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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.

Archive for February, 2008

TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Banana Bread Day

To celebrate National Banana Bread Day, we offer you two recipes:- Peanut Butter Banana Bread from our friends at P.B. Loco
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from acclaimed pastry chef Pichet Ong, formerly of the Jean Georges Vongerichten empire and now proprietor of P*ONG in New York CityThe one tip we can give when making banana bread is: use very ripe bananas. If your bananas are overripe, don’t thrown them out—make banana bread (or banana daiquiris). And if you’re making the chocolate chip recipe, buy the best-quality chocolate chips you can find.
  Chocolate Chip Banana BreadUse top-quality chocolate chips and very ripe bananas, and bake up a loaf of heaven.
 

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Raising The [Chocolate] Bar

Chocolove Cherry Almond Chocolate BarChocolate, cherries, nuts.   Yesterday may have been George Washington’s actual birthday, but why not extend the celebration one more day and treat yourself to Chocolove’s Cherries and Almonds bar? It’s 55% cacao Belgian chocolate—a semisweet chocolate not far over the borderline between milk and dark, so milk chocolate lovers can enjoy it too. It’s available at many fine retailers; or you can buy them online. Get enough to share—you’ll be very popular. Read our review of Chocolove. The Orange Peel, Raspberry and Crystallized Ginger chocolate bars also rock.
 

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NEW PRODUCT: Aerosol Pancake “Batter Blaster”

When we first saw Batter Blaster, we reacted viscerally: We don’t like things in aerosol cans. And the thought of pancake batter spraying out of one evoked images of aerosol cheese. But, don’t judge a product by its cover: This pancake mix is USDA-certified organic, which means that everything in that can is better than all natural. The main ingredients are filtered water, organic wheat flour, organic cane sugar, organic whole egg solids, organic soybean powder and sea salt. The environmentally-conscious will be pleased to know that Batter Blaster is powered by the more ozone layer-friendly carbon dioxide, not the nitrous oxide propellant that can be found in most aerosol canisters. You can point the nozzle to create any shape pancake you wish: your initials, flowers, squiggles.

  Batter Blaster Aerosol Pancake BatterPancakes shoot from the nozzle of Batter Blaster.
Beyond breakfast, you can make mini pancake canapés with goat cheese, smoked salmon and fresh dill, or crème fraîche and caviar. An 18-ounce can, good for about 28 four-inch pancakes, retails for $4.99 to $5.99 (one poster to the website claims 12 pancakes). Thirty-two ounces of powdered pancake mix is less than half that. But Batter Blaster is no muss, no fuss and lots of fun. Because it is a refrigerated product, there are currently no mail orders, and it is only available on the West Coast and in Meijer Stores in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio. The company anticipates national distribution by July 2008, so get your nozzle finger ready. In the interim, read about our favorite pancakes and waffles in THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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NEW PRODUCTS: Roxanne’s Raw Foods Returns

Raw Food - Chocolate Torte
It’s all raw: Nothing cooked above 118°F.
  One of the most visible names in raw food, Roxanne Klein, broke hearts in 2004 when she closed her famous Marin County temple to gourmet raw food cuisine. Since then, Klein has spent time designing a retail line of grab-and-go raw foods called Roxanne’s Fine Cuisine, that just rolled out at Whole Foods Markets in Northern California. Raw food is a more stringent form of vegan cuisine. Not only is there no dairy or eggs, but no gluten is consumed and nothing cooked above 118°F to preserve nutrients. Many dishes are nut-based, and many of the nuts are sprouted by overnight soaking, which breaks down the enzyme inhibitors so that the protein in the nuts can be assimilated. The soaked nuts can also be puréed into spreads.
Roxanne’s initial line of 34 items includes a sweet, non-oat granola made of sprouted buckwheat, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and goji berries; a dried corn-cashew-pistachio trail mix; garlic and onion-flavored spreadable nut cheese; a smooth, mild-flavored nut hummus; and pinwheel sandwiches, desserts and sandwich spreads made from nuts and soy. Klein’s goal is to create foods that are so delicious that people will be willing to try them, whether they understand or believe in the philosophy of eating raw or not. As one of the lucky people who dined at her restaurant in Larkspur, we can attest that everything was delicious—and gorgeous, to boot. Now, we hope that her cuisine makes it from Whole Foods Markets in Northern California across country to us.
Read more about raw food.

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GASTROTOURISM: Seattle Cheese Festival

If you love cheeses and have been wanting to check out the culinary scene in Seattle, make sure your reservations include the weekend of May 17th. You’ll be able to take in the annual Seattle Cheese Festival at Pike Place Market—not to mention the other charms of the famous food market. The festival enables turophiles (that’s the official word for cheese lovers) to taste, celebrate and better understand artisanal cheese made locally and around the world. Highlights include:
– More than 200 cheeses to taste
– Seminars to increase your knowledge of artisanal cheese
– A Wine Garden with wines to taste and pair with the cheeses.
For more information, head to www.seattlecheesefestival.com.
  Seattle Cheese FestivalMore than 60 artisanal cheese makers will present their wares.
 

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NEWS: Help The Truly Thirsty Get Bottled Water With The Tap Project

Faucet
What comes out of your tap is terrific. Contribute $1 to help those who aren’t so lucky. Photo courtesy of BudgetStockPhoto.com.
  You’ve no doubt read about the bottled water controversy. Not only are Americans spending more than $15 million a year on bottled water—most of it filtered municipal water like Aquafina and Dasani. Fossil fuels are expended to make the bottles and ship the water from Point A to Point B; the empties are a huge recycling and litter cost. Environmentalists are up in arms, but humanitarians are equally upset. Because while anyone in America can get perfectly good, healthy water from his or her nearest faucet, in 90 countries on this planet, a billion people don’t have potable water.
– One in five of these people are children.
– Eighty percent of all illness and infant mortality is due to waterborne disease.
– Lack of clean water is the second largest killer of children under five. March 16-22 is World Water Week 2008, and the Tap Project will launch a campaign in 14 U.S. cities to help UNICEF provide clean water to children around the world. Patrons at participating restaurants will be asked to donate $1 (or more if they wish), for the tap water they normally get for free.
In each of the marketplaces, a major advertising agency has created a special ad campaign pro bono. So expect to see the Tap Project on everything from t-shirts and taxi tops to billboards and major landmarks.What can you do? If you buy bottled water, consider putting aside $1.00 for every bottle you drink between now and World Water Week, to donate to this worthy cause. And no matter what, give $1.00 when you’re asked—and be grateful that your loved ones have all the fresh, clean water they need. Every dollar you give to UNICEF can provide 40 liters of safe drinking water—enough to give one child safe drinking water for 40 days (or 40 children safe drinking water for one day). For more information visit TapProject.org.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Sticky Bun Day

Some people would like to celebrate National Sticky Bun Day every day. Sticky buns, a breakfast pastry for the sweet-toothed, are also known as a honey buns, and are closely related to cinnamon buns, cinnamon rolls and cinnamon swirls. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but a sticky bun needs to have the sticky topping, and not all cinnamon rolls do. Some recipes add raisins to the dough, which is baked in a pan and then cut apart. In the original recipes, the honey and pecan topping is baked like an upside-down cake, with the sticky topping on the bottom of the pan and the dough placed on top of it. The pan is inverted after baking and the sticky bottom becomes the top. Today, many sticky buns are baked with the topping on top of the dough. Sticky buns seem to be of Germanic origin, and came to the U.S. with German immigrants in the 1800s. You can find sticky buns called “schnecken” (especially in Pennsylvania Dutch country).   Cinnamon BunCelebrate at your local Cinnabon store.
However, in German-Jewish cooking, schnecken are crescent-rolled rugalach-type pastries. “Schnecken” means “snail” in German, and the crescent shapes are certainly snail-like. You can read about it, and agree to disagree, here. We’re not getting into any arguments today—we’re just heading over to our favorite local bakery, Levain Bakery, to pick some up. Levain also makes our favorite chocolate chip cookies, which they will ship to you (and they’re worth every dollar). Those who do not live near an artisan bakery can head to the nearest Cinnabon.

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RECIPE: Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cherry Chocolate Chip CookiesAddictively good cherry chocolate chip cookies. We thank George Washington for the inspiration.   Our tip of the day today is a tasty tip indeed: Make a cherry version of your favorite chocolate chip cookies to celebrate George Washington’s birthday—the Father of our Country was born February 22, 1732. Look for cherry baking chips in baking supply stores, or buy them online at BackToTheCountryStore.com. Then, make your recipe, dividing the chip quantity between chocolate chips (or white chocolate chips) and cherry chips. Another variation on the theme is to add an extra half cup of dried cherries to your recipe (with or without the cherry chips). You also can sprinkle the cherry chips on cupcakes, use them to decorate cakes and puddings, garnish ice cream and add them to muffin and pancake batter.- Use this recipe to make the cookies.
– Buy these delicious oatmeal cherry chunk cookies from Najla’s (frozen, ready to bake, and kosher).
– Celebrate with the heavenly cherry chocolate chip ice cream from Spotted Dog Creamery (they’ll ship it to you).
 

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Cherry Pie Day

Do you love cherry pie…but know that you would love it even more if you could get a top-quality pie filling? Wish no more: Chukar Cherries, a purveyor of the finest cherries and cherry products made from Washington State cherries, makes the best cherry pie and cobbler fillings we’ve ever seen commercially (all natural and certified kosher). Cherry Blueberry filling is made from tart Montmorency cherries plus blueberries (think of it as the high-antioxidant pie filling). Triple Cherry filling combines Bing, Rainier and Montmorency cherries. You can these high-quality toppers on muffins, ice cream, puddings and other desserts. Since George Washington’s actual birth date is February 22nd, bake a pie or cobbler in his honor*—you’ll save so much time with these cherries that you can make a homemade crust. When you order the cherry pie filling, check out the delicious preserves, toppings and barbecue sauces—and the scrumptious dried cherries, far finer than much of what is available.- Read our review of Chukar Cherries pie fillings and other baking products.

Read our review of Chukar’s premium dried cherries.
Finish with a look at their cherry preserves and dessert toppings.

  Cherry Pie
Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy? Anyone can bake one, easily, with Chukar Cherries gourmet pie and cobbler fillings.
*Historical note: George Washington did not chop down a cherry tree in his youth and then say, “Father, I cannot tell a lie.” This story and others, like throwing the silver dollar all the way across the Delaware River, were fabricated by an earlier biographer. Learn more cherry facts.

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Date Hors d’Oeuvres

Gourmet dates from Dateland.com. From
left to right, counterclockwise: Medjool
dates, Khadrawy dates, Halawi dates and
Honey dates. Photo courtesy Dateland.com.

 

For quick hors d’ouevre that are also perfect for tea parties, after-dinner petit four plates or a little something with a cup of coffee instead of a cookie, fill dried dates with rich, creamy mascarpone cheese and dip the cheese end into chopped pistachio nuts.

If there are any leftovers (not likely), they make great breakfast treats and midday snacks. Kids love them, too (they’ll also enjoy them stuffed with peanut butter).

Dates are the oldest fruit cultivated crop by man. Dates are mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible. In Biblical times, the fruit was considered sacred.

More than 30 varieties are grown today. The most famous to Americans is the Medjool date, considered to be the finest variety grown. In ancient times, they were grown exclusively for royalty. Succulent and velvety, Medjool dates are fragile in nature and must be harvested by hand. They can cost 50% more than other varieties, so most people enjoy them for eating only, not for cooking or baking.

 

Other familiar varieties include:

  • Halawi dates, medium sized and soft golden brown, are originally from Iraq. They have a rich, creamy sweet flavor and a caramel-like texture. “Halawi” means sweet in Arabic.
  • Honey dates are a soft, creamy-textured and sweet-tasting variety that “melt in your mouth.” They are used for snacking and cooking.
  • Khadrawy dates are small and dark-mahogany-colored with a dry, flaky skin. Originally from Iraq, they have a high moisture content and less sugar, with a mild flavor.
  • Thoori dates, originally from Algeria, are dry with a hard flesh and a chewy, nutty flavor. They are used for snacking, baking and cooking.
     
    Today, we know that dates are a healthy sweet snack alternative: low in fat and sodium, high in fiber and magnesium, more potassium then bananas, rich in iron and cholesterol-free. Yes, they have sugar, but it’s natural sugar (sucrose and its natural derivatives, glucose and fructose), not refined sugar.

    Dates are grown in the U.S. The Arizona climate is similar to many areas of the Middle East where dates are cultivated; and southern California also has a welcoming climate.

    You can buy quality domestic dates from Dateland.com. Stuff them with our favorite mascarpone, from Mozzarella Fresca.

    Find more ideas in the Hors D’Oeuvre Section and Gourmet Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE.

      

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