THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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Archive for July, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Edible Flowers

For a special touch, garnish your
dishes with edible flowers. Photo by
Kelly Cline | IST.

Flowers have been eaten since the earliest times. More recently, violet was the rage during the Victorian era. You can still buy Choward’s Violet Candy and candied violets.

Rose petals, very popular in Middle East cuisines, can be found in the U.S. in preserves, confections and beverages (see Sence Rose Nectar)—and of course, to decorate wedding cakes and other desserts.

And don’t forget stuffed zucchini blossoms, still prized as a delicacy.

Summer is an ideal time to add edible flowers to your recipes. They speak of the season, provide color and are beautiful.

If you see edible flowers in your market’s produce section, pick up a box and have fun with them. They add interest and flavor to everything from salads and pasta to desserts.

Two caveats: Not all flowers are edible (some are poisonous). Edible varieties must be grown without pesticides in order to make it to the table.



RECIPES: Spiked Ice Cream Soda

What’s new in ice cream sodas?

How about a shot of tequila, rum, vodka or liqueur?

The Barclay New York Hotel is helping guests beat the heat with a spiked ice cream soda menu.

Using their recipes, you can give new meaning to the concept of an ice cream social.

Pick a date, choose your “menu” from the six recipes and invite the guests! Those who don’t consume alcohol can enjoy their ice cream soda “virgin.”

This vanilla float includes shots of rum and
banana liqueur. Photo courtesy
Intercontinental Hotels.


TIP OF THE DAY: Peppered Popcorn

Add fresh-ground pepper to popcorn for a
treat with heat. Photo by Katharine Pollak |

We were recently enjoying a shipment of delicious Doc Popcorn when one of the flavors leaped out of the bag to capture our heart and palate.

It was Salt-n-Pepper: classic salted, buttered popcorn with a healthy dose of spicy pepper. The fresh-ground pepper provided both heat and flavor. It’s terrific.

And it’s easy to re-create the experience at home: Just grind fresh pepper over your next batch of popcorn.

We enjoyed all of the flavors of Doc Popcorn, which include Better Butter, Caramel Kettle, Classic Kettle, Cheesy Cheddar, Hoppin’ Jalapeño, Sinfully Cinnamon & Sweet Butter Popcorn.

Popcorn is a whole-grain food. Three cups equal one serving of whole grains. The government’s dietary guidelines recommend six servings of grain per day, of which at least three should be whole grain.

Read our review of Doc Popcorn. Treat yourself, or send someone a gift.

Find more of our favorite gourmet snacks.

Here are more whole-grain options for your daily meal plan:

  • 3 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 small (2-ounce) whole wheat bagel
  • 1/2 whole wheat English muffin
  • 1/2 cup brown rice or whole wheat pasta
  • 5 whole wheat crackers
  • 6-inch whole wheat flour tortilla



RECIPES: Crab Galore

Like crab? We’ve got 10 crab recipes for a fine crustacean feast.

From popular dishes like crab cakes and crab and artichoke dip to crab salads and a savory crab cheesecake, your mouth will water.

  • Start with this easy recipe for crab spring rolls. You’ll be able to link to all the other recipes.
  • Learn the different types of crab meat: lump, backfin, white and claw. Which should you use for what type of dish?
  • You can also take a look at the different types of crab: blue crab, dungeness crab, king crab, snow crab, stone crab and more.
  • Check out all the types of seafood in our Seafood Glossary.

Crab rolls are a refreshing summer dish.
Photo courtesy Miller’s Select Crabmeat.


TIP OF THE DAY: Trick To Separate Eggs

Photo by Sam Disegno | SXC.

Here’s one of our favorite kitchen tricks:

If you need to separate eggs but don’t have an egg separator—or the skill to separate eggs by hand without getting pieces of shell into the whites—fear not!

Simply break the eggs into a funnel!

The whites will fall through the chute and the yolks will remain in the bowl of the funnel. If you have a funnel, there’s no need to purchase an egg separator!

  • Discover the different types of eggs, how to make perfect hard-cooked eggs, recipes and more in our Eggs Section.


NEWS: Extra Virgin Olive Oil Alert

Olive oil has long had its shady side. Purchasing a bottle of extra virgin is no guarantee of getting high quality, extra virgin oil. Studies over the years have pinpointed the shenanigans of some bottlers. The latest study, conducted by the USDA and the International Olive Council, showed that they continue. That container of EVOO may not even be 100% OO.

The study showed that nine of ten California samples (90%) met the standards for extra virgin olive oils, meaning that 10% of what is sold as extra virgin isn’t. Imported oils rated much worse: 69% of imported olive oil samples failed to meet the standards. That means that almost 1/3 of the imported extra virgin olive oil sold, isn’t.

The full report on the can be downloaded from the UC Davis Olive Center. Here are the highlights:

  • The extra virgin olive oil isn’t extra virgin. To be graded as extra virgin, according to the IOC (Intermational Olive Council) and USDA standards, an olive oil needs to have less than 1% acidity. Virgin olive oil can have up to 3.3% acidity.

You paid for extra virgin olive oil, but
what’s really in the bottle? Photo by Ramon Gonzalez | SXC.

  • It can be processed. In addition to selling higher acidity oil, the investigation showed that products labeled “extra virgin” can be lower grade olive oil that has been processed to get the acidity below 1%. However, processing destroys the nutrients that people seek in olive oil, as well as the fine flavor.
  • It isn’t 100% olive oil. While not the focus of the latest study, government investigators in Italy have found evidence indicating that the biggest olive oil brands there have been diluting their extra virgin olive oil for years with cheap, highly-refined hazelnut oil imported from Turkey. (As much as 20% hazelnut oil can be added to olive oil and still be undetectable to the consumer.)
  • It isn’t where it claims to be from. Olive oil from Greece, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey are imported into Italy, bottled and sold as the more desirable “Italian olive oil.”


What can you do about it?

Be wary that “bargain” extra virgin olive oil may not be that much of a bargain. Know that the risks are higher with imported olive oils from large bottlers. And seek out products from members of the California Olive Oil Council.

  • Find our favorite brands of olive oil in our Gourmet Oils Section.
  • You’ll also find instructive articles on olive oil that will help you become a savvier consumer.



TIP OF THE DAY: Low-Carb, Low-Calorie Bruschetta

Make this BLT bruschetta with more“L”
when you serve it in endive or romaine
instead of on bread. Photo courtesy
National Pork Board.

Bruschetta has become a popular hors d’oeuvre and snack. It’s delicious and supplies veggies, but it would be even better for you with less bread.

While slicing the bread thinner is one alternative, here’s a healthier, crunchier one:

Serve the bruschetta topping in hearts of romaine or endive leaves. You can pre-fill the leaves and arrange them on a platter or present a bowl of bruschetta topping with a basket of leaves and let guests help themselves.

Bruschetta Recipe
Here’s a basic bruschetta recipe. You can freestyle and add your favorite ingredients, from artichoke, capers and onions to mozzarella, garlic and anchovies. You can switch out the basil for oregano or other favorite herb.

  • Seed and chop 2 large ripe tomatoes (in a pinch, you can use canned chopped tomatoes), 1/2 cup finely-chopped fresh basil, 1/2 cup chopped black olives and 1 tablespoon capers.
  • If you like, add 1 tablespoon freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Let the flavors blend for an hour or more; taste and add salt and fresh-ground pepper, if needed.
  • One of our favorite variations of the recipe adds crumbled bacon for a bruschetta “BLT.”


Eat as many romaine/endive bruschettas as you like—they’re low-calorie and good for you!

Discover our favorite low-calorie foods in the Diet Nibbles Section.

Find more bruschetta recipes.



TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Happy Goat Caramel

Artisan caramels are on the rise—a small treat that’s a little chewy, a little melt-in-your-mouth and a lot buttery.

Now, lovers of goat cheese, as well as those who don’t tolerate cow’s milk well, can happily expand their horizons.

For sure, the lovely handmade goat’s milk caramels from Happy Goat will make many people happy. Even our tasters who said they didn’t like goat cheese enjoyed them.

The goat’s milk and butter used to make the caramel come from happy, free-range California goats, who will make you happy in return.

Be happy, eat Happy Goat caramels.
Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.


TIP OF THE DAY: Mint Water

Photo by Liv Friis-larsen | Fotolia.

We love the refreshing mint-flavored waters from Hint and Metromint. But in our double desire to save money and save the environment, we’ve been making our own mint water.

Unlike other flavors, it’s easy to make mint water. Using a clean medicine dropper, tap water and a recycled 16-ounce bottle (or other vessel of choice), just add three or four drops of peppermint or spearmint extract. You can add more or less extract, depending on your palate preference.

We have six bottles of homemade mint water in the fridge, ready to grab-and-go.

If you have fresh mint, crush the mint in your hands to release the oils, then place it in a pitcher or quart jar of water. Let it infuse for three hours or longer. The infusion of fresh mint is, not surprisingly, more wonderful than extract.

After the mint has infused, you can fill grab-and-go bottles, straining out the mint.

Serve fresh mint water at the table, with or without slices of lemon or lime, for an invigorating, non-caloric drink. Not only do you get great taste and hydration, but there are nutrition and health benefits from both the mint and the citrus. And a glass pitcher of water with mint sprigs and citrus slices looks impressive, any time of the year.



GOURMET GIVEAWAY #2: Kuhn Rikon Watermelon Knife

The most whimsical yet useful kitchen gadget for the summer season must be this nonstick watermelon knife from Swiss premium cookware manufacturer Kuhn Rikon. Not only is it a conversation piece; this handy kitchen tool with an 11″ serrated blade makes it easy to safely slice through thick melon skins. Check it out in action on YouTube, and read more about it in our review.

  • THE PRIZE: One winner is sure to impress friends at the next picnic or barbecue by bringing along this cute, yet functional watermelon knife. Approximate retail value: $24.95.
  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Gourmet Kitchen Gadgets Section and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, August 2nd at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!

Cut your melons with flair with this Kuhn Rikon Watermelon Knife. Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon.


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