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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.

CHRISTMAS: Avocado Salad Tree

avocado-xmas-tree-hassavocados-230

A delightful Christmas salad. Photo courtesy
AvocadoCentral.com.

 

Holiday buffets will look even more inviting when this pretty Christmas tree-shaped salad is on display. It’s served with a zesty chile vinaigrette dressing for a fiesta of flavor.

Prep time is 30 minutes.

Use ripe avocados that are a little on the firm side for best results, and brush the avocado slices with a soft, food-safe paint brush dipped in lime juice or lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

This dish can also be made with granny smith apple slices instead of avocado.

If you don’t like crab meat, you can substitute grated white Cheddar or other semihard cheese for the “snow” at the bottom of the platter.

RECIPE: AVOCADO CHRISTMAS TREE SALAD

Ingredients

  • 2 firm-ripe Hass avocados, halved, peeled and seeded (use more as needed)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils (seeds) and/or fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
  • 1 green onion, white portion only, sliced into rounds
  • 1 slice star fruit (carambola) or pineapple
  • 6 small chives
  • 1 cup fresh crab meat, picked over for cartilege
  •  

    RECIPE: CHILE VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE each avocado half into six equivalent size slices. Brush the slices with lemon or lime juice. Arrange them on a platter into the shape of a Christmas tree, as shown in the photo above, leaving at least 3 inches at the top and bottom of the platter. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

     

    avocados-board-hassavocado-230

    Hass avocados. Photo courtesy AvocadoCentral.com.

     

    2. ARRANGE the pomegranate arils or raspberries, cranberries and green onions on top of the avocado tree to look like ornaments.

    3. PLACE the star fruit at the top point of the tree. Alternatively, use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut a star out of a slice of pineapple. Add the chives in a criss-cross pattern over the avocado slices, to emulate a garland.

    4. ARRANGE the crab along the bottom of the tree to resemble snow.

    5. PLACE the vinaigrette ingredients in a salad dressing carafe, cover and shake a few times to combine. Serve alongside the Avocado Tree Salad.
     
    Find more avocado recipes at AvocadoCentral.com.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Nespresso Inissia

    inissia-blueberry-blue-230

    The Inissia: just 4.7 inches wide by x 12.6
    inches deep. Photo courtesy Nespresso.

     

    So many of us these days can’t live without a great cup of coffee, often leaving our posts one or more times a day to obtain one.

    The folks at Nespresso want you to have a great cup at your fingertips. They’ve created a new petite model, the Inissia: a single-serve coffee maker with a teeny footprint that fits in small spaces, from office desktops to dormitory rooms.

    And it’s only $99!

    Streamlined for maximum efficiency and simple to use, the small footprint (4.7 x 12.6 x 9 inches) weights a bit more than five pounds. The Inissia uses the same premium coffee capsules as the larger models. The water will be read in 25 seconds: an espresso (including the shorter ristretto and the taller lungo) or a full cup at the touch of a button.

    You can make up to 9 espressos without having to refill the water tank.

     
    A great gift for a college student or new member of the workforce, the Inissia is available in:
  • Blueberry Blue
  • Intense Black
  • Lime Yellow
  • Pure White
  • Ruby Red
  • Vanilla Cream
  •  
    It can be bundled with Nespresso’s wonderful Aeroccino Plus milk frother for $149.

     

    LARGER, WITH CREMA

    Another Nespresso innovation this year is the Vertuoline. It handles the larger American-style mugs as well as espresso cups, and tops both with rich, luxurious crema.

    Available in Black, Chrome and Red, the VertuoLine is priced at $299 and takes a new, flatter, rounder capsule than the original Nespresso machines.

    Check out the entire line at Nespresso.com.

     

    inissia-ruby-red-sideways-230

    A side view of the petite Inissia. It’s just 4.7 inches wide x 12.6 inches deep. Photo courtesy Nespresso.

     

      

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFER: Bonnie’s Jams

    raspberry-lime-rickey-230

    Artisan jams are a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer. Photo courtesy Bonnie’s Jams.

     

    Most people won’t spend $8.99 on a jar of jam, opting for less expensive supermarket varieties that are higher on cloying sugar than on fruit flavor. That’s why artisan jam is such a welcome stocking stuffer or teacher gift.

    Why does it cost so much? The finest fruits, low sugar content (sugar is not only cheaper than fruit, but covers up sub-prime fruit) and hand labor to make everything from scratch in small batches, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    The flavors, which are made seasonally and are available until they sell out, currently include:

  • Apricot Orange
  • Fig Preserve
  • Peach Ginger
  • Raspberry Lime Rickey
  • Red Pepper Jelly
  • Strawberry
  • Strawberry Rhubarb
  •  
    In addition to the individual flavors, gift samplers are available.

     
    We especially liked the Raspberry Lime Rickey, sweet fruit with a delightful bit of citrus tang. It’s a charming variation on the always-popular raspberry jam.

    The recipes for the jams; but these are so good, most folks will want to enjoy them simply, on toast; or straight from the spoon.

    Check out the options at BonniesJams.com, and send some to people who will appreciate the difference.

    You’ll also find delightful recipes that use the jams.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Popcorn Trees

    Fun for decoration, party favors or festive snacks, these Popcorn Trees are easy to make. The recipe is from the National Popcorn Board, which advises that it’s important to use unflavored white popcorn for the best color and flavor.

    RECIPE: POPCORN TREES

    Ingredients For 10 Trees

  • 10 cups air-popped white popcorn
  • 1 10-ounce bag miniature marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Decorating sugar (green, blue)*
  • 1 tube of white frosting (with decorating tip)
  • Assorted small colorful candies, such as sprinkles and miniature silver dragées
  •  
    *Make your own colored sugar by adding food coloring to sugar, stirring in a bowl or shaking vigorously in a sealed container. Add more food coloring for more intense tones.

     

    popcorn_trees_popcorn.org-230

    A fun project for eating or decor. Photo courtesy Popcorn.org.

     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the popcorn in large bowl.

    2. PLACE marshmallows and butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until the marshmallows are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture over the popcorn. Toss well to coat the popcorn evenly.

    3. LINE a baking sheet with foil. Spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop up about 1 cup of the popcorn mixture. Shape the mixture into a cone shape, keeping the base flat. This forms the tree.

    4. SPRINKLE the tree with decorating sugar. Pplace the tree on the baking sheet. Continue to make the rest of the trees.

    5. PIPE frosting on the trees to make a garland, then decorate them with colorful candies.
     
    SERVING SUGGESTION

    Place each tree atop a sugar cookie and decorate the serving tray with shredded coconut to resemble snow—as shown in the photo above.

    Find more fun popcorn recipes at Popcorn.org.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Chanukah Cocktail

    Toast to Chanukah or winter. Photo courtesy
    SKYY Spirits.

     

    Spell it Chanukah or Hanukkah: The word for the Jewish Festival Of Lights was translitrated from the Hebrew alphabet. The name derives from the Hebrew verb for “to dedicate.”

    This year, Chanukah begins at sundown on December 16th and ends at sunset on Wednesday, December 24th.. The date is based on the Hebrew calendar months*, which are of different lengths than our Gregorian calendar months.

    Chanukah commemorates an event in the 2nd century B.C.E.: the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, that had been destroyed during Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of Syria.

    According to the Talmud, for the rededication, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the high priest was needed to light the menorah (candelabra) in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night.

    However, only one flask of oil was found, with enough to burn for just one day. Yet, the oil burned for eight days, and during that time a fresh supply of kosher oil was prepared to continue.

    Based on this miracle, an eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages.

     
    Traditional Chanukah foods are fried in honor of the miracle oil: doughnuts, loukoumades (deep-fried puffs dipped in honey or sugar) and latkes (potato pancakes).

    But there is no official Chanukah beverage. So this year, for fun and festivity, we’re publishing a Chanukah cocktail recipe—colored ice blue, a color of the flag of Israel (which is blue and white). The recipe is from SKYY Spirits.

    You don’t have to officially celebrate Chanukah in order to whip up a batch. Several years ago, we received the very same recipe called the Winter Chill.
     
    RECIPE: CHANUKAH COCKTAIL or WINTER CHILL COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce citrus vodka
  • 1 ounce blue Curaçao
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • Ice
  • Optional rim garnish: blue or white sanding sugar (or a blend)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients with ice in a shaker.

    2. SHAKE vigorously and strain into a Martini glass.

     

    WHAT IS CURAÇAO?

    Curaçao (pronounced KOO-ruh-sow) is an orange-flavored liqueur made from the dried peel of a citrus fruit called the laraha, which is grown on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. The laraha was bred from the sweet Valencia orange that was planted by Spanish explorers.

    The orange did not grow well in the nutrient-poor soil and arid climate of Curaçao. It yielded small fruits with bitter, inedible flesh. However, the peels maintained much of the sweet, aromatic essence of the Valencia.

    Orange peel has utility and economic value, so the Valencia trees were eventually bred into the laraha species.

    To make the liqueur, the dried peels are soaked in a still with alcohol and water, and spices are added. The liqueur is naturally colorless like triple sec, another orange liqueur.

    But Curaçao is often colored, typically blue, which creates vibrant-colored, exotic-looking cocktails. The coloring in Blue Curaçao does not alter the taste.

     

    blue-curacao-dekuyperUSA-230

    Blue Curaçao and the oranges from which it is made. Photo courtesy DeKuyper USA.

     
    *Chanukah begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. More about the calendar.

      

    Comments

    GADGET: SKrAPr

    skrapr-230

    The standard SKrAPr with the free mini version. Photo courtsy SKrAPr.

     

    Tired of expending elbow grease to clean burned on or dried food from cooktops, stoves, ovens, barbecue grills, baking pans and counter tops?

    So was Richard Lambert, who solved the problem by inventing the whimsically-spelled SKrAPr. This kitchen gadget looks like a merger of a spatula and a paint scraper.

    The non-scratching blade scrapes residue off of smooth surfaces. The material is a patented composite resin that works on all smooth surfaces: aluminum, ceramic, glass, granite, hardwood, marble and stainless steel.

    Most messes can be SKrAPed up with water as the only lubricant—no chemical cleaners required.

    If SKrAPr looks like a device that can scrape off paint splatters or de-ice car windshields—well yes, it is.

     

    The Skrapr website isn’t up yet, but there is a Facebook page. You can buy it on Amazon.com ($14.51) and at retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond.

    There’s a limited lifetime warranty.

    The company makes other tools as well, including:

  • Grill Cleaner
  • Curv Spreading Tool (spatula)
  • Spreader Set
  • Ice cream Skoopr
  •  
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Marinated Cod

    If you’re looking to put together a Feast Of The Seven Fishes, or simply would like a new way to prepare cod, here’s a recipe from Landana Cheese.

    The company uses its Landana 1000 Days, an aged Gouda, in the recipe. Serve the cod with a Chablis or other dry white wine. Find more recipes at LandanaCheese.com.

    RECIPE: MARINATED COD

    Ingredients

  • 2.6 ounces (75g) aged Gouda cheese
  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 2 cloves
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaf
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • 2 onions
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 28.2 ounces (800g) whole cod
  • Garnish: 1 lemon, sliced
  •    


    Cod marinated in white wine and herbs. Photo courtesy Landana Cheese.

     

    For The Sauce

  • 1 cup clarified butter
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  •  

    types-of-Roux-rouxbe-230

    Roux types. Photo courtesy Rouxbe.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE a marinade from the wine, cloves, some thyme, bay leaf, rosemary and sage. Peel the onion, cut into large pieces and add to the marinade. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, simmering for 10 minutes; then leave to cool until lukewarm.

    2. WASH the fish and lay it in a pan that can be tightly covered. Pour the lukewarm marinade into the pan. If it doesn’t fully cover the fish, add broth or water. Cover and let the fish to marinate for 5 hours.

    3. BRING the mixture to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

    4. MELT the butter, add enough flour to make a white roux (see instructions below). Dilute with strained cooking liquid until a creamy sauce is created. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. In the meantime…

     
    5. GRATE the cheese and mix it, along with the cream, into the sauce. Season to taste and keep warm.

    6. DRAIN the fish and lay it carefully on a preheated serving dish. Drizzle the sauce over the fish and garnish with thin slices of lemon and fresh herbs. Serve the rest of the sauce on the side.
     
    HOW TO MAKE A WHITE ROUX

    A roux (pronounced roo) is a combination of fat and flour, that has been used for centuries as a thickening agent in French cuisine. White and blonde roux are used to thicken sauces and soups. Brown and dark brown roux are primarily used in Cajun and Creole dishes, such as gumbo and jambalaya. They have more flavor than the white and blonde versions, but are thinner and thus do a lighter job of thickening

    1. MELT the clarified butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is hot enough, a pinch of flour sprinkled on top of it will slowly start to bubble. Then…

    2. WHISK the flour into the clarified butter until a thick, rough paste forms. Whisk constantly while the paste bubbles over medium heat. As it cooks, the roux will become smooth and begin to thin. After about 5 minutes, the raw smell of the flour becomes a nutty aroma and you have a white roux.
     
    For Other Roux

    As it continues to cook—with continuous stirring—the roux becomes smoother and thinner and the bubbling becomes slower.

  • Blonde Roux. You’ll get a blonde roux after 20 minutes of continuous cooking and stirring. The bubbles begin to slow, the color is tan and the aroma is of of popcorn or toast.
  • Brown Roux. After approximately 35 minutes of cooking you’ll get a brown roux—actually a tan, peanut butter color. The aroma is roasted and nutty.
  • Dark Brown Roux. After about 45 minutes of cooking, the roux becomes the color of milk chocolate, is very thin and is no longer bubbling. Its will actually smell a bit like chocolate.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Embossed Cake Pan & Cake Mix

    Buy one for yourself, buy one as a gift, but turn holiday cake-baking into a no-fuss event with an embossed cake pan.

    A plain bundt or loaf cake is instantly decorated by the design embossed in the pan. Aside from an optional dusting of confectioners’ sugar, there’s no more work for you to do—a welcome time savings during the holidays or any time of the year.

    Nordicware has an extensive collection for every season. For the holidays, check out the Cathedral Pan and other winners, including Bûche de Noël, Christmas Village, Fairytale Cottage, Gingerbread House, Gingerbread Man, Holiday Tree, Holiday Wreath, Star of David and a dozen more.

    Pair the cake pan with a package of Nordicware’s terrific bundt cake mixes for a delightful gift.
     

    BAKING TIP

     

    holiday-tree-230

    It’s time for cake! One of numerous holiday-themed cake pans. Photo courtesy Nordicware.

     
    While the nonstick finish assures you that the cake will come out of the pan easily, and cleanup will be a breeze, it doesn’t hurt to take this extra step:

    Use Baker’s Joy, a nonstick spray with flour, to carefully spray all the nooks and crannies so the details are perfect.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Moonstruck Chocolate Gifts

    naked-230

    Hand-decorated Bark Bars are works of art. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Moonstruck Chocolates has been pleasing Oregonians since 1995; and thanks to the rise of e-commerce, all of us can get their handcrafted chocolates.

    Whether for stocking stuffers or a principal gift, Moonstruck has distinctly different offerings, from the beautiful chocolate bars shown here, the beautiful bonbons below, and everything in-between.

     
    STOCKING STUFFERS

    Bark Bars

    The Bark Chocolate Bars are beauties, at $9.00 apiece:

  • Dark Chocolate, Candied Orange & Hibiscus Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Strawberry & Basil Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Raspberry & Fennel Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Praline Pecan & Ginger Bark Bar
  •  
    Tumbled Chocolates

    Tumbling is the way the centers are enrobed in chocolate. For $5.00 per package, these bites are wonderful stocking stuffers, each more delicious than the next:

  • Milk Chocolate Tumbled Caramelized Hazelnuts
  • Milk Chocolate Tumbled Sea Salt Caramels
  • Dark Chocolate Tumbled Blueberries
  • Dark Chocolate Tumbled Beerberries
  •  

    WHISKEY-INFUSED CHOCOLATES

    We love whiskey-infused chocolates, and Moonstruck has two wonderful collections, exquisitely painted by hand:

    New American Whiskey Flight Bonbons

    The New American Whiskey Flight is a six-piece collection of bonbons: pairs of three whiskey-infused truffles.

  • The Knob Creek Whiskey Truffle features ivory ganache infused with Knob Creek Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Dads will appreciate bold notes of oak, caramel and fruit.
  • The Makers Mark Whiskey Truffle features creamy milk chocolate ganache infused with Makers Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Vanilla, oak and smoke nuances play along the palate.
  • The Woodford Reserve Whiskey Truffle marries Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey with rich dark chocolate ganache. Deep, spicy notes end with a clean finish.
  •  
    Nestled into a custom-designed box with a royal crown motif, the collection is $15.

     

    oregon-distillers-box-230

    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    Oregon Distillers Collection

    Oregon is home to numerous craft distillers, which inspired Moonstruck’s Oregon Distillers Collection. This exciting box of bonbons includes:

  • Bendistillery Crater Lake Pepper Vodka Truffle
  • Bull Run Temperance Trader Bourbon Whiskey Truffle
  • Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Apple Brandy Truffle
  • Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Pear Brandy Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Aviation Gin Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Coffee Liqueur Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Krogstad Aquavit Truffle
  • New Deal Distillery Ginger Liqueur Truffle
  • Oregon Spirit Distillers Wild Card Absinthe Truffle
  • Rogue Ale Dead Guy Whiskey Truffle
  •  
    A 12-piece box is $25.00. The bonbons are approximately 5% alcohol content by weight.

    Both boxes are memorable chocolate experiences.

    There are seasonal treats like Santas and penguins, and many other beauties to discover at MoonstruckChocolate.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cream Cheese Christmas Tree Appetizer

    cream-cheese-pepper-jelly-xmastree-indulgy.com-bertha-230

    Deck the appetizer plate with cream cheese and pepper jelly. Photo: Pinterest.

     

    The block of cream cheese topped with pepper jelly takes on a special shape for the holidays.

    We originally thought that this photo was from Bertha at Indulgy.com, but so many people have posted it on Pinterest and elsewhere that the original source is in question. If it’s yours, please let us know so we can link to you.

    RECIPE: CREAM CHEESE CHRISTMAS TREE APPETIZER

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounce block cream cheese
  • Pepper jelly or salsa
  • 1 green onion (scallion)
  • 1 green bell pepper or chile
  • Crackers or tortilla chips
  • Optional garnish: snipped chives or parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT a block of cream cheese on the diagonal. Place on a plate to make a tree shape.

    2. USE a portion of the green onion to create the trunk of the tree.

    3. ADD pepper jelly and a star cut from the pepper. Serve with crackers of choice (or if you use salsa, with tortilla chips).

     
      

    Comments

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