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

Archive for 2015

TIP OF THE DAY: Winter’s Seasonal Fruit, Citrus

While many delightful fruits have gone “on hiatus” until next summer, winter is not without its comforts: citrus fruits. Get your fill of the winter citrus bounty, and especially seek out varieties you haven’t had before.

All of the following are different species in the Citrus genus: order Sapindales, family Rutaceae.
 
BLOOD ORANGES

A good blood orange is our favorite citrus. Named for their deep pink or red-streaked flesh, blood oranges are smaller than other oranges and have slightly rougher skin. The skin often has a red blush.

Once a rare European import, blood oranges from California are now in abundant supply in the U.S. from December through March. If you keep trying them, you may find the simply celestial ones with luscious, raspberry-orange-flavored flesh*. They are a variety of conventional orange, Citrus × sinensis. Here’s more about blood oranges.

 
*Today, too much fruit is grown to look great on the shelf, to be durable for transport, to eliminate bothersome seeds, and just about every reason other than natural sweetness and deep flavor. The terroir—soil and microclimate—of the orchard also has a big impact on flavor.

 
CARA CARA ORANGES

Another citrus delight (when you get a good one), Cara Cara oranges are worth seeking out. A variety of navel orange, it has rosy pink, juicy, sweet flesh and low acidity. The taste is sweet with undertones of cherry.

The variety was discovered in 1976 as a mutation at the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Valencia, Venezuela. They are also a variety of conventional orange, Citrus × sinensis. Here’s more about Cara Cara Oranges.
 
GRAPEFRUITS

Grapefruits, Citrus × paradisi, have been a seasonal staple in the East since the 1920s, when winter visitors to sunny Florida drove back with carloads of them for friends and family, along with oranges and jars of orange and grapefruit marmalade. Eventually, growers began shipping commercially to the north and then nationwide.

While is was most commonly served at breakfast, halved and usually topped with honey or sugar, it is now used in many recipes, including our favorite, grapefruit sorbet.

Pommelos/pummelos are a different fruit, Citrus maxima, also known Citrus grandis. They have a much thicker peel. a green-tinged skin and a slightly drier texture. They can be substituted for grapefruit in any recipe.

   

Blood Oranges

Cara Cara Oranges

Ruby Red Grapefruit

Similar colors, very different flavors! TOP PHOTO: Blood Oranges from Melissas.com. MIDDLE PHOTO: Cara Cara Oranges from Whiteflower Farm. BOTTOM PHOTO: Ruby Red Grapefrut from Good Eggs | San Francisco.

 
KUMQUATS

These wee fruits, looking like teeny oval oranges, are C. japonica, although the name comes from the Chinese gam gwat, meaning golden tangerine. (C. is the abbreviation for Citrus; in taxonomy, to shorten the genus and species, the genus is usually designated by the first letter of its name.)

You eat them skin and all (except for the seeds), but some varieties can be tart. Halve them and toss them into green salads and fruit salads, chicken and shrimp salads.

 

Kumquats

Mandarin Orange

Ugli Fruit

TOP PHOTO: Kumquats from Good Eggs |
San Francisco. MIDDLE PHOTO: Mandarins
are easy to peel. Photo courtesy Noble Juice.
BOTTOM PHOTO: Ugli Fruit from Melissa’s. Following careful breeding, these are less ugly—less lumpy and less green—than earlier ugli fruits.

 

MANDARINS

First note that it’s “mandarin,” not a “mandarin orange” or “satsuma orange”; the two are separate genuses (more about that below).

There are many varieties of mandarins, Citrus reticulata, bred the world over. In the U.S. it’s easy to find clementines, satsumas, tangerines and tangelos. They are relatively similar size and appearance (as well as calories—50—and nutrition), and the lay person can confuse them.

  • Clementines are seedless and sweeter than tangerines and tangelos. They’re the most commonly grown mandarin in the world, with a thinner skin and a hint of apricot flavor. They are named after Father Clément, a priest who began cultivating them in Algeria around 1900, crossing a mandarin with an orange. Spain and Morocco are the biggest exporters.
  • Satsumas are mostly seedless, and tend to have more juice and less pulp between their membranes. This makes them the softest and most prone to shipping damage, which is why they can be less available than other varieties. They are usually the variety sold in cans as mandarin oranges. Satsuma was a former province of Japan.
  • Tangerines have seeds and are less sweet than the others. Tangerines came to Europe by way of North Africa in the 1800s. They were exported through the port of Tangier in Morocco, hence the name. Different varieties were exported, generically called tangerines. In earlier times, all mandarins in the U.S. were “tangerines.”
  • Tangelos are a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. They’re especially juicy and lack grapefruit’s acidity. Minneolas and Orlandos are types of tangelos. The Minneola, which has a distinctive knob at one end, are also marketed under the brand name Honeybells.
  • Ugli Fruit (C. reticulata × paradisi) is a type of tangelo cross between a tangerine, a grapefruit and an orange. It looks like a lumpy, ugly grapefruit. Here’s more about it, also sold as Uniq Fruit.
  •  
    MANDARINS & ORANGES: THE DIFFERENCE

    There are three basic citrus types—citron, mandarin and pomelo/pummelo—from which all other modern citrus varieties derive via hybrids or backcrosses.

     

    While they look like small oranges and are often called “mandarin oranges,” mandarins are a separate species that includes the clementine, mineola (red tangelo), murcott (also called honey tangerine), tangelo, temple and satsuma, among others.

  • Oranges are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae, genus Citrus and species C. × sinensis The orange is a hybrid cross between a pomelo (Citrus maxima) and a mandarin (Citrus reticulata), with genes that are about 25% pomelo and 75% mandarin.
  • Mandarins are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae, genus Citrus and seven different sub-groups (clementines are C. clementina). “Cuties” and “Sweeties” are brand names for clementines.
  •  
    More Confusion

    Mandarins are also called loose-skin oranges—a usage which is both unfortunate and confusing given the numerous, highly distinctive differences between the two genuses. According to the experts at U.C. Davis:

  • In the U.S., where the name tangerine first came into common usage, mandarin (or “mandarin orange”) and tangerine are used more or less interchangeably to designate the whole group. Since mandarin is the older and much more widely employed name, its use is clearly preferable.
  • The term “tangerine” was coined for brightly-colored sweet mandarins that were originally shipped out of the port of Tangiers, Morocco to Florida in the late 1800s; the term stuck.
  • Presumably because of the orange-red color of the Dancy variety, which originated in Florida and was introduced in the markets as the Dancy tangerine, horticulturists have tended to restrict the use of the term tangerine to the mandarins of similar deep color. However, this is a usage of convenience only and the tangerines do not comprise a group of natural significance.
  •  
    The mandarin probably originated in northeastern India, home of the Indian wild mandarin, Citrus indica Tan. As with all agricultural products, many hybrids followed.

    The mandarin reached the Mediterranean basin in the early 1800s, and arrived in Florida about 1825. Thanks to the University of California Davis for providing this information. You can read more here.

    Then, go out and gather some great citrus fruits.

      

    Comments off

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Yellow Tail Sparkling Rosé

    If you’re buying sparkling wine for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, you may be tempted to buy Champagne. But unless your guests are wine connoisseurs, you can have just as pleasant an experience with other sparkling wines, for a third to half of the price of the least expensive bottle of Champagne.

    Champagne is a name-protected sparkling wine that is made only in the Champagne region of northeast France. Every other wine that has bubbles is called sparkling wine.

    You can find sparklers from other regions and nations in the $10 to $12 range that are very satisfying in the glass. When mixed into a cocktail, no one can tell the difference.

    But the difference in price is substantial. The most affordable Champagnes tend to be in the $35 range. If you’re buying several bottles, do the math.

    We do buy Champagne and look for values—both the houses we know, like Pol Roger Brut Reserve, $35, and smaller houses that the wine clerk recommends. Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and Jacquart are $35, the better-known Mumm is $40.

    A number of years ago, on a recommendation from wine expert Robert Parker, we purchased and went crazy for the $35 Egly-Ouriet, a smaller producer we’d never heard of. Today you can find bottles from $38 to $65, depending on the vintage and the retailer.

       

    Yellow Tail Bubbles

    We buy Yellow Tail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé by the case! It’s also available in Sparkling White. Photo courtesy Yellow Tail.

     
    WHEN YOU NEED A LOT OF BUBBLY…

    When multiple bottles are required, we turn our sights elsewhere, to sparkling wine varieties that are $8 to $15 a bottle. Prices will vary by retailer, but keep an eye out for:

  • Asti Spumante from Italy: Martini Asti is about $12; the sweeter Cinzano Asti, $13, is great with dessert.
  • Australian Sparklers: Our favorite is Yellow Tail Bubbles in regular and rosé, $10.
  • Cava from Spain: For $8, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut is $12 and Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada Semi Dry (sweeter) is $9.
  • Crémant from France: Numerous labels of this Loire Valley sparkler sell for $12-$15.
  • Prosecco from Italy: Good sparklers are available for $9-$10.
  • California Sparklers: In the lower ranges, look for Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut, $10 and Moet et Chandon’s Chandon Brut, $17.
  • Other American Sparklers:: Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon ($10) and others from New York to Texas.
  •  

    NOTE: If you’re checking prices online, make sure they’re for standard 750ml bottles, not half bottles or splits.

     

    Moet et Chandon Champagne

    Yellow Tail sparkling wine from Australia
    (photo at top of page) is $10. Moet et
    Chandon Champagne from France (photo
    above) is $40. Photo via Pinterest |
    Facebook.

     

    WHY IS CHAMPAGNE SO EXPENSIVE?

    It’s a question of supply and demand. The supply is limited because by law, Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region of northern France. There’s no more land that can be planted with grapes.

    The demand began around 1715 in Paris, when Philippe II became the Regent of France. He liked sparkling Champagne and served it nightly at dinner. The cachet was taken up by Parisan society. Winemakers in Champagne began to switch their products from still wines—the majority produced at the time—to sparkling.

    Throughout the 18th century, new Champagne houses were established. Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer, Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger were among the major houses founded during this period.
     
    Is Champagne Better Than Other Sparkling Wines?

    Champagne has the most complex flavors among sparkling wines, and the greatest aging potential, which deepens the complexity.

    Its unique flavors—toasty and yeasty—are due to the layers of chalk underneath the region’s soil.

     
    A vast chalk plain was laid down in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago (it’s the same huge expanse that created the White Cliffs of Dover in England). The chalk provides good drainage and reflects the heat from the sun, two factors that influence the flavor of the grapes.

    Champagne makers perfected the méthode champenoise, adding a dosage of sugar that generates a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This creates the bubbles.

    While producers the world over use the méthode champenoise to make sparkling wines, only the vine roots in Champagne grow down into the chalk, creating the prized flavors and body.

    However, not everyone likes yeasty, toasty wines. Other regions produce lighter bodied wines with citrus and other fruity flavors and floral aromas. The only way to discover what you like is to taste, taste, taste.

      

    Comments off

    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Beer Styles

    Today is the first full day of winter, which begins late this evening (11:48 p.m. EST). It’s the shortest day of the year, with the least amount of daylight.

    The good news is, starting tomorrow daylight hours will start getting longer. But there’s still plenty of time to celebrate winter with winter beers. They’re just waiting for you to pluck them from store shelves.

    If you’re serving beer for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, make a special effort to pick some up. Even if your area has limited craft beer offerings, Samuel Adams has a Winter Lager that should be in every store that sells the brand.

    Winter beers are brewed in the fall for winter release. Brewers work a season in advance, since it takes three months or so to assemble the special ingredients, brew the beer and let it mature before release.
     
    WHY WINTER BEERS ARE DIFFERENT

    Winter beers tend to be the strongest beers made by brewers. This follows the pattern of seasonal food and drink being heartier in the winter and lighter in the summer.

  • The color of winter beer is usually darker—cooper to deep amber hues—and the body is fuller.
  • There is often some winter spice seasoning, making the flavor more complex. This can range from the pumpkin pie spice group (allspice, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg) to holiday flavors like ginger and molasses. They may even get some actual pumpkin tossed into the mash (identified as pumpkin beers and ales).
  • They are often higher in alcohol.
  •  
    PARTY TIME

    Whether for holiday entertaining, a tasting party to brighten the January doldrums, Super Bowl Sunday or Valentine’s Day, you can put together an interesting assortment.

    Brad Smith of Beersmith advises these styles for the winter season:

  • Barley Wine*
  • Christmas/Winter Beer, Holiday Ales
  • Scotch Ale, Old Ale
  • Smoked Rauchbier
  • Stout, Porter and other dark beers
  • Winter Wheat and Bock Beers
  •  
    Here’s one beer site’s recommendation of 24 top winter beers.

    See THE NIBBLE’s beer glossary for the different types of beer.

     

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/GreatDivideHibernation6Pack 230

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/harpoon winter warmer 6 pack 230

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/victory winter cheers 230

    Winter Beer

     
    *Barley wine needs much longer than beer and ale—a year instead of three months. While barley wine may sound like it belongs in a warmer season, it is typically brewed ts an alcohol strength of 8% to 12% A.B.V. The word “wine” was bestowed because this range of alcohol is similar to wine. But as the name also says, it is made from barley, not fruit, so it is without doubt beer.

      

    Comments off

    RECIPE: Peppermint Mocha Coffee

    peppermint-mocha-coffee-tylerscoffee-230r

    Peppermint Mocha Holiday Coffee. Photo courtesy Tylers Coffee.

     

    You could spend $5 at Starbucks for a Peppermint Latte, or make this over-the-top cup from Tylers Coffee, a Tucson-based specialist in USDA organic, acid-free coffee.

    It’s one of Tylers* most popular seasonal recipes.
     
    WHAT IS MOCHA?

    The culinary term mocha refers to a mixture of coffee and chocolate flavors. But the original mocha did not have have anything to do with chocolate.

    It was a term that referred to the fine coffee (what we now call arabica) that was traded in the once-vibrant port of Al Mokha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen.

    Al Mokha was the major marketplace for coffee from the 15th century until the early 18th century, selling beans that were grown in the central mountains of Yemen.

    By the early 19th century, Yemen been supplanted by Ethiopia as the principal trader of coffee. (The coffee plant originated in the highlands of Ethiopia.)

    THE PEPPERMINT MOCHA

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 5 ounces espresso or French Roast coffee
  • 1 ounce chocolate shavings
  • 1 ounce candy cane powder (grind up candy canes or striped peppermints)*
  • Garnish: whipped cream
  • Optional garnishes: mini candy cane, chopped candy cane, holiday sprinkles
  •  
    *In terms of why Tyler leaves the apostrophe out of is name: You’ll have to ask them!

    Preparation

    1. POUR the coffee into an eight-ounce glass or mug. Add the chocolate shavings and stir until dissolved.

    2. STIR in the candy cane powder. Finish with whipped cream, a mini candy cane and/or chopped peppermints and holiday sprinkles.
     
    *If you don’t want to grind candy canes you can use a drop of peppermint oil.
     
    Here are recipes for other peppermint-mocha beverages.
     
      

    Comments off

    RECIPE: The Best Fried Calamari (Squid)

    Every year on Christmas Eve we have a Feast Of The Seven Fishes. We’re not of Italian descent, but our mother believed in celebrating every holiday that had good food.

    We’ve previously shared some our past menus:

  • 2014 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2010 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2009 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  •  
    This year we’re adding a new dish to our feast repertoire: fried squid (calamari). Why such a basic preparation?

    We love cornmeal-crusted fried calamari. Sadly, we haven’t seen it on a restaurant menu in several years. Even eateries that are more creative with their food use all-purpose flour.

    So, much as we’re not keen on deep frying in our apartment kitchen with no exhaust fan, we’re jonesing for some cornmeal.

    Our favorite flour for frying is cornmeal; our favorite breadcrumbs are panko, which we use instead of the fresh breadcrumbs in the original recipe. We also use the cornmeal-panko combination for fried chicken.

    If you have corn flour instead of cornmeal, use it. The difference is that corn flour is ground to a much finer texture than cornmeal.

    RECIPE: CORNMEAL CRUSTED FRIED SQUID

    Ingredients 6 Servings

  • 2 pounds small squid, cleaned
  • 1 cup plain or cornmeal flour
  • Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups breadcrumbs (see recipe below to make your own)
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh parsley (highly recommended)
  • Condiment: sriracha aïoli or other flavored mayonnaise, sriracha ketchup or other flavored ketchup, marinara sauce, tartar sauce or cocktail sauce
  •  
    Before you start preparation, here are two important tips from the Sydney Fish Market to fry superior squid:

       

    fried-calamarii-sydneyfishmarketFB-230

    Cornmeal-Crusted Squid

    Fried Calamari

    Top photo courtesy Sydney Fish Market. Middle photo courtesy CB Crabcakes. Bottom photo courtesy Bull & Bear.

  • Removing the membrane on the inside of the squid tubes is the key to tender squid.
  • If you’re frying squid in batches, let the oil temperature recover between batches. Otherwise, the coating will absorb too much oil and will become soggy. You can alternate between two fryers as a solution.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the squid tubes into two or three sections, turn them inside out and wipe firmly with a clean, damp cloth to remove any membrane. Then slice into rings. Cut the tentacles (a delicacy we love!) in half.

    2. SEASON the flour well with salt and pepper and place in a bowl. Place the eggs in another bowl and the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.

    3. DUST squid in flour, shaking off any excess. Then dip into the egg, drain well and coat in breadcrumbs. Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    4. HEAT the oil oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 360°F/180°C. Deep-fry squid in batches, for 1-2 minutes, until golden and crisp (frying for more than two minutes will toughen the squid). Drain on paper towels. Cool the oil between batches; skim it to remove any loose crumbs.

    5. SPRINKLE the cooked squid with salt and optional parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.
     
     
    MAKE FRESH BREADCRUMBS

    1. PULSE day-old (or stale) bread in a food processor until finely crumbed.

    2. STORE in an airtight container in the freezer to use whenever breadcrumbs are required. You can mix crumbs from different types of bread, and always have a crumbs on hand while finding a good use for old bread.

     

    raw-squid-w-tentacles-ultimate-guide-to-greek-food.com-230

    Raw Squid

    calamari-raw-eatandrelish-230

    Top photo: Don’t discard the tentacles;
    they’re delicious. If you don’t want to fry
    them, save them and blanch them later.
    Photo courtesy Ultimate-guide-to-greek-
    food.com/.

     

    SQUID VS. CALAMARI: THE DIFFERENCE

    In The Beginning: Taxonomy

    While “calamari” has become a culinary term that encompasses calamari, squid and even cuttlefish, they are “different species,” as the popular term goes. Literally, they are in different orders; and below the order level are hundreds of genuses of “squid” worldwide, differing in size, skin color and other features.

    If your eyes are starting to glaze over, skip to the next section, “The Source Of The Confusion.” Otherwise, soldier on:

    One step down from the top taxonomy, Kingdom (here Animalia) is the phylum Mollusca.

    Remember your high school biology? After kingdom and phylum comes class, and there are two tasty ones that comprise most of the seafood we eat. Squid and calamari are members of Cephalopoda class; clams, geoducks, mussels, oysters and scallops are in the class Bivalvia. Lobsters, shrimp and other crustaceans differ one level up, at the phylum levele Arthropoda.

    Squid, calamari and cuttlefish are known as cephalopods, mollusks that have lost their hard shells in the evolutionary process. They are members of the class Cephalopoda and subclass Coleoidea. The Coleoidea subclass also includes octopus. They then fall into different families, then species, then genuses within the species.

    After Class is the Order level, where there is a parting of ways: squid and calamari to the order Teuthida and cuttlefish to the order Sepiida. Food geeks who want to know more can check out the full taxonomy.

    Treat cephalopods with the respect they deserve: Scientists believe that the ancestors of modern cephalopods diverged from the primitive, externally-shelled Nautilus (Nautiloidea) some 438 million years ago. This was before there were fish in the ocean, before the first mammals appeared on land, before vertebrates crawled from the sea onto land, and even before Earth had upright plants.

    Cephalopods were once one of the dominant life forms in the world’s oceans. Today there are only about 800 living species of cephalopods, compared with 30,000 species of bony fish. [Source]

     
    The Source Of The Confusion

    Calamari are plentiful in the Mediterranean Sea; Italians call the live and cooked versions calamari (the singular is calamaro). Since most people in English-speaking countries first encountered dishes called calamari in Italian restaurants, the word is used interchangeably.

    Truth to tell, Italian restaurants in America may well have been selling squid. Wholesalers and retailers blur the lines. Given the scientific complexities, it’s best to let this one lie and use the words interchangeably. Most people couldn’t tell the difference once they’re cleaned and cooked.

    However, if you’re buying raw squid/calamari, you can tell the two apart by the fins:

  • Squid have fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the squid’s body (the body is also known as the tube, hood or mantle).
  • Calamari fins extend almost all the way down the hood.
  •  
    Yes, it’s that simple.

      

    Comments off



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