Archive for Tasteology

Seafood City Excursion

One of the most important things we can do for our chefs is immerse them in the culture and foods of projects that they are working on. In the past, we have sent them to Dearborn, Michigan for a Middle Eastern food safari and down to Memphis in May to dive deep into competition BBQ. Sending our chefs to these locations is important, but Chicago also provides a wide range of cuisines to sample. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and we want to make sure our chefs have access to that. This time around they traveled just a few miles up the road to Seafood City, a Filipino grocery store with a massive food court right inside.

The chefs and the marketing team walked the aisles. The grocery store was filled with many excellent and unique Filipino ingredients, but the stand-out items were not even part of the grocery store at all. There is a full service counter, where you can get fresh seafood and then have it shelled, shucked, or descaled right there for you. There was a solid line of customers all taking numbers to get their fish processed before leaving.

The other interesting thing was that the bakery section is a separate store from the rest of the grocery space. We stepped into a smaller section with its own registers and employees, and looked around. A lot of the items being sold were purple because they use a lot of ube, which is a purple sweet potato native to the Philippines. If used as an ingredient, the bread or pastry takes on its purple hue. The whole bakery smelled sweet and fresh. Finally, we sampled a variety of dishes at the food court. There were noodle soups, fried rice, and an egg roll type dish called lumpia. One of the more intriguing things we ate was Kare Kare, which is a stew of oxtail in a peanut sauce. It had elements similar to other familiar Asian cuisines, but was just different enough to feel like a whole new taste.

It was an eye opening trip for both marketing and culinary. While we are by no means experts after one visit, as we explore this trend more and more, we certainly have a great base to refer to.

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Jackfruit & Ube Handpie

Jackfruit Puree
18 oz. Jackfruit (sweet) packed in syrup
10 fl. oz. Jackfruit syrup (from can of jackfruit)
2 Tbsp. Lemon juice
¼ tsp. sea salt
Directions:

  • Place jackfruit, and 4 fluid ounces into a blender, blend for 2 minutes, looking for a semi smooth texture.
  • Place puree into a sauce pot, along with the remaining 6 fluid ounces of syrup, lemon juice, and sea salt.
  • Place sauce pot onto a low flame, stirring on occasion, so not to burn. Looking for the puree to thicken slightly.
  • Remove from heat, place into cooler.

Ube Puree
8 oz. ube (fresh or frozen grated)
7 fl. oz. coconut milk (full fat)
1.2 oz. butter
.75 oz. powder sugar
1 oz. coconut sugar
Directions:

  • Place all ingredients into a sauce pot.
  • On a low flame, heat all ingredient, making sure to stir often.
  • Cook on low heat for 20 minutes, or until mixture has thickened and potato is cooked— no longer has raw taste.
  • Remove from heat, place mixture into a bowl, let cool in the cooler for about an hour.

Jackfruit & Ube Handpie
Ingredients:
28 oz. Pastry dough (store bought or homemade)
4 ¼ oz. Ube mixture (see recipe above right)
5 oz. Jackfruit puree (see recipe above right)
1 Tbsp. Coconut sugar
1 Large egg
Directions:

  • Cut 24 dough circles using 3 ¼ inch cookie cutter.
  • Place egg wash around edge of 12 circles.
  • Place 1 Tbsp. of ube mixture and 1 Tbsp. of jackfruit puree in center of circle.
  • Place a second pastry circle over ube/jackfruit mixture. Using your finger or fork, crimp the edges of pastry all the way around to seal the edges.
  • Using a pastry brush, lightly brush on egg wash over the top of pastry.
  • Sprinkle about 1/8 tsp. of coconut sugar over the top of the egg washed pastry.
  • Bake in 350˚F convection oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Where to Buy Ingredients for Filipino Cuisine

Getting started with cooking a new cuisine requires ingredient procurement. For a cuisine like Filipino, which has many specialty ingredients, this can be challenging. In North America, Seafood City, the supermarket chain specializing in Filipino foods, is one of the best options available. There is a wide assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, dry goods, and frozen goods. They carry a large assortment of Filipino food products from such brands as Pamana and Mama Sita’s. As of February 2018, they have 25 locations in North America with most located in the state of California. If there is not a Seafood City conveniently located, a local Filipino grocer is another great option. For example, the city of Chicago is also home to Three R’s Filipino Grocery and Café and Uni-Mart, two specialty Filipino grocers.

The next place to look for Filipino ingredients can be another Asian grocer, whether it’s a chain like H-Mart, Great Wall Supermarket, or Mitsuwa or a local Asian grocer. Some ingredients are used across multiple Asian cuisines, so a well-stocked Asian grocer would likely carry items like fish sauce and long beans. Many mainstream American grocers have an ethnic aisle where basic Asian ingredients such as soy sauce are readily available. Even Whole Foods Market carries bok choy.

Finally, Filipino ingredients can be purchased online. Efooddepot.com and Amazon. com both offer an assortment of Filipino ingredients and ship across the United States. So whether there is a recipe for a Filipino dish from a book, a blog, or even this newsletter that piques your interest, it is possible to find the ingredients needed to prepare it.

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Filipino Cuisine; A Blending Of History

Numerous indigenous Philippine cooking methods have survived the many foreign influences brought about either by trade, contact, or colonization.

The first and most persistent food influence was most likely from Chinese traders who were already present and regularly came to Philippine shores. They pre-dated Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s landing on Homonhon Island in 1521 by as many as five centuries.

The earliest written account of food was by Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler of the Magellan expedition. Pigafetta describes the dinner served by Raja Colambu, a local chief of Limasawa island as “pork in its sauce served in porcelain platters, roasted fish with freshly gathered ginger, and rice; turtle eggs; chicken; and peacock.”

The Spanish ruled most of the Philippines until Filipinos launched the first successful revolution against a Western colonizer, in 1896, and declared their independence in 1898. Three hundred years of Spanish rule resulted in the introduction of ingredients such as, tomatoes, annatto (locally called achuete), corn and avocados from other colonies of Spain, but principally Mexico. Peppers were native to Mexico, Central and North America and spread to Asia in the 15th century. The Spanish also brought varied styles of cooking, reflecting the different regions of their country. Some of these dishes are still popular in the Philippines, such as callos, gambas, and paella.

Some other delicacies from Mexico also found their way to the Philippines due to this colonial period. Tamales, pipian, and balbacoa are a few examples. These terms are still used today, but some ingredient and cooking procedure names have changed. The tamales Filipinos know today use rice instead of corn in Mexican versions; pipian uses peanuts instead of pumpkin seeds; and barbacoa is boiled beef shanks instead of the Mexican balbacoa, slow-roasted meat cooked in a pit.

Filipino cuisine is a sum of Philippine history, from the influences of Southeast Asian cooking brought by trade to the
colonial influences brought by conquest. In recent years, because of domestic migration, tourism, national food businesses, mass
media and social media, regional dishes from the different islands have gone beyond their immediate borders and become part of the national table. Today’s Filipinos are able to acquaint themselves with the food of their own country.

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The Changing Consumption of Soup

In classical French cuisine, soups were considered part of the starter course, so it is no wonder why they were once only relegated to the appetizers menu and served in cups or small bowls. But soup, as it is known today, extends across all parts of the menu, in both hot and cold forms and with many names.

In cafes, soup can be one part of the soup and a half sandwich meal deal or as a main course served in a bread bowl. One might even order soup as a dessert such as a sweet red bean soup in a Chinese restaurant. Furthermore, certain soups are growing in menu penetration, including ramen (2.3%; +49% over the past four years), pozole (1.9%; +42.1% over the past four years), and pho (1.4%; +56% over the past four years). Soup is certainly a versatile form, and it shows in so many applications today.

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Put Down That Spoon, Drinkable Soups Are Now Trending

Consumers are constantly on the lookout for the latest on-trend foods that will fulfill their growing list of requirements. Products that are convenient and healthy, while also satisfying their hunger and taste buds are high on the list. One of the more recent food trends puts a unique twist on a classic offering to meet these demands- drinkable soup.

Packaged in single-serve bottles, drinkable soup provides a quick grab-and-go solution. Fortunately, this component of convenience does not come at the expense of taste. Drinkable soup products extend beyond the typical soup offerings to provide an exciting flavor experience through ingredient lists containing a variety of spices and vegetables such as turmeric, squash, peppers, and more. Furthermore, since drinkable soups consist of mainly vegetables and seasonings, they can easily be made to meet the growing desires of health-conscious consumers looking for organic and clean label products.

Additionally, the emergence of drinkable soup has brought about another recent trend known as “souping.” A diet centered around drinkable soups provides consumers a new alternative to the popular juice cleanse, or juicing trend. Soups tend to be lower in sugar, more savory, and thicker and heartier than juices, which leaves consumers feeling satiated.

Today, many companies selling drinkable soup are still young. This results in barriers to reaching some consumers, such as limited delivery reach and high prices. However, as these companies learn the best way to meet consumer’s needs and make their products known, these new trends of drinkable soup and souping may soon hit the mainstream.

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Interesting Ways To Use Croutons

Croutons are probably most recognized as a garnish on a Caesar salad. Indeed, grocery stores often merchandise croutons with fresh produce, and crouton brands feature beautiful food photography of salad on their packaging. But there are other interesting culinary uses for croutons. Food and Wine magazine featured a few, including croutons stirred into scrambled eggs, which eliminate the need for toast, and crumbled and used like bread crumbs to encrust a fish or chicken dish. Flavored croutons can also be eaten right out of the bag as a snack. Our chefs love how versatile croutons are, particularly with soups. They could be used as a garnish instead of crackers, as a replacement for the crusty toast topping in French onion soup, or as a thickening agent for a chowder.

There are also a variety of bread types and seasonings used on croutons available in the market today, which can contribute flavor and texture to many dishes. Some of the bread types used in retail include pretzel bread, glutenfree grain, sprouted ancient grain, and corn bread. There are also a wide range of seasonings including aged cheeses, onions and peppers, ranch, garlic and herbs, and honey butter.

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Stocks, The Base For Great Recipes

Stocks and sauces play an important role in the culinary world. Stocks are the perfect kitchen companion as they are easy to prepare and utilize scraps that would otherwise be wasted. The ability to create delicious stocks will be your ticket to deep rich flavor. Sauces are the decadent derivative of stocks. They are concentrated in flavor, add richness, smoothness, and enhance any dish.

Stock or bouillon in French is the plain unclarified broth obtained from simmering meat and vegetables in water. It is used instead of plain water for cooking certain dishes, and for making soups and sauces. For a versatile stock, the basics are water, bones, meat/fish trimmings (for meat and fish stocks), celery, onion, carrot and a bouquet garni, such as parsley stalks, a bay leaf or thyme sprigs (all three tied in a bundle or placed in cheesecloth), plus a few peppercorns and maybe a few leek leaves. No salt though. Stock isn’t salted, to avoid over-seasoning your finished dish. There are four main types of stock: vegetable, chicken, meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb) and fish. While you can usually substitute one for another with no real effect, it’s usually best to stick with the stock that goes with what you’re cooking. If you’re making a chicken dish, use chicken stock instead of beef, although vegetable stock is a good substitute, and may also add a nice layer of flavor to your recipe.

Meat stocks can take a few hours, so larger batches are wise. Since stocks are made using leftovers or scraps – parts that might otherwise be thrown away- save bones and trimmings in the freezer. You can start making your stock once you’ve collected enough. Although, you can always buy bones cheaply from the local butcher if time is of the essence. A good rule of thumb is to have about one part solid ingredients to one part water.

  • Chop vegetables into large uniform chunks – too small and the long cooking time will cause them to disintegrate. Don’t use starchy vegetables such as potatoes as these will make the stock cloudy, or vegetables that are too green as these can color the stock.
  • Place chicken carcasses/bones into a large pot and top with cold water. Heat to a gentle simmer and skim off any scum that rises up (Dépouiller). The scum is coagulated protein, held together by fat. While it won’t hurt you, it won’t taste good so it’s best to remove it. Top off with cold water if needed.
  • Add vegetables and a bouquet garni. Bring to a simmer again but do not let the stock boil vigorously. Regulate the heat so that a few bubbles rise to the surface. Skim regularly and keep the ingredients covered by topping off with cold water. Cook uncovered for 3-4 hours.
  • Strain the stock, pour into a clean pot and boil to reduce and intensify the flavor. Use your judgment and taste buds to determine how far to reduce. Stock can be frozen. Just pour into freezer bags or ice cube trays.

With meat stock you’ll want it dark and rich, so roast your meat/beef bones and vegetables for about 45 minutes in a 400- 450 degree F oven before adding them to your stockpot and adding water. If you skip this step, your stock will have a lighter color and flavor. Now start saving your scraps and get cooking. Enjoy the process!

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Cold Soups: Turn Down Heat and Turn Up The Flavor

Cold soup is a favorite as a refreshing alternative to warm, hearty soups. These recipes/dishes tend to be chock full of fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables from honeydew to cucumber and mint to zesty gazpacho. No doubt cold soups offer their own uniquely “slurpable” flavors.

For cold soup newcomers, one favorite Spanish recipe gazpacho is the ultimate chilled soup for many. Made with the ripest tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, this vegetarian classic soup is thickened with stale bread or bread crumbs/croutons and brightened up with garlic and sherry vinegar. Other favorite classic cold soups are vichyssoise, borscht, yogurt cucumber & dill, and carrot ginger. Soups, either hot or cold are great platforms for your creative side to shine. They can be jazzed up with seasoning blends, like Ras el Hanout, or Chinese five spice, to name just a few, and don’t forget about the wide variety of fresh herbs that will complement your creation.

Smoothies and smoothie bowls have been all the rage the past few years. For a Smoothie bowl, you can create pretty much any combo of flavors and then top it with your favorite fruits or crunchies like cereal and nuts. This means it’s more satisfying than a regular smoothie. You eat it with a spoon, like cold soup. This made us think, how about using some of our cold soups as a base for a smoothie or smoothie bowl. After trial and error with various soup blends, we ended up with a few tasty treats. Using these soup blends, such as carrot ginger, not only gave us great looking and tasty smoothies, but also a nice nutritional boost.

So for a change of pace, take the chance and mix some fruit and veggies together. Please see our featured recipes for some inspiration. Enjoy!

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SOUP!

When summer comes to an end and the days get cooler, there’s no better way to warm up than with a delicious bowl of soup! Soup dates back to the 18th century. A large amount could be made on the cheap and could feed a lot of people. Historically, soup was used as a test of character. If you were a good person, you shared your soup. If you didn’t share your warm, brothy meal, you were considered selfish.

There are three main types of soups: clear or brothy, creamy or thick, and cold. All soups begin with stock or broth. Clear soups can contain vegetables, meat and beans. Cream soups start off the same as a clear soup but also include cream or a thickening agent such as a roux. Some examples of creamy or thick soups are bisque, gumbo and stew. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be cold outside to enjoy soup. Cold soups are also delicious and refreshing to eat. They can be savory or sweet and even eaten as dessert!

Each region of the world has their own types of soup. In New England, clam chowder defines the region. French Onion was created in France, of course, but has gained momentum all over the world. The Chinese use chicken broth based soup, adding deliciously filled wontons. And finally, thanks to the Spanish, gazpacho is one of the most popular cold soups enjoyed today.

Soup is one of the most convenient meals available. It’s easy to find canned soups that are microwave ready, dry mixes and even packaged as a drink for eating on the go. Don’t be shy stocking up on good old fashioned chicken soup as it has healing and soothing properties when you are sick.

So the next time you experience a writer’s block type of feeling when trying to plan dinner, try your hand at whipping up a pot of soup. It’s easy, fun and nearly fool proof.

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