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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 OF THE DAY: Fava Beans (& A Nice Chianti)

fava-beans-thedeliciouslife-230

Fresh fava beans. Photo courtesy
TheDeliciousLife.com. Check out their
recipe for a charming appetizer or hors
d’oeuvre, Fava Bean Purée with Feta and
Garlic Toasts.

 

For those of you who recall Hannibal Lechter’s upcoming dinner at the end of The Silence Of The Lambs, you can make your own version of it 9we suggest calf’s liver). Fava beans are in season, here for their brief annual visit.

Also known as the broad bean, faba bean, field bean and other names, Vicia faba is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) that is native to North Africa, possibly Egypt.

Fava is the Italian word for broad bean, and is the term most commonly used in the U.S. In the U.K. and Australia, broad bean is the common term.

According to Wikipedia, fava beans are “among the most ancient plants in cultivation and also among the easiest to grow.” As such, they are cultivated extensively worldwide.

Along with lentils, peas and chickpeas, they are believed to have become part of the eastern Mediterranean diet around 6000 B.C.E. or earlier. They were popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans.

 
When very young, the pods can be eaten whole. But the beans are typically removed from the pod and then parboiled and peeled to remove the skin, which can be bitter. The young leaves can also be eaten either raw or cooked, like spinach.

The beans, which resemble edamame and lima beans, are green with a buttery texture and an earthy flavor.

 

WAYS TO ENJOY FAVA BEANS

Fava beans are a wonderful addition to any meal, hot or cold. If you search online for “fava bean recipes,” you’ll find lots from which to choose. Here are some ideas for starters:

  • Appetizer: In a dip for crudités or on bruschetta with olive oil and shaved asiago or pecorino romano cheese.
  • Main: Atop linguine or angel hair pasta, with garlic and fresh herbs in a sauce of butter or olive oil (for Easter we served crab ravioli with fava beans and morels).
  • Salad: With cucumber, red onion, fresh herbs (basil, mint or tarragon) and feta cheese, in a vinaigrette.
  • Side: Sautéed in butter or olive oil; grilled in the pod, then eaten from the pod like edamame.
  • Soup: In a creamy, vivid green fava bean soup (garnish with some whole cooked fava bean).
  •  
    Another idea: Egypt’s national dish, ful medames, is a stew of fava beans with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, usually eaten for breakfast (but you can serve it with any meal). It is a staple throughout the Middle East.

     

    fava-bean-soup-marthastewart-230

    Fava bean soup. Photo courtesy MarthaStewart.com. Here’s the recipe.

     
    If you miss the fleeting fava bean season, dried fava beans are available. But don’t let the fresh favas escape you. After all, would Hannibal Lechter eat dried fava beans?

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Starkist Gourmet Selects Tuna Pouches

    starkist-gourmet-selects-pouches-230

    We keep tuna pouches at the office as better-for-you options for lunch and snacking. Photo courtesy Starkist.

     

    We’ve been enjoying tuna pouches since they first appeared. Especially at the office, they provide a convenient, better-for-you option for lunch or snacking.

    We especially like the flavored tuna pouches, which are tasty enough to require no mayonnaise. We just add the contents to a piece of toast, or onto leafy greens.

    StarKist has expanded the flavored tuna options with a new product line, StarKist Gourmet Selects Pouches, that includes real veggies in each pouch. We received samples of the three internationally-inspired flavors:

  • Mexican had a nice touch of sundried tomato.
  • Mexican has a very mild amount of heat. We’re not fans of major heat, but we’d like a bit more jalapeño.
  • Thai is tasty, although it didn’t have a particular Thai distinctiveness—just a bit of sweetness and some heat, which sizzled in our mouth long after the dish was consumed.
  •  
    There are recipes for cooked dishes using the tuna on the back of each pouch.

     

    Last fall we wrote about Starkist Tuna Creation’s flavored pouches in Lemon Pepper and Sweet & Spicy, with proceeds benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project. They were 4.5 ounces apiece—just right for lunch.

    The new Gourmet Selects pouches are in a much smaller size: 2.6 ounces, good for kids but not enough for this not-so-delicate eater. Still, we’d be happy to have a carton of them delivered to the office to take the place of our often less-good-for-you snacks.
     
    NEWS FOR EXPECTANT & NEW MOMS

    Some pregnant women have limited their fish and seafood intake, due to past studies concerned about the amount of mercury in some fish.

    A new report from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee encourages women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or are breastfeeding to eat at least 8 to 12 ounces (2 to 3 servings) of fish each week.

    According to 2014 FDA research, women can safely consume up to 67 ounces—33 servings—of canned albacore tuna each week.

    The advice, expected to be adopted and included in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, comes at a time when seafood consumption in the U.S. is at an all-time low, especially among moms and moms-to-be.

    Thanks to Bumble Bee for spreading the word about the new recommendations.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The New “Dirty Dozen”

    The “dirty dozen” of produce refers to those fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues. If you’re going to buy organic versus conventional produce, these are the foods to buy.

    Since agricultural practices change, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates an annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposure to chemical pesticides.

    It ranks 48 popular fruits and vegetables by their pesticide loads. The rankings are based on lab tests done [mostly] by the USDA, which tests more than 34,000 samples of common food crops for pesticide residue.

    Rinsing and peeling conventional produce does not remove all of the chemical residue. Some plants absorb pesticides through the peel.

    Nor does washing and peeling change a food’s ranking, because the USDA lab tests produce as it is typically eaten: washed and, when applicable, peeled.

    But the EWG underscores that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks from pesticide exposure. In other words, eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating enough fruits and vegetables at all.
     
    WHY SOME PRODUCE HAS TO BE “DIRTY”

    Crops differ in their hardiness—whether they’re more or less susceptible to intense heat, cold, rainfall, drought, fungus or other disease, etc.

       

    assorted-apples-USApples-230

    An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it also has the highest amount of pesticide residue. The solution: Buy organic! Photo courtesy US Apples.

     
    In the case of bugs, some crops are more readily attacked and destroyed by the hungry little critters. So chemical pesticides are used to kill the bugs, fungus, etc. before they kill the crop.

    Organic farmers use natural pesticides and fertilizers—no chemicals. The expense of growing crops this way leads to the higher cost of organic produce.

    Some shocking statistics:

  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 diffent pesticides.
  • A whopping 99% of apple samples, 98% of peaches and 97% of nectarines tested positive for at least one pesticide.
  • Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas and strawberries each showed 13 different pesticides.
  •  

    asparagus-twine-230

    Eat all the asparagus you like: They’re one of the most pesticide-free veggies. Photo courtesy California Asparagus Commission.

     

    THE 2015 “DIRTY DOZEN” FRUITS & VEGETABLES

    Ranked from highest (dirtiest) to lowest (cleanest of the Dirty Dozen) are some of our favorite fruits and vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Imported Snap Peas
  • Potatoes
  •  
    Wow!

     
    We’ve been buying organic celery for years (it’s been on the Dirty Dozen list for a long time). But we’re going to go our of our way for organic apples and strawberries, two fruits we eat almost daily.

    We’ll also buy more of the Clean Fifteen, produce with the least amount of pesticide residue.
     
    THE “CLEAN FIFTEEN” FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Frozen Sweet Peas
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes
  •  
    As an American consumer, the choice is yours!
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Green Almonds

    After limited pickings during the winter months, spring has begun to yield food treasures. But you may have to be a good treasure hunter to find things that are new (to you) and special.

    One tip is to ask when you see something unfamiliar, like the fuzzy green “beans” in the photo. They’re actually green (unripe) almonds.

    For a window of three to four weeks, reports Hannah Kaminsky, green almonds may be hiding in plain sight at your local farmers market. You may need a sharp eye: Less known products are often placed behind the more popular fare. Writes Hannah of these immature nuts:

    “One would never mistake them for the raw or roasted almonds they can become, which is part of the appeal. Catch familiar nuts on the unripe side and you’ll be treated to a whole new snacking sensation.

    “The fuzzy exteriors belie a firm, crunchy texture, wholly edible and entirely delicious from the outside shell to the kernel. Their short window of availability is dictated by the maturation of the almond, as it grows and transforms into the crunchy nut we all know and love.

     

    green-almonds-hannahkaminsky-230

    Unripe green almonds, fuzzy on the outside, remind us that almonds are botanically related to peaches. The soft green shell will harden into the tough brown shell of the mature almond. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    “Before that happens, the immature almond has a pleasantly bitter taste, with an overriding flavor of lemons and cucumbers, sometimes with a hint of tart grape in the background. Juicy yet crisp, they’re impossibly addictive when eaten with just a light pinch of salt.

    “You can also add them to salads, whole or chopped; use them for garnishes on chilled soups (make Spanish chilled almond soup with them!); combine them with spring peas; or otherwise toss them into any raw or cooked food.

    “But they’re best when allowed to shine solo. At most, cure them in a lightly sweet and sour brine, and you’ll have the stuff of pickle plate dreams.”

    Their soft-yet-firm texture can be like a grape, depending on how unripe they are when picked. But there’s a sense of the nut it’s going to become.

    Almond lovers: Head to your farmers market, or find a friend with an almond tree!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Marshmallows

    chocolate-vanilla-dice-230

    They may be delicious, but what if you have
    too many for straight snacking? Photo | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    If you received marshmallows for Easter and are looking to do more than snack from the box, you can make hot chocolate, s’mores or rocky road brownies, cookies or ice cream.

    You can add them to peanut butter sandwiches and pancake batter, sliced or cut to size. You can make fruit and marshmallow skewers, or recipes with marshmallows from ambrosia salad to sweet potatoes.

    You can dip them in chocolate fondue. Add them hot or cold cereal. Toss coffee-flavored marshmallows into hot coffee.

    Use them as a pie topper: Bake the pie at 400°F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the marshmallows are toasted.

    Or, try these less obvious uses for marshmallows:

  • Brown Sugar Softener: After you open a bag of brown sugar, add a few large marshmallows before you reseal it (we further double-bag the bag brown sugar in self-sealing freezer bags). The marshmallows will provide moisture that helps keep the sugar soft.
  • Candle Holder: For birthday cakes or cupcakes, place each candle into a marshmallow before placing on the cake. When you remove the candles, there are no wax dripping on the cake or holes in the cake.
  • Cone Drip Stopper: Place a small marshmallow (or cut a larger one) in the bottom of an ice cream cone to stop melted ice cream from pouring out the bottom.
  • Icing Protector: To keep foil or plastic wrap from touching the icing when you transport a cake, place a few large marshmallows on the tops and side of the cake.
  •  
    HOW TO KEEP MARSHMALLOWS SOFT

    Marshmallows should be stored in an airtight container. But if they begin to harden, you can:

  • Pop them in the microwave for five seconds (not longer or they will begin to melt).
  • Toss them into hot chocolate.
  • Place them in a resealable freezer-weight plastic storage bag with a slice or two of fresh bread. Depending on how hard they are, they can take one or two days to soften.
  •  
    IF YOU HAVE TOO MANY MARSHMALLOWS

    Stick them in the freezer, in the storage bag with the fresh bread.
     
    TO UNSTICK MARSHMALLOWS

    If your marshmallows have clumped together, unstick them by placing them in a plastic bag and adding a teaspoon or two of cornstarch or powdered sugar. Seal the bag and shake it vigorously to evenly coat the marshmallows. They should begin to come apart in a few minutes.
     
    Check out the history of marshmallows and much more about these sweet pillows.
     
      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: A Scotch & Chocolate Tasting For National Tartan Day

    It’s National Tartan Day, which recognizes Scottish-Americans’ contributions to America.

    Tartan, familiar in Scottish kilts, is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colors. Originally woven wool, it is now made in many other materials, and can even be found as wallpaper.

    Nineteen of the 56 delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence came to America from Scotland or were Ulster Scots, who had been living in Ireland. Others, like Thomas Jefferson, had Scottish ancestors.

    Today, more than 11 million Americans claim Scottish and Scotch-Irish roots, making them the eighth largest ethnic group in the U.S.

    You don’t have to be of Scottish ancestry to celebrate. Our family celebrated every holiday that involved food), a tip for food-loving families.

    You can celebrate with traditional Scottish foods like haggis, Scottish pie (filled with ground mutton), smoked salmon or tatties (mashed potatoes) and herring.

    Or you can kick back at the end of the day with a glass of Scotch, or a Scotch cocktail.

       

    chocolate-scotch-LaszloRakoskerti IST. 230

    Chocolate with Scotch? Absolutely! Photo by László Rákoskerti | IST.

     
    Among the many options, you can replace the vodka in a Bloody Mary with Scotch, creating a Highland Mary a.k.a. Bloody Scotsman.

    But we suggest a Scotch and chocolate tasting.

     

    kendallbrook-mackenzie-230

    Not into Scotch and chocolate? Celebrate National Tartan Day with an appetizer of Scottish smoked salmon. We like ours with a sprinkling of capers, some snipped fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon or lime. The onions are also welcome. Photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    SCOTCH & CHOCOLATE TASTING PARTY

    Paiing chocolates with wine and spirits is even more enjoyable than drinking the Scotch—or eating the chocolates—by themselves. If you haven’t already seen our wine, spirits and chocolate pairing guide, take a look.

    While we like Scotch from all over Scotland—the flavors vary substantially due to the local water and microclimate—it’s easiest to pair chocolates that have flavor notes similar to the Scotch, for example, smoky, peaty Laphroaig single malt Scotch, paired with single-origin chocolates that have smoky notes.

    Here’s what you need to know to have your own party.

    Here’s some tartan trivia from Laphroaig & Wikipedia to share at your festivity:

  • Tartan is often called plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket such as one would have on a bed.
  • The best-known tartan patterns are the Black Watch and Royal Stewart.
  • Until the mid-19th century, tartan designs were associated with regions or districts, rather than any specific Scottish clan.
  • Tartan became popular throughout the English-speaking world after Queen Victoria expressed her fondness for all things Scottish.
  • The world’s first color photograph was of a tartan ribbon.
  • The English word tartan derives from the French tiretain, from the verb tirer which references woven cloth, as opposed to knitted cloth.
  • The word plaid derives from the Scottish Gaelic plaide, meaning blanket. The word was first used to describe any rectangular garment, including tartan. In time, plaid was used to describe blankets themselves.
  • A belted plaid is a blanket-like piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body with the material loosely gathered and secured at the waist by a belt. A portion of the fabric is wrapped up around the upper body and a portion hangs down to the knees (see it here).
  • The belted plaid was a standard item of men’s Highland dress from the late 16th century until the middle of the 18th century, when it began to evolve into the modern tailored kilt.
  •   

    Comments

    EASTER: Chocolate Gift Certificate

    Here’s an easy solution to a gift emergency: a chocolate e-gift certificate.

    If you’ve forgotten to bring a gift, or if you receive an unexpected gift and want to reciprocate, you don’t have to sneak out to the nearest store.

    Instead, sneak onto the Internet and send a gift certificate via email. It will be in the giftee’s email box in minutes.

    Chocomize.com sells ready-made and make-your-own chocolates. Our favorite is the customized chocolate bar, where you pick your chocolate (dark, milk or white) and up to five toppings—candies, fruits, nuts, spices and special decorations (crystallized flower petals, 24 karat gold flakes).

    There are more than 70 topping choices. Special Easter toppings include caramel “quail eggs,” carrot cake candy corn, peanut butter speckled eggs and a white chocolate “Happy Easter” plaque.

    Jelly beans are available year-round—along with Junior Mints, M&Ms, mini marshmallows, Oreo pieces, Pop Rocks, Reese’s Pieces, toffee bits and much more.

    Head to Chocomize.com.

     

    chocomize-easter-egg-boxed-230

    A candy-covered hollow chocolate Easter egg with two chocolate truffles hidden inside.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Layered Salad With Leftover Ham

    ham-layered-salad-mccormick-230

    Toss today’s ham and hard-boiled eggs into tomorrow’s salad. Photo and recipe courtesy McCormick.

     

    Here’s a tasty way to make tomorrow’s lunch or dinner from today’s leftover ham and hard-boiled eggs (and any peas and salad dressing, too).

    When you don’t have Easter leftovers to make this layered salad, simply substitute other ingredients.

    Check your pantry and fridge for avocado, bacon, beans, blue or other cheese, carrots, celery, cooked green beans and/or potatoes, corn, leftover chicken/turkey/steak, mushrooms, olives, pimento, seafood or tuna and layer away!

    You can also include a fruit: apple, grapes or pineapple, for example.

    If you have a glass bowl to display the pretty layers, so much the better. A straight-sided bowl like this one is especially nice. Or, this smart glass mixing bowl set from Pyrex does triple duty: mixing, serving and storing.

    Prep time is 20 minutes, and the recipe can be made in advance.

     
    RECIPE: LAYERED SALAD WITH HAM

    Ingredients

  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • 2 cups cubed cooked ham or turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the salad greens in the bottom of large serving bowl. Layer the tomatoes, 1 cup of cheese, peas, eggs, ham and onion over greens.

    2. MIX the mayonnaise, sour cream, dill weed and ground mustard in a medium bowl until well blended. Spread evenly over salad. Cover.

    3. REFRIGERATE for at least 1 hour or overnight until ready to serve. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup cheese just before serving.

     
      

    Comments

    EASTER: Bunny Sushi

    Kudos to the chef at Sushi Lounge (three locations in New Jersey) who created this Easter treat. (Based on their Facebook photos, there’s more than one creative chef behind the bar.)

    You can recreate it at home, with

  • A strip of nori (dried seaweed)
  • Sushi rice* or regular rice
  • Hard-boiled eggs for the head and arm
  • Tamago (omelet) for the pillow and blanket
  • Carrot flowers† for the blanket design and the nose
  • Celery or fennel for the ears
  • Bits of black olive for the eyes and mouth
  •  
    Whatever you’re eating on Easter, we wish you a joyous holiday.

     

    easter-bunny-sushi-sushiloungeNJ-230

    The Easter Bunny, tucking in after a long day. Photo courtesy Sushi Lounge | NJ.

     
     
     
    *Sushi rice is seasoned with rice vinegar. Here’s how to make it.

    †Make them with stainless steel vegetable cutters, that can also be used to cut vegetables, cake, bread croutons, etc.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Easy, Last Minute Easter Cake

    carrot-cake-blackjetbakingco-goodeggsSF-230

    Our inspiration was this Easter cake from
    Black Jet Baking Co., a small San Francisco
    baking company committed to making
    nostalgic treats and baked goods. Photo
    courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

     

    No dessert inspiration for Easter? Here’s an easy last-minute fix:

    SHOPPING LIST

  • Store-bought plain cake -or-
  • 1 box of cake mix (for a two-layer cake)
  • Decorations: jelly beans, multicolored sprinkles
  •  
    For The Cake Mix

  • Eggs and other ingredients specified on package directions
  • 1 pint whipping cream plus any flavorings
  •  
    Preparation For Cake Mix

    1. BAKE the cake mix in two layers, per package directions. While the cake cools…

    2. MAKE freshly whipped cream—classic, flavored with vanilla; lavender whipped cream, rum-accented, salted caramel whipped cream or other favorite flavor (recipes).

    3. DECORATE decorate with jelly beans and sprinkles.
     
    Not enough chocolate in your Easter basket? Try chocolate whipped cream (recipe below).

     

    RECIPE: STABILIZED CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM

    If you’re going to fill and frost a cake, you need whipped cream that’s been stabilized with gelatin to keep its shape. If you want vanilla whipped cream, substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for the chocolate and skip Steps 1-3 and add the gelatin to both cups of cream in Step 5.

    Ingredients

  • 4 ounces milk or 60% cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (use a good chocolate bar)
  • 3 tablespoons sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 8 teaspoons cold water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.

    2. COMBINE the sugar and 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.

     

    3. POUR the hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Transfer to the bowl an electric mixer and let cool.

    4. COMBINE the gelatin and cold water in a small pan and let stand until thick. Then place over low heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from the heat and cool, but do not allow the gelatin to set.

    5. ADD the second cup of cream and whip on medium speed (ideally with whisk beaters). While slowly beating, add the gelatin to the whipping cream mixture. Whip at high speed until stiff.
     
    RECIPE: REGULAR CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM

    Ingredients

  • 4 ounces milk or 60% cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (use a good chocolate bar)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  •  

    chocolate-whipped-cream-cookiemadness.net-230

    For a cake filling, make a stabilized whipped cream with gelatin. Photo courtesy CookieMadness.net.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.

    2. COMBINE the sugar and 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.

    3. POUR the hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Transfer to the bowl an electric mixer and let cool.

    4. ADD the second cup of cream and whip on medium speed (ideally with whisk beaters) until thick.

      

    Comments

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