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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 September, 2009

TIP OF THE DAY: Online Gifting

The next time you attend a party, you don’t have to scramble to purchase a hostess gift or birthday present. The following day, just shop online. You save time traveling, parking, wrapping and toting; and the recipient gets another gift a few days later, when the excitement of the party is over and all of the hand-brought gifts have been put away and forgotten. Plus, the note delivered with your gift doubles as a thank-you note.

  • Visit The Nibble’s Marketplace Section to see some of our favorite gifts.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Magic Mushrooms


In celebration of Mushroom Month, take a walk on the wild side. While most people think of mushrooms as a winter dish, wild mushroom season actually begins when winter ends: The fab fungi pop up from March through September. Thankfully, cultivated wild mushroom varieties like cinnamon cap, enoki, hen of the woods, morel, oyster, porcini and shiitake are available year-round. A mélange of mushrooms, sautéed in butter with garlic and a pinch of rosemary, makes an elegant, impressive and easy first course (you can add a splash of red wine, too). It’s a heavenly side to almost any grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish dish; and a delicious topping for linguini or other “long cut” pasta. Pair mushroom dishes with earthy red wines like Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo.


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ROSH HASHANAH: Honey Cake Gift



honey-cake2-230

Small honey cake from The Exceptional
Dessert, shown with a a jar of honey from
Savannah Bee Company (a NIBBLE Top Pick Of
The Week, also certified kosher). Photo by
Erika Meller | THE NIBBLE.

 

The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, begins on Friday at Sundown. If you need a gift or a treat, head over to TheExceptionalDessert.com and send a most honey cake (certified kosher).

Honey represents a sweet beginning to the Jewish new year, and honey cake is a traditional of Rosh Hashanah dessert. Succulent with honey and traditionally spiced with “pumpkin pie spices,“ a good honey cake is very moist and irresistible. It’s delicious with a cup of tea or coffee, or a sweet dessert wine. This one is made with heart-healthy canola oil, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, with a touch of coffee and brandy, and garnished with sliced almonds. It’s heavy on the allspice, making it nicely spicy—this is no bland honey cake. Very moist, we polished off an entire one at a morning meeting while testing organic coffee.

Also new at The Exceptional Dessert are OK-certified pareve and pas Yisrael are Exceptional Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies, made with oats, bittersweet chocolate, dark brown sugar, canola oil, cinnamon sea salt (plus other ingredients). They’re also available with dried cherries and walnuts.

If you want to bake your own honey cake, try this recipe from our friend Marcy Goldman’s cookbook, A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking.

Marcy’s Amazing Honey Cake

Serves 15

Serve with Homemade Applesauce (see accompanying recipe).

– 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
– 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
– 1 cup canola oil
– 1 cup honey
– 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
– 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
– 3 large eggs
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup brewed coffee
– 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
– 2 tablespoons rye, whiskey or more orange juice
– 1 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds

Preparation

1. Adjust a rack to the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Generously grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan and line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper. Have all ingredients at room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Add the oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice and whiskey.
4. Using a sturdy whisk or an electric mixer on lowest speed, stir together well to create a thick, thoroughly blended batter. Spoon the batter into the pan, and spread it level with a rubber spatula.
5. Bake until the cake springs back when gently pressed in the center, 55 to 65 minutes.
6. Transfer the cake pan to a wire rack and allow the cake to cool about 20 minutes before inverting the cake from the pan. Or let the cake cool completely in the pan and cut the cake into squares or rectangles before serving.
7. When the cake is almost completely cool, sprinkle the almonds over the cake’s surface.

Happy holidays!


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TIP OF THE DAY: Vinaigrette Tricks


Adding 1/8 teaspoon of dry mustard (like Colman’s) to a cup of vinaigrette before you whisk it together helps the emulsion of oil and vinegar from breaking apart. It also adds a small spark of flavor. Any prepared mustard adds flavor to a vinaigrette, but you need dry mustard for the emulsion trick. Another trick: Mix the vinaigrette in a blender instead of whisking. It won’t separate for a day!

  • Learn more about vinegar in our article, Vinegar 101.
  • Check out the history of mustard and all the different types of mustard.


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Gourmet Giveaway: Gnu Foods Flavor & Fiber Bars



Most of us should be getting more fiber in our diets, which are too full of over-processed foods. To the rescue is this week’s Gourmet Giveaway prize sponsor, Gnu Foods. The company makes moist, chewy bars bars that not only provide nutrition and great taste, but deliver lots of important fiber. In fact, these bars—which are also kosher-certified—pack so much fiber (nearly half of an adult’s Daily Value) that they count as a functional food.

Three winners will each receive four 5-packs of Flavor & Fiber bars. Flavors include Banana Walnut, Cinnamon Raisin, Espresso Chip and Lemon Ginger.

They’re great for breakfast with a cup of tea or coffee; or toss them in your pocket for a great grab-and-go snack anytime. You’ll be glad to get to know Gnu.

  • To enter this Gourmet Giveaway, see THE NIBBLE’s NutriSnacks Section and click on the link at the bottom. Enter your email address for the Gourmet Giveaway prize drawing. Good luck!
  • Check out our review of Gnu Foods Flavor & Fiber Bars.
  •  

    amella-caramels-230

    Something gnu and tasty with lots of fiber.
    Photo of Cinnamon Raisin (top) and Banana Walnut bars by B.A. Van Sise | THE NIBBLE.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat The Decorations


    Use small cookie cutters to make tasty platter decorations and plate garnishes from fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Stars, crescents, diamonds and flowers are good all-purpose shapes. Use leaves, snowflakes, hearts and lobsters for seasonal accents. Make garnishes that contrast in color with the foods and plates they’ll decorate: RED beets, watermelon radishes and watermelon; YELLOW pineapple and bell pepper; ORANGE persimmon, cantaloupe and carrots; WHITE cucumber, daikon radishes and zucchini; GREEN kiwi, honeydew and star fruit. Choose firm items that can be sliced flat, eaten raw and won’t turn brown (like apples do). Select easy-to-slice, semi-firm cheeses like Cheddar (yellow or white), Edam and Gouda (yellowy-white) or provolone (white). You’ll find more ideas browsing through your produce and cheese departments.

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    VIEWPOINT: A Chat With Top Chef Master Rick Bayless



    rick-bayless-230

    Top Chef Master Rick Bayless.

     

    We spent the weekend enjoying a Top Chef Masters marathon on the DVR. We were thrilled with every contestant; anyone who loves great food—and especially those of us who try to cook it—can’t help but give thanks daily for all of the people who expend so much passion, backbreaking labor and stress to please us with their fine cuisine (or great burritos, or whatever). We have experienced the cuisine of all three finalists: the Mexican cooking of Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago; the Italian-influenced California cuisine of Michael Chiarello at Tra Vigne in Napa Valley (the restaurant is still thriving in St. Helena although there have been many chef changes since; Michael recently opened Bottega restaurant in nearby Yountville); and the elegant food of classic French-trained Hubert Keller of San Francisco landmark restaurant Fleur de Lys.

    Last week, we caught up by phone with the winner of Top Chef Masters, Rick Bayless, and chatted about his win on Top Chef Masters, against a formidable field of America’s most lauded chefs. We had the chance to ask what really happens behind the scenes on the show.

    TN: Because of your celebrity, were the master chefs treated better than the regular Top Chef contestants?
    RB: The only difference was that we had private rooms in a nice hotel [as opposed to sharing rooms in a group house]. Otherwise, we ran ragged day and night. I lost 10 pounds. I didn’t have time to phone my wife or restaurants once in the four-day finale. Not a minute to make a call—that’s unheard of for me!

    TN: Did you really have absolutely no help to get all that work done—especially in the finale when you were plating food for nine judges (Top Chef judges Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons as well as the five winners of the original Top Chef program)?

    RB: No help at all. We did everything ourselves, including peeling and chopping garlic and washing pots. If you needed a certain pan and there was only one of them, after another chef used it, you had to wash it yourself.

    TN: Given the skill level of the master chef contestants, what do you consider the keys to success in the competition?
    RB: The ability to handle the stress and to get it all done with no help. Chefs at the masters level have been working with a team of assistants for a long time. We were on our own. I was shredding 180-degree tongue with my bare fingers against a clock, burning my hands. There’s also the luck of the draw; with the street food challenge, for example, as well as with the ingredients you’re given. I’m very comfortable with making street food, I was very comfortable with my ingredients; I won the challenge. Finally, there’s the luck of making the right decision in the first place. If what you’ve chosen to do isn’t working, there’s no time to go back and change things.

    TN: You’ve won $100,000 for the Frontera Farmer Foundation, which gives grants to family farmers for equipment that helps them in important ways. It will be a huge help for the Foundation. If you could do Top Chef Masters again and potentially win another $100,000, would you be game?
    RB: I’d have to think long and hard about it!

    You can learn more about the Frontera Farmer Foundation and make a contribution to this worthy cause. If it weren’t for family farmers, there wouldn’t be such exceptional produce and meat—not to mention cream, cheese, herbs and so many more types of food—that go into making meals so special at the fine restaurants we love so much.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Party Brie


    Brie is America’s favorite gourmet cheese. You can make a beautiful party Brie in fewer than five minutes. Take an uncut 17″ wheel and top it with a layer of pepper jelly or chutney. For a finished look, edge the rim with pecan or grape halves. If you prefer something savory, use a bruschetta topping and finish the rim with nuts or chopped scallions. You can add a short sprig of rosemary as a “plume” in the center or make an “asterisk” design across the top with whole chives. Or prepare a trio of 4.5″ baby Bries with different toppings—try honey Dijon mustard sprinkled with chopped almonds, pesto and pine nuts for an Italian accent or a Pan-Asian-style with mango chutney, coconut, honey roasted peanuts and chopped scallions. To warm the Brie before adding the topping, place it on a microwave-safe dish and heat it on high for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately with thin slices of baguette (always serve Brie at room temperature or warmer).

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    TRENDS: You Scream, I Scream…For Gelato



    We recently spent a Lucullan feast of an evening at Screme, a new premium gelato chain in New York City. We tried every flavor in the place—28, to be precise. That’s the Screme way: You can taste as much as you like. We felt O.K. about that, as Screme claims 1/3 fewer calories and lower fat than regular gelato. They say they can produce such a creamy product with these advantages because of its “absolute freshness,“ which they say allows them to use less fat.

    Screme, the American version of Aldo’s, the largest gelato chain in Israel, is the second international premium gelato chain to settle in our town in two years (the first was Grom, from Italy).

    What makes a gelato “premium?”

     

    gelato-bin-230

    A few of Screme’s flavors, made fresh daily.

    While everyone will claim that his or her brand is “the best,” here’s the secret: The best gelato is made daily, or in the case of Screme, several times daily, from the fresh ingredients. For example, strawberry is not made from strawberry purée from a pouch, but from fresh strawberries. Worse, with the growth of chains and products sold to anyone who wants to sell gelato, there’s gelato mix that comes in a package that’s poured into a machine. The difference in taste is huge. One tastes generic, the other tastes like it’s worth a long drive.<

    Gelato may be what a gelateria is known for, but don’t overlook the sorbets. Bursting with fresh fruit flavor, we liked them even more. The Mojito and Passionfruit were ab fab.

    If you have a jones for the sweet and frozen (guilty a charged—ice cream is our favorite food category), sorbet is the better choice. There’s no dairy, fat or cholesterol, it has more vitamins and antioxidants from the fruit, and it has significantly fewer calories. It’s lighter, livelier and more refreshing. While we’re inculcated from childhood with the idea of ice cream, try more sorbet and see if you agree.

    Back to Screme: There are currently two locations in New York City (one in the lobby of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Musuem on 42nd Street in Times Square—no admission fee required), one on Broadway and 69th Street), with a third location on East 64th Street opening soon. National expansion is plan. A sugar-free gelato is on the way. The products are certified kosher.

  • Read more about gelato.
  • See the difference between gelato and all the different frozen desserts in our Ice Cream Glossary.

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pet Gourmet



    Keep gourmet pet treats in the pantry for animal guests. Go to a pet store and buy something special.Their human companions will be extra-appreciative that you’ve thought to provide more than an everyday Milk Bone for your animal visitor.

    • See our favorite animal treats in THE NIBBLE’s Dog & Cat Treats Section.

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