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Archive for Thanksgiving & Fall

TIP OF THE DAY: Turkey Napkin Fold & The History Of Napkins

Does someone in your family have a crafty streak? Let him or her do the napkin folding for Thankgsgiving dinner.

You can find different looks online, but we like this simple-but-elegant version from Martha Stewart. Here’s how to fold it.

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to start folding. Test your skills and your napkins in advance. Linen napkins crease and fold well, cotton napkins and even large paper napkins work with many folds; polyester and permanent press napkins don’t fold.

THE HISTORY OF NAPKINS

How do you wipe your mouth and fingers during and after eating? Who doesn’t?

Yet, in the history of civilization, the napkins we know were relatively late to the table (as it were).

According to Food Reference and Melanie e Magdalena, it was a slow evolution, beginning with dough napkins! Ancient Spartans first used small lumps of dough to wipe their hands when eating. This led to using baked, sliced bread to wipe the hands.

Napkins slowly evolved into new forms. Note that they were the property of the well-to-do, not poor citizens who were left on their own. If you closely watch dining scenes in period television and film, you may be able to catch the custom of the time.

  • In Rome, the maapa, was an early tablecloth: a large cloth that covered the surface of where the individuals eating were seated. They were also used to wipe mouths and for wrapping up leftover food to take home, a custom of the host (making it the original doggy bag). Each guest supplied his own mappa.
  • In the Dark Ages (now called the Early Middle Ages), the napkin disappeared along with many other elements of Roman civilization. Hands and mouths were wiped on whatever was available: the back of the hand, the sleeve, or [back to pre-napkin times] a piece of bread.
  • During the Middle Ages, some amenities returned. Hands were wiped on tablecloths, which evolved into a three-cloth spread over the table, creating a cloth surface 4-6 feet long and 5 feet wide. You can see an example in this painting, made during between 1464 and 1467.
  • In the late Middle Ages, the communal napkin migrated from the table to the arms of a servant, and was reduced to the size of a modern bath towel. Over time, a basin with water for hand washing appeared. Throughout the meal, the individual would wash his hands, and the servant would drape the cloth over the diner’s arm or shoulder to dry wet hands throughout the meal. In France, a long cloth called a longiere was attached to the side of the tablecloth for communal use.
  • By the 16th century, the end of the Renaissance, napkins were a requirement of refined dining. A large napkin was used at the table, and a smaller napkin was used at events where people stood while eating.
  • By the 17th century, the standard napkin was approximately 35 inches wide by 45 inches long, a jumbo size that accommodated people who [still] ate with their fingers (today, dinner napkins are 24 x 24 inches). However, when the fork was accepted by royalty in the same century, the napkin fell from use among the aristocracy and neatness in dining was emphasized.
  • In the 18th century, the napkin size was reduced thanks to the widespread use of the fork by all classes of society. The napkin of the time was 30 inches by 36. Napkins followed fashion: When the fashion for men became stiffly starched ruffled collars, they were protected with napkins tied around the neck. When shirts with lace fronts came into vogue, napkins were tucked into the neck or buttonhole or were attached with a pin.
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    Turkey Napkin Fold

    Leaf Napkin Fold

    Thanksgiving Napkin Fold

    [1] A linen napkin can be creased and folded into a turkey (photo courtesy MarthaStewart.com). [2] This leaf fold napkin from Decozilla is a lot easier. [3] It’s a no-brainer to create a simple harvest theme like this (photo courtesy EcstasyCoffee.com).

  • Matching linens debut: Around 1740, manufacturers began making matching tablecloth and napkin sets.
  • Paper napkins came to the U.S. in 1887, when John Dickinson, a paper mill owner in the U.K., brought his paper napkins to a company party in the U.S.
  • Paper napkins didn’t take hold in the U.S. until 1931, when Scott Paper introduced its line.
  •  
    Today, the napkin is made in a variety of sizes,and materials (cotton, linen, paper, polyester) and colors to meet every need:
     
    STANDARD NAPKIN SIZES

    Here are today’s standard sizes:

  • Cocktail napkin: 6″ x 6″
  • Lunch napkin: 18″ x 18″ or 20″ x 20″
  • Dinner napkin: 22″ x 22″ or 24″ x 24″
  • Buffet lap napkin: 27″ x 27″
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    RECIPE: Beet Marmalade

    Talk about memorable fall foods: This beet marmalade recipe from our colleague Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog is an eye-opener.

    With its beautiful color and rich flavor, it’s a condiment that goes well:

  • As a spread with bread or crackers
  • On a cream cheese brick or goat cheese log
  • With grilled and roasted meats and poultry
  • Mixed into a dip with yogurt or sour cream
  •  
    The flavor is earthy yet sweet and zesty, with layers of flavor from the caramelized onions, orange zest and maple syrup. It may well convert beet haters to beet lovers.

    If you like to make food gifts, add this one to your repertoire.

    While the recipe specifies red beets for a ruby-color marmalade—a color that’s ideal for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day—you can also make it with orange beets as a change of pace.

    You can make canapés, or put out the ingredients and let people assemble their own.
     
    RECIPE: BEET MARMALADE

    Ingredients For About 2 Cups

  • 4 medium red beets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons 100% Grade B maple syrup*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  
    For Serving

  • Crackers or crostini (toasted baguette slices)
  • Goat cheese log, sliced in fairly thin (i.e. not thick) circles
  • Boston lettuce or baby greens
  • ________________
    *Grade B is the darkest and most flavorful maple syrup. Here are the four grades of maple syrup. You can substitute what you have, as long as it’s 100% real maple syrup.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets completely in aluminum foil and roast for about an hour, or until fork tender. Let cool before peeling. The skins should just rub right off with a bit of pressure.

    Meanwhile…

     

    Beet Marmalade & Goat Cheese Recipe

    Fresh Red Beets

    Orange Beets

    [1] Beet marmalade on a cracker with goat cheese (photo by Hannah Kaminsky). [2] Red and [3] orange beets (photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    2. HEAT the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat and add the sliced onion. Cook gently, stirring frequently for 30 to 40 minutes, until deeply caramelized and almost silky in texture. Add the orange juice halfway through, and reduce the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

    3. ROUGHLY CHOP the cooked beets and place them in a food processor along with the caramelized onions. Add the orange juice and zest, maple syrup and and salt. Lightly pulse all of the ingredients together until broken down and thoroughly combined but still quite chunky.

    4. SERVE warm or chilled.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAM, PRESERVES & MARMALADE?

    Check out our “spread sheet”: a glossary of the different types of bread spreads and fruit condiments.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Honor The Cranberry With Cranberry Drinks

    Cranberries are a group of low, creeping evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines, that grow in acidic bogs in the cooler regions of the U.S. and Canada.

    The plants belong to the heather family, Ericaceae, along with the bilberry, blueberry, huckleberry, azalea and other rhododendrons.

    NAMING THE BERRY

    Native American tribes from New England Pequod and Wampanoag to the Leni-Lenape of New Jersey to the Algonquins of Wisconsin variously called them sassamanesh (very sour berry), ibimi (bitter berry) and atoqua in their local tongues.

    The English name derives from kranebere, German for crane berry, so called by early Dutch and German settlers in New England who saw the flower, stem, calyx and petals as resembling the neck, head and bill of a crane.

  • Some New Englanders called them bearberries, as bears were fond of feeding on them.
  • Northeastern Canadians called them mossberries.
  • In the U.K., it’s the fenberry, since the plants grow in a fen (a marsh).
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    CRANBERRY HISTORY

    The Wampanoag People of southeastern Massachusetts had been harvesting wild cranberries for 12,000 years by the time the Pilgrims arrived. The Leni-Lenape of New Jersey and other tribes in the East also were blessed with cranberry bogs.

    Native Americans used cranberries for grits and pemmican—deer meat, mashed cranberries and fat, pressed and dried as a convenience food for travel. Cranberries mashed with cornmeal were baked it into bread.

    While maple sugar and honey were used to sweeten the sour berry, some souls with a palate for the super-tart even ate them fresh.

    Non-food uses included dye, fever-reducers, wound poultices and seasickness remedy.
     
    Cultivating The Cranberry

    The first cultivation of cranberries took place in Dennis, on Cape Cod, around 1816. After that, landowners eagerly converted their peat bogs, swamps and wetlands into cranberry bogs.

    Farmers developed a process called wet harvesting: flooding the bog with water so the cranberries floated to the surface, where they are collected.

    Cranberries found their way across the northern states to the Pacific Northwest, and were first shipped to Europe in the 1820s. From England, they were brought to the cold-appropriate countries of Scotland, Russia and Scandinavia. They’re now grown commercially in Chile as well.

    Today, U.S. Farmers harvest approximately 40,000 acres of cranberries each year (source).

    The fruit is turned into jam, juice, sauce and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder sold fresh to consumers for cooking and baking.
     
    CRANBERRY TRIVIA

    A fresh cranberry will bounce, due to the pocket of air inside (photo #3). That’s also why they float.

    The cranberry is one of only three fruits native to North America that were not known in Europe*. The others: the blueberry and the grape.

       

    Cranberry Flower

    Cranberry Bush

    Cranberry Inside

    Fresh <br />Cranberries” width=”230″ height=”230″ class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-87513″ /></p>
<p><font size=[1] The cranberry flower (photo courtesy University of Wisconsin. [2] Cranberries on the branch (photo courtesy University of Minnesota). [3] The air pockets in cranberries enable them to bounce and float (photo courtesy Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association). [4] Fresh cranberries (photo courtesy Ocean Spray).

     

    Mulled Cranberr & Tequila Drink

    Cranberry Punch

    [1] Cranberry Toddy (photo courtesy DeLeon Tequila). [2] Cranberry punch (photo courtesy Ocean Spray).

     

    DRINKING CRANBERRIES

    In Colonial days, a drink known as the Hot Toddy was created as a way to cure ailments (or at least, that was the excuse given).

    Made with rum from the Caribbean, it was also called Hot Buttered Rum: rum, hot water, spices and a pat of butter.

    Today, cranberry juice is drunk as:

  • Cocktails: Cape Codder, Cosmopolitan, Crantini, Toddy and Sea Breeze, among others
  • Juice Drinks
  • Mocktails
  • Smoothies
  •  
    You can create your own drink, mixing cranberry juice with lemon, vanilla, seasonal spices and seasonal fruits.

    We adapted this cocktail recipe from one sent to us by DeLeón Tequila.
     
    RECIPE #1: CRANBERRY TODDY

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1½ ounces white/silver tequila
  • 6 ounces cranberry brew
  •  
    For The Cranberry Brew

  • 1 part fresh unsweetened cranberry juice
  • ¾ part fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ part simple syrup
  • Cinnamon, clove and nutmeg to taste
  • Garnish: orange slice (optionally studded with cloves)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SIMMER together the cranberry brew ingredients. Combine with tequila in glass mug.

    2. GARNISH with the orange slice.
     
    RECIPE #2: CRANBERRY PUNCH WITH OR WITHOUT SPIRITS

    How can you resist this holiday punch, with a cranberry wreath in the center?

    The wreath is actually an ice mold to chill the punch, filled with fresh cranberries and leafy herbs.

    The recipe, from Ocean Spray, is for an alcohol-free punch; but you can add spirits to taste.

    Ingredients For About 15 Six-Ounce Servings

  • 1 64-ounce bottle Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soda or club soda
  • Optional: spirit of choice (we used gin and cranberry liqueur)
  • Garnish: ice ring with cranberries (substitute orange and lime slices)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the ice mold. Fill a ring mold with cranberries and “leaves” (herbs or other leaves) and water, and place in the freezer.

    2. COMBINE the cranberry juice cocktail, orange juice and optional spirits in a large punch bowl. Gently stir in soda just before serving. Garnish and serve.

    TIP: To keep the punch cold, store the juice mix, soda and optional spirits in the fridge until ready to serve. We used two large pitchers, which fit easily into the fridge.

    ____________
    *Strawberries and raspberries were also known to Europeans; and many other fruits, such as the pawpaw and the saskatoon, are native to North America, but are not commercially important.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Turn Crudités Into Turkey

    Thanksgiving Crudites Platter

    Thanksgiving Cold Cuts Platter

    [1] Everyone will gobble up these crudités (photo Pinterest). [2] More elaborate: cold cuts—here summer sausage with different cheeses—do the Turkey Trot*.

     

    With Thanksgiving a week away, you have license to lay out any Thanksgiving-styled food right now. Don’t wait for the Big Day, because the day after that it’s…the Christmas rush.

    We found these photos on Pinterest, and regret that we couldn’t find the original sources (if it’s you, let us know).

    Just head to Pinterest.com and search for “turkey vegetable platter” and you’ll be dazzled by dozens of options.

    Thanks to the creative cooks who designed them, the crudités plates are very, very easy. Just buy the ingredients and lay them out the same way.

    WHAT ARE CRUDITÉS?

    Crudités (croo-dih-TAY) is the French term for a traditional appetizer, a platter of raw vegetables usually served with a vinaigrette or other dipping sauce.

    It can include asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, fennel, radishes, and anything else that appeals.

    In the U.S., hummus has become a popular accompaniment.

    The crudité plate is a relative of the American relish tray, a “delicacy” served from the 1700s and still popular up to the 1970s.

    According to Salon.com, it was once considered the most special part of the meal, and a must-have at Thanksgiving dinner.

    Our Nana’s relish tray offered carrot and celery sticks, radishes carved into flowers, black and green olives (the latter pimento-stuffed) and sweet gherkins. She served it in an oblong cut-crystal dish. We loved it!

     
    *WHAT’S A TURKEY TROT?

    The original Turkey Trot was an dance created in the early 1900s, danced to fast ragtime music—usually by those young enough to keep up.

    Among other steps, dancers hopped first on one leg, then the other: “fast trotting actions with abrupt stops.”

    Watch this video, with a contemporary dance teacher breaking down the steps so you can follow (fast forward past the inaudible opening comments).

    The Turkey Trot was denounced by the Vatican for “offensively suggestive” positions. Conservative adults tried to get it banned at public functions for promoting “immorality.” Dancers were fined for disorderly conduct.

    All of this only served to increase the dance’s popularity.

    But by 1914, the fad was over. The foxtrot, a conservative dance based on the waltz, ascended. Here’s more on the Turkey Trot.

    WANT TO TURKEY TROT ON THANKSGIVING?

    Watch the video and put on some ragtime music.

    You’ll wonder what the Vatican was so concerned about (well, there is one brief moment of booty-flaunting).

    And, a round of Turkey Trot can distract from the anticipation of waiting for the food to be ready.
     
      

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    RECIPE: Pumpkin Tacos

    What kind of tacos are right for the season? Pumpkin tacos! Or at least, butternut squash tacos.

    PUMPKIN: AN ALL-AMERICAN

    Pumpkins and all other squash species originated in Central America more than 7,500 years ago. The oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds found to date are from the Oaxaca Highlands in southwest Mexico.

    The original pumpkins bore little resemblance to today’s large, bright orange, sweet variety. They were small and bitter.

    Domestication and breeding produced the pumpkins we know today. Brought to North America, pumpkins were a welcome food for the winter. Their thick skin and solid flesh were ideal for storing and consumption during months of scarcity.

    The Pilgrims (1620) and other Europeans immigrating to America were introduced to pumpkin by Native Americans. The first known pumpkin recipe they made was found in a book from the early 1670s: a side dish made from diced pumpkin, cooked down and blended with butter and spices (as acorn squash, butternut squash and sweet potatoes are prepared today).

    During the 17th century, housewives developed an inventory of pumpkin recipes, the most popular of which remains [drum roll…] pumpkin pie.

    In the 1800s it became stylish to serve sweetened pumpkin dishes during holiday dinners. The first proclamation for “national days of prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving” led to an observance on November 28, 1782. Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been an official annual holiday, by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln.

    BACK TO THE TACOS…

    RECIPE #1: CHICKEN-PUMPKIN TACOS

    This recipe was sent to us from Gilt City, which teamed up with Santa Monica-based Taco Teca to create something new for National Taco Day (October 4th). We’ve slightly adapted the recipe.
     
    Ingredients Per Taco

  • 3 ounces boneless chicken
  • 3 ounces sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 ounces salsa mullato (recipe below)
  • 1/2 ounce queso fresco
  • Garnish: 3-4 sprigs cilantro
  • Optional condiment: cranberry sauce
  • Optional drink: pumpkin ale
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT grill on medium/high heat for 10 minutes prior to grilling. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

     

    Pumpkin Tacos

    Pumpkin Sizes

    Arbol Chiles

    [1] Seasonal tacos: chicken with pumpkin or butternut squash. [2] A sugar pumpkin and a jack-o-lantern (photo courtesy Baking Bites). [3] Arbol chiles (photo courtesy Rancho Gordo).

     
    2. SEASON the chicken with salt and pepper and place it on the grill until thoroughly crocked, 8-10 minutes per side, to an internal temperature 165°F. While the chicken is cooking…

    3. CHOP the butternut squash into cubes and place them on a roasting tray. Place in the oven and roast until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

    4. CHOP the cooked chicken into bite-size pieces and place them in a saute pan with the salsa. Simmer for 10 minutes.

    5. REMOVE the chicken from the saute pan directly onto the center of the tortilla. Top with the butternut squash and queso fresco and garnish with cilantro. Serve with a side of cranberry sauce and a pumpkin ale.

    RECIPE #2: SALSA MULATTO

    This recipe is from Mexican-Authentic-Recipes.com.

    Mulatto salsa takes just 5 minutes to make. It is quite hot because it is prepared with arbol chiles. If you’d like less heat, use an equivalent weight of aji amarillo or serrano chiles. Check out the heat levels of different chiles on the Scoville Scale.

    The texture of the mulatto salsa is soft and oily, unlike the condiment salsas most Americans know.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 10 arbol chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup of canola oil or other flavorless oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chiles on a griddle over medium heat and roast for about 40 seconds, turning regularly, until all sides are lightly roasted. Transfer to a blender.

    2. ADD the garlic, oil and salt. Blend well.

      

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