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TIP OF THE DAY: Hibiscus Salt & Ways To Use It

Hibiscus Salt Rim

Chocolate Cupcake With Salt Garnish

Cherry Tomato Salad With Hibiscus Salt

Fried Egg & Asparagus With Hibiscus Salt

Hibiscus Blossom

Top: Margarita rim. Second: Cupcake garnish. Third: Salad garnish. Third: Eggs. Photos courtesy Hibiscus-Salt.com. Bottom: Hibiscus flower. Photo courtesy TypesOfFlower.com.

 

A number of years ago, hibiscus flowers became a trendy ingredient for mixologists and pastry chefs, with the import of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup from Australia’s Wild Hibiscus Flower Company.

It took us this long to try the company’s second hibiscus product, Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes. Salty, fruity-zingy-tart and beautiful, it’s become the latest “it” gift for us.

WHAT IS HIBISCUS SALT?

First, what is hibiscus? It’s a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae—the same genus that gave us marshmallow. The genus contains several hundred species that are native to subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.

The flowers often have vivid colors and fragrances. The blossoms are used as a flavoring for everything from beverages to ice pops (we highly recommend hibiscus iced tea. The flavor is fruity and floral, with a tart, red fruit backbone.

The blossoms are also used to make a gourmet finishing salt with a pyramid shape similar to England’s Maldon salt and Cyprus Sea Salt. Hibiscus salt is a blend of dried, ground hibiscus flowers and Australian pyramid salt flakes.

Finishing salts are top-quality salts that are known for their unique textures, which allow them to quickly dissolve when applied to finished dishes. These include flake salt, fleur de sel, and French sea salt.
 
Flake salt is a light crystal salt reminiscent of snowflakes. Seawater is are evaporated by the sun and wind producing salt brine that is slowly heated to the point where delicate pyramids shaped crystals of salt appear. The finished product is light, flaky sea salt.

Flake salts are harvested all over the world: the Maldon River in England, Anglesey off the island of Wales, New Zealand, and Australia. The pink flake salt shown here comes from Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin, where a red pigment, carotene, is secreted by algae.

The crystals are small, fine, flat and pink; combining with the hibiscus yields a salt with violet hues.

In addition to delicate flavor and eye appeal, the salt is rich with calcium and magnesium, among other minerals.

The product is call natural, certified kosher (by Kosher Australia) and gluten free.
 
CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALT IN OUR SALT GLOSSARY.

 
HOW TO USE HIBISCUS SALT

Hibiscus salt can be sprinkled as is, crumbled for a finer presentation or used in a salt grinder. It can be used with sweet and savory foods and beverages.

  • Avocado toast, cream cheese, etc.
  • Cake and cupcake garnish
  • Chocolate bark
  • Cocktails and mocktails
  • Eggs
  • Fish, smoked salmon
  • Glass rimmer
  • Goat cheese log (roll the log in an elegant combination of the violet salt and chopped green pistachios) and other fresh cheeses
  • Hot chocolate
  • Ice cream, sorbet and other desserts (go for a salty contrast, or mix the hibiscus salt with some decorating salt for sweet-and-salty)
  • Melon
  • Plate garnish
  • Popcorn
  • Potatoes, rice and vegetables
  • Salad
  • Yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Lots more (including gifts)
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    Get yours today.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese Spreads, Cheese Condiments

    Fig Spread With Cheese

    Bonne Maman Fig Spread

    Top: Crostini with Brie, Serrano ham and Fig Spread (photo courtesy Favor The Moments). Bottom: Enjoy trying the different spreads with different cheeses (photo courtesy Bonne Maman).

     

    What’s a cheese condiment? What’s a cheese spread? you may ask. Here’s the food nerd explanation:

  • Cheese spread is one of the sweet cheese condiments.
  • A condiment is an auxiliary food product that adds flavor to another food.
  • “Condiment” is first found in print in French around 1420, and derives from the Latin condimentum, spice.
  • Mankind has been enjoying condiments for much longer, even before the dukkah of ancient Egypt the ancient Romans’ beloved fish sauce, garum.
  •  
    Chutney, ketchup, mustard and pickle relish are examples of condiments that enhance burgers and franks. Although you may not think of them as such, fudge sauce, marshmallow cream and whipped cream are ice cream condiments.

    Given America’s growing familiarity with fine cheeses, here’s an…

    INTRODUCTION TO CHEESE CONDIMENTS

    What is the difference between a mostarda and a mustard? Why would you put honey on cheese? Can you use the same condiments on a log of fresh goat cheese and an aged Gouda?

    Cheeses are wonderful on their own, but cheese condiments can bring out their nuances. Similar to wine pairings, the flavor and age of the cheese are taken into account when deciding on pairings.

    We have an elaborate chart of cheese condiment pairings, from aged balsamic and mustard to sweet condiments such as chutney, honey and preserves.

    Cheeses served with sweet condiments make delicious appetizers, desserts and snacks.

    Take a look at the newest cheese condiments in town: three fruit spreads from premium jam, jelly and preserves company, Bonne Maman. They are all natural, non-GMO and certified kosher by OU.

     
    MEET THE NEW CHEESE SPREADS FROM BONNE MAMAN

    First, a word about “spreads.”

    There are different types of fruit spreads, including chutney, jam, jelly, preserve and others.

    Aside from the jam and jelly group, some people hear “cheese spread” and think of like Port Wine Cheddar. Not here.

    As regards jam, in the U.S., “fruit spread” is generally a reduced-calorie product, replacing all or part of the sugar with fruit juice concentrate and low-calorie sweeteners. Not the case with Bonne Maman.

    The new spreads from Bonne Mamam are very thick and concentrated preserves that don’t run or dribble: They stand firm, enabling you to use them in more ways. The flavor, too, is more intense—glorious, in fact. It was all we could do not to eat them directly from the jar. (Well, maybe we did.)

    The best pairings are the ones you like. We’ve made some suggestions, but let your palate be your guide.

     

    Black Cherry Spread Cheese Pairings

    Tart cherries pair well with both sharp and creamy cheeses. We pair it with goat cheese, Brie and Camenbert.
     
    Purple Fig Spread Cheese Pairings

    This one is easy: Fig pairs well with all types of cheese.
     
    Quince Spread Cheese Pairings

    For centuries, membrillo, quince paste, has been the classic condiment for aged Spanish cheeses. Cabrales and Manchego are most often found in the U.S., but your cheesemonger may also have Idiazabal, Roncal, Zamorano and others. Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano, with nuances similar to Manchego, pairs well; so does aged provolone. The nutty Swiss mountain cheeses are also a match: Appenzeller, Emmental (with the big holes called eyes), Gruyère* and French Comté.
     
    NEXT STEPS

    Plan a cheese tasting with fruit spreads and other condiments. Your family and friends will love it!

    As of this writing, you can download a $2 coupon on the Bonne Maman website.
     
    PARTY FAVORS

    Looking for small Mother’s Day gifts or party favors? Jet.com is currently selling a six-pack with free shipping.

    The spreads are also available at retailers nationwide.

     

    Quince Spread

    Bonne Maman Purple Fig Cheese Spread

    Top: Quince Spread atop a pyramid-shaped cheese (photo courtesy Taylor Takes A Taste). Bottom: A jar of Purple Fig Spread (photo courtesy Jet.com).

     
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    *Switzerland has produced Gruyère for hundreds of years, but after an appeal to the EU, France was also allowed to use the name. French Gruyère must be made with tiny eyes—“between the size of a pea and a cherry”—to distinguish it from the original.

      

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    PRODUCT: Boulder Canyon Potato Chips With Healthier Oils

    March 14th was National Potato Chip Day, a good time to focus on what’s new in chips. We spent the day tasting Boulder Canyon chips fried in 100% better-for-you oils: avocado oil, coconut oil and olive oil:

  • Avocado Oil Chips: Canyon Cut, Jalapeno, Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt, Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper
  • Coconut Oil Chips: Kettle Chips, Sea Salt
  • Olive Oil Chips: Canyon Cut,
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    They are variously made in standard cut kettle chips or “Canyon Cut,” with ridges. The potato chips are thicker (less breakage), very crisp, much less greasy and lower in sodium. We couldn’t stop crunching away.

    Find a retailer near you.

     
    ABOUT THE OILS

    Mass-market brands use different oils to fry their chips: canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower or soybean oil, depending on price and availability. These are O.K., but are not better-for-you oils.

  • If you care about genetically modified foods, be aware that canola, corn, cottonseed and soybean oils are often made from them.
  • Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E antioxidants, but it’s also high in inflammatory compounds.
  •  
    On the other hand, avocado, coconut and olive oils are among the healthiest oils you can use.

    Yes, some of Boulder Canyon’s other chips use sunflower and/or safflower oil, but the new specialty oil chips are for consumers who care about the difference.

    The entire Boulder Canyon line is:

  • Certified gluten free
  • Non GMO
  • No MSG
  • No Trans Fat
  • Certified Kosher (by OK)
  • No Cholesterol
  • Low Sodium
  • Vegan
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    Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Chips

    Boulder Canyon Coconut Oil Chips

    Olive oil and coconut oil, two of the three better for you oils used by Boulder Canyon potato chips. Photos courtesy Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods.

     

    ABOUT BOULDER CANYON FOODS

    Since its inception in 1994, Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods has focused on premium snacks sold through the natural foods channel, where consumers were looking healthier alternatives to traditional snacks.

    The ingredients are top quality, non-GMO and minimally processed. The chips are cooked in small batches, in kettles instead of mammoth factory vats.

    A good community citizen, the company offsets 100% of its energy usage with Renewable Energy Credits. The purchase prevents as many as 3,421,989 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere annually.

    The company also participates in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, with a certification audit that the corrugated cardboard packaging used to transport and store products meets the standards of the Initiative.

    Here’s more about Boulder Canyon Foods.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Curate Snack Bars

    America doesn’t need another “good for you” snack bar. The $6.2 billion U.S. snack market is plenty crowded as it is. The Curate brand’s research turned up more than 1,000 varieties of snack bars.

    But when you taste Curate, you’ll be delighted that management decided to enter the premium snack bar market.

    The brand took a chef’s approach to developing recipes, testing combinations of ingredients that are both nutrient-dense and luscious, with a bonus of eye appeal.

    All-natural, gluten free, non-GMO, soy free and lightly sweetened, the bars contain 4 to 7 grams of protein and are a good source of plant-based fiber.

    Each bar comprises some six ingredients including quinoa supergrain, omega 3-packed seeds, a fruit and a nut. They’re non-GMO and gluten-free.

    Each of the first six flavors out of the gate is equally tempting, depending on whether your temptation is chocolate or a fruit profile:

  • Dark & Tempting Balsamic Fig & Hazelnut: balsamic vinegar, hazelnuts, Mission figs, orange zest, quinoa, sunflower kernels
  • Harmonious Blend Marcona Almond & Apricot: apricot, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon, Marcona almonds, quinoa
  • Indulgent Dark Chocolate & Hazelnuts: almond butter, dark chocolate, hazelnuts, quinoa, sea salt, vanilla
  • Irresistible Dark Chocolate Strawberries & Pistachios: almond butter, dark chocolate, pistachios, quinoa, strawberries, toasted oats
  • Salted Decadence Dark Chocolate & Almonds: almond butter, dark chocolate, hemp, Marcona almonds, quinoa, sea salt
  • Sweet & Tart Berry Bliss: almonds, blackberries, blueberries, chia, cranberries, flaxseed, quinoa, raspberries
  •  
    The line is certified kosher by OU.

    More products are in the works, including bars designed for kids, with plans to extend the offerings with other better-for-you snacks.
     
    You can buy the bars at retail (here’s the store locator) or online on Amazon.com, Soap.com and Target.com.

     
    WHO MAKES CURATE SNACK BARS

    Curate bars are made by Abbott Laboratories, a $20+ billion global company that makes healthcare products as well as nutritional products: from Glucerna, PediaSure and Similac to as Zone Nutrition Bars and EAS Sports Nutrition.

    The company decided to further its nutrition heritage with a consumer snack brand. A new division, Curate Snacks, was born.

    As big as the snack category is, the company feels that the opportunity for delicious, nutritious snacks has “tremendous” potential.

    Take a bite, and you’ll discover why.

    Learn more at CurateSnacks.com.

     

    Curate Dark & Tempting Bar

    Curate Indulgent Bar

    Curate Irresistible Bar

    Curate bars in three of the six flavors: Dark & Tempting Bar, Indulgent Bar and Irresistible Bar. Photos courtesy Curate Snacks.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Shpickles Pickled Vegetables, Shmolives Pickled Olives

    Last summer, when scouting a Brooklyn food festival, we came across Shpickles, Shmolives and Shnuts. They’re made by hand by a mom-and-son company called Brooklyn Whatever.

    Mom, a social worker and son, a chef, started a family business to add more flavor to pickles, olives and nuts. The result: unique, assertively spiced, better-for-you snacks, garnishes, or for a relish tray.

    Or for gifts. We can’t think of a better house gift for hosts, combining flavor and fun. Shpickles and Shmolives will be our go-to house gifts for the forseable future.

    The line is all natural and certified kosher by Rabbi Dovid Chaoi. Shpickles and Shmolives are free of dairy, gluten, soy, sugar and wheat, making them vegan as well.
     
    SHPICKLES: PICKLED VEGETABLES

    Other companies make great pickle cucumbers. Brooklyn Whatever has started out with other pickled vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower & Beets
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Kale Slaw
  • Okra
  • String Beans
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    We can’t choose favorites here: We like them all. And we feel so good about eating them: So much flavor, so few calories.
     
    SHMOLIVES: SPICED OLIVES

    Shmolives is a blend of seven different olives, marinated in a “secret mix” of herbs and spices that adhere to the olives, giving you a mouthful of zing with each bite.

    Made by hand in small batches “the old way”—stirring to coat the olives with wood spoons—they are a must for any olive lover.
     
    SHNUTS: SPICED NUTS

    Shnuts are a mix of almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and walnuts—no peanuts.

    They’re sweet and savory: herbs and spices with a touch of brown sugar. Made with all natural ingredients, filled with “good fat,” a handful is a healthful snack.

    HEALTH NOTES: The USDA-approved heart-healthy nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. These nuts contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g. Walnuts have the highest amount of the heart-healthy alpha linolenic acid, which many studies show lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels.

    As with Shpickles and Shmolives, Shnuts are prepared by hand, roasted twice and flavored to perfection: the perfect “shnack.”

     

    Shpickles Brussels Sprouts

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    A sampling of Shpickles: Brussels Sprouts, Carrots and Cauliflower & Beets.

     
    Shpickles are $10 per 15-ounce jar, Shmolives are $15 per 15-ounce jar. Shnuts are not yet on the website, but should be there soon.

    Get yours at BrooklynWhatever.com.

    Plan ahead for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifting.

    Not to mention green gifting for St. Patrick’s Day, with Shpickles Brussels Sprouts, Jalapeños, Kale Slaw, Okra and String Beans.

      

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