Eat This Word: Sea Beans


WHAT?  Nautical haricots verts. Popeye may have had spinach, but a seafaring vegetarian's delight is the sea bean. The American sea bean is a type of samphire [SAM-fy-uhr] known as salicornia. Its other aliases are glasswort (it was used to make glass at one time), marsh samphire, and sea pickle. Sea beans proliferate on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Some have spiky green leaves that make the plant look like a skinny miniature cactus without the needles. Others look surprisingly similar to Chinese long beans. The crisp leaves and stems smell and taste like sea salt. Fresh sea beans can be found from the summer through the fall, and are best when used fresh or pickled. When cooked, sea beans have a tendency to taste salty and even fishy.


WHERE? New England Thanksgiving

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Eat This Word: Culatello


WHAT? Hamming it up. Just about everyone knows that Parma is famous for its raw, cured ham called prosciutto di Parma. But real pork-product purists prefer the region’s rarer and more delectable culatello. The best, most traditional culatello is labeled with the D.O.P. “Culatello di Zibello,” and it is made according to strict regulations enforced by the Consorzio del Culatello di Zibello in and around the town of Zibello, about 20 miles outside of Parma. Only the large muscles of the pigs’s hind legs and inner thigh, off the bone, are used (culatello means “little backside”). The meat is cured with salt, seasoned with a mixture of black pepper, wine, and herbs, and aged for a minimum of 12 months before it is sold. The characteristic pear shape is enhanced by intricate tying that produces an attractive rosette pattern when the culatello is cut crosswise into paper-thin slices.


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Eat This Word: Huitlacoche


WHAT? Fancy fungus. A bulbous grey or black fungus that grows on ears of corn, huitlacoche used to be considered a nuisance by American farmers, who routinely destroyed crops "infected" with the blight and lobbied to make imports illegal. But in the late 1980s, chefs like Josephina Howard of NYC's Rosa Mexicano began promoting huitlacoche for its earthy, smoky flavor and its role in traditional Mexican cuisine. On September 12, 1989, Howard headlined a celebratory All Huitlacoche Dinner at the James Beard Foundation. Today, the delicacy is so savored that it is commonly referred to as the Mexican truffle.

WHERE? Inspired Mexican


WHEN? Wednesday, November 18, 2015


HOW? Corn with Huitlacoche and Epazote Flan


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Eat This Word: Mandaquat


WHAT? Maybe you've heard of pluots and tangelos, or maybe you've even tried a cross-bred fruit or two. But regardless of your hybrid fruit knowledge, we think you should get to know the mandaquat. A cross between a mandarin orange and a kumquat, you’ll love eating it as much as we love saying it. Originating in the citrus groves of Southern California, the mandaquat was through the agricultural technique of cross-pollination, where the pollen from one flower is transferred to another. Combining the sweetness of the mandarin orange with the tartness of the kumquat, the mandaquat provides a unique flavor profile that explodes on the tongue with a citrusy tang. The mandaquat is rather rare, and seldom appears on restaurant menus. It’s easiest to find in farmers’ markets around Southern California, where it’s most commonly grown and becoming increasingly popular. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on these small golden fruits, the mandaquat can be easily utilized in both sweet and savory... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Angelica


WHAT? The "heavenly" herb. Native to northern Europe and Syria, and now grown in the damp meadows of Central Europe, America, and Asia, sweet angelica is a member of the parsley family. The tall, leafy plant has a hollow stem and grows as high as nine feet. In dessert and pastry making, the pale green, celery-like stalks may be candied (which turns them a neon green) and used as decorations. The roots and seeds are used to flavor sweet wines and liqueurs such as Benedictine and Chartreuse. But the monks were not the first to be convinced of angelica's divine powers. It is said that the Archangel Raphael revealed to a pious hermit that the "herb of the angels" was a remedy against the plague.

WHERE? Lenox Luxe


WHEN? Tuesday, November 10, 2015

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Eat This Word: Kombu



WHAT? Japanese food staple. The Internet is filled with websites praising the health benefits of the seaweed kombu (also konbu), known in English as kelp and in Latin as Laminaria. Whether or not kombu is a cure for cancer or has natural cholesterol-lowering abilities, it is certainly one of the foundations of Japanese cooking. To make the stock, dashi, which is at the base of most Japanese cooking, a piece of dried kombu is simmered in water. The kombu is removed and flakes of katsuoboshi (dried and smoked bonito) are added, simmered, and strained out. Kombu is also used to marinate fish. Kombu grows in clear, shallow ocean water, such as that found off the coast of Hokkaido in Japan or Hawaii. It can reach 30 feet, but it’s usually cut to lengths of a few inches for sale. There are, of course, different varieties for different purposes, but all contain an impressive amount of natural monosodium glutamate that accounts for its flavor enhancing and transformational marinating... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Rillettes


WHAT? Coveted crock. "I certainly had never had the happiness of seeing that brown mess spread on slices of bread and butter," recalled Honoré de Balzac of watching his schoolmates eat the savory spread he so desired. A native of Tours, the French literary legend may have belonged to one of the few families that couldn't afford the humble specialty of the region, where the fatty favorite is lovingly referred to as "brown jam." As with other pâtés and terrines, rillettes begin with chopped meat, salted and cooked slowly in fat (the recipe dates back to the 15th century Loire Valley, where it was likely created to use up leftover scraps of pork). The tender morsels are then shredded and stored in ramekins or crocks covered with additional fat. This age-old technique results in a rustic yet deliciously creamy paste that has aromas of garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and wine. Literally translated, rillettes means "plank," which probably refers to its appearance when it is sliced and served cold on crusty... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Sorghum


WHAT? Before refined sugar was popularized in America around the time of World War I, sorghum syrup was a common sweetener that was used on pancakes or in baking. Its use was so widespread that it was known as "the sugar of the Plains." The juice is extracted from the stalks of the sorghum plant and, like maple syrup, is boiled down. Today, you can find sorghum syrup, which is far better for you than refined sugar, at health food stores. Other varieties of the sorghum plant furnish a millet-like grain, used in porridge, breads, and soups in many parts of the world. In the United States, however, despite the grain's reputation as "a powerhouse of nutrition" (Food Lover's Companion), it is mostly used for animal fodder.


WHERE? Arizona Seven at the Beard House


WHEN? Friday, November 20, 2015

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Eat This Word: Cucamelon


WHAT? Tangy, crunchy, and bite-sized—cucamelons are perfect in salads, sandwiches, and fruity salsas. Native to Mexico and Central America, Melothria scabra, or the cucamelon, is also called the mouse melon, Mexican sour gherkin, or “sandita,” meaning little watermelon. Originally part of the Aztec diet, cucamelons are now commonly served in Central America as a delicacy. These grape-sized fruits have crisp, white flesh with a refreshing and mildly sour cucumber taste. As a staple of Mexican cuisine for centuries, cucamelons have an abundance of uses and can be grown in the comfort of one’s own garden—we even grow them at the Beard House, thanks to Koppert Cress. Sow the seeds from April to May indoors, and when there is no chance of frost outside, plant them with a trellis and watch their delicate vines grow. While they are slow starters, cucamelons produce plentiful yields and require barely any upkeep. Although seeds aren't... Read more >

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Eat This Word: ‘Nduja


WHAT? Nestled at the “toe of the boot,” Calabria, Italy, is surrounded by crystal clear water and blanketed with rocky coasts, sandy beaches, and copious amounts of local agriculture. While Calabria has long been notorious for the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, it’s also the birthplace of ‘nduja: a spicy, spreadable salami, made with ground pork and red Calabrian chile peppers. Originating from a tiny village named Spilinga, the pigs destined for 'nduja are raised in a summery climate, and fed a diet of mostly acorns, grains, chestnuts, beets, and pumpkins. The time-honored process of making ‘nduja, one of the region's most cherished foods, begins with mixing the hand-ground pork trimmings together with salt and the chile peppers, and then kneading the combination into a smooth paste. The pork is then stuffed into a natural casing, briefly smoked, and then aged for months.  

‘Nduja tends to be on the spicy side, so combine it with a spoonful of ricotta cheese for a milder bite. This... Read more >

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