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TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Negroni Week

Negroni Cocktail Recipe

Negroni Cocktail

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
RECIPE: NEGRONI COCKTAIL

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

Ingredients Per Drink

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

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a shaker with ice.

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

    3. GARNISH and serve.

     
    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE COCKTAIL RECIPES.

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

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Steak With Three Sauces

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

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

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

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

    Ribeye Steak With Sauces

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

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

    Mushroom Sauce

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

     

    CLASSIC FRENCH SAUCES

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

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

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

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Biscuits & Gravy

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

    Soft biscuits are smothered in:

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

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

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

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

    RECIPE: BISCUITS & GRAVY

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Biscuits & Gravy

    Biscuits & Gravy

    Biscuits & Gravy Recipe

    Fried Egg, Biscuits & Gravy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Homemade Pork Rinds

    Homemade Pork Rinds

    Pork Rind Garnish

    Pork Cracklings

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Check out this video.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE PORK RINDS

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

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

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

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

    Ingredients

  • Pork skin
  • Optional: salt
     
    Preparation

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

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

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

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

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Bacon Clothesline

    The innovative chef David Burke has 11 restaurants, stretching from Manhattan to Aspen.

    His playful yet polished cuisine has long featured memorable dishes, from Angry Lobster to Chocolate Burke’In Bag (a molded chocolate bag filled with mousse) to our latest fancy, Bacon On A Clothesline.

    Unlike many of his dishes, you can make your own Bacon On A Clothesline. It was all the rage at one of our recent parties, hanging on a string stretched between poles next to the bar. Get your drink, unpin a crisp slice of bacon and enjoy!

    If you’re entertaining outside for Father’s Day, rig up your own bacon clothesline for memorable “bar food.”

    Bacon On A Clothesline was created for Chef Burke’s latest restaurant, Fabrick. The menu also features a revolving choice of dishes such as Octopus Tacos, Baked Pork Shoulder with “Angry” Garlic, Skate “Chop,” Avocado Panna Cotta, Chicken Mousse with Crisped Chicken Skin and “Sticks On A Salt Brick”—skewers of duck parts on a slab of pink Himalayan salt.

    David Burke Fabrick is on the ground floor of the newly renovated garment district hotel, the Archer Hotel, a boutique hotel that also houses a Burke Group rooftop lounge, Spyglass, with skyline views.

     

    Bacon On A Clothesline

    Bacon, three strips of candied bacon with clothespins to a wood framed “clothesline.”

     
    There’s also and a California-style aerie at the entrance to the hotel, where you can have a cocktail and people watch.

    Fabrick is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, at 47 West 38th Street, Manhattan; 212-302-3838. The website: DavidBurkeFabrick.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Bruschetta Bar

    Bruschetta

    Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

    DIY Bruschetta Bar

    Top: Grab a slice and pick your toppings. We love this selection from WhatsGabyCooking.com. Center: The classic bruschetta topping: tomatoes, olive oil and basil. The tomatoes can be halved cherry or grape tomatoes or diced beefsteak or roma tomatoes (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.com). Bottom: As a bonus for guests, grill the bread as you need it, so it will be warm. Photo courtesy Brit.co (see their other fun DIY bars).

     

    Oh, how we love bruschetta and crostini. Take slices of good crusty bread and grill (bruschetta) or toast (crostini—see the differences below) and add your favorite toppings. Crunchy and savory, it’s our idea of what to have with beer, wine or a Martini.

    It’s easy to toast bruschetta on the grill, and to take it one step further by setting up a DIY bruschetta bar for guests. If you’re grilling for Father’s Day, it’s a memorable way to start the event, with any beverage from iced tea and soft drinks to alcohol.

    By the way, that’s broo-SKETT-uh, not broo-SHETT-uh). The word is not only mispronounced in the U.S., but also misued. Bruschetta is the grilled bread, not the topping: bruscare means “to roast over coals.”

    We’ve seen jars of marinated tomatoes and basil sold as “bruschetta.” It should be labeled bruschetta topping.
     
    RECIPE: DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR

    All you need are bread, olive oil and toppings. For a DIY bar, offer at least three different toppings. Our favorites are below.
     
    Ingredients

  • Baguette loaves
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and peeled, halved (horizontally) garlic cloves
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • Avocado, mashed and seasoned (garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc.)
  • Fresh basil, julienned/shredded
  • Greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • Mushrooms, marinated
  • Onions or green onions (scallions), chopped
  • Peppadews, sliced
  • Pimento, chopped or sliced
  • Tomatoes, diced and marinated in oil and vinegar
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    More options: shredded mozzarella or other cheese (ricotta, spreadable goat cheese, thinly-sliced Brie), fish (we have a passion for anchovies and herring salad on bruschetta), other marinated vegetables, prosciutto or sliced salame with mustard or mostarda.
     
    Preparation

    1. SET out the toppings and teaspoons for serving. We use ramekins; you can use any bowls you have.

    2. SLICE the bread from 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Rub each side with cut garlic clove and brush each side with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill to your desired toastiness.

    3. PLACE the bread on a platter next to the toppings and watch people create their appetizers.
     
     
    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

    Bruschetta and crostini are popular hors d’oeuvres/snacks that are easy to make. They’re a perfect pairing to wine and beer, and also can be served as a first course or a light meal, with a salad and/or soup, or with cheese.

    The differences between the two are the size of the slice and the cooking technique.

  • Bruschetta are cut from baguette-style loaves that are three or four inches in diameter, then grilled and topped. Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where they are commonly served as a snack or appetizer. Rubbed with a garlic clove and brushed with oil before grilling, they may have been the original garlic bread.
  • Crostini cruh-STEE-nee) are cut from a narrower loaf like a ficelle, about two inches in diameter, and toasted, then topped.
  • Crostini (are croutons: not in the American sense of small cubes tossed into soup or salad, but slices of toasted bread (it’s the same with French croutons). They are often topped with spreadable cheese or pâté. Plain crostini are served with soups and salads, like melba toast, or set out with cheese.
  • Both can be served plain as toast to accompany another food. But with toppings, they are transformed.
  • The toppings for both can be as simple as extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper or diced tomatoes and basil, to almost any spread, vegetable, cured meat or cheese—even fruit, such as sliced strawberries with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tarragon or other sweet herb*.
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    ____________
    *Sweet herbs include chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena licorice, mint, rose geranium and tarragon.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Tapas Party For World Tapas Day

    “Official” food holidays are those officially declared by a government: local, state or national. In these fast and loose days of the Internet, however, many companies and individuals don’t bother to seek official sanction for a “special observance day.” Instead, they simply announce online that a particular date is now World Nutella Day (started by two bloggers) or National [Whatever] Day.

    Here’s how official holidays are established in the U.S.
     
    IT’S OFFICIAL: WORLD TAPAS DAY

    No less an entity than the country of Spain has established a welcome new holiday: World Tapas Day. Spain’s tourism agency, Turespaña, has declared El Día Mundial de la Tapa, to recognize the “singular nature of this vital element of Spanish cuisine and culture” (here’s more information).

    World Tapas Day will be held each year on the third Thursday of June. That’s June 16th this year, and you’ve got time to plan a tapas party—or serve tapas for Father’s Day on June 19th. Tapas are easy to make. Check out these recipes from Martha Stewart. You can make it a “group party” and have everyone make a different tapa.

    Tapas are a long tradition in Spain. A snack for agricultural workers evolved into bar food, and has become so popular in modern times that it is now the focus of brunches and cocktail parties.
     
    THE HISTORY OF TAPAS

    While there are legends surrounding the birth of tapas, the accepted theory is that they originated as a snack for field workers. (Paella also originated among field workers, as the lunch meal.)

    As a refreshment during the long hours between breakfast and lunch, workers were served wine from a ceramic jug. The top of the jug was covered with a piece of bread with ham or cheese, which served to keep insects out of the wine. Tapa is a cover or lid.

    As the idea came to cities, tapas with a snack became popular at midday or for an after-work drink. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, tapas (TOP-us) are “a small portion of any food served to accompany a drink.”

    The original tapas were simple: slices of bread with ham or chorizo served free with a drink. The bread was set on top of the glass rim and covered the drink, just as with the jug of wine. Today the choices can be vast, and are served on small plates.

    It has evolved into a verb, tapear: to eat tapas. A tapeo is a social gathering where the food is tapas.As with the free caviar supplied at American taverns in the 19th century (American sturgeon were plentiful then, and caviar was cheap [sigh]), the salty food made patrons thirstier and they bought more alcohol.

       

    Tapas Plate

    Modern Tuna Tapas

    TOP: A platter of tapas: tortilla (potato omelet), boquerones (marinated anchovies) and chiles fritos (fried shishito peppers (photo courtesy Foods From Spain). Bottom: Headed to Vegas? Check out the best tapas restaurants in this feature from Vegas Magazine. This is Julian Serrano’s modern take on tuna tapas.

     

    Today, tapas comprise a wide variety of cold or hot foods can be ordered with a drink or combined into an entire meal.

    Each region of Spain serves tapas that reflect the local cuisine. Meats, cheeses, olives and nuts and tortillas (egg and potato omelet) are common to all areas, with more seafood tapas along the coastline.

    Spaniards seek out the best tapas bars (a bar that serves tapas—not all bars do) as Americans seek out the best pizza. While tapas are ubiquitous all over Spain, cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Málaga, San Sebastian and Seville are known for the quality, variety and innovation of their tapas.

     

    Croquetas de Bacalao

    Empanada Gallega Galicia

    Top: Croquetas De Bacalo, cod croquettes. Bottom: Empanada Gallega Galicia, Galician Pork and Pepper Pie—the original empanada (photos courtesy LaTienda.com).

     

    HOW ARE TAPAS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SMALL PLATES?

    Amuses-bouche, antipasto, hors d’oeuvre, mezzo and tapas are similar, though different.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated on a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives. It is brought after the wine is poured. It is just one bite: A larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture, and enable the chef to show creativity.
  • Antipasto, the traditional first course of a formal Italian dinner, is an assortment of anchovies, cheeses (mozzarella, provolone), cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms and other vegetables, olives, peperoncini and pickled foods. The choices vary greatly, reflecting regional cuisines. Some restaurants have antipasto buffets.
  • Appetizer, a first course lately referred to as a starter in fashionable venues, is small serving of food served as a first course. It can be the same type of food that could be served as an entrée or a side dish, but in a smaller portion (e.g., a half-size portion of gnocchi). Or it could be something not served as a main dish, such as smoked salmon with capers.
  • Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server. Canapés—small pieces of bread or pastry with a savory topping, served at room temperature—were the original hors d’oeuvre. They’ve been joined in modern times by hot options such as cheese puffs, mini quiches, skewers, baby lamb chops and other foods. Also in modern times, several pieces of hors d’oeuvre can be plated to serve as an “hors d’oeuvre plate” appetizer/first course.
  • The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip. Martinets note: In French, the term “hors d’oeuvre” is used to indicate both the singular and plural forms; Americans incorrectly write and speak it as “hors d’oeuvres.”
  • Mezze or meze (pronounced MEH-zay) refers an assortment of small dishes, served to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer plate before the main dish. In Greece, expect mezedes of feta cheese, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Among the many other options, anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers are commonly served. In the Middle East, you’ll typically find dips (babaganoush, hummus), olives, pickles, tabouleh and other items, from raw vegetables to falafel and sambousek (small meat turnovers). Don’t forget the pita wedges!
  • Tapas (pronounced TOP-us) are appetizers or snacks that comprise a wide variety of popular foods in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or hot, from cheese and olives to chorizo to a tortilla, meatballs, or fried squid. While originally traditional foods, some tapas bars now serve very sophisticated plates. You can order one or more tapas with a glass of wine, or order a series of plates to create a full meal.
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    MORE ON TAPAS

  • Entertaining With Tapas
  • Vermouth & Tapas Brunch Or Cocktails
  • Potato Tapas
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bitters In Your Coffee

    Many “cocktail households” have a bottle of Angostura bitters, to splash into a Manhattan or other recipe.

    In fact, you can add bitters to still or sparkling water, regular or diet soda, hot or iced tea and coffee.

    If you follow food and beverage trends, you’ve no doubt seen the Renaissance in artisan bitters. In America, bitters had traditionally meant the ginger-tasting Angostura* bitters (it’s actually made with gentian root, a different botanical family) and the sweeter and more aromatic Peychaud’s Bitters (also gentian) used in the Sazerac cocktail of New Orleans.

    In recent years, flavors of bitters have been introduced by specialty foods companies, ranging from Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters, Hella Bitters Smoked Chili Cocktail Bitters, Stirrings Blood Orange Cocktail Bitters and dozens more flavors producers. So…

    WHAT ARE BITTERS?

    Bitters, which date back to ancient Egypt, are liquids consisting of water, alcohol and botanical extracts. They got their name from the by a bitter or bittersweet derived from botanicals known for their medicinal properties and pleasant flavor: aromatic herbs, barks, fruits and roots.

    Popular botanicals included cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel, and cinchona bark. The word bitters derives from Old English biter, which evolved thousands of years earlier from the Gothic baitrs, “to bite.”

    The Middle Ages saw an increase in the development of medicines that combined botanicals with alcohol: tonics, often used to aid digestion (hence the term, digestive bitters, as opposed to the modern “cocktail bitters”). Available “over the counter,” they came to be used as preventive medicines.

    By the turn of the 19th century, the British practice of adding herbal bitters to wine had become very popular in the U.S. By 1806, there are references to a new preparation, the cocktail, described as a combination of “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”
     

    WHAT ABOUT BITTERS IN COFFEE?

    It is well known that the people of New Orleans (the actual name is New Orleanians) add chicory to create a bitter flavor in their coffee. Why not try some bitters?

    A drop of bitters perks up the brew whether you drink your coffee black or with milk and/or sugar. Try it and see!

    Start with just a few drops (we began with one drop). You can add more to taste. Here’s a recipe for iced coffee with bitters from Hella, using its standard aromatic bitters.

    Yes, start with the traditional before moving on to Aztec Chocolate or Smoked Chili bitters. Consider topping an iced coffee with bitters whipped cream!
     
    RECIPE: ICED COFFEE WITH BITTERS

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 8 ounces chilled coffee
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 4 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, bitters whipped cream
  •  

    Old Bottle Of Bitters

    Bitters

    Thai Iced Coffee

    Top: An old bottle of German bitters (photo Axarus | Wikipedia). Center: The classic, Angostura bitters (photo Restaurant Manifesto). Bottom: An iced coffee with Hella bitters.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a glass. Stir gently, taste, and adjust the sugar or bitters to your taste.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    MORE USES FOR BITTERS

    Check out this article from BonAppetit.com, which includes everything from baking and fruit salad, ice cream, floats and whipped cream.

     
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    *Despite its name, Angostura brand bitters are not made from the bark of the angostura tree but from the gentian a root. The name comes from the town of Angostura, Venezuela (known today as Ciudad Bolívar). There, in 1824, a German physician, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert compounded a cure for sea sickness and stomach maladies. It worked, and Dr. Siegert subsequently formed the House of Angostura to sell his bitters to sailors.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Prep Eggs The Night Before To Save Time

    Scrambled Eggs In Tortilla Cups

    Pepperjack Cheese

    Top: Mexican Scrambled Eggs In Tortilla Cups (photo Land O’Lakes). Bottom: Add more heat with Pepperjack cheese (photo Paoli Cheese).

     

    We often make a vegetable scramble for breakfast, to a proportion of half egg, half veggie. Bell peppers, mushrooms and onions are our basic mix, along with fresh herbs and halved cherry tomatoes.

    It’s easy to prep the night before. You can dice the vegetables and beat the eggs in just a few minutes. If you want to add cheese, you can dice, grate or shred it the night before, too.

    Then, while the coffee brews, heat the pan, combine the ingredients, and voilà.

    When we have extra time, we make something more elaborate, like these Mexican-inspired scrambled eggs in tortilla cups—a crowd pleaser.

    RECIPE: MEXICAN SCRAMBLED EGGS IN TORTILLA CUPS

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 seven-to-eight-inch tortillas (try whole wheat!)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 eggs (or 2 cups/16 ounces egg substitute)*
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar, Jack or Pepperjack† cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
  • Optional: minced jalapeño or chili flakes to taste
  • Optional garnish: 1/4 cup sour cream (or substitute nonfat Greek yogurt)
  • Optional garnish: 4 teaspoons salsa
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • Optional: fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oven to 400°F. Place four 6-ounce custard cups upside down on a cookie sheet. Lightly spray both sides of the tortillas with nonstick cooking spray. Place the tortillas over the custard cups, pressing down lightly to shape.

    2. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tortillas are light golden brown. Remove from the oven and place the cups upright on a cooling rack. Meanwhile…

    3. SPRAY a 10-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Scramble the eggs with the vegetables and seasonings and cook over medium heat. As the eggs begin to set, sprinkle on the cheese. Alternatively, you can sprinkle on the cheese after the eggs are in the tortilla cups. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist.

    4. PLACE the tortilla cups on plates and fill them with the eggs. Top each with sour cream and salsa. Sprinkle with green onions and the herbs.
     
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    *Most recipes assume large eggs; it is the size of the egg that makes the difference: 2 medium eggs =1/3 cup, 2 large eggs = ½ cup, 3 medium eggs + ½ cup, 3 large eggs = 2/3 cup. 4 large eggs = 1 cup.

    †If you use Pepperjack, you don’t need the added chiles.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Crostini For Brunch

    Most people think of crostini as nibbles to be served with wine or beer—“cocktail food.”

    Crostini the Italian word for “croutons,” which refers to any toast breads. They can be medium or large slices, plain or garnished.

    They are not the miniature bread cubes that garnish green salads and bowls of soup. Instead, medium or large crostini, plain or garnished, would be served with the salad or soup.

    In fact, Italy’s crostini are appetizer size, for with drinks, soup, and snacking. Cheese crostini are Italy’s “grilled cheese sandwich.” A topping of olive oil and garlic is Italy’s “garlic bread.”

    Crostini are a scrumptious breakfast choice, too. We especially like DIY crostini, where we put out toasted bread along with bowls of toppings, and let each person construct his or her own.

    First, plan your toppings from the list below, or add your own.

    Next, get the best bread you can find. We like thick slices of a crusty rustic sourdough loaf for breakfast crostini. It makes a nicely crunchy toast.

    Remember that this is a do-it-yourself recipe, so you can serve sweet ingredients (fresh cheeses, fruits and honey, for example), savory ingredients (bacon, eggs, hummus, sautéed spinach), or some of each.
     
    TOPPING SUGGESTIONS

  • Breakfast fish: gravlax, marinated herring, smoked salmon, taramasalata
  • Breakfast meats: bacon, ham, sliced sausage or sausage patties
  • Breakfast spreads: avocado, hummus, spreadable cheese, yogurt, etc.
  • Cooked vegetables: sautéed or steamed kale, spinach, zucchini
  • Eggs: boiled, fried, poached
  • Fresh cheeses: burrata, cottage cheese, cream cheese, farmer’s cheese, fromage blanc, goat cheese, labné, Neufchatel, ricotta, quark (anything spreadable)
  • Fresh fruits: berries, citrus sections, diced pears, sliced figs, sliced stone fruits
  • Fresh vegetables: breakfast radishes, chopped green onions, sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, sundried tomatoes marinated in olive oil
  •  
    PLUS CONDIMENTS

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Butter
  • Chili flakes
  • Fresh herbs
  • Lemon or lime wedges
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (especially flake salt or seasoned salt) and pepper
  • Lemon or lime wedges
  • Sweet condiments: honey, marmalade, preserves
  •  
    PREPARATION

    1. SET OUT the toppings.

    2. TOAST the bread; cook the eggs and breakfast meats. That’s it!
     
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    Photo credits: Top, Fig & Olive restaurant. Second, Safest Choice Eggs. Third: Mixed Greens Blog. Bottom: Locanda Verde Restaurant.

     

    Fig Crostini

    Egg Avocado Crostini

    Sundried Tomato Crostini

    Ricotta Crostini

    Top: Fresh figs, goat cheese and a drizzle of honey. Second: Mashed avocado and boiled egg with a drizzle of EVOO. Third: Ricotta topped with sundried tomatoes marinated in olive oil and herbs. Bottom: Serve plates of toast and ricotta, and let people top their own.

     

      

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