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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: Fun With Nonalcoholic Beverages

lavender-lemonade-230-drm

Lavender lemonade, a truly great experience
(as is lavender iced tea). Here’s the recipe.
Photo © Edith Frimcu | Dreamstime.

 

Many home trends in foods and how to serve them come from restaurants, where chefs are constantly on the look for new ways to tempt customers.

While mixologists have long been creating menus of specialty cocktails, nonalcoholic customized beverages are moving to the foreground as well.

In addition to being a money-maker for margin-squeezed restaurants, customers can view these beverages as novel and better for them, tempting some to trade up from tap water.

Recently, the National Restaurant Association polled nearly 1,300 chefs about nonalcoholic happenings in their restaurants. The top five answers follow.

For us at home, it’s an opportunity to follow the trend and treat family and guests to something special.

1. GOURMET LEMONADE

Chefs point to gourmet lemonade as the hottest nonalcoholic beverage trend in restaurants. The “gourmet” aspect usually comes from adding another fruit or an herb (or both: rhubarb basil lemonade, anyone?), via a syrup or preferably, fresh fruit infused with the tea.

 
As fruits come into season, make blueberry, mango, raspberry, stone fruit (nectarine, peach, plum), strawberry and watermelon lemonade. Add herbs like basil, lavender and mint. Add heat with jalapeño slices.

For people who want something more potent, add a shot of eau de vie, gin, lemon liqueur (like Limoncello), saké, tequila or vodka (regular or lemon-infused).

To start you off, here’s a basic lemonade recipe that you can customize into your signature beverage, plus a recipe for lavender lemonade, made with organic dried lavender.

 
2. SPECIALTY ICED TEA

A minor upgrade can turn the ubiquitous liquid refreshment into something special. It was second on the list of trending beverages, both at fine restaurants and chains (Friendly’s offered mango iced tea nd raspberry iced tea as limited-time offers last summer).

It’s easy to use flavored syrups, but the best taste comes from infusing the fruit with the hot water and tea. You can also try cold infusion, adding the fruit to the cooled brew tea and letting it infuse overnight in the fridge.

Alternatively, you can buy You can buy fruit-flavored tea bags, loose tea or ice tea mixes (mango, passionfruit, peach, raspberry and more); but when peaches are in season, use the fresh fruit.

Our local Japanese restaurant makes a celestial lemongrass iced tea (and for what we’ve been spending on two or three glasses each visit, we’d better start brewing our own).

We added the syrup from canned lychees to iced tea (yum!) and when fresh lychees arrive in June and July, we’ll be making fresh lychee iced tea.

 

3. HOUSE-MADE SODA

One tactic restaurants use to get guests to trade up from water is to offer a soft drink that they can’t get anywhere else. For several years, we’ve been tempted by house-made sodas, both to see what “real” cola and root beer tasted like before their flavors were fixed on our palates by commercial brands; and to experience the new (to us) and different (celery and basil, for example).

The easy way to start at home is to get a Sodastream, practice with their syrups and then create your own.

Get a recipe book like Homemade Soda, with 200 recipes for making fruit sodas, fizzy juices, flavored sparkling waters, root beer, cola and more.

 
4. ORGANIC COFFEE

Consumers are increasingly interested in foods that are healthy and sustainable: two words that describe organic products. Organic coffee is a hot trend.

Instead of a simple cup of coffee at the end of the meal, some chefs at better restaurants are offering coffee brewed from better beans: organic beans or single-origin beans.

 

jalapeno-peach-iced-tea-canard-230

Fresh peach iced tea is a treat, but for a kick, add some jalapeño slices (remove the seeds and white pith). Photo courtesy Canard Inc. | NYC.

 
Instead of asking your guests, “Who wants coffee?” you can say, “Who’d like a cup of Blue Moon organic, Rain Forest Alliance coffee from Bali?”

Tiny Footprint is a brand that hits the trifecta: Certified Organic, Fair-Trade and part of the Rainforest Alliance, which is carbon negative and replants forests. It’s also delicious coffee (here’s our review). You can buy it online.
 
 
5. COCONUT WATER

Americans are now buying some $400 million in coconut water annually.

Coconut water is the clear juice of young coconuts, as opposed to opaque white coconut milk, used for Piña Coladas (among other purposes). Here’s more about coconut water.

The trendy liquid is sought for its high content of potassium and other nutrients, as well as its relatively low calorie content. It’s drunk straight or added to smoothies.

While coconut water is sold in flavors (peach mango, pineapple, etc.), you can flavor your own. Lemon Cayenne, anyone?

 
Now that warmer weather is here, it’s time to begin your journey to creating signature nonalcholic beverages. Have fun!

 
*Coconut water is simply drained from young coconuts. Coconut milk is made by steeping the grated flesh of mature coconuts in water, then puréeing and straining.

  

Comments

TIP OF THE DAY: Sorrel

fresh-sorrel-goodeggsSF-230

Green goddess: fresh-picked sorrel. Photo
courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

 

If you hadn’t read the headline or the caption, would you have been able to identify the leafy green in the photo?

Growing wild in grassland habitats, sorrel has long been cultivated as a garden herb and leafy green vegetable. It’s a member of the Polygonaceae family of flowering plants, which include foods such as buckwheat and rhubarb.

In older times, sorrel was also used as medicine. The leaves contain oxalic acid, which provides both the tart flavor and medicinal properties (respiratory tract and bacterial infections, diuretic).

Sorrel used to be consumed widely as both herb and vegetable, but has fallen out of style. Some recipes still use it in a sauce for lamb, sweetbreads or veal. Occasionally a chef will offer sorrel soup.

But it’s time to revisit sorrel at home. Both the stems and leaves can be eaten, raw or cooked.

 

Depending on your farmer’s market or produce store, you can find:

  • Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa), with large, arrow-shaped leaves (see photo above).
  • French sorrel (Rumex scutatus), milder than common sorrel, with smaller and more rounded leaves.
  • Red-veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus), the handsomest and the mildest of the three. It has subtle notes of lemon, and should be saved for salads and plate garnishes, to show off its beauty.
  •  
    Or, you can plant sorrel in your garden: It’s a perennial that will bloom for years. It grows well in containers, too.
     
    WAYS TO USE SORREL

    Since it can be used as a herb or a vegetable, you’ve got a lot of flexibility when cooking with sorrel.

    In addition to classic uses, think of it especially with dairy, duck, goose and pork, where its acidity counters the fattiness. For the same reason, it goes well with stronger fish. Try sorrel in a side, a sauce or a plate garnish.

    Sorrel recipes from Mariquita Farms, a grower of sorrel, include:

  • Apple Sorbet With Sorrel
  • Beet Salad with Sorrel with Pistachio Dressing
  • Carrot-Sorrel Juice
  • Fish Fillets With Chard, Spinach & Sorrel
  • Leek and Sorrel Pancakes with Smoked Salmon
  •  

  • Penne with Mushrooms and Fresh Sorrel
  • Sorrel and Goat Cheese Quiche
  • Sorrel Omelet
  • Sorrel Pesto
  • Sorrel Risotto
  • Sorrel Soup
  • Split Pea Soup with Sorrel
  •  
    Also use sorrel in your own recipes for:

  • Casseroles
  • Dairy (cream, sour cream, yogurt)
  • Egg Dishes (omelets, quiche)
  • Fish (especially with oily or smoked varieties like bluefish,
    mackerel or smoked salmon)
  • Green Salads
  • Green Vegetable (alone or with other cooked greens like
    chard, kale and spinach)
  •  

    sorrel-field-marquitafarm-230

    A field of sorrel. Photo courtesy Mariquita Farms.

  • Legumes (like lentils)
  • Marinades and Salad Dressings
  • Puréed As A Sauce With Duck, Goose Or Pork
  • Puréed Into Mashed Potatoes (or other potato dishes)
  • Salads
  • Sautéed In Butter
  • Sandwiches (instead of lettuce)
  • Stir Fries
  • Whole Grains
  •  
    If we’ve overlooked your favorite use for sorrel, please let us know!

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Joe’s Half & Half, Tea & Lemonade Drink

    Red-jacket-Half-and-Half_230

    The new Half & Half champion. Photo courtesy Red Jacket Orchards.

     

    Arnold Palmer, make way for Joe Nicholson: There’s a new tea and lemonade blend in town.

    In the 1960s, with his order of a glass of half lemonade, half iced tea at a country club, golf legend Arnold Palmer established the soft drink that bears his name. Others who overheard him said “I’ll have what he’s having,” and Arnold Palmer, the drink, has been popular ever since.

    Manufacturers and restaurants have created their spin on the drink, also called a Half & Half. But no one has done it better than Red Jacket Orchards, which debuted Joe’s Half & Half this month.

    Named for company founder Joe Nicholson, the drink fuses the company’s NY Style Lemonade with guayusa tea, a NIBBLE favorite.

  • The lemonade is a mix of lemons with the company’s cold-pressed apples, giving Joe’s Half & Half a delectable hint of apple juice as well.
  • Guayusa tea comes is made from an indigenous leaf that is hand-picked by the Kichwa community in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. It is delicious and even better for you than conventional tea; it’s known for natural caffeine that doesn’t give you jitters.
  •  
    Every bottle of Joes’s Half & Half contains more than twice the antioxidant levels found in green tea, and has no added sweeteners—just the national sweetness of the apples. The final product is delicious juice that gives you healthy energy.

    Available in 12-ounce (individual) and 32-ounce bottles, Joe’s Half & Half is a new favorite of ours, for sure. Thanks, Joe!

    Discover more at RedJacketOrchards.com. You can also send someone a gift of the Cold Pressed Juice Of The Month Club.

     
      

    Comments

    PRODUCE: Spring Fruits & Vegetables

    Here’s what’s in season for Spring. Not everything may be available in your area, but what is there should be domestic—not imported from overseas.

    Some of the items are harvested for only a few weeks; others are around for a while.

    So peruse the list, note what you don’t want to miss out on, and add to your shopping list.

    The list was created by Produce for Better Health Foundation. Take a look at their website, FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org for tips on better meal planning with fresh produce.

    SPRING FRUITS

  • Apricots
  • Barbados Cherries
  • Cherimoya
  • Honeydew
  • Jackfruit
  • Limes
  • Lychee
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  •    

    open-jackfruit-showing-bulbs-wisegeek-230b

    It’s jackfruit, and it’s in season. Your most likely to find it at Asian markets. Here’s more about it from WiseGeek.org.

     

    SPRING VEGETABLES

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus: Green, Purple, White
  • Belgian Endive
  • Bitter Melon
  • Broccoli
  • Boston/Butterhead Lettuce
  •  

    manoa-lettuce-sunset.com-230

    Butterhead or Boston type has a loose head with green, smooth outer leaves and yellow inner leaves. Popular varieties include Bibb (Limestone), Buttercrunch, Mignonette (Manoa) and Tom Thumb. Here’s more about them from Sunset.com.

     
  • Cactus
  • Cardoons
  • Chayote Squash
  • Chives
  • Collard Greens
  • Corn
  • Fava Beans
  • Fennel
  • Fiddlehead Ferns
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Green Beans
  • Morel Mushrooms
  • Mustard Greens
  • Nettles
  • Pea Greens
  • Pea Pods
  • Peas
  • Radicchio
  • Ramps
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Rhubarb
  • Snow Peas
  • Sorrel
  • Spinach
  • Spring Baby Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Vidalia Onions & Other Sweet Onions
  • Watercress
  • ;&nbsp
    Here’s more on spring fruits and vegetables. Get inspiration for meals and enjoy what’s best and freshest!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Salad With Prosciutto

    If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to roll out spring recipes.

    Scafata is a dish from the Umbria region of Italy, typically made with spring vegetables such as artichokes, escarole, fava beans, green peas and Swiss chard, and flavored with basil, mint and often, guanciale (bacon made from the jowl of the pig).

    We’ve adapted a recipe from ParmaCrown.com into a spring vegetable salad with prosciutto (Parma ham). In our version, you can:

  • Serve the vegetables raw, cooked (to al dente) or blanched.
  • Customize it with your favorite spring veggies, for example fava beans.
  • Substitute the chard and escarole with kale or romaine.
  • Top it with a poached egg, for a lunch entrée.
  •  
    RECIPE: SPRING SALAD WITH PROSCIUTTO

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Cooked Version

  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  •    

    parma-style-scarfatta-parmacrown-230

    Make this spring salad, raw or cooked. Photo
    courtesy ParmaCrown.com.

     

    For The Raw Version

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup vinegar (or divide between vinegar and fresh lemon juice)
  •  
    Vegetables For Both Versions

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups (about 4 ounces) snow peas
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 8 canned artichokes†, drained and halved
  • 4 ounces (about 3/4 cup) asparagus spears cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup green onion cut into 1/2-inch pieces (do not include in cooked version)
  • Optional: 1 cup Swiss chard or escarole, torn into bite-size pieces
  •  
    Toppings

  • 8 slices prosciutto di Parma
  • Optional: 4 poached eggs
  • Optional garnish: chopped or chiffonade of fresh basil and/or mint
  •  
    *If serving the salad raw or blanched, substitute 1/2 cup green onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, for the cooked onion.

    †The artichokes should be plain, not marinated.

     

    P6

    Prosciutto in the making: hams hanging to cure in the air. Photo courtesy ParmaHam.com.

     

    Preparation

    For The Cooked Salad

    1a. COMBINE the wine, oil and onion in large skillet; cover and bring to boil over medium- high heat. Add the zucchini, snow peas, peas, artichokes, asparagus, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, simmer partly covered about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until vegetables are al dente (or, if you prefer, tender).

    For The Raw Salad

    1b. MAKE a the vinaigrette: Whisk the oil and vinegar with salt and pepper to taste. A pinch of dry mustard helps keep the emulsion from separating. Toss the vegetables in vinaigrette just to moisten. Place the remaining vinaigrette in a small pitcher for those who would like more.

    For Either Salad

    2. POACH the eggs. Divide the vegetables among four plates. Top each with two slices of prosciutto di Parma and an egg. Garnish with chopped fresh mint, if desired.

     
    PROSCIUTTO & SERRANO HAMS: THE DIFFERENCES

    Both prosciutto and Serrano hams are dry-cured: salted and hung in sheds to cure in the air. Both are served in very thin slices. Country ham, preferred in the U.S., is smoked, and a very different stye from dry-cured hams.

    While prosciutto and Serrano hams can be used interchangeably, they are different.

  • Prosciutto, from Italy, is cured for 10-12 months with a coating of lard. Serrano, from Spain, can be cured for up to 18 months (and at the high end, for 24 months). The differing times and microclimates affect the amount of wind that dries the hams, and thus the character of the final products.
  • They are made from different breeds of pigs: Prosciutto can be made from pig or wild boar, whereas Serrano is typically made from a breed of white pig.
  • The diet of the pigs differs. Parma pigs eat the local chestnuts, and are also fed the whey by-product of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Italian-made prosciutto is never made with nitrates. American made prosciutto, as well as both domestic and Spanish Serrano-style hams, can have added nitrates.

  • Prosciutto is considered more salty and fatty. Serrano is considered more flavorful and less fatty.
  •  
    MORE

  • Find more Parma ham recipes at ParmaCrown.com.
  • Bitter greens salad with prosciutto recipe.
  • The different types of ham.
  •   

    Comments

    RESTAURANT: Death Ave

    Now that spring is really here, New Yorkers and visitors to the city are heading to the High Line, the elevated train tracks that have been turned into a unique urban park.

    Built in 1934 to transport goods through Manhattan, the High Line ran from 34th Street to Spring Street in SoHo. The elevated tracks were built through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue.

    By 1980, interstate trucking was the preferred mode of commercial transportation, and the trains ceased to run. Over time, the tracks covered with wild vegetation. Property owners wanted the tracks torn down.

    In 1999, two neighborhood residents began to advocate for the High Line’s preservation and reuse as public open space. The first part of the renovation opened to the public in 2009 and it is now complete—and magnificent.

    The High Line is part of the renaissance of the far west side of Chelsea, long a bleak industrial area. A decade ago, art galleries priced out of other neighborhoods led the gentrification, followed by boutique hotels.

       

    vertical-horiatiki-deathave-230

    One of Death Ave’s deconstructed dishes, a stacked Greek salad. Photo courtesy Death Ave | NYC.

     

    Then the high rise residential buildings began to pop up, many along the High Line. If you’re going to live far west in Chelsea, having a neighborhood park—especially such a hip, trendy one—is an amenity unmatched by other ‘hoods.

    Along with the burgeoning numbers of visitors and residents came the restaurants. We recently visited a particularly charming one, Death Ave.

    A RESTAURANT NAMED “DEATH?”

    First, you’ll say: What kind of name is Death Ave for a restaurant, much less a modern Greek one?

    Its location, Eleventh Avenue, was nicknamed “Death Avenue” in the late 19th century.

    In the mid-1800s, the Hudson River Railroad built freight train tracks, to transport meat and other goods to the city’s bustling Meat Packing District (today, there’s no more meat packing but a loft and condo neighborhood).

    Although inconceivable today, the train tracks ran at street level, right through the same avenue that was used by pedestrians and carriage traffic. Inevitably, hundreds of people were hit and killed by the trains. By the 1890s, the street was nicknamed “Death Avenue.”

    The stretch of avenue where the restaurant is located is drab, but gentrification will come. And until then, restaurateur Michael Tzezailidis has built a beautiful new restaurant. A 120-year-old tenement building has been transformed into an urban oasis.

     

    death-ave-dining-room-230

    The dining room at Death Ave, looking out onto the patio. Photo courtesy Death Ave | NYC.

     

    The restaurant has been built with old world craftsmanship. We envied the bronze floor tiles and the handsome stone walls. The room tables are reclaimed wood.

    There’s a bar for drinking and nibbling; private, curtain-enclosed booths; a main dining room with and a splendid patio with a retractable roof for rainy days. It has a large bar and lounge area along with table seating.

    The menu is a creative modernization of Greek fare: a deconstructed Greek salad and souvlaki “tacos” for dinner and deconstructed ham and eggs for breakfast and brunch.

    There is also more conventional fare, from a mezze plate to braised octopus and lamb shank, all stylishly served.

    The cocktails are impressive (be sure to have the current specialties); and although we have to return to try the beer, there’s an in-house brewery. Death Ave is an “estiatorio and zythopoiia”; in Greek, estiatorio is a restaurant, zythopoiia is a brewery.

    It’s a lovely place to relax after your stroll on the High Line.

     

    Death Ave is located at 315 10th Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets (not on 11th Avenue, “Death Avenue”); 212.695.8080. You can also reserve via Open Table on the Death Ave website.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Raw Milk Cheese

    Today is Raw Milk Appreciation Day.

    Raw milk, another term for unpasteurized milk, is used for drinking and making cheeses. When milk is pasteurized (heated to more than 100°F/40°C), hundreds of varieties of beneficial bacteria are killed along with the potentially harmful ones.

    If left alive, those good bacteria interact with the milk to provide significantly more complexity and depth of flavor to the cheese.

    That’s why many connoisseurs prefer raw milk cheeses.

    Due to rare but potential illness from unpasteurized milk, the FDA restricts the distribution of raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days*; although raw milk cheeses are readily available in Europe.

    So you can buy raw milk cheese in the U.S., just not fresh ones (for example, no fresh goat cheese or Camembert). The restriction also applies to imported cheeses.

    Nor can retailers sell raw milk for drinking; although in its wisdom, the FDA allows consumers who visit farms bring their own containers to buy raw milk.†

    THE ISSUE WITH RAW MILK

    Despite modern sanitation, there are still some questionable practices in industrialized dairying.

       

    ouleout-vultocreameryNYS-230b

    This bloomy-rinded cheese from New York State is aged for 60 days, just enough to be legal in the U.S. It’s made by Vulto Creamery in Walton, New york. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     
    Raw milk may still harbor a host of disease-causing organisms (pathogens), including E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus. A small number Americans become ill each year from raw milk-related causes; in the past, there have been periodic related fatalities in Europe.

    How did mankind survive thousands of years of eating unaged raw milk cheeses?

    They did it before the scourge of food industrialization. With the shift from farm to factory, there was an increase in foodborne pathogens.

    In industrialized production, cows are crammed into feedlots (rather than those that graze in meadows) have a greater risk of carrying pathogens. Milk from different farms is delivered to a central processing facility. There is a much greater risk that one or more farms delivers contaminated milk.

    The U.S. government instituted policies to ensure that the milk, cheese and other dairy products were not harmful to human health by insisting on pasteurization for drinking milk and young cheeses.

    Many of today’s small farmers feel that fresh milk from healthy animals, handled in a responsible manner and used immediately, does not require pasteurization. They drink their own milk raw, because it is far more flavorful.

    As with other foods involving potential rare pathogens—Caesar salad, mousse (it’s made with raw eggs and not cooked), steak tartare, sushi and so forth, the decision to drink raw milk or eat raw milk cheese is a personal one. As outbreaks of E.coli from meat and vegetables prove, many “legal” foods are unsafe.

     

    baylen-hazen-whole-sliced-jaspberhill-230r

    Raw milk Bayley Hazen, aged three months, is one of America’s favorite connoisseur blue cheeses. It’s made at the Cellar at Jasper Hills in Vermont. Photo courtesy Jasper Hill.

     

    BUY RAW MILK CHEESE TODAY

    Head to a cheese store or a market with a good cheese department, and buy a selection of raw milk cheeses. They’re often not marked, so you may need a cheese specialist to point them out.

    Enjoy a cheese plate for lunch—with fruits, nuts, breads or crackers and a salad on the side—or after your main dinner course, instead of dessert.

    Have wine or beer with your cheese plate. After all, it’s a celebration!

     
    *The 60-days rule was established in 1949, with questionable scientific evidence. It posited that within 60 days, the the acid and salt in cheese would kill the harmful bacteria. But there have been outbreaks of pathogens in both raw and pasteurized cheeses.

    †It is illegal to distribute raw milk in the U.S., but the law allows consumers to go to a farm with their own containers and purchase raw milk. This is essentially ludicrous, as many who would buy it cannot get to the farms; and any containers brought from home will not be as clean as new ones used by farmers.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pimento Cheese Ball With Pecans

    It’s National Cheese Ball Day. Here’s a classic recipe to whip up and serve with wine or cocktails. The cheese ball serves 5-8 people.

    The recipe is from Taylor Takes a Taste for EatWisconsinCheese.com.

    RECIPE: PIMENTO CHEESE BALL WITH SALTED PECANS

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces pimentos, drained and chopped
  • 3 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  •  

    Pimento-Cheese-ball-pecans-wmmb-230

    Pimento cheese ball with pecans. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a non-stick skillet. Add the pecans and toast until fragrant, but not burned. Remove from the heat and toss in the salt. Allow to cool, then chop into medium to small pieces. Set aside.

    2. PLACE the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. With a fork, mix until creamy. Chill for 1 hour.

    3. LAY about 12 inches of plastic wrap on a level surface. Scoop out the chilled pimento cheese and form into a ball on top of plastic wrap. Roll the cheese ball in the chopped pecans, making sure the entire surface of ball is covered.

    4. WRAP the ball tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. Before serving, allow the frozen ball to thaw for half an hour. Serve with your favorite crackers, chips or pretzels.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches For Dessert

    bananafostergrilledcheese-grilledcheesesocial-230

    Bananas Foster on French toast. Photo
    courtesy Heidi Larsen | Foodie Crush.

     

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Wisconsin, American’s premier cheese-producing state (California is runner-up), even has a chef-spokesperson for the occasion.

    She is MacKenzie Smith of the blog Grilled Cheese Social, where she creates recipe after recipe for innovative grilled cheese sandwiches. She’s also the sandwich expert for About.com.

    Mackenzie developed five new grilled cheese sandwiches for National Grilled Cheese Month—made with delicious Wisconsin cheese of course. The first is what we’d call “dessert grilled cheese,” although you can certainly have it as your main for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    It takes the idea of Bananas Foster—bananas sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and rum. Mackenzie combines these ingredients with sweet, creamy mascarpone and cream cheese on a sandwich of French toast.

    It’s a smash, and our tip of the day is dessert grilled cheese.

     
    RECIPE: BANANAS FOSTER GRILLED CHEESE

    Ingredients For 1 Sandwich

  • 1 ounce (about 1/8 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 ounce cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon banana liqueur or brandy
  • 1/2 small banana, thickly sliced
  • 2 slices brioche bread
  • Sea salt flakes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the mascarpone and cream cheese in bowl. Set aside.

    2. PREPARE the French toast batter: In bowl, beat egg, milk and vanilla and set aside in a shallow bowl wide enough to hold sandwich for dipping.

    3. MELT 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add the liqueur and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the banana, stirring constantly to evenly coat bananas. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the bananas are well coated in sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

    4. PREPARE the sandwich: Spread the mascarpone mixture evenly on one side of each bread slice. Top one mascarpone-covered slice with the banana mixture, a sprinkle of sea salt and the remaining bread slice, mascarpone-covered slice down.

    5. SOAK (gently!) each side of sandwich in the French toast batter for a 1 minute. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet and grill 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and allow to rest 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

     

    RECIPE: DULCE DE LECHE GRILLED CHEESE

    Dulce de leche fans will enjoy this dessert grilled cheese sandwich, made with mascarpone and the addictive Argentinian dessert (made by caramelizing sugar in milk).

    The recipe is courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Academy.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dulce de leche
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves or 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
     
    Preparation

  •  

    mascarpone-dulce-raspberry-grilledcheeseacademy-230

    Mascarpone and dulce de leche on cinnamon raisin bread. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

    1. COMBINE the mascarpone, dulce de leche and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

    2. BUTTER one side of each slice of bread. Spread the mascarpone mixture on the non-buttered side of 4 of the bread slices. Spread raspberry preserves on the non-buttered side of the remaining 4 slices of bread.

    3. PLACE one slice of bread with raspberries or preserves on each mascarpone-topped bread slice, buttered sides out. Place the sandwiches on an electric griddle heated to 350°F, or in a preheated skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until bread is lightly toasted.

    4. REMOVE and serve immediately, unsliced, since cheese is very soft.
     

    WANT MORE?

    Here’s another dessert recipe: Mascarpone Grilled Cheese With Chocolate “Soup.”

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Scrub Daddy Sponge

    sponges-detergent-230

    scrub-daddy-boxes-230

    Scrub Daddy, our new kitchen essential. Photos by Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

     

    In the beginning, there was the sea sponge, one of the simplest animal organisms, believed to have evolved at least 700 million years ago. With no specialized organs and no locomotion, they attached to rocks on the sea bed, where they eat microscopic plants in the sea water.

    Under the skin is a simple skeleton made of a soft, porous material called spongin. Sponges have been harvested since ancient times and used for cleaning.

    In the 1940s, artificial sponges were developed by DuPont company, made from cellulose. Soon, cellulose sponges replaced natural sponges in America’s household. Today’s synthetic sponges can also be made from foamed plastic polymers.

    But as everyone who uses these sponges knows, they fall apart and worse, collect odors and bacteria—including salmonella and E.coli wiped from cutting boards and kitchen counters. The moist environment of a conventional sponge—wild or artificial—is conducive to bacterial growth.

    We are advised to regularly clean our sponges: in the dishwasher, microwave or washing machine; or by soaking in a solution of ammonia, bleach or vinegar.

     
    ENTER SCRUB DADDY

    Every so often, someone does create a better mousetrap. In this case, it was Aaron Krause, who created Scrub Daddy: a heavy-duty, scratch-free sponge. It is a champ at scrubbing off just about anything you want scrubbed.

    And it welcomes you with a smiling face, the mouth of which can be used to scrub utensils.

    Krause was washing and waxing cars for a living when he scratched a car. In response, he went home and invented a line of buffing and polishing pads, including the Scrub Daddy sponge.

    His business was bought out by 3M, which didn’t want Scrub Daddy because they had Scotch-Brite (not nearly as effective).

    He tried marketing Scrub Daddy himself, with minimal success ($100,000 in sales in 18 months). Then, he got an investment and assistance via Shark Tank that has generated $18 million in sales in 18 months.

     
    Scrub Daddy is made of a high-tech polymer texture that changes texture with the water temperature: It’s hard in cold water, for cleaning pots and grills; and soft in hot water for dishes.

    It’s safe to use (non-scratch) on just about every household surface. Like other sponges, it’s flexible to get to the bottom of coffee pots, mugs, vases, etc.

    We are thrilled—THRILLED!—with the cute little guy, who is made in happy colors: blue, green orange and yellow. There’s also a lemon-scented yellow version and a larger rectangle (no face). The company has also released Sponge Daddy, in the size of a conventional kitchen sponge (we haven’t tried it).

    We’ve used ours for a few months and it makes for happy scrubbing. Independent lab test showed it remains odor-free for up to two months. Beyond the kitchen, use it for:

  • Other household cleaning. Scrub Daddy adds fun to any chore.
  • Outdoor cleaning, from grills and swings to pool surfaces and decks.
  • Personal care, from handwashing (kids may like the face enough to use it more often) to exfoliating.
  • Auto care, the use that inspired it in the first place. Use it on your car or boat to clean dashboards, upholstery, wheels, windows, whatever.
  •  
    Scrub Daddy is sold in Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, SuperValu and Wal-Mart, with other retailers coming on board. There’s also a website, ScrubDaddy.com, but we hate to send you there because it needs work!

    You can also buy it on Amazon.com.

     

    PEACHY CLEAN, A PEACH-SCENTED SPONGE

    According to the manufacturers of Peachy Clean, the bacteria on a conventional sponge double every 20 minutes A scrubbing sponge is the #1 cross contaminator of food borne illnesses in the kitchen.

    So they created Peachy Clean Silicone Scrubbers, incorporating a new technology that is anti-microbial and anti-odor, resisting most odors caused by bacteria, mold and mildew.

    These scrubbers are specially designed to be fast drying to help reduce the bacteria, mold, and mildew growth facilitated by a moist environment.

    Also non-scratch, they last on average 3-6 months (they are the only scrubbers on the market that come with a 3 month warranty). Instead of a smiling face, the sponges smell like peaches.

    You can buy them on Amazon.com, and visit the company website, GetPeachyClean.com

     

    peachy-clean-juliatomases-230

    Peachy clean has a subtle peach aroma. Photo by Julia Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

     

    NOTE: Both of these sponges are scrubbers, as opposed to liquid picker-uppers. While they will wipe a counter, for major spills you’ll need a conventional sponge or paper towel.

      

    Comments

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