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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 September, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Try Smoked Sea Salt

Smoked sea salt ranges from pale, like
Maldon (in photo), to dark brown. Photo
courtesy Realfoods.co.uk.

 

What can you do if you have a gas grill, but crave the smoky flavor of meat grilled over wood chips?

Michaele Musel, chef of Double R Ranch Co., producers of aged beef, suggests this option for those who grill without an open fire.

“There’s an easy way to replicate the smokiness of coal and wood, using a gas grill and smoked sea salt,” says Chef Musel.

Smoked sea salt is available at specialty food stores or online. Get a box for yourself, and a second box or jar as an inexpensive gift for someone who likes to cook. (Put smoked salt on your “stocking stuffer” list.)

Different artisan salt companies make smoked sea salt. Perhaps the most beautiful is the smoked version of Maldon sea salt, harvested from the Atlantic Ocean off the southeast coast of England in Essex.

Maldon salt has unique pyramid-shaped flakes which are visually arresting when used as a finishing salt. Here’s more about Maldon salt in our Artisan Salt Glossary.

 

USES FOR SMOKED SALT

Use smoked salt on deviled eggs, fish/seafood (yummy on salmon), grilled and roasted meats, pasta, roast chicken and other foods. We even use a pinch on an egg salad or tuna sandwich. It just might get some people to eat more veggies. You can evoke the flavor of bacon in soups and stews by adding this “vegan” smokiness.

Choose Your Style. In addition to flakes, smoked salt is also available in fine and coarse grain sizes. For the most flexibility, get the flakes or coarse grain, which can be used as decorative salts. If you need a finer grain, crush or grind the salt.

Make Sure It’s Natural. Before you buy a smoked salt, make sure that it is naturally smoked. A natural salt is slow-smoked in cold smokers over a wood fire, which infuses the salt crystals with delicious, smokey flavor. Companies that take a shortcut use liquid smoke flavoring that can create a bitter taste.

Taste Before Using. While any smoked salt can be used when a hint of smoke is desired, taste it first to judge the smokiness. Some brands are smoked much more heavily than others.

 

GET SMOKY FLAVOR FROM A GAS GRILL

Here are chef’s Musel’s tips for achieving a smoky flavor from a gas grill. The chef likes to grill a tri-tip, part of the sirloin.

1. PREPARE GRILL. Prepare a gas grill for indirect cooking according to manufacturer’s directions for medium heat.

2. SEASON MEAT. Season the tri-tip roast or other cut with smoked sea salt and pepper. Place the roast on a cooking grid over direct heat. Grill, uncovered, for two minutes on each side.

3. INDIRECT HEAT. Move tri-tip to indirect heat. Grill, covered, one hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the internal temperature at center of thickest part of the roast reaches 135°F for medium rare; 150°F for medium doneness.

 

Photo courtesy Double R Ranch.

 

4. TENT MEAT. Transfer the roast to a carving board and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Temperature will continue to rise about 10°F to reach 145°F for medium rare; 160°F for medium doneness.

5. CARVE & SERVE. Carve the roast across the grain and serve on French bread with salsa or other condiments. Chef Musel likes to serve this dish with slow cooked pinquito beans and a green salad.

  

Comments

TIP OF THE DAY: 8 Ways To Use Arugula Beyond Green Salad

Arugula is known as rocket in the U.K., roquette in France and rucola in Italy. Native to the Mediterranean, it has been cultivated for thousands of years.

A peppery green that delights lovers of spicy food, in the U.S. arugula is usually relegated to perking up a green salad. You can substitute it for lettuce on a sandwich* or for basil, parsley or watercress as a garnish or a recipe ingredient.

No matter how you use it, arugula is a nutritional powerhouse, delivering high levels of potassium and vitamins A and C. It makes more of a punch, flavor-wise, than most other leafy greens, which lends itself nicely to a variety of dishes.

Expand your vista and try these other ways to enjoy arugula:

PASTA. Add arugula pesto or sautéed arugula to pasta with a garnish of green olives. Or, make an uncooked sauce of fresh tomatoes and a chiffonade of arugula.

 

Instead of fresh basil, put arugula on your pizza. Photo by Ugur Vidinligil | SXC.

 

*We especially like fresh arugula instead of bland lettuce on egg salad, chicken salad and tuna salad sandwiches, and melted into a grilled cheese sandwich. Here’s recipe for Colby-Jack Panini With Honey Glazed Ham & Lemony Arugula.

PESTO. Make pesto with arugula instead of basil. You can use the pesto as a crostini topping, pasta sauce or sandwich spread—straight or mixed with mayonnaise or fat-free Greek yogurt. More about pesto.

PIZZA. Vary the classic Margherita pizza by switching out the fresh basil for arugula.

QUICHE & CHEESE TARTS. Arugula goes well with cheese, ham, and pears. Here they all combine in this Cheese, Arugula, Prosciutto & Pear Tart recipe.

RICE. Mix arugula pesto into cooked rice or other grains. Or try this recipe for Basmati Rice Salad With Prosciutto, Arugula & Fresh Orange.

SALAD. Beyond a mixed green salad, add some of these ingredients to an arugula salad: blue cheese, chickpeas, feta, goat cheese, grilled mushrooms, pears, pecans, watermelon (with or without one of the cheeses), strawberries. We like a balsamic vinaigrette: The round sweetness of balsamic vinegar is a nice counterpoint to the spice of the greens. Add arugula to a Caprese salad, with or without the basil. For something sophisticated, try this recipe for Scallop & Bacon Salad With Arugula.

SAUTÉED. Like sautéed spinach, sautéed arugula is a delicious side. In a frying pan, heat a chopped garlic clove and a tablespoon of olive oil for 45 seconds. Add the arugula and stir for about a minute, until the leaves wilt.

SOUP. Spice up broccoli, cucumber, spinach, watercress or zucchini soup by mixing in some arugula. You can also use a chiffonade of raw arugula as a garnish for almost any soup.

If you have a favorite use for arugula, please let us know!

Find more of our favorite vegetable recipes.

  

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NEWS: We Drink More Bottled Water Than Ever

Convenience trumps environment. Help save the planet: Consider carrying a reusable water bottle.

 

Despite several years of anti-bottled-water campaigns across the country—declaiming bottled water’s negative environmental impact—Americans are buying more bottled water than ever.

  • According to sales figures from Beverage Marketing Corp., in 2011 the total bottled water sales in the U.S. hit 9.1 billion gallons.
  • That’s 29.2 gallons of bottled water per person, or 222 16.9-ounce bottles of water for each person in the country—four bottles of water per week for every man, woman and child.
  • The 2011 numbers represent the highest total volume of bottled water ever sold in the U.S., and also the highest per-person volume.
  •  
    Our suggestion: Treat yourself to a new reusable filtration water bottle and become part of the solution. The built-in filter lasts for 100 uses before they need to be replaced, and remove any flavors you don’t like in tap water.

  • Here’s a classic filter bottle from Rubbermaid.
  • We like that it has a built-in dial so you can track when it needs to be replaced. And it’s just $10.00.
  • Even if you buy bottled water for as little as $1.00 a bottle, you’re $90.00 ahead of the game before the filter needs to be replaced!
  •  

    Read the full story about the bottled water “problem” in National Geographic.

    Do you know the different types of water?

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 6 Delicious & Healthy Energy Snacks

    Almonds are one of our favorite healthy snacks. Photo courtesy Almond Board Of California.

     

    Some people snack on candy, chips and cookies. Health and fitness types seek out energy bars, an apple or a banana.

    Some snacks enhance energy levels, others don’t. High-calorie processed foods and sugar-rich foods can provide a quick energy boost, but they’re composed of bad calories. The burst is followed by a low period when blood sugar plummets and you feel depleted.

    Instead, look for energy-efficient snacks that balance high-quality calories with the nutrients that convert calories into lasting energy. And that taste great, to boot.

    Try these five energy-enhancing snacks for tasty boost. The original inspiration comes from an article by Nikki Jong, who focuses on the nutrition/energy benefits of these foods and how they create the energy (here’s the article).

     

    Almonds & Walnuts. Nuts have a potent combination of energy-enriching nutrients. We buy raw almonds in bulk and portion out 24 a day. If you prefer walnuts, they’re even more heart-healthy. Carry them in a reusable snack sack; or buy pre-packed individual portions like these from Emerald and Blue Diamond. You can make or buy wasabi almonds (we get both raw and wasabi almonds at Trader Joe’s).

    Edamame (Boiled Soybeans). Soybeans are full of nutrients that provide a direct boost of energy (they also have some mood enhancement qualities). You can buy them frozen in the shell and microwave them for a fun and delicious snack. But for grab-and-go, dried edamame are available in four-ounce packs, enough for two snacks, or in larger containers so you can pack your own (for further savings, look in the bulk foods section). More about edamame and its health benefits.

     

    Popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain; popped corn provides both volume and fiber. Look for low-fat microwave popcorn and single-serve bags. Most microwave popcorn companies make mini bags for individual portions. Take a look at Orville Redenbacher Naturals Gourmet Microwave Popcorn. It’s also available with lime flavor.

    Yogurt. For something smooth and creamy, grab a yogurt. While sugar provides a quick energy boost, you get extra points if the yogurt is plain or sugar free. You can stir in some agave nectar or a packet of artificial sweetener for a sweet treat.

    Whole Grain Pretzels. All you have to do is switch from conventional refined white flour pretzels to whole wheat flour, which delivers richer flavor as well as better nutrients. Snyder’s Of Hanover Organic Honey Whole Wheat Pretzel Sticks are also certified organic. There’s also a whole wheat and oat variety. The line is certified kosher by OU. What are whole grains, and why you need them.

    Whole Grain Crackers.You can also nibble on 100% whole wheat crackers such as Nabisco Wheat Thins, crunchy little bites that are delicious by themselves, or with plain yogurt or a cup of soup.

     

    Steamed edamame are a delicious snack. You can put them in a snack bag for grab-and-go, or buy roasted edamame. Photo courtesy Seapoint Farms.

     

    Make sure your whole grain snack is 100% whole grain, and not “made with whole grain,” which means that some whole grain flour is added to the refined flour.

    And tell us about your favorite energy snacks.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Yonanas Frozen Treat Maker

    A frozen banana (or your favorite fruit) goes into the machine, banana soft serves comes out in a minute. Photo © Corinna Gissemann | Fotolia.

     

    Are you an ice cream addict but want to give up those refined sugar calories and carbs? Do you want to add more fruit to your diet?

    Now, you can make your own 100% fruit soft serve “sorbet” without added sugar, thanks to the Yonanas Frozen Treat Maker.

    Yonanas almost instantly transforms your favorite fruits—banana, berries, mango, pineapple, the whole fruit department—into a silky-smooth frozen confection.

    The frozen fruit—pre-frozen or frozen by you—goes into the chute (see the photo in the full review). It emerges as thick, creamy soft serve-like “sorbet.”

    The compact Yonanas machine is well worth the cost (list $49.99) and the space. It’s not only easy to make, it’s easy to clean the machine. Everything but the motor portion goes right into the dishwasher.

     

     

    Get yourself a Yonanas machine: You deserve it!

    And, you may become more popular as people begin to invite themselves over for some Yonanas. Tell them to BYOFF: bring your own frozen fruit.

    Read the full review.

    Find more of our favorite frozen desserts and recipes.

     

    Get a Yonanas Frozen Treat Maker. You deserve it! Photo courtesy Yonanas.

     

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: How To Clean Leeks

     

    Looking like enormous scallions, leeks are cousins to onions and garlic. The flavor and aroma is evocative of, but much milder than, onions.

    Leeks are served raw, braised, fried and sautéed, alone or as part of a more complex recipe. Typically, recipes call for only the white base and very light green portion of the stalk, although the green tops can be used for other purposes.

    The only challenge with leeks is the sandy soil in which they grow. The sand gets in between the concentric leaves, and takes time to wash away.

    But that’s no reason to avoid luscious leeks. The video below shows you how easy it is to clean them. Then:

  • SAUTÉ. Leeks can be grilled, sautéed or slow braised for a delicious first course or side dish, especially with fish and seafood. Try sautéed leeks and apples.
  • GRATIN. Top with a gratin for a fancier dish: a sauce made with grated cheese and browned under the broiler (recipe).
  • RAW. Serve leeks raw in a salad or on a sandwich instead of the more pungent onions.
  • SOUP. Add leeks to soups and stews. There are hot and cold potato and leek soups (like Vichyssoise) and Scottish cock-a-leekie, a chicken-leek soup.
  • FISH. Stuff for fish fillets (sauté for 20 minutes or until soft, without browning; season with salt and pepper).
  • GARNISH. One of our favorite garnishes is crispy-fried julienned leeks: recipe.
  •    

       

    Find some favorite vegetable recipes in our Gourmet Vegetables Section.

    FOOD TRIVIA: The leek has been the national symbol of Wales since the sixth century. Welsh warriors wore them on their helmets to identify themselves from their enemies on the field of battle.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fried Leeks Garnish

    Fried leeks are the elegant relative of fried onion rings. Chefs at fine restaurants use them to top steaks and fish for visually arresting height and palate-pleasing crunch.

    The deep fried leek strips are equally at home atop a burger or eggs: omelet, poached or scrambled.

    In the recipe in the photo, executive chef/owner Christopher Seckman of Louisville’s North End Cafe serves grilled Atlantic salmon atop an asparagus-shiitake risotto cake with chardonnay butter sauce and sautéed spinach (the photograph shows a substitution of asparagus in season). The garnishes: fried leeks and a balsamic reduction.

    Try your hand at making fried leeks. We predict they’ll become a popular garnish in your home.

    FRIED LEEKS RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 large leeks cleaned, green part trimmed away,* white part julienned
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Salt
  •  

    Fried leeks are a tasty and sophisticated garnish. Photo courtesy North End Cafe | Louisville.

     

    Preparation

    1. Sift flour and cornstarch together.

    2. In a frying pan, heat oil to 350°F.

    3. Dust leeks in flour mix and fry in one layer until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Drain on a paper towel, season with salt (we use fine sea salt).

    Find more of our favorite vegetable recipes.
      
    WHAT TO DO WITH LEEK GREENS (LEEK TOPS)

    Don’t toss the leek greens you’ve trimmed way. They can be julienned and fried separately for another dish. You can julienne and fry them or add them to soups and casseroles.

    Here’s how to cook them.

      

    Comments

    GOURMET TRAVEL: Oregon Truffle Festival

    Head to the Oregon Truffle Festival to get
    your share! Photo courtesy Taste Of Oregon.
    Check out this recipe for Roast Chicken With
    Truffles.

     

    The truffle are coming! The truffles are coming!

    Registration is now open for the eighth annual Oregon Truffle Festival, with Early Bird pricing available through September 30th. The festival takes place in the southern Willamette Valley, in and around Eugene, Oregon.

    The Festival celebrates Oregon’s native truffles, which reach the peak of ripeness in late January. The truffles are foraged in the forest, then brought to glory on the table by prominent chefs, whose dishes are paired with fine Oregon wines.

    Truffle lovers can luxuriate in all things truffle on January 25, 26 and 27, 2013. Consider it as a memorable vacation or holiday gift.

    Ticket packages begin at $525 per person, plus travel and accommodations. Options include these events and more:

     

  • Friday reception including a wine and truffle pairing
  • Friday four course truffle dinner with guest chef and wine pairings
  • Saturday breakfast and truffle hunting foray w/truffle dog
  • Saturday winery luncheon with guest chef
  • Saturday evening Grand Truffle Dinner
  • Sunday Truffle Breakfast
  • Admission to the Oregon truffle marketplace, where you can buy truffles to take home
  •  
    There is also a truffle cooking class and other trufflicious options.
     
    Learn more at OregonTruffleFestival.com.

    All about truffles.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Macadamia Nuts & Macadamia Nut Butter

    It’s National Macadamia Nut Day, so today’s tip is to add some to your meals.

    Believed to have originated in Australia, the nuts grow on a genus of evergreen trees. They were named after named after John Macadam, a botanist who first described the genus.

    While macadamia nuts contain even more heart-healthy monounsaturated fats than the nuts included on the FDA’s recommended list of heart-healthy nuts, they did not make the list because of their caloric density. (The FDA recommends that an ounce of nuts a day can be part of a heart-healthy diet.)

    A one-ounce serving of dry roasted macadamia nuts, about 10 nuts, has 200 calories.* But that doesn’t mean that you can’t include them in your meals—just don’t eat them by the bowl full. According to a 2008 study in the Journal of Nutrition, a diet rich in macadamia nuts may lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol (it’s the monounsaturated “good” fats lower blood pressure and cholesterol).

     

    Macadamia nuts. Photo by Fotostreet | IST.

     

    (Dog owners note: Like chocolate, macadamias are toxic to canines.)

    WAYS TO ENJOY MACADAMIA NUTS

    Some of our favorite uses:

  • Savory Recipes: Garnish salads, nut crust for chicken or fish and mixed into popcorn. We also use heart-healthy macadamia nut oil for salad dressings and cooking (it has a smoke point of more than 400°F).
  • Sweet Recipes: Chocolate chip cookies (use white or semisweet chips, or a mix); macadamia butter cookies instead of peanut butter; nut tarts or pies (substitute macadamias in your favorite pecan pie recipe), instead of berries as a dessert garnish.
  •  
    Macadamia Butter

    Pick up a jar of macadamia butter at a natural foods store (Artisana macadamia nut butter was a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week).

    Use it as you would peanut butter—as a spread, in ice cream, in baking, in sauces. We like it as a sauce with this easy fish recipe, which serves 6:

    FISH FILETS WITH MACADAMIA BUTTER

    Ingredients

  • 6 medium-size mild fish fillets, about 1-1/2 pounds (flounder, orange roughy, sole, tilapia)
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nut butter
  • Garnish: 6 springs parsley, finely chopped, 6 lemon wedges
  • Optional Garnish: 3 teaspoons chopped macadamia nuts (1/2 teaspoon per filet)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK THE FISH. Lightly rub fish fillets with oil and sprinkle with salt. Sauté or steam, as you prefer (you can also fry them). Move to a warm serving platter.

    2. MAKE THE SAUCE. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the macadamia butter and cook over low heat for 1 minute.

    3. PLATE & SERVE. Plate the fish, pour the macadamia butter sauce over the fillets. Garnish the fillets with chopped parsley and chopped macadamia nuts. Serve with a lemon wedge, your favorite green vegetable, steamed, and brown rice, quinoa or other whole grain.

    More recipes.

    Find more of our favorite nuts and nut butters.

     
    *It also contains 2 g of fiber, 2 g of protein and 20 g of fat (including 4 g of saturated fat); 15% of the daily value (DV) for thiamine, 8% DV for magnesium, 6% DV for vitamin B6 and phosphorus, 4% DV for niacin and iron and 2% DV for zinc and calcium.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Debunking Myths About Bacteria & Food Safety

    Are you using enough microwave heat to kill
    all harmful bacteria? Photo © Barry Schwartz
    | Flickr.

     

    Whether you heat, nuke, zap or other favorite word, using a microwave oven to cook or reheat foods is fast and convenient.

    But it’s not effective at killing harmful bacteria if the food isn’t heated to a safe internal temperature, according to the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a non-profit group. The misconception that the microwaved kill bacteria is one of their four featured food safety myths for 2012.

    September is National Food Safety Education Month. The Partnership, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a network of retailers across the U.S., has launched its annual Home Food Safety Mythbusters. See how many of the four safety myths you believe.

     

    About one in six Americans—48 million people—will get a foodborne illness this year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. The Partnership launched Mythbusters in 2009 to address common food safety myths and to give consumers actionable steps they can follow to protect themselves and their families from food poisoning.

    The last mythbuster was the that was news for us, and good news at that!

    MYTH: “If I microwave food, the microwaves kill the bacteria, so the food is safe.”

    FACT: Microwaving itself isn’t what kills bacteria in food: It’s the amount of heat generated by the microwaves. Microwaved foods can cook unevenly because they may be shaped irregularly or vary in thickness. Even microwave ovens with a turntable can cook unevenly and leave cold spots in food, where harmful bacteria can survive.

    WHAT TO DO: Be sure to follow package instructions and rotate and stir foods during the cooking process, if the instructions call for it. Observe any standing times specified in the directions: the heat from standing time may be needed to kill the bacteria. For foods that can harbor harmful bacteria, such as meat and poultry, check the temperature of microwaved foods with a food thermometer in several spots.

     

    MYTH: “I wash all bagged lettuce and greens because it might make me sick if I don’t.”

    FACT: While it is important to thoroughly wash most fresh fruits and vegetables, if packaged greens are labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed” or “triple washed,” then the product does NOT need to be washed again at home. Pre-washed greens have been through a cleaning process immediately before going into the bag. Re-washing and handling the greens at home actually creates opportunities for contamination.

    WHAT TO DO: Don’t rewash greens that have been washed already, and always handle pre-washed greens with clean hands. Make sure that cutting boards, utensils and counter tops are clean.

    MYTH: “I don’t need to use a food thermometer. I can tell when my food is cooked by looking at it or checking the temperature with my finger.”

    FACT: The only sure way to know food is safely cooked is to check the temperature with a food thermometer and confirm it has reached a safe internal temperature.

     

    You can refreeze chicken and other proteins if they have been thawed in the fridge. Photo courtesy 21Food.com.

     

    Color, texture and steam are not indicators that a food is safe to eat. The surface of a food might be steaming hot, but there may be cold spots inside.

    WHAT TO DO: Keep a food thermometer on top of the microwave; this slender thermometer is unobtrusive. Clean the food thermometer with soap and water after each use.

    MYTH: “I can’t re-freeze foods after I have thawed them: I have to cook them or throw them away.”

    FACT: If raw proteins such as meat, poultry, egg products and seafood have been thawed in the refrigerator, then they can be safely re-frozen without cooking. Never thaw raw foods by letting them sit on the kitchen counter; the warmth of the room enables harmful bacteria to multiply quickly.

    WHAT TO DO: Only re-freeze raw or partially cooked foods that have been thawed in the fridge. If raw foods are thawed outside of the refrigerator—for example, in the microwave or in cool water—they need to be cooked immediately.

    Mythbusters educational materials, including a PowerPoint Presentation, a teachers’ kit, games for children and more, are all available as free downloads at Fightbac.org. You’ll also find the four tips from 2009 through 2011.

      

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