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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.

RECIPE: Cherry Home Fries

fried-w-cherry-homefries-choosecherries-230

Cherry home fries. Photo courtesy ChooseCherries.com.

 

One of our beefs with Presidents Day is that it obliterates the birthdays of two great presidents, Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and George Washington (February 22nd).

Both birthdays used to be bank, government and school holidays. In 1971, both presidential holidays were shifted to the third Monday in February and combined as the vague Presidents Day, to allow federal employees a three-day weekend. Hmpf.

It’s tough to tie a food story to Lincoln, who ate only “incidentally.” He grew up poor without an excess of food. As an adult, he was so focused on work, it was tough to get him to eat at all. When he did eat, he nibbled simply, on apples, nuts, cheese and crackers.

Although he never chopped down the apocryphal cherry tree, George Washington grew up the son of a wealthy planter, with all the victuals he could desire. While he was no foodie, he did in fact love cherries and other fruits from the groves of Mount Vernon.

So we’re keeping up with the tradition of cherry recipes, starting with an unusual one:

 
Cherry home fries! These use dried tart cherries, which play off nicely against the potatoes as well as eggs. We particularly like them with scrambled eggs or omelets. For extra fun, we made a jelly omelet with fresh goat cheese (you can use cream cheese) and cherry preserves.

Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

RECIPE: CHERRY HOME FRIES

Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 2/3 to 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5 medium waxy potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, as needed)
  • Optional: 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red chiles or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ the cherries and onions over low to medium heat for 15 minutes, or until the onions become a deep brown. While onions and tart cherries are cooking…

    2. BOIL the potatoes in salted water until fork tender. Drain.

    3. ADD the potatoes to the skillet with the cherries and onions. Add extra oil if needed. Sauté for 5 minutes on high until the potatoes are crisp.

    4. SEASON with salt, pepper and chiles to taste.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mushroom Salad

    You may be chomping at the bit for the first spring vegetables to arrive in the market (we’re waiting for asparagus and ramps). But until then, there is veggie excitement to be had; and we’ll be talking about them for the next two days.

    Mushrooms offer flavorful excitement, and are a cook’s delight: They absorb a lot of flavor quickly, and can be prepared in so many ways. For starters, consider:

  • Carpaccio (try this recipe from chef Claire Robinson)
  • Casseroles
  • Fried (try these portobello fries)
  • Omelets, scrambled eggs
  • Mushrooms Parmigiania, prepared like Eggplant Parmigiania
  • Quesadillas
  • Pasta dishes (add it to fettuccine, lasagna, ramen, ravioli, anything)
  • Risotto or pilaf
  • Roasted or grilled
  • Sauces and gravies
  • Sautéed alone (with red wine and fresh herbs!) or with other favorites (broccoli, spinach, turnips, whatever)
  • Sautéed with any protein (Chicken Marsala is a favorite)
  •    

    cooked-mushroom-salad-olionyc-230

    Mushroom salad atop a bed of baby arugula. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | New York City.

  • Soup (try cream of mushroom with chunks of sautéed mushrooms)
  • Stews/ragouts
  • Stuffed, with vegetarian, cheese, meat or seafood fillings (try bacon or sausage)
  • Stuffing, savory bread pudding, savory tarts, crostini
  • Topping for grains or polenta and of course, pizza
  •  

    Today’s tip requires no cooking; that is, no heat. It’s marinated mushrooms, also known as mushroom salad: delicious as an appetizer, a side, a sandwich topper or as part of an antipasto.

    You can add other raw vegetables; we’ve provided options below.

    Marinated mushrooms can be made with any mushroom (here are the different mushroom types). Unless you’ve got deep pockets, go for the least expensive, which are typically white button mushrooms. Smaller are better, since you’ll be cutting them up.

    Of course, you an use any mushroom: cremini, oyster, portabello, shiitake or a mixture. We’ve even used enoki mushrooms for an exotic garnish.

    The only given is that the mushrooms be fresh. Those that are beginning to brown or wither are best used in a cooked dish.

     

    marinated-mush-tahini-yogurt-colliersmarket-230r

    Marinated mushrooms with walnut and tahini
    yogurt. Photo courtesy Collier’s Market. Here’s
    the recipe.

     

    RECIPE: RAW MUSHROOM SALAD

  • 1 8-ounce container white mushrooms (or other mushroom)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon wine or sherry vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh herbs (basil, chives, dill, oregano, parsley, thyme), minced (we use two different herbs)
  • Optional ingredients for color: diced red pepper or pimento, red onions, sliced green onions or chives
  • Optional ingredients for variety: broccoli or cauliflower florets, edamame, sliced olives
  • Optional heat: 1 chili, seeded and white pith removed, finely sliced
  • Baby arugula, baby spinach, mesclun, watercress or lettuce/cabbage cups
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CLEAN the mushrooms and pat dry. Place in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt. Toss to coat thoroughly. Let stand for about 30 minutes so the salt can remove excess water from the mushrooms. Brush any remaining salt from the mushrooms.

    2. COMBINE the marinade ingredients in a bowl: olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, pepper and herbs. Toss the mushrooms in the marinade to coat. (We don’t add salt at this stage because of the residue salt from the mushrooms.)

    3. COVER the bowl refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    4. SERVE as desired. We enjoy it atop a bed of greens or in a lettuce cup.

    Variation

    Try this recipe for Marinated Mushrooms with Walnut and Tahini Yogurt from Kristin Collier of the blog ColliersMarket.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegetable “Raft”

    Build a vegetable “raft” to make a serving of plain grilled or sautéed protein look like fancy restaurant fare.

    This chef’s trick makes it easy to add glamor to a piece of cooked protein—beef, fish, lamb, pork, poultry, tofu. Not to mention, it gets people to eat more veggies!

    Here, branzino in padella (branzino cooked in a skillet/frying pan) from Olio e Piú in Greenwich Village, New York City gets the raft treatment.

    MAKE IT AT HOME

  • Choose three “long” vegetables of contrasting colors. For your consideration: asparagus, carrots, celery, green beans, fennel, hatch or shishito chiles or other mild chiles, leeks, long radish, okra, parsnips, pea pods, spring onions.
  • You can also cut long rectangles of other favorites: bell pepper (red or yellow bell pepper), eggplant, yellow squash, Yukon Gold potatoes or zucchini.
  • All the vegetables should be 3-1/2 to 4 inches in length. They don’t have to be even; and they’re more visually arresting if they aren’t.
  •  

    branzino-vegetable-layer-olioNY-230

    Branzino on a vegetable raft with a grilled lemon. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | NYC.

  • The number of pieces you need per serving depends on the length of the protein. The long piece of fish in the photo rests atop a dozen individual veggies.
  • Decide how you want to cook them. Our own technique is to steam them lightly in the microwave, then coat them quickly in a sauté pan with butter (you can substitute good olive oil).
  •  

    If you want to include a grain or potato, there’s plenty of room on the plate (just move the lemon).

    In his television show “Kitchen Nightmares,” Chef Gordon Ramsay has said that he gets worried when he is presented with a plate scattered with chopped parsley. While we love Chef Ramsay, perhaps he’d agree that this plain plate would look better with a dusting of minced parsley or chives around the rim. Or perhaps, a sprinkling of pink or smoked sea salt!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Best Cherry Pie

    cherry-pie-lattice-cherrymktginst-230

    This cherry pie gets a fancy lattice top. Photo courtesy Cherry Marketing Institute.

     

    It’s National Cherry Pie Day, and we’re honoring both the holiday and Jean Van’t Hul by publishing her recipe for “the best cherry pie ever.”

    Like all good cooks, Jean has worked on this recipe for years, adapting recipes from prominent sources like Rose Levy Beranbaum and Cook’s Illustrated.

    Jean notes that her recipe uses cherries canned in water. “not that dreadful canned cherry pie filling.”

    RECIPE: THE BEST CHERRY PIE

    Ingredients

    For The Pie Crust

  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons ice water
  • For The Filling

  • 3 cans tart cherries in water (Jean likes Oregon Fruit Products Red Tart Cherries, which she often finds with the canned fruit instead of in the baking aisle)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  •  
    Plus

  • Optional garnish: crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pie crust. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor (or use a pastry blender). Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse a few times. Cut the shortening into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse a few more times, until butter and shortening are the size of peas or smaller. Transfer to a large bowl.

    2. SPRINKLE 3-4 tablespoons of ice water over the dough mixture at a time, mixing and pressing with a sturdy rubber spatula until the dough comes together. Divide into two and wrap each half in plastic wrap. (Tip: Dump the semi-formed dough onto plastic, wrap it up, knead it bit until it forms a ball, then flatten it into a disk.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

    3. MIX the 3 cans of cherries plus the juice from 1-1/2 cans with sugar, cornstarch, salt and almond extract in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until the liquid is thick and bubbly (partially jelled). Set aside to cool.

     

    oregon-specialty-fruit-red-tart-cherries-230

    Look for pitted cherries in water, not “glop.” Photo courtesy Oregon Specialty Fruit.

     

    4. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place on a lower rack, to catch any drips.

    5. SPRINKLE the counter with flour and roll out the bottom pie crust. Arrange in a pie pan. Pour the cooled pie filling into the crust.

    6. ROLL out the top crust. Use a sharp knife to cut the top crust into strips for a lattice crust or use a cookie cutter to make other designs. Either drape your top crust over the pie, if you used a cookie cutter design, or weave your traditional lattice crust (here’s a YouTube video).

    7. TRIM Tthe edges of the top and bottom crust to 1/2-1 inch beyond the pie pan and then fold them under. Either press around the perimeter with the tines of a fork or crimp it with your fingers.

    8. BRUSH the crust with a beaten egg white (or cream) and sprinkle sugar on top.

    9. BAKE for 20 minutes at 425°F, then lower the oven temperature to 375°F and add a pie crust shield (or a foil tent with the center cut out) to protect the outer edges of the crust from burning. Bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the crust looks nicely browned and the juices bubble up thickly.

    10. REMOVE the pie from the oven and let cool for 3 hours or so before eating, so the filling will gel properly. Garnish as desired and serve.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Hungarian Rice Pudding

    rice-pudding-LittleBucharestBistro-230

    Hungarian Rice Pudding. Photo and recipe courtesy Little Bucharest Bistro | Chicago.

     

    A bone-chilling day like today calls for extra helpings of comfort food. One of our favorites is rice pudding. We’ve made it every way, including conventional, with rum-soaked raisins, with dried cherries and cranberries replacing the raisins, and a Thai-inspired version with black rice and coconut milk.

    Today, it’s Hungarian rice pudding. This is the recipe made by the Hungarian grandmother of Branko Podrumedic, owner of Little Bucharest Bistro in Chicago. In Hungarian, the recipe is called budinca de orez.

    Rice pudding is usually served as a dessert, but Branko notes that it also makes a delicious breakfast. If you’d like an eggier pudding for breakfast, you can increase the eggs to four, and reduce the honey for a less dessert-like (sweet) dish.

    For a richer rice pudding, use half and half instead of regular milk. For a non-dairy version, use coconut milk.

     
    Whether for dessert or breakfast, you can serve it with fresh fruit or a spoonful jam (our own grandmother was partial to cherry preserves).
     
    RECIPE: HUNGARIAN RICE PUDDING

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 cup rice (uncooked)*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • Optional garnishes: chopped toasted nuts, toasted coconut, fresh fruit, preserves or fruit sauce (purée)
  •  

    *We prefer white basmati rice, which makes a creamy rice pudding but holds its texture.

    Preparations

    1. COOK the rice. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

    2. BEAT the eggs in a large bowl. Add the milk, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat very well with a whisk or electric beaters, ensuring that no honey remains at the bottom of the bowl. Add the rice and raisins to the liquid mixture. Stir until combined.

    3. GREASE a baking dish, and gently pour in the rice mixture.

    4. SPRINKLE nuts on top and dust top with cinnamon.

    5. PLACE the baking dish in a pan of warm water and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Serve hot or cold with cream, fresh berries, fruit sauce and/or toasted coconut garnish.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Goat Cheese For Breakfast

    It’s the second day of the Year Of The Goat, and we’re focusing on goat cheese for breakfast.

    We love goat cheese so much, that a log or tomme of fresh goat cheese with toasted baguette (and fresh tomato and basil in the summer) is our kind of meal.

    But you can incorporate goat cheese into conventional breakfast recipes, as this tip attests.

    At the simplest, there are goat cheese crostini with jam or preserves. If you want to bake, there are goat cheese and mushroom tarts. You can make a breakfast sandwich, or your favorite egg dish.

    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE & PRESERVES CROSTINI

    This recipe is from Smucker’s, which uses its Smucker’s Orchard’s Finest Northwest Triple Berry Preserves. You can use your favorite berry preserves or jam.

  • Here’s the difference between jam and preserves.
  • Here’s the difference between crostini and bruschetta.
  •  
    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE & JAM BREAKFAST CROSTINI

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 6 minutes.

    Ingredients For 12 Slices

  • 1/4 cup berry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme*, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 baguette (8 ounces), sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • Optional: fresh thyme leaves for garnish
  •  
    *You can substitute fresh basil, marjoram, oregano or savory for the thyme.

       

    goat-cheese-crostini-smuckers-230

    Crunchy, sweet and savory: These crostini are an alternative to toast with spreads. Photo courtesy Smucker’s.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the preserves, shallots, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper in small bowl.

    2. SLICE the baguette into 1/2-inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice lightly with olive oil. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Grill baguette slices, four at a time, 2 to 3 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Place on serving platter.

    3. SPREAD about 2 teaspoons of goat cheese over each baguette slice. Top each slice with 1 teaspoon of the preserves mixture. Garnish with additional fresh thyme. Serve immediately.

    TIP: The preserves-vinegar-thyme spread can be prepared up to two days ahead and refrigerated, covered.

     

    crustless-breakfast-tarts-kalynskitchen-230

    These Crustless Breakfast Tarts with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese are elegant enough for a special occasion. Photo courtesy Kalyn’s Kitchen.

     

    Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen was inspired by a new tart pan to make breakfast tarts, combining cream, eggs, goat cheese, green onions, mozzarella, mushrooms and Parmesan. You can also use a muffin pan or individual gratin dishes.

    There’s no pastry, so you can save the carbs for your toast or muffin.

    The tarts will keep in the fridge for at least a week and can be reheated in a microwave or hot toaster oven. It only takes a about 70 seconds in the microwave; don’t microwave too long or the eggs will get rubbery.

    RECIPE: CRUSTLESS BREAKFAST TARTS WITH GOAT
    CHEESE & MUSHROOMS

    Ingredients For 6 Breakfast Tarts

  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese (e.g. from a log), crumbled and softened
  • 1/4 cup milk, half and half, or cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • 12 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive oil (depending on your pan)
  • 1 teaspoon Spike Seasoning (see below, or use any all-purpose seasoning blend that’s good with eggs)
  • Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, crated
  •  
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the goat cheese from the fridge, cut off 4 ounces, crumble and place in a bowl to start to soften. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Spray the tart pan (or other cookware) with olive oil or nonstick spray.

    2. USE a fork to mix the milk/cream into the softened goat cheese; then mix in the Parmesan. Beat the eggs in a different bowl and mix 1/3 at a time into the goat cheese mixture, stirring each time you add more egg. (The mixture doesn’t need to be completely smooth.)

    3. WASH and pat dry the mushrooms and slice about 3/8 inch thick. Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan to avoid crowding the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat until all the released liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Divide the mushrooms between the wells in the tart pan.

    4. POUR the custard mixture over the mushrooms and gently stir to distribute the mushrooms evenly. Sprinkle a generous pinch of green onions on top of each tart, followed by one tablespoon of grated mozzarella.

    5. BAKE for 25-27 minutes (or slightly longer if you don’t have this tart pan and your tarts are a little thicker). Cook just until the tarts are starting to barely brown on the top; the custard mixture should be soft. Serve hot.
     
    SPIKE SEASONING

    Spike Seasoning was created by more than 50 years ago and still has a huge fan base; it gets a five-star review on Amazon. You can buy it online or at retailers nationwide. There’s also a salt-free, gluten-free version.

    Original Spike Seasoning a blend of 39 ingredients: Salt and sea salt, de-fatted nutri-soy granules, granular toasted onion, nutritional yeast, granular garlic, celery root granules, ground dill, horseradish granules, mustard powder, lemon peel, orange powder, parsley flakes, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, white pepper, rose hips powder, summer savory, mushroom powder, safflower, parsley powder, white onion powder, spinach powder, tomato powder, sweet Hungarian paprika, ground celery seed, cayenne pepper, ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground ginger, ground coriander, ground fenugreek, ground cloves, cinnamon powder, oregano, tarragon, sweet basil, marjoram, rosemary and thyme.

    If you don’t see it in the spice section, look near the health foods.
     
    MORE GOAT CHEESE BREAKFAST RECIPES

  • Breakfast tarts with mushrooms and goat cheese (recipe)
  • Goat cheese scrambled eggs (recipe)
  • Goat cheese and fresh herb omelet (recipe)
  • Goat cheese and prosciutto strata (recipe)
  • Grilled goat cheese sandwich with honey and figs (recipe)
  • Poached eggs on toasted baguette with goat cheese (recipe)
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Green Tea Fortune Cookie Cake

    At last: an idea to repurpose the fortune cookies that so many of us acquire from Chinese food take-out.
    This Green Tea layer cake is made by Baked NYC, one of the most popular bakeries in New York City. The cake has three almond white cake layers, frosted and filled with green tea buttercream.

    You can call it a Green Tea Cake, Fortune Cookie Cake, or Chinese New Year Cake. It’s easy to whip up with a box of white cake mix and some dark or white chocolate, into which you dip the fortune cookies. Here’s how:

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA FORTUNE COOKIE CAKE

  • Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract to a white cake batter (use a boxed mix).
  • If you want an actual green tea cake, add 4 teaspoons of matcha (powdered green tea) to the cake batter/mix and omit the almond extract.
  • Make the green tea buttercream (recipe below).
  • Dip the fortune cookies into melted dark or white chocolate.
  • If you like crunch, crush extra fortune cookies with a rolling pin and add the pieces to the filling over the bottom layer.
  •    

    green-tea_layer-cake-230

    Green tea frosting on a layer cake. The fortune cookies were dipped in white chocolate. Photo courtesy BakedNYC.com.

     
    If you want to make your own fortune cookies from scratch, here’s the recipe.
     

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA BUTTERCREAM

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 sticks butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the water and tea powder to make a paste.

    2. CREAM the butter and tea until completely combined. Gradually add powdered sugar until you reach the consistency you like for frosting.

     

    Matcha

    Matcha, powdered green tea, is whisked with
    water into a foamy beverage. Photo by Kelly
    Cline | IST.

     

    WHAT IS MATCHA?

    Matcha is powdered green tea the consistency of talc, that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony (cha no yu). Matcha has a wonderful aroma, a creamy, silky froth and a rich, mellow taste.

    Matcha is made from ten-cha leaves, which are gyokuro leaves that have been not been rolled into needles but are instead steamed and dried. They are top-grade Japanese green tea, produced by a special process in the Uji district, a region known for producing some of the finest green teas in Japan.

    The tea bushes are shaded from sunlight for three weeks before harvesting, producing amino acids that sweeten the taste. Unlike whole leaf tea, which is steeped, the leaves are then ground like flour, slowly and finely in a stone mill. The powder is whisked into water, creating a foamy drink. It is the only powdered tea.

    Powdered tea is the original way in which tea was prepared. Steeping dried leaves in boiling water didn’t arrive until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

    Matcha contains a higher amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, L-theanine amino acids, polyphenols, chlorophyll and fiber) than other teas.

     
    In recent years, matcha has become a popular cooking and baking ingredient, and now comes in different grades for different uses. Pastry chefs have incorporated it into everything from cakes and custards to ice cream.
     
    WHAT IS THE CHINESE NEW YEAR?

    The Chinese calendar consists of both Gregorian and lunar-solar calendar systems. Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February.

    This year, it begins today, and it’s the Year Of The Goat, one of the 12 zodiac animals. The Chinese zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle. Each year in the cycle has an animal sign: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/ram/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog or pig.

    But what’s with the goat/sheep/ram? Which one is it?

    It’s what you want it to be. In Mandarin, the character “yang” refers to a horned animal, and covers all three of the contenders. But if you go for sheep, know that is one of the least desirable animals on the zodiac. A sheep is seen as a docile, weak follower, rather than a leader.

    So go for the goat: a feisty, independent-minded ruminant whose milk makes our favorite cheese!

    If This Is Your Lunar Year…

    In addition to those born this year, those under the goat/ram/sheep sign were born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 and 2003. For them, 2015 is an auspicious year.

    People born in the Year Of The Goat are said to like to be in groups. They are honest, intimate, and can be easily moved by the misfortune of others.

    Every sign confers lucky numbers, lucky colors, lucky flowers, etc. So whether you’re a goat or one of the other zodiac animals, head on over to ChinaHighlights.com to find yours.

    CHINESE NEW YEAR TRIVIA: The tradition of spending the Lunar New Year holiday with family means that hundreds of millions of Chinese people are traveling home. It’s the world’s biggest annual migration.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Cook Fish

    Lent began yesterday, the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (this year on April 2nd). During Lent, observers recognize Christ’s sacrifice by giving up something pleasurable. Around the world, the most common Lenten practice is to give up meat. In the U.S., seafood sales soar during the six weeks of Lent.

    Whether you’re a lent observer, or simply want to eat more healthfully, here’s inspiration from GetFlavor.com, a magazine and website for professional chefs.

  • Baked fish: salmon wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce; quiche; en papillote; Salmon Wellington
  • Cured/pickled/smoked: ceviche, gravlax, pickled herring; smoked bluefish, cod, salmon, trout, tuna fillets; smoked fish pâté
  • Deep-fried fish: battered, tempura or breaded; calamari, fish and chips, fritters, nuggets, shrimp
  • Dips and spreads: pâté, taramasalata, whitefish
  • Grilled fish: whole fish or fillets; kebabs or skewers; cod, sardines, shrimp, snapper, whitefish
  •  

    pan-sauteed-catfish-230

    It couldn’t be easier: Pan-sautéed fish topped with a light salad. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

  • Pan-fried or sautéed fish: Trout, soft-shell crab, salmon or trout patties
  • Poached fish: crab legs, salmon, shrimp cocktail, whitefish
  • Raw fish: carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, tartare, tataki
  • Roasted fish: fillets, steaks, whole fish
  • Steamed fish: fillets, steaks or whole fish; mussels, gefilte fish
  • Stews and casseroles: bisque, bouillabaisse, chowder, cioppino, curry, gumbo
  • Stir-fried and sautéed fish: Asian-style stir fry, blackened, with pasta
  • Specialty: caviar, crêpes, flan, mousse, pancakes, poke, risotto
  •  

    black-bass-porcini-brodetto-scottconant-230

    You can make this nicely-plated restaurant dish. Just place grilled bass or other fish atop a bed of grains or vegetables and surround with broth or sauce. In a pinch, you can make a sauce from a can of creamed soup. Photo courtesy Chef Scott Conant.

     

    BOILING, POACHING OR STEAMING: THE DIFFERENCE

    These three related cooking techniques are both healthful and easy. Here are the nuances:

    Poaching

    Poaching is a gentle cooking method used to simmer foods in a hot, but not boiling, liquid. Water is often used as the poaching liquid but its flavor is often enhanced with broth or stock, juice, vinegar or wine.

    Typically, vegetables (carrot, celery, onion), citrus (lemon, lime, orange), herbs and/or spices are added to the liquid for additional depth of flavor. Chicken breasts, eggs, fish/seafood and fruit are good candidates for poaching.
     
    Boiling

    Boiling is more intense than poaching. Foods are cooked in rapidly bubbling liquid, most often water. Poaching is best suited to foods such as starches and vegetables that can withstand the high heat and the agitation of rapidly moving water.

    Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower hearty greens (collards, kale, turnip greens), pasta, potatoes and rice are some of the most frequently-boiled foods.

     
    Steaming

    With this technique, foods are cooked by steam generated from boiling liquid. Water is most often used because little to no flavor is transferred to the food from the steam. Since there’s no direct contact with water, steaming retains the shape, texture and bright color (e.g., of asparagus or other vegetables and fruits) without becoming water-logged or soggy.

    Steaming also prevents vitamins and minerals from dissolving into the cooking liquid. Fruits, proteins, vegetables and even desserts—cakes, custards and puddings) can be steamed.

    For instructions on each of these techniques, visit CampbellsKitchen.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Maple Syrup Blondies

    We received a gift of maple syrup, and were checking out our list of ways to use maple syrup. We settled on this recipe we’ve been wanting to try, for Maple Syrup Blondies from Lauryn Cohen of BellaBaker.com.

    We actually prefer blondies with chocolate chunks to brownies. Lauryn prefers toffee bits in her blondies.

    In this recipe, she substituted maple syrup for the toffee. As she explains, it gives the same sweet, caramelized flavor throughout the whole base of the blondie, rather than just in little toffee pockets. She also added in some cinnamon, chocolate chips and coconut.

    The result, she says, “a golden, sweet, amazingly fantastic blondie.”

    RECIPE: MAPLE SYRUP BLONDIES

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped semi sweet chocolate, or chocolate chips/chunks
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  •  

    Maple syrup blondies with lots of chocolate chips. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

    3. CREAM the butter and both sugars together in a large bowl, using electric beaters on medium high speed, until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the maple syrup and vanilla; then reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add in the dry ingredients.

    4. SWITCH to a rubber spatula and add the chocolate, coconut and walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and slightly separated from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.

    5. WAIT until the blondies are completely cool before cutting into squares.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Grilled Cheese

    grated-cheddar-dreamstime_19387653-230

    Shred the cheese first. Daryl Brooks |
    Dreamstime.

     

    Grilled cheese sandwiches, one of America’s favorites, are pretty easy to make,. Yet they’re not problem free.

    Sometimes, the cheese does not melt evenly or quickly. This is especially true when you hand-slice quality cheese from a block, as opposed to using thin, easy-melting plastic-wrapped singles.

    So here’s an easy, fast and foolproof tip for grilled cheese success: Shred the cheese first. It takes only a minute, and cooks so much better.

    The other key to grilled cheese success (as we define it) is superior cheese and bread. To many people, American cheese singles on white bread does the trick.

    Here, that trick doesn’t even get cursory consideration! We demand great cheese and bread (personal preference: a rustic, chewy loaf).

     
    RECIPE: FOOLPROOF GRILLED CHEESE

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2-3 ounces cheese
  • Optional ingredients: bacon, chutney, pickles, tomato, etc.
  • Preparation

    1. BRING the butter to room temperature. If you’re making more than one sandwich, preheat the oven to 350°F so you can keep the first sandwich(es) warm.

     

    2. SHRED the cheese roughly, like pizza cheese. We used a vegetable peeler.

    3. PREHEAT a heavy skillet over medium heat. Slice the bread.

    4. SPREAD one side of both slices of bread with the softened butter. Be sure the butter is spread generously and evenly over the surface.

    5. PLACE one piece of bread, butter-side down, into the hot pan. The butter will sizzle when it hits the heat. Top the bread with the shredded cheese. Add any other ingredients. Top with the second piece of bread, butter side up. Lightly press with a spatula.

    6. CHECK the bottom slice after a minute. If the underside is golden brown, flip the sandwich and cook until the second slice is equally golden.

    7. STASH in the oven to keep the sandwich warm while you’re making the next sandwich. If the cheese is not completely melted before, it will finish melting in the oven.

     

    grilled-cheese-calphalon-WS-230

    Making grilled cheese sandwiches in a nonstick Calpahlon grill pan. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    TRADER JOE’S TRUFFLED CHEDDAR CHEESE

    We picked up Trader Joe’s Farmhouse English Cheddar Cheese with Italian Truffles yesterday. At $9.99 a pound, it’s twice the price of the Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar Cheese we also purchased. But it’s an affordable luxury, and has good truffle flavor.

    Paired with some sliced rustic sourdough bread from Le Pain Quotidien, it made a most satisfying grilled cheese sandwich. The truffle flavor is a big flavor boost; but for our second sandwich we added some caramelized onions that we had in the fridge. Equally good!

    The folks at Sam Adams recently sent us some Rebel IPA, an India Pale Ale made in the West Coast style. It was a perfect complement to our grilled cheese sandwiches.

    What’s a West Coast IPA?

    East Coast IPAs have a stronger malt presence to balance the intensity of the hops. West Coast IPAs showcase the hops more.

    According to Wikipedia, East Coast breweries rely more on spicier European hops and specialty malts than West Coast. According to us: Both are delicious.

      

    Comments

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