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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 Gourmet News

TIP OF THE DAY: Cucumber In Your Drinks

Today is National Dry Martini Day (some say it’s World Martini Day—perhaps the international celebration).

We’re having a very dry Martini—just a splash of vermouth—with Pinnacle’s cucumber vodka. If you like cucumber, this article explores other ways to enjoy it. But first:

  • A Cucumber Martini recipe (along with a Cucumber Mary
    recipe).
  • The history of the Martini and the original Martini recipe.
  • Pinnacle Vodka makes not only Cucumber Vodka* and Cucumber Watermelon Vodka, but 40+ other flavors from traditional (Berry, Cherry, Citrus, Mango, Pomegranate) to fanciful (Caramel Apple, Cinnabon, Rainbow Sherbet, Strawberry Shortcake, Whipped Cream). You can find all of the flavors at PinnacleVodka.com.
     
    *Cucumber vodka is also made by Crop, Effen, Prairie, Rain, Square One and other brands.

       

    pinnacle-cucumber-vodka-230

    Vodka infused with fresh cucumber flavor. Photo courtesy Pinnacle.

     
    CUCUMBER AS A DRINK GARNISH

    Cucumber & Cocktails

    Cucumber is mild enough to pair with both sweet and savory cocktails. If you traditionally use a lemon or lime wedge and people don’t squeeze the juice into their drinks (that’s the purpose of the wedge), try a a cucumber wheel on the rim. It provides a crunchy snack on the glass!

    Ideally, use a Kirby or other seedless cucumber.

     

    cucumber-parsley-garnish-230

    Cucumber drink garnish. If you have fresh herbs, add them as well.

     

    Cucumber, Soft Drinks & Juice

    A cucumber garnish also works well with club soda, lemon-lime sodas (Seven-Up, Sprite) and lemonade; not to mention vegetable juices and some fruit juices.

    By the same token, these beverages are good cocktail mixers with cucumber vodka.

     
    Cucumber & Water

    Hint sells an unsweetened cucumber water, but it’s easy to make your own.

    The addition of a slice of cucumber and an herb sprig turns a plain glass of water into a special drink. You can layer on flavors as you like: a slice of apple, lemon, lime, orange or a strawberry, for example.

    In fact, a great pitcher of water idea is to load up the pitcher with lots of berries; apple, citrus and cucumber slices—anything that suits your fancy: Kiwi? Mango? Melon? Peach? Pineapple? (NOTE: bananas didn’t work for us).

    Interspersed with ice cubes, the pieces of fruit turn the pitcher of water into a work of art.

    Here’s how to infuse water.

    Want some fizz? Look for Dry Sparkling’s Cucumber, a sophisticated, lightly sweetened carbonated drink.

    A Related Snack

    Cucumbers and watermelons are first cousins. Both are from the binomial order Cucurbitales and family Cucurbitaceae, differing only at the genus level: Cucumis for cucumber (the common cucumber genus/species is C. sativus) and Citrullus for watermelon (C. lanatus).

    That’s why you can eat the white portion of watermelon rind—it tastes just like cucumber—or turn it into pickled watermelon rind, a.k.a. watermelon pickles (here’s the recipe).

    And that’s why watermelon and cucumber skewers are a tasty snack with any cucumber-enhanced beverage.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Roll Your Own Sushi

    June 18th is International Sushi Day, and that gives us an idea for a Father’s Day gift (as well as for lunch).

    If Dad likes sushi, how about a set of sushi knives for Father’s Day…and a copy of Sushi: The Beginner’s Guide?

    Sushi chefs use different knives, and some are quite specialized:

  • Deba bocho, a kitchen cleaver specifically for fish
  • Maguro bocho, a very long knife to fillet tuna (a very large fish)
  • Nakiri bocho, a vegetable knife that looks like a cleaver
  • Sashimi bocho, a sashimi slicer
  • Unagisaki hocho, an eel knife
  •  
    There are also specialty knives for soba (soba kiri), udon (udon kiri), vegetables (nakiri bocho and usuba bocho) and perhaps the best-known to Westerners, the all-purpose Western-style knife, the santoku, used for fish, meat and vegetables (santoko means “three virtues”).

       

    good-cooking-sushi-knives-230

    Sushi knives. Photo courtesy Good Cooking.

     
    You can purchase individual knives, or this three-knife set from Good Cooking that includes nakiri, santoku and sashimi knives (photo at right).
     
    The knives are:

  • Razor sharp for perfect slicing
  • Professionally balanced
  • Rust- and stain-proof
  •  

    chirashi-deluxe-haru-230

    Chirashi sushi: fish and other ingredients atop a large bed of rice. Photo courtesy
    Haru Sushi.

     

    HOW TO START MAKING SUSHI AT HOME

    The easiest sushi to make at home is chirashi sushi. Simply arrange the sliced ingredients on top of a bed of sushi rice.

    The next step up the ladder to making sushi is to make rolls. The hardest is nigiri sushi, strips of fish on pads of rice. It takes a practice to form the pads of rice.

    If you want to roll your own, here are tips from Chef Steven Ferdinand, Executive Chef of Culinary Operations at Haru Sushi Tips for perfectly rolling your own sushi include:

  • Quality Ingredients are everything. Buy the freshest sushi grade fish available. This is essential for taste as well as for safety.
  • Sharp Knives are a must, but splurging isn’t necessary. While specialty sushi knives are great tools, they are not always necessary for cutting maki at home. A sharp knife kept barely wet will do the job just fine, allowing for a clean cut without crushing the roll.
  •  
    Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors! At Haru, trendy spins on classic dishes are created by working them into a roll. Examples from Haru’s menu:

  • The Oscar Roll, combining snow crab, asparagus, beef tataki and lemon dressing for a Surf and Turf inspired maki.
  • Strawberry Finn Roll, a sweet and spicy roll made with crunchy spicy yellowtail, jalapeños and mango, topped with scallops, wasabi tobiko and fresh strawberries.
  • Gramercy Park Roll, made with crunchy spicy albacore tuna and jalapeños; wrapped with tuna, yellowtail, and salmon; and topped with lemon, cilantro, tobiko and yuzu miso sauce.
  •  
    10 NON-TRADITIONAL INGREDIENTS TO COMBINE WITH RAW FISH

    Sushi means “vinegar rice,” not “raw fish.” So as long as you use sushi rice, you can combine any ingredients, cooked or raw. The classic salmon skin roll is grilled, for example.

    You can combine raw fish with cooked items like beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork or tofu. Consider adding:

  • Apple
  • Berry: blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry
  • Grapefruit or mandarin
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, mint, shiso (beefsteak plant)
  • Mango
  • Just about anything else
  •  
    Last night we went fusion. For a first course we created a melon, prosciutto and salmon roll. Not conventional, but delicious. And fun!

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Yes, the rumors are true! Pizza Hut has created the perfect combination for American taste buds: the Hot Dog Bites Pizza. You’ll be able to buy it beginning tomorrow, June 18th.

    Americans get a different version than the one unveiled in Canada and the U.K. There, a long, continuous hot dog wrapped in crust surrounded the entire pizza (photo).

    The hot dog was hidden in the crust, lessening the visual impact that America gets: a pizza perimeter of pigs in blankets.

    The American hot dog pizza features an edge crust of 28 individual hot dog bites. It may be the first pizza ever to be served with a side of French’s mustard (the other versions had a mustard drizzle).

    The company says it’s available “while supplies last,” for $11.99.

    If you don’t know the location of the nearest Pizza Hut, check the store locator on the company website.

    So: What’s for lunch tomorrow?

     

    Pizza-Hut-Hot-Dog-Pizza -230s

    How about some hot dogs with your pizza? Available for a limited time at Pizza Hut. Photo courtesy Pizza Hut.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Gin Milkshake

    Gin_Milkshake_carounn-230

    It’s not so innocent. Photo courtesy Butter & Scotch | Brooklyn.

     

    Saturday, June 13th is World Gin Day. Celebrate by making a gin milkshake: gin, vermouth and ice cream!

    If the concept sounds strange to you, think of all the sweet drinks made with heavy cream, from Brandy Alexander to Irish Coffee to White Russian. This recipe simply uses “frozen cream.”

    Not a gin lover? Substitute rum, tequila or vodka.
     
    RECIPE: GIN MILKSHAKE

    This recipe is by Allison Kave from Butter & Scotch in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. She calls it a Bloodhound Shake, and makes it with Carounn gin, a small-batch Scottish gin made with foraged Celtic botanicals.
     
    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1 scoop strawberry ice cream
  • Garnishes: whipped cream, strawberry slice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a blender and mix until blended.

    2. POUR into a parfait glass or a pint glass. Top with whipped cream and a slice of fresh strawberry.
     
    MORE ALCOHOL & ICE CREAM

    If you like the gin milkshake, check out these ice cream floats with liqueur.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Rice Noodle Salad with Lemongrass, Mint, Cilantro…& Tea!

    Today is National Iced Tea Day. Approximately 85% of the tea consumed in the U.S. is iced, and iced tea is now the most consumed beverage at lunch time (source: Tea Association of America).

    Tea is also used as a recipe ingredient, in dishes from Smoked Tea Duck to baked goods, soba noodles, smoothies and sorbet.

    Culinary expert Gail Simmons created the Thai-inspired recipe below with unsweetened Pure Leaf tea. She used Pure Leaf Unsweetened Iced Tea to cook and flavor both the rice noodles and the marinade.

    With added protein—sliced beef or chicken, scallops or shrimp, or tofu—it makes a delicious lunch or dinner entrée. And for the gluten-sensitive, rice noodles (and the entire recipe) are gluten-free.

    RECIPE: LEMONGRASS-SCENTED RICE NOODLE SALAD WITH MINT & CILANTRO

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 8 ounces vermicelli rice noodles
  • 4-1/4 cups, room temperature, divided
  • 4 cups water
  •    

    lemongrass-rice-noodle-salad-PureLeaf_Lipton-Pepsico-230

    Thai-inspired rice noodle salad. Photo courtesy Pure Leaf.

  • 1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and trimmed into two 2–3 inch pieces, one half of pieces bruised using the back of a knife, one half finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves plus 10 stems reserved
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, half sliced, half finely chopped
  • 2 small Thai* chiles (bird’s-eye chiles), stemmed, seeded and chopped or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, cut into matchsticks or shredded lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 6 radishes, cut into matchsticks or shredded on a mandoline
  • 1/4 cup mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, crushed
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp, shredded rotisserie chicken or other protein
  •  
    *Substitute 1 jalapeño chile for two Thai chiles.

     

    pure-leaf-unsweetened-230

    Pure Leaf unsweetened ice tea was used in this recipe. You can brew your own tea. Photo courtesy Pure Leaf.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the canola oil in a medium sauté pan until just before smoking. In a shallow bowl, toss shallots with flour, shaking off any excess. Fry the shallots in the oil, stirring gently until golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season immediately with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

    2. COMBINE in a large saucepan 4 cups of iced tea, water, bruised lemongrass, sliced ginger, 10 cilantro stems and the remaining teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook until just tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water until chilled. Shake out any excess water and spread noodles on a paper towel-lined tray.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Combine the reserved lemongrass, reserved ginger, chiles, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and remaining 1/4 cup Iced Tea in a blender or food processor; pulse until smooth.

    4. PLACE the noodles, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, mint, cilantro leaves and chicken/shrimp in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste and toss well. Garnish with fried shallots and crushed peanuts before serving.

     

    NOTE: Any remaining dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week and used on meat, fish and salads.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Pie Crust Cutters

    Surrounded by luscious spring and summer fruits, it’s hard not to want to bake a pie—or to learn how to bake one, if you’ve never dipped a toe in the oven.

    Two pie gadgets from Williams-Sonoma make even a novice seem like a sophisticated pie baker.

    LATTICE PIE CRUST CUTTER

    Like lattice crusts but lack the time or patience to make them?

    Williams-Sonoma offers this solution: a lattice pie crust cutter. It quickly and easily cuts a lattice-like crust from rolled-out dough.

    You simply place the lattice insert in the bottom of the gadget’s frame, then lay a sheet of rolled dough on top. To create the pattern, use a rolling pin to press the cutter into the dough. Lift off the insert and invert the latticed dough onto the pie.

    It’s not as dramatic as a hand-woven lattice, but it’s certainly more interesting than a solid top crust!

       

    lattice-pie-crutter-230sq-WS

    Press a lattice-style pie crust in 1-2-3. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Get yours at Williams-Sonoma.com, $19.95.

     

    american-flag-pie-cutter-WS-230

    A patriotic pie, indeed! Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.com.

     

    AMERICAN FLAG PIE CRUST CUTTER

    What we really love is this American flag pie crust cutter, also from Williams-Sonoma and also $19.95.

    While we try to avoid bringing single-use gadgets into our small kitchen, we made an exception for this one. Now, a patriotic pie will be our annual contribution to July 4th festivities.

    Get yours at Williams-Sonoma.com.

    Both inserts are designed for use with a 12″ diameter pastry crust.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Rocky Road Truffles

    Today is National Rocky Road Day. The original Rocky Road was an ice cream flavor invented in 1929 by William Dryer. He chose the name to describe the bumpy appearance of ice cream packed with chocolate, marshmallows and walnuts. Since the Great Depression began in October of that year, it was also a tongue-and-cheek reference.

    Pastry chef and cookbook author Emily Luchetti has taken Dryer’s original flavor profile and added her own twist, to make Rocky Road Truffles, developed for the California Walnut Board.

    Chocolate ganache surrounds walnuts and marshmallows, with a light dusting of cocoa powder. The truffles melt in your mouth.

    Make them for a family treat or for a special occasion like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day. The truffles can be made a week in advance. The better quality the chocolate, the tastier the truffles. (We used a Valrhona chocolate bar.)
     
    RECIPE: ROCKY ROAD TRUFFLES

    Ingredients For 30 One-Inch Truffles

     

    Here, the rocky road is welcome. Photo courtesy California Walnut Board.

  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup mini marshmallows cut in half (use scissors)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or chocolate bar chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WARM the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until hot and bubbling around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan lightly so the chocolate is covered by the cream. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth.

    2. WHISK occasionally until the mixture is at room temperature. Then stir in the marshmallows, walnuts and milk chocolate chips. Spread the chocolate cream in a 9-inch pan or pie plate. Refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour.

    3. PLACE a heaping teaspoon for each truffle in a single layer on a pan. Refrigerate until hard.

    4. PUT the cocoa powder on a plate or in a small bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. One at a time, place the chocolate balls in the cocoa powder. Dust your palms with cocoa powder and lightly roll the truffles between your palms until round. (The cocoa powder keeps them from sticking to your hands.) Finally, roll the round truffles in the the cocoa powder. (If at any point the chocolate gets too warm and the truffles become difficult to roll, refrigerate the chocolate for 30 minutes until it firms up.)

    5. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve. For gifting, you can wrap the truffles up in tissue paper and tie the bundle with a ribbon.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Cherry Ice Cubes

    cherry-ice-cubes-hdwallpapersdesktop-230sq

    Cherry ice cubes. Photo courtesy HD Desktop Wallpapers.

     

    Take advantage of cherry season to make cherry ice cubes.

    Freeze cherries in the cube compartment (with the stems for more dazzle). Then, add them to cocktails, mocktails, soft drinks, juice, sparkling or still water.

    When the cubes melt, the cherries are the final treat.

    MORE WAYS TO USE CHERRIES

  • Black Forest Cake with fresh cherries instead of maraschino (recipe)
  • Cherry gastrique sauce for fish or meat (recipe)
  • Cherry salsa for fish and chicken (recipe)
  • Fresh cherry ice cream (recipe) or sorbet (recipe)
  • Spiced cherries to top grilled fish, meat or poultry and desserts (recipe)
  • Add cherries to green salads and fruit salads
  •  

    Here’s more about cherries, including the different types of cherries.
     
    MAKE USING FRESH CHERRIES EASY

    Get yourself a cherry pitter.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP: Food In Flower Pots

    If you’re charmed by food served in tiny flowerpots, invest in a set and see how many different foods you can serve in them.

    BREAKFAST

  • Berries, grapes or other fruit
  • Biscuits/rolls (photo below plus this recipe and this one)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Yogurt container
  •  
    LUNCH & DINNER

  • Biscuits, bread sticks
  • Fries (photo)
  • Mixed olives, pepperoncini
  • “Relish tray”—carrot and celery sticks, gherkins, black or
    green olives, radishes
  • Sides
  •  
    SNACKS & DESSERTS

  • Candies, pretzels, snack mixes
  • Crudités and dip (photo above)
  • Cupcakes (photo and recipe)
  • Dirt pudding (photo and recipe)
  •    

    hummus-carrots-dandyfreshFB-230

    Hummus and baby carrots. Photo courtesy Dandy Fresh | Facebook..

     

    rolls-bbcggoodfood.com-230

    Who needs a bread basket? Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com.

     

    ALL YOU NEED

    1. Small terra cotta flowerpots like these. Your garden store may also have them in plastic “terra cotta.”

    2. A liner—napkin, parchment or wax paper to plug the hole.

    3. The food to put in it.
     
    HAVE A CONTEST

    Why not have a contest to see how many flowerpot food ideas your friends and family can generate? We’d be delighted to publish your winners.

     

      

    Comments

    RESTAURANT: Texas De Brazil

    Last week we went to two churrascarias, also known as Brazilian steakhouses. They were both good, but one was better: Texas de Brazil.

    Churrascarias in the U.S. often have numerous locations across the country. If you want to score a table for Father’s Day, reserve now! For Mother’s Day, every seat of the large spaces at both restaurants we visited was sold out.

    A churrascaria (Portuguese, pronunced choo-rah-SCAH-ree-ya with rolled “r’s”) is a type of restaurant where meat is cooked churrasco style, on a rotisserie called a churrasqueira.

    In most parts of Brazil, the meat is roasted over charcoal; in the south of Brazil, wood is also used.

    Modern churrascarias typically offer rodízio service. Passadores, meat waiters, come to the table with meat on a large skewer—beef, chicken (some wrapped in bacon), duck, filet mignon, lamb, flank steak, sirloin, pork, chicken, duck, sausage, fish, or any other sort of local cut of meat.

       

    bacon-wrapped-filet-230

    Bacon-wrapped filet mignon. Photo courtesy Texas de Brasil.

     
    Some have even more options: We enjoyed delicious grilled octopus at one location.

    The passadores slice whatever you like. If you want your meat more rare or more well-done, just ask. If you don’t like the sprinkling of salt on the meat, ask for it without salt.

    If the opportunity to eat and endless amount of great meat (yes, it’s all you can eat) is your idea of paradise, plan a visit. But there’s more:

     

    lamb-chops-2-230r-s

    Succulent lamb chops. How many would you like? Photo courtesy Texas de Brasil.

     

    Start at the salad bar with 50 or more items: shrimp, smoked salmon and sushi; grilled vegetables; salads of every description (tabbouleh, quinoa, whatever); cheeses; soups; and so much more that you have to watch how much you take or you won’t have room for the meat.

    TIP: Start with a small plate, and don’t take any bread. If you have the slightest bit of hunger after you’ve finished the meat course, you can go back for as much salad bar as you like.

    Sure, there are build-your-own green salad fixings; but you can have that at home.

    If you don’t want meat, you can indulge in the salad bar only, at a lower price.

    The price at Texas de Brazil: $59.95 for the whole shebang; $39.95 for those who just want the salad bar (prices may vary by location). It’s just a few dollars for children 12 and under.

     
    Beverages and desserts are extra; but if you still have room for dessert, you haven’t done justice to the salad bar and meats.

    We now admit that we really enjoyed the chocolate ganache cake—but it was in the name of research.

    Check the website for the location nearest you.

      

    Comments

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