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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, 2010

PRODUCT: MYdrap Napkins & Placemats

Rolls of colorful cloth napkins and place-
mats create instant table décor. Photo
courtesy MYdrap.

 

Here’s something new: Elegant cloth cocktail napkins and dinner napkins, placemats and table runners that are manufactured in a roll and separated like paper towels. When you need to set the table, tear off what you need. No one but you will know that the table linens came on a roll.

The elegant cloth napkins and placemats, made of cotton or linen, provide fashionable table-setting options: an instant fine-dining experience. The rolls are easy to store.

MYdrap is the first single-use napkin and placemat made of cloth (a choice of 100% cotton or linen). While the concept was developed for the hospitality industry—one-time-use, recyclable place settings that save on laundry bills—you don’t have to throw them away after dinner. They can be washed and re-used up to five times (some ironing is needed).

Why not just buy permanent cloth napkins and placemats?

1. Variety is the spice of life. You can switch and combine colors with ease, to match different sets of dishes, seasons or holidays (there are 14 colors in cotton and 7 colors in linen). We don’t need red and green table linens year-round; MYdrap is a relatively inexpensive way to set a holiday table. The same goes special events like baby showers: Use pink and blue napkins and mats.

2. No fuss. For people who like table linens but not washing and ironing them, they’re a boon.

MYdrap is available in the U.S. at Bloomingdale’s, and online at CasaMyDrap.com. There are 50 napkins per roll. The cost per standard dinner napkin is 60 cents.

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Tip Of The Day: Mise En Place

What’s mise en place (MEEZ on PLAHS)?

It’s French for “everything in its place,” and it’s how cooks are trained from the outset to prepare recipes.

It simply means that before starting to cook or bake, everything needed to prepare the recipe is gathered, pre-prepped (chopping onions or measuring flour, for example) and set on the counter in easy reach. Only then is a cook ready to begin.

It’s surprising how many home cooks don’t follow this simple system. If you’ve found yourself looking for the lemon to zest, stopping to hunt for a kitchen tool or realizing that you don’t have enough butter, you’ll find that cooking is more efficient and unharried when you put mis en place in place.

Thanks to Chef Louis Eguaras, author of 101 Things I Learned In Culinary School, for this tip.

 

All in place and ready to cook. Photo courtesy RestaurantWindow.com.

  

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COOKING VIDEO: How To Slice Mushrooms

 

Although National Mushroom Month draws to a close today, these tasty, low-calorie fungi should be enjoyed all year round.

Learn from The French Culinary Institute’s Marc Bauer how to slice mushrooms evenly and with little waste.

Substituting part or all of the meat in your recipe with mushrooms can help stretch your food budget.

  • Choosing which mushrooms to use in your recipes is easy with this guide.
  • Try meatless, portabella-based recipes like Grilled Philly Cheese Steak With Mushrooms.
  • Need to know the difference between a crimini and a chanterelle? Look no further than our Mushroom Glossary.
  • For more how-tos, visit our Food Videos Section.

    Comments

    FOOD FACTS: Inventor Of The Coffee Filter

    This 10-cup manual drip Melitta Coffeemaker set is just $12.95 at Amazon.com.

     

    Today is National Coffee Day, but where would we be any day without coffee filters?

    Before 1908, coffee was a gritty affair. The percolators of the time tended to over-brew the coffee, making it too bitter. Espresso machines left grounds in the cup. Reusable linen bag filters were an option, but who wanted to empty and clean them?

    Housewife Melitta Bentz (1873-1950) of Dresden, Germany sought a solution.

    In 1908, Mrs. Bentz tested different ways to create a permeable barrier between the grounds and the brewed coffee. She hit pay dirt when testing blotting paper from the notebook of her older son (in those pre-ball point, pre-felt tip days, people wrote with pen and ink, and used the paper to blot up the ink spills).

    She then she drilled holes in the bottom of a small brass pot, inserted the blotting paper over the holes, added ground coffee and poured hot water over it. The coffee dripped through, flavorful and groundless!

    Mrs. Bentz tweaked the product and received a patent in 1912 for “a coffee filter with a curved and indented bottom and with slanting extraction holes,” to be used in combination with “filtration paper.” It was a hit. Today the company, run by Melitta’s grandchildren, has a workforce of some 3,800 people in 50 countries. In the U.S. alone, it sold $100 million worth of filters in 2009.

    You can see the original device here. It doesn’t look like today’s sleek plastic cone and cone-shaped filter, (shown in the photo), but it did the trick.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Crisp French Fries

    Want crispy fries with that?

    Make your French fries or sweet potato fries crisper by doing what the chefs do:

    Let the raw potatoes stand in cold water for at least 30 minutes before frying.

    To get them extra-extra crisp, double fry them.

    First, par-fry the potatoes at 325°F for three minutes, until soft, but not brown. Remove and drain on brown paper bags.

    Next, bring the oil temperature up to 375°F. Cook the fries a second time for 4 minutes, until golden and crispy. Drain on fresh brown paper bags, then paper towels. Season and serve.

    How should you season your fries?

     

    Photo © Idaho Potato Commission.

    The most popular seasoning for fries is salt (use kosher salt or sea salt). But you can also use grated Parmesan cheese (hold the salt—the cheese is plenty salty) or your favorite herbs.

    Hate to slice the potatoes with a knife? Treat yourself to a vegetable/French fry cutter, which also makes zucchini fries a breeze.

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Dr. McDougall Healthy Soup

    Photo courtesy Right Foods.

     

    The doctor is in…and he’s making healthy soup.

    John McDougall, M.D., physician and nutritionist, has been studying the effects of nutrition on health for more than 20 years. A founding father of the modern wellness movement, he established the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California, to help people improve their health.

    His line of foods features oatmeal cups—add water and heat, (loved ‘em)—soup cups and low-sodium soups (bland). The newest entry is a line of heat-and-eat soups, about two cups per carton.

    The soups are packed full of good things—veggies, brown rice and other whole grains, plus black beans, peas and lentils. Some are so thick, they could be a side dish!

    Needless to say, we enjoyed these fat-free, dairy-free vegan soups as a light lunch, snack and dinner course. Read the full review.

  • Find more of our favorite soups plus recipes in our Soup Section.
  • How to garnish 20 different soups.
  • Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Coffee Day Trivia

    It’s National Coffee Day. Can you answer these questions, posed by Illy Coffee?

    Q. In which country was coffee discovered?
    a. Ethiopia
    b. Yemen
    c. Arabia

    A. Ethiopia. Read the History Of Coffee.

    Q. True or False: Ounce per ounce, espresso contains more caffeine than brewed coffee.
    a. True
    b. False

    A. False! Brewed coffee contains more caffeine. Learn all about espresso in our Espresso Glossary.

    Q. Is espresso a bean or a roast?
    a. Bean
    b. Roast
    c. Neither

    A. Neither. It is a coffee preparation method.

     

    Photo by Flavio Takemoto | SXC.

    Q. What color are coffee beans before roasting?
    a. Tan
    b. Green
    c. Red

    A. Green. See a photo of the coffee cherries on the tree, alongside green coffee beans and roasted coffee beans.

    Q. Which country is the world’s largest coffee producer?
    a. Brazil
    b. Colombia
    c. Indonesia

    A. Brazil. It produces 22.5 million 132-pound bags annually, which is one-third of the world’s coffee. Columbia, which grows about 10% of the world’s coffee, is second with 10.5 million bags. They are followed by Indonesia (6.7 million bags) and Vietnam (5.8 million bags). Learn more about coffee in our Coffee Glossary.

    Happy National Coffee Day! Enjoy a good cup or two.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pasta & Breadcrumbs

    For crunch, toss breadcrumbs on your
    pasta. Photo © Monkey Business | Fotolia

     

    In southern Italy, toasted breadcrumbs, instead of grated cheese, are often sprinkled over pasta. You don’t even need a sauce for this authentic recipe—just toss the pasta in extra virgin olive oil.

    The custom survives in the U.S. largely as macaroni and cheese topped with toasted breadcrumbs.

    Yesterday, we lunched on a delicious lobster mac & cheese, topped with breadcrumbs, from Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company. But you don’t have to go so upscale to enjoy your mac & cheese with a crunchy top.

    Whether for mac & cheese or another pasta dish, simply buy gourmet seasoned breadcrumbs or make your own. If you make them, experiment with favorite seasonings. Garlic, parsley, lemon zest and Parmesan are classic; but you can try cayenne, chili or other flavors you especially enjoy.

    We prefer to use seasoned panko, the wonderful Japanese breadcrumbs. You can get a set of five different flavors of panko breadcrumbs—Garlic, Mustard, Southwest and Teriyaki, plus Unseasoned, from Iron Chef. They’re certified kosher.

    Why not offer guests both breadcrumbs and grated cheese with their pasta: Who says you can’t have both?

  • Find more pasta recipes in our Gourmet Pasta Section.
  • Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Riceworks Rice Chips

    Love a crunchy snack? Want a healthier one?

    Try rice chips, made of two whole grains: brown rice and corn.

    We love them so much, we can’t stop eating them.

    There are six flavors, from sweet Baked Cinnamon to Salsa Fresca, Sea Salt, Sweet Chili and Tangy BBQ. While we heartily devoured every flavor, the standout is Parmesan.

    Beyond snacking from the bag and dipping, the chips can be served instead of crackers and bread alongside soups and salads. Crumbled, they make “croutons” and crusts.

    The chips are gluten-free, vegan and certified kosher.

  • Read more in the full review…then get some!
  • Find more of our favorite salty snacks in our Gourmet Snacks Section.
  •  

    Brown rice makes a healthy yet absolutely
    delicious chip. Photo by Katharine
    Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

    Comments

    GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Allens Hill Farm Pancake & Waffle Gift Box

    One of our favorite whole grain and
    multigrain pancake mixes. Photo by
    Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Love pancakes and waffles? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

    You’ll love them even more if you win this week’s Gourmet Giveaway prize from Allens Hill Farm. It was one of the favorites we tasted of 99 different whole grain and multigrain pancake and waffle mixes (read the entire review).

    This week’s winner will receive a pancake and waffle gift box, which includes three delicious pancake mixes, one Belgian waffle mix and apple syrup. The 8 Grain Buttermilk Pancake Mix was among the best whole grain and multigrain pancake mixes we tried. Read more about it. Retail value: Approximately $33.00.

  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of the first page of our Pancake Glossary and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, October 4th at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!
  • For more information about Allens Hill Farm, visit AllensHillFarm.com.
  • Comments

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