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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: Millet, A Gluten Free Whole Grain

Today’s tip comes from Bob’s Red Mill, where there’s always something new and delicious to discover. Our recent discovery: millet, a gluten free, ancient whole grain.

Easily used as a replacement for rice and bulgur wheat with millet in a salad with dates and pistachio to benefit from the whole grain, gluten free and high protein goodness. The nutty sweet flavor is an added bonus!

Millet, an ancient grain, was first farmed some 10,000 years ago in East Asia. A staple crop in Asia and Africa—then and now—it was revered as one of five sacred crops in ancient China. It’s mentioned in the Old Testament, the writings of Herodotus and the journals of Marco Polo.

Millet grows well in poor, droughty and infertile soils, and are more reliable than most other grain crops under these conditions.

It fell out of fashion in the cuisines of America and Europe, but it’s always been available in health food stores. A small, round, yellow seed, you also find it in natural food stores like Whole Foods Market, and in many general grocery stores.

Millet has a mild, sweet flavor and cooks quickly, making it a tasty, convenient whole grain for sides, salads and stir fries. Its light flavor enables it to be prepared as a sweet or savory recipe. In addition to fiber, it’s packed with B vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.

The most widely cultivated species include, in order:

   

millet-horiz-bobsredmill-230r

Millet, a grain to discover. Photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill.

  • Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), what you’re most likely to find in the U.S.
  • Foxtail millet (Setaria italica)
  • Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), also called broom corn millet, common millet, hog millet and white millet)
  • Finger millet (Eleusine coracana)
  •  
    Easy Ways To Enjoy Millet

  • Breakfast: Substitute millet for a bowl of oatmeal; bake raw millet seeds into breads and muffins for a healthful crunch.
  • Salad: Substitute millet in any grain salad; add a scoop as a garnish for a green salad or cooked vegetables.
  • Side: Serve millet with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh-cracked pepper and an optional sprinkle of grated Parmesan. We also enjoyed a side of millet, chopped dates and pistachio nuts.
  •  

    millet-spring-roll-salad-bobsredmill-230L

    Millet salad: Serve it as a side or top with a
    grilled protein. Photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill.

     

    RECIPE: MILLET STIR-FRY

    Use this recipe from Bob’s Red Mill to turn a simple stir-fry into something special, replacing rice with millet. You can add an optional protein (chicken, tofu, etc.).

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup millet
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 large head of broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced carrot
  • 5 ounces canned water chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup cashew pieces
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BRING water and salt to a boil in a pot. Add millet and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 35-40 minutes.

    2. COMBINE soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey and cornstarch. Set aside

    3. HEAT oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; cook for 1 minute. Add broccoli, carrots and water chestnuts. Cook until vegetables are al dente to tender, depending on preference, 7-10 minutes. Add millet and cashews.

    4. POUR soy sauce mix over the stir-fry and cook until the sauce is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.
     
     
    MORE MILLET RECIPES

    Here are three delicious recipes from Bob’s Red Mill:

  • Millet Salad, a combination of grain and crunchy veggies (recipe)
  • Sweet Millet Congee with apples and bacon, for breakfast (recipe)
  • Spinach and Lemon Millet Arancini, fun party fare (recipe)
  •  
    Let us know what you think of millet!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sweetened Condensed Milk

    Sweetened condensed milk is cow’s milk from which the water has been removed; sugar is been added for sweetness. In parts of Asia, it’s the milk used in iced coffee and iced tea. It’s the dairy used to make Key Lime Pie—because before modern refrigeration, there were no cows in the Florida Keys and canned milk was a staple. It’s the special ingredient in Magic Bars and Tres Leches Cake.

    Recipes abound to use sweetened condensed milk: in beverages, brownies and other bars, cakes, candy, cookies, pies and puddings. Check out the Eagle Brand website, for starters.

    When we have leftover sweetened condensed milk after baking, we use it:

  • As a dip for fresh fruit and cookies (try oatmeal cookies!)
  • On oatmeal and other porridge
  • On toast
  • In French toast (substitute for milk)
  • In coffee and iced coffee
  • As a topping for ice cream and pound cake
  •    

    sweet-condensed-milk-growingnaturals-230

    Homemade sweetened condensed milk. Photo courtesy GrowingNaturals.com.

  • Caramelized into a delicious dessert sauce or dip (recipe below)
  •  
    Lactose intolerant? Here’s a non-dairy version of sweetened condensed milk from GrowingNaturals.com.
     
    RECIPE: SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK SUBSTITUTE

    If you find yourself stuck without a can of sweetened condensed milk, here’s a substitute recipe from Cooks.com.

    Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX all ingredients thoroughly and use in bars, cookies, cakes, etc.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK

    This homemade version isn’t as thick as canned sweetened condensed milk, but it does have the same sweet, milky flavor.

    Ingredients For Scant 1 Cup

  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix together the milk and sugar. Take note of where the milk reaches on the side of the pan.

    2. HEAT the milk and sugar mixture over medium heat until it’s just steaming, then lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. When the mixture has reduced by about half, stir in the vanilla extract.

    3. COOL completely. As it cools, the milk with thicken. Pour into a clean, dry airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

     

    sweetened-condensed-milk-nestle-230s

    Keep a can in the pantry. Photo courtesy
    Nestlé.

       
    SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK TIPS

  • Because it is a natural product, sweetened condensed milk may vary in color and consistency from can to can.
  • To measure, remove the entire lid and scrape the milk into a glass measuring cup, using a rubber spatula.
  • Transfer any leftover milk into a storage container, cover and refrigerate. It will keep for about one week.
  • Sweetened condensed milk will become thicker and more caramel-colored when kept on the shelf for a long time. These changes won’t affect its quality, and when used in recipes with peanut butter, butterscotch, or chocolate, the rich caramel flavor and color will blend with these ingredients.
  •  
    Tips and caramelizing instructions courtesy Eagle Brand.

     
    HOW TO CARAMELIZE SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK

    First, do not cook it in a regular pan on the stove; it will scorch. Instead, use one of these methods.

  • Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Pour sweetened condensed milk into 8 or 9-inch pie plate. Cover with foil; place in larger shallow pan. Fill outer pan with hot water. Bake 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until thick and light caramel-colored; check water level in pan during baking time and refill if necessary. Remove foil. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • Stovetop Method: Pour sweetened condensed milk into top of double boiler; cover and place over boiling water. Over low heat, simmer 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until thick and light caramel-colored. Beat until smooth, if desired. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • Microwave Method: Pour sweetened condensed milk into an 8 cup glass measure. Cook, uncovered, at Medium (50%) for 4 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Reduce power to Medium Low (30%) and cook, uncovered, 12 to 16 minutes or until thick and light caramel-colored. Stir briskly every 2 minutes until smooth. Cool and chill. Refrigerate leftovers.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Bread Salad #3, Grilled Chicken Panzanella

    We are fans of panzanella, and this is our fourth recipe of the year. The others:

  • Summer Bread Salad, with tomatoes and basil
  • Summer Panzanella #2, with zucchini, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes
  • Panzanella With Fruit
  •  
    Panzanella is a Tuscan-style bread salad made with a loaf of day-old (or older) bread, cubed into large croutons and tossed with vinaigrette or other dressing to soften it. The translation we have found for “panzanella” is “bread in a swamp,” the swamp being the water or vinaigrette in which it was soaked.

    While Italian loaves are used in the original, you can use any bread from baguette to challah to semolina raisin to sourdough. Chopped salad vegetables are then added.

    In this recipe, adapted from one by Annie of Annie’s Eats for Go Bold With Butter, a protein is added to make it into a luncheon salad. Annie (and we) use grilled chicken; we also like grilled salmon. But you can use any protein and it’s a great way to use up leftovers.

       

    chicken-panzanella-salad-goboldwbutter-230

    Instead of a Chicken Caesar, try a Chicken Panzanella. Photo courtesy GoBoldWithButter.com..

     
    Annie grills the bread. We live an apartment without a grill, so we baked the croutons in the oven (recipe below).

    We save time by buying pre-grilled, shrink-wrapped chicken breasts at Trader Joe’s.

    RECIPE: GRILLED CHICKEN PANZANELLA

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

    For The Chicken

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup olive or canola oil
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 chicken breasts, butterflied into halves (4 pieces total)
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 thick slices (1-inch) sourdough bread (about 4-5 cups when cubed)
  • 1 large or 2 small cucumbers, sliced and quartered into wedges
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced, or halved cherry tomatoes*
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Optional: fresh herbs of choice
  •  
    *Off-season tomatoes tend to be bland. When tomatoes aren’t in season, you can substitute red bell pepper, grilled red pepper (pimento) or sundried tomatoes.

     

    serrated-knife-bread-SLT-230

    We prefer a crusty loaf, but any day-old
    bread can be used for panzanella. Photo
    courtesy Sur La Table.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a grill to medium-high heat. While the grill is heating, make the marinade.

    2. COMBINE the lemon juice, canola oil, salt, pepper and garlic in a medium bowl. Stir well to combine. Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, mixing briefly to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. Meanwhile…

    3. PREPARE the bread slices. Combine the butter, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix until evenly combined. Spread a thin layer of the garlic butter on both sides of each slice of bread.

    4. GRILL the chicken on the heated grill until browned on the outside, turning once. The internal temperature should register 160°F. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate or cutting board to rest briefly. Meanwhile…

     

    5. PLACE the bread slices on the grill and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes total. Keep a close eye on the bread to prevent charring. Remove the finished bread pieces to a plate or cutting board.

    6. CUT up the chicken and the bread into bite-size pieces and add to a large bowl. Add the cucumber, tomatoes and feta; toss gently just until evenly combined. Serve immediately.
     
     
    CROUTONS RECIPE

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F.

    2. CUT bread into cubes and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you like heat, add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Mix well.

    3. SPREAD cubes in a single layer on a shallow pan or cookie sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Ceviche Vs. Tiradito

    When you live in a ceviche culture, what do you do for something new?

    Ceviche, raw seafood marinated in lime juice with onions and other vegetables, is the national dish of Peru—and our favorite food. While the variations in ceviche recipes seem never-ending—there’s a seeming infinite combination of seafood, vegetables and marinade recipes—Peruvian chefs have taken the concept further.

    They’ve created tiradito, a dish of raw fish similar to carpaccio, ceviche, crudo and sashimi, but garnished with a piquant or spicy sauce. It reflects the influence of Japanese immigrants on Peruvian cookery. It also differs from ceviche in the way in which the fish is cut (sashimi-style slices) and in the lack of onions. The fish can also be lightly seared.

    Both are typically served as a first course. Cool and refreshing, they are ideal summer dishes but delicious year-round (not to mention easy to make, healthful and low in calories).

    The classic tiradito sauce is made from citrus juice and a zesty paste of aji amarillo, made from the Peruvian yellow chile pepper (Capsicum baccatum) plus seasonings—grated garlic or ginger, salt and pepper. Of course, chefs can create a myriad of sauces with other ingredients.

    Unlike ceviche, the fish isn’t marinated in the sauce; the sauce is used as a dressing—think sashimi with sauce and garnishes. Common garnishes include sweet potato and jumbo white corn kernels, both native to Peru.

       

    ceviche-scallop-shells-raymiNYC-230

    Ceviche preparation of white fish with two different marinades. Photo courtesy Raymi | NYC.

     

    The key to both dishes is the freshest fish. Ask your fishmonger what’s best.

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CEVICHE & TIRADITO

    In South America, marinated raw fish dishes date to pre-Colombian times, when seafood was “cooked” (acid-cured) with a fruit called tumbo (Passiflora tarminina, a relative of passionfruit). The Incas cured fish in salt and fermented corn.

    In the 16th century, the Spaniards arrived with lemons for the marinade, creating modern ceviche: cubed or sliced, lightly marinated raw fish. Recently, a variation has morphed into tiradito, cutting the fish sashimi-style and adding a spicy dressing.

    Tiradito derives from the Spanish verb tirar, which means to throw—throwing together raw fish with a sauce.

     

    tiradito-cucharasbravas.com.pe-230r

    Tiraditio of mackerel with a sauce of yellow
    aji chile paste. Photo courtesy
    CucharasBravas.com.pe.

     

    Here’s a tiradito recipe from Peru Delights. Prep time is 20 minutes.

    Look for the aji amarillo paste in supermarkets with a large Latin American products section (Goya makes it), at a Latin American grocer, or online. If you can’t get hold of it, use a mixture of fresh yellow bell peppers and serrano chilies to approximate the hot and fruity flavor of the aji amarillo.

    RECIPE: TIRADITO DE PESCADO

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound white fish fillets (e.g. tilapia)
  • 6 limes, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon aji amarillo paste, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon diced chile pepper (e.g. serrano)
  • ½ teaspoon grated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garnish: 1 sweet potato cut in thick slices
  • Garnish: microgreens or sprouts
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SLICE the fish fillet very thin and divide among four plates. Sprinkle with salt.

    2. COMBINE lime juice in a bowl with the aji amarillo paste, diced chile, garlic, ginger, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon over the fish to cover.

    3. TOP each portion with two sweet potato slices, cover with microgreens and serve, chilled or room temperature.

     
    MORE CEVICHE

  • Types of ceviche.
  • How to create your signature ceviche recipe.
  • Shrimp ceviche recipe.
  • What to drink with ceviche.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Scuffins

    apricot-scuffin-230

    Surprise: a center of apricot conserve. The
    black flecks are flaxseeds. Photo courtesy
    Frog Hollow Farm.

     

    Today’s tip comes from Frog Hollow Farm, a beloved grower of organic fruit in Brentwood, California, an hour east of San Francisco in the fertile Sacramento River Delta.

    Before there was the cronut, there was the scuffin. Necessity was the mother of invention.

    Some five years ago, Frog Hollow Farm began to make frozen purées from fruit that wasn’t cosmetically attractive enough to sell to consumers. They then set about creating products from the purées, and the winner was the scuffin.

    What sounds like a cross between a scone and a muffin is actually a triple hybrid, which includes the center of a jelly donut— substituting conserve, jam or preserve for the jelly. (Here are the differences between jelly, jam, conserve, etc.)

    A hearty, sconelike dough formed into a muffin shape, a scuffin is more dense than a muffin, with a texture that goes from a crisp exterior and crumbly scone interior to center of smooth fruit filling, made from the purée. It eliminates the need to choose between a scone and a muffin. They can be breakfast bread, snack or dessert.

    Served at the Frog Hollow Café in San Fransicso’s Ferry Building, the scuffin was an instant hit. The whole grain flour and flaxseeds, add healthful elements and a nuttiness that pairs well with the jam.

     
    Total prep and baking time is 1 hour.

    RECIPE: SCUFFINS

    Ingredients For 12 Scuffins

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 ounces), plus 2 tablespoons for buttering muffin cups
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal or wheat germ (1 ounce)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown or raw sugar (2 ounces), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup fruit jam, conserves, preserves or fruit butter (do not use jelly or marmalade)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a microwave or over very gentle heat. Using a pastry brush, butter the cups of a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin (3-1/2-ounce-capacity). Let each coat of butter cool, then apply another coat; continue until the 2 tablespoons are all used.

    2. COMBINE dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just combined.

    3. WHISK together the egg, milk and cream in another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix to combine (the dough will be quite sticky).

    4. RESERVING about a quarter of the dough for topping, scoop 2 tablespoons dough into each cup. Using the back of a spoon, press the dough gently down into the cups. The dough will move up the sides, and there should be a shallow well in each dough cup. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t come all the way up to the top; there should be about 1/2 inch of space between the top of the dough and the rim of the cup.

     

    nectarine-scuffin-froghollowfarm-230

    Scuffins filled with blueberry preserves. Photo courtesy Frog Hollow Farm.

     
    5. SPOON about 1 tablespoon of jam into each well. Using your fingers, pinch the remaining dough into small clumps and scatter evenly over the jam in each cup, making a bumpy topping. Sprinkle sugar over the tops.

    6. BAKE 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned. Let cool in the pan on a rack; run a blade around the sides of each scuffin before turning out.

    Variations

  • Try different flavors of jams and preserves.
  • Use different spices—nutmeg, ginger or allspice, for example, instead of cinnamon or cardamom.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pecan Sandies

    pecan-sandies-tasteofhome-230

    Pecan sandies. Photo courtesy Taste Of
    Home.

     

    September 21st is National Pecan Cookie Day. Our favorite has got to be the pecan sandy, modeled after the French sablé.

    A shortbread-like butter cookie with a sandy texture, sablé means “sand” in French and refers to both the color and the texture of the cookies.

    The cookies originated in the Normandy region of France and are a very popular tea cookie. Common variations include chocolate and lemon sablés.

    In some sandy recipes, the dough is lighter than traditional dense, buttery shortbread. A pecan sandy is simply the shortbread with chopped pecans added to the dough, or a pecan half embellishment on the top of the cookie.

    This recipe is courtesy Taste Of Home. Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 55 minutes.

     
    RECIPE: PECAN SANDIES

    Ingredients For 18 Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet.

    2. CREAM in a bowl the butter and sugar; stir in vanilla. Add flour; mix on low until well blended. Stir in pecans; mix well. Chill for 30 minutes.

    3. ROLL into 1-inch balls; place on the sheet. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes or until bottom edges are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
     
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES IN OUR COOKIE GLOSSARY.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cheese-Stuffed French Toast

    Today for brunch, we made this tasty recipe from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. It’s sweet and savory: cheese with the sweet notes of conventional French toast.

    The recipe uses Havarti from Wisconsin, but you can substitute another cheese of choice. Suggestions: Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Tilsit or for a stronger flavor, Muenster, Port du Salut or Reblochon. (Check out our Cheese Glossary.)

    RECIPE: CHEESE STUFFED FRENCH TOAST

    Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce challah or French bread loaf, cubed
  • 1 package (8 ounces) Havarti or other cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) blueberry preserves
  •  

    cheese-stuffed-french-toast-wmmb-230b

    Cheese-stuffed French toast. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

    2. ARRANGE half of bread cubes in lightly buttered 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Top evenly with Havarti; top with remaining bread cubes.

    3. WHISK together the eggs, milk, sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, butter and maple syrup in large mixing bowl; pour over bread mixture, pressing bread cubes to absorb egg mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon over the top. Cover baking pan with foil.

    4. BAKE for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 more minutes or until lightly browned and set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

    5. MAKE the sauce. Stir together blueberries and blueberry preserves in a small saucepan over low heat until warm. Serve over the French toast or on the side.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Pastilla, Bastilla, Bisteeya, B’stilla

    pastilla-moroccan-kaminsky-230

    Alluring and delicious. Photo © Hannah
    Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Pastilla, pronounced “bastilla” in the Arabic of North Africa, is a traditional Moroccan dish that crossed the Straits of Gilbraltar from Andalusia, Spain. It is transliterated from the Arabic pastilla, bastilla, bisteeya, b’stilla or bstilla.

    It all means “delicious,” says Hannah Kaminsky.

    Traditionally served as a first course of a special meal, this squab pie with flaky, crêpe-like dough is more often made with chicken these days. Fish, offal and vegetarian recipes are also made.

    In traditional recipes, the meat is slow-cooked in broth and spices, then shredded and layered in the pastry with toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar.

    “I may have never known about the wonders of pastilla, the mysterious pastry with a half-dozen different spellings, if not for the ethereal prose of Fatima Mernissi,” says Hannah. “So inspired by her lavish, unrestrained words of praise, this was my call to action, to secure a literal piece of the pie for myself.”

    Looking for a vegan substitute, she turned to chickpeas, noting:

     
    “Most curious with pastilla is the incongruous addition of powdered sugar right before serving; a light dusting of confectionery snow, frosting a decidedly savory main course.

    “Humbly, I must admit, it does work, tempering the hot, bold and intense spices without turning the pastry into a dessert. Though it could still taste equally delicious without the sugar, for those as hesitant as myself, I must urge you to just give it a shot.”
     
    RECIPE: CHICKPEA PASTILLA

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (14-ounces) chickpeas (1-3/4 cups cooked), drained
  • 1/2 cup coarse almond meal
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8-10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • Optional: confectioner’s sugar to garnish
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a 6-inch round springform pan.

    2. HEAT 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar; cook for 8-10 minutes while stirring frequently, until lightly golden and aromatic. Add the ground cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne, cooking for a minute or two longer to gently toast the spices.

    3. ADD the drained chickpeas and almond meal, stirring to combine, before slowly pouring in the broth and lemon juice together. Cook for another minute to heat through and slightly thicken the mixture. It should be thoroughly moistened but not soupy. Season with salt to taste. Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.

    4. LAY 1 sheet of phyllo across the bottom of the prepared springform pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges. Lightly brush with the remaining olive oil, and then place another sheet of phyllo on top, turning it slightly so that the points stick out at different angles. Repeat this process so that you end up with 4-5 sheets lining the pan, covering the sides completely.

     

    baklava-wiki-star-230

    This baklava, made in a star-shaped cup, shows the numerous layers of phyllo dough. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

     

    5. SPOON the chickpea filling into the center, smoothing it out so that it fills the pan evenly. If you end up with a bit too much filling to comfortably squeeze in, you can always use leftover sheets of phyllo later, to make individual parcels.

    6. COVER the filling with another sheet of phyllo, brush with olive oil and repeat the same process as before, ending up with another 4-5 sheets on top. Fold the overhanging dough back over the top, smoothing it down as neatly as you can. Give it a final brush of olive oil before sliding it into the oven.

    7. BAKE for 15-18 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pie until it is golden brown (it cooks quickly at this high temperature). Let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding. Sift a fine dusting of confectioner’s sugar on top right before serving.

    THE HISTORY OF PHYLLO DOUGH

    Phyllo (FEE-low), fillo or filo is the traditional dough of the Greek, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. It is used for pastries from the sweet, like baklava (with honey and nuts) to the savory, like spanakopita (spinach and feta).

    Phyllo means “leaf” in Greek, and refers to the many tissue-thin leaves (so thin you can read through them) of unleavened flour sheets that comprise the dough. The paper-thin layers are separated by a thin film of butter.

    The earliest form of the dough was made in the 8th century B.C.E. in northern Mesopotamia, when the Assyrians made an early version of baklava, layering very thin pieces of dough with nuts and honey, and baking them in wood-burning ovens.

    The practice of stretching raw dough into paper-thin sheets is believed to have evolved in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, based on Central Asian prototypes.

    Greek seamen brought the concept home, and Athenian bakers created phyllo, the leaf-thin layers of dough, as early as the 3rd century B.C.E. Given the labor required, it was served in wealthy Greek households for special occasions.

    The dough (flour, water, oil and white vinegar) was made by gently rolling, stretching or pressing into the ultra-thin sheets. This takes time and skill, requiring progressive rolling and stretching into a single thin and very large sheet. A very large table and a long roller are required, with continous flouring between layers to prevent tearing.

    Machines for producing phyllo pastry were perfected in the 1970s. Today, phyllo is made by machine and available in the freezer section of most food stores, or fresh in some specialty markets.

    In preparation for baking, the dough is brushed with butter or oil; it must be worked with quickly as it dries with exposure to air. It can be cut into sheets and layered in a tin, cut into individual rolls or rolled up as one large roll.

    In any form, it is delicious!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Cheesecake

    blue-cheese-artichoke-cheesecake-wmmb-230

    For a delightful change of pace, try a savory
    cheesecake appetizer. Photo courtesy
    Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    When you want to serve something impressive and unexpected at your next dinner party or cocktail party, consider a savory cheesecake.

    Instead of sugar and vanilla, it calls for herbs, salt and savory components—cheeses such as blue cheese or Gruyère and additions like seafood and vegetables.

    Cut small wedges—this is a rich starter! Serve with toast points, baguette slices or crackers and decorate the plate with appropriate cheese accompaniments—nuts, and grapes, for example. Add a touches of color with fresh green herbs or red grape tomatoes or peppadews.

    You can also the whole cheesecake at a party, on a tray with crackers.

    Bake the cheesecake the night before and take it out of the refrigerator an hour before serving to allow the cheesecake to reach room temperature. In addition to the recipe below, here are four more savory cheesecake recipes, including Tuna (you can substitute smoked salmon), Gruyère & Lobster, Provolone & Corn and No-Bake Basil Cheesecake. All are courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    RECIPE: BLUE CHEESE CHEESECAKE

    For a perfect cocktail pairing, serve this cheesecake with a Vodka Martini With Buttermilk Blue Stuffed Olives. For a first course, look for a big white wine: either a sweet white (like a Sauternes or a late harvest Vouvray) or Chardonnay (if your budget permits, a Puligny-Montrachet). Another interesting match would be a ruby Port (save the vintage Ports for the end of dinner).

    This recipe was created by Wisconsin chef Mindy Segal, who used Hook’s Wisconsin Blue Cheese and garnished the dish with sweet components: Port Wine Poached Pears, Port Caramel And Candied Walnuts. You can keep it all savory with a lightly dressed salad or any garnish you choose.

    And remember: the better the blue cheese, the better the cheesecake.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

    For The Poached Pears

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) Port wine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, scraped
  • 6 medium pears (Bartlett, Forelle or Comice)
  •  
    For The Sugared Walnuts

  • 1 tablespoon egg white
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup walnuts
  •  

    For The Cheesecake

  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 10 ounces blue cheese, room temperature, finely crumbled
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons clover or orange honey
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional garnish: rosemary sprigs
  •  
    For The Caramel

  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 1/2 ounces light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup reserved poaching liquid
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch cracked pepper
  •  

    blue-cheese-cheesecake-wmmb-230r

    Chef Mindy Segal’s preparation with poached pears, candied walnuts and caramel. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the poached pears. In a heavy sauce pan, combine all ingredients except the pears; bring to a boil and cook until reduced by a quarter. Meanwhile, peel the pears and add the peels to the poaching liquid. Cut the pears in half and core. Strain the poaching liquid and add the pears. Bring to a simmer and poach the pears until tender. Place the pears and liquid in opaque container. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature overnight. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid for the Port caramel.

    2. MAKE the sugared walnuts. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In small bowl, mix all ingredients except the walnuts. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Spread in single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Break into pieces. Set aside.

    3. MAKE the cheesecake. Heat the oven to 250°F. Spray an 8-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper; spray again. In large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the blue cheese; beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl. Add sour cream, honey, salt and pepper. Beat until combined. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until set and knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature in pan.

    4. MAKE the Port caramel. In heavy sauce pot, combine 1 cup sugar and the corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cook at a slow rolling boil until dark amber. In another pot, bring the cream and reserved poaching liquid just to a boil; keep warm. When the sugar is amber, add the remaining sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the cream mixture slowly, allowing the mixture to reduce after each addition. Cook until the consistency of a thick syrup, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

    5. SERVE. Cut the cheesecake into wedges. Serve on plate with some of the poached pear, Port wine caramel and sugared walnuts, or garnishes of choice.

      

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    FOOD 101: German Marble Cake

    Make this delicious marble cake. Photo
    courtesy Zabars.com.

     

    With the Jewish New Year approaching, we think back to tables laden with holiday food, and desserts both homemade and from New York’s great Jewish bakers.

    Immigrants from Europe contributed much deliciousness to our childhood. As a youngster we were lucky to live in a town rich with postwar refugees from Germany, Hungary and Eastern Europe. Among the trades they brought with them, our favorite artisans were (of course) the bakers.

    Bagel makers, bread bakers, pastry makers: We loved them all for the scrumptious products of their artisan skills. Alas, we are now their age, and not one bakery from those memorable times survives in Manhattan. The last one we knew of—Jon Vie Bakery, 492 Avenue of the Americas between 12th and 13th Streets—lost its lease in 2004, unable to afford double the rent on slender bakery margins. At last glance it was a 16 Handles frozen yogurt shop, where the inventory doesn’t go stale at the end of the day.

    The owner of Jon Vie was a third-generation baker, the manager was the fourth-generation of a baking family, both families originally from Poland. Both men were in their mid-70s when the bakery closed. Needless to say, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

     
    The bakery specialized in German, Hungarian and Jewish specialties—almost a memory today—along with cream puffs, éclairs and napoleons that met customers’ desires for French pastry.

    While there will always be French pastry for sale somewhere—and rugelach and strudel at outposts like Zabar’s, —we’re left with only the memories of great babka, mandel brot and marble cake with ganache icing.

    While we can still find cheese danish, they don’t compare to the wonders from those European bakers, stuffed with plentiful, sweet cheese and topped with slivered almonds and a honey glaze. We bought one daily from Éclair, which—ignominously—lost its lease to Krispy Kreme, itself long gone.

    And now, a paean: Louis Lichtman: Life hasn’t been the same since you retired. Bloom’s Bake Shop, we remember you well. Sutter’s, you are in our heart forever.

    The Hungarian Pastry Shop by Columbia University, another hangout of our youth, is still there, but has undergone a succession of management changes. It sells some items that look like the ones from yore, but taste nothing like them. Don’t even go there—it will just break your heart.

    For those who remember, or want to understand that joyous past, bake a marble cake in remembrance. Here’s the recipe.

    By the way, marble cake arrived on these shores with German immigrants before the Civil War. Here’s the history of marble cake.

      

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