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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

RECIPE: Raw Scallops With Grapefruit

raw-scallops-grapefruit-estela-glen-allsop-230r

Raw scallops and grapefruit. Use dill or fennel fronds for decoration. Photo by Glen Allsop courtesy Estela Restaurant | NYC.

 

Before the tastiest citrus goes away until next season, consider this super-easy yet elegant (and low-calorie!) first course. Estela Restaurant in New York City made it with small “cocktail” grapefruits, but we added some blood orange (rosy red) and cara cara orange (deep pink) for color.

Sauvignon blanc white wines are known for their grapefruit or grassy notes. We poured one of each style—a grapefruity wine from California, a grassy one from France—although you’ll need to consult your wine store if you want to be sure your wines have these flavor profiles.

A drizzle of olive oil, expecially a grassy one, is a great complement.

RECIPE: RAW SCALLOPS WITH CITRUS

Ingredients

  • Sea scallops, the largest you can find
  • Citrus of choice (blood orange, cara cara orange, pink/red/white grapefruit)
  • Sea salt
  • Seasoning of choice: chili flakes or fresh-ground pepper, fresh dill, other favorite
  • Optional condiment: extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional garnish: dill sprig or citrus zest
  • Preparation

    1. PEEL the citrus and remove the pith. Slice the fruit into widths that will match the scallops (to the extent possible).

    2. RINSE the scallops and slice horizontally. Your can choose how thick or thin to slice them, but aim for four slices per scallop.

    3. PLATE the fruit and scallops. Depending on their comparative sizes, you can plate them as shown in the photo, or place the scallops atop the sliced fruit.

    4. DRIZZLE a small amount of the optional olive oil over the food, or in a circle or droplets around it. Sprinkle with sea salt and optional chili flakes. Garnish as desired (you can grate citrus zest over the dish, or sprinkle it around the rim of the plate) and serve.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Beer Styles

    Yesterday was National Bock Beer Day, coinciding with the first day of spring. It’s a holiday declaration that makes sense: bock beer is a spring beer.

    There’s a lot of media attention to eating seasonally; less so to drinking seasonally.

    So today we’re starting the first in our seasonal beer recommendations. By the end of the year, you’ll have them all, including summer beer, fall beer and winter beer.

    Some people drink the same beer year-round. But aficionados know to look for the “seasonals,” as they’re known in the trade. America’s craft brewers have made plenty for you to choose from.

    Spring beers are brewed with brighter flavors, sharper textures to bridge the gap between the stronger cold-weather beers and the lighter summer styles. Brewers use different hops, malts, spices and brewing styles to create fresh flavors and crisp textures.

    It takes 3 months to assemble the ingredients, brew the beer and let it mature before release. So these are beers that are brewed in the winter, to be released and in the spring:

     

    blue-amber-ale-TBD-230

    Irish ale, brewed to be ready for spring.

  • Blonde Ale
  • Belgian Wit/White Beer
  • Bock Beer (including Doppelbock and Maibock)
  • Fruit Beer (framboise with raspberries, kriek with cherries, etc.)
  • Green Beer novelties for St. Patrick’s Day (typically lager with food color)
  • India Pale Ale/American Pale Ale
  • Irish Ale and Irish Stout
  • Saison, a Belgian ale
  • Wheat Beer, a.k.a. Hefeweizen, Weisse and Weizen
  •  
    Thanks to brewer Greg Smith of Beersmith.com for his guidance.

    Now, how about a tasting party to share the different spring styles with your pals?

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Bock Beer Day

    sam-adams-double-bock-juliatomases-230ps

    A double bock beer from Samuel Adams, shown with a scattering of the hops used to brew it. Photo by Julia Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Bock is the German word for strong, referring to a strong beer brewed from barley malt. It’s a dark, heavy, rich, sweet, complex beer, similar to Münchener* beers, but stronger. A true bock-style beer has a foam collar “thick enough to steady a pencil.”

    Bock is a style that originated in Saxony (capital Dresden), on the eastern border of central Germany, adjacent to Poland and the Czech Republic.

    Originally used to celebrate the end of the brewing season† (May), bock beer (Bockbier in German) was brewed in the winter for consumption in the spring.

    It was originally brewed by top fermentation in the Hanseatic League‡ town of Einbeck (beck bier became bock bier) in Lower Saxony, where it is still brewed and known as Ur-Bock, the original bock.

    But the style has evolved. Initially brewed with top fermenting yeast (“ale yeast”), German bock beers are now brewed by bottom fermentation (with “lager yeast,” which weren’t discovered until the 15th century). and are usually dark brown.

    A modern bock can range from light copper to brown in color. There are varieties that can be very different in style:

     

  • Doppelbock (double bock), a stronger and maltier recipe.
  • Eisbock (ice bock), a much stronger variety made by partially freezing the beer and removing the ice, thus concentrating the flavor.
  • Maibock (pronounced MY-bock), also called helles bock or heller bock, a paler, more hopped version generally made for consumption at spring festivals (hence Mai, the German word for May).
  •  
    Pale bocks are increasing in popularity, and a distinction is sometimes made between light bock beer and dark bock beer. Because the word bock also means billy goat in German, a goat is often found on the labels of bock beer brands.

     
    *Munich is the capital of Bavaria, in southeast Germany; the German name is München. A Münchener is a beer from Munich; for example, Münchener Dunkel, a full-bodied, malty and sweet-style dark lager beer that is a model for other Bavarian-style beers.

    †Modern refrigeration enabled brewers to make a uniform product year round. Previously, brewers had to work with the natural temperature of caves to provide an environment cold enough for the yeast to ferment. As a result, styles evolved to work with seasonal temperatures (lighter beers in the summer, for example).

    ‡The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds in Northern Europe. Created to protect commercial interests and privileges, it existed from the 13th through 17th centuries.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Snappers ~ Pretzels, Chocolate & Caramel

    March Madness is underway. At THE NIBBLE, it’s not just about rooting for your favorite college team(s). It’s what to snack on while you’re watching the games.

    Made by the third generation of a family whose grandparents established a soda fountain and confectionery in Pittsburgh, Snappers are a sweet-and-salty snack made from rectangular pretzels, drizzled with chocolate and caramel. Yum!

    You can find them in:

  • Original Snappers
  • Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Snappers, with a sprinkling of sea salt
  • Peanut Pretzel Snappers, with salted peanuts added to the mix
  •  
    The 6-ounce bags are available nationwide at Target stores and other major retailers including Albertsons, Costco, Giant and Jewel-Osco. Here’s the longer list of retailers.

    At $3.99 a bag, Snappers hit the spot!

     

    snappers-with-football-230r-2

    Snappers are in our snack bracket. Photo courtesy Snappers.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Gluten-Free Walkers Shortbread

    walkers-gf-shortbread-plate-juliatomases-230

    Our favorite Walkers Shortbread is chock-full
    of chocolate chips. Photo by Julia Tomases |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    Good news for gluten-free followers: Scotland’s Walkers Shortbread, beloved by many, now has GF options. And they’re delicious: the same pure buttery shortbread flavor, freed of gluten:

  • Gluten Free Pure Butter Shortbread, the classic
  • Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Shortbread, our favorite (because what cookie can’t be made even better with the addition of chocolate chips?)
  • Gluten Free Ginger & Lemon Shortbread, made with stem ginger
  • The company worked on the recipes for a long time, to maintain the traditional flavor of Walkers Shortbread without compromise on texture and flavor.

    Every batch is tested to be sure it meets the FDA standard* for gluten free food.

    Founded in 1898, the family owned company still bakes the shortbread, cookies and oatcakes in their home village of Aberlour, in the Scottish Highlands. It’s the leading brand of food exported from Scotland.

     
    Walkers products are fit for royalty: In 2002, by Royal Warrant of Appointment, Walkers became the official supplier of oatcakes to Her Majesty the Queen.

    The line is all natural and certified OU-D kosher. Discover more at US.WalkersShortbread.com.

    Approximately 2 million people in the U.S. suffer from celiac* disease, and another 18 million have gluten sensitivity. Still others choose to eat a gluten-free diet.

    And now, that diet can include shortbread!
     
    *Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people. The ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat Sunny Food

    It’s no fun looking out the window on the first day of spring, waiting for the snowfall to begin. So to counter the gray skies and eat something bright and sunny.

    Anticipating the weather, we acquired a ripe papaya and other fruits for this recipe from Hannah Kaminsky, who is wintering in Hawaii.

    “At the Salted Lemon Smoothie & Juice Bar,” she writes, “they’ve perfected the art of building an unsinkable papaya boat. Local orange and pink-hued fruits, more brilliant than a sunrise in paradise, are hollowed out and stuffed to the brim with granola, yogurt, banana slices and blueberries, and finished with a light shower of chia seeds.

    “The contrast between creamy yogurt and crunchy cereal, flavored with the ripe and juicy fresh fruits, is so simple yet so satisfying,” she concludes.

    And on a day like today, in the gloomy Northeast, it provides something bright that says “Happy spring!”

    RECIPE: PAPAYA BOAT

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 medium or large papaya, peeled and seeded
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1 6-ounce yogurt, fruit, plain or vanilla
  • 1 medium banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries or raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  •    

    papaya-boat-hannahkaminsky-230

    Have papaya as part of a sunny breakfast or lunch. Photo © Hanna Kaminsky.

  • Optional: sweetener to taste* (agave, honey, maple syrup)
  •  

    *If the fruit isn’t sweet enough.

     

    papaya-cut-hannahkaminsky-230

    A halved papaya with a fanciful cut. Photo ©
    Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    Preparation

    1. DIVIDE a half cup of granola between two plates to set up a “foundation” for the papaya boat. This will help prevent it from capsizing when you eat it, and it also provides a layer of crunchy cereal to enjoy.

    2. PLACE the remaining granola inside the papaya halves (1/4 cup inside of each) and top that with the yogurt, spooning equal amounts into the two boats.

    3. ARRANGE the sliced banana and berries as desired. Top with a sprinkle of chia seeds.

    4. FINISH with a light drizzle of syrup as desired.
     
    HOW TO BUY PAPAYA

    1. When papaya ripens, the green skin will turn mostly yellow with patches of red. Smell the fruit at the stem end; a ripe papaya will be fragrant.

     
    2. Squeeze the papaya gently; it will give a little if it is ripe. Avoid papayas that are overly soft. You can ripen the papaya on the counter in a brown paper bag overnight, or place it in a sunny spot for a day or two.

    3. You can refrigerate a ripe papaya in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 3 days.
     
    CAN YOU EAT PAPAYA SEEDS?

    You can use papaya in any number of recipes, or simply eat it like a melon. Wash the outside, cut the fruit lengthwise and discard the seeds.

    But do the seeds have any other use?

    While there is no scientific evidence, in some circles the seeds have caught on as a potential health food. They are nontoxic, should you want to try them.

    You can eat papaya seeds whole, or can grind them up. Here’s how to do it from WikiHow, which claims that the taste is “fairly similar” to ground pepper.

    The skin should not be eaten.
     
    MORE SUNNY FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Yellow/Orange fruits: apples, apricots, cape gooseberries, cantaloupe, golden kiwi, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges/mandarins, papapyas, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapples, tangerines, yellow figs, yellow watermelon.
  • Yellow/Orange vegetables: acorn/butternut/pumpkin/other squash varieties, beets, bell peppers, carrots, corn, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, summer squash, Yukon gold/other yellow potatoes, yellow tomatoes, yellow winter squash varieties.
  • Red/pink fruits: apples, blood oranges, cherries, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, pears, pomegranates, raspberries, red pears, strawberries, watermelon.
  • Red/pink vegetables: beets, bell peppers, radicchio, radishes, red onions, red potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes.
  •   

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Angry Orchard Hard Cider (Hop’n Mad Apple)

    Some people are beer people, others are cider people. We’re both. Our beer style of preference is the IPA: Bring on the hops; the more, the better.

    So we were one of the happiest cider drinkers when Angry Orchard released its new Hop’n Mad Apple hard cider.

    The cider makers drew inspiration from the hops used to make beer. It wasn’t a stretch: Angry Orchard is owned by Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams. (It also suggests why, first launched in 2012, Angry Orchard is the number one selling hard cider in the U.S.)

    It’s an international affair, adding two type of imported hops to American cider apples. Strisselspalt hops from France contribute subtle citrus, herbal and floral notes to the cider; Galaxy hops from Australia impart bright, juicy tropical notes like pineapple and mango.

    The hops are added to the cider post-fermentation—a process known in the brewing world as dry hopping—to create a fresh hop aroma and a pleasant dry finish without any bitterness. The result is apply, hoppy and delicious, and is now our favorite* of the Angry Orchard cider.

    Find the retailer nearest you at AngryOrchard.com.

       

    angry-orchard-hop-n-mad-france44-230

    We’re hop’n glad for Hop’n Mad hard apple cider. Photo courtesy Angry Orchard.

     

    *The Angry Orchard line currently includes Apple Ginger, Cider House, Cinnful Apple, Crisp Apple, Green Apple, Hop’n Mad Apple, Summer Honey and Traditional Dry.
     
    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CIDER

    Here’s the history of hard cider from Angry Orchard. The history starts with the apples needed to make cider. Here’s the full history, with excerpts below.

  • 1500 B.C.E. A tablet found in Mesopotamia dating to this time documents the first recorded sale of an apple orchard. The price: three prized breeder sheep.
  • 1300 B.C.E. Egyptian pharaoh Ramses The Great orders apples to be grown in the Nile Delta.
  • 55 B.C.E. Cider was a popular drink in Roman times. Julius Caesar himself enjoyed the occasional glass (his drink of choice was wine). Caesar’s legions carry apple seeds with them. As they conquered Continental Europe, they planted apple orchards to replace the native crabapples.
  • 400 C.E. The Dark Ages were bright times for cider. Grapes didn’t grow as well in the northern regions of Europe, so gardens and orchards grew apples. Cider becomes a popular alternative to wine in the regions of Brittany and Normandy at the north of France, and throughout Britannia (Roman Britain).
  •  

    cider-apples-foxwhelp-cider.org.uk-230

    Cider apples may look like eating apples, but they have far less sugar and are not enjoyable to humans. The reverse is true with eating apples: They don’t make good cider. Photo courtesy Cider.org.uk.

     
  • 1066 C.E. The Norman Conquest of England brings many new apple varieties from France. Cider quickly becames a most popular drink in England, second only to ale.
  • 1620 C.E. Pilgrims headed to America bring apple seeds and cider-making equipment. Three days into the voyage from Plymouth, the Mayflower hist a storm and cracks a beam. They almost turned back, but are able to find a “great screw,” believed to be part of a cider press, to hold up the beam.
  • 1650 C.E. Early American orchards produce few apples because there are no honey bees to efficiently pollinate the trees. Bees are shipped from England to Virginia and Massachusetts to help apple production take off.
  • 1789 C.E. Cider is all the rage with the founding fathers. Washington and Jefferson own apple orchards and produce their own cider. It is rumored that John Adams drinks a tankard of cider with breakfast every morning.
  • 1800 C.E. John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, establishes apple orchards throughout the Midwest. While his goal is to plant enough trees so that no one would ever go hungry, because he collects the seeds from cider mills, his plantings actually produce cider apples.
  •  

  • 1900 C.E. Waves of German and Eastern European immigrants arrive in the U.S. With their love for beer, cider’s popularity begins to wane.
  • 1910 C.E. The Temperance movement encourages many farmers to give up growing cider apples.
  • 1919 C.E. All alcohol production and consumption is declared illegal by the Volstead Act.
  • 1933 C.E. Prohibition ends. Breweries and distillers get back into production with imported ingredients, but orchards cannot easily switch back to cider apples.
  • 2010 C.E. American cider undergoes a renaissance. In five years, sales increase some 400%, with craft producers leading the way.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Joy Of Cheddar

    We love cheese, but cheese doesn’t love us. After a lifetime of eating it three times a day, we developed lactose intolerance—no cause and effect, just one of those things that can happen when the bloom of youth fades away.

    Depending on how lactose intolerant you are, you can eat aged cheeses. The older the cheese, the more the lactose has dissipated, to just 2%, depending on the cheese. But for the truly afflicted (including us), that’s 2% too much*.

    The only cheese that is naturally lactose-free is Cheddar. Through the process of cheddaring†, the last bit of lactose is consumed in production. We can eat it to our heart’s delight.

    We always liked Cheddar, but our cheese passions lay elsewhere: blues, chèvres, double- and triple-crèmes. So we went on a Cheddar safari, first trying the dozen different Cheddars in the cheese case at Trader Joe’s.

    These included plain Cheddars—mild, sharp and extra-sharp—and flavored Cheddars, variously blended with bacon, chive, horseradish, jalapeño, onion, scallion, wasabi, wine/spirits and other inclusions. There’s also goat Cheddar.

    The king of flavored Cheddars, which we discovered elsewhere, seems to be Yancy’s Fancy of New York State, which makes some 24 flavored Cheddars, including Buffalo Wing, Grilled Bacon Cheeseburger, Pepperoni and Strawberry. One day, we’ll gather them all and have a heck of a tasting party.

       

    amber-onion-cheddar-ig-230b

    iGourmet sells this delicious Cheddar with caramelized onions, also known as Abbot’s Gold. It’s made by Wensleydale Creamery in the U.K. Photo courtesy iGourmet.

     

    *Thanks to Erin Berardinelli, who wrote to tell us of mold allergy, a condition that can generate a bad reaction to the aged cheeses—as “young” as three months. If you’re reacting badly to aged cheeses but not to other dairy, have it checked out.

    †Cheddaring is an additional step unique to the production of Cheddar cheese. After heating, the curd is kneaded with salt, cut into cubes to drain the whey and then stacked and turned.

     
    OUR “CHEDDAR SAFARI” WINNER

    After weeks of tasting the world of Cheddar—from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S. and the U.K.—favorites emerged.

    But our passion of the moment is the flavored English Cheddar With Caramelized Onions, imported by Trader Joe’s. Rich and creamy, full-bodied and redolent of the most delightful caramelized onion sweetness, it is addictive—one of those foods we call “love at first bite.”

    Trader Joe doesn’t disclose which Dorset producer makes this full-bodied farmhouse Cheddar, but it’s a “famed farm” with “more than 40 years of traditional cheese making experience.”

    The addition of caramelized onions was inspired by a classical British ploughman’s lunch pairing—cheese and chutney. The cheesemakers mixed caramelized onion marmalade into the Cheddar. The marmalade itself is made with cane sugar, cider vinegar, red currant juice, lemon juice, clove, cinnamon, sugar, ginger and olive oil.

    The result is a balanced sweet-savory flavor with honeyed notes and a pleasing onion aroma. The marmalade makes it a bit crumbly, like a mature Cheddar.

     

    cheddar-caramelized-onions-TraderJoe-230ps2

    Our new passion: Cheddar with caramelized onions. Photo courtesy Trader Joe’s.

     

    HOW WE USED THE CHEDDARS

    Every Cheddar fan has a favorite use, often on on burgers and sandwiches, including grilled cheese.

    Ours is as a snack or a light meal with with a Honeycrisp apple or other fruit, or a slice or two of Dave’s Killer Bread.

    Given the amount of Cheddar we had on hand, we also shredded it atop casseroles, chilis and soups; made fondue and cheese sauce; served lots of cheese plates to visitors; and had it for dessert with a piece of apple pie.

    We also made Cheddar pizzas, variously with apple, meatball and vegetable toppings. We made Cheddar soup and cauliflower Cheddar soup. And we stuffed shredded Cheddar into grilled portabello mushroom caps, then returned them to the broiler to melt.

     
    A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF CHEDDAR

    Cheddar has been called the “cheese of kings.” Records show that in 1170, King Henry II declared Cheddar the best cheese in England, and purchased more than five tons of it. His son, Prince John, who became king in 1199, purchased a similar quantity in 1184. U.S. President Andrew Jackson (in office In 1829-1837) once held an open house party at the White House at which he served a 1,400-pound block of Cheddar.

    Cheddar is a hard, sharp cheese, with a paste that ranges from off-white to pale yellow to deep orange, depending on the amount of annatto added (more about that in a minute). Originating in the Somerset County village of Cheddar in southwest England, it is the most popular type of cheese in the U.K. and accounts for more than half of English cheese production.

    The cheese is now made worldwide, and only one producer remains in the village of Cheddar itself. The name is not protected‡ under the EU Protected Food Names program; so cheese made anywhere can be called Cheddar. However:

  • West Country Farmhouse Cheddar has a PDO (Protected domain of Origin) that covers Cheddars made in the traditional manner (raw milk, calf rennet and a cloth wrapping) in the southwest England counties of Somerset, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset.
  • Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar gained PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status.
  •  
    The rich, nutty flavor notes become increasingly sharp with age. The smooth, firm texture of young Cheddar becomes more granular and crumbly with age.
     
    AMERICA’S FIRST CHEESE

    According to Widmer Cheese, a major U.S. producer of fine Cheddar, prior to 1850 nearly all the cheese produced in the U.S. was Cheddar. Cheddar production in Wisconsin, the leader in U.S. Cheddar production, began in the mid 1800s.

    A yellow food coloring (annatto) was originally added to distinguish where the Cheddar was made. In the U.S., Cheddars made in the New England states traditionally retaining the natural white color. There is no difference in flavor as a result of added coloring.

    Aging is the only difference between mild and sharp Cheddar. The longer cheese is aged naturally, the sharper and more pronounced the Cheddar flavor becomes.

  • Mild Cheddar is generally aged for 2 to 3 months.
  • Extra sharp Cheddar can be aged for as long as a year.
  • Cheddars in the U.S. with names such as “private stock” or “reserved” are aged for 15 months or longer.
  • In the U.K., “vintage” refers to a strong, extra-mature Cheddar aged for 16 months. In the U.S., Cabot’s Vintage Choice is aged for at least 2 years.
  • You can find Cheddars aged up to 10 years. We’ve never had one, but they’re supposed to be magnificent. The price is about double, to pay for the extra years of storage and tied-up cash.
  •  
    Here’s a more substantial history of Cheddar.

     
    ‡Protected Designation Of Origin, or PDO, is a trademark issued by the European Union that guarantees that a product is produced, prepared and processed in a designated geographical area, according to specified practices. There is also Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which guarantees geographical area only. Both designations provide legal protection against imitators, and both can use an EU logo of authenticity on their packaging. Purchasing a PDO product guarantees a consistent product experience and an established standard of excellence; the PGI designation guarantees it comes from the its area of origin (Scotch Whisky, for example, is a PGI). But it seems that there is no guild of Cheddar producers to do the same for all U.K. Cheddars.

      

    Comments

    TIP: The New Linguine & Clam “Sauce”

    If you make linguine and clam sauce the way most Americans do—with canned clams—try it the way they serve it at Olio e Piú in New York City.

    Eight whole steamed clams surround a plate of linguine.

    The linguine is cooked and tossed in olive oil with fresh parsley and placed in the center of the plate.

    The clams, lightly cooked in a garlic broth, surround the linguine. EVOO is poured into the other half of each clam shell.

    In our interpretation of this dish, we made clams in garlic broth (vongole in brodetto). We also grilled up a side of crostini; the crunch of the bread is a nice counterpoint to the soft pasta and clams, and the arugula adds some color to the plate. You can substitute your favorite garlic bread recipe.

    RECIPE: LINGUINE & CLAMS

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for tossing with the pasta
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons red chili pepper flakes
  • 8-10 clams in shell per person
  • 1-1/4 cups white wine
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 package linguine (or fresh linguine)
  •    

    linguine-alla-vongole-clam-olionyc-230

    A modern interpretation of linguine and clam sauce. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | NYC.

     

    For The Garlic Crostini

  • 1 baguette, sliced into 1-inch-thick pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 to 1 cup ricotta
  • 1-2 cups baby arugula, cleaned and dried
  •  

    ricotta-truffle-oil-arugula-blackpepper-olionyc-230

    Garlic-ricotta-arugula crostini. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | NYC.

     

    Preparation

    First, make the clams in garlic broth.

    1. WASH the clams to remove any dirt or sand.

    2. COOK the clams. In a heavy pot over moderate heat, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown (about three minutes). Add the salt, pepper and chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

    3. INCREASE the heat to moderately high and add the clams, white wine, water and thyme. Cover and bring to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the clams open (5 to 7 minutes). Discard clams that do not open. Drain the clams and toss with the chopped parsley.

    4. MAKE the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss lightly with olive oil and a pinch of salt. While the pasta cooks, grill the bread:

     

    5. PREHEAT the broiler or grill to high. Brush the crostini slices on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Grill, flipping once, until golden brown and crisp. While the bread is grilling…

    6. SEASON the ricotta with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the crostini from the broiler/grill and rub each slice on the top side with the raw garlic. Spread with ricotta and top with arugula.

    6. PLATE the pasta in a mound in the center of the plate. Serve clams with the crostini.

      

    Comments

    RESTAURANT: Vermillion

    Last night, while others were enjoying corned beef and cabbage with green beer, we broke with tradition in a big way.

    We dined at Vermillion in midtown Manhattan. The soaring, bi-level space is the New York branch of the Chicago Vermillion established by Rohini Dey, a former international banker and McKinsey consultant.

    Serving a unique Indian-Latin fusion menu, the flavors and presentation are as stylish as Ms. Dey herself. First, the cuisine:

    In a complete relaunch of the menu, Ms. Dey’s concept to fuse the two colorful cuisines has been interpreted by co-executive chefs Anup Patwal and Aseema Mamaji from India, and sous chef Javier Alvarez from Latin America. The gifted young team brings verve, energy and an elegant touch to the food.

    Beyond the flavorful, there’s a “wow” experience in the presentation. Thought has been given to turning each dish into culinary art; whether it’s a specially crafted chrome rack from which four different types of kabobs hang in alluring fashion, or a slice of tree trunk used as a charger.

     

    caldeirada-de-peixe-vermillion-230

    Caldeirada de peixe, a traditional Brazalian seafood stew accented with Indian spices and a side of coconut rice. Photo courtesy Vermillion Restaurant.

     

    Absolutely everything demands to be consumed. Even garnishes of pickled red onion or green chile are exciting. We didn’t leave a scrap on the plate!

    The seasonings are spectacular. There’s just enough of the custom-blended spices and heat to blend perfectly, appropriately understated without providing a punch not wanted in fine dining. It’s not often that we encounter such finesse with spices. Kudos to the chefs!

    In addition to fusion dishes, there’s a menu of classic Indian entrées. There is nothing we don’t want to try, and we can’t wait to go back.

    While dinner can cost what you’d expect for such fine cuisine, lunch is quite affordable: two courses for $20 or three courses for $24.

    Wine tip: The Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, made with grapes from Washington’s Columbia Valley, is perfect with the cuisine. Off-dry, with notes of sweet lime, peach and subtle minerality, it is a charming complement to the spice and heat.

    There’s a comfortable cocktail lounge downstairs and a private dining room upstairs, on the main dining floor. The restaurant is at 480 Lexington Avenue at 46th Street. Visit the company website or call for reservations: 212-871-6600.

      

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