You ‘Must’ Remember This: Saba Grape Must Reduction

Saba. You may have seen us talk about this new (to us) ingredient on Facebook, or perhaps you’ve seen it in the store, over by the vinegars and olive oils.

But it isn’t a balsamic vinegar. And it definitely isn’t an olive oil.

What is Saba? Also known as sapa, mosto cotto o vino cotto, saba is a special “cousin” of sorts to balsamic vinegar.

An ancient Italian condiment, saba is a sweet, dense syrup that is created using the same methods that make your favorite balsamic.
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Asparagus: 8 cool (and weird) things to know

edouard-manet-asparagus-painting

“A Bunch of Asparagus” (1880), Edouard Manet

Cookin’ it, old-school.  Asparagus has been a part of our culinary palette for a long time — it appears on an Egyptian frieze from 3000 BCE, and Cato the Elder included instructions for planting the vegetable in his farming manual, De Agri Cultura, around 160 BCE.

Let them eat veg. France’s King Louis XIV dubbed asparagus the “king of vegetables” and was the first enthusiast to cultivate the veg in greenhouses for year-round availability.

The nose knows. Quite a few people make jokes that allude to the distinct odor (because, face it, potty humor is the best humor), but the majority of people can’t smell “asparagus pee“– the odor asparagus consumption causes urine to have. It actually takes a specific gene to allow someone to detect the smell, and only 25% of people have that gene.

Perfect Bloody Mary swizzle-stick? Research has shown that the minerals and amino acids in asparagus may relieve some of the effects alcohol has on the body. Some of the enzymes found in asparagus are good at breaking down alcohol, thus alleviating some of the hangover effects of alcohol consumption.

asparagus-simple-cookingSpeaking of headaches… Asparagus is a fantastic vegetable-based source for riboflavin (aka Vitamin B2), which can help reduce the frequency and duration of migraine headaches.

I’m bringing sexy snack. Asparagus is a legendary food aphrodisiac. Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th-century English genius-of-all-trades (he is remembered as a botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer, for heck’s sake) wrote in The English Phystian that asparagus “stirreth up bodily lust in Man or Woman.” This may actually be due to the amount of vitamin E in the vegetable, which boosts the production of sex hormones. And let’s not get started on the “suggestive” shape of the vegetable itself …

Extra credit trivia: And, for the erudite and potty-mouthed among us, here’s your vocab word of the week: the French word for asparagus is asperge; asperge is also a French slang word for penis.

Hungry to know more? There is an entire museum dedicated solely to asparagus. The European Asparagus Museum (Europäisches Spargelmuseum), in Schrobenhausen, Bavaria, Germany celebrates everything about asparagus from its history to its botany, cultivation, art and curiosities.

Photo credit: A Bunch of Asparagus (1880), Edouard Manet, Musee d’Orsay

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Asparagus: the basics

asparagus-bunchChoose the right stuff: When shopping for fresh asparagus, a vibrant green (or purple or white) and buds/tips that still look tight mean that your veg is fresh and flavorful. Discoloration, or dryness/splits at the root end mean it’s been too long since the asparagus was picked.

Rainbow bright. There are three colors of asparagus: green, purple and white. Green is the most common variety, and tastes best when it is cooked al dente. Purple asparagus is like purple string beans: it turns green when cooked. White asparagus is heavily mulched / grown in darkness, and has a tougher texture. White asparagus needs to be peeled from tip to tail, and, in stark opposition to green asparagus, should be well-cooked. Don’t cook white and green asparagus together: the green will discolor the white spears.

asparagus-tipsThrough thick and thin. The thickness of the asparagus’ stalk does not indicate its maturity; a thin asparagus spear does not grow into a fat one. You can make a tasty dish with either. Thin is great for stir-fries and saute; thick is, not surprisingly, hardier and a good pick for roasting or grilling.

Put it away, put it away, put it away now, and then in a plastic bag, no longer than three days. You do not need to clean asparagus before stashing it in the fridge. You could also store asparagus standing up in a wide-mouth jar or other container, with an inch of water in the bottom. Keep it in the fridge, uncovered, and use it within a few days.

asparagus-preparing-spearsReady to cook up some asparagus? First, prepare the stems – by snapping or chopping off the bottom of the stalks. Peel the woody parts on the lower end of the stalk if they don’t feel tender to you.

Next, choose a favorite asparagus recipe (lots to choose among here), or try one of the following ultra-simple cooking methods:

Roast asparagus 101: Olive Oil. Salt. Pepper. Toss with asparagus spears, roast on baking sheet or in a dish at 425F for 10-15 min (err on the quicker, undercooked side).

asparagus-simple-cooking-squarepicSteamed asparagus 101: 1″ of salted boiling water in the bottom of the pot. Asparagus, in a single layer, in the steamer basket. Cover and cook, 3 min max. Remove asparagus from steamer basket and blot excess moisture with a paper or kitchen towel. Eat it naked (the asparagus, not you, silly), or with a light drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil.

Blanch it! (not Cate) 101 In a wide pot, boil a few inches of generously salted water and add your asparagus, either whole stalks or cut into pieces. Cook at a rapid simmer for 1 minutes. Then immediately plunge the spears into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking and to keep them green. Remove from ice water and blot, otherwise risk waterlogged asparagus.

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Got salty sayings? Spicy slogans? Bring us your apron ideas!

Calling all creative minds! Spring is here and the time has come to freshen up our AllSpice apron offerings.

That’s where you come in: help us come up with some clever sayings for our new aprons. Show us your best food quotes, jokes, and quips!

New-Apron-Slogan-gift-box

Got fresh ideas? To enter, simply comment on this post or send your suggestions in an e-mail to anna@allspiceonline.com.

Rory_Rub_ApronHere are just few guidelines to get you started:

  • -Submissions must be family friendly (not *too* salty, not *too* spicy)
  • -Submissions must be five words or fewer
  • -Food and/or cooking-focused
  • -Puns encouraged
  • -Please only one entry per person

In addition to some great bragging rights, our winner will be receiving this gift box with their winning apron!

You have until April 19 to submit your entries. Thank you, and good Luck!

(To see some of our older apron slogans and sayings, take a look here).

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Tikka Masala: ‘Indian’ food, by way of Glasgow

Tikka-Masala-BlendTikka Masala is a popular curry dish, and is also the name for the spice blend that gives the dish its distinctive flavor, a melding of Northern Indian flavors.

Tikka means bits, or pieces, and masala is a blend of spices.

So, what is chicken tikka masala, exactly? Chicken tikka masala is chicken tikka,* chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, that is then baked in a clay tandoor oven, and served in a creamy, spiced masala sauce. The sauce is usually creamy and orange-coloured, although the particulars of the recipe can vary from kitchen to kitchen, and family to family.

The Indian tandoor oven dates back thousands of years, and the practice of marinating chicken or other meats in yogurt and spices (chicken tikka) goes back pretty far as well. But the addition of the orange, creamy, spicy masala to the chicken tikka is, curiously, not an Indian creation, ancient or otherwise!
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