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Archive for September, 2011

COOKING VIDEO: Apple Pie With Cheddar Crust


Not long ago, we overheard a conversation among a group that was seated next to us at a New York City restaurant. One person was recounting a dinner he had had at a colleague’s home. He had been served a slice of apple pie with a wedge of Cheddar cheese, and was “flabbergasted” by the “bizarre” combination.

“Is there whipped cream or ice cream?” the storyteller asked his host. “This is how we serve it in Vermont,” the host responded.

The group continued to discuss this “weird” combination as we restrained ourselves from butting in. Not only is a sharp slice of Cheddar a delicious counterpoint to sweet apple pie, but the popularity of the combination led to the creation of a Cheddar crust for apple pie—adding shredded Cheddar to a standard crust recipe. The video recipe is below, and yes, you can still serve a wedge of Cheddar with a Cheddar-crust pie.

And don’t limit yourself to the traditional version. If you enjoy blue cheese, serve a wedge with pie, or crumble it atop the pie (we particularly like blue cheese with blueberry pie). We often serve a circle cut from a fresh goat cheese log with fruit pie. There’s no rule book: Try whatever cheese you like with any fruit pie. The chocolate goat cheese log from Capri is exquisite with chocolate, coffee and nut-themed pies. It tastes like chocolate cheesecake.

Cheese with fruit pie is a variation of the cheese, fruit and bread combination that has likely been popular since man first learned to make cheese and bread (in prehistoric times—see the history of cheese and the history of bread for more information).

How Did The Pairing Of Apple Pie & Cheddar Begin?

In the affluent households of ancient times, cheese was thought to aid digestion† and was often served at the end of a meal with fruits and nuts. Finishing an evening meal with a cheese course became customary throughout Europe. According to, the wealthy, whose dinners comprised many courses, enjoyed the practice until the 19th century.

Even after a sweet dessert* course became a popular way to end a meal, the cheese course was served before it. This custom continues today.

Skipping back to the 1600s: Both apples and Cheddar were brought by British settlers to what is now New England. In pre-refrigeration times‡, no one had a freezer for ice cream, and cream needs to be chilled to whip well. So what better way to garnish the pie than with a slice of locally made Cheddar cheese—no refrigeration required.

Enjoy this delicious Cheddar crust apple pie recipe, a perfect fall dish.



*Ironically, we now know that cheese is one of the hardest foods to digest. For more information visit

†The custom of enjoying a sweet at the end of the meal evolved comparatively lately. Those with access to fresh fruit ended the meal with it, but honey was expensive and baking was primitive (think of a metal box over a fire). But with more access to sugar (Sugarcane was cultivated in the New Guinea area around 8,000 B.C.E. for its juice. Later, it was refined into sugar in India and in Persia, after India was invaded by Darius in 510 B.C.E., and then by the Arabs who invaded Persia in 642 C.E.), the cooks and bakers employed by the wealthy experimented with sweets. Cakes were baked in royal palaces in Arabia, and following the Crusades (1095 to 1291), the cooking techniques and ingredients were brought back to Northern Europe. Beginning in the 14th century, Renaissance cookbooks are filled with recipes. The word “dessert” originated in France between 1780 and 1790, derived from desservir, to clear the table.

‡In the millennia before the invention of the mechanical ice box, people kept food cold with ice and snow, saved during the winter months or brought down from mountaintops. The first “refrigeration” consisted of a hole dug into the ground and lined with wood or straw. It was then packed with snow and ice. Ice boxes existed from the mid-19th century, a response to the ice harvesting industry in America. The devices had hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with insulation (cork, sawdust, straw, e.g.). A large block of ice was placed in a compartment near the top of the box, enabling cold air to circulate down into the storage compartment(s) below. Fresh ice was delivered by an iceman. While commercial refrigeration was available by the late 1800s, the home electric refrigerator didn’t arrive until 1930.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Hummus Flavor

What’s better than a healthy snack of hummus?

Our answer: Hummus that’s been garnished with something just as healthy, for additional layers of flavor.

That’s the latest good idea from Tribe Mediterranean Foods. Their newest line, Tribe With Toppings (formerly called Tribe Origins), offers a “topped” line of hummus in seven delicious varieties. All-natural and extremely creamy (research showed that was what consumers wanted), the line uses Tribe’s Classic Hummus as a base.

We’ve purchased different hummus brands in some 20 different flavors, from artichoke and Kalamata olive to sundried tomato. The flavors are blended into the hummus. We love them, but we equally love the festive look of Tribe With Toppings. There’s no reason you can’t combine the two concepts.

So grab some pita bread, lentil chips or a spoon, and dig in.

While we don’t know the secret Tribe With Toppings recipes, we tasted them, looked at the ingredients, and then made our own versions, patterning them after the Tribe flavors.


Prefer black olives to green olives? Then
customize your own topping for hummus.
Photo of Tribe With Toppings Olive Tapenade Hummus by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


Everything should be finely chopped, but otherwise, you have free rein to use chipotle, jalapeño, horseradish, lemon zest or whatever else grabs you. While Tribe With Toppings has a base of plain hummus, you can use flavored hummus to create your own innovative recipes. And remember: fresh herbs make everything taste better.

  • Cilantro Chimichurri Hummus. Make a blend of fresh parsley and cilantro in olive oil. Season with roasted garlic, dried garlic, onions, spices, lime juice and jalapeño.
  • Mediterranean Style Hummus. Top hummus with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a dusting of paprika with herbs (try oregano and thyme plus fresh parsley).
  • Olive Tapenade Hummus. Tribe uses chopped green olives, but feel free to substitute black olives. Add roasted garlic, dried garlic and your favorite spices and herbs to a red bell pepper purée.
  • Roasted Vegetable Hummus. Try a base of tomato purée flavored with roasted garlic, diced carrots, diced red bell pepper and your favorite spices. Tribe doesn’t use onions, but you certainly can.
  • Savory Mushroom Hummus. Earthy mushroom flavors pair well with hummus. Finely dice the mushrooms, sauté lightly and combine with roasted garlic, dried roasted garlic, onion and spices. You can purée half of the mushrooms for a base, or simply sprinkle the combined ingredients atop the hummus.
  • Spicy Red Pepper Hummus. We made our home version with red pepper purée, using a jar of roasted red peppers/pimentos and red pepper flakes. Minced fresh parsley made it even perkier.
  • Zesty Spice & Garlic Hummus. Blend minced garlic and your favorite spices into tomato paste.
    You can also use hummus with toppings in a delicious hummus sandwich.

    Let us know what you create!


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Fabulous Cocktail Glass Rimmer

    This drink rimmer uses neither sugar nor
    salt, just a touch of herbs. Photo
    courtesy Haru Restaurant.


    Several specialty food companies make cocktail glass rimmers that add color, flavor and festivity to the rim of the glass.

    Beyond cocktails, a glass rimmer can be used with almost any drink, from iced coffee to hot chocolate to milk.

    But why buy them, when it’s easy to make your own—and to customize the rimmer to each cocktail recipe?

    Depending on whether you’re making a rimmer for a sweet or savory drink, you can start with a base:

  • Base: Add sugar or sea salt to a plastic sandwich bag or quart bag. Try different textures, from superfine to coarse to sparkling options like sanding sugar, to see which effect you prefer.
  • Color: For color, you can use colored sanding sugar instead of regular sugar. Other cookie and cake decorations that work in rimmmers include confetti, crystal sugar, glitter, gold or silver flakes, jimmies and non-pareils. You can also make a simple colored sugar or salt by adding a drop of food coloring to the bag. Shake to infuse the color, then allow the mixture to dry. Spreading it on a paper towel or a plate will speed up the process.

  • Flavor, Sweet: Look at your spice rack and pick one to mix into your base: anise, cardamom (ground), cinnamon, clove, crystallized ginger (crushed), coconut (ground), ginger, nutmeg or other favorite. Add a half teaspoon per cup of sugar, then taste and add more if you prefer.
  • Flavor, Savory: Add a teaspoon or more of a complementary herb, dried or fresh-minced (the latter provides more vibrant flavor). We love chopped basil, celery salt, coriander, cumin, dill, herbes de Provence, paprika, pepper, rosemary, thyme and toasted sesame seed. Get more daring with spices such as chipotle and curry (try them with Bloody Marys and Martinis). You can also try citrus zest with both sweet and savory drinks, mixed with an herb or spice.
  • Creative Alternatives:
  • Use a base of crushed hard candies or cookies, instead of sugar. Add a spice for dimension. For a beautiful presentation, use edible flowers.

    Experiment with whatever appeals to you:

  • Dill and cracked pepper as a Bloody Mary glass rimmer
  • Lemon zest and basil as a Martini glass rimmer
  • Lime zest and sparkling sanding sugar as a Margarita glass rimmer
  • Cocoa drink mix and shaved chocolate on any chocolate cocktail
  • Crushed peppermint candies or ginger snaps for a holiday touch
    Share your favorite inspirations with us!

    Also consider matching your cocktail snack to the rimmer. For example, with a dill rimmer, serve a dip flavored with dill or a complementary flavor like basil.

    Adding The Rimmer Mix To The Glass

    Place the rimmer on a flat plate next to a small bowl of water. Dip the rim of the glass into the water and then into the rimmer mix. Twist the glass against the mix to evenly coat the rim. Pour in the cocktail and serve.


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    NEWS: Recycling Nespresso Capsules

    We love our Nespresso espresso machine and the many different varieties and flavors of espresso it enables us to enjoy. (Espresso isn’t a type of bean, but a type of roast that can be applied to any bean. Drill down in our Espresso Glossary.)

    But some environmentally conscious espresso lovers have told us that they limit themselves to drinking one cup a day, because they can’t recycle the aluminum capsules.

    Now they can go “from brew to renew.”

    In response to consumer wishes, Nespresso has launched recycling programs in Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas. You can bring spent capsules to participating Sur La Table stores. Sur La Table, a big seller of Nespresso machines, will send them to a recycling center. The aluminum will be recycled and the coffee grounds will be composted.

    Learn more about the Nespresso recycling program.


    Nespresso’s extensive choices enable
    espresso lovers to try different origins and different flavors. Photo courtesy Nespresso.


    Learn more about coffee in our Gourmet Coffee Section.


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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Popchips Healthy Potato Chips


    In 2007, we were one of the first to discover Popchips and make it a Top Pick Of The Week.

    Over the years, we’ve had many a potato chip, but none as guilt-free and delicious as Popchips. They have half the fat but all of the flavor. Super-crunchy, they’re fun as well as fabulous.

    Instead of frying potato slices to make chips, Popchips are made with proprietary process. The potatoes are cut into small pieces, then popped under heat and pressure—no fat.

    After the chips are popped, some fat is required for the seasonings to adhere. That’s why these delicious chips have half the fat of conventional chips. Compare one-inch servings:

  • Popchips: 23 chips, 120 calories
  • Lay’s Original Potato Chips: 15 chips, 160 calories
  • Lay’s Baked Potato Chips: 15 chips, 120 calories
    You get a lot more Popchips per serving!


    Popchips are available in eight flavors: Original Popchips, Barbeque Popchips, Cheddar Popchips, Jalapeño Popchips, Parmesan & Garlic Popchips, Salt & Pepper Popchips, Sea Salt & Vinegar Popchips and Sour Cream & Onion Popchips.

    Read the full review and TRY THEM! The line is gluten-free, non GMO and certified kosher, and is available at retailers nationwide.

    Potato Chip History

    The first potato chips were born in the U.S.A.—by accident, in the course of a “food fight” between a fussy restaurant patron and a cranky chef. Check out the story.

    What Are The Best Conventional Potato Chips?

    Our favorite conventional chips are the original Saratoga Chips, first made at the Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York.

    A few years ago, local entrepreneurs began to produce Saratoga Chips. Small, curly and elegant, they’re terrific for everything from snacking from the box to nibbling with a Martini.

    The company’s luscious dip mixes are also noteworthy. Packaged in a reproduction of the original chip box, Saratoga Chips are a great gift for the chip lover. Small, individual-portion size makes a great party favor or stocking stuffer.


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