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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

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: The Flying Meatballs

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Six large meatballs are tucked under a
blanket of smooth tomato sauce. Photo by
Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

 

There is a National Meatball Day: It’s coming up soon, on March 9th. And we know just how we’re going to celebrate: with lots and lots of The Flying Meatballs.

The Flying Meatballs is a side business established by an elegant restaurant in Whippany, New Jersey, Il Capriccio. The restaurant’s meatballs have been a perennial menu favorite, with patrons always asking for orders to go.

The Grande family, owners of the restaurant, decided that the meatballs were ideal for selling directly to consumers—that they would literally “fly off the shelves.” Hence the brand name.

Made in small batches, the meatballs are now sold direct-to-consumers at TheFlyingMeatballs.com). They’ll also be at a growing list of deli counters, currently at Balducci’s and King’s (listen up, Fairway!).

Six meatballs, blanketed in sauce, include a choice of:

  • The Classic Meatballs, a 50:50 blend of beef and veal, $16.00
  • 100% Premium Beef Meatballs, $15.00
  • Organic Grass-Fed Meatballs, $25.00
  • The Three Meats Meatballs—beef, pork and veal—$15.00
  • 100% Premium Turkey Meatballs, $15.00
  •  
    The company sent us a sample of each, and we’re now a raving fan. Each order of meatballs is packed by the half-dozen in a velvety tomato sauce. The meatballs are bit: about 3.5 ounces in weight and about three inches in diameter. Two meatballs is more than enough for adults; small eaters and children will do well with one meatball. A big eater, we consumed them without the conventional pasta or submarine roll, with just a big salad. We were more than satisfied.

    Everything is made from scratch, including the breadcrumbs. Just as at the restaurant, prime, natural cuts of meat and premium ingredients are combined into a dense yet tender texture. You get lots of great meat for the money.

    Chef Grande has a degree in engineering, which enabled him to design and build a proprietary meatball extruder. The technology creates a replicate a perfectly hand-rolled meatball, just like his grandmother makes.

    The meatballs are flash frozen after being made and keep their flavor and consistency until thawed and cooked.

    “We’re bringing the comforts of Nonna’s kitchen to customers’ doorsteps,” says chef Natale Grande. The recipe, handed down through generations, rocks. We must give a shout out to the wonderful sauce. A velvety purée, more a gravy than a conventional chunky sauce, it is so good we would like to buy buckets of it and put it on everything.

     

    DELICIOUS ACCOMPANIMENTS

    Pasta

    The company also sells premium imported pastas from Rustichella d’Abruzzo:

  • The curly al torchio (the torchio is the press that shapes them)
  • Bucatini, thick spaghetti with a hollow center
  • Casarecce, meaning “homestyle,” two-inch twists
  • Farro (spelt) penne rigate, short tubes with ridges
  • Fusilli, “little spindles,” a variation of corkscrew pasta
  • Spaghetti, the oldest cut (the name means “lengths of cords”)
  • Organic whole wheat spaghetti
  • Organic kamut pasta from pasta maker Gianluigi Peduzzi
  •  
    Grating Cheeses

    For a primo pasta experience, there’s a choice of six aged Italian cheeses:

     

    flying-meatballs-plated-230L

    Bundles of love. Photo courtesy The Flying Meatballs.

  • Vacche Rosse (“Red Cow”), 30 months aged), considered to be the finest Parmigiaino-Reggiano
  • Grana padano
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Percorino crotonese
  • Pecorino romano
  • Ricotta salata
  •  
    You can see that it’s not all about Parmigiano-Reggiano. The next time you make pasta, consider one of the others. Check out our article, Italian Grating Cheeses.
     
    Pasta Sauces

    The same is true with the sauce. Much as a tomato sauce is beloved on pasta, consider other favorites from the Grande family, including:

  • Basil pesto
  • Classic tomato ragu (the signature San Marzano-based tomatoes sauce that envelopes the meatballs
  • Roasted garlic and broccoli rabe purée
  • Mascarpone fondu, a smooth and very creamy cheese sauce made from blend of mascarpone cheese and 18-month-aged Grana Padano cheese
  •  
    Along with some fine olive oils and a mac and cheese (a blend of Gruyère, provolone and marscopone with a touch of nutmeg over imported gemelli pasta—we can’t wait to try it), TheFlyingMeatballs.com is a treasure trove for delicious Italian comfort food.

    For a treat or a gift (the packaging is quite attractive), order a slew of meatballs. All are delicious, although our personal favorite was the complex layering of Three Meats.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Valentine Toast

    Get out your heart-shaped cookie cutter and think about your menu for tomorrow.

    You can start Valentine’s Day with with heart-shaped toast and red fruit jam.

    Then, make extra toast hearts:

  • For lunch with soup, spread with herb butter
  • For lunch or dinner as croutons with a salad, spread with goat cheese
  • For cocktails (make it Champagne!), spread with sour cream or crème fraîche and topped with salmon caviar
  • For dinner as garlic toasts, spread with garlic butter; or plain with a cheese course
  •  
    WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVER TOAST TRIMMINGS

    Cut them into a small dice and store in an airtight container. The next day, use them:

  • As salad croutons
  • As omelet filling
  • As soup garnish
  • In a hash or skillet stuffing
  • Mixed into custard or pudding—a kind of reverse bread pudding
  •  

    valentine-toast-nar-gourmetFB-230

    Love toast for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy Nar Gourmet.

     
    You can first pop the croutons into a hot skillet with a bit of butter or oil to crisp them.

    Other ideas? Let us know!

      

    Comments

    EVENT: Kids’ Food Festival

    Get ready for the 2015 Kids Food Festival on February 28th and March 1st from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Held in the America Winter Village at Bryant Park (behind the New York Public Library, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue and 40th and 42nd Streets).

    Presented by The Creative Kitchen, this is a fun-filled, flavorful weekend of family activities that showcase how delicious and easy it is to make better-for-you foods.

    A celebration that educates families about making balanced food choices, it’s a great opportunity for adults to help create wholesome, lifelong eating habits for kids and adult family members alike.

    With a fantastic line up of chefs, performers, and exhibitors, free general admission includes:

  • The Main Stage, featuring music and dancing, live
    entertainment and cooking demonstrations
  • The Balanced Plate Scavenger Hunt
  • Fun activities and kitchen crafts for the whole family
  • Samplings of delicious foods
  • Giveaways and more
  •  

    kids-food-festival-2015-230

    Appetites of all ages will be satisfied, February 28th and March 1st.

     
    Tickets for hands-on cooking classes hosted by the James Beard Foundation at the Future Foodies Pavilion can be purchased separately here. The $25 per class includes admission for one child and one adult companion.
     
    The Kids Food Festival helps in the fight against childhood obesity. It’s a painless way to learn about the importance of achieving balance in food choices, through fun activities and sampling family-friendly foods.

    When kids are immersed in enjoyable activities, they absorb information more effectively. The Kids Food Festival embodies this philosophy of learning through fun events.

    Families will cook, dance, laugh and taste their way to making balanced food choices! Get your forks ready for a weekend full of flavorful fun!

    Discover more at KidsFoodFestival.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Homemade Peppermint Patties

    February 11th is National Peppermint Patty Day. Whip up a batch today, and make extras to hand out on Valentine’s Day. (For Valentine patties, top with heart-shaped sprinkles or Conversation Hearts.)

    IS IT PATTY OR PATTIE?

    Whether it’s candy, meat or veggies, to be perfectly correct, the spelling is patty. Patties is the plural form, so many folks assumed the singular to be pattie.

    The word first appeared in English around 1700-1710, derived from the French pâté (paste in English), a mix of finely-ground ingredients. Pasta is the Italian word for paste; and in modern French cuisine, pâté refers to a meat loaf as well as the more finely ground goose or duck liver pâté.

    Perhaps America’s most famous patty is the [incorrectly spelled] York Peppermint Pattie. According to a company history in Wikipedia, the York Peppermint Pattie was first produced by Henry C. Kessler, owner of the York Cone Company, in 1940. The company was named for its location: York, Pennsylvania. (Today the company is owned by Hershey and the production is in Monterey, Mexico.)

       

    peppermint-patties-safeeggs-230

    Homemade peppermint patties. Photo courtesy SafeEggs.com.

     
    Sure, you could run out and get a York Peppermint Pattie. Or, you could spend 40 minutes of prep time making your own (plus 9 hours of drying time).

    Because the recipe uses uncooked egg whites, you may wish to consider Safest Choice pasteurized egg whites.

    And if you’re not in a candy mood, how about a Peppermint Patty Martini?

     

    deBrand-230

    Semisweet (50% cacao or more) or bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao or more) are a better counterpoint to the lively mint than milk chocolate. Photo courtesy Debrand.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE PEPPERMINT PATTIES

    Ingredients For 30 Pieces

  • 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus extra as needed
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon water, plus extra as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 4 four-ounce dark chocolate bars, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut a separate 2-inch square of parchment paper. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE the powdered sugar, egg whites, water and peppermint extract in stand mixer on low speed until smooth. Increase the speed gradually to high, to form a stiff, smooth dough, adding ½ teaspoon of water at a time if mixture becomes too stiff.

    3. DUST a clean surface with powdered sugar and roll the dough into a log, approximately 12-inches long and 1-1/4-inches in diameter. Slice the log into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces, rolling the pieces into balls as you go. Arrange them on lined baking sheets, about an inch apart.

     
    4. PLACE the square of parchment paper on top of each dough ball and flatten it into a a disk, using the bottom of shot glass. Repeat. Let the candies dry, uncovered, at room temperature for at least six hours. After the patties have dried…

    5. COMBINE the chocolate and vegetable oil in a small bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly. Dip each candy into the melted chocolate, coating both sides.

    6. RETURN the candies to the parchment paper until the chocolate has set, about 3 hours. To set faster, place the candies in the refrigerator.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherry Jell-O Shots For Valentine’s Day

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    Shot glasses are elegant, but for a crowd, you need plastic Jell-O shot cups. Photo courtesy GreatPartyRecipes.com.

     

    No Valentine’s Day plans yet? Invite friends over for cherry Jell-O shots made from cherry vodka or liqueur. If you prefer, you can make raspberry or strawberry shots instead, or an assortment of flavors.

    You can substitute cherry brandy or liqueur (Cherry Heering, DeKuyper Cherry Brandy, Grand Marnier Natural Cherry, Southern Comfort Cherry, etc.) for the cherry vodka.

    RECIPE: CHERRY JELL-O SHOTS

    Ingredients

  • 1 large box (6 ounces) cherry Jell-O
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups cherry-flavored vodka: Grey Goose, Pinnacle, Skyy, Smirnoff, Three Olives, UV or other
  •  

    Preparation

    1. POUR boiling water over the Jell-O and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Cool to room temperature, then stir in the vodka.

    2. POUR the mixture into shot glasses or Jell-O shot cups. Refrigerate until well-set, at least 6 hours. Makes 32 1-ounce jello shots, give or take.

     

    Check out these heart-shaped Jell-O shots.

     

    TIPS FOR MAKING JELL-O SHOTS

    Thanks to GreatPartyRecipes.com for these tips:
     
    Preparation

  • Never cook the alcohol or pour it into boiling water.
  • Allow more time than usual for the Jell-O to set, because of the alcohol.
  • Less is more; too much alcohol makes the shot unpalatable. A good rule of thumb: Use alcohol equal to half the water called for (i.e., all of the cold water).
  • If you come across a Jell-O shot recipe that doesn’t specify the size of the package of Jell-O, here’s the scoop: If the recipe calls for a total of 2 cups of liquid, it uses a small (3-ounce) box of Jell-O. If the recipe calls for a total of 4 cups of liquid, it requires a large (6-ounce) box if Jell-O.
  •  

    jell-o-shots-plastic-cups-polariceAMZ-230

    For a crowd, load up on plastic Jell-O shot cups with lids. Photo courtesy Polar Ice.

     
    Serving

  • Plastic Jell-O shot cups with lids is the best way to store and serving Jell-O shooters. The lids make for easy stacking in the fridge.
  • Bring the containers to the serving table on ice in a punch bowl.
  •  
    Eating

  • To eat: Run a paring knife of a stirring stick around the edge of the shooter to loosen it. (You can do this before serving the cups.)
  • Slurp the shot down like an oyster on the half-shell.
  • “Please eat responsibly.”
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Chocolate Pills

    chocolate-pills-fika-230

    A cure for some: chocolate pills. Photo courtesy Fika.

     

    If you have a friend suffering from heartache, how about chocolate pills for a Valentine’s Day cure?

    These pills are roasted and caramelized hazelnuts and almonds, enrobed in 70% dark chocolate.

    The prescription for instant happiness: 3-5 chocolate covered nuts daily.

    A bottle of Chocolate Pills is $8.00 at FikaNYC.com.

    Adapting the coffee-centric lifestyle of Sweden, Fika is a coffee house and confectionery with several locations in Manhattan. Chocolates are hand-made in house and are sold online.

     

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Molasses Bar Day

    It’s National Molasses Bar Day, so consider whipping up a batch of chewy molasses bar cookies.

    This recipe, from Grandma’s Molasses, ups the chewiness and nutrition by adding nuts and dried dates. Walnuts are popular, and pistachios and dates are a classic Middle East combination; but you can use any nut you favor.

    For a special dessert tonight, top a bar with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    RECIPE: DATE NUT MOLASSES BARS

    Ingredients For 32 Bars

  • 1 cup enriched flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup nuts, chopped
  • 1 package/7 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped
  •    

    molasses-date-bars-grandmasmolasses-230

    Date, nut and molasses bars. Photo courtesy Grandma’s Molasses.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. SIFT together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

    3. COMBINE the egg, sugar, molasses, shortening and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, nuts and dates.

    4. LINE a 9 x 9 x 2-inch pan with wax paper, greased and lightly floured. Pour in the batter and bake 40 minutes or until done.

    5. TURN out onto cooling rack; remove the wax paper. When cool, cut into 32 bars. Store in an airtight container.

     

    michigansugar.com

    Dark molasses. Photo courtesy Michigan Sugar Co.

     

    WHAT IS MOLASSES?

    Molasses is thick syrup produced as a by-product during the refining of sugar cane. Molasses is the residue that is left after the sugar crystals are extracted (i.e., molasses is produced when no more sugar may be economically crystallized by conventional means).

    Molasses is predominantly sucrose, with some glucose and fructose. It is 65% as sweet as sugar. The better grades of molasses, such as New Orleans drip molasses and Barbados molasses, are unreprocessed and contain more sucrose, making them lighter in color. They are used in cooking and confectionery and in the production of rum.

  • Light molasses comes from the first boiling of the cane. It is also called sweet molasses and is used as pancake syrup or a sweetener.
  • Dark molasses comes from the second boiling. It is more flavorful and less sweet than light molasses, and often used for gingerbread and spice cookies.
  • Treacle is the British term for dark molasses; light molasses is called golden syrup.
  • Blackstrap molasses, the lowest grade, comes from the third boiling; it is strong and bitter, and mainly used in mixed cattle feed and in the manufacture of industrial alcohol.
  • Sulfured molasses has had sulfur dioxide added as a preservative (or, the sulfur in the manufacturing process is retained in the molasses).
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Pisco Sour Day

    National Pisco Sour Day is celebrated on the first Saturday in February. Pisco is Peru’s national spirit and the Pisco Sour its national cocktail.

    But we don’t drink nearly enough pisco in the U.S. To remedy the situation, celebrate National Pisco Sour Day, this year on February 7th.

    A versatile and mixable spirit, pisco is a brandy distilled from grapes. The oldest distillery in the Americas, Hacienda la Caravedo, was established in 1684 in Ica, Peru and now used by Pisco Portón, the most awarded pisco in the world. The spirit may be named after the Peruvian town of Pisco.

    Here’s a recipe for the most popular pisco drink, a Pisco Sour, from Pisco Portón.

    It is believed that the Pisco Sour was invented in at Morris’ Bar in Lima the 1920s, by its American owner, Victor Morris. The recipe was perfected by Mario Bruguet, who added the egg whites to make the velvety cocktail we enjoy today.

    RECIPE: PORTÓN PISCO SOUR

    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Pisco Portón
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce egg whites
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 5 ice cubes
  •  

    pisco-sour-piscoportion-230

    The velvety Pisco Sour. Photo courtesy Pisco Portón Portón.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high for 15 seconds, add 5 cubes of ice, and then pulse in the blender 5 times.

    2. STRAIN into a glass. Garnish with 3 drops of Angostura bitters.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Valentine Crackers

    stacys-pita-chips-chocolate-dip-230sq

    Fun to make, fun to eat. Photo courtesy
    Stacy’s Snacks.

     

    Here are two fun ways to snack on Valentine’s Day.

    First the sweet: a fun idea from Stacy’s Pita Chips, delicious with a snack, coffee/tea break or for dessert with ice cream.

    RECIPE: VALENTINE PITA CHIPS

    Ingredients

  • Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips
  • Chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • Valentine candy sprinkles
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT chocolate.

    2. DIP pita chips into melted chocolate. Set on wax paper.

    3. SPRINKLE with Valentine decorating hearts (LINK) before chocolate sets.

     

    Want something more savory? Try Valley Lahvosh Hearts Crackerbread.

    Similar in flavor and texture to Carr’s Water Biscuits, they’re packed with personality and ready to be topped or eaten plain with soup.

  • Spread them with soft cheese, or serve with a cheese plate.
  • Top them with shrimp salad, or whatever appeals to you.
  •  
    Whatever you choose, garnish it with something red: a radish slice, half of a cherry tomato, strip of bell pepper or pimento—even a berry.

     

    lavosh-brie-berry-valleylavosh-230

    Savory sesame heart-shaped crackers. Photo courtesy Valley Lahvosh.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: World Nutella Day

    nutella-parfait-pops-bakingamoment.com-230

    Nutella and Yogurt Breakfast Parfait Pops. Photo courtesy BakingAMoment.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    In 2011, two bloggerd declared February 5th to be World Nutella Day.

    Typically, holidays are official proclamations by a city, state or the federal government (here’s how it works). But in the wild frontier of the Internet, World Nutella Day became a viral hit.

    Nutella hazelnut spread, in its earliest form, was created in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of Ferrero SpA, an Italian confectionery and chocolate company.

    At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II (1939-1945) rationing. To extend the chocolate supply, Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, where the company was located.

    The spread is a combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk and a touch of cocoa. It is an all-natural product: no artificial colors or preservatives.

    Nutella was first imported to the U.S. more 25 years ago by Ferrero U.S.A., Inc. Its popularity has grown steadily.

     

    HOW WILL YOU ENJOY NUTELLA TODAY?

    So enjoy a Nutella sandwich, put Nutella on a pancake or waffle, roll it in a crepe, eat it from the jar with a spoon. Add it to your favorite cookie, cake or brownie recipe. Fill “jelly” donuts with Nutella. Make a Nutella milkshake.

    Add it to coffee or hot chocolate.

    Or, try these less conventional approaches:

  • Nutella-covered bacon (recipe—or a bacon and Nutella sandwich, instead of peanut butter)
  • Nutella granola (recipe)
  • Nutella ravioli for dessert (try this recipe, substituting Nutella for the PB&J)
  • Nutella and Yogurt Breakfast Parfait Pops (shown in the photo—recipe)
  •  
    Perhaps the best excuse to eat Nutella today: these no-bake Nutella energy bites. After all, most of could use a bit more energy!
     
      

    Comments

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