Eat This Word: Fennel Pollen

 

WHAT? Obscure no more. Once a little known spice used by Tuscans on meat or in soups and stews, fennel pollen was introduced to an American audience by food writer Faith Willinger, an American who has lived in Italy for nearly a quarter of a century. In the 1990s she brought American chefs like Mario Batali to a butcher shop in Panzano, Chianti, owned by Dario Cecchini, who sells specialty products of the area, including fennel pollen. The flowers of the blossoming wild fennel plant are coated in a mass of yellow pollen and, when shaken loose, the powdery condiment imparts a sweet fennel flavor and aromatic flowery scent. Batali was quick to incorporate the spice in his repertoire. As he explained to us a few years ago, "You sprinkle a tiny dusting on something hot, and it gives you this heady fennel perfume. It's amazing." This once hard-to-find spice, which marries wonderfully with a variety of ingredients, including pork, mussels, and even dark chocolate, is now popping up on menus everywhere. ... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Harissa

 

WHAT? This fiery, rust-colored condiment made from chiles, garlic, cumin, and olive oil is traditionally stirred into the broth ladled over couscous. Harissa is also used to add heat to many other Tunisian dishes, ranging from salads to brochettes. Commercially prepared harissa is available at specialty stores in the United States, but homemade harissa is easy to prepare and will last about a year if covered with a layer of olive oil and stored in the refrigerator. Neighboring Morocco and Algeria also use the condiment in their cuisines.

 

WHERE? Local and Salted, Pacific Northwest

 

WHEN? April 21, 2015

 

HOW? Anderson Ranch Lamb Loin with Charred Ramps, Sweet Tooth Mushrooms, Harissa, and... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Pupusas

 

WHAT? Referred to as “a distant cousin of the empanada” by Rob McKeown of the Boston Phoenix and “the world’s most overlooked pancake” by Robert Sietsema, pupusas are less well known than their Mexican counterparts, but just as tasty. A staple food in El Salvador, pupusas are thick, handmade corn tortillas made with masa harina (a dried hominy flour) and water. Traditional pupusa preparation calls for kneading the ingredients together before slapping the dense dough into disks and frying them on the griddle until hot and golden brown. Before cooking, pupusas are often stuffed with savory fillings such as quesillo, a mild, white cheese, fried pork rinds, braised chicken, refried beans, or loroco, an edible Central American flower. The snacks are usually served with curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw, and salsa. Pupusas were brought to the United States by El Salvadoran immigrants and they are sold in pupuserías in cities across the country.

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Eat This Word: Kulfi

Kulfi

 

WHAT? Indian ice cream cone. The Chinese first introduced ice cream to the world as early as the first century, but it was the Mughals that brought kulfi, a denser version of the frozen treat, from Persia to India in the sixteenth century. Kulfi’s unique conical shape sets it apart from most Western-style scoops—it’s also made without egg yolks as a thickener. Rather, its texture comes from milk that is boiled down until thick and creamy, then mixed with pistachios, cardamom, rose water, or other delicate flavorings before being poured into cone-shaped metal molds, sealed, and frozen in large earthenware vessels. The creamy confection is traditionally served with falooda (fine, silky Indian noodles made from corn flour), and is prized as a hot weather refresher. The dessert is so popular in India that master ice cream makers called kulfi-wallahs are often hired to make fresh kulfi on-site for special events, such as weddings.

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Eat This Word: Bagna Cauda

 

WHAT? A hot soak for your veggies. Bagna cauda, Italian for hot bath, is a very old dish with a Piedmont pedigree. Once considered a poor man's meal, bagna cauda has become one of the region's most popular foods. The "bath" is a tangy sauce made from garlic, olive oil, and anchovy; butter is often added in as well. To keep the sauce hot, it's typically served over a flame. Raw, or sometimes lightly cooked vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces, are dipped into it using a long-pronged fork. In Piedmont, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, and red peppers are the veggies of choice, but any vegetable that's good to eat raw works well with bagna cauda, too.

 

WHERE? Berkshires' First Taste of Spring

 

WHEN? March 9, 2015

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Eat This Word: Cavatelli

Cavatelli

 

WHAT? Few Americans understand either the regional diversity of food in Italy or the pride that Italians take in their cuisine. Take these little, handmade pasta curls, for example. Made from a stiff dough of semolina and water that is traditionally shaped on a wooden work surface by curling it with the tip of a butter knife, cavatelli are claimed by the Molize, Puglia, and Abruzzo regions of Italy. The dough and the shaping technique are similar to those used for orechiette, but the shape is closer to gnocchi. Cavatelli (or cavatieddi in Apulian dialect) are traditionally served with cooked bitter greens, such as arugula, and tomato sauce.

 

WHERE? Delmonico's Does Mardi Gras!

 

WHEN? February 17, 2015

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Eat This Word: Sunchokes

sunchoke

 

WHAT? A member of the sunflower family, this unusual vegetable, native to North America, can grow to be ten feet tall. Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes, although they've got nothing to do with the Holy Land and they certainly aren't artichokes. The origins of its etymology are as varied and gnarled as this tuber’s skin. Some suspect that the Italian word for sunflower, girasole, tumbled through a game of telephone to become Jerusalem. A marketing scheme took this confusing nomenclature, combined it with the bulbs’ light artichokey flavor, and the “Jerusalem artichoke” was born. But the eccentric titles don’t end there: the sunchoke has also been nicknamed the “fartichoke.” Julia Child once said, “I just love those Jersualem artichokes. But is there anything you can do about the flatulence?” The sunchoke’s high starch content is the culprit (and also a natural remedy for diabetics).
 
Thankfully, these monikers have been eclipsed by this vegetable’s versatility. Sunchokes can be eaten raw, cooked like potatoes, or... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Semifreddo

 

WHAT? A half-frozen idea. Italian for "half-cold," semifreddo is an Italian dessert made by freezing mousseline-like custards, which are often layered with ingredients like ground amaretti, nuts, or chocolate. Unlike ice cream, semifreddo is not churned. To make it edible while frozen, air is incorporated into the custard base, usually in the form of meringue or whipped cream. The air also has the effect of making the semifreddo seem less cold than it actually is, which accounts for its name.

 

WHERE? Rappahannock Oyster Celebration

 

WHEN? January 21, 2015

 

HOW? Tangerine Creamsicle with Buttermilk Semifreddo, Paige Tangerines, and Quince Cookie

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Eat This Word: Mochi

 

WHAT? In its homeland of Japan, this glutinous rice (mochi gome in Japanese) is used primarily to make confections, to make a special rice dish used for celebrations (sekihan), or to make mochi, a soft, gooey rice cake that is served around the New Year. Ordinarily, the Japanese cook rice by boiling; mochi rice, however, is steamed. To make mochi rice cakes, the hot rice is pounded over and over with a wooden palletsweaty workuntil it is pulverized. The resultant sticky dough is shaped into cakes, used both for shrine offerings and to eat. Mochi, which has an extensible texture like taffy but more so, is considered auspicious, for the word also means "to have," and thus connotes prosperity for the new year. Our favorite treat is mochi ice cream balls, in which a ball of ice cream is wrapped with mochi dough so you can hold it in your hands while you eat it.

 

WHERE? Pioneers and Legends... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Tourtières

WHAT? French pastry. As is so often the case with French words, tourtière means something slightly different in France than it does in French Canada. In Paris the word tourtière is obscure. It refers to a generic meat pie (sometimes also called a tourte) in a pastry crust that's baked in a mold called a tourtière. (Like tagine, terrine, and tian, the name of the dish comes from the name of the vessel in which it is cooked.) In Montréal, tourtière refers to a specific meat pie, usually ground pork, that's seasoned with cinnamon and clove and baked in a lard crust. It is traditional at Christmas, but it is eaten throughout the year. There are regional variations, such as the tourtières made along the Saguenay River that are filled with potatoes, onions, and cubed meat. Whereas in France it's unlikely to find someone who has ever had a tourtière, in French Canada, just about everyone has probably had one within the last year.

 

WHERE? Chuckwagon Raconteur

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