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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: Make Hot Chocolate Marshmallows

Make hot chocolate dippers. Photo
courtesy Petrossian.com.

 

As a child, we dreamed of being locked overnight in a candy store.

As a young adult, we wanted to be locked in a sushi bar.

As we mature, we realize there’s only one place in the world to be locked in: Petrossian’s New York restaurant and luxury food store.

Petrossian is known worldwide for its fine caviar and other luxuries such as foie gras and smoked salmon. If we weren’t on a budget, we’d be there every week.

But as we were scrolling down the company’s home page, fantasizing over each bite, we came across something any food lover can afford.

The product is Hot Chocolate-On-A-Stick: cubes of the finest Belgian chocolate that are swirled into a cup of hot milk or cream. This is old-school hot chocolate. The Swiss originated* the process of shaving chocolate bars into hot milk to create the rich, chocolate drink.

 

*The original chocolate beverage, made by the Olmecs in Mexico from around 1300 B.C.E., used ground cacao beans—cocoa powder and chocolate would not be invented, in Europe, for a few more centuries. Xocolatl (pronounced cho-co-lah-tay) mixed the ground beans with water and flavored it with local spices, including chile, cinnamon, musk, pepper and vanilla, and thickened with cornmeal; then frothed in a bowl. No milk was used. When the Conquistadors returned to Europe with cacao beans, water was still used. The English added milk in 1657. See the chocolate timeline.

It inspired today’s tip (no, it’s not shaving chocolate bars into hot milk or cream—we suggested that a few hundred tips ago).

Today’s Tip (Finally!): Chocolate-Covered Marshmallows-On-A-Stick

We adapted the Petrossian product concept to something that works with conventional hot chocolate and cocoa mixes (the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate).

We happened to have some artisan marshmallows from 240 Sweet. And we had those Recchiuti chocolate bars we wrote about on Monday.

Steps 1 to 3 can be done a day in advance.

1. Insert lollipop sticks into marshmallows. They’re also called cookie sticks and cake pop sticks. The six-inch size is best for large mugs; the four-inch side for standard-size teacups. You can also use thick bamboo skewers. Stand skewered marshmallows on a sheet of wax paper.

2. Melt a plain dark chocolate bar in the microwave. Even if you prefer milk chocolate, dark chocolate adds a richer flavor. Cut the bar into uniform pieces, the smaller the better. Be sure to use a microwave-safe bowl that remains cool or just slightly warm. Melt at a 50% power setting, to avoid scorching the chocolate; or heat the chocolate in 30-second intervals and stir between each interval. If your microwave does not have a turntable, manually rotate the bowl’s position after each interval. The chocolate is ready when most, but not all, is melted. Remove from the microwave and stir until completely melted.

3. Dip marshmallows into melted chocolate. Swirl to get an even coating on each marshmallow. Hold until the chocolate is firm; then set on the wax paper to continue drying.

4. Make your favorite hot chocolate or cocoa (here are reviews of our favorites). Serve with a chocolate-covered marshmallow-on-a-stick on a service plate with the cup or mug. Each person can do as he/she pleases: Eat the marshmallow from the stick or swirl it in the cup to add rich chocolate flavor and creamy melted marshmallow.

Or, buy the Hot Chocolate-On-A-Stick from Petrossian.

  

Comments

GIFT OF THE DAY: Sugar Free Biscotti

Bella’s sugar-free biscotti: delicious in four
flavors. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
NIBBLE.

 

Thanks to Deanna Bellacicco, owner of Bella’s Home Baked Goods, for affording everyone on a sugar-restricted diet the opportunity to have her delicious sugar-free biscotti.

Her regular biscotti line is just lovely, with classic flavors and the cutting edge (try the Peanut Butter Pretzel Chip Biscotti).

But the good news here is that sugar-free biscotti are available in four flavors: Sugar Free Almond, Sugar Free Cappuccino Chip, Sugar Free Chocolate and Sugar Free Lemon Pistachio.

The all-natural sugar-free biscotti are sweetened with isomalt and acesulfame-K (see the different types of sugar substitutes). There’s a subtle bitterness from the sugar substitutes, but the enjoyment of crunchy biscotti far outweighs it.

The boxes are conventional plastic, but anyone who receives a gift of Bella’s sugar free biscotti will be so excited, they won’t notice that it isn’t a deluxe gift box.

Don’t worry about buying too many boxes: Biscotti have a shelf life of many months (more about this below).

 

All four flavors are available at Amazon.com; $7.50 per eight-ounce box:

  • Sugar-Free Almond Biscotti
  • Sugar-Free Cappuccino Chip Biscotti
  • Sugar-Free Chocolate Biscotti
  • Sugar-Free Lemon Pistachio
  •  
    The History Of Biscotti

    Biscotti date back to ancient Roman times. Because they’re twice-baked (a loaf is baked and sliced, and the slices are baked again), most of the moisture is evaporated and the biscuits (cookies) don’t deteriorate for a long time. The Roman biscotti were more about a durable convenience food for travelers, including sailors who were away from reliable food sources for months on end.

    Here’s the full history of biscotti and Mario Batali’s recipe.

      

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFER & YEAR-ROUND TREAT: Sun Cups

    If you love peanut butter, you may have the same reaction we do when we hear of someone with a peanut allergy: “I’m so sorry.”

    Those who know the joys of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or peanut butter cups empathize with those who can’t have them.

    But everyone can have sunflower butter!

    Sunflower butter is a smooth spread that looks and tastes almost identical to peanut butter. It’s made from sunflower seeds and is completely peanut- and tree nut-free.

    It’s healthier than PB, with one-third less saturated fat and 27% of a day’s recommended allowance of vitamin E, along with a much higher iron and fiber content (but 25% less protein).

    In jars, it’s available in the same variations as peanut butter: creamy, crunchy, natural, organic, unsweetened, even individual snack-size packs. Sunflower butter is also an ingredient in snack foods that previously relied on peanut butter, including energy bars, granola bars and peanut butter cups.

     

    All the lusciousness of peanut butter cups with no nuts whatsoever! Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Sun Cups are chocolate cups filled with sunflower butter instead of PB. They’re made by Seth Ellis Chocolatier in Boulder, Colorado.

    They resemble Reese’s peanut butter cups, with a similar flavor (there’s just a hint of sunflower seed tanginess).

    How Sun Cups Differ From Peanut Butter Cups

  • Sun Cups are filled with sunflower butter instead of peanut butter (and sunflower butter is perfectly creamy-smooth).
  • They’re made with a better-quality chocolate.
  • They’re available in flavors: not just dark chocolate and milk chocolate but caramel and mint (we’re partial to the dark chocolate).
  • Unlike Reese’s, they’re organic, nut-free and gluten-free. The chocolate is Rainforest Alliance Certified. The wrapper is compostable.
  • Like Reese’s, they’re vegetarian and kosher (dairy) [OU-certified for Reese’s, EarthKosher—an organic kosher certifier—for Sun Cups].
     
    The manufacturing plant and the entire supply chain (the ingredients suppliers) is nut-free, so even folks with the strongest of peanut allergies can nibble safely. The Sun Cups team must wear “inside shoes” so nothing gets tracked in from outside. The sunflower seeds are even grown in a region too cold to grow peanuts, so the fields can’t be contaminated with migrating peanut plants.

    And the cost: about $1.00 per cup. A 20-pack of duos is less than $40 on Amazon.com.

    Or if you just want to test them out, Sun Cups offers a $1.99 sampler of the four flavors.

    Sun Cups are a safe bet for stocking stuffers, school lunch boxes and Halloween. They‘re a sweet treat for anyone—with nut allergies or without.

    And they’re a favorite at THE NIBBLE. Try them!

      

  • Comments

    RECIPE: Irresistible Stuffing Muffins

    Make stuffing muffins, or stuffins. Photo
    courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    We saw these stuffing muffins (“stuffins”) in the Mackenzie Limited catalog—too late for Thanksgiving this year, but just in time for Christmas!

    We found a recipe from Tara Kuczykowski, who writes the food blog Unsophisticook.com. And we whipped up a batch.

    Add them to your Christmas dinner menu. It doesn’t matter if your main course is beef, ham, turkey or other protein: Stuffing muffins go with anything. We bet they’ll become a year-round reason to enjoy stuffing more often.

    If you want to send a gift of stuffing muffins, they’re available seasonally from Mackenzie Ltd.

     

    TARA KUCZYKOWSKI’S STUFFING MUFFINS RECIPE

    Yield: 18 “stuffins.”

    Ingredients

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 loaf bread
  • 3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley*
  • 3 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • *Editor’s Note: We love fresh parsley flavor, so we substituted two tablespoons of fresh parsley.

    Preparation

    1. Sauté the celery and onion in the butter over medium heat, until they turn translucent and caramelize. It pays to take your time with this step, because this is what really makes for a flavorful stuffing.

    2. Meanwhile, toast each piece of bread. Tara uses a wheat bread, but you can use whatever your family likes best.

    3. Chop the toasted bread up into cubes. In a large bowl, add the celery and onion mixture and the parsley. Salt and pepper the mixture to taste.

    4. Lightly beat the eggs with the milk, and pour over the top of the bread mixture. Add some of the chicken/turkey stock and start to mix everything together with a large spoon. Keep adding the stock until everything is moistened—wet but not soupy (you may not need to use all the stock).

    5. Give the muffin pans a light misting of non-stick spray. Fill each cup with stuffing.

    6. Bake at 350°F for about 60 minutes. If you prefer a stuffing that’s a little more moist, cover with aluminum foil for the first 45 minutes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tetsubin, The Iron Japanese Tea Pot

    If you go to certain Japanese or Asian-fusion restaurants in the U.S.—or travel to Japan—you may have come across tetsubins.

    These small, charming cast-iron Japanese teapots are sometimes used to serve tea at restaurants in America—sometimes with matching cups. They can be purchased at some specialty tea shops and online.

    But if you’re thinking of buying one for yourself or as a gift for a tea-loving friend, don’t plan on brewing tea in it.

    Tetsubins are not meant to brew tea, and they are far from ideal brewing vessels.

    That the pots are too heavy for many people to hold steadily with one hand is a minor problem.

     

    The designs are charming, but don’t use a tetsubin to brew tea. Enjoy them as collectibles. This tetsubin is available online.

    But the major problem is that the iron reacts with the tannin in the tea, discoloring the brew and, worse, add hints of iron flavor. Even enamel-lined tetsubins can have uncoated areas on the spout, rim and lid that come into direct contact with the tea. The enamel deteriorates with years of use, so iron ultimately can seep into the tea.

    So why are tetsubins made if you can’t brew tea in them?

    The tea pots are collectibles and souvenirs—different designs are made in different regions.

    So collect as many tetsubins as you like. Just brew your tea in a ceramic, glass, porcelain, stainless steel or other non-reactive pot.

    Love tea? Learn more about it in our Tea Section.

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Gourmet Coffee Syrup For Coffee Lovers

    These artisan coffee syrups are handmade to
    order. Photo courtesy Java & Co.

     

    People who enjoy a hit of flavored syrup in their coffee will love these handmade syrups from Java & Co.

    Made to order, the syrups begin when Java & Co. freshly roasts the coffee beans, from which they brew fresh coffee. The flavors of the coffee are infused into cane sugar syrup. That’s how different these syrups are from those available in coffee shops and supermarkets, which typically use off-the-shelf extracts to flavor their syrups.

    Add sweetness to your coffee, in five popular flavors:

  • Original: Colombian Coffee, the classic.
  • Original Dark: Epresso infusion, dark and smoky.
  • French Vanilla: French Vanilla coffee infusion, smooth and silky.
  • Java Nut: Hazelnut coffee infusion—rich and buttery.
  • TiRUMisu: Dark Jamaican rum is added to the coffee infusion for a dark, bold flavor.
  •  

    The elegant bottles of syrups are affordable:

  • One bottle in a drawstring bag, $16.00
  • One bottle in a gift crate, $19.00
  • Two bottles in a gift crate, $36.00
  •  
    More information or to purchase.
     
    The coffee syrups can be used for more than just coffee. Use them:

  • Atop the “breakfast group”: pancakes, waffles, French Toast, oatmeal and yogurt.
  • As a dessert syrup on bread pudding, other puddings, ice cream and tiramisu.
  • In beverages: cocktails (such as a coffee Martini) and with club soda to make coffee soda.
  • As a glaze for meat, salmon and other seafood, and vegetables; turkey and yams; in barbecue sauce.
  • With salads: In a vinaigrette, instead of honey; mixed with mayonnaise in chicken salad.
     
    The only limit is your imagination!

      

  • Comments

    RECIPE: Ruby Red Holiday Hibiscus Cider

    Hibiscus is a flower that can be steeped into a vibrant, caffeine-free, healthy tea (more about hibiscus).

    Our friends at The Republic Of Tea have created this Christmas-red mulled apple-hibiscus cider, which gets its color from hibiscus tea. (You can buy The Republic Of Tea’s hibiscus tea online.)

    Ingredients
    For one large mug or two cups:

  • 12 ounces apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 hibiscus teabags
  • 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick per cup
  • Optional garnish: orange triangles cut from wheels (cut an orange slice into quarters or eighths)
     

  •  

    Mulled cider with hibiscus tea. Photo
    courtesy Republic Of Tea.

    Preparation
    1. Heat cider in a small saucepan to boiling.
    2. Put tea bags, ginger and cinnamon stick into an infuser (a large spice ball will do) and place into your favorite teapot.
    3. Pour the hot cider over the tea bags.
    4. Add orange juice and allow to steep for 4-6 minutes.
    5. Remove infuser and serve. Enjoy!

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: 12 More Great Gourmet Christmas Gifts

    Individual-portion boxes of original Saratoga
    Chips make great stocking stuffers and party
    favors. Photo by Jaclyn Nussbaum | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Last week’s Top Pick presented 20 great gourmet food gifts from the sweets category.

    Our second group of recommendations focuses on savory gifts: coffee and tea, condiments, cured meats, seafood and snacks—including the original potato chip recipe in a reproduction of the historic box in which it was sold, in 1853.

    Prices start at $10.99, with most items under $40.00.

    There’s still plenty of time to order gifts for Christmas delivery.

    Take a look at the gourmet gifts.

    See last week’s selection of sweet gourmet gifts.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Add Spirits Or Liqueurs To Mousse Recipes

    Nothing picks up the flavor of a mousse recipe—be it chocolate, coffee, raspberry or other favorite—than a spirit or liqueur (liqueur is a spirit that has been sweetened with flavors, oils and/or extracts).

    We always add a tablespoon of cherry, coffee or orange liqueur to chocolate mousse. In the recipe below, SKYY vodka replaces cherry liqueur with its cherry vodka.

    You can try other flavor-infused vodkas with the recipe—orange or espresso, for example—but first try:

    SKYY Infusions Cherry Vodka Chocolate Mousse

    Kids might prefer a box of chocolate-covered cherries, but adults tend to favor cherry-vodka-spiked chocolate mousse. If you’re making dessert for both kids and adults, split the batch before you add the vodka.

    And should you happen to have a box of chocolate-covered cherries, add one to each plate as “the cherry on the cake.”* Serve a shot of cherry vodka or cherry liqueur with the mousse.

    Yield: 4 servings

    Ingredients

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) SKYY Infusions Cherry vodka
  • 1 bar chocolate for garnish
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  •  

    Put some spirit(s) in your mousse!
    Photo courtesy SKYY Spirits.

     

    Preparation

    1. Place the semisweet chocolate in a large bowl in the microwave. Microwave on high for 1 minute, give the chocolate a stir, then microwave for another 30 seconds until completely melted. Set aside.

    2. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer at high speed until it holds medium peaks. Set aside.

    3. In a chilled clean bowl, beat the cream with an electric mixer at high speed until it holds medium peaks. Mix the yolks and vodka into the melted chocolate. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the mixture; add the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites and fold gently to keep the air in the beaten egg whites.

    4. Add the whipped cream and fold in gently, taking care not to over mix. Spoon the mousse into 4 martini glasses.

    5. Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate on top of the mousse. Garnish with mint. Chill for at least 1 hour or up to a day ahead.

    *An idiom for “something wonderful at the end of something good.” In French, it’s a direct translation, “la cerise sur le gâteau.”

    More Mousse Recipes

    Find more mousse recipes in our Desserts Section.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: What We’re Giving Friends & Family For Christmas

    In ancient Greece, an obol was a silver coin worth one-sixth of a drachma.

    The obol you’re most likely to come across today is a clever polypropylene dish: Obol, the Never-Soggy Cereal Bowl.

    Many of our friends and family start the day with a bowl of cereal. The tendency is to eat it faster than we’d like, because the cereal gets soggier the longer it sits in the milk.

    Obol solves the problem by dividing a bowl into two sections: an upper area that holds the dry cereal, and a lower reservoir for milk. Scoop up a spoonful of cereal, then dip the spoon into the milk reservoir. You get a crisp bite of cereal every time.

    Colors include blue, cranberry, green, orange, watermelon and white. At $19.99, it’s a great problem solver that you can buy online or in Brookstone stores.

     

    Your cereal will never get soggy again!
    Photo courtesy Obol LLC.

     

    Some NIBBLE staffers swear that they’d never buy an item that can only be used for one thing. So rest assured, Obol is versatile.

    Use it for milk and cookies, soup and crackers, chips and salsa or anything you want to keep crispy to the last bite.

    Obol is easy-to-hold with a non-slip grip and rim. It’s dishwasher-safe, BPA-free, unbreakable—and made in the USA.

    If you’re giving Obol as a gift, package it with a box of your favorite whole-grain cereal. It’s an easy way to start eating healthier in the new year.

      

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