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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: Ways To Serve Fresh Figs

figs-blue-cheese-230b-r

It doesn’t get simpler than this: halved ripe
cheese topped with a bit of blue cheese or
chèvre. Photo courtesy Castello USA.

 

We were surprised not too long ago when a friend mentioned she liked figs, but had only eaten figs in their dried form. Why, we asked, since they are easily available?

“I didn’t know what to do with them,” she replied.

Today’s first tip: Never let unfamiliarity stop you from trying a new food. Buy it, bring it home, look it up.

A sweet, soft and moist tree-ripened fig is luscious, eaten plain, with cheese or yogurt, or in many recipes. Just as with, say, fresh versus dried mango, it’s a completely different experience.

And the season is now: In the U.S., figs have two seasons: a short season in early summer and a main crop that starts in late summer and runs through fall.

Fresh figs are fragile and don’t travel well: The think skins easily split and the flesh can bruise. This makes fresh figs even more of a treat, worth seeking out.

THE HISTORY OF FIGS

Man has been cultivating figs for more than 11,400 years. It is now believed to be the first food cultivated by man, in the Near East* some 11,400 years ago. This is roughly 1,000 years before the other “earliest crops,” barley, legumes and wheat were domesticated in the region. [Source]

 
Domestication of crops was a tipping point in the evolution of human thinking after 2.5 million years as nomadic hunter-gatherers: the decision to settle down and grow their own food rather than relying on finding food that was growing wild.
 
*According to National Geographic, the terms Near East and Middle East are synonymous. Afghanistan, Armenia, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank, and Yemen are included in the definition. According to Wikipedia, different bodies—Encyclopedia Britannica and the United Nations, for example—may exclude some countries and add others. [Source]
 
Figs Today

The fig is a member of the Moraceae binomial family, sometimes called the fig family. It’s the family member that’s most familiar to us: Other members include the banyan, breadfruit, mulberry and Osage orange (which not an orange).

There are almost 200 cultivars of figs, in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures. While most of think of figs as having skins that are brown, green, red or purple, take a look at the lovely yellow Tiger Stripe Fig.

Figs are now grown in warm, dry and sunny climates in around the globe (fig trees can’t tolerate temperatures below 20°F).

The top 10 fig producing countries are, by crop size, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, United States, Brazil, Albania and Tunisia.

 

HOW TO ENJOY FRESH FIGS

Since figs are sweet, we think of them in the context of desserts or sweet snacks. But sweetness is also an excellent counterpoint to bitter, salty and spicy/hot foods.

Eat up: 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 flavonoids and polyphenols (antioxidants). They are sodium-free and cholesterol/fat-free.

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.

Figs For Breakfast

  • With yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • With pancakes, instead of berries.
  • On cereal, hot or cold.
  • Sliced as an omelet filling, with cream cheese or goat cheese.
  • In muffins and breakfast pastries.
  •  

    fig-fondue-californiafigs-230

    Fresh figs with a sweet mascarpone dip; figs dipped into chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy California Figs.

     
    Figs For Lunch

  • On panini with fig jam (recipe—add sliced figs atop the jam; use orange marmalade if you don’t have fig jam).
  • Cheese Soufflé With Figs (here’s a recipe with blue cheese but you can substitute fresh goat cheese).
  •  
    Figs In Appetizers, Hors D’oeuvre And Salads

  • Bacon or prosciutto-wrapped figs.
  • Brie & Fig Torte (recipe).
  • Endive Salad With Figs (recipe).
  • Figs In Prosciutto Bundles (recipe).
  • Fig & Radicchio Salad (recipe.)
  •  

    Cocktails With Figs

  • Fig & Maple Fizz (recipe).
  • Give A Fig Cocktail (recipe).
  • Fig-infused vodka (Fig Infused Vodka).
  •  
     
    Dinner Courses With Figs

  • Honey Balsamic Fig-Glazed Ham (recipe).
  • Bison With Fig Balsamic Reduction (recipe).
  • Pork Loin With Fig & Port Sauce (recipe).
  •  

    Desserts With Figs

  • Bonbons dipped in chocolate (like these from John & Kira’s).
  • Cheese plate with fresh figs.
  • Compote.
  • Fig Flower With Honey Goat Cheese (recipe).
  • Fig Fondue, quartered and dipped into your favorite chocolate or white chocolate fondue recipe.
  • Ice cream—we love this recipe from Charlie Trotter, but you can simply dice the figs, marinate them in brandy or Grand Marnier, and add them to softened vanilla ice cream before returning to the freezer. It’s a riff on rum raisin.
  • Roast Figs With Honey & Hazelnuts (recipe).
  •  
    TOO MANY FIGS?

    If you have too many ripe figs, you can place them on paper towels, cover with plastic wrap 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 as necessary).
     
    Hungry yet?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Saison (Farmhouse Ale) For Summer

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/saison bottle glass beerobsessed 230

    Saison, a refreshing summer ale. Photo
    courtesy BeerObsessed.com.

     

    We’ve written before on summer beers, brewed to be refreshing on a hot day: lighter in body with a moderate A.B.V. (alcohol by volume).

    Perhaps the most interesting of the lighter, hot weather styles is the saison (say-ZONE, meaning “season” in French).

    It is alternately referred to as farmhouse ale, since it originated on farmsteads in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium, a French-speaking region that shares a border with France.

    Saison was traditionally brewed by farmers at the end of winter, then set aside for the summer, where it was happily consumed by field workers. Yes, beer drinking on the job was common, because before the advent of quality-tested municipal water, it was safer than many water supplies.

    But that’s not your problem: You have a good municipal water supply. Instead, think about hosting a saison tasting party.

     

    SAISON: THE FREESTYLE ALE

    Often referred to as a dry, fruity Belgian ale, the interesting thing about saison is that no two taste the same. That’s because each farmer brewed it with whatever he or she* had on hand, so there was no common recipe.

    We can’t think of any other style of beer where this is true. (See our Beer Glossary for the different styles of beer.)

    The colors vary (golden, amber, orange, from light to dark); the aromas vary (citrusy/fruity, spicy). Perhaps what they have in common is their refreshing nature.

    Another feature we happen to love to find in saisons is a mild “barnyard” character. Famous in certain Burgundy wines, it comes from from Brettanomyces yeasts that naturally exist on the farm (and can be purchased by breweries). “Brett,” as it’s often called, contributes earthy, musty aromas and some tart flavor.
     
    *As history was written by men, the role of women is often overlooked or understated. For example, farmer’s “wives” were also farmers. They may not have had the physical strength to plow the field (and certainly, some did), but they did many other essential farm tasks. And they brewed beer!

     

    IT’S PARTY TIME!

    Check your local shelves for supplies of saisons. While the classic Belgian import is Saison Dupont (a fruity and spicy style), American craft brewers make hoppy, malty, spicy, fruity and floral.

    So, the real Tip Of The Day: Collect as many as you can find and invite friends for a saison tasting. Do it now, or make it your end-of-the-season Labor Day celebration.
     
    What To Serve With Saison

  • Gougères, the delightful French cheese puffs (Gougeres Recipe)
  • Fondue with a hearty cheese like blue or Cheddar
  • Grilled meat or fish
  • Spicy dishes, including Asian and Indian specialties and for a salad, peppery greens like arugula and radishes
  • Rustic French fare: coq au vin roast chicken, stew
  • Cheese: Aged or fresh chèvre, Asiago, Colby, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Parmesan and “stinky” washed rind cheeses
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/belgian style saison 230

    Have a saison with crudités. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEER & ALE

    Although most of us use “beer” to refer to all suds, three parts of the brewing process actually defines what is a beer—illustrated by the lager style—and what is an ale.

    Ales tend to be fruity-estery in aroma and flavor, while lagers are clean-tasting and crisp. These differences are created by:

    The Yeast

  • Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast strains, which means exactly that: The yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank (they typically rise to the top of the tank near the end of fermentation).
  • Ale yeasts tend to produce esters, chemicals that can affect the flavor of the beer.
  • Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeasts, strains which do not typically add much flavor (the flavor comes from the other ingredients, especially hops and malt).
  •  
    Temperature and Time

  • Ale yeasts ferment best at warmer temperatures—room temperature up to about 75°F. They ferment faster than lager yeasts.
  • Lagers ferment at colder temperatures, 46°F to 59°F, and typically ferment over longer periods of time. The combination of colder temperatures and bottom-fermenting yeast is responsible for the mild and crisp taste delivered by most lagers.
  •  
    The Ingredients

  • Ale recipes often contain a higher amount of hops, malt and roasted malts, hence they typically have a more prominent malty taste and bitterness. Styles like India Pale Ale (IPA) are very hoppy.
  • Ales have more room for recipe experimentation than lagers; thus additional ingredients (called adjuncts) can be added during brewing. Examples: fruits (cherry, pumpkin, raspberry, etc.), sugars (honey, maple syrup, molasses) and spices (allspice, coriander, clove, etc.).
  •  
    Thanks to BeerTutor.com for the quick tutorial.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Tequilas

    margarita-glass-wisegeek-230

    Tequila sales in the U.S. have exploded with
    the popularity of the Margarita, one of
    America’s most popular cocktails. The
    “Margarita glass” is used in Mexico for all
    tequila-based mixed drinks. Photo courtesy
    WiseGeek.

     

    For National Tequila Day, July 24th, expand your knowledge of tequila. It’s not just a Margarita mixer, but comprises five different expressions, two of which you’d never mix! Plan a tasting party with the first four expressions—and the fifth, if you’re in the chips.

    The spirit gets its name from the municipality of Tequila, in the west-central Mexican state of Jalisco (40 miles northwest of Guadalajara).

    The native Aztecs fermented agave into mezcal, the forerunner of tequila; but did not know how to distill. That knowledge arrived with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. When they ran out of the brandy they brought, they began to distill agave into what is now called tequila.

    Tequila is one of five major distilled spirits that are indigenous to the Americas. Can you name the others? The answers are at the end of this article.

    Tequila is made by distilling the juice from the blue agave plant, not a cactus but a large succulent closely related to lilies. The best tequila is 100% blue agave, the finest agave juice that minimizes the “burn.” But at the two entry levels, tequilas can be “mixto,” at least 51% blue agave with the remainder coming from other agave species. They must be so labeled.

     
    THE 5 TYPES OF TEQUILLA

    Depending on the aging process and the quality of the agave, the tequila becomes one of the following five types. The more a spirit is aged, the more complex the flavors.

    BLANCO TEQUILLA

    Also called: White, plata/silver or platinum tequila.

    Qualities: Clear and transparent. The tequila is unaged, bottled or stored immediately after distillation. It can also be briefly aged, up to two months.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     

    JOVEN TEQUILA

    Also called: Gold or young tequila.

    Qualities: Pale yellow in appearance. This is un-aged tequila that is blended with rested or aged tequilas; or can be colored with caramel coloring, sugar-based syrup, glycerin, and/or oak extract to resemble aged tequila.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     
    REPOSADO TEQUILLA

    Also called: Rested tequila.

    Qualities: Light yellow and translucent, the tequila is aged for at least six months but less than a year. The spirit takes on a golden hue and the flavor becomes nicely balanced between agave and wood. American or French oak barrels are most commonly used* for aging, although bourbon, cognac, whiskey or wine barrels can be used. The tequila will take on nuanced flavors from the spirit that was previously aged in the barrel. Reposado began to emerge as a new category of tequila in the late 1980s.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     
    AÑEJO TEQUILA

    Also called: Aged or vintage tequila.

    Qualities:: brighter yellow, aged at least one year, but less than three years. The tequila is aged in smaller barrels where the flavor can become smoother, richer and more complex. The aging process darkens the tequila to an amber color.

    Use it for: sipping.

    EXTRA AÑEJO TEQUILA

    Also called: Extra aged or ultra aged tequila.

    Qualities: Golden color, aged at least three years in oak. This is a new classification which received official classification in 2006. It is the most expensive tequila, made from the finest agave for true connoisseurs.

    Use it for: sipping.

     

    HOW TO DRINK TEQUILA

    In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt, or as a sangrita. Outside of Mexico, a shot of tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime. This is called tequila cruda.
     
    The Sangrita

    In some regions of Mexico it is popular to drink a shot of fine tequila with a side of sangrita, a sweet, sour, and spicy drink usually made from orange juice, grenadine or tomato juice, and hot chiles. Equal shots of tequila and sangrita are sipped alternately, without salt or lime.

    Another popular drink in Mexico is the bandera (flag, in Spanish), named after the Flag of Mexico, it consists of three shot glasses, filled with lime juice (for the green), white tequila, and sangrita (for the red).

     

    caballito-lime-wisegeek-230

    The tequila shot glass is called a caballito, “little horse.” Photo courtesy WiseGeek.com.

     

    When served neat (without any additional ingredients), tequila is most often served in a narrow shot glass called a caballito (little horse, in Spanish), but can be served in anything from a snifter to a tumbler.

    In 2002, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (regulating council) approved a stemmed “official tequila glass” shape made by the great glassmaker, Riedel. It’s called the Ouverture Tequila glass and, like all Riedel glassware, is engineered to enable the finest aromas and flavors from the spirit.
     
    TEQUILA TRIVIA: THERE ARE NEVER WORMS IN THE BOTTLES

    Many people believe that some tequilas have a worm in the bottle. They don’t; but certain brands of mezcal do contain a worm, the larval form of the moth Hypopta agavis, which lives on the agave plant.

    The larvae are used by several brands of mezcal to give flavor to the spirit. As a marketing gimmick that began in the 1940s, some brands put a worm in the bottle. Any flavor from the worm has long been removed during production.

    According to the website Mezcal-de-Oaxaca.com, in 2005 the Mexican government legislated to remove the worm from mezcal (it was already prohibited in tequila). One reason is that at 20¢ to 40¢ per worm and between 200-500 worms per plant, irresponsible harvesters actually uproot and destroy an agave plant to harvest the worms.

    Tequila should not contain an insect of any kind, and if it does, then “you’ve either purchased gag-inducing hooch aimed at gullible gringos, or your top-shelf booze is infested by some kind of alcohol-breathing, alien bug,” according to author James Waller (Drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail, page 224, published 2003).
     
    THE OTHER MAJOR AMERICAN SPIRITS

    Also indigenous to the Americas: Bourbon (USA), cachaça (Brazil), mezcal (Mexico), pisco (Peru) and rum (Caribbean).

    Numerous other spirits are distilled locally throughout the Americas, but are not distributed far beyond their place of origin.
     
    *After fine wine is aged in [expensive] new oak barrels, the used barrels are often sold to the producers of spirits for aging. New oak imparts specific flavors to wine; but with spirits, the distiller is not looking for prominent oak flavor. Thus, the same used barrel can be used for several years, where it imparts slight nuances.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pineapple Gazpacho

    pineapple-gazpacho-urbanaccents-230

    Pineapple gazpacho, spicy and refreshing. Photo courtesy Urban Accents.

     

    Yesterday we featured a spicy Grilled Pineapple Cocktail, but only the garnish was grilled.

    Today, The pineapple is marinated in spices and lilme juice, then grilled to provide this chilled soup with a more complex flavor.

    The recipe is by Jim Dygas, president of Urban Accents, using Urban Accents’ Mozambique Peri Peri spice blend. The garnish was added by THE NIBBLE.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 15 minutes. The gazpacho needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours or overnight. The flavor will be better the next day.

    RECIPE: PINEAPPLE GAZPACHO

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 whole pineapple, skin removed & cut into 1-inch slices,
    cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons Urban Accents Mozambique Peri Peri
    or substitute*
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 seedless (English) cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 med garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 small jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: minced chives or thin-sliced scallions, or the
    garnish recipe below
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup seedless cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  •  
    *Urban Accents’ Mozambique Peri Peri has a base of crushed chile peppers and paprika combined with six herbs and spices plus citrus. You can make a less complex seasoning blend by combining crushed chile flakes and paprika with dried herbs of choice.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the grill to med-high heat.

    2. COMBINE the lime juice, zest with Mozambique Peri Peri in a large bowl. Add the pineapple, stir and marinate for 15 minutes.

    3. GRILL the pineapple on all sides to get light grill marks. Remove from the grill, let cool slightly and cut into small chunks.

    4. PURÉE 1 cup of the pineapple chunks in a blender or food processor, along with the pineapple juice and olive oil until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. While the soup chills…

    5. MAKE the garnish. Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Individual Ice Cream Cakes

    Don’t let National Ice Cream Month end without some ice cream cake. In today’s tip, you add to the fun by giving each person his or her own individual-size ice cream cake.

    All you need are two ingredients—cake and ice cream—plus an optional garnish. And a fun flavor pairing, although chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream work fine.
     
    RECIPE: INDIVIDUAL ICE CREAM CAKES

    Ingredients

  • Ice cream
  • Un-iced cake (loaf cake works best)
  • Individual custard cups, ramekins or other dishes (glass is best, to show off the layers)
  • Optional garnishes or “surprises”, such as:
  • >Berries
    >Candies
    >Caramel, chocolate or fruit sauce
    >Chocolate chips or shaved chocolate
    >Sprinkles
    >Whipped cream

     

    individual-ice-cream-cake-questnutrition-230

    Portion-sized ice cream cake. (Can we eat two?) Photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese.

     
    Preparation

    1. CUT and layer the cake and ice cream in the dish, leaving a bit of room at the top for sauce or other garnishes.

    2. HIDE surprises between the layers: mini chocolate chips, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, shaved chocolate, sliced strawberries. Place the layered dishes in the freezer until you’re ready to serve.

    3. GARNISH the top with anything you like. One of our favorite garnishes: miniature York Peppermint Patties (we buy them by the carton-full at Costco).
     
    TIPS

    SLICING: Peel the carton from the ice cream to slice the ice cream into layers. Trim and fit the variously-sized pieces of ice cream and cake in the individual dishes.

    SUBSTITUTE: If you have all the ingredients except the cake, you can substitute cookies or sweet muffins.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Hot Dog Day

    cubano-dog-llightlife-230

    The Cubano Dog, adapted from the Cuban Sandwich. Photo courtesy Lightlife.

     

    June 23rd is National Hot Dog Day, and we’ve got a new hot dog recipe: the Cubano Dog. It’s a riff on the Cubano (Cuban) Sandwich, a variation of ham and cheese made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles and mustard on lightly buttered Cuban (or Portuguese) roll.

    Here, the hot dog and bun replace the pork and bread. Check out the different types of sandwiches.

    The recipe is from Lightlife, a Nibble Top Pick Of The Week that specializes in delicious meatless alternatives. But any dog works: beef, bison, chicken, turkey or veggie.

    RECIPE: CUBANO DOG

    You can use store-bought pickles instead of making your own (it’s quick and easy!).

  • 2 large Portuguese rolls or 4 hot dog buns
  • 4 hot dogs
  • 4 slices ham
  • 2 ounces Swiss cheese, sliced into 16 half-inch strips
  • Yellow mustard
  • For The Pickles

  • 1 cup very thinly sliced English cucumber, cut into half moons (see photo above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
  • ¼ -1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, cracked
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pickles. In a heat-proof bowl, toss together cucumbers and dill. Set aside.

    2. HEAT the vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, salt and garlic in a small saucepan over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until the liquid begins to simmer and the sugar dissolves. Pour the liquid over the cucumbers and toss to coat evenly. Cover and place in the refrigerator. The pickles can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.

    3. TOAST the rolls. If using Portuguese rolls, first slice them in half. You can toast them under the broiler at the same time as you broil the hot dogs. and the bread is toasted.

    4. TURN the oven to broil. First cook the hot dogs in a medium saucepan, covered with water. Bring to a boil; turn off the heat. Let the hot dogs sit in the water for 2 minutes.

    4. ROLL 1 slice of ham around each dog. Place on a baking sheet (along with the hot dog rolls) and broil for 2 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from from broiler and add 4 slices of cheese to each dog. Broil for an additional 1 to 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

    5. REMOVE from the oven. Top each dog with 1/4 cup of drained pickles. Serve with mustard.

     

    chili-cheese-hot-dog-230

    You’ve come a long way, baby. The original Coney Island hot dog can be dressed in many types of garnishes. Photo courtesy Body By Bison.

     
    HOT DOG VERSUS SAUSAGE: THE DIFFERENCE

    The hot dog—also called a frankfurter and a wiener—is a type of sausage: ground meat stuffed into a casing*. The American hot dog differs from other sausages based on ingredients, origin and size.

    The original name for the hot dog, frankfurter, comes from a small town called Neu-Isenburg, located on the road from Frankfurt to Darmstadt. Every town in Germany has its own sausage recipe: blend of meat, spicing, etc.

    The frankfurter, a slender sausage like today’s frank, was made from pork. The name “wiener” comes from Vienna, Austria; the German name for Vienna is Wien. The wiener is similar to the frankfurter in recipe, but slightly shorter in size.

    Sausages appear in print as far back as Homer’s Odyssey, about 850 B.C.E. The earliest possible reference to “hot dog” occurs in the late 17th century.

    The written record is incomplete, but a sausage maker from Coberg, Germany named Johann Georghehner may have invented a sausage he called “little dachshunds,” or “little dogs.”

    Recipes for the predecessor of the American hot dog came to U.S. with immigrant butchers of several nationalities. While as uncertain as the Georgehner story, it is believed that in 1871, Charles Feltman, a butcher from Germany, opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand selling 3,684 “dachshund sausages” in a milk roll during his first year in business. [Source: HotDog.org]

    Since sauerkraut and mustard were typical accompaniments to German sausages, they found their place atop the hot dog, later to be joined by many other toppings; for starters, bacon, cheese, chili, ketchup, onions, pickles/pickle relish, salsa and slaw.

    While we don’t know the different recipes of the first American hot dogs, it is beef rather than pork that has prevailed—possibly, because Nathan’s, today the world’s biggest hot dog brand, was a kosher recipe.

    In 1916 Nathan Handwerker, a Polish immigrant, started a nickel hot dog stand on Coney Island with a $300 loan from two friends—Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante, both local boys. But it was his wife’s secret spice recipe that is attributed to the success over other vendors.
     
    *Sausage can also be vegetarian; and bulk sausage is available without the casing.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Spicy Pineapple Cocktail With A Special Garnish

    pineapple-grilled-ham-garnish-butter&scotch-230

    A spicy pineapple-tequila cocktail with chile
    liqueur. Photo courtesy Butter & Scotch |
    Brooklyn.

     

    At our request, mixologist Allison Kave of Butter & Scotch in Brooklyn sent us the recipe for her Grilled Pineapple Cocktail. The cocktail itself isn’t grilled, but the garnishes are.

    Allison uses a mix of tequila and mezcal, plus Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur. If you like sizzle, Ancho Reyes is a real find. You can add heat to other cocktails, or sip it straight.

    And, give it as a host or holiday gift for those who share your spicy palate.

    While you do get lots of chile heat from the liqueur, it is balanced by the sweetness of liqueur—a dimension lacking in hot chile-flavored vodkas, such as Hangar One Chipotle Vodka.

  • If you can’t get your hands on Ancho Reyes (DeKuyper also makes a chile liqueur) make a less spicy cocktail with orange liqueur and a shake of hot sauce.
  • If you don’t have mezcal and don’t want to buy a bottle, replace it with more tequila.
  •  
    RECIPE: GRILLED PINEAPPLE COCKTAIL

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce tequila
  • .5 ounce Ancho Reyes Liqueur
  • .5 ounce mezcal
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • .5 ounce lemon juice
  • .5 ounce simple syrup (recipe)
  • Cracked ice
  • Optional garnish: grilled or seared ham and/or pineapple cubes
  • Cocktail pick
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients but the garnish in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Shake vigorously until chilled. (Bartender tip: when the shaker is frosty/misty on the outside, the drink is chilled.)

    2. STRAIN into a chilled coupe, Martini or other glass. Top with a skewer of garnishes.
     
    Garnish Variations

    The small cube of grilled ham looks elegant in the photo above. But frankly, if we’re going to grill ham or pineapple at home—or even serve it ungrilled—we’re going to turn it into a nibble.

    So, make the cubes as large as you like, and use as many as you like. Separately, you can make ham and pineapple skewers to serve with the drinks. You can add:

  • Sweet-hot pickled chiles (recipe below)
  • Peppadews (they come in sweet red, sweet golden and hot red varieties)
  • Sweet gherkins or pickle chips
  •  

    More Variations

    You can play with other ingredients in the recipe; for example:

  • Increase the pineapple juice.
  • Use chile vodka (or even spiced rum) instead of tequila.
  • Eliminate the heat, by substituting orange liqueur for chile
    liqueur.
  • Substitute lime juice for the lemon juice.
  • Add a sugar rim to offset the heat (turbinado sugar or other raw
    sugar—Sugar In The Raw is turbinado sugar).
  • Use fresh wedges of pineapple or boiled ham, instead of
    grilled/seared garnishes.
  •  
     
    CONFUSED BY THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUGAR?

    There are so many different types, it’s easy to get confused. Our Sugar Glossary explains them all.
     
     
    RECIPE: QUICK-PICKLED HOT & SWEET CHILES

     

    ancho-reyes-230

    Ancho chile-infused liqueur, for mixing or drinking straight. Photo courtesy Ancho Reyes.

     
    You can buy hot and sweet pickled chiles (check out these from Mrs. Renfro’s, Texas Pickle Works, or Texas Wild. And don’t forget hot peppadews.

    Or, you can make your own. They won’t taste the same as the commercial brands, but they’ll be very tasty and ready in an hour! If you want, you can toss pearl onions and/or garlic cloves into the pickling liquid, and use them with the cocktail above or for other recipes.

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 to 1 pound chiles, stems removed*
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (you can substitute table sugar, but brown sugar delivers better flavor)
  • Optional: Pearl onions and/or garlic, as desired
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spices
  •  
    *To reduce the chile heat, also remove the white pith and seeds. Whenever cutting hot chiles, be sure to wear gloves; then remove and wash them (or throw away disposables) to avoid getting burning capsaicin in your eyes.

     
    Preparation

    1. CLEAN and cut the chiles into 1/4 inch slices—you want them thick enough to skewer. If you have very small chiles, like bird’s eye or pequin, simply de-stem them and pickle them whole. Place them in a container with a lid.

    2. COMBINE all the other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the hot liquid over the chiles; add the lid and shake to fully coat. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to bring to room temperature. They will stay firm in the fridge for up to 10 days.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Beware Of Fake Italian Olive Oil

    bottle-question-mark-fake-livefreelivenatural

    The odds are high that your bottle of
    imported “extra virgin in olive oil” isn’t,
    especially if it’s a major supermarket brand
    and/or sold in bulk. Photo courtesy
    LiveFreeLiveNatural.com.

     

    “Is this for real?” a reader wrote, sending us a link to an article about fake olive oil. While we’ve covered this topic previously and also here, it’s worth revisiting. There’s a lot of fake imported oil claiming to be Italian olive oil.

    In fact, fake olive oil has been a major scandal in Italy for decades. People have gone to jail for oil fraud, although that doesn’t stop the practice.

    Unscrupulous Italian distributors import oil from Morocco, Spain (the largest producer of olive oil), Tunisia or elsewhere; bottle it in Italy and sell it a Italian olive oil. Sometimes, it’s a blend of a lower-quality Italian oil cut with non-Italian olive oil. Or it can be another oil entirely, such as soybean oil labeled “olive oil” on the manifest.

    Totally fake olive oil can be made by mixing cheap vegetable oils with beta-carotene to disguise the flavor, and chlorophyll to provide the green color many people believe (erroneously) indicates higher-quality olive oil.

    If the olive oil is bottled in Italy, it is not illegal to label it “Packed in Italy” or “Imported from Italy,” terms that easily deceive consumers. While a different country of origin is supposed to be listed on the label, often it is not. Italy is, in fact, the world’s largest importer of olive oil. Much of the oil sold as “Italian olive oil” isn’t, based on tests conducted in the U.S.

     
    A special branch of the Italian police is trained to detect bad oil; but as in most inspections of most product categories in any country, there are too many products and too few inspectors. Even when fraud is found, producers—many of whom have connections to powerful politicians—are rarely prosecuted. [Source]

     
    EVEN IF IT’S OLIVE OIL, IT MAY NOT BE “EXTRA VIRGIN”

    Just because the label says “extra-virgin olive oil” does not mean that’s what’s in the bottle. In fact, it may not even be 100% olive oil. It can be a blend of lower-quality vegetable oils that may include less than 20% olive oil.

    The “extra virgin” label has strict IOC (International Olive Council) requirements; namely, that the acidity of the oil is less than 1%. If the acidity is between 1% and 3.3%, the oil is called virgin olive oil; and the higher the acidity, the lower the grade of oil (here are the grades of olive oil). Much olive oil sold as “extra virgin” isn’t.

    A 2010 study by U.C. Davis, one of America’s top agricultural universities, found that 69% of the imported “extra virgin” olive oil sold in California supermarkets did not qualify as extra virgin (the results can be extrapolated to the rest of the country). That means your chance of buying real extra virgin is less than 1 in 3. Here’s the full report.

    The Executive Summary begins:

    While there are many excellent imported and domestic extra virgin olive oils available in California, our findings indicate that the quality level of the largest imported brand names is inconsistent at best, and that most of the top-selling olive oil brands we examined regularly failed to meet international standards for extra virgin olive oil.

    Of the five top-selling imported “extra virgin” olive oil brands in the United States, 73% of the samples failed the IOC sensory standards for extra virgin olive oils, analyzed by two separate IOC-accredited sensory [tasting] panels.

    The fraud typically comes from supermarket brands, store brands and club store brands that sell in big volume. There is nothing harmful about the olive oil, but it isn’t of the quality of the Italian olive oil you think you’re paying for. If you’re buying it for it’s heart-healthy benefits, you may not be getting them.

    In 2010, a class action lawsuit in California targeted 10 major olive oil brands: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Filippo Berio, Mazola, Mezzetta, Pompeian, Rachael Ray, Safeway Select and Star. It also names 10 major supermarket chains and big box stores that allegedly sold substandard oil as “extra-virgin.” This includes olive oil mixed with cheaper types of oil, lower quality olive oil and olive oil degraded by heat or age.

    Artisan oils from smaller brands are typically what they claim to be. They don’t sell in enough volume to interest the fraudsters.

     

    GREEN COLOR DOESN’T MEAN BETTER OLIVE OIL

    Consumers have come to believe that green olive oil is better quality. So another trick fraudsters use is to color yellow olive oil green with chlorophyll.

    While some green oils are top quality, the color of the oil is determined by:

  • The ripeness of the olives at harvest; for example, unripe, green olives yield green-hued oil and ripe, purple-black olives produce golden-toned oil.
  • Some olive varieties produce greener oil, just as some varieties of grapes produce deeper or lighter hues.
  • The International Olive Oil Council does not consider color as a factor in its blind grading of olive oils. In fact, oil is tasted from blue glasses to obscure the color.
  •  
    The fake can be discerned through lab analysis, although the retailers themselves don’t conduct these analyses. Read more at OliveOilSource.com.
     
    HOW TO DETERMINE IF OLIVE OIL IS REAL

  • Look for a label from a certifying agency, for example, the International Olive Council (IOC) for imported oils and the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) for California oils. Oils with these labels of authenticity generally undergo strict quality control testing.
  •  

    extra-virginity-230

    What started out as an exposé in The New York Times is now an even more informative book. Photo courtesy W. W. Norton & Company.

  • Buy American-grown and -made olive oil. U.S. growers and manufacturers are generally held to stricter standards than companies that export to the U.S. California and Texas are the top two producing states. Olive oil is also made in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and Oregon.
  • Look for the Non-GMO Project seal. The Non-GMO Project rigorously evaluates products before bestowing their seal.
  •  
    And by all means:

  • Buy directly from olive oil producers when you’re in an oil-producing region.
  •  
    Here are two “tricks” that are not 100% foolproof:

  • Avoid the “fridge test.” Dr. Oz perpetuated the myth that authentic olive oil will thicken and become cloudy in the refrigerator. Although some will, many varieties of oil will react that way. Here are details.
  • Avoid thw “flame test.” Real olive oil is flammable because of its low smoke point. But numerous other oils also have low smoke points. Here’s a chart. Thus, advice to light the oil with a match to see if it burns is no more accurate than the fridge test.
  •  
    Want to learn more? Get Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.
     
    And for free, you can read through our informative Olive Oil Glossary.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pasta & Sardines, Pasta Con Sarde

    spaghetti-sardines-taste.com.au-230r

    Spaghetti with sardines is an Italian classic.
    Photo courtesy Taste.com.au.

     

    Pasta with sardines is a popular Italian dish. Pasta con sarde has been called the national dish of Italy. It is often served with capers, red pepper flakes and bread crumbs. The sardines are laden with heart-healthy omega-3s; and if you use a whole grain pasta, this is a truly better for you dish.

    You don’t have to use the linguine specified in the recipe. You can use spaghetti, other ribbon pasta or even short cuts (bowties, tubes, etc.—see the different types of pasta). This recipe was adapted from one on VitalChoice.com, which sells premium canned sardines.

    RECIPE: PASTA WITH SARDINES

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • ½ pound whole-grain linguine
  • 1 tablespoon organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, minced (substitute shallots or
    other onions)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup radishes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine (or pasta water)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 can premium sardine fillets or fresh sardines
  • Optional garnish: capers, fresh parsley, toasted bread crumbs
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COOK the linguine until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water for the sauce. You can also use it to substitute for the white wine, if you don’t want to cook with wine.

    2. HEAT the olive oil on medium heat, then sauté the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes until translucent. Add white wine, spinach, radishes and half the sardines, and simmer until spinach is wilted.

    3. ADD the radishes, spinach and wine plus half of the sardines. Simmer just until the spinach was wilted, just a few minutes.

    4.REMOVE from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with the remaining sardine fillets and garnish as desired.

     

    sardines-ramps-abboccato-230

    If you’re lucky enough to find fresh sardines, grill them first. Photo courtesy Abbocatto.com.

     
    RECIPE: TOASTED BREAD CRUMBS

    Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup panko or other bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings as desired
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT a small amount of oil in a skillet. Add the panko and cook until toasted and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add an optional pinch of salt or fresh-ground black pepper, if desired. Stir as needed.

    2. REMOVE from the heat. If you won’t use them immediately, store the toasted bread crumbs in an airtight container for a day.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Food In A Martini Glass

    martini-glass-inspiredesignandcreate-230

    A Caprese salad, made with cherry tomatoes
    and bocconcini.* Photo courtesy Inspire,
    Design and Create. Here’s the recipe.

     

    If you own Martini glasses but don’t use them often enough to justify the space, send them from the bar to the kitchen. When they come out, filled with food instead of drink, family and friends will be delighted. If you have oversize Martini glasses, so much the better.

    12 WAYS TO USE MARTINI GLASSES—BEYOND DRINKS

  • Bread pudding, custard, mousse, other puddings
  • Caprese salad with cherry tomatoes and bocconcini substituting for sliced tomato and mozzarella (photo at left)
  • Chopped salad or green salad (see recipe below)
  • Gazpacho or other chilled soup
  • Fruit salad or compote (try watermelon salad, cubed or in balls, with feta and shredded basil)
  • Ice cream scoops or sundaes
  • Mashed potatoes (garnish with chives, bacon, grated cheese, whatever)
  • Nibbles with coffee (cookie bits, mini biscotti, chocolates, chocolate lentils, marshmallows, etc.)
  • Seafood salad (here’s a Vietnamese crab salad recipe)
  • Shrimp cocktail (try this shrimp cocktail with avocado recipe)
  • Sorbet with fruit or other toppings (you can marinate the fruit in brandy or fruit liqueur—recipe)
  • Yogurt parfaits
  •  

    RECIPE: APPETIZER SALAD WITH FRESH MOZZARELLA

    If you don’t like fennel, substitute ingredients you do like in the recipe below, from EatWisconsinCheese.com. Also take a look at this Dirty Martini Salad—simple greens with olives and an olive dressing (the dressing has chopped olives, vodka and olive oil).

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 celery heart
  • 1 heart of romaine
  • 9 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (or cheese of choice)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground white pepper
  •  

    fennel-salad-martini-glass-wmmb-230

    A Martini glass can be repurposed to
    serve different courses of food. Photo
    courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. WASH and thoroughly dry the fennel, celery and romaine. Cut the fennel into thin slices, about 2 cups. Cut the celery into julienne strips, about 1/2 cup. Reserve four well-shaped romaine leaves for garnish; then cut the remaining romaine into julienne strips, about 3 cups. Cut the mozzarella into thin strips. Place all into a large mixing bowl.

    2. PUT the olive oil, lemon juice, mascarpone, mustard, salt and pepper in a blender container. Blend until thick and smooth, about 5 seconds. Pour over the salad; toss to coat. Divide the salad, arranging on serving plates, using the reserved lettuce leaves for garnish.

     
    *Bocconcini are bite-size fresh mozzarella balls. You can substitute ciliegine (cherry size) or perlini (pearl size) if you can’t find bocconcini. Here’s a recipe that adds bowtie pasta for a Caprese pasta salad.

      

    Comments

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