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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: 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.

 

 
  

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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).
  •   

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    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.

      

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    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.

     

      

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    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!
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Get A Heart-Shaped Cheese

    coeur-de-bray-neufchatel-murrays-230

    Coeur de Bray, a heart-shaped Neufchâtel
    cheese. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    Different heart-shaped cheeses appear at this time of year, especially goat cheeses. But the first heart-shaped cheese, created in the 14th century, was Neufchâtel (NU-shah-tell), a soft-riped cow’s milk cheese with a white rind.

    Note that French Neufchâtel is different from the American product of the same name, sold as a lower-fat alternative to cream cheese. American Neufchâtel has been disappearing over the last decade, as cream cheese manufacturers have marketed their own lowfat and nonfat versions.

    Authentic French Neufchâtel is one of the oldest cheeses in France and the oldest cheese in Normandy, dating back as far as the sixth century. Soft and crumbly, its dry, white rind is velvety and edible.

    Its buttery, pale paste has a salty, somewhat sharp flavor has soft mushroom notes, like Brie. Like Brie, the cheese develops an earthy character as it ages.

     
    Serve it with crusty bread, cherry jam, fresh berries or dried fruit.

    Neufchâtel pairs nicely with a crisp, dry white wine. Murray’s suggests Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Rosé. We prefer Champagne. And if you’re a red wine drinker, bring on the Burgundy.

     

    WHY A HEART?

    It is available in various shapes, the famous Neufchâtel heart shape is a tradition begun by young Norman women, as the story goes, to discreetly express their feelings of affection for young British soldiers during the 100 Years’ War*.
     
    COEUR DE BRAY

    This particular Neufchatel heart comes from the Pays de Bray, an area in northern Normandy. The name is AOC protected.

    It is “made from buckets of cream” from the famed dairy cows of Normandy, according to Murray’s Cheese, which sells it at retail and online for $15.99.

     

    neufchatel-heart-paper-cheesesoffranceFB-230

    A Neufchâtel heart, slightly aged. Photo courtesy Cheeses Of France.

     

    MAKE COEUR À LA CRÈME

    You can make your own heart-shaped cheese, the famed Coeur à La Crème (heart of cream).

    This luscious mascarpone creation (that’s the same cheese used to make tiramisu) is served with berries or a sauce of raspberry purée for dessert.

    Here’s the recipe.

     
    *A series of conflicts from 1337 to 1453 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France for control of the French throne. The war is commonly divided into three phases separated by truces, which together comprise the longest military conflict in history: the Edwardian Era War (1337–1360), the Caroline War (1369–1389) and the Lancastrian War (1415–1353), which saw the slow decline of English fortunes after the appearance of Joan of Arc in 1429. The French kept the throne and the cheese.

      

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    RECIPE: Poutine

    WENDY'S RESTAURANTS OF CANADA - Oh Poutine! Grab your forks

    Classic poutine. Photo courtesy Wendy’s |
    Canada.

     

    In Canada, the first week in February is La Poutine week.

    Poutine (poo-TEEN) is a popular Canadian potato dish: French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. It’s the northern version of cheese fries, with brown gravy instead of ketchup; and is often referred to as the national dish of Canada.

    Decades ago, it became popular in Quebec as a snack to follow a night of drinking. Of course, it begs to be accompanied by a cold beer.

    During La Poutine Week, chefs at restaurants across Canada will pull out all the stops to out-poutine the classic poutine. Last year, a Toronto sushi bar added caramelized kimchi, beef tongue and Japanese mayo; an Ottawa pub featured poutine made with pulled pork, pork meatballs and cheese with bacon bits, topped with a Jack Daniels sauce. Vegetarian restaurants did their own thing.

    Year-round, La Banquise in Montreal serves more than thirty different kinds of poutine. It’s open 24 hours daily. Here’s the menu.

     
    This recipe from French’s makes adds shredded barbecue beef and a fried egg (French’s used its company’s Cattlemen’s Memphis Sweet Finished BBQ Sauce). Make it, or create your own.

    As for a matching beer: Cold Snap from Sam Adams sounds just right. The unfiltered white ale has a snap of added flavor: fruit including orange peel, plum and hibiscus, and a peppery snap from fresh ground coriander.

    RECIPE: BARBECUE BEEF POUTINE

    Ingredients

  • 12 ounces French fries
  • 2½ ounces smoked beef, shredded
  • ¼ cup Wisconsin cheese curds
  • 1 teaspoon scallion tops, thinly sliced
  • 1 fried egg, sunny side up
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FRY the French fries to a crisp, golden brown and arrange on a platter.

    2. COMBINE the beef with barbecue sauce and heat. Sprinkle over the fries.

    3. SLICE the cheese curds in half and top the fries. Melt in a hot oven.

    4 TOP with the egg and scallions. Serve.

     

    POUTINE HISTORY

    Various places claim the credit for inventing poutine, in rural Quebec in the 1950s, where numerous dairies produced Cheddar cheese curds.

    The first leg of the story is that poutine originated in a restaurant called Le Lutin Qui Rit (“The Laughing Goblin”), when a customer asked the owner Fernand Lachance to mix cheese curds with his fries.

    A restaurant called Le Roy Jucep is the first to have served poutine as we know it today—French fries, cheese and gravy—in 1964. The owner registered a trademark for the dish.

    Another restaurant La P’tite Vache (“The Little Cow”) sold curds from the local Princesse dairy. Customers would order fries and buy a bag of cheese curds to mix together at their tables in a 50:50 proportion. When gravy was added, the dish became known as “mixte” (“mixed”).

     

    bbq-beef-poutine-frenchs-230

    Fancy poutine. Photo courtesy The French’s Food Company.

     

    The name “poutine” appeared in 1982, when large restaurant chains began to sell it. While no one can explain the derivation for certain, it could be derived from the English word “pudding,” which was expressed as “pouding” in Acadian French.

    One meaning of “pouding” in Canada is “an unappetizing mixture of various foods, usually leftovers.” According to Merriam-Webster, poutine derives from a Quebecois slang word meaning “mess.” [Source]

    We vote for that one!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fondue For National Fondue Month

    Originally a melted cheese dish, the concept evolved to cooking beef, chicken, chocolate or seafood in the fondue pot. February is National Fondue Month, so why not plan a fondue feast?

    THE HISTORY OF FONDUE

    The melted cheese dish originated in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. The word fondue itself is the past participle of the French fondre, to melt down.

    The fondue is served from a communal pot called a caquelon, using long forks to spear cubes of bread that are swirled in the melted cheese. The tradition dates to the 18th century; some say it was developed as a way to use slightly stale bread.

    Each Swiss canton has its own variation on the recipe, which generally consists of at least two varieties of cheese, wine and a bit of flour or cornstarch to keep the melted cheese from separating.

  • Raclette is a related dish, made from a Swiss cheese that is similar to Gruyère. But instead of melting it in a communal pot, the wheel of cheese is brought to the table on a cart, exposed to heat and and scraped onto a plate as it melts (racler is French for “to scrape”). It is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, cornichons and dark bread.
  •    

    fondue-artisanalrestaurant-230

    Classic cheese fondue. Photo courtesy Artisanal Restaurant | NYC.

  • Fonduta is an Italian dish similar to fondue, made with Fontina cheese, milk and egg yolks. Elegant versions top it with shaved white truffle.
  • Kaas Doop is a fondue-style Dutch dish made with Gouda cheese, milk and brandy, with nutmeg seasoning, that uses brown bread for dipping.
  •  
    Although it adds to the aesthetic, you don’t need a fondue pot (caquelon) to melt cheese or chocolate or to heat cooking oil. A heavy-bottomed saucepan or ideally, a double boiler, works fine.

    But then, to keep the fondue heated after it has been served, you’ll need a hot plate for the table. If you don’t have one, you probably know someone who has one stashed away and will lend it.
     
    FONDUE RECIPES

    To help you decide where to begin: We recommend starting with a classic cheese fondue. Here’s the basic cheese fondue recipe plus 28 variations, from blue cheese and goat cheese variations to Nacho and Philly Cheesesteak fondue. Or consider:

  • Reduced Fat Cheddar Fondue Recipe
  • Cheddar Chive Fondue With Tortilla Chips Recipe
  • How To Melt Cheese Tips
  •  
    For Valentine’s Day, how about chocolate fondue—your choice of dark, milk or white chocolate? Here’s an even richer Chocolate Fondue with Mascarpone recipe.

    You can also spice things up with these Spicy Chocolate Fondue recipe variations.

     

    sugardaddys-230

    Chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy Sugardaddy’s.

     

    RECIPE: SEAFOOD FONDUE

    This recipe was adapted from GourmetSleuth.com.

    Ingredients For 4 People

  • 1 pound* salmon, halibut or other thick-fleshed fish filets
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, washed and dried
  • Canola or peanut oil
  • Optional vegetables: bell pepper strips, pearl onions
  • Dipping sauces (see below)
  •  
    *Plan for at least 1/3 pound fish/seafood per person.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT fish into one-inch cubes or 1/4″ w x 2″ long strips, depending on shape of filets. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

    2. SET the table with plates, fondue forks and dips. You can provide individual dip portions, or have guests spoon dips onto their plates. (NOTE: Use only metal fondue forks or bamboo skewers, as wooden skewers can burn in hot oil.)

    3. FILL the fondue pot with oil and heat on the stove until it reaches 350°F. Place the fondue pot on a brazier stand or hot plate on the table, over moderately high heat. Note that for beef or seafood fondue, you must use a stainless steel pot. Ceramic pots aren’t safe with the hot oil.

    4. SPEAR cubes or shrimps and place in the hot oil until cooked.

     
    SEAFOOD FONDUE DIPS

    RECIPE: SPICY COCKTAIL SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • Dash hot pepper sauce
  •  
    1. COMBINE ingredients and store refrigerated until use.
     
    RECIPE: TARTAR SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions (green part only)
  • 2 tablespoons drained sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon drained small capers (chop if large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon (or substitute 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles)
  •  
    1. BLEND all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt.
     
    RECIPE: DILL SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/4 cups crème fraîche or whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  •  
    1. COMBINE clam juice and wine in a heavy small non-aluminum saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 9 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

    2. WHISK in crème fraîche. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in dill. Season with salt and pepper.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Football Pizza

    football-pizza-due-forni-LV-230ps

    Don’t fumble the pizza! Football pizza from Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    If you were at Due Forni restaurant, you could order a football pizza. But there’s no need to travel to Austin or Las Vegas: It’s easy to make your own.

    Using your favorite pizza recipe:

    1. STRETCH the dough into a more oblong shape. If you’re using a prepared round crust, you could trim it, but it’s easier to default to the round shape.

    2. PLACE the pepperoni in the center as shown.

    3. CUT strips of mozzarella for the laces.

    4. BAKE as usual.

    Be sure to have extra pizzas ready to be made when this one is devoured!

     

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Super Bowl Team Colors In Frosting

    If you’re making cake cupcakes for Super Bowl feasting, you can ice them with your team colors. McCormick has the recipes for all the NFL team colors.

    McCormick suggests adding the color to a 16-ounce can of white frosting, but if you have a picky palate, you might prefer to make your own buttercream or cream cheese frosting (here are the recipes).

    Both sets of team colors require regular food colors and a box of McCormick NEON! food colors. The New England Patriots red also requires a bottle of black food color.

    So get mixing and surprise your family and guests with something sweet, with our hopes that the day will be even sweeter when your team wins.
     
    FROSTING TIPS

    While it’s easy to frost a cake with half of each frosting color, McCormick offers these tips for cupcakes:

     

    food-colors-230

    Mix your team colors. The asterisks * indicate neon colors.Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

  • Spoon and Swirl Formation: Place one tablespoon of each color frosting on a cupcake, then spread and swirl the frosting with a small knife or spatula.
  • Pastry Bag Conversion: Place both colored frostings side-by-side in a pastry bag and squeeze them out together.
  •  
    FROSTING VS. ICING: THE DIFFERENCE

    The difference between frosting and icing is that icing is made with confectioners sugar’ (also called icing sugar and 10x sugar). But the two words are used interchangeably by those not aware of this nuance.

      

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