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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.

TIP: Do It Yourself Apple Gift Basket

We’re coming up on the last shopping weekend before Christmas. Instead of braving the stores, how about heading to your nearest farmers market?

Top e-tailers like Harry & David will send a basket or box of assorted apples, but you can put your own together and provide even more fun through a greater assortment.

Apples are affordable, delicious, universally loved and always available. Present them in beautiful “keeper” basket for a healthy holiday gift—great for calorie counters, dieters and fitness fans.

Here are five simple steps for a do-it-yourself apple gift basket from the U.S. Apple Association.

1. FIND a basket or other container—you may already have some on hand from prior gifts you’ve received. You can buy baskets at craft store, big box retailers and even your grocery store.

 

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It’s easy to create an apple basket gift. Photo courtesy U.S. Apple Association.

 
2. FILL the basket with healthy, wholesome apples: the more colors and varieties, the merrier. If the apples don’t have stickers indicating their variety, take a photo of the apple basket and sign at the market and include it in the basket.

3. ADD a few colorful accents, like clementine oranges, a jar of caramel sauce or honey for dipping, or a small holiday candle.

4. PERSONALIZE with foods or trinkets the recipient will enjoy—simple stocking stuffers will do—an apple slicer, or a cheese; for a gym person, a stretch band. If you don’t want to add a cheese, which typically requires refrigeration, include a gift card to a store where it can be purchased.

5. ACCENT with a ribbons and a card or note that wishes the recipient a healthy New Year.

  

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PRODUCT: Primizie Crispbreads ~ Great Snack Crackers

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A great new line of snack crackers, worth checking out. Photo courtesy Primizie Snacks.

 

Primizie snack crackers—called crispbread snacks by the manufacturer—were developed by a restauranteur/caterer couple who were looking for something better than what they were able to purchase.

The thick, crunchy triangles were inspired on a culinary tour in Italy, originally as a dough for pizzas and paninis. In the process, the chef discovered that when the bread was “crisped,” it made a terrific cracker—for snacking, dipping and pairing with cheeses, salads and soups.

Thick and flavorful, they stand on their own but pair beautifully with dips and spreads. When you’re pulling out all the stops for the holidays—or simply want something new and different—we heartily recommend them.

  • Classic is an Italian seven-herb blend, delightfully flavor-forward and a bit hot from Italian red chiles.
  • Cheese is provides a strong hit of smoked Gouda cheese and garlic.
  • Chile employs a rare chile pepper called the chimayo, after the town in north central New Mexico where it is grown. The chile delivers flavor that is sweet, rich and spicy but without the heat. Try it with guacamole instead of tortilla chips.
  • Simply Salted uses sel gris, French grey sea salt, a light, delicate, almost buttery salt. If these salted chips taste especially delightful, that’s why. (Check out the different types of sea salt.)
  •  

    The all natural snack crackers are made with high quality, pure ingredients with no preservatives, trans fat or cholesterol, non-GMO and rBST-free.

    Three flavors are vegan; Cheese is vegetarian.

    There’s a store locator on the website; the products are available online at Amazon and elsewhere.

    A 6.5-ounce bag has a suggested retail price of $3.99*, and is a nice contribution to a party or other get-together.

    Discover more at PrimizieSnacks.com.

     
    *The products are pricier on Amazon, because Amazon takes a 30% cut of each purchase.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Pomegranate Panna Cotta

    Italian for “cooked cream,” it is a light, silky-smooth egg custard made with heavy cream and gelatin and typically served with fresh fruit or a fruit purée. Panna cotta originated in the Piedmont area of northern Italy, a region known for its cream.

    Smooth, silky and creamy, panna cotta is less rich than other types of custard because it’s made without eggs. (Check out the different types of custard in our delectable Custard Glossary.)

    Panna cotta is a gluten free dessert, and this version with pomegranate adds a festive holiday touch. This recipe is from Karen Tedesco of Family Style Food and Go Bold With Butter. Find more delicious recipes at FamilyStyleFood.com.

    RECIPE: POMEGRANATE PANNA COTTA

    Ingredients

  • 1 packet (2-1/2 teaspoons) powdered gelatin
  • 1-1/4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds (arils)
  •    

    pomegranate-panna-cotta-familystylefood-2-230r

    Bright panna cotta for the holidays. Photo courtesy Family Style Food.

     

    halved-pomegranate-pinkberry-230

    The arils (seeds) inside a pomegranate. Photo courtesy Pinkberry.

     

    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY COAT 6 x 1/2-cup molds or ramekins with neutral-tasting oil or spray.

    2. SPRINKLE 1/2 teaspoon of the gelatin over 2 teaspoons of water in a small dish, and let stand a few minutes to soften and dissolve.

    3. MAKE pomegranate jelly: Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the pomegranate juice with the granulated sugar in a small saucepan; stir to dissolve sugar and heat just to a simmer. Stir in the gelatin mixture over low heat until it dissolves in the juice, then divide into the molds (about a scant tablespoon in each). Place the molds on a baking sheet and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

    4. DISSOLVE the remaining 2 teaspoons of gelatin in a small dish with 1 tablespoon water.

    5. HEAT the cream, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Heat until very warm, but not boiling. Stir in the gelatin until it dissolves. Pour the cream through a fine strainer into a container with a pouring spout, such as a four-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Set aside to cool completely.

     

    6. POUR the cream over the pomegranate jelly in the molds, dividing evenly. Cover gently with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill and set, at least 4 hours. About an hour before serving…

    7. PUT the remaining cup of pomegranate juice in a small saucepan with the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until reduced in volume by half (you should have 1/2 cup syrup); cool.

    8. TO SERVE: Dip the molds in very hot water for about 30 seconds (be careful not to submerge). Run a small offset spatula or blade of a small, sharp knife around the edges of the panna cotta, then invert onto plates. Drizzle some pomegranate syrup over each, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

      

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    PRODUCT & GIFT: Perky Jerky, Now In Flavors

    There’s only a week left until Christmas, but you can click on over to get a boat load of one of our favorite snacks for gifting: Perky Jerky.

    This is tender, flavorful gourmet jerky with a twist: the meat is caffeinated. The manufacturer calls it “the world’s first all-natural performance enhancing meat snack.”

    Anyone who needs a snack along with a bit of energy can simply tear open a portion-controlled package and enjoy a flavorful, nourishment and yes, liveliness.

    The protein-laden beef or turkey jerky has been caffeinated with guarana, a natural energy booster with about twice the caffeine content of a coffee bean. A single-portion bag has less than 100 calories per ounce and is low in carbs, with 5g or less of sugar per serving.

    The products are all natural: no added MSF, no nitrates, no preservatives.
     
    BEEF & TURKEY, ORIGINAL & FLAVORS

    Since it debuted several years ago, Perky Jerky has grown in flavors. Marinating the meat overnight allows the flavors to infuse, and makes the jerky even more tender.

    Beef Perky Jerky and Turkey Perky Jerky are available in Original, Hot & Bothered, Sweet & Spicy and Teriyaki. Additionally, Turkey Perky Jerky is Jamaican Style.

       

    jerky-black-plate-230

    Delicious and tender jerky with a jolt of caffeine. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    package-trio-230

    Give individual packages or multipack boxes.
    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    PACKAGES FOR EVERYONE

    From individual snacks to multi-portion sizes, there are:

  • Individual snack bags (1 ounce), $2.99
  • Multi-portion bags (2.2 ounces), $4.99
  • Family-size bags (5 ounces), $9.99
  • Multipack boxes of 6-packs (2.2 ounces) and 12-packs (2.2 ounces), $59.88
  •  
    If you want to try the flavors, pay for four and get the fifth free (2.2-ounce bags).

    You can sign up for monthly deliveries, too, and save 20%-30% with free shipping.

    HOLIDAY SPECIAL

    There’s 40% off plus free shipping on orders over $50. Use code HOLIDAY 40 through midnight on December 21st.

    Place your order for great jerky at PerkyJerky.com.

    Perky Jerky is also available in more than 30,000 retail outlets across the U.S., including GNC, Target and Walgreens.

    JERKY TRIVIA

  • The word jerky comes from the Quechua language of the Incas, who called their dried meat “charqui.”
  • While the prehistoric method of meat preservation was used by other ancient peoples, it was not known in Europe. The first European visitors to the New World found Native Americans making jerky from the meat of any animal they hunted, from buffalo to whale.
  • Today jerky can be found in meats as common as turkey, tuna and salmon, to exotic alligator and ostrich.
  • Perky Jerky was a accidental invention, like potato chips, yogurt and many of our foods. An energy drink spilled over some jerky, drenching the meat. Not about to throw good jerky away, the “inventors” ate it and discovered that it was not only more tender, but a great energy boost. (Today, the process for making Perky Jerky is a bit more sophisticated.)
  •   

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    TIP: Gourmet Grocery Store Gift Card

    If you can’t think of a gift for people who like good food—because you don’t know exactly what they’d like—consider a gift card.

    A gift card to a premium market enables recipients to try new things or buy luxury items like artisan cheeses.

    Many of us our space-challenged at home, cramming those gift sweaters and bath products into already crammed drawers and closets. Unlike most gifts, which require space to store, a gift card can be spent and consumed in the same day.

    You can purchase gift cards in-store, of course. Some retailers, like Whole Foods, let you buy the cards online as well, with the option to send them digitally with a personalized holiday message.

    The photo is actually the 2014 limited edition holiday gift card from Whole Foods.

    Solved: what to get your favorite cook or foodie.

     

    whole-foods-gift-card-230

    The limited edition 2014 holiday gift card from Whole Foods Market. Photo courtesy Whole Foods.

     

      

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    GIFT: John & Kira’s Artisan Chocolates

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    Splendid chocolate-dipped calabacita figs
    with whiskey-infused ganache. Photo
    courtesy John & Kira’s.

     

    Still need some special holiday gifts?

    Go no further than John & Kira’s. The dynamic duo of artisan chocolate can always b relied upon to handcraft memorable confections that are guaranteed to please.

    For Chocolate Sophisticates: Chocolate-Dipped Figs

    One of our favorite treats anywhere, the chocolate covered, ganache-filled figs are as good as it gets The figs are grown on a small family farm in Spain, then filled by John & Kira with a silky smooth, whiskey-infused Valrhona dark chocolate ganache. They are then enrobed in 62% dark chocolate: perfection!

    A 12-piece box is $34.95; a 6-piece box is $24.50.

    Get yours at JohnAnd Kiras.com.

    Don’t want figs? Check out the Happiest Of Holidays gift box with ten different infused ganache fillings.

     

    For Kids & The Young At Heart

    Almost too cute to eat, hand-painted ladybug chocolates in red and green are filled with flavored ganache: raspberry in the red ladybugs and garden mint in the green.

    A nine-piece box is $29.95, a five-piece box is $14.95 and a three-piece box is $10.00.

    Another gift ideas is Holiday Marshmallow Heaven, chocolate-enrobed marshmallows with mint ganache, raspberry ganache, caramel and plain.

    The handsome gift boxes are lovely “keepers,” and the letter-pressed card is another expression of John & Kira’s artisan approach.

    Anyone who gets a taste will become a fan!

     

    ladybugs-johnandkira-230

    Who can resist chocolate ladybugs? Photo courtesy John & Kira’s.

     

      

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    GIFT: Pretzel Perfection Gluten Free Treats

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    Delicious, fun, affordable holiday treats. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    One of the tastiest new things we’ve tried this holiday season are the chocolate-covered pretzel clusters from Pretzel Perfection.

    The pretzels are gluten free, and made by a company that specializes in gluten-free flavored pretzel sticks—Chipotle BBQ, Garlic Herb, Lemon Toffee, Stoneground Mustard and Tomato Basil—and delicious for everyone.

    The sweet variations are seasonal specialties, delightful pretzel stick and chocolate clusters in:

  • Eggnog Holiday Clusters, covered in eggnog-infused white chocolate and finished with white chocolate chips, and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Peppermint Clusters, covered in mint-infused white chocolate and finished with white chocolate chips and organic peppermint candy pieces.
  • Salted Caramel Clusters, covered in semisweet chocolate and handcrafted caramel, topped with dark chocolate chips and finished with a sprinkling of sea salt.
  •  
    At just $6.99 for a handsome container, there’s still time to order a slew of them for last-minute holiday gifting.

    Get yours at PretzelPerfection.com.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Martini Taste-Off

    You can make a Cranberry Martini with cranberry liqueur, or you can use cranberry sauce to make a novelty version of the drink.

    We adapted this recipe from Cooking Channel mixologists Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark.

    Why not have a Cranberry Cocktail Challenge at your holiday celebration? Mix up a batch of Cranberry Sauce Cocktails and another of Cranberry Martinis (made with cranberry juice—recipe below) and let the guests choose their favorite.

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY SAUCE COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce (without whole berries)
  • 2 ounces vodka (you can use gin or tequila if you prefer)
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: sprig of fresh rosemary
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cranberry sauce, vodka, lime juice and bitters in a shaker.

       

    cranberry-sauce-cocktail-ward-hardstark-230

    Turn leftover cranberry sauce into a cocktail. Photo courtesy Alie Ward | Georgia Hardstark.

     
    2. ADD the ice and shake very vigorously for 45 seconds. Strain into a chilled Martini or coupe glass.

    3. GARNISH with a sprig of rosemary.

     

    Cranberry-Martini-Penny Burt-IST-230

    A classic Cranberry Martini. Photo by Penny Burt | IST.

     

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY MARTINI

    At its simplest, the Cranberry Martini, a.k.a. Crantini, is a simple variation of a Cosmopolitan, which combines vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec and lime juice. The simplest Cranberry Martini recipe leaves out the last two ingredients. Whether you like a gin or vodka Martini, there are several ways to approach this cocktail.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 ounces vodka or gin
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce vermouth (optional)
  • 1/2 ounce cranberry liqueur or 2 ounces cranberry juice
  • Fresh, frozen or dried cranberries for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. POUR the first three ingredients into a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with 2 ice cubes. Shake for 10 seconds and strain into a chilled Martini glass.

    2. FLOAT 3 cranberries for garnish.

     
    RECIPE: CRANBERRY LIME MARTINI

    This citrusy variation showcases the flavor synergies between lime and gin.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 parts gin
  • 2 parts freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 parts cranberry juice
  • Lime wedge or wheel for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STIR the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.

    2. STRAIN into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
     
    Let us know which recipe wins at your house!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Broccoli Rabe Garlic Bread

    Here’s a way of getting nutrient-packed broccoli rabe into something everyone loves. Make garlic bread using the greens and garlic butter. Nothing could be easier—or harder to resist.

    If you keep a supply of broccoli rabe purée on hand, it takes no time at all to assemble. Make it peppery—or not; top the garlic butter with grated cheese—or not; and use a whole wheat loaf instead of white bread for greater nutritional value.

    This recipe is by Julia della Croce, Andy Boy’s Chef-in-Residence and one of America’s foremost authorities on Italian cooking. She is a James Beard Award winning author and has written more than 15 cookbooks.

    Prep time is 25 minutes, cook time is 5–10 minutes.

    RECIPE: BROCCOLI RABE GARLIC BREAD

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 loaf good quality fresh ciabatta or baguette
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup broccoli rabe purée
  •    

    broccoli-rabe-garlic-bread-andyboy-230r

    Better than garlic bread: garlic bread with broccoli rabe. Photo courtesy Andy Boy.

  • Freshly ground black pepper or hot red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  •  

    broccoli-rabe-andyboy-230

    Broccoli rabe, also called rapini. Photo courtesy Andy Boy.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. WARM the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat until the garlic is softened and aromatic, about 4 minutes.

    3. BEAT the butter, broccoli rabe purée, garlic oil and salt until well blended.

    4. SLICE the loaf in half lengthwise, using a bread knife. Spread the broccoli rabe butter liberally on both sides of the cut surfaces. Reassemble the loaf and wrap it in aluminum foil. Bake until hot and aromatic, 10-15 minutes.

    5. CUT into 1-inch slices and serve hot or warm.

    Find more recipes at AndyBoy.com.

     
    WHAT IS BROCCOLI RABE

    Some 15 years ago, broccoli rabe began to appear in some restaurants. Also called broccoli rape, raab (pronounced rob), rapini, Chinese broccoli and Italian broccoli in the U.S., it then became available in produce markets. Now, it can be found at more and more quality supermarkets.

    Descended from a wild herb, like many of our greens, versions of broccoli rabe originated in the Mediterranean and in China.

    Broccoli rabe is not related to either broccoli or broccolini.

    Although it bears the name “broccoli,” tastes like a bitter and pungent form of broccoli (think broccoli crossed with mustard greens with some nuttiness) and looks like a relative of broccoli—it has broccoli-like buds and florets at the top of slender stalks—broccoli rabe is not related to broccoli but turnips.
    That’s why the leaves look like turnip greens and the vegetable is also called Italian turnip and turnip broccoli. Here’s more about broccoli rabe.

    Broccolini is not a young growth of broccoli, but a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan, another cruciferous vegetable. The result looks broccoli but with smaller florets and longer, thin stalks.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Panettone Stuffing

    We love panettone, an Italian yeast bread filled with candied citron, lemon zest, and raisins (and sometimes other ingredients).

    If we get too much of it to toast for breakfast or top with ice cream for dessert, we make other favorites, such as Panettone French toast, Panettone grilled cheese and panettone PB&J sandwiches.

    And then, there’s Panettone stuffing or dressing*. While stuffing is most commonly prepared with days old white bread, you can use panettone to give your stuffing a sweet edge.

    This recipe is courtesy Bauli Panettone.

    PANETTONE STUFFING

    Ingredients

  • 1 loaf panettone (2.2 pounds)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 bunches fresh sage, leaves minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, julienned
  • 1/2 cup dried sour cherries
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1-1/2 cups minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup minced celery or fennel
  • 1 cup minced carrot
  • Up to 2 cups chicken stock or turkey stock
  • Optional: 2 eggs for a firmer stuffing
  •    

    pannetone-stuffing-bauli-230

    Cut a loaf of panettone into cubes to make the stuffing. Photo courtesy Bauli.

     

     
    *The difference: stuffing is cooked inside the bird and dressing is cooked in a separate dish.

     

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    Panettone can be found in most supermarkets during the holiday season. Photo courtesy Bauli.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Cut the panettone into 3/4-inch squares and place in large bowl. Melt half of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and continue to cook until light brown, about 5 minutes.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and add half the sage. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sage butter over the bread and toss gently but swiftly. Spread out on 2 cooking sheets and place in the oven until light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place back into the bowl. Meanwhile…

    3. PLACE the dried fruit in a large bowl; add boiling water to cover and then set aside for at least 10 minutes. This will plump and soften the fruit for cooking. Drain the fruit once it is plumped.

    4. RAISE the oven temperature to 375°F. Melt the remaining butter and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sauté on medium-low heat until soft. Add dried fruit and remaining sage. Toss into cooled croutons. Gently toss and add chicken broth to moisten; add more broth if you like a softer stuffing. Stir in beaten eggs now, if using. Adjust salt and pepper, to your liking. Turn out into an oven-proof casserole.

     

    5. BAKE uncovered until golden brown on top, about 40 minutes.

      

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