THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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NEWS: Dark Chocolate Isn’t “Healthy”

Dark Chocolate
Sorry, Charlie: You’re not “packed with healthy antioxidants.”
At last—a medical journal has come out with what THE NIBBLE has been claiming for the past two years: Dark chocolate is not “health food.” Contrary to all of the claims touting the “antioxidant benefits of chocolate,” The Lancet, published in the U.K. and one of the world’s most-respected medical journals, says that any health claims about plain chocolate may be misleading. Basic chocolate is naturally rich in flavanols, the antioxidants that are believed to protect the heart. But an editorial in the current issue of The Lancet points out that many manufacturers remove flavanols because of their bitter taste. Instead, most chocolate products deliver lots of fat and sugar, both of which negatively impact the heart and arteries.
The editorial advices that dark chocolate can be “deceptive.” When chocolate is manufactured, says the journal, the natural cocoa solids can be darkened and the flavanols, which are bitter, can be removed, so that a dark-looking chocolate can have no flavanols. Flavanol content is not part of the normal package labeling, so consumers have no way to judge; nor would they know what an effective level of flavanols is. And even if the chocolate were packed with flavanols, one would have to be mindful of the fat, sugar and calories.“To gain any health benefit,” the editorial concludes, “those who eat a moderate amount of flavanol-rich dark chocolate will have to balance the calories by reducing their intake of other foods.” Great—now you don’t have to take our word for it anymore. FYI, studies on the efficacy of cacao antioxidants tend to be conducted with flavanol-enhanced cocoa powder. But if you liked fine chocolate before it had any putative benefits, and you still want to enjoy the best, check out the Chocolate Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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ON OUR RADAR: Interesting Nibbles From The Past Week

– The 10 best foods you (probably) aren’t eating and why you should.- This fake Gordon Ramsay blog really cracks us up. Warning: Many f-words.

– Teena is cooking her way through the Gourmet cookbook and is 46.8% complete.

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We’re big fans of Gordon Ramsay and all of his TV shows, including Hell’s Kitchen.
 

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Dieting

Salsa
A great salsa is not only delicious but very low in calories. One of our favorite lines of salsa is Jardine’s, and one of our favorite Jardine’s salsas is the Bobo Salsa, shown above.
  If your New Year’s resolutions include dieting, you can still enjoy many exciting specialty foods. We review several “diet” products a month—low calorie, no calorie, fat free and sugar free (also, an occasional gluten-free item). You should also be treating yourself to the “best of the best” traditional calorie-free products, like teas and coffees—see our favorites in the Beverages Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. You’ll find low-calorie delights in the Fish, Seafood & Caviar Section; incredibly flavorful, low-calorie products under Condiments and Oils, Vinegars & Salad Dressings; great discoveries in Meat & Poultry; terrific Pasta Sauces (our recommendations are sugar-free and low-calorie); very low-calorie Salsas, and more. And don’t forget our entire Diet Nibbles section. You’ll find links to all in our Main Nibbles directory.
 

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NEWS: Flatbread On The Rise

Just ten years ago, if you asked someone to name a flatbread, they’d probably say lavasch (an Armenian cracker bread, popularized as sesame-encrusted strips sold under the brand name Nejaime’s Lavasch)—if they could name anything at all. Today, we look at flatbread in a much broader scope—and it’s a rapidly-growing segment of the $14 billion bread industry. In fact, wraps (tortillas) are flatbread; tortillas, Indian naan (and a festival of other Indian breads including bhatura, chapati, papadum, paratha, poori and roti), Greek pita, Ethiopian inerja, Scandinavian crispbread and the most famous of the unleavened (flat) breads, matzoh. There are many others: Flatbread is the original bread; leavening was developed much later. Pizza crust is a flatbread, too.   Flatbread
Turkish flatbread. Flatbread can be spread with hummus, tapenade, or with goat cheese, tuna salad, or whatever appeals to you. Photo by Enver Uçarer | SXC.
The next time you’re thinking about putting together an interesting bread basket for your guests, consider a flatbread basket. As we reported in April, 2007 in this space, you have quite a lot to choose from—there are about 60 different flatbreads worldwide, including:
– Unleavened flatbreads (arepas, crepes, matzoh, pita, tortillas)
– Chewy leavened flatbread (bruschetta, ciabatta, dosai, focaccia, inerja, naan and other Indian breads)
Stop by your local specialty food store and ethnic markets to see what’s available. But flatbreads are no longer isolated there—they’ve gone mainstream. Quiznos is including flatbread with much of its salad line. Dunkin’ Donuts is testing flatbread sandwiches. Arby’s has flatbread melts. And Stouffer’s has flatbread pizzas. Goodness gracious, the world is flat!

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NEWS: Weak Dollar Forces Importers To Search Beyond Europe For Specialty Foods

Fleur De Sel

Sometimes the answer is to buy California olive oil instead of imports. But for certain products, like Fleur de Sel, shown above, there are no U.S. substitutes. Photo courtesy of Saltworks.us.
  It’s no surprise that due to the weak dollar, along with higher shipping costs, imports from Europe and other parts of the world will be pricier this year. As of this writing, it costs about $1.44 to buy one euro, up from $1.30 this time last year. This means that those delicious French cheeses and sea salts, Italian olive oils and pastas, Hungarian paprika and Spanish Serrano hams—plus the eagerly anticipated Jamón Ibérico Bellota, already priced at $96 a pound—will cost more. With the poor saffron and fig harvests, the tab for those specialty products will climb even higher. Even if you’re willing to pay more, you may not be able to find your favorite products—because most people won’t spring for that $8.00 pasta, so retailers won’t stock them.
Betsy Power of the Culinary Collective, which imports some our favorite Spanish products (including the Matiz Olivada olive spreads and El Rebost cava vinegar and violet gourmet gels we wrote about last month), says that she is forced to discontinue three dozen slow-selling items, including some beautiful jars of gourmet artichokes that now have to retail at $10 a jar. “There’s only so high you can raise your price before [a product is] priced out of the market,” she recently told The Seattle Times. She also commented that she and many other importers are expanding their horizons from Europe to regions where the dollar stretches further, including Mexico, the Philippines, South America and Australia, hoping to find more reasonable, if different, gourmet specialties. So instead of beautiful stemmed artichokes to garnish your roast this Easter, you just might be finding jars of prickly pear cactus. Stay tuned!

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