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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 November, 2012

PRODUCT: Omission Gluten Free Beer

Omission beer is gluten-free and delicious. Photo courtesy Omission Beer.

 

Beer drinkers with gluten sensitivities—or anyone looking to cut back on gluten—have an early holiday gift: Omission Beer.

Gluten is found in many common cereal grains including barley and wheat—typical beer ingredients.

On a mission to make a great-tasting beer without the gluten, the Omission team used traditional beer ingredients to handcraft the brew. They also developed a proprietary process that removes all the gluten.

Unlike some earlier gluten-free beers, it contains all of the standard beer ingredients: barley, hops, water and yeast. And the aroma and taste will should please just about everyone.

 

  • Omission Lager, brewed in the traditional lager style, is refreshing and crisp, with an ABV of 4.6%.
  • Omission Pale Ale is bold and hoppy American Pale Ale, amber and redolent of Cascade hops. The floral aroma is complimented by caramel malt body, with an ABV of 5.8%.
  •  
    At a recent NIBBLE editorial tasting, it was all thumbs-up for Omission Beer.

    A six-pack or two would make a great gift for a gluten-averse pal.

    Here’s the store locator. Learn more about Omission beer on the company website.

    Brush up on your beer vocabulary in our Beer Glossary.

    Find more of our favorite beers in our Beer Section.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Meyer Lemons

    Now in season through March, the Meyer lemon is a foodie favorite: bright citrus flavor with less pucker, owing to less acid. For decades it was available largely at California farmers’ markets, where it was “discovered” in the 1970s by Alice Waters and other pioneer chefs of “California cuisine.”

    Chefs and customers alike loved the Meyer lemon for its mild, sweet, juicy flesh. With growing popularity, it entered commercial production and national availability.

    In its native China, the Meyer lemon is commonly grown in garden pots as an ornamental tree (you can buy one for your home here).

    It was brought to the United States in 1908 by Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who was exploring China for “new” fruits and vegetables.

    The Meyer lemon (botanical name Citrus × meyeri) is a hybrid, believed to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange, both native to China. As a result, Meyer lemons are slightly sweeter and much less acidic than the common “supermarket lemons,” Eureka and Lisbon (see all the types of lemons in our Lemon Glossary).

     

    A basket of lovely Meyer lemons, waiting to become part of a recipe. Photo by Elise Bakketun | IST.

     

    Meyer lemons are smaller than regular lemons and rounder, with a thin peel, which tends to golden hues rather than bright yellow. They’re more expensive than regular lemons, but also tend to provide much more juice.

    *The Eureka (botanical name Citrus × limon) is the predominant lemon grown in most countries, with the exception of Italy, Spain and some other Mediterranean nations. Because the tree is thornless and a year-round bearer, it came to rival the then-predominant Lisbon variety (which looks similar, but the Eureka has a far more prominent nipple end).

    HOW TO USE MEYER LEMONS

  • On fish, poultry and vegetables
  • In fruit desserts (substitute Meyers for regular lemons in lemon sorbet: superb!)
  • In salad dressing (or squeezed straight as the dressing)
  • In a less acidic lemonade (less sugar needed!)
  • As a less acidic anti-browning agent on cut avocados and apples, and in the cooking water of cauliflower, potatoes and turnips (lemon juice keeps them very white)
  •  
    You can send Meyer lemons as a gift from Melissas.com.

    MEYER LEMON RECIPES
    Meyer lemons delivr full lemon flavor without the tartness, eneabling you to cut back on excess sugar often used to temper lemon acidity. They’re terrific in desserts and other baked goods, and add their magic to savory dishes as well.

    Try these recipes from Melissas.com.

  • Meyer Lemon Curd Layer Cake
  • Meyer Lemon Custard
  • Meyer Lemon Granita
  • Meyer Lemon & Ginger Pound Cake
  • Meyer Lemon Tartlets
  •   

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Red Walnuts

    Red walnuts: new and exciting. Photo
    courtesy PizzellesBakery.com.

     

    We’ve previously written about red celery, red watercress and sweet red corn, new varieties bred for their alluring color.

    Now, you can add red walnuts to the list.

    The Sanguinetti family, farmers in California’s San Joaquin County, are growing a new and delicious variety of walnut: the red walnut. It has been named the Robert Livermore walnut in honor of a computer entrepreneur (1926-1997) and walnut grower who was interested in unusual varieties.

    First cross-bred in 1991 at U.C. Davis, the walnuts were selected for commercial growing by the breeding team in 1998. The new variety was patented in 2001.

    The walnuts are not genetically modified but were created using natural methods of grafting, in this case, grafting Persian red-skinned walnuts onto larger and creamier English walnuts.

    THE RED WALNUT TREE

    The red walnut tree looks like any other walnut tree and the shell looks like any other walnut except for the bright burgundy red skin (skin) on the nut meat (kernel). The one key difference: It takes 8 to 10 years to produce a marketable crop instead of 1 to 3 years for conventional walnut trees—or 4 to 5 years if planted from seed. They continue to produce nuts for some 30 years.

    Varieties of “blood walnuts” have been found growning wild in Europe since the 18th century or earlier. But these varieties tend to bear fewer nuts and blotchy nuts; hence the cross-breeding to achieve the Robert Livermore.

    The delicious and healthful walnuts* are beautiful as snacks, on salads, in and on baked good and many other dishes. A bonus for those who don’t like the sharp tannins in some walnut varieties: Red walnuts are milder, with less “bite.”

    Red walnuts are late-producing, so are available at the end of fall until the end of the year. Because they are so rare, supplies are limited.

    *See the health benefits of walnuts.

     

    Walnuts have long been cultivated, with evidence dating back to about 7000 B.C.E. The species is native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia: western China, parts of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and southern Kirghizia to Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, northern India and Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and portions of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and eastern Turkey.

    The Romans called walnuts Juglans regia, “Jupiter’s royal acorn,” which in modern taxonomy became the genus and species of the tree.

    In ancient Persia, walnuts were reserved for royalty. Thus, the walnut was often known as the Persian walnut. English merchant marines traded walnuts in ports around the world, and the nuts became known as English walnuts. (Walnuts were not grown commercially in England.)

    Walnuts were cultivated in California by the Franciscan fathers in the late 1700s, and were known as “mission” walnuts. By the 1870s modern walnut production had become a commercial enterprise.

     

    Brie with red walnuts, candied kumquats and honey. Photo courtesy CookStyleShootEat.com.

     

    Today, California walnuts account for 99% of U.S. walnut production and 75% of the world’s walnuts. The annual harvest takes place in October.

    GET YOUR RED WALNUTS

    STORES: There are only a limited quantity of red walnuts from California. This year, they are being sold at retail in California, New York City/Metro (including Fresh Direct) and Texas.

    ONLINE: Order red walnuts online from ShaskyFarms.com.

    TREES: If walnut trees grow in your area, you can plant trees and harvest your own—in about eight years.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Use A Seasonal Produce Guide

    Beautiful beets, in a variety of colors, are in
    season now. Photo courtesy Capitole Grille |
    Nashville

     

    If you see asparagus, apricots, cherries and other spring-summer foods in the market, they’re not from here. Off-season fruits and vegetables are grown in countries below the equator where the seasons are reversed.

    They’re then shipped many thousands of miles to your market, giving you produce that has been sitting for weeks in shipment, and has required lots of fuel to get it to you.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental action group, wants you to eat what’s in season. They’ve created an app to show you what’s in season in your area. You can use it on the NRDC website or download it from the iTunes Store.

    Is the app perfect? Well, it’s a good start, although it told us that tomatoes were in season in November in New York. Perhaps they meant dried tomatoes.

     

    Yet, we like the app for its ability to highlight foods we should be considering. It will expand your repertoire by encouraging you to try different recipes; you’ll discover new favorites. And you’ll save mone by purchasing what’s in season.

    There are other ways to find seasonal produce, of course: simply search in your browser for “fall produce,” “fall vegetables and fruits” or “seasonal produce” and your state.

     
    Find our favorite vegetables and recipes in our Gourmet Vegetables section. The fruits are here.

      

    Comments

    THANKSGIVING RECIPE: Pumpkin Cream Cheese

    What’s for breakfast during pumpkin season?

    Bagels with pumpkin cream cheese spread!

    We recently devoured a whole wheat bagel with pumpkin cream cheese at Dunkin Donuts, and are now hooked on this holiday spread.

    It’s easy to make, with your choice of cream cheese (regular or fat free) or fresh goat cheese. Or, substitute sour cream or yogurt for the cream cheese.

    The pumpkin purée “stretches” the cream cheese so you don’t need to use as much. The result: more vitamins,* more flavor, less fat, fewer calories.

    We personally don’t sweeten the recipe: The pumpkin pie spices are more than flavorful, and who needs added calories and carbs?

    But if you’re of the sweeter inclination, add a tablespoon or two of brown sugar, maple syrup or agave, plus 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.

     

    Pumpkin cream cheese on a bagel (we chose whole wheat). Photo courtesy Dunkin Donuts.

     

    PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (substitute 1/4 teaspoon each clove or allspice and
    nutmeg)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT softened cream cheese until creamy.

    2. ADD pumpkin purée and spices; beat to incorporate.

    3. CHILL for at least an hour. Can be made up to a week in advance.

    4. SPREAD on bagels and toast. Yum, yum!
     
    *Pumpkin is a very good source of copper, dietary fiber, manganese, potassium and vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin) and C and a good source of vitamins B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folate) and E plus iron, magnesium and phosphorus.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Holiday Food Gift

    Versatile pistachio relish can be paired with
    everything from crab cakes to dessert. Photo
    courtesy Island Creek Oyster Bar.

     

    Want to bring a special gift to your Thanksgiving hosts, or make something tasty to give to friends for the holidays?

    Try this Pistachio Relish from Jeremy Sewall, executive chef of Boston’s Island Creek Oyster Bar. Chef Sewall follows the New England tradition of canning and preserves with house-made relishes and chutneys. They add a touch of vibrant fall flavor to savory dishes—and sweet ones, too.

    He particularly enjoys this pistachio relish atop a crab cake:

    PISTACHIO RELISH RECIPE

    Yield: 1-2 quarts

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup white onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1½ pounds pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • 2 oranges, zest and juice
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar*
  • Pinch salt
  •  

    *We don’t like sweet condiments on savory foods, so we reduced this to 1 teaspoon of sugar. You can eliminate it entirely.

    Preparation

    1. SWEAT garlic and onion in canola oil until translucent.

    2. COMBINE the sugar and salt with the zest and juices from oranges and lemons. Simmer until the mixture has cooked down to a loose syrup. Remove from heat.

    3. FOLD in the chopped pistachios.

    4. COOL the mixture over an ice bath. Store in the refrigerator.

    For gifting, pick up pretty jars and create a gift label with a use by date. Tell them to use the relish within 10 days, so you’ll get a thank-you call saying how delicious it is.

    If you like the idea of food gifts, pick up a book of food gift recipes and ideas.

    Other Uses For Pistachio Relish

    This versatile pistachio relish can be used:

  • To top any grilled fish, from cod to salmon
  • As a cheese condiment (we served it with fresh goat cheese and crostini)
  • As a desserts topping or cookie filling.
  •  
    How would you use pistachio relish?
     
    Find more of our favorite condiments and recipes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Poultry Seasoning

    What’s in poultry seasoning? What can you substitute for poultry seasoning? What’s the correct recipe?

    We’ve gotten this question more than a few times. The answer is really simple:

    Make homemade poultry seasoning from the dried herbs you already have on the shelf. You don’t need to buy pre-blended poultry seasoning.

    Premixed poultry seasoning is one of those convenience spices that has emerged in the last few decades. What did Grandma and Great-Grandma use?

    A mix of rosemary thyme, sage, salt and pepper. McCormick’s poultry seasoning makes things a bit more interesting by adding marjoram (a basil relative) and nutmeg.

     

    This yummy roasted chicken uses rosemary and thyme. Get the recipe. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    Bell’s Seasoning, popular for use on poultry, is a mix of ginger, marjoram, oregano, pepper, rosemary, sage and thyme.

    You can follow McCormick’s ingredients and add your own notes of interest, from chili and cilantro to parsley and tarragon. There is no one “right” recipe for poultry seasoning.

    If you only have two herbs, that’s enough, as shown in this delicious roast rosemary chicken recipe that uses rosemary, thyme and seasoned salt.

    So the next time you need to season poultry, peruse your options and simply shake them onto that bird!

    Find more of our favorite poultry recipes.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Bootleg Bakery Bourbon Cake

    The aroma and flavor are redolent of
    bourbon. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    “Grandfather loved Kentucky bourbon so much he brought it home by the case with his name printed on the label,” says Cormas Clary Williams. “Grandmother rolled her eyes and turned his bourbon into food for the whole family.”

    “We all called it Booze Cake. In my family, you knew you had arrived when you were old enough to get your own booze cake from Grandmother.”

    Thanks to product labeling, we know what’s in the “secret recipe, passed down through the generations”: pecans, walnuts, golden raisins, cane sugar, whole wheat flour, eggs, butter, bourbon whiskey, nutmeg, baking soda and salt.

    The three-pound bourbon cake is handcrafted in Seattle by way of its spiritual origins in Kentucky.

    This cake is baked for Bourbon lovers. While you’ll taste the alcohol, you won’t get snockered: The bourbon is less than 1% by weight.

    That encouraged us to pull out our bottle of Blanton’s single barrel bourbon. We enjoyed a shot with our slice of bourbon cake.

     

    This dense, moist Southern-style cake has great texture, both from the rough crumb and the large pieces of nuts. No feminine cake, this bourbon cake is definitely macho.

    So what does Grandma’s “booze cake” taste like?

    First, there’s the bourbon that wafts up through the crumb and delights the nose.

    Then there’s the noticeably low level of sugar—less than in the average muffin. We’re not complaining: It enables the slightly smoky bourbon to be the star.

    And it’s what makes this a perfect cake for those who don’t like sweets. Sitting back after dinner with a slice and a shot is a happy end to dinner.

    Only 100 bourbon xakes have been made for the holiday season, at $59.95. Ordering begins on November 15th.

    Head for the Bootleg Bakery website to claim yours.

    Find more of our favorite cakes and cake recipes.

     

    Only 100 gift tins have been made for the 2012 holiday season. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE/

     

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: How To Use A Knife Sharpener

     

    Now that we’ve discussed why it’s so important to keep your knives sharp, here’s a video that shows how easy it is to do so at home.

    Chef and cookbook author Clifford A. Wright demonstrates how to use a manual knife sharpener and a honing (sharpening) steel.

    He makes it look like fun!

    Consider daily or at least weekly use of a honing steel with the knives you use daily.

       

       

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sharpen Your Knives & Free Sharpening From Sur La Table

    A sharp knife slices easily and cleanly; a dull
    knife requires more pressure and can slip
    and cut you. Photo of Shun chef’s knife (the brand we use at THE NIBBLE) courtesy Sur La Table.

     

    You can’t be a good cook—or a safe cook—without sharp knives. You should sharpen your knives at least twice a year; more often for the knives you use every day.

    A dull knife blade makes cutting more time consuming and the edges of the sliced food less clean. And then there’s the the danger aspect: A dull blade needs you to expend more pressure, which can cause the blade to slip off the food and into your finger.

    That’s why Sur La Table is encouraging you to take the time to sharpen your knives. From now until Thanksgiving, the gourmet retailer is offering:

    FREE KNIFE SHARPENING

    With all the holiday cooking at hand, your knives should be at their best. So the gourmet retailer is offering free sharpening on the first knife for any knives sharpened at the stores (find the nearest Sur La Table store.)

    This freebie applies to any shape, style or size of knife, except ceramic knives (which require special equipment), damaged knives and scissors.

     

    All other knives can be sharpened for $5 apiece.

    KNIFE SKILLS CLASS

    If you want to learn how to better use your knives better, Sur La Table offers a basic knife skills class. You’ll practice the fundamental cuts for vegetables—mince, dice, brunoise, batonnet and julienne—plus some advanced techniques.

    You’ll also learn how to select a knife that best fits your needs, and share tips for keeping all your cutlery sharp and well maintained at home.

    SHARPENING KNIVES AT HOME

    Use a sharpening stone. Most experts agree that a sharpening stone is the best method for home use: It provides the sharpest edge and removes the least amount of steel from the blade. You need some basic instruction, so if you have a friend who uses a sharpening stone, ask for a lesson.

    Get a knife sharpener. Choose a manual knife sharpener as an easy home alternative. An electric knife sharpener may take less effort, but it also takes years off the life of your knife by removing a larger amount of steel from the blade. It also does not provide a great edge—it’s an OK edge.

    Use a sharpening steel or honing steel. This steel rod, which is used religiously by professional chefs, is typically included with a set of good knives. With use, tiny metal fibers on the blade bend down, dulling the surface. The sharpening steel straightens those fibers to maintaining a sharp edge for daily use (and you can use it daily). You’ll still need those professional sharpenings, but not as frequently.
      
    In this video, chef Jeffrey A. Wright shows how to use both the sharpening steel and the manual knife sharpener.

    Finally, you can:

    Seek out a professional. If you’re not near a Sur La Table, ask at your local hardware store or search online or in the Yellow Pages.

      

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