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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Fresh Herbs

TIP OF THE DAY: American Bruschetta & Beet Swath

This beautiful plate from Gardenia restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village is a composition of grilled mackerel, butternut squash and endive, garnished with baby greens dressed in vinaigrette and a dollop of pesto.

But what really stood out to us is what we’ve named “American bruschetta,” a square of crustless white toast, topped with pickled vegetables, a gherkin and an herb leaf tossed in vinaigrette (shown on the bottom left of the plate).

If this is “American bruschetta,” what’s Italian bruschetta? Here’s the scoop, including the difference between bruschetta and crostini. (NOTE: Pronounce it broo-skett-a, not broo-shett-a.)

You don’t need a baguette or other crusty loaf that serves as the foundation of classic bruschetta.

  • Toast anything—from ordinary white bread to raisin walnut bread.
  • Top it with anything that complements the entrée. Look in your fridge, pantry, freezer.
  • Use up leftovers.
  • Have fun with your creation.



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    Check out the crustless toast topped with veggies. This bruschetta, along with the, orange squash and swath of burgundy beet purée, add vibrant color to the plate. Photo courtesy Gardenia Restaurant | NYC.

  • Cheese: goat cheese, crème fraîche, fromage blanc or other mild cheese on raisin bread or walnut bread (or a raisin-walnut-semolina combination)
  • Condiments: chutney, compound butter, olives
  • Fish: anchovies, caviar/roe, sardines, shellfish
  • Meat: bacon, sausage, other charcuterie
  • Spreads: egg salad, guacamole, Middle Eastern (babaganoush, hummus, tzatziki, etc.), spreadable pâté, tapenade, pimento cheese or other cheese spread
  • Vegetables: fresh (baby arugula, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers or watercress are easy), pickled, puréed cooked vegetables
  • Whatever you have at hand (yesterday we used leftover creamy polenta garnished with sliced olives and pimento

  • Butter, mayonnaise, mustard, olive oil, vinaigrette, yogurt or other binder as needed, to anchor dry ingredients to the bread
  • Garnishes: sliced chiles, herbs, gherkins, spices, etc.

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    Duck breast with carrot purée. Photo courtesy



    1. ASSEMBLE the ingredients. Grill or toast the bread (in a toaster or under the broiler). Remove the crusts as desired.

    2. SPREAD a binder, if necessary, on the bread.

    3. TOP with the featured ingredients and serve.

    Painted swaths of fruit or vegetable purée are clever ways to add color to a plate. Use them along with entrées that are beige, brown or white—which includes every protein we can think of except crab, shrimp and lobster (fish, meat, poultry, seitan, tofu).

    That also goes for most standard starches: beans, potatoes, noodles, white and brown rice and most other grains.

    Even if you have another bright color on the plate—butternut squash, carrots, corn, green beans, etc.—you can round out the plate with a swath of a different color.

    No time to cook vegetables for your color splash? Canned beets and carrots work well: Just drain and purée.


  • Bright colored fruit or vegetable—green, orange, red, yellow
  • Seasonings to taste—anything from salt and pepper to curry, garlic, etc.

    1. PURÉE and seasonthe cooked vegetable.

    2. USE a silicon basting brush to paint a swath of purée across the plate.



    FOOD FUN: Corn Custard & Popcorn

    Before the summer corn fades away, make corn custard—and for fun, serve it with a side of popcorn. It’s not just for Thanksgiving, a traditional time for corn custard (also called corn pudding and corn casserole, even corn soufflé; but the latter should be an airy soufflé, not a custard dish).

    But by Thanksgiving, fresh corn is a distant memory, and canned or frozen corn must be employed. So make hay—or corn custard—while the sun shines on fresh summer corn.

    Corn custard is typically served as a side, but you can make an first course with it, along with optional garnishes. In this recipe, we make individual corn custards that are better for a first course.

    Or, you can place them in the middle of your green salad, as part of the salad course.

    Prep time is 20 minutes, inactive time is 15 minutes, cook time is 1 hour 10 minutes (total time 1 hour 45 minutes). This recipe was adapted from one by Nealey Dozier on


    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen sweet yellow corn (thawed if frozen)

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    Turn summer corn into corn custard, with a side of popcorn for fun and fiber. Photo courtesy KITCHENiNC | Boston.

  • Plate garnish: popcorn
  • Custard garnishes: bacon crumbles and snipped chives, jalapeño, chopped fresh or sundried tomatoes

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    Take advantage of fresh corn for this recipe. Photo of bicolor corn courtesy Good Eggs.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Lightly coat 8 individual soufflé dishes, ramekins or Mason jars (4 to 5 ounces each) with butter or cooking spray. Place in a shallow baking pan or on a cookie sheet (preferably with a rim).

    2. ADD the sugar and eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), and beat until light and frothy (approximately 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the flour, salt and baking powder and beat for an additional 3 minutes, until the mixture is airy and foamy. Fold in the heavy cream and milk until thoroughly combined.

    4. STIR the corn and melted butter together and divide evenly among the ramekins. Pour the batter over the corn mixture, filling each dish almost to the top.

    5. BAKE the custards for 60 to 70 minutes, rotating the pan once, until the filling is set and the top is golden brown. Remove the ramekins and cool on a wire rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes before serving, to allow custard to firm up.

    6. GARNISH the custards as desired, and garnish each plate with popcorn.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Portabella Salad

    Whether you’re planning for meatless Monday or looking for something tasty to grill on any other day, how about a meaty grilled portabella salad?

    Grill not only the mushrooms, but red and yellow bell peppers and anything else you’d like to add to it, including polenta (see photo below).

    Place the grilled veggies atop your favorite greens, with an optional garnish of crumbled feta or goat cheese and a vinaigrette.


    How can one mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, have three different spellings? After all, carrot is carrot, tomato is tomato, zucchini is zucchini.

    The answer: When Americans began to grow and sell them in the 1980s, it was a very small output. The growers, initially Italian Americans who grew the creminis they liked from the old country (creminis are the young form of portabellas), named it. Portabella means “beautiful door; portobello means “beautiful port.”


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    A grilled portabella salad on baby greens, with grilled bell peppers, balsamic vinaigrette and a garnish of crumbled feta. Photo courtesy Davio’s Boston | Boston.

    Or perhaps, as you’ll read below, someone with marketing chops realized it needed a glamorous name in order to sell the mushrooms.

    According to Food Timeline, food experts generally agree on these points when it comes to the history of portabellas:

  • The mushroom was developed in southeastern Pennsylvania from the Italian cremini—which, we must point out, is also spelled crimini, and also called the brown mushroom, Italian brown mushroom and Roman mushroom. Newer “marketable” names including baby portobellos, mini bellas and portabellinis. “Baby Bella” is a trademarked name.
  • A 1996 article in Nation’s Restaurant News noted that many of the mushroom farmers were of Italian origin. While they originally produced the creminis they knew from Italy, there was no market: The public wanted pristine white mushrooms. The back-to-earth movement of the 1960s and 1970s opened the door for the growers to make another stab at selling creminis.
  • By accident, growers found that creminis that weren’t harvested grew into extra-large mushrooms. These large mushrooms are here today despite early efforts to thwart them. In a 1996 article in Nation’s Restaurant News on the growing popularity of portabellas, Wade Whitfield of the Mushroom Council, an industry trade group, noted, “They are really culls. You didn’t want them in the mushroom bed. [Growers] would throw them away. There was no market. Growers would take them home.”
  • Whitfield then noted: “This thing has gone from nearly zero in 1993 to a predicted 30 million pounds this year. It’s a major item. It will be the largest specialty mushroom.” Both cremini and portobello mushrooms are first mentioned in the New York Times during the mid 1980s.
  • According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, “‘portobello’ began to be used in the 1980s as a brilliant marketing ploy to popularize an unglamorous mushroom that, more often than not, had to be disposed of because growers couldn’t sell them.”
  • There is no definitive spelling. According to Food Timeline, an un-scientific Google survey at one point showed that portobello got the most searches (169,000), followed by portabella (33,100) and portobella (3,510). Wade Whitfield noted The Mushroom Council preferred “portabella”; we use “portabella” because we prefer how it rolls off the tongue.

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    Grilled polenta and portabellas are a delicious pairing. Add arugula, shaved Parmesan and a balsamic vinegar reduction Photo courtesy Urban Accents.



    Ingredients For 8 Side Salads

  • 8 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed* and brushed clean
  • Olive oil for grilling, plus extra virgin olive oil for dressing
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 large red yellow bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary for dressing
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 package (4 to 5 ounces) baby greens
  • 1 large handful baby arugula (substitute baby spinach)
  • Optional garnish: shaved Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta
    *Save the stems for an omelet or another salad. To clean mushrooms,
    first use a mushroom brush (much more delicate than a regular vegetable brush) and remove any remaining dirt with a slightly damp paper towel.


    1. PREHEAT the grill to medium. Brush both sides of the mushrooms with olive oil. Halve and seed the bell peppers.

    2. PLACE the mushrooms and bell peppers on the rack and grill until tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    3. CUT the peppers into strips. You can also cut the mushrooms into strips, but they make a nicer presentation whole.

    4. MAKE the dressing: Combine 1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil in a blender or food processor with the balsamic vinegar, minced garlic and chopped fresh rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    5. CREATE a bed of greens on individual serving plates. Place the mushroom in the center, surrounded by pepper strips. Place some arugula in the center of each mushroom. Garnish as desired with cheese. Drizzle with dressing serve.



    FOOD FUN: Summer Caprese Salad With Flowers

    We saw this photo on and thought: We must make this!

    It’s a miniaturized Caprese Salad, with these substitutions:

  • Bite-size mozzarella balls instead of sliced mozzarella
  • Cherry and/or grape tomatoes instead of sliced beefsteak tomatoes
  • Baby basil leaves instead of large leaves
  • A garnish of edible, summery flowers
    It’s a beautiful summer salad; and since good cherry tomatoes can be found year-round, it’s also a treat for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

    For more food fun, you can serve the salad in individual Martini glasses.



  • Bocconcini, bite-size mozzarella balls, or the tinier pearl-size perlini
  • Cherry tomatoes, ideally heirloom in an array of colors


    We call this salad “Flower Power.” Photo courtesy

  • Optional: yellow grape tomatoes for contrast
  • Small basil leaves (if you can’t find any, make a chiffonade of regular leaves)
  • Edible flowers (more information)
  • Good olive oil (infused olive oil—basil, rosemary, etc.—is great)
  • Vinegar, lemon or lime juice (we like balsamic, but anything works)

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    Cacio di Roma. Photo courtesy Cheese Of The Month Club.



    You can dress the salad in oil and vinegar, allow guests to pour their own from cruets, or drizzle olive oil and vinegar on the plate before adding the salad, and allow guests to “swoosh” the tomatoes in it.

    1. TOSS the tomatoes with a small amount of salt. Combine in a mixing bowl with the drained bocconcini and herbs.

    2. SERVE on a platter or shallow glass bowl or on individual plates.

    Formally called Cacio de Roma, cacio is a semi-soft Italian cheese originally made in the countryside outside of Rome from sheep’s milk. Cacio simply means cheese in some dialects (formaggio is the word used universally in Italy).

    The cheese—not readily found in the U.S.—is made in small rounds called caciotta and aged for about one month. It is a classic sheep’s milk cheese. Like mozzarella, made from the milk of cows or water buffalo, it melts very well for cooking and is enjoyed as a snack, with pasta, pizza and salad.

    Like most recipes, Caprese salad has evolved.

    The original name originated on the island of Capri, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. The island has been a resort since Roman Times.

    But Caprese Salad is a more modern invention, dating (by name, anyway) to the early 20th century. The original salad was made with four ingredients: cacio cheese, beefsteak-type tomatoes called cuore di bue (steer’s heart), whole basil leaves and olive oil.

    Later, possibly after World War II when American tourists ventured to Capri (it was a Jet Set favorite), sliced mozzarella (fior di latte or bufala) replaced cacio and the recipe spread throughout Italy and overseas with the tourists who loved it.

    In classic style, slices of mozzarella and tomatoes plus the basil leaves were overlapped on a plate, drizzled with olive oil.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Oven-Dried Tomatoes

    Sun-dried tomatoes are delicious year-round; but according to the USDA, few if any store-bought sun-dried tomatoes are dried in the sun. The original technique, indeed, was to dry the tomatoes in the sun over the course of several days.

    These days, most “sun-dried” tomatoes are oven-dried. However, they taste the same, or even better, when dried in an oven or food dehydrator.

    The drying process gives the tomatoes a long shelf life, since most of the moisture, on which decay-inducing bacteria thrive, is removed (the same strategy as with jerky).

    Sun dried vs. sun-dried vs. sundried? Any of the three spellings is correct.


    If you have a bumper crop of tomatoes, or there’s a big sale, you can use this technique to create homemade dried tomatoes. Freshly made, they’re still tender and succulent.

    Instead of drying tomatoes in the sun, oven drying is a more efficient method. The task is complete in three hours at the lowest heat setting, instead of several days. You can also use a food dehydrator.

    Of course, if you’d like the authentic experience, you can leave the tomatoes in the hot summer sun for two days or more, taking them in at night. (The oven is looking even better now, isn’t it?)


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    Sun-dried tomatoes. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci, producer of premium sun-dried tomatoes.


    You can dry any tomato—beefsteak, cherry, grape, or other variety. But plum tomatoes, a type of roma tomato, are the most popular. The walls are thicker, meatier and have less water.

    The tomatoes must be ripe but still firm (i.e., not overripe). While it’s not an exact science, five pounds of fresh tomatoes yield about two cups of dried tomatoes. The tomatoes will shrink to about a quarter of their original size.


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    Have extra sundried tomatoes? Bring them as gifts. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.




  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil, oregano or thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

    1. SLICE the tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove the tough part on the stem end. Also cut away any soft, bruised flesh. Cherry tomatoes need only be halved; but larger tomatoes should be halved again, into a total of four quarters.

    2. SCOOP out most of the seeds, sprinkle with salt and let them sit skin side up for 15-20 minutes. The excess liquid will drain out, and the oven drying will go faster.


    3. PREHEAT the oven to 200°F (some people use a lower temperature, e.g. 150°F, but this will take double the time).

    4. PLACE the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, black pepper and olive oil in a large bowl and gently toss to combine. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, lined with parchment. Sprinkle any garlic and oregano in the bowl on top of the tomatoes.

    5. DRY for up to three hours. Flip the tomatoes halfway through. The amount of time will vary, depending on the water content of the tomatoes, the thickness of the slices, and air circulate (expert home cooks place the tomatoes on screens instead of in pans, to abet air circulation).

    6. CHECK for doneness. The tomatoes should be flexible and tender, not dry and hard. Remove from the oven

    7. COOL to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes. Store in heavy-duty freezer bags, either vacuum-sealed or with the air pressed out. We discovered this technique from Don’t overfill the bag, and press out the air pockets. Seal the top of the bag, leaving enough space to insert a soda straw. Suck the air out through the straw. When finished, press straw closed at the insertion point, and finish pressing the bag closed as you remove it.

    8. STORE in a cool, dry place. Keeping them airtight is key; the dried tomatoes will quickly reabsorb moisture and go moldy. If you see any condensation in the bag or other container, remove the tomatoes immediately and put them put them back in the oven to dry.

    The tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks, and in the freezer for up to 12 months. To give them as a gift, place in a sterilized glass jar with regular or infused olive oil, and the instructions to use up within a week.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Israeli Salad

    Israeli salad (salat yerakot, vegetable salad*, in Hebrew) is a chopped salad of diced tomato and cucumber. It can also include bell pepper, onion, and parsley (that’s the way we like it). Other ingredients, such as carrot and ethnic-specific ingredients (more about that in a few paragraphs) can be added. The dressing is fresh lemon juice, olive oil or both. A dash of sumac or za’atar (see below) is optional.

    In Israel, the ingredients are diced very fine, and it is a badge of honor among cooks to dice as finely and perfectly as possible. Chunkier versions appear in the U.S.

    As a kibbutz tradition in Israel (and now ubiquitous at restaurants and cafés), Israeli salad is typically eaten for breakfast, along with a host of other options†. It is also served as a side dish at lunch and dinner, and added to pita along with falafel or shawarma.


    Israeli salad is actually an Arab salad, adapted from a Palestinian country salad and popularized in the kibbutzes of Israel. Variations include ancestral seasonings: chopped ginger and green chili peppers show India influences, preserved lemon peel and cayenne pepper are popular with North African Jews. Bukharan Jews, who immigrated from Central Asia, dress the salad with vinegar only. A Persian variation substitutes mint for parsley.


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    Israeli salad: refreshing, low in calories and good for you. Photo © Pushiama | IST.


    Truth be told, although an ideal Israeli salad is known for its fine, even dice, dicing is our least favorite kitchen task. So we make a medium dice, imperfect in every way, and it works just fine.

    You can serve Israeli salad plain or with greens underneath; as a side dish; in a pita with hummus, falafel or both; and on a mezze plate with hummus, babaganoush, grape leaves, tabbouleh and tzatziki or labneh. Add feta and Kalamata olives for a Greek salad, and on top of that, add chickpeas for a Middle Eastern salad.

  • 6 Persian‡ cucumbers or 3 peeled Kirbys, finely chopped (no need to peel the Persian cukes)
  • 4 plum, San Marzano or other roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced, or equivalent red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional seasoning: sumac or za’atar (see below)

  • Pita triangles, warmed or toasted
    *Israeli salad is also called salat katzutz (Hebrew for chopped salad) and salat aravi (Hebrew for Arab salad).

    †The Israeli breakfast is a dairy meal (meatless), starting with eggs in different styles, including shakshouka (recipe), eggs poached in a spicy tomato. In addition to Israeli salad, other Middle Eastern dishes may be served, such as baba ghanoush (eggplant spread), hummus and labaneh, a thick-strained yogurt. The options continue with breads, cheeses and fish, such as pickled herring, sardines and smoked salmon; olives and fresh vegetables (cucumbers, green bell peppers, onions, radishes, shredded carrots, tomatoes).


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    Persian cucumbers. Photo courtesy John Vena Produce.



    1. COMBINE all ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, along with the optional sumac and za’atar.

    Persian Cucumbers

    Persian cucumbers don’t require peeling. They were developed in 1939 on a kibbutz in northern Israeli; the local cucumbers were small and tasty but susceptible to rot and disease. The breeders hybridized them with cucumbers from China, India, Japan, Surinam and the U.S. to improve disease resistance; and crossed them with English and Dutch varieties to be seedless.

    The result was a small, very flavorful cucumber with crisp, sweet, succulent flesh, a smooth, thin, edible skin and without developed seeds. [Source]

    They range from four to six inches in length. In Israel, the variety was called Beit Alpha, after its birthplace. Some American growers called it a Persian cucumber or Lebanese cucumber. You can find them at farmers markets, higher-end supermarkets (we found them at Trader Joe’s). Or, buy Persian cucumber seeds,also called baby cucumbers, and grow your own.


    Sumac is ground from a red berry-like drupe that grows in clusters on bushes in subtropical and temperate regions. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice. (One of the species not used is the poison sumac shrub.)

    The word “sumac” comes from the old Syriac Aramaic summaq, meaning red. In Middle Eastern cuisine, the spice is used to add a tangy, lemony taste to meats and salads; and to garnish hummus and rice. The spice is also a component of the popular spice blend, za’atar, below.

    Also spelled zahtar, za’atar is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines. It is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries, which impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

    Traditional ingredients include marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac. Za’atar is used to season meat and vegetables, mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread, added to hummus, and for a modern touch, sprinkled on pizza, especially ones with feta cheese.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Mix Zucchini Ribbons With Pasta

    When we were 10 years old, Mom planted zucchini in the backyard. We watched in awe as they multiplied faster than the brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene from Fantasia. It wasn’t a big plot—maybe 6′ x 8’—but it produced so much zucchini, we couldn’t eat half of it, and gave the rest away.

    A pre-tip tip: Pick or buy zucchini on the smaller side. As they get bigger, they get more watery and bland. We left a few on the vine until the end of the season. There’s a photo of us with our brother, holding up one that grew to three feet long and very wide in girth. (According to Guinness World Records, the longest zucchini measured 7 ft 10.3 inches, harvested in October 2005 in a home garden in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.)


    That summer Mom made zucchini crudités with dips; zucchini grilled, steamed, stewed, stir-fried, stuffed and baked; zucchini bread and muffins; zucchini casseroles and lasagna; zucchini pickles and salads; zucchini soup and our very favorite childhood recipe, fried zucchini with a squeeze of lemon (and of course, ketchup).

    Much of the zucchini we gave away to our grandmother was returned to our home as ratatouille, a delicious Provençal summer dish that also includes bell peppers, eggplant, garlic, onions and tomatoes.


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    Regular pasta ribbons mixed with zucchini ribbons, to create a fun dish that really cuts down on calories. Photo courtesy Vegetarian Everyday Cookbook.

    Here’s Nana’s recipe. It can be served hot or cold, or used as a topping for bruschetta or crostini. Serving it chilled or room temperature, topped with Greek yogurt and a chiffonade of fresh basil, is a delicious first course with toasts or crackers, Or, use it to top salad fixings, and garnished with black olives.


    August 8th, National Zucchini Day, is a good day for zucchini in any form. Last year, we made zucchini “pasta” with the Microplane Spiral Cutter, a gadget that peels whole zucchini into pasta-like strands (it does the same with cucumbers, carrots and other root vegetables). You can use a box grater, but for less than $15, this gadget makes it easy.

    Since then, we’ve been playing with other ways to use zucchini pasta, including swirling the uncooked ribbons into a bird’s nest shape, filled with deviled eggs, egg salad, scrambled eggs and, beyond the nest-and-eggs theme, with marinated cherry tomatoes and other salad ingredients.

    But today, we share this idea sent to us from Good Eggs [a supplier of the exceptional produce and specialty foods], excerpted from The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook: A Year of Cooking on Martha’s Vineyard.

    The recipe combines conventional ribbon pasta (long strands, like spaghetti and fettuccine) with zucchini ribbons, and makes the pasta dish more nutritious. Zucchini contains lots of vitamin C, plus B6, magnesium, iron and calcium.

    But more important to most people, cooked zucchini has just 20 calories per cup, compared with 182 calories for pasta (174 calories for whole wheat pasta). Do the math—and use whole wheat pasta instead of refined white flour pasta for lots more fiber.

    Crab adds a touch of elegance to this pasta dish, but you can use any seafood (clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, etc.) or make a vegetarian version.


  • ½ pound picked crabmeat
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 medium summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini or one of each)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces thick spaghetti or bucatini*
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, cut in slivers
  • Juice of ½ lemon
    *Barilla makes both of these round ribbon pasta shapes. However, since the zucchini ribbons are flat, we went with fettuccine, a flat ribbon pasta (linguine is a thinner version).


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    Who’d have guessed it’s zucchini? Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog. See our Pasta Glossary for the different pasta shapes.



    1. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil.

    2. COMBINE in a small bowl the crab, jalapeño and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Chop half of the mint and mix gently with the crab.

    3. PUT the remaining mint in a second bowl. Grate the squash using a large-hold grater, stopping short of the seedy cores. Add the squash to the mint along with vinegar, garlic, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix and set aside.

    4. COOK the pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the marinated crab, marinated squash and basil and heat through.

    5. DRAIN the pasta, reserving some pasta water. Add the pasta to the crab mixture along with some reserved pasta water (enough to loosen the sauce). Heat, tossing to mix well. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.


    A botanical fruit†, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, used as a savory dish or accompaniment (with the exception of zucchini bread and muffins).

    All squash originated in Central and South America, and was eaten for thousands of years before Europeans discovered it in the 16th century. It grew in different shapes, including round zucchini balls that you can grow from heirloom seeds.

    Christopher Columbus originally brought seeds to the Mediterranean region and Africa. However, the long, green zucchini that have become the standard were developed at the end of the 19th century near Milan, Italy.

    Zucchini, Cucurbita pepo, is a member of the cucumber and melon family, Cucurbitaceae. The word squash comes from the Narraganset language of the Native Americans of Rhode Island, who grew askutasquash, “a green thing eaten raw.” The Pilgrims had difficulty pronouncing the whole word, and shortened it to squash. It was an important food crop for both peoples.

    The word zucchini comes from the Italian zucchino, meaning a small squash (zucca is the word for pumpkin).

    A word about squash blossoms: A long orange blossom grows on the end of each emerging zucchini. It is considered a delicacy, and can be stuffed and fried or pan-fried plain. Alas, this treat was not widely known in our youth, and Mom simply tossed them out.

    †All squash are botanical fruits. Zucchini is the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. Here’s the difference between fruits and vegetables.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Elote & Esquites, Mexican Corn Recipes

    Elote is the Mexican version of corn on the cob, a popular street food. The ear of corn is roasted or boiled in the husk, then husked and served on a stick with condiments. If the kernels are removed from the corn and served in a bowl, the dish is called esquites. These recipes are also made at home, where corn holders often replace the stick.

    Corn on a stick has become popular in the U.S. at state fairs, and as street food in areas as disperse as Chicago and Texas.

    Elote is the word for corn in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs (the Spanish word for corn is maíz). The cooked corn is served with a range of condiments: butter, cotija cheese (and/or feta in the U.S.), chili powder, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise, sour cream (crema in Mexico) and salt. Popular combinations include chili powder and lime juice in Mexico, butter and cheese in the U.S.

    In some areas of Mexico, the cooked kernels are cut into a bowl, topped with the same condiments and eaten with a spoon. This variation is called esquites (or ezquites) in southern and central Mexico, and troles or trolelotes in the north. (The word esquites comes from the Nahuatl word ízquitl, toasted corn.)


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/elote iwashyoudry 230

    Make elote at home. Photo courtesy


    Our colleague Hannah Kaminsky created what she calls “corn porn.”

    “The simplest elements of a meal,” says Hannah, “those unassuming side dishes that are all too often overshadowed by flashier, more expensive or more complex main dishes, serve up far more nuance than they’re given credit for. A perfect example of this is the humble ear of corn.

    “As summer marches on and those golden yellow kernels swell larger, juicier and sweeter underneath the hot sun, truly sumptuous fresh corn is a rare treat despite its ubiquity. A whole world of flavor can be found within those pale green husks, just beyond the tangled forest of corn silk, if only one knows how coax it out.

    “Finesse is the key to letting such a pared-down dish shine, accentuating the inherent flavor of is base ingredients without covering them up with a heavy-handed smattering of seasonings. Elote, served up either straight on the cob or sheared off and mixed up in the trolelotes presentation, is worth getting excited about.”

    A vegan, Hannah eschews the butter, cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream used to bind the seasonings. Instead, she created the vegan sauce recipe below and serves the corn esquitas-style, as kernels in a bowl.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/trolelotes shopcookserve 230

    Trolelotes, garnished with butter, cheese, chili powder, lime and mayonnaise. Photo courtesy Here’s their trolelotes recipe.



    Don’t want cashew sauce? Load up on the original condiments: butter, cotija cheese (substitute feta or use both), chili powder, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise and sour cream.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 8 ears sweet corn, husked
  • 2 tablespoons oliveoil
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 clove garlic, eoughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • Optional garnish: chili powder
  • Preparation

    1. SOAK the cashews for 3 hours and thoroughly drain them.

    2. MAKE the sauce. Place the cashews, garlic and lime juice in a food processor and pulse to combine. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula so that the nuts are fairly well broken down. Add the nutritional yeast, agave, paprika, cayenne and salt, pulsing to incorporate.

    3. DRIZZLE in the water, allowing the motor to run slowly to blend thoroughly. The sauce should still be a bit coarse in texture, and the small pieces of cashew that remain will emulate the traditional curds of cotija cheese.

    4. COOK the corn on a hot grill, or indoors on a large griddle over high heat. Depending on the size of your cooking surface, you may need to work in batches since the corn must make full contact directly with the surface. Lightly brush the corn with oil and grill the corn until lightly charred, turning as needed. This process should take approximately 10 minutes, but let the color of the corn serve as your guide. Set aside to cool.

    5. CUT the kernels off the corn cobs and place them in a large bowl. Pour the cashew sauce on top and mix thoroughly. Add the fresh cilantro, tossing to combine. Divide the corn into 6 to 8 cups or bowls and top with a sprinkle of chili powder.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Food In A Martini Glass


    A Caprese salad, made with cherry tomatoes
    and bocconcini.* Photo courtesy Inspire,
    Design and Create. Here’s the recipe.


    If you own Martini glasses but don’t use them often enough to justify the space, send them from the bar to the kitchen. When they come out, filled with food instead of drink, family and friends will be delighted. If you have oversize Martini glasses, so much the better.


  • Bread pudding, custard, mousse, other puddings
  • Caprese salad with cherry tomatoes and bocconcini substituting for sliced tomato and mozzarella (photo at left)
  • Chopped salad or green salad (see recipe below)
  • Gazpacho or other chilled soup
  • Fruit salad or compote (try watermelon salad, cubed or in balls, with feta and shredded basil)
  • Ice cream scoops or sundaes
  • Mashed potatoes (garnish with chives, bacon, grated cheese, whatever)
  • Nibbles with coffee (cookie bits, mini biscotti, chocolates, chocolate lentils, marshmallows, etc.)
  • Seafood salad (here’s a Vietnamese crab salad recipe)
  • Shrimp cocktail (try this shrimp cocktail with avocado recipe)
  • Sorbet with fruit or other toppings (you can marinate the fruit in brandy or fruit liqueur—recipe)
  • Yogurt parfaits


    If you don’t like fennel, substitute ingredients you do like in the recipe below, from Also take a look at this Dirty Martini Salad—simple greens with olives and an olive dressing (the dressing has chopped olives, vodka and olive oil).

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 celery heart
  • 1 heart of romaine
  • 9 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (or cheese of choice)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground white pepper


    A Martini glass can be repurposed to
    serve different courses of food. Photo


    1. WASH and thoroughly dry the fennel, celery and romaine. Cut the fennel into thin slices, about 2 cups. Cut the celery into julienne strips, about 1/2 cup. Reserve four well-shaped romaine leaves for garnish; then cut the remaining romaine into julienne strips, about 3 cups. Cut the mozzarella into thin strips. Place all into a large mixing bowl.

    2. PUT the olive oil, lemon juice, mascarpone, mustard, salt and pepper in a blender container. Blend until thick and smooth, about 5 seconds. Pour over the salad; toss to coat. Divide the salad, arranging on serving plates, using the reserved lettuce leaves for garnish.

    *Bocconcini are bite-size fresh mozzarella balls. You can substitute ciliegine (cherry size) or perlini (pearl size) if you can’t find bocconcini. Here’s a recipe that adds bowtie pasta for a Caprese pasta salad.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make The Best French Fries


    If you love to make French fries, you need a fry basket. Photo courtesy Calphalon.


    Today is National French Fry Day, the perfect day to explore how to make the best French fries.

    We contacted our friends at the Idaho Potato Commission, a website with tons of tips and recipes.

    They start by advising you to buy Idaho potatoes, which are branded russet potatoes. In actuality, depending on where potatoes are grown, they will have more or less moisture. Idaho russets have less moisture, which is desirable for crisper fries.

    Here’s how chefs do it—a twice-fried method:


    1. WASH and scrub the potato skins well, and allow to air-dry in a single layer on a sheet pan.

    2. USE a French fry cutter to cut the potatoes into the desired size and shape, leaving the skins on. RINSE thoroughly so the excess starches and sugars are removed.

    At this point, you can leave the sliced potatoes covered with water in the fridge up to 24 hours in advance of cooking.

    3. SPIN the potatoes dry with a salad spinner or drain on a drip screen (i.e., cooling rack) before frying.

    4. BLANCH or partially cook the fries to keep the potatoes from oxidizing/darkening, in a 250°F fryer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the fryer and drain. Allow the fries to cool to room temperature before the final fry. Fries should be bendable. Then, chill in the fridge before the final fry.

    5. FINISH the fries in the fryer at 350°F for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and fully cooked. Remove and drain well. TIP: Fill the fry basket only half full. Better oil circulation results in crisper fries.

    6. After draining on a screen, season with salt. Do not season over the hot oil! Consider seasoning with dried herbs as well—rosemary or thyme, for example—or substituting garlic salt.



    Potatoes originated in Peru and spread to other parts of Latin America. Fried potatoes—cooking potatoes in fat over a fire—is a practice that’s thousands of years old.

    Potatoes were “discovered” and brought back to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors—where they were uses as hog feed! The French were convinced that potatoes caused leprosy, and French Parliament banned the cultivation of potatoes in 1748.

    A French army medical officer, Antoine-Augustine Parmentier, was forced to eat potatoes as a prisoner of war, and discovered their culinary potential. Through his efforts, in 1772, the Paris Faculty of Medicine finally proclaimed that potatoes were edible for humans—though it took a famine in 1785 for the French to start eating them in earnest.

    In 1802, Thomas Jefferson’s White House chef, Honoré Julien, a Frenchman, prepared “potatoes served in the French manner” for a state dinner. The potatoes were “deep-fried while raw, in small cuttings.” French fries had arrived! By the early 20th century, the term “French fried,” meaning “deep fried,” was being used for other foods as well (onion rings and zucchini sticks, anyone?).



    Season your fries with rosemary, thyme or other favorite herb. Photo courtesy Alexia.


    Our French Fries Glossary has 27 different types of French fries.

    You can make number 28, by creating your own signature French fry recipe. Here’s how.



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