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TIP OF THE DAY: Spices & Dried Herbs As Plate Garnishes

Pork & Cabbage Salad

Round Squash Ravioli

Dessert Plate Garnish

Spice Cocktail Rim

[1] Chef Eric Levine adds a ring of flavorful spices around a circle of salad. [2] At Obicà, a Neapolitan-focused restaurant, Chef Erind Halilaj adds a dramatic spice stripe over butternut squash ravioli. [3] They’re not spices, but crumbs, used here by Chef Daniel Eddy of Rebelle, are lovely garnishes. [4] Spice blends make tasty rimmers for cocktails, too (photo courtesy Pompeian).

 

For festive occasions—or simply to dress up an everyday meal—make your plates sing with a scatter of spice.

Once upon a time, professional chefs and the home cooks who copied would use a piece of parsley or other green herb to garnish the plate. Since most foods fell into the brown-beige color family, the plate garnish would “give it some color.” Few people actually considered eating the parsley.

Today’s chefs are much more innovative. The paltry parsley has evolved into colored swaths of sauce, brushed onto plates; polka dots of sauce; drizzles of coulis; swirls of olive oil; condiments splattered like Jackson Pollack.

But the easiest way—no steady hand required—is to scatter herbs and spices onto the plate.

All you need to do is select flavors and colors that complement the food on the plate.

 
RECOMMENDED DRIED HERBS & SPICES FOR GARNISHING

This is not a comprehensive list; we went mostly for textured items rather than finely-ground powders. But you can use the latter if they work with your plate decorating concept.
 
Savory Dried Herbs & Spices

  • Black: black lava salt, nigella seeds, peppercorns (crushed/cracked), poppy seeds, toasted sesame seeds
  • Brown: allspice, caraway seeds, grains of paradise, nutmeg (crushed/cracked), smoked sea salt and other flavored gourmet salts, urfa biber
  • Green (pale): aniseed, fennel seeds, garam masala, green peppercorns, herbes de provence, lime peel, matcha salt, oregano, rosemary, za’atar
  • Green (deep): basil, chervil, cilantro, dill weed, epazote, fenugreek, fines herbs, matcha, parsley, tarragon
  • Orange: orange zest, shichimi togarashi (Japanese Seven-Spice)
  • Pink/Purple: Himalayan pink sea salt, lavender buds, Merlot sea salt, pink peppercorns, rose petals
  • Red: achiote, alaea red lava salt, aleppo or other chile flakes, annato seeds, gochu garu (Korean chile flakes), piment d’espelette, sriracha salt and other red gourmet salts
  • Tan: celery seeds, Old Bay seasoning,
  • Yellow: aji amarillo powder, curry salt and other yellow flavored salts, fennel pollen, grapefruit zest, lemon zest, mustard seeds, turmeric
  • White: coarse sea salt (especially flake salt like Maldon or Cypress), flavored coarse white salt (garlic, lemon, lime) sesame seeds
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    More Savory Options
    You may also have some of these in the cupboard:

  • Crumbs: bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, pretzel crumbs
  • Savory drink rimmers
  • Spice blends, from Italian herbs to shichimi togarashi, Japanese Seven Spice (don’t overlook Mrs. Dash)
  • Meat rubs
  • Smoked and flavored salts (for ideas see SeaSalt.com)
  •  
    Sweet Dried Herbs & Spices

    For desserts and other sweet dishes, consider:

  • Colored sugars: coarse sugar, decorating sugar, decorative sugar (shapes), sanding sugar, sparkling sugar
  • Conventional sugars: dark brown, demerara, light brown, muscovado, turbinado
  • Crumbs: cake crumbs, cookie crumbs
  • Flavored sugars: blueberry, cinnamon, espresso, green chile, raspberry, etc. (here’s the selection at EssentialCane.com, plus how to make your own)
  • Sweet herbs: basil, chervil, lemon thyme, garam masala, marjoram, mint, pink peppercorns, sage, sweet cicely, tarragon
  • Sweet spice blends: apple pie spice, chai spice, mulling spice, pumpkin pie spice
  • Sweet spices:
  • +Black, brown and tan: allspice, anise seed, brown sugar (dark, light, raw, turbinado, cacao nibs, cardamom, cassia buds, chia seeds, cinnamon (crushed sticks), coffee beans (crushed), cloves (whole or crushed), nutmeg (freshly ground), poppy seed, vanilla bean pod (crushed)
    +Green: lime peel or zest, matcha powder
    +Pink and purple: dried rose petals (crumbled), lavender buds
    +Yellow and gold: bee pollen, ginger (crystallized or cracked), granulated honey, peel or zest (grapefruit, lemon, orange)
    +White: sesame seeds

     
    MORE HERB & SPICE TIPS

  • Don’t toss “end of the bottle” spices and herbs to make room for new bottles. Instead, combine them in an empty bottle to create your own “garnishing blend.”
  • If an herb or spice has lost its flavor, you can still use it for garnish. In fact, it’s a great use for past-their-prime seasonings.
  • If you don’t like a spice you’re purchased, use it for a plate garnish. Some people don’t even attempt to taste the spices; and those who do dip a fork in it may like it.
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    WANT TO ADD A DRIZZLE?

    If your plate could still use some filler, match one of these to the food. Note that the oil (or any liquid) should be placed on the plate first, before the food and the garnish.

  • Flavored oils: from basil and blood orange to habanero and wasabi.
  • Colored oils: naturally colored oils include avocado oil (virgin), hot chile oil*, dark sesame oil* and mustard oil*; you also can make your own colored oils).
  • Olive oil—for artistic purposes, the darker the better. You can add green food color—which is what more than a few bottlers [illegally] do.
  • Syrups: agave, dessert syrup, flavored simple syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses.
  •  
    ________________
    *These oils can be very strong, and may have to be diluted with olive oil or plated in droplets.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook A Frozen Steak Without Thawing

    Frozen Steak

    Frozen Steak

    Strip Steak

    Splatter Screen

    [1] Remove the frozen steak from the freezer (photo courtesy Mart2Go). [2] Place it in a hot pan (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] In 20 minutes, plate and enjoy (photo courtesy Eddie Merlot’s). [4] We use a mesh spatter screen, but we just ordered this folding spatter screen from Norpro.

     

    Want a steak but you haven’t defrosted it yet?

    No problem. Your steak will be ready in less than 30 minutes with this technique developed by Dan Souza of Cook’s Illustrated (thanks to Good Eggs for sending their adaptation to us).

    Dan experimented by cutting strip steaks in half, freezing both halves, then defrosting one half before cooking.

    He cooked both the thawed and frozen halves exactly the same way, and found that the frozen steak lost less moisture, cooked more evenly, and tasted better than the thawed half!

    The steak needs to be frozen properly, since any extra moisture or ice will cause a flare-up when it hits the hot oil. Here’s Dan’s freezing technique:

    HOW TO FREEZE A STEAK

  • SET the steak(s) on a baking sheet lined with parchment and place in the freezer until frozen.
  • WRAP each fully-frozen steak in plastic and place it in a heavy-duty plastic bag.
  • SQUEEZE any air out of the bag. Place it in the back of the freezer, so it doesn’t get hit by warm air every time you open the door (which can create condensation on the meat).
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    RECIPE: COOKING A FROZEN STEAK

  • 1 frozen steak (not thawed!)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cast iron pan
  • Optional: splatter screen, meat thermometer
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 275°F. Set a wire rack atop a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

    2. DRIZZLE 1/8″ oil into a cast iron pan—just enough to coat the bottom. Place the skillet over high heat. When the pan is smoking hot, gently lay the steak onto the pan and sear both sides until browned, 90-120 seconds per side. NOTE: Frozen steak splatters more.

    3. TRANSFER the steak onto the wire rack and place in the oven. Cook until the steak is the desired doneness: 18 to 20 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak to be medium rare (an internal temperature of 125°F on a meat thermometer).

    4. COOK the veggies or prepare the salad while the steak cooks.

    5. REST the steak for at least 3 minutes before slicing. This allows the juices to settle in the meat, instead of pouring out when sliced.

    Here’s a video of Dan’s preparation.
     
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF STEAK

    How many different types of steak have you had?

    Check out our meaty Glossary Of Beef Types.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking In Parchment, Or “En Papillote”

    Today is the first-ever National Parchment Day, celebrated on the last Wednesday of June to bring awareness to those who have not yet discovered the joy of working with culinary parchment.

    The holiday was created by PaperChef, a leading producer of premium culinary parchment.

    The right way to declare a holiday is to submit a proposal to the federal government, state or local government. A less official way to do it is to submit it to the National Day Calendar a commercial venture originally begun as a hobby by two enthusiasts in North Dakota.

     
    WHAT IS CULINARY PARCHMENT PAPER?

    Culinary parchment paper, also called kitchen parchment and bakery paper or baking paper, is a cellulose-based paper that provides a disposable, non-stick surface. It is a popular aid for oven cooking: It saves greasing and enables easy clean-up.

    It also is used to create a packet for moist-heat cooking in the oven—for fish and shellfish, poultry, vegetables and so on. The French call this technique en papillote (on poppy-YOTE); it is al cartoccio in Italian, and cooking in parchment in English. The food is put into a folded pouch (parcel) and then baked in the oven.

    You can also cook in parchment on a grill, up to 425°F, using a metal plate on the top rack and closing the lid. Unlike aluminum foil, the parchment won’t scorch.

    Don’t confuse parchment with waxed paper, which has a thin coating of wax on each side to make it nonstick and moisture-resistant. Unlike parchment paper, it is not heat-resistant; the wax can melt and the paper can ignite in the oven. Parchment paper is impregnated with silicone, which prevents it from catching fire.

    But you can do the reverse: In most applications that call for wax paper as a non-stick surface, you can substitute parchment.
     
    CULILNARY PARCHMENT HISTORY

    Culinary parchment has only been available since the 19th century. The earliest reference we have found is in the London Practical Mechanics Journal in October 1858.

    We don’t know when it was applied to culinary use. Some sources cite the early 20th century. The 1858 reference suggests architects’ and engineers’ plans (today’s blueprints), tracing paper, bookbinding and maps.

       

    Salmon En Papillote

    Chocolate Chip Cookies Baked On Parchment

    [1] Salmon cooked in folded parchment paper (photo courtesy PaperChef). [2] Cookies baked in a pan lined with parchment (photo courtesy Jules | Wikipedia).

     

    Before cooking parchment, according to the website of The Telegraph, a daily newspaper in the U.K., “cooks would have used normal sheets of whatever white paper was on hand.” The article references a cookbook from 1823 by Mary Eaton, for baking beef in an earthenware dish covered in “two or three thicknesses of writing paper.” She warns against using brown paper, because “the pitch and tar which it contains will give the meat a smoky bad taste.”

    More options in olden times:

  • Oil-soaked or buttered paper, for baking and roasting. Buttered paper was put on top of a roast to stop it from cooking too quickly—the way we use foil today.
  • Fish was cooked en papillote in a parcel of paper brushed with olive oil. Fish was cooked en papillote in a parcel of paper brushed with olive oil.
  • Brandy-soaked paper circles were used to seal fruit jams and preserves.
  • Beyond skimming, excess grease was removed from the top of a stock or soup with ink-blotting paper. Today, paper towels do the trick.
  •  
    Parchment used as writing paper dates to ancient Egypt. It is a completely different animal, so to speak: It is made from sheep and other animal skins, and was first created as scrolls, with the skins trimmed and stitched together as required. Animal parchment is still used for applications from college diplomas to religious texts.

    What the two parchments—animal and vegetable—have in common is their creamy white color.

     

    Salmon In Parchment

    Vegetables In Parchment

    Paperchef Parchment Bag

    [1] You can add a sauce or create one. Here, compound butter will melt to flavor the fish and vegetables (photo courtesy GoodLifeEats.com). [2] Vegetables cooked in parchment: so much more delicious than steaming but the same calories (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [3] There’s no need to fold paper: Just put the contents in a parchment bag [photo courtesy Paperchef).

      THE BENEFITS OF PARCHMENT PAPER

  • Low-fat cooking with fewer calories: You can cook healthier meals, without the need for added fat. No vitamins are “washed way” in the cooking process.
  • Convenience: The parchment packets may be prepared up to a day in advance, and are perfect for a single serving when you are cooking for one. It’s non-stick, non-scorching, and clean-up is a snap. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven without drying out (or becoming mushy, as with the microwave).
  • Flavorful and tender: Moist heat cooking captures and imbues the food with anything you add to the packet: aromatics (garlic, ginger, scallions, sliced lemon or lime), herbs, spices, wine and liquids from coconut milk to sauce and stock. The method produces very tender meat and vegetables.
  • Simple yet elegant: Parchment entrées are impressive at the dinner table. At a restauraunt, it is traditional for the maitre d’ to slice open the paper in front of the guest, delivering a delightful gust of aroma. At home, when everyone cuts open his or her packet, the effect is the same.
  • Environmentally friendly: Parchment is 100% biodegradable and FSC* certified.
  • Kosher: PaperChef is kosher-certified by Star-K and OU. Reynolds parchment and foil are certified kosher by OU.
  •  
    _____________________
    *Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification means that the materials have been sourced in an environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and economically viable manner.

     
    TYPES OF CULILNARY PARCHMENT PAPER

    More many decades, cut sheets, or those cut from a roll of parchment, were the options for lining baking pans, cake and pie tins, casseroles and the like.

    Different formats evolved to meet consumer needs.

  • Parchment sheets are the most convenient way to cook with parchment paper. Simply grab a pre-cut sheet to line pans, bakeware and cookware. You can buy rectangles as well as rounds.
  • Parchment rolls are a multipurpose kitchen paper. Like foil and waxed paper, you pull out the amount you need and cut it on the serrated package edge.
  • Parchment cooking bags are a recent innovation and our favorite parchment product. Just toss the ingredients into a bag, fold and cook. It saves the time of cutting a piece of paper to size and folding into packets.
  • Parchment baking cups allow muffins to slide out of the pan—like cupcake papers for muffins. We also like them to create perfectly round baked eggs, for Eggs Benedict or other fancy preparation. Lotus cups are deeper, for larger muffins. Tulip cups are made to add panache to specialty cupcakes, with a petal-like top for an impressive presentation.
  •  
    FIND PARCHMENT-BASED RECIPES FOR EVERYTHING FROM BREAKFAST TO DESSERT

    They’re all over the Web, including on the website of PaperChef.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Steak Grilling Tips

     
      

    Raw Ribeye Steak

    Grilled Ribeye Steak

    Grilled Filet Mignon

    Steak Thermometer

     

    Grilling steaks for Father’s Day? Check out these tips from Wolfgang’s Steak House.

    Wolfgang’s is owned by a father and son who started with one location in Manhattan, dry-aging their own beef. Now they have four Manhattan restaurants and a total of 12 worldwide, from Beverly Hills to Hawaii to Korea and Japan.

    Executive chef Amiro Cruz wants you to help you home-cook your steaks like the professionals do. Here are his tips to cook a perfect steak:

    1. Buy USDA prime cuts. Yes, USDA prime is the most expensive beef and the very best you can buy. You get what you pay for: a truly superior taste and texture. Here are the different grades of beef.

    2. Buy for rib eye steaks. Rib eye is the connoisseur’s favorite cut, considered the most flavorful.

    3. Use only kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper for seasoning. When you have such a high-quality piece of meat, you don’t need marinades and herbs: You want to taste the essence of that steak. You don’t need to add any oil or other fat. The grill will be hot enough so the meat won’t stick.

    4. Don’t worry about the temperature of the raw steak. You may have been told to bring the meat to room temperature before grilling, but it doesn’t matter. Chef Cruz takes his steaks straight from the fridge, at 41°F (which is what the FDA recommends).

    5. Get the grill blazing hot. Once the grill is hot, clean it with a kitchen towel dipped in oil, making sure to handle the towel with a pair of tongs so you don’t burn yourself. Then, throw on meat. Steakhouse chefs prefer to char the steak. Some people don’t like a ton of char, and you might be nervous about burning the meat; but charring gives steak the right flavor. Once the first side is appropriately charred (after about four minutes for medium rare), flip it to the other side and repeat.

    6. Use a meat thermometer. Simply touching the meat to see if it’s done is the technique professional chefs use. But if you grill steak only occasionally, a meat thermometer is a foolproof way to know exactly how done your steak is. Rare is 130°F, medium rare is 135°F, medium is 140°F and so on, with five-degree increases. Don’t have a meat thermometer? Run to the nearest hardware store or kitchen goods department, or order one online.

    7. Rest the meat. Once it’s done cooking, don’t dig in right away. Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes so the juices inside can distribute. If you cut it right away, they will drain out and you’ll lose the juiciness.

    8. Cut against the grain. If you’re slicing a steak to serve more than one person, be sure to cut against the grain. While cutting against the grain is more important for tougher cuts like London broil, even with a top steak it makes for a softer chew. Just look for the lines that run through the meat and cut perpendicular to them.
     
    Don’t forget to put some fresh vegetables on the grill. Even people who don’t like to eat raw bell peppers, onions, etc. enjoy them grilled.

    Here are the best vegetables to grill.
     
    HOW MANY DIFFERENT CUTS OF STEAK HAVE YOU HAD?

    Check out the photos in our Beef Glossary.

     
    PHOTO CAPTIONS: Top: A raw rib eye steak, a connoisseur’s favorite (photo Margo Ouillat Photography | IST). Second: A long-bone rib eye on the grill (photo courtesy Allen Bros). Third: Grilled, bacon-wrapped filet mignon and grilled radicchio (photo courtesy Omaha Steaks). Bottom: Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness (photo courtesy Habor).

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Barbecue Party For National Barbecue Month

    Backyard Grill

    Grilled Brisket

    Top: Deluxe grill from Landmann. Bottom: Weber’s Q series fits almost anywhere.

     

    Did you fire up the grill for Mother’s Day? It’s one of the biggest barbecue days of the year, with 34% 0f grill owners cooking celebrate Mom. It following the Fourth of July (76%), Labor Day (62%), Memorial Day (62%) and Father’s Day (49%) in popularity.

    More than 75% of Americans own a grill or smoker. May is National Barbecue Month: A survey from the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) names grilling as America’s favorite patio pastime.

    Our Tip Of The Day: Have a BYO Favorite Dish barbecue party. Whether it’s a venerable family recipe or something more recent like grilled poppers, everyone should bring a favorite food: sides, punch, desserts, etc. (In our family, it’s homemade baked beans with molasses and a topping of crisp bacon.)

    It can be quite a feast: Beyond proteins and veggies, people grill everything from bread, pizza and quesadillas to fruit and other desserts.
     
    2016 BBQ TRENDS

    Whether for easy weeknight dinners, weekend feasts or even breakfast, here’s the scoop from HPBA’s most recent State of the Barbecue Industry Report, from a survey conducted in July and August, 2015.

  • Who has a grill? 75% of U.S. adults own a grill or smoker.
  • Gas, charcoal or electric? 62% of households have gas grill, 53% have a charcoal grill and 12% have an electric grill. Two percent own a wood pellet grill and 8% are thinking of purchasing one this year.
  • Why so much grilling? 71% say it’s to improve flavor, 54% simply enjoy grilling and 42% like it for entertaining family and friends.
  • Seasonal or year-round? 63% of grill owners use their grill or smoker year-round; 43% cook at least once a month during winter.
  • Grill accessories. Half of all grill owners have the most basic grilling accessories: cleaning brush, tongs, and gloves/mitts (hmm…what does the other half use?). The most popular new accessories owners plan to buy include pizza stones, broiling baskets and cooking planks.
  • Outdoor kitchens: 10% of grill owners have a full “backyard kitchen,” including premium furniture and lighting.
  • Barbecued breakfast: 11% of grill owners prepared breakfast on a grill in the past year.
  • Beyond the backyard: Nearly one third of grill owners (31%) grilled someplace other than their homes in the past year, including 24% who grilled while camping.
  • Barbecue plans: Nearly half of U.S. adults (45%) plan to purchase a new grill or smoker in 2016, while nearly a third of current owners (30%) plan to grill with greater frequency.
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    WHAT’S A BARBEQUE?

    Barbecue is a noun and a verb. It’s a meal cooked outdoors—for millennia over an open fire until the development of modern gas and electric grills. “Barbecue” also refers to:

  • A grill or open hearth/fireplace—used to barbecue food.
  • The meat, poultry or fish that is barbecued.
  • Meat or poultry that is basted in a sweetened “barbecue sauce” during cooking.
  • An outdoor party or picnic at which barbecued food is served.
  •  
    BARBECUE, BARBEQUE OR BBQ?

    Barbecue and barbeque are alternative spellings, along with the short form BBQ.

    To quote chef Anthony Bourdain, “Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”

      

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