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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 Fruits & Nuts

RECIPE: Grapefruit Salad With Honey

Remember the half grapefruit, a first course at breakfast, lunch or dinner? Rich in vitamin C, it became a staple at breakfast, lunch and dinner tables when train transport began to bring the fruits up from Florida in the the early 1900s.

Today, the half grapefruit and grapefruit salad have largely fallen out of fashion. Yet grapefruits are winter sunshine, and the tradition should be revived posthaste. This recipe is from Bee Raw Honey, which used its maple honey. The fruity flavors of the honey balance the sweet acidity of the grapefruit.

Our favorite grapefruits are in the pink and red families, but taste a variety to find what appeals to you.

RECIPE: GRAPEFRUIT SALAD WITH HONEY

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 grapefruits, peeled and sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 /3 cup hazelnuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 /2 cup microgreens
  • 4 heaping teaspoons honey
  • Fleur de Sel or Maldon sea salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ARRANGE grapefruit slices on four salad plates.

    2. DRIZZLE each plate one teaspoon of maple honey.
     

       

    maple-honey-grapefruit-salad-beeraw-230

    The best fruit in winter: citrus! Photo courtesy BeeRaw.com.

    3. SPRINKLE each plate with hazelnuts, micro greens and a touch of salt. Serve immediately.

     

    amaranth-trio-2-230

    A trio of microgreens: red amaranth, mizuna
    and beet greens. Photo by Claire Freierman |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    WHAT ARE MICROGREENS

    What are microgreens? They are tiny, tiny vegetables, no more than 8 to 14 days old, that have just developed their cotyledon (first) leaves. They are far tinier than “baby greens.”

    Think of the first, threadlike shoot that rises when you plant a seed, and the first tiny leaves, barely a quarter-inch in diameter. You may have seen a few scattered on your plate or garnishing your food at fine restaurants.

    Microgreens are very tender and oh, what flavor! Both intense and delicate, visually captivating and sublime to eat, they are a gourmet experience. Yet, they are highly nutritious with scarcely a calorie.

    For people who already like greens, microgreens are the zenith. For people who do not care for salad or raw vegetables: If you don’t like these precious greens, we’ll rest our case. Use them in salads, main dishes, soups and as general garnishes.

    Here’s more about microgreens.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Store Fruits & Vegetables

    berries-bowl-230

    Berries are fragile. Don’t buy them unless
    you plan to eat them within two days. Photo
    courtesy California Strawberry Commission.

     

    We adapted this article from the original on Vegetarian Times because we’re guilty of throwing out a lot of spoiled produce.

    But we’re no different from the rest of America. Back in 2002, researchers at the University of Arizona, working with the United States Department of Agriculture, spent a year tracking families’ food-use habits.

    What they discovered: The average family tossed out 470 pounds of spoiled food per year, about $600 worth, representing some 14% of the food brought into the home. Nationally, we dump $43 billion worth of food every year.

    It seems that intentions were good, because families bought lots of fresh fruit and produce. But every day, researches discovered, these households discarded more than half a pound of fruits and vegetables that had gone bad. The spoiled food represented a staggering one-fourth of all the produce purchased.

    So how can you waste less produce, and equally as importantly, consume the nourishment that gets tossed along with the money spent?

    For starters, you could buy only what you need for a day or so, and then be sure to eat it. Put it front and center on the refrigerator shelf.

    But many of us are too busy to shop that often, so Plan B is: Take better care when you buy and store produce. Here’s what to do:

     

    BE AWARE OF ETHYLENE

    Be aware that more than a few fruits give off high levels of ethylene gas, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds the ripening and decay of other, ethylene-sensitive, produce. That’s why you can quickly ripen ethylene-sensitive fruits, like stone fruits, by enclosing them in a paper bag with an ethylene-generating fruit like an apple or a banana. Here’s how to divide and conquer:

  • Ethylene Generators/Refrigerate The Produce: apples, apricots, cantaloupe, figs, honeydew, kiwi, mangoes
  • Ethylene Generators/Don’t Refrigerate The Produce: avocados, bananas (unripe), nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes
  • Ethylene Sensitive/Keep Away From Ethylene Generators: asparagus, bananas (ripe), berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce/leafy greens, parsley, peas, peppers, squash, summer squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon
  •  

    For longer life:

  • Keep the ethylene-producing fruits apart from ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep the produce whole; don’t even remove the stem of an apple until you’re ready to eat it. As soon as you damage the integrity of the fruit or vegetable, create an environment where microorganisms start to grow.
  • Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, place, but separate them so their flavors and smells don’t migrate. They can keep up to a month or more.
  • Store cold-sensitive fruits and vegetables on the counter; they’ll lose flavor and moisture in the fridge. These include garlic, onions, potatoes and tomatoes. The first three should be stored in cool, dark places.
  • The worst thing to do is to seal fruits and vegetables in an airtight bag. It stops their respiration—yes, produce does breathe—suffocating them and speeding up decay.
  • Check the vegetable bins for mold and decay. Mold proliferates rapidly and will contaminate other produce.
  • Consider an ozone-generator like BerryBreeze, which reduces the ethylene.
  •  

    apple-basket-230

    Apples have great staying power, especially when refrigerated. Stock up; but if the apples are turning soft, turn them into baked apples or compote. Photo courtesy USA Apple.

     
    We use a Berry Breeze in the fridge, and also place an ethylene gas guardian (E.E.G., also called an ethylene gas absorber) in the produce crisper drawers. These products actually absorb ethylene. Check out Bluapple and ExtraLife.

    There are also produce bags are also on the market, such as those by Debbie Meyer Evert-Fresh Green Bags and BioFresh, which absorb ethylene and support respiration.
     
    SHOPPING TIPS

  • If you’ll be making several stops between the market and kitchen, get a cooler for your car. When you get home, put the produce into the fridge as soon as possible.
  • Shop farmers markets early in the day. Just-harvested greens wilt rapidly once they’ve been in the sun for a few hours.
     
    EATING TIPS

  • Eat more perishable items first: Berries last only a few days, oranges can last for months. Cucumbers will remain fresh longer than leafy greens. Before you put the item in your shopping cart, think of its longevity and when you will consume it.
  • If your produce has peaked and you still haven’t eaten it, quickly cook it. Make fruit compote or soup, and toss it into the freezer.
  • Produce with the best staying power: apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, potatoes, winter squash.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Chocolate-Dipped Figs

    One of the earliest foods cultivated by man, figs, the sacred biblical fruit of ancient times, are cherished in some cultures as a symbol of peace and prosperity.

    Most U.S.-grown figs are available from June through September, but you may find imports in the stores.

    If you do, cut them into grains or stuffing; serve them sliced on ham or turkey sandwiches; stuff them with cream cheese, goat cheese or mascarpone; served on a cheese plate; chop and bake them in muffins; cook them with meat dishes (great with pork); make a fig tart or fig ice cream for dessert.

    And the easiest way…dip them in chocolate!

    Serve them on Christmas Eve with a sparkling or dessert wine; bring them as a gift; serve them on New Year’s Eve.

    Select figs that are fresh-smelling and fairly soft—avoid hard figs. You can ripen them at room temperature or lay them on a layer of paper towels, cover with plastic and refrigerate for a few days.

     

    chocolate-covered-figs-mackenzieltd-230

    Chocolate-dipped figsPhoto courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE DIPPED FIGS

    Ingredients

  • 3.5-ounce quality chocolate bar*
  • 12 dried figs
  • Optional: spirit of choice
  •  
    *You can use your favorite chocolate, be it dark, milk or white.

     
    Preparation

    1. BREAK the chocolate into pieces and melt in a double boiler.

    2. PLUMP the figs. You can actually dip them in your favorite spirit (and of course, drink the leftover “fig spirit.”

    3. DIP each fig into the melted chocolate and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Allow the chocolate to cool and harden completely.

    4. STORE in an airtight cookie tin. The figs will keep at room temperature for 3-4 weeks.

     
    Or, buy the figs in the photo from Mackenzie Limited. They’re filled with a chocolate truffle, kissed with a hint of brandy, and enrobed with a delicate layer of chocolate. Delicious!

      

     

    Comments

    TIP: Do It Yourself Apple Gift Basket

    We’re coming up on the last shopping weekend before Christmas. Instead of braving the stores, how about heading to your nearest farmers market?

    Top e-tailers like Harry & David will send a basket or box of assorted apples, but you can put your own together and provide even more fun through a greater assortment.

    Apples are affordable, delicious, universally loved and always available. Present them in beautiful “keeper” basket for a healthy holiday gift—great for calorie counters, dieters and fitness fans.

    Here are five simple steps for a do-it-yourself apple gift basket from the U.S. Apple Association.

    1. FIND a basket or other container—you may already have some on hand from prior gifts you’ve received. You can buy baskets at craft store, big box retailers and even your grocery store.

     

    apple-gift-basket-usappleassn-230

    It’s easy to create an apple basket gift. Photo courtesy U.S. Apple Association.

     
    2. FILL the basket with healthy, wholesome apples: the more colors and varieties, the merrier. If the apples don’t have stickers indicating their variety, take a photo of the apple basket and sign at the market and include it in the basket.

    3. ADD a few colorful accents, like clementine oranges, a jar of caramel sauce or honey for dipping, or a small holiday candle.

    4. PERSONALIZE with foods or trinkets the recipient will enjoy—simple stocking stuffers will do—an apple slicer, or a cheese; for a gym person, a stretch band. If you don’t want to add a cheese, which typically requires refrigeration, include a gift card to a store where it can be purchased.

    5. ACCENT with a ribbons and a card or note that wishes the recipient a healthy New Year.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Better-For-You Dried Fruit Gift

    dried-fruit-crate-zabars-230

    The better-for-you gift. Photo courtesy Zabar’s.

     

    We like to send premium dried fruit gifts to people and families who focus on healthy living.

    We like food gifts in the first place. Unless we know that someone really wants something specific, no one we know needs more stuff to fit into already jammed households.

    If it’s an office gift, well, no office needs more cake, candy and cookies lying around during the holidays.

    This 1-pound, 8-ounce tray is $24.98 at Zabars.com.

    The fruits were picked at the peak of perfection, carefully dehydrated, then packed in a reusable wooden crate. The lucky recipient(s) will munch on dried Angelino plums, apples, apricots, kiwi, pears, prunes, yellow peaches and white peaches.

     

     
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Honeycrisp Apples

    honeycrisp-solo-aamodtsapplefarm-230

    A glorious Honeycrisp apple. Photo courtesy A.A. Modts Apple Farm.

     

    While October is National Apple Month and September 20th is International Eat An Apple Day, today is Eat A Red Apple Day.

    Our favorite apple is the Honeycrisp, developed at the University Of Minnesota and released in 1991. Beloved for its crisp flesh, juiciness and sweet and tart notes, it has become Minnesota’s state fruit!

    They’re our favorite apple. The only fly in the ointment is that the University of Minnesota and Minnesota apple breeders developed the variety to be at its best when grown in the local soil conditions and climate.

    Thus, the Honeycrisps from Washington and elsewhere (they are widely grown around the world) are just a little less glorious.

    But we’ll take them wherever we can get them. Trader Joe’s has them in stock this week: The typically jumbo Honeycrisps as well as minis the size of Lady Apples.

     

    APPLE TIP: Apples deteriorate quickly if they’re not kept cool. Don’t keep them on a table or counter in a decorative basket. That may look nice, but your apples will Keep better in the fridge!

     
      

    Comments

    RECPE: Ambrosia Salad For Fall & Winter

    ambrosia-salad-tangerines-melissas-230

    Ambrosia salad. Photo courtesy
    Melissas.com.

     

    In Greek mythology, the gods ate ambrosia and drank nectar, fragrant foods that were typically reserved for divine beings.

    While no descriptions of either these foods survive (the word ambrosia means delicious or fragrant and nectar indicates a delicious or invigorating drink), scholars have long believed that both ambrosia and nectar were based on honey. (Mead, popular with the ancients, is a fermented honey drink.)

    Modern ambrosia is a variation on a traditional fruit salad. It originated in the southern U.S. in the last quarter of the 19th century, when oranges became more available in markets across the country. The original recipes were simple layerings of grated coconut, sliced oranges and powdered sugar, sometimes called iced oranges.

    The recipe became popular in the early part of the twentieth century, according to FoodTimeline.org. Many variations proliferated. Today, it’s a retro recipe that is too often laden with maraschino cherries, canned pineapple and whipped topping.

    But make it with the best ingredients, and you’ve got but a fun fruit salad substitute for the colder months, when primo fresh fruit options are fewer.

     

    In addition to the coconut and orange or mandarin, ambrosia recipes typically contain pineapple, miniature marshmallows and coconut. Other ingredients can include bananas, cherries, dates, grapes, grapefruit, raisins, strawberries and pecans or walnuts.

    For a devilish modern touch, add a bit of diced jalapeño.

    The salad is typically bound with something creamy: mayonnaise, whipped cream, sour cream, yogurt, even cream cheese, cottage cheese or pudding.

    This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown’s and is so easy that you can assign it to an older child to prepare. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus two hours of chilling.

     

    RECIPE: AMBROSIA FRUIT SALAD

    This recipe is adapted from an Alton Brown version. It is best served on the day of preparation. The sugar can cause the oranges (and other fruits) to release their juices and the dish can turn to mush.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 ounces sour cream
  • 6 ounces homemade mini marshmallows or store bought, approximately 3 cups
  • 1 cup clementine orange segments (approximately
    6 clementines)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup red or purple grapes
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries*
  •  

    valencia_orange-crate-floridajuice.com-230

    Ambrosia salad was developed as oranges became more widely available in the late 19th century. Photo courtesy FloridaJuice.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cream and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Add the sour cream and whisk to combine.

    2. ADD the marshmallows, orange, pineapple, coconut, pecans and cherries; stir to combine.

    3. TRANSFER to a glass serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.
     
    *The best maraschino cherries, worth of a connoisseur, are from Tillen Farms, all natural and made with sugar instead of corn syrup.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cut Back On The Hors d’Oeuvre

    People who love to put out a good spread typically go whole-hog on the hors d’oeuvre. The problem, in advance of a big feast, is that those who have been holding back on eating in anticipation of the big meal may go overboard with the pre-meal tidbits.

    Guests may have eaten very lightly that day in anticipation of the dinner, only to be very hungry when by the time they arrive at your doorstep. They then dive into the platters of whatever you’ve put out: bruschetta, canapés, cheese, crudités, dips and spreads, paté.

    If they arrive an hour or two in advance of sitting down to dinner, by the time the main meal begins, they could be halfway stuffed. The solution:

    1. Let everyone know what time you expect to sit down at the table. Then, whether you plan a cocktail hour or multi-hour get together before serving dinner, everyone will be prepared. (If you’re the guest, call ahead and ask.)

    2. Limit what you serve to little nibbles—the kind most people won’t eat in bulk.

     

    mixed-olives-anchovies-bowl-olivesfromspain-230

    Mixed olives and caperberries with fresh parsley and pink peppercorns. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

     

    LIGHT NIBBLES TO SERVE

  • Olives, either by themselves or as part of an old-fashioned relish platter with gherkins, radishes, carrot and celery sticks (or the modern alternative, baby carrots and fennel sticks).
  • If you want to do something more creative, consider an olive platter with different flavors: plain olives with very distinctive flavors, such as Cerignola and Kalamata; a hot and spicy mix; olives stuffed with anchovy, blue cheese, garlic, jalapeño, etc.
  • Nuts, including spiced nuts, like Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds; or a selection of different nuts.
  •  
    But forewarned is forearmed. You’ve slaved over that dinner, and the last thing you want to hear are guests groaning that they don’t have enough room for it.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Defrosting Frozen Berries

    frozen-triple-berry-wymans-230

    Don’t turn your nose up at frozen berries. They can be sweeter than imported, out-of-season berries. Photo courtesy Wyman’s.

     

    Some people turn up their noses at the thought of frozen berries. But they’re convenient year-round and in the off season, they’re economical and can be sweeter, too.

    Picked at the peak of ripeness and flash-frozen within hours of harvest, they are just as nutritious as fresh berries.

    Keep bags of fresh frozen berries in the freezer and pour out the amount you need. If you’re using the berries in baking or in a smoothie, there’s no need to defrost them. That especially goes for turning them into soft serve*.

    For other uses—garnishing, salads, sundaes, yogurt—you’ll want to defrost the berries first. You can make them taste the best with proper defrosting.

    Note that the defrosted berries will be more delicate than fresh berries. Handle them gently to keep their shape. Use thawed berries within two days.

     

    REFRIGERATOR DEFROSTING

    If you’re not in a hurry, defrost the berries in the fridge. Slow defrosting generally maintains a better flavor and texture for any food item.

    Place the berries in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If you plan to eat them whole or use as a garnish, thaw them for four to six hours so they are still partially frozen and firm. Otherwise, you can let then thaw overnight.

     
    COUNTERTOP DEFROSTING

    Place the berries in a bowl and cover with cold water. Check in five minutes. If the berries are still frozen, drain and add fresh cold water.

    Do not thaw berries in hot or warm water. The heat will cause the berries to release their juices and shrivel. It also provides an environment where harmful bacteria can grow.

     

    DEFROSTING BERRIES WITH A MICROWAVE

    The Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission recommends microwave defrosting. Microwaves vary as to cooking times and berries differ in densities, so do a few small test batches to get the perfectly defrosted berry.

  • Use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw berries.
  • Defrost in small batches, no more than a cup at a time.
  • Place berries atop a paper towel in a single layer, on a microwavable plate. Leave a good amount of space between the berries.
  • Set the time to 60 seconds for blackberries and large strawberries, 30 seconds for raspberries and small strawberries and 15 seconds for blueberries.
  • The microwaved berries should look lightly frosted—don’t overnuke or they’ll lose their shape.
  •  

    Frozen raspberries & blue berries

    Frozen berries. Photo courtesy Thinng.com.

  • Taste a berry. If it’s too frozen, microwave another 10 seconds. Alternatively, you can leave the berries on the counter to finish defrosting at room temperature.
  •  

    HOW TO FREEZE FRESH BERRIES

    When berries are in season, look for the best prices and freeze your own to enjoy when the fruit is out of season.

  • SPREAD the berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Freeze.
  • MOVE the frozen berries to a freezer bag or other airtight container.
  • DEFROST berries in a bowl, either in the fridge overnight or at room temperature.
  •  
    *You can use a food processor, but we get far better results from the Yonanas machine. It’s a great way to turn fruit into frozen dessert as you control the amount and type of sweetener.
      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN: Jackson Pollack Style & Other Chocolate Candy Apples

    You can make candy apples the traditional way or you can cook to the tune of a different drummer. In this recipe, adapted from Cooking Light, melted chocolate is dripped on the apple in a Jackson Pollack approach.

    Green Granny Smiths go well with the sweet white and bittersweet chocolates and provide a better backdrop for the squiggles than darker red apples, but use any apple you like.

    By drizzling the chocolate instead of enrobing the entire apple in a red sugar or caramel coating, these are “candy apples light.”

    You can add colors by tinting the white chocolate orange, and add more layers of tinted color—red and yellow, for example. Just load up on the white chocolate.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE-DRIZZLED CANDY APPLES

    Ingredients For 6 Candy Apples

  • 6 Granny Smith apples
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2-1/2 ounces premium white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Wooden sticks (from the craft store or online—or use forks!
  •    

    jackson-pollock-candied-apples-randymayor-cookinglight-230sq

    Drip the chocolate, Jackson Pollack style. Photo © Randy Mayor | Cooking Light.

     

    Preparation

    1. WASH and dry the apples; remove stems. Insert a wooden stick into the stem end of each apple.

    2. PLACE the bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring every 20 seconds until smooth. Working with 1 apple at a time, hold the apple over a bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle the apple with about 2 teaspoons bittersweet chocolate. Place the apple, stick side up, on a baking sheet covered with wax paper. Repeat the procedure with the remaining apples.

    3. PLACE the white chocolate in a glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring every 15 seconds until smooth. Working with 1 apple at a time, hold the apple over a bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle the apple with about 1-1/2 teaspoons white chocolate. Place the apple, stick side up, on a baking sheet covered with wax paper. Repeat procedure with remaining apples.

    4. CHILL the apples until ready to serve.

     

    AY1005HW015

    More ways to decorate apples with chocolate.
    Photo courtesy MyRecipes.com.

     

    MORE CANDY APPLE RECIPES

  • Traditional Candy Apple Recipe
  • Sugar-Free Candy Apple Recipe
  •  
    CANDY APPLES HISTORY

    The practice of coating fruit in sugar syrup dates back to ancient times. In addition to tasting good, honey and sugar were used as preserving agents to keep fruit from rotting.

    According to FoodTimeline.org, food historians generally agree that caramel apples (toffee apples) probably date to the late 19th century. Both toffee and caramel can be traced to the early decades of the 18th century. Inexpensive toffee and caramels became available by the end of the 19th century. Culinary evidence confirms soft, chewy caramel coatings from that time.

     

    Red cinnamon-accented candy apples came later. And, while long associated with Halloween, they were originally Christmas fare, not a Halloween confection.

    According to articles in the Newark Evening News in 1948 and 1964, the red candy apple was invented in 1908 by William W. Kolb, a local confectioner.

    Experimenting with red cinnamon candies for Christmas, he dipped apples into the mixture and the modern candy apple was born. The tasty treat was soon being sold at the Jersey Shore, the circus and then in candy shops nationwide.

      

    Comments

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