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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 TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

NEWS: Russian Caviar Is Back

caviar-spoon-gold-dish-petrossian-230

Fine sturgeon caviar: so pricey, yet to those
who love it, so wonderful. Photo courtesy
Petrossian.

 

Following a decade long prohibition on importing Russian caviar to the U.S.—due to damming, overfishing and pollution in the Caspian sea—those with the desire and the coin can have it again.

A bit of history: CITES, the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, aims to protect wildlife against over-exploitation, and to prevent international trade from threatening species.* In 2001, CITES responded to high levels of poaching and illegal trade in caviar by halting the caviar trade by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. It proposed the ban on exporting Caspian caviar by the Russian states that border the Caspian Sea. The U.S. supported the treaty.

Since then, the harvesting of Osetra sturgeon caviar has moved from their native Caspian Sea to farms built in rivers around the world—in China, Italy, Israel, Uraguay and the United States, among others. Those who want fine sturgeon caviar have no problem buying it; and those who purchase it find it an even switch for the Russian Osetra.

Russia, too, has taken up sustainable river farming of sturgeon; and this caviar is now authorized by CITES for export.

 
*CITES (the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Life Fauna and Flora), created in 1973, is an international concurrence between governments. It is placed to ensure that the international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES is an international agreement in which countries adhere voluntarily. With now 180 parties, CITES is among the conservation agreements with the largest membership.
 
Black Caviar Company has announced an exclusive partnership with Russian Caviar House to import of CITES certified Russian osetra sturgeon caviar into the U.S. It joins the other farmed sturgeon caviars that have been available since the ban.
 
DEEP POCKETS REQUIRED
If you want to try black sturgeon caviar, you can buy it, and ideally compare it to a product from another origin (we’re partial to the Transmontanus caviar, farmed in the U.S., that you can buy from Petrossian and elsewhere). Black Caviar Company sells it for prices comparable to other fine, farmed sturgeon caviar:

  • 1 ounce/28g is $135
  • 1.8 ounces/50g is $240
  • 4.4 ounces/125g is $600
  • 8.8 ounces/50g is $1,150
  •  
    Note to buyers: The pressed caviar sold on the website, 2.2 ounces/60g, seems way overpriced at $390. Pressed caviar comprises eggs that have been squashed or broken along the way and can’t be packaged with perfect eggs. Unlike individual pearls, the texture is like a thick caviar jam, and the flavor is also somewhat different. We think it should be discounted more heavily.

    Check out the different types of caviar.

     

    ABOUT CAVIAR FARMING

    Unlike the poor Caspian sturgeons, living in polluted waters and heavily poached, slit open and left to die, caviar farming uses modern technology to produce ethically raised fish in a sustainable system.

    In the case of Black Caviar Company, the fish are raised in a remote location of the Suda River. The Suda flows into the Rybinsk Reservoir of the Volga River, the longest in Europe, which flows through central Russia.

    The company describes the Suda as “a treasure of pristine water surrounded by clean forest in a sparsely populated region of Russia. There is no industry or agriculture upstream; the cold, clean water provides an incomparable area to grow healthy, clean, fish with no pesticides, GMOs, or other pollutants.”

    One point of confusion: The Black Caviar Company’s press release both says their product is Russian Osetra† caviar and that it “is harvested from a brood stock that consists of Beluga Sturgeon, Russian sturgeon, Siberian sturgeon, and Thorn Sturgeon.” None of these is the Osetra sturgeon.

     

    caviar-jar-cites-seal-blackcaviarcompany-230

    Imported authentic Russian caviar will have a holographic CITES seal on the jar. Photo courtesy Black Caviar Company.

     
    †From the press release: “Using modern technology, Russian Caviar House produces a sustainable supply of Osetra caviar by actively preserving the natural habitat and microclimate of the Suda River where the sturgeon are raised.”
     
    Yet, just as with different species of chicken—Bantam, Brahma, Leghorn, Rhode Island, etc., where the meat tastes similar—the roe of sturgeon cousins will taste similar and numerous other factors affect the flavor (river environment, food supply, age of the fish at harvest, processing, etc.).

    Note that caviar would be a lot more affordable if it weren’t for all the big mark-ups from the middlemen in the process. Black Caviar Company buys it from Russian Caviar House, “the premier supplier of authentic black Russian caviar,” which in turn acquires it from Diana, Russia’s largest aquaculture company. Our fantasy is to be adopted by a caviar-farming family.

    Alas, unlike with other emails we receive announcing products, this one did not offer samples.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Vanilla Custard Day

    Creme Brulee served in ceramic bowl.

    Baked vanilla custard. Photo © Xiebiyun |
    Fotolia.

     

    We looked for a custard recipe to tweet today, National Vanilla Custard Day.

    But, zut alors, we didn’t have one. How can that be? It’s one of our favorite comfort foods (our mother always baked a batch when we were under the weather, scented with nutmeg).

    So, here’s a remedy: Mom’s recipe—although as you can see, it’s a pretty basic recipe. You can use nonfat, 1% or 2% milk for a less rich custard.

    Originally, all custard was flavored with vanilla, but simply called “custard.” Now there are chocolate custard, coconut custard, green tea custard, lemon custard, maple custard, pumpkin custard—any flavor can be added to, or infused into, the custard.

    Custard is typically prepared in individual porcelain ramekins or glass custard cups. But you can use whatever size-appropriate, individual oven-safe dishes you may have; or prepare the custard in a single casserole size.

    Note that most recipes are for a plain custard, garnished afterward with cinnamon or nutmeg. We love a nutmeg-infused custard, so mix it right into the custard prior to baking.

     
    If you want more fruit and less cholesterol, check out this beautiful recipe from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

    You can also use the custard as a shell filling, to make custard pie, custard tarts or mini tarts.
     
    RECIPE: BAKED VANILLA CUSTARD

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg*
  • Optional side: fresh berries
  •  
    *Or, instead of mixing it into the custard, use the cinnamon or nutmeg as a garnish only.

     

    Preparation

    1. BEAT together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl, until well blended.

    2. HEAT milk in a saucepan until very hot (but not boiling); stir into the egg mixture.

    3. PLACE 6 lightly greased 6-ounce custard cups or one 1-1/2-quart casserole in a large baking dish. Pour egg mixture into cups or casserole. Place pan on rack in preheated 350°F oven.

    4. POUR very hot water into pan to within 1/2 inch of top of the cups or 1 inch of top of the casserole. Bake until a knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for cups or 40-60 minutes for casserole. Remove promptly from hot water. See the next section, “When Is The Custard Done?”

    5. COOL on wire rack about 5-10 minutes. Serve warm or refrigerate and chill thoroughly to serve cold. Garnish with ground cinnamon or nutmeg.

     

    84-0109-110-aeb-custard-cups--230

    Pouring the water into the bain-marie. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.

     
    When Is The Custard Done?

    Baked custard should be removed from the oven (and water bath) before the center is completely set. The center will jiggle slightly when the dish or cup is gently shaken.
    Custard will continue to cook after it’s removed from the oven, and the center will firm up quickly. Overbaked custard may curdle.

    The knife test: Test for doneness with a thin-bladed knife. Insert the knife about 1 inch from the center of a one-dish custard, or midway between center and edge of custard cups. If the knife is clean when pulled out, the custard is done. If any custard clings to the blade, bake a few minutes longer and test again.

    CUSTARD TIPS

    These tips are from the American Egg Board, IncredibleEgg.org.

  • Bain-Marie. Don’t skip the bain-marie, or hot-water bath. It insulates the custard from the direct heat of the oven and promotes even cooking so the edges don’t overcook before the center is done. Very hot tap water will do.
  • One-Dish Custard. The recipe can be baked in lightly greased 1-1/2 quart soufflé or baking dish. Pour hot water to within 1 inch of top of dish. Increase baking time to 35 to 40 minutes.
  • No-Mess Pouring. Make the custard in a bowl with a pouring lip, or transfer it to a large glass measure. This makes filling the custard cups easier and neater.
  • Perfectly Smooth Custard. Strain the custard through a sieve when filling the custard cups or baking dish. This removes any tough egg strands.
  •  
    WHAT IS CUSTARD?

    Custard is semisoft preparation of milk or cream and eggs, thickened with heat. It can be cooked on top of the stove or baked in the oven.

    Custards can be sweet or savory, from desserts and dessert sauces to quiche and savory custard tarts.

    What’s the difference between custard, crème caramel, flan and panna cotta?

    Check out the different types of custard in our Custard Glossary.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Panzanella & Fruit Salad

    mixed-fruit-panzanella-salad-kaminsky-230

    Fruit salad with bread (panzanella salad).
    Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet
    Blog.

      Our colleague Hannah Kaminsky spent the summer in California, enjoying the wealth of produce that sunny state provides.

    “As a little ode to my Californian summer, it was only fitting to gather up a small sampling of what I had on hand, along with the famed sourdough bread that beckons irresistibly from the windows of every bakery. Fresh mint plucked straight from my tiny windowsill garden completed this little love note to my temporary, adoptive home state.

    “Light, fresh, fast, it’s the kind of recipe that depends entirely on the quality of your ingredients. Consider it as a serving suggestion; more of an idea than a specific schematic, to be tailored to whatever fruits are fresh and in season in your neck of the woods.”

    She calls this recipe California Dreamin’ Panzanella: a creative interpretation of the classic bread salad with ripe California fruit.

    RECIPE: PANZANELLA FRUIT SALAD

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 5 cups cubed sourdough bread
  • 2 cups pitted and halved cherries
  • 2 cups seedless grapes
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1/4 cup regular or light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • Fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • Garnish: crème fraîche, mascarpone, whipped cream
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet in one even layer and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden and lightly toasted all over. Let cool completely before proceeding.

    2. WHISK together the sugar, olive oil, lemon juice and pepper in a large bowl. Add all of the fruits and remaining ingredients (walnuts, mint).

    3. ADD in the toasted bread right before serving, to ensure that it stays crisp. Toss thoroughly so that everything is well distributed and entirely coated with the sugar dressing.

    3. SERVE immediately with a dollop of whipped cream.

     

    ABOUT PANZANELLA

    Panzanella is a savory Tuscan-style bread salad, made with a loaf of day-old (or older) Italian bread, cubed into large croutons and soaked in vinaigrette to soften it. Chopped salad vegetables are added.

    The translation we have found for “panzanella” is “bread in a swamp,” the swamp being the water or vinaigrette in which it is soaked.

    Here’s a classic panzanella salad recipe, with summer tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and fresh basil.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Decipher Food Product Labels

    How confusing is the verbiage on the front of a box, bag, jar or can of food? Actually, it can be pretty misleading. It’s called marketing: Companies want you to choose their product over the competition, so they do what they can to hype on their packaging (most purchase decisions are made at the “point of sale,” or when looking at options on the shelf).

    Hence, each word on the package can help make the sale—whether or not it’s providing accurate information to consumers.

    You’d think that with all of the federal regulations and those helpful nutrition labels, it would be easy to know what you are buy. But while the the nutrition label on the back of the package is all facts, we typically respond to what’s on the front. And it can be misleading.

    After we reported that products made by Newman’s Own Organics aren’t necessarily organic, we’re taking on these other confusions.

     
    WHOLE GRAINS: MULTIGRAIN VS. WHOLE GRAIN

    “Multigrain” may sound like it’s better for you, but it simply means that more than one type of grain is used. Bread flour can be a combination of wheat flour, cracked wheat and oat bran, for example; but none of these is a whole grain. It’s the same with “seven grain bread.” The blend may be flavorful, but that doesn’t mean any of the seven grains is whole grain.

       

    arnolds-multigrain-bread-loaf-230

    This loaf has some whole grain components—wheat bran, brown rice and oats (plus cane sugar, brown sugar and sucralose). But the main ingredient is still unbleached enriched wheat flour. Look for the seal of the Whole grains Association.

     

    If you’re looking for whole grain fiber and nutrition with your bread, breakfast cereal, crackers or pasta, be sure the product is all whole grain, or at least that a whole grain leads the list of grains.

  • “Wheat bread” is not whole grain; it must say “whole wheat.” All of what we call white bread is wheat bread (except gluten-free bread).
  • Wheat bran, which appears on some ingredients lists, is part of the whole wheat kernel, along with the endosperm and the germ. Each of these components has different nutrition benefits. Refined wheat flour with added wheat bran added isn’t enough; go for the whole wheat.
  • It’s the same with seeds—normally good additions to bread and crackers, but in such small amounts that they’re no substitute for a whole grain product. We saw one label touting “flax and grains”: What the heck does “grains” mean? It could mean seeds, or it could be marketing.
  • A dark brown color means nothing: It can be created with molasses. Pumpernickel is made from rye, a whole grain, but most commercial pumpernickel is made from refined flour. Look for 100% rye on the label.
  • “Enriched,” which appears on bags of white bread, is also misleading. Why is it enriched? Because refining the whole wheat flour into white flour removes most of the vitamins and minerals. Because bread is a key component of our diet, the government ordered some nutrients added back in!
  • Words like “healthy” or “nutritious” are just marketing: They mean whatever the manufacturer wants them to mean and have no official standing.
  • You can find gluten free breads made with brown rice flour or a blend of ingredients. Again, look for the words “100% whole grain” on the label.
  • “Organic” is better for you and the environment, but it doesn’t impact nutrition. It’s better to have non-organic whole grain bread than organic white bread.
  •  
    Here’s more on what is a whole grain.

     

    reduced-fat-feta-athena-230

    Cheese is delicious, but high in fat. So
    reduced fat cheese still has a lot of it. Photo
    courtesy Athena.

     

    FIBER

    On a related note, whole grains are an excellent source of fiber. Look to switch out refined white flour products—breads, crackers, breakfast cereals, pasta—to more nutritious versions.

  • The USDA designation “excellent source of fiber” means that there is at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • A product labeled “good source of fiber” needs at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • “Added fiber” needs to have only 10% more than a comparable product; but it that product doesn’t have much fiber to getin with, then “added” doesn’t mean much.
  •  
    FAT: REDUCED FAT VS. LOW FAT

    The USDA has a strict definition of low fat (also spelled lowfat): The product must have 3 grams or fewer per serving.

    To be called “reduced fat” a product must have at least 25% less fat than a regular version of the product (from the same manufacturer or a competitor). But that original product—cheese, for example—could be loaded with fat, so 25% less is still a lot of fat.

    Thus, go for low fat over reduced fat, but remember that reduced fat is still not “good for you” food.

     
    NITRATES: CURED VS. UNCURED

    Nitrites and nitrates are used to preserve processed meats, and to make them look better (pink bacon, ham and franks) and taste better. But they produce a carcinogenic substance, amines, when digested (here’s more on nitrates and nitrites).

    Even organic, uncured products still contain nitrates and nitrates—just less of them. Nitrates and nitrates exist naturally in plants and animals and even a naturally cured product, cured with celery powder or celery juice, will contain them. So for long-term health, the best course is to eat fewer cured meats.

     
    SODIUM: REDUCED SODIUM VS. LOW SODIUM

    The USDA requires that a product labeled “low sodium” contains 140 mg salt or less per serving. A reduced sodium product needs to be just 25% less than the regular version, which could be loaded.

    For example, a can of chicken noodle soup can have 1,622 mg of sodium. Twenty-five percent less than that is still a heck of a lot of salt.

    Fresh-packed, canned or frozen, processed foods are loaded with salt. Check the nutrition label and select products that have fewer than 500 grams per serving. Your daily recommended amount of sodium is less than 2400 mg. Here’s more on sodium from the FDA.
     
    SUGAR: SUGAR FREE VS. NO SUGAR ADDED

    These are typically products that use only the natural sweetener in the product—sugar free grape jam relying only on the grape sugar, for example—or use noncaloric sweeteners.

    “Sugar” refers to any sweetener, including agave, corn syrup, honey, molasses and all other nutritive sweeteners. (Nutritive sweeteners have nutritional value—they produce energy when metabolized by the body. They may or may not be refined.) Check out the different types of sweeteners, both nutritive and non-nutritive (i.e., produced in the lab).

  • Sugar Free means that the product has less than a half gram of sugar/serving. These are typically the products that use artificial sweeteners.
  • No Sugar Added could have no sugar added, but could have lots of natural sugar from sweeteners such as fruit concentrate, fruit juice or unsweetened applesauce.
     
    Neither of these options is better or worse than the other.
     
    FINAL TASK

    You’ve still got to look at the back of the package. Here’s how to read nutrition labels.

      

  • Comments

    PRODUCT: Chad’s, The Best Raspberry Jam?

    Utah’s Bear Lake is a beauty: a natural freshwater lake on the Utah-Idaho called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its turquoise-blue color.

    Although the lake lies relatively near the Oregon Trail, which was traveled by many pioneers between 1836 and the 1850s, it seems that none of traveled south enough to find the lake. It wasn’t until 1863 that Mormons settled in the Bear Lake Valley, home to some Shoshone tribes.

    Fast forward 150 years or so: The area has become famous for its delicious red raspberries. A Raspberry Days festival is held in Garden City to celebrate the harvest of raspberries, generally during the first week of August. The raspberries are sweet and plentiful.

    So we almost kicked ourselves when we found a box of Chad’s Raspberry Kitchen products tucked away, forgotten in a storage area. Boy, are they delicious!

    First up was the Raspberry Jam, the company’s best seller. It’s one of the best raspberry jams we can remember: solid fruit that falls apart into jam during cooking. Chad’s cooks the whole berries with natural fruit pectin and sugar, “the way your grandmother would make it” (or at this point, Chad, our great-grandmother).

     

    chads-raspberry-jam-230

    Great rapsberry jam at a great price. Photo courtesy Chad’s Raspberry Kitchen.

     

    Sustainably farmed located in Laketown, Utah (population 248 at the 2010 census), all natural and preservative free, Chad’s other products include:

  • Raspberry Jalapeño Jam, the classic raspberry spiced up with jalapeño chiles.
  • Seedless Raspberry Jelly.
  • Raspberry Honey, made by bees from the nectar of the raspberry blossoms.
  • Raspberry Syrup, for pancakes, ice cream and other desserts and to make raspberry iced tea or lemonade.
  • Raspberry Salsa, raspberries mixed with a tomato based salsa to create a sweet salsa for dipping or garnishing grilled meats and seafood.
  • Gift box assortments.
  •  

    Everything is very well priced at $4.99 (the honey is $5.99), and they’re more delicious than products selling at twice the price. Chad’s is a great idea for holiday gifting.

    Get yours at ChadsRaspberryKitchen.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Lemon Ice Box Mini Tarts

    Aida-Mollenkamp-Meyer-Lemon-Icebox-Bites-Recipes-230r

    Meyer Lemon Icebox Mini Tarts. Photo
    courtesy Aida Mollenkamp.

     

    When you want just a bit of dessert, this recipe from Chef Aida Mollenkamp is fun finger food. Prep time is 20 minutes, plus 3 hours of baking and setting time.

    If you can’t find Meyer lemons, the juice of which is less acidic, you can use regular lemons (Eureka or Lisbon lemons—see the different types of lemons). Or, Chef Mollenkamp suggests, substitute equal parts of orange and lemon juice.

    These are not true “ice box tarts,” because the shells require baking in the oven. But the filling sets in the fridge, hence the reference from Chef Mollenkamp.

    RECIPE: MEYER LEMON ICE BOX MINI TARTS

    Ingredients For 48 Bite-Size Tarts

    For The Crust

  • 8 ounces vanilla wafers or graham crackers
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  •  
    For The Custard

  • 1 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar*
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (14 ounce) container sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (8 ounce) mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, softened
  • Pinch salt
  •  
    *Chef Mollenkamp uses organic (unrefined) cane sugar.
     
    For The Garnish

  • Whipped cream, for garnish
  • Candied citrus or ginger
  • Thinly sliced mango or kiwi, or garnish of choice (pomegranate arils add a red highlight)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

    2. MAKE the crust. Place wafers or graham crackers in a food processor and process until broken up (you want 2 cups total). Add butter and pulse until moist. Divide mixture among two mini muffin pans (24-wells) and press mixture evenly in the bottom and up the sides of the muffin wells. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 5 minutes; then remove from oven.

    3. MAKE the custard: Whisk or blend remaining ingredients together until smooth then divide among prepared crusts. Place in the oven and bake until edges are set but center is still a bit loose, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely, at least 1 hour.

    4. COVER and freeze until chilled and set, at least 2 hours or overnight. When frozen, run a small butter knife dipped in hot water around the perimeter of each tart and remove. Cover and return to freezer until ready to serve. (This can be done up to 2 weeks in advance.)

    5. SERVE frozen or chilled, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and, as desired, a piece of candied ginger or citrus or a slice of fresh kiwi, and serve.
     
    Note: These tarts are best eaten when still frozen or chilled. The tarts should be eaten within 30 minutes of removing from freezer for best texture.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Guacamole Verrine, A Layered Appetizer

    We discovered this photo on the Frontier Foods blog, where it was called a torta, a word that refers to different foods in different Spanish-language countries. But we’d call it a verrine (vair-REEN).

    Verre is the French word for glass; verrine, which means “protective glass,” is an assortment of ingredients layered “artfully” in a small glass.

    Verrines can be sweet or savory: The idea is to layer foods that provide delicious tastes in small bites: a variety of flavors, textures and colors. The result is both sophisticated and fun.

    While specialty verrine glasses exist, you most likely have vessels at home that will do the job just fine: juice glasses, rocks glasses, shot glasses, even small wine goblets.

    To make this avocado verrine, layer:

  • Guacamole
  • Chopped chiles of desired heat (instead of the green chiles shown, use red chiles for more color)
  • Crumbled queso blanco, queso fresco or other Mexican fresh cheese (you can substitute fresh goat cheese)
  • Slab bacon or pork belly strips
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Optional garnish: fresh herbs
  •  

    torta_guacamole_fronterafoods-230s

    Layered appetizer: an avocado (or guacamole) verrine. Photo courtesy Frontera Foods.

     

    Here’s more on savory verrines, as well as dessert verrines—another treat.

    Have fun with it!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Gazpacho & Beer

    This gazpacho has a surprise ingredient:
    beer! Photo courtesy Frontera Foods.

     

    Here’s a fun idea that can be a soup course, a main course or pass-around party fare, served in small glasses.

    This idea was developed at Frontera Foods, a Chicago-based Mexican foods company headed by Chef Rick Bayless, in partnership with Bohemia Beer. You can serve “beer gazpacho” or turn it into a Martini.

    The tip isn’t just to add beer to gazpacho, but that you can season gazpacho with the addition of prepared salsa.

    The soup can be made ahead and even tastes better when allowed to sit overnight. The recipe makes about 3 quarts.

    To serve gazpacho as a light main course, consider adding:

  • A large salad
  • Crostini, perhaps with olive tapenade
  • Tapas
  • Platters of Spanish sausages, Serrano ham, tortilla Española (Spanish omelet, served at room temperature), Spanish cheeses (look for Cabrales, Idiazabal, Mahon, Manchego and Murcia al Vino), and rustic bread
  • Instead of wine, chilled dry sherry
  •  

    RECIPE: FRONTERA’S SALSA GAZPACHO

    Ingredients For 6-8 Main Course Servings

  • 5 pounds ripe red tomatoes (16 to 20 medium-sized plum or 12 medium-small round)
  • 2 seedless cucumbers, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 bottle (16 ounces) Frontera Habanero Salsa or substitute
  • 1/2 cup Bohemia beer (or substitute)
  • 2 cups torn (½-inch inch pieces) white bread
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • Salt to taste, about 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons
  • 1½ cups home-style croutons
  •  

    Preparation

    1. CHOP enough of the tomatoes into a ¼-inch dice to a generous 1½ cups. Chop enough of the cucumber into ¼-inch dice to yield a generous 1 cup. Stir in the cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for garnish.

    2. ROUGHLY CHOP the remaining tomatoes and cucumber. Mix with the salsa, beer, bread, olive oil and vinegar. In a blender, purée the mixture in 2 batches until smooth.

    3. TRANSFER to a large bowl. Stir in just enough water to give the soup the consistency of a light cream soup, about ½ to 1 cup. Taste and season with salt. Chill thoroughly.

    4. SERVE: Set out the tomato-cucumber garnish mixture and croutons. Ladle the soup into chilled soup bowls. Pass the garnishes.

     

    spanish-cheeses-artisanal-230

    Serve a green salad and plate of Spanish cheeses after the gazpacho. Photo courtesy Artisanal Cheese.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Beer

    lindemans-pomme-lambic-230

    Not hard cider, but apple (pomme) lambic, a
    style of Belgian beer. Photo courtesy
    Lindemans.

     

    For a country so keen on fruity cocktails, we don’t drink much fruit beer. But summer is the perfect time for it, so plan to have a few before Labor Day.

    Fruit beers have been popular for centuries, beginning in Belgium, the country best known for them. Creative brewers there ignored the German Rheinheitsgebot, the “purity law” which specified that beer could only be made with three ingredients: barley, hops and water. (The law dates back to 1516; at the time no one knew that the yeast in the air was involved in the process. Yeast is, of course, the fourth ingredient.)

    Belgian lambic styles are produced in popular flavors like cherry (kriek), peach and raspberry. Traditionally, the fruit was fermented with the grain. Modern breweries may use flavored extracts as a shortcut to the finished product (and, not surprisingly, they don’t taste nearly as good). Check the label or online to find those brewed with real fruit.

    Today you can also find fruit beers in apple, apricot, banana, black currant, blueberry, strawberry and tangerine. But look for craft brews, as opposed to Bud Light’s Ritas line, flavored beers in Lime, Mango, Strawberry and Raspberry. They’re a different product entirely.

    Head to your best beer store and pull together a tasting of fruit beers, both domestic and imported. You may be able to find such tasty brews as:

  • Éphémère Blackcurrant Fruit Beer from Unibroue of Chambly, Quebec, Canada
  • Lindemans Pomme [Apple] Lambic, from Brouwerij Lindemans in Vlezenbeek, Belgium
  • #9 Not Quite Pale Ale, an apricot fruit beer from Magic Hat Brewing Company of South Burlington, Vermont
  • Peach Porch Lounger, a saison-style (farmhouse ale) beer from New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Raspberry Redemption Belgian-Style Dubbel, from Joseph James Brewing Company in Henderson, Nevada
  • Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Fruit Beer, from Melbourn Brothers All Saints Brewery of Stamford, Lincolnshire, England
  • Smashed Blueberry Fruit Beer, from Shipyard Brewing Company of Portland, Maine
  • Tangerine Wheat Fruit Beer, from Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, California
  • Three Philosophers Quadruple, from Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, New York
  • Wells Banana Bread English Bitter/Fruit Beer, from Wells & Young’s Brewing Company of Bedford, England
  •  
    HOW TO SERVE FRUIT BEER

    Fruit beers can quaffed as a refreshing cold drink, or paired with foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Consider:

  • Asian chicken salad
  • Brunch eggs, from a simple frittata to Eggs Benedict
  • Cheese courses
  • Chicken, duck or pork dishes made with fruits (apples, apricots, cherries, currants, prunes, etc.)
  • Dessert—fruit desserts, including pies and tarts; and of course, Belgian waffles
  • Shellfish—crab, lobster, plat de mer, scallops, shrimp and yesterday’s recipe for Moules Marinières, steamed mussels
  •  
    Let us know how you enjoy them.
     
      

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    NEWS: When “Organic” Isn’t Organic

    Paul Newman would not be happy. The guardians of the Newman’s Own Organics brand have been playing fast and loose.

    The Newman’s Own food brand was founded by actor Paul Newman and author A.E. Hotchner in 1982. Its purpose was to generate money for charity: The company gives 100% of the after-tax profits from the sale of its products to the Newman’s Own Foundation, which distributes it to various educational and charitable organizations.

    In 1993, Newman’s daughter Nell Newman founded Newman’s Own Organics as a division of the company. Created to produce only organic foods, it became a separate company in late 2001. Father and daughter posed for the photograph on the label.

    Now, the USDA has called out Newman’s Own Organics and some other companies for selling products that do not qualify for the use of the word “organic” on the front panel. Consumers are being misled by the word “organic” or “organics” in the brand names, while the products are not organic-compliant.

    Unless a food product is certified organic, according to the regulations of the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), it cannot display, overtly, the word “organic” on the front panel of the product.

     

    Newmans-Own-Organics-Logo-230

    “Pa” would not be pleased. Photo courtesy Newman’s Own Organics.

     

    The investigation began in 2010 when a not-for-profit group, The Cornucopia Institute, filed a complaint against Newman’s ginger cookies, asserting that these and other products the company markets had labels such as “made with organic wheat and sugar,” but that many of the more expensive ingredients were not in fact organic.

    “When products qualify for the ‘Made With Organic Ingredients’ label, it means they have a minimum of 70% organic content,” stated Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of the Cornucopia Institute. “Newman’s Own Organics ginger cookies didn’t even contain organic ginger when we did our initial investigation in 2010. That’s what I call misleading!”

    You can read the Institute’s full press release here.

    A small percentage of products under the Newman’s Own Organics name actually are certified organic. Most are manufactured with the lowest permissable amount of organic ingredients, 70%, and qualify for the “Made With Organic” labeling category, the third of three tiers (the best is “100% Organic,” followed by “Organic,” which requires 95% organic ingredients).

    “Other brands of organic cookies that have to compete on store shelves with Newman’s, such as Country Choice, go to the effort and expense to procure organic ginger and all other available organic ingredients, and present a product of true integrity to the consuming public,” said Kastel.

    As a result of the Institute’s efforts, the USDA released new guidelines yesterday, called “Use of Brand or Company Names Containing the Word ‘Organic’.”

    The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. Efforts support economic justice for the family-scale farming community, backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

      

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