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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,
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Archive for Cooking

TIP OF THE DAY: Truffle Butter

Little things can make a huge difference. In the world of fine food, D’Artagnan Truffle Butter is one of the little things that can elevate and transform almost everything you eat.

And it’s affordable—made with compared to $2,500 per pound this year (a pound buys a lot of truffles).

The best truffle splurge for $15 is this black truffle and white truffle duo from d’Artagnan. You can also check at your local fine food retailer.

You can use either truffle butter (you may enjoy both equally or prefer one variety over the other) to create easy yet impressive recipes:

  • Bread and butter—baguette slices with truffle butter are a splendid appetizer (serve them with Champagne or other wine)
  • Eggs cooked in truffle butter
  • Truffled pasta
  • Truffled mashed potatoes
  • Truffle Sauce
    See the different ways to use truffle butter and more about this affordable luxury in our review.


    One of our favorite foods to enjoy with wine: truffle butter on baguette slices. Photo by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.



    Buy it for yourself, give it as a gift to your
    favorite cooks. Photo courtesy iGourmet.



    It’s flavored with tiny pieces that break off from the truffle. They can’t be sold at top dollar like whole truffles, but are purchased for a fraction of the price by manufacturers, who add them to butter or infuse them in olive oil.

    Note though that most of the truffle olive oil out there is not made with real truffles. Most manufacturers use artificial truffle flavor and aroma: truffle molecules re-created in a lab.

    That doesn’t mean it isn’t good: many of the artificially-flavored products are delicious. But if you’re paying more than $20 for truffle oil, read the label to ensure that it’s infused with real truffles.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Baking Tips From The American Egg Board

    People who love to bake love the holidays. And then there are those once-a-year-bakers who only pull out the mixing bowl in November and December.

    No matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, here are some tips from the American Egg Board:

    TIP #1: COOKIES. If you’re making molded cookies (bells, candy canes, stars, wreaths, etc.), make sure they hold their shape. Chill the dough before cutting your cookies into shapes, and put them on a baking sheet that has been cooled in the freezer for a few minutes beforehand. This will ensure that the cookies hold their shape when baking. (Check out the different types of cookies.)

    TIP #2: COOKIES & CAKES. Put a spin on your favorite classic recipes. Add dried cranberries or cherries, crushed candy canes, mint chips, toffee chips or other season-inspired mix-ins. Here’s our recipe for Cranberry or Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies with white chocolate chips.


    Flourless chocolate cake is gluten-free. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.



    Switch up chocolate chip cookies with dried
    cranberries and white chocolate chips. Photo
    courtesy Cherry Marketing Institute.


    TIP #3: GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS. Make a flourless chocolate cake. Moist and fudgy, it’s always a hit. Here’s a recipe for a delicious chocolate-orange flourless cake from the American Egg Board.

    TIP #4: SOUFFLÉS. Make sure your special soufflé doesn’t turn into a souf-flop. Separate whites from yolks carefully before beating and ensure that no hint of yolk gets into the whites. Then let the whites stand for a few minutes; they whip up better at room temperature.

    TIP #5: GIFTS. Homemade baked goods are always a popular gift. These days, few people need another “incidental” gift item—candle, mug, refrigerator magnet, water bottle, whatever. Your homemade cookies are much more welcome.


    The experts at the American Egg Board are happy to help.

    Shoot your baking and cooking questions to the Incredible Edible Egg Facebook page or tweet @incredibleEggs; they’ll be happy to provide a solution.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Festive Food Presentation

    Make your food look more beautiful this holiday season.

    Sometimes, exciting food isn’t about complex cooking skills, but in an artistic outlook. The difference between your presentation and that at a fine restaurant may simply be a colorful and imaginative garnish.

    This red snapper from Aureole in New York City uses two chef techniques:

  • Plating the protein atop the vegetables or starch
  • Scattering bits of fruits, vegetables, flowers, nuts and/or drops of purée from a squeeze bottle or piping bag
    In this dish, red snapper was placed upon a molded circle of pea puree. The edible garnish includes corn kernels,sprouts, tomato (you can use red bell pepper) and zucchini.

    The result: edible art.


    Food presentation counts in this dish of red snapper with artistic garnish. Photo courtesy Aureole | NYC.


    Fine restaurants buy much of their equipment at J.B. Prince. Serious cooks (and serious eaters) will enjoy perusing the website. We’d like Santa to bring us:

  • Heart-shape ice cream scoop
  • Cube-shape ice cream scoop
    Is there something special for your favorite cook?



    TIP OF THE DAY: Dried Herbs Vs. Fresh Herbs

    In most cases, we find that fresh herbs add so much more zing to cooking than dried herbs. We live in an apartment and have pots of them growing on the kitchen windowsill.

    But when the cold comes, the herbs die off and our farmers markets won’t have replacements until spring. The solution: buying greenhouse-raised fresh herbs for a premium price.

    So when and how should you pay for fresh herbs?

    The truth is that when most herbs are dried, they lose at least some of their flavor and aroma.

  • The woody herb group is often just as good dried as fresh. Bay leaf, oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage tend to work as well (or almost as well) dried as fresh. Save your money and use dried herbs.
  • Soft herbs are better fresh. Basil, chives, cilantro, mint and parsley lose much of their magic once they’ve been dried. Spring for the fresh versions.

    Woody herbs like rosemary are often as flavorful whether fresh or dried. Photo courtesy Burpee.


  • When you want bright flavor: in eggs, salad dressings, sauces and other dishes that are made and served immediately. and other quick dishes since dried herbs don’t have enough time to really infuse these kinds of dishes.
  • In special dishes where the complexity of flavor counts. Most people like turkey stuffing whether the herbs are fresh or dried; but fresh sage is magical to us. Even though dried sage is a pretty good substitute, we always buy fresh sage for our stuffing, and use the rest in appetizers (stuffed mushroom caps, for example) and other recipes.
  • If you have too many leftover fresh herbs: freeze them! First strip leaves from woody stems. You can also freeze them in ice cube trays, covered with some vegetable or chicken broth, and pop the frozen cubes right into the recipe. You can also add one to the dish when you’re reheating leftovers.(After the cubes freeze, remove them to heavy plastic storage bags.)

    For best flavor, woody herbs like rosemary
    and oregano can be either fresh or dried.
    Photo courtesy McCormick.



  • Dried herbs begin to open up when they meet moisture, and their flavors continue to grow over time. That’s why they are best to use in dishes that take a day or two for the flavors to infuse—soups and stews, for example.
  • Dried herbs need to be added early to the recipe so their flavor has time to infuse. Add them late in the preparation and they don’t open up as well.
  • Not all dried herbs are the same quality. Often, the jumbo bargain sizes at club stores don’t pack the same punch as a supermarket jar of McCormick. McCormick itself has a special “gourmet collection” line with the choicest herbs.
  • Check your dried herbs and spices annually; but if they no longer give off a nice aroma, it’s probably time to buy a new jar. Here’s how to check dried herbs and spices for freshness.


  • Use herbs at the end of cooking for fresh, bright flavor. We snip fresh basil, chives or parsley over pasta, soup, vegetables—just about anything.
  • Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor, fresh herbs have a better aroma and brighter flavor. Don’t use them in equal proportions.
  • Substitution ratio: Use 1-1/2 times the amount of fresh herbs as dry herbs: 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh sage = 1 teaspoon dried sage.
  • If it pains you to throw out dried herbs that are past their prime, buy a fresh bottle to use where it counts and start adding the older herbs to dishes where any flavor or color: scrambled eggs, omelets, canned soup, grilled vegetables, rice, dips, etc.


  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 7 Tips For Slicing Onions

    For starters, slice onions vertically. Photo


    An onion is a thing of beauty—until you slice into it and the fumes assault your eyes.

    But that doesn’t need to be. Here are some tips to minimize the impact of the acrid gas that’s released when you slice into an onion.

  • Go vertical. Slice the onion vertically, through the root end. The onion base has a higher concentration of sulphur compounds than the rest of the bulb.
  • No root. Avoid the root altogether; use only the top 80% of the onion.
  • Running water. Place your cutting board in the sink and cut onions under running water. The water whisks the fumes away.
  • More water. Submerge onions in a basin of water, if you have a basin large enough!

  • Cold. Refrigerate the onions before cutting. This reduces the enzyme reaction rate (see below).
  • Breeze. Use a fan can to blow the gas away from the eyes.
  • Goggles. This is our personal invention and our favorite technique: Wear swimming goggles (or any goggles). It works like a charm.


    Chopping an onion causes damage to the cells. Enzymes called alliinases—present in all members of the Allium genus*—break down amino acids (sulfoxides) and generate sulfenic acids. These further react to produce a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor or LF.

    LF diffuses through the air and activates sensory neurons in eye, causing that burning, stinging sensation. Tear glands come to the defense, producing tears to dilute and flush out the irritant.

    If you slice onions a lot, your eyes will become more tolerant (they may build up a tolerance to the LF).

    The amount of LF differs among onion varieties. That’s why some onions are real “burners” and others are milder. Sweet onions, for example, grow in soils that are low in sulphur and don’t produce much alliinase.


    Try the different techniques to see what works best for you. Photo by Lali Masriera | Wikimedia.

    *The Allium genus includes chives, garlics, leeks and onions.



    TIP: Things To Do With Tomato Juice

    A custom-flavored glass of tomato juice is a
    delicious drink. Photo by Ockra | IST.


    We love tomato juice as a drink (spicy Virgin Mary) and a cooking ingredient. Most people we know never buy it, unless they’re planning to serve Bloody Marys at a party.

    So today’s tip spans the wonderful world of tomato juice, and what you can do with it.

    First point: While it seems as if tomato juice should be “generic,” like milk, our taste test in search of the best tomato juice was eye-opening.

    Some brands were so bland, they needed vast amounts of seasoning—lemon juice, sea salt—to be palatable. Others were delicious right out of the can or jar.

    It’s not surprising, since different companies pay more (or less) for the best (or average) tomatoes.

    So buying a better brand isn’t mission-critical if you’ll be adding vodka, hot sauce and horseradish; but for other uses, treat yourself to the best (our favorite is Knudsen’s).



    A plain glass of tomato juice turns into a flavorful refreshment with the addition of seasonings.

  • Citrus: lemon, lime, yuzu, even grapefruit juice
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, dill parsley
  • Spices: chile, curry, nutmeg, paprika, pepper or whatever jumps off the shelf
  • Garnishes: asparagus, celery, dilly bean, fennel, jicama, green onion, pickle spear
    Add yogurt and blend a tomato smoothie!

    On a cold day, heat a cup of tomato juice in the microwave, with some of the seasonings above. It’s “tomato soup lite.”


    The Bloody Mary (and its numerous variations) is just one drink that uses tomato juice. Look up others, including the Cubanita (rum), Last Not Least (Scotch and cream), Prairie Oyster (Cognac, egg yolk), Red Devil (Irish Whiskey) and Sangrita.

    The Red Eye mixes tomato juice with beer (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).



    Use tomato juice as all or part of your cooking liquid. We make a deconstructed stuffed cabbage by cooking cabbage and meat balls in tomato juice.

    Cook beans, lentils and other legumes, or spinach, collards, kale and other greens, in tomato juice for a snappy flavor.


    Tomato sorbet or granita, with basil or other herbs, is a delicious palate cleanser. You can serve it year-round between courses, or as a summmer desert (we serve ours with a cheese straw).


    Make soup with a base of tomato juice instead of vegetable or chicken broth. Toss in vegetables and seasonings, and add optional beans, lentils or other legumes. Serve it plain or over rice or pasta.


    A childhood favorite, we loved the reddish-rice Mom made with cilantro, garlic and sometimes, black beans.


    Our favorite tomato juice. Photo courtesy Knudsen.

    What’s your favorite preparation using tomato juice? Let us know.



    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook Beans

    Beans are delicious, beans are healthful, beans are inexpensive protein, and we should all eat more beans.

    That’s beans made from scratch, not canned beans, which have a lot of sodium and a mushier texture. (But, let us hastily add: It’s better to eat canned beans than no beans).

    Beans can be added to green salads, served as sides with everything from breakfast eggs to dinner meats. They purée beautifully into dips (try this white bean dip recipe or this white bean bruschetta).

    But some people have trouble cooking beans. Here are tips from Steve Sando, proprietor of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food. Steve scours the Americas for the finest small-batch, artisan beans. Some are so beautiful, you just want to keep them as decoration in glass jars.


    If your beans are taking forever and a day to cook, the first question to ask is whether you are soaking them or not. A good soak should last from four to eight hours or overnight.

    Soaking rehydrates the beans, which begin to lose their moisture as soon as they are harvested.


    Chili with beans. Photo courtesy Ninja Kitchen.

    Fresh-harvested beans can be cooked without soaking. Otherwise, you need to reintroduce moisture so the beans will cook faster. When rehydrated, the beans will double in size.

    Some people have a magical situation where they don’t need to soak their beans, yet they still cook in a reasonable amount of time. But if you have planned ahead and have the time, by all means soak your beans. In addition, soaked beans generally have a more pleasant texture when cooked.

    The big question is whether or not to change the soaking water prior to cooking. Old timers insist on changing the water, which gets rid of the water-soluble oligosaccharides that can cause gas.

    But you are also tossing out vitamins, minerals and pigments. As Harold McGee says in his seminal work, On Food and Cooking, “That’s a high price to pay.” If gas is really an issue (and from what we hear, and we hear it all, it isn’t), try cooking your beans for longer—or pick up some Beano.


    Warm Tuscan white bean salad with lemon-
    vinaigrette. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy



    More than anything, advises Steve Sando, this is the key to how long beans cook. Whether you are using the soaking water, new water, aromatic broth or some combination, you want to bring the beans and liquid to a full-on boil.

    Then, boil for 10 minutes (15 minutes for big, starchy beans or varieties known to take a long time to cook). Then turn the heat to low and allow the beans to cook at a very gentle simmer.

    After one hour, check the beans for doneness. Depending on age, size and variety, beans can take anywhere from an hour to three hours to cook through. Add more water as needed to keep an inch of water on top of the beans; stir occasionally.

    Low and slow is the way to go. If you’re short on time, you can increase the heat to a gentle boil, but you will compromise the texture of the beans.



    Salt: If you’re having persistent trouble getting your beans to cooking, refrain from adding salt or acids until the beans are soft. It may be an old wives’ tale, but it helps some people.The best time to add the salt is when the beans are al dente.

    Adding baking soda: The alkaline in baking soda can help break down tough beans, but it can also make the beans feel slimy or soapy. Steve doesn’t recommend it, but does suggest Sal Mixteca (Mixteca salt), which is naturally high in bicarbonates that will actually soften your beans. Just a bit at the beginning of cooking will speed things up if you’re having trouble. It’s like the old trick of adding baking soda, but without the off taste and texture.

    Water: The problem might be your water, if you have especially hard water. The solution: Buy a water filtration system (like Brita) and use the filtered water for soaking and cooking.


    Readers of British mysteries will find frequent mentions of “beans on toast,” a common breakfast, lunch or dinner item.

    “I’ve heard that the British love beans on toast, only it’s usually canned beans [in tomato sauce] on plebian white toast,” says Steve Sando. “Here’s my version:”

  • Toast a piece of rustic bread and lightly butter it.
  • Generously pile on hot cooked beans. Any good bean will do, including leftovers.
  • Finally, drizzle the finest olive oil over them.
    Finish with herbs or other seasoning, from diced onions to shaved Parmesan cheese or sliced sausage. Serve with a side of pickles.



    FREEBIE: Harvard “Science Of Cooking” Online Cooking Class

    What if you could study the science of cooking with some of the world’s best-known experts, in a Harvard online course? For free! You can, starting October 8th.

    One of the largest trends in education are MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses. The concept is being led by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which founded edX, the not-for-profit online learning enterprise.

    Harvard’s popular Science & Cooking course, which brings some of the world’s top chefs into the science classroom, will start on October 8th at edX. “SPU27x: Science and Cooking—From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Physics,” is an online adaptation of an internationally recognized Harvard course that uses “deconstructivist” cooking techniques to illustrate the principles of science and engineering in the classroom.

    Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering, and vice versa.


    What makes gelatin go from powder to solid? It’s one of the many chemical reactions that will be explained in the course. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.


    Chef instructors include some of the world’s most acclaimed modern chefs. A sampling:

  • Jose Andres, Chef and Restaurateur, Washington D.C.
  • Ferran Adrià, Chef, Barcelona
  • David Chang, Chef, Momofuku restaurants, Ma Peche and Milk Bar, New York
  • Wylie Dufresne, Chef, WD-50, New York
  • Harold McGee, Author, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
  • Nathan Myhrvold, Author, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking and Modernist Cuisine At Home
  • Enrico Rovira, Chocolatier
  • Bill Yosses, White House Executive Pastry Chef

    The syllabus. Image courtesy Harvard


    The original course grew out of collaboration between faculty at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Alícia Foundation, led by groundbreaking Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. When Adrià gave a public lecture at Harvard SEAS in 2008, his talk drew an audience that spilled beyond the auditorium doors. Encouraged by the crowds, faculty in applied physics developed a four-month undergraduate course that now, in turn, has inspired this offering on edX.

    During each week of the course, Adrià and other top chefs will reveal the secrets of some of their most famous culinary creations—often right in their own restaurants. Alongside this exhibition of cooking mastery, the Harvard instructors will explain the science behind the recipe.

    You can:

  • Watch the weekly lecture at your leisure (everything is archived online)
  • Audit or commit to a certificate (which requires assignments and tests)
  • And do it at this time for NO FEE WHATSOEVER.


    Head to edX.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Removing Pieces Of Egg Shell

    Do your eggs crack cleanly, or deposit
    fragments of shell? Photo by Michael
    Lorenzo | SXC.


    The biggest frustration we have in the kitchen is getting fragments of egg shell out of cracked eggs.

    Some might say that if this is our biggest problem, we should consider ourselves lucky. But the frustration of trying again and again to fish out a tiny piece of egg shell is it for us.

    Maybe our local eggs have thinner shells that splinter more easily. But the result is too much time spent each day at this thankless task.

    We have tried our best to fish out those fragments, using a:

  • Spoon
  • Knife blade
  • Paper towel
  • Q-tip
  • Fingernail
    The road to success is invariably long annoying.

    So we turned to the Internet and found a solution: Fish out the fragment with a bigger piece of eggshell. There will be a magnetic attraction between the two pieces.

    And, stop buying extra large eggs (explanation below).


    Egg shells get thinner when calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D3 are insufficient in the hens’ diet. Mass commercial producers tend to cut costs wherever they can, so the hens may be a bit nutrient-deficient. Instead, try eggs from a local farmer. Small farmers and hobbyists often use ground oyster shells to provide additional calcium.

    Summer eggs can have thinner shells, because in hot weather the calcium is retained less efficiently by the hen. The calcium doesn’t go directly from the digestive tract to the shell, by the way. First it’s absorbed into the bones, and then reabsorbed into the body to help create the shell.

    Other factors that can contribute to thinner shells include age, stress and general health of the hen. The extra large eggs we’ve been using come from older hens, and those shells are naturally thinner. As the hens age, their bodies can’t keep up with the loss of calcium through shell manufacture. Eureka!

    Solution: Try large or medium eggs.

    If you have tips or suggestions, please share them!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking Eggplant

    Today’s tip comes from Cordon Bleu Cooking School. The famed school in Paris, attended by Americans from Julia Child to Giada De Laurentiis, Cordon Bleu now has Bleu Ribbon Kitchen cooking classes in 17 U.S. cities from coast to coast. Check out the company website to find classes near you.

    No matter how you prepare it, eggplant works well with just about everything. Its ability to balance multiple flavors makes it an excellent component in any dish involving several ingredients. It is a delight in a simple sauté with with mushrooms, onions and tomatoes (delicious as a side or a main course over rice with some added protein such as chicken or tofu).

    Hot or cold, roasted or grilled, stuffed, marinated or fried, eggplant’s slightly bitter taste and spongy texture make it a go-to ingredient for casseroles, stews and brochettes (skewers). It works well with spices including basil, garlic, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme.

    It can be curried or spiced with hot chiles. It is a key ingredient in the famous Greek dish moussaka and the French ratatouille.


    Different types of eggplant: Italian eggplant, Sicilian eggplant (variegated), Chinese eggplant (long), Thai long green eggplant, Black Beauty eggplant (purple globe) and applegreen eggplant. Photo courtesy Cordon Bleu Kitchen.


    And it’s very low in calories: just 20 calories per cup. Eggplant is fat free, high in potassium and an excellent source of dietary fiber. Some varieties are high in chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol and potent antioxidant. (Look for the Black Magic variety, which has nearly three times the amount of polyphenols as other cultivars that were studied.)

    In America, eggplants are known as oblong with deep purple color (an Italian cultivar), but they can also be lavender, green, orange and yellow-white. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from round to oblong. Take a look at these unusual types of eggplant—some the size of strawberries!


  • Eggplant flesh will start to turn brown once peeled. As with apples and bananas, wait to cut the eggplant until just before cooking.
  • To reduce the bitter* taste of eggplant, try salting it. Once it’s cut to the desired shape and size, sprinkle the eggplant with salt and let it rest for about 30 minutes. The eggplant will lose some of its water content and will be less porous. This not only minimizes bitterness, but helps to minimize soaking up fats used in cooking. After the 30 minute period, rinse the salt off the eggplant.
  • For frying, coat each slice with breadcrumbs or batter so the spongy eggplant won’t absorb too much oil.
  • Avoid cooking eggplant in an aluminum pan, as the aluminum will discolor the flesh.
    *The bitterness comes from the chlorogenic acid in the seeds—the same chemical that gives bitterness to coffee. The seeds also contain nicotinoid alkaloids. Nicotine? Yes, botanically, eggplant is a close relative of tobacco, which is also a member of the Nightshade family.


    Now you know how the fruit got its name. Photo of
    white eggplant courtesy Burpee Home Gardens.


    From eggplant parmigiana to kabobs to caponata and ratatouille, the latter two of which can be used to top hot pasta. You can even make eggplant french fries. Or, try it in:

  • Pasta salads or with rice and other grains
  • Eggplant Lasagne
  • Eggplant Rollatini, strips of eggplant filled with ricotta and topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella
  • Stir-frys or grilled
  • Eggplant Caviar, one of our grandmother’s favorite appetizers


  • The name “eggplant” derives from some 18th-century European cultivars, which were white or yellow and resembled hen and goose eggs, as you can see in the photo above.
  • In France and the U.K., eggplant is known as aubergine.
  • Although eggplants are prepared like vegetables, they are botanically a fruit—a type of berry—and a member of the Nightshade family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.


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