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TIP OF THE DAY: Bitters In Your Coffee

Many “cocktail households” have a bottle of Angostura bitters, to splash into a Manhattan or other recipe.

In fact, you can add bitters to still or sparkling water, regular or diet soda, hot or iced tea and coffee.

If you follow food and beverage trends, you’ve no doubt seen the Renaissance in artisan bitters. In America, bitters had traditionally meant the ginger-tasting Angostura* bitters (it’s actually made with gentian root, a different botanical family) and the sweeter and more aromatic Peychaud’s Bitters (also gentian) used in the Sazerac cocktail of New Orleans.

In recent years, flavors of bitters have been introduced by specialty foods companies, ranging from Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters, Hella Bitters Smoked Chili Cocktail Bitters, Stirrings Blood Orange Cocktail Bitters and dozens more flavors producers. So…

THE HISTORY OF BITTERS

Bitters, which date back to ancient Egypt, are liquids consisting of water, alcohol and botanical extracts.These botanicals—aromatic herbs, barks, flowers, fruits and roots—were known for their medicinal properties.

Popular botanicals included cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel, and cinchona bark.

The word bitters derives from Old English biter, which evolved thousands of years earlier from the Gothic baitrs, “to bite,” describing the taste of numerous botanicals.

The Middle Ages saw an increase in the development of medicines that combined botanicals with alcohol to create tonics, often used to aid digestion (hence the term, digestive bitters, as opposed to the modern “cocktail bitters”). Available “over the counter,” they came to be used as preventive medicines.

By the turn of the 19th century, the British practice of adding herbal bitters to wine had become very popular in the U.S. as well.

What happened next? By 1806, there are American references to a new preparation, the cocktail, described as a combination of “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”

At the end of the 20th century, with the evolution of modern mixology, creative bartenders began to create bitters from new ingredients, to add different flavors to their drinks.

Artisan producers sprang up, and now a great gift for any home mixologist is a set of flavored bitters.

 

WHAT ABOUT BITTERS IN COFFEE?

It is well known that the people of New Orleans (the actual name is New Orleanians) add chicory to create a bitter flavor in their coffee. Why not try some bitters?

A drop of bitters perks up the brew whether you drink your coffee black or with milk and/or sugar. Try it and see!

Start with just a few drops (we began with one drop). You can add more to taste. Here’s a recipe for iced coffee with bitters from Hella, using its standard aromatic bitters.

Yes, start with the traditional before moving on to Aztec Chocolate or Smoked Chili bitters. Consider topping an iced coffee with bitters whipped cream!
 
RECIPE: ICED COFFEE WITH BITTERS

Ingredients Per Cup

  • 8 ounces chilled coffee
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 4 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, bitters whipped cream
  •  

    Old Bottle Of Bitters

    Bitters

    Thai Iced Coffee

    Top: An old bottle of German bitters (photo Axarus | Wikipedia). Center: The classic, Angostura bitters (photo Restaurant Manifesto). Bottom: An iced coffee with Hella bitters.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a glass. Stir gently, taste, and adjust the sugar or bitters to your taste.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    MORE USES FOR BITTERS

    Check out this article from BonAppetit.com, which includes everything from baking and fruit salad, ice cream, floats and whipped cream.

     
    ___________
    *Despite its name, Angostura brand bitters are not made from the bark of the angostura tree but from the gentian a root. The name comes from the town of Angostura, Venezuela (known today as Ciudad Bolívar). There, in 1824, a German physician, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert compounded a cure for sea sickness and stomach maladies. It worked, and Dr. Siegert subsequently formed the House of Angostura to sell his bitters to sailors.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Garlic Bread, Old School & New School

    American-style garlic bread is a descendant of Italian bruschetta and crostini. The first recipe we found was published in 1940 in Edith Barber’s Cook Book, written by the editor of the New York Sun food column. [Source]

    The Americanized version used a baguette or narrow loaf of Italian bread, substituted butter for oil, mixed with garlic powder/salt instead of rubbed with cut fresh garlic cloves, and topped with dried oregano. It might also include grated Parmesan or other cheese.

    The loaf is sliced vertically or horizontally, topped with the butter spread and heated in a hot oven (400°F). Often, the loaf was sliced vertically and buttered between the slices before heating. Our Mom first lightly toasted the bread slices crostini-style, though she didn’t hear the word “crostini” for decades.

    THE HISTORY OF GARLIC BREAD

    American garlic bread began life as bruschetta, a peasant food. Some sources say in was made in ancient times, others cite medieval times as the origin. It was common for Italian peasants, who lacked costly ceramics plates, to eat their meals on slices of grilled bread. Charred, bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, was grilled over the fire.

    In medieval cuisine, “sops” were common across Europe: stale bread soaked in broth, soup or wine and topped with other foods.

       

    Garlic Bread Recipe

    Classic American garlic bread. Photo courtesy La Panineria | Facebook.

     

    Over time, the recipe was refined into an antipasto (appetizer), on more easily handled small toasts. It became a popular bread basket freebie in Italian-American restaurants. By the 1990s, visitors to trendy restaurants were paying for bruschetta (grilled from a thinner loaf) or crostini (toasted from a wider loaf), with different toppings and the original olive oil and minced fresh garlic.

    These days, garlic bread is old school, and bruschetta and crostini are the rage. Here’s the old-school recipe, followed by an example of the new school.
     
    RECIPE #1: CLASSIC GARLIC BREAD (OLD SCHOOL)

    This recipe first slices the entire loaf in half, horizontally.

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 baguette (1 pound), halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat)-leaf parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE butter and garlic in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the top of the slices and sprinkle with parsley (you can also blend the parsley into the butter).

    2. PLACE on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for 8 minutes. Broil for an additional 2 minutes or until golden brown, 4-6 inches. from the heat.

    3. CUT into 2-inch slices. Serve warm.

     

    Spring Pea Crostini

    Spring Peas

    Top: Creative crostini. Bottom: Fresh green peas. Recipe and photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

     

    RECIPE #2: GARLIC CROSTINI WITH SPRING PEAS & BURRATA (NEW SCHOOL)

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 thick slices of country bread or sourdough
  • 1 eight-ounce burrata
  • ½ pound English Peas, shelled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 12-14 castelvetrano olives, pitted and roughly chopped (substitute other green olives)
  • ¼ cup parsley or mint, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. DRAIN the whey from the burrata in a colander lined with a paper towel. Don’t pierce the skin of the burrata.

    2. TOAST the bread until golden brown—even with a bit of char around the edges. Rub the tops with the cut side of the garlic and drizzle with olive oil.

    3. USE clean hands (instead of slicing) to carefully divide the burrata among the three pieces of toast, including all the creamy drippings. Divide the peas, olives and herbs among the slices.

    4. FINISH with a hearty drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cut in half or allow each dinner to do so.
     
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF BREAD

    Check them out in our Bread Glossary.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Creamed Spinach Without The Cream

    March 26th is National Spinach Day, honoring the most iron-rich vegetable, the reason Popeye was strong to the finish. Many people name Creamed Spinach as their favorite way to enjoy the vegetable—along with a juicy steak. It’s a steakhouse staple.

    To help tone down the richness a bit, some steakhouses are making their Creamed Spinach without cream. Chicken stock, flour and butter are substituted for the heavy cream or cream cheese.

    Executive Chef Eddie Advilyi from Angus Club Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan is one of the steakhouse chefs turning out Creamless Creamed Spinach (we’ve also had the dish at Benjamin Steakhouse). Chef Eddie shares his recipe with us:

    RECIPE: CREAMLESS CREAMED SPINACH

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base*
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (substitute black pepper)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup of melted butter
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Chicken base is a highly concentrated stock available in powder or cube form.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL or steam the chopped spinach and drain well.

    2. ADD the other ingredients. Mix until it becomes creamy, about 5 minutes.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY SPINACH

  • Pxali, Georgian spinach dip with walnuts
  • Savory Spinach Bread Pudding
  • Spanakopita, Greek spinach pie
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip
  • Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
  •  

    Creamless Creamed Spinach

    Ribeye, Creamed Spinach

    Fresh Spinach

    Top: Creamless Creamed Spinach at Benjamin Steakhouse. Center: Ribeye steak with Creamless Creamed Spinach at Angus Club Steakhouse. Bottom: Fresh spinach from Good Eggs.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), is native to central and western Asia (think ancient Persia). It is a member of the botanical family Amaranthaceae, which also includes amaranth, beet, chard, lamb’s quarters (mache) and quinoa, plus numerous flowering house and garden plants.

    At some point, spinach was introduced to India and subsequently to Nepal. It arrived in China around 647 C.E., where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”

    It became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean, and in 827 was brought to Italy by the Saracens. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century, and in Germany by the 13th century.

    Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century and quickly became popular because it could be harvested in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce.

    Spinach was supposedly the favorite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henry II of France. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” after her birthplace, Florence. Florentine dishes are sometimes served with Mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce with cheese (usually Gruyère and Parmesan).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Hot Cross Buns

    Hot Cross Buns

    Hot Cross Buns

    Top: What a treat: Warm hot cross buns (photo King Arthur Flour). Bottom: You can substitute dried cherries or cranberries for the raisins (photo Ocean Spray).

     

    Tomorrow is Good Friday, a traditional time for Hot Cross Buns. You can mix up the dough today, divide it into muffin pans, mix up the frosting…and have everything ready when you wake up tomorrow.

    In just 20 minutes, Hot Cross Buns will emerge from the oven: fragrant with spices, sweet with dried fruit.

    And you don’t need to save these delicious breakfast buns for Easter. Thanks to King Arthur Flour for the recipe.

    The history of hot cross buns is below.

    RECIPE: HOT CROSS BUNS

    Prep time is 25-35 minutes, rise time is 1 hour, bake time is 20 minutes. You can prepare the dough in advance and refrigerate it overnight. See footnote*.

    Ingredients For 12 To 14 Buns

    For The Buns

  • 1/4 cup apple juice or rum
  • 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried currants
  • 1-1/4 cups milk, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, 1 separated
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • For The Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg white, reserved from above
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  •  
    For The Icing

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing
  •  
    ___________________________________
     
    *You can refrigerate the completed dough for the first rise (first proof), from a few hours to a few days. For loaves of bread, refrigerate unshaped dough; then shape it after removing it from the fridge. Refrigerate the dough immediately after mixing, not after a rise. After removing from the fridge, let it rise a second time on the counter. This can take one hour or several, depending on the yeast. Refrigeration actually yields tastier results because the yeast has more time to do its work. Allow the dough to warm up a little before baking.

    You can shape loaves before refrigeration, but it may produce an uneven rise because the center of a large loaf will warm much more slowly after removal from the fridge. However, buns are small enough to avoid this problem, so feel free to shape before you refrigerate. [Source]

     

    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY GREASE a 10″ square pan or 9″ x 13″ pan.

    2. MIX the rum or apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave briefly, just until the fruit and liquid are very warm and the plastic starts to “shrink wrap” itself over the top of the bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature. When the fruit is cool…

    3. MIX together all of the dough ingredients except the fruit. Knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, until the dough is soft and elastic. Mix in the fruit and any liquid. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

    4. DIVIDE the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces. That’s about 3-3/4 ounces each—about 1/3 cup, a heaped muffin scoop. Use greased hands to round the dough into balls and place them in the prepared pan.

     

    Good Friday Buns

    Originally, the cross atop Hot Cross Buns was a simple knife cut. The icing came later. Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com. Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com.

     
    5. COVER the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they’ve puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

    6. WHISK together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns. Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

    7. MIX together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe a cross shape atop each bun.
     

    THE HISTORY OF HOT CROSS BUNS

    The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733. A sweet yeast bun filled with raisins or currants, the cross on top was originally made with knife cuts. Over time, icing was piped over the cuts.

    The cross symbolizes the crucifixion, and the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday.

    They are believed to predate Christianity: Similar buns were eaten by Saxons to honor Eostre, the goddess of spring. In their ancient pagan culture, the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon.

    “Eostre” is believed to be the origin of Easter. Many pagan holidays were ported into Christianity in its early days, to encourage pagans to convert to the new faith.

    You don’t have to wait for Good Friday to enjoy hot cross buns. They’re too delicious to save for one day of the year. You can variety the recipe with dried cherries or cranberries instead of raisins.

      

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    RECIPE: Tricolor Jello Fingers For St. Pat’s, July 4th, Halloween, Christmas & More

    Green Jello Squares

    Jell-O Treats

    Tricolor Jello Mold

    Top: St. Patrick’s Day themed Jell-O from TheModernRoost.com used food color to create the darkest green layer. Center: The recipe for this Halloween Jell-O from SomethingNewForDinner.com. Bottom: Christmas Jell-O from Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    You’re never to old to enjoy a fancy Jell-O dish. Call it retro, call it Jell-O art; just call it to the table.

    Multi-layer jello finger food (no fork or spoon required), called finger Jell-O, ribbon Jell-O or Jell-O squares, is the type of food fun that the family can look forward to with each holiday. Simply match the colors to the occasion.

    You can make as many layers, and as many colors, as you like. The Pioneer Woman makes an even snazzier version. So does the Brown-Eyed Baker.

    You can slice this into what is known as “finger Jello,” because you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers. Extra gelatin is added to the Jell-O to create a firm texture.

    You can make it in any colors; for example:

  • Green and white for St. Patrick’s Day (one layer of Lime Jell-O, one layer of Melon Jell-O)
  • Red white and blue for Memorial Day and Independence Day
  • Blue and white for Chanukah
  • Orange and Peach or Black Cherry for Halloween
  • Black Cherry red and Raspberry red for Valentine’s Day
  • Team colors for the Super Bowl (use food color to tint as needed)
  •  
    Check out the different flavors and colors of Jell-O.
     
    You can make a diet version with sugar-free Jell-O, and swap the sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk that you sweeten with a non-caloric sweetener.

    RECIPE: JELL-O SQUARES

    In this recipe, adapted from Taste Of Home, the Jell-O is firmed into “finger Jell-O” or “Jell-O squares” with the addition of extra gelatin. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus 90 minutes chilling/firming time.

    Make the recipe on a day when you can let each mixture come to room temperature at its own pace, and firm up each layer in the fridge for more than 30 minutes. Don’t skimp on the cooling and firming times, or you won’t be pleased with the results.
     
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1 box (6 ounces) Lime Jell-O
  • 1 box (6 ounces) Melon Fusion Jell-O
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • Boiling water, cold water
  • Preparation

    1. SPRAY a 9×13-inch baking pan (ideally Pyrex) with nonstick spray.

    2. MAKE the bottom layer: In a medium bowl, mix the green Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    3. MAKE the center layer: In a clean bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup boiling water. In a separate small bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin over ½ cup cold water. Let the gelatin stand for 4 minutes and then add ½ cup boiling water to dissolve it. Add to the condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature and pour over the bottom layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    5. MAKE the top layer. In a medium bowl, mix the red Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour over the middle layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    6. SLICE into individual pieces, plate and serve.

     

     
    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O

    Gelatin (spelled gelatine in the U.K.) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin. It was very difficult to prepare, relying only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. But the concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an American inventor named Peter Cooper. Cooper patented a dessert product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off.

    In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, New York (Genesee County), experimented with gelatin and developed a fruit flavored dessert which his wife May named Jell-O. The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

    Wait tried to market his product but lacked the capital and experience. In 1899 he sold his formula to a townsman and manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Orator Frank Woodward, for $450. The Jell-O itself was manufactured by Andrew Samuel Nico of Lyons, New York.

    Alas, sales were slow and one day, Wait sold Sam Nico the business for $35. In 1900, the Genesee Pure Food Company promoted Jell-O in a successful advertising campaign, and by 1902 sales were $250,000. In 1923 the owners created the Jell-O Company, Inc., which replaced the Genesee Pure Foods Company. The purpose was to protect the Jell-O trade name and to keep it from becoming a generic term.

    That same year, the Jell-O Company was sold to the Postum Cereal Company, the first subsidiary of a large merger that would eventually become General Foods Corporation. Lime Jell-O was introduced in 1930.

     

    Old Strawberry Jello Box

    Strawberry Jello Box

    Top: A box of strawberry Jell-O from the 1890s, courtesy eBaumsWorld.com. Bottom: Strawberry Jell-O today. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.

     

    Today Jell-O is manufactured by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, which acquired both Kraft and General Foods in the 1980s and ultimately merged the two companies. There’s a Jell-O Gallery Museum in Le Roy, New York.

      

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