THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website,

Archive for June, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Make A July 4th Cocktail

A star-spangled cocktail. Photo courtesy Congress Hall.


We serve Bloody Marys, Margaritas and Martinis year-round. But we love occasions that merit special cocktails.

So we were more than pleased when this red, white and blue “Star Spangled Banner” cocktail recipe arrived from Congress Hall, a 200-year-old classic American resort on the ocean in Cape May, New Jersey (so charming, we wanted to make a reservation—see the photo gallery).


This drink delivers delightful flavor from the two orange liqueurs and fresh raspberries.

Ingredients Per Drink

  • 3 tablespoons fresh raspberries, macerated and muddled
  • ¾ ounce orange liqueur (Cointreau, Curaçao, Grand Marnier, GranGala, triple sec)
  • ¾ ounce blue Curaçao
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • Coarse sugar or drink rimmer with red or blue flecks


    1. Moisten the rim of a Martini glass and dip it a half inch deep in sugar (use a shallow bowl for the sugar).

    2. Combine the muddled raspberries with the orange liqueur. Add to the bottom of the glass.

    3. Combine the vodka and blue Curaçao. Blue Curaçaos vary in color. If you want a darker blue, add a scant drop of blue food color (Curaçao is colored with food color. Cointreau, Grand Marnier and other high-end orange spirits are based on Cognac or other aged spirit, which yields a natural rusty orange color.)

    4. Shake with ice and strain into glass. Serve.


    For a red, white and blue effect, you can also use whipped cream and blueberries atop a red drink. You don’t have to sweeten the whipped cream; unsweetened, it provides a more sophisticated contrast atop a sweet drink.


    Adapted from a Congress Hall recipe.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 part vodka
  • 3 parts cranberry juice or pomegranate juice
  • Whipped cream (how about Bourbon whipped cream?)
  • Garnish: blueberries
  • Ice cubes
  • Straw

    1. Shake vodka and juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour over ice cubes in a collins glass.


    Whipped cream and blueberries turn any sweet red cocktail into a patriotic one. Photo courtesy Congress Hall.


    2. Top with a small amount of whipped cream. Garnish with blueberries and serve with a straw.

    Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes.



    JULY 4th: Bipartisan Truffle Party Favors

    Party line party favors for July 4th. Photo
    courtesy Choclatique.


    If your crowd spends a preponderance of time discussing politics, serve some of these clever chocolates for July 4th.

    Made by the creative L.A. chocolatier Choclatique, white chocolate shells are filled with chocolate ganache and topped with colored white chocolate donkey and elephant medallions in party colors.

    They are sold in two-piece party favors (one elephant, one donkey per box in a 12-box package) and boxes of 8, 15 and 30 pieces, all ranging from $18.00 to $55.00.

    And of course, given party politics, each size is available in all-donkey or all-elephant.

    Head to and search for “Capitol Collection.”

    Find more of our favorite chocolates.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Compound Butter For “Instant” Sauces

    Want to become a more impressive cook instantly? Use compound butter! Also known as finishing butter, or beurre composé in French, it’s unsalted butter that has been blended with seasonings.

    There are endless variations. Escoffier published 35 combinations in 1903, and cuisine has evolved in many directions since his classic renderings of anchovy butter and beurre à la maître d’hotel (lemon parsley butter).

    In Continental cuisine, compound butter is added to the pan to finish a sauce, placed directly atop meat, fish or vegetables to create a flavorful garnish, or mixed into pasta and rice. Just a dab transforms a dish: If you think butter makes everything taste better, think of what butter infused with great seasonings will do.

    Herb butter (most often served atop steak), Roquefort butter (ditto) and anchovy butter (a classic with grilled seafood) are staples at fine steakhouses. Read a French restaurant menu and maître d’hôtel butter (lemon parsley) is certain to be garnishing some dish. And that delicious sauce of butter, lemon juice, parsley and garlic served with escargots? Compound butter.


    Compound butter made with crawfish and herbs. Photo courtesy Chicken Fried Gourmet.


    Compound butters are an easy alternative to more complex sauces. Make them ahead of time and keep them in the freezer, slicing off a pat as needed. They can be modestly to highly flavorful to enhance the main ingredient.

    Compound butters are meant to be decorative: not simply melted butter, but punctuated with seasonings and/or color. In addition to the recipe below for crawfish butter, try these compound butter recipes: citrus butters, savory butters, spiced butters and sweet butters.

    Served with anything from toasted French bread to grilled fish, oysters or shrimp, this delectable butter will spice up your meal with a Cajun zest. Thanks to chef Michael O’Boyle of Chicken Fried Gourmet in Shreveport, Louisiana, for the recipe.


  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 pound crawfish tails (if you can’t find crawfish, substitute another shellfish)
  • 5-6 cloves of whole garlic
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning*
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of dried basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    *You can make your own: Combine 2 tablespoons paprika, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Use leftover spice on popcorn.

    1. Leave butter to soften at room temperature for 1 hour before starting recipe.

    2. Sauté crawfish with 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add wine and garlic and simmer till evaporated. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

    3. In a food processor combine butter, crawfish and rest of ingredients. Process until all ingredients are incorporated evenly throughout butter.

    4. Spread butter mixture out on a plastic wrap and roll into a log. Wrap with a second coating of plastic wrap and seal the ends by twisting. Place in a sealed bag and freeze till solid.

    5. Slice off as needed and think of different ways to use it in your everyday cooking: fry breakfast eggs in it, flavor mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables, use on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.



    PRODUCT: Grow Back To The Roots Mushrooms In Your Kitchen

    Here’s a fun, educational and tasty summer activity for adults and kids alike: Grow mushrooms in your kitchen.

    Back to the Roots shows the joy of home farming via a small cardboard box that produces two micro-crops of mushrooms.

    Two UC Berkeley students came across the idea during a class, which mentioned the potential to grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds.

    Inspired by the idea of turning waste into fresh food, they succeeded in growing oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With some initial interest from Whole Foods and Chez Panisse, and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forgo their corporate job offers and become urban mushroom farmers.

    Now, everyone can enjoy freshly-harvested oyster mushrooms with a Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden. That which is not edible is compostible or recylcable.


    Our kitchen mushroom farm. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Last year, the kit helped families grow more than 135,000 pounds of fresh mushrooms at home, reusing one million pounds of coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee & Tea. This year, the company expects to reuse 3.6 million pounds of coffee grounds.

    A sustainable project that yields good, healthy food: This is a feel-good purchase and gift.

    The kits are available at some Whole Foods Markets and online.



    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Dissolve Sugar In Cold Drinks

    Sugar dissolves slowly in cold liquids. Photo by K.G. Toh | CSP


    As most people have discovered, table sugar is slow to dissolve in cold drinks. Whether you’re sweetening iced coffee and iced tea or making a sweet cocktail, there are better products to use than conventional granulated sugar.

    Superfine Sugar

    Pick up some superfine sugar, or make your own.

    Superfine sugar is simply table sugar that is ground into smaller grains, which dissolve quickly. You can make it in the food processor by pulsing table sugar until it’s very fine. Keep superfine sugar in a separate sugar bowl to bring out when you’re serving iced coffee and tea.

    Simple Syrup

    Simple syrup is typically used by bartenders to sweeten drinks. It’s a mixture of half sugar and half water, stirred over medium-low heat until it dissolves. Cooled to room temperature, it’s a quick sweetener.

    You can buy it or make a batch, keep it in the fridge in a tightly-capped jar and use as needed. Here’s the simple syrup recipe.

    There’s also a sugar-free simple syrup made with stevia.


    Agave Nectar

    The healthiest alternative is to use no sugar. Refined white sugar makes no positive contribution to our nutrition and has a downside everyone is familiar with.

    A better choice than sugar is agave nectar, a low-glycemic natural sweetener from the agave plant. Agave nectar has a glycemic index (GI) of 32; half that of table sugar (GI 60-65). Honey has a GI of 58, pure maple syrup has a GI of 54. (Here’s more information on agave.)


    It’s simple chemistry: Substances dissolve faster in hot water. Hot water molecules have more entropy (move faster) than cold water molecules, enabling hot water to more quickly break down the sugar molecules in the solution.

    How many types of sugar are there? Check out our Sugar Glossary.



    Don’t Dilute The Iced Coffee/Iced Tea

    We’ve been to delis where iced coffee (or tea) is made by pouring the hot stuff over ice. They probably figure that with the added sugar and milk, people won’t notice how dilute the coffee is.

    At home, you can:

  • Brew it ahead of time. If you’re a big consumer of iced coffee or iced tea, it’s also very inexpensive.
  • Save leftovers. When we have leftover brewed coffee or tea, we add it to a bottle in the fridge.
  • Turn leftovers into ice cubes. You can use them to chill down room-temperature coffee or tea, or to make already-chilled beverages extra-cold. Check out all the ways you can make and use “specialty” ice cubes.
  • Use coffee concentrate. We always have a supply of Java Juice packets on hand (certified kosher). You can also carry them and add them to your water bottle throughout the day.

    Iced tea pitcher and photo from


    Try Flavoring Ice Coffee & Iced Tea

  • Make Summer Flavors. Use flavored extracts—coconut, orange and vanilla, for example, Add ¼ teaspoon per cup/glass of coffee or tea.
  • Fancy Flavors.Check out Gevalia Coffee’s recipes for Caramel Iced Coffee, Chocolate-Hazelnut Iced Coffee, Lemon-Ginger Iced Coffee and Mint-Mocha Iced Coffee. There’s also the Whipaccino: cold coffee and vanilla ice cream whipped in the blender.


    Here are more iced coffee tips and recipes.

    Try this recipe for ultra-rich vanilla iced coffee with shaved chocolate.



    PRODUCT: Q Kola For Cocktail Connoisseurs

    Q Kola, an elegant mixer. Photo courtesy Q


    A few years ago, a young Brooklynite enjoying a vodka and tonic happened to notice the calories on the tonic water bottle, along with other ingredients not up to par with his top shelf vodka. He became a man with a mission: to make an artisan tonic water from the best ingredients he could find.

    The mission resulted in Q Water (Q for quinine). The company, Q Drinks, also produced a Q Ginger and a Q Club Soda.

    And now, there’s Q Kola.

    Like Q Tonic Water and Q Ginger Ale, Q Kola is clean, crisp, not too sweet and made in small batches with with all-natural ingredients. The whole line is more light in body than big-brand mixers. One reason is the house style, the other reason is that high fructose corn syrup, the main sweetener of big-brand mixers, adds body and mouthfeel.


    If you’d like more elegance in your Rum and Coke, Long Island Iced Tea, Mad Bomber or other drinks among the more than 163 drinks made with cola, try Q Kola.

    Packaged in a beautiful glass bottle, Q Kola is made with organic ingredients, including kola nuts, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, lemon, lime, orange and nutmeg (the flavorings found in cola). It’s lightly sweetened with organic agave nectar.

    There’s a store locator on the company website. You can purchase Q Kola online at

    Find more of our favorite soft drinks.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pisco From Peru

    At the end of each of the past four years, food trend analysts have predicted that Peruvian food will be the next hot cuisine in the U.S.

    But do you know what Peruvian cuisine is? Have you had their national cocktail, the Pisco Sour?

    We’re about to introduce you to Pisco. But first, some favorite Peruvian foods:

  • Ceviche, raw seafood cured in citrus juice
  • Shrimp cioppino, a type of bouillabaisse
  • Deep fried mashed potatoes stuffed with ground meat, eggs and olives
  • Beef heart kabobs
  • Grilled chicken or roaster chicken, one of the most consumed foods in the country
  • Green salsa, made with cilantro

    Pisco Portón, an “ultrapremium” brand of Pisco. Photo courtesy PiscoPórton.


    Where Would We Be Without These Foods?

    Some of our favorite foods originated in Peru, including potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts and several varieties of beans, as did the fashionable superfood, quinoa. On the fruit side, prickly pear, cape gooseberry, dragon fruit, cherimoya and tamarillo are Peruvian natives. All of these foods were cultivated by the Incas.

    The History Of Pisco

    Back to Pisco: The spirit was developed by Spanish settlers in the 16th century as an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was imported from Spain.

    Not only did they have to wait for the cargo ship to show up; but pomace is not hard to come by. It is distilled from what’s after from pressing wine grapes (what’s left are the grape skins and seeds). European estate owners typically gave this residue to the farm workers, to distill for their own enjoyment. The end product, depending on the country, is brandy, grappa and other firewater.


    A Pisco Sour. Don’t you wish you had one
    now? Photo courtesy Pisco Portón.


    In the late 1550s, the Spanish settlers began to plant quality wine grapes. Peruvian farmers did the same as their European counterparts: They distilled a clear liquid from the pressed wine residue given to them.

    Pisco was discovered by sailors in the 18th century, when it became part of the growing Peruvian export trade. It was easier to transport Pisco up the West Coast from Peru than to transport whiskey overland from the East Coast. Thus, Pisco made its way to San Francisco, where it was enjoyed during the Gold Rush (1848–1855) through 1920, when Prohibition put the cap on alcohol.

    There are many Pisco brands, including what has to be our favorite name, Macchu Pisco (get it)? Today, premium brands are distilled from the wine itself, not from the residue. The category’s ullta-premium brand is Pisco Portón, an elegant distillate with fruit aromas and flavors; we enjoyed drinking it neat.



  • Pisco Sour: the national cocktail of Peru, made with lime juice, cane syrup, egg wite and bitters.
  • Alga-Robbina: a syrup from the carob tree is the mixer.
  • Beatríz: Pisco, granadine, cream, crème de cacao and cinnamon.
  • Biblia: Pisco, Port, egg yolk, crème de cacao, Curaçao and cinnamon.
  • Canario: Pisco with orange juice.
  • El Capitán: Pisco and red vermouth.
  • Calentito: Pisco with hot tea and lemon.
  • Chilcano: Pisco with ginger ale, lime juice and bitters.
  • Melate: Pisco with sweet wine.
  • Pisco Punch: Pisco with pineapple juice, lime juice and sugar.


    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 1½ ounces Pisco Portón
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • ¼ ounce egg white
  • 1 dash bitters

    1. Combine first four ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake.

    2. Strain into a chilled glass. Add a dash of bitters.

    Firewater is actually a generic term for alcoholic beverages that contain between 30% and 60% alcohol by volume—that’s 60 to 120 prove. The Spanish word is aguardiente, which means “fiery water” or “burning water.”

    Brandy originates from brandywine, the Dutch word for “burnt wine.” The spirit is named from Pisco, a town located on the coast of Peru. Often, products were named for the town from which they were shipped.
    Find more of our favorite spirits and cocktail recipes.


    Comments (1)

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Ceviche Day & Ceviche Recipes

    June 28 is National Ceviche Day in Peru, where it one of the national dishes. The holiday has arrived in the U.S.—a healthy celebration.

    Ceviche—shellfish cured by citrus juice acid—has been popular in Latin America for many centuries. It dates some 2,000 years to an Inca dish of raw marinated fish.

    The dish was discovered by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s; they added the lime juice and onion that are integral to modern ceviche. The name “ceviche,” pronounced say-VEE-chay, is thought to come from the Spanish “escabeche,” meaning marinade.

    Today, ceviche—spelled seviche or sebiche in some countries—is so popular that there are cevicherias, restaurants that specialize in ceviche.


    Shrimp ceviche. Photo courtesy Shrimp Council.


    There’s a whole menu of ceviche, from different types of fish and seafood to country-specific preparations. Each country adds its own spin based on local seafood and preference for ingredients like avocado. Some add a dressing of ketchup or a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise.

    Ceviche is delicious “health food.”

  • Fish and seafood are high in protein.
  • Citrus juice is high in antioxidants including vitamin C; and is a good source of potassium and folate.
  • There’s no sugar or added fat.
  • Ceviche is low in calories. Most fish have 30-40 calories per ounce; shrimp and lobster have 30 calories, bay scallops 25 calories and octopus 35 calories per ounce. Other ingredients such as chile, cucumber, herbs, onion and tomato add negligible calories.
    Try this classic shrimp ceviche recipe.

    Create your own recipe, using your favorite seafood, with this guide.


    Ceviche with mixed shellfish. Photo by Food
    Colors | Fotolia.


    Executive Chef Damian Gilchrist of the Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo, Florida serves Florida Lobster “Ceviche-Style” with Watermelon Salad. Here’s his recipe, which serves 4 as a main or 8 as a first course.



  • 1 quart (32 ounces) lobster meat (barely cooked through)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pickled ginger
  • 1 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes, skinned and
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Bermuda onions
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (you can leave this out, or use
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • For Serving

  • Watermelon slices
  • Mache lettuce (you can substitute mixed baby greens or arugula)
  • Balsamic syrup


    1. Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl to thoroughly combine. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

    2. Serve atop watermelon planks with mache and drizzled with balsamic syrup. For balsamic syrup, reduce balsamic vinegar or buy a ready-made balsamic glaze.

    More on the history of ceviche.



    PRODUCT: Cetara Anchovies, Among The Best

    Anchovies get a bad rap in the U.S. They typically appear on “most hated foods” lists. That’s because many people were first introduced to cheap, oily, odoriforus, overly salty and “fishy” tasting examples on pizzas or in Caesar salads at the local diner. (One reason they’re so intense is that casual restaurants don’t take the time to rinse the anchovies, but just scoop them up from the oil.)

    But in fact, these little fish can be truly delightful—still with a strong flavor, but one that’s delicious.

    The 144 species of anchovies, a salt-water fish related to herring. They live in many of the world’s oceans and seas, including the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean and Pacific.

    The good brands are things of beauty. Italians—who not only make some of the world’s best food, but as a society have among the most demanding palates—use them as a backbone in many recipes.

    If you’re willing to try again—or if you’re already an anchovy fan—you can get absolutely delicious anchovies from, an importer of Italian delicacies.


    Anchovies: quite lovely, actually. Photo by Kaan Tanriover | SXC.


    The anchovies come from Cetara, an enchanting fishing village along the Amalfi coast, on the Gulf of Salerno. They are packaged by Nettuno, a family-run company. Production is completely by hand, using simple but precise traditions of local anchovy preserving.

    The best anchovies are caught between March and July, when their flesh is at its most plump; Nettuno only fishes during this period. The fresh anchovies are immediately placed in oak barrels layered with water and sea salt and cured for about five months. The salt used by Nettuno is the exceptional sea salt that is hand-harvested in the salt panes of Trapani from, uncontaminated Sicilian waters.

    The result: anchovies that are are soft, moist and plump. It takes only a few seconds to rinse them in cold water and then put them too use.

    Get your Cetara anchovies here.

    And if you’re a true anchovy lover, try a bottle of Colatura, a descendent of the favorite Roman condiment, garum.


    This recipe is courtesy La Cucina Italiana and Chef Andrea Tiberi. It serves 4.


  • Coarse sea salt—Trapani or substitute
  • 2.75 pounds plum tomatoes
  • 1.1 pounds penne or other short pasta (Chef uses Martelli brand)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (Chef uses organic Pianogrillo olive oil)
  • 3 ounces mixed baby greens (about 5 cups)
  • 8 ounces Piennolo tomatoes (you can substitute San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 12 salted anchovy filets, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon salt-packed capers (rinse and soak capers for 10 minutes, then rinse again)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chervil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped marjoram
  • Fresh ground black pepper

    1. Heat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drop plum tomatoes into water and boil 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes from pot (reserve water); drain, peel, cut in half, and seed.

    3. Place tomatoes on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake until tomatoes are partially dried and flavor is concentrated, about 3 hours.

    4. Return water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and toss with a drizzle of oil and pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.

    5. Remove tomatoes from oven; transfer to a cutting board and finely chop. Add to bowl with pasta. Add greens, Piennolo tomatoes, 3 tablespoons oil, anchovies, capers, chervil and marjoram; toss to combine. Arrange on plates. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and some fresh-ground pepper.



    COOKING VIDEO: Healthy Chips And Dip


    As a nation, we love crunchy snacks and creamy dips. As calorie counters, we don’t.

    In this video, chef Curtis Stone shows how easy it is to make your own lowfat baked chips (commercial chips can have 30% fat) and lowfat, low-calorie dips.

    They taste good and keep you looking good (Chef Stone looks great!).

    See our Snacks Section with healthful snacks and recipes.




    © Copyright 2005-2016 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.