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TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Cheeses

Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad

Arty Caprese Salad

Watermelon Caprese Salad

[1] Yellow tomato Caprese Salad (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers | FB. [2] Artistic Caprese Salad (photo courtesy Great Performances | FB). [3] Watermelon Caprese Salad. You can also use mango and other stone fruits (photo courtesy Watermelon.org).

 

On the hot days of summer, lighten up on your cheeses. Switch the heavier blues, cheddars and washed rind cheeses for delicate, creamy ones.

Even fresh year-round cheeses like chèvre, feta, mozzarella and ricotta taste better in the summer.

Here’s the 411 on cheese:

  • Cheeses are seasonal based on the feed and milk availability. Goats and sheep, for example, cease producing milk over the winter, when they have bred, until they give birth.in spring.
  • With modern freezing techniques to preserve the curds, goat’s and sheep’s milk curds, previously available only in spring when the animals give birth, are available year-round.
  • In the spring and summer, the animals from artisan cheesemakers graze in the field, eating grass and clover. The seasonal diet gives more dimension to their milk, with floral and grassy notes.
  • Fresh curds + richer milk = the best cheese of the year.
  •  
    No one will stop you from getting your fill of aged Gouda, Roquefort or Stilton, but we prefer to save them for the cooler months.

    There are many semisoft, semihard and hard cheeses at peak for summer. Your cheesemonger can guide you to the best semi-hard and hard summer cheeses in the store. On the soft, fresh side, here are our favorite widely-available cheeses:
     
    FOUR FAVORITE SUMMER CHEESES

    All pair with burgers, pizza, green salads and fruit salads.

    Mozzarella

    Pay a bit more for artisan mozzarella. As opposed to rubbery factory mozzarella, it’s freshly made, and has a delightfully different texture from the standard “pizza mozzarella.”

    Pair it with its soul mates, fresh basil and summer tomatoes; then:

  • Tuck it into omelets.
  • Make grilled cheese sandwiches or panini.
  • Toss with pasta and salads (ciliegine and perlini, bite-size mozzarella balls, work better here).
  • For appetizers and the summer “cheese course,” combine ciliegine with cherry tomatoes and other vegetables, cubed meats or rolled proscuitto. Use skewers or an artistic plating.
  • For dessert, do the same with fruit.
  •  
    And get your fill of perhaps the most famous summer mozzarella dish, Caprese Salad.

  • You can substitute mango, stone fruit or watermelon for the the tomatoes.
  • You can substitute feta, goat cheese, ricotta, even tofu for the mozzarella.
  •  
    Best Fresh Herb Pairing: basil.

    Feta

    Feta—crumbled, cubed or sliced—pairs with almost every summer fruit and vegetable. Tip: Some feta is very salty. Go to the cheese counter and ask to taste it first, or get a recommendation for a packaged brand with less salt.

  • In omelets.
  • In Watermelon-Feta Salad or crumbled over green salad.
  • On skewers—appetizer and dessert.
  • With grilled lamb, pork or poultry (turn it into a side with good olive oil, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs).
  • On burgers: beef, turkey and especially lamb.
  • On pizza, anchovies, capers, olives and onion slices.
  •  
    Best Fresh Herb Pairing: cilantro or dill.

     

    Fresh Goat Cheese

    Fresh goat cheese is soft and creamy, with a bit of tang. Along with ricotta, it spreads easily on bread.

    As with mozzarella, fresh goat cheese loves summer tomatoes. Try it:

  • On crusty baguette, with tomatoes or grilled vegetables.
  • In omelets.
  • With green salads (slice a log into rounds and place on top of the greens.
  • Ditto with fruit salads or a fresh fruit plate.
  •  
    Best Fresh Herb Pairing: basil or mint.
     
    Ricotta

    Soft and creamy ricotta is can be called “Italian cottage cheese,” and can be used in the same ways.

    You can mix in any seasonings and use the flavored cheese in even more ways. Ricotta loves a drizzle of honey.

  • Spread on toast and bagels, with optional honey or berries.
  • DIY ricotta bowls for breakfast or dessert (see photo #4).
  • Substitute for mozzarella in a Caprese Salad.
  • Pair with fresh fruit and optional yogurt.
  • Sweeten for cookie sandwiches or dips.
  • Whip with sweetener and a touch of cinnamon for “cannoli cream.”
  • Use the cannoli cream instead of whipped cream to top fruit, puddings and other desserts.
  •  
    Best Fresh Herb Pairing: chives.
     
    HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT CHEESE?

    Test your knowledge—or build it up—with our Cheese Glossary: the different types of cheese, categories, techniques, etc.

     

    Ricotta Caprese Salad

    Ricotta Toppings

    [1] Top a salad with a spoonful or two of plain or flavored ricotta (photo courtesy Del Posto | NYC). [2] DIY ricotta bowls are customized to whatever you want: fruit, seeds, even chocolate (photo courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     

      

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    RECIPE: No-Bake Cheesecake In A Jar

    No Bake Cheesecake

    Lemon Curd Tart

    [1] A quick summer cheesecake (photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com). [2] An even easier dessert: Fill tart shells with lemon curd. You can add mascarpone underneath the curd, or as a garnish (photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE).

     

    Want a cheesecake experience without turning on the oven?

    Here’s a recipe we adapted from Eat Wisconsin Cheese, that combines the old and the new.

  • The old: Before the invention of cream cheese in New York State in the late-1800s (see history below), cheesecakes were made of mascarpone, ricotta or other soft cheese, including goat cheese.
  • The new: Over the past decade, Mason jars have gone from uses for canning and packaging for artisan jams to containers for cocktails, desserts, layered salads, and so on.
  •  
    You can also use parfait glasses, wine goblets or anything else you have.

    You can also substitute any flavor of curd for the lemon.
     
    RECIPE: NO BAKE LEMON CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1/2 cup lemon curd (buy it or make it)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup whipping [heavy] cream
  • 1 container (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups (about 28) crisp gingersnap cookies, crushed into crumbs (substitute graham crackers)
  • 1 cup/8 ounces strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • Optional garnishes: candied lemon peel (recipe), citrus zest, pomegranate arils, skewered berries and/or mixed color grapes, sliced star fruit
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the lemon curd and honey in a mixing bowl with electric beaters, until smooth and creamy.

    2. BEAT the cream into curd mixture until smooth. Add the mascarpone and beat just until thickened. Do not overbeat.

    3. ASSEMBLE: Layer the cookie crumbs, lemon mascarpone cream and strawberries in individual parfait glasses. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used.

    4. REFRIGERATE for at least 2 hours, garnish and serve.

     
    THE HISTORY OF MASCARPONE

    Mascarpone, the Italian version of crème fraîche, but thicker and sweeter. It’s hard not to sit down with the entire container and a spoon. (Here’s the difference between mascarpone, crème fraîche, and sour cream).

    It used to be that all mascarpone was imported from Italy. American artisan cheesemakers make an even better product than what gets imported. Our favorite domestic mascarpone brands are Crave Brothers and Bel Gioioso, both in Wisconsin, and Vermont Creamery.

    Mascarpone is often refer to as Italian cream cheese; but please, don’t think of this rich, lush, soft fresh cheese as anything resembling a brick of foil-wrapped soft cheese filled with gum.

    Made from cream, not milk, mascarpone is the richest fresh cheese, ranging in butterfat content from 70% to 75%. It has a subtle natural sweetness, but can be used in savory recipes and toppings as well.

    As points of reference: A French double-crème Brie or Camembert has 60% to 75% butterfat. French triple-crème cheeses must have a butterfat content of 75% or more. Butter has a minimum of 80% fat in the U.S., 82% in France; going up to 86% for premium butters.

    In the U.S., mascarpone is most often associated with desserts, especially the classic tiramisu or as a topping for berries. But it can be used in savory recipes as well—pasta sauce, savory tarts/tartlets, stuffed chicken and tortas, among others.

    The name likely derives from “mascarpia,” the local dialect term for ricotta, because both ricotta and mascarpone are made by very similar processes. Mascarpone could have been a glorious accident in the preparation of ricotta.

    No cheese starter or rennet is used in its production; the moisture is drained from heavy cream using a small amount of citric acid and finely woven cloth. You can make it at home. Here’s a recipe.

     

    PRONOUNCE IT CORRECTLY!

    Mascarpone may have the distinction of being the most misspelled and mispronounced cheese.

    Too many Americans call it “marscapone,” mar-sca-PON-neh, trespassing the consonants. The correct pronunciation is mas-car-POH-neh.

    The cheese is believed to have originated in the Lombardy region of Italy, in the late 1500s or early 1600s. Lombardy, in the northern part of the country (it includes the cities of Brescia, Cremona, Mantova, Milano and Sondrio), has a rich agricultural and dairy heritage.

     
    THE HISTORY OF CREAM CHEESE

    In the 1870s, New York State farmers farmers began to make a soft, unripened cheese modeled after the French Neufchâtel cheese. Within a few decades, a recipe for “cream cheese” appeared, made by mixing cream into the Neufchâtel curd.

    The new soft cheese was molded into small wood block forms. Because the city of Philadelphia had a reputation for fine food, a New York-based manufacturer, Phenix Cheese Company, named its product Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese.

    It was the leading brand then as now. J.L. Kraft and Bros., established in 1909, acquired Phenix Cheese Company in 1930. The company is now called Kraft Foods Group.

     
    WHAT IS CURD?

    Fruit curd is a creamy spread made with sugar, eggs and butter, generally flavored with citrus juice and zest. Lemon curd is the classic variety, but lime curd and blood orange curd can be found, as can other fruit curds such as the strawberry.

    A citrus curd is refreshingly tart, as opposed to more sugary jams and preserves. Unlike lemon custard, for example, lemon curd contains more lemon juice and zest, which gives it a more piquant flavor. The butter creates a smoother and creamier texture than jam.

    Curd also can be used to fill tart shells, and as a garnish. Here’s the comparison of curd to the jelly, jam, marmalade, preserves, etc.

     

    Mascarpone & Fruit

    Mascarpone & Strawberries

    [1] Mascarpone, plain or flavored, can be used as a dip for fruit or cookies. The top bowl is flavored with coffee liqueur, like tiramisu (photo courtesy East Wisconsin Cheese). [2] Mascarpone has many uses. Here it’s an easy topping, piped onto fresh strawberries (photo courtesy Giant Eagle). It’s also delicious with dates.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mix Up Some Coolers

    Blackberry Cooler

    Peach Wine Cooler

    Watermelon Cooler Recipe

    Bottled Wine Coolers

    [1] Blackberry cooler (photo courtesy FreidaFroo.Wordpress.com). [2] A peach wine cooler (here’s the recipe from TasteOfHome.com). [3] Watermelon cooler with green tea and white wine (photo courtesy Serendipitea.com). [4] Commercial wine coolers: the lowest common denominator (photo courtesy Majestic Brands).

     

    WHAT’S A COOLER?

    Short for wine cooler, a cooler is a tall drink typically made with wine, fruit juice and soda water (you can use any glasses you have).

    It’s a less complex relative of sangria. Don’t like wine? Try the latest cooler incarnation, the beer cooler.

    Modern coolers are refreshing summer drinks that trace their ancestry to hot-weather countries in ancient times.
     
    HISTORY OF THE WINE COOLER

    Wine-based drinks have long existed in the Mediterranean, the birthplace of wine. The earliest archaeological evidence of wine production found to date has been in Georgia (c. 6000 B.C.E.), Iran (c. 5000 B.C.E.), Greece (c. 4500 B.C.E.), and Armenia (c. 4100 B.C.E.).

    The wine could be drunk straight or mixed with honey, spices or other ingredients, especially by the kitchen staff of rich households and at public drinking houses for the hoi polloi. It was a less sophisticated product than today’s wine, with no sophisticated fermentation or aging techniques. Thousands of years before stoppered glass bottles were invented, wine was stored in clay jars.

    Flash forward to the present: Wine coolers have been sold commercially since the early 1980s [Source]. Bartles & Jaymes, a brand of E & J Gallo Winery.

    The latter makes flavors dozens of flavors, including Strawberry Daiquiri, Fuzzy Navel, Margarita and Piña Colada.

    However delicious these may sound, they were formerly made with wine that Wikipedia calls “the cheapest available grade,” since most of the wine flavor in obscured by the sugar and the fruit juice. According to Lucas J. Meeker of Meeker Vineyard in Sonoma County, domestic wine coolers were largely made from a base of apple wine.

    Today, many bottled wine coolers have no wine. Because of a quadrupled excise tax levied on wine beginning in 1991, most brands replaced wine with cheaper malt. Bartles & Jaymes calls their revised product line a “flavored malt cooler.”

    The malt, according to Meeker, renders the result more like beer but still largely the same: “a largely flavorless base beverage is combined with flavor and color additions, then carbonated and bottled.”
     
    WINE COOLER RECIPE TEMPLATE

    Blend your own recipe to find create your signature wine cooler. To develop your recipe, use a shot glass to combine 1/3 each of wine, juice and sparkling water.

    Choose one from each group:

  • Wine: red, rose, white
  • Fruit juice: cherry, cranberry, grapefruit, pineapple, etc.
  • Fizzy water: club soda, mineral water, seltzer, flavored seltzer (alternatively, Ginger Ale, 7-Up, Sprite)
  • Optional sweetener: agave, honey, simple syrup, superfine sugar
  • Optional: splash of fruit liqueur (adding spirits turns the drink from cooler to cocktail)
  • Optional garnish: berries or other fresh fruit, mint or basil leaves (tip: you can use frozen fruit, which will help keep the drink cold)
  •  
    Here’s a recipe for a green tea cooler from fine tea purveyor Serendipitea:

     
    RECIPE: GREEN TEA WATERMELON COOLER

    Ingredients For 4 Tall Drinks

  • Seedless watermelon or 1.5 cups watermelon juice
  • 1.5 cups dry-yet-fruity white wine*
  • 1 cup Dragon’s Well China Green Tea (or substitute), brewed and chilled
  • Optional garnish
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the watermelon and run it through a fine mesh sieve (yield about 1.5 cups juice).

    2. WARM a teapot with a little hot water, discard, place the tea leaves in the pot, allowing heat of the pot to release the bouquet of the tea leaves.

    3. HEAT water to below boiling (approximately 180°F). Steep 1 teaspoon (2.5 g/8 oz. cup) up to 3 minutes & refresh cup as desired. Vary the time according to taste with this caveat: steeping tea leaves beyond 3 minutes does not give you more flavor, only bitterness.
     
    __________________
    *Try Albariño, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat, Pinot Gris/PinotGrigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Watermelon Salad

    Watermelon is one of the edible geniuses in the Cucurbitaceae family, also called the gourd family. The most important family members comprise five genuses:

  • Citrullus: watermelon and some other melons.
  • Cucurbita: squash (including pumpkin), summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini), some gourds.
  • Cucumis: cucumber, some melons.
  •  
    Non-edible members include:

  • Lagenaria: inedible (decorative) gourds
  • Luffa/loofah: a fibrous fruit that provides the loofah scrubbing sponge
  •  
    Sweet melons have long been an anticipated summer treat. Pperhaps the most beloved is watermelon: sliced and eaten as hand fruit; sipped as juice, in cocktails, fruit soup and smoothies; made into dessert as fruit salads, popsicles and sorbets; grilled as a side; added to salsa; and so much more.

    Today’s tip: Consider adding watermelon to your salads. It fits as easily into savory salads as sweet fruit salads.
     
    WATERMELON SALAD INGREDIENTS

    Mix and match watermelon with these ingredients:

  • Cucumber (check out the different types of cucumber)
  • Cheese: bocconcini (mozzarella balls), feta, goat cheese, ricotta salata, other cheese
  • Fruit: berries, citrus, cherries, dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.), heirloom tomatoes, mango, other melons
  • Greens of choice: bell peppers, endive, mesclun, romaine, radicchio
  • Onion: chive, red onion, scallion, sweet onions (consider pickling the onions)
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, mint, parsley
  • Protein: grilled chicken or seafood
  • Spicy: baby arugula, jalapeño, radishes
  • Also: pistachios, roasted beets, water chestnuts, whole grains for grain bowl, summer squash
  •  
    Dressings

  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Blue cheese dressing (light!)
  • Honey-lime vinaigrette
  • Infused olive oil (citrus, herb)
  •  
    RECIPE: WATERMELON CAPRESE SALAD

    This festive salad [photo #2] can be the appetizer or the fruit and cheese course. It was created by Gina Homolka of SkinnyTaste.com.

  • You can combine the ingredients below into a standard watermelon salad with a balsamic dressing (cube the watermelon and cheese)
  • If you don’t have a large star-shaped cookie cutter, use another shape.
  •  
    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • Half seedless watermelon, in 16 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 thin slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (buy or make your own)
  •  
    Plus

  • 4-inch star-shaped cookie cutter
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT 16 from the watermelon. Save the trimmed watermelon for another use.

     

    Watermelon Salad

    Watermelon Caprese

    Balsamic Syrup

    Watermelon On Vine

    [1] Watermelon and cucumber: cousins in a simple salad with red onion (photo courtesy WinesOfSicily.com). [2] An artistic version from Gina Homolka. See more of her inspired recipes and photos at SkinnyTaste.com. [3] Homemade balsamic glaze (photo courtesy EatBoutique.com). [4] Watermelon on the vine (photo by Fred Hsu | Wikipedia).

     
    2. ARRANGE the watermelon on a platter or individual plates. Top each with the mozzarella, arugula, 1/4 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Top with a watermelon star, drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve.
     
    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF WATERMELON
     
    WHAT IS BALSAMIC GLAZE?

    Balsamic glaze is balsamic vinegar reduced into a syrup.

    It can be used on savory and sweet foods.

  • No added sweetener is needed for savory uses: aged hard cheeses*, eggs, grilled meats).
  • Consider adding sweetener only if you plan to use the glaze on sweet dishes: berries, cooked fruit dishes, fruit salad, ice cream, pudding).
  •  
    The better the balsamic vinegar, the better the glaze.
     
    Ingredients

  • 16 ounces balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon honey or sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the vinegar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes. (The glaze will further thicken when it cools.)

    2. REMOVE from the heat; taste and stir in the optional sweetener and salt. Let cool completely.

    3. STORE in the fridge in an airtight jar.

     
    __________________
    *Hard aged cheeses include Cheddar, Cheshire, Emmental, Gouda, Gruyère, Mimolette and Parmesan/Parimigiano Reggiano, among others. It is also delicious with Roquefort and other strong blues, and with over-ripe bloomy-rinded cheeses like Brie and Camembert.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Throw A National S’mores Day Party

    Classic S'mores

    Fancy S'mores

    S'mores Pie Recipe

    [1] Classic S’mores (photo courtesy Dandies vegan marshmallows [they’re great]. [2] Gourmet S’mores made with a Petit Écolier chocolate-topped biscuit and a chocolate chocolate chip marshmallow (photo courtesy Plush Puffs gourmet marshmallows). [3] No-Bake S’mores Pie (photo courtesy Brown Eyed Baker; here’s the recipe).

     

    National S’mores Day, August 10th. We all know the recipe for s’mores, but just in case:

    To make these sandwich cookies, you need one or two marshmallows, two graham crackers and a piece of chocolate bar to fit the grahams for each. The marshmallow is toasted and placed on top of the chocolate and the bottom graham, followed by the top graham. The heat of the toasted marshmallow melts the chocolate into a gooey delight. Don’t forget the napkins.

    We’ve got lots of favorite s’mores recipes (the list is below), but this year we’re having a S’mores party with a twist.
     
    SUBTITUTES FOR THE CHOCOLATE BARS

  • Chocolate mints (e.g. Andes Mints)
  • Flavored chocolate bars (e.g. Lindt’s Crunchy Caramel with Sea Salt Bar; chile, coconut, orange, raspberry, toffee, etc.)
  • M&M’s
  • Nutella
  • Peanut butter cups
  • White chocolate
  •  
    SUBTITUTES FOR THE GRAHAM CRACKERS

  • Brownies or blondies (slice the squares in half)
  • Chocolate chocolate chip cookies With White Chips (or butterscotch chips, PB chips, etc.)
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Chocolate chocolate chunk cookies
  • Gourmet graham crackers (or homemade)
  • Pavlovas (meringue cups)
  • Peanut butter cookies or other favorite
  •  
    SUBTITUTES FOR THE MARSHMALLOWS

  • Gourmet marshmallows
  • Marshmallow cream (e.g. Fluff)
  •  
    ADD-ONS

  • Bananas, blackberries, blood oranges, strawberries, raspberries or other fresh fruit
  • Bacon
  • Cherry cheesecake spread (mix cream cheese with cherry preserves)
  • Dulce de leche
  • Nuts
  • Toasted coconut
  •  
     
    THERE ARE RECIPES BELOW, BUT FIRST…

     
    THE HISTORY OF GRAHAM CRACKERS, MARSHMALLOWS & CHOCOLATE BARS

    We don’t know who invented S’mores, but the Girl Scouts certainly popularized them: The first published recipe is in their 1927 handbook.

    S’mores around the campfire has been a happy tradition: a stick, a fire, two toasted marshmallows, a square of chocolate and two graham crackers get you a delicious chocolate marshmallow sandwich. The combined flavors of toasted marshmallow, melty chocolate and crunchy grahams is oh-so-much tastier than the individual ingredients (or, to quote Aristotle, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).

    The name of the sandwich cookie comes from its addictive quality: You have no choice but to ask for “some more.”

    But you don’t need a campfire, or even all of the classic ingredients, to celebrate with S’mores, as you’ll see below. Don’t have a heat source to melt marshmallows? Use Fluff or other marshmallow cream.

  • Graham Cracker History
  • Marshmallow History
  •  

    MORE S’MORES RECIPES

  • S’mores Baked Alaska
  • Cinnamon S’mores and a cappuccino cocktail
  • Creative S’mores Recipes
  • Fancy S’mores (banana split, peach, peanut brittle etc.)
  • Grilled Banana S’mores
  • Gourmet Marshmallow S’mores
  • Ice Cream S’mores
  • S’mores With Other Types Of Cookies
  • S’mores Ice Cream Cake, Ice Cream Pie and Cupcakes
  • S’mores In A Cup Or Mason Jar
  • S’mores Cookie Bars
  • S’mores Ice Cream Cake
  • S’mores On A Stick
  • Smores On The Grill
  • Triscuit S’mores
  •  
    NOT ENOUGH?

    Check out these 25 different S’mores combinations.

     

    S'mores With Homemade Graham Crackers

    Ice Cream S'mores

    [1] S’mores with artisan graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate (photo courtesy Burdick Chocolate). [2] Ice cream sandwich S’mores with S’mores ice cream—chocolate ice cream with pieces of marshmallows and graham crackers (photo courtesy Babble.com).

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Combine Summer Fruits & Vegetables

    Corn & Peach Salad

    Removing Corn Kernels From The Cob

    [1] Mix summer fruits and vegetables into a salad or a grain bowl (recipe below; photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers). [2] Use the “bundt technique” to neatly remove the corn kernels (photo courtesy SimplyRecipes.com).

     

    Mix it up this summer. Beyond fruit salads and mixed grilled vegetables, combine the two produce groups into new concepts.

    Almost everyone has made a mixed fruit or vegetable recipe, but how about mixed fruit and vegetables?

    Think grilled pizza with figs and yellow squash or arugula and nectarines; raw or grilled skewers (bell peppers, cucumbers, melon, stone fruit, summer squash), or the corn and peach salad recipe below. Here’s a reference list for your combinations:
     
    SUMMER VEGETABLES

  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, loganberry, raspberries, strawberries
  • Melon: cantaloupe, casaba, crenshaw, honeydew, persian, watermelon
  • Stone fruits: apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums
  • Miscellaneous: avocado, grapes, fig, loquats, longan, lychees, mango, passionfruit
  •  
    SUMMER VEGETABLES

  • Colorful: beets, bell pepper, corn, red jalapeño, radishes, red endive, red onion, tomatoes
  • Green: arugula, baby spinach, butter lettuce, Chinese long beans, edamame, French beans, green beans, sugar snap peas, tomatillos, watercress
  • Pale: bok choy, cucumber, chanterelles, endive, sweet onions, Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Summer squash: crookneck, yellow squash, zucchini
  •  
    Plus

  • Whole grains for a grain bowl
  •  
    RECIPE: FRESH CORN & PEACH SALAD

    This refreshing summer salad is delicious with grilled proteins, roast chicken, or on a salad buffet.

    You can prepare steps 1 and 2 a day in advance.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4-6 ears fresh yellow corn (2 to 2-1/2 cups kernels)
  • 2 cups sliced fresh peaches
  • 2-3 cups greens, washed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup shredded/julienned fresh mint or basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or flavored vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • Optional: red chili flakes
  • Optional: whole grains, cooked
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CLEAN the corn and cut the kernels from cob. It’s neater if you use the bundt pan technique: Steady the ear of corn in the hole at the top of the funnel of a bundt pan (see photo 2 above). When you cut the kernels, they fall into the pan for neater gathering. If you have a silicon pad or other nonslip surface, put it under the bundt pan before you begin,

    2. COMBINE the corn, peaches and seasonings to taste in a medium bowl. Add the oil, vinegar and lime juice; toss to coat. Add the seasonings to taste. When ready to serve…

    3. PLACE the greens at the bottom of a serving bowl or individual plates (if using grains, add them first). Top with the corn and peaches, then the mint or basil. If using a serving bowl, toss before serving.
     
    Grilled Variation

    You can grill the corn and peaches before making the salad.

    1. BRUSH the shucked ears of corn and halved peaches with olive oil and grill on a covered grill over medium heat for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn occasionally for even browning.

    2. REMOVE from the grill and let cool to the touch. Then cut the kernels and slice the peaches.
     
    Caprese Variation

    Make a Caprese Salad of peaches and tomatoes, with the corn substituting for, or in addition to, the mozzarella cheese. Garnish with basil and olive oil.

    Here’s a recipe.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Rubik’s Cube Fruit & Cheese

    For a fun dessert, salad course or snack, make an edible Rubik’s Cube.

    Erno Rubik, born July 13, 1944, is a Hungarian architect and inventor. His immortality lies in his 1974 invention, the Rubik’s Cube, just one of the mechanical puzzles he’s created.

    Crafty cooks have reinterpreted the Rubik’s Cube with cubes of cake, cheese, fruit and vegetables.
     
    RUBIK’S CUBE DESSERT TIPS

    A Rubik’s Cube of fruit and cheese is a summery dessert (photos 1 and 4).

  • Start by choosing two fruits and a cheese, or three fruits. With the latter, you can still serve cheese, on a skewer on the side.
  • You need fruits that are firm and won’t brown, and semi-hard cheeses.
  • Aim for different colors (our favorite combination is watermelon, cantaloupe and good feta—not overly salty).
  • If you use kiwi, which is softer, you can peel and firm them in the freezer before slicing. It can help to slightly freeze feta, too.
  • We put out all the garnishes and sauces and let guests dress their own cubes.
  •  
    While you can make a single large cube to share, it will quickly be disasembled to serve. It’s much nicer to keep the visual for a longer time by serving individual ones with one-inch cubes.

    The key to a good-looking cube is having the patience to cut every ingredient the same size. Unless you’re a pro with a knife, you might want to get a square cookie/vegetable cutter.

    RECIPE: RUBIK’S FRUIT & CHEESE CUBE

    Ingredients

  • Melon: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Exotics: dragonfruit, jicama
  • Cheese: cheddar, feta, jack
  • Optional garnishes: chili flakes, chopped cilantro or parsley, chopped pistachios, Tajin seasoning (see below), watercress sprigs
  • Optional sauces: basil- or rosemary-infused olive oil, fruit vinaigrette (honey-lime or honey-orange juice with olive oil), fruit or vanilla yogurt sauce (thin the yogurt with kefir)/li>
     
    Plus
  • Sharp chef’s knife
  • Ruler
  • One-inch-square cutter
  • Patience and precision
  •    

    Watermelon Rubik's Cube

    Vegetable Rubik's Cube

    Rubik's Cube Cake

    [1] Fruit & Cheese Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs). [2] Vegetable Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy VladPiskunov.LiveJournal.com). [3] Rubik’s cake from Cookies, Cupcakes And Cardio.

     

    Fruit Cube

    [4] An all-fruit Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy Laurentiu Iordache | 500px.com).

     

    Preparation

    1. CHOOSE the fruit and cheese combination.

    2. USE a cleaned ruler to measure; then cut the fruit and cheese into one-inch-high slabs. Next, cut the slabs into one-inch cubes, ideally with a one-inch-square cutter. Reserve the scraps for another purpose (salads, salsas, smoothies for fruit; omelets, salads, salsas for cheeses, meats and vegetables).

    3. ASSEMBLE the cube(s) on the serving plate(s). First create the base: four sides with three cubes on each side. Build the second and third layers, alternating so that no adjacent cubes are the same.

    4. GARNISH as desired. We set out different garnishes and sauces and let guests dress their own cubes.

    If you want to watch the process, check out this YouTube video. You don’t need to use sugar syrup to bind the cubes together, as is done in the video recipe.
     
    MORE RUBIK’S CUBE RECIPES

    Veggie: For a first course, here’s an all-vegetable Rubik’s cube salad made with beets, carrots, cucumbers and potatoes (photo 2 above). You can substitute cubed ham, salami or turkey for one of the veggies.

    Cake: Here’s how to make the Rubik’s Cube Cake in photo 3.

     
    WHAT IS TAJIN SEASONING?

    Made by Tajin Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.).

    A Mexican staple, you can find it in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.

    It’s a versatile seasoning. You can use it on:

  • Cooked and raw fruit and vegetables
  • Fries, mozzarella sticks
  • Glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks
  • Sorbet and ice pops
  • Popcorn, eggs, etc.
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    PRODUCTS: For Summer Sipping

    Over the last few weeks, we’ve been sipping some new water and wine products, with happy results.
     
    LILA WINES: QUALITY IN CANS

    We haven’t had much success with canned wines. They’re too sugary-sweet, more like soft drinks.

    But Latitude Beverage Company has introduced what they say is the first-ever premium wine collection in pull-top cans (top photo). Selecting good wines from wine regions that are well-known for the varietals, we can finally respond, “Bring on the cans!”

    The three varietals are just right for lighter summer fare: with a sandwich, some cheese, a pasta salad. Lila suggests these pairings:

  • Pinot Grigio, made with grapes from Delle Venezie IGT—the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northwest Italy. Enjoy it with corn on the cob, crab cakes with lemon aïoli, olives and other “cocktail nibbles.”
  • Rosé, made with grapes from Provence, in the south of France. Pair it with shellfish, sandwiches with summer tomatoes, Caprese salad, pasta salad.
  • Sauvignon Blanc made with grapes from Marlborough, New Zealand. Pair it with oysters, avocado salad, grilled chicken, grilled fish with cilantro and lime, grilled vegetables, seafood salad sandwiches or turkey.
  •  
    So grab a can and head for the backyard, pool or the great outdoors. Attractively “dressed” in colorful graphics, these wines are ready to join the party.

    The 8.4-ounce cans come in four-packs with an MSRP of $12.99 (more at e-tailers). The four cans combined contain 33% more wine than the standard 750ml wine bottle.

    We stuck them in the freezer to partially freeze. They kept cold for quite a while outside in the heat; and since each can holds two servings, when it was time for the second, the wine was nicely chilled.
     
    ZERO WATER: HOME & PORTABLE WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM

    Zero Water* turns your tap water into purified water—more pure, the company says, than the leading brand (Brita).

    Even if your municipality could clean your tap water to remove almost all the total dissolved solids (TDS), the water can pick up chemicals on its way from the treatment plant to your faucet.

    Zero Water’s unique filter removes 99.63% of all TDS. The filtered water tastes crisp and refreshing. Pitchers are available in 6, 8, 10 and 12 cup sizes; in a 23-cup countertop model; and in a 26-ounce travel tumblers. The 10-cup model shown in the photo is $32.99.

    You can see the entire line at ZeroWater.com.

       

    Lila Wine Cans

    ZeroWater Pitcher

    Zero Water

    [1] Lila premium wines in 8.4-ounce cans (photo courtesy Latitude Beverage Company). [2] [3] Zero Water, with a patented filter that removes virtually all dissolved solids from your tap water, is available in home units and portable tumblers (photos courtesy Zero Water).

     
    Bonus: You can use Zero Water in your iron and other devices instead of purchasing bulky gallons of distilled water. The only difference between distilled and purified water is the process: distillation versus other purification processes such as reverse osmosis, ion exchange and Ozonation, among others.
     
    __________________
    *We used a Zero Water system we received from the manufacturer, and did not test it against other systems. There are numerous online articles that compare the major brands.

     

    Define Fruit Infusing Water Bottle

    This model of Define water bottles is ideal for infusing fresh fruit (photo courtesy Define Bottle).

     

    DEFINE WATER BOTTLE: BEST FOR FRUIT INFUSION

    We love “spa water”: plain water infused with fresh fruit. We’ve tried half a dozen water bottles with fruit-infusing options, and the Define Bottle Sport Flip Top is our favorite.

    The superior freezing mechanism, the detachable lower canister, gives you options:

  • Basic: add fruit to the bottom cylinder and add cold water to the entire unit.
  • Colder: Freeze the fruit, then add to the unit with cold water. As the fruit defrosts, it will keep the water colder.
  • Coldest: Freeze the fruit and water in the base cylinder.
  • Fruit-Free: Don’t feel like fruit? Use both cylinders for water. Even better, you can freeze water in the bottom cylinder and enjoy ice-cold water for 4-6 hours.
  •  
    Remember that water expands when frozen, so leave a half inch of space at the top.

     
    We drink the water quickly, but if you freeze the bottom part, you can keep adding new water and it will chill down.

    The bottle is made from Tritan, the standard in quality plastic food and beverage containers. The total capacity is 16 ounces. The bottle disassembles for easy† cleaning and the cylinders are dishwasher safe.

    There are other bottle designs and colors. See them all at DefineBottle.com. You can purchase this bottle on Amazon.
     
    __________________
    †We noted some complaints online about the difficulty of cleaning the strainer and gaskets. We keep a toothbrush with a rubber tip along with the scrub brushes at our kitchen sink. It, along with our faucet sprayer, did the trick.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY : International Spins On Potato Salad

    Homemade potato salad is one of our favorite summer sides. Mom’s recipe combined sliced boiled red jacket potatoes, small dices of red onion and green bell peppers, chopped parsley and dill and sometimes, chopped hard boiled egg, bits of carrot or sweet pickle relish. It was bound with mayonnaise blended with a bit of Dijon mustard.

    We’ve discovered a world of variations over the years, greatly aided by the greatest recipe book of all time, the internet. Each summer weekend, we try to make a different one.

    This week, we received three international-themed recipes from the Idaho Potato Commission, a resource with dozens and dozens of potato salad recipes. We’ve included some of them at the end.

    After you’ve perused the recipes, check out the different types of potatoes in our Potato Glossary.
     
    RECIPE #1: MASSAMAN CURRY POTATO SALAD

    First up, Faith Gorsky of An Edible Mosaic used Thai spices—Thai red curry paste and crushed red pepper flakes—to create Massaman Curry Potato Salad (photo #1). It can be made up to two days in advance.

    Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Idaho (russet) potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3/4 cup mayonniase
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste), plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COVER the potatoes with 2 to 3 inches of cold water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook with the lid ajar until the potatoes are fork-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and cool for a few minutes.

    2. WHISK together the dressing ingredients in a large mixing bowl: mayonnaise, vinegar, red curry paste, coconut sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. Gently add the potatoes and all but 1 tablespoon each of the peanuts and the scallions. Stir gently to combine. Cover and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

    3. TRANSFER to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the reserved tablespoons of peanuts and scallions and more chili flakes as desired. Serve chilled.
     
    RECIPE #2: PERUVIAN POTATO SALAD

    Potatoes originated in Peru, so it’s about time someone created an homage potato salad.

    The recipe (third photo) incorporates aji amarillo paste, from the Peruvian yellow chile pepper (Capsicum baccatum). It’s a popular ingredient in Peruvian cuisine. You can find it in an international or Latin supermarket or online.

    Corn originated a few countries away in Mexico.

    The recipe is from Melissa Bailey of Hungry Food Love.

    Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste
  • 1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn
  • 1 cup chorizo, cooked and crumbled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •    

    Thai Curry Potato Salad

    Potato Beet Salad

    Peruvian Potato Salad

    Idaho Russet Potatoes

    [1] Thai Curry Potato Salad. [2] Estonian Potato Beet Salad. [3] Peruvian Potato Salad. [4] “Idaho potato” generally refers to the russet potato variety grown in the specific terroir of Idaho (all photos courtesy Idaho Potato Commission).

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Let them sit until cool enough to cut into small cubes.

    2. WHISK together the mayonnaise and aji amarillo paste in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    3. ADD the potatoes and gently combine until well coated. Add the rest of the ingredients and gently combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

     

    French Potato Salad

    Provencal Potato Salad

    German Potato Salad

    [4] Classic French potato salad. [2] Provençal potato salad. [3] German potato salad is served warm with a bacon vinaigrette (photos courtesy Idaho Potato Commission).

     

    RECIPE #3: CLASSIC FRENCH POTATO SALAD

    Want something lighter? Here’s a classic French-style potato salad, re-created by Lisa Goldfinger of Panning the Globe (photo #4).

    There’s no mayo here: The dressing is white wine vinegar and tangy Dijon mustard.

    This recipe can be made up to two days in advance and kept covered in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

    If you’re a fan of French food, also take a look at this Ratatouille Potato Salad recipe.

    Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes (3 large potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking water (from the potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced scallions (white and green parts)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground white or black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL a large pot halfway with cold water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Peel one potato and slice it crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices, dropping the slices into the water as you go to prevent discoloration. Repeat with the rest of the potatoes.

    2. BRING the water to boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just tender, 3-4 minutes. Check doneness by tasting; don’t overcook.

    3. SCOOP out about ¼ cup of the potato cooking water and set aside. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. While the potatoes are warm, add the wine and 2 tablespoons of cooking water. Toss gently to combine and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the liquids to absorb, tossing occasionally.

    4. COMBINE in a small bowl the vinegar, mustard, scallions, parsley, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil. Pour the dressing over potatoes and toss gently to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

     
    MORE POTATO SALAD RECIPES WITH INTERNATIONAL FLAIR

  • Argentinian Chimichurri Potato Salad
  • Brazilian Potato Salad
  • Caprese Potato Salad
  • Estonian Potato & Beet Salad (Rosolje)
  • German Potato Salad with bacon and bacon vinaigrette
  • Guacamole Potato Salad
  • Japanese Potato Salad
  • Kimchi Potato Salad
  • Korean Potato Salad
  • Mediterranean Grilled Potato Salad With Seafood
  • Mexican Chipotle Potato Salad
  • Mexican Jalapeño Potato Salad
  • Mexican Spicy Cilantro Pasilla Potato Salad
  • Middle Eastern Potato Salad
  • Niçoise-Style Potato Salad
  • Provençal Fingerling Potato Salad
  • Ratatouille Potato Salad
  • Russian Potato Salad with beets, carrots, dill and peas
  • Tuscan Potato Salad
  •   

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    COCKTAIL RECIPE: Fizzy Lemonade With Sambuca

    Each weekend we try a new cocktail recipe. Last weekend it was Fizzy Lemonade, a fresh lemonade made with club soda and sambucca. The recipe was sent to us by Molinari Sambuca Extra.
     
    ANISE-FLAVORED LIQUEURS & SPIRITS

    Sambuca (som-BOO-kah) is an anise-flavored liqueur from Italy, one of a family of anise-flavoured alcohol that also includes absinthe (Switzerland), anesone (Italy), anis (Spain), anisette (France) arak (the Levant*), kasra (Libya), mistra and ouzo (Greece), ojen (Spain), pastis (France) and raki (Turkey).

    The base of sambucca consists of essential oils extracted from the seeds from the star anise (third photo) and other spices; some brands use anise or licorice. The blend also contains elderflowers. The oils are added to pure alcohol and sweetened with sugar.

    Sambucca is served neat, on the rocks, with water, and with coffee as an after-dinner drink. When drunk after the coffee, it is known in Italy as an ammazzacaffè; added directly to coffee instead of sugar it is called a caffè corretto.
     
    Sambuca Shots

    The classic serving of sambuca in Italy is a shot topped with seven coffee beans, representing the seven hills of Rome (bottom photo).

    A shot with just one coffee bean is called con la mosca, “with the fly.” Three coffee beans represent health, happiness and prosperity for some; the Holy Trinity for others.

    The shot may be ignited to toast the coffee beans; the flame extinguished immediately before drinking.

    Sambucca shots are delicious year-round; but here’s a refreshing summer samba drink:
     
    RECIPE: FIZZY LEMONADE WITH SAMBUCA

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce agave nectar
  • 1 large basil leaf
  • 1½ ounces sambuca
  • Crushed ice
  • 1½ ounces fresh lemon juice
  • Club soda
  • Garnish: lemon wheel, cucumber spear
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE the agave and basil in mixing glass. Add the sambuca, a scoop of crushed ice and the lemon juice. Cap and shake vigorously.

    2. STRAIN over crushed ice and top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge and optional cucumber spear or vertical slice.

     
    WHAT IS STAR ANISE?

    Star anise (Illicium verum) is an evergreen tree native to northeast Vietnam and southwest China.

    The spice star anise, obtained from the star-shaped pericarp of the fruit, ia also called badiam, Chinese star anise and star anise seed. Each “arm” of the star contains one seed.

    Star anise closely resembles the herb anise (native to Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia) in flavor, but they are not related botanically. However, both include the chemical compound anethole, which provides the licorice-like flavor.

    Because star anise is less expensive to produce but provides comparable flavor, it has begun to replace anise in some culinary uses, especially baking.

    Star anise is a component of Chinese Five Spice powder. The spice blend also includes cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and Sichuan pepper, representing all five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and hot. The proportions vary by producer.

     

    Lemonade Cocktail Recipe

    Molinari Sambuca Extra

    Star Anise

    Samba With Coffee Beans

    [1] Fizzy lemonade, with a touch of sambucca (photo courtesy Molinari). [2] Molinari Sambucca Extra. [3] Star anise: The seeds in the “petals” are distilled into essential oil (photo courtesy Farmgirl Gourmet). [4] Samba is traditionally served as an after-dinner drink with coffee, or alone with a garnish of coffee beans (photo courtesy GreatItalianFoodTrade.it).

     
    Star Anise In Cooking

    It is grown commercially in China, India, and most other countries in Asia. It is used whole to sweeten soups and meat stews.

    Ground star anise is used as a spice rub; and to flavor breads, custards, pastries, puddings and strudels.

  • In the Pacific Rim, star anise is widely used in Chinese cuisine; in the preparation of biryani, garam masala and masala chai in Indian cuisine; and in Indonesian and Malay cuisines.
  • In Vietnam, it is an important ingredient in the country’s famous noodle soup, pho.
  • The French, who ruled French Indochina from 1887 to 1954, use star anise in their mulled wine (called vin chaud, hot wine).
  •  
    We use it in fruit compote, and as a cocktail garnish.

    Instead of those coffee beans, how about a sambuca shot with a star anise?
     
    __________________
    *The Levant is an English term first appearing in 1497. It originally referred to the “Mediterranean lands east of Italy.” The historical area comprises modern-day Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Among other popular foods, Levantine cuisine gave birth to baklava, balafel, kebabs, mezze (including tabbouleh, hummus and baba ghanoush), pita and za’atar, among other dishes that are enjoyed in the U.S. and around the world.

      

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