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Archive for Valentine’s Day

HOLIDAY COCKTAIL: Christmas Martini Recipe

Christmas Martini

Christmas Martini

Pickled Cauliflower

Castelvetrano Olives

Fresh Dill

[1] [2] It’s a Christmas Martini (photos courtesy World Market). [3] You can find actual rose and purple cauliflower heads at farmers markets, but at this time of year, you may have to color your own with beet juice. Here’s a recipe for pickled cauliflower and beets from The Galanter’s Kitchen. [4] Castelvetrano olives are the greenest, for Christmas garnishing. [5] Fresh dill, along with rosemary, are the two most Christmasy herbs: They look like evergreens (photo courtesy Burpee).

 

Is there such a thing as a Christmas Martini?

According to us: Yes!

We’re not talking a peppermint “Martini” garnished with candy canes, but a real, savory vodka/gin-and-vermouth cocktail as its creators intended it to be (here’s the history of the Martini).

We adapted this Dill Martini recipe from WorldMarket.com and gave it more holiday spirit.

If you switch the evergreen-like dill to chive or other herb and perhaps make all the pickles red or pink, you can serve this as a Valentine Martini as well.
 
RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MARTINI

Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce pickle brine*
  • Splash of dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Large sprig of fresh dill
  • Beet juice
  • Ice
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    For The Garnish

  • Cauliflower floret pickled in brine and beet juice†
  • Fresh grape tomato
  • Baby radish, pickled or not
  • Pimento-stuffed green olive or pitted Castelventrano olive (it’s bright green)
  • Whole baby beet (from can or jar, regular or pickled)
  • Cocktail pick
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    ________________
    *If you make pickled vegetables, you can use your homemade brine.

    *If you aren’t using beets, you can buy a bottle of beet juice (delicious!) at a natural- or health-food store.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. PICKLE the vegetables as desired and make the cocktail pick.

    2. COMBINE the vodka, pickle brine, vermouth mustard seeds, and fresh dill in a cocktail shaker. Shake and pour into a glass.

    2. ADD enough beet juice until you get the color you want (an assertive blush as in the photo is a good start).

    3. ADD ice to the shaker along with the contents of the glass. Shake well, strain into a coupe or Martini glass and garnish with the vegetable pick.
     
    HOW TO MAKE PICKLED VEGETABLES

    It couldn’t be easier to make “quick pickles”: just the vegetables, vinegar, spices and two hours to marinate.

    You can pickle just about any vegetable, and you can also pickle fruits: from grapes to sliced fruits.

  • Use your favorite spices in the brine. Look at your spices for inspiration: allspice, bay leaf, crushed red peppers, dill seed, juniper berries, mace, mustard seed, and peppercorns are all contenders. Pickled vegetables never met a spice they didn’t like. We often add a touch of nutmeg.
  • For the brine, use cider vinegar or other vinegar (you can use half vinegar and half salted water if you like). To color white veggies like cauliflower red, add beet to the brine. Be sure the brine covers the tops of the vegetables.
  • You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.
  • Pickles will be ready in just two hours; although you can keep them in the fridge for a few weeks (trust us, they will eaten quickly).
  •  
    Since these pickled vegetables aren’t sterilized in a water bath, they need to be kept in the fridge. Eat them within two weeks (more likely, they’ll be gone in two days).

    If you’re excited about pickling, pick up a book on the topic. The Joy Of Pickling, first published in 1999, is now in its second edition.

    You may find yourself making classic bread-and-butter and dill pickles, pickled beets and kimchi.

  • Check out our Pickle Glossary for the different types of pickles.
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    RECIPE: Pomegranate Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    [1] The Christmas Cheese Ball, festive with cocktails. This recipe, from How Sweet Eats, is made with with white cheddar, mascarpone and sage. [2] The Café Sucre Farine is made with Monterey Jack, pecans, rosemary and thyme. Minced parsley accents the arils for an even better holiday effect. [3] Our original inspiration was this red and green cheese ball from Go Bold With Butter (recipe below).

     

    Deck the hall with this festive almond-Gruyère/Swiss Cheese cheese ball.

    Parsley colors the interior green, while the pomegranate arils create a crimson cloak.

    Bonus: Prep time is 15 minutes, and you can make it two days in advance. Thanks to Go Bold With Butter for the recipe.

    RECIPE #1: CHRISTMAS CHEESE BALL

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup pomegranate arils
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces Gruyère/Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 [heaping] cup slivered almonds
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons horseradish mustard (recipe below)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or ½ parsley, ½ chives)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  •  
    For Serving

  • Bagel chips
  • Breads
  • Crackers and crisps
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PAT the arils dry with paper towels, ensuring removing as much moisture as possible. You can do this an hour or more in advance and leave the arils on paper towels on the counter to further dry.

    2. PLACE the cheeses and butter along with almonds, horseradish mustard, parsley and seasonings in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently until ingredients are well combined.

    3. SHAPE the mixture into cheese mixture into a large ball and refrigerate. can be made up to 2 days ahead, wrapped and stored in refrigerator. Before serving…

    4. ROLL the ball in pomegranate arils until fully coated. Gently press the arils into the heese ball to adhere. To serve, place on plate with breads, crackers and spreaders.
     
    RECIPE #2: HORSERADISH MUSTARD

    We tend to keep sugar away from where it doesn’t need to be—in savory foods. We just don’t enjoy sugary potato chips or wasabi-flavored mustard. (Honey mustard gets a pass.)

    Numerous recipes for cheese balls contain a sweetened condiment: honey, maple syrup, sugar brown sugar. It’s the same with horseradish mustard.

    We don’t mind a brief hint of sweetness; but if a cheese ball tastes sweet (and it isn’t a sweet style, e.g. with dried fruit, or a dessert ball), it’s too sweet for us.

    Since the cheese ball recipe requires just 1-1/2 teaspoons of the mustard, you can adjust the amounts below accordingly.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup white prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • Optional: sour cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone or plain yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Preparation

    1. DRAIN the horseradish in a fine strainer or cheesecloth, pushing down with the back of a spoon to remove the excess liquid.

    2. COMBINE with the mustard, mix well and taste. If it’s too strong for you, you can add a bit of sour cream to remove some of the spiciness.But remember, mixing the mustard with the cream cheese will temper the heat.
     
    Variation

    Make a mustard horseradish sauce for meat or poultry, simply by adding one cup of sour cream to recipe above.
     
    MORE CHEESE BALL RECIPES

  • Mini Cheese Balls With Green, Red and Golden Coatings
  • Pecan Pine Cone Cheese Ball (yes, it’s made in the shape of a pine cone)
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Wine & Cake For A Dessert Party…Or Just Dessert!

    Want a dessert party that’s different?

    How about a wine and cake tasting? As with any other food and wine, the right pairings enhance the enjoyment of both components.

    So as not to stress the budget, you can make it a co-op party, assigning different cakes and wines to the participants.

    Select five or so pairings for a group of 10-12; more for a larger crowd. We made all of the cakes as sheet cakes, easy to cut into squares or slivers. It’s tough to cut thin slices of layer cakes.

    Place each cake on a platter with a place cards or index cards to identify them and provide cake/pie servers so people can help themselves, and further cut the squares for smaller tastes.

    We set everything on a buffet: the cakes with the matching wines and wine glasses behind them, plus serving plates, forks and napkins.

    Re the cake/pie servers: It’s nice to have a server for each cake. You can borrow from friends, use metal spatulas and other items you already have, or buy this inexpensive set of five for $11.99.

    These pairings were created by Alice Feiring, an award-winning wine writer and book author; and sent to us by Amara.com, an elegant lifestyle website.

    Alice has provided explanations for why these pairings work (the “Why,” below). If your crowd is interested, you can print the information index cards underneath the name of each cake and wine pairing.

    CAKE & WINE PAIRINGS
     
    1. APPLE CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Off-dry sparkling wine, such as a demi-sec Vouvray from the Loire region of France.
  • Why: Off-dry sparkling wines with a hint of apple or lemon are a perfect pairing.
  •  
    2. CARDAMOM CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Pear cider (an off-dry hard cider also called perry).
  • Why: Pears and cardamom accent each other so well in recipes; the same pairing translates to wine. You can also try this pairing with other spice cakes.
  •  
    3. CARROT CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Ice cider, similar to ice wine, but made with apples instead of grapes.
  • Why: Carrot cake has spicy flavors and creamy frosting, both of which pair well with the intensity, acidity and honey notes of ice cider.
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    4. CHEESECAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Aromatic wine, spicy and exotic, such as Gewürztraminer from the Alsace region of France or from Germany.
  • Why: Aromatic wines stand up to dense cheesecakes. The low alcohol level is right for the creaminess.
  •  
    5. COCONUT CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Sparkling, white, gently sweet desert wine, such as Moscato d’Asti from Italy.
  • Why: The light sweetness of a sparkling desert wine complements the less sweet coconut.
  •  
    6. FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Oxidized, fortified wine such as Madeira from Portugal.
  • Why: Fortified wines that have been exposed to heat develop a complex muted, caramel-like saltiness—think toffee, dried fruit and orange rind—which complement the ground nuts in the cake.
  •    

    Carrot Cake

    Cheesecake

    Coconut Cake

    Flourless Chocolate Cake

    [1] Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and filling (photo courtesy Harry & David). [2] A classic cheesecake (photo courtesy Cinderella Cheesecake). [3] Coconut layer cake (photo courtesy Taste Of Home). [4] Flourless Chocolate Cake (photo courtesy David Glass).

     

    Strawberry Shortcake

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake

    Nacho Cheesecake

    [5] Strawberry shortcake (photo courtesy G Bakes). [6] The retro Pineapple Upside -Down Cake (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [7] A savory cheesecake (Nacho Cheesecake photo from Taste Of Home; the recipe link is at #12).

     

    7. LEMON POPPY CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Apple mint vermouth (look for Uncouth Vermouth Apple Mint)—semisweet and fragrant.
  • Why: The bitter from the vermouth accents the almost fruity snap of the poppy seeds.
  •  
    8. OLIVE OIL CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Sparking white wine, like a slightly sweet Malvasia Dolce Frizzante from Italy.
  • Why: The aromatic lightness of a slightly sweet sparkling wine matches the dense olive oil without being overpowering.
  •  
    9. ORANGE-CHOCOLATE CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Dry amber (orange) wine, spicy with notes of orange blossom. Look for amber wines from France, Italy and Australia—they’re relatively new in the U.S.
  • Why: The juicy, slightly tannic wine supports the strong cake flavors without undoing the power of the chocolate orange combination.
  •  
    10. PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Sweet white wine such as a Jurançon Moelleux from France—unctuous with good acid and lemon/peach notes.
  • Why: The tropical flavor from the grape, petit manseng, especially from the Jurançon, marries the syrupy fruit. Its extreme acidity keeps the match fresh”.
  •  
    11. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Sparking rosé.
  • Why: The berry fruitiness of sparkling rosé echoes the fragrant strawberries in the cake.
  •  
    12. SAVORY CHEESE CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Savory cheesecake is an appetizer or first course rather than a dessert; or it can stand in for the cheese course or a dessert for people who don’t like sweets! Look for a Carignan, Grenache, Syrah or blend. Check out these savory cheesecake recipes:
  •  
    Blue Cheese Cheesecake
    Basil, Lobster & Tuna Cheesecake Recipes
    Nacho Cheesecake Recipe
    Provolone & Corn Cheesecake

  • Why: Deep red wines are a great match for the sharp cheese flavors.
  •  
    MORE DESSERT & WINE PAIRINGS

    Here are THE NIBBLE’s recommendations for:

  • Pairing Desserts & Wine: everything from crème brûlée to mousse to pie
  • Pairing Ice Cream & Wine
  • Pairing Chocolate & Wine
  •  
    HAPPY NIBBLING!

      

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    RECIPE: Sparkling Pear Cocktail

    La Poire Sparkling Cocktail

    America's Favorite Pear

    [1] La Poire sparkling cocktail (photo courtesy Grey Goose). [2] America’s favorite pear, the Bartlett (photo courtesy CookThink). There are also red Bartlett and d’Anjou are available in green and red varieties.

     

    This week we had a bottle of Angry Orchard’s Knotty Pear Cider at lunch, and it reminded us that fall is also a time for all things pear.

    For a celebration, toast or other special occasion—or weekend chillaxing—this cocktail from Grey Goose is a star. Easy to make, it combines pear and citrus with sweet Moscato. You can use other slightly sweet sparkling wine such as Asti Spumante.

    If it isn’t a special occasion, don’t go out of your way to find the perfect garnish. Or a Champagne flute.

     
    RECIPE: SPARKLING PEAR VODKA COCKTAIL

    Ingredients For 6 Drinks

  • 6 parts Grey Goose La Poire
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 small pear, ideally Anjou or Bartlett*, red or green
  • 1 bottle sparkling Moscato or other sparkling wine, chilled
  • Garnish options: baby orchid, crystallized ginger, sliced star fruit
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL and core the pear and cut into 1/4-inch dice.

    2. PLACE the lemon juice, sugar, pear and Grey Goose La Poire in a bowl. Stir well to combine until the sugar is fully dissolved.

    2. DIVIDE the pear mixture into six Champagne flutes or wine glasses. Fill each chilled glass with Moscato.

    3. GARNISH and serve.
     
    ________________
    *A juicier pear variety will accentuate the pear flavors. Here are the different types of pears.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tea Party Ideas, Part 2

    Tea Sandwiches

    Modern Tea

    Tea Party Crostini

    [1] Tea can be classically staged, like this one from Tea Time Magazine, or [2] modern service, like this at the Langham Palace | New York. Instead of classic British tea sandwiches on crustless bread, you can substitute tartines—French open-face sandwiches—or Italian crostini. Here’s a close-up from Honestly Yum.

     

    Yesterday we tendered the idea of a monthly tea party. That list covered January through July. Today: the rest of the year.
     
    AUGUST TEA PARTY

  • Iced Tea Party. What could be more refreshing in the dog days of summer than a iced tea with strawberry shortcake scones topped with vanilla ice cream? Offer guests the choice of black, green and herbal iced teas, with lemon and lime slices.
  • Iced Tea & Sorbet Sundae Bar. Cut up the many luscious fruits in season and create a fruit salad bar. Sorbet is half the calories of ice cream and frozen yogurt.
  •  
    SEPTEMBER TEA PARTY

  • Teen Tea Party. Take your teenager (or someone else’s) out for a tea experience and ask him or her to bring a friend. Share your love of tea and some good conversation as you give them a glimpse of the past and a custom enjoyed by everyone from kings to common folk.
  • Book Exchange & Tea Party. Ask everyone to bring a favorite book that they’ve read and are ready to trade. Each person gives a two-minute presentation about why they loved the book. Names are drawn from a hat and each participant selects his/her new book in the order the names were drawn.
  •  
    OCTOBER TEA PARTY

  • Tea O’ween. Celebrate Halloween for the whole month of October with cinnamon spice tea, pumpkin scones and midnight chocolate double layer cake. Try Constant Comment, the original American spiced tea recipe invented by Ruth Bigelow (available in supermarkets and from BigelowTea.com). Decorate your midnight chocolate cake with candy corn or other favorite Halloween candy; or serve midnight chocolate cupcakes and provide different Halloween candies so guests can decorate their own.
  • Harvest Tea. Serve fall harvest foods for tea: pumpkin muffins, apple pie, nut tarts, cookies or nutted cream cheese sandwiches on zucchini bread.
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    Bonus: Provide oranges, pomanders and optional ribbon, and let guests make their own party favors: pomanders!
     
    NOVEMBER TEA PARTY

  • Pumpkin Tea. Start Thanksgiving early with a “Pumpkin Tea” consisting of pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin scones. Have a some cranberry scones or muffins for those who don’t like pumpkin. Serve your favorite black tea, or try the Pumpkin Spice Tea from Bigelow Tea, Zhena Gypsy Tea (organic, Fair Trade and KSA kosher) or Dragonwater.com (rooibos).
  • Thankful To A Tea. No matter how busy we are, we all can lend a hand, and we all could use one. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, host a “Wish List Tea.” All the participants submit in advance one reasonable request they hope someone else in the group can fulfill. It can be a night of babysitting, a bicycle, the loan or donation of a black cocktail dress or size 9 red pumps, someone to explain home equity loans, etc.
  •  
    DECEMBER TEA PARTY

  • Tea & A Christmas Tree. ‘Tis the season to enjoy cinnamon spice tea with your favorite holiday goodies. Invite friends over to enjoy your tree, or decorate with a couple of non-denominational poinsettia plants. ‘Tis also the season to call people you haven’t been in touch with in a while, and mix new friends with old.
  • Chari-Tea. Help your favorite local cause. Ask friends to bring something to donate—“like new” clothes that they no longer wear, some canned goods, toys and books for the hospital waiting room—whatever your cause can use (call them and ask).
  • Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773. This and a second “tea party” on March 7, 1774 were a prelude to the Revolutionary War. In honor of American Independence Day, you can hold a commemorative “Boston Tea Party” with the kind actually destroyed on that day. It was Britain’s oldest tea merchant, Davison, Newman & Co., whose tea chests were dumped at the first event. Still in business, the company sells Boston Harbour Tea (certified kosher), a blend of Ceylon and Darjeeling teas. Or, simply dump loose leaf tea “overboard” into a tea pot as you read the story of the Boston Tea Party. Serve colonial cookie favorites: benne cakes (sesame cookies), coconut macaroons, gingersnaps, jumbles, molasses cookies and sugar cookies.
  •  

    WHAT TO SERVE AT TEA PARTY

    Perhaps the most fun of planning a tea party is deciding on the goodies. Just search online for “tea party recipes” and you’ll find enough for a lifetime of teas. The basic categories:

  • Cake. Here’s your opportunity to serve special things that most people don’t have often enough. They can be simple, from sponge cake to layer cake to bite-size madeleines and individual cheesecakes. Should you serve your “Death By Chocolate” cake or rich chocolate brownies? It’s a personal choice. We prefer to keep tea on the light-to-medium side, since, after all, dinner is in a few hours.
  • Tarts or tartlets. Fruit tarts and lemon tarts rule! You can make them quickly with tart shells and fruit curd. Tortes Almond, chocolate and linzer tortes are popular and less rich than layer cakes.
  • Cookies. Tea is a wonderful reason to get out your favorite cookie recipes: butter cookies, gingerbread or gingersnaps, linzer cookies, shortbread—the sky’s the limit.
  • Scones.
  • With curd or jam and clotted cream, they’re a classic favorite. It’s easy to bake your own moist scones with gourmet mixes from King Arthur Flour or other quality producer. They also sell gluten-free mixes.

  • Tea Sandwiches. These can be as simple or elaborate as you like. In the top photo, the sandwiches are simply ham and radishes, with spreads. The key to tea sandwiches is smaller size and fanciful cuts. Triangles and finger sandwiches are easiest, but get out your cookie cutters and go to town.
  •  
    Healthier Tea Party Foods

  • Lower-Sugar, Unfrosted Cakes. Angel cake, Bundt cake, carrot cake, sponge cake and zucchini bread, among others, have fewer calories than frosted cakes. They also can be with a heart-healthy oil instead of butter. butter—and no frosting. You can serve them with fruit purée (sweeten with a dab of agave) and/or Reddi-Wip, which has so much air that it has just 15 calories.
  • Pavlovas. These meringue cups (egg whites and sugar only, lots of air, no fat) filled with fresh fruit or brandies fruit. If it’s winter and the fruit selection isn’t great, citrus salad with mint is delicious!
  • “Slender” Tea Sandwiches. On Whole Grain Bread Slice bread ultra-thin and serve with healthy spreads: hummus, tuna and olive tapenade, turkey with marinated cucumbers and curried yogurt spread instead of mayonnaise.
  •  

    Sandwich Cake

    Sandwich Cake Slice

    [4] This beautiful sandwich cake yields a wedge [5] of savory sandwich. Here’s how to make it from AmusesBouche.fr.

  • Fruit With Diet Yogurt Dip. Cut up fruit and serve with a dip made of fat-free yogurt, no-cal sweetener and cinnamon. If you don’t want to use a noncaloric sweetener, use agave syrup. The glycemic index is 21 compared to sugar (65) honey (56) and maple syrup (58). Baked Apples Bake apples with a bit of agave syrup—it’s very sweet, so a little goes a long way. Cinnamon and nutmeg provide wonderful seasoning.
  • Crudités. Low-calorie and fiber packed, serve a platter of raw or blanched vegetables with a yogurt-herb dip.
  •  
    TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE

    Etiquette expert Arden Clise erases common ideas of “proper” tea behavior. She says:

    “People often think proper tea drinking means sticking your pinky out. That’s actually rude and connotes elitism. It comes from the fact that cultured people would eat their tea goodies with three fingers and commoners would hold the treats with all five fingers. Thus was born the misguided belief that one should raise their pinky finger to show they were cultured. Tuck that pinky finger in.”

    Find more of her comments at CliseEtiquette.com.

      

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