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Archive for International Foods

TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Ginger Miso Salad Dressing

The other week we went shopping at a large Japanese superstore (and the largest Japanese supermarket in the U.S.), Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, New Jersey.

Strolling up and down the aisles, we wandered into the salad dressing area and found ourselves hungering for a big salad with ginger-miso dressing—the type of dressing, often orange in color, served on green salads at most Japanese restaurants.

We purchased three different brands, chopped up a big salad for dinner and tossed it with dressing. OMG: Is every prepared consumer food product sold in America drowning in sugar? Would the same brand sold in Japan be this sweet?

(Indeed, manufacturers alter their recipes to suit the tastes of different nationalities. For example, the original Dutch Heineken beer is much heartier than the watered-down product sold in the U.S.)

At $4.59 for a 12-ounce bottle, we were, to say the least, disappointed.


Freshly chopped and waiting for ginger miso dressing. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

We rarely purchase salad dressing because it’s so easy to make, and the price is very high given the low cost of a bit of oil, vinegar and seasonings. If we buy a bottle, it should taste great!

We knew we could do better than these overly sweet bottles. The next day, mixed our own, using it to top a dinner of grilled chicken on greens.

The recipe that follows took us 5 minutes (just toss all ingredients into the food processor); and the ingredients cost pennies, not dollars.


This recipe makes 3/4 cup dressing, enough for salad for four. Feel free to double it and refrigerate the extra dressing—for your next salad, as a dip with raw vegetables or a sauce for grilled chicken, seafood or vegetables.


  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (you can substitute grapeseed or olive oil)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste (white or red)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large garlic clove or 2 small cloves
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
    TIP: Substitute 1 teaspoon of sesame oil for 1 teaspoon of the canola oil. If you like it, add more next time. Sesame oil has a strong flavor, so add a bit at a time.


    This award-winning salad dressing is $5.49
    for 10 ounces. You can make a version of it
    for 50 cents. Photo courtesy



    1. COMBINE all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until creamy.

    2. USE immediately or refrigerate.

    When choosing oil for any culinary use, head to the monounsaturated fats, the “heart-healthy” oils.

    Canola oil and olive oil, two popular cooking oils, are low in unhealthy saturated fat and not-so-healthy polyunsaturated fat, and high in healthy monounsaturated fat.

    Scientists believe that monounsaturated fats help lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) that can clog arteries, leading to heart disease or stroke, while increasing the level of good cholesterol (HDL) that removes cholesterol buildup from the arteries. Integrate more of them, as well as the other oils listed above, into your diet.


    Examples of heart-healthy oils and their percentages of monounsaturated fat: Almond oil (66%), avocado oil (74%), canola oil (62%), macadamia oil (84%), olive oil (73%—whether refined [regular], virgin or extra virgin), sunflower oil (high oleic version, 82%), tea seed oil (60%).


    What about corn oil and vegetable oil?

    While all oils are a combination of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats, a heart-healthy oil has a preponderance of monounsaturated oils.

    In contrast, corn oil, vegetable oil *and other popular cooking oils are largely polyusaturated oils, where the preponderance of the fat is not monounsaturated: corn oil 62%, grape seed oil 71%; safflower oil 77%; sunflower oil (linolenic—69%).


    *Vegetable oil can be a blend of oils, e.g. corn, soybean and sunflower, or it may be only one type of oil. There is no requirement for the label to list the type(s) of oil in the bottle. Generally, “vegetable oil” is refined to have a high smoke point but very little taste or aroma. This makes it a good all-purpose oil for baking, frying and sautéeing. However, it is not of sufficient quality to be used as a condiment oil or for salad dressings.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Cold Saké

    Saké Cider: a saké cocktail for harvest
    season. Photo courtesy Haru.


    Today is National Saké Day, or “Nihonshu no Hi,” as it’s known in Japan.

    In Japan, October 1st is the traditional beginning of the new saké season. Brewmasters across the nation begin the process of producing their saké.

    Today, forget the hot saké served at restaurants. It’s bulk saké, and often has an alcoholic burn of a lower-quality product.

    Instead, try saké flights or saké-infused cocktails made with a higher quality product. Chilled, premium saké is as appealing as white wine, and pairs easily with non-Asian cuisine.

    We’re doing flights, trying some different saké brands. We have a supply of traditional saké cups (masu), although any wine glass or shot glass will do. The traditional toast: “Kanpai!” (pronounced con-PIE).



    Consider this harvest-themed Mr. Beam’s Saké Cider, created with Jim Beam Black, Reiko Cold Sake and fresh apple cider. It was a seasonal special last autumn and winter at Haru Saké Bar and the Haru restaurants in New York City and Boston. We liked it so much, we’re reviving it on THE NIBBLE (although you’ll have to choose something else on the menu at Haru).


    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 1.5 ounces Jim Beam Black
  • 1.5 ounces cold saké
  • 3 ounces apple cider
  • 2 ounces sour mix


    1. COMBINE ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously.

    2. STRAIN into a rocks glass or Martini glass.


    Quality cold sake. The cup is called a masu. Photo courtesy Tedorigawa Brewing Company.


    SAKÉ 101

  • Although some Americans think of saké as “Japanese wine,” it is brewed, just like beer. Traditionally vinified Japanese wines include rice wine and plum wine.
  • Saké, the drink, has an accented “e,” and is pronounced SAH-kay. Sake is the word for salmon, has no accented “e,” and is pronounced SAH-keh.
  • Learn all about sake and how to understand restaurant saké lists.
  • Glossary of saké terms and types of saké.


    RECIPE: Taco Salad First Course

    First course or side taco salad. Photo
    courtesy Kraft.


    When we see a taco salad on a menu, we generally order it, and get a huge salad the size of a dinner plate. But there are smaller options.

    With this “taco salad makeover,” you can enjoy a taco salad as a first course, or as a side with a sandwich or soup.

    This recipe, from Kraft, keeps the classic ingredients along with an ingenious way to make the shell fresh, from tortillas. You get to a family-restaurant favorite in just 20 minutes of prep time.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 flour tortillas (8 inch diameter)
  • 3/4 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 cup rinsed canned kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup chunky salsa
  • 4 cups packed torn mixed salad greens
  • 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ranch dressing or olive oil-lime juice vinaigrette
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT oven to 425°F.

    2. CRUMPLE 4 sheets of foil to make 4 (3-inch) balls; place on baking sheet. Top each with 1 tortilla; spray with cooking spray. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until tortillas are golden brown. The tortillas will drape over balls as they bake, to form shells. Meanwhile…

    3. BROWN meat with chili powder in large nonstick skillet. Stir in beans and salsa; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

    4. FILL tortilla shells with salad greens, meat mixture, cheese and tomatoes. Drizzle with dressing.



    RECIPE: Asian Fusion Brisket Sandwich

    Brisket, anyone? Photo courtesy Fatty ‘Cue
    Restaurant | NYC.


    Here’s a fun idea for brisket lovers: An Asian fusion brisket sandwich.

    Fatty ‘Cue restaurants in New York City combine traditional smoky southern barbecue with spicy Southeast Asian flavorings.

    Each Fatty ‘Cue location has a variation on the smoked beef brisket recipe, including:

  • Brisket with smoked melted cheddar, purple pickled onions, aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), chili jam and cilantro, on toasted baguette slices
  • Brisket with smoked onion marmalade, green papaya slaw and bao (Chinese steamed buns)
  • Brisket with rhubarb kimchee and bao (you can use any type of kimchee)

    Fancy some fusion?

    You can add the Asian fixings to a roast beef sandwich, or for that matter, chicken, turkey, lamb, ham or roast pork. If you have a bottle of Southeast Asian fish-sauce, shake it on!



    PRODUCT: Black Rice Tortillas, Exotic & Gluten Free

    Yes, there are gluten-free tortillas from Rudi’s and Udi’s that have been lifesavers for Mexican food fans who follow a gluten free diet.

    But now there are even better ones: black rice tortillas from Food For Life. Exotic, gluten free, vegan and yeast free, they are ready to be turned into:

  • Crust, e.g. for chicken pot pie
  • Croutons (cut into strips, fry and season)
  • Mexican favorites: burritos, empanadas,
    enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas
  • “Mexican lasagne”
  • Sandwich wraps
  • Tortilla chips and nachos (cut into triangles and bake into chips)
  • Tortilla “pizza”

    Gluten-free wraps are dramatic as well as tasty. Photo courtesy Food For Life.


    Black rice, also known as purple rice and forbidden rice, is a group of rice types that are black or dark brown when harvested, but turn purple when cooked.

    Unlike refined white rice, black rice is a whole grain loaded with fiber, 18 amino acids, iron, zinc, copper, carotene, vitamins, minerals and anthocyanins (the same antioxidants that are found in like those found in açaí, blackberries, blueberries and tart cherries, and give all of these foods their deep pigments).


    Quesadillas with a twist. Photo courtesy


    In ancient times, black rice was reserved exclusively for Chinese emperors—thus the name forbidden rice. (See the different types of rice.)

    Today, you don’t have to be royalty to enjoy black rice—you can buy it at almost any natural foods store and online. It makes an especially glamorous rice pudding: Thai black rice pudding with coconut milk.

    A healthier alternative to traditional wheat flour tortillas, these black rice tortillas are tastier, too.

    One thing to watch out for: We didn’t see an expiration on our package and left them out at room temperature. The tortillas are actually pretty fragile: the shelf life is five days at room temperature. But they’ll stay fresh for three weeks when refrigerated and one year frozen.


    The tortillas are certified kosher by KOF-K.

    Here’s a recipe for homemade gluten-free tortillas.

    Here are some of our favorite gluten-free products.

    For information on gluten intolerance, visit the Celiac Disease Foundation.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Greek Salad

    Everyone we lunch with seems to order a Greek salad or a Cobb salad. And they admit that they never make it at home!

    So today’s tip is: Enjoy a Greek salad at home, regularly. When you make your own, you can add as much feta, olives, pepperoncini and other favorite ingredients as you like.

  • You can buy top-quality feta at a cheese store.
  • You can substitute romaine for the iceberg lettuce normally used in restaurants.
  • You can use the beautiful tomatoes that are now in season.
  • And if you don’t like red wine vinegar, the classic dressing in America, you can substitute balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.
    Serve your Greek salad as a main meal, a smaller salad course, or as a soup-and-salad or sandwich-and-salad combo for lunch.


    A cute Greek salad preparation from Stix
    Mediterranean Grill
    in New York City. What’s missing? The lettuce, which is not part of authentic recipes.


    FOOD TRIVIA: In Greece, the feta-cucumber-onion-plus salad is referred to as horiatiki, which translates to country/village/peasant salad. It is a common part of a traditional Greek meal. Horiatiki doesn’t contain lettuce—that’s an American preference. In Greece, you’ll only see lettuce used at restaurants that cater to tourists.

    An authentic horiatiki is a combination of all or some of the following: anchovies, bell pepper, capers, cucumber, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, onion, sardines and tomato. It is dressed with olive oil only—no vinegar—plus oregano, salt and pepper.

    The recipe below is from Molyvos, one of the finest Greek restaurants in New York City. Executive Chef Jim Botsacos. He serves an American-style Greek salad, but check out the preparation: He uses the techniques of a top chef.


    Ingredients For 6 Side Servings

  • 3 beefsteak tomatoes*
  • 1 cucumber, scored, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise ¼ inch thick
  • 1 small red onion
  • 20 kalamata olives, pitted and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup feta cheese, diced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, well drained
  • Red wine vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
  • Optional: anchovies, bell pepper, pepperoncini, sardines

    *When beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes are not in season, use halved cherry tomatoes.


    A classic Greek salad. Photo courtesy Stix Mediterranean Grill | New York City.



    1. CORE the tomatoes. Cut each tomato in half crosswise, then cut each half into 6 pieces. Place the pieces in a mixing bowl. Add the cucumber.

    2. CUT the onion in half lengthwise and then slice each half lengthwise into thin julienne. Add the onion to the bowl. Add the olives, cheese, and capers. If using pepperoncini, slice into circles and add; or use whole as garnish,

    3. ADD the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Taste and season with oregano and salt and pepper to taste.

    4. PLACE an equal portion of the lettuce on each of 6 salad plates or bowls. Top with an equal portion of tomato mixture, sprinkle lightly with oregano. Serve immediately.




  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

    1. COMBINE the vinegar with the garlic and oregano in a small mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk, whisking constantly. add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until all the oil is incorporated.

    2. SEASON with salt and pepper to taste and set aside until ready to use. Whisk briefly before using.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Chilaquiles For Breakfast

    Chilaquiles with avocado. Photo courtesy
    Avocados From Mexico.


    Still looking for something special for Father’s Day breakfast? How about chilaquiles (chee-la-KEE-lace), a traditional Mexican breakfast or brunch dish.

    While there are numerous regional variations, here’s a typical recipe: Corn tortillas are cut into quarters and lightly fried. Next comes green or red salsa or mole sauce, then fried eggs.

    Pulled chicken can be added; the dish is topped with shredded queso fresco and/or crema, Mexican sour cream. Sliced raw onion, avocado or other garnish can be added. A side of refried beans typically completes the dish.

    Don’t confuse chilaquiles with the Tex-Mex dish migas, scrambled eggs mixed with chopped green onions, shredded Cheddar and crushed tortilla chips or tortilla strips.

    This recipe is courtesy Avocados From Mexico, which has many delicious avocado recipes on its website.



    Ingredients For 4 Servings


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 six-inch corn tortillas, quartered
  • 1-1/2 cups red salsa
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cubed
  • 2 small radishes, thinly sliced


    1. HEAT oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortillas. Carefully stir and turn tortillas to coat them with oil until crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat.

    2. FRY eggs in a separate skillet. As eggs are finishing…

    3. RETURN tortillas to medium heat. Pour salsa over crisp tortillas, turning to coat until they are slightly soft but still chewy. Top tortillas with fried eggs, avocado and radishes.


    Avocados are a delicious breakfast food: plain, on toast or with eggs. Photo courtesy Avocados From Mexico.


    TIP: If you want the tortillas to remain crisp, hold the salsa and pour it over the other ingredients immediately before serving.



    RECIPE: Chocolate Peanut Butter Fried Ice Cream

    Here’s something fun for father’s day: Chocolate Peanut Butter Fried Ice Cream. The recipe is from QVC’s chef, David Venable.

    It uses store-bought ice cream. If you’re comfortable with deep frying, this is an easy recipe.

    While this recipe uses chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream, you can use whatever flavor you like; and substitute chopped almonds, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, or walnuts for the peanuts.

    To make things even easier, you can prepare this recipe a few days in advance, through Step 4.



  • 1 quart chocolate peanut-butter cup ice cream (or other flavor)
  • 4 cups chocolate-flavored whole-grain corn and oat
  • cereal,* finely crushed

  • 2 cups unsalted peanuts or other nuts, finely crushed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chocolate sauce for garnish

    Something special for dessert: fried ice cream. Photo courtesy QVC.


    *Cheerios Frosted Whole Grain Oat & Corn Cereal, for example. You can substitute Corn Flakes or Frosted Flakes.


    1. SPOON out 8 large balls of ice cream onto a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Freeze for at least 1-1/2 hours.

    2. COMBINE the crushed cereal with the crushed peanuts in a large bowl. Dip the chilled ice-cream balls in the crumb mixture; refreeze for 45 minutes. Do not discard the crumbs.


    Fried ice cream ready for its close-up. Photo courtesy QVC


    3. BEAT the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Dip the coated ice-cream balls into the eggs and then into the crumb mixture, coating completely. Put the ice cream back onto the sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate the egg and sugar mixture.

    4. REPEAT the coating process once again and refreeze for 6 hours, or overnight.

    5. PREHEAT a deep fryer to 375°F. Line a plate with paper towels.

    6. PLACE one ball into the oil and fry for about 25-35 seconds. Remove from the oil and place on the paper towel-lined plate. Repeat.

    7. PLACE each ball on a dessert plate and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.





    FOOD HOLIDAY: Smorgasbord Buffet For A Midsummer Feast

    In Sweden, Midsummer marks the start of summer holidays. Midsummer Eve is always the Friday in the middle of the month. People head to the country to be close to nature, enjoy a delicious smorgasbord with beer and aquavit (no wine!), and be with family and friends.

    If you’ve seen Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, or Woody Allen’s parody of it, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, you get the drift.

    Celebrants pick wildflowers to weave into wreaths, set up the maypole and outdoor dance floors. Midsummer is supposed to be a magical time for love. But we’d like to focus on that big table laden with food, the smörgåsbord.

    Swedish retailer IKEA has an annual Midsummer Smörgåsbord; you can purchase tickets for the 6/14 event at the store. They sell out, so do it in advance—$12.99, for adults, $4.99 for kids. Details at


    Pickled herring canapés on pumpernickel bread with gherkins. Photo by Marta Sobo | SXC.

    While IKEA offers food only (no dancing, no chasing your romantic interest through the woods), the menu is impressive. Why not adapt it to your own Midsummer Eve’s feast? Make selections from Ikea’s list, or whip up your own favorites:


  • Gravlax with mustard sauce
  • Herring, in assorted preparations
  • Hard boiled eggs with shrimp
  • Meatballs with lingonberries
  • Prinskorv sausage, a type of Vienna sausage, sautéed
  • Smoked salmon with horseradish sauce
  • Swedish ham served cold with mustard
  • Whole poached salmon

    Swedish meatballs. Here’s a recipe from
    Betty Crocker.



  • Cucumber salad
  • Green salad
  • Other favorite salads

  • Boiled dill potatoes
  • Assorted Swedish cheeses (Herrgardsost, the most popular cheese in Sweden, Hushallsost is Swedish farmer’s cheese)
  • Crispbread, thin bread, dinner rolls


  • Assorted desserts—cakes, cookies, Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam and whipped cream
  • Ice cream
  • Coffee, tea
  • Strawberries and whipped cream

    While you may not have an inventory of Swedish music, ABBA always works for us!



    RECIPE: Asian Beef Skewers (Satay)

    Hot dogs, burgers and steaks are traditional Memorial Day fare. But you can travel beyond America and enjoy some global cuisine on the grill.

    This recipe is from Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel series Bizarre Foods. There’s nothing bizarre about this recipe, though.

    “Roadside eateries in Cambodia serve little skewered dishes from morning to closing time, and this simple beef and lemongrass version of mine is the type of recipe that grill freaks will turn to all year long,” says Zimmern. “I also use the same recipe for chicken parts, pork chops, etc., with equal success.”




    Cambodian-style beef skewers with spicy peanut sauce. Photo courtesy Andrew Zimmern.

  • 24 ounces dry-aged boneless trimmed beef tenderloin or dry-aged beef sirloin
  • 2 peeled and minced garlic cloves
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup crushed dry-roasted peanuts for garnish
  • Preparation

    1. SLICE beef into long thin strips, 1/8 inch x 1 inch x 5 inches long.

    2. COMBINE the garlic, lemongrass, coriander, sugar and fish sauce in a mortar and pestle until mixture is a paste. Use a blender or food processor if you have to.

    3. MARINATE meat for 12 to 24 hours in this mixture.

    4. THREAD beef onto skewers, grill briefly to medium rare over high direct heat and serve with spicy peanut sauce for dipping, garnishing with the nuts.


    Another word for this dish is satay, a Southeast
    Asian dish consisting of small pieces of meat,
    poultry, fish or seafood, grilled on a skewer and
    served with spiced sauce. Photo courtesy Healthy
    In A Hurry




  • 1/4 cup roasted ground peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoon chili paste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 fresh red chili, seeded and thinly sliced


    1. HEAT the oil in a small pan and add the garlic, chili paste and tomato paste.

    2. FRY until the garlic turns light golden brown.

    3. ADD the broth, peanut butter, hoisin and sugar, and simmer for 3 minutes.

    4. COOL and add the peanuts and chilies.



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