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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

PRODUCT: Pukka Organic Herbal Teas For Health & Gifting

There’s lots of herbal tea on the market, but some companies, like Pukka, an organic herbal tea specialist, focus on it.

The company employs a team of skilled herbalists that pays meticulous attention to the quality of ingredients, ensuring that only the most potent, vibrant herbs are used in their blends.

In fact, the company is first and foremost a purveyor of top-quality organic herbs.

While Pukka teas are made according to the healing and wellness philosophies of Ayurvedic medicine, that doesn’t have to be your primary motivation. They also taste great, and are soothing, caffeine-free brews.

In addition to drinking an infusion of herbs known to aid in digestion, immunity, weight management and so forth, you can drink flowers as well—and perhaps give a box of floral tea as a Mother’s Day party favor—or in an Easter basket for dieters, sugar-avoiders and the health-focused.

  • Elderflower, from the elder tree, has long been used as a sweet tonic.
  • Hibiscus helps rejuvenate and balance.
  • Limeflower is renowned for its relaxing qualities.
  •  

    pukka-herbal-teas-elvirakalviste-230

    An assortment of Pukka teas, ready for the Easter basket or Mother’s Day gifts. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

  • Oat flower is known to calm, nourish and sooth the body and help settle the mind.
  • Rose is known to soothe and has a calming effect on the mind.
  •  
    And these are just a few of Pukka’s 35 varieties. Pukka offers a both unusual and popular herbal blends, including Lemongrass and Ginger, Peppermint and Licorice, Golden Chamomile, Night Time and Lemon Green Tea—all very pleasing to the taste buds. Iced tea can be made from these blends as well.

    See all the varieties at PukkaHerbs.com.

    Each flavor comes in a box with its own charming design, looking like fine wrapping paper.

    A box of 20 sachets retails for $6.95 at Vitamin Shoppe locations nationwide and iherb.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegetable Medley With Color

    asparagus-carrots-lecreuset-SLT-230

    Asparagus and carrots in a Le Creuset dutch
    oven. Photo courtesy Sur La Table.

     

    The English word “asparagus” derives from the Latin sparagus, derived from the Greek asparagos, which itself derived from the Persian asparag, meaning sprout or shoot. The stalks shoot up from the crown of the plant and, if not harvested, the precious tips grow into fern-like leaves.

    That little tidbit is an introduction to asparagus season. If you’re an asparagus lover, it’s a great time: prices are lower and the flavor is better, since domestic asparagus get to market faster (Peruvian imports, for example, travel weeks by ship).

    Whether you’re looking for different ways to serve asparagus, or a way to cut down on the cost per portion, serve a medley—asparagus with one or two other vegetables.

    We were especially attracted to this handsome combination of asparagus and carrots from Sur La Table, with the carrots cut in lengths to match the shape of asparagus.

    But a memorable spring medley is the “big four” of spring: asparagus, garlic scapes, morel mushrooms and ramps (wild leeks).

    Otherwise, take a look at our list of vegetables by color, and pick your own medley.

    WHAT’S A MEDLEY?

    A medley is a mixture of different things: music, sports, vegetables, whatever. The word comes from the French medler to mix, which entered Middle English.

    A vegetable medley provides the opportunity to create more interest through blending flavors, colors and textures.

    You can grill, roast, sauté or steam your veggies—or enjoy them raw, as crudités with a dip.

    Most people believe that the finest texture and the taste come from the asparagus tips. They are called points d’amour (“love tips”) in French.

    But we enjoy the whole asparagus, including the texture of the stems. Just trim the white stem ends, which are tough.
     
    Asparagus Recipes

  • Asparagus Crostini With Pancetta & A Parmesan Crisp (recipe)
  • Asparagus & Grapefruit Salad (recipe)
  • Asparagus With Linguine & Parma Ham (recipe)
  • 12 More Easy Asparagus Recipes—including frittata, grilled, risotto, sautéed, scramble, sides and spring rolls
  •  

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF ASPARAGUS

    Asparagus has been enjoyed as a vegetable since ancient times. The earliest image is as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 B.C.E. It was also enjoyed in ancient Greece, Rome, Spain and Syria.

    Greeks and Romans ate asparagus fresh in season and dried in winter. The Romans would even freeze it high in the Alps: Emperor Augustus created the “Asparagus Fleet” for transporting the vegetable, and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” to indicate a quick action. [Source: Wikipedia]

    There’s a recipe for cooking asparagus is in the world’s oldest surviving cookbook, Apicius’s “De Re Coquinaria” (“On Cookery”), Book III. It is attributed to a first-century Roman epicurian named Marcus Gavius Apicius, but compiled sometime between the third and fifth centuries.

     

    3-colors-dark-bkgd-australianasparagusgrowners-230b

    The three colors of asparagus. Photo courtesy Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    And it’s still in print—in the original Latin! There’s an English translation for $10.95, and a translated Kindle edition is free!

    After the fall of the Roman Empire, asparagus seems to have fallen out of favor, reappearing in France in the 15th century and in England and in Germany in the 16th century. It arrived in the U.S. around 1850, and has resumed its position as a sought-after vegetable.

    So don’t let the season escape you: Pick up asparagus on your next trip to the market. It has just three calories per spear, so you don’t need to worry about portion control.

      

    Comments

    EASTER: Maggie Louise Chic Artisan Chocolates

    patent-leather-bunnies-rockstar-eggs-maggielouise-230

    Patent leather bunnies, rock ‘n’ roll eggs.
    Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

    While we know a couple of investment bankers who became chocolatiers, Maggie Louise is the first Harvard lawyer we’ve encountered.

    After a career in corporate law, she trained at Le Cordon Bleu, where she developed the concept for an elegant line of chocolates. She launched Maggie Louise Confections in the Fall of 2013, with a line of modern, chic chocolates that combine art with sophisticated flavors.

    Based in Austin, Texas, the entrepreneur puts a hip and fashionable spin on fine Easter chocolate. Taking inspiration from the tunes at Austin’s South By Southwest musical festival, she created a limited edition Rock ‘n’ Roll Easter assortment:

  • Chocolate Caramel and Sea Salt Easter Eggs, covered in white chocolate with a spatter paint finish.
  • Patent Leather Bunnies, fluffy vanilla marshmallows enrobed in bittersweet El Rey chocolate (El Rey, of Venezuela, is one of the world’s great chocolate producers of chocolate couverture).
     
    The Rock n’ Roll Easter Box retails for $38 and includes 12 eggs and 3 bunnies. There are also Easter Egglets, chocolate with pastel zebra stripes, filled with a mix of peanut butter candy, cream caramel and salted chocolate caramel.

    Get yours at MaggieLouiseConfections.com.

  •  

     

    As a mom, Maggie Louise also has the young ‘uns in mind, with chocolate dinosaurs and robots. For the ladies, there are chocolate charm bracelets and pearls. For everyone, there’s a nifty chocolate fried egg and lizard-patterned s’mores.

    We look forward to working our way through the collection, piece by piece.
     
    The Best Packaging

    We receive many boxes of fine chocolate, but none is more beautifully wrapped than Maggie Louise’s.

    The packaging is very fine and impressive. The chocolate boxes are grand enough to hold good jewelry. Even the tissue paper is a keeper. It’s a great line for gifting.

    If you like fine chocolate, you’ll love perusing the Maggie Louise Confections website. Law’s loss is chocolate’s gain.

     

    plate-of-chocolate-230

    Year-round chocolates. Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 6 Steps To Brewing Better Coffee

    caffe-americano-black-filicorizecchino-230

    It’s easy to brew better coffee. Photo
    courtesy Filicori Zecchino.

     

    Do you buy more coffee outside the home because you can’t brew a better cup of coffee? Consider this checklist to improving your home efforts:

    1. Start with a clean carafe. Coffee has oil that builds up in the carafe. You can’t see it, but it will become rancid, adding unpleasant flavor notes to the brewed coffee. Similarly, if you live in a hard water area and use tap water to brew, you need to remove the with calcium deposits. While most people rinse out the pot before each use, after every few uses you should wash the glass carafe with white vinegar and water, using a scrubbing brush. Just swishing water around doesn’t do the job. Once a month, run a vinegar-water solution through the entire apparatus, per manufacturer’s instructions.

    2. Grind your own beans. It’s less convenient, but coffee beans begin to lose flavor and aroma immediately after grinding. Within two hours, we can taste the difference! It’s better to buy whole beans and grind them immediately prior to brewing.

     
    If you don’t have the will to do it, buy small amounts of ground coffee a few times a week, rather than grinding a pound at a time. Experts advise that vacuum packed ground coffee (it’s what Starbucks uses) will turn out a better brew than beans ground at the market for use the next day or beyond.

    3. Use the correct grind. Drip machines require a medium grind, espresso machines use a fine grind and French press and drips systems require a coarse grind. If the grind isn’t right for the brewing technique, you won’t get enough extraction from the beans.

    4. Don’t use boiling water. Contrary to what most of us have been taught, the temperature of the water should be 200°F, not 212°F. While it doesn’t seem that significant, the extra twelve degrees of heat extract more bitterness and acid from the beans. Good electric coffee makers accommodate for this. If you’re boiling water to pour over ground beans, use a thermometer. You can use any thermometer that measures 200°; Taylor makes a special thermometer for coffee and tea.

     

    5. Use the right amount of coffee. The correct measure is two tablespoons of ground beans per six ounces of water. Machines make a six-ounce cup, not an eight-ounce cup. Be sure to use a coffee scoop or the tablespoon from your measuring spoon set, rather than eyeballing the amount with a regular spoon.

    6. Don’t store coffee in the freezer or fridge. Beans are porous and easily absorb moisture, odors and flavors. Keep the beans, whole or ground, at room temperature in an airtight container. We use the Friis Coffee Vault, an airtight stainless steel canister specially designed to vent carbon dioxide gas that continuously emits from the beans as a result of the roasting process.
     
    WHAT IF YOU HAVE TOO MUCH COFFEE?

  • Brew iced coffee. In the warmer weather, you’ll drink up the coffee faster if it’s iced.
  •  

    friis-coffee-vault-ps-230

    Keep whole or ground beans fresh longer in this special airtight container. Photo courtesy Friis.

  • Make coffee ice cubes. Freeze brewed, cooled coffee in ice cube trays. Pop them into freezer bags and use them to keep the iced coffee cold.
  • Give it away. Offer it to neighbors or co-workers, or donate it to the coffee room at work.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Curried Egg Salad

    curried-egg-salad-louisemellor-safeeggs-230

    Curried egg salad on toast. Photo courtesy
    Louise Mellor | SafeEggs.com.

     

    To mark the end of National Egg Salad Week, we made a delicious curried egg salad recipe.

    And we did it the easy way, purchasing pre-cooked and peeled hard boiled eggs from Trader Joe’s.

    While we were at it, we picked up some pre-grilled chicken breasts across the aisle, and made a batch of curried chicken salad as well. We did some blending, and decided that we preferred egg salad and chicken salad separately, rather than combined.

    A different on a traditional favorite, this curried egg salad is fresh and invigorating. The recipe is by Louise Mellor for SafeEggs.com.

    Find more egg recipes at SafeEggs.com.

    CURRIED EGG SALAD RECIPE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT hard boiled eggs into small dice.

    2. COMBINE the eggs with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and stir well to combine.

    3. FOLD in arugula and serve salad on whole wheat bread or with crackers.

     

    EGG MYTHS

    Davidson’s Safest Eggs are whole raw eggs that have been pasteurized in the shell, using special equipment. Pasteurization kills the salmonella, as does cooking unpasteurized eggs.

    We go out of our way to find Davidson’s Safest Eggs when we’re making Caesar salad, mousse, steak tartare and other recipes that require raw eggs that are not cooked—not to mention making raw cake batter and cookie dough safe enough to enjoy.

    Many people believe different myths about egg safety. Here, Davidson’s puts them to rest:

  • Myth: If the shell of a fresh egg is smooth and un-cracked, it’s safe to eat raw. Nope! Even the most perfect-looking fresh egg can harbor Salmonella germs inside. If the egg has a crack, even a hairline, bacteria from the environment can enter them.
  • Myth: If you wash eggs before use, they’ll be safe. Nope! That’s because the Salmonella bacteria, if present, are usually inside the egg. The microbes come from the reproductive tract of the hen and are passed to the inside of the egg before it hits the nest.
  •  

    trader-joes-package-elvirakalviste-230

    All peeled and ready to eat. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

  • Myth: You can pasteurize fresh eggs at home in the microwave. Nope! A brand like Safest Choice uses a patented process based on extensive scientific development and precision controls. Per the FDA, the equipment to pasteurize eggs isn’t available for home use, and it is not possible to pasteurize shell eggs at home without cooking the contents of the egg.
  • Myth: Organic eggs and brown eggs are safe from Salmonella. While organic eggs come from better fed, better cared for hens, they can still harbor salmonella. The color of the shells is determined by the breed of the hen, and likewise has no impact on safety.
  • Myth: Eggs from a local farm are safer than those from the grocery store. Nope! Chickens harbor Salmonella bacteria, and even eggs from the best family farms can harbor salmonella. Rodents, feed, flies, water, dust and other birds can deliver Salmonella to even the best-cared-for hens.
  • Myth: Generally, eggs that can make you sick will smell or taste “off.” Nope! The bacteria that cause spoilage and “off” aromas and flavors are different from those that cause foodborne illness. Salmonella bacteria in an egg can’t be seen, smelled or tasted.
  • Myth: Salmonella is only in the yolks of raw eggs. If you eat only the raw egg whites, you’re O.K. Nope. While the Salmonella is usually in the yolk, you can’t rule their presence in the egg white.
  • Myth: Egg pasteurization destroys nutrients. Nope! The all-natural water bath pasteurization process does not change the nutritional value of an ordinary egg in any way.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Ataulfo Mango (Champagne Mango)

    ataulfo-champagne_mango-ilovemangoes-230

    The Ataulfo, or Champagne, mango. Photo
    courtesy ILoveMangoes.com.

     

    When you think of mangoes, you may think of the familiar reddish-green mangos, and wonder about the petite golden yellow ones that some people call baby mangoes.

    They’re Ataulfo mangos from Mexico, also commonly called Champagne mangoes, and they’re in season now.

    Mango lovers prefer them to the more prevalent Tommy Atkins cultivar (the red-green ones in the photo below). Their buttery flesh is not fibrous, and their thin pit makes them easier to slice and dice than other varieties.

    The Ataulfo—it was found in a conventional mango grove owned by Mr. Ataulfo Morales—goes by several other names as well: Adaulfo, Adolfo, baby, honey and yellow mango. It is closely related to the Alphonso variety popular in India.

     
    MANGO NUTRITION

    Mangoes deliver sumptuous tropical flavor with easy calories.

  • One cup of mango is just 100 calories, fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free.
  • Mangos contain more than 20 different vitamins and minerals. One cup provides 100% DV of vitamin C, 35% of vitamin A, 20% of folate, 12% of fiber and good amounts of B6, copper, K and potassium.
  •  
    Believed to be native to India, mango trees have been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. The different cultivars come in a rainbow of reds, yellows, oranges and greens and a wide variety of shape, flavor, texture and aroma.
     
    HOW TO ENJOY MANGO

    Our favorite way to eat mango is with a knife and fork, as a delicious fruit snack or dessert (note that the skin can cause stomach irritation, so should not be eaten). Second place goes to mango sorbet.

    But use mango however you would use peaches or pineapples—the two fruits to which mango’s flavor is compared.

  • Beverages: Daiquiri, Margarita, shake with mango sorbet or ice cream, smoothie
  • Breads: muffins and fruit breads
  • Condiments: chutney and salsa
  • Desserts: cobbler, fruit salad, grilled fruit, ice cream or sorbet, pie, pudding, tart, tartlet
  • Fruit Soup: mango gazpacho
  • Mains: poultry, pork, seafood
  • Salads: green salad, shrimp salad
  •  
    Recipes

  • Asian Fruit Salad With Pernod (recipe)
  • Blueberry Mango Cobbler (recipe)
  • Halibut With Mango-Blood Orange Salsa (recipe)
  • Ice Cream With Grilled Mango (recipe)
  • Orange Blossom Waffles With Mangoes & Nutmeg Cream (recipe)
  • Salmon with Cherry Mango Salsa (recipe)
  •  
    Find many more recipes at ILoveMangoes.com.

     

    HOW TO SLICE A MANGO

  • Peel the skin from the flesh with a small, sharp knife.
  • There is a long pit that runs down the center of the length of the fruit. Cut the mango lengthwise down the side of pit to free the first half (called a cheek). Do the same with the other half.
  • Dice or slice the flesh as you wish.
  • We nibble the remaining fruit on the pit in thin slices, although it can be used in sauces or pudding.
  •  
    There’s a second slicing technique that produces the “hedgehog”-like diced effect in the photo above:

  • Without peeling, cut the fruit from the cheeks, using the technique above.
  • Score the flesh into squares, about 1/2- to 3/4-inch in size, cutting up to, but not through, the skin.
  •  

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    The Tommy Atkins mango is the most commonly available in the U.S., due to its hardiness. Photo courtesy National Mango Board.

  • Gently push the mango cheek inside out, which pushes the cubes up and apart.
  • Cut the cubes from the skin to serve, or cut and eat cubes from a mango half with a knife and fork.
  •  
    Peeled and cut fruit will hold at least three days in the fridge, in an airtight container. The flesh may darken a bit, but the flavor changes only slightly. You can tell by the aroma when the time to enjoy it has passed.
     
    RIPENING MANGOES

    Mangoes need to ripen in a warm room. To speed ripening, you can place them in a paper bag.

    Color is not the best way to determine ripeness. Instead, touch and smell: A ripe mango will have a fruity aroma and the flesh will yield to gentle pressure. Unripe mangoes have no scent.

    Ripe mangoes can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. The peeled flesh can be dried, frozen, puréed or stewed.
     
    GO FOR THE GOLD

    Ataulfo mangos have only recently gained popularity in the United States, but have been a major crop in Mexico for decades. In season between March and September, they are the second-most popular variety of mango sold in the U.S., behind the Tommy Atkins cultivar.

    And here’s the big tip of the day: The most prevalent mango, the Tommy Atkins, is not considered to be the choicest mango in terms of sweetness and flavor. Retailers prefer it for its very long shelf life and ability to be handled with little or no bruising, which is why it’s the mango offered first and foremost. [Source: Wikipedia]

    So go for the gold: Bring home some Ataulfos and taste the difference.

    The other less common mango varieties found in the U.S. include the Haden and Kent, which appear along with the and Ataulfo and the Tommy Atkins in spring and summer; and the orange and green Keitt from Australia, which comes from Australia in the fall (and has a lemony note to the flesh).

    Many people attest that mangoes taste best right off the tree, fresh and succulent. So if you’re in Florida, Mexico or other mango haven, see if you can seek out the experience, called by one expert “a taste experience you’ll never forget.”

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Scripture Cake For Easter

    gluttony-230-ps

    Fun for foodies: Gluttony focuses on the
    great feasts of history. Photo courtesy Ten
    Speed Press.

     

    In her new book, GLUTTONY: More IS More” (Red Rock Press), Nan Lyons, known for the wonderful novel and movie, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, describes some of the most lavish feasts and singular dishes through culinary history.

    From the ancient Greeks and Romans to the founding chefs of classic cuisine—Carême, Escoffier and Brillat-Savarin—to the breathtaking appetites of history’s prize eaters (King Henry VIII and Diamond Jim Brady, for example), Ms. Lyons plumbs the path of gluttony with wit and style.

    Travel the paths of the the rich and famous who enjoy history’s greatest banquets and richest dishes. The book is illustrated with classical art works of people enjoying their food.

    The icing on the cake: You and your guests can eat like these lucky gourmands. A portfolio of recipes, created by food editors and writers E. Clarke Reilly and Sylvia Carter, adapts some of the book’s luxurious dishes for contemporary cooks.

    The book is available in hardcover and Kindle editions.

     

    This recipe, from the recipe portfolio, is simple and Easter-appropriate: Scripture Cake, made with ingredients from the Bible.

     

    SCRIPTURE CAKE

    Ingredients

  • 1½ cups chopped dried figs (Nahum 3:12)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2¼ cups water (Judges 4:19)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (Revelation 18:13)
  • 1 cup softened butter (Psalms 55:21)
  • 2 teaspoons ginger (I KINGS 10:2)
  • 2 cups sugar (Jeremiah 6:20)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons honey (Exodus 3:8)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 eggs (Isaiah 10:14)
  • 1 cup milk (Genesis 18:8)
  • 3¾ cups flour (Leviticus 24:5)
  • 1¾ cups chopped almonds (Numbers 17:8)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (II Kings 2:20)
  • 1½ cups raisins (I Samuel 30:12)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder (Amos 4:5)
  •  

    scripture-cake-gluttony-redrockpress-230r

    The Scripture Cake from Gluttony. Photo courtesy Sylvia Carter.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 300°F. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan.

    2. SIMMER figs and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until figs are very soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

    3. CREAM together butter and sugar in an electric mixer bowl, until light and fluffy. Add honey. Then add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix until well blended.

    4. PURÉE cooled figs and water until smooth. Strain purée through triple cheese-cloth to yield about a cup of fig essence.

    5. SIFT together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a clean bowl. Combine fig essence with milk and alternately mix fig milk and dry ingredients with egg mixture, ending with the dry mixture. Fold in chopped almonds and raisins.

    6. POUR batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour and 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few crumbs on it.

    7. COOL for 20 minutes and then remove from pan and cool completely on cake rack. Makes 16 servings.
     
    We added a side of bourbon whipped cream as a garnish.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Australian Liquorice (Licorice!)

    mix-beauty-230

    Flower-like “shooters” and other specialty
    shapes. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Today is National Licorice Day. There is much debate in the U.S. over Red Vines versus Twizzlers, but if you haven’t had English or Australian liquorice, as they spell it, you haven’t had great licorice.

    The natural flavors and chewy consistency are magnificent. Alas, our American-produced, artificially-flavored licorice can’t hope to compete.

    While there are American products labeled “Australian-style,” seek out the authentic Australian product or a U.K. brand like Bassetts. One of our favorite brands is Kookaburra from Australia (OU-kosher).

    There are bags of familiar red or black licorice twists, but Kookburra and other Australian and English companies take licorice to an art. At Kookaburra:

  • Twists are also available in apple, mango and raspberry flavors.
  • Creamy Strawberry & Cream Bites are dual color and flavor cylinders.
  • Liquorice Shooters are blue, brown, green, red and yellow flower-like shapes with white centers
  • Allsorts are a combination of all of these plus other colorful cylinders
  •  
    “Rich, Chewy & Delicious,” exclaims the package. “Best Liquorice in the World.” We don’t dare disagree—the kookaburras would laugh us down.

    You can buy all of them online at KookaburraLiquorice.com.

    Of course, if you’d rather celebrate with Belgian salt liquorice, licorice cats, chalk (black liquorice with a white mint coating), coins, drops, Scotties, ropes, wheels or other shapes, just head to Amazon.com and search for “liquorice.”

    WHO INVENTED ALLSORTS

    Allsorts is our favorite type liquorice—a variety of colorful and flavorful shapes and chewing consistencies. They were first produced in Sheffield, England, by Geo. Bassett & Co Ltd (now part of Cadbury).

    As the story goes, in 1899, Charlie Thompson, a sales representative, was in Leicester showing the liquorice to a client when he dropped the tray of samples, mixing up the various styles. He picked them up but before he could properly arrange them, the client was attracted to the mix of shapes and colors, and put in an order. The company quickly began to package “allsorts,” and they became very popular.

    Each company makes its own assortment of shapes, which can include balls covered in nonpareil-type sprinkles, colorful cylinders (rolls) and multicolored, sandwiched squares. They look beautiful in a candy dish, and more than one young girl has strung them into a necklace.

     

    WHAT EXACTLY IS LICORICE

    Licorice is a confection flavored with the extract from the root of the licorice plant, combined with sugar or other sweetener and a binder (gelatin, gum arabic or starch). The big American brands use corn syrup*.

    Additional ingredients can include flavoring, beeswax for a shiny surface, molasses to provide the familiar black color, and ammonium chloride. Some brands substitute anise oil instead of with licorice root extract.

    The ingredients are dissolved in water and heated to 275°F, then poured into molds. The resulting pieces are sprayed with beeswax to make their surface shiny. Who knew?

    The original liquorice was black. Later, “red licorice” was made with strawberry flavoring. Today it is made in numerous flavors, including apple, blackcurrant, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, grape, mango, raspberry and watermelon.
     
    *Red Vines ingredients include corn syrup, wheat flour, citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40 artificial food color. Strawberry Twizzlers are made with corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, sugar, cornstarch, palm oil, salt, artificial flavor, mono and diglycerides, cytric acid, potassium sorbate, Red 40, mineral oil, soy lecithin and glycerine.

     

    fml-AT7WF0.jpg

    Some of the shapes of allsorts licorice. Photo courtesy Sporticia.com.

     

    WHAT’S A KOOKABURRA?

    The kookaburra is a bird in the kingfisher family, native to Australia and New Guinea. Its loud call is said to sound like echoing human laughter.

    Here are some photos.

      

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    RECIPE: Lobster Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    lobster-grilled-cheese-marcforgione-tfal-230sq

    Add lobster to your grilled cheese sandwich.
    Photo courtesy T-Fal.

     

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month and April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day. So it’s time to get out the bread and cheese, and turn on the stove.

    There are many wonderful grilled cheese recipes. But perhaps the most luxurious is lobster grilled cheese.

    T-fal “commissioned” the sandwich recipe below from Iron Chef Marc Forgione to launch its Mini Grilled Cheese Griddle. It’s a small, handled griddle that cooks a single, perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

    The small, non-stick pan heats up more quickly than larger pans; the flat griddle base ensures even heat distribution for perfect melting. It’s $5.29 at Amazon.com.

    Of course, you can use whatever pan you have; but a flat griddle of any size is best for uniform heating.

    Chef Forgione obviously likes heat; we’re not sure we like the extra sriracha sauce as a condiment on the side because the lobster is so delicate. But try it and see for yourself.

     

    RECIPE: LOBSTER GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

    Ingredients For 4 Whole Sandwiches

    For the Chili Lobster

  • 2 cups lobster stock (if you can’t find lobster stock at a fish store, get generic seafood stock)
  • 4 one-and-one-half pound lobsters, claws removed (we used the claw meat as well as the tails)
  • ¼ cup sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 8 slices of Gruyère or fontina cheese (we prefer truffle cheese)
  • 4 slices Pullman Loaf or other high-quality thick sliced white bread, 1” thick (we used brioche)
  • Melted butter for brushing
  •  

    lobster-claw-cooked-hancocklobster-230

    We used the claw meat in the sandwiches, but you can enjoy it separately. Photo courtesy Hancock Lobster.

     

    Preparation

    1. CUT the tails off the lobster bodies, and into 1-inch pieces while the tails are still in their shells

    2. BRING the lobster stock to a simmer and add the sriracha, soy sauce and lime juice. Piece by piece, whisk in 6 tablespoons of butter until emulsified. Reduce the remaining sauce until it slightly thickens, about 2 minutes.

    3. TOSS the lobster tail pieces in oil with salt and pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes or until cooked through. Place the lobster pieces in a bowl and transfer to the fridge until cooled. When the lobster pieces have cooled, pop the meat out of the tails and set aside.

    4. TAKE two slices of bread per sandwich. Place one slice of cheese on top of the first slice, cover the cheese with some lobster meat, sprinkle ½ tablespoon of tarragon, cover with a second slice of cheese, and then top with the second piece of bread.

    5. BRUSH the outer sides of each slice of bread with melted butter and season with salt. Grill the sandwich on the T-fal Mini Grilled Cheese Griddle and serve with an optional small bowl of sriracha sauce on the side.

      

    Comments

    BOOK: Brassicas, Cooking The World’s Healthiest Vegetables

    brassicas-230

    Eat your vegetables—make that, eat your
    Brassicas. Photo courtesy Ten Speed Press.

     

    Frequent readers of THE NIBBLE know of our devotion to cruciferous vegetables, also known as brassicas, from their Latin name in taxonomy*.

    For a long time, brassicas have had a mixed reputation. People who know how to cook them adore them. Beyond the deliciousness, brassicas are superfoods—nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants).

    But anyone who has been served overcooked brassicas—when the sulfur compounds top the mushy texture with an unpleasant aroma—might just concur with George H.W. Bush, whose mom, we’re betting, didn’t cook the broccoli al dente.

    Brassicas get the respect they deserve in a new book, Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura B. Russell, published this week in hardcover and Kindle editions.

    One word is missing from that title: delicious. “Healthy vegetables” sounds too much like an admonition from mom or grandma. “Healthy and delicious” is a win-win.

     

    And that’s what you’ll get in this cookbook. It showcases 80 recipes for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and leafy greens such as arugula and watercress. Recipes are easily tailored to accommodate special diets such as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

    The recipes prove that brassicas can taste delicious when properly prepared in ways that let the flavors shine through (no blanket of cheese sauce is required—or desired). When roasted, for example, Brussels sprouts, a food avoided by many, reveal their inherent sweetness that other preparation techniques take away. Caramelizing cauliflower in the sauté pan makes it so lovely that each individual will want to consumer the entire caramelized head.

    This is a book for people who love their brassicas, and for people who don’t love them yet. Give copies as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts, and to anybody who should eat more veggies.

    The handsome hardcover volume is $17.04 on Amazon.com. The Kindle version is $10.99.

     
    *Kingdom Plantae, Order Brassicales, Family Brassicaceae, Genus Brassica.

      

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