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Archive for January, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Use Your Spices

Spring your spices from their sealed jars and
add them to a new recipe. Photo of
star anise courtesy Wikimedia.

There are some spices in the cabinet that you use more often than others: chili powder, cinnamon, garlic powder or paprika, for example.

And then there are those that were bought for a recipe—like cardamom for Christmas cookies or cloves for the Easter ham. After you’ve made the recipe, the bottle of spice just lingers on the shelf.

Certain wines age well as they sit; but not spices or herbs. So use them up before they age out. Here are examples of how to expand your perspective:

  • Cardamom is a popular ingredient in India (its home), as well as in Middle Eastern and Scandinavian dishes. You can use it every day to flavor tea or coffee, curries, desserts (including rice pudding) and mulled wine. Steep it with your tea—add some cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and peppercorns—and you’ll have made masala chai (spiced tea). Perhaps it’s time to make chai rice pudding.
  • Cloves, whole or ground, cloves can be add to soups, stews or curries. Whole cloves are either steeped or studded into an ingredient (ham, leg of lamb, onion, potato and oranges, for example—in fact, if you have too many cloves, make pomanders). Add a bit of clove to marinades and sauces. Steep a few cloves with your favorite tea. Use ground cloves to season fish and seafood. Bake a spice cake with cloves, cardamom and your other “holiday spices”—delicous flavors that should be enjoyed year-round.
  • Star anise is perhaps the least known of this trio, but it’s very versatile—try it in anything form pork dishes to teriyaki. It gives a bit of Asian flair to everything, including soups and stews. Our chef pops one star into just about everything—even when he’s just sweating onions. In the drinks department, it’s the perfect season to add star anise to hot cider, mulled wine and tea.

Want suggestions for how to use up your spices? Just ask!

Have you checked your spices for freshness lately? See how.



COOKING VIDEO: Make Easy Chinese Dumplings


Earlier today, we challenged you to make rabbit-shaped dumplings to celebrate the Year Of The Rabbit. The new Chinese lunar year begins on February 3rd.

While the secret to making the rabbit shape is not in this video, you will see how easy it is to make boiled Chinese dumplings.

You can use the filling of your choice (chicken, beef, lamb, pork, vegetables, seafood, etc.), or click for recipes at the end of the video.



Find recipes and reviews of our favorite international foods.


TIP OF THE DAY: Kamut Khorasan Wheat

Say what?

KAMUT® (kah-MOOT) is the manufacturer and brand name of a Khorasan wheat that is available in the US. Khorasan is an ancient wheat, the grain of which is two times larger than modern wheat. It has a rich, nutty flavor. As produced by Kamut, it’s organic and whole grain—just as it was in the time of the Pharaohs.

And it’s better for you than modern wheat: higher in protein and many minerals, especially magnesium, selenium and zinc. It has a higher percentage of lipids, which produce more energy in the body than wheat’s carbohydrates. Think of it as high energy wheat, better for athletes and anyone looking for high energy food. Learn more at

While we haven’t loved every whole grain pasta we’ve tried, pasta made from Kamut/Khorasan wheat merits your attention. We’ve been serving it up and no one has noticed that it isn’t conventional pasta—whereas we did get complaints from picky eaters about whole other wheat pasta.

Pasta made from the ancient wheat,
Khorasan. Organic and whole grain, it’s
become our daily pasta.

So we stocked up on lots of Kamut/Khorosan elbow macaroni, spaghetti, rigatoni and spirals from Eden Organic, and have been feeling good about eating more pasta (after all, we must have three servings of whole grain daily!).

The ancient grain of the Pharaohs was einkorn (a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week).

But at some point, Khorasan wheat was introduced into Egypt (the modern name is balady durum, or native durum), possibly by invading armies of Greeks, Romans, or the later Byzantines.

Khorasan is the Pahlavi (Persian) word for “the land of sunrise.“ The ancient land of Khorasan included territories that presently are part of Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The wheat can still be found growing in small plots in Turkey, the home of Mount Ararat and Noah’s Ark. Legend says that Khorasan wheat, which is also called Camel’s Tooth or the Prophet’s Wheat, was the grain Noah brought on the ark.

So, have a taste.

Kamut sells its Khorasan wheat to different manufacturers, who turn it into hot cereal, cold cereal puffs and corn flakes, pancakes and much more, from puffed corn cakes (similar to rice cakes) to baking flour.



RECIPE: Chinese Dumplings With A Twist

Take a bite of bunny dumplings for the
Year Of The Rabbit. Photo by A.S. Whitman |

One of our NIBBLE colleagues is currently vacationing in India.

Passing through Delhi, he dined at an haute cuisine Chinese restaurant, The House of Ming. It features both Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine, but our intrepid reporter went straight for the dim sum (Cantonese).

From the field, here is his photo of Chef Wang’s irresistible rabbit-shaped steamed crystal dumplings. The eyes are made of chili oil and black sesame seeds.

It is the Year Of The Rabbit, after all (or will be on February 3, the first day of the Chinese year 4709). While the Chinese New Year is always celebrated with good food, we’ve never seen a better interpretation of the theme.

You’ve got a couple of weeks to try your hand at making rabbit dumplings and impress your friends at a celebration for the Year Of The Rabbit.

Then send us the recipe. Or better yet, we could come to your place for dinner, assuming you’re a lot closer for us than the 40-hour round trip to the House Of Ming.

  • Conventional dumplings are made from all-purpose flour. The translucent, chewy skin of crystal dumplings is a result of mixing wheat starchwith rice flour and tapioca. Here’s a recipe.
  • Here’s a cooking video that shows how easy it is to make basic dumplings.
  • The Chinese word for dumplings is jiaozi, pronounced gee-OW-za—similar to the Japanese word for dumplings, gyoza, pronounced GYOO-zah.



RECIPE: Easy Healthy Recipes With Salsa

Want a home-cooked meal that’s good for you and couldn’t be easier?

Cook with salsa!

These two recipes for Chicken Salsa and Fish Salsa show just how easy it is to take the protein, a jar of salsa, and create an easy and delicious dinner. They also work with tofu.

While the protein is cooking, make a green salad, steam a green vegetable and make some brown rice (microwave precooked frozen or cook it in the pressure cooker for the same 15-20 minutes that the protein takes.)

To Microwave Brown Rice

1. Add 1 cup brown rice and 3 cups cold water in a 2-1/2 quart microwave-safe dish. (We enjoy our square CorningWare casserole dish, which also looks nice at the table.)

2. Microwave uncovered for 10 minutes on HIGH.

Salsa Chicken is one of the easiest chicken
recipes to make. Photo courtesy

3. Reduce power to 50%. Microwave uncovered 20 minutes.

4. Allow to sit for 5 minutes in the microwave (you can remove it if you need the microwave for another task).

5. Fluff with a fork and add any seasonings. For healthy cooking, don’t add butter, but look to herbs, spices and/or veggies: chives (or green onions), diced bell peppers and/or toasted sesame seeds, for example. A sprinkling of slivered almonds, walnuts or other healthy nuts also pairs well with the nutty flavor and chewy texture of brown rice.



TIP OF THE DAY: Eat 1.5 Ounces Of Healthy Nuts

Seven nuts are heart healthy; but walnuts
are the healthiest of all. Photo courtesy
Superior Nut Company.

Many of us have been told to steer clear of nuts: They’re high in calories and full of fat.

Ah, but it’s good, heart-healthy fat.

Walnuts are the healthiest nuts of all. See why. And start to enjoy your 1.5 ounces per day of the “Magnificent Seven” of nuts:

  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts


FOOD HOLIDAY: Peking Duck Day

Today is Peking Duck Day. We’ll be running out to our favorite Chinese restaurant for the real deal, which we’ve been enjoying since childhood. Ask what our favorite Chinese dish is: The answer is Peking Duck.

To make Peking Duck, a whole duck is roasted to crisp perfection. Then, an experienced maitre d’ slices it in front of you, expertly converting the whole duck into slices of meat and slices of crisp skin.

To assemble your food, wrap-style, you take a crêpe, add a slice of duck, garnish with hoisin sauce and scallions (green onions), roll and eat. It’s heavenly.

The duck carcass goes back to the kitchen, where it is presumably used to make stock. We’ve dined with more than one friend who asked for the carcass “to go,” and did the same at home.

By the way, Peking Duck, the roasted duck dish and Pekin duck, a breed of white duck that inspired the creation Donald Duck, are not the same. While Peking Duck is typically made with a Pekin duck, learn the difference between Peking Duck and Pekin duck.


Peking Duck, waiting for the maitre d’ to slice
and plate the duck meat and duck skin.
Photo by Fotoos Van Robin | Wikimedia.


Here’s how to enjoy almost-there Peking Duck tonight.

  • Pick up a cooked roast duck. We like Maple Leaf Farms Duck, which is fully cooked and frozen, ready to heat-and-eat. The skin won’t be thick and crisp like a specially prepared Peking Duck, but it’s close enough for your quick homemade dinner.
  • If your store has flat (as opposed to filled) crêpes ready made (often in the caviar case), pick them up. Otherwise, pick up some (much thicker) 8-inch tortillas.
  • Grab a few bunches of scallions.
  • Get a jar of hoisin sauce from the Asian food aisle.
    You’re almost ready to celebrate Peking Duck Day.

    1. While the duck is heating, slice the scallions into sticks (see photo) and plate them. Put the hoisin sauce in a bowl.

    2. Remove the duck from the oven and slice. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty; it’s going into a wrap.

    3. Heat the crepes/tortillas for 10-20 seconds in the microwave.

    4. Sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Take a crêpe/tortilla, add some duck, scallion and hoisin sauce, wrap and eat.

    The beverage choice is yours. We enjoy a cup of good black tea (no sugar needed, and definitely no milk) or a beer.


  • Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet-and-pungent condiment that’s used much the way we use barbecue sauce (but the taste is completely different). It can be used to coat meat and poultry prior to cooking, it can be stirred into dishes and, as in the case of Peking Duck, it can be used as the principal condiment—a very elegant “ketchup.”
  • The flavor of hoisin sauce has always seemed pruny-plummy to us (in the sense of a sweet fruitiness of roasted plums). In fact, recipes for a hoisin sauce substitute can include prunes.
  • However, there’s no fruit in traditional hoisin sauce; unless you count a touch of chiles, which are, by botanical definition, fruit.
  • The base of hoisin sauce is soybean paste, which is flavored with garlic, vinegar and sometimes some other spices. The resulting sweet-and-spicy paste is extremely flavorful and may overwhelm people who try it the first time. But keep trying; you’ll learn to love it.


    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Chef Gerard & Chuck’s Salsa Verde

    Salsa verde is made from the green tomatillo
    berry, which is not a tomato. Photo by
    Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    We’re a nation of salsa lovers; but much of that is salsa roja, red salsa.

    In Mexico, the land from which we obtained our love of salsa, it’s the opposite. Only the northern states of Mexico, closest to the U.S. border, have red salsa as their tradition.

    Green salsa is based on the tomatillo, which is a distant relative of the tomato (the difference between tomatoes and tomatillos).

    We’ve had salsa verde from jars, but only recently experienced the joys of fresh salsa verde, from Chef Gerard & Chuck’s. It made us ask, why isn’t there more fresh salsa verde on the market?

    Of course, that’s the very question that got Chef Gerard into the business!

  • Read the full review.
  • Watch the video and learn how to make salsa verde.
  • Check out all the different types of salsa in Latin America, including 20 types you’ve probably never heard of.
  • The history of salsa, all the way back to the Aztecs.
  • How did salsa, the food, become salsa, the dance? The origin of salsa dancing.


    COOKING VIDEO: How To Make Salsa Verde


    Our Top Pick Of The Week, which will be posted tomorrow, features salsa verde.

    Spanish for “green sauce,” salsa verde is made from a base of tomatillos, seasoned with chiles, cilantro and spices. A salsa verde can be fresh or cooked. It is typically much thinner than a tomato-based salsa roja.

    In this video, you’ll see how easy it is to make salsa verde:



    Tomatillos are not small, green tomatoes. They’re only distantly related to tomatoes.

    Here’s the difference between tomatoes and tomatillos.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Healthy Recipes, Part 3

    We’re halfway through January. How’s the New Year’s resolution to “eat healthier” working for you?

    We’re here to help with another way to make easy, healthy recipes for dinner. This tip turns plain grilled, poached or roasted proteins into glamour dishes. (See Part 1 and Part 2.)

    The photo shows pan-sauteed catfish, but you can use this concept for any fish or seafood, meat, chicken or other protein. The key is to select interesting greens for your salad topper, and to be sure everything is small or delicate—a light layer instead of an avalanche.

  • Eschew the standard iceberg or romaine lettuces in favor of a mixture of one or two of these: baby arugula, baby spinach, mâche (lambs’ lettuce), fennel, mesclun, mizuna, sprouts or watercress.

    Garnish your protein with your salad. Photo
    courtesy Whole Foods Market. Get the recipe.

  • Add color. This can be as simple as the tomato and parsley salad shown in the photo; but you’ll find a wealth of options as you peruse the produce aisle. Carrot curls (we like a thick curl going down the length of the carrot), cherry or grape tomatoes (whole or halved, or diced standard-size tomatoes in season), sliced sundried tomatoes, enoki mushrooms and diced red or yellow bell peppers are basic, but give you plenty of opportunity to select two different combinations every day.
  • Look for specialty items in season. If you see something interesting, grab it: It may not be there next week. Fiddlehead ferns, for example, have a season that lasts only two weeks (from April in the South to July in the North).
  • Don’t forget fresh herbs. Americans add too much salt and sugar to recipes because we don’t take the time to buy and savor the fabulous flavors of fresh herbs. That’s why French and Italian cooking is so spectacular. Go for basics like basil, cilantro, dill and parsley. Use them up by adding them to everything you make (including eggs and sandwiches).
  • Like onions? We love ‘em. Add some thinly-sliced onions or green onions to your salad topper.
  • Dress the salad in a healthy olive oil vinaigrette or a lime vinaigrette (one of our favorites), substituting fresh lime juice for the vinegar. Grapefruit juice and lemon juice work as well. You can combine different juices and even add a splash of orange juice.
    Bon appétit et salud!



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