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TIP OF THE DAY: Jalapeño Compound Butter

Ravioli With Hazelnut Butter

Roquefort  Butter

Top: Ravioli with walnut butter (photo courtesy David Venable | QVC). Bottom: Steak with Roquefort Butter (photo Recipes101.com).

 

Whatever you’re cooking for Cinco de Mayo, spice it up with Jalapeño Compound Butter (recipe below). You can use it for cooking, as a garnish (a pat on the top of grilled meat, seafood, corn-on-the-cob), or as a bread spread.

WHAT IS COMPOUND BUTTER?

Compound butter (beurre composé), seasoned/flavored butter, is a staple of French cuisine. Almost any flavor can be blended into butter, which is then rolled into a log, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated. When needed, just cut a slice from the log.

For most of its life, compound butter was used as finishing butter: a pat to top hot proteins and vegetables, or blended with pan juices to make a sauce.

Perhaps the best-known compound butter in the U.S. is garlic butter, known as beurre d’ail or beurre à la bourguignonne) in France. Italian-American garlic bread is an Americanized bruschetta, made with butter instead of olive oil.

The great French chef Escoffier (1846-1935) published 35 combinations in 1903. They included such classic combinations as anchovy butter with steak and seafood, Roquefort butter on steaks, beurre à la maître d’hotel (lemon parsley butter) with escargots, various herb butters for meat, poultry, fish and vegetables; and numerous nut, spice and wine butters.

As a truffle lover, we find truffle butter to be a transformational experience, whether used simply on pasta or in a more elaborate preparation. We can have a joyous meal of only a fresh baguette and a tub of D’Artagnan truffle butter.
 
MODERN COMPOUND BUTTER

You may not cook French cuisine, but if you like butter, you can incorporate compound butters into much of what you do make: grilled meats and seafood, pasta, potatoes, rice and other grains, eggs, anything that needs a butter sauce.

Use your favorite flavors: the classics or more modern additions to American cuisine, such as curry, hot sauce, lavender, wasabi…you can think of dozens of great pairings.

Consider combinations such as:

  • Blue cheese butter in the center of a burger.
  • Chipotle butter for corn-on-the-cob.
  • Chive butter for baked potatoes.
  • Cilantro butter for grilled fish.
  • Coffee butter for toast or steak.
  • Harissa-za’atar butter for lamb chops.
  • Herb butter for cooking eggs.
  • Radish butter on slices of baguette.
  • Seaweed butter for fish or noodles.
  • Sriracha-honey butter for biscuits and chicken.
  • Sweet butter for pancakes, waffles, muffins and toast (chocolate butter, cinnamon butter, maple butter, pecan butter, strawberry butter, vanilla butter).
  •  
    Any of these butters can also be used as spreads; on potatoes, rice and vegetables; and for basting and sautéing foods in butter, or making a quick butter sauce.
     

     

    RECIPE #1: JALAPEÑO COMPOUND BUTTER

    This recipe, from Gordy’s Pickle Jar, uses Gordy’s Thai Basil Pickled Jalapeños. Or, you can pickle your own (recipe below).

    This recipe is for a small batch: good for testing and then adjusting the ingredients.

    Ingredients

  • ½ (1 stick) cup salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons diced Gordy’s Thai Basil Jalapeños (about 8 pieces) or substitute (we minced the jalapeños for more even distribution of flavor)
  • ½ teaspoon brine from the pickled jalapeños
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the stick of butter into eight pieces and place it in a stainless steel bowl. Let it soften to room temperature.

    2. ADD the diced jalapeños and the brine and blend with a wooden spoon until the jalapeños are evenly distributed. Using the back of the spoon, shape the butter into a ball and transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap.

    3. WRAP the butter in the plastic wrap and shape it into a log. Refrigerate the wrapped log and chill at least 1 hour to harden. When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and slice into whatever size you need.
     
    RECIPE # 2: QUICK-PICKLED JALAPEÑOS

    This quick-pickling recipe is meant for short-term consumption and storing in the fridge. Do not use it to “put away” pickles. You may wish to cut the recipe in half if you won’t be using the pickled jalapeños for any other purpose (burgers, salads, jalapeño mayonnaise, etc.).

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound jalapeños (we used red for more color)
  • 2 cups white or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt (substitute kosher salt)
  • 1 tablespoon favorite spices (clove, coriander, cumin, oregano)
  • Optional: 2 cloves garlic
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon sugar*
  •  

    Jalapeno Compound Butter

    Compound Butter

    Top: Jalapeño butter (photo courtesy Gordy’s Pickle Jar). We minced our jalapeños finely for better distribution of flavor. Bottom: Different compound butter flavors (photo courtesy SheKnows.com).

     
    *You can add sugar to the brine, but make a batch without it first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.
     
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the jalapenos and place in a jar (for compound butter, mince). Cover with white or white wine vinegar (alternative: use half vinegar and half salted water). Add your favorite spices to the brine.

    2. ADD the jalapeños to the brine, making sure that the brine covers the jalapeños. Let sit overnight, although if you’re in a pinch, you can use them after an hour of marinating. They just won’t have a more complex flavor.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Authentic Mexican Recipes For Cinco De Mayo

    Mexican Ceviche

    Chicken Fajitas

    TOP: Ceviche Acapulqueno, from the Pacific Coast of Mexico (photo courtesy KatanaeStudio.com. BOTTOM: Tex-Mex foods like fajitas are not authentic Mexican (photo courtesy Wild Oats), but Tex-Mex cuisine that originated in Texas.

     

    Chef Johnny Gnall’s mother is from Mexico, so he grew up eating the real deal: authentic Mexican cuisine. So today’s tip is: Cook something authentic for Cinco de Mayo.

    It’s easy to default to Tex-Mex favorites: most “Mexican” food North of the Rio Grande is Tex-Mex, a cuisine developed by Mexicans who moved to Texas (Tejanos). For example, beef, cheese-stuffed burritos and wheat [white] flour are not common in Mexico. You won’t find chili con carne there; or chimichangas, for that matter.

    Queso dips and fajitas were born in the U.S.A. Nachos were invented in 1943 on the Mexican side of the border, as a spur-of-the-moment solution to feed a group of Army wives from Texas who stopped at a restaurant when the kitchen was closed.

    Anything with beef, black beans, Cheddar or other yellow cheese, cumin, wheat flour, black beans, and canned tomatoes are Tex-Mex, a term that first appeared in print in the 1940s. Tex-Mex was developed by Tejano restaurateurs using local ingredients to appeal to gringos (there’s plenty of beef in Texas). The fusion cuisine began to expand nationwide when food writers “discovered” it in the 1970s.

    While cooking Mexican cuisine is often a multi-step process, there are some simple yet authentic dishes you can make. Also note: There is no single “Mexican cuisine.” As it is everywhere, different regions of any country have different specialties, based on local ingredients.
     

    AUTHENTIC MEXICAN RECIPES FOR CINCO DE MAYO

    RECIPE #1: CEVICHE ACAPULQUEÑO

    Ceviche can be found throughout Mexico (and the rest of Central and South America). Its origins lie along the country’s coastlines, where fresh fish was a staple. Recipes vary according to the local catch.

    This recipe is a popular Pacific Coast ceviche. The distinguishing characteristic of Pacific ceviches is the use of tomato juice and, often, pickled chilies in the recipe. Eastern ceviches, from Mexico’s Gulf Coast, are less complex, using fresh chilies and foregoing the tomato juice.

    You can serve ceviche as an appetizer, as a light entrée (especially at lunch), or a snack. Chef Johnny’s mother eats a big bowl for breakfast when vacationing in Acapulco.

     
    Always buy the freshest fish you can find for ceviche.

    Ingredients For 4 One-Cup Servings

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless fish fillets, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican* oregano
  • Optional: 1 bay leaf
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 fresh serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 20 green Manzanilla olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Optional garnish: sliced avocado
  • Optional: tortilla chips
  •  
    ______________
    *Mexican oregano is a different herb than Mediterranean/European oregano. It is in a different botanical family and has different flavor notes. Mediterranean oregano is sweeter, with anise notes. Mexican oregano is grassy, with citrus notes. That being said, you can substitute Mediterranean oregano; just use a little less of it. You can also substitute dried marjoram, which comes from the same botanical family as Mexican oregano and also has citrus notes. Dried lemon verbena is another option.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the fish in a non-reactive mixing bowl and cover it with the lime juice. Let the fish marinate for 3 hours. (This part of the process is curing—essentially, cooking—the fish).

    2. ADD to the bowl: the onion, tomato, orange juice, half a cup of the tomato juice, 1 tablespoon of minced serranos, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch or two of dried oregano, bay leaf, olives, cilantro, and a pinch of salt. Cover the bowl and let everything marinate overnight. The next day…

    3. TASTE and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Garnish with avocado and serve with tortillas chips.

     

    RECIPE #2: FISH VERACRUZ STYLE

    The Mexican state of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast is known for its fine cuisine. While recipes can be quite elaborate, this one is quick and easy.

    This dish was adapted from a Spanish dish called Frita that uses chicken, not fish. The Veracruzeños substituted fish and also added the spicy chilies, as is typical when “Mexicanizing” a dish.

    Ingredients

  • Snapper fillets (substitute tilapia or other white fish)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 limes
  • 1 white onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2-3 pickled jalapeños
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced green olives (pimiento-stuffed is fine)
  • Garnish: avocado or lime slices
  •  
    Serve With:

  • White rice
  •  

    Mexican Tilapia Recipe

    Tilapia Veracruz Style (photo courtesy MexicoInMyKitchen.com).

     
    Preparation

    1. SEASON the filets by rubbing salt, pepper, and lime into the flesh; let sit fit for 15 minutes. The goal here is not to fully cook the fish as in ceviche, but rather to infuse it with a bit of flavor. While the fish is sitting…

    2. CHOP half a white onion, the garlic, bell pepper, pickled jalapeños and tomatoes. Sweat the onion, garlic, and peppers in a pot until soft; then add the tomatoes with as much of their liquid as possible. Add the olives, bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes.

    3. ADD the fish to a pot, covering the filets as best you can with the sauce. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, until the fish is done. Garnish and serve.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pure Leaf Tea House Collection

    Pure Leaf Lemon Honeysuckle Tea

    Pure Leaf Fuji Apple Ginger

    The New Pure Leaf Teahouse Collection from Pepsico.

     

    Pepsico has made iced tea more elegant with its new line of Pure Leaf bottled teas, the Tea House Collection. Debuting in select markets nationwide, the teas are certified USDA Organic—and so delicious, we can’t get enough of them!

    A super-premium line of the finest organic tea leaves brewed with fruits and herbs, the debut collection has three elegantly layered flavors:

  • Fuji Apple & Ginger green tea
  • Sicilian Lemon & Honeysuckle black tea
  • Wild Blackberry & Sage black tea
  •  
    In signature glass bottles, tall and squarish, both the glass and the metal cap are 100% recyclable. The sugar is restrained—almost 50% less than most sweetened bottled teas—allowing the sophisticated flavors to shine through. Each 14-ounce bottle from the Tea House Collection has just 90 calories.

    We “stretched” our bottles by drinking the teas from ice-filled rocks glasses. Some colleagues—we won’t name names—added shots of gin and vodka to create “Tea-tinis.”
     
    ABOUT PURE LEAF

    There are 8 flavors of sweetened Pure Leaf teas, 2 diet flavors and 3 unsweetened flavors with zero calories—all in 18.5-ounce plastic bottles (you can find the full collection here). The brand recently introduced Unsweetened Black Tea and Unsweetened Green Tea.
     
    The Unsweeted Green Tea is really special, with a delightful undertone of honeysuckle (there’s no honeysuckle in it; the flavor comes from the particular tea leaves). Who needs sweetener?

    Good job, Pure Leaf!

    Here’s a store locator.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Corn Tortillas

    Do something different for Cinco de Mayo: Make your own corn tortillas.

    Americans eat lots of tortillas: Back in 2000, the Tortilla Industry Association estimated that Americans consumed approximately 85 billion tortillas (not including tortilla chips). They haven’t updated their website information, but we can safely assume that tortilla sales have only gone up. [Source]

    Yet the majority of us have never have seen handmade tortillas. Most Mexican restaurants and retailers have machine-made tortillas, pressed very flat with added preservatives to extend their shelf life.

    Tortillas are a flatbread (see the different types of bread). In a tortilleria (tortilla bakery) or Mexican restaurant, masa (cornmeal dough) is rolled into small balls of dough, flattened and cooked them quickly on a hot skillet. They require only one ingredient—masa harina, a special cornmeal—plus water.

    Like fresh-baked loaves of bread, fresh-baked tortillas are heavenly—and much faster to make. They have no fat or preservatives, so must be eaten the day they’re made (or stored in the fridge for 2-3 days).

    If you don’t have a local tortilleria, it’s easy to make your own.
     
    THE ORIGIN OF TORTILLAS

    Before wild yeast was harnessed by man, bread meant flatbread the world over: arepa, bánh, bannock, focaccia, injera, johnnycake, lavash, matzoh, naan, piadina, pita, pizza, puri, roti, tortilla and dozens of others.

    Tortillerias are native to Mexico and Central America, where they remain a staple food. The oldest tortillas discovered by archaeologists date back to around 10,000 B.C.E., made of maize (maize—corn—is native to Central America). The dried corn kernels were ground into cornmeal, which was mixed with water to make a dough called masa.

    When Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors arrived in what is today Mexico (on April 22, 1519), they encountered the native women making tortillas—flat corn bread. In the Aztec language Nahuatl, it was called tlaxcalli (teu-ax-CAH-lee). The Spanish called them tortillas, little cakes.

    Originally hand-flattened, “technology” most likely evolved to flattening with an implement, and later to manually operated wooden tortilla presses, flattening the tortilla dough one by one. Modern machinery can produce up to 60,000 tortillas an hour.

    Tortillas are now wheat flour in addition to maize. Typically, corn tortillas are used for tacos, flour tortillas for burritos.

       
    Tortillas Recipe

    Tortillas Recipe

    Tortilla Recipe

    Top: The dough is rolled into small balls, eachh of which becomes a tortilla (photo courtesy LoveAndOliveOil.com). Center: The balls are flattened and placed on the grill (photo © Jim Damaske | Tampa Bay Times). Bottom: Beautiful, fresh tortillas (photo TheGumDropButton.com).

     
    Women Making Tortillas
     
    Mexican women making grits in a work by Carl Nebel, 1836.
     
    THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF GROUND CORN

    Unless you work with these products regularly, you can’t be expected to know that all arground cornmeal, dried corn that’s ground down into smaller, coarse bits.

  • Corn flour is the most finely-ground maize. When nixtimalized, it becomes masa harina, used to make tortillas and other flat breads. Compare it in uses to all-purpose wheat flour: for fried food batter (start with a 50:50 mix of wheat and corn flours, for dredging, pancakes, etc.).
  • Cornmeal, also spelled corn meal, is coarse-ground maize (corn). It is used for arepas, grits for breakfast cereal or dinner sides, cornbread, fried foods, gluten-free cakes and pie crusts, hush puppies, Indian Pudding, shrimp and grits, and many other recipes.
  • Cornstarch is a thickener made from refined maize starch. It is a very fine powder.
  • Grits are hulled and coarsely ground grain. Grits can be made from any cereal, although corn grits are the norm. Here are uses for grits for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Hominy grits are the same thing as grits. Grits is the shortened term for hominy grits.
  • Masa harina, meaning “dough flour for tamales,” is very fine-ground nixtimalized corn used for tortillas and tamales.
  • Masa and hominy are both nixtimalized corn kernels, but hominy is ground from white corn.
  • Nixtimalization is a process that soaks the grain kernels in an alkaline solution, usually limewater—a diluted solution of calcium hydroxide. The kernels are then rinsed. This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. Masa harina is nixtimalized corn,
  • Polenta is a paste or dough made from medium- or coarse-ground cornmeal. It is cooked, formed into a roll and then fried or baked.
  • Southern grits are made from a different type of corn than polenta. Grits are made from dent corn; polenta from Italy is made from flint corn. Flint corn holds its texture better, which is why grits are the consistency of porridge and polenta is coarser and more toothsome.
  •  
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS

    All you need to make tortillas is masa harina and water. Masa harina, Spanish for dough flour, is the corn flour (corn meal) used to make tortillas and tamales. You can’t substitute regular cornmeal: Masa harina is specially treated corn (see the next section).

    You can find masa harina in any Latin American market or other market with a good Latin American foods section. We prefer Bob’s Red Mill brand, which we pick up at Whole Foods. Rick Bayless uses Maseca brand. Since the cornmeal provides the only flavor in the tortilla, go for the freshest, best-quality product. And don’t buy “instant.”
     
    Ingredients For 15 Tortillas

  • 1-3/4 cups masa harina (substitute 1 pound fresh smooth-ground corn masa*)
  • Water
  •  
    ________________________________
    *If you’re near a tortilleria, you may be able to purchase fresh, smooth-ground corn masa. On the other hand, if you’re at a tortilleria, you can purchase the tortillas freshly baked.

     

    Masa  Harina Bob's Red Mill

    51L2KlaJw7L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

    Top: All you need to make tortillas: masa harina and water (photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill). Because the corn flour is the only flavor to the tortilla, buy the best. Bottom: The tortilla recipe is from Rick Bayless’ great book, Everyday Mexican (photo courtesy W.W. Norton, Inc.).

     

    Preparation

    1. MEASURE the masa harina into a bowl and add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water. Knead with your hands until thoroughly combined. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. (If using fresh-ground masa, available from a tortilleria, scoop it into bowl, break it up and knead a few times until smooth.)

    2. SET a large griddle (one that stretches over 2 burners) or 2 skillets on your stovetop. Heat one end of the griddle (or one skillet) to medium, the other end (or other skillet) to medium-high.

    3. SQUEEZE the dough gently. If it is stiff (it probably will be), knead in some water, 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time, until the dough feels like soft cookie dough: not stiff, but not sticky. Divide the dough into 15 pieces, rolling each into a ball. Cover with plastic.

    4. CUT 2 squares of a plastic bag, 1 inch larger than your tortilla press (we used our George Forman grill with the flat plates). Open the press and lay on one piece of plastic. Lay a dough ball in the center, and gently mash it. Top with the second piece of plastic and close press. Gently flatten the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick disk. Peel off the top piece of plastic.

    5. FLIP the tortilla onto your right hand (if you’re right-handed); the top of the tortilla should line up with the side of your index finger. Gently roll it onto the side of the griddle (or skillet) heated to medium. Let the bottom of the tortilla touch the griddle, then lower your hand slightly and move it away from you. The tortilla will stick to the hot surface so you can roll your hand out from under it as it rolls down flat. After 30 seconds, the edges of the tortilla will dry slightly and the tortilla will release from the griddle. Until this moment, the tortilla will be stuck.

    6. FLIP the tortilla onto the hotter side of the griddle (or the hotter skillet) with a metal spatula. After 30 seconds, the tortilla should be lightly browned underneath. Flip it over. Cook 30 seconds more—the tortilla should puff in places (or all over—a gentle press with metal spatula or fingers encourages puffing). Transfer to a basket lined with a napkin or towel.

    7. PRESS and bake the remaining tortillas. Stack each newly baked tortilla on top of the previously baked tortillas. Keep the tortillas well wrapped in a kitchen towel for warmth.

     
    REHEATING CORN TORTILLAS

    Some people have a tortilla steamer to reheat tortillas in the microwave (we picked up a silicone steamer and use it every day to warm or steam other foods in our microwave). But you don’t need one: You can substitute a kitchen towel.

  • In the microwave: Drizzle 3 tablespoons of water over a clean kitchen towel and wrap the tortillas. Place in a microwaveable plastic bag and fold it over—don’t seal the bag. Microwave at 50% power for 4 minutes to create a steamy environment around tortillas. Let stand for 2 or 3 minutes before serving.
  • In a vegetable steamer: If there is a center post, remove it. Pour 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of a pot. Wrap the tortillas (no more than 12 at a time) in a clean kitchen towel. Place it in the steamer, put the lid on the pot and set it over high heat. When the steam begins to seep out under the lid, time for 1 minute. Then turn off the heat and let the tortillas steam for 10 minutes.
  • On a griddle: Quickly reheat the tortillas one at a time on a dry griddle or skillet.
  • With kitchen tongs: Hold the tortilla with tongs over a low flame.
  •  
    CORN TORTILLAS VS. FLOUR TORTILLAS

    People who don’t enjoy the more pronounced flavor or texture of corn tortillas prefer the milder, softer flour tortillas are prized for their mild flavor and softness. Either can be used in any recipe requiring tortillas. However:

  • Flour tortillas are made with added fat—lard or vegetable shortening—and salt.
  • A standard six-inch corn tortilla contains about half the fat and calories and one fourth the sodium of a similar-sized flour tortilla.
  •  
    Recipe © copyright 2005 Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bok Choy & Endive ~ Veggies To Grill

    We wager that anyone who likes veggies looks forward to vegetables cooked outdoors on the grill, for as long as the weather allows. Asparagus, bell peppers, corn, eggplant, onions, portabella mushrooms, tomatoes and zucchini are popular.

    But why not try vegetables you’ve never grilled before?

    Previously we’ve recommended grilled cabbage, grilled cauliflower and grilled romaine for a Caesar Salad.

    Today, for your consideration: Belgian endive and Chinese bok choy (both grown in California).

    WHAT IS ENDIVE?

    Endive is one of the vegetables that were once available in the late fall. Once imported from Europe, it is now grown year-round in California.

    Endive can be grilled, added to salads, or used as “boats” to hold finger foods at parties. You can even make a type of Tarte Tatin using endive instead of apples.

    Endive, Cichorium endivia, is a member of the chicory genus in the Asteraceae family. The genus includes other bitter leafed vegetables, including escarole, frisée and curly endive and radicchio. It has a crisp texture and a sweet, nutty flavor with a pleasantly mild bitterness. It can be served raw or cooked.

    Endive is pricey, because it’s one of the most difficult vegetables to grow. There’s a two-step growing process:

  • The seeds are planted and grow into a leafy green plant in 150 days.
  • They are then harvested, the leafy tops are cut off and the deep roots are dug up and placed in cold storage, where they enter a dormancy period.
  • The dormant roots are removed from cold storage for their second growth, which takes 28 days in dark, cool, humid forcing rooms (similar to a mushroom growing facility).
  • The control over the initiation of this second growing process allows for the year-round production of endive.
  •  
    You can sometimes find good prices on endive, especially when the edges of the tips start to brown, reducing the aesthetic. Since they brown on the grill anyway, it’s an impetus to grill.

    Bonus: A leaf of endive has just one calorie! It’s a good source of potassium, vitamins and minerals, high in complex fiber and promotes digestive health.

    Here’s an easy recipe from Endive.com, which has many more endive recipes.

    RECIPE #1: GRILLED ENDIVE

    Ingredients

  • 3-4 heads endive, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Optional: chopped fresh rosemary
  •    

    Grilled Endive

    Endive With Root

    Top: Endive hot off the grill. Bottom: This is what endive looks like when it’s pulled from the ground. The huge taproot is grown from seeds, harvested, placed in dormancy, and then re-planted to grow the endive heads. This technique enables endive, once a cool weather vegetable, to be grown year-round. Photos courtesy Endive.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the grill over a medium flame. Brush each endive half with olive oil and place on grill, cut side down. After 8–10 minutes, flip and cook another 12-15 minutes, turning occasionally and lowering the flame if needed until the endives soften.

    2. SEASON with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped rosemary. You can serve it hot off the grill or at room temperature.

    3. VARIATION: You can also toss cooled grilled endive into a salad. Cut it into one inch slices; mix with arugula, watercress or other bitter green; and toss with an olive oil-lemon dressing. Garnish with crumbled chèvre or feta cheese and roasted nuts.

     

    Grilled Bok Choy

    Grilled bok toy and lamb patties. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    RECIPE #2: GRILLED MISO BOK CHOY & LAMB PATTIES

    Bok choy, a member of the powerful cruciferous* vegetable family (Brassica), has even more nutrients than some of its cousins (see the list below).

    This easy dinner is a cultural fusion: Chinese bok choy (also called pak choi and Chinese cabbage) meets Middle Eastern lamb patties. The bok choy doubles as a salad and a vegetable side; the miso butter gives it a celestial flavor. The fresh herbs are icing on the cake.

    The recipe, from Good Eggs, takes 15 mins active time and 10 minutes cooking time.

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • ½ cup of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, roughly chopped (substitute 3 teaspoons dried oregano)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed into a paste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons miso
  • 3 heads bok choy, sliced in half lengthwise and rinsed
  • Lime wedge
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE the lamb, feta, egg, oregano, and salt and egg in a mixing bowl. Mix well with clean hands and form into patties about 1” thick and 3” wide. Set aside.

    2. MIX the yogurt, garlic, mint, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Taste and adjust salt to taste (not too salty, as you’re also using salted butter). Set aside.

    3. MIX the butter and miso in a small bowl with the tines of a fork. Melt two tablespoons of the mixture in a cast iron pan over high heat. When melted and hot, tip the pan to coat the bottom of the pan with the mixture.

    4. ADD the bok choy cut side down and sear until it is a deep golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the back side for about a minute. Remove from the pan and squeeze a bit of lime over the bok choy. Return to the pan to finish cooking. When the bok choy is finished…

    5. WIPE the pan clean, add a tablespoon of olive oil and place the pan over high heat. When the oil is hot…

    6. ADD the lamb patties, leaving 1” in between each patty. Cook over high heat for about 4 minutes until the patty is golden brown. Flip to the other side and repeat. When both sides have good color…

    7. CHECK for doneness by inserting a sharp knife into the center of a patty. If the center has a flush of light pink, they’re ready. If the center is still dark pink, pop them in the oven (or toaster oven) at 350°F for 2-3 minutes.

    8. SERVE with the minted yogurt and bok choy. If desired, garnish with a sprig of mint or oregano.
     
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    *The botanical family Brassicaceae, also known as the brassicas, cabbage family, cauliflower family and mustard family, consists of nutritional powerhouses that are packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). Brassica members include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, cauliflower, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna (Japanese mustard), mustard greens, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips, among others.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Taste Oysters

    There are numerous flavor wheels (also called aroma wheels and tasting wheels) created by the specialty foods industry. Industry professionals use them to understand the different flavors of the products they represent.

    The charts show the flavor spectrum in the particular category, mapping nuances of flavors and aromas. They’re a great way to learn how to taste. We’ve spent many enjoyable sessions, sitting down with the food and the wheel.

    THE NIBBLE has presented a:

  • Beer Flavor Wheel
  • Cider Flavor Wheel
  • Coffee Flavor Wheel
  • Olive Oil Flavor Wheel
  • Wine Tasting Wheel
  •  
    We’ve also created our own Chocolate Tasting Chart.

    Today, we present an Oyster Flavor Wheel (below) created by Pangea Shellfish.

    The flavors of agricultural products like cacao beans, olives and wine grapes are greatly affected by their terroir, the unique components of the place (environment) where they are grown. For example, depending on where it is grown, Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit notes—or neither.

    Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH is a French agricultural term referring to the unique set of environmental factors in a specific habitat, which affect a crop’s qualities. It includes the climate and microclimate, weather, elevation, proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of sun. These environmental characteristics gives the wine its character. Terroir is the basis of the French A.O.C. (appellation d’origine contrôlée) system.
     
    OYSTERS ARE A BIT DIFFERENT

  • Oyster terroir includes the mineral components of the body of water (comparable to the soil components of land-grown products) and what type of food the water provides to the oyster; the temperature of the water; and seasonality, which includes both the temperature and spawning cycle.
  •    

    Oysters On The Half Shell

    Permaquid Oysters

    Top: Oysters On The Half Shell at Ox And Son | Santa Monica. Bottom: Permaquid oysters from JP Shellfish.

     

  • Texture is a major component of an oyster’s flavor profile, so the wheel devotes a lot of space to it. Texture, or mouthfeel, can vary widely among varieties due to the oyster’s species and growing method.
  •  
    These factors are why even oysters grown in the same region taste very different. For example, a Malaspina oyster from outside Vancouver Island tastes of artichoke with undertones of metal and salt. A Pemaquid oyster from Maine tastes of cucumber.

  • In other product wheels the aromas, smelled before consuming the product, are emphasized in the wheel. But Pangea notes that it’s very hard to detect more than a refreshing ocean aroma in any fresh oyster.
  •  
    French oyster growers recently coined the term merroir to describe products harvested from the sea instead of the soil (marine + terroir = merroier).
     
    SEE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF OYSTERS & OTHER OYSTER TERMINOLOGY IN OUR OYSTER GLOSSARY.

     

    Band Oysters

    Riptide Oysters

    Top: Band oysters, shucked and ready to taste. “Band” refers to the pronounced black band at the bottom of the oyster meat. Bottom: Riptide Oysters from Westport, Massachusetts. Photos courtesy Pangea Shellfish.

     

    HOW TO USE THE OYSTER FLAVOR WHEEL

    1. Start with the taste section. Be sure to note the oyster’s saltiness by using a brine scale of 0 to 5—0 being no salt, 5 being full ocean salinity.

    2. Follow the wheel clockwise to note the oyster’s texture and finish. The finish is the taste that remains in your mouth after you’ve eaten the item.

    An oyster may have multiple attributes in each section, so taste for all the nuances. .

     
    What If The Oyster Doesn’t Taste Great?

    If you encounter an unpleasant oyster, faults are built into the wheel. The wheel does not explicitly call out faults because it is subjective (an analogy: certain wine grapes have a quality described as “skunky” and some aromas are heavily sulphuric. Some people dislike them, others don’t care. Each taster should evaluate a product based on his/her own preferences.
     
    Tasting Tips

    To ensure a complete flavor experience:

  • Forget the condiments: lemon, sauces, etc. They cover up the flavor of the oyster, and were needed in the days before refrigeration, to cover up any possible results of sitting in a warm place.
  • Do not discard the oyster’s brine (also called liquor), the liquid in the shell. The brine is part of the tasting experience, and is essential to identify the salt content.
  • Chew the oyster 3 to 4 times. Throwing back oyster shooters is fine when their freshness is past their prime, but should never be done with premium oysters. Otherwise, you completely miss evaluating the flavors, texture and finish.
  • Have a palate cleanser between oysters. Water or seltzer (club soda contains salt) is a good option, but some people prefer water crackers like Carr’s. Unsalted matzoh does the same thing for a fraction of the price.
  •  
    Remember that there are five components of taste: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami, the “protein” taste

     

    Oyster Tasting Chart

    This chart is © Pangea Shellfish Company, and is the first version of the wheel. It will continue to evolve based on input from industry professionals, so check for the latest version.
     
    HAVE AN OYSTER TASTING PARTY

    Don’t want to shop and shuck at home? Bring the wheel with you to a top seafood restaurant and let the professionals do the work.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Herb & Spice Grinders

    Some recipes instruct you to grind herbs or spices. In our grandmother’s day, that meant using a mortar and pestle. In our mother’s day, it meant using the coffee grinder for herbs and spices.

    Mom, a purist, had a second grinder for that purpose. Other folks had to first grind uncooked rice in their coffee grinder to remove minute particles of coffee, or else suffer coffee-accented spices.

    Today, manufacturers are doing more to meet the needs of home cooks. McCormick, for example, sells four popular herbs—basil, Italian blend, oregano and parsley—in non-refillable glass grinder bottles (center photo).

    On the spice end, McCormick has grinders for peppercorns and peppercorn-herb blends, seasoned salt blends and plain salt grinders.

    There are herb mills and spice grinders, a.k.a. mills, but we especially like the new Kyocera “Everything Grinder” (bottom photo—more about the mill below). Technically, “mill” refers to the entire device and “grinder” to the grinding mechanism inside the mill.

    FOOD 101: HERBS, MINERALS & SPICES—THE DIFFERENCE

    Herbs, minerals and spices are three options to flavor foods.

  • Herbs are parts of leafy green plants, such as leaves and stems.
  • Spices are bark, berries, fruits, roots or seeds of plants. Peppercorns are the berries of a vine.
  • Minerals are solid inorganic substances. Salt is a mineral. Other minerals used in cooking include baking powder, baking soda, citric acid, MSG and tartaric acid. Sugar is not a mineral since it is derived from the sap of a plant.
  • Herbs and spices lose their flavor over time, but salt retains its flavoring.
  •  
    THE KYOCERA EVERYTHING MILL

    Now, one mill grinds everything: dried herbs, pepper, salt, seeds and spices: the Kyocera Everything Mill With Adjustable Advanced Ceramic Grinder.

    The company states that its advanced ceramic burr mill mechanism, close in hardness to a diamond, will outlast any metal-based grinding mill. Is adjusts from fine to coarse grinds.

     

    Marble Mortar & Pestle

    McCormick Oregano Spice Grinder

    Kyocera Everything Mill

    Top: Marble mortar and pestle from RSVP. Center: McCormick Spice Grinder. Bottom: Kyocera Everything Mill.

     
    The mill features a glass body, ceramic grinding mechanism and acrylic top. The glass base is dishwasher safe, and all components are rustproof.
     

    In addition to salt and peppercorns, you can grind celery, cumin, dill, flax, mustard and sesame seeds; any spices including red pepper flakes; and any dried herbs.

    To grind pliant fresh herbs you’ll still need a mortar and pestle (preferably) or a spice mill/coffee grinder with a metal blade. We’ve tried both and strongly recommend hand-grinding with a mortar and pestle for the finest flavor. Metal blades tear the leaves in a way that releases the oil in a different way. You’ll also need the mortar or metal blades stop grind nuts.

    But for most grinding, you can count on the Kyocera Everything Mill. There’s a color for every kitchen: Apple Green, Bright Black, Brilliant White, Candy Apple Red, Translucent Blue and Translucent Maroon.

    At $19.95, they make good gifts for your favorite cooks. All colors are available on Amazon.com.
     
    FUN: The History Of Coffee Grinders.


      

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    FOOD FUN: Pretzel Doughnuts

    Pretzel Doughnuts

    For National Pretzel Day, have some pretzels on your doughnut. Here’s the recipe from ACosyKitchen.com.

     

    Use pretzels in a different way on April 26th, National Pretzel Day. Consider everything from mini pretzels and pretzel sticks to big, soft pretzels as:

  • As a garnish for scrambled eggs, oatmeal, soup, yogurt (minis or crushed)
  • Instead of croutons on soup (minis or crushed)
  • Plain or toasted, for breakfast (big, soft)
  • Sliced for a sandwich (big, soft)
  • As a topping for potatoes or vegetables (crushed)
  • As a topping for ice cream (minis or crushed)
  • As a topping for cake, pudding, brownies or other dessert (minis or crushed)
  • As a crust for chicken or fish
  • Any other way you like
  •  
    If you come up with something nifty, let us know.
     
    Here’s a recipe for Caramel Pretzel Doughnuts from Betty Crocker.

    Alternatively, here’s an iced doughnut shaped like a pretzel.

    And here’s a recipe to bake your own soft pretzels. Perhaps add a doughnut glaze (recipe below). Have fun with it!

     
    Having a good time? There’s also National Soft Pretzel Day on October 26th.

     
    PRETZEL HISTORY

    Thanks to creative monks, man has enjoyed 15 centuries of pretzel snacks. Here’s the history of pretzels.
     
    RECIPE: DOUGHNUT GLAZE

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Hot water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan; heat over low until warm. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the milk and whisk slowly until thoroughly combined.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and set over a bowl of hot water to keep the glaze from hardening. Dip the doughnuts (or pretzels) into the glaze, one at a time, and set on a rack placed in a half sheet pan to drip. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Eggs In Mini Flower Pots

    Last spring we published a tip on serving foods in mini flower pots—the size that can be used to pot small succulents.

    You can use them anytime: to serve breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks.

    You can find mini flower pots in terra cotta or terra cotta-colored plastic. Either can go into the dishwasher.

    For Mother’s Day or other special occasion, why not start the day by using them to serve scrambled or boiled eggs?

    Use wax paper, parchment or butterhead lettuce leaves (bibb, Boston, green leaf, red leaf) to plug the drainage hole on the bottom of the flower pot; then add the food.

    Garnish scrambled eggs or peeled boiled eggs with:

  • Minced chives or parsley
  • Salmon caviar (or other caviar or roe)
  • Truffles
  •  
    Include a salt shaker (or flavored salt) and a peppermill.
     
    DON’T WANT TO BUY FLOWERPOTS?

    You can serve scrambled eggs in a Martini glass.

    Don’t like eggs? Serve berries in the flower pots.

     

    This variation tops scrambled eggs with bay scallops, and a chive stem for garnish. If the chives are flowering, great! Photo courtesy David Burke Fromagerie.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Stir-Fried Pasta With Leftovers

    Stir Fry Pasta Recipe

    Stir Fried Spaghetti

    Stir-Fried Leftover Bowtie Pasta

    Top: Stir-fried fusilli and shrimp from Tes Photchaman Yuphin of TesAtHome.com. Here’s her recipe. Center: Stir-fried spaghetti from Annie Chun. Bottom: Stir-fried bowtie pasta, Asian-style. Here’s the recipe from KaluhisKitchen.com.

     

    If you can make fried rice from leftover rice and other leftover grains, why not fried pasta? You can serve it as main course or a side.

    You can use any un-sauced pasta or noodle with any other ingredients, and give it the spin you want—Italian versus Asian, for example. You can use pasta with tomato sauce if you select add-on ingredients that would taste good together in an omelet.

    You can use any ingredients you have on hand. We’ve used sausage and fresh mango, and ham and pineapple, for example.

    RECIPE #1: STIR-FRIED PASTA, FREESTYLE

    Here are options for free-styling (combining whatever you want). Or follow the measured recipe below.

    Ingredients

  • Leftover pasta
  • Leftover meat, poultry, seafood; fresh tofu; diced or julienned
  • Egg: raw (mixed into the stir-fry pan or wok to cook) or fried or poached as a topper
  • Sauce: crushed tomatoes, fish sauce, peanut sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce
  • Veggies: bell pepper, broccoli florets, carrots, celery, corn kernels, green beans, mushrooms, onion or scallion (green onion), peas (green, snap or snow), shredded cabbage, spinach, etc.
  • Asian veggies: baby corn, bean sprouts, bok coy, Chinese broccoli, edamame (shelled), mushrooms (black, tree ear/wood ear), snow peas, pea pods, water chestnuts
  • Nuts: cashews or peanuts
  • Stock or broth
  • Olive oil, other cooking oil and some dark sesame oil (optional)
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley
  • Spices: curry, ginger, minced garlic, red pepper flakes (or minced fresh chiles or hot sauce), toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the olive oil and vegetables to a large pan. If using dark sesame oil, add a small amount—it is very strong. Sauté over the medium heat until the veggies are al dente.

     
    2. ADD the sauce components of your choice and stir to integrate. Add vegetable stock and increase the heat to high. When the sauce is bubbling, add the shrimp (if you use raw shrimp, cook until they turn pink and curl up).

    3. ADD the pasta and meat/seafood and mix well. Add the fresh herbs, stir and serve.
     

     

    RECIPE #2: CRISPY LEFTOVER PASTA WITH EGGS, ONIONS & PEPPERS

    This recipe from PatsaFits.org uses ingredients most of us have around the house. You can also use leftover pasta with a tomato sauce in this recipe.

    Ingredients For 4 Main Servings

  • 12 ounces cooked leftover pasta, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups/8 ounces onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups/8 ounces red pepper, finely chopped
  • 8 eggs, well-beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce, or to taste
  • ¼ cup/¼ ounce fresh parsley, chopped (substitute basil, cilantro or other fresh herb)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil and sauté the onions and peppers until softened and starting to brown (about 3 minutes).

     

    Plain Spaghetti

    Leftover cooked spaghetti. Here’s how BackToHerRoots.com used it in a frittata recipe.

     
    2. STIR in the eggs and sriracha and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to using to scramble the mixture. When eggs are mostly cooked but still look a little wet, stir in the spaghetti (about 3 minutes). Continue to cook until the eggs are fully cooked and the spaghetti is warmed through (about 2 minutes more).

    3. DIVIDE among 4 bowls, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
     
    FRIED RICE RECIPES

    Have leftover grains instead of pasta? Here are three ways to stir-fry them.

  • Fried Rice With Kimchi
  • Americanized Fried Rice
  • Stir-Fried Quinoa
  •   

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