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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

ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Irish Coffee Shots

Each year we present Irish coffee recipes for St. Patrick’s Day. Here they are:

  • The history of Irish coffee and the original recipe
  • Irish coffee recipe variations
  •  
    But for something different this year, we like these Irish coffee “shots.”

    Traditional Irish coffee combines whiskey, brown sugar, black coffee and heavy cream. In these shots, coffee liqueur substitutes for the coffee and sugar, and Irish cream liqueur takes the place of the whiskey and cream.

    It looks like a tiny Guinness!

    RECIPE: IRISH COFFEE SHOTS

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2-1/2 ounces coffee liqueur
  • 1/2 ounces Irish cream liqueur
  •  

    irish-coffee-shot-goodcocktails-230

    Food fun: Irish coffee shots. Photo courtesy GoodCocktails.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. POUR the coffee liqueur into a shot glass. Layer the Irish cream on top.

    It’s that easy! You don’t even have to brew coffee!

      

    Comments

    TRENDS: What’s Hot in 2015

    banh-mi-vegetarian-melissasbook-230

    Bánh-mi, a Vietnamese submarine sandwich
    on a baguette. Photo courtesy The Great
    Pepper Cookbook
    by Melissa’s Produce.

     

    Nation’s Restaurant News, the major trade paper and website for those in the restaurant industry, reports that Americans are becoming more interested in trying new ethnic foods—especially (but not surprisingly) in restaurants.

    What “ethnic” means varies from person to person. The NRA commented that the three most popular ethnic cuisines in the U.S.—Mexican, Italian and Chinese—have become so mainstream that they hardly count as “ethnic” these days.

    Based on a survey of nearly 1,300 chefs, the NRA pinpointed five ethnic flavors and cuisines that it expects to see this year.

    If you live in a major city like Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco (among others), you probably don’t have to go too far to try these. But if you haven’t had them, plan an “eating safari” for your next big city visit.

    Here’s the full article by Bret Thorn.

     

    SOUTHEAST ASIAN CUISINE

    Southeast Asian cuisine was the fifth most frequently cited ethnic trend by chefs. While a full Vietnamese menu is a delightful alternative to Chinese cuisine, the trendiest item these days is the Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich.

    Bánh mì is a Vietnamese version of a submarine sandwich made on a Vietnamese-style baguette (made with both wheat and rice flour). It can be vegetarian—pickled carrots, daikon and onions, for example—or include tofu or meat. Here’s a recipe.

    PERUVIAN CUISINE

    Peruvian food was the ethnic cuisine chefs pointed to fourth most frequently. Chefs at independent restaurants frequently offer ceviche, a raw seafood dish cured in a marinade, as an appetizer. Here’s a template to make your own custom recipe at home.

     

    REGIONAL ETHNIC CUISINE

    As restaurant customers become increasingly interested in learning about their food, calling something simply “Italian” or “Mexican” is not enough. Pinpointing exactly where in a foreign country a specific dish was created can add to its appeal. The chefs surveyed pointed to regional ethnic cuisine as the third most frequently cited ethnic trend.

    Consider Hunam or Szechuan Chinese cuisine versus Cantonese; Venetian and Sicilian versus Tuscan Italian. Every country is divided into regions, each with its own delicious cuisine.
     
    AUTHENTIC ETHNIC CUISINE

    “Authentic” is a term that can mean as many things as “ethnic. The chefs surveyed pointed to the terms used together as the second most frequently cited ethnic trend. Unvarnished, unchanged dishes from foreign lands bring the true experience to the diner. Foodies don’t want their food dumbed down for “American palates.”
     
    ETHNIC FUSION CUISINE

     

    ceviche-scallop-shells-raymiNYC-230r

    A trio of different ceviche recipes. Photo courtesy Raymi | NYC.

    The number one trend has to do with the delight so many people take in mashups from different cultures. Recent hits include the cronut, the cheeseburger burrito and the ramen burger; although the concept applies to fine cuisine as well.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Meatball Pot Pie

    For National Meatball Day, March 9th, here are two fun recipes with meatballs. courtesy of Casa Di Bertacchi,

    Both will be popular with busy moms, because the ingredients are quick to assemble. We don’t often use recipes that use a can of soup or canned potatoes as an ingredient; but here we make an exception to make it easy to celebrate National Meatball Day.

    The meatballs, too, are purchased frozen from Casa di Bertacchi.

    Of course, you make it from-scratch, using your favorite homemade pot pie recipe.

    RECIPE: MEATBALL POT PIE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed and drained
  • 13 frozen fully cooked meatballs, thawed
  • 2 cans (10.5 ounces each) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can (15 ounces) diced potatoes, drained
  • 1 teaspoon chopped dried rosemary
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 frozen or refrigerated pie crusts, at room temperature
  •    

    meatball-potpie-casameatballs-230

    Meatball Pot Pie. Photo courtesy Casa di Bertacchi.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients except the crusts in a 2-quart bowl. Place one pie crust evenly over the bottom and sides of a deep dish pie pan, pressing it up over the sides.

    3. FILL the pie crust with the meatball mixture. Cover with the second crust, sealing the edges and cutting slits in the top to vent steam. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

     

    meatball-kabobs-casameatballs-230

    Fun food: Try meatball kabobs. Recipe and photo courtesy Casa di Bertacchi.

     

    RECIPE: MEATBALL KABOBS

    Spell it kabob, kaboab, kebab or kebap: The word is transliterated from Arabic, so there’s no one definitive spelling.

    Originating in the Eastern Mediterranean, a kabob consists of pieces of meat, fish or vegetables roasted or grilled on a skewer or spit.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 18 frozen, fully cooked meatballs, thawed
  • 1 medium yellow or green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 12 equal pieces
  • 1 large or 2 small yellow summer squash*, cut into 12 slices, 1-1/2 to 2 inches
  • 12 whole mushrooms
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup Caesar dressing
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 long metal skewers†
  •  
    *Substitute yellow bell pepper.

    †If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes prior to assembling kabobs.
     
    Preparation 

    1. THREAD a meatball, bell pepper slice, yellow squash slice, mushroom and tomato on a long metal skewer. the Repeat pattern ending with a meatball.

    2. REPEAT for the other five skewers.

    3. COMBINE the Caesar dressing and black pepper.

    4. PLACE the meatball skewers directly on a hot grill. Baste the kabobs with the dressing.

    5. GRILL for 6–8 minutes, turning and basting every 2–3 minutes until done. Makes 6 kabobs.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Grasshopper Pie For St. Pat’s

    Grasshopper Pie is a crème de menthe chiffon pie with a chocolate cookie crust. It was invented in the U.S. in the 1950s following the popularity of the Grasshopper Cocktail, a dessert cocktail made from cream, green crème de menthe and white crème de cacao.

    The drink’s name derived from its green color. While it reputedly originated at Tujague’s, a landmark bar and Creole restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the story is a bit more complicated.
     
    THE HISTORY OF THE GRASSHOPPER COCKTAIL

    The recipe, created by Philibert Guichet Jr., owner of Tujaque’s, began as an entry submitted to a cocktail contest in New York City. It won the second place prize. Of note is that the contest was held in 1928—before the end of Prohibition (1920-1933). [Source]

    The cocktail gained popularity in the South during the 1950s and 1960s.

    In the 1950s, liquor became much more widely available as it filled grocery store shelves across the land. With women doing most of the grocery shopping at this time, the popularity of sweeter, dessert-type drinks increased. By the 1960s, the Grasshopper had become a standard cocktail.

       

    grasshopper-pie-tasteofhome-230r

    Plan ahead for something green and delicious: Make a Grasshopper Pie for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo and recipe courtesy Taste Of Home.

     
    NEXT STOP: GRASSHOPPER PIE

    At the same time the cocktail became a national standard, the pie appeared. Chiffon pies were very popular at that time, and food historians speculate that the recipe was invented by food companies to promote their products.

    In the American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes For The 20th Century, Jean Anderson writes, “I suspect—but cannot verify—that [Grasshopper Pie] recipes descend from one that appeared in High Spirited Desserts, a recipe flier published jointly by Knox Unflavored Gelatin and Heublein Cordials. [Source]

    Prep time is 30 minutes plus several hours to chill (or overnight).

    An easy frozen version follows the standard version below.

    You can play with the garnishes, using chocolate chips instead of chocolate shavings. If you want a more vivid green for St. Patrick’s day, add food color before you whip the cream.

     

    ice-cream-grasshopper-pie-tasteofhome-230

    The easiest Grasshopper Pie is made with mint chip ice cream. Photo and recipe courtesy Taste Of Home.

      RECIPE: GRASSHOPPER PIE

    Ingredients For 8 Servings
     
    For The Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon chocolate wafer crumbs, divided (about 32 wafers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1-1/3 cups well-chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup green crème de menthe
  • 1/4 cup white crème de cacao
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Garnish: grated chocolate or mint-flavored chocolate*
  •  
    *Green & Black’s and Lindt are two brands of mint chocolate bar available at many supermarkets.
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust. Stir together the wafer crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl to combine. Pat the mixture onto the bottom and up the side of a buttered 9-inch pie plate. Bake the crust in the middle of a preheated 450°F oven for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

    2. MAKE the filling. In a heat-proof bowl or the top half of a double boiler, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/3 cup of the cream; let it soften for 5 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, crème de menthe, crème de cacao and egg yolks. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 160°F on a candy thermometer.

    3. REMOVE the bowl to a larger bowl of ice and cold water. Stir the mixture until it is cooled and thickened.

    4. BEAT the remaining 1 cup cream in a separate bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold it into the crème de menthe mixture thoroughly.

    5. POUR the filling into the crust and chill the pie for 4 hours, or until set. Sprinkle the pie with the grated chocolate.
     
    RECIPE: ICE CREAM GRASSHOPPER PIE

    This version is even easier, using store-bought mint chocolate chip ice cream (photo above left). It’s a kid-friendly recipe without the liqueurs; but feel free to add 1/8 cup of crème de menthe to the softened ice cream.

    Ingredients

  • 4 cups mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
  • 1 chocolate crumb crust (8 inches—store-bought or made with the recipe above)
  • 5 Oreo cookies, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chocolate-covered peppermint candies (e.g. Junior Mints)
  • Chocolate hard-shell ice cream topping
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPREAD the ice cream into the pie crust. Sprinkle with the cookies and candies.

    2. DRIZZLE with the ice cream topping and freeze until firm. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Frozen Food Day

    While fresh is fashionable, we can’t ignore the importance of frozen foods today, National Frozen Food Day.

    Frozen food revolutionized the way Americans consume food. First came the joy of off-season fruits and vegetables (which are tastier and a fraction of the price when purchased frozen at their peak than shipped fresh from South America or elsewhere). Then the ability to buy larger quantities when on sale. Then the convenience for busy moms.

    In 1984, President Ronald Regan declared March 6th to be National Frozen Food Day, stating: “…I call upon the American people to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

    Our ceremony consists of frozen foods for breakfast and dinner, at least. We already had a delicious Cedarlane omelet, and cooking SeaPak frozen butterfly shrimp for lunch (thanks, SeaPak, for the samples).

    (For dinner, it’s the last day of New York Restaurant Week and we’re heading out.)

    Most supermarkets today have 2-3 aisles of frozen foods, and many Americans rely upon the convenience of frozen food for their weekly dinners and other meals.

       

    seapak-jumbo_butterfly_shrimp-230

    Today, it’s jumbo butterfly shrimp for lunch at THE NIBBLE. You can bake or fry the frozen shrimp. Photo courtesy SeaPak.

     

    btrflyshrimp_scaloppini_seapak-230

    Butterfly shrimp “scallopini” with lemon, butter, garlic, parsley and white wine. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy SeaPak.

     

    WHO INVENTED FROZEN FOOD?

    Since ancient times, foods were frozen in climates that were cold enough to freeze them (here’s more about early freezing and refrigeration). But the invention of the home refrigerator-freezer after World War II brought modern-age frozen food into every home.

    Many people think that Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food; but in fact, others preceded him. However, before Birdseye, foods were frozen at a fairly slow rate. This caused large ice crystals to form, which ruptured the cell membranes of the food. When the food was defrosted, the ice crystals melted and water would leak from the food, taking with it flavor and texture.

    What Birdseye did invent, in 1924 was the quick freezing method, which produces the type of quality frozen foods that we know today.

    While working as a fur trader in Labrador, Newfoundland, Birdseye discovered that the fish that he caught froze almost immediately after being pulled from the water—and that the fish was just as delicious when thawed out months later. He developed quick-freezing methods that retained the taste and texture of foods.

     
    Another revolution in frozen food came in 1948, when Sea Island Packing Company (SeaPak) in Georgia developed the Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) to flash freeze shrimp, lock in flavor at its original state of freshness. This new process forever changed the way the shrimp industry (and others) would freeze products. [Source]

     
    The First Home Freezer

    The first home refrigerator with a small freezing compartment that held two ice cube trays was launched in the 1923 (it was a Frigidaire—Source.)

    Large “deep freezers” for retail use only became common during the 1940s. That’s why people in period novels and films went to the neighborhood drug store to get ice cream! Big freezers did not go into mass production for home use until after World War II. Along with new refrigerator-freezer units, they enabled American homes to stock ice cream and other frozen foods.

    Prior to World War II, Americans primarily ate locally and regionally grown foods. The technology didn’t exist to pack and transport fresh foods over greater distances. Consequently, only those who lived near coastal waterways had access to shrimp, clams, oysters, and other seafood.

    Since shrimp is America’s #1 consumed seafood—a lot of that, for both home and foodservice use, is frozen—and SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Company is the #1-selling retail brand of frozen shrimp entrees, we make them our choice for lunch. Check out all the varieties at SeaPak.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Peanut Butter Fudge

    peanut-butter-fudge-horizon-230

    Mmm, peanut butter fudge. Photo courtesy Horizon.

     

    March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. Fudge a recipe so easy to make that we urge you to try it. You most likely have the ingredients on hand, and it will take less than 15 minutes to prepare.

    There are different ways to make fudge, using butter, cream, whole milk or sweetened condensed milk. This recipe, adapted from one by Alton Brown, uses butter.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 4 minutes, plus two hours in the fridge.

    RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

    Ingredients For 64 Pieces

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, honey roasted peanuts
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the butter and peanut butter in a 4-quart microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Use caution when removing this mixture from the microwave, it will be very hot.

    2. ADD the vanilla and sugar to the peanut butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. The mixture will become hard to stir and lose its sheen. Add optional inclusions.

    3. SPREAD into a buttered 8 x 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Fold the excess parchment paper so it covers the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.

    4. CUT into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Pizza Portraits

    Are you hungering for your portrait in pizza? Commission one from Domenico Crolla.

    A native of Glasgow, Scotland, where his Italian-born father Alfredo had a café, Chef Crolla graduated from the Scottish Hotel School and launched his first restaurant, a pizzeria.

    His next Glasgow restaurant, Italmania, became Scotland’s very first designer pizza emporium. It closed in 2008 to be replaced with a full-service Italian restaurant, Bella Napoli.

    But the thrill of pizza remains, especially in Chef Crolla’s pizza portraits of celebrities from Beyoncé to Andy Warhol (how Andy would have loved that!) He even turned the iconic photo of Prince William, Duchess Kate and baby Prince George into pizza art.

    Don’t think of him as a pizza chef, but as a culinary artist.

     

    pope-230sq

    The Pope in pizza. Photo courtesy Domenico Crolla.

     
    When he isn’t creating pizza art or running his restaurants, Chef Crolla judges cooking contests across the globe.

    Discover more at Crolla.com and check out the celebrity pizzas on his Facebook page.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Strawberry Cake Pops

    strawberry-cake-pops-bella-baker-230

    Strawberry-themed cake pops. You can use
    any flavor of cake that you like. Photo
    courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    February 27th is National Strawberry Day.

    What better activity than to make these luscious strawberry cake pops from Lauryn Cohen of BellaBaker.com.

    If you’ve never made cake pops but think they’d fit in with family and entertaining, there’s a fool-proof appliance to make round balls of cake: the Babycakes Pop Maker.

    There are several cake pops recipe books to help you become an artist. This recipe book has 175 different recipes/designs.

    If you like to decorate, you’ll be set for many hours of food fun.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Strawberry Salsa

    How about something special for National Strawberry Day (February 27th): strawberry salsa.

    In addition to serving with tortilla chips, strawberry salsa is delicious over grilled chicken, fish or pork.

    This recipes was adapted from TasteOfHome.com. You can customize it by adding other fruits to the strawberries. Mango, grapes, pineapple, pomegranate arils and stone fruits are a few options.

    TIP: Wear disposable gloves when cutting and seeding hot chiles; then clean the cutting board and knife, wash your gloved hands and dispose of the gloves. Accidentally touching your eye with the most minute amount of capsaicin fom the chile is an experience you never want to have.

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY SALSA

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (do not substitute)
  • Optional: green, orange, red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  •  

    strawberry-salsa-tasteofhome-230

    Strawberry salsa made with optional bell pepper. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all the ingredients. Refrigerate and let the flavors meld for an hour or more.

    2. SERVE with chips or as a protein garnish.

     
    Variations

  • Chunky Strawberry Salsa With Quartered Cherry Tomatoes Recipe
  • Strawberry Mango Salsa Recipe
  • Strawberry Salsa With Grape Tomatoes & Corn Kernels Recipe
  • Strawberry Salsa With Plum Tomatoes Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    ISSUE: Seafood Fraud

    There’s a reason you may not want to buy grouper or snapper, unless the establishment has purchased the whole fish and done its own filleting.

    Something similar goes for anything touted as wild shrimp or Gulf shrimp: There’s a 30% chance or more that it’s plain old farmed shrimp.

    It’s easy to fall victim to seafood fraud, a costly problem that won’t go away because of unscrupulous suppliers. Restaurants and retailers are victims, and unwittingly sell cheaper, mislabled varieties to consumers.

    The fraud exists when fish distributors deliberately mislable cheaper varieties for more expensive, popular ones. Imported basa and swai (whitefish species you’ve probably never heard of) are substituted for the much-in-demand grouper and snapper.

    Why the bait-and-switch? Because there isn’t enough domestic supply of the desirable varieties. Imported “fakes” are substituted, and the difference only becomes clear only after the fish is cooked. The flavor and texture is simply not as good.

    It’s easy to tell these varieties apart when they come out of the water. But once the fish is filleted, or the shrimp is cleaned, there is no head, scale, or other visual identifier to prove its variety.

    It’s not that you won’t get an edible piece of fish. It has no deleterious effect. But it won’t taste as good as the original, and you’ll the price of the better species.
     
    Studies & Solutions

       

    Fennel-Crusted-Grouper.ashx-230

    Grouper is a very popular fish, but unscrupulous dealers sell cheaper fish and claim it’s grouper. Photo of fennel-crusted grouper courtesy McCormick. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Food Hospitality, a restaurant industry website, reports on new studies conducted separately by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Oceana, the international ocean conservation organization. Both studies found extensive mislabeling problems at the wholesale level, largely focused on the easy-to-substitute species grouper and snapper.

    Last year, Oceana looked at 1,200 fish samples from across the U.S. and found that roughly one-third were mislabeled according to FDA standards. A separate study of shrimp, America’s most-consumed fish or seafood, showed that 31% of restaurants sold misrepresented products, while 41% of retail markets sold misrepresented products.

    Whatever species is being mislabled, retailers and restaurants get duped off as well as the consumer. Everyone overpays for lesser-quality fish and shellfish. Consumers, finding their dish less palatable than they had hoped, can bash the establishment online. Everyone loses.

    The FDA says that slow progress is being made on the mislabeling front. A presidential task force is looking at the problem.

     

    basa-timescolonist-230

    Basa, a type of catfish, is a cheaper fish often sold as grouper. Unfortunately, it lacks grouper’s particular flavor. Photo courtesy TimesColonist.com.

     

    But there is hope around the corner for fans of grouper.

    Checking The RNA Of The Fillet

    Researchers at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science have come up with a solution to the grouper problem. Their new product, GrouperChek, is a handheld sensor capable of sniffing out fish fraud on the fly.

    Wholesalers and others can assay seafood samples using real-time nucleic acid sequence-based amplification. The instrument identifies whether the RNA is a match.

    The researchers say the device is so sensitive, it can detect fake grouper even after the fish has been cooked, breaded and sauced.

    Hopefully, now, the seafood supplier will do this testing before agreeing to buy the fish.

    And hopefully, devices will be developed to test shrimp and other often-misrepresented species. Finally, there may be a cessation of the passing off of inferior species, which causes restaurants and retailers to unwittingly mislead and overcharge customers.

     

      

    Comments

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