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Archive for 2017

PRODUCTS: 5 New Specialty Food Favorites

Every week new products arrive at THE NIBBLE. Most are good if not noteworthy. Some are so good that they become part of our personal shopping list.

In alphabetical order, here are five favorites of the last few weeks:

1. CAVA GRILL MEDITERRAEAN DIPS & SPREADS

Cava Grill, a casual Mediterranean restaurant chain with locations on the East Coast an California, is now selling a dozen of its popular dips and spreads. You can find them at Whole Foods Markets and other specialty markets (here’s a store locator).

Choose from:

  • Dips/Spreads: Crazy Feta, Eggplant & Roast Pepper, Harissa, Tzatziki.
  • Hummus Flavors: Greek Yogurt, Kalamata, Roasted Garlic, Roasted Red Pepper, Spicy, Traditional.
  • Organic Flavors: Organic Caramelized Onion Hummus, Organic Traditional.
  •  
    One of our favorite light dinners is to serve as many varieties as we want with fresh pita, accompanied by a lettuce salad with bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, vinaigrette and chopped fresh herbs; capers and olives optional.

    Or, uncork some wine and invite friends and neighbors for a wine break.

    See the whole line at Cava.com.
     
     
    2. LACTAID MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM

    Ice cream is one of our favorite foods, and every day we bless Lactaid for an excellent (and well-priced) line. Every flavor is a winner.

    We recently had our first quart of Lactaid Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, and it’s the best supermarket mint chocolate chip ice cream we can recommend: truly refreshing, with lively mint flavor and toothsome chunks of chocolate.

    You don’t have to have lactose sensitivity to enjoy Lactaid dairy products. The cottage cheese, ice cream and milk taste just like any other quality products. (Lactaid dudes: We need cream cheese and sour cream, too.)

    The only difference is that a minute amount of lactase, the natural enzyme that helps people digest milk products—is added. You can taste it; no one would know the difference.

    Check out the other Lactaid ice cream flavors. Salted Caramel Chip is another must-try.

     
     
    3. NESTLÉ DAMAK CHOCOLATE BARS WITH PISTACHIOS

    The Damak brand of chocolate was established in Turkey in 1933. Turkey is the world’s third largest producer of pistachio nuts (after Iran and the U.S.), and the bars, in milk or dark chocolate, are packed with the nutritious little nuggets.

    The 2.82-ounce square-ish bars are something not readily available in the U.S.: pistachio chocolate bars at the suggested retail price of $2.49. The name, pronounced DUH-mok, is Turkish for “taste.”

    Nestlé, which now owns the brand, has committed a million dollars to teach Turkish pistachio farmers more effective agricultural techniques to improve and increase harvests.

    See more at NestleDamak.com.
     
     
    4. NOOSA YOGHURT

    Noosa has been one of our favorite yogurt lines since it first popped up in the U.S. via Australia, where yogurt is spelled with an “h” (see our review).

    Each new flavor the brand introduces is better than the last (although the Mexican Chocolate Yoghurt has yet to be topped on our personal list).

    New flavors this season:

  • Orange Ginger
  • Pear Cardamom
  • Strawberry Hibiscus
  •  

    Cava Grill Dips & Spreads

    Lactaid Mint Chocolate Chip

    Nestle Damak Pistachio Chocolate Bars

    Nonni's Limoncello Pistachio Biscotti

    Noosa Orange Ginger Yoghurt

    [1] Cava Grill Mediterranean Dips (photo Cava). [2] Nestle Damak pistachio chocolate bars (photo Nestle). [3] Lactaid Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (photo Lactaid). [4] Nonni’s Limoncello Pistachio Biscotti (photo Nonni’s Foods). [5] Orange-Ginger, one of three new Noosa Yoghurt flavors (photo Noosa).

     
    But every flavor hits the spot, and all are delicious enough to be served as a creamy dessert as well as breakfast, lunch and snack fare. See them all at NoosaYoghurt.com.
     
     
    5. NONNI’S BISCOTTI

    Nonni’s, the nation’s leading biscotti baker, salutes spring with two new limited-batch flavors.

  • Nonni’s White Chocolate Cherry Biscotti are filled with cherries and white chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate icing.
  • Nonni’s Limoncello Pistachio Biscotti are made with chopped pistachios and lemon peel zest, then dipped and drizzled inwhite chocolate.
  •  
    The biscotti are a softer style that are easy on the teeth, and are individually wrapped for grab-and-go.

    Check out the entire line at Nonnis.com.

      

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    RECIPE: Ravioli Lasagna For National Ravioli Day

    Ravioli Lasagna

    Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna

    Ravioli Lasagna

    Ravioli Lasagna

    [1] Beef and sausage ravioli lasagna. [2] Pumpkin ravioli lasagna (both photos courtesy Taste Of Home). [3] An even ravioli top (photo courtesy Oxmoor House). [4] Adding the layer of frozen ravioli (photo courtesy Design Mom).

     

    March 20th is National Ravioli Day.

    We like ravioli in any form, but have been especially delighted with ravioli lasagna.

    Bless the person who first thought of the trick of using cooked ravioli instead of lasagna noodles. (Alternatively, you can use penne or other tube pasta, but ravioli supplies added filling.)

    What looks like a complicated recipe couldn’t be easier when you use frozen ravioli (no cooking required) and store-bought pasta sauce.

    Prep time is 25 minutes, bake time is 40 minutes.
     
    RECIPE: RAVIOLI LASAGNA

    We adapted this recipe from one by Patricia Smith for Taste Of Home.

    The recipe uses sausage or cheese ravioli and adds ground beef. But you can make vegetable ravioli, chicken ravioli, or anything you prefer. Here’s another Taste Of Home recipe for (here’s the Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna (scroll down).

    You can vary the recipe any way you like. For example:

  • Substitute ground chicken, turkey or textured vegetable protein (TVP) for the beef.
  • Add veggies via two layers of frozen, thawed spinach or kale (pressed dry), frozen peas or medley.
  • Substitute Alfredo sauce (cream sauce) for the tomato-based sauce.
  • Substitute vegetable ravioli for the meat or cheese versions.
  • We’ve even use ratatouille as the sauce, when we’ve made a large batch (pulse it into a chunky vegetable sauce.
  •  
    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 package (25 ounces) frozen sausage or cheese ravioli
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Dried herbs/spices: (chili flakes, garlic chips, oregano)
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Cook the beef over medium heat in a large skillet, until it is no longer pink. Drain.

    2. LAYER in a greased 2-1/2-quart baking dish: 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce, 1/2 of the ravioli, 1/2 of the cooked beef, and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat the layers. Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

    3. COVER and bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAVIOLI

    China gets the credit for inventing not only strand pasta—thin chow mein noodles like Italian angel hair, chow fun noodles like Italian linguine, chow fun noodles like Italian pappardelle, and stuffed wontons like Italian ravioli.

     
    When it arrived Italy, stuffed pasta (another name for the category is pillow pasta) was served with Italian-style pasta sauces.

    Some food historians believe the name “ravioli” derives from the old Italian word riavvolgere, to wrap.

    Others believe that the dish was named after a renowned 13th-century chef named Ravioli, who lived in the Republica di Genova (a.k.a. Genoa, today the Italian region of Liguria).

    The record on him is scant, but according to DeLallo Authentic Italian Foods, Chef Ravioli is credited with the invention of the stuffed pasta composed of two layers of thin pasta dough with a filling sealed between them.

    Interestingly, the Venetian Marco Polo, who brought the concept of stuffed pasta back from China, had subsequently become a soldier in Venice’s war with Genova. He was taken prisoner by Genova in 1296 and released in 1299, to return to Venice [source].

    We don’t have dates for Chef Ravioli, but might he have heard about the stuffed wontons via someone who heard it from Polo? Given how scant the record is on the chef, we can say with almost-certainty that we’ll never know!

    Here’s much more on the history of ravioli.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Artichokes, Steamed Whole

    March 16th is National Artichoke Hearts Day, but today, the first day of spring, we take on the whole fresh vegetable, a spring arrival.

    The artichoke is actually a large flower bud. If left in the field, the fuzzy choke in the center becomes the blossom (photo #3), which is supported by the thick, spiny leaves.

    The familiar globes are harvested prior to flowering (photo #4).

    The outer leaves, heart and stem of the artichoke are equally (and similarly) tasty. The toughest outer leaves and the choke (the light, fibrous section on top of the heart) are discarded.

    RECIPE: STEAMED ARTICHOKES

    Artichokes can be braised, fried, grilled, roasted or stewed; but to cook a whole artichoke, the technique is to steam.

    The process is actually very easy. All you need is a large pot and a steaming tray. Serve them as a first course, hot or cold, with your choice of dipping sauce.

    Our pasta pot fits six large artichokes. We like them large, as you get more to eat with the same amount of effort.

    While many retailers chop the stems off, we look for those with the longest stems. Surprise: The heart grows from the stem, and the stem tastes like the heart. Don’t throw them out: Enjoy them!

    Some people peel the stems first, as they do with asparagus. We find that most do just fine with some extra steaming. As a hedge, you can cut the stems and steam them separately, in case they need some extra time in the pot.

    Finally, artichokes have traditionally been served with the melted butter (with hot artichokes) and aïoli or vinaigrette (hot or cold artichokes), we find that most steamed vegetables are delicious without anything else.

    A large artichoke (162g, 5.7 ounces) has just 76 calories.

    Ingredients

  • Whole artichokes
  • Fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving as desired
  • Optional garnish: snipped parsley or other herb to scatter on plate
  • For dipping: aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), melted butter or vinaigrette
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL off some of the tougher outer leaves. While some people undertake a severe removal, we recommend steaming more rather than less. Steam the artichokes until you can easily pull off one of the outer leaves, and taste it. If it’s soft enough to scrape off with your teeth, you get more artichoke!

    2. With a scissors, snip off the thorny ends of the leaves. This is the most time-consuming part of the preparation. (Our colleague Ruth, the consummate crafter, uses pinking shears.) With a sharp knife, cut the off top center of the globe—the small, thorny leaves that are inside the large ones.

    3. CLEAN by placing the globes upside-down in a large bowl of water with the lemon juice (to prevent browning until you’re ready to cook them). Parsley stems also prevent artichokes from browning (another reason to save those stems in the freezer). You do this part in advance. When ready to steam…

    4. FILL the pot with water up to the bottom of the steamer basket, and add a tablespoon of salt. Place the artichokes in stem side up. This enables the steam to get into the interior leaves, and allows you to test for doneness.

    5. COVER the pot and bring to a boil. Steam until until the heart (the bottom of the artichoke where it connects to the stem) is tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, and inner leaves pull out easily, 25 to 35 minutes. Check in the latter half of steaming and add more water to pot as necessary.

    6. SERVE hot or cold with a ramekin of melted butter or vinaigrette and a lemon wedge. Garnish with fresh herbs as desired.

    If the bottoms of the globe are level (i.e., no protruding stem), you can stand them up on a plate for presentation. Otherwise, present them on their side.

    A BRIEF ARTICHOKE HISTORY

    Artichokes are members of the thistle family native to the Mediterranean region, that are cultivated as food.

    They were bred from their lesser-known cousin, the cardoon (photo #5). The familiar globe artichoke, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus, is a variation of Cynara cardunculus, the cardoon.

    Cynara is a genus of thistle-like perennial plants in the sunflower family. Cardoons are long, edible stalks that are similar in flavor to the artichoke stalks. The tops and flowers are also very similar. The difference is that the artichoke has an edible heart within the leaves on top.

    Artichokes were first cultivated thousands of years ago in Maghreb, the region of North Africa west of Egypt, where they still grow wild. They spread throughout the Mediterranean.

     

    Fresh Artichokes

    Steamed Artichoke

    Artichoke Flower

    Sangria Artichoke

    Cardoons

    [1] Fresh artichokes from California, cut up for a recipe (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [2] Steamed whole and served with aïoli (here’s the recipe from Fine Cooking). [3] In the field, artichokes grow on long, thick stems (photo courtesy Frieda’s Produce). [4] A flowering artichoke (photo courtesy Sierra Flower Finder). [5] Cardoons, which look like celery (but are no relation), are the predecessor of the globe artichoke. There is no heart; the stem is what’s eaten (photo courtesy Fine Cooking).

     

  • The earliest references to artichokes appear in the 8th century B.C.E. Both Homer and Hesiod, a Greek philosopher and naturalist, wrote of them as cultivated plants.
  • Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.E.), the successor to Aristotle, wrote of artichokes being grown in Italy and Sicily.
  • The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 C.E.), a surgeon with the Roman army of Emperor Nero, wrote about artichokes at the time of Christ.
  •  
    Ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. In the ensuing centuries, they were grown in Italy, France and other areas of Europe.

    They were among the fruits, vegetables and animals brought to the New World by colonists. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains a 17th-century recipe entitled “To Make Hartichoak Pie.” In the early 1800s, French immigrants settling in the Louisiana Territory planted artichokes.

    In 1922 Andrew Molera, a landowner in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California, leased land to Italian immigrant farmers and encouraged them to grow the “new” vegetable, as artichokes were fetching high prices. [Source]

    Artichoke lovers: Give thanks to Mr. Molera for the popularity of artichokes in the U.S.

    MORE ARTICHOKE RECIPES

    Spinach and artichoke dip is one of the most popular dips in the U.S., so it’s surprising that we can’t find information on its origin. If you know it, please let us know.

    Our mom recalls that in the 1950s or 1960s, a recipe appeared on packages of dry soup mix or a sour cream.

  • Ways To Use Artichokes
  • Warm Artichoke Dip With Gorgonzola
  • Artichoke Dip With Sundried Tomatoes
  • Creamy Artichoke Dip With Gorgonzola & Fontina
  • Hot Crab & Artichoke Dip
  • Roast Leg Of Lamb With Stewed Artichokes
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Plate Decorating With Sauce

    Octopus With Swirled Sauce

    Lava Cake With Sauce

    Squeeze Bottles

    Dessert Sauce Squeeze Bottles

    [1] These “flowers” are simply polka dots pulled together with a toothpick (see the video below; photo courtesy Gardenia | NYC). [2] Any food that isn’t made in a sauce can be decorated (photo courtesy Shalit Foods). [3] Keep your favorite sauces in the fridge, ready to squeeze (photo courtesy Pure Joy Concepts). [4] You can buy sauces or make them (photo courtesy Melissa’s).

     

    When you get your food at a good restaurant and the chef has made beautiful chevrons, flowers or hearts from the sauce, are you impressed?

    If so, know that some of these are so easy, that all you need are a couple of squeeze bottles and a toothpick or skewer to make them at home.

    In fact, the hardest thing to do is to decide which sauces to use with your dish.

    So watch the video below, or plenty more on YouTube under “sauce decoration.”

  • Start with polka dots of sauce before moving into more complex designs.
  • Look for the color impact as well as the flavors when you select sauces.
  • The lists below are just guidelines. You can use whatever goes through a squeeze bottle (but steer clear of sauces with inclusions—bits of dill, mustard seeds, etc.).
  •  
    SAVORY SAUCES

  • Aïoli (garlic mayonnaise) or other flavored mayonnaise 
  • Alfredo (parmesan) or other cheese sauce
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Cream sauce (plain, basil, curry, ginger, tomato, wasabi, etc.)
  • Hoisin or plum sauce
  • Horseradish sauce
  • Lemon sauce
  • Mustard sauce
  • Ranch sauce
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Vegetable coulis*
  • Yogurt-based (e.g. garlic-yogurt sauce)
  •  
    SWEET SAUCES

  • Berry coulis*
  • Butterscotch/caramel sauce
  • Chocolate/white chocolate/mint chocolate sauce
  • Cinnamon sauce sauce
  • Coffee/mocha
  • Custard/crème anglaise
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Kiwi coulis
  • Lemon or other citrus sauce
  • Mango coulis
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Yogurt-based (e.g. honey-yogurt sauce)
  •  
    ________________

    *Coulis (COO-lee) is a sauce made from puréed and strained vegetables or fruits (i.e., no seeds remain).

     
    This video shows three easy techniques for both sweet and savory sauces.


     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Potato Fondue With Baby Potatoes

    You may have used potatoes in an assortment of fondue dippers, but they can be served on their own with a pot of warm, dripping cheese.

    Try potato fondue as a first course at dinner (photo #1), or a light main course with an added protein dipper (ham, sausage or turkey chunks) and a salad.

    We adopted this recipe from one by Mary Giuliani, sent to us by Potatoes USA, a potato marketing and research organization that represents more than 2,500 potato growers and handlers nationwide. You’ll find hundreds of interesting potato recipes at PotatoGoodness.com.

    We:

  • Used tricolor (white, red, purple) bite-size baby/petite/new/creamer* potatoes instead of the standard tricolor potatoes cut into chunks, specified in the original recipe (photo #2).
  • Added roasted onions for a more diverse dish (photo #3).
  • Used an IPA instead of the original stout.
  • Turned it into a main dish by including sausage with the potatoes and onions (we used Applegate Organic Chicken & Apple Sausage).
  •  
    RECIPE: POTATO FONDUE

    Ingredients

    For The Potatoes

  • 1 pound mixed baby† potatoes (white, red, purple), skins on, washed and patted dry
  • Optional: 1/2 pound pearl onions (ideally mixed colors)
  • Optional: Sausage, cooked and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (more as needed)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  •  
    For The Fondue

  • 1 cup stout or other strong beer
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 3 cups cheddar or gruyère‡, shredded
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Optional: 1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon (optional)
  •  
    Plus

  • Fondue pot and stand, Sterno/votive candle, fondue forks
  •  
    ________________

    *Like miniature vegetables, baby potatoes are harvested before they’re full-grown. This makes them pricier, but with so much more eye appeal! They are available in white, red and purple varieties and are often sold as a mix. Baby potatoes are variously called creamer, new or petite potatoes.

    †The original recipe called for 1 cup of russet, 1 cup of purple and 1 cup of fingerling potatoes, cut into cubes.

    ‡You can use any cheese that melts well. Emmentaler, fontina, gouda, havarti, Monterey jack, provolone, raclette, reblochon and taleggio are also good melters. You can also blend two or three cheeses together for more complex flavors.

     

    Potato Fondue

    Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

    Roasted Pearl Onions

    [1] Yummy potato fondue (photo courtesy U.S. Potato Board). The original recipe used cut-up potatoes. [2] We substituted baby potatoes (photo courtesy Cilantropist). [3] We added roasted pearl onions (photo courtesy The Cutting Edge Of Ordinary).

     
    Preparation

    Everyone should be able to reach the fondue pot with their skewers. You can pass the potatoes in a serving bowl, or bring individual filled plates to the table along with a serving bowl for “seconds.”

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. If you are using fresh onions, soak them in warm water for 5 minutes before trimming the ends and removing the skins.

    2. TOSS the potatoes and onions in a bowl with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Place them in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes, or until brown and crisp. Stir several times during cooking and rotate the pan halfway through, for more even cooking.

    If roasting the onions and potatoes together, keep them on separate sides of the pan in case you have to remove the onions a few minutes earlier. The onions should be al dente. If they get soft, they won’t stay on the fondue forks. Ditto with the potatoes: yielding to the fork, but not soft.

    3. COMBINE the beer, half-and-half, flour and mustard powder in a medium saucepan. Warm the liquid over medium heat and begin adding the cheese, whisking until melted.

    4. REMOVE from the heat and add the pepper, salt and nutmeg. Place the pot back on the stove and cook while stirring to a smooth consistency. Add more beer if the fondue is too thick; add more cheese if it’s too thin.

    5. TRANSFER the mixture to a fondue pot and stand fitted with Sterno or a votive candle (Sterno will keep it hotter, longer). Stir in the bacon. Serve with roasted potatoes. To keep the fondue at its ideal consistency, stir it intermittently.

      

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