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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 April, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Lobster Caesar Salad

Looking for something special to serve for Mother’s Day or other occasion?

Make the ever-popular Caesar salad into an elegant first course or main dish by adding lobster.

1. You’ll need two cooked 2-pound lobsters for 4 luncheon servings or 6 first courses.

2. Slice the tail meat lengthwise to place atop the salad; the claw meat can be tossed with the romaine.

3. You can also add 2 cups of peeled, coarsely grated celery root or parsnip to the tossed romaine.

Here’s the traditional Caesar Salad recipe and the history of caesar salad.

Find more salad recipes.

 

caesar-salad-8971399-okea

Can’t afford lobster? Go for chicken or rare-
grilled salmon. Photo © Okea | Dreamstime.

  

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FOOD UNIVERSITY: The Mother Of All Cacao

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Kakawa Cocoa Beans from Cocoa Puro.
Photo by Kent Lacin | Cocoa Puro.

 

With Mother’s Day little more than a week away, our friend Tom Pederson of Cocoa Puro, creator of the wonderful Kakawa Cocoa Beans, reminds us that “the mother of all cacao” came from the area of what is today the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest, Iquitos, with a population of 370,962. (Located on the Amazon River, it is also the most populous city in the world that cannot be reached by road.)

Researchers have determined that millions of years ago, one particular tree whose pods contained what we now call cacao beans is the actual mother tree responsible for all the cacao and chocolate in the world.

Cacao now grows worldwide in the “cacao belt,” 20 degrees north and south of the equator, in humid jungle lowlands. It can be found from South America to Madagascar.*

Amid the three categories of cacao beans—criollo, forastero and trinitario, a hybrid of the two—there are many thousands of clonal varieties because the trees crossbreed naturally. The pods range from elongated to squat, and yellow to yellow-green to orange to deep burgundy (see photos.)

If Mom is a chocolate lover, she’ll relish some Kakawa Cocoa Beans for Mother’s Day: fresh roasted whole cocoa beans enrobed in white chocolate, then milk chocolate, then dark chocolate and rolled in velvety cocoa powder.

*A comprehensive list of cacao-producing countries and cities includes Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras, Jamaica, Java, Madagascar, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Saint Vincent and Grenadine, Samoa, Santa Lucia, São Tomé and Principe, Sri Lanka, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Windward and Leeward Islands. Not all is top quality; only 5%-10% of the world’s cacao falls into this category.

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FOOD UNIVERSITY: Soup’s On

Do you know a bouillon from a consommé? A chowder from a gumbo? A menudo from a mulligatawny?

Our new Soup Glossary is the latest of our 70+ food glossaries: mini-courses in learning in everything from A (antioxidant foods) through Y (yogurt—there’s no Z yet, but zucchini is in our Squash Glossary).

You’ll have fun perusing pretty pictures of soup as you learn the different types of soups and the history.

Instant ramen noodle soup was invented in Japan in 1956 (and where would the college students of America be without it?). Before then everyone in Japan enjoyed fresh ramen noodle soup with hand-cut noodles, which came from China at the turn of the 20th century.

The very word “supper” comes from “soup,” which used to be the evening meal for less affluent people (i.e., most people).

  • Find your favorite foods in the other food glossaries.
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    bouillabaisse-mackenzie-230

    Can you name this soup? Photo courtesy
    MackenzieLtd.com. (It’s bouillabaisse.)

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pepper Jelly Uses

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    This hot dog needs garlic pepper jelly!
    Photo by Sarah Lewis | SXC.

     

    If you’ve never discovered the charms of pepper jelly, don’t put it off. Supplying sweet heat from chiles (which can range from mild to hot), it’s a very versatile condiment.

    While one of the most popular recipes is to serve the glistening jelly on top of a block of cream cheese or Brie with crackers, we have dozens of suggestions in our review of Aloha From Oregon pepper jellies, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

    Just a few mouthwatering uses: serve pepper jelly with omelets, spread it on roast meats, add it to any salad with mayo (chicken, potato, tuna, etc.), use it as a spicy topping for cheesecake.

    Read the review and you’ll learn not just about the products and uses, but where the quirky name came from.

    Since April is National Garlic Month, we’ve got to call out Aloha’s Garlic Pepper Jelly and one of our favorite uses for it: on a hot dog! The garlicky jelly pairs with the garlic in the hot dog and is quite the gourmet touch—no mustard required.

    Get some pepper jelly for Mom for Mother’s Day, and for any other small gift needs you have (they’re great teacher gifts).

  • Find more of our jellies in our Gourmet Jams & Jellies section.
  • What’s the difference between jam and jelly? Between preserve and conserve? Check out our “spread sheet,” a.k.a. our Jams & Jellies Glossary.
  • Discover our favorite organic hot dogs for that Garlic Pepper Jelly.
  •   

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    MOTHER’S DAY: Another Gift Idea

    If you didn’t find what you were looking for in our five pages of Mother’s Day gifts, we’d like to highlight one that every woman should have:

    A frilly, retro Flirty Apron. It:

  • Fits everyone
  • Comes in colors and patterns to suit every woman (and every kitchen)
  • Is so cute that it makes a fashion statement (we’re going to wear ours out on the street)
  • Also makes a great shower gift, bridesmaid’s gift, etc.

    FlirtyAprons.com even has mother-daughter aprons—and we mean for little girls, although your mom would probably love it if the two of you had matching aprons.

    Check out the selection at FlirtyAprons.com. There’s still time to send Mother’s Day gifts.

    And don’t forget to pick up a few pairs of those fetching rubber gloves: so nifty you’ll enjoy scrubbing pots and pans.

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    sassy_black-230

    There are lots of colors, but we like
    our apron in “basic black.” Photo courtesy FlirtyAprons.com.

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Peanut Soup From Montebello Kitchens

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    Another way to enjoy peanuts! Photo
    courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    Peanuts, peanut butter, peanut butter cookies, peanut brittle, satay…. peanut soup?? Indeed!

    Peanuts, which originated in South America, actually came to the U.S. with African slaves. Brought to West Africa by Portuguese and Spanish traders, peanuts were a staple crop for West Africans.

    We first had a bowl of peanut soup at the King’s Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. We were a young teen who liked peanut butter, but the concept of peanut soup seemed an oddity. So we had to try it.

    It was love at first slurp. But in the ensuing decades, it’s been pretty hard to come across a bowl of peanut soup north of the Mason-Dixon line.

    Thanks to Montebello Kitchens, purveyors of Virginia artisan foods, anyone can now have peanut soup three ways: Traditional, African Piri Piri (spicy) and Thai Curry (hot). All three simple-to-make varieties are delicious. As a bonus, they’re made from defatted peanut flour, are fat-free and only 145 calories per serving!

  • Read the full review to see how we serve peanut soup.
  • For you from-scratch cookers, we’ve also included the recipe for the King’s Arms Tavern creamy peanut soup and a recipe for spicy Senegalese peanut soup.
  • Find more of our favorite soups and recipes in our Gourmet Soup section.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy, Great Dessert

    If you need a quick-and-easy yet sumptuous dessert, serve store-bought biscotti and mascarpone.

    The crunch of the biscotti and the luxuriousness of the super-creamy, slightly sweet mascarpone will be an instant hit.

    They’re perfect with coffee and tea.

    Who’d have thought that something so simple could be so addictively good?

    Find more of our favorite dessert ideas and recipes.

     

    mascarpone-vbc

    Photo courtesy Vermont Butter & Cheese.

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    COCKTAIL RECIPE: Mint Julep

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    A traditional mint julep. Photo courtesy
    MakersMark.com.

     

    There’s no better way to watch the Kentucky Derby on Saturday than with a mint julep in your hand.

    A mint julep is made of spearmint, Bourbon, sugar and water. It’s similar to a Mojito, but substitutes Bourbon for rum. The fresh mint leaves are used very lightly bruised to release more of the aroma and flavor.

    Traditionally, mint juleps are served in silver or pewter cups (shown in the photo). However, few of us have the space to keep a collection of julep cups, so any tall glass is fine.

    MINT JULEP RECIPE #1 (EASY)

    Here’s an easy mint julep recipe:

    Ingredients

  • 2.5 ounces Bourbon
  • 3 sprigs of mint (six to eight mature-sized leaves)
  • 1.5 teaspoons brown sugar
  • .5 cup crushed ice
  • Preparation

    1. In a julep cup or old-fashioned glass, muddle two sprigs of mint with the brown sugar and one ounce of Bourbon.

    2. Add the crushed ice, the remaining Bourbon and garnish with sprig of mint.

    But the following recipe, from Bourbon producer Makers Mark, promises to be worth the extra effort:

    MINT JULEP RECIPE #2
     
    Ingredients

  • 2 large bunches fresh spearmint
  • 3 cups Bourbon
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Clean, thin, lint-free cotton cloth
  • Empty quart jar
  • Shaved ice
  • Powdered sugar for garnish
  • Straws
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Prepare the mint extract: Remove about 40 small mint leaves, wash and place in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 ounces of Bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whiskey. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. Then set aside.

    2. Prepare the simple syrup: Mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and one cup of water in a pot. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

    3. Prepare the mint julep mixture: Pour 3 cups of Bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the Bourbon.

    4. Begin adding the mint extract a tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose. (Editor’s Note: Or use this trick: Put whole coffee beans in a cup and hold them to your nose. Coffee beans magically “clear the nose” so you can smell again.) The tendency is to use too much mint. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste—generally about 3 tablespoons total.

    5. Refrigerate. When you think the mixture right, pour it into an empty bottle, cap tightly and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to marry the flavors.

    6. Fill glass. To serve the mint julep, fill each glass half full with shaved ice. Insert a sprig of mint and then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

    7. Garnish. When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Then serve.

      

    Comments

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: Have A Kentucky Derby Party On Saturday

    Lookin At Lucky, Ice Box and a field of beautiful three year-old thoroughbreds will be running for the roses in Louisville, Kentucky this Saturday. It’s the 136th Kentucky Derby!

    The Kentucky Derby is considered by most to be the most prestigious horse race in the world. It’s the first leg of the famous “Triple Crown,” followed by the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

    The one and a quarter miles of track at Churchill Downs doesn’t take long to run: It’s known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports.” A blanket of roses is draped over the winner.

    Certainly, it’s an occasion to invite friends over to watch the Derby and enjoy a cocktail.

    We’ve got two cocktail suggestions: the special “Run For The Roses” cocktail from Grey Goose, below, created for the 2010 Kentucky Derby; and the classic Mint Julep in the next post.

     

    run-for-the-roses-230

    Run for the roses, run for the cocktails.
    Photo courtesy Grey Goose.

    RUN FOR THE ROSES COCKTAIL

    Ingredients

  • 3 parts Grey Goose L’Orange Vodka
  • 2 parts peach brandy
  • 2 parts southern-style sweet iced tea (recipe below)
  • 2 parts fresh lime juice
  • 2 organic rose petals for garnish (organic flowers are not sprayed with chemical pesticides)
  • Chambord (raspberry liqueur) for floating
  • Ice cubes and crushed ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Combine the first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat. Strain into two rocks glasses filled with crushed ice.

    2. Slowly pour Chambord so that it floats on the top of the drink.

    3. Garnish drink with rose petals.

    Southern Sweet Iced Tea Recipe

    1. Add five tea bags (or equivalent loose black tea) to one quart of boiling water.

    2. Steep for ten minutes and add one cup of sugar while tea bags are steeping. Stir to dissolve.

    3. Place in refrigerator to cool.

    The cocktail was created by Nick Mautone, master mixologist for Grey Goose Vodka and author of Raising the Bar: Better Drinks, Better Entertaining.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Maximize That Citrus Juice

    Roll ’em. Photo by Cynthia Berridge | SXC.

     

    Before cutting a lemon, lime or orange, whether to juice it or to cut a wedge or wheel for a beverage, try these two tricks (either one works on its own; together they help maximize juice you can squeeze):

    Trick #1

    Zap the citrus in the microwave for ten seconds. This activates the juice in the sacs so it’s ready to burst forth when juiced.

    Trick #2

    Next, press down on the whole citrus and roll it for another 15 seconds or more on the kitchen counter or a cutting board.

    This applies pressure that releases more juice from the sacs.

    You’ll get more juice for your recipe or a bigger squeeze of juice from the wedge.

     

    Save The Zest
    You can zest the citrus before or after juicing, and toss fresh zest into salads, onto cooked vegetables, in soups, cookie and cake recipes, cocktails, the pickle jar—just about anything.

    Want to know more about lemons and limes? Check out our:

  • Lemon Glossary
  • Lime Glossary
  •   

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