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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: Make Blueberry Salt

Sea salt is produced by simple evaporation of sea water. Depending on the body of water, the salt will have different qualities: not just in flavor, based on the minerals in the local water, but also in the size and shape of the crystals. See our Salt Glossary for more on the different types of salt.

A subset of sea salt is artisan salt, which is created with added flavor is added. With the growing enthusiasm of chefs and home cooks, the flavor options have exploded. Saltopia, an online seller, offers dozens of flavored salts, including:

  • Fruit flavored salt: caper, coconut, habanero, jalapeño, lemon, lime, orange, peach, pineapple, pomegranate, strawberry, tomato
  • Herb flavored salt: basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, lemongrass, mint, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, thyme, wasabi
  • Spice flavored salt: Aleppo pepper, anise, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, curry, ginger, mustard, sumac, vanilla
  • Smoked salt: applewood, alderwood
  • Sweet flavored salt: brown sugar, honey, maple
  • Vegetable flavored salt: mushroom, onion, truffle
  •    

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    Blueberry salt: You can buy a jar or make your own. Photo courtesy Saltopia.

  • And beyond: balsamic vinegar, Cabernet Sauvignon, chocolate, rose
  •  
    Today, how about making a batch of blueberry sea salt? All you need are blueberries and salt!

    There isn’t extensive blueberry flavor because the salt overwhelms it; but the color is gorgeous—a glorious garnish or finishing salt.
     
    HOW TO USE BLUEBERRY SALT

    Sprinkle it as in ingredient or a garnish:

  • Baking, especially with lemon (lemon muffins, shortbread, garnish a lemon tart)
  • Bread dipper with olive oil and herbs
  • Confections: salted caramels and salted chocolate
  • Cottage cheese, soft cheeses, yogurt
  • Dessert: cobblers, puddings
  • Finishing salt: beef lamb, pork, poultry, seafood, smoked fish
  • Food garnish
  • Fruit salad or grilled fruit (a bit of salt brings out the sweetness)
  • Glass rimmer: Blueberry Mojito, lemonade, Margarita, etc.)
  • Ice cream
  • Pasta
  • Plate garnish (sprinkle bits on the plate for splashes of color)
  • Popcorn seasoning
  • Potatoes: baked, mashed, any pale recipe
  • Rice and other pale grains
  • Salted nuts
  • Sorbet
  • Salads and cooked vegetables
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/blueberry salt saltopia 230

    Are you inspired to make your own? Photo courtesy Saltopia.

     

    RECIPE: BLUEBERRY SALT

    You can buy the blueberry sea salt or make your own. You can make batches as gifts, too.

    Start with a small batch (this recipe makes one cup of blueberry salt). Prep time is 35 minutes, cook time: is 1 hour to 1 day, depending on whether you choose to oven dry (1 hour) or let dry naturally (24 hours or more).

    After you make this recipe, you can customize it with other ingredients: balsamic vinegar, citrus peel, thyme, rosemary or any of the ideas above.

    The recipe is courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, which has lots of delicious blueberry recipes

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt, or for a beautiful flake salt, use Maldon salt, with unique, pyramid-shaped crystals)
  • Preparation

    1. LINE two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

    2. SIMMER the berries and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the berries pop and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    3. PRESS the blueberries with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, reserving the juice. Further strain the berries with a fine wire sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible; discard the solids. Line the sieve with cheesecloth and strain out the finer particles.

    4. RETURN the juice to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer (watching closely so the juice doesn’t burn) until the juice is reduced to a syrup thick enough to coat a spoon. You should have 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice.

    5. REMOVE from the heat. Stir in the salt until the crystals are evenly coated, then spread the salt onto baking sheets. Let it air dry, stirring occasionally, until dry. This will take 4-24 hours, depending on the humidity. Alternatively, bake the salt in a 150° convection oven, stirring frequently until dry, about 1 hour.

    TIP: For a deeper purple salt, add food color to the blueberry juice in Step 4.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Rice Pudding With A Modern Twist

    It’s almost comfort food time again.

    Nibblers are always on the lookout for a new twist on just about anything. But sometimes it’s hard to change on when it comes to comfort food. We like what we like. We don’t mess around with favorites, like, say, rice pudding.

    Rice pudding, the way mom used to make it or the way it scoops out of a cinnamon-y plastic cup, is a basic feel-good food. It soothes stress, its velvety smoothness coats the tongue, its toasty quinoa topping—whoa! Its what?

    Cue pastry chef Jessica Sullivan, pride of Delfina’s and five other same-owner neighborhood eateries in and around San Francisco’s Mission. Delfina’s is a long-standing favorite that’s managed to survive the Mission’s trendy rebirth. Its loyal customers liked the menu that had served them for years, so Jessica didn’t want to disrupt too much when she arrived as pastry chef.

    But the rice pudding sparked her interest. What could she do to make it rice pudding with more? Her solution was to combine crunchiness and creaminess in every mouthful with the puffed quinoa, candied with toffee.

       

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    Rice pudding with roasted apricots and a crunchy quinoa-toffee topping. Photo courtesy Jessica Sullivan.

     
    The results are irresistible. Pick up your spoon, plunge it through the crunchy candied quinoa topping into the thick, creamy pudding and you’re in on one of the best dessert adventures of the decade. While the recipe may seem like work, it’s really not. The rice pudding, candied quinoa and apricots can be made ahead of time, and everything assembled right before serving.

    RICE PUDDING WITH CRUNCHY QUINOA TOPPING

    This recipe is courtesy Jessica Sullivan, Delfina, San Francisco.
     
    Ingredients For 8 One-Cup Servings

    For The Rice Pudding

  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1¼ cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice*
  • ¾ cup crème fraîche
  • Heavy cream, as needed
  •  
    For The Toffee

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    For The Candied Quinoa Topping

  • 2 cups puffed quinoa†
  • ½ cup ground toffee (recipe ingredients above)
     
    For The Apricot Topping
  • 4 fresh apricots, or 8 dried apricot halves‡
  • ½ cup sparkling wine, such as Moscato or Prosecco
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: fresh berries in season
  •  
    *See the all of the different types of rice in our Rice Glossary.
    †Puffed quinoa is available at health food stores in the bulk cereals section.
    ‡If using dried apricots, plump them in brandy or Cognac for half an hour before using.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/carnaroli rice finecooking 230

    Carnaroli rice is a short-grain rice bred in Italy to make superior risotto. Cooks often use the more widely available Arborio rice, but Carnaroli is a smaller grain with an extremely high starch content. These properties enable it to absorb large quantities of liquid without overcooking, engendering an ultra-creamy yet toothsome risotto—or rice pudding! Photo courtesy Fine Cooking.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pudding. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and a pinch of salt to a boil. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture returns to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and lightly simmer, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes until the rice begins to thicken. When the rice thickens, taste it for doneness, continuing to stir every few minutes until it is soft and cooked through.

    2. REMOVE the rice mixture from the heat and transfer to a bowl set on top of an ice bath. Stir continuously so that the mixture cools quickly.

    3. CAREFULLY FOLD in the crème fraîche and taste for salt, adding more if necessary. If the pudding seems too thick, thin it with a touch of cream to achieve the desired consistency.

    4. MAKE the toffee. Place a silicone baking mat on a rimmed cookie sheet. In a small saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup and enough water to wet the syrup until the mixture has a sandy texture. Cook until a candy thermometer registers 315° and the mixture is rich amber in color.

     
    5. USE a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe down the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat, add the salt and vanilla extract; stir well. Pour the mixture onto the silicone mat. When cool enough to handle, break up the toffee, then grind it in a food processor until fine.

    6. MAKE the candied quinoa. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a silicone baking mat on a rimmed baking sheet. Evenly spread the puffed quinoa over the mat and sprinkle the ground toffee over it. Place the baking sheet in the oven; after about 5 minutes, stir and bake an additional 5 minutes.

    7. REMOVE from the oven, stir again, and place the quinoa-toffee mixture on a cold surface, such as a counter top or unused baking sheet, to cool. Then break it up it into small clusters. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container until ready to use. Do not refrigerate.

    8. MAKE the fruit topping. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the apricots in half, then cut each half into three slices. Place the apricot pieces in a baking dish along with the wine, sugar, salt and vanilla extract; roast for 5 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan after 5 minutes. The fruit should be soft but not blowing up, so watch it closely. Remove the pan from oven and let cool thoroughly.

    9. ASSEMBLE: Place one cup of the rice pudding in each of 8 glass dessert cups or parfait glasses.
    Top each serving with 4 slices of roasted apricots and drizzle with a little of the syrup they cooked in. Add fresh berries in season if desired. Just before serving, generously sprinkle the candied quinoa on top.

    NOTE: You can prepare the rice pudding and toppings ahead of time, but do not add the candied quinoa topping until just ready to serve or it will become soggy.

    –Rowann Gilman is a recipe developer, cookbook editor and Contributing Editor of THE NIBBLE.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Okra’s In Season, What Should You Cook?

    Most people think of gumbo is a soup or stew from Louisiana, typically made with chicken or shellfish, Andouille sausage, bell peppers, celery and onions, and thickened with okra pods.

    But in the beginning, “gumbo” was simply the word for okra in the African Bantu language.

    Okra came to America with the slave trade and was introduced to the Southern white population by their African cooks. Okra became the vegetable associated with the American South*.

    Okra is a flowering plant in the mallow family, Malvaceae, which also includes cacao, cotton, hibiscus, the kola nut (the base flavor of cola drinks) and the “king of Asian fruits,” the durian, known for its strong aroma and large, thorny husk.

    The valuable part of the okra plant is its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with champions of Ethiopian, West Africa, even South Asia. Today, the vegetable is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world. [Source]

    Okra is used in casseroles, soups, stews and sides; added, cooked, to salads and sandwiches (try an okra grilled cheese). They can be fried or stuffed (like poppers).

       

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    Okra pods were originally green, but mutations have led to the development of red and burgundy varieties. Look for them in your farmers market. Photo courtesy Starling Yards.

     
    But perhaps our favorite way to enjoy okra is Rick’s Picks Smokra, the most amazing smoked okra pickles. We always buy the six-packs and love them as low-calorie snacks, as exciting garnishes for dinner guests and to give as gifts.
     
    *Okra is also an important ingredient in cuisines in areas as far-flung as Africa, Asia and Latin America.
     
    HOW SHOULD YOU COOK OKRA?

    We consulted the experts on the best ways to use okra. Here are Southern Living’s recommendations of the 12 best okra recipes:

  • Baked Polenta With Cheese & Okra, a special brunch casserole
  • Fried Okra Salad
  • Fried Pecan Okra
  • Okra & Corn Maque Chou (a corn and okra salad)
  • Okra Creole
  • Okra Rellenos, fried okra filled with cheese
  • Peppery Grilled Okra with lemon-basil dipping sauce
  • Pickled Okra
  • Pickled Okra & Shrimp
  • Shrimp & Okra Hush Puppies, fried cornbread bites
  • Skillet-Roasted Okra and Shrimp
  • Smashed Fried Okra
  •  

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    Okra fries. Photo courtesy Ulele Restaurant |
    Tampa.

     

    But where’s the gumbo?

    We looked into THE NIBBLE archives and found:

  • Chicken Andouille Gumbo from Chef Emeril Lagasse
  • Easy Chicken & Sausage Gumbo from Chef David Venable
  • Easy Chicken & Sausage Gumbo using Swanson Louisana Cajun
    Flavor Infused Broth
  •  
    HOW TO ELIMINATE OKRA “SLIME”

    Some people avoid okra because of the “slimy” texture. That okra just hasn’t been cooked correctly. Here are slime-busting tips from Okra, a Savor the South cookbook by Virginia Willis.:

  • Choose small fresh okra pods. The smaller the okra, the less slime.
  • Cook okra at high heat: roasting at high temperatures, searing in a cast iron pan, deep fat frying or grilling are techniques that limit the slime.
  • Wash and dry the pods very thoroughly. Wet okra will steam, causing it to “slime.”
  • Cook okra in small batches. Overcrowding brings the heat down, which starts steaming and sliming the okra/
  • Add an acid when cooking okra. Citrus juice, tomato, vinegar and wine add flavor while limiting the slime.
  •  
    Up first for us: fried okra with ketchup!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Savory Tomato Pie Or Tart

    Tomatoes are the second most widely consumed vegetable in the U.S., after potatoes. That’s not all sliced tomatoes, mind you, but tomato sauce on pasta and pizza, tomatoes in ketchup and salad.

    According to the USDA, Americans consumed 31.1 pounds of tomatoes per capita in 2013, 59% of them in canned form (much of which, presumably, went into tomato sauce).

    Botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit, but 122 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it, for tax reasons, a vegetable. (Ah, if the enlightened justices of today would just reverse that misguided decision. More about it is below.)

    Thanks to Restaurant Hospitality for passing along this recipe from Chef Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Austin, Texas.

    Serve it as you would a quiche: in small wedges as a first course, as a main with a salad.

    RECIPE: TOMATO BASIL PIE

    Ingredients

  • 3 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup Cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 prepared pie shell (purchased or homemade)
  • 6 large basil leaves, cut or torn into pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  •    

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/tomato basil pie jackskitchenAustinTx 230r

    This pie is filled with sweet summer tomatoes and three types of cheese.
    Photo courtesy Jack Allen’s Kitchen |
    Austin.

     

    Preparation

    1. SEASON the tomato slices lightly with salt and pepper, and allow them to drain on a paper towel (the salt draws out the water).

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Combine the cheeses in small bowl.

    3. LAYER the tomatoes in the pie shell. Place basil pieces on top of them. Sprinkle the cheese mixture on top of the basil.

    4. WHISK together the eggs and mayonnaise in small bowl, and pour evenly over the pie ingredients. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
     

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/cherry tomato tart unpetitchefwordpress 230

    Here’s a showier concept—a cherry tomato tart with Gruyère and a crust of pâte brisée. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy UnPetitChef.Blogspot.com.

     

    WHY A TOMATO IS CALLED A VEGETABLE INSTEAD OF A FRUIT

    Who would think, when looking at the seriousness of the Supreme Court’s docket today, that in 1893 they would take up the argument of whether the tomato should be classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit. The eight or nine cases the Court can adjudicate each year cover Constitutional rights and federal law.

    United States Supreme Court decisions have shaped history. So how does the classification of the tomato fit in? It made it onto the docket because of a federal law regarding import taxes.
     
    It Was All About The Import Tax

    The Tariff Act of 1883 stipulated that a 10% import tax be paid on imported vegetables, but no tax was levied on imported fruit*. John Nix, an importer of tomatoes, filed the action against Edward L. Hedden, Collector of the Customs House for the Port of New York. Nix wanted to recover back taxes he had paid on tomatoes. His case asserted that he was importing a fruit, but being taxed as if it were a vegetable.

     
    *We’ve tried to research why fruit was exempt, but haven’t yet found the answer. Typically, it involves special interests.  

    How To Tell If It’s A Fruit

    Botanically speaking the tomato is a fruit. A fruit is the ripened ovary, formed together with seeds, from from the flowers of a plant. This how the tomato is formed.

    In easier terms, here’s how to think of a fruit:

  • Does it carry its seeds inside, like apples, citrus, melons, squash and tomatoes?
  • If the seeds are absent from the produce—as in beets, carrots, celery, herbs, lettuce and potatoes—it is botanically a vegetable.
  •  
    The issue is not how any particular culture chooses to consume a particular item of produce (sweet or savory, raw or cooked, etc.), but the botanical structure of the item. Thus, avocado is a fruit (it’s a tree fruit, like apples and pears) as are cucumbers (relatives to melons).

    With science on his side, vendor Nix sued customs collector Hedden, and the case made its way through the court system—all the way to the Supreme Court.
     
    But The Court Disagreed With Science

    In a unanimous opinion, the Court held that the Tariff Act of 1883 used the ordinary meaning of the words “fruit” and “vegetable,” as people thought of them, instead of the scientific, botanical use. The opinion delivered by Justice Gray stated:

    “Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.” (Source: caselaw.lp.findlaw.com)

    Wrong perspective, Justice Gray. The laws of nature should stand as is, not subjected to interpretation to fit cultural norms. Today, you can find tomato desserts (ice cream and sorbet, for starters). There are other crossovers. For example, rhubarb, a vegetable, is often prepared for dessert.

    And you should have had better clerks do your research: Beans and pea are legumes, not vegetables.

    Politically, the decision also meant more tax revenue for the United States. We guess we’re not going to get the Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

    From our friends at Good Eggs in San Francisco, here’s how to enjoy cherry tomatoes when the tomatoes are at their sweetest and the prices are at their lowest.

    Slow-roast them and all of that rich, summer tomato sweetness will get concentrated into each bite.

    Buy two or three times as many as you need this week—ideally, an assortment of red, orange and yellow. Set aside what you’ll use fresh. Then:

  • Slice the rest of the cherry tomatoes in half.
  • Place them cut-side up on a baking sheet or pan lined with a sheet of parchment. Slow roast at 225°F for three hours.
  • Let cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Cover with olive oil if desired.
  •  
    But before those two weeks are up, you can easily use them up:

  • In scrambled eggs and omelets
  • On plain yogurt, with oregano and/or fresh basil and dill
  • On sandwiches and burgers
  •    

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    It’s easy to slow-roast a batch of cherry tomatoes. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     

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    Crostini with sundried tomatoes and fromage blanc. Photo courtesy Mixed Greens Blog.

     
  • In green salads and protein salads (egg, chicken, tuna, etc.)
  • On pasta and pizza
  • On canapés
  • On crostini (see photo)
  • As a colorful polka-dot-like garnish for any savory food
  •  
    RECIPE: SUNDRIED TOMATO CROSTINI

    One of our favorite snacks, crostini with sundried cherry tomatoes, can be made in a minute (or as fast as it takes to toast the bread.

  • SPREAD toasted or grilled slices of baguette with goat cheese, other soft cheese, even Greek yogurt or sour cream.
  • TOP with sundried cherry tomatoes in olive oil.
  • GARNISH with minced basil or a shake of oregano.
  •  
    It’s easy enough for snacking, and impressive enough to serve as an hors d’oeuvre or a first course.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Banana Split Sushi For National Banana Split Day

    How should you celebrate August 25th, National Banana Split Day?

    There’s the tried and true banana split, of course. Classically served in a long dish, called a boat (which gives the sundae its alternative name, banana boat), the recipe is familiar to most ice cream lovers:

    A banana is cut in half lengthwise and set in the dish with scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. The strawberry ice cream is garnished with pineapple topping, chocolate syrup is poured on the vanilla ice cream and strawberry topping covers the chocolate ice cream. Crushed nuts, whipped cream and maraschino cherries garnish the entire boat.

    Today, there are many variations to the classic banana split. We’ve had Deconstructed Banana Splits, Banana Split Cheesecake and the recipe below, Banana Split Sushi from RA Sushi.

    BANANA SPLIT SUSHI

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/banana split sushi RAsushi 230

    The deconstructed banana split at Sushi Samba in New York City. Photo courtesy Sushi Samba.

  • 2 bananas, ripe but firm
  • 1 tablespoon butter or neutral oil (canola, grapeseed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Peeled kiwi slices
  • Clementine/tangerine segments (or substitute other fruit)
  • Whipped cream
  • Strawberries, washed and halved
  • Sauces: chocolate, strawberry*
  •  
    *You can easily make strawberry purée by processing the berries with a bit of sweetener to taste, and a splash of lemon or lime juice.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT the bananas into 1-1/2 inch slices. While a restaurant can deep-fry the bananas in tempura batter, you can use a simpler approach: Combine the bananas, fat, honey and cinnamonan in a nonstick pan over medium heat and fry until golden brown (4-5 minutes on each side).

    2. ARRANGE each cooked banana piece on a plate as desired and top with a kiwi slice, which is the base for the remaining toppings. Add the clementine segment, whipped cream and strawberry halves.

    3. DRIZZLE with chocolate sauce and strawberry purée. Serve with chopsticks.

     

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    The classic banana split. Photo courtesy
    The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook.

     

    BANANA SPLIT HISTORY

    The banana split was invented in 1904 by David Evans Strickler, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He enjoyed inventing sundaes at the store’s soda fountain.

    His first “banana-based triple ice cream sundae” sold for 10 cents, which was double the cost of the other sundaes. News of the new sundae was picked up by the press and spread nationwide. Variations of the recipe appeared in newspapers.

    The enterprising Strickler went on to buy the pharmacy, re-naming it Strickler’s Pharmacy. The city of Latrobe celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the banana split in 2004, and the National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) certified the city as its birthplace.

    The annual Great American Banana Split Celebration is held throughout the downtown Latrobe in late August, this year on August 29th.

     

    According to Wikipedia, Walgreens is credited with spreading the popularity of the banana split. The chain of drug stores established in the Chicago area by Charles Rudolph Walgreen promoted the banana split as a signature dessert.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Burger Salad & Salad Burger

    For years we have been enjoying the Burger Salad at Five Napkin Burger in New York City. It’s evolved over time, but initially consisted of a big bowl of beautifully arranged baby greens and colorful veggie complements, in a perfect vinaigrette. Atop was a plump burger: beef, salmon, turkey, veggie or a solid piece of grilled tuna.

    We love good bread and can [alas] eat loaves of it. But burger buns—even when heavily seeded or made of brioche—rarely fall into that group. And they get soggy.

    So when Five Napkin Burger presented a menu of burger salads in addition to conventional burgers, we tried a salad and were hooked. We were never a neat burger eater, so enjoyed the bonuses: no meat juices or ketchup dripping onto us when we raised the burger to our mouth.

    While it could be a calorie- and carb-cutting alternative for some, let us hasten to say that we enjoy our burger salad along with the establishment’s excellent onion rings, sweet potato fries, and a beer.

    Today’s tip is not just a burger salad, but for those who still want their bun, a salad burger (below).

       

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    Our favorite way to enjoy a burger this burger salad from Five Napkin Burger. Photo courtesy Five Napkin Burger | NYC.

     
    HOW TO CREATE A GREAT BURGER SALAD RECIPE

    To start, think of your favorite salad and assemble the ingredients. Is it spinach salad? Cobb salad? Chopped salad? Salade Niçoise? Spicy greens (arugula, radish, watercress)? Tortilla salad?

    Create your burger salad from those ingredients; and if the original salad contained chicken, turkey or other meat, consider adding small amounts of them—a mixed grill burger salad, as it were.

    You can make a bacon cheeseburger salad or a diet burger burger salad. You can add seeds for more nutrition. And there are ways to cut calories. But here’s a list of options for starters:

     
    BASIC SALAD INGREDIENTS

  • Lettuce: mixed greens (we love to add arugula and cress, but have peaked on kale)
  • Salad veggies: bell pepper, carrots, celery, cucumbers, fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley), radishes
  • Tomatoes: cherry, grape, sliced, sundried—or substitute pimento (roasted red pepper)
  • Onions: green (scallions), red, sweet
  •  
    SALAD ADD-ONS

  • Cheese: crumbled, cubed, julienned, shaved ribbons or shredded
  • Extra veggies: broccoli florets, cauliflower, chiles, fennel, green beans, mushrooms—raw, pickled, roasted or steamed
  • Fruits: berries, dried fruit, mandarin or orange segments, sliced stone fruit, apples or pears
  • Luxury veggies: artichoke hearts, avocado, endive, hearts of palm, radicchio, water chestnuts
  • Seasonal veggies: for example, asparagus and green peas in spring; corn, yellow squash and zucchini in summer
  • Proteins: bacon, beans or legumes (chickpeas, lentils), ham, hard-boiled eggs, tofu/seitan, seafood (we recently created a modern surf and turf burger salad with grilled shrimp), slices or cubes of poultry, salami, sausage, etc.
  • Starch: boiled potatoes, cooked grains, small pasta shapes
  • Garnishes: anchovies, croutons, nuts, olives, peppadews, pepperoncini, pickles, seeds (chia, flax, pepita/pumpkin, sunflower, toasted sesame), sprouts
  •  
    SALAD DRESSING

    A burger salad begs for a delicious vinaigrette. Here’s our template for making a vinaigrette recipe you’ll love.

  • Some people are calorie and fat counters. If that’s you, go for a dressing of plain balsamic vinegar (conventional or white balsamic). It makes a delicious dressing with just 14 calories per tablespoon.
  • Another direction is to use lemon, lime or yuzu juice. Yuzu is imported from Japan and pricey, but worth it.
  • Low-calorie salsa also works, plain or mixed with a bit of salad oil. For a creamy dressing, mix salsa with plain Greek yogurt.
  •  
    However, before you avoid salad oil, ask any nutritionist, the FDA or the American Heart Association: Two tablespoons daily of a heart-healthy oil are important for general health and specific conditions*. The recommended oils are monounsaturated, and include avocado oil, canola oil, olive oil and peanut oil.

    It’s time to stop looking old-school at “calories” and “fat”—an old school way of looking at diet—and focus your choices on health and nutrition.
     

     

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    Plan B: Top your burger with a salad.
    Photo courtesy Umami Burger | Hudson
    Eats.

     

    THE SALAD BURGER

    Instead of topping salad with a burger, you can top a burger with salad.

    Far more than a bunless burger or “diet burger”—the type served by our local diner and others, which plates a burger patty with lettuce, tomato, onion and a scoop of cottage cheese—a salad burger tops your burger with a flavorful salad.

    As you can see in the photo, it can be simple mixed greens, very lightly dressed. Since the burger is America’s favorite food, if you’ve been meaning to add more salad to your diet, here’s your chance.
     
    *A BIG FOOTNOTE ON HEALTHY FATS

    Monounsaturated fats deliver many health benefits, including:

  • Decreased risk for breast cancer.
  • Reduced cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of monounsaturated fats to improve one’s blood lipid profile.
  • Lower risk for heart disease and stroke. The FDA recommends that .8 ounce daily—about 2 tablespoons—may “possibly prevent coronary disease.”
  • Weight loss, when switching to monounsaturated fat from polyunsaturated fats (corn oil, safflower oil and soybean oil, among others) and saturated fats (largely from animal products: meat, dairy, eggs).
  • Less severe pain and less stiffness for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis. Diet plays a role in reducing the pain and stiffness of those who already have rheumatoid arthritis.
  •   

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    RECIPE: A Waffle Sandwich (Wafflewich) For National Waffle Day

    For special occasions, a waffle sandwich is true food fun. There’s an immediate special occasion: August 24th is National Waffle Day.

    Andrea Correale, CEO of Elegant Affairs Caterers, sent us two yummy sandwich recipes to celebrate the day. Both replace the bread with waffles. The result: a wafflewich!

    Waffle sandwiches require the extra step of making fresh waffles. Frozen waffles don’t taste anywhere as good.

    To assauge any waffle guilt, check out our recommended whole grain pancake and waffle mixes.

    RECIPE: HAM & CHEESE WAFFLEWICH

    When a wafflewich includes cheese, the sandwich is even better if you place it in a panini press to melt a bit.

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 2 waffles, freshly made from a waffle mix or your own recipe*
  • 3 slices ham per sandwich (Andrea prefers hickory honey ham)
  •    

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/waffle ham and cheese elegantcaterers 230ps

    Enjoy your ham and cheese on a waffle. Photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers.

  • 3 slices cheese per sandwich (Andrea prefers sharp Cheddar; we like Emmental)
  • Mustard
  • Optional: lettuce and tomato
  • Sides: baby carrots or other crudités, coleslaw, pickles†, pickled vegetables, candied jalapeños
  •  
    *For big eaters, you can make a triple decker sandwich (three waffles). If your waffle recipe contains sugar—which is normal for breakfast waffles—cut it back to 1/2 teaspoon or none at all.

    †We added sweet and spicy pickle chips to the sandwich before grilling in the panini press. Check out our article on the best pickles.
     
    Preparation

    1. COOK the waffles in a waffle maker.

    2. PLACE the ham and cheese, lettuce and tomato between two waffles, with the pickle chips if desired (or, serve the pickles on the side). We added Dijon mustard between the ham and cheese layers.

    3. PLACE the waffle sandwich in a panini press and cook until the cheese is gooey. Remove and serve immediately with the sides.

     

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/blt waffle sandwich elegantcaterers

    A twist on the BLT: a BLT Waffle Sandwich. Photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers.

     

    RECIPE: BLT WAFFLEWICH

    You can make this a vegetarian sandwich with Morning Star Bacon Strips or Lightlife Smart Bacon, and/or Baconaise bacon-flavored mayonnaise (one of our favorite mayos). These products get their bacony taste from natural smoke flavor and other seasonings.

    You can also add sliced avocado, chicken or turkey.

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 3 slices cooked bacon (Andrea prefers hickory smoked bacon)
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Lettuce (we prefer iceberg or romaine for the crunch)
  • Optional: sliced avocado, chicken or turkey
  • Mayonnaise (we prefer flavored mayonnaise)
  • Optional: long toothpicks (we like these festive cellophane frill toothpicks)
  • Sides: coleslaw or potato salad, chips (corn/tortilla, lentil, vegetable, etc.)
  • Preparation

    1. PILE the bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and optional avocado, chicken or turkey on the bottom waffle. If using iceberg lettuce, we find it helpful to slice it in slabs from the head, so the lettuce will lie flat on the sandwich.

    2. SEASON with salt and pepper as desired.

    3. SPREAD the top waffle with mayonnaise. Place the top on the sandwich and anchor with toothpicks as necessary.

    4. SERVE with sides.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Go Rustic, Make A Crostata Or A Galette

    Before there were pie pans, there were crostatas and galettes. But let’s start with a brief history of pie, to provide some perspective before we get to a delicious crostata/galette recipe.
     
    THE HISTORY OF PIE

    Culinary historians trace the origin of pie to ancient Egypt, where savory fillings were baked in woven reeds as the vessel. A form of flat, free-form pastry, now called a crostata (Italian) or galette (French), evolved, consisting of a crust of ground grain (barley, oats, rye, wheat) and filled with honey.

    The concept was brought to Greece, and then to Rome. Ancient Greeks are believed to have created pie pastry, and the trade of pastry cook was distinguished from that of baker.

    In the millennia before modern bakeware was created, the Romans made an inedible pastry of flour, oil and water to hold meat and poultry as they baked (its main purpose was to keeping in the juices). The Roman Legions brought the technique with them as they forged through Europe.

    It was the use of lard and butter, in northern Europe, that led to a dough that could be rolled out and molded into what became a tasty modern pie crust.

       

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    A galette is sometimes called a rustic tart. Photo of a pear and apple galette courtesy Waitrose.

     
    According to the American Pie Council, “pye” first appears in the written record in England in the 12th century. The crust of the pie was referred to as a “coffyn,” rectangular like its namesake. The walls were thick to hold the shape, and there was more crust than filling. Often, the legs of a fowl were placed to hang outside of the coffyn and used as handles!

    The predecessor of modern cake and pie pans was a metal hoop that was placed on a baking sheet. Ultimately, bakeware was made from tin or pottery. It is believed that the rounded shape rather than square or rectangular, as well as the shallowness of the pan, were devised to create a smaller space in which to stretch limited ingredients.
     
    WHAT IS A CROSTATA OR GALETTE?

    A crostata or galette was an early way to form a pie crust in the absence of pie pans—and before anyone even realized a pie pan was desirable! The dough was rolled flat, the filling placed in the middle, and the edges turned up and folded (see the photos) to contain the filling. It was used for savory and sweet pies, and could be made free-form or in a rectangle, round or square.

    And, even after the emergence of tin and ceramic pie pans, for poor folk as well as the itinerant, no purchase of a pie pan was needed. This is a pie made without bakeware (well…a baking sheet helps the modern baker, instead of the older practice of using the floor of the oven or fireplace).

    Even today, it is simple to make; and we find it a fun undertaking, uniting us with all of those ancestors who baked without pans. No technique to create an even, fluted crust is necessary. There’s no worry about tearing the dough as you lift it into the pie pan. No one cares if the final result isn’t perfectly round or rectangular: The rusticity is the charm.

    And, the ease of creating a crostata/galette may get you to make pie more often—not just a fruit pie, but savory pies of vegetables, meat, even fish and seafood. Tip: It’s fun to make “leftovers pie,” tossing in everything from pasta, rice or grains to cooked meats and vegetables, cheese, whatever (go on a scavenger hunt through the fridge and pantry).

     

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    Galettes can also be made in individual sizes. Photo courtesy California Strawberry Commission.

     

    RECIPE: FRUIT GALETTE (CROSTATA)

    This recipe below works for any fruit, but for a classic apple galette, this recipe adds cinnamon.

    You can make the dough up to three days in advance.

    Ingredients For The Dough

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon/15 grams sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • Heavy cream, as needed
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Optional: jam in a matching or complementary flavor*
  •  
    *Spreading jam on the bottom of an unbaked crust is a tip that adds a more fruit flavor and some extra sweetness to the pie.

    For The Filling

  • 3 cups fruit of choice, sliced or cubed (berries can be left whole)
  • ½ cup to 3/4 cup sugar, based on the sweetness of the fruit, with 1 tablespoon reserved
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional: juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust: In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or in a large bowl, pulse or mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Lightly beat the egg in a measuring cup; then add just enough cream to get to 1/3 cup. Lightly whisk the egg and cream together.

    2. ADD the butter to the flour mixture and pulse, or use a pastry cutter or your fingers to break up the butter into chickpea-size pieces. If using a food processor, do not over-process the dough or it gets tough.

    3. DRIZZLE up to 1/4 cup of the egg mixture over the dough and pulse or stir until it just starts to come together (but is still mostly large crumbs). Mix in the lemon zest.

    4. PLACE the dough on a lightly floured surface and pat it into one uniform piece. Flatten it into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours and up to 3 days. When ready to bake…

    5. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Roll the dough into a 12-inch round—or as close to round as is easy for you. Transfer the dough to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill while preparing the filling.

    6. PREPARE the filling: Toss together the fruit, all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the salt, the lemon juice and zest, and the cornstarch. Use more cornstarch for juicy fruits like apples, berries and peaches, and less for drier fruits like figs.

    7. SPREAD the optional jam over the center of the dough circle, then place the fruit in the middle, leaving a border of 1½ to 2 inches (some people like the look of an even higher crust). Gently fold the pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in. Brush the pastry with the leftover egg and cream mixture. Sprinkle the reserved tablespoon of sugar on the crust.

    8. BAKE for 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling bubbles up vigorously and the crust is golden. Cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    This recipe was adapted from one in the New York Times.

      

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    FOOD 101: Sponge Cake History & Types

    August 23rd is National Sponge Cake Day. It celebrates an airy cake that’s just right for summer, garnished with fresh berries and whipped cream.
     
    THE HISTORY OF SPONGE CAKE

    The modern sponge cake dates to Europe in the early 19th century. Precursors were cookie-sized treats called biscuit bread and sponge fingers (a.k.a. boudoir biscuits, ladyfingers, Savoy biscuits [English] and savoiardi [Italian]); as well as sweet “breads” from Italy, Portugal and Spain.

    These earlier forms date back to the Renaissance (15th century) and were used in numerous desserts including trifles and fools. Early 17th century English cookbook writers note that recipes for fine bread, bisquite du roy [roi] and common biscuits were similar to sponge cake.

    Savoiardi, ladyfingers, originated in the late 15th century at the court of Catherine of Medici, created to mark the occasion of a visit by the King of France to the Duchy of Savoy. The recipe found its way to England in the early 18th century.

    The sponge cake is thought to be one of the first of the non-yeasted cakes; the rise comes from well-beaten eggs. The earliest recipe in English is found in a 1615 book by Gervase Markham*. The term “sponge cake,” describing the sponge-like openness of the crumb, probably came into use during the 17th century. The earliest reference cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is in an 1808 letter written by Jane Austen, who apparently was fond of them. [Source: Food Timeline]
     
    THE MODERN SPONGE CAKE

    The modern American sponge cake is a light-textured cake made of eggs, sugar and flour†; there is no fat or leavening. The rise comes from the beaten egg whites. The French sponge, génoise, is used for thinner cake layers, so the egg whites and yolks are beaten together.

    Sponges can be baked in cake pans, tube pans or sheet pans. They can be used to make layer cakes, tube cakes, roulades (rolled cakes) and cupcakes. They can be variously flavored and filled.

       

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/Victoria Sponge stylenest.co .uk copy 230

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/sponge cake tube pan chicagometallic 230

    Top photo: a Victoria Sponge, filled with strawberry jam instead of Queen Victoria’s favorite, raspberry jam, and topped with powdered sugar. Photo courtesy Stylenest. Bottom photo: a simple sponge cake, made American-style in a tube pan. Photo courtesy Chicago Metallic Bakeware. Use a tube pan with feet, since sponge cake (as well as angel cake) must be inverted when removed from the oven.

     

    The basic sponge cake recipe is also used to make ladyfingers and madeleines; slices can be used instead of biscuits to make shortcake.

    *“The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman.”

    †Since sponge cakes are not leavened with yeast, they can be eaten during Passover, made with matzo meal instead of wheat flour.

    TYPES OF SPONGE CAKES

    AMERICAN SPONGE CAKE

    The American Sponge is a high-rising cake, gaining volume from the air whipped into the egg whites and yolks. The dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt are folded in. Then the egg whites and more sugar are beaten until stiff and fold into the yolk mixture. It is often baked in an ungreased tube pan, which maximizes the volume of the cake, and emerges the springiest and spongiest of the sponge cakes.
     
    BRITISH SPONGE CAKES

    The classic British sponge of modern times is the Victoria Sponge Cake (see below).

    GÉNOISE SPONGE CAKES & COOKIES

    The French sponge cake, génoise (jen-WOZ), is named for the Italian port city of Genoa, where an precursor of it, Genoa Cake, originated in the early 19th century.

    Génoise sponge differs from American sponge cakes in that the eggs are beaten whole, rather than beating the the yolks and whites specialty for more rise. In fact, rise is not the goal; flatter cake layers are sought. Sheets of genoise are used to make Swiss rolls and other roulades, such as Buche de Noel. Genoise is also used to make ladyfingers and madeleines.

    Génoise sponge is the basis of many French layer cakes and roulades. Baked in pans or thinner sheets, it can filled with fruit purée, jam or whipped cream. It can be iced and decorated simply, elaborately or not at all.

     

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    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/genoise baba lacigaledoree.com 230

    Top photo: chocolate genoise roulade (roll) filled with chestnut cream. Photo courtesy Dirty Kitchen Secrets. Bottom photo: thin layers of genoise used to assemble cakes. Photo courtesy La Cigale Doree.

      GENOA CAKE (NOT A GÉNOISE SPONGE)

    By the middle of the 18th century, cake bakers began to use well-beaten eggs instead of yeast as a leavening agent. The cake would be baked in a mold or in layers made by pouring the batter into two hoops, set on parchment paper and a cookie sheet (hoops atop baking sheets were the precursor of the modern cake pan).

    Genoa Cake originated in the port city of Genoa, Italy in the early 19th century. Some ingredients that came into the busy port from the East and Middle East—almonds, candied fruit and peel, citrus zest, currants, raisins, vanilla, cinnamon and other spices—often found their way into Genoa Cake, a light fruitcake that is different from the the airier genoise. Liqueur could be incorporated into the batter.

    Like the French génoise sponge, it could be served plain, filled with jam and/or cream, iced, or simply dusted with powdered sugar.

    There is also Italian génoise, called pan di Spagna (“Spanish bread”) in Italy.
     

    SPONGE ROLL (ROULADE)

    A sponge roll is a thin layer of génoise, no more than an inch deep, baked in a sheet pan. It has the flexibility to be filled with jam and/or cream and and rolled into a Bûche de Noël (Yule Log), Jelly Roll, Swiss Roll† or other type of roulade.
     
    ‡A Swiss roll is also called a cream roll when filled with whipped cream or other cream variation, and is often used as another term for jelly roll.
     
    VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE

    England’s Queen Victoria enjoyed a slice of sponge cake with her afternoon tea, garnished with raspberry jam and whipped heavy cream (called double cream in the U.K.) or vanilla cream (vanilla-flavored whipped cream, called chantilly in French).

     
    Her preferences led to the creation of the Victoria Sponge. Jam and cream are sandwiched between two sponge layers; the top of the cake is served plain or with a dusting of powdered sugar. It also came to be known as the Victoria Sandwich, and sometimes the Victorian Cake. (See the photo at the top of the page.)
     
    SPONGE CAKE VARIATIONS

  • Angel Cake or Angel Food Cake, a sponge cake that uses only the egg whites. This produces a white cake instead of a conventional sponge colored yellow by the egg yolks.
  • Castella, a Japanese sponge cake that’s a specialty of Nagasaki. It was introduced there by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century (see Pão de Castela, below), and is typically made in long loaves.
  • Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake, steamed in a water bath and called Ma Lai Gao in Cantonese. You may find it in the U.S. at restaurants that serve dim sum
  • Chiffon Cake, invented in 1927 in Los Angeles. It is based on the sponge cake recipe plus some added fat. Here’s more about Chiffon Cake.
  • Eve’s Pudding, a Victoria Sponge made with sliced apples that cook at the bottom of the cake pan or baking dish, underneath the cake batter. Think of it as a cousin to Tarte Tatin.
  • Italian Génoise—see Pan di Spagna, below.
  • Ma Lai Gao—See Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake, above.
  • Malay Steamed Cake, a steamed sponge, based on the Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake.
  • Pandan Cake or Pandan Chiffon, a fluffy sponge cake of Indonesian and Malaysian origins, flavored with the light green juice of pandan leaves (which has notes of coconut, citrus and grass). It sometimes made a deeper green with food color.
  • Pan di Spagna, also called Italian Génoise or Torta Genovese. An Italian recipe that evolved in Sicily during the Spanish rule (1559–1714), it is flavored with vanilla and/or citrus zest. It is the cake base for Sicilian Cassata, Tiramisu, Zuccoto and Zuppa Inglese. [Source]
  • Pão de Castela, “bread from Castil,” is a Portuguese variation of Pan di Spagna.
  • Pão de Ló is an unsweetened bread sponge “cake,” created by a Genovese cook, Glovan Battista Cabona, in the mid-1700s‡‡. It was cooked in a water bath, which was more reliable than early ovens.
  • Passover Sponge Cake or Plava, is made with Kosher for Passover ingredients, with matzo meal, matzo flour or potato flour, replacing the wheat flour. It is sometimes flavored with almonds or pecans, apples or apple juice, dark chocolate, lemon, orange juice, or poppy seeds.
  • Tres Leches Cake, a sponge soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk. The recipe originated in Latin America.
  •  
    ‡‡According to About.com, the cook’s name was Giobatta Cabona, and was in the service of Marchese Domenico Pallavicini, Genova’s (Genoa in English) Ambassador to Spain in the mid-1700s. The Marchese asked for a new cake for a banquet, and Cabona created a light and airy confection he called Pâte Génoise, or Pasta Genovese in Italian. A slightly simplified version was called Pan di Spagna, to honor the Spanish Court.

      

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