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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Pick The Best Live Lobster

Live Lobster

Steamed Lobster

Portuguese Lobster

Top: One sign of a good lobster: long antennae (photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea. Center: Mmm, mmm: a lobster Platter at North River Lobster Company. Bottom: Different lobster have different colors, both live and when cooked. This one is from Portugal (photo courtesy Vermillion Restaurant).

 

Planning to buy live lobsters for National Lobster Day (June 15th) or Father’s Day (June 19th)? Here are tips from Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo of Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C.

HOW TO PICK THE BEST LIVE LOBSTER

1. FEEL THE SHELL. There are hard-shell and soft-shell (new-shell) lobsters. It’s just a function of whether the lobsters have recently molted (shed their shells), an annual process.

  • On a soft-shell (new shell) lobster, the claws will look pristine. On a hard-shell lobster, the claws will have have scrapes from banging against rocks over the course of the year.
  • The meat in soft-shells is a bit sweeter and more tender, but a lobster with a softer shell is likely to have more water weight and less meat. They’re not as hardy, so they don’t travel as well as hard-shell lobsters. Similarly, hard-shell lobsters have more meat, but they can be a bit tougher.
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    2. GIVE IT A SNIFF. A live lobster should not emit any odor.

    3. PICK A LIVELY LOBSTER. The more active the lobster, the more tender the meat. If the lobster is limp when you pick it up, it’s on its last legs. If it isn’t moving at all, it may be dead. Here’s an easy test: If you straighten out the tail, it should swiftly curve back under the body.

    4. LOOK FOR LONG ANTENNAE. The longer the antennae, the fresher the lobster. Lobsters in a holding tank will often eat each other’s antennae. If a lobster has been there for a long time, its antennae can be nibbled down—often to the base.

    5. DON’T MIND THE COLOR. The top shells are usually dark green or greenish-brown, but they can be black, blue, orange, red, white or yellow. The underbody of a live lobster, particularly the claws, are usually a vibrant red.

    6. SIZE MATTTERS. The larger the lobster, the tougher the meat. Chef Cenobio prefers lobsters under two pounds for the most tender and flavorful meat.

    7. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. There are many different species of lobster in the world’s oceans, but Chef Cenobio says the best come from Canada and Maine.

    8. GENDER DOESN’T COUNT. Most aficionados agree that there is no difference in flavor or texture between male and female lobsters. Females have a small, hard, edible roe called the coral (because of its color). These are the unfertilized eggs of the female. Both genders have the soft, greenish, edible tomalley, which serves as both the liver and pancreas.

    9. PAY ATTENTION TO PRICE. Live lobster costs between $9 to $11 dollars per pound. If the price is lower, often the quality is lower as well.
     
     
    LOBSTER RECIPE IDEAS and LOBSTER TRIVIA: Check ‘em out.

     
    ABOUT MICHAEL JORDAN’S THE STEAK HOUSE N.Y.C.

    Michael Jordan’s is uniquely situated, on the balcony overlooking the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal. In addition to fine food, you can enjoy the beautiful Concourse architecture and the elaborate ceiling, picturing the constellations. The Terminal, which opened in 1913, is an example of “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.”

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Flavor Your Water With Fresh Fruits

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    You can buy a bottle of water flavored with extracts, or you can extract the flavor of fresh fruit by yourself.

    Whether we’re home alone or expecting guests, we usually flavor a pitcher of water with fresh fruits (or add your own mint or lemon extract into tap water). The subtle infusion from the fresh fruit, in our humble opinion, is more delicious than any bottled water flavored with fruit extracts.

    Plus, there’s lots of eye appeal.

    FOOD 101

    There are natural extracts, artificial extracts and essential oils.

    • A natural extract (a.k.a. natural flavor) is derived from a fruit or vegetable, their juices, and other sources most home cooks don’t address (barks, herbs, flowers, roots, etc.). The plant may be cold pressed, macerated or soaked in alcohol
    • An artificial flavor (a.k.a. artificial extract or favoring, as in imitation maple extract and imitation vanilla extract), does not come from a plant or animal source, and instead is generated in a lab by combining different food-safe components into a variation of the natural flavor. They are less expensive than natural extracts, and also used by people who avoid any type of alcohol (e.g., in halal cuisine).
    • An essential oil is intensely flavored compared to a natural extract, and the production is more complex: it is obtained through distillation, to yield what is known as the plant essence—a very small amount of volatile liquid (the essential oil), which is why they are typically more expensive than regular liquid extracts. But you need to use less of them.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE FLAVORED WATER INFUSED WITH FRUIT

    At a minimum, use two items from the fruits and herbs lists, i.e., two fruits or one fruit and one herb. You can combine as many as you like: The basic recipe in our home includes cucumber, citrus, strawberries and an herb.

    Ingredients Per Pitcher (64 Ounces)

    • 50 ounces of water, tap or bottled spring water
    • 1 cup seasonal fruits (see list below)
    • Handful of herb sprigs, to taste (basil, lavender, lemon verbena, mint, rose geranium, rosemary, thyme—use only one of these)
    • Optional: 1 large cucumber, unpeeled, sliced
    • Optional spices: cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, sliced ginger root, vanilla beans

    Preparation

    1. SLICE the fruits into wheels, retaining the peels (berries don’t need to be sliced).

    2. PLACE all ingredients in a 64-ounce jug or pitcher. Chill for at least one hour or overnight (much longer and the fruit will begin to break down).

    3. SERVE. If guests are pouring their own, i.e. when grilling outdoors,

    Vegetable Water Pitcher

    Orange Mint Water

    Apple Juice & Fresh Fruit

    Top: Cucumber, peaches and basil leaves, served at Olio | NYC. Center: Oranges and mint, at Bonnie Plants. Bottom: As a treat for kids, you can add use carbonated water and apple juice with fresh fruit (photo Pisco Porton).

    In the winter, cucumber, mint and citrus slices (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange/clementine (seed free?)/tangerine slices are good.You can also vary the herbs. Fresh herbs, grown in greenhouses, are available year-round.

    SEASONAL FRUITS

    • Spring and Summer Fruits: berries, cucumber, melon, pineapple, stone fruits (especially peaches).
    • Winter Fruits: apples, berries*, cherimoya, any citrus (red grapefruits and blood oranges are our favorites, but lemons, limes, mandarins† and oranges† are always welcome), cucumber, dried berries (cherries, cranberries) grapes, kiwifruit, lychee (another favorite of ours), mango, papaya, persimmon, pomegranate arils.

    Avoid fruits that will cloud the water, e.g. bananas and figs.

    WHAT IF YOU HAVE NO FRESH FRUITS AT HAND?

    While there’s no visual impact, you can use extracts to flavor water. Experiment with a dropper and juice glass of water to see what you like.

    • Use 1/2 teaspoon extract in a quart of water; taste and adjust as desired.
    • You can combine two flavors, e.g. banana and strawberry, lemon and anise, chocolate and cherry. You can be as basic (e.g., lime extract) or as creative (e.g., anise and hazelnut, brandy or rum and cherry, lavender) as you like.

    MORE INFUSED WATER IDEAS

     

     

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    *Raspberries and strawberries are available year-round.

    The difference between mandarins and oranges: http://blog.thenibble.com/2015/12/22/tip-of-the-day-seasonal-fruit/.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sweet Or Savory French Toast

    French Toast Recipe

    French Toast Casserole

    Savory French Toast

    Top: French Toast smothered in sautéed apples (photo courtesy Peapod). Center: French Toast Casserole: even easier than regular French Toast (photo courtesy Driscoll’s). Bottom: Savory French Toast (photo courtesy Castello Cheese).

     

    Making perfectly round pancakes is not among our cooking skills. Long before we discovered the gadget known as a pancake batter dispenser, we’d switched to the easier and foolproof French Toast: eggs, milk, white bread or challah, and a pinch of cinnamon.

    Even easier is Baked French Toast (center photo), also known as French Toast Casserole and French Toast Soufflé. Place slices of bread in a baking dish, pour the egg-milk mixture on top, and bake. The benefits: it’s neater (no soaking the bread by hand), all servings are ready at once, and it looks elegant when brought to the table.

    Here’s a recipe that elevates French Toast, substituting brioche for regular bead and sweetened condensed and evaporated milks for whole milk. You can fry it in a pan or bake it in a casserole dish. Yummers!

    Today we recommend two special recipes for Father’s Day: a sweet French Toast with sautéed apples (“Apple Pie French Toast”—top photo) and French Toast with a variety of savory toppings (bottom photo).

    THE HISTORY OF FRENCH TOAST

    The dish known in the U.S. as French Toast has roots at least as far back as ancient Rome, where it was a sweet dish. Pain perdu (lost bread), the modern French name for the dish, was once called pain à la romaine, Roman bread.

    You may read elsewhere that that French Toast was a food of the poor, a way to scrape together a meal from stale bread*. However, recipes from ancient and medieval times denote that it was fare for wealthy people.

    Those recipes used white bread, a luxury, with the crusts cut off (even more of a luxury). Costly ingredients such as spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg), sugar and almond milk are found in numerous recipes. The cooked bread was topped with costly honey or sugar. And cookbooks themselves were the province of the privileged: Only wealthy people and clergy learned to read.

    Poor people ate brown bread, much cheaper because the wheat endosperm did not have to be milled and painstakingly hand-sifted through screens to create refined white flour. (Ironically, this whole wheat bread was more nutritious.)
     
    RECIPE #1: COOKED FRUIT TOPPING FOR FRENCH TOAST

    It’s easy to toss fresh berries onto French Toast. We also like diced mango.

    But for an Apple-Pie-Meets-French-Toast effect, make a quick cooked fruit topping. You can make the topping a day in advance, set it on the counter to warm to room temperature as you make the French Toast, and give it a quick zap in the microwave.

    You can substitute two cups of bananas, blueberries, cherries, peaches, pineapple, etc. for the apples.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon butter (more as needed)
  • 3 large apples (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, etc.), peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes (yields 2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat; add the apples, cinnamon and salt. Cook for 5-6 minutes until tender, then stir in the maple syrup. If you prefer very soft apples, cook them for 10-12 minutes before adding the maple syrup.

    2. COOK for 1 minute more. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
     
    SAVORY FRENCH TOAST

    Ditch the maple syrup or other sweet condiments. Even if you like sweet French Toast, you’ll like it savory, too.

    Here’s the basic recipe, topped with sautéed cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan. Our favorite variations:

  • Blue cheese and sautéed apple slices with a pinch of thyme to garnish
  • Feta and Kalamata olives with an oregano garnish
  • Ham and cheese French Toast sandwich
  • Sautéed onions and chicken livers with a pinch of sage (Dad’s favorite)
  • Smoked salmon, caviar and crème fraîche with a pinch of dill (Mom’s favorite)
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    *The poor used stale bread for crostini (toast) or topped it with soup (the dish was originally called “sops,” referring to the bread or toast used to sop up the hot food), stew or melted cheese (a “Welsh Rabbit”) to soften the bread and make a meal.

     
      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Chocolate Ice Cream Day

    June 7th is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. How will you celebrate?

  • Eat your favorite chocolate ice cream (plain, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Almond Fudge, Rocky Road, etc.)?
  • Have a scoop atop a slice of apple or blueberry pie?
  • Make a Blondie Sandwich or Brownie Sandwich or Jumbo Cookie Sandwich with chocolate ice cream in the middle?
  • Have a chocolate shake, ice cream soda (a.k.a. float) or Brown Cow?
  • Make a Chocolate Stout Float with chocolate stout and chocolate ice cream or a regular Guinness Float?
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    We took a fruit route: We had a pint of fresh raspberries, which we mixed into a pint of Talenti Belgian Milk Chocolate Gelato (here’s the difference between gelato and ice cream).

    RECIPE: YOUR CUSTOM CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

    Ingredients

  • Your favorite chocolate ice cream
  • Your favorite mix-ins (see suggestions below)
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    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN a pint of ice cream on the counter, until it’s the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

    2. ADD your mix-in(s), totaling 1/2 cup per pint.

    3. EAT soft, or return to the fridge for a half hour to harden.

     

    Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

    Soften the ice cream, mix in the raspberries (photo courtesy McConnell’s).

     
    ICE CREAM MIX-INS

  • Baking chips: butterscotch, chocolate, peanut butter, etc.
  • Candies: Butterfinger, diced fudge (chocolate, maple, peanut butter, vanilla) Gummies, Heath Bar, Junior Mints, Kit Kat, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, toffee bits
  • Chopped cookies or brownies, including cookie dough and diced cake
  • Chopped nuts: with chocolate ice cream, we prefer almonds, peanuts, pecans or macadamias
  • Dried & other fruits: dried apricots, brandied cherries, dried cherries, dried cranberries, raisins
  • Fresh fruit: berries, bananas or other fruits
  • Wild card: ancho chilies, bacon, cacao nibs, candied jalapeños, chipotle, coconut, pumpkin seeds, pretzels, toasted sesame seeds, trail mix
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    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ICE CREAM AND THE HISTORY OF ICE CREAM.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: A Look At “Gourmet” Chicken & Waffles

    Chicken & Waffles, originally a hearty breakfast, can be had any time of the day in modern times.

    With counterpoints of crisp and soft, salty and sweet, it became a special occasion dish of Southern soul food cuisine. It’s still a special-occasion dish: one that many people enjoy on Father’s Day. You can make a traditional waffle, topped with butter, a piece of fried chicken and a pour of maple syrup.

    Or you can get inspiration from chefs whose re-interpretations are shown in the photos in this article—including Steak & Waffles (recipe below).

    Who created the first Chicken & Waffles? The exact origins are lost to history, but here’s what we know:
     
    THE HISTORY OF CHICKEN & WAFFLES

  • Waffles are an ancient food, dating back to the rustic hotcakes cooked on stones in the Neolithic Age (6000 B.C.E. to ca. 2000 B.C.E.).
  • In ancient Greece (1100 B.C.E. to 146 B.C.E.), cooks made flat cakes, called obleios (wafers), between two hot metal plates. They were primarily savory in nature, flavored with cheeses and herbs.
  • By the Middle Ages, Middle Ages (400 C.E. to 1000 C.E.) obloyeurs—specialist waffle cooks—make different types of oublies, as the word has evolved from the Greek. In the 12th century a clever obloyeur made an iron cast of a pattern that mimicked a honeycomb—which remains the waffle design today. Soon after, the word gaufre, from the Old French wafla meaning “a piece of honeybee hive,” became the French word for waffle.
  • Waffles entered American cuisine in the 1600s with the arrival of Dutch colonists.
  • Thomas Jefferson brought the first waffle iron to America in 1789 (along with the first pasta machine), when he returned to Virginia following his service as Minister to France. Waffles became a fashionable food—an alternative to flapjacks—and the combination began appearing in cookbooks shortly thereafter [source]. The pairing was enthusiastically embraced by slaves, for whom chicken was a delicacy. As a result, Chicken & Waffles became a special meal, often served for Sunday breakfast before a long day in church. However…
  • The recipe does not appear in early Southern cookbooks, such as “Mrs. Porter’s Southern Cookery Book,” published in 1871 and “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,” published in 1881 by former slave Abby Fisher, generally considered the first cookbook written by an African American. The lack of a recipe for the combination of chicken and waffles in Southern cookbooks from the era may suggest a later origin for the dish.
  • In the early 1800s, hotels and resorts around Philadelphia served waffles with fried catfish. Such establishments also served other dishes including fried chicken, which gradually became the topper of choice due to catfish’s limited, seasonal availability.
  • The Pennsylvania Dutch version is a plain waffle topped with pulled, stewed chicken and covered in gravy. It was a common Sunday dish by the 1860s. By the end of the 19th century, the dish was a symbol of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
  • Waffles at home: In 1909, an ad for Griswold’s Waffle Iron promised, “You can attend a chicken and waffle supper right at home any time you have the notion if you are the owner of a Griswold’s American Waffle Iron.”
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    Chicken &  Mini Waffles

    Gourmet Chicken & Waffles

    Chicken & Waffles & A Fried Egg

    Top: Fried chicken with mini waffles at Chicago’s Honey Buttered Fried Chicken. Center: A gourmet approach at the Lazy Bear in San Francisco: Gaufres de Chasse, a Liege-style waffle cut into fingers, with fried game hen, Sauce Chasseur, maple syrup, nameko mushrooms and fines herbes. Bottom: Chicken & Waffles with a fried egg at Hearthstone Kitchen.

  • Chicken & Waffles was an established dish in Harlem’s African-American community by 1930.
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    Here’s the full history of waffles.

     

    Chicken & Stuffed Waffles

    Chicken & Waffles

    Steak & Waffles

    Top: A nod to Pennsylvania Dutch-style Chicken & Waffles: a stuffed waffle topped with adobo pulled chicken. Here’s the recipe from InHarvest.com. Center: Classic Chicken & Waffles with a side of peaches and cream (photo Arnold Inuyaki | Wikipedia). Bottom: Steak & Waffles from BeefBoard.org.

     

    RELATED FOOD HOLIDAYS

    We found scant information on an International Chicken & Waffles Day: the first Friday following the first Thursday in October. It seems to have been established for fun in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and not exactly an official holiday.

    And, it may have been abandoned: Founded in 2003, the website, ICAWD.org, has been abandoned; and the Facebook page, established in 2011, hasn’t been updated since 2014.

    If you have any news about International Chicken & Waffles Day, let us know! You can plan your Chicken & Waffles celebrations around:

  • International Waffle Day, March 25
  • Maple Syrup Saturday, the 3rd Saturday in March
  • National Chicken Month, September
  • National Fried Chicken Day, July 6
  • National Maple Syrup Day, December 17
  • National Waffle Day, August 24
  • National Waffle Week, the first week in September
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    RECIPE: STEAK & WAFFLES

    Ingredients

    This recipe, from The Beef Checkoff, makes enough for a big party (24 servings). The waffles are stuffed with blue cheese. It’s a home run!
     
    For The Batter

  • 6 cups prepared waffle batter
  • 1½ tablespoons dried tarragon
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Plus

  • 24 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • Top quality blue cheese salad dressing* (see Step 4 under Preparation)
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    For The Demi-Glace

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup shallots, minced
  • ½ cup sherry vinegar
  • 6 cups veal demi-glace
  • 6 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
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    For The Steak

  • 24 ribeye cap steaks (8 ounce portions)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grapeseed oil, as needed
  • 24 cups Swiss chard, wilted
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all batter ingredients. Mix together and refrigerate, covered.

    2. PREPARE the demi-glace: In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the shallots and sauté until translucent. Add the vinegar and simmer for 4 minutes. Add the demi-glace and bring to a boil. Whisk in the mustard, reduce the heat and simmer 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

    3. COOK the steaks: Season with salt and pepper. You can then sauté or grill them. To sauté, heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a sauté pan until hot. Add the steak; sear on both sides until well browned. Place in a 500°F oven and cook to medium rare or desired doneness. Carve across the grain into thick slices.

    4. MAKE the waffles: Using a waffle iron outfitted with the mini waffle plate (4 waffles per plate), ladle ¼ cup waffle batter into 2 sections of the waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer’s directions. Remove the waffles and immediately push in the center of each waffle with a spoon, to create a small well. Fill with 1 ounce of blue cheese and sandwich the waffles together, making sure the waffle depressions line up so it fits back into the iron. Place the waffle sandwich in the waffle iron and cook 1 minute or until cheese is melted.

    Editor’s note: We took a much easier route with Step 4, making a waffle sandwich from two regular-size waffles. We filled the sandwich with our favorite blue cheese salad dressing*, topped with crumbled blue cheese. We cut the sandwich in half diagonally, set one half on the plate and propped the other perpendicular to the first.

    5. PLACE 1 cup of Swiss chard in the center of a plate; fan the sliced steak on top. Place a stuffed waffle on top of the steak; ladle the demi-glace on and around it.

     
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    *Our all-time favorite is the amazing blue cheese dressing from Kathryn’s Cottage Kitchen. But it’s hard to find (here’s the store locator) and expensive to ship. We buy a year’s supply at a time! If you don’t want to make your own (here’s a recipe), look for __ Among the mass brands, Wishbone Blue Cheese is the best.

      

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    RECIPE: Pasta With Artichoke Hearts & Olives

    In this Mediterranean medley, pasta combines with artichoke hearts and olives in a light dressing of extra virgin olive oil and lemon.

    Or is it an artichoke and olive salad with pasta? Either way, this main dish, which can be served hot or cold, is layered with flavor.

  • You can use leftover, unsauced pasta or cook the pasta for the occasion.
  • You can use bits of leftover proteins: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, seafood, soy-based, etc.
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    We adapted this recipe from one created by Lightlife, which used a package of its vegan Smart Strips Chick’n as the protein.
     
    RECIE: PASTA WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS & OLIVES

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 ounces cooked protein of choice
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) uncooked pasta (yields 4 cups cooked pasta)
  • 2 jars (6.5 ounces each) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/3 cup sliced Greek-style green and black olives
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
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    Pasta With Artichokes & Olives Recipe

    Serve this pasta dish hot or cold. Photo courtesy Lightlife.com.

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • Garnish: freshly shredded Parmesan or other Italian grating cheese
  • Optional herbs: oregano, parsley, rosemary sage, thyme, tarragon (or julienned baby arugula or basil)
  • Serve with: breadsticks, foccacia or garlic bread
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    Preparation

    1. BOIL 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add the pasta, stir gently and return to a boil. Boil uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 9 minutes (for al dente pasta). Remove from the heat, drain well and place the pasta in a large mixing bowl. For a hot dish, cover to keep warm. If serving a warm dish…

    2. WARM the proteins Otherwise, leave them chilled or at room temperature. Add them to the mixing bowl.

    3. ADD the remaining ingredients except the cheese. You can mix the herbs into the pasta, or sprinkle them as a garnish. Mix the pasta well and plate; sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Negroni Week

    Negroni Cocktail Recipe

    Negroni Cocktail

    Top: A Negroni, elegantly presented in a stemmed glass at The Heathman Restaurant & Bar in Portland, Oregon. Bottom: A fun presentation at Irvington in New York City.

     

    It’s Negroni Week, an opportunity to try a classic cocktail, created in 1919.

    Negroni Week is a worldwide holiday, launched in 2013 by Imbibe Magazine and Campari, an Italian apéritif wine. It was begun not only to celebrate one of the world’s great cocktails, but as an effort to raise money for charitable causes around the world. Visit NegroniWeek.com to see how you can participate.
     
    NEGRONI HISTORY

    As the story goes, the cocktail was invented at the Bar Cassoni (now the Caffè Cavalli) in Florence, Italy by bartender Fosco Scarselli. He created it for a regular patron, Count Camillo Negroni, who had asked for an Americano* cocktail strengthened with a dash of gin instead of the usual soda water.

    Scarselli mixed the drink, used an orange slice garnish instead of the lemon garnish of the Americano, and presented his client with the first “Negroni.”

    The cocktail took off, and the Negroni family quickly founded Negroni Antica Distilleria in Treviso, producing Antico Negroni, a ready-made version of the drink.

    But the Negroni was unknown in the U.S. until 1947 when Orson Welles, working in Rome, wrote about it. This sent Americans to bars demanding Negronis.

     
    RECIPE: NEGRONI COCKTAIL

    The Negroni is made in 1:1:1 proportions of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. There are many variations of the cocktail today. Check out these in L.A. Magazine.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.25 ounces gin
  • 1.25 ounces Campari
  • 1.25 ounces Martini sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: orange twist or slice
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a shaker with ice.

    2. STRAIN into chilled coupe or serve over ice in a chilled rocks glass.

    3. GARNISH and serve.

     
    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE COCKTAIL RECIPES.

    Use the Gourmet Foods pull-down menu at the right, and also check out the Cocktails section on the main site of TheNibble.com.
     
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    *An even older cocktail, dating to the 1860s, the Americano was created in Novara, Italy by Gaspare Campari at his Caffè Campari. The ingredients: Campari (an apéritif wine, invented by Gaspare in 1860), sweet vermouth and club soda, with a lemon garnish. The cocktail was originally known as the Milano-Torino because of its ingredients: Campari, the bitter liqueur, was made outside of Milano (Milan) and Punt e Mes, the vermouth, was made in Torino (Turin). Campari was originally colored red with carmine dye, derived from crushed cochineal, a plant-sucking insect. In 2006, Gruppo Campari ceased using carmine in favor of artificial red coloring. [Source]

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Steak With Three Sauces

    Our friend Andy welcomes the opportunity to visit Denver, so he can pop in at Vesta Dipping Grill, known for the variety of creative sauces it offers with its entrées (here’s the current menu).

    For Father’s Day, forget the Worcestershire or A-1 and treat Dad to a choice of three homemade steak sauces. It’s like “steak three ways.” Here are a Baker’s Dozen of suggestions.
     
    HERB SAUCES FOR STEAK

    These quick herb sauces require no cooking: Toss everything into a food processor and pulse (purists can get out the mortar and pestle).

  • Chimichurri Sauce. The steak sauce in Argentina, chimichurri is made from parsley, garlic, green or red chile, olive oil, red wine vinegar. You can add other herbs. Mario likes cilantro, Emeril likes oregano and basil. Recipe and more.
  • Gremolata. If you want bright herb flavors without heat or tang, make gremolata. This simple condiment from Italy consists of fresh chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic—zingy without being spicy. Recipe and more.
  • Pesto. The “original” is made from basil, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, but there are many variations that switch out the herb, nut and cheese. Recipe and more information.
  • Salsa Verde. Layers of flavor without heat, this Italian herb sauce is made from chopped chives, mint and parsley with capers, chopped anchovies, garlic and lemon juice. Some recipes add tomatillos. Recipe and more information.
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    Ribeye Steak With Sauces

    This 32-ounce steak is served with three sauces and a head of roasted garlic at The Fillmore Room in New York City.

  • Shallot Vinaigrette. Use your best vinegar and olive oil, minced shallots and parsley or other herb of choice. As a bonus, serve it warm. Recipe.
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    Mushroom Sauce

    Mushroom sauce with red wine is a classic steak sauce (photo Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).

     

    CLASSIC FRENCH SAUCES

  • Aïoli. Aïoli is a Provençal garlic mayonnaise that is typically served with seafood. But it’s delicious with steak, too, and is also a yummy dip for French fries. Recipe.
  • Béarnaise Sauce. Thick and creamy like aioli but laced with tarragon and shallot instead of garlic, this pairing has been revered by French steak lovers for centuries. Recipe.
  • Compound Butter. Another innovation of French cooks, compound butter has been flavored with anything the cook likes, from anchovies to Cognac to Roquefort cheese. The butter is rolled into a log, and a slice is cut to top a steak. The heat from the just-cooked steak turns it into a flavored butter sauce. Recipes.
  • Mustard Sauce. Mix Dijon mustard with crème fraîche and gently heat this creamy, tangy steak sauce. Recipe.
  • Mushroom Sauce. Different interpretations include mushrooms with beef stock and brandy or wine, to a cream sauce with a Dijon accent. Recipe.
  • Peppercorn Sauce. Another creamy classic, this steak sauce is made with heavy cream, chicken stock, red wine vinegar and green peppercorns, simmered briefly.
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    MORE STEAK SAUCES

    There are many more options, but we’ll conclude today with global influences:

  • Try Asian-style sauces, such as Black Bean Sauce with Five Spice Powder and Teriyaki Sauce from BBC Good Food, and Green Sriracha Sauce from Food and Wine.
  • Go South-of-the-Border with Poblano Sauce (add puréed poblanos into garlic mayonnaise (aioli), Mole Sauce or Smoky Ancho Chile-Almond Sauce from FoodAndWine.com.
  • You can also make Piri-Piri Sauce with this recipe from Emeril. Piri-Piri is from Africa; Peri-Peri is the version brought back home by Portuguese sailors, and became the Peruvian version of Chimichurri. Both get their heat from fresh chiles.
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    Happy grilling, happy saucing!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Biscuits & Gravy

    If you’re from the South, or have friends and family who hale from there, you know the pleasures of biscuits and gravy, a popular breakfast dish.

    Soft biscuits are smothered in:

  • Sausage gravy, made from the drippings of cooked pork sausage, white flour, milk, black pepper, and in the best recipes, bits of sausage, bacon, or ground beef. The gravy is often flavored with black pepper.
  • Sawmill gravy (a.k.a. country gravy, cream gravy, milk gravy, sausage gravy and white gravy) a carnivore version of béchamel sauce with meat drippings added to the roux, and black pepper plus bits of breakfast sausage or chicken livers (our fave!) added to the finished sauce.
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    It’s loaded with with carbs and fat, but on a special day like Father’s Day, it’s a treat. While Biscuits & Gravy are a standalone main dish, you can serve smaller portions with eggs or other favorite breakfast foods.
     
    THE HISTORY OF BISCUITS & GRAVY

    Early European settlers to America had to rely on basic, simple cooking. During the best times they had meat, and every part of the animal that could be eaten was eaten.

    Biscuits and Gravy emerged as a Southern regional dish after the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), when foodstuffs and money were in short supply. Breakfast was necessarily the most substantial meal to fuel people for the work day. Biscuits covered in gravy made from meat drippings, and possibly bits of meat, fit the bill.

    This recipe, adapted from one in Breakfast: Recipes To Wake Up For by George Weld and Evan Hanczor.

    RECIPE: BISCUITS & GRAVY

    You can make the biscuits from scratch or buy refrigerated buttermilk biscuits. The biscuits are served warm.

    While some people make the gravy with cream, whole milk is rich enough.
     
    Ingredients Per Main Serving

  • 2 biscuits
  • 4 ounces fresh pork sausage (2 sausage patties or 1-2 large links)
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Optional topper: cooked bacon, ham, sausage patties or other meat
  • Optional topper: fried egg or side of scrambled eggs
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley, chives or other herb
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    Preparation

    1. SLICE sausage links in half, remove the meat and discard the casings.

    2. HEAT a small or medium stainless steel sauce pan (do not use nonstick) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot (we use the water test*—see footnote below), add the sausage and use a spatula or wooden spoon to break it into chunks; then press down on the meat. As you brown the sausage, some brown bits will stick to the pan. This is the fond.

     

    Biscuits & Gravy

    Biscuits & Gravy

    Biscuits & Gravy Recipe

    Fried Egg, Biscuits & Gravy

    Top: Biscuits smothered in gravy from Chef George Weld (photo © Rizzoli). Second: You can go lighter on the gravy, with this recipe from Pillsbury. Third: Make more of a meal by topping the biscuits with sausage patties, ham, bacon or other meat (photo courtesy Pillsbury). Bottom: Top with a fried egg or serve scrambled eggs on the side (photo St. Louis Magazine).

     
    3. REDUCE the heat to medium and sprinkle the flour into the pan, stirring for 1 minute. Pour in the milk and scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the gravy thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. It should look velvety and have the thickness of heavy cream. Season the gravy with salt, black pepper and cayenne.

    4. COOK the optional eggs and bacon or other meat.

    5. Split the biscuits and arrange on plates or in shallow bowls. Top with the optional meat and eggs, pour the gravy over the biscuits and serve immediately. While fresh herbs are not a Southern tradition, we always sprinkle them as a garnish for flavor and color.
     
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    *THE WATER TEST: Drop 1/8 teaspoon water into the hot pan. If it forms into balls that sizzle, the pan is not hot enough. Keep heating, and when the water forms a single ball that rolls around the pan, it’s ready.
     
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF GRAVY

    Gravy is a sauce made in its simplest form from flour (a thickener), fat and seasonings (salt and pepper). Vegetables can be added, as well as wine and additional thickeners such as cornstarch.

    The word originally referred to a sauce made from the drippings (fat and uses) from cooked meat and poultry, there are now vegetarian and vegan gravies.

    Gravy has long used meat drippings (or in current times, a vegetarian substitute), as opposed to:

  • Sauces, which are made from fruits, vegetables and/or their juices.
  • Jus (pronounced ZHOO), the French term for a meat gravy that has been refined and condensed into a clear liquid.
  • Coulis, a thin fruit or vegetable purée used as a sauce.
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    In American cooking, gravies are white or brown. Popular gravies include:

  • Brown gravy, made with the drippings from roasted meat or poultry.
  • Cream gravy is the white gravy used in Biscuits and Gravy and Chicken Fried Steak. It is a béchamel sauce made with meat drippings and optionally, bits of mild sausage or chicken liver. Other names include country gravy, milk gravy, sawmill gravy, sausage gravy and white gravy.
  • Egg gravy is a béchamel sauce that is served over biscuits, essentially cream gravy with a beaten egg whisked in. The egg creates small pieces in the gravy.
  • Giblet gravy is a brown gravy that includes the giblets of turkey or chicken, and is served with those fowl. It is the traditional Thanksgiving gravy.
  • Mushroom gravy is a brown or white gravy made with mushrooms.
  • Onion gravy is made from large quantities of slowly sweated, chopped onions mixed with stock or wine. Commonly served with bangers and mash, eggs, chops, or other grilled or fried meat which by way of the cooking method would not produce their own gravy.
  • Red-eye gravy is a gravy made from the drippings of ham fried in a skillet, a Southern specialty served over biscuits, grits or ham. The pan is deglazed with coffee, and the gravy has no thickening agent.
  • Vegetable gravy isa vegetarian gravy made with boiled or roasted vegetables plus vegetable stock, flour and fat. Wine and/or vegetable juice can be added.
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    And let’s not forget our favorite dessert gravy: chocolate sauce, made with fat (butter), flour, cocoa powder and sugar.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Homemade Pork Rinds

    Homemade Pork Rinds

    Pork Rind Garnish

    Pork Cracklings

    Top: Don’t these homemade pork rinds look so much better than store-bought? Photo and recipe courtesy PaleoLeap.com. Center: Pork rinds are also a delicious garnish for soups and salads. Photo courtesy Culinary Vegetable Institute. Bottom: Pork cracklings are made from the skin and fat; pork rinds are the skin (rind) only. Photo courtesy Padaek.com. Check out the recipe.

     

    As we think ahead to Father’s Day, we’re mulling over some homemade versions of popular snack foods from potato chips to pork rinds.

    Pork Rind Appreciation Day, established by Rudolph Foods (which sells pork rinds), is held on Super Bowl Sunday. But we like the idea of homemade pork rinds and a cold beer on Father’s Day.
     
    PORK RINDS VS. PORK CRACKLINGS

    Pork rinds (chicharrónes) are made from pork skin, with the attached fat removed.

    That’s the difference between pork rinds and pork cracklings. Cracklings (called grattons in Cajun cuisine) include the fat that adheres to the skin. Because of the extra fat, cracklings are greasier, denser and a bit chewy. Pork rinds are airy like cheese puffs, and they dissolve in your mouth.

    Here’s an idea: Buy pork belly to make grilled pork belly or pork belly skewers, and turn the skin into pork rinds. You can also buy the skin only from butchers (it’s quite inexpensive).

    Be sure to use skin within three days of purchase, as its high moisture content means it can spoil quickly. The finished pork rinds will keep for a long time if cooked long enough for all the fat to be rendered out.

    Check out this video.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE PORK RINDS

    Here’s a recipe for homemade pork rinds from Paleo Leap, which serves it as a crispy Paleo Diet snack with dilled mayonnaise or tartar sauce.

    Some pork rinds are deep-fried. Others, like this recipe, are roasted (the difference between roasting and baking).

    With homemade pork rinds, you control the salt. You don’t need to use any salt at all; the pork rinds will still be delicious. You can supply a salt shaker for those who must have it.

    Or, you can choose another seasoning. Garlic? Pepper? Curry?

    Ingredients

  • Pork skin
  • Optional: salt
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper to make clean-up easier.

    2. SLICE the skin into 1″ x 2″ strips—longer if you like—and place the strips on the baking sheet. Roast for 1-1/2 hours, then taste a piece. Many recipes call for 3 hours, but Sébastien Noël of Paleo Leap advises: “…most of the time they’re ready after 1.5 hours. You want them to be crispy but you don’t want them to be hard as a rock.”

    3. REMOVE from the oven and cool until they’re warm to the touch; enjoy them warm.

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    Scrunchions, popular in Newfoundland, are pieces of fried fat (no skin).

     
      

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