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TIP OF THE DAY: Riced Cauliflower, Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower Risotto

Cauliflower Rice

Flavored Cauliflower Rice

Top: No rice involved—this mushroom “risotto” was made by HealthyFellow.com from riced cauliflower. Here’s the recipe. Center: JoyLoop brand is sold at Good Eggs | San Francisco, perhaps the most wonderful food purveyor in the U.S. Bottom: In the U.K., CauliRice.com sells plain cauliflower rice, plus Indian, Mediterranean and Thai flavors.

 

Cauliflower rice, also called cauliflower couscous, is poised for fame. There’s no actual rice involved; it’s a grain-free rice substitute made from cauliflower, that can be used in just about every rice recipe from plain boiled to fried rice to risotto.

Cauliflower rice—cauliflower chopped in a ricer, became popular with the Paleo Diet, and it is takes time to make it from scratch.

Fortunately, the Paleo Diet is making people more aware of it, and small producers have begun to cut and package it. It can be found minced or pulverized, fresh and frozen.

Who invented cauliflower rice? There may be several different “inventors” who first pulverized a head of cauliflower. The Italian supplier who makes other cauliflower products for Trader Joe’s ended up with lots of leftover florets and trim. Rather than toss them, Trader Joe’s says, “We put our heads together and came up with a new product made from this extra cauliflower.”

Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse, a “superfood,” a term that evaluates foods based on their calorie density vis-a-vis their amount/types of nutrients. A member of the Brassica family, it is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C (also an antioxidant). It is low in calories and low on the Glycemic Index (GI). But there’s more:

  • Cauliflower contains more vitamin C per 100g than an orange.
  • It has a range of protective plant compounds (the antioxidants quercetin, beta carotene and caffeic acid) that help to reduce oxidative stress in the body, a key risk factor for cancer.
  • Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps to alleviate symptoms of other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
  • Its sulphur compounds support detoxification in the liver, and promote levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • As with cauliflower mashed potatoes, you can pass it off to kids and adult finicky eaters as regular rice.
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    WHERE TO BUY CAULIFLOWER RICE

    Now here’s the rub: Cauliflower rice is not yet available as widely as it should be. But it’s poised for fame and on its way: We recently spoke with a specialty food manufacturer who will be bringing it to market soon. In the interim:

     

  • Trader Joe’s imports it frozen from Italy. It was so popular that as of this writing, it is sold out and the retailer is waiting for a new shipment.
  • Joyloop Foods, in greater San Franciso, sells to some California retailers and online.
  • Paleo On The Go, a meal delivery service, packages it and sells it on Amazon.
  • You can buy Green Giant Cauliflower Crumbles in a Steam In Pack. Although the crumbles are larger than riced cauliflower, you can cook them al dente and rice them.
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    And of course, you can make your own from a head of cauliflower.
     
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    *Brassica is the plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). They include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga and turnips, among others.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CAULIFLOWER RICE

    Cauliflower rice can be buttered, sauced or otherwise made more flavorful by adding vegetables, herbs and/or spices. This recipe, from CauliRice.com, advises that homemade versions will taste more strongly of cauliflower and less like actual rice, but we have no issue with the homemade “rice.” Light seasoning, butter, etc. will mask any subtle cauliflower flavor.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Salt and pepper and/or other seasonings (herbs, spices)
  • Optional: cooking oil
  • Chopping board and knife
  • Food processor with an “S” blade, or a hand grater
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    Preparation

    1. WASH the cauliflower and remove any leaves. Remove the main stem and set it aside for another purpose†. The fine stems that hold the florettes together need not be removed.

    2. CUT or break the florettes into chunks so they better fit into your food processor. Attach the ‘S’ blade and place the florettes into the processor bowl. Pulse until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous (course grains) or until all large lumps disappear. Do not over-process, as this will result in mushy cauliflower rice when cooked. If you have a particularly large cauliflower, or a small processor or hand grater, you may have to do this in batches.

    3. MICROWAVE for 3 minutes. Microwaving retains more moisture than dry-frying or oven baking, and is CauliRice’s preferred method. Place the cauliflower rice into a microwave-safe dish. Add a teaspoon of water—no more, or the cauliflower rice will become too wet. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or a lid. Cook for 3 minutes at 900 watts.

    4. LEAVE the cauliflower rice covered, and let it stand for another 2-3 minutes. It will continue cooking in its own heat. Add seasoning to taste and serve.

     

    Cauliflower Rice

    Trader Joe's Cauliflower Rice

    Top: Homemade cauliflower rice from TheKitchn.com. Here’s their recipe and a video. Bottom: Cauliflower rice from Trader Joe’s.

     
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    †You can steam and slice or purée it, finely dice or slice and add to salads, add to soups and stews, etc. You can also stick it in the freezer and decide later.

     
    TO DRY FRY

    1. HEAT a tablespoon of your preferred cooking oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the cauliflower bits and spread evenly across the base of the pan. Cover the pan and cook for approximately 7-8 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. If you prefer a less crispy cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water to the pan about halfway through cooking—but be sure to cook this added moisture off before serving.

    2. Add seasoning to taste, and serve.
     
    TO OVEN COOK

    Oven cooking produces a drier, crunchier cauliflower rice that some people prefer, although it gives a less rice-like effect.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Spread the cauliflower pieces evenly across a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the cauliflower every 5 minutes or so.

    2. REMOVE from the oven, add seasoning to taste and serve.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Beer Day

    Amber Ale

    Burger & Lager Beer

    Top: Amber ale with blue cheese from the EatWisconsinCheese.com. Bottom: Burger and a lager at The Palm.

     

    What will you do on April 7th, National Beer Day?

    Drink beer, of course. Hopefully, you’ll choose a complex craft beer instead of something mass-produced and bland.

    Depending on your age, it may seem that craft breweries have always been around.

    Of course in the Colonies, it was brewed in small batches at home or for a tavern, and simply called beer. When not a soldier and statesman, George Washington, and landowners like him, first grew the grain and then brewed their beer.

    In 1819 the first commercial brewery opened in the U.S., in Rochester, New York. Over the next 50 years, every region that did not have local prohibition laws had breweries. Some of today’s mega-brewers, including Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Pabst, Schlitz and Stroh, started as small regional breweries.

    Fast forward 200+ years to the dawn of the American microbrew. In 1977, a brewery opened in Sonoma, California. The New Albion Brewery was short lived, but was America’s first microbrewery or craft brewery.

    Here’s a really interesting chronology of beer brewing in America.
     
    CRAFT BEER & FOOD

    Tom Acitelli, author of the The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, sent us these little-known events that shaped the bond between American craft beer and good food.

  • Pairing Beer & Food. Englishman Michael Jackson was already the world’s best-known beer critic when he wrote a long piece for The Washington Post, the week before Thanksgiving 1983. He advised on which beers to pair with which parts of the national feast (for the turkey itself, he recommended Bavarian pales). It was the first time a major American newspaper published a serious article about pairing beer with food.
  • Beer Dinners. In September 1985, a legendary beer bar, the Brickskeller in Washington, D.C., hosted a meeting of the Cornell Alumni Association. Attendees paid $15 each to drink 10 different beers with a dinner. It was the first commercially run sit-down beer dinner in the U.S.
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  • International Acclaim. In October 1998, a handful of American craft brewers flew to Turin, Italy with their beers to attend Salon del Gusto, the biennial convention of the Slow Food movement. They were greeted like rock stars. It was the first time European gourmands embraced American brewers and beers in such a public way.
  • Craft Beer Every Day. In 2003 Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, published The Brewmaster’s Table. At 384 pages, it was not only the lengthiest guide to date on how to pair beer with food, but the first to explain how to really incorporate craft beer into everyday meals.
  • Craft Beer At The White House. During a Super Bowl party on February 6, 2011, President and Mrs. Obama served a honey ale made by the White House Mess using the honey from a beehive on the mansion’s grounds—the first time brewing had ever been done in the 210-year history of the White House. When the recipe was released in September 2012, it caused a run on honey at homebrew shops nationwide.
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    CHECK OUT OUR BEER GLOSSARY: THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEER.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Roast Leg Of Lamb

    Our family typically had turkey for Thanksgiving, prime rib for Christmas, ham and lamb for Easter, lamb for Mother’s Day and a return to prime rib for Father’s Day.

    Back in the day, food was seasonal. Lamb was available in the spring. Fall is the natural mating time for sheep, which results in lambing in early spring. From an evolutionary standpoint, in spring there is plentiful grass for the mother, which maximizes her milk production to feed her offspring.

    With modern animal husbandry, grass can be replaced with feed, and sheep can be artificially inseminated. Adios nature, hello year-round lamb.

    This luscious lamb dinner from Good Eggs in San Francisco is festive without requiring an overly involved preparation process. The artichokes, stewed with herbs and lemon, are a delectable side. But don’t consider them as your “green vegetable’: Add some spring peas, too.

    And don’t wait for a holiday to make it. We enjoy it for weekend dinners.
     
    RECIPE: LEG OF LAMB WITH STEWED MINT ARTICHOKES & YOGURT SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 4.5 pound leg of lamb
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 3 large rosemary sprigs plus more for garnish
  • 3-4 large artichokes or 1 pound baby artichokes (we prefer the babies—see photo below)
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups Whole Greek yogurt
  • Marash Turkish chile flakes*
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • A few splashes of white wine vinegar
  • A loaf good bread
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    Plus

  • Spring peas, carrots or other vegetable
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    Leg Of Lamb Dinner

    Roast Leg Of Lamb

    Top: A perfect roast lamb dinner from Good Eggs | SF. Bottom: A roast leg of lamb from Allen Bros.

     
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    *Marash chile flakes are red pepper flakes from Turkey. They have a complex flavor—fruit and smoke—with moderate heat. Marash is both smokier and a bit hotter than Aleppo pepper, but you can use them interchangeably. The flakes can be blended with lemon juice and salt for a meat rub, or added to olive oil to make a vinaigrette, pasta or rice sauce. Blend the flakes with olive oil for a bread dipper, add to soups and stews, chili or any meat dish.

     

    Marash Chile Flakes

    Grilled Baby Artichokes

    Top: Marash chili flakes; photo courtesy Silver Lake Station, which sells the chile flakes. Bottom: Make extra artichokes to enjoy the next day. These are served at X Bar at the Hyatt Regency | Los Angeles.

     

    Preparation

    1. PAT the meat dry an hour ahead of time, and season it generously with salt and pepper. You can do this the day before and remove it from the fridge about an hour before cooking. Leave any twine or netting around the meat in place.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Place a cast-iron† pan large enough to hold the lamb on the stove top, over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a light coat of olive oil, place the leg in the pan and brown it on all four sides until the skin is deeply golden and crisped (about 4 minutes per side). Tuck three large sprigs of rosemary around the lamb, and roast it for half an hour until the internal temperature reaches at least 145° (for medium-rare). While lamb is cooking…

    3. PREPARE the artichokes: Wash under cold running water, remove the toughest outer leaves and, if necessary peel the stems. Then slice across the base of the leaves, remove the choke, and quarter the large artichoke hearts/stems or halve the baby artichokes.

    4. PLACE the artichoke hearts in a pot and cover with water. Add a bit of olive oil, two tablespoons of salt, two sprigs of thyme, three bay leaves, three sprigs of mint and a splash of white wine vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, until the artichoke quarters are fork-tender. While the artichokes cook…

    5. MAKE the yogurt sauce. Whisk the yogurt with a handful of chopped mint, a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of Marash chili pepper, and the zest and juice of one lemon. Taste for balance; if you prefer a thinner sauce, you can add more olive oil or lemon juice. When the artichokes are done…

    6. REMOVE the artichokes from the liquid with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and set them aside to cool. When cool, taste and season them with salt and a bit more olive oil to taste. Finish with some freshly chopped mint. When lamb is done…

     

    7. REMOVE the pan from oven and let the lamb rest at least 15 minutes. Remove any twine or netting around the lamb and slice against the grain. Garnish with whole herbs as desired. Serve with the artichokes, yogurt sauce and sweet spring peas.
     
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    *Cast iron enables better browning or searing, but if you don’t have it, use your heaviest roasting pan.

      

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Salsify

    We can’t believe that in 15 years of publishing THE NIBBLE, we’ve never published an article on salsify. Ironically, it is known as a “forgotten vegetable.”

    WHAT IS SALSIFY?

    Salsify, pronounced SAL-suh-fee OR SAL-suh-fie, is a root vegetable in the Asteraceae or dandelion family. Dandelions, daisies and lettuce are in the family, but belong to different genuses (they’re not root vegetables).

    Other root vegetables belong to other families entirely:

    Beetroot (Amaranthaceae); burdock/gobo (Asteraceae); carrot and celeriac/celery root (Apiaceae); (Apiaceae); daikon/white Japanese radish, black radish, horseradish, radish, rutabaga, turnip and wasabi (Brassicaceae); lotus root, parsley root and parsnip (Nelumbonaceae).
     
    Not A Looker, But Delicious

    These roots lack the grace of carrot or parsnip. White salsify is “hairy” and black salsify looks like a twig.

    White Salsify. White salsify could be mistaken for a thin parsnip, but its flavor has been compared to an artichoke heart or Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke). Because of its minerality, it has also earned the names oyster plant or vegetable oyster. Because of its purple flowers, some call it purple salsify.

    Black Salsify. Its cousin, black salsify, has yellow flowers and the flavor of mild asparagus. It was first cultivated in Spain, and is also called Spanish salsify and false salsify.
     
    The Value Of Root Vegetables

    Root vegetables have long been important in the kitchen. After harvesting, they last a good while in the pantry without spoiling, and last even longer in the fridge. In older times, the root cellar kept a family fed through the winter.

    Different roots have different flavor profiles. Radishes are pungent, carrots are sweet, beets are sweet and earthy. Parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and salsify have more subtle flavors.

    Root vegetables are also rich in nutrients, low in fat and calories, inexpensive, and in modern times, usually available year-round.
     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE SALSIFY

    The roots have a rough outer skin, which requires scrubbing and, for many people, peeling. (It is fine to eat the skin.)

    Buy firm roots, preferably with the green tops still on. You can refrigerate them in an airtight container, but use them within a week; the roots alone will last for two weeks.

    To store, wrap the roots in plastic and refrigerate. Check periodically to see if the root is drying out. If it is, it’s time to cook them!

    Before cooking, scrub the root under cold running water, peel with a vegetable peeler and immediately place into acidulated water, water with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to prevent discoloration.

    After you peel the root, you can cut it into matchsticks or thicker short lengths, or slice them into coins. Simmer for half an hour until soft, drain, and sauté in a bit of butter.

       

    Salsify

    Salsify Soup

    Black Salsify

    Top: black (right) and white salsify roots at The Chef’s Garden. Center: A bowl of salsify and celeriac soup. Here’s the recipe from InSimonesKitchen.com. Bottom: The leaves are usually removed before the root goes to market; but like beet, turnip and other root greens, they are tasty (photo courtesy Will Bonsall | MOFA.org.).

     
    TYPES OF SALSIFY

    There are two types of salsify: white salsify and black salsify. The latter is more highly regarded for its nutrition. Now pay attention, because while they’re both members of Asteraceae, the daisy family, they’re actually different species!

    Both roots are low in sodium and offer a good amount of protein. They contains modest amounts of vitamin C, some B vitamins, and complex carbohydrates.r in the black variety can boost hair health.

    Both varieties are native to western Eurasia and were originally cultivated for both its root and greens and are grown in the same way.

     

    Salsify Pasta

    Mushroom Salsify Tart

    Pork Chops & Salsify Recipe

    photo and recipe courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco Center: White salsify root courtesy Good Eggs. Bottom: Salsify “pasta” in smoked oyster cream with black pepper and microgreen garnish, from The Chef’s Garden.

     

    HOW TO SERVE SALSIFY

    Salsify may not be the best looking root, but it delivers beautiful flavor. It pairs well with butter, cream, garlic and parsley. We’ve included some recipes below.

    If you find young roots with the leaves attached, the leaves are also quite tasty and can be added to salads, sautés or stir-fries. By the time the roots are mature, however, all but the most inner leaves have grown tough.

    Black salsify and white salsify are interchangeable in recipes. You can use them for:

  • Crudité platter, green salad or slaw (young salsify can be eaten raw, sliced thinly).
  • Sides: Steamed or roasted, sliced, mashed or puréed.
  • Gratins and fritters (slice into coins).
  • Vegetable pasta (use your spiralizer!)
  • Soups and stews (steam before adding).
  • Pickled, with sandwiches and relish trays.
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    RECIPE: PORK CHOPS WITH SALSIFY

    You can find many salsify recipes, from bruschetta to salsa. This recipe, from Good Eggs in San Francisco (photo left/bottom), takes 10 minutes prep time, 35 minutes total time.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • ¾ pound pork chops
  • 1 pound salsify, peeled, ends trimmed off and sliced into 2” chunks
  • 1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed at the ends and sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 tablespoons chives, roughly chopped
  • A handful* of chervil, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 spring onion (substitute green onion/scallion)
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Olive Oil
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    *When you see an imprecise measurement like “handful” or “bit,” the amount is usually not very important. If you love the ingredient, use more of it; if you’re not, use less. We can’t get enough basil, for example.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Remove pork chops from their packaging, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Let the meat come to room temperature.

    2. FILL a pot halfway with water. Add a tablespoon of salt and the juice of one lemon; then add the salsify pieces. Cover and bring to a boil; then turn down to a simmer and let cook until very tender, about 25 minutes. While the salsify simmers…

    3. THINLY SLICE the spring onion and place it in a small bowl. Cover it with a few splashes of red wine vinegar and set aside. Once the salsify is tender…

    4. SCOOP it out of the water into a large bowl. Mash it with a fork, adding a tablespoon or two of butter, a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mash to your preferred texture.

    5. HEAT a cast iron pan over high heat with a bit of olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the pork chops and cook until golden brown on one side, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and sear for another 3-4 minutes before moving the entire pan into the preheated oven. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the internal temperature measured at the center of the chop reads 140°-145° (for medium rare). Remove from the pan and let rest for 10 minutes.

    6. FOLD the herbs into the snap peas with a tablespoon of olive oil and half of the vinegar mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more vinegar to taste. After the chops have rested…

    7. SLICE into ½ inch slices and divide between two plates. Serves alongside a few dollops of the salsify and cover the salsify and pork chops with a few generous spoonfuls of herbed snap peas.
     
    MORE SALSIFY RECIPES

  • Salsify Soup with Celeriac
  • Salsify, Lentil & Pineapple Salad
  • Salsify in Garlic Vinaigrette
  • Pan-Roasted Salsify
  • Caramelized Salsify
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    GIFT: Chocolate Elephants That Help Orphaned Elephants

    According to the United Nations, up to 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking their ivory tusks. Only 470,000 elephants remain on the continent; there were 3-5 million African elephants a century ago.

    As poaching and habitat loss continue, increasing number of elephants are orphaned.

    The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a charitable organization based in Kenya. It is renowned worldwide for its orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program. To date, the Trust has successfully rescued, raised and reintegrated 190 orphaned elephants into the wild.

    L.A. Burdick, one of our favorite chocolatiers, has created limited-edition chocolate elephants to honor the work of the Trust. The elephants are handmade and all natural, with toasted almond ears and tusks.

  • Milk chocolate elephants are filled with orange-flavored chocolate ganache (alcohol-free).
  • Dark chocolate elephants are filled with chocolate ganache flavored with passion fruit and Amarula Cream Liqueur. Amarula is the South African version of Baileys Irish Cream, made from marula fruits and laden with notes of banana, caramel, chocolate and cinnamon.
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    The elephants arrive in a keepsake wooden box, hand-stamped with a golden elephant wax seal. A card is included explaining the work of the Trust; 10% of sales will be donated to the Trust.

  • 3 little chocolate elephants are $18.50 (2 dark chocolate, 1 milk chocolate).
  • 1 little dark chocolate elephant is $5.50.
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    Orphan Baby Elephant

    Burdick Elephant Chocolate

    Top: Bottle feeding an orphaned elephant; photo courtesy David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Bottom: Boxed chocolate elephant(s) from L.A. Burdock

     
    If you have a special event coming up, or want Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gifts or party favors, you couldn’t ask for anything more special.

    Get your chocolate elephants at Burdick Chocolate.

     
    ADOPT AN ORPHANED ELEPHANT

    For a minimum of $50 a year, you can foster an orphaned elephant (or rhino or giraffe). Pick your orphan here.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Asparagus

    Fresh Green Asparagus

    Green, White & Purple Asparagus

    Top: Freshly cut asparagus from Baldor Food. Bottom: Three colors of asparagus from Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    Asparagus is our favorite harbinger of spring, along with big artichokes, fava beans, green garlic, morels, nettles, ramps and spring peas (a.k.a. English or garden peas).

    Once upon a time—in your mother’s, grandmother’s or great-gran’s generation, depending on your age—people who preferred fresh produce had to get their fill during the growing season. Some growing seasons were quite brief.

    Imported produce had yet to emerge in the off season, to meet the demands of people who wanted asparagus—or peaches or any other fruit or vegetable—year-round. When asparagus or peaches were out of season, you could buy them canned or frozen.

    Now asparagus is available year-round, imported from the Southern Hemisphere during the Northern Hemisphere’s off season. That means carbon miles, plus waning freshness as the they travel a long distance.

    In the U.S., spring is the best season for fresh, affordable asparagus. April through late June is prime asparagus season, so get your fill while you can.

    In the olden days, spring asparagus were served as a side or a first course: buttered spears with a wedge of lemon and/or lemon mayonnaise. They were pickled and served with cocktails, turned into soup and, for people of Italian heritage, added to pasta and risotto.

    While most of the asparagus grown are green (some with green tips, some with purple tips), you can find purple and white in specialty produce stores and farmers markets.

    Here are the differences among green, purple and white asparagus varieties. We’ve even seen pale pink asparagus, possibly a mutation of the purple.

     
    WAYS TO ENJOY ASPARAGUS

    Asparagus blends well with most dishes.

  • Breakfast: In an omelet, frittata, scrambled eggs, with poached eggs or added to Eggs Benedict, with grits.
  • Appetizers: Asparagus crostini with pancetta, bruschetta with hummus, asparagus and prosciutto wraps, a snacking platter of hummus or other spreads and dips, charcuterie, cheese, gherkins and/or olives with steamed or pickled asparagus, crackers or breads.
  • Lunch: Added to a green salad, a conventional sandwich or a wrap; in a luncheon salad topped with grilled sliced beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, scallops or shrimp.
  • First Courses: Asparagus salad with red grapefruit, in any green salad, plain or with added bacon or pancetta; asparagus soup.
  • Mains: Any pasta dish, such as linguine with asparagus and Parma ham; any grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish/seafood (check out these Greek-style lamb chops with feta, kalamata olives, mint and red onion); risotto or other rice/grain dishes; grilled salmon with asparagus and pineapple salsa; scallops with asparagus and morels.
  • Sides: Grilled asparagus (recipe (here’s one with mushrooms and shaved Parmesan), grilled rack of asparagus, sweet and spicy asparagus; stir-fried; pickled asparagus.
  • Diet: Steamed asparagus with balsamic vinaigrette, hummus or yogurt-Dijon dip; on a crudités platter.
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    THE HISTORY OF ASPARAGUS

    The asparagus plant, Asparagus officinalis, is a member of the lily family, Asparagaceae, which also includes agave, and flowering plants such as lily of the valley and star of Bethlehem. There are more than 300 species of asparagus, most of which are grown as ornamental plants.

    Asparagus originated in the eastern Mediterranean region, but today is grown worldwide. It was first cultivated more than 2,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture and alleged medicinal qualities.

    The vegetable gained popularity in France and England in the 16th Century; King Louis XIV of France enjoyed this delicacy so much that he had special greenhouses built to supply it year-round. Early colonists brought it to America.

    Asparagus is a perennial plant raised in furrowed fields. It takes about three years before the plants produce asparagus. The delicate plant needs a temperate climate and requires much hand labor in all phases of cultivation. The spears are cut by hand—backbreaking work—when they reach about 9 inches in length.
     
    Nutrition

    Asparagus is nutritious: a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and zinc; and a very good source of copper, dietary fiber, folate, iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and vitamin K, plus the antioxidant flavonoid rutin.

    It has no fat or cholesterol and is very low in sodium. Asparagus is very low in calories (27 per cup) and contains no fat or cholesterol.

    There are three varieties of asparagus—green, purple and white.

  • Green asparagus, the most common, has a green stalk and a purple tip.
  • White asparagus, popular in Germany, was first created in Argenteuil, France as a delicacy. It is green asparagus grown in the dark but with exposure to ultraviolet light (alternately, earth is piled on top of the stalks so that they grow “underground”), and in our opinion has more of a visual interest than flavor.
  • Purple or violet asparagus has higher sugar and lower fiber levels, although the numbers are not significant. It was originally developed in Tuscany and sold as Violetto d’Albenga, after the valley where it was grown.
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    Asparagus Omelet

    Asparagus First Course

    Top: Asparagus and scrambled eggs for breakfast, from the California Avocado Commission. Bottom: A first course or light lunch of asparagus, prosciutto, burrata and crostini at Barbuto | NYC.

     
    While white and purple asparagus are creations of modern growing techniques, green asparagus has been enjoyed since ancient times. There is a recipe for it in oldest surviving book of recipes, De Re Coquinaria, Book III, written by Marcus Gavius Apicius in the third century C.E.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Create A New Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/blackberry bewitching close 230

    Grilled Cheese Benedict

    Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese

    Hot Fudge Grilled Cheese

    Top: The first contest winner, “Bewitching,” with arugula, bacon, blackberries, spinach and two cheeses. Second: Grilled Cheese Benedict with Canadian bacon, poached egg, spinach and Gouda on an English Muffin; both from The Grilled Cheese Academy. Third: Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese from QVC’s Chef David Venable. Bottom: The Lisa Marie, Elvis’ favored fried PB & banana sandwich with bacon, cheese and hot fudge, from The Grilled Cheese Academy.

     

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month, with National Grilled Cheese Day celebrated on April 2nd.

    Use the occasion to try some luscious new grilled cheese recipes. We have a lot of them on TheNibble.com, along with tips for making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich:

  • With Pork: Bacon & Blue Cheese, Ham, Brie & Blue Cheese, Ham & Cheese With Caramelized Onions
  • With Herbs & Spices: South Of The Border, Tuscan Style
  • With A Sweet Touch: Bananas Foster, Brie, Strawberries & Balsamic, Dulce De Leche and Jam On Raisin Bread, Mascarpone & Dulce De Leche With Fresh Raspberries, The Lisa Marie—Bacon, Peanut Butter, Banana & Hot Fudge, Turkey & Fontina With Honey & Dried Cherries
  • With A Twist: Grilled Cheese Benedict With Poached Egg On An English Muffin, Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese, Turkey & Brussels Sprouts With Lemon Aïoli
  • Festive: Beer Battered With Bacon, Buffalo Chicken, Lobster Grilled Cheese
  •  
    We even have a trompe-l’oeil grilled cheese: Grilled Pound Cake & Frosting that looks like grilled cheese.

    And you must take a look at Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt, made with American cheese and a layer of fried mozzarella sticks.
     
    THE GRILLED CHEESE ACADEMY & RECIPE CONTEST

    The Grilled Cheese Academy.com, a website from EatWisconsinCheese.com, is a treasure trove for lovers of grilled cheese.

    Since 2012, they’ve sponsored an annual Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown. All the winners and runners up are posted on the website, along with a myriad of fetching grilled cheese sandwiches developed by the Academy.

    You can enter the contest (by May 15th) and download e-books of each year’s winners. In case you need some encouragement, the top prize is $15,000.
     
    THE FIRST WINNER

    This beauty (top photo), called BEWITCHING, took the top prize in the first Showdown. It was created by Ally Phillips of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.

    Ally’s bewitching concoction layers fresh blackberries, peppery greens, crispy fried bacon and molten Wisconsin Gouda and Provolone.
     
    RECIPE: BEWITCHING BLACKBERRY GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

    Ingredients For 2 Sandwiches

  • 1/2 cup arugula
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 4 slices quality white bread
  • 4-6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • Cooking spray to coat skillet
  • 20-24 fresh blackberries, divided
  • 2 slices Provolone cheese, cut to fit bread
  • 2 slices Gouda cheese, cut to fit bread
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and drained
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the arugula and spinach in small bowl; set aside. Trim the crust from 3 sides of the bread slices, leaving the curved top crust attached. Butter the bread slices on one sides.

    2. COAT the skillet (preferably cast iron) heavily with cooking spray and then heat it. Place 2 slices of bread, buttered-side down, in the skillet; there should be a slight sizzle. Place 5-6 blackberries in the center of each bread slice.

    3. TOP the berries with a slice of Provolone. Add another handful of berries and top with Gouda for the second layer. Place 3 strips of bacon on each sandwich and place a bread slice on top, buttered-side up.

     
    4. MELD and compact the sandwich, using a spatula to press firmly. Grill 2-3 minutes until the bottom is browned; flip and grill another 2 minutes or until the cheese is melting.

    5. REMOVE the sandwiches to plates. Carefully pull back the top slices and spread the arugula and spinach mixture on top of the bacon. Replace the top, pressing down, and then flip the sandwich so the greens are on the bottom.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Peanut Butter & Jelly Fudge

    April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. You can have PB&J oatmeal, a PB&J-stuffed omelet or PB&J-topped waffles for breakfast,. For lunch, a PB&J sandwich for lunch, and PB cake or ice cream with a jelly/preserves topping for dessert.

    For snacking, make this PB&J fudge in just 8 minutes, plus 4 hours in the fridge.

    Peanut butter fudge is super-simple to make, but adding jelly makes it more fun, not to mention a perfect way to celebrate National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day.

    Made with just peanut butter, jelly, confectioners’ sugar, butter and white chocolate, this rich, yummy fudge is a pantry-ready dessert that can be whipped up in minutes, although it needs 4 hours to set.

    The recipe is from ILovePeanutButter.com, the website of Peanut Butter & Co. It was developed by Caroline Wright of TheWrightRecipes.com. She used Peanut Butter & Co.’s Smooth Operator creamy PB.

    Prep time is 3 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes, plus 4 hours chilling to set.
     
    RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY FUDGE

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups (1 pound box) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup strawberry jam, warmed in the microwave
  • 2 ounces white chocolate, melted
  •  

    PBJ-Fudge-ilovepeanutbutter-230r

    Can you resist PB&J Fudge? Photo courtesy Caroline Wright and ILovePeanutButter.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the peanut butter and butter in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium until melted; stir in the confectioners’ sugar and salt until combined.

    2. POUR into an 8-inch square pan lined with parchment. Stir together the jam and melted chocolate, place dollops atop the fudge and use a knife to swirl the mixtures until marbled. If you’re not certain how to make a swirl, here’s a video of the recipe.

    3. REFRIGERATE until chilled and firm, about 4 hours. Cut into pieces. You can store fudge in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Oatmeal With Peanut Butter & Jelly

    PB&J Oatmeal

    PB&J Oatmeal: a way to start the day. This recipe also sprinkles on some coconut. Photo courtesy SimplyQuinoa.com

     

    April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. If you haven’t tried it yet, a bowl of PB&J Oatmeal hits the spot. If you don’t like jelly, we have a PB-only recipe below.

    Not to mention, more than 40 other toppings for your oatmeal, sweet as well as savory.

    There’s also National Oatmeal Day on October 29th. Here are the different types of oats. Check out the health benefits of oatmeal. Oats are the only major grain proven to help blood cholesterol.

    This recipe is adapted from SimplyQuinoa.com.
     
    RECIPE #1: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY OATMEAL

    Ingredients

  • Rolled oats or steel-cut oats
  • 1-3† tablespoons creamy peanut butter per serving
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Optional: pinch cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Optional: pinch vanilla powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Jam or preserves of choice
  • Optional toppings (see list below)
  •  
    ________________________
    †One tablespoon provides a lighter peanut butter flavor, three tablespoons is very peanutty. Try the smaller amount first; you can always stir in more or use add a PB topping when the oats are done cooking.

    †Eating three grams of soluble fiber from oats each day, as part of a diet that’s low in fat and cholesterol, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the oatmeal according to package directions. Stir in the peanut butter, maple syrup and spices when the oats have started to soften but are still runny. Cook until thick and creamy.

    2. TRANSFER to bowls and top with jam and any optional toppings.
     
    MORE FAVORITE OATMEAL TOPPINGS

    Toppings can be savory or sweet. You can use one or several on your bowl of oatmeal.
     
    Sweet Toppings

  • Apple, fig, kiwi, pear, stone fruits and other fresh fruits, diced or sliced
  • Agave, honey, jam, maple syrup, preserves
  • Banana
  • Berries, fresh or frozen
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, raw sugar
  • Cinnamon pecan topping (recipe)
  • Cooked fruit: apples, applesauce, compote
  • Dairy: butter, cream, mascarpone, milk, plain or flavored yogurt, sweetened condensed milk
  • Chutney, cranberry sauce, jam, preserves
  • Chocolate chips, chocolate syrup
  • Dried fruits: apricots, blueberries, cherries, coconut (plain or toasted, shredded or flaked), cranberries, dates, figs, raisins, strawberries
  • Granola
  • Fruit Salt
  • Mascarpone or ricotta
  • Nutella
  • Nuts, seeds (including pomegranate arils), trail mix
  • Sweet spices: allspice, anise cinnamon, nutmeg
  •  

    Savory Toppings

  • Baked/sautéed garlic
  • Barbecue sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce
  • Bourbon
  • Butter: brown butter, compound (flavored) butter, salted butter
  • Chopped green onions (scallions)
  • Chopped beef jerky
  • Congee style, with cilantro, chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, ginger, pepper, pickled/preserved vegetables, radish, sliced chicken, pork or fish, soy sauce (Congee is made with rice porridge, like Cream Of Rice)
  • Crumbled bacon or diced ham
  • Egg: hard-boiled/sliced, fried, poached, soft-boiled
  • Flavored salt and artisan salt
  • Flavored oil droplets: basil, chili, rosemary, sesame, etc.
  • Fresh cheese: cotija, goat, ricotta, paneer, etc.
  • Grated/shredded/crumbled cheese: blue, Cheddar, Parmesan, other
  • Greek: Greek yogurt or labne, feta cheese, lemon zest, Greek olives, pine nuts
  • Grilled shishito peppers
  • Ground pepper, chili flakes or minced jalapeño
  • Herbs: basil, chives, oregano
  • Kimchi or chopped pickled vegetables
  • Leftover cooked vegetables (mustard greens, spinach, kale, mushrooms, squash, etc.)
  • Mexican style: chili powder, cilantro, corn kernels, cotija cheese or grated Cheddar, lime zest, minced/sliced jalapeño, salsa
  •  

    PB Oatmeal

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal

    Top: Peanut Butter Oatmeal. Photo courtesy HoneyWhatsCooking.com. Bottom: How about Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal? Here’s the recipe from AlidasKitchen.com.

  • Nuts and seeds: chia, flax, hemp, sesame, sunflower
  • Olives
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Spices: caraway seed, celery seed, chili, cumin, fennel seed, toasted sesame sees
  • Thai-inspired: cashews, chile, chopped peanuts, cooked in coconut milk infused with optional lemongrass and/or ginger
  •  
    RECIPE #2: PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1-3 tablespoons* peanut butter, equivalent PB powder or other nut butter
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • Optional toppings (see list above)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the oatmeal according to package directions.

    2. PLACE the peanut butter and optional honey/syrup in a cereal bowl. When the oatmeal is done, add to the bowl and stir to blend.

    3. GARNISH as desired.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Piano Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

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    It’s a winner: A PB&J keyboard. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. For fun, make this Piano PB&J Sandwich. It was one of the winners of the Kids Live Well Recipe Challenge.

    Sponsored by McCormick, this initiative challenges restaurants’ culinary ingenuity in creating healthful, appealing, nutritious and delicious menu options for children.

    This recipe, called the Do-Re-For-Me Sandwich, was created by Bean Sprouts Café & Cooking School in Seattle. It is delicious with glass of milk.
     
    RECIPE: PB&J PIANO SANDWICH

    Ingredients

  • Multigrain oat bread or substitute
  • Peanut butter, sunflower or other nut/seed butter
  • Strawberry jam or other jam flavor
  • Pumpernickel bread
  • Optional: grapes or other fruit
  • Optional: milk
  • Preparation

    1. CUT the crusts off the bread. Spread the bottom slice of oat bread with peanut butter/sunflower butter and jam. Add the top slice and cut into piano-key sized/shaped pieces.

    2. CUT the pumpernickel into cut smaller pieces and placed on top of the wheat bread to represent black piano keys.

    3. SERVE with a side of grapes or other fruit and a glass of milk.
     
    MORE FUN

    Watch this art film on the preparation of PB&J sandwiches, courtesy Dave’s Killer Bread.

      

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