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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 August, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Grass Fed Beef Benefits

Next time, try grass-fed beef. Photo courtesy
KateDeering.com.

 

America is raising its beef consciousness. People in the know are seeking out grass-fed beef, which offers benefits over the now-conventional grain-fed beef.

You can find grass-fed beef on store shelves and in better restaurants—even burger bistros, such as Thunder Burger and Bar in the tony Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. Executive Chef Ryan Fichter explains:

“You haven’t enjoyed a great tasting burger until you have had a grass-fed beef burger. There’s simply no comparison and once people try it, they always want that standard. It’s a better burger all the way around.”

Fichter continues: “There are just so many benefits to eating grass-fed beef, it really makes you wonder why you would ever not want grass-fed beef.”

 

5 REASONS TO CHOOSE GRASS-FED BEEF

Taste. Those who buy grass-fed beef prefer the flavor. All cattle grazed on grass before the industrialization of the beef industry led to feedlot farms and antiobiotics. See The Meatrix.

Health. Grass-fed beef produces a healthier meat: three times higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E and around 10 times more beta carotene. And that’s just the beginning of its superior nutrition.

Clean Eating. Clean eating means trying to steer clear of chemicals and additives, such as the antibiotics and hormones given to conventionally raised cattle. Grass-fed beef is a natural product.

Environment. Grass-fed beef is better for the planet: It produces less waste and helps to create a healthier ecosystem. As opposed to feedlots, which pollute water tables, grass-grazing cattle provide natural weed control and help to cycle nutrients in the soil. Plus, the grass they feed on grows naturally, whereas vast amounts of resources are used in raising the grain eaten by conventional cattle.

Humanity. Cattle that are grass-fed typically live a more natural and enjoyable life. They eat what nature intended them to eat and have the opportunity to roam stress free, as opposed to the stressed lives of tightly-penned-in cattle.

So, the next time you buy or order beef, if there’s a grass-fed option, try it. Let us know what you think.

How many different cuts of beef have you had? Check out our Beef Cuts Glossary.
 
  

Comments

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Thousand Layer Cake

Do Euforia thousand layer cakes really have 1,000 layers? No, but that doesn’t take away the enchantment of these twelve-layer cakes.

Each thin, delicious, gluten-free layer is individually baked by artisans in Tucson, delivering moist texture and excellent lemon, spice or vanilla flavor.

This is “anytime” cake: Enjoy a slice with coffee, tea, Madeira, Port, Sherry or a favorite dessert wine. To make a more elaborate dessert, add custard sauce, whipped cream or ice cream, berries or berry purée.

The cakes are made in three formats:

  • Party Cake, a large, 60-ounce cake that makes a great impression.
  • Cake Roll, a 15-ounce log.
  • Individually-Wrapped Slices for portioning out daily treats.
  •  

    A thousand layer cake delivers an exciting visual presentation. Photo courtesy Euforia Confections.

     

    Treat yourself or give them as gifts: You’ll be euphoric over Euforia.
     
    Read the full review.

    Or, buy some now.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: Seven Layer Cake Recipe

     

    Since our Top Pick Of The Week is thousand layer cake, we thought we’d start you with something simpler: a seven layer cake.

    Presented by pastry chef Seth Greenberg, this yellow cake with chocolate ganache filling and frosting is sure to become a family favorite.

    Find more of our favorite cakes and recipes in our Gourmet Cakes Section.

       

       

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cut Calories & Cholesterol (But Not Flavor) With Greek Yogurt

    Instead of a cream sauce, use a fat-free,
    cholesterol-free yogurt sauce. See recipe
    below. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.

     

    When we discovered nonfat Greek-style yogurt many years ago, we were able to give up our high-cholesterol, high-calorie sour cream and cream cheese habit, reduce the calories in dips and salad dressing, and cut the use of mayonnaise in half by substituting yogurt for half of it.

    Fat-free (0%) yogurt tastes just as good as the 2% and 5% (whole milk) versions. There’s a slight difference, of course, but not one that makes a difference in how enjoyable the yogurt or the recipe is.

    Aside from the popular smoothies and granola toppings, here are ways to use plain, nonfat, plain Greek-style yogurt throughout the day.

    BREAKFAST

    Banana Split. What more festive treat for breakfast than making a banana split with yogurt and cottage cheese. If it’s too much for a weekday, enjoy it as your “weekend special” (recipe).

     

    Bread Spread. We enjoy yogurt plain, or mixed with herbs and a pinch of salt, as a spread on bagels and toast. It’s especially good with whole wheat and multigrain breads. But if you want a thicker spread, make yogurt cheese: Add yogurt to a sieve (strainer) lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Place the sieve over a bowl or pan and let drain for two hours in the fridge.

    Labneh Spread. This savory, protein-rich Middle Eastern breakfast spread and dip is delicious and refreshing. Season a cup of Greek-style yogurt with chopped basil, garlic powder, green onion, mint, oregano and/or thyme. Mix with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil; add salt to taste. Serve in a dish garnished with coarsely chopped walnuts, a drizzle of olive oil and some more herbs. You can also mix finely-chopped walnuts into the yogurt for more texture and flavor.

     

    LUNCH

    Mexican Dishes. Replace sour cream with nonfat Greek-style yogurt as a garnish for chili, enchiladas and other favorite dishes.

    Salad Dressing. Substitute yogurt for half the mayonnaise in any recipe—green salad, chicken salad, potato salad, tuna salad and so forth. An easy recipe: Combine yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic and fresh dill. For a seafood salad dressing, mix yogurt with ketchup or chili sauce and sweet pickle relish.

    DINNER

    Baked Potato Top the potato with yogurt instead of sour cream, but keep the other fixings: chives, a teaspoon of crumbled bacon (you get a “cholesterol credit” from the fat-free yogurt) or a spoonful of grated Cheddar or Parmesan. Or, use the labneh spread above—it’s terrific with potatoes. For more of a sauce, dilute the yogurt with a bit of lemon juice and add fresh dill and a pinch of salt.

     

    Treat yourself to a good yogurt cookbook.

     

    Meat Marinade. The beneficial bacteria in yogurt act as a tenderizer. You can mix yogurt with olive oil, soy sauce and/or other ingredients or just use a cup of plain yogurt with a teaspoon each of lemon juice, minced garlic and one or more herbs and spices (celery seed, curry powder and/or onion powder, for example).

    Sauces. Instead of a cholesterol-laden cream sauce, try a yogurt sauce. Start with this easy recipe and add your own variations: 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger; combine, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Drizzle over fish, chicken or vegetables. Here’s the recipe for raita, a classic Indian yogurt sauce with garlic, cucumbers, cumin and fresh mint.

    Soups. Use it to create creamy cold soups or to garnish any soup. Yogurt will curdle when mixed into hot liquids, so stabilize it first with a teaspoon of corn starch.

    Stews. Follow the same direction as with soups. Yogurt really cuts the calories in Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Paprikash.

    SNACKS

    Dip. Substitute yogurt for half the mayonnaise or sour cream; and ultimately move to an all-yogurt recipe. We love the Greek dip tzatziki, made with with cucumber, lemon juice, garlic and herbs (recipe).

    Parfait. Layer yogurt with berries and granola in a glass or goblet.

    BAKING

    Muffins & Quickbreads Replace the butter in recipes, adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of yogurt. Get a yogurt baking book for many other ideas in your everyday baking.
     

    MORE

    Treat yourself to a good yogurt cookbook.

    Find more yogurt recipes in our Yogurt Section.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: 365 Brand Greek Yogurt

    Greek yogurt has become one of the stars at American supermarkets, experiencing a steady rise in sales. It has been pleasing palates across the nation.

    Why the love affair? Greek yogurts are triple-strained, removing excess whey. This delivers a sweeter flavor than conventional yogurts, which are known for their tartness. Thick and creamy, lowfat or nonfat Greek yogurt can also be substituted for sour cream and mayonnaise in sauces and dressings.

    Whole Foods Market, which carries Greek yogurt brands such as Chobani, FAGE and Wallaby, has launched its own brand, 365 Everyday Value Greek Yogurts. The line is nonfat except as noted, and is certified kosher by OU

    The flavors of 365 Everyday Value Greek Yogurt Nonfat Yogurt include:

     

    Whole Foods Market now has a house brand of Greek yogurt. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

     

  • Nonfat Honey (by the way, you can also add your own honey to plain yogurt)
  • Nonfat Blueberry & Pomegranate, one of the most delicious fruit flavors in any Greek yogurt line
  • Nonfat Plain—great all on its own, or topped with granola, nuts and raisins and cinnamon
  • Strawberry
  • 2% Plain
  •  
    The Plain varieties are also available in 17.6-ounce cartons. The 5.3-ounce flavored cups and 6-ounce plain cups are $1.39; the 17.6-ounce cartons in 0% and 2% are $3.99.

    We eat a lot of Greek yogurt, and theis all-natural line (no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives) is as satisfying as any. The flavors (honey and fruit preserves) are packaged in the separate flavor container introduced by FAGE.

    Find more of our favorite yogurts and recipes in our Yogurt Section.

    Learn all about yogurt in our yummy Yogurt Glossary.

     

    Lime pie with a pretzel crust. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

     

    RECIPE: LIME OR KEY LIME & HONEY PIE WITH
    PRETZEL CRUST

    Here’s a sweet-and-salty recipe that uses Greek yogurt in addition to cream.

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 bag pretzel sticks
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 4 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 packet (1/4-ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 cup lime or Key lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Confectioners’ sugar to taste
  • Lime slices for garnish
  •  

    Preparation

    1. CRUMBS. Preheat oven to 350°F. Put pretzels into a blender and blend until fine crumbs form, about 30 seconds.

    2. BLEND. Transfer to a bowl, add butter and 4 teaspoons of the honey and mix until well combined. Press crumb mixture into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate, leaving a 1/2-inch rim around the top. Bake until just crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside to let cool completely.

    3. GELATIN. Put 1/2 cup water and gelatin into a small pot and set aside for 5 minutes. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.

    4. COMBINE. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, remaining 1/2 cup honey, lime juice and zest. Stir warm gelatin mixture into yogurt mixture then pour filling into prepared pie crust. Refrigerate until chilled and set, about 3 hours.

    5. BEAT. Beat heavy cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Slice pie and serve topped with dollops of whipped cream and lime slices.
     
    Find more of our favorite pie recipes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fun With Food Presentation

    A good caterer knows that presentation makes a big difference. At every event we attend, there’s usually a clever idea to bring home.

    Today, the tip is to repurpose the rocks glass. Elegant Affairs Caterers, which works in The Hamptons and metropolitan New York City, uses it instead of a conventional plate to layer a fish course and bean salad. The glasses are presented on trays or on a buffet table for guests to enjoy as they circulate.

    For sit-down eating, use a service plate under the glass.

    What’s wrong with a conventional plate of fish and bean salad? Nothing, except the rocks glass glass is more visually arresting. Use it for a smaller fish course before the main.

    Instead of using a conventional plate, layer a bean salad topped with grilled fish. The grilled fish will flake easily without requiring a knife. We adapted the concept with leftover tuna skewers, balancing the skewer on top of the glass. For a vegetarian recipe, substitute diced tofu.

    And have fun with it.

     

    Instead of a plate, layer grilled fish and bean salad in a rocks glass. Photo courtesy ElegantAffairsCaterers.com.

     

    EASY BEAN SALAD RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1 can (14 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 small red bell pepper or tomato, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley plus sprigs for garnish
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon jalapeño, seeded and minced (or more to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: lemon or lime zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. If using frozen corn, allow to defrost; drain.

    2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let stand at 15 minutes or longer for flavors to combine.

    2. Toss and fill glasses. Top with grilled fish and garnish with a small sprig of cilantro or parsley and/or a bit of grated lemon or lime zest.
     
    Find more of our favorite fish and vegetable recipes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Steak & Mineral Water

    A glass of mineral-rich bottled water can
    substitute for a glass of wine. Photo by
    Groveb | IST.

     

    Many people enjoy a hearty glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel with a juicy steak.

    But what about those who don’t drink alcohol, can’t have it at the moment, are the designated driver, and so forth?

    A hearty mineral water can stand up to any steak. One we like is Ferrarelle, Italy’s #1 naturally sparkling mineral water which, along with another favorite, San Pellegrino, has fairly good national distribution.

    The sturdy texture of steak mandates pairing with a full bodied mineral water—one that’s slightly salty with significant total dissolved solids (TDS), which provide each water with a unique flavor.

    TDS is the breakdown of what percentage of the water is bicarbonate, chloride, fluoride, lithium, magnesium, potassium and other minerals (more about TDS). Spring waters, as opposed to mineral waters, have very low TDS, and their flavor is not heightened by tasty minerals that are naturally dissolved in the water.

     

    At 43 milligrams per liter of potassium and 81 milligrams per liter of silica, Ferrarelle is even more distinctive in its composition. Most high TDS mineral waters have high levels of sodium and/or bicarbonates, which make the water taste saltier.

    Ferrarelle is also rich in calcium, magnesium and fluoride (one liter is 2/3 of the suggested daily requirement of calcium). San Pellegrino is highest in suplhates, followed by bicarbonate and calcium.

    If you enjoy mineral water, you may enjoy learning about how very different they are from each other.

    Check out our Water Glossary and our Mineral Water Section.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Home Canning For Fun

    If you love to cook and teach your family how to prepare healthy food, consider taking up home canning. It’s an enjoyable family activity, and become a summer tradition in your home.

    You can prepare batches of delicious soups, vegetables, pasta sauces and fruits to recall the summer bounty during the bleak winter months. Your canned foods can also be special holiday gifts; or you can make baby food as gifts for new parents.

    Kids will enjoy learning how preserve their favorite fruits and parents can feel good about giving them an empowering kitchen skill.

    If you haven’t done canning before, Fagor America makes a Duo 9-Piece Pressure Canning Set, with all the equipment needed to preserve your favorite foods, except the glass canning jars.

     

    Ready, set, can! Photo courtesy Fagor America.

     

    The set includes the Fagor 10 Quart Duo Pressure Cooker/Canner, a full color cookbook containing all the necessary preparation instructions and recipes for home canning, and canning tools: canning rack, jar wrench, jar lifter, funnel, magnetic lid wand, ladle and bubble freer.

    The manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) is $129.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond and Sur La Table; but you can buy it on online Amazon for $111.10 with free shipping.

    If you already have a pressure cooker, the other kit elements are just $29.99 on Amazon. Quart-size Mason jars are $20.99 per dozen; pint jars are $14.17. There are also half gallon jars.

    The pressure cooker can also be used daily to cook a variety of healthy meals in super-quick times (up to 70% faster—short ribs in 45 minutes instead of 5 hours, for example [more about pressure cookers]).

     

    A simple solution to preserve food: It only
    took 14 years of experimentation for
    Nicholas Appert to come up with the basic
    principle. Photo by Ahmed Al-Shukaili | SXC.

     

    CANNING: AN OVERVIEW

    Canning is the method of applying heat to food in a closed glass canning jar or a metal can, to kill the bacteria and stop the natural spoilage that would otherwise take place. The process also removes the air from the jar to create a seal so new bacteria can’t grow.

    The procedure uses fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables when they are at peak, with the most vitamins and nutrients. The process preserves them for up to one year.

    FOOD TRIVIA: THE HISTORY OF CANNING

    We take canned food for granted, but it is a relatively recent invention—and we owe it to Napoleon Bonaparte. In his time, food preservation was basically limited to salting, drying and pickling, techniques that had existed for thousands of years.

    Needing a better solution for his troops, in 1795 the French general, known for declaring that “an army marches on its stomach,” got the French government to offer 12,000 francs to anyone who invented a new way to preserve food.

     

    The prize was ultimately won by Nicholas Appert, a chef, confectioner and distiller, who began experimenting when the award was announced and finally submitted his invention 14 years later, in 1809.

    Appert hermetically sealed food in airtight glass jars and heated them—a method similar to today’s home preserving in Mason jars. Appert thought that driving the air out of the containers prevented the spoilage, but 100 years later, Louis Pasteur showed that it was the elimination of bacteria through sterilization that did the trick.

    Napoleon tried to keep the new process a secret so that enemy armies would not have the advantage, but the word leaked out. Appert’s method was so easy that it quickly became widespread.

    The following year another Frenchman, Pierre Durand, patented a method using a tin container; the lighter, breakage-proof tin cans would become the norm. In 1812, an English company purchased both patents and began producing canned preserves.

    Canning emigrated to America, where canneries began to preserve seasonal foods and perishables; but most Americans still cooked from fresh and dried staples, and canned food did not become the everyday food delivery system we known until the beginning of the 20th century.

    Appert, known as the “father of canning,” also invented the bouillon cube.

    More about home canning from Ball, a producer of Mason jars.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Reverse Spaghetti & Meatballs

    We’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from Chef Michael O’Boyle of ChickenFriedGourmet.com.

    When we looked at his cannelloni, we thought: reverse spaghetti and meatballs could become a fun family favorite.

    Instead of stuffing ground meat into cannelloni in the classic way, turn your meatball recipe into mini meatballs and pack them into the cannelloni tubes.

    REVERSE SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1 box cannelloni tube pasta
  • Meatballs from your favorite recipe
  • Tomato sauce
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Optional: mozzarella cheese
  •  

    Instead of conventional stuffing, use mini meatballs.Photo courtesy ChickenFriedGourmet.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175° C).

    2. Make the meatballs and shape into miniature balls that will fit into the cannelloni tubes. Bake for 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through (160°F)—mini meatballs will cook more quickly than conventional ones. Remove from oven and let cool until meat can be comfortably handled.

    3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add the cannelloni and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside until meatballs are ready.

    4. Stuff each cannelloni with 4 meatballs (or as many as fit) and place in a 9″ x 13″ inch baking dish. Pour tomato sauce over cannelloni and bake 20 minutes, or until sauce begins to bubble.

    5. If you’d like a mozzarella top, add the slices in the final 10 minutes so it doesn’t overly brown. Otherwise, grate ribbons of Parmesan over the cannelloni when ready to serve (we use a Microplane ribbon grater, although you can use a conventional grater.

    6. Optional garnish: basil chiffonade.

     
    QUICK TOMATO SAUCE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1 can diced Italian tomatoes (we prefer San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Optional heat: 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 large leaves fresh basil, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Place tomatoes and can juices in a food processor; process until smooth. Set aside.

    2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.

    3. Add garlic and onion; sauté until soft. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper; sauté 5 to 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add fresh basil leaves and cook for 1 minute longer.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit In Your Salad

    Apple slices and chopped walnuts in a green salad. Photo courtesy Equinox Maple Flakes.

     

    America needs more fruit in its green salads. Except for Asian chicken salads that toss in mandarin segments, we tend to keep a strict separation of fruits and vegetables.

    One of THE NIBBLE’s consulting chefs, Eric Dantis, always added some julienned apple or pear to our green salads. His trick was to pickle the vegetables for an hour to add extra layers of sweet and tart:

  • Add the sliced fruits to a brine of vinegar with some sugar or sugar substitute. The brine should cover the top of the fruit.
  • Option: Use your favorite spices in the brine (cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns).
  • Marinate for an hour or longer (they’ll keep up to two weeks). The flavor will get more intense over time.
  •  
    You can also add your favorite nuts to the salad.

    What dressing should you use on a green salad with fruit?

     

    A vinaigrette is the best option. It can be conventional or sweet.

    Wendy’s uses a raspberry vinaigrette dressing made from real raspberries, açaí juice, shallots and balsamic vinegar. You can add a spoonful of raspberry purée to your vinaigrette, or use raspberry vinegar or raspberry balsamic vinegar.

     

    Fruit might become your favorite new addition to green salads as well as protein salads, from chicken and seafood to grilled tofu.

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Clementine, mandarin or orange segments
  • Grapefruit
  • Lychees
  • Peaches, nectarines and other stone fruits
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  •  
    Use canned pineapple or dried fruits when you don’t have fresh ones.

    In addition to flavor, there’s the nutrition: Berries are high in antioxidants and nuts deliver protein and heart-healthy oil.

     

    Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken Salad. Photo courtesy Wendy’s.

     

    If this doesn’t sound immediately appealing, head to Wendy’s and try the ever-popular summer salad, Berry Almond Chicken Salad. It’s fresh blueberries and strawberries atop a blend of 11 mixed field greens, chunks of grilled chicken breast and roasted almonds, topped with shredded Asiago cheese.

      

    Comments

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