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Archive for May, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Signature Mocktail

A cranberry-lemonade mocktail. Photo by
Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


Mixologists invent new cocktails all the time. They look at the ingredients around them, and start combining.

You can do the same with mocktails, mixed drinks without alcohol. One of the most historic is shandy, a 50:50 combination of beer mixed with a carbonated beverage: cider, citrus soda (like 7-UP), ginger beer, ginger ale or lemonade.

The shandy is also called a half-and-half. And then there’s the Arnold Palmer, a non-alcoholic shandy made of half lemonade and half iced tea.

So today’s tip is: Create your own signature mocktail.

Start with a half-and-half recipe of your favorite ingredients. Make a small test recipe—a half cup or so.

You can turn it into a family or friends activity by inviting others to join you as co-mixologists. If you enjoy the exercise, you can make it a party activity, with a prize for the best recipe.

What should you mix?

Start with fruit sodas (cherry, cranberry, lemon-lime, raspberry, etc.), club soda and fruit juices (apple juice, lemonade, pomegranate juice, etc.). Add bitters if you enjoy them (we love them!), and top off your creation with a squeeze of lemon or lime.


To start you off, here’s a mocktail combination from Whole Foods Market, an enhancement of the raspberry-lime Rickeys of our youth:

  • Half cranberry soda, such as Whole Foods Market Cranberry Italian soda
  • Half lemonade, such as 365 Everyday Value Lemonade
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Garnish: lime wheel or wedge, fresh raspberries
    For more lime flavor, juice a lime and add a teaspoon per eight-ounce serving.



    The Rickey (originally the “Joe Rickey”) was created in 1883 at Shoomaker’s bar in Washington, D.C. It was named for Colonel Joe Rickey, a Missouri statesman. Each morning, he went to Shoomaker’s for a Bourbon with sparkling water over ice.

    One day, the bartender added a squeeze of lime, and the Rickey was born. It’s evolved to include simple syrup and bitters. Omit the Bourbon and you’ve got a mocktail that you can layer with other ingredients (soda, juice, etc.).

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 3 dashes bitters
  • 6 – 8 ounces club soda
  • 1.5 ounces Bourbon

    1. Combine first three ingredients in a collins glass.

    2. Top with soda, add garnish and serve.


    Just combine these ingredients. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Long before we knew of the original Rickey cocktail, and long before the invention of the word “mocktail,” we enjoyed many a raspberry-lime Rickey at Brigham’s soda fountain in Harvard Square (alas, long gone).

    A sparkling blend of raspberry syrup, lime syrup and club soda, it was the Boston alternative to the New York egg cream. And, depending on your proclivities, it’s much more refreshing than the original.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Gnudi, Naked Ravioli

    Herb-laced gnudi. Photo © Comugnero
    Silvana | Fotolia.


    Do you like gnocchi, ravioli and tortellini, but not the carbs? Get to know gnudi: It’s the filling without the pasta or the potatoes. Essentially, gnudi are a low-carb way to enjoy pasta.

    Chef Johnny Gnall shares an easy gnudi recipe. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.


    Gnocchi, Italian for dumplings (pronounced NYOH-kee) are chewy pillows that are shaped into little balls or ovals. They are most often made with white or sweet potatoes, then boiled, baked or fried. They can be flavored: basil, spinach, tomato and saffron are popular. They’re served with butter and grated Parmesan cheese or a sauce.

    Gnudi (pronounced NYOO-dee) means nude in Italian. Gnudi consist of pasta filling—what you find inside tortellini or ravioli—shaped into small, flattened balls without any dough. A common recipe includes ricotta, spinach and Parmesan cheese. The gnudi are then sautéed or baked.


    Gnudi can be served with marinara sauce, mushroom ragoût, pan-sautéed cherry tomatoes, fresh peas, crispy pancetta or whatever inspires you. You can cook them in herb butter, or in plain butter with a sprinkle of fresh herbs atop the gnudi. I like the traditional brown butter-sage sauce.

    Gnudi are referred to as “cousins” of gnocchi because both are dumpling-like, but gnocchi are typically chewy and heavy from the potato, and potato-less gnudi are delicate pillows bound with egg and cheese.

    The recipe below calls for spinach, but you can substitute any hearty green—I also enjoy it with chard or kale. Basic gnudi with just egg, cheese, and a little flour, but the greens help bind and give the gnudi a nice color.

    Take your time when first making gnudi: Like any dough, especially one with such low flour content, it takes a while to get a feel for the process. The small amount of flour, however, helps to keep your dough from getting quickly overworked and tough.

    I like gnudi with a sage and brown butter sauce, but they work well with any number of sauces. Even something as simple as some melted butter and fresh grated Parmesan will make them absolutely delicious!




  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound puréed spinach
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 ounces of fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces flour
  • Salt and pepper
    For The Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons butter

    Gnudi before cooking. Photo courtesy Robert Love’s Food and Recipe Blog. Check out his recipe and photos of gnudi-in-progress.

  • 8 sage leaves, finely chopped, plus whole leaves for optional garnish
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    Optional Garnishes

  • Truffle salt
  • Fried sage leaves

    1. Make the sauce. Melt butter in a sauté pan and cook until it begins to turn golden brown (do not overcook or the butter may burn). Add sage; stir and and remove from heat. Add lemon juice and set aside.

    2. Remove water from spinach. It’s important that you remove most of the water from your spinach, or the dough will never come together. Press the pureed spinach against a mesh strainer and then hang it to drain for 30 minutes.

    3. Combine ricotta and spinach. Thoroughly incorporate, then add the beaten egg, a couple of pinches of salt, and Parmesan. Mix well. Taste a bit of your mixture and adjust with salt and pepper as necessary.

    4. Add the flour. The actual amount of flour may vary slightly depending on anything from the moisture content of the ricotta to the moisture in the atmosphere. Too much flour could make the gnudi dense and heavy; not enough flour, and the gnudi might fall apart. Therefore, bring everything together and test the consistency by dropping a spoonful into some boiling water. If it holds its general shape and doesn’t come apart in the water, you’ve nailed it!

    5. Shape the gnudi. Using two spoons, form your gnudi into quenelles (oval shapes) and lay them on a cookie sheet, tray or clean surface. One they are ready to go, drop them into seasoned boiling water in batches. Make sure you don’t overcrowd your pot, or the gnudi will jostle one another and likely fall apart. Once the dumplings float to the surface, they should take about a minute to cook. Exact cooking time may vary, so it do a tester or two and see which time suits your taste.

    6. Sauce and serve. Right before serving, return the brown butter to the heat and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir to blend, then add the gnudi and toss to coat. Serve immediately.



  • 1 bunch fresh sage (or however many leaves you want for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt or kosher salt

    1. Wash and dry sage and remove stems. Be sure that the leaves are thoroughly dry before frying (when we don’t have time to air dry, we use a hair dryer!).

    2. Heat oil in a small pan over medium-high heat.

    3. Fry sage leaves until crisp, 2–3 seconds. Do not crowd in the pan; fry in batches if necessary.

    4. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt. Reserve until ready to serve.


    Check out the delicious options in our Pasta Glossary.



    COOKING VIDEO: Asparagus In The Microwave


    Don’t let asparagus season pass you by! The delicious vegetable is in season for only another month or so.

    Watch Alton Brown demonstrate how easy it is to steam asparagus in the microwave. (In the video, is he hanging upside down, or is that trick photography?)

    Steamed fresh asparagus don’t even need butter: A sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime makes a delectable, low-calorie dish. When we’re cutting back on cholesterol, we use fat-free Greek yogurt with lemon zest and a bit of garlic salt as a side dip.



    Find more of our favorite vegetable recipes.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Skate Wing Recipe

    We love skate, a group of cartilaginous fishes belonging to the family Rajidae, the rays. The firm white flesh, which comes from the “wings” of the ray, is sweet, succulent and distinctively delicious.

    We always order skate when we see it on a menu—invariably at a French or seafood restaurant. Often, it is served in brown butter with capers; but however it is prepared, it is always a treat.

    Because skate isn’t the easiest fish to find at the market, we never cooked it at home—until this super-easy recipe sent us on a skate wing hunt. The recipe is from Brooklyn Wok Shop, a New York restaurant that has reinterpreted Cantonese cuisine using classic French techniques.

    Chef Edric Har worked at some of New York City’s great restaurants (Le Bernardin, Veritas, Cru) and his wife, Melissa, grew up in her family’s Chinese restaurants in Orlando. They call their concept Chinese Food 2.0.


    Skate has a delicious white flesh that is distinctly different from other fish. Photo courtesy Brooklyn Wok Shop.


    We enjoyed the recipe so much, we’ve made skate our tip Of The Day. It may not be easy to find, so call around to your local fish stores.

    Skate with Ginger and Scallions

    Serves 2-3 with a side of rice.


  • 1 pound skate wing filets
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 scallions, washed and sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Your favorite rice (we like fragrant jasmine rice with this dish)


    1. Cut each skate wing in half to create two palm sized pieces.

    2. In a pot large enough to fit all the fillets, fill with water about 5 inches deep and bring to a boil. Note: The skate will curl as it cooks, so allow enough water to cover.

    3. Once the water is boiling, season with salt and add the skate. Turn off the heat and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the skate.

    4. Remove fish to a plate with a slotted spoon and top with scallions and ginger.

    5. Heat canola oil until just smoking and pour over the ginger and scallions. Drizzle soy sauce over the fish and season with white pepper. Serve with rice and a side of your favorite greens (broccoli rabe or conventional broccoli go nicely).

    Find more of our favorite fish and seafood recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Burger Bar, Diversity Burgers

    A turkey burger Caribbean-style, topped with
    a grilled pineapple slice. Photo courtesy


    America is burger crazy: Burgers are our most popular food. And those burgers are usually beef.

    But there are other burgers, equally delicious: bison, grain (usually sprouted), lamb, legume (black beans, lentils), turkey and veggie burgers.

    The next time you cook burgers, try a “burger bar” with an assortment of proteins. We’ve become converts to lamb burgers—plain, curried or topped with feta cheese. Lamb lovers will find them so much tastier than beef.

    With so many burgers consumed, there’s lots of room for creativity. Check out:

  • 35+ burger recipes—beef, bison, turkey and veggie—plus condiments and breads to turn hamburgers into glamburgers and create a memorable burger bar.
  • Gourmet cheeseburger recipes.
  • Burger grilling tips.

    Do you know the history of the hamburger?



    TIP OF THE DAY: Have Fun With The History Of Food

    If you love food, you may love learning more about it. Museums mount enlightening exhibits that put the history of our mainstay foods in perspective.

    Take beer. The New York Historical Society has just opened an exhibit called Beer Here, Brewing New York’s History. Chock full of artifacts, the exhibit runs through September 2, 2012.

    At the conclusion of the exhibit, you step into a “tavern” to taste some outstanding craft beers from New York brewers. The selection varies daily. We happened to catch the new Small Batch IPA from Heartland Brewery, a brewpub with seven Manhattan locations. The IPA’s complex layering of herbal and floral flavors and aromas is simply thrilling.

    But you don’t have to be in Manhattan to find an exhibit on beer, hot dogs, tacos and other favorite foods. Check with your local museums, historical societies and academic institutions to see what they may be cooking up.


    Engraving of a 16th century brewery. Image courtesy Wikimedia.



    As cities grew and local water supplies became polluted, microbes in the water caused disease in the population. People could not safely consume water that had not been boiled.

    But beer making boils the water and kills the pathogens. Plus, in the 19th centuries it was discovered that the hops used to flavor beer had antipathogenic and preservative properties (and were even made into medicines).

    Beer was one of the most common beverages in the Middle Ages, consumed daily by all social classes in the northern and eastern parts of Europe. Beer also provided a considerable amount of the daily calorie intake. Until clean municipal water supplies were developed in the 19th century, even young children drank beer.

    In addition to serving as a vital source of nourishment, beer was a steady source of tax revenue.


    The Lightning closure, was invented in the
    1870s and is still in use today, upgraded with
    a ceramic cap and a rubber gasket, and is called a swing top.
    Check out more historic bottle closures. Photo courtesy


    Beer Trivia

  • Party time, 10,000 C.E. People were brewing beer 12,000 years ago, about the time when mankind began to transition from a nomadic lifestyle to agricultural communities. Women became the primary brewers, among their many household duties.
  • Four simple ingredients. Beer is made from water, a fermentable starch source, brewer’s yeast to produce the fermentation (conversion into alcohol) and a flavoring such as hops (the cone-shaped flower clusters from the hops plant, Humulus lupulus.
  • Grain of choice: malted barley. In the U.S. and Europe, malted barley is fermented into beer. But the first beer brewed in the Colonies, in colonial Virginia in 1587, was made from local corn. In other parts of the world, agave, cassava root, millet, potato and sorghum are used (among other sources).
  • Fast forward to the year 1587 in colonial Virginia; Europeans produced the first homebrew made from corn in what would become the United States.

  • You have the right to homebrew. On October 14, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which exempted beer brewed at home for personal use from taxation. This exemption encouraged many people to homebrew, some of whom went on to establish the roughly 2,000 craft breweries in America today…and an estimated 1,000,000 homebrewers.
    Thanks to the American Homebrewers Association for the beer trivia.

    As you enjoy a cold one, consider brewing your own. We really enjoyed making beer with a Mr. Beer kit.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Portabella Mushrooms

    If you’ve never made delicious grilled portabella mushrooms, firing up the grill on Memorial Day weekend is an opportunity to cook these fab fungi.

    Small, brown cremini mushrooms, the size of white button mushrooms, grow up into more complex-flavored portabellas. Meaty in both taste and appearance, they grow from three inches to an enormous 10 inches in diameter, with firm flesh. Like meat, they even release juices when cooked.

    Scrumptious on their own, portabellas are also a food of choice for dieters, vegans, vegetarians and those watching their cholesterol. They can be grilled in lieu of beef, and they make wonderful grilled vegetable sandwiches.

    Served them whole or sliced, stuffed or as “burgers.” For a simple yet elegant starter, serve sliced grilled portobellas drizzled with a balsamic reduction (recipe below), with some greens on the side (we love a feisty arugula-fennel-watercress combination with a few grape tomatoes).


    Portabella mushroom caps on the grill. Photo courtesy


    Originally available wild from December to March, portabellas are now cultivated year round.

    Get the recipe for a portabella Philly Cheese “Steak” (photo below) and this beautiful portabella recipe, stuffed with a salad of microgreens and sprinkled with goat cheese.


    Grilled Philly Cheese “Steak” with portabella
    mushrooms. Photo courtesy Mushroom



    1. Remove stems and save for another purpose (omelet, salad, etc.). Wipe the portabella caps with a damp paper towel.

    2. Brush the tops with olive oil or canola oil. Cook portabellas gills down for the first 10 minutes to allow moisture to escape. Flip and grill tops.

    3. Season as desired before serving.


    How can one mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, be known by so many names?

    When young, the mushroom is variously called a baby portobello, baby bella, brown mushroom, crimini, Italian mushroom, mini bella, portabellini, Roman mushroom, Italian mushroom, or brown mushroom.

    When mature, the mushroom portabella, portobella or portobello. We prefer portabella because it flows easiest off the tongue.




  • 1 cup balamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

    1. Combine balsamic vinegar and garlic in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

    2. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until the vinegar has reduced to 1/4 cup. Cool to room temperature.

    3. Drizzle over grilled portabellas.


    Check out the different types in our Mushroom Glossary.



    RECIPE: Smores On The Grill

    When we think of the good old scouting days, making S’mores in the woods by toasting marshmallows on a peeled branch over a crackling campfire, we think:

    Why didn’t Mom let us make S’mores in the backyard on the grill, sparing us the poison ivy and mosquito bites? The answer, most likely, is that she didn’t want us stripping the forsythia and pussy willow bushes. (Those were the days before the advent of metal marshmallow skewers.)

    But no plant is denuded to make these delicious S’mores-on-the-grill.

    This recipe suggestion comes from the folks at Tastefully Simple, who used their creamy caramel sauce to make S’mores even more festive.


    Makes 4 cookie sandwiches.


    Turn this Girl Scout standard into a cookout favorite. Image courtesy Tastefully Simple, Inc. Used with permission.



  • 4 large marshmallows
  • 8 graham cracker squares
  • 4 squares of chocolate (about the size of a graham cracker square)
  • Caramel sauce or chocolate sauce


    1. Roast marshmallows on a skewer over a grill or low flame, until browned and puffed.

    2. Place a graham cracker square on a small plate; top with a square of chocolate and the hot marshmallow.

    3. Top with second graham cracker square; drizzle with warmed caramel sauce.


  • Recipes for a S’mores party.
  • Cutting edge recipe: tortilla chip S’mores with a cappuccino cocktail.
  • Banana S’mores on the barbie recipe.
  • The original S’mores recipe.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Guerilla Cooking With ”The Flavor Bible”

    Our chef’s favorite new book, a great gift for sophisticate cooks (or those who want to be). Photo courtesy the authors.


    THE NIBBLE’s chef Johnny Gnall is very enthusiastic about a cooking book published in 2008. He refers regularly to The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. His review follows. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

    Whenever my profession comes up in conversation, there is one question I get asked more than any other: “What is your favorite cuisine to cook at home?”

    The closest approximation I can offer is that I’m a champion of “guerilla cooking.”

    By this, I mean that I open the refrigerator and figure out my menu on the spot. Scanning the fridge for proteins and produce, thumbing through spices and jars in the pantry, I put together a meal that rarely fits neatly inside the label of any one cuisine.


    I suppose I love this kind of cooking so much because of my mom, the earliest and most ubiquitous influence on my identity as a cook. She was a working mother who often found herself at the end of the week with odds and ends in the fridge, limited time on her hands and five people to feed. Each and every time, she made the kind of dinners that had the neighborhood kids lining up for their turn to eat over.

    So it only makes sense that when I cook, I feel perfectly comfortable going in blind. One of the keys to success in such circumstances is knowing which products and flavors complement one another.

    The most effective way to gain such knowledge is experience. However, for those with less experience, The Flavor Bible is an invaluable book to help fill in the blanks. I bought my copy during culinary school on a classmate’s emphatic recommendation, and I will probably use it for the rest of my life.

    The Flavor Bible starts off with 30-plus pages on the nitty-gritty details of what exactly constitutes “flavor.” It begins by defining it in the equation, TASTE + MOUTHFEEL + AROMA + X-FACTOR = FLAVOR.

    The “X-factor” is anything perceived by our senses of sight, smell and taste, as well as emotional or mental reactions to the food. Each component of the equation is discussed in depth, even addressed philosophically at times; and is explored in as many contexts and from as many perspectives as you’re likely to come across.


    But all of this—the pontifications on flavor and the scientific breakdown of taste and aroma—is merely the introduction. The most valuable content of the cook lies in its other 350 or so pages: the flavor matchmaking charts.

    These charts contain a virtually all-inclusive list of ingredients, from meat to dairy to seafood to produce, from herbs and spices to oils and vinegars—even liquors and wines. Listed below each ingredient are any and all complementary ingredients, flavors, seasonings, and cooking methods.

    Even with a blinding headache, you can figure out exactly what goes best with whatever you happen to have on hand. You’ll also find recipes from notable chefs peppered throughout the charts, and simple dishes and meal ideas in the margins. Warm Frisée and Bacon Salad with Beet Carpaccio and Toasted Walnuts? Yes, please!


    Look in the fridge for ingredients: The Flavor Bible tells you what pairs best with what. Photo courtesy California Asparagus Commission.


    For those who want to start off in a general direction but keep things fast and loose, world cuisines are listed with their traditional and most popular ingredients and flavors for easy reference. Throwing a party for a Cuban friend whose family is in town? With The Flavor Bible, you know to fill your house with allspice, avocado, beans, beef, bell peppers, chicken, chocolate, citrus, cumin, garlic, lime, oregano, pineapple, plantains… you get the idea.

    So pick up a copy of The Flavor Bible. Then stride fearlessly to the refrigerator and swing the door open with confidence. No matter what you find starting back at you, rest assured you have the knowledge (and then some) to transform it into something delicious.

    And that’s a bible to swear on!



    PRODUCT: Sushi Donuts, Cricket Donuts

    Sushi donuts? Sounds delish. Photo courtesy
    Psycho Donuts.


    Psycho Donuts, in San Jose, California, is, well, a bit psycho.

    It’s not the sushi-shaped donuts, a bento box with Pocky chopsticks called Psycho Psushi. We love the idea.

    But the cricket donuts (yep, with whole dried crickets) are a bit psycho for us. We come from the generation right before Fear Factor made it cool to eat bugs.

    We don’t know how many people buy the cricket donuts, but the company does say that when it launched Psycho Psushi a year ago, a line of 1,000 people wrapped around the block(s) to get them.

    This year, the company made twice as much to meet demand for the Psycho Psushi.

    Alas, Psycho Donuts does not deliver outside of Santa Clara County. But there’s still time for you to find your way to San Jose by National Donut Day.


    Would You Like Bugs With That?

    In honor of National Donut Day—the first Friday in June, this year, June 1st—Psycho Donuts has launched a new series of donuts, dubbed PsychoBugz. It employs edible crickets and larvae as donut toppings.

    Ron Levi, Doctor of Donut Derangement at Psycho Donuts, notes that while bugs may have a bad rap in the U.S., they are enjoyable snacks in other parts of the world, (they are very high in protein).

    We’re still creeped out by the sight of Al Roker eating a scorpion-on-a-stick at the Beijing Olympics. But if you’re game:


    Cherp Derp, a chocolate donut topped with crickets. Photo courtesy Psycho Donuts.


  • Chirp Derp is a chocolate cake donut with a hint of pumpkin and chipotle. The donut is iced in dark chocolate with a drizzle of milk chocolate, with a sprinkle of bacon bits. Three crickets are perched atop the donut.
  • Worm Hole is a jalapeño tequila-spiked cake donut with salted lime icing, keylime drizzle and a Mexican spice larvette near the donut’s center.
    Chief Psycho Jordan Zweigoron said, “We are buzzing with excitement.”

    Check out the company website.



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