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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 December, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Bite Outside The Box With Tuna & Salmon Bites

A new way to be creative with your food:
Tuna Bites and Salmon Bites from Fresh
Gourmet. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
NIBBLE.

 

Fresh Gourmet makes the number one brand of croutons and salad toppings in the world: from premium croutons, to tortilla strips, nuts and fruit.

As we close out the year, we’d like to tip our hats to the company for its latest innovation: Tuna Bites and Salmon Bites.

Made in Spain, the bite-size squares of tuna and salmon have the texture of pâté, firm enough to hang onto a skewer or cocktail pick. The flavor is more elegant than canned fish. We’d call them gourmet bites.

The all-natural ingredients contain only tuna or salmon, salt, olive oil or sunflower oil, and flavors, and contain no other fish products.

  • Tuna Bites are available plain or with caramelized onions.
  • Salmon Bites are packaged plain or with smoke flavor.
  •  
    The company suggests them as salad toppers, of course: on a bed of greens, added to a seafood salad, and so forth.

     

    We love these little nuggets for the creativity they offer in garnishing, making snacks and canapés or other hors d’oeuvre. They make gourmet recipes for entertaining a snap.

    While the products are in limited distribution at the moment (see the store locator). The website offers a $1.00 coupon for signing up for recipe emails.

    Keep an eye out for Tuna Bites and Salmon Bites. They’re fun and fab. Here’s how we’ve used them so far:

     

    Ways To Serve Tuna & Salmon Bites
    We headed beyond the suggested salad topper, using the cubes of tuna and salmon:

  • On an endive leaf, as an hors d’oeuvre
  • Skewered with veggies (grape tomatoes, bell pepper squares, mushrooms) and/or fruits (grapes, melon balls, pineapple chunks, etc.)
  • As a drink garnish for Bloody Marys and Martinis
  • As a canapé, atop a cracker or slice of bread with pesto or flavored mayonnaise, garnished with sprouts
  •  
    We look forward to more creations in the new year. How would you use this little bites of protein?

    Find more tuna and salmon recipes.

     

    We created a Tuna Martini—or at least, a
    tuna garnish for a Martini. Delicious!
    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Key Up Some Key Limes

    In addition to a new year, this season heralds the return of that delicious little citrus, Key lime. While the peak season for Key limes is June through August, they’re in stores now.

    There are two principal lime types in American supermarkets: the Persian or Tahitian lime, which is what Americans think of as “lime” (see the many different types of limes), and the Key lime, which originated in southern Asia. After centuries of travel to different lands, it ended up in the Caribbean, including the Florida Keys, for which it is named.

    The Key lime has a higher acidity, a stronger aroma, and a thinner rind than the Persian lime, and is tart rather than sour. That makes it just right for desserts.

    If you’ve only had Key lime pie made with bottled lime juice…well, you know the superior, sparkling flavor of fresh lime juice. Pick up some Key limes and make a Key lime pie from scratch. If you have an ice cream machine, make some key lime sorbet as well.

    You can use Key lime juice in any recipe that calls for conventional lime juice. Try it with olive oil on a salad, substituting for vinegar. Squeeze it in a cocktail. Enjoy Key lime season for as long as you can.

  • Key lime pie recipe.
  •  

    The larger Persian limes with smaller,
    rounder Key limes. The color can range from dark green to yellowish. Photo by Evan Dempsey | THE NIBBLE.

  • Key lime pot de crème recipe—same delicious filling without the crust.
  • The history of Key limes and Key lime pie.
  • Lime Glossary: the different types of limes.
  • Lime nutrition.
  •   

    Comments

    APPETIZER RECIPE: BLT & Guacamole Crostini

    A guacamole BLT transformed into crostini hors d’oeuvre. Photo courtesy California Avocado Commission.

     

    What’s better than a BLT?

    Well, there’s a turkey BLT and our favorite, the chicken salad BLT.

    And then there’s the guacamole BLT. Guacamole can be added to any of the above; or turn the concept into bite-size crostini—BLT appetizers. Microsprouts stand in for the lettuce; or you can substitute arugula, watercress or other flat lettuce.

    This recipe was developed by Deborah Branby, chef/owner of The Cheese Board in Reno, Nevada, and provided to us by the California Avocado Commission.

    We’re serving it on New Year’s Eve.

    Ingredients

  • 24 baguette croutons (recipe below)
  • 2-1/2 avocados*
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh
  • 4 slices crisp cooked bacon, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup micro sprouts, micro greens, arugula or cress
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes (recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto, thin consistency
  •  

    *Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly.

    BAGUETTE CROUTONS RECIPE

    Ingredients
    Yield: 24 slices

  • 24 thin slices of a 2″ diameter baguette
  • Melted butter, as needed
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Brush one side of the baguette slices with melted butter.
    2. Bake at 375 degrees F until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Cool.
     
    ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Slice tomatoes in half and toss with olive oil.
    2. Roast at 400 degrees F until lightly browned, about 15 – 20 minutes. Cool.

     
    LEMON AÏOLI RECIPE

    Ingredients
    Yield: 1/2 cup

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Mix together mayonnaise and fresh lemon juice.

    CROSTINI ASSEMBLY

    1. Coarsely mash the avocado and mix it with the fresh lemon juice.
    2. Top each crouton with 1 tablespoon of the mashed avocado mixture.
    3. Top with 2 thin strips of bacon, micro sprouts, lemon aioli and roasted cherry tomatoes.
    4. Drizzle with pesto. Serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Blackeyed Peas For The New Year

    If you’ve lived in the South, you may know the custom of eating blackeyed peas or other legumes on New Year’s Day. The dish is served for luck and prosperity in the New Year.

    The tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops confiscated crops and livestock, leaving the population with little to eat.

    What remained were legumes and greens, which kept the populace from starving.

    It’s easy to honor tradition, with this easy blackeyed pea salsa. The recipe is by chef Tom Fraker and provided by Melissas.com. If you’d like something heartier, try this blackeyed pea stew recipe.

    BLACKEYED PEA SALSA RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 11 ounces blackeyed peas, cooked
  • 2 cups roma (plum) tomatoes, small dice
  • 1/2 medium red onion, small dice
  • 1 green jalapeño, small dice
  • 1 red Fresno chile, small dice
  • 1 Meyer lemon, juiced
  • 3 Key limes, juiced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Black-eyed pea salsa. Photo courtesy
    Melissas.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients and gently mix to incorporate.
    2. Serve with chips, beer, margaritas or your favorite beverage.

    ABOUT BLACKEYED PEAS: THEY’RE BEANS

    Blackeyed peas (also spelled black-eyed) are medium-sized, ivory-colored beans with a large black coloration (the “eye”) on the inner curve of the beans, where they are attached to the pod.

    Related to the mung bean, blackeyed peas originated in Eastern Asia and were brought to the Americas with the African slave trade, and were a staple of many plantation diets. They remain best known as a Southern dish, where they are often served with ham and rice.

    Blackeyed peas have a sweet, mild flavor and firm texture, and absorb the flavors of a dish very well.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: End Big Meals With A Dessert Buffet

    A dessert buffet is a great end to a big meal. Photo by Agnes Csondor | IST.

     

    Some people celebrate New Year’s Eve quietly at home, some go to parties. Others watch firecrackers or participate in midnight runs and other group activities.

    We ring in the New Year with a dinner party featuring everything new: new recipes, wines we’ve never tried, even some guests new to the group.

    Five hours and seven courses later, it’s time for dessert.

    As many of us have found at big Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, getting up and walking around after the main meal ends helps to loosen up space for dessert.

    Get the moving started with a dessert buffet. Set the coffee and tea next to the desserts. Guests will not only have to move; they’ll have the opportunity to chat with people who haven’t been seated near to them.

     

    And, they can elect to cut small pieces for themselves. Those with no room left can participate with a spoonful.

    Your buffet can be as simple as a cake, a pie and a bowl of fruit. You can also call for a dessert potluck.

    Or, make choices from this list:

  • Candy—brittle, chocolates, truffles, marshmallows and any candy gift you’ve received
  • Chocolate-dipped fruit (here’s a recipe)
  • Cookies—we serve amaretti, macarons, meringues and shortbread
  • Custard or pudding—favorites such as crème brûlée, from-scratch chocolate pudding, rice pudding with dried cherries and cranberries
  • Fruit—much appreciated by calorie counters and those who don’t like sweets
  • Miniature cupcakes, cake pops or petit fours—always popular
  • Tarts
  •  
    A final tip: Be prepared to wrap up the leftover desserts and send them home with guests. That way, you’ll start the new year temptation-free.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Great Fruitcake

    Today is National Fruitcake Day. The most maligned food in America is not cilantro. It is fruitcake.

    Unlike cilantro, which delivers a consistent take-it-or-leave-it flavor, regardless of where it is grown, it is man who has manipulated cheap ingredients and preservatives into frightful fruitcakes.

    But yes, Virginia, there is great fruitcake—the kind that, 100 and 200 years ago, people had reason to celebrate—and not just at Christmas. It was the wedding cake of choice.

    Several weeks ago we received a simply superb fruitcake sold at Williams-Sonoma (and alas, now sold out). It was made by the fabulous Beekman Boys, a.k.a. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, of the website Beekman1802.com and the Planet Green reality series.

     

    The luscious classic fruitcake from Beekman
    1802. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.com.

     

    Made with a century-old family recipe, there’s no candied citron, maraschino cherries or unrecognizable, nuclear-colored fruits in the Beekman 1802 fruitcake. It’s made with dried fruits soaked in applejack brandy (apricots, dates, cherries, figs, pineapple, raisins), brown sugar, butter, eggs and flour. Every ingredients is delicious and the cake is so lovely, we didn’t share a bite of it.

    The recipe isn’t in the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, although said book has a smashing carrot cake and a lovely gingerbread with exotic spices. We did, however, find the fruitcake recipe on the Beekman 1802 website. So start soaking those dried fruits in applejack or rum.

    BEVERAGES WITH FRUITCAKE

    We love a good cup of black tea with our fruitcake, or a spice tea like Constant Comment (which is also available in a decaffeinated version and a green tea version).

    Port is the wine of choice. But beer is a delicious, if seemingly unconventional, pairing.

    Here’s a discussion of beer with fruitcake, certain to delight beer lovers.

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF FRUITCAKE

    The earliest known recipe for fruitcake dates to ancient Rome, using pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and raisins. By the Middle Ages, honey, preserved fruits and spices had been added and the cake was enjoyed throughout Europe. Recipes varied widely by region.

    In the 16th century, sugar from the Caribbean—and the discovery that sugar could be used to preserve fruits—made fruitcakes more affordable and popular. Everything was delicious for a few centuries.

    But the mass-production of prepared foods that followed World War II led to low-priced and not great-tasting fruitcakes. Following tradition, people gave them as Christmas gifts, but few recipients enjoyed eating them. Many of them regifted their fruitcakes; thus the joke from comedian Johnny Carson, that there was only one fruitcake in the world and it got passed from person to person.

    Bake yourself a really good fruitcake and see why it deserves its place among delicious Christmas foods.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Special Ice Cream For New Year’s Eve

    Ice cream that smells and tastes like
    gingerbread. Photo courtesy
    KitchenKonfidential.com.

     

    Ice cream is one of our favorite desserts—heck, it’s our favorite food, period.

    For New Year’s Eve, we like to make a special flavor. Last year it was lavender. Prior years included anise, chipotle chocolate, chocolate pretzel, peppermint schnapps and white chocolate with edible gold flakes. For the Millennium, we splurged on black truffle ice cream.

    This year, we’re making Gingerbread-Trappist Ale Ice Cream, to serve with an apple tart. Those who have no room left for the tart can enjoy a spoonful or two of easy-to-down sweetness. (Note: Trappist ale is one type of Belgian ale, and should be used in this recipe. See the footnote* at the bottom of this post for the difference Belgian beers and ales.)

    In addition to serving it as a glammed-up version of apple pie à la mode, you can make ice cream sandwiches by toasting slices of gingerbread loaf or other favorite loaf: banana cake, carrot cake or chocolate or regular pound cake.

     

    This recipe, from Brandon Matzek’s blog, KitchenKonfidence.com, was adapted from a recipe created by Ethan Frisch and Max Falkowitz, and sent to us from the Craft Beer Association.

    Made with candied ginger, cinnamon, clove, allspice and Belgian-style ale, the ice cream smells and tastes like gingerbread. The Trappist ale (we used Duvel, one of our favorites) adds a delicious depth of flavor. Brandon Matzek’s serving suggestion is to scoop the ice cream over a warm slice of gingerbread, topped with sautéed apples.

    You can serve a glass of Belgian ale along with the dessert. Or a cup of spice tea.

    GINGERBREAD-ALE ICE CREAM RECIPE

    Ingredients

    Serves: 8 – 10

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1-2/3 cups Trappist ale, divided
  • 5 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 inch nub of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise “petals”
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 ounce dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • Zest of half a large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup candied ginger, minced
  •  
    Preparation
    1. In a large saucepan, add heavy cream, whole milk, 1-1/3 cups ale and molasses, stirring to combine.

    2. Add allspice, black peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger, nutmeg and star anise.

    3. Cook mixture over a medium-low heat until just below a simmer, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes (you want to see steam rising from the surface, but minimal to no bubbles).

    4. Whisk the egg yolks and brown sugar in a bowl until slightly thickened. Slowly, while whisking, add 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture to the yolks. Take your time here so you don’t scramble the yolks. Repeat this process with another 1/2 cup of the hot cream, then return everything to the saucepan.

    5. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Set a medium sized bowl in the ice bath and have a strainer ready.

    6. Return the saucepan to a medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. You will know the custard is thick enough when you see steam rise from the surface and the custard coats the spoon.

    7. Add the chocolate, lemon zest and the last 1/3 cup ale. Continue to cook for another minute or two, until the proper thickness is achieved again.

    8. Strain the custard into the medium sized bowl sitting in the ice bath. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Stir occasionally until the mixture has cooled. Refrigerate until cold (preferably overnight).

    9. Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is three quarters of the way done, add candied ginger and continue to freeze until frozen.

    10. Serve to delighted guests.

    *Trappist ale is one of nine categories of Belgian beer and ale. Others include everyday Belgian ale, brown ale, golden ale, lambic, red beer, saison, specialty ales and wheat beer (witbier). Under an official designation established by the International Trappist Association in 1997, only beer brewed under the direct supervision of Trappist monks may be called Trappist. There are currently seven such breweries in the world: six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. Abbey beer—which originally referred to any monastic or monastic-style beer—is the designation of products similar in style or presentation to Trappist beers, such as beers brewed in non-Trappist monasteries, commercial breweries that license the name from an extant Trappist monastery, beers named for a defunct or fictitious monastery, and so on.

      

    Comments

    Happy Holidays From The Nibble!

    JOY TO THE WORLD

    Whether you
    celebrate
    Christmas,
    Chanukah,
    Kwanzaa,
    or anything else,
    we wish you
    peace and
    happiness.

     

      

    Comments

    WHAT WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: Thermador Pro Harmony Oven

    The oven of our dreams. Photo courtesy
    Thermador.

     

    Santa, baby, put this oven under the tree—for me!

    On second thought, leave it in the kitchen and have the reindeer pull the old range/oven away to appliance heaven.

    Thermador’s new 48-inch Pro Harmony® Range is everything an enthusiastic cook could dream of: six beautiful pedestal Star® Burners, an electric griddle and gas rangetop and two ovens. Two of the burners can maintain temperatures as low as 100°F—perfect for simmering delicate sauces.

    Perhaps the best-looking burners in the world, Thermador’s patented Star Burners deliver superior power and heat distribution while the exclusive burner pedestal allows effortless cleaning. We need it: We’re not the neatest cook.

     

    It’s so gorgeous, we’ve been going to the local showroom just to admire it—and Thermador’s other state-of-the-art appliances.

    See it up close and salivate over every gorgeous feature.

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Kanon Organic Vodka

    In 1580, King Karl IV of Sweden built the Åkers Styckebruk foundry to produce cannons for the Swedish army. Along with the foundry, he built a distillery to make vodka for the workers (nice benefit!).

    Over time, the distillery became privately owned and the largest distillery in Sweden. Nearly 300 workers produced more than a million liters of vodka annually.

    After a succession of monarchs, King Gustav IV outlawed the private production of spirits, in order to reap the revenues via a state monopoly. The distillery was closed for more than 200 years. The monopoly was lifted in the 1990s and a new owner set out to revive the legacy. In 2010, the first case of Kanon Organic Vodka was shipped to New York.

    The vodka is produced with 400-year-old traditional techniques in an artisan environment: The distillery employs just 15 people.

    Kanon Organic Vodka makes a good gift at any time; but is especially easy to grab as a last-minute gift.

     

    Photo courtesy Kanon Vodka.

     

    WHY ORGANIC VODKA?

    Organic vodka is a feel-good product—and not just because the vodka is delicious. At Kanon, the entire production process is not only organic, but totally sustainable.

  • Organic means freedom from chemical pesticides and other artificial ingredients; organic production means that the environment was not harmed in the growth and harvesting of the ingredients. More about organic agriculture and products.
  • Sustainable agriculture and manufacturing use environmentally and socially responsible methods of production. It preserves natural resources by choosing natural, recycled and bio-degradable products, bio-friendly cleaners, and solar power where possible. More information.
  •  
    The superpremium vodka uses only the heart* of the distillation: The heads and tails are converted into ethanol to make environmentally-friendly biogas for local buses.

    The only ingredients in the bottle are wheat and artesian water. The taste and character of the vodka are maintained in perfect balance, with no “burn.”

    We keep our vodka in the freezer and drink it neat. Skal!

    Learn more at KanonVodka.com

    *Look at distillation as a bell curve. The distillate in the center (heart) of the curve is of higher quality than that produced at the beginning (head) or end (tail). The heads and tails can be re-distilled to get a second heart, but the heart from the first run is superior. The heads and tails, which are included in inferior alcohols, produce hangovers.

    THE SCOOP ON MULTIPLE DISTILLATION

    You’ve seen vodka claims: distilled three times…five times…50 times. Kanon Organic Vodka is only distilled once. Here’s why:

    When the ingredients aren’t pure enough to begin with, when parts of the head and tail are included, then multiple distillations with charcoal filtration are needed to remove impurities. The impurities in Kanon are removed after a single distillation.

    Multiple distillations also remove the taste and character of the vodka.

    Skål!

      

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