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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 TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

TIP OF THE DAY: A Pot Of Herbs

We were inspired by the photo below to plant a pot of herbs, otherwise known as container herbs.

If you don’t mind frequent watering, a pot puts fresh herbs at your fingertips—not to mention, provides lovely greenery and fragrance. You can keep one in a sunny kitchen spot, on the back steps, porch or patio, or go whole-hog like our friend Connie has just done and stake out an elaborate garden plot.

Your local nursery can provide assistance, and there’s plenty of advice online. Here are the steps to snipping:

1. Pick a sunny spot. Most culinary herbs originated in the Mediterranean and other sun-drenched regions, so they need at least eight hours of sunlight a day.

2. Seeds versus plants. Seeds typically need to be started indoors one to two months before it’s warm enough to move them outside. At this point in the season, look for plants (they’re also easier for beginners).

3. The right container. A larger pot of soil or potting mix* dries out more slowly. To keep the plants moist for the longest time, use the largest pot you can.

 

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Your favorite herbs, ready to snip. Photo courtesy Whiteflower Farm.

 
*For containers, it’s better to use potting mix than potting soil. The latter is often poor quality soil with poor drainage. Potting mix is made mostly from organic matter (peat, composted plant matter) with good drainage.
 

4. Select your herbs. They should, of course, be the ones you use most often. Basil, rosemary, thyme and parsley are popular. We use chives every day for flavor or garnish. Don’t be seduced into planting something you don’t use, under the theory that if you have it, you’ll cook with it. Odds are that you won’t.

5. Choose watering-compatible herbs. That is to say, plant together herbs that require the same amount of watering. For example, basil likes more water, but rosemary likes drier soil. To keep the basil happy, you’d be over-watering the rosemary. Separate pots are called for.

 

herbs-in-wheelbarrow-bonnieplants-230

Thinking outside the pot—and into a
wheelbarrow (with drainage holes, of
course). Photo courtesy BonniePlants.com.

 

6. Think outside the pot: How about something seasonal? Given that it’s iced tea weather, think about mint—which is a universal dessert garnish, too. How about some edible flowers—marigolds, nasturtiums and pansies, for example? They’re beautiful in salads, drinks, and as plate garnishes.

7. Prepare the container. Be sure there are sufficient drainage holes, and fill the container to a quarter of the pot’s depth with gravel or pebbles. They help with proper drainage.

8. Add the plants; plan to fertilize. The frequent watering required by herbs tends to wash nutrients from the soil/potting mix. Replenish them with fertilizer so your herbs will thrive. You can use a regular houseplant fertilizer every three weeks, at one-half the strength recommended; add a slow-release fertilizer when you plant; or look for a potting mix that contains the slow-release fertilizer.

9. Use daily. From breakfast eggs to a garnish for dessert, enjoy those herbs. The more you cut them back to use them, the more they grow. If you aren’t using a particular herb often enough, snip sprigs as a plate garnish or a cocktail garnish.

 

  

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MOTHER’S DAY: Heart-Felt Endive Salad

Thinking ahead to Mother’s Day food, Hannah Kaminsky created this “heart-felt” salad by cutting strawberries into heart shapes and combining them with endive, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm and hemp.

Don’t worry if you don’t have hemp seeds: You can substitute sesame seeds or chopped pecans.

A bright, punchy, yet delicate dressing of grapefruit and cayenne gives the salad some kick, without smothering the vegetables’ subtle nuances.

RECIPE: HEART-FELT ENDIVE SALAD

Ingredients

  • 4 green and/or red endive hearts
  • 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 14-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, halved or quartered if large
  • 4 red and/or Green Endive Hearts
  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut into heart shapes
  • 1-2 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • Fresh chives, minced
  • Fresh basil (tear the large leaves)
  •  

    endive-strawberry-salad-kaminsky-230

    A bouquet of colors and flavors. Endive salad recipe and photo courtesy Hannah
    Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    For The Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  •  

    endive-strawberry-salad-close-kaminsky-230

    Ready for its close-up. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing first so that it’s ready to go when you are. Simply whisk the grapefruit juice, maple syrup and mustard together in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously to emulsify. Season with salt and add cayenne pepper to taste. Set aside.

    2. CUT off and discard the woody bottoms of the endive; separate the leaves. Toss them in a large bowl along with the artichokes and hearts of palm.

    3. CUT the strawberries into heart shapes: Slice them in half, and then cut a triangular notch from the top. Add the berries to the bowl, along with the hemp hearts.

    4. DRIZZLE on the dressing, toss thoroughly to combine and coat all of the vegetables. Finish with the fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
     
    Here’s another recipe with artichoke hearts and hearts of palm.
     

     

    ABOUT HEMP HEARTS

    When most Americans hear “hemp,” they think of a particular species of Cannabis, used as a recreational drug. However, a second species of hemp has long been used for fiber and rope-making, and a third for hemp seed and hemp oil, which are made into a broad variety of food products (more about culinary hemp).

    Hemp seeds make it easy to add omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, protein and fiber to your diet. Just sprinkle them like a spice or herb on cereal, salad, vegetables, yogurt and other foods. In addition to the nutrition, it adds a rich, nutty flavor and a light crunch.

    Hemp Hearts, marketed by Manitoba Harvest, are the most nutritious part of the hemp seed. Some people like to eat them straight from the bag. And, unlike whole hemp seed, they don’t need to be ground in order to release their nutrition.

    Hemp seeds provide 10 grams of complete, plant-based protein per 30 grams (3 tablespoons). According to the World Health Organization, the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids is 4:1; the naturally occurring ratio in Hemp Hearts is 3.75:1. Hemp Hearts contain more protein and omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids and fewer carbs than a similar serving of chia or flax seeds.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegan Wraps For Earth Day

    We’re recommending vegan wraps for Earth Day. Animal-free foods are more sustainable, so today’s the day for a vegan lunch.

    These two recipes were sent to us from Red Rock Press, from their book, A White House Garden Cookbook by Clara Silverstein.

    Both are lettuce wraps, but you can also use tortilla wraps.

    The first recipe, Daniel and Annie’s Salad Wraps, originated in the children’s section of the New York Botanical Garden and contains the surprise—and optional—ingredient of an edible wildflower.

    You can serve these wraps with a dip, or spread mustard or Nasoya’s Nayonaise (excellent vegan mayonnaise) on the lettuce leaves before filling.

    RECIPE: DANIEL & ANNIE’S SALAD WRAPS

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 lettuce leaves, plus 6 more for slicing
  • Spread or dip of choice
  • 1 kohlrabi bulb or 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 5 radishes
  • 6 scallions
  • 6 mint or basil leaves (or more to taste)
  •  

    online-vegetarian-deli.com-230

    Thus wrap is packed with arugula, carrots, cucumber, lettuce and red cabbage. Photo courtesy Online-Vegetarian-Deli.com.

  • Garnish: edible flowers (such as Johnny jump-ups, chive blossoms or nasturtiums—read all about edible flowers)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH and dry the lettuce leaves. Peel and slice the kohlrabi. Wash and dice the radishes. Wash the scallions, and cut off and discard the root ends.

    2. LAY out 6 lettuce leaves on the counter top or a large plate. If using a spread, place atop leaves.

    3. CUT cut the remaining 6 leaves into ribbons with scissors. Into each lettuce leaf, lay some kohlrabi and radishes, 1 scallion (cut it in half if it’s too long), and 1 mint or basil leaf. Roll it up and pin closed with a toothpick as needed. Garnish the top with edible flowers.

    4. SERVE with your favorite dressing as a dip.

     

    tofu-hummus-wraps-housefoods-230

    Tofu hummus wraps, a vegan sandwich with
    the added protein of tofu. Photo courtesy
    House Foods.

     

    The second recipe, Lettuce Wrap Treats, is almost a dessert, folding dried fruits and nuts and a dab of vanilla yogurt into the lettuce leaf.

    And, it couldn’t be easier to make!

    If you want to present the ingredients as a “build your own,” each person can choose his or her own mix of ingredients.

    RECIPE: LETTUCE LEAF WRAPS

    Ingredients Per Wrap

  • 1 lettuce leaf*
  • Fillings: 1 tablespoon each of any or all of the following: chopped apples, chopped celery, walnuts or pecans, raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt (regular or vegan soy yogurt)
  •  
     
    *Pick the largest, most pliable lettuce leaves that you can find. Leaf lettuces work really well for this.
     
    Preparation

    1. RINSE the lettuce in cold water and pat dry between sheets of paper towels.

    2. ADD the fillings to the center of the leaf. Top with a dollop of vanilla yogurt.

    3. FOLD the lettuce lengthwise over the toppings and then fold up the ends, like a burrito or a little package. Use a toothpick to secure as needed. Pick up and eat!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Purple Asparagus, White Asparagus

    It’s spring, it’s asparagus season, and your specialty produce purveyor just may have wondrous, fresh asparagus in the non-traditional colors of purple and white.

    Low in calories, asparagus is a good source of folic acid, potassium, amino acids and dietary fiber. But people who love their flavor don’t always concern themselves with these details: They just want their spears blanched, grilled, raw, sautéed, steamed or otherwise prepared.

    All asparagus should be firm to the touch, with closed tips. The diameter of spear does not matter; the flavor remains the same.

    Asparagus will keep for up to seven days in the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp paper towel; but serve them promptly after purchase for the best flavor.

    WHITE ASPARAGUS

    White asparagus has always been considered a delicacy, not just for its color but because of the expense—often double that of green—which is a function of the extra effort required to grow it.

     

    3-colors-australianasparagusgrowers-230

    Asparagus lovers: look for fresh white and purple spears. Photo courtesy Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    The spears must be grown underground or in the dark, without exposure to sunlight. The sun engenders photosynthesis and the development of chlorophyll, which creates asparagus’ conventional green color.

    To keep them white, asparagus were conventionally grown by “hilling” the soil into a mound, the earth creating a barrier to light. As soon as the spear poked its head up from the mound, specialist workers would cut deep into the mound to harvest it. But “blind harvesting” increased the risk of injuring the spears.

    Modern growers now use black plastic “polyhouses” or “igloos” constructed over the crop to ensure that the spears are not exposed to sunlight. These white asparagus can be harvested above the ground cleanly and efficiently, without damaging the spears.

    White asparagus have a thicker outer layer that can be easily removed, if needed, with a vegetable peeler.

    Note that canned white asparagus are no more interesting than canned asparagus and most other canned vegetables. If you have a chance to purchase white asparagus, its wonderfully distinctive flavor will make the high price more palatable.

     

    white-loose-australianasparagusgrowers-230

    White asparagus can be double the price, but
    connoisseurs don’t mind paying. Photo
    courtesy Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    PURPLE ASPARAGUS

    Purple asparagus are larger, sweeter and tastier than the conventional green types of asparagus.

    The flesh is creamy white, like green asparagus. The purple skin color comes from the high levels of anthocyanins (potent antioxidants) in the spears.

    Purple asparagus have a lower fiber content than green or white asparagus, making the spears more tender. Even though the spears are thicker than green or white asparagus, the very bottom of the spear can be eaten (more for your money!).

    Alas, they turn a deep green-bronze color when cooked. So enjoy them raw in bean, green or grain salads; or as crudités with dip. Try blanching them or adding to stir-frys at the end of cooking, to see if you can maintain the color.

    [Source: Asparagus.com.au]
     
    PREPARING ASPARAGUS

    To peel or not to peel? We’ve never had the need to peel asparagus, but some cooks do so to ensure extra tenderness.

    Snap versus trim? Snapping off the white ends creates uneven spears. Use a knife to trim them.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Wilted Greens

    If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy green vegetables, have you tried wilting?

    Wilted vegetables are served at some of the finest restaurants in the country, often with a filet of fish or a boned chicken breast on top.
     
    Wilting is a quick cooking technique that involves placing the greens in a hot butter or oil, until they’re barely cooked (i.e., wilted). We actually use a low-calorie technique, blanching the vegetables in simmering broth or stock.

    The Wilting List: Simply add delicate, leafy vegetables—arugula, beet greens, bok choy, chard, collards, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens or turnip greens—to a pan of simmering liquid (broth or water) and they wilt in a minute. barely cook or just “wilt.” As you can see, wilting is also a great way to discover the joys of greens you never eat.

    You can also wilt a medley of three different greens, such as chard, mustard greens and spinach. See the recipe below.

     

    crispy-salmon-wilted-greens-2-SLT-230

    Crispy salmon atop wilted greens. Photo courtesy Sur La Table.

     
    Dark leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and wilting preserves nutrients and flavor. So why isn’t everybody wilting greens?

    To begin your journey here’s a recipe developed in the Sur La Table test kitchen; more wilting techniques follow.

    RECIPE: CRISPY SALMON ON LEMON-CAPER WILTED GREENS

    You can substitute another vegetable for the spinach and halibut or other firm-fleshed filet for the salmon.

    Ingredients For 4 Sservings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (5-ounce) salmon fillets with skin
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • ½ pound spinach, washed and patted dry
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • Kosher salt or sea salt, plus and freshly ground black pepper
  •  

    mustard-tendergreens-beauty-goodeggs-230

    Wilt me! Have you had these greens before? They’re mustard greens. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F and position the oven rack in the middle.

    2. PLACE a large oven-proof skillet on the stove over a medium-high heat, and add olive oil. When the oil is just starting to shimmer, add the salmon, presentation side first. Sear to a light-golden brown color, about 2 minutes. Turn the salmon over to the skin-side and transfer to the oven. Bake until the salmon is flaky and slightly pink inside, about 5 minutes. Transfer the salmon to a plate; reserving the skillet and set aside.

    3. PLACE the skillet back on the stove over a medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter begins to foam, add the shallot and garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, spinach, capers, lemon zest, parsley and cream. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

    4. SERVE: Spoon the wilted greens mixture onto warmed dinner plates, and place the salmon on top. Serve immediately.

     
     
    BASIC WILTED GREENS

    Don’t worry if it seems like you have too many greens. Big bunches of leafy greens wilt down to flatness.

    Ingredients

  • 2 large bunches chard, kale, mustard greens or others (see list at top), rinsed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TEAR the greens into pieces; discard stems. (Note: We actually enjoy the stems, and keep them on. We also like to keep the leaves whole—we don’t mind cutting them on our plate with a knife and fork. Try it to see which you prefer.)

    2. HEAT the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 7 minutes. Add the greens and toss to coat. Cover and cook, stirring once, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the salt and serve.

    3. SEASON as you like with balsamic vinegar, chiles, honey, garlic, nutmeg or other favorites. As an option, garnish with toasted pecans or walnuts.
     
    Variations
     
    For breakfast, brunch or lunch, top with poached eggs.

    You can also add ham or bacon, Southern-style, as in this recipe.
     
    STOVE TOP WILTING

    This recipe uses a medley of greens, although you can use only one type or a different combination.

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 large bunch chard, stems removed*, leaves torn
  • 1 large bunch mustard greens, stems trimmed, leaves torn
  • 1 10-ounce bag spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add all greens and stock.

    2. COVER and cook until greens wilt, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Uncover; cook until juices thicken slightly, about 4 minutes.

    3. SEASON with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you like (balsamic vinegar, chiles, garlic, nutmeg, etc.).
     

    SIMPLE MICROWAVE WILTING

    1. WASH the greens in cool water and place in a microwave-safe bowl.

    2. COVER with plastic wrap and punch several holes in the wrap to vent. Microwave on High until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.

    3. SQUEEZE out any excess moisture from the greens before seasoning and serving, or adding to a recipe.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegetable Medley With Color

    asparagus-carrots-lecreuset-SLT-230

    Asparagus and carrots in a Le Creuset dutch
    oven. Photo courtesy Sur La Table.

     

    The English word “asparagus” derives from the Latin sparagus, derived from the Greek asparagos, which itself derived from the Persian asparag, meaning sprout or shoot. The stalks shoot up from the crown of the plant and, if not harvested, the precious tips grow into fern-like leaves.

    That little tidbit is an introduction to asparagus season. If you’re an asparagus lover, it’s a great time: prices are lower and the flavor is better, since domestic asparagus get to market faster (Peruvian imports, for example, travel weeks by ship).

    Whether you’re looking for different ways to serve asparagus, or a way to cut down on the cost per portion, serve a medley—asparagus with one or two other vegetables.

    We were especially attracted to this handsome combination of asparagus and carrots from Sur La Table, with the carrots cut in lengths to match the shape of asparagus.

    But a memorable spring medley is the “big four” of spring: asparagus, garlic scapes, morel mushrooms and ramps (wild leeks).

    Otherwise, take a look at our list of vegetables by color, and pick your own medley.

    WHAT’S A MEDLEY?

    A medley is a mixture of different things: music, sports, vegetables, whatever. The word comes from the French medler to mix, which entered Middle English.

    A vegetable medley provides the opportunity to create more interest through blending flavors, colors and textures.

    You can grill, roast, sauté or steam your veggies—or enjoy them raw, as crudités with a dip.

    Most people believe that the finest texture and the taste come from the asparagus tips. They are called points d’amour (“love tips”) in French.

    But we enjoy the whole asparagus, including the texture of the stems. Just trim the white stem ends, which are tough.
     
    Asparagus Recipes

  • Asparagus Crostini With Pancetta & A Parmesan Crisp (recipe)
  • Asparagus & Grapefruit Salad (recipe)
  • Asparagus With Linguine & Parma Ham (recipe)
  • 12 More Easy Asparagus Recipes—including frittata, grilled, risotto, sautéed, scramble, sides and spring rolls
  •  

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF ASPARAGUS

    Asparagus has been enjoyed as a vegetable since ancient times. The earliest image is as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 B.C.E. It was also enjoyed in ancient Greece, Rome, Spain and Syria.

    Greeks and Romans ate asparagus fresh in season and dried in winter. The Romans would even freeze it high in the Alps: Emperor Augustus created the “Asparagus Fleet” for transporting the vegetable, and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” to indicate a quick action. [Source: Wikipedia]

    There’s a recipe for cooking asparagus is in the world’s oldest surviving cookbook, Apicius’s “De Re Coquinaria” (“On Cookery”), Book III. It is attributed to a first-century Roman epicurian named Marcus Gavius Apicius, but compiled sometime between the third and fifth centuries.

     

    3-colors-dark-bkgd-australianasparagusgrowners-230b

    The three colors of asparagus. Photo courtesy Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    And it’s still in print—in the original Latin! There’s an English translation for $10.95, and a translated Kindle edition is free!

    After the fall of the Roman Empire, asparagus seems to have fallen out of favor, reappearing in France in the 15th century and in England and in Germany in the 16th century. It arrived in the U.S. around 1850, and has resumed its position as a sought-after vegetable.

    So don’t let the season escape you: Pick up asparagus on your next trip to the market. It has just three calories per spear, so you don’t need to worry about portion control.

      

    Comments

    BOOK: Brassicas, Cooking The World’s Healthiest Vegetables

    brassicas-230

    Eat your vegetables—make that, eat your
    Brassicas. Photo courtesy Ten Speed Press.

     

    Frequent readers of THE NIBBLE know of our devotion to cruciferous vegetables, also known as brassicas, from their Latin name in taxonomy*.

    For a long time, brassicas have had a mixed reputation. People who know how to cook them adore them. Beyond the deliciousness, brassicas are superfoods—nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants).

    But anyone who has been served overcooked brassicas—when the sulfur compounds top the mushy texture with an unpleasant aroma—might just concur with George H.W. Bush, whose mom, we’re betting, didn’t cook the broccoli al dente.

    Brassicas get the respect they deserve in a new book, Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura B. Russell, published this week in hardcover and Kindle editions.

    One word is missing from that title: delicious. “Healthy vegetables” sounds too much like an admonition from mom or grandma. “Healthy and delicious” is a win-win.

     

    And that’s what you’ll get in this cookbook. It showcases 80 recipes for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and leafy greens such as arugula and watercress. Recipes are easily tailored to accommodate special diets such as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

    The recipes prove that brassicas can taste delicious when properly prepared in ways that let the flavors shine through (no blanket of cheese sauce is required—or desired). When roasted, for example, Brussels sprouts, a food avoided by many, reveal their inherent sweetness that other preparation techniques take away. Caramelizing cauliflower in the sauté pan makes it so lovely that each individual will want to consumer the entire caramelized head.

    This is a book for people who love their brassicas, and for people who don’t love them yet. Give copies as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts, and to anybody who should eat more veggies.

    The handsome hardcover volume is $17.04 on Amazon.com. The Kindle version is $10.99.

     
    *Kingdom Plantae, Order Brassicales, Family Brassicaceae, Genus Brassica.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Tagine

    A tagine (tah-ZHEEN) is a Moroccan stew of vegetables with meat, poultry, fish or seafood. More specifically, it’s a Berber dish from North Africa that is named after the type of earthenware pot in which it is cooked, originally over coals. (A similar dish, tavvas, is made in Cyprus.)

    There are traditional clay tagines, some so beautifully hand-painted as to double as decorative ceramics; modern tagines, such as Le Creuset enamelware; and even electric tagines for people who don’t have stoves or ovens.

    You can buy a tagine, but you can make the stew in whatever pot you have.

     
    HOW A TAGINE WORKS

    The traditional tajine pot is made of clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a round, flat base pot with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that covers it during cooking.

    The cover is designed to promote the return of all the liquid condensation back to the pot, allowing for a long simmer and moist chunks of meat. The stew is traditionally cooked over large bricks of charcoal that have the ability to stay hot for hours.

     

    chicken-tagine-lecreuset-230

    A modern enamelware tagine. Photo courtesy Le Creuset.

     
    Tajines can also be cooked in a conventional oven or on a stove top. For the stove top, a diffuser—a circular piece of aluminum placed between the tajine and burner—is used to evenly distribute the stove heat to permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking. Modern tajines made with heavy cast-iron bottoms replace them.

     

    black-white-tagine-230

    A traditional hand-painted tagine. You can
    buy this one online.

     

    MAKE A TAGINE

    This vegetarian tagine recipe is from FAGE Total Yogurt. You can serve it as a side or as a main dish with sliced grilled chicken, lamb or salmon.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 1 hour, 10 minutes. Serve with couscous and a crisp salad.
     
    RECIPE: MOROCCAN CHICKPEA & VEGETABLE
    TAGINE WITH YOGURT DRESSING

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, cinnamon and turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1-3/4 cup chickpeas
  • 1-3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 cup baby corn
  • 1/4 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 cup baby carrots
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley and coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT half of the oil in a tagine or other pan. Add onion, garlic, and spices. Fry over a low to medium heat for 5 minutes until golden.

    2. ADD the chickpeas, tomatoes and stock. Cook for 20 minutes.

    3. STIR FRY the vegetables in a separate frying pan or wok with remaining oil, and then add to the chickpea mixture.

    4. BRING to a boil, cover and simmer for a further 20 minutes.

    5. MAKE the herb yogurt dressing: Mix the yogurt, chopped parsley and coriander together. To finish, add half the yogurt, adjust seasoning to taste and serve with the rest of the yogurt on the side. NOTE: Don’t boil the stew after adding the yogurt or it may separate.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Blue & Purple Potatoes

    The All Blue variety of blue potatoes.
    Potatoes can be blue or purple, depending on
    the soil in which they are grown. Photo
    courtesy Burpee.com.

     

    Naturally blue and purple foods are relatively rare.

    Blue Foods. In the blue group are blackberries, blueberries, blue cheese, blue corn, Concord grapes, pale blue oyster mushrooms and edible flowers like bachelor’s buttons. And there are exotica like decaisnea, an Asian plant known as dead man’s fingers, with a blue pod and edible blue pulp.

    Purple Foods. In the purple group: black currants; black rice; eggplant; elderberries; figs; red cabbage; purple artichokes, asparagus, bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, grapes “green” beams, and kohlrabi; plums; prunes; raisins; and some microgreens.

    But our favorite in the blue and purple group are blue and purple potatoes and yams, which have both blue/purple flesh and skin. More flavorful than many starchy white potatoes, they tend to have a slight earthy and nutty flavor. Look for them in specialty produce markets or better supermarkets.

    The blue or purple color comes from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that create red, blue and purple colors, depending on the pH of the soil and other growing factors.

     

    There are numerous varieties with commercial names such as All Blue, Congo, Lion’s Paw, Purple Peruvian, Purple Viking, Purple Majesty and Vitilette. Specialty Produce magazine notes that there are 700 purple varieties in Peru, the birthplace of the potato.

    They are generally harvested young, which is why they tend to be smaller and rounder. Leave them in the ground and they’ll grow larger and oblong.

    According to Web MD, they’re a heart healthy vegetable, helping to lower blood pressure. What better reason to go out and buy some!

     

    A Versatile Potato

    Blue and purple potatoes have a medium-starchy texture. They keep their shape when baked but also mash and blend easily—for example, into potato soup, shown in the photo at right.

    The pop of color is a delight in potato salads and a surprise in dishes like blue/purple potato soup.

    Make fun dishes like purple potato chips or potato latkes. Mix purple potatoes with orange-fleshed squash. Try a purple potato pizza with smoked salmon and salmon roe, or with caramelized onions and rosemary.

    For Easter, how about this purple potato soup from Family Spice? Here’s the recipe.

    Purple mashed potatoes are also stunning on the table. If your tradition is roast lamb with rosemary potatoes, make those potatoes purple—or a mix of purple and white.

     

    purple-potato-soup-familyspice-230

    Purple potato soup: a treat for Easter dinner—or anytime. Photo © Family Spice.

     

    Think of how you’d use blue or purple potatoes and let us know.

    One suggestion you shouldn’t pass up: red, white and blue potato salad for Independence Day!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Frisée Salad With Lardons (Salade Frisée Aux Lardons)

    One of our favorite salad greens, not served often enough in the U.S., is frisée (free-ZAY), curly endive that’s a member of the chicory family. In France, it is formally known as chicorée frisée. (See the different types of endive.)

    There are many ways to serve a salade frisée, but a universal favorite is frisée aux lardons, Lyonnaise-style frisée salad.

    This salad tops the frisée with a poached egg and lardons—crisp, browned chunks of pork belly—and a sherry vinaigrette. When you cut into it, the runny egg yolk gives the salad a wonderful, silky coat.

    Another favorite variation includes crumbled Roquefort cheese or goat cheese with a fan-sliced pear and a few toasted walnut halves. It’s a great flavor layering of bitter from the frisée, salty and smoky from the lardons, sweet from the fruit and tangy vinaigrette.

    You can serve salade frisée as a light lunch with crusty rustic bread, as a first course, or with soup for a light dinner.

     

    frisee-burrata-ilmulinoNY-FB-230

    An Italian touch: burrata cheese. Photo
    courtesy Il Mulino Restaurant | NYC.

     

    GETTING CREATIVE WITH FRISÉE

    You can create your own signature frisée salad by adding some of these mix-and-match ingredients:

    Fruits, Nuts, Vegetables

  • Apple or pear, red skinned, fan-sliced
  • Arugula or watercress
  • Avocado (pair it with grapefruit)
  • Citrus: grapefruit, orange, blood orange or mandarin
  • Dried fruit: cherries, cranberries, currants
  • Figs (combine with prosciutto)
  • Fresh herbs: chives, tarragon, thyme, parsley
  • Nuts, toasted: pecans, pistachios, walnuts
  • Red accent: diced red pepper, tomato or watermelon; halved grape tomatoes; pomegrante arils
  •  

    frisee-salad-michaelminaFB-230

    Chef Michael Mina varies the frisée salad by
    substituting a Scotch egg for the traditional
    poached egg. Photo courtesy Michael Mina.

     

    Proteins

  • Bacon, pork belly lardons, pancetta, prosciutto, slab bacon lardons
  • Cheese: burrata, fried cheese (recipe), goat cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Roquefort or other blue cheese
  • Chicken or duck breast, sliced
  • Cracklings & sautéed liver: chicken or duck
  • Egg, poached (hen or quail)
  • Fish or seafood: crab, lobster, scallops, shrimp
  •  
    You can also add a touch of the sea with this side of white anchovy bruschetta.
     
    Dressings

    You can use a classic vinaigrette or a Dijon vinaigrette, but consider these special variations:

  • Bacon vinaigrette (recipe)
  • Sherry or red wine vinaigrette with olive oil
  • Truffle vinaigrette, with truffle oil
  • Walnut vinaigrette, with walnut oil
  •  

    For another special touch, warm the vinaigrette in the microwave right before dressing the salad.

    WHAT IS FRISÉE

    Frisée is a salad green with distinctive pale, very narrow, curly leaves that grow in a bush-like cluster and are feathery in appearance. The name means “curly.”

    Frisée is often included in mesclun and other salad mixes. It is extremely labor-intensive to grow, and therefore one of the costliest salad ingredients.

    For that reason, it isn’t a conventional supermarket item, but can be found at upscale markets and purveyors of fine produce.

    Frisée has a distinctive flavor and a delightful bitterness—less bitter than its cousins endive and radicchio. Its exotic feathery appearance has great eye appeal. Tips for using it:

  • As with many salad greens, tear it rather cut it with a knife, or the edges may brown. Tear it shortly before use.
  • The tough, external leaves are best used as a plate garnish or fed to the gerbil.
  • Dress the salad right before bringing it to the table, so that it doesn’t discolor or become waterlogged.
  •  
    The chicory genus is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, especially folate and vitamins A and K.
      

    Comments

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