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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

FOOD FUN: Watermelon People

We received an email from Bean Sprouts Café and Cooking School, which focuses on better-for-you food for kids and families. As is our wont, we went to check out the website and found these watermelon people.

It reminded us that it was time to get out the cookie cutters and have fun with our food while melon season is in full force.

For snacks, desserts or a plate garnish (a piece of melon on the dinner plate, with a sandwich, etc.), you’ll win smiles from kids and grown-ups alike.

Dice the pieces left over from cutting shapes and add to a fruit salad.

 

watermelon-people-beansprouts-230

We are everyday [melon] people. Photo courtesy Bean Sprouts Café | Portland, Oregon.

 

  

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FOOD FUN: Rubik’s Battenberg Cake

rubiks_battenburg_cake-stasty-230

Eat the Rubik’s Cube! Photo courtesy
Stasty.com.

  For those who loved the Mondrian Cake, here’s a another piece of edible art, which celebrates the birthday of Erno Rubik.

Rubik, born July 13, 1944, is a Hungarian inventor, architect and professor of architecture. But his immortality lies in the 1974 invention of the Rubik’s Cube, one of the mechanical puzzles he loved to create.

Today he is focusing on video game development and architectural topics, and is still leading Rubik Stúdió in Hungary.

His Wikipedia bio says that “He is known to be an introvert, barely accessible and hard to contact or to get hold of for autographs.”

However, just two days after this recipe was posted (on his birthday in 2011) on Stasty.com, Vicky, the blog author and cake creator, received an email from Rubik himself saying that he liked her cake:

“Thanks for the nice birthday surprise which sweetens the bitterness of passing time.” “I guess the world is really a very small place,” Vicky notes.

 

WHAT IS A BATTENBERG CAKE?

The Battenberg cake was created to celebrate the 1884 marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Alice, to Prince Louis of Battenberg.

It is constructed of rectangular pieces of alternatively colored Victoria sponge cake, sandwiched together by jam and held together with walls of marzipan. The construction creates a checkerboard effect.

Vicky and her co-baker friend decided that different pieces of cake could by tinted the traditional six colors of the Rubik’s cube: blue, green, orange, red, yellow and white. They also used three different cake flavors, deciding that six would create too many conflicting tastes.

Then, to make the cake “work” like a Rubik’s Cube, they decided to have each slice of the cake reveal a different combination of colored squares. Read the original article to see how they engineered this.

If you’re as adventurous as Vicki (and Erno Rubik), bake the recipe. It will thrill on anyone’s birthday—not just Rubik’s.

 
  

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FOOD HOLIDAY: Celebrate National Mojito Day

July 11th is National Mojito Day, and the Hard Rock Cafe is mixing up a storm. They sent us three recipes.

The classic Mojito is a blend of white rum, club soda, sugar/simple syrup, lime juice, mint leaves and ice. To vary the recipe, mixologists switch out the drink’s original muddled mint flavor with coconut, strawberries or other fruits.

RECIPE: STRAWBERRY MOJITO

Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce/3 tablespoons strawberry purée (purée fresh or frozen berries in food processor)
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 10 lime cubes*
  • 2 ounces Bacardi Dragonberry Rum†
  • Club soda
  • Garnish: mint sprig, strawberry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE strawberry purée, mint leaves and lime cubes well in a shaker.

    2. ADD rum, pineapple juice and ice and shake with ice.

       

    mojitos-varied-hardrockcafe-230

    Strawberry and classic Mojitos. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Cafe.

     
    3. STRAIN into a Collins glass with optional ice; top with club soda. Garnish with a mint sprig and a notched strawberry.
     
    RECIPE: PINEAPPLE COCONUT MOJITO

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce/3 tablespoons Piña Colada mix
  • 4 pineapple chunks
  • 10 lime cubes*
  • 2 ounces Bacardi Coconut Rum
  • ½ ounce pineapple juice
  • Ice
  • Club soda
  • Garnish: mint sprig, toasted coconut
  •  
    *Cut each wedge of fresh lime into three “cubes.” This helps with the muddling.

    †Baccardi Dragonberry rum is flavored with strawberries and dragon fruit. Dragon fruit doesn’t have a lot of flavor per se, but it does enable a more interesting name than simply “strawberry rum.”

     

    MagicalMysteryMojito-cucumber-hardrockcafe-230

    Magical Mystery Mojito. The mystery: How
    can a gin-based drink be called a Mojito?
    Photo courtesy Hard Rock Cafe.

     

     
    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE colada mix, pineapple and lime cubes well in a shaker.

    2. ADD rum, pineapple juice and ice and shake with ice.

    3. STRAIN into a Collins glass with optional ice; top with club soda. Garnish with a mint sprig and a spoonful of toasted coconut.
     
    RECIPE: MAGICAL MYSTERY MOJITO

    We’re not sure why the Hard Rock Cafe calls this gin-based drink a Mojito. Gin does not a Mojito make, so don’t be confused: This is a teaching moment. We love the combination of gin, cucumber and elderflower liqueur. With another name, this is a tasty cocktail. (Our favorite use: elderflower liqueur and sparkling wine are a heavenly combination.)

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • ¾ ounce Monin Cucumber Syrup
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 1½ ounce Hendrick’s Gin
  • ½ ounce St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Club soda
  • Ice
  • Garnish: cucumber spear and mint sprig
  •  

     
    ‡The cucumber is a fruit native to India; it spread to Europe during Roman times. Cucumber juice is used in traditional Mediterranean and Indian beverages for its cooling effect. Monin Cucumber Syrup can be added to sweet or savory teas, lemonades, cocktails and mocktails.

     
    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE the cucumber syrup and mint leaves well in a shaker.

    2. ADD gin, liqueur and lime juice and shake with ice.

    3. STRAIN into a Collins glass with optional ice; top with club soda. Garnish with a mint sprig and cucumber spear.

     
    MOJITO HISTORY

    The mojito (mo-HEE-toe) is a quintessential Cuban cocktail. The name derives from the African voodoo term mojo, to cast a small spell.

    According to Bacardi Rum, the drink can be traced to 1586, when Sir Francis Drake and his pirates unsuccessfully attempted to sack Havana for its gold. His associate, Richard Drake, was said to have invented a Mojito-like cocktail known as El Draque that was made with aguardiente, a crude forerunner of rum, sugar, lime and mint.

    Around the mid-1800s, when the Bacardi Company was established, rum was substituted and the cocktail became known as a Mojito. Here’s the original Mojito recipe.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Strawberry Sundae Day

    Strawberry sundaes have gone out of style. As each new generation comes up with favorite flavors (Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Cup, Red Velvet Cake), strawberry, an “original” ice cream flavor, has receded into the shadows. When was the last time you saw, much less ordered, a strawberry sundae?

    Today, National Strawberry Sundae Day, is the time to give this classic its due.

    You can make it with vanilla or strawberry ice cream—or both. You can use frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. You can combine a scoop of strawberry ice cream with a scoop of strawberry sorbet. You can even go Creamsicle-style by combining strawberry sorbet with vanilla ice cream.

    Since lush summer strawberries beckon, there’s no need to buy a cloying, HFCS-laden strawberry syrup. Here’s all you need to do.

     

    vanilla-ice-cream-bonne-maman-230

    A strawberry sundae with vanilla ice cream. Photo courtesy Bonne Maman.

     
    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY SUNDAE

    Ingredients

  • Strawberry ice cream or sorbet and/or vanilla ice cream
  • Strawberry jam or preserves
  • 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • Orange liqueur (e.g. Grand Marnier) or spirit of choice (e.g. scotch or vodka)
  • Fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
  • Optional: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CHOOSE a dish. You don’t need sundae or parfait dishes: A bowl, glass or wine glass will do. (The photo above uses a rocks glass.)

    2. PREPARE the strawberry sauce. Dilute strawberry jam with orange liqueur to taste. Add lemon juice to taste. Add a tablespoon or more of warm water to achieve desired consistency.

    3. SCOOP ice cream/sorbet into dish. Top with strawberry sauce, sliced strawberries and optional whipped cream. Dig in.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Carrot Cake Ice Cream

    carrot-cake-weheartfood-colorfulharvestFB-230

    A new way to enjoy carrot cake! Photo ©
    WeHeartFood.com.

     

    In 10 years of writing THE NIBBLE, we’ve covered a lot of ice cream, especially during July—National Ice Cream Month. But here’s a first for us: carrot cake ice cream.

    It’s part of today’s tip: Envision a fantasy ice cream flavor and make it.

    This week, The New York Times acknowledged National Ice Cream Month by publishing a master recipe to help you make any flavor you like.

    We had already found this recipe from the blog WeHeartFood, where Chris and Lisa took one of their (and our) favorite cakes, carrot cake, and turned it into ice cream.

    The recipe incorporates the ingredients of carrot cake—spiced nuts, whiskey-soaked currants and carrots (they’re candied). The recipe takes time, but at the end of it we’ve included our own quick version of carrot cake ice cream.

     
    CARROT CAKE ICE CREAM

    Ingredients For 1 Quart

    For The Spiced Pecans

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Bourbon-Soaked Currants

  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 tablespoon Maker’s Mark or other bourbon
  •  
    For The Candied Carrots

  • 2 cups finely diced carrots
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups water
  •  

    For The Ice Cream Base

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat sour cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped lemon zest
  • Spiced pecans
  • Bourbon-soaked currants
  • Candied carrots
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the spiced pecans. Heat the oven to 350°F. Toss the pecans with the butter. In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and salt. Pour the mixture over the pecans and toss to coat completely. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and cook for 12 minutes, gently stirring halfway during baking to candy the nuts. Remove the tray to a rack and cool the nuts completely. Once cool, coarsely chop the pecans. Set aside.

     

    carrots-stems-grimmway.com

    Turn us into ice cream! Photo courtesy Grimway.com.

     
    2. MAKE the spiced currants. In a small saucepan, heat the currants and bourbon until boiling. Simmer until the currants have absorbed almost all of the liquid. Remove from heat and cover the pan. Set aside to cool completely.

    3. MAKE the candied carrots. In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots, sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring to a low boil and cook until the syrup is reduced to about 2 tablespoons and the carrots are translucent and candied, 20 to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the carrots during the last few minutes so they do not burn. Drain the carrots and set aside to cool.

    4. MAKE the ice cream base. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, blend together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and lemon zest until smooth. Chill thoroughly.

    5. FREEZE the base in an ice cream maker. After churning, gently fold in the spiced pecans, soaked currants and candied carrot cubes. Freeze until firm.
     
    EASY CARROT CAKE ICE CREAM

    You can use this recipe with any leftover cake, including any icing. This recipe adds inclusions (“mix-ins”) appropriate to carrot cake. If you’re making a different flavor of cake ice cream, consider what to pair—chocolate chips with chocolate cake, for example.

    Ingredients

  • Container of vanilla ice cream, softened
  • Cubed carrot cake
  • Optional inclusions: nuts and currants or raisins
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT cake into half inch cubes. Blend into softened ice cream with optional inclusions.

    2. RETURN to freezer and let firm until ready to serve.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Watermelon Cucumbers

    watermelon-cucumbers-melissas-230a

    Mini watermelon cucumbers: fun food. Photo
    courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    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.

    And how about these tiny watermelon cucumbers (in photo), an heirloom cucumber variety native to Mexico and South America? They look like miniature watermelons, but taste like cucumbers.

    They’re available now at Melissas.com.

    The small fruits are often marketed as Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers, although they are not sour. Rather, they have a slightly sweet, refreshing flavor with a hint of lemon. They are cute, crunchy and perfect for pickling.

     
    To pickle, use the same recipe as for pickled watermelon rind. The pickles will taste like sweet gherkins.
     
    HOW TO USE WATERMELON CUCUMBERS

  • As novelty crudités
  • On skewers with ham and cheese cubes or marinated mozzarella balls
  • Grilled on skewers with vegetables and/or meats
  • Pickled as a condiment with sandwiches, burgers, grilled meat and fish
  •  
    TIP: Always store whole cucumbers in the vegetable crisper section of your fridge.
     
    MORE EXOTIC CUCUMBERS

    Take a look at the lemon cucumber and the crystal apple cucumber which look, respectively, like lemons and apples.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Banana Split

    Yesterday for National Ice Cream Month we featured the “new” ice cream sandwich, a sandwich/sundae fusion.

    Today, it’s the “new” banana split in the photo: freed from its roots.

    The traditional banana split is a type of ice cream sundae made in a long dish called a boat (hence the alternate term, banana boat).

    The banana is cut in half lengthwise (the “split”) and placed on the bottom of the boat. The banana is topped with three scoops of ice cream—vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream—placed in a row between the split banana halves. Chocolate, pineapple and strawberry sauces are spooned over the ice cream, in no particular pairing. The sundae is garnished with whipped cream, crushed nuts and a maraschino cherry.

    Check out the history of the banana split, below.

    Then, plan a banana split party, where guests create their modern interpretations. It could become your signature annual event!

     

    banana-split-nouvelle-sushisamba-ps-230

    The new banana split: exciting. Photo courtesy SushiSamba.

     

    BANANA SPLIT HISTORY

    The soda fountains of yore were the equivalent of today’s Starbuck’s, where people met for refreshments and socializing. Soda jerks were the mixologists of their day*, inventing treats to excite customers. Malted milks, banana splits and phosphates emerged at the soda fountains of neighborhood drugstore in the 1890s.

    In those days, “jerk” was not a derogatory term; it referred to the quick, sharp pull as the attendant drew the carbonated water tap forward.

    David Evans Strickler, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania†, enjoyed taking on the soda jerk role and inventing sundaes at the store’s soda fountain. He invented the banana-based triple scoop ice cream sundae in 1904.

    The sundae originally cost 10 cents, twice the price of other sundaes, and caught on with students of nearby Saint Vincent College. In those pre-digital days, news of the nifty new sundae quickly spread by word-of-mouth and written correspondence.

    It must have done well for Strickler: He went on to buy the pharmacy, renaming it Strickler’s Pharmacy.

     

    banana-split-calmilkadvisorybd-230

    Traditional banana split: meh. Photo courtesy California Milk Advisory Board.

       

    The city of Latrobe celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the banana split in 2004. In the same year, the National Ice Cream Retailers Association certified Latrobe as the birthplace of the banana split. It hosts an annual Great American Banana Split Festival in late August (sorry, there’s no website), and the city has the original soda fountain where the banana split was created.

    Others tried their hand at the recipe. One, published in 1907, called for a lengthwise split banana, two cones of ice cream at each end of the dish and a mound of whipped cream in between with maraschino cherry on a top. One end was covered with chopped mixed nuts and the other with chopped mixed fruits. [Source: Wikipedia]

    Here’s the history of the ice cream sundae, and the long history of ice cream in general.

     
    *Their day was the late 1800s through the early 1900s.

    †Latrobe is approximately 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The city population was 8,338 as of the 2010 census.
     
    PARTY TIME: BANANA SPLIT BAR

    How about throwing a banana split party, where guests can invent their on banana splits? Here’s what you need to put together:

  • Ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet
  • Sauces: caramel sauce/salted caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, pineapple sauce (or crushed pineapple is a good stand-in), strawberry sauce
  • Bananas, split and/or sliced
  • Chopped nuts (traditional walnuts plus pecans, pistachios and/or slivered almonds)
  • Whipped cream
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Bowls, spoons, scoopers, etc.
  •  
    Ingredients for the “new” banana split:

  • Bananas: caramelized, foster (sautéed in butter and bourbon), fried
  • Cake cubes (the easiest to slice are loaf cakes:carrot cake, chocolate cake, pound cake)
  • Candies: caramel corn/kettle corn, chocolate chips or curls, other baking chip flavors, gummies, mini marshmallows, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces sprinkles, seasonal candies (like candy corn), toffee bits
  • Crumbled cookies: chocolate waters, meringues, oatmeal cookies, Oreos)
  • Fruits: berries; mango, melon and/or pineapple chunks
  • Wild card: brandied cherries and tart cherries, candied bacon, edible flowers, granola, marshmallow cream
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fancy Ice Cream Sandwiches For National Ice Cream Month

    strawberry-ice-cream-sand-garnished-sugarfactory-230

    The Strawberry Rainbow: sugar cookies with strawberry ice cream, sauce and lots of rainbow sprinkles. Photo courtesy Sugar Factory.

     

    Sugar Factory, which has locations nationwide, shows us how to make memorable ice cream sandwiches to celebrate National Ice Cream Month. The tip: garnish, garnish, garnish!

    In fact, as you can see in the photos, Sugar Factory’s ice cream sandwiches are part sundae! Start with ice cream and cookies, but add on:

  • Candy: crushed candy canes, flavored baking chips (butterscotch, mint, peanut butter, vanilla), mini M&Ms, mini Reese’s Pieces, toffee chips and anything you find at the candy store
  • Chocolate: chips/mini chips, shavings
  • Fancy garnishes: dragées (silver, gold, pastel mix), edible glitter
  • Fruit: berries, cherries, coconut, grapes, mixed fruit salad
  • Cookie garnishes: crushed cookies or cookie crumbs, fan cookies (gaufrettes), mini meringues, rolled wafer cookies (like Pirouettes)
  • Nuts: chopped or whole, toasted or caramelized, mini chocolate chips, mini M&Ms, mini Reese’s Pieces, sprinkles
  • Sauce: caramel, chocolate, maple syrup, strawberry, etc.
  • Sprinkles
  • Whipped cream, marshmallow cream
  •  

     

    COMBINATIONS FROM SUGAR FACTORY

  • Bananas Foster: white chocolate macadamia nut cookies with bananas foster ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and white chocolate shavings.
  • The Classic: chocolate chip cookies with vanilla or chocolate ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and chocolate chips.
  • Minty Goodness: double chocolate chip cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
  • Mudslide: double chocolate chip cookies with coffee fudge ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and Oreo crumbles.
  • Peanut Butter Cup: peanut butter cookies with chocolate ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and Reese’s pieces.
  • Strawberry Rainbow: sugar cookies with strawberry ice cream, garnished with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles.
  •  
    How about a make-your-own party bar?

     

    classic-ice-cream-sandwich-garnished-sugarfactory-230

    Chocolate garnishes galore, plus silver dragées on top. Photo courtesy Sugar Factory.

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Glitter Ice Cream Cones

    glitter-cones-scoopsiesFB-230

    Ice cream cones coated with fucshia edible
    glitter
    . Photo courtesy Chloe Jankowitz |
    Scoopsies.

     

    Celebrate July (National Ice Cream Month), birthdays and other special occasions by making glitter cones. For July 4th, you can make them in red, white and blue.

    These dazzlers were created by Chloe Jankowitz, owner of Scoopsies ice cream shop in Somerville, Massachusetts.

    They’re really simple and fun to make,” says Chloe.

    GLITTER ICE CREAM CONES

    Ingredients For 24 Cones

  • 24 ice cream cones—wafer, waffle or sugar (the difference)
  • Edible glitter/sprinkles
  • 2 cups chocolate chips—bittersweet, semisweet, white or other chip flavor
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • Parchment paper
  •  

    Preparation

    1. LINE a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

    2. MELT 2 cups of chocolate chips and 1/4 cup whole milk in a saucepan over medium/low heat, stirring frequently. Make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn! Once the chocolate is thick and smooth, turn heat to lowest heat setting. Stir occasionally.

    3. DIP the cones in the chocolate an inch or two deep, using a spoon to make sure chocolate is neatly covering the cone. Scrape the inside of the cone with the spoon, getting rid of any excess chocolate. Place the cone on the tray and let cool for a few minutes. Once the cone has cooled down and chocolate is starting to harden…

    4. POUR sprinkles on the cone while rotating it. Make sure the chocolate is completely covered in sprinkles. Repeat to finish all cones.

    5. PLACE the tray of cones in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and store at room temperature, either in an airtight container or covered with foil.
     
    If you enjoy decorating cones, consider extending your repertoire with coconut, mini M&Ms, Oreo crumbs, toffee chips and other confections.
     
    Buy edible glitter for July 4th in:

  • Red
  • White
  • Blue
  •   

    Comments

    JULY 4th: American Flag Cake

    A tasty flag! Photo courtesy SecretLifeOfAChefsWife.com.

     

    What a great dessert surprise for July 4th!

    This flag cake originated on 17andBak­ing.com, and was reposted on SecretLifeOfAChefsWife.com.

    Elissa, who posted the recipe at age 17 (she’s now 21), said at the time:

    “While I wish I could claim credit for it, the idea of a flag cake was completely my father’s. It was all a bit of an experiment and when I finally cut the cake open, revealing the familiar red white and blue, I was so surprised to see that it worked.”

    You can use any recipe for a three layer white cake. Elissa deliberately made the cake completely white on the outside, with a cream cheese frosting flavored with lime zest. Cutting into a plain cake makes the flag motif an even bigger surprise.

    Are you dying to make it? Here’s the recipe.

     

     
      

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