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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: Homemade Lollipops For National Lollipop Day

red-clear-lollipops-230

Your homemade lollipops can be free form with inclusions, like the bits of flower petals
above. Photo courtesy Sacred Sweets.

 

Looking for a fun activity? How about making lollipops?

Today is National Lollipop Day July 20th, and Exploratorium has a recipe that lets you be a lollipop chef.

You can make favorite flavors that aren’t often found in commercial products. We’ve got anise, banana, hazelnut, mint and rum extracts that are just waiting to flavor lollys.

The other ingredients include sugar, corn syrup, water, cream of tartar and liquid food coloring.

You can mix up standard or unusual colors with food coloring; but the idea that really appeals to us comes from Sacred Sweets in Greenport, New York.

They turn lollipops into edible art with:

  • Clear or barely tinted candy that shows off the inclusions inside.
  • Inclusions (mix ins) like edible flowers and glitter (you can use sprinkles and other decorations)
  • Free-form shapes
  •  
    LOLLIPOP HISTORY

    Lollipop sophistication has come a long way since prehistoric man licked honey off the stick he used to scrape it from the beehive.

    The ancient Arabs, Chinese and Egyptians made fruit and nut confections candied in honey, which may also have been eaten from sticks, owing to the stickiness of the confection.

    But what we think of as a lollipop may date to Europe in the Middle Ages, when sugar was boiled and formed onto sticks as treats for the wealthy—the only people who could afford sugar.

     
    By the 17th century, sugar was plentiful and affordable. In England, boiled sugar (hard candy) treats were popular. The word “lollipop” (originally spelled lollypop) first appears in print in 1784, roughly coinciding with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

    Beginning in the later part of the 18th century, industry, including confectionery, became mechanized. Horehound drops, lemon drops, peppermints and wintergreen lozenges became everyday candies.

     

    While we don’t know the inventor of the modern lollipop, the first automated lollipop machine was invented in Racine, Wisconsin in 1908. The Racine Confectionery Machine Company’s machine put hard candy discs on the end of a sticks, producing 2400 lollipops per hour, 57,000 per day. Today’s machines can produce 3 million lollipops daily.

    Far beyond the specialty Blow Pops, Tootsie Pops, Sugar Daddys of childhood, today’s lollipops come in all shapes and sizes, from hand-crafted works of sugar art to caffeinated Java Pops and bacon lollipops.

    And handcrafted lollipops still exist, made by companies like Hammond’s Candies, where artisans coil ropes of boiled hard candy into colorful jumbo lollipops.

    SEE’S LOLLYPOPS: SOMETHING DIFFERENT

    See’s Candies chooses the original spelling for its “lollypops,” but perhaps that’s to differentiate the creamy candy-on-a-stick from conventional lollys.

     

    sees-lollipops-unwrapped-beauty-230

    See’s creamy “lollypops,” made with butter and cream. Photo courtesy See’s Candies.

     

    See’s are made with butter and heavy cream, in a square shape (see photo at right).

    Available in butterscotch, café latté, chocolate, chocolate orange, root beer and vanilla (plus holiday flavors), they have the consistency of butterscotch, and are certified kosher by KSA.

    And they’re addictive! Treat yourself to some at Sees.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: The Classic Daiquiri

    daiquiri-no.2-ConstantinoRibailagua-bacardi-230

    No. 2 Daiquiri, the first variation of the
    original, created in 1920s Havana. Photo
    courtesy Bacardi Rum.

     

    July 19th is National Daiquiri Day. It well known as one of the favorite drinks of writer Ernest Hemingway, and less well known as a favorite of President John F. Kennedy.

    The cocktail was created in 1898, in the tropical heat of the Cuban town of Daiquirí. Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer working at the local iron mine, had the bartender shake Bacardi rum, sugar and lime with ice.

    A tall glass was packed with cracked ice; a teaspoon of sugar was sprinkled over the ice and the juice of one or two limes was squeezed over the sugar. Two or three ounces of white rum were added, and the mixture was stirred with a long-handled spoon. (Later versions used a shaker and other proportions*.)

    It was a hit: Word spread and the top bartenders in Havana were shaking it up in no time. It is also possible that William Astor Chanler, Sr., a U.S. congressman who purchased the Santiago Iron Mines in 1902, introduced the Daiquirí to clubs in New York at that time. In 1909, Rear Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, a U.S. Navy medical officer, introduced the to the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. [source].

    The Daiquiri is one of the six classic cocktails highlighted in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, first published in 1948 and still in print (here’s the 2008 edition). The others included:

  • Jack Rose (applejack, lemon juice and grenadine)
  • Manhattan (whiskey, sweet vermouth and Agnostura bitters)
  • Martini (gin and dry vermouth)
  • Old Fashioned (whiskey, simple syrup and Angostura bitters, garnished with the lemon peel and a maraschino cherry
  • Sidecar (Cognac or Armagnac, lemon juice, Cointreau or triple sec)
  •  
    *For 1 drink: 1-1/2 ounces light/white rum, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 ounce of simple syrup. Place the sugar and lime juice into a cocktail shaker and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rum and fill the shaker with ice: half of ice cubes, topped with half of crushed ice. Shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled; strain into a chilled coupette (cocktail glass).
     
    DAIQUIRI VARIATIONS

    As with just about any cocktail, many variations of the Daiquiri have proliferated.

    One of the easiest ways to enhance the flavor is by substituting the lime juice for another citrus. Grapefruit and yuzu are our two favorites. Try this delicious Yuzu Daiquiri Recipe, which includes more history of the cocktail.

    Another of our favorite substitutions uses 2 tablespoons of triple sec or other orange liqueur instead of the sugar.

    And, a with the Margarita, fruit purées can be introduced to create a Lychee Daiquiri, Pineapple Daiquiri, Strawberry Daiquiri, etc. Add pomegranate juice for a Pomegranate Daiquiri.

     

    THE ORIGINAL DAIQUIRI EVOLVES

    After the recipe traveled from Daiquiri to Havana, Constantino Ribailagua, a bartender at El Floridita bar and restaurant in OldHavana, created three variations. We got these recipes from Bacardi, whose rum was used. You’ll need a cocktail shaker and a strainer.

    NO. 2 DAIQUIRI

    Ingredients

  • 2 parts BACARDÍ Superior rum
  • 1/2 part orange Curaçao liqueur
  • 1/2 part freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 heaping tsp fine white sugar
  • 1/2 part freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Orange zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients except zest in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes and crushed ice. Give it all a good, hard shake until the cocktail shaker is cold.

    2. STRAIN the mixture into a chilled glass. Garnish with orange zest.

     

    daiquiri-no.4-ConstantinoRibailagua-bacardi-230

    No. 4 Daiquiri, a classic from 1920s Havana. Photo courtesy Bacardi Rum.

     

    NO. 3 DAIQUIRI

    This variation on the classic Daiquiri is often referred to as the Hemingway Daiquiri. Serve it in a rocks glass.

    Ingredients

  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grapefruit juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Crushed ice
  • Garnish: lime wedge, maraschino cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE first five ingredients and shake vigorously with ice cubes, until the cocktail shaker is cold.

    2. STRAIN into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish and serve.

    NO. 4 DAIQUIRI

    Ribailagua tweaked the No. 3 Daiquiri to achieve subtle variations: a more perfumed aroma and a slightly sweeter drink.

    Ingredients

  • 2 parts Bacardi Superior rum
  • 1/3 part maraschino liqueur
  • 1 heaping tsp fine white sugar
  • 1/3 part freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Garnish: maraschino cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes and crushed ice. Shake vigorously until the cocktail shaker is cold.

    2. DOUBLE STRAIN the mix into a chilled glass by passing it through a hawthorne strainer (bar strainer) and then through a tea strainer. If you don’t have a hawthorne strainer you can just pass it once through a tea strainer. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
     
    How to celebrate National Daiquiri Day? Try all four—split with a friend, of course.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Poached Egg As A Glamorous Ingredient

    poached-egg-frisee-dueforniLV-230

    Who could resist a frisée salad with pork
    belly, prosciutto and truffle vinaigrette? And
    how about that poached egg? Photo courtesy
    Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    People who don’t like to eat salad—and of course, those who do—may well be tempted by this creation from Due Forni in Las Vegas.

    To a bed of frisée, the chef adds:

  • Cubes of crisp pork belly (substitute bacon or Canadian bacon)
  • San Danielle prosciutto*
  • A poached egg
  • Truffle oil vinagrette (recipe)
  • Croutons
  • Shaved Grana Padano or other Italian grating cheese
  •  
    This recipe also includes a bundle of asparagus, creating a heartier salad course or vegetarian entrée.

    But the “big idea” ingredient is the poached egg. The humble breakfast food; when paired with other ingredients, adds a unique glamor.

    The smooth texture of the poached egg white contrasts nicely with the rough salad ingredients; the broken yoke adds a silky sauce on top of the delicious truffle vinaigrette. (For this reason, go lightly when you toss the frisée with the vinaigrette.)

     
    *You can use any prosciutto. San Daniele is a PDO-designated prosciutto made in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Food trivia: The ham’s name derives from the Latin words pro and exsuctus, which roughly mean “to remove the moisture.” The ham is hung in sheds and air-dried in pure mountain air to create the beloved Italian ham.
     
    HOW TO POACH EGGS

    1. FILL a large, deep saucepan with 2 inches of water. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium.

    2. BREAK 1 egg into small dish. Carefully slide the egg into the simmering water (bubbles should begin to break the surface of the water). Repeat with the remaining eggs. Poach the eggs for 3 to 5 minutes or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken.

    3. CAREFULLY REMOVE the eggs with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

    If you’re not adept at poaching eggs, try these egg poaching pods. The uniform roundness they create isn’t as attractive as a naturally-poached egg, but it beats the frustration of trying to harness meandering egg whites.

     
    ASSEMBLE THE SALAD

    1. COOK the lardons; set aside. You’ll note in the photo above that the lardons are cut in large slices. You can cut them into smaller cubes, into julienne strips, or however you like. Plan for two or three lardons per plate.

    2. CUT the prosciutto as needed into smaller strips. If you cut a slice in half lengthwise, try rolling it into a “rose” or similar shape for aesthetic effect. One “rose” per plate is sufficient.

    3. TOSS the frisée with vinaigrette (you can first warm the vinaigrette in the microwave for 10 seconds) and distribute among individual salad plates. Top with the pork belly and prosciutto.

    4. NESTLE the poached egg atop the greens. Top with shaved grana padano and scatter the croutons. Serve with a pepper mill for fresh-ground pepper.

     

    LIKE FRISÉE SALAD?

    It’s a favorite of ours! Here are more ideas for frisée salad.

    But there’s more!

     
    POACHED EGG & GRILLED VEGGIES

    We “poached” this idea from the Facebook page of The Guilded Nut, which specializes in flavored pistachio nuts (Garlic, Habanero, Mediterranean Herb, Sea Salt & Pepper).

    Here, a poached egg is surrounded by grilled scallions and garnished with chopped pistachios.

    You can use any grilled vegetables, including leftovers. Heat them in a skillet or in the microwave and serve them with the egg(s). Grated Grana Padano or Parmesan works well here, too.

     

    poached-egg-grilled-scallions-pistachios-theguildednutFB-230sq

    Poached egg with grilled scallions. Photo courtesy The Guilded Nut | Facebook.

     

  • Serve with hearty toast for breakfast or brunch.
  • You can also build on this simple dish and turn it into a luncheon salad or light dinner entrée. Add lardons, Canadian bacon, sliced steak or other protein (lobster tail, anyone?).
  • You can use the poached egg to top an attractive dish of leftovers. Include grains and potatoes, too.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Blackberry Mint Iced Tea

    blackberry-mint-iced-tea-driscolls-230

    A refreshing spin on iced tea: blackberry
    purée and fresh blackberries. Photo courtesy
    Driscoll’s.

     

    We love iced tea. Most of it we brew from really fine tea leaves, so flavorful that we don’t even add sugar.

    You can eliminate the sugar from this home-brewed blackberry iced tea recipe, and allow people to select their own level of sweetness and their sweetener of choice: agave, honey, noncaloric sweetener, sugar or nothing at all.

    If you have a windfall of blackberries, you can make blackberry ice cubes to serve with the drink. Fill ice cube trays with water as usual, and drop a blackberry and a mint leaf into each section.

    You can make the recipe caffeine-free with herbal mint tea bags. You can also use the blackberry purée in lemonade.

    Prep time for the blackberry iced tea is 15 minutes plus chilling. The recipe is courtesy of Driscoll’s, the country’s leading berry distributor.

     
    RECIPE: BLACKBERRY MINT ICED TEA

    Ingredients For 2 Quarts (About 8 Servings)

  • 5 black tea bags
  • 1/4 cups mint leaves, crushed, 1 whole leaf per serving reserved for garnish
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or make it unsweetened)
  • 6 packages (6 ounces each) blackberries, with 16 reserved as garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE tea bags and mint in a heat-proof pitcher. Add boiling water. Steep at least 10 minutes.

    2. STRAIN into another pitcher and discard the mint and tea bags. Stir in sugar.

    3. PURÉE the blackberries in a blender or food processor; strain through a fine sieve. Discard pulp and seeds. Stir the blackberry purée into the tea. Taste and adjust sugar as desired. Chill.

    4. SERVE over ice garnished with a mint leaf and 2 blackberries (use cocktail picks if you have them).

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Brown Turkey Figs

    A trip to the farmers market yesterday reminded us that brown turkey figs are in season (June through September). Other nice surprises were fresh lychees and okra, but our pitch today is for the figs.

    Figs are a “locavore” food: The fresh-picked fruit neither keeps well nor transports well. That’s why most figs on the market are dried, and you should enjoy the fresh ones while you can.

    There is nothing more special than a sweet, tree-ripened fig. Different species have skins that range from dark brown to green to purple. The brown turkey fig has it all: a beautiful purple brown color with a green collar surrounding the stem. The flesh is amber color with a mild flavor.

    The brown turkey fig (Ficus carica)* is an all-purpose fig, delicious fresh and in preserves and other recipes (see recipe ideas below).

    Brown Turkey figs were first cultivated in Provence, France, bread from earlier varieties. Today, they grow best in Southern California.

    Ripe figs yield to the touch. You can ripen them at room temperature.

       

    brown-turkey-figs-whole-half-melissas-230

    ‘Tis the season for brown turkey figs. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     
    *Other names include Aubique Noire, Negro Largo and San Piero.
     
    TOO MANY FIGS

    If you have too many ripe figs, you can place them on paper towels, covered with plastic and refrigerate them for a few days. Or, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.

    Or, purée the ripe figs and use the purée in cocktails (mixed with white spirits, for example), smoothies, or as a topper for ice cream or sorbet (add sweetener if necessary).
     
    HISTORY OF THE FIG

    Figs have been a food source for man for more than 11,000 years. They were first cultivated in ancient Egypt, though they are believed to be indigenous to Western Asia.

    The fig is one of man’s first cultivated crops—perhaps the first. Archaeological evidence finds that the fig predates the domestication of barley, legumes, rye and wheat, and thus may be the first example of agriculture. In fact, archaeologists propose that the fig may have been cultivated 1,000 years before the next crops—rye and wheat—were domesticated [source].

     

    Roasted Figs in Mascarpone Cheese Honey and Hazelnuts

    Roasted fresh figs with honey and hazelnuts:
    a simple, elegant dessert. Photo by Karcich |
    Dreamstime. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Native to the Middle East and western Asia (it grows wild in dry and sunny climates), the fig is now widely grown throughout the temperate world.

    The fig is a member of the Moraceae binomial family, sometimes called the fig family. Other members include the banyan, breadfruit and mulberry. There are almost 200 cultivars of figs, in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures.

    Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. They are rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and K and are a good source of antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols. They are sodium-free and cholesterol/fat-free.

    Today, the top 10 fig producing countries are (beginning with the largest) Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, United States, Brazil, Albania and Tunisia.

    Cultural trivia: The word “sycophant” comes from the Greek word sykophantes, meaning “one who shows the fig.” “Showing the fig” was a vulgar hand gesture.

     
     
    RECIPES WITH FIGS

    Don’t peel the figs. Enjoy them with breakfast cereal, yogurt or cottage cheese; sliced on sandwiches with fresh or aged cheese; chopped and added to rice; stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre; or raw or grilled as a side dish, cut in half and served with grilled meat or poultry.

    Here are a few recipes from THE NIBBLE’s collection:

    Main Courses

  • Fig & Maple Fizz Recipe
  • Give A Fig Cocktail Recipe
  •  
    Appetizers & First Courses

  • Endive Salad With Figs Recipe
  • Fig & Radicchio Salad Recipe
  • Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs Recipe
  •  
    Main Courses

  • Honey Balsic Fig-Glazed Ham Recipe
  • Bison With Fig Balsamic Reduction Recipe
  •  
    Dessert

  • Brie Torte With Fig Jam Recipe
  • Fig Flower With Honey Goat Cheese Recipe
  • Roast Figs With Honey & Hazelnuts Recipe
  • Goat Cheese Ice Cream With Whole Figs Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 2

    Yesterday we presented the first five of the world’s 10 spice blends you should know: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

    Even if you won’t be cooking with them anytime soon, you should know them: They’re popular global, popping up in fusion dishes outside their native cuisines.

    The second half of the Top 10 include nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

    NORI SHAKE

    Nori shake is made from sheets of nori seaweed (the type used to wrap sushi rolls), ground with with salt and sesame seeds. Nori is the seaweed, furi means shake. Beyond its traditional use as a rice seasoning, shake it on other grains, cooked vegetables, plain yogurt and dips.

  • Traditional uses: Cooked rice seasoning.
  •  

    Quatre_Epices-silkroadspices.ca-230

    Quatre epices, a bend of cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper. Photo courtesy Silk Road Spices | Canada.

  • Traditional ingredients: Seaweed, sesame seeds, salt. Some recipes include sugar or shiso leaves
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast 4 nori sheets (one at a time) in a hot skillet for a few seconds on each side; coarsely grind them. Toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds until golden; combine in a bowl with 2 teaspoons coarse salt, the ground nori and cayenne to taste. Note that unlike other blends, this keeps for only a week or so.
  •  

    PIMENTÓN MIX

    Pimentón is the Spanish word for what is better known as paprika, a spice ground from dried New World chiles (Capsicum annuum). Although paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, in Europe it was first used in Spanish recipes. The story has it that Christopher Columbus brought the ground chiles back to Spain at the end of his second voyage. It was served to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who found it too hot and spicy; but local monks shared it with other monasteries. It spread throughout Spain, and subsequently to Hungary and elsewhere.

  • Traditional uses: A universal seasoning for casseroles/stews, eggs, meats, salads, soups, tapas and vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: Pimentón is usually sold as pure ground chile, not blended, in sweet, medium and hot levels.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Combine ¼ cup pimentón, 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Before using, add some freshly grated lemon zest.
  •  

    ras-el-Hanout-spiceandtea.com-230

    Ras el hanout can be a blend of 30 or more
    spices. Photo courtesy SpiceAndTea.com.

     

    QUATRE ÉPICES

    Quatre épices (kahtr-ay-PEECE) is a French spice mix that is also used in some Middle Eastern cuisines. The name literally means “four spices,” and they are cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper.

  • Traditional uses: A universal spice, used for everything from soup and salad to broiled chicken and fish to vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: The traditional version uses white pepper; black pepper can be substituted.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons each black and white peppercorns, 1 tablespoon allspice berries and 1 teaspoon cloves. Combine with 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
  •  
    RAS EL HANOUT

    There is no one recipe for ras el hanout: Every Moroccan spice merchant has a proprietary recipe, and the cooks who buy the spices debate who has the best version. The name translates as “top of the shop” and the mixture often includes 30 or more of a spice merchant’s best ingredients: whole spices, dried roots and leaves, ground together.

     
    Some of the 30 can be exotics as cubeb berries, grains of paradise, and rose petals; or more the more familiar ingredients listed below. The complex blend delivers many subtle undercurrents of floral, peppery and sweet.

  • Traditional uses: As a dry rub for grilled meats, in starches (couscous, potatoes, rice) and traditional Moroccan dishes like b’stilla and tagines.
  • Traditional ingredients: A “secret” recipe that can include anise, cardamom, cayenne and other chiles, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, lavender, nutmeg, mace, pepper, saffron and turmeric.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons each coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Combine with 2 teaspoons each ground cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric and salt; add 2 tablespoons ground pepper. It’s a stripped-down version, but feel free to add what you like—you have 22 more slots available.
  •  
    ZA’ATAR

    Za’atar (also spelled zahtar) is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, including Israeli. Za’atar is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries. The latter grow in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. They impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

  • Traditional uses: As a seasoning for meat and vegetables or mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread. Add to hummus or for a modern touch, sprinkle on pizza (especially with feta cheese).
  • Traditional ingredients: Marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 2 tablespoons each cumin seeds and sesame seeds. Combine with 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 tablespoons sumac, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
  •  
    Your homework: Plan to use at least one of these blends for the first time this week.
      

    Comments

    NO-BAKE DESSERT: Mascarpone Spread & Basil Blackberries

    This fresh blackberry dessert is sophisticated yet so easy to make and serve.

    A tub of mascarpone turns into a sophisticated spread when topped with a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, blackberries and basil.

    Serve it with biscotti, cookies/biscuits or unsalted crackers, and guests will be asking for the recipe.

    This recipe is from Driscoll’s. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes.

    RECIPE: MASCARPONE DIP

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/3 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 package (6 ounces or 1-1/2 cups) fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Large pinch of fleur de sel or other sea salt
  • 1 container (8 to 8.8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  •    

    mascarpone-basil-blackberries-driscolls-230

    Mascarpone spread, a delicious no-cook, no-bake dessert. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

  • Biscotti, plain cookies or non-salty crackers/biscuits*
  •  

    http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-ripe-blackberries-bowl-food-close-up-image33432102

    We love finding new ways to enjoy
    blackberry season. Photo © Olha Afanasieva
    | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. BRING vinegar and brown sugar to a boil in a nonreactive small saucepan over high heat. Boil until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour into a medium bowl. Let cool.

    2. GENTLY STIR in blackberries, basil, pepper and salt.

    3. FILL a bowl with hot water. Dip bottom of the mascarpone container in water for about 5 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, unmold mascarpone onto a serving platter.

    3. SPOON blackberry mixture over mascarpone, being sure to scrape all juices out of the bowl, and letting berries fall randomly. Serve with biscotti, cookies and/or crackers.

    It’s that easy!
     
    *Examples: almond cookies, butter cookies, cream crackers, digestive biscuits, graham crackers, ginger snaps/ginger bread, ladyfingers, Moravian cookies, pizzelle, shortbread, speculos, springerle, stroopwafel, tea biscuits, water biscuits, wafer cookies, wheatmeal.

     

    ABOUT BLACKBERRIES

    Blackberries grow wild around the world, and in most places they are picked in season, not cultivated. Cultivation is relatively modern and done mostly in America [source].

    The blackberry is a member of the Rosaceae family of flowering plants. The largest genus in the family is Prunus, which includes almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums.

    The blackberry is a member of the Rubus genus, which also includes dewberries (which look like raspberries to the untrained eye), raspberries and hybrids such as boysenberry, loganberry and tayberry.

    The blackberry isn’t black, per se, but a very deep purple. It is not the same as a black raspberry, Rubus occidentalis, a raspberry grown on a limited basis*, primarily in Oregon.

    What distinguishes the blackberry from the raspberry genus is that its torus (receptacle or stem) “picks with” the fruit. When picking blackberries, the torus comes along with the berry (as you get with strawberries). With raspberries, the torus remains on the plant, leaving a hollow core in the raspberry fruit.

    Blackberries typically peak during June in the South, and in July in the North. You can enjoy a simple bowl of berries at breakfast, lunch (add them to green salads, enjoy them for dessert), dinner or for snacking; for drink garnishes on a cocktail pick; or use them in recipes.
     
    *Black raspberry plants yield significantly less fruit than red raspberries, and also commonly suffer from a disease complex that gives them shorter lifespans. They are more costly to produce on a large scale.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 1

    Today we present spice blends you should know, even if you aren’t about to use them immediately. Seasonings are the easiest ways to add different flavors to foods. If you’re looking at dieting with a month of broiled chicken or fish, for example, each of these blends will make each plate taste different.

    While the blends originated in specific countries, they are cross-cultural. You can change the perspective of a classic French dish by adding Indian spices, for example. The basic ingredients and technique are still French, but with a nice touch of fusion flavor.

    You can also use spice blends in non-traditional ways: to flavor mayonnaise or yogurt or on fruit, for example. Our tip is: Be adventurous with spices, and conquer the world. (At least, the culinary world.)*

    Several months ago in the New York Times, Mark Bittman recommended making your own spice blends. He recommends whole spices, which are typically of better quality than ground spices, and stay fresh longer in their whole state.

    If you buy them in bulk, they can be surprisingly inexpensive. You can give what you don’t need as gifts to friends and neighbors, and you may still be ahead. Check at local international markets, on Amazon.com or the websites of specialists like Penzeys. Their website has plenty of options, but is surprisingly bare-bones, with no photos of the spices. For beautiful spice photos, check out SilkRoadSpices.ca, a Canadian e-tailer.

       

    chinese-five-spice-230b

    Chinese Five Spice, used to cure artisan pork. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    *Mark Bittman advises: “…don’t feel as if you have to relegate these mixtures solely to their original uses, like jerk spice on chicken or garam masala in curry. Rub them on meat, poultry, seafood, tofu or vegetables before grilling, broiling or roasting; cook them in oil or butter to begin braises or stir-fries; or just sprinkle them on almost anything. My recently regenerated enthusiasm for these came about when I sampled a couple of blends on raw apple slices with ice cream, which was transformational.”
     
    HOW TO START

    You can blend and then grind your spices as needed. This is traditionally done with a mortar and pestle, but you can repurpose an old coffee grinder just for spices. First, clean it and then fill it with raw white rice; grind and then toss the rice. If you still find residual coffee aroma, do it again.

    You’ll get more flavor from your spices if you toast them first. Place them whole in a small skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan occasionally until the fragrance rises, 2 to 5 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then grind.

    Store all ground spices in tightly sealed jars in a dark, cool place. While some will keep well for months, for the most potency make only what you need for a few weeks.

    Here are the first five spice blends: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

     

    kashmiri_masala_spice_blend_mccormick-230r

    Garam masala, an Indian spice blend that
    varies by region and individual cook. Photo
    courtesy SilkRoadSpices.ca.

      ADOBO

    Adobo is a popular Mexican spice mix: spicy and rich in flavor, but not hot. Traditional blends have no added salt. People on low-salt diets can use it in place of salt (but check the label).

  • Traditional uses: Rub on chicken, fish or pork with a bit of lime juice and salt to taste, then grill or broil. Add to chili or taco fixings, or perk up guacamole.
  • Traditional ingredients: garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, cumin and cayenne red pepper.
  • Bittman’s recipe: 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 4 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons onion powder and 2 teaspoons ground ancho.
  •  

    CHILI POWDER

    There are different strengths of chili powder, depending on the heat of the chiles used. Some are labeled medium or hot.

  • Traditional uses: Chili powder is the backbone of traditional Mexican dishes such as red chili and tamales. It is added to mole sauce, stews, beans and rice.
  • Traditional ingredients: ancho chili pepper, red pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic and Mexican oregano.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons coriander seeds; stir in 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, 4 tablespoons ground ancho chiles and 1 teaspoon cayenne.
  •  
    CHINESE FIVE SPICE

    Five spice powder is a versatile Chinese seasoning. The five spices vary by region and individual preference.

  • Traditional uses: stir-frys. The spice has traveled far beyond that with innovative chefs. You’ll find it in artisan chocolate bars, for example.
  • Traditional ingredients: cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds are also commonly included.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons , 12 star anise, 3 teaspoons whole cloves, two 3-inch cinnamon sticks and ¼ cup fennel seeds.
  •  

    GARAM MASALA

    As with other all-purpose spice blends, including curry and five spice, the ingredients in this Indian spice vary by region and individual cook.

  • Traditional uses: very popular on cauliflower, fish, lamb, pork, poultry and potatoes.
  • Traditional ingredients: coriander, black peppercorns, cardamom, cassia cinnamon, kalonji, caraway, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind the seeds of 20 cardamom pods, 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, 1 teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 tablespoons cumin seeds and 2 tablespoons fennel seeds.
  •  

    JERK

    Jerk seasoning is a hot Jamaican spice blend. There are different blends for chicken, fish and pork.

  • Traditional uses: grilled chicken, fish, pork chops, pork tenderloin, whole roast pig; also.
  • Traditional ingredients: paprika, allspice, ginger, red pepper, sugar, ground Grenadian nutmeg, black pepper, garlic, thyme, lemon grass, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and mace.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons allspice berries, ½ teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons dried thyme. Combine with 2 teaspoons cayenne, 2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup salt. Before using, add some minced fresh garlic and ginger.
  •  
    Continue to Part 2 the next five blends: nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

      

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    PRODUCT: Grecian Delight Phyllo Swirls

    We love Greek food, but there’s no Greek restaurant anywhere near us.

    Fortunately, we can pick of plenty of mezze* at the food store and set out a buffet of babaganoush, dolmades, falafel, feta, halloumi cheese, hummus, olives, peperoncini, pita, tabbouleh, taramasalata, tzatziki and Greek yogurt.

    And now, we can add delicious Phyllo Swirls from Grecian Delight.

    Crisp phyllo dough is filled with three classics, deftly seasoned:

  • Apple
  • Cheese (feta)
  • Spinach (with feta)
  •  
    Simply place an individual-portion frozen swirl on a cookie sheet, pop it into the oven for 40 minutes, and enjoy the warm flakiness that emerges.

    The all natural product line contains no trans fats, artificial colors or flavors.

     

    spinach-phyllo-swirl-230

    Spinach and feta, one of three delicious flavors of new Phyllo Swirls. Photo courtesy Grecian Delight.

     

    We can’t wait to load up on more. The spinach/feta combination is a wonderful stand-in for spanakopita, one of our favorite dishes; and given how much we like phyllo over conventional pie crust, the apple swirl is our new favorite store-bought “apple pie.” (Serve it plain, à la mode or with a touch of crème fraîche or mascarpone).

    Grecian Delight has been making Greek and other Mediterranean specialties since 1974. Learn more, and find a retailer near you, at GrecianDelight.com.
     
    *Mezze or meze (MEH-zeh) refers to a selection of small dishes served in the Middle East, often to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer course before the main dish.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Create Your Fantasy Custom Ice Cream Flavors

    chocolate-raspberry-jam-mcconnellsicecream-230

    No fresh raspberries? Make chocolate
    raspberry jam. Photo courtesy McConnell’s
    Ice Cream.

     

    When you’re peering into the ice cream case at the market, do you ever long for flavors that don’t exist? Maybe you want chocolate cookie dough, or rum date instead of rum raisin.

    How about vanilla orange marmalade, a riff on the Creamsicle, or salted caramel candy corn? We’re personally considering coffee-chocolate chip- brownie-Heath Bar.

    Make them yourself!

    You don’t have to own an ice cream maker. Just buy the base flavor at the store, along with the inclusions (the mix-ins) to make your flavor.

  • Start with a pint of chocolate, vanilla or other base flavor, soften it on the counter, and when it’s soft enough to mix, scoop it into a mixing bowl.
  • Then, pile in your inclusions, blend with a couple of large cooking spoons, taste and adjust as desired. Be cautious: add smaller amounts first, especially with alcohol and sauces.
  • Repack the ice cream into the pint and return to the freezer.
  • Work on your recipes over time, adding more or less of some ingredients and introducing new ones.
  •  

    WHAT CAN YOU MIX IN?

  • Alcohol: beer, liqueur, spirits, wine
  • Candy: baking chips (mix the flavors!), chocolate chips/chunks/shavings, mini marshmallows, marzipan, toffee bits, candies of choice
  • Cookies, Cake: broken or cut into small pieces
  • Fruits: diced fruits, jam/preserves, purées, shredded coconut, zest
  • Ice Cream & Sorbet: make a blend of favorite flavors; add a sorbet swirl to ice cream
  • Nuts: raw, roasted or candied nuts, mixed nuts
  • Sauces: balsamic, caramel/salted caramel, chocolate, fruit, honey, marshmallow
  • Spices: cayenne, chili flakes, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, sea salt
  • Vegetables/Herbs: basil, carrots (shredded/purée), mint, tomato
  • Wild Card: granola/other cereals, potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, trail mix
  •  
    More? You tell us!
     
      

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