THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website, TheNibble.com.

Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Teas For Sushi & Sashimi

Japanese Green Tea & Pot

Cups of Green Tea

Sushi Plate

Sashimi

Genmaicha Tea

[1] Green tea and a conventional iron pot, called a tetsubin (photo courtesy Japanese Green Tea Online). [2] Green tea isn’t necessarily green. It depends on where the tea was grown and production factors (photo courtesy Coffemania | NYC). [3] A conventional sushi plate of nigiri and maki (photo courtesy Takibun). [4] Sashimi (photo Direct Photo). [5] Genmaicha, with toast rice: our favorite (photo courtesy Sugarbird Sweets).

 

Sushi and sashimi are among our favorite foods, and we down cups of green tea with each plate.

Most of the complimentary green tea served at Japanese restaurants is, not surprisingly, average quality. Even if it’s good tea to start with, it can grow pretty weak due to infusing the same leaves one time to many.

In Japan as well as the U.S., the tea used is often sencha, a basic green tea (approximately 80% of the tea produced in Japan is sencha). It may also be bancha, the second-most-widely-produced tea, more robust and astringent than sencha.

If you want to train your palate to the differences, ask your server to tell you which type it is.

In Japan, the lower down the line the sushi bar is (such as a takeout place), the more likely it is that the tea is agari, a low-quality, powdery tea—which should never be confused with to the pricey powdered matcha, to which it has zero relation.

The variety, known as konacha or kona-cha, is a mix of the residual dust, fannings, leaf particles, and bits of stem broken off during the processing of quality teas, like gyokuro or sencha (paradoxically, it’s low-quality tea from high-quality leaves). Konacha has a bitter taste, said to complement the flavor components of of sushi very well.
 
ENJOYING GREEN TEA WITH YOUR SUSHI OR SASHIMI

If you don’t like the green tea that is served with your raw fish, consider that it may be the particular green tea, and not an indictment of the entire green tea category. As with any product, those at the top end can be glorious. They just may not be available where you eat your sushi.

In New York City, where we enjoy thrice-weekly sushi meals, it’s very rare that we get anything resembling a satisfactory (much less a good) cup of tea unless we’re at a very high-end restaurant. While our everyday sushi is excellent quality, the tea quality never measures up to the fish. We wish we could pay for better tea, but it’s not the Japanese way.

That being said, any green tea served, no matter how bland, goes well with the raw fish.
 
Trending At Asian Fusion Restaurants

Some Asian-fusion restaurants we patronize don’t give any tea away, but will sell you pots of tea.

We respect that: Profit margins in restaurants are notoriously low, and since we’d rather have tea with our sushi than [higher profit] beer, we have no problem paying for it. You’ll get higher quality than with freebie tea, abut it still may not be sublime, depending on available varieties and your palate.

Only once in a blue moon do we find our favorite green tea to pair with sushi and sashimi, genmaicha (photo #5), at a restaurant. This lively green tea, a base of sencha, bancha or a combination of both, is blended with earthy roasted rice or popcorn. You either love it or not; but for us, it’s green tea happiness.
 
Should You Pay For Tea?

Our tip of the day is: If your restaurant offers a cup of better tea at a price, don’t hesitate to try it. It’s a modest sum compared to the price of the sushi (or a beer). It could be good and worth it; or you don’t have to order it again.

We’ve been to chic restaurants (Asian and Western) that have a tea menu. Ideally, this should be top-quality loose tea. Some even bring out a fancy wood box that holds different bags* from which you choose.

It’s a step in the right direction, but we often find that these teas—which are from specialty American purveyors—are not assertive (flavorful enough). While some people may like that milder style, we want full-flavor tea.

Don’t let the box, or silky tea bags, convince you that this is top green tea; or think that the tetsubin, the traditional small, cast iron tea pot, makes the tea any better (more aesthetic, yes; better-tasting, no).

Again, you don’t know until you try.

If you’re a tea fan as well as a sushi fan, what can you do to ensure that the tea is at the level as the sushi?

In foodie desperation (and not wanting to insult the restaurant), we thought to sneak good green tea into our local restaurant, to augment the tea we purchased. Then, fearing that we would, in fact, insult them if discovered, we asked if they would mind if we added some of our own tea to theirs—or if they wished, take our tea, add hot water, and charge us the same as their tea.

This was not a difficult ask, as we brought genmaicha, green tea blended with toasted rice or popcorn (photo #5). It’s an easy excuse to claim one’s love of genmaicha with sushi.

The other option was ordering in (i.e. delivery)—a less aesthetic experience, but one which guaranteed our choice of tea.
 
AN OFT-ASKED QUESTION ABOUT RESTAURANT GREEN TEA

Why is the tea served in sushi restaurants so hot?

It’s often so hot that we can’t pick up the cup without using a napkin to protect our fingers. We laud the servers who bring it to us with no such protection.

The answer:

The very hot water and green tea both work to cleanse the palate and remove the natural oil reside that can be left behind by the fish. You may not notice them in your sushi or sashimi, but they’re there.

Green tea, which is the norm in Japan, has more astringency than other tea types (black, oolong, white). This makes it even more effective to cleanse the palate.

 
Here’s more on palate cleansing:

As one navigates through an assorted plate of sushi or sashimi, the subtle flavors of each type deserve appreciation.

  • Each type of raw fish has a very distinct but delicate taste. It is also desirable to cleanse the palate to fully appreciate the flavor of each piece.
  • Marinated slices of ginger, called gari, also serve to refresh the taste buds between pieces.
  •  
    IF YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR TEA, WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

    The tea should not be overpowering or have a flavor/aroma that could dominate the fish: never a flavored tea! Much as we like jasmine tea, the floral aroma and flavor detract from the delicate raw fish.

    We would pair what the restaurants serve, but the best quality we can get:

  • Bancha: A widely used restaurant and household tea; “the peoples’ tea”; a refreshing, lightly sweet flavor.
  • Sencha: Juicy sweet flavor, deep umami, and crisp, refreshing finish.
  • Genmaicha: This can be sencha, bancha or a blend, combined with roasted rice. The rice acts as a starchy sponge, aiding in the absorption of oils and flavors in the mouth. It’s one of our favorite green teas for any tea-drinking occasion.
  •  
    For more robust, richer, cooked foods in Japanese restaurants, such as teriyaki, shabu shabu, negimaki and yakisoba, go for a more robust tea.

    A popular pick is houjicha, bancha leaves and stems that have been roasted. It’s smooth, with hints of coffee and roasted barley.

    Tea and sushi lovers: Go forth and conquer.
     
     
    DISCOVER LOTS MORE IN OUR:

    SUSHI GLOSSARY

    TEA GLOSSARY

      

    Comments off

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Patriotic Ice Pops

    Red, White & Blue Ice Pops

    Blueberry Yogurt Pop

    Ice Pop Mold Substitute

    [1] Patriotic ice pops for July 4th (photo courtesy Zulka minimally processed sugars). [2] If you’re buying new molds, we prefer “groovy” ones like this style, from Tovolo. The pop is bluebery-yogurt; hence, a lighter color than the pure, puréed berries in photo #1. [3] No molds? Use a loaf plan and slice the pops! Here’s how from Lynne at And Then I Do The Dishes.

     

    If you have no plans this weekend, consider making something fun—like red, white and blue ice pops.

    The vivid colors in these pops (photo #1) come from berries, strawberries and coconut milk. The berry purées can be made using either fresh or frozen berries.

    Simply de-stem, wash and pat dry the fruits; then purée in the food processor [need we add, purée separately?).

    If you’re serving them to a sophisticated crowd, you can get creative with herbs and spices, e.g.:

  • Add cayenne or red chile flakes to the strawberry layer.
  • Add ginger to the white layer.
  • Adding basil or mint to the kiwi or blueberry layer.
  •  
    You don’t want a hodgepodge, so flavor only one layer. Our personal favorite: heat in the red layer.

    If you don’t want to use coconut milk, substitute plain or vanilla yogurt. If you use vanilla, don’t add additional sweetener.

    RECIPE: RED, WHITE & BLUE ICE POPS

    Ingredients For 10 Ice Pops

  • 1 cup strawberry purée, cold
  • 1 cup coconut milk, cold
  • 1 cup blueberry purée, cold
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  •  
    Plus

  • 10 compartment ice pop mold (or substitute)
  • 10 wood sticks (if molds don’t have individual handles)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the simple syrup: Bring water and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved and let cool.

    2. ADD 1 tablespoon of simple syrup to each of the purées and the coconut milk. Stir well. Fill molds 1/3 of the way with the strawberry purée. Place the lid on the mold and and the wood sticks, letting them protrude about 1/2 inch above the top. Let freeze 40-50 minutes or until somewhat firm.

    3. REMOVE the lid of the mold and fill compartments another third of the way with the coconut milk mixture. Replace the lid, making sure all of the sticks are in place; freeze another 40-50 minutes.

    4. REMOVE the lid and fill the compartments with the blueberry purée. Replace the lid and freeze completely, at least 8 hours or overnight. When ready to serve…

    5. RUN cool water over the sides of the mold and carefully loosen each pop by gently pulling on the handle or the stick. Remove all pops. If not serving immediately, wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag.

     
    WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE POPSICLE MOLDS?

    A friend saves small yogurt cups for this purpose; but if you haven’t planned ahead, you can use small paper or disposable plastic cups.

    You can also use a loaf pan (photo #3) and slice the pops.

    Don’t forget the wooden sticks!
     
     
    ICE POP VS. POPSICLE

    Popsicle® is a trademarked name owned by Unilever’s Good Humor Division (here’s the history of the Popsicle and the Creamsicle®).

    Everything else should be called by the generic term, “ice pop.”

     
      

    Comments off

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bruschetta From The Grill

    Firing up the grill this weekend? Make bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh).

    We love a DIY bruschetta bar. Just rub the bread with garlic, brush it with extra virgin olive oil, grill, and place the slices on a platter along with all the fixings.

    Even easier, brush the bread with garlic olive oil! You can buy it, or infuse your own in advance by dropping halved garlic cloves into a cup of olive oil (or however much you think you’ll need). Any leftover oil can go right into a vinaigrette.

    Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where it is commonly served as a snack or appetizer. It may have been the original garlic bread.

    Plus, we have our own invention dessert bruschetta, below.

    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

    There are two factors:

  • The size of the bread slice.
  • The cooking technique: grilling versus toasting.
  •  
    Bruschetta slices are larger, three or four inches in diameter) and grilled. Crostini, cut from a ficelle, a thinner baguette about two inches wide (the word is French for “string”).

    You can use bread of a different diameter; but if it isn’t grilled, it isn’t bruschetta.

    Here’s how to remember the difference:

  • The verb bruscare is Roman dialect meaning “to roast over coals.” But there’s something simpler.
  • Think of crostini as crust or crouton (which is its literal meaning). Toast has a crust. That’s how we taught ourself to recognize the difference.
  • While Italians serve bruschetta as a snack, the smaller crostini can be served plain with soup and salad, like the original melba toast.
  •  
    Note that some American manufacturers and others in the food industry misuse the term, selling jars of “bruschetta.” To be accurate, it should be labeled bruschetta topping). Bruschetta is the grilled bread, not the topping.

    RECIPE: DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR

    The simplest bruschetta topping is salt and pepper (i.e., seasoned garlic bread), but that’s for a bread basket.

    Almost any cheese, fruit, meat, spread or vegetable can be a topping. Toppings can be cooked, marinated, pickled, raw or smoked.

    For a DIY bar, offer at least three different toppings. We like everything, so tend to go overboard: Our toppings look like a buffet. Regarding bread, we prefer a crusty sourdough or rustic loaf.

  • Be sure the loaf will give you slices of a workable size.
  • If you’re not familiar with the particular loaf, ask to ensure that it doesn’t have holes for the toppings to fall through.
  • We have the loaves sliced at the store, then we cut the slices in half.
  •  
    Along with the bread, make sure you have fresh garlic and check your olive oil for freshness.

    Ingredients

  • Baguette or other loaves of bread
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and peeled, halved garlic cloves
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • Avocado, mashed and seasoned (garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc.)
  • Caprese: quartered cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic glaze
  • Charcuterie: pâté, prosciutto, salume, etc.
  • Cheeses: ricotta, ricotta salata, soft goat cheese
  • Fresh basil, julienned/shredded
  • Fruit: sliced figs
  • Garnishes: capers, chopped herbs, chopped mixed olives
  • Greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Heat: raw jalapeños slices, grilled chile peppers
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • Mushrooms, marinated
  • Onions: caramelized, chives, chopped green onions (scallions)
  • Peppadews, sliced
  • Pimento, chopped or sliced
  • Raw and cooked veggies of choice: asparagus, grilled vegetables, sliced radishes, etc.
  • Spreads: bean, hummus, pimento cheese, tapenade
  • Tomatoes: sliced plain or marinated in oil and vinegar
  •  
     
    More options: shredded mozzarella or other cheese such as thinly-sliced Brie, fish (we have a passion for anchovies and herring salad on bruschetta), other marinated vegetables, mostarda.

    We also like eggplant caponata, pesto and sautéed mushrooms, but tend to use them more in cooler weather.

     

    Bruschetta Bar

    Rustic Loaf

    Rustic Loaf

    Bruschetta Bar

    Strawberry Bruschetta

    [1] Who needs a burger? We’re heading for the bruschetta bar (photo courtesy What’s Gaby Cooking).[2] Buy bread that has a pretty solid crumb (photo courtesy The Stone Soup). [3] This loaf is beautiful, but not for holding toppings (photo courtesy Bake Street). [4] A bruschetta bar from Countryside Cravings. [5] Dessert bruschetta, here with goat cheese (the recipe from Emily Bites). We use mascarpone.

    Preparation

    1. SET out the toppings and teaspoons for serving. We use ramekins; you can use any bowls you have.

    2. SLICE the bread from 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Rub each side with cut garlic clove and brush each side with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill to your desired toastiness.

    3. PLACE the bread on a platter next to the toppings and watch people create their appetizers.
     
     
    DESSERT BRUSCHETTA

    Most people won’t have seen dessert bruschetta. We don’t know if we invented it, but our sweet tooth gave us the idea years ago.

    Start with a loaf of bread with dried fruit, such as cherries or raisins. For toppings:

  • Artisan preserves
  • Flavored peanut butter (chocolate, cinnamon, maple, etc.)
  • Fruits: berries; sliced dates, figs, grapes and stone fruits
  • Honey
  • Mascarpone or sweetened sour cream
  • Nutella
  • Garnishes: chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, etc.
  •   

    Comments off

    TIP OF THE DAY: Iced Coffee, Drink Or Cocktail

    Black Iced Coffee

    Light Iced Coffee

    Iced Coffee

    Iced Coffee

    russian-iced-coffee-delonghi-230

    [1] Black iced coffee (photo courtesy Nescafe). [2] Iced coffee, light (photo courtesy Peets). [3] With half-and-half (photo courtesy Coffeemania). [4] Thai iced coffee (photo courrtesy Peets). [5] White Russian (photo courtesy DeLonghi).

     

    Many people can’t live without iced coffee. We see them walking around on the coldest winter days, sipping from jumbo cups of it.

    For more celebratory occasions, how about spiked iced coffee?

    It’s as simple as adding liqueur or a shot of your favorite spirit to a basic iced coffee.

    You can turn it into a party experience, too.

    PREPARATION TIPS

  • Keep the coffee in the fridge until you need to pour it. You’ll need fewer ice cubes, which dilute the drink. Or…
  • Make coffee ice cubes. We do this with whatever leftover coffee is in the pot; or you can make it from scratch. Just pour into an ice cube tray, freeze, and move the frozen cubes to a storage bag or container, freeing the ice cube for more cubes. Plan ahead and you’ll have enough for a party.
  •  
    If you’re having guests:

  • Make regular and decaf coffee. If you’re an uber*-host, make iced espresso as well.
  • Provide different sweeteners: non-caloric, superfine sugar and agave or simple syrup. Agave has a lower glycemic index, but as twice as sweet as sugar, so you use half the amount.
  • Have an assortment of milks, from fat-free to regular to half-and-half, plus a non-dairy milk.
  • Have cans of Reddi-Wip at hand so guests can have fun garnishing their own. Bonus points: provide both Original and Chocolate Reddi-Wip.
  •  
    Consider a DIY bar with different flavor additions.

  • Extracts: almond, anise, vanilla or other extract.
  • Flavored syrups: chocolate, hazelnut, vanilla.
  • Liquers: Bailey’s/Carolan’s Irish Cream, Magnum Scotch Cream Liqueur, Cointreau/Grand Marnier, Creme de Cacao/Godiva, Kahlúa, or other favorite. Note that liqueurs add sweetness. Taste first, then sweeten.
  • Spirits: Rum, tequila, vodka.
  • Spices: ground cayenne, chile, cinnamon, nutmeg.
  • ________________
    *For a millennia before it was a car service, it was an adjective. It still is.
     
     
    RECIPE #1: KAHLÚA ICED COFFEE

    Just add Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur to iced coffee, black or with milk.

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 part Kahlúa
  • 2 parts iced coffee
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, rough-ground coffee beans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL the glass (or pitcher) with ice and iced coffee.

    2. ADD the Kahlúa, stir, and garnish as desired.
     
     
    RECIPE #2: THAI ICED COFFEE

    Thai iced coffee uses strong, bitter coffee—such as espresso, French roast or Italian roast—which acts as a counterpoint to the rich cream and the sweetened condensed milk. This is a sweet drink: There are no sugar-free versions.

    You can even use leftover coffee. While coffee purists may shudder at the thought, the sweetened condensed milk masks any notes they might have detected. Similarly, you can use strong instant coffee.

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 8 ounces of strongly brewed coffee
  • 2-4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (the more you use, the sweeter the drink)
  • 1/4 cup cream, half and half or evaporated milk
  • Optional: dash of ground cardamom, cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. POUR coffee into a mixing container (we use a repurposed glass orange juice bottle).

    2. ADD 4-6 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk and optional spices; stir well until dissolved. Refrigerate for one hour or longer to chill.

    3. ADD a few ice cubes to two tall glasses and fill with the cold coffee mixture. Top off with the cream. As the cream sinks, it makes an attractive swirl.

    After you make the first batch, taste it and adjust the recipe. Add more sweetened condensed milk if you want a sweeter drink, or more cream if you want a richer drink or if the coffee is too strong.
     
    Dessert Variation

    Add a scoop of coffee or vanilla ice cream; garnish with whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.

     
    RECIPE #3: WHITE RUSSIAN ICED COFFEE

    Iced coffee with a shot of vodka: Now there’s an idea for chillaxing on a summer day. If you want a serious cocktail, you can make an old-school Black Russian or a White Russian with these (recipes).

    You can make a White Mexican with tequila or a White Caribbean with rum.

    If you don’t normally sweeten your iced coffee, leave out the sugar. Adjust the ingredients proportions based on the size of the glass you are using.

    RECIPE: RUSSIAN ICED COFFEE

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • Chilled or room temperature espresso
  • Sugar to taste
  • 1 shot of vodka
  • Light cream or half and half to taste
  • Crushed ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BREW the espresso coffee. Let cool. Add the sugar and the vodka.

    2. POUR into a glass and top with cream. Add crushed ice, stir and serve.

     

      

    Comments off

    TIP OF THE DAY: Garnishing With Lilacs

    White Wine With Lilacs

    Cake With  Fresh Lilac Garnish

    [1] White wine with a scattering of lilac blossoms (photo courtesy Tay Tea). [2] Decorate desserts and other foods. Check out these recipes from Brit.co.

     

    We received the top photo from Tay Tea, a lovely tea salon in Delhi, New York, some three hours northwest of New York City. The proprietor spent years as a blender of premium teas, and departed from owning tea salons in New York City to the country.

    Fortunately for her fans, she sells her teas online. The blends are beautiful to look at, and you can’t make a wrong choice.

    Back to the lilacs:

    Lilac blossoms are edible, though they smell better than they taste, so are best used in small amounts as a garnish (only use those that have not been sprayed with pesticides). They typically blossom in April and May.

    According to an article on Care2.com, you can “drink in the beauty and aroma” by making a cold-water infusion.

  • Add washed lilac blossoms to a pitcher and fill to the top with spring water. Steep for an hour or more.
  • Strain, chill and serve.
  • You can make multi-note flavors by adding citrus slices, strawberries, herbs, etc.
  •  
    MORE WAYS TO CONSUME LILACS
    You can also:

  • Garnish wine and cocktails, iced tea or other nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Scatter atop green salads, crêpes, desserts, etc.
  • Candy to preserve as decorations for cakes and cupcakes (also called crystallized or sugared flowers; here’s a recipe).
  • More uses for edible flowers.
  •  
    Check out these nine lilac recipes, from cocktails to desserts.
     
    THE MYTH OF THE LILAC

    The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), one of 12 species of lilac, is a member of the Oleaceae family, commonly called the olive family.

    The family comprises flowering aromatic woody plants that includes, among others, ash, forsythia, jasmine and privet. Lilac is native to Eurasia.

    And it has a legend.

     
    In Greek mythology, a beautiful nymph named Syringa had caught the eye of Pan, the god of the forests and fields. He chased her through the forest; but she eluded him by turning herself into a lilac bush. Pan found himself holding hollow reeds instead of Syringa.

    (Note that in real life, lilac twigs are not hollow. They can, however, be easily drilled out.)

    Pan’s sighs, combined with the wind and the reeds, made harmonious sounds. Hermes, the fleet-footed messenger and god of boundaries and transitions, suggested that seven reeds of different lengths, bound together, could make what we now call pan pipes, an early flute. The flute was called Syrinx in honor of the nymph.

    Did Syringa spend the rest of her life as a lilac bush, to avoid Pan? The record is silent; but we thank her for inspiring the flute and other hollow tubes, such as sryinges for medicine and mechanical uses.

     
      

    Comments off



    © Copyright 2005-2017 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.