Del Campo's Charred Tomato Salad + Charred Ceviche (photo: Greg Powers)
Remember when burning your vegetables was considered a bad thing? These days, though, chefs are using high heat and chars to draw out the caramel flavors of fruits and vegetables without needing extra sauces and flavoring.
At Del Campo in Washington, DC, chef Victor Albisu serves South American barbecue with a focus on burnt items, so much so that the menu reads like a market stand of grilled items – tomatoes, scallions, artichokes, squash, onions.
Continue Reading Burning Love: Char Your Vegetables
Close your eyes and picture “cherry red.” What do you see? I’d wager you’re picturing a color that has been witnessed in a fresh cherry precisely … never. What you are seeing is a maraschino cherry — maraschino red, that is.
Which is odd, because the maraschino we’ve come to know bears only the faintest relation to a real cherry. Today’s maraschino is a preserved fruit of a particularly brutalized sort, the result of chemical brines, artificial dyes and “natural” flavors that would shame even a cosmetic surgeon. The jarred stuff starts with sweet cherries (typically Royal Ann or Rainier); these are saturated with calcium salts, which firms the cherries’ texture while stripping color and flavor. The resulting specimens are then pitted and macerated in sugar syrup. After a month of maceration, the cherries are dipped in red dye, stem and all, and packed in almond-flavored syrup.
The resulting product is indisputably an eye-catching garnish; whether it is an edible foodstuff is debatable. With its impossibly cloying sweetness and synthetic taste, the maraschino is rich in meaning, poor in flavor. But it persists because flavor is beside the point. The maraschino exists as an ornament, a bauble, a visible sign that says, “Now we are treating ourselves.”
Flavor hasn’t always been an afterthought, though. For centuries, before they became a cliche, maraschino cherries were a rare and coveted luxury item. Their distinguished pedigree traces back to 16th-century Dalmatia (a region of modern-day Croatia), where Dominican monks first distilled the wild marasca cherry — a sour variety celebrated for its spicy cinnamon flavor — in a clear liqueur. With time and tinkering — like sweetening with cane sugar and distilling the cherry pits separately (which lent bitter, almond notes) — the monks arrived at the spirit that came to be known as maraschino, still produced in Italy today.
Continue Reading Super Food Nerds, Behind the Scenes: The Cherry on Top
Summer cookouts might seem like a diet disaster, but they don’t need to be. Round out the usual burgers and hot dogs with these healthy sides and you’ll end up with a meal you feel good about. To make the healthiest plate, try to follow the guidelines of making half your plate veggies, a quarter starchy foods (in cookout speak, this would be stuff like the corn, potato salad or hot dog bun) and a quarter protein (the hot dog, small burger, etc.). As for what those healthy options should be, here are some ideas.
Continue Reading Healthiest Sides for Your Picnic Potluck
It’s about time to kick off the unofficial start of summer with a Memorial Day cookout! And what better way to celebrate than with a nutritional smack down? Here’s a look at your favorite cookout foods with an answer to the burning question: which is healthier?
Burger vs. Hot Dog
Meat brings up lots of questions, such as where it’s from, how it was raised or how it was processed. For the sake of this smack down, let’s assume that you’re choosing between the best possible options: a lean, local, grass-fed beef burger or a nitrate-free 100% beef hot dog. Lean burgers offer good amounts of B vitamins, zinc and protein (20 g). Keep in mind portion size: a burger should be made from 1/4 pound of ground beef. That’ll keep calories in check (178). Hot dogs are slightly lower in calories, compared to a quarter-pound burger, but not by much (169 calories in a typical dog). They also have way more sodium, while offering fewer vitamins and minerals. So unless they are your main reason for being in the summertime, stick to the beef burger. Better yet? Go for grilled salmon or a veggie burger.
The Winner: Burgers
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Potato Salad vs. Macaroni Salad
Continue Reading Grilling Smackdown: Best Choices for Your Next Cookout
Happy mid-January: a time of wavering resolutions and intense longing for endless carbs and sugar-crusted sweets. The good news is the Super Bowl is only 18 days away, which gives you a perfect excuse to indulge in a cheese-and-bread bowl or two in honor of the home team. To help you prep for that glorious day of snacking, here’s an easy football-shaped soft pretzel recipe that uses store-bought pizza dough to speed things up. A quick dip in a beer-and-baking-soda solution before baking gives these twists a deeper flavor and a nicely browned crust — no lye required. Set them up with a duo of mustard and cheese sauce and let the carb-loading games begin!
Feast your eyes on more pretzel-centric recipes from Cooking Channel below: