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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Gourmet News

TIP: Easy, Last Minute Easter Cake

carrot-cake-blackjetbakingco-goodeggsSF-230

Our inspiration was this Easter cake from
Black Jet Baking Co., a small San Francisco
baking company committed to making
nostalgic treats and baked goods. Photo
courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

 

No dessert inspiration for Easter? Here’s an easy last-minute fix:

SHOPPING LIST

  • Store-bought plain cake -or-
  • 1 box of cake mix (for a two-layer cake)
  • Decorations: jelly beans, multicolored sprinkles
  •  
    For The Cake Mix

  • Eggs and other ingredients specified on package directions
  • 1 pint whipping cream plus any flavorings
  •  
    Preparation For Cake Mix

    1. BAKE the cake mix in two layers, per package directions. While the cake cools…

    2. MAKE freshly whipped cream—classic, flavored with vanilla; lavender whipped cream, rum-accented, salted caramel whipped cream or other favorite flavor (recipes).

    3. DECORATE decorate with jelly beans and sprinkles.
     
    Not enough chocolate in your Easter basket? Try chocolate whipped cream (recipe below).

     

    RECIPE: STABILIZED CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM

    If you’re going to fill and frost a cake, you need whipped cream that’s been stabilized with gelatin to keep its shape. If you want vanilla whipped cream, substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for the chocolate and skip Steps 1-3 and add the gelatin to both cups of cream in Step 5.

    Ingredients

  • 4 ounces milk or 60% cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (use a good chocolate bar)
  • 3 tablespoons sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 8 teaspoons cold water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.

    2. COMBINE the sugar and 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.

     

    3. POUR the hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Transfer to the bowl an electric mixer and let cool.

    4. COMBINE the gelatin and cold water in a small pan and let stand until thick. Then place over low heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from the heat and cool, but do not allow the gelatin to set.

    5. ADD the second cup of cream and whip on medium speed (ideally with whisk beaters). While slowly beating, add the gelatin to the whipping cream mixture. Whip at high speed until stiff.
     
    RECIPE: REGULAR CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM

    Ingredients

  • 4 ounces milk or 60% cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (use a good chocolate bar)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  •  

    chocolate-whipped-cream-cookiemadness.net-230

    For a cake filling, make a stabilized whipped cream with gelatin. Photo courtesy CookieMadness.net.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.

    2. COMBINE the sugar and 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.

    3. POUR the hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Transfer to the bowl an electric mixer and let cool.

    4. ADD the second cup of cream and whip on medium speed (ideally with whisk beaters) until thick.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Sourdough Bread Day

    April 1st is National Sourdough Bread Day. Sourdough is an ancient bread made by a long fermentation of dough, using naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria and wild yeasts (other types of breads use cultivated yeasts, which became available only in the 19th century).

    In comparison with breads made with cultivated yeast, sourdough usually has a mildly sour taste and aroma, the result of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.

    The preparation of sourdough begins with pre-fermenting, using a “starter” made from flour and water (the starter is also known as levain, the chief, chef or head). It can be a fluid batter or a stiff dough, as the ratio of water to flour varies by baker.

    The starter helps to develop the uniquely tart flavor of sourdough bread. Starters are maintained for years, even generations. The colony of bacteria and yeast inside the dough is kept alive by the baker, who needs only a piece of it to bake a new batch of bread.

    If you bake bread in a bread machine, note that the rise time of most sourdough starters is longer than that of breads made with baker’s yeasts. Thus, sourdough typically doesn’t work in a bread machine; you need to use conventional baking techniques.

       

    sourdough-basket-lafayetteNY-230

    Sourdough bread baked at Lafayette Restaurant | NYC.

    ANCIENT BREAD

    One of the oldest sourdough breads was found in a Swiss excavation; the site dates to 3700 B.C.E. But the origin of sourdough fermentation is likely thousands of years older than that, originating in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia.

    Bread production has relied on the use of sourdough as a leavening agent for most of human history (the alternative to leavened bread was flatbread, such as lavosch and tortillas). The development and use of [cultivated] baker’s yeast as a leavening agent dates back only 150 years.

    Sourdough starter from a prior batch is used to create the new batch. Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening in European into the Middle Ages. Then, it was replaced by barm, the yeast-laden foam that forms in the process of brewing alcohol (for bread, the barm typically came from beer brewing). Centuries later, scientists learned to culture yeast, so bakers no longer had to rely on barm.

     

    sourdough-starter-foodformyfamily-230

    Sourdough starter. You can also purchase ready-made starter. Photo courtesy FoodForMyFamily.com.

     

    SOURDOUGH COMES TO AMERICA

    French bakers brought sourdough techniques to Northern California during the Gold Rush (1848–1855), and the bread remains part of the culture of San Francisco, where it has been in continuous production there since 1849. Some bakeries can trace their starters back to those days!

    In English-speaking countries, where wheat-based breads predominate, sourdough is no longer the standard method for bread leavening. It was gradually replaced, first by the use of barm from beer making and then by cultured yeasts.

    Thanks to the artisan food movement in the late 20th century in the U.S., it has undergone a revival [Source]. Now, most of us can enjoy it whenever we like—for toast, sandwiches and in the bread basket.

    If you haven’t had sourdough bread recently, today’s the day!

     

    Check out the different types of breads in our Bread Glossary.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Grilled Cheese Benedict

    grilled-cheese-benedict-230

    A yummy mash-up of Eggs Benedict and grilled cheese. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.

     

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month. There are got lots of grilled cheese recipes on TheNibble.com, but here’s something new: a mash-up of a grilled cheese sandwich with Eggs Benedict.

    The recipe is from the Grilled Cheese Academy, which has dozens of amazing grilled cheese sandwich recipes made with Wisconsin cheese.

    RECIPE: GRILLED CHEESE BENEDICT

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices Canadian bacon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 English muffins, split
  • 4 tablespoons Sharp Cheddar cheese spread, at room
    temperature
  • 4 slices Gouda cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Optional garnish: minced chives
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT 3-4 quarts water to just below the boiling point. Add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Gently stir the water and lower the heat so water is simmering.

    2. CRACK the eggs into the water one at a time and poach gently for 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper to taste. As the eggs cook…

    3. HEAT a griddle or skillet over medium heat and fry the Canadian bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the griddle and set the bacon aside.

    4. ADD 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet. Spread the cut side of each English muffin’s bottom half with 1 tablespoon Sharp Cheddar cheese spread. Place in the heated skillet and top each half with 1 slice Gouda, about 1 ounce spinach, 2 slices Canadian bacon and 1 slice tomato.

    5. COOK over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Remove to a plate and top each with a poached egg. Serve open-faced with remaining muffin halves, toasted and buttered, on the side.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Dessert Pasta

    Most people think of pasta as a savory recipe. But the noodles themselves are very versatile. Made with flour, water and egg, they can be cooked for dessert as well as the main course.

    While not an April Fool joke, it seems like the right dessert for April Fool’s Day.

    The recipe was created by Michael Stambaugh of the El Conquistador Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a recipe contest held by the National Pasta Association and the Culinary Institute of America. It won third place.

    After you master this recipe, you may develop your own ideas for variations on the theme of dessert lasagna.

    We’ve got 11 more recipes for dessert pasta. Take a look.

    RECIPE: DESSERT LASAGNA

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 8 kiwis, peeled
  •    

    Dessert_Lasagne230-ps

    Fruit lasagna for dessert! Photo courtesy National Pasta Association.

  • 4 cups strawberries, washed and trimmed, 8 berries reserved for garnish
  • 4 cups blackberries, washed
  • 1/2 cup toasted, sliced almonds
  • Garnish: mint sprigs
  •  

    mixed-berries-greengiantfresh.com-230

    If you don’t like one of the fruits in the recipe, pick another to purée. Photo courtesy
    Green Giant Fresh

     

    Preparation

    1. COOK the pasta according to package directions, substituting 2 tablespoons of sugar for the salt. Rinse, drain and set aside.

    2. STIR together the ricotta cheese and ½ cup sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE 4 kiwis with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor. Transfer the purée to a bowl and set aside. Rinse the processor bowl.

    4. PURÉE half the strawberries with 2 tablespoons sugar in the food processor. Strain the purée into a bowl and set aside. Rinse the processor bowl.

    5. PURÉE half the blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar in the food processor. Strain the purée and set aside.

    6. SLICE the remaining kiwis into ¼-inch thick rounds. Slice the strawberries into 1/8-inch thick pieces. Slice the blackberries in half.

     

    To Assemble The Lasagna

    1. RESERVE 1/4 cup of each of the purées to use as a garnish.

    2. COVER the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch glass baking pan with 3 lasagna noodles. Spoon 1/3 of the ricotta on top and spread it evenly.

    3. POUR the kiwi purée over the cheese and arrange the kiwi slices on top of the purée. Lay 3 more lasagna noodles on top and cover with 1/2 the remaining cheese.

    4. POUR the strawberry purée over the cheese and sprinkle with sliced strawberries. Lay 3 more lasagna noodles on top and cover with the remaining cheese. Pour the blackberrys purée over the cheese and sprinkle with blackberries. Top with a final layer of pasta. Cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

    5. TO SERVE: Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and with the toasted almonds. Cut into 8 rectangles and use a spatula to set the pieces on dessert plates. Decorate the plates with dots of the reserved purées. Garnish each piece of lasagna with a strawberry and a sprig of mint.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Best Decorated Easter Eggs

    Can’t decide how to decorate your Easter eggs?

    Check out this gorgeous array of 16 ideas collected by BehindTheCookie.com.

    We like these gold foil-accented eggs, but we’re creating a craft contest for our Easter guests—before the meal begins—from the Humpty Dumpty idea.

    Don’t tell them, but everyone who completes a Humpty Dumpty design gets a prize (a chocolate egg, of course).

    Take a look and decide on your favorite. The contest is optional.

     

    gold-foil-easter-eggs-behindthecookie-230sq

    Add some gold foil to your Easter eggs. Photo courtesy BehindTheCookie.com.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Peeps Cocktail

    peeps-cocktail-xbarhyattregencyLA-230L

    A Peeps cocktail for Easter. Photo courtesy
    XBar | Hyatt Regency | Los Angeles.

     

    This idea came to us from X Bar at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Los Angeles.

    They use a Pink Lady cocktail, but you can use other pink cocktail recipes, including two different pink Martinis.

    The first step is to make the special “Easter grass” rim. It combines lime zest with the sugar for a textured “grass.”

    Alternatively, you can buy green sanding sugar, which is available in both emerald green and pastel green.
     
    RECIPE: COLORED SUGAR RIM

    Ingredients

  • Table sugar
  • Green food color
  • Lime zest
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the sugar in a plastic sandwich bag or quart bag with a drop of food coloring. Shake well to infuse the color. Add more color (green or yellow) as required to reach the desired hue. (Color the sugar lighter shade of green than the lime zest.)

    2. ALLOW the sugar mixture to air dry. Spread it on a paper towel or a plate. When ready to make the sugar rim…

    3. GRATE the lime zest and mix it 50:50 or as desired with the green sugar. Place on a plate.

    4. DIP the rim of a Martini glass or sherbet champagne glass 1/4-inch deep in a shallow bowl of water. Remove, shake to eliminate drips and place in the sugar mix, twisting the glass to coat the rim.
     
    RECIPE: PINK LADY COCKTAIL ~ EASTER VERSION

    The Pink Lady is a classic gin-based cocktail that may have been named after a 1911 musical of the same name. The pale pink color comes from grenadine; the foamy top is created by an egg white.

    A favorite of society ladies of the 1930s, the drink was widely known during Prohibition (1920-1933) but fell out of favor in the 1960s. One theory is that the [typically male] journalists who wrote about cocktails and the [typically male] bartenders who mixed them had little interest in pink, “girly” drinks.

    The original recipe had only three ingredients—gin, grenadine and egg white—shaken and strained into a glass. Over time, some versions added lemon juice, applejack (apple brandy) and even cream (which could be substituted for the egg white or used in addition to it). Here’s more Pink Lady history.

    We’re opting for the version with apple brandy, for more flavor. If you don’t have apple brandy, you can substitute apple schnapps (apple liqueur), which Appletini lovers will have on hand.

    If you don’t want to use any apple brandy, make the cocktail with two ounces of gin. If you don’t want to use an egg white, use heavy cream (but don’t use lemon juice—it will curdle the cream).

     

    The classic recipe uses a maraschino cherry for garnish, but for our Easter cocktail, the cherry gets replaced by a pink Peep.
     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1-1/2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce applejack, Calvados, other apple brandy or apple schnapps
  • 1/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 2 dashes grenadine or more to desired color
  • 1 egg white or 1/2 ounce heavy cream
  • 1 cup crushed ice or ice cubes
  • Easter garnish: 1 pink Peeps chick
  • Optional side: miniature jelly beans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the first six ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until everything is mixed well (the shaker should be frosted over). Strain into a rimmed Martini glass.

     

    PomBlush-pomwonderful-230

    Shake the cocktail vigorously so the egg white foams into a creamy top. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     
    2. SLICE a notch into the bottom of the Peeps chick. Place on the rim of the glass.

    3. SERVE with a shot glass or ramekin of miniature jelly beans.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Modern Black Forest Cake

    National Black Forest Cake Day is March 28th, but we’re far from cherry season in the U.S.

    While you may still be able to find some fresh cherries, shipped from some far-away orchard overseas, consider this modern approach to Black Forest Cake by one of our favorite bloggers, Vicky of Stasty.com.

    It includes a garnish of cherries dipped in white chocolate and coated with popping candy. Call it modern Black Forest Cake.

    If you’re up for making it, here’s the recipe.

    Otherwise, head for our classic Black Forest Cake recipe. If it’s for an audience of adults only, use lots of Kirschwasser (clear cherry brandy—you can substitute regular brandy).

    The Black Forest region of southern Germany is known for its sour Morello cherries and for the Kirschwassermade from them. Hence, the inspiration for this old-fashioned classic:

    Yummy chocolate cake with cherries and whipped cream.

     

    black-fores-nouvelle-stasty-230

    A modern take on Black Forest Cake. Photo courtesy Stasty.com.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Spinach Day

    Popeye may have enjoyed his spinach straight from the can, but for today, National Spinach Day, we can come up with 20 better suggestions.

    BREAKFAST

  • Spinach omelet or fritatta (recipe)
  • Eggs Benedict With Spinach (recipe)
  •  
    DIPS & SPREADS

  • Green Mayonnaise (Julia Child’s recipe)
  • Spinach Dip With Walnuts (recipe)
  • Spinach Pesto (substitute spinach for the basil in this recipe)
  • Warm Crab & Spinach Dip (recipe)
  • Warm Spinach & Mascarpone Dip (recipe)
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip Or Spread
  •  
    LUNCH & FIRST COURSES

  • Curried Spinach Tart (recipe)
  • Grilled Cheese With Spinach (recipes)
  • Mac & Cheese With Spinach (recipe)
  • Spanakopita (Greek spinach pie—recipe)
  •    

    spinach-mascarpone-dip-vermontcreamery-230

    A warm spinach dip, creamy with mascarpone cheese. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     

    beet-spinach-apple-salad-butterball230

    Beet, spinach and apple salad. Photo courtesy Butterball.

     

    MAINS

  • Pasta With Spinach: penne pasta with a garnish of fresh spinach leaves and cherry tomatoes (recipe), bow tie pasta with chicken and spinach (recipe) or cheese tortellini with spinach (recipe)
  • Spinach Stuffed Pork Roast (recipe)
  •  
    PIZZA

  • Feta & Spinach Pizza (recipe)
  • Spinach & Grilled Shrimp Pizza (recipe)
  •  
    SIDES

  • Wilted Spinach With Tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip—recipe)
  •  
    SALADS

  • Beet, Spinach & Apple Salad (recipe)
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad (recipe)
  •  

      

    Comments

    TRENDS: Restaurant Focus For 2015

    orange-peel-lolalovesgreen-230r

    No more waste: In restaurant kitchens, everything can have a second life. Citrus peel
    is turned into marmalade. Photo courtesy Lola Loves Green.

     

    What are the top culinary concerns for restaurateurs this year?

    According to a survey by Nation’s Restaurant News, the top five focus on gluten-free and sustainability.

    1. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

    Safeguarding natural resources is a growing concern across the globe, and the number one culinary issue cited in a survey of American chefs. It’s not just with fine dining: Fast casual concepts like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Sweetgreen have been on the bandwagon since their inception. Chipotle recently stopped serving pork when it couldn’t find enough sustainable meat!

     
    2. NATURAL INGREDIENTS/MINIMALLY PROCESSED FOODS

    “Clean” labels and minimally processed food appeal to more and more customers. Chefs polled by the National Restaurant Association named natural ingredients and minimally processed food as a major theme. Last year, fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s took the concept mainstream, adding an all-natural burger to the menu. Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts have responded to consumer complaints by doing away with additives.
     
    3. HYPERLOCAL SOURCING

    Locally sourced and house-grown food are becoming more and more important to customers. “Hyperlocal” fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in restaurant gardens. Some restaurants have beehives as well. We’ve even seen chickens strutting around rooftops (fresh eggs!).

     
    4. FOOD/WASTE REDUCTION MANAGEMENT

    Food costs are rising and consumers are growing more concerned about how what they eat affects the planet. Both have become major concerns among the dining public.

    Chefs are practicing more “root-to-stem” cooking, the logical next step to “nose-to-tail” cooking, in which restaurants utilize the entire animal (or vegetable). It’s an effective way to avoid waste and manage costs.

    Chefs have long used bits and scraps—in soups, chicken salad and so forth. But now, they’re making marmalade from citrus skins and bitters from plum and peach pits. This parallels the new law in Seattle, which as of January 1st ordered no more food waste in the garbage. Instead, residents are expected to recycle and compost.

    5. GLUTEN-FREE CUISINE

    Fewer than 7% of Americans are sensitive to gluten; about 1% of people worldwide suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which gluten consumption can cause life-threatening intestinal damage.

    Yet, 63% of Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said they believed following a gluten-free diet would improve their physical or mental health*. About a third of those said they buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten.

    Gluten-free cuisine was the culinary theme chefs pointed to fifth most often in the NRA survey. Restaurants are responding with a growing array of gluten-free options, including gluten-free burger buns.

     
    *Note that no scientific studies to date confirm or deny a positive impact of gluten-free diets among condition-free consumers.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Dip Sweet Chips On National Chip & Dip Day

    sweet-potato-chips-strawberry-dip-tablespoon.com-230

    Cinnamon sweet potato chips with
    strawberry yogurt dip. Photo courtesy
    Tablespoon.com.

     

    March 23rd is National Chip and Dip Day. When we think of chips and dip, salty chips pop into mind, with creamy dips, guacamole or salsa.

    But today’s tip is: For snacking or a fun dessert, go sweet with cinnamon-sugar flavored chips and a sweet dip.

    Just a quick glance of some of the better brands on store shelves:

  • Bare Cinnamon Apple Chips (a NIBBLE favorite, and gluten-free)
  • Cabo Chips Churro Tortilla Chips
  • Glenny’s Apple Cinnamon Low Fat Soy Crisps
  • Glutino Cinnamon and Sugar Gluten Free Bagel Chips
  • Kay’s Naturals Cinnamon Toast Protein Pretzel Sticks
  • Popchips Cinnamon Twist Sweet Potato Chips
  • Popcorners Whole Grain Chips
  • Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips
  • Terra Cinnamon Spice Sweet Potato Chips
  •  

    WHAT DIP SHOULD YOU USE?

    Here are some suggestions from Cabo Chips and THE NIBBLE:

  • Caramel Sauce: Cinnamon and caramel are a delicious combination. Simply warm a bowl of caramel sauce in the microwave.
  • Chocolate Sauce: Melt chocolate chips or a chopped chocolate bar in the microwave for 45 seconds. You can dip chps in the warm chocolate, or dip the chips and place on wax paper until the chocolate sets.
  • Dulce de Leche Sauce: As with caramel sauce, simply warm a bowl of dulce de leche in the microwave.
  • Mexican Fried Ice Cream: Warm the chips in a toaster oven for 5 minutes on low heat. Place in individual bowls and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Garnish with chocolate or caramel sauce a drizzle of honey. You can also add fresh berries.
  • Nutella: Place a few spoonfuls in the microwave for 30 seconds, then drizzle over the chips or simply dip them.
  • Sweet “Nachos”: Warm the chips, drizzle with warmed sauce, and garnish with butterscotch or chocolate chips or mini marshmallows.
  • Yogurt Dip: Use fruit or vanilla yogurt straight, or augment it with mini chocolate chips or other inclusions.
  • Your own recipe for a sweet dip. Cheesecake dip, anyone?
  •  

    apple-chips-salted-caramel-dip-dizzybusyandhungry-230

    Apple chips with a salted caramel dip. Photo © DizzyBusyAndHungry.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

      

    Comments

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