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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 Valentine’s Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Valentine Cake Decoration

Decorated by you, with jumbo white morsels
and cinnamon candies. Photo courtesy
GoodEggs.com.

 

Want to bake a cake for someone special but don’t have the chops to decorate it?

Just get chocolate chips and other candy decorations in contrasting colors and sizes, and press them into the frosting of your own homemade or a store-bought cake. Head to the candy store or baking supply store to check out the options.

RED AND PINK DECORATIONS

  • Red chips, called cherry chips or baking morsels
  • Pink and red decorating hearts
  • Cinnamon candies like Red Hots
  • Red lips sprinkles
  • Sweethearts “conversation hearts” from NECCO or these Talking Hearts
  •  
    CHOCOLATE DECORATIONS

  • Try white chocolate chips atop chocolate or pink frosting
  • Use milk or dark chocolate chips on pink or white frosting (contrast jumbo, regular and mini sizes)
  • We love decorating with chocolate or vanilla nonpareils
  • Coating discs, also called disc wafers and pistoles, are larger than morsels, about the size of a nickel; while they’re typically melted to make chocolates or baked goods, they are 100% delicious, quality chocolate
  • For mint lovers, press Junior Mints into the frosting
  • Although it’s a bit commercial, you can use M&M or Reese’s Pieces for fans of those candies
  •  
    What’s your cake decorating inspiration for Valentine’s Day?

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Pink Or Red Food Dehydrator

    A growing number of people are switching to good-for-you snacks. If they like to make their own, an unusual and generous Valentine gift is a food dehydrator from Excalibur, in red or pink.

    According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Americans consume a third of their daily calories from snacks. Many pre-packaged bars, cookies, dried fruit and jerky are high in salt, sugar, preservatives and additives.

    Dehydrating your own food allows you to swap out those questionable ingredients for healthy, nutrition-dense alternatives that allow the true flavors of natural foods to shine through. Think dehydrated fruits and vegetables, or meats and fish jerky.

    You can also dry herbs and flowers (to decorate cakes or make your own potpourri and sachets) and make granola. It’s easy to get hooked on dehydrating.

     

    excalibur-red-dehydrator-230b

    Instead of roses: a bright red food dehydrator. Photo courtesy Excalibur.

     
    WHO’S DEHYDRATING FOOD?

    Man has been dehydrating for thousands of years, initially to preserve meat and other foods in the millennia prior to refrigeration. Today, our most commonly enjoyed dehydrated foods include jerky and bottled herbs. Many “practitioners” dehydrate summer crops—berries, peaches, tomatoes—for enjoyment through the winter.

    Dehydration is used everywhere from hunters’ cabins to Michelin-star kitchens.

    Grant Achatz, Ferran Adrià, Dan Barber, Matthew Lightner, Sam Mason, Sarma Melngailis, Iliana Regan, Rich Torrisi and Ming Tsai dehydrate ingredients to intensify and concentrate flavors, decrease marinating time, thicken sauces and soften saturated fats like coconut oil or cacao butter.

     

    excalibur-pink-230

    Radiant Raspberry is another option, along
    with Antique Copper, Copper, Radiant
    Blueberry, Radiant Cherry and Twilight Black.
    Photo courtesy Excalibur.

     

    THE EXCALIBUR DEHYDRATOR

    Compact enough to fit on your kitchen counter, the Excalibur Dehydrator has a patented airflow drying system to optimize speed in drying, among other features. It is up to 10 times faster than common round dehydrators, and available in a variety of color finishes and sizes, including commercial and non-commercial grade units.

    You pay for quality, of course. Excalibur machines are top of the line, and these are $349 at ExcaliburDehydrator.com.

    But if you enjoy kale chips, carrot chips, apple chips and the like, it will pay for itself in less than a year. Instead of baking cookies, bring your hosts your homemade snacks.

     
    While even pricier than those pricey red or pink roses, it will be a permanent change in better-for-you food preparation.
     

    You can package the dehydrator with a book:

  • Dehydrating Food: A Beginner’s Guide, with 167 recipes
  • The Dehydrator Guide, with more than 400 recipes
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Stuffed Baked Potatoes With Beets & Feta

    Here’s an easy Valentine dish: baked potato filled with beets and feta, with a refreshing mint salad on the side. The idea is to stuff the baked potato with beets and feta instead of sour cream and chives.

    Love Beets, which developed this recipe, likes to serve it with a protein of choice and a mint salad. It takes only 10 minutes of prep time, plus an hour-plus to bake the potatoes.

    If you don’t want a side salad of mint, you can use the leaves in the beet and feta salad; or substitute another herb chiffonade with the beets and feta (basil is a good choice).

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed & pricked with a fork
  • Optional: butter
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon superfine or regular table sugar
  •  

    Baked potato stuffed with beets and feta. Photo courtesy LoveBeets.com.

  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Small bunch fresh mint, leaves destemmed and chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 packs* traditional cooked beets, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • Handful black olives (optional)
  • 11 ounces (about 1-1/3 cups) feta cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes
  •  
    *Precooked Love Beets are 8 ounces per package, for a total 16 ounces of beets. You can also use canned beets.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours until soft when pierced with a fork. Alternatively, you can par-cook in a microwave on high for 10-15 minutes, then put in the oven to finish baking, reducing the cooking time accordingly.

    2. MAKE the salad: Whisk together the oil, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl. Season to taste with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use 2 teaspoons to lightly dress the mint. If you don’t want a side salad of mint, make a chiffonade of some of the leaves, to taste, and add them to the beet salad along with the feta, in step 4.

    3. TOAST the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden brown. Add to the salad dressing, along with the beets, onion and black olives. Set aside for the flavors to mingle.

    4. MIX the feta cheese into the salad just before serving. Cut open each baked potato with an X, breaking up the inside a bit with a fork (add a little butter if desired). Spoon the beet and feta salad into the potatoes and serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Rose Cocktails For Your Valentine

    cocktails-with-flowers-chandon-230

    Toast your Valentine with a rose cocktail. If
    you can’t find organic rose petals for garnish,
    any edible flowers will do. Photo courtesy
    Chandon.

     

    In the Middle East, rose is a more popular flavor than chocolate. It’s used in beverages, candies, cookies and other baked goods, ice cream, jam and sorbet. The flower petals are turned into syrup. The flavor is quite glorious, and it’s a perfect pairing with sparkling wine.

    Beyond Middle Eastern and Indian markets, there’s not much rose-flavored food in the U.S. (we occasionally find rose marshmallows at fine confectioners). But rose is a flavor that fits right in with Valentine’s Day, and fashionable mixologists create menus of rose syrup-accented cocktails.

    WHAT IS ROSE SYRUP?

    Rose syrup is rose water with sugar added—essentially, rose-flavored simple syrup. Rose water itself is distilled from rose petals as a by-product of the rose oil (attar of roses) produced for perfumes.

    First distilled by Muslim chemists in medieval times, both rose syrup and rose water add a subtle rose flavor and aroma to sweet foods. You can use rose water and sugar in beverages, but for confections and baked goods you need syrup, which won’t dilute the batter, dough, etc.

     

    ROSE COCKTAILS

    Our favorite, easy rose cocktail is a Champagne Cocktail sweetened with rose syrup instead of the conventional sugar cube. There’s a Rose Martini recipe below. You can create other cocktails, or add the syrup to club soda for a mocktail.

    You can buy rose syrup in pink or clear hues, or make your own from rose water. You can whip it up in about 10 minutes and color it as light or deep rose as you like. If, after the first batch, you want even more rose flavor, exchange the tap water for more rose water.

    If you decide to distill your own rose water from rose petals (our friends with a large rose garden like to do this), note that only dark red roses impart much color; you may have to supplement with food color.
     

    RECIPE: ROSE SYRUP (ROSE SIMPLE SYRUP)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rose water
  • Red food coloring as desired
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the water to a boil. Add the sugar and dissolve, stirring constantly. When completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat. Do not over-boil.

    2. ADD red food color as desired.

    3. COOL, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.

     

    RECIPE: ROSE MARTINI

    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 2 ounces gin or vodka
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon rose-infused simple syrup
  • 3 dashes bitters (especially grapefruit or orange
    bitters
    )
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: organic rose petals*, raspberries,
    strawberries or lemon twist
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD ingredients including ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    2. Garnish and serve.
     
    MORE VALENTINE COCKTAIL RECIPES

     

    rose-simple-syrup-royalroseny.bigcartel-230

    Rose syrup. Photo courtesy Royal Rose Syrups.

     

    *Rose petals or other flowers used for garnish must be organic—not sprayed with chemical pesticides.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Red Velvet Donuts ~ Baked, Not Fried

    For all your Valentine—the recipe makes two
    dozen donuts! Photo courtesy Farmgirl
    Gourmet.

     

    This recipe is courtesy of Farmgirl Gourmet, one of our favorite blogs. Author Heather Scholten, the author, is a recipe developer, food blogger and photographer. She writes: “I love whipping up deliciousness in my 100 year old kitchen. My emphasis is on family friendly recipes with a gourmet twist. I grow it, I cook it, I snap it, I eat it.”

    What better way to start off Valentine’s Day than with Heather’s red velvet donuts? They’re dipped in cream cheese frosting and decorated with sprinkles to add even more festivity.

    The donuts are easy to make—baked, not fried. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes. The full recipe was originally published on Zak.com.

    RECIPE: RED VELVET DONUTS

    Ingredients For 24 Donuts

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red gel food coloring (see section below on food coloring types)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • For The Icing

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • Garnish: red sprinkles or candy hearts
  •  
    Plus

  • Donut baking pans
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Spray a donut baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

    2. COMBINE the flours, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk until fluff.

    3. ADD the milk, eggs, food coloring and olive oil and mix until just combined. Carefully pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the tops are no longer tacky. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool.

    4. PREPARE the icing: Combine all ingredients for icing in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high at 30 second intervals, stirring in-between until cream cheese melts and frosting is a runny consistency. Add additional milk if frosting becomes too thick.

    5. DIP the cooled donuts in the icing and sprinkle with candy sprinkles of your choice. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

     

    The red velvet donuts have cream cheese frosting. Photo courtesy Farmgirl Gourmet.

     

    WHY USE SOFT GEL INSTEAD OF LIQUID FOOD COLOR

    The typical food colors available in supermarkets are water-based liquids that work well for most purposes. In many recipes, you use so little of it that the teaspoon or so of water isn’t going to impact the outcome of the recipe.

    But if you are looking for intense color—such as in red velvet cake—you need to use a lot of liquid to get the vibrant color. Too much liquid will alter the consistency of cake, candies, donuts and deep-colored frostings.

  • Soft gel food coloring (sometimes called liquid gel, not to be confused with the conventional liquid) delivers a deep, rich color without thinning the batter or frosting.
  • Gel paste food coloring is very concentrated and provides even deeper, more vivid colors than gel. It and should be used in very small quantities.
  • Powdered food coloring is another very concentrated option that is often used to decorate cookies.
  • You can often find gel food colors in craft stores, as well as in baking supplies stores and online, where you can buy red only or the four basic food colors. Wilton sells a set of eight gel colors, as well as neon and pastel sets.
     
    Don’t substitute one for another, unless you have time to test the results.
     
    COLORED ICING TIPS

  • If exact color is important, mix the color in daylight so you can see the true hue. Start with less color and adjust as you go.
  • Note that the longer the icing sits, the stronger the color will be. Proceed accordingly.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Brie & Beet Bruschetta

    More purple passion: beets with Brie on
    bruschetta. Photo and recipe courtesy
    LoveBeets.com.

     

    This appetizer or first course pairs with your favorite wine: red, white or sparkling. And beer, too, of course.

    Or, serve the bruschetta with the salad course. Prep time is 5 minutes, cooking time is 10 minutes.

    RECIPE: BRIE & BEET BRUSCHETTA

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 4 slices thick cut rustic bread
  • 2 cloves garlic, flattened and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 ounces pickled whole beets*, cut into thick wedges
  • 7 ounces Brie, cut into slices
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •  
    *Love Beets beets uses two packages of its Beets Dipped In Vinegar. If you can’t find them, use pickled beets or plain beets that you can marinate lightly in vinegar.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the broiler and toast the bread on one side.

    2. RUB the untoasted side with the garlic and brush with olive oil.

    3. ARRANGE the beet wedges on the untoasted side of the bread and lay the slices of Brie on top. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper to taste and place back under the broiler.

    4. BROIL until the cheese is hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.
     
    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI

    Here’s the difference.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Valentine Pizza

    You can use a giant heart-shape cookie pan, pressing into the dough like a cookie cutter, to cut a heart-shaped crust (which also works for anniversaries, bridal showers, birthdays, Mother’s Day and other festivities).

    Or you can freehand it.

    Use your Valentine’s favorite toppings or stick to a red theme:

    RED VEGETABLES

  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Diced San Marzano tomatoes (canned)
  • Grilled red pepper (pimiento)
  • Mini red jacket potatoes, cooked and halved
  • Pepperoni
  • Pimento-stuffed olives
  • Red bell peppers
  • Red chiles (Anaheim, Fresno or jalapeño, e.g.)
  • Sliced plum tomatoes
  • Sundried tomatoes
  •  

    heart-pizza-dueforni-lasvegas-230

    We [heart] pizza. Photo courtesy Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    PINK-RED PROTEINS

  • Pepperoni
  • Prosciutto/Serrano ham
  • Salmon caviar
  • Shrimp
  • Smoked salmon
  •  
    One of our favorite pizzas: sliced boiled potatoes, smoked salmon strips, salmon caviar and fresh dill with white sauce.

    It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day or any day!

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Éclat Chocolate

    hearts-eclatchocolate-230

    Chocolates to fall in love with. Photo courtesy Éclat Chocolate.

     

    Oh, how lucky the people of West Chester, Pennsylvania are. Seven days a week they can stroll into Éclat Chocolate at 24 South High Street and select tempting confections.

    Everyone else can order the chocolates online or by phone (1.610.692.5206). Some items are available at Dean and Deluca (New York and California) and DiBruno Bros. in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square.

    But the temple to the marriage of great chocolate and art is located 25 miles west of Philadelphia, close to Valley Forge; and 17 miles north of Wilmington, Delaware. And it is close to our hearts.

    For Valentine’s Day we want:

  • The beautiful bonbons, both hearts and classic shapes
  • The exquisite caramels, round domes of chocolate filled with buttery liquid caramel)
  • The glamorous, modern mendiants—disks of beauty
  • The melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles
  •  
    There’s more, but Easter is coming.

     
    Chocolatier Christopher Curtin is the first American to be awarded the honor of German Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier in Cologne, Germany.

    He honed his skills in the finest chocolate houses of Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland, and the results will please the fussiest connoisseur.

    In French, éclat (pronounce ay-CLAH) can mean:

  • Great brilliance, as of performance or achievement.
  • Conspicuous success.
  • Great acclamation or applause.
  •  
    We applaud all three.
     
    Head to EclatChocolate.com. Just looking at the beautiful photos is a most satisfying experience.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Moonstruck Chocolates

    Yes, Moonstruck Chocolate has a red heart-shaped box filled with delicious bonbons (10 pieces, $30.00). But the fine chocolatier also has some different offerings for Valentines with special tastes.

  • Sea Salt Caramels (in photo) have been given the Valentine’s Day treatment with Merlot-infused sea salt crystals. The vanilla caramel is cooked in an open copper kettle with pure sea salt, then enrobed in your choice of dark or milk chocolate and hand-decorated with sea salt crystals that have been infused with a robust vintage Merlot. A box of 20 caramels is $45.00. Think purple passion plus a unique taste experience.
  • Heart To Heart Truffles echo the classic Valentine hard candies with messages like Be Mine, Kiss Me and Sweet Talk. These bonbon versions have the same pastel exteriors (tinted white chocolate) but are filled with flavored ganaches: Cointreau, Blackberry Honey, Peanut Butter, Pinot Noir and Strawberry. You can buy a box of mixed flavors or the solo flavor of your choice. A five-piece box is $11.25.
  •  

    caramels-merlot-sea-salt-moonstruck-230sq

    Merlot salt caramels: purple passion. Photo courtesy Moonstruck Chocolates.

     

     

    moonstruck-love-bugs-230sq

    Love bugs for kids of all ages. Photo courtesy
    Moonstruck Chocolate.

     
  • Love Bugs are bittersweet dark chocolate ganache flavored with natural strawberry, in the shape of an adorable love bug. Hand-dipped and hand-decorated, a box of 18 truffles is $67.50.
  • Oregon Distillers Collection, for the spirited Valentine, is a nine-piece collection of truffles featuring spirits from five of Oregon’s finest craft distillers. The truffles are beautifully painted “edible art.“ The box is $20.00. The chocolates contain approximately 2.5% alcohol content by weight. The flavors include Bendistillery Crater Lake Pepper Vodka Truffle, Bull Run Temperance Trader Bourbon Whiskey Truffle, House Spirits Distillery Krogstad Aquavit Truffle, Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Apple Brandy Truffle, House Spirits Distillery Coffee Liqueur Truffle, House Spirits Distillery Aviation Gin Truffle, Rogue Ale Dead Guy Whiskey Truffle, Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Pear Brandy Truffle and Bull Run Distillery Pacific Rum and Cola Truffle.
  •  
    These specialties and much more are available at MoonstruckChocolate.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Beet Tartare

    Deep red beets are a natural for Valentine’s Day. In fact, our heart beets for them.

    Top chefs agree. Here’s a recipe from one of our favorite Top Chef finalists, Fabio Viviani.

    Among his other pursuits, Chef Fabio serves as the brand ambassador for Bertolli Olive Oil (which happens to be the world’s number one brand). He is also the host of the award-winning web series “Chow Ciao!” on Yahoo!

    We can’t get to Fabio’s Firenze Osteria in North Hollywood, California; but we can whip up his recipe.

    Fabio serves the beet tartare with lobster tail poached in olive oil. You can substitute shrimp for the lobster; or serve the tartare as a side or a first course, presented with whatever you like.

    Prep and cooking time: 45 minutes.

     

    beet-tartare-fabioviviani-230

    Beet tartare (under the edible flower) and poached lobster. Photo courtesy Fabio Viviani.

    RECIPE: LOBSTER WITH BEET TARTARE

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 lobster tail (or equivalent amount of shrimp)
  • 1 large red beet, parboiled until fork tender
  • 1 tablespoon shallots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • Optional garnish: edible flower, fresh herbs
  •  

    detroit-red-beets-beauty-goodeggs-230

    We love fresh beets, but they are one of the
    rare vegetables where the precooked,
    plastic-packaged or canned versions taste
    just as good. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the beets: Dice the beets into small pieces so they resemble chopped tuna. Place in a bowl and add the shallots, orange zest, mustard, vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    2. PREPARE the lobster: Place the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and 2 sprigs of thyme into a small pot and place over low heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the lobster. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the lobster is cooked through (but not overcooked—it will be tough and dry). Remove and set aside.

    3. PLATE: Add the diced beets to a mold or ramekin; place on the plate with the lobster and garnish as desired.

     

    WHAT IS TARTARE?

    Steak tartare, or tartar steak, is a meat dish* named after the legend that Tartars† did not have time to cook their meat, so ate it raw on horseback.

    Steak tartare is made from finely chopped or minced raw beef or horse meat, plus seasonings. With its growing popularity over the last 30 or so years, other recipes have adopted the name. Salmon tartare, tomato, tuna tartar are some examples.

     
    *The typical recipe is round raw beef mixed with onions, capers, Worcestershire sauce and a raw egg, served with toast points. A variation, tartare aller-retour, is tartare patty lightly seared on one side. Steak tartare is often served with frites (French fries). In Belgium, the dish is known as filet américain. American? What happened to the Tartars?

    †The Tartars, also spelled Tatars, are an ethnic group in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Most Tatars live in the Russian Federation. To Americans, the most famous of the Tartars is Genghis Khan, whose troops invaded Europe in the 13th century. The most famous Tartar-American is the actor Charles Bronson.

      

    Comments

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