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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.

EVENT: Oyster Frenzy

belon_oysters-jpshellfish-230

Belon oysters from Maine. Photo courtesy J.P.
Shellfish.

 

What’s shucking in your town?

In ours, New York City, we’re in the middle of New York Oyster Week—actually two weeks of oyster-centric events, from September 11th through September 28th.

Once, in the waters surrounding us, oysters were so plentiful that anyone could enjoy as much as he chose. Alas, as with the sturgeon that once swam the Hudson River, so plentiful that free caviar was served at pubs (the salty caviar made people drink more beer), we over-fished our bounty by the mid-nineteenth century.

Now, if you crave it—oysters or caviar—you pay dearly (a little less dearly in the case of oysters versus caviar).

You can indulge in oyster excitement on Saturday, September 27th, when the 12th Annual Grand Central Oyster Frenzy takes place at The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal.

Admission is free to view:

  • A shucking competition among top professional oyster shuckers. Seven-time champion Luis “The Mexican Menace” Iglesius will try for yet another title.
  • The Slurp Off Competitive Eating Competition for the public, to see who can slurps 12 oysters in the fastest time.
  • The Beer Shucking competition, crowning the person who “shucks” a case of beer in fastest time—is sponsored by Blue Point Brewing Company.
  • Chef demonstrations of culinary wizardry.
  •  
    There are also tastings, with oysters and beverages priced per item, including:

  • 16 Oyster Pairings! From 12 noon to 4 p.m., Oyster Frenzy will present 16 varieties of oysters—eight each from the East and West coasts—paired six championship wines. We can’t wait!
     
    For information call 1.212.490.6650 or email info@oysterbarnycom…or just show up!

  •  

    OYSTER-WINE PAIRINGS & DUCK ISLAND OYSTERS

    We had never heard of Duck Island, a tiny spot on Long Island Sound (between Long Island, New York and Connecticut) that you can’t even see clearly on a map.

    But yesterday we were treated to Duck Island oysters, plus Kumamotos from Baja, California, along with 23 different wines under consideration for the Oyster Frenzy at the Oyster Bar.

    Our challenge was to select which of the wines went better with the very briny Kumamotos and which went better with the fruity, honeydew-note Duck Island oysters from Long Island Sound.

    Lest anyone think, “Oh boy, 23 different wines,” let us emphasize that this is very tough work! And without going into detail on the 23 wines (kudos to the sommeliers at the Oyster Bar for such an informative challenge), our philosophy is:

  • Go for a classic Chablis or Pinot Blanc with fruity oysters. You don’t want any fruit sweetness from the wine interfering with the subtle notes of the oyster.
  • For briny oysters, a touch of fruit in the wine can offset the salinity. In the blind taste test, we picked a Sauvignon Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay blend and a dry Riesling.
  •  
    As for those Duck Island oysters, we couldn’t get enough of them. We’re heading back to The Oyster Bar this weekend for more!

     

    oyster-salmon-caviar-theseafiregrillFB-230

    Our favorite way to enjoy oysters—apart from naked, as absolutely plain oysters are called—is with salmon caviar. Photo courtesy The Sea Grill | NYC.

     

    HOW TO EAT OYSTERS

    When you’re eating fresh oysters on the half shell, the best way to eat them is naked. That’s how you’ll taste the different flavor notes in different varieties.

    Any addition—lemon juice, cocktail sauce, mignonette sauce, horseradish—just covers up those wonderful flavor notes.

    On the other hand, if the oyster is bland, you need those condiments to add flavor! But that should never be the case at a seafood restaurant or oyster bar.
     
    WHAT ABOUT OYSTER CRACKERS

    Oyster crackers are small, salted, soup crackers, typically hexagonal in shape and molded into two halves, roughy suggestive of an oyster shell. They were so-named because they were commonly served with oyster chowder, oyster stew and similar fish and seafood dishes.

    The best ones we’ve ever had—served at the Oyster Bar—are from Westminster Bakers. We can’t stop eating them!

     
    TYPES OF OYSTERS

    Check out the different types of oysters in our Oyster Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A New Apple

    apple-cider-230

    SweeTango juice and apples, now in stores
    nationwide. Photo courtesy The Next Big
    Thing.

     

    While October is National Apple Month, today, September 20th, is International Eat An Apple Day. There are so many varieties of apples, our tip is to step outside of your apple comfort zone and try something new.

    Our favorite apple, Honeycrisp, has an offspring: SweeTango. Introduced in 2009, SweeTango combines the best qualities of the Honeycrisp (released in 1991) and Zestar (released in 1998) varieties. It has the crisp texture of Honeycrisp and the juiciness of the Zestar, with notes of citrus, honey and spice.

    The SweeTango was born at the University of Minnesota, where expert apple breeders, using time-honored horticultural techniques, struck gold by marrying the Honeycrisp and Zestar varieties. If you were about to ask, the brand tells us that Honeycrisp was the bride, Zestar the groom, both varieties with crisp flesh.

    The offspring of marrying the rootstocks created the Minneiska, a hybrid tree. But since “Minneiska” doesn’t have a commercial ring to it, the apples were christened (and trademarked) SweeTango.

     

    A growers cooperative was formed, includes some of the best apple growers in the world and called Next Big Thing. They are the only farmers who can grow SweeTango—an arrangement that allows the breeders to maintain top quality.

    A seasonal apple harvested in early fall, SweeTango is available during apple season across the U.S. and Canada. Enjoy it as a hand fruit, or with stronger cheeses such as blues and Cheddar.

    For more information, visit SweeTango.com. Use the store locator to find a retailer near you.

     

    DOES AN APPLE A DAY KEEP THE DOCTOR AWAY?

    According to HowStuffWorks.com, the first printed mention of this saying was in the February 1866 issue of the British publication Notes and Queries, still in print and still focused on reader questions about the English language and literature, lexicography, history and scholarly antiquarianism.

    The publication printed the proverb thusly: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” But does it, really?

    No more so than many other fruits. Most ailments cannot be cured by diet alone, and nutritionists would recommend a varied selection of fruits: citrus fruits, tropical fruits like mangos and a variety of berries, which pack a nutritional punch.

    Here’s what the nutrients in apples can do for you.

  • An apple a day can reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and many types of cancer. Various studies show health benefits when participants eat an apple between three and five times a week.
  •  

    sliced-apples-shropshireblue-230s

    Sliced SweeTango apples with Shropshire Blue cheese and almonds. Photo courtesy The Next Big Thing.

  • The pectin in apples is a soluble fiber than lowers both blood pressure and glucose levels. It can also lower the level of LDL, or bad cholesterol. Like other forms of fiber, it helps maintain the health of the digestive system.
  • Boron, an abundant nutrient in apples, supports strong bones and a healthy brain.
  • Quercetin, a flavonoid (antioxidant), may reduce the risk of various cancers, including breast and lung cancer. It may also neutralize free radical damage, which has been implicated in a variety of age-related health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The phytonutrients, including vitamins A, E and beta carotene, also fight free radical damage, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
  • Last but not least, the vitamin C boosts immunity, which helps maintain overall health.
  • Other fruits have specific benefits.

  • Bananas are loaded with potassium, which is important for a healthy heart and proper muscle function.
  • All berries are good for you. Apricots, fresh or dried, are high in beta-carotene. Blackberries are loaded with fiber. Blueberries and cranberries help prevent and fight urinary tract infections. Strawberries contain lots of vitamin C and fiber.
  • In terms of juice, apple juice is at the bottom of the top 10 beverages in antioxidant power. Pomegranate juice, wine and purple grape juice at the top, with apple juice in the tenth spot, right behind tea. One of the healthy benefits of apples—the high amount of fiber—is lost during juicing.
  •  
    So why the adage, and why has it been passed from generation to generation for 148 years?

    First, at the time the expression emerged, understanding of nutrition profiles was not what it is today. Next, apples were a bountiful crop in England; once harvested, they could remain in storage for nearly a year, providing one of the few sources of fresh fruit during the winter months.

    And, within that longevity is truth: Recent studies have shown that, unlike many fruits and vegetables, the nutritional benefits of apples remain relatively stable as long as 200 days after harvest.

    So by all means, enjoy an apple a day. It’s still one of the better sweet things you can munch on.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: The Best Baklava

    baklava-cookbookchick-calwalnutboard-230

    A winning baklava recipe. Photo courtesy
    Food 52.

     

    We admit to an enthusiasm for baklava. Good baklava—made with quality honey—is one of the world’s great pastries. Here’s the history of baklava, an ancient pastry that dates to the 8th century B.C.E.

    This recipe was the runner up in a contest held by Food52 for the California Walnut Board.

    “This is my mom’s recipe,” says CookbookChick, who submitted the recipe. “I don’t know where she got the idea for her ‘secret ingredient,’ but it produces the best baklava ever. [Mom is Mrs. Z, credited below.]

    “If you like baklava but can’t get past the cloying sweetness, this is the one to try: You will never go back or be satisfied with the stuff you get in Greek restaurants again.”

    Honey and apples is a Rosh Hashanah tradition, a wish for a sweet new year. The Jewish New Year begins next Thursday; some sweet, honeyed baklava would not be out of place. Try this recipe, courtesy of Food52 for the California Walnut Board.

     
    RECIPE: MRS. Z’S SECRET-INGREDIENT BAKLAVA

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

    For The Baklava Syrup

  • 1/2 cup mild honey
  • 1-1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  •  
    For The Baklava

  • 1 cup graham crackers, finely crushed (the secret ingredient!)
  • 1-1/2 pounds walnuts
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound butter, melted and clarified*
  • 1 pound filo dough
  • 24 whole cloves
  •  
    *To clarify, melt the butter, skim off the milk solids and pour off the clear yellow butter. Discard the white solids in the bottom of the pan.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, just until a thin syrup is formed. Allow to cool to room temperature while you build the baklava.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    3. CRUSH the graham crackers into fine crumbs. You can do this (a) by putting them in a sealed plastic bag and pounding them with a meat tenderizer, (b) rolling with a rolling pin, or (c) pulverizing in a food processor.

    4. GRIND the nuts finely with a manual nut grinder (preferable) or in a food processor. With the latter, take care not to grind too far, or you will have nut butter.

    5. COMBINE the graham cracker crumbs, nuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl.

     

    walnut-halves-murrays-230

    California walnuts. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    6. LAY out the filo dough on a clean kitchen towel. Lay another towel on top of the filo to help prevent it from drying out.

    7. BUILD the baklava in an 8 x 8-inch square pan. Layer 6 to 8 sheets of filo in the bottom of the pan, brushing each sheet lightly with butter before adding the next (a silicone basting brush makes it easy). Many Greek cooks, including Mrs. Z, simply drizzle the butter from a teaspoon; or you can use a traditional boar bristle pastry brush.

    8. SPRINKLE the nut mixture in a thin layer over the filo dough. Cover with 3 to 4 more sheets, each brushed lightly with butter. Repeat until the nut mixture is completely used up. Cover with 6 to 8 filo sheet, brushing each layer lightly with butter.

    9. REFRIGERATE the uncooked baklava for an hour or two until the butter solidifies. Then, before baking, cut with a sharp knife into small squares or diamond shapes. If you want the traditional diamond shapes, start with a corner-to-corner diagonal cut. Stick a whole clove into the center of each piece.

    10. BAKE at 350°F for no longer than one hour, until it becomes a light golden brown. If the baklava dries out, it is ruined.

    11. REMOVE from the oven and immediately pour the room temperature syrup evenly over the hot pastry. The rule is hot pastry, cool syrup or you’ll get a soggy dessert! Start with about half of the syrup, letting the pastry absorb it (you may not use it all).

    Serving idea: Nestle each piece in a pretty paper cupcake cup or foil cupcake cup and present on a platter.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Have Some Grenache

    brunello-230BSP

    A glass of 100% grenache is a new
    experience for most wine lovers. Photo ©
    Dusan Zidar | Bigstock Photo.

     

    Grenache (pronounced gruh-NOSH), called Garnacha in Spain, is one of the most widely planted (and highest-yielding) red wine grape varieties in the world. It’s most commonly found in blends, where it’s used to add body and sweet fruitiness. It’s not easy to find a 100% garnacha wine in many U.S. wine stores.

    But look for Las Rocas and other wines from the Aragon region of northeast Spain (where the grape probably originated, although Sardinia also claims it as a native grape). Five D.O.* regions in Aragon (Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano and Terra Alta) are producing quality wines that are at least 85% Garnacha. (A wine that is at least 85% of a particular varietal can be called by that varietal’s name.) Las Rocas, at $15, os well priced.

    Grenache grows in hot, dry climates; Spain, Sardinia, the south of France and California’s San Joaquin Valley are prominent growing regions. It is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

    BLENDED INTO VERY POPULAR WINES

    In Spain, Grenache is blended into Rioja. It is used to make rosé wines in France and Spain. If you’ve had a bottle of Tavel (a district in the Côtes du Rhône), you’ve had grenache.

     

    Grenache was one of the first grape varieties introduced to Australia in the 18th century. It was the country’s most widely planted red wine grape variety until it was surpassed by Shiraz in the mid 1960s.

    In was also one of the first grapes to be successfully planted and vinified during the early development of the Washington wine industry, in the early 20th century.

    Wines made from Grenache tend to lack acid, tannin and color, which is why they are usually blended with Cinsaut, Syrah, Tempranillo or other grapes. In addition to the better-known red wine, there is a white grape, Grenache Blanc or Grenacha Blanca. A wine made with White Grenache is similar to White Zinfandel.

    White Grenache is a very important grape in France, where it is the fourth most widely planted white variety†. Like red Grenache (Grenache Noir), it is used as a blending grape in the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

     

    CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL GRENACHE DAY

    To celebrate International Grenache Day—the third Friday in September, which this year is September 19th—the producers of Las Rocas Garnacha sent us a bottle of red. The brand name, which means “the rocks,” refers to the steep, rocky slopes where the grapes are grown.

    The flavors of grenache are typically spicy (look for white pepper) with berry fruit, often raspberry and strawberry (we found blackberry and black cherry in Las Rocas). The lower tannins make it softer on the palate; the alcohol content is relatively high (this year’s Las Rocas has 14.9% alcohol).

    GRENACHE & FOOD PAIRINGS

    Pair grenache as you would any medium-body red wine: with beef, chicken and turkey, lamb or pork, including stews. Its spicy qualities also pair well with international spices, such as garam masala and milder curries. The fruitiness also makes them a natural for dishes with dried fruit, such as Moroccan tagines; and with general sweetness, such as barbecue.

    In recent decades, the total acreage of Garnacha in Spain has been on the decline, with the vineyards being replanted with the more fashionable Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo.

     

    las-rocas-garnacha-230

    Celebrate International Grenache Day. Photo courtesy Las Rocas.

     

    Show your support of Grenache today: Enjoy a bottle with dinner.

     
    *D.O., short for Denominaciones de Origen, is similar to the French Appellations. Production of products produced in a particular D.O. are regulated by specific laws meant to ensure quality and consistency.

    †The first three are Ugni blanc, a blending grape; Chardonnay and Semillon.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: George Foreman 5-Minute Burger

    george-foreman-5-minute-burger-grill-230Americans love their burgers.

    Eat burgers often? This George Foreman
    specialty grill cooks them—and the buns—in
    five minutes. Photo courtesy George
    Foreman.

     

    Today is National Cheeseburger Day; here’s a way to make them faster, with less mess.

    First, a public service announcement: If only Americans would eat fewer burgers. It would be better for health, better for the environment, better for the pocketbook, better for animal welfare.

    But that’s wishful thinking. So if you’ve got a burger habit, now it’s easier than ever to cook them at home. The new George Foreman 5-Minute Burger cooks the meat 50% faster and makes clean-up easy. Any child allowed near a hot appliance can use it.

  • The compartment on the top toasts the buns while the meat cooks.
  • The fat-removing slope design takes out up to 42% of the fat from a quarter-pound ground chuck burger.
  • The drip tray collects all the fat and can go right into the dishwasher.
  • In addition to burgers, the unit can cook chicken, fish, veggies, etc.
  • The small size is great for kitchens with not a lot of counter space.
  •  
    The advantages are great; we have just one caveat: It doesn’t cook two adult-size burgers. The two burgers shown in the photo are kid-size. We were able to fit one four-inch patty (we bought them pre-shaped from the store) on the plate; the second one would have fallen partially outside the borders.

    We’re not complaining: It’s still a terrific way to cook burgers if you don’t need to do it in quantity. And if you hand-make your own patties, it’s not an issue.

    The grill launched this summer at Walmart for $24.99. We found it on Amazon for $29.02 (and received ours as a test sample).
     
    A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GEORGE FOREMAN GRILL

    George Foreman did not create the George Foreman grill. He lucked out, earning more from his endorsement of it than from his celebrated boxing career.

    When the inventor, Michael Boehm of Batavia, Illinois, pitched his product to manufacturers, it was called The Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine. He proposed heavyweight champion George Foreman as the spokesperson.

    Foreman was well-known for eating two reduced-fat hamburgers before every fight. Boehm sent a prototype of the grill to Foreman, who loved it. Salton signed on as the manufacturer and the appliance launched in 1994.

    The George Foreman Grill (there are now several designs) sold more than 100 million units in the first 15 years. Foreman himself was paid $137 million by Salton in 1999 for the use of his name. Prior to that, Wikipedia reports that he earned 40% of the profit on each grill sold—$4.5 million a month at the peak. [Source]
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Leeks

    When was the last time you cooked leeks?

    Leeks are closely related to onions and shallots, although they are not interchangeable in recipes, as their flavors and intensities differ.

  • Leeks look like jumbo green onions (scallions). The long, thick stalks are mild. Leeks are hardier than onions and shallots, and are also more difficult to clean and cook. Unlike onions, leeks don’t produce bulbs or grow underground.
  • Onions come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and tastes, from sweet and mild to pungent, spicy and even acrid. Easy to grow, it is used in cuisines worldwide. The bulb grows underground, revealing itself by a single, vertical shoot above ground.
  • Shallots look like small yellow onions, a bit more oblong in shape. They grow underground. Their flavor is onion-like—sharper when raw but much more sweet and delicate when cooked, an onion-garlic hybrid. Like garlic, the bulbs grow in cloves. Unlike onions, shallots normally bloom white or violet flowers.
  •  
    Leeks are often called “gourmet onions” because they are harder to find and costlier than onions. They can be prepared easily—boiled, braised, fried, sautéed or poached—or in elaborate recipes, or served raw as a milder substitute for onions.

       

    roast-leeks-latourangelle-230

    Roasted leeks are delicious, low in calories and easy to make. Photo courtesy La Tourangelle.

     

    The only rub is cleaning them. Leeks grow in sandy soil and don’t have a protective skin cover like onions and shallots; so you’ve got to be sure to get the sand out. Here’s a video showing how to clean leeks.

    Leeks are available throughout the year, although they are in greater supply from the fall through the early spring. Purchasing tips:

  • While larger leeks may look more impressive, they are generally more fibrous in texture. Select leeks with a diameter of one and one-half inches or less.
  • In a recipe where the leeks are cooked whole (like the one below), select leeks that are of similar size to ensure consistent cooking.
  •  
    Try this easy recipe from La Tourangelle, producers of the finest culinary oils and a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. The recipe tastes extra-special using their Roasted Walnut Oil or Roasted Hazelnut Oil, but is certainly delicious with EVOO. You can serve it as a side or a first course.
     
    RECIPE: ROASTED LEEKS WITH MUSTARD-TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds small leeks, trimmed, rinsed and halved lengthwise
  • 2.5 tablespoons walnut oil, hazelnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  •  

    leeks-organic-goodeggs-230ps-r

    Leeks, fresh from the field. Photo courtesy
    GoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Prepare an ice bath in a bowl.

    2. BRING a 2-quart pot of salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the leeks to the ice bath. Let chill completely, about 1 minute. Transfer the leeks to a paper towel-lined plate to drain about 3 minutes.

    3. DRIZZLE the leeks with the oil and toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet or baking pan and roast the leeks until they become slightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl…

    4. WHISK together the vinegar, mustard, garlic and lemon zest to make a vinaigrette.

    5. REMOVE the leeks from the oven and transfer to a platter. Spoon the vinaigrette over the leeks and garnish with the black pepper and tarragon. Serve hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!

     
    MORE LEEK RECIPES

  • Fried Leeks Garnish
  • Leek & Giblet Stuffing
  • Leek Soup
  • Leek & Seaweed Salad
  • Vichyssoise (leek and potato soup)
  •  
    ABOUT LEEKS

    Leeks are a member of the Allium genus, which includes garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions. Their botanical family, Amaryllidaceae, comprises herbaceous, perennial and bulbous flowering plants including the amaryllis, from which it takes its name.

    Leeks look like large scallions, having a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of superimposed layers that flows into green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves. Cultivated leeks are usually about 12 inches in length and one to two inches in diameter and feature a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of shallots but sweeter and more subtle.

    Wild leeks, known as ramps, are much smaller in size, but have a stronger, more intense flavor. They are available for a short period of time each year and are often widely sought out at farmers markets when they are in season.

    Believed to be native to Central Asia, leeks have been cultivated in there and in Europe for thousands of years. They were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were thought to be beneficial to the throat. The Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.

    The Romans most likely introduced leeks to Britain; they were so esteemed in Wales that they became country’s national emblem. As the story goes, during a battle against that Saxons in 1620, Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from the enemy—and won the battle, of course.

      

    Comments

    BOOK: 5-Minute Mug Cakes

    Trending in cakes these days: mug cake cookbooks. With a few ingredients, a microwave and a microwave-safe mug, you can have cake in five minutes.

  • First out of the gate is 5-Minute Mug Cakes, by Jennifer Lee.
  • Mug Cakes: Ready In 5 Minutes in the Microwave by Lene Knudsen will be published on October 7th, with 30 recipes.
  • 20 Microwave Mug Cake Recipes: Perfect for that sweet craving when you only have a few minutes! by Jenny Scott.
  •  
    These are books written for us. We often crave a piece of cake, but can’t keep it in the house (otherwise, a portion size becomes half a cake).

    So what better solution than mug cakes, microwaved in five minutes with standard ingredients?

    We have our hands on a copy of 5-Minute Mug Cakes. It has 3-5 times as many recipes as the other two—almost 100—and is a good place to start. You can treat yourself to a different cake every day for three months. Who needs a whole year with Julie And Julia?

     

    5-minute-mug-cakes-230

    Bake yourself a cake in a mug in five minutes. Photo courtesy Race Point Publishing.

     

    Every recipe is simple, fast and delicious. In minutes, you’ll be sinking your spoon into the cake you’ve been hankering for, such as:

  • Blueberry Muffin Streusel Cake
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
  • Flourless Nutella Cake
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Cake
  • Red Velvet Cake
  • Salted-Caramel Chocolate Cake
  • S’mores Cake
  • Strawberries & Cream Cake
  •  
    There are the basics, of course—vanilla, chocolate and lemon—and the sophisticates, such as Matcha Green Tea Cakes and Chocolate Stout Cake.

    For special interests, there are Breakfast Mug Cakes, Brownie Mug Cakes, 21 And Over Mug Cakes (with alcohol), Holiday Mug Cakes, Savory Mug Cakes, Skinny Mug Cakes (under 200 calories) and Gluten-Free Mug Cakes (and more).

    And if you mix your ingredients right in your favorite mug, clean-up is a cinch!

    The biggest decision: which one to make today. The contenders: Dulce de Leche Brownie Cake or Cookies and Cream Blondie Cake.

    Or perhaps we’ll invest another five minutes and make both!
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Orange Date Ice Cream

    orange-date-ice-cream-spiceislands-davidlebovitz-230

    Different and delicious: Orange Date Ice
    Cream. Photo courtesy SpiceIslands.com.

     

    Here’s something special for ice cream lovers: Date-Orange Ice Cream, a citrusy-sweet, sophisticated combination crafted by David Lebovitz for Spice Islands. He happened upon a sale on dates and created what he calls “a uniquely delicious cross between a classic Creamsicle and exotic dates.”

    If you want to dial up the orange flavor, says David, use an orange-flavored liqueur with the dates. You can also add a tablespoon of rum or orange-flavored liqueur to the custard just before churning.

    RECIPE: ORANGE DATE ICE CREAM

    Ingredients For 1 Quart

  • 5 ounces pitted dates, snipped into pieces
  • 1/3 cup dark rum or orange-flavored liqueur
  • 4 teaspoons Spice Islands orange peel
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • big pinch of salt
  • 1-1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands pure vanilla extract
  •  

    Preparation

    1. Combine the dates, rum (or orange-flavored liqueur) and orange peel in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture gently and let simmer for about a minute, or until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, then cover and set aside.

    (You can do this the day before.)

    2. To make the ice cream, combine the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.

    3. Pour the cream into a medium-sized bowl, set a mesh strainer over the top and nest the bowl in a bigger bowl of ice.

    4. In a small bowl, whisk the yolks together.

    5. Warm the milk until the sugar is dissolved. Once warm, slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour.

     

    medjool-dates-bowl-murrays-230

    Dates—“nature’s candy”—are delicious for snacking and with cheese. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    6. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture just begins to thicken and coats the spatula. Do not overcook.

    7. Immediately pour the mixture through the strainer into the cream, add the vanilla and stir to cool. Once cool, chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

    8. Freeze the ice cream mixture in your ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once churned, fold in the macerated dates and orange peel, along with any liquid that might still be in the pan. Chill in the freezer before scooping.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Wine Glass Types

    red-white-champagne-brinvy.biz-230

    Ideally, you’ll have three wine-specific
    glasses for red, white and sparkling. Photo
    courtesy Brinvy.biz.

     

    “Why the different shapes and sizes of wine glasses?” writes a reader. “Can’t I just use one generic glass?”

    The bottom line is: You can serve wine in a juice glass, if that’s what you have. It’s how wine is served in many working class eateries the world over.

    Just as you can drink soup from a bowl or a mug, you can drink wine from a tea cup, a vessel used by some during Prohibition lest the neighbors spot them drinking alcohol.

    But for more elegant consumption that helps show off the qualities of the wine, three different shapes work best. Here’s why:

    Larger Bowl Wine Glasses For Red Wine

    Red wine glasses hold a minimum of 12 ounces. The wider bowl shape allows the wine to breathe more, opening up the flavors of red wine.

    Those balloon glasses at 24 ounces may look impressive and appeal to major imbibers; but they take extra space to store, extra care to wash, and are more showy than useful.

     
    Narrower Bowl Wine Glasses For White Wine

    White wine glasses range between 10 and 12 ounces. The shape’s narrower bowl helps to keep the wine cool longer.
     

    Flutes For Sparkling Wine

    Champagne and other sparkling wines are best served in an 8- to 12-ounce flute. The narrow shape keeps the bubbles from dissipating quickly (which is exactly what happens in a Champagne coupe), and focuses the bubbles to rise in a festive display.

    In some better stemware lines, tiny dimples are etched into the bottom of the bowl, which produce more bubbles and help to improve the way it tastes.

    In fact, the added effervescence increases the volatile compounds that are released when the bubbles burst, enhancing the bouquet.

     

    The Science Of Stemware

    For some time, the design of the best wine glasses has been a matter of science. At Riedel, the pioneer in stemware engineering and the glass of choice among connoisseurs, the bowls are designed to show off the qualities of each style of wine, enhancing the flavors and aromas. It’s scientific, and it works (it’s easy to do a side-by-side comparison between Riedel and a generic glass).
     
    More Wine Glass Tips

    Stems. The stem length will vary based on the designer. While tall stems look elegant, they may not be the most comfortable to hold. Also consider if they will fit easily into your cabinet and, if you hope to wash them mechanically, your dishwasher. On a similar plane, novelty stems—in the shape of cubes or diamonds, for example—are not as easy to hold.

    Bowl designs. Avoid colors and designs. If you’re serious about wine, you need to be able to focus on the subtleties of its color.

    Engineering. Experts look for thinner glass and a lip that curves in slightly to focus the aroma.

    A final tip: Wine glasses should be filled only about two-thirds full, not to the brim.

     

    riedel-assorted-reds-230

    Riedel engineers each glass to show of the quality of the varietal—Cabernet versus Zinfandel, for example. Photo courtesy Riedel USA.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Gourmet Potato Tots (A.K.A. Tater Tots)

    sandwich-tater-tots-redduckketchup-230

    Heaven: sandwich, beer, potato tots. Photo
    courtesy Red Duck Ketchup.

     

    They’re not quite senior citizens, but Tater Tots® hit the big 6-0 this year. You could buy a box to celebrate, or you could make your own, tastier tots—bite-size potato croquettes—from scratch.

    The Idaho Potato Commission salutes the tot as both an inspired potato product and a springboard for potato creativity. Its website boasts a collection of innovative tot recipes and variations on the theme.

    For example, enhance the potato mixture with:

    ROBUST SEASONINGS

  • Aromatics, such as truffles
  • Herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme)
  • Onion or scallion—lots more than in Tater Tots*
  •  
    ELABORATE STUFFINGS

    Stuffed Tots with elaborate fillings:

  • Simple proteins (crumbled bacon, shredded crab, Parmesan, blue cheese)
  • Braised pork
  • Curried chicken
  •  
    HEARTY TOPPINGS

  • Breakfast scrambles
  • Chili
  • Nachos
  • Poutine (brown gravy and cheese curds†)
  •  
    *The ingredients in Tater Tots are potato, vegetable oil, salt, corn flour, onions, dextrose (a simple sugar also known as glucose), disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (an antioxidant that prevents potatoes from turning brown) and natural flavoring.

    *Traditional poutine consists of these toppings on fries, but we’re borrowing them for tots.
     

    TATER TOTS VS. POTATO TOTS

    The term Tater Tots is used generically, like Kleenex; although it’s a trademark of Ore-Ida, which invented the little potato bites in 1953. If you’re referring to anything but the Tater Tots brand, call them “potato tots.”

    Tater Tots are made from deep-fried, grated potatoes, resulting in crisp little cylinders of hash brown-style potatoes. Tater is American dialect for potato, and “tots” came from their small size.

    Ore-Ida founders, brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg, were considering what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes from their signature French fries. They chopped them up, mixed them with flour and seasonings, and pushed logs of the grated/mashed potato mixture through a form, slicing off and frying small pieces.

    Tater Tots began to arrive in grocery stores in 1954. They quickly caught on as a snack food, a side dish and the foundation for casseroles at dinner tables across America.

    The Ore-Ida brand was acquired by H. J. Heinz Company in 1965.

     

    LOADED POTATO TOTS

    This potato tot recipe borrows from the “loaded baked potato” concept, adding bacon, chives, shredded cheese and sour cream.

    Ingredients

  • 2½ pounds russet potatoes, divided
  • 2 ounces bacon, double-smoked, cooked, chopped
  • 6 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 ounce butter, melted
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt, as needed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 each eggs, lightly whipped
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
  •  

    loaded-potato-tots-idahopotatocomm-230r

    Loaded Potato Tots. Photo and recipe courtesy Idaho Potato Commission.

     

    Preparation

    1. BOIL 2 pounds of potatoes. Cool, peel and mash.

    2. COMBINE bacon, cheese, chives, butter, cream, pepper and salt to taste in a large bowl; blend well. Roll into 1-ounce pieces, place on wax paper-lined sheet pan and chill overnight.

    3. SHRED remaining potatoes, using a box grater, into a shallow bowl.

    4. PLACE flour in another shallow bowl. Roll potato tots in flour to lightly coat then coat in egg. Roll in shredded potatoes to form crust. Return to sheet pan and chill.

    5. HEAT oil to 375°F in a heavy-bottomed pot, and fry balls until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel to drain. Season with salt and serve.
     

    AND THERE’S MORE

  • Recipe: Baked Potato Tots
  • History of potatoes
  • Potato Types
  •   

    Comments

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