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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 April, 2011

PRODUCT: Avocado Gift Of The Month Club

Sure, you can buy avocado in almost any supermarket in America.

But how about a superior avocado, packaged for healthy gift-giving as a one-time gift or a monthly club?

Such avocados are grown by a fourth-generation farmer who took a page from the 21st century playbook and is selling his avocados online. They’re handpicked for you and shipped directly from his farm to your table.

Joseph Holtz, from a farming family in Alsace Lorraine, immigrated to California in 1902 and began to farm. He sold eggs, dairy, honey and avocados, among other products. Farming became the profession of his sons and grandsons. The tradition of family farming, a dedication to pristine quality agriculture, has been passed down through each generation.

Today, great-grandson Ben Holtz focuses on growing Hass avocados, the extra-creamy variety that represents 95% of avocados sold in the U.S. They are named after Rudolph Hass (rhymes with pass), a postman who patented the variety in 1935.

 

Plump, creamy avocados, hand-picked for
you. Photo by Evan Dempsey | THE NIBBLE.

 

As a business owner in the 21st century, Ben looked for opportunities to expand his business. He launched California Avocados Direct, which currently offers 14 options to enjoy avocados fresh from the farm.

In addition to avocados in medium and large sizes, there are kits with salsa or guacamole fixings.

Every avocado has been nurtured with artisan care and is guaranteed to be delivered in perfect condition. If you want to send a healthy gift, a nutrient-dense selection of hand-picked California avocados fits the bill.

Avocados contain some 20 different types of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, the latter thought to prevent many chronic diseases. The fats are mono- and polyunsaturated “good” fats, recommended as part of a healthy diet. Naturally sodium-free and cholesterol-free, avocados act as a nutrient booster by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, when eaten with foods that contain alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein.

We enjoyed our avocado gift box, eating most of the avocados straight from the shell. The fruits* come with a letter from Farmer Holtz, stating the date they were picked and the date they will be ripe enough to eat. They won’t ripen for at least a week, giving recipients plenty of time to plan how to use them.

*Avocados are a tree fruit, not a vegetable.

If you need a healthy thank-you gift for Easter dinner, or a nutritious gift for Mother’s Day, send these delicious avocados. Buy online here.

  

Comments

RECIPE: Easter Canapé Or Dessert

Colorful and delicious. Photo courtesy Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.

 

It couldn’t be easier to make this bite-size apricot morsel, which can be enjoyed with cocktails or with after-dinner coffee. All you need is dried apricots and a log of fresh goat cheese, with optional chopped nuts and whole nuts for garnish.

You’ll need two dried apricots for each “sandwich.”

  • For easier slicing, chill the log in the freezer for 15 minutes. If you are using chopped nuts, roll the log in the nuts before placing in freezer.
  • As the log chills, place half of the apricots on a work surface, “inside” face up.
  • Slice log into half-inch portions. Place one slice on each apricot. Top with a second apricot. The goat cheese slice may be wider than the apricot. Trim the sides with a sharp knife.
  • Adhere a walnut, almond or pistachio to the top of each canapé with a dab of honey.
  • Serve on an elegant plate or tray.
  •  
    This recipe is courtesy Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, one of our favorite cheesemakers.

    Find more of our favorite cheeses and recipes in our Gourmet Cheese Section.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Goat Cheese In Recipes

    Mild, fresh cheeses made from goat’s milk taste like cream cheese with a tang. A fresh goat cheese log looks lovely on a cheese board with fresh or dried fruit (dates and figs are a favorite) and toasted almonds and/or walnuts.

    But we enjoy it in many other ways as well:

  • For breakfast: With bagels, croissants and toast, in a goat cheese omelet, mixed into scrambled egg batter or sprinkled on top.
  • On a sandwich: Our favorite sandwich is fresh goat cheese on a crusty roll or baguette with basil and fresh or sundried tomatoes.
  • On pizza and pasta: Great on a pie with mozzarella; freeze slightly in order to crumble finely. Toss crumbled goat cheese with pasta dishes or substitute for some/all of the ricotta in baked pasta.
  • With salads: Roll a log in chopped toasted nuts, herbs or lemon zest, slice into one-inch discs, bake and add to a plate of mixed greens or spinach salad. Or, crumble atop the salad. Add sliced or matchstick beets: They’re a beautiful match with goat cheese.
  •  

    Beautiful on a cheese board, a goat cheese
    log fits into every meal of the day. Photo
    courtesy Westfield Farm.

     

  • For dinner: Stuff into chicken breasts and ravioli. Crumble onto asparagus and grilled vegetables.
  • For dessert: Serve a disc drizzled with honey, with or without nuts and fresh or dried fruit (fresh berries pair well).
  • Baked: In savory soufflés, quiches and turnovers; in savory and sweet pies and tarts.
  • Just substitute the fresh goat cheese for cream cheese, mozzarella, ricotta or other fresh cheese in the recipe.

    You can enhance goat cheese with a variety of flavors. Or, be on the lookout for flavored goat cheeses.

    Westfield Farm, one of our favorite goat cheese producers, has an impressive selection including Apple-Cinnamon, Calabrini (sundried tomato and garlic), Chive, Chocolate (it’s just like cheesecake!), Cranberry-Orange, Herb, Herb Garlic, Hickory Smoked, Pepper, Pink Peppercorn and Wasabi.

    What are your favorite ways to use goat cheese?

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Apple-Balsamic Salmon

    Photo courtesy U.S. Apple Association.

     

    Looking for a new way to prepare salmon?

    In this recipe from the U.S. Apple Association, a bit of apple jelly and balsamic vinegar add fresh flavors. Serve with brown rice pilaf or another whole grain and green beans or broccoli.

    Prep Time: 25 minutes. Baking Time: 8 to 12 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.

    Ingredients

  • 4 four-ounce skinless salmon fillets, ¾ to 1 inch thick
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (normal table salt can be used)
  • ¼ cup apple jelly
  • 2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup julienne-cut, unpeeled Granny Smith or other green apple (¼ x 1 ½-inch-long slivers)
  • ¾ cup julienne-cut, unpeeled Fuji or other reddish apple (¼ x 1 ½-inch-long slivers)
  • 1/3 cup very thinly sliced and quartered leek (white and light green portion only)
  • Coarse-ground black pepper
  • 4 twelve-inch-long pieces parchment paper
  • Preparation
    1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Fold each piece of parchment crosswise in half. Cut 4 half-heart shapes 7 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the fillets (the folded edges will be the centers of the hearts). Open each paper or foil heart; set aside.

    2. Lightly sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place each fillet near the center on one side of each heart.

    3. Heat apple jelly over low heat or in a microwave oven just until melted. Remove from heat; stir in balsamic vinegar. Spoon mixture evenly over fillets. Toss together apples and leek. Place mixture evenly on top of fillets.

    4. Fold opposite side of each heart up and over the fish and apple mixture. Starting at top of heart, fold edges to seal open sides by making small tight folds. Twist tip of hearts to close packets. Place packets on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 12 minutes until fish flakes easily. (Carefully open packets to check doneness.)

    5. To serve, cut packets open by slashing a large X on the top of each, then fold back paper. Transfer packets to dinner plates and serve with rice. Or, if desired, remove fish with apples from packets and place on top of rice; spoon over juices. Season to taste with additional salt and the pepper.

    Recipe Note
    This recipe makes enough balsamic-apple juice for serving over a rice or barley pilaf. If you prefer less juice, decrease the apple jelly to 3 tablespoons and balsamic vinegar to 1 ½ teaspoons.

    Find more apple recipes at USApple.org.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie With A Lattice Crust

    Spring is rhubarb season. Fresh rhubarb is available for just three months a year, so do something special with it. A few ideas:

  • Stewed rhubarb or rhubarb compote, delicious as a side with ham, pork and poultry
  • Rhubarb ice cream
  • Rhubarb tarts, crisps and other baked goods (substitute rhubarb for apples or pears in your favorite recipes)
  • Rhubarb pickles
  •  
    Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable, a member of the sorrel family. Before it was sweetened by British cooks, it was added to soups (try it in lentil soup), sauces and stews—Moroccan tagines and Middle Eastern stews, for example. Be sure to cook only the stems; the leaves are mildly toxic.

    For Easter, make a strawberry-rhubarb pie or raspberry-rhubarb pie. Here’s a recipe.

     

    For Easter, make a strawberry rhubarb pie
    with a lattice crust. Photo © M. Sheldrake |
    Dreamstime.

     

    LATTICE PIE CRUST
    Make your Easter pie extra-special with a lattice crust. The top crust of any fruit pie can be replaced with a lattice crust. Apple and pear pies need a tight lattice so the fruit doesn’t dry out. You can use a loose lattice (more space between the strips of dough) when baking berry, cherry, rhubarb and stone fruit pies, because the fruits have more moisture.

    Here’s a lattice tip from Lauren Chattman, author of The Baking Answer Book:

  • Instead of weaving the lattice on top of the filled pie, start with a cardboard cake circle set atop a baking sheet.
  • Cut the dough into 13-inch strips and weave the lattice on the cardboard.
  • Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up the lattice.
  • Slip the lattice from the cardboard onto the pie.
  • Adjust the lattice strips to make them even, if required. Trim the ends and crimp onto the pie plate. Bake.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easter Lamb, Passover Lamb

    Elegant lamb chops cut from the rack. Photo
    courtesy Meat And Livestock Australia

     

    Many families roast a leg of lamb for Easter. But if you’re a small group and don’t want days of leftover lamb, consider an elegant rack of lamb or crown roast of lamb.

    Or, check our Lamb Glossary for even more cuts of lamb—all delicious.

    Lamb is the oldest meat animal raised by man. Since ancient times, it has been a religious symbol and a food for feasting and sacrifice.

  • Lamb is the traditional main dish at Easter dinner, commemorating the Last Supper, at which the meat served was likely lamb.
  • In Judaism, lamb is often served during the Passover seder to commemorate the first Passover. According to the Bible, on the eve of the exodus from Egypt, Jews marked their doorposts with the blood of a lamb so that the Angel of Death would pass over their households.
  •  

  • Find lamb recipes in our Lamb Section.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Egg Tips For Easter & Passover

    Here are some egg safety tips from the USDA, for everyone planning an Easter egg hunt or cooking eggs for the Passover seder.

    Hard-cooked eggs for Easter and Passover celebrations should be prepared with care.

    EASTER EGG TIPS

  • If you plan to eat the Easter eggs you decorate, be sure to use only food grade dye—not paint or fabric dye.
  • Consider making two sets of eggs: one for decorating and hiding, another for decorating and eating (see the tip in the photo caption). Or, you can use plastic eggs for hiding.
  • For an Easter egg hunt, throw away any cooked eggs with cracked shells. Bacteria can enter and contaminate the egg inside.
  • Keep hard-cooked eggs chilled in the fridge until just before the hunt.
  • Hide eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets and other bacteria sources.
  •  

    As pretty as they look, hard-cooked eggs can
    only be out of the refrigerator for two hours
    at a time. If you want to decorate eggs for display, use uncooked eggs. With a needle,
    punch a tiny hole in each end and blow out the contents before decorating. Photo courtesy McCormick.com.

     

  • The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should be no more than two hours. Then, if the eggs are not eaten, they need to go back into the fridge. Eggs found after two hours need to be thrown out.

  • PASSOVER EGG TIPS

  • A hard-cooked egg that has been at room temperature for more than two hours should not be eaten.
  • The hard-cooked eggs meant to be eaten should be kept in the fridge until ready to serve.
  •  
    GENERAL TIPS

  • When eggs are hard-cooked, the protective coating on the shell is washed away, leaving open pores where harmful bacteria can enter. Be sure to refrigerate eggs within two hours of cooking and use them within a week.
  • Check your refrigerator temperature with an appliance thermometer and adjust the refrigerator temperature to 40°F or below.
  • How to boil eggs.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Custom Chocolate Bars For Easter

    Choccreate custom chocolate bars are such a fun choice for Easter gifts – you get your choice of dark, milk or white chocolate, toppings and an Easter bunny or two.

    The toppings make all the difference in your creation of a unique—and inexpensive—Easter gift.

  • Start with an Easter theme: scatter your bar with candy bunnies, chicks, ducklings or lambs.
  • For Easter colors, add jelly beans, M&Ms or Sunbeams.
  • Want to add some dried fruit? There are 22 choices, from banana chips to tart cherries.
  • There are 30 choices of cereals, nuts and seeds, from cornflakes (which are terrific in chocolate bars) to wasabi peanuts.
  • Want something pretty? There are 8 dried flower petal choices, plus gold and silver flakes.
  • Finish your bar with spices, from chipotle and cinnamon to mixed peppercorns and Hawaiian red sea salt.
  •  
    If you don’t have the time or inclination to design chocolate bars, send an e-gift certificate and let the recipients have the fun.

     

    Release your inner chocolatier. We combined
    sugar bunnies, eggs and carrots with Jelly
    Beans and Sunbeams. Photo by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.

     

    The base price of the 3.5-ounce chocolate bar is $3.95. Toppings start at 45¢ each, with many at 65¢ or 75¢. Each bar comes in a gift box.

    If you’re still looking for Easter candy, do something different this year. Click on over to Choccreate.com and start creating!

    Want something more elaborate? Here’s our favorite artisan Easter chocolate.

      

    Comments

    NEWS: Krups Names The Best Coffee Shops

    Krups, makers of some of our favorite coffee and espresso machines and other kitchen appliances, has announced the 16 winners of its Cup O’ Joe Awards.

    The awards, highlighting the best coffee shops in cities nationwide, go to:

  • Atlanta: Dancing Goats Café
  • Boston: Barismo
  • Chicago: Metropolis Coffee Co.
  • Dallas: White Rock Coffee
  • Los Angeles: Groundwork Coffee Co.
  • Miami: News Café
  • New York City: The Bronx, Beans and Berries; Brooklyn, Gimme! Coffee; Manhattan, MUDTruck; Queens, Sweetleaf; Staten Island, Java Den
  • Philadelphia: Spruce Street Espresso
  • San Francisco: Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
  • Seattle: Monorail Espresso
  • Washington, D.C.: M.E. Swing Co.
  • Noteworthy National Retailer: Peet’s Coffee & Tea
  •  

    Souvenir of Chicago: A bag of Metropolis
    Coffee’s Redline Espresso. Photo courtesy
    Metropolitan Coffee Co.

     

    Now, a trip to Philadelphia means more than the Liberty Bell, a Duck Tour and a cheeesteak. First thing each morning: Spruce Street Espresso.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Skinny Cookies

    Take a bite: richer flavor, smaller size, fewer
    calories. Photo by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Where do skinny L.A. ladies and gents go when they need a sweet treat?

    To Skinny Batches, the creation of actress Emme Tyler. Skinny Batches’ oatmeal cookies, gingerbread loaf and “Crumbies” snacks focus on low calories, high taste and zero guilt (as long as you don’t eat the whole box). Everything is 45 calories per piece.

    We ordered a shipment and found the sweet treats to be a great help in portion control. Anyone who’s been to Weight Watchers knows that this is the secret to enjoying anything you want.

    Emme makes sure that the portion sizes are just right. Her snacks and desserts are so flavorful that you don’t miss a larger portion.

    Coffee-cake-like Crumbies are the size of petit fours. Yet the dense cake, deep flavors and vibrant seasonings provide all the satisfaction of a much larger portion. Flavors include Chocolate Banana, Coffee, Pear and White Chocolate Berry.

     

    Satisfying oatmeal cookies are made skinny by less sugar (very welcome!) and a flatter shape (benefit: crispier!). We didn’t try the gingerbread loaf or the Salty Janets (a sugar cookie with fleur de sel), but look forward to it.

    The all-natural products are available from SkinnyBatches.com. You can also vote for the next flavor of Crumbies. (We picked PB&J.)

    Find more of our favorite lower-calorie foods in our Diet Nibbles Section.

      

    Comments

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