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Cool Eats for Hot Summer Days

I am August, hear me roar.

It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In Florida, August comes in like a lion wearing sunscreen and rain boots, and leaves like the exact same lion, except well stocked with hurricane and school supplies.

Speaking of supplies, if you are headed out to a beach condo or up to a mountain cabin, ask yourself this: when was the last time the spices in the kitchen were replaced? Can you name the president at the time? Our VSpicery flavor packs will bring the flavors at your favorite getaway up to date. Visiting with friends or family? Our flavor packs are a wonderful way of introducing them to the VSpicery experience.

It’s too darn hot!

It might be too hot to cook, but you still have to eat. Grilled seafood will make the cooking quick and easy. For grilled shrimp, we suggest one of our bodacious blends: Shallots N’ Pepper, Barista’s BBQ, Greek Seasoning, or Sriracha Sizzle. Simply skewer the shrimp, drizzle on a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning, and allow to marinate for 15 to 20 minutes in the refrigerator or cooler. Then pair with your favorite grilling veggies and fire it up. Not a shellfish eater? The same sublime simplicity applies to your favorite fresh fish filet. And when it comes to fish, be sure to check out our newest blend, Fin & Feather Schmacker.

Salad Days – Our Upcoming Event

So you think you know salads? Sign up for our next event and let us expand your herbivore horizons. On Saturday, August 18th at 3pm, we will be hosting a class on all things salad – everything from exploring various types of leafy greens, vinegars and oils to our favorite pasta and potato creations. And of course, we will dress for the occasion – learn how to ditch the store bought dressings and create your own. Class is limited to 12. $25 per person includes tastings. Reservations are a must – call 813-870-1133 to reserve your seat by August 14th.

Early Event Announcement

On September 8th we will be hosting a knife sharpening event with our guy Mark. We will also be doing something in the kitchen and will let you know in the next newsletter. So, get your blades ready and mark your calendars.

Sale in the Wind – Balsamic Vinegars and Extra Virgin Olive Oils

In celebration of salads, we are offering $2.00 off our Bellindora Balsamics – we have a pomegranate, a fig and an apple. If you would like all three, an additional discount applies. Also, be sure to take advantage of 10% off our extra virgin olive oils while supplies last. In store only special, sale runs from Aug. 18th – Aug. 24th.

Side Dish Success

VSpicery loves sharing recipes. We find that the side dish below is a perfect combination when you use VSpicery’s Greek Seasoning on grilled chicken. It’s a brilliant combination of flavors that will leave you with a satisfied palate and happy tummy.

Couscous, Asparagus, Cucumber, & Olive Salad

Serves 8

1 clove Garlic
3 tbs. Fresh Lemon Juice
½ cup EVO
1 tsp. Roasted Garlic Champagne Mustard
2 ½ cups low salt Chicken Broth
2 cups toasted Israeli Couscous (about 6 oz)
2 cups ½-inch pieces thin Asparagus spears, blanch for minutes
2 large green onions chopped
2 cups ½ -inch hot house cucumber
½ cup pitted Kalamata Olives, halved
¼ cup fresh mint leaves + sprigs to garnish (optional)
1 ½ cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese

Press garlic clove into small bowl. Add lemon juice and mustard; whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt & pepper. Bring broth to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Mix in couscous. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until couscous is tender and all broth is absorbed (about 10 minutes).

Transfer to large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally (about 45 minutes). Mix asparagus, cucumber, olives, green onions and ¼ cup mint leaves into couscous. Add dressing, toss. Gently mix in cheese. Can be made two hours ahead, let stand at room temperature.

Hope to see you at our next events on August 18th to learn all about salads. Until then have a creative time with your food.

Food Should Be Delicious!

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30 Days of Flavor: 03/29/11 – Bellindora Vinegars

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We will be discussing flavors this month in our “30 Days of Flavor” blog series. Every day this month, VSpicery will select a spice, seasoning, salt, etc., as the flavor of the day, giving you it’s history, flavor profile, and uses. We hope you enjoy these flavors and their unique stories.

We carry a line of flavored Bellindora vinegars from Napa Valley, California, that are packed with flavor and can be used various ways to give new dimension to your dishes. Three of the flavors begin with a balsamic vinegar base (apple, fig and pomegranate) and one that begins with a champagne vinegar (champagne pear), and are then infused with fruit flavor. You can come to our shop in Tampa, or one of the markets that we attend to sample one or all varieties to find your favorite.

Our Apple Balsamic vinegar has a nice and refreshing apple taste that works well as a vinaigrette, glaze, reduction, or as part of a marinade. Use it with our Orange Olive Oil, and some Eden’s Nectar Spring honey for a fabulous fruit salad dressing. We sampled this fruit salad creation at a market, and everyone wanted to buy the prepared salad! Brush on baked chicken or pork during the last 15 minutes of cooking for a nice sweetly tart flavor infusion, or combine with herbs and olive oil for a tasty salad dressing.

Champagne Pear Vinegar has just the right balance of sweetness from the pears with the tart flavor of the vinegar that it may just become your favorite, it is certainly one of ours. This vinegar was made specifically for us when our first pear vinegar producer went out of business and sold the pear and olive farms. We waited 18 months for the vinegar to age in oak barrels before we could finally sample this fine product, and it was definitely worth the wait. Mix with VSpicery’s Salad Seasons, Serophino Olive Oil, and Eden’s Nectar Honey for a nice, flavorful vinaigrette. Tired of the same old chicken dish? Use our Harmony Chicken Rub and olive oil to season chicken, whole or pieces, and bake as you would normally. Then during the last 15 minutes of cooking drizzle some Champagne Pear Vinegar (or spritz with a mister or squirt bottle), and continue baking until the chicken is done. This awesome flavor combination will become a family favorite! Also makes a tasty glaze or reduction sauce.

Wonderful on salads, sandwiches, and roasted or grilled meats, our Fig Balsamic Vinegar really livens up your meals. Use it to make a vinaigrette for your salad, as a glaze for fish, chicken or pork, or make a fabulous reduction sauce to top veggies or meats. If you like turkey sandwiches, you have to try it on your next one. Use your bread of choice, add turkey and provolone or swiss, lettuce, tomato, mayo optional, and drizzle a few drops of the Fig Vinegar. You’ll be amazed how this vinegar compliments the other flavors of the sandwich. We seasonally carry dried Turkish Figs that are really meaty and delicious, usually available around the holiday season, that taste like a fig newton without the cookie. A favorite way for some of our customers to use these two items is for their Thanksgiving turkey, by stuffing the bird with the dried figs and seasoning the outside with salt, pepper and garlic, then during the final fifteen minutes or so of cooking, baste with the fig vinegar. The flavor is amazing!

Our Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar has a pleasantly tart taste that compliments salads, chicken, fish, and pork. It makes a fantastic vinaigrette, glaze, reduction, or sandwich condiment. Our favorite thing to do with this vinegar is a sautéed chicken salad. Put 1-2 tbls. of butter and equal parts olive oil in a pan, add onions or shallots, and cook until they begin to caramelize. Take 2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and sauté with the caramelized onions. Once the chicken is done, place it and the onions on a bed of fresh spinach, topped with goat cheese or bleu cheese, pecans, and dried cranberries. Then deglaze the pan with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. Reduce to half, let it begin to thicken, then top the salad with this reduction. Yum! This recipe works with all four of these vinegar flavors, but we especially prefer the Champagne Pear or Pomegranate vinegar, either provide a nice balance to the other flavors in the salad.

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The Glories of Vinegar – The Everyday Gourmet

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If you’ve ever wondered what the fuss over good vinegar is all about, then you’ve missed out! Vinegars impart an extra zing that varies from tart to sweet, and are as varied as the regions they hail from.

Whitney at The Everyday Gourmet is a self professed vinegar freak. She notes:

“I absolutely love highly acidic things — strong vinaigrettes, anything with lemon or lime, and I adore pickles. But vinegar is special…it’s great not only in salad dressings, but also in sauces, used in pickling, is a great flavor enhancer, perfect in marinades and so much more! There are so many kinds of vinegar available now, that I thought I’d share some thoughts on uses for different vinegars.”

What follows is a really straight forward and simple breakdown of the major vinegar flavors, and what they’re good for. Check it out here: The Glories of Vinegar.