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Archive for March 27, 2012

FOOD HOLIDAY: World Whisky Day, March 27th

Enjoy a glass of Scotch: It’s World Whisky
Day. Photo courtesy Chivas Regal.

 

People across the world will raise a dram to Scotland’s national drink on March 27th, thanks to the efforts of a University of Aberdeen Student.

Blair Bowman, 21, has established the first ever World Whisky Day.

Unlike other drinks such as beer, tequila and vodka, whisky did not have its own dedicated holiday. When the enterprising young Scot discovered this, he quickly set about creating a “day” and a website, WorldWhiskyDay.com (which is “currently unavailable”). Some 125 events are registered in more than 30 countries.

To celebrate World Whisky Day, have a shot, a whisky cocktail or this ice cream brownie sundae with Scotch caramel sauce. Here’s the recipe. You can also mix two tablespoons of whisky into a jar of warmed caramel or chocolate sauce.

 

Can Anyone Establish A Holiday?

In our free-speech society, anyone can declare anything they want. In order for it to get noticed outside the circle of one’s friends, however, broader awareness is required.

There’s an official process for a “sanctioned” holiday. Here are the details, along with all the food holidays in the U.S. (To get the daily holiday, sign up at Twitter.com/TheNibble.)

How Many Types Of Whiskey Have You Had?

Whiskey is spirit made from a fermented mash of grain or malt, aged in barrels; the brown color comes from barrel aging. There are numerous types of whiskey—American (Bourbon, corn, Tennessee, rye), Canadian, Irish, Scotch and others. Each is distinguished by the type of grain (barley, corn, rye) used in the fermentation process, as well as the distinct distillation and aging process. The color comes from aging in wood barrels.

Australia, England, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and Thailand, all strong markets for whiskey, now produce their own. Regardless of the variety or country of origin, a general rule of thumb is that all straight whiskeys must be aged at least two years in wood, generally oak. Each nation has its own rules and regulations about what constitutes a true whiskey.

Check out our Whiskey Glossary for a quick review of whiskey types and terms.

Whisky Vs. Whiskey

In Ireland and the U.S., the word whiskey is spelled with an “e.” Brits, Scots and Canadians usually drop it. Interestingly, a 1968 directive of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling, but allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey,” which most U.S. producers (and we) prefer.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: My Dad’s Gluten-Free Cookies

Can’t have gluten? Or, like a growing number of Americans, are you choosing to avoid it?

You can still enjoy bakery-style cookies, thanks to My Dad’s gluten-free cookie line.

A broad selection of tasty cookies awaits—cookies so well crafted that most people will never know they’re gluten-free. We couldn’t tell when we first tasted the cookies!

Read the full review, and treat yourself or a gluten-free loved one to some lovely nibbles.

Find more of our favorite gluten-free products.

How many different types of cookies are there?
See our Cookie Glossary.

 

Delicious and gluten-free! Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

 

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Fun With Pearl Couscous ~ Israeli Couscous

Make a pearl/Israeli couscous salad instead
of rice salad. It pairs well with just about any
other ingredients. Photo by Travelling Light |
IST.

 

Chef Johnny Gnall has been experimenting with pearl couscous sent from Bob’s Red Mill, with delicious results. His report follows. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

When most people think of couscous (KOOS-koos), they think of Moroccan couscous: fluffy piles of semolina, their tiny grains not much larger than coarse cornmeal.

But pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous) has been making its way onto more and more menus and supermarket shelves. The beautiful round beads (pearls) of semolina are most deserving of finding their way to your kitchen.

Pearl/Israeli couscous is larger and toothier than Moroccan couscous. (EDITOR’S NOTE: We prefer the term “pearl” to “Israeli” couscous. Pearl is an accurate description; “Israeli” seems to limit one’s thoughts of the ingredient to Israeli/Middle Eastern cuisine. You can use it to replace orzo or rice.)

The pearls have a pleasant, chewy texture when properly cooked, giving the couscous a real comfort food quality. Think of macaroni and cheese made with big, thick elbow noodles. That same type of enjoyable, al dente bite is so satisfying, and it’s something that you can’t get out of Moroccan couscous (though you’re probably not looking for it there anyway).

 

People often think of pearl couscous as exotic. But it’s made of the same semolina wheat as pasta. You should think of it as any other small cut of pasta, like alphabets; corallini, ditallini and tubettini (tiny tubes); orzo (shaped like grains of rice); and pastina (tiny stars).

Bob’s Red Mill carries three varieties of pearl couscous: Natural, Tricolor and Whole Wheat.

  • Original couscous is beautiful: The small ecru-white beads are elegant whether in a soup, underneath a protein (see salmon photo below) or in a salad or side dish.
  • Tricolor couscous is fun, visually appealing pearls of white, green and pink (the latter two flavored with spinach and tomato, respectively). It’s especially appealing in a salad, side or dessert (such as a couscous riff on rice pudding).
  • Whole wheat couscous provides a particularly nutritious alternative to rice or pasta (or other couscous). Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous is like other whole wheat pasta that is made with 100% whole grain flour. It contains 7 grams of protein and 25 g fiber per 1/3-cup serving.
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    HOW TO COOK & SERVE PEARL COUSCOUS

    Pearl couscous substitutes seamlessly for rice or any grain. Cook pearl couscous like pasta: Bring salted water to a boil, using 1.5 times the amount of water as pasta (or cover the dry pasta by 2-3 inches). You can also use stock, or toss a bouillon cube into the water for extra flavor.

    Cooking time will vary; test after five minutes. The pearls will absorb some water and should be both soft and chewy. (Remember, it will continue to cook when you remove it from the heat.)

    From there, you can:

     

    Make A Couscous Salad

    Add diced tomato, red onion, feta cheese and torn basil for a Greek-style salad; use cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes or roasted red pepper when tomatoes are out of season. Or use chopped pistachios, golden raisins and cubed roasted squash for a Moroccan-style salad in any season.

    In fact, you can add just about any three ingredients to make a couscous salad. Try a vegetable, a nut or legume and an herb, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a splash of acid—citrus juice or vinegar. Proteins are also welcome: cubes of chicken and tofu work especially well. The recipe in the photo at the top uses leftover corn and peas, a bit of oil and balsamic vinegar, and a garnish of grated Parmesan.

    For the best presentation, cut or chop your ingredients into small pieces, so they look at home nestled within the pearl couscous.

    Treat It Like Pasta

    Top couscous with tomato sauce and shredded Parmesan to keep it simple. Or toss it with olive oil, herbs and vegetables for Pearl Couscous Primavera. If you want to indulge, make some Pearl Couscous Carbonara with egg, Parmesan and diced pancetta.

     

    Salmon atop a bed of couscous. Photo by M. Sheldrake | Dreamstime.

     

    Go Full-On Comfort Food

    Three words: Mac. And. Cheese. The chewiness of pearl couscous really is wonderful with a gooey cheese like Gruyère or mozzarella, and a topping of crispy breadcrumbs (try panko). The symphony of tastes and textures will have your lids dropping in pleasure.

    Turn It Into Couscous Risotto

    Start by toasting the pearl couscous in a pot over medium-high heat with a touch of olive oil. Then begin stirring liquid in, just as you would with risotto. You can use any liquid that suits you; water or stock with a little white wine are probably your best bets.

    Take It Swimming

    Once it’s cooked, drop pearl couscous directly into soups, stews and chilis. It provides a pleasant texture and adds body to the food.

    To add some extra love, flavor the couscous cooking water with some of the vegetables or aromatics in the main dish. Just drop them into the pot with the couscous as it cooks. Carrots and onions impart a bit of sweetness, herbs add depth and flavor. Even a bone from whatever beast you may be stewing can be a nice touch to build the complexity of your couscous.

    THE HISTORY OF COUSCOUS

    Couscous is more than 1,000 years old. The Berbers, who lived along the northern (Mediterranean) coast of Africa, west of the Nile Valley (modern Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia—the Barbary Coast/Berber Coast), ate wheat as a staple grain. Over generations, they learned that by grinding the wheat and making couscous, it would keep for years—insurance against drought and famine. The result has long been a base for North African cooking.

    Couscous is made from yellow granules of semolina, made from durum pasta wheat, which are precooked and then dried. The pearl grains are the original couscous. They were made by hand-rolling semolina grains on screens, with olive oil, water and salt, letting the small grains fall through, and rolling them again until a consistent size grain was formed. The grains are then coated with olive oil salt and sun-dried, giving them a toasty flavor when cooked. The name is derived from Bhe Berber seksu meaning well rolled, well formed and rounded.

    The term can refer to the ingredient itself or a prepared dish. Like pasta or rice, couscous is versatile and has numerous preparations. It is simple to prepare: Just add boiling water and let it sit. It can be flavored with exotic spices or served plain. North African stews (tagines) are traditionally served over it.

    Couscous is now widely available in most supermarkets. Keeping with food trends, specialty producers such as Bob’s Red Mill sell whole wheat couscous and tricolor in addition to the natural white pearls.

      

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    BOOKS: Funny Food, A Guarantee Of Fun Breakfasts

    Funny Food, by Bill & Claire Wurtzel. © 2012
    Welcome Enterprises, Inc.,
    www.funnyfood.us.

     

    In 1001 Arabian Nights, the cuckolded King Shahryar executes his faithless wife and proceeds to marry a new virgin every day, executing her the next morning before she has a chance to dishonor him.

    Eventually his vizier (minister), whose task it is to provide the brides, cannot find any more virgins. His daughter Scheherazade (shuh-HAIR-uh-ZOD) volunteers and is wed to the king.

    That night, the clever girl tells the king a fascinating tale, but does not finish the story. King Shahryar can’t execute her the next morning, since he wants to hear the end of it. The next evening, as soon as she finishes the tale, she begins a new story…and so it goes for 1,001 nights.

    Three years and three children later, Queen Scheherazade has convinced her husband that she is his faithful wife. She keeps her head (and her three children—obviously more than storytelling went on). Hopefully they lived happily ever after.

     

    Funny Food: Another Daily Fascination

    Now it’s time to introduce another fascinating book, one which has very few words. But who needs words when the photographs tell the whole story?

    Funny Food: 365 Fun, Healthy, Silly, Creative Breakfasts, will fascinate a spouse or family as much as Scheherazade’s tales—and they get to eat the “story.”

    What fun to be married to an art director who plies his trade in the kitchen. For more than 50 years, Bill Wurtzel has taken everyday breakfast foods—bagels and other breads, cereal, cottage cheese, eggs, fruit, ham, pancakes, waffles and yogurt—and turned them into edible art for wife Claire and their daughters. There are animals, birds, cars, flowers, people, musical instruments, trees and more. Everything is nutritious and the designs turn old standbys into exciting food.

    And you can do it, too.

    It’s Really Easy

    There’s a two-page tip list of how to make your own creations, and two spreads that show the four simple steps to make a head and a train. Otherwise, there are no on-the-page instructions. The majority of the designs are easy to recreate—most are so easy that anyone old enough to do an art project can assemble this food art.

    In fact, the Wurtzels now give workshops for school children to promote healthy eating and fun. There’s a downloadable guide on the book’s website.

  • NIBBLE TIP #1: After the design is finished, warm the food in the microwave.
  • NIBBLE TIP #2: Get the whole family involved in designing their breakfast plates: Try a different design every weekend for breakfast or brunch.
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    This is a wonderful book to inspire younger people to cook and a boost of creativity for experienced cooks who can see how to use fruits, vegetables and nuts to make everyday dishes shine.

    Get your copy.

    We can only hope that the Wurtzels are working on Funny Lunch.

      

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