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Archive for January, 2008

TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Pistachio Day

We’re the last to make light of Fundamentalist Islam, but we do have better pistachios for it. Prior to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, there was no pistachio industry in the U.S. A series of political events ensued, beginning with the fundamentalist Islamic revolution of the Ayatollah Khomeini that ousted Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. It was followed by the Iran Hostage Crisis, in which the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was stormed and 66 hostages were taken. This led to a U.S. trade embargo against Iran. Since a majority of the pistachios eaten by Americans were imported from Iran, California farmers saw the opportunity to plant the crop. A better pistachio resulted, since the U.S. has the benefit of more modern farming methods. When there are delays in processing the harvested nuts, the white shells begin to stain and blemish, which is why pistachios from the Middle East were often dyed a cover-up red. (Later, pistachios were dyed red to stand out in vending machines; today, some pistachios are still dyed red for marketing purposes.)   Pistachio NutsPerfect pistachios from Santa Barbara Pistachio Company.
Now that you have some historical perspective, go nuts and celebrate. Our favorite pistachios come from Santa Barbara Pistachio Company. They have regular pistachios plus wonderful flavors (Crushed Garlic, Hickory Smoked, Red Hot Habañero Lemon Zing and more) plus gift assortments in case your valentine doesn’t like chocolate. Ready about more of our favorite gourmet salty snacks in the Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Onion Magic

OnionDon’t weep over me: Get goggles!   If your eyes water when you chop onions, the best kitchen gadget is a pair of swimmer’s goggles. They keep the sulfur enzymes away from your eyes like magic! To remove the smell of onions (or garlic) from your hands, squeeze lemon juice on them (or if you’ve squeezed lemon juice for a recipe, rub the squeezed pulp) and then rub your hands against stainless steel—your sink, faucet, a serving spoon. The “kitchen chemistry” works. While swimmer’s goggles may not qualify as kitchen gadgets, you can see some of our favorite traditional (and not-so-traditional) gadgets in the Kitchenware Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
 

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Peanut Butter Day

Peanut butter lovers have a day to celebrate—and to try new and different peanut butters. Take a look at this comparison of the two-dozen-plus different flavors offered by our favorite brands. P.B. Loco’s Sundried Tomato PB is one of our favorite flavors; their Asian Curry makes instant sesame noodles, as well as an exotic PB sandwich. Both of these savory flavors can be enjoyed with roast beef or turkey, instead of mustard or mayo, and with vegetable sandwiches (try avocado). We put them in vegetable sushi, too, instead of wasabi. We eat the Raspberry White Chocolate PB from the jar like candy; the Sumatra Cinnamon and Raisin PB is the best of its breed. All of the savory flavors of Peanut Better demand to be tried. The Onion Parsley and Rosemary Garlic are incredible—you’ll make amazing hors d’oeuvres with them, as well as enjoy them on sandwiches with the aforementioned turkey and beef. The Peanut Better line is certified kosher and organic. Read our full reviews of P.B. Loco and Peanut Better, and bake this banana bread recipe with PB.   Peanut Butter
All PB is not created equal: If you love your peanut butter, try these gourmet brands, and their special flavors.
 

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Eating The Rinds Of Cheeses

Bloomy Rind Cheeses

Aged Parmigiano-Reggiano

Red Wax Gouda

[1] EAT ME! Cheeses with bloomy white rinds like Brie, Camembert and triple-crèmes are delicious (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese). [2] COOK WITH ME! Rinds from aged hard cheeses like this Parmigiano-Romano can be tossed into soups and stews (photo courtesy Whole Foods Market). [3] TOSS ME: Waxed rinds are not edible (photo © Karcich | Dreamstime).

 

Recently we were at a professional wine event, and some fine cheeses were being served.

We were dismayed to note that most people had scooped out the soft, runny centers of the bloomy rind cheeses, leaving the white rinds as ghostly shells.

Cheese fans: The soft, white bloomy rinds are meant to be eaten. If you’ve been cutting them away, try them while they’re still pure and white. Connoisseurs consider them part of the unique character of the cheese, and will eat them even as they age and lose their pure white appeal.

You’ll find bloomy rind cheeses made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, although the most famous happen to be from cow’s milk and are also two of the most popular cheeses in the world, Brie and Camembert. Other bloomy-rinded favorites include triple crèmes such as Brillat-Savarin, Saint-Andre and Pierre Robert. (See the Glossary Of Cheese Terms in the Cheese Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine for more information.)

Other wines can be eaten, too. As long as the rind is soft, from a semisoft cheese, it is edible and quite tasty, too, with mushroom accents.

People are either rind-lovers or not; few are on the fence. But there’s no harm in trying a bite. After all, it’s that soft rind that enabled the cheese to develop its lovely flavors.

Beyond white rinds of Brie, Camembert and triple-crème cheeses, the gray or yellow rinds of many other soft or semisoft cheeses deserve a taste. (think Brie or Taleggio) are edible and often have a pungent, mushroomy flavor.

Even if it looks questionable to your eye, give it a try. If the cheese is good, so is the rind. You may find that a little rind complements the cheese and enhances its flavor. But if it’s strong or bitter. pass it up and try the next rind..
 
WHAT ABOUT HARDER RINDS?

Some people chew on the rinds of aged cheese, as long as it’s not covered in wax, which is inedible.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, remember this kitchen trick: Toss the rind it in a pot of soup to add extra flavor (remove it before serving). The earthy rinds of hard aged cheeses like Parmesan and Pecorino have been used this way since…the beginning of aged cheese!
 
MORE ABOUT BLOOMY-RIND CHEESES
Brie and Camembert are essentially the same cheese made in different locations and in different sizes.

  • Camembert, named after its village in northwest France, is made in 4.5-inch wheels and Brie, named for the province in northern France where it originated, is made in 11- to 11.8-inch wheels [although “baby Bries” are now made as well]. Read our full article on the difference between Brie and Camembert.)/
  • The bloomy rind category of cheese refers to those cheeses with snowy white, downy rinds and soft, creamy interiors.

  • Bloomy rind, also called white rind or soft-ripened cheese, is one of the major categories of cheese. Along with the fresh (un-aged) cheeses, it comprises the soft cheese category.
  • The bloomy rind is composed of one of the greatest cheese molds, Penicillium candidum, which grows naturally as the cheese ages. The rind is produced by spraying the surface of the cheese with Penicillium candidum before the brief aging period (about two weeks). The mold grows on the outside of the cheese, breaking down the protein and fat inside, making it soft, runny and more complex.
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    CHECK OUT ALL THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHEESE IN OUR CHEESE GLOSSARY.

     

     
      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: It’s Irish Coffee Day

    Today is National Irish Coffee Day. Read the history of Irish Coffee and try these Irish Coffee recipes.

    This popular drink isn’t for waist-watchers, but everyone should enjoy an Irish coffee once a year on Irish Coffee Day. Combine 6 ounces of hot coffee with 1-1/2 ounces Irish whiskey and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. Stir to dissolve and float heavy cream on top (don’t mix it in). Irish Coffee is traditionally served in a glass-handled mug so you can enjoy watching the layers, but it tastes great in any vessel.

    Read more about Irish Whiskey…which can be wonderful to sip on its own, as well as in the cocktail recipes in the article.

      Irish CoffeeCelebrate with an Irish coffee.
     

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