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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

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Boil Water

How to boil water? Doesn’t everyone know how to boil water?

Not everyone knows how to boil water correctly.

Here’s some advice from Chef Louis Eguaras, author of 101 Things I Learned In Culinary School.

1. Choose the right size pot. This means a pot large enough to comfortably hold what you need to cook, with about 1/3 room at the top after the food is covered with water.

2. Fill the pot with water. If the food is to be placed in the pot from the beginning, add the food and cover it with cold water.

Why cold water? Wouldn’t water from the hot water tap help the water boil faster?

 

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian | SXC.

Warm water can contain impurities from the hot water heater. Also, some foods, including eggs, rice and root vegetables, cook more evenly from a cold start.

3. Add salt to the water. Adding it at the beginning of the process rather than at the end helps it get absorbed into the food.

4. Place the pot on the stove and cover it with a lid. If you don’t have a lid, use a fry pan, tea kettle or any other heat-proof cover. In a pinch, you can use aluminum foil.

Why do you need a lid? It keeps in the steam generated by the heat and helps the water boil faster. Without a lid, a portion of the water will evaporate. But worse, the water will take four times as long to boil, wasting your time and valuable fuel.

Water boils at 212°F/100°C at sea level. The boiling point drops 1.8°F/1°C for every 1,000-foot increase in altitude. So if you’re cooking at a different altitude—on vacation or visiting relatives, for example—don’t be surprised if the water boils faster or more slowly.

5. Don’t use a burner or flame larger than the pot. This not only wastes energy; if flames escape to a wider circumference on your stovetop, other items can catch fire (including grease spatters).

Now, you can boil water like a professional.

Comments

TIP OF THE DAY: Be Sure It’s Whole Grain Bread

Don’t be fooled by package ingredients. If
it doesn’t say whole wheat or whole grain,
it isn’t. (This sandwich bread is.)

 

Yesterday, we were at the bagel shop perusing our choices. While leaning towards the “everything” bagel, we decided that, as a trade off for all the carbs and cream cheese fat, we should at least make it a whole grain bagel.

The darker-looking bagel choices included oat bran, oatmeal, pumpernickel and whole wheat. But “dark” doesn’t mean “whole grain.”

Pumpernickel isn’t made from whole-grain flour; oatmeal and whole wheat are. Oat bran, while high in soluble fiber, isn’t considered a whole grain (it has the fiber but not the vitamins and minerals).

Processed white flour is stripped of much of its fiber and nutrients, while whole grain flour contains fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals including B vitamins and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper and magnesium). A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer.

The need to eat whole grains is espoused in magazines, television and healthy websites. Yet, though it’s an easy switch to make in one’s food purchases, only about 10% of Americans eat whole grains daily.*

*According to Web MD.

Food producers have responded and far beyond sliced bread and bagels, there are whole grain tortillas, pita, pretzels, pasta, pizza crusts and other flour-based foods.

  • If it says wheat flour and not “whole wheat flour,” it is not whole grain. “Unbleached” and “enriched,” “cracked wheat” and “100% wheat flour” do not change that fact.
  • In fact, the word “enriched” is a dead giveaway for refined flour; after processing, vitamins are added back in to enrich the nutrition-stripped flour.
  • “Multigrain” is not whole grain. It just means that it’s a blend of different, processed grains. It may or may not contain some whole grain.
  • The same goes with your breakfast cereal. While Total, Product 19, and Special K are seen as healthy choices, only Total is whole grain.
  • How else can you be sure that it’s whole grain?

  • See our list of whole grains.
  • Learn more about the benefits of whole grains, how much you need to consume daily and how easy it is to insert them into your eating plan.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Oil & Vinegar Triage

    You can save money by keeping different grades of oil and vinegar for different purposes.

    For example, basic balsamic vinegar is slightly acidic and best used for salad dressings.

    The next grade up is significantly smoother, and should be used for finishing and for marinades.

    Trade up one more step and the balsamic has a well rounded, full-bodied flavor, ideal to make warm sauces over meats and fish.

    The top grade, made from the the best reserves, should itself be reserved to glorify a simple dessert like fresh fruit and ice cream, or a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

    Follow the same steps with olive oil: regular for cooking, extra-virgin for dressing salads and garnishing other foods.

     

    Know when to save and when to
    splurge. Photo by Andi Pantz | IST.

  • Learn more in our Oil & Vinegar Section.
  • Comments

    PRODUCT: Goat Cheese

    An easy-to-make goat cheese-apricot
    canapé. Photo courtesy Vermont Butter &
    Cheese Creamery.

     

    We hear quite a few people say that they don’t like goat cheese. While taste is a very personal thing, goat cheese is our favorite.

    If you think you don’t like goat cheese, try one of the fresh chèvre, the French word for goat cheese (pronounced SHEVr with a guttural R at the end). It’s like soft cream cheese with a tang. The stronger flavors develop as a goat cheese is aged.

    Goat cheese adds a touch of sophistication to whatever it graces. Here are just a few things you can do with a log of goat cheese:

  • As a canapé or tea-time treat, make apricot “sandwiches,” filling two dried apricot halves with goat cheese. You can also stuff dates with goat cheese, and garnish both recipes with chopped pistachios or walnuts.
  • Toss crumbled goat cheese on pasta and pizza.
  • Add it to salads, either crumbled or as a sliced disk (circle) with baby lettuces and a large crouton (made from a sliced and toasted baguette).
  • One of our favorite salad recipes: goat cheese, beets and mesclun, garnished with toasted walnuts and dressed with a walnut oil vinaigrette.
  • Serve it as a cheese course: a disk on a plate with fresh or dried fruit slices, nuts and a garnish of small greens (such as baby arugula and watercress). No bread or crackers are needed, but you can serve them.
  • Spread it on a bagel, top a burger, make a goat cheese BLT—the options are many.
  • To bake goat cheese disks for a warm goat cheese salad:
    1. Cut a log into inch-thick disks and place in a shallow container in one layer.
    2. Sprinkle with chopped thyme, rosemary or other favorite fresh herbs and add extra-virgin olive oil to marinate.
    3. Cover and chill 12 hours or overnight.
    4. Before baking, pop into the freezer for 1 hour.
    5. Remove disks from marinade and roll completely in panko, Japanese breadcrumbs. Press gently so the crumbs adhere.
    6. Place on a large baking sheet and bake in a 400° oven until golden, about 15 minutes. Flip halfway through.
    7. To make croutons, add baguette slices to oven for the last 5 minutes of baking.

    If you’re feeling more ambitious we highly recommend goat cheese tarts as a first course, and goat cheese ravioli.

    Comments

    Video Of The Week: Make Easy Thai Salmon

     

    This salmon dish, from Martha Drayton of Whole Foods, packs a lot of flavor into one tasty dish. It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

    Salmon is marinated in a coconut curry sauce that takes just a couple of minutes to prepare, then steamed and infused with Thai flavors.

    For more Thai flavors, try an equally quick recipe for Thai Red Curry Crab.

    Not into spicy foods? September is National Honey Month: Try Honey-Citrus Glazed Salmon.

    And for more videos, head over to our video page.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Choose Sourdough As Your White Bread

    You’ve no doubt heard over and over again that you should switch empty-carb white bread for whole grain breads.

    We love the complex flavor of whole grain breads—wheat, oat, rye, spelt and multigrain combinations.

    But what if you just can’t give up your white bread?

    According to Pick It Kick It: Simple Choices, Huge Results, sourdough is the champion of white breads.

    Like other white breads, sourdough bread is made with processed white flour, stripped of nutrients. But it contains beneficial lactic acid.

    The starter contains bacteria, lactobacilli, that create lactic acid. In turn, the lactic acid creates the slightly acidic signature flavor of sourdough.

     

    Crusty sourdough loaves. Photo courtesy
    Wikimedia.

    And now the good news: The lactic acid breaks down the sugar content produced when the carbs break down, producing a lower-glycemic bread.

    For a double hit, there are also sourdough breads made with whole wheat flour.

  • Check out all the different types of bread in our Bread Glossary.
  • Order some sourdough and whole grain bagels from French Meadow Bakery, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

  • Comments

    PRODUCT: Best White Chocolate

    Get to know the world’s best white
    chocolate. Photo by Claire Freierman |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    Yesterday was National White Chocolate Day. Many people, including professionals, perpetuate the old news that “white chocolate isn’t real chocolate.”

    But it is!

    White chocolate was once not classified as chocolate by the FDA, because it has no cocoa solids (which make chocolate brown). That’s changed.

    In 2002 the FDA agreed that the cocoa butter qualified it as true chocolate, and classified this ivory delight as chocolate. The other components are milk, sweetener such as sugar, vanilla and a drop of lecithin as an emulsifier.

    White chocolate used to be classified with the chalk-white product called “confectionary coating.” This product, which is made with cheaper vegetable oil, milk and sugar, has no relation to chocolate (and in our opinion, doesn’t taste so terrific—if you think you don’t like white chocolate, you may have been eating confectionary coating.)

  • See our review of the best white chocolate brands.
  • Find great milk and dark chocolate in our Gourmet Chocolate Section.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lemon Zest

    If you’re zesting lemons, limes, oranges or other citrus for a recipe, buy organic fruit if you can.

    Conventional citrus crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides, and a simple rinse won’t dislodge all of it from the nooks and crannies of the rind.

    The zest is the outermost part of the rind of citrus fruits (the white part underneath is called the pith). It has both a strong citrus flavor and intense, perfume-like aromatic oils.

    To zest a citrus fruit:

  • If you’re handy with a knife, peel the zest from the rind with a sharp paring knife; or use a vegetable peelere. Then use a chef’s knife to cut it into julienne strips.
  • The less handy can use a special utensil called a zester.
  •  

    They may look pretty, but they’re covered in pesticide. Photo courtesy SXC.

  • If you need grated zest, simply use your hand-held grater and grate gently, avoiding the pith. A microplane makes this easy.
  • If you can’t get organic lemons and limes and don’t have a spray bottle of fruit and vegetable wash, take a kitchen brush and scrub the citrus thoroughly. You can use a bit of soap, as it washes off easily.

  • See the different types of lemons in our Lemon Glossary.
  • See the different types of limes in our Lime Glossary.
  • Comments

    FOOD FACTS: Baking Vs. Roasting

    What’s the difference between roast chicken
    and baked chicken, both made in the oven?
    One is cooked whole, the other in pieces
    with some liquid. Photo courtesy
    MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    Both take place in an oven, so what’s the difference between baking and roasting?

    They’re the same process: cooking the food in an airtight device, surrounded by radiant heat (hot air) instead of direct flame.

    The two words originated in different cultures and became more specific over time—roasting for meats (the genesis is roasting meat on a spit over a fire, which dates back to the discovery of making fire), baking for breads and cakes.

    Yet, there are baked meat dishes—baked chicken and fish, for example. Why are they called baked instead of roasted?

    Back to the cave men: Roasting refers to cooking an entire bird, fish or large cut of meat (which we refer to as a “roast”). The outer level of the meat coagulates, keeping in the juices (and in the case of poultry and fish, crisping the skin).

    Baking takes place in a pan covered with foil or in a casserole dish with a lid. The protein is not cooked whole, but is quartered, fileted, etc. A liquid is added to the pan and the cover keeps the steam in. The result is moister and softer than roasting.

    Today, cooking meat over a direct fire—whole or in pieces—is called…grilling.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Right Cooking Oil

    When you’re making a choice of cooking oil at the supermarket, do you know why you choose that particular type? Is it habit, what your mother used, whatever is on sale?

    There are three reasons to pick a cooking oil:

    1. The first is for your health: Unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are heart healthy.

    These include avocado oil, canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil and nut- and seed oils.

    Saturated fats and trans fats are unhealthy oils. It’s best to avoid tropical oils: coconut oil, palm oil and others.

    Trans fats, saturated fats that occur in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, have gotten so much press over the last couple of years that most of us know to avoid them. While many products have been reformulated, look closely at the labels of margarine and shortening.

     

    Avocado oil is heart-healthy and has a very
    high smoke point. Check out Olivado avocado
    oil
    , a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. Photo
    by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.

    While they’re delicious, limit your intake of animal fats (butter, bacon grease, chicken fat, lard, etc.).

    2. The second reason to choose an oil is the smoke point. Sautéing occurs at a much lower heat than deep fat frying, for example.

    Take a look at our smoke point chart to see the different temperature tolerances of the major oils and fats.

    3. The flavor you prefer (or lack thereof) is another reason to choose an oil. But first, be sure it’s healthy and the right smoke point.

    Comments

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