THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook A Frozen Steak Without Thawing

Frozen Steak

Frozen Steak

Strip Steak

Splatter Screen

[1] Remove the frozen steak from the freezer (photo courtesy Mart2Go). [2] Place it in a hot pan (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] In 20 minutes, plate and enjoy (photo courtesy Eddie Merlot’s). [4] We use a mesh spatter screen, but we just ordered this folding spatter screen from Norpro.

 

Want a steak but you haven’t defrosted it yet?

No problem. Your steak will be ready in less than 30 minutes with this technique developed by Dan Souza of Cook’s Illustrated (thanks to Good Eggs for sending their adaptation to us).

Dan experimented by cutting strip steaks in half, freezing both halves, then defrosting one half before cooking.

He cooked both the thawed and frozen halves exactly the same way, and found that the frozen steak lost less moisture, cooked more evenly, and tasted better than the thawed half!

The steak needs to be frozen properly, since any extra moisture or ice will cause a flare-up when it hits the hot oil. Here’s Dan’s freezing technique:

HOW TO FREEZE A STEAK

  • SET the steak(s) on a baking sheet lined with parchment and place in the freezer until frozen.
  • WRAP each fully-frozen steak in plastic and place it in a heavy-duty plastic bag.
  • SQUEEZE any air out of the bag. Place it in the back of the freezer, so it doesn’t get hit by warm air every time you open the door (which can create condensation on the meat).
  •  
    RECIPE: COOKING A FROZEN STEAK

  • 1 frozen steak (not thawed!)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cast iron pan
  • Optional: splatter screen, meat thermometer
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 275°F. Set a wire rack atop a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

    2. DRIZZLE 1/8″ oil into a cast iron pan—just enough to coat the bottom. Place the skillet over high heat. When the pan is smoking hot, gently lay the steak onto the pan and sear both sides until browned, 90-120 seconds per side. NOTE: Frozen steak splatters more.

    3. TRANSFER the steak onto the wire rack and place in the oven. Cook until the steak is the desired doneness: 18 to 20 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak to be medium rare (an internal temperature of 125°F on a meat thermometer).

    4. COOK the veggies or prepare the salad while the steak cooks.

    5. REST the steak for at least 3 minutes before slicing. This allows the juices to settle in the meat, instead of pouring out when sliced.

    Here’s a video of Dan’s preparation.
     
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF STEAK

    How many different types of steak have you had?

    Check out our meaty Glossary Of Beef Types.

     

     
      

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    PRODUCT: Merci Chocolate

    Something fun and yummy in the chocolate space is finally available in the U.S.

    Merci, sold in Europe for some 50 years, is a brand of boxed chocolates manufactured by the German company August Storck KG.

    They are miniature bars, in an assortment of flavors made with fine ingredients, nicely packaged in a gift box.

    The delicious selection of rich European-style chocolates includes flavors such as Coffee and Cream, Cream Truffle, Dark Cream, Dark Mousse, Hazelnut-Almond, Hazelnut-Creme, Milk Chocolate and Praline-Creme, and merci will delight the palate.

    Each flavor has its own individual color wrap, to distinguish it from the other flavors in the box.

    The idea for merci was born in 1965, as an affordable yet impressive way to say “thank you” (which incorporates “thank you for being you”). Its popularity spread, and Merci is now sold in 100 countries.

    Choices include:

  • All milk chocolate.
  • All dark chocolate.
  • Mixed milk and dark chocolate.
  • Assorted chocolate with almonds.
  •  
    The 20-piece box, with 8.8-ounces of chocolate, can be found for $7.50 (or more, depending on the retailer). You can purchase two boxes with free shipping for $21.90 on Amazon.

    In addition to Amazon, the chocolates are sold at CVS, Target, Walgreens and other chains and grocery stores nationwide.

    Can you give a box to yourself?

    No one’s going to stop you!
     
    MERCI WITH COFFEE

    In Europe, after-dinner coffee is often served with a napolitain, also called a pale or tasting square, just 5 to 10 grams. One or two of these small wrapped pieces are placed on the rim off the coffee cup.

    While Merci wrapped chocolates are stackable anytime, we enjoy serving them to guests with coffee. They easily can substitute for dessert, too.
     
     
    ABOUT STORCK

     

    Merci Chocolates

    Merci Dark Chocolate

    Coffee & Napolitain

    [1] You can serve Merci from the box or in your favorite candy dish. [2] Merci’s dark chocolate collection (both photos courtesy Merci | Storck). [3] Instead of two napolitains with after-dinner coffee, serve one Merci bar (photo courtesy Sandstein | Wikipedia).

     
    A family business now managed by the fourth generation, Storck has been a confectioner for than 100 years.

    Its brands are sold worldwide. Best-known in the U.S. are Werther’s Original caramels and toffee (the difference), and Bendicks Buttermints, chocolate-covered after-dinner mints.

    For more information visit Storck.us.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Drinks For Mexican Independence Day

    Tequila & Grapefruit Juice Cocktail

    Bandera Shots

    [1] The Paloma, said to be Mexico’s favorite tequila-based cocktail (photo courtesy TasteCocktails.com). [2] The Bandera comprises shots in green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag (photo courtesy FoodNetwork.com). [3] A layered bandora shot with chartreuse, maraschino liqueur (clear) and grenadine (photo courtesy BarinaCraft.com).

     

    September 16th is Mexican Independence Day. It’s also National Guacamole Day. Coincidence? We think not!

    Yesterday, we explained how Mexicans celebrated with shots of Reposda tequila, aged for up to a year.

    But what if you don’t like drinking straight tequila?

    You can enjoy another tequila cocktail or a non-alcoholic Mexican drink. Here are some of the most popular:
     
    RECIPE #1: MICHELADA: MEXICO’S BEER COCKTAIL

    You can have a plain Mexican beer, of course. Bohemia, Corona, Dos Equis and others are commonly found across the country.

    But if you like a bit of heat, have a Michelada (mee-cha-LAH-dah), a traditional cerveza preparada, or beer cocktail.

    Michelada is a combination of beer, lime and hot sauce served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. Chela is Mexican slang for a cold beer, combined with mixto, referring to the the mix of ingredients added to the beer. Eliminate the hot sauce and you’ve got a Chelada.

    Here’s the complete Michelada recipe.
     
    RECIPE #2: PALOMA COCKTAIL, TEQUILA & GRAPEFRUIT

    This cocktail couldn’t be easier: 3 parts grapefruit soda and 1 part tequila, served over ice cubes in a highball glass, garnished with a lime wedge. You can add an optional salt rim.

    And you can make it by the pitcher-ful, which we’ll be doing tonight.

    Paloma is the Spanish word for dove. In Mexico the soft drink of choice is Jarritos brand grapefruit soda (in the U.S., look for it at international markets or substitute Fresca.

    You can purchase pink grapefruit soda from the premium mixer brand Q Drinks, or combine grapefruit juice with club soda or grapefruit-flavored club soda.

     
    At better establishments, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice is combined with club soda. Use pink grapefruit juice and you’ll have a Pink Paloma (our term for it).

    Here’s the history of the Paloma from TasteCocktails.com, which says it’s the most popular tequila-based cocktail in Mexico.
     
    RECIPE #2: BANDERA SHOTS

    In Mexico the Bandera (flag), named after the flag of Mexico, consists of three shot glasses representing the colors of the flag (photo #2).

    The first is filled with lime juice (for the green), the middle has white (silver) tequila, and the last contains sangrita (for the red), a chaser that usually contains orange and tomato juices. Here’s the recipe from Food Network.

    You can also make layered shooter with liqueurs in the national colors (photo #3). Here’s a recipe.

     

    NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

    RECIPE #4: AGUA FRESCA

    In Spanish, agua fresca means fresh water.

    In culinary terms, it refers to a variety of refreshing cold drinks that are sold by street vendors and at cafés throughout Mexico and other Latin American countries (photo #4). They’re also sold bottled at stores, and are easily whipped up at home.

    Agua fresca is nonalcoholic and noncarbonated. The recipe can include a combination of fruits or veggies, flowers (like hibiscus), herbs and/or spices, cereals (barley, oats, rice), seeds (chia), even almond flour (which is used to make horchata, the next example).

    A traditional agua fresca is an infused, sweetened water, flavored with fruits and/or vegetables—often a more complex layering of flavors than lemonade and limeade.

    Our favorite combinations: watermelon (or any melon), basil cucumber and mint hibiscus. Here’s how to make them.

    As you can see from this recipe template, it’s easy to mix your favorite flavors.
     
    RECIPE #5: HORCHATA

    Agua de horchata—horchata for short—is a very popular recipe, made from ground almonds and rice spiced with cinnamon (photo #5). Other flavors such as coconut can be added.

    Here’s a recipe from Noshon.it.

    It’s not conventional, but, you could add a shot of tequila or rum.

    After all, it’s a day to celebrate!

     

    Watermelon Agua Fresca

    Mexican Soft Drink

    [4] Whip up a pitcher of watermelon aqua fresca with this recipe from Whole Foods Markets. [5] Horchata, made from ground almonds and cooked rice, may sound unusual—but it’s unusually good (photo courtesy Noshon.It).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Uses For A Trifle Bowl

    English Trifle Bowl

    English Trifle Bowl

    Peanut Butter Trifle

    Homemade Edible Arrangement

    [1] A classic English trifle (photo courtesy JoyCooks.Blogspot.com). [1] This modern trifle combines peanut butter pudding and pretzels. [3] A good-for-you substitute. Move over, Edible Arrangements (photos #2 and #3 courtesy Pampered Chef).

     

    Trifles are one of the easiest desserts you can make—and impressive to present. Most of the ingredients are purchased ready-to-use, with only custard or other pudding requiring a few minutes of preparation.
     
    WHAT’S A TRIFLE?

    A trifle is a layered British dessert of fruit, sponge fingers or sponge cake soaked, custard, and a topping of whipped cream. Other ingredients can be added (gelatin/Jell-O, cookie crumbs) and the cake can be soaked in alcohol.
     
    TRIFLE HISTORY

    Trifle is an evolution of a fruit fool, a dessert that probably originated in 15th -century Britain. Puréed stewed fruit was swirled with sweet custard.

    The classic was (and is) gooseberry fool, but seasonal fruits—apples, berries, rhubarb—were also used.

    Other countries have their own versions that followed the British concept. In Italy, for example, zuppa inglese, a layering of liqueur-soaked sponge and custard, appeared in the late 19th century.

    The first known reference to a trifle appears in 1585 in a cookbook, The Good Huswifes Jewell. It was flavored with sugar, ginger and rosewater (a recipe for the well-do-do, as sugar and spices were costly).

    The trifle evolved to include a layer of crumbled biscuits (cookies) and alcohol-soaked sponge cake or sponge fingers (ladyfingers) as the bottom layer. Brandy, madeira, port and sherry were used to soak the sponge.

    When powdered gelatin* became available in 1845, a layer of fruit “jelly” was added to recipes.

    As was so common among the fashionable in Renaissance Britain, France, and other European countries, new foods engendered new styles of dishes and flatware. For trifles, a straight-sided pedestal glass bowl showed off the beauty of the layers.

    Today, many people prefer bowls without the pedestal (easier to store), and modern ingredient layers that range from layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter pudding, pretzels and Oreos.

    Glass bowls with or without a pedestal are used for other desserts and can also be repurposed. Anyone who owns a straight-sided glass bowl has already figured out how to use it for layered dips, layered salads (fruit, green, pasta) and as a fruit bowl.

    It can serve as anything from a bread basket (nice with muffins at brunch) to a chip bowl.

    Here are more ways to use a trifle bowl. Thanks to Pampered Chef for some of these ideas and photos.

     

    OTHER USES FOR A TRIFLE BOWL

  • Candle Holder. A trifle bowl can make a candle holder with lots of flair. Just place a flame-proof base inside the bowl, place a pedestal candle on top, then fill around the base with any festive decoration: pretty stones, marbles, nuts, wine corks, wood chips. TIP: For the dinner table, use an unscented candle.
  • Centerpiece. For fall, fill the bowl with apples, chestnuts, dried wheat, gourds, Indian corn, mini pumpkins or a combination (photo #4). For the holidays, use candy canes, ornaments, pine cones, or mini evergreen trees (photo #5). For summer: sand and seashells, topped by a starfish. With any season, you can also place that pedastel candle in the center.
  • Desserts. Nouvelle trifle: Think of how to expand beyond the classic. Butterscotch pudding and pretzel layers? Banana pudding and ‘Nilla Wafers? Oreos and whipped cream? Baked Alaska? It’s so much easier to layer the cake and ice cream. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Or create a stunning fruit salad, either in colored layers or like the one in photo #3.
  • Drinks. Serve party punch or even ice cold shrimp cocktail. It makes a great visual impact that doesn’t require any additional decoration. Beautifully presented food speaks for itself!
  • Flatware. For buffets, wrap the flatware in napkins and present them in the bowl.
  • Flower Vase. Grab a bouquet or two of your favorite blooms and arrange them in the bowl. To hide the stems, try filling the vessel with rocks, fruit, or even crushed ice. Not much of a florist? No worries: Decorating your table with a few vases that have the same flower in the same color creates a pretty, modern look.
  • Ice Bucket. Make it the centerpiece of your drink station. Mini bottles of wine or champagne look just plain adorable displayed in the bowl.
  • Parties. Fill them with anything, from candy to party favors.
  • Punch Bowl. A smaller punch bowl can contain a mocktail version for those who don’t want alcohol (photo #6).
  • Snacks. Chips, pretzels, Chex Mix, etc.
  •  
    What else?

    We look forward to your suggestions!
     
    ________________
    *Gelatin was first extracted by boiling animal bones, in 1682. But this laborious process was only undertaken in large kitchens with staff to prepare it. While gelatin is pure protein, it is colorless, flavorless and odorless, so it also needed to be enhanced for serving.

     

    Fall Centerpiece

    Christmas Centerpiece

    Trifle Bowl For Punch

    [4] Fall centerpiece. [5] Christmas centerpiece. [6] Punch bowl (all photos courtesy Pampered Chef).

     

      

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    EVENT: Mad. Sq. Eats (a.k.a. Madison Square Eats Fun Food Pop-Up)

    Jianbing

    Red Velvet Ice Cream Sandwich

    [1] Beijing street food from Mr. Bing—soon to open a retail location at 152 West 28th Street (photo courtesy Mr. Big). We loved our Peking Duck-inspired rice crêpe. [2] A red velvet ice cream sandwich with cream cheese ice cream from Melt.

     

    It’s one of our favorite times of the year in Manhattan: The semi-annual culinary pop-up market, Madison Square Eats, is in Worth Square through October 7th. It’s hosted by Hosted by Urban Space, a foodie vision of wonderful.

    The triangular island between Broadway and Fifth Avenue, 24th and 25th Streets, is filled with wonderful things to eat.

    The almost-fall air and the leafy view of Madison Square Park across Fifth Avenue create an alfresco dining event that is a choice way to nibble. It’s the same with the spring version.

    Regrettably, we were stuffed to the gills after only four kiosks. The solution: Go back tomorrow.

    This edition of the market, now in its ninth year, brings global favorites to outdoor dining, with tables and chairs dotting the center of the island. Some vendors have restaurants; others are only available for catering and pop-ups.

  • Amali Mou (Greek cuisine)
  • Bangkok B.A.R. (Thai street food)
  • Bar Suzette Crêperie & Bistro
  • Chingu
  • Domo Taco
  • Gotham Poke (Hawaiian-style chirashi, finally popping up in NYC)
  • Hill Country Barbecue Market
  • Hong Kong Street Cart
  • Ice & Vice (shaved ice sundaes and floats)
  • Inday (Indian inspired cuisine)
  • Jicama “California Street Food”
  • Khao Man Gai NY (Thai)
  • La Sonrisa Empanadas
  • Mayhem & Stout
  • Melt Bakery (ice cream sandwiches)
  • Meltkraft (grilled cheese)
  • Mr. Bing Beijing Street Foods
  • Paella Shack by Barraca
  • Palenque Colombian Cuisine
  • Red Hook Lobster Pound
  • Renegade Lemonade
  • Roberta’s Pizza (fired right in front of you in a big pizza oven)
  • The Cannibal Beer & Butcher (braised meats and beer)
  • The Truffleist
  • Two Tablespoons
  •  
    Don’t eat beforehand, bring cash, and have a great time!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Instead Of Cinco De Mayo, Celebrate September 16th…With Reposado Tequila

    Blue Nectar Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Manhattan Cocktail

    [1] Reposado tequila is the preferred type for celebrations [2] Distrito Federal is Manhattan cocktail that replaces the bourbon with tequila (all photos courtesy Blue Nectar Tequila).

     

    Many Americans look forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo each spring. This relatively small Mexican holiday commemorates a regional battle in 1862, long after Mexican Independence was declared. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day.

    That honor goes September 16th, known as Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores, the town where the battle began). It’s the most popular holiday in Mexico.

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810.

    As with America’s Independence Day, the Mexican National Day of Independence is a patriotic holiday, with celebratory drinks, food and fireworks.

    Today’s tip: Wherever you live, celebrate Mexican Independence Day on the 16th.

    The folks at Blue Nectar Tequila tell us that the most popular type of tequila consumed in Mexico on national holidays is the more aged (and more expensive) Reposado, not the clear Blanco (a.k.a. silver or white tequila—here are the different types of tequila).

    Blanco is aged not at all or up to two months, while Reposado and Añejo tequilas are aged longer: Reposado for six months to a year, Añejo for one to three years. Aging gives layers of complexity to the spirit.

    While tequila was first produced in the 16th century by Spanish immigrants to Mexico, aged tequila styles such as Reposado and Añejo did not appear until the early 1900s.

    Some producers began to age their tequila in oak casks left over from red wine, brandy and rum that had been imported for consumption by the Spanish aristocracy.

    This stroke of genius changed the overall quality and taste of basic tequila, which at the time was raw-edged and without complexity.

    So today’s tip is: Celebrate September 16th by sipping a glass of Reposado or Añejo tequila, neat or on the rocks, enjoying the flavors with each sip.

    Or try one of the cocktails below, or this wonderful menu of tequila cocktail recipes.

     
    WHAT TO EAT WITH THE TEQUILA

    Reposado tequila has a woodsy quality that pairs well with beef-based, poultry and pork-type main dishes. (complementary flavors in recipes include orange, cinnamon and honey).

    Instead of America’s go-to grilled food for Independence Day, a favorite dish in Mexico is pozole, a classic soup made of hominy and pork.

    In modern times it’s also made with beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables and beans. Here’s a selection of pozole recipes.

    For dessert, have churros or dark chocolate with Añejo tequila.

    And sure: Bring on the guacamole, salsa, chips and esquites—Mexican corn on the cob.
     
    COCKTAIL RECIPE #1: DISTRITO FEDERAL

    The classic bourbon-based Manhattan cocktail is the inspiration for this Mexican version, which is named after historic Mexico City, an area known as Distrito Federal.
     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Reposado or Añejo tequila
  • 1 ounce sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: brandied cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the spirits and bitters in a cocktail glass. Add ice and stir until cold, about one to two minutes.

    2. STRAIN into a coupe glass, garnish with the cherry and serve.

     

    COCKTAIL RECIPE #2: MEXIPOLITAN COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

    The vodka-based Cosmo is remade with Reposado teqila.

  • 4 lime quarters
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ½ ounces Reposado tequila
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • ¾ ounce orange liqueur
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: lime wheel
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE the lime quarters with the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add the tequila, orange liqueur and cranberry juice.

    2. TOP with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wheel.

     

    Tequila Cosmopolitan Cocktail

    [3] The Mexipolitan: A Cosmopolitan with tequila instead of vodka. Calling Carrie Bradshaw!

     

    FIND MORE DELICIOUS TEQUILA COCKTAIL RECIPES AT BLUENECTARTEQUILA.COM.
     
    ABOUT BLUE NECTAR TEQUILA

    Blue Nectar Tequila, is a hand-crafted, super-premium tequila that focuses on agave-forward flavor profiles.

    While by Mexican law Reposado must be aged a minimum of 2 months, Blue Nectar Reposado Extra Blend is aged 6-8 months and then blended with three-year-old Extra Añejo, to deliver hints of vanilla and smoke.

    For more information on the different expressions of Blue Nectar tequila, visit BlueNectarTequila.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Whole Roasted Cauliflower

    Yesterday, Meatless Monday, we went one step beyond the meaty cauliflower steaks and cabbage steaks we’ve become so fond of.

    We remembered a recipe from Frieda’s Specialty Produce that we had tucked away in anticipation of the glorious fall cauliflower harvest.

    We love farmers market cauliflower. Not only is it fresher, but you can find the splendid colors of purple, orange and pale green, as well as the exotic-looking, lime green romanesco (bottom photo). Whatever you choose, look for a dense head with a thick center stem.

    Roasting a whole cauliflower is simple; you just have to allow 90 minutes for it to roast. To see just how easy it is, check out this video from Frieda’s.

    “The crispy, nutty crust and sweet, tender core are the stuff dreams are made of,” they aver (and we agree).
     
    RECIPE: WHOLE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

    Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed to sit flat, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt or seasoned salt
  • Optional: fresh-ground pepper
  • Optional: chutney, herb butter, olive relish, pesto or sauce of choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Place the cauliflower on a plate and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, using your hands to coat the cauliflower all over.

    2. SEASON all over with salt and transfer the cauliflower to a small roasting pan or cast iron skillet, floret-side up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

    3. BAKE for 30 minutes; remove the foil and roast 1 hour until the florets are golden (larger heads can take longer). Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.

    4. SLICE as desired: in wedges (our preference) or vertical, in 3/4- to 1-inch slices. You can also cut the cauliflower into individual florets, but why spend the time?
     
    FLAVOR VARIATIONS

    Use your favorite international flavors as seasonings and sauces. Here are some simple replacements:

  • Chinese seasonings: Eliminate the salt, brush with soy sauce instead of lemon juice, top with minced garlic; garnish with fresh chives. A dab of hoisin sauce? Why not!
  • Indian seasonings: Season with ground cumin, coriander and optional curry powder instead of salt and pepper; garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with raita or other yogurt sauce.
  • Italian seasonings #1: Use garlic-flavored olive oil and top the cauliflower with minced garlic before roasting. Place the slice atop pesto, or marinara sauce seasoned with oregano. Garnish with sliced black olives.
  • Italian seasonings #2: After roasting, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  • Japanese seasonings: Use 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 toasted sesame oil or wasabi oil, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, grated fresh ginger and/or fresh chives. Serve with ponzu sauce.
  • Mexican seasonings: Replace the lemon juice with lime juice and sprinkle with lime zest and red chile flakes. Serve on a bed of black beans or pinto beans and top with warmed salsa. Garnish with cilantro and optional crumbled queso fresco.
  •  
    LOVE YOUR BRASSICAS

    The plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, Brassica, contains nutritional powerhouses that are packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). It’s easy to eat a cup or more daily from the long list below.

     

    Roasted Cauliflower

    Roast Cauliflower

    Purple Roast Cauliflower

    Romanesco Cauliflower

    [1] A tricolor roasted cauliflower feast (photo courtesy San Francisco Chronicle). Here’s the recipe, which includes garlic breadcrumbs and fennel-olive relish. [2] Roast cauliflower Indian style, with a rich Mughlai sauce of tomato, cashew nuts, milk, cream and butter. Here’s the recipe from VeganRicha.com. [3] This cauliflower is garnished with a mint-parsley sauce. Here’s the recipe from SproutedRoots.com.[4] You can do the same with an exotic romanesco, often called romanesco cauliflower but it’s actually its own cultivar (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     
    There are more than 30 wild species of Brassica, plus numerous cultivars* and hybrids of cultivated origin. The best-known Brassica members include:

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Horseradish/wasabi
  • Kai-lan/gai-lan (often called Chinese broccoli in the U.S.)
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard greens
  • Radish
  • Rapeseed/canola
  • Rapini (broccoli rabe)
  • Romanesco
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  •  
    Eat up!
     
    ________________
    *A cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Liberté Organic Yogurt

    Liberte Organic Yogurt

    Liberte Organic Yogurt

    Liberte Organic Yogurt

    [1] From top clockwise: French Lavender, Washington Cherry and Philippine Coconut. [2] Close-up on coconut. Note the haiku under the top foil. [3] Lemon and strawberry; note the triangular containers (all photos courtesy Liberté).

     

    We have long been enamored with Liberté yogurt, from the moment some 10 years ago that we plucked a few flavors off the shelf of our Whole Foods.

    Since then we’ve come to know other artisan brands, from FAGE and Siggi’s to small local brands like Culture and White Moustache.

    But in terms of accessibility, year after year we eat more Liberté than anything else.

    Liberté USA plans to transition all products to USDA organic-certified. A line of new whole milk yogurt flavors is debuting now at retailers nationwide, for a suggested retail price of $1.89. The eight delicious flavors, sundae-style (fruit on the bottom) include:

  • Baja Strawberry
  • Californian Pomegranate
  • Ecuadorian Mango
  • French Lavender
  • Lemon*
  • Philippine Coconut
  • Sweet Cream†
  • Washington Black Cherry
  •  
    The elgant triangular containers are new to us, and we enjoyed the haiku under each lid.

    The line is rBST/rBGH-free and certified kosher by OK.

     
    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE? HAVE A TASTING!

    Have a yogurt tasting. Compare four or more brands to see which one(s) you truly like best.

    One 6-ounce container allows four people to have a heaping spoonful, plus enough left over to re-taste and compare.

    The ideal way to do this is in a blind taste test, trying the same flavor of each brand. Strawberry is a best bet, but survey the options for flavors-in-common.

    With wine, you simply put a brown bag around the bottle. Yogurt requires a bit more work. You can cut and cover the containers with brown paper, or mark the names on the bottom of bowls and scoop the appropriate brand into each bowl.

    We did the latter, spring for two containers of each of five brands and making it part of a small brunch party.

    Did Liberté come out on top?

    We’ll only say this: Different tasters prefer different tastes. Do your own test!

     
    For more information about Liberte Organic Yogurt and a product locator, visit LiberteUSA.com.
     
    DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AUSTRALIAN, FRENCH & EUROPEAN YOGURT?

    Check out these and other good-to-know yogurt terms in our Yogurt Glossary.

     
    ________________
    *We to wonder why Lemon is left without a modifier.

    †The Sweet Cream flavor is not flavored with vanilla, but has a slight sweetness that reminds us of some quarks and fromage blancs. We liked it very much, although it is quite different from the fruit flavors.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Cracker Barrel, The Best Boxed Mac & Cheese

    Why do so many American households make macaroni and cheese?

    It’s easy, cheap, fast (9 minutes!) comfort food—at least in modern packaged form. But in the many centuries before boxed mac & cheese, it was as laborious as most other cooking.

    THE HISTORY OF MACARONI & CHEESE

    The first written known record of pasta and cheese casseroles dates to medieval cookbooks of the 14th century.

    The first modern recipe for the dish was published in Britain, in Elizabeth Raffald’s 1769 book, The Experienced English Housekeeper.

    Raffald’s recipe calls for a mornay sauce—a secondary mother sauce that’s a béchamel sauce with cheese—in this case, cheddar cheese. The sauce is mixed with cooked macaroni, sprinkled with parmesan, and baked until golden.

    The recipe from scratch requires cooked macaroni (now referred to by its Italian name, pasta); plus milk, butter and flour and cheese to make the cheddar or parmesan sauce.

    Almost a century later, in 1861, the popular Victorian cookbook Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management offered two recipes for the dish, one topped with the bread crumbs still used today. Both books are available in reprints: Just click the links.

    Thomas Jefferson encountered pasta in Paris while Minister to France (1885 to 1889), and in his travels to Italy. Back in the U.S., he imported both macaroni and parmesan cheese in order to enjoy cheesy macaroni.
     
    Mac & Cheese Gets Its Name

    The first recipe called “macaroni and cheese” was published in the U.S. in 1824, in Mary Randolph’s influential cookbook, The Virginia Housewife. More American “macaroni and cheese” recipes followed, in the 1852 Hand-book of Useful Arts, and the 1861 Godey’s Lady’s Book.

    By the mid-1880s, midwestern cookbooks included recipes for macaroni and cheese casseroles. Labor-intensive, the dish was enjoyed by the more affluent [source].
     
    Mac & Cheese Gets A Box

    Once it became available in dry packaged form in the first half of the 20th century, mac and cheese became affordable to the masses—and thus less interesting to the affluent. Launched in 1937 in the midst of the Great Depression, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese advertised that a family of four could eat for 19¢, the price of a box. Consumers bought eight million boxes in the first year [source].

    A whopping 50 million boxes were sold during World War II, when meat and dairy were in short supply, and one food ration stamp could be exchanged for two boxes of macaroni and cheese.

    Today, the original packaged form is joined by frozen heat-and-eat versions and cheddar cheese sauce is sold in jars. The dish can be cooked on the stovetop, in the oven or in a microwave.

    In the United States, July 14th is National Macaroni and Cheese Day. Now that we’re up to date…
     
     
    WELCOME, CRACKER BARREL MACARONI & CHEESE

    Up-front disclosure: We’re really picky about our food, and have never enjoyed powdered cheese sauce. Our mom made mac and cheese from scratch, grating cheddar, gruyère or parmesan into her béchamel.

    She used bricks Cracker Barrel cheddar, her brand of choice. Back then, specialty cheese stores were few and far between; and even today, it’s not easy for many people to find the finest farmhouse (artisan) cheddars (and if you found them, the best use would not be grated into a cheese sauce).

    So we were more than interested to see what Cracker Barrel would present as a packaged mac and cheese.

    It’s the cheese that makes the biggest difference in preparations, and Cracker Barrel does not disappoint. Its cheese sauce is not mixed from powder, but is ready to eat, squeezed from a package onto the cooked elbow macaroni.

    Smooth, creamy and full of flavor, it has a distinctively superior taste, creating what you’d expect from a casual restaurant instead of a boxed product.

     

    Macaroni & Cheese Breadcrumbs

    Macaroni & Cheese Broccoli

    Lobster Mac & Cheese

    BLT Mac & Cheese

    Cracker Barrel Macaroni & Cheese

    [1] A bread crumb topping was suggested in Mrs. Beeton’s 1861 cookbook. [2] Sneaking in broccoli and riced cauliflower. [3] Go upscale with added shellfish; here, lobster (photo courtesy Blake’s). [4] BLT mac & cheese (photo courtesy WMMB). [5] The best boxed mac and cheese, new from Cracker Barrel.

     
    And while it comes in a box, Cracker Barrel is not meant to compete with other boxed mac and cheese (Kraft owns Cracker Barrel as well as the number-one brand, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese) but with prepared dishes from the refrigerated section of the grocery store, and with restaurant dishes. (Kraft, which owns the Cracker Barrel trademark, has no relation to the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.)

    People with sophisticated palates will notice the quality. Yet, the price is not much more than other boxed meals.

    There are four varieties of Cracker Barrel Macaroni and Cheese, featuring different cheese options:

  • Cheddar Havarti
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Sharp Cheddar & Bacon
  • Sharp White Cheddar
  •  
    You can dress up the dish with anything you like. We enjoy it plain with fresh-cracked pepper and some grated parmesan, but also loved:

  • Bay scallops and toasted crumbs—shades of Coquilles Saint Jacques.
  • BLT-style, with a topping of bacon, baby arugula and diced tomato.
  • Ham and cheese—we had some baked ham as well as serrano ham. We julienned the former, shredded the latter and snipped some fresh herbs on top.
  • Veggie supreme, made with all our leftover vegetables. Tip: put the veggies on the bottom and they’ll be coated with cheese sauce.
  •  
    DOES MAC & CHEESE REQUIRE ELBOW MACARONI?

    No: You can use any pasta. Elbow macaroni most likely became the standard because it was easy for children to eat with a spoon.

    We heard one of our favorite chefs—Gordon Ramsay—chew out a chef on TV for making mac and cheese with penne, insisting that it must be made with elbows.

    Not so, chef!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur & How To Infuse Your Own

    Ancho Reyes Liqueur

    Casa Noble Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Cocktail

    [1] Today’s pick: Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy Ancho Reyes). [2] Casa Noble reposado and blanco tequilas. Mix reposado with the liqueur in the cocktail below (photo courtesy Casa Noble). [3] Combine them to make this delicious cocktail (photo courtesy Casa Noble).

     

    If you like tequila, mezcal and the cuisine and culture of Mexico, why should you celebrate September 16th?

    Because it’s Mexican Independence Day.

    In the U.S., the holiday Americans celebrate is Cinco de Mayo. But Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810—the biggest holiday celebration in Mexico.

    Why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

    The date commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over superior French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is celebrated locally in the city and state of Puebla, in south-central Mexico.

    A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo has taken on a life of its own. It has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations, and many non-Mexican fans of the cuisine. Here’s more on the holiday.

    So what’s today’s tip?

    Celebrate with some chile-infused liqueur.
     
    ANCHO REYES LIQUEUR

    In 1927, the Reyes family of Puebla, Mexico made a homemade liqueur from the area’s ample ancho chile crop. Fortunately, they decided to make it commercially.

    We love its smoky heat, for mixing, sipping neat, in marinades or for drizzling over lemon or lime sorbet.

    It’s not simple, sweet heat: Beyond the smoky chile are notes of cinnamon, cocoa, herbs and tamarind (maybe more depending on the sensitivity of your palate).

    Here’s a detailed story in pictures of how the chiles are grown and infused to become Ancho Reyes.

    We’ve seen it on Wine-Tracker from $29.99 to a high of $48.99.
     
    RECIPE: IN NOBLE FASHION (TEQUILA & ANCHO CHILE LIQUEUR)

    We really enjoyed this cocktail from Casa Noble Tequila (here are more recipes).

    The recipe specifies reposado tequila, slightly aged (a minimum of two months by law): Casa Noble reposed is matured in French white oak barrels for 364 days!

    We had only silver/blanco, but it was delicious just the same. (Here are the different types of tequila.)
     
    Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces reposado tequila
  • .5 ounce ancho chile liqueur
  • .25 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 drops mole bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients—except the garnish and ice—in a mixing glass. Stir and strain the drink into a glass over ice.

    2. SQUEEZE the orange peel into the glass; then rub the inside of the peel around rim and drop into the glass.
     
    FIND MORE COCKTAILS FOR ANCHO CHILE LIQUEUR AT ANCHOREYES.COM.

    Here’s an Ancho Reyes cocktail we published, featuring grilled pineapple.

     

    OTHER CHILE-INFUSED SPIRITS

    While not an exhaustive list, we found these products at retailers:

  • Tanteo (a NIBBLE favorite) and other brands make chile-infused tequila.
  • Stolichnaya and other brands make chile-infused vodka.
  • Patrón XO Cafe Incendio adds arbol chiles to a chocolate liqueur based on their tequila.
  • Kiss Of Fire is another chile-infused liqueur.
  •  
    HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN CHILE-INFUSED TEQUILA

    You can infuse tequila or vodka (or any other spirit) with fresh chiles. The spirit adds more heat to Margaritas and Bloody Marys (and the tequila-based Bloody Maria and Chipotle Maria.

    You can also cook with the infused spirits. Just search online for “cooking with tequila” (or vodka) and you’ll find everything from salad dressing and marinades to pasta sauce and tequila-lime sorbet.

    You can use any type of chile; habaneros will give more heat than jalapeños (check the Scoville Heat Units. For a smoky flavor, chose ancho or chipotle.

    Try three chiles your first time out. If you want more heat when you taste it after 3-4 weeks, you can add more chiles and infuse for another 3-4 weeks (or just use more chiles next time).

    Here’s our glossary of the different types of chiles.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750ml) tequila, vodka or other spirit
  • 3 large chile peppers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH the chiles, pat dry, slit lengthwise and insert into the bottle of tequila.

    2. CAP the bottle tightly and place in a cool (away from a heat source), dark place for 3 weeks. Taste and if you want more chile flavor, infuse for another 1-2 weeks.

    3. KEEP or strain the chiles from the bottle, depending on how you like the look.

     

    Ancho Chile

    Infused Tequila

    [4] An ancho chile, used to infuse the alcohol base of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy CulinaryArts.About.com). [5] It’s easy to infuse your own favorite chiles into tequila or vodka. This photo shows how Foodie Misadventures did it (photo © Foodie Misadventures).

     
    Infused spirits are great for gifting!

      

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