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TIP OF THE DAY: Crudités On A Cutting Board

We traditionally serve cheese on a platter; sometimes on a cutting board, especially one that looks great because we’ve never used it for cutting.

(The rustic look, using a well-worn cutting board like the one in the photo, doesn’t look right with our fancy decor.)

Our crudités have always been arranged on a large plate, platter or bowl.

But when we saw this cheese and veggie arrangement from Vermont Creamery, we said: whoa! Colorful crudités look great on a cutting board.

Today’s tip may be obvious but we’d simply never done it.

So we dug out one of our more attractive cutting boards and shopped the market for colorful veggies.
 
SELECT VIVID VEGGIES

Don’t the striped chioggia beets and watermelon radishes look great next to the sugar snap peas and asparagus?

Add some carrots and scatter a box of multi-colored cherry or grape tomatoes, and you’ve got a nutritious explosion of color—so much so that even the white radishes look colorful!

 

Crudites Board

Grab the cutting board and the crudités (photo courtesy Vermont Creamery).

 
Seek and ye shall find: This week, we scored a purple cauliflower, burgundy scallions and a bag of rainbow baby carrots at a nearby healthy foods market.

If you don’t want to make a dip, buy one. In our home, hummus is the better dip option: protein-packed, lactose-free, vegan and most importantly, popular.

Now, all we need is a Martini with a pick of olives.

  

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Edible Arrangements Chocolate “Donuts”

Edible Arrangements Donuts
[1] These delectable “donuts” will fool everyone, until the first bite (photos courtesy Edible Arrangements).

Edible Arrangements Apple Donuts
[2] The handsome packaging requires no gift wrap—not even a bow!

Edible Arrangements Donuts
[3] You can buy boxes of 6, 12, or 1. But who can eat just one?

 

When Edible Arrangements offered a sample of their new donuts, we thought they were going to be…donuts.

Instead, they turned out to be something even better (and we say this as a donut lover) and less guilty:

Thick slices of fresh-cut Granny Smith apple coated in top-quality semisweet chocolate that look like donuts.

They can fool you, as they fooled us—until the first crunchy bite. What did we expect from a company known for its beautiful arrangements?

They were launched on National Donut Day (June 1st) and are a new part of Edible’s collections.

We urge you to get some!

The donuts are hand dipped and hand decorated, with:

  • Different colored glazes (which are colored white chocolate).
  • Different toppings: sprinkles, coconut and caramelized hazelnut crunch.
  • You can order them online or head to your nearest Edible Arrangements store (store locator).

    They are sold nicely boxed:

  • One dozen donuts are $29.00
  • Half dozen are $19.00
  • Three single donuts in individual boxes are $12 (in-store pick-up only)
  •  
    They are:

  • A unique party snack.
  • A playful host/hostess gift.
  • A dessert for special occasions or any day.
  • A treat for your work buds.
  • A treat for yourself.
  •  
    For Father’s Day, there’s an option that includes blue plaid-decorated donuts and mustache-shaped pieces of chocolate.

    One note: Because they contain fresh-cut apples, plan to eat the donuts within a day of purchase.

    Placing them in the fridge will give you an extra day or two.

    The final word: Irresistible. Head to the website to order yours!

    Or find your nearest store.

     

      

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    PRODUCTS: Iced Tea, IPA, Perrier Peach

    This week’s featured products are a trio of beverages, from zero-calorie sparkling water to low-calorie iced teas to an exciting IPA (240 calories pee 12 ounces, and worth it).

    Here they are, in alphabetical order.
     
     
    1. BEER: BALLAST POINT SCULPIN IPA

    IPA is the hottest category in craft beer, and it’s been our favorite style—hoppy and robust—for more than a decade.

    While the classic British IPAs were our first foray, once American craft brewers started brewing with Pacific Northwest hops, we were hooked. Goodbye, Old World IPA.

    While a discussion of hops requires a long session, American craft brewers use Pacific Northwest hops, known for their fruitiness: their ability to generate flavors of apricot, grapefruit, mango, orange, peach and tropical fruits.

    We try every American IPA that comes our way. Most recently, Ballast Point, a San Diego brewery, has stolen our heart.

    The brewery began in 1996, in the back of a homebrewing supply store: a small group of San Diego home brewers who wanted to make a better beer. It is now owned by Constellation Brands, but the beers still taste like loving artisans fuss over the tiniest detail to coax exciting flavors from each ingredient.

    Ballast Point’s flagship beer, the first Sculpin IPA (sculpin is another name for the California scorpionfish, photo #2), has hints of apricot, lemon, mango and peach.

    The newest, our beloved Aloha Sculpin (photo #1), develops even more flavor by using a different strain of yeast called Brux Trois for short*. It contributes to the layers of flavor from the hops: guava, mango and pineapple (hence “Aloha,” from the tropics). It’s the first Brux Trois IPA to be distributed nationally.

    IPA lovers: Seek it out!

    Discover more at BallastPoint.com.
     
     
    2. ICED TEA: HONEST TEA

    We applaud reduced-calorie iced teas, and are fans of Honest Tea’s Just A Tad Sweet Line. An entire 16-ounce bottle is just 60 calories.

    The line is naturally flavored, USDA organic-certified, and the tea and sugar are Fair Trade.

    There are philosophical-inspirational quotes on the undersides the caps. An example from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change.”

    We enjoyed the three newest flavors (photo #3) immensely: Lemon Grove Maple Black Tea, Mango Maté Black Tea and Moroccan Mint Green Tea. But then, we’ve enjoyed every flavor we’ve tried (there are 15+ at last count).

    Even the aroma of the empty bottles was intoxicating!

    Discover more at HonestTea.com.

     

    Ballast Point Aloha IPA
    [1] Our new favorite IPA: Aloha Sculpin from San Diego (photo courtesy Ballast Point Brewery).

    Sculpin Fish
    [2] The brand “ambassadorfish,” the sculpin (California scorpionfish, Scorpaena guttata). Watch out for the venomous fin spines (photo courtesy Ken Jones Fishing).

    Honest Tea Just A Tad Sweet
    [3] Three flavors from the Just A Tad Sweet line of Honest Tea, certified organic and Fair Trade (photo courtesy Honest Tea).

    Peach Perrier
    [4] Just peachy: new peach-flavored Perrier (photo courtesy Perrier).

     
    3: SPARKLING WATER: PEACH PERRIER

    Peach is the latest of Perrier’s flavored sparkling waters (photo #4). Its formal name is PERRIER Carbonated Mineral Water Peach Flavor, but Peach Perrier works fine for us.

    Peach joins the other Perrier flavors: Green Apple, Lemon, Lime, L’Orange, Pink Grapefruit, Strawberry and Watermelon.

    We’re going to try to assemble them all and have a Perrier tasting. It sounds great for light summertime dining, with an assortment of salads including fruit salad, of course.

    Discover more at Perrier.com.
    Three new flavors join the lineup: Lemon Grove Maple Black Tea, Mango Maté Black Tea and Moroccan Mint Green Tea.

    They join 13 other flavors, which gives us an idea…for another tasting lineup!

    ________________

    *The full name is Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 9 Ways To Use Cucumbers Beyond The Usual

    Chicken Salad Cucumber Stacks
    [1] Cucumber hummus stacks. For variety, there are many other fillers (photo courtesy Willow Tree Farm).

    Parma Ham Appetizer
    [2] Fancy or casual roulades: julienned cucumbers rolled in prosciutto. You can soak the cucumbers in gin! (Here’s the recipe from Parma Crown.)

    Cucumber Dip
    [3] Cucumbers, yogurt, garlic and dill are the ingredients of Greek tzatziki, but can also be served as a dip (photo courtesy Ausport | Australia).

    Cucumber Soup
    [4] Chilled cucumber soup is a summer refresher (here’s the recipe from Food & Wine, © Con Poulos).

    Cucumber Ice Pops
    Cucumber ice pops, here accented with green tea and mint (here’s the recipe from Cake Over Steak).

     

    June 13th is National Cucumber Day. In the U.S., cucumbers are eaten raw as crudités, in green salads, as pickles, and as sushi rolls (kappa maki).

    But what else can you do with them? Here are nine more ways to go.

    While it is natural to buy the largest cucumbers to “get your money’s worth,” smaller cucumbers are more tender.

    Should you peel them? It’s a question of how tough the peel is. Chew a slice with the peel on to decide. One of the things that we like to do is make vertical stripes with a vegetable peeler.
     
    1. CUCUMBER APPETIZERS

    Fancy cooks have long used cucumber slices as a base for hors d’oeuvre, instead of bread or crackers. Just add the topping.

    With thicker slices, you can scoop out a well in the center to stuff crab salad, goat cheese, etc.

    Or, make cucumber stacks: “sandwich” bites filled with chicken salad, hummus, olive cream cheese or whatever you like.

    Here are two recipes to start you off:

  • Stuffed Cucumber Bites
  • Cucumber-Prosciutto Roulades
  •  
    2. CUCUMBER DRINKS

    Use cucumbers in cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. Serve cucumber water often!

    The details and recipes are here.
     
    3. CUCUMBER ICE

    Make cucumber sorbet or ice pops. There are many recipes for both, accenting with coconut water, lemon, lime, matcha tea or mint.

    Here’s a recipe to start you off (photo #5).
     
    4. CUCUMBER PICKLES WITH GLOBAL FLAVORS

    You don’t need to put them up in Mason jars: Recipes for quick pickles abound.

    By changing spices and vinegars, you can create delightful “signature pickles.”

    Look at your spice shelf, pass by the conventional pickling spices and go for it. Cayenne? Cumin? Curry?
     
    5. CUCUMBER SANDWICHES

    Cucumber sandwiches on buttered bread are a perennial feature of afternoon tea. Use good butter and bread, and they’re delicious.

    Use cucumber slices like iceberg lettuce, to add crunch to a sandwich.
     
    6. CUCUMBER SAUCES & DIPS

    Cucumber and yogurt are served as sides to grilled meats. The two most famous:

  • Raita, from India (recipe).
  • Tzatziki, from Greece (recipe).
  •  
    The major difference is the seasoning: garlic, cumin and cayenne for raita; garlic and dill for tzatziki.

    You can thin either of these for dips.
     
    7. CUCUMBER SIDES

    You can grill cucumbers, stuff and bake them, or dredge them in cornmeal and fry them. Serve those with lemon wedges and ketchup!
     
    8. CUCUMBER SOUP

    Chilled cucumber soup, like vichyssoise, has long been made in France with a base of cream.

    With the growth of yogurt fans in the 1980s, Americans have embraced soups with a yogurt base.

  • Use lots of garlic and dill, and garnish with chopped scallion.
  • There are many cucumber gazpacho recipes. This chunky cucumber gazpacho is topped with shrimp and cantaloupe or mango.
  •  
    Garnishes or mix-ins for cucumber soup include avocado, feta, fresh herbs, garlic, red onion or shallots, and tomato.
     
    9. MARINATED CUCUMBER SALADS

    Leave the salad greens behind, and create salads with cucumbers and vinegar.

    Israeli salad, a combination of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and parsley, is one of our favorites (here’s a recipe)

    Asian cucumber salads are sweet-and-sour. Try this recipe for starters.

    Our own recipe for Greek-style cucumber salad: thinly-sliced tomatoes, marinated in wine vinegar; thinly-sliced red onion; halved cherry tomatoes; drizzled with olive oil and topped with kalamata olives and diced feta.

    We keep containers of it in the fridge all summer long. If you store it, hold the feta until you’re ready to serve.

    And those of you with spiralizers: Make cucumber “zoodle” salad.

     
     
    CUCUMBER HISTORY

    The cucumber originated in India and was cultivated more than 4000 years ago. Easy to cultivate, it spread to other parts of the Pacific.

    By the first century B.C.E., it was traded to ancient Greece, Rome, the Middle East, and to modern-day Bulgaria and Serbia.

    The march of the cucumber was global. It is the fourth most widely cultivated vegetable in the world [source].

    The Roman Emperor Tiberius (14 B.C.E. – 16 C.E.) ate cucumbers every day of the year. Special gardens were tended just for his vegetables. In the winter, the cucumbers were grown on bed frames or wheeled carts that were moved around to follow the sun, and brought indoors at night for warmth.

    (The first practical greenhouse was invented by the French botanist Charles Lucien Bonaparte during the 1800s, to grow medicinal tropical plants.)

    Because it is such a prolific grower (one vine grows many cukes), the vegetable was inexpensive and accessible to both the wealthy and peasants. In addition to eating, cucumbers were widely used as medicinal remedies.

    After the fall of Rome, cucumbers receded for a long period, resurfacing in France at the court of Charlemagne in the late 8th and 9th centuries.

  • They were brought to England in the 14th century but were not well received. Another attempt, in the mid-17th century finally took hold (and led to those cucumber sandwiches).
  • Christopher Columbus brought cucumbers to Haiti in 1494. They were grown by there by Spanish settlers and made their way across New World.
  • In the 16th century, European trappers in North America introduced cucumbers to Native Americans in the rGreat Plains and the Rocky Mountains.
  • During the 18th century, several medicinal journals reported (erroneously) that raw cucumbers represented serious health risks. Cucumber use plummeted, to be revived only in 19th century.
  •  
    In 2010, worldwide cucumber production was 57.5 million tons, with majority of the world’s production and export coming from China (40.7 million tons).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate National Cucumber Day With Cucumber Drinks

    Cucumber Water
    [1] Add cucumber slices to a pitcher of water. Lemon, lime and/or mint sprigs make it even more delicious (photo courtesy HealthiGuide).

    DRY Cucumber Soda
    [2] DRY Sparkling, a cucumber soda low in sugar, is one of our favorites straight or as a mixer (photo courtesy DRY Sparkling).

    Spindrift Cucumber Water
    [3] Spindrift’s Sparkling Water is flavored with real squeezed cucumber, no sweetness added (photo courtesy Spindrift).

    Cucumber Cocktail Garnish
    [4] This garnish is at home in a cocktail or a glass of club soda (photo courtesy Dante | NYC).

    Cucumber Cocktail Garnish
    [5] Make a curly cucumber cocktail garnish on a cocktail pick (photo courtesy AnQi | Costa Mesa) .

     

    June 13th is National Cucumber Day. Cucumbers are so refreshing, they’re a natural for drinks.

     
    DRINKS FOR EVERYONE!

    Cucumber Cocktails

    We like to sip cucumber vodka straight or on the rocks. Brands like Effen, Ketel One, Prairie, Svedka, Rain and others sell it. Some are straight cucumber, some add lime.

    You can make these cocktails with plain or cucumber vodka. Or, infuse your own cucumber vodka at home.

  • Cucumber Mary Cocktail
  • Cucumber Tequila Cocktail
  • Gin Lemonade With Cucumber
  •  
    Non-Alcoholic Cucumber Drinks

  • Homemade cucumber water: infuse sliced cucumbers in a pitcher of water, with optional lemon/lime and mint (photo #1)
  • Cucumber DRY Sparkling
  • Cucumber Hint Water
  • Cucumber Spindrift Sparkling Water
  •  
    Cucumber Appetizers

    If you’d like a cucumber snack with your cucumber drink, try:

  • Stuffed Cucumber Bites
  • Cucumber-Prosciutto Roulades
  •  
     
    CUCUMBER TYPES

    Growers define cucumbers in five categories: slicing, pickling, burpless, space savers and specialty.

  • Slicing cucumbers include the typical supermarket variety: long and straight with thin, non-bitter skins and seeds. They are bred for slicing and eating. The skin of younger, unwaxed cucumbers is tender enough to be eaten. As the fruit* grows, the skins thicken and more seeds develop. If left on the vine too long, the flesh may become bitter.
  • Pickling cucumbers are shorter and stouter. They are bred to have drier flesh, which allows them to soak up more of the pickling brine.
  • Burpless cucumbers are slicing cucumbers that have been bred to produce less of the bitter chemical that releases gas in the stomach. They were developed because enough Americans had this sensitivity.
  • Space saver cucumbers, also called container cucumbers, are bred to create compact vines that fit into small gardens and deck planters.
  • Specialty cucumbers are heirloom cucumbers that have less developed disease resistance than modern hybrids (that’s why fewer growers plant them), but are appreciated for their different flavors, shapes and/or colors. There’s more in the next section.
  •  
     
    SPECIALTY CUCUMBERS

    You can eat, drink or garnish with any supermarket cucumber, but why not have fun and look for specialty varieties?

    You know what conventional cucumbers look like. Check farmers markets for specialty varieties like these:

  • Armenian cucumbers are heavily ribbed—decorative and ornamental—and taste like a melon without the sweetness. They are particularly interesting for salads and garnishes.
  • Crystal Apple cucumbers, heirlooms from New Zealand, have pale green, roundish fruits resembling Granny Smith apples.
  • Lemon cucumbers are yellow and shaped like lemons.
  • Suyo Long is a traditional variety from China that delivers burpless, sweet ribbed fruits that can be used for slicing or pickling.
  • Palace King is a hybrid that has ripples of yellow on emerald green skins.
  • White cucumbers are ivory in color. They are a mutation that occurred in the early 1890s in western New York State, and the seeds were sent to Burpee.
  •  
    Your homework: Go to the farmers market and look for specialty cucumbers. If you have a garden, check out the options and plan to plant at least one variety next year.
     
     
    * CUCUMBER TRIVIA

    Cucumbers are fruits. They are members of the same botanical genus as cantaloupe, honeydew, Persian melon and other melons.

    A giveaway: Fruits carry their seeds on the inside.

    The exception is the strawberry: Technically, the strawberry is an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries.

    The tiny “seeds” (called achenes) on the outside of the berry are actually teeny ovaries of the flower, with a teenier seed inside it.

     

      

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