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Archive for May, 2011

FATHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA: Handmade Italian Salame

Some foods, once tasted, can never be forgotten. Nothing will ever be as good.

That’s how we feel about the handmade Italian salami (or salame, as it is properly called in Italy) from Creminelli Fine Meat of Seattle.

The Creminelli family has been producing artisan meat products in Italy since the 1600. More recently, in 2007, master artisan Cristiano Creminelli brought the family’s recipes and techniques to America.

The pork-based salami will be a revelation to Americans for whom Old World artisan traditions have long since disappeared. From the first bite, you know you are eating recipes made with skills passed down from generation to generation.

If Dad/Hubby/Grandpa enjoys a good piece of salami, treat him to some from Creminelli salami for Father’s Day. There are two scrumptious selections in handsome wooden gift crates:


Truffle Salami, our favorite, shown here with white Oregon truffles. Photo courtesy Creminelli.


  • Classic Artisan Salami Selection: Casalingo, Piccante and Sopressata
  • Gourmet Artisan Salami Selection: Barolo Salami With Barolo Red Wine, Tartufo Salami With Black Truffles and Wild Boar Salami
    Read our full review of Creminelli salami, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.


    You can also brush up on the different types of salami.



    PRODUCT: Soft Serve Fruit

    Fresh fruit, filtered water and a pinch of sugar. Photo courtesy The Soft Serve Fruit Co.


    We never met a frozen dessert we didn’t like, so we were excited to hear of a new one from The Soft Serve Fruit Co.

    Made with fresh fruit, filtered water and a small amount of organic cane sugar, Soft Serve Fruit is a healthier alternative to soft-serve (or conventional) ice cream or frozen yogurt.

    Summer flavors include banana, mango, pear and strawberry. Apple, cranberry and pumpkin will appear in the fall. Soft Serve Fruit is available with or without toppings and in shakes.

    Think of Soft Serve Fruit as a very low-sugar, soft-serve sorbet. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll probably prefer conventional sorbet. If you want a frozen dessert with less sugar, go for Soft Serve Fruit.

    The store was packed with health-oriented moms and their pre-school and grade-school kids. The kids were very happy.

    There’s only one hitch:


    There are only three retail outlets: one in Manhattan and two in The Hamptons. The company plans to expand and to franchise. Learn more at

    But there is a solution:

    The Yonanas frozen dessert maker, “As Seen On TV.” Frozen fruit goes in, soft-serve fruit comes out.

    We actually saw the Yonanas machine at a recent healthy food press event and met the inventors. However, no samples were available for tasting.

    But a friend who bought a Yonanas machine after seeing the infomercial says the machine actually does produce something similar to Soft Serve Fruit. (She said it took three bananas to make one large serving. She hasn’t tried other fruits because she doesn’t like most fruits—and in fact ordered only the banana flavor at The Soft Serve Fruit Co.) We’re on a waiting list to try her machine.

    The infomercial producers have convinced the inventors to claim that the Yonanas machine is a “$150 value for $49.95.” Don’t believe it.

    You can get an ice cream maker from Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach for $49.95, which includes recipes and the versatility to make ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet. So there’s no justification for the Yonanas claim of a $150 value (unless that’s how they value the inexpensive plastic storage container that is thrown in). It’s a little plastic machine—you can see it at

    You don’t even need a separate machine. Just throw frozen fruit into your blender or food processor, the way the Yonanas inventors likely began. Depending on your food religion, you may wish to add a bit of sugar, agave nectar or noncaloric sweetener.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Easy Fruit Sorbet

    With all the luscious fruit coming into season, it’s time to make easy fruit sorbet.

    You don’t even need an ice cream maker. You can make granita in a plastic container or the bottom of a metal ice cube tray.

    Unlike ice cream and frozen yogurt, sorbet is dairy-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, vegan and free of the eight major food allergens (eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat). If you limit your sugar intake, when you make your own sorbet you can substitute low-glycemic agave nectar or the non-caloric sweetener of your choice.

    Use this template to make any fruit sorbet recipe: apple, berry (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), citrus (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange), melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), pear, tropical fruit (kiwi, mango, pineapple) and stone fruit (apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, plum).


    Homemade peach sorbet. Photo courtesy



  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar or 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup of your favorite fruit, puréed

    1. BRING the water and sugar to boil, then lower heat and simmer for five minutes.

    2. REMOVE from heat and cool completely. Combine with the fruit purée.

    3. PLACE in an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

    4. FOR GRANITA: If you don’t have an ice cream maker, make a granita. Put the mixture in a plastic container and place in the freezer. When it begins to freeze, stir every 10 minutes to break up the ice crystals, until completely frozen, for approximately one hour.



    PRODUCT: DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookies

    A global cookie ambassador. Photo courtesy
    DoubleTree by Hilton.


    This week marked the 25th anniversary of the signature chocolate chip cookie given to guests of DoubleTree hotels.

    DoubleTree by Hilton launched its Cookie CAREavan in New York City by giving away 50,000 free cookies. It’s the first leg of a national 50-city road tour.

    So if there’s a DoubleTree in your town, there’s a delicious free cookie coming to you soon.

    The cookies are packed with chocolate chips, walnuts and rolled oats, and are nicely flavored with lemon juice and cinnamon.

    Since 1986, the cookies have welcomed guests to the hotel. Today, at each of the more than 200 DoubleTree hotels and resorts on five continents, the cookies are baked fresh every day—to the tune of 30,000 chocolate chip cookies every month and more than 10,950,000 each year. The company is on its way to giving out its 300 millionth cookie.


    One might say that the cookies are goodwill ambassadors to countries that aren’t familiar with them—from China and Costa Rica to Tanzania and Zanzibar.

    DoubleTree has also donated more than one million cookies to deserving people (doctors, nurses, police and firefighters) and special groups (orphanages, food banks and shelters).

    Hotel guests like the cookies so much that they are available online. You can treat yourself or send a tin for Father’s Day, at (or telephone 1.888.916.0097).

    The cookies are certified kosher (dairy) by Star-D.

    Follow the cross-country tour to find out when the Cookie CAREavan may be coming to your city.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Honey Sticks

    If you like honey but are tired of cleaning up the sticky drips, try honey sticks: plastic straws filled with honey. The no-mess packaging is easy to open; the honey squeezes out with no drips.

    This fun and tidy way to serve honey dispenses single servings to anyone who wants some in their tea, on biscuits, on pancakes and so forth.

    Honey also dissolves more readily than sugar in cold drinks such as iced tea and lemonade.

    Oregon’s Nature’s Kick Honeystix makes honey sticks in a nice selection of varietal honeys: blueberry blossom, buckwheat, fireweed, meadowfoam, orange blossom, pumpkin blossom, raspberry blossom, white sage and wildflower.

    There are also flavored honey sticks: cinnamon, lemon, lime and mint.


    Star thistle honey in honey sticks. Photo
    courtesy Nature’s Kick Honeystix.


    Each straw contains about 2/3 teaspoon honey: enough for one six-ounce cup of tea (excluding the milk).

    A natural product loaded with beneficial vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants, honey in stick form can also serve as a nutritious, on-the-go energy snack.

  • The different types of honey.
  • Pairing varietal honeys with foods and beverages.
  • The history of honey.
  • Honey trivia quiz.
    Take a look at these gift crates with three different flavors of spreadable cream honeys:

  • Apricot, Blackberry & Clover Honeys
  • Cranberry, Cinnamon Spiced & Raspberry Honeys


    FATHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA: Baseball Shortbread

    A Fenway Park tin filled with yummy
    baseball shortbread. Photo courtesy
    Cooperstown Cookie Co.


    If Dad/Grandpa/Hubby likes baseball and a good shortbread cookie, there’s no better gift than the “baseball shortbread” from Cooperstown Cookie Company, located in baseball capital of Cooperstown, New York.

    The rich, traditional shortbread cookies are handmade in the regulation size and shape of baseballs (3″ diameter). Fresh, light and fragrant with butter, they melt in your mouth.

    The cookies are all natural with no preservatives or additives—just flour, butter, sugar, pure vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.

    Unlike some shortbread recipes that can be a bit al dente, you can give a tin of these to Grandpa (or a kid with braces) without worrying about damage to the dental work.

    Each tin—available with the logo of any Major League Baseball team—includes a tricky baseball trivia question. This gift will make the day of a baseball nut; and anyone who loves good shortbread will be thankful that proprietor Pati Drumm Grady put her family shortbread recipe to such good use.


    Purchase online at or telephone 1.888.269.7315.

  • Read our full review of Cooperstown Cookies.
  • What is shortbread? Check out the history of shortbread.
  • See our special selection of Father’s Day gifts at The Nibble Gourmet Market.


    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Mint Julep Day

    While mint juleps are associated more with the recent Kentucky Derby than Memorial Day, today is National Mint Julep Day.

    “Julep” is a Middle English term for a sweet drink, derived sometime between 1350 and 1400 C.E. from the Arabic julab, which referred to rose water.

    The mint julep originated in the American South in the 18th century, where it was made with bourbon or with genever (aged gin). The gentry served their mint juleps in silver or pewter cups, but a tall glass does just fine.

    Today the gin has disappeared as an option. The ingredients of a mint julep are bourbon, mint, sugar and crushed or shaved ice—similar to a Mojito, which uses rum instead of bourbon.

    Here are two recipes for mint juleps.

    If you don’t like bourbon or want a change, here’s a variation of the mint julep from New York City’s 21 Club, called the South Side Cocktail. It uses a white spirit (gin, tequila, vodka, white rum) plus the addition of lemon juice.


    A refreshing Mint Julep. Photo by Ampen | IST.



    For one cocktail:


  • 2 ounces white spirit (gin, tequila, vodka, white rum)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • Ice
    1. Place all ingredients in a shaker, and shake vigorously to bruise mint leaves.

    2. Strain into a chilled collins glass filled with ice.

    As today is also Memorial Day, we toast to all who have fallen while, defending our country.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Beef Temperature (Well Done Burgers, Anyone?)

    Do we have to cook this beautiful beef to
    well done? Maybe not. Photo by FCAFoto
    Digital | IST.


    Because ground meat has been a significant source of foodborne illness, the USDA advises consumers to use a meat thermometer when cooking burgers. In other words, you should not rely on eyeballing the internal color of the meat to ensure it’s safe to eat.

    The agency’s research has shown that the color of meat is not a reliable indicator of ground beef safety. To be safe from harmful bacteria such as E. coli, ground beef must be cooked thoroughly to 160°F: thoroughly well done. This recommendation applies to all ground beef, including meat balls and meat loaf.

    Why, then, can you eat steak as rare as you like?

    When a steak, roast or other cut of beef is cooked, the heat kills all the bacteria, which are on the surface of the meat.

    When beef is ground, however, the bacteria are dispersed to every individual ground bit. They’ll be killed if they’re on the surface of the meat that’s exposed to the heat. But unless the ground beef is cooked to 160°F, any harmful bacteria inside the beef/meat ball/meat loaf will still be viable.


    If you love your beef medium rare—and we do—you have options to limit your exposure. While there are no guarantees, you can:

  • Buy organic ground beef. Organic beef producers typically have higher standards of production than conventional beef producers, so there’s less chance of contamination with E. coli. (Check out the serious cartoon, The Meatrix.)
  • Grind your own meat. If you have a food processor, get the meat grinder attachment. Or, you can purchase a separate meat grinder. Hand-cranked ones are inexpensive. You can find a good electric meat grinder for $130 or so. Rinse the meat surfaces and pat dry before grinding.
    A meat grinder does more than make burgers. You can grind your own pork, poultry, veal and lamb as well as beef; and make sausages, ham salad, ham loaf, chopped liver, corned beef hash—even cat food.

    O.K., so where’s the beef? Otherwise asked, how to you get your burger or steak to the desired degree of doneness?

    If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can try it by touch. While that’s not what the USDA advises, that’s how chefs in every restaurant do it. See this simple meat doneness pictorial and try it.

    Meat Thermometer Readings For Steak & Burgers

  • Rare: 120°F to 125 degrees°F (center is raw, growing pinkish toward the exterior)
  • Medium Rare: 130 °F to 135°F (center is pink, growing slightly brown toward the exterior)
  • Medium: 140°F to 145°F (center is pale pink, growing brown toward the exterior)
  • Medium Well: 150°F to 155°F (no pink left)
  • Well Done: 160°F to 165°F (uniformly brown throughout)
    Remember that food continues to cook internally when it’s removed from the heat. So removing it from the stove or grill when the meat thermometer reads 10°F less for beef, 5°F less for burgers (because they don’t need to “rest” for 10-15 minutes before slicing).

    To speak with an expert, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1.888.MPHotline (1.888.674.6854) during business hours. Learn more at



    RECIPE: 21 Club Burger For National Hamburger Day

    Sometimes, there are standouts that define a genre. The ‘21’ Burger by Executive Chef John Greeley of New York’s famed 21 Club focuses most of his efforts on fine cuisine.

    At 21 Club, though, customers also want a luxury burger. In honor of National Hamburger Day, May 28th, here’s Chef Greeley’s recipe, which uses duck fat to add panache:

    Yields 8 burgers.


  • 2 pounds ground sirloin or chuck, or a combination
  • 4 tablespoons duck fat or 2 tablespoons Crisco
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 whole egg
  • 4 tablespoons minced onion
  • Buns of choice (we prefer brioche buns)

    The 21 Burger. Photo courtesy 21 Club.

  • Optional garnishes: lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles, caramelized onions
    1. In a mixing bowl add the beef, duck fat or Crisco, fennel, cayenne pepper, ground pepper, thyme, rosemary, egg and onion. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated evenly.
    2. Divide the beef mixture into four 8-ounce burgers. Pack and shape them.
    3. On a hot grill place the burger and cook for approximately 4-1/2 minutes on each side for medium rare temperature. Cook longer for a more well?done burger, if desired.
    4. Serve on a bun with desired garnishes.

  • Get tips on how to make a better burger.
  • See reviews of our favorite ketchups.


    TIP A DAY: Make Grilled Fruit

    Grilled fruit is a welcome treat. Photo


    Counterweight the heavy fare consumed over holiday weekends with a dessert that’s light, delicious and of course, easy.

    A fruit salad (do you have time to carved a watermelon basket?) is always welcome; as are fruit skewers, easily made by adding cut fruits and whole berries to wooden skewers and inserting into a half melon placed face down on a tray.

    But grilled fruit skewers are even more fun.

    Here’s a basic recipe for grilling all fruits. (And you don’t need skewers—you can grill watermelon and pineapple slices, and halved tree fruits.)

    For the recipe in the photo, which is courtesy Tom Fraker of, you’ll need:

  • 1 ripe pineapple, cut into chunks
  • 2 pints strawberries, washed and stemmed


    Melissa’s uses its own Sugar Cane Swizzle Stix instead of wood skewers, and adds a dessert sauce. We prefer the natural, sweet flavor of the fruit without a sauce.

    1. Carefully pierce a piece of pineapple with a swizzle stick. It will be necessary to make a pilot hole with a large wooden skewer first so you don’t split the fruit. Tthen do the same with a strawberry. Repeat the sequence until one skewer is complete, with two pineapple chunks and two strawberries per skewer. (If you’re using wood skewers, this step is not necessary.)
    2. Repeat the procedure for the remaining Sugar Cane Swizzle Stix or skewers.
    3. Grill the skewers directly on the grill or in a grill pan until you see grill marks. Turn over and repeat. Can be served hot or cold.

    Want something more elaborate? Try these recipes:

  • Cardamom–Scented Tropical Fruit & Marshmallow Skewers With Apricot Sauce
  • Grilled Watermelon With Honey & Basil
  • Rum-Grilled Pineapple & Peaches (great over ice cream)
  • Shrimp & Stone Fruit Kebabs


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