Agave cubed: Partida Agave Nectar used three ways

May 20, 2007 in chocolate, diabetes, Food Porn, low glycemic index, product, review, Spirit World Blog, Well Fed Network

(This post will appear on [tag]The Spirit World[/tag] blog, a member of the [tag]Well Fed Network[/tag])

Hot Chocolate

I received a sample of the [tag]100% Organic Partida Agave Nectar[/tag] some time ago and it has been quite a journey as I developed [tag]recipe[/tag]s for this interesting [tag]product[/tag].

The [tag]Partida Tequila company[/tag] makes their [tag]tequila[/tag], as you might expect, from [tag]blue agave plants[/tag], a succulent that dwells in the arid lands around [tag]Jalisco, Mexico[/tag]. One can also make [tag]nectar[/tag] from these interesting plants and let me assure you, this nectar is quite a wonder. For one, it is sweeter than table sugar. It looks like a thin honey as it is less viscous. It tastes a bit like honey although it’s flavor is not a dominant thing. The most important thing, ok – to me, is that it is fantastically low on the g[tag]lycemic[/tag] scale.

Get this, pure [tag]agave[/tag] nectar has a GI of 11 while white sugar is 100. A 10th of the [tag]glycemic impact[/tag] of sugar!

Today I have two drink recipes and one food recipe to show you just a very few possibilities for working with [tag]agave nectar[/tag].

The first is one I tested just today. Its a nod to the south of the border origin of the nectar as it uses [tag]chocolate[/tag] and it’s consistency is something [tag]Montezuma[/tag] would love – thick and potent.

[tag]Blue Agave Nectar[/tag] [tag]Ghirardelli[/tag] Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

Directions:

Combine agave nectar, cinnamon, chocolate powder and hot water in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Mix until incorporated. Add [tag]Ghirardelli chocolate[/tag] squares and then the fat free 1/2 and 1/2, heat until its smooth. Froth with an immersion blender. Do not not add [tag]marshmallow[/tag]s if you want to keep the GI low.
I had my rather fussy toddler give it a try and she loved it, even though it was made with grown-up unsweetened chocolate. She liked it with and without the marshmallows.

The second recipe is one that you will see all over the web and I will repeat it here but, since I do not drink tequila, I have not taste tested it. Its not hard to imagine that it is delicious!

[tag]Partida Agave Margarita[/tag]

Mix it all up in a bucket (or your favorite container), and serve over ice or chilled in a margarita glass.

The third and final recipe is one I developed a couple of weeks ago and, as you likely remember, covered in more detail at this post here.

oatmeal

[tag]Irish[/tag] [tag]Steel Cut[/tag] Oatmeal sweetened with agave nectar and passion fruit gastrique

Ingredients:

Directions:

In a small pan over medium heat, combine the scooped out pulpy seeds of the 2 passion fruits, the sliced apricots, 1 tablespoon of the Agave Nectar, 1 teaspoon of the fig vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of water. Simmer this down until it thickens to your desire consistency. You may need to add some water to thin or simmer longer to get it thicker, up to you! I put the syrup through a strainer to get rid of most of the midnight black seeds (which have these very interesting little divots across their surface) as they didn’t seem very edible to me.

When I served this all up, I put some agave nectar in the [tag]oatmeal[/tag] and stirred it up. I put the oatmeal into the bacon round (secured with a bit of wooden skewer) and then drizzled it with the [tag]gastrique[/tag] and added a bit of apricot. The remainder of apricots were put into a passion fruit rind. Do NOT eat raw passion fruit rind (has cyanide compounds in it).

I hope that these three recipes opened your eyes to the possibilities of agave nectar.

I plan on doing more work with chocolate because when I was making the hot chocolate, I saw how perfectly agave nectar married/melded with the chocolate (I feared it might seize but it didn’t).

Low GI chocolate sauce, oh how thou callest my name.

Products of Interest:


Sites of Interest:

Hi-Ball Energy drink – Ruby Red Grapefruit flavor (Well Fed Network Article)

May 15, 2007 in drink, product, review, Spirit World Blog, Well Fed Network

(This post will be published on The Spirit World blog, a member of the Well Fed Network.)
Recently, I had the pleasure of [tag]taste test[/tag]ing the Ruby Red Grapefruit flavored Hi-Ball Energy drink. I chilled this clear [tag]bubbly[/tag] [tag]drink[/tag] in the bottle and then poured it over ice. In the name of Science (right!), I drank it and then jumped on the [tag]treadmill[/tag] about 10 minutes later.

This soda had several good things going for it:

  • The [tag]grapefruit[/tag] flavor is very delicate, not overpowering or [tag]astringent[/tag]. I am a great lover of ruby red grapefruit so a stronger flavor would have been fine by me but I appreciate the delicate nature of this drink’s [tag]flavor profile[/tag].
  • Even though this drink is [tag]spiked[/tag] with a variety of [tag]energy[/tag]-promoting substances, it didn’t taste like a [tag]chemistry[/tag] [tag]experiment[/tag].
  • I definitely felt energetic as I did my modest walking [tag]workout[/tag].

I have tried other energy drinks, especially the [tag]sugar-free[/tag] types, and I never cared for their face-puckering brain-walloping extreme nature. I recently picked up one on my drive to what promised to be an energy-zapping photo shoot and I had a hard time finishing it. By the time I got to the bottom of it’s slim little can, there was a sort of acidic, ascorbic, horrifying [tag]sludge[/tag] that was worse than just about anything I have ever drank.

This [tag]Hi Ball[/tag] grapefruit energy drink is like the [tag]polar opposite[/tag] of that experience.

If you cruise the website for this product, HiBaller.com, you will find information on the ingredients found in the various drinks they produce.

They make:

  • [tag]Orange[/tag]
  • [tag]Wild Berry[/tag]
  • [tag]Lemon Lime[/tag]
  • [tag]Grapefruit[/tag]
  • [tag]Club soda[/tag]
  • [tag]Tonic Water[/tag]

The ingredients you will find in the Ruby Red Grapefruit flavored drink includes:

  • [tag]Taurine[/tag]
  • [tag]Caffeine[/tag]
  • [tag]Guarana[/tag]
  • [tag]Ginseng[/tag]
  • [tag]Vitamin-B[/tag]
  • No [tag]sweetener[/tag]s – no sugar

You will also see a page on various [tag]athlete[/tag]s who are spokespeople for this company. I mention this because its a trip reading about these people and then thinking how I am so NOT like them. I have no illusions that this drink will turn me into a global-class [tag]olympic[/tag] [tag]skier[/tag] or [tag]skateboard[/tag]er, but I do think its a good choice for the adult who needs some energy in the short term without the sugar [tag]crash[/tag] that you get after the loathesome energy bars and drinks that are thrust at the public as if they were actually GOOD for the body.

I would not recommend any of these caffeine and herbal amended drinks for kids and young adults. There is time enough later for them to become addicted to caffeine. They should have enough energy to do the kid things they need to do.

Give the Ruby Red Grapefruit Energy drink and the other flavors a try!

Envelope yourself in the creamy world of the Italian panna cotta

April 10, 2007 in cheese, cookbook, Food Porn, Paper Palate, pork, recipe, vegetable, Well Fed Network

 

(This post will appear on the [tag]Paper Palate[/tag] blog, a member of the [tag]Well Fed Network[/tag])

 

Panna Cotta cover image

Book review of [tag]Camilla V. Saulsbury[/tag]’s [tag]Panna Cotta: Italy’s Elegant Custard Made Easy[/tag]

I had never heard of [tag]panna cotta[/tag] before I saw it made on Iron Chef a few years ago. I obviously do not frequent many [tag]Italian[/tag] restaurants, mainly because I live in an Italian restaurant wasteland where white dinner rolls (you know, the kind that you buy at Stop and Shop ready to pop in the oven to “bake”) are served along with bologna antipastos (practically right out of the grocery store packaging). No, you can bet panna cotta will not be on any local menus.

Seeing it made on [tag]Iron Chef[/tag] is a very different thing than making it yourself. I actually never had a hankering for it until I agreed to review “Panna Cotta: Italy’s Elegant Custard Made Easy” by Camilla V. [tag]Saulsbury[/tag] and I am so glad that I decided to try a panna cotta on for size. I recommend this type of food and this cookbook in particular to both beginning cooks and the more experienced. You will not be disappointed.

First, let me tell you about the most fundamental lesson I learned from this book – panna cotta is extremely easy to make. You are essentially making a custard-like concoction without any [tag]egg[/tag]s. You do this by replacing their eggy magic with powdered [tag]gelatin[/tag].

The cover is fantastic, a raspberry vibrancy that sets off a poppy seed panna cotta to excellent effect. If you are visually cued like I am, you will be drawn in by the cover, [tag]seduce[/tag]d into exploring the [tag]panna[/tag] [tag]cotta[/tag].

In it’s mere 128 pages, this book packs in quite a lot of fantastic information about what panna cotta is (literally means [tag]cooked cream[/tag]), the fundamentals of making a panna cotta, and a treasury of [tag]recipe[/tag]s that will definitely inspire you to try a few out.

Just inside the front cover, the book has several pages of color photographs that depict some of the recipes. These are not as beautiful as the cover but they serve to illustrate the variety of panna cotta forms and presentation possibilities.

The introduction provides an excellent grounding in panna cotta [tag]First Principles[/tag]. Do not skip this chapter because it will give you the basic understanding of this eggless custard that you can then use to [tag]design[/tag] you own creations.

The recipes are organized into six chapters:

  • Top-10 Panna Cotta Favorites
  • Chocolate, Caramel, & Spice
  • Fruit Panna Cotta
  • Spirited Panna Cotta
  • Enlightened Panna Cotta
  • Savory Panna Cotta

In the “Top-10” chapter, you will find recipes like [tag]vanilla bean[/tag], [tag]PB&J[/tag], toasted coconut, cinnamon panna cotta and others.

Chapter Two has quite a few tempting recipes, such as mayan chocolate, pink [tag]peppercorn[/tag] (sweet!), cannoli, chai, and five-spice & honey panna cotta. There will certainly be a dessert there for everyone in your family.

Chapter Three explores the use of fruits such as mango, [tag]hachiya[/tag] [tag]persimmon[/tag], [tag]roasted pear[/tag], and even sweet [tag]pumpkin[/tag]!

As you might have expected, the “Spirited Panna Cotta” Chapter (Four) delves into recipes that use alcohol, recipes such as late harvest [tag]reisling[/tag], [tag]mint julep[/tag], [tag]limoncello[/tag] & mint, and even white chocolate amaretto panna cotta.

Chapter Five, “Enlightened Panna Cotta,” provides “lighter” versions with ingredients such as evaporated fat free milk and reduced fat sour cream in decadent sounding recipes like ricotta-honey, cafe brulot and linzer panna cotta.

In the final recipe chapter, “Savory Panna Cotta,” Saulsbury gives recipes for the panna cottas which I personally find the the most attractive. With recipes for butternut squash, [tag]porcini[/tag], [tag]asparagus[/tag], cauliflower and [tag]gorgonzola[/tag] panna cotta, you will impress friends and family with flavorful and unexpected appetizers that can really set the scene for a memorable dinner.

Saulsbury is able to, in a very small number of pages, put you on track to making your own panna cottas and encourages you to strike out on new paths, exploring your own part of the pana cotta universe. I found her writing encouraging to the uninitiated, namely me, and I soon found myself innovating a new recipe on my first time out of the panna cotta gate.

I would recommend this book to any of my friends and family and I look forward to trying out more of these recipes.

What follows is my first panna cotta, inspired by Saulsbury’s Thyme [tag]Goat Cheese[/tag] panna cotta. The family, from toddlers, pre-teens, to adults, all loved this savory [tag]appetizer[/tag].

(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce)

Basil Ginger Goat Cheese Panna Cotta by Nika Boyce

(Inspired by Saulsbury’s own Thyme Goat Cheese Panna Cotta found on page 124)

Makes 12 or so mini panna cottas with some left over for the cook.

Instead of the many tempting sweet panna cottas featured in this book, I chose to make a savory one. Saulsbury has several very tempting recipes for savories such as summer corn panna cotta, asparagus panna cotta, avocado panna cotta and many more. I adapted her recipe for thyme goat cheese panna cotta because I didn’t have the exact same ingredients that she called for. Instead of heavy cream, I used half and half. Instead of thyme, I used basil. I also added ginger because I seem to want to add ginger to everything these days and I wanted to see how it would do in this setting. Ginger, for me, was a wonderful addition.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • ginger, small 1/8 inch thick slice that is not minced but left whole
  • several basil leaves, tear by hand into small pieces
  • 8 oz [tag]goat[/tag] [tag]cheese[/tag] [tag]chevre[/tag], cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/4 C half and half
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 2 slices hardwood smoked bacon, fried until crispy, allow to cool
  • 1/2 red delicious apple
  • 2 crimini mushrooms, medium size and sliced
  • 2 large [tag]basil[/tag] leaves for presentation
  • sea salt

Directions:

Add the powdered gelatin to the 3 tablespoons of warm water and set aside to allow the water to be absorbed, at least 5 minutes.

In a heavy pot, bring the half and half, ginger slice, and basil leaves up to a simmer (over the lowest heat that will get you there), remove from the burner and add the gelatin. Mix until the gelatin is dissolved. Using a whisk, incorporate the goat cheese and then the sour cream.

I used a mini-muffin tin that I had coated with a good olive oil. I poured the panna cotta mix into this tin and then put it into the refrigerator overnight. Saulsbury suggests at least 4 hours.

I served this up two different ways. Not shown was how I had poured some of the excess mixture into a medium size baking cup. The next day I just stuck a spoon in to spread the panna cotta on matzos, very delicious and not fussy at all. The dry matzo and the rich panna cotta spread are a hit in this house now.

The photos show the second way I served this. I slowly fried some hardwood smoked bacon slices in a cast iron pan. I set those aside and sauted several apple slices and also diced apple and allowed them to drain and cool. I also lightly sauted some crimini slices. I assembled them, as show, with some basil leaves as the base, the panna cotta, a dribble of olive oil, a slice of apple (with the peel for color), a slice of mushroom, a bit of apple and bacon dice, and then long slices of the bacon for flair. The bacon, apple, and mushroom eaten with the panna cotta are a unctuous mix of savory, sweet, tart, and creaminess. Try to allow all garnishes to cool as hot items may just make your panna cotta melt.

(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce)

Books of Interest:

Resources:

International Boston Seafood Show 2007: Frozen Sushi from Polar Seas – Delicious!

March 16, 2007 in Fish, Growers & Grocers Blog, International Boston Seafood Show, Japanese, review, seafood, Well Fed Network

When my daughter and I went to the [tag]2007 International Boston Seafood Show[/tag] this last Monday, we got to meet [tag]Kathy Maister[/tag] and Stephen from [tag]startcooking.com[/tag] and [tag]stephencooks.com[/tag] respectively. Wow, what a couple of awesome foodies and food bloggers. We were chatting (after various mishaps in trying to find one another in that huge place) and getting to know each other while surrounded by a huge array of awesome smelling [tag]food[/tag], calling our names. We did not get to talk long enough by any measure. We will be planning more [tag]New England[/tag] [tag]food blogger[/tag] get togethers for a bit later this year. If you are in this orbit drop a note with an email so I can keep you in the loop. I live in central MA so it takes me 1.5 hours to get in but I consider [tag]Boston[/tag] part of my neighborhood.

[This post will appear on the [tag]Growers and Grocers[/tag] blog, a member of the [tag]Well Fed Network[/tag]]

This last Monday when I attended the 2007 International Boston Seafood Show, I got to sample quite a few products. Let me assure you, I had to pace myself because there were so many tempting foods.

One product that I sampled toward the end of the day was the [tag]frozen[/tag] [tag]sushi[/tag] by [tag]Polar Seas[/tag] (a PDF of their products), a collaborative product of [tag]Brooklyn[/tag], NY, based [tag]True World foods[/tag] and [tag]Kyokuyo Co[/tag]. in [tag]Japan[/tag].

I tried it with some trepidation because I have had some fantastically bad chilled (frozen?) sushi at grocery stores and I am still scarred. I have never bought sushi frozen in a box for that reason.

But I had to give it a try, mostly because I felt like I would be able to tell whether it was at least edible. Most of the other samples I had that day were fried, lots of masking.

Good sushi is based on fresh fish but perhaps more importantly, in terms of where it can go horribly wrong, good sushi MUST have GOOD RICE, period.

Frozen or chilled sushi [tag]rice[/tag] can be vile and nauseating: mushy, watery, and revolting on the tongue. Can you tell I feel pretty strongly about the sushi rice? Just a bit.

We taste tested three different types of Polar Seas frozen sushi (images below from product PDF):

[tag]Spicy Tuna roll[/tag]:

[tag]Tuna Nigiri[/tag]:

[tag]Shrimp Nigiri[/tag]:

The [tag]shrimp[/tag] didn’t taste like eggs like a lot of frozen shrimp does, thank goodness. It tasted like a natural non-preserved shrimp.

The samples were flying off the trays (the crowd was a couple people deep around the display) so when we asked for [tag]Tuna[/tag] [tag]Nigiri[/tag] they said there was none thawed but some that was frozen. They gave us a frozen piece and we walked away with it on a plate. It thawed rapidly and before we expected it, we were enjoying a delicious tuna nigiri. Additionally, the tuna tasted fresher than what we have had in sushi restaurants.

Makes you wonder about the possibility of using this frozen product in an ice-packed lunch box. Put the pieces in frozen, put in your ice packs, and then allow them to thaw right before eating. I would have to test that concept out a bit before recommending it.

The [tag]spicy[/tag] tuna roll was flavorful and quite satisfying. We also tried several [tag]unagi nigiri[/tag] (BBQed eel) but do not have photos to share. We could not get enough of it, so delish.

But the rice..

Oh, the rice was spot on. It wasn’t gummy, it was tasty, it was good sushi rice, and it was a pleasant surprise.