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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 May, 2010

PRODUCT: The Wonderful World Of Oolong Tea

Oolong means “black dragon” in Chinese, a reference to the appearance of the tea after it has been processed. The long, twisted, blackish-green leaves reminded the poetic Chinese person who named it, of a dragon. But the “black dragon” leaves produce a tea that is graceful, alluring and a world favorite.

Oolong is a relative newcomer to the ancient world of tea. It was developed in Formosa (Taiwan) in the mid-nineteenth century. A cool-climate tea, it is also grown in the misty hills of China’s Fujian province. While all oolongs are aromatic with a lingering finish, Chinese oolongs tend to be more green and floral, reminiscent of orchids. Formosan oolongs, which are oxidized and fired for a longer period, have a more ripe and fruity profile: hints of peach and apple flavor are typical.

We’ll take a moment to point out that the many hundreds of different tea styles all come from the same plant species: Camellia sinensis. As with grapes, coffee and other agricultural products, the distinctively different flavors and appearances of the different styles of tea are a result of terroir (pronounced tur-WAH, the microclimate where it is cultivated) and processing techniques. Learn more about tea in our Gourmet Tea Section.

 

Two of Republic Of Tea’s selections of oolong
tea. Photo courtesy RepublicOfTea.com.

If you like oolong, deepen your appreciation by trying different varieties—grown in different locations—and experience the differences of terroir. Republic of Tea, one of our favorite tea purveyors, offers oolong lovers a beautiful selection of oolongs.

Whether for yourself, a tea-tasting party or a gift for your favorite tea lover, the Republic Of Tea makes it easy to comparison-taste different oolongs. While some of the more rare teas may seem pricey at $13.50 to $37.00 per canister (22¢ to 62¢ per cup), it could be half that cost, since the full-leaf tea can be infused at least twice.

“Rare” refers to a tea that comes from a specific location—a single estate or an even smaller microsite— and by result of its small growing area, is available in limited quantities. It offers very complex flavors to the demanding palate. Don’t even think of adding milk and sugar or you’ll cover up the glory of a rare tea! (In fact, Republic Of Tea’s products are so fine in general that each one should be brewed properly and tasted straight. Milk and sugar are best used to enhance less flavorful teas.)

Take a look at these lovely hand-picked oolongs:

WHOLE LEAF LOOSE OOLONG TEAS

  • Ti Kuan Full-Leaf Tea. This tea from the Fujian province is named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, also known as the “Iron Goddess“—a reference to the large, iron-colored leaves. It has a fresh, orchid flavor and a clean finish.
  • Wuyi Oolong Full-Leaf Tea. This tea is named after the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian province, where it is grown. Its large, silver-tipped leaves and peachy flavor are distinctive, with additional notes of chestnut and honey. Highly aromatic and completely lacking in astringency, this oolong has the flowery upper register of a top-grade Darjeeling, but is rounder and deeper.
  • Imperial Republic Monkey Picked Oolong Rare Full-Leaf Tea. During the Chinese dynastic period, trained monkeys plucked the best tea leaves from the highest branches of the tea bushes. Monkeys are still used on a novelty basis, as the tea plants are pruned to bush height for easy plucking by humans. This oolong from the Fujian province has a floral hint with peach notes and a rich, toasty finish.
  • Imperial Republic Orchid Oolong Rare Full-Leaf Tea. This rare, mountain-grown tea builds on the natural orchid notes found in some oolongs, with the addition of essential orchids. The result is a dramatic floral presence: a fragrant orchid aroma with a refreshing, well-balanced flavor and a floral finish.
  • Old Bush Shui Xian Rare Oolong Full-Leaf Tea. This famous oolong tea originated from an old tea bush discovered near a cave dedicated to the Immortals of Daoism. The leaves are exceptionally long and fragrant. The tea starts light, intensifies with a rich flavor and ends with a smooth, slightly smoky finish.
  • Osmanthus Oolong Rare Estate Tea-Full Leaf. This Taiwan-grown oolong has a vivid fragrance. It is scented overnight with fresh, wild osmanthus flowers, and then is dried over fire. Sun-dried osmanthus flowers are then added to the processed tea, to enhance the fruity and floral characteristics.
  • OOLONG TEA BAGS

    There are two options for those who prefer tea bags to loose tea:

  • Black Dragon Oolong Tea Bags. The tea is from the lush, misty hills of the Fujian province.
  • Peach Blossom Oolong Tea Bags. This oolong tea is grown along winding mountain streams in the Fujian province. The added essence of spring peach blossoms compliments oolong’s natural fruity flavor.
  • Loose tea or tea bag, the Republic Of Tea’s airtight metal canisters keep the tea fresh (and can be repurposed when the original tea is gone). The attractive label designs are good for gifting.

    The teas are certified gluten-free and certified kosher by OU.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Peachy News

    Let peaches ripen to perfection. Overripe
    peaches can be puréed for sauce, turned
    into peach ice cream or peach smoothie.
    Photo by Gerhard Taatgen, Jr. | SXC.

     

    May is the beginning of peach season. Fuzzy clingstone peaches are in the market for your nibbling pleasure, with freestone peaches arriving in July through September.

    While the fruits taste the same, the pits in clingstone peaches cling to the flesh; the freestone pits pop right out.

    What difference does it make to you? As a hand fruit there’s not much difference, although freestones tend to have softer, juicier flesh. For freezing, cooking or drying, they hold their shape better than freestone peaches.

    But for preparation, freestone peaches are a bit easier to work with since you don’t have to work to free the pit from the flesh. They’re easier to slice for fruit salads and have a clean edge if you’re slicing them for a beautiful presentation—plated or on a tart or cake. And because they’re easier to work with, they’re preferred for pickling and canning.

    A tip to peel peaches: While some people use the technique of dropping the fruit into boiling water to loosen the skin, this does slightly alter the delicate flavor and texture. Instead, use a sharp potato peeler and peel the skin in narrow strips—this produce is more tender than a potato!

  • There’s nothing like fresh peach ice cream. Be sure to make some! Here’s a recipe that uses honey instead of sugar.
  • Peaches originated in China and have been cultivated at least since 1,000 B.C.E. Learn the history of the peach.
  • Comments

    MEMORIAL DAY: Toast With Red, White & Blue Cocktails

    Beyond planning barbecues and celebrating the three-day weekend, many of us have forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day. There are fewer parades of marching veterans, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts; fewer veterans sell paper poppies to raise money for the families of fallen soldiers.

    Memorial Day grew from the Civil War: Before the end of the War, Southern woman began honoring their fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flags and flowers. An official Decoration Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The holiday was celebrated by the Northern states; Southern states did not participate, honoring the Confederate dead on other days.

    After World War I, the holiday evolved to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May, declared by the National Holiday Act of 1971. Passed by Congress to ensure a three-day weekend for Federal holidays, the National Holiday Act also formally changed the name of the celebration to Memorial Day.

    Now that you understand the history (and you can find layers of detail online), share it with your guests as you toast those who have fallen in battle.

     

    Serve red, white and blue drinks for
    Memorial Day. Photo courtesy Bacardi USA.

  • Check out our selection of red, white and blue cocktails.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Clarified Butter

    Melted or “drawn” butter, at top, compared
    to clarified butter. Photo by
    Emily Chang | THE NIBBLE.

     

    If you like to sauté foods in butter but find that higher heat scorches the butter, use clarified butter instead.

    Clarified butter has had the milk solids removed, so that it is clear in its liquid state. You may have had it without knowing it:

    In a proper service, the melted butter served with lobster is clarified butter—clear, with no cloudy milk proteins. In the case of lobster, clarified butter is served for aesthetic reasons.

    Some restaurants don’t spend the time and money on clarified butter and serve “drawn butter”—melted butter—instead. See the photo comparison.

    Clarified butter—called ghee in India—is shelf stable. You can purchase a jar and keep it in the pantry until its needed. It is never used in baking, since the milk solids in regular butter provide a richer flavor to baked goods, and the oven heating dynamic is different so there’s no scorching.

  • See our review of Ancient Organics ghee for a recipe to make ghee (clarified butter) at home.
  • Check out the comparative smoke points of all the cooking fats.
  • Comments

    NEWS: The Nibble Blog Is Moving To A New Home

    THE NIBBLE blog is in the process of moving to a larger server to accommodate our growth.

    We may not be able to post until the move is complete. We’ll try our best.

    If you check in and there’s nothing new, wait another day for the virtual moving van to deliver our blog to its new home.

    In the interim, TheNibble.com website isn’t going anywhere—check it out!

    If you’re looking for a particular type of food or recipe, start in our Main Nibbles section.

     

    Bear with us while we move. Photo by
    Garann Rose Means | SXC.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Avocado Recipes From Breakfast Through Dessert

    How cool is Avocado Jell-O? Photo
    courtesy Avocados From Mexico.

     

    The popularity of guacamole suggests that most of us really like avocados.

    We like them so much, we eat a half at breakfast or lunch, straight from the skin. Sometimes we’ll sprinkle on some balsamic vinegar. But just like any fruit, avocados are delicious as is.

    But limiting our intake to guacamole and salads, we weren’t taking full advantage of the fruit.

    So we browsed through the recipe section of AvocadosFromMexico.com and discovered scores of recipe ideas—from Avocado Jell-O to Avocado Caprese Salad.

    As good as a regular Caprese salad may be—slices of tomato and mozzarella plus fresh basil—it’s even better with slices of avocado added to the recipe.

    Tonight, we’re making the Layered Guacamole Dip with roasted garlic hummus, sour cream and chopped cherry tomatoes. Maybe we’ll try the Avocado Margarita with it.

    There’s also an Avocado Pie!

    Expand your repertoire of avocado dishes. Check out the appetizers, beverages, breakfast recipes, desserts, dips, mains, salads, sandwiches and wraps and soups.

  • Find more recipes on the Avocados From Mexico website.
  • Check out our selection of avocado recipes, which includes the health benefits of avocado and shopping tips.
  • Comments

    PRODUCT: Otis And Betty’s Snack Mix

    Do you like crunchy snacks? Sweet, crunchy snacks? With tang and heat?

    Welcome to Otis And Betty’s. It’s a bit of a “warning welcome,” since once you start eating these multi-textured and -flavored snacks, it isn’t easy to stop.

    O&B’s are all-natural, Chex-style mixes, made from different flavors of Chex, honey-roasted almonds and pecans, pretzels, honey-rosasted sesame sticks, honey and spices. Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, cayenne and other spices add layers of flavor.

    Five varieties include Original; Cin-ful, redolent of cinnamon; Get Rich, drizzled with white and milk chocolate; Meet Jack, with a bit of Bourbon flavor; and Smokin’, with barbecue seasoning.

    We recommend sticking to the 2-ounce bag, or else the 7.5-ounce bag may become a “single serving.” The smaller size makes a tasty party favor.

  • Read the full review.
  •  

    We love to snack on Otis & Betty’s mixes.
    Photo by Emily Chang | THE NIBBLE.

  • Discover more of our favorite snacks in our Gourmet Snacks section.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Ramps (Wild Leeks)

    Ramps, or wild leeks. Photo courtesy
    Cherokee-nc.com.

     

    Ramps are in season through next month, and they are worth seeking out.

    Ramps are wild leeks—also known as spring onion and ramson. In French, they are called ail des bois, garlic of the woods, because of the combined garlic-onion flavor.

    They grow wild and are found in clusters. The entire plant is edible, from the broad, smooth, green leaves to the scallion-like bulb.

    Since ramps grow wild, they can easily end up in a yard—where they are typically pulled out and thrown away, not only for their unwelcome leaves but for their strong garlic aroma. If you notice a plant by this description, check further—it could go into the kitchen instead of the composter.

    While ramps can be enjoyed in any recipe that uses a member of the onion family, we enjoy the easiest and most elegant preparation: simply sautéed. Combine ramps with asparagus for a heavenly spring feast. Toss thin slices into a salad, add them to eggs, look for recipes on line. You’ll love this “discovery” and will eagerly await spring ramps going forward.

    While many people refer to the vegetable as “wild leek,” the name “ramp” is popular in the East. It comes from England. One version of the name source attributes a folk name, “ramsen,” the plural form of hramsa, an Old English word for wild garlic. Early English settlers of Appalachia—a prime ramp region—used the term, which later was shortened to “ramp.”

    Comments

    RECIPE: The Easiest Strawberry Shortcake

    May 21st is National Strawberries And Cream Day.

    Take advantage of the beautiful strawberries in season to make these easy yet elegant individual strawberry shortcakes in silver cupcake wrappers.

    People will think you worked for hours on this recipe. But all you do is buy the strawberries and pound cake, whip the cream and assemble.

    The recipe is from the book, Pink Princess Cupcakes, by Barbara Beery:

  • Get the strawberry shortcake recipe.
  • Find cake reviews and more of our favorite cake recipes in our Gourmet Cakes section.
  •  

    Strawberry shortcake “cupcake.” Photo by
    Zac Williams | Pink Princess Cupcakes.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Berry Good Sauces

    Strawberry, blueberry and raspberry toppings
    from BlackberryPatch.com. Photo by Hannah
    Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Berry sauces—blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and strawberry—are becoming popular as pancake and waffle toppers. They’re a fruity alternative to maple syrup.

    But don’t stop there. The fruity sauces also enhance:

    • Blintzes and omelets
    • Breads (toast, biscuits, muffins, scones)
    • Fruit salads
    • Yogurt

    Beyond breakfast, berry sauces can complement baked Brie and serve as a glaze for roasted chicken, pork and grilled fish.

    For dessert, drizzle them over ice cream or sorbet. Serve them warm or at room temperature over cobblers, pastries, tarts and pound cakes.

    All this from one little bottle!

    Think hard enough, and almost every food product becomes a multitasker.

    Check out our favorite dessert sauces and toppings.

    Comments

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