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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,
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Archive for Sauces/Rubs/Marinades

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Make A Purée or Coulis

A slice of blueberry cheesecake with
blueberry purée. Photo © Rohit Seth |


We asked Chef Johnny Gnall to discourse on purées—an easy way to add elegance to sweet or savory dishes.

A purée is a terrific way to showcase a fruit or vegetable in a different way. This versatile sauce allows you to add a fruit or vegetable seamlessly into another dish, layering flavor in a behind-the-scenes kind of way. It also makes an impressive and colorful swoosh on plates: one that impresses visually and in flavor (see photo below).

If you watch TV shows like “Top Chef,” you may have heard the chefs and judges referring to “coulis” (coo-LEE). The difference between a purée and a coulis is refinement: to make coulis, the purée is strained.

To do it, simply use a rubber spatula to push the purée through a mesh strainer or chinoise (SHEEN-wahz), which removes the seeds and skin. Voilà: Your purée is now a coulis!

After straining, a coulis displays a truly lovely sheen and smooth texture—one very well suited to a fancy dinner party.



Creating a terrific purée is not a matter of simply puréeing a fruit or vegetable in the food processor. Here’s a basic step-by-step process to create a purée, addressing all the speed bumps.

  • Use a blender, not a food processor. Sure, a food processor can work, but blenders are ideal for a couple of reasons (many professional chefs use the Vitamix brand). First, there is less space inside a blender than a food processor, so the ingredients will get mashed up faster and better. Additionally, blenders are shaped and structured in a way that facilitates a vortex, that channel of air you often see appear in the center of your spinning food or liquid that looks like a tornado or a whirlpool. This vortex sucks the ingredients downward towards the blade, which is where the puréeing takes place. A hand blender can also work with purées, but will usually take much longer.

  • Start with some liquid in addition to your fruit or vegetable. Often, and for a variety of reasons, a certain item will not want to purée: It will just sit at the bottom of the blender while the blade spins. By adding some liquid, a bit at a time, you can get things moving quickly. Your choice of liquid is up to you, but consider water or stock, depending on what you are puréeing. Avoid adding any oil early on: While water or stock will help you on your way, oil often just slicks things up and can actually prevent the purée process.
  • Add your product bit by bit. This rings especially true the more dense, sticky, or otherwise ornery your product gets. “To make a date purée, for example,” says Chef Gnall, “I begin with hot water and two or three pitted dates. Once I get a small amount of purée that is nice and loose, I add dates one at a time. Dates, in particular, are a challenge because of their sticky flesh. If you were to dump 20 dates into the blender and pressed Start, you’d overheat the motor (which can happen if you tax it for too long) before you actually accomplished anything.”

    Pastry chef Gael Gand uses both a cherry and
    a lemon coulis to grace her cheesecake.
    Photo courtesy Tru Restaurant | Chicago.


  • Scrape and stir as you go. Every so often it’s good to move things around in the bender with a spoon or spatula. Things will get lodged if your product is a more challenging one (such as dried fruit); giving everything a few stirs will help you determine how well everything has puréed down and what the consistency of your purée is like. Make sure you unplug the blender before you stick a utensil in it!
  • Season as you go. Just as with any cooking project, the more often you taste and season your purée, the better the final outcome will be. Remember that a purée is like any other dish: It should have a balance of taste, from sweet to salty to tart (acidity) and everything in between. Sherry vinegar is a great acid as it has a bit of its own sweetness in addition to a tangy punch. If you want minimal acidity, rice wine vinegar is also a good choice. Balsamic vinegar works, too, but adds a stronger stamp to the overall flavor.
  • Consistency is extremely important to a good purée. There is no right or wrong consistency, but depending on what application you have in mind, adjust the purée’s thickness accordingly. If you want to spread it across a plate—under a piece of meat, for example—make the purée on the thicker side. If you want to be able to drizzle it over food, go for something thinner. Liquid, quite naturally, is a great way to thin things out. Just use a liquid whose flavors work in the purée (don’t use chicken stock in a fruit purée). A general rule of thumb is to use fruit juice for sweet purées and stock for savory ones, but feel free to go wild: wine or liquor, milk, even something like tomato soup. As long as the flavors make sense, go for it.
  • Sheen matters, too. “Nothing says ‘I’m sexy’ like a shiny, velvety-looking purée,” says Chef Gnall. The way to achieve the ideal is to drizzle in a bit of oil at the end of the process. Drizzling in some oil very slowly, as the purée spins. Watch it like a hawk: As soon as you see the glossy sheen, stop adding oil. If you add too much of it, your purée will taste like the oil you’re using to shine it up. Olive oil works fine, and so do flavored or neutral oils. As with the liquid, just make sure things match the flavor profile of whatever it is you’re puréeing.
    There’s nothing like a puree to add glamour and pizzazz. If you develop a favorite recipe, please share it with us.



    RECIPE: Mushroom Gravy

    If you need a delicious gravy recipe, here’s one from THE NIBBLE’s consulting chef, Eric Dantis. It will add mushroomy goodness to the turkey and soak into the mashed potatoes and stuffing.


  • 1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed, stems removed and sliced about 1/8 of an inch thick
  • 1 half onion, diced roughly
  • 1 small carrot, diced roughly
  • ½ stalk celery, diced roughly
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • 2 quarts low sodium chicken stock
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • Wondra flour
  • Cooking oil: canola, olive or vegetable
  • Salt and pepper to taste

    Mushroom gravy adds richness to the turkey,
    stuffing and mashed potatoes. Photo by
    J. Java | Fotolia.


    *Wondra is a brand of “instant flour,” a pre-gelatinized wheat flour mixed with some malted barley flour. It was formulated to dissolve quickly in hot or cold liquids, and is most popularly used to thicken gravies and sauces while avoiding lumps. If you can’t find instant flour you can substitute all-purpose flour. Use an immersion blender to blend out the lumps.

    1. Coat the bottom of a pot with oil and heat on medium-high.
    2. When oil is hot, add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mushroom stems, and about ¼ of the sliced mushrooms.
    3. Season lightly with pinch of salt and pepper.
    4. Sweat with no color for 10-15 minutes, until tender.
    5. Add thyme, bay leaf; sprinkle in flour.
    6. Cook for 5 minutes to toast the flour and cook out the raw flour flavor.
    7. Add soy sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
    8. Add chicken stock, stir and increase heat to high.
    9. Bring liquid to boil then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.
    10. Simmer for 30-40 minutes; skim off and discard any scum or residual grease.
    11. While the stock is simmering, brown the reserved mushrooms in a separate pot with some oil.
    12. After 40 minutes, strain the mushroom stock into the pot with the reserved browned mushrooms. Bring to boil over high heat; then reduce, maintaining a simmer.
    13. Reduce the broth by at least half, or until the flavor of the salt level is to your liking.
    14. Add half of the cream and bring back to a boil. The gravy should nap the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
    15. If the viscosity of the sauce is still too thin, sprinkle in Wondra a little at a time, whisking to avoid clumps. You need to bring the gravy to a boil in order to activate the gluten in the Wondra.
    16. Strain one more time into a bowl and keep warm until ready to use.
    17. If making a day ahead of time, do not add cream until reheating.

    Let us know how you like it!



    PRODUCT: Java-Gourmet Coffee-Based Rubs, Sauces, Salts & Sweets

    Sauces are just the beginning of the coffee-
    accented products from Java-Gourmet. Photo
    by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.


    Java-Gourmet is the story of two Bostonians who relocated to the sylvan shores of Keuka Lake in upstate New York. Surrounded by natural beauty, they began to roast coffee to order, slowly air-cooling the beans to retain their natural coffee oils—which hold not only flavors, but also antioxidants.

    A few years later, they released Java Rub, giving zing to pork, poultry, steak, beef and turkey burgers, chili, enchiladas, tacos and other foods. An artisanal, coffee-based specialty food company was born.

    Since then, the company has created a large line of products—more than 30 products, a lineup that’s unique in the marketplace—based on coffee (coffee is a favorite ingredient of Bobby Flay and many other chefs). If you haven’t yet cooked with coffee, it both adds a depth of flavor and helps to caramelize the surface of the food.

  • A Cornucopia Of Coffee Products. The rubs are joined by sauces and marinades, a coffee-based brine, a salt grinder (sea salt, peppercorns and coffee beans) and a finishing salt (a grinder with coffee beans plus garlic, paprika, herbs, spices, salt and pepper) that’s good on everything, including popcorn.

  • The Sweet Side. Java-Gourmet offers three varieties of chocolate-coffee bark: Java Bark, Java Bark Decaf and Java Bark Latte (a milk chocolate). They’ll delight any chocolate-and-coffee lover.
  • Java Sprinkles. The meal ends with a shake of coffee sugar—ground espresso blended with cocoa, cane sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar and spices. Originally developed to top cappuccino, cocoa and other whipped cream- and foam-topped beverages, Java Sprinkles have also found a place as a garnish for ice cream, puddings, tiramisu and buttered toast.
  • While all products are used year-round, summer grilling season is the perfect time to try out the rubs and sauces.
  • Try them at home and bring some Java-Gourmet gifts when you’re invited to a cookout. Plan ahead for stocking stuffers for everyone who likes to cook. All products are small-batch-produced, all natural and free of MSG, gluten and trans fat.
  • Click over to and treat yourself to a selection.
    Make Your Own Coffee Rub
    If you want to try it with your own ground coffee, we prefer a dark roast (espresso, French or Italian roast) for more flavor and a lighter roast for a more subtle flavor. For a lighter roast rub, add dried basil, kosher salt, lemon zest and/or orange zest, pepper and sea salt or kosher salt. For a darker roast, add chili powder, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, pepper and salt.



    PRODUCT: Hot-Hot-Hot Ghost Pepper Salsa

    Here’s a salsa to enjoy while listening to Donna Summer belt “Hot Stuff.”

    It’s the first salsa we’ve tried from an artisan producer that uses the world’s hottest chile pepper—the ghost chile, or bhut jolokia.

    Salsa is a billion dollar industry in America, with consumer preferences trending to hot. Lots of people think that, for food, heat can’t be beat. If you’re one of the many who like it hot-hot-hot, get some of Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa. It recently won at the 2011 Scovie Awards, the world’s leading competition for hot and spicy products.

    Ghost Pepper Salsa is the fastest growing product in the company’s 71-year history. It’s also one of Mrs. Renfro’s three best sellers, along with two other hotties: Habanero and Green (jalapeño) Salsa.

    How hot is ghost pepper?


    Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot stuff, baby! Photo by River
    Soma | THE NIBBLE


  • The ghost pepper chile, or bhut jolokia, from northeast India, has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s hottest chile.
  • The chile is so hot, it’s used by the Indian military in tear gas—and it’s an ingredient in pepper spray, hand grenades and smoke bombs.
    The “explosive” Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa is available at retailers nationwide, or online at The cost per 16-ounce jar is $3.25 (prices will vary by market); online sales from Mrs. Renfro’s are in four-packs.

    Try it at your own risk. Says Mrs. Renfro’s: “This Ghost Pepper Salsa is scary hot!”

  • Check out the different types of chiles in our Chile Glossary.
  • How many different types of salsa can you name?


    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Barbecue Month & Brothers Sauces

    Brothers BBQ sauces: layers of flavor.
    Photo by Sue Ding | THE NIBBLE.


    May is National Barbecue Month.

    Among all the products people send “over the transom” for us to try, the largest category by far is barbecue sauce.

    We often say that, if aliens invaded THE NIBBLE offices, they’d think that earthlings lived on barbecue sauce.

    Much of what we’re sent is very simple and sweet: ketchup or tomato paste with added sugar, brown sugar, and/or high fructose corn syrup, plus onion powder, Worcestershire and/or hot sauce. The number one ingredient on the label is often one of the sweeteners listed above, if that gives you an idea of the taste.

    We call these products “meat sugar.” While we like tomato-based sauces, we really don’t like sugar sauce on our meat.

    Only one barbecue sauce has ever been memorable enough to make Top Pick Of The Week, and we happen to sell it in The Nibble Gourmet Market: Grandville’s BBQ Jam (it’s as thick as jam). Treat yourself to a bottle or two—it’s a great Father’s Day gift.


    What about all that barbecue sauce that arrives weekly at our office?

    Every so often, a product comes along and stands out from the rest. In the past, we’ve written them up as a group:

  • The Best Barbecue Sauce: 2006
  • The Best Barbecue Sauces: 2007
  • The Best Barbecue Sauces: 2008
  • The Best Barbecue Sauces: 2010—this review includes an explanation of the seven different styles of barbecue: East Carolina, Kansas City, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas
    You may have noticed that we didn’t do a “Best” review in 2009. What happened? Not enough contenders for an article.

    But we do have a nominee for 2011: King Brothers.

    In 1986, the King Brothers—George, Barry and Darryl—plus Daddy King had a friendly family barbecue cook-off. The winner continued to make his sauce for his family and friends.

    The fan base grew, and wanted more barbecue sauce than King could supply. Friends said that they would gladly buy it. One sauce-addicted friend referred to the sauce as “The GOLD,” which became the name of the first sauce produced under the label Brothers Sauces.

    “The GOLD” was followed by “The HEAT,” a wing sauce, and Spicy Brown Mustard “GOLD.” Whether on beef, chicken, pork or seafood (some people use it as salad dressing, too), the multi-layered tastes shine through. Sweet and tangy flavors join the rich tomato base to create a noteworthy suite of sauces.

    You can purchase Brothers Sauces from the company website.

    The brothers also make Granny Georgia’s Brown Suga Dessert Sauce. It’s a bit sweet for us, but our neighbor, to whom we gave the jar, was thrilled.



    TIP OF THE DAY: A Savory Chocolate Garnish

    Our friends at Chocolates El Rey tweeted an idea that may sound odd, but actually is a tasty touch:

    Grate bittersweet chocolate over red sauces: barbecue and pasta dishes, for example (hold the grated cheese). Beyond grating, chocolate provides richness in savory recipes: chocolate with meat and chocolate with chicken, for example.

    Savory chocolate dishes go back a long way. Mole (pronounced MOE-leh) poblano, perhaps the most famous dish in Mexico, was created in the 16th century in Puebla, by nuns in the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles. The sauce has some 20 ingredients, including chocolate.

    You can include chocolate in every meal. We’ve attended a few such dinners, and have salivated upon reading reports of others. Ideas include:

  • Appetizer: Cocoa-coated goat cheese rounds, caviar with grated white chocolate
  • Salad: Your favorite salad with cacao nibs (beets, goat cheese and carrots go well in this)

    Beef in mole sauce in a taco shell. You can
    grate dark chocolate over it prior to serving.
    Photo courtesy of McCormick & Company.
    Get the recipe.

  • Main Course: Chicken in mole sauce (or chicken skewers with mole dipping sauce), hanger steak with a chocolate-infused gravy, chocolate-and-chile-marinated flank steak, any meat with a cocoa rub, cocoa-enhanced ravioli dough filled with butternut squash.
  • Cheese course: Cocoa-rolled goat cheese log (try the Capri chocolate goat log from Westfield Farms)
  • Dessert: Lots of options here!
    Find a wealth of cooking-with-chocolate recipes at

    Try these recipes for:

  • Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
  • Braised Beef Tacos With Mole Sauce
  • Cocoa Chile Pork Ribs
    And check out the book, The Essence Of Chocolate: Cooking And Baking With Fine Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, founders of Scharffenberger Chocolate. Read our review of the book.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Chef Gerard & Chuck’s Salsa Verde

    Salsa verde is made from the green tomatillo
    berry, which is not a tomato. Photo by
    Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    We’re a nation of salsa lovers; but much of that is salsa roja, red salsa.

    In Mexico, the land from which we obtained our love of salsa, it’s the opposite. Only the northern states of Mexico, closest to the U.S. border, have red salsa as their tradition.

    Green salsa is based on the tomatillo, which is a distant relative of the tomato (the difference between tomatoes and tomatillos).

    We’ve had salsa verde from jars, but only recently experienced the joys of fresh salsa verde, from Chef Gerard & Chuck’s. It made us ask, why isn’t there more fresh salsa verde on the market?

    Of course, that’s the very question that got Chef Gerard into the business!

  • Read the full review.
  • Watch the video and learn how to make salsa verde.
  • Check out all the different types of salsa in Latin America, including 20 types you’ve probably never heard of.
  • The history of salsa, all the way back to the Aztecs.
  • How did salsa, the food, become salsa, the dance? The origin of salsa dancing.


    PRODUCT: Sugar-Free Barbecue Sauce

    Barbecue sauce can have as much refined sugar as dessert (we call the super-sweet ones “meat sugar”). People on sugar-free diets have limited choices if they want some BBQ.

    One manufacturer offering help is Chef Hymie Grande. The company has created a line of all-natural barbecue “glazes” flavored with low-glycemic agave nectar instead of other sugars.

    Chef Hymie Grande claims to be the first BBQ sauce [glaze] to carry the American Diabetes Association mark on the bottle’s label; the company contributes 5% of sales to the ADA. The line is also vegan-friendly.

    Three varieties are available:

  • Mild New Mexico Sweet Barbecue Glaze, sweet and gentle-tasting with a suggestion of sweet spice (think cinnamon).
  • Polapote* Barbecue Glaze made with ancho and chipotle, billed as medium-heat but delivering a nice amount of mild-to-medium heat.
  • We have no idea what “polapote” means. It’s not in the dictionary.


    An BBQ glaze for people on sugar-free
    diets. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

  • Cascabel Express Barbecue Glaze labeled “Surprisingly Hot,” but actually a full-medium heat.
  • All three glazes have a nice texture from crunchy onions. Two tablespoons contain 30-35 calories plus 5g-6g sugars, 7g-8g total carbohydrate and 15mg sodium.

    By the way, glaze is a thin sauce. If you haven’t used glazes, the consistency is more like a vinaigrette dressing than a traditionally thick barbecue sauce.

    If you’re looking for a sugar-free traditional barbecue sauce, take a look at Bellycheer Grilling Sauces.

    Find all of our favorite barbecue sauces in our Rubs, Marinades & Glazes Section.


    PRODUCT: Best BBQ Sauce

    There’s a big difference in BBQ sauce quality.
    Photo by E.Z. Foryu | IST.


    We receive a lot of barbecue sauce to taste. In fact, we receive more barbecue sauce than any other product. We joke that if aliens invaded THE NIBBLE offices, they’d think that earthlings lived on barbecue sauce.

    However, it’s no joke that most of the sauces we taste are indistinct and overly sweet—a mix of ketchup, molasses and brown sugar, often with high fructose corn syrup.

    But every year there are a few true standouts. Check out our favorites of 2010. In alphabetical order they are:

  • BBQ Stu’s Pennsylvania Gold Barbeque Sauce
  • Grumpy’s Goodnight Loving BBQ Sauce
  • Jube’s San Francisco 1906 BBQ Sauce
  • Marian Davis’ Barbecue Sauce (kosher)
  • Ribber City’s New Jersey Blueberry-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
  • Smokin’ Willie’s Classic BBQ Sauce
  • Texas Tasty BBQ Sauce
  • Read the full review. You’ll also learn the difference between Kansas City-style, Memphis-style, North Carolina-style, Texas-style and other types of barbecue sauce.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Rubbed the Right Way

    If you’re invited to a barbecue, bring the hosts a gift sampler of different-flavored rubs. Even if they blend their own herbs and spices, they’re certain to discover something new…and invite you back soon!


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