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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.

PRODUCT: Brown Turkey Figs

A trip to the farmers market yesterday reminded us that brown turkey figs are in season (June through September). Other nice surprises were fresh lychees and okra, but our pitch today is for the figs.

Figs are a “locavore” food: The fresh-picked fruit neither keeps well nor transports well. That’s why most figs on the market are dried, and you should enjoy the fresh ones while you can.

There is nothing more special than a sweet, tree-ripened fig. Different species have skins that range from dark brown to green to purple. The brown turkey fig has it all: a beautiful purple brown color with a green collar surrounding the stem. The flesh is amber color with a mild flavor.

The brown turkey fig (Ficus carica)* is an all-purpose fig, delicious fresh and in preserves and other recipes (see recipe ideas below).

Brown Turkey figs were first cultivated in Provence, France, bread from earlier varieties. Today, they grow best in Southern California.

Ripe figs yield to the touch. You can ripen them at room temperature.

   

brown-turkey-figs-whole-half-melissas-230

‘Tis the season for brown turkey figs. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

 
*Other names include Aubique Noire, Negro Largo and San Piero.
 
TOO MANY FIGS

If you have too many ripe figs, you can place them on paper towels, covered with plastic and refrigerate them for a few days. Or, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.

Or, purée the ripe figs and use the purée in cocktails (mixed with white spirits, for example), smoothies, or as a topper for ice cream or sorbet (add sweetener if necessary).
 
HISTORY OF THE FIG

Figs have been a food source for man for more than 11,000 years. They were first cultivated in ancient Egypt, though they are believed to be indigenous to Western Asia.

The fig is one of man’s first cultivated crops—perhaps the first. Archaeological evidence finds that the fig predates the domestication of barley, legumes, rye and wheat, and thus may be the first example of agriculture. In fact, archaeologists propose that the fig may have been cultivated 1,000 years before the next crops—rye and wheat—were domesticated [source].

 

Roasted Figs in Mascarpone Cheese Honey and Hazelnuts

Roasted fresh figs with honey and hazelnuts:
a simple, elegant dessert. Photo by Karcich |
Dreamstime. Here’s the recipe.

 

Native to the Middle East and western Asia (it grows wild in dry and sunny climates), the fig is now widely grown throughout the temperate world.

The fig is a member of the Moraceae binomial family, sometimes called the fig family. Other members include the banyan, breadfruit and mulberry. There are almost 200 cultivars of figs, in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures.

Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. They are rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and K and are a good source of antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols. They are sodium-free and cholesterol/fat-free.

Today, the top 10 fig producing countries are (beginning with the largest) Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, United States, Brazil, Albania and Tunisia.

Cultural trivia: The word “sycophant” comes from the Greek word sykophantes, meaning “one who shows the fig.” “Showing the fig” was a vulgar hand gesture.

 
 
RECIPES WITH FIGS

Don’t peel the figs. Enjoy them with breakfast cereal, yogurt or cottage cheese; sliced on sandwiches with fresh or aged cheese; chopped and added to rice; stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre; or raw or grilled as a side dish, cut in half and served with grilled meat or poultry.

Here are a few recipes from THE NIBBLE’s collection:

Main Courses

  • Fig & Maple Fizz Recipe
  • Give A Fig Cocktail Recipe
  •  
    Appetizers & First Courses

  • Endive Salad With Figs Recipe
  • Fig & Radicchio Salad Recipe
  • Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs Recipe
  •  
    Main Courses

  • Honey Balsic Fig-Glazed Ham Recipe
  • Bison With Fig Balsamic Reduction Recipe
  •  
    Dessert

  • Brie Torte With Fig Jam Recipe
  • Fig Flower With Honey Goat Cheese Recipe
  • Roast Figs With Honey & Hazelnuts Recipe
  • Goat Cheese Ice Cream With Whole Figs Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 2

    Yesterday we presented the first five of the world’s 10 spice blends you should know: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

    Even if you won’t be cooking with them anytime soon, you should know them: They’re popular global, popping up in fusion dishes outside their native cuisines.

    The second half of the Top 10 include nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

    NORI SHAKE

    Nori shake is made from sheets of nori seaweed (the type used to wrap sushi rolls), ground with with salt and sesame seeds. Nori is the seaweed, furi means shake. Beyond its traditional use as a rice seasoning, shake it on other grains, cooked vegetables, plain yogurt and dips.

  • Traditional uses: Cooked rice seasoning.
  •  

    Quatre_Epices-silkroadspices.ca-230

    Quatre epices, a bend of cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper. Photo courtesy Silk Road Spices | Canada.

  • Traditional ingredients: Seaweed, sesame seeds, salt. Some recipes include sugar or shiso leaves
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast 4 nori sheets (one at a time) in a hot skillet for a few seconds on each side; coarsely grind them. Toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds until golden; combine in a bowl with 2 teaspoons coarse salt, the ground nori and cayenne to taste. Note that unlike other blends, this keeps for only a week or so.
  •  

    PIMENTÓN MIX

    Pimentón is the Spanish word for what is better known as paprika, a spice ground from dried New World chiles (Capsicum annuum). Although paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, in Europe it was first used in Spanish recipes. The story has it that Christopher Columbus brought the ground chiles back to Spain at the end of his second voyage. It was served to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who found it too hot and spicy; but local monks shared it with other monasteries. It spread throughout Spain, and subsequently to Hungary and elsewhere.

  • Traditional uses: A universal seasoning for casseroles/stews, eggs, meats, salads, soups, tapas and vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: Pimentón is usually sold as pure ground chile, not blended, in sweet, medium and hot levels.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Combine ¼ cup pimentón, 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Before using, add some freshly grated lemon zest.
  •  

    ras-el-Hanout-spiceandtea.com-230

    Ras el hanout can be a blend of 30 or more
    spices. Photo courtesy SpiceAndTea.com.

     

    QUATRE ÉPICES

    Quatre épices (kahtr-ay-PEECE) is a French spice mix that is also used in some Middle Eastern cuisines. The name literally means “four spices,” and they are cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper.

  • Traditional uses: A universal spice, used for everything from soup and salad to broiled chicken and fish to vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: The traditional version uses white pepper; black pepper can be substituted.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons each black and white peppercorns, 1 tablespoon allspice berries and 1 teaspoon cloves. Combine with 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
  •  
    RAS EL HANOUT

    There is no one recipe for ras el hanout: Every Moroccan spice merchant has a proprietary recipe, and the cooks who buy the spices debate who has the best version. The name translates as “top of the shop” and the mixture often includes 30 or more of a spice merchant’s best ingredients: whole spices, dried roots and leaves, ground together.

     
    Some of the 30 can be exotics as cubeb berries, grains of paradise, and rose petals; or more the more familiar ingredients listed below. The complex blend delivers many subtle undercurrents of floral, peppery and sweet.

  • Traditional uses: As a dry rub for grilled meats, in starches (couscous, potatoes, rice) and traditional Moroccan dishes like b’stilla and tagines.
  • Traditional ingredients: A “secret” recipe that can include anise, cardamom, cayenne and other chiles, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, lavender, nutmeg, mace, pepper, saffron and turmeric.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons each coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Combine with 2 teaspoons each ground cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric and salt; add 2 tablespoons ground pepper. It’s a stripped-down version, but feel free to add what you like—you have 22 more slots available.
  •  
    ZA’ATAR

    Za’atar (also spelled zahtar) is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, including Israeli. Za’atar 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. The latter grow in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. They impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

  • Traditional uses: As a seasoning for meat and vegetables or mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread. Add to hummus or for a modern touch, sprinkle on pizza (especially with feta cheese).
  • Traditional ingredients: Marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 2 tablespoons each cumin seeds and sesame seeds. Combine with 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 tablespoons sumac, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
  •  
    Your homework: Plan to use at least one of these blends for the first time this week.
      

    Comments

    NO-BAKE DESSERT: Mascarpone Spread & Basil Blackberries

    This fresh blackberry dessert is sophisticated yet so easy to make and serve.

    A tub of mascarpone turns into a sophisticated spread when topped with a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, blackberries and basil.

    Serve it with biscotti, cookies/biscuits or unsalted crackers, and guests will be asking for the recipe.

    This recipe is from Driscoll’s. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes.

    RECIPE: MASCARPONE DIP

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/3 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 package (6 ounces or 1-1/2 cups) fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Large pinch of fleur de sel or other sea salt
  • 1 container (8 to 8.8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  •    

    mascarpone-basil-blackberries-driscolls-230

    Mascarpone spread, a delicious no-cook, no-bake dessert. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

  • Biscotti, plain cookies or non-salty crackers/biscuits*
  •  

    http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-ripe-blackberries-bowl-food-close-up-image33432102

    We love finding new ways to enjoy
    blackberry season. Photo © Olha Afanasieva
    | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. BRING vinegar and brown sugar to a boil in a nonreactive small saucepan over high heat. Boil until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour into a medium bowl. Let cool.

    2. GENTLY STIR in blackberries, basil, pepper and salt.

    3. FILL a bowl with hot water. Dip bottom of the mascarpone container in water for about 5 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, unmold mascarpone onto a serving platter.

    3. SPOON blackberry mixture over mascarpone, being sure to scrape all juices out of the bowl, and letting berries fall randomly. Serve with biscotti, cookies and/or crackers.

    It’s that easy!
     
    *Examples: almond cookies, butter cookies, cream crackers, digestive biscuits, graham crackers, ginger snaps/ginger bread, ladyfingers, Moravian cookies, pizzelle, shortbread, speculos, springerle, stroopwafel, tea biscuits, water biscuits, wafer cookies, wheatmeal.

     

    ABOUT BLACKBERRIES

    Blackberries grow wild around the world, and in most places they are picked in season, not cultivated. Cultivation is relatively modern and done mostly in America [source].

    The blackberry is a member of the Rosaceae family of flowering plants. The largest genus in the family is Prunus, which includes almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums.

    The blackberry is a member of the Rubus genus, which also includes dewberries (which look like raspberries to the untrained eye), raspberries and hybrids such as boysenberry, loganberry and tayberry.

    The blackberry isn’t black, per se, but a very deep purple. It is not the same as a black raspberry, Rubus occidentalis, a raspberry grown on a limited basis*, primarily in Oregon.

    What distinguishes the blackberry from the raspberry genus is that its torus (receptacle or stem) “picks with” the fruit. When picking blackberries, the torus comes along with the berry (as you get with strawberries). With raspberries, the torus remains on the plant, leaving a hollow core in the raspberry fruit.

    Blackberries typically peak during June in the South, and in July in the North. You can enjoy a simple bowl of berries at breakfast, lunch (add them to green salads, enjoy them for dessert), dinner or for snacking; for drink garnishes on a cocktail pick; or use them in recipes.
     
    *Black raspberry plants yield significantly less fruit than red raspberries, and also commonly suffer from a disease complex that gives them shorter lifespans. They are more costly to produce on a large scale.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 1

    Today we present spice blends you should know, even if you aren’t about to use them immediately. Seasonings are the easiest ways to add different flavors to foods. If you’re looking at dieting with a month of broiled chicken or fish, for example, each of these blends will make each plate taste different.

    While the blends originated in specific countries, they are cross-cultural. You can change the perspective of a classic French dish by adding Indian spices, for example. The basic ingredients and technique are still French, but with a nice touch of fusion flavor.

    You can also use spice blends in non-traditional ways: to flavor mayonnaise or yogurt or on fruit, for example. Our tip is: Be adventurous with spices, and conquer the world. (At least, the culinary world.)*

    Several months ago in the New York Times, Mark Bittman recommended making your own spice blends. He recommends whole spices, which are typically of better quality than ground spices, and stay fresh longer in their whole state.

    If you buy them in bulk, they can be surprisingly inexpensive. You can give what you don’t need as gifts to friends and neighbors, and you may still be ahead. Check at local international markets, on Amazon.com or the websites of specialists like Penzeys. Their website has plenty of options, but is surprisingly bare-bones, with no photos of the spices. For beautiful spice photos, check out SilkRoadSpices.ca, a Canadian e-tailer.

       

    chinese-five-spice-230b

    Chinese Five Spice, used to cure artisan pork. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    *Mark Bittman advises: “…don’t feel as if you have to relegate these mixtures solely to their original uses, like jerk spice on chicken or garam masala in curry. Rub them on meat, poultry, seafood, tofu or vegetables before grilling, broiling or roasting; cook them in oil or butter to begin braises or stir-fries; or just sprinkle them on almost anything. My recently regenerated enthusiasm for these came about when I sampled a couple of blends on raw apple slices with ice cream, which was transformational.”
     
    HOW TO START

    You can blend and then grind your spices as needed. This is traditionally done with a mortar and pestle, but you can repurpose an old coffee grinder just for spices. First, clean it and then fill it with raw white rice; grind and then toss the rice. If you still find residual coffee aroma, do it again.

    You’ll get more flavor from your spices if you toast them first. Place them whole in a small skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan occasionally until the fragrance rises, 2 to 5 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then grind.

    Store all ground spices in tightly sealed jars in a dark, cool place. While some will keep well for months, for the most potency make only what you need for a few weeks.

    Here are the first five spice blends: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

     

    kashmiri_masala_spice_blend_mccormick-230r

    Garam masala, an Indian spice blend that
    varies by region and individual cook. Photo
    courtesy SilkRoadSpices.ca.

      ADOBO

    Adobo is a popular Mexican spice mix: spicy and rich in flavor, but not hot. Traditional blends have no added salt. People on low-salt diets can use it in place of salt (but check the label).

  • Traditional uses: Rub on chicken, fish or pork with a bit of lime juice and salt to taste, then grill or broil. Add to chili or taco fixings, or perk up guacamole.
  • Traditional ingredients: garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, cumin and cayenne red pepper.
  • Bittman’s recipe: 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 4 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons onion powder and 2 teaspoons ground ancho.
  •  

    CHILI POWDER

    There are different strengths of chili powder, depending on the heat of the chiles used. Some are labeled medium or hot.

  • Traditional uses: Chili powder is the backbone of traditional Mexican dishes such as red chili and tamales. It is added to mole sauce, stews, beans and rice.
  • Traditional ingredients: ancho chili pepper, red pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic and Mexican oregano.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons coriander seeds; stir in 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, 4 tablespoons ground ancho chiles and 1 teaspoon cayenne.
  •  
    CHINESE FIVE SPICE

    Five spice powder is a versatile Chinese seasoning. The five spices vary by region and individual preference.

  • Traditional uses: stir-frys. The spice has traveled far beyond that with innovative chefs. You’ll find it in artisan chocolate bars, for example.
  • Traditional ingredients: cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds are also commonly included.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons , 12 star anise, 3 teaspoons whole cloves, two 3-inch cinnamon sticks and ¼ cup fennel seeds.
  •  

    GARAM MASALA

    As with other all-purpose spice blends, including curry and five spice, the ingredients in this Indian spice vary by region and individual cook.

  • Traditional uses: very popular on cauliflower, fish, lamb, pork, poultry and potatoes.
  • Traditional ingredients: coriander, black peppercorns, cardamom, cassia cinnamon, kalonji, caraway, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind the seeds of 20 cardamom pods, 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, 1 teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 tablespoons cumin seeds and 2 tablespoons fennel seeds.
  •  

    JERK

    Jerk seasoning is a hot Jamaican spice blend. There are different blends for chicken, fish and pork.

  • Traditional uses: grilled chicken, fish, pork chops, pork tenderloin, whole roast pig; also.
  • Traditional ingredients: paprika, allspice, ginger, red pepper, sugar, ground Grenadian nutmeg, black pepper, garlic, thyme, lemon grass, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and mace.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons allspice berries, ½ teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons dried thyme. Combine with 2 teaspoons cayenne, 2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup salt. Before using, add some minced fresh garlic and ginger.
  •  
    Continue to Part 2 the next five blends: nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Grecian Delight Phyllo Swirls

    We love Greek food, but there’s no Greek restaurant anywhere near us.

    Fortunately, we can pick of plenty of mezze* at the food store and set out a buffet of babaganoush, dolmades, falafel, feta, halloumi cheese, hummus, olives, peperoncini, pita, tabbouleh, taramasalata, tzatziki and Greek yogurt.

    And now, we can add delicious Phyllo Swirls from Grecian Delight.

    Crisp phyllo dough is filled with three classics, deftly seasoned:

  • Apple
  • Cheese (feta)
  • Spinach (with feta)
  •  
    Simply place an individual-portion frozen swirl on a cookie sheet, pop it into the oven for 40 minutes, and enjoy the warm flakiness that emerges.

    The all natural product line contains no trans fats, artificial colors or flavors.

     

    spinach-phyllo-swirl-230

    Spinach and feta, one of three delicious flavors of new Phyllo Swirls. Photo courtesy Grecian Delight.

     

    We can’t wait to load up on more. The spinach/feta combination is a wonderful stand-in for spanakopita, one of our favorite dishes; and given how much we like phyllo over conventional pie crust, the apple swirl is our new favorite store-bought “apple pie.” (Serve it plain, à la mode or with a touch of crème fraîche or mascarpone).

    Grecian Delight has been making Greek and other Mediterranean specialties since 1974. Learn more, and find a retailer near you, at GrecianDelight.com.
     
    *Mezze or meze (MEH-zeh) refers to a selection of small dishes served in the Middle East, often to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer course before the main dish.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Create Your Fantasy Custom Ice Cream Flavors

    chocolate-raspberry-jam-mcconnellsicecream-230

    No fresh raspberries? Make chocolate
    raspberry jam. Photo courtesy McConnell’s
    Ice Cream.

     

    When you’re peering into the ice cream case at the market, do you ever long for flavors that don’t exist? Maybe you want chocolate cookie dough, or rum date instead of rum raisin.

    How about vanilla orange marmalade, a riff on the Creamsicle, or salted caramel candy corn? We’re personally considering coffee-chocolate chip- brownie-Heath Bar.

    Make them yourself!

    You don’t have to own an ice cream maker. Just buy the base flavor at the store, along with the inclusions (the mix-ins) to make your flavor.

  • Start with a pint of chocolate, vanilla or other base flavor, soften it on the counter, and when it’s soft enough to mix, scoop it into a mixing bowl.
  • Then, pile in your inclusions, blend with a couple of large cooking spoons, taste and adjust as desired. Be cautious: add smaller amounts first, especially with alcohol and sauces.
  • Repack the ice cream into the pint and return to the freezer.
  • Work on your recipes over time, adding more or less of some ingredients and introducing new ones.
  •  

    WHAT CAN YOU MIX IN?

  • Alcohol: beer, liqueur, spirits, wine
  • Candy: baking chips (mix the flavors!), chocolate chips/chunks/shavings, mini marshmallows, marzipan, toffee bits, candies of choice
  • Cookies, Cake: broken or cut into small pieces
  • Fruits: diced fruits, jam/preserves, purées, shredded coconut, zest
  • Ice Cream & Sorbet: make a blend of favorite flavors; add a sorbet swirl to ice cream
  • Nuts: raw, roasted or candied nuts, mixed nuts
  • Sauces: balsamic, caramel/salted caramel, chocolate, fruit, honey, marshmallow
  • Spices: cayenne, chili flakes, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, sea salt
  • Vegetables/Herbs: basil, carrots (shredded/purée), mint, tomato
  • Wild Card: granola/other cereals, potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, trail mix
  •  
    More? You tell us!
     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Watermelon People

    We received an email from Bean Sprouts Café and Cooking School, which focuses on better-for-you food for kids and families. As is our wont, we went to check out the website and found these watermelon people.

    It reminded us that it was time to get out the cookie cutters and have fun with our food while melon season is in full force.

    For snacks, desserts or a plate garnish (a piece of melon on the dinner plate, with a sandwich, etc.), you’ll win smiles from kids and grown-ups alike.

    Dice the pieces left over from cutting shapes and add to a fruit salad.

     

    watermelon-people-beansprouts-230

    We are everyday [melon] people. Photo courtesy Bean Sprouts Café | Portland, Oregon.

     

      

    Comments

    BOOK: Everyday Cheesemaking

    everyday-cheesemaking-230

    Are you ready to make cheese? Photo
    courtesy Microcosm Publishing.

     

    A copy of this small paperback arrived yesterday. We picked it up and read it straight through to the end. It’s a real page-turner, and we’ve never even thought about making cheese.

    (O.K., we did make mozzarella once, from a kit, and made butter with a tabletop butter churn).

    “Everyday Cheesemaking: How to Succeed at Making Dairy and Nut Cheese at Home,” by K. Ruby Blume, is a treasure for the knowledge that it imparts, and especially the teachings on why things go wrong and how to fix them.

    Ms. Blume had purchased cheese books to teach herself how to make cheese. The problem is, unlike baking brownies, many things can go wrong in the cheesemaking process, resulting in a lot of wasted time and milk.

    So after she learned, she shared her knowledge via cheesemaking classes, and now this book. It is targeted to “everyday people” who have other jobs, and want to make cheese easily for the joy of it (or perhaps more accurately, to impress their friends and family with delicious homemade cheese). It is very clear on what can go wrong and how to avoid it.

     
    Ready, Set, Make Cheese!

    As we thumbed through page after page of how-to, we, who have never thought of it, wanted to run right out for the milk to make feta and ricotta, two cheeses we love and the easiest recipes in the book.

    The book covers a wide rage of homemade cheeses, from fresh cheeses such as chevre, halloumi, queso fresco and mozzarella to aged classics such as blue cheese, Brie and Camembert.

    In addition to cheese, you can make buttermilk, sour cream and yogurt, as well as vegan cheese, made from ingredients like nuts or soy protein.

    The book is published by Microcosm Publishing, a small publisher in Portland, Oregon. We like the book so much that we forgive them the errata that should have been caught: many missing commas, typos like “feed” instead of “fed,” and a duplication of the same paragraph.

    But these don’t get in the way of the fine writing style and the wealth of information. This is a great gift for anyone who has thought of making cheese.

    Get yours on Amazon.com.

     
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Gourmet Lassi From That Indian Drink

    We wish Ipshita Pall would invite us to dinner. Now that we’ve had her lassi yogurt drink, we’re dying to taste her food.

    Ms. Pall is a trained French culinary chef experienced in Indian-Latin fine dining.

    We enjoy all lassi, but so far, we like That Indian Drink’s products the best. Chef-crafted, they use fresh fruit instead of purchased concentrates and purées. And oh, the spices!

    The spices make a delightful difference—so much so that Chef Ipshita and her husband, Amrit Singh, were convinced to sell it commercially (their company is called The Indian Milk & Honey Co.). The result are three flavors, each more wonderful than the next:

  • Alphonse Mango Lassi
  • Blueberry Cardamom Lassi
  • Raspberry Cinnamon Lassi
  •  
    The ingredients include rBST-free lowfat milk, fruit, live active cultures, cane sugar and spices; 130 to 150 calories per eight-ounce serving. That Indian Drink isn’t just good, it’s good for you!

    Each bottle delivers more than a full serving of fruit, 7 grams of protein, dietary fiber, probiotics, antioxidants and addictive deliciousness.

       

    blueberry-cardamom-fruit-230

    Blueberry Cardamom is one of four delicious fruit flavors. Photo courtesy The Indian Milk & Honey Co.

     
    Look for That Indian Drink at Whole Foods Markets and other natural foods channels. Here’s the store locator.

    WHAT IS LASSI?

    Lassi is a traditional Indian-style yogurt-based drink blended with ripe fruits and spices—in essence, the original smoothie.

    The word “lassi” means “yogurt drink” in Hindi. The light, cool and creamy beverage originated in India around 1000 B.C.E. The probiotic cultures in the yogurt are believed to have healing properties in Ayurvedic medicine.

    As with kefir, another yogurt-based beverage that originated in the Middle East, lassi can often be tolerated by lactose-intolerant people. The probiotic bacteria compensate for the lack of an intolerant person’s production of lactase, the enzyme that digests milk proteins.

     

    strawberry-lassi-230

    Surprise friends and family with a refreshing
    glass of Lassi. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Lassi is a simpler recipe than kefir.

  • Kefir is made by adding a colony of bacteria and yeast to milk.
  • Lassi can be made simply by mixing milk or water into plain or flavored yogurt. Some historians believe that lassi may have been created as a way to stretch yogurt in the bowl, by stirring some liquid into it.
  •  
    You can find plain lassi, sweet lassi and savory lassi.

    Depending on the milk with which it is made—cow, goat, sheep, soy, water buffalo and yak—the taste and texture of the drink will vary widely.

    WHEN TO DRINK LASSI

    In India, lassi is served as an apéritif, drunk savory with meals, enjoyed sweet as a light dessert, or as a healthful sweet or savory refreshment at any time of day.

    Savory lassi is a perfect drink with spicy Indian food. Sweet lassi—yogurt and fruit often blended with ice cubes these days—is a smoothie, appropriate for a quick breakfast, a light lunch, rejuvenating snack or a light dessert.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Homemade Tomato Ketchup

    Not surprisingly, cookbook author Danielle Walker makes her own condiments. Why? They deliver better flavor than mass-produced products, and in the case of tomato ketchup and barbecue sauce, a better sweetener than high fructose corn syrup, and less sweetener.

    Danielle is following up on her the Paleo Diet-focused Against All Grain (10 months on the New York Times Best Sellers list) with the upcoming Meals Made Simple (out September 2nd, but you can pre-order now).

    You can make your own ketchup in just five minutes of prep time, plus 45 minutes of cooking. How can you resist the opportunity to impress your palate, your family, your friends?

    After you’ve made your first batch, you can experiment with your favorite seasonings: chipotle, curry, garlic, horseradish, jalapeño, sriracha, whatever.

    Danielle chose honey as the sweetener in her recipe, but you can use agave (just use half the amount, since it’s twice as sweet), maple syrup, even cane sugar.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE TOMATO KETCHUP

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, halved
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 26-ounce jar or box tomato purée
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 whole cloves*
  • 10 whole allspice berries*
  •    

    homemade-ketchup-daniellewalkerMealsMadeSimple-230r

    Make it yourself! Photo courtesy Danielle Walker.

     

    *If you’ve had these spices on the shelf for years, they’ve lost a lot of potency. It’s time to buy fresh versions, or “borrow” some from a friend or neighbor.

     

    lumberjack-cheddar-swiss-230

    It tastes even better with quality ketchup.
    Photo courtesy Cheese & Burger Society.

     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the oil in a deep skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until fragrant.

    2. ADD the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and reduced by half.

    3. REMOVE the onion, cloves and allspice. Bring to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.

    Variations

    Make the ketchup without the cloves and allspice. You can divide it into half cup batches and flavor them accordingly (seasonings provided per half cup of ketchup).

  • Chipotle Ketchup: 1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin, chipotle chile powder and lime juice
  •  

  • Cranberry Ketchup: 2 tablespoons chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice.
  • Curry Ketchup: 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice.
  • Garlic Ketchup: 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, 1/2 teaspoon lime juice.
  • Horseradish Ketchup: 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish.
  • Jalapeño Ketchup: 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped canned jalapeños, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice.
  • Sriracha Ketcup: 1 teaspoon sriracha or other hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice.
  •  
    Your own blend: Anything goes!

      

    Comments

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