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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 August, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Meat Thermometer

A meat thermometer takes the guesswork
out of cooking. Photo courtesy Polder.

 

You don’t have a meat thermometer? How do you know when the meat is cooked?

One technique, used by many, is the cut-and-view approach, slicing into the meat to see the color of the inside. This is a bad idea: It ensures that valuable juices dribble out from the cut mark.

Other people use the chef-honed technique of pressing a finger on the meat to discern the degree of doneness. This works with pan-cooked meat, but this doesn’t work with chicken or oven roasts.

That’s why good cooks rely on a meat thermometer (not an oven thermometer, which is to ascertain the exact temperature in the oven since oven dials are often inaccurate). It can also be used to check the temperature of other dishes, such as eggs and casseroles.

(For deep-frying or candy/sugar work, you’ll need a separate candy thermometer. Not only does it measure higher temperatures, but it’s more sensitive to gradations: sugar and fat get hot more quickly than meat.)

For not very much money, a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking. It provides critical information that cooks food to a safe temperature and prevents overcooking.

What type of meat thermometer do you need?

  • Basic Oven-Proof Thermometer. For under $10.00 you can buy a basic meat thermometer, like the classic from Taylor. It’s not digital, but you don’t need to know that your meat is, for example, 160.4 degrees versus 158 degrees. It is inserted into the food at the beginning of cooking. If you forget, you can insert it toward the end of cooking and wait half a minute for the dial to adjust.
  • Digital Thermometer. (Photo at top left.) For twice the price, the digital Polder Classic Cooking Thermometer has a timer that can be used separately (as a general kitchen timer), shows temperatures in both Farenheit and Celsius, lets you set a five-minute alarm prior to the end of cooking and has magnets for mounting on the side of the oven. There are varieties that can be inserted into the meat when you want a quick read, as well as those that get inserted at the beginning and remain throughout the cooking process.
  • Microwave Thermometer. Do you cook meat in the microwave? There are microwave-safe thermometers for you.
  • Pop-Up Thermometers. Developed for roasting whole poultry, these are no-brainers. When the chicken or turkey is ready, the top pops up. You can buy a package that will last a year for a little more than $10.00.

    Using A Standard Meat Thermometer

    1. Insert the thermometer deeply into the flesh. Make sure the thermometer does not touch any bone.

    2. Place the meat and thermometer into a preheated oven. About 15 minutes before the end of the stated cooking time, check the thermometer. Then, monitor it until it reaches the desired level of doneness. (If you are pan-cooking, you can insert the thermometer toward the end, but an instant-read thermometer is a better tool.)

    TIP #2: Don’t slice the meat or poultry the moment you take it from the heat. Let it sit for 10 minutes. This lets the juices settle so that, upon slicing, they don’t rush out. Whether oven- or pan-cooked, the temperature of the meat will increase by 10 degrees or so as the meat rests, so you’ll want to stop cooking 10 degrees before the recommended “done” temperature.

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Verjus

    For a few years now, verjus (vair-ZHOO) has been adopted in top culinary circles. But few consumers, even those who love to cook, know what it is.

    Verjus is the juice pressed from unripe grapes. The name means green juice in French, but the product dates back to at least ancient Rome (where it was called acresta).

    Used as a condiment or a recipe ingredient, it provides bright, fresh flavor without the harsh acidity of vinegar or lemon juice. It’s one of our favorite kitchen ingredients.

    It’s also a great gift for anyone who loves to cook and for calorie counters.

  • Read the full review to learn why you should try healthy, low calorie and flavorful verjus.
  • You’ll also see why you should buy American verjus—like the Terra Sonoma verjus we used in our recipes—instead of imported products.
  • Find more of our favorite oils, vinegars and salad dressings in our Oil & Vinegar Section.
  •  

    Use verjus instead of vinegar or citrus on
    salad and in many other recipes. Photo by Sarsmis | IST.

    Comments

    RECIPE: Summer Citrus Margarita

    Add orange juice and grapefruit juice for a
    Summer Citrus Margarita. Photo courtesy
    El Jimador tequila.

     

    Margaritas are made with tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice. What happens if you divided the juice into 1/3 lime, 1/3 orange and 1/3 grapefruit?

    You have a Summer Citrus Margarita!

    This recipe is courtesy of Steve Rice, Vice President of Sales at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Try it now. It just might become your official Labor Day cocktail.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau or GranGala
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup grapefruit juice
  • Lime wedges for garnish
  • Margarita salt (this is simply large-crystal salt—kosher salt or coarse sea salt)
  • Preparation
    1. Add first 5 ingredients to a blender and blend.
    2. Moisten rims of glasses and dip into a plate of Margarita salt.
    3. Fill glasses with Margarita. Garnish with a lime wedge. Serve.

    Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes—including a large selection of Margarita recipes—in our Cocktails & Spirits Section.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mascarpone For Dessert

    Earlier this year we wrote about a rich and elegant dessert that couldn’t be easier: biscotti served with mascarpone.

    With lush summer fruit abounding, switch it up. Serve berries or sliced fruit with mascarpone.

    You can serve the fruit simply on a plate, topped with mascarpone and a mint leaf for garnish. Or, get festive with a parfait or sundae dish, layered with pistachio nuts, chocolate chips or other favorite garnishes.

    A side of biscotti, tuiles or rolled wafer cookies (flutes) are always welcome.

  • Learn about mascarpone—called “Italian cream cheese” but so much better! You’ll also discover other fresh cheeses.
  • Find more of our favorite desserts in our Gourmet Desserts Section.
  •  

    A mascarpone sundae: mascarpone with
    fresh fruit. Photo courtesy WisDairy.com.

    Comments

    FOOD TRAVEL: Seattle Culinary Arts Show

    Pick up tips from some 20 chef demos.
    Photo courtesy Seattle Food & Culinary Arts
    Show.

     

    Planning a visit to Seattle? You might want to consider the weekend of November 20-21. You’ll be able to take in the Seattle Food and Culinary Arts Show, highlighting the best of Northwest cuisine.

  • Held at the Key Arena, 100+ exhibitors will provide tastings and sell products just in time for holiday shopping.
  • The area’s top chefs will conduct cooking demonstrations and share recipes.
  • You can take a break in the Wine, Beer and Spirits Lounge and stroll through the Hall of Cakes.
  • For more information, visit the show‘s website.

    Comments

    GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Van Harden Cheese Crust Pizza

    Cheese lovers: this Gourmet Giveaway prize is for you, even if you’re not counting carbs or steering clear of gluten.

    Van Harden offers frozen pizzas in three varieties with no bread crust whatsoever. The crust is made from cheese that’s thin and soft with a delightfully slightly burnt-cheesy taste. Choose any five pies from among:

  • Cheese Pizza
  • Pepperoni Pizza
  • Sausage Pizza (the best seller)
  • Although the great benefit of Van Harden’s Pizza is a crust made of cheese instead of wheat, just about anyone will enjoy these gluten-free treats. Read our review.

  • THE PRIZE: One winner will receive five of Van Harden’s pizzas. Invite friends on the Atkins diet or those who avoid gluten to join you, or keep them all for yourself—no one will blame you! Retail value: Approximately $50.00.
  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Gourmet Pasta, Pizza & Pasta Sauce Section and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, August 23rd at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!
  •  

    Van Harden’s pizza comes in three varieties:
    pepperoni, sausage and cheese. Photo by Erika Meller | THE NIBBLE.

  • Learn more at VanHarden.com.
  • Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Celebrate National Rum Day

    Celebrate with a Mojito. Photo by Paul
    Johnson | IST.

     

    Quick: Name a cocktail with rum.

    Did you say rum and coke, a.k.a. a Cuba Libre? If so, we’d like to recommend our favorite way to enjoy rum: in a Mojito!

    The mojito, another Cuban cocktail, dates to 300 years before the advent of carbonated cola drinks (which happened in May, 1886).

    According to Bacardi Rum, the drink can be traced to 1586, when Sir Francis Drake and his pirates unsuccessfully attempted to sack Havana for its gold. His associate, Richard Drake, was said to have invented a mojito-like cocktail known as El Draque that was made with aguardiente, a crude forerunner of rum, sugar, lime and mint. Around the mid-1800s, when the Bacardi Company was established, rum was substituted and the cocktail became known as a Mojito. The name comes from the African voodoo term mojo, to cast a small spell.

    Celebrate August 16, National Rum Day, with a Mojito. Here’s the recipe.

  • Find more drink recipes in our Cocktails & Spirits Section.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Forget The Peaches

    August is National Peach Month: Through the end of the month fresh peaches are at their juiciest.

    If you haven’t been enjoying the seasonal bounty, grab ‘em before they’re gone.

    Our favorite summer joy is peach ice cream. It’s dropped off the radar of most commercial manufacturers, but well worth the trouble to make from scratch.

  • Try these recipes for peach ice cream and peach cobbler.
  • Learn all about peaches, which are native to China.

  •  

    Fragrant, juicy, delicious peaches. Photo
    by Alaina Cherup | SXC.

    Find more of our favorite fruits, tips and recipes in our Gourmet Fruits Section.

    Shopping note: Don’t buy more than you can use: Peaches ripen very quickly.

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Gluten Free ‘Oreo’ Cookies

    America’s famous sandwich cookie is re-
    formulated in a gluten-free version. Photo
    by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    The news coverage of Chelsea Clinton’s gluten-free wedding cake is a reminder that gluten-avoidance has a wide reach. The sensitivity can develop at any stage of life.

    Gluten refers to certain proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, oats and some other grains. The allergy can range from mild inflammation of the small intestine that causes stomach ache, to severe celiac disease. The cause of the sensitivity is unknown; the solution is to avoid all products that contain gluten.

    With the growth of gluten sensitivity in our population, as well as the choice among others to avoid gluten for general health reasons (improved digestion, weight loss and other benefits that have not yet been proven scientifically), specialty manufacturers have been busy formulating everything from pizza crusts to iconic cookies into gluten-free versions.

    For example, gluten avoiders can have an Oreos experience thanks to sandwich cookies from Kinnikinnick Foods and Mi-Del.

  • Kinnikinnick Foods makes KinniToos chocolate sandwich creme cookies with both vanilla and chocolate filling.
  • Mi-Del makes gluten-free Royal Vanilla and Chocolate sandwich cookies.
  • We liked the entire Mi-Del line, which includes arrowroot cookies, ginger snaps and other choices. The varieties of Kinnikinnick’s children’s cookies (animal crackers, graham-style crackers) that we tried didn’t have the same palate-pleasing qualities as the sandwich cookies.

    Find more of our favorite gluten-free gourmet foods.

    Gluten-free flour for baking uses a mixture of other ingredients to approximate the quality of wheat flour. Corn flour, potato flour, potato starch, corn starch, rice flour, tapioca starch and soya flour are gluten-free options that can be mixed in different blends for different types of baked goods.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Pita Chips

    Serving pita with hummus? Fresh-toasted pita chips are more exciting than plain pita.

    It’s easy to make your own pita chips to go with dips, salads and soups. And need we say, they taste much better than packaged pita chips?

    1. Simply slice pita rounds into quarters or eighths.

    2. Brush tops with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and your favorite herbs: oregano, parsley and/or thyme, for example. (You also can purchase fresh pita pre-seasoned with garlic or onion—or opt for the healthier choice and buy whole wheat pita.)

    3. Broil until crisp and golden. Serve warm.

    Make lots: They’re guaranteed to be very popular.

  • Try this recipe for white bean dip—delicious with pita chips.
  •  

    Fresh-made pita chips are delish. Photo
    courtesy WisDairy.com.

    Comments

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