A la carte: Hummus makeover; Chervil - the light parsley; Defining sugar

| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 8:09 p.m.

A twist on hummus

Hummus, that garbanzo-based dip, gets a makeover from the Eat Well Enjoy Life team. They substitute white beans, black beans, lentils or edamame for the classic garbanzo. Most come with a savory topping.

Roasted pine nuts and herbs top a white bean “hummus,” for example (it's delicious), while sunflower seeds and apricot finish spicy yellow lentils.

There are three edamame versions; our favorite has a red pepper and toasted sesame topping. Suggested retail price for a 10-ounce container is $4.99. Store locater: eatwell-enjoylife.com

Show off with chervil

It's a fragrant and light version of parsley. Jeff Black, chef-restaurateur of the Black Restaurant Group, appreciates its subtlety. It needs to be treated with a soft hand, he says. Keep it in the warmest place in your refrigerator, wrapped in lightly dampened paper towels. Some of Black's tips:

• Use lots of chervil to garnish salads, along with chopped parsley and chive.

• Fold it into a compound butter, but make sure the chervil doesn't get overwhelmed. Try a mixture of about 2 ounces of the herb with a generous amount of shallot, salt and a few drops of lemon juice to help bring the flavor through the fat.

• Make it the base of a salsa verde, or create a green oil by processing a bunch of chervil to a paste and adding it to oil. Leave in the pulp or strain it out.

• Puree it with spinach for a side dish.

• Sprinkle it into a beurre blanc.

• Chervil is all about the finish. Don't put it in a cooked dish early.

Definitions of sugar

All the terms you find on a food label are strictly defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

Sugar-free: The food contains less than 0.5 gram (about 18th teaspoon) of sugar per serving — a negligible amount. This definition also applies to terms such as “no sugar,” “sugarless,” or “zero sugar.”

Reduced sugar: A food that has at least 25 percent less sugar than its original form.

No added sugars: No sugar-type ingredient has been added to the food. Plain yogurt with no fruit or added source of sugar for example can be labeled “No Added Sugars.” But it is not “Sugar-Free” because it contains the natural sugar from milk — lactose.

Sugar alcohols: A form of sugar and not alcohol in the intoxicating sense. Because they are poorly digested, they provide about half the calories and a smaller impact on blood sugars than regular sugar. Examples of sugar alcohols (aka “polyols”) include xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, and isomalt.

Note: The term “sugar” has a different definition than “sugars,” according to the FDA. “Sugar” specifically means sucrose (table sugar) that is half glucose and half fructose. “Sugars” includes ALL sugars, including lactose in milk, fructose in fruit, honey and corn syrups.

Herbs increasingly used in home canning

Culinary herbs are among the hottest trends in gardening. They also are popular among families who preserve fresh foods for later use.

Nearly 70 percent of home canners are growing herbs, second only to tomatoes, says Lauren Devine-Hager, a product research and test-kitchen scientist with Jarden Home Brands, which manufactures the classic Ball home-canning Mason jars. “At least a third of them dry and store their herbs,” she says.

Tips for preserving herbs:

• Herbs are among the easiest plants to grow, and can be planted inside, on window sills, or outside in gardens or containers.

• Herbs can be grown from seed, making them inexpensive.

• Shelf life varies depending upon the type of herb, the amount of moisture removed and storage conditions.

• The best time to harvest herbs for drying is just before the flowers first open, when they are in the “bursting bud stage,” the University of Georgia's National Center for Home Food Preservation says. Gather herbs in the morning to minimize wilting.

• Many people dry or freeze fresh herbs, while others add them to vinegars, oils, butters, alcoholic drinks, sea salt, soaps and jellies. Preservation in those cases often involves short-term refrigeration or long-term freezing.

• Dry herbs are more concentrated and have a stronger flavor than fresh herbs. Substitute about half the amount for recipes calling for fresh herbs.

— Staff and wire reports

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