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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 June, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: For A Twist, Substitute Saké For Wine

Summer saké punch with strawberries and
cucumber: delicious! Photo courtesy
Geikkekan.

 

For warm weather entertaining—like Father’s Day—serve something different and unexpected.

Party drinks like sangria and punch are popular, affordable and easy to make.

For a fun fusion, make them with saké.

Saké, which many people think of as rice wine (we’ll skip the technicalities for now), can substitute for conventional grape-based wines in these recipes.

How about saké sangria, an Asian twist on the Spanish original? Refresh yourself with:

  • Peach & Plum Sangria
  • Summer Saké Sangria, with watermelon and honeydew
  • Fruity Sake Sangria, with apple, honeydew and orange
  •  

    Would you rather serve a pitcher of punch instead of sangria?

    The key difference is that punch isn’t chock-full of fruit like sangria, and typically has effervescence added via soda water or ginger ale. Recipes include:

  • Ginger Plum Punch
  • Saké Berry Punch
  • Cool Sparkle Punch, with cucumbers and strawberries (our favorite among the six refreshing recipes)
  •  
    FOOD TRIVIA: The word “punch” is adapted from the Hindi word, “panch.” In India, panch was made from five different ingredients: sugar, lemon, water, tea or spices and an alcoholic spirit. The word for “five” in Sanskrit is panchan–hence the name. After carbonated water (soda water) became mainstream in the late 18th century, it was added to the punch for some effervescence.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Save The Shrimp Shells

    When you clean shrimp for a recipe, save and freeze the shells. They impart an intense shrimp flavor, and you can use them later to make another delicious dish.

  • Use them to make a simple stock and use it as a base for poaching fish, cooking rice, etc. (simmer the shells for 20 minutes with a bay leaf and 6 peppercorns).
  • Use the stock to flavor a shrimp/seafood risotto.
  • Use the stock to doctor a purchased seafood or fish stock.
  • Make a sauce from pan juices. After cooking fish or seafood, deglaze the pan with white wine and stock; finish with a tablespoon of butter and serve over the fish/seafood.
  • Simmer the shells in a pasta sauce for a big punch of flavor.
  • Add flavor to clam chowder and other fish/seafood soups and stews.
  • A friend tells us that her Golden Retriever loves to eat the shells.

    Shrimp shells can also lower your cholesterol levels.

    Give it a try!

     

    Save those shrimp shells! Photo by Leonardo
    Menezes | SXC.

     
    By the way, you can eat the shrimp shells. Some varieties have very thin shells, not unlike soft shell crabs. Many people don’t like to swallow the crunched-up shells, but they are nutritious. Our dad loved to crunch on them.

  • Shrimp buying tips.
  • Our favorite shrimp and seafood recipes.
  •   

    Comments

    FATHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA: Gourmet Gift Certificate

    No decisions required: Send Dad a gourmet
    gift certificate.

     

    It’s getting close!

    If you haven’t figured out what to get your favorite dad(s) for Father’s Day—or you don’t have time to run out and buy it—we have a delicious solution:

    A gift certificate to The Nibble Gourmet Market.

    We created our gourmet marketplace to make it easy to find our favorite foods, most of which have been NIBBLE Top Picks Of The Week (the rest are future Top Picks). So many readers write to ask what to give their girlfriends, grandmothers, kid’s teachers and so forth. The Nibble Gourmet Market makes it easy.

    And what makes it even easier is a gift certificate. It gets emailed as soon as as your order is processed, so if you can’t get around to it until Father’s Day, this Sunday, it will still arrive “on time.”

     

    Those who don’t get around to it can always send a belated gift certificate on Monday.

    A gift certificate also eliminates the decision making: Does Dad want our favorite whoopie pies, artisan salame, fresh-picked oysters or single malt chocolates, for example. Let him decide!

    Visit TheNibbleGourmetMarket.com. There’s a link for Gift Certificates at the top of the page.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Multi-Task With Parmigiano-Reggiano

    The “king of cheeses.” Photo of
    Parmigiano-Reggiano by Yin Yang | IST.

     

    Parmigiano-Reggiano is more than an ingredient in pasta, pesto, risotto, Alfredo sauce and other recipes. It‘s a gourmet multi-tasker.

  • Shave it onto salads.
  • Enjoy it as a snack with a glass of hearty red wine.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano loves to be paired with apples, figs, grapes, kiwi, peaches, pears and walnuts.
  • Italians enjoy it for dessert, drizzled with a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar.
  • Include it on the cheese plate. For a different take on the cheese course, serve large chunks of the cheese with a variety of dipping sauces, such as pesto, garlicky tomato sauce, olive tapenade, parsley sauce and fruit chutney.
  •  
    The more aged the cheese, the more robust and exciting the flavors.

     

  • Get the full scoop on Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Discover the differences between Italy’s great grating cheeses: Parmigianio-Reggiano, Asiago, Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano.
  • Know the correct spelling! In a Google search today, 33,100 people chose the correct spelling, Parmigianio-Reggiano. But 40,500 people are looking for Parmigiano Regianno and 33,100 seek Parmigiano Regiano.
     
    Why is Parmigiano-Reggiano spelled with capital letters? Because it’s the name of the two cities where it’s produced. More about that immediately below.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO & PARMESAN CHEESE?

    “Parmesan” cheeses can be made anywhere in the world. But by law, authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese can be produced only in the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua and Bologna (Parmigiano is the adjective for “of Parma”; Reggiano is the adjectival form of Reggio Emilia). The name is D.O.P-protected.*

    That protected flavor is well worth the price, which is more expensive than generic “Parmesan.”

    Informally, Parmigiano-Reggiano is called the “king of cheeses,” a title it has enjoyed for centuries. Some turophiles will note that Roquefort and Brie have also been called the “king of cheeses”; and Brie is also referred to as the “queen of cheeses.” Why such royal titles?

    The names resulted from different monarchs declaring their love for a particular cheese. The press and the cheese producers picked up on the endorsement and ran with it.

    *D.O.P is an acronym for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, a protected domain of origin that is based on numerous rules and regulations covering where and how a product can be made. It is an agricultural comparison to a trademarked brand. It means that only authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese can be labeled and sold as such. This type of branding ensures consumers worldwide that each wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano meets the same high standards (although the flavors, of course, will vary from producer to producer). The label is applied to numerous cheeses, meat and other foods that are the culinary jewels of Italy; for example, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Prosciutto di Parma.

      

  • Comments

    FATHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA: Blended Scotch Whisky

    Last night we learned how to blend Scotch, courtesy of America’s best-selling Scotch brand, Dewar’s.

    A few decades ago, when single malt Scotch became all the rage, we became a snooty single malt drinker and hadn’t drunk a blended Scotch until now.

    We were missing out!

    Single malt versus blended Scotch is purely a matter of preference, and one can prefer several different styles.

  • A single malt Scotch is made entirely by a single producer at a single site. The flavors and aromas are distinctive to the terroir* of the area. Each of the different regions of Scotland produces whisky with flavors and aromas unique to its climate, water and so forth. For example, over the years of aging, barrels on Islay, an island region, pick up a hint of saltiness from the sea.
  •  

    The four expressions of Dewar’s blended
    Scotch whisky. From left: White Label,
    12 Years, 18 Years and Signature. Photo courtesy Dewar’s.

     

    *Terroir, a French word pronounced tur-WAH, is the unique combination of geographic location, climate and microclimate, soil and temperature that creates the individual personality of an agricultural product. As in the growing of grapes for wine or beans for coffee, terroir dramatically affects the flavor profiles of the product.

  • A blended Scotch is created by mixing the distillations (Scotches) from multiple single malt producers. By selecting particular single malts, the blender can achieve the exact flavor combination desired, with more balance and complexity. Examples include honey and floral flavors from Highland Scotches, fruity flavors from Speyside, vanilla flavors from Lowland Scotches and peaty flavors from Islay. Dewar’s blends can contain up to 40 different single malts and grain whiskys (a whisky that contains some grains other than malted barley, such as corn, rye or wheat) to attain the perfection the blender seeks.
  •  
    If you don’t know a drinker’s preference and select a single malt, it may not be the profile the recipient prefers. With a fine blended Scotch, the balance and harmony are generally enjoyed by anyone.

    The proper glass† to “nose” Scotch is a sherry copita, also called a single malt whisky glass. It resembles a tulip, and can be used for any fine whisky. The lip turns outward to catch the aromas of the whisky.

    †Professionals and connoisseurs use different shaped glasses to fully enhance the flavors and aromas of fine wines and spirits. It really does make a difference!

    Why is it there so often a gap between our preferences and our pocketbook?

    While all of the Dewar’s expressions are very fine, we fell in love with the masterpiece of the portfolio, Dewar‘s Signature (upwards of $200). The nose burst with aromas of luscious Seville orange and a touch of peat. On the palate, orange and chocolate notes were accented with honey, vanilla, toffee and caramel overtones. It was dessert in a glass, and a real treat.

    For everyday, we’re going back to the very affordable Dewar’s 12 Years—which, by the way, is also made in a kosher expression: Dewar’s 12 Year Old Special Reserve.

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “WHISKY” & “WHISKEY”
     
    Which spelling is correct?

    In Ireland and the United States, the word “whiskey” is spelled with an “e.” The British, Scots and Canadians spell it “whisky.” To be perfectly correct, you’d use “whiskey” when referring to an Irish or American product; and “whisky” when referring to the others. But most people in the U.S. use the spellings interchangeably.

    Etymologists don’t know why the variations exist. The best explanation is that the Irish had whiskey first, and when the Scots started to make it, they left out the “e” to point out the difference between their spirit and Irish whiskey.

    We’ll drink to that!

  • The Different Types Of Whiskey: How many types of whiskey are there? This article explains it all.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Host A Pie Baking Contest

    It’s [pie] party time! Photo by Jaclyn
    Nussbaum | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Looking for a summer entertaining idea? How about a pie baking contest?

    Guests who can bake can show off their chops; non-baking guests will be thrilled to taste a pie buffet.

    You can go freestyle, or take advantage of this new boxed kit: Pie Contest in a Box: Everything You Need to Host a Pie Contest. It contains everything you need, except the pies.

    Created by Gina Hyams, the box includes a handbook to guide you through hosting your very own contest (including recipes and tips from champion bakers).

    After you get the hang of it, you can adapt the idea to a cake contest, cookie contest, brownie contest, lasagne contest—anything.

    Also among the box contents are:

     

  • 12 pie toppers to identify the pies (you can have as many or as few pies as you like, although it’s tough to taste more than 12!)
  • 60 scorecards (if you’re having that many people, the contestants should make more than one pie)
  • 5 judges’ ribbons (guests vote separately for the People’s Choice Award)
  • 4 prize ribbons (1st, 2nd, 3rd and People’s Choice)
     
    All you have to do is invite the contestants and other guests, set up a table for the pies and serveware and provide coffee, tea, milk and/or other beverages. Optional toppings, like whipped cream or ice cream, are sure to be welcome.

    NIBBLE PARTY TIP: If all the guests don’t know each other, make badges (or let your guests write them out on blanks) that say: My Name Is [First Name] And My Favorite Pie Is [They Write It In]. It’s a great ice breaker.

    You can let the contestants bake whatever pie they please, or make it a themed pie contest: single-flavor pie (e.g. apple or peach), chocolate pie, liquor-accented pie, local ingredients pie, etc.

    Although perhaps for the first pie contest, an open call is best. Then, you can repeat the success with single themes.

    You can use any type of food in a “competition.” With guests bringing the pies (or other wares), it’s a cost-effective way to entertain. The Pie Contest In A Box is $10.19 at Amazon.com.

    Afterwards, send a press release to the food editor of your local paper, along with a photo of the winning pie and the recipe, should the winner care to share it (how to write a press release).

    You’re on your way to becoming a local food celebrity!

    You can also turn the event into a mini fundraiser, asking guests for a donation to a good cause.

      

  • Comments

    FATHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA: Premium Gin

    We are big fans of Cold River Vodka and Cold River Blueberry Vodka, made by Maine Distilleries of Freeport, Maine. They’re artisan-made from Maine potatoes and are gluten-free, as well as very flavorful (we drink them straight up*).

    *The difference between straight up and neat: “Neat” means an undiluted shot served at room temperature; straight up is shaken or stirred with ice and strained into a glass.

    Now, from the same copper pot still, comes Cold River Gin.

    A traditional-style gin made from a 400-year-old recipe, Cold River Gin is ultra-smooth and “superpremium.” The gin is distilled with seven traditional botanicals: juniper berries (the dominant flavor of gin), angelica root, cardamom, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel and orris root.

    As with Cold River Vodka, the base spirit of the gin is made from potatoes grown at a nearby family farm, Green Thumb Farms, and is made with pristine spring water from the Cold River aquifer. Like the vodka, it is also gluten free.

     

    Cold River Gin, artisan-made in Maine.
    Photo courtesy Maine Distilleries.

     

    We generally like a heavy juniper flavor, but for those who don’t, the berries here are not overpowering. We can also taste the lemon and orange peel, and if we focus hard, the cardamom. We tossed some cardamom seeds into the glass for decor (and when the gin was gone, we chewed the seeds).

    Consider giving Dad a hand-numbered bottle for Father’s Day. The suggested retail price is $25.99. Learn more at the company website. To find a retailer near you, email info@mainedistilleries.com.

    Tomorrow: gin cocktail recipes.

  • How gin is distilled
  •   

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Frozen Kefir

    Dig in: It’s yummy, probiotic, very healthful
    and 99% lactose free. Photo by River
    Soma | THE NIBBLE.

     

    It isn’t frozen yogurt: It’s frozen kefir.

    What’s the difference?

    While many people think of kefir as “drinkable yogurt”—it looks and tastes like yogurt—it has a different complement of microorganisms. The result: A food even more healthful than probiotic yogurt.

    Kefir has twice the probiotics of frozen yogurt: 12 different strains of probiotic bacteria and yeast compared with six strains in probiotic yogurt, and two or three in regular yogurt.

    Lifeway, the nation’s largest producer of kefir (pronounced kuh-FEAR), has made us very happy with the introduction of frozen kefir.

    Our favorite food is ice cream—make that the entire frozen dessert group, including frozen yogurt and sorbet. Yet, our doctor has told us to cut back on the lactose.

    Lifeway Frozen Kefir is 99% lactose free. It’s tart and tangy, cool and creamy, and more than hits the spot. The four equally delicious flavors include Mango, Original, Pomegranate and Strawberry.

     

    But it’s not just a boon to the 30 to 50 million lactose intolerant Americans: It’s a healthful treat for everyone.

  • If you’re a fan of tangy frozen yogurt, read the full review and check out Lifeway Frozen Kefir. It’s rolling out now to supermarkets nationwide. If it isn’t in yours today, ask your store manager when it will arrive.
  • See our Ice Cream Glossary for the different types of frozen desserts.
  •   

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: Jasmine Tea Shaved Ice

     

    Who doesn’t want to cool off in the hot weather—with a refreshing cup or bowl of shaved ice?

    It couldn’t be easier to make this recipe for Jasmine Tea Shaved Ice. For us, the toughest part was moving things around in the freezer to make space for the bowl.

  • Make some tonight with the video recipe. Then experiment with different flavors on your own—mint tea and lemongrass tea, for example.
  • Find more of our favorite recipes for ice cream and ice.
  •    

       

    Comments

    RECIPE: Fruit Salsa

    Peach salsa is one of the best-selling salsa flavors.

    You can make your own salsa with almost any seasonal fruit, including other stone fruits such as nectarines and plumcots, or your favorite berries. The fruit takes the place of the tomato, although you can also add a tomato in season.

    Enjoy the result with chips or on meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, tofu and all of the “usuals”—even vanilla or fruit ice cream/frozen yogurt and sorbet. Or, make easy cinnamon tortilla chips to go with it.

    FRUIT SALSA RECIPE
    This salsa recipe was shared by Melissas.com, using their now-in-season Flavorosa Plumcots.

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or substitute
  • 1 pound plumcots, diced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red jalapeño chile
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  •  

    Make salsa from your favorite fruit.
    Plumcot photo salsa courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    Preparation
    1. In small bowl, combine lime juice and sugar until sugar dissolves, making marinade.
    2. In large bowl, combine all other ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Stir marinade into large bowl, blend and chill prior to serving.

    Here’s another fruit salsa recipe: Strawberry Kiwi Cucumber Salsa With Easy Cinnamon Tortilla Chips.

    What’s The Difference Between A Plumcot & A Pluot?
    They’re all hybrids, meant to present the best qualities of both fruits—for the consumer, more sweetness and juiciness; for the seller, easier to grow, harvest, and ship. The names are trademarked by their respective breeders.

  • A plumcot is 50% plum/50% apricot. Developed by Luther Burbank in the 1920s, it is sweeter than either parent.
  • The pluot, also known as a “dinosaur egg” because of its speckled skin, was created by a California fruit breeder who wanted to improve on the plumcot. A pluot, sweeter than a plumcot, is primarily plum, with a range from 60% plum/40% apricot to 75% plum/25% apricot spanning more than 25 varieties. They have a higher sugar content and a more complex flavor profile than either a plum or an apricot. Because of the percentage of genes, it has the flavor of a plum but the mouthfeel of the apricot.
  • An aprium is the reverse of the pluot: a mix of 70% apricot/30% plum, though it can vary, as long as it is 60% apricot or more. It looks like an apricot, but is sweeter than either an apricot or a plum.
  •  
    All three, like their parents, are low in fat and calories, but all that sweetness raises the carb content. The fruits are full of vitamin A and C and high in calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium.

      

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