange, blood orange, and navel orange). Sometimes they’re sweet, and sometimes they aren’t; you don’t know until you buy and try.
  • Mandarins are small and roundish with flatness on the top and bottom, and a loose, easy-to-peel skin. They are in the genus/species Citrus reticulata. The ones from California are reliably sweet and usually seedless. That’s why we prefer mandarins like Halos.
  •  
    WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT NAMES ALL ABOUT?

    Why the different names? Branding! The names are not varieties, but trademarked names, encouraging the consumer to look specifically for Cuties or Halos.

  • The Cuties trademark is owned by Sun Pacific.
  • The Halos trademark, also “Wonderful Halos,” is owned by Wonderdful Citrus, which also owns the trademarks POM Wonderful pomegranates, Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Almonds and Sweet Scarlett red grapefruit (also a passion of ours). It is the #1 mandarin brand in the U.S. and 100% California-grown (some producers may augment their domestic supply with imported fruit). Even their website sounds delicious: Wonderful.com.
  • The Dimples trademark is owned by Cecelia Packing. Dimples are a branded name for the Gold Nugget mandarin. Their season is later than clementines, beginning in April.
  • Tangerine is a different species of mandarins,—Citrus tangerina—and not a brand name.
  • Murcott is a mandarin/sweet orange hybrid. In the trade they are referred to as tangor, “tang” from tangerine and “or” from orange. They are also called the temple orange. Their thick rind is easy to peel. Some are trademarked as Golden Nugget, some as Tango.
  •  

    Now for a twist:

  • The season for California clementines is November to January.
  • A similar mandarin, the murcott, is available from February to April, and they substitute for Cuties and Halos clementines during that time.
  • Non-branded murcotts are often called clementines at retail, because the name is more familiar to consumers and it sells better.
  • If you see clementines after April, they are likely imported.
  •  
    HOW TO USE HALOS

    Like oranges, mandarins are very versatile. The first thing anyone would think of is hand fruit. The term refers to fruits small enough to eat from the palm of your hand, such as apples, pears and stone fruits—but not pineapples or other fruits that need to be cut up.

    But why stop there? Use luscious mandarins:

  • On cold or hot cereal.
  • Sliced in a cup of tea instead of lemon.
  • Juiced, or added to smoothies, cocktails and mulled wine.
  • In fruit salads, green salads and Asian chicken salads.
  • In stir-fries with proteins and/or vegetables.
  • In cake batter or cheesecake batter, or as a garnish on top.
  • Atop single crust pies or tarts, in segments or slices (we cover the entire top of a cream or custard pie with slices).
  • In puddings, gelatin and other desserts.
  • As a garnishes on desserts and beverages.
  •  
    To find a store near you, here’s the Halos store locator.
     
    MANDARIN TIPS

  • For garnishing, you can separate the segments or slice horizontally across the peeled fruit for wheels.
  • Because of their thin skin, mandarins don’t keep as long as oranges. Store them in the fridge and enjoy them within two weeks.
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    Green Salad With Clementines

    White Chocolate Tart

    Top: Toss segments into a green salad (photo courtesy Wonderful Foods). Bottom: Garnishing a white chocolate tart with a macadamia crust. Here’s the recipe from Rodale’s Organic Life.

     
    MANDARIN HISTORY

    Thanks to Etienne Rabe, Vice President, Agronomy, for Wonderful Citrus, for this history of mandarins:

    It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the name, but we know that mandarins were grown for many centuries in China. The first mandarin tree was brought to England from China in 1805, and its progeny went from England to Malta, then to Sicily and continental Italy.

    Little information is available about mandarins in Chinese literature, but as far back as 1178 C.E., Chinese author Han Yen-chih described 27 different varieties of mandarins.

    The clementine originated in North Africa and made their way to Morocco in the 1960s and Spain in the 1970s. Spain started exporting them to the East Coast of the U.S. in the 1990s.

    The murcott variety was bred in Morocco and introduced to the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

    As imported clementines became popular, American citrus growers saw the potential of the fruit…and how lucky we are!

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan’s Simply Ground is part creamy, part crunchy. Photo courtesy Mastercook.com.

     

    Something great has happened in the world of peanut butter. Peter Pan has introduced all natural Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter.

    What’s new about that, you ask? While there’s plenty of all-natural peanut butter on store shelves, Simply Ground is delightfully ground.

    Its unique texture lies between creamy and crunchy, reminiscent of finely home-grouund PB. It spreads easily and evenly and is universally useful for everything from sandwiches and soups to baking.

    There are two varieties, Original and Honey Roast, the latter with a touch of real honey. There’s not a big flavor difference; eating the peanut butter straight from the spoon is a nuanced experience. The main difference is 3g sugar per serving versus 6g sugar per serving.

    It’s a winner! National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day is April 2nd, so head to the nearest store.

    FOOD TRIVIA: Peanut butter was developed by a physician to provide a protein food to people who lost their teeth and could no longer chew meat. Here’s the history of peanut butter

     
    RECIPE 1: KING OF MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    This recipe is from Chef Spike Mendelsohn, owner of D.C. restaurant Béarnaise, a Top Chef contestant and consulting chef for Peter Pan Simply Ground.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 8 slices country bread
  • 1/2 cup Peter Pan Simply Ground Original Peanut Butter
  • ¾ cup banana slices
  • 8 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cooked
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1 cup blackberry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the blackberry topping: Combine the preserves and water in a pot add heat, stirring, until smooth. Serve on the side

    2. SPREAD the bread with peanut Butter; fill with bananas and bacon to make 4 sandwiches. Press the edges of sandwiches together to seal.

    3. HEAT a large skillet, add the butter and melt over medium heat.

    4. WHISK the egg, cinnamon and milk in bowl until well blended. Add the sandwiches, one at a time, turning to evenly moisten the bread.

    5. ADD the sandwiches to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

    ABOUT THE MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    A Monte Cristo is a fried ham or turkey sandwich with cheese. It’s an American variation of the French Croque Monsieur sandwich.

    Traditionally, the sandwich is dipped in batter and deep fried, but there are regional variations. In some regions of the U.S. it’s just grilled; in others, French toast is used as a base, with cheese melted under a broiler.

    In this version, the sandwich is fried like French Toast.

    Monte Cristo sandwiches originated in southern California; the earliest reference is printed on a 1941 menu from Gordon’s restaurant in Los Angeles and a recipe was published in the 1949 The Brown Derby Cookbook. The sandwich became very popular in the 1950s-1970s.

    Check out the different sandwich types in our Sandwich Glossary.

     

    Peanut Butter Monte Cristo Sandwich

    Peanut Butter Wraps

    Top: Spike Mendelsohn’s re-interpretation of the Monte Cristo Sandwich. Photo courtesy Peter Pan. Bottom: PB&J Lettuce Wraps. Photo courtesy CoffeeandQuinoa.com.

     

    RECIPE 2: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY LETTUCE WRAPS

    The recipe is adapted from Crofter’s Organic.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings, 4 Wraps

  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Boston lettuce or romaine leaves
  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • Mango or apricot fruit spread
  • Optional: 1/4 cup lightly crushed peanuts—raw, roasted, honey or spicy
  • Optional: peanut dipping sauce (recipe)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the spring roll wrappers by softening in hot water, one at a time to avoid sticking.

    2. SPREAD a teaspoon of peanut butter over each, followed by a teaspoon of fruit spread. Sprinkle the optional crushed nuts over the fruit spread.

    3. WRAP the lettuce over the spring roll wrappers. Cut if desired and serve.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Australian Lamb

    While Mom always served great meals, a leg of lamb was a special treat. It was the star of our yearly Easter dinner, served with mint jelly and sides of spring peas and roasted potatoes.

    When the folks from Aussie Lamb contacted us with the offer to try Australia-raised lamb, they didn’t have to twist arms. The lamb arrived frozen, but it didn’t stay that way for long. We defrosted a different cut overnight in the fridge, and the next day enjoyed an exceptional lamb dinner.

    Australia is known worldwide as a producer and exporter of high-quality lamb with a top food safety record. The lamb is 100% free-range, feeding on grass. It is all-natural, free of artificial additives including hormone.

    Naturally lean, tender and juicy with superb flavor, the lamb is aged to retain moisture and then vacuum-packed. Our “Lambathon”—three consecutive days of lamb dinners—has made us a big fan. The chops were wonderful, the rack of lamb celestial.

    All of the cuts are available, from ground meat and kabobs to shank and shoulder—for special occasions to every day. The lamb is certified Halal.

    And, it is half the price of fresh lamb (we checked prices at FreshDirect.com). No one could tell the difference.

     

    Rack Of Lamb

    Cooked Lamb Shank

    Top: Elegant rack of lamb for special occasions. Bottom: Luscious lamb shank for every day. Photos courtesy Australian Lamb.

     
    LAMB: A HEALTHY RED MEAT

    Lamb is a lean protein with low cholesterol. An average 3-ounce serving is just 175 calories. Lamb is an excellent source of protein, niacin, selenium and vitamin B12, and a good source of riboflavin.

    And here’s a surprise: Lamb has three times more iron than chicken and two times m ore iron than pork and salmon. While fish contains the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids, lean lamb is close behind.

    Australian Lamb is a healthy choice for any lifestyle—a naturally nutrient-rich food with high levels of zinc, Vitamin B12, iron, riboflavin and thiamin.

    In our neighborhood, it is carried by the best markets, Citarella and Whole Foods among them. Here’s a store locator.

    There are more recipes than you can shake a tail at, at AustralianLamb.com, along with cooking tips and a video library.

    The council will also send you a free cookbook.

    Could you ask for anything more?

      

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