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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.

TIP OF THE DAY: Ají Sauce

Hot sauce lovers should take a closer look at ají sauce, a standard in Ecuador and Peru. Aji amarillo is one of the most common types of chiles in the area, and is also one of the most important ingredients in the two countries.

While, like all salsas, there are as many variations as there are cooks, a basic ají criollo is made from the ají amarillo (yellow ají*), along with cilantro, garlic, onion and lime.

Each region and city has its own unique recipe. For example, ají de tomate de árbol—tree tomato or tamarillo ají—uses tamarillo as well as ají amarillo. (A recipe is below.)

Andrés Dávila, executive chef of Casa Gangotena, TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top Ten Hotel, offers tourists a journey through the different types of ají, with a selection of six sauces carefully paired with a dish that heightens the flavors of the local cuisine. He’s also sent us a standard recipe so you can make your own.

Great for sauces and to kick up any meal with a great flavor and medium heat. Chewing on the chiles adds more heat.

  • Ají mixed with passion fruit, which colors the sauce a spectacular yellow, goes well paired with chicken or pork.
  • Ají with sambo squash seeds, a light green cream with a subtle smell and taste that goes well with white meats.
  •    

    aji-amarillo-perudelights-230r

    Ají amarillo, in shades of yellow and orange. Photo courtesy PeruDelights.com.

  • Manaba-style pickled ají, flavored and colored with carrots, is the perfect accompaniment to fish.
  • Orange ají is made with tree tomato (tamarillo) and chochos (lupines).
  • Purple ají, colored with beets, has a complex layering of fruit vinegar, grated carrots and pickle slices, goes well with both seafood and red meats.
  •  
    PICK UP A JAR OF AJÍ AMARILLO (YELLOW AJÍ) PASTE

    You can probably find a jar of ají paste in the Latin foods section of your supermarket. Goya makes it, of course, and you can find specialty brands such as Costa Peruana and Inca’s Food online.

    Aji paste is simply a purée of fresh ajis. “American fusion” uses include:

  • Mix a tablespoon with a cup of Alfredo or other white sauce, red sauce or brown sauce or gravy.
  • Add to soup (including chicken soup).
  • Add to a ceviche marinade.
  • Mix into condiments to add flavor and heat.
  •  
    *While ají is Spanish for chile pepper and amarillo means yellow, the color changes to orange as the chiles mature. You can see the deepening colors in the photo above.

     

    aji-amarillo-paste-incasfood-230

    Add bold flavor to many dishes with ají
    amarillo (yellow chile) paste. Photo courtesy
    Inca’s Food.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE AJÍ SAUCE

    This classic ají sauce combines tree tomato (tamarillo), ají amarillo and chochos (lupines, or lupin beans). Lupins are a large yellow Italian bean. You can substitute lima beans or fava beans for the lupins.

    Ingredients

  • 4-5 tomatillos
  • 2 ajís (you can substitute serranos or other red chilies, or yellow habaneros for extra heat)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: cooked and peeled chochos (lupin beans)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL the tomatillos and boil them for 5 minutes.

    2. BLEND the tomatillos with ají chiles. For a milder sauce, seed and devein the chiles. You can always save a few seeds and add them in if it’s too mild.

    3. TRANSFER the mix to a small sauce pan, add the water (you can add more if you want a more liquid sauce) and cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes. You can also skip the cooking part; the sauce will be fresher in taste, but will need to be consumed more quickly.

    4. ADD the onion, lime juice, cilantro, optional chochos and salt to taste. Serve warm or cold.

    VARIATION: Replace the water with oil (avocado, light olive oil or a mild flavored oil) for a creamier Cuencano-style ají, and do not cook it after blending.

    Recipe courtesy Laylita.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: How To Avoid Salmonella & Other Food Poisoning

    People tend to worry about food poisoning during the summer months, when eating outdoors exposes food to greater bacterial growth from the heat. But you can get food poisoning year round, including in your own kitchen.

    The Partnership for Food Safety Education helps consumers get the facts, deflating common myths about cross-contamination and the growth of harmful pathogens that cause food poisoning. Here are their myth busters for 2014:

    Myth 1: It’s O.K. to wash bagged greens if I want to. It’s even better for them.

    Fact: While intuition says that giving ready to eat, washed or triple washed salad couldn’t possibly hurt, the truth is otherwise. An extra rinse will not enhance safety, but could potentially lead to cross-contamination from pathogens that could be on your hands or on kitchen surfaces. Ready-to-eat greens are just that: ready!
     
    Myth 2: Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator. It’s too cold in there for germs to survive!

    Fact: Some bacteria can survive cold environments like the fridge. In fact, Listeria monocytogenes grows at temperatures as low as 35.6°F. A recent study from NSF International reveals that the refrigerator produce compartment is one of the germiest place in the kitchen, containing salmonella and listeria bacteria.

       

    Raw_whole_chicken-chicken.ie-230

    Don’t rinse raw chicken before cooking it. Salmonella can contaminate other items in the sink. Photo courtesy Chicken.ie.

     
    To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, clean the bins regularly with hot soap and water; clean the other surfaces of the fridge likewise, including the walls and undersides of shelves; and clean up any food and beverage skills immediately. Be sure to keep fresh produce separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.

     

    salmonella-kosmix.co-230r

    Not fun: the salmonella bacterium. Photo
    courtesy Kosmix.co.

     

    Myth 3: It’s only important to rinse fresh fruits and vegetables for safety. I don’t need to dry them too.

    Fact: Using a clean cloth or paper towel to blot dry fruits and vegetables after rinsing is more important than you might realize. Research has found that taking a minute to dry the produce reduces the level harmful bacteria that can remain on the surface.

  • Just before use, rinse under running water only that produce that you plan to eat, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten (like melon or citrus).
  • Dry with a clean cloth or a paper towel.
  •  

    Myth 4: I don’t need to rinse this melon for safety, since the part I eat is on the inside.
    Fact: There are many pathogens on the rind that can contaminate the edible portion. A knife or peeler passing through the rind can carry them from the outside to the inside. The rind also touches the flesh when sliced pieces of melon are stacked on a platter. Play it safe and rinse the melon under running water while rubbing it with your hands or scrubbing it with a clean brush and then dry it before slicing.

     

    FOOD SAFETY TRIVIA

  • 65% of people don’t wash their hands before starting meal preparation.
  • 1/3 of people only use water to rinse their hands. You need to use soap!
  • 45% of consumers rinse raw chicken. This spread germs and isn’t a food safety step. Don’t rinse it! (Big surprise—we intuitively rinsed the chicken.)
  • Don’t guess: Use a food thermometer. The safe temperature for cooked chicken is 165°F.
  •  
    For more food safety information, visit FoodSafety.gov.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Date Nut Cookies

    Recently, for National Date Nut Bread Day (September 8th), we whipped up a batch of these date nut cookies. The last one met its maker yesterday, and we just may make another batch this weekend.

    If you like oatmeal raisin cookies, try them for a nice change of pace: Here, sweet dates and salty nuts combine with chocolate and oatmeal for a happy holiday treat.

    Food trivia: Before sugar arrived in Europe* from the Asia, dates were widely used as a sweetener in baked goods.

    RECIPE: DATE NUT COOKIES

    Ingredients For 5 Dozen Cookies

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups quick or old fashioned oats (uncooked)
  • 3/4 cup dates, chopped
  • 3/4 cup salted pistachios
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks or morsels
  •    

    medjool-superior-nut-company-amz-230

    Dates: the world’s first sweetener. Photo courtesy Superior Nut Company.

     

    date-nut-cookies-horiz-wmmb-230

    Tasty cookies with whole-grain oats. Photo
    and recipe courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing
    Board.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Beat together the butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and almond extract; mix to combine.

    2. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in separate bowl. Add to butter mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats until combined. Add dates, pistachios and chocolate; mix well.

    3. SHAPE the dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in a shallow bowl containing 1 cup sugar.

    4. PLACE on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool cookies on pan for one minute or until set; transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

    Store the cookies in airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

     
    Here’s a recipe for date nut bread.
     
    *Sugar arrived in Europe around 1100, but was in very limited quantity and was not widely available until the 16th century.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Veggie Fries

    If the only way to get the family to eat more veggies is to feed them fries…well, Veggie Fries should become a very big brand.

    You can make veggie fries, which substitute all or some of the potato for a more nutritious vegetable, from scratch at home.

    Or, you can buy Veggie Fries, a new line that has debuted offering:

  • Broccoli fries (27% broccoli and beans)
  • Carrot fries (32% carrots and beans)
  • Chickpea & Red Pepper fries (25% chickpeas and bell peppers)
  • Tuscan Bean & Herb fries (29% beans and herbs)
  •  
    The all natural line mixes better-for-you vegetables and legumes in with potato, to deliver more fiber and vitamins. The fries are low in sodium and gluten-free.

    The company tried more than 300 recipes to create the perfect veggie fries: extra crispy on the outside, fluffy and tender on the inside. We hope you love them as much as we do.

    Learn more at EatVeggieFries.com.

       

    broccoli-fries-plate-bag-230

    One of the new fries in town: Broccoli Veggie Fries. Photo courtesy Healthy Life Brands.

     

    chickpea-red-pepper-plate-230sq

    Chickpea & Red Bell Pepper Fries. Photo
    courtesy Healthy Life Brands.

     

    The fries bake in the oven, and in just 18 to 23 minutes you’ll have crispy fries to enjoy with your favorite foods—or all by themselves as a lower-guilt fry snack.

    Serve them with your favorite condiments, or try a new one, like ponzu sauce—an Asian alternative to the malt vinegar preferred by the Brits instead of ketchup. Or take a look at these more unusual, sophisticated condiments from Chef Johnny Gnall.

    If ketchup is your condiment, take a look at the best ketchup brands. For example, blend your own chili paste and honey or hot sauce, a dip of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, or flavored mayonnaise.

    And consider creating a signature fries recipe with different toppings.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Quick Quinoa “Paella”

    quinoa-paella-kaminsky-230

    A delicious vegetable “paella” of quinoa.
    Photo © Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    Paella is a Spanish pilaf traditionally made with saffron-seasoned white rice and, depending on regional preferences, different combinations of meat and seafood (here’s the history of paella and popular variations).

    Vegetarians can make vegetable paella with tofu. And in this recipe, from Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes, you can replace the white rice as well with far more nutritious and quick-cooking quinoa.

    “Every last recipe packed into this carefully crafted text are all worth making, not a single bit of fluff or page-filler to be found,” says NIBBLE contributor Hannah Kaminsky.

    “One recipe that stands out is the deceptively simple Quick Quinoa Paella, an excellent example of author Nava Atlas’s skill for presenting a sound foundation that can be adapted, reinterpreted, and recreated a hundred different ways with equal success.”

    You can add a conventional proteins—chicken, duck, fish, seafood. We happened to have leftover roast chicken, and added some fresh scallops and shrimp.

    But quinoa is the most protein-rich grain, a complete protein with more protein per serving than milk (and perhaps the most nutritious food on earth).

    Prep time is 30 minutes.

    RECIPE: QUINOA PAELLA

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or 3 tablespoons vegetable broth or water
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 cup sliced baby bella (cremini) mushrooms
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons turmeric or saffron (see note below)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed in a fine sieve
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 can (14-ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
  • 2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
  • 2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Optional proteins: poultry, seafood, etc.
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil, broth, or water in a large, deep skillet or stir-fry pan. Add the garlic, bell peppers, and mushrooms, if desired, and sauté over medium-low heat until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes.

    2. ADD the broth, turmeric, and quinoa. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.

    3. STIR in the thyme, artichoke hearts, peas, tomatoes, scallions, and half the parsley. Check if the quinoa is completely done; if not, add 1/2 cup water. Cook, stirring frequently, just until everything is well heated through, about 5 minutes.

    4. SEASON with salt and pepper, then transfer the mixture to a large shallow serving container, or serve straight from the pan. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top and serve at once.

     

    plant-power-230

    Plant Power: delicious vegan recipes. Get it
    on Amazon.com. Photo courtesy HarperOne.

     
    Saffron Or Tumeric?

    As another departure from tradition, Hannah says that you can use turmeric rather than the customary saffron of paella. Saffron is harder to obtain and very expensive; but if you have it, by all means, use it. Dissolve the saffron threads in a small amount of hot water before adding to the recipe.
     

    GET THE BOOK

    Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes,” by bestselling vegan author Nava Atlas, was published last week.

    Pick up a copy and add more plant power to your diet.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Delicious Appetizers With Wonton Wraps

    buffalo-chicken-cups-230

    An even more delicious way to enjoy the
    flavor of Buffalo wings. Photo courtesy
    Nasoya.

     

    You may not be ready to take on homemade dumplings, as we suggested yesterday.

    But if you’re looking for easy, impressive hors d’oeuvres for entertaining? Make them with won ton wraps.

    Of course, you’d buy won ton wraps to make homemade won tons. Savvy cooks know you can also use them to make ravioli. Like pasta, the wraps are made from wheat flour, eggs and salt, plus water, wheat gluten, vinegar and cornstarch.

    But did you think of making clever appetizers with them? They’re surprisingly easy. And the crispy baked wontons are far superior to other alternatives we’ve tried, like phyllo cups.

    Nasoya, an American producer of tofu, Asian-style noodles and wraps and Nayonaise vegan sandwich spread, treated us to the recipes below, created for Nasoya by blogger Kris Schoels of TheChicWife.com. We loved every bite.

    Look for the wraps in the produce section, next to Nasoya tofu. The all-natural wraps are easy to use. The line is certified kosher by OU.

    These three recipes are delicious for hors d’ouevres or a first course. Find more delicious recipes at Nasoya.com.

     
    RECIPE: BUFFALO CHICKEN CUPS

    These were so good, we were sorry we hadn’t made a double batch. (The photo is above.)

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 12 ounces cooked chicken, diced
  • 3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup of wing sauce (mild or hot)
  • 1/2 cup of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup of ranch dressing
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • Extra blue cheese crumbles for topping
  • Cupcake pan
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken and blue cheese in a bowl and set aside.

    2. COMBINEthe hot wing sauce, softened cream cheese, and ranch dressing in a small bowl. Pour the cream cheese mixture over top of the chicken and crumbled blue cheese. Stir until just combined.

    3. PLACE one wonton wrapper in each cupcake opening; press down until it creates a cup. Fill each wrapper cup 3/4 of the way with the chicken mixture.

    4. BAKE for 10 minutes, or until the wrappers are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Top with more crumbled blue cheese for garnish, if you wish. Serve warm.

     

    RECIPE: BAKED AVOCADO & FETA WONTONS WITH
    AVOCADO-LIME DIPPING SAUCE

    We’d never have thought of combining avocado and feta, but the result is delicious!

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • 2 large avocados, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic, very finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Small bowl with water for sealing
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. COMBINE the chopped avocado, sun dried tomatoes, feta, garlic, onion, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl, taking care to not smash the avocado pieces too much.

     

    avocado-feta-wraps-230

    A delicious marriage of avocado and feta, for an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Photo courtesy Nasoya.

     

    3. FILL the wrappers: Working one wrapper at a time place 1 tablespoon of filling in the top third of the egg roll wrap. Brush the edges with water and roll like a burrito. Seal with more water. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all of the filling has been used.

    4. BAKE for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

    5. MAKE the dipping sauce (recipe below).
     
    RECIPE: AVOCADO-LIME DIPPING SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 small ripe peeled avocado
  • 1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Optional: hot sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients into a food processor; process until smooth. Season with additional salt, pepper and optional hot sauce.
     
    RECIPE: HAM & CHEESE BITES

    Think beyond “ham and cheese”: The flavor of these bites is quite sophisticated.

    Ingredients For 30 Pieces

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked ham, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg white (set aside to be used later)
  • 30 wonton wrappers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK the egg in a bowl whisk and add the cottage cheese, mixing until smooth. Stir in the ham, cheddar, salt, and pepper. Place in the refrigerator until ready to cook the wontons.

    2. Prepare the wontons: Working one wrapper at a time, brush the outer edge of the wrapper with egg white (this will help seal the bites). Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the wrap. Fold the wrapper in half into a triangle and seal with more egg wash if needed.
    3. PLACE on a baking sheet until ready to cook (note, these can be frozen and cooked later). Repeat until all of the cheese mixture has been used.

    4. HEAT a large skillet over medium heat, spray skillet with nonstick spray or use 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the skillet is warm, place the wonton wrap in the pan, being careful not to overcrowd it. Do it in several batches.

    5. COOK for 1 minute on each side; the outside will be lightly browned. Place on a paper towel lined plate, keeping warm until ready to serve. Here’s a photo of the cooked dumplings.

      

    Comments

    BOOK: Dumplings All Day Wong

    dumplings-all-day-wong-230

    A dumpling lover’s treasure. Photo courtesy
    Page Street Publishing.

     

    We loved chef Lee Anne Wong on the first season of Top Chef.

    She’s out with her first cookbook, Dumplings All Day Wong, focusing on Asian dumplings.

    Says Chef Lee Anne: “Biting into a hot, fresh, juicy dumpling can be a transcendent moment, the kind that makes your eyes roll to the back of your head, and one that can be repeated (often).”

    Yet unless you’re fortunate enough to live near an exceptional dim sum establishment, the dumplings you get at most Asian restaurants are purchased from outside suppliers, and often nowhere as flavorful as the ones you can making at home.

    That’s why this book is such a treasure. “The further you get into the book, the more you will begin to realize that your possibilities are truly endless. As with all styles of cooking, once you master the techniques and basic recipes, you’ll have the ability to build your own dumpling arsenal.”

    And what to do with this arsenal—which can be gluten free, traditional, modern, cutting edge, even technicolor (with colored dough)?

     
    Entertain! Become known for dumpling cocktail parties and brunches. Be the first one invited to parties (and bring some dumplings, of course).

    Do you have the patience to make dumplings? “While the idea of standing in one place all day making dumplings sounds intimidating or boring, I actually quite enjoy the repetitive motions of hand pleating dumplings. I consider it my ‘me time.’

    Our suggestion: Invite a friend to make dumplings with you. You’ll be able to make more varieties, and have “us time.”

    Then, thrill to your homemade gyozas, har gow, potstickers, shumai, wontons and more, with countless fillings and different cooking methods including baking, deep-frying, pan-frying and steaming.

    Get the book now, on Amazon.com; it’s available in paperback and Kindle versions.

     

    RECIPE: BRUSSELS SPOUTS & BACON DUMPLINGS

    Ingredients For 60 Dumplings

  • 1 pound bacon, diced into ¼ inch pieces
  • Oil for deep-frying
  • 2 pints (1½ pounds) fresh Brussels sprouts
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons black or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat
  • 60 round dumpling wrappers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until it is completely cooked and crispy. Strain the bacon and cool on a paper-towel lined plate. Reserve the bacon fat.

    2. PREHEAT a small pot of oil to 375°F. Trim the bottom and outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts and quarter them, leaving the root ends intact.

     

    Brussels-Sprouts-and-Bacon-Dumplings-dumplingsalldaywong-230

    A contemporary dumpling recipe from Dumplings All Day Wong: Brussels sprouts and bacon! Photo courtesy Page Street Publishing.

     

    3. DIVIDE the Brussels sprouts in half and deep-fry half of them in small batches for about 2-3 minutes until the leaves are caramelized and brown. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with salt. Once cooled, chop into small pieces or use a food processor.

    4. BRING a pot of salted water to boil. Blanch the remaining Brussels sprouts until tender, abut 3 minutes. Place in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Dry the Brussels sprouts with paper towels and chop finely (or in the food processor).

    5. COMBINE the bacon, chopped Brussels sprouts and minced garlic in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cornstarch until well mixed. Sprinkle over the filling, add the fish sauce, vinegar and bacon fat and mix well until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

    6. FILL the dumplings with about 1 teaspoon of filling and fold in a pleat style. Heat a wok or large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add ½ tablespoon of oil to the pan. Place the dumplings in a single layer and cook until the bottoms are gold brown, 1-2 minutes. Add ½ cup water and immediately cover the pan. Cook until all the water has been absorbed and the dumpling skins have cooked through about 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve with Fish Sauce Caramel.

    RECIPE: FISH SAUCE CARAMEL

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the rice vinegar, brown sugar, granulated sugar and soy sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves.

    2. REMOVE the pan from the heat and add the fish sauce. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ricotta Salata

    ricotta-salata-ig-230

    Ricotta salata. Photo courtesy iGourmet.com.

     

    Most of us are familiar with ricotta, the fresh cottage cheese-like* Italian favorite used in everything from lasagna to cheesecake to cannoli.

    But what about ricotta salata, a firm, aged sheep’s milk cheese (some refer it ricotta secca). A Sicilian specialty, it is ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried—very different from ricotta and an exciting and versatile cheese.

    Ricotta salata is mildly salty, with a milky and nutty flavor. It is ideal for grating, shaving, slicing or cubing. You can use it anywhere you’d use feta. It’s typically more affordable than feta or Italian grating cheeses.

    You can crumble it, cube it, grate it, shave it or slice it. You can enjoy it with fruit as your cheese course, or add it to a cheese platter or antipasto plate.

     
    *Technically, ricotta isn’t a cheese but a by-product of the cheese-making process. The name “ricotta” means “recooked” in Italian (from the Latin recoctus). Historically, ricotta has been made from the whey that was left over from the process of making a cooked cheese. What to do with the whey has long been a question in the cheese world; many cheese makers of long ago simply fed it to their pigs, a practice still continued today. But somewhere along the line, someone discovered that the whey contained proteins and milk solids that would coagulate under high enough heat and with the presence of acid, and ricotta was born. In addition to ricotta salata, here’s also ricotta affumicata, an aged cheese that is smoked in the early part of the maturing process. Like ricotta salata, it can be eaten with bread or grated on pasta, gnocchi, and cooked vegetables.

     

    Try it:

  • In a green salad, ideally one with tangy greens like arugula and watercress. We love it with arugula, beets and fresh herbs.
  • On grains, potatoes or rice, whether sides or salads.
  • As a soup garnish.
  • On a sandwich, pannino or burger.
  • Atop pasta, or tossed with it. Check out Pasta alla Norma, made with eggplant and ricotta salata.
  • With eggs.
  • On cooked vegetables; try it with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale or spinach.
  • With eggs.
  • Grated on pizza, flatbread or crostini.
  • In stuffed artichokes or vegetable fritters.
  • Atop fruit salad or grilled fruit. An Italian classic mixes watermelon with ricotta salata, basil, pine nuts and olive oil.
  • Cubed on skewers, with vegetables, meats or fruits.
  •  

    ricotta-salata-southernitaliandesserts-230

    Ricotta salata in a traditional shape. Photo courtesy Southern Italian Desserts.

     

    What’s your favorite use? Let us know!
     
    RICOTTA HISTORY

    Ricotta production on the Italian peninsula dates to the Bronze Age (circa 3200–600 B.C.E. in Europe, and varying dates elsewhere). In the second millennium B.C.E., ceramic vessels called milk boilers started to appear frequently.

    Unique to the peninsula, they were designed to boil milk at high temperatures and prevent the milk from boiling over. The fresh acid-coagulated cheeses produced with these boilers were probably made with whole milk. Ceramic milk boilers were still used by Apennine shepherds to make ricotta as recently as the 19th century. Today metal milk boilers are used, but production methods have changed little since ancient times.

    By the first millennium B.C.E., the production of rennet-coagulated cheeses took over. Unlike the fresh acid-coagulated cheese, aged rennet-coagulated cheese could be preserved for much longer.

    The production of rennet-coagulated cheese led to a large supply of whey as a by-product. Cheese makers created a recipe that used a mixture of the whey plus milk, to make the fresh ricotta we know today.

    Because of its perishability, ricotta was most likely consumed locally, by the shepherds and cheesemakers. It is likely that its short shelf life did not allow broad distribution to urban markets; but even so, evidence from paintings and literature indicates that ricotta was known and likely eaten by Roman aristocrats as well. And at some point, ricotta was pressed and aged into ricotta salata. [Source]

      

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    PRODUCT: El Jimador Flavored Tequila

    el_jimador_mango_mango_mexican_lime_partial-230

    Two delicious flavored tequilas. Photo
    courtesy Brown Forman.

     

    We are fans of flavored spirits, sipping them straight up or on the rocks. We’re happy that the category is growing.

    The newest samples to land at our desk are flavored tequilas from El Jimador Tequila: Mango Mango and Mexican Lime flavors, the first flavor extensions in the El Jimador brand.

    The ripe mango flavors of Mango Mango tequila will convince you that a mango has been blended into your drink. Mexican Lime does similarly, evoking fresh lime.

    Both flavors are available in 750 ml bottles at a suggested retail price of $19.99. Get some for yourself, get some as gifts. To learn more about el Jimador, visit ElJimador.com.

    Check out the two shooter recipes below.

     

    RECIPE: PALOMINI SHOOTER WITH MEXICAN LIME TEQUILA

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce El Jimador Mexican Lime tequila
  • Grapefruit soda (e.g. Fresca)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional: salt rim
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CREATE salt rim. Add ice, tequila and salt.

    2. TOP with grapefruit soda. Stir gently and serve.

     

    RECIPE: TRES AMIGOS SHOOTER WITH MANGO TEQUILA

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce El Jimador Mango Mango tequila
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • ½ ounce grenadine (make your own with this recipe)
  • Dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LAYER the grenadine, tequila and, lime juice. Add the Tabasco and shoot.

     
    TRIVIA: A jimador is a farmer who harvests agave plants that are used to make tequila and mezcal.

     

    tres-amigos-shooter-230

    The Los Amigos shooter in the colors of the Mexican flag. Photo courtesy Brown Forman.

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Brownie Sandwiches With Buttercream

    Here’s an idea from Earl Of Sandwich: brownie sandwiches, filled with peanut butter buttercream or a frosting of your choice.

    Just bake your favorite brownies and sandwich two of them with your favorite flavor of buttercream: chocolate, coffee, maple, pistachio, strawberry, vanilla, etc. You can fill the brownie pan with less batter for flatter brownies (adjust the baking time accordingly).

    The Earl of Sandwich cuts the brownies into rounds. You can cut conventional squares or rectangles; but if you do cut them in circles or other shapes (use a cookie cutter), the odd-shaped leftover pieces are great with ice cream. You can keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.

    RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER CREAM

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch salt
  •  

    Peanut butter- and chocolate filled brownie sandwiches. Photo courtesy Earl Of Sandwich.

     
    Preparation

    1. CREAM the peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on high speed.

    2. SWITCH to low speed and add the sugar and a pinch of salt until combined. Return to high speed and beat the mixture until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.

      

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