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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

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

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

RECIPE: Tunisian Chickpea Soup (Leblebi)

This recipe came to us from our friends at Rancho Gordo, a great purveyor of heirloom beans.

In Tunisia, chickpea soup is a street food, served as a hearty breakfast to men on their way to work. But you can garnish it and serve it at any meal.

Middle Eastern cookbook author Aglaia Kremezi’s advises:

“Leblebi is yet another ingenious combination of legumes and all kinds of readily available vegetables, herbs, and spices that create an irresistibly satisfying dish. Slowly cooking the chickpeas in the oven, inside a clay pot, as Paula Wolfert suggests, makes a wonderfully flavored, silky base. But precooked frozen chickpeas, simmered briefly with garlic in their broth, will make excellent leblebi, flavored with homemade h’rous and sprinkled with Aegean herb and hot pepper mix.”

Take a look at Aglaia Kremezi’s Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.

RECIPE: TUNISIAN CHICKPEA SOUP (LEBLEBI)

A note about the chickpeas: Don’t use them from a can, as easy as it is. Cooking them from scratch makes a huge difference. You can make them ahead of time, refrigerate, and reheat them when you want to serve your soup.

Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

   

tunisian-chickpea-soup-leblebi-MediterraneanVegetarianFeasts-abrams-230r-r

Eat more beans and legumes for the new year. They’re high quality, inexpensive protein. Photo courtesy Stewart, Tabori and Chang.

  • ½ pound (225 g) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked overnight in water to cover with a pinch of baking soda added
  • 2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth or water, plus more as needed
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    Toppings Per Person

  • 1 poached egg*
  • ½ cup (about 50 g) cubed day-old, whole-wheat bread
  • 1 tablespoon harissa, thinned with some water
  • 1 sun-dried tomato, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and drained
  • Diced roasted red or green bell peppers (optional)
  • 1 pinch of ground cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 to 5 black olives, preferably Kalamata
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • Good, fruity olive oil
  • 1 lemon wedge
  •  
    *If you don’t like runny poached eggs, substitute chopped or sliced hard-boiled eggs.

     

    Mediterranean-Vegetarian-Feasts-230

    More ways to eat the better-for-you Mediterranean diet. Photo courtesy Stewart, Tabori and Chang.

     

    GARNISHES

    Let people customize their soup garnishes. Select a variety from the following, and place them in ramekins or small bowls:

  • Canned tuna fish, flaked
  • Coarse sea salt or flaked salt
  • Croutons/crostini
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Green and red bell peppers, chopped
  • Lemon wedges
  • Pickled turnips
  • Preserved lemons, sliced
  • Scallions, thinly sliced
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F (110°C). Drain the soaked chickpeas and place them in a clay casserole with a lid (a Dutch oven will work, too). Add the broth, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, and extra broth as needed to cover the chickpeas by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and place in the oven for at least 3 hours, until the chickpeas are soft and silky. (Note from Rancho Gordo: “Our chickpeas are so fresh, it may not take anywhere near this long to cook. Check frequently after about an hour.”)

    You can make the soup up to this point and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When you are ready to serve…

    2. REHEAT the chickpeas in their liquid while you poach the eggs. You should have one egg for each bowl of soup.

    3. POACH the eggs with this method from Paula Wolfert: Fill a bowl with ice water. In a pan of boiling water, add the eggs, still in their shells. Cover with the lid and turn off the heat. After 6 minutes, slip the eggs into the ice water to cool. Once they are cool, peel them carefully.

    4. PLACE a few cubes of bread in the bottom of a bowl and cover with some of the chickpeas and their cooking liquid. Set an egg on top and cut it so that the yolk runs. Drizzle some harissa over the top, add sun-dried tomato and roasted pepper (if using), and sprinkle with the cumin and black pepper. Top with olives and capers. Drizzle good, fruity olive oil on top and squeeze the lemon wedge over the soup. Repeat for each serving.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Elvis Burger

    January 8th marks the birthday of “The King,” Elvis Presley. Today he’d have been 80 years old.

    Loyal fans celebrate the day with Elvis’s favorite sandwich: a fried peanut butter sandwich with sliced bananas and bacon. (The recipe: Make a PB sandwich on white bread, with sliced bananas and fried bacon. Brush the outsides with softened butter and fry until golden brown.)

    Elvis was a big cheeseburger fan, too, so here’s an Elvis Cheeseburger recipe.

    But Helen Graves of FoodStories.com put her own spin on an “Elvis Burger”, topping a burger with bacon and peanut butter. She contributed the recipe to the wealth of PB recipes on ILovePeanutButter.com.

    Unlike the Elvis Sandwich, banana slices don’t work here. But a side of fried plantains, related to bananas and substituting for French fries, works just fine. See the recipe below.

    RECIPE: ELVIS BURGER

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound grams ground beef
  • 8 slices smoked bacon
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili flakes
  • 4 tablespoons Old Fashioned Smooth peanut butter
  • ¼ iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 burger buns
  •    

    Peanut-Butter-Elvis-Burger-helengraves-foodstories-230

    The Elvis Burger, with bacon and peanut butter. Photo courtesy Helen Graves | Food Stories.

     

    Preparation

    1. DIVIDE the ground beef into 4 equally sized balls, then flatten into patties and set aside. Grill the bacon rasher until crisp, then chop into smallish pieces and set aside.

    2. HEAT a pan until very hot. Season the burger patties with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes each side, or to taste. While the burgers are cooking…

    3. MAKEe the peanut butter sauce by heating a tablespoon of oil in a pan and gently softening the ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes, stirring. Add the chipotle flakes for a further minute, then take the pan off the heat and add the peanut butter, along with a tablespoon of hot water (don’t use cold water). Mix well. When the burgers and sauce are ready…

    4. PLACE some iceberg lettuce on each bun, followed by some onion, a burger, then some of the peanut butter sauce. Top with crispy bacon pieces and the top half of the bun. Eat immediately.

    See more prep photos at ILovePeanutButter.com.

     

    Peanut-Butter-Elvis-Burger-toppings-helengraves-foodstories-230

    The Elvis Burger, topless. Photo courtesy Helen Graves | Food Stories.

     

    RECIPE: FRIED PLANTAINS

    Plantains are cousins of bananas, a staple in most Latin American cuisines. Plantains are larger and green; they don’t ripen to yellow. They are firm and served cooked like a vegetable, not eaten as a raw fruit.

    Ingredients

  • Fresh plantains
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.

     
    2. PEEL the plantains and cut them into round slices (coins) or vertical slices (slice in half lengthwise and then into halves again to desired thickness). halves lengthwise into thin pieces.

    3. FRY the pieces until browned and tender. Drain excess oil on paper towels. Season with salt as desired.
     
    Here’s a recipe for tostones, double-fried plantains that are popular in Puerto Rico.

     
    MORE ELVIS TRIBUTE DISHES

  • Elvis Presley Birthday Sundae Recipe
  • Elvis Cheeseburger Recipe
  • Peanut Butter Banana Cake Recipe
  • Peanut Butter & Banana Quesadilla Recipe
  •  
    How about an Elvis portrait made from toast?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A New Soup & The History Of Soup

    It’s well below freezing in much of the country today: a good day to focus on soup.

    Every culture makes soup. It’s easy, filling and nutritious, and can be inexpensive. In much of the world it’s eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    January is National Soup Month. Rather than fall back on your favorites today, discover something new. Start with our delicious Soup Glossary, featuring many different types of soups.

    Then, check out our soup garnishes: ways to add flavor and excitement to your soup.

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF SOUP

    Mankind is up to 200,000 years old. For the majority of our existence, we have had no soup.

    The earliest humans had no cookware—nothing to boil water (or anything else) in. Boiling was not easy to do until the invention of waterproof containers, probably pouches made of clay or animal skin, about 9,000 years ago. One of the first types of soups can dates to about 6,000 B.C.E.—some 8,000 years ago.

    Our word soup comes from French soupe, which derived from Vulgar Latin suppa, from the post-classical Latin verb suppare, to soak. This indicated bread soaked in broth, or a liquid poured onto a piece of bread. The bread added heft to the meal.

       

    Choabani

    Since its beginnings, soup was a poor man’s
    dinner. The name of the meal evolved to
    souper, than supper. Red lentil soup from
    Chobani | Soho.

     

    reggiano-soup-230

    Soup gets its name from “sop,” the piece of bread regularly added to sop up the soup. Photo courtesy ParmigianoReggiano.com.

     

    In Germanic languages, the word sop referred to a piece of bread used to soak up soup or stew. The word entered the English language in the seventeenth century exactly as that: soup pored over “sops” of bread or toast (which evolved into croutons). Prior to then, soups were called broth or pottage. The bread or toast served as an alternative to using a spoon.

    Today’s soup croutons evolved from sops.

    While the rich enjoyed elaborate soups, basic soup was a poor man’s dinner. Until recent times, the evening meal was the lighter of the two meals of the day; a soup or sop would be a typical evening dish. The name of the meal evolved to souper, than supper.

    It began to be fashionable to serve the liquid broth without the sop (bread), and in the early eighteenth century, soup became a first course.
     

    EATING VS. DRINKING SOUP

    Since it’s a liquid, why do we “eat” soup rather than “drink” soup?

    Because it’s served in a dish. If you consume it from a mug or cup, then you can be deemed to be drinking your soup.

     

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: CedarLane Egg White Omelettes

    It’s a new year and you’ve resolved to eat better. Get started by eating a good breakfast.

    We flipped for CedarLane’s Egg White Omelettes, which go from freezer to plate in 4-1/2 microwave minutes. Eat them directly from the paper baking dish—no dish washing required.

    You’ll benefit from 18-23 g of protein (depending on the variety) and all-natural ingredients. The calories range from 230 to 300 (the latter includes turkey bacon).

    While these are egg white omelettes, made without the cholesterol-laden egg yolks, you wouldn’t know it. They both look and taste like the whole egg, conventionally yellow and very flavorful. They do, however, contain cholesterol from the cheese (and the turkey bacon), but it’s a net savings over a whole egg omelette.

       

    garden-omelette-box-230

    A delicious omelet in 4-1/2 minutes. Photo courtesy CedarLane.

     

     

    spinach-omelete-plate-230

    Each variety is delicious. Here, the popular spinach omelette. Photo courtesy CedarLane.

     

    Tender and tasty, the options include:
    The omelettes are available in four delicious flavors, so well seasoned, they don’t even need a shake of salt.

  • Garden Vegetable & Mozzarella Egg White Omelette: mozzarella cheese and a garden full of veggies—potatoes, red onions, green and red bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes.
  • Green Chile, Cheese & Ranchero Sauce Egg White Omelette: green chiles and cheddar cheese topped with a delectable ranchero sauce. Not hot or spicy, just delicious.
  • Spinach and Mushroom Egg White Omelette: spinach, mushrooms and both mozzarella and feta cheeses.
  • Uncured Turkey Bacon, Vegetable & Cheese Egg White Omelette: turkey bacon with potatoes, bell peppers, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.
  •  

    Beyond breakfast, the omelettes are delicious for lunch or a light dinner with a big salad.

    Each individual-portion box has an SRP of $5.00. Learn more at CedarLaneFoods.com.
     
    OMELETTE VS. OMELET?

    It’s French versus British spelling. Both are correct: Omelet is easier to spell while omelette is more elegant.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Green Tea Rice

    If you like green tea, have you ever tried cooking with it? An easy way to start is with this Green Tea Rice recipe from Bee Yinn Low of Rasa Malaysia, a website that features easy Asian recipes.

    The recipe illustrates how green tea is not just for drinking but for adding flavor and nutritional benefits (antioxidants!) to everyday dishes.

    Bee Yinn Low uses Oi Ocha brand’s shincha tea in her cookng. Shincha is the year’s first harvest of green tea, which begins in early April. The young leaves used to brew shincha tea has even more benefits than other green teas, the result of wintertime dormancy. They deliver smooth umami flavor plus four times the amount of the amino acid L-theanine, higher concentrations of catechin antioxidants and vitamin C. It’s also lower in caffeine than regular green tea, with a subtle sweetness attributed to the higher content of L-theanine and the lower content of caffeine.

    In Japanese, “shin” means new and “cha” means tea. The tea is available for only a few months a year, but is still available on Amazon.com and from the manufacturer, Itoen.com. Think it as the summer ale or Beaujolais Nouveau of green tea.

       

    green_tea_rice-rasamalaysia-230

    Green tea rice. Photo courtesy Rasa Malaysia.

     

    oi-ocha-shincha-green-tea-itoen-230

    Shincha green tea. Photo courtesy Oi-Ocha |
    Itoen.

     

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA RICE

    Prep time is 5 Minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 cup cooked steamed rice (we prefer jasmine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup shincha (or other plain green tea)
  • Garnish: thinly sliced scallions
  • Garnish: 1/2 teaspoon toasted white and black sesame seeds
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BRING the green tea to simmer in a small sauce pan. Add the salt and turn off the heat.

    2. PLACE the steamed rice in a large shallow bowl. Top with the scallions and sesame seeds. Pour the green tea over the rice and serve immediately.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Switch Up That Sandwich With Fusion Condiments

    You may love ham and Swiss cheese on rye with mustard, or a chicken sandwich with mayo on whole wheat toast. These sandwich and condiment pairings descend from the venerable English tradition of the sandwich (here’s the history of sandwiches).

    But it’s a new year, so how about a new approach? How about a chicken katsu sandwich served with pickled daikon, arugula and tonkatsu aïoli (garlic mayo mixed with tonkatsu sauce, also delicious with fries). It was on the menu at Sushi Samba’s Coral Gables, Florida location.

    Or, make a ham or chicken sandwich with spicy Asian peanut sauce, satay-style. Or a turkey sandwich with hoisin sauce and green onions, Peking Duck-style.

    Curried tuna and egg salads seem like something from your grandmother’s generation, and they were early fusion. Punch it up by adding chutney, as well.

    Today’s tip: Look at the ingredients you have in your fridge and pantry for:

  • Chutney
  • Hoisin sauce
  •    

    beef-grilled-tri-tip-doubleRranch-230

    Instead of mustard on a steak sandwich, go fusion with wasabi mayonnaise or green sriracha sauce. Photo courtesy Double Ranch.

  • Sriracha, including the splendid new green sriracha we reviewed recently
  • Wasabi
  •  
    Mix them into conventional spreads—mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream, Greek yogurt—or directly spread them onto sandwiches with conventional fillings.

    Don’t forget the kimchi or pickled jalapeños!

    Get inspiration from the many types of sandwiches in our delicious Sandwich Glossary. And tell us what your favorite new combination is.

     

    chicken-katsu-sandwich-sushisasmbaFB-230

    It looks like a regular chicken sandwich and fries. Look more closely! Photo courtesy SushiSamba | Coral Gables.

     

    WHAT IS FUSION CUISINE?

    According to an article in Nation’s Restaurant News, Florida chef Norman Van Aken claims to have coined the term in the late 1980s, writing a treatise on the subject in late 1988 or early 1989. In it, he described how he incorporated the flavors and dishes of the Caribbean with European cooking techniques and traditions.

    He wanted to salvage the vibrant Caribbean flavors of old Key West by fusing them—his words—with contemporary American cuisine. The idea was a cornerstone of the “Floribbean” cuisine that emerged in South Florida, developed by Van Aken, Allen Susser, Mark Militello and Douglas Rodriguez, among others. Even before then, we remember a French restaurant that used Japanese ingredients in New York City (alas, long closed).

    Fine dining pioneers like these began to evolve American cuisine 1990s, crossing their French culinary training with global ingredients. It led to fusion dishes like wasabi mashed potatoes, served at top restaurants, down to the barbecue chicken pizza, Thai pizza and numerous other fusions at California Pizza Kitchen.

    Fusion is alive and well in more recent creations like cronuts, Korean tacos, ramen burgers and Thanksgiving tortillas (turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce rolled in a tortilla). The younger generations may thing of fusion as culinary mash-ups.

     
    Whatever you cook this year, look to fusion for fresh new flavors.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Grapefruit Salad With Honey

    Remember the half grapefruit, a first course at breakfast, lunch or dinner? Rich in vitamin C, it became a staple at breakfast, lunch and dinner tables when train transport began to bring the fruits up from Florida in the the early 1900s.

    Today, the half grapefruit and grapefruit salad have largely fallen out of fashion. Yet grapefruits are winter sunshine, and the tradition should be revived posthaste. This recipe is from Bee Raw Honey, which used its maple honey. The fruity flavors of the honey balance the sweet acidity of the grapefruit.

    Our favorite grapefruits are in the pink and red families, but taste a variety to find what appeals to you.

    RECIPE: GRAPEFRUIT SALAD WITH HONEY

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 grapefruits, peeled and sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 /3 cup hazelnuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 /2 cup microgreens
  • 4 heaping teaspoons honey
  • Fleur de Sel or Maldon sea salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ARRANGE grapefruit slices on four salad plates.

    2. DRIZZLE each plate one teaspoon of maple honey.
     

       

    maple-honey-grapefruit-salad-beeraw-230

    The best fruit in winter: citrus! Photo courtesy BeeRaw.com.

    3. SPRINKLE each plate with hazelnuts, micro greens and a touch of salt. Serve immediately.

     

    amaranth-trio-2-230

    A trio of microgreens: red amaranth, mizuna
    and beet greens. Photo by Claire Freierman |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    WHAT ARE MICROGREENS

    What are microgreens? They are tiny, tiny vegetables, no more than 8 to 14 days old, that have just developed their cotyledon (first) leaves. They are far tinier than “baby greens.”

    Think of the first, threadlike shoot that rises when you plant a seed, and the first tiny leaves, barely a quarter-inch in diameter. You may have seen a few scattered on your plate or garnishing your food at fine restaurants.

    Microgreens are very tender and oh, what flavor! Both intense and delicate, visually captivating and sublime to eat, they are a gourmet experience. Yet, they are highly nutritious with scarcely a calorie.

    For people who already like greens, microgreens are the zenith. For people who do not care for salad or raw vegetables: If you don’t like these precious greens, we’ll rest our case. Use them in salads, main dishes, soups and as general garnishes.

    Here’s more about microgreens.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Homemade Tomato Soup With Grilled Cheese Croutons

    From McCormick, here’s a lighter version of the classic combination of tomato soup with grilled cheese. Instead of a sandwich, the grilled cheese is miniaturized into a crisp crouton. A bowlful of the soup will warm you up on a chilly day, and the croutons will make you smile with delight.

    We had fresh basil on hand, so used it instead of dried. We loved the extra punch of basil flavor. To convert dried to fresh herbs, or vice versa, use this ratio: One tablespoon of fresh herb equals one teaspoon of dried herbs.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE TOMATO SOUP WITH GRILLED CHEESE CROUTONS

    Ingredients For 8 One-Cup Servings

    For The Tomato Soup

  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) no salt added crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 cups fat free half-and-half (we used regular)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
  •    

    Tomato_Soup_Grilled_Cheese_Croutons_mccormick-230r

    The croutons are miniature grilled cheese sandwiches! Photo courtesy McCormick.com.

     

    For The Grilled Cheese Croutons

  • 1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 6 very thin bread slices
  • 3 ounces reduced fat Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  •  

    Tomato_Soup_Grilled_Cheese_Croutons_close-230

    A close-up. Don’t you want a bowl right now? Photo courtesy McCormick.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the tomato soup: Place the crushed tomatoes, stock, roasted red peppers, sugar, basil, garlic powder and onion powder in a blender. Cover and blend on high speed until smooth.

    2. POUR into a large saucepan. Add the bay leaf. Bring to boil and reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half and Parmesan cheese; simmer until heated through. Season with pepper. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Meanwhile…

    3. MAKE the Grilled Cheese Croutons. Mix the mayonnaise and thyme in a small bowl until well blended. Spread 1 side of each bread slice with the mayonnaise mixture. Prepare 3 cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise side out on the bread.

    4. SPRAY a large skillet with no stick cooking spray. Heat over medium heat. Place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook for 3 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, then cut each sandwich into 9 croutons. Top each bowl of soup with 3 croutons.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Bake An Epiphany Cake

    In France, the holiday season continues into January with the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, the 12th day after Christmas.

    For the occasion, pastry shops are filled with galettes des rois, Epiphany cakes. (The name actually translates to kings’ cake; a galette is a flat pastry cake.)

    The cake is traditionally—more of an almond puff pastry tart—is filled with frangipane (almond cream). Other fillings can be substituted, from almond paste (marzipan) to chocolate ganache to sliced apples. In the south of France, brioche is often substituted for the puff pastry.

    You can buy puff pastry (pâte à choux) or make your own with this recipe.

    The cake is often garnished with a metallic gold paper crown, and a charm is baked into the filling. Originally a baby, representing baby Jesus, today any trinket can be substituted. The person who finds the trinket in his or her slice becomes “king” for the day.

    A couple of years ago we published an Epiphany Cake recipe from Héléne Darroze, proprietor of a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris.

    This year, we present François Payard’s slightly different recipe, with a bit of rum and almond extract (Darroze prefers a citrus zest flavor accent).

    It was a staple for French-born Payard, who grew up in Nice, where his grandfather owned a pastry shop (his father also was a pastry chef).

     

    king-cakes-2-pierrehermeFB-230

    Each baker puts his or her own design on top of the Epiphany Cake. These are from Parisian pâtissiér Pierre Hermé \.

     

    RECIPE: FRANÇOIS PAYARD’S GALETTE DES ROIS

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound puff pastry dough
  • 5 ounces (about 10 tablespoons)ground blanched almonds
  • 5 ounces (about 1 cup) powdered sugar
  • 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 2 whole eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1 drop almond extract
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 small toy or figurine (this year we used a silver dollar)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the cream filling: Mix together the almonds and sugar. Add the creamed butter, the two whole eggs and rum; mix well together.

    2. DIVIDE the puff pastry dough in half; roll out each half into a 12-inch (about) circle. Lay one pastry round sheet on a very slightly greased baking pan. Pour the filling in the middle and spread without reaching the edge. Drop the toy into the filling.

    3. TOP carefully with the second circle of dough. With moist fingers, press firmly all around to seal the “cake.” Glaze the surface with the remaining beaten egg yolk. (For a little more control over the color, brush the yolk on roughly halfway through the baking)

    4. DRAW some light, curved lines for decoration using a knife or fork. Make a few tiny cuts on the top to let out steam during cooking.

    5. BAKE for about 35 to 40 minutes in preheated 400°F oven. Check with an oven thermometer, as oven temperatures can vary. Remove when the pastry is golden. Cool and serve while still warm, if possible.

    We like ours with a dab of barely- (or non-) sweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Store Fruits & Vegetables

    berries-bowl-230

    Berries are fragile. Don’t buy them unless
    you plan to eat them within two days. Photo
    courtesy California Strawberry Commission.

     

    We adapted this article from the original on Vegetarian Times because we’re guilty of throwing out a lot of spoiled produce.

    But we’re no different from the rest of America. Back in 2002, researchers at the University of Arizona, working with the United States Department of Agriculture, spent a year tracking families’ food-use habits.

    What they discovered: The average family tossed out 470 pounds of spoiled food per year, about $600 worth, representing some 14% of the food brought into the home. Nationally, we dump $43 billion worth of food every year.

    It seems that intentions were good, because families bought lots of fresh fruit and produce. But every day, researches discovered, these households discarded more than half a pound of fruits and vegetables that had gone bad. The spoiled food represented a staggering one-fourth of all the produce purchased.

    So how can you waste less produce, and equally as importantly, consume the nourishment that gets tossed along with the money spent?

    For starters, you could buy only what you need for a day or so, and then be sure to eat it. Put it front and center on the refrigerator shelf.

    But many of us are too busy to shop that often, so Plan B is: Take better care when you buy and store produce. Here’s what to do:

     

    BE AWARE OF ETHYLENE

    Be aware that more than a few fruits give off high levels of ethylene gas, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds the ripening and decay of other, ethylene-sensitive, produce. That’s why you can quickly ripen ethylene-sensitive fruits, like stone fruits, by enclosing them in a paper bag with an ethylene-generating fruit like an apple or a banana. Here’s how to divide and conquer:

  • Ethylene Generators/Refrigerate The Produce: apples, apricots, cantaloupe, figs, honeydew, kiwi, mangoes
  • Ethylene Generators/Don’t Refrigerate The Produce: avocados, bananas (unripe), nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes
  • Ethylene Sensitive/Keep Away From Ethylene Generators: asparagus, bananas (ripe), berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce/leafy greens, parsley, peas, peppers, squash, summer squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon
  •  

    For longer life:

  • Keep the ethylene-producing fruits apart from ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep the produce whole; don’t even remove the stem of an apple until you’re ready to eat it. As soon as you damage the integrity of the fruit or vegetable, create an environment where microorganisms start to grow.
  • Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, place, but separate them so their flavors and smells don’t migrate. They can keep up to a month or more.
  • Store cold-sensitive fruits and vegetables on the counter; they’ll lose flavor and moisture in the fridge. These include garlic, onions, potatoes and tomatoes. The first three should be stored in cool, dark places.
  • The worst thing to do is to seal fruits and vegetables in an airtight bag. It stops their respiration—yes, produce does breathe—suffocating them and speeding up decay.
  • Check the vegetable bins for mold and decay. Mold proliferates rapidly and will contaminate other produce.
  • Consider an ozone-generator like BerryBreeze, which reduces the ethylene.
  •  

    apple-basket-230

    Apples have great staying power, especially when refrigerated. Stock up; but if the apples are turning soft, turn them into baked apples or compote. Photo courtesy USA Apple.

     
    We use a Berry Breeze in the fridge, and also place an ethylene gas guardian (E.E.G., also called an ethylene gas absorber) in the produce crisper drawers. These products actually absorb ethylene. Check out Bluapple and ExtraLife.

    There are also produce bags are also on the market, such as those by Debbie Meyer Evert-Fresh Green Bags and BioFresh, which absorb ethylene and support respiration.
     
    SHOPPING TIPS

  • If you’ll be making several stops between the market and kitchen, get a cooler for your car. When you get home, put the produce into the fridge as soon as possible.
  • Shop farmers markets early in the day. Just-harvested greens wilt rapidly once they’ve been in the sun for a few hours.
     
    EATING TIPS

  • Eat more perishable items first: Berries last only a few days, oranges can last for months. Cucumbers will remain fresh longer than leafy greens. Before you put the item in your shopping cart, think of its longevity and when you will consume it.
  • If your produce has peaked and you still haven’t eaten it, quickly cook it. Make fruit compote or soup, and toss it into the freezer.
  • Produce with the best staying power: apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, potatoes, winter squash.
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