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Archive for February, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Get An Olive Pitter (And A Cherry Pitter As A Bonus)

A year ago we wrote about kitchen gadgets to avoid. Some, like the mango pitter, turned out to be a waste of space and money—they work only on perfectly-shaped mangoes.

Others, like a garlic press, an egg separator, a mandoline, an egg slicer and a cherry- or olive-pitter make difficult jobs easy.

With olives and cherries, you get a two-for-one gadget: The same pitter works with each. (Food fact: when used for cherries, it’s called a stoner, since cherries have stones, not pits.*)

If you’ve ever bitten into a plump olive in a salad, sauté or stew—only to crunch down on the pit—you’ll recognize why you need one of these gadgets.

A few olives add lots of flavor to dishes—at least, the really good olives, which usually are not pitted by the manufacturer, do. The pitted, canned variety are very bland, adding color but not flavor. With all due respect to the people who enjoy mild olives, we choose olives for their bite.


A Cherry/Olive Pitter from Cuisipro.


Get an olive pitter and you’ll find new ways to use olives: sliced into scrambled eggs and omelets, in the nongreen salad group (chicken, egg, macaroni and potato salads, plus others), in pasta and on pizza, with baked fish, roasted vegetables, polenta….just about anything. (There‘s a treasure trove of olive-based recipes at

Try them in an avocado and grapefruit salad or a blood orange and arugula salad.

You can also have fun stuffing the centers of the olives with something unexpected—like pineapple slivers, or an olive-chive garnish (with the ends of the chives sticking out of each end of the olive).

Get an olive pitter/cherry pitter online.

And plan ahead for cherry season (May to July for U.S. cherries).

*Why? Blame it on the evolution of the English language: who used what term and what caught on. Stone derives from the Greek stion, pebble. Pit derives from the Dutch word for kernel, which is related to the Old English pitha, meaning core or heart.



COOKING VIDEO: Chipotle Sweet Potatoes, A Healthy Mashed Sweet Potato Recipe


February is National Sweet Potato Month. Yet how many of us only think of sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner?

We enjoy them year-round, baked or sliced and steamed in the microwave for a tasty side or snack. But there’s a lot more to enjoying sweet potatoes.

Join Alton Brown as he demonstrates Chipotle Sweet Potatoes, a couldn’t-be-easier recipe that mashes diced, steamed sweet potatoes with canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (a piquant sauce made with tomato paste, garlic, paprika and other spices, vinegar, and salt).

Steaming maintains the vitamins and flavor nuances of the sweet potatoes, and chipotle adds smoky flavor and heat.

Food Fact: Sweet potatoes are not yams, just as buffalo is not bison. Check out the difference.

How many types of potatoes have you had? Check out our Potato Glossary.




RECIPE: Pizza, The New Sandwich & Salad?

Pizza has come a long way from what we think of as its origins: crust, tomato sauce and cheese. There are cheeseless pizzas, dessert pizzas, duck confit pizzas, tuna sashimi wasabi pizzas and just about anything you can put on a piece of flatbread.

In fact, food historians agree that the origin of pizza was not Italy, but Greece.

While flatbread was topped with other foods since it was first grilled on a hot rock in prehistoric times, ancient Greeks turned the process into an art. They topped a round flatbread (plankuntos) with stew, thick broth, meat, vegetables and/or fruit.

The result was a thrifty, convenient and tasty meal for the working man and his family, requiring no additional plates or utensils. (Injera, the Ethiopian flatbread, is still used for this purpose and is a mainstay of Ethiopian cuisine. More on the history of pizza).


Topped with romaine lettuce and Parmesan cheese, this grilled pizza is a fun take on a favorite main course salad, the Chicken Caesar.


Recipes like Chicken Caesar Pizza allow you to sneak salad atop a pizza, in a way that pleases those who typically avoid salad greens. Suddenly, pizza becomes a main-dish salad with the side of bread as the base.

Make a Grilled Chicken Caesar Pizza; then see how many different ways you can combine proteins and veggies on a pizza.

Look to your favorite sandwich and salad combinations. Instead of conventional sandwich bread, use the ingredients to top a pizza. You can use tomato sauce or barbecue sauce as a base, or any other sauce topping. We’ve used wasabi mayonnaise, blue cheese dressing and thousand island dressing with canned tuna, hard-cooked eggs and roast meat leftovers. Try a chef salad or spinach salad pizza.

Add romaine or other lettuce and some cherry tomatoes, and you’ve got a pizza salad-and-sandwich.

Pizza Dough Tips

  • Pizza dough can be found in supermarkets, in the dairy section or prepared deli section. Or, buy it from your your local pizzeria.
  • If the dough is frozen, thaw it overnight in the fridge.
  • Let the dough stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, to make stretching/rolling easier.
    Find more of our favorite pizza recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Cook Some Wild Striped Bass

    Try striped bass for a change. Photo courtesy


    Some fish get more respect than others. The media are filled with recipes for cod, halibut, trout, salmon, sea bass, snapper and tilapia.

    What about the striped bass*, a coastal water denizen that happens to be the state fish of Maryland, Rhode Island and South Carolina, and the state saltwater fish of New Hampshire, New York and Virginia?

    Native to the coasts of eastern North America, the bass live as far north as the St. Lawrence River in Canada to the St. Johns River in northern Florida. They are also found throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico.

    Once fished to dangerously low levels, the population has recovered and is now found in record numbers. Right now, an abundance of wild striped bass from Maryland and Virginia are in markets. Plentitude means lower prices, so they’re a great buy.


    *Also called Atlantic striped bass, linesiders, rockfish and stripers, among other names.

    Fish Facts
    Though wild striped bass can grow to six feet in length (and may live up to 30 years!), what’s in the market are fillets cut from smaller, three-to-five-pound whole fish.

    Striped bass are also farmed in a hybrid of striped bass and white bass. But there’s no need to look for farmed fish when the real deal is waiting for you. (See a discussion of the difference between wild and farmed fish.)

    Thanks to Euro USA Fresh Seafood for this ultra-easy recipe. Pair it with a sauvignon blanc or a Chablis.



  • 4 six-ounce wild striped bass fillets, with skin
  • Salt & pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

    1. Take the fish out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before preparing.

    2. Pat the skin dry with a paper towel and season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.

    3. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat.

    4. Coat the bottom of another slightly smaller sauté pan with olive oil (you can use a less expensive oil here—it’s just to keep the pan from burning). Gently place fish fillets skin side down in the larger sauté pan and place the smaller sauté pan directly on top of the fish. This technique creates a lovely crispy fish skin by gently pressing the skin of the bass onto the bottom of the sauté pan.

    5. After a couple of minutes, remove the top sauté pan to allow steam to escape and the skin to become very crispy.

    6. As fish cooks, it turns from translucent to opaque. Cook the fish two-thirds of the way on the skin side and flip it over for the last third of the cooking time. The rule for fish is about 7 to 8 minutes per inch of thickness, a little less if you like your fish more on the rare side (as we do!).
    Serve the bass with your favorite vegetables. We followed the photo and went Asian-style, with steamed snow peas, edamame and water chestnuts tossed with a bit of olive oil and yuzu juice. Include a side of whole grain (barley, brown rice, quinoa or whole wheat pasta tossed in olive oil) and a salad, and you’ve got a delicious, healthful dinner.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Homemade Soda

    A few years back, we began to notice a restaurant trend: creative mixologists making their sodas from scratch. Some of it was creative flavoring—fennel-lemongrass soda, for example. Others were the desire of mixologists to make the best-ever cola, root beer and ginger ale. All of it was all-natural.

    Spice Market New York, owned by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, prepares its own sodas for guests who’d prefer something soft—and special. You can do it at home for your guests.

    The Fresh Ginger Lime Soda and Cherry Yuzu Soda are customer favorites at Spice Market. The sodas are mixed from a base to which club soda (soda water) is added.

    Impress family and guests with these homemade soda recipes, courtesy of Spice Market.


    Makes 1 quart.

  • 3/4 cup yuzu juice
  • 3-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4-3/4 cups frozen sour cherry purée*
  • Club soda
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: lime wedge, orange slice, gourmet maraschino cherry
    *You can make it by puréeing frozen cherries in the blender.


    Homemade soda is a treat, and fun to make. Photo courtesy Spice Market | New York.

    Preparation Per Drink

    1. Fill a highball glass with ice. Add 1/4 cup cherry yuzu base and 1/2 cup club soda.
    2. Stir, garnish and serve.

    Makes 1 quart.


  • 2 cups fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups fresh lime juice
  • Simple syrup (recipe)
  • Club soda
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: lime wheel, lemongrass stalk, strawberry (notched on rim of glass)
    Preparation Per Drink

    1. Fill a highball glass with ice. Add 1/4 cup ginger lime base and 1 tablespoon simple syrup over ice. Top with club soda.
    2. Stir, garnish and serve.
    Find more of our favorite soft drinks.



    PRODUCT: belVita Breakfast Biscuits, The New Breakfast Alternative

    Nabisco has introduced belVita Breakfast Biscuits: lightly sweet, whole grain, crunchy breakfast biscuits in Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry and Golden Oat. The concept is popular in Europe, and a welcome addition to American breakfast options.

    “Breakfast biscuits” may not sound sexy, but think of them as very nutritious and tasty cookies. Yum!

    According to survey data, 63% of Americans admit they are energy deficient in the mornings and 48% say that it is difficult to find a breakfast food that is both nutritious and delicious.

    Nabisco, part of Kraft Foods, worked with nutritionists to create a cereal and breakfast bread substitute that provides nutrition plus sustained energy to help fuel the body throughout the morning. The sustained energy release results from both the ingredients and a special baking process that helps preserve the integrity of the grain, so that the carbohydrates are slowly released.

    The company’s nutritionist spokesperson and author of The Sonoma Diet, Connie Guttersen, recommends the biscuits as a balanced breakfast with a piece of fruit and a serving of fat-free or low fat dairy—a banana, yogurt and nonfat latte or fresh strawberries and nonfat Greek yogurt, for example.


    A “sustained energy” breakfast includes these delicious oat biscuits. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.


    Healthful food is always a good thing, but belVita biscuits taste great, too (although the Apple Cinnamon flavor could have used more apple and more cinnamon). The portion of four large, crunchy biscuits is very filling with a cup of coffee, tea or milk.

    More Ways To Enjoy belVita Biscuits

    The biscuits are also delicious with cheese; we’ve been serving them with Brie and goat cheese. All three flavors have a touch of sweetness and a rustic texture that work well with cheese. (The biscuits evoke Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers, called Wheatmeal Biscuits in the U.K., a longtime favorite with cheese).

    More ways to enjoy belVita:

  • Spread them with peanut butter for nutritious snack.
  • Break pieces into yogurt for a “cookies and cream” effect.
  • Use them as a base for an open-face ice cream/frozen yogurt sandwich.
  • We love them as a comfort food snack with hot chocolate.
    Great taste and crunch, a bundle of nutritious benefits and the convenience of grab-and-go portioned packs should make these biscuits a winner. Nabisco only needs for you to try them and like them as much as we do. (The only thing we don’t like is the small “b” in belVita. It looks like a typo.)

    The biscuits are certified kosher (dairy) by OU.

    belVita Biscuits Nutrition

  • Fiber: 18-20g whole grains per four-biscuit serving
  • 10% daily value of iron, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B6
  • No high fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oils, no artificial flavors or sweeteners
  • A package of four biscuits has 230 calories
    There’s more information on the company website.

    Find more of our favorite crackers and bread products.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Indian Naan Flatbread

    Naan with a yogurt dip. Photo courtesy
    Stonefire Naan.


    Bread is one of our passions. We’d give up meat before we’d give up bread.

    Just about every society makes a delicious bread. India, a very large country, makes many. If you’ve been to an Indian restaurant, you’ve seen some of the regional specialties: chapati, dosa, naan, paratha and numerous others.

    We were thrilled to discover Stonefire Naan at our local supermarket, a buttery flatbread in original, garlic and whole grain varieties.

    Now, we can expand our bread choices. Even if you don’t care for the cuisines of India, naan fits in with most foods of the world—including burgers, PB sandwiches and wraps. You can also use it as a pizza-type base.

    Check out the full review, including recipes with naan bread.

    Want to bake your own naan? Here’s a video recipe.


    Find the different types of bread in our beautiful Bread Glossary.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Ways To Use Nutmeg

    There’s nothing like fresh-ground nutmeg. The pre-ground product is pallid in comparison.

    You may use nutmeg in baking—custards and pumpkin pie, spice cakes and cookies—and it’s de rigueur in egg nog. But what about savory uses?

    Following the demise of our decades-old nutmeg mill, we’ve been enjoying our new chrome nutmeg mill from William Bounds. We’ve been adding daily grinds of fresh nutmeg to coffee, eggs and greens.

    We asked THE NIBBLE’s chef Johnny Gnall how he uses nutmeg. Here are his favorite uses, along with some musings on nutmeg:

    Nutmeg is a bit of an unsung hero. It’s used in a surprisingly large number of recipes and dishes, but it’s rare that you notice it, especially up front on your palate. In fact, that’s kind of the point. Nutmeg is a spice often used to accent other flavors, the same way a recipe uses salt to bring out the flavor of other ingredients.


    Nutmeg. Photo courtesy Spice Islands.


    Nutmeg is often perceived as a “holiday spice,” but it’s delicious year-round. As with other spices, use it up as quickly as you can. Even a whole nutmeg in an airtight jar will dry out in a few years. If you’ve had the nutmeg for a while, pierce it with a pin. If you get a droplet of oil, the spice is still lively.


    In desserts, nutmeg is often combined with allspice, cinnamon and clove. But nutmeg on its own is a pretty delicious flavor.

    Nutmeg is also a strong flavor, so you only need it in very small doses. Even a pinch can pack a punch that will kick things up a notch.

    Here are 10 ways to give new punch to your recipes with nutmeg. Remember to use it sparingly: Start with a tiny bit, taste often and pump the brakes as soon as its flavor gets to the front of your palate.

    1. Bacon & Pork Belly
    Bacon fans find it practically perfect in every way, virtually impossible to improve upon. It can be amplified, however. The next time you have a recipe with bacon as a primary ingredient (a quiche, perhaps?), try complementing it with a touch of nutmeg. Bacon and nutmeg are at very different ends of the flavor spectrum, but they share earthy roots. You may even start dusting your bacon strips!

    2. Béchamel
    A classic béchamel sauce is made with a dash of nutmeg early in the cooking process. In most fine-dining restaurants, béchamel is usually the start of mac ‘n cheese and other creamy pasta dishes. If you up the nutmeg just a touch, the new angle on a familiar flavor will surprise you. Just be sure to think ahead: If you are adding béchamel to a dish along with other cheeses or ingredients, be sure the flavors complement one another. Nutmeg doesn’t always play well with others (seafood, yes; mushrooms, not really).


    William Bounds nutmeg mill. Photo courtesy
    William Bounds.


    3. Carrots
    Roasted carrots with nutmeg is easy and will knock your socks off. Just toss roasted carrots in a bit of melted butter and season with fresh-ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

    4. Dough
    Bread dough, cookie dough, pasta dough, pie/quiche dough: Any of these can benefit from the kick a little nutmeg supplies. As with béchamel, however, make sure that whatever else you are putting in or on that dough does not clash with nutmeg.

    5. Goat Cheese & Burrata
    Take ordinary goat cheese and add a pinch of nutmeg to make it extraordinary. Add the seasoned goat cheese to salads, use chunks to garnish soup or just spread it on a slice of toasted baguette. Along the same lines of cheese enhancement, go for pure indulgence with burrata: A tiny drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of nutmeg create fireworks in your mouth.


    6. Hazelnuts
    A bowl of warm, toasted hazelnuts sprinkled with nutmeg is as perfect a holiday party snack as you can find. But don’t wait for the holidays: Serve them year-round with cocktails, wine and beer.

    7. Lamb
    Lamb is a protein that loves nutmeg—perhaps more than any other. If you season the meat with salt and just a teaspoon or so of nutmeg, as opposed to pepper, you will discover a delightful flavor profile. If you’re going to stew lamb, you’re in for a real treat with nutmeg. Remember, though, that with lamb, the “less is more” rule especially applies.

    8. Scalloped Potatoes
    A little nutmeg in the dish adds depth of flavor, while a dusting over the top will give you an up-front hit of nutmeg that then fades into creamy potato.

    9. Spinach & Collard Greens
    If you’re braising, add nutmeg early; you may want to re-up as the vegetables cook. If sautéing, a quick sprinkle when your greens start to wilt should do the trick.

    10. Squash & Squash Soup
    The nuttiness of squash, from acorn to zucchini, is accentuated by a sprinkle of nutmeg.

    The nutmeg tree produces two different spices, nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is the seed of the fruit that grows on the tree, and mace is made from a red substance that covers it.



    RECIPE: French Margarita

    The traditional margarita—tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice—is the #1 selling cocktail in the U.S. It has inspired many twists on the classic recipe.

    Today’s twist comes from popular New York City restaurant, Rosa Mexicano: the Margarita Francesa (French Margarita), using the popular French orange liqueur, Grand Marnier.

    The recipe was originally developed in honor of the 25th anniversary for National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15, 2011). We’re making it for National Margarita Day, February 22nd.

    This French-Mexican Margarita reverses the amount of spirit ingredients from a traditional Margarita for a more vibrant taste. The result, says Rosa Mexicano, is a profile that is smoother and more balanced with the enticement of the citrus notes and the complexity of cognac found within Grand Marnier.



  • 1.5 ounces Grand Marnier
  • 1 ounce tequila
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Coarse salt for rim
  • Garnishes: orange wheel, lime wedge

    The French Margarita, or Margarita Francesca. Photo courtesy Rosa Mexicano |



    1. Rim a glass with coarse salt.

    2. Combine Grand Marnier, tequila, lime juice, orange juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

    3. Strain into a tall glass with ice and garnish with an orange wheel and lime wedge.
    More Margarita Recipes



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Paneer At Home

    Cubes of grilled paneer. See the recipe
    below. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.


    It’s not easy to make most cheeses at home. But it is surprisingly easy to make paneer, a fresh cheese popular in Indian and other South Asian cuisines that ports nicely into Western fare.

    Paneer does not melt when heat is applied; it’s comparable to feta, halloumi and queso blanco in this way. It is also made without rennet,* and thus is a great protein source for vegetarians.

    Chef Johnny Gnall learned to make paneer at a Aslam’s Rasoi (rasoi means “kitchen” in Hindi), one of San Francisco’s most popular prominent Indian restaurants. He’s become a real fan of paneer.

    At the restaurant, chef Mohammed Aslam uses paneer in many of his dishes; one of the most popular is Saag Paneer, puréed spinach, fried paneer, herbs, spices and aromatics (here’s a recipe). The creamy texture of the spinach is complemented well by the supple paneer in this traditional Indian dish, but there’s no need to stick to the playbook when preparing paneer at home.


    *Rennet is the animal enzyme used to coagulate most other cheeses, although some cheeses are now made with vegetarian rennet.

    Make paneer at home with this easy recipe.

    It takes 24 hours for the block of cheese to harden, but the steps themselves are simple, as are the ingredients: milk, cream, vinegar and a piece of cheesecloth.


    In eggs. Cut paneer into very small cubes and fold into scrambled eggs; or sprinkle liberally over the top of a frittata or quiche before baking. Add some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to make things pop; or try roughly chopped herbs to add some green and bright flavor. Alternatively, grill or fry a slab of paneer and top it with a fried or poached egg. It’s a different way to indulge and branch out at brunch.


    Paneer can be used raw or cooked. Raw, it has a mild and delicious flavor. Fried or grilled, it has its own special charms.

    Beyond Indian recipes, here are our favorite ways to use paneer in popular Western dishes. In most cases, you can use the paneer raw or grilled/fried. The cheese has no overwhelming flavors to conflict with other ingredient, and its texture is pleasant at any temperature.

    In salads. Less salty than feta but with a similar texture, paneer adds a bit of richness to any salad. You can cut it into cubes or simply crumble it with your hands. Its mildness enables it to work with just about any combination of ingredients or dressings.


    Raw paneer. Photo courtesy


    In a sandwich. You need little more than some crusty bread, a little olive oil and paneer to make a delicious sandwich. To add more layers of flavor, the sky’s the limit. The beauty of paneer is its mildness, which allows it to complement just about all meats and vegetables. Charred peppers, wilted spinach and lightly seasoned paneer make for a delicious combination. Sprinkle some curry powder on sliced chicken or turkey breast (or thinly sliced lamb), add some paneer, and you’ve got a sandwich worthy of a top Delhi deli!

    With roasted vegetables. From peppers to carrots to tomatoes to potatoes, roasted vegetables pair well with paneer. All you need to do is crumble some onto the vegetables as soon as they come out of the oven. Not only does paneer add variety to the way you serve vegetables, but kids usually love it.

    In soups and stews. The fact that paneer doesn’t melt makes it ideal for soups and stews. Simply cut it into cubes, or even slabs, and drop them into the soup just before serving. It adds some richness and creamy mouthfeel to a soup without significantly altering the flavor profile. Alternatively, you can fry the paneer first. Just blot it on a paper towel before you add it to the soup, to remove excess oil that would otherwise end up floating on the surface of the soup.

    Have fun with paneer!



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