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Archive for November 11, 2016

GIFT OF THE DAY: Beautiful Chocolates From John & Kira’s

Friends know that a box of chocolates (make that three boxes) from John & Kira’s is one of our favorite gifts.

These chocolatiers from Philadelphia not only make some of the best artisan chocolate in the country; they have what we think is the best packaging. The thick boutique boxes covered in fine paper and finished with a letterpress tag. are so beautiful, we give them continued life as containers in our drawers and closets.
 
Ganache & Caramel & Figs: Oh My!

Since they first opened their doors with their now-classic box of Valrhona chocolate ganache bonbons—each ganache infused with real herbs and spices into fresh cream—they have been the talk of the [chocolate] town.

There are now dozens of items waiting to be discovered, from the sophisticated to the whimsically delicious (ganache-filled Ladybug Medly and red Lovebugs, yellow and black Honey Caramel Bees and the multicolored Magical Mushrooms (three different flavors of caramel).

Their caramels are as special as the ganaches (in fact, can we order a gallon of the caramel, please?).
 
Give A Fig!

The most special item for us—because you can’t find them made elsewhere in the U.S.—are John & Kira’s tender, mouth-watering Calabacita fig confections.

The figs are grown on a small organic family farm in Spain. Because the fig harvest is once a year, these are limited-edition items. We look forward to them each fall.

There are two options.

  • Drunken Chocolate Figs. The dried figs are filled with a silky smooth, whiskey-infused chocolate ganache, then hand-dipped in 62% dark chocolate.
  • Pumpkin Figs. After they’re filled with the whiskey ganache, the figs enrobed in white chocolate, hand-painted in the color of pumpkins, or autumn leaves.
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    Enjoy Seasonal Classics

    The Winter Forest Trio has different motifs with three fillings:

  • Under the mountain peaks, a crunchy hazelnut-almond praline center.
  • Under the snowflakes, a refreshing white chocolate mint ganache.
  • Under the stars, dark chocolate ganache with a touch of vanilla.
  •  
    But there are no wrong choices here…except failing to order enough!

    Get yours at JohnAndKiras.com.

     

    Chocolate Dipped Figs

    Chocolate Covered Fig Pumpkins

    John & Kira's Winter Chocolates

    [1] Tender imported Spanish figs are filled with chocolate-whiskey ganache and partially dipped in chocolate. Delicious as is or with a Cognac! [2] The same lovely figs, completely enrobed in chocolate and hand-painted as pumpkins. [3] The Winter Forest Trio (all photos courtesy John & Kira’s.

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Unconventional Sundae Ingredients

    Cornflakes Sundae

    Beef Sundae

    Tomato Basil Sundae

    [1] Not your typical vanilla ice cream sundae (photo courtesy Ogawa Coffee. [2] How about a beef sundae with cheddar (photo courtesy Dairy Max). [3] Tart frozen yogurt like Pinkberry is an opportunity to try savory toppings, like marinated cherry tomatoes and basil (photo courtesy Pinkberry).

     

    For National Sundae Day, November 11th, commemorates the history of the ice cream sundae, which dates to around 1892 in Ithaca, New York.

    While we love conventional ice cream sundaes (particularly hot fudge over pistachio ice cream), there are novel approaches as well.

    Why not think beyond the conventional and create a delicious ice cream sundae with at least one “different” ingredient.
     
    WHAT IS NOT DIFFERENT

  • Berries and other sundae fruits
  • Crushed cookies and cake cubes
  • Popular candies, sprinkles, dragées
  • Any fruits or nuts—fresh, dried, raw, roasted, etc.
  • Any conventional ice cream sauce (butterscotch, chocolate, strawberry, etc.)
  • Marshmallow cream or whipped cream
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    WHAT IS DIFFERENT

  • Cereals and granola
  • Crushed honey sesame bites
  • Exotic fruits: carambola/star fruit, dragon fruit, lychee, rambutan, etc.
  • Honey (especially flavored honey), preserves, pie filling
  • Jell-O or other gelatin cubes, including cubed Jell-O shots
  • Scoops of other frozen desserts (granita, sorbet, yogurt)
  • Seeds: pumpkin, sesame, chia
  • Flavored whipped cream: recipes for bourbon, five spice, lavender, pumpkin pie spice, etc.); mascarpone
  • Garnishes: colored sanding sugars, peanut butter cream
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    Photo #1 shows a sundae, from Ogawa Coffee in Boston, an offshoot of a Japanese chain.

    It’s made in a pint glass with two unconventional ingredients: coffee gelatin (a Boston specialty, originating as a way to use yesterday’s leftover coffee) and Corn Flakes. As a coffee house, the coffee gelatin makes perfect sense. It’s made with coffee and unflavored gelatin; here’s a recipe.

     
    RECIPE: OGAWA MOCHA CORNFLAKE ICE CREAM SUNDAE (PHOTO #1)

    Ingredients

  • Vanilla ice cream (substitute coffee, chocolate, or a small scoop of each)
  • Cubes of house-made coffee gelatin
  • Cubes of chocolate terrine (substitute brownie or chocolate cake cubes
  • Chocolate/fudge sauce
  • Corn Flakes
  • Whipped cream
  • Garnish: dried cranberries (substitute dried cherries, chocolate-covered espresso beans or pomegranate arils
  • Preparation

    1. PLACE some chocolate sauce on the very bottom. Then add one scoop ice cream, topped with chocolate terrine. Add more chocolate sauce, the second scoop of ice cream and the gelatin cubes.

    2. ADD the third scoop of ice cream and the Corn Flakes. Top with more gelatin, whipped cream and garnish.

     
    HOW ABOUT A SAVORY SUNDAE?

    You can make savory sundaes as well. Some are made with savory ice cream; others are sundae in name, but aren’t cold.

    We have recipes for a:

  • Beef Stew Sundae (Photo #2)
  • Spaghetti & Meatball Sundae
  • Savory Yogurt Sundae (Photo #3)
  • Sour cream ice cream with salmon caviar garnish (we’re still working to perfect the amount of herbs in the sour cream ice cream, but here’s an Ideas In Food recipe for sourdough ice cream they top with caviar)
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    But we’re not suggesting that you whip up a caviar sundae. Yet.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Martini With A Side Of Olives

    If you’re not the type to sip seasonal cocktails with apple, cinnamon, cranberry or pumpkin flavors, here’s a tip to seasonalize that American classic, the Martini*.

    Recently we read an interview with a fashionable mixologist. Asked, among other things, of his pet peeves, he said, “I sell cocktails, I don’t sell garnishes. Everyone who orders a Martini keeps asking for more olives. We should make ‘dish of olives’ an bar menu item.”

    Voilà, our tip of the day: Serve Martinis with a side dish of olives—ideally, a vibrant mix of different colors and shapes.

    We adapted Sable & Rosenfeld’s Blue Martini, garnished with its blue-cheese-stuffed olives (photo #1), with red or reddish† olives, for a red-and-green holiday theme.

    There is one really red olive, and other options in the purplish range.

  • Red† Cerignola olive: from Italy, a jumbo olive with mild, buttery flesh.
  • Gaeta olive from Italy, popular in recipes
  • Kalamata olive from Greece, a meaty olive
  • Niçoise olive from France, pleasantly bitter with nutty undertones
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    Other purplish varieties you may encounter are the Alfonso, Amfissa, Nyon. But essentially: Head to the nearest olive bar and buy the reddest olives.

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: HOLIDAY MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2½ ounces gin or vodka
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 3 regular-size olives or 1 Red Cerignola olive
  • Ice
  •  
    Plus

  • A small dish of olives in mixed colors and sizes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PRE-CHILL the glass.

    2. PREPARE the garnish. Strip the leaves from bottom 2 inches of the rosemary sprig and skewer three small olives onto it, or one large Red Cerignola olive.

    TIP: Some kitchen scissors have a leaf stripper in the center for herbs. We use this one from Esschert.

    2. FILL a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add the alcohol and ice; shake and strain into the glass.

    3. GARNISH and serve with a side of olives.

    If your guests don’t polish off all the olives with their cocktails, you can toss them into the salad or serve them with the cheese plate!
     
    _________________________
    *Check out the history of the Martini.

    †The color of an olive is an indication of its ripeness. Green olives ripen and become black olives in shades from black to purple-black and brown-black. As the olive ripens, it produces colors in-between: light brown, purple and reddish. In general, the darker the olive, the riper it was when picked. As they mature, some varieties may be red for a day or two. But what nature doesn’t provide, man will: Red Cerignola olives are actually dyed bright red with an FDA-approved colorant (red #3) and a patented process to provide festive color. La Bella di Cerignola is the formal name for the olives grown in the area of the town of Cerignola in Puglia, Italy.

     

    Olive Martini

    Mixed Olives

    Red & Green Cerignola Olives

    Esschert Herb Scissors

    Sable & Rosenfeld). [2] What Martini drinkers want: a side dish of olives (photo courtesy Pompeian | Facebook). [3] The reddest olive available is the jumbo Red Cerignola, shown with the Green Cerignola (photo courtesy DeLallo). [4] Strip leaves of of herb stems using the center part of this Esschert herb scissors.

     

      

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    PRODUCTS: More Favorites For The Season

    White Chocolate Cranberry Loaf La Brea Bakery

    Cranberry Walnut Loaf La Brea Bakery

    [1] White Chocolate Cranberry Loaf and [2] Cranberry Walnut Loaf, delicious additions to the holiday table from La Brea Bakery.

     

    Two more recommendations from our ongoing nibbling of limited-edition seasonal flavors:

    LA BREA BAKERY: ARTISAN BREADS, READY TO EAT OR READY TO HEAT

    La Brea Bakery, a brand of artisan breads available at select grocers nationwide and from Amazon Fresh, is an asset for home munching or serving guests. All are in the SRP range of $3.99-$4.99.

    You can have seasonally flavored breads in different forms—some actually emerging warm from your oven.

    With the Take & Bake options, the bread is partially baked when you purchase it, requiring just a few minutes in the oven to yield a warm and fragrant loaf.

  • White Chocolate Cranberry Loaf. We love this for breakfast toast and luncheon Brie sandwiches. Creamy white chocolate and tart dried cranberries pair beautifully with the sourdough (photo #1).
  • Take & Bake Cranberry Walnut Loaf. Sourdough with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries is delicious from the oven or toasted the next day for breakfast. We used it at lunch with ham and blue cheese from the fridge. It works with any cheese you’d use for a grilled cheese sandwich. Cut small slices to serve with cheese (photo #2).
  • Holiday Stuffing Loaf. Our friend Linda (a beast in the kitchen) bakes her own bread from scratch, just to make her stuffing. You can save the time and effort with this special loaf, seasoned with sage, thyme, celery, black and white pepper. You can brag that you baked your stuffing from fresh bread.
  • Take & Bake Holiday Stuffing Rolls. The same recipe as the Holiday Stuffing Loaf is available in roll form. Heat them up the day after Thanksgiving for a memorable turkey sandwich.
  •  

    We also had a bite of La Brea Bakery’s:

  • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Loaf Cake. This spiced pumpkin loaf—cinnamon and nutmeg—has a cream cheese swirl, and a garnish of toasted pumpkin seeds. It can be enjoyed any time of the day. We turned it into dessert with a side of mascarpone.
  • Gingerbread Loaf Cake. Moist spiced gingerbread cake with hints of ginger, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and topped with a candied ginger streusel. Gingerbread was a cookie before it was a cake. It started as a holiday food because the spices were too costly to be used for everyday cookies. Check out the history of gingerbread.
  •  
    The only problem with these two loaves: They disappeared far too quickly.

    For more information visit LaBreaBakery.com.
     
    PUMPKIN TORTILLA CHIPS

    Another treat we look forward to each fall are pumpkin tortilla chips.

    There are many brands. bit we’ve grown to prefer Food Should Taste Good and Way Better Chips.

    You can enjoy the chips with your favorite salsa, or get some of Mrs. Renfro’s Pumpkin Salsa or Frontera Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa, which is sold out on the Frontera website but available at retailers nationwide.

    For $3.95 a jar (Frontera’s is $4.95), these delicious salsas can be given as Thanksgiving favors (so much better for guests than a chocolate turkey) or stocking stuffers.

    The lucky giftees can wake up the day after Thanksgiving and have the pumpkin salsa with their breakfast eggs.
     
    DON’T TARRY: THESE ARE ALL LIMITED EDITIONS…

    …and they won’t be back again until next fall.

     
    DID YOU KNOW…

    YOU CAN BAKE OR FRY ACTUAL PUMPKIN FOR CHIPS!

    Make your own chips from pumpkin slices with this recipe from Hojiblanca and this artsy-looking chip recipe from Savvy Naturalista.

    Make them as a real surprise for your guests, or for your Thanksgiving hosts.

     

    Way Better Pumpkin Cranberry Chips

    Skillet Fondue

    Real Pumpkin Pumpkin Chips

    [3] Try pumpkin tortilla chips (photo courtesy Way Better Chips) with [4] a skillet fondue (photo courtesy La Brea). [5] You can also make solid pumpkin chips (photo courtesy Hojiblanca).

     

      

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